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ARC Review: Begin Again by Emma Lord

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Begin Again
Author: Emma Lord
Genre: Contemporary
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Georgina Sadler
Length: 11 hr 51 min (352 pages)
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: January 24, 2023
Source: publisher via Netgalley
Recommended for fans of: bagels and sugar
Content Warnings: death of parent, grief, infidelity, toxic relationship, abandonment, cancer

SYNOPSIS

As usual, Andie Rose has a plan: Transfer from community college to the hyper competitive Blue Ridge State, major in psychology, and maintain her lifelong goal of becoming an iconic self-help figure despite the nerves that have recently thrown her for a loop. All it will take is ruthless organization, hard work, and her trademark unrelenting enthusiasm to pull it all together.

But the moment Andie arrives, the rest of her plans go off the rails. Her rocky relationship with her boyfriend Connor only gets more complicated when she discovers he transferred out of Blue Ridge to her community college. Her roommate Shay needs a major, and despite Andie’s impressive track record of being The Fixer, she’s stumped on how to help. And Milo, her coffee-guzzling grump of an R.A. with seafoam green eyes, is somehow disrupting all her ideas about love and relationships one sleep-deprived wisecrack at a time.

But sometimes, when all your plans are in rubble at your feet, you find out what you’re made of. And when Andie starts to find the power of her voice as the anonymous Squire on the school’s legendary pirate radio station–the same one her mom founded, years before she passed away–Andie learns that not all the best laid plans are necessarily the right ones.

Filled with a friend group that feels like family, an empowering journey of finding your own way, and a Just Kiss Already! romance, Begin Again is an unforgettable novel of love and starting again.

MY THOUGHTS

I adored this. I don’t read much YA contemporary anymore because I’m just no longer the audience, but Emma Lord are something magical. This is a beautiful, poignant, sweet, hilarious, fun, and tear-inducing coming-of-age story about very little going according to plan, yet ending up exactly where you’re meant to be.

This definitely made me nostalgic for my own college days, the newfound freedom, trying new things, making new friends, finding yourself, and living in the moment while planning for the rest of your life. The way this book portrays first love and first heartbreak, Andie’s efforts to live up to her mother’s legacy, and her hesitation to mend her relationship with her father brought all the tears. But there were plenty of things to smile and laugh about as well!

And the found family! Andie’s friends had such cool hobbies and interests (ahem, bookstagram and writing fantasy). And I absolutely swooned for the very slow building romance (note: while the romance is adorable, I would not classify Begin Again in the romance genre).

This is very much an Emma Lord book, meaning if you’ve loved her books in the past, you will love this, but if her previous books were not for you, this will probably not be for you either. But I am here for the frosting and sparkles and bagels and pop culture references and headstrong, naive characters who learn from their mistakes!

I highly recommend the audiobook for this one. Georgina Sadler did an incredible job bringing Andie and this story to life!

Thank you to the publisher for the gifted ARC and ALC.

Review: Wildheart by Renee Dugan

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Wildheart
Author: Renee Dugan
Series: The Starchaser Saga #7
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: New Adult
Format: eARC
Length: 474 pages
Publisher: independent
Release Date: December 6, 2022
Source: author via Sapphire Ink Press
Recommended for: EVERYONE!
Content Warnings: war, violence, grief, death

SYNOPSIS

Help has come to Talheim—but at a cost.

For a year, the Middle Kingdom and their Valgardan allies have followed Princess Cistine and Chancellor Thorne in battle against King Jad and the armies of Mahasar, waging the war none of them ever wanted to fight.

But it’s more than a war…it’s a game that’s entering its final stages.

The balance tips with the arrival of a mysterious Mahasari woman offering peace for a price—one the royal family is reluctant to pay. With their people in peril and the future unsure, the cabal divides on clandestine missions, fighting to weave a strategy that will save the kingdoms they love.

Spirits must be awakened. Schemes must be thwarted. Captives must be set free. And all the while an unseen danger stalks their heels, threatening to turn the tide in the enemy’s favor through one dark, fatal truth.

Winning the war between the Three Kingdoms may mean playing directly into Jad’s hands, pushing his game to a deadly and epic conclusion—one that will alter the course of Talheim’s destiny.

MY THOUGHTS

What a beautiful conclusion to this epic saga! Even after her incredible journey through the series, Cistine still has lessons to learn about what it really means to be a leader, and the aftermath of the events of Dragonfire don’t make that any easier. It was frustrating to see her struggling with her identity again, but it needed to happen. Introducing so many new settings and characters in the last book of a series is a risk, but Renee pulled it off with the way her writing comes to life.

This book brings the series full circle, back to where and why the story started. As always, this was full of both heartbreaking and lovely moments. This book left me WEEPING on a plane because I just couldn’t wait to finish it in private. I love this cabal so much and I am sad to see them go, but each character ends up exactly where they need to be. While there is satisfying resolution for the main characters and plot lines, there are enough little threads left open to show that while this may be the end of the series, it is not the end of their stories.

Review: The Bodyguard by Katherine Center

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: The Bodyguard
Author: Katherine Center
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Patti Murin
Length: 9 hr 43 min (309 pages)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: July 9, 2022
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: Christina Lauren
Content Warnings: car accident, gun violence, stalking, death of parent, death, domestic abuse, toxic relationship, alcoholism, grief

SYNOPSIS

She’s got his back.
Hannah Brooks looks more like a kindergarten teacher than somebody who could kill you with a wine bottle opener. Or a ballpoint pen. Or a dinner napkin. But the truth is, she’s an Executive Protection Agent (aka “bodyguard”), and she just got hired to protect superstar actor Jack Stapleton from his middle-aged, corgi-breeding stalker.

He’s got her heart.
Jack Stapleton’s a household name—captured by paparazzi on beaches the world over, famous for, among other things, rising out of the waves in all manner of clingy board shorts and glistening like a Roman deity. But a few years back, in the wake of a family tragedy, he dropped from the public eye and went off the grid.

They’ve got a secret.
When Jack’s mom gets sick, he comes home to the family’s Texas ranch to help out. Only one catch: He doesn’t want his family to know about his stalker. Or the bodyguard thing. And so Hannah—against her will and her better judgment—finds herself pretending to be Jack’s girlfriend as a cover. Even though her ex, like a jerk, says no one will believe it.

What could possibly go wrong???
Hannah hardly believes it, herself. But the more time she spends with Jack, the more real it all starts to seem. And there lies the heartbreak. Because it’s easy for Hannah to protect Jack. But protecting her own, long-neglected heart? That’s the hardest thing she’s ever done.

MY THOUGHTS

This is such a fun rom com! I always love a romance with a good combination of lighthearted humor and emotional depth. And I loved the unconventional “twist” Hannah Brooks being hired as a female bodyguard for hunky movie star Jack Stapleton with a stalker. Throw in some fake dating and family time on a Texas ranch, and you’ve got everything you need for a great time!

Hannah and Jack were SO SWEET together. Their slow burn, forced proximity, forbidden situation created such a genuine development of friendship and feelings. They had great banter as well as heartfelt conversations as they each processed grief from losing loved ones.

I thought that the ex drama was overdone. Hannah’s ex was such a sleaze, and he definitely overstayed his welcome in the story. The subplot with Jack’s former costar was also random…like why was she even there? And the climactic action scene was just a tad over the top for me.

This was such an enjoyable book club pick! I can’t believe I never picked up a Katherine Center book before this, but I absolutely want to read her backlist now!

Review: Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆.5
Title: Defy the Night
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Series: Defy the Night #1
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover/ebook
Length: 448 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Release Date: September 14, 2021
Source: Personal collection/library
Recommended for fans of: The Remnant Chronicles
Content Warnings: violence, death, death of parent, torture, grief, blood

SYNOPSIS

The kingdom of Kandala is on the brink of disaster. Rifts between sectors have only worsened since a sickness began ravaging the land, and within the Royal Palace, the king holds a tenuous peace with a ruthless hand.

King Harristan was thrust into power after his parents’ shocking assassination, leaving the younger Prince Corrick to take on the brutal role of the King’s Justice. The brothers have learned to react mercilessly to any sign of rebellion–it’s the only way to maintain order when the sickness can strike anywhere, and the only known cure, an elixir made from delicate Moonflower petals, is severely limited.

Out in the Wilds, apothecary apprentice Tessa Cade is tired of seeing her neighbors die, their suffering ignored by the unyielding royals. Every night, she and her best friend Wes risk their lives to steal Moonflower petals and distribute the elixir to those who need it most–but it’s still not enough.

As rumors spread that the cure no longer works and sparks of rebellion begin to flare, a particularly cruel act from the King’s Justice makes Tessa desperate enough to try the impossible: sneaking into the palace. But what she finds upon her arrival makes her wonder if it’s even possible to fix Kandala without destroying it first.

MY THOUGHTS

Great start to a series and much better than A Curse So Dark and Lonely! This is a YA fantasy that doesn’t seem to have magic but is set in a made up kingdom, so this is another book that might be a good entry for new readers to the genre.

I loved the characters, the fast-paced action, the political drama, and of course the romance (great combination of tropes but less you know going in, the better). The writing is so compulsive and easy to binge, and the dual POV helps you understand different facets of this world. The story was fairly predictable, but the first big twist really got me (it probably shouldn’t have), and the end had some surprises!

I don’t think this is the most memorable YA fantasy, but it is well-written and highly enjoyable. I’m excited to continue this series!

Review: I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: I’m Glad My Mom Died
Author: Jennette McCurdy
Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir
Audience: Adult
Format: audiobook
Length: 6 hr 26 min (320 pages)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: August 9, 2022
Source: publisher via Libro.fm
Recommended for fans of: celebrity memoirs
Content Warnings: eating disorder, child abuse, emotional abuse, alcohol abuse, death of parent, cancer, vomit, body shaming, toxic relationship, addiction, grief, mental illness, infidelity, sexual assault, terminal illness

SYNOPSIS

A heartbreaking and hilarious memoir by iCarly and Sam & Cat star Jennette McCurdy about her struggles as a former child actor—including eating disorders, addiction, and a complicated relationship with her overbearing mother—and how she retook control of her life.

Jennette McCurdy was six years old when she had her first acting audition. Her mother’s dream was for her only daughter to become a star, and Jennette would do anything to make her mother happy. So she went along with what Mom called “calorie restriction,” eating little and weighing herself five times a day. She endured extensive at-home makeovers while Mom chided, “Your eyelashes are invisible, okay? You think Dakota Fanning doesn’t tint hers?” She was even showered by Mom until age sixteen while sharing her diaries, email, and all her income.

In I’m Glad My Mom Died, Jennette recounts all this in unflinching detail—just as she chronicles what happens when the dream finally comes true. Cast in a new Nickelodeon series called iCarly, she is thrust into fame. Though Mom is ecstatic, emailing fan club moderators and getting on a first-name basis with the paparazzi (“Hi Gale!”), Jennette is riddled with anxiety, shame, and self-loathing, which manifest into eating disorders, addiction, and a series of unhealthy relationships. These issues only get worse when, soon after taking the lead in the iCarly spinoff Sam & Cat alongside Ariana Grande, her mother dies of cancer. Finally, after discovering therapy and quitting acting, Jennette embarks on recovery and decides for the first time in her life what she really wants.

Told with refreshing candor and dark humor, I’m Glad My Mom Died is an inspiring story of resilience, independence, and the joy of shampooing your own hair.

MY THOUGHTS

I was a big iCarly fan as an early teen, so my nostalgia drove me to pick up this tell-all memoir about Jennette McCurdy’s experience as a child star in Hollywood.

WOW! While McCurdy is far from the first child star to struggle, her experiences are particularly heartbreaking considering the abuse she faced behind the scenes both at work and at home. Her mother was absolutely toxic and controlling, and it’s sad how long it took Jennette to realize that behavior was not normal. And wow, Hollywood is another world entirely.

I absolutely recommend the audiobook read by Jennette in her dry, sardonic tone that manages to find dark humor while relating her trauma.

LOTS of triggers for graphic and disturbing details related in particular to eating disorders, alcoholism, and emotional child abuse. She discusses her experiences, thoughts, and unhealthy behaviors with frankness. This is difficult to listen to but so eye opening.

I’m glad Jennette has made her way to a much better place, and I look forward to her next book.

Review: Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: Surviving Savannah
Author: Patti Callahan
Genre: Historical Fiction
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Brittany Pressley, Catherine Taber
Length: 12 hr 46 min (432 pages)
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: March 9, 2021
Source: PRH Audio
Content Warnings: death, child death, grief, domestic abuse, slavery, racism, rape (mentioned), war, panic attacks

SYNOPSIS

When Savannah history professor Everly Winthrop is asked to guest-curate a new museum collection focusing on artifacts recovered from the steamship Pulaski, she’s shocked. The ship sank after a boiler explosion in 1838, and the wreckage was just discovered, 180 years later. Everly can’t resist the opportunity to try to solve some of the mysteries and myths surrounding the devastating night of its sinking.

Everly’s research leads her to the astounding history of a family of eleven who boarded the Pulaski together, and the extraordinary stories of two women from this family: a known survivor, Augusta Longstreet, and her niece, Lilly Forsyth, who was never found, along with her child. These aristocratic women were part of Savannah’s society, but when the ship exploded, each was faced with difficult and heartbreaking decisions. This is a moving and powerful exploration of what women will do to endure in the face of tragedy, the role fate plays, and the myriad ways we survive the surviving.

MY THOUGHTS

I am not a big historical fiction reader, but I enjoyed this book club pick! The dual timeline storytelling made it easier for me to get invested Everly’s present-day journey of uncovering the truth behind the sinking of the Pulaski, the “Southern Titanic,” than in 1838 depiction of the ship’s survivors. I think most readers feel the opposite, but I was fascinated by historian’s perspective. Both timelines felt equally important to the overall story, which is not always the case in dual timeline HF.

In both timelines, the main characters survive a traumatic accident that resulted in the loss of loved ones. The parallel themes of grief and guilt and “surviving the surviving” were very well-executed.

Some plot details, particularly in the present-day, were overdramatic and a bit silly in hindsight, but this book is definitely emotional, and I learned a lot about a previously unknown-to-me event from history. I think this can be enjoyed by both lovers of historical and contemporary fiction.

ARC Review: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries
Author: Heather Fawcett
Series: Emily Wilde #1
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Adult
Format: audiobook & eARC
Length: 336 pages (12 hr 5 min)
Publisher: Del Rey Books; PRH Audio
Release Date: January 10, 2023
Source: Publisher & Netgalley
Recommended for fans of: Jane Austen meets classic fairy tale
Content Warnings: kidnapping, confinement

SYNOPSIS

A curmudgeonly professor journeys to a small town in the far north to study faerie folklore and discovers dark fae magic, friendship, and love, in this heartwarming and enchanting fantasy.

Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party–or even get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other people.

So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby, who manages to charm the townsfolk, get in the middle of Emily’s research, and utterly confound and frustrate her.

But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones–the most elusive of all faeries–lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all–her own heart.

MY THOUGHTS

This book takes an academic approach to faeries in the form of Cambridge Professor Emily Wilde’s journals. She reminds me a lot of Temperance Brennan from Bones if she were an expert of dryadology rather than forensic anthropology.

It took me a bit to get fully immersed because the writing is rather matter-of-fact at the beginning, but it becomes more narrative as Emily spends more time amongst the people and faeries of the village she’s studying, and particularly after the arrival of her charming academic rival. Speaking of…

WENDELL IS THE MY FAVORITE! You must read the audiobook just for the few chapters he narrates. They are hilarious perfection!

I’m going to call this a light academia cottagecore fairytale. It’s a fun, atmospheric winter fantasy with just the right amount of cozy magical adventure, and I am looking forward to the next book!

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the complimentary eARC and audiobook.

Creative Blog Tour: These Gilded Bones May Bloom by C.G. Honer (Review, Playlist, and INTL Giveaway!)

Today I’m excited to participate in the Creative Blog Tour for These Gilded Bones May Bloom by C.G. Honer hosted by MTMC Tours.  A collection of enemies and lovers, sprawling cities and hungry seas, stretching from the hidden magic of our own world to the far reaches of your wildest dreams and nightmares. These Gilded Bones May Bloom is a Fantasy Anthology and it will be published on January 29, 2023.

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: These Gilded Bones May Bloom
Author: C.G. Honer
Genre: Short Story Anthology, Fantasy, Magical Realism
Audience: Adult
Length: 350 pages
Publisher: Lance & Letters Press
Release Date: January 29, 2023
Source: Author + MTMC Tours
Format: eBook, Paperback, Hardcover
Purchase a copy: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble
Add on Goodreads!

Content Warnings: blood, violence, child abuse, physical abuse, suicide, murder, confinement, drug abuse, self harm, injury, stalking

SYNOPSIS

29 short stories. Three unique worlds.

One navigates battlefields of countryside and cobblestone.

Another ensnares lost souls and sweethearts.

And the last is tormented by deities better left forgotten.

Welcome to These Gilded Bones May Bloom, a collection of enemies and lovers, sprawling cities and hungry seas, stretching from the hidden magic of our own world to the far reaches of your wildest dreams and nightmares. Journey through the Ash Woods, a dangerous forest guarding the body of a long-dead soldier. Follow a thief as he steals into an extravagant garden party. Study the siren of Berkshire University, and the student hell-bent on setting her free.

Brought to life through sweeping prose and lush illustrations, lose yourself in tales where morally gray is king, fate doesn’t play fair, and “The End” isn’t always what it seems.

MY THOUGHTS

I was immediately enthralled by the beautifully crafted writing in this anthology, full of atmospheric settings and vivid characters. I am in awe of the various tones Honer pulls off and the range she shows as a writer across 29 short stories. I feel inspired to get back into writing after reading this book!

Of course there were some stories I enjoyed more than others, but there was not a single story in the collection that I didn’t like! While many of the stories have an ambiguous ending open to interpretation, none of them felt incomplete, and every ending provoked an emotional reaction. That being said, I would looooooove to spend more time in these worlds with longer form writing.

The stories are collected into three sections, each set in a different world. Each story has a unique POV, and they span time periods, but there are clever connections between stories set in the same world. I was impressed by the range of POVs Honer imagined, from heroes to murderers, from gods to cities, and everyone in between. Even the most chilling stories told by deplorable narrators were fascinating to read.

Section 1, The Goddesses We Favor, takes place in a high fantasy world ruled by a pantheon of nine goddesses. My favorite from this section was “ABCs of Thievery” because it had a fun cast of characters and a cute love story!

Section 2, The Magic We Fear, is set in our world, but it is infused with magical realism and hauntings. Darker stories like “Dead Body, High Soul” and “Nights He Spent Watching” appeal to my paranormal and true crime obsession, while “Luck Like Sour Candy” is everything my enemies to lovers rom com loving heart needs.

Section 3, The Deities We Forget, takes place in a fantasy world full of dark magic and sirens. While most of the stories in this anthology are very short stories, “This Is How We Begin” is closer to novella-length.

It takes true talent to write an effective short story, let alone 29 of them. These fairy tales and ghost stories are going to stick around in my head for a long time!

Check out my Instagram post!

PLAYLIST

Here’s a quick playlist I put together with songs that have similar vibes to some of the stories!

PREORDER INCENTIVES

There are epic preorder incentives available for US and international orders of These Gilded Bones May Bloom!

– US physical copies receive: 3 phone wallpapers, 2 art prints, 1 sticker, and 1 bookmark.
– International/Ebook copies receive: 3 phone wall papers, 1 digital art print, and 1 Digital annotated short story.

Submission window is open now—January 28th, and all submission forms can be found here: https://linktr.ee/cghonerwrites

INTL TOUR-WIDE GIVEAWAY!

Enter the Rafflecopter below where one reader will win a physical copy of These Gilded Bones May Bloom and the preorder incentives (3 phone wallpapers, 2 art prints, 1 sticker, 1 bookmark)! Ends on January 14th, 2022. Winner will be announced in the Rafflecopter & contacted via email. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

TOUR SCHEDULE

January 2
The Reader and the Chef – Book Blog
@thetalesofabooklover – Bookstagram

January 3
Books With a Chance of Traveling – Book Blog
Enchanted Elfie – Book Blog

January 4
Paper Fury – Book Blog
Luxe Literature – Book Blog

January 5
Willow’s Corner – Book Blog
@bookishsof – Bookstagram

January 6
Book-Keeping – Book Blog
@clauiiixbooks – Bookstagram

January 7
June Is Reading – Book Blog
Bookish Adventures of P – Book Blog

January 8
CaroLibrary – Book Blog
@moyashi_girl – Bookstagram

ABOUT C.G. HONER

Caitlan “C.G.” Honer resides in the evergreen, ever cloudy PNW. When she isn’t dreaming up trauma for the characters in her head, she enjoys reading, walks with her dog, the occasional existential crisis, and spending way too much time on Netflix.

Her short story anthology, These Gilded Bones May Bloom, releases January 29, 2023.

For any and all updates, subscribe to the monthly newsletter, follow her on social media, or watch the night skies for carrier dragons.

Website | Instagram 

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Review: Dragonfire by Renee Dugan

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Dragonfire
Author: Renee Dugan
Series: The Starchaser Saga #6
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: New Adult
Format: ebook
Length: 463 pages
Publisher: independent
Release Date: June 7, 2022
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Recommended for fans of: epic fantasy sagas, found family, slow burn
Content Warnings: violence, war, pregnancy loss, sexual assault, grief, death

SYNOPSIS

A call to arms. A race against time. A choice that will change the future.

With her cabal divided, a price on her head, and her power put to the test, Cistine leads the desperate search for Maleck with a kingdom’s worth of enemies seeking them both. Finding him might be the key to winning the war. It might also spell Cistine’s doom.

Risking uncharted territory, Ashe, Aden, and Kristoff seek aid from the dragon legions in wild Oadmark. Only they stand a chance of bringing down the enemy’s abominable hordes. But to gain their alliance, Ashe must prove beyond all doubt who she is—as a warrior and as a Wingmaiden.

Amidst a storm of schemes, missing friends, broken hearts and uncertain horizons, the cabal faces the grim possibility of a world that can’t be redeemed, and Cistine fights to carry the burden no one else does: the weight of the power in her veins, and a weapon that could turn the tide of the war.

A power that could demand her love, her cabal, and even her own life to save the kingdoms from destruction.

MY THOUGHTS

THERE ARE NOT WORDS FOR ALL THE FEELS! This is my favorite book in the Starchaser Saga. Dragonfire saw the resolution of several plot lines the series had been building and building toward, coming together in surprising yet satisfying ways.

This book is full of heartbreak and loss (not a surprise in this series), but there are also so many moments of joy and triumph. And one scene that was such LITERAL PERFECTION, I had to thank Renee Dugan for not ruining it like Darlaska!

Y’all already know how much I love these characters so I’ll refrain from further gushing, but my love for this series knows no bounds. It ends on a bittersweet note that left me desperate for the final installment in this saga.

Review Tour: Blood of Queens by Maddie Jensen

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆.5
Title: Blood of Queens
Author: Maddie Jensen
Series: Legacy of the Lost #1
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Adult
Format: ebook
Length: 230 pages
Publisher: independent
Release Date: July 29, 2021
Source: author via Equality Book Tours
Content Warnings: violence, death, pregnancy, mentions of rape

SYNOPSIS

Carissa Darnell lost almost everything in the Conquest. Left the sole heir and rightful Queen of Basium following the slaughter of her family, she hungers for vengeance against the Warmonger, who took it all from her. A puppet monarch, she hides a dark and dangerous magic, one that her grandmother Miriam believes she can weaponise against the enemy.

Jacen Morrow is the son of the Warmonger, King Cobryn Morrow of Genera. In the wake of the Darnell family massacre, he married Carissa to keep a hold over her country. He returns to Basium after years spent fighting a civil war back home, but not everyone is accepting of his position as King—least of all his powerful uncle Deacon, who held Basium with an iron fist in Jacen’s absence, and whose ambition is near insatiable.

Along with Carissa’s best friends, Jacen’s sister Vida and feisty heiress Bellona Lenore, the unhappily married couple must work together to save Basium. For resistance rises in the north, and if Jacen and Carissa cannot stop it, war will once again engulf the country—and it could mean the destruction of everything they hold dear.

MY THOUGHTS

This book has a great premise. An arranged marriage between a young woman who was never supposed to be queen and the son of the man who invaded her kingdom and killed her whole family? Now she’s viewed as a puppet monarch, but she’s really biding her time, developing her forbidden magic until she’s ready to take her revenge? Wow, so much potential for an incredible enemies to lovers romance in a darkly magical political fantasy. The prologue was dark, gruesome, and emotional, setting my expectations high for the rest of the story.

While the plot is strong, the execution left me wanting so much more. The writing is heavy on telling rather than showing, so I never truly felt the complicated relationship and developing romance between Carissa and Jacen. I needed 1000% more angst! It felt very surface level. The writing is very repetitive, constantly reminding readers of the situations the characters are in without showing much development, which really slows the pace. I wanted to see those soft moments that brought Carissa and Jacen closer together beyond reluctant acceptance of duty and physical attraction. Way too much of the story focused on the need to consummate their marriage. I was constantly perplexed by the characters’ motivations, actions, and inactions.

I also would have liked more world building and clarification of the magic system. I don’t understand the expanse of Carissa’s blood magic or why it’s actually so dangerous, nor do I grasp the scope of magic in this world and what other types of mages can do. At 230 pages, this book is short for a fantasy, so there was definitely room to further develop the details of this world and dig deeper into the emotions of the story.