Review: Court of Blood and Bindings by Lisette Marshall

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆.5
Title: Court of Blood and Bindings
Author: Lisette Marshall
Series: Fae Isles #1
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Adult
Format: eARC
Length: 436 pages
Publisher: independent
Release Date: June 22, 2022
Source: Paper Myths book tour
Recommended for fans of: ACOTAR, Caraval
Content Warnings: violence, torture, emotional and physical abuse, reference to child abuse

SYNOPSIS

They call him the Silent Death, because he kills without sound and leaves none capable of speaking in his wake…

When the empire’s deadliest fae murderer catches her wielding forbidden magic, twenty-year-old Emelin believes her hour has come. Instead, her inhumanly beautiful captor spares her life, but carries her off on his velvet wings – into the one place from which no human ever returns.

The heart of the Fae Isles. The treacherous Crimson Court, where the Mother of faekind has ruled unchallenged over fae and humans for decades.

The Silent Death is supposed to be the Mother’s loyal servant, her invincible warrior, her ruthless, soulless killer. But in the shadows he is playing a game of his own, and he needs Emelin’s magic to win it.

If she agrees to work with him, she could free all of humanity. But can she trust a fae male with so much blood on his hands? Worse, when his smouldering dark eyes and dangerous secrets reveal glimpses of the heart behind his murderer’s mask… can she trust herself?

Court of Blood and Bindings is the first book of the Fae Isles series, an enemies to lovers fantasy romance featuring a strong-willed heroine and a broody, morally grey hero. This adult fae romance is perfect for readers of Sarah J. Maas, Jennifer L. Armentrout and Raven Kennedy.

Note: Court of Blood and Bindings contains a generous dose of smouldering glances, angry yearning, and midnight meetings of the illicit type, as well as other mature themes.

MY THOUGHTS

What an unexpected delight! On the surface this book seems like an ACOTAR copycat, but it was such a fun story with lovable characters, whimsical worldbuilding, and a color-based magic system that was so unique yet very simple to understand.

I adored the enemies to reluctant allies to lovers slow burn. Emelin is a bold and sassy humna who refuses to bend to the mercy of the more powerful fae. Creon, know as the Silent Death for his dark reputation and for his magical inability to speak, is the kind brooding and misunderstood male I love. Emelin and Creon had a great dynamic as they challenged and helped each other practice magic and sign language, giving Beauty and the Beast vibes. So many sweet, soft scenes eventually led to two spicy encounters.

There were a few slow parts to the book, but they only stood out because the rest was so fast-paced. The ending truly got my heart racing, and I am so excited to see where the series goes in the next book!

Review: It’s in His Kiss by Julia Quinn

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: It’s in His Kiss
Author: Julia Quinn
Series: The Bridgertons #7
Genre: Historical Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Rosalyn Landor
Length: 11 hours, 11 minutes (384 pages)
Publisher: Avon Books
Release Date: June 28, 2005
Source: Library
Content Warnings: emotional abuse, child abuse, infidelity, death of parent, miscarriage, grief

SYNOPSIS

IF IT’S IN HIS HEART… IT’S IN HIS KISS

MEET OUR HERO…

Gareth St. Clair is in a bind. His father, who detests him, is determined to beggar the St. Clair estates and ruin his inheritance. Gareth’s sole bequest is an old family diary, which may or may not contain the secrets of his past… and the key to his future. The problem is—it’s written in Italian, of which Gareth speaks not a word.

MEET OUR HEROINE…

All the ton agreed: there was no one quite like Hyacinth Bridgerton. She’s fiendishly smart, devilishly outspoken, and according to Gareth, probably best in small doses. But there’s something about her—something charming and vexing—that grabs him and won’t quite let go…

MEET POOR MR. MOZART…

Or don’t. But rest assured, he’s spinning in his grave when Gareth and Hyacinth cross paths at the annual—and annually discordant—Smythe-Smith musicale. To Hyacinth, Gareth’s every word seems a dare, and she offers to translate his diary, even though her Italian is slightly less than perfect. But as they delve into the mysterious text, they discover that the answers they seek lie not in the diary, but in each other… and that there is nothing as simple—or as complicated—as a single, perfect kiss.

MY THOUGHTS

This is my favorite book in the Bridgerton series! Hyacinth has such a bold personality, and Gareth is so charming! They have amazing banter and chemistry, and the mystery of the secret family diamonds was so entertaining. I love how it brought them together.

I also really love Lady Danbury’s role in this book! She’s been a mainstay throughout the series but we really got to know her in this book.

Review: The Off Limits Rule by Sarah Adams

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: The Off Limits Rule
Author: Sarah Adams
Series: It Happened in Nashville #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Avery Caris, Tor Thom
Length: 8 hours, 14 minutes (291 pages)
Publisher: independent; Dreamscape Media
Release Date: December 13, 2020
Source: Library
Content Warnings: body shaming, medical content, pregnancy, toxic relationship, gaslighting

SYNOPSIS

I have found rock bottom. It’s here, moving in with my older brother because I’m too broke to afford to live on my own. But that’s okay because we’ve always been close and I think I’m going to have fun living with him again.

That is until I meet Cooper…

Turns out, my brother has very strong opinions on the idea of me dating his best friend and is dead set against it. According to him, Cooper is everything I should stay away from: flirtatious, adventurous, non-committal, and freaking hot. (I added that last part because I feel like you need the whole picture.) My brother is right, though. I should stay away from Cooper James and his pretty blue eyes. He’s the opposite of what I need right now.

Nah—Who am I kidding? I’m going for him.

The Off Limits Rule is a laugh-out-loud, closed-door romance with sparkling chemistry that flies off the page.

MY THOUGHTS

What a fun, clean romance, full of all the cheesy humor I expect from Sarah Adams. I enjoyed this book a lot, but I didn’t love it quite as much as The Cheat Sheet.

I typically love a forbidden romance, but the trope doesn’t always work as well in contemporary fiction, and I just didn’t believe the obstacles to Lucy and Cooper’s relationship were that big a deal. Lucy’s brother needs to recognize that she is an adult and a mother perfectly capable of making her own decisions about who she dates without needing his approval!

I also didn’t love the male narrator for the audiobook, so I would recommend reading a physical or digital copy.

Review: All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆.5
Title: All Boys Aren’t Blue
Author: George M. Johnson
Genre: Memoir
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Aubiobook
Narrator: the author
Length: 5 hours, 12 minutes (304 pages)
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Byr); Macmillan Audio
Release Date: April 28, 2020
Source: Library
Content Warnings: sexual assault, rape, homophobia, sexual content, death, racism, transphobia, incest, violence

SYNOPSIS

In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.

Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren’t Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.

MY THOUGHTS

I was inspired to read this YA memoir earlier in the year when it was in the media as a banned book. I think it is so important for books like to make it into the hands of their intended audience.

All Boys Aren’t Blue is a poignant memoir about George M. Johnson’s experiences growing up as a queer, Black kid. The book is heavy and includes frank discussions of marginalization, identity, toxic masculinity, sexuality, and abuse. Many scenes are uncomfortable to read, but they are not salacious or inappropriate (beyond the fact that inappropriate things happened to Johnson). Johnson honestly shares their experiences to provide today’s queer youth with answers to questions they didn’t know how to ask.

I highly recommend the audiobook, narrated by the author, for older queer teens and allies.

Review: Nightwing by Renee Dugan

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Nightwing
Author: Renee Dugan
Series: The Starchaser Saga #3
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: New Adult
Format: ebook
Length: 432 pages
Publisher: independent
Release Date: December 1, 2020
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Recommended for fans of: An Ember in the Ashes, The Saltwater Heir
Content Warnings: torture, violence, animal death, rape, sexual assault, alcoholism, child abuse

SYNOPSIS

Princess Cistine Novacek is a prisoner of Valgard.

Facing unbearable grief and the revelation of her own formidable power, Cistine battles her captor’s cruel games in a fight to escape. Her only hope for survival lies in her own cunning, a surly guard, an imprisoned beast with his own reasons for seeking freedom, and an unexpected ally who will risk everything to bring her home.

Tatiana and Quill are on the hunt. Far from the familiar, they search the shadowy corners of Valgard for their lost princess. But to rescue Cistine, they may be forced to pay a higher cost than either of them bargained for—a choice that unearths an old darkness lurking at the door of their kingdom, waiting to be let inside.

Banished for betrayal, Asheila Kovar hatches a daring plan to find the princess she’s sworn to protect. But a pair of unlikely companions will guide her on a journey she never expected, with enemies she never foresaw and revelations that will change her understanding of Talheim’s past – and the course of all their futures.

Lines must be crossed. Lives must be given. Answers must be unveiled. And in order to thwart a tyrant’s madness, sacrifices are demanded of the cabal…a price that will alter the fate of the Three Kingdoms forever.

MY THOUGHTS

Nightwing has a much faster pace than the previous books in the series, although the romance continues to burn slowly. With the increased action, the story also gets darker and heavier as the villain and his abusive, torturous ways become more central to the story. This book is such an emotional whirlwind of excitement, heartbreak, hope, and despair.

The standout of this series continues to be the characters and their growth. I of course love Cistine’s continued character growth, but I was also blow away by Ashe’s journey in this book. And Tatiana and Quill! The cabal has my whole heart and I just want them to be safe and happy!

…but there are too many books left in this series for a happy ending just yet. THIS ENDING BROKE ME. WHY???? But even though it made me upset and a little angry, I need to know what new dangers the cabal will face in book 4.

Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Red Rising
Author: Pierce Brown
Series: Red Rising Saga #1
Genre: Dystopian Science Fiction
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Tim Gerard Reynolds
Length: 16 hours, 12 minutes (382 pages)
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Source: audiobook from library, hardcover in personal collection
Recommended for fans of: The Hunger Games
Content Warnings: graphic violence, death, murder, rape, sexual assault, sexual violence, cannibalism

SYNOPSIS

“I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”

“I live for you,” I say sadly.

Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

MY THOUGHTS

What a stunning and masterful book. Red Rising is The Hunger Games on steroids, and I am here for it. While it is a futuristic science fiction book set on Mars, it is dystopian at its heart, exposing a society with a color-coded caste system, where Reds provide hard labor at the bottom while Golds dominate with virtually limitless wealth and power. Darrow, a Red driven by loss and revenge, has an opportunity to infiltrate the highest level of Golds, where he plans to bring their society down from the inside.

The story is brutal, disturbing, and graphically violent. I was horrified, yet fascinated by the Golds’ depravity behind their veneer of honor and decorum. I loved the ancient Roman influence on the society, from the characters’ names to the clans based on the gods and goddesses of mythology to Coliseum-inspired war games to the reigning philosophies and ideologies.

The characters are amazing. I couldn’t help but root for Darrow’s cause, and I feel his confusion and conflict over allying with and even befriending members of the very group he plans to destroy. The villains are truly heinous. And I very much appreciate the tiny crumb of romance.

The ending was great, emotional and thrilling in a world where rules no longer apply, and the last line made my jaw drop. I am scared but excited to read the next book. I didn’t know I had a dystopian void in my heart, but Red Rising filled it.

Review: Something Wilder by Christina Lauren

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Something Wilder
Author: Christina Lauren
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Patti Murin and Jon Root
Length: 9 hours (384 pages)
Publisher: Gallery Books; Simon & Schuster Audio
Release Date: May 17, 2022
Source: Library
Content Warnings: death of parent, death, gun violence, kidnapping

SYNOPSIS

Growing up the daughter of notorious treasure hunter and absentee father Duke Wilder left Lily without much patience for the profession… or much money in the bank. But Lily is nothing if not resourceful, and now uses Duke’s coveted hand-drawn maps to guide tourists on fake treasure hunts through the red rock canyons of Utah. It pays the bills but doesn’t leave enough to fulfill her dream of buying back the beloved ranch her father sold years ago, and definitely not enough to deal with the sight of the man she once loved walking back into her life with a motley crew of friends ready to hit the trails. Frankly, Lily would like to take him out into the wilderness—and leave him there.

Leo Grady knew mirages were a thing in the desert, but they’d barely left civilization when the silhouette of his greatest regret comes into focus in the flickering light of the campfire. Ready to leave the past behind him, Leo wants nothing more than to reconnect with his first and only love. Unfortunately, Lily Wilder is all business, drawing a clear line in the sand: it’s never going to happen.

But when the trip goes horribly and hilariously wrong, the group wonders if maybe the legend of the hidden treasure wasn’t a gimmick after all. There’s a chance to right the wrongs—of Duke’s past and their own—but only if Leo and Lily can confront their history and work together. Alone under the stars in the isolated and dangerous mazes of the Canyonlands, Leo and Lily must decide whether they’ll risk their lives and hearts on the adventure of a lifetime.

MY THOUGHTS

Something Wilder is very different from Christina Lauren’s other books, and a wild ride at that. Not just a contemporary romance, it is also a wild west adventure with a treasure hunt mystery, high-stakes action, and jaw-dropping twists.

While this book is more plot-driven than CL’s other books, it is full of their signature distinct and lovable characters. I adore the way Lily’s friendships, her complicated relationship with her father, and of course her second chance romance with Leo were written. I’m glad Lily and Leo were able to find sweet moments to rekindle their feelings for each other amidst all the chaos.

This book left me yearning to visit the vivid setting for a hiking trip… but hopefully much more peaceful than the one in this book!

ARC Review: Ledge by Stacey McEwan

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Ledge
Author: Stacey McEwan
Series: The Glacian Trilogy #1
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Adult
Format: eARC
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release Date: September 13, 2022
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Recommended for fans of: survival fantasy
Content Warnings: gratuitous violence & death; death of a minor; suicide; attempted sexual assault

SYNOPSIS

After being randomly selected as a human sacrifice, instead of death, Dawsyn finds herself on a quest to save her people from their icy prison…

In a place known as the Ledge, a civilization is trapped by a vast chasm and sheer mountain face. There is no way for anyone to escape the frozen wasteland without befalling a deathly drop. They know nothing of the outside world except that it is where the Glacians reside – mystical and vicious winged creatures who bring meagre rations in exchange for a periodic human sacrifice.

Dawsyn, ax wielder and only remaining member of her family, has so far avoided the annual culling, but her luck has run out. She is chosen and ripped from her icy home, the only world she knows. No one knows what will happen to her on the other side, least of all Dawsyn. Murdered? Enslaved? Worse?

Fortunately, a half-Glacian called Ryon offers to help them both escape, but how can she trust one of the very creatures that plagued her life? Dawsyn is a survivor, and she is not afraid to cut anyone down to live.

With a slow-burning romance, high stakes and even higher rewards, this richly created new fantasy series by popular TikToker Stacey McEwan will keep you gripped to the very end.

MY THOUGHTS

This book has such an original premise for an adult fantasy novel. Dawsyn is the sole surviving member of her family on the Ledge, an isolated settlement of humans confined on an inescapable icy mountain by Glacians. Axe-wielding Dawsyn is as harsh as her environment, but when she is chosen by the Glacians for whatever they do to humans, her survival skills are truly put to the test.

Ledge blends survival story and political fantasy, with a dash of dystopian and of course some romance. I am always a fan of enemies-to-lovers, reluctant allies, and forced proximity, but I expected a bit more from Dawsyn and Ryon’s romance. The pieces didn’t all quite connect for me the way they should have. I want more!

The story is fast-paced, full of action and reveals. The setting and characters were well developed (I really loved the side characters at the inn!). This book kept surprising me until the very end. I’m not sure what to do with that ending…HOLY CLIFFHANGER. I absolutely need to know how that gets resolved in book 2.

Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Where the Crawdads Sing
Author: Delia Owens
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery
Audience: Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: August 14, 2018
Source: Personal collection
Content Warnings: domestic abuse, physical abuse, child abuse, rape, sexual assault, racism

SYNOPSIS

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her.

But Kya is not what they say. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life’s lessons from the land, learning the real ways of the world from the dishonest signals of fireflies. But while she has the skills to live in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world—until the unthinkable happens.

In Where the Crawdads Sing, Owens juxtaposes an exquisite ode to the natural world against a profound coming of age story and haunting mystery. Thought-provoking, wise, and deeply moving, Owens’s debut novel reminds us that we are forever shaped by the child within us, while also subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

The story asks how isolation influences the behavior of a young woman, who like all of us, has the genetic propensity to belong to a group. The clues to the mystery are brushed into the lush habitat and natural histories of its wild creatures.

MY THOUGHTS

After years and years of hype I can’t say that I was completely blown away by this book, but I can see why it is so popular, and I enjoyed reading this a lot. The writing is immersive and somehow addictive. Even at moments where it felt like the plot stalled a bit, I couldn’t put this book down, choosing to stay up late while on vacation after the rest of my family went to bed so I could find out what happened next. The story is not realistic, but it is mesmerizing.

The lyrical prose brings the marsh to life, while the simple language and dialect in the dialogue make the characters feel real, emphasizing the difference between life in marsh and in town.

The dual timeline could be a bit jarring. The police investigation chapters were so bumbling and farcical that they could take me out of Kya’s coming-of-age story, although they did build suspense toward the eventual trial.

I did not see the ending coming, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it nearly two months after finishing the book. I finally saw the movie and I cried way more watching the story on screen.

Review: The Last Legacy by Adrienne Young

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: The Last Legacy
Author: Adrienne Young
Series: Fable #3
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Length: 8 hrs 15 mins (322 pages)
Publisher: Wednesday Books; Macmillan Audio
Release Date: September 7, 2021
Source: Library
Content Warnings: child abuse, violence, physical abuse, death of parent, torture, murder, injury

SYNOPSIS

When a letter from her uncle Henrik arrives on Bryn Roth’s eighteenth birthday, summoning her back to Bastian, Bryn is eager to prove herself and finally take her place in her long-lost family.

Henrik has plans for Bryn, but she must win everyone’s trust if she wants to hold any power in the delicate architecture of the family. It doesn’t take long for her to see that the Roths are entangled in shadows. Despite their growing influence in upscale Bastian, their hands are still in the kind of dirty business that got Bryn’s parents killed years ago. With a forbidden romance to contend with and dangerous work ahead, the cost of being accepted into the Roths may be more than Bryn can pay.

New York Times bestselling author Adrienne Young returns with The Last Legacy, a captivating standalone about family and blood ties, reinventing yourself, and controlling your own destiny.

MY THOUGHTS

I’m so glad I took a chance on this book! I found the Fable duology to be somewhat underwhelming and not worth the hype, but I really enjoyed this spinoff more! There’s just something about Adrienne Young’s writing that keeps drawing me back.

This has a fairly typical YA premise: a young girl with big dreams and a sense of duty and purpose is sent off to live with influential, criminal relatives. Her naivety is exposed, but instead of being used, she becomes even more determined to prove herself, striking unconventional allies and hatching clever yet dangerous schemes.

I couldn’t help rooting for Bryn to reach her potential. Moral grayness abounds in this story, and of course I adored the forbidden romance with Ezra. The story had some great surprises along the way and a satisfying ending! Even though this is set in the world of Fable, I consider it a standalone. I flew through the audiobook with narration by Suzy Jackson, a YA favorite.

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