Title: Kingdom of Flesh and Fire
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Page Count: 637
Series: Blood and Ash, Book 2
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 1, 2020 by Blue Box Press
Review: The first book in this series far exceeded by expectations. Going into this book, I had far more optimism, which was quickly doused. Everything that bothered me about the first book, that I was willing to overlook because the overlying storyline was interesting, is multiplied 1000 fold in this one. The dialogue between Casteel and Poppy is so ridiculous that I didn’t know whether to laugh or cringe. There are a couple interesting reveals throughout the book, but they are smothered in layers of unnecessary nonsense. Am I continuing forward with the series? Yes, but only because the heart of the story is interesting and I am still curious about Poppy’s heritage.
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Title: Little Thieves
Author: Margaret Owen
Page Count: 512
Series: Little Thieves, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: October 19, 2021 by Henry Holt & Company
Review: This is another ARC I am shamefully behind in reviewing, as it was already published 3 months ago. I am not going to lie, I almost cut my losses and DNF’ed this book because I was not enjoying it in the beginning. Sometimes books have slow starts, so I generally read about 25% before making a decision about whether or not I am going to finish it. I passed the 25% mark of this book and just couldn’t get into it, but I decided to persevere and continued plugging forward. I’m glad I did, because about halfway through was a turning point for me. I enjoy fantasy books with a healthy dose of romance, but the romance is generally not the draw for me. This is a rare case where the central romance is what redeemed the story in my eyes. It just felt so real and the sizzling tension that develops between the characters gave me actual butterflies. Something that sets this story apart is that the main characters are “normal” in the sense that there is nothing physically remarkable that sets them apart. They are not beautiful and there is never an illusion that their appearances are anything but plain. The attraction between them grows organically through their interactions, which made it feel all the more real. There is no instalove or mooning over each other’s physical attributes, just pure magnetic chemistry between two people who are equally matched in intellect and wit. For this reason alone, I finally made it to the end of this book and gave it a higher rating than I would have otherwise.
Rating: 3 Stars
Title: Skin of the Sea
Author: Natasha Bowen
Page Count: 336
Series: Skin of the Sea, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: November 9, 2021 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Review: I am tagging this book as an ARC, because at the time I received it from NetGalley, it had not yet been published. I started it some months ago, and then put it down in favor of other titles. Needless to say, the storyline and characters did not immediately draw me in. I did eventually pick it back up and finish it, and although I started enjoying it more toward the end, it didn’t knock my socks off. The premise behind this retelling of The Little Mermaid is undeniably beautiful. I loved how elements of the original story are interwoven with mythology and history. The story itself, however, was not particularly interesting to me. For readers who enjoy quests fraught with peril and mythical creatures, this story may have a lot of appeal. Alas, I am not that reader. I don’t generally enjoy odysseys because they tend to be more plot driven than character driven. Aside from the main character, Simidele, there is not a lot of character or relationship development. I’m glad that I finished it, but it is unlikely I will read the next book in this series. This book could easily be a standalone, though it looks like the author is working on at least one more title (possibly more).
On a side note, the cover for this book is absolutely gorgeous. In fact, it is the reason I requested an ARC of this title. However, why are her scales not rose gold??? Her scales are described multiple times throughout the novel, and it annoys me when these types of details are neglected. Rant over.
Rating: 3 Stars