Fantasy · Fiction · Paranormal · Romance · Young Adult

A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire

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

Format: eBook

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.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 2.5 Stars

Fantasy · Fiction · Romance · Young Adult

Little Thieves

Title: Little Thieves

Author: Margaret Owen

Page Count: 512

Series: Little Thieves, Book 1

Publishing Date/Publisher: October 19, 2021 by Henry Holt & Company

Format: eBook

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.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 3 Stars

Fantasy · Fiction · Romance · Young Adult

Skin of the Sea

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

Format: eBook

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.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 3 Stars

Fiction · Historical · LGBTQ+ · Young Adult

A Sitting in St. James

Title: A Sitting in St. James

Author: Rita Williams-Garcia

Performer: Machelle Williams

Length: 13 hr, 21 min

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: May 25, 2021 by HarperAudio

Format: eAudiobook

Review: I admit, when I started this book I was unenthused about it. I would never have picked it up based on it’s description or cover, but it was on a reading list for a committee I am on, so I checked it out anyway. Let me tell you, this book impressed me more than any historical fiction novel I have read in years. It achieved a perfect balance of light tone with dark subject matter that left you feeling the whole gambit of emotion…horror, anxiety, hope, anticipation, shock, and mirth. One minute I would be experiencing stomach churning disgust and the next I would be laughing out loud. This author truly has a gift for writing complex characters. Sometimes you want to root for them, and sometimes you despise them. Be prepared for depictions of abuse (physical, emotional, and sexual) and brutal violence. These are not themes to be glossed over during this era of slavery. Cruelty is so intrinsic to the culture that the character’s appear to operate by an entirely different moral compass. Relationships are twisted and shaped by atrocities committed, both large and small.

A truly illuminating read and one that will make you think deeply about the dark corners of our past. Also, do yourself a favor and listen to it in audiobook format. The reader was phenomenal.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 5 Stars

Fantasy · Fiction · Paranormal · Romance · Young Adult

From Blood and Ash

Title: From Blood and Ash

Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout

Page Count: 454

Series: Book and Ash, Book 1

Publishing Date/Publisher: March 30, 2020 by Blue Box Press

Format: eBook

Review: My expectations for this book were extremely low having read Obsidian by the same author. I was pleasantly surprised by a plot that was engaging and unique enough to hold my attention. There are many common tropes in this book, but somehow they felt like they had a fresh spin. Despite the occasional eyeroll worthy fight scene, I enjoyed it enough to immediately put the second book in the series on hold.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold

Fantasy · Fiction · Paranormal · Young Adult

Slayer

Title: Slayer

Author: Kiersten White

Performer: Madeleine Maby

Length: 11 hr, 59 min

Series: Slayer, Book 1

Publishing Date/Publisher: January 8, 2019 by Simon & Schuster Audio

Format: eAudiobook

Review: I was 100% the wrong audience for this book. This is essentially a fan fiction spinoff of the popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, and I went into the listening experience knowing this. I have not seen the Buffy movie or the television series, but I downloaded this audiobook anyways because there were a couple Goodreads reviewers in the same boat who seemed to really like it. This was not the case for me. I had literally no context for many of the things referenced in this book, and for someone who is big on world building, this was a major problem. To me, it felt largely like a rant against a character that I have no prior knowledge of (except that she is a vampire slayer..duh). A significant portion of the book is devoted to all the things Buffy has done horribly wrong in her role as the “chosen one” and the new slayer’s adamancy that she will not repeat the same mistakes. Except guess what? She kind of does. So….yeah. Didn’t love it.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
Fiction · Mystery · Young Adult

Firekeeper’s Daughter

Title: Firekeeper’s Daughter

Author: Angeline Boulley

Page Count: 496

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: March 16, 2021 by Henry, Holt and Co.

Format: Hardcover

Review: A beautifully written portrayal of a bi-racial young woman navigating through the complexities of identity, family, and the social issues plaguing both of her communities. There are a lot of difficult topics broached in this novel, and Boulley deftly tackles each one as she uncovers the mystery at the heart of the story. I have to admit that I especially enjoyed the time period this book takes place in. Daunis is roughly the same age as I am and grew up in the same era. I experienced some level of nostalgia with the pop culture references and other time period identifiers. I was also delighted by the mention of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, my very own alma mater.

Some readers may feel that the pacing of this “thriller” is too slow, but I personally enjoyed the gradual unfolding. This book is packed with social commentary, so I think it was appropriate for Boulley take her time and dive deeply into the subject matter. I look forward to future works by this debut author.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
half star

Contemporary · Fiction · LGBTQ+ · Romance

Hang the Moon

Hang the Moon

Title: Hang the Moon

Author: Alexandria Bellefleur

Page Count: 384

Series: Written in the Stars

Publishing Date/Publisher: May 25, 2021/ Avon

Format: Paperback

Review: 

Once again, Bellefleur has gifted us a magnificent comfort read. A follow-up/companion novel to her Written in The Stars, Hang The Moon follows Darcy’s brother and her best friend and their…dynamic. She’s packed the novel full of tropes, as is her MO (oh my god, there’s only one bed?) and the human golden retriever that is Brendon is impossible not to love.

While the relationship is between a man and a woman, it is in no way ‘straight’. As with Written in the Stars, there is a bisexual main character and while that isn’t in the forefront of every conversation or scene, it is mentioned or implied a few times. It is also great bi representation simply because not every bisexual will end up with the same sex, and vice versa. It’s important to show that, and she has in both her books.

This series is an absolute delight that I return to time and time again when I need a break from the real world or just because I feel like it. The fact that I have to wait until February for Count Your Lucky Stars to come out to finish the trilogy is causing me distress.

Reader: Kymberly

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Gold

Fantasy · Fiction · Historical · LGBTQ+

She Who Became the Sun

She Who Became the Sun (The Radiant Emperor, #1)

Title: She Who Became the Sun

Author: Shelley Parker-Chan

Page Count: 416

Series: The Radiant Emperor

Publishing Date/Publisher: July 20, 2021/Tor Books

Format: eBook

Review: 

This was a highly anticipated book for a lot of readers and reviewers, and it did not disappoint. It is advertised as Mulan meets Song of Achilles, and even knowing that did nothing to prepare me for exactly what this book contains.

Full of morally grey characters whose fates and desires are interwoven, this book had me hooked form the start. I was thinking about it any time I had to put it down and found myself reading slowly so I could savor it.

Reader: Kymberly

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Gold

Fiction · Science Fiction · Young Adult

The Last She

Title: The Last She

Author: H.J. Nelson

Page Count: 352

Series: Unknown

Publishing Date/Publisher: December 7, 2021 by Wattpad Books

Format: eBook

Review: This is one of those times when I feel like I am reading a different book than most other reviewers. Unlike a lot of other readers, I felt this book had an overdone plot with no depth or real backstory for any of the characters. I think there was supposed to be a love triangle, but I’m honestly not sure. Gabriel made no sense as a character, so he was an uninteresting “villain.” Ara and Kaden? The reader surmises that they have all these deep conversations in order to justify their connection, but we are not privvy to any of the details. Plot twists? I guess, but they don’t go anywhere. The cliffhanger at the end implies that this story is going to go on a whole new tangent. No questions are answered, only more questions. You can draw a lot of comparisons to other books in the genre, but this one is nothing special.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_Gold
half star