ACOSF Pt. 2: It’s Raining Spoilers

Ayo, I’m back in action! In case you missed it, this is PART 2 of my full ACOSF review. This time, I want to talk about all things characters, all things theories, all things I disliked… so go back and read Pt. 1 if you’re new here. Think of this as a rapid fire, all of my thoughts, no deep explanations type of review… so really, not a review at all. If you haven’t read the ACOTAR series yet, you’ll be confused AF. If you have not read ACOSF yet, do not continue reading; every single word from now on is considered a spoiler. Let’s roll. 

First off, I loved Nesta’s journey and OF COURSE I LOVED THE HEAT IN THIS BOOK… but beyond that, we didn’t get to see much of the actual continuing plot of the series. In the end, I didn’t really mind this though because I think Nesta’s healing was important to focus on. And the heat? GIVE ME MORE. I just could have had additional details sprinkled in here and there naturally, because what was given to us felt rushed and pushed off to the side. Especially when Brialyn, the main “antagonist”, if you will, dies at the end of the story. The scene was badass, don’t get me wrong… but after reading it I thought what was the point of even having her sub-plot show up if she was going to die anyways. But, I’m hoping we’ll get more details going forward. 

In the beginning, I did not appreciate the forced intervention on Nesta. Ok, I understand that Nesta’s behavior was horrendous, but I didn’t like how they took away her freedom. I know that if they had given Nesta said freedom, she likely would have taken it and ran… But something about the way they cornered her, full of judgment, full of disgust, did not sit right with me… anybody felt like this was a bit ick? Though, take that opinion with a grain of salt, because as someone who takes criticism similarly to Nesta, I too would have felt cornered. But I digress. 

On a similar note, I noticed a lot of people didn’t like Rhys’s behavior throughout this book. I saw so many complainants that he was rude, arrogant, and an asshole towards Nesta… but I liked it *tucks hair behind ear suggestively*. Because think about it: we fell in love with asshole Rhys, right? The asshole that Feyre first met and interacted with during ACOTAR and the first half of ACOMAF was the one who first gave us butterflies… not the vanilla Rhys we got once Feyre accepted the mating bond. And really, we have only ever seen Rhys from Feyre’s POV, so to me, it makes sense that he has an attitude with everyone else, especially Nesta. He is High Lord of the Night Court, after all… I wouldn’t expect that he would be sunshine and roses, no matter how nice he is to people who have suffered. Honestly, I would have loved to have more of him in this book for these reasons alone. You guys know how I love my dark, angsty characters. 

I can’t mention Rhys without talking about Feyre, so… she felt off. I know we now got to see her through a new character’s eyes, those eyes belonging to Nesta of all people… but I can’t quite place my finger on why I didn’t like her as much this time around… maybe it’s because I fell in love with Nesta’s character above all. I also found it kind of silly whenever Feyre commanded people or made extreme decisions. We saw a little bit of her struggle with finding a balance between friendship and command as High Lady in ACOWAR, and I do realize this book takes place two years after the war, but I just snorted every single time she made an important decision. Hence why I’m a Nesta instead of a Feyre. 

At this point, I might as well talk about the whole… baby situation. I mean, we all saw it coming from a mile away. BUT I didn’t really dig it. Rhys being weirdly territorial was ick, Feyre going to DIE because of the baby was giving me Twilight flashbacks, and then we got the cherry on top: Rhys and Feyre’s asinine promise that they’d die together. Bruh. All of it felt… forced? Plus, I predicted Nesta would save Feyre’s life some how or some way. Did I still cry though? Yes. Moving on. 

The House of Wind has my whole entire heart… That is all.

Speaking of friends, let’s chat about Gwyn and Emerie. Ummmmm, of course I loved everything about them, and what they meant to Nesta. Literally perfection. I’m so happy that Nesta found friends outside of the Inner Circle too, because I just liked the feeling of her becoming her own person. She never had that opportunity in the past. The only time I thought their little girl gang was trite was when they were dumped in to the Blood Rite. Nothing about that made sense to me, even after knowing it was all Brialyn’s idea to begin with. This entire part of the story felt really forced and really rushed… not to mention the fact that they were able to scale that mountain with like four months of training.

Ok, you’ve now made it to the segment of this episode I’d like to call: holy shit when did Azriel become my favorite character. I honestly was not an Azriel fangirl before this book. I’d see everyone talking about him, I liked him platonically, but I didn’t get his hype. This book changed EVERYTHING for me. We were ROBBED of our ménage a trois scene between Nesta, Cassian, and Azriel. I literally read the singular paragraph describing the brief image of it 20 times over, trying to make it come to fruition. We first met the Azriel who was trying to be polite to Feyre in the previous books, and I think that’s why I didn’t really connect with him… but this is the real Azriel and he’s A LOT more complicated. The copy I ordered was the Feysand copy, so once I finished it I immediately scoured the internet to read his chapter. I think the darkness within his thoughts surprised people; I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t see his possessiveness and his entitlement of Elain coming at all… BUT I will say it made me obsessed with him even more. The way he argued with Rhys… *bites knuckle*. Some people found it disturbing… I thought it was such a wicked surprise and I’m so excited that we get to see him in this new light. Going forward, I don’t care who he ends up with as long as we get a lot more insight into his extremely complex character. 

Now buckle up and put on your tin foil hats, folks, because I’ll end this with theories; specifically, my favorites since there’s a million of them out there. If you want all of the theories, I suggest watching the Maastastic IGTV episodes on Instagram.

Dark Elain. Personally, I think floorboards have more of a personality than Elain, but I would LOVE to see her character spice it up and go AWOL for a while. Maybe have Koschei use her with some of the Dread Trove objects or something… ANYTHING. Plus, I thought she was sus throughout this book… all the gardening, all the disappearing, all the weirdness around Lucien… which, by the way, I think Lucien deserves personal justice. I don’t know about you guys, but I loved his character in ACOTAR and I feel as if he has gotten the short end of the stick throughout this whole series. I do enjoy the theory that Elain and Lucien will take over the Spring Court… if Elain would ever give Lucien the time of day.

Mor and Eris are actually mates. YES. This one truly makes so much sense. I honestly love Eris, he’s a complete prick but I think we’ve gotten to see that he has ulterior motives that run very deep… and I like it. Mor… ugh. She drove me nuts in this book. I hope she finds her happiness and she can find the strength to actually tell her truths. I also hope she ends up with Emerie, because I 1000000% ship that couple. 

The Multiverse. Yes, I thought Lanthys was suspiciously described like a Valg. Yes, I do think there is a multiverse. We’ve gotten so many hints… SO MANY. Yes, I think the Harp could open up portals into the other worlds… and I do think that the fourth, blurred out item in the Dread Trove is Luna’s Horn, or something similar to it… The multiverse trope is one of my favorites, and I just think there are so many opportunities for SJM to make all of her books connect like this. I could talk about this for days.

Ooof. If you’ve made it to the end of this, kudos. Your prize is a virtual hug from myself. If you’d like to talk more theories and characters, comment below, DM me on Insta, send me an email, or even write me a letter. I would love nothing more than to talk more about this fandom.

ACOSF Part 1: Cloudy With a Chance of Spoilers

A Court of Silver Flames, by Sarah J. Maas

I sobbed my eyes out over ACOSF in a way I haven’t done in a really long time, and it had nothing to do with the plot and everything to do with the characters. Though this is a high fantasy novel, the portrayal of depression and anxiety and internal trauma is quite possibly the best I’ve ever read, and I needed it. Nesta’s journey to make peace with herself and face the consequences of her actions is the perfect example of how you can’t put a “one size fits all” tag on mental health and healing. We are all dealing with our own shit. And that’s ok. Just because someone recovered faster, or someone looks to be fine from the outside, doesn’t mean we get to project and assume that everyone will heal the same way. 

Ok. Here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to write two blog posts. One being just a review of the good I found in this book, another being a deep dive into characters, theories, what I liked and didn’t like, etc. Because if I tried to cram all of that into one post, we’d be here for DAYS. I can’t really mention what I didn’t like about this book without giving away major details to the story going forward. Plus, I really want to talk about other characters and theories, but I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read this series or book yet. That’s never fun. So without further ado, let’s dive on into my ACOSF review Pt. 1. 

A Court of Silver Flames is the fourth/four-and-a-half/fifth book in the ACOTAR series by Sarah J. Maas, depending on if you squint your eyes and tilt your head… though I’d deem the three previous books and one novella necessary to read before you start on this one. The book follows our main characters, Nesta and Cassian, as they work through the aftermath of trauma from the war with Hybern that took place in the third book, ACOWAR. Nesta, who has always been fighting and losing her internal battles, has spiraled out of control into a very dark, painful depression, using sex, gambling, and heavy drinking to drown out her thoughts. She lashes out at anyone who tries to get close to her… even Cassian, who has always stood up for her in the past. Because she continues to gamble away her family’s money, and because of the dangerous power within her body that she has no control over, they force her into isolation and training with Cassian, along with a job in the library. Though mean and spiteful at first, Nesta works through her own trauma and ultimately finds herself in the end. I just have to quickly say, this book combined two of my favorite past times: reading and working out, and all of the training/fight scenes in this story were top notch. SJM did her research, and I desperately want a punching bag and some swords to do the workouts in this book. Address in bio if you’d like to send me some.

Nesta. I went into this story with Nesta being a character I greatly admired in the first three books, and left with her being my favorite character out of this entire series. Though Feyre’s previous perspective didn’t paint her in the best light, her stone cold attitude and desperation to save her sister Elain was respectable, and I loved the role she played in ACOWAR. However, after reading the novella, Nesta left a bitter taste in my mouth… she lost herself and her strength, and had turned incredibly mean and nasty towards her sisters and even Cassian. She was so goddamn mean, and that was hard to read. I was very angry with her character after the novella, and my feelings had me less than excited for this book at first… though as I began ACOSF, I had an epiphany as to why her behavior bothered me on such an intrinsic level. I saw so much of myself in Nesta’s thoughts, many of which I’ve had myself… almost verbatim. I was so angry with her because it was like looking in a mirror, and hating yourself because of what you’ve done. 

Not only did Nesta’s thoughts strike home, but I love her so much because of her failures and mistakes. I’ll say it again for the millionth time, I don’t connect with a lot of female characters… and I think it’s because many of them set unrealistic expectations for us. They’re usually always a do-gooder, always a martyr, always willing to sacrifice themselves, always perfect *rolls eyes*. I’m not saying don’t try to impart goodness on the world, but let’s be realistic… how often is doing the right thing the HARD thing? And how often do we take the easy road, the selfish road? Even Feyre drove me nuts during ACOTAR because she was always putting others before herself… but NESTA. Nesta was afraid, she’d rather hide her feelings, she was a pessimist; she’d tear down the world for Elain (eldest, bossy sister here too *nervous laugh*), but she was scared shitless of doing the right thing and I LOVE that. Instead of meeting her challenges with open arms, her knee-jerk reaction to everything was to say “woe is me” and to freeze up. As someone who is also caught up in their own feels 99% of the time and often says “why me”, I FELT THAT. So much of Nesta’s journey meant a great deal to me, and I am not ashamed to say that I will draw strength from her story as I continue to face my own fears and grow into myself. But *swallows tears* as this is starting to feel a bit too much like a personal journal entry, let’s move on to Cassian, everyone’s favorite himbo. 

Cassian was always an amazing, necessary character in the other books… but now, he has also risen to my favorite. Tbh I’d rather have more Nesta/Cassian books than anyone else; their dynamic was incredible. Cassian was never afraid of Nesta and her brutal behavior. He went to the mat for her time and time again, and he understood her on a level no one else had. He wasn’t afraid to push her out of her comfort zone either, to weather her storm because he knew that’s exactly what she needed. There’s a phrase that he constantly repeated to himself whenever he struggled with Nesta, and that was “keep reaching out your hand.” Brb while I go get that tattooed on my body like it has been tattooed on my brain. Cassian wore his heart on his sleeve for all to see, and I absolutely loved that we already knew this about him. We knew he loved fiercely and passionately, we knew his actions were big and loud and he never seemed to be afraid… though what this book did was prove that he lives so loudly in order to face his fears. I thought SJM wrote his perspective so authentically (I mean, duh, but you guys know what I’m saying), and there was just something about his character that was so pure and true to himself that made me emotional. For example, Azriel’s small POV completely blew my mind… but nothing about Cassian surprised me. But THAT’s mainly a discussion for Pt. 2 and I’ll explain myself further there. 

If you couldn’t tell, I am still crying over what this book means to me like the emotionally wrapped up human I am. I saw a snippet of Sarah’s virtual book tour, and she mentioned that she hopes that these pages prove to everyone out there that you can “find your happy beginning”, for Nesta’s journey wasn’t to reach an end, it was to reach a beginning. Sobbing. But now, let me dry my tears from my laptop and let’s talk about the fun shit. If you’re ready, head on over to Pt. 2, where I’ll deep dive into all that there was to unpack with the rest of the story. 

A Touch of Death – A Glimpse of What’s to Come?

A Touch of Death – A Glimpse of What’s to Come?

Black Mirror meets the future in A Touch of Death, written by Rebecca Crunden. I’ll be honest, dystopians aren’t usually what I gravitate towards. There’s just something about the futuristic feel to them, the gloom and doom, the downfall of societies, that mostly stirs my anxieties instead of offers me escape. Like, we are just a handful of natural disasters away from those terrifying dystopian nightmares becoming reality, and something about that thought doesn’t sit right with me. However, when Rebecca sent me a copy of her book, she totally grabbed my curiosity and I just had to dive into this series. 

The book follows the perspective of Catherine Taenia in a futuristic world, as she gets tangled up with a notorious criminal, Nate Anteros. The book starts out with Catherine and Nate on the run, escaping a fight. We’re given the smallest of insights into both of their characters, and we mostly realize they argue quite a bit; we’re also given hints that Nate is very familiar with the life of crime at this point. Catherine hates that about him. Seeking refuge from a storm, they stay the night in an abandoned building. Catherine accidentally steps on a jar of something, and while Nate is cleaning up her cut, he also cuts himself. As they continue on to meet up with Nate’s brother (who happens to be Catherine’s complement — aka “husband”), both of them start to feel ill, Nate more considerably. Only after they meet up with Thom do they realize something is horribly wrong — neither one of them can touch Thom without their skinning burning and blistering, and they only can touch each other without feeling anything. They also find out that their touch heals one another. Things spiral quickly out of control as they try to find out what is wrong with them, and soon Catherine and Nate are forced to go on the run when Thom is killed after he tried to break into the lab to find out information on this mystery disease. 

The rest of the story follows Catherine and Nate as they flee the authorities, but Nate continues to get more and more sick from whatever disease infected him and Catherine. Catherine’s touch eases his pain and seems to briefly heal him. Soon they are not only on the run from the Crown and Council, but they are also desperately trying to find out why Nate is so sick before he dies. Personally, I didn’t connect with either main character at first, but I did find Nate more interesting than Catherine… UNTIL the end. She just seemed so sheltered and willfully ignorant at the beginning… aren’t we all, though? I found Nate’s desire to bring change and fight against the Crown and Council inspiring. I feel like many people start out like Catherine: against change of any sort, accepting, content in their ways without realizing how privileged they are. It wasn’t until she was forced to rough it with Nate that she began to see the state of the starving people, and she began to realize her comfortable reality wasn’t the same for the rest of the nation. Once Catherine realized this and she grew more inspired to fight like Nate, I found out that I liked her more and more. I think that was the point of her character, to make us look inward upon our own privileges. It’s easy to be content, to not question… ignorance is bliss, as the saying goes. It is infinitely harder to know the truth, and it’s even harder to DO something about it. Nate grew up privileged as well, but he was able to recognize it from a young age. 

Not going to lie, I did find this story a bit difficult to get into at first. I wanted more description, deeper characters, and more of a twisting plot, but I do think the lack of all of these things in the beginning really played into the Black Mirror vibes I got. You’re just thrown into the story, without much background, and you have to infer quite a bit about the setting as you go along. I had so many questions that didn’t quite get answered; what exactly is a mutant? What do they look like? When will we get to meet a mutant? What do each of these cities look like? However, and this is a big however, I felt like there was a HUGE energy shift about three quarters in to the book that suddenly came out of nowhere. I’ve mentioned before that patience evades me while reading, and this was the perfect example of why I just need to sit tight and hold on until the end. Catherine and Nate’s journey had gone predictably throughout the story, but the ending gave me the massive plot twist I had been waiting for… and I was so stoked to see it. The stakes had suddenly risen, and Catherine became much more likable as she began to fight for the same change Nate had fought for his whole life. 

While the characters and story grew on me, I instantly loved the way this story made you question our current societies and social privileges. I found a lot of parallels to our world, and a lot circumstances that you could easily envision happening today. Some dystopians seem far fetched. A Touch of Death is a dystopian, but it’s a very REAL story… so much of what happened in this book seemed palpable, within the grasp of our future. I’m hoping that some of my questions get answered as I continue on with the story, and I’m so curious to see how Catherine moves forward to save Nate and her new friends. I can’t wait to learn more about how they will work together to take down the rich and save the people suffering from famine in their country. Hey, maybe I’ll even take notes… like I said above, we’re all only a few disasters away from this life…  

King of Scars Review

Nikolai. Nikolai. Nikolai. I’m finally back in Ravka, after my brief hiatus from the Grishaverse. If you’re new here, the Grishaverse and I have small bits of beef (*cough* this is your cue to pause this, read my reviews of the Shadow & Bone series and the Six of Crows duology, and come back to this one *cough*). However, my curiosity and excitement peaked after I saw the promotional pictures of the Shadow & Bone Netflix show, and I could hold out no longer… I cannot wait for April. Virtual watch party, anyone? After reading, I think King of Scars is the perfect combination, both literally and figuratively, of the two Grishaverse series. 

Let’s chat about the characters first. Obviously, I was thrilled to get to Nikolai’s perspective. Watching him struggling against the monster within him was a bit painful, but it provided great insight to Nikolai’s inner demons and how he views himself. The rest of the world sees the swagger and confidence, but he truly thinks of himself as an imposter with the drive to make Ravka a better place. I thought the way Leigh Bardugo painted his attitude towards Ravka was beautiful, especially with the story of Nikolai as a child. The only maddening aspect about him was how he kept himself platonic around Zoya. Speaking of Zoya… talk about a character that totally blew my mind. I had low expectations for her this time around, but Alina’s sorry portrayal of her in S&B did NOT do Zoya justice. The sacrifice… the anger… the willingness to fight… she was incredible. My favorite part of this book was when she trained with Juris. Did I understand it? No. But did I love her spitting attitude, fury, and strength? Yes. If Leigh does not let her and Nikolai come together in this final upcoming installment like they need to, I will reign hellfire. I still haven’t forgiven her for what she did to Nina and Matthias… and honestly, any chapter in Nina’s POV during King of Scars felt bittersweet to me. Sweet because she was one of my favorites from Six of Crows, but bitter because Matthias wasn’t there and Nina just didn’t feel the same as before. I didn’t like any of it, and it hurt like hell to get through… plus, it just made me nostalgic for the Six of Crows characters. However, I do ship Hanne and Nina, so we’ll see how they work together to take down Jarl Brum. 

The conflict in this book was hard to pinpoint. Not only did Nikolai and Zoya have to battle the monster within him, but they also had to deal with the threats from several different nations and parem. Nina also was dealing with parem, but a different strain of it… which wasn’t well explained. I felt as if there was a little bit too much happening, and I’m not entirely sure how it will all come together in the upcoming last release. I also did not like the introduction of Isaak in the second half of this story. He was bland, and I wonder what his purpose was since Leigh just killed him off in the end anyways. To provide insight into just how hard it is for Nikolai to be a king? We already knew that. To tell us what was happening while Nikolai and Zoya disappeared into the Shadow Fold? That could have been told from Genya’s POV, or even the twins’ POV. Something about him didn’t quite sit right with me, and even when I was reading his perspective I felt bored and desperate to get to Zoya or Nikolai. 

I thought Zoya and Nikolai’s detour into the Fold was uber-confusing. I had to reread it several times over because I didn’t understand how they were pulled in. Only when Isaak was introduced did I come to the conclusion that they actually disappeared. As they worked with the Saints in the Fold, my confusion grew. What was the root of the Saints’ powers? Why did just the three of them get stuck in the Fold, where were the other Saints? The Saints are Grisha, or what Grisha were before they were called Grisha? So much happened in such a short amount of time in the Fold that I found puzzling, and while I suspected Yuri and Elizaveta weren’t to be trusted, I did NOT expect the Darkling to come back (in Yuri’s body?). Yes, I loved the Darkling in S&B, for my own reasons. But did he need to come back? I would have said yes, if that meant we got an explanation of his character. But I truly doubt we will get that deep dive into him, and so I feel like bringing him back is pointless. Focus on the threat of parem instead… though I did catch that when parem was created, the Darkling’s power awakened within Nikolai. Hopefully that gets a further explanation as well, because I just feel as if they’re going in circles within the Grishaverse. I think that is why I loved Six of Crows so much more than S&B because it wasn’t a true Grishaverse story and it made so much more sense. 

For all my nitpicking, I enjoyed this book… but let’s be honest, it’s only because of Nikolai and Zoya. Six of Crows is still my favorite, and Ninth House is actually my favorite Leigh Bardugo book of all time. The Grishaverse is such a cool world in concept, but there are just certain parts of it that still pull at me and prevent me from really getting into it. I do believe it should make a great show though, because I think there’s potential for the show to fill in the plot holes and create more depth to the characters. For now, I’ll be patiently waiting on the release of Rule of Wolves in approximately one month.

A Touch of Di… I mean, Darkness

Who doesn’t love Greek mythology? Really, it is one of my favorite topics to read about, and I’ve always been obsessed with the legends of the gods. That obsession lead me to A Touch of Darkness, which explores the legend of Hades and Persephone in a modern setting. There are many different variations to the original story, but the gist of it is that Hades (the God of the Underworld) saw Persephone (the Goddess of Spring) and instantly fell in love with her. He then kidnapped her and forced her to marry him to become Queen of the Underworld. She became very unhappy in the Underworld, so Hades allowed her to return to the surface for a portion of the year. 

Such a fun tale, with all the dramatics and flair of a true Greek myth. I find it interesting when people retell ancient myths, because it’s so fascinating to see how they spin a well known tale into their own version. Kinda like the ultimate fanfiction. In Scarlett St. Clair’s story, Persephone has been hidden for the majority of her life by her controlling mother, Demeter. She’s never known true freedom, and she has had to borrow her mother’s magic, as every plant she touches dies. Her mother let her attend university at New Athens, where she is studying journalism. Right before she graduates, she comes across Hades at one of his gambling clubs, and accidentally loses a bet to him; he then gives her six months to create life in the Underworld or else she will be forced to live there for all eternity. Big problem for a girl whose touch brings death, not life. As she spends more time in the Underworld, she discovers that there is more to the dark, mysterious god of death than meets the eye, and in turn, he helps her discover her confidence and a path towards her own destiny. 

As far as characters go, Persephone felt like a very typical heroine, who doesn’t quite believe in herself and has a lot to learn. She was okay as a main character… a bit boring, a bit melodramatic, and not quite as deep as I would have liked to read. Hades was… also everything you’d think he would be. Tall, dark, and handsome… which is normally my favorite trope but he fell flat for me as well. It wasn’t like I found them to be bad characters… but they just felt superficial to me. Every bit of conflict seemed very predictable, and that predictability had nothing to do with the fact that I already knew the outcome of the tale. Girl lacks confidence, wants adventure. Girl meets dark “bad guy”, determined to find fault with “bad guy” but continues to be surprised against her own judgement when he disproves everything she’s ever thought about him. They fall in love. Girl discovers “bad guy” might have fallen for her to get out his own bet. “Bad guy” says no, that isn’t true. Girl blows everything wayyyyy out of proportion and refuses to listen to him. Girl runs away, crying and heartbroken from nonexistent betrayal. Girl realizes she is sad, magically starts believing him again, and says I forgive you… even though she made up his betrayal. Sound familiar? 

I would have liked to see more conflict and action from the characters outside of Persephone’s own foreseeable thoughts… but alas, romance. Speaking of romance… oooof. This was quite the steamy read, so if that is your cup of tea, you should be satisfied with this book. Personally, I need a love interest, but I’m more into the *tension* than mesmerizing graphic descriptions. Tension plus excellent world building plus love built into that world is what truly gives me butterflies. Give me a good enemies to lovers build up over several books… don’t give it to me halfway through the book and then every single scene from that point on is a sex scene between the main characters. BUT as I’ve said before, this is just my personal take on romance; if that is what you love, I harbor no judgement against you! To each their own, and A Touch of Darkness is hot AF, mindless read full of guilty pleasure. 

This Hades and Persephone retelling is a delightfully fast read, and even though I thought the characters were a tad boring, I am still excited to continue on with the story. I’m not scrambling to get the next one in my hands, but I will look forward to reading it on a rainy day. In fact, my favorite part of the book was searching the pages for the names of each of the characters. For example, the story of Minthe is familiar to those invested in Greek mythology, so every time she entered a scene I was curious how her original legend would play out in this version. I felt the same about Adonis, or even Tantalus. It’s why I love retellings, because you never quite know where the author will take a well known myth, and turn it into something uniquely their own. Stay tuned for an eventual update when I start the next book! 

Books for Younger Readers

This is quite different than my usual scheduled programing, but I was inspired to put together a compilation of awesome books to read for younger readers by a kiddo I babysat. He’s ten, absolutely loves to read, and 90% of our conversations revolve around books. Because a lot of the books I currently own are a bit mature for a ten year old, I reminisced upon all the books I was obsessed with at his age to give him ideas. Sadly, this was a stark reminder of how archaic I am, but I am not so ancient that these wouldn’t be relevant today, and of course many of them still are. I also commented this list on a TikTok, and it received an overwhelming amount of likes… which naturally gave me the confidence I needed to post this. So, I thought I’d go ahead and create a little mini series of my personal recommendations for younger readers based on what I read during those lovely, formative years. 

The Percy Jackson Series

I think anyone who knows me well knows that one of my favorite series of all time is the Percy Jackson series. Percy himself truly has a special place in my heart, and has made me the person I am today. I read the first book when I was 11, and I was hooked, obsessively waiting for each novel to come out (I know right, waiting for each Percy Jackson book to be released? Wild). Rick Riordan is an absolute mastermind, with his ability to convey ancient, heavy greek mythology into a hilarious series that kids can wrap their heads around. I think it honestly spurred my appreciation for all mythology, and each time I come across any odes to ancient Greece today, I think of his characters. I don’t think I will ever be able to recommend this series enough, and I will never stop talking about it. Plus, Rick has expanded upon Percy’s world with several new and exciting books, and he supports up and coming authors around the world. AND he’s heavily involved in the new PJ Disney+ series… much love, Uncle Rick. Much love. 

The Fablehaven Series

Another series that floats to the top of my warm and fuzzy memories is the Fablehaven series, written by Brandon Mull. I was hands down obsessed with these books when I was younger, and I remember them being simply delightful to read. Once again, I used to scour the library each and every week waiting for the newest book to be released in the series. These books are perfect for any young reader who loves fantasy, and I think it really inspired my appreciation for mythical creatures. Brandon Mull also had a unique way of writing mythology into the modern world, making it more relatable for readers who are just tapping into the well of their imagination. 

The Artemis Fowl Series

The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer is another series I highly suggest tween readers check out. I don’t know about you guys, but I wanted to be Artemis… boy genius, criminal mastermind with an attitude who discovers the underground faerie world. As he develops a plan to kidnap one to bring back his family’s fortune, he gets sucked into the dangerous world of the faeries. I am almost giddy as I remember this series and how I felt while reading it, and how it completely blew my mind as a child. There are certain parts of these books that are so deeply engrained in my mind that I don’t think I will ever forget them, even as they start to feel like somewhat of a fever dream as I get older. Artemis Fowl was that powerful. 

The Door Within Series

Ok, this next series is a bit of a brain scratch, BUT it has scratched my brain so deeply that I will never forget it: The Door Within Series by Wayne Thomas Batson. I think I read this series right as I started to watch Lord of the Rings, and it was so, so important in spurring my love for fantasy. The characters of this book inspired me beyond belief, and it was the perfect blend of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis (if I remember correctly). I even looked it up to make sure I hadn’t fabricated the whole thing (because that’s how rent free it lives in my mind), and I was a little surprised to see that it is categorized as a “Christian” fantasy… but I guess that makes sense if I got LOTR and Narnia vibes. However, I wouldn’t go so far to put the “Christian” label on it… I tend to stay far away from anything labeled “Christian”, so don’t let that deter you from handing it to a young reader in your life. Dragons, swords, mythical creatures, a unique and dangerous world… yeah, this book had it all and then some.  

The Harry Potter Series

Rounding up this post is of course, the one and only Harry Potter. Yes, I know J.K. Rowling is a transphob, which is NOT ok, considering her series was very important to those in the LGBTQ+ community. It pains me to hear her hateful comments, which are so hurtful and dangerous to trans people, while also remembering just how special Harry Potter is to me, my family, my husband, and his family. This was a series that defined my childhood; my mom started listening to the books when I was little, telling my family about it each night at dinner. Then, we all started listening to the audiobooks during dinner and road trips. Then, I read the physical books, multiple times. Don’t even get me started on the movies, video games, memorabilia, etc. I think a truly special aspect of Harry Potter is not only do young readers read it and connect with the story, but adults of all ages can as well.  My brother and I were obsessed, and our parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents also fell in love with the story. 

So there you have it: the top five fantasy series I highly recommend young readers dive on into, based on my own avid reading expertise. I think reading at a young age is crucial, when your imagination truly takes off and you develop a sort of friendship with the characters… when the world starts to feel like comfort, and magic takes place between the pages. Obviously, I have MANY more suggestions where these came from, and I’m thinking about making this a sort of mini-series within the blog. Stay tuned for more recommendations! My passion for reading runs deep, and I wouldn’t be who I am today without this solid foundation of books making up the building blocks of my very being. 

Legendborn

Legendborn: An Absolute Masterpiece

Well, well, well, if it isn’t me… back from my reading coma. Last week was absolutely bonkers, with the inauguration and everything in between. I’m PUMPED to have Joe Biden as president, and last Wednesday was one of the happiest days of the past year for me… but any time a major political event happens, it shakes me and I’m glued to every single bit of news I can find. I’m trying to find that balance of well-informed, and all consuming… and so far, I haven’t found it. C’est la vie. 

Now on to the piéce de resistance of this post: let’s talk about Legendborn, which is an absolute masterpiece of a book. Not going to lie, it did go on the back burner last week, and I had a hard time getting into the story at first. The book follows Bree, a black girl who goes to an Early College education program at UNC in North Carolina to follow in her mother’s footsteps after she died. Bree learns that there was more to her mother’s death than she thought when she encounters the Legendborn, a secret society on campus that is based on King Arthur and the Nights of the Round Table. She meets Nick, the Scion of King Arthur himself, and they form a plan to go into the Order undercover to learn more about her mother’s death. As she decides to infiltrate the Order, she finds out about her own magical abilities, and how she can operate the “aether” (magic elements) differently than those in the Order. She tries to keep her abilities a secret, but she caught the eye of Selwyn Kane, the Order’s Merlin… who also isn’t exactly as he seems. Bree learns more about herself and the Order than she intended, and the ending of this story completely blew my mind. I won’t talk about the ending because it was so stunning that I do not want to spoil it for those of you who haven’t read it yet… go read this book and then we can talk.

Bree was a fantastic main character. Tracy Deonn is a masterful author, and she really did a good job incorporating several types of grief and trauma into Bree’s thoughts in a way that felt very real. I loved everything about Bree; sometimes it’s hard for me to connect to the heroine, but Bree’s attitude was refreshing and I really enjoyed reading her perspective. To be honest, I didn’t really get much from Nick… typical chosen one, golden boy hero… and I didn’t even get much from him whenever Bree thought about him romantically. Plus, I was always a little bit suspicious of his dad… and I just didn’t like the way Nick treated Sel. Selwyn on the other hand… you already know he was my favorite character. He captured my attention from the start, and I spent the first half of the book wondering when he would come back into the picture permanently. Only in the second half did he become a much more important character, and I LOVED it when Bree teamed up with him to get to the bottom of her mother’s death. I definitely felt more of a spark between Bree and Sel; whenever she was around Nick, her attraction felt superficial. Vampire Diaries alert, but Sel reminded me of Damon Salvatore, and Nick reminded me a little bit of Stefan… I am not a fan of love triangles, but I’m curious to see where this one goes as the story progresses. I’m definitely getting some small Damon/Stefan/Elena vibes between Bree, Sel, and Nick, and you already know Sel is endgame in my mind. 

The magic in this story was intense and very detailed… and it took me a while to understand it. I think its complexity had something to do with my lack of focus at the start of this novel: there was a serious info dump on aether, the Order of the Round Table, how the Scions worked, and what Merlins are right from the start… plus a good number of characters were all introduced at once when Bree first came to the Lodge. Almost too many characters… even towards the end, I had trouble remembering who they all were and what their importance was to the story. And forget about appearances. I do have to say, the characters in this book were very inclusive, and I certainly appreciated the diversity. And it wasn’t diversity for diversity’s sake, either… the author touched on the importance of each of the diverse characters in respect towards the school and the extremely white Order. I especially appreciated Greer as a nonbinary character; representation matters. 

Once Bree learned about root and rootcraft, the magic seemed to click into place a bit more. Rootcraft is magic belonging to black women, as they can influence and use “root” (aka what the Order called aether). She learned her mother used rootcraft, and I loved the glimpses back in time that showed Bree the history of her people. I think Tracy Deonn did a beautiful job of incorporating systemic racism and the unfair treatment of black people into this book. While educating yourself on actual history is very important, I love contemporary fantasies, like Legendborn, that tackle racism and colonialism… it’s just another way to bring light and awareness to the way black people have painfully suffered at the hands of white people from the very start of this country. I highly recommend everyone who reads this book to also read the Author’s Note. 

Overall, Legendborn is a fantastic blend of fantasy and contemporary. The complex and unique spin on King Arthur lore, Bree’s touching self-discovery journey, the awareness to oppression and the lasting effects of slavery in this country, and the insane ending made this book a well-worth it read, and I look forward to the continuation of the story.

Kingdom of the Wicked: Witches, Princes, and Hell, Oh My!

HELL YESSSSSSSSSSSS. Guys, this book was fantastico *wink wink*. I think I actually screamed when I finished it, I can’t even be sure though because I was too hyped up on that cliffhanger ending. Kingdom of the Wicked had everything I was looking for and more. First off, I’m Italian (part of my family is actually from Sicily, the region where this book takes place), so Italian witches? YES. Second, the seven deadly sins as Princes of Hell? HELL YES (pun intended). Everything about this book, from the main characters to the suspense to the aesthetic held me in complete rapture as I raced through the pages. And, boy, did I race.

Emilia and her twin sister, Vittoria, are witches hiding in plain sight in the city of Palermo, and they come from a long line of star witches. Their grandmother has made them promise to never take off their cornicello amulets, and most importantly, never unite them. If they do, the Malvagi, who also represent the seven deadly sins, will come after them. The twins, or at least Emilia, always ignored grandma’s warnings until one night Vittoria is brutally murdered. Vittoria’s death is one of a string of witch murders across Palermo. Emilia discovers that her sister had been keeping dark secrets from her, and she vows to avenge Vittoria’s death by destroying those responsible. Her path towards vengeance teams her up with Wrath, one of the seven deadly princes, who is also trying to prevent more witches from dying. They form an uneasy alliance as they search for Vittoria’s murderer, and Emilia can’t quite figure out Wrath’s motives for keeping her safe as they battle demons on the streets of Palermo. 

As I read, I looked up pictures of Palermo, which may or may not have been a good thing… talk about longing for a place you’ve never been. Kerri Maniscalco did an amazing job of incorporating the beauty of this seaside town into the story. Another amazing element to this book was the lush and vivid descriptions of food… my mouth watered and longed for some heavenly Italian meals. I thoroughly enjoyed the details of every dish, which made the story seem incredibly real. Kerri weaved her Italian heritage and love for food and family into the story, which I truly appreciated. I also found the witchcraft magic to be delightful; every spell was so meticulous… my cup of tea. I’m obsessed with all things witchy, so I naturally drank in every detail. 

Emilia was a stunning MC, and one I found myself closely aligned with. She often described herself as the safe sister, the one less inclined to break the rules. When she discovered her sister’s death, she had to swallow her own fears and step wayyyyy out of her comfort zone. She watched as her family wished the whole ordeal to disappear, and she used her rage as fuel when she realized she was the only one willing to find the murderer. On the other hand, Wrath was EVERYTHING I wanted; dark, mysterious, handsome, morally grey, feral, dangerous… excuse me while I wipe up my drool. There might be one thing I love more than enemies to lovers, and that’s enemies to lovers with some serious moral questioning. I loved their dynamic as they worked together, with Emilia’s rage a perfect match for Wrath. I think I loved it even more when we found out Wrath had been working on his own agenda the entire time. Mmmmmhmmm, bad boy through and through. We end the story with them definitely not in love, but serious tension, and I cannot wait to see where they go from here. For me, it’s allllllllllll about the tension between the characters over anything else, and Kingdom of the Wicked delivered. 

The concept of this book, using the seven deadly sins to represent the seven princes in hell, was super original, and I loved how it played upon religion and witchcraft alike. Each time Emilia met a prince, I was so intrigued and ready to learn more about them… even Envy. Their individual powers stoke those very real, very human feelings within all of us, which is how they ultimately overwhelm people. Kingdom of the Wicked moved at such an addicting pace, and I highly recommend this book to those who love witchy stories, fast paced reads, and Italian food. The only downside to this entire story is that I devoured it in less than two days… and the sequel won’t be out for a while *sigh*.

A Curse so Dark and Lonely: A Curse so YA

Ayoo, I’m back on my fantasy novel kick! A Curse So Dark and Lonely caught my attention because 1) Bloomsbury is doing a great job promoting the third book coming out, and 2) sometimes a Beauty and the Beast retelling is just too enticing to pass up. 

The story follows our two main characters, Harper and Rhen (plus Grey, who I’m considering THE main character in my mind… hear me out). Harper faces many hardships on the streets of Washington D.C. Not only does she have cerebral palsy, but her mother is dying from cancer, and her father walked out on her family and left her older brother to deal with his debt collectors. Her brother, Jake, has been forced to do some rough things to pay off the collectors, and Harper is his lookout, which is how she finds herself accidentally kidnapped to a different realm. Rhen is the crown prince of Emberfall, but he has been cursed by a magesmith: if he can’t find true love during a courting season, he turns into a vicious creature and the season repeats itself. As the creature, he’s killed the majority of everyone in the castle (including his family), and terrorized the people of his kingdom. The commander of his guard is the only person left, and only Grey has been granted the ability to cross over into the modern realm in order to find a girl to break Rhen’s curse. At the start of Rhen’s last season, Grey accidentally takes Harper back to Emberfall. 

I felt like this was a good, solid YA fantasy read. The plot was very stereotypical: prince is a cursed, arrogant beast, prince must woo a girl to break curse, girl doesn’t want to fall for prince, girl ultimately falls for prince to save him from the curse. I also felt like the story breezed over certain plot points, and felt rushed at times when a little more detail could have gone a long way. However, there was an element to this story that kept me from DNFing… Commander Grey. To be completely honest, he was hands down my favorite character, and I wish we got to read more of his perspective other than two chapters at the end. I couldn’t tell if Harper was going to end up with him or Rhen, and naturally I preferred Grey. He kept the story going for me, and I read each chapter in hopes that he’d pop up. Grey fascinated me because he took his oath to the crown so seriously, and he never put that oath in jeopardy, but you could tell there was more to his story. Looking back, I think the fact that we didn’t get his POV may have encouraged my obsession with him… and maybe that was the point, because we find out Grey is much more important to the story at the very end. Hmmmmmmm. 

Let’s talk Harper and Rhen. Harper was actually a fantastic heroine, despite her very snarky, pessimistic internal monologue. Not to be contrary, but I don’t connect with pessimistic heroines (example: Katniss. Sorry not sorry, and I will die on that hill). However, I had to put myself in Harper’s shoes: her family was broke, her mother was dying, and her brother had to resort to crime to keep them afloat. That’s a lot of shit to deal with, and I get why she was so negative at the start of the novel. She grew on me as the book went on, and I appreciated the way Brigid Kemmerer portrayed her cerebral palsy. While Brigid does have a note saying this is just a character’s portrayal of this disease and it isn’t a standard representation, I liked how she made sure it never affected Harper’s fearlessness. Someone without cerebral palsy might say the disease is a hindrance, myself included; Harper would never, and I appreciated that. 

Rhen was meh, and he honestly didn’t do much for me as a character. He also had very pessimistic thoughts, so it was somewhat funny to watch him reconcile with his hopelessness and start to work towards a solution to save his kingdom. My wishes for Grey’s POV had me wondering what was the point of the front row seat to Rhen’s thoughts. I honestly felt more of a spark between Grey and Harper, or even Grey and Rhen, than I felt between Harper and Rhen. I was disappointed when Grey disappeared at the very end and Harper couldn’t build upon her feelings for him. However, I was pleased that she didn’t immediately choose Rhen either. Homegirl saved a whole ass kingdom by herself, built up support from the people, and didn’t go swooning over Rhen at the end. Queen shit. 

Because she didn’t immediately fall in love with Rhen (in fact, her love didn’t even break the curse… Grey killed the magesmith), I will continue on with the series, and I’ll definitely be holding out for Grey. Personally, I find the love triangle trope to be frustrating, but I have a hunch that the stakes will be much higher going forward. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve read a series to continue on with, so stay tuned! 

The Duke & I: I Caved

Happy New Year friends! First book of 2021 is in the books, and I’m starting off the new year with The Duke & I. Curiosity got the better of me, as I don’t read many strictly romance novels, and I really wanted to read this book to compare it to the Netflix show (FOMO definitely hit me, not going to lie). Not only did I want to read it for comparison purposes, but I am also a fan of classical period pieces. The Duke & I read like a much easier, more flowy version of a Jane Austen book, with all of the melodrama and none of the tough phrasing of nineteenth century English writing. Personally, I prefer the classics… coming from the girl who stubbornly read Wuthering Heights at age 14, I say give me some nitty gritty literature. But if some hardcore lit isn’t your cup of tea, or if you are a big fan of romance novels, I’d say give Bridgerton a try to ease you in to the classics. 

So, if you didn’t already know, the Bridgerton series is a period piece, taking place in London in the early 1800s. The first book follows Daphne Bridgerton, the fourth child out of eight, as she tries to overcome the societal woes of the time (a.k.a. getting married and having kids – bleh). To get her mother off her back, she concocts a devious scheme with the Duke of Hastings, Simon Basset, who has just returned to London after spending years abroad. The Duke has also fallen victim to the societal drama, and he wants nothing more than to disappear from Lady Whistldown’s gossip paper… so one night, he and Daphne come up with a plan: they will pretend to court each other, in turn bringing her hoards of jealous suitors to vie for her hand in marriage, and it will keep the vicious mothers and daughters of the ton away from Simon. Perfect, right?

A perfect plan indeed, until Daphne and Simon gradually develop feelings for each other while keeping up their ruse… which was strictly against the rules of their engagement. Simon, who also happens to be Daphne’s eldest brother’s best friend, knows that Anthony’s sister is off limits. And Daphne wants the one thing that Simon won’t give her: marriage and children… like 99% of women of the time (thank GOD we have progressed past that era… though sign me up for all the dresses and parties. I would sell my left kidney to wear one of those dazzling gowns). 

The story continues as Simon and Daphne fall in love with each other, accidentally get married, and then struggle to get past Simon’s hang up on kids. This was where the “romance” genre really hit me in full force… I kept thinking where’s the antagonist? What do they have to overcome? Where’s the conflict? And it took me a second to realize, ohhhhhhhhh the conflict is internal; I’m so used to villains, bad guys, and monsters that it really took me a second to realize the “bad guy” in this book was Simon’s feelings. While I’m a huge fan of steamy reads (duh), there was one specific part of this book that turned me off immediately… iykyk. This part could definitely be a trigger for some, so take care if you want to read it. I’ve heard they handle it much better in the show than what was described in the book, so I will see. 

I’m about halfway through the TV show right now, and I think the show is so-so at following the plot, but has added in so much more. I don’t mind this at all; in my opinion, the added details are making it much more interesting than the novel. The Duke & I is full of internal emotions, and I think it would be pretty hard to reflect those feelings on a screen… the characters could come across as boring. I won’t go into too much detail for those who haven’t watched it yet, but the only nitpick I have is that I don’t like how the show seems to focus more on Daphne’s love over Simon’s love… in the book, we got to see how much of a simp for Daphne this man was. In the show, he’s coming across as cold to me… tbh, he was probably more in love with Daphne from the start, yet we don’t see many of these initial feelings. I do have to say, the visuals are STUNNING… and the music? I could listen to those string quartet covers all day and never tire of it. Having freshly read the book right before I started the show, the differences between the two are stark… but like I said, I didn’t mind them too much. 

Overall, this book was a light, easy read… surface level drama, and so-so characters. To be honest, it was obvious from the start that Simon and Daphne were endgame, so I instead gravitated towards the siblings. The whole Bridgerton family dynamic was my favorite part of this novel, and they just might be the only reason why I might continue on with the series. Since the first book reflects the first season of the show, I don’t think I will move on to the other books until the second season… this book just didn’t capture my attention like I had hoped. However, my mother in law has told me that the story gets better after the first book… maybe I’ll save them for a rainy day, when I need an easy read that won’t take up too much brain space. 

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