The Black Veins Blog Tour – Review and Discussion

Hello y’all!

I am so excited to bring this review to you today. I was so honored to be chosen for this blog tour, and I loved this book SO much. Huge thank you to CW @ The Quiet Pond for organizing this blog tour. You can check out her post here.

I received an early copy from the author for review. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The Black Veins

tbv book cover

In a world where magic thrives in secret city corners, a group of magicians embark on a road trip—and it’s the “no-love-interest”, found family adventure you’ve been searching for.

Sixteen-year-old Blythe is one of seven Guardians: magicians powerful enough to cause worldwide panic with a snap of their fingers. But Blythe spends her days pouring latte art at her family’s coffee shop, so why should she care about having apocalyptic abilities?

She’s given a reason when magician anarchists crash into said coffee shop and kidnap her family.

Heartbroken but determined, Blythe knows she can’t save them alone. A war is brewing between two magician governments and tensions are too high. So, she packs up her family’s bright yellow Volkswagen, puts on a playlist, and embarks on a road trip across the United States to enlist the help of six strangers whose abilities are unparalleled—the other Guardians.

My review:

I finished The Black Veins just a few days ago and already I want to reread it; it’s that good. So yes, it absolutely gets 5/5 stars from me, and it’s on my favorites shelf.

Now there’s a lot to love about this book, but the thing I love most about this book is all the characters. I have a history of struggling with books with many main, or even named, characters because I struggle to keep them all straight, but I had zero problems with this book whatsoever. The way Ashia introduces them all and writes them all is so good. Each character has such a distinct personality, and I love them.

Tying into the characters, another thing this book has that is done so well is the found family trope. I love the dynamic the Guardians have as a whole, but what really sells a good found family is all the different individual dynamics as well, and they were all there and wonderful.

All in all, The Black Veins is one of the most fun and banter filled books I’ve read in a very long time, and I am so excited that today it is out in the world so you can finally read and experience it for yourself. Ashia Monet is an absolutely incredible author, and I can’t wait to read more from them.

No Romantic Arc

If you follow me on the internet, you probably are aware I have many feelings about romantic arcs in books (usually about how unnecessary and annoying they are), so I was very excited to read this book that doesn’t have one. I think it’s part of why I enjoyed this book so much. Not only was it just not there, but I didn’t have to be worried/have my guard up about some poorly written romance coming in and ruining the beautiful platonic dynamics going on.

There are so many books with romantic relationships out there, and I was talking to a friend the other day, and it was incredibly hard to think of any other fantasy books without them. It feels like a necessity, which can feel super alienating for aromantic people and/or people who don’t want anything to do with romance. Also, this is YA. This idea that every single young adult is getting into a relationship and is going to stay in it forever is seriously flawed, no matter whether they want one or not.

I love queer romantic arcs as much as the next person, but a romance isn’t a necessity for a book or a character to be queer, and Ashia really captures that in The Black Veins.

About the Author

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Ashia Monet is a speculative fiction author whose work almost always includes found families, diverse ensemble casts, the power of friendship, and equal parts humor and drama. Some of her favorite things are The Adventure Zone, Ariana Grande, and the color pink. You can follow her on Twitter @ashiamonet and Instagram @ashiawrites.

Twitter | Instagram| Dead Magic Series Twitter 

Buy The Black Veins today!

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Indigo | Apple Books

 

Check out the other stops on the blog tour!

11th July

CW @ The Quiet Pond

12th July

Fran @ The Ramblebee

Fadwa @ Word Wonders

13th July

Melanie @ Mel to the Any/BookTube

Sage @ sageshelves

14th July

Kate @ Your Tita Kate

Vinny @ Artsy Draft

15th July

Lili @ Utopia State of Mind

Noémie @ Tempest of Books

16th July

Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books

Surina @ Book Reviews by the Bloggisters

17th July

Saoudia @ Recs From Ur Friend

Gretal @ Books and Breadcrumbs

18th July

Kate @ Reading Through Infinity 

Vanessa @ The Wolf & Books

 

Why Malyen Oretsev is Toxic and No Good for Alina

This has been coming for a while. In January, I reread the Shadow and Bone trilogy, and wow was I shocked by the degree to which Mal is manipulative, toxic, and generally no good. So for Valentine’s Day, to celebrate the After trailer that dropped, I posted something just briefly showcasing all the ways Mal is similar to Hardin Scott and so many other toxic new adult love interests (you can find that here). I didn’t go super in depth though, and every time I see praise for Mal show up in my twitter feed, my anger for him and my need to make this post grows. And here we finally are; let’s get into why Malyen Oretsev is super toxic and no good for Alina. Be warned, this will get into spoiler territory.

Also, because my roommate says I just hate Mal because I’m super biased, yes, yes I am. Is it possible to review a book without letting our experiences shape our views of certain things in a book? No, I don’t think so, and reading is a subjective experience, that we all agree on.

So let’s get into it. Also please accept my apologies for how this is kind of an inconsistent mess.

Shadow and Bone

In which we meet our dear orphans

We start this book learning that Mal and Alina are basically all each other has. They were raised together from super young because they’re both orphans. Nothing about this is bad, but the fact that they are essentially each other’s only family and yet people ship them with such fervency squicks me out. It’s not technically incest, but…

*insert Buzzfeed Unsolved gif about any time you have to say it’s not incest technically, it’s not great*

Yeah. Even if I had nothing against childhood friends to lovers, I’d still question this because they aren’t just childhood friends; they’re each other’s only family.

Apparently that’s a part of the reason some people ship them though? Which, you do you, I guess, but I thought we just had a conversation about incest shipping.

That doesn’t dig into Mal’s toxicity though; it’s just a reason why the two of them becoming lovers makes me uncomfortable as a person who isn’t a fan of shipping incest.

And honestly has anyone married their childhood best friend? I don’t think it’s super common; it’s just a trope that came up out of amatonormativity  and heteronormativity because of course if a guy and a girl are friends at any point in their lives, it has to turn romantic.

Anyways.

Near the end of this book, Mal gives a big speech. It’s definitely meant to be romantic, but uh, I don’t find it to be at all.

So he’s apologizing for a bunch of stuff he did (what he said in the Little Palace, “everything else”), and we get into this whole passage (pages 297-298).

I squeezed his hand. “I knew we didn’t have much chance of finding the stag.”

“No,” he said, looking away from me. “No, not for that. I … When I came after you, I thought I was doing it because you saved my life, because I owed you something.”

My heart gave a little twist. The idea that Mal had come after me to pay off some kind of imagined debt was more painful than I’d expected. “And now?”

“Now I don’t know what to think. I just know everything is different.”

My heart gave another miserable twist. “I know,” I whispered.

“Do you? That night at the palace when I saw you on that stage with him, you looked so happy. Like you belonged with him. I can’t get that picture out of my head.”

“I was happy,” I admitted. “In that moment, I was happy. I’m not like you, Mal. I never really fit in the way that you did. I never really belonged anywhere.”

“You belonged with me,” he said quietly.

Okay, so we’re not even to the main part I wanted to discuss, but this exchange, although not terrible as one conversation, is one additional example of how Mal apparently doesn’t want to see Alina happy unless it’s with him, and especially not if it’s with another guy. And also that he thinks she belongs with him. Which yes. They spent ten years as each other’s only family. That makes sense. We know that’s not quite how he means it though, especially in the context of this scene.

“No, Mal. Not really. Not for a long time.”

He looked at me then, and his eyes were deep blue in the twilight. “Did you miss me, Alina? Did you miss me when you were gone?”

“Every day,” I said honestly.

Another brief comment: he doesn’t address the reason why she didn’t feel like she belonged with him (I assume that he kept flirting with and hooking up with other girls. Which from a friendship/family standpoint, would be annoying that your only friend is now abandoning you for girls he hasn’t known that long at all. From the romantic standpoint… I don’t even know what to say. Please decide are you family or are you lovers because this both makes me uncomfortable).

“I missed you every hour. And you know what the worst part was? It caught me completely by surprise. I’d catch myself walking around to find you, not for any reason, just out of habit, because I’d seen something that I wanted to tell you about or because I wanted to hear your voice. And then I’d realize that you weren’t there anymore, and every time, every single time, it was like having the wind knocked out of me.

I have no issue with this part of his speech. It’s even compelling for their friendship because wow if Mal and Alina weren’t both harboring romantic feelings for each other, I would be down for their friendship (because the romantic feelings is what makes Mal behave toxically).

“I’ve risked my life for you. I’ve walked half the length of Ravka for you, and I’d do it again and again and again just to be with you, just to starve with you and freeze with you and hear you complain about hard cheese every day. So don’t tell me we don’t belong together,” he said fiercely. He was very close now, and my heart was suddenly hammering in my chest. “I’m sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now.”

He lowered his head, and I felt his lips on mine. The world seemed to go silent and all I knew was the feel of his hand in mine as he drew me closer, and the warm press of his mouth.

So. Let’s get into this because I have a lot of feelings about it. Mal gives this whole long speech about how he’s in love with her whatever, listing everything he did for her, and how much he loves her. This is all fine. But then he says, “So don’t tell me we don’t belong together.”

Oof. I get it, he’s responding to her response to him saying she belonged with him. The thing is though, this still isn’t addressing why she didn’t feel like she belonged with him. He’s just assuming that she wants him, and proclaiming that he did all these things for her, so they belong together. And now he sees her, now he wants to be with her, no matter if now she feels differently. It may well be that she loves him and wants to be with him, but he doesn’t give her a chance to talk or enthusiastically say yes. He just says all this and then kisses her.

For the sake of transparency, none of Alina’s love interests in this series are great at asking for consent before they kiss her. Just because other people aren’t good at something though, doesn’t give someone else a free pass.

On page 331, Mal is actually kind of decent. In a rare move, he acknowledges his jealous asshattery and also says that if anything happened between Alina and the Darkling, it doesn’t matter to him––which like good. Yes. She wasn’t your girlfriend. You don’t get to be a pighead about what she does with other guys. He even acknowledges this fact too. I’m not going to get too into this, but I did want to acknowledge that yes, Mal does not in fact suck, every single moment he is on the page.

On page 351 though, our lovely controlling Malyen is back. He buys her clothes, fine, good. And then he says this:

“I never want to see you in black again.”

Uh. Okay.

On one level, I get it. The Grisha are big on their colors and stuff, and black was the Darkling’s color, but on another, it is just a color. You’re really expecting her to not ever wear black again? Dude. And if Alina brought it up, that would be a whole other thing because it’s her trauma and stuff, but for him to bring it up and say it with the expectation that she just agree and not argue. Yikes.

 

Oh wow, the last sentence of this book really harkens back to my first issue with this pairing.

They are orphans again, with no true home but each other and whatever life they can make together on the other side of the sea.

No true home but each other. For ten years. Yeah, that’s super healthy and not at all borderline incestuous.

Siege and Storm

In which Mal is violent and possessive

Pages 152-155. Let’s set the stage.

Nikolai, Mal, and Alina are all sitting around a table in a tent. Nikolai proposes a political marriage between him and Alina. At this point he hasn’t said anything more than that he can give her the chance to change Ravka and bring her people hope by helping him unite the First and Second Armies by becoming his Queen.

And what does Malyen do? He shoves the table aside and slams Nikolai against a tent post.

It’s a political marriage, and this is how he reacts? And let’s get this straight, it’s not for any perceived infringement on Alina’s honor; it’s because he doesn’t want any other man remotely close to Alina.

Sturmhond straightened the sleeves of his uniform. “I’m not proposing a love match, you heartsick oaf, just a political alliance. If you’d stop and think for a minute, you’d see it makes good sense for the country.”

Mal let out a harsh bark of laughter. “You mean it makes good sense for you.”

“Can’t both things be true? I’ve served in the military. I understand warfare, and I understand weaponry. I know the First Army will follow me. I may be second in line, but I have a blood right to the throne.”

Mal jabbed his finger in Sturmhond’s face. “You don’t have a right to her.”

He is unreasonably angry at this proposal that is nothing but political at this point. Nikolai hasn’t even made any jabs about heirs yet. And this conversation is happening without Alina. She told them both to chill (specifically Nikolai to sheathe the weapon he got out when Mal threw him against a tent post and Mal to stand down) and Nikolai tucks away his knife and explains calmly with no jibes, but Mal has his fists still clenched and is most definitely not standing down. He’s upset about Alina not being wholly his, as she has been for the past ten years even when he was also off with other women.

Mal doesn’t have a right to decide things for Alina. And yet as this discussion continues, he does. Alina barely says anything; it’s a confrontation between a pretty calm and mostly restrained Nikolai and angry Mal, even when Nikolai is being accommodating and saying that he could stay in the palace, be the captain of her guard, still be with her.

Sturmhond gave a dismissive wave. “I’m a depraved monster, I know. Just think about what I’m saying for a moment.”

“I don’t need to think about it,” Mal shouted. “And neither does she. It isn’t going to happen.”

Mal has not once consulted Alina regarding this. He just decides this for himself and decides it for her. This isn’t the first time we see Mal just assuming things for Alina, let me remind you. There was the time when he assumed it was okay to kiss her, that she still felt the same way about him, that he assumes she’ll just be okay with not wearing black because he said so.

So Alina does say she won’t marry Nikolai, and then she says she will return to Os Alta with him. (She steels herself when she says this because she knows Mal will react poorly because she knows that he doesn’t want her anywhere near any other guys, and sure maybe Nikolai is flirty, but they haven’t known him for very long, and Alina has made zero indications that she is into him at this point. Absolutely none.)

Alina asks for the Second Army and both protest, but while Nikolai’s concerns are more about whether she is qualified for the position, Mal says “No,” and “It’s too dangerous. It would be like painting a target on your back.” Again he’s trying to make a decision for her. As one isolated incident this would be fine, he’s just trying to keep her safe, watch out for her, but it’s not an isolated train of events, and this isn’t the first time we’ve seen him try and do this, and it won’t be the last.

Pages 158 and 159. Interestingly, as Alina is talking about finding the third amplifier, Mal questions Alina’s assumption that it was what they both wanted. So I guess only he can assume what the both of them want because when Alina does it, it’s bad.

We also see Mal’s insecurity regarding Alina’s power showing itself:

You wanted to wear the second amplifier. You have it. You want to go to Os Alta? Fine, we’ll go. You say you need the firebird. I’ll find a way to get it for you. But when all this is over, Alina, I wonder if you’ll still want me.

And then he leaves before she can assure him that yes of course she will, thereby manipulating her and making her feel terrible for having ambitions and trying to do stuff for Ravka.

I’m trying not to do too much comparison between the Darkling, Nikolai, and Mal, but I think this is just worth noting. From Nikolai on page 251.

“I’m ambitious, Alina. I’m driven. But I hope . . . I hope I still know the difference between right and wrong.” He hesitated. “I offered you freedoms and I meant it. If tomorrow you decided to run back to Novyi Zem with Mal, I’d put you on a ship and let the sea take you.” He held my gaze, his hazel eyes steady. “But I’d be sorry to see you go.”

I like this for many reasons. First, he’s really thinking about his actions and stuff, words like hope meaning that he’s not 100 percent sure which makes me trust him more because he knows to be wary of the possibility of him taking things too far. Second, he would put her on a ship to travel and be with Mal. That’s way more than we would ever get from the uncompromising Malyen Oretsev. Third, he’d be sorry to see her go. He doesn’t say anything more than that. It’s a simple comment about his feelings that doesn’t  intrude or assume much.

Pages 327-329.

The pages before this also ooze with Mal’s insecurities about being normal and not powerful, and just being upset that Alina has greater worries than him, that her whole world doesn’t revolve around him like his does her.

“You chose this. You have a purpose. I don’t even know what I’m doing here anymore.”

“Don’t say that.” I swung my legs off the bed and stood. “We do have a purpose. We came here for Ravka. We––”

“No, Alina. You came here for Ravka. For the firebird. To lead the Second Army.” He tapped the sun over his heart. “I came here for you. You’re my flag. You’re my nation. But that doesn’t seem to matter anymore. Do you realize tis is the first time we’ve really been alone in weeks?”

Again we get Mal not letting Alina decide/assume things for the pair of them. And we get Mal being insecure and we get Mal proclaiming how much he loves her. It just really doesn’t seem healthy to me, and it also feels like a manipulation tactic.

Mal took a single tentative step toward me. Then he closed the space between us in two long strides. One hand slid around my waist, the other cupped my face. Gently, he tilted my mouth up to his.

“Come back to me,” he said softly. He drew me to him, but as his lips met mine, something flickered in the corner of my eye.

The darkling was standing behind Mal. I stiffened.

Mal pulled back. “What?” he said.

“Nothing. I just . . .” I trailed off. I didn’t know what to say.

The Darkling was still there. “Tell him you see me when he takes you in his arms,” he said.

I squeezed my eyes shut.

Mal dropped his hands and stepped away from me, his fingers curling into fists. “I guess that’s all I needed to know.”

Brief aside: Mal is curling his fingers into fists, yet again. This really seems to happen a lot, and the fact that this is happening because she stiffened when he kissed her… Yikes

“Mal––”

“You should have stopped me. All the time I was standing there, going on like a fool. If you didn’t want me, you should have just said so.”

“Don’t feel too bad, tracker,” said the Darkling. “All men can be made fools.”

“That’s not it––” I protested.

“Is it Nikolai?”

“What? No!”

“Another otkazat’sya, Alina?” the Darkling mocked.

So Mal immediately decides that the reason Alina must be stiffening when he kisses her is another man and refuses to listen to her when she tries to explain. And once he decides that it is because of Nikolai, he continues to talk over her.

Mal shook his head in disgust. “I let him push me away. The meetings, the council sessions, the dinners. I let him edge me out. Just waiting, hoping that you’d miss me enough to tell them all to go to hell.”

Because the only way she can be with him is if she tells everyone to go to hell? Why can’t she have friends and you, Mal?

I swallowed, trying to block out the vision of the Darkling’s cold smile.

“Mal, the Darkling––”

“I don’t want to hear about the Darkling anymore! Or Ravka or the amplifiers or any of it.” He slashed his hand through the air. “I’m done.” He turned on his heel and strode toward the door.

“Wait!” I rushed after him and reached for his arm.

He turned around so fast, I almost careened into him. “Don’t, Alina.”

“You don’t understand––” I said.

“You flinched. Tell me you didn’t.”

“It wasn’t because of you!”

Mal laughed harshly. “I know you haven’t had much experience. But I’ve kissed enough girls to know what that means. Don’t worry. It won’t happen again.”

The words hit me like a slap. He slammed the door behind him.

He controls all the conversation, and he controls all the conversation about what her flinching means, refusing to let her explain. And then he leaves, refusing to let her say anything else.

It’s disturbing that he just takes this flinch and runs with it, deciding the reasons for it without once letting Alina explain she hesitates to respond to his initial “what?”

He leaves Alina feeling terribly and also like all the problems in their relationship are on her. She is crying, and she’s wanting to make this right.

Mal’s reaction is more concerning.

Everytime Alina tries to talk to him, you know, because she feels that this is all her fault just because Mal wouldn’t let her explain (I don’t know how that works), Mal walks away from her. He also drinks more, and he sports bruises and cuts as if he’d been in a brawl. Mal’s reaction when he is upset with the dissolution of their relationship because he decided what Alina’s flinching when he kissed her meant and refused to listen to her, is to get drunk and violent.

Maybe it’s not directed at her, but it’s still not good.

And he also kisses Zoya. And only after he sees that Alina has witnessed this does he finally talk to her. He says Alina, stop. He wants the chance to explain it, even though he didn’t give Alina that chance.

He throws the flinching in Alina’s face again.

Pages 364-366:

“At least she doesn’t flinch when I touch her,” he spat. “You don’t want me, so why do you care if she does?”

Despite her trying her best to tell him that’s not what it meant, he insists he knows best I guess and that she doesn’t want him. So Alina responds with “I don’t,” and also crying because at this point she’s still worn down and hurting over this whole thing.

She’s willing to do almost anything to be with him. She’ll compromise even though he won’t because he is stubborn and unwilling to listen.

“Saints,” he swore. “I wish we’d never come here.”

“Then let’s leave,” I said wildly. I knew I wasn’t making any sense, but I didn’t much care. “Let’s run away, tonight, and forget we ever saw this place.”

He let out a bitter bark of laughter. “Do you know how much I want the? To be with you without rank or walls or anything between us? Just to be common again together?” He shook his head. “But you won’t do it, Alina.”

“I will,” I said, tears spilling over my cheeks.

“Don’t kid yourself. You’d just find a way back.”

“I don’t know how to fix this,” I said desperately.

Why is it on her to fix this? She didn’t mess this up. Sure she flinched, but it’s on Mal for not listening to her and just deciding what that meant.

“You can’t fix it!” He shouted. “This is the way it is. Did it ever occur to you that maybe you were meant to be a queen and I’m not meant to be anything at all?”

He’s shouting at her while she’s crying. Also his insecurity is present again. Over the next page we get more of his insecurity, and then Alina says she can’t just be Alina again, and Mal says he wants her back.

“I can’t go back!” I screamed, not caring who heard me. “Even if you take away this collar and the sea whip’s scales, you can’t carve this power out of me.”

“And what if I could? Would you let it go? Would you give it up?”

“Never.”

This is all interesting because Mal doesn’t really seem interested in Alina in a romantic way until the Darkling shows up and wants her, and yet now he wants her back to the way she was.

And also he wants her to be something other than what she now is, and she won’t give that up, and he doesn’t want to compromise on that, to listen to what she wants. And though that image of carving is something she brought up, he’s like yes. Violence.

Ruin and Rising

In which Mal doesn’t do anything blatantly egregious, but he gets the girl he’s been nothing but toxic to in the past two books.

And now we’re to the last book. Everything that happened in the previous two books could have been fine if not for the ending this book gives us. Let’s get into what this ending is.

So we’re on page 23 and nothing really has happened yet, but we do get Alina feeling bad about the fact that she’s not normal because she knows Mal won’t have her as she is, and soon he’ll find a new girl. YAY.

I should note that right now it does seem like Mal is actually accepting who she is and who she’ll have to be and that she should marry Nikolai.

Alright so he is accepting who she’ll have to be, but because it’s hard for him, he’s not talking to her. Which like yes, understandable, but given his history of manipulation it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, especially since he says that’s the reason why (page 90).

Here is the infamous back tattoo: I am become a blade.

We get more of Alina being friendly, maybe even wanting him, and him shutting it down. He’s made his decision, that she will be Nikolai’s queen, without listening to her (again) so there will be nothing between him. Everything is on his terms (page 114).

I know I said I wasn’t trying to compare the men in Alina’s life, and that’s still true, but I just wanted to point out this quote from when Alina is talking to Nikolai (page 133):

I’d missed him. The way he talked. The way he attacked a problem. The way he brought hope with him wherever he went. For the first time in months, I felt the knot in my chest ease.

It’s that last part especially that is noteworthy. She’s had a knot in her chest for months, and Mal, obviously, has only been making it worse, and then there’s Nikolai and he makes her feel better, this doesn’t have to be in a romantic way at all. It’s just something that’s there.

Just a few pages later on page 140, Mal is actually a decent guy and deigns to allow Alina and Nikolai to eat dinner alone together. I hate that this is something we have to draw attention to because it just shows maybe right now he doesn’t treat her like a possession but earlier he did.

I felt a little pang, remembering the lonely days at Keramzin before Mal had arrived, the older orphans who’d had little interest in another scrawny refugee.

Page 144. This just serves as additional evidence that Alina really had nothing until Mal showed up. YAY INCEST.

Page 166. Mal and Alina are having a conversation. It doesn’t seem terrible at first but then Mal says some things.

“I wasn’t afraid of you, Alina. I was afraid of losing you. The girl you were becoming didn’t need me anymore, but she’s who you were always meant to be.”

Mal wants her to be powerless and to need him/that he’s afraid if she doesn’t have to rely on him she’ll leave him. Now I don’t know a whole lot about romance, but this feels really wrong to me. A relationship does not have to be made of a girl who needs a guy. I just don’t like it.

Page 227. Alina comes to think that she is very very distantly related to the Darkling and she feels sick and “like I needed a scalding bath.”

And like sure yes. But also how are you not okay with this but then you are chill with getting busy with your adopted brother, Mal?

The Darkling is like 500 years old, and if we say there’s 20 years in between generations, that would make them 25th cousins if they were related. I’m no incest shipper, but I have zero problems with 25th cousins being a thing.

Page 290. It’s brought up that the Darkling and Nikolai want Alina for her power. It is not brought up that Mal wants her without her power. He appears to be okay with it, but being okay with it isn’t the same as embracing it when the last thing he actually said on the matter was that he’d like to cut it out of her.

“You are all I’ve ever wanted,” he said. “You are the whole of my heart.”

Page 362. Mal says this right before they have sex. I just… They’re all each other has, and have been forever. That isn’t a good thing. But I know I’ve said that many a time, so I’ll not say any more.

This whole book, Mal appears to have made his peace with Alina’s powers and also her marrying Nikolai. But at the end of it all Alina loses her powers and stays mostly alone with Mal, giving him what he wanted. Maybe he did change, maybe he was actually okay with her powers, but we don’t really see that. Sure he tells her to kill him for the third amplifier, but that more seems to fall into the whole duty and honor thing this book has going on (the whole reason why Mal is encouraging her to marry Nikolai and be queen and whatever) In the end, Mal doesn’t ever have to change. Alina does.

 

There you go. That’s why I think Mal is toxic and no good for Alina (or any other girl. Come on dude). Please let me know what you think in the comments, and thank you so much for reading; it means a lot.

 

Bloodleaf Rant Review: Captain Marvel has better Goose Representation

 

Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith

40142462About the book:

Princess Aurelia is a prisoner to her crown and the heir that nobody wants. Surrounded by spirits and banned from using her blood-magic, Aurelia flees her country after a devastating assassination attempt. To escape her fate, Aurelia disguises herself as a commoner in a new land and discovers a happiness her crown has never allowed. As she forges new bonds and perfects her magic, she begins to fall for a man who is forbidden to rule beside her. But the ghosts that haunt Aurelia refuse to abandon her, and she finds herself succumbing to their call as they expose a nefarious plot that only she can defeat. Will she be forced to choose between the weight of the crown and the freedom of her new life?

What did I think?

Let me get started by saying this was not a good retelling of The Goose Girl, nor was it even a good book. I had so many issues with it, and the decisions the author made in regards to retelling that story. This review has some spoilers because wow there are some things I had Thoughts on. So 1 star.

First, the briefest of explanations for why this isn’t a good retelling of The Goose Girl.

  • There are no geese. NO GEESE. In a retelling of The GOOSE Girl. WHY. Our main character, you know, the princess turned goose girl herself, doesn’t even get a job?
  • Falada is a mare. For no good reason. This just me being nit picky, but if you’re going to change things, have a reason? Or maybe the reason is that she felt the need to kill off yet another female character because, this is spoilery, but very few female characters survive the book.
  • Conrad, the goose boy, is her seven-year-old brother now? Yeah, I don’t get it either.
  • also there’s this annoying subplot that isn’t at all goose girl related that becomes a huge part of it and just annoyed me
  • really though. THERE ARE NO GEESE.
  • who writes a goose girl retelling and doesn’t put any geese in it???

And the incredibly long, wow this wasn’t even a good book section:

  • First it employs the truly exhausting trope of the guard-friend being in love with the princess who doesn’t love him back. YAWN. The amatoheteronormativity of this.
  • We’re thrown into the book like one might be thrown off the deep end of a pool with a weight attached to the ankle. It’s very confusing, and then there is information we’re just told about what happened before the book, but I think the book would be better if we actually got to see it. Like Aurelia’s dad and aunt(?) are dead and Aurelia, for some reason, thinks she’s responsible. Do we see this though? no. We’re told it. And Aurelia is to wed the prince of a neighboring city/kingdom (like I said the world building is shoddy I don’t understand if there’s much of a country around the city) but we’re just told this instead of witnessing her finding it out or whatever. I don’t even know it’s bad.
  • Aurelia is super ableist in regards to said prince she’s supposed to marry. The prince was sick, and that’s the main reason she doesn’t want to marry him… not the more reasonable and not ableist reason that she just doesn’t know him?
  • Maybe this is just me, but I associate fairytales with friendship. Like yeah there’s the romance, but I feel like that’s not truly that significant part of the plot. In this book though, there was zero friendship. And it was very romance heavy.
  • Maybe you’re wondering, but Gretal, are you sure there’s no friendship? Well, here’s the thing. In the beginning, she had a friend who was a guard, but he was in love with her and kissed her so – no friendship there. And then she allegedly has a female friend, Kate, but I don’t know why they’re friends? The author does nothing to build up their friendship. We’re just told they’re friends, and that’s supposed to do it? And then, SPOILERS HERE, Kate dies and Aurelia is really upset and like yes. Someone dying is usually a sad affair, but Kate isn’t given as much weight in the story and Aurelia’s life as we are told she has, so why are we expected to care?
  • To get more into Kate which OOF I HAVE SO MUCH TO SAY. A little backstory. Kate is a noble, and she was engaged to this noble, Dedrick. Dedrick’s lackey is named Nathaniel and he would walk Kate to and from Dedrick’s house to meet him. Nathaniel and Kate fall in love and get married and when we meet Kate she is pregnant with his child and living a life as a great seamstress. One day Dedrick stops by and is like whoa you’re really pregnant and having a great life. I’m happy for you. You make a great wife. I know why we wouldn’t work out, and I wouldn’t have made a good husband for you blah blah blah. He also showed up to commission some garment from her. So Nathaniel comes home and is rude to him and after he leaves Kate is like dude what the fuck? and Nathaniel says he forbids Dedrick coming in his house and Kate is like uh isn’t it our house? and Nathaniel is just like I forbid it. Don’t disobey me on this. My word is final. and offers no further explanation and it’s just discussion closed. AND OH YEAH DID I MENTION SHE’S ONLY LIKE A COUPLE WEEKS AWAY FROM GIVING BIRTH??
  • So yeah. that happens. really shitty. oh and I forgot to mention. Aurelia is just watching this and says nothing. isn’t like Nathaniel stop what the fuck. And later she’s talking to Kate and is like “it will all work out”. WHICH. NO THANKS THAT’S GROSS. IF HE HAS A GOOD REASON FOR KATE TO STAY AWAY FROM DEDRICK, HE SHOULD SAY IT. NOT JUST FORBID IT. COME ON.
  • Oh, also. The Bloodleaf flower of the title is super rare and can do incredible things, and Aurelia used it to save the life of someone she didn’t even know, but apparently she didn’t have the guts to tell the husband of her very pregnant “friend” that he was a controlling prick who didn’t deserve Kate.
  • Kate continues to meet Dedrick because 1. he’s a customer and 2. he says that her mom misses her (she hasn’t seen her parents since she ran off with Nathaniel the commoner) and wants to see her again. So one day, she goes to his house because she’s going to meet her mom there. except her mom isn’t there and she’s like I want to leave. Dedrick then is like Nathaniel isn’t good for you he sucks and yes, Dedrick is trying to manipulate her, but he’s also not wrong?? We don’t get to see that much of Nathaniel and Kate, so the scene where Nathaniel acts like a jealous asshole and yells at his 8 months pregnant wife is very memorable and shapes their relationship in the eyes of the reader, or at least me. Also, the weight is put on Kate to be the better person? Nathaniel never apologizes, and Kate it seems, is the first one to speak after that. and it’s just total bullshit.
  • So anyway Kate rejects him and Dedrick tries to kill her because oh yeah there’s  also an annoying murder prophecy plot going on about bringing down the wall around the city and they need to kill three white horses, a maid, a mother, and a crone, and then three royals of the city/country/whotfknowswhatisthisworldbuilding. And Aurelia is there because this is all told in her pov in first person. so she kinda saves the day, stops Dedrick from stabbing her, but on their way home Kate goes into labor. Aurelia is aware there’s something wrong because Dedrick recited some words that also kinda make people die maybe? and so she runs to get this old healer woman. Kate gives birth to a baby girl, but they’re both not doing well and the healer woman has some tincture made of the Bloodleaf petal because she has cancer and it’s just enough to save Kate or the baby and the woman is fine dying because a mother shouldn’t survive her child because the old woman lost her son. so Kate dies and the baby lives. and Kate wanted to name her one thing, but then Nathaniel comes and changes the name?? it was weird I don’t even know I was a little disturbed.
  • Getting into the Dedrick thing. So yes. He sucks. Nathaniel at a trial reveals that Dedrick had him rough up a bunch of people and also Dedrick probably killed his dad. So yes. Dude is trash. and he killed Kate. But Nathaniel also still sucks. 1. he should’ve told Kate why she shouldn’t hang around Dedrick instead of just acting like a jealous fucking asshole. and 2. he never apologized for yelling at her. and because Kate is dead and Dedrick is responsible, Nathaniel’s actions are never actually commented on, despite the fact that Kate wouldn’t have spent time with Dedrick (and thus died) if NATHANIEL HAD JUST FUCKING EXPLAINED WHY HE DIDN’T WANT HER TO SPEND TIME WITH HIM INSTEAD OF ACTING LIKE A JEALOUS ASSHOLE. Just because one person is obviously bad, doesn’t mean that another person who is more subtly shitty is good 🙂
  • The Goose Girl really has enough of a plot without adding in this annoying prophecy plot thing. I just don’t think the world building was well done enough for it to be good.
  • The maid who is pretending to be Aurelia after the ambush in the forest is named Lisette, and she has next to no characterization. We’re told that her and Aurelia were best friends when they were younger, but I don’t know why they stopped being friends, and she’s just kind of there. You’d think she’d be a larger part of the story, but no she’s just being manipulated by her dad and then SPOILER ALERT he kills her.
  • So with Falada, Kate, and Lisette, that’s three of the named female characters down, but don’t worry, there’s more! The old healer woman from earlier? She is going to attend Dedrick in the dungeon because the king made it a rule that every prisoner has the right to see a healer if they can afford it so basically all the rich people just can get these healers to tend to them and then be like they can’t stand trial! and so they get off. and all the poor people who actually need healers can’t afford them.
  • which also is a commentary on wealth and classes I suppose, but I guess I’m just confused because Aurelia doesn’t work? she just lives in a hut and is fine and somehow has food from these people who are allegedly her friends but we don’t actually really see? I don’t really know. Maybe I missed something, but she doesn’t work. BECAUSE THERE’S NO GEESE FOR HER TO TEND. It just doesn’t seem thought out to me.
  • Back to the old healer lady, who one might call a crone, she’s attending Dedrick but yeah. you guessed it. he murders her for the prophecy so that’s four female characters dead out of nine major female characters, including one baby.
  • And then Aurelia is killed (I don’t remember how) but she’s not actually because back in the beginning there was some blood magic done binding the lives of her mom, her guard friend, and the random dude she saved with the Bloodleaf (he’s a diplomat from the city/country thing most of this book takes place in and the love interest pretends to be his son) to hers so they’d die before she did. And instead of the other two people, it’s the mom who dies because of course. So that’s five.
  • There’s some ghosty lady from some history 500 years ago who’s kinda haunting/protecting Aurelia and it seems like she dies for good at some point. I wasn’t going to mention her, but she is one of the significant female characters, and she is dead.
  • So yeah. Six. Now, you might be wondering, but surely there are many female characters still alive? But I can only count three. There’s Aurelia, the main character. There’s Kate’s baby. and there’s this woman who is like a trusted advisor to Aurelia’s family and also didn’t want to die for her in that blood magic spell and so was replaced by the guard friend (she might be my favorite character because seems like she has some sense). Three. Characters. It seems absurd, but I can’t think of any other significant female characters who are still alive.
  • Alright now back to the random diplomat dude. It’s just one throwaway line, but I’m pretty sure he and the previous king who is dead were a thing. Which is fine I guess except the king is dead??? and no, I’m pretty sure there aren’t any other queer characters. so yeah. also his sister married the next king aka diplomat dude’s lover’s brother.
  • Also, that sister threw herself out of a tower to save her son, the prince, because he was really sick and apparently Bloodleaf flowers only bloom when someone bleeds on them? I think. And so she killed herself so he would live.
  • Yes, that is the fourth woman dying so a child might live (if you weren’t keeping track, Kate for her baby, old healer lady for Kate’s baby[maybe she was killed by Dedrick, but she intended to because she gave up the Bloodleaf that was keeping her alive], and Aurelia’s mom for Aurelia. It’s a strong theme. which is all fine, I guess, but why don’t we ever see dads dying for their children?
  • I also just did not like the writing at all. the dialogue was clunky, and it was not a fun time.

 

 

All in all, I do not recommend this book, and if you’re looking for a retelling of The Goose Girl where the main character actually tends to some geese, I recommend The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. It also has lots of great friendship.

 

If you read all of that, thank you so much, and I hope you have a great day!

A Very Queer June TBR

Hello all and welcome back to my blog!

Yes, indeed, it has been a long time since I posted on my blog. I have zero excuses, but I’m back for June with a very queer TBR. Last June I tried to read entirely queer books, and I mostly did that. So this June we’re trying that again!


Girls of Paper and Fire and Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan

Last June I read Girls of Paper and Fire, and I loved it, so I am very excited to reread it before I jump into Girls of Storm and Shadow. Also look at that cover that was just dropped? STUNNING.

3443375543558747

 

Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most cruel.

But this year, there’s a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

TW: violence and sexual abuse.


The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

Okay so, I read this just a couple months ago, but I’ve been craving sapphic sff horror so badly (if you know any others PLEASE rec them to me) I will be rereading this in June.

36117102

A thrilling, atmospheric debut with the intensive drive of The Martian and Gravity and the creeping dread of Annihilation, in which a caver on a foreign planet finds herself on a terrifying psychological and emotional journey for survival.

When Gyre Price lied her way into this expedition, she thought she’d be mapping mineral deposits, and that her biggest problems would be cave collapses and gear malfunctions. She also thought that the fat paycheck—enough to get her off-planet and on the trail of her mother—meant she’d get a skilled surface team, monitoring her suit and environment, keeping her safe. Keeping her sane.

Instead, she got Em.

Em sees nothing wrong with controlling Gyre’s body with drugs or withholding critical information to “ensure the smooth operation” of her expedition. Em knows all about Gyre’s falsified credentials, and has no qualms using them as a leash—and a lash. And Em has secrets, too . . .

As Gyre descends, little inconsistencies—missing supplies, unexpected changes in the route, and, worst of all, shifts in Em’s motivations—drive her out of her depths. Lost and disoriented, Gyre finds her sense of control giving way to paranoia and anger. On her own in this mysterious, deadly place, surrounded by darkness and the unknown, Gyre must overcome more than just the dangerous terrain and the Tunneler which calls underground its home if she wants to make it out alive—she must confront the ghosts in her own head.

But how come she can’t shake the feeling she’s being followed?


Into The Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

This is the second of the sapphic horror books I really want to reread this month; this one I read last summer though, so it’s at least been longer.

34523174

Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves. But the secrets of the deep come with a price.


If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio

I read this last fall and loved it so much I’ve been wanting to reread it nearly since I finished it, especially since this time I plan on reading it on my own time instead of during an accounting class 😛

30319086

Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail – for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.

As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingenue, extra. But when the casting changes, and the secondary characters usurp the stars, the plays spill dangerously over into life, and one of them is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.


Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff

I just recently read Godsgrave, and I’m pretty excited to read this finale at last. I don’t love these books as much as everyone else does, but still they’re a good time.

23264672In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?


Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

I don’t know much about this except for lesbian necromancers and so many people are loving it.

42036538Gideon the Ninth is the most fun you’ll ever have with a skeleton.

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.

Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as necromantic skeletons. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will be become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.


Crier’s War by Nina Varela

I only know this is enemies to lovers f/f, and I’m sold. Also though, I love this cover. The engraving style? Please give me more @ publishers.

41951626From debut author Nina Varela comes the first book in an Own Voices, richly imagined epic fantasy duology about an impossible love between two girls—one human, one Made—whose romance could be the beginning of a revolution.

Perfect for fans of Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse as well as Game of Thrones and Westworld.

After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.

Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.

Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.

Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war.


The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco

I haven’t read anything by Rin Chupeco yet, but I really want to amend that fact, and this book sounds incredible.

36321739Frozen meets Mad Max in this epic teen fantasy duology bursting with star-crossed romance, immortal heroines, and elemental magic, perfect for fans of Furyborn.

Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon. But seventeen years ago, one sister’s betrayal defied an ancient prophecy and split their world in two. The planet ceased to spin, and a Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in perpetual night, the other scorched by an unrelenting sun.

While one sister rules Aranth—a frozen city surrounded by a storm-wracked sea —her twin inhabits the sand-locked Golden City. Each goddess has raised a daughter, and each keeps her own secrets about her sister’s betrayal.

But when shadowy forces begin to call their daughters, Odessa and Haidee, back to the site of the Breaking, the two young goddesses —along with a powerful healer from Aranth, and a mouthy desert scavenger —set out on separate journeys across treacherous wastelands, desperate to heal their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands.


Wicked as You Wish by Rin Chupeco

Rin Chupeco did a thread on what this is about after the cover came out and OMG it sounds so good.

20330977Tala Warnock has little use for magic – as a descendant of Maria Makiling, the legendary Filipina heroine, she negates spells, often by accident. But her family’s old ties to the country of Avalon (frozen, bespelled, and unreachable for almost 12 years) soon finds them guarding its last prince from those who would use his kingdom’s magic for insidious ends.

And with the rise of dangerous spelltech in the Royal States of America; the appearance of the firebird, Avalon’s deadliest weapon, at her doorstep; and the re-emergence of the Snow Queen, powerful but long thought dead, who wants nothing more than to take the firebird’s magic for her own – Tala’s life is about to get even more complicated….


The Fever King by Victoria Lee

I don’t really know what this is about at all, but I swear everyone I follow has been raving about this for months, so I’m excited to finally get to it.

39897058In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.


Miranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett

This is a sapphic retelling of The Tempest. I haven’t read The Tempest, but I love Shakespeare and I love the sapphics, so I’m excited to read this.

39947822“A haunting story that reimagines the consequences of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.”

After the tempest, after the reunion, after her father drowned his books, Miranda was meant to enter a brave new world. Naples awaited her, and Ferdinand, and a throne. Instead she finds herself in Milan, in her father’s castle, surrounded by hostile servants who treat her like a ghost. Whispers cling to her like spiderwebs, whispers that carry her dead mother’s name. And though he promised to give away his power, Milan is once again contorting around Prospero’s dark arts. With only Dorothea, her sole companion and confidant to aid her, Miranda must cut through the mystery and find the truth about her father, her mother, and herself.


Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

I keep seeing this on my timeline, and it looks really neat.

29981020Laura Dean, the most popular girl in high school, was Frederica Riley’s dream girl: charming, confident, and SO cute. There’s just one problem: Laura Dean is maybe not the greatest girlfriend.

Reeling from her latest break up, Freddy’s best friend, Doodle, introduces her to the Seek-Her, a mysterious medium, who leaves Freddy some cryptic parting words: break up with her. But Laura Dean keeps coming back, and as their relationship spirals further out of her control, Freddy has to wonder if it’s really Laura Dean that’s the problem. Maybe it’s Freddy, who is rapidly losing her friends, including Doodle, who needs her now more than ever. Fortunately for Freddy, there are new friends, and the insight of advice columnists like Anna Vice to help her through being a teenager in love.

Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell bring to life a sweet and spirited tale of young love that asks us to consider what happens when we ditch the toxic relationships we crave to embrace the healthy ones we need.


The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum

I read The Wicker King recently, and I’m pretty excited to read this one in June.

36952571Ryann Bird dreams of traveling across the stars. But a career in space isn’t an option for a girl who lives in a trailer park on the wrong side of town. So Ryann becomes her circumstances and settles for acting out and skipping school to hang out with her delinquent friends.

One day she meets Alexandria: a furious loner who spurns Ryann’s offer of friendship. After a horrific accident leaves Alexandria with a broken arm, the two misfits are brought together despite themselves—and Ryann learns her secret: Alexandria’s mother is an astronaut who volunteered for a one-way trip to the edge of the solar system.

Every night without fail, Alexandria waits to catch radio signals from her mother. And its up to Ryann to lift her onto the roof day after day until the silence between them grows into friendship, and eventually something more . . .

In K. Ancrum’s signature poetic style, this slow-burn romance will have you savoring every page.


Birthday by Meredith Russo

I loved If I was Your Girl, and I’m so excited to read Meredith Russo’s next work. I’m not usually a huge fan of friends to lovers, but this sounds pretty good and it’s got #ownvoices trans rep.

39863399Boyhood meets The Sun Is Also a Star in this unconventional love story about two teens bonded for life when they are born on the same day at the same time by award-winning author Meredith Russo!

Two kids, Morgan and Eric, are bonded for life after being born on the same day at the same time. We meet them once a year on their shared birthday as they grow and change: as Eric figures out who he is and how he fits into the world, and as Morgan makes the difficult choice to live as her true self. Over the years, they will drift apart, come together, fight, make up, and break up—and ultimately, realize how inextricably they are a part of each other.


The Black Veins by Ashia Monet

I’m on the blog tour for this book, and I am SO excited to read it. It sounds absolutely incredible, and it’s about QPOC and there’s no romance arc and you all should definitely add it on Goodreads today!

In a world where magic thrives in secret city corners, a group of magicians embark on a road trip—and it’s the “no-love-interest”, found family adventure you’ve been searching for.

Sixteen-year-old Blythe is one of seven Guardians: magicians powerful enough to cause worldwide panic with a snap of their fingers. But Blythe spends her days pouring latte art at her family’s coffee shop, so why should she care about having apocalyptic abilities?

She’s given a reason when magician anarchists crash into said coffee shop and kidnap her family.

Heartbroken but determined, Blythe knows she can’t save them alone. A war is brewing between two magician governments and tensions are too high. So, she packs up her family’s bright yellow Volkswagen, puts on a playlist, and embarks on a road trip across the United States to enlist the help of six strangers whose abilities are unparalleled—the other Guardians.


Beyond the Black Door by A. M. Strickland

I don’t know much about this, except that it has ace rep and I keep seeing people talk about it, so I’m excited to get to it this month hopefully as well.

42642042Kamai was warned never to open the black door, but she didn’t listen …

Everyone has a soul. Some are beautiful gardens, others are frightening dungeons. Soulwalkers―like Kamai and her mother―can journey into other people’s souls while they sleep.

But no matter where Kamai visits, she sees the black door. It follows her into every soul, and her mother has told her to never, ever open it.

When Kamai touches the door, it is warm and beating, like it has a pulse. When she puts her ear to it, she hears her own name whispered from the other side. And when tragedy strikes, Kamai does the unthinkable: she opens the door.

A.M. Strickland’s imaginative dark fantasy features court intrigue and romance, a main character coming to terms with her asexuality, and twists and turns as a seductive mystery unfolds that endangers not just Kamai’s own soul, but the entire kingdom …


Orpheus Girl by Brynne Rebele-Henry

When this cover first dropped, I was like wow that is beautiful but I don’t know if I’ll read this. But then I started listening to Hadestown, and now I want to read it more. At the same time though, this sounds absolutely brutal. So this is a maybe read for the month.

41118351In her debut novel, award–winning poet Brynne Rebele-Henry re-imagines the epic of Orpheus as a love story between two teen girls in rural Texas.

Abandoned by a single mother she never knew, 16-year-old Raya—obsessed with ancient myths—lives with her grandmother in a small conservative Texas town. For years Raya has hidden her feelings for her best friend and true love, Sarah. When the two are caught in an intimate moment, they are sent to Friendly Saviors: a re-education camp meant to “fix” them and make them heterosexual. Upon arrival Raya vows to assume the mythic role of Orpheus to save them both and to return them to the world of the living, at any cost.

In a haunting voice reminiscent of Sylvia Plath, with the contemporary lyricism of David Levithan, Orpheus Girl is a mythic story of dysfunctional families, first love, heartbreak—and the fierce adolescent resilience that has the power to triumph over darkness and ignorance.


Thank you for reading, and I hope you have a great day and a great month! What are you reading in June?

Wicked Saints by Emily Duncan – Blog Tour

Hey all!

I’m so excited to be part of the Wicked Saints Blog Tour and share with you my review.

I’d been pretty excited for this book since I first heard about it. I know Emily A. Duncan is a huge fan of the Shadow and Bone trilogy, and especially the Darkling, and when she says that this book is great for fans of the Darkling, she’s right.

The characters and the tension in all the relationships is all done so well. My personal favorite was Serefin, this prince who drinks a lot, but I think I’m more than a little biased because one of my friends is writing this incredible fic that’s Aldon from Rigel Black meets Serefin at a gala and then my favorite trash child, Caelum shows up. BUT ANYWAYS. I love Serefin and he has great friends. And then there’s Nadya’s point of view, and y’all. her and Malachiasz are a lot, and that’s all I’ll say about them. But if you like villain romances,, well.

I’m just so excited to see where the next book takes us because Wicked Saints has a killer of an ending, and also because I already want to reread this book as I anticipate being even better on reread.

I hope you all enjoy, and huge happy book birthday to Wicked Saints. Also, read this book and read The Pureblood Pretense, so you can read Two Drunks(or more?) at a Gala!

About the Book:

Wicked Saints_Cover FINALA girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.

About the Author:

EMILY A. DUNCAN works as a youth services librarian. She received a Master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, which mostly taught her how to find obscure Slavic folklore texts through interlibrary loan systems. When not reading or writing, she enjoys playing copious amounts of video games and dungeons and dragons. Wicked Saints is her first book. She lives in Ohio.

Buy Link:

https://static.macmillan.com/static/smp/wicked-saints/

Social Links:

Website: https://eaduncan.com/
Twitter: @glitzandshadows
Instagram: @glitzandshadows
Tumblr: http://glitzandshadows.tumblr.com/

A Comparison: Malyen Oretsev vs Hardin Scott aka why both these characters can fucking choke

Hi and Happy Valentine’s Day! A certain trailer for a movie adaptation dropped today, so I wanted to finish up this post I’ve had in my drafts for awhile. Enjoy!

Malyen Oretsev and Hardin Scott (and probably many other manipulative “love interests”)…

  • get tattoos for their girlfriends without saying anything about it. omg. so romantic. love a manipulative back tattoo
  • have an argument/break up with their girlfriends and then immediately go get drunk af and brawl. a lot. YAY.
  • center themselves in arguments to make their girlfriends be like im sorry even though there’s nothing they should be sorry for
  • don’t let their girlfriends (sometimes when they’re not even fucking dating) go on dates/ be friends with other people/ accept political marriage proposals.
  • generally act like they’re entitled to their girlfriends because they did _________ for them. YAY (Mal has a whole speech where he’s like I nearly died for you don’t tell me you don’t love me. wow. great. I love romance)
  • treating their girlfriends like they’re a piece of property. how romantic!
  • both think the only possible reason their girlfriends might be having issues with them is because of another guy

Anyways, so those are the reasons that I think Mal (and Hardin) are toxic af. Remember, just because one person in a story is blatantly abusive and toxic, doesn’t mean that another one can’t also be just in a more subtle “nice guy” way!

I hope you’re having a great day!

So much love,

Gretal

Release Day Mini-Reviews – 01/22/19

The Kingdom of Copper by S. A. Chakraborty

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My thoughts:

  • 5/5 stars
  • S. A. Chakraborty did it again
  • I don’t really know what else to say. this was incredible
  • even better than the city of brass?
  • get on reading this series

The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me by Olivia Hinebaugh

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My thoughts:

  • 4/5 stars
  • the inclusive sex positive ya about friends starting a sex ed revolution at their high school
  • it was so good. I loved this
  • and look at those ace flags on the cover!

 

Song of the Dead by Sarah Glenn Marsh

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My Thoughts:

  • 3.5/5 stars
  • I didn’t enjoy this as much as reign of the fallen
  • it’s still good, the plot is good
  • and I appreciate that we get the sapphic version of a ya sex scene
  • but there was so much pairing up of people and just, not everyone has to end up together, you know?

 

 

Hope you’re having a great day!

 

Release Day Mini Reviews – 01/15/19

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

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My thoughts:

  • 5/5 stars
  • the most beautiful writing
  • heisty
  • wonderful ensemble cast I would die for
  • historical fantasy
  • diverse and comments on the bs

 

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

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My thoughts:

  • 3/5 stars
  • this has a lot of potential to be a good middle grade
  • personally I didn’t like it but I think it’s because I don’t like scifi
  • if you like scifi, definitely check this out

Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills

 

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My thoughts:

  • 3.5/5 stars
  • this was really cute
  • just a fun time
  • obviously set in a small town
  • friendshippy

 

That’s all for today! Hope you’re having a great time, and happy reading

 

 

Release Day Mini Reviews – January 8th, 2019

I decided to start this thing where I post a collection of mini-reviews for books I’ve had the privilege of reading early on the day that they all come out, and this is the first one. I hope you enjoy!

The Wicked King by Holly Black

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My thoughts:

  • 5/5 stars
  • so m u c h tension
  • political intrigue
  • all the betrayal
  • I love this series
  • if you loved the first one, definitely read this one

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

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My thoughts:

  • 2/5 stars
  • better than one of us is lying
  • that’s not really saying much I hated one of us is lying
  • the last sentence is a little thrilling
  • I was just rather bored the whole time

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole

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My thoughts:

  • 5/5 stars
  • just as wonderful as the cover promises
  • so romantic, so sexy
  • if you’re not reading this series already, get on it??
  • I just really love Likotsi and Fabiola
  • here‘s my post for the blog tour featuring an excerpt

Slayer by Kiersten White

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My thoughts:

  • 3.5/5 stars
  • if you’re just looking for a fun time, read this
  • tons of diverse side characters
  • I haven’t watched buffy the vampire slayer, but this made me want to watch it

The Girl King by Mimi Yu

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My thoughts:

  • 2/5 stars
  • I just didn’t enjoy this
  • I got zero sibling feels from this
  • I just didn’t care
  • there also was a concerning scene with an attempted rape that just should have been cut

I hope you enjoyed, and happiest of reading to all of you!

 

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy Blog Tour – Excerpt and Review

 

Alyssa Cole returns with a fun, sexy romance novella in the Reluctant Royals series!

While her boss the prince was busy wooing his betrothed, Likotsi had her own love affair after swiping right on a dating app. But her romance had ended in heartbreak, and now, back in NYC again, she’s determined to rediscover her joy—so of course she runs into the woman who broke her heart.

When Likotsi and Fabiola meet again on a stalled subway train months later, Fab asks for just one cup of tea. Likotsi, hoping to know why she was unceremoniously dumped, agrees. Tea and food soon leads to them exploring the city together, and their past, with Fab slowly revealing why she let Likotsi go, and both of them wondering if they can turn this second chance into a happily ever after.

About the Book

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy
by Alyssa Cole

Series
Reluctant Royals

Genre
Adult
Contemporary Romance

Publisher
Avon Impulse

Publication Date
January 8, 2018

Purchase Your Copy Today!
Amazon  |  Avon Romance  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Google Play  |  iBooks

My Thoughts:

5/5 Stars

If you haven’t read any of the books in the Reluctant Royals series, get on that. You still can read this novella without reading the others, but why would you want to? A Princess in Theory and A Duke by Default are both incredible, and so is Once Ghosted, Twice Shy. Fabiola and Likotsi are both incredibly enthralling characters both apart and together. They have an incredible relationship, and this book even made me dig instalove, something I didn’t think was possible. Alyssa Cole is so talented. Utilizing two point of views, this book tells us how Fabiola and Likotsi first met on a dating app, and their second chance months later after Fabiola ghosted Likotsi and broke her heart.

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy is romantic and sexy, and I can’t recommend this series or this book enough. Also, this cover is just incredible (and the models are an IRL couple!).

Excerpt:

“Attention, passengers, we apologize for the delay.” The MTA conductor’s voice was tinny, but the exasperation rang clear as the voice fuzzed through the speakers in the stalled subway car. “We are being held momentarily by the train’s dispatcher due to a malfunctioning signal. Or something. Thank you for your patience. We will be moving shortly. Maybe.”

Likotsi Adelele, mother of schedules and slayer of inefficiencies, would usually have been quite annoyed with her train being stuck on a bridge for half an hour with no explanation, but it was a special day: she had off from work. The full weekend! Two days to herself, a reprieve from managing meetings with dignitaries, heads of states, and business interests; planning royal dinners, royal date nights, and royal relaxation; and overseeing most aspects of the life of His Royal Highness, Bringer of Light and Love, Prince Thabiso Moshoeshoe of Thesolo, currently situated in Manhattan.

Or more time to think about her.

Likotsi tugged at the thigh of her trousers—teal gabardine with a matching blazer—before crossing her leg so that an ankle rested over her opposite knee, exposing bright yellow socks. She brushed away a speck of dirt that had lodged in one of the diamond-shaped perforations that decorated the aged tan leather of her new brogues. Her father had mailed her the shoes a few weeks back, a Christmas present to go under the giant fir tree lodged into a corner of the royal townhouse, since Naledi enjoyed partaking in Christian holidays. When Likotsi had finally been allowed to open the package, held hostage until four am on December 25 by an ever vigilant Naledi, she’d discovered a note inside: New shoes point toward the future, sweet daughter. You cannot keep wearing that which you have outgrown.

Likotsi had slipped the note and the shoes into her closet for the two weeks following the holiday. Today she would break them in, walking away from memories that should’ve evaporated long ago but had left residual damage, like stains on suede after a sudden downpour.

She winced as the conductor made another announcement, this one completely unintelligible static.

A train delay was fine. A train delay was delightful. Anything she encountered this weekend would be delightful because she was tired of the dejection that had nagged at her for months. Dejection was inefficient, and worse, it was pedestrian. Moping and wallowing had left a green tinge on the memories of her few perfect days in New York the previous spring, like the band of a fake gold ring. It was time to leave the shoes she had outgrown behind.

It was time to create new memories.

As far as interminable train delays went, being stuck on the Manhattan Bridge on a Saturday morning was about as good as one could get. Outside the window of the train, the January sunlight was dappling over the choppy, ice-strewn waves of the East River, tinting the muddy waters a silvery green-gold. The cold blue of the morning sky seemed endless as it stretched out over Brooklyn on one side and Manhattan on the other, holding all the promise of the recently arrived New Year. 

A week before, Likotsi had watched the ball drop from the apartment of a translator she’d met at the UN. As she’d walked home, surrounded by drunken revelers, she’d wondered what it would’ve been like to kiss Fab at midnight instead.

No thoughts of her today. Enough.

On the Manhattan side of the river, the sharp angles of the skyscrapers were burnished with light, making it seem as if the impossibly tall buildings were sunbathing. New York City didn’t have majestic mountains or roaring waterfalls or rolling plains, like her homeland, but it was a beautiful city in its own way. It deserved better than to be the receptacle of memories that impeded her forward motion like a badly tailored suit that was too tight at the knees and elbows.

Likotsi had been working double duty as assistant to both Prince Thabiso and Naledi, his betrothed, for months. She’d been particularly dedicated to her job for the last seven months and three weeks, happy to work long hours and not just for the supplemental pay. Thabiso had gone from gently asking that she work less to outright commanding it.

She supposed she had been very. . . focused on keeping their schedules and making sure everything ran like clockwork.

The goat that wanders is the goat that gets lost. She hadn’t allowed herself to be lost to the pain of stinging rejection, especially over such a fleeting affair. She had focused, stayed on the path of international relocation and American apartment hunting and making sure that everything in her boss’s life was handled before he could think of it. There was a certain comfort in putting someone else’s life to order when her own felt uncharacteristically messy.

But now she was on vacation. The last time she’d taken time for herself in this manner had been, coincidentally, eight months before, when Thabiso had been busy hiding his royal identity while wooing Naledi. Likotsi had downloaded a dating app and made the error of swiping right on Fabiola C, located 0.3 miles away.

Fab.

Fab’s bio had been seven words: Math. Jewelry. Dressing down is giving in. Dark brown skin, Bettie Page bangs, and an hourglass figure were what had initially caught Likotsi’s attention. Personality, talent, and drive were what had held it fast. An immediate, theretofore unknown connection was what had made Likotsi sure Fab was the one. Fab’s blunt, cold breakup had shattered that illusion, but the shards remained.

Fabiola C: I can’t do this. You’re leaving, right? It was fun—let’s stop before it’s not.

Likotsi had thought the hurt would fade, eventually. It had been a temporary fling after all, and she was no slouch at those. While Thabiso had formerly held the title of the Playboy Pan Afrique, Likotsi had fared just as well in her own dating sphere, minus the fuckboy tendencies. In Thesolo, there were families anxious to settle their daughters with the prince’s right hand, and when she traveled? Well, women found it hard to resist a sharp suit and a soft smile. Surely a woman she’d only spent a few nights with shouldn’t have done her heart more than a glancing blow.

If Likotsi’s obsession with efficiency had taught her anything, it was that sometimes it was the briefest setback that toppled everything afterward like dominoes. 

About Alyssa Cole

ALYSSA COLE is a science editor, pop culture nerd, and romance junkie who lives in the Caribbean and occasionally returns to her fast-paced NYC life. In addition to writing, she founded and hosted the Jefferson Market Library Romance Book Club and taught Romance Writing for Beginners. She speaks on topics such as writing erotic romance, writing multicultural romance, and self-editing. She has contributed romance-related articles to publications including RT Book Reviews, Heroes and Heartbreakers, Romance at Random, and The Toast. She has also started a bi-monthly column in the Romance Writer’s Report, Romancing the Globe, in which she chats with romance writers from around the world. When she’s not busy writing, traveling, and learning French, she can be found watching anime with her husband or tending to her herd of animals.

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Amazon

 

 

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