Adult Books, Diverse Books

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse – ARC Review

I was sent this arc in exchange for an honest review.

I loved this book so much! The world and the characters were so incredible and complex and I just loved everything about it.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.

I had no idea what to expect when I started reading but this book crawled into my heart and burrowed itself in and made itself at home. From the storytelling to the world building to the characters, every single thing about this book is absolutely phenomenal.

The story starts with a line that had me completely hooked and I knew this book would hurt me. The first chapter is set 10 years before the events in this story and it creates an ominous start for the book with hints as to the darkness to come. I loved seeing this before we start as it gave us some important insight without giving away the entire story and plot. The story slowly builds us up to the finale where the separate stories of each of the characters start to merge and we see how the different parts we saw in the book fit together. And what a finale it was, it had me completely enthralled and worried for the lives of all the characters hoping for an outcome where they all survive yet having that sinking feeling that will that even be possible and being left on an ending that had me screaming.

Usually, when someone describes a man as harmless, he ends up being a villain.

The characters are all so complex and we see how none of them are clear cut good or bad. They have been shaped by their circumstances and events that took place even before they were born. They have to deal with the consequences of those that are no longer there to be taken account of and it was so interesting to see which of these characters were truly the villain or even if there was a single villain. Rebecca did this so well and I was rooting for each character even though they each had their flaws they were all working to make things better for their people or trying to survive and yet not seeing how their decisions impact others outside of who they consider their own.

Xiala was such a wonderful character and I just loved slowly learning about her and the people she came from. The Teek are so interesting and the things she even learns about herself along this journey made me love her even more. I loved her confidence and how she cared for the people she was in charge of and that her skills and ability had made her somewhat respected even though the men didn’t generally accept women as captains. Her relationship with Serapio was also so wonderful. I just loved their tentative friendship and how they found comfort in each other and how it slowly grew to something more. I just love them.

A man with a destiny is a man who fears nothing.

Serapio is fascinating, he is truly been shaped by others and has been honed to be a weapon to seek vengeance for an injustice that happened before he was born but he has no say in whether he wanted that or not. His destiny is all he has known and lived and breathed and seeing what happens at the end my heart felt for him but I also wanted to scream at him to not do it.

Narampa was another interesting character, she has fought her way to the top to become the sun priest but despite this she is never truly accepted by her peers because of where she came from. She is trying to make things better for them but they don’t want to accept what she is doing and yet while she works tirelessly for those who scorn her, her family and people she grew up with are ignored and continue to suffer and even she looks down on them. Yet when she needs help she ends up turning to those she left behind. It was really interesting to see how no matter how high you rise those in power won’t accept you, if you aren’t one of them.

I am the only storm that matters now, and there is no shelter from what I bring.

One of my favourite things in this book was that it was inspired by Pre Columbian America and the whole world and mythology that Rebecca has created was so stunningly beautiful and honestly a breath of fresh air. It had so much depth and the culture and the way of life, I loved it so much. Indigenous cultures are so beautiful and wonderful and truly I hope we get more books with their cultures showing just how rich these cultures are.

This book had me completely enthralled and while I loved all the characters, Xiala and Serapio stole my heart and I just need to know more about them and see more of them. This is a book that will have you mesmerised by the world and falling in love with the characters and you will be left thinking about this book long after you have finished it.

Books by Muslim Authors, Muslim Shelf Space, YA Books

We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal – ARC Review

Thank you to Macmillan Childrens Books for sending me this arc in exchange for an honest review.

This is the sequel to We Hunt the Flame and has become one of my absolute favourite reads!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The battle on Sharr is over. The dark forest has fallen. Altair may be captive, but Zafira, Nasir, and Kifah are bound for Sultan’s Keep, determined to finish the plan he set in motion: restoring the hearts of the Sisters of Old to the minarets of each caliphate, and finally returning magic to all of Arawiya. But they are low on resources and allies alike, and the kingdom teems with fear of the Lion of the Night’s return.

As the zumra plots to overthrow the kingdom’s darkest threat, Nasir fights to command the magic in his blood. He must learn to hone his power into a weapon, to wield not only against the Lion but against his father, trapped under the Lion’s control. Zafira battles a very different darkness festering in her through her bond with the Jawarat—a darkness that hums with voices, pushing her to the brink of her sanity and to the edge of a chaos she dare not unleash. In spite of the darkness enclosing ever faster, Nasir and Zafira find themselves falling into a love they can’t stand to lose…but time is running out to achieve their ends, and if order is to be restored, drastic sacrifices will have to be made.

This book and the zumra has been living in my head rent free since I read it. I really enjoyed We Hunt the Flame but this book was absolutely phenomenal. There is no way I can truly explain how much I loved this book and how incredible the characters arcs were. This is Zafira and Nasir’s story and I loved their arcs so much. Especially Nasir who had such incredible growth and development from the hashashin we meet in We Hunt the Flame. But I also adored Altair, he was my favourite in the first book and I loved him even more in this one. I will forever mourn Benyamin who made them the zumra but was not able to see all that they achieved.

Tears aren’t a measure of heart. We grieve in different ways.

The book starts right where we ended in WHTF and while the first book started a little slower to build the world and introduce the characters, this book takes us straight into the action and show us what the characters are doing and how they are dealing with the aftermath of the ending of WHTF. I loved that we see more of the world in this book as we travel to different places as each character continues their journeys. I loved the world building and the glimpses we get of an even wider world yet to be explored and I hope we get to see them one day too!

Zafira is dealing with having the jawarat speak to her and try to manipulate her and also trying to come to terms with the fact that her people no longer need a hunter so who is she if she isn’t the hunter. I loved seeing her battle with this, it felt so real and so relatable, trying to figure out who you are and who you want to be when you aren’t forced to be something for the sake of others. As the eldest daughter, it felt so real that internal struggle she has, can she truly live her life for herself without that guilt weighing her down. I really loved how her story ended and the choices she makes for herself. She also has to deal with the misogyny and sexism and fights against this and I just loved it so much.

One of the most difficult parts of her story was reading about the guilt and tension between her and Yassmine because of the death of Deen and that it was Altair that killed him, who is now Zafira’s friend. I loved their bond and relationship in the first book so it was heartbreaking to read the strain in their relationship in this book but it also felt real, and I loved how they started to work through it but it wasn’t magically fixed and we see that it will require work from both of them. But in this book we also see her build a wonderful friendship with Kifah and I just loved seeing them both work together and be able to turn to each other.

My blade is yours. Until every last star is freed, we are bound.

Nasir’s arc was so incredible to read in this book, I liked him in WHTF but in this book I completely loved him. No one is more surprised by this than I am especially as I am usually not a fan of the broody characters but his growth and development was just SO GOOD. I loved seeing him learn to accept himself and let other people in and that caring isn’t a bad thing. His and Zafira’s scenes were so delicious to read, truly, the sexual tension and the angst was done so perfectly and I just lived for their scenes. Nasir is completely smitten by Zafira and the way he describes her and treats her like the queen she is was just so wonderful to see. Him also learning to use his powers and realising that it isn’t something that is jut evil was also something that I really loved reading.

I loved seeing him and Altair also start to build a better relationship with each other, especially after we find out they are half brothers in WHFT and that Altair has been working to build a better world for them all. There is so much baggage between them and yet you can see how much they truly end up caring for each other.

Do you understand brother? You’ll have me. No matter how thick the night, I will always be there to light your way.

We learn a lot more about Altair in this book too and his past and all the mysterious things he did to get everyone to the Sharr in WHTF. I loved learning about his back story but it was also tragic and I just want all the happiness for him. I am so glad we see more of him especially as he is my favourite with his wit and sarcasm and yet he cares so deeply for everyone even as he feels discarded. Seeing his resentment of Nasir was so heartbreaking to read and I felt truly afraid for him at times.

We also see more of Lana in this book and I loved her so much, she is so young yet has had to grow up so quickly and an incredible healer and I loved seeing her interactions with Zafira and one particular memorable moment between her and Nasir. We are also introduced to a few new characters that I really enjoyed reading about too.

You have your duty as I have mine.

The zumra spend the book trying to save their people from the lion of the night who has made himself king and they go through a lot and have to come to terms with a lot about themselves too. But we also learn a lot about the lion too and how he became who he is now and his life is also so tragic. We see how cycles of abuse hurt everyone and that it has to end to be able to build a better world and heal rather than seeking revenge for the way they were wronged.

We will carve our names upon history, and we, too, shall live forever.

This book ties up Zafira and Nasir’s story really well and I loved both their endings so much, it felt so fitting for them. I would however love to see a spin off with Altair because I just want to see him get some happiness because he suffers so much in this book. Also there is more I want to say but I can’t because spoilers but truly I can see the spin off with him a certain character and I just need it!

This book is phenomenal and I need you all to go buy it and read it. The writing is so rich and vivid and the world is so intricate and the characters are amazing. I just loved this book so much.

Adult Books, Diverse Books

Winters Orbit by Everina Maxwell – ARC Review

Thank you to Orbit books for this arc in exchange for an honest review. I really enjoyed this book and really loved both main characters.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat’s rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam’s cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control.

But when it comes to light that Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war… all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.

TW: Discussions of abuse and torture

This story focuses on Jainan and Kiem and how their worlds collide when they have to get married to keep their respective planets alliance. Both of them agree to it as it’s their duty but they don’t really have much time to really know each other before getting married and are thrown straight into the deep end.

They are both such different characters and have such different personalities that they initially have difficulty understanding each other and I was literally screaming at them at points because they are both smart yet are completely ridiculous when it comes to each other. Their miscommunication results in a lot of angst and tension and I was living for it. It built up the tension so much so that when they finally resolved it, it was so satisfying. Also we got the only one bed trope with a twist and I just loved seeing their relationship develop as they learnt to understand each other.

I felt the story is very character driven, we spend a lot of time in both the main characters heads and we really get to know about them and how their pasts affect them now and I loved how we get to see them trying their best to make the marriage work but just not reading the other correctly because of their own past traumas and assumptions and it just felt so real. Jainan is a cinnamon roll and I will protect him with my life, he suffered so much especially the things we find out about his marriage to Taam and honestly it was so difficult to read about it. Kiem is so sweet and truly I need more characters like them in books.

I loved how they worked together using their own skill sets to help each other and find a solution to stop a war from happening and that they encouraged each other in pursuing their passions.

I do wish we had gotten to see more of the world, we get glimpses but mostly how the politics affect the characters and them trying to work out what happened to Taam. We do get indications of a wider world and I would love to read more stories in this world. One of my favourite side characters was Bel who we get to learn a little bit about and honestly I could read a whole book with her.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and the characters arcs were so great to read.

Blog Tours/Street Teams, YA Books

Blog Tour: Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco – ARC Review

Thank you to Terminal Tours for having me on this blog tour!

This book was dark and magical and seductive and I loved it so much!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Emilia and her twin sister Victoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Victoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to discover who did this, and to seek vengeance at any cost—even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, the outlier among the seven demon brethren, always choosing duty over pleasure. He’s been tasked by his master with investigating a series of women’s murders on the island. When Emilia and Wrath’s fates collide, it’s clear this disturbing mystery will take a bewitching turn…

This book is a murder mystery with magic and demons and it is dark and bloody and the perfect spooky read. I absolutely loved this book and I was completely hooked by the first chapter. I loved the whole atmosphere of this book and how it showed the dark side of people.

“Find forgiveness and acceptance in your heart, or darkness will seep in and destroy you.”

The main character, Emilia, goes down a dark path of vengeance when she discovers her sister murdered and will go to any lengths to find the killer, even making a deal with the devil himself. I loved how conflicted she was from wanting to find who murdered her sister to also seeing there is more to her sisters death and wanting to find out what her secrets her sister had been hiding and to do that while working with a Prince from Hell. I really liked her character and how driven she was and how she overcame her fears to find her sisters killer.

“Vengeance was now a part of me, as real and necessary as my heart or lungs.”

I also loved how passionate she was for cooking and worked in the family restaurant. We got so many incredible food references and it just had me drooling over everything and I do not recommend reading this book on an empty stomach! I just wanted to try everything that she would cook, I loved how vivid the descriptions were too and could practically smell the food cooking.

The descriptions throughout the book were really vivid and created a dark and creepy atmosphere where you really felt for the life of Emilia on several occasions in this book especially as we see what lurks in the shadows. The terrifying creatures released from hell and other dangerous creatures and that doesn’t even include the other Princes from Hell that we meet. There is no one truly good person in this book which made all the characters complex and intriguing.

“Lethal, Beautiful. Wholly untouchable.”

The most intriguing character in this book was Wrath who is a literal Prince of Hell and yet I couldn’t help but like him. Kerri did a great job creating a complex character who we know isn’t good but we can’t help but root for too, especially as he is usually the type of character I don’t like! While he is unable to lie to Emilia due to her summoning him, he still withholds information from her and has his own ulterior motives and then there is the intense chemistry between him and Emilia which becomes more and more electric as the story progresses.

I loved the bickering and tension building throughout the book between the two of them and while it’s clear they both have some sort of feelings they both have their own motivations too which of course complicates matters. I am really intrigued to see what will happen between the two of them in the next book.

“In the end, the monster we feared didn’t come from hell. He came from privilege.”

This book had me intrigued from the beginning and while I was able to figure out some twists there was some that took me by surprise and I really loved the whole eerie atmosphere of this book. The ending of the book left me instantly needing the sequel so I am really looking forward to reading what will be next!

Author Bio

Kerri Maniscalco grew up in a semi-haunted house outside NYC where her fascination with gothic settings began. In her spare time she reads everything she can get her hands on, cooks all kinds of food with her family and friends, and drinks entirely too much tea while discussing life’s finer points with her cats.

She is the #1 NYT and USA Today bestselling author of the Stalking Jack the Ripper series and the forthcoming Kingdom of the Wicked.

JIMMY Patterson books is running a pre-order incentive campaign. All who pre-order a hardcover, ebook, or audiobook edition of Kingdom of the Wicked before 11:59pm ET on October 26, 2020 will receive an enamel pin, signed bookplate, and pair of oracle cards. This offer is only available in the US and pre-orders from subscription boxes are not eligible. Conditions and details here for the preorder

Twitter/Instagram

YA Books

Bookish and the Beast by Ashley Poston – ARC Review

Thank you to Quirk books for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review.

I love the first two books in the Once Upon a Con series so I was so excited to read this book and it certainly lived up to expectations!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Rosie Thorne is feeling stuck—on her college application essays, in her small town, and on that mysterious General Sond cosplayer she met at ExcelsiCon. Most of all, she’s stuck in her grief over her mother’s death. Her only solace was her late mother’s library of rare Starfield novels, but even that disappeared when they sold it to pay off hospital bills.

On the other hand, Vance Reigns has been Hollywood royalty for as long as he can remember—with all the privilege and scrutiny that entails. When a tabloid scandal catches up to him, he’s forced to hide out somewhere the paparazzi would never expect to find him: Small Town USA. At least there’s a library in the house. Too bad he doesn’t read.

When Rosie and Vance’s paths collide and a rare book is accidentally destroyed, Rosie finds herself working to repay the debt. And while most Starfield superfans would jump at the chance to work in close proximity to the Vance Reigns, Rosie has discovered something about Vance: he’s a jerk, and she can’t stand him. The feeling is mutual.

But as Vance and Rosie begrudgingly get to know each other, their careful masks come off—and they may just find that there’s more risk in shutting each other out than in opening their hearts.

We first met Vance in The Princess and the Fangirl and I hated him! He was the exact type of guy I cannot stand but somehow Ashley got me to fall in love with him in this book. We learn there is a lot more to him than we think and that he isn’t quite like the persona he shows to the media.

Rosie was a wonderful character and a total booknerd! I loved her from the moment she spoke about her love for books and how much these fictional worlds mean to her. She was so relatable and I think all of us booknerds will immediately love her.

This story takes all the great parts of Beauty and the Beast and puts a fresh nerdy spin on it. Obviously an integral part of the story is the incredible library and we spend a lot of the story there which I loved! I liked how both Rosie and Vance slowly put their guards down and showed their vulnerable side and it all happened when they were both in the library. My nerdy heart could not take it when Rosie read the story to Vance I had a huge grin on my face! The build up of Rosie and Vance initially not liking each other at all and the tension and the angst was so good! I was literally screaming at them!

I really loved Rosie’s friends and that Vance had at least one true friend who basically told him to get it together. The Gaston of the story was the absolute worst and the way he manipulated things and doesn’t know how to take no for an answer. I was mad on Rosie’s behalf. I also loved seeing cameos of characters from the previous books and seeing what they were doing now.

Overall this was a cute nerdy story that I’m sure everyone will enjoy, especially you love beauty and the beast. It will fill your nerdy heart with joy and Rosie is all of us introverted booknerds who would rather spend the evening reading than go to party.