She is a thing on fire: Reviewing Bunny by Mona Awad

Hi everyone! I hope everything is going well and you are enjoying life as it is, even though you sometimes wish it were something different. I’m not going to lie to you all: this was yet another “Book Tok” read. I can be rather easily influenced at times. I do get tired of the “you liked it because it was popular” discourse at times. Most things that get popular do so for a reason, you know? Also, I am really getting into the “unhinged woman” genre. You really can’t go wrong with female rage. Now, if you are so inclined, let’s discuss Bunny.

Content Warning: Violence and Gore, Disturbing Imagery, Harsh Language, Mentions of Sexual Assault, Drug Use, Animal Death

Samantha Heather Mackey is a scholarship student who has created her own dark little corner for herself in her cohort. Her writing is often criticized for being too off-putting or dark by her fellow students at the elite Warren University. In particular, Samantha is tired of dealing with a group of rich, cutesy girls who call themselves and each other Bunny. They are so similar and so different, seemingly existing as one entity. One day, out of nowhere, one of the Bunnies invites her to their “Smut Salon.” Samantha finds herself strangely compelled to join them, despite the warnings of her friend Ava. The Bunnies lead Samantha into a strange world where they partake in strange rituals to create their dream man. Samantha finds herself in over her head as reality begins to shift and she must find a way to escape the Bunnies’ sinister world of blood and glitter.

The best way I can describe this book is as a combination of Mean Girls and The Secret History. Mona Awad certainly doesn’t hold back on the disturbing aspects of this novel and, honestly, I thought it was going to get more disturbing than it ended up being. With dark academia becoming a little oversaturated, it was nice to see a shakeup in the genre. It also definitely gave me similar vibes to My Year of Rest and Relaxation with the narration. Samantha as the narrator is still sarcastic and blunt while also being a sympathetic character. I liked the overall complexity that Mona Award imbues in her novel. I am going to go ahead and give this my stamp of approval but I would especially recommend this one for a group read or book club as there is plenty to discuss within Bunny.

There is always a price to pay for underestimating a woman: Reviewing The House with the Golden Door (Book 2 of the Wolf Den trilogy) by Elodie Harper

Hello everyone! I hope you are making significant progress in whatever endeavors you are currently working on. Before I begin, I do recommend that you check out my review of the first book in the series. This is also another good read for women’s history month if that is your goal. If you are interested, then let’s talk about The House with the Golden Door.

Content Warning: Discussions and Depictions of Slavery, Some Violence, Some Sexual Content, Scenes of Childbirth

After everything she has been through, Amara has finally freed herself from her life in the Wolf’s Den. She should be content with her new life but she is aware that her patron is not the man she thought he was. Amara’s past begins to catch up to her when her former master continues to pursue her. With this dangerous and cruel man threatening to destroy her life, Amara must become just as calculated and shrewd in order to maintain her freedom. Amara must learn to let go of the past, even if it hurts if she wants to secure her future as a freedwoman.

While this was a bit slower-paced than the previous novel, Elodie Harper still does an excellent job creating intrigue and worthwhile drama that will keep you hanging on. I do genuinely appreciate how complex and imperfect and sympathetic Amara and all of the other characters are portrayed. I also appreciate how the book doesn’t try to keep you hooked on sex and violence, but still uses those plot points to create a strong plot. I do have some knowledge of Ancient Rome so I greatly appreciated the accuracy that Harper imbues in her writing, particularly when it comes to the treatment of women in Rome. Overall, I thought this was a strong sequel in the well-crafted trilogy and I look forward to the third book (which is coming out later this year, I believe).

Who decides what is a monster?: Reviewing Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes

Hello everyone! I hope everything is going well for you. I promise that this is my last Greek mythology-related book for at least a bit. I don’t want you all to think I only review one type of book anymore. I just have a soft spot for Greek mythology and I felt this book was perfect for Women’s History Month. If you want to you can check out my review of Natalie Haynes’ other book A Thousand Ships. This is her latest novel and it came out not too long ago. I can’t contain my excitement anymore so let’s finally talk about Stone Blind.

Content Warning: Discussions and Depictions of Sexual Assault

Medusa was once a young girl trying to find her place in the world. She lived a quiet life with her fellow Gorgons, Euryale and Sthenno. She also had wings and enjoyed the sea, her sister’s flock, and the birds who flew with her. One day, she decides to visit the temple of Athena. It is there she is assaulted by Poseidon, god of the sea. Unable to punish her uncle, Athena punishes Medusa by giving her snakes for hair and a gaze that can turn any living being to stone. Medusa decides to confine herself to her cave but is unaware that a young man named Perseus is on a quest to retrieve the head of a Gorgon.

Natalie Haynes delivers once again with a feminist retelling of one of the most classic Greek myths. This book follows a similar format to A Thousand Ships where it follows multiple characters who are all connected to the central myth. This was a quick read, but no less impactful, tragic, and thought-provoking. Haynes also incorporates many witticisms that make the characters more relatable or human, if you will. There is no denying that female rage and sadness are what lies at the heart of this story, though. Medusa really is a tragic figure and the other female characters, whether they are gods or mortals, are not exempt from crushing patriarchal standards. I don’t mean to go full English major here but this is a perfect book to dissect and examine. Before I go on a tangent, I am going to say go read Stone Blind as soon as you can and let your feminine rage consume you. We don’t just support women’s rights, we also support their wrongs.

What governs a life, if not chance?: Reviewing Ordinary Monsters by J.M. Miro

Hi everyone! I hope you are holding up as the world behaves in strange ways. If there was ever a time when things were predictable and calm, I miss that time. Anyways, I am coming to you with my first long read of this year as this book comes in at about 650 and some pages. I am also genuinely surprised I haven’t seen more buzz surrounding this book either. Hopefully, this will jumpstart a conversation since I really want someone else to experience this. With that being said, let’s talk about Ordinary Monsters.

Content Warning: Graphic Depictions of Violence, Extreme Bodily Harm, Depictions of Child Abuse, Supernatural Horror, Harsh Language, Violent Death Scenes

In Victorian-era London, a mysterious figure made of smoke is targeting children with strange abilities. Sixteen-year-old Charlie Ovid from Mississippi can heal from any injury inflicted on him. A gruff female detective, Alice Quicke, rescues him from an angry mob and brings him to England. While there, they find an orphaned boy named Marlowe who possesses abilities that no one has ever seen before. After being chased by the evil being made of dust, the boys come to Cairndale in Scotland, which was built for children with talents like theirs. They meet a Japanese girl named Komako who can control dust, a teen girl calling herself Ribs who can turn invisible, and a young Polish boy named Oskar who can create monsters out of flesh. Charlie, Marlowe, and the others soon learn that Cairndale is sitting over a portal between the living and the dead that is on the brink of collapse. The children must learn the limits of their powers to prevent the dead from invading the world of the living and fight the monster hunting them down.

This novel was truly a cinematic and atmospheric experience with plenty of action, magic, and intrigue throughout. I normally hesitate to read longer novels because I have run into ones that tend to have a lot of filler. J.M. Miro, however, packed. this book is to the brim with an intricate plot and plenty of interesting characters. The novel covers quite a bit of distance in time and space so Miro gives all the characters plenty of time to develop, which I greatly appreciated. I personally love dark fantasy novels and Ordinary Monsters certainly gets very dark and rather disturbing at times. Don’t let this put you off, though, as it is hard to pull away from this novel. This is certainly an intimidating book but it is so worth the read. Ordinary Monsters deserves more attention and I would highly recommend you delve into this dark fantasy.

Beauty is beauty in whatever shape it takes: Reviewing Radiant Sin (Book 4 of the Dark Olympus Series) by Katee Robert

Hello everyone! I hope things are looking as good for you as they are for me. I realize that this is the third “spicy” book that also happens to be related to Greek mythology in a short period of time. I promise I’m not only reading spicy books. I did try to read Katee Robert’s other book, Court of the Vampire Queen, but decided to DNF because it was for an audience that was not me, so to say. I do also have others in the pipeline that are not “adult” in that sense. I will say that I do have other Greek mythology related books, as well as other books inspired other mythologies. I can’t help it; I’m just drawn to these books. Now, let’s get into the latest installment of the Dark Olympus series. This is 18+ content, so keep scrolling if you are under 18.

Content Warning: Explicit Sexual Content, Violence, Semi-Graphic Depictions of Death

Cassandra Gataki has spent most of her life keeping her head down and trying to stay our of the spotlight. Her family has an infamous reputation for attempting to assassinate one of the Thirteen, which ultimately cost her parents their lives. The only thing keeping her safe is her job as the executive assistant to Apollo, who she has been secretly attracted to for years. One day, Apollo approaches her with a proposal: to be a fake relationship with him at a week-long, exclusive party being held by Olympus’ newest power player. Cassandra agrees on the condition that she and her sister are allowed to leave Olympus unscathed. Even though Apollo is the city’s official spymaster, he has always been a kind man with good intentions and that only draws Cassandra further. The two trust each other explicitly and their fake relationship turns scorchingly hot. As the party they’re attending turns deadly, the two must figure out who is trying to overturn the fragile balance of power in Olympus.

To be completely honest, this one was probably the most underwhelming entry in the Dark Olympus series. I know some people really love the “fake relationship” and/or “forbidden workplace romance” trope and, if you are one of those people, then you will probably enjoy this book. This was actually the least spicy of the books too. By that, I mean that there weren’t as many “spicy” scenes. The spicy scenes were still good though, so don’t get it twisted. I don’t want to come across as too harsh. Katee Robert still does a great job building tension, creating steady pacing, and having good pay off. I will say that this is a much nicer retelling of the original myth of Cassandra and Apollo. I kind of wish it was a little closer to the original story, but that is just my opinions. I will say that what I really appreciate how Katee Robert always keep the stakes high in each story. The life-or-death story that she incorporates in this series keeps pulling me back for more.

Kiss me. Touch me. Ruin me: Reviewing A Game of Retribution (Book 2 of the Hades Saga) by Scarlett St. Clair

Hello everyone! Let me begin with a minor pet peeve I have regarding books. If a book is a part of a series, there should be some indication on the book as to its place in the series. I don’t understand why publishers don’t put the number on the spine or have “Book (insert number here) of this Series.” Ugh, it just bothers me to no end. End of rant. Anyways, I have more mythology – related book ready to go that are not just Greek mythology. As much as I love Greek mythology, I want to read about mythologies around the world. I developed this obsession as a kid and never quite grew out of it. This is also not the last spicy book I am bringing to you either. So, if you are not 18 or over, keep scrolling. Now, let’s get into A Game of Retribution.

Content Warning: Explicit Sexual Content, Violence and Gore, Discussions and Depictions of Assault, Discussions of Human Trafficking, Grief and Loss, Discussions of Domestic Violence

Hades, the God of the Dead, has always run his kingdom with a strict set of rules to ensure fairness in death. His views begin to shift after Persephone, the Goddess of Spring, enters his life and he learns about a new side of himself. In order to protect his relationship with Persephone, Hades must bargain with Hera, the Goddess of Marriage. At first, Hera asks for Hades help in overthrowing Zeus, her husband and the King of the Gods. When he refuses, Hera gives him labors he must complete or she will curse he future marriage to Persephone. As Hades battles deadly foes and hunts down stolen artifacts, he realize that there is going to be a war on Olympus. Meanwhile, he must help Persephone as she is faced with her own traumas that he may not be able to help her through. Hades must find balance or lose everything he has fought the Fates and Olympians for.

Right away, I am going to say that this one was not as spicy as the first book and a little more plot centric, but I think it worked in this instance. I enjoyed the amount of character development that Scarlett St. Clair does for Hades, who is often not the one who changes in these re-tellings. I like seeing divine characters forced to confront their own personal flaws and failings. I also appreciated the way Hades and Persephone’s relationship develops as there is conflict that resolves in rather realistic ways. This book also had more fighting and action, which I am a sucker for. The mystery element also plays in nicely to the overall plot. I am glad that I gave Scarlett St. Clair another chance and I am excited for the third book in the series, which is coming out in fall of this year.

We do not bend. We do not break. We do not bow. We do not yield: Reviewing The Blood Trials (Book 1 of The Blood Gift Duology) by N. E. Davenport

Hey everyone! I hope everything is looking up for you and that life is going your way. I don’t have too much to say before this review. I am, however, very excited to share this book. For those of you not in the loop, Harpers Collins (who published this book) was at odds with their union. Thankfully, they were able to re-negotiate and now I can talk about this book. Buckle up and let’s talk about The Blood Trials.

Content Warning: Graphic Violence and Gore, Discussions and Depictions of Racism, Discussions and Depictions of Misogyny, Sexual Content, Harsh Language

Ikenna Amari is spiraling after the death of her beloved Grandfather, Verne Amari. He was a legend within the Republic of Mareen for preventing war against the Blood Emperor. He trained Ikenna and taught her how to use her blood gift, which she has to keep secret. Everything is turned on its head when she finds out that her grandfather was assassinated. She suspects that it could only have been carried out by one of his fellow Tribunals and the Praetorian Guard. To find out who did this, Ikenna pledges herself to the Praetorian Trials – a series of grueling, brutal challenges that many aspirants don’t survive. Undergoing these trials also means having to endure the racism towards her half – Khanian heritage and sexism perpetuated within this society. Along with all of this, she must keep her power a secret or else be executed or a fate worse than that. As Ikenna unravels a larger conspiracy, she realizes that the only way she can achieve justice is through blood.

This was just about everything I wanted in a good book. It has action, intrigue, nuance, and plenty of twists. N.E. Davenport does an incredible job creating an intricate yet unpredictable plot. The world building has some clear influences while also standing as its own creation. Ikenna as the first-person narrator helps to strengthen the narrative through a strong voice. She is a powerful female lead who really drives the story forward. While this book isn’t necessarily dystopian, it still gave me similar vibes to the dystopian books I enjoyed as a teen like The Hunger Games or Divergent. This, however, is much more adult and sophisticated. All the while, it is still a thrilling read. Needless to say, I am going to definitely recommend you put this on your TBR ASAP and I will be reading the sequel in the near future.

There is rage. There is passion. There is darkness: Reviewing A Game of Fate (Book 1 of the Hades Saga) by Scarlett St. Clair

Hello everyone! The weather is looking better and things are looking up. If you remember some of my previous posts, I did mentioned that I tried to read Scarlett St. Clair’s other Hades/Persephone romance, A Touch of Darkness, and I just could not get past the writing. I found it very juvenile and felt akin to something you might read on WattPad. This particular series, however, is the same story but told through the point of view of Hades instead. The premise of this book felt much more mature and refined so I decided to give it a shot. Let’s talk about A Game of Fate. (This book is for 18+ readers, so find another review.)

Content Warning: Explicit Sexual Content, Some Graphic Violence, Some Harsh Language

As the God of the Underworld, Hades has carefully curated a fearsome reputation among the Olympians and mortals alike. His nightclub is the place to go to bargain with one’s life in exchange for power and immortality. Hades’ world is turned upside down when the Fates tell him that he is destined to be with Persephone, the Goddess of Spring. Persephone, though, is an ambitious journalism student who is determined to expose Hades’ darkness. Passion ignites between them as they clash and Persephone challenges Hades in ways he never imagined. Realizing how deeply in love he is, Hades is determined to prove that he is worthy of Persephone, even if it means defying the Gods and Fates alike.

This book was significantly better than I thought it would be. I much preferred the way that Scarlett St. Clair characterizes Hades and Persephone in this novel. Hades’ side of the story is far more interesting and has plenty of intrigue with several criminal and magical elements. The world building is still not exactly to my taste but it makes a bit more sense in the context of this book, as opposed to A Touch of Darkness. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the spicy scenes and they were wonderfully spicy. The chemistry was fantastic and felt a little more natural. It was also well paced throughout. I do have the sequel novel, A Game of Retribution, ready because I accidentally bought the second book before the first. Honestly, I think I liked this one a little more than I liked Neon Gods. If you are looking for a spicy Greek mythology retelling, then I think you should check out A Game of Fate.

Sometimes, all the universe may hang in the balance: Reviewing Star Wars: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn

Hello everyone! I hope everything is going well for you all. It is hard to not get disheartened by circumstances beyond one’s control. As I like to tell people: accept what you can’t change and change what you can’t accept. (I didn’t come up with that, but I do stick by it). Anyways, I am coming at with yet another book set in the Star Wars universe. If you are not interested, I completely understand. I just find myself having fun with these particular books. I was not always into Star Wars and wasn’t even terribly interested until relatively recently. Once you get into the world of it all, it is easy to see what makes it so fun. While the previous novels I have read have focused on the Light Side and Jedis, this is the first one I have read that deals with the Empire and Dark Side. Without much further ado, let’s talk about Thrawn.

During his exile to a remote planet. Thrawn is able to capture the attention of the Imperial forces stationed there through an impressive display of his ingenious tactical abilities. This captures the attention of Emperor Palpatine, who grants Thrawn a place in the Imperial military. Thrawn, though, is a non-human and must gain the necessary victories to cement his position. With the help of his most trusted aide Eli Vanto, Thrawn quickly rises through the ranks of the Empire through his various victories. He still, however, lacks political knowledge and forms a tentative alliance with Arihnda Pryce. Thrawn’s high ranking status is at risk when an insurgent group with a powerful leader threaten’s the Empire’s power. Thrawn must stop this rebellion or risk all of his carefully curated plans for his future ascendancy being destroyed.

Before I begin my review, here is a little bit of Star Wars insight for you. The character of Thrawn has been featured in the animated series “Star Wars: Rebels” and is set to make a live action debut sometime in the future. If the name sounds familiar, it is because I did read Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy, where Thrawn is the main antagonist. Feel free to read those reviews if you are interested. Now, as for my review: this was certainly unique amongst the other pieces of Star Wars media of consumed. While we (obviously) aren’t supposed to root for the Empire/Dark Side, Timothy Zahn presents one of the most intriguing figures in the Empire. I almost hate to admit this but I found myself genuinely wanting Thrawn and his crew to succeed and almost completely forgot he is one of the “bad guys.” Zahn does a great job creating a believability within the fantastical world of Star Wars. This is also a well – paced read with plenty of high stakes. It still had everything I look for in a good Star Wars story; it just so happen to take place on the Dark Side. So if you are interested in exploring a completely different side of the Star Wars universe, this is definitely the book you should check out.

Maybe I know a fellow monster when I see one: Reviewing Hellbent (Book 2 of the Alex Stern Series) by Leigh Bardugo

Hey everyone! I hope you have been reading lots of good books lately. It has been a little weird trying to remember what happened in the previous book, Ninth House, that came out four years ago. You will have to forgive me for forgetting details from the first book. As with movies, I tend to be wary of late sequels but I do enjoy dark academia with magic. Without further ado, let’s talk about the long-awaited sequel, Hellbent.

Content Warning: Violence, Some Graphic Depictions of Death, Harsh Language

Galaxy “Alex” Stern has not given up on the idea that she can rescue her mentor from the depths of hell. The Ninth House, though, has forbidden her from attempting such a dangerous feat. Alex is far from deterred, though. With the help of friends, she will have to navigate all sorts of dangerous forces and perform rituals to retrieve a soul from hell. When members of the Yale faculty begin to die by supernatural means, Alex begins to suspect that someone is trying to interfere with her plans. The closer Alex gets to her goal, the more monsters appear to stop her and destroy everything she holds dear.

Because I only sort of remembered what happened in Ninth House, I had to really try to remember why I liked that book in the first place. Honestly, this sequel was rather underwhelming and had more style than substance. The first book was really intense and rather gratuitous with its depictions of violence whereas this one lacked any crucial lore or well-thought-out meaning. I realized, though, that these books took me back to my middle school/high school days when I loved books like The Vampire Diaries or The Mortal Instruments. They were these big, flashy supernatural sagas that dazzled my young mind with so many cool magic elements. As an adult, though, I realize that those books were kind of hollow. That takes me back to this particular book. I had a hard time absorbing anything that happened that wasn’t some big, magical spectacle. The characters and plot points are good in theory, but I felt the execution was kind of flat. I know Leigh Bardugo has become very popular rather recently and I’m always willing to try popular and lesser-known authors alike. I just think that Bardugo may not be the author for me. This is a long-winded way of me saying that this book suffers from “sequel-itis” and I don’t think this was worth the wait.