Winner Takes All: Reviewing Wicked Beauty by Katee Robert

Hi everyone! I hope you are all still doing well. My TBR list has not gotten any shorter and I don’t intend to stop reading any time soon. I’m still having a tough time finding certain books on my never-ending list of books I eventually want to read. I don’t know about the rest of you but I have a list in my Notes app that’s just books I want to get around to reading. Alright, enough rambling from me. You saw the author and knew it was going to be spicy, so let’s get spicy with the third installment in Katee Robert’s Dark Olympus series. (This book is for mature audiences who are 18 or older. If you are not 18 or older, feel free to check out any other number of reviews I have on my blog).

The ultra – modern city of Olympus is as cutthroat as ever and change is in the air. The title of Ares is up for grabs and a competition will be held to decide who is worthy to take up this crucial position. Having come up from nothing, Achilles Kallis is determined to claw his way into the inner circle of the Thirteen. With his brilliant partner, Patroclus Fotos at his side, Achilles feels certain that he will become Ares. Everything is thrown into chaos when Helen Kasios, the most beautiful woman in Olympus, decides to enter the competition. Sick and tired of being treated as an object, Helen is also fiercely determined to prove everyone wrong. As the competition heats up, Achilles and Patroclus decide to form an alliance with Helen. The three soon finds themselves in a complicated position as emotions run high and danger lurks around every corner.

What sets this novel apart from the other books in Katee Robert’s Dark Olympus series is that the stakes are high all the way through. While the other two were more about the relationships, this one focuses a bit more on the circumstances surrounding the relationship at the heart of this book. I had never read a “throuple” romance so I was a little nervous going into this but there was plenty of balance to be found between Achilles, Patroclus, and Helen. It was certainly spicy in all of the best ways and that is really what you read these books for. I will say that this one is the least accurate to the mythology it is based on, so if you want accuracy then I would recommend the other two books. I personally enjoyed the many action scenes in the book and the way that they alluded to The Illiad. I’m still enjoying this series and would recommend this one if you are still looking for an extra steamy novel with plenty of high stakes.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, yours to mine and mine to yours: Reviewing The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

Hi everyone! I hope you are all still doing well, or hopefully, doing better than you once were, if that is the case. I’ve been a little stressed lately, but it’s a healthy kind of stress; the kind that makes you want to be better. Life is just like that sometimes. There’s nothing a good book (or a good show) can’t help. Let’s get a little magical and talk about The Once and Future Witches.

It’s 1893 and witches are nothing more than a folk tale. Magic doesn’t exist and women are left to fend for themselves. There is a suffragist movement in New Salem. This is the movement that reunites the estranged Eastwood sisters after their father’s mysterious death. Beatrice Belladonna, Agnes Amaranth, and James Juniper decide to put aside their differences and start a revolution of their own: a witches’ movement. The sisters quickly come face to face with deadly and mysterious forces that try to tear them apart. Their bond, though, must withstand these challenges in order to heal their family bonds and secure a safe future for all witches from the past, present, and future.

Alix E. Harrow crafts a wonderfully spun tale of witches that is as empowering and entertaining. She cleverly spins common rhymes and fairy tales to create a powerful and clever narrative where magic is found where you least expect it. The Eastwood sisters are vibrant and complex as they struggle to heal from past tragedies. I would argue that this book is actually quite relatable to anyone who has ever felt powerless at one point in their lives. If you are looking for an enchanting and rebellious, look no further then The Once and Future Witches.

One Flesh, One End: Reviewing Gideon the Ninth (Book One in the Locked Tomb Trilogy) by Tamsyn Muir

Hello everyone! I hope you are doing well under the worst heat arguably ever. I’ve had some positive life changes in the last week, so I’m in a good mood right now. Though we are still little ways out from spooky season, that won’t stop me from delving into the creepy and macabre. Without further pretense, let’s get into Gideon the Ninth, the first novel in the Locked Tomb trilogy.

Gideon Nav grew up in the Ninth House, a place known for its dreary atmosphere, ossifying nobility, and strict religious conduct. Her only dream is to be free and enlist as a soldier. Her plans for her escape are thwarted by her childhood nemesis and the Reverend Daughter of the Ninth house, Harrowhark Nonagesimus. Harrow is called upon by the Emperor to join the necromancers of the other eight houses to be tested in deadly trials. The remaining heir will become a Lyctor, the immortal right hand to the Emperor. Harrow offers Gideon an ultimatum: serve as her cavalier and she will be free from her servitude. With Harrow’s advanced magic and Gideon’s sword, the two find themselves facing a challenge far greater than imagined and death isn’t even the worst outcome if they fail.

Content warning: body horror, gore, violence, language

With that warning out the way, I may have found my new favorite sci-fi horror novel. Granted, it isn’t necessarily scary, but Gideon the Ninth was certainly a thrilling read. Gideon herself was a great protagonist and I loved her playful banter and sarcasm. The novel itself was a rather cinematic one with an interesting magic system, fleshed-out characters, and big action set pieces. It is also a fairly classic whodunnit mystery at the heart of the novel. I do enjoy those types of mysteries so I might be a little biased. I am going to go ahead and give Gideon the Ninth my personal seal of approval and encourage you to try this one if you want a book that’s equally creepy and fantastical.

Trust me, the nature of men is fickle: Reviewing The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper

Hi everyone! I hope you are doing well and thank you for continuing to read my reviews. I’ve been on a roll lately with no intention of stopping any time soon. So, in case I never told any of you, I have studied Latin for eight years in total. I fell in love with it in high school and went on to earn a minor in undergrad. In the process of learning Latin, I became fascinated with ancient Rome. With all that being said, I was naturally drawn to this particular novel set in Pompeii. Now, let’s get into The Wolf Den.

Amara began life as the beloved only daughter of a Greek doctor. When her father passed, Amara’s mother sold her into slavery in a desperate attempt to get out of poverty. Now, Amara works for the infamous brothel, the Wolf Den, run by a ruthless and cruel man named Felix. She is not completely alone though, as she has formed strong bonds with her fellow she-wolves. Amara is determined to earn her own freedom using her intelligence. When she finds the perfect opportunity, Amara can work her way up to the highest rungs of Pompeiian society. She soon discovers that everything has a cost and she must be willing to pay, one way or another.

Major content warning: the novel does contain scenes of sexual assault, self-harm, and harsh language. With that being said, this was a well-crafted and carefully-paced drama. I love the careful attention to detail that Elodie Harper puts into this novel. Historical novels can be rather tricky, but this one captures the spirit of Pompeii with great accuracy, for better or worse. Harper does handle the subject matter of women working in a brothel with care and honesty. I was initially worried that the book was going to be gratuitous with sex, but Harper does not focus on the more graphic parts. Nor does she hide the reality of what life was like for a prostitute in Ancient Rome. The female characters are fully fleshed out and complex in their own unique ways. While this novel might not be everyone’s “cup of tea,” if you are looking for a compelling historical drama with strong female leads, then I would highly recommend The Wolf Den.

Treat that place as a thing unto itself: Reviewing House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

Hello everyone! I hope you are all dealing with this heat in the best way you know how. Remember to drink water and take care of yourself. So, this is the longest it has ever taken me to read a book. I was determined not to DNF this and I am actually kind of proud for making it through such an interesting and challenging novel. I have a lot to say about this one. Let’s get into House of Leaves.

Award-winning photojournalist, Will “Navy” Navidson and his wife, Karen Green, had a simple desire to move into a nice house on Ash Tree Lane to raise their family. One day, their two young children stumble across something strange. In the house is an impossible door that leads to an impossible room that defies all laws of nature. Navidson takes it upon himself to explore and record his impossible house. Soon, the house takes on a life of its own, both literally and figuratively. Navidson and Karen’s fight to survive in their house becomes the subject of many scholars who can only speculate on what truly happened on Ash Tree Lane.

First of all, I am going to give a major content warning on this book as it does contain strong language, graphic violence, graphic sexual content, death, mental health discussions, drug abuse, and self-harm. With that being said, wow. Never before has a book genuinely made me feel anxious. That is a compliment, though. This was one of my most difficult reads and that is very much on purpose. Danielewski layers and layers different narrative styles onto this already bizarre story. I don’t think I could do this novel justice by just describing it. It is truly something that needs to be experienced. I love novels that go outside the box and House of Leaves does nothing to contain itself to one narrative. If you want a challenging and immersive reading experience, then I would certainly recommend House of Leaves.

Love makes fools of us all: Reviewing Electric Idol by Katee Robert

Hello everyone! It is still hot as hell outside so I hope you are all staying cool. I’m trying hard to get through my ever – growing TBR list and don’t plan to stop any time soon. Before I begin this review, I do want to stress that, like Neon Gods, this book is for mature audiences only. With that being said, let’s get a little steamy with Electric Idol, the indirect sequel to Neon Gods.

Beneath its shining and luxurious surface, Olympus is still as cutthroat as ever. Psyche Dimitriou has always done her best to keep to herself, but her mother Demeter intends to marry her off to the new Zeus. Aphrodite becomes furious upon hearing this and sends her gorgeous and deadly son, Eros, to kill Psyche. Eros has spent his whole life being his mother’s own personal hitman. Psyche, however, makes him reconsider everything. In order to protect her from Aphrodite, Eros convinces Psyche to marry him. While the marriage begins as one of convenience, the two finds themselves falling deeply in love and realize that the stakes are higher than ever.

First off, I’m glad that Katee Robert chose the myth of Eros and Psyche because I find it to be pretty underrated as far as Greek myths go. I would definitely recommend reading the original myth before or after reading this book. While I am not usually a fan of the “fake relationship turn real” trope, I genuinely enjoyed the way Katee Robert handles this particular story. I though the relationship between Eros and Psyche was actually pretty romantic and I was definitely rooting for them by the end of the book. The steamy scenes weren’t nearly as intense as the ones in Neon Gods, but they were certainly enjoyable. Obviously, I can’t get in too much detail about the spicier elements of the book but I can at least tell you that they were very well written. I will have to give my stamp of approval for this novel as well if you want something mythology related that’s also pretty sexy.

Don’t You Wish You Were Here?: Reviewing The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

Hi everyone! As always, I hope you are all doing well. I’ve been enjoying the highs and lows of the summer season. I meant to do a birthday post but got a little caught up. Now, I know I tend to read a lot of dark books and I will continue to read even more of those. That doesn’t mean I’m completely opposed to a happy ending here and there. This is another recommendation via “BookTok,” if I’m being completely transparent. With that being said, let’s talk about The House in the Cerulean Sea.

Linus Baker is a plain, practical man who is a caseworker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth (DICOMY). Outside of that, his life is quiet and a bit boring. That all changes when he is approached by Extremely Upper Management, who give him an important task: he must travel to a distant orphanage and observe a potentially dangerous child. Linus arrives on the island to find a mysterious group of children and their equally mysterious caretaker, Arthur Parnassus. The longer he stays on the island, the more Linus uncovers about what hides there and soon he must make the most important choice of his life.

This was a nice, fluffy read with plenty of delightful characters and fun, magical elements. I enjoyed the immersive environment that this novel presents. Klune pays great attention to detail with the overall atmosphere of the books. Something about Klune’s writing was vaguely nostalgic to me. The novel’s tone is rather reminiscent of books I read as a kid with an ever so slightly more mature message. I am, admittedly, a sucker for the “found family” trope and enjoyed the way that it was portrayed in this novel. If you are looking for a romantic bit of escapism, I would say give this novel a read if you are so inclined.

Large. Angry. Terrifying: Reviewing The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi

Hi everyone! As always, I am wishing everyone the best. You know, when I write these blogs I really hope that at least some of you read these books too. I like sharing things that bring me happiness in hopes that someone else will find happiness in the same things. With the world being what it is, we could all use a little escapism here and there. Enough with my mildly sappy rambling. Let’s talk about The Kaiju Preservation Society.

Jamie Gray is just trying to make ends meet when he gets laid off from his job because of the COVID – 19 pandemic. While working for a food delivery service, he runs into an acquaintance who offers him a mysterious job at an equally mysterious “large animal preserve.” Jamie takes him up on the offer and soon discovers that his job is not even on this Earth or with ordinary animals. Instead, Jamie finds himself face-to-face with impossibly large and deadly creatures. Though, they are not as deadly as they seem as they need help to survive. Jamie and a few newcomers must protect these creatures when deadly forces threaten the safety of both kaiju-kind and mankind alike.

This isn’t my first time reviewing a John Scalzi novel and this won’t be my last as I had a blast with The Kaiju Preservation Society. Jamie as the narrator is sharp and witty. The other characters only add to a great deal of fun and intrigue in this novel. The world-building is also fascinating and thoroughly explained in such a short novel (258 pages). It definitely gave me similar vibes to The Martian, if that is the kind of sci-fi you enjoy. Scalzi delivers fun and fast-paced adventure full of monsters and science in a novel that any fan of Godzilla will truly enjoy.

In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck: Reviewing Star Wars: Brotherhood by Mike Chen

Hi everyone!! It is a great time to be a nerd. All of the major franchises are coming out with new projects, movie theaters are back in the swing of things, and streaming services are finally coming out with good stuff. I always look forward to late spring/summer because that is when all of the best movies and tv shows premier. At the tail end of the Kenobi series, I decided to read this particular book just to make myself way sadder. (The show was great, btw, and you can argue with a wall if you think otherwise.) Let’s go back to a galaxy far, far away and talk about Brotherhood.

The Clone Wars have begun and tensions are on the rise throughout the galaxy. The Jedi Order is trying desperately to stop the Separatists from growing stronger. Chaos breaks out when Cato Neimoidia, a key player in the Trade Federation, is attacked and the Republic is blamed. Obi-Wan Kenobi volunteers to visit the planet to find out who is really behind the attacks. Despite Obi-Wan’s insistence, newly knighted Anakin Skywalker joins the investigation into who bombed Cato Neimoidia. The two must reevaluate their relationship now that they are equals and work together to uncover the conspiracy against the Republic.

This was a fun read, albeit a little sad knowing what ultimately happens. I enjoyed the way Chen built off of prequel movies and somewhat “enhanced” previous events. The book also builds off the previous Star Wars novel I read, Master and Apprentice, which I really appreciated. I like that these books are becoming their own little universe. Chen also keeps consistent characterizations, while also having fun with the characters. If you are a fan of the Prequel Trilogy and/or the Clone Wars series, then I would definitely recommend this novel for you.

Where Love can Outdo Nature: Reviewing Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Hi everyone! There is nothing quite as satisfying as finally getting around to reading that one book that’s been on your TBR list for the longest time. It’s even more satisfying when you really enjoy said book. It was just the book I needed at this time with everything being considered. I don’t write this blog to be political, but it is unavoidable. So, with that vague statement, let’s talk about Her Body and Other Parties.

Carmen Maria Machado’s collection of eight short stories combines horror, a twisted sense of humor, dark fantasy, and psychological analyses to highlight the harsh reality faced by women.

I am going to give a disclaimer at the top of this review that these stories do discuss mature topics about trauma, abuse, and sexuality. Approach with some caution if you are not ready to read about such topics.

With that all being said, I was certainly impacted by these stories. I love the use of defamiliarization that Machado so cleverly uses to highlight the reality that women have to deal with. Machado does let the reader’s imagination run, while still having a clear message throughout. I personally always look forward to that one short story that is going to haunt me and Machado delivered eight of them. Two stories particularly stood out to me were “Inventory” and “Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law and Order: SVU.” I do highly recommend this collection if you are looking for a book about feminism and queerness told in such a unique and dark voice.