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.

In the end, all I can say is: I’m yours: Reviewing The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno – Garcia

Hi everyone and Happy Valentine’s Day! Regardless if you have a significant other, I hope you feel loved today and every day. By coincidence, I am coming to you with a romance novel review. This is the fourth book I have reviewed by Silvia Moreno – Garcia, so feel free to check my previous reviews of her books. Needless to say, I am a fan now. She does have a book coming out this year and two others that I have not gotten around to reading, so I will definitely get to those at some point. Let’s get in the mood for love and talk about The Beautiful Ones.

Antonina “Nina” Beaulieu is nervous and excited to join her cousin and his wife for the Grand Season. She is anxious to join the Beautiful Ones, Loisail’s most respected socialites. Nina, though, has telekinetic abilities that she struggles to control which could ruin her chances of finding a suitor. While at a party, she meets Hector Auvray, a man with similar talents who agrees to teach her to hone her abilities. Unbeknownst to Nina, Hector is trying to get closer to Valerie, the wife of Nina’s cousin whom he has never gotten over. As he teaches Nina and grows closer to her, Hector begins to realize he has feelings for Nina. When secrets begin to come to light, Hector and Nina find their budding romance in danger of being torn apart.

This was a perfectly suitable historical romance, in my opinion. It has all the hallmarks of the genre like grand balls, stolen kisses, family drama, and duels. The fantasy element is pretty weak, which is what I was looking forward to the most. I wish we got to see a little more world-building with that. but it is just kind of a minor plot device. Silvia Moreno – Garcia is still a strong writer and kept me interested throughout the whole book. It was fairly predictable, but I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. It was a good old-fashioned period piece romance that is reminiscent of books like the Bridgerton series. Though books like that aren’t necessarily to my taste, I get the appeal. With all of that being said, I’m still going to give the “go-ahead” to all of you romantics out there looking for a well-crafted love story.

The songs will change, but the music is never truly gone: Reviewing Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

Hi everybody! We have gone from a cold January to a rainy February. I’m still dealing with the general nonsense that life tends to throw at you when you need it least. That is why I turn to books. I have some longer novels I’m working through and I will eventually start The Priory of the Orange Tree, which is especially long. Normally, I avoid extra-long books, but I do like a challenge here and there. Now, let’s talk about Light from Uncommon Stars, which has been on my radar for the longest time.

Content Warning: Discussions and Depictions of Racism, Discussions and Depictions of Transphobia and Homophobia, Depictions of Non-Consensual Sex, Abuse, Loss and Grief, Harsh and Offensive Language, Some Graphic Depictions of Death

Shizuka Satomi, aka the Queen of Hell, made a deal with a demon. To escape damnation and play the violin again, she would train and sacrifice seven students. She is currently looking for the seventh. That is when she crosses paths with Katrina Nguyen. Katrina is a young transgender woman who is running away from home. When Shizuka hears her play for the first time, she realizes that she has found her seventh student. Shizuka also happens to cross paths with Lan Tran, a mother, refugee, and captain of a starship disguised as a donut shop. Shizuka tells herself that she doesn’t have time for love or relationships but she finds herself drawn to Lan. As Shizuka forms a bond with a Katrina and develops a relationship with Lan, she starts to think that maybe she can finally break her curse.

This novel was so beautifully complex and carefully written. All of the metaphors and realism are finely balanced through Ryka Aoki’s deft hand. The various characters are intertwined, yet their stories are unique to them. I loved the honest representation that Aoki presents. While there are certainly heavy topics presented, Aoki gives a sense of hope to the characters and readers alike. All aspects of gender, race and class were taken into careful consideration throughout this book, and are honest with the struggles that people from demographics go through. This really was a captivating read that is a beautiful blend of science fiction, fantasy, and romance. Light from Uncommon Stars is sure to engage you and touch your heart.

Silence becomes a woman…: Reviewing The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Hi everyone! I hope everything is going well for you all. I have no vague life updates to give you, but I am doing my best to exercise the power of manifestation. I am also coming to you again with another retelling of The Iliad. By the way, if you haven’t actually read The Iliad or The Odyssey yet, then you absolutely should. The epic poem format can be intimidating, but I promise it is easy to read and understand. It can just be long-winded at times. I might make a list of classics that I highly recommend anyone read if you want to delve into the classics. In the meanwhile, let’s talk about The Silence of the Girls.

Content Warning: Discussions and Depictions of Graphic Violence, Discussions and Depictions of Sexual Assault, Offensive Language

Briseis was once a queen in her own right. Though her life was far from perfect, she was duty-bound to protect her people from the Greek armies. Her kingdom is invaded by Agamemnon’s forces, led by the famous Achilles. She is taken by Achilles as a war prize and forced to serve him. In the Greek camps, she does her best to forge bonds with the other captive women who are just trying to survive. As the Trojan war drags on, Briseis makes it her mission to save as many women and the memories of those who were claimed by a war fought over a woman.

I’m going to be honest right away: I was kind of disappointed by this book. The first part of the book is indeed about Briseis and the other women caught in the Trojan War. The second part is when it kind of falls apart as it randomly switches between Briseis’ story and Achilles’ story. It then eventually just becomes about Achilles for far too long. It kind of defeated the purpose of the entire book, in my opinion. I also can’t tell you exactly why but the book felt just weirdly misogynistic at times. Not in the sense that it was pointing out misogyny, but even in Briseis’ story the book was just kind of mean when discussing the other female characters and wasn’t sympathetic at times. I also just didn’t like the way the book ended at all. This is the first book in the series but I won’t be continuing it. Here is what I’m going to suggest instead: if you want a book about the women of The Iliad, read A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes. If you want a book about Achilles and/or his relationship with Patroclus, then read The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

If there’s a way into hell, someone will always find it: Reviewing The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher

Hi everyone! I hope everything is going well for all of you. I’m still trudging along with books and music to keep me entertained in the meantime. In case you haven’t noticed, this is now the third book I am reviewing by T. Kingfisher so it is safe to say I’m a fan now. Feel free to check out my two previous reviews, both of which are novellas, if you are so interested. Now, let’s talk about The Hollow Places.

Kara has hit a low point. After a messy divorce, she is dreading having to move back in with her overbearing mother. She is released when her Uncle Earl calls and offers her a place to stay. Uncle Earl is a lovable eccentric who operates the Glory to God Museum of Natural Wonders, Curiosities, and Taxidermy in a quaint little town. Having spent many summers working there in her childhood, Kara decides to help her aging uncle. One night while she is closing, Kara finds a strange and impossible hole in the wall that leads to an entirely different world. She and her friend Simon decide to venture there and discover a horror with an insatiable appetite for the living.

Compared to the last horror novel I read (American Psycho), this one was genuinely fun and not too upsettingly creepy. T. Kingfisher does an excellent job creating atmospheric horror by utilizing natural settings, like a forest, to make a wonderfully creepy experience. I enjoyed Kara as she was a relatable narrator with a sense of self-awareness that made the reading experience all the more enjoyable. I would also argue that this novel had a sense of magical realism to it that added to the mystery at the heart of the plot. Overall, this was yet another great novel by T. Kingfisher. If you want a horror novel that is a little more PG-13 or is just looking for a good place to start in the genre, go ahead and start here then go read What Moves the Dead, a horror novella by T. Kingfisher.