And he paused, in the space between inhalation and exhalation, and invited the magic in: Reviewing A Marvelous Light (Book One in The Last Binding Trilogy) by Freya Marske

Hi there everyone! January is still drab and dull as anything, but I am managing. I don’t think anyone really enjoys January anyways. I did just get my copy of Hellbent so that review will be coming in the near future. Other than that, I don’t have much else to say. Let’s talk about A Marvelous Light.

18+ Readers Only! Adult content! Separate content warning for violence and strong language

Sir Robin Blyth is doing his best to manage his parents’ estate, support his sister, and be a good businessman. A clerical error, however, put him in the position of liaison to a secret magical society. With this new world comes new dangers. Robin becomes a target for dangerous people and receives a curse for his trouble. The only person who can help him is Edwin Courcey, Robin’s reluctant counterpart. The two men delve into mystery that throws into question everything they know. As Edwin and Robin find themselves caught up in a deadly plot, more secrets are unearthed that people died to keep.

I absolutely did not think I would like this book as much as I did but this was just about everything I look for in a novel. I loved Freya Marske’s writing and there were certain lines I re-read a few times because I was just so taken aback. The narration was just so lovely at times. The magic system is interesting and I wanted to know more about the lore that Marske introduced. Also, wow, this book was so spicy! I was not expecting that but I was pleasantly surprised by how well the relationship between Robin and Edwin developed over the course of the book. (Also the spicy scenes were so good!) This book also gets major bonus points from me for being historical fiction. I feel like this review isn’t super coherent but you all know what I am getting at. You should definitely check this one out if you want a unique fantasy with a great romance.

New worlds come from the meeting of the minds: Reviewing Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell

Hi everyone! If you are up reading this review, then you should definitely go to bed. If you can’t sleep, then you are welcome here. I have crossed off yet another book I really wanted to finish before the end of the year. My next goal is to finish Babel by R.F. Kuang because that one was so hyped for 2022. I am also reading a shorter book that I will hopefully finish sooner than later as well. That’s enough chit chat for now. Let’s get into Ocean’s Echo.

Tennalhin “Tennal” Halkana has spent his life using his upper-class status and impeccable flirting abilities to cruise through life. Another distinct advantage Tennal has is his ability to read minds. As a “reader,” Tennal is considered a threat and an asset as he can navigate chaotic space. Because of his abilities, he is conscripted into the military by a powerful and scheming relative with no warning. Tennal is promptly placed under the watchful eye of Lieutenant Surit Yeni, a model soldier whose mother was a traitor to the military. Where Tennal can read minds, Surit is an “architect” who has the ability to influence them. He is ordered to “sync” with Tennal’s mind and control him. Unaware that this was the true meaning of his mission, Surit refuses to control Tennal. Instead, they decide fake the sync and help Tennal escape. The plan goes horribly awry when they end up in chaotic space and uncover the truth behind Surit’s mother’s treachery. This discovery upends a power struggle, which threatens to start a civil war unless Tennal and Surit can stop it.

Set in the same universe as Everina Maxwell’s first novel Winter’s Orbit, this particular novel shifts focus from royal politics to military politics in space. I enjoyed the intricacy of world-building in this indirect sequel. Ocean’s Echo reaches out further into the depths of space and the human psyche. While the characters are somewhat similar to the ones in Winter’s Orbit, they follow a different trajectory that will have you rushing to finish this book. I would definitely classify this romance as “slow burn reluctant allies to lovers.” What I really enjoyed, though, was the “reader” and “architect” dynamic that Maxwell introduces. It can be a little bit confusing at times but you do catch on before the thrilling conclusion. If you want a high-stakes sci-fi adventure with an intense romance at the center (or if you liked Winter’s Orbit), then you should absolutely check out Ocean’s Echo.

We are nothing if not absurd: Reviewing Alice Isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink

Hi everyone! I hope you are all still doing well and just enjoying every big or small piece of happiness in your life. Books tend to fit that criteria, at least for me. If you know me, you know I have talked about my love for the Welcome to Night Vale podcast. I have read three books based off of said podcast and co-authored by Joseph Fink, so feel free to check those out. While Alice Isn’t Dead isn’t part of the Night Vale universe, it is a podcast by the some company with a similarly dark and intriguing premise which I highly recommend you check out if you are interested. Let’s talk about its novelization. (I will be putting trigger warnings at the very end of this review, by the way.)

Though Keisha Taylor had her own struggles, she had finally settled into a quiet and comfortable life with her wife, Alice. Alice, though, disappeared while on work trip and was presumed dead, leaving Keisha in a deep depression that she couldn’t seem to escape. Just as she begins to feel herself moving forward with her life, Alice appears, showing up in news stories covering different tragedies. Keisha begins to investigate Alice’s past, which leads her to taking a job as a long haul truck driver. Using her job as a cover, Keisha discovers a dark, hidden secret within the heart of America. Because of this, she finds herself being targeted by a seemingly inhuman serial killer who is trying to stop her as she finds herself in the middle of a war that extends beyond even time and space – all this because of one woman’s sudden disappearance.

Jospeh Fink creates an exciting and bizarre mystery woven together strange sort of comforting nihilism that is fairly common to Night Vale and Night Vale – related pieces of media. Fink does a great job with pacing and changing the perspective while keeping true to the heart of the story: a hopeful, but tragic tale of love. I am normally not a huge fan of road trip stories, but I loved the way that Alice Isn’t Dead had this fantastically dark atmosphere overlaying the journey. If you are American and/or have taken a road trip through America, then you will definitely appreciate the way this novel highlights those weird sights that catch your eye as you travel. Even if you are not American nor have travelled here, Fink does a great job capturing the unsettling atmosphere of manufactured towns. This is definitely just creepy and thrilling enough to be a good read for spooky season but I would recommend Alice Isn’t Dead all year round.

Trigger Warnings: Violence, Gore, Racism and mentions of racism, Graphic Death, Strong Language

True Love Isn’t Always Diplomatic: Reviewing Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Hey everyone! I hope we’re all enjoying the final cool August days before the cold creeps in and I can finally pull out my Halloween decorations. Now, this is a review that is definitely out of genre, but I am nothing if not fairly adventurous when it comes to reading. As long as it is within fiction’s realm, I will try it. Now, I’m sure a good majority of you are at least somewhat familiar with this particular book as it has been making its rounds on Book Tok, Tumblr, Instagram, etc. I tried to read this one a while ago but couldn’t quite get into it. Without further ado, let’s talk about Red, White, and Royal Blue.

Alex Claremont – Diaz has a lot on his shoulders. As the son of the first female President of the United States, Alex is certain that he will follow a clear path into politics using his smarts and charm. Everything is thrown into chaos when he and the infuriatingly handsome and arrogant Prince Henry of Wales get into an “incident” that leads to the destruction of a $7,000 wedding cake. In an attempt to do damage control, the two are sent on a tour to parade their fake friendship. Soon, though, Alex begins to see past Henry’s facade and the two begin to fall for each other. With Alex’s mom’s reelection on the horizon, he and Henry must carefully navigate their budding romance. With everything at stake, the two must decide how much they are willing to risk for their whirlwind romance.

I’m not going to lie: I was a little nervous that this book was going to read too much like fan fiction. I am pleased to say that I was wrong and this was a very cute little romance. It’s just cheesy enough with a nice dash of idealism. Henry and Alex have a relationship that you can cheer for from beginning to end. I can always appreciate a well-rounded romance with a nice touch of passion. It was also much spicier than I anticipated, so if you’re under 18, go find another book. (It wasn’t graphic btw). This is a perfectly sweet book if you just need something light and charming to read. I would say go ahead and give this one a chance if you need a good enemies-to-lovers story.

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.

One Match can Light up an Empire: Reviewing Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

Hello everyone! Yet again, I find myself finishing a book at an ungodly hour and feeling the need to blog about it immediately after when I should just go to bed. This one, for me, couldn’t wait. I wanted to kick off Pride Month with an LGBTQ+ book review for all of you. I am in the process of moving right now (among other life events) so I don’t know how much time I’ll have to read this month. But nothing will ever truly get between me and my need to read every book I get my hands on. So, let’s discuss Winter’s Orbit.

Prince Kiem has built a reputation for himself as the “playboy prince of Iskat,” which puts him in the bad graces of the Emperor, his grandmother. His carefree life is turned upside down when the Emperor calls on him to enter a political marriage with the recently widowed Count Jainan. Neither wants to be married, but it is the only way to settle the disharmony rising up between their home planets. The couple soon find themselves wrapped up in a conspiracy that spreads across the galaxy and must work together to prevent a possible war.

Everina Maxwell does an excellent job balancing a compelling plot and slow burn romance in this exciting sci-fi novel. The pacing was steady and allows for the reader to fully absorb the vast galaxy that Maxwell carefully crafts. The romance between Kiem and Jainan is sweet, awkward, and passionate in all of the best ways. It is definitely more of a character driven novel overall, which I appreciate in this instance. With sci-fi novels, it sometimes feels as though I either get to know the setting or the characters well but rarely both. In this instance, I felt as though both were equally fleshed out through the writing. I am absolutely going to recommend this novel if you are looking for a sci-fi adventure with romance to read this summer.

Hot, Hungry, and Haunting: Reviewing Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo

Hi everyone! I hope you are all doing well. I am coming to you, yet again, writing a review instead of sleeping. I can either read a book in a month or in a day; there is no in-between. I am not sure if I have ever said this before but I am a fan of American Gothic/Southern Gothic literature. It is a very underrated genre, in my personal opinion. When I found Summer Sons while browsing Amazon, I quickly saved it to my list. Now that I have finished the book, it’s time to get spooky (yet again) and talk about it.

Andrew’s life is turned upside down by the apparent suicide of his closest friend, Eddie. Having known each other since childhood, Andrew thought he knew everything about him. That is until Eddie left him abruptly to attend graduate school. Now, Andrew must sift through the remains of his dearest friend’s life, only to discover a horrifying phantom that latches onto him. Desperate to be free of this curse, Andrew recruits Eddie’s enigmatic friends to help him discover the truth behind his death and lay him to rest once and for all.

If you are looking for a book that is part Southern Gothic horror with a touch of dark academia, then look no further than Summer Sons. Maybe I am a bit biased towards this novel because it reminds me of the early seasons of Supernatural (which Mandelo lovingly references), but I loved the way that Mandelo captures the atmosphere and aesthetic that is so crucial to crafting a Southern Gothic novel. Some people may find the attention to detail to be a bit too much, but I enjoyed how visceral this particular version of a haunting was in the novel. What I particularly liked was the way that Mandelo blends together the human elements with interesting drama and the inherent tension of a lurking supernatural threat. I personally would recommend this book if you are looking for a fresh take on the Southern Gothic genre with the welcome addition of LGBTQ+ representation.

Intimacy is About Truth: Reviewing The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Hi everyone! I hope you are all doing well. This review is a bit of a departure for me as this book is typically within my favorite genre, but sometimes you just need to embrace the impulse. Many of you are probably aware that this book has become a darling on BookTok so I will now offer my review of it. Let’s get into The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.

Monique Grant is stuck. Between her stagnant writing career and divorce, she is looking for something pull her out of her slump. Out of the blue, she is approached by the glamorous and enigmatic Evelyn Hugo to write her biography. Together, the two women explore Evelyn’s complicated love life and storied career in Hollywood. It becomes clear to Monique that her and Evelyn’s stories are tied in ways she couldn’t imagine and that this woman will change her life forever.

This was a suprising novel to me for many reasons. First of all, I was expecting something rather explicing and scandalous. Reid, however, takes an honest and emotional look at the complicated lives of celebrities. Evelyn Hugo is a fascinating character to study who is as multi-faceted as a gem. While Monique is mostly in the background, she does bridge the gap between the Golden Age of Hollywood and the world of modern fame. Most importantly, this novel has wonderful LGBTQ+ representation as it explores the complicated lives of those forced to hide their love from the public eye. I was truly captivated by this book. In my opinion, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo defies expectations, which is essential to the overall theme of the book.

Love Makes Monsters Of Us: Reviewing A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson

Hello everyone! I hope everything is going well for you and you all have been reading plenty of good books or watching good movies and/or tv shows. I must be the first to admit that I haven’t entirely left my love for vampires in my tween and teen years. I was very into the Twilight series and The Vampire Diaries series. I was also really into The Mortal Instruments. My mom introduced me to Buffy the Vampire Slayer at a young age. My first R – rated movie was Interview with the Vampire. I fell in love with Bram Stoker’s Dracula in my later teen years, which turned into a love for all things Gothic. Needless to say, I can’t resist a good story about those blood-sucking bastards. Let’s talk about A Dowry of Blood.

Constanta was left to die in the midst of a war when a handsome and dangerous stranger finds her. He turns her into something powerful and beautiful. She becomes a bride to her undying king. Constanta revels in her newfound power until Dracula draws in other brides. They all become entangled in his web of deceit and passion. She begins to realize that her husband is hiding dark secrets that he could use to destroy her. With the help of her fellow consorts, Constanta must find a way to escape from the deeply forged bonds of her unholy marriage.

I certainly enjoyed this novel. Constanta as a narrator is surprisingly human and vulnerable, despite her being a vampire. The novel does not lean so much into the lore as it does focus on the relationships between Dracula and his brides. I personally appreciated that aspect as it helped make the novel all that more immersive. With that being said, this is a book I only recommend to mature readers as there are graphic scenes of both violence and sex. They were very well written, though. It was an enjoyable and rather empowering read. If you are looking for something that is equal parts dark and sexy, then I would recommend giving A Dowry of Blood a read.

A kingdom, or this?: Reviewing Captive Prince (Book 1 in the Captive Prince trilogy) by C.S. Pascat

Hello everybody! I’m back and in an incredibly pessimistic mood, which is why I needed to escape into fiction again. I have read this book previously, but in the form of an e-book so I feel like I couldn’t properly absorb what was happening. I don’t know if anyone else feels that way about e-books, or if it just me. The Barnes and Nobles by me re-opened recently and this was my celebratory purchase. Time to talk about the Captive Prince.

Damen had everything as the legendary warrior prince, until his brother took the throne. He strips Damen of his identity and sends him off to Vere to be a pleasure slave, which has long been an enemy to his home country of Akeilos. While there, Damen learns that he will serve Prince Laurent, who is just as beautiful as he is deadly and cunning. Damen quickly learns of the danger that lies beneath the glamor of the Veretian court, meaning he has to hide his identity and make unlikely allies, or he faces a deadly end.

I realize that this book is rather controversial in its subject matter and not because of the Male/Male romance. For those of you who are not familiar with this novel, it does contain graphic sexual violence within the context of a society where slavery is commonplace. Maybe this does not shock me as much because I studied Rome and this reminded me quite a bit of Rome. Obviously, this isn’t to justify it and we have a main character, Damen, who is in the same mindset of the reader. This book is more about politics than anything, which I thought was the most interesting aspect. It actually has a very Game of Thrones feel to it where every character is trying to navigate through complicated politics in which they are trapped. Nothing can be done simply and that is what makes the novel so interesting. Again, I understand any reservations anyone else might have about the subject matter, but I personally enjoyed it. It was just steamy enough without being gratuitous and it leaves you wanting more. It felt like a reworking of some of the worst tropes that tend to pop up in erotic fiction. It certainly doesn’t feel like mom fiction or fan fiction. Pascat is very mature in the way she handles touchier subjects, while also bringing in some inclusivity in the LGBTQ+ genre of literature. Captive Prince is a unique take on a genre that has often been disregarded for so long.

Warning: The novel does contain moments of torture, graphic sexual violence (including assaults on underage characters), and mentions of blood and gore.