These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights #1) by Chloe Gong

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.
A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.
But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Fantasy, 449 pages, published in 2020

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.
A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.
But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.
[Goodreads]

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Content Warnings: disease (pandemic), violence, self-harm

This had been one of my most anticipated releases for a long time, but it didn’t quite live up to what I was expecting.

I wouldn’t say anything about this book was bad, but nothing about was all that great to me either. I had been prepared for a slow-burn hate-to-love romance, but it felt like all the romance happened in the past.

The plot of this book revolves around a “disease” and there were a lot of parts that hit way too close to home considering the past year and a half.

The retelling aspect of this book didn’t really have me feeling either way. There were some plot points that I could predict because I knew of the original story.

The ending of this book felt very intriguing, but I don’t think it was enough for me to want to read the sequel. I didn’t feel connected to the characters and I didn’t particularly care about the gang rivalry.

I RECOMMEND THIS FOR…

I do think fans of YA fantasy would enjoy this, especially if a historical setting would be interesting to you. I think I am a little burned out from YA fantasy, so I didn’t enjoy as much as I could have.

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Air Awakens (Air Awakens #1) by Elise Kova

The Solaris Empire is one conquest away from uniting the continent, and the rare elemental magic sleeping in seventeen-year-old library apprentice Vhalla Yarl could shift the tides of war.
Vhalla has always been taught to fear the Tower of Sorcerers, a mysterious magic society, and has been happy in her quiet world of books. But after she unknowingly saves the life of one of the most powerful sorcerers of them all—the Crown Prince Aldrik—she finds herself enticed into his world.
Now she must decide her future: Embrace her sorcery and leave the life she’s known, or eradicate her magic and remain as she’s always been. And with powerful forces lurking in the shadows, Vhalla’s indecision could cost her more than she ever imagined.

Fantasy, 342 pages, published in 2015

The Solaris Empire is one conquest away from uniting the continent, and the rare elemental magic sleeping in seventeen-year-old library apprentice Vhalla Yarl could shift the tides of war.
Vhalla has always been taught to fear the Tower of Sorcerers, a mysterious magic society, and has been happy in her quiet world of books. But after she unknowingly saves the life of one of the most powerful sorcerers of them all—the Crown Prince Aldrik—she finds herself enticed into his world.
Now she must decide her future: Embrace her sorcery and leave the life she’s known, or eradicate her magic and remain as she’s always been. And with powerful forces lurking in the shadows, Vhalla’s indecision could cost her more than she ever imagined.
[Goodreads]

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content Warnings: torture

I read Elise Kova’s new standalone recently and I enjoyed it, but I definitely thought her writing was better suited to a series and I think I was right!

THE GOOD

Vhalla is such an interesting character to follow! She is definitely pretty naïve to start with, but she is very spunky, feisty, and tough. She goes through a lot throughout the course of this book, so you definitely get to see her grow.

One thing I did appreciate was that finally, someone in a series with elemental magic, thinks about how to do their hair with said magic. I think about this all the time!

I was very pleasantly surprised with the direction of this book! It definitely gets a little darker than I was expecting, but it was good because the beginning of the book felt a little bit typical.

I am very excited to see where this series goes! The romance, plot, and worldbuilding of this book definitely leave things open for the rest of the series.

THE BAD

Like I mentioned above, the beginning of the book felt a little typical. A young girl who works in a library discovers she has magical powers and gets involved with a mysterious prince. It felt like the beginning to a ton of other books I’ve read, but it definitely evolved past that.

I RECOMMEND THIS FOR…

I think any fan of YA fantasy would love this series! It has the plot twist, the romance, the action that a lot of YA fantasies have. The series has five books and there are two more spin off series, so anyone looking for a lot of books in a world should check this out! I haven’t read anything from the spin offs though, so I can’t speak for those books.

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The Crown of Gilded Bones (Blood and Ash #3) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Poppy never dreamed she would find the love she’s found with Prince Casteel. She wants to revel in her happiness but first they must free his brother and find hers. It’s a dangerous mission and one with far-reaching consequences neither dreamed of. Because Poppy is the Chosen, the Blessed. The true ruler of Atlantia. She carries the blood of the King of Gods within her. By right the crown and the kingdom are hers.
Poppy has only ever wanted to control her own life, not the lives of others, but now she must choose to either forsake her birthright or seize the gilded crown and become the Queen of Flesh and Fire. But as the kingdoms’ dark sins and blood-drenched secrets finally unravel, a long-forgotten power rises to pose a genuine threat. And they will stop at nothing to ensure that the crown never sits upon Poppy’s head.
But the greatest threat to them and to Atlantia is what awaits in the far west, where the Queen of Blood and Ash has her own plans, ones she has waited hundreds of years to carry out. Poppy and Casteel must consider the impossible—travel to the Lands of the Gods and wake the King himself. And as shocking secrets and the harshest betrayals come to light, and enemies emerge to threaten everything Poppy and Casteel have fought for, they will discover just how far they are willing to go for their people—and each other.

Fantasy, 645 pages, published in 2021

Poppy never dreamed she would find the love she’s found with Prince Casteel. She wants to revel in her happiness but first they must free his brother and find hers. It’s a dangerous mission and one with far-reaching consequences neither dreamed of. Because Poppy is the Chosen, the Blessed. The true ruler of Atlantia. She carries the blood of the King of Gods within her. By right the crown and the kingdom are hers.
Poppy has only ever wanted to control her own life, not the lives of others, but now she must choose to either forsake her birthright or seize the gilded crown and become the Queen of Flesh and Fire. But as the kingdoms’ dark sins and blood-drenched secrets finally unravel, a long-forgotten power rises to pose a genuine threat. And they will stop at nothing to ensure that the crown never sits upon Poppy’s head.
But the greatest threat to them and to Atlantia is what awaits in the far west, where the Queen of Blood and Ash has her own plans, ones she has waited hundreds of years to carry out. Poppy and Casteel must consider the impossible—travel to the Lands of the Gods and wake the King himself. And as shocking secrets and the harshest betrayals come to light, and enemies emerge to threaten everything Poppy and Casteel have fought for, they will discover just how far they are willing to go for their people—and each other.
[Goodreads]

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Oh man, where do I even start with this book…I enjoyed the first book, had mixed feelings about the second, but this one took it to a whole other level.

THE GOOD

There was one specific scene where Casteel told Poppy that she can be who she is and feel everything she’s feeling around him. She didn’t need permission, but after guarding herself for so long, she had forgotten.

THE BAD

This book just felt like one long, repetitive, boring conversation. It just felt like the characters had a problem, would discuss it, get absolutely nowhere, then discuss it again. There was some action at the beginning and end, but other than that, it was just a long conversation.

There were some references to modern day things (like showers and casseroles, of all things) that immediately took me out of the story. It takes some effort to take this book seriously for me, but those things made it impossible.

Everything with the worldbuilding and family trees is so confusing to me and I’m not sure it will ever make sense.

I RECOMMEND THIS FOR…

If you enjoyed the first and second books, you’ll probably like this one? I’m not even sure. My opinions about this series go downhill with each installment, especially when I realized that there will be at least two more books in the series after this one.

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Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens.
How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?
In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?
Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power … and our future.

Nonfiction, 512 pages, published in 2011

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens.
How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?
In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?
Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power … and our future.
[Goodreads]

Review:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This book…was weird. I really liked a lot of the information presented, but the execution was kind of all over the place.

THE GOOD

There was a lot of very interesting information in the middle of the book. The author is very accepting and tries to present information in a very neutral way.

While I did think the author overused examples, I do think he used examples from a wide range of areas and cultures.

“How can we distinguish what is biologically determined from what people merely try to justify through biological myths? A good rule of thumb is ‘Biology enables, Culture forbids.’ Biology is willing to tolerate a very wide spectrum of possibilities. It’s culture that obliges people to realise some possibilities while forbidding others. Biology enables women to have children – some cultures oblige women to realise this possibility. Biology enables men to enjoy sex with one another – some cultures forbid them to realise this possibility. “
-pg. 146-147

THE BAD

The author is a historian, so the scientific portions of this book are less than ideal. The beginning about the book is all about evolution and some of the facts felt…wrong. At one point, he speculates about the reason for the mutation that allowed humans of complex thought. Mutations don’t have a reason, the only way that they can happen is randomly (disregarding mutations caused by chemical exposure, as I don’t think that was the case). It just felt like a very basic scientific fact for this book to have wrong.

The tone of the book went all over the place. Sometimes it was quite formal and scientific and other times it was very casual and a little condescending (to other animals).

The book ended with a prediction for the future, which I didn’t like because once again, the author delved into science.

I RECOMMEND THIS FOR…

I think this book presents a lot of interesting ideas! It is pretty accessible, there is nothing that really needs any prior knowledge to understand the concepts.

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Royal Assassin (Farseer Trilogy #2) by Robin Hobb

Fitz has survived his first hazardous mission as king’s assassin, but is left little more than a cripple. Battered and bitter, he vows to abandon his oath to King Shrewd, remaining in the distant mountains. But love and events of terrible urgency draw him back to the court at Buckkeep, and into the deadly intrigues of the royal family.
Renewing their vicious attacks on the coast, the Red-Ship Raiders leave burned-out villages and demented victims in their wake. The kingdom is also under assault from within, as treachery threatens the throne of the ailing king. In this time of great danger, the fate of the kingdom may rest in Fitz’s hands—and his role in its salvation may require the ultimate sacrifice.

Fantasy, 675 pages, published in 1996

Fitz has survived his first hazardous mission as king’s assassin, but is left little more than a cripple. Battered and bitter, he vows to abandon his oath to King Shrewd, remaining in the distant mountains. But love and events of terrible urgency draw him back to the court at Buckkeep, and into the deadly intrigues of the royal family.
Renewing their vicious attacks on the coast, the Red-Ship Raiders leave burned-out villages and demented victims in their wake. The kingdom is also under assault from within, as treachery threatens the throne of the ailing king. In this time of great danger, the fate of the kingdom may rest in Fitz’s hands—and his role in its salvation may require the ultimate sacrifice.
[Goodreads]

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Content Warnings: torture

I was very excited to read this book because I was surprised by how much I liked the first one, but man, this one was honestly a let down.

THE GOOD

I feel like Fitz finally got to show his personality a little bit in this book!

I really enjoyed Kettriken as a character and getting to see her in action was cool.

There was some cool magic happening at the ending of this book, but it did feel a little rushed to me.

THE BAD

I was very much looking forward to learning more about the Red Ship raiders, especially since it is on the cover of the book (at least the illustrated edition), but I don’t feel like we really got a ton more information about them.

The entire ‘romance’ element of this book….absolutely brought this entire thing down for me. I’ve seen reviews were people say that it is such a good romance and I honestly, truly don’t get it. The relationship was built on what felt like almost nothing and Fitz was ready to give up absolutely everything for this girl. It didn’t help that I was picturing Fitz as a gangly 12 year old (he was definitely older than that in this book). Every scene with the two of them, or even when Fitz was just thinking about, made me want to immediately drop this book.

The end of the book felt…very convenient. After all the boredom beforehand, this was something I actually wanted more detail about, but it was rushed by.

I RECOMMEND THIS FOR…

I’m not sure who would enjoy this book. It is the highest rated of the trilogy, so there are obviously people who enjoy it. I’d heard that it that it is even better than the third book, which scares me because I was very bored throughout. There is obviously something that some people enjoy about this book, but I don’t know what it is.

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To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

Kira Navárez dreamed of life on new worlds. Now she’s awakened a nightmare. During a routine survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira finds an alien relic. At first she’s delighted, but elation turns to terror when the ancient dust around her begins to move.
As war erupts among the stars, Kira is launched into a galaxy-spanning odyssey of discovery and transformation. First contact isn’t at all what she imagined, and events push her to the very limits of what it means to be human.
While Kira faces her own horrors, Earth and its colonies stand upon the brink of annihilation. Now, Kira might be humanity’s greatest and final hope…

Sci-fi, 878 pages, published in 2020

Kira Navárez dreamed of life on new worlds. Now she’s awakened a nightmare. During a routine survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira finds an alien relic. At first she’s delighted, but elation turns to terror when the ancient dust around her begins to move.
As war erupts among the stars, Kira is launched into a galaxy-spanning odyssey of discovery and transformation. First contact isn’t at all what she imagined, and events push her to the very limits of what it means to be human.
While Kira faces her own horrors, Earth and its colonies stand upon the brink of annihilation. Now, Kira might be humanity’s greatest and final hope…[Goodreads]

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Content Warnings: imprisonment/torture, body horror

I have a complicated relationship with Paolini (and the way he writes women), so I was hoping that this book would restore my faith in. I don’t think it did, but I would be interested to read more in this world.

Paolini is creating a “fractalverse”, similar to Sanderson’s Cosmere. The books will be set in the same universe, but not necessarily related to each other. TSIASOS is a standalone and is the first book in this universe.

Kira, the main character, honestly felt pretty bland. It felt like her reactions to the crazy events going on around her were short and then she was over it. The entire book centers on her and she just wasn’t interesting to follow. There were some weird scenes centering around sex and menstrual cycles that I don’t think were necessary and just felt awkward.

This is a first encounter story, which I do find interesting in general. The aliens in this story were cool, to an extent.

There was a lot of technical, scientific jargon that just went way over my head. There were also appendices that go further in depth, which I did not read. With sci-fi, if the author says something works, I’ll believe them for the most part. I don’t need scientific proof that yes, it does work.

There was a certain aspect of this book that was SO repetitive. It was interesting the first time, but having to read about the same exact situation five or six more times was not fun.

There is an AI in this story that was probably the most interesting part of this book and the most entertaining.

Overall, I just think this book was too long. It should have been shorter or been split into two books, because there was a clear break in the middle. I only felt relief when this book was over.

The ending itself was not what I was expecting. I wasn’t sure where the story was going, but I didn’t think it would go where it is. It didn’t feel satisfying to me and it felt like I had just wasted all the time beforehand.

This story had interesting elements, and to be honest, I would be interested in reading future books in this universe, but this book just did not do it for me.

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The Poison Song (The Winnowing Flame #3) by Jen Williams

From Jen Williams, three-time British Fantasy Award finalist, comes the electrifying conclusion to the Winnowing Flame trilogy. Exhilarating epic fantasy for fans of Robin Hobb.
Jump on board a war beast or two with Vintage, Noon and Tor and return to Sarn for the last installment of this epic series where the trio must gather their forces and make a final stand against the invading Jure’lia.

Fantasy, 576 pages, published in 2019

From Jen Williams, three-time British Fantasy Award finalist, comes the electrifying conclusion to the Winnowing Flame trilogy. Exhilarating epic fantasy for fans of Robin Hobb.
Jump on board a war beast or two with Vintage, Noon and Tor and return to Sarn for the last installment of this epic series where the trio must gather their forces and make a final stand against the invading Jure’lia. [Goodreads]

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content Warnings: general darkness

I had high hopes for this finale and it did not disappoint one bit!

I absolutely adore these characters, so it was a joy to follow them for another book, even though they were really going through it.

This has got to be one of the most tense books I have read because I truly wasn’t sure what the characters’ fates would be. It didn’t feel like anything was off the table, so the stakes felt very high the entire time.

This series is not super detail-oriented, where everything that is mentioned is somehow important later on or everything is foreshadowed, like in a Sanderson book. There were definitely some things I still had questions about from earlier in the series the didn’t get answered, but I was overall satisfied with the answers we got.

I think the world of this series felt so fresh and new. There were some concepts that I had seen before, but they were done in a way that was really cool.

The ending was my favorite kind (which I can’t say, because that would be a spoiler), so I was definitely happy with it and also sad that the series was over.

Between the amazing characters, interesting plot and world, and the overall uniqueness of the story, it’s a shame that this series does not have more fans! If you can get your hands on a copy, I would highly recommend it!

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Better Together by Christine Riccio

Jamie’s an aspiring standup comic in Los Angeles with a growing case of stage anxiety.
Siri’s a stunning ballerina from New Jersey nursing a career-changing injury.
They’ve both signed up for the same session at an off the grid Re-Discover Yourself Retreat in Colorado. When they run into each other, their worlds turn upside down.
Jamie and Siri are sisters, torn apart at a young age by their parent’s volatile divorce. They’ve grown up living completely separate lives: Jamie with their Dad and Siri with their Mom. Now, reunited after over a decade apart, they hatch a plot to switch places. It’s time they get to know and confront each of their estranged parents.
With an accidental assist from some fortuitous magic, Jamie arrives in New Jersey, looking to all the world like Siri, and Siri steps off her flight sporting a Jamie glamour.
The sisters unexpectedly find themselves stuck living in each other’s shoes. Soon Siri’s crushing on Jamie’s best friend Dawn. Jamie’s falling for the handsome New Yorker she keeps running into, Zarar. Alongside a parade of hijinks and budding romance, both girls work to navigate their broken family life and the stresses of impending adulthood.

Contemporary, 448 pages, published in 2021

Jamie’s an aspiring standup comic in Los Angeles with a growing case of stage anxiety.
Siri’s a stunning ballerina from New Jersey nursing a career-changing injury.
They’ve both signed up for the same session at an off the grid Re-Discover Yourself Retreat in Colorado. When they run into each other, their worlds turn upside down.
Jamie and Siri are sisters, torn apart at a young age by their parent’s volatile divorce. They’ve grown up living completely separate lives: Jamie with their Dad and Siri with their Mom. Now, reunited after over a decade apart, they hatch a plot to switch places. It’s time they get to know and confront each of their estranged parents.
With an accidental assist from some fortuitous magic, Jamie arrives in New Jersey, looking to all the world like Siri, and Siri steps off her flight sporting a Jamie glamour.
The sisters unexpectedly find themselves stuck living in each other’s shoes. Soon Siri’s crushing on Jamie’s best friend Dawn. Jamie’s falling for the handsome New Yorker she keeps running into, Zarar. Alongside a parade of hijinks and budding romance, both girls work to navigate their broken family life and the stresses of impending adulthood.
[Goodreads]

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Content Warnings: divorce, gaslighting

This book…was so bad. I had enjoyed the over-the-top cringey nostalgia of Christine Riccio’s first book, but the cringe factor of this book was not balanced out by anything good.

The story follows two sisters, Siri and Jamie. Siri was a ballerina facing an injury that ended her dreams, so she was interesting to follow. She was kind of lowkey. Jaime, on the other hand, was an aspiring comedian and she was just too much. Everything she did gave me second-hand embarrassment.

The sisters meet at a retreat after being split up by their parents Parent Trap style. They decide to switch places, but ~magic~ happens and the switch bodies, a la Freaky Friday. I’m not sure how they tricked anyone, because neither was very good at being the other.

Both sisters had developing romances in this book, as well as a relationship to mend with each other and with their parents. It just felt like too much, but at the same time, this whole book felt like build up to the event I actually wanted to see.

The writing….was not good. I’m not one to normally crave pretty writing, but this was so noticeably simple. Also, one character does not swear, so she uses “intercourse” in place of swears. It got so old so fast, and again, the second hand embarrassment. There were also a lot of weird Game of Thrones references that just did not do anything for me.

I thought the relationship between Siri and Jamie, as well as their parents, was so interesting, but it really wasn’t dealt with until the end. The title is ironic, given that the sisters didn’t spend much time together.

I do think this book had a ton of potential, but the execution fell so very flat.

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The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.
When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified
assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.
But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.
An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.

Fantasy, 394 pages, published in 2020

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.
When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified
assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.
But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.
An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.
[Goodreads]

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content Warnings: child abuse (mentioned)

I feel like everyone and their mother has read and loved this book and I’m glad I finally got to it because I LOVED it as well!

This book keeps getting labelled as YA for some reason, but the main character is in his 40’s, which is not something I typically go for. It does have a pretty light feeling overall, even though it does deal with some hard topics, such as child abuse and neglect and discrimination.

The world this story is set in felt a lot like the world in A Series of Unfortunate Events. It could be our world, but some things are just a little different. I think it was the perfect choice for a story about a house for magical children.

The found family in the book was absolutely the best. All of the children have their own clear personalities and relationships with each other and all of the adults were just so wholesome and caring.

I also see a lot of people call this a romance, and while there is a romantic element to it, I don’t think that’s necessarily true. It doesn’t feel like the sole focus of the story.

The overall vibe was very hopeful, yet realistic. I think this will be a book that I come back to many times in the future and I will definitely be checking out more books by this author.

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The Camelot Betrayal (Camelot Rising #2) by Kiersten White

EVERYTHING IS AS IT SHOULD BE IN CAMELOT: King Arthur is expanding his kingdom’s influence with Queen Guinevere at his side. Yet every night, dreams of darkness and unknowable power plague her.

Guinevere might have accepted her role, but she still cannot find a place for herself in all of it. The closer she gets to Brangien, pining for her lost love Isolde, Lancelot, fighting to prove her worth as Queen’s knight, and Arthur, everything to everyone and thus never quite enough for Guinevere–the more she realizes how empty she is. She has no sense of who she truly was before she was Guinevere. The more she tries to claim herself as queen, the more she wonders if Mordred was right: she doesn’t belong. She never will.

When a rescue goes awry and results in the death of something precious, a devastated Guinevere returns to Camelot to find the greatest threat yet has arrived. Not in the form of the Dark Queen or an invading army, but in the form of the real Guinevere’s younger sister. Is her deception at an end? And who is she really deceiving–Camelot, or herself?

Fantasy, 370 pages, published in 2020

EVERYTHING IS AS IT SHOULD BE IN CAMELOT: King Arthur is expanding his kingdom’s influence with Queen Guinevere at his side. Yet every night, dreams of darkness and unknowable power plague her.

Guinevere might have accepted her role, but she still cannot find a place for herself in all of it. The closer she gets to Brangien, pining for her lost love Isolde, Lancelot, fighting to prove her worth as Queen’s knight, and Arthur, everything to everyone and thus never quite enough for Guinevere–the more she realizes how empty she is. She has no sense of who she truly was before she was Guinevere. The more she tries to claim herself as queen, the more she wonders if Mordred was right: she doesn’t belong. She never will.

When a rescue goes awry and results in the death of something precious, a devastated Guinevere returns to Camelot to find the greatest threat yet has arrived. Not in the form of the Dark Queen or an invading army, but in the form of the real Guinevere’s younger sister. Is her deception at an end? And who is she really deceiving–Camelot, or herself?
[Goodreads]

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I had wanted to reread the first book before jumping into this one, and although I didn’t have the chance to do that, I do think this book did a decent job at refreshing the reader.

This book felt a little unnecessary, like there didn’t need to be a bridge between the first and last books in this trilogy. Some of the conflict felt a little like fluff.

My main problem with this series is the romance. I consider there to be three main love interests and it keeps feeling like it is going in one direction, then it completely pivots. It felt like the book kept purposefully teasing me with my knowledge of the original story, getting me hopeful, then going in a totally different direction.

One thing I really enjoyed was that Guinevere gets the time to really explore who she is, especially compared to what other people expect of her. She has the duties of the queen on her shoulders, while also dealing with what is expected of her by her guardians. She also has powers that she doesn’t fully understand, so she struggles with the choice between what she can do, and what she should do.

I do think that I am still interested in the final book because I do like the world and the magic. Maybe the ending will tie everything together nicely, but I’m not going in with very high expectations.

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