Sunday, November 19, 2023

Iron Flame (The Empyrean, #2) by Rebecca Yarros
Narrated by Rebecca Soler & Teddy Hamilton

Synopsis (via Goodreads): “The first year is when some of us lose our lives. The second year is when the rest of us lose our humanity.” —Xaden Riorson

Everyone expected Violet Sorrengail to die during her first year at Basgiath War College—Violet included. But Threshing was only the first impossible test meant to weed out the weak-willed, the unworthy, and the unlucky.

Now the real training begins, and Violet’s already wondering how she’ll get through. It’s not just that it’s grueling and maliciously brutal, or even that it’s designed to stretch the riders’ capacity for pain beyond endurance. It’s the new vice commandant, who’s made it his personal mission to teach Violet exactly how powerless she is–unless she betrays the man she loves.

Although Violet’s body might be weaker and frailer than everyone else’s, she still has her wits—and a will of iron. And leadership is forgetting the most important lesson Basgiath has taught her: Dragon riders make their own rules.

But a determination to survive won’t be enough this year.

Because Violet knows the real secret hidden for centuries a
t Basgiath War College—and nothing, not even dragon fire, may be enough to save them in the end.

I still haven't reviewed Fourth Wing, but decided to go ahead and write this one while the story was still fresh on my mind. I was already late to the game with this series, but I put myself on the waiting list for an audiobook at my library as soon as I was able to after falling in love with these characters during Fourth Wing. Additionally, Rebecca Soler is one of my absolute favorite narrators and she does an amazing job with this series. 

Yarros not only makes me fall in love with Violet and Xaden, but every secondary character is beloved as well. Losing any of them would be devasting to my heart, so that final battle in Iron Flame had my pulse racing right along with Violet's. I was already worried about finishing the book since everyone said they literally stared at a wall for 20 minutes afterwards, but I still wasn't expecting the cliffhanger we're left with. Haven't we been through enough by now?

I will say that I didn't like how long it took Violent and Xaden to work through their issues. A lack of communication between characters is a huge turn off for me in books, especially when they're romantically involved. Violet knew who he was before she fell in love with him, yet she made demands and put expectations on him that were a bit unfair. She didn't completely trust him because he wouldn't tell her everything, but everyone in this series has secrets, including her. She kept demanding total honesty and full disclosure despite other lives being at risk if she knew. Yarros managed to address these issues in a way that wasn't cringeworthy, so at least that aspect of the book was tolerable and didn't ruin everything else for me. 

The dragons are still my favorite part of these books. I love their sarcasm and menacing attitudes, especially when directed towards their own riders. Their personalities are perfection. Adolescent Adarna is an absolute delight to read about, and her getting on Tairn's nerves never fails to make me smile. I'm really happy we learned more about them in Iron Flame because so much is still a mystery. 

Love, betrayal, unexpected plot twists, new friends and frenemies, dragons and gryphons, riders and flyers, war, loss - Iron Flame has all that and more. I highly recommend this series if you enjoy fantasy and fast-paced adventure stories. (★★★★★)

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Fall of Ruin and Wrath by Jennifer L. Armentrout


Long ago, the world was destroyed by gods. Only nine cities were spared. Separated by vast wilderness teeming with monsters and unimaginable dangers, each city is now ruled by a guardian―royalty who feed on mortal pleasure.

Born with an intuition that never fails, Calista knows her talents are of great value to the power-hungry of the world, so she lives hidden as a courtesan of the Baron of Archwood. In exchange for his protection, she grants him information.

When her intuition leads her to save a traveling prince in dire trouble, the voice inside her blazes with warning―and promise. Today he’ll bring her joy. One day he'll be her doom.

When the Baron takes an interest in the traveling prince and the prince takes an interest in Calista, she becomes the prince’s temporary companion. But the city simmers with rebellion, and with knights and monsters at her city gates and a hungry prince in her bed, intuition may not be enough to keep her safe.

Calista must follow her intuition to safety or follow her heart to her downfall.

I finished Fall of Ruin and Wrath in less than twenty-four hours, and I'm still thinking about it a week later. Talk about a book hangover! I just wish there had been more worldbuilding and that it hadn't ended on a massive cliffhanger. I'm going to have to wait an eternity to find out what happens next. 

I think I liked this one so much because of the similarities to ACOTAR, but they weren't overly obvious. There are mental shields, a very big stay-with-the-High-Lord vibe, and some questionable word choices. This book has Starborn, which is similar to SJM's Crescent City series. The elite class is also known as Hyhborn (very cold and unfeeling, ancient and powerful), while ACOTAR has Hybern. These are easily overlooked, but I can see where it would be problematic to some, especially as more details and descriptions are revealed. 

Calista is the main character, but I really wish we'd seen more of Grady and Naomi. I think there's a lot of potential for secondary character growth that we just didn't see in this one. Additionally, Thorne has his own cabal of friends (also similar to Cas and Az from ACOTAR) that I wish we'd seen more of. I think the book was too focused on Calista and we miss out on seeing so much more of the world JLA has created. 

I also wasn't fond of some of the language used. It was a direct contrast to the world and time period depicted. Everything felt fantastical, but the modern day language and expressions were distracting. It would take me out of the moment, which is never ideal. The book also has no business being this large. The spacing and the size of the font were a bit excessive - a lot of wasted space per page. If condensed to reflect what a normal book looks like, it would probably be a quarter of the size. 

However, despite the issues I found with Fall of Ruin and Wrath (a title I'm still not sure accurately reflects the book), I really enjoyed it. It's been a while since I devoured a book so quickly. I wanted to know about Thorne and his background. I wanted to see more of the world JLA created. Unfortunately, we don't really get a lot of information and explanations. A lot is alluded to, but I have a feeling it's being saved for book two. All of the questions formed during this book... hardly any are answered. 

I do think this one needs some more fine-tuning before it's published (spelling, grammar, inconsistencies out the wazoo), but the book as a whole is a gem. I'm looking forward to seeing how the next book addresses a lot of the issues in this one. Also, it would be nice if things felt a little less rushed... the pacing was weird in certain parts. 

The one FF scene was short-lived and too subtle. I would have enjoyed some flashbacks of certain people engaging in activities together. The dinner table scene was unbelievably hot (more of that please and thank you). The slow build and tension were there, although I think maybe seeing things from Thorne's perspective would have helped. It doesn't have to necessarily be duel POV, but maybe a chapter here or there that helped us see inside of his head. (★★★⋆☆)

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes used in this review are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan

Synopsis (via Goodreads): For Sewanee Chester, being an audiobook narrator is a long way from her old dreams, but the days of being a star on film sets are long behind her. She’s found success and satisfaction from the inside of a sound booth and it allows her to care for her beloved, ailing grandmother. When she arrives in Las Vegas last-minute for a book convention, Sewanee unexpectedly spends a whirlwind night with a charming stranger.

On her return home, Sewanee discovers one of the world’s most beloved romance novelists wanted her to perform her last book—with Brock McNight, the industry’s hottest, most secretive voice. Sewanee doesn’t buy what romance novels are selling—not after her own dreams were tragically cut short—and she stopped narrating them years ago. But her admiration of the late author, and the opportunity to get her grandmother more help, makes her decision for her.

As Sewanee begins work on the book, resurrecting her old romance pseudonym, she and Brock forge a real connection, hidden behind the comfort of anonymity. Soon, she is dreaming again, but secrets are revealed, and the realities of life come crashing down around her once more.

If she can learn to risk everything for desires she has long buried, she will discover a world of intimacy and acceptance she never believed would be hers.

From the author of My Oxford Year, Julia Whelan’s uplifting novel tells the story of a former actress turned successful audiobook narrator—who has lost sight of her dreams after a tragic accident—and her journey of self-discovery, love, and acceptance when she agrees to narrate one last romance novel.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes used in this review are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I was really enjoying Thank You for Listening for the first seven hours of the audiobook. There were even several laugh-out-loud moments that made me think I'd finally stumbled across a book worth my time (currently in a slump after a string of mediocre stories). Unfortunately, after investing nearly eight hours, the main character decides to be awful and stupid. Everything was falling into place perfectly, and then Sewanee decides to be someone not worth reading about. 

I like that this book has a main character with a disability. 

I like that this book addresses dealing with an elderly loved one that struggles with memory loss.

I like that this book has a male love interest that's sweet, charming, and understanding to a fault. 

I like that this book has a best friend that feels like family.


I did not like that Sewanee used her disability as an excuse. 

I did not like that Sewanee thought she - and only she - knew what was best for her ailing grandmother. She didn't even want to consider what her grandmother wanted for herself. 

I did not like how Sewanee treated the male love interest once everything was out in the open. She walked away, what, ten times? Nick still stuck around and tried to give her time to process her feelings. She ends up running away anyways and ignoring all of his attempts at conversation. Everything, and I mean everything, in their romance-novel-worthy relationship was falling into place and she squandered it. She looked a gift horse in the mouth and then shoved that horse over a cliff. 

I did not like how Sewanee chose to treat her best friend (the one that's more like a sister). Her friend had been there through it all and was always in Sewanee's corner. Sewanee was cruel and undeserving of such a friendship. 

All of my dislikes happened after listening to 68% of this book. I normally don't DNF this far into something, but her entire personality was a turn off at that point. She made bad decision after bad decision and I couldn't find a single redeeming quality that made me want to keep going. 

However, I do have a positive to end this review with. Julia Whelan narrates her own book and it's amazing. She is a phenomenal narrator that I really enjoyed listening to and will definitely look for in the future. (★★⋆☆☆ )

Friday, April 14, 2023

Lavender House (Andy Mills, #1) by Lev A.C. Rosen

Synopsis (via Goodreads): A "Best Of" Book From: Amazon * Buzzfeed * Rainbow Reading * Library Journal * CrimeReads * BookPage * Book Riot * Autostraddle

A delicious story from a new voice in suspense, Lev AC Rosen's Lavender House is Knives Out with a queer historical twist.

Lavender House, 1952: the family seat of recently deceased matriarch Irene Lamontaine, head of the famous Lamontaine soap empire. Irene’s recipes for her signature scents are a well guarded secret—but it's not the only one behind these gates. This estate offers a unique freedom, where none of the residents or staff hide who they are. But to keep their secret, they've needed to keep others out. And now they're worried they're keeping a murderer in.

Irene’s widow hires Evander Mills to uncover the truth behind her mysterious death. Andy, recently fired from the San Francisco police after being caught in a raid on a gay bar, is happy to accept—his calendar is wide open. And his secret is the kind of secret the Lamontaines understand.

Andy had never imagined a world like Lavender House. He's seduced by the safety and freedom found behind its gates, where a queer family lives honestly and openly. But that honesty doesn't extend to everything, and he quickly finds himself a pawn in a family game of old money, subterfuge, and jealousy—and Irene’s death is only the beginning.

When your existence is a crime, everything you do is criminal, and the gates of Lavender House can’t lock out the real world forever. Running a soap empire can be a dirty business.

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes used in this review are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I really wanted to like this one more than I did. I think Rosen has a good concept, but the storyline was too predictable and not very engaging. I knew whodunit as soon as all of the characters were introduced. 

Evander Mills - Andy - wasn't a remarkable main character. He's questioning whether life is worth living when he's approached to investigate a murder. I did like seeing him go from contemplating suicide to realizing there might be something worth living for, although I do think the author should have made his mental state more of a focal point. 

Whenever a problem arose in the book, it was either solved quickly or ignored completely. Solutions just presented themselves and kept the story from feeling mysterious. I wanted more backstory, more character development, more stick-it-to-the-man moments. Lavender House felt like the bones of a book and it kept me from fully enjoying the story. (★★πŸŸ‰☆☆)

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Kingdom of Blood & Salt by Alexis Calder [Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway]

Halito! Welcome to the next stop on the Kingdom of Blood & Salt blog tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Thank you for stopping by! If you would like to win a copy of this book, be sure to enter the giveaway at the bottom of this post. πŸ‘‡ For the full tour schedule, please visit the Rockstar Book Tours website.

About The Book:

Title: KINGDOM OF BLOOD & SALT (Blood & Salt #1)
Author: Alexis Calder
Pub. Date: March 30, 2023
Publisher: Illaria Publishing
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 328

An epic enemies-to-lovers fantasy romance perfect for fans of Jennifer L. Armentrout, Raven Kennedy, and Sarah J Maas.

After spending years training to defend my people from our enemies, I never expected that my enemy would be the one keeping me alive.

Athos is the last human city. A treaty with the Fae keeps the fae, the vampires, and the wolf shifters at bay, while we fight against the dragons at our border. Being a human in this world is dangerous and we all make sacrifices to survive.

When the delegation sent by the Fae King arrives to claim the human tributes required by our treaty, I never expected to forge a connection with their leader.

Ryvin is as dangerous as he is handsome. I know he’s my enemy, and I know I’m supposed to hate him, but with each passing day, he’s more difficult to resist.

But things are changing in Athos. Humans no longer want to bend to the Fae King.

Alliances blur and centuries of lies begin to unravel.

And I’m faced with a choice.

No matter how much I hate him, Ryvin might be the key to preventing war.

But it may mean sacrificing everything….

Kingdom of Blood and Salt is the first book in a fantasy romance trilogy with fae, vampires, and shifters. This enemies to lovers series contains violence, mature language, and spice. This is a NA/adult fantasy romance and steam level will increase as the series progresses. Mind the cliff.

When a book compares itself to Sarah J. Maas, I don't expect it be a knockoff version of a beloved series. Unfortunately, there were too many similarities for me to overlook. The main character's name is Ryvin and he controls - wait for it - shadows and darkness. He's intent on "saving" the princess at every turn, despite her being unwilling to see what's right in front of her face. Ryvin repeatedly told her he wasn't the enemy, yet she refused to believe him until it was too late. The one thing she stayed mad about wasn't even within his control. 

This book also markets itself as an enemies-to-lovers, but it was more of a one-sided hateship. Ryvin never appeared to have any negative feelings towards Ara. She only hates him because of where he comes from and because of things she clearly doesn't understand. Her unwavering faith in her family and friends ended up hurting her more than anyone from Ryvin's delegation did. 

Another similarity to A Court of Thorns and Roses were the sisters Ara would do ANYTHING to protect. She would sacrifice her life, choose to live with "monsters," and debase herself if it meant they didn't have to suffer even for a moment. Sound familiar? I wish the relationship between her and her older sister had been expanded on, but none of the secondary characters really developed over the course of this book. I think a few of them had the potential to be more. I even think Ryvin having his own POV would have helped. 

Kingdom of Blood & Salt is a quick read with a lot of action. Ara's life is constantly in danger, Ryvin is always there to save the day, and we see our main character struggle with a singular issue for 300+ pages. I'm not even going to touch on how awful the queen was to her stepdaughter, or how that all seemed to just disappear during the last 5 pages of the book. Their "solution" made me roll my eyes. 

Honestly, I think this book would have been better if Ara had teamed up with Ryvin when she realized things weren't as they seemed in her city. I wish she'd used her brain and acknowledged that what was being asked of her was wrong and tried to do something about it. I also think her sisters being more involved would have made this a better story, too. 

The sex scenes were decent, but nothing to really swoon over. Ara yells at him and claims she doesn't want him (every single time), and then they end up "fitting together perfectly" and having a magical time. There were also some grammatical errors and inconsistencies, but hopefully my copy wasn't a finalized version. 

I didn't hate Kingdom of Blood & Salt, but I do think it could have been better. I kept reading in the hopes it would, so there was something there even if it didn't really work for me in the end. It's also a really big turn off when a book is too similar to what it's comparing itself to. (This one also used the term asteri and had a character named Magda.) (★★★⋆☆)

About Alexis:

Alexis Calder writes sassy heroines and sexy heroes with a sprinkle of sarcasm. She lives in the Rockies and drinks far too much coffee and just the right amount of wine. 

Giveaway Details:

1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon GC, International.
Ends April 18th, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 10, 2023

Bonded by Thorns (Beasts of the Briar, #1) by Elizabeth Helen

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Four beastly princes. One awkward bookworm. An enchanted world of fae, magic, and danger.

I’ve always loved fairytales. I never imagined I'd actually be in one.

When my father wanders into the enchanted realm of the fae, I know I have to go after him. And when he gets imprisoned, I'll do anything to save him... Even trade my freedom for his. I had no idea I'd end up imprisoned by four sexy fae who turn into beasts at night.

I have to win my freedom, and that means making a bargain with them. They must find their mates in order to break the curse. If I can help them do that, they'll set me free. Sounds simple, right?

It's not. Because against my better judgment, I'm starting to fall for these beastly princes. One is smart and sweet, the other mysterious and deadly, another flirty and confident, and the last prince... He's handsome, strong, has a wicked temper, and is dead-set against breaking the curse. Why does he want to keep me here forever?

But it's not just my freedom on the line. If I don't break the princes' curse soon, all the magic in the Enchanted Vale will be stolen by the evil—and stupidly hot—Prince of Thorns. And I'm not letting my princes stay cursed.

Not after I've fallen in love with them.

Bonded by Thorns is undeserving of its 4 star rating. I am genuinely surprised by the number of raving reviews. Why are people swooning over a story this uninteresting and problematic? Rose - Rosie - Rosalina was as dimwitted as she was dull. 

Lots of spoilers going forward! Read at your own risk. 

When Rosalina is first mentioned in the book, she's quiet and easily cowed by her previous abusive boyfriend. She tolerates his presence because it gives her some comfort to be near the man that carved his name into her arm (a fact that is never addressed later on in the book, but definitely should have been). She was willing to entertain the idea of marriage to someone that discarded her - repeatedly - as he went around and did whatever he wanted. How could she have been so naΓ―ve and cared so little about herself? Where was her sense of self-preservation? If the authors really wanted to make it believable, they should have written it better. 

“His name is Lucas. We’ve been on and off since I was fifteen, but I think it’s serious now. Super serious.” I take a deep breath. “Or at least it could have been, if I hadn’t been imprisoned by the fae.”
Going back to her personality, it's like she's a completely different person once she reaches fae lands. She's brave, courageous, stands up for herself and others - something she's never done before - and it was just too fucking unbelievable. Don't even get me started on the ridiculousness of the princes and their curse. The Prince of Thorns? Laughable. No one even blinked at him calling her "princess." Why wasn't that ever addressed? Also, why does he even care? Poorly explained, poorly executed, poorly written. 

If I'm being completely honest, I went into this one for the romance and reverse harem theme, but even that was a disappointment. If you're going to have a terrible, nearly nonexistent plot, then at least entertain your readers with steamy sex scenes and erotic content. Bonded by Thorns failed on all accounts. There were some okay moments between Dayton and Farron, but even those were short and excluded the main character. 

The dialogue was awful and cringey. 

  1. In a burst of I-just-about-died rage, I glower up at him. “How the fuck am I supposed to answer you when you’re choking me out, you overgrown tin can?”
  2. Heh heh.
  3. He wrapped his hand around my throat and choked me out.
  4. But I am no Peeping Tom, so I force my eyes up. Only, ogling his eight-pack abs and perfect pecs doesn’t seem less creepy at the moment.
  5. least death by a monstrous wolf is a bit more awesome than falling off the bookstore stool.
  6. That traitor trash panda.
  7. “He was really mean!”
I'm not even going to attempt to touch on all of the inconsistencies and grammatical errors. πŸ˜‘ The princes also kept referring to their human forms and calling themselves men. They're not supposed to be human... At least Sarah J. Maas did that right. Males, males, males. 

I went into this book expecting to be enamored with four fae princes all vying for one woman's attention, and them enjoying her separately and together. However, Rosalina was horrible. Her "bewilderment" and "acceptance" not believable for a second. It was also too similar to A Court of Thorns and Roses for my liking, but whatever.  

A man behind a mask, her being placed in the Spring Court section of the castle, cursed to turn into animals and needing to find love to break the spell... sound familiar? 

This book was a complete waste of my time and money. I hope this review saves a few others from making the same mistake. (★★☆☆☆)

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Timeless (Starcrossed, #5) by Josephine Angelini

Synopsis (via Goodreads): The highly anticipated continuation of the Starcrossed saga, the #1 international bestselling series.

A fate avoided

After successfully using a clever bit of trickery to avoid all-out war with the gods and defeat Zeus, Helen sets out to enjoy her final year of high school with Lucas and her friends.

A debt owed

But happily ever after eludes her. Zeus has found a way to strike back at Helen from inside the prison she devised for him. Growing weaker with every one of Zeus’ attacks, Helen scrambles to complete the three tasks she owes to the Titans, hurling through time on Cronus’ bidding.

A promise broken

But Helen’s odyssey proves to be more challenging than she could have imagined, because Lucas has mysteriously started pulling away from her, burdened by a secret that threatens to tear them apart.

I received an ARC from Sungrazer Publishing (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I have waited a decade for this book's release! I was so excited when I heard about Scions because it takes place in this wonderful world that Josie has created, but I needed Timeless like I need a summer vacation. I never thought there would be a continuation of Lucas and Helen's story, and Josie really went above and beyond with this one (my favorite so far). I could have lived without the cliffhanger (WHY), but everything else was perfection.

I absolutely love the complex relationship between Helen and her mother, Daphne. Scions showed us a much younger version of the Daphne we know from Starcrossed, and it's really been amazing to see how new experiences and information have shaped Helen's perception of her mother.  

Don't even get me started on Hector and Orion. PHEW. Helen can have Lucas, but I call dibs on these two. The tension between their little trio, the unwanted attraction that I was totally here for (still here for), and the sex appeal of these guys...

I have never envied Helen more than I did while reading Timeless. There's also a lot of humor and good-natured teasing where these three are concerned; it was seriously a JOY to read. I caught myself smiling and grinning like crazy throughout this entire book. 

If you enjoy Greek mythology, tragic and not-so-tragic love stories, wonderfully written characters, and an author that genuinely loves her characters, then this is definitely a series you want to check out. 

Sunday, March 12, 2023

The Warden by Daniel M. Ford

Synopsis (via Goodreads): For fans who have always wanted their Twin Peaks to have some wizards, The Warden is a non-stop action adventure story from author Daniel M. Ford.

There was a plan.

She had the money, the connections, even the brains. It was simple: become one of the only female necromancers, earn as many degrees as possible, get a post in one of the grand cities, then prove she’s capable of greatness. The funny thing about plans is that they are seldom under your control.

Now Aelis de Lenti, a daughter of a noble house and recent graduate of the esteemed Magisters’ Lyceum, finds herself in the far-removed village of Lone Pine. Mending fences, matching wits with goats, and serving people who want nothing to do with her. But, not all is well in Lone Pine, and as the villagers Aelis is reluctantly getting to know start to behave strangely, Aelis begins to suspect that there is far greater need for a Warden of her talents than she previously thought.

Old magics are restless, and an insignificant village on the furthest border of the kingdom might hold secrets far beyond what anyone expected. Aelis might be the only person standing between one of the greatest evils ever known and the rest of the world.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

The Warden had the potential to be a really great book; however, the main character was unlikeable, the setting was poorly explained, and the delivery was more tell than show (which is always a bummer). Aelis talks to herself a lot, and the author uses this to explain various aspects of the book. I want to see what's happening and feel it unfold. I don't want a play-by-play from the main character. Additionally, what she's saying - the terms and phrases she uses - are only vaguely explained. 

Why are there so many moons? How do they work? Are we ever going to find out why Aelis has an affinity for one of them? I also wasn't a big fan of how the flashbacks were presented. They felt too planned and intentional. I understand they were supposed to be a way to inform readers of past events, but they seemed to always justify or explain whatever Aelis was currently doing. Why did she and her professor have so much animosity between them? The author barely touches on seemingly crucial details. 

I also wanted more from the secondary characters - Tun specifically. I honestly thought he was going to follow her at the end (incognito of course), but even that was a disappointment. The author tried to build up this friendship but then missed an opportunity for it to flourish. The same can be said of Maurenia. Their relationship had so much potential, but the execution left a lot to be desired. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again . . . unlikeable main characters make it hard to enjoy a book. Aelis was rude, condescending, wanted to wave her title and elitism around, and had very little regard for the people she was supposed to be protecting. Rus and Martin went out of their way to make sure she had what she needed (whether that was food, basic necessities, or even just information), yet she rarely thanked them or even smiled in their direction. I hated how "stoic" the author tried to make her, because she ended up being someone I didn't want to read about. 

It was also very frustrating when things simply "worked out" for Aelis. None of her plans failed. She didn't have any setbacks. She didn't listen when people offered her advice. 

Small spoilers: I wish this book had been about a female necromancer with a half-orc best friend and half-elf love interest. I wish they had traveled and adventured together, their bonds growing stronger the longer they were together. I wish Aelis had struggled and failed. I wish she had learned from failing and grown as a character. I wish we had seen her use more of her necromancy and had less of her explaining what everything was. I wish Pips had been included in their adventures and played a larger role. I wish the setting and the world had been described more thoroughly and less verbally. 

Like I said, this book had the potential be something amazing. Unfortunately, it fell flat and left me feeling a little disappointed and a lot annoyed. (★★★☆☆)

Sunday, January 29, 2023

DNF&Y [44]

DNF&Y is used to explain why I gave up on certain books, and what about them just didn't work for me. What I disliked about a book might be something you love, so it helps to share your thoughts even when they're negative!

A Forgery of Roses
by Jessica S. Olson
🎧Narrated by Billie Fulford-Brown

Synopsis (via Goodreads):
Myra Whitlock has a gift. One many would kill for.

She’s an artist whose portraits alter people’s real-life bodies, a talent she must hide from those who would kidnap, blackmail, and worse in order to control it. Guarding that secret is the only way to keep her younger sister safe now that their parents are gone.

But one frigid night, the governor’s wife discovers the truth and threatens to expose Myra if she does not complete a special portrait that would resurrect the governor's dead son. Desperate, Myra ventures to his legendary stone mansion.

Once she arrives, however, it becomes clear the boy’s death was no accident. Someone dangerous lurks within these glittering halls. Someone harboring a disturbing obsession with portrait magic.

Myra cannot do the painting until she knows what really happened, so she turns to the governor’s older son, a captivating redheaded poet. Together, they delve into the family’s most shadowed affairs, racing to uncover the truth before the secret Myra spent her life concealing makes her the killer’s next victim.

Sing Me Forgotten author Jessica S. Olson comes a gothic fantasy murder mystery perfect for fans of Kerri Maniscalco and Erin A. Craig.

A Forgery of Roses had such a unique premise, but the main character (Myra) was hard to like, there's a love triangle (not a very good one), and the story wasn't really about a "gift" people would kill for. I think if the author had focused more on Myra's magic and what it was capable of, I might have enjoyed it more. Unfortunately, it's about her wanting someone she can't have (a guy she's known for a handful of days that did nothing as she was unceremoniously tossed out into the snow), and a "bad guy" that seemed to genuinely like her despite her being interested in someone else. He gave her food, clothes, offered her shelter, saved her life... and yet THAT is the guy she pushes away. 

I could have tolerated her liking the first guy initially, but Myra should have been more realistic. I know some people will say it was because he had anxiety, but ughhhh. You can have anxiety and still do the right thing. He shouldn't have entertained something with someone he had no intention of ever being with. Family loyalty and blah blah blah. At least Vincent cared about her wellbeing. 

I'm curious about the disappearances and potential murderer, but not enough to keep listening to the book. If you've read this, please feel free to message me with spoilers. 

Side note: The narrator is amazing! I've really enjoyed other books they've done.