Thursday, April 4, 2024

War Queen (The War Brides of Adrik, #1) by Jordyn Alexander

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Cursed at birth with fairy-like beauty, Queen Adalind has only ever known pain and death at the hands of men.

Always a prize to be coveted, she doesn't know that she can trust any male. When Adalind must save her kingdom after the death of her cruel husband during a war he started with the nearby orc kingdom, the jaded queen offers herself up as a sacrifice. The orc king will receive a bride with magical beauty and she will save her subjects from more slaughter. What she doesn't expect is to be attracted to her future husband or find him to an honorable orc.

King Rognar is merely seeking to end the war started by the humans, take his pound of flesh and go home.

What he is not expecting is to be challenged by a beautiful, politically savvy queen, who seems to offer him everything he could ever want. But as he gets to see the real woman beneath her icy exterior, he finds that what he truly wants is Adalind's heart. As passion ignites between them, can they trust each other and rule two kingdoms?

Or will all the forces that conspire against them tear them and their kingdoms, apart?

I read War Queen by Jordyn Alexander in two days! I can't remember the last time I wanted to read a book without stopping, so naturally I've already ordered book two, War Mistress, from Amazon. I'm impatiently awaiting its arrival and cannot wait to start Pellia and Verrick's story! War Queen gave me Ice Planet Barbarians vibes, and I was totally here for it. 

My one teeny tiny complaint would be that I wanted more from the story. I wish the book had been longer and the author had fleshed out some of the secondary characters, places in the story, and some of the worldbuilding. Hopefully, we'll get more of that as the series continues. I thought the Orikesh words and history were fascinating, loved the runes and the magic surrounding them, and I thought the places they stayed at and visited were really interesting. 

I wanted to know more about their childhoods, how their lives looked in the present (before meeting), and would have preferred a slightly slower buildup for their relationship. I also thought what she cried out once while orgasming was a little odd, but maybe a lot of people scream about being empty right before they're filled. ๐Ÿ˜…

I would also like more information regarding the Cabal and where they stand now that several of their members are gone. I also think more backstory regarding how they got started, how often they meet, what their methods are, etc. would add more to the overall story. We all love a good villain to hate. 

The romance was sweet, the sex was hot, and I definitely wouldn't be opposed to an orc lover after reading War Queen. They seem to be more considerate than most of the men I've met. Also, their sibilance sounds lovely. I'm hoping we see more of that in War Mistress. Like I said, if you enjoyed Ice Planet Barbarians, War Queen is definitely one to consider. A quick, fun, and delicious read. (★★★★☆)

I received an ARC from the author 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.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Endless (Starcrossed, #7) by Josephine Angelini

Synopsis (via Goodreads): The highly anticipated conclusion to the international bestselling Starcrossed saga.

The dice have always been loaded against her.
Helen was always fated to start a war.

Even after defeating the Olympians and taking up the mantle as the most powerful of all the Scions, Helen still wasn’t able to save her father. Bereft and betrayed by Lucas, Helen falls into a downward spiral… but the Fates aren’t done with her yet.

Star-crossed in love, she was destined for destruction.
The cycle was never meant to be broken.

Helen learns that her final purpose is to be the spark that sets the whole world on fire. To prevent this from happening, she must do the impossible, and defeat the Moirae. If she fails, she risks ending up like Oedipus, meeting her fate on the road she has taken to escape it.

Will love be the key that finally trumps fate?

I still can't believe I just read the last book in Josie's Starcrossed series. These books have been in my life for over a decade, and Josie is one of the nicest people I've ever met. I've always wanted more of Helen and Lucas' story, so I am ecstatic that I had an opportunity to read an early copy of Endless and help promote this series over the last few years. Not only did she continue their story, but she crafted an entirely new spinoff as well. I really enjoyed seeing the beginnings of certain side characters, and I think it added a lot of depth to the overall story.

Helen is grieving at the start of Endless. It's authentic and her behaviors are relatable. I also liked that she'd paired up with Hector who was battling his own demons. I loved how their relationship developed in the last book and think their closeness was even more apparent in this book. They love each other, have even loved other romantically in the past (for more on that read Timeless), but they genuinely care for each other. 

Did I miss the sexual tension from the last book? Yes. I enjoyed seeing her chaotic emotions land her in steamy water on several occasions. I still really, really want a scene with Orion, Hector and Helen, in case the Angelini gods are listening. Maybe throw Morpheus in there for good measure. However, I can appreciate that sexual tension wasn't the point of Endless. Lucas and Helen eventually manage to have a conversation, there are circumstances that bring certain things to light, and we finally see them overcome yet another obstacle that stood in their way. 

Do I wish there had been more? Yes. I felt Helen let go of her grief, something she'd struggled with for most of the book, without much thought. I wanted more from her time in the Elysian Fields. I wish we could have felt her letting go of the weight she'd been carrying around for so long. I also wanted a more satisfying interaction between her and Lucas once they'd also sorted themselves out. I wanted more from the epilogue and what their lives looked like now. I think I'll always want more from this series. Josie has written an amazing book, but I don't think I'll ever be satisfied with how she chose to end it, simply because it ended. 

It's so hard to say goodbye to this series. I'm already looking forward to the day I pick up the first book and start again from the beginning. There's just something about these characters and this story that makes you want to reach for them again and again. It doesn't matter that I'm much older now, the story remains the same. Thank you, Josie, for creating something incredible. Thank you for allowing me to participate in the Star Squad, and for all the friends I've made along the way. I will forever treasure your books and this experience. (★★★★☆)

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.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Midnight on Beacon Street by Emily Ruth Verona

Synopsis (via Goodreads): A suspenseful and entertaining debut thriller—and love letter to vintage horror movies—in which a teenager must overcome her own anxiety to protect the two children she’s babysitting when strangers come knocking at the door.

October 1993. One night. One house. One dead body.

When single mom Eleanor Mazinski goes out a for a much-needed date night, she leaves her two young children —sweet, innocent six-year-old Ben and precocious, defiant twelve-year-old Mira— in the capable hands of their sitter, Amy. The quiet seventeen-year-old is good at looking after children, despite her anxiety disorder. She also loves movies, especially horror flicks. Amy likes their predictability; it calms the panic that threatens to overwhelm her.

The evening starts out normally enough, with games, pizza, and dancing. But as darkness falls, events in this quaint suburban New Jersey house take a terrifying turn —unexpected visitors at the door, mysterious phone calls, and by midnight, little Ben is in the kitchen standing in a pool of blood, with a dead body at his feet.

In this dazzling debut novel, Emily Ruth Verona moves back and forth in time, ratcheting up suspense and tension on every page. Chock-full of nods to classic horror films of the seventies and eighties, Midnight on Beacon Street is a gripping thriller full of electrifying twists and a heartwarming tale of fear and devotion that explores our terrors and the lengths we’ll go to keep our loved ones safe.

I didn't like Midnight on Beacon Street as much as I thought I would. I assumed it would be a quick read since it's a short book, but I never felt compelled to pick it up. I would see it sitting somewhere and think, "Oh, I should finish that." The story simply wasn't captivating and the characters weren't very likeable. Whether that's from a lack of development or dull descriptions, it's difficult to say. It's hard to care about characters when you don't know enough for them to matter.

I wasn't a fan of the overall pacing. Typically flashbacks are used to help readers understand what's happening in the present, or to give a character more depth, but these felt like random instances in someone's life. After finishing the book, I can see what the author was maybe hoping to highlight, but I don't feel like the information gleaned from those moments was all that helpful. I think I would have preferred a more linear storytelling for this book. The back and forth overcomplicated the story.

The abbreviations of their names was also something I found annoying. M? B? I would have preferred the author just used their names instead, since it did take a few chapters for me to associate letters with people. It was too much mental work.

Did I anticipate who the "bad guy" was? No. However, I think that goes back to the lack of character development. It could have been anyone... though I'm still not entirely sure what motivated them. There was too much background noise. Verona says a lot without actually saying anything at all. The ending itself was very underwhelming. 

I didn't DNF the book because it wasn't very long. Although, I was tempted to just skip to the end, see who the killer was, and then move on. I think I would have enjoyed Midnight on Beacon Street more if the characters had been fleshed out, the flashbacks had been more informative, and the pacing had been a little quicker. (★★⋆☆☆)

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.