LGBT, New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: Us (Him #2): by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Publish Date: March 8th, 2016
Number of Pages: 322 Pages
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Genre(s): New Adult Romance

***Warning!! This book review contains spoilers from the previous book in this duology, read on at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review for book #1 – Him – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

Love is friendship set on fire.”

– Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy, “Us”

I absolutely adored the first book, Him, by these two amazing authors! They’re my go-to writers for anyone who’s looking for a funny, raunchy, well written, and overall entertaining contemporary new adult romance series to get into! Looking at a few reviews of this sequel, I was curious why some people were hesitant to start it…I mean, the first book could totally work as a standalone with how it ended, but if people loved it so much, wouldn’t they want to keep seeing what happens next? Sure, some people brought up the cash cow argument, and I can understand that argument, but kept an open mind as I’d opened this book and got back into the world of Ryan Wesley and Jamie Canning.

Overall, I wasn’t disappointed in this book and enjoyed it immensely! It had all the characteristics of what I’d enjoyed so much about the first book besides the obvious “second chance” and “friends to lovers” romance tropes. If anything, this sequel showed an incredibly realistic portrayal of the struggle of finding ones place in the world as the newly emerged adult group aged 18-25. The struggles of finding that dream job, financial worries, even still the coming to terms of one’s sexuality and their first serious relationship. The relationship is explored and shows how both people need to work in order to make the relationship work past its initial honeymoon phase.

While I enjoyed this book a lot, I can say I just didn’t enjoy it as much as the first book too. I felt like Him would’ve been just fine as a standalone novel, and despite the relatable issues the characters dealt with in this title, I felt like maybe this book was a way for the authors to possibly bridge into another project of theirs, and I’ll go more into that later on in this review. The main thing I dislike the most about this book was the issue of the lack of communication between Jamie and Wes, but it wasn’t for the same reasons I usually dislike that conflict.

There also was a big emphasis on a fictional lamb disease that was treated similarly to the bird flu and even the 2020 COVID-19 situation, but on a much smaller scale. I was scratching my head about this plot point, mainly because it really makes a bigger presence in the story than I thought it needed to, and with how the world is right now with the novel virus, I was hoping for less and less focus on this sort of issue…

There were a great amount of side characters, a lot more this time around than in Him which is great! The main characters had more people to really interact with that were around their age and for us to get to know and fall for too! Blake in particular is an acquired taste, and is a lot to take in at first, but he does eventually grow on you.

I would argue that this next title is actually a stronger novel than the previous book, but maybe because of it being too realistic with the real world issues, it’d diluted the entertaining factor and was less “fun” I think. That, along with repetitive issues we thought were solved in the first book, and with my thought on it being a bridge into more future projects amongst these authors, maybe that’s what people didn’t like as much this time around.

Despite all that, It’s still an incredibly well written continuation of an amazing queer love story!

What It’s About:

Book #2 has us brought back into Wes and Jamie Canning’s world five months after they reunited at the end of Book one. They’ve confessed their love for each other, they’ve moved in together into their apartment in Toronto, Jamie introduced Wes to his family, and Wes started his rookie season in the NHL and is absolutely KILLING it on the ice!

Everything seems perfect for the two childhood best friends-turned boyfriends in love, except for how they have to keep their whole relationship a secret…there’s never been an openly gay player in the NHL, and who knows how it’ll go if a rookie were to come out of the closet and cause a media field day. While it isn’t the greatest set up, Jamie and Wes both agree to wait with the news until his first season is over and their schedules aren’t both so hectic. It starts off easy enough, but soon the secret becomes a much bigger burden to carry on their shoulders.

Jamie’s job isn’t exactly what he signed up for either, and the hiding really takes a toll on him especially, but at least when it’s just him and Wes in their apartment, everything goes back to euphoric bliss and they can just be themselves…at least, until Wes’s noisy teammate moves in upstairs and pops up at their door without any warning!

The world seems to want to keep them apart, and is constantly throwing just about everything it can between the two of them, so can they overcome it all? Their relationship will definitely be put to the test…

What I Liked:

  1. The Hint of More to Come! What I mean by this is there is a spinoff book series that gets going that I definitely saw coming after a few interactions between two secondary characters: Wes’s teammate, Blake, and Jamie’s sister, Jess. There’s a few moments between them that had me guessing, but then they both disappear for awhile, and part of me wondered what’s going on there…turns out, plans for them to start a spinoff were happening! The first book is called Good Boy, and based off some other characters, there’s a slew of stories coming our way for the WAGS series these authors have going for us!
  2. What Comes after the HEA! We all know the first book could actually totally be a standalone with how much of a Happily Ever After we get with Wes and Jamie! This book showed us what goes on after that moment, after the honeymoon phase, and how a relationship needs work in order to survive. Both guys try to do so much to make each other happy, and both realize how hard the real world can be, even for a pro hockey player. I thought the idea of them trying different things and trying to work at their relationship was an intriguing and realistic portrayal that anyone in the New Adult age range can relate with, queer or straight.
  3. Just as Sexy as Book #1! While there’s plenty of fluff to melt out hearts with the soft and tender confessions of the heart from both male main characters, BUT there is plenty of raunchiness and sexiness in this book that smut lovers can also appreciate.
  4. Great Secondary Characters! There were actually quite a bit of fun side characters that added to this sequel, and more people closer to Wes and Jamie’s age than the coaching staff at the camp, and the teenage players they coach. There’s Blake, Wes’s teammate who moves into their apartment complex (I go more into him below), there’s Jess Canning who is always finding some new business venture to try out, and there’s Wes’s other teammates who tease him for his bright green dress shirt. They added a lot to the story, and I can see some of them starring in the spinoff WAGS series I’d mentioned above too!
  5. Jamie Canning’s Struggle! Wes was kind of the star of the first book for me, so I’m glad it got switched over to Jamie for book #2. Let me also make it clear that I’m not happy about Jamie’s suffering in this story—I’m not really a sadist, masochist or whatever term you say—but more with how it was handled and the issues that were brought up. I get Jamie’s growing frustration with him and Wes having to keep their relationship under wraps. With it was a growing fear of losing each other, and whether they’ll be able to overcome all the adversity, and some of the communication issues with that. A lot of people struggle with talking about that emotion: fear. Those fears turned to doubt on both the situation and themselves: Do I sound unreasonable?…Am I being selfish?…Is it worth bringing it up?…Am I asking too much?…Do I love the person enough to put them through this?…Do they love me enough to stick by me not matter what? Both guys ask themselves these questions, and both are terrified of ending up having their hearts broken in the end, and adding the fact that they hardly see each other as much as they’d like, neither guy wants to bring up these heavy topics with the time they are allowed, and thats totally valid and a realistic worry we all can relate to. These communication issues I can get behind…
  6. Jamie’s Mom! The woman continues to be a total saint who doesn’t change this time around in the net book, and continues to be a great mom for both Jamie and Wes, especially for Wes since his parents are pretty much MIA and have left him behind to rot.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Repetitive Lack of Communication…Now, I usually get annoyed by this being a big issue in ANY romance novel, which is ironic because I know I am someone who is terrible at communicating my feelings. I am such a moody bitch sometimes, and will do the passive aggressive act with the silence or the “I’m fine.” line—I can’t help it, it’s a character flaw of mine, but that doesn’t mean I don’t lie awake at night kicking myself for it—and for a m/m romance I can see why it’s an actual plot point. Speaking as a guy myself, I can say that guys are not the greatest when it comes to sitting down and communicating that stuff…it’s just the way we’re programed, and I’m not trying to make this a toxic masculinity thing; it’s just not all guys like talking about that stuff, even if they’re queer. Not all girls like to either, so don’t get at me! The issue I have with the communication issues in this book in particular are because we’ve already dealt with the same issue in the previous book. They’d already gone through it, so I’d hoped they’d learned their lesson this time around…yeah, not so much I guess.
  2. Blake’s Immaturity…I like Blake; he really grows on you. At first, he’s pretty obnoxious and does the text lingo in his dialogue and gives people lame nicknames (example: Jamie is “J-Bomb“… #lame) Plus, he’s yet another obstacle that gets in the way of Jamie and Wes’s happiness, so that alone instantly makes you annoyed with the guy. Like I said, he grows on you, but it takes a while for that to happen.
  3. The Use of Illness and Medications for the Plot…Maybe it’s because as I’m typing this, America is in a pandemic with COVID-19 and I’ve been in the whole isolation and #socialdistancing, but this whole part of the story didn’t resonate all that well with me, and also just became a bigger thing than I thought it needed to be. I understand the whole thing that happened with Jamie and his meds, it’s happened to me in the past and is an actual side effect for certain people and medications they’re prescribed, but it felt like the whole thing could’ve been handled differently to make it better for the story.

Conclusion:

A good sequel to an iconic LGBTQ+ m/m sports romance, but not as strong as its predecessor; I still enjoyed the real world struggles Jamie and and Wes faced not only with themselves, but also their relationship and the steps they both needed to take in order to keep their relationship still working past the HEA. It felt incredibly realistic and is completely relatable to anyone who’s close to their age and trying to find out where they exactly belong in the world today as a new adult. The issues they both face are great examples of the emerging genre between Adult and YA, and prove it can be more than just the angsty romance that has filled a lot of the genre itself.

While showing more of Jamie and Wes’s relationship, it also lays some easter eggs for the next project the authors are working on, which is a WAGS series that most likely will star the notable side characters you meet in this book as well, which just means us readers can remain in this world of queer hockey players, and the romance on and off the ice!

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult Romance, Paranormal

My Review: Shadowfever (Fever #5): by Karen Marie Moning

Publish Date: January 18th, 2011
Number of Pages: 608 Pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance

***Warning!! This review contains spoilers from the previous books in the series, continue reading at your own risk. You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review of book #1 – Darkfever — Click HERE

To see my review of book #2 – Bloodfever — Click HERE

To see my review of book #3 – Faefever — Click HERE

To see my review of book #4 – Dreamfever — Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

Finally…

At long last…

The time has come to get answers to the ever-growing list of questions that have come up since starting this blasted series, but I can say without a doubt that SO. MUCH. HAPPENS. IN. THIS. BOOK!

A few words to describe it: wicked, vicious, sexy, intoxicating, twisted, unpredictable, startling, unrelenting, infuriating, addicting, enchanting, and utterly mind-blowing! The most satisfying component about this book by far is how we finally get some answers that Karen Marie Moning had been deviously hiding from us since the very beginning. From the very first chapter, your heart and your soul is put to the ultimate test as you’re put right back into the thick of it with how the previous book ended, and from there on it just feels like a never ending emotional roller coaster!

Looking back on this series and where it’s taken me, I had no idea that it would truly suck me in like it has since the start of the new decade. I know I’ve probably said this before in my past reviews, but I seriously just remember scoffing at the description of Darkfever a little bit when my work friend, Erika, first told me about these books and how they’d completely sucked her in. Plus, with some of the cover designs, I figured it would just be another really stupid and trashy paranormal romance series… While I can say there have been over sexualized, strange moments in this series to prove my point, I can’t stress enough that they had quickly become so much more than that as I’d read on!

I was especially surprised at how deep the plot had ended up becoming as I’d devoured each book after the last; the Fae lore and all the big players that have only been mentioned in all the stories that we’ve been told, the Sinsar Dubh–that freaky as fuck possessed book that everyone is hunting and has been following Mac like some creepy stalker…not to mention all the incredible side characters we’ve gotten to know too! There’s Christian Mackeltar, Ryodan, V’Lane, Dani O’Malley, Inspector Jayne, the other Sidhe-Seers, Dreamy-Eyed Guy, the monsters, the Unseelie Princes, and even Darroc–aka The Lord Master–has become someone truly intriguing in this series. Also, I just love the unpredictability of it all…not the character tropes because I will admit a few of them are pretty cliché, but just how I truly didn’t know what was going to happen next and what direction everything was going to take…I had my guesses throughout, but almost every time was way off.

Before I can go further, all I can say to those who’ve made it this far; all the cliffhangers and frustration hasn’t driven you away, and I can say without a doubt this book will not disappoint. It finally answers a lot of questions while still leaving us with some loose ends in order to keep the series going further, BUT it’s not nearly as bd as it has been! It’s truly a satisfying ending.

What It’s About:

We left off with Mac losing her frickin’ mind over whoever the beast had turned out to be. She and Ryodan teamed up to kill the big, bad beastie while Ryodan had been tossed over a cliff to disappear, and were left wondering if he’s dead. Mac absolutely loses it and ends up on the ground in the fetal position over the body of….

…major spoiler ahead…

…Jericho Barrons. That’s right, he’s the beast that showed up shortly after she’d dialed the “IYD” number on her phone Jericho had given her way back. She’s sobbing, she can’t go on, she doesn’t know how to keep going, she realizes her true feelings for the mysterious and brooding alpha-hole we’d all come to appreciate. She’s devastated until there’s a shift within her, and suddenly she’s not anymore. She becomes like a shell of herself, and becomes cold. calculating. sinister. vengeful. She vows the last thing she’ll do is to finally capture that damned book and use it to create a new world. A better world with her dead sister, Alina, and Jericho both brought back to her. To do that, she has to gain help from the most unlikely source of them all…The Lord Master himself, Darroc!

Mac truly seems to have gone over to the dark side with her new alliance, and the Lord Master provides her with more information about the book itself, and believes he knows a way to be able to merge with it without letting it possess him and corrupt his soul. All the while, Mac waits like an Angel Shark beneath the sand and patiently waits for the perfect moment to strike.

The war between humans and the Fae continues to escalate, and become even more dangerous as new alliances are formed, shocking and bitter betrayals steal our breath away, and finally figuring out how exactly to stop the Sinsar Dubh, what exactly Barrons and his other men are, also figuring out who exactly Mac is. It’s been played with for a little bit now, but there’s definitely something off about the visions and memories she has that aren’t her own, other clues and newfound powers…what’s going on there? Also, the grand finale of it all will reveal a enemy that has been like a wolf hidden amongst the sheep: someone who’s started all of this, and someone who had the most to gain through everything that has happened…

What I Liked:

  1. That Finale! What a surprise! There were two major reveals in the climax of the book: one that involved multiple people and the other that was shocking, but part of me just wants to say…I FUCKING CALLED IT! Ever since I’d met this character, I’ve had an off feeling about them, and I’m happy to say my gut reaction was right about them all along!
  2. Dani O’Malley! Let me start off by saying that I haven’t always been the biggest fan of Dani, especially as she becomes a more central character and you hear from her perspective in a few chapters…Not a fan. I think she needs to go through some more growth before she takes center stage, HOWEVER…something happens in this book that makes her character a whole lot more interesting, and raises many eyebrows too. Suddenly, I want to hear more about what’s going through her head, and how certain things came to be.
  3. How Nicely Everything Ties (Mostly) Together! I’ve loved how tightly woven the plot and all it’s mysteries have been planned out throughout this series since the very first book. So many little factors that have stacked on top of each other and have added to the anxiety produced at how slowly things are revealed. I have to say overall how everything tied together in the end really well with this book; it was obvious that Karen Marie Moning knew about how this outcome would come to be since the very beginning and gave us clues and tidbits of info at an achingly slow pace that built until this moment. As far as I’m aware, every question that’s popped up has been accounted for, and there aren’t any holes left untouched!
  4. Mac and Jericho’s Relationship! In this book, it’s shown how their relationship has changed and honestly has become more satisfying than any of the other books in this regard. What I can truly appreciate about KMM’s work on Barrons is that he stays true to his character. He’s not some soft, vulnerable being who shows a sensitive side of himself whenever it’s just him and Mac, and he never becomes that guy either. He stays hard, cheeky, cold, snippy, but we love him for it anyways. The two of them still have those many, many arguments, but they also have those important conversations with them just looking at each other. The sexual tension continues to build and build between them, and while he doesn’t lose his edge to do it, Barrons finally reveals what his true feelings are and I am HERE for it!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Highlanders Cross-Over…For many fans of Karen Marie Moning, I’m sure you’re aware of her other series out there: The Highlander series. I personally have not read it, and honestly don’t plan on reading it either, but can tell you that the main characters of that series come over to Dublin. You’d met some of them in the previous book too, but as they’re the group of Druids that assisted the Seelie Fae Court since ancient times, they are needed in order to assist in the capture and containment of the Sinsar Dubh. For me, it was a jumble of other characters that were a struggle to be able to tell the difference between. I know some fans were probably jumping with glee about this crossover–I probs would be too–but with me not touching the other series, this addition was honestly kind of lost on me.
  2. What Barrons Turns Out To Be…I’m not gonna lie…this reveal was disappointing to me. I just thought with so much emphasis around the mystery of what exactly Jericho Barrons was would’ve lead to a much bigger reveal in the end. I was someone who’d suspected he was the Unseelie King, and he was after the Sinsar Dubh because as the king, he’d created it, but realized he’d made it too powerful, and wanted to destroy it once and for all. I think what he turns out to be is cool enough, and would be interested in learning more background info/history of what he is later on in the series, so we’ll see I guess…

Conclusion:

An epic finale of what I guess is only the first phase of this intricate and twisted urban fantasy series that has become a serious addiction since the start of 2020. All our frustrations as readers has finally been rewarded, and KMM gives us so many answers to our questions that have been with us since the very first book, Darkfever. While she ties pretty much all of her loose ends together, she’s also able to reveal some shocking new information too that tells us things are very much far from over…

Part of me really wishes I could go back and reread all these first five books, and catch all the little details and easter eggs I’d missed and become even more impressed at the masterful storytelling this series has given me, but know I have so many other books I haven’t touched on my “to read” shelf that I seriously need to give a try already. It’s okay, because I love this series so much already that I have hardcover copies already giving my bookshelf a massive glow-up with their presence, so it’ll happen at some point, that much is guaranteed.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

YA Fantasy, YA romance

My Review: Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4): by Sarah J. Maas

Publish Date: September 1st, 2015
Number of Pages: 648 Pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genre(s): YA Fantasy

***Be warned!! This review contains spoilers from previous books in the series, so continue reading at your own risk. You’ve officially been warned!!***

To see my review of book #0.5 – The Assassin’s Blade – Click HERE

To see my review of book #1 – Throne of Glass – Click HERE

To see my review of book #2 – Crown of Midnight – Click HERE

To see my review of book #3 – Heir of Fire – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast for the whole series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

By now, we’re so far into the series and even further into the evolution that was Celaena Sardothien into Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, the long lost heir of Terrassen. We’ve gotten to know her as a character, see her bloody past and her mistakes, and to see her grow before our eyes as readers. We’ve also met plenty of memorable characters along the way too; some that will be major players for the battle ahead!

Queen Of Shadows is a particularly interesting part of the series because of a few reasons. It was obvious—even back during Heir of Fire—that the series had taken a massive shift. A major change to the tone and the overall feel of these books was evident, and whether or not that’s a good thing really depends on who you ask within the Throne of Glass fandom. I for one absolutely loved it—as you can tell by my star rating above—for many reasons. In my opinion, it’d felt like we’d gotten to see a lot that we’d been waiting a long time for: the reveal of the big villain behind everything, the meeting of many new characters, certain character interactions happening, and of course, the possibility of justice to the realm of Adarlan.

For a few though, they say things like how it feels more like fanfiction from it’s own author, how certain characters have been pushed aside, and the series has gone in a direction that may not have been the best choice…They say plenty of other things, but I politely & respectfully disagree as I personally say Queen of Shadows is actually one of the author’s better written books. I felt like the entire time I’d read it that it was filled with so much high-octane events and amazing characters; how could anyone not appreciate that!

You can definitely tell Sarah J. Maas’s skills as a writer has continued to grow in her ability to make the plot of the whole series more complex and twice as dangerous as more and more keeps getting revealed, like the wyrdkeys and their significance, the Valg and how they want to take over, seeing both sides of the battlefield and getting inside the minds of important characters, enticing side-stories, sexual tension between love interests, and continuing to deepen the development of the world she’d created.

For me, she has an amazing talent to be able to make you fall in love with characters, even when you’d barely thought twice about them at first. She makes them feel so personable, memorable, and strong in their own ways; you wish they were real and that you were a part of your squad IRL.

Going off of that, another high point is how newer characters keep getting introduced with each book on top of the already established cast with some that have been there since the beginning, but it never feels overwhelming or unnecessary! You met Rowan, Aedion, Queen Maeve, and Manon in Heir of Fire, but more keep getting introduced in this book along with a few others that you haven’t seen in sometime since the first two books.

What It’s About:

Aelin has returned to Erilea from across the sea, ready to fight it out as she’s now been trained on her Fae abilities–her fire–but she’s going to need some extra help. She seeks out the help of anyone in Rifthold–the capital of Adarlan–even one man whom she considers a great enemy: her former trainer & mentor, Arobynn Hamel. Still reputable as the “King of the Assassins,” he informs her about her cousin, Aedion, being imprisoned and set for execution.

She also meets up with Chaol and a new ally, Nesryn Faliq, and they all get caught up on whats happened since they’d last seen each other, mainly the fact that Aedion and Dorian got captured, the latter now succumbing to the control of the Valg, and they realize just how bad everything has gotten even without them always getting at each other’s throats about it. They both carry valuable information, but neither are willing to share it with one another because of the mutual distrust they now share with their tense history.

More players enter the game as (spoiler alert but not really)…Rowan makes his way over from across the sea too and reunites with Aelin as they try to get ahead of their enemies and learn so much more about the Valg and what exactly has been happening.

Meanwhile, Manon Blackbeak and the other Ironteeth Witch clans are still in Morath training with their Wyverns for when the King of Adarlan finally calls them forth to battle. Her and Duke Perrington butt heads as she tries to figure out what exactly is going on, and he’s having her choose a clan for an experiment with the witches and the implantation of Valg stones to see if they can successfully breed together. She also wonders what role another female prisoner must play, but becomes concerned when her deadly power shows that more is definitely going on than she’s actually aware of. Maybe this isn’t what she signed up for?…She also meets a servant/kitchen maid, Elide Lochan, who may or may not be another key player added to the mix and is more than meets the eye.

So, so, so, so, so many things happen in this book: there are many twists and turns, epic battles, bitter betrayals, new characters introduced, familiar characters that continue to grow, and even more plots become revealed in this next installment in one of my all-time favorite series!

What I Liked:

  1. You Meet Lysandra (Sort Of)! Lysandra is a former courtesan (prostitute), and the mistress of Arobynn Hamel. If you’d read The Assassin’s Blade—which you totally should if you haven’t already—it was there where you actually first met her and instantly thought of her as the token hot & sexy mean girl who knows she’s hot and is an instant enemy to Aelin because she’s threatened…Obviously, as you get to know Lysandra more in this book, you’ll come to know that is the complete opposite of who she actually is. Her as a character and her dynamic with Aelin throughout Queen of Shadows was excellently done, and as more is revealed about her, you’ll quickly add her to your list of favorite characters.
  2. You Meet Arobynn Hamel (Sort Of)! The man has quite the reputation, that much is certain…You’ve heard his name thrown out plenty of times, but if you skipped The Assassin’s Blade novellas—seriously, read them if you haven’t—you come face to face with the “King of the Assassins” himself for the first time in person. Aelin returns and reluctantly seeks him out for assistance in rescuing Aedion from the castle, but it may as well be making a deal with the devil, as she learns he continues his deadly mind games and has plans of his own in their uneasy alliance.
  3. You Also Meet Lorcan Salvaterre and Elide Lochan! Even more new-ish characters! You’d kind of met Lorcan in the previous book, but he wasn’t there for too long, so it would’ve been easy to write him off and assume you’d maybe never see him again….WRONG! The legendary warrior is back with a vengeance under the orders of the Fae Queen Maeve after how things ended between her and Aelin’s confrontation across the sea. He hunts for the ring to return to his master, and is willing to do whatever it takes to get it back, including going head-to-head with Rowan. Next, we’ve got Elide Lochan, who meets and reluctantly befriends Manon. I liked her instantly because despite her limp and her misleadingly weak demeanor, it was revealed how crafty she is and how she’s a survivor. There’s definitely more than meets the eye with her, so watch out!
  4. So Many Strong Female Characters! You already know Aelin and Manon, who are both total badass babes, but literally EVERY female character in this book is too! There’s Elide, who has mastered the art of deception in order to survive, Nesryn Faliq is a master archer who becomes a big help in the many rescue missions, Lysandra shows so many hidden depths to her character, you learn more about Asterin Blackbeak as her character is explored more, and even (spoiler alert!!)…………..Kaltain Rompier makes a surprise reappearance and is able to change the game in her own way!
  5. The Big Bad Guy Revealed! I’m going to say this is a major spoiler for the book, so readers beware!…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….Okay, so we’ve known about the Valg, right? The shadowy demons from another dimension that have come into this world through ancient wyrdgates and plan to take over and turn it into a dark, icy, windy wasteland much like their homeland. There have been a few higher ups–the Valg Princes–but now it’s revealed there’s an even BIGGER villain that’s in charge of it all: it turns out there are actually three Valg Kings, and one of them has come over and goes by the name Erawan. He was locked in a tomb deep beneath the mountains many years ago, but was also revealed to have been let out, and has been let loose into their world this whole time! I know, this plot twist sounds eerily similar to the White Walkers, wights, and Night King story arc from Game of Thrones, but you have to admit that it certainly raises the stakes, and makes you rethink everything about a certain character that has always been there, but had remained in the background until now…creepy stuff!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. A Sudden Shift With The Romance…Now hear me out, I am a big supporter of romantic subplots and am a firm believer in OTPs. It’s even better when the romance is a subplot and it doesn’t interfere with the main storyline, which is a case in this series when it comes to budding romance between Aelin and Rowan. I think this is a big part of why some people don’t like this book because they were major shippers of Celaena and Chaol from the first two books in the series–I was too, but at the same time I also figured with how they’d developed that they weren’t actually right for each other. Once it was revealed that she was Fae, he just couldn’t see past that and couldn’t look at her the same. It made sense because that’s the kind of character Chaol is: very traditional, raised a certain way, and has a certain set of beliefs. I get it, but was disappointed with him nonetheless. Aelin wasn’t all that innocent either; both of them made mistakes, and they call each other out on it in this book. Anyways…Now it seems her and Rowan have a thing going on, and while I do see it, I felt like it was a bit of a jump that could’ve been smoother. In Heir of Fire, the two of them had a complex relationship that’d felt more platonic and friendship based, and then we get here and there’s suddenly romantic feelings beneath the surface that neither fully admit to, sexual tension that burns them from the inside out…and like I said, it just could’ve been a smoother transition. It feels like this subplot was added just so there could be at least ONE major romance going on in this title. All I can say is, I agree when it’s said that Chaol was good for Celaena but Rowan is good for Aelin, and there is a difference there.
  2. Chaol Reduced to the Bitter Ex…While part of me knows this isn’t necessarily true in some regards, I consider my biggest disappointment with the series how it’d felt like Chaol and Dorian got done dirty and were pushed aside to make way for Rowan and Aedion. Nothing against those two, but I have a thing against social climbers who ditch their old friends for people newer and “better,” and it felt like that with Sarah’s treatment of continuing to break up the original trio who we’ve all come to know and love. In this book, Chaol and Aelin reunite, but it’s clear they’re both still harboring some ill will towards each other. Chaol seemed to have been reduced to the bitter ex role, and just becomes the antagonist who questions Aelin at every opportunity that arises. Not that it isn’t completely unjustified; Aelin has screwed up too, and it’s nice to see that Chaol still isn’t afraid to call her out on her faults, but it still felt at some points it was like he purposefully got in her way or poked at her sides in some petty act of revenge of a bruised ego. Maybe that’s not how others saw him in this title, but as a serious fan of him and his quieter, more stoic demeanor; I was continued to be disappointed to see where his character has gone by this point.
  3. “Why Are You So Obsessed With Me?“…It’s gotten quite repetitive with how many times you hear how amazing Aelin/Celaena is by now. Everyone still seems to fuss over her, obsess about her, is in love with her, in awe of her, etc….like okay, fine, she turns out to be the long lost heir to the throne, her power is pretty cool if not the most original special ability to have even if the amount of her power has never been seen before…Believe me, we get it by now Sarah…She’s fire, she’s ash, she’s light, and she’s embers. She will bow to no one and take what is rightfully hers by blood-right. Why are we hearing the same pep talk over and over again?

Conclusion:

A thiccccc addition to this action-packed, high fantasy series! The book’s substantial size may seem intimidating, but let me assure you that it doesn’t slow down or bore you to tears. Lots of things happen–some you’ve been hoping to see since the beginning–and lots of new characters to get to know! Some you may have met if you’d read The Assassin’s Blade—One last time: READ IT—but still plenty more where they come from, and the plot thickens with the reveal of a major villain!

The series has shifted since the first two books, and honestly kind of has an even bigger Game of Thrones feel to it overall, but that doesn’t necessarily detract from it in any way! There’s still plenty to get excited about with all the intrigue, the danger, the monsters, the romance, the brutality, and the strong bonds formed between the characters. Also, total side note, but who else totally jammed out to Halsey’s “Castle” (The Huntsman version or the original) while reading this?

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Romance

My Review: The Kiss Quotient: by Helen Hoang

Publish Date: June 5th, 2018
Number of Pages: 336 Pages
Publisher: Berkley
Genre(s): New Adult Romance, Contemporary Romance

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

A revitalizing title that can bring back some fresh, much needed rekindling in the Romance genre! It’s a hard genre to stay into, I must admit, because by now it feels like everyone can agree on one thing: it’s so full of clichés. Some are more forgivable than others, but there is certainly a surplus that really either need to be switched up by the creativity of the authors, or just be forgotten about entirely…and yes, I do mean the brooding, charismatic CEO’s with a fucked up past that turn to BDSM to hide their issues with…Thanks for that Twilight

Anyways, this novel luckily swerves away from that, and were left with something that just feels fresh and somewhat new of a concept, where someone with a mental disability–or condition?–is the protagonist.

For the most part, I enjoyed the book for what it was; some people who criticized this book took it too seriously in my opinion. It’s not meant to be some deep, lyrical look into the psyche of someone or whatever it is they’re dealing with in terms of their mental condition, but a romance novel…like jeez people, go read some J.D. Salinger or Nathaniel Hawthorne if you’re looking for deeper depictions of the human condition in literature.

This book was fun, a perfect mix of sweet and steamy, and a unique look into the mind of a young women who has a condition that affects millions of others in the world, odds are someone who you–yes you, the reader–has too.

What It’s About:

This story revolves around Stella Lane, an average 30-year-old in the Los Angeles area, and is someone who’s always been great with numbers–like, she’s actually obsessed with numbers, math, and algorithms and uses that to determine customer purchasing patterns. She’s a star in the office, but her personal life has some major room for improvement.

It turns out, she actually has Aspergers and is either not at all interested in something, or absolutely obsessed; there’s almost no in-between. At the ridicule of a coworker, Stella decides that in order for her to be considered “dateable,” she needs to work on her craft and gain some experience. What does she do then?…She hires a male escort to show her some killer bedroom techniques.

Michael Phan, the escort, meets her at a hotel bar and they both hit it off. With money woes of his own, he’s not in the position to turn down many offers that are thrown his way, and he has to admit that he’s not exactly being tortured when a cute little brunette comes to him and asks for some help.

Both of them absolutely did not expect much to happen after the night they met, but soon realize they’re feeling more than just lust, and there may or may not be more brewing underneath the surface. There might not be a whole lot of logic when it comes to love, but Stella and Michael both may be willing to try and figure it out together.

What I Liked:

  1. Using Mental Health to Drive the Plot! What’s truly unique about this title compared to others is how the author used a mental condition like Aspergers as a way to draw the plot and show conflict within the romance as something that comes between the two main characters. Mental illnesses and conditions have become such a big part of a lot of people’s lives nowadays, and it’s refreshing to see it start to carve its mark in literature. It can help people feel understood, that they’re not alone, and can also be inspiring to those that also have the condition. Also, it can enlighten non-affected readers and maybe teach them a thing or two about those that do have it, and help our overall understanding of it.
  2. The Perfect Mix of Sweet & Sexy! I’d said it earlier, but there is a great balance between two sides of the romance in this title. The main guy is an escort, so did you really not expect some sexy times to be had? C’mon….beside those heated moments, there are also the softer, warmer moments between Michael and Stella that were heartwarming and just make you go aww
  3. The Player Falls Hard! There’s something about this trope that always just gets me, sometimes even more than the “fake-dating” one in other stories. For this one, it’s when the confident, smooth, charming, alpha-male suddenly loses his edge because he’s met the girl of his dreams, and she’s thrown him off his game. For some reason, there’s nothing quite like it because of how it humbles him and makes him see the world around him differently–for starters, that it doesn’t revolve around them.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. First Love Interest is “Meh”…The plot is presented to you when a guy Stella works with gives her a hard time about her dating life, and is an absolute scum sucking d-bag in general. First of all, what prick makes a girl feel so bad about not having much experience in that regard? I mean, I feel like I don’t need to go into this big whole rampage about #Metoo and feminism, but this guy was also someone who Stella maybe saw right off the bat as a possibly romantic interest…what exactly does she see in him?
  2. Someone Call HR!…Continuing off #1, also pay attention to the conversation between Stella and this guy–I forget his name, not that it matters–and tell me the guy shouldn’t be having some sort of sexual harassment lawsuit shoved in his egotistical face?? I don’t know if it’s unrealistic or he’s really that sure of himself; all I know is the author made it glaringly obvious that you’re not supposed to like him in any way.

Conclusion:

A refreshing and heartwarming title that ads something new to the Romance genre: using Aspergers as a way to add conflict to the overall plot. The author herself has the condition, so you know the occurrences and information recorded is all authentic. A great title to read for anyone who loves the genre and is looking for stories with more original ideas included.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

YA Fantasy, YA romance

My Review: The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air #2): by Holly Black

Publish Date: January 8th, 2019
Number of Pages: 322 Pages
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Genre(s): YA Fantasy, YA Romance

***Warning!!! This review may contain spoilers from the previous title, The Cruel Prince! Continue reading at your own risk, you’ve officially been warned!***

To see my full review for book #1 – The Cruel Prince – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the whole series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

After reading this little number, I have a few questions for our devious author, Holly Black… First one: How dare you? Second one: why are you doing this to us? why must you torture us with this book? this series? Seriously…this book is why I have trust issues!

If you loved the first title of this highly entertaining YA Fantasy trilogy, you’re in for a quite a surprise with this next title; you’ll somehow grow even more addicted to it because…oh my lord, the twists, the turns, the betrayals…oh, the betrayals! It might be too much for some of you more sensitive readers, I don’t know…maybe you won’t be as much of a mess as I was as I finished it, or maybe you’ll be worse off, who knows?

If you couldn’t guess by now, I seriously enjoyed this book, but not for the best of reasons…It’s just so wicked, so twisty, so addicting, so dangerous, so untrustworthy, so heart-wrenching, so diabolical, so steamy, and also so beautifully written; I am quickly becoming a huge fan of Holly Black, even as it becomes painfully more and more obvious and that she’s sadistic and loves to torture us all!

His mouth curls into a smile. His eyes shine with wicked intent. “Look at them all, your subjects. A shame not a one knows who their true ruler is.”

– Holly Black, “The Wicked King”

What It’s About:

This sequel starts five months after the events that took place in the previous title, The Cruel Prince, and here’s the quick recap of what’s all going down: Cardan had become King of Elfhame, but secretly has Jude controlling him behind the scenes until the one year and one day time limit ends. Jude also is on rocky terms with Madoc, Taryn is set to marry Locke (which is fine, they deserve each other *barf*), Oak is in hiding with Vivi after the shocking reveal that he was actually the true heir to the throne, Balekin is locked away for being a psychotic drama queen (or king?) for trying to steal the crown. Yep, so a lot happened, and it all will come into play as the story continues to develop.

There is a new threat to worry about: Orlagh, the Queen of the Undersea (And Nicasia’s mother), has decided to end her treaty with the fae folk and rule them all since she’s not too convinced about Cardan on the throne, and plans on a hostile takeover. All the other courts are coming together, also questioning Cardan and whether he’s a worthy king to follow.

What I Liked:

Our eyes meet, and something dangerous sparks.

He hates you, I remind myself.

“Kiss me again,” he says, drunk and foolish. “Kiss me until I am sick of it.”

I feel those words, feel them like a kick to the stomach. He sees my expression and laughs, a sound full of mockery. I can’t tell which of us he’s laughing at.

He hates you. Even if he wants you, he hates you.

Maybe he hates you the more for it.

After a moment, his eyes flutter closed. His voice falls to a whisper, as though he’s talking to himself. “If you’re the sickness, I suppose you can’t also be the cure.”

He drifts off to sleep, but I am wide awake.”

– Holly Black, “The Wicked King”
  1. The Banter and Sexual Tension Between Cardan & Jude! Easily my favorite part of this whole series. There’s never been quite a relationship in a book series like the one these two have, whether it’s YA Fantasy, Adult Fantasy, Romance, you name it. Both are anti-heroes, both morally-questionable, and both have done some less-than-stellar things towards each other and those around them. It’s obvious that they don’t want to trust each other, but as they are literally betrayed by everyone else as the story progresses, they slowly start to realize how they need to try with each other if they want be able to get what they both want. What is also so enthralling is how they both still refuse to admit or even accept their feelings for each other. They hate the other one for making them love each other; it’s so complex, unique, and so entertaining! Their dynamic was seriously so sexy to read, I couldn’t get enough! It’s weird, but I actually really like that both of them are willing to exploit each other, despite it being so flippin’ obvious that they’re both falling hardcore for each other, but neither wants to admit to themselves, and especially not to each other because nobody wants to give that sort of power over to the other. It’s so much fun to see how they play around each other like it’s some sort of chess game, but I’m not sure if they know what they want more: power or each other. Can they have both? It’s hard to say… Things get pretty intense and heated (AKA steamy) between them, and with how the book ends in such a dramatic cliffhanger, it makes for the third book to be all that much more anticipated to finally give us readers the final outcome of this magnificent enemies-to-lovers relationship comes to be. I absolutely have no idea, and I cannot wait!
  2. You Can’t Trust Anybody! Literally everyone is plotting behind each other’s back in this story, absolutely NO ONE is innocent. I swear, no book has ever matched up to the term “twists and turns” more than this title! Throughout the story, Jude is warned that someone close to her will betray her, and she slowly goes absolutely crazy trying to find out who it is. Mild Spoiler Alert but not really*** It’s actually, like, everyone. Everyone has ulterior motives, everyone has secrets, and everyone is willing to pull a Brutus and totally stab Caesar in order to get what they want…AND I absolutely love it! It’s so unpredictable and is like a literary thorn bush that protrudes everywhere and leaves you in so much pain wherever you go! Don’t even try and attempt to figure what may happen next, you won’t.
  3. That Cliffhanger Ending! It was something to behold…I can’t give too much away, but I can say that it makes you want to get that third book in your hands. ASAP. It’s pretty brutal to be honest, and I’m loving the theories I’m reading about it and whether people are justifying it or condemning it. I was shook, snatched bald, not okay after it, you name it! Oh Cardan Greenbriar…I don’t even know where to start!
  4. Continues to Have Dark/Morally Grey Characters! Besides the romance, another thing this book is about is power, much like a lot of Fantasy novels. It’s about power, and the vile things people will do in order to gain it. It makes this book stand out to look back and think about all the characters you meet in this series, and marvel at how morally gray they all are. Some are obviously more vile than others, but one thing Holly Black does so well is give us a glimpse of how their actions are justified. Maybe we don’t agree with them, but we can see where the character’s mind went in order for us to maybe understand where they are coming from…except maybe Taryn and Locke. They can choke.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. How Short This Book Felt…I honestly don’t know if it’s because I cruised through this book in no time at all, or if it’s because it’s actually pretty short compared to other fantasy novels, but I wanted more! It felt like the story was over so much quicker, and it was shorter than the previous title (The Cruel Prince: 370 Pages, The Wicked King: 322 Pages), and I’m just a pouting, spoiled brat because I WANT MORE!!!

Conclusion:

The Folk in the Air series continues in the most devious, enchanting, and twisted of ways! Fans of the first book in the series will be absolutely ADDICTED when they read what goes on in this sequel; and while they may want to chuck this book across the room and scream at the frustration and angst that it causes, it also drives their need to keep reading and see what happens next, and make it feel more important than breathing, than eating. It’s like a drug you can’t get enough of! With the author’s beautiful prose, captivating cast of characters, and steamy romance weaved between the intricate and compelling plots; all that equates to the work of an evil genius… Holly Black, you are just so deliciously evil!

I have heard that for mortals, the feeling of falling in love is very like like the feeling of fear. Your heart beats fast. Your senses are heightened. You grow light-headed, maybe even dizzy. Is that right?

‘Jude,’ he said, running a hand up my calf. ‘Are you afraid of me?'”

– Holly Black, “The Wicked King”

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell