Orpheus Girl by Brynne Rebele-Henry *REVIEW*


Orpheus Girl

Rating: 4/5⭐️

Synopsis:Abandoned by a single mother she never knew, 16-year-old Raya—obsessed with ancient myths—lives with her grandmother in a small conservative Texas town. For years Raya has been forced to hide her feelings for her best friend and true love, Sarah. When the two are outed, they are sent to Friendly Saviors: a re-education camp meant to “fix” them and make them heterosexual. Upon arrival, Raya vows to assume the mythic role of Orpheus to escape Friendly Saviors, and to return to the world of the living with her love—only becoming more determined after she, Sarah, and Friendly Saviors’ other teen residents are subjected to abusive “treatments” by the staff.
In a haunting voice reminiscent of Sylvia Plath, with the contemporary lyricism of David Levithan, Brynne Rebele-Henry weaves a powerful inversion of the Orpheus myth informed by the real-world truths of conversion therapy. Orpheus Girl is a mythic story of dysfunctional families, trauma, first love, heartbreak, and ultimately, the fierce adolescent resilience that has the power to triumph over darkness and ignorance.
CW: There are scenes in this book that depict self-harm, homophobia, transphobia, and violence against LGBTQ characters.

Review:It is officially Reading Rush time, which means I typically am reading books that I never would have picked up 100% on my own. I knew that my first task for the week should be tackling the “read a book from a genre that you don’t usually read” prompt. I do not read a ton outside of fantasy, with the occasional romance book. I took to my Libby app to see what was available. I won’t lie, this cover was absolutely the reason that I picked up this YA contemporary. I did not even realize how short it was when I hit “borrow”.
With this book being so short, there is not much that I can say about it. This is a YA contemporary story about the struggles of growing up in a conservative town and religion, while also being queer. This was a very difficult and dark story, but I think it is an important one. I do not want to get into the plot because I think with short books it is easy to give it all away.
My biggest “complaint” is that it WAS so short. The author did a great job of developing these characters and their relationships with each other, but I wanted more. I think that this is a purely personal preference, and I think I am learning that short fiction just isn’t for me.
Overall I think this is a story that everyone should read, not just those on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, but everyone. It was very eye-opening about the harsh reality that a lot of queer kids face growing up. This was HARD to read at times, but I know that this is something that needs to be talked about more.

Ashes of the Sun (Burningblade & Silvereye #1) by Django Wexler *REVIEW*


Ashes of the Sun

Rating: 4.5⭐️

Synopsis:Long ago, a magical war destroyed an empire, and a new one was built in its ashes. But still the old grudges simmer, and two siblings will fight on opposite sides to save their world, in the start of Django Wexler’s new epic fantasy trilogy
Gyre hasn’t seen his beloved sister since their parents sold her to the mysterious Twilight Order. Now, twelve years after her disappearance, Gyre’s sole focus is revenge, and he’s willing to risk anything and anyone to claim enough power to destroy the Order.
Chasing rumors of a fabled city protecting a powerful artifact, Gyre comes face-to-face with his lost sister. But she isn’t who she once was. Trained to be a warrior, Maya wields magic for the Twilight Order’s cause. Standing on opposite sides of a looming civil war, the two siblings will learn that not even the ties of blood will keep them from splitting the world in two.

Review:When Ashes of the Sun by Django Wexler showed up on my doorstep I was SO EXCITED. A huge shoutout to Orbit for sending a beautiful finished copy my way!
This book really hooked me from the very beginning. We are thrown into a unique almost sci-fi/apocalyptic fantasy world. This book felt like a very new and fresh entry into the fantasy genre the whole way through. One thing that Wexler did so well, in my opinion, was making you feel that you knew what was going to happen next and then completely surprise you.
I really loved every single one of the characters crafted within this story. I felt like I really understood all of their motivations and why they were acting the way that they were. By the end, it was very apparent how emotionally invested in the characters that I had become.
This world that Django created was SO FUN. It was a great backdrop to this story and was developed very well. The lore is rich and there is so much that can be expanded upon in the sequels.
The LGBTQ+ representation in this book was a welcome surprise. Within this world, we see many people with different sexualities just living their lives. It is just people living their lives and being attracted to whoever they are attracted to and I think that we need more of that within all types of stories. I love seeing queer characters just living their lives and loving who they love.
Overall I really enjoyed this read and I would recommend it to anyone who reads Adult SFF. I also believe that this would be a great book for those that read a lot of Young Adult Fantasy and would like to get more into the adult genre. It is very approachable!

Thank you to the author and publisher for providing a copy for review!

The House In the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune *REVIEW*


The House in the Cerulean Sea

Rating:5/5 Stars

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

Review:Oh boy, here we go. I am ready to fumble my way through this review, trying to find the words to describe my feeling for this book. This book moved into my list of all time favorites.
From the jump the tone of The House in the Cerulean Sea wrapped me in a hug. It was full of childish wonder and whimsy and created a story that I was completely immersed and enamored with.
When you meet our main character Linus he is a middle aged lonely man who is filled with self-esteem problems. He works all day and goes home to his cat to listen to records. I loved Linus as a character. His character growth is one of my favorites that I have ever read. He has a rough exterior, but is truly the most precious cinnamon roll.
THE CHILDREN. We follow 6 magical “outcast” children. They were all developed incredibly. They each had their own voice and personalities and I fell completely in love with every single one of them.
The ROMANCE! I did not go into this book with high expectations for a romance, but this certainly delivered. It was a heartfelt slow burn that made my heart absolutely explode.
Overall this novel is PERFECT. There is not a single thing that I would change about it. It came to me at a really tough spot and it felt like the hug I needed. It is taking all of my self control to not go back and reread it already.

Cursed by Thomas Wheeler & Frank Miller (Illustrations) *REVIEW*


Cursed

Rating: 2/5 Stars

Synopsis:The Lady of the Lake is the true hero in this cinematic twist on the tale of King Arthur created by Thomas Wheeler and legendary artist, producer, and director Frank Miller (300, Batman: The Dark Night Returns, Sin City). Featuring 8 full color and 30 black-and-white pieces of original artwork by Frank Miller.
Whosoever wields the Sword of Power shall be the one true King.
But what if the Sword has chosen a Queen?
Nimue grew up an outcast. Her connection to dark magic made her something to be feared in her Druid village, and that made her desperate to leave…
That is, until her entire village is slaughtered by Red Paladins, and Nimue’s fate is forever altered. Charged by her dying mother to reunite an ancient sword with a legendary sorcerer, Nimue is now her people’s only hope. Her mission leaves little room for revenge, but the growing power within her can think of little else.
Nimue teams up with a charming mercenary named Arthur and refugee Fey Folk from across England. She wields a sword meant for the one true king, battling paladins and the armies of a corrupt king. She struggles to unite her people, avenge her family, and discover the truth about her destiny.
But perhaps the one thing that can change Destiny itself is found at the edge of a blade.

Review:I picked up a copy of Cursed when I saw the trailer for the new Netflix adaptation. The trailer looked like something I would be REALLY interested in, so I knew that I had to give the book a shot.
I went into this with little to no knowledge of the original story of King Arthur, so that already put me at a disadvantage. However after reading other reviews of this story it wouldn’t have changed much if I did.
UNDERWHELMING. That is the only word that I can think of to describe this novel. I know that it was written to be adapted and you can definitely tell.
The world building was VERY surface level and left me BEYOND frustrated and wanting more. The characters also fell very one-dimensional and I had trouble really caring about any of them. The pacing was all over the place. It DRAGGED for most of the book, but the ending happened WAY too quickly. The romance was very insta-love and I didn’t really understand why were supposed to be together.
Overall this book was NOT a hit for me. It may honestly be one of my biggest disappointments of the year. I do think that this will make a really great tv series if executed well. I just wanted so much more from this.

The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty


The Kingdom of Copper

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Synopsis:Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.
Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of the battle that saw Dara slain at Prince Ali’s hand, Nahri must forge a new path for herself, without the protection of the guardian who stole her heart or the counsel of the prince she considered a friend. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her familyand one misstep will doom her tribe.
Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid, the unpredictable water spirits, have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.
And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.

Review:I went into The Kingdom of Copper with relatively low expectations. Although I DID enjoy the first book The City of Brass, it took me awhile to get into and I have any blown away. I was pleasantly surprised with this second installment.
The world within these books is VERY big and complex. My main issue with book one was just that I didn’t feel connected or invested in these characters. From the start of book two, that was changed. The world building and build up that we got in book one paid off tremendously in book 2. I felt like I was in it with these characters, and maneuvering these crazy politics with them. We learn a lot about the characters motives and why they are the way they are today, and I really appreciated that.
My only complaint with this novel is that it felt a bit unnecessarily long. There was 150-200 pages that really seemed to drag and pulled me out of the story a bit.
Overall I think if you were the LEAST bit interested in The City of Brass, give The Kingdom of Copper a go! Do not go in expecting as much romance as we were given in book one, but if political intrigue and awesome magic systems are your thing, this book will DEFINITELY deliver!

Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen *REVIEW*


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Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Synopsis: High seas adventure, blackmail, and meddling gods meet in Dark Shores, a thrilling first novel in a fast-paced new YA fantasy series by USA Today bestselling author Danielle L. Jensen.
In a world divided by meddlesome gods and treacherous oceans, only the Maarin possess the knowledge to cross the Endless Seas. But they have one mandate: East must never meet West.
A SAILOR WITH A WILL OF IRON
Teriana is the second mate of the Quincense and heir to the Maarin Triumvirate. Her people are born of the seas and the keepers of its secrets, but when her closest friend is forced into an unwanted betrothal, Teriana breaks her people’s mandate so her friend might escape—a choice with devastating consequences.
A SOLDIER WITH A SECRET
Marcus is the commander of the Thirty-Seventh, the notorious legion that has led the Celendor Empire to conquer the entire East. The legion is his family, but even they don’t know the truth he’s been hiding since childhood. It’s a secret he’ll do anything to protect, no matter how much it costs him – and the world.
A DANGEROUS QUEST
When an Empire senator discovers the existence of the Dark Shores, he captures Teriana’s crew and threatens to reveal Marcus’s secret unless they sail in pursuit of conquest, forcing the two into an unlikely—and unwilling—alliance. They unite for the sake of their families, but both must decide how far they are willing to go, and how much they are willing to sacrifice.

Review:Dark Shores was an experience for sure. This one had been on my radar for a while, and when Tor Teen asked if I wanted to review the second book, Dark Skies, I went ahead and picked up this one. I actually buddy read this book with 3 of my besties over on Instagram and it was my first official buddy read! It was a lot of fun. If you have been following me for a while then you know that I have a rough relationship with Danielle L. Jensen. She previously wrote The Bridge Kingdom, which most of my book besties absolutely ADORED and I was not a huge fan of it, so you could say that I went into Dark Shores a little skeptical.
I am not going to lie, for the first 30% of the book I was ready to DNF the book. I was not connecting with the writing at all, I did not care about the plot, and the main female character was driving me insane. However, I was powering through because I did not want to DNF a book that I was buddy reading.
Around the 40%-50% mark, I realized that I was really starting to love the male POV, Marcus. I’ll be honest, Marcus’s back is probably VERY sore from carrying me through the last half of this book. Throughout the second half, I felt like the main female, Teriana, got tolerable. I just could not be bothered to care about her at all. In the end, I did get swept up in the overall plot and ended up enjoying the ending, it just a bit of a painful journey to get there. I think I will give the second book a shot. Ultimately a 3.5 star feels right for this read. There were 2-star aspects for me, and 5-star aspects. I will continue on with book two because I am curious where this plot is going to go.

Meet Me at Midnight by: Jessica Pennington *REVIEW*


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Rating: 4/5 Stars

Synopsis:They have a love-hate relationship with summer.
Sidney and Asher should have clicked. Two star swimmers forced to spend their summers on a lake together sounds like the perfect match. But it’s the same every year—in between cookouts and boat rides and family-imposed bonfires, Sidney and Asher spend the dog days of summer finding the ultimate ways to prank each other. And now, after their senior year, they’re determined to make it the most epic summer yet.
But their plans are thrown in sudden jeopardy when their feud causes their families to be kicked out of their beloved lake houses. Once in their new accommodations, Sidney expects the prank war to continue as usual. But then she gets a note—Meet me at midnight. And Asher has a proposition for her: join forces for one last summer of epic pranks, against a shared enemy—the woman who kicked them out.
Their truce should make things simpler, but six years of tormenting one another isn’t so easy to ignore. Kind of like the undeniable attraction growing between them.

Review:I am always hesitant going into YA contemporary/romance reads. It is a genre that I had myself convinced I had “aged out of”. I haven’t read one that I really enjoyed in well over a year. That being said, when Tor Teen emailed me to see if I would be interested in reading and reviewing this I immediately looked up the review and when I saw it was a “YA take on The Hating Game by Sally Thorne” I knew I had to give it a shot, and I am so glad that I did.
This book set out to be a fun, angsty, summery, enemies-to-lovers romance and it did just that. This was such a fun book to get lost into for a few hours. I actually read it all in one sitting. Asher and Sidney have this perfect angsty relationship full of high jinks and snarkiness. The chemistry was dripping off of the page and left you screaming at them to just get together already. There were enough little traces of chemistry and sweet moments sprinkled throughout the entire book that it never felt drawn out, or TOO heavy on the enemies part of enemies-to-lovers. I think it had a perfect balance of all of the romance elements you want to find in a light summer read.
The only reason I am deducting one star for this book is for the character of Sidney. Although I loved her for 95% of the book, there was that 5% where her self-sabotaging got under my skin and just kinda pulled me out of things a bit. I can overlook most of it because I think had I been a teenager reading this book it would have been way more relatable, but as an adult, I was just stuck feeling like her self-sabotaging came off as being petty.
Overall I really enjoyed this read and would definitely recommend it to those that love romance and YA contemporary. It would be the perfect read to sit down on a chair by the pool with for an afternoon.

Thank you Tor Teen for sending me a finished copy of his novel for review. That does not in any way affect my rating of the book. All opinions expressed are honest and my own.