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
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 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!
Song of Blood and Stone
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Synopsis: The kingdoms of Elsira and Lagrimar have been separated for centuries by the Mantle, a magical veil that has enforced a tremulous peace between the two lands. But now, the Mantle is cracking and the True Father, ruler of Lagrimar and the most powerful Earthsinger in the world, finally sees a way into Elsira to seize power.
All Jasminda ever wanted was to live quietly on her farm, away from the prying eyes of those in the nearby town. Branded an outcast by the color of her skin and her gift of Earthsong, she’s been shunned all her life and has learned to steer clear from the townsfolk…until a group of Lagrimari soldiers wander into her valley with an Elsiran spy, believing they are still in Lagrimar.
Through Jack, the spy, Jasminda learns that the Mantle is weakening, allowing people to slip through without notice. And even more troubling: Lagrimar is mobilizing, and if no one finds a way to restore the Mantle, it might be too late for Elsira. Their only hope lies in uncovering the secrets of the Queen Who Sleeps and Jasminda’s Earthsong is the key to unravel them.
Thrust into a hostile society and a world she doesn’t know, Jasminda and Jack race to unveil an ancient mystery that might offer salvation.
Review:Song of Blood and Stone is a book that has been on my shelf for AGES. I picked it up on a whim from Book Outlet years ago. It has travelled with me through 2 apartments and one house, moved to 3 different cities with me, yet I never picked it up. In that time I had unhauled almost every book, besides my favorites. So the fact that this books survived this long on my shelves unread is a mystery even to me.
I had NO IDEA going into this book that it was a romance-centered fantasy story. Romance and Fantasy are my two main genres, so when they collide I’m always pleasantly surprised.
The romance in this book was really really great. I really loved our two main characters. They were incredibly well fleshed out and their relationship and love was beautiful and believable. A lot of this book was a bit predictable and I felt like the foreshadowing was SO obvious that everything was laid out for you before it happened, but I didn’t mind it. It was a fun journey with two great characters and an interesting magic system.
My biggest issue with this book lies in the world-building. The world didn’t feel completely fleshed out and left me wanting more. The book also never really clarifies a time period that all of this is happening, but we see them using radios, trucks, telephones, etc when needed to be more convenient. It was very jarring and took me out of the story.
Overall this is a great read for someone who loves fantasy romance. I have ordered the second book and hope to continue to it to the series soon. I hope to see the world get fleshed out a bit more in the next installment.
Barnes & Noble
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.
Barnes and Noble
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Synopsis:Connell Waldron is one of the most popular boys in his small-town high school–he is a star of the football team and an excellent student, and he is never wanting for attention from girls. The one thing he doesn’t have is money. Marianne Sheridan, a classmate of Connell’s, has the opposite problem. Marianne is plain-looking, odd, and stubborn, and while her family is quite well off, she has no friends to speak of. There is, however, a deep and undeniable connection between the two teenagers, one that develops into a secret relationship.
Everything changes when both Connell and Marianne are accepted to Trinity College. Suddenly Marianne is well liked and elegant, holding court with her intellectual friends, while Connell hangs at the sidelines, not quite as fluent in the language of the elite. Throughout their years at university, Marianne and Connell circle each other, falling in and out of romance but never straying far from where they started. And as Marianne experiments with an increasingly dangerous string of boyfriends, Connell must decide how far he is willing to go to save his oldest friend.
Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a novel that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the inescapable challenges of family and friendships. Normal People is a book that you will read in one sitting, and then immediately jump up to share with your friends.
Review: It has been just about a week since I read this book and I am realizing that this may be the hardest review I have ever had to write. With everything in the world in shambles currently, I was struggling to read my typical fantasy. I found myself too distracted and not able to pay attention enough to learn a new complex world. I had placed an ebook hold with my library for Normal People back when the show was first announced, and if I am being honest, I completely forgot about it. I woke up one Tuesday morning and found this book waiting for me. I read the first page, fully expecting to get distracted and put it down like all the rest of the books I have been reading recently. Boy was I wrong.
Normal People hooked me from the very first pages. I was instantly in love with these two damaged main characters and within the first few pages I found myself obsessed with their relationship and pulling for them. This book grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let go until I had seen it through. I devoured Connell and Marianne’s story in one sitting.
In this story you are thrust into these characters lives as they establish this “casual hookup” relationship in high school. We then continue to follow Connell and Marianne through many years of their lives and seeing them come together and fall apart time and time again. At the core this is a beautiful look into our young adult lives and how our lives intertwine and change. It is a look at how people come in and out of our lives and the affect that has on the bigger picture of our life. There is such a realistic look at flawed characters that feel so real. They make bad decisions, but they are all a part of learning and growing.
The only real way I can describe my feelings after reading this books is that my heart was ripped from my chest in the most beautiful way possible. This book got under my skin and made me feel such strong emotions. I cried real tears more than once. It is one that will sit with me for the rest of my life.
All of this being said, I DO NOT think that this book will be for everyone. The passion I have for absolutely loving this book, I could absolutely justify someone hating it with just as much passion. The tone in this book is not going to work for everyone, and the ending is definitely for a very specific audience. My advice is to give it a shot and see where you fall. It is a relatively short read, however it is a very heavy read. If you have read this book I would LOVE to know your thoughts and chat about it in the comments or over on my Instagram.
Title:The Bridge Kingdom
Author: Danielle L. Jenson
What if you fell in love with the one person you’d sworn to destroy?
Lara has only one thought for her husband on their wedding day: I will bring your kingdom to its knees. A princess trained from childhood to be a lethal spy, Lara knows that the Bridge Kingdom represents both legendary evil – and legendary promise. The only route through a storm-ravaged world, the Bridge Kingdom controls all trade and travel between lands, allowing its ruler to enrich himself and deprive his enemies, including Lara’s homeland. So when she is sent as a bride under the guise of fulfilling a treaty of peace, Lara is prepared to do whatever it takes to fracture the defenses of the impenetrable Bridge Kingdom.
But as she infiltrates her new home – a lush paradise surrounded by tempest seas – and comes to know her new husband, Aren, Lara begins to question where the true evil resides. Around her, she sees a kingdom fighting for survival, and in Aren, a man fiercely protective of his people. As her mission drives her to deeper understanding of the fight to possess the bridge, Lara finds the simmering attraction between her and Aren impossible to ignore. Her goal nearly within reach, Lara will have to decide her own fate: Will she be the destroyer of a king or the savior of her people?
Review: On paper this is a book that I should love. It has romance, politics, and an awesome world. Unfortunately, this one fell flat for me. Objectively it is a good book. The writing is solid, the world is atmospheric, the romance is good, however it ended up being just an ok read. I struggled to get through this story, like REALLY struggled. I have picked it up and put it down over the course of a month an a half, and it is only 340 pages. I am frustrated because nothing is wrong with this book, it just didn’t knock my socks off like it did for so many others.
I wish I could say what I worked and what didn’t work for me, but I don’t really have anything specific. Nothing stood out as new or original, everything was pretty predictable. This book left me wanting more. I wanted it to be more epic, the stakes to feel higher. I wanted desperately to connect with the characters, but I found it so hard to care.
It kills me to give this book 3 stars. It came so recommended from so many people that I trust. At the end of the day, this book just wasn’t for me.