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.

Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope *REVIEW*


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.

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.

The Shadows Between Us by: Tricia Levenseller *REVIEW*


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Rating: 5/5 Stars

Synopsis:Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:
1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.
No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.
But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

Review:I am not going to lie, I added The Shadow Between Us to my Goodreads “Want To Read” shelf as soon as the covers released because- LOOK AT IT. The black and red color scheme along with the dagger? It appealed to my aesthetic heart. THEN I read that it was being described as the Slytherin romance we all need. I was sold from that point forward. When I got the Libby notification that it was finally available to checkout, I hit the “borrow” button and never looked back.
Now, I will be honest. I have been STRUGGLING with YA fantasy for a while now, but this book was definitely a turning point for me. To say that I loved it is an understatement. I devoured this book in less than 24 hours and my only regret is that I cannot go back a re-experience it for the first time all over again.
Selling something as a Slytherin romance had me very nervous, but that ended up being the best way to describe this story. Our main character Allesandra is power-hungry and conniving. She is one of those characters that you know you should not love, but you can’t help it. She is snarky, yet somehow very relatable. The Shadow King is just as snarky and is not afraid to stand nose to nose with her. We also have an incredible cast of side characters who are relatable and really add to the story overall.
This story did a really great job of being a feminist novel without being cringey or over the top. There were a lot of really great quotes on being a woman and standing your ground without it feeling preachy or off-putting. There was also a great focus on female friendships which I always really enjoy seeing in stories, young adult especially.
The romance was SO GOOD. It had a great plot pushing the story forward while keeping the romance plot going at a perfect pace. In the first half of this book, I had no guess as to where this story was going and it was such a fun time figuring it out. Everything within the romance and relationship felt organic and real. Nothing ever felt rushed or over the top, which is usually my main gripe with YA romance plots.
Overall this was an easy 5 stars from me and I am a bit sad that it was a standalone. I just want to be able to spend more time with all of these characters and in this world.

Only Mostly Devastated by: Sophie Gonzales *REVIEW*


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Rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis:SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA meets CLUELESS in this boy-meets-boy spin on Grease
Summer love…gone so fast.
Will Tavares is the dream summer fling―he’s fun, affectionate, kind―but just when Ollie thinks he’s found his Happily Ever After, summer vacation ends and Will stops texting Ollie back. Now Ollie is one prince short of his fairy tale ending, and to complicate the fairy tale further, a family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country. Which he minds a little less when he realizes it’s the same school Will goes to…except Ollie finds that the sweet, comfortably queer guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High. This Will is a class clown, closeted―and, to be honest, a bit of a jerk.
Ollie has no intention of pining after a guy who clearly isn’t ready for a relationship, especially since this new, bro-y jock version of Will seems to go from hot to cold every other week. But then Will starts “coincidentally” popping up in every area of Ollie’s life, from music class to the lunch table, and Ollie finds his resolve weakening.
The last time he gave Will his heart, Will handed it back to him trampled and battered. Ollie would have to be an idiot to trust him with it again.
Right? Right.

Review:Only Mostly Devastated is a book that I picked up on a whim as I was scrolling my library’s collection of ebooks. I saw that it was a modern take on Grease and it sounded like a quick read to sit down and read in a day. I did just that. I read this book over the span of a few hours and couldn’t get myself to put it down. I ignored my husband all through lunch AND dinner because I was just so into these characters and their lives. Young Adult has been something I have been struggling with recently, especially young adult contemporary, however that was not an issue with this book. This reminded me what I love about the genre and what it can achieve if done correctly. Simply put, books like Only Mostly Devastated need to be in the hands of younger readers.
There was so many themes explored in this book, as well as so much representation. Many different sexualities, as well as cultural backgrounds were present and that is something I really really appreciated about this book. We even have a plus size model who is dealing with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which I think is INCREDIBLE representation to find in a young adult novel. The topic of grief is a big one in here, as out main character loses a family member who is very close to him. I feel like the depiction of grief within this novel is the most realistic that I have found in a young adult novel. We see the unexplainable emotions and reactions when dealing with grief in different stages and levels and it was beautifully done.
Of course this novel is a fun male/male romance that gets you hooked, but to me the shining parts of this book were the themes and watching these teenagers come to terms with themselves and figure themselves out while dealing with all of the other outside pressures. At times it got messy and the characters hurt each other, but this book left me really happy to see such a TRUE depiction of what being a teenager is like. This was an easy 5/5 stars for me and it is definitely going to be a young adult book that I recommend over and over again.

A Heart of Blood and Ashes by: Milla Vane Review

Title: A Heart of Blood and Ashes

Author: Milla Vane

Series: A Gathering of Dragons #1

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: Adult Fantasy Romance

Release Date: 02/04/20

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis: A generation past, the western realms were embroiled in endless war. Then the Destroyer came. From the blood and ashes he left behind, a tenuous alliance rose between the barbarian riders of Parsathe and the walled kingdoms of the south. That alliance is all that stands against the return of an ancient evil—until the barbarian king and queen are slain in an act of bloody betrayal.

Though forbidden by the alliance council to kill the corrupt king responsible for his parents’ murders, Maddek vows to avenge them, even if it costs him the Parsathean crown. But when he learns it was the king’s daughter who lured his parents to their deaths, the barbarian warrior is determined to make her pay.

Yet the woman Maddek captures is not what he expected. Though the last in a line of legendary warrior-queens, Yvenne is small and weak, and the sharpest weapons she wields are her mind and her tongue. Even more surprising is the marriage she proposes to unite them in their goals and to claim their thrones—because her desire for vengeance against her father burns even hotter than his own…


Review: Sometimes a book comes around and is everything you need it to be, and this was that book for me. As an epic fantasy lover AND romance lover, rarely do I get the perfect mix of both. That is exactly what this book is for me.

The fantasy aspects of this book were truly incredible. Well thought out political intrigue was truly the driving force of this story. It kept you guessing with every turn of the page. Politics drove characters to do some truly horrible things, but you always understood why they were doing what they were doing. The world building was PERFECTLY crafted. We were seeing this world through our main protagonists eyes for the first time and it kept the story moving without ever feeling like it was info-dumping.

The romance. THE ROMANCE! I can’t with our two main characters. If you like enemies-to-lovers and ANGST, this is a must read for sure. Maddek is the perfect mix of broken, broody, and soft. When paired with badass Yvenne, you have an incredible relationship that you cannot help but root for.

Overall, I think that if you enjoy romance in books and also love a well-crafted fantasy story then this is a must read!