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.

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 Extraordinaries by: TJ Klune *Review*


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Rating:4/5 stars
Synopsis:Some people are extraordinary. Some are just extra. TJ Klune’s YA debut, The Extraordinaries, is a queer coming-of-age story about a fanboy with ADHD and the heroes he loves.
Nick Bell? Not extraordinary. But being the most popular fanfiction writer in the Extraordinaries fandom is a superpower, right?
After a chance encounter with Shadow Star, Nova City’s mightiest hero (and Nick’s biggest crush), Nick sets out to make himself extraordinary. And he’ll do it with or without the reluctant help of Seth Gray, Nick’s best friend (and maybe the love of his life).
Review:The Extraordinaries kicks off with a chapter from our main character Nick’s fan fiction that he writes about his favorite superhero Shadow Star. Right from the beginning I absolutely fell in love with Nick as a character. He is the perfect quirky and lovable character. Klune successfully created a main character that was quirky, relatable, and sometimes completely clueless without it coming across as cringey.
At the surface this book is a fun fast-paced LGBTQ+ superhero story about a teenage boy who just wants to be something bigger and better than he is, and that was something I think my teenage self could really relate to. When you look past the sheer entertainment factor of this story you will find it digs much deeper. What really stands out to me with this story was the relationships. I found myself SO invested in these characters and their relationships with each other. A book hasn’t made me truly weep in a long time, and this one got me.
The stand out for me was the relationship between Nick and his father. We see them go through unimaginable heartache, as well as normal teenage-parent arguments. They have a loving and playful relationship that hit me hard. We have a relationship between Nick and Owen that was such a relatable high school “lust” relationship. You have an incredibly strong “best friends since childhood” relationship in Nick and Seth that gave me goosebumps at times. Their love for each other was so raw and real and left me wanting more. We also have Gibby and Jazz. I am a sucker for a good lesbian couple involving the rich cheerleading captain.
The only hold back for me on giving this book 5 stars is that the pacing felt slightly off. It wasn’t SUPER off putting, but looking back I felt like not much happened in the first 50% and then the last half everything happened almost too quickly. I also found a lot of the story predictable. By the halfway point I had a pretty good idea of what was going on and I would say that I was about 75% correct.
Overall it was a great story and I cannot wait for more of you to get your hands on it and hear your thoughts! Let me know your feelings on superhero stories. I always thought I wasn’t a fan, however I enjoyed this story as well as Renegades by Marissa Meyer. Maybe it is a genre I need to look into more.

I received a review copy of The Extraordinaries from Netgalley and Tor Teen in exchange for an honest review.

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.

House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess *REVIEW*


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Rating: 5/5 Stars

Synopsis:Five royal houses will hear the call to compete in the Trial for the dragon throne. A liar, a soldier, a servant, a thief, and a murderer will answer it. Who will win?
When the Emperor dies, the five royal houses of Etrusia attend the Call, where one of their own will be selected to compete for the throne. It is always the oldest child, the one who has been preparing for years to compete in the Trial. But this year is different. This year, these five outcasts will answer the call….
THE LIAR: Emilia must hide her dark magic or be put to death.
THE SOLDIER: Lucian is a warrior who has sworn to never lift a sword again.
THE SERVANT: Vespir is a dragon trainer whose skills alone will keep her in the game.
THE THIEF: Ajax knows that nothing is free–he must take what he wants.
THE MURDERER: Hyperia was born to rule and will stop at nothing to take her throne.

Review:I do not even know where to begin with this review. This book absolutely blew me away. It is a book that I had added to my Goodreads when it was initially announced and then never really looked into it further. A few days before release I saw reviews popping up on Instagram and it was receiving VERY high praise, so I knew that I needed to get my hands on it. Once release day rolled around I ordered a copy from Barnes and Noble and went to pick it up (curbside of course). I spent the next three days completely obsessed!
What truly shines brightest about this book is the characters. We have 5 POV’s and they are ALL so easy to follow and learn about these characters. You very quickly grow to love, understand, and appreciate every single one. What caught me off guard was the character of Emilia. She has a power that she is struggling to hide. I felt as though I was seeing my struggle with my own mental illness reflected in her character and this power that she has. A character hasn’t come along in a VERY long time that I have felt so deeply connected with.
The plot was perfect. It was fast-paced enough to keep you turning pages, but slow enough to allow you the time and attention you needed to truly dive deep into these characters and who they are.
The magic and fantasy elements within this story were REALLY great and the dragons were some of my favorite dragons I have ever read. The bond portrayed between a dragon and their rider was incredible.
It is safe to say that this is one of my favorite dragon books of all time, and it is absolutely my favorite YA fantasy of all time. I was left totally satisfied, but also NEEDING more. This is one of the easiest 5 stars that I have given this year.

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.