May 2022 Wrap Up

I’ve read two completely different books this month and I’ve also been Beta Reading a fellow writer’s MS.

First up:

Always Practice Safe Hex by Juliette Cross

Review

And the book that has kept me awake at night processing:

The Poppy War by R.F Kuang

Review

Next month…

I hope to start Book of Night by Holly Black this month and I also have a few arcs to read and review! I think this month will be a romance month for me… before I get to Kuang’s The Dragon Republic!

What’s everyone planning to read for June?

Book Review: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

Paperback edition of The Poppy War and The Poppy War bookmark (from Fairyloot)

Genre: Books that hurt so bad. Fantasy | Historical Fantasy | Grimdark

Published date: 3rd May 2018 | Publisher: HarperVoyager

Author’s website: https://rfkuang.com/

Synopsis:

When Rin aced the Keju – the test to find the most talented students in the Empire – it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who had hoped to get rich by marrying her off; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free from a life of servitude. That she got into Sinegard – the most elite military school in Nikan – was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Fighting the prejudice of rival classmates, Rin discovers that she possesses a lethal, unearthly power – an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of psychoactive substances and a seemingly insane teacher, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive – and that mastering these powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most people calmly go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away…

Review:

Another book bites the dust from my 2022 TBR!

And what a book it was. Full disclosure, this took me three attempts to read. I had started it before I got COVID this year, and my brain just couldn’t focus. On the final attempt – I sailed through it.

It’s safe to say this is a book that’s going to stick with me for a while.

Please read the content warnings: The Poppy War Trigger Warnings (booktriggerwarnings.com)

This book is inspired by some horrific parts of Chinese history. I won’t pretend I knew any of this until I started reading TPW. I looked up certain events that unfold and the horror of the reality made this book much darker than I could ever have imagined.

The story unfolds in Three parts.

Part one: almost felt like the generic under dog ‘chosen one’ trope you often find in YA. I’m a huge fan of this trope and unlike YA books there is very little hope in TPW. Everything is coated with a deep foreboding and it’s hard to shake. This part is full of manipulations of teenagers, who, seek the praise from their peers and masters for war strategies, death and violence. Rin has to fight quite literally for her place amongst the very people she may have to rely on in the war to come. Rin doesn’t seem to fit in and is made to feel like an outcast. She makes life changing decisions so that she can become the best of the best – but at a cost. I found the introduction to the Gods and the Pantheon absolutely fascinating.

Part two: the inevitable war has arrived, unlikely alliances and betrayal are rife throughout. The character development for a few characters had so many layers, I’m still marvelling at the foreshadowing and watching it unravel. Rin, however, seems to revert to a childish fool and I can only hope that this is all part of her journey.

Part three: Destroyed me. I don’t think the scenes I read will leave me for a while. Whilst reading this I learned that this part was based on The Nanjing Massacre and I cannot even begin to fathom the depravity of anyone who can inflict that kind of suffering.

It’s easy to be brave. Harder to know when not to fight.

Jiang – The Poppy War

Kuang wrote these scenes and with each type of her keyboard she crushed any shred of hope I had for Rin and the Cike. It was painful to read. The gut wrenching horror of war portrayed on these pages, was hard to look away from and I just can’t get this part of the book out of my head.

I’ve been wondering if the horror of knowing those scenes were inspired by real events, were the reason I was so emotional – or, if the writing was the reason. I’ve decided it’s both. Kuang draws from those harrowing moments and doesn’t shy away from the brutality of it all.

This book is without a doubt one of the most fascinating, emotive and brutal books I’ve ever read. To think that this is a debut novel is astounding.

I will be continuing this series and I know the worst is yet to come… and yet, I also know this is most likely going to be one of my favourite book series’. I’m scared about what’s to come, but, I’m excited at finding an author that makes me feel this way!!

What’s the last book you couldn’t stop thinking about?

Book Review: Always Practice Safe Hex by Juliette Cross

Always Practice Safe Hex by Juliette Cross on Kindle Oasis

Genre: Romance | Paranormal Romance

Published date: 24th May 2022

Author’s Website: https://www.juliettecross.com/

Synopsis:

Livvy Savoie is a people person. Not only does she have the magical gift of persuasion, but her natural charisma charms everyone she meets. She hasn’t met a person she didn’t like. Until her annoyingly brilliant competitor walks through the door. No matter how hard she denies it, loathing isn’t the only emotion she feels for him.

Grim reaper Gareth Blackwater is rarely, if ever, moved beyond his broody, stoic state. But the witch he’s partnered with in the public relations contest is destroying his peace of mind. He’s convinced that the flesh-melting attraction he feels for her is merely her witchy magic at work.

But forced proximity proves there is more than magic sparking between them. Livvy learns this enigmatic grim’s abilities are beyond any supernatural she has ever known. And when Livvy becomes the obsessive target of a dangerous wizard, Gareth proves just how powerful he truly is. Because no one is going to hurt his Lavinia.

Review:

I was granted an arc in exchange for an honest review.

Content warning: scenes of sexual assault and harassment. Please read with caution.

If you have followed my posts and social media you probably already know that I’m a huge fan of Juliette Cross.

Cross ALWAYS delivers on my much needed romance happy ever afters, and they just get so much sweeter with each book.

Always Practice Safe Hex is the fourth book in the super fun and steamy Stay a Spell Series.

This particular book features my favourite trope: Enemies to Lovers.

Livvy and Gareth’s story was teased in the previous installment, so the tension was there from the moment I started APSH.

Their chemistry is palpable in the prologue and it continues throughout.

Although this story does have a much darker tone there are still some genuine laugh out loud moments.

The chemistry between the Savoie sisters is almost as good as it is between Livvy and her Grim. This is one of the reasons I love the series as a whole. The bond the sisters have gives each book a boost.

My faves Evie and Mateo steal the show in any scene they’re in and the events in this book make me want to read their story Wolf Gone Wild again!

Anyways, back to Livvy and Gareth…

Livvy, like all of her sisters, is instantly likeable. She’s also incredibly sweet.

Gareth, is broody, dangerous and extremely secretive.

They bounce off of each other and bicker constantly, but neither can deny their attraction.

As things heat up between them, it’s clear that this book promises (and delivers) to be the steamiest installment yet!

Gareth’s monster is extremely dominant and when they do get down to business, his kinky side is revealed. He pushes Livvy’s boundaries and she loves it.

His protectiveness is swoon worthy and the way he worships Livvy is knee buckling.

I often find, that the darker they are… the harder they fall and this is the perfect example of that.

I’ve been waiting to find out more about Grim’s in this series and it was worth the wait!

I can’t wait to follow the next couple… Clara and Henry???? I know the best is being saved for last… Jules and Ruben.

Thank you to Juliette Cross for my e-arc it was truely a pleasure to read.


Have you read this series?

April 2022 Wrap Up

If you follow my blog/Instagram you might have noticed I didn’t share my March Wrap Up. That’s because I didn’t read anything. I started so many books, but didn’t finish them. The main reason being, COVID-19 finally hit our house after avoiding it since the start of the Pandemic. Having COVID and also being a mum to an 8 month old with COVID was hard. The cough and brain fog lingered for just under 7 weeks and even now I still feel the aftermath.

April was a good month of reading for me. I’ve put a couple of my heavier reads on hold until I can give them the attention they deserve. These are The Poppy War and Blood Scion – they are so good (from what I’ve read so far) and I really don’t want to finish them when my head just isn’t in that space to fully appreciate them.

I’ve read and reviewed an arc ON TIME. I REPEAT ON. TIME. I also started The Kingdom of the Wicked Series and have been beta reading a manuscript. So, overall I’m happy with that progress!


Parks and Provocation by Juliette Cross

Ebook cover for Parks and Provocation (image by Juliette Cross)

Synopsis:

Lola Landry stares through the window of her locked car with the keys in the ignition and the radio blaring Beck’s “Loser.” While standing there and sweltering in the soupy Tennessee humidity, she wonders how her orderly life had crashed and burned so badly. Then her high school nemesis saunters up in all of his tall, strapping, fireman-to-the-rescue glory, slapping her with the humiliating proof that it can always get worse.

When the uber-confident Jedediah Lawson requests a date in return for popping her lock, a lightbulb goes off. Revenge is sweet. He would make the perfect victim—guest, that is—for her next podcast episode on Kiss and Tell. What shocks her is the casual way he not only agrees to the post-date interview on air, but ends up hijacking her audience and wooing them with his swoony, southern charm. Not even a low score on the date-o-meter can dissuade the man or keep her fans from demanding more of the charismatic Jed.

What’s worse, she secretly wants a second date with this man who is so different from his teenage self. His unwavering patience and dimpled smile erodes her will, until she breaks the Kiss and Tell rules by agreeing to a second…and a third date. It’s a disaster. Not the date. They’re wonderful. The disaster is that she is falling for a man she once dubbed Jockstrap Jed.

‘Parks and Provocation’ is a full-length contemporary romance and can be read as a standalone. Book #2 in the Green Valley Heroes series, Green Valley Chronicles, Penny Reid Book Universe.

Publisher: Smartypants Romance Published Date: 7th April 2022

Author’s Website: https://www.juliettecross.com/

Review:

Wolf Gone Wild was my gateway drug to Juliette Cross.

I’ve been catching up on her backlog for a while and I’ve also been lucky enough to join her arc team.

Parks and Provocation was granted to me in exchange for an honest review.

Full disclosure – I don’t usually read contemporary romance. I am a fantasy and paranormal romance reader so, I wasn’t as excited to dive into this one as I have been with her other books.

Cross writes so fluidly in first person POV that it didn’t take me long to settle into the book and forget about her hunky Werewolves, Grims and Demon Slayers.

Parks and Provocation is a sweet second chance romance. The main characters Lola and Jed have had it bad for each other ever since school… and yet neither realised or were mature enough to act on it at the time.

As they both worked through previous misunderstandings, their passion (sex nachos anyone?) And even a little heartbreak – it was fun to readalong for the ride.

The steamy scenes were hottttt so it’s lucky  we have a fireman in the mix!

The epilogue was the cutest ending and you get a full closure HEA!

P&P is part of the Green Valley Heroes series where a different author writes each book. This can be read as a standalone


Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

Hardback edition of Kingdom of the Wicked

Review


Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalco

Hardback edition of Kingdom of the Cursed

Review


What books did you read in April?

Book Review: Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

Hardback edition of Kingdom of the Wicked

Synopsis:

Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin . . . desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost-even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked-princes of Hell she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems . . .

Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton Published Date: 25th October 2020

Author’s Website: https://kerrimaniscalco.com/

Review:

Another book bites the dust from my Beat The Backlog list!

I’d heard so much about this book that I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the hype. I finally picked it up after fan art started creeping in my feed and I was worried about spoilers! I actually didn’t read the synopsis – so a certain scene was a shock to me even though it is written on the back.

I really enjoyed this book. I can’t say I always knew what was going on, but it was a fun ride.

The world was fascinating and there was so much to digest, witches, magic, demons and cooking. Lots and lots of cooking. Some of the food prep scenes left me super hungry.

Emilia – portrayed as the more sensible one compared to her twin, is actually wonderfully reckless. If it wasn’t for her risk taking I’m not sure I’d like her as much!

Wrath – for a demon prince from hell, he appears quite reserved when we first meet him. It’s clear that Emilia gets under his skin and there is an instant chemistry between them. He’s dark and mysterious just the way I like my romance leads!

I want to say everything started to come together in the end, but there were more head spinning revelations and possibilities that I really don’t think I understood what was happening until I closed the book and reflected.

It was a relief to know I had the second installment in my possession because the ending was a cliff hanger.

For me this book lived up to the hype. The whole atmosphere of the book was intense and we all know I love a slow burn romance! This could be a favourite series.

I read Kingdom of the Wicked and Kingdom of the Cursed back to back – review for KoTC here.

Do you enjoy romance fantasy?

Book Review: Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalo

Hardback edition of Kingdom of the Cursed

Synopsis:

With the enigmatic Prince of Wrath at her side, Emilia sold her soul to become Queen of the Wicked and travelled to the Seven Circles to fulfil her vow of avenging her beloved sister.

But the first rule in the court of the Wicked? Trust no one. And it quickly becomes clear that nothing in Hell is what it seems. Even Wrath, her onetime ally, may be keeping secrets about his true nature. But that suits Emilia just fine – she’s got secrets of her own.

Faced with backstabbing courtiers, princes who delight in fear, luxurious palaces, dazzling galas, and conflicting clues about what truly happened to her sister, Emilia finds herself on a mission to unlock the mysteries of her own past and uncover the answers she craves.

As long as her sins don’t catch up to her first . . .

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Published Date: 5th October 2021

Author’s Website: https://kerrimaniscalco.com/

Review:

KoTC picks up right after that cliffhanger ending from Kingdom of the Wicked.

This installment was more action packed than the first so I felt the pace was better. There was a constant tension throughout making it a fun page turner.

The sexual tension between Emilia and Wrath also upped a notch, the will they won’t they aspect goes back and forth so much – but the chemistry between them is always enough that you stay invested! This will be a hit for those that enjoy a romance heavy fantasy with a little spice. The author announced this is a New Adult series, which explains the content in this book (I thought it was YA based on the first).

I didn’t care for the constant descriptions of Emilia’s dresses and I’ll admit I skimmed those parts. However, I could picture certain fan arts when reading, so I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything crucial. I actually skim outfit descriptions a lot in books, so this isn’t a reflection on the writing at all – my brain just won’t take in the outfit.

The food descriptions are back too and everything sounds delicious!

The plot took a turn I didn’t expect and that’s when I couldn’t put the book down. This feels like the foundations for book three so I can appreciate all the little details that have been scattered throughout.

Nothing is as it seems and just as you think you’ll piece things together… the conclusion bites you in the ass!

Overall this was a great read. I couldn’t put the book down and I’ve pre ordered book three as soon as I finished this one!

Have you read this series? What did you think?

Book Review: Dreams Lie Beneath by Rebecca Ross

Arc copy / cover of Dreams Lie Beneath on Kindle

Synopsis:

The realm of Azenor has spent years plagued by a curse. Every new moon, magic flows from the nearby mountain and brings nightmares to life. Only magicians—who serve as territory wardens—stand between people and their worst dreams.

Clementine Madigan is ready to take over as the warden of her small town, but when two magicians arrive to challenge her, she is unknowingly drawn into a century-old conflict. She seeks revenge, but as she gets closer to Phelan, one of the handsome young magicians, secrets—as well as romance—begins to rise.

To fight the realm’s curse, which seems to be haunting her every turn, Clementine must unite with her rival. But will their efforts be enough to save Azenor from the nightmares that lurk around every corner?

Review:

As part of my Beat The Backlog TBR for this year, I finally picked this up in March.

I was generously granted an arc of this book by Harper360YA (an embarrassing amount of time ago).

For someone who isn’t sure I understood absolutely everything that happened in this book – I certainly enjoyed it!

Clementine and her father are Dream Wardens for their village. Every New Moon the villagers nightmares become a reality and they defeat them to keep everyone safe.

Unfortunately two magicians arrive and challenge them for their territory.

This develops into Clementine’s plot for revenge.

Clementine is fiercely independent and determined to win her territory back and as always – this leaves her blind to what is right in front of her. It was fun to read her work through the rivalry with Phelan and there were times where her character reminded me of Jude from The Cruel Prince by Holly Black.

Phelan – even when he arrived with his brother to challenge Clem and her father, there was always something gentlemanly about him. He was instantly likeable.

I loved the idea of the Dream Wardens, it felt unique and the scenes were written so vividly. The Curse itself shrouds the story in mystery and the few twists along the way (even the expected ones) made this book very easy to sail through. And of course, my fave trope: Enemies to Lovers.

For a stand alone novel, for me the ending was a little too fast. There wasn’t enough closure for certain issues and characters and it left me wanting more…

Overall, this was a very entertaining read. I definitely wished I had picked it up sooner. As far as I know, it is a stand alone – but I would read a sequel for sure!

Have you read or plan to read this book?

Cover of Dreams Lie Beneath by Rebecca Ross

Author’s Website: https://rebeccarossauthor.com/

Publisher: Harper Collins Published Date: December 2021

February 2022 Wrap Up

February started off with one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, but it also had a few DNFs tucked away in there too. You would think that a four day power cut would have bumped my reading numbers up, but I also had to entertain an 8 month old by candle light. Once we found a hotel, we killed time together as a family and in my down time I chose to read my old faithful Kindle Unlimited romance.

First up, we have:

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Paperback edition of Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

I loved this book. Here is my full gushing review.

An incredible YA contemporary fantasy.


That Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Demon by Kimberly Lemming

Kindle edition of The Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Demon by Kimberly Lemming

Synopsis:

All I wanted to do was live my life in peace. Maybe get a cat, expand my spice farm. Really anything that doesn’t involve going on a quest where an orc might rip my face off. But they say the Goddess has favorites. If so, I’m clearly not one of them.
After saving the demon Fallon in a wine-drunk stupor, all he wanted to do was kill an evil witch enslaving his people.
I mean, I get it, don’t get me wrong. But he’s dragging me along for the ride, and I’m kind of peeved about it. On the bright side, he keeps burning off his shirt.

Publisher: self published Published: 22nd July 2021

Author’s Website: https://www.kimberlylemming.com/

Review:

A comedy romance that actually made me laugh out loud!

I feel like this is a book people will either love or just not vibe with. The use of modern day language in this particular fantasy setting can be a little jarring. However, once I fell into the story and settled into the plot, the language didn’t bother me, in fact, without Cin’s inner monologue this book wouldn’t be as funny or entertaining.

Cinnamon (Cin) is hilarious. Often without intending to be.

Fallon is quite charming considering he’s a demon and it’s hard not to feel the spark between him and Cin from the first moment he appears.

This book packs some steam and overall is a really entertaining romance.


The Unseelie Prince by Kathryn Ann Kingsley

Kindle edition of The Unseelie Prince by Kathryn Ann Kingsley

Synopsis:

The throne is Valroy’s for the taking…but first, he needs a queen.

As the son of the Morrigan and heir to the vacant Unseelie throne, Valroy itches to shed the mantle of prince and take his place as King. To his great regret one ancient tradition stands in his way, demanding he first take a bride. With all the members of the Unseelie court proving to be insufferable, what is a prince to do?

Steal a human, of course.

Abigail often wonders if the townsfolk aren’t right in calling her cursed. Abandoned by her husband and with no family to call her own, everything in her life hangs by a thread. Never did she expect her downfall would come by taking pity on an old hermit. Abducted into the dangerous world of Tir n’Aill, Abigail is thrust into a terrifying Maze that defies all logic. There, she finds herself at the mercy of an Unseelie prince with a strange offer—solve his Maze and he’ll grant her deepest wish…

If she can live that long.

Content Warnings (these are ones that stood out for me, I may have missed some, please read with caution)

Gore, threat of sexual abuse, assault, very graphic violence (towards child), dubious consent, death, genocide, kidnap, toxic relationship, emotional abuse and infertility.

Please note (author’s warning): This is a dark fantasy horror series with a love story. This series contains scenes of graphic violence. It is a slow-burn romance between the monstrous villain and the main character over the course of four books. My fae do not pull punches, and my Unseelie are not kind.

Publisher: self published Published date: 3rd October 2021

Available on Kindle Unlimited

Author’s Website: https://www.kathrynkingsley.com/

Review:

This is a dark romance, if you’re expecting a swoony love story, you won’t find it in this.

I picked it up, as I’m a fan of *some* dark romance (Laura Thalassa’s Horsemen Series).

This was more along the lines of Land of the Beautiful Dead by R. Lee Smith, as in, it packs a punch, leaves you feeling almost hopeless because the antagonist has no redeeming qualities. Yet, you can’t stop turning the pages to torture yourself with the prospect of a glimmer of *something* from Valroy.

Even reading from his perspective it’s hard to believe that this could ever be a romance.

There was a particular scene that made me very uncomfortable, and although explained a little later – I debated on whether to finish the book or not.

That isn’t a reflection on the writing, more on what I find enjoyable to read and my own wellbeing. So please, read the content warnings.

I read to the end and that glimmer of hope finally glowed in the darkness… right at the very end. It does end on a cliff hanger and thankfully all books in the series are now out *I think the final one comes out in February or March. The ending was enough to make me pick up the second book. I write this mini review for the first (having also read the second) and I found the second book much more enjoyable.


The Unseelie Crown by Kathryn Ann Kingsley

Kindle Edition of The Unseelie Crown by Kathryn Ann Kingsley

Synopsis:

The gods brought her back. But was it to stop Valroy, or to become his queen?

Valroy will let nothing block his path to the Unseelie Crown. And he is willing to stop at nothing to see both Tir n’Aill and Earth as his dominion…and crushing the self-righteous Seelie beneath his bootheels.

He had wished for Abigail to stand beside him as his queen, but that went terribly wrong when she chose death over becoming his bride. It was a setback, certainly, but not one he could not overcome.

Yet despite being wrenched from the song of life, Abigail returns to Tir n’Aill, only to be hunted by both Seelie and Unseelie alike. She does not know why she was returned or for what purpose, but it was clear that two paths lay before her.

Is she to become Valroy’s enemy, or to allow him to make her his queen in chains?

Review:

As mentioned in the previous book above, please check out the content warnings and read with caution.

This book was much more enjoyable because it finally felt like you could root for the characters.

Valroy finally understands that what he feels for Abigail is love! His twisted version of it anyway.

I’m under no illusion about the harshness of this story, but it felt like the stakes weren’t quite high enough in this installment, so I have a sense of trepidation for the third book.

In terms of character development, I’m on the fence about Abigail. Her potential is just out of reach so I have high hopes for the next book.

Publisher: self published Published date: 7th November 2021

Available on Kindle Unlimited


Let me know if you’ve read any of these, and what you’ve read this month!

Book Review: Death by Laura Thalassa

Cover of Death by Laura Thalassa on Kindle Oasis

Synopsis:

He’s known by many names: Thanatos. Horseman. God’s last angel. And then, of course, there’s the one I’m all too familiar with—

Death.

The day Death comes to Lazarus Gaumond’s town and kills everyone in one fell swoop, the last thing he expects to see is a woman left alive and standing. But Lazarus has her own extraordinary gift: she cannot be killed—not by humans, not by the elements, not by Death himself.

She is the one soul Death doesn’t recognize. The one soul he cannot pry free from her flesh. Nor can he ignore the unsettling desire he has for her. Take her. He wants to, desperately. And the longer she tries to stop him from his killing spree, the stronger the desire becomes.

When Lazarus crosses paths with the three other horsemen, an unthinkable situation leads to a terrible deal: seduce Death, save the world. A hopeless task, made all the worse by the bad blood between her and Thanatos. But Death’s attraction to her is undeniable, and try though she might, Lazarus cannot stay away from that ancient, beautiful being and his dark embrace.

The end is here. Humankind is set to perish, and not even the horsemen can stop Death from fulfilling his final task.

Only Lazarus can.

Publisher: Lavabrook Publishing, LLC

Author’s Website: http://www.laurathalassa.com/?m=1

Review:

Death is the final installment of Laura Thalassa’s Horsemen of the Apocalypse series and if you follow me on Instagram– you’ll know that this has been an anticipated read of mine for a while.

Ever since I saw this art (below) of Pestilence and Sara by Phatomrin I had to start the series. This art was also my gateway drug to all things Laura Thalassa has ever written!! I’ve politely nudged (messaged repeatedly, screamed and begged) so many people to read these books and have made great friends because of them.

Pestilence by Phantomrin (Instagram link)
Sara by Phantomrin (Instagram link)

Death starts off 26 years after the Horsemen first arrived and 7 years after Famine meets Ana. The timeline at the beginning of the book was really helpful to put things into perspective.

The opening was a brutal reminder that although Thalassa gives us our happy endings, she will make us work for it and you will wonder how on earth Laz will bring Death to his knees.

Lazarus

Like the previous FMCs in Laura’s books, Laz is in survival mode and has been like that for a while – I mean, it’s the end of the world and all that. I noticed Laz was never physically described and I’ve since found out that was intentional, so that the readers could easily place themselves in her shoes. So with that and her inner monologue it makes Laz very relatable.

Death

I will always be the pause between sentences, the silence that follows the end of a story.

Death

You would be forgiven for thinking Death was the softest of his brothers. I say this because of the snippets of him in the previous books. I always thought it was a kindness (avoiding spoilers here). But he is expecting Laz, so his barriers are in place and he appeared colder although intrigued by her. I can’t say that he is cruel (unlike Famine) but he definitely has the ‘don’t f*ck with me’ vibe.

Laz and Death play cat and mouse for the best part of this book. They are quite literally killing each other to escape one another. It’s harsh and it’s gritty but there’s always enough lust or attraction between the characters that you don’t feel so insane for rooting for them!

If you have read any of Thalassa’s books, you know that the slow burn is a torturous build up that ALWAYS pays off. Death, was no exception – there is plenty of steam and once the characters start falling in love the emotional roller coaster really begins.

One of my favourite parts of this book was the appearance of the other Horsemen – I’m sure Thalassa said they wouldn’t be part of this story (sneaky). Famine was my least favourite Horsemen, but for some reason, in this book he killed me. All my laugh out loud moments were because of him. The banter and bond between the brothers was so fulfilling, it just added that extra something to the book for me!

The ending was PERFECT. That’s not to say my heart didn’t feel like it had been ripped out of my chest, but it was how it should be. It was a bitter but a very sweet closure to the series, and it did the Horsemen justice. I can’t believe it’s over, I’ve wanted this book for so long, ever since Death first appeared in Pestilence – and now… and now it’s over.

I can’t wait to see what else Laura is working on!

Do you enjoy dark romance?

Book Review: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Paperback edition of Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Synopsis:

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants to escape. A residential programme for bright high-schoolers seems like the perfect opportunity – until she witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus . . .

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so-called “Legendborn” that hunt the creatures down.

A mysterious mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts – and fails – to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory about her mother. Now Bree will do whatever it takes to discover the truth, even infiltrate the Legendborn. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and foretell a magical war, Bree must decide how far she’ll go for the truth. Should she use her magic to take the society down – or join the fight?

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s UK

Author’s Website: https://www.tracydeonn.com/

Review:

Content warnings for Legendborn: Death of a parent and traumatic grief/flashbacks, alcohol consumption, mind control/memory manipulation, racist macro and microaggessions, emesis (vomiting), blood, mild gore, combat violence, mention(s) of: physical abuse, racist violence, sexual violence. (Taken from author’s website)

This is my first book from my Beat the Backlog TBR and I’m so glad I picked it up! I’m kicking myself for sitting on it for so long.

This is a wonderful unique twist on the King Arthur legend and one of the main reasons I wanted to read this book. What I didn’t expect was the gut wrenching journey through grief and the horror at the racism the main character Bree faces day to day.

The opening to this story is a blow that will resonate with those that have experienced the loss of a loved one. The impact of Bree’s grief is something that stuck with me throughout the book. Deonn writes this so poignantly that it provokes a protective feeling for Bree after only a few paragraphs.

They are past-tensing my heart—my whole beating, bleeding, torn heart—right in front of me. It is a violation.

It’s easy to forget that Bree is only 16 throughout this story. Bree is trying (and failing) to cope with her grief and on top of that she has to deal with blatant racism. The wall she has in place for her grief might be new to her but facing prejudice is not. The helplessness and the cold fury that fills you during those moments is a reminder that although this is a fantasy, THAT is reality.

The wheal is set in motion for her infiltration to a secret society of descendents of King Arthur and the Round Table. Here we meet the Legendborn and are introduced to the complex structure – which is a little daunting initially.

The demon hunter aspect gave me Mortal Instrument vibes and the fight scenes are pretty epic. As Bree learns about her own heritage, there is even more magic and revelations about her ancestors that adds another layer to this tale.

This type of knowing is an expensive toll to pay. I can’t forget the knowledge just because the price is high. And yet, sometimes we have to tuck the reminders away today in order to grow power against them tomorrow.

There is a love triangle afoot, and given that each character have layers we have yet to see – this is going to be a further trial for Bree. The build up for this, although you see coming; there are parts woven in that come as a surprise and potentially explain bonds and relationships a little better.

There is diverse rep amongst the supporting characters: a non binary character, Bree’s BFF Alice is a lesbian and Taiwanese-American, there are bi characters, and also a F/F established relationship.

This story was a compelling fantasy coinciding with the harsh reality of what Bree faces in the ‘normal’ world. Each chapter is enthralling and I couldn’t put the book down. The wait to November for the second installment will be a very long one!