Dearest Clementine (Dearest #1) by Lex Martin

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ARC provided to me by author Lex Martin in exchange for an honest review.

This was a super sweet, cute, summer/spring time read, with a mystery sub-plot that, even though it was pretty obvious, really pulls you into the story and makes it hard to put this book down.

Clementine is attending Boston University, where she is pursuing a degree in writing/english, even though she has already published a bestselling novel her freshman year, under a pen name. The story she had published is an account of real events that happened to her during her senior year of high school, but has changed all the names and tweaked the information. Yet, it would be absolutely devastating if people found out that she really wrote the book, because her and her family has been in the public eye for a long time.

Because of her apprehensiveness about being in the spotlight with the press, she is very averse to meeting new people. Also, because of the bad break up that she wrote about in high school, she is also very averse to dating anyone. That is, until she meets Gavin, a RA and journalist that is also the newest member of her friend’s band.

Clementine, being apprehensive about relationships, doesn’t want to give Gavin the time of day, but she is struggling with writers block and an assignment in her new romance class and he is the only thing that helps give her inspiration.

There is also a missing girl from Clementine’s university and Gavin is writing piece after piece trying to help bring her home. Clementine is also feeling very unsafe on campus, because she was sexually assaulted by a college professor her freshman year. Even though she had gotten a restraining order, he is back and is making it very apparent that he isn’t willing to stop pursuing Clementine.

We also are introduced to some amazing side characters that get their own spinoffs in this series, too! Jax, Clementine’s twin brother and soccer star, gets to be the male lead in Finding Dandelion! And Darren, who is Clementine’s ex, star quarterback of the rivaling university’s football team, gets to be the male lead in Kissing Madeline! I loved Darren. Don’t get me wrong, Gavin was pretty dreamy and Darren did mess up pretty inexcusably in high school, but I was low-key in love with Darren once he actually came into Clementine’s story personally.

I really enjoyed it, and it’s honestly such a good romantic contemporary that is perfect for this time of year. I only really have two negative things to say about this book:

The first being that, again, the abduction mystery, paired with the stalking professor, made for a really unexpected and enjoyable read, but it was also painfully obvious what was going on and how the situation was going to unfold.

The second thing is that there was a lot of “joking around” slut shaming in this book. I completely understand that I used to be very guilty of this, too, and this book was published in 2014, so I’m willing to give it some slack, but it still made for a jarring and unpleasant read when the girls/friends were talking to one another.

Overall, I really enjoyed this and I am so thankful that I was able to get a copy of this for free. I also fully plan to read both Finding Dandelion and Kissing Madeline, because all of these characters were so cute and so enjoyable to read about. Lex Martin did a wonderful job writing this story, and I have nothing but high hopes for her future.

The Innkeeper Chronicles Volume 1 by Ilona Andrews

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

It is no secret that I am obsessed and in love with everything that this writing duo creates. IA is truly a tier about all urban fantasy, and I recommend any and everything by them if you love the genre or are just getting into it. IA is maybe the only author(s) that I can say whole heartedly that I love everything they’ve created, not like, not think is okay or worth reading, LOVE.

Not only do you receive the first three volumes of this series in this bind up, it is also filled with jaw dropping gorgeous artwork by Doris Mantair. The art that was in these novels were also something that I looked forward to, but seeing them in full, and completely perfected, was amazing.

You can preorder this gorgeous bind up of all three novels in the Innkeeper Chronicles here for a limited time!

And if $75 is a little steep for you (and for me, let’s be real), this series started out as something IA posted serialized on their website. I’m not entirely sure if you can see find these books for free online, but they are about $13 each on Amazon, and so very worth reading.

Also, go request this on Netgalley while it is still available! Seriously, you get some breathtaking art work and three of the best PNR/UF books, by the very best PNR/UF writer(s), on the market! If I hadn’t already read this series, it would have been the best approval Netgalley has ever given me.

I’m going to break down each novel with their individual reviews and ratings, and also with links to their individual reviews on Goodreads. Again, I loved this series, this world, and these characters. Each book just gets better and better, and I hope and pray they continue on with this series until the end of time.

1.) Clean Sweep ★★★★
I loved this new world and expected nothing less from this amazing writing duo. I was not expecting all the sci-fi developments, so that took me for by a very pleasant surprise. The concepts in this book were so unique; I’ve never read anything about “Innkeepers” before. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a completely new concept they created. Basically, if you’re looking for a good PNR/sci-fi love child, I can’t recommend this enough.

So what’s the deal with this innkeeper and her inn? Well, first off the inn is a sentient being that gives immense powers to the Innkeeper when they are on its property, and even some powers when off of it. Just like inns in our world, people check in to stay for however long periods of time and the innkeeper will see to their needs. In this world, travelers come from all over the universe and have some pretty peculiar wants and needs. Our main character and innkeeper, Dina, came into the profession because her parents were also innkeepers so she grew up with it and loved the lifestyle. Unfortunately, her parents and their whole inn disappeared, so she’s now made it her life mission to find them.

But what would an inn be without guests? We have a sexy neighborhood werewolf that doesn’t know how powerful he really is. We also have a vampire full aware of his power, who is a warrior that is pretty swoon-worthy. Yes, that combination does equal a love triangle. Then my personal favorite, a cannibal alien that’s on the run, with a strange appetite for Mellow Yellow and Funyuns. Then we throw in a very dangerous alien called a dahaka with his stalker beasts at his side, and we have a full paranormal/sci-fi cast.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t love this book as much as I did the rest of the Kate Daniels series, but it was still a good read. It just wasn’t un-put-down-able like how I find Kate Daniels. It still has the super witty writing that makes you laugh out loud and feel silly giggling to yourself. It still portrays Dina as a strong independent woman character that more girls would strive to be like. Most important, it still had an engaging story that makes for a wonderful read. This book might not be five stars, but it was still one of the better books I’ve read in 2015.

“I have spent my spare time studying literature popular with young women of this planet. One should always study the battlefield.”
Sean glanced at him. “And?”
“I suggest you give up now. According to my research, in a vampire-werewolf love triangle, the vampire always gets the girl.”

2.) Sweep in Peace ★★★★
Apparently, Jack, George, Gaston, and Lark/Sophie are all from IA’s other series The Edge. I haven’t read this series yet, but going off my friend’s reviews this is either going to make you very happy or completely turn you off of this book! I am kind of scared to read it, but I loved Sweep in Peace so maybe I’ll dive in one day when my stacks of “to reads” isn’t touching my bedroom ceiling.

Oh, and I also think you will be able to read this for free on IA’s website, but I don’t think all the chapters are up yet. Or maybe they took it down for the actual book release? Either way, I think you will eventually be able to read it for free, which is pretty neat.

Ilona Andrews has a gift that most authors do not have; every book they write makes me want to be a part of that world. I remember being so young while reading Harry Potter, and I felt the same magic after I finished every book. That crazy longing to want to live in that world, and be a part of that story. Maybe I’m just crazy, but that’s what Ilona does for me that most other authors will never be able to achieve, and for that they will get my never ending applause. Hell, Kate Daniels is post-apocalyptic and I still want to live in that world! Seriously, my fan-girling has made me sick, but I’m too far gone for any cure.

Sweep in Peace starts right up from where Clean Sweep left off. Honestly, you could probably just jump in and read this one; you just might not appreciate it (or Sean) as much, but this book does a wonderful job filling in the blanks without making the reader feel overwhelmed with information. Dina and Gertrude Hunt are still the same, while Caldenia is still the Inn’s only guest. Well, that soon changes when Dina accepts to host The Summit for three factions who are at war over a planet. The planet, Nexus, contains large subterranean reserves of Kuyo, which is a liquid used in production of “pharmaceutical asset of significant strategic value”. So it’s very valuable and everyone is fighting over it.

The Three Factions:
1.) The merchants of Baha-char represented by Nuan Cee’s clan (cute little fox people).
2.) The hope-crushing Horde represented by Otrokar (aliens that form their bodies for their jobs).
3.) The Holy Anocracy represented by House Krahr (vampires). Oh yes, this means Arland *swoon*.

So needless to say, Dina’s Inn is very full in this book. So she has to hire a chef to cook for all these people while she is constantly making sure Gertrude Hunt stay neutral and safe for all the new guests. The chef she hires ends up being my favorite character. Basically, he’s an exiled giant porcupine, who’s a former Red Cleaver chef, who is obsessed with mangoes and named Orro. I’m not really sure I have to say much more than that, but I can promise you if you read this book you, too, will fall in love with him!

This book is filled with Dina trying to keep the peace in her inn, while also trying to get all three factions to sign a peace treaty with one another. Obviously, it’s no small task and has Dina constantly working with these very different clans. Some major twists and turns happen, which leaves the reader on the edge of their seat while trying to figure out all the mysteries.

Overall, I loved this installment and cannot wait for the third. Please, oh please give us Klaus in the next one. Dina needs him, and I sure as hell need to know more about him. The epilogue will probably leave you wanting more Sean, even though all I want is more Arland.

“I asked him if he was leaving anyone behind. He said he met a girl with stardust on her robe, and when he looked into her eyes, he saw the Universe looking back.”

3.) One Fell Sweep ★★★★★
Everything IA touches turns to gold, and this series is no exception. The Innkeeper Chronicles feel so cozy, yet are so action packed and have so much swoon-worthy romance. IA somehow weaves a story with the perfect balance of mystery, filled with high-tense situations, with all these unique concepts, and makes it feel like home. I can’t recommend this series, or this writing duo, enough.

This series is written in weekly installments that IA posts for free. I, being the masochist that I truly am, always wait until it is actually published in book form to review, but it is still pretty freakin’ awesome that this is a series that they write for their fans out of the kindness of their hearts.

Without giving too much away, and because we are three books into this series now, the first book in this series, Clean Sweep, stars a innkeeper, Dina, who runs a magical inn that allows life forms from all over the Galaxy to stay for whatever period of time they need. Not everyone has the magical gifts to be able to run their own inn, but Dina’s parents owned their own inn while she was growing up, so she is very familiar with this magical safe place that is hidden away from the rest of Earth.

Innkeepers also have immense power, especially on their inn’s property. On top of being able to command the house at your every whim, because you have to be able to make your guests comfortable, which means constantly changing the rooms and layout to their needs, innkeepers have the responsibility to keep their guests safe, and have a whole magical property at their disposal.

Yet, an inn’s ability to thrive and live is constantly syncing with the guests that are needed for it to house. In the first book, The Innkeeper Chronicles, this is very apparent, but now that we are three books in, the inn is prospering, thriving, and very powerful.

Each book deals with a new threat to the inn, or its guests, but the constant theme of the whole series is that Dina’s once innkeeper parents have gone missing. Dina keeps a picture of them on display right when you walk into her inn, no matter how the layout of the inn changes, in hopes that someone will recognize them and be able to give her information. So far, her quest results have turned up empty.

“Husbands can fall out of love. Friends can betray you. But when you’re stuck in a hellhole far from home, your family will move heaven and earth to get you back.”

But in One Fell Sweep she gets a proposition from a new alien that wishes to stay at the Gertrude Hunt for information on her parents’ whereabouts that she cannot help but accept. Even if that means risking everything and everyone she loves.

And when I said everyone that Dina loves, I truly mean that, because this book introduces a few new characters that would be impossible for you not to fall in love with!:

Seriously, every hiss turned me into a bigger puddle of goo.

“I have run, my lord. And I would do it again, if the circumstances called for it. Honor can’t keep my daughter alive, but I can.”

And if you’ve been following my reviews of this series, you’ll know that Arland is, hands down, my favorite character. (When will I grow out of my brooding vampire phase?) And seeing his character arc take a very unexpected turn made my heart melt and my ovaries swoon.

Can we also talk about how this book takes place during Christmas? Like, this book already feels magical and is impossible for the reader to not want to be staying and living in Dina’s inn, but the timeline correlating with our present day was something so amazing. I couldn’t help but be enthralled with this book, in this world, and with these characters once again.

“You taught me the meaning of loneliness, because when I don’t see you, I feel alone.”

Seeing Dina grow not only as an innkeeper, but as a person, is so rewarding. I cannot wait to see the direction the fourth book takes, and how Dina and Sean are going to proceed with their new information, regarding the Ripper of Souls.

IA is seriously in a league of their own for Urban Fantasy, but, honestly, they are dominating their take on Sci-Fi, too. With all the different planets and species, and then their greater message of acceptance and love with organisms that are different or misunderstood in this Galaxy, too? Then add in all their original and unique concepts. Like, this wife and husband writing duo are such a blessing to the literary world. #blessed

Red Rising (Red Rising, #1) by Pierce Brown

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ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Red Rising is the oldest ARC I have on my TBR. One of my 2017 goals was to read and review it, because I always felt so much pressure when I’d think about picking it up, because this is such a beloved book in the community.

In this world that takes place in our universe, mostly on Mars, everyone is subdivided into color categories based on their skill sets, income, hair color, and what last name they possess (information provided by the Red Rising Wiki page):

HighColors:
Golds – Rulers of society
Silvers – Financiers and businessmen
Whites – The clergy
Coppers – Administrators, lawyers and bureaucrats
MidColors:
Blues – Astronavigators of ships
Yellows – Doctors and scientists
Greens – Programmers and developers
Violets – The creative class such as artists
Oranges – Mechanics
Grays – Law-enforcement, security, military and other armed personnel
LowColors:
Browns – Servants
Obsidians – “Monstrous race only bred for war”
Pinks – Pleasure slaves
Reds – The unskilled and menial laborers

Red Rising is also broken up in to three parts, and because a few friends have asked me to break the story down for them, I’m going to! I will not spoil any main plot lines, and I will try to be as vague as possible, but please do not continue reading any further if you wish to go into Red Rising completely blind!

“I look at him for a moment. Words are a weapon stronger than he knows. And songs are even greater. The words wake the mind. The melody wakes the heart. I come from a people of song and dance. I don’t need him to tell me the power of words.”

Part I: Our main protagonist’s journey starts out in the lows of the lows, because he is a Red. Darrow is the youngest HellDiver in his red colony, where he works in the mines all day, trying to make Mars livable. He for sure is the strongest and the most efficient miner, too, even though he will never receive the credit for it. But something happens that changes Darrow’s life and outlook forever, forcing him to go to the surface of Mars.

“I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war.”

Part II: Darrow wakes up and meets with the Sons of Ares, and starts his transformation to enhance his body, so he can pass as a Gold and infiltrate their ranks by performing well enough at their military school, the Institute. Darrow was bitten by something when he was younger, so he and his heart are rare, but strong enough, to endure all of the surgeries. Maybe my favorite part of this book was learning about the Carver and his work. Oh, and Evey, because I loved her instantly and pictured Mercy from Overwatch and it made my fangirl thirsty heart so very happy. Anyways, Darrow goes to the Institute, performs very well, and is picked tenth out of one thousand students at the school and will now move on to the next part of their schooling.

“I am the Reaper and death is my shadow.”

Part III: After performing a horrible and terrible act to move on to the next part of his schooling, we realize that all the different houses have pickled different people and given each group a castle. Darrow’s house, House Mars, cannot decide a leader, because they are all confrontational alpha males, so they split up into four different groups. We also become aware that this is being broadcasted, and higher ups are watching to recruit the strongest players. Also, if I’m being honest, this part feels like a rape filled The Hunger Games. Like, to the point that I’m honestly surprised Suzanne Collins wasn’t like, “what the fuck?”

“Funny thing, watching gods realize they’ve been mortal all along.”

Also, it needs to be said that there are trigger warnings for rape, sexual assault, and graphic violence, because I had no idea going into this book that there would be so much rape. I was so surprised. I feel like the book community really paints this as a YA SFF coming of age story, which I guess it is, but it is so much darker than I ever imaged. I don’t give a shit that Darrow was sixteen when this book started, this is an ADULT book.

Overall, I did enjoy this, actually more than The Hunger Games, but you can tell this story is so heavily influenced from The Hunger Games that it just ends up feeling bad. That parallels are consistent, and it was something that I just couldn’t unsee.

I also found it a little unbelievable that all these high up Golds would allow the chance of their children to be killed, especially for viewing pleasure. I understand that most have multiple kids, and this is their way to prove their worth, but I just can’t imagine that they would be okay allowing their kids to be a part of this academy where there is such a high death (and rape) turnover rate. Or, at the very least, they would train every child from the time they could walk into becoming amazing warriors and never allow their children to go into the Institute so unprepared and unable to fight like so many did.

I also hated how this story used rape to make Darrow look like a savior constantly. The book is brutal enough; we don’t need to have the rape ploy thrown in our faces every chapter, just so Darrow can save and/or avenge all the helpless women. Also, Darrow kills because of rape constantly, and then towards the end when he gets to play judge and dish out some punishments, he finds it in his heart to make it a bonding exercise. Like, please, it’s gross, tiresome, and pathetic. This book would have been leagues better without this hot mess of rape plot devices.

Also, Darrow wasn’t the most likable main character. I completely understand that he was only sixteen when starting his journey, so I try so very hard to cut him slack, but he makes the most questionable decisions, especially with everything he has riding on his performance. Also, if I was grieving over the love of my life, I probably wouldn’t be looking at every freakin’ girl I see, calling them “so beautiful” and admiring them every other chapter. Like, I get it, sixteen year old boys are horny, but it was so unnecessary and I think that I felt more impacted by Eo than Darrow ever did. Darrow felt more driven by his dick than by his rage or want for revenge, in my opinion.

My favorite character was, hands down, Cassius, a friend that Darrow makes at the start of him joining the Institute. I felt for his character so much, and I felt like every action he performed was so valid. His choices where so believable, and everything he did I feel like I would have done if I was in his position. He was for sure the most realistic character to me, and I couldn’t help but love him and his story arc. Like, if I continue on with Golden Son, it is 100% because of Cassius.

Overall, I’m mostly just happy I finally have read this ARC copy. I did enjoy this book; I just didn’t love it the way everyone else seems to. I feel like it would have had a much bigger impact on me if I hadn’t already read The Hunger Games and been a part of the hype for that series. I hated the use of rape in this, and I just felt like the story did leave a lot to be desired. Like I said, this is a beloved series in the book community, so if you’re at all interested I would for sure give it a shot.

Throne of Truth (Truth and Lies Duet #2) by Pepper Winters

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#1.) Crown of Lies ★★★★

This conclusion fell so flat for me. Throne of Truth was nothing close to what Crown of Lies was.

The basic premise of this story is that our main protagonist, Elle, has never really had a childhood or really a life outside of work and responsibilities. She is in her early twenties and is running her father’s multi-million dollar department store chain/company. Yet, she cannot stop thinking about the nameless boy that saved her after she decided to be reckless and escape her structured and safe life on her nineteenth birthday, three years ago.

Elle is an amazing character. She is strong, smart, hard working, empathetic, and just an all around good human being. I loved her dynamic with her father, I loved watching her balance her life with her work, and I loved how much she selflessly did for others.

“I don’t need someone to claim me. I claim me.”

And, to be honest, Penn just doesn’t deserve her. It has nothing to do with his past, or that he was homeless, or that he was in jail; it has to do with the fact that he’s an asshole. He treats her so bad, over a vendetta that doesn’t even make sense. I mean, he would never give her his name and that’s on him. How the hell did he expect her to save him? And how did he decide that she was a rich spoiled girl, all because he got one glimpse through a window? Gross. He is so hot and cold, and puts her through a rollercoaster of emotions that aren’t fair. Seriously, she could do better.


I do think there is a good discussion on this about the prison systems in America, and how unfairly we prosecute some with very little evidence. Also, how those with money and connections will always triumph, or at least get a better deal, than those with nothing. It actually felt pretty bad that this book proved that, too, but I still think it is important for more people to see the unfair treatment that happens with our judicial system in their reading, because it truly is a problem we have in America.

The thing that I disliked the most about this entire book was that Penn was cool with, and even went as far as giving a job to, Gio, a man that was going to rape Elle. Like, I don’t care if he has a bad influence for a friend, I don’t care that he didn’t have anyone growing up, I don’t care what events lead him to that alley where he was about to rape someone; he’s fucking disgusting and shouldn’t be a part of their lives. Rapist and attempted rapist will never get sympathy from me regardless of their victims, but that goes even extra if they tried to rape my significant other, and I’m sure most people would feel this way.

And can we talk about how Greg was the worst kidnapper ever? Like, his plan didn’t make sense and he made it so easy for everyone to find them. Like, I was actually scared over the attempted rape scene from Crown of Lies, but this one was just ridiculous. From the cabin, to the extremely long chain, to the dinner scene, and to every single one of this thoughts and actions. Greg was legitimately one of the worst villains I’ve ever read about.

And on a lighter note, never have I ever, before this book that is, read an erotic conjugal prison visit before. Also, I never thought I would ever write those words on my blog or Goodreads. This is my life.

Overall, I’m happy I read this duology; I just wish this final installment was better. I loved Crown of Lies, but I hated how the two main protagonists weren’t together for most of this story, I hated Penn’s unnecessary angst break ups, and I hated the sympathy for the attempted rapist. Like, ew.

Crown of Lies (Truth and Lies Duet #1) by Pepper Winters

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Happy Easter to all my friends and followers! I’m so thankful for each and every one of you, and I hope you all have an amazing day filled with love, laughter, and good books! And what better way to celebrate Easter than with some New Adult Erotic Romance CHICK-Lit?
(I’ll see myself out…)

It’s been a while since I’ve read a New Adult book, and I truly forgot how addicting and fast paced they are. And I don’t think we should feel guilt for reading anything, but if I have a “guilty pleasure” book, it is without question the entire Debt Inheritance Series by Pepper Winters. Her plots are so un-put-down-able, her characters are so fleshed out and real feeling, and her sex scenes are the absolute best. She writes dark and twisted romances better than anyone, while also being one of the best New Adult writers out there. I can’t recommend her stories enough!

Trigger Warnings: attempted rape and graphic violence.

“Careful what you wish for, Elle. Sometimes, secrets make things better not worse.”

Crown of Lies is a story told over the span of three years. Our main protagonist, Elle, is almost running her father’s multi-million dollar department store chain/company. She’s happy with her life, even though she throws all of it into work, while never truly having a childhood.

On her nineteenth birthday, Elle decides to make a rather reckless, but believable, trip into New York City all by herself after she is finished working that night. She is tired of always having a scheduled and sheltered life, so she decides to take matters into her own hands and chooses to see what it is like out in the real world. And it is fun and games until two men drag her into an alley to rob and rape her.

We are then flashed three years into the future, where Elle is very successfully running her father’s company, and is still making work her main priority. She has never dated since that frightful night three years ago, but she can’t help thinking about the man who saved her and what happened to him. She didn’t even get to learn his name.

Even though she hasn’t stopped thinking about “Nameless”, her father won’t stop trying to hook her up with people, because, after a heart attack that he endured and lived through, he wants to make sure she is happy when he is no longer there. It has worked to no avail, that is until she meets up and coming business man, Penn Everett. You guys aren’t stupid; you can see where this is going.

I loved Elle, I thought she was a little realistic sweetheart, but Penn was a little too much for me at times. I always go into New Adult guessing that there will be a brooding egomaniac alpha male, but he still was a little over the top for me. Also, I hate the miscommunication trope, and I didn’t understand why he would act like he didn’t care and dance around the bigger issues at hand. And, let’s be real, he was a little stalker-ish to be completely sexy and unproblematic. Plus, there was a few very FSOG influenced elements of this story, too, but don’t let that scare you off, because Crown of Lies is only like a million times of a better read.

That ending, in true Pepper Winters’ fashion, gutted me. Even though she’s the Queen of New Adult, she is also the Queen of heart wrenching Cliffhangers. But, thankfully for me, Throne of Truth, the second half to this duology, is already available and on my Kindle just waiting for me to devour.

Obviously if this were not an Erotic New Adult Romance, I would for sure talk more about Penn being problematic and his actions, no matter his intentions, were pretty questionable at times. Yet, I knew what I was getting into when I picked this book up, and I’m much more slack on the content for this genre than I am for others. Regardless, I am trying to let you guys know, in case you don’t like the controlling, personal space lacking, won’t take no for an answer, alpha male protagonists in your Erotic Romances, because that truly is Penn.

These problematic elements, plus Penn’s pointless vendetta towards Elle, were the only thing that kept me from loving this story completely. It also helped very much that Elle was constantly shown as a strong, powerful, and capable woman. She really was such a surprising character, who I ended up loving. And I loved her sidekick kitty, Sage!

I also want to say that Pepper Winters handled the attempted rape and the PTSD afterwards really well. I loved that we saw Elle still struggling with it three years later, and I think there is a really important discussion to be had on what strangers can take from us, even without invading our bodies, but just taking away our power and self-worth.

Seven Princes of the Thousand Year Labyrinth, Vol. 2 by Aikawa Yu & Atori Haruno

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Vol. 1 (Chapters 1 – 4): ★★★★★

“Blood is nothing but a liquid. It carries no miracles.”

Gosh, I am so addicted to this manga series. The basic premise of this story is that seven princes from seven different places of this land are trapped in a castle that was long forgotten. Now, the only people who talk about the Thousand Year Labyrith think about it as a fairytale. The boys are now forced to discover how to get out of this castle, with a whole lot of problems, traps, puzzles, and riddles adding to their problems. Oh, and there is constantly rising water increasing the difficulty of surviving, too!

All seven of these young men are not just princes of their land, but they are also masters/prodigies of a certain thing:
Laurence Ackroyd – Master of martial arts, unbeaten champion, and my soon to be husband.
Titus Ram – Leader of a band of thieves, has been living in imprisonment.
Messiah Reed – Master Detective, who captured Titus before this adventure.
Zan Audubon – Very beloved singer, who is also blind and never forgets a voice.
Gideon Redfield – Prominent public rights activist, was the front runner for the throne.
Amadeus Frockhert – Student body representative and top mathematics student.
Katherine/August Morgan – From the wealthiest merchant family, also keeper of this mysterious castle, and also harboring a pretty big secret.
Ewan Juno – The only non-prince, student from the island, typical normal/ordinary guy.

In Vol. 1 we discovered our first dead body, but in Vol. 2 we discover another in addition to learning about the treasure of a thousand years. Once discovered, it is said to also find a testament of the ruler, which will make the finder the controller of worlds.

In this volume we learn so much about the leader of thieves, Titus, and why he is not only in the castle with the other boys, but why he is so desperate to find this treasure. Seriously, I love Titus and this installment warmed my heart.

My only real complaint is that, despite being on the cover, we do not get to see much from my favorite character, Laurence, even though the main protagonist, Ewan, is always in search for him. Also, with the *extra* ending scene that is in this bind-up, I better not be getting queer baited here, because… I’m currently living for this ship. Be still, my heart.

Speaking of endings, Vol. 3 is going to be so highly anticipated! Like, I need it now and, more importantly, I need to find out who Othello Blackmore is. Is he the traitor or “the devil” or is he a helpless victim in all of this?

Again, if you’re a fan of the video game series Danganronpa then I think you’d really enjoy this. If not, then you should give this a try anyway because it’s a growing murder mystery surrounding seven hot princes who I’m pairing up and shipping like the world is ending. I love these characters and this story, and I recommend this with every bone in my body!

The Heart of Stone by Ben Galley

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ARC provided to me by author Ben Galley in exchange for an honest review.

The Heart of Stone is a very addicting read, with very heart filled characters that will make you question your empathy. It may also be the only book I’ve ever read that’s main protagonist is a Golem.

“A knight. A girl. A lord. A golem.”

Task is a Windcut Stone Golem, the last of his kind, and was solely made for killing, destruction, and war. Yet, Task has a soul, a heart, and feelings, no matter how hard he tries to suppress them. After being made and then sold from warmonger to warmonger for 400 years, unable to do anything but listen to his master’s orders, Task has been taught to turn his feelings off and never get close to anyone. That is, until a little girl teaches him that feeling things do not make you weak and everyone is capable of love and doing the right thing, always.

“Friendship was a dangerous thing for a golem.”

Lesky is a stable girl, carrying all the lessons her mother taught her, while still having a sharp wit and tongue. Lesky made this story for me. She was so wise beyond her years, yet still so vulnerable. She was the heart of this story, and she constantly broke mine while reading. Despite being young and being dealt such an unfair hand at life so early, she is so strong and capable. Lesky was everything in this story to me.

Besides Lesky, my favorite character was Alabast Flint, the Knight of Dawn. He has a preceding reputation from slaying a dragon in his youth, which has given him a lot of fame, which he has chosen to squalor in gambling halls and brothels. Now he has a drinking problem and owes some very scary people money. That is, until his debt is paid and he is recruited, maybe against his will, to kill a Windcut Stone Golem. It should be no problem since he’s killed a dragon, true?

Last, but not least, we have Lord Lash. I always get so disheartened when I read books surrounding war and none of the leaders are disabled in any way. This book gives you the representation and it feels so believable and authentic. Lash leads Last Fading, who has been winning this civil war for 9 years. That is, until the other side, the Truehards, purchase a Windcut Stone Golem named Task!

“You humans are fascinated by the death of your own kind. You bicker as an excuse to battle, caring not what damage it wreaks in the process. There will always be wars. And I will always fight them”

The main villain in this book is also so expertly written. I was constantly reevaluating and making up crazy theories, just trying to figure out whose side this person was on. The constant twists and turns with this character were nothing short of amazing, and the emotional journey I went on reading about them was pretty insane. Honestly, this was one of the best villains I’ve ever read about, and I’d love to know their complete backstory.

“History was a bloody mess, scraped up and strained into the books of the people who made the mess in the first place”

But even with the amazing characters, The Heart of Stone’s pacing is just so very slow. I was constantly getting fed breadcrumbs and promises for this huge civil war, but all I got was a few gory and violent snippets, but never any real war action. I also felt like the first 85% was very world building and character based, with drawn out promises of war, then that last 15% had everything coming at me really quickly, with a new promise of a brand new story line.

This book was still super enjoyable, and don’t get me wrong, the messages within this book were great and very important, but it made the almost 400 page book feel even longer. In addition to as much as I loved the characters and their growth, it just didn’t help the book and its constant war theme from not dragging. It also made for a very anticlimactic ending, which for sure leaves a foot in the door for additional stories in this world. (Which I totally would read!)

And I know there is a lot of world building to do in a standalone novel, but the magic system didn’t feel completely cohesive, either. I wish I knew more about Glimpses and Grims, and the full spectrum of their power. I feel like we were only privy to certain aspects, since old magic is banned in this world, but it left me with a lot of questions. Again, I know only so much be done with 400 pages, but with the down time of the war developments I feel like we could have learned more about the magical abilities in this world.

“Humans put far too much trust in their muskets. They wielded them like wizards’ staffs, as if just pointing and praying could solve any problem.”

Despite those two qualms, I really enjoyed this book and think it was a pretty strong stand alone. Plus, I love these characters and will cherish a few for days to come. I also love supporting independently published authors and I truly think this book is a gem of 2017’s fantasies. The Heart of Stone is unique and captivating, and has some really important messages inside of it.