The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1) by N.K. Jemisin

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This book is beautiful, this book is smart, this book is oh so heartbreaking, and this book is a masterpiece. This is one of those books that make you feel absolutely guilty for giving out five stars to other books. This book is unlike anything I’ve ever read, but it felt so seamlessly woven. This book mirrors the society we live in today and makes you think about all those uncomfortable topics you’d rather ignore and pretend do not exist. This book has the best representation I’ve ever read in a SFF novel. This book is deserving of all the hype, all the praise, and every ounce of love it’s received. This book easily is now one of my favorite books of all time.

“Let’s start with the end of the world, why don’t we?”

This story is set in a world called the Stillness, where earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and other terrible things impacting the earth are constantly happening, but there are people who are able to manipulate the earth to ease them. These people are called orogenes and even though they are continually saving the world they are constantly oppressed slaves. This world has convinced everyone that orogenes are dangerous and need to be controlled at all costs. It is illegal to harbor orogenes and you must turn them in, even if they are your family. The price of hiding a orogene is great and most people are not willing to pay it. If a orogene isn’t killed by their community before they are turned in, they are taken to a training school called the Fulcrum where they are deemed worthy enough to train

Everyone in the Stillness is trying to survive the world’s unforgiving environment. This planet is beyond unstable, because of Fifth Seasons that happens sporadically, but almost wipe out the planet each and every time. The people in this world are scared that a new Fifth Season is about to begin. And just so you understand the severe of the living conditions during a Fifth Season, here are some examples:

Choking Season – with volcanic eruptions which caused ash that, if it didn’t kill you from breathing it in, the lack of sunlight for five years would try to.
Acid Season – with plus-ten-level earthquakes, which caused many volcanoes that caused the water to become acidic.
Boiling Season – with hot spot eruptions that began underneath a great lake and made millions of gallons of steam which triggered acidic ran.
Fungus Season – with volcanic eruptions during monsoon season which made for perfect fungal spreading that wiped out major food supplies.

These are just a few of the season, and without orogenes this world wouldn’t be able to keep a new Fifth Season at bay. This book follows three different girls who are each struggling to survive this horrible world and struggling with their own individual journeys:

Essun – An older woman whose husband has killed their young son, because he showed that he was a orogene. He inherited his powers from Essun, but they were keeping it hidden from their community. Essun is now off to find her husband who fled after the murder and took their daughter with him.

Damaya – A small girl who realized she was a orogene after an accidental attack. Her family is isn’t willing to pay the price of harboring her, especially since her community now knows what she is. Her parents call the authorities and she is going to be taken to the Fulcrum, where they can train and use orogenes if they are trainable and submissive.

Syenite – A young woman who has lived the majority of her life at the Fulcrum being trained. At the Fulcrum, as you increase your learning and abilities you will earn rings that signify your power and allows you more privileges. Syenite has four rings, which is impressive in its own way, but she is now assigned to breed with the only ten ring around, so she can give the Fulcrum her child in hopes that it will be very powerful and very trainable.

“Orogeny is damned useful, Syenite is beginning to understand, for far, far more than just quelling shakes.”

Yet the side characters are amazing, too. Hoa, Alabaster, Tonkee, Innon, all of them, along side these three women, worked their way into my heart. This whole dystopian world that only wants to kill itself worked its way into my heart. This story is and these characters are truly one of a kind.

This book perpetuates so many healthy ideas absolutely seamlessly:
➽This book is unapologetically black and it’s something of beauty.
➽This book is about systematic oppression, set in an expertly crafted SFF novel.
➽This book has one of the best polyamorous relationships I’ve ever read.
➽This book has bisexual and gay representation that was perfection.
➽This book has a wonderful transgender side character who everyone accepts without question.
➽This book even celebrates found families and the importance of finding your own people that will love and accept you unconditionally.

“Home is what you take with you, not what you leave behind.”

This book creates so many parallels to the world we live in today. This book, hopefully, will make you think about your internalized racism and the prejudices that you hold without even realizing it. The reason so many of us think the way we do today, in 2017, is because our world has told us to think this way without even being given a chance to think differently. This book even has a fictionalized slur for orogenes that made my stomach turn every time I read it. This book is raw and painful at times, so very painful, but it’s such an important story. And I’m still unsure if I’ve ever read anything as sad as the node maintainers in all of my life. The Fifth Season isn’t just an amazing SFF novel, it’s a parallel to our world today, and I recommend everyone not only read this novel, but to open their eyes while reading this novel.

N.K. Jemisin did all this and wrote one of the best SFF stories I’ve ever read in my life. She deserves every award she won for this masterpiece, if not more. This book is deserving of all the hype, all the praise, and every ounce of love it’s received. This book easily is now one of my favorite books of all time and I can’t wait to read The Obelisk Gate.

“This is what you must remember: the ending of one story is just the beginning of another.”

Also, please go watch the best review of The Fifth Season ever created, by my all time favorite Booktuber, Adriana, from perpetualpages! Their review brings me to tears every time I watch it, and I hope my review plus theirs will make you pick up this powerful and important book with one of the best stories ever written.

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An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

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ARC provided by Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.

“You are like a living rose among wax flowers. We maybe last forever, but you bloom brighter and smell sweeter, and draw blood with your thorns.”

Let me preface this review by letting you all know that all I want in this life is to read books about the fae. Seriously, give me a rainy or snowy day, a big hot cup of tea or coffee, and a book involving anything to do with faeries and I’ll be a happy woman. I was completely captivated and entirely immersed in Margaret Rogerson’s debut novel, An Enchantment of Ravens.

This story is about a young human girl, Isobel, who is from a city, Whimsy, which lives in a constant state of summer. She is a very talented painter, who focuses on portraits for fair folk subjects from the fairy courts, and in return they grant her different enchantments. But she has to make sure the wording is precise, because the fae in this book are rather mischievous creatures that excel in trickery.

Isobel is very well known by the fae for her painting Craft. See, in this world, even though the fair folk are magical and immortal beings, they are unable to ever create. This means painting, drawing, writing, even tasks like cooking. And Isobel is the most talented and beloved painter among the fair folk. She has many regular fair folk clients, but her world completely changes when she gets a much unexpected message that she will soon be painting the prince of the autumn court, Rook. Isobel gladly accepts, but makes the deadly mistake of painting exactly what she sees, which is mortal sorrow in his eyes.

This simple and overlooked minor detail ends up making Rook look weak and all the fair folk to look down upon him. Rook then rushes back to Whimsy to collect Isobel herself, and together they embark on an adventure to right the wrong of painting human emotion on a fair folk that is supposed to feel nothing. That is, until Isobel and Rook start to develop stronger feelings for one another and they break the Good Law that the Adler King set in place, which states that a fair folk and a human can never love one another and that it will be punishable with death.

Besides Isobel trying to correct painting the emotion, while also trying to keep her emotions in control, we have the Wild Hunt that has fae beasts constantly after them, too. We also have the Green Well, which will change you into a fair folk with just one sip, but for a very high price in an artist’s eyes.

And right before our eyes, we get to see a beautiful story of sacrifice and love be painted. Also, this for sure has A Court of Thorns and Roses, by Sarah J. Maas, feels to it. I just seemed to be constantly reminded of ACOTAR while reading this story. Maybe it is because both stories star fae and take place for a majority in the spring court, but either way this feels like a YA ACOTAR, but Rook is way better than Tamlin.

This story held very true to fae folklore and mythology: the fair folk cannot lie, they have negative reactions to iron, they are very vain and very overly confident, they eat “interesting” food, and they wear glamour to hide what they truly look like underneath. I loved all of these aspects and the way they were seamlessly incorporated.

Isobel is an amazing female protagonist that I felt honored to read about. She was so selfless and was willing to do anything to protect her family. Also, she wouldn’t let anyone or anything interfere with her passion for art and it warmed my heart completely. She was so smart, so caring, and so determined. I loved her and she is easily one of my favorite characters of all time.

And Rook… Well, Rook was pretty exceptional as well. Yes, he was cocky and arrogant, but what fae court prince isn’t? Rook was easy to love, too, and he also has the power to shape shift and I was completely living for any scene with Isobel interacting with him as an animal. Especially one bed time scene in particular! (I promise, this sounds way more risqué that it really is.)

The side characters in this book were simply amazing, too. Lark, Gadfly, Aster, March, May, Emma, I loved them all. I can only hope that Margaret Rogerson does not stop creating stories set in this world. There is so much potential here, and I cannot wait to see what she does next.

My only real complaint is that I just never really believed, in my heart and soul, Rook and Isobel’s feelings for one another. I feel like it doesn’t make sense on either of their sides, either. Like, Rook was burned once before and Isobel had a family tragedy that made her very weary of all things fae in general. Yes, she spent a few weeks painting his portrait, but they even said they didn’t speak that much to one another. It was like a weird type of instalove, which never felt 100% authentic.

Yet, the true love story of this book, in my eyes, is the love between humans and being able to have an outlet to create art. I truly believe this story is a love letter to artists of all kinds, or people in general that can’t imagine a life without being able to create. I loved this underlying message, and I loved how Isobel never took her gift for granted, but instead used it as a solution to a problem multiple times.

This story was a gift to read. The imagery was expertly crafted, the prose was beautiful, the characters were fantastic, and the story was absolutely addicting. This three-hundred page stand alone YA fantasy is very fast paced, immersive, and very easy to read. I read this in two sittings and once I turned the last page my only wish was for more.

Also, can Charlie Bowater do more cover art now, because this cover is nothing short of breathtaking. And it’s a perfect match for the beautiful story that is inside. I completely recommend this upon release (September 26th, 2017) and I have nothing but high hopes for Margaret Rogerson and this stunning debut novel! I wish her all the success in the world and I selfishly hope she doesn’t leave this fae world anytime soon.

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The quote above was taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Because You Love to Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy edited by Ameriie

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Because You Love to Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy is a short story anthology that was curated and edited by the amazing, and so very talented, Ameriie. Seriously, Ameriie is an angel and I’m so thankful that she put this anthology together. I completely believe this collection will appeal to so many readers. I mean, these stories surround villains and their often misunderstood back stories, and then throw in some amazingly talented and popular authors, and then some of the most popular Booktubers around right now, and you truly have something different that many YA readers can appreciate and get excited over. It’s honestly genius and a great way to celebrate reading and the literary community in general.

There is a lot of controversy about whether or not these Booktubers “deserved” to get published, and I’m not here to start a war over that, but I will say that these people put a lot of work into their videos and have been doing it long enough to get pretty substantial followings. This book is going to sell a lot of copies, and for that alone it makes sense that they “deserve” to be published. I mean, capitalism exists in the book world, too.

I know many Booktubers don’t read as much as the average reviewer and I know many want to write their own books. I also know many people in the book community are upset the Booktubers don’t read the ARCs they are sent and I know many people dislike their paid promotions. I see these things, I truly do. But guess what? These Booktubers are human beings, who read your hurtful words, and are just accepting opportunities that the publishers are giving them. If you don’t like them, unsubscribe to them. If you don’t like their writing or their books then write a review saying why you don’t like their writing or their books.

Also, you all have free will. You don’t have to pick this book up. I’m a firm believer in “speaking with your money/wallet” and no one is making you support these people. And let’s be real, most the people who are complaining about this, will be complaining about people speaking up against harmful representation tomorrow. It’s okay to bash on Booktubers who don’t “deserve” to be published, but God forbid someone write a review on a book they’ve never read about how people from that culture are saying that the representation hurts their people.

Lastly, most Booktubers are aware of their privilege, and some of the people on this list use their platform for good discussions that I wish the book community would actually listen to. You guys know I always give my honest opinion, and you know I will with this review, too. I’m not going to judge the Booktubers I love and subscribe to differently than the Booktuber I’m not the biggest fan of. Also, I’ll even give you guys full disclosure on the Booktubers I love in my break down of each story.

Overall, this was actually a pretty strong anthology and it held a lot of really good stories that I would completely recommend, especially if you are a fan of these authors. Maybe it impressed me because I had my expectations set so low, but I truly closed this book happy that I read it.

My Favorite Story: Marigold by Samantha Shannon
My Favorite Prompt: Zoë Herdt’s (readbyzoe)
My Favorite Essay: The Bad Girls’ Guide to Villainy by Steph Sinclair and Kat Kennedy at Cuddlebuggery

With every anthology that I review I break down and rate each story individually. I just want to preface this breakdown by saying that I will be critiquing these stories and prompts and these essays. I also gushed a little bit about a couple of my personal favorite Booktubers. I’m sorry if I didn’t enjoy something that your favorite Booktuber prompted or that your favorite author wrote, but I hope you still respect my opinion(s) and understand that everyone has different tastes, especially with reading. I broke down and reviewed each story individually, while also giving each story its own star rating, and I gave my personal thoughts on every prompt.

Also, if you’d prefer to go into the anthology completely blind and unaware of any of the prompts, please do not continue reading any further. I won’t be giving any spoilers or anything like that, but while reading this book, the prompts come after you’ve read the story! So, again, you should not read this break down if you want your reading experience to be a complete surprise!

The Blood of Imuriv by Renée Ahdieh – ★★
• Prompt and The Evil Vaccine: Keep the Darkness at Bay by Christine Riccio at PolandbananasBOOKS

I was really disheartened that this was the start to this anthology, because I really didn’t enjoy this story at all. I mean, if I could get a full length story about this world I would probably read it, but I just personally feel that it didn’t make for that great of a short story. This story is about a boy, who is forced to sit by the sidelines and watch his sixteen year old sister get ready to one day rule. He obviously doesn’t like that and wishes that he could change the future he is destined to only watch from the sidelines. I’ll be honest, I really disliked the prompt and I even thought her essay thing was trying way too hard to be funny and it felt so forced and ended up being really unfunny. Also, making jokes and/or light hearted fun about vaccination just kind of feels bad anyways. Renée Ahdieh’s beautiful writing did shine through, and for that I gave it two stars, but I honestly did not enjoy this story what so ever. The best part was that it takes place in a matriarchal society. Also, I honestly and truthfully hate the Beatles.

Jack by Ameriie – ★★★
• Prompt and Giants and Tyrants by Tina Burke at Lushables

This story was better than the first and I loved Amerrie’s writing. Tina Burke’s idea to use a real life historical figure villain with an old classic fairy tale villain was beyond wonderful and so creative! I also loved Tina’s very thoughtful and informative part at the end. Her closing section was seriously one of the best in this entire book, and I loved reading it as much as I loved reading the story. This story is a never before seen take on Jack and the Beanstalk and it, too, does not disappoint. Amerrie wrote a completely captivating story that even made me laugh a few times.

Gwen and Art and Lance by Soman Chainani – ★★★
• Prompt and The Bad Girl Hall of Fame by Samantha Lane at Thoughts on Tomes

You guys need to understand that I tried really hard not to be biased here, but I love Sam! Like, she is such a bright shining light in this community, and I’m not sure what the book world has done to deserve her. Plus, she’s such a strong woman, whose aesthetic is beyond words, who loves video games, isn’t afraid to be critical of what’s popular, calls out problematic things, and is such an amazing analyst of books in general. Plus, when I think of book reviewers that love villains, I think of Sam. I knew her prompt was going to be nothing short of amazing. And her final thoughts with social media posts and comments were nothing short of brilliant. Her prompts spoke to me and my likes on every level and I am so happy for her and proud of her.

Also, this story was amazing. Just know, if you like or are just familiar with Arthurian legends about King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table you are going to enjoy this. And everyone knew that this would have Hades and Persephone elements because of Sam. Yet, I also would recommend this short story if you are a fan of Illuminae, because Soman Chainani has created an amazing story just in multimedia format via IMs. I know I gushed a lot about Sam, but Soman’s story unique and really enjoyable to read! Also, his villain was the perfect amount of grey that I’m always looking for.

Shirley & Jim by Susan Dennard – ★★★
• Prompt and Dear Sasha, the 411 for Villains by Sasha Alsberg at abookutopia

I also have a soft spot in my heart for Sasha. She just genuinely seems like such a little sweetheart to me, and she’s one of the few Booktubers on this list that I genuinely am excited for and want to read her published work. Also, her prompt was short, simple, and perfect.

This story just feels bad. Like, if Susan Dennard would have just wrote a Sherlock and Watson gender-bent love story people would have lost it and completely loved this. Instead she gender bends Sherlock and Watson so they can gush about Moriarty? Like, she could have just, you know, left Sherlock and Watson boys, and had Sherlock gush over Moriarty and people would have loved that too. Instead, we get this bad feeling, pointless gender-bend modern day version of Sherlock Holmes. It is extra sad, because this short story was pretty addicting. Also, it’s beautifully written, but it just feels so bad thinking of what could have been.

The Blessings of Little Wants by Sarah Enni – ★★★★
• Prompt and Will the Real Villain Please Stand Up? by Sophia Lee at thebookbasement

This story was so good. The prompt and the story were close to perfection. This story is about two witches that are trying to save magic. Half way through, these two characters were sitting in their common room, surrounded by books, I thought I was reading a much darker version of some kind of side quest in Harry Potter. Seriously, this short story is amazing.

Also, I already said Sophia’s prompt was perfection, but her essay at the end was what I wish everyone’s essay was like. It was informative, while making me think, and even pulled at my heartstrings a little bit. And I, too, want to know all of the things Sophia wants to know upon finishing this short story. Like, I hope they pair up again and give me at least a novella about Sigrid and the consequences of her choices.

The Sea Witch by Marissa Meyer – ★★★★★
• Prompt and Villain or Hero? You Decide! by Zoë Herdt at readbyzoe

The only complaint I have about this short story is that I wish it was a full length novel. Marissa Meyer is the queen of fairy-tale retellings for a reason, and Zoë was so very smart to give her an inspiration that plays to her strength. This book is a take on the sea witch from The Little Mermaid and it was everything I could have asked for and more. This short story also talks about loneliness in the face of only wanting love, and then betrayal when you only wanted to be accepted. Perfect villain, perfect messages, perfect story. Like, if you’re a fan of Marissa Meyer, this short story is a must read.

Also, Zoë is so sweet. How can anyone not love her? And her essay was so amazing as well. She really talked about a side of her life that I think so many people can relate to, even though I believe she is nothing close to a coward. I also loved her quiz, even though I ended up being a villain!

Beautiful Venom by Cindy Pon – ★★★★★
• Prompt and Without the Evil in the World, How Do We See the Good? by Benjamin Alderson at Benjaminoftomes

TW: Rape (very minor and nothing graphic, but it is there.)

This story was also perfection. I love the discussion on beauty standards and expectations, while even touching on the expectations of young girls to remain virginal. Also, this story probably has the most evil villain in this entire anthology, and the twist was so beautiful and nothing you’d expect in a Medusa remake. Also, now I want to read everything Cindy Pon has written.

I also am a pretty big fan of Ben, and his prompt was exactly what I wanted and expected from this anthology. Ben broke down different elements of the story and talked about some of his favorite parts. I wish all the Booktubers did this, instead of their “creative” things, because this flowed so well and just highlighted Cindy Pon’s story, while adding a great perspective.

Death Knell by Victoria Schwab – ★★★★★
• Prompt and Dear Death by Jesse George at JessetheReader

I had a pretty good feeling that VE Schwab would write one of the best stories in this anthology, no matter what her prompt was, and she didn’t disappoint. Her story made me so unexpectedly emotional, too. Like, I had tears on my cheeks through the entirety of this short story. I actually think this could be my favorite thing that VE Schwab has ever written. Seriously, if you’re a fan of her beautiful and mesmerizing writing, read this short story.

Jesse’s essay ended up hitting really close to home for me, too. It was really impactful and showed a vulnerable side of him that I really appreciated, especially surrounding the topic of death. I loved both parts of this collaboration.

Marigold by Samantha Shannon – ★★★★★
• Prompt and Evil Revealed by Regan Perusse at PeruseProject

Okay, I know I’ve handed out a ton of five stars in a row, but this short story felt like it was written for me. Her prompt had to do with a folklore story about a fae queen that kidnaps young girls in nineteenth-century London. If you follow my reviews, you know that this screams “Melanie”! I couldn’t not give this five stars, and Samantha Shannon weaves an amazing tale that balances whimsy and female empowerment. Like, I want an entire series surrounding this short story immediately.

I love Regan (and Matilda) and she, like Ben, broke down Samantha’s story with her thoughts and feelings, which made for such a wonderful transition that felt so right and cohesive. Also, I think she might be one of the few Booktubers that is not planning on writing a book, which is a damn shame, because her writing is absolutely fantastic. This was, hands down, the best written thing from any of the Booktubers, and I even enjoyed it more than some of the actual stories written by published authors in this anthology. Regan is so talented, and it shined so brightly through with her essay. Oh, and her prompt was the second best of the entire collection, too. Regan gets all the stars!

You, You, It’s All About You by Adam Silvera – ★★★★
• Prompt and Behind the Villain’s Mask by Catriona Feeney at LittleBookOwl

I really enjoyed this story, and it felt so much different than the rest of the anthology, in a good way. Also, teenage girl crime lord that wears a mask made from the old skin of her abusive father? Like, please, allow me to buy this full length novel. Also, the different drugs that Adam’s main character dealt were so interesting. They were all so inventive and I honestly wish I knew even more. This was a really strong story and I think many people would really enjoy this one.

I didn’t really care for Catriona’s essay on different masks. It wasn’t terrible or anything, but it, again like many of the others, made my reading experience feel disjointed after I read Adam’s beautiful story.

Julian Breaks Every Rule by Andrew Smith – ★★★
• Prompt and Julian Powell: Teen Psycho Extraordinaire by Raeleen Lemay at padfootandprongs07

I enjoyed this story well enough, and it definitely made you want to keep turning the pages to see why Julian cannot for the life of himself get in trouble for his mysterious powers of willing people to die. I almost thought the prompt was going to have to do with Death Note, but it was just a generic prompt about psychopaths in the future. I did like how this story bordered on not knowing if Julian really had these powers, or if he just thought he did. Being in an unreliable narrators mind is always a fun thing to read about, and I feel like Andrew Smith did a really good job executing that.

I’m not sure if she creates Booktube videos anymore, which, I’m not going to lie, feels pretty bad, because I know there are so many active Booktubers out there that would have loved to be a part of something like this. Obviously I didn’t hold that against her prompt, but I also won’t lie that I felt a little disheartened when I looked up her channel and saw she hasn’t posted a “Booktube” video in five months and that she’s only posted three videos in all of 2017.

Indigo and Shade by April Genevieve Tucholke – ★★★★
• Prompt and Glamorized Recovery: Expectations vs. Reality by Whitney Atkinson at WhittyNovels

Whitney is the other Booktuber (please don’t quit, even though I totally understand and support you if you do) on this list that I’m a huge fan of, and if you know me at all you know that I love Whitney from WhittyNovels so freakin’ much. Her and her snapchats, filled with puppers, make my day so much better, and she is such a precious little cinnamon roll that needs to be protected at all costs. She is, hands down, my favorite Booktuber from this list, and if you guys haven’t checked her out before, please do yourself a favor and go do so immediately. Also, I’m pretty sure she’s the reason half of Goodreads has read Shatter Me.

Anyways, her prompt had to do with Beauty and the Beast and it was magnificent. I’ve never read anything by April Genevieve Tucholke before, but her writing was fantastic and so engrossing. I was instantly pulled into this retelling that somehow merged Bell, the Beast, and Gaston all into one. Like, I can’t explain it without spoilers, but it was very well done. I love the whimsical in this, I loved the feministic undertones, and I loved the ending.

Sera by Nicola Yoon – ★★★★
• Prompt and The Bad Girls’ Guide to Villainy by Steph Sinclair and Kat Kennedy at Cuddlebuggery

This story is a look into a child’s life, and why she is “evil”. The look at each time period was a little boring at first, but when I got to the present day part? Oh, boy, it was amazing and such a powerful story to end this anthology on. I really enjoyed it, and I want to know everything about Sera and where life is going to take her now. Also, the prompt was “Gender-Flipped God of War” and when I read those words I actually got Goosebumps. Plus, Steph and Kat’s essay was also perfectly executed with feminism and just the glory of being a strong woman. It was also funny while also talking about some powerful and real situations in today’s world. I loved it. Easily the best prompt in this entire collection. Praise and bless all three powerful women that collaborated on this story! Wonderful story and a wonderful prompt.

I gave Because You Love to Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy 4 stars overall, because out of a possible 65 stars (5 stars possible for each of the 13 stories) this collection accumulated 50 stars (83%).

I won’t lie; the added essays, or whatever it is you want to call them, didn’t add much to this book. Sometimes they actually felt really disjointed and sort of took me out of the groove of reading this book. I really wish they would have only done the prompts, and I think that would have made for a much more cohesive read.

I went into this anthology apprehensive and only truly buying it to support some of these Booktubers who I really love, but I came out of this really impressed and happy with my purchase. Again, I completely understand why some people have no desire to support this, but if you enjoy some of these authors then their stories are totally worth the purchase. I am wholeheartedly impressed and would completely recommend this anthology.

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The Bronze Horseman (The Bronze Horseman #1) by Paullina Simons

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“At the start of war, on June 22, 1941, the day Alexander met Tatiana, there were three million civilians in Leningrad. When the Germans blockaded the city on September 8, 1941, there were two and a half million civilians in Leningrad. In the spring of 1942 a million people remained.”

This is a historical romance that takes place during World War II in Leningrad, Russia, and even though the characters are fictional, the events are very, very real. I’m not going to lie; this was a really hard book to read. I was crying, or at least tearing up, throughout most of it and I’m eternally grateful that I had Paloma to buddy read this with me, because I read most of this book with a very heavy heart.

The Bronze Horseman starts out with our main protagonist, Tatiana, and her family living in Communist Russia and first hearing the declaration of war. Her family, who lives in a two bedroom communal living space, gives her the task of collecting some food while they are trying to ensure her twin brother’s safety. While Tatiana is out and trying to actually find some food, she meets a soldier who will forever change her and her family’s life. And honestly, the beautiful, yet frustrating, story unweaves from there.

This book is one of the most atmospheric books I’ve ever read, too. Sometimes I was so enthralled and happy to see all the beautiful places that Tatiana and Alexander would go. Other times I felt cold, I felt hungry, and I felt so very sad. I quickly and wholeheartedly began to love Tatiana, though, and I still want to protect her at all costs.

This book is not an easy book to read, I won’t lie. It’s about loss, a whole lot of loss, and deception and the price that people are willing to pay to survive a war. (Trigger Warnings: abuse (physical, verbal, emotional), grey area consent, and talk of suicide.) Yet, there are also a lot of good messages about the power of love and hope and perseverance in the face of any and everything trying to kill you. This book is about getting up when you don’t think you can. This book is about sacrificing for someone who can’t. This book is about how loving someone isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but sometimes it’s the only thing you can do. But, again, this book is heavy and I totally understand it not being for everyone.

This book also does feature a pretty unpopular trope, which is commonly known as “the other woman” trope. Basically, the male love interest in this book does have sex with another woman throughout. In my opinion, it’s as tastefully done as it can be, while also giving the reader a lot of angst that makes the book unable to be put down, but I completely understand how this would be a major turn off for many readers, therefore I think it’s very important to note. Also, the other woman is extremely close to the main female protagonist, so it feels extra bad.

This being said, Tatiana is everything and needs to be protected at all costs and Alexander can go jump off a cliff for a lot of this book. Again, I love angst and it helped that the other woman was incredibly dislikeable throughout the majority of this book, too.

“I told her it wasn’t a good idea to fall in love with a soldier. All they do is break your heart.”

I’m also not going to say that Tatiana and Alexander’s relationship isn’t toxic, because it is. Alexander doesn’t make the best choices along the way. Yet, I will also say that this book has a WWII setting, where cities are toppling and people are dying all around them. I will never defend how Alexander handles his relationships, regardless of what Tatiana asks of him, but I guess I’m just really going to focus on this being fiction and not real life. Just like when I rate and review erotica, I’ll always say that the relationships, despite how sexy and hot they are, aren’t the most healthy of relationships. Well, the same thing can be said about The Bronze Horseman, and all the negative reviews surrounding their relationship are completely valid.

I will also be the first to say that Alexander and Tatiana have an uneven power balance. First, he’s older than her by five-ish years, which normally isn’t that big of a deal, but Tatiana is only seventeen and has literally no experience with men, where Alexander is open about his promiscuities from his past. Yet, more importantly, Alexander is a high up ranking officer in Tatiana’s city’s military. He is literally there to save them, obviously that is going to make it increasingly difficult for Tatiana, a younger, inexperienced, poor girl, who is treated horribly at home, to say no to him. On top of the fact that Tatiana goes from an unhealthy relationship with her entire family, to an unhealthy relationship with Alexander.

Tatiana and Alexander’s relationship is all about love, but it’s not all about romance. My friend Gelisvb and I were talking about this book and Tatiana and Alexander’s relationship and she said, “Love makes you renounce things you love and makes you who you are. Love has a terrible price. A price that is too high.” and that is so true of this tale. Tatiana pays a huge price to love Alexander, but that price also saves her very own life. Plus, it feels authentic and realistic and there is so much beauty in that.

Tatiana survives with only love and hope and perseverance to keep her alive. She survives against all odds, and this book beautifully portrays that. For everything negative I can say about Alexander, I will say a million things positive about Tatiana. Just go into their love story knowing it’s not perfect, but that Tatiana will continue to amaze you every step of the way.

Paullina Simons is truly a master storyteller. Her words are perfect, and she has created two imperfect, but real, characters that have completely mesmerized me. I was so immersed in this book, this world, and even this heartache. Then I read her family’s personal story in the afterward for this novel, and I felt so much for her. Seriously, what an amazing and talent strong woman. I feel so blessed to have had read her beautiful story, that I will never forget.

“When Tatiana looked up from her ice cream, she saw a soldier staring at her from across the street.”

I don’t read many historically set books, fiction or nonfiction, and I definitely haven’t read that many books surrounding WWII, but one of the most impactful and powerful books I’ve ever read in my entire life is All But My Life: A Memoir by Gerda Weissmann Klein. It was required reading in school, and then she actually came to my school and we were able to meet and talk with her for a bit. She was every inspirational word I know, and I’ve never put on a pair of warm winter boots and not thought of her. The Bronze Horseman is nothing like Gerda’s real life journey, but reading some of the scenes in this book flooded my senses with memories and thoughts of Gerda. And if you liked the historical WWII aspects of The Bronze Horseman, but didn’t care much for the romance, and would like to read a heartbreaking firsthand account of someone from Poland’s real life journey through WWII, please give All But My Life: A Memoir a try.

Finally, I read this book slowly, while savoring everything! This book is hailed as many of my friend’s favorite of all time, so I wanted to write a review that did this tale justice. I decided to break down each part of this story with my thoughts and feelings. This part of the review is going to be filled with spoilers! Please do not continue if you haven’t read this book and/or do not want to be completely spoiled!

PART I: The Lucent Dusk, The Field of Mars, Uncharted Tides, Smoke and Thunder, Impaled in Space

This part, for me, was the “protect Tatiana at all costs” part. Yes, I was completely freaking out that she wasn’t taking the declaration of war seriously, and that she was just sitting at home reading instead of getting the food her family asked her to get, but that was before I realized what assholes her entire family were. That ice cream cone she chose to get, while ignoring the severity of the situation, ended up saving her life. Please, my heart.

I really loved Alexander right off the bat, even though my feelings did change throughout this part. I even felt bad for Dasha, Tatiana’s sister, at first, because it’s not like she knew what was going on. Meanwhile, Alexander did know he was seeing someone, so like, that’s all on him. And Dasha added so much angst to the story, even though Alexander, no matter what seventeen- year- old Tatiana said, should have just ended his relationship with her. Also, every time Tatiana had to go on the roof, my heart broke and my hate for Alexander grew and grew.

Tatiana’s loyalty to her sister and her shitty family was so admirable. Even though she constantly ripped out my heart, I loved how she always somehow ended up being so selfless. She made choices at seventeen that would be difficult for me to make in my late twenties. Seriously, I love Tatiana completely.

I was constantly hoping and praying that Tatiana would just leave with her grandparents. I knew it wouldn’t fit in the story, but I was seriously wishing. The child abuse, both verbal and physical was heartbreaking to read. I also knew Pasha was a dead man as soon as their family sent him away. I held so much pain for Tatiana with all the horrible things her family would say about her. I completely lost my mind when she went searching for her twin brother.

Alexander saving Tatiana was so beautiful. Again, I still overall dislike him in this part, but that rescue mission was so damn romantic, especially when boys nowadays can’t even text back. This man got a squad together, entered a war zone, and dug through buried bodies to find Tatiana. Like, I can’t think of a more romantic thing I’ve read, honestly. And that kiss, good Lord, that kiss.

But to juxtapose it, Dimitri is the worst and I still don’t even understand why Alexander wouldn’t deal with him accordingly, but instead kept bringing him around Tatiana. I understand that he knew of Alexander’s American past, and that his family were considered Soviet Union traitors, but, like, he knew Dimitri had terrible intentions with the supposed girl he loves more than anything.

PART II: Winter’s Fierce Embrace, Beset and Besieged, Night Sank Down, Peter’s Darkened City, Fortress Pieces, Across That Formidable Sea

This part, for me, was the “I’ll never complain about cold and/or hunger again in my life” part. Like, this part had to be one of the saddest things I’ve ever read in my entire life. My heart and soul wasn’t prepared for that much death.

The grandfather that left made me sorry, Anton made me mournful, the grandmother that was there made me sad, the cousin made me heartsick, the mother made me weep, Dasha broke me. For all the shit I talked about her constantly, it broke me. I also felt like she just gave up her will to live after finding out that Alexander probably loves Tatiana, and then that information just broke me more. And Tatiana giving her the pills, the bread, and even her own breath at the make shift military hospital? Oh, that really, really, really broke me. When Tatiana told Dasha, “I love you more” I just felt my heart shatter.

This part made me so sorrowful, and so very thankful that I was able to be born in America, so thankful that my family was born in America, and so thankful that my ancestors were able to make it to America. I have so many blessings and privileges just because of where I was born, and even though this book is fiction, their situation in Leningrad was so very real. Any character from this book could have been my great grandparent(s) and their death could have made my existence not possible. This part of The Bronze Horseman is heartbreaking, but so impactful.

PART III: Lazarevo, Scenting Spring, Desolate Waves

This part, for me, was the “oh my gosh, they are having sex again” part. This part was so steamy and so romantic, for the most part. Again, Alexander said and did a few questionable and problematic things, but besides that handful of things this part was so absolutely delightful to read about. And that damn white dress with the red roses is going to haunt my dreams, I swear. And I’m a firm believer that more couples need to invest in a potato counter now.

I loved the little fishing village that Tatiana eventually made it to, even though I wish both of her grandparents could have been alive to see her make it to them. I didn’t like how Tatiana is treated like the maid for the woman that she helps, but it makes complete sense coming from her family and the abusive behavior that Tatiana has known her whole life. Mostly, I just loved that Tatiana wasn’t alone and that she proved time and time again that she was strong enough to survive.

I also loved that Tatiana and Alexander got married, but I felt a little weirded out about the rings being made from Dasha’s teeth. Yet, I do think there is some very important symbolism there. And most importantly, I loved their little love shack of a cabin. I didn’t want to leave this part of the book, because I knew that part III was lulling me into a false sense of security.

PART IV: In Live Defiance, Worn Out with Terror and Misgiving, A Window to the West, In Storied Battles, In the Moonlight’s Pallid Glamour

This part, for me, was the “please just fucking kill Dimitri already” part. Like, how much more of an asshole does he have to prove he is? I mean, it’s war time in the 40’s; kill him. I honestly can’t believe he ruined everything, and even his death didn’t bring me satisfaction.

On the positive, Alexander really stepped up at the end of this and truly acted like the hero the book claimed him to be from the get go. I am just over here theory-crafting how in the hell is Tatiana going to be reunited with him in book two, Tatiana and Alexander! I mean, it would have ripped my heart out, but this book actually has a pretty decent ending on its own. Heartbreaking, but I actually did feel full closure while crying my eyes out.

“Some words were like that. Whole lives attached to them. Ghosts and lives and ecstasy and sorrow.”

(A breathtaking WIP by Stephanie! Please go check out her Instagram and BookTube. She is so talented that I actually become speechless looking at her art. I honestly picture Alexander, Rhysand, and so many more the way I do because of her talent.)

This entire book just makes me exhausted. I was on such an emotional roller coaster while reading this, and I’m not sure if I would have even been able to make it without Paloma. This book literally made me feel pure bliss and then pure agony just by turning the page. I was all over the place reading this, but I honestly loved most every moment.

This book truly transported me, and touched me in ways I can’t explain unless you’ve read this beautiful story, too. This is truly an unforgettable book, and I cannot wait to start Tatiana and Alexander and to see if it can hold up to everything The Bronze Horseman was. The Bronze Horseman was easily not only one of the best book I’ve read in 2017, but it is one of the best books I’ve read in my entire life.

“Good-bye, my moonsong and my breath, my white nights and golden days, my fresh water and my fire. Good-bye, and may you find a better life, find comfort again and your breathless smile, and when your beloved face lights up once more at the Western sunrise, be sure what I felt for you was not in vain. Good-bye, and have faith, my Tatiana”

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A Fading Sun (The Sunpath Cycle #1) by Stephen Leigh

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ARC provided by Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.

“The problem with ghosts is that they don’t quite realize they’re dead.”

A Fading Sun is a paranormal, yet spiritual, revenge story that really displays the consequences of war. Our main protagonist, Voada, is from a tribal clan that was long conquered by the Mundoans. Now, Voada lives among them, in a place of power, where many of the less fortunate defeated people work as servants and slaves. Voada married a Mundoan man who is kind, and gentle, and everything she could ask for in a husband. Together they made two children who they love more than life itself. Yet, Voada never forgets the way of her ancestors and she has a gift that constantly reminds her of her roots.

Voada can see and communicate with ghosts. It is a family trait that she must keep hidden from all the Mundoan people. Voada will help these lost souls find their path so they are not stuck lingering in our world. The gift she has is easy to keep secret, until she meets a ghost who she is unable to communicate with, because it wants to help her find a new path.

Then one frightful day, Voada has no choice but to follow the ghost who is unlike any other she’s met before. Voada’s life changes completely while she is trying to learn the gift from her defeated people. All while a new war is beginning to ensure that the clans will never rise up and defeat the Mundoans. Voada is forced to take a side, learn more about her gifts, and fight, or lose everything she’s ever loved.

Trigger warnings: graphic violence and promises/threats of rape.

This story wasn’t bad by any means whatsoever. In fact, I really enjoyed the first third of this book and didn’t want to put it down. Unfortunately, once Voada began her journey, my interest declined and continued to decline until the last few chapters of the book. If what I said above interests you, you will probably totally enjoy this; it just wasn’t for me for some reason.

“Hearts are fickle muscles. They can lead you to be rash and too quick”

Punk 57 by Penelope Douglas

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“Alone, Empty, Fraud, Shame, Fear”

Punk 57 is such a unique romance between two people who have only ever known each other as pen pals. Both of our main protagonists, Misha and Ryen, have gender neutral names, which caused them to be paired together, from different schools, seven years ago. Now they are both eighteen, and have both agreed never to add or look up each other on any form of social media or no exchanging numbers, but they continue to write letters and have no plans of quitting.

Until one night, when Misha, at a party, accidently finds out what Ryen looks likes and approaches her, even though she has no idea who he really is. Misha soon realizes that Ryen is much different from her letters, yet he still finds himself completely mesmerized by the girl he has fallen in love with through letters over the past seven years. That is until Misha leaves the party and his life changes forever.

We are then flash forwarded three months and Ryen hasn’t received anything in the mail from Misha. She is desperate to find out what happened and to make sure he is okay, but she finds herself having problems in her senior year of high school. Her friends all secretly hate her, she doesn’t know how to tell the most popular boy in school no, and now she has to deal with a new student that is making her life nothing short of hell. Ryen needs Misha more than ever, but she is desperate to find any outlet she can find.

Like, I’m getting old, guys. Reading romances set in high school isn’t my favorite now days. I’m old, I’m bitter, I’ve been graduated from college for a while now, and I just can’t find myself completely immersed and loving high school romance anymore. This being said, If I read this when I was 18, I would have been obsessed and hailed it as my favorite book of the year. Hell, being in my late 20’s I will easily and confidently say this is a great book, with some important messages, but the high school setting plus a few other things just made it fall a little short for me.

Also, this book can be a little hard to read. Like, I always review romance and erotica differently than I review other literature, but that’s not to say I won’t talk about the uncomfortable topics. First off, Ryen has a very hard time telling the most popular boy in school the word “no”. Even though there is no sex involved, some grey areas of consent are for sure present and abundant. Also, trigger warnings for homophobia, bullying, drug abuse, and depression.

Next, even though there are important topics like surrounding yourself with people and friends who love and accept you for who you are; it’s a rough journey for Ryen to get there. The result is some girl hate in this book, and maybe even some slut shaming. Also, even though the author never makes this behavior seem acceptable, there is a lot of homophobic slurs in this book, towards one side character in particular. Again, I’m just noting this because it did make the story less enjoyable for me.

Lastly, Misha and Ryen have a very big hate to love relationship. Or, I guess love to hate to love relationship. Like, Misha is downright a bully to Ryen in this book. I think this is important to know going in, because I know that trope isn’t for everyone, even though I personally really do enjoy it.

Besides those things Penelope Douglas has truly crafted a romantic tale unlike anything I’ve read before. I’m such a sucker for books about letters and writing, I love musicians, and some of the sex in this book is the best I’ve ever read. Plus, I actually think she wrote her hate to love storyline better than anyone else I’ve ever read. She did it cruel, yet emphatically. Hard to read, yet unable to look away. Heartbreaking, yet absolutely beautiful.

Punk 57 is truly a story about finding your tribe or just where you truly belong. High school is hard, and when you’re at that age it feels like it will never get better, but I promise you it will. I’ll be the first one to say I’m nothing like the girl I was in high school, but that doesn’t make living through those years any easier. It’s important to know you are worthy of love, no matter what, and that there are genuine kind souls out there that will show you that unconditional love. To me, that’s what the heart of this book was about, and for that alone I would completely recommend it.

“It gets better, you are important, and you can’t be replaced. Hang on.”

The writing was great, the romance was perfection, the story was completely unique, and the messages were super important. I really enjoyed this, and I can’t wait to read more by Penelope Douglas.

The Red by Tiffany Reisz

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

I just want to wish all of my friends and followers a very Happy Fourth of July! I am so very thankful for all of you and all of your support, always. I hope your day is safe and filled with love, family, friends, and good books!

And what better way to start celebrating America’s independence than by writing, or in your case reading, a review for an erotic romance book! I really enjoyed The Red and it was just the fast paced, pallet cleanser I needed after reading so much high fantasy these past few months!

“Long ago I made a deathbed promise. I need you to help me keep it as I’m helping you to keep yours. I promise, you will understand in time, Mona. You’ll understand it all.”

The Red stars a twenty-five-year-old girl named Mona, who owns an art gallery, The Red Gallery, which was left to her by her mother. Her mother very tragically passed of cancer, and her dying wish was for Mona not to ever part with her beloved art gallery, which is a request that Mona wants to honor more than anything, but her mother also left her half a million dollars in debt.

Mona thinks she has no choice but to sell the art gallery, until a strange, mysterious, and, let’s be real, extremely handsome man shows up one night and proves he has a vast knowledge about art. After helping Mona discover she has a hidden masterpiece on her hands, he makes her an offer she gladly accepts: Mona will spend one night every one or two months with the man of mystery, where he can take or give as much pleasure as he wants from her, for an entire year. After each visit he will pay her in with an amazing work of art, and after their year is up the total of the art will accumulate to one million dollars.

“The devil wants your soul. I only want your body”

The best part about this arrangement? Mona wants to blatantly have sex with this man. She even tells him that he doesn’t have to pay for something they both want. This story never feels forced or rapey or like he has her backed into the corner. Mona makes this deal willingly and with a smile on her face. In fact, she can barely contain herself each month with waiting for him. I loved this touch on the story, and it really made for a much more enjoyable read than the alternative.

Oh, and each time they meet up he shows her a new painting that he would like them to recreate. Like, actual famous paintings that we know about in today’s world: Olympia by Edouard Manet, Nymphs and Satyr by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Dora and the Minotaur by Pablo Picasso, and many others. I loved this touch too much! It was so unique and I could barely contain myself from reading all the chapter titles in the table of contents!

And my absolute favorite part of this book was when Mona and her mystery man would go into her gallery’s back room to recreate one of these famous masterpieces. You guys know I’m primarily a high fantasy reader, and every time Mona walked through that door to begin the reenactments it was like walking into a brand new world. All these scenes seriously read like a portal fantasy, and I was so entranced learning all about the new environment that Mona would be spending time in, whether it be a forest, or a prison, or an auction house.

I loved the discussion on safe sex. I know it’s not as appealing to read erotica where the guy puts on a condom every other page, so I loved how our main protagonist discusses her fears and hesitation on not using a condom and makes sure she establishes an equal and safe playing field before she has sex. I also loved that she went to the hospital and got tested anyways afterwards. There is some really good and realistic commentary on sex in this book and I completely loved it.

“You shouldn’t let a man shake your hand for less than a hundred dollars, Mona.”

There is also wonderful discussions constantly about sex work and how it is nothing to feel shame about or over. In today’s world we also belittle and ridicule the women that choose to sell their bodies, not the men that are paying. It’s disgusting, and I loved how this book embraced the power that women have when choosing what they want to do with their bodies, no matter what that choice is.

“The art world didn’t care about young women selling their bodies. They only cared if someone dared to break their rules of composition, of acceptable subject matter. You could show a naked woman hiding her face or lying supine and limp as a wet rag. God forbid he paint a girl who dared them to look her in the eyes”

There is only one case of judgmentally slut shaming, and Mona puts that person back in their lane very quickly and rewardingly, yet it is still there. She then brings up the fragility of men’s egos and how they can’t accept or understand when they are not enough for a woman. The particular man in this book lashes out verbally and physically, instead of trying to learn, understand, and compensate. It was the worst part in this book, and I think this story would have been ten times better and stronger without that scene. Also, TW: physical and verbal abuse and grey area sex that can be taken or seen as rape.

Also, the word “whore” is used a lot in this book. Like, a lot a lot. It’s always used as a sexy, steamy, term of endearment, except for the one dude I mentioned in the paragraph above this one, but it’s still very prevalent and I can totally see how it would turn many readers off.

And for the love of all that is good in the world, please stop using the word “organ” to describe a man’s penis. Like, I get it, there isn’t that many good alternatives, but reading “organ” over and over and over again, sometimes three times on the same page, just was tedious and I couldn’t deal. Like, I know this is also just a personal preference, but please just say dick or cock or *gasp* penis. I honestly never wish to read the word “organ” again, ever.

This all being said, I will emphasize that this book is obviously an erotic book. I’m talking E-R-O-T-I-C! Like, maybe the most erotic book I’ve ever read! I’m actually pretty sure that I have never read any book that has had as many different erotic elements as this book has! Like, it has it all, and I truly mean it all: contract agreement sexual relations, Dom and sub relationships, role-playing, unprotected sex, edging (orgasm control), group sex, threesomes, voyeurism, pain play, fisting, half-man and half-beast sex, sexual sacrifice/offering, nursing, breeding! So, please go into this knowing that all these elements are present, especially if anything I listed makes you uncomfortable. I will say that everything Tiffany Reisz does is very tastefully done, but I completely respect that certain things are not everyone’s cup of tea, too.

The other thing I will say is that the ending sort of makes you feel… questionable. I don’t want to say anything more, because this book is a fantastical mystery that is probably best to go into blind, but it left me feeling a little uneasy at the end. The ending felt rushed, forced, and like it could have been way better with an additional chapter added on to it. I still really enjoyed this story, and it was such a quick and fast paced read, that constantly made me question what is real and what is make believe, but I suppose I just felt like the ending was rather lackluster.

I read Tiffany Reisz’s The Siren (The Original Sinners #1) back in the day and absolutely devoured and loved it. Again, she pushes the envelope and plays with taboo subjects, but I completely recommend that book from the bottom of my perverted heart as well. But, I do believe that the main character of that series, Nora Sutherlin, is supposedly the writer of The Red, which is a super cool touch and makes for an even more unique reading experience.

And at this point, I will honestly read any and everything that this woman creates. I love how she writes about sex in a manner that never makes anyone feel shame or embarrassment, just embracement and power. I love reading about characters that unapologetically love sex, and Tiffany Reisz truly is the queen of this. Her stories are just so unique and a breath of fresh air from all the other erotic stories I’ve read lately. I truly wish more people would give her and her very different erotic romances a try, especially if you enjoy BDSM. Also, I now need to be on the lookout for an antique brass bed.

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.