Book Review: Captive Prince Trilogy by C.S. Pascat

Summary: After Damen’s half-brother takes his throne from him, he gifts him as a pleasure slave to the prince of an enemy nation. Caught in the middle of a manipulative court, Damen must hide his identity from Prince Laurent because if there is one person Laurent hates, it is the Prince of Akielos, Damen, who killed his brother in battle.

Thoughts: Ahhh, where do I even start? I love this book so much I’m thinking of rereading it right now as I type this review. The first book was really a 4/5 for me but by the end of the second one, I was more hooked than I was after the first. The plot follows Damen as he’s sent off to Vere as a slave to the manipulative and sadistic Prince of Vere, Laurent. There he struggles to hide his identity in a court full of violence and lies and constant manipulation and back-stabbing. *sighs* What’s not to love, right? Add to that combination the one and only villain of his kind – Laurent. I want to wrap Laurent in bubble wrap and hide him from the world. I have so much love for that well-developed psychopath. Both Laurent’s and Damen’s character growth is amazing for a series as fast paced as this. The world-building in this book is flawless. It feels like you’re reading a historical fic and not a fantasy novel. I won’t say more, because really, these books leave you speechless, but I highly recommend you read them. If you haven’t read many m/m fics, this and The Song of Achilles are really good books to start with. Of course the latter will leave you crying into a bucket, so I’d start with the Captive Prince Trilogy and then move to TSOA. Happy reading!
Stars: 5/5!!

Book Review: Wintersong by S Jae-Jones

Summary: When Elizabeth’s younger sister Kathe gets kidnapped by the Goblin King to become his Queen in the Underworld, Elizabeth sacrifices herself in exchange. But life as Queen of the Underworld and wife to the Goblin King is not as Elizabeth thought it would be. She soon finds herself falling in love with the Goblin King and creating beautiful music but it all comes at a price that is bigger than just her life.

Thoughts: This is the book I’ve wanted to read for so long but I didn’t even know it. Even though the stakes aren’t so high, the writing is transportive from the very first page. Elizabeth is such a flawed and relatable. She starts off being very level-headed and selfless as the big sister taking care of everyone, and I loved how I got to see the other side of her after she struck the deal with the Goblin King. Who also made it into one of my top ten favorite male characters list, coming a close fourth after Will Herondale. A very high honor in my book. But my favorite character in Wintersong is hands down: Constanze, the rude-mouthed, salt-spraying and superstitious grandmother who I really really missed once the story progressed into the Underworld and left Constanze behind. You would assume that the setting would get depressing once it shifted to the Underworld, but the opposite is true. It’s so rare that I find a book where a character is passionate, actually passionate, about something like Elizabeth is about music and composing music. Reading about it really brought all the underlying emotions to life and I’m pretty sure my ears have been opened. Wintersong is ultimately a story about the selfish and selfless things people do for love, and it’s such a dark and raw book full of amazing mythological beings and music that you can feel.

Stars: 4/5

Book Review: Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

Summary: After a failed assassination attempt on the day of her coronation, Crown Princess Rhiannon vows to reclaim her thrown and seek vengeance on the person who led to her family’s murder years ago. Alyosha is the star of a reality show and a war refugee who is framed for the alleged death of the Crown Princess Rhiannon. Both Alyosha and Rhiannon travel across the galaxy in search of answers.

Thoughts: I have so many mixed feelings about this book. For starters, it’s a beautiful blend of science-fiction and fantasy, with great and complex world-building that is boosted by a diverse cast of characters facing real-world problems (like being refugees and immigrants in a place they’re not wanted). The book is fast-paced and full of daring adventure and it’s this very thing that made it so hard to connect with the characters. There’s scarcely a moment where they stop running to take stock of themselves and one another. Everything is happening so fast, that by the end of the book, I was more familiar with the plot than the characters. There were a few things that I found repetitive like Rhiannon’s determination to seek vengeance. It just pulled me out of the story every time she mentioned it, and I think it reads repetitively because there was more “telling” than “showing” her need for vengeance. Despite what the blurb said, the fugitive and empress don’t actually join forces to do anything. The one scene where they met was when they spotted each other across a crowded room, for one second, and used each other’s presence to make their own individual escape. I was sort of let down by that because I kept waiting for them to cross paths and join forces. The big spoiler at the end wasn’t a spoiler, really. I saw it coming, and I think the ending would have been much stronger if it wasn’t so obvious. Nevertheless, Belleza’s prose was very beautiful and aside from characterization, repetitiveness and a sort of misleading blurb, this was an enjoyable read with great world-building and high stakes.

Stars: 3/5

Book Review: The Next Together by Lauren James

Summary: Set in alternating historical and future time periods, the story follows Katherine and Mathew as they are born again and again only to fall hopelessly in love every time before being tragically separated.

Thoughts: You know that feeling when you’re reading a book and every page is better than the one before and you can’t stop reading and you’re just following an upward trajectory of awesomeness but then you reach the end, and that trajectory slopes downwards so suddenly? That’s what it felt like. The book was so amazing, almost perfect enough to get five beautiful stars of awesomeness, but then the ending happened and I wasn’t satisfied with the answers I was getting. Despite that, this was a beautiful story about the power of love and its ability to transcend time and hardships. It was unlike any time-travel story I’ve ever read because of its focus on the romance more than the other aspects that kept pecking at my brain (time-travel, reincarnation – how is this happening?). Wanting the answers to these questions and wanting to reach a time period where Catherine and Mathew weren’t terribly separated, was another thing that kept pushing me to finish immediately. The story followed Mathew and Catherine through 4 different time periods, but they were woven together so flawlessly and the attention to historical detail was very well-done. The history geek in me has to praise this. As for the futuristic time-line, it read very realistically and a bit like modern-times rather than the super technological future you’d probably have in mind. Catherine’s voice was so real and funny that it lightened whatever dark and sad road the story was about to take. Overall, if you’re a fan of historical novels, or romance novels, or light sci-fi novels, then I highly recommend you read this book (it being a brilliant mashup of all these things). However, bear in mind that the ending may not go as far as you’d hoped.

Stars: 4/5

Book Review: Proxy by Alex London

Summary: Syd is Knox’s proxy, meaning that he will take the punishment for anything that his privileged patron, Knox, does. On the run from Knox’s father and the society that will have Syd pay for Knox’s infractions, they both flee across the country in hopes of finding a secret society of rebels where they can both find freedom.

Thoughts: This review is long overdue!! I read Proxy a while back, and ever since, I’ve been recommending it to anyone who asks me “what should I read?” and even buying it for my friends and forcing them to read it. This is one of my favorite books ever, and not only because of how awesome and well-written it is, or because it made me cry. This book brings to light such an interesting concept of debt and punishment and how whatever privileges you’re offered, there is someone out there paying the price for them. I loved Syd and Knox, even though I wasn’t a huge fan of Knox at the start. By the end, his character development was a perfect arc from rich-boy asshole to a human being ready to stand up and claim personal responsibility for his past and actions. Proxy is thought-provoking and action-packed and funny yet intense. I appreciated the racial diversity and the LGBT elements and I highly recommend you read this book. I’d go so far as to say it should be required reading for everyone. If you don’t know what a brain feels like when it cries, then you will after you’ve read Proxy. That’s all I’ve got to say. Happy reading!

Stars: 5/5

Book Review: Poison Princess by Kersley Cole

Summary: Despite the nightmares and hallucinations, sixteen-year-old Evie lives a pretty charmed life until the apocalypse decimates the world. She soon finds herself fighting alongside her “bad boy” classmate to survive, while journeying across the country to find her grandmother – who may or may not be alive – since she had once prophesied the apocalypse and Evie’s role in saving the world.

Thoughts: I really wanted to DNF after the first couple of chapters. The story wasn’t the kind of story I usually enjoyed reading, and Evie wasn’t my kind of heroine and I was very thrown off by the many cliches, mainly that of the “good girl crushes on bad boy” romance thing that was about to go down. Until the apocalypse hit, and I was so glad I didn’t DNF! I really ended up enjoying the story way more than I expected. So much so that Evie started to grow on me by the end and I was really sorry when the story ended the way it ended. Poor Evie, but excellent character development. As for Jackson, the bad boy love interest – what I loved most about him was that he was Cajun French. Not something I find a lot in YA. What I didn’t enjoy was the way that the Cajun French students were stereotyped in the book as poor, uneducated and rude. I understand they’re coming from the other side of the bayou, but really??? I couldn’t help but draw parallels to Gambit from the X-Men animated series at some points. Which I loved when it worked, not so much when Jackson fell short of the mark. He read like Gambit but without the charm and with extra spoonfuls of useless violence and anger. Despite all these things, the story has solid world-building and excellent pacing. If you make it past the first 30% of the book, and bear in mind that Evie will at some point stop sounding like an annoying spoiled brat, you will get to enjoy this book because the ending is worth it and the premise is actually very interesting despite the fact that some scenes made me laugh and roll my eyes.

Stars: 3/5

Book Review: Nemesis by Anna Banks

Summary: Princess Sepora escapes her kingdom and her cruel father only to find herself in the court of a rival kingdom and falling in love with the young king. She tries to hide the secret that could save his people from a fatal plague, but the cost will come at the price of her own kingdom.

Thoughts: Let me start by saying that I really really like Anna Banks as a writer and a person who I’ve never met, and her twitter account is one of my favorites. And I hate it when I end up not loving books by authors that I like and admire. I was expecting so much more action and much higher stakes from this story. Be prepared, because this is a statement I will be repeating a lot throughout this review. I read Banks’ previous series – Of Poseidon – and I really liked it. Awesome setting, original take on an old myth, swoon-worthy romance. Nemesis, however, started off at a very slow pace and then it fell steady without increasing. The writing was clear and to the point, but at the same time, some descriptions were lacking. The story took place in a vibrant and very intriguing world, but because the setting wasn’t fully described, I found it hard to visualize some places. Basically, while it was informative and packed with emotions, it was lacking in sensory detail. I felt Banks went easy on her characters, which is one of the reasons why the story wasn’t as action packed as I’d hoped. And the ending of the story was too easy for my liking. While I did enjoy reading this book at times, I’m not quiet sure I’d be picking up the next one unless the pacing really increases and the stakes become much much higher. If you liked Graceling or the Wrath and the Dawn, you might enjoy this book if you keep in mind that this isn’t a story with high stakes and perilous adventure with an added mix of dangerous court politics and a looming war. It’s more of a simple love story between a King and a Princess of rival kingdoms and the slow work they do to ensure that both their kingdoms don’t go to war against one another.

Stars: 2/5