The Lucky Ones by Tiffany Reisz

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ARC provided by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.

“She’d known nothing but love here, nothing but kindness. But someone must have left a door open a crack and evil had snuck in when no one was looking.”

I really enjoyed this book. Tiffany Reisz is one of my favorite erotic writers of all time. Seriously, The Siren (The Original Sinners #1) was a huge part of my sexual awakening, I swear. I also read The Red by her last year, and really enjoyed. All of her books are so sex positive, and I just love the woman in general. But The Lucky ones is a book unlike anything else she has ever created.

The Lucky Ones is a dark, mystery, thriller that stars a girl trying to discover what truly happened to her thirteen-years-ago. Allison’s mother died when she was very young, so she was put in foster care where she did not have the easiest of times. But one day, a man comes and takes her away and she joins his family. His family consists of a few other fosters kids, three of which he has officially adopted; Roland, Deacon and Thora. And they live in this beautiful home that they call “The Dragon” that is right on the Oregon coast.

“Sometimes you slay a dragon. Sometimes you cut off its head and three more grow in its place.”

Dr. Vincent Capello is a very famous brain surgeon who has saved many kids. His parents also had a sad backstory, so he has devoted his life to saving kids, and giving some of them a safe place to live. Yet, thirteen-years-ago Allison’s distant aunt got a mysterious call from someone claiming that Allison was going to be murdered. Then, Allison was pushed down their stairs, and by doing so she hit her head and cannot remember who pushed her. Allison’s aunt immediately came and got her, and Allison spent the rest of her childhood living with this aunt in a nursing home, but she always was left with a void from missing her adoptive family, but also wondering who had tried to hurt her.

Flash forward thirteen years, and Allison has been sleeping with a very rich, successful, powerful, and much older man for the last six years. The affair started when she was only nineteen-years-old and in return, he has made sure she has lived a very comfortable life. Allison has always wanted more than to be his mistress, but she has always been scared to ask for it. But now the man is cutting it off, and Allison is left feeling alone, just like how she felt when she left her adoptive family all those years ago.

Then she gets a mysterious envelope from her oldest foster brother, Roland, asking her to return home, because their foster father is dying.

“Lie through your teeth. Lie like your life depends on it. Lie like his life depends on it because it does, Allison. It does.”

And Allison goes, and such a twisted and constantly turning tale unfolds, where she slowly pieces together what really happened the night she was forced to leave the only people she has ever considered family. And, again, this is a Tiffany Reisz’s story; it’s dark and borderline taboo, but I truly enjoyed it, and was genuinely surprised with the twists and turns.

“She was in danger in this house, but not from violence— unless it was the violence of her own feelings.”

There is a lot of talk about medical procedures, and mental health conditions, so please use caution when going into this one. And trigger/content warnings: cheating/being unfaithful to a partner, death of a child, physical abuse, suicide, animal abuse, animal death, attempted rape, medical malpractice, and psychosurgery.

Overall, I couldn’t put this down. And I loved being a part of Allison’s journey of discovery. I loved the perfect scenery, the forbidden love on a million different accounts and levels, the lyrical and beautiful writing, the unique plot, these morally grey characters, and all the different secrets. This was such a different and enjoyable read for me, and I can’t wait to see what Tiffany Reisz does next.

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

A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet, #1) by Madeleine L’Engle

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“It was a dark and stormy night…”

Okay, I haven’t read A Wrinkle in Time since fifth grade, so I was kind of nervous going into this. Yet, I was very pleasantly surprised, and I’m even more excited to see the new movie adaptation in March! I mean, this reads a little “old” and “simple” but it was still such a delight to read. I will say that I didn’t remember any of the religious/spiritual aspects that were woven in, so apparently fifth grade Melanie, who went to a Catholic school and everything, just pushed those out of her mind throughout the years.

The basic premise of A Wrinkle in Time, that I’m sure you all know, stars a young girl named Meg is one of four siblings in her family, and both of her parents are scientists. Meg and Charles are very intelligent, therefore outcasts, but where their twin siblings, who are of normal IQ, fit in just fine. One day, her father goes missing and Meg, Charles, and their new friend, Calvin, meet a very peculiar trio, who take them on an intergalactic adventure that they will never forget. They essentially travel by folding or “wrinkling” time.

Overall, this was a super enjoyable read, that totally did give me a swift kick in the nostalgia feels. Yet, I’m not sure how well it would hold up if this was your first time experiencing the story. I do feel like there is a little something here for everyone, and even though this is considered a middle grade book, I do think it holds up pretty well for most ages. And honestly? Even reading this in 2018, this is still a very unique book.

“There will no longer be so many pleasant things to look at if responsible people do not do something about the unpleasant ones.”

This is a story about love, and family, and faith, and being able to think for yourself. I can totally understand why this is a literary classic, and I’m so happy I reread it! And now I’m totally pumped for the movie!

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Valentine’s Day buddy (re)read with the beautiful Wren! ❤

American Queen (New Camelot Trilogy #1) by Sierra Simone

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“…it’s easier to remember why I sought out this life. A life of books instead of kisses.”

Good Lord, this was a ride! But this is a super enjoyable erotic novel that surrounds a girl, that has grown up in politics, and is now walking down the aisle to marry the brand new, thirty-six-year-old, President of the United States of America! Yeah, you read it right. But what kind of erotic novel would this be without some angst? Also, her and the President are both sort of in love with, wait for it, the Vice President!

Okay, I’m doing a bad job at selling this to you all. Honestly? This was a refreshing to read. The author does a wonderful job not assuming everyone in the world is default heterosexual and does an amazing job at being inclusive and actually uses inclusive terms. This story constantly impressed me by doing something that most erotic authors don’t even try to do. Also, this book showcases polyamory beautifully. Even though this is not an own voices review, one of my dear friends is exploring polyamory right now, and based off what I know, I feel like this story was done very realistically and accurately. And a tiny bit more rep: The President in this is white, but he is an adoptive son to a black mother and has a black sister. I’m telling you guys, this book tried, and I really appreciated it.

Also, because I know most of you follow me for my fantasy reviews, I always feel it necessary to state that I rate erotic books differently than other books! I know many of the relationships are toxic and problematic and I completely understand that they wouldn’t be the healthiest and/or most ideal of starts for people in real life, but I love steamy reads and I rate them purely off my enjoyment.

“I want to be handled and cherished and used and worshiped. I want a man or woman to claim me as their equal partner in every way—until we’re alone. Then I want to crawl to them. I can have that someday, right?”

And this book for sure has its problematic aspects that I completely realize. For one, there is some borderline cheating, maybe cheating, grey area cheating in this book. I really didn’t enjoy that at all, especially because relationships like this really only work with an incredible amount of trust, and once it’s broken, it’s for sure hard to get back. Yet, it’s very much brushed off and deemed “okay” when it happens.

The other, much bigger, problematic element is that the first sexual encounter happens to our main protagonist and the soon to be President, who is ten years older than her, when she is only sixteen-years-old. Full disclosure, it was only kissing, but there was still a much bigger promise of more. And… it was still a kiss. I could write an entire review on the power imbalance alone, and I know it will bother a lot of people. And not to lessen the situation at all, but it’s not terribly done in my opinion, and it didn’t make me uncomfortable, but it is for sure problematic content.

The thing I didn’t like the most about this read was how the main protagonist lack common sense for the point of story development. When you are in a relationship, especially the kind Geer and Ash are in, you have to trust that person completely, in every aspect of life. Why wouldn’t she trust him when he tells her about someone close to her? I just do not understand. On top of making really unsafe choices, when you know the information he told you. Also, miss me with that cliffhanger ending. Like, I can’t.

“I saw that you can be hurt—mortally wounded, in fact—and it doesn’t have to be anyone’s fault. Sometimes the world is just cruel that way, and it wasn’t fair to grudge them their happiness even as it tore down my own.”

Also, one small last qualm: During sex scenes Greer would sometimes call Ash “Mr. President” and I would immediately think of Trump, get turned off, and want to take a shower and/or die. This is no fault of the book’s, but my own personal bias.

Overall, I did really enjoy this. Again, this is a very erotic read, and you totally get what you bargained for if you’re looking for a steamy read. Yet, I truly do think this book is better than most, and I really appreciated the author using inclusive terms and adding small amounts of diversity. Also, I loved every sexy scene except for part of the very last. The rest? Honestly 10/10. If you guys are looking for a sexy polyamory read, please give this a try! I can’t wait to read more by Sierra Simone.

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Buddy read with:
💖 Paloma from Bookish Paloma
💗 Kayla from Books and Blends
💘 Wren from Fables&Wings

This is the February pick for the Book Hangover Book Club that Julie and Chelsea host! ❤ The liveshow discussion will be held on Chelsea’s Booktube channel on February 21st at 9EST!

Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns, #1) by Kendare Blake

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“No one really wishes to be a queen.”

Oh my, I loved this. This book seems to be very polarizing on my feed, and from people I love, trust, and have similar reading tastes as, so I was a little apprehensive going in. I read that first chapter with my mouth open the entire time. Instantly drawn in, immersed, and in love.

Most of you probably know the synopsis of this book, but it will still bring me immense joy to tell those few who might not know. Basically, this story is set in a world with an amazing matriarchy, where a queen will always give birth to multiple girls. For the most part, it will be triplets, each with different powers, who will be sent away to live among people who have also developed their powers. Yet, once these sisters turn sixteen, a battle will begin which only ends when only one of the girls are alive and the other two sisters dead. This lone triplet will be the new queen of Fennbirn.

This world is gloriously feminist, and I loved each point of view from the different islands. And the writing? Beautiful, lyrical, genius. And I fell so very in love with each sister, easily, and happily. These characters are honestly a tier above almost every YA character I’ve ever read. And again, this was such an amazing journey and I hope more people give this book a shot, despite the mixed reviews.

And the twists and turns? I was at the edge of my seat reading this! And I was going to say one of the only downsides while reading was because a friend sort of intentionally spoiled a twist for me, but then I was completely blindsided by another immediately after. The only reason I chose to give this four stars, instead of five, was because the actual plot itself was a little slow for my liking. This is a very character driven story, and I loved that so much, but some major plot points just felt like they took too long to get going. Even though, once they did? Lord, help me. Perfection.

“In her mind, every last Queen lies at the bottom of the sea, drowned by the Goddess the moment she was done with them.”

So, something I also really want to talk about is how this (in my mind and my opinion) is an own voices book. I watch a lot of Booktube, I read a lot of blogs, I spend too much time on book twitter, but I have never heard that Kendare Blake is Korean, ever. I noticed how the triplets’ descriptions were somewhat vague besides the dark black hair, so I went and did some searching, and I was absolutely shocked to find out that this book is written by a woman of color. I immediately went to snapchat, and all of my friends, too, did not know this. So, I just wanted to make this a point in my review, because me and so many of my friends want to support marginalized voices, and if I would have known this sooner, I wouldn’t have waited to pick this book up. On top of the fact that I loved it, and it was amazing, it warms my damn heart to picture three kickass Asian girls, trying to overcome to pressures that this world has put on them, while trying to decide their own destinies. Seriously, this meant so much to me.

Breathing fanart by TheSenesX

Okay, I’m going to do a quick breakdown of the three sisters! I found these amazing pictures from Epic Reads on my wonderful friend May’s review and I couldn’t resist adding them to mine, because they are so dang adorable and perfect!

Katharine 💚☠ – Gravesdrake Manor – Poisoner Queen
The poisoner queen always wins, so Katharine has a tremendous amount of pressure on her. But her body is weak and frail, from being forced to ingest so many poisons, and from the abuse she receives for not achieving her full potential. She is lonely, and scared, and somehow completely made her way into my heart. Katharine is my favorite of the three sisters.

Mirabella 💙🔥 – Rolanth – Elementalist Queen
The strongest of the sisters. The world already tells tales of her power. She is almost guaranteed to be the next queen, but she is constantly struggling with the idea of killing her sisters. She was raised among the people of the temple on her small, but very religious, island. She, too, has felt really lonely growing up.

Arsinoe ❤🐻 – Wolf Spring – Naturalist Queen
This sister for sure had the happiest upbringing, with friends and found family that actually loves her unconditionally. Sadly, she hasn’t developed any of her naturalist powers, but her best friend, Jules, is one of the strongest to have ever lived. She is desperate to develop any magical affinity, and starts tampering with magic that she probably shouldn’t, because this magic always comes with a price.

And even though Katharine is my favorite, I loved all three so much. And all three sisters are so beautifully morally grey, especially by the end of this story. Morally grey characters will forever by my favorites, and Kendare Blake gave me three strong, powerful, and smart ones to cry over and to root for.

Oh, and also, I told myself I wouldn’t devote a paragraph to this, but here we are with unpopular opinions: I don’t hate Joseph, not in the slightest. Like, did he do something he maybe shouldn’t have? Yes. Is this a realistic depiction of being a sixteen-year-old whose hormones are working double time? Yes. And I think he proved numerous times that he isn’t a bad guy. He does the “right” thing over and over, even if he is suppressing his own happiness. Also, I’m always here for all the sex positive depictions. More unpopular opinion: I totally ship him with the unpopular one to ship him with. Muahahahaha!

“I should think that is what anyone would wish- to be loved for themselves and not their position.”

Overall, I truly loved this. I can see it being one of my all time favorite series. And I cannot wait to start One Dark Throne immediately. Also, say a prayer for me that my Target still has the signed edition that I saw a few weeks ago.

Trigger/Content warnings: abuse, violence, and animal death.

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Buddy read with Kayla! ❤

The Valentine’s Day Book Tag

The Valentine’s Day Book Tag was originally created by CC’s Books and As Told by Tina! But the reason I decided to do it was because I saw Heather’s amazing post, while I was looking up a fun tag to do on Valentine’s Day! I hope you’re all having an amazing day! Whether it be hanging out with your friends, with your loved ones, with your significant other, or just by yourself with a good book! 💗 💓 💕 💖 💞 💘

1. Stand Alone Book you love
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

2. Dystopian Book you Love
The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) by N.K. Jemisin

3. A book that you love but no one else talks about
Mud Vein by Tarryn Fisher

4. Favorite Book Couple
Kvothe and Denna from The Name of the Wind by Pat Rothfuss

5. Book that other people love but you haven’t gotten around to read
The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare *dodges tomatoes*

6. A book with Red on the cover
Spellslinger (Spellslinger #1) by Sebastien de Castell

7. A book with Pink on the cover
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid (I haven’t even read this, but I honestly think it’s the only pink book I own!)

8. You were given a book of chocolate what fictional boyfriend/girlfriend would give them to you.
Magnus Damora from the Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes! *swoons forever*

9. You are Single on Valentine’s Day. What Book would you read? What TV show would you watch? What Movie would you watch?
Honestly? Anything I’d want! Haha But, The Hating Game by Sally Thorne has a pretty swoon-worthy romance that is so cute!

10. You are in the Book Store. All of the sudden you get shot with an arrow by Cupid. What New Release will you love.
My luck? I probably would be looking at something cringe-worthy, I’m sure! But If I got to pick, I’d say The Armored Saint (The Sacred Throne #1) by Myke Cole, which comes out February 20th!

11. Spread the Love Who do you tag?
💗 Kayla
💓 Avery
💕 Destiny
💖 Lilly
💞 Benni
💘 The Orangutan Librarian

(And to whoever else is interested in this tag – consider yourself tagged!)

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Top Ten Tuesday | Love Freebie


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018!

This week’s prompt was kind of like a freestyle, but some examples were: Romances, swoons, OTPs, kisses and sexy scenes! I figured I would put my own little twist on it and do my top five romances and my top five steamy reads! That way, you guys get the best of both worlds for whatever mood you’re in for Valentine’s Day tomorrow! 💘


The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
This is probably one of the most popular newer romances, but that’s with good reason, because this truly is so very swoon-worthy. This is a sweet version of hate to love, with two coworkers that work in the publishing world. Like, honestly a book lovers dream. This is so very cute, and I think almost every romance reader would love this one.

Roomies by Christina Lauren
I read an ARC of this late last year, and I fell in love with this marriage of convenience story! Also, this is set in New York and has a huge emphasis on Broadway and makes the story feel even more magical! Christina Lauren is a writing duo that is very hit or miss for me, but this adorable tale was for sure a hit and I recommend!

The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon
Okay, this is like my “go-to” romance recommendation, because it’s the best mix of fantasy and romance I’ve ever read up to this date. The magic in this world is so wonderfully done, and mixed with the lyrical writing, this just feels like such a fairytale. But trust me, the romance is always at the forefront and it is perfection in every way. Again, I’ve never read anything like this before, and I recommend this with every fiber of my being!

Magic Bites (Kate Daniels #1) by Ilona Andrews
Okay, this is one of two Paranormal Romance Series that I still keep up to date with! And the tenth and final installment is actually coming out this August. But I promise, this is the best PNR on the market. And the romance? This series holds one of my biggest OTPs of all time. And the main protagonist is a mercenary with magic powers and she’s honestly perfection in every single way.

The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
This is a historical romance that takes place during World War II in Leningrad, Russia. And this book got trashed up and down on Twitter last year, and I’m not saying it’s perfect, and I’ll never defend the problematic issues (I list them all in my review), but this is one of the best love stories of all time, and I’ll stand by it. This book tore me apart and rebuilt me. And Tatiana is one of my favorite protagonists of all time. Again, this book totally has its issues, but it contains one of my favorite love stories of all time.


Bad Things (Tristan & Danika #1) by R.K. Lilley
Okay, this is at the top of the list just because it has my favorite sex scene of all time. I read this back in 2013, and no other sex scene has ever even come close to the one in this book. And. I. Did. Not. Forget. It. Also, this is set in Vegas and they go to so many of the places that I am at a lot and this was just such an amazing and fun reading experience. I will always love this book, but especially that sex scene. (Also, cutest side character lesbian couple in the world!)

Corrupt (Devil’s Night #1) by Penelope Douglas
I read this last year, but I think about it constantly. Now, this is for sure on the darker side. And Penelope Douglas only writes hate to love, or enemies to lovers, but she is honestly the queen at that trope. And the sex in this book is out of this world. And if you guys have read this one, I will never step into a sauna at the gym the same again. Ever.

Sunstone Vol. 1 (Sunstone #1) by Stjepan Šejić
I figured it would be cool to include a graphic novel, and Sunstone is one of my favorites. This is about the start of a BDSM relationship between two girls, and it’s everything I’ve ever asked for. I love this so much, it’s done so very respectfully, and not to delve too much into my personal life, but the representation is very accurate as well.

The Siren (The Original Sinners #1) by Tiffany Reisz
When I first read this back in like 2012, it changed my erotic reading life. This is so dark and so taboo, but I ate it up and begged for seconds. This is a story about a dominatrix writer, who lives a very interesting life. We get to see her past, her relationship with the Catholic church, and a very private sex club. Again, this is a bit on the taboo side, but I will always love this book with my entire perverted body.

American Queen (New Camelot Trilogy #1) by Sierra Simone
Okay, I’m almost done with this one, but I know it is going to get an extremely high rating from me. This has some of the dirtiest and most amazing sex I’ve ever read in literature. Also, there is a beautiful polyamorous relationship between a girl and two guys and I kind of love with my entire body and soul. Okay, here me out, it does have to do with a thirty-six-year-old President of the United States, but besides that it is damn close to perfection.

Okay! I hope you guys enjoyed! I know most of you follow me for my Fantasy reviews, but your girl will always love a little romance and erotica. Hopefully you got a few recommendations, especially if you’re feeling a little more in the mood for Valentine’s day! I hope you all have a wonderful day tomorrow, whether you’re spending it with a significant other, your friends, your family, or a good book! Happy Valentine’s Day and you are all so very loved by me! 💝

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Art of War: Anthology for Charity edited by Petros Triantafyllou

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ARC provided by my beautiful future wife, Mary, in exchange for an honest review!

This anthology holds 40 short stories by some really amazing high fantasy authors. And on top of this being a really impressive writing group, all proceeds for this book will go to Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders! MSF is an international humanitarian non-governmental organization that is known for their help in war-torn regions and developing countries affected by endemic diseases. I couldn’t help but preorder, even though I was given an ARC, and I hope you do the same if you are able to! More information about this amazing charity here!

I’m giving this collection five stars overall. From Greek Gods to newly summoned demons. From healers on the backlines to the warriors on the frontlines. From Spider Gods to Magpie Kings. Not only do I love some of these authors and their stories, I think this collection will make many fantasy readers very happy. Plus, the cause and charity for this anthology are both so damn important and for those two things alone this anthology deserves five stars. Thank you so much for putting this together, Petros. From my entire heart and soul, thank you.

But, whenever I review anthologies I review every story. So, I’m going to break down each short story with my thoughts, opinions, and individual star rating!

The Breaking of the Sky by Ed McDonald – ★★
I really enjoyed Blackwing when I read it last year, so it was really nice being back in this world. Well, maybe “nice” isn’t the word I’d use, since the people in this world are having a pretty hard time to say the least. War is coming, and we follow a man and his companions who have been transporting a mysterious box. I just really disliked the constant commentary, within this very short story, about how one of main character’s companions did terrible things to dogs. Also, the main character kind of has a gross outlook on women in general. Not the strongest start for this anthology, but overall, I do enjoy this world and it made me excited to read Ravencry this year!

The Last Arrow by Mitchell Hogan – ★★
This short is about a farmer that was drafted into a squad of archers, who are protecting a wall from sorcerers. They have been on duty for fifty-three days, living in terrible conditions, barely being fed, and basically being treated awful. This story is sad, and depressing, yet leaves you rather invested to see where it is going. I didn’t love this one, but it was intense to read.

Dear Menelaus by Laura M. Hughes – ★★★★★
Holy moly, this one was so damn perfect! Absolutely glorious! This is a letter that a woman is writing to her husband, which you can probably guess from the title, deals heavily with Greek heroes. But this is such an amazing feministic approach, and I loved every single perfectly contrasted and powerful sentence. And if you know who Menelaus’ wife was, well, the story will only be even that much more enjoyable. I loved this with my whole heart.

Warborn by C.T. Phipps – ★★
This one is about a demon who wakes up inside a summoning circle, in front of a nineteen-year-old girl who desperately needs to kill her parents. And apparently, in this world, the only way to give payment for help after summoning is your soul, blood, or sex. And, of course the demon picks sex. We also get to see that the demon wasn’t the best human when he was one. I don’t know, this had some decent twists and turns, but it mostly left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

This War of Ours by Timandra Whitecastle – ★★★★★
Wow, I loved this more than words. Beautiful, heart wrenching, powerful, perfection. And…. KOBOLDS! And magic, and family, and war, and stealthy missions, and required silence. Like, is this a full-length series? A story set in this world? Give me it all. This was wonderful. I loved Sparrow and bug and I need so much more.

The Greatest Battle by John Gwynne – N/A
It is a horrible strike against my Adult Fantasy reviewing status to say that I’ve never read John Gwynne’s work! I very much hope to rectify this in 2018, but as it stands I have not yet completed Malice, therefore Petrik will kill me if I spoiled myself with this one. But please go check out his review</a > of this collection, where he raves about this short story!

Shadows in the Mist by Sue Tingey – ★★
This had a huge horror vibe to it, which isn’t really my cup of tea. It was a little gratuitous with the gore and descriptions, which is also something I’m not a huge fan of. Also, this has a very eerie vibe, but the overall story just felt kind of pointless, and it left a lot to be desired.

The Art: Post War by RJ Barker – ★★★
The only ARC of 2017 that I requested and didn’t get to was Age of Assassins</i >, and now I feel even worse! This was so intriguing, and dark, and funny, and I loved it. It is also told in second person, and just felt so unique among the other stories in this collection. I really enjoyed reading this, and I can’t wait to finally read more by RJ Barker.

The Fox and the Bowman by Sebastien de Castell – ★★★★★
Sebastien is not only the master of writing, he is also the master of plotting, and this short story is so expertly crafted. This is a story about revenge, and how all-consuming it can be. This is a story about how one’s life can change dramatically over the smallest of choices. This is about family, and what we are willing to do to keep our loved ones safe. And honestly? This is such a fun story about magic and perspective. I loved it. Masterpiece just like everything else Sebastien writes.

Arrow’s Wrath by Charles F. Bond – ★★★
This is another story of revenge involving an archer, and this was actually able to evoke a lot of emotions from me. I will say that this got very graphic with the violence during the revenge mission, where the description felt so damn real. But this is about a group of five men on a couple different missions in the name of vengeance, but I just felt like too much was packed into this short story, even though I did enjoy reading it.

Hard Lessons by Michael R. Miller – ★★★★
I read and loved The Reborn King in 2017, so I was so excited to see that his short story was set in the same world! And good lord, my entire body got goosebumps when I read Darnuir’s name. I loved this so much, and it was nothing short of amazing to be back in this world.

A Battle for Elucame: Leah by R.B. Watkinson – ★
This is a story of a young girl, who is currently a slave, and has made it her mission to kill one of the priests where she is being held, because he did something terrible to her once before. The priests are terrible people, and there are a lot of hints of them being rapists, on top of them being general abusers, and this just felt bad to read. It didn’t feel dark or emotional, it felt forced and for shock value, and it wasn’t fun to read.

The Revolution Changed Everyone by D. Thourson Palmer – ★
This is about a healer that is hiding their past, when a person is being treated for very bad wounds that must have come from a large animal in this jungle or something else. This just felt too obvious for me, so the twist wasn’t impactful in the slightest. But I can totally see others enjoying this one more than I did.

Misplaced Heroism by Andrew Rowe – ★★★★★
Oh my gosh, I was so happy when this story started out in our present-day time, and the main protagonist is just browsing Reddit. This was such a much-needed change up in setting, and I loved it. Even though he does get whisked away to another world rather quickly, so that he can defeat a demon king and his army! This felt like I fell into a MMORPG, or a well-along D&D campaign, with all the amazing strategizing. This was so funny, and surprising, and just freakin’ wonderful in every aspect! I loved this story, completely and whole heartedly.

Violet by Mazarkis Williams – ★★
This is a story about a young girl whose parents shelter a traveler, but once the traveler leaves the young girl, she feels like he has taken a part of her with him. Therefore, she sells things she shouldn’t, and goes places she shouldn’t, and probably ruins her life looking for him, while losing things that meant a lot to her. This was well written, I just never enjoyed the actual story.

The Two Faces of War by Rob J. Hayes – ★★★
This story for sure shows us the terrible side of war, and seeing a healer treat the wounds of the soldiers. Missing arrowheads, spider infestation, it is all here, even if it’s not the most pleasant thing to read. Yet, we also get to see the warrior’s side of war. But both sides make us question: is it really worth it? This wasn’t my favorite story in the collection, but it did merge and move very smoothly and was an enjoyable read.

Grannit by JP Ashman – ★★★
This is exactly the type of enjoyable story I was looking for within this collection. Short and sweet and about a wealthy knight and young boy going to war and the writing made for a really easy but enjoyable story. I for sure want to check out more from this author now.

Asalantir Forever by Steven Poore – ★★★
This story centers around a crazy and bloody little battle that’s going down. I feel like this might even deserve more than three stars, because this is the first story in the collection that has left me feeling satisfied with a battle. Also, I became very attached to Jin and her Pride. This story also makes me really want to look into the rest of the author’s backlist.

Tower of the Last by Steven Kelliher – ★★★
I read Valley of Embers by this author last year, and I really enjoyed it and his writing style! And this mini tale was no different. This is a short story that surrounds a boy, fighting his way up a tower. And when he finally ascends, he is in for quite the surprise. This is tale filled with fables, mystery, and magic, and I need more.

The Waving of the Flag by Thomas R. Gaskin – ★★★★★
This story has a beautiful juxtaposition of war. We get to see present day, upon a great defeat, and constant flashbacks from four years ago, when our main character is enlisting. Wars are won, and wars are lost, even though it is hard to see when you are on the winning side, but regardless of winning or losing, there is always a price to pay. War costs something every single time, on every single side. I was actually very emotional while reading this one, and had tears streaming down my face most the time. I feel like I almost had a cathartic experience upon finishing. War takes so much, and it will always take so much. In fantasy, or in our world in 2018. This one is truly beautifully crafted and I will carry this story in my heart for a long time.

The Art of War by Brian Staveley – ★★★★★
This was moving, intense, equal parts heart wrenching and heartwarming, this was outstanding. And as someone who loves Brian Staveley’s Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, this was also a damn joy to read. In this story we get to see a man struggle, or have success, with the god of war living inside him. But if you’re a fan of the series, seeing General Dakesh and his life was a treat above any others. Again, I know I’m biased because I love this world and series so much, but that ending was so perfect and meant so much to me. Perfection. A masterpiece. My eyes, heart, and soul, feel so blessed. This was my personal favorite in this entire collection.

Hero of the Day by Nathan T. Boyce – ★★
This story stars a young man determined to prove his bloodline, after the death of his mother. This tale for sure centers around a theme of who gets to be the heroes in the story, regardless of the actions that we don’t normally get to see. And I really appreciated that this was a different and very grey tale, but I just didn’t love this one, despite its uniqueness.

Sacred Semantics by Nicholas Eames – ★★★★★
Like, I do not want to be picturing different kinds of spiders, people warring with one another, shooting mandible guns, being in spider tanks. Seriously, this was one of the most frightening things I’ve ever read in my entire life. But this was also so smart, so unique, and bloody brilliant. Nicholas Eames humor seeps through onto every page, and only he could make me laugh, while also being terrified at these spider worshipers. Also, this story is super powerful, and holds a very important discussion about war and the things all creatures are willing to do in the name of it. And the ending was beyond words perfect.

The War God’s Axe by Anne Nicholls – ★★
This one was a pretty good story about a misfit rising up, but this story uses the world cr*pple to describe the main character, who is the only one with the information to save the city from war. I know many people will say “its because of the time and because it’s fantasy, and someone not so great said it!” but no, its ableist and hurtful to a lot of people. It sadly really hurt the story for me, regardless of the ending.

The Feather and the Paw by Benedict Patrick – ★★★★
This was such a good story about a world where the animals of the forest had the ability to speak, and they just found out about humans and a ruling king that has appeared. And besides all of this, a Magpie King has also appeared to cause the Lionfolk some trouble. This felt like a dark fairytale, and it was so different than anything else in this collection. I really, really enjoyed this one and I’m looking forward to reading more from this author in the future.

Until the Light has Faded by Graham Austin-King – ★★★
You all know I’m going to be a little biased, because this story involved a fae army. Even if our main characters are fleeing said fae army! I just feel like this needed to be a part of a longer story, or a bigger world, and maybe it is, but it just felt not enough for a short story collection. Yet, I still enjoyed it!

Under the Queen’s Throne by Ed Greenwood – ★★
Oh my gosh, I feel so bad, because I wish this one was more separated from Benedict Patrick’s story, since they both have the animal kingdom fairytale feel, but I just didn’t like this one as much. Especially because of the shift in story. Again, I really wish these two stories weren’t so close together in this anthology.

Good Steel by Zachary Barnes – ★★★
This was so unique, and I really enjoyed it. We get to see a piece of steel “being born” and made into a weapon fit for war. Again, I’ve never read anything like this before, and it really shined and stood out from the rest of the short stories in this anthology. Very well done.

The Cost of Power by Ulff Lehmann – ★★★
This is a story about a man desperately wanting to save his people. This is a story about how we expect people to lay down their lives to protect their rulers, but the rules could care less about them being fed and cared for. There is a big discussion on the value of a human life, and overall this was just a really heartwarming story that I really enjoyed reading. But… I want more.

The Undying Lands by Michael R. Fletcher’s Doppels – ★★★★★
I loved this one. This stars a girl, that killed a man in a tavern for touching her inappropriately, but the man turned out to be someone important. So, now she’s waiting to decide her fate in a coliseum. If you kill ten people, you are free to go, but sadly the opponent she is up against has just killed nine. If he kills her, he is a free man. Also, the dead walk among the living in this world, and it just adds an additional cool layer. I loved this, I was instantly captivated and immersed in this, and I want more.

The Fall of Tereen by Anna Smith-Spark – ★
I very much didn’t get along with this author’s writing style, therefore I very much feel like it hindered my experience. It reminds me of modern day poetry, which I also find myself not able to get into. So, take this mini review with a grain of salt, but I really didn’t enjoy this one.

Valkyrie Rain by Dyrk Ashton – ★★★★★
Okay, this one was awesome! Give me all the Norse mythology! This stars Pruor, Valkyrie of Asgard, daughter of goddess Sif and god Thor, descendant of Odin. And this takes place during Ragnarok. Ahhhh, this was glorious! This is about war, and forgiveness, and paths set for us beyond our control. I loved this.

Chattels by Stan Nicholls – ★★
This was just too much information packed into such a short tale. I know the beginning was meant to fill in some of the blanks, but my mind just couldn’t process everything, especially among so many other short stories. I think I would have enjoyed this much more if I was familiar with the author’s previous work(s) and world(s).

The Storm by Miles Cameron – ★★★★
This was one of the longer stories in this collection, but it was very well executed. We get to see an army’s leader try to decide how to save the lives of his men when they are at an impasse because they need to get close enough to breach the wall. This was wonderfully written, and I loved this world so much. I honestly wish I could get a full-length novel.

Shortblade by Brandon Draga – ★★★★
I loved this one, because it was such a bright, shining light in this anthology. It’s light, and funny, and warm, and happy, and the ending was so very nice to read. I’m sure not everyone will enjoy such a sweet tale, but I freakin’ loved it. Pure joy and happiness and has such an important message!

Rendered Chaos by D. M. Murray – ★
This just… started badly for me. When a dude wakes up during a sex dream, to him humping his cot, Lord, please no. This is just crudely written, and really not for me. I found the humor immature and the conversations awful to read. I totally understand the main character was supposed to be unlikable, but I just couldn’t stand to read about him, and I didn’t care about the twist.

The Best and Bravest by M.L. Spencer – ★★★
This story is about a squire who works for his father, and a war between two ancient houses is about to begin. We get to see the dead watching over the events, but I found myself confused through most of this. But the ending was very enjoyable and fulfilling.

Exhibition by Ben Galley – ★★★★
I really enjoyed this one, because it was so unique. It showcased an artist trying to create while an ugly war is unfolding all around them. Ben has such a wonderful prose, and I loved being on this unique journey that did a wonderful job incorporating the title of this anthology, with an entirely different meaning.

Flesh and Coin by Anna Stephens – ★★★★★
Full disclosure: I love Anna, I love her characters, I love her worlds, and I love her perfect writing. I knew from the first paragraph that this story would be no different. Our main character, Stoneheart, is a cutthroat mercenary that has a problem trusting people. She and her crew are lying in wait, and it is all fun and games until her arch nemesis shows up, proving why she has trust issues. Anna Stephens was meant to write, and I loved this story so very much, even though (like always) she rips out my heart.

The Hero of Aral Pass by Mark Lawrence – ★★★★★
What a way to close an anthology. Perfection. Mark Lawrence is such a smart and witty writer, and this story made me giggle quite often. This was my first time being introduced to Prince Jalan Kendeth, but I can safely say I am nothing but excited to read more. Also, this ending was truly perfect. I wish nothing more than to be able to see what tomorrow brings.

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