The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Buddy Read with Michael from Bitten by a radioactive book and some other BookTubers!

I went into this book completely expecting to hate it due to what a lot of my online and real life friends thought of it, but I actually didn’t. I’m not saying it was perfect, or that I loved it, or that it will go on my favorite’s shelf anytime soon, but it was enjoyable to read, despite certain parts.

Also, I know most authors have no say in their covers, but Erika Johansen seriously hit the lottery. This cover is so absolutely, breathtakingly, gorgeous.

This story is about a young girl, Kelsea, who has lived her life in hiding with two guardians. One guardian teaches her about the outside and how to mildly fight, and the other teaches her about royal decree and all her other educational needs. She has to wear a sapphire pendant around her neck at all times to prove her royal blood, along with a mysterious scar that she has on her arm. She has known from a young age, that on her nineteenth birthday her mother’s royal guard (before she died) will come for her and help her rightfully reclaim her throne.

There are many people that do not want to see this young girl take the throne, the main threat being the Red Queen from a different kingdom. There is so much mystery in this story about the Red Queen’s magic and the importance of this sapphire necklace(s). There is even more mystery with Kelsea’s parentage. Her father is a complete mystery, but her mother is known, and disliked, by everyone, yet no one will really fill Kelsea in on any real information about her.

On her nineteenth birthday, the guards do come and take her away willingly. It’s a struggle to not only get her to her city to rule, but to keep her alive long enough for her to even be crowned Queen. Upon arrival to the city she sees an event that no one could prepare her for. She makes an immediate decision that will completely change the future for her kingdom.

So I liked this book, but why didn’t I love this book? Well, even though I enjoyed the premise and the main story, there were quite a few things that just did not work. I hope in the movie version, with Emma Watson, they can improve a lot of these things, or even just go into a greater explanation.

I will say that Kelsea can be pretty freakin’ aggravating, and is probably a terrible representation to read about if you’re a plus size person. When I first understood that she was bigger I was happy, because “yay, diversity!”, but throughout the book she constantly wants to lose weight for this man. Hell, this man she barely knows, that kidnapped her. She is also very envious of a sex slave that she rescues because she is so beautiful. I mean, what even is that? She can’t lack that much empathy or self-awareness, right? This book also completely harps on the fact she is “plain”, like every person in this world have the same opinion that cannot be deviated from. It just comes off as body-shaming and doesn’t feel good to read about. I know Kelsea is selfless and does great things in this book for the Tearling, I also understand that she is only nineteen, but she’s been locked away for nineteen years, where the hell did she develop such terrible body insecurities? I actually think this book is a trigger for weight issues.

In general, I’m a little hard-pressed to even consider this book as young-adult. The main antagonist specializes in selling slaves, mostly for pleasure. Hell, in the first scene we see of the Red Queen, she cuts the tongue and severs the vocal cords of a sex slave she has, because he was snoring. There are many mentions of the men in charge of the human traders being pedophiles. So all these things on top of the terrible self-esteem in this book, I would be really apprehensive to recommend this to anyone younger.

I loved how this book was set 300 years in the future. I’ve never read a fantasy book with that sort of twist. I think the actual Tearling is a country that is part of a new continent that America and Britain became after the apocalypse that happened. I mean, that sounds pretty interesting, and I’d love to know how that actually happened. I really enjoyed when she would bring up pennies or some of the books I’ve read and loved from this “old world”. Yet, I am a little confused how they have all seven Harry Potter books, but they still lack so much medical help. I know they claim all the doctors and equipment sank on one ship, but no medical books survived? Hell, any books about “modern” connivances really, because this “new” world definitely seems medieval. They still ride horses, they wear long elaborate dresses, they have very basic building materials, and wield maces with no guns what so ever. Any helpful world building books got lost or burned, but someone was able to save all seven Harry Potters? It just is so unrealistic.

Lastly, her guards seem so inadequate. They do such reckless things while guarding Kelsea, and they never trust or believe her. Didn’t they vow their life to her? Then freakin’ listen to her when she says you guys need to leave the keep and rescue some people without questioning her. I understand that many people are looking to kill Kelsea, but some of the attacks just seemed like really poor guarding (the bathroom scene in particular).

Okay, okay, I know I just went on a crazy rant. And you guys are probably like “Melanie, are you sure you liked this book?” But I really did. I just can’t ignore the reasons that, I’m sure, are why my friends gave this a one star rating. This book isn’t perfect, far from it, but it really was entertaining for me. Besides the body ignorance, Kelsea is a good person and I sympathized with every harsh thing she did. The world building isn’t Mistborn level, but it intrigued me enough to read this book rather quickly and want to read the second installment afterwards.

Basically, I can see why people hate this book, but I can also see why people love this book. I guess I’m just the weird girl in the middle.

Fate’s Edge by Ilona Andrews

Buddy Read with Ilona Andrews Addicts (IAA)!

So, Kaldar’s book was everything amazing that I expected it to be, and then so much more! I still think I like On the Edge a little more, but it definitely surpassed Bayou Moon. I mean, this whole series is great, but if I’m ranking them, this comes in at a close second.

I also loved all the different POVs. In Bayou Moon it seemed to only be about Cerise and William, and we didn’t get to see Declan or Rose until the epilogue. In Fate’s Edge we see all the characters quite a bit, and Jack, George, and Gaston are actual main characters along for the adventure. I absolutely loved their involvement in this book.

This series is about the Edge, which is where the Weird and the Broken touch. The Weird has magic, and the Broken does not. They are mirrors, or parallel universes, to each other. So essentially, the people that live in the Edge are between worlds.

We meet our main protagonist, Kaldar, in Bayou Moon. He is Cerise’s cousin from the Mire, in the Edge. The Mire is pretty much where all the criminals from the Weird go that are looking to not ever get caught. Kaldar doesn’t have riches or a noble blood title, but he has more jokes and wit than anyone else in this series combined. After the events in Bayou Moon, Kaldar is looking for revenge while working with the Mirror.

“At the door, Audrey called, “Are you coming?”
“No, just breathing hard, love.” He glanced at her and was rewarded by an outraged glare, followed by, “Oh, my God!”

Then we have Audrey, who thinks she is finally free from her abusive family and happy to be making her own life for herself in the Edge. That is, until her father finds her and begs her to do one more job with him. Audrey is a very skilled lock pick, who feels confident enough to steal anything. Her father promises her that if they break into this pyramid, and steal a special item, that he will completely disappear from her life. He is very desperate for her help, because with the money he can check Audrey’s drug-addicted brother into rehab, even though everyone knows that it won’t help him, because he doesn’t want to be helped. Audrey also had a pet raccoon, Ling the Merciless, who pretty much stole my heart and every scene that she was in.

There are three military factions looking to get back this special device that Audrey stole for her father: The Mirror, who William and Cerise are repaying a ten year debt to. The Hand, who are the bad guys who will get anything, or information, they want with any means necessary. And then we have the Claw, who are the Egyptians looking to reclaim their stolen treasure. Since Kaldar is working with the Mirror, he is assigned to the case to find the missing device and retrieve it before the Hand gets to it.

Kaldar feels like he might need a little help on this mission, mostly to drive a wyvern, so he goes into the Weird to ask William if he would lend Gaston to him. William agrees and Gaston is more than willing to help, but what they don’t expect is Jack and George to be stowaways on this mission.

Jack is scared that he has been out of line, trying to deal with his Lynx, and that Declan is going to send him away to a place that is horrible to changeling children (which Declan would never do). He is trying to get William to plead his case, but William and Cerise have to leave in a hurry to another secret mission (that I’m sure will play a bigger part in Steel’s Edge), so he feels like his only option is to hide and run away with Kaldar, to buy him some time before William gets back. George isn’t going to let his brother run away alone, so he thinks being a stowaway with him is the only option.

Once Kaldar notices his new partners on board, he realizes he has to work with him while keeping them as safe as he possible can (so William doesn’t kill him). They soon find the right lead that leads them right to Audrey, and then an amazing adventure unfolds.

Jack and George really stole this book for me. I love them both and they are such a joy to read about. I love seeing them grow up, because I’ve already got to see them grown in Sweep in Peace. That is actually the reason I wanted to read this series in the first place. I loved Sweep in Peace so much, and then all my friends kept telling me about the crossover. I couldn’t resist and I’m so happy that I didn’t.

And I just have to say that the banter between Audrey and Kaldar is simply amazing. There really isn’t a dull moment between the two. Kaldar is so funny and sarcastic, and Audrey doesn’t miss a beat to say something witty back. Their dialogue was perfect and I loved reading about this duo.

Speaking of duos, Ilona and Gordon are a tier above the rest. There is something so magical about this writing duo, and I will read anything and everything they create.

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

“The Winner’s Curse is when you come out on top of the bid, but only by paying a steep price.”

I put off reading this book for a while, and as soon as I was a few chapters in I regretted waiting so long. The plot is unlike anything I’ve ever read. The story is unique and fills the reader with so many feeling. I felt so scared, but so much hope. I felt empathy, then too much disgust. The juxtaposed feelings were completely unexpected, and really helped make this book for me.

Kestrel is in town with her friend, when they stumble inside a slave auction. The stars align, and Kestrel feels compelled to purchase the special slave that the auctioneer had chosen for her. I soon found out how special this slave was, what his agenda really is, and how important it was that Kestrel bought him.

Kestrel took a little warming up for me to like her. Basically, once she showed how much she cared about Enai, I started liking her. She’s the daughter of a Valorian general, but lacks any real fighting skills. She does have an amazing talent for music, even though it’s considered a slave job/hobby. She proves she has a big selfless heart countless times, and she will make you love her by the end of the book.

The slave, Arin, doesn’t act much like a slave. This is mostly due to his hidden agenda and not being born a slave, but some of his (and Kestrel’s) actions weren’t that believable. In the end, I loved that he was true to the Herrani people, but even more true to Kestrel.

The pier scene blew me away. It really showcases what people who are in love will do for one another. It doesn’t matter the circumstances, or any change of events; love will make people do things they never thought they’d be able to do. This really is the underlining theme for this whole book, but the pier scene was the pinnacle moment that broke my heart and then proceeded to mend it.

The Dumont Diaries by Alessandra Torre

Alessandra Torre is not only an amazing author, but an amazing person! If you haven’t already, please join Shh… [Smut, Heroes & HEAs…], which is moderated by Alessandra and the amazing SueBee ❤️.

Since I’m reviewing each individual story in this there will be minor spoilers. So please read with caution!

Part One: To Have ★★★
In as little as 58 pages, you can tell this is going to be a crazy ride! I was able to get a sneak peak into this world while reading Just the Sex. I didn’t really care for the glimpse I saw while reading that collection, but actually reading the story was so much different, and so much more is explained.

This story starts out with our main protagonist, Candy, at work as a stripper. Yes, yes, I know. I promise it gets better. She’s down on her luck, even though she sounds like she comes from a privileged background, and is in desperate need for money.

I’m sure you can see where this is going. Rich, handsome, alpha male walks into her place of business and instantly is attracted to her. After a few visits, and a few questionable business transactions, he propositions Candy to leave the club with him.

After an amazing night, he extends the proposition even further. Part one ends with Candy contemplating the decision to change her life, which makes it impossible to not pick up the next book!

Overall, this was an easy and fun read. This story was filled with sizzlin’ hot dominate sex. I’m very happy I gave this story a second chance!

Part Two: To Hold ★★★
Candy Jenny has decided to change her name and marry the mystery man from the club, Nathan. Part two is mostly about the start of their married life together and how, even though she’s bored, it’s not that bad. That is, until Nathan ruins their agreement, and trust, at the very end.

Up until that point, their relationship was going well. Jenny longs for Wednesdays when she can go visit her father in the hospital, while they try to figure out his diagnosis. When she’s not at the hospital, she’s at home waiting for Nathan to get home from work.

Also, Jenny is realizing that someone else may fill a void that Nathan cannot. Drew is one of her husband’s body guards and nothing but trouble. He’s also one of her husband’s most trusted employees, and I can’t even imagine how much shit is going to hit the fan when their affair comes to light.

At the very end, Jenny starts to wonder how random it really was that Nathan came into her club and found her. She finds herself driving around the city and seeing all the closer, more convenient, strip clubs. What made hers so special? What made him choose her to marry?

Part Three: Till Death ★★★
In this third installment we discover the real reason Nathan sought out Jenny. After the air is cleared, the walls feel broken down between the two. Even though Nathan is constantly assuring her that he will never love her, his actions speak very differently and give Jenny hope.

Jenny is also struggling with her feelings for Drew, but the whole vibe of the book is definitely “Oh my gosh, Nathan, Nathan, Nathan”. Especially during their trip to the Bahamas. My gut tells me that Drew will play a much bigger roll, but being inside of Jenny’s head sure makes it hard to even remember him.

I didn’t like this part as much as the previous two. I think maybe this installment was suffering from filler syndrome, even though we did learn some key points of this story. It was still very enjoyable!

Part Four: Do Us Part ★★★★★
Okay, so even though I gave three stars to the other parts of this story, this installment was fucking perfect! Seriously, an easy five star rating! A complete joy to read! This was amazingly romantic, with fantastic sex, and a wonderful plot twist. Seriously, it had it all.

I’m even reviewing this with a stupid smile on my face, because it was that good. This conclusion was seriously amazing. It shattered all my expectations, and took a completely different direction that I absolutely loved.

I will say that I think the development with Drew was completely pointless and totally took away from the main story for no real reason besides angst. It still didn’t bother me that much, just because it did leave the reader guessing at more endings. But, holy moly, was the actual ending of this story freakin’ phenomenal.

If you’d like more closure, Alessandra wrote a extra scene that you can find here!

All these stories are such quick and short little reads, if you haven’t read this yet please rectify that life decision! This was the best mini-series I’ve read to date!

Breaking Him by R.K. Lilley

“There is only one heart in this universe that calls to mine, and it does call. Constantly, relentlessly, it sings out to me in a captivating, resonating voice. Day after day, year after year, it calls to me. But I won’t listen to it. It belongs to a liar. ”

I’ve read everything by R.K. Lilley, so when I heard she had a new book series coming out I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist. Her writing style is just my weakness. I gobble up everything she creates. Bad Things, to this day, has the best sex scene I’ve ever read. If you’re interested in getting into contemporary romance with light erotica I can’t recommend this world enough (Yes, I saw that Frankie shout out).

This all being said, I have to preface this review with this: These books are light hearted, but filled to the brim with angst. Sometimes the plot will make you want to scream with frustration. Sometimes you’ll question how in the hell they’d be up for sex at that exact moment. Sometimes your eyes will feel like they are going to roll out of your head because of a very helpful coincidence. So as long as you go into this story expecting that, you’ll be okay. This book isn’t going to be the next Pride and Prejudice, but it sure in the hell is better than Fifty Shades of Grey.

This story is about a rich boy named Dante, and girl from the other side of the tracks. The story is constantly switching between their present and their past, giving glimpses on why they aren’t together currently. The back-story is that Scarlett was a poor girl who was abandoned at birth, and left in a trashcan outside an orphanage. Obviously, there is a mystery about who her parents (mostly her father) are, but her supposed Grandmother adopts her and raises her. She isn’t shown any love by anyone, except by a sweet old lady that lives nearby and the sweet old lady’s grandson who starts sticking up for her at school.

Then in the present, Scarlett is 28 and an airline stewardess. R.K. Lilley used to be an airline stewardess, so she always kind of throws that occupation into her stories. I freakin’ loved In Flight and the personal touch that R.K. Lilley always uses. Anyways, one day Scarlett sees a man from her past on her airplane and the reader soon realizes that they did not end on good terms.

After that, it’s a constant cat and mouse game, but you’ll constantly wonder who is the cat and who is the mouse. Also, let me put on record that I do not think that Scarlett and Dante have a healthy relationship whatsoever, but the author does a wonderful job making it feel realistic and believable. And by believable I mean they are really toxic to one another, and the reader will be able to feel the hate both of them are feeling towards each other and their situation. I wouldn’t wish their relationship on my worst enemy, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t love reading about it, while being wishful for a happy ending.

“His lips were my own personal hell. They were either his biggest lie, or his greatest betrayer. Every kiss he’d ever given me, when we were in love or in hate, told me how he cared. Told me how he longed. Craved. Pined. Mourned. Despaired. Told me he was as desperate for me as ever.”

I also feel like maybe the title of this book is incorrectly named. I think Breaking Her would have been much more accurate than Breaking Him. Scarlett wasn’t really fooling anyone trying to resist Dante, and maybe it was because we were in her head, but she seemed to be the one that always got her heart broken or feelings hurt, not only by Dante, but by her family and classmates as well. I do believe the next installment is named Breaking Her which is kind of annoying, because I’m going to assume Dante will have more heartache in the following book.

That cliffhanger ending hurt my soul. We weren’t even hinted at a clue! Like, obviously it has to do with blackmailing, but I needed so much more! Plus, there is about a million loose ends. Regardless, R.K. Lilley is such a talented author, and I’ll read anything and everything from her at this point.

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

This review is going to have mild spoilers from the previous books. I’m sorry, but it becomes too difficult to write a review without tapping into what has happened in the previous two installments. So read with caution!

Well, the last 10% of this book completely gutted me. I didn’t just cry, I ugly cried. It was so real and so powerful that it just completely broke me and reminded me of the power that books can invoke and how it is truly unmatchable and indescribable. Some things seemed so predictable that I thought maybe Brandon Sanderson was slacking, only to read the last few chapters and completely have the wind knocked out of me.

The Hero of Ages might be the best book ending I’ve read to date. Which is so ironic, because The Final Empire had the best prologue I’ve ever read. This series is so worth the investment and I can’t recommend it enough. This ending was heart wrenching, but it was heart wrenchingly beautiful and perfect.

The Hero of Ages picks up where The Well of Ascension left off. Vin is feeling an immense amount of guilt for releasing Ruin from the well, even though she was just following what the (tampered) prophecy said to do. Elend is now a Mistborn, alongside Vin, and they are going city to city to find the stashes underground that the Lord Ruler left in preparation for this time. The mists are falling ever harder, and the days are almost nonexistent. No one can really grow anything, and the world is slowly starving while also ending.

While the other two books in this trilogy seemed much more political, this final installment was much centered on religion. The crew is also separated for the majority of this story. Vin, Elend, Clett, and Ham are trying to take back Fadrex City, which is now being run by Lord Yomen with the Lord Ruler still being worshiped as their God, which means the same unfair treatment of the Skaa. Then we have Sazed, Spooks, Breeze, and Allriane who are supposed to be spying on the city of Urteau, which is run by The Citizen, or Quellion, who is pretty much a rebel leader who is oppressing anyone with noble blood.

Seeing the juxtaposition of these two very different and extreme cities was fascinating. One chapter Elend and Vin are enjoying dancing at a ball while trying to make a statement (when Elend pulled out that book I cried happy tears and knew that it was going to be my favorite part of this entire novel), then the next chapter we have Spook trying to rescue noble bloods from house fire attacks. Fadrex City likes to pretend nothing bad is happening while relishing in their wealth and luxuries, while Urteau is embracing their poorness and lashing out at anyone who’s even slightly noble.

Spook has a tremendous role in this book, which I can only guess means he will do great things that we will hear about in The Alloy of Law, set 300 years after the events of The Hero of Ages.

I was also very surprised that Tensoon has such a big part of this book! Vin and his relationship was my favorite part of The Well of Ascension. He and all the Kandra people were my favorite subplot of this book. I couldn’t get enough of his chapters. Please, please, please bring him back (somehow) in The Alloy of Law. I also loved the relationship between the Kandra, the Koloss, and the Obligators. I can’t believe I even questioned Brandon Sanderson’s lack of twists.

Speaking of Obligators, Marsh is set up from the prologue to play a big role in this book. I knew that every POV of his was going to weigh heavily on the ending. I feel so much empathy for so many of these characters, but Marsh seemed to get the short end of every spike stick!

Sazed is constantly struggling to believe in something while also struggling with Tindwyl’s death. I’ve always loved Sazed, so it really hurt me to see him lose his convictions and part of himself. I also wanted to mention Sazed and how freakin’ right my The Well of Ascension prediction ended up being! I think I still deserve a gold star of some sort.

Vin is everything I would ever want in a starring character. I actually have doubts that I will find a female lead I will love as much as I love Vin. I always gush about her in all these reviews, but it’s true. Brandon Sanderson created perfection when he decided to write Vin’s character.

Finally, Ruin and Preservations. Man, oh man, what a crazy ending. I’ll be honest with you, I always knew Vin was different, but I had no idea the extent of how different. I was so blindsided. Especially about the atium. I didn’t understand that until Sazed literally said it, and then Elend literally used it. Hopefully, we will eventually find out Ruin and Preservation’s origin. Basically, I just need a lot more of this cosmere universe in my life.

Brandon Sanderson does not give a big fluffy bow ending as a wrap up for this story. He, instead, leaves many questions open, I’m guessing because of the spinoff series. The biggest new secret is perhaps that there is an additional two metals that no one knows about yet. This increases the total allomantic chart to sixteen!

I don’t even know what to expect, but I can’t wait to start Mistborn: Secret History. Thank you, Brandon Sanderson, for this phenomenal trilogy that will be very hard to ever top.

*Looks at Patrick Rothfuss and cries over the wait for Doors of Stone*

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

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

“I make her laugh so hard that she has slushie spilling out of the corners of her mouth. And then we drive away and find a quiet spot and I eat her out and when I finish I have her spilling out of the corner of my mouth.”

I really don’t know how many stars I want to give this. Part of me wants to give it five, just because the story is so unique and writing is so beautiful. Part of me wants to give it two stars, because I know Joe is sick. Then I want to change that to a single one star, because he makes me have so much empathy for him, which makes me even sicker. Part of me wants to give this an easy three star rating, because despite it being a good story, some of the plot points (from the start, all the way to the end) were so predictable. I felt like I was in high school again, reading everything James Patterson has ever written with these calculable twists and turns. The most practical part of me is going to give this four stars, because I loved this, but I can’t ignore the fact that this book wasn’t as good as You. Also, there is a major cliffhanger ending, which means there will be a third book, and then I start questioning if this story would have been more memorable if Kepnes would have left You as a standalone that was, in my opinion, perfect. Regardless of how good I am at rambling and how terrible I am at sorting my emotions, this book was a good read that I would recommend to anyone that wants to read something different, unique, and honestly just unforgettable.

Hidden Bodies picks up right where You left off. Our main protagonist, Joe, is feeling regrets from some of his actions/mistakes in You, but is licking his wounds with a new lady in his life. Everything seems perfect, until he realizes how not in control he really is. A crazy turn of events has Joe packing his bags and leaving New York, so he can move across the country to California.

In California he learns not only about himself, but also the culture shock that is SoCal. He learns more than he wants to about rich people, and how far others are willing to go to get a piece of the spotlight. We also get to witness Joe actually fall in love, which I don’t really have words for except that this made me feel everything. Seeing Joe actually selflessly love was moving. I’ve said it before, but Caroline Kepnes can string together some sentences that are so beautiful they only compare to some of Tarryn Fisher’s writing.

Because of this new unconditional love, this book had me rooting for a serial killer. For me, You was much easier to see how scary Joe was and how what he was doing was wrong. Hidden Bodies blurs those lines. You will still be inside his sick, messed up, completely biased head. Yet, you will be cheering for him. You will want him to get away with everything, you won’t want him to get caught, and you will understand why he “needs” to kill these people. I cannot take enough showers to wash away how dirty I feel for rooting for this main character that is so morally gray. See, I even rationalize him as being morally gray. Like there is a good side to killing people. This is what Caroline Kepnes will do to you, with her charming psychopath that makes you constantly justify his actions. The mindfuck that is this story is truly unmatchable.

“I don’t know if I could go on, because the real horror of my life is not that I’ve killed some terrible people. The real horror is that the people I’ve loved didn’t love me back.”

I’m sorry this review is all over the place, but it’s truly how this book makes you feel. If you’re even somewhat interested in thrillers, I can’t recommend You enough. It was easily five stars and made it on to my favorites shelf. Hidden Bodies was still very good, I’m just a little apprehensive because I feel like maybe You should have just been a flawless stand alone.