Sunstone Vol.1 by Stjepan ล ejiฤ‡

Sunstone was everything I wanted and oh so much more! I’m so pleased, I’m actually grinning writing this review. I laid on the floor in front of my bookshelves, read this, got up, came to my computer and started typing this review with a goofy grin on my face. It just won’t go away! I’m so impressed!

Stjepan ล ejiฤ‡ worked on the end art of Rat Queens, Vol. 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’rygoth, and I have to say that I wasn’t that impressed with it. I was a little apprehensive to go into this, but when I finally found a F/F BDSM graphic-novel (thank you, Chelsea) I really couldn’t pass it up. I ended up not only loving the content of this, but also Stjepan ล ejiฤ‡’s art. It was so beautifully done, without ever feeling like porn. The whole thing just felt like a positive celebration of female sexuality. Oh, and the entire color pallet of this comic is actually to die for, too.

Obviously, by now you should get the idea what this is about and how this is totally for adults with open minds. If you can’t admire the female body and you don’t want to read about BDSM themes, then this probably isn’t the graphic-novel for you.

This story is about two adorable girls that meet online because of a particular itch they both want scratched, desperately. This story is actually Tarantino-ed a little bit, where we see our sub, Lisa, writing a story about the love of her life. We are then transported into the past where Lisa is meeting Ally, her Dom, online. They talk for over two months and become fast friends. One night, Lisa ends up asking Ally if she would finally like to meet so that they can scratch that itch I talked about previously.

The rest is about the beginnings of their BDSM relationship. And can I just say how freaking adorable and heartwarming it was to see how nervous both of them were to dive into this world for the first time? Like, it was the cutest thing I’ve read in forever. Hence my still stupid grin.

This comic portrays BDSM so healthily and highlights how important trust and communication are. Open lines of communication and asking questions were both such pivotal plot points in this story, and so important to be represented. Stjepan ล ejiฤ‡ is doing the Lord’s work with this comic, I swear. They even touch on the importance of aftercare and how it’s not just for bodies, but for minds, too. Honestly, this graphic-novel impressed the hell out of me and I cannot wait to order the rest of these.

Also, I loved Stjepan ล ejiฤ‡’s drawn out note in the back. Like, can I please have creative blocks that end up developing into something as amazing as Sunstone. I loved this personal touch, and it made me want to read everything he has ever touched. He also made me fall in love with his wife, and now I need to read Blood Stain . Also, let’s talk about how they are totally the pinnacle of relationship goals.

Sunstone is, to date, the best graphic-novel I’ve ever read. I wish I could give it all the stars.

The Caller by Juliet Marillier

This trilogy is such a hidden gem, I feel so blessed to have stumbled upon it.

Faeries, fae courts, tyrant kings, vigilantes, rebellions, strong female leads – These are all so in my wheelhouse, I would have been surprised if I didn’t like this series, but I truly ended up loving it. These books were so whimsical, but so believable. I truly felt like I was with Neryn on all her travels, eating the food she had to eat, sleeping in the non ideal locations, meeting all the companions along the way. I really do think that 2016 is now going to be the year of Juliet Marillier for me. After this trilogy, I just want to consume everything she has ever written.

The Caller starts off where Raven Flight left off – Neryn has already found the Hag of the Isles, she woke up the Lord of the North and, as much of a mystery he is, met the Master of Shadows. All that is left is the White Lady, who seems very hard to find. Neryn is running out of time, because the revolution is coming this summer.

Meanwhile, the king has found another Caller and is using him past his limits. Well, maybe I should say Queen Varda and her terrible right hand man, Brydian, are using the Caller past his limits. The king now has a fae army, against their will of course, and Flint is in charge of it. This book really shows Flint’s moral dilemma and him trying his hardest to keep his head on for the revolution, for Neryn, and for the new Alban that is promised.

Flint was my favorite throughout this series, and this book was no exception. He is a perfect example on how love should complement you, not complete you. He wants Neryn, but he wants her to fulfill her destiny more.

The reason this entire series received four stars, and not five, from me is totally because I like a little more romance in my books. This is just a personal preference, obviously, but when you write a character as perfect as Flint, a girl needs a little something more than what that last 5% gave!

โ€œDon’t punish me for what you see as your own failings. I want to be with you more than anything in the world. I’ve dreamed of this since that day you spoke of, the day you called me ‘my heart’ and surprised me with a kiss. Never mind the handfasting, if you don’t want that. But please don’t push me away. I know you love me. I love you with all my heart. Please give this time.โ€

Juliet Marillier’s writing lulled me into a completely enthralled state while reading these books. Maybe that’s why every death hurt so much? Maybe that’s why I felt so connected to the characters? Her writing definitely feels hypnotic, and before you know it you’ve read an entire 400 page novel of hers. The world feels so real, and there is nothing lacking in content. These books are really under-hyped masterpieces.

My heart is heavy. I’m not sure I’m ready to say goodbye to Neryn, Flint, Sage and the rest of the Good Folk, yet. But, Tali and Rohan are totally going to hook up. I couldn’t have been the only one to read that sexual tension. So, maybe there is hope for a spinoff?

Raven Flight by Juliet Marillier

Um, did that ending just happen?

Can I sue for emotional distress, because this book just sort of ruined me?

Well, before the heartbreak, this book starts off where Shadowfell left off; Neryn is at Shadowfell, but needs to leave to start seeking out the other three Guardians before the impending war.

She has already encountered the Master of Shadows (located in the south) in Shadowfell, but she still has the Hag of the Isles (located in the west), the Lord of the North (located north and unable to be awoken from his slumber), and the White Lady (located in the east), who seems the most elusive of the four.

Neryn not only needs to find these three Guardians, but they each have to teach her something that will help her in the final battle against the King and his Enforcers. Oh, and now they are on a deadline, so Neryn has to seek these three individuals out, in completely different and unknown locations, and receive their knowledge in a year and a half.

Needless to say, this book was filled with the same excitement and adventure that Shadowfell has. You will not feel second book syndrome with Raven Flight. Juliet Marillier is such an amazing storyteller, I was enchanted from page one and was unable to put this book down.

โ€œLet there be a time in the future, I prayed, when he laughs with his children, and plays on the shore with them, and spends all his nights in loving arms. Let us have that. To whom I was praying I did not know. The future was in our own hands. If we wanted a world where such things were possible, it was for us to make it.โ€

There is so much death foreshadowing, and actual death, in this book. I swear to God, if Neryn and Flint don’t get their happily ever after after everything they have been through, especially Neryn and all her losses, I’m going to riot.

And Flint… Flint is my beautiful cinnamon roll that is too good for this world.

The other character I fell in love with while reading this book was Tali. We really get to see her character in this installment, and what a strong character she is. The friendship between her and Neryn warms my heart and Juliet Marillier does a wonderful job depicting that friendship grow and blossom, and grow believably and oh so beautifully.

And just in general, since Tali normally always takes some sort of leadership role in this book, I love how strong Juliet Marillier makes her female characters. The only thing I love more is how none of the main male characters have a problem with the women’s’ strength or leadership, but embrace it and never make it a competition. Hell, they even ask for advice and they never feel like it makes them less of a man. Like, it’s never addressed. The equality is just expected. I can’t even begin to tell you how rare and refreshing that is to read about.

I finished this in one day and I am so thankful that I have The Caller waiting for me. Honestly, I think I should just go buy all of Juliet Marillier back list, because I’m way too addicted to her writing. Like, this story is phenomenal, but the way she writes these characters and builds this world truly puts her in a league all by herself. I’m actually in awe and struggling to come up with cohesive sentences, because I’m so impressed with her and this book.

Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier

I offhandedly bought this series from Book Outlet one day and it’s just been sitting on my shelves. I’ve felt sort of reading slumpy after A Court of Mist and Fury, so I figured a new series would be just what I needed. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect the start of this series to blow me away like it did.

โ€œIt seemed to me it would be better to die standing up to a tyrant than to survive as a tool of his will.โ€

Shadowfell was everything I could ever want in fae story. It was so magical and whimsical, yet so full of adventure and mystery. Juliet Marillier’s writing flows so eloquently that it was impossible not to become addicted to this world after chapter one.

In this world, some people are blessed with canny gifts. There is a vast array of canny gifts, from being able to see the future, to altering people’s minds, to just heightened senses and skills. These are all outlawed and punishable by death, unless it would work in the favor of the king, Keldec. Not only is anything involving these gifts illegal, even talking to or housing fae (or people who have) is punishable by death.

Autumn is the time of the Cull, and is even more dangerous for wandering travelers. The king’s enforcers will kill mercilessly, seeking out these individuals and their entire villages. They do not hesitate…they exhibit no restraint. They take and they take and… Oh my gosh, I am such Hamilton trash.

This book surrounds Nerya, who has a very special canny gift. Normally the fae(Good Folk/Little Ones) only can be seen or heard by humans if they wish to do so. Well, Nerya can see and hear them all the time. Obviously it’s easy to see how useful that would be for the king, so she has been hunted, and on the run, for a very long time.

Nerya’s life has had a lot of sadness in it, but in her childhood her grandmother taught her some things about the fae. How to offer them food, how iron hurts them and will keep them away, how some things are worth a sacrifice.

After her father parts with her over three silver, this book becomes an adventure story of Nerya trying to get to Shadowfell. Along the way, the adventure becomes full of quests, questions on who Nerya can trust and, most importantly, survival.

There is also a little romance, but my bleeding heart wished there was much more. Flint is a double agent in this medieval world, who is also harboring his own secrets. Honestly, I fell in love with him from the start. Juliet Marillier lets the reader know from start to finish that Flint is not the drop dead gorgeous male protagonist we are used to the heroine swooning over, and honestly that made me love him even more.

โ€œBe safe, my heartโ€

Also, I know I said above that the fae in this book are called Good Folk and Little Ones, but they aren’t magical humans with pointed ears. No, no, they are little creatures that come in all shapes and sizes. Some even are much more on the animal side when it comes to their looks. I completely loved this version of fae and, like I said before, I easily became addicted to these characters and this world.

This book was as amazing journey, and I felt so blessed to be able to come along for the ride. The world building is captivating, the prose is beyond gorgeous, and the characters evoked much emotion from me. This was my first Juliet Marillier book, but it will not be my last.

Like, I’m literally going to binge read Raven Flight right now.

Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan

Saga has been on my graphic-novel radar for quite some time. I mean, how could it not be? Everyone, and I mean literally every one of my Goodreads friends, is obsessed with it. I know I’m late to this party, but I still couldn’t resist delving into this phenomenon that has taken all my friends by storm.

I received an ARC of Brian K. Vaughan’s Paper Girls, Vol. 1 a few weeks ago, and to be completely honest, it didn’t blow me away. I wasn’t in love with the art, and some of the banter was offensive and downright unbelievable for twelve-year-old girls. Still, with all the hype surrounding this series, I couldn’t resist the urge to give Saga a shot, and I was much more impressed than I was with Paper Girls, Vol. 1.

No wonder this is so popular; it was amazing. Not only did it surpass Paper Girls, Vol. 1 in every aspect (art, banter, characters), it also had so much more to make Sage a fantastic, and unique, graphic-novel experience!

Saga surrounds two star-crossed lovers a galaxy that doesn’t approve of their relationship. Alana is from the largest planet, Landfall, and has wings protruding from her back. Marco is an ex-soldier from a moon, Wreath, and comes equipped with his very own set of horns. Their relationship is taboo enough already, but this graphic-novel starts out with them bringing a baby into this war filled world.

I’m now going to break down each chapter in this bind up. There will be SPOILERS, so please use caution in continuing if you have not read this graphic-novel!

CHAPTER ONE:
Our story begins on the planet Cleave, where Marco and Alana are bringing in a very cute, but very different, baby girl. Not only is she adorable, but she got her momma’s wings and her daddies’ horns. We find out Alana and Marco met by Alana breaking him out of prison. We then get to see the first glances of how many people want this relationship terminated. A freelancer named The Will is hired to kill Alana and Marco, but to bring their baby back unharmed. Alana and Marco feel hopeless, but are given a map to a spaceship that will, hopefully, make it so they can start a new life with their new child, Hazel.

CHAPTER TWO:
The Will is not the only freelancer after them; another one named The Stalk is, too. This chapter had a little bit of slut shaming in it, and that made me a sad panda. Marco and Alana are still after the ship from chapter one. The Stalk does find them along the way, and wounds Marco. She runs off though, because she hears “the Horrors” coming. The Horrors end up being ghost children that seem to have met their end in very gruesome ways. One Horror, a girl named Izabel, seems very friendly.

CHAPTER THREE:
Izabel then offers to help Alana with Marco, but at a price; she wants to bond with Hazel so she can leave the planet. This chapter we really get to meet Prince Robot IV, while he is trying to learn more and more about Marco and Alana.

CHAPTER FOUR:
We are then introduced to Sextillion, which is basically just a sex planet that The Will goes to. It’s all fun and games until The Will gets propositioned to have sex with a six-year-old girl. He immediately kills her “groomer” and attempts to rescue the child. Marco wakes up from his injuries just in time for them to get attacked by a random ship.

CHAPTER FIVE:
Prince Robot IV and his princess are going to have a child, as well! While The Will is leaving Sextillion he is stopped by the six-year-olds’ owner, Mama Sun. The Will calls The Stalk and admits he is in love with her, right before she is killed.

CHAPTER SIX:
Prince Robot IV is leading the men that killed The Stalk and answers her phone after she is shot. The Will vows to murder him. Marco and Alana make it, finally, to their spaceship that they’ve been tracking all volume. They need to make a sacrifice before entering, so Marco shatters his sword. The ship allows them entry and it seems perfect for them. That is, until Marco’s parents track them from the broken blade and completely crashes their party on their new spaceship.

Overall, I really did enjoy this bind-up and can see why people love this world so much. I don’t think I love it as much as everyone else, but that could be completely due to how freaking insanely hyped up this is. I still really enjoyed it and will probably continue on with this series, eventually.

Oh, and I love Lying Cat.

The Siren by Tiffany Reisz

โ€œA love story is not the same as a romance novel. A romance novel is the story of two people falling in love against their will. This is a story of two people who leave each other against their will. It starts to end the minute they meet.โ€

This book couldn’t be further from what I was expecting. Yet, I was more pleasantly surprised than I could have ever imagined. Also, growing up in a very Catholic home, I think that also made me appreciate this book more than the average reader.

This has been on my TBR for quite some time, but I finally decided it was time for me to read it after seeing Chelsea’s video, last week. (Seriously, check her Booktube out. She’s amazing!)

This book is set in Manhattan, New York and follows an aspiring writer, Nora Sutherlin. Nora has written a few other books that would be considered more on the smutty side, but now she wants to be published through a more legit publishing house, therefore, she has to work with an editor that won’t put up with her excuses or antics. And what antics are those, might you ask? Well, Nora is also a very well know dominatrix, who has quite an extensive background in BDSM.

In my opinion, that is the best part of this book; how wonderfully, and healthy, this book treats the BDSM lifestyle. This isn’t some FSOG wannabe, where the girl gets a spanking and the guy says some hurtful things to her. This book really delves into the underground world that is BDSM and actually portrays it really well.

I can see how the sex, not even including the BDSM aspects, would make someone not as open minded uncomfortable. I mean, it’s sort of a weird love triangle square between a priest, a married (estranged) man, and someone a decade younger than the protagonist who also happens to be a virgin.

I’m, personally, team Zach, AKA: the estranged married man, but he honestly seems like not the best choice from the ending of this book. Alas, I can’t help it and my heart wants what it wants. Zach is also the most painful road out of the three for Nora, but who likes clean endings anyways? Maybe it’s the masochist in me, but I think that road would lead me more to Sรธren. Regardless, I’d pick Wes last, and looking through my friend’s reviews I am in the minority with that choice. I understand that he’s Nora’s conscious and all, but all his scenes literally felt like babysitting a whiny child to me. Well, maybe not the bath scene or the two bed scenes, but the rest of his scenes, God damn it!

Because this book is about a writer, it also has the cool aspect of a book inside of a book. You will be able to read many passages in this book about the book Nora is creating. I’m just a sucker for things like that, so I ate up all those passages!

โ€œThere are only two reasons why you leave someone you’re still in love with – either it’s the right thing to do, or it’s the only thing to do.โ€

This was expertly written, the story and concept were so unique, and I wish more books would push the envelope like The Siren did. Seriously, this book has such wonderfully written taboos. As long as you’re not too much of a prude, and would like to be enlightened a little on the S&M community, I would for sure recommend this book.

โ€œIf you come back to me,โ€ he said, making a rare concession, โ€œwill you run or will you crawl?โ€
Nora had pressed her whole body into him at that moment. Resting her head on his strong shoulder, she watched as a tear forged a river down his long and muscled back.
โ€œIโ€™ll fly.โ€

And I Darken by Kiersten White

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

I’m not sure how I really feel about this book, yet. I enjoyed it immensely, and it was very satisfying when finished, but something stopped me from loving this book. Do I ignore this nagging pain and give this five stars, because it feels like it should be five stars, or do I write this review and see what’s stopping me from singing this book’s praises to anyone who will listen?

The start was fantastic, and I was absolutely, wonderfully, blindsided by Vlad the Impaler. You know, the OG Dracula himself. I was expecting Game of Thrones, not Once Burned! After the initial shock, the last sentence of chapter one literally left me speechless, and I knew I was hooked.

โ€œLet her be strong.
Let her be sly.
And let her be ugly.โ€

So why am I feeling so indecisive on what to rate this?

It certainly wasn’t the female lead, Lada, who astounded me from childhood to young-adulthood.

The other main character, Radu, Lada’s younger brother, had his ups and down for me, but overall he did redeem himself with his choice at the end.

Maybe it was Mehmed? Yeah, actually, it’s 100% Mehmed. Most of his actions pissed me off to no end, and overall I just really detested his character. Maybe he can win me over in the two books to come, but as of now my dislike is pretty strong and maybe the sole reason I cannot give this book five stars. Especially when scenes would talk about his wives, children, or harem of ladies that didn’t mean as much to him as Lada. Like seriously, where can I go throw up and then stab this guy? His choices were very inexcusable, to me, and I hope a certain boy with big ears steps it up majorly in the next installment.

This story is about the two youngest heirs of Vlad himself. They are, also, heirs to their empire. Well, Radu is. That is, until their shady older brother puts them all in a very unfortunate situation. Vlad is then forced to flee with his two children that he didn’t treat too well growing up.

Even though Lada is strong and relentless, nothing will change that she is only a girl in this world and in her father’s eyes. Radu, even being blessed with the mighty penis, is weak and very emotional, and Vlad resents him for it constantly.

They leave Wallachia, and flee to the Ottoman Empire, where Vlad grovels makes a deal for peace, but has to leave Lada and Radu with the sultan so he can keep a watchful eye over them (and the agreement).

Once living and trying to settle in the Ottoman Empire, Lada and Radu befriend Mehmed, which ends up being the son of the sultan. Even though they all become best friends, Lada never forgets where she came from and where she wishes to return. Radu is more than happy blending in and finding a new home where he can find more happiness than he did in Wallachia.

*Queue the holy shit I never saw that coming a mile away twist*

And we got ourselves a very crazy politically driven story about who really has earned the right to the throne, and who can keep their head long enough to accomplish their goals on the throne.

โ€œSouls and thrones are irreconcilable.โ€

I did wish there were more actual battles and action. Especially with Lada being the female version of Dracula for God’s sake! Don’t get me wrong, I love a good political story, but during the midsection of this book I did feel somewhat of a drag. That also might have been caused by Mehmed making stupid choices and Radu making somewhat unbelievable choices, but either way it dragged for me.

โ€œAnd then her lips, from which nothing but poison had ever dropped, found his and were baptized with sweet fire, reborn into something new and wild.โ€

This book is beautifully written, and I really appreciate all the details Kiersten White added to make her history feel believable and cohesive. This story is also very unique and I was surprised quite a few times with the path the story took. Overall, I did enjoy this story for the most part and will most likely continue on with this series.

My favorite part of this book is that there was so much wonderfully done portrayals of sexuality. Not only is there a wonderful representation of lesbians, but we also get to see a male struggling/coming to terms with his sexuality throughout the entirety of this book. There are also a few very powerful passages that embrace female sexuality that I really appreciated. Women can use their bodies as a weapon, but it is most certainly not their only weapon. Also, a mind can be just as sharp as a sword.

This book even embraces religion, Islam to be specific, beautifully without judgment. In turn, it also has a good representation of not having a religion or not wanting to believe what everyone else believes and that being okay, too!

Oh and gender roles? Lada completely decimates those. Seriously, this book is 10/10 for diversity and representation.

Basically, Lada is bae. I feel like I say this time and time again, but do you know why Lada is such a wonderful female lead? Because she picks herself over the boy. She shows her selflessness over and over for her brother and her friends, but when it comes to pleasing herself or pleasing the boy she likes, she pleases herself. Hey all YA authors, can you please write all your females like this?

โ€œAnd so she cut out her heart and offered it as a sacrifice. She would pay whatever price her mother Wallachia demanded.โ€

I really think this book is going to receive lots of praise and win lots of awards. I think it’s going to going to smash many people’s expectations and, more importantly, smash the patriarchy.

Just try to ignore Mehmed, because without remembering him this book is an easy five stars. Unfortunately, what he represents, and the scenes with him, make me give this a three (almost four) star rating.

Thank you for coming with me on this psychological journey that I’m calling a book review.