New Adult Romance, Romance

My Review: Hook, Line, and Sinker (It Happened One Summer #2): by Tessa Bailey

Publish Date: March 1st, 2022
Number of Pages: 400 Pages
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre(s): Romance

**Warning!! This review contains spoilers from the previous book in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!!**

To see my review of book #1 – It Happened One Summer – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

‘I could tell by the way you looked at her, she was something real special.’

‘How did I look at her?’ He was afraid to find out.

‘Ah, son. Like a summer day showing up after a hundred years of winter.’

– Tessa Bailey, “Hook, Line, and Sinker”

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

King crab fisherman Fox Thornton has a reputation as a sexy, carefree flirt. Everyone knows he’s a guaranteed good time–in bed and out–and that’s exactly how he prefers it. Until he meets Hannah Bellinger. She’s immune to his charm and looks, but she seems to enjoy his… personality? And wants to be friends? Bizarre. But he likes her too much to risk a fling, so platonic pals it is.

Now, Hannah’s in town for work, crashing in Fox’s spare bedroom. She knows he’s a notorious ladies’ man, but they’re definitely just friends. In fact, she’s nursing a hopeless crush on a colleague and Fox is just the person to help with her lackluster love life. Armed with a few tips from Westport’s resident Casanova, Hannah sets out to catch her coworker’s eye… yet the more time she spends with Fox, the more she wants him instead. As the line between friendship and flirtation begins to blur, Hannah can’t deny she loves everything about Fox, but she refuses to be another notch on his bedpost.

Living with his best friend should have been easy. Except now she’s walking around in a towel, sleeping right across the hall, and Fox is fantasizing about waking up next to her for the rest of his life and… and… man overboard! He’s fallen for her, hook, line, and sinker. Helping her flirt with another guy is pure torture, but maybe if Fox can tackle his inner demons and show Hannah he’s all in, she’ll choose him instead?

In the follow-up to It Happened One Summer, Tessa Bailey delivers another deliciously fun rom-com about a former player who accidentally falls for his best friend while trying to help her land a different man…

~~~

Continuing off the events of the last book, Hook, Line, and Sinker is another addition to what I found to be an entertaining, hilarious, sexy, and just light-hearted romantic story that centered around the Bellinger sisters! This time the younger sister, Hannah, gets the spotlight on her despite how she feels being in the background and usually preferring it that way…

This story takes place a year later when Hannah is working for a production company in LA, and to impress the director she has her eye on, she suggests Westport–the town her and her sister rediscovered–so they return to continue filming.

Her and Fox have an interesting relationship where they’re sort of friends, but there may be some secret feelings both may be harboring for each other….You’ll have to read it yourself to see how it all plays out!

I read this book all within one day, I couldn’t put it down, and the sexual tension that was slowly building between the two main characters was for sure what was the main drive was all about. While this book wasn’t as spicy in terms of quantity with less sex scenes, the moments we do get are twice as intense and felt like a deeper and more meaningful reading experience if I’m being completely honest.

Its a contemporary romance, and once again Tessa Bailey really impressed me with her writing craft and I continue to say she has a fan in me! I can’t wait to get my hands on her books from here on out!

What really surprised me was how the emotional/inner growth actually came from the male character in this romance story! Fox actually has a lot of emotional baggage that is touched upon, I go into more details about what it is exactly later down in my lists, but as a male reader, I’ll say it was refreshing to see a male character get this kind of development in a book, men do face certain societal pressures and also have emotional depth but are told to “man up” and hide it beneath the surface. Men can be victims too, and as I’m typing this review in May 2022, the court battle currently going on between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard is a great example to justify me saying this! But that’s all I’ll say about that on this book review…

~~~

You can’t live life worrying about what people will think. You’ll wake up one day, look at a calendar, and count the days you could have spent being happy. With her. And no one else, especially the ones wagging their tongues, are going to be there to console you

– Tessa Bailey, “Hook, Line, and Sinker”

What I Liked:

  1. The Sexual Tension! My, oh my, things were getting hot and heavy between Fox and Hannah as the story progresses and this is mainly why I read this whole book in less than a day! I really thought they had great chemistry, and even though this book was much more of a slow-burn, when things reach their climax in more ways than one, it feels so much more intense and rewarding!
  2. The Author Touches on Important Topics for Men! Surprisingly Fox is the one who gains more inner/emotional growth in this story; its a rarity to see this with a male character instead of the woman in a romance novel! Tessa Bailey expertly touches on important topics like toxic masculinity and male sexualization and imposter syndrome with Fox. In the book, he has a certain reputation amongst his friends and the townsfolk, to even Brendan–his best friend–doesn’t trust him to be alone with Hannah, his fiancé’s younger sister! It’s even lead him to believe he doesn’t deserve a position of power and authority as captain like Brendan wants him to be. I thought Tessa Bailey shed some light on these important lessons and shows that men do face issues with showing emotions and being vulnerable because society tells them to “man up.”
  3. The Dirty Talk Improved! I mentioned this in in the previous review of book #1, but the dirty talk had some cringe moments….BUT luckily I didn’t think this at all in this book!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. There Wasn’t As Much Drama with the Fake Dating…Part of the plot of this story was Hannah asked Fox to pretend to be dating her to make another guy jealous: the director who’s filming the movie they return to Westport for. I thought this was downplayed too much for my preference, and it really only made an appearance once or twice in the book, so part of me was like “what was the point of that then?”….
  2. It wasn’t as Spicy…Don’t get me wrong, there IS spice in this book like the previous one, but just not as much…like season 2 of Bridgerton on Netflix, this sequel was very much more of a slow-burn before the characters do the no-pants-dance.

Conclusion:

Overall, this was an excellent addition to It Happened One Summer, and gave some much needed attention to Hannah and Fox, who also both deserved their own spotlight in this story! There wasn’t as much of a Schitt’s Creek feel to this book as much, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t love this book either!

There’s an epilogue scene that is so wholesome and warm and touching; it was the perfect way to end these books, and made me even more of a fan of the author. I really liked these books, I of course recommend them to anyone who enjoys those light, breezy, beachy reads with romance…

Thanks for reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: Gild (The Plated Prisoner #1): by Raven Kennedy

Publish Date: October 1st, 2020
Number of Pages: 289 Pages
Publisher: Independently Published
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.25 Stars

Does it really matter if your cage is solid gold when you aren’t allowed to leave it? A cage is a cage, no matter how gilded.

– Raven Kennedy, “Gild”

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

The fae abandoned this world to us. And the ones with power rule.

Gold.

Gold floors, gold walls, gold furniture, gold clothes. In Highbell, in the castle built into the frozen mountains, everything is made of gold.

Even me.

King Midas rescued me. Dug me out of the slums and placed me on a pedestal. I’m called his precious. His favored. I’m the woman he Gold-Touched to show everyone that I belong to him. To show how powerful he is. He gave me protection, and I gave him my heart. And even though I don’t leave the confines of the palace, I’m safe.

Until war comes to the kingdom and a deal is struck.

Suddenly, my trust is broken. My love is challenged. And I realize that everything I thought I knew about Midas might be wrong.

Because these bars I’m kept in, no matter how gilded, are still just a cage. But the monsters on the other side might make me wish I’d never left.

Author’s Note: This is a fantasy romance m/f story. There will be monarchs and magic and fae and steam and violence and all the feels. This book contains explicit content and mature language not intended for anyone under 18 years of age. This is book one of three in the series, so that means it won’t be tied up in a bow at the end. In fact, the bow is probably going to be tossed right off a cliff. But it’ll be worth the fall.

~~~

Gild is the first installment of an adult fantasy series called The Plated Prisoner that revolves around a loose retelling of the mythological royal figure: King Midas. To be honest, I’m not too familiar with the whole story of him besides how the story is from ancient Greek origins and the obvious fact that whatever he touched with his hands turned to solid gold.

I picked this title up because there has been quite some hype as of late surrounding this series on social media like Bookstagram, BookTok, and in my personal reading circles, so when I saw the first two books at my local Barnes & Noble, I was happily surprised and immediately picked them up!

This story takes place in a realm called Orea, where there are six kingdoms, and King Midas rules over the sixth kingdom, Highbell. In his Golden Castle is the caged woman, Auren, who the story actually revolves around. She is Midas’s favored, his prized possession, his ring to rule all rings, his pet, so you get the picture…

Somehow, she’s able to live in her fully golden body and even has her own silken ribbons that go down her spine that can move on their own and can feel things like pain and touch. She was the victim of child trafficking and was homeless until Midas rescued her, and for ten years she lived in a golden, gilded cage in his castle and shows her joy and gratitude of being his even though her “savior” keeps her in a golden-caged prison.

King Midas is coming up with a plan to take over the fourth kingdom, the most powerful of them all, which is also ruled by a figure known as King Ravinger, or King Rot. There’s also hints tossed in about how long ago there was a seventh kingdom ruled by the Fae, and how Orea was actually co-founded by humans and Fae, but the Fae betrayed them about 300 years ago and cut the bridge between their worlds and disappeared…but perhaps some of their magic was left behind?….who knows!

Now, some of you might be wondering why I’ve given it a lower score out of 5 stars, and you better believe it that I’ll tell you why:

I had some pretty mixed feelings overall about the book, and not even because of the more darker themes and trigger-warning instances–no, that content actually kept me pretty interested–but merely because of how this book is extremely light in action and plot; it’s all set up to introduce the world, the characters, the main character’s current predicament, and give you the hint of magic that will hopefully come more into play later on.

Here’s my quick input on the trigger warnings: there is murder, there is sexual assault, there is rape, there is heavy misogyny and sexism, there is bargaining others for sexual favors without their consent…

Personally, I wasn’t triggered by these instances in the story…to be honest I thought it made the story more interesting, BUT I also understand that not everyone enjoys that sort of content or wants to read it, so it’s fair to give a warning to this sort of thing.

AND before cancel culture comes for my ass, just to clarify: just because I’m not triggered by this happening in the story doesn’t mean I’m okay with rape/sexual assault or condone it in anyway! Put your pitchforks and torches down and keep reading…

It’s funny because it’s not like this is the only book that has the sort of “setting the scene” formula in the books I’ve read…The Hunger Games had this too with Katniss Everdeen taking her sister’s place in the 74th annual games and being frisked off to the Capitol and seeing the corruption and greed and danger firsthand, A Court of Thorns and Roses with Feyre being introduced to the world of Prythian and the lord of the spring court, Tamlin….yeah, I’m sure most of us on here know how that turned out…but anyways you get my point! The first book is merely set-up for character intros and world-building, then the actual overall series plot doesn’t really come into play until the sequel.

Back to Gild, the beginning was actually pretty decent with it starting literally right in the middle of some action…and there were some unexpected twists thrown in too that impressed me, I felt a mix of reactions to Auren and how obviously brainwashed she was by King Midas, but the midpoint was the big slow drag for me. I was seriously wondering why people were hyping this book so much, but my bookish friends kept me going, and I did some research that suggested the author does this on purpose to show you how mundane Auren’s life is before the plot truly begins. The last 30 % of the book actually really saved it for me and definitely leaves off on a cliffhanger! A lot of danger, a lot of new characters, and a lot of twists!

Sure, there wasn’t really a plot to go off of, nor really a sense of resolution in any way, but it sure makes you curious to grab the next book like IMMEDIATELY because, seriously…with an ending like that, what could happen next?!

~~~

Men making deals on the behalf of women never seems to go very well for the women.

– Raven Kennedy, “Gild”

What I Liked:

  1. It Wasn’t Afraid to Get Dark! So this is the dark side of my Gemini coming out, but the trigger warning content actually was a highlight for me and raised my brows in curiosity and interest rather than dread or cringe. King Midas has a harem of “saddles” (or sex slaves in all honesty), and even Auren is considered one even if she is always kept separate from the others while in her cage. Since they’re still slaves, their bodies aren’t even their own and decisions get made without their consent, and this is reminded to you several times throughout the story. Like any popular dark fantasy show, there’s plenty of bloody betrayal and blood shed as well. There’s even a cruel death of a certain character that was cruel because of how the corpse is treated after their death…
  2. King Midas Story Gets Some Attention! I personally haven’t really heard of any King Midas retellings that have gotten attention like this book has, or if there are many others to compare to at all, so this fact makes the story actually stand out in this way alone. I like that its a more unique retelling of a classic story that hasn’t gotten as much attention as say…Beauty and the Beast, the Little Mermaid, or even Hades and Persephone.
  3. The Ending! Like I said earlier, the end of this book absolutely does a 180 and saves the whole story! As soon as a specific character and his soldiers make their first appearance, you know things are about to get a whole lot more interesting!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Very Lacking in Action and Plot…While I loved the other books that have the formula of being mostly set-up for the next books in the series, this book was a little weaker in that sense just because not as much happens to make it feel like a stronger book as a standalone. At least The Hunger Games and A Court of Thorns and Roses stood stronger on their own!
  2. Not A Whole Lot of Romance Either…There are some sex scenes that happen, but that doesn’t mean there’s a whole lot of actual romance happening in this book either. The only thing that even comes close to it is actually pretty toxic because Auren is brainwashed by King Midas and its all a textbook example of Stockholm Syndrome…I’m hoping the next books have more in this regard as the story continues.

Conclusion:

Overall, Gild by Raven Kennedy was a good but not great read, BUT from the urging of my bookish friends and from several other readers on social media AND reading the ending of this book as well, my interest to read on spikes up like I just chugged three Redbulls back-to-back!

Everyone says the next books, Glint and Gleam, are so much better and so much more happens, so with that in mind and how those sequels really do get much better in my experience, my final words are:

Lets see what happens!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

New Adult Romance, Paranormal, YA Fantasy

My Review: The Kingdom of the Cursed (Kingdom of the Wicked #2): by Kerri Maniscalco

Publish Date: October 5th, 2021
Number of Pages: 448 Pages
Publisher: Little Brown & Company
Genre(s): Paranormal, New Adult Romance, YA Fantasy

***Warning!! This review contains spoilers from this book and the previous in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review of book #1 – Kingdom of the Wicked – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the series so far – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

‘Tell me,’ he whispered, his voice sliding like silk over my flushed skin.

‘What?’ My own voice came out breathless.

‘I am your favorite sin.’

– Kerri Maniscalco, “Kingdom of the Cursed”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

After selling her soul to become Queen of the Wicked, Emilia travels to the Seven Circles with the enigmatic Prince of Wrath, where she’s introduced to a seductive world of vice.

She vows to do whatever it takes to avenge her beloved sister, Vittoria… even if that means accepting the hand of the Prince of Pride, the king of demons.

The first rule in the court of the Wicked? Trust no one. With back-stabbing princes, luxurious palaces, mysterious party invitations, and conflicting clues about who really killed her twin, Emilia finds herself more alone than ever before. Can she even trust Wrath, her one-time ally in the mortal world… or is he keeping dangerous secrets about his true nature?

Emilia will be tested in every way as she seeks a series of magical objects that will unlock the clues of her past and the answers she craves…

One sister.
Two sinful princes.
Infinite deception with a side of revenge… Welcome to Hell.

~~~

I sincerely apologize readers, as I’m typing this review, I’m noticing how much longer it’s taking me to post more often here on my blog…all I can really say to explain myself is life is crazy, I’m really tired a lot, I’m trying to have a social life because sitting at home in bed with depression doesn’t help, I’ve gotten back into drawing. I’ve started a bookstagram account (@goodyreads) and actually because I’ve been reading up a storm for the last few months too! Like I can’t even keep up with typing up reviews with all I’ve read so far! But anyways, onto my review…

The Kingdom of the Cursed is the sequel in this series, but the second book syndrome is (thank god) NO WHERE to be found…in fact, it’s the total opposite because I loved this book way more than the first one! It’s so much deeper and richer and sexier, and I’m so glad that the author decided to go the more New Adult path for this story instead of keeping it in Young Adult. I think it serves the story so much better!

We start off immediately how book 1 ended, and that was such a big cliffhanger so you’re right back in the thick of it as Wrath and Emilia travel to Hell together. Emilia is still feeling the sting of betrayal at how Wrath seemingly tricked her and made her soul the one he needed to free himself from the Devil and give him a bride…BUT she can’t help but still feel very much attracted to him, even if she has to do all she can to hide that little tidbit for what it’s worth…

As they get into Hell, there’s the preparation of a celebration that they must attend at some point, and it’s not exactly confirmed right away, but Emilia will most likely be the guest of honor. In order to get into Pride’s manor and learn if he’s for sure who’s behind her sister’s murder, she reluctantly turns to Wrath to train her on all mind-games and mental/emotional abuse the other princes may take upon, but let’s just say things get pretty heated in more ways than one….

Everything about this book is just bigger when compared to the previous book…and no, it’s not just about what Wrath is packing underneath his breeches. The plot thickened so very much, as did the sexual tension between our two main characters, it was a surprisingly hot read! And there’s so much more mythology and lore explored this time around surrounding Emilia’s lineage to add as well!

The plot itself may feel slower at some points, especially with the training and Emilia’s repetitive inner monologues about either finding her sister’s killer or how much she either hates Wrath or wants to get naked with him, but it is more character-driven this time around, and I personally didn’t have a problem with it, but I can see others might. Either way, it was a perfect book for spooky season!

You see a shift in both characters and definitely some growth; Emilia has definitely grown some thicker skin and isn’t as naive and innocent; she’s kind of turned into a scheming Slytherin-esque heroine if I do say so myself. Wrath also shows a lot more emotion this time around as he fights his own urges and admits to his attraction at some point or another, but isn’t afraid to be a cold and ruthless ruler of his realm all the same!

There are lots of twists at the end of this book, some you may be able to guess, but some I honestly wasn’t expecting, so the surprise of it all definitely adds to my appreciation of this book. And of course, it ends on an even bigger cliffhanger in multiple ways that I won’t spoil (duh) and that you’ll have to read to find out for yourself!

~~~

Your longings will taunt and tease you into oblivion if you can’t control them. This is a realm of sin and desire.

— Kerri Maniscalco, “Kingdom of the Cursed”

What I Liked:

  1. The Mature NA Shift! I am sooooo glad that the author decided to up the maturity on this story and make it a more New Adult level of reading because, let’s be honest, Wrath is WAY too sexy to stuck in Young Adult, and this book DEFINITELY proves that! Sexy Demon Prince can freakin’ get. It!
  2. How Much Thicker The Plot Got! I was surprised at how much deeper this mystery goes and how the story went from being a simple murder mystery to what exactly are Emilia’s abilities, what do they mean, and raises plenty more questions about her lineage as a witch too! The author also helps this by diving deeper into the mythology and lore behind this world and the history of the seven realms of hell, the first witch, and the 7 princes of hell!
  3. Wrath & Emilia’s Sexual Tension! Holy….shit! This book was freakin’ hot! I mean, it wasn’t as smutty as a Sierra Simone or Lorelei James novel, but I wasn’t expecting the amount of spice this book had! Kudos to the author on upping the sex appeal in this regards! It makes me think how well other YA authors would do if they decided to write more mature content…
  4. All the Secrets and Mistrust! One thing that continues to drive this story is all the intrigue and all the omission of truths that Wrath and Emilia keep from each other…I mean, it makes sense since they’ve gone from enemies-to-lovers-andbackto-enemies in these books, and it is oh so juicy to see them at each other’s throats (and other body parts here and there 😉)

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Why Are The Demons So…Non-demonic?…So there’s a couple side characters in this book who are all demons of Hell, and part of me was a little turned off at how…civilized it all was! Call it cliché, but I was hoping for more chaos and monstrous creatures to fight against or outsmart. There weren’t even werewolves and vampires like in the previous book! Fauna is an excellent example; she seemed just way too sweet and innocent to be a demon in all honesty…she was pretty much just the voice in Emilia’s head to remind her of how good Wrath could be when she was particularly upset with him about something.

Conclusion:

Overall, I really enjoyed this sequel tremendously more than the previous book by a long shot! The romance was added much heavier and much more steamier too, which I am incredibly happy about, but even the plot got much deeper too and with an ending like this one, you can bet there are LOTS of questions I have for what can happen next! It showed how little we truly know as an audience, and I’m only sad I have to wait another year to get more answers!

If you love the romance dynamics of Poppy and Casteel in A Kingdom of Flesh & Fire, or Feyre and Rhysand in A Court of Mist and Fury, you’ll devour this book!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult Romance, Romance

My Review: A Touch of Darkness (Hades & Persephone #1): by Scarlett St. Clair

Publish Date: May 23rd, 2019
Number of Pages: 353 Pages
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

Hades chuckled, leaning in so that when he spoke, his breath caressed her lips. ‘Oh, darling. You don’t know what I’m capable of.’

– Scarlett St. Clair, “A Touch of Darkness”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Persephone is the Goddess of Spring by title only. The truth is, since she was a little girl, flowers have shriveled at her touch. After moving to New Athens, she hopes to lead an unassuming life disguised as a mortal journalist.

Hades, God of the Dead, has built a gambling empire in the mortal world and his favorite bets are rumored to be impossible.

After a chance encounter with Hades, Persephone finds herself in a contract with the God of the Dead and the terms are impossible: Persephone must create life in the Underworld or lose her freedom forever.

The bet does more than expose Persephone’s failure as a goddess, however. As she struggles to sow the seeds of her freedom, love for the God of the Dead grows – and it’s forbidden.

~~~

This was a total mood read, and while there are plenty of things that I thought could’ve been way better about it, it still at least served its purpose and entertained me as a reader. While some aspects were underdeveloped more than I cared for, what this story did give me was an erotic romantic tale with a sprinkling of fantasy elements added on top, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing so long as that’s something that you’re looking for.

I’ve been in the mood for some greek mythology related stories, and I’m usually really drawn into novels that get compared to the retelling of the classic tale of Hades and Persephone, so I’m so incredibly sad to say this wasn’t the best out of the many in that regards. It was still good enough to keep me interested and had me reading late into the night, but the romance factor was the main reason for that along with just having the whole classical mythology aesthetic on top of it all.

The writing was very so-so; It felt a little amateurish and choppy in some parts…not to mention there were a few typos and names mixed up…

This version of Persephone wasn’t the greatest portrayal of her character…

The sex was hot!

The Gods/Goddesses live amongst us!

The worldbuilding was simple, but effective!

Overall it wasn’t a bad book by any means, but I have similar feelings to it as I did for Laura Thalassa’s Bargainer series…I’d only read the first book for that, but the story focused mainly on the romance, had a simple world constructed with the possibility of more to explore as you read on, but not enough of the other aspects to make it a greater fantasy-genre book were developed as much as they could’ve been. It felt like I was just reading another version of the 50 Shades millionaire romance stories but the guy’s name just happens to be Hades this time around. At least from my perspective, I can say it felt like this story was less problematic than the franchise by EL James was…

With all that said, I can praise the romance factor that this book offered. I thought the author did a splendid job at it with the sexual tension that was built up between Hades and Persephone! At least, I can say I personally enjoyed it. It wasn’t the greatest, but it was still keeping me reading on. Some could argue that some of the lovemaking scenes felt out of place or excessive, but c’mon…..lesbehonest, we all know the smut is one of the main reasons people are drawn to these books to begin with. I certainly did not think this way!

~~~

‘Let me worship you,’ he said.

She remembered the words she had whispered to him in the back of the limo after La Rose. You will worship me, and I won’t even have to order you. His request felt sinful and devious, and she reveled in it.

She answered, ‘Yes.’

– Scarlett St. Clair, “A Touch of Darkness”

What I Liked:

  1. The Slow-Building Sexual Tension! The sparks between Hades and Persephone were (of course) a major highlight of the book. The author really did a good job of giving their relationship a slow burn that made the moments whenever they gave into their lust and passion all the more satisfying! Side note, but I was also such a fan of the scene later on in the book when the two of them are freakin’ couples goals when they had a movie night in their sweats and baked cookies…
  2. It’s an Unorthodox Retelling! So not everyone will like this retelling simply because it doesn’t necessarily follow the original story to a T. Things have definitely been switched around, or completely different ideas have been sprung forward to at least make it feel like something completely new. I just know there are certain readers who are really sensitive to that sort of thing, and will strongly dislike something if it doesn’t perfectly match up, kind of like when a book gets turned into a movie or TV show and doesn’t follow the book all that much.
  3. The Modern Day Greek Gods Living Amongst Us! The worldbuilding was honestly more on the mediocre side, but it still worked rather well for the sake of the story. In this world, The greek gods and goddesses live among us, and they’re very much still in charge. They’re like the A-list celebrities a lot of us idolize: Hades runs the night-clubs and casinos, Dionysus has the world’s best wine vineyards, and I think you get the picture…There’s a red carpet scene with all the glitz and glamour and paparazzi cameras flashing as they all make their appearances, and it made me think how much more fun even events like the MET Gala would be if we could see deities like Apollo, Aphrodite, and yes even Hades making appearances at these sort of events. Overall, this aspect of the whole book was very fun!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Grammar/Spelling/Typos…It happens at the very beginning, but there are some noticeable errors along these lines that were a big turn off…I mean, if something is published—traditionally or independently, I’d hope there wouldn’t be something like this in the book itself. I’m not reading someone’s fanfiction on Wattpad, this is an actual published book! I don’t know, it lessened my expectations and made the quality of it go down in my eyes.
  2. The Smut is Overhyped…I’m glad to see how many people like this book, or even this whole series, but I will admit that the actual sex scenes didn’t fully live up to the hype for me. They were good, but I was thinking they’d be better based off so many glowing reviews this book has. I was also maybe hoping for something…darker and more erotic and tantalizing, and maybe with more magical abilities put into play to spice things up a bit…
  3. Not Sure How I Feel About the Villain…This is the first time I’ve seen Demeter set up as the villain in the whole story revolving around Hades and Persephone, and while I say this is a more original take, I’m not sure how I feel about it to be honest. In the story, Demeter is always known as the caring and doting mother, but this time she’s painted as cold and manipulative and just an all around frigid bitch! I don’t know, I think the idea of having a positive mother/daughter relationship is always a better way to go, but that’s just a personal preference to me. I’ve just seen shitty parents used as the outer conflict for a character in the romance-genre way too many times, and it’s just so cliché for me too.
  4. Very Little Magic…Some other reviewers on Goodreads say this, and I have to agree: there were times this felt like just another millionaire romance, and not really something that has the legendary Greek God as the main character. It did feel almost like a “50 Shades of Grey” + Greek Mythology kind of setup quite a few times. At least this time it’s a little less problematic. There just wasn’t as much magic as I was hoping, it was very underdeveloped, but maybe more will happen in the later books! Fingers crossed…
  5. Persephone Isn’t All That…I wasn’t the biggest fan of Persephone in this particular story. She was headstrong and fierce at times, and more power to her for that, but she was also just pure plot convenience too. She was just way too naive and there was just WAY too much miscommunication with her in order to add conflict into the story for my liking.

Conclusion:

Overall, I liked but didn’t love this book, but it certainly filled the need for some Greek Mythology related fiction that I’ve been kind of craving as of late. It focused more on the erotic romance and less on the grandeur of having the powerful and magical gods among us, which is fine, but I want to see more stronger fantasy aspects going forward!

I recommend this book, and possibly this series, to those who really enjoy authors like Sarah J. Maas, Laura Thalassa, and even Jennifer L. Armentrout. This author’s writing isn’t as up to par with these other names, but the overall themes and aesthetics of the story and what is given attention to within the plot will appeal to those who enjoy their books.

The big question I had going forward was which book to read next in the series. Technically, there’s two options: A Touch of Ruin which follows after this book and still follows Persephone’s point of view, or there’s also A Game of Fate, which is actually this book all over again, but this time it’s told from the perspective of Hades! Do you go forward, or see everything from the other side of things? Maybe I’ll try and read the beginning of both and see which one I want to read first? If you’ve read these books already, what do you suggest? Let me know!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

YA Fantasy

My Review: A Reaper at the Gates (An Ember in the Ashes #3): by Sabaa Tahir

Publish Date: June 12th, 2018
Number of Pages: 464 Pages
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre(s): YA Fantasy

***Warning! This book contains spoilers to previous books in the series! Continue reading at your own risk, you’ve officially been warned!***

To see my full review of book #1 – An Ember in the Ashes – Click HERE

To see my full review of book #2 – A Torch Against the Night – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Sabaa Tahir is an evil genius!

Never before has a story that’s so devastating, so visceral, so gut-wrenching in the YA Fantasy genre than this incredible—and underrated—book series that started off with a young girl trying to rescue her brother and a young soldier who just wants his freedom. Things seemed so simple back then, even though they weren’t, but so much has happened since then to not only Laia and Elias, but EVERYONE in these books.

I will admit, I loved the first book a lot more than the second book. I liked the simplicity in the idea of just these young heroes fighting for their freedom with the rebellion against the Martial Empire with a tiny hint of magic sprinkled in, but book two made the series go in a direction I was not fully expecting, nor was I incredibly thrilled about. It brought up ideas I was indifferent about, but fell in love with more characters as depths to their motives were revealed. This book made me fall in love with the books all over again, and in my opinion, saved the series from continuing to slump!

Was it perfect? No…

Was it fun and entertaining? Yes!

Did I cry like a baby at the end and go into a crippling book-hangover for about a week after I finished this book? ….yes.

I can agree with a few people who say this book was slower in the beginning and with Elias’s chapters, as I’m also not really on board for how his storyline is developing. I honestly never pictured how it’s played out from the way he was portrayed in the first book. While thats the case right now, this book ends in a way that makes me very curious to read what happens in the next book, because lesbehonest…it feels like a HEA is almost impossible for Elias and Laia at this point, and I just want them to be happy when this is all over!

Helene continues to slay across the page and become such a strong and fierce female as more and more terrible things keep happening to her thanks to Marcus and the Commandant. Helene and the latter forge a rivalry of who can become HBIC of the Martial Rule, and that was a highlight as Marcus slowly descends further into insanity and paranoia, but what surprised me was how the author explored his character a little more than usual this time around. I mean, he’s still a sadistic nutjob who needs to cool it with the threats against Helene and her family, but it was a surprise nonetheless. I will never complain about developed villain!

The Commandant continues on with her amazingness, and I continue to love her wickedness and overall badassery!

There was a significant less amount of romance in this book—some readers may like that, but I’m the opposite—and it seems like the author gets a kick out of putting just about ANY wall between Laia and being happy with Elias, but there’s another romance that develops that I had been shipping since the last book, so I was happy to see that become canon, and hope it continues into the next and final book!

Overall, I loved this book and it honestly saved the series for me! Since I wasn’t the biggest fan of book #2, I was nervous this book wasn’t going to be nearly as good, but then I get to the climax of A Reaper at the Gates, and in reading all that happens and having all the information revealed to me, I was absolutely blown away by the occurrences and how emotionally impacted I was! The way it was all tied together: The Cook, Laia and Elias, Helene, Harper, The Commandant, The Nightbringer, and the prophecy we learn about….I definitely teared up from this one, and only one other book did this to me back in 2018, and that was Kingdom of Ash, the final book in the Throne of Glass series.

It makes me just as sad all this time later in 2020 that this series is coming to an end at the end of the year. I will be depressed about it for quite some time, just being completely honest about that, but I also enjoy the challenge of continuing on and using all that I’ve gathered from this series that I love, and using that to find yet another series I can fall in love with and shamelessly promote to anyone else who’ll listen!

What It’s About:

I will sing you such a story—a story that was long untold. The story of a name and its meaning. Of how that name matters more than any other single word in existence. But I must prepare myself, for such stories are dragons drawn from a deep well in a dark place. Does one summon a dragon? No. One may only invite it and hope it emerges.

– Sabaa Tahir, “A Reaper at the Gates”

The highly anticipated third book in Sabaa Tahir’s New York Times bestselling EMBER QUARTET.

Beyond the Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.

The Blood Shrike, Helene Aquilla, is assailed on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable, while the Commandant capitalizes on his madness to bolster her own power. As Helene searches for a way to hold back the approaching darkness, her sister’s life and the lives of all those in the Empire hang in the balance.

Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. But while hunting for a way to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would aid her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she’d have to fight.

And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. But in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that will stop at nothing to ensure Elias’s devotion—even at the cost of his humanity.

Curse this world for what it does to the mothers, for what it does to the daughters. Curse it for making us strong through loss and pain, our hearts torn from our chests again and again. Curse it for forcing us to endure.”

– Sabaa Tahir, “A Reaper at the Gates”

What I liked:

  1. The Well Developed Villains! A definite highlight that was really surprising was how the author really took the time to shine a spotlight on the evil characters in this addition to their series. They’re still downright despicable, but there’s some hidden depths there now that do nothing but enhance the richness of a good story. The Commandant continues to be one of the most sadistic female villains I’ve ever come come across—something I’ve been saying since the beginning of these books—but even Marcus has more going on with his character, and you finally learn about the Nightbringer’s backstory…and what his master plot is!
  2. The Stakes Have Risen Again, Indeed! The big reveal: what has The Nightbringer been planning all this time? What has all the buildup been about? Why is he there? Where did he come from? Who is he exactly? All this gets answered as the author finally exposes what his motive is.
  3. The Climax Scene! Some may argue that the book has too much filler, and that really depends on the specific reader, but I can say the epic climax of the story really makes up for the slower plot points! So much happens, so much angst and betrayal and shock; it was one of the most emotionally impacting book moments I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. It was truly amazing how all these storylines came together, how the author included the prophecy into the actions of the characters, and the shocking events behind the Cook! I literally have chills thinking back on it…
  4. The Slow-Burn Romance! Surprisingly, there wasn’t as much romance in this story, as the author has to come up with every single possible way to keep Elias and Laia away from each other…Helene and Harper have a nicely drawn out slow burn romantic sub-storyline that really develops. As someone who really shipped them since the previous book when Harper was initially introduced to us, I was happy for this to happen! I mean…Helene has a lot of heavy shit happen to her—as does everyone in this series—but she has had the most growth out of any character, so I’m more than fine for the author to throw her at least one freakin’ bone of happiness amongst all the misery!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Elias’s Story Development…I’m not gonna lie…Elias’s whole storyline is not for me. I still love him as a character, but I just can’t get behind how his development, especially in this book, has come about. It’s still somewhat interesting and tragic, especially with how his relationship with Laia is affected at the end, but I can agree with other critical readers when they say his chapters were the slower parts of the whole book. However, I am very curious to see how his storyline developments in the next and final book!
  2. Darin and Serric Steel Storyline Faces the Back Burner…I was majorly disappointed in how this whole storyline seemingly got dropped in this book. It was a huge part of Laia’s motivation as a character: to rescue her brother from Kauf prison and allow him to share how to use his valuable knowledge of the special metal to construct weapons to take on the Empire…but none of that seems to matter anymore. So, okay I guess…
  3. THIS Was Where The Book Rebranding Occurred…I mentioned this in one of my previous reviews, but this series got rebranded and A Reaper at the Gates was when that happened. Personally, I do prefer the new covers because I think they make the series stand out a little more than the older versions did, BUT don’t rebrand books while they’re still coming out! Maybe do it years later once the series is complete, or just use the design for another series, but it’s tacky to do it right smack dab in the middle of the series. People like me are incredibly passionate about their bookshelves and are OCD about having their books match: hardcover or softcover, or if the covers match. While some would be more than happy to go out and repurchase the newly designed books all over again, some people need to worry about the cost of that as well! This may seem outrageous and completely extra, but like I said: I’m extremely passionate about the books I keep on my bookshelf, and I want my collection to match.

Conclusion:

This book brings so much life into the series!

I was less than enthused about A Torch Against the Night, so this series sank from the pedestal a little bit, but this book changed that, and made me fall in love with the series all over again. One thing that’s stayed constant is the fact that I think the Commandant is easily one of the top villains I’ve ever read or watched in my life, somehow she gets worse and worse as the story goes on.

Sabaa Tahir writes her world in such a beautiful way, and does such a great job of creating complex and interesting characters, and I’d also say her writing has matured so well as the series has progressed. Its somehow gotten even more serious and gained an even darker tone.

It’s a shame that more people won’t read this series because it’s YA/Teen, but seriously, it’s such a great series despite that, and it doesn’t even read like a normal YA fantasy book; the only thing that makes it fall under the category is the fact that the main characters are teenagers.

Overall, what an amazing book, I was until 5 am to finish it, now I seriously can’t wait for the next title to release!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell