A girl made of lies who can see the threads of fate. A prince with an interesting fate for the girl to weave around her. A plot, a curse, and some blood magic. This had all the makings of an interesting spin on the YA fantasy court tropes...
Character arcs: ★★
Violet is the official Seer of the kingdom. From a child of the streets to the pampered Seer in the tall tower, Violet's rise to riches involved one simple moment: she saw the future and saved the Prince's life.
Ever since that fateful day, Violet has done all that she could to keep her position as the powerful court Seer and personal advisor on all things fate to the King. She likes her cushy job, ok? And she's willing to fight tooth and claw to keep it.
That fighting instinct is sorely tested with Prince Cyrus.
Ever since Violet saved Cyrus' life, Cyrus has been the worst. They're basically nemesis now, with Cyrus hating Violet—her incessant lies to "save" the kingdom per his father's orders are apparently a personal betrayal—and Violet detesting Cyrus for making her daily life as difficult as possible.
There's a fine line between love and hate...
However, the hatred between these two reluctant coworkers has nothing on the drama waiting from them in this tale. Violet and Cyrus have bigger problems now: there's a curse coming for them both, and whole lot of deadly magic with inescapable consequences.
With the fate of the kingdom, Cyrus, and her own life placed in Violet's hands, things are about the get interestingly deadly.
Alright, y'all. Let's talk about it. Given my low rating, you can tell that this story really, really didn't gel for me. That was due to multiple different aspects.
I thought the fixation on Violet and Cyrus' hatred toward each other was a bit over the top and nonsensical after a certain point. From "I HATE YOU" screaming to passion, this arc was somehow both basic and overcomplicated for me. For me, it reduced both Violet and Cyrus' character development down to this one trope.
I also had a hard time with the balance between worldbuilding, plot, and character development. This might have been a “me” problem, but it felt like this story constantly pivoted away from whatever I wanted to have next… When it was time for an action point, we went into a snarky internal Violet moment. When it was time for some character growth between people, it seemed like we jumped into world building descriptions. I don’t know, it was off to me for the entire read.
All in all, not a new favorite read for me. But this might find its audience in younger readers less well versed in the genre. I'd recommend this to young tweens and newer fantasy readers without hesitation.
This has a house vibe, a trapped cat-and-mouse vibe, AND a vampire romance. Say no more. I definitely read the heck out of this and had a fun time.
Plot/Pacing: ★★ 1/2
It's current-day. Vampires have replaced the world of human celebrities and rich people with their emergence unto the world stage in their unworldly beauty. With a global fanbase, reality TV shows, and world news turned toward them, the five official vampire houses exist at the very top of society.
Naturally, humans are a part of this capitalist/celebrity food chain—literally.
To accommodate the vampires' need for blood and to satisfy the masses of humans obsessed with their allure, the five vampire houses have a system in place for blood donors. You can submit to become a blood donor, get paid for your time, and spend a set amount of time inside the vampire house. The catch? You sign a contract, you can't leave until they let you, and sometimes people don't come back out...
Renie Mayfield has just been accepted as a blood donor for the house of Belle Morte. But she's not the typical groupie looking for a blood fix and some dangerous sex. She's looking for her missing sister, June. June disappeared in Belle Morte's house several months ago. And Renie is going to find her.
The only problem is, one of the vampires has a special interest in Renie. And Renie can't help but notice him back...
Cue the angst, the forbidden romance, and the drama of a locked-house atmosphere...
Belle Morte is something you need to have on your radar if you're a fan of the late 2000s and early 2010s vampire teen romance fiction. This book is clearly a love letter to that type of story, and it definitely attracted the right audience—I was a sucker for those then, and I had a nostalgically good time with this one too.
Was this amazingly written? Not really. Was this an original plot? Almost no. But did this give vampire fans something fun to read in the current era where vampire romances are harder to come by? Oh heck yes.
Come for the fun, not the literary value. Belle Morte is waiting.
Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
Cool concept, really loved the death lord angle. Annoyed as heck by the main character to the point where I wanted to skim…so, a mixed bag of thoughts here.
Main character: ★ 1/2
Violeta Graceling and her brother, Arien, live in a wooded world filled with a mysterious blight. They live off of the long-suffering "goodness" of their adoptive mother, who works for the local villager as a painter for the village's important religious icons. It's a light versus the darkness, goodness versus shadow demons type of religion... and to Violeta and Arien's horror, every night Arien wakes to shadows coating his body.
Violeta knows that if Arien could just wish the shadows away, they could be safe. Harsh control is the only answer to Arien's issue...right? (Oh dear)
One day in the village, Arien is caught with his shadows by the visiting lord from the nearby Lakesedge estate: Rowan Sylvanan.
Rowan Sylvanan might be close to Violeta's age, but he's already a nightmare story that parents warn their children about at night. He killed his whole family, they say. He's filled with evil, they say.
Rowan takes one look at Arien and his shadows and makes the decision to take Arien home with him. And because Violeta is fiercely protective of her brother, Rowan begrudgingly takes her too.
But neither the estate nor Rowan are what they seem, and Violeta's going to have to face certain truths whether she's ready for them or not...
Sometimes, it's not really the book's fault or the reader's fault when the reading experience is "meh." Sometimes it's just....the main character. And for Lakesedge, my issues all circle around one thing: Violeta herself.
I thought this world was cool. I loved the gothic atmosphere, the mystique of the estate, the dark shadow magic at the core of the story. I thought the ending in particular was spectacular.
But.... I can't give this more than 3 stars, because for the first half of the book (and frankly, ok, the rest of the book too) I couldn't stand Violeta. When you have a first-person narration with only one POV, a lot of the story rests on that one main character and whether the reader can get behind them and their actions. And I just could not do it.
Violeta was stubborn to the point of dumbness, prejudiced to the point of fear mongering, and at the end of the day she was also... weirdly reactionary to her own story?
(Except for the very, very end where my complaint turns into a spoiler: (view spoiler))
I'm not sure if all of that stands up outside of my own personal opinions, but that was how I felt. Oh well. Another case of "it's not you, book, it's me!"
I LOVED THIS. I wish this had existed when I was in high school. The girl I was could have used this happy, hopeful book.
Main character: ★★★★★
The ending: maybe controversial, but I LOVED the ending in particular
Winnie is ready for another summer spent in her grandma's small-town diner, waiting on tables and hanging out with her ungirlfriend. She's comfortable in her space, in her life, and she's just waiting of for the summer's good times to come before she goes off to college.
But the summer has other plans for Winnie.
First off, their small town's annual Queen selection (where one resident is chosen as "Queen" for the summer and has a volunteer "King" to attend events with) takes a twist. Winnie, who didn't enter and hates public speaking, wins. She's a plus-size black girl in a small town, and she DID NOT ask for the spotlight. But when it's thrust on her, there's no choice.
And then things get even more interesting when Dallas, one of the most attractive boys in town, volunteers to be her King.
Winnie and Kara, two partners who refer to themselves as ungirlfriends—also mentioned as "Queerplatonic" in the novel—now have to navigate the complexities of romance, friendship, bonds, and what it means for Winnie, who's attracted to Dallas, and Kara, who isn't sexually interested in anyone but is bonded to Winnie, to deal with the new layers to their life.
I have literally nothing negative to say, besides one tiny tiny spoiler (located at the bottom of this review in italic). Outside of the spoiler, I loved LITERALLY everything about this story. I loved the positive fat girl representation. I loved Winnie's strong sense of self, her purpose, her drive, and her unwillingness to compromise her moral compass for the weak personalities around her.
I also loved the romantic relationships and navigation of queerplatonic (which I learned for this book!) and, in a way, discussions of polyamory and the extremely different permutations of what that looks like. I also loved the strong happy messages at work in this novel. AND, before I devolve into endless streams of "love this love this love this," I also loved the negotiation of families, and how sometimes... you both can grow out of family and realize that family isn't the be all, end all. Very deftly done.
SPOILER: Winnie didn't put her name in the jar to be considered for Queen...and we never find out who put her name in. So that felt like an abandoned plot thread. But at the same time, that didn't matter in the scheme of the plot so I honestly forgot about it until I finished the book and tried to write this review.
Come for the concept, stay for the drama. This was a near-perfect blend of Gossip Girl, modern day royalty, and drama.
Drama: ★★★★ 1/2
What would have happened if George Washington had accepted the offer to become America's king? As our history books state, he said no, and the Presidency was created.
But what if...
American Royals follows the modern-day lives of America's royal family—the House of Washington. A perfect mishmash of British royalty with a distinctly American twist, American Royals was SO MUCH FUN.
Beatrice Washington is the first born, and the first woman chosen as next in line for the throne. An 18-year-old with her life planned out down to the man she's supposed to marry, she secretly dreams of being allowed the freedom of choice in the land of the free. But what's a princess to do when the whole world is watching?
Samantha Washington is one part of two—her twin brother, Jefferson Washington, is America's heartthrob—and Sam's the mess up. Known as the spare, Sam realizes that the only way to carve her mark into history is to be the loudest, the worst, the most—anything and everything that Beatrice isn't. What's a spare to do when all she wants is to make an impact?
Nina Gonzalez is Sam's best friend and the daughter of the royal court's Chamberlain. She's grown up in the halls of the palace all her life, and Sam and Jeff are her closest friends. It's not her intention to fall in love with the prince, but when one night crosses the line, will she take the plunge and risk the wrath of the American people to be with her knight in shining armor?
Daphne Deighton was born to be a princess. Scraping her way to the top with a smile on her face and steel in her eyes, she was Jeff's perfect porcelain girlfriend until it all came crashing down and Nina stole his heart. What's a girl to do but take things into her own hands?
Following the POVs of these four women entangled in the palace, American Royals was something else. I couldn't get enough of the clever world-building, the hate-to-love-it cliched drama, and the scheming. Nina's window as a Hispanic woman attempting to following her own path was my favorite part of this story, seconded by Beatrice's stoic exterior/mad mess interior dynamic.
This series is going to make a splash, and I can't WAIT for the next book.
Thank you very much to Penguin Random House for an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.
These Witches Don't Burn? More like these witches don't bore! (Couldn't resist.)
I absolutely loved reading These Witches Don't Burn. Fun, filled with memorable characters, extreme relationship drama, and so well paced it's basically ready for its movie adaptation, this book is a great LGBT+ contemporary read.
Everyone knows the history of Salem, Massachusetts. People went mad and claimed girls were witches, and they killed them. As many other novels have explored—what if the witches were real? These Witches Don't Burn covers the same ground relating to Salem, but it does it with a surprising sense of diversity, humor, and heart.
Hannah is an Elemental witch in her junior year of high school. She's training to be a full witch in her coven, she's attempting to balance her home life with school, and she's dealing with her persistent ex. Adding some fire to the flames, Hannah's ex is one of the witches in Hannah's coven, and she's everywhere Hannah is. Awkward.
The main drama for These Witches Don't Burn lies in the relationship dynamics between Hannah, her ex Veronica, Hannah's friend Gemma, and the new girl in town, Morgan. There is an action-based pseudo-mystery plot going on in the background as the witches discover that a Witch Hunter is in town—attempting to murder them in the style of the 1600s Salem witch trials—and Hannah finds herself in the middle of the drama, but for me the main narrative lay in the relationships.
To be honest, that's why I enjoyed it so much.
These Witches Don't Burn is feminist, fun, and filled with the kind of relationship drama that everyone can relate to. I loved it. My only caveat to the story was that it fell into some of the anti-men tropes that these novels often have. The men in this novel were either suspicious, problematic, dead, or part of the mystery in a nefarious way. I can't get into the spoilers, but once you've reached the finale you'll see what I mean. I wish there had been a few positive male characters in the story not because we need positive male roles in every story, but because it seemed like an intentional oversight and felt like an over correction in the name of female empowerment.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.