Review: The Uncrossing by Melissa Eastlake

34328217Luke can uncross almost any curse—they unravel themselves for him like no one else. So working for the Kovrovs, one of the families controlling all the magic in New York, is exciting and dangerous, especially when he encounters the first curse he can’t break. And it involves Jeremy, the beloved, sheltered prince of the Kovrov family—the one boy he absolutely shouldn’t be falling for.

Jeremy’s been in love with cocky, talented Luke since they were kids. But from their first kiss, something’s missing. Jeremy’s family keeps generations of deadly secrets, forcing him to choose between love and loyalty. As Luke fights to break the curse, a magical, citywide war starts crackling, and it’s tied to Jeremy.

This might be the one curse Luke can’t uncross. If true love’s kiss fails, what’s left for him and Jeremy?

You know when you are really excited for a book, but cautiously wary because you’ve been disappointed too many times? That was me when I started reading The Uncrossing. This book looked like everything I want from a retelling, minus the contemporary setting: it’s queer, the worldbuilding seemed incredible and I had heard only good things about it.

I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint.

The Uncrossing won me over at first because of said worldbuilding. I loved the world Eastlake created, with curses and uncrossing and magical families fighting over NYC, but it was the characters that made me love this book. Luke and Jeremy just worked, together or otherwise. I could understand them, sympathize with them and root for them since the beginning. Together they were awesome: Jeremy’s love for Luke was so endearing and I liked how the author managed to portray Luke falling in love with him too without it feeling forced.

The secondary characters were also great and so developed. My favorites were Luke’s sister and Jeremy’s uncles. Not because they are good people (Jeremy’s uncles are quite questionable) but because they were complex and interesting, and I liked reading about them just as much as about Luke and Jeremy.

My only complaint is the ending, which was a bit confusing. I couldn’t understand well what was going on, but maybe that’s just me and I need a reread to get it right. Still, I finished the book knowing I had loved it but confused at how it had ended.

In conclusion, The Uncrossing is fast read that manages to develop most if not all of its characters and still has an awesome plot. I can’t wait to read more from this author. 4.0 stars.

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Review: Would it be okay to love you? by Amy Tasukada

36182496A robot fanboy. An erotic voice actor. When love comes calling, will they shed their armor?

Sato’s only long-term relationship is the one he shares with his Gundam collectibles. He dreams about the kind of unconditional love his parents enjoy. If only he could break out of his shell, he might find his special someone…

Outgoing playboy Aoi has sworn off relationships. He knows they only distract him from his budding voice acting career. He’s earned a few loyal fans, and if he keeps at it, he may even earn enough to never worry about being evicted again…

When Sato meets Aoi at the local anime store, there’s definitely a spark. But even as they tread carefully, their commitment issues and Aoi’s troubled past soon muck things up before they can start. In order for Sato and Aoi to have their happily-ever-after, they’ll both have to take a leap of faith… and hope to be caught.

This book legit had everything I like in a romance book: slow burn, nerdy things and characters who seemed to be endearing (and very little sex, amen). A plus, obviously, was also the fact that it is set in Japan and I love reading romance books (or just books in general) set outside of the U.S.

But the connection just didn’t happen.

I’m still trying to figure out why, so maybe writing this review will help. Would it be okay to love you? has an interesting premise and good writing, but I could never connect with the characters. With the idea of them, yes – it’s impossible not to sympathize with Aoi’s money struggle or with his complicated non-relationship with his parents, or understand Sato’s desire for a relationship. On the surface, everything is perfect – but book never quite manages to make both characters seem real.

To make matters worse, the relationship between Aoi and Sato just isn’t interesting. There is no chemistry (and here I’m not talking in the sexual attraction sense – just chemistry) and its central conflict is too weak and solved too easily. It was basically just Aoi realizing he likes Sato and that’s it. Relationship problems solved!

The ending also came out of nowhere. Things weren’t tied up nicely. At one moment Aoi is isolating himself from everyone because he isn’t getting any jobs & blames himself for a certain accident for no reason and the next moment everything is fine, he has jobs and the urge to isolate himself is gone. I wanted to see this process, to understand his development, but the story doesn’t give me the chance to do so.

And that’s the problem with it. Too much happens too fast with very little development and because of that the ending feels unsatisfying. Still, I enjoyed some of the book: its setting and the idea of both characters’ personalities, mainly.

In conclusion, Would it be okay to love you? had a good premise and could have had good characters, but the execution was too weak to make that happen. 2.0 stars.

Review: An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

30969741Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized among them. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There’s only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless.

Isobel has a choice: she can sacrifice her art for a future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

Know when you are excited but still kinda wary about a book? That was me with An Enchantment of Ravens. I had heard wonderful things about this book, but the blurb made me a bit wary because I’m just not the person for YA fantasy books that focus on romance. I usually hate the guys, don’t care about the girls and am in general very annoyed with everything going on. Still, the reviews I read for this one praised it a lot for its writing so I decided to give it a try. I’m happy to say I’m not disappointed.

The writing is indeed gorgeous and yes, the book focuses 100% on the romance, but I actually enjoyed it. The reason? Rook. He was so different from the usual boring hot love interests in YA – I loved, for example, how his flaws were obvious and not excused (he’s super vain and arrogant), and his lack of understanding of mortal issues (like eating) was so endearing. Even his relationship with Isobel convinced me and I loved their dynamic.

(This might sound petty, but it just made it more clear to me how the fae of Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses are annoying and, honestly, boring. I loved the faeries of An Enchantment of Ravens).

The book would be damn near perfect for me if not for two things: how easy the ending was and the lack of explanation about some things.

Example: why is it forbidden for faeries and humans to fall in love? It’s the Good Law, all right, but that’s it? The Elder King said so millennia ago because he was feeling like it, I guess? Which, okay, fine, I can understand, but it does feel a bit deliberate.

Second example: Rook’s emotions. Why can Rook feel stuff if the others faeries can’t? (And since faeries can’t feel anything, why does the Good Law even exist? I mean, the love had to be mutual for the Law to be broken, but how could it be mutual if faeries can’t fall in love?). I wish all of this had been explained and I don’t believe it would’ve been hard. As it is, it feels like a lot of the book’s conflict exists because the plot said so and not because it has a plausible reason for existing.

Now, the ending…. I liked it, but it happened too fast and the final fight, so to speak, was just too easy. I get why it went like that and again, I likeit, but it was a bit anticlimactic.

I wish this book was a series, honestly. There is just so much I wanted to know (like, why were the faerie lands dying/rotting? Was it just because the Elder King was asleep?) and it felt like the author didn’t have the space/time to show everything. But An Enchantment of Ravens was still an awesome book and I would recommend it to anyone. 4.0 stars.

Review: Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi

33395234In the walled city of Kos, corrupt mages can magically call forth sin from a sinner in the form of sin-beasts – lethal creatures spawned from feelings of guilt.

Taj is the most talented of the aki, young sin-eaters indentured by the mages to slay the sin-beasts. But Taj’s livelihood comes at a terrible cost. When he kills a sin-beast, a tattoo of the beast appears on his skin while the guilt of committing the sin appears on his mind. Most aki are driven mad by the process, but 17-year-old Taj is cocky and desperate to provide for his family.

When Taj is called to eat a sin of a royal, he’s suddenly thrust into the center of a dark conspiracy to destroy Kos. Now Taj must fight to save the princess that he loves – and his own life.

A gritty Nigerian-influenced fantasy.

I was expecting a lot of this one (I mean, a Nigerian-influenced fantasy where most characters are black and the mythology is incredible? Sounds amazing) but it sadly fell flat for me.

First of all, the world is gorgeous. I loved the concept of sin-beasts and aki and Mages, and all of it was done really well. At some points I got pretty lost because the author doesn’t waste time trying to explain the world or how everything works, but I got used to it and the story started to flow. But then came in my biggest problem with this book: it is too slow and the villains aren’t interesting enough.

Now, I like slow books. I’m a fan of adult fantasy after all, where things are usually less fast paced than in YA, but Beasts Made of Night didn’t draw me in. I didn’t get a sense of cause and consequence in the book, so to speak; things happened almost as if the character had to wait for them to happen and not because the plot advanced or because the characters themselves made it move. At one point, for example, Taj, the main character, is chosen as the royal aki aka the royal sin-beast eater, but…. he never does anything while in the job. He is called zero times to Eat and spends most of his stay in the palace eating, sleeping and talking with the princess. Then he leaves to train the young akis but out of nowhere weeks have passed and he’s already used to training them. Like, what? He left the palace literally in the last chapter.

The ending is…. well, it could’ve been great. Have I talked about how wonderful the worldbuilding is? Because it is awesome and in the ending that is made quite clear. But the antagonist ends up being super disappointing. Can’t say who because spoilers, but they were cartoonish, almost childish, and I couldn’t take them seriously. Same for the plot twist re: one of the characters. I didn’t see it coming, but it didn’t feel believable.

Honestly, this one feels more like a draft than a polished, published book. Beasts Made of Night has incredible ideas and characters that could’ve been great, but all that is buried in a story that drags and doesn’t seem to go anywhere. The writing, while good, also wasn’t engaging for me, maybe because of Taj’s voice. In the end, I could see how wonderful this book could’ve been, but the execution failed and most of its shine was unfortunately lost.

I don’t think I’ll be reading more in this series. Again, I loved the premise and the world, but the writing and pacing did ruin Beasts Made of Night for me. 2.0 stars.

Review: 27 Hours by Tristina Wright

28526192Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.

But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.

Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother’s shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon’s darkest secret.

They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth.

During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.

27 Hours is a sweeping, thrilling story featuring a stellar cast of queer teenagers battling to save their homes and possibly every human on Sahara as the clock ticks down to zero.

27 Hours was probably my most anticipated book of the year. I first got to know about it on Twitter before it had been announced thanks to the author’s #queerteensinspace, so it’s safe to say I’ve been waiting for this one for a long time. Did it meet my expectations? Honestly, not quite, which I can understand in part because my expectations were really high.

I still liked it well enough and will continue reading the series, but this book feels a lot like a debut (and it is). The plot is nice, the writing is good and the characters are entertaining, but the execution doesn’t quite manage to make it all shine as it should. Some of the banter was a bit tiring and I really missed knowing more about the world, and most of the relationships didn’t convince me. I didn’t dislike them, but I didn’t fall for any of them either.

And honestly? The big culprit here is the one right in the title: this book happens in only 27 hours, which is a whole night in the Sahara. I tried, really, but I just can’t understand falling in love with someone in 27 hours. Liking them? Liking them a lot? Of course. But love? Not that Rumor and Jude say the three words, but I felt like they got too close too fast because the initial romancing (?) had to happen in the first book instead of because it was the natural progression of things. Nothing big, but certainly something that made me only kind of interested in their relationship instead of full on invested.

The other thing that bothered me was the worldbuilding, or the lack of it. There is no infodump or anything of the sort, which is nice, but the world – Sahara – feels too thin. The history of humanity’s arrival also felt too sparse and I couldn’t actually follow how everything happened.

Now on to the rep: the more I think about this book, the more confused I get about Braeden’s sexual and romantic orientations. Yeah, he defines his asexuality as not wanting sex, which wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t made clear that’s how it works for him and not for every ace (asexuality is about attraction, not behavior, and yes, lots of aces don’t want sex because they don’t feel sexual attraction, but not having sex =/= ace), but that part didn’t bother me much, to be honest. Which left me puzzled was his romantic orientation. Or how he doesn’t even considers it.

At first, back when 27 Hours had just been announced, Braeden was said to be aroace. Then the author corrected it and said he was only ace and would find out more about his romantic orientation in the book. Which, fine, I get it. Except… he doesn’t? Maybe she meant in the series (which will be a trilogy, if I’m not mistaken) and not the first book in specific, but the thing is, Braeden doesn’t even think about his romantic orientation. During the whole book, he mentions many times that he doesn’t want sex and doesn’t get how everyone is always crazy about it, but not once does he reflects on how relationships can exist without sex (or sexual attraction) and where he fits in all this. I got strong aro vibes from him and really strong queerplatonic vibes from him and Trick, though I’m still thinking that is me projecting. If that’s the end game, I will be really happy, but still puzzled. If Braeden finds out he is aromantic or at least in the aromantic spectrum later, what let him to not question his romantic orientation sooner? Didn’t he know about aromanticism? If that’s the case, why did he know about asexuality and not aromanticism? (Or why did all other queer identities were known, but aromanticism was not?)

Again, this is all me speculating because as far as I know Breaden can end up being bi or gay or hetero or whatever and not aro. But I did feel like he was aro.

Last thing about the rep: Aimal wrote an awesome review highlighting how 27 Hours centers colonialist views since most characters are colonists and even the one who isn’t is still a human aka the alien species aka the invaders. Not one of the POV characters is a chimera, the indigenous species to Sahara.

But now that I’ve talked about the bad and the confusing, let’s move on to the good, or the reason I still liked this book and plan on reading the next volume: 27 Hours is fun, engaging and well, important. Most of its characters are diverse and all of them have well developed personalities. It’s easy to feel for them, to care about them and their problems, and to hope everything will turn out okay for them.

My favorite was Rumor. He was, in my opinion, the most complex of all and the “core” of the book, so to speak. He went through a lot of shit, is (rightfully) angry and is at the same time honest and just good. He’s the main reason I’m interested in this series.

I also loved Breaden and Dahlia (and, well, all of them, but mainly these three) and really enjoyed some of the worldbuilding, like Nyx being able to hear the moon and the tech the characters used. The chimera were also really interesting and I liked how they were not a monolith, each of them having their own personalities and ideologies. Even the antagonist pleased me.

In conclusion, 27 Hours is a flawed debut that still manages to be fun and entertaining, having the most interesting and well developed cast of characters I’ve seen in some time. 3.5 stars.

Review: The Quarterback by Mackenzie Blair

35501577Matt Lancaster is the star quarterback at Bodine College, a small Southern Division II school with an ultra-conservative Dean of Athletics. Matt is also very much in the closet, and he thinks he’s kept his secret well hidden. Until his best friends take him to a happy endings massage parlor and request a male masseuse for him.

In walks Trevor Kim, a gorgeous, pierced, tattooed fellow Bodine student who does massages—without happy endings—to pay for school after his family kicked him out for being gay. Trevor takes one look at Matt and breaks all his own rules about mixing business with pleasure.

Matt needs to keep his scholarship, win the National Championship, and survive his asshole father. Instead, he falls in love. Trevor needs to accept that the football god is meant to end up with him rather than a perky cheerleader. It’s time for a happy ever after for both of them.

Well, this book was a surprise, and not a good one.

I’m a fairly new m/m reader (I think I began reading it last year?) but I was very picky from the beginning because I didn’t want to run into the infamous queerphobic m/m romances, the ones full of stereotypes and thinly veiled (or not) misogyny. Despite one bump here and there, I’m glad to say I didn’t come across them.

Until now.

The Quarterback is full of stereotypes and cringe moments. At first it was kinda weird, but not weird enough to put me off, but as the story goes on it gets worse and worse until it’s just a shitfest. I’m not kidding: when a girl, the girlfriend of one of the MC’s best friends, finds out that the MC is gay she legit squees and says it’s just so sexy. At another point, the two young sisters of the MC flat out ask him (or the LI, I can’t remember) if he’s a top or a bottom. There are not the only moments like that – the book is a bizarre collection of women squeeing at how hot gay guys are.

Which is, honestly, disturbing.

On a sidenote, “asexual” is used once in this book, by the LI/second MC, when he’s mad at the MC because he (the MC) is afraid/hesitant to be in public with him. I’m not going to look for the exact quote, but it’s something along the lines of “well, because it’s easier to be gay in an asexual way?” or something like that. And like, I get the sentiment, but I bet gay ace men would disagree with you here.

Annoying/problematic aspects aside, the story isn’t that strong. Maybe because of the dialogue (which is quite bad), maybe because the main relationship goes from yay-I-want-to-fuck-you to I-love-you way too fast and without development, but I just couldn’t get into it. The characters didn’t appeal to me, the writing was kinda meh and overall I didn’t care about anything or anyone in this book.

In conclusion, 1.0 star to The Quarterback.

Review: Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke

34669350After scientists stumbled across an anomalous human hormone present during moments of emotional intimacy, further research created the ability to harness the direction of living energy and pinpoint when two lines will merge. Personalized chips are now implanted beneath the thumbnails of every infant, where glowing numbers count down to the moment they will meet their soul mate.

Fate is now a calculation.

But loving someone isn’t.

When Shannon Wurther, the youngest detective in Southern California, finds himself face-to-face with Aiden Maar, the reckless art thief Shannon’s precinct has been chasing for months, they are both stunned. Their Camellia Clocks have timed out, and the men are left with a choice—love one another or defy fate.

I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review.

I was expecting a lot from this book, then I wasn’t and then, well… I was. Again. Continue reading “Review: Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke”