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.

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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”

Review: His Convenient Husband by Robin Covington

36158863NFL football player Isaiah Blackwell lost his husband three years ago and is raising their teen son alone. He lives his life as quietly as his job allows, playing ball to support his family but trying not to draw unwanted attention. His quiet life is shaken up when a mutual friend introduces him to Victor, a visiting principal ballet dancer who is everything Isaiah is not.

Brash, loud, and gender fluid Victor Aleksandrov has applied for political asylum to avoid returning to Russia, where gay men are targeted and persecuted. He’s been outspoken about gay rights in his home country, and if he doesn’t get asylum, going back to Russia is a death sentence.

Their one-night stand turns into a tentative friendship, a relationship they both agree is temporary… until Victor’s denied asylum. Isaiah can’t offer Victor a happily ever after, but he can propose something that’ll keep Victor in the US and safe… marriage He just doesn’t expect his new husband to dance away with his heart.

First of all: there is no genderfluid character in this book.

Continue reading “Review: His Convenient Husband by Robin Covington”

Review: Antisocial by Heidi Cullinan

35652776A single stroke can change your world.

Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.

Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.

Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.

ARC acquired through Netgalley.

This book, y’all. This book is absolutely awful.

Continue reading “Review: Antisocial by Heidi Cullinan”

Review: Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows

28524058Before

Mira Minkoba is the Hopebearer. Since the day she was born, she’s been told she’s special. Important. Perfect. She’s known across the Fallen Isles not just for her beauty, but for the Mira Treaty named after her, a peace agreement which united the seven islands against their enemies on the mainland.

But Mira has never felt as perfect as everyone says. She counts compulsively. She struggles with crippling anxiety. And she’s far too interested in dragons for a girl of her station.

After

Then Mira discovers an explosive secret that challenges everything she and the Treaty stand for. Betrayed by the very people she spent her life serving, Mira is sentenced to the Pit–the deadliest prison in the Fallen Isles. There, a cruel guard would do anything to discover the secret she would die to protect.

No longer beholden to those who betrayed her, Mira must learn to survive on her own and unearth the dark truths about the Fallen Isles–and herself–before her very world begins to collapse.

This book was such a disappointment.

I disliked almost every second of it. It was just too boring, but now I realize I should have seen it coming. Continue reading “Review: Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows”