ARC Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

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***I received a free e-ARC of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review***

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Girl, Serpent, Thorn

by Melissa Bashardoust

Release Date: July 7th, 2020

Genre: Fantasy, Retelling

Age Category: Young Adult

Publisher: Flatiron Books

 

 

Girl, Serpent, Thorn is a tale that takes influences from Persian mythology and Zoroastrianism and turns around and provides a fairy talelike journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance, monsters that seem all too human, and even sneaks in an adorable sapphic romance. Bashardoust enthralled me right from the first page, and I didn’t want her to release me upon the end.

Soraya is a princess with poison that runs through her veins (and even turns them green). Locked and kept away from her family, friends, and court, Soraya despises her curse and yearns to be a true member among her family. When Soraya learns of a div (demon) captured and imprisoned in the dungeons, she believes she has finally found a path that will help her lift her curse. But those around her aren’t as they seem, and when Soraya accidentally unleashes destruction upon her kingdom, she must decide what she truly values and seek power in her flaws.

The strength of Girl, Serpent, Thorn comes from its deceit. As the book first unfurls, the tale appears to pass quickly, Soraya finally able to grasp hope in a different future for herself with a handsome guard now by her side. But as the halfway point approaches, twists and monsters are unleashed, completely changing the direction of the plot. The novel doesn’t shy away from the threads of darkness that run through its pages.

Bashardoust’s tale is simultaneously refreshing in its originality and nostalgic in its whimsical and mystical atmosphere. Soraya is also a relatable and realistic protagonist; she desires to be accepted in her community, she lets herself be selfish, and she hates herself for her flaws. Despite the fantastical adorning, the novel’s dilemmas are relatable to all types of readers.

My only complaint is that Girl, Serpent, Thorn gifted us with a world that could have been further explored and a tale that easily could have been expanded upon. But then again, a captivating story always leaves you wanting more, does it not?

I would recommend this book to any reader who enjoys YA, fairy tale retellings, and monsters. This book is a shining reminder why fairy tales (and their retellings) never tire, and that there are always new ones to be told.

Trigger Warnings: imprisonment, murder, scarring from torture (torture scenes not actually in the book), battling, strained familial relationships

Rating: 4.5 stars

“…so, are you my book?”

“I have without a doubt slithered into a spot among your new favorites.”

Review: Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

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let's talk about love coverLet’s Talk About Love

by Claire Kann

Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Age Category: New Adult / Young Adult

Publisher: Swoon Reads

Published on: January 23rd, 2018

 

A NA college-set summer romance?!? I’ve been desperately wanting more books like this and Let’s Talk About Love has only confirmed the unfairness the publishing industry is doing us by not giving us more college NA stories. PLEASE GIVE ME MORE AMAZING BOOKS LIKE THIS ONE!!

Let’s Talk About Love follows Alice during the summer after her first year of college. After breaking up with her girlfriend (who didn’t get why Alice didn’t want a sexual relationship), Alice immediately becomes enchanted with a new coworker, Takumi, at her summer job at the library. Between her growing feelings for Takumi, deciding what she wants to do with her education, and navigating her living situation with her best friends, Alice tries to figure out who she wants to be and what she’s willing to risk to be true to herself.

Besides the fact that is book is New Adult, I was particularly excited to pick it up because of the biromantic asexual representation. To be honest, I think this was the first book I’ve read with ace rep and it was super insightful. This book has made me realize that I really need to seek out more LGBTQ+ books beyond those with LGB representation.

Additionally, this book had me swooning alongside Alice over Takumi (or let’s be real: swooning over all of the characters), cracking up at the banter and snarky remarks Alice and her friends passed around, and simply flying through the pages to get more of these characters. Alice is a particularly beautifully fleshed-out character: she has her own cutie code by which she rates everything, lives with her two best friends and has weekly family nights, makes hilariously snarky comments in the narration, writes analytical essays about her TV show obsessions & theories, struggles to cook (relatable), and works at a library. Seriously, there’s no way you cannot love her.

Alongside the beautifully developed characters and circumstances, I also adored how this book showcased positive experiences of attending (multiple) therapy sessions. It seems like a lot of books I’ve read where characters are in therapy will mention it, but rarely ever show. I think displaying this new aspect of Alice’s life really helps to normalize therapy and I simply just appreciated it.

The only area of this book that could be critiqued would be the plot. The book was much more focused on exploring Alice’s relationship with others—whether that be with Takumi, her friends, her parents, or herself. In favor of focusing on Alice’s character development, the explicit plot became a bit blurred. But honestly, I was okay with this. I believe that if rom-com reads have an interesting enough characters (which this book most definitely did), they can get away with a little laxity in their plotting.

Whether you’re looking to add more cute rom-coms, or books with LGBTQ+ and/or Black representation to your reading, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND picking up this book up. It’s a cute and fun read and personally I can’t wait to read more from Claire Kann.

Trigger Warnings: aphobic comments (in the breakup at the beginning), parental pressure in regards to education, cheating (from a side character)

Rating: 4.5 stars

“…so, are you my book?”

“I was so cute it’s impossible not to say yes! Like Takumi, I also broke the Cutie Code scale. 😉 ”

ARC Review: The Girl Next Door by Chelsea M. Cameron

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***I received a free e-ARC of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review***

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The Girl Next Door

by Chelsea M. Cameron

Release Date: May 26th, 2020

Genre: Romance, Contemporary

Age Category: New Adult / Adult

Publisher: Carina Adores*

*A new trope-driven LGBTQ+ contemporary romance line!!

 

Welp, I devoured this book in a single evening. This sapphic summer romance was a cute, entertaining, and quick read. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, and I had some problems with the pacing and writing, but if you’re looking for a light, easy f/f romance, this is definitely one to consider!

The Girl Next Door follows 22 year-old Iris and 26 year-old Jude, who—as you would expect by the title—live next door to each other. Iris has just moved back in with her parents after being unable to get a decent job after college. Jude moved back into her parents’ house two years before, wrecked to her core by a traumatic event she refuses to talk about. The women are quickly attracted to one other, and together they must decide who they want to be, and what they’re willing to risk with each other.

One of my favorite parts about this book was how cute all the characters were. Iris’s dad literally spends the entire story reading YA books and even recommends queer YA books to Iris and Jude! Literally my new favorite parent character. Jude is your classic mysterious “bad girl” who rides a motorcycle and is super toned. Iris is a cute and bubbly young woman (who has a dog named Dolly Parton!) and is stressed about her future, which as a recent college grad myself, was totally relatable. I also adored how the characters showcased the importance of communication and consent in their relationship—I feel as though romance books often skip over these moments to make a scene more ‘sexy’.

But while I liked the idea of the story and the characters, I struggled a bit with the execution of the story. I was immediately annoyed with the writing style, which was awkwardly blunt and had a lot of over-telling and exposition. Additionally, the plot felt very unbalanced. The summary stated Iris and Jude decide to engage in a “no-strings summer fling” yet the story instead gave a weird insta-attraction and slow-burn tension that in the last quarter immediately rushed into instalove. The women didn’t even decide to engage in a summer fling until the 70% mark of the eARC. I feel like this decision should have come in the first half of the book??

Overall, I found this to be a decent romance, but it wasn’t a new favorite. I will say that I will definitely be keeping an eye on Carina Adores (a new trope-driven LGBTQ+ contemporary romance line!!) to see what they release in the future!

Trigger Warnings: grief, reflecting on the death and loss of a lover

Rating: 3.25 stars

“…so, are you my book?”

“Sadly not. I could definitely be someone’s new favorite, but I didn’t live up to your expectations.”

 

Review: House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1) by Sarah J. Maas

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house of earth and blood coverHouse of Earth and Blood

Crescent City #1

by Sarah J. Maas

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Age Category: New Adult / Adult

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Published on: March 3rd, 2020

 

Sarah J. Maas is the queen of hella dramatic, smutty romantic fantasy with casts of badass characters, and this book attests to that.

House of Earth and Blood is highly addicting, especially the ending. IT WAS A WILD ROLLER-COASTER!! There were so many days where I just spent like 3-4 hours lying in bed to read this book. I literally read under my covers with my phone light in order to finish the book when my roommate went to bed early and I still had 50 pages left. I had been sorta slumping prior to this book, and reading this novel revived my obsessive love and joy of reading.

It was so fun to enter a new world by SJM! I don’t often like my fantasy books to overlap with technology, but this book definitely changed my position on that! I appreciate that SJM didn’t bury us under heaps of dry exposition and instead just threw us into the world (though I did get a pinch lost here and there with all the names and terminology, but not too bad). The incorporation of technology definitely left me feeling like I was watching an action-packed “shoot’em up” movie in the form of the book, and I adored it! (ALSO, the way she describes the universe gives me the impression that it could easily be in the same mega-verse as her other series and I’m 100% here for it.)

But while I adored this book, I will admit that SJM continues to write in the same dramatic style that’s very hit-or-miss for some people and that she regularly utilizes the same character archetypes. Like Aelin and Feyre, Bryce is also a cunning, badass, strong, loyal, gorgeous part-Fae woman. So SJM definitely has her trends and stereotypes, which caused me to roll my eyes at times, but at the same time…I don’t know, I also just love it?

And Bryce’s development! Though she does share a lot of similarities with SJM’s past protagonists, she definitely has her own individual journey. Due to elements of loss, grief, and depression, this book definitely had some darker undertones to it. Fantasy novels can so often fall into the trap of being dismissive of character deaths, and I appreciated how the impact of loss never left Bryce: it only morphed forms throughout the book.

This isn’t your traditional and classic epic fantasy, and I acknowledge that it’s not for everyone, and that’s okay. House of Earth and Blood is still epic in its magic, characters, dramatics (all the secret identity reveals! I was shrieking in excitement), and sarcasm. This novel is hilarious, entertaining, a wild ride, and gave me all the feels. I realize that I haven’t gone into many specifics in this review and that it’s mostly just a happy-rant (I was too enthralled reading this book to take any notes like I usually do). But I’m okay with the way this review is, because you honestly just need to experience this book for yourself.

I cannot wait to see where the series goes next. SJM has taken up a permanent residence in my fantasy-loving heart, and this book has only given me more reason to continue to buy every book she releases.

Trigger Warnings: contemplation of suicide (and a near attempt in a flashback), depression, grief, loss of a loved one, excessive use of alcohol and drugs, murder, violence

Rating: 4.25 stars

“…so, are you my book?”

“Without a doubt! Make room in your heart, because I’m ready to move in.”