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Tellulah Darling

Tellulah Darling writes YA & New Adult romantic comedy because her first kiss sucked and she's compensating.

Sassy girls. Swoony boys. What could go wrong?

A lovely, sweet romance

The Kiss Quotient - Helen Hoang

I have to admit that while I very much wanted to read about a female protagonist who has Asperger’s, the cover kept putting me off. I’m delighted that I got past that because this romance was a delight. And incredibly sexy.


If you’ve followed this blog for a long time, you know how much I love Korean Dramas. It’s awesome how our half-Vietnamese male lead, Michael is compared looks-wise to Daniel Henney who was in one of my favourite KDramas, The Lovely Sam Soon. Michael is also just a great guy with a big heart and a lot of baggage. No alphaholeness here whatsoever.


The Kiss Quotient is a reverse Pretty Woman story and because Hoang has done such an excellent job in crafting her characters, the premise works. This is an #ownvoices book, but it is never preachy. I was rooting for Stella the entire time. It was a joy to be in her head and watch her blossom under the attention of a man who was worthy of her.


I’m going to leave it at that because I want you to just fall into this romance the way I did.

Gah! All the feels on this wonderful finale!

Magic Triumphs -  Ilona Andrews

At the risk of repeating myself, this is one of the absolute best urban fantasy series around. Kate Daniels and I got off to a rocky start; it took me two tries to get into book one, but once past that point, I was hooked. Yes, there was maybe one book that I thought didn’t have the character growth I would have liked to see, however, Ilona Andrews pretty much brilliantly sustained this series.


Let’s start with the world building. The idea of having a world that alternately and randomly gets swamped with either magic or tech working is first-rate. Throw in paranormal mythologies from cultures around the globe and incredibly evocative writing, and you’ve got stories that hum along at the perfect pace.


You want humour? This isn’t one of those super snarky uf series (yeah, yeah, I know that’s what I write as my other persona Deborah Wilde), and obviously I love those. Kate may not be snarky but there is tons of humour in these books. In fact, the banter in Magic Triumphs was continually hilarious. I read it with a huge smile on my face.


I was worried going in to this story that we’d lose the characters I so dearly love at the expense of the giant battle that we’ve been building towards for many many books. Even that was cleverly subverted. At no point did I glaze over during the fight sequences as I’m so wont to do. I was completely satisfied with where Curran and Kate ended up, as well as the secondary characters and I’m looking forward to the spin-off series.


Ten+ books is a commitment, I know, but if you’ve wanted to try out urban fantasy, I can’t think of a better series to jump into. And now it’s complete and completely fabulous.

Chilling and fascinating

People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo--and the Evil That Swallowed Her Up - Richard Lloyd Parry

I met a friend of mine a year after we’d graduated high school. She’d been in Japan as a hostess and regaled me with tales of expensive jewelry and offers of trips to Paris in exchange for making conversation with Japanese businessmen. I remember thinking “What the hell are you doing?” because it seemed like everything with this job could go sideways so quickly.


Having since been to Japan and spent a night in Roppongi, I’m even more fascinated by this world. Parry does an excellent job laying out both the district’s allure for and mindsets of the foreigners and Japanese men who frequent these clubs, as well as painting an intimate portrait of one young woman sadly killed by a monster who was able to exist for a very long time in the shadows of Roppongi.


This is a chilling and disturbing tale of a sexual predator, so make sure that you are okay to read the details. However, if you enjoy true crime, People Who Eat Darkness is a great read.

I will read anything Lily Morton writes

Risk Taker - Lily Morton

There is so much of my book catnip in this story. First we have “best friends to lovers” which I am always up for reading, especially when it’s m/m. Which is another of my catnips. Then there is Morton’s humour. Dear lord, her books are so funny! I absolutely adore them because I know that the entire time I spend diving into them, I will wear a giant smile on my face.


I think what I loved most about Henry and Ivo was how richly Morton writes their friendship. I absolutely believed these two were everything to each other and that’s why they were each terrified of taking that next step and admitting their feelings. Their chemistry, even before any sexual or romantic entanglements, was off-the-charts.


As always, with her books, this was pretty much a one-sitting read. While each of her series features characters that are interconnected, so it’s fun to start at the beginning and see how secondary characters develop into the stars of their own books, you can pretty much pick up whichever one catches your fancy and get reading.


So get reading already!

Bowing down to a queen of urban fantasy

Night and Silence - Seanan McGuire

I requested to review this because, d’uh, it’s Seanan McGuire and I have a lot invested in this series, even if it had been making me cranky.  So I didn’t even read the blurb before I dove in. Imagine how much crankier I got when I saw that once again Gillian was being kidnapped. Eye rolling and foot stomping may have been involved.


Yeah, well, forget all that. Night and Silence firmly put Toby back as one of my favourite urban fantasy heroines and this series cemented in the must-reads. It’s got everything: heart wrenching romance, heart wrenching mother-daughter issues, awesome mythology, excellent adventures, and the exact right amount of twists, turns, and surprises.

It also nicely balances all my favourite characters, especially Toby and Tybalt and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.


If you love urban fantasy and haven’t yet started this series, get going already. As for me, I’m really looking forward to where things go from here. McGuire included a great novella at the end that set up some very interesting possibilities.




Thank you to Berkley Publishing Group – DAW and NetGalley for an ARC of this book. This is my honest review.

So much love!

Roomies - Christina Lauren

UGH! THIS BOOK GAVE ME ALL THE FEELS!!! Roomies is so beautifully evocative and dreamily romantic that I basically finished it and figured I may as well quit writing because why bother in the face of this gorgeousity?


I loved Christina Lauren’s Wild Season series, though other stuff has been more take it or leave it for me. But Roomies surpassed even my love of her other series. (Also, can I just say how jealous I am that this author is actually two best friends who write together and look like the most adorable of besties?) I realize I sound like a broken record, but this book is just so damn romantic.


We are forced to live every agonizing moment of Holland’s crush on Calvin, this impossible situation she’s gotten herself into, and the depth of her feeling for not only this man, but her uncle for whom she’d do anything to make happy. Holland and Calvin’s chemistry is off-the-charts, and it’s agonizing to figure out whether or not he really cares about her or is just doing whatever it takes to realize his lifelong dream.


The thing is, while there are definitely bad behaviours, there are no real bad guys. It’s so easy to understand where all these characters are coming from and why they’re behaving as they are. Lauren pushes us into some truly heartbreaking territory.


And as much as this is a story about a couple falling in love, it is equally about one woman falling in love with herself and realizing that she can be the heroine of her own story instead of a supporting player. I can’t think of a single thing wrong with this book, except for the fact that it ended.


Excellent uf with a decidedly sci-fi flavour

City of Light - Keri Arthur

Arthur creates the exact right blend of PNR, urban fantasy, and sci-fi in this series. I’m a sucker for stories about a world barely clinging to the ruins of its former self. In this case, it’s due to a war that happened over one hundred years ago between shifters and humans that’s left us both at the mercy of demons. I could feel the crowding and the desperation of all those who lived in Chaos.


The nice thing about starting City of Light so far after the war is that long-held prejudices and grudges have really had time to stew. When our MC super-soldier Tiger gets reluctantly mixed up in saving a child and her ranger uncle, a sworn enemy of Tiger’s kind, the hatred runs deep on both sides. Arthur really mines this conflict.


Not only is Tiger a total badass, she also forces both the other characters and the reader to question what it means to be human. Tiger is our emotional heart of a conflict that just keeps getting bigger and more dire as the series progresses. (Yes, I read the entire trilogy in three days.)


While there is a lot of information to process, Arthur manages to deftly steer the reader through it. The story is exciting and well-written, with a great mix of action, intrigue, and yes, sexual tension. I can’t wait to check out her other work.

Not what I expected from the second book and totally delighted

After Atlas (Planetfall Novel, A) - Emma Newman

If Planetfall was sci-fi that read as lit-fic, After Atlas was sci-fi that read as a straight up murder mystery. I really didn’t expect that kind of a shift, but if anything, I think I liked this book even more because I’m a sucker for a good mystery.


At the beginning, it seems like After Atlas is only tangentally connected to the first book. Forty years ago the main character’s mother left him and his father to go into space with the resulting tale of book 1. And while the effects on those left behind come into play, this book could be read on its own and still enjoyed.


Newman continues her exploration of the themes of loss and grief in this book. While Carlos doesn’t believe he was shaped by his mother’s departure, having only been a baby with no memory of her, the deeper he goes into this journey, the more he is forced to confront the choices and mindset that have led him to this point.


I couldn’t put the book down. There was a lyrical beauty to the writing that reminded me of one of my favourite mystery authors, Tana French. Both are so specific and evocative with the minutae of environment and both force their MCs up against painful revelations they’ve tried hard to deny.


Even if sci-fi isn’t your thing, pick up After Atlas if you enjoy a riveting mystery.

Not what I expected

Planetfall - Emma Newman

There was so much grief and loss permeating this book that it became this palpable living entity I found myself needing to understand. And the revelations around it are doled out as slowly as the mystery around why the newcomer to this society has the potential to unleash deeply buried secrets.


It created a pressure cooker where I was desperate for each new glimpse into the backstory of both Ren and what had happened when they first landed. The slow pace of this unravelling worked because the day-to-day insights of this society were compelling enough on their own.


Ren was an excellent character not often portrayed in the sci-fi I’ve read: queer, a person of colour, and struggling with a compulsive disorder. While I found her hugely sympathetic, there was always an emotional distance from her which worked for me, as it fed into the tone as a whole of never being able to relax enough and know what was going on.


My only hesitation around the book is the ending. I’d like to trust that this is all part of Newman’s “big picture” plan, however book two seems to focus on an entirely different character. However, I am going to continue the series because I am still very happy to be led through this world.

Blown. Away.

Red Rising - Pierce Brown

A funny thing happened a couple of chapters into Red Rising. See, it didn’t go in a direction I expected based on the synopsis, and just like that, I was hooked. (Gee, an author who is cleverer than the reader, go figure.)


Red Rising is phenomenal. Sure, it’s drawing on similar dystopian tropes as The Hunger Games and Divergent, but Brown has created a unique Martian society with its color-based class system and specific lingo. And while technically, the characters are YA, it’s not billed as YA, as is the case with Game of Thrones with its teen main cast, so those of you not into that genre, you’re safe. 


Being book 1 in a series about an uprising, obviously our MC, Darrow, is going to have to infiltrate the upper class and prove himself in his first test. Nothing ground breaking about the structure, but the fun and freshness of this compelling story is all in how Brown handles it. It’s a great task with epic amounts of struggle, adventure, and betrayal.

I can’t wait to get to see more of this world and more of Darrow and his band, all of whom are sneakily clever. And since the author did such a great job building relationships, it’s going to be both highly enjoyable and heartbreaking watching them being torn apart when Darrow must take their ruling class down.


This was an edge-of-my-seat read, and now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to dive in to book 2.

A surprising gem of a novel

The Serpent King - Jeff Zentner

In his bio, Zentner states that he “wanted to write about young people who struggle to lead lives of dignity and find beauty in a forgotten unglamorous place.” And wow, did he succeed. I fell hard and fast for this story and think it should be on everyone’s radar.


The Serpent King unfolds through the POVs of three friends, Lydia, Travis, and Dill, all outcasts in this small town. They are the kinds of people who would do great out of high school and in a bigger city where they could find their tribes. That’s exactly what Lydia is planning. She started a successful fashion blog that is her ticket to NYC and the life she really wants to lead.


Travis is a gentle giant who is wrapped up in a Game of Thrones-type fandom, as an escape from the spectre of his dead brother and the abuse he faces at home. And Dill, who is perhaps the most central character, is drowning under his family’s dubious legacy, unable to to find his way to happiness.


Dignity is an excellent word to sum up The Serpent King. Zentner deftly avoids any kind of hillbilly or even high school clichés and while Lydia may have a bite to her, this isn’t a trio of snarky teens. I’d never read a story set in precisely this world, and I loved everything about it. From their struggles to find their voices, their individuality, and their happiness, to the pressure cooker that a small town can be, where everyone knows your family’s business, going back generations, and how impossible it can feel to escape that.


The Serpent King was a beautiful surprise and I really hope you’ll all pick it up.


Extremely addictive uf series

Vampire's Kiss (Legion of Angels) (Volume 1) - Ella Summers

Bear with me as I sort through why Vampire’s Kiss had all the elements I love like snark, sexual tension, interesting mythology and totally worked for me, while other books with the same tropes that I’ve read recently have not. Hmm. Ever read a book where it feels like they are trying too hard, either with the humour or the suspense or the sexiness? I think that’s it. The other urban fantasy books I’d started recently were trying too hard. Like the authors knew there was a formula that readers enjoyed and were attempting to shove those elements into it.


This story felt effortless in all the best ways. Let’s start with our MC, Leda. Yes, she’s badass and snarky and has difficulties with rules when someone she cares about is in danger, but these character qualities never feel over-the-top, and in fact, give her considerable difficulty at times. I simply loved everything about her voice.


Then there is Nero, our main love interest. He’s an angel, but Summers steers away from a lot of the clichés. In this world, angels can be made, which brings up an interesting discussion about the nature of humanity, that gets deeper, the deeper you get into the series.


Every book deals with Leda levelling up as she moves through the Legion, with missions and sexytimes. How do I know this? Well, I’ve binged the first 4 books in 3 days. It’s actually a good thing that the final book was released because I’m going to need it very soon.


If you’re jonsing for good uf, check this series out.

Dive into this gorgeous lit fic

Manhattan Beach: A Novel - Jennifer Egan

Honestly? My first reaction to realizing the story was set in the 1930s and 40s was to groan because I really really did not feel like reading a period novel right now. Yeah, well, Egan can write any time period and from now on, I’ll follow her without complaint.


I pretty much did nothing for two days except read this book from cover to cover. All three of the main players in this book were fascinating to follow. Especially Anna, forging a path as the first female diver, against societal disapproval, and the many obstacles put in her path. Her certainty about the direction she wanted to take in her life, especially in that time period, was so refreshing.


Unlike many of the books I read, there wasn’t an ounce of snark or, really, romance, in this story. What grounded it for me was a compelling specificity of time and place, as well as the wonderfully fleshed out characters. This isn’t some Shakespearean epic. I found the story to be much more narrowed-focused: a smaller scope, but no less impactful with it’s themes of gender politics, and flawed men versus the heroes they aspired to be. Plus, setting it largely in the naval yards, gave me a glimpse into a New York that I’d never come across in my reading history.


If you’re going to read Manhattan Beach, surrender yourself to it, like you would to the sea. Ride the swells and dips; and enjoy the journey.

Give me all the Bowen books

Duke of My Heart (A Season for Scandal) - Kelly Bowen

For whatever weird reason, I’m extremely uncomfortable with historical romance featuring a female MC who has been already ruined, been a figure of scandal, and is somehow supposed to still get a happily-ever-after with a member of the aristocracy. It’s a really massive obstacle to overcome in HR, and I’ve read a number of them that were basically, “we love each other and we don’t really want to be in London, so society be damned.” Which, sure, but still left me vaguely unsatisfied because I want my female MCs to triumph at the end.


Here’s the great thing about Ivory in Duke of My Heart, yes she’s an opera singer, yes she married a duke and was never properly received, but Bowen makes this her backstory, and the reason why she gets to invisibly glide through society now, handling scandals for other people. Everything about the premise worked for me. Ivory is talented, smart as hell, and totally running her life on her own terms. And she continues to do so, handling cut-throats and aristocrats with equal aplomb.


Maximus was a good male love interest. He ticked all the boxes for me, but the real fun was watching Ivory manage him. Seriously, I cannot rave enough about her. Duke of My Heart is smart, sexy, witty and a one-sitting read.


If you haven’t checked out Kelly Bowen’s work and you love historical romance, then you need to start reading her.

A chilling dystopian with a ton of heart

The Girl with All the Gifts - M.R. Carey

Gonna make a giant generalization here and say that it’s easy to make a creepy dystopian. I mean, that’s kind of the baseline, right? We want to be chilled and unnerved by this vision of a near-future that has just enough recognizability to feel like what’s in store for us should we fail to get our collective act together.


Then there are the books that take it one step further into heart wrenching emotion. (Hunger Games and Feed trilogies, I’m looking at you.) The books that not only devastate us, but uplift us, because even when things are at their bleakest, humanity will find a way to love, and laugh, and hope.


Enter The Girl With All The Gifts. I’m not going to give away spoilers, though things are revealed pretty quickly. The future this book presents is chilling and bleak and in the hands of a lesser author, that would have been the entire takeaway.


However, the heart of this book is the relationship between Melanie and her teacher Miss Justineau. This relationship pushes the book into the realm of the truly great in this genre.

Melanie is a lens through which our understanding of all the adult characters is filtered. The naive student ends up teaching us more about humanity and ourselves than could have been imagined by anyone at the start of the novel.


There is a second book, but this story feels complete in and of itself. So if you’re looking for your next great read, pick up The Girl With All the Gifts.


Took me long enough

Keystone - Dannika Dark

Honestly? I was a little worried at first. It felt kind of info dumpy and I wasn’t sure it was going to hit its stride. But it soon did and then, bam! We were off like a rocket.


Plotwise, this book brilliantly avoided some expected tired twists and turns. I loved the direction it took and that I didn’t see a lot of it coming. It managed to play with conventional tropes while keeping them unique and fresh.


Raven, our heroine, is prickly, badass, stubborn, determined, and kinda broken. Qualities I love in my uf MCs. The devil is in the details, namely, how Dark keeps Raven from ever feeling whiny. We’re rooting for her, never rolling our eyes at her. Her emotional baggage is relatable and stems from a genuine, organic backstory.


And then there’s Christian. Yes, he ticks all the hot guy uf boxes, and managed to have a lovely charisma. Without spoiling anything, there was a plot turn near the end that really had me sit up and take notice, because it sets up all kinds of intriguing character growth (or stumbling) in future books.


All in all, thrilled I finally dove in to Keystone and can’t wait to see where book two takes me.