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tellulahdarling

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?

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.

Craving more!

Constant Craving - Tamara Lush

I meant to read one chapter of this book when I started. I had a lot to do and I just wanted a quick break. One. Chapter. So, the end of the book later, having been totally consumed by it, I raised my bleary eyes and muttered “More.” I’ll get to that.

 

Constant Craving was delightful. You all know how much I love second chance romances, right? Well, this one made my heart bleed. Justine and Rafa’s original relationship was death by a million little cuts and the painful nicks showed no sign of stopping upon their reunion. I was so tense for them to emotionally survive their latest encounter.

 

Lush’s writing is, well lush. She’s officially become one of those “why do I bother when I can’t write like her” authors. The story is sumptuous, the sexual tension made me light-headed, and the sex itself gets so deliciously filthy at times. Rafa is definitely alpha but, since that’s my catnip, all good.

 

All that would have made the book worth reading, but complicating Justine’s and Rafa’s relationship is the fact that her family newspaper that she runs is circling the drain and Rafa, now a real estate mogul has shown up as the financier who can make or break its continuing existence. Lush is an experienced journalist and she brings a fascinating level of detail and authenticity to the story. I loved all the newsroom elements as much as the romance.

 

Now for the “more.” There’s also the bonus of reading Rafa’s POV (he of the sexy Cuban accent) on Radish, a platform for serialized reads. I know I’ll be checking it out to get into his head. Meantime, enjoy the combustive chemistry of these two and pick Constant Craving up today!

 

Another great read from Lily Morton

Rule Breaker - Lily Morton

The “enemies to lovers” trope is only slightly less delicious to me than the “best friends to lovers” one. There’s so much delightful antagonism and so much infuriation that turns to explosive sexual content.

 

*fans self*

 

Dylan is the mouthy best, but for all his snark, he is a big softie with a heart of gold. It was such fun to watch him alternate between wanting to murder Gabe and wanting to screw him senseless. He’s just a good guy who deserves his HEA.

 

Trouble his, the object of his fantasies is a cold-hearted player – or is he? The more I read about Gabe, the more I adored him. He is a broken man, but with every glimpse, I rooted for him to get over his issues and beyond his past hurts, and embrace the love waiting for him. That sounds so sappy, I know, but seriously, I just wanted these two together so badly.

 

I’ve read one other Lily Morton book, and I gotta say, so far, you can’t go wrong with any of them. Can’t wait to catch up on the rest!

Possibly my fav 2017 read

The Duchess Deal - Tessa Dare

This book made my cold, dead heart feel all the feels. I am in looooove! Let’s start with our protagonist, Leia, nerd girl extraordinaire, graphic novelist, and soon-to-be mother thanks to a one-night stand at a comic convention with Batman. I mean, I can’t even. I was already so happy.

 

The Almost Sisters has so much depth: it tackles family, sisterhood, fathers, dementia, and reconciling a vision of the American south that is so welcoming with the “second South” involving deeply entrenched racism. There was humour and heart and unlike some other Southern-set stories I’ve read recently, these characters popped off the page, crackling with life and spirit and individuality.

 

I cannot recommend this book enough. It gets all the stars and then some.

Anna Bradley nails another HR

Lady Eleanor's Seventh Suitor - Anna Bradley

OMG I LOVED THIS BOOK SO HARD! Cam is the worst autocrat. I mean really, he blackmails her into marriage. Talk about imperious and demanding. Yes, there are good reasons, but still. Much as I love my alphaholes, there were many ways for this to go so wrong. But in Anna Bradley’s brilliantly capable hands, I adored his underhandedness and ruthlessness. Of course, it made all the difference that Lady Eleanor was equally ruthless in her schemes not to be trapped by Cam.

 

There is so much collateral damage and heartbreak and stubborn stubborn people incapable of saying what they really mean. Absolutely delicious. Reward yourself with this book!

When two signs collide the results are delightful

Scorpio Hates Virgo - Anyta Sunday

What a treat! I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about the dictionary entry at the start, and to be honest, those never really did it for me, but other than that small detail, I loved this book. It was funny, there was clever word play, and the growing awareness between Perseus and Callahan that they couldn’t consider themselves nemeses anymore had me rooting so hard for them.

 

This is also very much a story about grief and loss and a community, an extended family actually, coming together to help the healing process. The Sherlock Gnomes game was a ton of fun and gave great insights into all the secondary characters. I’d love to read more in this world, so I’ll definitely be going back to read Theo’s story.

 

Thank you to NetGalley and Anyta Sunday for the opportunity to read this title in exchange for a fair and honest review.