Alexis’ Favorite Series

A stack of fantasy series rests on a gray blanket next to a gray notebook.

Alexis:

What are some of your favorite series? ⁣

I’m generally very picky about the books I buy, so you know I love all of these! ⁣And for those of you who have stuck around for a while, you won’t be surprised by my choices. 

  • The Raybearer duology
    • This is a fantastic YA fantasy series that’s inspired by West-African mythology. If you’re usually into adult fantasy but want to delve into YA fantasy, this is a great place to start. It has a complex magic system and worldbuilding and a dynamic main character. 
  • The Forestborn duology
    • Are you tired of me talking about the Forestborn duology yet? This duology has the perfect mix of great characters, adventure, shapeshifting, romance, and politics. 
  • The Legendborn Cycle
    • This YA contemporary fantasy series has hard-hitting themes and a crazy amount of action and worldbuilding. It’s such a fun yet emotional series. Even if you’re not into King Arthur retellings, you should pick it up.
  • The Defy the Night series
    • Defy the Night is pure fun. It has a plague, enemies-to-lovers (that’s technically enemies-to-lovers to friends-to-lovers and back again) and plenty of court politics.
  • The Drowning Empire series
    • This adult fantasy series has multiple POVs, an animal sidekick, bone magic, a heavy dose of mysteries, a revolution, and (you guessed it) drowning islands. If you’re looking for a unique read, I haven’t read anything else quite like it.

Some series not included in the picture include the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, which has enough hype without me talking it up even more, the Six of Crows duology, and the YA sci-fi series The Infinity Courts.

I hope you all have had a great reading month so far. It feels like January has been crawling by!


Review: The Quiet Stillness of Empty Houses by L.V. Russell

A Kindle rests on a blue Kindle pillow that a moon and star pattern. On the left is a Sweater Weather candle. On the right is a notepad that says "Read."

Alexis:

If you’re into gothic books that are similar to Jane Eyre, then add The Quiet Stillness of Empty Houses to your TBR. 

When Theodora becomes a governess for a little girl in a quiet mansion, she realizes the house and its mysterious lord, Cassius, are full of secrets. 

What I liked:

  • The atmosphere

Russell’s words drip with atmosphere! Her writing is lyrical and paints such a vivid picture of the multiple decaying houses in this book. Speaking of which…

  • Creepy mansions

The settings almost feel like characters themselves. Theodora’s house, where she lives with her grandmother, is an ancient being falling apart around them. And Broken Oak Manor, where she works, feels like a slumbering giant. 

  • Ghosts! (Enough said.)
  • Secrets

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes that Theodora tries to uncover.

  • Theme of grief

Even though Theodora’s father died when she was young, his death plays a pivotal role in Theodora’s character arc. 

  • A great plot twist 

What I didn’t like as much:

  • Slow-paced

While I generally enjoy slow-paced and character-driven novels, the middle of this book dragged in places.

  • The romance 

The romance was just okay for me, and I felt like it could have been developed more!

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 

Pub date: May 15, 2023 ⁣

⁣Thanks to BookSirens, Quill & Crow Publishing House, and author L.V. Russell for sending me an ARC for review!

Review: A Song of Salvation by Alechia Dow

A Kindle with A Song of Salvation rests on a gray blanket next to a READ notepad, a white hat with a puff ball, and a dilute calico cat

Alexis:

A Song of Salvation is my first Alechia Dow read, and umm, wow! I’m going to have to check out her other books!

A Song of Salvation is a YA space opera. It has two primary POVs. The first is Zaira, the last of her species known as nightweavers…oh, and she’s also the reincarnation of a god named Indigo. The second is Wesley, an empath and a smuggler who loves ditching school to fly his ship. When Zaira and Wesley’s fates collide, alongside a celebrity podcaster named Rubin Rima, the fate of the universe rests in their hands as they vow to help Zaira defeat the god of destruction named Ozvios and the tyrannical Ilori Emperor. 

This is such an adventurous and heartfelt read. The worldbuilding is honestly phenomenal. All of the different planets and species are so well fleshed out.

I love how it feels like a classic YA read, as all of the characters have tragic backstories and a lot of angst, but it also tackles colonization, genocide, and war. On top of the main theme of handling and embracing your emotions, this book focuses on love, togetherness, family and friendship, fate, and justice. 

A Song of Salvation has a found family, romance, including a gay romance, and plenty of song magic and space travel! It even has a cute octopus-like alien named Blobby. It was a fun, fast-paced story with lovable characters and a hard-hitting heart and soul. 

I know Dow’s other two books take place in the same universe and probably ease the reader into the world(s) more, so I’m looking forward to checking those out.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to Inkyard Press and Netgalley for providing me an ARC for review!

Pub Date: July 11, 2023

Alexis’ 2023 Hopefuls

Alexis:

Happy new year from me and my new book cart! The top shelf is my physical TBR (will I ever get to it?) And the bottom is shelf overflow. ⁣

I’m currently reading an ARC of A Song of Salvation by Alechia Dow, as one of my goals for this year is to delve into more sci-fi/space operas.

Here’s a long list of books I would love to get to at some point in 2023.⁣

  • Know My Name by Chanel Miller
  • The Little Village of Book Lovers by Nina George
  • Notorious Sorcerer by Davinia Evans
  • Empire of Exiles by Erin M Evans
  • The Ashfire King by Chelsea Abdullah 
  • Song of Silver, Flame Like Night by Amélie Wen Zhao
  • Threads That Bind by Kika Hatzopoulou
  • Never a Hero by Vanessa Len
  • The Bone Shard War by Andrea Stewart 
  • The Foxglove King by Hannah Whitten
  • A Fire Endless by Rebecca Ross
  • The City of Dusk by Tara Sim
  • When In Rome by Sarah Adams 
  • Seven Faceless Saints by M.K. Lobb 
  • A Study in Drowning by Ava Reid
  • Two Twisted Crowns by Rachel Gillig

I also saw that there’s some interesting discourse going around in the book community (I mean when is there not?). Apparently, some readers think it’s a red flag when someone mostly reads new books.

I’ve always enjoyed reading newer releases. As a writer myself, I love supporting authors during and after their book launches, because some day, I hope that will be me! I’m also all for reading what you like and what you want, as long as it isn’t hurting anybody.

What do you think? Do you feel the same as I do?

Happy reading!





Review: Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove by Rati Mehrotra

Night of the Raven, Dawn of the dove rests on a white and gray marble table next to a Harvest Festival fall candle.

Alexis:

Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove follows Katyani, a bodyguard who has had a forbidden soul bond with the Queen of Chandela since she was a child. Along with the two princes of Chandela, Kayani is ordered to travel to a monastic school—the gurukul of the famous Acharya Mahavir—in the middle of a forest that’s crawling with monsters. It’s both at the school and her return home that leave Katyani reckoning with everything she’s ever known. 

Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove is an upper YA fantasy inspired by medieval India. I enjoyed the setting, especially the monster-ridden forest (since, as you all know, I’m a sucker for a creepy forest). The story has political intrigue, a slow-burn romance, and plenty of monster hunting.

I especially liked Mehrotra’s writing style and the humor she sprinkles into the story. I found Katyani to be an enjoyable main character; she’s definitely the female version of a himbo, but had a great character arc. There are a lot of layers and reveals in this adventure story that kept me wanting to keep reading.

Some of the characters, especially Daksh, Acharya Mahavir’s son, could have been a lot more fleshed out. Daksh and Katyani’s relationship also felt too underdeveloped considering it takes up a decent chunk of the story. Some character motivations seemed a little too easy, as well, which made me hesitant to give this book a full 5-star rating. However, I really enjoyed this story and definitely recommend it if you’re looking for an action-packed, adventurous story with Indian mythology. 

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫

Review: The Sunbearer Trials by Aiden Thomas

The Sunbearer Trials rests on a marble table next to a white stuffed pumpkin and two candles.

Alexis:

The Sunbearer Trials follows Teo, a 17-year-old Jade semidiós and the trans son of Quetzal, goddess of birds.

This book is described as Percy Jackson meets The Hunger Games, and that’s the perfect description. 

Synopsis from Goodreads: 

As each new decade begins, the Sun’s power must be replenished so that Sol can keep traveling along the sky and keep the evil Obsidian gods at bay. Ten semidioses between the ages of thirteen and eighteen are selected by Sol himself as the most worthy to compete in The Sunbearer Trials. The winner carries light and life to all the temples of Reino del Sol, but the loser has the greatest honor of all—they will be sacrificed to Sol, their body used to fuel the Sun Stones that will protect the people of Reino del Sol for the next ten years.

In The Sunbearer Trials, I really enjoyed Thomas’ trademark voicy characters and fun writing style. The story is nice and fast-paced, and everyone’s outfits and superpowers sound so cool. I also like how this Mexican-inspired fantasy world is very diverse and inclusive, and how Teo’s wings play a role in the story and his trans identity.

While this was a fun read, there are some aspects that keep me from rating this higher.

For one, I never feel like the stakes are high enough. I mean, sure, one of the contenders will be sacrificed at the end, but the trials themselves don’t feel big enough to me. The games in The Hunger Games are thrilling to read because the stakes are so high, but in The Sunbearer Trials, Teo doesn’t even want to be there, much less take them very seriously. His motivation is to just…get through the trials so he can go back home. His lack of motivation plus the lack of high stakes meant I skimmed certain sections of the trials.

At times, this story feels more like Percy Jackson, aka middle grade. Now, I’m aware that I’m saying this as an adult reader who mostly reads YA, so maybe younger readers will feel differently. However, Teo is 17-years-old, and oftentimes, I thought he sounds like he should be closer to 14. Keep in mind reading is a personal experience and everyone interprets and reads things differently, but that’s how I perceived the character while reading this book. 

My last point is that the blurb makes it sound like this is going to be a high fantasy story, so imagine my surprise when the characters have phones and are watching TV. While I definitely think more fantasy worlds need modern technology and this is a cool aspect, moments of it took me out of the story. The world has its own version of Instagram and TikTok, and there’s also a reference to furries (what is up with books mentioning furries?? I read another one earlier this year that did the same thing).

That being said, the ending cranked up the stakes, which is exactly what I wanted! This is only the first book in a series, and the series definitely has a lot of potential. I’m interested in getting to know the large cast of characters better and to see what happens next. 

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐

Review: Book of Night by Holly Black

Book of Night rests on a coffee shop table next to a Starbucks cup and a pumpkin

Alexis:

On a whim, I picked up Book of Night from the library. I haven’t read a Black book (unless you count The Spiderwick Chronicles when I was a kid) and I’ve heard conflicting reviews of Book of Night

Which I now understand.

The first half of this book is slow. The worldbuilding is minimal, there are too many chapters that take place in the past, and the world itself suffers from what I call adult fantasy book syndrome—the world is cold and dreary, depressing and dark. For example, Ninth House has adult fantasy book syndrome, meaning everything about it is unnecessarily dark. While Book of Night isn’t quite as dark, it still has a criminal main character, lots of references to drugs and alcohol, kidnappings and murder, self harm, trauma, etc.

Which makes me wonder…why can’t we have an adult fantasy book that is both dark yet fun? 

That being said, the second half of this book takes a turn. The inciting incident doesn’t happen until around page 50 or 60, and then the plot gets rolling. I became more intrigued by the plot and the characters, especially as the world’s shadow magic and manipulation was explored a little more. There was also a plot twist that worked really well for me.

The beginning of the book is 2 stars, and the latter half 4, making this a 3 star read overall. (Or crescent moons, if you will).

VERDICT: 🌙🌙🌙/5

Review: The Vanished Queen by Lisbeth Campbell

Alexis holds a fall kombucha bottle next to a library copy of The Vanished Queen.

Alexis:

The Vanished Queen is an adult fantasy that starts off with a bang. The prologue delves into a theft: a slightly drunk Anza breaks into a locked room in a library to steal a journal. 

The Vanished Queen follows three different POVs. Anza is an archer and a part of the resistance. After the king put her father to death and she found the missing queen’s journal, Anza is dead set on fighting against the cruel and tyrannical king, Karolje. 

Prince Esvar is the younger son of Karolje and Mirantha, the vanished queen who is presumed dead. He hates his father’s regime and is desperate to find a way to defy him.  

And the third POV is Mirantha, the vanished queen herself. Her story is set in the past, leading up to her disappearance.

To be honest, I considered DNFing this about 100 pages in. The plot was very slow, and despite the synopsis mentioning that Anza and Esvar end up working together, that doesn’t even happen until the halfway point of the book.

But after that, the plot picks up. Schemes and planning happen. The political intrigue thickens and the stakes grow higher. In the beginning, a lot of the characters feel flat, but once the plot picks up, they come to life a little more and I became fully invested in the story. Karolje was such a terrible king and soulless person that I was ready to see him be brought down.

What I liked about this book:

-High stakes

-Mirantha’s chapters

-Themes of love and justice

-Esvar gives me Prince Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender vibes/Dorian from Throne of Glass vibes 

-Bisexuality rep: Anza is bisexual 

-High fantasy world without magic  

What I didn’t like as much:

-I often felt like the characters were being held at a distance; I wanted to be more in their heads

-Slow pacing 

The first half of this book is three stars and the latter half is higher.

VERDICT: 👑👑👑👑/5

Trigger warnings:
Death, including hangings, mentions of suicice, rape, violence/blood, torture, coded anti-semitism, domestic abuse, forced abortion 

Review: Kingdom of the Feared by Kerri Maniscalco

Alexis holds Kingdom of the Feared in front of a bookshelf

Alexis:

Kingdom of the Feared was the perfect way to kick off October. ⁣

It’s the third and final book in the Kingdom of the Wicked trilogy, which follows Emilia, a witch in late 1800s Sicily who accidentally binds herself to one of the wicked princes of Hell who calls himself Wrath. 

⁣The thing I appreciated the most in Kingdom of the Feared was the plot. While I really enjoyed the first two books, they were a little lacking in plot, but made up for it in atmosphere. But in this third book, the plot ramped up a lot. Maniscalco added plot twist after plot twist while answering a lot of lingering questions and mysteries. Plus, the overall atmosphere/vibes were still as good. 

⁣Yet…the second book, Kingdom of the Cursed is definitely my favorite of the trilogy. ⁣

Kingdom of the Feared had one particular trope that I really don’t like. Sure it was resolved, in a way, by the end, but it still rubbed me the wrong way. 

Another point worth mentioning is that this book was a little too spicy and repetitive at times. I found myself thinking, We get it! They’re wicked and they’re attracted to each other. And while Emilia’s character arc was good, I found myself wanting more from Wrath’s character. 

This, plus the trope issue, knocked my rating down a star.

Note: This book is definitely a new adult/adult book. While the first book in the series could be classified as YA, the series in its entirety is an adult series and should NOT be marketed as YA. 

VERDICT: 💀💀💀💀/5

Alexis’ September Wrap-Up

A stack of books rests on a bookshelf next to a pumpkin candle. A small white pumpkin sits on top of the stack.

Alexis: 

It’s time for my September wrap-up!

⁣I can’t believe it’s almost October, but I’m also so ready for it to be full-blown autumn. I already started diving into my spooky/fall reads.

September was an amazing reading month for me (recovering from surgery will do that to you). I read 10 books and 1 novella.  ⁣

⁣Overall, I had a lot of hits and a few misses. ⁣

📚 The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren—⭐⭐⭐⭐⁣

📚 Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood—⭐⭐⁣

📚 Unraveller by Frances Hardinge—⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⁣

📚 Hall of the Hopeless by Haley D. Brown—⭐⭐⭐⭐⁣

📚 The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis—⭐⭐⭐💫⁣

📚 The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton—⭐⭐⭐💫⁣

📚 Violet Made of Thorns by Gina Chen—⭐⭐⭐⁣

📚 Defend the Dawn by Brigid Kemmerer—⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⁣

📚 The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna—⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⁣

📚 Stuck with You by Ali Hazelwood—⭐⭐⭐⭐⁣

📚 Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross—⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⁣

Have you read any of these? What did you think? I hope October is a great reading month for you all!