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: Kill Your Darlings by L.E. Harper

A Kindle ARC of Kill Your Darlings rests on a white marble table next to a Santa hat and a book notes notebook

Alexis: 

If you’re looking for Inkheart meets Inception, then Kill Your Darlings is for you. 

Inkheart was my absolute favorite book as I kid, so you know I had to request Kill Your Darlings on Netgalley!

The story immediately jumps into the action. Author Kyla thinks she’s dreaming at first. After all, she’s in Solera—the world she created in her fantasy series. But soon, she realizes that she’s stuck in Solera, who is in the middle of a war against the evil villian, and Kyla has to figure out how to save both herself and her favorite characters.

This book depicts the struggle of mental health, specifically with depression. It’s the main theme and the main abstract obstacle that Kyla must overcome. Kyla’s struggles, which Harper explains stem very closely from her own, give this book such a raw and emotional edge. I really felt for Kyla as she struggles with her very dark thoughts and depression in order to learn her self worth.

Harper’s wordbuilding is amazing. Solera is the perfect mix of a fantasy and sci-fi world. It has a healthy mix of dragons, magic, battles, and a slew of magical creatures. Since Kyla is the author, we also get a great insight to how the world and its dark and light magic works. 

Without giving anything way, I thought all of the parallels between Earth and Solera were done well. I like how we get asexual representation with Kyla’s character. And I love Kyla’s relationship with a dragon named Cendrion. 

I did think the romantic subplot felt a little forced, especially considering the age gap. However, I think it accomplished what Harper needed it to do for the story. Besides that, my only main critique is that I wanted even more at the end of this story. There were some open-ended questions and interactions that I itched to see while I was reading. However, I understand why Harper ended the book this way, especially considering the frame of the novel (which is within the frame of the novel about Soltera…hence the Inception aspect!). Even without a more beefy ending, this book packed a punch!

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

TWs: Depictions of mental illness including depression, anxiety, suicide and suicidal ideation, and self-harm

Note: I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim

A Kindle copy of Spice Road sits on a bookshelf next to a tea tumbler and a box of tea samplers.

Alexis:

Dune meets An Ember in the Ashes

Spice Road is a YA fantasy that follows Imani, a Shield warrior with an affinity for iron. When she discovers her supposedly dead brother is actually alive, she ventures outside of her homeland, the hidden desert city of Qalia, to bring him home. Outside the city limits, she discovers a world that she never knew existed, and grapples with her worldview, herself, her understanding of her brother, and the group she travels with. 

I really enjoyed the worldbuilding. Ibrahim does a great job describing the lush world. I love her use of sensory imagery, especially smell. It brings the world to life.

I love the tea magic! The people of Qalia access their affinity through drinking misra, a tea that allows them to access their magic. The first line of the book is, “We will fight, but first we will have tea.” Which is awesome.

I also really enjoyed the themes that Ibrahim presents. One of the main themes is truth and honesty, as Imani deals with the many lies she’s been told over the years. Another main theme is colonialism, which comes into play in the latter half of the book. I also appreciated the emphasis on family as Imani struggles to handle her rebellious little sister and hold onto hope that her brother is alive and well.

My favorite character is Qayn, a djinni that becomes Imani’s ally. He is the most complex and expressive character of the bunch, and I’m interested to learn more about him and his past!

But unfortunately, I didn’t like Imani’s character. She starts out as very naive and bullheaded…and ends the story being slightly less naive and bullheaded. She tends to be downright mean to anyone who helps her in the slightest and makes a lot of really dumb decisions. It doesn’t help that she’s also known as the Djinni Slayer…but besides obviously slaying a lot of djinni, we don’t really get an insight as to how she got that nickname at the age of seventeen. She also has a very confusing and lackluster enemies-to-lovers romance with a character who accompanies her on her journey. 

I found her to be unlikeable in general, and I had to push through certain chapters because I wasn’t rooting for her the way I should. However, I really loved the tea magic, the Arabian-inspired world, and the mythology aspects of Spice Road. 

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐ 💫


Special thanks to Delacorte Press for sending me an e-arc for review.

Spice Road is expected to be published on January 24, 2023!

Review: Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn

Alexis holds a copy of Bloodmarked over a pile of fallen autumn leaves and her black Chelsea boots.

Alexis:

I’m not kidding when I say I sat down and devoured Bloodmarked in one day.

Bloodmarked, book two in the Legendborn Cycle, was one of my most anticipated sequels, and let’s just say if you’re worried about middle-book-syndrome/sequel syndrome, don’t be!

So much happens in this book that I already feel like I need to re-read it. The plot really thickens.

I loved learning more about Bree. I loved learning more about her root and her ancestors. I loved getting to know the secondary characters even more. I especially enjoyed getting to know Sel and Alice better. A decent number of new characters are also introduced, but Deonn does such a good job of balancing everyone out that no character feels flat.

Bloodmarked also dives into important themes such as racism, white privilege, and identity. This is such a well-fleshed out series so far, and I can’t wait to see where Deonn takes it next.

Overall, there’s not much else I can say about this book without spoilers! If you still haven’t picked up Legendborn and you’d be into a King Arthur retelling (or even if you’re just looking for a great and multi-layered YA fantasy read), I recommend picking it up.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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: 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 Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis

The Lights of Prague sits on a gray blanket next to a small white pumpkin and a dilute calico cat.

Alexis:

The Lights of Prague is a historical fantasy set in (you guessed it) Prague in the mid 1800s, right after gas lamps are introduced to the city. ⁣

⁣It follows Domek, a lamplighter who also fights monsters—like the pijavice (vampires)—and Ora, a wealthy, badass, and secretive widow.

⁣This book has a will-o’-the-wisp, monster hunting, philosophical musings, alchemy, and beautiful descriptions of Prague. ⁣

While I liked Domek’s character in the beginning, Ora quickly became my favorite. She had an interesting backstory and was flawed and well-rounded. 

⁣My only con was that the plot felt slow moving, which meant I found myself leisurely reading this instead of my usual binge-reading. Despite the high stakes, I didn’t feel like the plot had quite enough urgency. Because of this, I liked this book, but I wasn’t as obsessed with it as I had hoped.

I still enjoyed it overall, and if you’re looking for a historical fantasy with vampires, then check it out; it’s the perfect read to ease into fall.

VERDICT: 🧛🧛🧛.5/5

Review: Hall of the Hopeless by Haley D. Brown

On a wooden railing, a bottle of mango kombucha rests next to a Kindle in front of green grass

Alexis:

Hall of the Hopeless follows Thea, a Fae who lives with her adopted human family…until they’re abducted by slave traders.

Thea’s search for her family leads her to Gar, an assassin who tells Thea that her family’s abductor is Hrokr, the cold and cruel Lord of the northern Hall. Gar has plans both to liberate Hrokr’s slaves—and destroy his entire kingdom.

But Thea is harboring a secret that could change everything: she is Thea Starsea, the missing Heir of the fallen Hall of Aphaedia.

The story starts off with a bang! Right away, we learn Thea’s backstory and motivation. The beginning is action-packed and heart wrenching, and I really felt for Thea. Moments of the story and Thea’s character gave me Throne of Glass vibes, which I was here for.

I found her to be a great and balanced main character. Yes, she’s a fighter and a badass, but Brown doesn’t shy away from revealing her feelings, innermost fears, anxiety, and rage.

I especially enjoyed reading Brown’s fighting scenes. And the ending! Prepare for plot twists. I’m definitely looking forward to finding out what happens next and to learn even more about the secondary characters and their motivations. 

Thanks so much to Haley D. Brown for sending me an e-ARC for review.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Expected publication date: December 1, 2022

Review: A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

Alexis holds a library copy of A Conjuring of Light above a deck and wire table.

Alexis: I finished the Shades of Magic series!

Actually, I finished A Conjuring of Light, the third book. But Schwab announced recently that she plans on writing more books in the series!

I think this one was my favorite. All of the plot points came together in the end, and the pace picked up. I loved how all of the characters we met throughout the series finally got together.

I think the minor POVs could have been cut out, as I found myself skimming them.

However, I liked how Kell and Lila’s characters turned out, especially. Lila felt a lot less of a pick me girl than the previous two books, thankfully.

I really enjoyed reading this one, and I’m glad I finally read this book-world favorite.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Review: This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede

A Kindle rests on a marble table next to a Nintento Switch with Animal Crossing, surrounded by cactus/succulent votive candles

Alexis: Are you looking to add more fantasy romance reads to your 2022 tbr?

Synopsis:

In This Vicious Grace, Alessa is the Finestra, chosen by the Gods to ward off the coming apocalypse. But she needs a magical partner, and unfortunately for everyone, she keeps accidentally killing everyone she touches. When she survives an assassination attempt, she hires a street fighter named Dante as her bodyguard, who ends up helping her in ways she never imagined. 

Review:

This was such a fun book! The banter and the chemistry between Alessa and Dante was great. Dante is your classic broody love interest. And I loved reading about Alessa figuring out how to control her powers.

I especially enjoyed Alessa’s character arc. The story focuses on Alessa growing as a person as she overcomes loneliness and self-doubt. It’s a character-driven story, which I love, but just be aware going into it that it’s not plot heavy until the end. Because of this, the main plot didn’t feel as high-stakes as it could have.

If you’re looking for a book with the vibes of Kingdom of the Wicked and From Blood and Ash, then I definitely recommend it!

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

PUB DAY: June 28, 2022

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books for my e-ARC!