Review: Hunt the Stars by Jessie Mihalik

Alexis, wearing a checkered yellow shirt, holds up a Kindle with Hunt the Stars in front of a black bookshelf.

Alexis:

Yes, it’s true; I was in the mood for sci-fi!

Hunt the Stars follows Octavia, or Tavi, a bounty hunter on her ship, Starlight’s Shadow. When she’s approached by Torran Fletcher–a Valoff, or member of an enemy alien race–for a job that pays extremely well, Tavi can’t say no for the sake of her crew. Together with Torran and his crew, Tavi and her crew hunt for Torran’s missing treasure, only to find herself part of a bigger plot. 

There were a lot of things I liked about this book and some things…not so much.

To start off, I appreciated Mihalik’s worldbuilding. The first half of this book was pretty slow, but it allowed me to get to know the world, its technology, and its characters well. The author does a great job of highlighting the differences between humans and Valoffs, and the majority of this book focuses on the two races learning to accept each other.

I also enjoyed learning the backstories of and learning what keeps Tavi and her crew going. There’s a cute alien cat named Luna that appears quite often, too! And I was pleasantly surprised by a plot twist. 

As for the rest, well, there’s your classic enemies to lovers storyline. Overall, there were some cute romantic scenes, but I just didn’t feel the tension or attraction that Tavi kept mentioning she felt. I think it had to do with the writing style, which is more tell-y over show-y and feels a little juvenile, despite the fact that all the characters are in their upper twenties and into their thirties. 

As I mentioned earlier, the main plot doesn’t really begin until halfway through the story, and part of me didn’t mind and part of me was like “when is the bounty hunting going to happen?”

I ended up enjoying elements of story but I was left feeling like something was missing. Either way, I’m glad that I’m getting more into space operas/sci-fi stories.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐/5 

Review: Dance of Thieves Duology

The spines of the Dance of Thieves duology perches on a windowsill next to a Sweater Weather wood-wick candle, and a small pot of cat grass.

Alexis:

Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson had been on my tbr for years, and I finally said, You know what? I should get it from the library. 

I had no idea this book would focus so heavily on the romance, but I didn’t mind it. The story follows Kazi, a solider of the queen’s, and Jase, the leader of the Ballenger family, an influential family that rules a kingdom that the queen doesn’t recognize. 

Let me start out by saying that Pearson’s writing is great; the writing itself is 5 ⭐s. She has the perfect writing style for a fantasy book like this one, and I really enjoyed it. I also really love dual POVs, and I think it worked well for the story. 

I simultaneously loved this book and thought it was just okay. I sped through the first half (despite never having read Pearson’s other series, where Dance of Thieves takes place, and struggling a bit with the worldbuilding). 

But this book has a lot of long sections that drag. The writing and world feel like adult fantasy, but this is definitely a YA book, because we have some almost-insta-love, enemies to lovers, and teenage angst. 

I think the parts that just felt okay to me were the constant backs and forths. This is basically an enemies to lovers, and then lovers to enemies, and then back to enemies to lovers book. There was a lot of miscommunication, which I’m starting to dread in romance-heavy books. And to think it was the miscommunication plotlines, as well as all the extraneous worldbuilding details, that bogged down the story. 

That being said, I enjoyed it as a whole, and I’m hoping I’ll like the second one even more! 

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐/5 

Vow of Thieves:

What a sequel! This book makes up for the slow plot in Dance of Thieves. While the book is still long, there’s so much more action. The stakes are super high. Kazi and Jase are separated for the majority of the book, which adds to the longing and stakes of the book.

I enjoyed getting to know all of the side characters more.

There are a couple aspects that kept this from being a 5-star read, however. While I liked that Kazi and Jase were separated, as I think it helped with character growth, I think it went on just a little too long. I waited like 300 pages just for them to be together again, and considering the first book was mostly insta-love, I didn’t really get to see them grow together as a couple. 

On top of that, there was one “plot twist” that kept being hinted at, but it was very obvious from the get-go what it was. And it also dragged on for almost 300 pages. 

Despite that, I flew through this book, and overall, I enjoyed it!

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Review: The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas

Alexis:

I don’t usually read romance books, but I’ve had so much intense reading for class lately that I needed a fun book to read as a distraction!

The Spanish Love Deception follows Catalina, a Spanish woman living in NYC. Her sister is getting married back home in Spain, and Lina promised to bring her boyfriend as her date to the wedding. The only problem: she doesn’t have a boyfriend. But her coworker, Aaron, convinces her to take him along, and pretend to be her boyfriend.

What I liked:

The dialogue was fun, snappy, and playful. Lina and Aaron are foils to each other in many ways; Lina is loud and talkative, and Aaron is serious and quiet. Their relationship is fun to read about, and I enjoyed the dynamic between them, as well as Lina’s dynamic with her family.

The romance takes a while to happen (definitely a slow burn) but it was written well (it does get steamy!)

What I didn’t like:

The book went on a little long. I definitely think 100-200 pages could’ve easily been condensed or cut out. Because of this, the writing, including Lina’s internal narrative, often feels repetitive. We see Aaron’s description literally every chapter; I got a little tired of reading about his blue/ocean eyes and huge/bulky physique.

That being said, if you’re looking for a fun romance, specifically enemies to lovers, an office romance, and the fake dating trope, consider picking this one up.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐

Review: Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

Alexis:

How do I begin?

So, to no one’s surprise, I read this book in one night. I’m living for the dark, witchy aesthetic of this book! It’s set in 1800s Sicily, Italy. Historical fantasy is one of my favorite subgenres of fantasy, so I was pumped to read this one.

Kingdom of the Wicked follows Emilia, a witch who grew up hearing horror stories from her grandmother about the princes of Hell and dark magic alike. When her twin sister, Vittoria, dies a gruesome death, Emilia teams together with Wrath, one of the princes of Hell, in order to avenge her sister’s death. 

Emilia’s family works in a restaurant, and I loved reading about the food that she and her family cooks. It’s a great way to ground the story, since it’s otherwise heavy on fantasy elements, and it made me hungry!

The beginning was a little bit slow, but I liked how it built up the story. I think Maniscalco did a great job with the setting, and I really enjoyed following Emilia as she runs around the city trying to figure everything out. I also enjoyed the chemistry and bickering between Emilia and Wrath, as well as their tumultuous enemies to lovers kind of relationship. 

As for the genre, I felt like Kingdom of the Wicked bounced back and forth between YA and NA. Emilia, the main character, is 18. Sometimes, I really liked her character, and I felt like she was a good balance between a strong female character and a realistic, grieving character. Other times, however, she was very naive and made some dumb decisions, so if you’re not into naive characters, this might not be the book for you. However, I liked learning how the princes of Hell worked alongside Emilia as she tried to figure out what she’s been thrown into. 

Besides that, while I enjoyed the plot overall, there were some confusing bits. I found myself re-reading the ending because it was fairly vague, which might be the point, considering its leading into the next book. Either way, I’m looking forward to the sequel!  

Overall, if you’re into witchy vibes, historical fantasy, and morally gray characters, then give this one a try!

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5