Tuesday, October 19, 2021

A Shadow in the Ember (Flesh & Fire #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout ~ Review

Source: e-ARC provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Born shrouded in the veil of the Primals, a Maiden as the Fates promised, Seraphena Mierel’s future has never been hers. Chosen before birth to uphold the desperate deal her ancestor struck to save his people, Sera must leave behind her life and offer herself to the Primal of Death as his Consort.

However, Sera’s real destiny is the most closely guarded secret in all of Lasania—she’s not the well protected Maiden but an assassin with one mission—one target. Make the Primal of Death fall in love, become his weakness, and then…end him. If she fails, she dooms her kingdom to a slow demise at the hands of the Rot.

Sera has always known what she is. Chosen. Consort. Assassin. Weapon. A specter never fully formed yet drenched in blood. A monster. Until him. Until the Primal of Death’s unexpected words and deeds chase away the darkness gathering inside her. And his seductive touch ignites a passion she’s never allowed herself to feel and cannot feel for him. But Sera has never had a choice. Either way, her life is forfeit—it always has been, as she has been forever touched by Life and Death.




To be entirely honest, I am head over heels for the Blood and Ash series. So when I got to the end of The Crown of Gilded Bones and realized that the next book in that world would not be B&A book 4, but instead a prequel/companion that would explain backstory and introduce new characters and a storyline that would intertwine with the B&A series...it was exciting but also stressful because it meant a longer wait for The War of Two Queens. That said, I did end up very much interested in A Shadow in the Ember and now I'm pulled into two JLA fantasy series...which I can't even be mad about because they're so good.

Jennifer L. Armentrout is so skilled at creating characters. Just like in the Blood & Ash series, I got so invested in every character of ASITE very quickly. The main character, Sera, was a spunky badass from the get go, and I only loved her more as the story progressed. The love interest, Ash...or whatever we will end up calling him, was intriguing the entire way through. And there are of course many side characters that leave their mark and I can't wait to see again. 

As for the plot, I would say it definitely does a great job in its own right to gain interest and carry the story forward. I understand that this is a prequel and connected to another series, but it truly does stand very well on its own. It definitely held my interest.

The romance...gave me many feelings. There's a fair amount of steam. But there's also a lot of building of chemistry and rapport between Sera and Ash. They're such a fun couple, and while there is a lot going against them, I am looking forward to seeing things hopefully work out for them sooner rather than later. I loved them together. And their difficulties really tore at me as I read. So basically, I'm just super invested in this couple.

This is definitely the type of story that is immersive--from world building to characters to the twists and turns and everything...and I truly enjoyed it.

That said, there were two things that held this back from being a 5-star read for me:

1. Though this does stand alone very well and you don't need to read the Blood & Ash series to read this, I HAVE read the Blood & Ash books and at this point I liked those better. I liked ASITE a lot, probably to the point where I could say I loved it, but I am pretty much obsessed with Poppy, Cas, and Kieran, so I have to take that into consideration when I rate this. I can't rate this the same 5 stars I did A Kingdom of Flesh & Fire and The Crown of Gilded Bones. 

2. I did enjoy the entirety of A Shadow in the Ember...but I really started to love it toward the end. And then it ended. And I get it, building the world and starting a new series and having it all at a crescendo toward the end, but that left most of the book in the "liked" territory and not enough in the "loved" territory. That said, this is a common problem for me with fantasy series and I have a very strong feeling that I am going to fall hard in love with this series as it continues. That is what happened with the Blood & Ash series, after all--I rated book 1 4.5 stars, then the other two after that were 5 stars. So take this one with a grain of salt.

All this is to say that I had a great time reading A Shadow in the Ember. It's an intriguing introduction to a series set in an immersive world that Jennifer L. Armentrout skillfully built full of captivating characters. The fact that it's a prequel to another awesome series is just a cherry on top. And now I can't wait for the next book in THIS series. So that's two JLA fantasy series that have me in their grips...and honestly, I'm fine with that. The more books to love, the better :)


4 stars - An intriguing series starter full of captivating characters...I cannot wait for the next one!



Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood ~ Review

Source: e-ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair & honest review.

When a fake relationship between scientists meets the irresistible force of attraction, it throws one woman's carefully calculated theories on love into chaos.

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn't believe in lasting romantic relationships--but her best friend does, and that's what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor--and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford's reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive's career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding...six-pack abs.

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.




I picked up an ARC of this on a whim. I knew I wanted to read it, but I was content to wait until the book's release to pick it up. But then I saw it on NG and thought "why not?" and requested it. And then I got approved the next day and gave it a glance. I then proceeded to let this book take over my life until I finished it. So suffice it to say, that this book was fantastic and I LOVED IT.

From the very beginning The Love Hypothesis hooked me. Olive's voice comes through loud, clear, and arresting from the start. And the humor, the banter, is present right away. I wasn't even a full chapter in and already laughing. So I suppose all of this is my way of making a case that Ali Hazelwood is an excellent writer.

The plot is everything I could think to want in a romance. The tropes alone are magnificent. Grumpy & sunshine! Fake dating! Slooooowww beautiful burn! Did I mention the grumpy hero??? And Ali Hazelwood executed all of these tropes in a way that was so perfect, my ever aching heart was so full.

And the romance. The. Romance! I could write an entire love letter about the romance alone. I was so invested. So satisfied. So happy. Olive and Adam are 100% OTP material and will live in my heart as one of my favorite couples.

The setting and side characters complemented the story so well also. I haven't read a lot of STEM based romance, but I will need to search some out because I loved it here. And Olive's best friends? Top tier. And Adam's best friend? Also the greatest. And everyone together was so funny and supportive and amazing and I loved them all.

Overall, The Love Hypothesis brought me so much joy, and will for sure be one of my top ten reads of 2021. I adored the romance with all its well done tropes, and will definitely be keeping my eyes peeled so I can pounce on whatever Ali Hazelwood has coming next. And if you're on the fence, please allow me to peer pressure you into picking this one up! You won't regret it!

(...Especially if you're a fan of Mariana Zapata. This book filled the MZ-shaped hole in my heart that I always have between her releases.)


5 stars - The grumpy + sunshine slow burn fake relationship romance of my dreams!




Tuesday, August 17, 2021

A Terrible Fall of Angels by Laurell K. Hamilton ~ Now Available & Excerpt

 


Angels walk among us, but so do other unearthly beings in this brand new series by #1 New York Times Bestselling author Laurell K. Hamilton.

Meet Detective Zaniel Havelock, a man with the special ability to communicate directly with angels. A former trained Angel speaker, he devoted his life to serving both the celestial beings and his fellow humans with his gift, but a terrible betrayal compelled him to leave that life behind. Now he’s a cop who is still working on the side of angels. But where there are angels, there are also demons. There’s no question that there’s evil at work when he’s called in to examine the murder scene of a college student—but is it just the evil that one human being can do to another, or is it something more? When demonic possession is a possibility, even angelic protection can only go so far. The race is on to stop a killer before he finds his next victim, as Zaniel is forced to confront his own very personal demons, and the past he never truly left behind.

The first in a new series from the author of the Anita Blake and Merry Gentry series.


Excerpt

The angel glowed before me, all white and gold-yellow light; even its eyes were full of yellow fire, but there was no heat. Angels don’t give off heat, no matter how fiery they look; if you ever see a glowing angel and feel heat come off it, it’s not an angel, exactly. One of the first things you need to understand if you work angel detail is that fallen angels are still angels, and demons, well, that’s another problem altogether, but the rule is, if it gives off heat, run; if you can’t run, pray.

The angel’s wings were barely hinted at; “he,” or “she,” was mostly just light with a humanoid figure in the middle of it, and a shimmering hint of wings, and flowing robes, but mostly just that full-bodied halo, the aurora.

The voice sounded male, but honestly angels this shining are sexless, they just are. “We are pleased that we do not have to manifest fully for you, Detective Zaniel Havelock.”

It wasn’t the opening I’d expected; if angels seek you out personally then it’s with an extremely specific message like in the Bible: You are pregnant with the Son of God, or Flee now, enemies are coming. The personal conversational style was how they spoke to Angel Speakers, Angelus Dictum, which means “the angel said” to make it clear that the person sharing the message from the angel is not an angel but only their mouthpiece. Angels did not speak like this to people on the outside, but once I’d been inside and I fell back into the same rhythm, an old habit come back to haunt me. “You can lose the humanoid stuff altogether if you want. I do appreciate you trying not to drive me insane by manifesting in your pure energy form, but it’s okay, I don’t need the baby steps.”

“Very well,” it said, and the human pretense went away. I was left staring at light, or flame, or something in between the two. It filled nearly all of that half of the room, but it gave off neither heat nor formed shadows. Again, if something says it’s an angel, and glows at you, but it causes shadows around it, it’s not the good kind of angel, or maybe it’s not an angel at all.

The light turned its “head,” and I could read the body language of that glow; most people wouldn’t have been able to. “You asked for me to drop the physical away, not for my comfort, but because you wished to see if I cast a shadow.”

I shrugged and fought not to let my shoulders tighten. You couldn’t wrestle an angel in this form; it wasn’t “real” enough, but the body tenses, preparing for fight or flight, even though neither will help you. You can’t hit pure spirit, and you sure as Heaven can’t run from it, because spirit-level angels can just appear anywhere, in multiple places, at multiple times, and it’s all real, all them, because when they’re this pure, time doesn’t mean to them what it means to most of us. They can simultaneously be in several places at once, at the same time for us humans, but different points of time for the angel itself. Time is way more flexible than the human mind can comprehend. It was a good thing that the pure spirit didn’t commit crimes, because we would be beyond fucked trying to prove it, solve it, or catch them. When this guy was finished glowing at me, he’d go back to God, maybe even be absorbed back into that ultimate light. Witness protection had nothing on the pure spirit angelic. They could literally be reabsorbed and made pure and new again when they made their next earthly appearance.

“I know you are one who has walked through the flame and survived, but I did not understand what it might mean.”

I remembered standing in the middle of flames that did not burn, and cast no shadow, and surrounded me on every side. If my faith had not been pure enough, I would have been consumed by holy fire. I blinked the memory away and faced the much fainter light of the angel before me. “And what does it mean?” I asked.

“That you do not think as others do or see as other flesh sees. You are the only Angelus Dictum to ever finish your training and then turn your back on it.”

“I am not an Angel Speaker, I’m a cop.”

“You are a police officer, but that does not mean you are not also an Angel Speaker; otherwise how could I be here?”

I couldn’t argue with the angel and I very much wanted to, so I let it go. The conversation was getting too weird, and off topic. I was here to solve a crime, not dissect my past.

From A TERRIBLE FALL OF ANGELS published by arrangement with Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Laurell K. Hamilton.

 


photo by Ma Petite Enterprises

Laurell K. Hamilton is one of the leading writers of paranormal fiction. A #1 New York Times bestselling author, Hamilton writes the popular Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter novels and the Meredith Gentry series. She is also the creator of a bestselling comic book series based on her Anita Blake novels and published by Marvel Comics. Hamilton is a full-time writer and lives in the suburbs of St. Louis with her family.  https://www.laurellkhamilton.com/