Friday, December 30, 2022

Review: Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

Legends & Lattes
Travis Baldree
Release: November 8, 2022
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High Fantasy with a double-shot of self-reinvention

Worn out after decades of packing steel and raising hell, Viv the orc barbarian cashes out of the warrior’s life with one final score. A forgotten legend, a fabled artifact, and an unreasonable amount of hope lead her to the streets of Thune, where she plans to open the first coffee shop the city has ever seen.

However, her dreams of a fresh start pulling shots instead of swinging swords are hardly a sure bet. Old frenemies and Thune’s shady underbelly may just upset her plans. To finally build something that will last, Viv will need some new partners and a different kind of resolve.

A hot cup of fantasy slice-of-life with a dollop of romantic froth.

I loved this book so much! It was nothing like what I was expecting and everything I needed in a book when I read it. This whole story revolves around Viv, an Orc barbarian, leaving the questing life and opening a coffee shop in a city that doesn't know what coffee is.

As a lover of fanfiction, this read like a Dungeons & Dragons coffee shop AU meets a slice-of-life and I was here for it! Viv's transition from warrior to coffee shop owner was everything! I loved how she struggled to be the new Viv she wanted to be and to not rely on her old training. The first part of this book read like a home renovation show and it was so much fun!

I loved how throughout the whole process of getting her coffee shop up and running, Viv kept adding people to her circle. The found family aspect of this book was everything! I fell in love with Viv's new family in Thune and some of her old adventuring family. There's also a slow burn romance side plot that had me giggling like a teenager and yelling at the book for them to get together. It's a very slow burn but I shipped it the whole time.

This book easily made my top ten favorite books of 2022. I highly recommend picking this one up if you haven't yet! This is one where the Bookstagram/Booktok hype is spot on.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley.

  5 / 5 Stars

Recommended for fans of:
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Review: The Red Scholar's Wake by Aliette de Bodard

The Red Scholar's Wake
(Xuya Universe Romance)
Aliette de Bodard
Release: November 24, 2022
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Xích Si: bot maker, data analyst, mother, scavenger. But those days are over now-her ship has just been captured by the Red Banner pirate fleet, famous for their double-dealing and cruelty. Xích Si expects to be tortured to death-only for the pirates' enigmatic leader, Rice Fish, to arrive with a different and shocking proposition: an arranged marriage between Xích Si and herself.

Rice Fish: sentient ship, leader of the infamous Red Banner pirate fleet, wife of the Red Scholar. Or at least, she was the latter before her wife died under suspicious circumstances. Now isolated and alone, Rice Fish wants Xích Si's help to find out who struck against them and why. Marrying Xích Si means Rice Fish can offer Xích Si protection, in exchange for Xích Si's technical fluency: a business arrangement with nothing more to it.

But as the investigation goes on, Rice Fish and Xích Si find themselves falling for each other. As the interstellar war against piracy intensifies and the five fleets start fighting each other, they will have to make a stand-and to decide what kind of future they have together...

An exciting space opera and a beautiful romance, from an exceptional SF author.

I've loved Aliette de Bodard's Xuya Universe series for a while now so I was super excited when she announced she was writing a romantic sapphic space opera set in it! I was just excited for a new Xuya book but Y'all! She wrote a book about lesbian space pirates that features a romance between a scavenger bot engineer and a sentient space ship who also happens to be the leader of a band of space pirates.

Y'all. I need Aliette de Bodard to write more space opera romances! The romance in this was a slow burn filled with a lot of will they or won't they and so much sexual tension. I may have squealed when Rice Fish and Xích Si started to get together. Aside from the romance, this book was full of political intrigue, found family, family drama, grief, and lots of queerness. It was also about learning to be brave and how to dream bigger than your circumstances have dictated while finding your place in the universe. It was soft, romantic and I wanted more of this world when I finished. 

My only complaint is I needed more space battles to go along with the political intrigue. I loved the Vietnamese-inspired world building and how beautiful and imaginative de Bodard's writing is. I will say that the world might be a bit confusing at the first if you go into this without having ever read any of this author's other work. One thing I have adored about this world is the sentient space ships and how they are portrayed. I love that they have avatars and bots and can interact with the world! They have feelings and  hopes and dreams and I just love them so much!

I was so excited to see the announcement at the end of the book that there is going to be a sequel/companion novel for this book and its going to be another romance set in the Xuya Universe! I hope it comes out this next year because my hands are itching to get a hold of it!

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley.

  5 / 5 Stars

My reviews of other books by this author:
Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Review: Storm Echo by Nalini Singh

Storm Echo
(Psy-Changeling: Trinity #6)
Nalini Singh
Release: August 9, 2022
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NYT bestselling author Nalini Singh takes us into the hearts of two fractured people in a world on the brink of a psychic Armageddon . . .

Silence has fallen. The Psy are free to feel emotion. Free to love. But Silence was never a prison for Ivan Mercant. The biggest threat to his future lies dormant in his brain—a psychic monster that wants only to feed. And now, the brutal leash he’s kept on that monster is slipping. He prepared for this day, for the end of Ivan Mercant . . . but that was before he met Lei.

As primal as she is human, this wild changeling brings color into his life, laughter to his soul. Then the dream shatters in a rain of blood, in silent bodies in the snow. Lei is gone. Vanished without a trace . . . until he meets strangely familiar eyes across a busy San Francisco street.

Soleil Bijoux Garcia is a healer who has lost everything. She exists in a world of desolate aloneness . . . till the day she finds herself face-to-face with a lethal stranger. The animal who is her other half knows this man, but her memories are tattered fragments. Sorrow and a need for vengeance are all that drive her. Her mission? To kill the alpha of the DarkRiver leopard pack.

But fate has other plans. Soon, a deadly soldier who believes himself a monster and a broken healer might be all that stand between life and death for the entire Psy race.

I don't know how Nalini Singh does it but each new book in this series is just as good or better than the last one! I loved it so much! Not only did we get to see another Mercant fall in love, we got to revisit the DarkRiver pack! I love the leopards so much!

One of the things I'm loving about this Trinity arc is that we get to see the rare and unique Psy gifts that will hopefully help mend the PsyNet! I am finding them fascinating! And I'm loving seeing more Psy-Changeling pairings! I absolutely adored Lei and Ivan's romance! Even though their back stories tugged at my heartstrings. They both deserve each other after everything they've been through!

I'm not usually a fan of the amnesia trope but it is so nicely done in this book! I'm worried about the PsyNet. It's getting better in small increments but we really geot to see how the Scarab's are tearing it apart in this book. I'm still not sure how it can be saved but we're getting closer to an answer and loose threads from previous books are starting to be tied into the bigger picture. I want it to be known that I totally called the identity of The Architect.

I can't wait to see what happens next in this series! It's going to be a long wait for the next book. I foresee a whole series reread in my near future to bridge the gap.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley.

  5 / 5 Stars

Monday, September 12, 2022

Review: A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows

A Strange and Stubborn Endurance
Foz Meadows
Release: July 26, 2022
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“Stolen me? As soon to say a caged bird can be stolen by the sky.”

Velasin vin Aaro never planned to marry at all, let alone a girl from neighboring Tithena. When an ugly confrontation reveals his preference for men, Vel fears he’s ruined the diplomatic union before it can even begin. But while his family is ready to disown him, the Tithenai envoy has a different solution: for Vel to marry his former intended’s brother instead.

Caethari Aeduria always knew he might end up in a political marriage, but his sudden betrothal to a man from Ralia, where such relationships are forbidden, comes as a shock.

With an unknown faction willing to kill to end their new alliance, Vel and Cae have no choice but to trust each other. Survival is one thing, but love—as both will learn—is quite another.

Byzantine politics, lush sexual energy, and a queer love story that is by turns sweet and sultry. A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is an exploration of gender, identity, and self-worth. It is a book that will live in your heart long after you turn the last page.

Y'all, I finished this book back in July and haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. It is hands down one of my top three favorite books of 2022 and as of right now it is tied with A Lady for a Duke as my favorite of the year. The thing is I haven't been able to write a review for it. How do I describe what I loved about this book without spoilers and with adequate words to portray my feelings?

Honestly, I haven't figured it out beyond saying I loved it! And go read it now!

This book, y’all. It made my heart full. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It even made me gasp out loud. And it was beautifully and delightfully queer. And the slow burn romance! Totally swoon worthy! Someone please tell me there’s going to be a sequel or companion novel or something because I need more! More of this world and more of these characters! 

That being said there are some heavy topics in this book and the TW/CWs  (see below) should definitely be paid attention to. I will say that these topics were treated with the kindness and respect they deserved without sugarcoating them. I can only applaud Foz Meadows for her treatment of them.

Well. That's it. That’s the review. Go read it and come talk to me about it in the comments!

TW/CW: sexual assault/rape (on page), suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide/self harm, homophobia, PTSD/trauma, violence, injury/injury detail, blood, murder, animal death (horse).*

*There are probably more but these are the major ones that I remember.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley.

  5 / 5 Stars

Recommended for fans of:
Winter's Orbit by Everina Maxwell
Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat
A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Review: A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall

A Lady for a Duke
Alexis Hall
Release: May 24, 2022
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A lush, sweeping queer historical romance from the bestselling author of Boyfriend Material—perfect for fans of Netflix’s Bridgerton, Evie Dunmore, and Manda Collins!

When Viola Caroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood.

Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognises her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become.

As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.
Y'all! My heart! This book was everything I could have ever wanted in a historical romance! In fact, I would say it's probably the best regency romance I've ever read. It was incredibly tender and unapologetically queer and so full of hope and joy. The banter and humor was absolutely delightful and had me cackling in places! And y'all! The yearning and the pining was so well-written that you can't stop reading once you start. You have to know what happens next and if they will be able to get their happily ever after. This story made me feel all of the emotions.

I'm becoming more and more convinced that Alexis Hall can write anything they want and will make it totally fabulous. This book was no different. The amount of heart and vulnerability in this story is both astounding and beautiful. I was a bit worried that this would be really angsty given the premise. But while Viola is worried about being judged for choosing to live as her most authentic self, it wasn't the whole plot of the book and I can't tell you how much I appreciated that. There are still some heavy topics discussed in this book and some angst but it was so perfectly balanced out with sweetness and joy. It was heartwarming that everyone who Viola came out to not only accepted her but supported her so fully in her quest to live the life she was meant to.

Viola and Gracewood are war veterans and we see how that has affected them. Gracewood was shot in the leg and has to use a cane for the rest of his life. He also suffers quite severely from PTSD. I am grateful that the author didn't gloss over or minimize those affects like I have seen in several of the Regency romances over the years. Viola does not have PTSD in the same way that Gracewood does but how her actions and choices in the war haunt her is never seen as being less than his trauma.

The romance between Viola and Gracewood was everything! This book is a master class in how to write a romance novel. I saw it described in someone's review that described this romance as a second chance at first love which is a wonderfully apt description. The romance is full of instant attraction but manages to still be a slow burn and very intimate and tender. Watching Viola and Gracewood discover that there is so much more to the other that they didn't know was *chef's kiss*. They aren't perfect but they are perfect for one another. I adored watching them fall in love so much!

It was mentioned in the author's note that this could be the beginning of a new series and I really really hope it is! I loved so many of the secondary characters! And I cannot tell you how much I need a Mira book and a Lady Lilimere book in my life! I can't recommend A Lady for a Duke enough! If you want to read a truly unique and well-written queer historical romance, this is the book for you.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley.

  5/ 5 Stars!

Monday, July 25, 2022

Review: Eclipse the Moon by Jessie Mihalik

Eclipse the Moon
(Starlight's Shadow)
Jessie Mihalik
Release: July 12, 2022
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Kee Ildez has been many things: hacker, soldier, bounty hunter. She never expected to be a hero, but when a shadowy group of traitors starts trying to goad the galaxy’s two superpowers into instigating an interstellar war, Kee throws herself into the search to find out who is responsible—and stop them.

Digging up hidden information is her job, so hunting traitors should be a piece of cake, but the primary suspect spent years in the military, and someone powerful is still covering his tracks. Disrupting their plans will require the help of her entire team, including Varro Runkow, a Valovian weapons expert who makes her pulse race.

Quiet, grumpy, and incredibly handsome, Varro watches her with hot eyes but ignores all of her flirting, so Kee silently vows to keep her feelings strictly platonic. But that vow will be put to the test when she and Varro are forced to leave the safety of their ship and venture into enemy territory alone.

Cut off from the rest of their team, they must figure out how to work together—and fast—because a single misstep will cost thousands of lives.

One of my favorite books of the year so far has been Hunt the Stars so you can say that I was more than a tad bit excited to get my hands on its sequel, Eclipse the Moon. And when I found it was going to be Kee's book I was even more exited! I may have squealed when I finally let myself read the synopsis and discovered who the likely love interest was going to be.

I was a little nervous going into this one based on a few of the ratings I saw on some of the early reviews but I loved this book so much! It was the grumpy/sunshine trope mixed with Jessie Mihalik's signature action-packed scenes and twisty mystery. This book picks up right where the first one left off with the Starlight's Shadow heading to Bastion station as the crew tries to dig up all the information they can to stop the powers that be from starting another war.

Y'all know how much I adore the found family trope and this book had it in spades. The tight-knit human crew and the Valoffs are becoming more and more of a family and it was everything! The standoffish Valovians from the first book have been settled in and taken their positions as part of the crew to heart. I loved seeing the crew interact with each other and to see how happy Tavi and Torran are. What really shined in this book was the romance though!

I wanted Kee and Varro to be paired with each other from the very start of their tumultuous relationship and Eli and Varro's subsequent sparring match. Kee is the heart of this small found family and is part of the glue that binds them together. She is sunshine incarnate and a genius hacker and gets to be a badass in a different way than Tavi. I too would rather eat cookies than train. She is convinced that Varro doesn't have feelings for her beyond being friends so she decides that she needs a vacation on the space station to get over him and do some sleuthing with a better connection. 

Things on the station don't go as planned and Varro reveals himself at the first hint of Kee being in trouble and things just escalate from there in both the romance and the action. I'm not a big fan of the miscommunication trope but I enjoyed how Mihalik used it in this story. It made the romance even sweeter. I loved Varro and his grumpiness! Getting to know more about the different psychic abilities the Valoffs have was fascinating! And I loved getting to know more about his ability! One thing I do wish is that we got a bit more of both Kee and Varro's backstories beyond the vague hints we got in this book.

I adored so many things about this book! The action! The romance! The crew! The mystery and its twists! The tech! The fashion! This book grabbed my attention and kept me on the edge of my seat until I ran out of pages to read. Was this book perfect? No. Some of the miscommunication got a bit repetitive in my opinion but my enjoyment of the story as a whole made up for it. 

I cannot wait for the next book! One, I need to know what happens next because HOLY COW! And two, THE NEXT BOOK IS LEXI'S ROMANCE! My body is ready! I have no idea how many books will be in this series but I am hoping this is going to more than a trilogy because I want to see some other crew mates ( *cough* Eli *cough*) get their happily ever afters as well! I'm totally on board with the polyamorous vibe that is going on. One thing is for sure, Jessie Mihalik is turning into my go to for sci-fi romance and has cemented her place on my auto-buy list.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley

  5 / 5 Stars

My reviews of other books in this series:
Hunt the Stars by Jessie Mihalik

Recommended for fans of:
Ilona Andrews's Kinsmen Series
Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling Series
Jessie Mihalik's Consortium Rebellion series

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Review: August Kitko and the Mechas from Space by Alex White

August Kitko and the Mechas from Space
(The Starmetal Symphony #1)
Alex White
Release: July 12, 2022
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When an army of giant robot AIs threatens to devastate Earth, a virtuoso pianist becomes humanity's last hope in this bold, lightning-paced, technicolor new space opera series from the author of A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe. 

Jazz pianist Gus Kitko expected to spend his final moments on Earth playing piano at the greatest goodbye party of all time, and maybe kissing rockstar Ardent Violet, before the last of humanity is wiped out forever by the Vanguards--ultra-powerful robots from the dark heart of space, hell-bent on destroying humanity for reasons none can divine. 

But when the Vanguards arrive, the unthinkable happens--the mecha that should be killing Gus instead saves him. Suddenly, Gus's swan song becomes humanity's encore, as he is chosen to join a small group of traitorous Vanguards and their pilots dedicated to saving humanity.

Do you ever start a book and know within the first chapter that you are going to love it? August Kitko and the Mechas from Space was one of those books for me. This book is hands down my favorite book of the year so far! I tried to savor this exquisite space opera slowly but it was such a cinematic thrill ride that I ended up devouring it in every free moment I had. Holy Moly, y'all! I never knew I needed a book that combined music and mechas! Add in that it was an epic Gays in Space romp that is so delightfully and unapologetically queer and my heart was a goner! I cannot tell you how excited I am that this is the first book in a trilogy because I need more! Alex White is quickly cementing their place on my favorite authors of all time list.

It is the end of the world for humanity and all August Kitko wants to do is kiss gorgeous rockstar Ardent Violet and jam with them before they die. Then the unthinkable happens during their impromptu rockfest to play out the end of the human race. One of the murderous alien robots scoops Gus up so he and the rogue Vanguard can work together to destroy another Vanguard hellbent on destroying Earth. And it is nonstop action from that moment on.

I have been obsessed with mechas since I was a kid and the Traitor Vanguards have taken their spot on my favorites list. The Vanguards are like the Pacific Rim mechas on steroids had a baby with an AI. They are truly alien and have done some despicable things but are scarily cool. Actually, the only scarier thing than a Vanguard is their army of Golden Ghosts. The mecha battles in this book are so epic! Alex White did a fantastic job designing and outfitting the Vanguards with their abilities and weaponry! Each was so unique and I couldn't wait to see what they had up their sleeve next! And be still my heart! The tech in this book was absolutely fabulous in more ways than one!

I came for the mechas and space battles but I stayed for the characters and the romance. The story is told from the dual POVs of August and Ardent and I love them both so much! I just want to wrap Gus in a blanket and keep him safe. What I love about this book is that the characters are deeply flawed and not instantly transformed into badasses when they become Conduits. They feel more human because of it. Gus is a depressed cinnamon roll who knows more about jazz music than he does fighting styles. He's a bit mopey but his heart is ready to help save humanity anyway he can. His heart is also totally gone for rockstar Ardent Violet and he would do anything to keep him safe.

I loved so many characters in this book but hands down my favorite character is Ardent! They are loud and proud and a more than self-obsessed. But they have a heart of gold, can admit when they're wrong, and are totally head over heels for Gus (and their guitar, Baby) and just want to be their joyfriend. I found myself anticipating their POVs and when they would be present on page. They are gloriously epic with a wardrobe to match. I loved them and their agent, Dahlia, so much! I lived for the moments when Ardent and Gus got to be together on page. Their relationship and its development was so well done that I was literally squealing out loud at the cute one moment and yelling at them to get their act together the next.

I could go on and on about what and how much I loved this book but it is one that discovering its awesomeness is best done by reading it yourself. I need more space operas like this one in my life and the wait for book two next year might just kill me. If you are a fan of The Murderbot Diaries and/or Pacific Rim, this book is for you!

CW (this is what I caught. There could be more.): suicidal thoughts, blood, gore, injury/injury detail, violence,  panic attacks, body horror, medical trauma.

ARC provided by the Publisher via Netgalley.

  5 / 5 Stars

Recommended for fans of:
Pacific Rim
The Murderbot Diaries
Voltron: Legendary Defender

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Release Day Review: A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy
(Monk & Robot #2)
Becky Chambers
Release: July 12, 2022
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After touring the rural areas of Panga, Sibling Dex (a Tea Monk of some renown) and Mosscap (a robot sent on a quest to determine what humanity really needs) turn their attention to the villages and cities of the little moon they call home.

They hope to find the answers they seek, while making new friends, learning new concepts, and experiencing the entropic nature of the universe.

Becky Chambers's new series continues to ask: in a world where people have what they want, does having more even matter?

I've said it before and I will say it again. Reading a Becky Chambers book is like getting a warm hug in book form and A Prayer for the Crown-Shy was a much needed hug. One of my favorite books of 2021 was A Psalm for the Wild-Built and I am so happy that I can say that its sequel will be one of my favorites of 2022. I absolutely adored this book!

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy is full of hope and comfort like the best slice-of-life fanfic and it was everything I wanted for this book and more. Honestly, I had no idea about what to expect when I started this. The story picks up immediately after the events of the first book and we get to see Sibling Dex and Mosscap transition from acquaintances to companions as they travel across Panga in search of the answer to Mosscap's question. We got to meet a dazzling mix of individuals in this story and I loved seeing Dex and Mosscap interact with them. But their interactions with each other are what really make this story special! They had me laughing out loud one moment and thinking deeply the next. Becky Chambers has such a knack of writing such fully formed characters and their emotions while still including hard science.

This book was an absolute delight! Someone please tell me we're getting more novellas in this series!?! Our knowledge and view of Panga was expanded upon and we got to see so much more of this intriguing solarpunk world. Each chapter features Mosscap and Dex traveling together to new places and to many towns so Mosscap can ask and learn what people need as they travel to the City. Getting to read about Mosscap interacting with the villagers with whom they were delighted to meet and who were delighted to meet the robot in turn. Mosscap's curiosity and wonder in discovering the new things each region had and learning about the human experience warmed my heart. And Dex learning how to navigate this new experience while watching over Mosscap and searching for their own answers was heartwarming in its own way too.

This novella wasn't just a travel diary though. It also continued to expound on some of the struggles that Dex was having in book one. They are still learning how to deal with burnout and what it really means to rest. They are still struggling to not equate their value to how productive or helpful they are. And boy! Did that really strike a cord with me especially in our current world. The way that Becky Chambers wrote Dex's struggles with their mental health were so refreshing and so needed. One of my favorite things about her books (besides how fantastically queer they are) is the social commentary and the philosophical questions that get asked. I truly haven't been able to stop thinking about this story since I finished it and I don't think that will be changing any time soon.

Y'all. I'm not sure if I can truly convey how much I adored this book. To me, the story reads as unfinished so I'm hoping we get more books in this series. I could read the adventures of Dex and Mosscap forever. I'm going to keep my fingers crossed for more but I am also content with how this book ended. And hopefully if we get more we'll also get more robots in these two's future adventures.

ARC provided by the Publisher via Netgalley.

  5 / 5 Stars

My reviews of other books in this series:
A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

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