RECENT READS #23

Hi everyone, I hope you are all well and having an amazing day. Today I will be doing the next in a series on my blog called Recent Reads. As I’ve been reading 20+ books each month, it would be really hard for me to incorporate that into a standard wrap up format. Doing a list of my recent reads that I want to do mini-reviews on is the best way for me to keep track of everything I’ve been reading!

Swordheart

Halla is a housekeeper who has suddenly inherited her great-uncle’s estate… and, unfortunately, his relatives. Sarkis is an immortal swordsman trapped in a prison of enchanted steel. When Halla draws the sword that imprisons him, Sarkis finds himself attempting to defend his new wielder against everything from bandits and roving inquisitors to her own in-laws… and the sword itself may prove to be the greatest threat of all.

I had heard so many things about this fantasy romance so I just knew I needed to check it out. I’d heard it was so funny and refreshing and that the romance was really good, and I have to agree! I really, really loved the beginning and ending of the book – I thought the dialogue and our characters were just so funny, and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much at a book before. Despite Halla and Sarkis being so hilarious they weren’t one dimensional at all. Each came with their own set of baggage that bled into the story really well. It also helped create a big of angst to level off all of the funny moments. I also really loved the side characters and thought the world was really creative. Another thing I absolutely loved is the integration of LGBTQ+ characters in this book. I thought it was done so seamlessly – we had a non-binary side character who was one of my favourite parts of the book, and same sex marriages were treated just the same as heterosexual relationships. I’m always so grateful to see that aspect in fantasies especially.

I truly thought this book was going to be a five stars for me, but the more I read on the more I became less interested. I think it is because after Halla and Sarkis get out of the first conflict and the plot kicks in, it definitely becomes more focused on the adventure rather than their romantic developments. It comes back at the end of the book, but for a solid 300 pages or so there wasn’t much movement in that area. Adventure books are always a hit or miss for me, so I just found there wasn’t enough interaction between the two of them to always keep me happy. Overall though, this is definitely one I would pick up again for a reread as I know what to expect – the banter and characters are just so funny and the tone is so light and unique for a fantasy, it’s perfect to pick up after a couple of intense reads!

Cast in Firelight

Adraa is the royal heir of Belwar, a talented witch on the cusp of taking her royal ceremony test, and a girl who just wants to prove her worth to her people.

Jatin is the royal heir to Naupure, a competitive wizard who’s mastered all nine colors of magic, and a boy anxious to return home for the first time since he was a child.

Together, their arranged marriage will unite two of Wickery’s most powerful kingdoms. But after years of rivalry from afar, Adraa and Jatin only agree on one thing: their reunion will be anything but sweet.

Only, destiny has other plans and with the criminal underbelly of Belwar suddenly making a move for control, their paths cross…and neither realizes who the other is, adopting separate secret identities instead.

Between dodging deathly spells and keeping their true selves hidden, the pair must learn to put their trust in the other if either is to uncover the real threat. Now Wickery’s fate is in the hands of rivals..? Fiancées..? Partners..? Whatever they are, it’s complicated and bound for greatness or destruction.

This was definitely one of my most anticipated books of the year and while I had fun with it, it didn’t become a new favourite unfortunately. One of my favourite things about this book were the characters, especially Jatin. I thought he was really funny and had a charming attitude that really rubbed off on the page. I enjoyed our heroine, Adraa, but I definitely preferred Jatin out of the two. Another thing I liked about this book was the really creative magic system – each power was allocated to a certain colour, with some being stronger than others – I thought it was a really unique take on elemental magic. I did also enjoy the mystery element and while I found the romance overall on the weaker side, I really enjoyed both sides of the hidden identity story.

Personal preference meant I didn’t really get along with the writing style in this book. Most of the time, I prefer my fantasies written in a somewhat traditional way, and this kind of read like a contemporary to me. It was good writing, just not my personal favourite! I also thought the world building, especially to do with the different countries, was a little clunky, and I found myself confused a couple of times.

Truth or Beard

Identical twins Beau and Duane Winston might share the same devastatingly handsome face, but where Beau is outgoing and sociable, Duane is broody and reserved. This is why Jessica James, recent college graduate and perpetual level-headed good girl, has been in naïve and unhealthy infatuation with Beau Winston for most of her life.

His friendly smiles make her tongue-tied and weak-kneed, and she’s never been able to move beyond her childhood crush. Whereas Duane and Jessica have always been adversaries. She can’t stand him, and she’s pretty sure he can’t stand the sight of her…

But after a case of mistaken identity, Jessica finds herself in a massive confusion kerfuffle. Jessica James has spent her whole life paralyzed by the fantasy of Beau and her assumptions of Duane’s disdain; therefore she’s unprepared for the reality that is Duane’s insatiable interest, as well as his hot hands and hot mouth and hotter looks. Not helping Jessica’s muddled mind and good girl sensibilities, Duane seems to have gotten himself in trouble with the local biker gang, the Iron Order.

Certainly, Beau’s magic spell is broken. Yet when Jessica finds herself drawn to the man who was always her adversary, now more dangerous than ever, how much of her level-head heart is she willing to risk?

I had been wanting to start this series for the longest time and I have finally done it! While I’m giving it a 3 star, I went into this book thinking it was going to be a 5. I found the opening chapter absolutely phenomenal – I was so excited for what I was getting myself in for and it just ended up…. Not being that. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but I thought we were going to get an angsty enemies to lovers when in the end, it was friends to lovers cute soft story. It was okay enough, and I will definitely continue on with the series, but I feel like after the first chapter I was left a little disappointed. The rest of the brothers have me very, very curious though, and from what I’ve heard, the first book is the worst one, so I’m giving the rest of the series a shot!

The Weather King

After three long years of war, starkly handsome Wynter Atrialan will have his vengeance on Summerlea’s king by taking one of the man’s beautiful, beloved daughters as his bride. But though peace is finally at hand, Wynter’s battle with the Ice Heart, the dread power he embraced to avenge his brother’s death, rages on.

Khamsin Coruscate, Princess of Summerlea and summoner of Storms, has spent her life exiled to the shadows of her father’s palace. Reviled by her father, marriage to Wintercraig’s icy king was supposed to be a terrible punishment, but instead offers Kham her first taste of freedom—and her first taste of overwhelming passion.

As fierce, indomitable Wynter weathers even Khamsin’s wildest storms, surprising her with a tenderness she never expected, Kham wants more than Wynter’s passion—she yearns for his love. But the power of the Ice Heart is growing, dangerous forces are gathering, and a devastating betrayal puts Khamsin and Wynter to the ultimate test.

I was a bit unsure going into this book as it had such good reviews and the cover was really putting me off, but I’m glad I went for in the end! It very much had the vibe of a historical romance but taking place within a fantasy setting. Sometimes romances can be harder to pull off in a fantasy as the worldbuilding takes a back seat, but one thing that stuck out to me in this book was how well balanced the romance and the plot was. Although I’m definitely a character based reader, I can appreciate the complex world building and multiple plot threads that took place throughout this book.
The romance I thought was good and the characters were both very interesting on their own and formed a good match together. I thought their chemistry was perfect and I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of their powers. It had so many tropes in that I loved too. The main areas where it fell short for me was the pacing. I felt it moved way too slowly at the beginning and much too quick at the end. I’m quite picky about my endings, but this one moved much too fast for me to process it. Overall though if you’re looking for a solid fantasy romance I would suggest checking this one out!

Once We Were Starlight

A bed posed on a stage under a dazzling spotlight. An audience of hungry eyes. And him, the other half of my soul, our supple bodies moving as one…

Sundara: the lush and forbidden oasis in the desert where men travel to watch acts of sexual deviancy, and the only existence seventeen-year-old Karys has ever known. But despite a life where secrets and sin are in high supply, and freedom remains far beyond their reach, Karys and her partner Zakai find safety in each other, their passionate love the light that helps them both survive the darkness.

Very suddenly, Karys and Zakai find themselves in the bright and confusing world of New York City, navigating separation, school, and relatives who are all but strangers. If they’ve been found, why do they still feel so lost? As their new lives threaten to drive them apart, and Zakai spins out of her grasp, Karys must figure out who and what can be trusted in this strange city, seemingly filled with more venom than the desert they once called home.

We have all established at this point that Mia Sheridan is my all time favourite author, which explains why I had to pick up her new book on publication day. I’m so, so sad to say I didn’t enjoy this one. It is the only book of hers I’ve given less than 4 stars, and that really upsets me. I thought the concept was…. Strange to say the least, and I think that if it hadn’t have been her writing it, I probably wouldn’t have read it. There were some cute moments, but overall this was definitely the darkest she has ever written, and the cute moments didn’t make up for that for me personally. I also didn’t really feel any particular affection towards either of the love interests, which is a shame as I usually think she writes amazing characters. Then there were a couple of reveals that just left me feeling a bit icky, and some choices made by both characters that I didn’t agree with. Overall, I just think this one wasn’t for me – but if you take a look at the synopsis and it seems interesting to you, I would suggest you give it a go for yourself.

Have you checked out of these books? If you have, what did you think of them? I’d love to know your favourites in the comments below!

Happy reading,
Lucy

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