HEIR OF FIRE by Sarah J. Maas
The third in the Throne of Glass series promises adventure, political machinations, and dangerous games as Celaena Sardothien, King’s Champion and Ardalan’s Assassin, must explore an old part of her identity, one she’d thought long dead.
Maas really brings you into this world, making the fantasy realm seem liveable and a place you could lose yourself in. Easily one of the best parts of the books is Celaena’s training: the assassin must now learn how to use the magic that is her birthright, under the tutelage of Fae warrior Rowan, bound to Queen Maeve. The romance, the other area that Maas excels at, felt a bit flat this time around– Chaol and Celaena are separated for the entire book, and while it’s understandable that she and Rowan have a complicated enough relationship without adding romance, I’m so used to seeing it in Maas’ books that it felt weird reading through without her trademark romantic tension between characters. Characters grow, but Nehemia’s arc is frustrating and seems geared to cause Celaena more pain than have a clear purpose. Manon’s sections with her witches add an intriguing extra arc, and it was especially nice to see more women taking the center stage and Maas’ usually male-dominated work. Maas also seems to be making an effort to up the representation of marginalized people in her work across the board in this book. Also interesting are the likenesses between the faeries and magic in the Throne of Glass series and the Court of Thorns and Roses books– we now have enough Maas books that we’re starting to see what her archetypes are, which is a cool thing to analyze in itself.
A worthy successor to the series, if very long, and while the romance may not catch you this time around the adventure and excellent training scenes will.
THE LAST BOY AT ST. EDITH’S by Lee Gjertson Malone
A funny romp that explores standing out and owning one’s differences.
Jeremy Miner is the last boy remaining at an all girls’ school after it tried (and failed) to go co-ed. It’s actually quite hilarious; from Jeremy’s mother’s harried comments to his dad’s erstwhile but not very helpful advice from his boat exploring the ocean, Jeremy’s circumstances are very relateable: how do you stand out in a good way when you’re going to stand out? The book is also very girl-centric: as much as it seems like we’re reading a book about boys, it’s really about the titular character’s relationships with the girls in his life, from his sisters to his best friend, the new girl, and all their classmates. Quickly paced, it also explores more nuanced issues of gender on the down-low. Some of the pranks may get a little tiring, but the humor and well-drawn characters are enough to keep you turning pages all the way to the finish line.
It’s not a re-read book for me, probably because I’m less into MG than other categories, but it has a lot of heart and had me laughing.
TAMED by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Contemporary Erotica (BDSM)
As someone into working out, I was curious when I heard about this series. I burned through the first novella, and this second one did not disappoint.
One thing I really loved in this was, while it is erotica that journeys more into the BDSM world of the series than the first book did, it still brought you very firmly into the protagonist Nailah’s Egyptian family. Her father loves her and is proud of her, but still has difficulty stopping micromanaging her life, a conflict many new adults face. The sex is hot and the tension between Nailah and Armando wire-taut, but I would have liked to have seen Armando suffer a little more. It was easy to connect with Nailah; Armando less so. I would have loved to dig deeper into his conflicts, but it is meant to be a novella so I’m not too upset everything didn’t get explored or that it wrapped up fast.
Sometimes you can see the strings being pulled behind the scenes, but it’s still a great resource for seeing how to handle heat and chemistry, especially romantic and sexual attraction that has to hook fast.
CAM GIRL by Leah Raeder
NA Contemporary Romance
This was one of those books that I was really looking forward to– I’d read UNTEACHABLE, and that was fantastic– and I loved Raeder’s prose (it’s not a Raeder book unless the word “bokeh” appears at least once).
As much as I loved the characters, the unique and complicated world of camming, the point where this fell apart for me was the reveal. It’s fairly obvious from the start what the twist is–who the mysterious Blue is– but a little under halfway we are presented with a scene that makes our leading choice impossible. I’d liked knowing Blue’s identity and drawing conclusions about that other character, so I was scrambling. However, in the end this twist ends up being a red herring and Blue is the person we thought all along, and the machinations felt less like legerdemain and more like a fake-out for one last cheap thrill before an inevitable conclusion. I would have liked this more probably if it had dug down more into the characters without feeling like it had to surprise me with Blue– the mystery of the accident is enough to compel me to keep going, though I would have appreciated perhaps some more complications from the world of camming as well.
The prose is, as always, stellar and incredibly personal, and that alone makes this deserve a spot on your TBR, even if the plot is a little conflated.