Tag: LGBTQ

BOOK REVIEW: Heartscape (Vino & Veritas #2) by Garrett Leigh

BOOK REVIEW: Heartscape (Vino & Veritas #2) by Garrett LeighHeartscape (Vino & Veritas #2)
by Garrett Leigh
Purchase on: Amazon
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

From award-winning author Garrett Leigh comes a gorgeous new romance in the True North world! Think: great food, burly men and good times. Beards are optional but encouraged.

I’m not the obvious choice to run Burlington’s coolest wine bar—quiet, brooding, clueless about tannin content, and always one wrong turn away from another downward spiral.

But no one seems to mind that I'm a wreck. Besides me. I just focus on getting through each shift until the night a beautiful stranger appears, looking as lost and damaged as I feel.

When a mutual friend calls in a favor, the sexy newcomer winds up crashing on my couch. I don't know if it's his melodic Cornish accent, or his ocean blue eyes, or the rock-hard body with the mysterious scars, but I get the feeling whatever happened to him runs far deeper than those wounds.

Having Jax in my home makes my chest warm. Makes me shiver. Makes me want more. But I've got a pile of baggage and I don't want to be a burden on anyone let alone a man who seems to have enough demons of his own.

Our chemistry is off the charts. His arms feel like home. The last thing I want is to screw this up. Is it wrong to hope we can heal each other? Or will one of us die trying?

HEARTSCAPE is a heartfelt MM friends-to-lovers romance in the True North world, with a brooding bartender, a rugged outdoorsman, sweet angst and lots of Shipley cider. Triggers: contains mentions of depression, suicidal ideation and PTSD recovery.

Review

My favorite thing in immersing myself into this World of True North project so far has been that every book is so uniquely different. So many new authors, new writing, new characters–all wrapped up in a world I already know and love. Sometimes when you find yourself reading romance after romance, they start to blend together. I forget which names belong to which books and the tropes begin to loose that freshness they once had.

Something about this book was different. I don’t know if it was because I haven’t read a romance more on the angsty side in a while but Heartscape resonated deep within my bones. Tanner, manager of Vino and Veritas, and Jax, Cornish wildlife photographer both have their fair share of inner demons. Both have had terrible things happen to them at different points in their lives and bear those invisible scars the best they can. When a mutual friend and freak accident find them crossing paths, the two are immediately drawn to one another.

Leigh did an excellent job with drawing out both of their histories so that we only got little snippets here and there as Tanner and Jax became more and more comfortable around one another; more willing to open up. She also does an amazing job depicting all of VERY raw internal thoughts and feelings of both men. The different aspects of both of their mental heath issues are NOT taken lightly and I know I personally could tell she did her research.

Overall, while there weren’t many parts of this book that were “easy,” I felt that the way in which Tanner and Jax fell into a relationship was. It was quite obviously they were made for each other and even now, just thinking about how obvious their love for each other was just makes my heart so happy *cries* lol. Such a great book.

It’s Jax. It’s me. It’s the heartscape we’ll leave behind when we’re gone.

Huge thanks to Heart Eyes Press for allowing me to read an eARC of this book in exchange for my honest review!♥

BOOK REVIEW: The Midnight Lie (The Midnight Lie #1) by Marie Rutkoski

BOOK REVIEW: The Midnight Lie (The Midnight Lie #1) by Marie RutkoskiThe Midnight Lie (The Midnight Lie #1)
by Marie Rutkoski
Purchase on: Amazon
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Where Nirrim lives, crime abounds, a harsh tribunal rules, and society’s pleasures are reserved for the High Kith. Life in the Ward is grim and punishing. People of her low status are forbidden from sampling sweets or wearing colors. You either follow the rules, or pay a tithe and suffer the consequences.

Nirrim keeps her head down and a dangerous secret close to her chest.

But then she encounters Sid, a rakish traveler from far away who whispers rumors that the High Caste possesses magic. Sid tempts Nirrim to seek that magic for herself. But to do that, Nirrim must surrender her old life. She must place her trust in this sly stranger who asks, above all, not to be trusted.

Set in the world of the New York Times–bestselling Winner’s Trilogy, beloved author Marie Rutkoski returns with an epic LGBTQ romantic fantasy about learning to free ourselves from the lies others tell us—and the lies we tell ourselves.

Quotes are from an uncorrected eARC and are subject to change.

It is a midnight lie, she said.
A kind of lie told for someone else’s sake, a lie that sits between goodness and wrong, just as midnight is the moment between night and morning.


This book….met every expectation I could have had for it. The very first thing I want, no NEED to say in this review, though, is to leave every thought about the Winner’s Trilogy in the back seat. If people “ruin” another book by comparing it to its beloved predecessor or a similar series, I will lose my shit. Yes, this book is by the same author and set it the same world as the previous series, but it is its own entity with its own story and characters. We catch glimpses of old characters that I don’t know if everyone is going to like. I have questions but…I’m assuming we’ll learn more later on.

Anyhow, I was addicted to this book. I started last night and finished today (and that’s with work). I ate up every word, every line, every page. Her writing has cast a spell on me and I honestly don’t even want to be free of. Different aspects reminded me of a few other books, all of which I loved—mainly Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore. That book has left one of the biggest emotional impacts on me that no other back has even come close to. I don’t really want to get into what aspects are similar as that would ruin parts of this plot but I just wanted to mention it.

“Nirrim, I can’t be good to you.”
“Then be bad.”


The thing about this book is that you start out knowing very little. My eARC didn’t come with a map and I wasn’t sure if that was because it was an ARC or because that would have clued us in on certain things. Because I trust Rutkoski’s storytelling abilities, I figured there was a reason for us being left in the dark for a while. Having us figure out things as slowly as Nirrim was maddening at times but I got it, I really did. You could tell that she was the way she was, and thought the way she did because of her upbringing. You can’t just change how you see the world when you’ve gone your whole life in a routine along with all of the people around you. I would start to get frustrated with her and how childish and trusting she could be until I stopped myself and reminded myself WHY this was the case. I feel like I’m literally talking myself in circles right now BUT I DON’T WANT TO GIVE ANYTHING AWAY.

Other than the satisfaction of Nirrim slowly tearing the cobwebs from her eyes and figuring things out, my favorite part of this story was Sid. That cheeky lil flirt. OMGGGG. I loved her so much, many flaws and all. I think it’s great that this features its two female MCs in a relationship. You NEVER see that in YA fantasy by a popular author…ever. I’m assuming we’re going to start to see more and more as time goes on but for now, this is the first one that I can think of/ have come into contact with. Their relationship happened a lot quicker than Arin and Kestrel’s but man…I don’t even care. It was straight up lust at first sight and the sexual tension was….so addicting. I loved every single one of their interactions and I am dying to see where things end up in the next book *bites nails*.

This is going to be a book that you DON’T want to miss next year, you guys. Adding some comments under a spoiler tag below!

I realized that wanted in a kind of power even if you don’t get what you want. Wanting illuminates everything you need, and how the world failed you.

View Spoiler »

Huge thanks to Edelweiss and FSG Books for Young Readers for allowing me to read an eARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinions ♥

BOOK REVIEW: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

BOOK REVIEW: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuistonRed, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Purchase on: Amazon
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends...

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

Review:

*These quotes are from an ARC and are subject to change before the publication date*

Alex throws his head back and laughs handsomely, loud and false.
“Go fuck yourself.”
“Hardly enough time,”
 Henry says.

I’m just going to hit the ground running here by saying that this is now one of my favorite books of all time. I honestly don’t even know how I’m supposed to review this?? Other than to just do my usual fangirl flail and hope I properly can get my feelings across to all of you about this wonderful, beautiful book.

“Prince Henry is a biscuit,” Nora says, “let him sop you up.”
“I’m leaving.”

The first thing you guys need to know to get into the proper mind frame for this book is that it’s based in an America that, instead of having Trump as our 45th president, we have a woman named Ellen Claremont who has two children, Alex and June, who are biracial. What that means is basically this is a dream America that I hope to someday actually live in. ANYWAY. Alex is our local FSOTUS prince charming and is “mortal enemies” with another prince charming across the pond in England, named Henry. SHLKGSEIOGHWOPEBEOPGHSEIOGHEBSIGFSIEG. I don’t know how many of you have seen Umbrella Academy but personally I pictured Alex as the guy who played Diego (David Castañeda). They even have bits of similar personality traits, too. HENRY. Henry. Henry is THE EPITOME of a SMOL cinnamon roll who is too. Good. For. This. Earth. You can even quote me on that. Their relationship together is….so damn good you guys. They start out as “enemies,” become tentative friends, to best friends, to….so so so much.

The song crossfades into another buh-duh dum-dum-dum, dum-duh-dum duh-duh-dum–
“Shut up,” Alex yells, cutting off whatever else Henry was saying, “shut your dumb face this is my shit!” He throws his hands up in the air as Henry stares at him blankly, and around them, people start cheering too, hundreds of shoulders shimmying to the shouty, Lil Jon-flavored nostalgia of “Get Low.”

^^The quote above is from one of my favorite scenes of the book (well basically they are all favorites but…you get it) and leads me to the cast of supporting characters. June, Nora, Pez, LITERALLY EVERYONE is soo good. I love June and Alex’s relationship, and their friendship with Nora, and Henry and Pez ugh. Like I have never been a partier, and especially not now after having a baby but let me tell you, I would go out to the bar for some karaoke and dirty dancing with these idiots ANY TIME. Good lord they know how to have a good time. I just want them all in my real life.

He tilts the phone over towards the driver’s seat. “Say good morning to your strumpet, Henry.”
“Good morning, strumpet,” Henry says, glancing away from the road to wink at the camera.

It’s really hard for me to believe that this is McQuiston’s first book. Her writing was ADDICTING. Her story, dialogue, characters—all of it. I have already put her on an auto-read/buy list because of this book. I don’t even know how to express how happy this book made me. On the first day that I read a huge chunk I literally walked around all day with a huge-ass stupid smile on my face that wouldn’t leave for anything. I finished the book and felt so light. My heart was ten times bigger than it was when I started. I told one of my blog-mates, Cassie, who has also read it, that it’s one of those books where after you’ve read it you just know that your life had been missing out on something and you didn’t even know it until right at that second when you finish. It just has everything. It has great LGBTQIA rep, it has the FIRST FEMALE PRESIDENT, it has politics (both American and English), it has people struggling with their identities in a hundred of different ways that the average person can relate to, it has sexy e-mails, it has FAMILY, and it has one of the greatest, sweetest love story I’ve ever read. What more could you ever ask for? Please please PLEASE, I’m down on my knees, begging you to read this book once it comes out. You won’t regret it.

June plucks away at “Annie’s Song,” you fill up my senses like a night in a forest, and the breeze keeps moving to meet the highest branches of the trees, and the water keeps rising to meet the bulkheads, and Henry leans down to meet Alex’s mouth, and Alex is. Well, Alex is so in love he could die.

HUGE thank you to St. Martin’s Griffin and NetGalley for allowing me to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review! ♥

BOOK REVIEW: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

BOOK REVIEW: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuistonRed, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends...

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

Thank you to NetGalley (for granting my wish!), Casey McQuiston and St. Martin’s Griffin for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I’m going to try and make this review as coherent as possible, but not promises. I’m honestly just so filled with emotions and glee and joy from this book. I have so many highlights from this book and they are all SO GOOD.

Welcome to 2018 and in a far better timeline than the one we currently find ourselves in (*sob*), the successor to Barack Obama is democrat President Claremont, a divorced and re-married bad ass lady, who made two wonderful, half Mexican-half American children in Alex and June.

We start this story in the months leading up to her reelection bid. Alex, the first son, makes a fool of himself, as well as his sworn enemy Henry, at Henry’s brother’s wedding. In attempt to show that there is no animosity between the countries, Henry and Alex are forced to show the world they are indeed, close friends. And cue the start of the enemies to lovers trope, in the best way possible.

“I think it’s amazing,” Nora says. “Sworn enemies forced to make peace to settle tensions between their countries? There’s something totally Shakespearean about it.”

“Shakespearean in that hopefully I’ll get stabbed to death,” Alex says. “This sheet says his favorite food is mutton pie. I literally cannot think of a more boring food. He’s like a cardboard cutout of a person.”

As you can imagine, as Alex and Henry are forced to spend time together, their feelings begin to blossom. While Alex had only been with women up until this point in time, I appreciate McQuiston not dragging out Alex questioning if he could possibly like other men. Alex pretty quickly accepted that he was bisexual; while I can totally appreciate this is not easy for many, it kept the story moving along nicely with Alex’s quick acceptance.

While Alex and Henry’s relationship is very much rooted in friendship as they put on a carefully cultivated PR trip in Great Britain, things really get going with Henry’s visit to a New Year’s Eve party in D.C. It eventually leads to one of the best first kisses I have ever read. There’s so much tension leading up to it and I devoured every interaction between the two.

“C’mon, it’s like in the hips. You have to loosen up.” He reached down and put both hands on Henry’s hips, and Henry instantly tenses under the touch. “That’s the opposite of what I said.”
“Alex, I dont’–“
“Here,” Alex says, moving his own hips, “watch me.”
With a grave gulp of champagne, Henry says, “I am.”

I mean, be still my swooning heart. I was a little surprised how quickly Alex and Henry got together (not that I’m complaining!) as I expected a little more build up. However, I really liked how much attention was given to the complexity of navigating their relationship. There are so many laugh out loud funny moments – I know I was grinning like a fool like 85% of this book.

How dare Henry come into Alex’s house looking like the goddman James Bond offspring that he is, drink red wine with the prime minister, and act like he didn’t slip Alex the tongue and ghost him for a month.

He kisses Henry until it feels like he can’t breathe, until it feels like he’s going to forget both of their name and titles, until they’re only two people tangled up in a dark room making a brilliant, epic, unstoppable mistake.

While most of the attention is on Alex and Henry’s relationship, there’s a lot of great subplots happening and excellent side characters. I absolutely adored June, Alex’s sister, and Nora, June and Alex’s best friend and Alex’s sometimes girlfriend. They are both wickedly funny and smart and incredibly real. I also adored Zahra, Amy, Bea, etc. There are so many excellent characters in their own right, even if they revolve around Alex and Henry.

There’s some also serious issues brought up, like the fact that Alex struggles with his mixed heritage, Henry struggles with anxiety and both struggle what it means to carry on a high profile family legacy.

If there’s a criticism to be made (besides giving me more books in this world), is that you can fairly easily guess the major plot points. There’s nothing terribly unpredictable about them, but honestly, I didn’t find myself caring all that much. They needed to happen and I was more interested in how these characters were going to handle them.

Take for instance Alex’s mother learning of his relationship and her immediate reaction was to make a powerpoint to lead their discussion, including this title for the ages:
EXPLORING YOUR SEXUALITY: HEALTHY, BUT DOES IT HAVE TO BE WITH THE PRINCE OF ENGLAND?
She apologizes for not having time to come up with better titles.

If I didn’t love Alex’s entire family already, this would have certainly sealed the deal. The ending, while a bit cliche, was still entirely wonderful and really tied up the book nicely. As I said, before, I would love a follow-up book in the future to see what all these amazing people are up to. I truly did not get enough of them in fantastic 432 pages McQuiston gifted us.

While I certainly have started to read more romance stories in the last few years, I still would not certainly consider myself a big reader of this genre. I tend to only like contemporaries and they definitely need to be well-done and bring something different to the table. I’ve only found a few so far that fit this billing that I’ve enjoyed and Red, White & Royal blue is certainly at the top of these.

I can’t wait to get this in printed form and read it whenever I need a pick-me-up. I cannot say enough positive things about this book and from everything I’ve seen, just about everyone else who’s read this agrees. It’s sexy, it’s funny and it’s emotionally heart-warming.

“You are,” he says,” the absolute worst idea I’ve ever had.” Henry’s mouth spreads into a slow smile, and Alex kisses it.

Red, White & Royal Blue will be released on May 14, 2019.

BOOK REVIEW: The Red Scrolls of Magic (The Eldest Curses #1) by Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu

BOOK REVIEW: The Red Scrolls of Magic (The Eldest Curses #1) by Cassandra Clare and Wesley ChuThe Red Scrolls of Magic (The Eldest Curses #1)
by Cassandra Clare, Wesley Chu
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

From #1 New York Times bestseller Cassandra Clare and award-winner Wesley Chu comes the first book in a new series that follows High Warlock Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood as they tour the world after the Mortal War. The Red Scrolls of Magic is a Shadowhunters novel.

All Magnus Bane wanted was a vacation—a lavish trip across Europe with Alec Lightwood, the Shadowhunter who against all odds is finally his boyfriend. But as soon as the pair settles in Paris, an old friend arrives with news about a demon-worshipping cult called the Crimson Hand that is bent on causing chaos around the world. A cult that was apparently founded by Magnus himself. Years ago. As a joke.

Now Magnus and Alec must race across Europe to track down the Crimson Hand and its elusive new leader before the cult can cause any more damage. As if it wasn’t bad enough that their romantic getaway has been sidetracked, demons are now dogging their every step, and it is becoming harder to tell friend from foe. As their quest for answers becomes increasingly dire, Magnus and Alec will have to trust each other more than ever—even if it means revealing the secrets they’ve both been keeping.

WHAT THE WHAT?! That ending….???!?!?!

It literally pains me that I can’t add quotes to this review but hey, I get it, it’s an ARC and things are subject to change. Just know that I was highlighting like crazy the last 25%.

I can’t lie, when I first found out that Cassie was writing ANOTHER series based in the Shadowhunter world, I was a little peeved. I mean I love Magnus, I really do, but I was just like “how much longer can all this be drug out?!”…I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way, too. Even throughout this book, I was enjoying it but kept thinking okayyyyy was this really necessary?! What is this story adding to the bigger picture besides just basically being fanfiction for Magnus x Alec shippers??

Yes. Yes it was necessary. For numerous reasons but DEFINITELY because of what happened in the epilogue. But really, no, even though *you know who* was found *you know where* that isn’t why I will devour the rest of this series, no no no. I will soak up every single page of the next two books because finally being able to see Magnus and Alec’s love front and center was a beautiful thing. Like literally I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

There are so many times when Magnus can be TOO MUCH…like, basically all the time. I find myself wondering often, how can he be so glib and joke-y about everything?! It’s almost exhausting to read. Aaaand then you catch a small glimpse of who he really is, and why his facade is like that, and you understand. Magnus has been alive for a VERY long time. He has seen a lot of terrible things and lost a lot of people he had truly loved. He was almost killed as a child because of who he is and I’m sure since then there have been many more attempts on his life. He has lost friends, and he has seen the deep prejudices of the Clave play out against his fellow Downworlders. It’s no wonder that he doesn’t like to be serious. I think that is 100% his coping mechanism for dealing with the pure shittiness of the world. But there is so much more to him than that and it is really explored here. Magnus is so good it hurts. He is one of the best characters Clare has ever written.

And Alec, oh Alec. You sweet, strong, kind, and caring man. Guys, I LOVED getting Alec’s POV in this book. I literally can’t wait to see him in action View Spoiler » in The Wicked Powers. He has grown SO MUCH from the boy in City of Bones who was the epitome of a rule follower. He has learned that while the most Shadowhunters abide by the saying “The Law is hard, but it is the Law” that things can’t always be taken care of properly and fairly by the stupid “Law.” Watching him in love with Magnus was like watching the most beautiful flower bloom (AND I DON’T CARE HOW CHEESY THAT SOUNDS). They are one of my favorites OTPs of all time.

Also, we get to see Aline and Helen meet and see the very beginnings of their relationship too which was great. Even though they are a big part of TDA overall, we don’t get much time with them at all. Getting to know their personalities a little more was great. Also Raphael. I feel like I took him for granted during TMI. He’s funny and snarky AF and cares so much more than you will ever know. Any who has entered and even just liked the world of the Shadowhunters will fall in love with this book and like I said, after that epilogue I am dying to get my hands on the next book!

This eARC was provided by Edelwiess and the publisher in exchange for an honest review!

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