The Swan Lake by K.M. Shea is a classic tale that has been re-written into a lovely, enchanting and modern, yet magical story. This was my first K.M. Shea book and it immediately got me hooked and made me want to read more of her fairy tale retellings!
The story was so beautifully told that it felt magical, yet simple, old, yet new, and narrated in a way that pulled you into a shining fairytale world, but still felt modern. I absolutely adored the female protagonist, Odette, and her fierce attitude combined with her selflessness and the protective way she took care of her smuggler band The Black Swans. It was such a great twist that Odette and the other swans were smugglers, it added a flavor of adventure and made Odette and her friends so much more bad-ass and relatable.
I also liked the other female characters in this story, especially lady Benno and the Empress. The way the Empress tells her sons off is so hilarious! I would have liked to have more of that in the story and also to get to know more about lady Benno’s background to fully understand her. But all in all, the women in this story really makes this story shine. The two princes could perhaps have gotten some more depths, but I immediately took a liking in Prince Alexsei. So gentle and noble, and the romance between him and Odette was so sweet and enjoyable.
This book also left with some really potential stories - especially the mystery with the evil sorcerer Rothbart and the hints that he was not as evil as expected - that makes me want to continue exploring K.M. Shea’s retellings right away.
Overall, this is a very lovely read that brings you shining happy magic, a sweet love story and bad-ass female characters, something you can never get enough of!
Find out more about the book and the author here: K.M. Shea
I’ve previously read Haley Rhoades’s The Surrogate Series and loved it, so I had such high expectations for Boxers and Briefs. And I sure was not let down, Haley Rhoades has written another gem!
Boxers or Briefs is so much more than you expect. It’s a story about Ali, who has experienced something truly traumatic that made her flee her hometown and drop out of college. When we meet her she’s struggling with the trauma and with getting by without her friends and family and without any steady income. Luckily she gets two part-time assignments, at a law firm and a gym, where she also gets two bosses, Tyson and Clay. As different as they are, Ali soon finds herself drawn to them both...
”I feel like a character in the contemporary romance novels I read in between the self-help books from the library. I’m not naive enough to believe this will all remain easy and smooth. No, my two worlds are about to blow up in my face - nothing this comfortable can ever work out for me.”
You expect the story to continue with a classic love triangle after this, but no, there is so much more to this book and instead it continues to deal with Ali’s healing and about how friendship and the love of a dog can do wonders to support.
I really felt for Ali and I loved her fierceness, humor and bad-ass attitude. Most of the book I felt like I wanted to hug her and comfort her, to help her through the difficulties she’s experiencing. Some of the scenes that I liked the most were the babysitting ones, I loved that Ali was so good with children. Another detail that I loved was that all names used in the books are referring to famous boxers and lawyers.
I would have liked some more character developments and some more background info to Tyson and Clay though, as well as some more explanations about the traumatic event than just the short retelling about the love subject. But, all in all, this is a wonderful, hopeful and romantic book about finding love and friendship under the most unexpected circumstances, and the strength to live your life fully even after a big trauma.
4,5 shining stars!
Find out more about this book and all other of Haley Rhoades’s amazing books here: Rhoades to Writing
My reading tips this week is the wonderful, adorable and adventurous The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green.
This is the first book in a new series that takes place in a fantasy world that resembles Game of Thrones quite a bit, with fights for power, wars between kingdoms and a magic twist with demons and the hunting for demon smoke. The story is told from five different POVs; Princess Catherine, royal guard Ambrose, servant March, thirteen-year-old demon hunter Tash and thief and royal bastard Edyon.
Five POVs might seem a little too much, but I really loved all of these different POVs and how they made the story more dynamic and interesting. I didn’t connect that much with March and Edyon, but I absolutely adored the two strong female main characters Princess Catherine and demon hunter Tash, as well as the honorable and gorgeous Ambrose!
I just have to be clear though, that this series is very different from Sally Green’s previous the Half Bad series. I loved that series so much, and had hoped for something similar when it comes to the writing style and sense of rawness, but The Smoke Thieves is more of a traditional fantasy. Very good, but nowhere near the uniqueness of Half Bad.
The writing, the characters and the plot was really good and there was a lot of action going on. I especially loved Princess Catherine’s character and how she adapted to living in a world of female oppression without losing her fierceness and self-confidence. I also really shipped the romance between her and Ambrose, even if the ending of the book hinted to that romance probably being challenged by Prince Tzsayn in the sequel. (I really liked Prince Tzsayn too, so I’m not too depressed by that fact though.) And demon hunter Tash was such a badass, strong and shining character, it was impossible not to fall in love with her completely. I’m so eager to know what Sally has in store for her in the sequel, it really feels like there is so much more to explore for her character-wise.
All in all, I really enjoyed this wonderful book and am eagerly awaiting the next book in the series, dying to know what will happen to the characters!
I give this book 4.5 magical stars!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Sally Green
My reading tips this week is the cute and funny, while also dealing with serious topics, Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli. I binge-read this book since it made me so happy to be back in the wonderful universe of Simon Spier!
So, this book actually focus on Simon’s friend Leah Burke, but still it feels a lot like a sequel to my oh so loved Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I love Becky Albertalli’s writing style, it’s so good and addictive! I also love all the diversity in her books, and that we get to see a f/f-romance. But what I loved absolutely most was getting to read about Simon again. I never even realized how much I’ve missed him and the rest of the characters until I started reading Leah on the Offbeat. Every time Simon appeared, I got this goofy, happy smile all over my face. And Simon and “Blue” (don’t want to make any spoilers in case you haven’t read Simon vs. yet) were the perfect couple! There were so many cute scenes with them, and Blue’s promposal must be the best ever, it was pure literary perfection!
Plot-wise, this book takes place one year after the events following Martin’s blackmail of Simon and Simon and “Blue” becoming a couple. To be honest, there isn’t that much of a story in this book though, it’s mostly focusing on what everyone is up to this year and their plans after graduation (lots and lots of graduation angst!).
I also have to admit that I didn’t really connect with Leah. Her character sometimes came off as really mean and selfish and with double-standards. But on the other hand it was so refreshing with her sarcasm and humor and badass attitude and that Becky allowed her to be a totally messy person with all her flaws. There were also some scenes that I found a bit problematic from a queer perspective. And to be honest, the romance felt a bit forced. There were not a lot of cute moments between them, except for the adorable scene in the end, but I want more to really invest in them as a couple.
So a little bit of mixed feelings for the book, but nevertheless it was a good story with a great mix of feel-good, romance and friendship and serious topics like racism, bisexuality, the coming-out struggle, body insecurity and more. But most of all, I loved it for giving me more of Simon and “Blue”! I am so hoping for a next book where we can get to follow Simon and his friends during college too, and all in all, I highly recommend this book.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Becky Albertalli