This was such a wonderful and sweet mm hockey romance, with the perfect amount of steam and two lovable main characters with an absolutely sizzling chemistry! It was so addictive that I binged it all in just a few hours!
Winging It follows closeted hockey star Gabe. As a person he’s very low key and he has no intentions of coming out or making waves. All he wants is to be Gabe, the hockey player—not the gay hockey player—and to win the Stanley Cup. He’s told two of his closest teammates, but other than that, he holds back from the team and the parties to not risk exposure. Getting involved with one of his teammates is of course out of the question, even though he can’t help having feelings for the cocky, larger-than-life, Dante “Baller” Baltierra.
But when his scorned ex sells a photo of the two of them to the tabloids, Gabe no longer has a choice. Being thrown out of his comfortable closet into a brand-new world, his game suffers. Surprisingly, it’s Dante who helps him out of it—and then drags him into something else—when Dante takes on a journey of selfdiscovery of his own, when realizing that he’s bisexual.
I read this book in one sitting, it was so addictive and I rooted so much for all characters that I just couldn’t bear to put it down until the very end! It was not just Gabe and Dante who stole my heart, but so many of the wonderful secondary characters too, like the team captain Flash and his family, Dante’s parents and Gabe’s dad, and of course Kitty with his vodka apology! I loved the slow burn and the relationship angst, as well as how Dante was always so true to himself and how he pushed Gabe out of his comfort zone.
My only issues were that the reasons why Gabe kept Dante at a distance didn’t fully make sense and that the relationship misunderstanding/break-up at the end that felt out of character and like it was there just for the sake of the drama than really adding anything to the story.
There was also perhaps a little too much focus on the actual hockey games. While I do enjoy the thrill of the game and both the sports part and the romance part in sports romances, this book could be a bit too heavy on the hockey for many readers.
But all in all, this was such a heartwarming and romantic story about accepting and being proud of who you are, and about allowing yourself to be vulnerable and taking chances with the risk of getting hurt, but potentially to get find love and a happy ever after.
Thank you to Gay Book Promotions for the free review copy and blog tour invitation! All opinions are my own and I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.
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I loved the Heartstopper series to so much, so of course I had to read this add-on novella. But sadly, it was not what I hoped for. The story was just about a drama that felt completely made-up; like it was there just for the sake of it, when it could so easily have been avoided.
Basically, this novella was 80 pages of unnecessary drama and angst and Charlie overanalyzing and overreacting. Nick was still adorable though, and I loved the cute illustrations. So, it was an okay read overall, but not as all as good as the Heartstopper series.
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This was such an amazing contemporary YA fantasy with powerful magical families, intergenerational curses, and deadly drama in New Orleans. If you love magic, mystery and amazing LGBTQA+ characters this is definitely a book you shouldn’t miss! I can’t wait for it to be released in April next year so that everyone has a chance to read this marvelous story.
Blood Debts follows the sixteen-year-old twins Clement and Cristina Trudeau, who are heirs of a powerful and magical New Orleans family that has been dethroned from being magical royals after being wrongfully accused of murder and for causing a magical massacre thirty years ago. Cristina, once a talented and dedicated practitioner of Generational magic, has given up magic for good after an ancient spell she used killed their father. Now, with her mother sick from a hex curse, and her brother acting out, she finds herself being pulled back into the world of magic to solve the old murder and prevent another massacre.
I really loved this rich and amazing story, so full of love and family, healing, a mystery to solve, revenge and forgiveness! The world building was so well done and unique, with the best mix of urban fantasy, Voodoo and Southern mystic. It was also full of amazing and diverse characters, who were all so fleshed out and deeply human, so full of flaws, anxiety, regrets and internal anger, and not clearly good or bad. I also really appreciated the authentic New Orleans descriptions and the whole Southern vibe.
The magic system in the book was inspired by Voodoo, but as the author explained in the acknowledgements, the names and spells were fictional, since the real-life practices of Afro and Afro-Latinx rituals are sacred and should be treated as such. I really loved how you could tell that Terry J. Benton-Walker relied on his own experiences when writing this story, and how he made the main characters strong and proud queer and black, and with a though black matriarch as the queen. He also didn’t shy away from difficult topics such as systematic racism, the right to decide about life and death (or even raise the dead), loss of a loved one, grief, guilt and abusive behavior (like using a love spell to force emotions upon someone) or other morally grey actions. But it was nevertheless a heartwarming and uplifting story with strong and lovable characters!
All in all, this was a brilliant, addictive, unique, wonderfully queer and absolutely magical YA fantasy that I cannot recommend enough!
Thank you to NetGalley and Tor/Forge for the ARC of the book, which I have voluntarily reviewed.
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Terry J. Benton-Walker
This was a sweet and fun small-town, opposites-attract romance with the wonderful Wilder family at the center. It wasn’t fully as great as I’d hoped for, but it was still so fast-paced and addictive that I read it all in just a couple of hours.
Make Me Wilder is the first book in the Wilder Adventurs series, but I actually started this series in the completely wrong order. I received the fourth book as an ARC and absolutely loved it, and wanted to work my way through Serena Bell’s backlist. And while I enjoyed Make Me Wilder too, it didn’t quite match A Little Wilder. Maybe because I already knew a lot of what would happen, or maybe because Serena Bell has developed as an author throughout the series?
In this first book, we get acquainted with the wonderful Wilder family, who owns an adventure business in the little Oregon town Rush Creek. After Gabe’s father died when he was 15, he assumed responsibility for the business and the promise to take care of his mother and brothers. But when hot springs are discovered, the town transforms from a rodeo-focused one to a spa-and-wedding destination, and suddenly the Wilder business is struggling. So his mother hires city girl Lucy to give Wilder Adventures a makeover.
Lucy is the opposite of what Gabe is looking for in a girl, and not to mention how opposed he is to her ideas that threatens to turn Wilder Adventure into a glamping, yoga and sunset cruises business instead of real outdoor adventures, but still he can’t keep his eyes of her, and soon sparks start to fly…
I really loved Gabe and his bad-boy with a good heart vibes from the start, but I had problems connecting with Lucy. I didn’t like her damsel in distress attitude, and how she was this silly city girl walking around in high heels and spending hours on getting her make up perfect. It didn’t make sense that she would be so ignorant to outdoor life, having grown up in a small town herself. Her character just didn’t add up, especially since she was supposed to be a strong business woman who would give advice on business development for the adventure business. I did enjoy her and Gabe’s banter, and their chemistry though. But my favorite part was the big Wilder family with their wonderful dynamics and love for each other.
All in all, this was a quick, fun and sweet read, but it didn’t quite meet my expectations and I don’t think I will continue this series.
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The Legend trilogy is one of my favorite dystopian/fantasy series and this book gave me such wonderful Legend vibes! It had the same kind of strong, fleshed out and morally grey characters and the same kind of creative and unique world building, plus a thrilling magical heist plot. I’m definitely hoping for a sequel to this magical and engaging story!
Stolen City is a character driven fantasy story told from four perspectives – the two twin thieves and mages Arian and Liam, the weaver Cavar and Zephyr, the former royal knight turned traitor – and takes place in the city of Leithon which is under Imperial occupation. Arian steals magical artifacts for the Resistance, whereas Liam mostly tries to heal his wounds and not draw any attention to him. Zephyr made a choice that she has to live with and that made her hated by most of her former friends and family, but she had her good reasons for it. When the mysterious Cavar approaches the twins with a job offer, it will set a string of events and revelation in motion that will change all of their lives.
I did enjoy the four POVs, but it made it take a little longer to get into the story and start rooting for all of the characters and to fully understand all of their backgrounds, past griefs and traumas, and reasons behind their actions. I immediately took Cavar to my heart – I loved his sarcasm and wit and his tender heart. I also loved Arian for being so headstrong and badass, but it took longer to warm up to Zephyr and Liam. But now I’m most excited to follow their storylines in the sequel (certainly there will be a sequel, right?)!
I also really enjoyed the complex and unique world building, with the occupied city where magic has been outlawed, but is smoldering in the background and you know it cannot be kept at bay for much longer. There were a lot of twists and surprises when magic started to come into play and old generational traumas and secrets were revealed. There was also so much entertaining court politics and intriguing family secrets, and the writing style as very witty and action filled. I really enjoyed following how the resistance kept growing stronger by each heist (there was a lot of wonderful Robin Hood and Six of Crows vibes in the way the resistance kept foiling the imperial rulers). I would have loved to get a little more backstory to the weavers and the clans, but hopefully that will come in a following book…
All in all, Stolen City was a wonderful new YA fantasy with magical heists and thievery, a unique world building and amazing fleshed out characters each with their own struggles. There were also some really sweet romances, as well as new and past heartbreaks, that kept you invested all the way through. Highly recommended to fans of Legend or Six of Crows, and I can’t wait for a sequel!
Thank you to Xpresso Tours and NetGalley for the free review copy and blog tour invitation! All opinions are my own and I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.
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Elisa A. Bonnin
I was immediately intrigued, and requested an ARC from BookSirens, when I saw the adorable cover of Little Rock and learned that it was a queer YA mystery taking place at a boarding school and involving an ancient Celtic legend. I did see the trigger warnings for sex, violence and rape, but based on the cover design and the fact that it was a YA book, I didn’t think too much about it. So that’s my own mistake I guess, but still with the trigger warnings, I don’t think there was enough to fully prepare you for the brutal rape scene. So please, before going into this book, be aware that it has content that could potentially be harmful for some readers, and that the trigger warnings for violence and rape should be taken very seriously. (If possible before the release, I would really like to advice the author to add a clearer warning in the beginning of the actual book explaining this, not just the trigger warnings listed by BookSirens.)
Little Rock is set at a boarding school in England in 1993, following American teenager Owen Appletoff who is sent to the school against his own will after the death of his mother. He soon befriends and starts getting romantic feelings for his roommate, the handsome Taylor, but also, confusingly enough, finds himself being attracted to bad boy and school bully Daniel.
Owen is going through a lot in this story; not only grieving his mother and dealing with his estranged father, but also being haunted by strange visions and interested in finding out the mysteries, old legends and hidden truths at his new school, while also trying to understand his sexuality and who he is as a person. I really rooted for Owen right from the start! He was such a sweet, innocent and caring main character, and I felt very protective of him in his struggles. I’m such a fan of first love stories, it’s one of the big reasons why I love the YA genre, and there were so many sweet moments in this story, with Owen’s first kiss and first love (loves) and his sexual awakening.
I also took both Taylor and Daniel to my heart and couldn’t make up my mind about whom I wanted Owen to choose… I’m usually not a big fan of love triangles, but here it was done really well. So well actually that perhaps Owen wouldn’t have had to choose, but it could have been a full polyamory relationship with all three. There was definitely the potential for the latter, in the sweet way they all cared for each other! Especially after the tent scene (don’t want to spoil anything, but it was one of my favorite parts of the story!).
I really enjoyed the parts in this story about self-discovery and sexual awakening, as well as the Celtic legends and Hades and Persephone retellings/references. But as regards the actual mystery plot, there was just something that felt off when it came to the pacing and development. It took almost a third in for the mystery to take part of the story, and then it suddenly turned way darker and creepier than I expected for a YA story (not only because of the rape scene mentioned above). I don’t usually read dark mysteries, so it’s probably my own fault, but I didn’t enjoy all the creepy vibes and how dark and heavy the story turned with all the descriptive violence, and especially the brutal, painful, rape scene that went on for pages. It really threw me off balance and the story never recovered after that for me. In fact, I’m not sure I would even call this a mystery, the way it developed it really felt more like a horror story to me.
I also had some issues with the writing style. For a YA set in the 1990s it was written in a quite old-fashioned way that made the language feel too adult for the teenage characters. For example, calling each other “old chap” didn’t feel like an expression a teenager would use, not even in the 1990s.
So, sadly this was not a book for me. But please don’t let that discourage you if you’re into dark mysteries, and considering the trigger warnings ahead of reading, then this book could very well be your new favorite! There were a lot of parts that were really good, like the amazing characters, Owen’s journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance, the sweet ‘first-love, first-kiss’ parts and the queer relationship. If only it hadn’t been for the brutal violence and the way it turned into a horror story rather than a mystery… So, 2.5 stars rounding up to 3 in total.
Thank you BookSirens for the free review copy. All opinions are my own and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
2.5 stars rounding up to 3
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