Tag Archives: Romance

Review: Vengeance of the Pirate Queen by Tricia Levenseller

Vengeance of the Pirate Queen by Tricia Levenseller

Vengeance of the Pirate Queen (Daughter of the Pirate King #3)
Tricia Levenseller
Feiwel & Friends
Published November 7, 2023

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About Vengeance of the Pirate Queen

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN meets THE MUMMY in VENGEANCE OF THE PIRATE QUEEN, a beautifully designed standalone YA fantasy romance set in the world of Tricia Levenseller’s DAUGHTER OF THE PIRATE KING.

You can’t be afraid of the dark when you’re the monster lurking in the shadows.

As an assassin working for the pirate queen, eighteen-year-old Sorinda is surprised when Alosa’s next task for her is not to kill a new target but to captain a handpicked crew on a rescue mission. Unfortunately, her sailing master is twenty-year-old Kearan. He may be the best helmsman the pirate queen has, but Sorinda finds him a real pain in the arse. Sadly, there are few places on a ship to hide from an attentive man.

As the crew of the Vengeance faces dangerous waters and deadly sea creatures, they accidentally awaken the King of the Undersea, a being who can control the dead. Their rescue mission quickly turns into a fight to save the world, but first, Sorinda must save herself from becoming an undead queen.

My Review

I remember Sorinda from The Daughter of the Pirate King series. She was a minor character in those books but a deeply interesting one. I vaguely remembered Kearan and some other characters as well. It was fun to revisit that story world and learn more about some of the other characters.

I struggled with some elements of the story, though.

First, the portrayal of the younger characters in real time or in flashbacks. At one point, a seven-year-old character makes a speech that sounds like it would have to come from an older child. Some of the ideas were really abstract and complex, and I felt like a kid that age would have maybe had similar feelings but been more likely to say things in a simpler way.

Is this romantic?

I also struggled with the romantic arc. Sorinda is a loner, an assassin with a dark past that she hasn’t really grappled with, and I love those things about her. One of the crew members has decided that she needs a friend and nominated himself to be it.

Over and over Sorinda refuses to engage with him. He refuses to accept her wishes and continues to pursue her. At one point, he follows her belowdecks into a dark, secluded area where she’d gone to be alone. I couldn’t get my head around that as a gesture of friendship. If someone follows me, uninvited, into a dark room with only one exit, I don’t know how to read that except as a creepy move.

So that made it hard for me to invest in the romantic arc of the story. I kept wanting her to confront him about not respecting her boundaries. Instead, she decides she’s the problem and just needs to give him a chance. Eventually, her feelings change, and she realizes she enjoys the advances.

Which, you know, really isn’t how consent works? Someone who keeps asking to be your friend when you’ve continued to refuse that offer isn’t being kind. They’re not respecting your boundaries. He isn’t wrong that she’s isolated and hurting. But he is wrong that he has the authority to decide who she should be friends with.

Pirates of the Caribbean Vibes

Anyway, that relationship didn’t resonate with me at all, so I ended up really reading this for the pirate adventure and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN vibes.

I did enjoy that, and I liked the scenes in which Sorinda really got to shine. I also really enjoyed the young character whose speech didn’t ring true. She is a little fireball, and I loved her tenacity.

Conclusion

Readers who loved The Daughter of the Pirate King series will enjoy revisiting Alosa’s world and reading a story focused on some of the series’ most memorable side characters.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Representation
Sorinda is described as having dark brown skin. Other members of her crew have darker skin tones. One crew member is an alcoholic in recovery.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl. A man pursues a woman despite her stating she is uninterested.

Spiritual Content
After a crew member dies at sea, pirates light lanterns on deck to help the dead find their way to the light and the afterlife.

Violent Content
Situations of peril. Battle violence and brief gore. Battles against the undead.

Drug Content
One crew member asks if the captain will lock up the rum rations after a particularly traumatic day.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use but help support this blog. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Review: Northranger by Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo

Northranger
Rey Terciero
Illustrated by Bre Indigo
HarperTeen
Published June 6, 2023

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About Northranger

In this swoony and spooky teen summer romance graphic novel set on a Texas ranch, sixteen-year-old Cade Muñoz finds himself falling for the ranch owner’s mysterious and handsome son, only to discover that he may be harboring a dangerous secret.

Cade has always loved to escape into the world of a good horror movie. After all, horror movies are scary–but to Cade, a closeted queer Latino teen growing up in rural Texas–real life can be way scarier.

When Cade is sent to spend the summer working as a ranch hand to help earn extra money for his family, he is horrified. Cade hates everything about the ranch, from the early mornings to the mountains of horse poop he has to clean up. The only silver lining is the company of the two teens who live there–in particular, the ruggedly handsome and enigmatic Henry.

But as unexpected sparks begin to fly between Cade and Henry, things get… complicated. Henry is reluctant to share the details of his mother’s death, and Cade begins to wonder what else he might be hiding. Inspired by the gothic romance of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and perfect for fans of Heartstopper and Bloom comes a modern love story so romantic it’s scary.

My Review

I really wanted to read this book when it came out, but my review calendar was out of control, so I bought a copy to add to my TBR stack, and was super excited to get to it finally. NORTHRANGER is inspired by Jane Austen’s classic Northanger Abbey, and like that novel, it features a main character who loves spooky stories. The lines between his favorite movies and real life begin to blur in some interesting ways, giving the story a suspenseful edge without any true horror elements. It’s got more of the fun, ghost stories by the campfire as a kid vibe to it.

I really liked both Cade and Henry as characters. They have really different personalities, and the panels show a lot of facets to them. I also thought the way the story showed the tension between Cade and his family because of his identity and how he internalized pressure and judgment from them was very well done.

It took me a while to finally get to read this one, but I’m so glad I did. Terciero is definitely an author I’ll be following for future books. I can see HEARTSTOPPER readers liking this one, especially the sweet M/M romance elements.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Representation
Cade is Latine and his stepdad and younger sister are also Black. Cade and another character are gay.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat frequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between two boys.

Spiritual Content
None.

Violent Content
Cade hears rumors about a possible murder and coverup. Brief racist and homophobic comments appear in the book as well.

Drug Content
One character is an alcoholic and drinks in several scenes.

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Review: Karate Prom by Kyle Starks

Karate Prom
Kyle Starks
First Second
Published May 7, 2024

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About Karate Prom

Don “TheDragonWilson” Jones is the finest fighter Benjamin Harrison High School has ever produced. But when he enters the ring against Lincoln High’s Sam Steadman, it’s love at first knockout.

Unfortunately, Sam has a jerky ex-boyfriend…and Don has a seriously terrifying ex-girlfriend. Like, “global crime cartel” terrifying. From prom to the after-party to graduation, Don and Sam―and an increasingly eclectic cast of supporting oddballs―will have to fight their way through a gauntlet of opponents, all in the name of love (and punching). Did we mention the punching?

My Review

This goofy graphic novel packs a punch of pure silliness. The story follows Don and Sam from their first encounter at a martial arts tournament to prom, an after-party, and graduation, at which wilder and wilder events unfold.

The romance between the two stays sweet and absolutely adorable, a perfect contrast to the posturing, bullying, and fist-flying of other characters and scenes. Though there’s a lot of martial arts-style combat, the illustrations stay cartoonish, showing reddened skin after a hit connects, and blue shadows for bruises.

Though the story doesn’t center around a moral value, the ending does impart a positive lesson about teamwork and working together to fight even in the face of overwhelming odds. This is a joyful, hilarious summer read perfect for fans of martial arts and classic high school moments.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Representation
Don is Black. One minor character doesn’t speak. Cast includes additional BIPOC characters.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl.

Spiritual Content
None.

Violent Content
Cartoon violence. Many scenes show fighting between characters.

Drug Content
None.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use but help support this blog. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Review: Death’s Country by R. M. Romero

Death’s Country
R. M. Romero
PeachTree Teen
Published May 7, 2024

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About Death’s Country

Hadestown meets “Orpheus and Eurydice” when two Miami teens travel to the underworld to retrieve their girlfriend’s soul.

Andres Santos of São Paulo was all swinging fists and firecracker fury, a foot soldier in the war between his parents. Until he drowned in the Tietê River… and made a bargain with Death for a new life. A year later, his parents have relocated the family to Miami, but their promises of a fresh start quickly dissolve in the summer heat. 

Instead of fists, Andres now uses music to escape his parents’ battles. While wandering Miami Beach, he meets two photographer Renee, a blaze of fire, and dancer Liora, a ray of sunshine. The three become a polyamorous triad, happy, despite how no one understands their relationship. But when a car accident leaves Liora in a coma, Andres and Renee are shattered. 

Then Renee proposes a radical She and Andres must go into the underworld to retrieve their girlfriend’s spirit and reunite it with her body—before it’s too late. Their search takes them to the City of the dead, where painters bleed color, songs grow flowers, and regretful souls will do anything to forget their lives on earth. But finding Liora’s spirit is only the first step in returning to the living world. Because when Andres drowned, he left a part of himself in the underworld—a part he’s in no hurry to meet again. But it is eager to be reunited with him… 

In verse as vibrant as the Miami skyline, critically acclaimed author R.M. Romero has crafted a masterpiece of magical realism and an openhearted ode to the nature of healing.

My Review

I’ve read two other novels in verse by R. M. Romero before, and I love the way she brings scenes to life with such spare, haunting words. The same powerful storytelling fills the pages of Death’s Country as well.

I felt like the story was a little slow to begin, maybe because so much of the beginning feels like a setup for the real conflict in the book. The story drew me in for sure, especially the descriptions of the City filled with the souls of the dead. I love the boy who calls himself Virgil whom Andres and Renee meet there.

The story centers around three people who are in a polyamorous romantic relationship. Andres joins the relationship that already exists between Liora and Renee, and the three discuss what it means to be in a relationship, explaining that love can’t be limited and offering each other the chance to try loving one another this way.

The story reminded me a lot of Never Look Back by Lilliam Rivera, which I really enjoyed. If you’re looking for another “Orpheus and Eurydice” story reimagined, I recommend that one as well.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Representation
Andres is Brazilian and Cuban. Renee and Liora are in a romantic relationship with each other and then with Andres.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between two girls. Kissing between a boy and girl. Representation of a polyamorous relationship.

Spiritual Content
Andres meets Death after drowning. She gives him his life back, removes his debilitating anger, and warns him that in fairness, because she took something he hates, she’ll return to take something he loves.

Renee and Andres journey to the Underworld hoping to find Liora and return her to the land of the living. They meet other departed souls.

Violent Content
Andres fights another boy, breaking his jaw.

Brief reference to a possible eating disorder.

Drug Content
None.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use but help support this blog. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Review: This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi

This Woven Kingdom (This Woven Kingdom #1)
Tahereh Mafi
HarperCollins
Published February 1, 2022

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About This Woven Kingdom

New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestseller! Clashing empires, forbidden romance, and a long-forgotten queen destined to save her people—Tahereh Mafi’s first in an epic, romantic trilogy inspired by Persian mythology.

To all the world, Alizeh is a disposable servant, not the long-lost heir to an ancient Jinn kingdom forced to hide in plain sight.

The crown prince, Kamran, has heard the prophecies foretelling the death of his king. But he could never have imagined that the servant girl with the strange eyes, the girl he can’t put out of his mind, would one day soon uproot his kingdom—and the world.

Perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo, Tomi Adeyemi, and Sabaa Tahir, this is the explosive first book in a new fantasy trilogy from the New York Times bestselling and National Book Award-nominated author Tahereh Mafi.

“In a tale as exquisitely crafted as one of Alizeh’s own garments, Mafi weaves a spell of destiny and danger, forbidden love and courtly intrigue, magic and revolution.”—Cassandra Clare, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Last Hours

This Woven Kingdom is an exquisite fantasy. Rich with clever prose, delicious twists, and breathtaking world building. Prepare to be destroyed—this one will wrench at your heart and make it pound, and in the end it will leave you entirely speechless.”—Stephanie Garber, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Caraval series

My Review

I started reading this book because a friend recommended it, and I’m really glad I did. I read the first book in the Shatter Me series by Mafi before but didn’t continue with the series. It’s been so long since that happened that I honestly couldn’t remember anything about her writing style or storytelling, so I pretty much went into this book without real expectations.

From the first page, the writing impressed me. It has this very rich, deep fantasy feel to it, the kind that won’t let you forget you’re reading about another world. I loved that. I also loved the characters. The narrative alternates between Alizeh and Kamron’s perspectives. The first few chapters follow Alizeh only, so I was a little surprised at Kamron’s first chapter, but very quickly, it becomes obvious how the two stories connect, and by then, I was completely hooked on the story.

I couldn’t read this book fast enough, honestly. The tension between Alizeh and Kamron was so intense. His relationship with his grandfather and her relationships with the apothecary and the young woman she sews dresses for all had me desperately wanting to know more.

As soon as I finished this book, I immediately started reading the second one. I have a feeling this is a series I’ll follow all the way to its end.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Representation
Based on Persian folklore.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used very infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl.

Spiritual Content
There are two types of people in the world: humans, or those made of clay, and Jinn, or those with magic ability. There’s some lore about the devil being cast down to earth by the other gods and him producing the Jinn, though they’ve distanced themselves from him since then. The devil, called Iblees, appears to Alizeh periodically, and she ignores his riddles and messages.

Violent Content
A boy attacks a girl on the street with a knife. She fights back, injuring him enough to escape. References to war. A boy describes seeing his father’s partial remains and being told he must not show any pain at the sight.

A supervisor strikes a servant girl. Assassins attack an unarmed person who fights back. A man threatens to kill a young woman after she learns too much about his plans. A young man remembers a time he jumped from a bridge, trying to end his life. A man stabs another with a sword. Two young men fight with swords, one also using magic. A young woman strikes a man in the face hard enough to make him stumble back.

Drug Content
None.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog.

Review: Not Like Other Girls by Meredith Adamo

Not Like Other Girls
Meredith Adamo
Bloomsbury YA
Published April 30, 2024

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About Not Like Other Girls

A girl risks everything to find her former best friend in this powerful debut mystery about trauma, girlhood, and what we deserve.

When Jo-Lynn Kirby’s former best friend—pretty, nice Maddie Price—comes to her claiming to be in trouble, Jo assumes it’s some kind of joke. After all, Jo has been an outcast ever since her nude photos were leaked—and since everyone decided she deserved it. There’s no way Maddie would actually come to her for help.

But then Maddie is gone.

Everyone is quick to write off Maddie as a runaway, but Jo can’t shake the feeling there’s more to the story. To find out the truth, Jo needs to get back in with the people who left her behind—and the only way back in is through Hudson Harper-Moore. An old fling of Jo’s with his own reasons for wanting to find Maddie, Hudson hatches a fake dating scheme to get Jo back into their clique. But being back on the inside means Jo must confront everything she’d rather forget: the boys who betrayed her, the whispers that she had it coming, and the secrets that tore her and Maddie apart. As Jo digs deeper into Maddie’s disappearance, she’s left to wonder who she’s really searching for: Maddie, or the girl she used to be.

Not Like Other Girls is a stunning debut that takes a hard look at how we treat young women and their trauma, through the lens of a missing girl and a girl trying to find herself again.

My Review

This is the kind of book that stirs up complicated feelings, and it really succeeded at that for me. The writing is really well done. It’s got a great voice that transitions expertly between serious and silly moments. The characters are all flawed or imperfect in some way, and that makes them both very real and sometimes very disappointing.

There’s so much packed into the 400+ pages of this book. Jo deals with the fallout of her photos being stolen and leaked. Her former best friend goes missing. She fake dates a boy, hoping to get information about her missing friend. She uncovers a scandal at school, joins an internship program, and befriends the mean girls in her class.

All the pieces fit together really well, and the story balances each element of the plot so that none of the elements get lost or confusing. It’s a long book, though, and the number of issues to resolve demands a long book. I couldn’t help wondering as I read, though, what the story would have been like if it had been pared down a little bit to focus on fewer things. Does its length and the number of issues in the book dilute its power?

I’m not sure what the answer is. I tend to struggle with longer books these days, so some of that could be a personal preference. I think stories that explore the aftermath of sexual bullying and trauma are so important to discuss, because things like this do happen, and much like the parents of the girl who was attacked, we often don’t know how to respond. Sometimes fiction gives us a safe space to think through trauma and hardship. This is definitely a book that will make you think.

Conclusion

Overall, Not Like Other Girls is powerfully written, important, and packed with complex characters. I wish it had been a little shorter, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Content Notes

Content warning for sexual assault.

Recommended for Ages 16 up.

Representation
Jo is white. One friend is Black and another is a lesbian.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used fairly frequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
References to nude photos shared (by someone else) among a group of students. Kissing between boy and girl. References to oral sex. In a couple of scenes, a boy and girl prepare to have sex. References to sexual touching.

A girl shares splintered memories of a sexual assault.

Spiritual Content
None.

Violent Content
Several people use slut-shaming terms/words about Jo.

A boy punches another boy in the face. Someone attacks a girl. Someone is held for several days against their will. A person threatens to kill someone. A girl attacks a captor who later falls through a dock, injuring their leg.

Drug Content
Teens drink alcohol at a party. Jo and a friend smoke weed that belongs to her dad.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use but help support this blog. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.