“I Love You Just the Way You Are” is the story of transformation. Of the main characters coming into their own and living their most authentic selves, and none more so than Maddie, a trans girl who braves going back to high school presenting as female when, just a year ago, she was still closeted. Maddie is incredibly brave, but she also has an amazing support system in her parents and her twin sister, making sure she is safe and able to live her truth. And then there’s Kellan, the star quarterback who has a truly horrendous home situation, but is incredibly popular and can sleep with any woman he wants in a love-them-and-leave-them fashion, until he sees Maddie working in a local café over the summer. He’s immediately smitten by this metalhead with her manga hair, and will not take no for an answer when she spurns his advances. Because while Kellan may not remember Maddie from before she came out, Maddie certainly remembers Kellan! While I loved that Kellan was so instantly attracted to Maddie and desperate to be with her or be her friend, his obsessiveness could be a bit… much at times.
This is my first book by Kova so I didn’t have any expectations going in, but she really does live up to the hype! I was expecting more Beauty and the Beast vibes from this story, but after the first few chapters this leaned more into the Hades and Persephone reimagining instead. Which was fine! I loved watching Luella and Eldas struggle to find balance between themselves and their worlds. Their romance was emotional and tender, with just a little on page spice that kept this from going full NA. It did get a little slow for me in parts as I felt things were a bit redundant with how often Luella reminds the reader that she is a healer and has to get back to her small town. I kind of wish we also got some of Eldas’ POV in this book, but with it written in 1st person, I understand why we didn’t, I just thought he had such an interesting perspective that there was enough of a story there to give him more of a voice, too.
“Terminal Static” is the second book in the Echo Trail series, so if you haven’t read “Resurrection Road” yet, do that before reading this review. I’ll do my best to avoid all spoilers, but you never know what may slip through the veil. In this second book, Laz, Zeke, and Eden are looking to relax after surviving their encounter with the blood mage, each has changed to varying degrees, but none more so than Zeke. This second book focuses more on his emotional journey and I loved seeing him struggle with wanting to remain who he was in the face of all the new changes he’s undergoing, and what that may mean for his family—considering his father got out of the hunting life a long time ago. But of course, the consequences of their showdown with the blood mage continue to follow them in surprising, and really creepy ways!
“Where Acorns Landed” is literary fantasy with an absurdist fiction flare. Meshing Celtic Mythology with Arthurian Legend, and sprinkled with supernatural elements, the reader follows Lowell and Brighid as they navigate loss, and new beginnings, all while clinging almost too tightly to a sense of normalcy. Under the guise of making a documentary, Lowell and Brighid are thrust together just in time to see their corner of the world succumb to a plethora of supernatural sightings. Neither Lowell nor Brighid know who is orchestrating their mystery project, one that seems impossibly linked to their lives, which gives this novel a dark, and sinister vibe to it that I rather enjoyed. Readers will be kept guessing and in the dark about what is happening and why all the way to the end—just like the main characters.
East of the Sun, West of the Moon is one of those fairytales that feels like it gets done all the time, because of how closely Beauty and the Beast resembles this original tale. But “Daylight’s Curse” was a fresh take on an old classic with all the hallmarks of big, epic fantasies that Hackett is so masterful at crafting. We follow Sebrena, an elf woman who struggles with belonging in her tight knit community as the only one without magic. Through a deal to help her family and her people, despite their ridicule, Sabrena agrees to marry the broody fae prince, who is cursed to be a dragon during the day, returning to his true form at night. Like Sabrena, Kiran also makes a deal that puts him at a disadvantage in order to protect the continent. Which makes for such a strong basis for these two characters, forced into a marriage neither truly wants, to build a genuine, and beautiful relationship from. As long as they don’t accidentally trigger the curse that could see their world destroyed by the evil troll sorceress in the meantime, of course.
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