Tag Archives: paranormal

Superntural Love Interests

discussion

Hello and welcome! :) It’s time for another discussion here on Of Dragons and Hearts. I know you’ve missed my rambling posts (right?) and here I am again. As usual, I’m linking this up to the Discussion Challenge, where great posts are collected by two awesome ladies who are hosting it.

This time, we’re chatting about SUPERNATURAL LOVE INTERESTS. In paranormal romance or fantasy (am I missing any other genres?), the species of the protagonists is often something other than human. I won’t go into the deep symbolism of each of the creatures I’ve listed below, though that could be a fantastic post to write, as well. I won’t go delve into why male protagonists are more often inhuman while the woman (the heroine of the story) is often a “weak” human, though that does rub me the wrong way sometimes, too. (So many possible future discussions!)

Personally, I have to admit that I prefer that love interests are warm-blooded and human-looking at least part of the time. Not all creatures are created equal and though I’ve heard of things like tentacle erotica, they mostly just make me shudder in horror. What can I say, I’m a traditionalist. I like to imagine supernatural love interests as humans with some supernatural abilities – because I like humans a lot.

Now, why would anyone even want to read about a human falling in love with an inhuman? I think that in paranormal romance, it’s the thrill of, er, doing something (or someone) forbidden with a set of attributes (like extra great stamina or, um, extra great parts of the male anatomy) that human men lack – or so these romances would have you believe. *sigh* In fantasy, however, a partner of a different species can offer a chance to explore issues like gender and societal expectations. If you have any good examples of this, I’d love to hear about them!

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This is a list of the supernatural love interests I could think of, along with some examples of novels where they appear (where I reviewed the book, the link goes to that review, otherwise you’ll be directed to Goodreads).

  • Vampires. Hello, obviously. This is probably the most common supernatural creature in paranormal romances I’ve read. I see why they are attractive to a lot of people but if I had to pick one species, vampires definitely wouldn’t be it. Something about them being dead just gives me the creeps (am I the weird one here?). Try: Twilight (haha), A Discovery of Witches, Dark Lover, The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires.
  • Werewolves. Again, obviously. These guys are probably the second most common ones? I like them better than vampires, especially in their modern reincarnations, where they shift form at will, not just at full moon, and they retain some humanity and reason even when they’re furry. Try: How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf (seriously, Molly Harper is the best), Shiver, Soulless.
  • Shifters. Every possible kind of werecreature. Werecats, werebadgers, werebears – I’ve seen them all. I can’t even remember where they popped up but there were even wererats. I think they weren’t meant to be seen as sexy but there you have it.
  • uprooted-naomi-novikWitches. These are probably the most humanoid. I mean, they are just humans with magical powers, no pointy ears or animal attributes or fangs or whatever. I like witches, they can be seriously badass. Try: A Discovery of Witches, Half Bad, Book of ShadowsWhite Cat, Uprooted, The Near Witch. So many good ones here!
  • Aliens. This one is probably the most disturbing to me. How cocky are we to assume that aliens would be humanoid and capable of having any sorts of relations with humans? *sigh* Try: Obsidian, Saga (okay so there aren’t any humans in this one so far but still).
  • Demons. Ooh, demons. Maybe my favourites? There are just so many types of them. And okay, I wouldn’t want to meet an actual demon, like the servant of Satan, but they can be pretty cool. Try: Dark Desires After Dusk.
  • angelfall-susan-eeAngels. Angels are interesting because in both series that I’ve read that feature them, there’s a big debate over whether they are all good or not (not) and whether being a gorgeous winged person means you have the right to rule over humans and other creatures (nope). Try: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Angelfall.
  • Fae. The Fae are just amazing. Along with demons, they are my favourite supernatural creatures. They are usually described as gorgeous and alluring but they are, in fact, not human at all and have little patience for mortals. *shudder* Greg discussed them recently if you want to take a peek. Try: Darkfever
  • Valkyries. I only read one series (Immortals After Dark) with valkyries, but they were significantly changed from the maidens who welcomed warriors to Valhalla in Norse mythology.
  • stardust-neil-gaimanStars. Okay, a star. Because I can only remember one, from Stardust.
  • Dragons. Okay, so these are kind of awesome. They have human forms, of course, but are capable of turning into full-fledged, winged, fire-breathing monsters. So COOL! Try: Nice Dragons Finish Last, Talon.
  • Demigods. Okay, so this one is more of a middle grade novel, not a romance, but there’s still some falling in love! :) Try: Percy Jackson.
  • Trolls. This is a really weird one I can’t get my head around. I only read one series with trolls and excuse me, but aren’t trolls grey and enormous and relatively unintelligent? Eh. Try: Stolen Songbird.

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Have you read any of these? Do you have other (romance) recommendations for me?

Do you like reading about supernatural creatures or do you prefer your hero(ine)s to be human?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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A Batch of YA Mini Reviews

I’ve had these written up and sitting around for a while and I really think it’s time for me to publish them. It may look like I’ve had the two ARCs for years because of their publication dates but I only received them last year, so I’m not that horrible.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Published in 2011 by Walker Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (Slovenian hardback).

Genre: MG urban fantasy/magical realism?.

My rating:

I enjoyed Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy a lot. I even saw him when he visited a book festival in Ljubljana – he’s one of the few authors who did. I read both that trilogy and A Monster Calls in Slovenian translations, which are very good. But while I liked A Monster Calls, I didn’t love it like I expected to. Maybe my expectations were too high?

In any case, this is a good story about a boy dealing with grief, it’s an important story to have if you need to offer it to a child/young person dealing with a similar situation. I guess we all deal with loss in our lives, in one way or another; hopefully not too often, but such is the way of life. I thought Ness did a credible job of working through the issues of denial, anger, and helplessness that come with such a life situation. I know a lot of people absolutely adore this book, so I urge you to give it a try, especially if you’ve already read Ness’s other stories and liked them.

The artwork is also absolutely brilliant, I think the story wouldn’t be half as good without it. Jim Kay is the man who’s working on the illustrated versions of Harry Potter, but his style is completely different here, it’s dark and scary.

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Thorn by Intisar Khanani
Published in 2012 by Intisar Khanani.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: author via NetGalley. Thank you Intisar Khanani for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA fantasy/fairytale retelling.

My rating:

Uh, this is one of my old ARC debts… I read Thorn last year as a part of the Fairytale Retelling Challenge, though I never got around to reviewing it. *sigh* I find it hard to write about books I neither actively liked nor disliked, I never know what exactly to write about them. I did enjoy Thorn, it’s a retelling of “The Goose Girl”, where a princess is unlawfully replaced by an evil impostor and has to prove her worth even though she’s now stripped of her royal status. I liked the story, it doesn’t rely on privilege and birthright to show a character’s strength, but I felt like the author didn’t really add anything important to the original story. The plot is essentially the same, only the decor is different. I liked the slightly Oriental vibe, but I found the princess’s reliance on God to be overwhelming, I prefer it if characters primarily believe in themselves and other people. It’s just one of those personal pet peeves, what can I say. I also missed more fantasy elements – I know fairy tales don’t necessarily feature them but this story did, to an extent. So I wished for a more pronounced world-building and/or magic system. This wasn’t a bad story but I wish it was executed more thoughtfully.

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Shadows (The Rephaim #1) by Paula Weston
by Text Publishing.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you Text Publishing for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA paranormal fantasy.

My rating:

Well, what can I say, I’m a sucker for YA paranormals. Ever since I read Twilight, I’ve been searching for good stories (YES, I know, it’s horrible of me to say that but it’s true. I refuse to feel ashamed.) that would break the mold. And… Shadows doesn’t, really. I mean, it’s always nice to read a story where angels aren’t the good guys, though I think Laini Taylor took excellent care of that with her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. Shadows is decidedly darker, more violent and kind of mysterious, but it has the requisite hot guy who knows too much about the heroine, the jealous ex-boyfriend (who is also gorgeous, hello, he’s an angel!) and a heroine who kicks ass even though she can’t remember where she’s learned it all. I liked the twin angle – she’s grieving/missing her twin brother, I think that if the story will develop that part, it might get really good. I’ll probably pick up the sequel one day, I’m just not in a huge rush to do so.

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Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Do you have any fairytale retelling of paranormal fantasy recs for me?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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A Batch of Romance Mini Reviews

This is a mixed bag of romances, two rather good ones and one that was decidedly underwhelming. See if anything catches your fancy!

 

The Princess Wore Plaid (The Oxenburg Princes #2.5) by Karen Hawkins
Published on March 21, 2016 by Pocket Star.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via Netgalley. Thank you Pocket Star for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: historical romance.

My rating:

This is a novella from The Oxenburg Princes series and it was actually my favourite story so far. I usually dislike reading novellas because the characters or the story always feel underdeveloped, but this certainly wasn’t the case here! The novels focus on the brothers – princes – of the royal family of Oxenburg, a made up East-European country. They somehow end up traipsing through Scotland and falling in love. This novella features their royal cousin, the princess Tatiana and a recluse of a Scottish Lord. I didn’t enjoy the princes’ stories as much because they were domineering and very alpha, but Lord XX is a damaged man who allows XY into his life and heart despite his opinion that a young woman has no business spending time with a crippled loner. The heroine has been in a carriage accident and has suffered some memory loss, and is now employed at a country inn as a kitchen maid. I liked how she thought about her life as a royal and the things that made a person good, she really changed and grew up as a character, which, as you know, is very important to me. I’ve read most of Karen Hawkins’s books, so I’ll most definitely be reading the last part of this series as well – it’s the crown prince’s story! :)

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Sweet Ruin (Immortals After Dark #16) by Kresley Cole
Published in December 2015 by Gallery Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via Netgalley. Thank you Gallery Books for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: paranormal romance.

My rating:

Oh, Kresley Cole… I have such a love-hate relationship with her. I absolutely adore the first… eight or so instalments of her Immortals After Dark super-series. Though her heroes are alpha males (yes, males, they’re demons and werewolves and whatnot) and often overbearing and insistent to the point of being pushy, her heroines definitely knew how to handle themselves and mostly kicked the men’s asses into submission, rarely taking shit from them. But once Cole started writing NA paranormals (seriously, don’t even bother with those, they’re horrible, or at least the first one is, I never continued with the series) and erotica (which kind of made me want to wash my eyeballs), the quality of her characters has slipped, I think. 

I… read Sweet Ruin in a day or so, the story is still good and the writing pretty addictive, but I wish for more truly independent women, not just superficially “strong” heroines who conform to their partner’s wishes. Eh. Also, this one opened up the world of the Lore, which is already complicated as fuck, to a whole other dimension of super deities, which worries me a lot, because it looks like we’re in for another sub-series of crazy-powerful individuals, who are mostly male, which always troubles me when they’re paired with women who can’t really cope with that kind of strength. I mean, before, the couples in her romances were valkyrie and a werewolf, for example, both were immortal and the woman was more than capable of slapping the man around. But now … things just aren’t so level anymore, and I never like such imbalance. Eh. We’ll see where the series goes, I might give the next part another try for old times’ sake.

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Playing For Her Heart (Gamers #2) by Megan Erickson
by Entangled Publishing.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via Netgalley. Thank you Entangled Publishing for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: contemporary romance/erotica.

My rating:

Ooh, another ARC debt. I actually enjoyed this one a lot. It’s a contemporary romance bordering on erotica with some role playing involved. The couple hooks up at a SFF convention (I really want to visit ComiCon or something someday, not for the sex, obviously, but for the amazing cosplay!), they are dressed as characters from the same video game, and the sex is off the charts hot. But then the girl disappears from the room and the guy is left wondering if he’ll ever see her again. He does, of course, as she’s his best friend’s shy sister – she only lets go when she’s playing a role, so he accepts that, but knows he wants more than just games from her (he’s playing for her heart, hint hint). Anyway, this was a nice surprise, as I haven’t had much luck with Entangled romances in the past (which hasn’t prevented me from reading them, *sigh*). 

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Did you read any of these? What did you think?

Do you stay loyal to authors even after they’ve disappointed you?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle
Published July 2nd/August 18th, 2015 by Corgi Children's.

Links: Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Source: Publisher via Netgalley. Thank you Corgi Children's for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA paranormal fantasy/magical realism.

My rating:

It’s the accident season, the same time every year. Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom.

The accident season has been part of seventeen-year-old Cara’s life for as long as she can remember. Towards the end of October, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them, Cara’s family becomes inexplicably accident-prone. They banish knives to locked drawers, cover sharp table edges with padding, switch off electrical items – but injuries follow wherever they go, and the accident season becomes an ever-growing obsession and fear.

But why are they so cursed? And how can they break free?

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Ahh, this book… Where do I start?

I suspect I liked it so much because I read it at a perfect time. I was searching for something new and fresh, a standalone (you know how terrible I am at finishing series) and something with a story I hadn’t read a hundred times before. Reading the second half of the novel while we were spending a day out in the woods, right by a small river that cooled us on an impossibly hot day, probably had something to do with it, too. Sometimes, you read a book and the timing is exactly right and everything just falls into place (it happened with this book as well).

Whatever happened, I would probably like The Accident Season in any case. It has terrific rhythm, the writing is poetic and haunting without being pretentious and Fowley-Doyle smoothly weaves old Irish folk elements into a story of a family that is quite ordinary for most of the year and extremely unlucky for one month every autumn. Unfortunately, if you’ve read the summary, you’ve pretty much read everything that can be said about The Accident Season without spoilers.

So let’s raise our glasses to the accident season,/ To the river beneath us where we sink our souls./ To the bruises and the secrets./To the ghosts in the ceiling./One more drink for the watery road.

I get shivers whenever I remember this poem.

I wish I could have read this novel when I was 17. Not that I didn’t relate to the characters as a 28-year-old but Cara is exactly the sort of heroine I missed (without really knowing it) when I was in high school. Well, if teenagers smoking and drinking offends you, you’ll probably find the main characters to be an unlikeable bunch. I, however, found Cara, Bea, Sam and Alice to be real and tragic and loveable and unique.

I’ve been thinking about the ending a lot. If you check my “genre” description, you’ll see I was a tad confused by it – but I think that we’re meant to be confused by it, by the dreams and apparitions and everything. Look, I know it sounds weird and I’ve said I dislike being left in the dark before but Fowley-Doyle was one author I didn’t mind following blindly through the story.

I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more work from Moïra Fowley-Doyle – I believe The Accident Season is her debut novel and if it’s any indication of what’s to come, I think I may have found another favourite author.

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Are you a mood reader? Or do you always enjoy similar books?

Do you like to know where the author’s leading you? Are you afraid of being left in the dark?

Ooh – if you answer one question, answer this one: what were you like in high school? :)

End of Days by Susan Ee

End of Days (Penryn & the End of Days #3) by Susan Ee
Published May 2015 by Skyscape.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: Purchased (e-book).

Genre: YA urban/paranormal fantasy.

My rating:

After a daring escape from the angels, Penryn and Raffe are on the run. They’re both desperate to find a doctor who can reverse the twisted changes inflicted by the angels on Raffe and Penryn’s sister. As they set off in search of answers, a startling revelation about Raffe’s past unleashes dark forces that threaten them all.

When the angels release an apocalyptic nightmare onto humans, both sides are set on a path toward war. As unlikely alliances form and strategies shift, who will emerge victorious? Forced to pick sides in the fight for control of the earthly realm, Raffe and Penryn must choose: Their own kind, or each other?

zmaj-desnoThis is the review for the third and final instalment of the trilogy, so there are bound to be some spoilers for Angelfall and World After (click to read my reviews).

Can I just say how much I love the cover? The whole series looks amazing and it’s one of the few times I’ve been tempted to buy physical copies in addition to e-versions so I could admire them on my shelf.

But the story… Oh, I wanted ever so much to love it because Raffe and Penryn have to be one of the cutest / weirdest couples in recent YA fiction, I liked the fight for humanity, the terrible angels and everything, but all the things that were wrong with World After just got worse here.

So… what went wrong?

  • Too many flashbacks – or at least, too much of the story hinges on the information Penryn gets by listening to Raffe’s sword, Pooky Bear (yeah I love that name!). This means she isn’t actually present for the action and doesn’t end up doing much up until the last part of the book.
  • Too much weird stuff – if you’ve read the first two novels, you know this book is all about the weird. But I got the feeling Ee was trying to fit in as much info and happening as she possibly could and the result was more than a little confusing at times.
Did you know there's a meme generator for these? SO COOL. Also, my first meme on the blog (soon, I'll be using gifs [never!]).

Did you know there’s a meme generator for these? SO COOL. Also, my first meme on the blog (soon, I’ll be using gifs, haha). I love Hyperbole and a Half.

  • A change of scenery. Ok I’m just going to go into full spoiler mode here and put it in white and if you’ve read the book, I’d love to discuss this but don’t read it if you haven’t. You’ve been warned! *spoiler in white* That part when Penryn and Raffe ride hellions (Btw are those devils? Fallen angels? Demons?) into the hellhole to get back Raffe’s fallen Watchers. OMG this was too confusing. Their wings were still attached but without feathers? Were they demons, then? What’s up with that disgusting sea of hands? And anyone who isn’t freaked out by maggots is weird. No question. I have no idea what happened there. Also – how could they leave Belliel down there? I dislike time-travelling stories where the whole changing-the-future thing isn’t well thought-out and here it was more of an afterthought. Couldn’t they have just gone into this hellhole and pulled them out? I don’t know… Also: I didn’t like how this pulled them out of the action on Earth. Too much of that alltogether. *end spoiler*
  • Dee and Dum. Fred and George Weasley, anyone?

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But it wasn’t all bad, that’s for sure. I liked how Penryn’s and Raffe’s relationship worked out in the end and that *spoiler in white* for once, it wasn’t the girl who sacrificed herself for the boy*end spoiler*! Penryn’s mom and sister also have significant roles here and I liked the family dynamic. I know, I know, the mother is still as crazy (seriously, this goes beyond paranoid schizophrenia) as she was but Penryn starts seeing her in a different way.

I wonder what devout Christian readers might think of this story. It’s not really clear (at least it wasn’t to me) whether God exists, whether his Messenger was just deluded or not… And the portrayal of the vast majority of the angels isn’t too favourable. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? I read books with Christian mythology pretty much the same as I would those that include Nordic or Celtic (or completely made-up) gods but I get that it could be delicate for some readers. I loved what Laini Taylor did with the angels (and devils!) in her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, for example.

All in all, I’m glad I finished this series (I’m really bad with finishing series!), it was a quick read and Raffe and Penryn still melt my heart a little. But I was hoping for something else, story-wise, so this didn’t work too well for me.

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Have you read End of Days? How about Angelfall or World After?

What did you think?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Author Addiction: Jennifer L. Armentrout

author addictionWelcome to our new feature, Author Addiction. It’s a montly thing I do with Becky from A Fool’s Ingenuity and is intended for the general appreciation of some of the authors we like.

If you want to join us, just write your own post sometime in January, put your link in the comments and we’ll make sure it’s visible in our posts. Don’t forget to use #authoraddiction so we can find your tweets! :)

This month we chose Jennifer L. Armentrout (also known as J. Lynn) as the author we’re addicted to. She has a new book, The Return, the first in a series, coming out on February 17, which made her an easy choice.

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I wrote a post about binge-reading Armentrout’s novels last month and I stand by what I said: I am caught in her web. As I told Becky when we were discussing our choice of authors, Armentrout may not be the next Tolstoy, but that’s not the point of her books. She writes books to entertain and she does a damn good job.

I’ve recently been on a new adult binge (I should probably get some help soon) and I was disappointed by the lack of playfulness in these books about young people. Not that every book should be playful, mind you, I know life is shit sometimes, but these are romances I was reading and dammit, I want my romances to be fluffy. Don’t take yourselves so seriously, people!

It’s only after I read some of these books that were… well, they were bad, that I realized how difficult it is to find this balance Armentrout has figured out – the right amount of romance, action, witty, funny banter, and teenage angst. Her sense of humor is awesome, and while her heroines could use a Schnellkurs (err quick lesson) in rethinking their sexuality, I find most of the books I’ve read by her a real delight.

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The first Armentrout’s book I read was Obsidian, which I didn’t particularly like (mini review). I mean, Daemon Black has to be one of the silliest names I’ve encountered in young adult literature. He’s also kind of a jerk to Katy, so he wasn’t my favourite.

armentrout-wickedBut then Becky (she of the wonderful romance recommendations and my partner in crime) said that White Hot Kiss was really good, I gave it a try and I was hooked. I’m not going to review her novels again because I don’t want to repeat myself, but for anyone who hasn’t read Armentrout’s novels yet, The Dark Elements trilogy is a great place to start. While Zayne didn’t inspire any strong feelings in me, Roth the demon is definitely a candidate for the list of favourite fantasy heroes.

My favourite book so far is Wickedhowever, because it’s geared at a slightly older public, Ivy is delightful and her chemistry with Ren is hothothot. Ivy’s sidekick, Tink (think male Tinkerbell on crack), is the best – he’s obsessed with Harry Potter and bakes the best cakes. Here’s Danya’s review if you want another opinion.

I also read Frigid, which she wrote under her other name, J. Lynn (this is used, as far as I can tell, for contemporary new adult romances). It’s not as much fun as her paranormal fantasy series, but it’s good for getting over the gap between the publication dates.

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return-armentroutscorched-armentrout-lynnI don’t exactly know how she does it, but she’s got (at least) four books coming out in 2015:

  1. The Return (Titan #1), which is out in two weeks! Eep! :)
  2. Scorched (Frigid #2) is coming in June.
  3. Every Last Breath (The Dark Elements #3) is coming in July.
  4. Torn (A Wicked Saga #2) is also supposed to be published in 2015.

I obviously still have a number of her books to read, namely the contemporary romances she writes as J. Lynn. I might also give her Covenant novels another try, we’ll see.

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You can find Jennifer L. Armentrout here:

her site, Twitter, Instagram (where she posts cute pics of her dog, Loki), Goodreads.

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Join us next month when we will fangirl (and fanboy, if the occasion arises) over Sarah J. Maas and her amazing fantasy writing. Our posts will go live on Monday, March 2.

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Have you read any books by Jennifer L. Armentrout? What did you think of them?

Do you like your romances fun & fluffy or somber & serious?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!