The Book Barrio

A Blog for Fantasy and Romance Readers



Review: Iron and Magic (Iron Covenant 1) by Ilona Andrews


Thank you to Netgalley for giving me an advance copy.

I so loved this book. It’s been a while since I last stayed up late because I couldn’t put a book down. We were promised Hugh’s redemption story and that’s exactly what we got.This story starts off somewhere after Magic Binds (book 9). This is about Hugh (villain in the previous books) finding a home and taking a stand. Hugh enters into an arranged marriage in order to get shelter and food for his people. In return he has to provide protection for his new bride, Elara and her people. There is a lot of violence and magic and sex, which is to be expected for a book about Hugh. The authors did not pull back and I loved every bit of it.

Here are some of my spoilery thoughts, read at your own peril:


1. That horse is a unicorn!

2. I am Filipino, and it made me super happy to see a Filipino creature featured in one of my favorite book series. It felt like receiving an unexpected gift out of nowhere.

3. Elara is a well developed character, but Hugh definitely takes the spotlight and outshines her in every page. The authors kind of kept a lot of Elara’s past a mystery, we have a few hints here and there but not enough for me to love her as much as I love Hugh’s character.

4. Hugh is his usual arrogant, manipulative self. The dialogue between him and Elara are a joy to read. He has met his match. Elara is just as manipulative and secretive. The sex is hooooot.

5. I liked the dynamic between the Iron Dogs. Bale and Lamar bickered like an old married couple.

6. That scene between Hugh and Raphael making peace over Aunt B’s death was just… I have no words.

7. Hugh’s fight scenes were really really good. They’ll keep you on the edge, just like Kate. 

8. Hugh gives out some of the best lines ever. That part when he tells Roland, “You’ll never get your hands on Kate’s kid. I’ll kill you first” was the ultimate best. Uncle of the year. It completely sealed the deal and made me wish for Kate and Hugh’s reunion. 

9. Yes, Hugh should’ve played the brother card with Kate. I look forward to seeing him do that in the next book.

10. I wish Hugh and Elara would adopt Deirdre in the future books.
Having read this book, I can definitely say that the authors have managed to achieve their goal in making us forgive Hugh. I can’t wait to read the final book in the Kate Daniels series.

Rating: 5 Stars +



The Epicness of the Captive Prince Trilogy by C.S. Pacat

Captive Prince Trilogy by C. S. Pacat


Genre: Fantasy, Romance, M/M


Okay everyone, the Captive Prince trilogy is the one and only M/M book that I have ever read and I loved it so much so you have to read it too. It’s set in a fantasy world with two warring Kingdoms. Damianos, the prince of Akielos is betrayed by someone close to him. He is turned into a slave and sent to the enemy kingdom (Vere) to become their slave. Since this is a book, Damen becomes a slave to Prince Laurent of Vere, whose brother Damen killed in battle. Laurent has sworn to have his revenge on Prince Damianos for killing his brother. So the enslaved Damen has to hide his identity from everyone, because once they find out that he’s actually a prince from another kingdom, he’s dead.

Since both kingdoms are at war and there are lots of internal politics going on, we see a lot, as in A LOT of political intrigue and such. My favorite kind of thing. Laurent is a brilliant strategist and tactician. He’s so fierce and smart. He can flay people just by speaking. Damen is a great war hero. He’s the one who fights well, and he’s a good leader on the battlefield. Each has his own strengths, and together they learn to outsmart their enemies and take back what is rightfully theirs.

There is so much going on in these books. The first book, Captive Prince, is all about Damen getting betrayed and enslaved. It is a dark book that contains a lot of violence and suffering on Damen’s part. In the second book, Prince’s Gambit, we see Damen and Laurent slowly get to know each other. This is where they start to help each other, form a strong bond, and develop complicated feelings for each other. Of course, at some point in the trilogy, the secret of Damen’s real identity will come out which promises all sorts of tension and drama. The third and final book, Kings Rising, was a very satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. It was a perfect blend of warfare, romance and political intrigue.

Rating: 5 Stars


Read for Free on the Author’s Blog

Book 1 – Captive Prince

Book 2 – Prince’s Gambit

Book 3 – Kings Rising

Review: Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover


Genre: Romance, New Adult


At twenty-two years old, Sydney is enjoying a great life: She’s in college, working a steady job, in love with her wonderful boyfriend, Hunter, and rooming with her best friend, Tori. But everything changes when she discovers that Hunter is cheating on her—and she’s forced to decide what her next move should be.

Soon, Sydney finds herself captivated by her mysterious and attractive neighbor, Ridge. She can’t take her eyes off him or stop listening to the passionate way he plays his guitar every evening out on his balcony. And there’s something about Sydney that Ridge can’t ignore, either. They soon find themselves needing each other in more ways than one.

A passionate tale of friendship, betrayal, and romance, Maybe Someday will immerse readers in Sydney’s tumultuous world from the very first page.


Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover is quite the angsty read. After breaking up with her cheating boyfriend, Sydney finds herself attracted to Ridge, the guitar player whose music she loves. The problem is that Ridge has a girlfriend who he loves very much.

I can’t say much without giving the story away. This is the book you read when you trust Colleen Hoover. The story addresses so many things. Like how it is possible to fall in love with two different people, and how some actions have certain consequences. It’s very emotional, high drama, with some light humor sprinkled on top. I can see that it could make some other people cry, but not me. Angst junkies will love this book, plus it’s also one of the Top Romances of 2014.

Rating: 4 Stars

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Review: Beautiful Player by Christina Lauren


Genre: Romance


A bombshell bookworm. A chronic Casanova. And a lesson in chemistry too scandalous for school.

When Hanna Bergstrom receives a lecture from her overprotective brother about neglecting her social life and burying herself in grad school, she’s determined to tackle his implied assignment: get out, make friends, start dating. And who better to turn her into the sultry siren every man wants than her brother’s gorgeous best friend, Will Sumner, venture capitalist and unapologetic playboy?

Will takes risks for a living, but he’s skeptical about this challenge of Hanna’s…until the wild night his innocently seductive pupil tempts him into bed- and teaches him a thing or two about being with a woman he can’t forget. Now that Hanna’s discovered the power of her own sex appeal, it’s up to Will to prove he’s the only man she’ll ever need.


I decided to read Beautiful Player by Christina Lauren because I saw it ranked high on the Top Romances of 2014 List on Goodreads. Given the many votes, I was ready to be swept away.

Hanna, is a total nerd. She’s been spending her days in the laboratory instead of having a social life. So her brother enlists the help of his Best friend Will, who is supposed to check in on Hanna and make sure that she has a social life. Yes, this is one of those fall-in-love-with-the-brother’s-best-friend tropes, which I normally don’t like that much. But at the same time, it’s also one of the friends-to-lovers plots, which I happen to really really like.

The friendship is genuine, and I like how they gradually develop feelings for each other, which eventually makes for really hot sex. I love the dialogue between Will and Hanna. There is some humor. Will is such a player and Hanna is also endearing. What I do not like is all the uncertainty about the status of their relationship, whether it’s casual or exclusive and how it’s hurting them both inside. I just feel that it dragged a bit too much.

Overall, I would recommend this to anyone looking for a nice romantic read.

Rating: 4 Stars

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Mini Reviews for the Hardcore Romances

Occasionally, we like to read the Romances that didn’t cross over. Here are some of the guilty pleasures I’ve read this week.


Act Like It by Lucy Parker

The hero and heroine are stage actors who have to pretend to date each other for publicity. The hero’s image gets cleaned up, and the heroine gets to have some money donated to her charity, which would be a win-win for all. The author’s voice is authentic and fresh. I like the light-hearted banter and how the characters grow on each other. There aren’t any of those “I’m pretending but I’m not and I’m so confused” thoughts that we usually see in these tropes. They are honest from the moment they stop pretending and really begin seeing each other romantically. The hero is a redeemable alpha-asshole.

Rating: 4 stars

Links: Goodreads | Amazon



Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas

Widow falls in love with guy who inherits her dead husband’s estate. There are a lot of parts where the heroine was all, “We can’t because I’m a widow, it’s not proper.” It’s a Lisa Kleypas romance, which means it’s guaranteed to be a good read. I also like how the side character’s stories are set up future books. The ending left me wanting to read the next book because I am very intrigued by the side characters.

Rating: 3 stars

Links: Goodreads | Amazon



Forsaking Gray by K.L. Kreig

A Twitter follower recommended this. It’s very heavy soap opera drama. The heroine left the hero because her father sold her to be the wife of some evil guy. Years later, they meet again and she is an emotional wreck about it and can’t tell him why she left. There is a lot of angst and just the right amount of tension. Since I’m an angst junkie, I couldn’t put the book down and I stayed up until 3 am to finish it. I think the love triangle is unnecessary and the ending feels a bit rushed.  (Book 2 is out today!)

Rating: 4 stars

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Review: Midnight Burning by Karissa Laurel

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Romance 25327426


Solina Mundy lives a quiet life, running the family bakery in her small North Carolina hometown. But one night, she suffers a vivid nightmare in which a wolfish beast is devouring her twin brother, who lives in Alaska. The next morning, police notify her that Mani is dead. Driven to learn the truth, Solina heads for the Land of the Midnight Sun. Once there, she begins to suspect Mani’s friends know more about his death than they’ve let on. Skyla, an ex-Marine, is the only one willing to help her.

As Solina and Skyla delve into the mystery surrounding Mani’s death, Solina is stunned to learn that her own life is tied to Mani’s friends, his death, and the fate of the entire world. If she can’t learn to control her newfound gifts and keep her friends safe, a long-lost dominion over mortals will rise again, and everything she knows will fall into darkness.


Solina Mundy’s twin brother was violently murdered. Four months later, Solina decides to visit Siqiniq to pack up her brother’s belongings and to find out about his murderer. Solina has been having these visions that are connected to the things that actually happen in her life, and one of these visions is of her brother being viciously attacked by a wolf.

Her brother’s death’s investigation is leading nowhere, so Solina takes matters into her own hands and tries to find the killer. Her late brother’s coworkers Skyla and Val help her with this. Thorin, who runs the outdoor adventure store her bro used to work at, mysteriously warns her to stop what she’s doing and go home.

The first part is more like a clue hunt, with one clue leading to another and bringing Solina closer to learning who the killer is. When Solina and Skyla delve further into their investigation, Solina’s place gets trashed, and she gets attacked by a wolf during a kayaking adventure. She also reveals some other special abilities that she didn’t know she had.

Now for the spoilery part.

Turns out Thorin and Val have some Norse mythology roots and are descendants of Odin and Thor. Somehow, the deaths of Solina and her brother may lead to another apocalypse. So then Val and Thorin have to protect her in a love triangle way. There’s also a villain who wants to bring about the apocalypse by killing Solina.

And then suddenly Solina gets kidnapped by the Valkyries who want to give her some free training because she has zero fighting skills. At that point, I really really wanted to give up and not finish the book.

I think Solina just loses track of her goals  halfway through the story. She says that she wants to bring her brother’s death to justice but believes some assumptions based on some mythological analogies with their names. Yes, they just assume the identity of the her brother’s killer, without much concrete evidence to support it. We don’t even learn much about her brother, so we don’t feel her grief and pain over that death.

I know I sound a bit like a mess and its because a lot of things didn’t add up. Like why Solina’s place was trashed if the bad guys’ goal was to kill her. Or why Val and Thorin let her go on investigating when they knew what was going on all along. Or why a group of warrior females would have the time and resources to give our heroine some free combat training out of nowhere. The climax didn’t really feel like a climax at all. I don’t feel like we ever got to that moment of absolute despair and desperation before the final battle. Too many questions and not enough struggle to make it believable.

If there’s one thing that was done well, it would have to be the love triangle. There is enough tension between Thorin, Val and Solina. Thorin’s a real hunk. He’s more like the quiet brooding type, while Val’s the playboy flirty persona.

The premise is really interesting. I’ve never read a book based on Norse myths. The references to Thor, Loki and Odin are really interesting. My main beef is that there are inconsistencies in both plot and character. Sometimes, the dots just don’t connect.

Rating: 2 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Review: Tower of Thorns (Blackthorn & Grimm 2) by Juliet Marillier

Genre: Fantasy, Romance 22567177


Disillusioned healer Blackthorn and her companion, Grim, have settled in Dalriada to wait out the seven years of Blackthorn’s bond to her fey mentor, hoping to avoid any dire challenges. But trouble has a way of seeking out Blackthorn and Grim.

Lady Geiléis, a noblewoman from the northern border, has asked for the prince of Dalriada’s help in expelling a howling creature from an old tower on her land—one surrounded by an impenetrable hedge of thorns. Casting a blight over the entire district, and impossible to drive out by ordinary means, it threatens both the safety and the sanity of all who live nearby. With no ready solutions to offer, the prince consults Blackthorn and Grim.

As Blackthorn and Grim begin to put the pieces of this puzzle together, it’s apparent that a powerful adversary is working behind the scenes. Their quest is about to become a life and death struggle—a conflict in which even the closest of friends can find themselves on opposite sides.


Tower of Thorns is the 2nd book in Juliet Marillier’s Blackthorn & Grimm series. As told in the 1st book, Blackthorn struck a deal with Conmael, one of the magic folk. In exchange for helping them escape prison, Blackthorn must never refuse a call for help, or actively seek revenge against her enemy for 7 years.

The book starts when Blackthorn is already in her 6th year of her deal with Conmael. So far, life has been peaceful and simple, she is the local wise woman at Winterfell. Her loyal friend Grimm, is happy to stay with her and help.

Blackthorn meets someone from her past who offers her a rare opportunity to bring her enemy to justice. This would mean breaking her 7 year deal with Conmael and giving up her freedom with Grimm. Blackthorn very much wants to avenge her lost family and seriously considers the undertaking.

At the same time, Lady Geilies needs help. There is a tower in her land surrounded by thorns. By day, the creature that resides in the tower cries and leaves everyone with dark, depressing feelings. It has taken a toll on the land and the people. Lady Geilies needs someone to help stop the howling monster in the tower. She believes that Blackthorn is just the person who can stop the monster.

As with any Juliet Marillier novel, the story is interwoven with little tales and myths with a strong folk tale influence. The love between Blackthorn and Grimm is a slow burn. They are both too damaged to go into a full blown romantic relationship. They are comfortable with their friendship, and it’s good step towards healing and moving on from the past. Their loyalty to each other will be tested. I think this is the book wherein they realize how much they really mean to each other. We also learn a little about Grimm’s past that haunts him.

I also liked the mystery about the tower and the creature. Marillier keeps us guessing at the true nature of the curse and the secrets surrounding it.

The ending is bittersweet and hopeful. I recommend this to fans of the series.

Rating: 4 Stars

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Review: Dragons Realm by Tessa Dawn

Genre: Fantasy, Romance 27006898


Mina Louvet is a fighter, a human with a powerful will to survive in a world dominated by warlocks, soul-eaters, and shifters. Identified by the king’s witch as one of the rare, invaluable females in Dragons Realm who can give birth to a dragon’s son, she was stolen from her parents as a child and taken to the Keep to be reared in the ways of the Ahavi. As one of the few, the elect ~ the Sklavos Ahavi ~ Mina is expected to feed her master’s fire, reanimate his blood, and above all else, give him strong dragon offspring: children who will one day rise to power. But Mina, to her great misfortune, is far too intelligent for her own good: She has a stubborn sense of justice, and she is wholly incapable of blind submission.

Dante Dragona is as cunning as he is lethal, as methodical as he is dangerous, and as terrifying as he is powerful. As the eldest of three dragon princes, he is destined to succeed his merciless father to the throne of Castle Dragon. But first he must do his duty to the Realm by governing one of its harsh, unforgiving districts and claiming a Sklavos Ahavi. Hardened by the sadistic abuse he endured as a child and shaped by the tragic suicide of his twin, the prince lives only to fulfill his obligations to the monarchy: to maintain law and order in a bestial land, to contain its magical inhabitants, and to keep the kingdom safe from its mortal enemies, the Lycanian shifters across the sea. Like all primordial dragons, he rules with an iron fist, dominates with absolute power, and punishes with fire. Those who oppose him die a swift and brutal death ~ subject, enemy, or slave ~ the Realm has no tolerance for weakness.

When the iron resolve of a dragon prince clashes with the stubborn will of a slave, bonds will be broken, alliances will be tested, and a kingdom will be set ablaze.


When I read about the plot involving dragons and arranged marriages, I was really curious to see where the story would lead. This is my first time to try this author so I came in with no expectations.

Mina, one of the Sklavos Ahavi, is foretold to be able to produce male heir dragons. For this reason, she is taken from her family and groomed to be one the wives of the royal princes. She is not content about her lot as a prized broodmare for dragons, and would escape if she could.

From the first meeting, Mina feels a strong connection towards the eldest dragon prince, Dante. However they will have to wait for five months until the autumn festival wherein the King will choose the brides for each prince.

Both Mina and Dante fell a bit flat for me. Mina fit the typical romance heroine stereotype – headstrong, beautiful, submissive, willing to stupidly put herself in danger and be rescued. While Dante had a uber alpha thing going on, his “beast” needed to assert its dominance all the time. He was all, “You are mine,” to Mina.

The plot was well paced enough that I was able to keep on reading. However I felt that some of the events of the book weren’t really that believable. For example, Mina’s sister got kidnapped and sold into slavery. Even though Mina is one of the kingdom’s prized brides, she was able to easily escape the palace to spy on slave traders, and learn of her sister’s whereabouts. Mina would put herself in danger and Dante would be there to save her at the right time.

I also wanted more details about the world, its laws, the politics and the war going on. Some parts felt rushed to me. I just felt that there was a lack of balance between romance and fantasy elements, and the characters.

Rating: 2 Stars

Amazon | Goodreads

Review: Land of the Beautiful Dead by R. Lee Smith

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Horror, Erotica 




He ascended from the darkness years ago—Azrael the Eternal, Azrael the Undying, Azrael Who Is Death—bringing with him the black rains, the fires, the souring of the sky, and the Eaters. Now he rules in the walled city of Haven with his favored Children and his dead court, while all that is left of the living struggles to survive in the ruins of a world that used to be their own. But even as extinction looms, humanity will never surrender to their monstrous conqueror.

For Lan, this brutal life has been the only one she’s ever known, but she still believes it can change. If the war can never truly end until the Eaters are ended, she will go to Haven, to Azrael himself, and demand he end them. To her surprise, she does not immediately die the hero’s death she expected. Instead, Azrael offers her a chance to convince him, and all she has to do is submit herself to the chill embrace of the lord of the Land of the Beautiful Dead.


When I heard that R. Lee Smith had a new book out, I just knew I had to stop everything and read it. And it was a very long, very satisfying read. I was totally obsessed. My eyes were tired, I knew it was unhealthy to stay up so late reading but I just couldn’t put it down.

The story is set in a post apocalyptic world. Azrael, the Lord of the Dead, has conquered the world. He has the power to control the dead, make them live again, or turn them into zombies called Eaters. He invaded England, and is enjoying his victory over mankind. Lan, a young woman born in a harsh world, decides to face Azrael to ask him to end the Eaters. She believes in peace and she wants to end the suffering.

And herein lies the dilemma. If Azrael ends the Eaters, which are what keeps the humans at bay, the humans will surely attack and there will be war and death all over again. But Lan is stubborn and she is not leaving until she gets what she wants. So Azrael decides to grant her an audience. She can plead her hopeless case again and again, in exchange for being his whore, courtesan, mistress, his dolly.

Azrael is not exactly human, think demonic, scarred human-like immortal creature. He has been betrayed, tortured, hunted down, burned, piked, anything you can think of, but he does not die. And humans, being really stupid kept on trying to destroy him and provoked a war. Azrael did not want a fight with the humans, but in order to have his peace, he was pushed into creating his dead army to protect himself. War became the only way he knew how to live.

Lan  has lived a harsh life. She was born in a post apocalyptic world. People who die turn into Eaters. There was no proper grieving for the dead. There was a lack of food, and she has had to sell pieces of herself to survive. Despite all this, she believes that if the Eaters just went away, the world could move on from the war. And she is willing to do anything to stop the Eaters.

The story is very raw, emotional and obsessive.  It was about humanity, death and love. It’s a character driven epic love story. And their love was so beautiful, unforgettable. The ending was one of the best endings I’ve ever read. I know on the surface it sounds really horrific, but trust me and give this book a chance.

It is even a bit more tame and less violent compared to the other novels by R. Lee Smith. So if you have never read anything by this author before, then this would be a good book to start with. You won’t regret it.

Rating: 5 Stars

LinksAmazon | Goodreads

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