May 20, 2022

ARC REVIEW: Shadow Kissed (Marked by Blood #1) by Rebecca L. Garcia

Shadow Kissed (Marked by Blood #1) by Rebecca L. Garcia
Rating: 3 Stars
Release Date: March 16, 2022
Format: eARC (Provided by Author)
Publisher: Self Published by Author

After reading books from Rebecca L. Garcia’s Embracing Darkness Collection and the Fate of Crowns series, I was excited to hear that she was starting a new series and jumped at the chance to be part of her ARC team. It was an even cooler surprise that the book came out a month early. Once I started reading Shadow Kissed, I was hooked on the story (but not as sold by the characters or the worldbuilding). 

The plot of Shadow Kissed is exciting and action-packed. I loved how Ms. Garcia kept me on my toes and guessing while reading. The pace is a bit hectic at times, but that wasn’t enough to affect my enjoyment of the book or the overall rating. It’s interesting to note how each of Ms. Garcia’s series seems to center around magic and one type of supernatural creature (fae for The Fate of Crowns, witches for Embracing Darkness, and now vampires for Marked by Blood). I’m not sure if that was intentional or not, but I did want to note it. With regards to the characters and romance, I wasn’t as sold by Olivia and Sebastian’s relationship as I was Elle and Viktor (Spellbound) or Victoria and Elijah’s (Heart of a Witch). If I had to guess why, it might have been due to the lack of spice and tension that I was expecting (if a book's audience suggestion switches from young adult to new adult, there is a reasonable expectation of some spice and tension). From the author’s note on Goodreads, the trilogy should get steamier as we go so maybe it was in preparation for those books? Despite this first installment being a letdown for me, I could also see how that could be a positive for those who don’t want a book filled with spice (do with that information what you will). 

The issue with the lack of connection to the primary romance and main characters did factor into my rating, but the primary reason I didn’t enjoy it as much as some of her other titles was the worldbuilding. It didn’t feel as fleshed out as the books in the Embracing Darkness collection, or those in the Fate of Crowns series. Shadow Kissed, unfortunately, felt very info-dumpy at times. Most of the descriptions were things that were told to readers, instead of readers being shown things through the character’s perspectives (which is the best type of worldbuilding, in my opinion). It was one of those cases where you love the idea of a book but the actual execution fell flat. As a result of the poor worldbuilding, I had some issues envisioning the setting of the action in my head (which did negatively affect my overall enjoyment of the read). 

Overall, Shadow Kissed was an entertaining read with some minor issues that prevented a full five stars. If you are a fan of tropes (i.e. “there’s only one bed”, the chosen one, forced proximity) and vampire romance, this is a great choice! If extensive worldbuilding is your thing, I might recommend checking out her Embracing Darkness collection instead of this book. Despite the slightly lower rating for this book, I will still be reading more of Rebecca’s books in the future (and likely checking out subsequent installments in this series). Thank you to the author for providing me with a complimentary review copy of the book. I appreciate the opportunity to read and review Shadow Kissed immensely. Please note that I voluntarily read and reviewed Shadow Kissed. All opinions expressed in the review are my own, and not influenced in any way. 

TRIGGER WARNINGS: Cursing, Mentions of Slavery, Suicide, Suicidal Ideation, Blood  

About the Author: Rebecca L. Garcia

Rebecca lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband and son. Born and raised in England, you can find her drinking tea, writing new worlds, and designing covers.
Rebecca devoured every book she was given from the age of five and fell in love with magical worlds. When she got older, her imagination grew with her and she delved into writing strong characters and vast worlds.

When she's not writing or spending time with her family, you can find her traveling, and hosting book signings with Spellbinding Events.


Rebecca is represented by The Next Step PR. For the latest sign-ups, tours, and cover reveals for Rebecca's releases you can go to 

May 18, 2022

ARC REVIEW: Anything but Fine by Tobias Madden

Anything but Fine by Tobias Madden
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Release Date: March 29, 2022
Format: eARC (From Publisher via NetGalley)
Publisher: Page Street Kids 

Anything but Fine by Tobias Madden is a heartbreaking and emotional young adult contemporary novel. Luca is an up-and-coming ballet dancer with a bright and promising future. However, that bright and promising future is taken away from him when he falls down the stairs and breaks multiple bones in his foot. Luca’s whole world changes and he’s forced to rediscover who he is without dance (as if being a teenager wasn’t hard enough by itself). The author takes readers on a journey of many emotions, from triumph to heartbreak and everything in between.

It was super cool that the book was set in Australia. There are loads of books set in the USA or Great Britain, so I think that aspect helped set the book apart from others. I was somewhat confused at times by some of the differences in vocabulary (Australian English vs. “American” English), but it didn’t interfere with my understanding or enjoyment of the book overall. With regards to the audiobook, I really enjoyed Matthew Backer’s narration of the story (his accent is *chef’s kiss* amazing). 

While I enjoyed the romance between Luca and Jordan, Amina is by far my favorite character in the book. She is awesome, and so much better than Luca’s initial friends (this is a total case of quality versus quantity - Grace is the only redeemable one from the “bunheads” in my opinion). Amina is adorable - I thought it was so cute how she’s been dreaming of giving the speech at the farewell assembly for years. I wish I had someone like her in my life - Luca is lucky to have met her (their friendship is definitely one of the major silver linings that came out of his injury).   

Overall, Anything but Fine is an entertaining and fun read. I would recommend it to those in search of queer contemporary young adult romances. I look forward to reading more books by Tobias Madden in the future. Thank you to the author, the publisher, the team at TBR and Beyond Tours, and NetGalley for my complimentary review copy of the book. I appreciate the opportunity to read and review Anything but Fine immensely. Please note - I voluntarily read and reviewed Anything but Fine. All opinions expressed in the review are my own and not influenced in any way. 

TRIGGER WARNINGS: homophobia, homophobic slurs, racism, racist slurs, accidental outing, grief, death (of a parent, past), sports injuries

About the Book

All it takes is one missed step for your life to change forever.

Luca Mason knows exactly who he is and what he wants: In six months, he’s going to be accepted into the Australian Ballet School, leave his fancy private high school, and live his life as a star of the stage—at least that’s the plan until he falls down a flight of stairs and breaks his foot in a way he can never recover from.

With his dancing dreams dead on their feet, Luca loses his performing arts scholarship and transfers to the local public school, leaving behind all his ballet friends and his whole future on stage.

The only bright side is that he strikes up unlikely friendships with the nicest (and nerdiest) girl at his new school, Amina, and the gorgeous, popular, and (reportedly) straight school captain, Jordan Tanaka-Jones.

As Luca’s bond with Jordan grows stronger, he starts to wonder: who is he without ballet? And is he setting himself up for another heartbreak?

*Please note - this post contains affiliate links, from which we may earn a commission (at no additional cost to you) if you make a purchase

About the Author

Tobias is an author and editor from Sydney, Australia. His debut young adult fiction novel, ANYTHING BUT FINE, is out now in Australia and New Zealand (Penguin Teen), and coming to the US March 29 2022 (Page Street YA).

​Originally from Ballarat, Tobias worked for ten years as a performer, touring Australia and New Zealand with musicals such as Mary PoppinsCATSSingin’ in the Rain, and Guys and Dolls. In 2019, he edited and published UNDERDOG, the first #LoveOzYA short story anthology for previously unpublished Aussie young adult fiction writers. Also in 2019, he wrote the cabaret show Siblingship, which played to sold out audiences in Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra. Tobias is a passionate member of the #LoveOzYA and LGBTQ+ communities, and currently works in publishing as a Digital Marketing Executive and YA Publicist.

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