Top Ten Tuesday: It’s all above LOVE… My ten favorite love stories from this past year of reading (new & improved for 2021)

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Love Freebie, which means we all put our own spin on the topic of LOVE.

Just like I did for February 2020’s Love Freebie TTT, I’m going to keep it simple and highlight my ten favorite love stories that I read in the past year:

1. The Duke & I by Julia Quinn: Like just about everyone else, I have firmly jumped onto the Bridgerton bandwagon! I loved the Netflix show, and I’m finding the books pretty charming and fluffy too.

2. The Glamourist Histories by Mary Robinette Kowal: This five-volume historical-fiction-with-magic series is EVERYTHING, and includes one of my very favorite fictional couples, Jane and Vincent, who embody what a truly loving partnership of equals can and should be. LOVE these books.

3. Recipe For Persuasion by Sonali Dev: A spice-infused retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, set at a cooking competition show with sweet romance and great characters. Lots of fun.

4. Folk of the Air trilogy by Holly Black: I seem to take every opportunity to talk about these books! This is not a romance series, but there is a great love story mixed in with all the intrigue and scheming and magical goings-on.

5. Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald: I totally fell for the love story at the heart of this timey-wimey tale. Bonus points for taking place in Grand Central Station in New York, which is just an ultra-romantic setting, in my humble opinion.

6. Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade: Sweet and sizzling romance, plus fanfic and fandoms and body positivity… great read!

7. A Stitch In Time by Kelley Armstrong: More timey-wimey goodness! A timeslip romance that’s well-done, full of mystery and passion, with an awesome setting in a haunted house on the moors.

8. Well Met and Well Played by Jen DeLuca: What could be better than romance at a Ren Faire? How about two romances at two Ren Faires? Can’t wait for book #3 to come out later this year.

9. The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan: I always love this author’s books, but this one especially appealed to me, and I loved the love story at its heart, which is both a story about a couple falling in love, but also about a woman finding love for the children she’s hired to take care of. All around sweet and lovely.

10. Bookish and the Beast by Ashley Poston: The Once Upon a Con series is so much fun, and the mismatched pair at the heart of this geeky love story are really sweet.

What were the best love stories you read during the past year?

If you wrote a TTT post this week, please share your link and let me know your topic!

And PS – Happy (early) Valentine’s Day!

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Book Review: How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories by Holly Black

Title: How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories
Author: Holly Black
Illustrated by: Rovina Cai
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: November 24, 2020
Length: 173 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

An illustrated addition to the New York Times bestselling Folk of Air trilogy, that started with The Cruel Prince, from award-winning author Holly Black.

An irresistible return to the captivating world of Elfhame.

Once upon a time, there was a boy with a wicked tongue.

Before he was a cruel prince or a wicked king, he was a faerie child with a heart of stone. #1 New York Times bestselling author, Holly Black reveals a deeper look into the dramatic life of Elfhame’s enigmatic high king, Cardan. This tale includes delicious details of life before The Cruel Prince, an adventure beyond The Queen of Nothing, and familiar moments from The Folk of the Air trilogy, told wholly from Cardan’s perspective.

This new installment in the Folk of the Air series is a return to the heart-racing romance, danger, humor, and drama that enchanted readers everywhere. Each chapter is paired with lavish and luminous full-color art, making this the perfect collector’s item to be enjoyed by both new audiences and old.

A beautiful, wonderful book — a must for anyone who loves the Folk of the Air trilogy!

You many have seen my lovefests about Holly Black’s excellent trilogy (which I ended up reading twice in 2020!). I was delighted to treat myself to a hardcover copy of this new book, and so happy to finally have a peaceful day to sit and enjoy it.

In How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories, we are treated to ten brief tales about Cardan, the High King of Elfhame. While the first and last stories in this book take place after the events of the trilogy, the other stories follow Cardan from childhood into adulthood, showing how he became the “cruel prince” we first encounter in the trilogy. This book is told entirely from Cardan’s perspective, so we get a different view of some of the incidents we read about in the trilogy, and understand a little better why Cardan acted the way he did.

The book is illustrated by the very talented Rovina Cai, and it’s gorgeous! I especially love her artwork showing Cardan, but every page has special flourishes and treats to make the entire book a delight.

I loved, loved, loved this slim but lovely book! Don’t start here if you haven’t read the Folk of the Air books — but why not dive into the trilogy, and save this book for dessert?

Faerie two-fer: Wrapping up the Folk of the Air series by Holly Black

I raced my way through this awesome trilogy during the past week and a half, and loved every moment!

I wrote a review for the first book, The Cruel Prince (here)… but by the time I finished book #2, The Wicked King, there was no way I was going to pause for anything but work and sleep until I finished #3 as well.

So, now that I’ve come up for air, I thought I’d share my take on these two terrific books.

Title: The Wicked King
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Length: 336 pages
Published: January 8, 2019
Source: Library
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

The story gets much more complicated in The Wicked King. Jude is no longer the outsider, a powerless mortal girl growing up in Faerie. Here, she now wields great power as the royal seneschal, governing Elfhame through Cardan, who seems to resent and hate her for the situation she’s placed him in.

I enjoyed the book so much, although I’ll admit to feeling a bit frustrated early on by what seemed like a shift away from the more delightful, personal elements of the story in favor of court scheming and politics.

Still, the deeper I went, the more wrapped up I found myself, and I loved the ways that the story and the characters grew and changed throughout. There are some pretty horrifying interludes, and it’s impossible not to recognize how far Jude has come and what inner resolve she brings to every situation… even if she is a bit blind when it comes to understanding her own emotions.

The 2nd book in a trilogy can often feel like a bridge rather than a compelling book on its own. Luckily, that’s not the case here. The Wicked King was a truly engaging, magical read.

Title: The Queen of Nothing
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Length: 300 pages
Published: November 29, 2019
Source: Library
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

He will be destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto. Jude learned this lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.

Now as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is powerless and left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.

Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.

And, when a dormant yet powerful curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity…

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black, comes the highly anticipated and jaw-dropping finale to The Folk of the Air trilogy. 

Wow! What a way to end with a bang!

The Queen of Nothing is intricately plotted and — even more impressive — lets each character fully demonstrate their own growth and evolution.

There are surprises galore, plenty of dramatic action and heroics, and enough swoony romantic moments to melt the coldest of hearts.

And talk about suspense! There were several moments where I had to remind myself to take deep breaths and calm down. I mean, there was no way things wouldn’t work out in the end… right?

I’m officially in love with the world of The Folk of the Air. I can’t believe it took me this long to getting around to this trilogy! I’m now eager to gobble up ALL of Holly Black’s books, as soon as humanly possible. (Or, you know, after I make a dent in my obscenely huge pile of books already waiting to be read.)

Seriously, I loved this trilogy, need to own copies of all three books once I reluctantly hand them back to the library… and will probably listen to the audiobooks sooner rather than later too.

If you enjoy faerie worlds with well-built magical systems and eerily beautiful and dangerous people and rules that still remain full of human emotion and relationships, absolutely check out these books!