Monday, June 17, 2019

Review: To Best the Boys by Mary Weber

Title: To Best the Boys
Written by: Mary Weber
Published: March 19, 2018 by Thomas Nelson

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: The task is simple: don a disguise. Survive the Labyrinth. Best the boys.

In a thrilling new fantasy from the bestselling author of the Storm Siren Trilogy, one girl makes a stand against society and enters a world made exclusively for boys.

Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port have received a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. The poorer residents look to see if their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women train in wifely duties and men pursue collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone is ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the deadly maze.


This book was recommended to me by a friend who doesn’t read a lot of fantasy. I decided to pick it up from the library and give it a try. And despite a good beginning, this book was a bit of a disappointment for me.

The best thing about this book is the world. The author did a great job of establishing the setting. It was one of those fantasies where the changes are subtle but enough to interest you. It honestly felt more like a dystopia. There is this place where the haves and have nots are in sharp contrast and there is rumblings of rebellion within the two oppressed lower class. Then on top of that you have this disease ravaging the poor people. It made for a great set up for the story and motivation for the characters. Unfortunately that’s all it was, set up. The general rule of thumb is to show instead of tell and that less is more. But in some cases, less is less and this was one of those cases. After awhile I was less intrigued and more confused. I wanted more from this world because it was actually very interesting.

The character, however, were fine but nothing special. The main character of Rhen was interesting enough. I appreciated the way she was torn between the two worlds, not really fitting in either. I also felt her motivation to find the cure for the disease and go to university. But I still kind of kept her at arms length for some reason. I just don’t know if she was fully fleshed out as an individual. She felt more like a symbol, which is fine but you kind of have to address that. The other thing is, I think some of what made Rhen likable is the fact that I detested basically every other character. I didn’t want her to beat the boys because feminism, I wanted her to win because the boys were truly terrible. It wasn’t about her succeeding, it was about then failing. This might not be a problem for a lot of people but for me if just felt a little off.

My biggest frustration however was with the plot. This book started out very strong with a great introduction to the world and a fascinating plot full of action and adventure. But it just didn’t stick the landing. The ending really fizzled and it never really resolved some of the more interesting aspects it introduced in the beginning. The sections individually were really interesting. The diseases and unrest had me excited for what was to come, the character dressed as a boy to play with conventions and stick it to those in power added some drama, and the maze was definitely thrilling. But as a cohesive story, they just didn’t work. If this was the first book in a series I would have said that it had first book syndrome and moved on, but this was a standalone. If just felt rushed and incomplete at the same time. I’m a plot-driven reader so that was a big disappointment for me.

I had high hopes for this book, but by the end of it my hopes were kind of dashed. It’s not a bad read it just isn’t one that I felt I connected with enough. I think there are much tighter of fantasy stories.

I give To Best the Boys by Mary Weber 7 out of 10 stars


Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Bypass. As I mentioned, I think there are much tighter fantasies. I think the premise for this one is great but it didn't deliver for me and because of that I hesitate to recommend it.

Have you read To Best the Boys?  What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stooping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Review: Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Title: Daisy Jones and the Six
Written by: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Published: March 5, 2019 by Ballantine Books (Random House)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.


I had recently read Maybe in Another Life and really loved it so when this one came out I knew I wanted to read it as well. And while it was definitely an interesting and engaging read but didn’t blow me away.

One of the more interesting things about this book is the style in which it is is written. It is told in an interview format that made it feel like a rock mockumentary. It’s kind of a year in the life kind of story as each of the characters is explaining what happened and they wrote their most famous album and toured together. I listened to the audiobook which was a great decision because it is a full cast made up of mostly film actors, so you really got the personality and different perspectives. In that sense, it was a really unique and interesting story.

However, the plot itself wasn’t the most interesting. Yes, there was a lot of drama with the band and their goings on. It was the late 70’s and so you had that classic rock ‘n roll mentality of sex, drugs, and partying. You also had the band who didn’t totally see eye to eye and wanted to be stars in their own rights. It reminded me a lot of Almost Famous which used to be one of my favorite movies. But I was not impressed with the ending. There was one twist that caught me by surprise but then it just sort of fizzled out. Plus then a larger purpose for telling the story was revealed and I just didn’t connect with that. I wouldn’t say that it made the whole book seem pointless, but the book did lose some points for me after that.

I will say, however, that this is probably a much more character-driven story anyway and I did like the characters. Because the audiobook had a full cast each character had their own unique feel and personality. The two main characters were probably the titular Daisy Jones and Billy Dunne. Billy and Daisy were interesting but they felt a little bit predictable. There was nothing that really blew me away about them. The characters I found the most interesting were side characters. Karen Karen was probably my favorite. She’s the keyboardist and definitely had the most engaging side plot. She was also voiced by Judy Greer which was a real plus in her column. The other character I found interesting was Eddie, the guitarist. He added a lot of drama to the book and I wish they had played up his dislike of Billy more. There could have been a lot more to the plot if these two had come to blows more often.

The thing about the characters though is that, they all kind of had an unreliable narrator thing to them. Not only are they telling this story 40 years after it happened, so obviously they don’t remember it fully, but there are other reasons why they might remember things differently or not be completely honest. I really enjoy books with unreliable narrators and for me, it was something that made this book and the characters interesting and unique.

All and all, this was an interesting story but not my favorite from the author. I’m interested to read more of her books because she is tremendously talented at developing characters and hooking a reader but I this one just wasn’t what I was hoping for.

I give Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reed 8 out of 10 stars


Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Bypass. I would recommend it to anyone who likes books about rockstars or wants a character-driven book with unreliable narrators. I picked this up from the library and I would maybe suggest that. It's a pricey book.

Have you read Daisy Jones and the Six? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Review: Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Title: Aurora Rising
Series: The Aurora Cycle #1
Written by: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Published: May 7, 2019 by Delacorte Press (Random House)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: From the internationally bestselling authors of THE ILLUMINAE FILES comes an epic new science fiction adventure. 

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch… 

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm 
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates 
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder 
An alien warrior with anger management issues 
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering 

 And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy. 

They're not the heroes we deserve. They're just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.

Wow! This book was fantastic. I mean, I am not surprised because both Amie and Jay are fantastic science fiction writers and I have loved all their books (both together and apart).

 The squad was completely amazing. My favorites were probably Scarlett and Fin. Scarlett gave me some amazing Nina Zenik vibes, Nina is space kicking ass and being fabulous. Fin was the comic relief for sure but he also is a big old softie. But honestly, every character was fantastic and likable. I didn’t even mind the multiple perspectives because I enjoyed each character so much. Although, I listened to the audiobook which definitely helped with that. Each character had a different narrator, including some of my favorites, which I enjoyed.

The world was also really fantastic. It’s a complex and engaging science fiction world with a deep history that I think we are only just beginning to scratch the surface on. This is one of those books where when it was all over I’m theory crafting about what it all means and what the big reveals are going to be for the next book. Honestly, that usually only happens in a fantasy so the fact that it is happening in a science fiction says something.

My favorite thing however was the plot. One of the best things is that it has classic space opera vibes but goes even deeper than that. Because you guys... this is a heist novel. That’s right... SPACE HEIST! I’m a huge fan of heist novels. The world definitely needs more of them. But they have to be done right. They need to hit the right emotional notes, the reveals need to be slow and steady, and there needs to be big surprises. This book did all of that. It was an emotional roller coaster full of surprises and I loved every minute of it.

 I really needed a book like this right now. I have been going through a pretty serious reading and blogging slump and this book pulled me out of it I think. It might be the catalyst to get me going again. But even if it isn’t, it was a fantastic read and an a great start to what I am sure will be an amazing new series.

I give Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff 9.5 out of 10 stars


Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. I definitely recommend this book. I read a fair amount of YA science fiction and these two are masters of the genre. If you like science fiction or want something with found family or unlikely teams definitely check this one out.

Have you read Aurora Rising? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, June 3, 2019

May Wrap Up and June TBR

Read in May: 

Remember in April when I said I was in a blogging slump? Oh boy was that true. I mean I think I posed only twice last month and one of the times was a blog tour so I had that added obligation.  But I think I am starting to come out of it. I actually wrote reviews on Goodreads which is a good sign and I wanted to do this wrap up post so I would say that is progress. As for reading, it was an okay month. I was travelling a lot for work and pleasure which made it a little bit challenging. I read 10 books this month which okay. Not where I want to read but again, April was awful so we will take this.

For challenges, I am once again low key doing challenges. The only one I am legit doing is how many books in a year. I set a Goodreads goal of reading 150 books in a year. My original goal last year was 150 but I had to lower it so I want to make that happen this year. Adding these 10 books in May brings my total to 54 for the year which is definitely behind. I should lower it to 120 again just so I don't feel bad about missing it. For the rest of the challenges I only low key set them. I want to read 20 debuts this year and I read 3 this month and 2 last month which is 12 for the year and on track. I want to read 15 books from Netgalley/Edelweiss this year. I read 3 this month and 1 last month which is a total of 8 for 2019. I also want to read 20 backlist books. This month I read 1 backlist books and last month I read 2 which is 10 for the year. I am on track for all of these goals which is definitely good.

The Books


1.) The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman Rating: 8 out of 10
2.)  The Hummingbird Dagger by Cindy Astley Rating: 7 out of 10
3.) The First Scream by R.L. Stine Rating: 7 out of 10 [Podcast Website]
4.) Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff  Rating: 9.5 out of 10 [Review to Come]
5.) Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small Rating: 8.5 out of 10
6.) Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy by Ray Terciero and Bre Indigo Rating: 9 out of 10 stars
7.) The Near Witch by V.E. Schwab Rating: 9 out of 10 stars
8.) There's Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon Rating: 9 out of 10 stars
9.) We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal Rating: 9.5 out of 10 stars [Review to Come]
10.) DEV1AT3 by Jay Kristoff Rating: 9 out of 10 [Review to Come]


To Be Read in June: 

And here is hoping that I can continue the strong reading month and actually get more blogging done. I am going to ALA in a few weeks and that usually reinvigorates a lot of my desire to reconnect with the bookish internet so here's hoping that happens. I am hoping to read at least a dozen books this month but I am honestly not sure which books I want to read. I have a busy month but I that might mean more time to read.

Books for Review



The Raven's Tale by Cat Winters - Add to Goodreads
I have an e-ARC of this one and I wanted to read it but haven't been able to yet. I love a historical mystery and this one sounds really fantastic. Not only is it about Edgar Allen Poe but it's Cat Winters which is always a good thing.

Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen - Add to Goodreads
This is another one I have an e-ARC for and have not yet had the chance to read. I have heard really good things about this author and the book sounds really good.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power - Add to Goodreads
This debut sounds totally amazing. I love a mystery/thriller set in a boarding school so this feels totally up my alley.

Romanov by Nadine Brandes - Add to Goodreads
A historical fantasy reimagining of Anastasia? Yes please. My friend Michelle let me borrow her ARC and I am going to see her at ALA so I want to finish it beforehand.

New Releases


Comics Will Break Your Heart  by Faith Erin Hicks - Add to Goodreads
I recently read one of Faith Erin Hicks' graphic novels and it was really good so when I saw the audio for this from the library when I needed a new one, I picked it up.

To Best the Boys by Mary Weber - Add to Goodreads
This is another book Michelle recommended. I picked it up from the library and have yet to read it. I feel like I'm in the mood now so we'll see.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid - Add to Goodreads

I have heard great things about this book and the audio looks really good. It's a full cast and I am all for that. I put a hold on the audio from the library and my hold should be coming in.

These Witches Don't Burn by Isabel Sterling - Add to Goodreads
Another debut that sounds really fantastic. I love modern witch books and I am totally excited to read this one. I have a hold on a book from the library so I'm hoping it comes in soon.

Backlist Books


Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik - Add to Goodreads
I really like Uprooted and I am super interested in reading this one as well. It's another book I put a hold on from the library and the hold should come in soon. I'm not realizing all my lirary holds are going to come in at the same time.

Other than that, I have no plans. I want to keep my options open and read whatever I feel like or if I get any good books at ALA I want to read. There you have it. Some of the books I hope to read in June. As always, these are subject to change. I may read all of these or I may only read a few and then read a bunch of different ones. But honestly I think this list I can stick to. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small Blog Tour and Review


Title: Bright Burning Stars
Written by: A.K. Small
Published: May 21, 2019 by Algonquin Young Readers
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Best friends Marine Duval and Kate Sanders have trained at the Paris Opera Ballet School since childhood, where they’ve formed an inseparable bond forged by respective family tragedies and a fierce love for dance. When the body of a student is found in the dorms just before the start of their final year, Marine and Kate begin to ask themselves what they would do to win the ultimate prize: to be the one girl selected to join the Opera’s prestigious corps de ballet. Would they die? Cheat? Seduce the most talented boy in the school, dubbed the Demigod, hoping his magic would make them shine, too? Neither girl is sure. 

But then Kate gets closer to the Demigod, even as Marine has begun to capture his heart. And as selection day draws near, the competition—for the prize, for the Demigod—becomes fiercer, and Marine and Kate realize they have everything to lose, including each other.

*** I received an advance copy of this book

I was really excited to read this book. I'm not someone who reads a ton of contemporaries but I love boarding schools, a Parisian setting, and have enjoyed books about dancers in the past so this seemed totally in my wheelhouse. And while this isn't my typical read, I really enjoyed this one.

One the things that surprised me most about this book was the plot development of this book. For someone who reads mostly genre fiction, I honestly didn't think a book about ballet would be all that exciting but this book definitely showed me how wrong I was. Bright Burning Stars takes you into the savage and cutthroat world of competitive dance. It definitely made for an exciting read, although it is probably not for everyone. The characters are competing against each other and themselves to win "The Prize," a coveted spot on stage at the Opera Garnier. It's not an easy story to read sometimes. There is a lot of serious and hard to read moments including characters dealing with eating disorders, abortions, and thoughts of suicide. They put their blood, sweat, and tears on the floor which means a lot of pressure and regret when things don't go well.

This is very much a character-driven narrative. The story alternates between Marine and Kate who are both students at an elite ballet boarding school and best friends. Marine is a Parisian who is inspired by the tragedy of her twin brother who died and was also a ballerina. Throughout the book she struggles with the pressure of being the best and having the perfect ballet body. She makes some really bad decisions in the face of proving that she can be a great dancer. Kate is an American, something that makes her an outsider, who will do whatever it takes to succeed. A lot of Kate's struggle is her need for approval. She wants to be loved and makes some really bad decisions because she thinks that being the best will give her the approval she so desperately deserves. I liked each of the characters on their own, but interestingly this was one of those rare occasions where I wanted the characters to fail. I hated how much pressure it put on them and I honestly just wanted them to give up it all and be happy. But that wasn't what their character development was all about. Well not entirely.

And while I loved the characters alone, the two of them together was what I wanted the most. In the beginning when they were best friends who would do anything for one another it gave the book a lot of heart. Their Moon Sisters backstory and all their Beyonce dancing was amazing. But then as the book development and they let boys and dance come between them, I started liking the characters a lot less. I am a big fan of books about female friendship and with a narrative with so many serious issues, I think this book could have really benefited from some more of those light and fun moments.

I did however like the setting of this book. For one thing, I loved the boarding school setting. It was more on the subtle side but I loved seeing the characters in their classes and interacting around the school. The other really subtle thing about the setting was it's use of Paris. There were few mentions of known landmarks but honestly the school could have been anywhere. I love books set in Paris and I wished that the book did a better job of establishing Paris as the setting. The better setting was of course the world of dance. I am not at all familiar with ballet or dance at all but I felt like it really came to life in this book. Small's descriptions of the dances in particular made it all so beautiful and visual in the best possible way.

This is not my typical read but I really enjoyed it. There were some elements that could have been fleshed out a little bit more but on the whole this was a brutal and engaging read about the brutal world of dance and the toll it takes on the ballerinas. It's not an easy ready but it is very entertaining.

I give Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small 


Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. I think this is going to be one of those books where people either love it or they don’t. It's a good contemporary read especially for those who like more serious books.

AUTHOR BIO: 

A.K. SMALL was born in Paris. At five years old, she began studying classical dance with the legendary Max Bozzoni, then later with Daniel Franck and Monique Arabian at the famous Académie Chaptal. At thirteen, she moved to the United States where she danced with the Pacific Northwest Ballet for one summer in Seattle and with the Richmond Ballet Student Company for several years. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary and has an MFA in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she’s not writing, she spends time with her husband, her puppy, and her three daughters, and practices yoga. Bright Burning Stars is her first novel.

SOCIAL LINKS: 

Website: https://eaduncan.com/ 
Twitter: @aksmallwords
Instagram: @aksmallwords

Have you read Bright Burning Stars? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Book Review: The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynne Herman

Title: The Devouring Gray
Series: The Devouring Gray
Written by: Christine Lynn Herman
Published: April 2nd, 2019 by Disney-Hyperion

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: On the edge of town a beast haunts the woods, trapped in the Gray, its bonds loosening… 

Uprooted from the city, Violet Saunders doesn’t have much hope of fitting in at her new school in Four Paths, a town almost buried in the woodlands of rural New York. The fact that she’s descended from one of the town’s founders doesn’t help much, either—her new neighbours treat her with distant respect, and something very like fear. When she meets Justin, May, Isaac, and Harper, all children of founder families, and sees the otherworldly destruction they can wreak, she starts to wonder if the townsfolk are right to be afraid. 

When bodies start to appear in the woods, the locals become downright hostile. Can the teenagers solve the mystery of Four Paths, and their own part in it, before another calamity strikes?

I was super excited to read this book when I first learned about it. Not only is it pitched as the kind of atmospheric fantasy I usually enjoy but it also takes place is the part of New York where I grew up. So I got a copy from the library and brought it home with me when I was visiting family. And while this was definitely interesting, it didn’t quite blow me away.

One thing I will say about this book is that it had good characterizations. This is a book full of messy and imperfect characters who are trying to figure things out and making lots of mistakes along the way. They are far from perfect and that what made them interesting and realistic. The book alternates perspectives between three main characters and it is one of those books that lends itself well to that kind of format. It gave each of the characters a lot of depth because you got to know them on a more personal level. And while Violet is arguably the main character, I didn’t at all feel like Justin or Harper’s perspectives were unnecessary (and I can’t say that very often in these kinds of books). I think a lot of that can be attributed to the characterization.

However, the format did make for a kind of muddled plot and pacing. The overall concept of definitely a cool one. A sinister force in the woods murdering people, and families with inherited powers are the only ones who can protect the town. It should have been a perfect book for me with the combination of mystery and fantasy, but it never quite delivered on either of those aspects. There was a mystery which I enjoyed but it didn’t feel solvable for the readers. I like being able to figure things out along with the characters not have them just tell me they found the answer. It just felt too simple for me. And that may have also lead to the pacing issues for me. The beginning of the book I loved and was incredibly engaged. I read most of the first half on a train and didn’t want to put it down. But then when I got home the plot seemed to slow down enough that it took me five days to read the rest. The second half should have been the most gripping but it didn’t quite recapture my interest until the last 50 pages. I’m just such a plot-driven reader so this was big for me. One thing I did like however is the fact that this is the first book of the series and it had a clear ending. It set up future books but it had a solid conclusion.

The other thing I liked but didn’t love was the setting. Now granted, this is really a personal problem. I grew up where this book takes place so I am probably way more critical than the average person. But if you are going to try and ground a book in a specific location, you really have to get that place right. And this honestly felt like the kind of book that could have been anywhere. There was only one reference to something from Rochester and then it went and called it “Upstate New York.” Clearly I am nitpicking because I’m from there but it brought up the whole Upstate vs. Western NY debates I haven’t had since college. This is not a problem most people will have with this book, but I just wanted to rant a little bit.

But as far as the other aspects of the world, it was an atmospheric and interesting setting. It’s one of those books that walks a fine line between fantasy and magical realism. The magical system is tied to the family and the location where they are from like magical realism but it is a little bit more of a general fantasy kind of structure. I really liked learning about the powers of the different families and seeing them talk about their rituals. I think we have only scratched the surface with the magic and I am excited for more. I also am excited for more about the Gray and the Beast. The book definitely didn’t overwhelm us with information about either of those things but it did capture my interest. I was honestly expecting this book to be a little bit more creepy and lean more towards horror but instead it was more magical realism. And honestly, I have no complaints about that.

On the whole, this was definitely an enjoyable read. The Devouring Gray was one of my most anticipated debuts of the year and it was a good book. Some aspects didn’t blow me away but the characterizations were great and the setting was intriguing.

I give The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman 8.5 out of 10 stars


Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. Not a perfect book but very entertaining. I would recommend this to fans of magical realism or atmospheric YA fantasy in the vein of Maggie Steifvater.

Have you read The Devouring Gray? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thank for stopping by and HAPPY READING.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Review: The Fever King by Victoria Lee

Title: The Fever King
Series: Feverwake #1
Written by: Victoria Lee
Published: March 1, 2019 by Skyscape

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.


I can't remember when I first learned about this book but it sounded interesting enough to add it to my TBR. Then when I saw that it was one of the Amazon First books for the month of March I picked it up without any hesitation and I am really glad I did. This is one of those under the radar type of books that I was incredibly surprised by. I found it gripping and thoroughly engaging.

This is the perfect book for plot-driven readers like myself. It is one of those books that is full of non-stop action and thrilling twists. Seriously, every time I thought there couldn't possibly be another surprise there was. The overall plot kind of felt like three different books combined into one but it never felt jarring or strange to switch between storylines. The author did a great job in developing a flow that created a cohesive book that had me entertained from beginning to end. It was incredibly fast paced as well. There was not a dull minute at all in this book. And the best part is that the plot still built to a huge and exciting conclusion that had me on the edge of my seat.

I think one of the things that made the plot so good was that world was so complex and engaging. There were a lot of great elements to this world that combined some of my favorite things to read about. First and foremost was the dystopian aspects of the story. I don't read a ton of dystopia but I do like the genre overall. This book was dystopia at its finest. It took a modern problem and the treads in our current society and kicked everything up a notch to develop a fictional world that felt current and outrageous at the same time. There were elements of an oppressive government and revolutionaries that were fighting for their rights which all combined to make thoroughly engaging political unrest. Then it through the main character between the two factions which led to a lot of uncertainty in who was right and who was wrong. I love when books make me question rulers and I loved that about this book.

I also really liked the magical system in this book. I love a magical system where the characters each have different powers and they feel like superheroes, and if they get these powers through a virus that kills a bunch of people, all the better. Seriously, when did that become a trope because it definitely is and I am here for it. I loved seeing Noam use his powers and learn about them throughout the book. And each characters powers were fascinating. I like my magical systems to be based in logic and rules and this was one of those times where it was like that. Even if you had powers, in order to use them you needed to know physics and how the forces of the universe worked which was an interesting layer. My only criticism of the powers is that it almost felt like they had endless possibilities. You could unlock new powers with new knowledge and in some respects it just felt like you were giving the characters magic in order for them to get out of situations that there was no other way out of. If you are going to have a magical system like this there needs to be limits.

As far as the characters go, this is a book that had some great diverse characters. First of all, the characters were of different races, genders, and ethnicities which I really enjoyed. Although if I am being entirely honest, this book needed more women. There was really only one or two and they had much smaller parts than the male characters. The main character was biracial, Jewish, and bisexual. Yes, we also had LGBTQIA representation. And Noam was a great main character. He was easy to root for and had been through a lot of hard times before and during this book. He was easy to empathize with throughout the book and that made his development all the more sweet when he came into his own by the end of the book. The rest of the characters were complex and more odious. Because there was so much uncertainty about right and wrong throughout the book it made for characters who walk in a very grey area. Dara was really interesting and I totally ship him with Noam. Lehrer however was the most complex. He's a very charismatic leader with a great set of powers but is also kind of ruthless. All the characters really worked so well in this kind of narrative.

All in all, I really liked this book. It was the perfect change of pace for me with a dystopian world full of magic and mystery. The plot was gripping and engaging, and the characters were complex and engaging. It's not a book a lot of people are talking about and I wish more people would because it's really fantastic.

I give The Fever King by Victoria Lee 9 out of 10 stars


Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. This is definitely worth a read for anyone who likes dystopia or is loking for a thrilling read full of diverse characters. It reminded me a lot of books like The Darkest Minds and The Reckoners which are some of my all-time favorite dystopians.

Have you read The Fever King? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Wicked Saints by Emily A Duncan Blog Tour Review


Title: Wicked Saints
Series: Something Dark and Holy
Written by: Emily A. Duncan
Published: April 1, 2019 by Wednesday Books (Macmillan)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: “Prepare for a snow-frosted, blood-drenched fairy tale where the monsters steal your heart and love ends up being the nightmare.” - Roshani Chokshi, New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.

“This book destroyed me and I adored it.”- Stephanie Garber, New York Times bestselling author of Caraval


I was really excited to read this book. Since I learned about it way before it was even published, it seemed like a book totally up my alley. I love dark YA fantasy especially those inspired by Eastern European culture. And while there were some things I enjoyed about this book, it just didn’t quite live up to the hype.

One thing I did really enjoy was the world. There were so many great layers to this world. It’s a fantasy world rooted in religion and magic with two warring nations who believe very different things. It had so many elements that I love. I always enjoy a world with this much depth to it and this one was brilliantly inventive and complex. I thought the way the magic and religion interweaved was one of best parts. I am always looking for a creative magical system and I found that here. The blood magic in particular was really fascinating. I wish we got to learn more about how that worked and the make up of the spellbooks the blood mages used but maybe that’s coming in book 2. I will say, I did find there was a bit too much info dumping at the beginning of the book but it did lead to a really fascinating the world.

The part of the book that didn’t enthrall me however was the plot development. Now, don’t get me wrong, the plot was interesting. The last quarter of the book was really fascinating with high stakes and a lot of action, but that was really only the last bit. This book definitely suffered from first book syndrome for me. The first half really just felt like all that the characters were doing was getting from point A to point B and dumping information on one another along the way. It took me much longer to connect with the plot than I would have hoped. However that could just be a personal problem because I am such a plot driven reader. But I was honestly confused through a lot of it. I found myself having to reread chapters because something would happen and it was almost as if it had gone down off the page because I couldn’t remember it being told to me. I hope some of this is corrected in the final copy because I did read an ARC and that can happen.

But a lot of my confusion could have come from the changing perspectives. The book alternated between Nadya and Serefin who come from the two rival kingdoms. Multiple perspectives is challenging sometimes especially of the characters are in different places and having different storylines. This was one of those books where it is frustrating because when you leave one character and return to the other you completely forgot what the other had been up to. The chapters were short and I think I may have liked it better if they were a little bit longer so I could connect with the plot points a little bit more before switching back.

I did however like the characters. This is a book full of grey and odious characters. None of them are perfect and genuinely good. They all have secrets and are scheming and plotting both independently and together. Those are the kind of characters I love in my books. Some of them make for the kind of people you love to hate and others just make for really interesting choices along the way. Nadya and Serefin were good characters to be in the head of but I honestly think I like Serefin a little bit more. He I think had better character development throughout the book. It seems like Nadya is going to be the “chosen one” and she has some moments of heroism that I enjoyed but her personal growth just wasn’t as pronounced for me. Plus I found Nadya a little frustrating at times. She made some really bad choices especially when it came to the the romance.

Ugh, this romance. We have to talk about the romance in this books because it was not my favorite. I’ve never been someone who likes the good girl falls for the bad boy trope and that is totally what this was. I didn’t trust Malachaisz at all and the fact that Nadya fell so hard for him so quickly and would just forgive his transgressions just didn’t work for me. I love a complex, dark, and odious character but not as a romantic lead. I know a lot of people do however so if that is your thing then you will probably love that about this book.

I was really looking forward to reading this book and over the moon when the publisher sent me a copy as part of the blog tour. And while I liked some elements, it just fell a little short for me. It had a great world and interesting characters but the plot was confusing and the pacing slow plus the romance did not work for me at all.

I give Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan 8 out of 10 stars


Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. I think this is going to be one of those books where people either love it or they don’t. For me, it was kind of a miss but I know a ton of people really loved it. If you like fantasy on the darker side with a heavy romance and a good girl/bad boy trope then check this out.

AUTHOR BIO: 

EMILY A. DUNCAN works as a youth services librarian. She received a Master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, which mostly taught her how to find obscure Slavic folklore texts through interlibrary loan systems. When not reading or writing, she enjoys playing copious amounts of video games and dungeons and dragons. Wicked Saints is her first book. She lives in Ohio.

 BUY LINK: 

 https://static.macmillan.com/static/smp/wicked-saints/ 

SOCIAL LINKS: 

Website: https://eaduncan.com/ 
Twitter: @glitzandshadows 
Instagram: @glitzandshadows 
Tumblr: http://glitzandshadows.tumblr.com/

Have you read Wicked Saints? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

March Wrap Up and February TBR

Read in March: 

And the blogging slump is back in full force this month and the reading slump a little bit too. Last month I was posting more regularly abut this month it's barely once or twice a week. I am totally behind on posts and don't have much motivation to write reviews, but I'm trying to get more regular with it so we'll see. As for reading, it was an okay month. I was travelling a lot for work and pleasure which made it a little bit challenging. I read 11 books this month which pretty okay.

For challenges, I am once again low key doing challenges. The only one I am legit doing is how many books in a year. I set a Goodreads goal of reading 150 books in a year. My original goal last year was 150 but I had to lower it so I want to make that happen this year. Adding these 10 books in March brings my total to 38 for the year which is on track for this goal. For the rest of the challenges I only low key set them. I want to read 20 debuts this year and I read 3 this month which is 7 for the year and on track. I want to read 15 books this year. I read 1 this month which is a total of 4 for 2019. I also want to read 20 backlist books. This month I read 2 backlist books which is 7 for the year. I am on track for all of these goals but it is kind of too early to tell.

The Books


1.) The Sleepwalker by R.L. Stine Rating: 5 out of 10 [Podcast Review]
2.)  An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green Rating: 8 out of 10 [My Review]
3.) Slayer by Kiersten White Rating: 8 out of 10
4.) Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid Rating: 9.5 out of 10
5.) Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus Rating: 8.5 out of 10
6.) Runaway by R.L. Stine Rating: 8 out of 10 stars [Podcast Website]
7.) The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Rating: 9 out of 10 stars
8.) The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton Rating: 9 out of 10 stars
9.) Four Dead Queens by Astrid Sholte Rating: 8.5 out of 10 stars [My Review]
10.) The Fever King by Victoria Lee Rating: 9 out of 10 [Review to Come]
11.) Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan Rating: 8.5 out of 10 [Review to Come]


To Be Read in March: 

And here is hoping that I can continue the strong reading month. It is the time of year where exciting new books continue to come out, including a few I have been waiting on for years. I am hoping to read at least a dozen books this month but I am honestly not sure which books I want to read. I have a busy month with travel for work and to visit family and friends so we shall see.

Books for Review



White Rose by Kip Wilson - Add to Goodreads
I don't read a ton of historical fiction set during WWII but I have lately been really loving it. And this one just sounds fantastic. It's about a real life resistance fighter.

The Raven's Tale by Cat Winters - Add to Goodreads
I love a historical mystery and this one sounds really fantastic. Not only is it about Edgar Allen Poe but it's Cat Winters which is always a good thing.

The Hummingbird Dagger by Cindy Antsey - Add to Goodreads
I have not read any of Cindy Anstey's books but I have heard good things and this one sounds completely up my alley. It's a historical murder mystery and I am all about it.

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - Add to Goodreads
I love both Amie and Jay's books both together and apart. I learned about this one at their signing in Boston last year and I am pumped that it's coming out soon and to have an e-ARC.

New Releases


Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cory McCarthy - Add to Goodreads
Science Fiction genderbent King Arthur. That's really all you need to know. I picked this up at the library recently and I'm excited to read this one.

The Devouring Grey by Christine Lynn Herman - Add to Goodreads

This book is set in the part of New York where I grew up and is about a creepy small town ala Stranger Things. I won a copy recently and I'm hoping it arrives in time for me to travel back home in a few weeks.

Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon - Add to Goodreads
I love Samantha Shannon's writing and I am super excited to read her take on dragons. But this book is a total beast. I am thinking about listening to the audiobook but it's 25 hours long. I'm not sure if I have to time to finish it.

Backlist Books


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman - Add to Goodreads
I was recommended this by my best friend and put a hold on the e-book at the library. I didn't get to finish it because of review copies I needed to read so I got the physical book from the library.

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab - Add to Goodreads
I love Victoria and I am so excited her debut is being reprinted. I have a hold on the e-book from the library and I hope it comes in so I can read it.

Other than that, I have no plans. A few other books I reserved from the library that might come in but I am not sure which and I don't know if I will be able to read them and when.

There you have it. Some of the books I hope to read in April. As always, these are subject to change. I may read all of these or I may only read a few and then read a bunch of different ones. But honestly I think this list I can stick to. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, April 1, 2019

Review: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

Title: Four Dead Queens
Written by: Astrid Scholte
Published: February 26, 2019 by G.P. Putnam's and Sons Books for Young Readers (Penguin)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington may seem harmless, but she's, in fact, one of Quadara's most skilled thieves and a liar. Varin, on the other hand, is an honest, upstanding citizen of Quadara's most enlightened region, Eonia. He runs afoul of Keralie when she steals a package from him, putting his life in danger. When Varin attempts to retrieve the package, he and Keralie both find themselves entangled in a conspiracy that leaves all four of Quadara's queens dead.

With no other choices and on the run from Keralie's former employer, the two decide to join forces, endeavoring to discover who has killed the queens and save their own lives in the process. When their reluctant partnership blooms into a tenuous romance, they must overcome their own dark secrets in hopes of a future together that seemed impossible just days before. But first they have to stay alive and untangle the secrets behind the nation's four dead queens.

An enthralling fast-paced murder mystery where competing agendas collide with deadly consequences, Four Dead Queens heralds the arrival of an exciting new YA talent.


I was really excited to read Four Dead Queens. It sounded like an interesting Ya fantasy with a ton of political intrigue and those are things that I thoroughly enjoy. And while there was a lot to like about this book, it didn’t quite blow me away.

One thing that I enjoyed about this book was the murder mystery aspect. I love a good mystery and I really like being able to solve something along with the characters in the book. This is one of those narratives that let me do that. I also really like being able to solve the mystery and with this book I was able to figure a lot of the twists out. It’s not that they were predictable (honestly there was definitely a more predictable direction this book could have gone in) I just don’t think it was particularly complex. I think because it didn’t have the same emotional impact because the one aspect connected to the main character I had figured out and when the big bad was revealed it didn’t have I enjoyed the mystery, I do however wish the mystery would have been a little more complex.

I also wish we had gotten a little more from the world building. There is a fine line to walk when it comes to developing a world. I prefer books that show instead of tell the readers about what is going on with the fictional world. And while this book leaned a little bit closer to telling us about the world. That is with the information it did reveal of course because it kept a lot to itself. There were some great aspects of their political system I found really interesting but the book kind of just told them to me instead of showing them. There was a lot of opportunity for political intrigue here but it never quite delivered on that as well.

But I think a lot of this just stemmed from the fact that it just didn’t have a compelling enough antagonist. As I mentioned before, the big bad reveal didn’t have an emotional impact and I think that was because we knew almost nothing about that person until they were revealed to be the mastermind. And because we didn’t meet them and learn about their motivations until much later in the book the person just came off as selfish and not all that intimidating. Their the kind of antagonist that could have been amazing if they were revealed to be a character we had known all along pulling the strings in the background. There were a lot of perspectives here and not having the antagonist before they were revealed was a bit of a misstep for me.

But I did however like the other character perspectives. Keralie was a great main character. I’m a sucker for a thief with a heart of gold and that’s what Keralie was. She’s badass and resourceful but with a bit of a grey moral compass and those are the characters I love being in the head of. I also really enjoyed being in the heads of the queens. It helped their deaths make more of an impact because we could get to know them and learn about their secrets which also added a lot to the mystery. I do think the voice for each queen was very similar and it was hard keeping them straight in my head but I liked being in their head.

As far as the plot and pacing goes, I think the book did a good job of capturing my interest throughout the entire story. There was some interesting choices in terms of the timeline but I never really found that confusing. It built to an exciting conclusion with enough twists along the way to keep me reading. Plus I really like the way that it had a definitive ending and didn’t leave us hanging. I was honestly expecting a cliffhanger because I think this is the first book in a series but it read like a standalone. We need more standalone fantasies and even if this is a series, I’m glad it did have a clear ending.

All in all there was a lot of good aspects of this book which I really enjoyed but it wasn’t a perfect read. The murder mystery and political intrigue were great but I wanted more, and the protagonists were great but the antagonists left a little to be desired.

I give Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte 7.5 out of 10 stars


Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. I think this is the kind of book I would recommend to someone who is looking to dip their toe in the water of YA fantasy. It reads like a standalone and has a good amount of mystery and politics for someone who doesn’t read a ton of the genre. But for those like me who love a complex fantasy, you may find this one slightly lacking.

Have you read Four Dead Queens? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!