Amber and Dusk by Lyra Selene – ARC Review

I first found out about this book through an Instagram story by Roshani Chokshi, who was a critique partner for the book. I’m so happy that I took her suggestion to read is, because this is definitely going to make it onto my top 15 books of the year.

In summary, the book follows a young girl from the far reaches of the kingdom. She possesses a power that only those in the kingdoms royal court should have, but instead of being viewed as holy, she is feared and outcast by the close minded people where she was raised. She journeys to the capital in hopes of joining the Queens royal court and finding a place where she will be renowned -not scorned- for her gifts.

But the court is not the home she was expecting. Instead, she must navigate the intrigue and power games of power hungry courtiers, all the while trying to discover a mystery that has been lurking the halls of the court.

Overall, I loved the writing of this story! It was so lyrical, and I felt swept away by both the story and it’s telling. I also loved the characters, especially Mirage, the main character. She was so ambitious and strong, and I could relate to some parts of her personality. It made for a transcending read. (I also really loved the love interest even though I really also want to hate him.)

I normally don’t like comparing books, but I feel like if you loved the Cruel Prince by Holly Black and An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, you will love this book too. While I was reading it, I felt like I did when I fell in love with the two books mentioned above. Amber and dusk was fast paced, mysterious, and magical. I loved the lore in the story, and the world building was really on point.

There are a few things that knocked this down from a five star to a four star read. The first is that there were a lot of cliche story points woven in. I don’t want to spoil them for you, but a few things have been really overdone in YA fantasy. There were a few that the book could have done without, and it was sad to have several of these overdone tropes in a book that was otherwise very uniquely written.

The other thing I didn’t appreciate was that the romance was captivating and kept me on my toes… until all of the sudden it was kind of shut down. I wanted it work, and I understand dissolving a romance if it furthers the plot, but I feel like this was done so abruptly.

This being said, I hate cliches and will almost always rate lowly or not finish books with even a couple in them these days. However, the rest of the book made up for the tropes included in this book.

Aside from these things, this really was just such a good book. I had read a couple chapters when I first received the book, but then finished the rest in one sitting a few days later. It kept me turning pages far into the night, and I was constantly torn between wanting to know the end, and not wanting the story to stop.

This book is one I’ve been waiting for for a while now. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did when it hits the shelves next month! Please be sure to preorder a copy ASAP and support the author!

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Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – ARC Review

I want to begin by saying I was literally almost murdered trying to get this ARC. At the 2018 BookCON, Penguin Teen was dropping twitter hints as to a big ARC drop. I was cut off in the line to get the book by some very aggressive readers, and ended up not getting one. I was really disappointed, to say the least. I’d been waiting for quite a while, and I was so close to getting this one.

At the end of the day though, I heard a little bird whisper penguin teen would be doing another quick drop of any leftover ARCS from the weekend. I lined up eagerly in hopes this was true, and guess what a super amazing booth worker handed me when the time came?

Your girl got herself an ARC of Four Dead Queens.

(Special shoutout to the amazing penguin teen staff working so hard that weekend!)

But enough backstory, here is my full, spoiler free review of this highly anticipated 2019 release.

All the points for fantasy standalones

Seriously, why are these so rare?

I loved the main character

I feel like she was very real. Some sassy teen heroines are just too much. It was still a little sad to see this trope appear, but overall it wasn’t annoying. (If I hadn’t read a million YA books already this wouldn’t be a problem haha)

She struggled a lot with guilt, humanity, and betrayal. In addition, she also had to learn powerful lessons about trust and friendship that I’ve never seen done in such a flawless way.

Something else that you realize quickly about her was that she is a criminal because she enjoyed it. Not gonna lie- this is my favorite part about her. She’s a thief because she loves the thrill. As a suppressed kleptomaniac this makes me very happy to read. She’s so sneaky, fierce, and creative.

She also admits her flaws and mistakes. Bless.

I really love the world

A land divided into four quarters where each is dedicated to preserving its culture? I loved it. Each was flawed in some ways and well developed in others, which provided an awesome and diverse cast. It was well developed. World building is huge for me- but this was done very well. Not too detailed to get you lost, but with enough information to keep you satisfied.

My favorite part of the whole thing was how the land came to be ruled by four queens

Four ladies were forced to become wives to the king. To put it much less eloquently than how the story went in the book- they basically said “no sir, screw you”, killed the king and took his throne.

Even without crowns, those original ladies are queens to me. #girlpower

Overall, the plot was very engaging

I loved the combination of a fantasy world with a touch of a historical setting, sci-fi, and mystery. It left a lot up to the imagination, and kept me reading.

I wasn’t sold on the explanations for a few things

I won’t elaborate so you won’t be spoiled, but I’m just not buying the “scientific explanation” to a couple of the technologies mentioned in the book.

In addition, when some of the characters explained things, it felt a little unnatural. I feel like it may have better shown, than told through dialogue.

I wasn’t feeling some of the plot twists

There was a twist at the end that wasn’t floating my boat… but I won’t say what. All you other readers may like it… but I felt the book would have been better without it.

The villain was AWESOME

Though I didn’t like them themselves, I loved their motivation. Their motivations and personality were both well written, and I really enjoyed the narrative. (Yes, we get a few chapters of that 😉 )

Overall, I liked it

If you enjoy mystery and sci-fi/fantasy, this would be a great item to preorder. The characters are cool, the plot engaging, and the writing is enjoyable. It isn’t the most unique banana in the bunch, but is still really enjoyable.

Definitely check out this debut authors website here, and be sure to sign up for her newsletter! As she is also a professional painter, the author has been releasing exclusive images of the queens in this novel. They are GORGEOUS, and you don’t want to miss these reveals and her other exclusive content.

Sierra Burgess is a Loser – Movie review

Pretty Spoiler free 🙂

Netflix has been pumping out some pretty awesome original content. It was because of Netflix and the amazing show Stranger things that I discovered Shannon Purser. I don’t really have celebrity icons, but if I were, I would consider her mine. She is so inspiring to me, and a great actress to boot.

I basically watched this movie for her, and I was excited to watch it as soon as I saw the trailer.

This being said, I wasn’t a fan of the movie. I loved a few things… but most of the movie I had serious issues with.

What I loved:

  • SHANNON PURSER
  • Jamie. Mostly love the actor Noah (not even gonna try to spell his last name)
  • Veronica’s character development (this is in both the love and dislike list- don’t ask. I love how in the beginning I hated her and loved her by the end. HOWEVER, I feel like some of the character development was unrealistic. I wish she would have been a bit less… in the beginning)
  • The sunflower song 😍
  • Deaf character rep. I’m hard of hearing and LOVED seeing ASL being used in the movie and to see Jamie’s little bro representing the community. Warms my heart.
  • The body image message throughout the movie. This is such an important and often overlooked problem in society- but this movie cast some light on the subject and was just amazing to see.
  • Veronica and Sierras relationship

Now for some of the things I… wasn’t so crazy about…

  • The cat fishing. I was on the fence about it from the trailer, but they drug this out too long and it was so unfair to the love interest, Jamie. There were soooo many things wrong with this, and it is not my cup of tea to support a movie that made it seem okay. Had they kept it shorter it may have been fine, but they didn’t, so I guess I’ll never know.
  • Veronica’s character development (see love list)
  • Some parts of this movie were sooooo cheesy it hurt
  • Bad writing/directing. I have seen the actors in other things, so I figured there was something else going on when things just felt so awkwardly worded and acted out. I finally figured out that the writing was just not fluid or realistic.
  • How Sierra treated her bestie, Dan. This was resolved in the end, but still worthy of mention.
  • The ending. I’m keeping this spoiler free… but I just don’t like the way it ended. Nope.

Overall, I really like some stuff but just just can’t get behind other parts. Please don’t think I’m trying to hate on anyone who was involved in making the movie or those who love this movie. These are just my thoughts on the movie, which was a pretty big no from me. :/

What did you think? Let me know in the comments! 😀

Give the Dark My Love – ARC Review

If I could get my jaw up off the floor for a second, I’d love to just say WOW. Give the Dark My love is a rich, dark sci-fi/fantasy that makes you question what it is to be a villain. It explores morality and mortality, as well as grief and pain.

I think my favorite thing about this book was our main character, Nedra. Her character development and her motivations are more amazing than a five star review can express. As talked about in the synopsis, during the story, her earnest efforts to save others from a deadly disease expose her to darkness that she must decide to fight against or use to her advantage. Every decision she makes leads her to a sacrifice, and I absolutely loved being able to read a book that was so centered around the conflict of a character. Sometimes, there is no obvious solution or choice during an impossible situation. Time and time again, Nedra was tested. I cannot say what I would do in her situation, but the conflict written in the story made me question everything and I LOVED IT.

This book does have some really dark and sometimes gory stuff in it, as it deals with medical and necromantic themes. I don’t normally do books with that kind of stuff in it, but it was written in such a way that added to your immersion in the story, not to take away from it. Just be prepared for this before you read the story.

Grey, our other main character in the book, is a bit of a tough guy to review. I think his character served to motivate Nedra, but sometimes he was so dense it hurt. He was heavily rooted in tradition and high society, so though I didn’t always like his views, they definitely served a purpose and worked well in the story. Overall, I can’t decide if I would like to smack him or if he was an adorable puppy.

The romance I feel could have been developed just a little bit more. I don’t feel like I was as attached to it as a I could have been, and I think that fleshing it out a bit more would have attached me even more to the characters.

This being said, the plot made up for anything else in the book I wasn’t as crazy about. It was very character and relationship driven, but the theme of the book was just AWESOME. I think a lot of authors have attempted to write something close to this “villain” story, but none have ever made me so questioning of morality in a character. Nedra did terrible things for good reasons, and it was an amazing story to read.

P.S. if you want to read my Q&A with the author, you can find it here. I loved being a part of this book tour, and can’t wait to get my hands on the next book!

Happy reading!

Give the Dark my love – Blog Tour Author Q&A

Hello everyone,

I’m so excited to celebrate the release of Beth Revis’s new book, Give the Dark My Love. In honor of its publication, I was able to ask the author a few questions, and I’m so stoked to share them with you.

Also, don’t worry about spoilers for the book in this post, you’re safe. I will say though that this book was BRILLIANT! It explored the ways that grief and love can transform a person. It also made you think a lot about what it means to be someone who does bad things for good reasons. My full review will be up soon if you want to hear more about the book, but don’t be afraid to just dive in and order a copy right now.

(Its worth it)

Without further ado, enjoy!

1. When did the inspiration to write Give the Dark My Love come to you, and how?

I have had the idea for this book building inside me for literally a decade or more. The anime Fullmetal Alchemist was one I saw while in college, but the idea of alchemy requiring a cost really stuck with me. The story changed a lot from the initial draft to the last one, but in the end, that idea of magic not being free and requiring a price to be paid was a central theme that survived.

2. Besides the possible pressure of a deadline, what keeps you motivated to stick with a project when you get a new idea or lose inspiration?

Writing is my art. I want to do my art to the best of my ability, so I do not give up on it.

3. If Nedra had a theme song, what do you think it would be?

I actually have a whole playlist for Nedra, but her main song is probably “Sorry” by Meg Myers.

4. Whether it is in writing or the real world, what does magic mean to you?

Creation. Magic in stories is about making something from nothing, waving your wand and having it appear. Magic in real life is the same, except instead of a wand, you have to work for it.

5. What character in Give the Dark My Love do you feel the closest connection to?

Nedra. For her to become the person she is, she has to experience great loss and grief. While I have not had a similar life experience to her, I think there is a sort of comradery that develops with others who know loss when you experience loss. You start to be able to see the missing pieces in others once you have lost a piece of yourself.

I hope you all enjoyed your stop on the blog tour, and be sure to grab a copy of Give the Dark my love as soon as you can. 😉

Muse of Nightmares – ARC Review

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Strange the Dreamer, the first installment of this series, was pitched to me by a wonderfully enthusiastic indie bookstore clerk. I’m so thankful for her persuasion, as this is one of the most beautifully written stories I’ve ever read. (yet another reason to shop local- the booksellers always have the best recommendations!)

 

Strange the Dreamer was a bookworm’s dream come true, but Muse of Nightmares was even better.

 

This second installment was captivating from the first page until the last. It was bitter and sweet in all the right ways, with an engaging and unforgettable characters. I was left in such a slump after I finished this book because I honestly count on one hand the books that have had me so enthralled through the entire story. Though it was over 500 pages, I devoured this book in just over 24 hours.

 

I traded a fellow booklover my ARC copy of Four Dead Queens for this ARC, and it was so worth it. If you haven’t read Strange the Dreamer yet, please be sure to check it out before the release of Muse of Nightmares this October!

 

But whether you have read Strange the Dreamer yet or not, here are a few things you  can expect in this second installment of this magical series.

 

 

  • Beautiful romance

 

 

Lazlo and Sarai are two dreamers with hearts of gold. They are loveable by themselves, but together they deliver moments that will leave you in tears. The romance in this book is so well done, as it is not only cute, but heartbreaking and real.

 

 

  • Phenomenal character development

 

 

This book not only introduces new characters to an already phenomenal cast, but it develops characters from the first book you had no idea had more depth to be revealed. It is amazing- one character I very strongly disliked for most of the series became a favorite at the end. Taylor did such a flawless job at making these characters come to life, that you will be left missing them long after the book is over.

 

 

  • An amazing storyline

 

 

A bit unlike the first book, this book follows two storylines that at first seem unclear as to how they relate. This is not confusing, but expertly executed in such a way that it provides much more interest and depth to the story. It will leave you heartbroken, and smiling all at once.

 

 

  • Bittersweet Heartbreak

 

 

This is my favorite thing about this story. The book is both heartbreaking, bitter, and sweet all in one. It isn’t a perfect beginning, middle or end for any of the characters, but that just makes it so much more real. The characters have to go through so much, but some of the hardships only make the magical moments sweeter. It is hard to explain, but this aspect makes the book so much more of an experience.

 

 

  • An ending that will leave you in tears

 

 

I won’t tell you if they are happy or sad tears. You’ll just have to find out for yourself when this book releases on October 2nd. Be sure to pre-order it before then. Pre-orders help authors so much, and Laini Taylor definitely deserves all of our support for all of the amazing work she has put into this series!
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Happy reading, Creatives!

 

Star-Touched Stories by Roshani Chokshi – ARC review

I received a copy of this lovely book from Wednesdayreads and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.

Ever since I read the Star Touched Queen, I have been utterly in love with the worlds Roshani Chokshi pens. Her writing is so lush and vivid, and her characters are just as beautiful. A friend of mine described this series as “a fairytale with dark undertones” and that is the perfect way to describe it. Her books are truly classics of our time, and Roshani has made her way to the top of my favorite authors.

I was absolutely thrilled to a receive a review copy of this book, and it was a wonderful addition to the rest of the series. As The Star Touched Stories is a collection of Novellas, I will review each story individually and then the collection as whole at the end.

Please note that this review is spoiler free in regards to the content of this book alone. It will however contain spoilers to The Star-Touched Queen and Crown Of Wishes, as they are the first books in the series.

Death and Night (5/5)

This was the most beautifully written novella I have ever had the pleasure to read. I actually listened to this as an audio book first, as it was previously published before this collection was compiled. The world building is just as lush as the first two books in the series, and the story filled me with such a calm and warm sense of nostalgia as we got to revisit some of the characters we know and love.

My favorite part of this story was the banter. I loved the relationship between Death and Gumpta, and then that between Death and Night. It was also interesting to see Night (later known to us as Maya) interact as a sister to the same woman who would later become a villain in the series. Chokshi did an AMAZING job with the character development between these connecting stories, and I love gaining insight into some of the events that took place before the events of the first book in the series.

The only issue I had with the novella was a continuing theme throughout the collection- pacing. The end seemed very fast and sudden, while the rest of the story had been a bit more slow burning. I would have like to see more consistency with the pacing of this book, but overall I still loved this short story.

Poison and Gold (2/5)

This was certainly my least favorite of all the stories in this collection. The biggest reason being, as mentioned above, the pacing. Because Chokshi’s writing is so deep and beautiful, this story would have been soooo much better as a full novel rather than a short story. With the other two stories in the collection, the characters were already established. In this book, we still don’t know Aasha as well, and we are introduced to a very important but new main character, the spy mistress. With such a quickly paced story, I wasn’t able to enjoy Aashas development as much or the rest of the story. There were chunks that seemed to be missing out of the story, and long lapses of time were briefly surmised when they could have been shown in more detail.

The relationship in this book felt forced, and a large part of that is that the feelings seemed so sudden. We weren’t really given the time to get to see why Aasha falls for who she does, or what is so appealing about the love interest.

I did really like one thing about the book, which was the message of gaining trust and confidence in yourself. As Aasha has such a unique situation, she battles between who she was raised to be and who she is trying to be. She straddles the line between two worlds, and I love that throughout the story she learns to trust in who she truly is.

Rose and Sword (5/5)

Taken from the alternating points of view from one of our favorite characters and one of their descendants, this book was delectably nostalgic and made me want to reread the whole series again.

I can’t describe the story too much without giving away major spoilers, so I will shy away from reviewing that too heavily for now. However, I will say that I LOVED the adventure and the motivations behind the quest in this story, as well as how the alternating points of view spun the tale so eloquently.

My favorite part about this story (aside from being able to see one of my favorite characters and how the fare after the events of their story) is the message that relationships aren’t perfect. Throughout the story, the main character must see the less appealing but just as real negative parts of a relationship. Communication issues, as well as personality issues are addressed. I love that, and it is so rare to see in works of fiction. I love how a YA author is helping readers to see by means of this story that love isn’t perfect, and it can require a special kind of bravery to work through the challenges of relationships and marriage.

The Star-Touched Stories (4/5)

As a whole, I loved this addition to the series! I love seeing what happens to the beloved characters after their tales have “ended”, as well as gain insight into what shapes them into the people we meet in each book. The pacing was at times very strange, but I loved the themes of faith, trust, and upholding your values even in the hardest of times that were woven throughout the story.

Be sure to grab a copy of this novella collection as soon as it releases tomorrow, August 7th!