ARC Book Review: Rule

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Synopsis:

Three Dark Crowns meets Pretty Little Liars in this sensational and striking new fantasy from debut author Ellen Goodlett.

Three girls. Three deadly secrets. Only one can wear the crown.

The king is dying, his heir has just been murdered, and rebellion brews in the east. But the kingdom of Kolonya and the outer Reaches has one last option before it descends into leaderless chaos.
Or rather, three unexpected options.
Zofi has spent her entire life trekking through the outer Reaches with her band of Travelers. She would do anything to protect the band, her family. But no one can ever find out how far she’s already gone.
Akeylah was raised in the Eastern Reach, surrounded by whispers of rebellion and abused by her father. Desperate to escape, she makes a decision that threatens the whole kingdom.
Ren grew up in Kolonya, serving as a lady’s maid and scheming her way out of the servants’ chambers. But one such plot could get her hung for treason if anyone ever discovers what she’s done.
When the king summons the girls, they arrive expecting arrest or even execution. Instead they learn the truth: they are his illegitimate daughters, and one must become his new heir. But someone in Kolonya knows their secrets, and that someone will stop at nothing to keep the sisters from their destiny… to rule.
Magic, mystery, and blackmail abound in the first book of this sensational and striking fantasy duology.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers/The Novl. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel was released on September 11, 2018.*

Rule is being promoted as Three Dark Crowns meets Pretty Little Liars and while I haven’t read Three Dark Crowns (yet!) I was a fan of the PLL series (the first eight books). Thus, I was intrigued, and overall I thought this book was pretty good.

The novel is told in alternating close third POVs of Zofi, Florencia (Ren), and Akeylah, three very different girls who discover they’re all daughters of the king, who’s dying and needs an heir. What I loved most about this book was the world building. There’s a lot of history and prejudice going on in this world and at first I found it a little hard to keep everything straight, but once I got it I loved how intricate the history of this world was.

In sum, the girls live in the Reaches, which is basically this conglomerate of areas that came together to get out from under the power of another country, Genal. Within the Reaches there’s the Eastern Reach, which is filled with rebels who feel they’re not being fairly treated compared to those who live in the capital, Kolonya. Akeylah is an Easterner. Additionally, there are Travelers who, as you may have guessed, travel around the country in groups. The term “drifter” is a derogatory term often thrown in their face. Zofi is a drifter. Ren was born and raised in Kolonya, so she’s the most “pure” so to speak.

With this much division in the country, the book of course deals with prejudice, which I thought was great. All the girls are POCs and there’s also a f/f romance, which unlike other books with LGBTQ rep, it wasn’t a problem because the women were gay, but for a number of other reasons. It seems in this world like same sex relationships aren’t frowned upon, though it’s hard to say for sure since there weren’t any other same sex relationships in the book that weren’t a secret. I did have one small issue with Zofi’s hair being compared to a “tumble weed.” That just didn’t sit right with me.

In any case, all the girls have a dark secret and unfortunately for them someone knows about it and is threatening to reveal the truth if they don’t abdicate their chance at the throne. This is the part that gave me serious “A” vibes and I loved it. Each girl gets sketchy messages that are creepy and show a clear invasion of their privacy, which upped the stakes for me. Each girl also has a love interest, which was only sometimes interesting. I found some of the romance in this book to be a little unbelievable because I didn’t see why/how these relationships formed, specifically with Akeylah. It seemed like she just had a small connection with the person and then she was infatuated with them. I felt like the other two girls had these clear developed relationships with their love interests and I wanted that for Akeylah as well, so that fell flat for me.

As for the mystery behind who was threatening the girls, I will say the book surprised me. I thought I knew what was going on, but it turned out I actually had no idea, so I really enjoyed that aspect and that’s honestly enough to get me to read the sequel to see how this all ends. That said, this wasn’t really a book I couldn’t put down. It was interesting, but not a nail biter. Still, like I said, I’m intrigued to see what happens next.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow.

Stars:

3 stars

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ARC Book Review: The Brink of Darkness

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Synopsis:

In this sequel to the cinematic, romantic fantasy The Edge of Everything, star-crossed X and Zoe must overcome the boundaries of their two worlds in order to find their way back to each other.

Things have changed for seventeen-year-old Zoe ever since the otherworldly events that brought her together with the mysterious bounty hunter she calls X. In order to save Zoe and her family, X has done the unthinkable–he’s given up his freedom and returned to captivity in the Lowlands.

X is determined to break the lords’ hold on him once and for all, but being stripped of his power pushes him toward a darkness he’s never experienced and a past he’s never known. The secrets that surface could be the key to reuniting X and Zoe . . . or they could mean the destruction of everything they have been fighting for.

Gripping and full of heart, this epic continuation of Jeff Giles’ series will bring readers right to the edge of everything.

Purchase:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

*I received a free digital advanced reader’s copy of this book from Bloomsbury YA. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel was released on July 10, 2018.*

I didn’t love The Edge of Everything, but I enjoyed it enough to want to read the sequel and find out how Zoe and X’s story would end. Unfortunately, I felt about the same about The Brink of Darkness as I did about The Edge of Everything, which is to say I thought it was so-so.

This sequel picks up a little after where the first book ended. Zoe and X have been separated because X had to return to the Lowlands and be punished for breaking the rules to be with Zoe. However, because of his time with Zoe and her family, X was more determined than ever to find his mother and find a way out of the Lowlands. Thus, began an epic adventure of self-discovery for X.

Meanwhile, Zoe was coming to terms with the fact that the love of her (teenage) life was living in literal hell, and there was pretty much nothing she could do about it. That was until Zoe was given a task to help X, one he couldn’t complete himself while in the Lowlands. Thus, both X and Zoe began to learn more about X and how he came to be born in hell.

As with the first book, I really loved the humor in this story. All the characters had their own quirks, which really added to the story. I loved seeing Dallas and Val learn more about what Zoe went through in The Edge of Everything. It was also nice that though Zoe and X still had trials to face in this novel, to me the stakes were actually lower in The Brink of Darkness. In The Edge of Everything, I felt so bad for Zoe and her family, whereas here, I was so happy to see them living a relatively normal life in Montana.

I think the biggest issue for me was I did get bored at times with this story. There were definitely times I started skim, and just wanted the story to just get to the point. I wanted to see action or romance or something exciting, and there was just a lot of walking around the Lowlands or backstories I personally didn’t need.  Thus, this was just an okay read for me. I wish I enjoyed it more, but I didn’t.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow

Stars:

2 stars

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Blog Tour Review: Tell Me Lies

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Synopsis:

Lucy Albright is far from her Long Island upbringing when she arrives on the campus of her small California college, and happy to be hundreds of miles from her mother, whom she’s never forgiven for an act of betrayal in her early teen years. Quickly grasping at her fresh start, Lucy embraces college life and all it has to offer—new friends, wild parties, stimulating classes. And then she meets Stephen DeMarco. Charming. Attractive. Complicated. Devastating.

Confident and cocksure, Stephen sees something in Lucy that no one else has, and she’s quickly seduced by this vision of herself, and the sense of possibility that his attention brings her. Meanwhile, Stephen is determined to forget an incident buried in his past that, if exposed, could ruin him, and his single-minded drive for success extends to winning, and keeping, Lucy’s heart.

Lucy knows there’s something about Stephen that isn’t to be trusted. Stephen knows Lucy can’t tear herself away. And their addicting entanglement will have consequences they never could have imagined.

Alternating between Lucy’s and Stephen’s voices, TELL ME LIES follows their connection through college and post-college life in New York City. With the psychological insight and biting wit of Luckiest Girl Alive, and the yearning ambitions and desires ofSweetbitter, this keenly intelligent and staggeringly resonant novel chronicles the exhilaration and dilemmas of young adulthood, and the difficulty of letting go—even when you know you should.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

*I received a free digital advanced reader’s copy of this book from Atria Books. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel was released on June 12, 2018.*

On the eve of her best friend and former roommate’s wedding, Lucy Albright is nervous because for the first time in years she will see her ex, Stephen DeMarco. As the moment Lucy will see Stephen draws near, author Carola Lovering takes readers back to the beginning. Through Lucy and Stephen’s points of view, Lovering demonstrates how their tumultuous and toxic relationship began and then ultimately came to an end.

I found the parallel POVs to be interesting because the way Lucy and Stephen viewed their relationship, if you could even really call it that, was vastly different. At first, Lucy wasn’t all that interested in Stephen, however as soon as Stephen saw Lucy he knew she would be his next conquest, because Stephen, unfortunately for Lucy, is a sociopath who doesn’t know how to be in a real relationship. And I don’t call Stephen a sociopath in a joking manner, I mean it was eventually deemed by a psychiatrist that Stephen is actually a sociopath, though I’m confident readers could come to that conclusion on their own. Unfortunately, Lucy could not.

I know that people, particularly women, can often be blinded by love, but Lucy’s tunnel vision when it came to Stephen was so extreme it was a little hard for me to believe. For most of the novel, Stephen was in a relationship with someone else while sleeping with Lucy, a fact Lucy was well of aware, but was able to look past, convincing herself that one day Stephen would just want to be with her. Honestly, Lucy’s POV was very hard to read because I often just wanted to shake her and tell her, “Stephen is honestly the worst and you deserve way more than what he’s giving you.” Thankfully, her friend Jackie was there to say all the things I was thinking, not that Lucy listened.

On the flip side, Stephen’s POV was hard to read because he was just so callous and had such a disregard for everyone’s feelings. Again, he’s a sociopath, but still. He was terrifyingly detached and a horrible person. While I understand why having Stephen’s POV was necessary for the story, I felt like I could’ve done without it. He just infuriated me so much, and while I know he’s not supposed to be a likable character it was just too much for me and I didn’t enjoy reading his POV at all.

There were two things that really saved this novel for me. The first was the great way Lovering used Lucy and Stephen’s Long Island history to tie their pasts together. I thought that was really well done and added another layer to this book that made me more interested. The second was Lucy’s relationship with her mother, CJ. While I found Lucy referring to the reason for her tenuous relationship with her mother as “The Unforgivable Thing” a bit irritating at first that was simply because I just wanted Lucy to tell me what her mother did, which was obviously Lovering’s goal. The mystery of it made me keep reading and I really liked seeing Lucy’s relationship with her mother evolve.

Overall, my frustrations with Lucy and my total dislike of Stephen really pulled me out of this story so I didn’t enjoy as much as I wished I’d had. That said, Lovering told an interesting story and while I can thankfully say I’ve never let a guy take advantage of me the way Lucy let Stephen take advantage of her, I know this story will be relatable to a number of people. So though this wasn’t the book for me, I would argue that it’s definitely the book for someone else.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow.

Stars:

2 stars

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ARC Book Review: Love, Hate, & Other Filters

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Synopsis:

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book at BookCon. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel will be released on Jan. 16, 2018.*

Love, Hate, and Other Filters provided a perspective that is unfortunately not seen often in YA literature. The novel follows Maya Aziz, an American-born teen who comes from an Indian and Muslim family. From the very start of the novel Maya struggles to find her footing in her two worlds, especially as she prepares to graduate high school and head to college.

Maya hopes to go to New York University (NYU) to follow her dreams to be a filmmaker, but her parents would prefer she stay close to home and attend a school in the midwest (where her family currently resides). Similarly, her parents would also like her to one day marry an Indian man, not someone like Phil, the white guy Maya is currently crushing on.

I thought Samira Ahmed did a great job of presenting Maya’s inner conflict as she tried to determine what was best for her while also struggling to do what her parents wanted her to do. However, because of the synopsis, which also noted that there would be terrorist attack that would greatly affect Maya’s life, I felt the first half of the novel went a little slow.

I was constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop (the terrorist attack), and was left wondering why the story was taking so long to get to, what I thought, would be the main conflict of the story. Then once the attack did happen the story went quite quickly and a lot began happening all at once. The back half of the novel ended up being much more fast paced than first half, however I was a bit shocked by how the novel ended, particularly the actions of Maya’s parents.

Up to the end, I found the way Maya’s parents acted and what they wanted for Maya was understandable, albeit stifling for Maya. Even after the terrorist attack, I understood why they did certain things, particularly out of fear. What I didn’t understand was their vehement feelings towards Maya’s decision about college at the very end. To me, it felt way out of character for the parents, who, throughout the novel, I found to be set in their ways but not outrageous. It just seemed like the book took a crazy turn at the end and then once this occurred the parents aren’t seen again, though the mom is mentioned once.

That plot point aside, I did enjoy Maya as a character. I thought she definitely made some mistakes that I couldn’t fully understand, but overall she was pretty level headed. I also really enjoyed her romance with Phil and her friendship with Violet. I actually would’ve loved to have seen more of Violet, because she was hilarious. I also loved Maya’s aunt, Hina. She was so supportive and felt more like an older sister to Maya than an aunt to me.

Lastly, Ahmed did a great job handling the terrorist attack in the story. I was surprised by how it played out, and I liked the third person point of views that were interwoven between chapters, giving insight into the impending attack and then more insight after it happened. That was an interesting part of this book that I didn’t expect and really liked.

Overall, I didn’t love this book as much as I wanted to, but I think it’s a pretty good read and it’s a perspective that I was definitely interested in learning more about and I feel like I did learn from it. So for that alone I do recommend checking it out when it’s released.

Borrow or Buy: While I enjoyed this book I don’t think I’d reread it so it’d have to be a borrow for me.

Stars:

3 stars

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Book Review: The Light We Lost

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Synopsis:

He was the first person to inspire her, to move her, to truly understand her. Was he meant to be the last?

Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story—their story—at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.

This devastatingly romantic debut novel about the enduring power of first love, with a shocking, unforgettable ending, is Love Story for a new generation.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

I wanted to love this book. I really did. I thought the premise was great and I’m a sucker for a tragic love story. But unlike Will and Lou in Me Before You, I found Lucy and Gabe to be totally unlikable characters.

The novel is told in the point of view of Lucy, who’s telling the story to Gabe. The story is of their love, beginning with how they met on September 11, 2001 and all the events that followed. I think anyone who was alive on that day, especially if they lived in New York City, remembers where they were on 9/11. It’s just something you can’t forget. So in this way, I could see why Lucy and Gabe felt such a strong connection to each other. On a day that was filled with such darkness, they were able to find light with each other. It’s truly a romantic idea.

However, I don’t think their intense connection excused their actions. I tried desperately to feel sympathetic, or rather, empathetic, towards the two of them but I just couldn’t support their decisions, beginning with the way Gabe informed Lucy he was leaving New York to be a photojournalist in the Middle East. I don’t want to spoil it, but it was the worst possible time for him to tell her that, but he was too selfish to care. Similarly, Lucy was too irrational to think through her decisions later on, whenever it came to Gabe.

There were definitely some nice moments in this book that I enjoyed and the writing itself was definitely beautiful, but overall, I was disappointed with this novel. If you’ve read The Light We Lost, let me know your thoughts on it below!

Borrow or Buy: Borrow!

Stars:

3 stars

Favorite Line:

“He said not only would he not break you, that he’d help put you back together.”

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Book Review: So B. It

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Synopsis

She doesn’t know when her birthday is or who her father is. In fact, everything about Heidi and her mentally disabled mother’s past is a mystery. When a strange word in her mother’s vocabulary begins to haunt her, Heidi sets out on a cross-country journey in search of the secrets of her past.

Far away from home, pieces of her puzzling history come together. But it isn’t until she learns to accept not knowing that Heidi truly arrives.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

Full disclosure, I’m currently studying at The New School and Sarah Weeks, the author of this book, is my professor. That being said, I really enjoyed this book.

Prior to taking Sarah’s class, I was aware of this book but I don’t think I ever read it, or if I did, I don’t remember it. The story follows Heidi, who lives with her mother, So B. It, and their neighbor, Bernie. Heidi’s mother is mentally disabled and can only say a few words, but one day she says a new word, “Soof,” and Heidi can’t get it out of her head.

Soon after, she finds an old photo of her mother, who’s pregnant with Heidi at the time, and a bunch of others at a Christmas party. Heidi notices the name of the place where the party is taking place and decides she most go there to finally get some answers about where she and her mother came from. If you’re wondering how a young girl could make such an incredible journey, it’s all because of her luck.

Heidi is just lucky. No one knows why, that’s just how it is. Using her “power” she’s able to get money from slot machines to pay for her necessities and just happens to know the right people to follow onto the bus so she doesn’t look suspicious. Through her journey Heidi learns more than she ever bargained for and afterwards, her life is never the same.

What I loved about this book was Heidi’s little family with her mom and Bernie. While her mother suffers from an unnamed illness, Bernie suffers from agoraphobia, which means she can’t leave the house. This is another reason why Heidi has to be so independent; there are a lot of things she just has to do on her own. But I loved how even though this isn’t a “traditional family” you could still see all the love in it. While this story definitely broke my heart in some ways, I still laughed and my heart felt full while reading. That being said, I’m very happy Sarah’s writing a sequel because I want to know what happens next for Heidi.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read, but I’m not sure I would read it again. This is a story I think every one should read, but for the sake of my emotions, I don’t think I could read it twice.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow

Stars:

4 stars

Favorite Line:

“You can’t miss what you don’t remember ever having.”

ARC Book Review: Mary Rose

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Synopsis:

Mary Rose Moreland and Simon Blake are the perfect couple: successful young professionals in Philadelphia, attractive, madly in love, and ready to start a life together. When they travel to England for Simon to ask her parents’ permission to marry Mary Rose, he learns an unsettling secret: Mary Rose disappeared when she was a little girl while the family was vacationing on a remote Scottish island. She reappeared mysteriously thirty-three days later in the exact same spot without a scratch on her and no memory of what had happened.

After Simon hears about this disturbing episode in Mary Rose’s childhood, he becomes obsessed with finding out what happened. He proceeds to launch his own investigation and arranges during their honeymoon for them to visit the island where she disappeared. But as Mary Rose’s behavior gets stranger after their engagement, the need for Simon to unlock the truth about her past grows even more urgent. What he uncovers is beyond his most terrifying fears.

Mary Rose is author Geoffrey Girard’s chilling and modern take on a classic ghost story originally written by J. M. Barrie. And for years, master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock attempted to adapt Mary Rose into a film but was never successful. With this novel, Girard taps into the nightmarish fears that inspired both Barrie and Hitchcock, while also bringing the story to the present day with his own unique voice.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Adaptive Books. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel is out today, exclusively at Barnes & Noble.*

Mary Rose isn’t the kind of book I typically read. It was weird and strange and mysterious, and I was so intrigued I just had to keep reading until the end. Mary Rose is a mystery wrapped up in the shell of woman. She’s beautiful, but there’s clearly something off about her. Her boyfriend, Simon, however, doesn’t mind that at all. In fact, it seems to make him more infatuated with her.

When Simon and Mary Rose take a trip to her childhood home in England, Simon learns that Mary Rose disappeared for 33 days when she was child, on an island in Scotland. There was no explanation for her disappearance or how she suddenly reappeared, seemingly fine. For some reason, Mary’s parents were content with not knowing, and though they took her to psychologists over the years, eventually they just resigned themselves to the fact that they’d never really know.

Still, Mary Rose clearly had issues. Even though she couldn’t remember what happened to her on that island, she had nightmares and drew very strange drawings all the time. What I loved about this novel is that this story toes the line of realism and fantasy. I wasn’t sure if Mary Rose was taken to some magical land for the 33 days or if a regular human person had taken her. I also wasn’t sure if the island was this really scary place or if it just became that because of all the stories people told about it.

As I kept reading, just like Simon, I needed to know what happened to Mary Rose. Why was she the way she was? Was she even a real person or something else entirely? And was there a reason why Simon, and seemingly all the men around her, were attracted to Mary Rose, or was that just a coincidence? All these questions are what made the book fun for me, because I was intrigued by the mystery and I felt thoroughly satisfied by the answers given at the end.

My biggest frustration with the novel was definitely the characters. While I could understand why Simon was interested in learning what happened to Mary Rose, I honestly couldn’t understand why he stuck by her side for so long or didn’t get her help. Maybe love is just blind, but the things Mary did would make me run for the hills or at least offer up an ultimatum, that she either needed to see a doctor or the relationship was over.

I also just couldn’t sympathize with Mary Rose, but I’m not sure I was supposed to. The novel is told in close third person, switching between Simon and Mary. Mary was definitely going through a hard time, but the way she handled a lot of things bothered me. Really, I just wanted this woman to see a therapist throughout the entirety of the novel and it bothered me that the only explanation for why she didn’t was because she went before and that didn’t work out for strange reasons. Still, I understand this was also a plot device so I can forgive the author for this, but it did bother me.

Overall, I recommend this novel if you’re into mysteries and a fan of Alfred Hitchcock. There’s a short essay in the back that explains the history of Mary Rose, which I found very interesting since I took an Alfred Hitchcock class in college, and I could definitely see why this story would’ve interested him. It was also interesting to see how this story started as a play and then the screenplay written for Hitchcock to now this book. I liked the changes Geoffrey Girard made and I’m not sure I would’ve enjoyed this novel if it was told in the original way.

Therefore, read the book if you like mysteries and questions about the supernatural. If you’re not into that kind of thing, I’d say skip this one. It’s definitely not for everyone, but it is enjoyable.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow. I probably won’t read it again, but it’s perfect for Halloween.

Stars:

3 stars

Favorite Line:

“Better to know the blow that was coming at you than let it catch you unawares.”