ARC Review: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

four dead queens.jpgSynopsis:

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.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Indie Bound

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Penguin Teen. 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 February 26, 2019.*

There is so much that I loved about this book, I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s just start with the world in general. Astrid Scholte gave me a fantasy world where there is no magic, and I love her for it. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good magical system, but the way Scholte was able to build this world where magic-like things happened simply because of science and technology was really awesome to me. I absolutely loved that aspect of the world building and I’m totally here for more fantastical worlds without magic.

Second, I also loved how this world was set up in general and the history behind it. In Quadara (love that “quad” is in the kingdom name), there are four quadrants: Eonia, Archia, Ludia, and Toria. These quadrants are split by walls and for the most part people do not move from one quadrant to the other, thus causing a great deal of separation between the people of each quadrant and very different ways of life. In Eonia, people grow up without emotions and they are highly focused on science and how to make the best kind of humans. Archia is all about a natural way of life. They balk at technology and are focused on agriculture. Ludia is a stress free, care free quadrant. Their focus is on the arts and entertainment. Toria is all about curiosity and exploration, but honestly, I felt like Toria was the least defined quadrant. I felt like I had a clear understanding of the other three quadrants, but Toria left me a little confused. Still, I think Scholte did a great job of explaining why the kingdom has the four quadrants and the four queens that rule them.

Third, the twists in this novel killed me! The formatting of this novel was so well done. There are alternating chapters of Keralie in first person and then each of the queens in third person. Scholte did an amazing job of playing with time in this story and a good number of bait and switches. Every time I thought I had everything figured out she pulled the rug out from under me. It is rare that I am truly surprised by a novel and I was surprised multiple times with this one. I absolutely loved it and all the twists and turns made this book so hard to put down.

Lastly, I’m a sucker for romance and look for it in every book I read, whether it’s actually there or not. Thus, I was immediately intrigued by Keralie and Varin’s team up. I love a good hate to love romance, and though I wouldn’t even go as far as to say these two actually hated each other at the start of the novel, I found Varin’s constant irritation with Keralie as they decided to work together to save the queens highly amusing. These two were polar opposites in the best way and I shipped them immediately. There were also a number of other romantic plot lines throughout the book with various disagrees of happy and not happy at all endings that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

All in all, I loved this novel. The plot was very well-written and the characters were incredibly interesting and complex, especially Keralie. I love a flawed character and Keralie certainly isn’t perfect, but at her core she’s a good person and I loved that about her. I highly recommend picking up Four Dead Queens when it hits the shelves, and I personally can’t wait to see what Scholte writes next.

Borrow or Buy: Buy it!

Stars:

4 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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ARC Book Review: North of Happy

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Synopsis:

His whole life has been mapped out for him… 

Carlos Portillo has always led a privileged and sheltered life. A dual citizen of Mexico and the United States, he lives in Mexico City with his wealthy family, where he attends an elite international school. Always a rule follower and a parent pleaser, Carlos is more than happy to tread the well-worn path in front of him. He has always loved food and cooking, but his parents see it as just a hobby.

When his older brother, Felix—who has dropped out of college to live a life of travel—is tragically killed, Carlos begins hearing his brother’s voice, giving him advice and pushing him to rebel against his father’s plan for him. Worrying about his mental health but knowing the voice is right, Carlos runs away to the United States and manages to secure a job with his favorite celebrity chef. As he works to improve his skills in the kitchen and pursue his dream, he begins to fall for his boss’s daughter—a fact that could end his career before it begins. Finally living for himself, Carlos must decide what’s most important to him and where his true path really lies.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

*I won a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Harlequin Teen. 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 April 25, 2017.*

Honestly, I’d never read a book by Adi Alsaid before but I love giveaways so I entered without a second thought and was happily surprised when I won. The book then sat on my shelves for a while but after reading two Ellen Hopkins books back to back I wanted to read something happier. Obviously, I forgot what this book was about.

The story follows Carlos, after his older brother Felix was tragically killed. Felix was the “wild child” of the family, meaning instead of going the traditional route and go to college like his parents wanted him to, he decided to travel the world instead. Carlos, did the very opposite, and planned to intern at his father’s company after graduating high school and then go to the University of Chicago, even though he loved to cook. However, after Felix’s death, Carlos, at the advice of Felix, who he keeps seeing everywhere and in everything, decides to head to an island by Seattle instead.

There, he goes to a restaurant his brother wanted to visit and finds himself meeting Emma, a girl who helps him feel less crazy about seeing his dead brother, and he also finds his way into the kitchen at the restaurant. However, Carlos unfortunately can’t have both the girl and the job. At least, he’s not supposed to, but being the new reckless teen that he is, he dates Emma anyway, which I loved. Forbidden romance is my jam.

Of course complications arise, and there’s some drama, both romantic and familial for Carlos, and overall I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I really liked that Carlos seeing Felix everywhere isn’t really explained so you can take it as you want to. I personally like to think Felix was indeed a ghost and Carlos wasn’t tripping, but that could just me. Additionally, I really liked Emma and Carlos’ relationship. I thought they were cute and funny but it was also realistic and didn’t feel forced.

Chef, Emma’s mom, annoyed me to no end but by the end of the novel I at least felt like I understood where she was coming from. I still didn’t like her but I respect her. I also really liked the side characters, especially Carlos’ roommates on the island; even Matt, who is kind of a jerk.

Although I was satisfied with the ending, I do think some people won’t be. It’s one of those endings where you can kind of decide for yourself what happens next, which I love but I know some people don’t. Still, I think this is definitely a must read. The way Alsaid handles grief, familial obligations, and just family in general, was great. I also enjoyed that every chapter started with a recipe, which was a constant reminder of Carlos’ love for food (and made me very hungry).

If you’ve never read Alsaid’s books like I hadn’t, I highly recommend this one. It was a quick read and I couldn’t put it down. Now I want to read his other novels. If you’ve read any of his books, which one should I read next? Let me know in the comments below.

Stars:

4 stars

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Book Review: Burned (Reread)

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Synopsis:

It all started with a dream. Just a typical fantasy, but for a girl raised in a religious—and abusive—family, a simple dream could be the first step toward eternal damnation. Now Pattyn Von Stratten has questions. Questions about God, and sex, and mostly love. Will she ever find it? Pattyn experiences the first stirrings of passion, but when her father catches her in a compromising position, events spiral out of control.

Pattyn is sent to live with an aunt in the wilds of rural Nevada to find salvation and redemption. What she finds instead is love and acceptance, and for the first time she feels worthy of both—until she realizes that her old demons will not let her go. Those demons lead Pattyn down a path to hell—not to the place she learned about in sacrament meetings, but to an existence every bit as horrifying.

In this gripping and masterful novel told in verse, Ellen Hopkins embarks on an emotional journey that ebbs and flows. From the highs of true love to the lows of loss and despair, Pattyn’s story is utterly compelling. You won’t want this story to end—but when it does, you can find out what’s next for Pattyn in the sequel, Smoke.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

The first time I read Burned I was in high school and I remember loving it even though it broke my heart. Therefore when I heard there was a sequel I knew I had to read it but since I read Burned so long ago I knew I’d have to do a reread and I’m so glad I did.

The novel follows protagonist Pattyn who grew up in a Mormon family where it was believed that women were only there to provide children and their husband would have to pull them into heaven when the time came. Pattyn’s father was abusive and as Pattyn began to question her religion more and more she also began to act out. Her parents decide to send her to live with her aunt, and it may have been the best thing they ever did for her.

Out there she began to realize there was a different way to live and that there’s more to life than what she had been taught. However, don’t expect this story to have a happy ending. As Pattyn foreshadows often, her sense of freedom doesn’t last forever.

Even though I knew how this novel would end it still broke my heart again. While I love this book I hate how it ends, mainly because I want so much more for Pattyn. I’m currently reading Smoke now, which I like a lot, but I refuse to get my hopes up for Pattyn to have a happy ending. Ellen Hopkins has broken my heart too many times for that.

Overall, I thought this was a great read, even the second time around. If you haven’t read it yet definitely check out it. Just be prepared to cry. Also, while this is one portrayal of Mormon life this isn’t the case for all Mormons so don’t take it as such.

If you have read Burned let me know your thoughts on it below.

Stars:

4 stars

Favorite Line:

“Live your life right. Love with all your heart. Don’t hurt others, and help those in need. That is all you need to know.”

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Book Review: The Assassin’s Blade

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Synopsis:

Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan’s most feared assassin. As part of the Assassin’s Guild, she’s sworn to her master, Arobynn Hamel, yet Celaena listens to no one and trusts only her fellow killer for hire, Sam.

In these action-packed prequel novellas to Throne of Glass, Celaena embarks on five daring missions. They take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, where she fights to liberate slaves and avenge tyranny. But by acting on her own terms, will Celaena truly free herself from her master, or will she suffer an unimaginable punishment for such treachery?

This bind-up features all four of the previously published e-novellas along with a story now available in the US for the first time, The Assassin and the Healer.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

*This book is part of my POPSUGAR 2016 Reading Challenge.*

It took me forever, but I finally finished the Throne of Glass series. The Assassin’s Blade was the only book holding me back but after realizing I was behind on my Goodreads challenge I finally got the push I needed to finish it. It took me so long to read this book not because it was bad but because I knew how it would end and I wasn’t looking forward to that ending. In truth, the book was actually very good.

I really enjoyed learning more about Celaena’s past and her relationship with Sam. Now I finally understand why everyone loves him. He was amazing and my heart hurts for him and what he went through. This book also made me realize even more why I do not like Arobynn. He is honestly a trash human being and so incredibly manipulative that it tittered the line of unbelievable.

Reading this novel after I read Empire of Storms definitely cleared up a lot of questions I had about Empire of Storms. In The Assassin’s Blade I learned the history of the Silent Assassins, Ansel, and the Pirate Lord, all of which comes in handy with where the series is currently at.

Overall, The Assassin’s Blade was definitely worth a read and I’m glad I finally read it and can now say I’ve read all of Sarah J. Maas books this year. It’s crazy to think I didn’t even know who she was a year ago. Make sure to check out Maas’ novels if you haven’t yet. They’re all spectacular.

Stars:

4 stars

Favorite Line:

“I love you. And from today onward, I want to never be separated from you. Wherever you go, I go. Even if that means going to Hell itself, wherever you are, that’s where I want to be. Forever.”

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Book Review: The Thousandth Floor 

Synopsis:

A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose.

Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.

Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.

Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one?

Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.

And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository

Review

I buddy read this book with my friend Jess and although we both weren’t into it in the beginning the last 100 pages sucked us in and now we both need to read the sequel.

When I first began reading I felt like this novel had way too many POVs and I still felt that way until I got to the end and realized why all those POVs were essential. To me Watt was the most unnecessary POV and I liked him the least out of all the characters we followed. Eris was my favorite, I liked Rylin but hated all her bad decisions, Avery annoyed me because of how she handled her problems, and I went from feeling sympathetic towards Leda to hating her. There was a lot going on in this novel but like I said the way Katharine McGee was able to bring everything together in the end saved this novel for me.

This book definitely gave me Gossip Girl vibes. Jess and I kept comparing these characters to the characters of Gossip Girl and began referring to Watt as Lonely Boy because he’s honestly exactly like the TV show version of Dan. Spoilers if you haven’t seen the show but Dan was Gossip Girl and in The Thousandth Floor Watt’s hacker name is Nadia. There’s a lot of other reasons why they’re similar but I don’t want to go into too much detail and spoil it but they’re very alike. Trust me. However, once again, what differentiated this book for me, besides the fact that it takes place in the future, was the surprising end.

One of my big issues with the novel, however, was trying to wrap my head around this world McGee created. When I first thought about the tower I thought of it like the Empire State Building but as I kept reading I realized it wasn’t like that at all. Apparently the Tower covers most of Manhattan and there’s buildings within the tower as well as streets and parks. So for a while I thought that meant all of New York City was the tower but then Eris and her friend, Mariel, went to a party outside of the Tower so I had to wrap my head around that. It was just a bit confusing for me and I struggled to understand the setting.

As I’ve said the plot is what really made this book awesome for me. It did start slow and I was annoyed with each character at least once in this book because they either did something stupid or I could foresee what they were planning backfiring on them. Despite that, McGee did write some good romances and like I said the last 100 pages really made the book worthwhile for me. I definitely plan on buying this one and reading the next book. I need to know what happens next!

Stars:

3 stars

Favorite Line:

“I believe in happiness. I’m just not sure love will actually get you there.”

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Book Review: All the Bright Places

Synopsis:

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death. Every day he thinks of ways he might kill himself, but every day he also searches for—and manages to find—something to keep him here, and alive, and awake.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her small Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school—six stories above the ground— it’s unclear who saves whom. Soon it’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. . . .

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository

Review

All the Bright Places has been sitting on my shelves for at least a year and although I heard great things about it I just never seemed in the right mood to read it. However, after reading a lot of fantasy this year I found myself in a contemporary mood and ended up giving this book a try. Unfortunately it did not live up to the hype.

This novel is told in the altering first person perspectives of Violet and Finch who met on the ledge of the bell tower at school. While Finch was known for being weird, Violet was a popular girl. Therefore it was easy for them to weave this story that Violet talked Finch down from the tower even though the truth was it was actually the other way around. After this shared experience Violet and Finch naturally end up romantically involved.

For Finch his focus was on staying “awake” as he calls it. Finch goes through these periods of being “asleep” where he loses track of time and can’t really do anything. I took this to mean he falls into a deep depression. Differently Violet is just focused on counting down the days until graduation so she can leave town and move one from her sister’s death. Both Violet and Finch have their issues but Finch’s obviously stems from a mental illness that his family doesn’t seem all that concerned about. Differently, Violet’s parents are very concerned about her and they have a right to be since she refused to get in a car because her sister died in a car accident.

I wanted to like the message of this novel but it was hard for me to acknowledge that when I disliked the characters so much. I found both Violet and Finch irritating and though I wanted to feel sympathetic towards them it was difficult for me to find sympathy. I just didn’t really love anything about this book. The plot was just fine, the romance wasn’t all that exciting, and though I get the message I was annoyed with how this book ended. In summary I don’t get the hype at all so this is definitely a borrow for me.

Stars:

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Favorite Line:

“You are all the colors in one, at full brightness.”

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