ARC Review | These Vengeful Hearts

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: These Vengeful Hearts

Author: Katherine Laurin

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 384

Publication Date: September 8, 2020

Categories: Young Adult, Contemporary, Revenge, Secret Society, Romance

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Anyone can ask the Red Court for a favor…but every request comes at a cost. And once the deed is done, you’re forever in their debt.

Whenever something scandalous happens at Heller High, the Red Court is the name on everyone’s lips. Its members–the most elite female students in the school–deal out social ruin and favors in equal measure, their true identities a secret known only to their ruthless leader: the Queen of Hearts.

Sixteen-year-old Ember Williams has seen firsthand the damage the Red Court can do. Two years ago, they caused the accident that left her older sister paralyzed. Now, Ember is determined to hold them accountable…by taking the Red Court down from the inside.

But crossing enemy lines will mean crossing moral boundaries, too–ones Ember may never be able to come back from. She always knew taking on the Red Court would come at a price, but will the cost of revenge be more than she’s willing to sacrifice?

Thank you to Inkyard Press and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

These Vengeful Hearts is a mean girls story. There is a secret group at Heller High called The Red Court and they rule the school in a way. If you want something to happen, you can get in touch with The Red Court and they can help you with your goal. But in turn, they can come to collect a favor from you when it’s needed.

Ember Williams has revenge on her mind, but when she’s finally a part of the infamous court, can she carry out her plans?

  • Love the cover of this book and the concept of the story. Ember Williams is going to take down the red court because they hurt someone she loves. But once she is in, she admits she likes being part of a group that is in control of people’s lives. I liked seeing Ember walk her tight rope balancing revenge, lies, romance and eventually truth.
  • Ember has a cool best friend, Gideon, and I love their relationship. He tells her things straight out and tries to keep her level-headed about her revenge scheme.
  • The romance, though it starts off because of a Red Court mission…is something I did enjoy because Ember comes clean, but Chase does too. Anyway I’m glad even through it, things work out. The romance isn’t the main story which is nice too, it just shows how lies can hurt.
  • I liked the twist in the story, it made things even worse for Ember but…it made her realize, truth was the right thing in the end.

  • As much as I love the concept of the book, I didn’t feel like the story was sinister enough at times. The first half was losing steam and thank goodness it picked up in the second half but The Red Court just seemed to be breaking couples up and rigging homecoming election. So, it didn’t seem like a big deal at first but that was my biggest issue with the book.
  • Maybe it was all too predictable and it had so much potential to be more…I was expecting more.
  • Triggers: bullying

Overall, I enjoyed the story okay enough, mostly in the second half when Ember has to decide her course of action but I do believe this story had so much potential and fell a bit short. Main lesson from the story: if you live honestly then you have nothing to hide! It’s a good lesson. The teaser of a Black Court in the end left me intrigued! I’m not sure if there is a sequel…but if there is, I may read it to see where the story goes.

Master of Poisons | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Master of Poisons

Author: Andrea Hairston

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 464

Publication Date: 9/8/20

Publisher: Tor.com

Categories: Fantasy, Adult Fiction

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

The world is changing. Poison desert eats good farmland. Once-sweet water turns foul. The wind blows sand and sadness across the Empire. To get caught in a storm is death. To live and do nothing is death. There is magic in the world, but good conjure is hard to find.

Djola, righthand man and spymaster of the lord of the Arkhysian Empire, is desperately trying to save his adopted homeland, even in exile.

Awa, a young woman training to be a powerful griot, tests the limits of her knowledge and comes into her own in a world of sorcery, floating cities, kindly beasts, and uncertain men.

Awash in the rhythms of folklore and storytelling and rich with Hairston’s characteristic lush prose, Master of Poisons is epic fantasy that will leave you aching for the world it burns into being.

Thank you to Tor.com and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

My Attention: waned

World Building: African epic fantasy – the most amazing thing about this story is the world building of the Arkhysian Empire. The reader travels across so many terrains and come across different kinds of people and tribes.

Writing Style: beautifully written

Bringing the Heat: no

Crazy in Love: there is love but it isn’t crazy 

Creativity: imaginative world building of magic, griots and politics

Mood: inspired

Triggers: violence

My Takeaway: African inspired fantasies are so rich in culture and magic!

  • The world building in this epic story takes center stage. It is an African inspired fantasy, and filled with lush scenery and characters. There is political intrigue, danger, music, adventure, gods, spirits and so much magic.
  • One thing I love about fantasy stories is that diversity is usually a given. This book is no exception.
  • The story follows two main characters Djola who is the Master of Poisons, and Awa a young griot. I think both of them were interesting but I was drawn towards Awa more, maybe because she was the female character and griots are something I’ve been reading more about lately in other African inspired fantasies. Djola is an Elder and is knowledgable and knows the political landscape of the Arkhysian Empire. He has magic as well. The story moves faster when Awa and Djola finally meet. I like their interactions because they both learn from one another.
  • The writing is so visual, like when Awa’s bees surround her. I can see this book translated into a fantasy series on screen. I can only imagine how amazing the scenes would look. This story is beautiful in the way some sentences flow and sound like proverbs. There are deep meanings and messages in this story.
  • The story is written beautifully but it lost my attention in the middle because it moved too slow and I was learning about the different people, their magic, and the language. Djola is tasked to basically the cure to the land and Awa is a young griot new to her growing powers. I wanted it to move faster in the beginning but I understand the scope of the storytelling especially with the world building.
  • While the world building is fantastic, I wish I had connected to the characters more. Awa was my favorite, and her character was vibrant but emotionally, I felt like I didn’t connect to anyone in the story.

This landscape of African inspired fantasy is a wonderful eye-opening reading experience for me. I’m usually a reader of young adult fantasy, but this adult fantasy, Master of Poisons, is epic. Maybe because I’m so used to young adult fiction the slow building of this story challenged my attention span. The world-building for me is the stand out in this book, it is so seamless and imaginative. Lovers of fantasy will definitely enjoy this one.

💕 ~ Yolanda

ARC Review | The Silvered Serpents (The Gilded Wolves, #2)

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: The Silvered Serpents (The Gilded Wolves, #2)

Author: Roshani Chokshi

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 416

Publication Date: September 22, 2020

Categories: Historical, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

They are each other’s fiercest love, greatest danger, and only hope.

Séverin and his team members might have successfully thwarted the Fallen House, but victory came at a terrible cost ― one that still haunts all of them. Desperate to make amends, Séverin pursues a dangerous lead to find a long lost artifact rumoured to grant its possessor the power of God.

Their hunt lures them far from Paris, and into icy heart of Russia where crystalline ice animals stalk forgotten mansions, broken goddesses carry deadly secrets, and a string of unsolved murders makes the crew question whether an ancient myth is a myth after all.

As hidden secrets come to the light and the ghosts of the past catch up to them, the crew will discover new dimensions of themselves. But what they find out may lead them down paths they never imagined.

A tale of love and betrayal as the crew risks their lives for one last job.

Thank you to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

I don’t know what I was expecting from this book but wow, I waited to read this arc because the publication got pushed back but I’m glad I finally did read it!

We return to the world of The Gilded Wolves, but the crew has been torn apart by the death of Tristan, Severin’s brother. They come together again for another mission to find a mythological artifact – The Divine Lyrics. This time their quest takes them to Russia and Siberia. Severin wants it badly to make him and his friends, gods. Yet Laila needs it to stay alive. Once again we have the amazing characters I came to love in book one, but this time they are dealing with grief and questioning their self-worth. The heists, puzzles, riddles, action and surprises make this sequel so much more exciting to me than the first book. But this one also broke my heart! 🥺

  • The characters are what make this series. They are awesome and diverse! I love how they are all different and have fascinating back stories. Enrique is my favorite, but Hypnos really shined in this one too. They are all smart and skilled in their own ways but in this sequel we see their vulnerabilities and it got me in the feels. I am heartbroken for all of them, for losing Tristan. But Enrique and Zophia kept this mission afloat – they had to since Severin and Laila were falling apart.
  • The clues, riddles, high stakes, and heists are so much fun to me. I love, love, love Enrique’s inquisitive mind and capacity for memorizing historical information. But there are dangerous moments in this sequel as well and the twists in the story were good too!
  • There is so much emotion in this book: grief being a major part of it for Severin and all of them really, but Severin most of all. Also the wall between Severin and Laila was hurting my heart. They love each other but Severin fears love because it can be lost, like how Tristan was. The same for Laila – why love Severin when knowing her life could be lost soon, she doesn’t want to hurt him. They all want love and to be loved yet there is so much fear in it too. The ending gutted me, when love is explained as something that looks different to people – I felt that strongly.
  • Hypnos…I mentioned him earlier, but thank goodness he brings such humor to this story. I love him.
  • Severin takes a back seat in this story…and he is COLD hearted in this one. He is dealing with grief but wow…he is not the same guy from book one – and I was scared how far he’d gone at the end! We shall see what happens to him in the next book.
  • Sometimes there is so much information that Enrique is spewing out, I get lost LOL…which is funny because he mentions he feels like no one cares or listens to him. He is my fave but even sometimes his incessant talking goes over my head…and why am I talking about him like he’s real?! 🤣😍
  • Triggers: blood (a new character, a blood forger is introduced), violence, grief

I loved this book more than the first one! It was faster in pace, with another high stakes quest but with the crew falling apart at times. Yet there were funny moments too especially with Hypnos helping them out. I loved seeing the characters deal with their vulnerabilities, which was so relatable. And the thing I take away from this book is love – how it looks different to every one of us but we all want love. Love from family, from a friend, or from a partner. ❤️ But love is scary too because the pain of losing a loved one is hell. There are a few quotes from this book that I absolutely adore but can’t post since it’s an arc…but it made me want to weep, for Severin and the rest of the crew. Definitely looking forward to the next book!

Chosen Ones |ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Chosen Ones (The Chosen One, #1)

Author: Veronica Roth

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 419

Categories: Adult Fiction, Supernatural, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

The first novel written for an adult audience by the mega-selling author of the Divergent franchise: five twenty-something heroes famous for saving the world when they were teenagers must face even greater demons–and reconsider what it means to be a hero . . . by destiny or by choice.

A decade ago near Chicago, five teenagers defeated the otherworldly enemy known as the Dark One, whose reign of terror brought widespread destruction and death. The seemingly un-extraordinary teens—Sloane, Matt, Ines, Albie, and Esther—had been brought together by a clandestine government agency because one of them was fated to be the “Chosen One,” prophesized to save the world. With the goal achieved, humankind celebrated the victors and began to mourn their lost loved ones.

Ten years later, though the champions remain celebrities, the world has moved forward and a whole, younger generation doesn’t seem to recall the days of endless fear. But Sloane remembers. It’s impossible for her to forget when the paparazzi haunt her every step just as the Dark One still haunts her dreams. Unlike everyone else, she hasn’t moved on; she’s adrift—no direction, no goals, no purpose. On the eve of the Ten Year Celebration of Peace, a new trauma hits the Chosen: the death of one of their own. And when they gather for the funeral at the enshrined site of their triumph, they discover to their horror that the Dark One’s reign never really ended.

Thank you to John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

My Attention: struggled

World Building: urban fantasy, Chicago

Writing Style: writing flows well, I just thought the beginning was hard to get into because it takes the form of an investigation/reports and that usually kills my interest

Bringing the Heat: 🔥

Crazy in Love: nope

Creativity: ten years ago, there were 5 chosen ones who fought of the Dark One…here they are on the anniversary still dealing with the PTSD of what took place in that fight

Mood: not feeling it

Triggers: violence, PTSD, suicide

My Takeaway: Heroes can come out scarred.

  • Sloane is an interesting, morally grey, character – she is spunky, blunt and angry. She’s dealing with a lot of stuff and mostly because she was one of the chosen ones 10 years who fought the Dark One. And it messed her up. She knows it messed her up even though her boyfriend Matt says this side of her, is “not” her. I’m glad we got into her head and thoughts.
  • The premise about what happens to the heroes after they defeat the bad guy, is an awesome topic to explore. Some of them move on, some of them suffer from PTSD and don’t know how to accept who they are after what happened. I really liked how mental health issues were on display in this story.
  • On top of the PTSD, these chosen ones became “celebrities” whether they wanted to be or not. They saved the world and was thrown into the spotlight. Matt navigated fame expertly, but Sloane despises it. I like how the author brought to light the issues heroes would have to deal with after saving the world.
  • This story is imaginative and different. I appreciate that the story is thought-provoking.
  • This is an adult fiction book but for me it reads like NA (New Adult) or even could pass for YA at times.
  • Sci-Fi/Fantasy is a challenging genre for me to delve into especially when there are a lot of flashbacks. It didn’t help me that the story unraveled slowly. The writing is good but it just didn’t hook me with the flashbacks.
  • I couldn’t connect with any of the characters.
  • Definitely a mood read kind of book for me – and I think I was in the wrong mood for this.

Overall, this wasn’t for me. I’m a fan of the author’s previous work but this one was too slow for me and the flashbacks didn’t engage me. I did enjoy how the story explored how heroes deal with the aftermath of saving the world. I think fans of sci-fi will enjoy this one a lot.

The Black Kids | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Black Kids

Author: Christina Hammonds Reed

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 368

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Categories: Racism, Los Angeles History, Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Family, Friendship, Rodney King Riots, Coming of Age, Identity

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Los Angeles, 1992

Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of high school and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.

But everything changes one afternoon in April, when four police officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.

As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.

With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them? 

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

I had to request this book because of the cover and it’s subject matter. It did not disappoint!

My Reactions:

My Attention: caught

World Building: Los Angeles, California 1992

Writing Style: slow beginning but the message is strong

Bringing the Heat: 🔥 the heat of the riots – yes, the sex or romantic scenes, not so much

Crazy in Love: not so crazy, there is a growing relationship but it’s in the second half of the story

Creativity: during the Rodney King riots, Ashley is coming of age and dealing with family problems/history, friendship problems, dating problems and being black in an affluent part of Los Angeles

Mood:  eyes opened to Los Angeles history

Triggers: racism, bullying, violence

My Takeaway: When Ashley’s world comes crumbling down she finds out the truth about her friends, family and herself – and that’s a good thing.

  • This was the book I needed to read because I went to college in Los Angeles, back in 1996. I was only there for four years but this book opened my eyes very wide to the history of Los Angeles that I never knew about! I was unaware of the segregation of Santa Monica and the coastal towns but it explains what I see on the news today when I see white supremacist that are prevalent there! Also, this story takes place in 1992 and I was a high school freshman back then but the time setting definitely made me nostalgic for the music, which is tied into Ashley’s story.
  • Ashley is friends with the popular white girls in her school, and some of them use racial slurs around her casually. She likes fitting in but at what cost? Throughout the story she starts to question her friendships with these girls. It was a relief to see her venture out and talk to other people outside her group.
  • Speaking of Los Angeles history, another important history that Ashley explores is her family history. It’s so powerful when she says the history she knows starts with slavery in America…and that’s what was robbed from black people when they were taken from their motherlands and sold into slavery here in America, their true histories…histories that began in Africa, lost. At times Ashley doesn’t seem to care, she’s a teen going through friend and boy problems and the world outside doesn’t seem to matter. How much does it affect her that her grandma’s vacuum shop gets looted in the riots? She’s not close to that side of the family or it’s history, so how much should she care? So many of the mention of history in this story is powerful.
  • Her family problems are realistic. Every family has drama, and they are going through it with her older sister, who becomes part of the riots. Her parents have their marriage problems, her uncle and cousin being affected by the riots also appear in the story – so I felt like those issues were relatable. Also, I love her relationship with her nanny, Lucia – she was someone super close to her it seems, the one real friend she had maybe.
  • This story builds – at first it feels superficial being in Ashley’s head, in her life with her perfect white friends as they do whatever they want to do. But that’s what I think is great about this story, Southern California has that beach, casual, blasé, and Hollywood vibe. But this story gives us a history lesson about Los Angeles. I was waiting for this story to make an impact on me and it snuck up quietly, it was a crescendo. And though this was in 1992…it happened again in 2020, except the riots took over more than one city. It’s what makes this story so important today.
  • This is set in the 1990’s but at times I thought it was set in 2020! The racism, the violence of the riots, it was a repeat this year and on a bigger scale.
  • Another issue that was big in the 80’s and 90’s was HIV/AIDs. It does appear in this story very briefly. Also the teens in this story are out doing all kinds of things like smoking pot, drinking or doing drugs like E at prom. There is even a quick sex scene memory but it’s not graphic.
  • Ashley comes off superficial, especially in the beginning because of the friends she has and where she lives but it’s important that we are in her head. We do see growth throughout the story.

Ashley’s experience with the Rodney King riots, living on the outskirts of the rioting has a powerful and unexpected impact on her. She thinks the issues don’t affect her until she realizes it really does. She’s black. The racism against her and her family, her people, it affects her deeply but she’s been trying to fit in or blend in – but she can’t. I loved watching her change and grow as she confronts all the issues converging on her at once. This is a powerful story of an important time in history that’s absolutely relevant and relatable today.

The Lost City | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Lost City

Author: Amanda Hocking

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 384

Publication Date: July 7, 2020

Categories/Themes: Contemporary Fantasy, Mystery, Identity, Coming of Age, Paranormal

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Nestled along the bluffs of the forested coast lays the secret kingdom of the Omte—a realm filled with wonder…and as many secrets. 

Ulla Tulin was left abandoned in an isolated Kanin city as a baby, taken in by strangers and raised hidden away like many of the trolls of mixed blood. Even knowing this truth, she’s never stopped wondering about her family.

When Ulla is offered an internship working alongside the handsome Pan Soriano at the Mimirin, a prestigious institution, she jumps at the chance to use this opportunity to hopefully find her parents. All she wants is to focus on her job and the search for her parents, but all of her attempts to find them are blocked when she learns her mother may be connected to the Omte royal family.

With little progress made, Ulla and Pan soon find themselves wrapped up in helping Eliana, an amnestic girl with abilities unlike any they have ever seen before—a girl who seems to be running from something. To figure out who she is they must leave the city, and possibly, along the way, they may learn more about Ulla’s parents.

Thank you to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

I heard of Amanda Hocking years ago but I have never read her books. When I got asked to join the blog tour, I jumped at the chance to finally read one of her books.

My Reactions:

My Attention: It had my attention but it took me a few days to read this book, which isn’t a bad thing.

World Building: Wow. This world she created is so detailed, and it’s build into our modern day society. I mean it’s so detailed that at the end of the book she lists the history of Troll monarchies.

Writing Style: the pace of the story is slow but it reads like a mystery – despite that, I was so engrossed in this fascinating world that Ulla lives in.

Bringing the Heat: none – some VERY mild flirtation 

Crazy in Love: none so far

Creativity: the world Hocking has built is so rich, it makes me want to read the other series she’s written

Mood: impressed but also wish there was more 

Triggers: prejudice towards half breed species, for example Omte/Human, Troll/Human

My Takeaway: Ulla is trying to find out who her parents are and in the process finds out way more about the world she in live and the people in it.

  • The world building is very imaginative and creative. Unfortunately I never read any of the other series before The Lost City. I love how the trolls are explained as if they are a different race of people, with their own tribes. The detail about the tribes, their histories and characteristics was like I had just discovered this in a history book or something. They seem real!
  • This paranormal world is an alternate Earth where trolls exist. Their neutral space is called the Mimirin, where Ulla is headed to do work and research to find out who her parents are. Mimirin is a whole city where scientific research is being done to find out more about the Trolls. It was fascinating to me.
  • Ulla is an interesting character. Personality wise, she’s open-minded and always gathering information. She’s not rash and very level-headed. Ulla hasn’t had the best education with her upbringing but she makes up for that with determination. She’s on a quest to find out who her parents were. While on this quest though she deals with some challenges and makes friends along the way.
  • There is an array of characters, some who are mixed Trolls like Ulla is. One character named Eliana is a total mystery for most of the book but she’s a big part of the story. I liked Hanna, Ulla’s charge and Dagny who is an ACE character. Pan is an ally and maybe a romantic interest as well? We shall see as the series continues.
  • There is a lot of information to digest, especially for me, because I come into this series very new and never having read any other book set in this world. So even thought it was slow going – I still enjoyed it. But really I think reading the other series before this book is a must.
  • This story reads like a mystery. I just wished we got to discovering more about Eliana a bit quicker. She was quirky with her lost of memory but sometimes it was frustrating.

Overall, the thing that impressed me about this book is the writing and world-building. I was lost in the world and I loved learning about Trolls and the differences between them. There are many unanswered questions, since this is only book one of the series but I do wonder about what Ulla will find out about herself and Eliana. I look forward to reading more books from this author.

Burn Our Bodies Down | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Burn Our Bodies Down

Author: Rory Power

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 352

Publication Date: July 7, 2020

Categories: Young Adult, Thriller, Mystery

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Ever since Margot was born, it’s been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot’s questions about what came before. No history to hold on to. No relative to speak of. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along.

But that’s not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And she just found the key she needs to get it: A photograph, pointing her to a town called Phalene. Pointing her home. Only, when Margot gets there, it’s not what she bargained for.

Margot’s mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what’s still there?

The only thing Margot knows for sure is there’s poison in their family tree, and their roots are dug so deeply into Phalene that now that she’s there, she might never escape.

Thank you to Delacorte Press and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

My Reactions:

My Attention: the mysteriousness of the story pulled me along but I got frustrated at some points

World Building: story takes place on a farm

Writing Style: definitely felt all of Margot’s despair, distrust, and her neglect

Bringing the Heat: it brings literal HEAT, and I mean from a fire 😟

Crazy in Love: nope none

Creativity: okay the truth that is revealed in this story is creative and…strange

Mood: unsettled

Triggers: toxic family relationship, death

My Takeaway: I think I’m still processing this – but my takeaway? Family secrets suck. 🤷🏻‍♀️ And the truth needs to come out before healing can take place.

  • This story was different and I didn’t expect the direction it was taking at all. There is an interesting twist in the story that surprised me. The author did such a great job really keeping me guessing until the end.
  • It definitely had a creepy factor to the story and it kept me on my toes trying to guess what was going on. Grandma was creepy but the horror emerges at the ending of the story. It was more like a mystery/thriller than horror.
  • Margot is a complicated character. She’s a teenager that has been absolutely neglected by her mother. So when Margot leaves to find out more about her “family”, she realizes there are so many secrets to uncover about her mom’s past. Margot makes many hard decisions in the end, but she had to – the secrets were getting out of hand.
  • The first half of the book holds all the mystery and it was slow going. I kept wondering what could be happening on this farm? Why is the community so secretive about the Nielsen family? I had many questions. It was frustrating because no one would talk and I felt like the story wasn’t getting anywhere.
  • Margot’s grandmother…she made me go hmmm all throughout the book!

This story explores the dysfunctional family and secrets that can tear a family apart. I enjoyed it because it was different, strange and the truth that was revealed was horrifying. But I also thought it was just okay and maybe I spent more time trying to make sense of some things that happened in the story? I have mixed feelings about this one but I think many people who enjoy a young adult thriller will enjoy it.

ARC Review | Cinderella is Dead

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Cinderella Is Dead

Author: Kalynn Bayron

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 400

Publication Date: July 7, 2020

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Retelling

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.

Thank you to Bloomsbury YA and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

Now this is an imaginative and creative retelling of the infamous Cinderella story. Cinderella is Dead is a big twist on the happily ever after story we’ve been fed since Disney created the Cinderella movie. Poor Cinderella loses her father, is raised by her wicked stepmother, meets a fairy godmother, a Prince and all is well in the kingdom.

Not so in this retelling. Prince Charming has left a legacy of oppression against women in the kingdom of Mersailles. Girls are paired up to be married to eligible men (doesn’t matter their age) and if they are abused, people don’t blink an eye. Everyone think it’s a man’s right to treat women however they want, but Sophia is not having it. Plus, she wants to be with another girl, and that’s not allowed in Mersailles so she flees. Sophia uncovers the horrible truth about Prince Charming and Mersailles, but can she help turn the tide and take down the king?

  • Talk about a twist! I love the way the Cinderella story is upended in this retelling. By the way, I do love the happily ever after Cinderella story I grew up with but this particular take is definitely reflective of our women empowerment times today. The girls in Mersailles have this legacy – to “be happy” and in love like the original Cinderella story, they have to follow the rules set out by King Manford. But it’s all a lie. Women are being abused, killed, mistreated and no one can do a thing about it – until Sophia tries.
  • Sophia knows she likes girls, and she tries to flee Mersailles the night of her pairing, where she is supposed to find her future husband. Sophia is a rebel and tries her best to uncover the truth about Mersailles and their king.
  • There is a lot of diversity in this book, which is always nice. We have the f/f relationships going on and Sophia is a queer black girl. And let me say, it was awesome to see the girls in this book take this Cinderella story, expose it for what it is (a lie) and then take down the king. DO IT. They did. Haha.
  • The fairy godmother’s role in this story is very interesting. When she tells the story of the true Cinderella it’s an eye opening tale. But there are ore surprises in store.
  • I thought Sophia was so in love with Erin at first, to the point she begged her to run away with her. That ends quick in the beginning. Eventually something grows between Sophia and Constance but it may seem like insta-lust right after things with Erin have ended. Anyway it just made me go..🤔. The friendship between Sophia and Constance is strong though, so that was a plus.
  • I did find parts of the book that lagged, especially during the explanations and the back story of the real Cinderella. Also I read an e-arc that was just formatted in a way that made reading not enjoyable. 🤦🏻‍♀️ So that is not something against the book at all.
  • Triggers: violence, abuse

I really enjoyed this dark retelling of Cinderella! The concept is creative and entertaining. The message is empowering. Not everyone wants Cinderella’s life and I’m glad this book tells girls they have plenty of other options out there. Everyone’s personal happily ever after is going to be different and that’s perfectly fine.

ARC Review | Of the Blood

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️

Title: Of the Blood (Heir of Blood and Fire, #1)

Author: Cameo Renae

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: ?

Publication Date: May 14, 2020

Categories: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

One malicious prince. Two rival kingdoms. And an innocent girl caught in the crossfire.

Raised in a war-ravaged continent, temptation comes to Calla Caldwell in the form of a charming and mysterious stranger. Giving in to his intimate seduction, her world is forever changed by a single bite.

Calla quickly learns the handsome stranger is vampire prince, Trystan Vladu. His bite was an attempt to claim and save her from a plot of vengeance generations in the making. However, the claws of that ancient vendetta are scraping ever closer.
Thrust into a new nightmare by the Prince of the corrupt kingdom of Morbeth, Calla is captured, tortured, and starved in the dank confines of his dungeon. While in captivity, she takes part in a séance with a witch of light where she contacts a departed relative—a Princess of Incendia—who bequeaths a gift to Calla that will tip the scales of good and evil . . . if she can learn to harness it.

With a dark tapestry of secrets, lies, and murder unraveling around her, Calla must learn to embrace the power roiling through her veins, or be snuffed out by the strangling fist of a malevolent darkness. 

Thank you to Victory Editing and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

Vampires, damphyrs, witches and even a pirate! This book pretty much had it all. Calla is bitten by a vampire prince and that leads her on a journey filled with danger and discovery.

  • I like the people Calla meets along the way like Kylan, Melaina and Markus. I thought these side characters brought a lot to the storyline because we learn a lot about vampires and the world they live in through their explanations to Calla.
  • The world building is interesting and I was curious about these different kingdoms of Morbeth and Incendia. We have vampires, witches, elementals, and even aquarians. Calla spends most of her time though with evil Prince Roehl in Morbeth but she does have some adventures after escaping Morbeth.
  • The cover of the book was what made me request this book, I like it a lot!
  • I like fast paced books that hit you with action in the first few pages but this book did that way too fast for me. One moment Calla is at a party, then she’s bitten by a vampire prince, Trystan, who was drawn to her because he felt a connection to her name on paper. Not going to lie, that made me wary of the story. I just didn’t believe it! 🤦🏻‍♀️ It’s too much of a major insta-connection, I won’t say insta-love because she meets other guys along the way.
  • Calla is made a vampire super quick but Trystan is barely in the book and she’s yet to complete a blood bond with him. But evil Prince Roehl, also wants her to have a blood bond with him. YET…when she finally escapes Roehl and hops aboard a pirate ship -she falls in lust with Sebastian Calloway. Go Calla…but I wasn’t feeling any of it. Apparently every man wants her because she’s special – she’s an elemental vampire royal but I wasn’t connecting to her at all. 🤷🏻‍♀️
  • This reads like a story for teens but it does have heated moments between Calla and some of the men she meets along the way.

This story wasn’t for me only because I felt no connection to Calla. I think the world building is great because it had a variety of supernaturals like witches, vampires, elementals and aquarians. I’m sure the love story will develop more in the next book and maybe Trystan will get more of a spotlight because I’m assuming she ends up bonding with him sometime down the series, at least he’d be my first choice for Calla. I’m not sure if I will continue with the series only but though it didn’t work out for me, I think this will book will appeal to many fantasy fans.

ARC Review | Girl, Serpent, Thorn

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Girl, Serpent, Thorn

Author: Melissa Bashardoust

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 336

Publication Date: May 12, 2020

Categories: Myth, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster. 

Thank you to Flatiron Books and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

This story is fascinating with it having Persian mythology elements. It reads like a fairy tale and has a queer love story.

Soraya is cursed, she kills with a touch. All she wants is to get rid of the curse and live a normal life. She gets a chance to make that dream come true but there are major consequences. This story is filled with hard choices, action and love as well.

  • I am not familiar with many Persian mythologies so this caught my attention right away. Soraya is cursed and she wants to be free from this curse but it isn’t so easy to lift the curse. She has to make some hard decisions and at some point you wonder if she has become a villain too.
  • The world building is wonderful. We are introduced to this world of divs – who are creatures with powers. A div was who cursed Soraya in the first place.
  • There are some surprises in the story and mostly because I was thinking of a fairy tale when a girl meets a boy (which she does)…but it doesn’t turn out the way you expect. I like that it took different turns and dark ones at that. This is a dark fairy tale, like I said Soraya makes some hard choices when it comes to her curse or her family.
  • I love the cover of this book – it’s gorgeous.
  • One of the surprises came with the romance part of the story and I liked that it didn’t turn out as I expected but I also felt like Soraya’s romantic interest in Parvaneh was quick. Soraya is attracted to Azad as first but that got nixed when he reveals himself!
  • As far as connecting with the characters, I didn’t feel a strong one to anyone in the story. I sympathized with Soraya and at times wanted to shake her – she is a complicated character and I liked that she owned up to her anger and jealousy.

Soraya walks a fine line between good vs evil and which way is right for her. She has been someone cursed, shunned for life to live alone, knowing she can kill with a touch and wondering why…why her? Why was she cursed? There are secrets to be revealed and the lives of her family are at stake. Soraya’s journey is filled with mistakes, and consequences but she learns to gain her power back too and right her wrongs. If you like your fairy tales a little dark with some twists and turns, you will love this story.