Crown of Feathers – Review

Hey all!

So, I have some good news. I survived the Arctic Takeover of Chicago!! Yay!! And so did my dogs. They were not let out of my sight haha. What did I do while my city turned into Antarctica around me? Well, I kept busy. Did some laundry, worked on my bullet journal, worked my butt of on revisions and set pages to my CPs. Oh, and I read. Or in this case, tried to read.

“Wait, Kailey, you said this was a review.” Well, it is a review.

“But how can you reviews something you didn’t read?” That’s a fair question. A good question even. And one I will address momentarily. But first, some background on the book.

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From the Barnes & Noble website:

An Ember in the Ashes meets Three Dark Crowns in this lush debut fantasy novel about a girl who disguises herself as a boy to join a secret group of warriors that ride phoenixes into battle.

I had a sister, once…

In a world ruled by fierce warrior queens, a grand empire was built upon the backs of Phoenix Riders—legendary heroes who soared through the sky on wings of fire—until a war between two sisters ripped it all apart.

I promised her the throne would not come between us.

Sixteen years later, Veronyka is a war orphan who dreams of becoming a Phoenix Rider from the stories of old. After a shocking betrayal from her controlling sister, Veronyka strikes out alone to find the Riders—even if that means disguising herself as a boy to join their ranks.

But it is a fact of life that one must kill or be killed. Rule or be ruled.

Just as Veronyka finally feels like she belongs, her sister turns up and reveals a tangled web of lies between them that will change everything. And meanwhile, the new empire has learned of the Riders’ return and intends to destroy them once and for all.

Sometimes the title of queen is given. Sometimes it must be taken.

Crown of Feathers is an epic fantasy about love’s incredible power to save—or to destroy. Interspersed throughout is the story of Avalkyra Ashfire, the last Rider queen, who would rather see her empire burn than fall into her sister’s hands.

That’s a hell of a premise right? And man that overview makes it sound so. damn. good.

I wish the pages measured up to the back copy. I wish so, so much they measured up. And they might to someone else! I haven’t really read any other reviews–none of my friends have read this one yet–so there could be a million reviews out there from people who love it. I hope there are! I want to be clear about this before I get into my reasons: this is not personal or in any way meant to be a negative reflection on the author or this book. I’m just stating my opinions her, and I don’t intend for them to be negative in any way.

This is not a negative review. I’m not giving the book one star, or two, or even three (my own personal ‘average’ scale). I’m not starring it at all. I DNFed this book after about 50ish pages and a few days of trying to get into it. I want to be clear that I tried. I tried hard y’all but I couldn’t do it. It’s not like there were a lot of glaring faults with it. At least, not that early in the novel. I wouldn’t know about the rest of it, you’ll have to read other reviews to find that out.

The writing was decent. The characters were okay. I just . . . I couldn’t connect with the story. For me it is absolutely necessary that I feel drawn in immediately. Even the smallest spark of connection is enough to keep me going. It’s sad, but I couldn’t connect at all to this.

So, what makes this a review when I didn’t even really read the ARC I have? Simple: DNF is a valid response. I feel that as long as I explain my reasoning, it’s a fair review. There’s this weird stigma around not finishing a book that makes it something to be ashamed of. Maybe that’s just my experience but I’ve always felt like I have to finish a book, even when I don’t like it or can’t get into it. But, that’s not fair. Not to me, and not to the book or the author. And DNF reviews are valid. Which is why I’m posting this, as pathetic and short as it is. Because my opinion and inability to connect to the book is fair. The same way anyone who loved and gushed and sang the praises of this book to the world, their opinions are valid.

Anyway this ‘review’ is over. Connections and lack of them aside your feelings about a book are valid. Explain them in whatever way you choose to but as long as you explain them. If you want to share your reasons they’re your reasons. In this case my reasons for DNFing are that i couldn’t connect with the material. That doesn’t make it a bad book or this a negative review. It just makes it a reason. I still 100% recommend reading other reviews, good and bad (from people who actually finished the book) and if you still want to pick the book up, great! I hope you enjoy it. I really, really do.

Anyway, it’s late, I’m tired, and I have to be up for work at 7am (ew). I hope my exhausted only somewhat coherent thoughts make sense. I’ll be back soon with better words on other things. Goodnight!

Kailey

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The Dead Queens Club – Review

Hello people I hope you are doing well in this frozen wasteland we call home. Or maybe you’re not frozen, I don’t know. Where I’m at, though, it’s cold. Welcome to Chicago in the winter, right? LOL no. This isn’t normal F*cking Cold Chicago weather. This is “colder than the damn Arctic and Siberia” cold. As I type this it is -46 degrees with windchill. Needless to say, I am not leaving my house today. And neither are my dogs. They actually got out of our yard last night and we spent a while searching for them–all the while I’m freaking out because it’s so cold and they don’t have the little paw protector things and it’s too cold for them to spend a lot of time out there. Thankfully we found them and got them back to the house safely. Although my entire body hurts from all the coughing and the shaking I when we finally got back. Why did I tell you this story? To explain why I’m sitting on my couch on a Wednesday morning writing a review for y’all when I haven’t been in all month.

A few other life updates before I dive into my thoughts about this book. I’m deep in my revision process BUT I’m finally sending off some chapters to critique partners today so we’re nearing the end of this round. Which is, you know, only crazy terrifying. I have reward books all ready to go, starting with The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi. Speaking of reading, I’ve also been starting a ton of books but struggling to finish them. So, I’ve been starting other books in their place. It’s been a vicious cycle this past month, but I’m working towards reading some more.

One of the books I started was THE DEAD QUEENS CLUB, but you probably guessed that since this is, you know, the review. And, despite that I just said I’ve been having trouble finishing books this month, I had no difficulty with this one. More on that later.

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From the Barnes & Noble website:

If your school’s homecoming king had a little too much in common with Henry VIII, would you survive with your head still attached?

You’d think being the new girl in a tiny town would equal one very boring senior year. But if you’re me—Annie Marck, alias Cleves—and you accidentally transform into teenage royalty by entering Lancaster High on the arm of the king himself? Life becomes the exact opposite of boring.

Henry has it all: he’s the jock, the genius and the brooding bad boy all in one. Which sort of explains why he’s on his sixth girlfriend in two years.

What it doesn’t explain is why two of them—two of us—are dead.

My best friend thinks it’s Henry’s fault, which is obviously ridiculous. My nemesis says we shouldn’t talk about it, which is straight-up sketchy. But as the resident nosy new girl, I’m determined to find out what really happened to Lancaster’s dead queens…ideally before history repeats itself.

Okay so if you know me at all you know my first love is fantasy. But lately I’ve been trying to find some good contemporaries to dive into. I hit the jackpot here. Did you know I love a good funny mysterious book? Because that fits pretty well for this one here. DQC is full of funny, and mysterious (dead queens, hello) moments all through.

One thing I really, really loved was the characters. Cleves is one of my favorite narrators in a while. She’s got a voice that felt so accurate to a teenage girl in her situation right off the bat. Her friendships, relationships, actions, all of it was fun to read and read as genuine. You can tell the author enjoyed writing in her voice. The love for the story jumps off the page. And it’s not just through Cleves you can tell this. Parker is another character you can feel was just fun to write and develop. And she’s fun to read. Full of drama to the brim she might give Cleves a run for her money as my favorite character.

And this book has so much drama. So. Much. Drama. But not in a “seriously? haven’t we seen enough?” kind of way. It was balanced. That’s something a lot of book struggle with, this balance of dramatic and lighter elements. I think the author nailed it, personally. This is a book I’d love to read again (and I will). It’s a fun re-imagining of Henry VIII.

You may have noticed I didn’t touch on what the drama was, or the deaths aka a major plot point. I did this because NO SPOILERS and also because most of my thoughts revolve around the characters themselves and the voice and the already-mentioned balance so… I recommend reading multiple reviews anyway before reading (if that’s your thing)(some people–me–usually like to dive in without reading reviews in order to form my own unbiased opinions)(there are special circumstances where exceptions are made of course)(I’m getting way off topic sorry). But if you want more opinions on the murder-y aspects of the book I recommend checking other reader reviews. All I’m going to say is is was full of murder-y vibes and I loved.

I gave the book 4/5 stars because there were scenes and certain lines and things that didn’t click with me. Certain moments felt forced but they weren’t often. I feel like Cleves’ narration really helped smooth those moments over. I recommend reading wholeheartedly. It’s available now at your local bookstore and library so go pick it up!!

Okay, back into the revision cave I go. I promised one of my CPs I’d get her pages by the end of the day and there’s this one chapter that needs work before I can do that. So, I’m off, but my book slump is broken (I’m pretty sure) so expect more reviews soon! Bye!

Kailey

My Most Anticipated Books of 2019 (Part 1)

Hello all! Happy 2019! I hope your holiday was good (and safe). Mine was pretty chill. I spent the holiday house-sitting and cuddling with two adorable dogs. My own two dogs were not thrilled with this when I came home. There was much sniffing and laying on my lap to reclaim me when I got home. Which I don’t mind, except my dogs are a giant-fluffy-collie-mix and a 70-pound-wall-of-muscle-pitt-mix. Still, I love them, and between them and the quiet holiday, I feel really good about this coming year.

Now, I know I’m a little late with this post. Most people did their anticipated lists in the middle of last month. HOWEVER I have a reason for not posting until now. That reason is that I could not decide which books to put on the list. It’s been hard choosing books in the past. Really, really hard. But this year was a-league-of-its-own difficult. So, I decided I’m not doing a most-anticipated list this year. As someone who has been lucky enough to read a few of those upcoming releases for the year that everyone is talking about (have I mentioned being a bookseller has some really great perks?) I can tell you that there are waaaaaaaaay too many fantastic books coming out this year. Far too many to list. At least, not without it turning into a list somewhere around 100 books long. Yeah. I’m not kidding. I don’t think you guys want to read a list that long (if you do though come follow me on twitter we can scream about books together).

Okay I did not make a post just to tell you guys I’m not making a list this year. That would just be annoying and kind of pointless. So, I will be listing a few 2019 releases I’ve already read, some of my insta-buy authors, and a few books I’m genuinely so excited for that I need to share them. How is this different from a most-anticipated list you ask? Simple. I’m going to be updating this list a few times throughout the year as books come out or I discover new titles. This does not by any means cover all of the books I’m excited for this year. By the time the year is over I hope I will have shared all of the books I’m excited for with all of you in a few different posts.

For now let me share some of my favorite books coming out early this year.

WICKED SAINTS by Emily A. Duncan I’m pretty sure anyone who has read my review knows I’m going to be screaming at y’all to read this for a while. READ THE BOOK. Release date: April 2nd.

THE DEVOURING GRAY by Christine Lynn Herman I devoured this one (ha ha get it?). So many morally ambiguous characters with their own motives. Sigh. My loves. Release date: April 2nd.

BLOODWITCH by Susan Dennard Sooz is one of my insta-buy authors. I don’t have many but she captured my heart with the first book in the Witchlands series, Truthwitch, and I will yell at everyone to read this one forever. Release date: February 12th.

WE HUNT THE FLAME by Hafsah Faizal I am actually on her street team now (yay!) but I would’ve been screeching about this one anyway. I’ve had it pre-ordered since it became available, so I think that tells you more about my excitement than anything. Release date: May 14th.

SLAYER by Kiersten White Buffyverse. I shouldn’t need to tell you anything more than that. BUFFYVERSE. And Kiersten White. I’m assuming you’ve run to pre-order it by now. Release date: January 8th.

THE WICKED KING by Holly Black Okay listen The Cruel Prince murdered my heart and I’m d y i n g for TWK to do the same. I can’t wait for Tuesday when I can finally hold this book in my hands!!! Release date: January 8th.

THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT SWEETIE by Sandhya Menon Fat! Main! Character! And a story not about that character’s life improving because she gets skinny. Hell f*cking yes. Release date: May 14th.

FOUR DEAD QUEENS by Astrid Scholte Ummmmm my review says it all, okay? I can’t even express my thoughts any better than I did there. But, um, pre-orders are good. Release date: February 26th.

OUR YEAR OF MAYBE by Rachel Lynn Solomon I’m pretty sure screaming about this book in my most recent review tells you I loved it. Nothing like a good contemporary to rip you open and put you back together. Release date: January 15th.

THE GILDED WOLVES by Roshani Chokshi Roshani is another one of my insta-buy authors. And I’m dying for her National Treasure-style heist book (in Paris!!)(in the 1800s!!). Gimme gimme gimme. Release date: January 15th.

HER ROYAL HIGHNESS by Rachel Hawkins Some books make your heart go *squeeeeeeeeeeeee* in happiness. The first book in her Royals series is one of those books. Fully expecting book two to do the same. Release date: May 7th.

THE PRINCESS AND THE FANGIRL by Ashley Poston I! Loved! Geekerella! SO MUCH!!! I’m so very much looking forward to the companion novel it might just break me. Cannot wait to read this one. Release date: April 2nd.

SOUL OF STARS by Ashley Poston Uh you guys are starting to sense the theme right? Okay, so Ashley is clearly one of my insta-buys as well. Geekerella made my heart happy but Heart of Iron made it explode. I’m dying for this sequel. Release date: July 23rd.

Okay so it’s still a lot of books. But I have so many more I could’ve put here. I’m being good. I swear.

What are some of your most anticipated books this year? Tell me in the comments or talk to me on twitter! I’m actually running a giveaway there right now for a preorder of BLOODWITCH. Click on this link to see how to enter! The giveaway goes through 1/13.

I’m off to work on revisions. Bye!!

Kailey

Our Year of Maybe – Review

Hello my fellow post-holiday bookish humans. I hope everyone’s December is/was a good month. I hope if you celebrated any holidays or received any gifts this month that were exactly what you hoped for. And I hope you’re all as excited for the coming year as I am.

2019 is going to be a good year. I can’t confirm this, of course. But I have a very, very good feeling. It’s hard not to with all of the amazing books being released starting next week (holy shit next week!!). One of those books? OUR YEAR OF MAYBE by Rachel Lynn Solomon. I just finished this one, oh, about an hour before I started writing this review. I wanted to write my feelings while they’re still fresh in my thoughts.

Those feelings?

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Why? I’ll explain in a moment. First, a summary.

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From the Barnes & Noble website:

From the author of You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone comes a stunning contemporary novel that examines the complicated aftermath of a kidney transplant between best friends.

Aspiring choreographer Sophie Orenstein would do anything for Peter Rosenthal-Porter, who’s been on the kidney transplant list as long as she’s known him. Peter, a gifted pianist, is everything to Sophie: best friend, musical collaborator, secret crush. When she learns she’s a match, donating a kidney is an easy, obvious choice. She can’t help wondering if after the transplant, he’ll love her back the way she’s always wanted.

But Peter’s life post-transplant isn’t what either of them expected. Though he once had feelings for Sophie, too, he’s now drawn to Chase, the guitarist in a band that happens to be looking for a keyboardist. And while neglected parts of Sophie’s world are calling to her—dance opportunities, new friends, a sister and niece she barely knows—she longs for a now-distant Peter more than ever, growing increasingly bitter he doesn’t seem to feel the same connection.

Peter fears he’ll forever be indebted to her. Sophie isn’t sure who she is without him. Then one heartbreaking night twists their relationship into something neither of them recognizes, leading them to question their past, their future, and whether their friendship is even worth fighting for.

I AM IN SO MUCH PAIN. SO. MUCH. PAIN.

I’ve explained on Twitter how my tastes run towards fantasy. Heavily. If you’ve been through my blog you know this. Most of my reviews, and my anticipated lists, are full of fantasy titles. It’s not that I don’t like contemporary. I actually really love it. My personal preferences just run more towards magic and murder than high school and suburbs. Sometimes it’s harder for me to get into a contemporary, or even just pick one up. I had no such trouble with this one.

First of all, this is a book teenage Kailey would’ve sobbed over for hours. As it is, 23-year-old Kailey had a hard time with it. Not in a bad way. It just broke me in a way I haven’t been broken in a long, long time.

WARNING

SPOILERS AHEAD

This book gripped me from page one, not just because I recognized the love and friendships, but because I recognized the dependence between the two main characters. As someone who struggles to make friends (and keep them) I know what Sophie is going through. You put up with a lot when you don’t want to sacrifice a long-term friendship. Even letting someone else run the friendship for both of you. It’s toxic and unhealthy. Sophie and Peter were friends for so long, and she had such a hard time connecting with others because she genuinely believed she only needed Peter. Plus all of her romantic feelings were tied up in him as well.

I can relate. So hard. And I think there are so many teens out there who can too. How many Sophie’s out there sacrifice parts of their lives to keep their friend happy and their relationship (they think at least) balanced? How many have kept quiet about things that bothered them, letting them slowly fester inside all in the name of keeping the peace?

Neither Sophie nor Peter truly meant any harm. I believe this. But, as someone who has been the Sophie in the partnership, it can be so harmful and impact future relationships. And it’s not just hard on her. It’s hard on him as well. Sophie did this incredible, selfless thing in donating her kidney to Peter. As someone who has never been in that situation, I can’t say how I’d feel knowing that my best friend just saved my life and gave me a far better quality of said life. Most likely I would have a similar feeling of debt owed to that friend. And, like with Peter, I’m sure that gratitude would color everything I do with that person.

But fuck. Man I just didn’t like Peter. Don’t get me wrong–he was written perfectly. Rachel killed it on his character. I don’t know if it was her intention or not for him to be unlikable (I would say at least a little bit) but shit I didn’t like him. I was rooting for him, but only because I know he has the potential to be a better person. One who isn’t spoiled and lets his illness be his excuse. (I’m making him sound like a shit person and he’s NOT but . . . f*ck man Peter needed to be a better friend).

I will say I agreed with and supported how the relationship between the two of them got resolved by the ending. It was the only real way out for the both of them. Was it pretty? Hell no. Was it a happy ending? At the time I’d say not. But in the long run  I think it would. Whether or not the peace that’s achieved stays . . . Personally, in real life, I’ve seen it go both ways. My own experiences with my Peter ended in complete separation. I haven’t seen her in years. That doesn’t happen for everyone. I’d like to think Sophie and Peter could have a better ending than that, but with the openness of the one they were given who knows? Either way I think they need this to really get to know themselves.

As far as character arcs go theirs were damn-near flawless. As you have no doubt observed by my endless gushing thus far I think the writing felt honest to a fault to the teenage experience. I may not be a teenager anymore, but it hasn’t been that long, and I remember well the struggle. Teenagers right now (I think at least) will find this relatable.

I don’t have a transition for this but let me just say I loved how religion lived in the novel. Sophie and Peter are both Jewish, but it’s not the main focus of the story. It plays a role, absolutely, but they are the focus not their beliefs. Still, in a world where most characters are coded Christian without even thinking about it, I can imagine Jewish readers will feel happy to see themselves represented on the page.

The only aspect of the story line I can’t speak to is the unrequited love. I’ve never been in love, don’t know how it feels, don’t know how much it would hurt. BUT I can imagine the pain. I feel like I lived it right alongside Sophie and Peter. And that is the mark of truly amazing writing. If an author can make you feel something you’ve never even experienced then they’re a great writer (and you should probably buy their book just saying).

I gave this book 4/5 stars on Goodreads. The hurt and the love and the truth of it . . . I would almost say it’s a perfect novel. Definitely one I hope all readers love. It comes out on January 15th and is still up for preorder!! Hint hint!!

Okay thanks for putting up with my scattered babble of a review. I hope you guys read and like this book as much as I did. I’ve got to go to work sadly (I say as though working in a bookstore is SUCH a hardship). Bye!!

Kailey

4 Dead Queens – Review

What’s up my lovely readers? How are we on this crisp December evening? These are, as always, not rhetorical questions. I would love to know how you are, what you’re reading, what you’re thinking about the releases this year and next as the year winds up. I’ve got a lot of thoughts on all of these things and I’m guessing you all do, too. So, leave them in the comments! Interact with me! I would love to talk about books and reading and writing and life!! Talk to me here and on Twitter.

Alright now that I’m done bombarding you with my friendship we can get right down to business. Review! Review, review, review. I recently read one of my most anticipated 2019 releases (and by recently I mean it’s been approximately two hours since I put the book down). And, as always, I have some thoughts. Almost all of them are “SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” but that doesn’t make for a very good review, so I’ll put the most coherent thoughts down here. First up, summary.

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From the Barnes & Noble website:

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.

My initial thoughts when I opened this book? “God I hope this lives up to the hype.” Full disclosure: it lived up to the hype. Also full disclosure: this book is not perfect. No book is ever perfect but several have come close recently. And I am not saying this to dissuade a single person from reading 4DQ. On the contrary, I hope as you continue to read my review you’ll see I want everyone to read it. But, there’s a lot of hype surrounding this book, and hype can make people have expectations that are just brutally unrealistic. And that’s just unfair to the author, because I can feel with every word that she poured her soul into this novel. So, as a general life lesson (not just this review or this book but just please apply this to life in general) do not go into this expecting complete and utter perfection–nothing is perfect and you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment. Enjoy the strength where you find it. And I found it in this book.

Moving on from that potentially off-putting warning (please don’t find it off-putting and, Astrid, if you’re reading this, please don’t think I’m knocking your work above because I truly loved this novel). LET’S TALK ABOUT ALL THE AMAZING STUFF I LOVED BECAUSE THERE’S A LOT AND I WANT TO MAKE YOU ALL UNDERSTAND WHY I NEED YOU TO READ THIS ONE.

As my caps lock above indicates, I adore this book. From the plot to the characters to the twist on what is now a typical worldbuilding step in YA fantasy. And yes, factions and zones and whatever have been done to death. And YES it is still absolutely possible to write them in a new and interesting way. 4DQ does it! One of my biggest worries going in, as I already said, was that this book would follow the typical step-by-step plan many fantasies fall into, and thus, fall under high expectations. I’m pleased to report that this was not even close to the case. Without giving anything away let me just say (or rather, chant): plot twists, plot twists, plot twists!! Sigh. What lovely plot twists. Y’all aren’t gonna see a minimum of 90% of this story coming. And the stuff you might expect? Done in such a gorgeous fashion you’ll be crazy excited about it. If you’re anything like me at least.

Part of the unexpectedness comes from the multiple points of view. We get to hear from the main character, all four queens, AND a surprise character I sure wasn’t expecting to read from. Now, multiple points of view can be super hard to manage. It takes a lot of work to get that writing done well. And that’s with the usual two, maybe three POVs. This book has six. Can you even imagine writing six POVs? And doing it so well that a seasoned YA fantasy reader couldn’t see some major twists coming or find any sort of overlap of voices? That takes some serious hard work. And raw talent. Massive props to the author on this one.

Moving on though, let’s talk about the characters. I’m not really going to get into an analysis of the queens here. Mostly because I feel like that would give a lot away, but also because I think they were all layered and strong. They weren’t perfect, or truly ‘good’, or even likable in some cases. But they were dynamic. For the characters that technically had the least amount of page time, that’s pretty dang difficult to do. How do you flesh out entire character arcs when you have only a few chapters to give them? Again, props to Astrid for killing it with these ladies.

I’ve also got to tip my hat (hehe you’ll get why that’s funny once you’ve read the book) to Keralie. Our main character was in no way shape or form ready for the events of the novel. Nor was she really good at handling them. This girl is flawed, and chaotic, and stressed as f*ck over the course of the entire novel. She makes a lot of mistakes and owns every single one of them. And y’all know I love her for it, right? She acts like a teenager. If you don’t read YA, this might confuse you. “Aren’t all young adult protagonists supposed to act like the teenagers they are?” Well, yes. But that doesn’t mean they do. So many of them have the weight of the world thrown on their shoulders that they don’t get to act that way anymore. Personally? I get it. I know why we age up our YA protagonists. And our antagonists. And our teenage characters in general. But, still. It was nice to see a character on the page making the decisions she does while retaining the . . . essence is a good word here . . . the essence of a teenager. I know sixteen-year-old me would’ve read this and thought “I would so do that in her shoes”. And, that’s the goal, isn’t it? Or, at least, a goal.

Before I move on I want to so very briefly talk about Varin. My sweet and precious and gentle child who I love with my whole heart and will protect with my dying breath. HE IS AN INNOCENT BOY WHO DESERVED NONE OF WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM. And I agree with his story-arc. Mostly. But if there’s a sequel I want what we were hinted at in that ending. Dear Astrid, if you’re reading this, please? Varin deserves the world.

Okay, that’s all I will (can) say about him (without telling y’all everything).

If you follow me on Goodreads (I think some of you do, though I don’t understand that following system) you may have noticed already that I gave this book 4/5 stars, not 5/5. I do have good reasons. As I said earlier, this is not a perfect book. I did have some issues with it. I thought the ending could’ve been drawn out a little bit more and the reader given some more closure. I felt some of the solutions to the problems presented were a little too easy (which is laughable in a way considering what they were). I would’ve liked some more insight into Mackiel’s reasoning and his character motivations. And some aspects of Varin’s character felt disingenuous or could’ve been explored/explained better. None of these things are reasons not to read. None of them are even enough to give me pause in recommending this title wholeheartedly to all of you. And I don’t want any of this to take away from the points I’ve made above. This is still a great book, a far above-average one. And I’m telling you right now you need to pre-order it. You can do so here and here. Also please follow Astrid Scholte on Twitter. She’s a gem and the mastermind behind this beautiful novel.

Okay, that is all for tonight. I’m off to make some more notes on my (hopefully not as doomed as I feel it is) manuscript. It needs some work, that’s for sure. Definitely not CP ready. Sigh. Gotta dig deep for this one. Alright, I hope everyone has a good night! Read something for me, okay?

Kailey

PS – There’s a quiz you can take to see which quadrant you belong in! I took it and got Eonia. Not sure how much I agree with this but who am I to argue? Long live Queen Corra! Tell me which quadrant you call home in the comments.

Crazy Catch-up

Hello all! I hope your December is going good so far (and that your November was well since I realize I didn’t say that in my last post, did I?). December is going alright-ish for me. November was . . . chaotic is a good word. Busy is another one, though they mean somewhat the same thing. Both apply. BUT whichever word you choose to apply to my life, I’m here to let you know that that is why no posts were made during November. Nope. Not one. I’m sure you noticed (this is where you pretend you were waiting anxiously for an update the whole month).

Well, as I briefly touched on in my Wicked Saints review, I had a lot of stuff going on last month. My content here was not the only thing I fell behind on. However, I am here to tell you to fear not! Because everything that I was going to post last month, I’m doing this month. Actually, I’m doing it right now. Well, more accurately I’m posting all of the reviews I meant to post last month right now. There are quite a few, so bear with me.

Before I get into that let me say one thing: these are not full reviews. I didn’t want to make this post ten thousand words long. I don’t think a single person would read it then. I debated about posting a review every day for the books, but there are other books I’m reading now with reviews coming, as well as holiday posts and release lists I’d like to get up before the month is out. That’s a lot of content to bombard you with. I decided it’s best to get reviews for everything I missed last month done here, with the gist of my thoughts and my biggest points, as opposed to posting multiple times a day because I’m spacey and didn’t get anything done last month. So, please enjoy my (condensed) thoughts and feeling regarding these novels. I’m still going to do my best to explain my rating and thoughts. I hope you find these reviews helpful.

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan My love for this book knows no bounds. You know how I spent the entire Wicked Saints review babbling about how amazing it was? Picture that only for this book instead. Because I went off about how much I adored this one. Gorgeous fantasy, divine setting, characters you will have strong emotions about either way, and toppling a regime only benefiting those in power? Guess what book has all of these things!! This could get very long, very fast, so I’ll just say this: 5/5 stars. You need this one.

Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes One of my all-time favorite authors has a new book out and I got to read an eARC for it!! I hope you can imagine my extreme excitement. And it was not unfounded. My friends, this book is adore, funny, sweet, murder-y, slightly twisted, and just wrong enough to leave me needing the next book ASAP. JLB has been one of my favorites since I got into reading, and I have read everything she’s published. So, I’m qualified to tell you that this is probably her best book yet. 5/5 stars. Get this one!

Lizzy and the Good Luck Girl by Susan Lubner I’ve been trying to read more middle grades lately and this seemed like a good place to start. Unfortunately I wasn’t super drawn into it. It was decent, but not my favorite thing. If you read MG a lot you might enjoy this but I had a hard time trying to get into it. It was average, and cute, but nothing spectacular. 3/5 stars.

Love a la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm This whole foodie trend in YA is so much yes from me! It’s so cute! I feel like it’s an area that deserves to be explored in detail and loving the fact that authors like Stephanie are doing so. This story was fun and fresh. I read a lot of darker, heavier fantasy and I know a lot of other YA readers do, too. So to have a good contemporary like this is nice. Decent writing quality, character development, overall plot. 4/5 stars.

The Queen’s Wing by Jessica Thorne Okay, I know I just mentioned that I’m a heavy fantasy reader. So, I kind of know my tropes and my form-fantasy pretty well. And, I’m sad to say, this one felt a little too close to typical for me. It wasn’t a bad story, just not my cup of tea. I hope someone else loves it where I’m meh, though. I really, really hope so. 3/5 stars.

Outrun the Wind by Elizabeth Tammi So one thing you might not know about me is that I love Greek mythology. Like, love, love, love!! I had a minor in classical studies, okay? So when I saw this one on NetGalley I jumped at it. And I just *collapses*. My friends. My dear, dear friends. Read this book. To my fellow Greek myth lovers, to my fellow dual POV enthusiasts, to my fellow readers PERIOD, I ask you kindly to pick this book up. Flowing plotlines, alternating POVs, and an overall great story? Yes. You need. Not perfect, but still fabulous. 4/5 stars.

How to Fracture a Fairy Tale by Jane Yolen I had no particular emotions for this collection. Did I think it was really cool to read some reimagined fairytales? Frick yeah I did. And they were good. I said in my goodreads review I could see this on a nightstand or an academic’s bookshelf. Personal and professional reading welcome with these stories. Did I love them? Eh. But they’re good. Worth checking out for sure. 4/5 stars for writing alone.

Any Second by Kevin Emerson Listen. This one was hard. I’m talking truly difficult to get through. It was ridiculously intense. That’s the word of the day with this review. Intense. Whether that’s good or bad is up to you and your interpretation. I would say you should check this one out if you’d like, but proceed with caution. This book has the potential to be incredibly triggering for some people. The writing can be messy as well, so it’s not like it’s perfect besides the content. I’m advising you to proceed with caution, but proceed if you wish. 3/5 stars.

Evenfall by Gaja J Kos I SHALL USE THIS REVIEW AS A TEACHING MOMENT YOU SHALL LISTEN SO STRAP IN. I DNF’d this one. Tried really, really hard to get through it. Really, really couldn’t. It just was not for me. Not the writing, not the characters I couldn’t connect with, nothing in this one was for me. A friend of mine on the other hand gave this one 5 stars. She loved it. So, even though I think it was obvious and just couldn’t get into it, she devoured it and would tell everyone she could to read it. Basically what I’m trying to say is these really are up to your personal preference. Mine? Not into this one. Yours might be. 1/5 stars.

Lady Smoke by Laura Sebastian I actually read this one before November but never got around to a review so I’m just tossing it in because *shrug* why not. It’s really hard to review this one without spoilers of either book in the series so it’s gonna be super quick, and super tiny. The gist of my general screaming into the void for this one is that it is the perfect sequel. Yes, perfect. I use that word with certainty. If you like fantasy and girls reclaiming their narrative and fighting back against all the true evils of the world this book, this series, is for you. 5/5 stars.

OKAY. So I know I threw a lot of information about a lot of books at you here. I hope you’ve made it this far down the list. If you have, hi! Welcome back to the real world. I am sorry for not posting for an entire month and forcing myself to compile this entire list. I know it’s very long. But you’ve made it this far! And you’re almost to the end! Hooray!!

I just want to say one more thing really quickly before I head out for the night. I know I don’t have a lot of readers. But I really value the ones I do have. I appreciate you for coming back and taking the time to read my scattered words. I really made an effort this year to blog more and be more active in the bookish community. I hope it shows. And I just want to thank you for reading this far, and for reading any of my posts at all. I know I’m just another writer shouting into the void about writing and reading and all the craziness that goes with it. I know you have your pick of people to read their words. So thank you for reading mine. I hope you continue to read them through the rest of this year and into 2019.

Okay, moment of sappiness over. Time to get back to my newest hobby (digital fanart–who knows if I’ll be any good but let’s give it a try). And, of course, revisions will be done this month. Maybe I’ll make a “my revision checklist” post or something. Don’t know. But, anyway, thanks again for reading. Now go read a book!!

Kailey

Wicked Saints – Review

Something dark and holy indeed . . .

Hi! Oh my god. This book.

Wait, wait, wait I’m getting ahead of myself. First of all let’s talk about my recent life updates. You may have noticed I didn’t post any of those last month. Let me start by saying that I’ve been so busy. And stressed. And going through a lot of personal shit that I should really learn to not share on the internet. But, that’s why I haven’t been on for a month. That, and I have actually been writing. Shocking, I know. Okay, writing life only updates now, I promise. I’m sure no one here wants to hear about the boredom that is the rest of my life. Erm, anymore.

I guess the first thing would be that I finished NaNoWriMo. Somehow. It was absolutely a miracle. I had a goal of 30k words and I made it. They’re awful–truly terrible–words but they are words nonetheless. I’m going to have to scrap the entirety of the project and start over. One day. When I’m ready to do so. Which is not today, or tomorrow, or any time in the near future.

This brings me to what I plan to do in the near future. And that is: REVISE. My pet project/favorite MS ever/messy, messy word child is in desperate need of an overhaul. And I’d like to get that done and ready to be sent to critique partners by mid- to late-January. Soooooooo I need to get going on that. This month is one of the most difficult on my mental health every year, but also one of my favorites. I get to go overboard with generosity and not be (overly) worried about my bank account. Why not throw in a little bit of gift-giving to myself? In which case the gift is an overall improved manuscript. Also books. Because I enjoy those.

SPEAKING OF . . . It’s time to dig into my words and thoughts about this beautiful book right here called Wicked Saints. Shall we?

Image result for wicked saints emily a duncan

From the Barnes & Noble website:

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

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

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

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

Random fact about this book: I remember when it was titled Something Dark and Holy. I remember Emily announcing the title change on twitter. That feels like forever ago . . . I like both titles, but I feel like for the specific plot of this book the new title fits perfectly. Wicked Saints. Wicked people. Wicked, wicked plots and scheming. *happy sigh* damn this was a good book.

As far as the storylines go they were very intricate. Each named character has a specific purpose. Those purposes haven’t all been made totally clear yet–we are in book one of three after all–but the individual arcs of each of the three main characters twist and twine together beautifully. At the same time, they all have their own clear angles. No one character is wholly dependent on another for their development. And as for that development . . . UGH. I can’t really say a ton here because the writing is done in such a way that even small details could give away spoilers unintentionally. And the last thing I want to do is spoil this book for anyone. On the contrary, I want to be right there screaming with everyone. But there are a couple of things I can say about the characters without giving stuff away. And say them I shall.

  1. My first impressions were both completely on point and wildly off-base.
  2. Malachiasz is my favorite. This was true from early on and remains this way.
  3. The side characters are f-ing genius. They’re not just there for the purpose of fulfilling main character stories. They’re their own people. I love.
  4. Nadya is a goddess–and if you’ve read it you’ll understand exactly why I chose that word.
  5. SEREFIN. SEREFIN! S E R E F I N!!!

Moving on from characters (because I really just want to gush about them but, well, this review is spoiler-free and I want to keep it that way). It’s now time for GUSHING ABOUT THE MAGIC SYSTEM!! YAY!!! Let me start by saying I know that magic systems are generally complicated. I’ve written a couple myself that are needlessly so. But the magic system in this book is so. Freaking. Complex. It’s a masterpiece. I marvel at it. I will admit this takes some getting used to. You need to really work to understand certain aspects of it at first. Once one part makes sense the rest fall into place. And, who knows? Maybe it’s just me who had a teeny bit of trouble with it at first. Maybe you’ll get the two very distinct parts of it right away. It’s a different set up than we’re used to seeing. Pure elemental magic is common in YA fantasy. I’m guilty of falling back on this as well. So, seeing something new like this, that relies on blood and objects and certain gifts . . . I like it. A lot.

But I want to briefly touch on the plot itself before wrapping this up, so we’re just gonna move on from the (gorgeous) magic system real quick. Wave goodbye to the pretty and hello to the next pretty. Because this plot is like a professionally woven tapestry, done with love and thorough attention to detail. I screamed so many times. And my jaw dropped twice. And do you know how many notes I have that say “didn’t see that coming”? Seven. At least. Girl is a fabulous writer. I went through and sort of live-tweeted my reactions and, well, I did not exaggerate when I say Emily wants to murder her readers. This twisted story has moments of cute, of beauty, of shock, of pain, of horror, of love, and of even more emotions I cannot name because I’m afraid if I keep going I won’t stop. Everything I loved and hated that happened in this book worked together seamlessly. This is particularly hard to talk about without giving anything away but I can say this–everything I predicted at the beginning? I was so wrong. It was far more than my mind could ever have come up with.

I think it goes without saying that i want everyone to read this book, but I’ll say it anyway: I WANT EVERYONE TO READ THIS BOOK. It’s been on my top anticipated list for 2019 for a while (an honor at the moment only reserved for three other titles). It should be on your list, too. 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads and all the positive vibes I can throw at this debut I will. You need to pre-order this one. I repeat, pre-order it.

Okay, that’s it for now. Thanks for reading. Sorry I’ve been gone. More detailed post about that coming soon. Buy this book and connect with the author on Twitter. Connect with me there too, that would be cool. I’m off to get some work done because revisions are time consuming. Bye!!

Kailey