December Wrap-Up

December was such a busy month for me, and I was desperately trying to wrap up some ARCs for early 2019. I fell into a little bit of a reading slump, but hopefully I’m starting to come out of that. I read 11 books in December, which isn’t terrible.

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  1. City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare (audio): ★★★.5
  2. Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber (TisTheSeasonAThon): ★★★
  3. Snow in Love by Melissa de la Cruz, Nic Stone, Aimee Friedman, and Kasie West (TisTheSeasonAThon): ★★★
  4. City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare (audio): ★★★★
  5. An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen (ARC): ★★★★★
  6. A Stone Creek Christmas by Linda Lael Miller (TisTheSeasonAThon): ★★★
  7. The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson (audio): ★★★
  8. The Girl King by Mimi Yu (ARC): ★★★★
  9. White Stag by Kara Babieri (ARC): ★★★.5
  10. One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus (audio): ★★★.5
  11. The Similars by Rebecca Hanover (ARC): ★★★.5

Obviously, TisTheSeasonAThon helped out here with three of my reads, but the majority of the rest of them are either ARCs or Cassandra Clare books – who would have thought it?

I’m really looking forward to January – I have a lot of less scheduled reading ahead, and it’s been a while since that happened!

I hope you all had great reads in December, friends!

xoxo

Jen

December Haul

December was a HUGE month for hauls, what with my Black Friday haul arriving, Christmas, and some of the subscription boxes throwing in a second book. This may actually be my biggest haul of the year? Yikes. I’m going to break it down so it doesn’t sound as bad.

BLACK FRIDAY

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Book outlet had a GINORMOUS haul, and I think everyone I knew in this community placed an order. It took it’s time getting here, but it was well worth it.

  1. Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
  2. Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
  3. Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
  4. Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore
  5. Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
  6. An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
  7. Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

BOOK BOXES

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I only ordered one book from Book of the Month this month, but Fairyloot threw in a bonus ARC!

  1. One Day in December by Josie Silver (BOTM)
  2. The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson (ARC, Faryloot)
  3. Fire and Heist by Sarah Beth Durst (Faryloot)

CHRISTMAS GIFTS

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I was so blessed this year by friends and family – my library grew so much! I am truly grateful to all of this wonderful people and I love you all!

  1. Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
  2. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
  3. A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
  4. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
  5. Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
  6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

MISC.

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Ok, I actually DID buy some books this month that weren’t super on sale, but not many! There’s only two on this list:

  1. The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta
  2. The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

And that’s it guys! Woo. A whopping 18 books. That is INSANE. I usually try to read more than I buy, but there is no way that happened here. It might be time for another book ban…

I hope you all had a wonderful December!

xoxo

Jen

Top 2018 Publications

2018 was probably the most memorable reading year of my life. I started my bookstagram, my blog two months later, and met some of the best people. I also was introduced to so many amazing reads. I feel like I 5 starred more books than I have…ever? It was truly an incredible year.

Here are my top 2018 publications – I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity and the resources to have read all of these works of art, many of them with great friends.

TEN: Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova

I read Labyrinth Lost and Bruja Born this year, and went in with no expectations. I had no idea I’d be walking into one of my top 10 favorite books of the year. The writing in both of these books was spectacular, but Bruja Born absolutely blew me away. It was magical and lyrical and completely transported me into the story. I cannot wait to see where this author goes next.

NINE: Sadie by Courtney Summers

If you loved the podcast Serial, you’ll love this book. If you love sibling stories, you’ll love this book even more. I absolutely adored this book – it’s honestly a sibling love letter. The podcast portions were such a unique edition to the book, and the portions from Sadie’s POV were incredibly haunting.

EIGHT: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

I know a lot of people are hesitating to put this on their list because of all the drama with Tomi’s tweets, and I’ll be honest, I probably did knock it down a few numbers just because of that. But even despite all the drama, the writing, the world building, and the complete magic of this book still made it impossible for me to not include it. This is a debut novel, making it even more impressive.

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SEVEN: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

I love magical, lyrical writing, and this book had it in spades. This was the perfect book to pick up during October. I knew to expect a witchy spooky tale, but I did not expect to fall completely in love with it. I was so impressed with everything about this book, and you better believe I’ll be picking up every future work by this author.

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SIX: The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang

Another debut novel makes the list! I will say, there were some parts of this book that were a little dense – there’s a lot of war strategy and politics. And it is not for everyone. If you can think of a trigger warning, I guarantee it was in this book. It is graphic and dark and doesn’t pull any punches. But if you can take it, I promise it’s worth it.

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FIVE: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

This was truly the year for me to dive into asian-inspired fantasy, and I loved every second of it. This was by far my favorite. Girl power, lesbian rep, and fantastic writing – this book had it all. Be cautious though – a lot of the storyline focuses on rape and rape culture.

FOUR: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

I love everything about this book. That’s literally all I have to say about that.

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THREE: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

If you are looking for a cute, adorable romance that digs deeper than your typical smut book, this book is for you. I have never read anything like this before, and I so appreciated the autistic rep. It was steamy, quirky, and full of laughter and love. The world needs more books like this.

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TWO: Blanca y Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

This book was everything. A magical wood, a trans boy, and sibling love. I honestly don’t know if I could have asked for anything more. This book was hauntingly beautiful and perfect in every way. I will forever and always pick up every book by this author.

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ONE: Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton

I don’t know where to begin on this book. The writing was incredible, and it was so transportive. I felt like I was reading my heart on paper. I want the characters to all be my best friends. Every type of rep you can imagine was there: POC, LBGTQ, and may I even suggest a polyamorous relationship? Nothing anybody says will convince me otherwise. Everything about this book was perfection. Pick it up. You will not regret it.

 

Did any of these make your Top Pubs of 2018?? Let me know! Here’s hoping 2019 is just as good.

xoxo

Jen

Down the TBR Hole #17

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Down the TBR Hole was created by Lost in a Story. Its purpose is to help narrow down your TBR list on Goodreads by selecting 5 titles each week and deciding if you want to keep it on your TBR or get rid of it! I was inspired by Melanie @ Meltotheany and Amy @ A Court of Crowns and Quills to start this series. If you haven’t checked out any of these lovely blogs, do it NOW!

How it works:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

Here’s what’s on the chopping block this week:

ONE: Flyaway by Lucy Christopher

While I loved Christopher’s novel Stolen, the synopsis of this middle grade book isn’t capturing my interest the same way. I’ll probably put this one on hold for now.

VERDICT: DELETE

TWO: Night by Eli Wiesel

This book is a classic, and it has been on my list for a long long time. It’s going to continue to stay on that list.

VERDICT: KEEP

THREE: Mrs. Maddox by Jamie McGuire

While I love the Maddox books by Jamie McGuire (this is my favorite mindless series), this is a novella about Travis and Abby’s first Valentine’s Day as a married couple. Not only do I not love spending money on novella’s since they are almost always overpriced, but this doesn’t sound like it’ll have much of an actual plot. I’ll probably pass for now unless it goes on sale. Then I’m all over it.

VERDICT: DELETE

FOUR: Cherry by Lindsey Rosin

This actually sounds super cute once I reread the synopsis. It sounds kind of like a girl version of American Pie? It sounds like a mindless read that I could see myself including in a smutathon or contemporaryathon (I’m not really sure where it would fit in).

VERDICT: KEEP

FIVE: Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

I read All The Bright Places earlier this year and absolutely loved it. I know this book was much more polarizing, but I live for that. I will definitely be picking this one up.

VERDICT: KEEP

Have you guys read anything? Should I give any of these a second chance? Let me know!

xoxo

Jen

Most Disappointing Reads of 2018

Hello bookworms!

In 2018, I read way more than I have in years past. I had some pretty amazing reads and met some pretty amazing people. I took a dive into some pretty popular series that I’d avoided up until that point. Some I loved. But unfortunately…some I didn’t.

I know a lot of people do their most disappointing releases of 2018, but I’ve decided to encompass ALL of my reads for 2018. These are the top ten books that just did not live up to the hype or meet my expectation, out of the 100+ books I read this year.

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TEN: Ever the Hunted [series] by Erin Summerill

I actually can only include the first two books in this series here, because the new release from 2018 [Once a King, see review here] was a significant improvement on the other two books. I did enjoy reading this series, but I’ll be honest: I felt like I could plug in any YA names and I’d have this storyline. The characters were underdeveloped, and the world building wasn’t stellar. I enjoyed the reads, but I was expecting more.

[See reviews for Ever the Hunted and Ever the Brave]

NINE: My Favorite Half Night Stand by Christina Lauren

This was my first Christina Lauren book, and I did really enjoy the read. I guess with how much everyone loves these books, I was just expecting a little more? Although I’ve heard they can be a little hit or miss, so I’m not ready to give up on these authors yet. I’m open to suggestions for which book to try next!

EIGHT: All the Ever Afters by Danielle Teller

This one was disappointing for a little bit of a different reason. This was the very first ARC I ever reviewed…and honestly it just wasn’t the book for me. I didn’t know what to do – I didn’t enjoy the book at all but didn’t want to DNF my first shot at an ARC review. I pushed through it, but I definitely didn’t enjoy it.

SEVEN: Evermore by Sara Holland

After liking Everless so much earlier this year, I was waiting with high hopes for the sequel. Unfortunately, Evermore didn’t live up to those hopes. I felt like not much happened for the first 75% of the book and the romance fell flat. HOWEVER, I did love the ending, so I can’t complain that much. It’s still worth the read!

SIX: The 7.5 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

This was a highly anticipated ARC for me, and I’ll be honest – I HATED it. It was way too confusing and hard to follow, and completely different from what I was expecting. I know this got a lot of good reviews, but it was NOT the book for me.

FIVE: When the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica

Let me lead with this – I was so excited to get this ARC. I absolutely love Mary Kubica, and I felt so lucky to get an early peek at her next book. I still feel that way! Unfortunately, I didn’t love the ending of this book. Mary Kubica’s other books are so impressive, with great writing and great twists. The ending for this one just felt a little… easy? I don’t know.

FOUR: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

I actually hesitated at putting this so high on the list, because I really did love this book and it’s sequel (I still haven’ t gotten to the third installment yet). I guess with all the hype I was just expecting a little bit more?

THREE: The Selection by Kiera Cass

Ok. This series definitely deserves a spot in the top 3. I was overall just not impressed with this entire series. I felt like I had read it a million times before, and then mixed every YA novel I’d ever read and mixed it with The Bachelor…which I cannot stand. I’m actually impressed I made it all the way through this entire series.

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TWO: Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J Maas

This one definitely needs a clarification, because I actually 4 stared it. HOWEVER. I absolutely adored this series, and after the previous books my expectations were SO HIGH. And I feel like KOA took a swing…and a miss. The ending just didn’t give me everything I wanted, which is a bummer for a series so near and dear to my heart.

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ONE: City of Bones [TMI series] by Cassandra Clare

Ok, nobody hate me for this! And I swear I’m only including books 1-4, and DEFINITELY not TID books because I loved those. But I dove into this early in the year, and actually had to stop after three books. After all the love I’ve seen for it all over the internet, I went in with really high expectations. They were not met. The first three books were painful for me to read. I will say I got peer pressured into finishing the series and enjoyed book 5 and 6, and like I mentioned previously I did LOVE TID. I’m excited to go on to TDA in the new year.

Ok, how many people hate me after that? Eeeek I’m sorry if I dragged your favs! The thing I love most about this community is that everyone has different opinions and loves different things, and that’s ok. I hope everyone had a great 2018, and that their disappointing reads weren’t all that disappointing.

xoxo

Jen

Bookish Naughty or Nice Tag

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I was tagged by my dear friend Melanie @ Meltotheany (and I AM ACTUALLY DOING THE TAG, somebody take a picture or something) but it appears that the original tag was created by Jenniely’s blog! PS, this picture had nothing to do with the tag, but these editions are gorgeous and I couldn’t resist.


➽ 1. Received an ARC and not reviewed it
I have a few that were sent to me that I did not specifically request that I’m still working on getting to (I WILL SOON, I SWEAR). HOWEVER, there are a few that I DID request that I had to DNF/not review because the formatting of the eARC was so bad.

➽ 2. Have less than 60% feedback rating on Netgalley
I’m definitely over 60%, but I’m still working hard for that elusive 80%!

➽ 3. Rated a book on Goodreads and promised a full review was to come on your blog (and never did)
YEP. Drat.

➽ 4. Folded down the page of a book
I used to but recently this really bothers me.

➽ 5. Accidentally spilled on a book
Probably. Unfortunately.

➽ 6. DNF a book this year
Yes, the most recent being The Queens of Innis Lear – BUT I am full planning on giving this beauty another shot in the new year.

➽ 7. Bought a book purely because it was pretty with no intention of reading it
YEP. Exhibit A: the Ravenclaw editions of Harry Potter.

➽ 8. Read whilst you were meant to be doing something else (like homework)
Literally all the time.

➽ 9. Skim read a book
Usually on a re-read.

➽ 10. Completely missed your Goodreads goal
Yep, while I was in grad school. What even was reading during those years?

➽ 11. Borrowed a book and not returned it
I have three sitting on my shelf that I need to return…and I AM FULL PLANNING ON IT because this is a pet peeve of mine.

➽ 12. Broke a book buying ban
I am notorious for this. I don’t even know why I set them for myself, because everyone knows I am just going to break it.

➽ 13. Started a review, left it for ages then forgot what the book was about
I really try not to do this, although I did just write a review and basically had to skim through the book to remind myself what happened in the end.

➽ 14. Wrote in a book you were reading
NO.

➽ 15. Finished a book and not added it to your Goodreads
This bothers me, I am too OCD for this.

➽ 16. Borrowed a book and not returned it to a friend
Didn’t we already cover this…? I’m gonna say no since I will definitely be returning these.

➽ 17. Dodged someone asking if they can borrow a book
Yes because books off my shelf cause me anxiety.

➽ 18. Broke the spine of someone else’s book
No, you heathens!

➽ 19. Took the jacket off a book to protect it and ended up making it more damaged
Yeeeeeeep this happens to me all the time.

➽ 20. Sat on a book accidentally
Probably. I am clumsy.


Yes: 13

No: 7

I’m not sure if that makes me naughty or nice? Only Santa knows…

This was a super cute tag, and I’m going to make an effort to do more of these in the future. I’m tagging a few lovely bloggers down at the bottom (check them all out!) but if you want to do this, consider yourself tagged!

xoxo

Jen

Lilly @ Lair of Dreams | Amy @ A Court of Crowns and Quills |  Kaleena @ Reader Voracious | Tammy @ Books, Bones, & Buffy | Kayla @ Books and Blends |

Top Ten Tuesday: Christmas Wish List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. Check out her blog for more info!

Merry Christmas bookworms! I cannot believe it’s finally HERE! I of course put a TON of books on my wishlist, but I’ll be honest. This is my family when I ask for books: “seriously, Jen? More books? Don’t you want anything else?” The answer: dude. No. If you don’t buy these I’m literally just going to have to buy them all myself.

Without further ado, these are the top ten books on my Christmas wish list (in no particular order!):

ONE: The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

I’ll be honest, this will be the FIRST book I buy if it isn’t under my tree, mainly because I’ll be starting it on the first of the year! If you’ve been living under a rock, you may not have heard about the coolest new book club in town led by Amy @ A Court of Crowns and Quills, and Melanie @ Meltotheany. Their first read is The Wicker King and it starts on January 1!

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TWO: This Savage Song and Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

I read Vicious and Vengeful earlier this year and absolutely fell in love with Ms. Schwab’s work. I instantly bought the A Darker Shade of Magic series (although I haven’t read it yet) and these two are next on my list.

THREE: The Royals Series (Paper Princess) by Erin Watt

People I know and love say this is their favorite ‘trashy reads’ series and honestly, I’m just here for that.

FOUR: The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchhock

Have you seen the cover of this book? That’s completely enough for me.

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FIVE: Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton

Strange Grace easily made my top 5 reads of the year, and so as a result any work by Tessa Gratton will instantly make my TBR. This is no exception.

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SIX: Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor

I absolutely LOVED Strange the Dreamer; so much so that I’m actually surprised I haven’t bought this trilogy on my own yet.

SEVEN: The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner

This cover is absolutely GORGEOUS, and if that isn’t enough, people I love and trust absolutely adored this book. This was an easy addition to the wish list.

EIGHT: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Confession time: I’ve never read anything by Kristoff. This seems like a good place to start, as everyone seems to love it.

NINE: The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale is on my ‘must read of 2019’ list, so I figured I’d throw in the second book as well. The only problem is, I don’t actually own either of them.

TEN: Warcross and Wildcard by Marie Lu

Confession time #2: I’ve never read anything by Marie Lu. As this series has the most hype, I picked these two beauties to start with.

Have you guys read any of these? Which should I buy first if they aren’t under my tree? HELP!

Merry Christmas, everyone.

xoxo

Jen

ARC Review: The Girl King

The Girl King

TitleThe Girl King

Author: Mimi Yu

Release Date: January 8, 2019

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Pages: 432

Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

Two sisters become unwitting rivals in a war to claim the title of Emperor in this sweeping tale of ambition, sacrifice and betrayal for readers of Sabaa Tahir and Alwyn Hamilton.

All hail the Girl King.

Sisters Lu and Min have always understood their places as princesses of the Empire. Lu knows she is destined to become the dynasty’s first female ruler, while Min is resigned to a life in her shadow. Then their father declares their male cousin Set the heir instead—a betrayal that sends the sisters down two very different paths.

Determined to reclaim her birthright, Lu goes on the run. She needs an ally—and an army—if she is to succeed. Her quest leads her to Nokhai, the last surviving wolf shapeshifter. Nok wants to keep his identity secret, but finds himself forced into an uneasy alliance with the girl whose family killed everyone he ever loved…

Alone in the volatile court, Min’s hidden power awakens—a forbidden, deadly magic that could secure Set’s reign…or allow Min to claim the throne herself. But there can only be one Emperor, and the sisters’ greatest enemy could turn out to be each other.

Review:

ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“I wasn’t made to torment you,” she snarled. “I wasn’t made for you at all. I was made for me.”

An own-voices Asian-inspired fantasy, full of magic, shape-shifting, political intrigue and fights for the throne? Sign me up. The description of this book is exactly what I look for when I request books, and this was one of my most anticipated ARCs of the month. I wasn’t disappointed.

This book gripped my interest from page one, and it held it until the very end. The world building was spectacular, and I fond myself super invested in who ended up on the throne. The betrayal in this book was UNREAL, but there is also a sibling relationship in this book that makes my heart all soft and warm. The writing was fantastic, and I felt like I was really transported to the world Yu was describing. I loved the character development, and even the characters I hated had impressive depth. The characters were, hands-down, my favorite part of this book.

Lu: Lu is destined to become the Empire’s first female Emperor. She’s trained for it all her life, and she’s ready to rule. That is, until her father declares her cousin Set as the male heir instead. Lu, being who she is, isn’t ready to take that lying down. Lu is fierce, smart, and loyal, but she’s also stubborn and quick-tempered. And she’s determined to win back her throne, even if she has to turn the Empire upside down to do it. Lu was one of my faves, and everything I could want in a strong, female MC.

She did not run, and she did not cry. If conflict came at Lu, she would rush to meet it.

Min: Min is Lu’s younger sister, and easily overlooked by most of the court. Ignored by her father and drawing perhaps too much attention from her mother, Min has always been regarded as small, quiet, and perhaps a little “simple”. When her hidden powers start to manifest, she’s determined to change that. Min is ready to step out of Lu’s shadow and into her own person. I’ll be honest: I actually really hated Min. Her character development was great, but I could just not get behind this girl. I wanted to punch her in the face numerous times. I couldn’t figure her out: did she love Lu or not? Was she just a spoiled brat, or actually cruel? I never did decide. I will say, I feel like Min was portrayed as slightly mentally ill, but in a way that left a bad taste in my mouth? I can’t really put my finger on it.

There’s nothing that can’t be won with a well-crafted lie. Why, in the right light, a liar might even glint like gold.

Nokhai: Nok is the last survivor of his kind: a wolf shapeshifter. His character arc throughout the book is hands-down my favorite. We get to watch as he goes from a boy hiding from the Imperials and steps into his birthright as a Pactmaker. He starts out hiding and weak, and becomes a strong, capable warrior. I’ll admit, Nok is definitely a softer version of a warrior, but I think that’s what I love about him. Even though he doesn’t need it, I kind of want to put him in my pocket and protect him. However, my favorite thing about him is how he makes Lu question her empire and herself. He has experienced the hardships and cruelty of her father’s rule firsthand, and he does not let her look away from that. If anything, he forces her to look closer, and then question what kind of ruler she wants to be.

“He is a boy covered in hidden wounds.”

Set: Lu and Min’s cousin, who is named next in line for the throne. This boy needs a good punch in the face. Several times. That is all.

I did have some minor complaints. I’ve seen a lot of people complaining that while this is own-voices and marketed as Asian-inspired fantasy, you could easily replace all the names with others and have any other YA fantasy story. I can’t say I disagree with that. I saw the Asian influence in the first 25% of the book, but after that the journeying and the separate plot lines took over a little bit. This is certainly not my area of expertise, so I do not want to be too harsh on this, especially because it’s own-voices. But beyond that, my biggest complaint is that I wanted more explanation of the magic system. The world building was fantastic, but I wanted more information on the shape shifters, Brother, and Min’s power; that was always a little confusing to me.

Ultimately, I loved this book. It was full of journeying, political intrigue, sibling love and betrayal, and new friendships. As the characters each discovered more about themselves and each other, I found myself more and more invested in their story and their friendships. This book was action-packed, beautifully written, and full of feisty strong female characters. What more could you want? I cannot wait to pick up the sequel.

The Girl King releases on January 8, 2019.

xoxo

Jen

*All quotes are taken from an ARC and are subject to change prior to publication.

ARC Review: An Anonymous Girl

An Anonymous GirlTitleAn Anonymous Girl

Author: Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Release Date: January 8, 2019

Publisher: St Martin’s Press

Pages: 384

Rating: ★★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding. As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

Review:

ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Five seconds can change a life.

For Jess Farris, those five seconds happened at her last appointment of the day. Working as a makeup artist, struggling to make ends meet, Jess makes a split-second decision to steal her client’s slot as a subject in a study. Applicants are paid for their time to answer questions regarding their morality. In those five seconds, Jess makes the decision to show up and answer questions for money. That one decision leads to so much more than she ever bargained for.

Upon arrival, Jess is led to a computer and is asked deep and personal questions; the type of questions that force you to face yourself and your morals. As the questions get harder and harder to answer, Jess’ honesty draws the attention of the leader of the study, Dr. Shields. She answers prompt after prompt, and finally Dr. Shields asks if she would carry on in the experiment in a more concrete role. More would be asked of her, but she would be compensated accordingly. And again, Jess makes a decision: she says yes.

We all have reasons for our actions. Even if we hide the reason from those who think they know us best. Even if the reasons are so deeply buried we can’t recognize them ourselves.

This book was honestly all I wanted and more. The writing was superb, and so unique. Each entry by Dr. Shields was written as if she was taking notes on her experiment; even the sections about her own feelings sound clinical and detached, as if she’s analyzing herself from a distance. Jess was slightly frustrating as a main character, mainly because some of her decision-making was so poor, but I loved how she never apologized for who she is. She’s so relatable, and I loved the insight into her relationship with her sister and her family. Her character arc throughout was well-developed, as she moved from dedicated makeup artist to being enthralled by Dr Shields, to paranoia and beyond.

When it comes down to it, I’ve only got myself to rely on.

Above all, the biggest thing I judge a mystery/thriller on is predictability. I don’t want to say too much about it, because I don’t want to give anything away, but you guys: this book had me on the edge of my seat the entire time, and it was such a wild ride. While some of the minor twists were guessable, I absolutely LOVED the ending, and you can bet I will be picking up every single book by these authors in the future. Pick this book up. You will not regret it.

An Anonymous Girl is being released on January 8, 2019.

xoxo

Jen

*All quotes are taken from an ARC and are subject to change prior to publication.

ARC Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely

A Curse So Dark and LonelyTitle: A Curse So Dark and Lonely

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Release Date: January 29, 2019

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Pages: 496

Rating: ★★★★

 

Goodreads Synopsis:

Fall in love, break the curse.

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

Review:

ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

There is blood under my fingernails. I wonder how many of my people I’ve killed this time.

We all know the story. A selfish prince gets cursed to a life as a beast, until he can prove he’s learned the meaning of true love – and gotten her to love him back. Girl meets beast, girl is beast’s prisoner, danger ensues, and girl falls in love with beast. The day is saved.

Except…what if that isn’t quite how it happens? What if the man who kidnaps you doesn’t look like a beast at all? At least on the outside. And what if the girl is more interested in finding a way back to her family than in falling in love with a prince?

This take on Beauty and the Beast was so fun to read. I really enjoyed a lot of the characters, as well as the little twists and turns deviating from the story we all know and love. If you’re picturing Disney princess, stop right there – this book casts a darker light, both on the beast and the “princess”. In this retelling, the Beast is forced to relive each season, trying again and again to win a girl’s heart. At the end of each season, he turns into a different beast and kills more and more people. But after over 300 seasons, he’s reached the end of the road and the last of his chances: this season will be the last girl, and his last shot at saving his people and himself.

Prince Rhen: The Beast. Throughout much of the book, I didn’t feel like he’d learned very much from his curse – he still seemed pretty arrogant and self-centered to me. But he did grow on my towards the end. Each season, he tries to get a different girl to fall in love with him, before he turns into a different beast. When he fails, the season starts over again. But this is his last chance.

Grey: The Beast’s guard commander. Grey is loyal to a fault, and honestly one of my favorite characters in this book. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t shipping him with Rhen, but unfortunately, that didn’t come to pass. Each time Rhen turns into a beast, Grey does his best to lead him away from his kingdom so he can’t harm any more of his people. He also goes out into the “real world” to kidnap each girl.

Harper: Our “Belle” character. Except this princess comes from the city, and has been living with CP her whole life. She’s not won over by the pretty palace, and she’s tough as nails. I really enjoyed Harper as a main character, and I loved the CP rep. I think it’s so important that this book never took the course of “curing” her CP with magic. Her disability was a central topic in the book, but it was never taken away.

“I was born this way,” she’ll snap, “and I’m going to die this way, so teach me to work around it.”

One of my biggest complaints in this story is that Harper’s home life was more of a side story. As much as she fought to get back to them, I wanted more glimpses into her old world. These characters and their storylines weren’t developed enough for me. Before Harper was kidnapped, she lived in DC with her mother, who’s dying of cancer, and her brother Jake. Throughout the story, we get to meet Jake (who I really strongly dislike) and discover that he’s gay and dating a black boy named Noah (who I want MORE OF because I loved him).

My other big complaint in this book was the villain. Enter Lilith: the woman who cast the spell on Rhen and his kingdom. Her reasoning for the curse is revealed partway through the book, and honestly it was pretty weak. I felt like she was basically evil without a good cause, and was mainly used a plot device. A world so dark deserved a better villain.

This was never a curse to be broken. This is a death sentence. The true curse has been the thought that we might find escape.

Unfortunately, I never really shipped the romance in this book. I couldn’t really get past the whole kidnapping thing, and I was really shipping two completely separate relationships other than the one I was SUPPOSED to be rooting for. Harper seemed too smart for Stockholm Syndrome, so I couldn’t buy into it either.

HOWEVER. I did have a blast reading this book. I am such a sucker for all things Beauty and the Beast, and this was no exception. Even though the end twist was predictable, I still was living for it, and I will definitely be reading the next installment. This book had a ton of rep, and I loved Harper and Grey – I can’t wait to see more of them.

Ultimately, this book is about choices, and fighting for what you want, no matter what cards you get dealt in life. It’s about not giving up, and learning from your mistakes. If you love fairytale retellings with a darker spin, this book is for you. I hope you love it as much as I did.

I am always surprised to discover that when the world seems darkest, there exists the greatest opportunity for light.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely releases on January 29, 2019.

*All quotes are taken from an ARC and are subject to change prior to publication.

Buddy read with Julie, Amy, Chelsea, Jules, Melanie, & Chelsea