ARC Review: Kingsbane – Claire Legrand

This ARC was given to me for free by the publishing company, in exchange for an unbiased honest review.

Hi! Joanne here! So Ava has absolutely refused to cut down this insane review, so just to let you know, it is TL;DR, and to make your life easier because I had to chop the paragraphs up, I’m using a fleuron (❧) to separate each time Ava changes the subject to talk about a different aspect. Enjoy!

I’m not religious but I thought about taking up church-going just so I could start praying for an early copy of Kingsbane. As it happened, some deity somewhere was smiling upon me and I was sent an ARC by Sourcebooks. But this deity…this deity has a weird sense of humor. I didn’t understand the ride I was in for when I got ahold of Kingsbane. I thought I understood fear, adoration, and shock when I went through the roller-coaster of awesomeness that was Furyborn.

And then. And then. Claire Legrand hits us with Kingsbane. I was recently in the archives of Wikipedia, looking up Aliens information for some reason, and I stumbled upon this quote by David Kehr, who saw Alien in 1979, and then watched Aliens in ’86: “One sequel that surpasses the original.” Now, people loved Alien. But people were SHOOK by Aliens. And, honestly, that’s how I feel about Kingsbane. Sometimes you stumble upon a series that starts strong and stays strong, and you feel lucky. But every so often, you find a series that starts off with a killer book, and somehow just keeps getting better.

I don’t know how Claire Legrand did it. But I’m going to be grateful, always, even as I sit here in a mildly-catatonic state (I finished Kingsbane approximately five minutes ago, and now that I’ve appropriately scream-ranted about the ending at my bewildered roommate, I’m physically capable of writing this review. But don’t mistake me for calm, friends. I’m freaking the fuck out.

Name: Kingsbane
Author: Claire Legrand

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: May 21, 2019


Rielle Dardenne has been anointed Sun Queen, but her trials are far from over. The Gate keeping the angels at bay is falling. To repair it, Rielle must collect the seven hidden castings of the saints. Meanwhile, to help her prince and love Audric protect Celdaria, Rielle must spy on the angel Corien—but his promises of freedom and power may prove too tempting to resist.

Centuries later, Eliana Ferracora grapples with her new reality: She is the Sun Queen, humanity’s long-awaited savior. But fear of corruption—fear of becoming another Rielle—keeps Eliana’s power dangerous and unpredictable. Hunted by all, racing against time to save her dying friend Navi, Eliana must decide how to wear a crown she never wanted—by embracing her mother’s power, or rejecting it forever.

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Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo

By the way, it’s actually “Ma-Ree-Eh”. Not “Marie”. Kondo.


Name: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Author: Marie Kondo

Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Release Date: October 14, 2014


Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?

Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).

With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international best seller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home – and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

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Book Review: China Rich Girlfriend – Kevin Kwan


This series gets better by the book, honestly. With book 1, because I’ve watched the movie, some part of my brain was kinda distracted because I’m thinking both mediums at the same time. But now that I’m out of the cycle, my mind is taking in this book completely and completely well.

without further ado…


Name: China Rich Girlfriend
Author: Kevin Kwan

Publisher: Anchor Books
Release Date: May 31, 2016 (1st pub Jun 16, 2015)


It’s the eve of Rachel Chu’s wedding, and she should be over the moon. She has a flawless Asscher-cut diamond, a wedding dress she loves, and a fiancé willing to thwart his meddling relatives and give up one of the biggest fortunes in Asia in order to marry her. Still, Rachel mourns the fact that her birthfather, a man she never knew, won’t be there to walk her down the aisle.

Then a chance accident reveals his identity. Suddenly, Rachel is drawn into a dizzying world of Shanghai splendor, a world where people attend church in a penthouse, where exotic cars race down the boulevard, and where people aren’t just crazy rich … they’re China rich.

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Book Review: Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan

I’m so excited to finally read CRA and write a review on it! This has OBVIOUSLY been the craze of late 2018 and I finally got around to reading it :) I’ll also tie in some of my thoughts about the movie into this review. Hope you enjoy!

A little backstory: I remember a few years back when I visited my local bookstore every Saturday morning, I would always see the cover of Rich People Problems, thinking that it’s some sort of non-fiction judgment on Chinese society. Who would have thought that the first book in that series got turned into a movie?


Name: Crazy Rich Asians
Author: Kevin Kwan

Publisher: Anchor Books
Release Date: May 20, 2014 (1st pub Jun 11, 2013)


When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor.

On Nick’s arm, Rachel may as well have a target on her back the second she steps off the plane, and soon, her relaxed vacation turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers.

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Book Review: Now I Rise (Ava)

This is Ava’s review posted in 2019. There is another version written by Joanne back in 2018: to check it out, click HERE.

I’m trying to get through all of the reviews I’ve been meaning to do for, like, three months, in one afternoon. We’ll see how that goes.


Name: Now I Rise
Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: June 27, 2017


Lada Dracul has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself. After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.

What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?

As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won . . . and souls will be lost.

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Book Review: And I Darken (Ava)

This is Ava’s review posted in 2019. There is another version written by Joanne back in 2017: to check it out, click HERE.

I’ve already talked a little bit about Kiersten White’s And I Darken, but this book introduced me to her writing, and so I definitely owe it a full review. I owe all of those books a full review, actually.


Name: And I Darken
Author: Kiersten White

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: June 28, 2016


No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

Book Cover Comments

This cover is so pretty! I’m obsessed with the knife, and the petals of this flower. It goes along perfectly with the first sentence of the synopsis: Nobody expects a princess to be brutal. Well, nobody expects a flower to be freaking blown to pieces by a badass knife but here we are and it works perfectly. Only critique: MAKE KIERSTEN’S NAME BIGGER SHE DESERVES IT.

The Actual Review

When I picked up And I Darken for the first time, I didn’t really understand what I was going to be reading. I mistakenly assumed it was a YA Fantasy, which it most definitely is not (read the blurb kids, don’t make my mistakes). At the point that I bought this novel, I wasn’t reading much beyond YA Fantasy, so when I discovered it’s historical fiction, I was surprised, but not really turned off. I was definitely cautious, though, because it had been a while since I’d read historical fiction with enough of a twist to keep me interested.


And I Darken is a gender-bent tale of the life of Vlad the Impaler. If his title “The Impaler” doesn’t give you enough of a clue about the kind of guy ol’ Vlad was, let me leave you with this piece of information: he’s the dude who inspired the blood-sucking myths of Count Dracula.

And Kiersten White makes him a girl.

I was enchanted by this book. It starts off a little bit slow, but you learn to appreciate how much information we’re given in the beginning of And I Darken because there is a lot of history to get through, and given the fact that some of the names of places are different from what we call them today, it sometimes gets a little wonky, trying to remember all of that. Which is why you must pay attention to what’s going on in the beginning. Fortunately, the antics between Lada and Radu are enjoyable enough (and their dad is creepy enough) to offer a really nice buffer for the heaviness of the information.

Later in the book, we met Mehmed, who is the son of the sultan; he’s lonely, moody, and kind of Edgy, but something about him intrigues both Lada and Radu, so they all become friends. What’s really fascinating is that Kiersten is able to create a world that was so heavily drenched in side-windy politics and court functions, and bring it to us through kids’ eyes–but, like, the eyes of smart kids. Radu has a knack for picking up on all these courtly proceedings, Lada despises all of them, and Mehmed is the great mediator between them, so we’re given a really strong balance between the three characters.

When things start to pick up and Choices Must Be Made, I felt as though I was on the edge of my seat. I could’ve literally googled what generally went on during this time in history, but Kiersten keeps And I Darken so fresh (despite it being centuries old content), that you have to recognize this story will not be told anywhere else.

The book ends with something that I don’t consider a cliffhanger, but it definitely leaves you wanting to know more about what’s going on with these characters, and where they’ll end up. That’s Kiersten’s greatest gift with this book: you can’t help but fall in love with all of the characters, even though they’re polar opposites (I’m looking at you, Radu and Lada). Even Mehmed possesses a certain charm that makes me want to hug him and also punch him in the face (but not in an “I hate you” way, just in a “You’re fascinating and you exasperate me” way).

And I Darken quickly became one of my favorite reads of 2018, and the only thing that was negative about my reading experience was that it ended, and that it had taken me so long to find this book! I highly recommend snapping it up if you love political intrigue, girls with knives, lovable boys, and an absolutely incredible, high-stakes plot!

Book Review: Furyborn – Claire Legrand

Somewhere, across the world, someone is going “Can Ava Tusek please shut the hell up about Claire Legrand, all she ever does is scream about Claire Legrand”, and my answer to that person (probably my mom, at this point) is: Abso-hecking-lutely NOT. I will never shut up about Claire Legrand and how much I love her books. So without further ado, Furyborn.


Name: Furyborn
Author: Claire Legrand

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: May 22, 2018


When assassins ambush her best friend, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing herself as one of a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light, and a queen of blood. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven elemental magic trials. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

One thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a fairy tale to Eliana Ferracora. A bounty hunter for the Undying Empire, Eliana believes herself untouchable–until her mother vanishes. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain and discovers that the evil at the empire’s heart is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world–and of each other.

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Book Review: Four Dead Queens – Astrid Scholte

I’m going to preface this review by stating that Four Dead Queens was one of my most anticipated reads of 2019. I was so excited for it, I even attempted one of those ARC trades on Twitter. Everyone seemed to be hyping this book, and I’d heard people herald it as the “next big YA thing“. What I actually got from Four Dead Queens was…not that. 



Name: Four Dead Queens
Author: Astrid Scholte
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Release Date: February 26, 2019


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.

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