I’m getting real sick of WordPress’s nonsense. On the bright side, I managed to snag an ARC of this book at Yallwest, which was super exciting. I didn’t think I would get so lucky!


Image result for lady rogueName: The Last Rogue
Author: Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: September 10, 2019

Synopsis

Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.

Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.

Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Lady Rogue – Jenn Bennett”

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Book Review: Girl in Pieces – Kathleen Glasgow

TRIGGER WARNINGS: Self-harm, sexual abuse, substance abuse, suicide, sexual assault, physical abuse. This book…this is a heavy book. But I think it’s fucking angelic so I’m gonna talk about it.


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Name: Girl in Pieces
Author: Kathleen Glasgow
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: August 30, 2016

Synopsis

Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.

Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.

Continue reading “Book Review: Girl in Pieces – Kathleen Glasgow”

Book Review: Wicked Saints – Emily A. Duncan

I have such mixed feelings I really hope I can sort them all out.


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Name: Wicked Saints
Author: Emily A. Duncan
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: April 2, 2019

Synopsis

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.

Continue reading “Book Review: Wicked Saints – Emily A. Duncan”

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

Synopsis

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.

Continue reading “ARC Review: Kingsbane – Claire Legrand”

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.


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

Synopsis

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.

Continue reading “Book Review: Now I Rise (Ava)”

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.


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Name: And I Darken
Author: Kiersten White

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: June 28, 2016

Synopsis

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.

Well.

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.


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Name: Furyborn
Author: Claire Legrand

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: May 22, 2018

Synopsis

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.

Continue reading “Book Review: Furyborn – Claire Legrand”

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. 


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

Synopsis

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.

Continue reading “Book Review: Four Dead Queens – Astrid Scholte”

Book Review: The Girl King – Mimi Yu

I feel like I’ve written so many reviews lately and that’s so exciting! I can be really lazy! But look at me go *insert laughing/crying emoji here*


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Name: The Girl King
Author: Mimi Yu

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: January 8, 2019

Synopsis

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.


Book Cover Comments

I love Lu’s ferocity on the cover. You already know she’s going to be a total badass. I really think the contrast between the gray and black and then that stark, brutal red makes everything work. (I love when the actual book binding of a book isn’t just plain black, so the red absolutely did it for me)


The Actual Review

I bought this book the day it came out (January 8), and I was so excited to read it! Naturally, as soon as I got back to my dorm room, I passed out without even opening it (school is hard!). But I kept up a pretty steady pace with reading this book, usually going through about one or two chapters per day.

The pacing was a bit slow at first, and I felt like it took the book a while to gather its reins and really take off, but I also see how there was just so much world-building and backstory and all kinds of really important pieces that needed to go into the first few chapters, or else readers might’ve been confused. Fortunately, the dramatic irony really did its job in keeping my interest piqued: the prologue starts off with a big !!!! and then by the time the ball gets rolling around the third chapter, everything turns into a !!!!! which is always really fun to read.

The Girl King also features a lot of elements that are very familiar for YA Fantasy, most predominantly: girl must take back her throne. But I have to say, the characters were so refreshing, that I honestly didn’t mind. Lu is introduced right off the bat as a total badass, but whereas some characters walk onto the page announcing that they’re so cool, sometimes that coolness wears off as the book goes on. But Lu’s sharp mind, stubbornness, and general badassery was really consistent. She didn’t let herself get left behind, but there were also situations where she learned (begrudgingly) that she sometimes doesn’t always know best.

Nokhai I found really fascinating as our main male character. Usually when a badass girl is paired up with a guy she has (bad) history with, I find their dynamic…not great. They just clash but suddenly love each other and I get so confused and anyway that isn’t what happened with these two. Nokhai is a special breed of YA male character who manages to be charming and aloof but also funny and relatable and awkward. At one point, he gets kissed and his brain practically short-wires. It really made me remember how young the characters actually are, which I think sometimes gets lost in translation with YA fantasy. But Nok’s backstory, family history, and general selflessness made me really respect him as a character. Plus, he’s associated with wolves (not going to give anyone anything more than that but wolves).

Our third POV is that of Min, Lu’s younger sister. And wow! Do I have thoughts and feelings about Min! Min was a character that I didn’t see coming; at first, I was honestly annoyed by her POV, and found Lu’s and Nok’s way more interesting. But watching Min’s character unfold, and her connection to…ugh spoilers. Basically: Min? So freaking cool. It’s difficult for me to sum up what made Min so awesome to read about without giving away the entirety of the book, but when Min finds her backbone: I got shivers. Wow.

Finally, I just have to love the world-building with this one. The story of the First Flame, the Ana and the Aba, the rivalry between Hu and Hana, it was all so fascinating and fun to read about! I especially loved that some of our characters rode elk; that’s such a special little detail that makes this world really shine.


Ultimately, The Girl King isn’t anything we haven’t seen before in YA fantasy, plotwise at least. But if I’m being perfectly honest I haven’t ever read a YA book that I haven’t seen in a different YA book before. The Girl King, however, is really special because the characters take control of the story, and it really seems like their story, not just a story that is happening to them. They were all interesting to read about, really very different, and watching them development was really fun. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the sequel!

~Ava

ARC Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

This Advanced Reader’s Copy was given to me by Bloomsbury, and I am seriously grateful because it was amazing.

I don’t even have words for how amazing ACSDAL was. It blew my mind, and was so much better than anything I could have ever expected!


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Name: A Curse So Dark and Lonely
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: January 29, 2019

Synopsis

In a lush, contemporary fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Brigid Kemmerer gives readers another compulsively readable romance perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer.

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. Continue reading “ARC Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer”