Review: Everless by Sara Holland

Title: Everless (Everless #1)
Author: Sara Holland
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: January 2nd 2018
Hardcover, 362 pages

In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries. No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever. But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself.
From the first moment I saw the cover for Everless I was immediately taken away with this book. The idea of time be bound to money and being hoarded by the wealthy was a really cool concept that I was super intrigued by. Though I did find Everless interesting I did have quite a few issues with it. 

I found Jules be very bland and fit into the same cookie cutter mold of the heroine who got put into a position she didn't ask for and now she has to save her country. Only, Jules willingly went back to Everless, she sought out these answers and created many of these problems for herself. I also found her character to be super reckless and super selfish at times only caring about herself and the answers she was seeking. 

The idea behind Everless is interesting: time being bound to blood in the form of coins and then being used as currency. The concept was interesting and unique and it gave the book an air of uniqueness but that was about it for me. I found the story between the Sorcerer and the Alchemist interesting and liked how Holland used a children's tale to explain the story on how blood-irons had come to be. 

I feel there were plot points in Everless that were just added with no suspicion or forewarning. They kind of just popped up randomly and no one seemed to question it. Jules was super quick to not question what the letter said about her heritage. I also didn't understand the point of the queen as she really didn't have a grand role in the grand scheme of everything? I honestly thought her character wasn't needed at all. The ending was kind of predictable and I had guessed it pretty early on in the story upon the Queen's arrival and the alliances that were being made by characters. There was one character death that surprised me though and I am really sad with loosing this character. 

Overall, I wasn't crazy about Everless and I am more disappointed in the story then in love with it. I'm super torn on reading the next book in this series to see what happens next because I have a strange feeling I already know, but we shall see. I did request a copy for my library so maybe when it comes in...? In the end this one wasn't my cup of tea sadly. 

(2.5 Stars!)

ARC Review: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Title: Wicked Saints
(Something Dark and Holy #1)
Author: Emily A. Duncan
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Wednesday Books via NetGalley
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: April 2nd 2019 
Hardcover, 400 pages

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..
*Emily posted about all the trigger warnings in Wicked Saints here!*

This book is unlike everything I have ever read before and left me speechless from page one. Absolutely stunning and marvelous Wicked Saints is going to get under your skin and stay there long after you finish it. Emily A. Duncan masterfully blended Russian and Polish aspects to create a culturally rich world, with characters that you can't help but love. 

Kalyazin and Tranavia have been at war for over a century. Where Kalyazin has its divine magic from their Gods, Tranavia has blood magic and blood mages. Neither country can see eye to eye, but it is clear on how to end this war: Kill the Tranavian King. Nadya, the last known cleric in Kalyazin, is living a peaceful life at a monastery when it is attacked by blood mages who are on the hunt for the cleric. Serefin, the prince of Tranavia and a general of the Tranavian army leads this attack, but Nadya manages to escape his grasp. But quickly Serefin is called home to Tranavia with his best guards Ostyia and Kacper, to follow the tradition of finding a wife. Nadya teams up with Parijahan and Rashid two Akolan refugees and Malachiasz who Nadya's sworn enemy. Deciding on who to trust the two groups must find a way to save their kingdoms before it is too late. 

My love for these characters just continues to grow. I have a lot to talk about with each character, so I am going to break it down by character rather then making one huge paragraph. 

"I'm heartless, but not cruel."

Nadya - I liked Nadya from page one. She is fierce and determined and all she wanted to do was end this war even if it meant sacrificing her life in the process. Duncan did an amazing job of portraying Nadya's growth through out the novel. Nadya goes from being the naive cleric that lived in the monastery to a girl who no long understands the extent of her powers and struggling to embrace them to a complete bad ass. She also has to learn to trust her new partner Malachiasz, a Tranvanian rebel of sorts. But is trusting Malachiasz a smart idea?

Serefin - I think by default I wanted to hate Serefin because he is from Tranavia and he is hunting Nadya. But under his rocky exterior Serefin is really just a Prince who is horribly misunderstood and looking to belong. His dedication to his friends and his country and admirable and he wants to end this holy war just as bad. He copes with the help of alcohol and it isn't immediately addressed in the novel but it is clear to see that Serefin is the alcoholic prince that is referred to in the summary. 

Malachiasz - I am head over heels in love with Malachiasz. The beautiful boy from Tranavia said he wants to war to end. But are his intentions as pure as he makes them seem? His characterization is so complex that if I try to explain it I will end up spoiling a huge chunk of the story. But trust me, you are going to quickly fall in love with him. 

All the minor characters in Wicked Saints are as amazingly done as the main characters. Duncan didn't spare of description and I felt as if I knew all of her characters pretty well. 

The romance between Nadya and Malachiasz was a slow burn and tentative to begin with. There was several parts of Wicked Saints where I kept thinking: "When are they going to kiss?!" It is worth the wait my friends. So worth it. Considering the alliances made and certain events of the novel and a couple of scenes involving Serefin and Kacper I am curious to see how the romance aspect for Serefin is going to play out. Emily did mention on twitter that Serefin is a bi so I am super excited to see where everything is going to go. 

"Monsters are real, and I am their king."

The last 100 pages or so of this book was nonstop action and things that changed the plot in irreparable ways. Once you thought you knew something, suddenly it was changed. Even the most beautiful faces have different sides. The ending of Wicked Saints left me speechless and rethinking everything I read. The betrayal and the heart break and the pain. The epilogue shattered my heart into a million pieces, and I will admit: I cried. 

Wicked Saints is 100% unique and thrilling and had me memorized from page one. Emily Duncan's writing is both beautiful and haunting and it is going to leave you wanting more. She crafted a beautiful story that is both timeless and going to be loved by so so so many. I hope my review does this book at least an ounce of justice, because it deserves the highest of praises. 

Waiting on Wednesday: How The Light Gets In by Katy Upperman

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine where we highlight some of the upcoming books we can't wait to read! 

40864797Title: How the Light Gets In
Author: Katy Upperman
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Hardcover, 336 Pages 
Publication Date: August 6th, 2019

Summary: Since her sister’s tragic death, seventeen-year-old Callie Ryan has basically given up. Her grades have plummeted, she’s quit her swim team, and she barely recognizes the people her parents once were. When she returns to her aunt’s run-down coastal Victorian one year after Chloe’s death, Callie resigns herself to a summer of guilt and home renovations. She doesn’t expect to be charmed by the tiny coastal town or by Tucker Morgan, a local boy brimming with sunshine. But even as her days begin to brighten, Callie’s nights are crowded with chilling dreams, unanswered questions, and eerie phenomenon that have her convinced she’s being haunted. Will Callie be able to figure out what her sister is trying to communicate before it’s too late?

I received an advanced copy of Katy Upperman's previous book, The Impossibility of Us, so when I found out that she had another book coming out -- and that it was even more raw and emotional than the first one -- I was immediately hooked and added it to my TBR. I really can't wait to read this one, because it seems like it's going to be a shocking emotional rollercoaster, and that's just up my alley. Here's to hoping August 2019 comes quickly!

What are you waiting on this week? Leave your links so we can stop back! 

Top Ten Tuesday: New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2018!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl in which we create bookish lists about everything from our favorite characters to love triangles and everything in between!
This week's theme: New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2018!

2018 was a year where I read a lot of new authors, which was so exciting and great! So without further ado, here are ten authors (in no particular order!) that I started reading last year and definitely became hooked on their stories!

1. Katy Upperman

2. Elizabeth Acevedo

3. Erin Watt

4. Kiley Roache

5. Rebecca Hanover

6. Jasmine Guillory

7. Lizzy Mason

8. Victoria Stevens

9. Lygia Day Peñaflor 

10. Akemi Dawn Bowman

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So those are ten new-to-me authors that I read in 2018! What were some of yours? Comment down below and let me know!

Interview with Author Nikki Barthelmess!

In 2019 our goal is to work with as many debut authors as possible and spread the word about their debut novels. Follow us this year as we pick the mind of the 2019 debuts and chat with them. Also stay tuned for news of giveaways, twitter chats and more! 

Today on the blog, we have an interview with 2019 debut author Nikki Barthelmess, author of The Quiet You Carry! So without further ado, let's get into it!

About the Author

Nikki Barthelmess is a journalist and author of young adult books. She entered foster care in Nevada at twelve, and spent the next six years living in six different towns. During this time, Nikki found solace in books, her journal, and teachers who encouraged her as a writer. She graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Nevada, Reno, and has worked as a maid, cashier, newspaper reporter, and event coordinator, among other odd jobs. Nikki lives in Los Angeles with her husband and her pride-and-joy Corgi pup. Her debut novel, THE QUIET YOU CARRY, will be published by Flux Books in Spring 2019.

Author Interview

What inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always been a writer, even though I didn’t know it at the time! I started writing my own (not-so-good) songs about being lonely when I was five years old, and I would sing them to my dogs. (I know that sounds really sad, but I’m smiling as I remember it because at least Lucky and Blade were an eager audience!).
I continued writing as a way to deal with my feelings. I wrote poetry (again, it wasn’t great) when my mom was dying of cancer. I wrote in journals throughout my time in foster care. Writing out my feelings helped me cope.
I started writing seriously, if you could call it that, when I was 20 years old. I wrote a very bad attempt at a memoir, and I geared it toward a young adult audience, because YA is what I liked to read at the time (and still do!). After that, I got an idea for a YA science fiction/dystopian story, and I wrote my first novel. Even though that novel never got published, that’s what got me started on fiction writing.

What was the hardest part about writing this book?
Writing this book forced me to sit with some pretty traumatic memories. As I like to remind people, Victoria’s story isn’t based on mine, but there are similarities. And to get her feelings on the page involved me sitting in darkness: the darkness of a character who hurts Victoria – trying to get inside his head and show the circumstances that bring a family to fall apart. Victoria’s emotions, from feeling abused and abandoned to wanting freedom and to hold her life together, are all feelings I had. At times, it was painful reliving those.

Who is your favorite character and why?
 Christina is probably my favorite character, because she was my favorite to write. I love how fierce she is, how strong and loyal. She’s the friend I wish I had/the friend I aspire to be!

 What was your main inspiration for the story behind this book?
 I grew up in the Nevada foster care system, living in six different towns in the six years I was in foster care. I didn’t know much about foster care and neither did the kids around me at school. At times, people—even the adults who were supposed to help—judged me, like it was my fault I was in foster care. Like I was a “bad kid.” I felt so unwanted and, sometimes, even hopeless.
As I grew up and started volunteering and mentoring foster youth, I realized I wasn’t alone. There were so many of us. And though our experiences varied, we had a lot in common. We were used to people making wrong and often negative assumptions about us, based on poor representation via the news, TV, movies, books, you name it. I wanted to write a story where a foster kid struggles, yes, but also one where she doesn’t give up. One where she refuses to become that negative statistic us foster kids are so often being told we will become. 

In what way are you looking for readers to react to The Quiet You Carry?

Although The Quiet You Carry is a story about a girl who enters foster care, I think it’s so much more than that. It’s about a person who has been treated terribly by the people who were supposed to care for her, yet she finds her true family in those who choose to love and support her, no matter what. I hope readers can have empathy for kids in foster care, but also for people who have been abused in the most heinous ways. I hope readers can walk away feeling that no matter how bad things may get, there’s always hope. The Quiet You Carry is a survivor story, one of struggle, sure, but most importantly, it’s about resilience.
About the Book

Title: The Quiet You Carry
Author: Nikki Barthelmess
Publisher: Flux
Publication Date: March 5th, 2019

Summary: Victoria Parker knew her dad's behavior toward her was a little unusual, but she convinced herself everything was fine—until she found herself locked out of the house at 3:00 a.m., surrounded by flashing police lights. Now, dumped into a crowded, chaotic foster home, Victoria has to tiptoe around her domineering foster mother, get through senior year at a new school, and somehow salvage her college dreams . . . all while keeping her past hidden. But some secrets won't stay buried—especially when unwanted memories make Victoria freeze up at random moments and nightmares disrupt her sleep. Even worse, she can't stop worrying about her stepsister Sarah, left behind with her father. All she wants is to move forward, but how do you focus on the future when the past won't leave you alone?

We'd like to thank Nikki Barthelmess for being awesome enough to stop by the blog and let us host this interview! If THE QUIET YOU CARY sounds like something you're interested in, then don't forget to add it to your Goodreads TBR, which you can do by clicking the Goodreads button above! 

Blogging 101: What NOT To Do in the Blogging World

So, you want to start a book blog and you don't know where to start. This is completely normal. Starting a blog is an overwhelming feeling, there is so much you need to know that you don't. We are hoping with this new series that we will be able to help new bloggers navigate the blogging world!

Previous Posts: PlatformsWebsites Essential for Running a Blog | Staying Organized | When, Why & What To Post | How to Write a Banging Book Review

Whether you're a brand new blogger or a seasoned veteran, there are some unspoken rules in the blogging and reading community that keep things orderly and keeps the space fun and enjoyable for everyone. While a lot of these "rules" seem to be unspoken and mutually understood, it's never a bad idea to 

*Please keep in mind that this list is not meant to offend or antagonize anybody -- rather, hopefully everyone reading this (ourselves included) can learn and move forward in a way that is positive for the bookish community as a whole!*

So without further ado, let's jump into it:

1. DON'T neglect a blogger's review policy. Most bloggers have a separate tab on their website where you can access their review policy. This policy not only outlines the guidelines of how to submit books for review, but it also speaks to their reading tastes, which is something important that you want to keep in mind when asking people to review your book or to work with you. It is very, very clear when authors reaching out to us haven't read our review policy -- please respect the policies on each blogger's site!

2. DON'T use the wrong name in emails when addressing bloggers and authors. It'd be silly to say we don't know people copy and paste emails to different bloggers when they're looking to have their story covered, or when a blogger wants to collaborate with a bunch of other bloggers. That is totally fine. What isn't as fine, however, is when we see emails sent to us calling us by different names that aren't ours, or the dreaded "Hi," with no name following at all. Reaching out to a blogger means that you want to collaborate with them -- so take an extra two seconds to type out their name, or their blog name, if you can. It makes it a lot more personal and makes us feel less like another faceless cog in the publicity machine.

3. DON'T harass an author or another blogger when you don't get an answer. A gentle nudge after a few days of waiting for a response is totally justified and in fact encouraged. On the other hand, sending them 400 emails, DMs, and Tweets constantly harassing them for an answer is definitely not the polite way to go about things.

4. DON'T tag authors in negative reviews. For starters, reviews are for readers, not for the authors themselves. You shouldn't ever feel afraid of speaking your mind if there's something you disliked about a book -- you're not going to love every single thing you read, and that's completely normal! However, it isn't really very nice of you to tag the author in that negative review -- if they want to look it up on their own and read it, that's their own decision to make, but going out of the way to tag them in said review just to hurt their feelings is kind of cruel. Our general rule of thumb is that we only tag authors in reviews if it's a 5-star review that is glowing and positive, not critical -- if it IS critical, which is totally okay, we just don't tag their Twitter handle when posting the link. Sometimes they Google search their name and find the review anyway, but that's out of your control, and their own choice to make.

5. DON'T use social media just to drop links. While that's certainly a big part of running a Twitter/Instagram/Facebook account for your blog, don't just be a space full of links and no personality. Engage in the wonderful community  that the bookish world has to offer! In addition to constantly Tweeting links to our posts, we make a conscious effort to check in with the bookish community at least once a day, either by Tweeting about what we're up to, participating in a chat, replying to a few Tweets, or shouting out an author that we like. Staying engaged in this wonderful community is half the fun of being part of it, and it helps keep your blog and your name relevant! 

6. DON'T assume pronouns or genders of authors/bloggers. This one doesn't even need much explaining. Just don't do it! When in doubt, feel free to ask who you're speaking to what their preferred pronouns are. Some Twitter accounts even have them listed in their bio if you don't want to make someone uncomfortable by asking outright. This also goes for not assuming sexualities or ethnicities! 

7. DON'T be afraid to reach out to publishers. Part of their job is getting to know you and your blog, so don't be afraid to Tweet them! Email them! Tag them in Insta posts! 

8. However, DON'T use private publisher email contacts that you get from other blogging friends. Unless an agent or a publicist specifically tells you that they don't mind their email account being shared, don't share those private addresses without permission. Just because Suzy from Publisher X doesn't mind a one-on-one correspondence with you doesn't mean she's necessarily open to her inbox being flooded with ARC requests from hundreds of other people. When in doubt, always ask before sharing, or give your friend the publisher's main public publicity email instead! Similarly, don't go around messaging private contacts that you swipe from other friends without the publicist's permission. It goes both ways.

9. DON'T jump into a heated debate without doing your research. Unfortunately, lots of drama goes down in the bookish community every single day. If you feel you have something important that you want to add to the conversation, that is totally welcome -- just make sure that you get the general gist of what's going on before you participate. 

10. DON'T forget that not everyone has access to the same books. A lot of international readers may not be afforded the same opportunities as U.S. bloggers due to shipping costs and distance. Don't take the things you've been given for granted -- and when you get the chance, reach out and try to lend a helping hand to those international bloggers if possible. They're just as important to this community as you are! Similarly, keep in mind that publishing contacts may be different per country.

11. DON'T feel like you have to play by a certain guidebook! That might sound a bit counter intuitive after this entire post, but hear us out -- while there are definitely some important things to take note of (AKA what we mentioned in this post), blogging should be a fun experience that doesn't feel like a chore. We do daily posts and wrap ups and Waiting on Wednesdays and Top Ten Tuesdays and giveaways and Twitter chats because we WANT to, and because we enjoy it -- we don't do it because everyone else is, so therefore we feel like we have to. Feel free to go out there and do (or don't do!) whatever you please -- your blog is YOURS, and you can run it however you'd like! :-)

So that's the list of some of the important things to keep note of when blogging, working with authors, writing reviews, and more. Do you agree or disagree with any of the particular points? Have any more to add? Feel free to comment down below and start a conversation -- we'd love to hear from you! :-)

A special thank you to all of the bloggers and members of the bookish community that helped us curate the content of this post!

ARC Review: All Our Broken Pieces by L.D. Crichton!

Title: All Our Broken Pieces
Author: L.D. Crichton
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Hardcover, 416 Pages
Publication Date: May 7th, 2019

Summary: Lennon Davis doesn’t believe in much, but she does believe in the security of the number five. If she flicks the bedroom light switch five times, maybe her new L.A. school won’t suck. But that doesn’t feel right, so she flicks the switch again. And again. Ten more flicks of the switch and maybe her new step family will accept her. Twenty-five more flicks and maybe she won’t cause any more of her loved ones to die. Fifty times more and then she can finally go to sleep. Kyler Benton witnesses this pattern of lights from the safety of his treehouse in the yard next door. It is only there, hidden from the unwanted stares of his peers, that Kyler can fill his notebooks with lyrics that reveal the true scars of the boy behind the oversized hoodies and caustic humor. But Kyler finds that descriptions of blonde hair, sad eyes, and tapping fingers are beginning to fill the pages of his notebooks. Lennon, the lonely girl next door his father has warned him about, infiltrates his mind. Even though he has enough to deal with without Lennon’s rumored tragic past in his life, Kyler can’t help but want to know the truth about his new muse.

*I received an Advanced Reader's Copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.* 

You guys...I don't know what the heck has been going on, but I have been LOVING all of my 2019 ARCs so far. As soon as I finished this book I picked up my laptop and knew I wanted to write my review while the feelings were still fresh, because this book was truly such a great story that made me feel so good inside, and I knew I had to capture those raw emotions in this review. So yeah, I apologize if this seems really sappy or gushy or emotional or fangirly. I'm just feeling ALL THE THINGS for this amazing book.

As the summary explains, Lennon thought she has just lost everything that meant the most to her -- her mother, her best friend, and her life back in Maine. Coming to live with her father in Bel Air isn't necessarily a prison sentence, but it's not what she's used to and definitely not what she wants. Even worse? Her father is struggling to understand her OCD, and try as he might, she still feels misunderstood and cast out to sea in this strange place, dealing with both the traumatic loss of her mother and also her constant ritualizing. What she doesn't expect is to fall for Kyler, the badass, mysterious boy next door, both in a rocker band and carrying a mark on his face that causes most people to turn away. But Lennon quickly finds that life in Bel Air is not what she expects, and she's definitely in for an interesting time.

I absolutely loved this book for so many different reasons! For starters, it made me feel all the feels. I think that the portrayal of OCD in this story was both honest and not taken advantage of, and Lennon voices her struggles and her fears quite openly in a way that I very much appreciated. Another thing that I loved about this book was the love story arc between her and Kyler. Things were definitely messy, and certainly a little rocky at first, but as the book went on I found myself cheering them on and my heart was all fluttery and swoony and I just wanted them to have the happily ever after that they so clearly deserved. It was such a well-done story and I can't sing its praises enough! There's so much that this book covers -- love, loss, tragedies, mental illness, physical scars, family, revenge, overcoming fears, etc. -- and it was all done so tastefully and also in a way that made it so hard to put this book down.

My favorite character in this book was definitely Kyler. Not only was he super cocky and sarcastic and hilarious, which made me laugh and really had him grow on me, but he was also sweet and smart and introspective, always saying super adorable and mushy stuff to/about Lennon that made my heart swoon. If you're looking for a book that has a swoon-worthy romance involving a brooding bad boy who is much more of a mushy sweetheart than he first seems, then this is definitely the book for you to pick up!

However, I also really loved Lennon's character as well! She was also really smart and funny, and the way she always treated her little half-brother Jacob with respect and kindness as an equal was something that made me really like her even more. As I mentioned earlier, she was so candid with her struggles and it really helped shine a light on OCD and the importance of mental health awareness, particularly in terms of realizing that it's a different experience for each individual and that Google may be able to explain the technical side of it, but it can never truly explain how someone suffering with it is actually feeling. In that regard, I think that L.D. Crichton (and the sensitivity readers that she mentioned in the acknowledgements) did an excellent job.

I honestly have nothing bad to say about this book and couldn't think of a single critique even if I was forced to come up with one. When I say that I couldn't put this book down, I really mean it! I read it during the really busy week before Christmas (I know, I know, always a bad time to start a new book!), so there were a few days where I was out running errands nonstop and was lucky if I could manage to squeeze in reading one or two pages for the entire day. During those days I found myself super upset because I was itching to curl up with this book and read more! Luckily for me, I managed to find some time to curl up and finish the entire last half (200 pages!!!) in one sitting, and it was such a delightful binge that left me feeling so happy and satisfied.

Overall, I absolutely LOVED All Our Broken Pieces and I know that I'll be referring it to both Emily and Amber -- as well as all of my Goodreads and other blogger/reader friends! And yes, that means you -- what are you waiting for? Add this book to your TBR immediately! Excellent work from L.D. Crichton. I'll definitely be reading more of her YA books in the future!

Also be on the lookout for my exclusive interview with author L.D. Crichton herself, coming soon! :-)

Review: The Girl King by Mimi Yu

Title: The Girl King
Author: Mimi Yu
Genre: Fantasy
Source: ARC via BookExpo
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Publication Date: January 8th 2019
Hardcover, 496 pages

Two sisters become unwitting rivals in a war to claim the title of Emperor in this richly imagined, Asian-inspired fantasy for fans of Renée Ahdieh and Sabaa Tahir. Sisters Lu and Min have always known their places as the princesses of the Empire of the First Flame: the eldest, assertive Lu, will be named her father's heir and become the dynasty's first female ruler, while timid Min will lead a quiet life in Lu's shadow. Then their father names their male cousin Set the heir instead, throwing both girls' lives into chaos. Determined to reclaim her birthright, Lu is forced to flee, leaving Min to face the volatile court alone. Lu crosses paths with Nokhai, the lone, unlikely survivor of the decimated Ashina, nomadic wolf shapeshifters. Nok never learned to shift--and he has no trust for the Empire that killed his family--but working with the princess might be the key to unlocking his true power. As Lu and Nok form a tenuous alliance, Min's own hidden power awakens--a forbidden, deadly magic that could secure Set's reign . . . or allow her to claim the throne herself. But there can only be one Emperor, and the sisters' greatest enemy could very well turn out to be each other. Told in three distinct points-of-view, this first book in a sweeping fantasy series weaves a story of ambition, betrayal, and sacrifice.

I met Mimi at BookExpo in 2018 and she is so sweet and amazing (and has some pretty amazing tattoos) and it easily one of my highlights of the conference. But The Girl King has sat on my bookcase since June when in November I finally decided to give The Girl King a try and I made it about 20% before I put it to the side and said I would go back to it. It sucks when you are really excited for a book and then just don't love it. Sadly that was the case with The Girl King. It is beautifully written Asian inspired fantasy that will have you immersed from the first page. But my relationship with this book is: "It's not you, it's me." 

The first few chapters I was really intrigued and eager to learn what was going on. Like I said, The Girl King is beautifully written and Mimi did not spare one second on building her characters. Each POV is distinctive and you could just tell by their voice whose POV you were reading from. The world is lush and the traditions are beautiful. Mimi created two sisters who are complete and total opposites and each with motives of their own for wanting the throne. 

My biggest problem was that by 50% point of The Girl King nothing much had really happen. Where the book started off nicely with world building that made complete sense, but the halfway mark my head was spinning. This totally might be a me issue and maybe with The Girl King not being the book for me. But this book is almost 500 pages long, so by pretty much 250ish pages I really wasn't sure what was going on. The time frame also jumps a lot, so in Min's POV suddenly a month has passed by but it doesn't seem like that in Lu's POV at times.  

Overall I really think The Girl King just wasn't for me and it was more of a me issue then the actual book. I do encourage you to pick this book up because it does contain beautiful writing and it has been loved by so many so far. I am excited to see what Mimi is going to write after The Girl King with all things considered. 

(2.5 stars!)

ARC Review: Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok

Title: Spectacle 
Author: Jodie Lynn Zdrok
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery 
Source: Tor Teen via NetGalley
Publisher: Tor Teen 
Publication Date: February 12th 2019
Hardcover, 368 pages

A YA murder mystery in which a young reporter must use her supernatural visions to help track down a killer targeting the young women of Paris. Paris, 1887. Sixteen-year-old Nathalie Baudin writes the daily morgue column for Le Petit Journal. Her job is to summarize each day's new arrivals, a task she finds both fascinating and routine. That is, until the day she has a vision of the newest body, a young woman, being murdered--from the perspective of the murderer himself. When the body of another woman is retrieved from the Seine days later, Paris begins to buzz with rumors that this victim may not be the last. Nathalie's search for answers sends her down a long, twisty road involving her mentally ill aunt, a brilliant but deluded scientist, and eventually into the Parisian Catacombs. As the killer continues to haunt the streets of Paris, it becomes clear that Nathalie's strange new ability may make her the only one who can discover the killer's identity--and she'll have to do it before she becomes a target herself.
Spectacle was quite different then what I was expecting. Though I did have my issues with Spectacle,  I was nonetheless blown away by Jodie's writing style and the dark themes she wrote about in her debut novel. Spectacle was a page turner with characters that were easily likable and a series of grisly murders that you couldn't help but want to know more about. 

My biggest issue with this book that by the way it is described I was expecting a blood soaked murder mystery that was going to send chills down my spine. Though it do that at many points, the murders and who the murderer is seemed to be a sub plot rather then the main plot. A big part of Spectacle was Nathalie trying to piece together where she got her ability to see the murders from and uncovering secrets from her parents and aunt's past. 

Spectacle had a lot of potential and at certain points it felt like it just fell short of it. Important parts of the story were brushed past and I wish Jodie had taken more time to describe the experiments that gave people their magical abilities and a deeper view into the things that led Tante down the road to an asylum. I knew enough that everything made sense, but not enough to be emotionally invested. 

I really enjoyed Nathalie's growth from the start of Spectacle and to the end of it. The story takes place over a few weeks worth of time and you can gradually to see the change in how Nathalie begins to act and think towards certain things. The friendship between Nathalie and Simone warmed my heart and I found it very similar to some of my actual relationships with friends, so I was able to feel her pain when her Simone would have disagreements. I don't thing Spectacle needed a romance aspect, it worked pretty well with out it. But Jodie did tease us with Christophe and Nathalie's interactions and by the end of the novel their relationship was very up in the air. 

Spectacle did end very open ended and I can see the potential for another novel about Nathalie and her adventures since not everything was clarified by the end of Spectacle. Though I didn't love Spectacle, it was an enjoyable read and I am eager to see what is in store for these characters next.