Twins, mountains that are castles, and evil princes | Crown of Coral & Pearl by Mara Rutherford [ARC]

Crown of Coral and PearlOnce a generation, the Varenians send their most beautiful girl to Ilara to marry the prince. It is a great honor and twins¬†Nor and Zadie have been groomed their whole lives to become a princess. However, because of a childhood accident involving some blood coral, Nor’s cheek is scarred and she knows she could never be chosen. Nobody is surprised when Zadie is selected, but she’s in love with a boy from home and begs Nor to help her get out of it. In the end, Nor takes Zadie’s place, but she is unprepared for what she will find on the mainland and what she will need to do to save her home.

TL;DR – Nor says many unwise things and makes many unwise decisions, but is still a likable character. Some things don’t make a¬†ton of sense, but can be ignored.

Preorder: Hardcover | eBook

This book was a little different than I thought it would be but at the same time is also exactly what I thought it would be. Does that make sense? Plotwise, there were many things that the reader knows is going to happen (because of course) but the author takes her sweet time getting there. For example, it took FOREVER for Nor to come to the conclusion that she needs to take Zadie’s place. I understand in the context of the story that it wasn’t that simple, but we probably could have saved at least 50 pages. It’s when Nor gets to Ilara that things take some interesting turns that I didn’t really anticipate.

I thought the relationship between Nor and Zadie was a really interesting one. The author herself is a twin (as I found out in the Acknowledgements section) and that gives authenticity to the sister relationship. Never having been a twin myself, I felt like I understood better what it would be like to go through life with someone always at your side. I appreciated that there was no jealousy between the girls. They were legitimately the best of friends and sisters.

There were some minor plot points that didn’t quite make sense to me. Some of them were explained (kind of), but some weren’t. There were times when Nor’s plans didn’t make sense and I can’t tell if that was purposeful to show her naivety or…what. I also felt like she didn’t act or speak with the appropriate amount of caution, especially when Talin was involved. Ceren is this seriously dangerous dude and she’s just randomly mouthing off to him or snubbing him in favor of Talin whenever possible. HE COULD END YOU, NOR.

As far as the other characters, I felt like the author was maybe trying to create some moral grey-ness with Ceren? But then she also wanted to make sure we knew he was a BAD GUY. It just made his character seem inconsistent and I didn’t feel like that worked with the story. Also, his and Talin’s relationship made approximately 5% of sense to me.

Overall, I actually liked this book quite a bit and will definitely be reading the second. Though, I’m not really sure where the plot can go from here? I have some suspicions, but if my suspicions are correct, I don’t like it. I guess we’ll see!

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Advertisements

Probably the darkest 12 Dancing Princesses retelling you’ll ever read | House of Salt & Sorrows by Erin A. Craig [ARC]

House of Salt and SorrowsAnnaleigh just wants her sisters to stop dying. There used to be twelve of them but now that Ava, Octavia, Elizabeth, and Eulalie are all dead, there are only eight of them left. As she struggles to mourn the latest death, Eulalie’s, Annaleigh must also find a way to comfort her younger sisters when the town starts theorizing about a family curse. Frustrated that all of the young men are too afraid of “the curse” to court them, the sisters realize they must try to find young men that have never heard of them or their dead sisters. They think they might have found a way, but what will it cost them?

TL;DR – The story of the 12 Dancing Princesses darker than you’ve ever heard it. Part mystery and part fairytale retelling, it comes together better than expected even if a little confusing at times.

Order: Hardcover | eBook

Sometimes I request books on NetGalley and then when it’s finally time to read and review, I’ve forgotten what the book was supposed to be about. I went into this book pretty blind–I didn’t realize at first that it was a retelling until they were buying their “fairy shoes”. With that being said, I love a good retelling and I’ve actually read quite a few retellings of the 12 Dancing Princesses. This one was different. A lot of the ones I’ve read stick to the “secret door in their room that leads to another place” outline. I’ve even read one or two where the princesses are forced to dance against their will. Craig’s take on the story felt a lot more insidious. I think part of it was Camille’s desperation and refusal to let go of this outlet she’d found and part of it was the spooky stuff that was going on with Verity.

Annaleigh was a likable character from the beginning. Her sisters varied in likability depending on what was going on, but they were all enjoyable. The only thing I wished was that we got to see the softer, kinder side of Camille. Annaleigh states that they grew up as best friends, but we never really see that side to their relationship. Camille is mostly just bratty and grumpy the whole book. Craig did a good job of making a lot of the secondary characters feel kind of grey. I wasn’t sure who was supposed to be good and who was supposed to be bad until almost the very end. It seemed like maybe we were getting set up for a love triangle, but the author managed to turn that on its head as well. I wasn’t super into Cassius as the love interest. I mean, he seemed perfect, but (as is often the case) we’re not really given any concrete reasons as to why he likes Annaleigh. He seems like this perfect guy (too perfect) so what exactly does he want with or flawed main character? Authors! We need an explanation for this!

The plot was twisty and suspenseful. I genuinely didn’t know what was going to happen next or what the conclusion was going to be until it was upon us. Without giving anything away, I will say that I’m a little disappointed by some character resolutions…I’ll just leave it at that. I thought the religious system could have used a little more explanation. Maybe the author could have started each chapter with a myth or legend about the gods that these people believed in. It’s just that almost nothing is said about their gods in the first 2/3 of the book, and then all of the sudden they start playing this huge role.

Overall, I would recommend this book for people who are looking for darker fairytale retellings. While it has a happy(ish) ending, I wouldn’t say that it’s feel good at all. It was definitely darker and creepier than I had anticipated–I was surprised by the touch of horror! I would definitely say this could be a good book to read in late September or in October to get ready for Halloween.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

A book in which our MC makes many questionable decisions | You Owe Me a Murder by Eileen Cook [ARC]

You Owe Me a MurderConnor broke Kim’s heart and for that, he deserves to die. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but he really, really sucks and now Kim is facing two weeks in London with him and his new girlfriend. And their flight is delayed. Luckily, Kim makes a new friend at the airport and they’re able to commiserate over their shared misfortunes. Nicki jokingly suggests that the perfect crime would be for her to kill Connor and for Kim to kill Nicki’s mom–nothing to connect either of them to the crimes. While under the influence of (stolen) alcohol, Kim agrees that it’s a genius plan and then promptly forgets about it. At least, until Connor ends up under a train and it’s looking like it might not have been an accident.

TL;DR – The plot is so…far-fetched and our protag is just kind of annoying and questionable the entire time.

There are so many things I want to say about this book, but I really don’t want to give any spoilers! Let’s just say that Kim is kind of annoying pretty much the whole time. She’s pining after this guy and is so worried about how other people think of her. It’s crazy to me that her parents pretty much made her go on this trip after she and Connor broke up. Like…how insensitive! Honestly, I think the only character in this book who is remotely palatable is Alex and he’s one of those “too good to be true” love interests. His relationship with Kim comes pretty much out of nowhere. He gives a small explanation as to why he’s interested in her, but really, it’s completely crazy and I’m not buying it.

Other characters are completely flat and underdeveloped. Connor has cochlear implants, which I guess shows that people with disabilities can be jerks too? It was a super random detail that felt like forced diversity. Emily (Kim’s “best friend”) is essentially a non-character. Basically, Kim just thinks about her from time-to-time and then at the end Emily sends her this clutch letter with a message that Kim literally could have gotten from a fortune cookie or billboard. The other students on the trip are also non-characters and are nearly indistinguishable from each other. And then Kim’s parents are just…???

The plot is so weird. What is the point of this London trip? I don’t actually understand it. And after like…four days Kim is doing laundry which does NOT make sense to me. She’s walking around the city like she’s been there for months instead of days and Tasha lets these teenagers (!!!) go and do pretty much whatever they want in the city. And that’s not even talking about the main premise of this book. Kim makes so many questionable decisions just starting in the airport when she decides it’s a good idea to help Nicki steal some vodka. She seems like a smart girl, so like…what? Her actions and how the author clearly wants to portray her to the reader as an intelligent, mature teenage girl never match up throughout the entire book. Kim just keeps lying about everything for pretty much no reason and I was basically tearing my hair out the entire book. And then there’s Nicki. What does she even do for money? She has all these connections and can somehow stalk Kim without any additional information. I don’t even think she gets her last name? Unrealistic.

Lastly, the ending is complete bogus. There are a million ways this book could have ended and I feel like it ends in the one way that makes zero sense. It’s too clean and nobody really faces any consequences. Kim ends up going home and is thinking about this huge lesson that she’s learned and I just want to shake her and yell, “That’s not the right lesson you moron!”

Anyway, I was extremely disappointed by this book. I wanted it to be a little more cat and mouse and a lot less annoying main character. It’s almost to the point where I’m wondering if Kim is this obtuse on purpose. Like, is there a deeper level here that I’m missing? At the end of the day, this book (mostly Kim) was not for me.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Moderate
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

Note: An ARC was provided to the library that I work at.

Am I missing something here? | An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American MarriageRoy and Celestial had only been married for 18 months when Roy is falsely accused of rape. Despite Celestial’s testimony that he had been with her all night, Roy is convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison. 12 years is a long time and Celestial and Roy both have to come to terms with what this sentence means for their relationship and for them as individuals.

eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

TL;DR – In a book where the characters are super important, I found Celestial and Roy both to be mildly unlikable.

I really feel like I’m missing something here, guys. I’ve only heard good things about this book! Now don’t get me wrong, I thought the writing was good (probably even great) but I just found Roy and Celestial both unlikable and was not a fan of their relationship. Even from the beginning.

Roy is a confident man–maybe too confident for my liking. To me, he just seemed immature, manipulative, and entitled. And he doesn’t seem to have any qualms about flirting with other women–even going so far as to get their phone and room numbers (even if he doesn’t actually go their room). It’s just…disgusting to me. How can he claim to actually love Celestial if he’s pulling crap like this? The entire book he’s setting himself up as this victim–and to an extent he is–but sometimes I just wanted him to own up to the other stuff.

When I really think about it, what happened to Roy is clearly awful–I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. I also recognize that going to prison would change anybody, but I had such a hard time pitying him because of his attitude. He’s going around like everyone in his life (especially Celestial) owes him something and I don’t feel like they do? Am I just a horrible and callous person?

Celestial, while more sympathetic, is no more likable to me. Both Roy and Andre describe her as being this super strong and admirable woman, but I feel like the reader doesn’t get to see any of that. She doesn’t ever really stand up for herself and she let’s both Roy and Andre tell her what to do. In the end, she chooses the path of least resistance and it’s just so frustrating to me! There were so many times when I wanted Celestial to show a little backbone, but she always ended up disappointing me.

In the end, I just couldn’t get over my dislike for the characters. Secondary characters were pretty good–I liked Andre and both Roy and Celestial’s parents. I liked how Roy’s time in prison was told through letters, but I wish that there had been dates maybe? Sometimes it would skip a few years and you wouldn’t find that out until halfway through the letter. I thought the ending happened suddenly and it felt too tidy and convenient to me. I feel like there was no win-win situation here, but somehow the author created one. I don’t know…I just feel like I’m missing something.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

Pin this!

An American Marriage review.PNG

Turns out, I don’t hate this series | Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Truthwitch

Safiya fon Hasstrel is a Truthwitch which means she can sense when people are lying. But if anyone besides her closest friends knew that, then she would immediately become a political pawn or be assassinated. With a 20-year-truce between nations coming to a potentially bloody close, Safi finds that her secret has been discovered and that her ability is more sought-after than ever. With the help of her friend and Thread-sister Iseult and finding an unlikely ally in the Nubrevnan Prince Merik, Safi is on the run.

ebook | Paperback | Hardcover

TL;DR – Writing, worldbuilding, and plot are all good. Strong female friendship gets an A+. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

I was so prepared to hate this book and the entire series. There had just been so much hype around it and for some reason I had this belief that it was going to be poorly written with a myriad of plot holes, probably a love triangle, and abysmal world-building. I think I’ve just been disappointed one too many times on hyped books/series–I’ve become jaded. Regardless, I went into this book prepared to be disappointed and was completely blown away instead.

Now, the book isn’t perfect, but I was really impressed by the writing and the world/magic system that Dennard had created. Even though the world seemed complex, I didn’t feel completely lost in the beginning like I have in other books. The magic system is pretty reminiscent of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but I’m willing to look past that.The switching POV was a good way to give the readers perspective and helped us to learn about the different nations and the political climate pretty quickly. However, not all of the POVs felt distinct. Safi and Iseult particularly felt like the same character was narrating.

I really, REALLY enjoyed that Dennard highlighted friendships in this book as well. The friendship between Safi and Iseult is so pure and it kills me that they both think that they’re holding the other person back. I wish that the friendship between Merik and Kullen had been explored more, though. It felt like we were more¬†told about that friendship rather than¬†shown. If that makes sense.

One last observation that I had was that the contract between Merik and Safi’s uncle stated that she couldn’t spill any blood, right? Well, what if Safi had been on her period??? Typical male-written contract…

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and am excited to continue on with the series.¬†So far, I’m not super convinced that Safi’s Truthwitchery is¬†actually that valuable, but I’m hoping the next books prove me wrong.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Mild
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

ebook | Paperback | Hardcover

 

 

Not Six of Crows level, but okay | The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi [ARC]

The Gilded WolvesWhen the Tower of Babel was destroyed, pieces of it were scattered throughout the world. These Babel fragments have given certain humans the power to “forge”. In Paris, four houses were given the responsibility of protecting their Babel fragment, but one of the houses fell and was lost while another house, House Vanth, died without an heir. This left House Kore and House Nox as the only two surviving houses to protect the fragment. Now the houses may be under attack and the only ones who can help them are S√©verin (an orphan) and his group of misfit con-men.

Hardcover | ebook | Audio

TL;DR – An interesting cast, but overall, just not as good as Six of Crows.

I was so in for this book. I love heists. I LOVE heists. But this one just didn’t really do it for me. First, the book starts and it’s confusing. The world seems very complex and not much is explained at first. So the reader is trying to play catch-up, meanwhile, the characters are blazing on full steam ahead. It just made me feel like I was trying to catch up pretty much the whole book.

The overall plot was okay, though not the most original. Group has a history of pulling off elaborate heists, but oh no! this time it doesn’t quite go off as smoothly, now they must pull a heist for their original mark. That part was okay. What I had a REALLY hard time with, though, was the writing. At least four times throughout the book, something was happening and the author was describing it, but for the life of me I could not visualize what the heck was going on. I even reread passages. Several times! Whatever the author had in her head just did not translate to the page. At least, it didn’t for me. Another small thing was a bit of consistency. Sometimes characters acted surprised by information that I thought they already knew. Lastly, the title makes no sense. It literally mentions gilded wolves once in the last 5% of the book.

The thing I think most people will be excited by is the diverse cast. Yes, the cast is diverse ethnically and it seems like a couple characters are probably bi. Also, it seems like one of the characters has autism, though it’s not explicitly stated. With that being said, I didn’t feel like any of the characters were super genuine or dynamic. I can only compare it to Kaz Brekker’s crew in Six of Crows. I believe Kaz and the rest of his group. I don’t really believe S√©verin and his group. Perhaps they didn’t seem quite as believably flawed? Or they were just a little too…much? I’m not really sure what it is, but I just had a hard time connecting to any of them.

Overall, I wanted to like this book so bad, but in the end I just felt kind of confused. There was SO MUCH talk about Goliath the spider and the dead birds, but then nothing really came of either of those things? I’ll probably read the next book, but if you’re looking for a really good fantasy heist book, I’d direct you to Six of Crows instead.

Overall Rating: 3 (really 3.5)
Language: Mild
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

This is for the true crime podcast lovers | Sadie by Courtney Summers

SadieSadie will not stop until she finds the man who killed her sister. With Mattie gone, she has nothing good left in her life and nothing left to live for. As Sadie follows the killer’s trail she’ll have to confront her own demons and figure out what it means to get justice for her sister.

Hardcover | eBook | Audio

TL;DR – Trigger warnings galore, but will satisfy anybody who is already a fan of true crime podcasts.

This book was so much harder to read than I thought it would be. I put it on my TBR because of the podcast element and really didn’t know what I was in for. The majority of the book is from Sadie’s perspective, but there’s also a “podcast” running throughout hosted by a man named West McCray. You can actually download the podcast and listen to it with the book. I imagine that the audio for this book would be phenomenal because of the mixed media element. But anyway, like I was saying, beyond the podcast stuff, I didn’t really know what to expect. Trigger warnings for sexual abuse, abandonment, pedophilia, and honestly, probably more.

Now that that’s out of the way, while I liked the podcast element and thought it was fun, it definitely read like fiction. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but you can tell when a podcast is fiction and when it’s not. It’s the language that’s used and the way sentences are put together. The interviews just don’t sound as authentic. That was the case with this, but it probably wouldn’t bother anyone who doesn’t listen to nonfiction podcasts regularly.

I thought this book was really well written. Plotwise, I think it could have read like Sadie was on this ultimate, messed-up roadtrip, but it doesn’t. Summers does a great job presenting clues for Sadie to follow in an organic way that doesn’t feel forced or convenient. While Sadie isn’t necessarily a¬†likable character, I find that she’s still sympathetic to me. One of the main things I felt throughout this book was an overwhelming sadness. As a mom (and as a person in general), I feel so sad for kids who don’t have a functional family and who don’t have their every day needs met. I feel so sad for kids who don’t have a loving parent or guardian who tell them every day how loved and wanted they are. I feel so sad for kids who don’t feel safe in their own homes–in their own ROOMS. And it makes me so mad to think that there are sick people out there who are preying on kids and who make them feel like there’s no one who will help them.

Overall, this book is a hard one to read and I don’t recommend it lightly. I think if you’re going to read this book, you should know what you’re in for. I really only had one issue and it was just that the reason Mattie was killed doesn’t really make sense to me. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but the guy came back to town and I don’t feel like that really matches his M.O. Was he looking for Mattie or was it spur of the moment? Did Mattie somehow contact him? Anyway, that was really the only sticking point for me. In the end, it’s a powerful book that still has me thinking about it even though I read it weeks ago.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Heavy
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy
Sexual Content: Heavy