In book review

REVIEW: Get a Life, Chloe Brown



Title: Get a Life, Chloe Brown
Author: Talia Hibbert
Genre(s):  Romance, Adult
Release: November 2019
Rating: ✭✭✭✭✭/5

Romance books, oh romance books, how I love you so! Expected to love this book, ended up loving this book, now off to read the entirety of Talia Hibbert's backlist... bye. No, really. If you see me screaming about this on twitter, please remember I'm fine.

We follow Chloe Brown, a fat black woman with fibromyalgia, who just wants to get a life. Chloe has lived her life in the confines of her safe bubble, so when she has an almost-death experience in the form of a car-crash, she decides to make a bucket list. Enter superintendent/artist Redford "Red" Morgan, who is tasked with the delightful job of helping Chloe "find her life." After helping her rescue a cat from a tree, the two of them don't hit it off immediately. But, when they discover more about each other's pasts, there might be no turning back for them.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown is pitched alongside works of some of my absolute favorite romance authors (Sally Thorne, Helen Hoang), so this was an auto-read for me. But it remained a question if this would actually fulfill my high expectations. I am pleased to say, Get a Life, Chloe Brown more than fullfilled them. 

Talia Hibbert's writing is definitely like Sally Thorne's. It's quick, flows nicely, and so incredibly funny. The amount of times I had to put this book down to have a good laugh is more than I can count at this point. Chloe's POV, especially, has an intensely relatable and funny quality to it. I don't think I've fallen in love with a rom-com like this ever since I read Red White and Royal Blue earlier this year.  Also, the representation in this book is own voices, which shows through the writing.

The development of the main relationship, then, was my absolute favorite. Red and Chloe go from dislike, to attraction to love. The way both of them uncovered each other's secrets and pasts was so incredibly heart-felt. Aside from these warm moments, Hibbert also touches on subjects such as the consequences of domestic abuse. The two character go through pretty monumental development, and it's so incredibly well done. I'm not a lover of dark romances, hence why I read mostly rom-coms, and Red's respect and care for Chloe was so apparent in this novel. This was pure love in book form.

If you've made it this far through me gushing about this (a little bit clichéd, but very heart-warming) rom-com, I have but one message for you: READ THIS ABSOLUTE JOY OF A BOOK.

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In book review

REVIEW: Ninth House



Title: Ninth House
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre(s):  Adult, Mystery, Thriller
Release: October 2019
Rating: ✭✭✭✭✭/5

"I let you die. To save myself, I let you die.
That's the danger in keeping company with survivors."

To be perfectly honest, I wasn't sure if Ninth House was going to be a book for me. While I've loved Bardugo's other series (specifically Six of Crows), I would even go so far as to say she is one of my favorite writers, the many mixed reviews for Ninth House in combination with the fact this was pitched as a horror-y adult thriller didn't really manage to excite me. But, boi, am I glad to say that I was WRONG. Ninth House proved to be such a perfect read for the gloomy fall months.

I thought the concept of this book was very unique, albeit a little bit vague, as expected from Bardugo. We follow Alex Stern, who is a member of a secret society at Yale university. What happens at this society is very much a mystery. All that is clear is that it involves death, ghosts, and magic. Alex goes on a hunt for Darlington, one of the leaders of this society, as he has disappeared a month prior. 

The writing never let me down in this one, and Bardugo definitely shows why she's such a popular author. I didn't peg myself as someone who loves dark adult reads, but the mystery aspect in combination with the atmospheric setting (that is lovingly termed "Dark Academia" by many) really did it for me. I've seen people say that Ninth House was too slow-paced for them, which I can definitely see as a negative, however, I wasn't really bothered by it myself. The pacing, for me, was just right. It might be the atmospheric writing, or the fact that I was very intrigued by the mystery aspect (as I never really read thrillers), but I really flew through this, as opposed to a lot of fantasies with heavy worldbuilding, for example.

I might not be the most seasoned thriller/mystery reader, but I highly enjoyed the mystery aspect in this. However, I did think that for almost half of the book the story wasn't very apparent. It took a long time to set up, which I personally didn't mind, as it added to the suspense of the novel, but I can see how this would turn a lot of readers off.

An interesting writing decision in Ninth House is the non-linear timeline. We follow Alex in the Winter season, after Darlington has disappeared, and we get flashbacks to the previous fall, when Darlington initiates Alex into their society. While not a fan of flashbacks in, for example, romance books, I thought this format worked really well for Ninth House as it maintained a lot of the suspense and mysterious elements.

Additionally, we follow two POV's: Alex and Darlington's, who are polar opposites of each other. While Alex has drug-issues, and is only trying to survive amidst the chaos of her life, Darlington is an academic. I've seen some people say that Darlington is an older version of Gansey from The Raven Cycle, which is an apt comparison. The contrast between the two characters, however, is what makes their dynamic so interesting to read about. Darlington invites Alex into their cultish society because of her ability to see ghosts, and, as we soon learn, there's a distinct chemistry between the two.

As this is Bardugo's first published attempt at writing and Adult series, I think a lot of people expected this to still have a YA feel. This is definitely NOT the case, and I think the marketing also has tried their best to convey this. Ninth House is definitely not suited for a younger audience, as it contains a lot of heavy and dark topics, that could be more pronounced before starting the book. Accordingly, there are trigger warnings for: sexual assault, non-con, over drug use, addiction, gore, violence, murder. 

I've read that Bardugo plans to make this a five-book series, which I'm not sure how I feel about, as I initially thought this would be a duology. However, with the introduction of so many complex secret societies, I'm sure there will be enough material to explore for any future books. Ninth House, in the end, managed to completely surprise me (in a positive way) and I can't wait for the sequel.

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In book review

REVIEW: The Queen of Nothing



Title: The Queen of Nothing
Author: Holly Black
Genre(s):  Young Adult, Fantasy
Release: November 2019
Rating: ✭✭✭,5/5

“Mock me all you like. 
Whatever I imagined then, now it is I who would beg and grovel for a kind word from your lips." 
His eyes are black with desire. 
"By you, I am forever undone.”

You have been living under a rock if you haven't been seeing this book all over your socials. The Queen of Nothing is the highly anticipated last instalment in the Folk of the Air series by Holly Black, and is, arguably, one of the overall most anticipated releases of 2019 when it comes to the YA genre. 

Queen of Nothing follows Jude after her exile from the land of Faerie. Cardan is currently High King of Elfhame, and has betrayed Jude (or so we think) by banishing her from his kingdom. Additionally, a group of rebels, led by Jude's father, is trying to get Cardan off the throne, and Jude desperately wants to prevent this from happening. 

Honestly, while I enjoyed this one, the previous two books in this series were so action-packed and full of twists that The Queen of Nothing felt a little anti-climactic. As soon as I saw how thin this book was, in comparison to the other two, I feared this wouldn't fully deliver a deserving ending to an otherwise amazing series. Sadly, QON confirmed my suspicions. I think these books would have worked better as a duology. Also, I've read all three of these books, and I'm still not sure how Cardan (Cardòn?) is supposed to be pronounced?

The majority of the plot in QON felt a little bit contrived, and I never felt any of the suspense fully, as this remained a little under-developed for me. The plot-twist, while supposed to be unexpected, wasn't a surprise for me (and quite a lot of others) either. The fact Cardan (Carden?) had married Jude in the previous book, then exiled her, only to be pardoned by the Crown, was a riddle that had been solved by most of the fandom in no time. Most of the plot, then, wasn't anything special, and I didn't feel very compelled by it. The stakes were simply too low.

The highlight of this book was most definitely the dynamic between Cardan (Cardàn?) and Jude. This is, despite Black's atmospheric writing, truly what has kept me reading, and what she excels at as an author. Cardan and Jude go from enemies, to allies, to lovers, and I found that Black executes this trope wonderfully. While not a fan of the hate-to-love trope, I think it worked very well in this fantastical Faerie setting. The scenes between both of them is what upped most of the rating, as Queen of Nothing did exquisite things for their relationship, and contained some of my absolute favorite scenes between the two.

While many call Holly Black the "Queen of Fae," I'm not too sure about the title, as this book was a bit of a let-down. This could be because of the high expectations set by the previous books that Black didn't quite deliver on, or because the plot lacked in that "conclusive" sort of way. 

One thing I'm sure of, though, is that Jude and Cardan (Cardín?) were both wonderful characters, deserving of the hype, and I'm sad to say goodbye to either of them. My final rating for this one will be a 3.5 stars, as the character moments were some of my absolute favorites, but the plot of QON didn't manage to provide a climactic ending that is deserving of an otherwise epic series.


What did you think of The Queen of Nothing?


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In book review romance

REVIEW: Headstrong Like Us



Title: Headstrong Like Us
Author: Krista and Becca Ritchie
Genre(s):  New Adult, Romance
Release: 19 November 2019
Rating: ✭✭✭/5

"He has this intrinsic need to protect his family. 
And he can't live knowing he didn't try."

Next up, a somewhat controversial review. I started the Like Us series in high hopes a few years back. Over time, however, the writing quality has dwindled, and I was faced with a few disappointments when it comes to the author's creative decisions. I will admit, I didn't go into this book expecting to love it, and I ultimately didn't. But, I was willing to approach Headstrong Like Us with an open mind and let it surprise me. 

Writing-wise, the main plot of this book was the trope (that I think is meant to be a surprise), which, frankly, we didn't see enough of. Farrow and Maximoff's lives take an unexpected turn, and the two become fathers sooner than they planned. While this was the most interesting aspect of the book, and I generally love the adoption/found family trope, the writers failed to properly develop this storyline. The books suffer from a distinct "tell, don't show" quality, which was definitely not there in the Addicted SeriesWhere were the scenes that developed their relationship as a family? The book goes from "Farrow has received guardianship" to "Farrow loves his son now" in one single chapter. 

When I tell you that Headstrong like Us is almost 500 pages,I'm not lying. It really is that big. Instead of developing a genuine interesting story featuring Maximoff and Farrow's new family, these 500 pages were mostly filled with Maximoff finding out his one-night-stand is now his dad's therapist, which was meant to be "shocking" but failed to deliver on that as this man had one single appearance in the whole book. I'm sorry, were we supposed to care about a guy who wasn't introduced once?

Before going in, I feared this would have that novella feel, and I was right. This book felt redundant. Headstrong Like Us had absolutely no business being this long, because, as far as I'm concerned, Maximoff and Farrow's story stopped having some semblance of plot two books ago. K&B keep trying to make their daily lives interesting, and fail to do so after a whole series of the same recycled plot-points. The writing is repetitive (I can't tell you how many times this series has made being stuck in a paparazzi mob some kind of "exciting" storyline), and some character moments feel recycled from their previous books (seriously, how many times are people going to walk in on someone else having intercourse? This stopped being funny three books ago). 

I don't know if it's the specific writing of this book, as they never used to bother me before, but there are also way too many obvious self-inserts. Whether it's K&B's opinions (regarding twinning?), or their likes (there was a mildly uncomfortable scene featuring Call Me By Your Name), a lot of it shines through on paper, which, I'm not sure I was a fan of in this book? The pop-culture references especially, were often excessive and a little cring-ey. Keeping in mind that these books take place in the distant future, I can't imagine these will age well. 

Also, I'm just going to say it: I'm not a fan of the way these authors write Maximoff and Farrow's POV's. I think they want to convey a loveable rival dynamic, but fail to do so. Instead of Rose and Connor's jabs in Kiss the Sky or Fuel the Fire, Maximoff and Farrow's constant "i'm-better-than-you-banter" has become insufferable at best. I had to skim entire conversations between the two main characters because I kept rolling my eyes. Can these people have one normal conversation without comparing their muscles or the size of their genitals?

The saving grace of this book, then, are, as usual, the side-characters. I enjoy getting peeks at Jane and Thatcher, and even Banks/Sulli/Akara (which still feel a little forced?) were enjoyable to some extent. I'm also very curious at how these authors are going to portray Oscar/Jack, as they plan on writing a coming-out story, which I'm not sure will go over well, but they had some insightful scenes in Headstrong Like Us.

All in all, the writing just feels all over the place and, the more books that are written about them, the less I like these protagonists. I think the constant focus on these two characters, who, admittedly, are out of storylines, does a disservice to the side-characters that deserve their chance to shine. Consequently, I'm torn between rating this 3 stars or 2.5 stars, but this was (very clearly) not their best book, and, confirmed my initial apprehension: this should have been a novella. 



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In recommendations recs

RECS: Webcomics for your binging pleasure!




Are you also in love with the YA adaptation of The Wrath and the Dawn? Are you impatiently waiting for your favorite Webtoon to be updated? Or do you just want to get into reading sequential art? Here's a list of some of my favorite webcomics to hold you over until your next update!

Image result for lore olympus
image: Webtoon

Lore Olympus
Creator:
Rachel Smythe

This Hades/Persephone retelling is a must-read if you're getting into webtoons! It's funny, romantic, and highly original when it comes to the incorporation of the classical canon. I can't stress this enough, but this one is so much fun!

Read Lore Olympus on Webtoon


Image result for the fever king webtoon
image: Webtoon

The Fever King
Creator: Sara Deek

Like TWATD, more YA novels seem to be getting the webtoon treatment! Based on the book by Victoria Lee, The Fever King adapts this YA adventure. Featuring a deadly virus, futuristic society, and LGBT rep, the beautiful art and story of this webcomic won't let you down!

Read The Fever King on Webtoon

Image result for heartstopper tapas
image: TAPAS.io

Heartstopper
Creator: Alice Oseman

Heartstopper might be the most well-known one on this list. Written and drawn by renowned YA author Alice Oseman (Radiosilence, Solitaire) this comic follows British high school students Charlie and Nick, as they navigate their crushes and start a relationship. This is a very heartfelt and warm take on an LGBT romance!

Read Heartstopper on Tapas

Image result for subzero webtoon
image: Webtoon


SubZero
Creator: Junepurrr

This is probably the most tropey comic out of all of these. Subzero follows a prince and a princess from rivaling clans, who must marry to forge an alliance. This one has ancient dragons, hate-to-love tropes, and very cool magic!

Read SubZero on Webtoon

Image result for purple hyacinth webtoon
image: Webtoon


Purple Hyacinth
Creator: Ephemerys

I'm an absolute sucker for this one. Purple Hyacinth is everything I look for in fiction. A historical setting, mystery, and some delightful enemies to lovers romance. Purple Hyacinth follows a detective team, a notorious criminal, and a crime to be solved. The art in this, too, is absolute gorgeous. Purple Hyacinth is an absolute must-read!

Read Purple Hyacinth on Webtoon


Image result for novae webtoon
image: Webtoon


Novae
Creator: KaixJu

Another historical romance on this list. This one is set in 17th century France, and follows a necromancer and an astronomer! Novae also has a mystery element to it, and is another LGBT story. I love this one!

Read Novae on Webtoon

Related image
image: Webtoon


Castle Swimmer
Creator: Wendy Lian Martin

Castle Swimmer is set in an underwater world, and follows a Beacon, a guiding light, and an enemy prince who is destined to kill him. However, what happens when both reject their destinies?

Read Castle Swimmer on Webtoon

Image result for muted tapas
image: TAPAS.io

#muted
Creator: Kandismon

Muted follows a budding romance between Kai, who is mute, and Jasper. The heartwarming tones of this comic in combination with the art style make this such a good read!

Read #muted on Tapas


What is your favorite Webcomic? 

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In announcement

ANNOUNCEMENT: Where I've Been and What to Expect!

Image

Hi buds! Long time no see! The last 2+ weeks have been crazy hectic, and I kind of just disappeared off the blogging grid for a while. I'm currently finishing up my MA dissertation (a 100 page research about YA fantasy literature), and I also just landed an internship at my dream international media company (I'll let you guess which one it is!) 

After I finish my final deadline this friday, I plan to focus a lot more on creating. I've done a ton of thinking the past month about what I want to blog about, but also where I want my blog/brand to go. So here's what I'm going to attempt!

What to expect?:
First, I'm going to try to switch my posting schedule to two, if not, three times a week. I'm also going to try and introduce more original content. To do this, I'm going to post one (or two) reviews, and at least one original post every week. 

Next, I also really want to bring my Youtube back to life. I've noticed that my urge to film/be creative has really been begging for me to start creating videos again, so my hope is to start posting booktube but also journalling videos pretty soon! 

Third, because I write a lot in academics, I've noticed that I really enjoy the writing process. I've set myself a personal project of writing down a complete YA fantasy series. I'm not sure it will ever see the light of day, but I like to set myself some individual goals that I can work towards! 

Lastly, as my bookstagram is getting closer and closer to 1k followers (thank you!), and because I've been blogging consistently for over a year now, I really want to give back! When I hit 1k followers, my plan is to hold a giveaway, so keep an eye out for that!

Now, I want to thank you if you've made it this far through this very rambley post, and I'm super excited to start creating again soon! Thanks for sticking with me!




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In spotlight

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Kelly Coon on Gravemaidens


With less than a week away, Gravemaidens is set to release very very soon. This book has been on my TBR since last year and I'm infinitely excited for the world to read it! Gravemaidens is set in the fictional kingdom of Alu, where three maidens are chosen to join their dying ruler in the afterlife: Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame. Her beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her. But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is—a death sentence.



x


 I had the pleasure to (figuratively) sit down with the lovely author of this dark, enchanting tale to ask her a couple of questions about Gravemaidens, human sacrifice, and authoring in general! Also, keep reading if you'd like to know how you can get yourself one of the pretty pre-order packs pictures above!

Interview:

Q: First of all, Gravemaidens is such a unique story! How did you come up with the concept for this book?

K: I was reading through some history of human sacrifice (as one does) and realized that it was an accepted and often celebrated part of cultural and religious history all over the world. Sacrificial remains have been discovered everywhere from a ritual site in Gournay-sur-Aronde in northern France to a 4,000-year-old cemetery near the modern-day Mogou village in China to a mound in Tenochtitlán near what is now Mexico City. Heck, the entire religion of Christianity is built upon the concept.
My story might be unique, but human sacrifice definitely is not. 

Q: Which Gravemaidens character would you say is most like you?

K: Ooh. Good question. I’d say I’m closest to Iltani with my smart mouth, but staunchly Ravenclaw like Kammani (though she’s a lot more Hufflepuff than I am).

Q: Describe Gravemaidens in three words! 

K: Fierce, Feminist, Fantasy (also three points for alliteration). 

Q: Who inspired you to become an author? And what are your own favorite books to read when you're not writing some yourself?

K: Well, one of my inspirations is my mom. She used to tell me I could do anything I wanted to do and be anything I wanted to be, even though I was raised in a pretty anti-female environment. 
Regarding books, I read a lot of YA—naturally—and I’ll read anything Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, or Sabaa Tahir writes. 

Q: What does your writing routine look like? Are you an early riser, or do you usually write at night?

K: I’m a mother of three rowdy, busy boys and am an editor for a company called Blue Ocean Brain. So, I write whenever I can. If I’m drafting a new book and have a specific word count goal, I don’t go to sleep until my goal is finished, which usually means I’m drafting late at night. But sometimes, I can squeeze it in during my work day or sitting in my car during one of my kids’ practices.

Q: On that same note, what do you do when you're not writing? Do you have time to relax? 

K: Hoo boy. Not really. I get up at 5:30 every single day and work my butt off until around 9:30 at night when the kids are all in bed, the lunches have been packed, dishes have been done, laundry sorted, and I can finally sit down. I might get in an hour or so of Netflix or reading before lights out, but that’s about it. I do, however, force myself to go to the gym—which I consider recreation at this point—and love to kayak, white water raft, and hike with my family.

Q: Despite the fact that Gravemaidens is literally just about to hit shelves, are there any future projects in the works? 

K: Heck yes. I’m working on a draft of a YA contemporary with speculative elements that’s really close to my heart. One POV is in verse and the other is in prose, so it’s been a challenge! 

Q: And lastly, I know it's early, but we're curious! What can we expect from the sequel? 

K: An all-female band of warriors with copper scorpion helmets
The love between two main characters is finally—
Someone loses an arm
Someone loses their life
Three words: Goddess of war



Links:

Kelly's Twitter | Kelly's Instagram |
Kelly's website | Add Gravemaidens to Goodreads!


On a final note...
If you fancy some Gravemaidens goodies, don't hesitate to send in your preorder receipts in THIS link to claim your preorder pack!





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