In arc review

ARC REVIEW: The Archer at Dawn

Title: The Archer at Dawn
Author: Swati Teerdhala
Genre(s):  Young Adult, Fantasy
Release: February, 2020
Rating: ✭✭✭✭,5/5

Based on ancient hindu mythology and Indian history comes the second instalment in the Tiger at Midnight series by Swati Teerdhala. The series follows assassin Esha, nickname 'The Viper' who sets out to kill the general. Insert Kunal, the general's nephew, and a devoted soldier to the kingdom. When the two of them meet, they fall into an interesting cat-and-mouse game that will have unforeseen consequences. 

The Archer at Dawn continues where the previous book left off. Kunal and Esha enter the Sun Mela; a competition and time of festivities that give both an opportunity to infiltrate the court.

Where to begin with this review... I think this series is definitely an underrated one. The first book contained a lot of elements that make for a terrific YA fantasy debut: a solid plot, rich culture, and a little bit of hate-to-love romance sprinkled in. The second book continued this fabulous road and gave us more insight into the characters using a dual POV that features both characters. 

I also think the series contains a perfect balance between romance and plot, which is quite hard to do in most fantasies. Kunal and Esha continue to remain at the root of this book, and their relationship develops in an interesting way in this sequel. The author succeeds in adding the necessary intrigue and drama without it being contrived. 

One of my favorite elements of this series are the nods and hints of hindu mythology and Indian history sprinkled throughout the story. The book also ends on a cliffhanger, which gives the audience all the more reason to pick up the next one when it releases.

All in all, I thought this was a strong continuation of one of my favorite books from last year, and I look forward to read the conclusion to this series next year, which earns this book a well-deserved 4.5 stars!

Thanks to Harpercollins for the advanced review copy of this book. 

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In book review

REVIEW: Kingdom Of Back

Title: Kingdom of Back
Author: Marie Lu
Genre(s):  Young Adult, Fantasy
Release: February, 2020
Rating: ✭✭✭/5

Kingdom of Back follows the Mozart siblings, Nannerl in particular, who excels at composing and dreams of becoming a musician. but isn't allowed due to the time period she lives in. When, one night, an unexpected visitor offers her a solution to achieve what she's always dreamt of.

To state the obvious, Kingdom Of Back provides a definite break with what we've seen of Lu so far. Her earlier writing that's heavily rooted in a more realistic direct type of writing has transformed into a sort of lyrical, whimsical prose. I admire how different this work is from Lu's usual work like Warcross or Legend, and The Kingdom of Back definitely solidifies the kind of writer Marie Lu is: versatile and powerful. She crafts an almost fairytale like story with this one.

What I ultimately missed in The Kingdom of Back was a deserving climax. While Lu's writing is positively gorgeous, I found that the plot of the book didn't fully live up to its full potential because there wasn't a lot at stake which is something I'm used to from her earlier books. It felt predictable at times, like I've read most of this before in other books.  While the world-building and quirky elements all perfectly lend itself to an epic adventure, it read mostly like a children's fairytale. Which, in this case, wasn't bad per sé, It's just not something I personally would gravitate to.

All in all, The Kingdom of Back is a definite recommendation if you like a whimsical, fairytale-like narrative with just a dash of historical elements weaved into it. While I really enjoyed the book, being a musician myself, it didn't fully manage to become a forever favorite. However, this is definitely worth a read and expands Marie Lu's arsenal with something unusual.

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In book recs film and tv

RECS: Surprising Book Recommendations based on your Favorite Animated Movie

If you're, like me, using this quarantine to catch up on on all the media that you've missed, this is a great list for you. I've been rewatching all my favorite (animated) movies and noticed a lot of underlying parallels that might not be so obvious. To get out of my giant reading slump, I compiled a list of reads that remind me of my favorite feel-good movies. I wanted to forego retellings, since these might be a little too obvious. Instead, I picked books that contained the same tropes/elements as the animations I'm about to mention. | The Last Magician, Lisa Maxwell | 9781481432078 | Boeken

Anastasia (1997) + The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell
Let's start off with my personal favorite animated movie. This is a childhood classic (it's as old as I am) but never any less of a masterpiece. If you're not familiar with Anastasia (1997) (or the Broadway musical), you should know that the film follows the story of the grand duchess Anastasia Romanov, who, according to an old rumor, would have lived past the Russian Revolution.

While The Last Magician has little to do with the Romanovs, there are many similarities with Anastasia. The Last Magician follows Esta, who time travels back to the early 1900's New York to find the last Magician and prevent him from doing any harm to the future. Not only are the two main characters similar to Anya and Dmitry in dynamics, this book also contains a rich historical setting, the lost princess trope, and some delightful banter. This is a must-read if you enjoy Anastasia.

Tangled - Wikipedia | Blood Heir (ebook), Amelie Zhao | 9780008327927 | Boeken

Tangled (2010) + Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao
Next up is an actual Anastasia retelling. While this might also fit with the previous animated movie, Blood Heir strongly resembles Tangled in some aspects and brought me some of the same feels I got when watching that movie. Blood Heir follows heir to the throne Anastacya, who was framed for her father's murder and had to flee her own kingdom. Determined to set things right, the crown princess joins forces with infamous conman Ramson Quicktongue, and together they set out to bring her kingdom justice.

Aside from the plot comparison, Ramson also has some serious Flynn Rider vibes, and if you squint you can't help but visualize a dark Rapunzel retelling when reading this book.

Howl's moving castle | Kijk-goed | Sorcery of Thorns, Margaret Rogerson | 9781481497619 ...

Howl's Moving Castle (2004)  + Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson 
When compiling a list full of animations, Studio Ghibli films, of course, cannot be left out. My favorite one, Howl's Moving Castle, based on a YA book with the same name, follows Sophie, who is cursed by the witch of the waste to live her life as an old woman. She encounters wizard Howl's Moving Castle, and together with Howl and his found family, she experiences a wild adventure.

If you like this movie as much as I do, Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson is an absolute must-read. Both feature broody and dramatic wizards, a whimsical atmosphere, and a stubborn, but awesome female lead!

Spirited Away [DVD] [2001] - Best Buy The Tiger at Midnight (9780062869210): Teerdhala ...

Spirited Away (2001) + The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala
Another animated staple on this list: Borrowing on Japanese mythology, Ghibli's Spirited Away follows Chihiro as she encounters what seems to be a deserted theme park. When her parents turn into pigs and she stumbles upon mysterious creatures, Chihiro has to navigate this spiritual world to try to get things back to normal.

Much like Spirited Away, The Tiger at Midnight takes inspiration from mythology, but Hindu mythology in this case. It also features shapeshifting, and some seriously good amount of the childhood lovers trope.

Treasure Planet (2002) - IMDb | Aurora Rising, Amie Kaufman | 9781984893956 | Boeken

Treasure Planet (2002) - Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
This is a more underrated animated movie, but one of my absolute favorites. Set in a sci-fi world featuring space pirates, Treasure Planet follows Jim Hawkins, who sets out to find the legendary 'Treasure Planet' that is the home of, you guessed it, a large treasure to help rebuild his mother's destroyed inn.

Like Treasure Planet, Aurora Rising is set in space. As with Jim Hawkins, Aurora Rising also follows a group of misfits on a mission. This is a surprising, but delightful recommendation if you're into sci-fi or if you're just looking for a big found family!

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In book review

REVIEW: Imagine Me

Title: Imagine Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Genre(s):  Young Adult, Fantasy
Release: March, 2020
Rating: ✭✭,5/5

Where to start with this one. Imagine Me concludes the seemingly ever ongoing Shatter Me series (simultaneously one of my favorite fantasy series of all time) with 400 pages of Juliette, Warner and Kenji's adventures in their dystopian universe. We follow these characters one last time as they try to retrieve Juliette from the enemy, while stopping the world from being victim to some sort of apocalypse. 

I'm trying really hard to not turn this review in an endless list of negatives, so let's start with the positives: the highlight of this book, for me, were Kenji's chapters. While not originally a POV in the earlier books, Mafi has developed Kenji's character more and more in the last three books, positioning him as part of a trio. I really enjoyed the humoristic tone Kenji's POV adds to an otherwise overwhelmingly heavy book.

Now, onto the slightly more negative part of this review. Prior to Imagine Me, I'd never rated anything Mafi's written less than five stars, but as a conclusion of a series, Imagine Me was just not my cup of tea. The overall problem I found was that it lacked a climax.
The story feels fragmented as we jump from one scene to the next, adding an epilogue for good measure that didn't feel organic within the timeline at all. To me, the majority of the book honestly just feels like some random scenes jumbled together with a quick fix pasted at the end. It lacks cohesion and the stakes are too low.

A lot of the plot, too, just didn't fully make sense to me. Storylines that include Juliette's sister as a fish (?), as well as the whole masterplan that the majority of the plotlines hinge on just felt contrived and a little weird sometimes. I kept waiting for an explanation that I was sure would come, but it just didn't. I'm not sure what to make of that.

A second aspect that heavily bothered me were the sexual and erotic undertones of the relationship between Anderson and Juliette that were uncomfortable to read, and frankly were very unnecessary. In Imagine Me, the reader follows Juliette who is being mind controlled by Anderson, for whom she develops an attraction. Let me just clarify that Juliette is barely 18 (her age is openly discussed in regards to why Anderson doesn't just rape her), while Anderson is a middle-aged man and the father of her fiancé. If Mafi's intention was to paint a disturbing picture, she definitely succeeded, but, if you ask me, this certainly wasn't a necessary component.

All in all, I found that this book just dragged. It wasn't a satisfying ending and certainly did not do the whole series justice. It felt rushed, lacked cohesiveness and didn't manage to live up to my expectations at all. I'm gutted to only reward this book with 2 out of 5 stars, but I'll definitely read what Mafi puts out in the future!

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In life update

Life Update + 2020 Favorites So Far!

Life Update:

Hi guys! Long time no see. I haven't blogged since the middle of last month, and I'm incredibly sorry for the radio silence. My life has drastically changed in the last month, so here's a little life update. I've started an internship at Disney, which is both incredibly cool but also very taxing as I've had to move across the country and leave all my friends. I'm a content marketing intern at the studios department, which means I get to witness everything that happens regarding their cinematic releases the coming 6 months! The internship itself is amazing, but my living situation has changed a lot and I went from having my own apartment to essentially living on someone's couch, which is not fully ideal. This also means I don't have time to read or blog like I used to. I'm trying to get back into the swing of things and post one piece a week, but no promises.

For now, however, despite my limited readings these past two months, I did want to address some of my favorites of the year so far. Strap in and discover some of the things I've enjoyed the past few weeks!


Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare
The release of this one can't have gone unnoticed. Truthfully, I haven't been as excited for a Shadowhunter book in a long time. I had the opportunity to read an early finished copy of this book, and I can honestly say that this might end up being my favorite Cassandra Clare novel of all time. The inclusion of both trusty old characters (Jem and Tessa being my absolute favorites), as well as new ones (Cordelia, Lucie, James & Matthew WILL STEAL YOUR HEART) provided a perfect match for me. Despite my current book slump, I managed to devour this beauty within one single day. Get your hands on this as fast as possible because it's truly one you don't want to miss!

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
Being a fan of period dramas and historical fiction, I'm always on the look out for some nice diverse historical YA. The Downstairs Girl follows Jo who secretly writes as Miss Sweetie, the author of a newspaper advice column. This book features poignant social commentary, hilarious scenes, and hints of intersectional feminism. Such a delightful and important read!

Faking Under the Mistletoe by Ashley Shepherd
I know the holidays have come and gone but Faking Under the Mistletoe is truly a romance for any time of the year. This follows Olivia, who is in charge of organizing the christmas party at her company. She ends up fake dating her boss, which, you guessed it, isn't so fake at all. This is The Hating Game mixed with some holiday cheer for every month of the year.

Besides the regular book favorites I decided to include two drama's that I've been enjoying, as TV shows are the only things I really have time/energy for after a 40 hour work week.

The Tale of Nokdu
This drama is a historical one, and follows Nok Du, who goes undercover in a village of widows. Discovered, he falls in love with one of the inhabitants of the village and all kinds of drama ensues. The show truly is better than the synopsis makes it seem and contains all elements that make for an exciting drama.

Crash Landing on You
This is a new one that I'm currently watching as it just dropped on Netflix. I'm only on episode 3 but this follows a woman who, while paragliding, accidentally crash lands in North Korea, where she meets a soldier from the army. I'm not that far into it yet, but I've heard some great buzz around this so it's a definite one to check out!

I'm once again sorry for the complete radio silence, and here's to hopefully posting more regularly in the future! Thanks for reading and see you next time! 

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In arc review

ARC REVIEW: You Were There Too

Title: You Were There Too
Author: Colleen Oakley
Genre(s):  Adult, Romance
Release: January 7th, 2020
Rating: ✭✭✭/5

This first review of 2020 is a very confusing one. You Were There Too has both good and bad aspects, but I'm not completely sure I love the final product. 

We follow Mia, who, though having a seemingly perfect life, has been having dreams containing a guy she's never met. When she comes face to face with the guy in real life, the two discover that they both share the same secret. Now, Mia must choose between her husband and the guy she seems to be irrevocably connected with.

To start off this review with something positive, I was really intrigued by the premise of this book. The paranormal aspect this book possesses isn't something you'd think of when you see the cover. It also reminded me in some way of Josie Silver's One Day in December or Jewel E. Ann's Transcend duet. 

Furthermore, I also really liked the topic at hand. Mia has been dealing with miscarriages all throughout her marriage, and the book really digs into how taxing the grieving process is, as well as the struggles she faces trying to conceive again. Both of these heavily affect her marriage and I liked the drama that it brought with.

Now, here comes my main issue with the book. I didn't fully think this should be classified as a 'romance' per sé. The book does heavily feature romantic relationships, but the ending is so unsatisfying in the romantic department, that I think I would have enjoyed this a lot more if it was marketed as a drama, or women's fiction. I went in expecting some kind of romance to develop, but the end result just didn't fully deliver on that front.

This all being said, I didn't hate the book. I thought it was fine, and certainly kept me reading, however I wouldn't say I was satisfied in the end, which is the main reason I'm giving this book 3 stars. I urge you to pick this up if you're into dramas, and want to read about grief/miscarriage or if you're looking for something with a hint of paranormal, but I'm not so convinced on the romance of it all.

*ARC provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review.

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In arc review

ARC REVIEW: A Heart So Fierce and Broken

Title: A Heart so Fierce and Broken
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Genre(s):  Young Adult, Fantasy
Release: January 7th, 2020
Rating: ✭✭✭/5

“I’m staring down at . . . a creature I can’t identify. It’s somewhat human-shaped, with dark-gray skin, the color of a cloudy night sky. Wings bound with rope sprout from its back, and there’s a length of tail that curls limply along the ground of the cage. It has clawed hands and feet, and a shock of black hair that’s matted with sweat. It’s not moving.”

Nothing worse than going into a book expecting to be blown away because you loved the first one, but then end up struggling throughout the second because it's the opposite from what you've expected. That's what happened with this book.

We follow Grey, a side character in the first book, on his own journey. Where A Curse so Dark and Lonely was an excellent Beauty and the Beast retelling, this one doesn't really follow a story. It just feels like a bunch of tropes mixed together at random.

Where this book loses most of its stars, however, is the way in which it treats its already established characters. Going into A Heart so Fierce and Broken, the reader expects Harper and Rhen, two character we already know and love to make a cameo, to at least have some kind of importance within the story. The sad reality of this book, though, is that any and all character development from the previous instalment is undone in this book. Harper has a few quick appearances and one itty bitty chapter written in her POV. Additionally, Rhen, a character I loved in book one, has turned into someone that is very hard to even like in book two. It feels like we're watching completely different characters from the very first book.

A second issue I had with A Heart so Fierce and Broken is that the plot feels very lack-luster. The new characters introduced were underdeveloped and kind of hard to care about. The ending also left a lot to be desired. Going in, I knew this book was going to be about Grey, but to completely ignore most of the characters that made book 1 attractive was an oversight on the author's part. I kept waiting for some kind of action, but a lot of the plot consisted of plot-points that I just couldn't fully care about as they seemed so out of touch with the previous instalment. 

All in all, this was a very mediocre sequel to an otherwise amazing first book. I hope to see Kemmerer return with a mind-blowing third instalment that rivals the first one, but this one sadly only gets a 3 star rating from me. 

*ARC received from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review

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