In book review

REVIEW: A Curse So Dark and Lonely

Title: A Curse So Dark and Lonely
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Genre(s):  Young Adult, Fantasy, Retellings
Release: March 2018
Rating: ✭✭✭✭/5

“I am always surprised to discover that when the world seems darkest, 
there exists the greatest opportunity for light.” 

Hello lovelies, I'm back! After spending a weekend in London I'm fully recharged and ready to go back to blogging. Up next: my review of A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer! I've read this book a while ago, while reading it for a buddy-read with my friend (shame on me for only writing my review now). From a lot of my friends I'd heard that this book left them shook, which resulted in a lot of anticipation on my end!

What is this book about?
A Curse so Dark and Lonely is a Beauty and the Beast retelling and centers around the teenage girl Harper, who has been forced to survive on the streets due to her dying mother and a brother with a knack for trouble. When she attempts to rescue an unconscious woman she encounters on the streets of Washington, she is magically transported to Emberfall, the fantastical kingdom under Prince Rhen. Rhen, however, isn't your typical prince. He is cursed by a witch to continuously repeat his eighteenth year, in which he turns into a horrific beast every single autumn. The curse can only be broken if he manages to make a girl fall in love with him, which should be easy enough, right? But Harper isn't sure what to make of this new situation she finds herself in, and the curse doesn't seem to be the only thing they need to worry about...

"This early in the season, 
the other girls would sit by the hearth and gaze at me over crystal goblets, 
while I’d pour wine and tell stories with just enough devilishness to make them blush.
 If I put a crystal goblet in this one’s hand, she’d likely smash it and use the shards to cut me."

 What did I think of A Curse So Dark and Lonely?
Right off the bat, I thought A Curse so Dark and Lonely had a very pleasant writing style. It's very to-the-point, easy to get into, and picks up quite a bit from the start. Despite the seemingly big size of the book, A Curse so Dark and Lonely reads like a dream. It's fast-paced, introduces the characters as well as the story nicely, and the fairytale-like elements in it had my Disney loving heart soaring! 

I really liked the three main characters, and the very different characterizations of all of them separately. The book is divided into three POV's, and each have a very distinct voice. I particularly liked Rhen's character (my emo boy, I loved him!). Additionally, the main relationship pulled me in and I found myself rooting for them a lot throughout the novel. Also, this book has disability rep in the form of Harper's character, who has celebral palsy. Harper's determination made her such an empowering character that I think a lot of people can relate to!

Plot-wise, I enjoyed the majority of the book A LOT. Kemmerer's take on the traditional Beauty and the Beast story is original. The idea of a whole new kingdom that exists separately from contemporary US life in which Harper is immersed was a nice twist, as well as reading about her process to adjust in this new fantastical universe. The massive plot-twist at the end of the novel, too, made this book such an unexpected love!

The main issue (or the only issue) I had with the book was the love triangle the writing seems to be setting up for in the next book. I'm not sure if I was meant to interpret it this way, but it seems to strongly hint at a plot like this. I'm not typically a huge fan of the love triangle trope and I think that should've been left in 2011. I won't judge too quickly, though, and I'll see how it plays out in any future books in the series.

All in all, this book didn't leave me as "shook" exactly as I'd hoped it would, but it's a solid fantasy nonetheless. A Curse so Dark and Lonely nicely sets up the plot for future books. The plot-twist at the end was interesting, and the writing style was well-paced. This book made my fairytale-loving heart happy, which is why I'm giving it a solid 4 stars. I can't wait to see what the second instalment will bring!


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In arc review

REVIEW: Candle and the Flame

Title: The Candle and the Flame
Author: Nafiza Azad
Genre(s):  Young Adult, Fantasy
Release: May 14th, 2019
Rating: ✭✭✭✭✭/5

"The desert sings of loss, always loss, 
and if you stand quiet with your eyes closed, 
it will grieve you too."

Ever since laying eyes on this over-the-top GORGEOUS cover, I've been in love with this book. The Candle and the Flame pulled me in with its enchanting premise and I couldn't wait to devour it. Imagine how elated I was to see I could read this beauty early! The Candle and the Flame blew me away with its fantastical story and Nafiza's magical writing style. 2019 has a bunch of diverse fantasies coming out, and I'm absolutely LOVING it. Then, it's probably no surprised I ended up adoring everything about this beautiful book.

What is this book about?
The Candle and the Flame follows Fatima, who lives in Noor, a city previously destroyed by the Shayateen Djinn. The only ones who survived the attack were Fatima and a few others. Now, peace has seemingly returned to Noor under the rule of a new maharajah, and the city currently lies under the protection of the Emir, Zulfikar, and his army of djinn. Carrying her past with her, Fatima has been surviving on the streets of Noor for as long as she can remember, however, when one of the most powerful Ifrit dies, something fundamentally changes within Fatima's being. She is pulled into a whole new world, and something bigger than she ever imagined existed has come for her.

"The humans call this place the Desert of Sadness,
they believe that the land grieves for the forests that once stood on it."

What did I think of The Candle and the Flame?
The Candle and the Flame weaves such an intricate and immersive story, it's hard not to be pulled into this beautiful world right from the first page. The beginning of the book nicely sets the stage for this fantasy standalone. There is a lot of world-building going on in the first chapters, which I found infinitely fascinating. The author manages to incorporate so many beautiful Silk Road as well as Islamic cultural influences, which I absolutely adored. The book is filled with beautiful languages: Arabic, Hindu, Punjabi, to name a few, and she manages to seamlessly transition between them to create an intricately crafted universe.

Despite the fact this book is rooted in fantasy, The Candle and the Flame contains a lot of social commentary that really hits the spot. I particularly loved how the book addresses topics such as women's rights by taking on a fierce and feminist take by for example introducing a matriarchal society, and the many (MANY!) kickass female characters. It's refreshing to see how women aren't pitted against each other for once, but instead they all receive a big role within this beautifully crafted universe. I also love seeing the multicultural universe that this book supplies, by mixing languages and cultural influences.

The writing itself is absolutely breathtaking. The tone of the book is so magical and fantastical and really helps to immerse the reader within the story and its world. The beautiful lyrical prose and elaborate descriptions really make the universe that the author depicts come to life.

I think the characters, too, were very nicely done and built, considering this book was always meant to be a standalone. Stand-alones have the danger of falling into the insta-love trap because there is so little time to start, build, and conclude a story. I loved the relationship between the two main characters, and the romance didn't feel forced at all. Instead, the novel had a very fairytale-like feeling, with its magical aspects and its deep romantic bond.

I genuinely ended up adoring this book. The world-building, gorgeous culture, and solid themes are what made The Candle and the Flame stand out for me. I think this is an excellent book if you're looking for a great immersive standalone that, despite its fantastical elements, bears an important message. This read is a solid 5 stars and I can't wait to see what the author writes next. I LOVED IT!

Goodreads | Amazon

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In arc review

REVIEW: Virtually Yours

Title: Virtually Yours
Author: Sarvenaz Tash
Genre(s):  Young Adult, Contemporary
Release: June 2019
Rating: ✭✭✭/5

"How bad can one little virtual lie be?"

It's no secret that 2019 has an amazing line-up when it comes to to-be-released books, but a good chunk of those include some diverse contemporary romances with amazing covers. Virtually Yours, then, is no exception. When I got an ARC for this, I couldn't wait to get started reading this!

What is this book about?
Virtually Yours follows college freshman Mariam, who just broke up with her (now) ex-boyfriend Caleb. Both going off to separate colleges, Caleb doesn't want to risk doing the long-distance thing. Determined that Caleb is making a mistake however, Mariam is ready to get him back. She creates a profile on a virtual reality dating site called HEAVR, where she is assigned three top matches. One of them is, of course, her ex-boyfriend Caleb, but her best match is her cute new colleague at work called Jeremy. What do you do when your heart says one thing, but the universe tells you another?

What did I think about Virtually Yours?
I was infinitely excited for this one. I've recently been testing the waters when it comes to Contemporary young adult romances (I love YA fantasy and New Adult romances, but I've always thought I had outgrown YA contemporaries a little), so when I heard this one was set in college I jumped at the chance to read this. 

This was a cute quick read, hence the somewhat short review. I liked the main character, Mariam and I really enjoyed Jeremy as a character too. I loved how Mariam really seems to come into herself at the end of the book, and really starts to invent herself (including her needs when it comes to her own life). Her personal journey in this book is really fun and relatable and one of the things that makes YA contemporaries such a great genre.

I also loved how the author incorporated her own background into the novel. Mariam is from an Iranian family (like the author!), and I really liked how she incorporated the culture into this book. I loved reading about their family get-togethers and traditions!

Plot-wise, however, I had some minor issues. I didn't like the cat-fishing plot. I'm aware this a necessity where it concerns Mariam's character development, but I didn't really like how it was executed. Mariam didn't show any concerns until almost half-way through the book, and had to be reprimanded by one of her friends. I also thought a lot of the drama felt a little contrived since I found Caleb a little two-dimensional as a romantic interest. I didn't fully understand why Mariam was so hung-up on him when the guy had next to no developed personality. 

All in all, I enjoyed this book and thought it was a quick and fun read. I had a few issues with the plot which did take away from the rating a little, but overall this was a nice YA contemporary!

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In arc review

REVIEW: Aurora Rising

Title: Aurora Rising
Author: Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Genre(s):  Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Release: May 7th, 2019
Rating: ✭✭✭✭,75/5

"I want my mom. I want my dad. 
I want to run as far and as fast as I can, 
and hide somewhere safe, and never come out."

Prior to getting this book, I wasn't completely sure I would like it. I requested an ARC of this on a whim because as shallow as this might sound, I loved the sight of the cover (Charlie Bowater art is always an immediate yes from me!). I keep stubbornly persisting I dislike the Sci-Fi genre, but then I read books like this which make me highly doubt my point. This book is a little character-driven treat wrapped up in a thrilling space adventure!

What is this book about?
Set in the distant future, Aurora Rising follows the adventures of a group of misfits at Aurora Academy. Their commander, Tyler Jones is ready to recruit his dream squad, but due to a rescue-mission, he arrives at the draft too late, and in turn ends up with the worst recruits: An arrogant tech-wiz named Finian, his sarcastic older sister Scarlett, Zila the scientist who has no problem shooting her bunkmates, an angry alien and hot space elf called Kal, and Ty's childhood tomboy friend Cat (who has a wee crush on him). But his biggest problem might be Aurora Jie-Lin O'Malley, the girl he missed the draft for. Aurora wakes up two centuries after she left on her mission in a new time and away from her family. But that isn't the only thing her two-hundred years nap has done to her. Aurora now possesses unexplainable abilities, and is part of something way bigger than Ty could have ever imagined.

"I know I should be watching the amazing station we're slowly moving toward, 
but instead I find myself looking at the squad around me. 
At these six young soldiers I've suddenly found myself thrown together with. 
The strangers my life seems to depend on now.
Squad 312."

What did I think of Aurora Rising?
I'd never read a Jay Kristoff or an Amie Kaufman book before this one. In fact, it never even crossed my mind to read The Illuminae Files because, as I said, I thought the genre wouldn't mesh with my interests. I'm very much NOT a big fan of Sci-fi books (or so I keep saying). Anyway, I guess I was WRONG, because I really really liked this!

Plot-wise, this book has... I'm gonna say it... a little bit of a Six Of Crows vibe. I don't want to compare it to the Bardugo books because I find that nowadays a lot of heist stories are compared to Six Of Crows, which sells them short in a lot of ways. Aurora rising is very much its own story with its own unique characters, it just also happens to be a heist story of some sort. I won't lie, the first 100 pages had me a little confused. I really had to get into the space-lingo and I found I had trouble keeping up with the rapid introduction of characters. However, as I got past the hundred page mark, I really started to care about this rag-tag team of misfits.

Aurora, in particular, reminded me so much of bits and pieces of my favorite female characters, I couldn't not love her. I think for someone who wakes up from a 200-year nap, she did reasonably well. She's reasonably soft and understandibly scared at first, but she really grows as a character as the book goes on. I think, so far, my favorite characters might be Aurora and Scarlett and Ty, but the rest sure isn't far behind!

Pacing-wise, I thought this book was pretty well-done. Despite my initial fears, and aside from the first 100 pages, I didn't have trouble getting through this at all! I don't know why I'd been so afraid of the sci-fi genre when this book was a literal gem!

"The six of us? 
Against the whole galaxy?"

The only thing I wasn't as keen on were the relationships in the book. The main ship (no spoilers) didn't really feel like it was well-developed. Considering this is the first book in a series, I won't judge too harshly, but so far I'm not one hundred percent feeling the chemistry between them. There was a different couple I did enjoy, though, but they have more of a slowburn/banter vibe going on, which is why I really liked them. I hope to see all of the relationships improve in future books, especially because I think the authors promised LGBT ships!  It's ironic I didn't love the romantic relationship because I usually read YA for at least some romantic storyline. I don't want the ships to influence my opinion too much, because the plot and characters are top-notch and what kept me eagerly turning pages!

Reading Aurora Rising made me want to pick up every Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman book written, so you might catch me reading Nevernight or Illuminae in the future! All in all, I'm rounding this off to a 5-star read because of the characters and plot. I didn't have particular high expectations for this but it was such a sweet surprise and helped me get over my fear of sci-fi! I'm looking forward to reading the second instalment, even though it's over a year away!

Goodreads | Amazon

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In book review

REVIEW: Shadow Me

Title: Shadow Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Genre(s):  Young Adult, Fantasy, Novella
Release: March 2019
Rating: ✭✭✭✭✭/5

"Maybe it sounds weird to say, but I know I could love the shit out of someone. 
I feel it, in my heart. This capacity to love. To be romantic and passionate. 
Like it’s a superpower I have. A gift, even.
And I’ve got no one to share it with."

I am finally writing my Shadow Me review. I know, a little late, but I had to gather my thoughts, people. Kenji Kishimoto is my all-time favorite book character and when I heard  that like Adam and Warner, he would get his own novella, I FREAKED! This, then, in no way disappointed me. I am honestly convinced Tahereh Mafi can't write a bad book.

What is this book about?
Shadow Me is another novella set in the Shatter Me universe by Tahereh Mafi, but instead of Warner and Adam, this one now focuses on Juliette's best friend Kenji. Shadow Me bridges the gap between Restore Me (Shatter Me #4) and Defy Me (Shatter Me #5) and shows hidden moments of Restore Me through Kenji's POV.

What did I think about Shadow Me?
It is no secret that Tahereh Mafi is my favorite author, and with that Kenji Kishimoto is my favorite male character of all time, which makes me slightly biased in reviewing this. In all honesty though, I have to reiterate once again that I don't think Tahereh Mafi is able to write a bad book. Shadow Me solidified my love for Kenji and even made me love him more.

I loved how Shadow Me added so much more depth to Kenji's character. Kenji's role is easily reduced to that of comedic relief, and while Tahereh has always managed to make him very three-dimensional, she outdid herself with Shadow me.

I loved seeing the inner workings of his mind. I loved learning to understand him as a character: how he puts up a defense by cracking jokes but how underneath he has very human insecurities. Tahereh really manages to hit home with her writing and her character development.

Tahereh's writing, in this, is again phenomenal. I've always loved the writing style in the Shatter Me series, and I think it's extraordinary how she manages to fundamentally switch up her writing style with every POV-switch she does. Juliette's is very poetic, but also chaotic, whereas Warner's is very eloquent, Kenji, then, has his own way of talking with a comedic undertone and the occasional swearing, which provides a breath of fresh air in an otherwise fairly heavy series.

The only thing that had me a little confused is the way Nazeera and Kenji's relationship seems to develop. At first glance, the relationship seems very one-dimensional, dare I say insta-lovey, and is based very much on physical attraction. I like how Kenji seems to  check himself, though, by rationalizing his attraction towards her. It's because of this that I'm not put off by the relationship immediately. I think Tahereh very much knows what she's doing with them and I hope there's a slow-burn romance coming!

I'm infinitely excited for the release of Defy Me next month and I look forward to Kenji's POV in a bigger format. I absolutely loved this one hence why I'm giving it 5 stars!


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In wrap-up


Series Title: Legend
Author: Marie Lu
Genre(s):  Fantasy, Young Adult

"Sometimes, the sun sets earlier. 
Days don’t last forever, you know. 
But I’ll fight as hard as I can. I can promise you that."

I've recently set a goal for myself when it comes to my 2019 reading: I want to read big series that are (or were) hugely hyped but I have never picked up before (think Percy Jackson, Throne of Glass, etc.) During a conversation with one of my friends, she told me that one of her favorite older YA fantasy series was Legend by Marie Lu. I'd read Marie Lu's most recent series Warcross, and ended up loving it, so I figured I would pick up this one too!

Book 1:

Rating: ✭✭✭✭✭/5

Book 2:
Rating: ✭✭✭✭✭/5

Book 3:
Rating: ✭✭✭✭✭/5

What is this series about?
In Legend, fifteen year old prodigy June Iparis is being trained to become a military genius for the Republic. However, when her older brother is murdered, June is determined to find his killer no matter the cost. Bring in Day, a boy from the slums, who is simultaneously a criminal wanted for his crimes. When he gets wrongly accused of murdering June's brother, the two of them end up crossing paths despite their very different backgrounds. 

"Then Day reaches out and touches my hand with his. 
He encloses it in a handshake. And just like that, I am linked with him again, 
I feel the pulse of our bond and his- tory and love through our hands, like a wave of magic, 
the return of a long-lost friend. Of something meant to be. 
The feeling brings tears to my eyes. Perhaps we can take a step forward together."

What did I think of Legend?
It is seldom that reading a premise has enticed me this much to read something. The second I read what these books were going to be about, I just knew I had to have them. It sounded like the perfect mix between dystopia, romance, and soul-gripping suspense.
This series did everything it promised to deliver and more. I finished all these books (including a short novella) in THREE days! 

First of all, I need to address my favorite part of this series: namely the characters. June, in particular, has wormed her way into my heart. Despite this being an older YA series, and thus being in danger of containing potentially "outdated" tropes, the combination of bad-assery, intelligence and compassion her character possesses makes her someone who fits in with very recent heroines too.

Day, then I also very much loved as a character. I love rebellious, kind of cynical and sarcastic male protagonists who ultimately possess a good heart, and Day is one of those. Despite his activities outside of the law, he is such a good person who really has the interests of his people at heart. 

I also loved, capital LOVED, the relationship between the two, as it stood at the heart of these novels. The trope of rich girl-poor guy worked well since it brought on some interesting discussions. I think Marie Lu managed to find a great balance in between angsty and romantic scenes where there relationship was concerned. Each and every scene between the two of them was a joy to read.

This is where things get a little spoilery so if you haven't yet read this book yet, you may want to skip the next paragraph. I found that I enjoyed this the most going in with NO idea as to how the whole story would play out.

Plot-wise, I want to address the elephant in the room. Whereas usually I am not a fan of this specific ending trope, I loved the amnesia trope that came into play at the end of the book. In this case it came completely out of the blue and delivered an excellent plot-twist in my opinion. Prior to reading the book, my friends had specifically warned me for Marie Lu endings, since they tend to be tragic apparently (like I said, I'd only read Warcross and Wildcard which ended reasonably well, so I didn't really know what to expect from this). I think Legend's ending would have been harder to take for me if I hadn't been aware of the new book that is being released in October called Rebel (because it's a coninuation of June and Day's story), but I really really enjoyed the ending the way it was! It reminded me very much of Your Name by Makoto Shinkai which is one of my favorite animated movies (highly recommending this one if you're looking for something to quench your Legend thirst until October!). 

Next, I really enjoyed the flash-forward at the end of the book, which provided a nice set-up for the future instalment in this series. Whereas I didn't have a problem reading about 15 year old protagonists, I usually do prefer if the characters are a little older since I'm able to relate more, so it's nice to be able to see Day and June in their twenties next!
I'm not one to enjoy futuristic settings a lot, or rather I just don't gravitate towards them, but I really enjoyed Legend's world. The world-building was great, and it was a joy to read the Warcross reference hidden in the novels (this one is set prior to the Warcross duology so there are some easter eggs if you've read that one!) As mentioned earlier, the overall pacing was something I really enjoyed. The books were quick reads, and there wasn't a dull moment in all three of them. The nice balance between action and emotional scenes also really helped with that.

The side-characters, also, were nicely fleshed out. I really liked Tess (despite the love-triangle plot-point which felt a little contrived), and Eden also was such a cute addition to the cast of characters. I'm really excited to see more about them in Rebel, and to explore his POV a little more.

All in all, the writing, plot, and characters in Legend were absolutely amazing. I adored every second of these books and I'm actually a little gutted I didn't take my time with these books. I. WANT. MORE. This, then, ended up being a solid five-star read for me through-and-through. I immensely enjoyed every single second of these books and I can't wait to see where Rebel is going to take us. 

“Hi,” he says. “I’m Daniel.” 
“Hi,” I reply. “I’m June.”

Goodreads | Amazon

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In tags

My Ten Favorite Female Characters (Fantasy Edition)

I know, International Women's day is behind us, so this post is a little late, apologies for that. However, with the women's marches happening all around the world (the one in Amsterdam being closest to me) I really just had to write about all the inspiring book ladies! Being a gender & diversity major, I tend to look for books that have broad representation and well-written female characters. Let it be known that I love every female character on this list dearly, and that they're in a random order! (I actually wanted to include more because there are so many girlies I love!). So without further ado, let's get into the list!

#1: Juliette Ferrars (Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi)
If you've read the Shatter Me series, you know that Juliette goes through quite the journey as a character. Her character development is one of my all-time favorites and really speaks to me on a personal level. At the start of the series, Juliette is timid, traumatized, and afraid of her surroundings due to the horrificness of her past. She meets Adam and the reader gets to experience her development completely through Juliette's eyes (through such a unique and beautiful way!). By the end of the third book, Juliette has had to learn to adjust to her new surroundings, and has really come into herself. I love her personal journey, her courage, and her imperfections, which is why Juliette is one of my all-time favorite characters. Also, next month (April 2019) is when Defy Me comes out, so fingers crossed for more of her wonderful development!

#2: Tessa Gray (The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare)
Tessa is the female protagonist in The Infernal Devices, and with that, she is my favorite female character from the Shadowhunter chronicles. Tessa is highly intelligent, but also very caring towards the people she loves. Her warm nature mixed with her stubbornness at times is what makes her such a great character, but also manages to get her into a bit of trouble at times. Aside from her physical power as a warlock, she is mentally very strong which is why she is such a great character to me. Tessa will also be returning to our shelves: Ghosts of the Shadow Market which releases in June will feature numerous short stories through the point of view of her husband Jem!

#3: June Iparis (Legend by Marie Lu)
This is a very recent addition to this list, and you might even call it cheating since I haven't actually finished Champion (number three in this series) yet when I'm writing this. However, after two and a half books of this universe, June has conquered my heart and she will never leave! A prodigy with a perfect score, logical, and selfless, June is everything that a great female character is to me. Despite being only fifteen, she radiates what the internet calls "BDE" by being in command and getting herself out of every pesky situation. The way June is presented really resonated with me which is why she made it onto this list!

#4: Lila Bard (A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab)
From A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E Schwab, when it comes to characters, Lila Bard is the other end of the spectrum. Her profession as a thief and pirate has made her cunning and quick. Lila is known for her nifty knife skills, as well as her slightly immature sense of humor. However, what I admire most about her is her wanderlust and her need for travelling. She is strong and a bad-ass in every sense of the word. Also, the author has confirmed that Lila is genderfluid, which is such an awesome thing to see in the Fantasy genre!

#5: Zafira Iskandar (We Hunt The Flame by Hafsah Faizal)
Zafira is the female protagonist of the upcoming novel We Hunt the Flame (only two more months left!) and has already snagged a place on this list. Zafira is a secret huntress, but is disguised as a man so to retain her secret identity. I can't say that much about her yet, but I will tell you that Zafira is fierce, independent and incredibly brave. Her quest is one you don't want to miss! We Hunt the Flame releases in May, so make sure to pick up this awesome book to get to know this wonderful heroine!

#6: Jude Duarte (The Folk of the Air by Holly Black)
Another bad-ass, but one of a kind, Jude Duarte is number six on this list. I'm not lying when I say that she has completely made The Folk of the Air trilogy for me. Jude was born a human, which means she has had to find a way to survive and adjust in the world of Fae. Her ability to strategize and plot is admirable. I love how she's not 100% good, but has a rough edge to her character, and will do ANYTHING to protect the people she cares about. She is one of the most intriguing characters in the genre currently, which is why she's one of my female faves!

#7: Cress Darnel (The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer)
Cress, oh Cress. First of all, Tangled is one of my favorite Disney movies, ever, so this Rapunzel retelling holds a very special place in my heart. Cress, then, is of course one of my favorite characters. Because she started out in isolation, she's a dreamer. Her character progression, much like Juliette's one is very admirable. Cress learns to face her fears, embrace her curiosity, as well as her emotions and comes out strongly in the end. I love it when characters embrace their soft side but still remain standing, which is why I love Cress so much! I was tempted to put more Marissa Meyer characters on this list (Cinder, Nova) because she just has so many! 

#8: Shahrzad al-Khayzuran (The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh)
Shazi is another fierce one. Her sharp tongue, quick-witted brain and very loyal attitude manages to get her out of various precarious situations. She is fiercely independent and, much like June, another lady who likes to save herself. She has both a dark and a lighter side, which is what I love about her. I haven't reread The Wrath and the Dawn since I last read it a few years ago, but I plan to pick it up again really soon for a much needed reread! 

#9: Laia of Serra (An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir)
Laia starts out as a relatively "powerless" slave girl, who is at the mercy of a totalitarian regime to find her brother. However, despite the bleak circumstances she lives in, Laia never gives into the high pressure of her surroundings. She is clever, caring, as well as very protective and selfless when it comes to the people she loves. She also showcases various rebellious streaks which make her all the more admirable! The last book in the Ember series releases next year, so make sure to check her out before then!

#10: Zoya Nazyalensky (The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo)
Zoya is one of the most powerful Grisha's within Bardugo's very famous universe, but aside from her physical abilities, Zoya has many other qualities. Whereas at first she might seem cold and stoic, the contrary is true. She loves her country, her people and would do anything for them with a fierce passion. I love how, despite her stoic and ruthless exterior, she is distinctly layered character, which makes for such an interesting reading experience. I won't lie and say I loved her since the beginning, but the most recent Grisha book, King of Scars, really changed my mind, and boy, do I love her now!

That makes ten of my favorite ladies, but I have many many more of course. Well-written female characters are something that make books five-star reads, and I can't wait to keep discovering more literary ladies as I continue reading! 

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In arc book review

REVIEW: Laws of Physics: Space

Title: Laws of Physics: Space
Author: Penny Reid
Genre(s):  New Adult, Romance
Release: March 2019
Rating: ✭✭✭✭/5

"You have to tell me what you want" he whispered gruffly. 
"If you don't want me, tell me. But you have to know, you must know,
I only want to make you happy."

In 2018 I finally took the plunge and delved deeper into the beauties that are Penny Reid books. Prior to last year, I'd read some Knitting in the City books, but never picked up anything else from this author, which is weird, considering I absolutely adored Neanderthal Seeks Human. A few months ago, then, I finally decided to read the Winston Brothers series, and I was reminded why I love Penny's books so much. This series is one of her newer ones, and when I received an ARC for this beautiful series I couldn't wait to start binging it!

What is this book about?
Laws of Physics: Space is the second book in a trilogy that centers around famous physicist Mona. Mona is the polar opposite of her twin sister. Mona is a genius, and is famous for her knowledge. She has it all figured out, or rather, she thinks she does. Throw in Abram: a talented musician without a care in the world. Abram goes with the flow and isn't really bothered with figuring things out all that much. Space is the continuation of the series and follows Motion, which ended on a cliffhanger! 

“Then will you let me know you?” I pressed my lips together to keep my chin from wobbling. 
“Why? To what purpose?”
The question seemed to amuse him.  “I need someone to listen to my heart.”  
His face inched closer. “And it only wants to beat for you.”

What did I think about Space?
First of all, let me start off by praising Penny Reid's brand of romance. Her style of writing is funny, comedic, and feels like a breath of fresh air in a genre of, oftentimes, slightly problematic books. What I love about Penny Reid's books is how you can tell she has done her research when it comes to her characters. Her portrayal of Shelly and the OCD rep in Beard In Mind, for example, was very nicely done. I just really like her writing style and I feel like it's not one you see in most ordinary romances. I also like, and this might be controversial, but I love the fact a lot of her romances are pretty tame on the heat-scale. I'm not someone who enjoys reading copious amount of sex-scenes and I much prefer softer romances, so her books are always a nice treat!

As for the specific content of this series, this book was very angst-heavy. The angst is, of course, necessary with how the previous book left things, so the comedic undertone of her nicely balanced the tone of the book. 

Mona and Abram's relationship is based entirely on a web of lies that Mona has weaved with the help of her twin sister. While I understood why Mona does what she does, I also very much understand Abram's side of the spectrum and I liked that this book doesn't include a quick fix. The tension is palpable throughout the entirety of this series, but it does include a feeling of satisfaction as you continue to read.

I like both Mona and Abram's characters, and the difference in POV is striking. Mona's POV is written in a more factual way, but her intelligence shines through in every sentence. Abram, however, has a very poetic voice, a nod to his identity as a poet and musician. I love the conscious difference between their characters and this only solidifies Penny's capabilities as a writer.

All in all, I very much enjoyed this second instalment in the Laws of Physics series. I liked the incorporation of a STEM-field woman, the comedic but well thought-out writing and the achingly slow slow-burn. I love the way Reid writes her characters and I can't wait to read the final book in this series when it comes out!

[Thank you to Penny Reid for providing with an advanced review copy!]

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REVIEW: The Prince and the Dressmaker

Title: The Prince and the Dressmaker
Author: Jen Wang
Genre(s):  Graphic Novel, LGBTQ+, Comics
Release: February 2018
Rating: ✭✭✭✭✭/5

"My whole life is other people deciding what is acceptable.
When I put on a dress, I get to decide what's silly."

So, as you all know, in between all my romantic and fantasy reads, I tend to love the occasional graphic novel or manga series to switch it up. I'd been out hunting this gorgeous book numerous of times (I even traveled to the other side of the country to look for it!) but no such luck. When my mom got me this copy for Christmas, I was ECSTATIC! I couldn't wait to dive into this beautiful gem of a book.

What is this book about?
The Prince and the Dressmaker is set in late 19th century France, and centers around the Belgian prince Sebastian, whose time to find a bride is running out. Sebastian, however, isn't too bothered by it because he is hiding something no one at court can ever find out; he likes to dress up as Lady Crystallia. Enter his best friend and the royal dressmaker Frances, who dreams of nothing more than for her creations to be discovered. Frances starts making dresses for Lady Crystallia in secret, but how long can this secret last?

"Seeing you, I realized everything would be fine.
Because someone still loved him."

What did I think about this book?
I thought this book was insanely and terribly cute, but it also bore such a good message. The Prince and the Dressmaker, much like other graphic novels, was such a fast and breezy read. The story had a very fairytale-like vibe to it, but that's the intention of the author, I suspect. I absolutely adored this book, from the story to the art; the art style was so cute. The color schemes, the cartoon-ish character designs and the beautiful backgrounds, really add to the story. I cannot stress this enough, but this was honestly such a gorgeous and adorable book!

Content-wise, I loved the message behind this. I know opinions are divided on if this book can be categorized as LGBT fiction, because there is no explicit mention of Sebastian being trans, NB, genderfluid, queer. But I think the message behind this will resonate with a lot of people nonetheless. I love how this book took the general fairytale trope and molded it into something so contemporary and fresh. I LOVED IT. I also think this book is suitable for all ages, even thought it is advertised as YA.

The only downside of this book is that there is a forced coming-out scene in this book, which can be triggering and confrontational. I can't speak for people who have gone through these experiences, which is why this review is purely based on my own personal opinions!

All, in all, I loved this graphic novel and I think this might be my favorite one I have read thus far. The combination of the fairytale elements, the gorgeous and original art style, and the original message made this read incredibly enjoyable for me. I was left with a warm and fuzzy feeling and the topics at hand are so important. I highly recommend this and I look forward to reading more of Jen Wang's work!

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In book review ember in the ashes sabaa tahir wrap up

SERIES WRAP UP: The Ember Quartet

Series Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Genre(s):  Fantasy, Young Adult

"There are two kinds of guilt. The kind that's a burden and the kind that gives you purpose. 
Let your guilt be your fuel. Let it remind you of who you want to be. Draw a line in your mind. Never cross it again. You have a soul. It's damaged but it's there. Don't let them take it from you"

Hey guys! I'm introducing a new format to my blog in which I review a series all at once. I've been binge-reading more and more books and instead of posting numerous reviews right after another, I figured I'd introduce wrap-ups to my blog in which I collect them all in one post and do a collective review. First up, this absolutely gorgeous series!

Book 1:
An Ember in the Ashes
Rating: ✭✭✭✭✭/5

Book 2:
A Torch Against the Night
Rating: ✭✭✭✭✭/5

Book 3:
A Reaper at the Gates
Rating: ✭✭✭✭✭/5

What is this series about?
An Ember in the Ashes is set in a dark world that is reminiscent of the Roman empire and follows the slave girl Laia. When Laia's brother is arrested and her remaining family is killed, Laia is left with nothing. In the hope of getting her brother back, she is forced to turn to a group of rebels, who, in turn, ask her to spy for them on the military academy. During her time there, she meets Elias, a soldier who dreams of deserting. Together the two of them find an unlikely ally in each other, and must navigate a way to defeat a common enemy.

You are my temple", I murmur as I knee beside her.
 "You are my priest. You are my prayer. You are my release."

What did I think about this series?
I've wanted to read these books for the longest time because I heard nothing but great things about the author, and the premise of this book sounded A-MA-ZING. The recent (or fairly recent, at least) release of A Reaper at the Gates did it for me, and I finally decided to binge-read this series. Let me tell you.... I LOVED IT SO SO MUCH! I'm honestly so puzzled why this series isn't more hyped because Sabaa Tahir has produced a straight-up masterpiece.

Plot-wise these books are very strong. The high fantasy setting based on a world that is inspired by ancient Rome really sets the gritty tone that is central for this series. The world-building in this is absolutely fantastic. Despite the brutal tones of the story, I found it such an easy series to get through. The plot was well-paced, with intense action right from the start of the first instalment. Right up until the last part of Reaper at the Gates, I JUST COULD NOT STOP READING THESE.  All of these books kept me on the edge of my seat and the tip of my toes, you name it. 

Character-wise, I fell head-over-heels in love with both Laia and Elias, I'm still iffy on Helene, but I do think she's such a fascinating character. The books are told with a dual POV at first, which then turns into a triple POV when Helene's voice comes in. I fell in love with Laia in the first chapter, it was quite literally love at first sight. Laia is brave, relatable, and Tahir showcases such a human side of her character. After all, she's just a human girl stuck in a brutal situation and trying her hardest to survive in the midst of all the chaos going on. Then there's Elias, who is quite literally one of my new favorite male characters of all time. Elias is a soldier, forced to do what is expected of him. What I love about him is the duality of his character. Elias' isn't a perfect and is only trying to follow his heart. He's also such a softie when it comes to Laia, and their dynamic is my favorite thing EVER! (so eloquent, I know, but it's true!)

This series was genuinely such a good and bing-worthy read. The fast-paced and quite down-to-earth writing of these books is what made them so enjoyable for me. The simplicity made them great. The stakes kept on getting higher the further the story went, and the twists and turns kept on coming. 

Something that bothered me a little was the consistent violence towards women. I have issues with things like this and I don't particularly love seeing it represented in YA fiction, even though I know this book is supposed to be brutal and is set in a dark universe. I also didn't love the love-triangle plot in these books, and I found it quite pointless. I dislike the best friend is secretly in love with the main character trope, and I think I could've loved Helene a lot more if her arc hadn't started like that. I still think she's an interesting character, though, and I've started to love her a lot more compared to my feelings in the first book.

When it comes to the grander spectrum, these things didn't matter to me so much. I'm so elated to have picked up these books because I honestly think this is one of my new favorite series. The originality of the story, the dark and interesting setting, and these gorgeous characters all made this a solid five-star read. I NEED PART FOUR RIGHT NOW! 

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In book review enchantee re

REVIEW: Enchantée

Title: Enchantée
Author: Gita Trelease
Genre(s):  Fantasy, Young Adult
Release: February 2019
Rating: ✭✭✭✭✭/5

"This was the Paris of the strivers, of those who dwelt low, not high.
This was not the Paris of balloonists. 
It was her Paris, and it was the same as it had been this morning.
But she, perhaps, was not."

I first heard about Enchantée in 2018, and fell in love with the cover (I mean, who wouldn't, come on...). I'm a huge history buff so the premise, set during the French revolution, sounded great to my ears! Enchantée did just what the title teased it would, this story was an enchanting, magical fairytale.

What is this book about?
Enchantée follows Camille, who lives in the poor backstreets of Paris. When her parents die of smallpox, and her brother deserts the army to succumb to his alcohol addiction, Camille is left to take care of her ill sister. She uses tame magic "la magie ordinaire" to create an income, and give her sister and herself the care she needs. But when that no longer suffices, Camille has to go somewhere else for money. Using her mother's ancient darker magic, she transforms herself into Baroness de La Fontaine to blend in with the French high society at the court of Louis XVI. At first, providing for her and her sister is all that's on her mind, but when she meets a young balloonist by the name of Lazare, a dangerous hope starts breeding inside Camille that can't wait to get out. 

"Disorder is the beginning of change, Papa had said. 
When taxes rise, when the harvest fails, and bread prices rise: 
see what happens."

What did I think of Enchantée?
Enchantée was everything I hoped it would be and more. I know people say "don't judge a book by a cover" but I still kind of do that from time to time (don't blame me!). However, this gorgeous cover lived up to a gorgeous story. Paris during the French revolution has always insanely intrigued me. I love the rich atmosphere that the author describes when it comes to the lavish court in Versailles. This, in combination with the stark contrast to the gritty and dark streets of Paris really set the tone for this story.

Plot-wise, this book reminded me of a Disney movie in the nicest way possible. Camille's quest in Versailles really had that Cinderella-esque feel. Mix this with the interesting, but relatively simple magic system, it worked very well. I'm always a little apprehensive when it comes to fantasy stand-alones because of the way it needs to wrap everything up in the span of one single book. Whereas duologies or series would have numerous books for world-building and setting up the plot, this all needs to be done within one when it comes to a standalone. Pacing is something I find extremely important in general, but more so when it comes to books like this. I can honestly say there wasn't a boring moment in this book. Because the magic system was relatively simple, there wasn't too much of the book devoted to explaining it, which I loved. The beginning pulls the reader right into 1789 Paris, and there isn't a dull moment since. 

Character-wise, I loved Camille's character. She's a great heroine, and a very human one at that. Her constant responsibility for her sister, as well as the selflessness and her imperfections made her really likeable to me. Also really nice was to see that her brother didn't actually get a redemption arc despite being her family. It bothers me when authors try to excuse abusive behavior, and there was none of that with this book. Beware that there's a trigger warning though when it comes to alcoholism and physical abuse!

Romance-wise, I adored Lazare as a love-interest and as a character. I loved their romance together and I their interactions were SO CUTE! Lazare's kind, smart, and intelligent, which I much prefer to the broody dark male love-interest that is often presented in YA literature. Their dynamic felt really fresh, I loved it! Lazare is half Indian, and the book briefly addresses racial tensions, which I find not a lot of historical YA fantasies tend to do very often, so I thought that was refreshing! Because of how soon they met, there was a danger of the romance feeling a little insta-lovey, but because this is a standalone, and due to the fairytale-like atmosphere and feel of the story, this didn't necessarily bother me.

Because the plot was so magical and well-paced, I wasn't bummed that there wasn't much of the actual revolution going on. As much as I love history, I don't go into historical fantasies for the historical accuracy. I thought this book was a really refreshing take on this time-period, and an absolute gem (especially considering this is a DEBUT novel, like whaaaat?) in the YA standalone department. I will 100% read Gita's next novel, and this book has now been added to my 'favorites' list! J'ADORE! 

Goodreads | Amazon

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