March Wrap-up!

March was a pretty good reading month for me. I did a lot of re-reads but I also read a few ARCs! I was the most excited to read Aurora Rising! I ended up finishing 15 books, some I skimmed because I wasn’t interested but I wasn’t at the DNF point – I wanted to at least know what happened at the end! Below is my super tiny one or two line reviews for the books I read throughout March!

Did you read any of these books, too?

  1. Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (audio): 5/5 stars – This was a reread for me and I absolutely loved it the second time around. This is amazing space adventure full of twists and turns and the return of some of our old friends along with meeting some new friends!
  2. The Black Witch by Laurie Forest (audio): 3.5/5 stars – I liked this book but I didn’t love it. The pacing was kind of slow, the MC was pretty unlikable until the end. I am curious to see what happens next!
  3. This Savage Song by VE Schwab (audio): 5/5 stars – This was a reread. I absolutely loved This Savage Song. The world building and the concepts are totally unique. I love August Flynn so much!
  4. Our Dark Duet by VE Schwab (audio): 5/5 stars – Another reread! This is the continuation to This Savage Song. It wraps up the duology nicely but leaves the world open for more! I loved this universe!
  5. Coraline by Neil Gaiman (audio): 5/5 stars – This was a reread! I try to read Coraline once or twice a year. I really enjoy this dark children’s story and Neil’s whimsical way he narrates his stories.
  6. Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (e-ARC): 5/5 stars – One of my most anticipated reads of the year! This space adventure was just was the doctor ordered. The rag tag crew is full of banter and the story itself is just intense and exciting!
  7. Vengeance of Hope by P.J. Berman (physical/review): 4/5 stars – A physical ARC I reviewed upon request by the author. I really enjoyed this book, the strong female leads, and the political intrigue!
  8. The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden (audio): 3.5/5 stars – I listened  to this book via audio and honestly.. I liked it but it was kind of underwhelming. I don’t really remember much of what happened.
  9. Soulfire by Juliette Cross (audio): 3/5 stars – A quick adult high fantasy novel! I love listening to these quick smutty reads after heavy books!
  10. Legend by Marie Lu (audio): 4/5 stars – A YA dystopian novel about a corrupt society spreading a disease to keep people under their control. I enjoyed this book but I don’t have much desire to read the other books in the series.
  11. The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson (ebook/physical): 5/5 stars – I absolutely LOVED this book! Brandon Sanderson has a way with his rich world building that sucks you in. It took me a while to get through this because every word matters. The twists and the turns keep you thinking about this world even when it’s over!
  12. A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab (audio): 5/5 stars – It took me a long time to finally read this book and once I got into it, I was hooked! I adored Lila Bard! I love the magic system!
  13. Tell me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi (ARC): 5/5 stars – I really loved this contemporary ARC. The MC are diverse, queer women and I just loved the 10 Things I Hate About You vibe I got!
  14. The Fever King by Victoria Lee (ebook/review): 3/5 stars – I had a hard time with this book. I think that the idea was there for the story but it wasn’t executed well. I’ll be reading the finished copy to see if anything changes. The magic system was different but a bit confusing.
  15. Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan (e-ARC): 4/5 stars – This book is a YA fantasy but reads similarly to an adult novel. It is dark with a unique magic system. I had quite a few questions by the end and will look forward to reading the completed copy!

Overall, I had an excellent reading month! I usually don’t reread many books but I buddy read a lot with my friend Kelli (IG: @starlightfaerytale) and we like to read each other’s favorite books! It makes reading so much more fun when you have a friend!


IG: @rqdavis_

Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan
Genre:
 Young Adult Fantasy
36118682Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: 
April 2nd, 2019
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Synopsis: A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself. A prince in danger must decide who to trust. A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings. Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy..


**REVIEW**
Disclaimer: First and foremost I would like to thank Emily A. Duncan, Wednesday Books/St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for providing me an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. This in no way sways my opinions, all thoughts expressed are my own.

I was obsessed with this book from the very first chapter!

This dark, and entrancing story revolves around three central characters, Nadya, Malachaisz, and Serefin, all with different motivations for stopping the centuries long war.

It took me a little longer to read than usual because I wasn’t really able to speed read! Each word held my interested and I was so captivated by the central characters and the plot that I just wanted it to last forever! When I was reading, each chapter packed a punch. I love writing that grips you and leaves you wanting more. I absolutely loved the world building, the religious aspects were handled with care, and the star crossed lovers theme had my heart pounding!

I have heard conflicting reviews about the names and how difficult they were to pronounce but this didn’t bother me because I read difficult names more like a picture. Even if I can’t pronounce it well, I see the name as a snapshot and knew who was talking/what was going on. You can find a handy pronunciation guide here!

With all of that being said, the last few chapters of the book were exciting but fell flat/confused me a little bit. I felt like the first 3/4 of the book the questions I had would slowly reveal themselves and then the last 1/4 left me desperately needing answers. Character backgrounds and certain locations were constantly hinted at but never explored. The ending had many twists that happened at all once. I have so many questions!

Things that worked for me (could be considered slightly spoilery):

  • I felt as though this read like more of an Adult Fantasy vs YA but that could be just my feelings! It did not affect my rating at all, especially since I am loving adult fantasy right now. I would recommend this to YA readers older than 16!
  • I am obsessed with Ostyia and want more. She is a strong, queer, amazing character and Emily can go to amazing places with this character!
  • About halfway through the book I started getting so many feelings for both POV. At first I was so invested in Nadya’s storyline and was irritated with Serefin but by halfway I was loving Serefin and wanted him to succeed just as much!
  • The excerpts told at the beginning of each chapter, oh my gosh! I usually skim stuff like this but I was so intrigued, especially the writing about who people prayed to and what magic they provided!
  • The star crossed lovers! Wahhhh!

Things that didn’t work for me (could be considered slightly spoilery):

  • Some of the magic system is still needing to be thoroughly explored. I  had a lot of questions as to how Nadya’s powers worked but I think as we go along more will be anwered!
  • Why was Serefin such a feared and powerful blood mage but didn’t do much to prevent himself from almost being killed multiple times? I never really saw his badassery.
  • What happened to Kostya? He isn’t really mentioned at all unless maybe he is the Konstantin mentioned in the excerpt of chapter 30! What was the purpose for Kacper, Parijahan, and Rashid? Where did her beads go?
  • Malachaisz total 180. He was a character that was unsure of himself, sweet, questioning his life and wondering if he could be loved by his enemy, to the plot twist of being cruel, selfish, power hungry. It just didn’t feel organic. It was almost TOO much.

Overall, I LOVED this book! I think that the world building and the character development are going in such unique places. It was deliciously dark and I am invested in these characters and what is going to happen. I will most definitely be reading any sequels as I HAVE TO KNOW what happens! I think anyone who loves dark magical worlds will adore this book and it’s characters!

You can pre-order pre-order this book at Amazon, or search any retailer online or book store closest to you! Available April 2nd, 2019!

~Rachael
IG: @rqdavis_

 

Tell Me How You Really Feel -Aminah Mae Safi

Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi
Genre:
YA Contemporary/LGBT+
41150474Publisher: Feiwel Friends
Publication Date: 
June 11th, 2019
Rating: 5 stars

Synopsis: Sana Khan is a cheerleader and a straight A student. She’s the classic (somewhat obnoxious) overachiever determined to win. Rachel Recht is a wannabe director who’s obsesssed with movies and ready to make her own masterpiece. As she’s casting her senior film project, she knows she’s found the perfect lead – Sana. There’s only one problem. Rachel hates Sana. Rachel was the first girl Sana ever asked out, but Rachel thought it was a cruel prank and has detested Sana ever since. 

Told in alternative viewpoints and inspired by classic romantic comedies, this engaging and edgy YA novel follows two strongwilled young women falling for each other despite themselves.


**REVIEW**
Disclaimer: First and foremost I would like to thank Aminah Mae Safi and Feiwel Friends for providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This in no way sways my opinions, all thoughts expressed are my own.

THIS. BOOK. OMG.

I would like to start this review by stating that I do not read contemporary. Like, ever. It just isn’t my thing. What is my thing you ask? Queer, diverse woman as main characters! When my friend asked me if I wanted to join this book tour, I absolutely had to. I started the book and finished the book the next day because I could not put it down. The story is endearing, it’s funny, it’s everything I love in a ROMCOM. When I was reading this book, I felt like I was watching it inside my head!

Sana is this perfect cheerleader who never seems to do wrong and Rachel is this outcast who just wants to be successful… and they HATE each other, or so they think! Neither of them realize the other’s motivations when they are suddenly forced to work together on Rachel’s last film project in order to secure funding towards college. I had ideas about what the characters were like inside my head when I started but was so surprised to see their true personalities shine!

This book is YA and you can tell firstly by the setting and secondly in the way the characters handle conflict. However, It didn’t bother me when Sana would argue with her mom, or when Rachel lashed out because that’s what teens do! It felt realistic and similar to things I went through in high school!

Things that worked for me (could be considered slightly spoilery):

  • Queer, diverse women as the MCs. It did not feel like the author was just trying to tick boxes. It felt organic and natural!
  • The usage of appropriate language for each household.
  • The descriptions of food. Oh my gosh. There were times where I was googling what some of the food was because I wanted to make it!
  • The banter! It’s not often where I actually laugh out loud during a book!
  • This book playing out in my head like a movie!

Things that didn’t work for me (could be considered slightly spoilery):

  • The ending! Only because I WANTED MORE! I never wanted it to end! I truly hope we get some sort of second book or novella! I want to know what Sana does with her internship and I want to know how successful Rachel is at directing! GIVE ME MORE AMINAH! Hah!

Overall, I LOVED this book! If you like contemporary, pick this up, if you don’t like contemporary but you want to read about queer romance with diversity, pick this up, if you want to read something light after a heavy read, pick this up!!

You can pre-order your copy from her favorite local retailer The Ripped Bodice and get it personalized and signed by her! You can also pre-order this book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or search for it online closest to you! Available June 11th!

~Rachael
IG: @rqdavis_

 

A Darker Shade of Magic – Victoria Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab
Genre:
 Adult Fantasy
22055262Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: 
February 24th, 2015
Rating: 5 stars

Synopsis: Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand. After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure. Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

Shades of Magic series
1. A Darker Shade of Magic
2. A Gathering of Shadows
3. A Conjuring of Light


**REVIEW**
It took me two years to finally buckle down and read this book. I had tried on several occasions to read it – I think I started it close to 7 times and could never make it past the first chapter. I was well versed in Kell’s peculiar coat! Hah! I listened to the first 1/3 via audio, switched to reading, then back to audio and I really enjoyed it! I heard the narrator changes in book 2 so we will see! I hope they don’t change Lila’s cockney accent! I could do without Rhy’s whining, though!

Things that worked for me (could be considered slightly spoilery):

  • The world building is EXCEPTIONAL! It is fantastic! I love the ideas of the different London’s and how they are vastly different from one another.
  • Lila Bard is a mu’fuckin’ hero! She is honestly the best thing about this book. I love her attitude, her determination, her grit. She is my new fave heroine!
  • Morally grey is where it’s at. Schwab is the master at creating characters that you question their every intention. I am so excited to see the development in the next installments!
  • It wrapped up in a way that if I never read the other books I would be satisfied with the story. I feel like most of Schwab’s stories are like this. I felt this way about This Savage Song and Vicious. There’s the feeling of, maybe there’s another book, but also being satiated with what was given.

Things that didn’t work for me (could be considered slightly spoilery):

  • Not much actually! I really enjoyed this book. I’m not sure what happened when I was reading it, maybe I was hung over from previous books, but there wasn’t much I even thought “meh” about!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I am so glad that I finally took the time to get to know this story and appreciate it! I am excited to read A Gathering of Shadows!

You can pick up this book at a local or online retailer. It is available now!

The Fever King – Victoria Lee

The Fever King by Victoria Lee
Genre:
YA Dystopian/SCIFI
imagesPublisher: Skyscape
Publication Date: 
March 1st, 2019
Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis: In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.


**REVIEW**
Disclaimer: First and foremost I would like to thank Skyscape Publishing and NetGalley for providing me the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. This in no way shapes my opinion, all thoughts are my own.

I had heard conflicting opinions about The Fever King since the ARCs were floating around. I decided to give it a shot, knowing that I am slowly growing out of YA dystopian novels (as some surprise me!). I really wanted to like this. The world building was unique, a fever of magic spreading throughout a divided country and an impending war between said country and his heart. There are tropes that many books of this nature have such as child loses parents, gets whisked away to train, becomes powerful, overthrowing government, etc… but that didn’t sway me into not reading it.

Things that worked for me (could be considered slightly spoilery):

  • The representation for people who identify as bisexual. Noam and Dara having a relationship that is not based on tropes was refreshing. I liked the complexity and I didn’t feel like the nature of their relationship was fetishized at all.
  • Dealing with undocumented immigration, genocide, refugees, etc… and how it affects people who are just trying to better their own lives. This is a reflection of current issues in our lives.
  • Other representations of diversity (Noam’s mother being Jewish and his father being hispanic) It never felt like this book was being diverse just to tick boxes.
  • Interesting way for a boy to gain his powers and learn to utilize them, as well as it being rooted in science.
  • The last half of the book picks up the pace and it was enjoyable! I loved the powers that the characters possessed.

Things that didn’t work for me (could be considered slightly spoilery):

  • I was confused for the first 30% of the book. There wasn’t much explanation as to what a witching was, what war was happening, who characters were, etc. It did come together in the end though!
  • Per Lee’s blog, every single character is queer. While I do appreciate the representation, I don’t find that is really plausible, however we are talking about a future dystopian fantasy world where people obtain magic after a fever that potentially can kill you, so who am I to judge?
  • I didn’t really connect with any other character besides Noam and Dara, and Lehrer gave me serious Darkling vibes and that’s all I could think about.
  • The language structure did not mesh well with me. I think I would have enjoyed the book more if I didn’t feel like it was a bit disjointed. This could be because I am outgrowing YA language structure. Noam utilized cusswords as did other characters but then it would be third person narrative and the narration would cuss and it seemed strange. For example:
    • Maybe he’d be the first. A medical mystery. A witching without the witch. Fuck witchings, anyway. Noam’d rather have his dad back. For me, it makes more sense for the cuss word to be an inner thought rather than a narrative voice.

Overall, I didn’t LOVE IT, but I didn’t hate it. I think that after this debut novel, the second book in the series will be have kinks worked out and will deliver! I am interested to see what happens with Noam and Dara. There are adult themes that are explored so I would suggest “older” young adults explore this book!

You can pick up this book at a local or online retailer. It is available now!

Mistborn Updates

I finished Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson in December and then took a month break because the writing is so rich. The world building is so heavy and the emotional toll on my body was hangover worthy! I started The Well of Ascension in February and finished it last night. You guys – that book broke me in such a epic way. I was literally so shocked at some of the revelations that I had to continue straight into Hero of Ages! I thought I would take another break but I can’t. Mistborn is all I can think about. I am going to order the UK copies, I also got a Mistborn sign from Bookish Signs and More through Etsy that I will be showcasing soon!

I will do an official series review when I get done with the Hero of Ages! You can see a micro review on my Goodreads. This epic adult fantasy was more than I could have ever imagined. If you are looking for something fresh, a new world to dive into, some new characters to love and to possibly mourn, pick up this series. You won’t regret it! I’m sure I’ll dive right into Era 2!

~ Rachael
Instagram: @rqdavis_

#squad312 forever – Aurora Rising Review

Title: Aurora Rising (the Aurora Cycle #1)
Author: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Genre: YA SCIFI/Space Opera
Publisher: Penguin Random House/Knopf  Books for Young Readers
Pages: Hardcover 480 pages
Available: May 7th, 2019

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First and foremost, I would like to thank Penguin Random House, Jay Kristoff, and Amie Kaufman for providing me with an e-ARC via NETGALLEY in exchange for an honest review; this in no way affects my rating.

With that being said, let’s begin this NON-SPOILERY review! Any specific facts mentioned were pulled from the official synopsis available on Goodreads.

Aurora rising starts off with a BANG. There is action from the very first page until the last. We first meet Aurora, a girl out of time who has just awoken from two centuries in cryo-sleep after being rescued by the Aurora Academy’s star pupil, Tyler. Due to this rescue, Tyler misses a draft and gets stuck with a group of misfits that no one wanted.

*from the synopsis*
“A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates 
A smart-ass tech whiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger-management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering”

This space adventure is a YA SCIFI lovers dream! You can tell that the science behind the writing was well researched. The diversity within the book is natural, I love the interaction between the characters – the banter is HILARIOUS. Each character has their own personality and style and you can tell who is talking without reading chapter headers. I was unsure about how I would feel after being set up with the genius that is the Illuminae Files and the Starbound trilogy, but this was perfection. It’s 100% unique, the galaxy is completely new, and I found myself so invested in this story that during the last few chapters, I don’t think I took a single breath! I am ready for the Aurora Cycle #2!

Pre-order your copy from Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, Target, or other retail sites!

#squad312 forever!

 

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline

Title: Coraline
Author: Neil Gaiman
Pages: 162 (depending on the version)
Published: February 24th, 2002
Read: 3/8/2019 via Audible

Coraline Jones is an explorer. The day she moves into her new home she begins to unravel the mysteries that surround her. The house is old, the mice seem to move with intention, and when she is turned away from her parents due to their busy schedules, she begins to wish for something more.

When she goes through a secret passageway in a locked room she finds a world like her own but with a twist. At first Coraline loves this new world. The other mother and father are always there for her, the food is delicious, and the toys come to life! But when Coraline realizes that things are not what they seem, she begins to discover the truth to the happiness of the other world.

***SPOILERS***

Coraline is the hero that I always wish that I could be. She is so brave and never turns away from a challenge. The first glimpse of those button eyes would have had me screaming for home! When she realizes that there are children’s souls that are trapped, she does everything she can to set their souls free. I love the cast of characters like the acrobat grannies and their dogs, the weird man upstairs with the circus mice, and the cat. I love the cat, I think that he’s a perfect companion for this book because he doesn’t actually tell you anything but he drives the plot forward. I also cheered when the other dad defied the other mother to save Coraline!

***END SPOILERS***

I read this book via Audible and I loved it so much. Basically anything Neil himself narrates just turns to gold!

Coraline is a dark and whimsical children’s story told by Neil Gaiman. He is the master at taking something small and turning it into something unforgettable!

 

How NOT to Respond to a Bad Review

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Alright, I have a confession to make, it is hard AF for me to write a negative review. I usually always find the positives in a book and then give it a higher star thinking that maybe the book wasn’t for me. I’m a pretty generous rater. However, sometimes you come across work that is so overly offensive, you don’t even want to waste your time writing a review. This has only happened to me twice so far and neither time I wrote a review… and I wasn’t sure if that was the right thing to do.

When a book contains things like poor language structure, or the book is said to be adult and the writing is more YA, I don’t feel like that forces my hand to HATE IT, it just wasn’t for me. However, if the book contains themes that are offensive and those situations are not being addressed as issues for that particular world, that’s when I start having that feeling of, I need to tell people… I have recently come into a situation where someone was being harassed by the author over writing a negative review and that honestly scared me.

People should not be afraid to give their honest opinions, after all, that’s why we rate books. This person was stalked over her social media to have her review removed (instagram, her blog, goodreads, etc) and it honestly left a bad taste in my mouth. If you are an author, I understand that getting positive reviews drives your book into people’s hands, but you are GOING to get negative reviews, period. People are NOT going to like your book in the same way that people LOVE that book. The number one thing people tell authors is to not get caught up on the reviews – especially since people rate books differently. Some personally, some critically, some both.

I was truly disturbed when I was contacted about that author harassing her to remove her review. I have a weird suspicion that it’s going to happen to me, even though I am being vague in my blog post. I should not have this feeling. I should not feel scared to leave my review for a book I was asked to review. I know that authors work hard, but the only way to get better is to listen to what people are saying. If you decide to read reviews and they list issues they had with it, take it or leave it and move on! I struggled for a week on how I was going to leave my review because I hate hurting people’s feelings, but when I did decide to discuss the issues INSTEAD of leaving a review because I wanted to be nice, I was met with, “I don’t want people tweaking my work.” Then don’t ask for people to review it?

All in all, I did not enjoy the book. I think the overall story was there, it has potential, but if you’re unwilling to take any criticism, the book is going to stay off of people’s TBRs. If your book has NO negative reviews and only over the top 5 star reviews, people note that.

I hope everyone has an amazing weekend!

-Rachael