Heart of Thorns (Heart of Thorns, #1) by Bree Barton

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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

“Once upon a time, in a castle carved of stone, a girl plotted murder.”

Hello, friends! This is going to be a hard one to review. I honestly feel like this is a solid 2.5 star read, but some aspects make me want to raise that rating and others make me want to lower it. I will say the end of this book is phenomenal. Like, easily the best part. And it was so good that I want to continue on. But the rest, especially the earlier sections, were some of the most predictable reading I’ve ever read.

Again, I’m super torn on this one. This book does tackle a lot of important themes, and I would say that the heart of this novel is honestly feminism. This book shines a spotlight on inequality between men and women, and how women in this world basically developed magic because it was the only way to somewhat counterbalance it.

“…men have found ever-new ways of oppressing women. Our bodies have been receptacles, both container and contained; our wombs soft and pliant for the children we were meant to bear our husbands, whether we wanted to or not. We have been restricted, silenced, and confined. This has been called many things—‘protection,’ ‘progress,’ even ‘love.’”

This book stars a young girl named Mia, who is getting ready to celebrate a marriage that her father has chosen for her. Mia is contemplating running away, so she won’t be forced to marry a prince that she barely knows. But Mia has a sick sister who she has to take into account, because she can’t bear to leave her. But her sister wants nothing more than to stay, safely tucked away in the castle, while hoping for her chance at love.

Mia’s father is a renowned hunter of Gwyrach, which are woman who are believed to be witches, who are said to be able to stop a man’s heart just by laying their hands on their skin. They are also said to have powers to enthrall those around them and make them do their bidding. So, in this world, all women are forced to wear gloves, and it is considered unthinkable to be seen without them.

But this story is truly about Mia’s mother, who was killed when Mia was very young, and found dead with not a mark upon her skin. Heart of Thorns truly centers on Mia trying to figure out who killed her mother, and why they chose to do so. And Mia is able to finally leave the castle and hope to search for clues once her wedding day ends with a murder attempt.

Together, Mia, and the promised prince that she knew barely anything about, go on an adventure where they find out a lot not only about Mia’s mother, but about the entire corrupt world they live in. And Mia finds out who she really is, and what she can really become, only if she chooses to embrace and love what she is, instead of hating it because of what she’s grown up learning.

Trigger and content warnings for talk of illness, graphic depictions of dead bodies and parts from those dead bodies, physical abuse, assault, sexual assault (unwanted touching), war themes, torture, violence in general, cruel death of an animal, a lot of blood visuals, murder, and too many rape attempts and talk of past rape attempts.

“We were hunted and killed for thousands of years, long before we had magic. We are magicians because of our suffering. A woman’s body can survive only so much abuse before our very blood and bones rise up in revolt.”

So, the promised prince’s name is Quin, and he honestly was my favorite character in the entire book. Not only is he bisexual, he is just kind, and caring, and thoughtful, and empathic. He also really loves dogs, and this is another very important quality that I personally look for in people. And speaking about more sexual representation, Mia’s mom was for sure not straight and was in a relationship with another woman. There is also a big side character that is gay. There is also a little bit of disability representation in this book, from another character that I really liked. Again, this book does have a lot of good, it just also has a lot of predictability.

Sometimes while reading, I felt like this was maybe a middle grade book. Because the writing is well done, but the clues are so glaringly obvious it makes for a poor reading experience. Hence why the end was so amazing, because it actually has twist after twist that I didn’t see coming. But I’ll be honest, the first 75% of this book is somewhat boring to read. At least, it was for me.

“Magic is born in the margins. It is nurtured among the vulnerable and broken. It is our bodies crying out for justice, seeking to right centuries of wrongs.”

Again, I still think this is a really good start to something that could be amazing. Between the feministic themes, to the bonds of sisterhood, to the lengths we are willing to go for the ones we love, I want more from this world, these characters, and this author. Also, this is Bree Barton’s debut novel, so I’m going to cut her a little slack for the predictability. And I honestly am excited to continue on with this series.


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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with Jules at JA Ironside! ❤

 

Five Beach Reads for Summer 2018 ☀💛👙

Since yesterday was the summer solstice for the Northern Hemisphere, I just wanted to give you all five summertime recommendations! All five of these books I love with my whole heart, and I think they would be such perfect summertime reads! Like, I immediately want to go to the nearest body of water and reread all of these again! But I hope you all enjoy these recommendations, loves! 🏖

➽ The Hating Game by Sally Thorne 💕
This is one I see all the time on beach reads recommendations! But that’s because it is honestly the perfect summer time read! It’s so sweet, and so swoony, and I think this is also a great doorway book to get into romance!

➽ Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore 🌺
Family, flowers, and falling in love. This book means the world to me, and I read it at the end of last summer and still can’t stop thinking about it. Lush and beautiful writing, amazing character direction, and a heartwarming story that I totally recommend for you all this summer!

➽ The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw 🌙
The Wicked Deep has a really cool summer aspect, but everything comes to fruition on the summer equinox! And this has hardcore vacation and traveling vibes, too! And I think this book has a lot to offer for so many different types of readers!

➽ Geekerella (Starfield #1) by Ashley Poston 🚀
This is such a fun, summer time book, that focuses on all things geeky! This stars a boy and a girl that are communicating through text messages, in a Cinderella retelling, where they will meet at their favorite fandom’s convention!

➽ The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon 🕊
This is probably the best Fantasy Romance I’ve ever read in my entire life. It is such a beautiful blend of the two genres that highlights both. I couldn’t put this down, and I devoured it in one sitting! I hope I get to book two this summer on the beach!

Okay, loves! Let me know if you’ve read any of these! Or if you’re going to! Also, feel free to recommend me beach reads, because I’m always on the hunt! Also, if you’re looking for 2018 summer releases that I’ve already read and loved, check out this post! And I hope you all have such a wonderful summer, filled with all the good stories! 🌻☀💛

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2018 Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag

 

The original tag was created by ReadLikeWildfire and Earl Grey Books!


Happy summer solstice, my loves! I love seasonal equinoxes so very much! And what better way to celebrate than to do one of my favorite posts of the entire year? 💛☀


So far in 2018, I’ve read 87 books and, thanks to the amazing Brock at Let’s Read, here are some other statistics that I was able to gather from his amazing spreadsheet:










For this tag, I also made it a point to not use the same book twice (or else you all would just have a list of mostly Circe and The Cruel Prince). Also, all of these books are 2018 publications that are already released (or else you all would just have a list of mostly The Wicked King and Spinning Silver).


1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2018:
Circe by Madeline Miller


2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2018:
Grey Sister (Book of the Ancestor #2) by Mark Lawrence


3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to:
High Voltage (Fever #10) by Karen Marie Moning


4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year:
Muse of Nightmares (Strange the Dreamer #2) by Laini Taylor


5. Biggest disappointment:
Immortal Reign (Falling Kingdoms #6) by Morgan Rhodes


6. Biggest surprise:
Inkmistress (Of Fire and Stars 0.5) by Audrey Coulthurst


7. Favorite new author (debut or new to you):
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan


8. Newest fictional crush:
Cardan from The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black


9. Newest favorite character:
Kalen from The Heart Forger (The Bone Witch #2) by Rin Chupeco


10. Book that made you cry:
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang


11. Book that made you happy:
Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children #3) by Seanan McGuire


12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received):
The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw


13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?:
Small Spaces by Katherine Arden


14. Favorite book community member:
I’m actually going to write up a shout out post, featuring so many of my lovely friends, in July! But in the meantime, you all should check out some of my favorite Bookstagrammers!



That’s it, loves! I hope you all enjoyed, even though you all probably weren’t too surprised! I know I need to be better about reading books by authors that aren’t living in The United States, and I’m really going to make a conscious effort in the following half of 2018! Also, if you guys want to check it out: here is my 2017 Mid-Year Freak Out Tag, that is still filled with so many of my favorites (and even more pretty charts)! And happy first day of summer! I’m wishing you all the love, happiness, warmth, health, and good books always and forever. ☀💛

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Top Ten Tuesday | Summer 2018 Book Recommendations

 

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018!

Hey, friends! Okay, so the “real” topic this week is actually “Books to Read by the Pool/At the Beach” but I also thought this would be the perfect opportunity to talk about some summer (in the US) releases I’m hyped for! This week I’m going to talk about some books that I’ve already read, that will be released in Summer 2018, and then next week I will talk about some books that are releasing in Summer 2018 that I haven’t read yet, but really want to! And without further ado here are eight Summer 2018 books I’ve read, really enjoyed, and completely recommend:

(And click on each title for my full thoughts and full trigger and content warnings!)


A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh & Elsie Chapman – ★★★★★
June 26th, 2018 by Greenwillow Books

“We fell in love with all those myths about powerful gods being vulnerable, about humans becoming heroes. Such stories taught us about mythology, about the beauty of folktales and legends, and about how stories of gods and goddesses are also stories about the human heart. But we never found similar compilations that were distinctly Asian.”


Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik – ★★★★★
July 10th, 2018 by Del Rey

“The real story isn’t half as pretty as the one you’ve heard.”


All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover – ★★★
July 17th, 2018 by Atria Books

“The problem is, love and happiness are not concordant. One can exist without the other.”


Nyxia Unleashed (The Nyxia Triad #2) by Scott Reintgen – ★★★★★
July 17th, 2018 by Crown Books for Young Readers

“As the descent begins, I hold on to one truth: I am more than what they would make of me.”


Heart of Thorns (Heart of Thorns #1) by Bree Barton – ★★★
July 31st, 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books

“Once upon a time, in a castle carved of stone, a girl plotted murder.”


Fresh Ink: An Anthology edited by Lamar Giles – ★★★★★
August 14th, 2018 by Crown Books for Young Readers

“More often than not, if I ran across a character who shared my race and gender in a book he was a gross stereotype, comic relief, token sidekick, or, depending on genre (I’m looking at you, science fiction, fantasy, and horror), there to die so the real hero could fight another day.”


Toil & Trouble edited by Tess Sharpe & Jessica Spotswood – ★★★★★
August 28th, 2018 by Harlequin Teen

“Here’s how to fulfill a prophecy: you are a woman, you speak the truth, and the world makes you into a liar.”


Mirage (Mirage #1) by Somaiya Daud – ★★★★★
August 28th, 2018 by Flatiron Books

“On a small moon orbiting a large planet, in a small farmhouse in a small village, there was a box, and in this box was a feather.”


Okay, friends, those are the eight Summer 2018 releases I’ve read so far! And I know I’m totally biased, but I hope you all go out and buy A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh & Elsie Chapman on the 26th! I mean, what better way to start this summer than with an ownvoices anthology about Asian myths? The correct answer: there isn’t a better way, so go buy it! Also, I love you all and be sure to get hyped for my second favorite post of the year to make, which will be live on the official first day of summer, the 21st! ☀👙🍦

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All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover

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ARC provided by Atria Books in exchange for an honest review.

“The problem is, love and happiness are not concordant. One can exist without the other.”

All Your Perfects is a book that made me feel every emotion in the world. It broke me, and it healed me, and it made me not feel so lonely. I wanted to hug my iPad, and throw my iPad. I wanted to give it five stars, and I wanted to give it one star. I swear, this book made me feel everything. And even though I had problems with some of the content, I still think this book is super important. And the subject matter of this book is something I’ve never read about before, and it’s a topic that we need to be normalizing and start discussing more.

I’m going to put the trigger and content warnings below this paragraph! But if you want to go into this book completely blind, like many of Colleen Hoover’s readers do, please do not read my review. Plus, honestly? If you don’t have any triggers, it probably is best to go into this book blind. I won’t post any spoilers about the events of this book, but the rest of my review will talk about what this book is centered around.

“Our marriage didn’t collapse. It didn’t suddenly fall apart. It’s been a much slower process. It’s been dwindling, if you will. I’m not even sure who is most at fault.”

Trigger and content warnings for: infertility, miscarrying, depression, grief, cheating, loss of a loved one in the past, abuse, a self-harm scene involving cutting with glass, and a really gross comment about how stay at home moms are looked at as bad because of “feminism and all that”, and another really questionable paragraph about how therapy/therapists aren’t helpful for the main character that I felt was done really poorly.

All Your Perfects is a hard-hitting book about a topic I’ve never read about before; infertility. And this book is told in alternating chapters, from past and present, where we see a couple fall in love, but we also get to see their marriage break apart because they cannot become parents. We get to see the guilt, the grief, the depression, and all the other dark things in between. This is a hard book to read, so please use caution going in.

Full disclosure, as I get older and older, I think about wanting to become a mother more and more. I know that our world and the society we live in also enforces that we should become “younger mothers” and gross things like that, but on top of this added pressure I also feel like my clock is ticking because many of my family members have had to have hysterectomies (most in their late twenties) as result of a hereditary health issue. And the older I get, the more and more I can almost hear that clock ticking. When I was younger, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to have kids, but more and more I think it is something I want in my life. So, needless to say, this book hit me very hard and had me really introspecting my thoughts and feelings after every page.

“It’s funny how you can be so happy with someone and love them so much, it creates an underlying sense of fear in you that you never knew before them. The fear of losing them. The fear of them getting hurt. I imagine that’s what it’s like when you have children. It’s probably the most incredible kind of love you’ll ever know, but it’s also the most terrifying.”

And the juxtaposition of seeing Quinn and Graham when they meet in the most fated meeting of all time, to their marriage completely falling apart because they both feel so much guilt, makes for a reading experience I don’t even have words for. Side note: CoHo writes the best first chapters in existence. Every one is a mini masterpiece that completely draws the reader in and enthralls and captures them, and All Your Perfects was no exception.

I easily and effortlessly fell in love with Quinn. Everything she was going through, and the way that CoHo wrote about it, felt like such an accurate depiction of depression. I felt for her constantly and my heart is still filled with so much empathy for this fictional character.

Graham, on the other hand, was much harder for me to fall for. And even though some of his actions were really beautiful and selfless, I never fully loved him because some of his other actions were so nasty and selfish. And I get it, we are all human, we all make mistakes and do bad things sometimes, but it his mistakes just prevented me from ever fully rooting for him. Graham does some really abusive stuff in this book that is never told like it’s abuse, too.

But seeing these two main characters stories weave and unweave together, apart, and sometimes a weird mixture of the two, made for a really unique reading experience, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed while reading. I know CoHo isn’t for everyone, but her writing always completely captivates me.

“I wish I could say I’m sorry for wanting a baby more than I want him. But that wouldn’t help, because it would be a lie. I’m not sorry.”

My favorite thing about this book is the discussion about how heavy of an emphasis we put on women to have children, especially women that are getting older, and women that are married, but still without kids. I mean, I’m not sure about you all but all the adds that pop up on my Facebook and Twitter? They are all for pregnancy and/or children things. Quinn literally deletes all social media in this book because of her mental health from the constant pressure it put on her. And that’s something we don’t talk about as a society either. Plus, how we perceive woman are inherently broken if they can’t, or choose not to, birth children. From sexualizing wide hips and big breasts, to a million other things that inherently mean “motherhood” is something so ingrained in our society, but so taboo to speak about. This book really made me step back and think, and feel, and reflect. And that’s something that normal romance books never do.

Overall, this was just like all of the rest of Colleen Hoover’s books, whether I love them or hate them, I can’t put them down. I read this in two sittings, mostly while crying my eyes out, but nothing could stop me from flipping the pages. And again, this topic was really close to my heart and something I think about a lot. I implore you all to use caution when picking this book up, but I also implore you all to do so.

“If you only shine light on your flaws, all your perfects will dim.”


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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

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“I don’t just raise monsters. I am one.”

One of the best book recommendations I’ve received to date is Elise recommending me The Abyss Surrounds Us. Friends, I fell totally in love with this story and it surpassed every high expectation I had for it. The writing is addicting, the story is so unique, and this book holds my now favorite enemies to lovers, angst-filled relationship of all time. Oh, and it’s between two girl pirates. Sold yet? You should be. This book was a gift.

First off, this book is set in a future version of United States where most of the country is underwater. And the few that can afford to live on land are very wealthy and very privileged. All over the world there are floating cities, and children being born that have never stepped foot on solid land. And with all of this being said, ships, boats, and other water vessels are the main mode of transportation.

Cassandra Leung is a seventeen-year-old, Chinese girl who has grown up outside of LA, where her family raises Reckoners! Reckoners are lab-created, monster-like, animals that can be a terrapoid (turtle-like), cephalopoid (octopus-like), serpentoid (snake-like), and probably even more! And they are very needed by the ships on the open seas, whether it be cruise ships, cargo ships, or any and all in-between, because they need protection from pirates that dangerously sail in the same waters. Cas and her family ensure that these different types of Reckoners bond with their buyer’s vessels to protect them at all costs. And on each vessel, a Reckoner trainer must also go to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Cas has never went on a mission by herself before, but her parents are finally allowing her to prove herself alongside her terrapoid, Durga, who she has bonded with since she was a young girl. But Cas quickly finds out that maybe Durga isn’t healthy enough for the journey, but it’s a little too late once pirates are sighted.

“So not only have I been captured by pirates—I’ve had the misfortune of being taken in by theatrical ones.”

Pirate Queen, Santa Elena, and her crew quickly board and just as quickly take Cas prisoner once they see that she was in charge of the Reckoner for the ship. And that’s because they are currently hiding their own little secret that needs someone with the experience and training that only Cas has. (Also, I am so in love with Bao, my little vicious bun!)

“Bao is, without a doubt, the most dangerous thing in the NeoPacific. And he answers to me.”

This book actually got pretty dark in parts, so please use caution! Trigger and content warnings for violence against animals, animal death, animal cruelty (behind the scenes), kidnapping, captivity, thoughts of suicide, attempted suicide, talk of slavery, physical abuse, and violence.

And while Cas is forced to live on this new ship, she learns that maybe she isn’t so different than the people she’s been protected from her whole entire life. And, like I said above, this little book has one of the best w/w stories I’ve read in a long while. The angst, friends, the damn angst. It’s actual perfection! I was screaming, I was crying, I was living for it. And I totally get that this is a book about people doing stuff on ships, but like, I ship these two girls so much that it hurts. I need book two immediately. And obviously from what I said above, there is an uneven power dynamic, but that’s the beautiful thing about this relationship because it is always addressed, constantly.

“We’re two trapped girls with nothing but each other on a ship of people who’d be better off with us dead, and somehow on top of that we’ve managed to do the one thing we shouldn’t be able to do.”

And we get to see this beautiful journey, not only across the water, but inside of Cassandra’s heart and mind. She didn’t know the world before she finally got to see it. And now she’s seeing things that she is unsure that she can ignore. Cas becomes the very definition of a morally grey character, but seeing her walk the line, while also trying to do what is right, while also trying to balance her new feelings, it’s so good. So damn good! This is such a powerful little book that I loved reading from the very first to the very last page.

Emily Skrutskie has woven such an amazing story here. This was a complete joy to read. And I truly believe with my whole heart that this is one of the most underhyped books of all time. And I also believe that this is going to be the best book I’ll read all of 2018’s Pride! Friends, buy this, read this, love this, and come gush with me. Please, I’m begging you.

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Buddy read with May at Forever and Everly! ❤

I Spy Book Challenge

I was tagged by the amazing Kelly @ Just Another Book in the Wall to do this amazing tag, which was originally created by the wonderful Kristin @ Kristin Kraves Books!

How to do this tag: Find a book that contains (either on the cover or in the title) an example for each category. You must have a separate book for all 20, get as creative as you want and do it within five minutes!


1. Food

Sweet Surrender (Sweet #1) by Maya Banks


2. Transportation

The Last Mortal Bond (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne #3) by Brian Staveley


3. Weapon

A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire #3) by George R.R. Martin


4. Animal

The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy #2) by Katherine Arden


5. Number

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid


6. Something You Read

The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air #2) by Holly Black


7. Body of Water

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo


8. Product of Fire

Feversong (Fever #9) by Karen Marie Moning


9. Royalty

Paper Princess (The Royals #1) by Erin Watt


10. Architecture

Senlin Ascends (The Books of Babel #1) by Josiah Bancroft


11. Clothing Item

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer


12. Family Member

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi


13. Time of Day

Morning Star (Red Rising Saga #3) by Pierce Brown


14. Music

How to Kill a Rock Star by Tiffanie DeBartolo


15. Paranormal Being

Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1) by Laini Taylor


16. Occupation

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere #1) by Meg Elison


17. Season

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) by N.K. Jemisin


18. Color

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan


19. Celestial Body

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore


20. Something That Grows

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore


I Tag:
May| Lilly | Lily | Amy | Danielle | ShaiKristinKristi

 


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