Winterkeep (Graceling Realm #4) by Kristin Cashore | Drumsofautumn Review

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1.) Graceling ★★★★★
2.) Fire ★★★★★
3.) Bitterblue ★★★★★

“It had taken her so long to give up that key, the key to her cage. But it was a cage that no longer existed, because she’d destroyed it, by herself.”

I have been a huge fan of the Graceling Realm Trilogy ever since I first read it after Bitterblue’s release. The series means a lot to me because I discovered it right when I started becoming the reader that I am today and the series was something that so perfectly encapsuled all the things that I love in books.

Ever since finishing Bitterblue, I have always wanted more books in this series. I wanted to read more about this world and I wanted to read more from these characters. So when Winterkeep was announced, I honestly could barely believe it. After all those years of me putting my wish out into the universe, it finally came true.

Winterkeep takes place four years after Bitterblue and a new land, Torla, has been discovered. The nations closest to Monsea is Winterkeep and it is quite different from what we have seen before. Winterkeep is a democratic nation that is way more industrial than any of the nations we know from the Graceling world. Not only that, there are telepathic foxes that people can bond to and sea creatures that communictae with some humans too, called silbercows.

In the beginning of this story Bitterblue, Hava and Giddon travel to Winterkeep, after envoys from Monsea drowned under mysterious circumstances. But we do not only follow their POVs but also a newly introduced character called Lovisa, who is the daughter of the president of Winterkeep.

“You’re going to be the friend to me that you’ve always been, and I’m going to show you that you’re safe now. We are not going to lose each other. You’re not alone with your fears, Bitterblue. We’re a team now, you see?”

I went into Winterkeep with really high expecations, having not only loved the original trilogy but also Cashore’s more recent standalone release, Jane, Unlimited. And my expectations were more than met. Winterkeep is a beautiful addition to the Graceling series and world, that feels comfortable and familiar in many ways but has so many different aspects to offer too.

As a long-time fan of the series, I would highly recommend reading the original trilogy before you dive into Winterkeep but I will say that I think Winterkeep is very much readable on its own too. There will definitely be things that you won’t have context for but it isn’t really relevant for the storyline but more so for character backgrounds and relationships.
But Graceling, Fire and Bitterblue hold up so incredibly well, even in 2021, that there is no reason to skip those before you dive into Winterkeep.

“The fox wondered, as he wondered more and more lately, how any fox who cared about any human ever managed to keep the secrets of foxkind.”

Winterkeep is a nation that is very different from anything we’ve seen before. Even though Graceling and Bitterblue took place in a different land than Fire, they were still very similar in many aspects, with the biggest difference being the existence of monsters in Fire.

But Winterkeep is something completely new. In general, the land of Torla is quite different and very industrial. There is also a democratic system in place.
At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about a land in the Graceling world having trains and airships but I got into the world of Winterkeep pretty quickly and at the end of the day, anything is possible in Fantasy, especially in Kristin Cashore’s worlds.

I just found Torla and Winterkeep very fascinating and wanted to find out more about it at all times. The more I read of the book and just got a picture of this new land on the map, the more I just fell in love with it. And I think that it is a very refreshing addition to this Graceling world as we knew it before.

“She stopped in the middle of the room and stood there with her eyes on fire and her fists clenched, and Giddon was amazed, as he always was when she was angry, at how much power, fury, and force her person could convey. ”

I am always very in love with Cashore’s characters and I think this book showed very specifically how much she excels at writing different character’s voices. We mostly read from Bitterblue’s, Giddon’s and Lovisa’s point of view and I never had any issues keeping these characters apart. The characters and their voices stood out so distinctly, it was almost like I could actually hear different voices in my head while I read the different chapters.

There is also other POVs but those have significantly smaller chapters and I don’t want to talk about them more to not take anything away from anyone’s reading experience, as I feel like you just have to discover that for yourself but they all added a lot to the storytelling.

I enjoyed reading from Giddon’s point of view so much more than I initially thought I would and I really came to love him so much more than I ever did in the original trilogy. He is absolutely the charatcer that grew on me the most in this book.

“Maybe you have too much experience of the bad things that happen when you love someone, and too little experience of the good things,” he said. “Maybe you’re protecting yourself.”

But Lovisa is without question the stand-out character and protagonist for me. Her development throughout this book is immense and she goes through so much. There are huge themes of parental abuse, not only affecting Lovisa herself but also her three little brothers.

Seeing Lovisa understanding the abuse that she has faced throughout the years and her entire character development in so many different aspects was the storyline that really made the book for me, more than any of the political intrigue or mysteries (althought those go hand-in-hand with Lovisa’s storyline as well).

But, again, this book deals a lot with parental abuse and in general is quite heavy and dark in parts. If you have read the original trilogy then you will already know that Kristin Cashore does not shy away from truly exploring darker themes in her stories as well and Winterkeep is definitely no exception with that.

As in the past, and maybe even more so in Winterkeep, Cashore really gives room to these themes and handles them with care. And I think that Cashore has an amazing way of balancing her stories, so that the weight of it never feels too heavy while reading and there are still so many joyful, happy and funny moments in this story.

“I don’t have time,” she said, knowing she could skip her homework, that the homework shouldn’t matter more than her brothers; but also knowing that she couldn’t stay overnight in this house, where at every moment she felt the darkness closing around her like a cold, lonely cave. Knowing that part of the reason she needed to go was to escape the sadness of these boys.”

I think that there are many more things to discuss about this book, but I’d rather you explore them yourself first and then discuss with me. I can definitely wholeheartedly recommend reading this newest addition to the series.

Ultimately, all that is left for me to say is that after years of waiting and then finally getting a new book in this series, I am left with a lot of gratitude but I am also left with wanting even more.

For me, Winterkeep has proven even further that this series and world is so worth exploring much more of and I would not mind at all for Cashore to add more books. And while I’d expect Cashore to introduce us to another protagonist if she ever adds any more books, I also think that even Lovisa’s story is far from done.

Trigger and Content Warnings for murder, parental abuse, sexual harassment, slut-shaming, kidnapping, blood, drowning.

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✨ Lea posts a review on Meltotheany every Friday! Read more of her reviews HERE! ✨

The Project by Courtney Summers | ARC Review

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ARC provided by Wednesday Books
✨ My Review for SADIE

“Having a sister, Mom says, is a place only the two of them will share, made of secrets they never have to say aloud—but if they did, it would be a language only the two of them could speak.”

Courtney Summers is an author who has always meant a lot to me and her stories always impact me more than I have words to write in a review. I truly believe no other author writes about the sibling experience and feelings that I personally have better than her, even though I always am left feeling grateful and thankful that I am not a main protagonist in her stories. And The Project is no different; it is hard hitting, filled with twists and turns that make you constantly question what is real, it is lyrically written, emotional, and fully a heart-wrenching story about the things you are willing to do for someone you unconditionally love, even when you feel isolated and confused and so very scared. Oh, and it’s about cults and how they prey on people who are isolated and confused and so very scared, too.

Lo was only thirteen-years-old she was in a car accident that left her parents dead and with everyone believing that she wouldn’t be alive much longer. Bea was only nineteen-years-old when she watched her world fall apart when she walked into the hospital to maybe say goodbye to her little sister. Desperate for hope that Bea wouldn’t lose Lo too, she went looking for something to believe in inside the hospital, and found Lev Warren. And when Lo ends up making a huge leap to recovery that very night, Bea realizes there is nothing she wouldn’t pay to ensure her sister will live.

“Bea closes her eyes. She wants Lo to understand that night in the hospital, what was supposed to be Lo’s last night on earth. How it brought Bea to her knees and how it split her heart in half and how its breaking called forth a miracle.”

Six years later, Lo is alone again and hasn’t spoken to Bea in many years. She feels hurt and abandoned and just misses her sister so much, and she directs all that pain in to the Unity Project, that Lev Warren runs and where Bea is a member. And then one morning, Lo’s world gets touched again by the Unity Project when she witnesses someone take their own life, but before they do they recognize her because of Bea. And this death touches even closer when it impacts her job, and she gets the opportunity to finally do a story for the magazine she is working for. And she decides she will finally contact her sister again and make her see the corruptness of the Unity Project, and she won’t let anyone stop her, especially Lev Warren.

“All I wanted was to claw my way back to my sister, but the whole time she was surrounded by new love, she buried her old family and built a new one on top of its bones.”

This story is mostly told in Lo’s perspective, but we get little glimpses of Bea’s throughout and every time I could feel my stomach and heart just drop lower and lower. The things that both of these sisters were willing to do for one another renders me utterly speechless. Truly, I feel like no one can write vulnerability and sacrifice, unconditional sibling love, earth-shattering desperation, and pure heartbreaking hope like Courtney Summers. All while also making her characters feel so real, and their journeys feel like you are right beside them experiencing everything alongside them. Yet, also make you question everything at every twist and turn.

Lev is written in a way that is scarier than any monster in any fantasy book, because monsters like him are living and dwelling and thriving in our world today. They prey upon people who are isolated from their families, people from lower incomes, people who are unable to get help from broken American health care systems, people who very rarely will realize that what they are experiencing is manipulation, gaslighting, and abuse. And if they are able to realize it, they are unable to seek help because men like Lev are gaining more and more power, more and more followers, and more and more resources to keep you trapped every single day. This is a hard book, and it is so very dark at times. The range in which Lev is able to manipulate people into believing his cult is a community is actually harrowing. And seeing Lev lead people into believing that he is a vessel for God, chosen to do His wants, is truly some of the scariest literature I’ve ever read and it really will leave me feeling haunted forever.

“The hard part is this: the small broken girl inside me clawing against the wall I’ve built to keep us separated. The one who still wants so much for certain things, despite all she knows.”

Overall, I really did love this and I very much believe Courtney Summers was born to write and impact so many people with their stories. Her way of crafting and telling stories leaves me in awe, and I’m always completely blown away reading all her last lines. The reason I am giving it four stars is because I didn’t love the ending. I mean, this wouldn’t be a Courtney Summers’ book without a bit of a mysterious ending, but this one was just a little too mysterious for me and left the book at a little bit of a weird note when you look back at everything that was endured. But the last line? Perfection. Speechless. Masterpiece. Everything. Courtney Summers and her stories truly are something special and I’ll carry them within my heart always, despite how heavy they are.

Content and Trigger Warnings: abandonment, loss of loved ones, sleep paralysis, grief, depression, panic attacks, hospitalization, talk of death of child in past, physical abuse, torture, emotional abuse, manipulation, gaslighting, blood depiction, complications with childbirth, murder, child abuse, captivity, and cults. Please use caution and make sure you are in the right head space for this book, because a lot of these triggers are themes that are brought up a lot and unapologetically. Stay safe, friends!

4
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February 2021 TBR

Hello friends! I am still redoing my space as you are reading this (my desk tops come in this weekend and hopefully everything will be perfect after that), so I’m not sure I will read this first week of the month! But I still wanted to tell you six things that I’m planning on reading, and I’m very excited to review on the blog! 💘


The First Sister (The First Sister Trilogy #1) by Linden A. Lewis

This was an amazing gift from my amazing friend Genny! This story looks like is is queer scifi with lots of diversity, and I think I’m buddy reading this with Maëlys, Romie, Lilly, Lili, & Star! (And that… makes my heart soar, truly!) And extra perfect timing for F/F February!

➽ The Empress of Salt and Fortune (The Singing Hills Cycle #1) by Nghi Vo 

Maëlys gifted this novella (and the second, because she is too kind and I love her so much) to me for Christmas, and Tor recently sent me The Chosen and the Beautiful, and I really can’t wait to fall in love with all this queer Asian lit!

The Gilded Ones (Deathless #1) by Namina Forna
February 9th 2021 by Delacorte

Fairyloot included ARCs of this in one of their past boxes in 2020 (with really beautiful teal sprayed edges, to boot!) and I am so excited for this African fantasy debut! Also, all my early reviewing friends have adored this one! (Oh, and you might see me unbox a finished copy of this on instagram this month too, muahah!)

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi
March 2nd 2021 by Simon Schuster Books

Mary HK Choi has my whole entire heart, and her books are always and forever my favorites! I can’t wait to read and love this third novel from her, and I’m sure I will be gushing about this all month and for forever after that too!

Raybearer (Raybearer #1) by Jordan Ifueko

This was the number one book I was so sad I didn’t get to in 2020. I feel like every friend of mine who I have similar reading tastes to adored this one and put it on their best books of the year list. I can’t wait to read it and hopefully be able to scream <with luv> about it with them asap!

A ​Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns and Roses #4) by Sarah J. Maas
February 16th 2021 by Bloomsbury Publishing

Listen, I laugh at myself because you all know how much the last few SJM books have ultimately let me down. But this brand new spin-off start is starring one of my fave characters so I have a lil hope, and I will jump in the trash can extra and read this at midnight when it drops, like I do all SJMs because of 1.) hype and 2.) not wanting to be spoiled by lil shits!


February is also Black History Month – and here are some cool readathons you should check out:

The Black Lit Challenge 
Blackathon 
Black Author Readathon

And just in general, I hope you are being conscious of picking up more books by Black authors, not just in February, but always! 💕



Tell me a book you are extra excited to pick up this month! I hope transitioning into this wild new year has been treating you and your family kind. I am sending you all my whole heart always, and I hope you are having happy reading!   💗

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January 2021 Wrap Up

How we are already a month into this new year, I’ll never know! But hello, friends! I hope you are doing well! As you are reading this, I am in the middle of redoing my room! I figured, if I (very privilege-ly) have to work from home for another six months, I’m going to make my space feel a little more lighter, brighter, and separated! But my mind has been hyper focusing on getting everything ready (and everything collecting in my garage) for the entire month of January! This is my very long-winded intro to tell you that I “only” read five and a half books this start of 2021, but I’m still very happy with that, and excited to tell you all about those five and a half things…. now! ❤️📖

Lore by Alexandra Bracken ★ ★ ★

“and to believe that you deserve a good life.”

– greek gods abandoned by zeus
– a citywide hunger games every seven years to take the gods’ power
– perseus bloodline mc trying to get revenge for the brutal murder of her family


Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

“the year that will make all the blood, sweat, and tears worthwhile”

– thriller where the only 2 Black students at a private academy are being targeted
– unpacking all the racist systems still thriving today
– very gay & very perfect


Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell ★ ★ ★ ★

“For almost the past year I’ve been in love with a girl named Laura Dean”

– Asian-American lesbian
– writing to an online advice column about her abusive relationship
– wanting to be a good friend, even though sometimes life (and mental health) can make it hard


From Blood and Ash (Blood and Ash #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout ★ ★ ★ ★

“From this moment until the last moment, I am yours.”

– chosen maiden for the gods, but vampires may have other plans
– very sex positive & a very good look at exploring different wants
– angst & yearning on every page


A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire (Blood and Ash #2) by Jennifer L. Armentrout ★ ★ ★

“He was the first thing I’d ever truly chosen for myself.”

– not nearly as good as book one & so much set up
– but more gods & new secrets
– maybe some polyamory rep in the next book, but maybe just baiting me


Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers – currently reading: 143/296

“If you’re out there, Honey Girl, I am singing you a song. It’s a good song. It won’t lure you to the depths of the ocean. It’s a song that leads you just to me, I think, if you’re listening.” 

– so freaking romantic I am actually losing my mind 
– fake marriage between two people from different coasts one weekend away in vegas, but they can reconnect over a spooky radio show 
– sapphic swooning, yearning, perfect, romance between our Black mc and her Asian love interest 
– BIPOC in STEM and the extra expectations placed  
– found family that I would literally die for 
– will 100% make my best of 2021 (and probably best debut of 2021 too) 
– I promise to talk about WAY more very soon & honestly probably never shut up about it. 


I’m sorry this is a little rushed with the mini points; it’s something I’m trying to incorporate on other social media platforms, and I thought it might be cool (and easier) to do for these wraps ups too! But you can always click the titles for a full review (hopefully)! Also, I really do promise to gush a whole lot about Honey Girl because it really is everything, and I know that everyone is going to be so in love with it when it drops! I really hope you all put it on your February TBRs! Okay, friends, I love you so much! Let me know what was your favorite book of January! And I’m sending you so much love, always and forever. ✨

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Top Ten Tuesday | 2020 Debuts I Loved

TopTenTuesday
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!

Last year was truly so very wild for so many reasons, but one of the few happy wild reasons was because there were so many amazing debuts! I was so impressed over these ten books, I was so happy to see a T10T prompt like this so I could gush, celebrate, and support them a little bit more on blog! And I can’t wait to see what all of these authors (and their stories) do next! 

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch (Eva Evergreen #1) by Julie Abe
The Bone Shard Daughter (The Drowning Empire #1) by Andrea Stewart
Loveboat, Taipei (Loveboat, Taipei #1) by Abigail Hing Wen

Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar
I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee
The Year of the Witching (Bethel #1) by Alexis Henderson
These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards #1) by Janella Angeles

I truly do recommend all of these books, and they truly were such bright shining lights in 2020 literature! Tell me which 2020 debut was your favorite! Or which 2021 debut you are most looking forward to! The way I just know that Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers is going to be absolutely everything I’ve ever wanted! Okay, I love you guys so much and I hope you’re having the happiest of reading! 

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From Blood and Ash (Blood And Ash, #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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“From this moment until the last moment, I am yours.”

At the end of 2020, I kept seeing this book all over book social media and it was being loved by such a vast range of bookish friends. And then it was the goodreads choice awards 2020 best romance winner! Up until this point, I had never really read anything by Jennifer L. Armentrout, but my curiosity was so very peaked! Then once I entered 2021, I still felt like I could not escape the hype of this series! Finally, I read a few reviews by friends and found out that this was a fantasy series,, with a paranormal romance, and that information, in addition to it feeling like higher powers were at work to get me to read this, made me finally give it a try. And one I read that first chapter I knew I couldn’t put this down.

From Blood and Ash introduces us to Poppy, who is a chosen maiden for the gods. She is not meant to be touched, to be looked at, or to experience anything that is not considered god-like. She is quickly approaching her nineteenth birthday and soon she will leave to the capitol and have her Ascension, where she will prove that she is worthy of the gods and will help protect her entire kingdom from a curse carried by those who are unworthy of the gods. Yet, there is another kingdom living in hiding, who will do anything to make sure Poppy isn’t able to make her Ascension and change anything. (I am trying to be kind of vague here, because I truly did not know before going in, or expect in my wildest dreams, the paranormal aspects of this book, and I believe it did heighten my reading experience!)

But Poppy has so many secrets, including her own kind of powers that are manifesting stronger and stronger to help read and sooth people’s emotions. And there is also the secret of what happened to Poppy’s family, that left her and her brother the only ones alive to carry out the will of the gods, while Poppy is also forced to carry so many scars, both physical and emotional, from that night.. And there are secrets in the palace where she is currently living with the Duke and Duchess and a lot of abuse going on behind closed doors that are only meant to protect her. But the weight of grief and expectations are getting too heavy for Poppy to bear, so at the start of this first book she decides to sneak away from the palace for one night where she can maybe experience things without being expected to be a pure vessel for only the god’s consumption. And when Poppy ends up at a tavern, and in a private room, with Hawke, a very young but very skilled guard, she gets a taste of what she has been missing and what she may want for herself, unapologetically.

“You’re a perfectly normal girl. What is expected of you is what’s bad”

I do think grief and abuse are a constant theme in this story, and we get to see how those two words can present themselves in so many different ways. Different fear tactics are constantly in play, both in this kingdom and in Poppy’s life, to keep people in check and to keep them abiding to a corrupt system. Serving evil can easily be masked by saying it is serving the gods. Ultimately, this is a swoon-worthy and angst-inducing paranormal romance story, but there are a few layers here that I hope people are looking and listening very closely to while reading!

“You deserve so much more than what awaits you”

This book has really good discussions about what it means to be a young person discovering your wants and needs, while also slowly growing into the person you want to be and how hard that can be to separate from expectations already placed on you. This book is very sex positive, and consent is always at the forefront. I am also just going to type this with my full chest and then pretend I didn’t but, for me and my body and my personal experiences, I thought that the building of orgasms (and just some body reactions in general) in this book were very realistic and very well done. But anyways, I loved seeing Poppy reclaim so many things, and this romance is the first one in what felt like years that I am trying completely head of heels in love with and rooting for. But, please allow me this one small mini drag for those of you who have read this book:

Overall, this book truly blew me and my expectations away and it was very much the perfect book for the perfect time in my reading life. I laughed, I smiled, I swooned, I cried, I gasped, this book truly made me feel so much and it was just an amazing journey throughout. I feel like the twists were very well done and laid, I feel like the romance was filled with yearning and angst on every page, and I was constantly left wanting more and more. And the last line of this book? Yeah, I will be picking up A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire immediately. This was a joy to read from cover to cover.

Content and Trigger Warnings: death, gore, talk of loss of a child, talk of kidnapping, talk of death of children, mention of loss of a child in past, loss of a loved one, mention of suicide, assault, physical abuse, blood depictions, mention of rape, anxiety depictions, self-harm to get blood, and general war themes.

4
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Top Ten Tuesday | 2020 Releases I Wish I Read in 2020

TopTenTuesday
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!

So many books and never ever enough time, right? I feel like 2020 was easily the year I read the least amount of books actually published in the year. Most years, the majority of my reading are that year’s publications, but 2020 turned into the year I comfort reread and backlist buddy read. No regrets, but I thought this would be a cool T10T to do, to keep a list of some 2020 publications that I still want to get to in this new year!

Raybearer (Raybearer #1) by Jordan Ifueko
Lobizona (Wolves of No World #1) by Romina Garber
The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows (Feminine Pursuits #2) by Olivia Waite
The Silence of Bones by June Hur
Hollowpox (Nevermoor #3) by Jessica Townsend
Majesty (American Royals #2) by Katharine McGee
The Empire of Gold (The Daevabad Trilogy #3) by S.A. Chakraborty
To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini
Fable (Fable #1) by Adrienne Young
Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse

Truly, I feel like I haven’t seen many (or any) bad reviews for all of these books! And so many of my moots who have very similar reading tastes as me have put all these on their best books of 2020 lists! Let me know, out of these ten, which one you think I would like the most! But I do hope to get to many of them this new year! Happy reading, friends!

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