Breaking Her by R.K. Lilley


“I always thought I was too strong to be broken by anything. I always told myself that, at least. But love changes you. No matter how strong you are, it makes you stronger. No matter how weak you are, it makes you weaker. No matter how hard you are to conquer, it will bring you to your knees.”

Since Breaking Him left off on a huge cliffhanger, I knew it would be impossible for me to stay away from this story for too long.

Scarlett and Dante are at it again with their second chance romance. They have known each other since they were kids, but one huge mystery has kept them apart in their adult lives. This book constantly switches between past and present views so the reader can not only understand their struggles in the past, but why it is still keeping them apart to this day. And, boy, oh boy, do they have a past!

Scarlett grew up not having a dollar to her name, while Dante grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth. Even though he’s never been resentful of Scarlett’s situation, she can’t help but always feel like he is giving her a handout. The only love that Scarlett knew growing up, besides Dante, was Dante’s grandmother who took her in and loved her unconditionally.

Scarlett and Dante are, sadly, brought back together in Breaking Him because of Dante’s grandmother’s unfortunate death. They are all grown up, and a lot can happen in five years. The human heart can also not change who it wants in five years.

I’m not going to lie, this book has a lot of angst, but it’s very well done and will leave you absolutely addicted. This story was not only amazing, but it actually surprised me with a few of the twists. The romance was wonderfully executed and the sex, as always, was on a whole other level.

I say this in every review I do for this author, but: R.K. Lilley writes the best sex scenes I’ve ever read. I found her in 2013, and I still have yet to find anything close to as sexy as one sex scene in Bad Things. This book actually has once that is very reminiscent of it, but, regardless, if you just want to get your pervert on; I can’t recommend anything by R.K. Lilley enough.

This was a delight to read; the perfect adult-romance duology (that hopefully will make spinoffs of Scarlett’s roommates and Dante’s brother). I actually even enjoyed this installment more than Breaking Him. This was the perfect wrap up that ended this story perfectly, but left so much more to be desired from this world. Especially with the cameos from In Flight and Bad Things at the end. I just love this world that R.K. Lilley has created, and I fully intend to read every piece of it she writes!

Seven Black Diamonds by Melissa Marr

Many years ago, I walked into a Borders Outlet with my mom and confessed to one of the workers that I was starting to become obsessed with books about faeries. She told me how she enjoyed a book named Wicked Lovely that just came out, and then proceeded to totally convince me to buy it. I’ve been a Melissa Marr fan ever since that day, and I thank her and that wonderful Borders Outlet employee for helping flourish my love for books about fae. So, obviously, I couldn’t not read this book.

“I like knowing that my heart has found its home.”

Seven Black Diamonds is very reminiscent of Wicked Lovely, even though it’s set in a completely different fae world. Unlike Wicked Lovely, this book doesn’t have season courts, but has (my favorite) Seelie and Unseelie courts. Yet, in this world, these two courts, and the Hidden Throne – which is all fae not living in one of the other two courts, are somewhat combined with the Seelie King just being King Leith of Fire and Truth and the Unseelie Queen, the true leader, just being Queen Endellion of Blood and Rage. The Queen and King have five children in total, but only two together, which means one of those two are the only one worthy to be heir.

Right now that heir is Eilidh, but she wasn’t meant to be the heir. That was her older sister that went missing at birth’s place. A lot of fae do not accept or approve of Eilidh because she is scarred all over her body. Like, people legitimately call her Patches and it makes me so sad.

Meanwhile, the Queen is eradicating many human lives for punishment because of her missing daughter, and because humans vastly outnumber fae. The Queen refuses to let go of her vendetta.

She has a secret army of soldiers that she called Sleepers. These Sleepers are half fae and half human and live to do the Queen’s bidding. Not many people know about them, and even they do not know the truth behind themselves. The Seven Black Diamonds are the most important Sleeper group there is, but up until this point they have never been complete, since they’ve only have six members.

That is, until Lily Abernathy’s father make a decision that his very protected and sheltered daughter should be around more kids like her. AKA: Fae.

Lily is not only the star of this book, but will also become the most important member of the Seven Black Diamonds. Yes, she has been protected by her mob-boss father her whole life, but she is strong all on her own and won’t be a pawn for anyone or any court. She also constantly makes the reader reminisce about Wicked Lovely with her father’s set of rules.

Creed is the swoon-worthy famous fae musician of the group, and instantly got Lily’s attention.

Zephyr (Lord, help me with not giggling at these names) is the actual leader of the Seven Black Diamonds and faithfully will always serve the Queen of Blood and Rage.

AlKamy is a rock star and Zephyr’s love interest that can never be.

Violet is my second favorite Diamond and a force to be reckoned with. I loved her free-spirit, yet also her devotion.

Will is a politician’s kid who we don’t learn much about other than his boyfriend is also in the Seven Black Diamonds.

Roan is the boyfriend and is a future CEO that likes to stay out of the limelight of the other five that are famous in this world.

They explain it like, fae are so gorgeous and talented that they have to live in this world as actors and singers, or people would never believe they were regular humans. This is also probably another reason Lily was so protected growing up.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, but I can recognize that I am complete Fae trash and a sucker for any book that involves the Seelie and Unseelie courts. This book not only reminded me of Wicked Lovely, obviously, but also really reminded me of Vampire Academy for some reason. I will for sure be continuing on with this series, because, as started before, I’m Fae trash that cannot be stopped.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

This book was gifted to me from my wonderful Secret Santa, Derek, from the Reddit’s Book Exchange 2016

Neil Gaiman is so praised by my peers that I wanted to finally give him a try. I’ll be honest; the first part of this story instantly hooked me, but the middle portion left a lot to be desired. I was feeling negative, and was pretty sure I was going to give this two stars, while forcing myself to finish it. Then, as soon as Tristran and Yvanie’s paths crossed with Madame Semele, everything picked up and made me fall hopelessly in love with this adult fairy tale.

This is a story about a young boy named Tristran who had a very mysterious birth. His family lives in a town that borders that land of Faerie. No one crosses the wall that separates these two places, until Tristran goes on a quest to prove his love to a girl from his town. The quest is to find and bring back a fallen star, but Tristran becomes very surprised by the adventures that unfold while he is in Faerie.

Even though I’m giving this book four stars, the last 20% deserves more than a five star rating. Seriously, that epilogue was so perfect. I haven’t been able to talk or think about it without getting teary eyed.

Neil Gaiman’s writing is perfect for fairy tales; it’s magical and whimsical, but oh so romantic. Even in the middle section when I was bored, the writing was a joy to read. His words have such amazing imagery that flows absolutely beautifully.

“Every lover is, in his heart, a madman, and, in his head, a minstrel.”

Also, unlike everyone else on planet Earth, I haven’t seen this movie, but everyone raves about that as well, so maybe I’ll have to fix that soon.

This will not be the last Neil Gaiman book I read. I think I will read The Ocean at the End of the Lane next, like my Reddit’s Secret Santa suggested. Stardust really blew me, and my expectations, away. I’m so thankful Derek gifted me this book that I will cherish forever.

Paper Girls, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan

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

I went into Paper Girls completely blind. The only thing I did know is that Brian K. Vaughan created this world and everyone is absolutely obsessed with his other graphic novel series, Saga. I haven’t tried Saga, yet, but I figured this would be a good place to start since Saga will already have six volumes out this July.

I’m not going to lie; I didn’t really like the art work, but I am for sure in the minority feeling that way. My copy, from Netgalley, had compressed graphics in the PDF I had to review, so maybe that just dampened my experience and made it hard for me to ever get into the art. I also understand this is supposed to have an 80’s feel, and boy does it, but I just don’t think this appeals to me or my art tastes. But the story itself was actually pretty well done. I normally don’t dabble in Sci-Fi, but it was a very welcomed and unexpected surprise in this bind up.

This story is about four twelve-year-old Paper Girls that get wrapped up in something much bigger than themselves. After delivering papers on All Saints’ Day, they end up finding a mysterious space capsule that will show them a very different version of the world they know. This definitely has an apocalyptic theme, and the lines of reality are for sure blurred. As started prior, this is set in the 80’s (1988 to be specific, which was when Brain K. Vaughan was also 12-years-old) and there is a lot, and I mean a lot, of 80’s references. Since I grew up in the 90’s some of this was missed on me, or went over my head (especially the TV shows and movies), but some aspects still felt really nostalgic. I think Brain K. Vaughan did an exceptional job on the feel of this comic. The feel is honestly close to perfection, because while I reading it did not feel like 2016 in the slightest. This comic alone feels like a magical piece of time traveling.

I will also compliment this series on creating very diverse characters with very different backgrounds. On top of the girls being very smart and witty, maybe too smart and witty for twelve-year-olds, they each have their own very strong personality.

This comic, to me, has a pretty heavy questioning religion vibe to it. They bring up that the girls go to a Catholic school, besides the one Jewish girl who states she goes to a nondenominational school. Hell, Issue One starts out with one of our paper girls dreaming about Heaven, with a very reminiscent (eve’s) apple that appears throughout this whole volume. But then there are a few panels that compare God to Santa Claus. We also get to see people do terrible things when they think their God has left them or that they weren’t worthy enough for Heaven. I know some of this can be construed as what humans are capable of, both amazing and terrible things, but some of it comes across as antireligious and just feels sort of bad to read. I’ll applaud any writer/artist that pushes the envelope, but not when it feels forced down my throat.

The other thing that felt sort of bad was the use of “faggot” and other terrible gay slurs, like “aids patient”. They try to justify it by saying that’s how the 80’s mentality was, even though these are only twelve-year-old girls, but I have no words for the horrible taste that put in my mouth. They try to do this “tastefully” by other characters pointing out that it was not an appropriate thing to say, I will say that, but the comic would have been tremendously better without it in the first place.

Overall, I did like this. I thought the story was unique, even if the art left a lot to be desired from me. Besides a few of the panels that I thought were unnecessary, I really thought this was a unique graphic novel that I did enjoy reading.

I’m now going to break down each issue in this bind up. There will be SPOILERS, so please use caution in continuing if you have not read this graphic novel!

This issue felt way longer than normal. We are first introduced to Erin, one of our paper girls, who is having a bad dream about her sister, Missy, going to hell, while Erin is being ushered into Heaven by a space astronaut angel. She wakes up, and starts her paper route. While on her paper route, a boy starts to harass her, but luckily three other paper girls come to her rescue. We are then introduced to Mac, Tiffany, and KJ. Since it’s the day after Halloween, and the girls don’t feel very safe, Mac and Erin decided to do their routes together, while Tiffany and KJ decided to do theirs together. They do communicate through Walkie Talkies (holy nostalgia) until Mac and Erin hear Tiffany and KJ getting mugged. They rush back, and all four girls go after the two thieves. They chase them all the way to an abandoned house, and into the basement where they find what looks like a space capsule. They run out of the house, but now everything looks different, including the sky. They see their attackers and fight them. One of their masks comes off and you see he is very deformed. They run away, but not before dropping an Apple Inc. logo.

We see that these two thieves steal many things and all means of communication: home phones, cell phones, Walkie Talkies. The girls have no idea what to do in this changed world, so they decided to go to Mac’s house, where her dad has a gun. This is when it starts to feel like a rapture is taking place. Upon their arrival, they find Mac’s vile step-mom, Alice, who is really upset that Mac’s father has vanished into thin air or got “sucked away”. She blames religion, and that she wasn’t worthy enough, so she is stuck here. The issue ends with the gun going off.

We realize that Alice missed Mac, but ended up shooting Erin. The step-mom disappears, and the girls steal a car to try to take Erin to the hospital. Tiffany’s mom is a doctor, so she knows the route she drives to work. Along the way, a man stops the girls and tries to get them to come with him. The issue ends with this man getting shot in the head by the two thieves from the beginning of all of this.

A woman named Cardinal finds the body of the man that was shot, Alister, and calls a man referred to as Grand Father. He tells her to call down an Editrix. Also, all the grown-ups in this world talk very strange. It’s like old time lingo mixed with today’s slang. It’s really weird. The girls go with the two thieves who introduce themselves as Heck and Naldo. They inform the girls that these adults are called “Old-Timers” and are bad. Heck and Naldo say they are from Thirteen and want revenge because the old-timers killed Heck’s boyfriend. They are escaping through the sewers where the monster that is an Editrix finds them. It immediately attacks Tiffany, and once it touches her it makes her life flash before her. She only sees a videogame she was obsessed with, and realizes she wasted her whole life. Yeah, I didn’t like this scene or these panels at all. Anyway, they defeat the monster, go into the woods, and find the space capsule from before. The boys inform them that it is a spaceship and the boys get in with Erin and disappear, leaving the three girls alone in the woods.

Heck and Naldo tell Erin they call the spaceship Whenhouse and patch her up with bugs. The old-timers are trying to ground the spaceship, so Heck and Naldo sacrifice themselves to save Erin. This part was really fast and sort of confusing, but apparently they sacrificed themselves. Cardinal finds the girls, Tiffany bluffs with a gun and makes her drop her staff, which Mac picks up and blasts Cardinal away. The girls make a run to the abandoned house, and rush into the basement, where they find the spaceship and Erin. Cardinal calls Grand Father and tells him what happened; he says he will take care of it. We then see that the old-timers are using their staffs to suck the teenagers into time capsule things. The spaceship is going to explode; the girls aren’t sure what to do since Cardinal and Grand Father are outside the house. The ship explodes and blasts all four paper girls to 1999. They stop a car driving by and beg for help, only to realize the owner of the car is a grownup version of Erin.

Like I said before, I think the premise behind this story is really unique. I also think the 80’s setting and feel felt really cool. I’m just not sure how I feel about the adults being the bad guys, and the mocking feel of religion. Maybe when others read this they will not feel the same way as I did, but I have to be true to myself and what I did feel. Overall, I probably will not continue on with this series.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

“Be glad of your human heart, Feyre. Pity those who don’t feel anything at all.”

I’m such a sucker for anything fae, so this book did me in. There just seems to be a serious lack of anything new with faeries, so whenever I see something – I devoured it. This book was thrilling, it was magical, and it was unique. I give a 100% recommendation for anyone craving a new fae series.

This book has many of the same faerie stereotypes: the “season” courts, fae food, the ash wood, the iron resistance and the lying (with a twist). Maas does something that I feel that many authors never master, and that is creating a world that I wish I could live in. One of the best parts of reading is feeling like you’re living a life you’ll actually never live, but very rarely will you end a story and wish you just lived among that world. The master of this trick is JK Rowling. Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, England in general… I want(ed) to live there, and I felt very similar to Feyre’s stay at the Spring Court.

Basically, this book is about a young woman who kills a faerie that is shape shifted into a wolf. Another faerie tracks her down and gives her two options: Come and live with him until the end of her days, or give up her life right then and there as payment. We soon find out that this demanding faerie is the High King of the Spring Court. We also find out a very wicked woman is trying to take over not only the Spring Court, but the other six courts as well. Each court has lost a great amount of their power, but the Spring Court also carries a curse. Then a really beautiful story (with a Beauty and the Beast retelling) of love and sacrifice is unfolded.

Anyone who is close to me knows that I always say that I fall in love with the guy the girl never picks, always. So I go into every book knowing this about myself, and I have come to peace with it. That all being said, I fucking love Rhysand. Nesta (one of Feyre’s sisters) was also a wonderful side character. I sure hope Alis and her nephews found Nesta at the end of this book, so I can read all about it in the next book! Then there is Lucien, and I don’t even know where to begin. I loved everything about him, too.

The ending comes a little fast for my liking. The last task seemed very short and rushed, and gave it a really weird feel. I loved this book up until this, and I was pretty sad when it ended. This beautiful build up for a small firework. I still liked the firework and thought it was beautiful, but in my heart… I was hoping for a grand finale of explosions. This book was also a little slow to get going into this amazing build up, so for these two huge reasons I cannot give this book five stars. As much as I wish I could give this a perfect rating, these two ginormous flaws prevent me from doing so. I still loved this book, and cannot wait for the second installment.

Rat Queens, Vol. 3: Demons by Kurtis J. Wiebe


I know a lot of people do not feel this way, but I think Tess Fowler did so much better of a job than Stjepan Šejić. I was so scared to read this, because I found myself so disappointed with the art at the end of Vol. 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’rygoth, but Tess Fowler really impressed me and completely brought my Rat Queens back in a wonderful way!

This trade is mostly about the Rat Queen’s visit to Dunlas, which is home to the Mage University that Hannah used to attend before she was kicked out. Yet, the overwhelming feel and theme is acceptance and how true friends will accept you no matter what and, more importantly, support you. Everyone has made mistakes in their past, and it makes us who we are today. Rat Queens, Vol. 3 does an exceptional job at proving that sentiment, while entertaining the reader with another set of adventures!

I’m now going to break down each chapter in this bind up. There will be SPOILERS, so please use caution in continuing if you have not read this graphic-novel or its predecessors Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery and Vol. 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’rygoth!

We are introduced to Gerard, Hannah’s wizard stepdad in this issue. He is trying to make a case against the Council of Nine, about their corruption, but they aren’t listening to him. Our Rat Queens have been captured by some goblin foodies, and all the panels were beyond amazing. After they escape, the reader will realize they are headed to Dunlas, which is where the Hannah’s old university is, which also happens to be the home of the Council of Nine. We are then introduced to Polle, who is a rather cute old schoolmate of Hannah’s, but all Hannah wants to do is talk to her old professor, Finch, since there has been a university rebellion. We have a huge cliffhanger ending in this issue, with Betty getting paid a visit from an assassin Smidgen!

Violet breaks up the assassination attempt by kicking down Betty’s door. Betty tells Violet a little about her past, and how she used to be in another group called The Five Monkeys. The team was set up, and Betty is the last -alive- remaining member. We then see Dee is making the most of her High Priestess-ness(?), and is able to look at her family and old home. The girls then leave a comfy inn, to go to a cave that Hannah has a past with. After spelunking for a little while, Hannah talks to a Demon named Hazirel, who’s power she tapped into in Vol. 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’rygoth to save everyone! Hazirel, and some Hell Shades, attack the girls because Hazirel is desperate to acquire Hannah, and the girls narrowly escape him and the cave.

After talking to the Council of Nine, Gerard is in prison, unable to contact anyone. Polle, from Chapter Eleven, saves the girls. Betty meets a mad scientist/engineer who she buys a special sled off of. Violet and Betty take the sled on a test drive, and make a very unexpected friend. Hannah finds Professor Finch, and he fills her in on her stepdad being in prison. Professor Finch does some kind of magic with mirrors and dimensions, and allows Hannah to see her dead mother, Mina. While Dee is searching through tomes, her brother, Senoa, appears.

Mina fills Hannah in on a big mystery from her past; Not only did the Council of Nine kill Mina, but Gerard took care of Hannah and hid it from her, because he didn’t want her to carry the grudge in her heart that he does. Apparently, the Mage University is throwing its five year reunion for his class, and that’s the reason Senoa is there. Senoa, also, happened to be in the same class as Hannah and, one of my favorite characters, Tizzie! Tizzie makes her appearance, and gives Hannah a ring to mask her identity. We also get to learn about a little mystery from Tizzie’s past that I can’t wait to learn more about in later installments. We learn about Betty and Violet’s new friend, Daniel, and Betty is able to ask him a question from Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery, and my heart swelled with happiness. Then my heart got ripped out of my chest, when the girls discover that Hannah is part Demon. The girls love and accept her, but Hannah storms out before she realizes how loved and accepted she is.

Hannah then channels her inner Brittney Spears from 2007, and completely changes her looks. She decided to not only change her pin-up hair to not cover her Demon horns; she just cuts the majority of her hair off. I know this shouldn’t bother me, but I couldn’t help but be a little sad, especially with how amazing the page looked of her before this transformation. Seriously, sexy succubus lookin’ girls do something to me. We find out Senoa wasn’t a complete scumbag that exposed Hannah’s secret, he was just being possessed by Hazirel, who no longer needs him. Hannah goes, by herself, to talk to the council. They put her in the impenetrable prison, but apparently it’s not impenetrable to demons, because Hazirel makes Hannah an offer for her freedom, after he tells her that they killed her stepfather. I, obviously, do not trust this demon or his information.

I squealed in fan-girl delight when I saw this was after Chapter Fifteen! It was seriously an amazing surprise, and Braga is my queen, seriously! Yet, we do learn that Braga used to be called Broog and was destined to be a King (or Chieftain). This issue starts out with Braga in Palisade, looking adorable in her bathrobe with her cat, who is telling her lover a story about her past. She was an amazing warrior back then, as well. She was her father’s oldest son and destined to take over his throne, even though she didn’t want it, but her younger brother, Voon, did. Because Orcs are silly and very traditional, the father refuses to give Voon the crown, because Broog/Braga is older. Voon ambushes Broog/Braga and her best friend, Kiruk. Unfortunately, Kiruk is murdered, but it sends Broog/Braga into a bloodlust in which she kills them all except her brother. She drags him back to her father, tells him, again, she does not want to be Chieftain. She then leaves forever, where she will eventually embrace being Braga, and becomes one of my favorite comic book characters of all time.

Overall, I loved these six comics to pieces. I was a little sad that there was no “late game boss”, but, for some reason, the adventures alone were enough for me this time. And let’s face it; you can’t fight a big boss every D&D night. You have to go through so many little adventures, and missions, first. I loved this volume in its entirety, and I can’t wait for the fourth to come out.

I might also be completely biased, because this bind-up is mostly Hannah, her past and all her problems, and Hannah is my favorite Queen.

The Devourers by Indra Das

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

The Devourers is a twist on Indian folklore that is an absolutely wonderful representation of different cultures, gender issues, bi-sexuality, unconventional love, masculinity, and even rape. This story has werewolf folklore from many different cultures, too. I think this book would appeal to many different readers that read my reviews.

I’m going to be rather vague in this review, because I think this book is probably best read not knowing anything about the actual story. What I will say is that this is a story about a man, Alok, that meets a mysterious stranger in Kolkata, India. This stranger begins to tell him a story. This stranger will later ask Alok if he will transcribe this story for him. Alok finds himself absolutely obsessed with this tale, and finds it impossible to say no. From there the story will shift from what is being transcribed, to Alok and this stranger’s relationship in real time.

This story deals with, and conquers, so many hard topics. This book is mostly centered on a rape, and there is never any question on whether or not it was consensual, mistakenly consensual, or any of these tropes that authors like to romanticize rape into being. There is no forgiveness or understanding, it is just depicted how it truly is—unforgivable.

This book really touched me, and gave me a lot of feelings. This book doesn’t shy away from hard topics. It’s actually hard for me to believe this is Indra Das’ first book, because I’m so impressed with the feelings he was able to evoke from me, while constructing this excellent and well thought-out novel. I can’t think of the last time I’ve read such an impressive debut book, and I can’t wait to read more from him.

The only negative thing I can really say is that this book does read a little slow in some of the transcribed parts. That didn’t stop this from being an amazing and magical read for me. From the stunning cover to the last page that left me utterly astonished, I was completely enthralled. This was a wonderful book that I completely recommend if you want something unique, that feels fantasy, and is very thought provoking.

One with You by Sylvia Day

Some authors just want to watch the world burn:

This book was pointless. It wasn’t bad, it certainly wasn’t good, but it didn’t add anything to the story.

I’m happy I finished this series, and this world, but I couldn’t help but want more. I know this story gets trashed on a lot because of Fifty Shades of Grey, but this was always the superior book series.

I couldn’t help myself from buying this the day it came out, even though I should have known better. My reading tastes have shifted so much from when I was in college, but I just always viewed this series as a guilty pleasure. I saw the warnings from the very first chapter, but I was in too deep, too invested, I couldn’t stop myself from devouring it.

The bright side of this book is the sex was great, like always in this series. I’m seriously Gideon trash. Like, I know he’s a controlling prick that I would end up slapping if I ever heard him speak in real life, but the sex – Good Lord, the sex. 12/10, would read again.

Unfortunately, the sex was probably the only bright side. Even the “twist” at the end felt like complete shock value. Or maybe it was for a spinoff prequel? Also, I can totally see Cary getting his own spin-off, because we learn nothing about his situation. Regardless, I probably won’t invest in anything else this series, or Sylvia Day, has to offer.

It’s been a crazy sex-filled ride, but I’m happy to get the fuck off this train. This book was completely unnecessary, and the series would have ended on a much higher note if it stopped with Entwined with You as originally intended.

The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

“Once there was a girl who was too sure of herself. Not everyone would call her beautiful, but they admitted that she had a certain grace that intimidated more often than it charmed. She was not, society agreed, someone you wanted to cross. She keeps her heart in a porcelain box, people whispered, and they were right.
She didn’t like to open the box. The sight of her heart was unsettling. It always looked both smaller and bigger than she expected. It thumped against the white porcelain. A fleshy red knot.
Sometimes, though, she’d put her palm on the box’s lid, and then the steady pulse was a welcome music.
One night, someone else heard its melody. A boy, hungry and far from home. He was—if you must know—a thief. He crept up the walls of the girl’s palace. He wriggled strong fingers into a window’s slim opening. He pulled it open wide enough to fit himself and pushed inside.”

This review will contain mild SPOILERS, please do not continue on if you’ve not read this book or, more importantly, the previous two installments in this series.

I feel so conflicted going into this review. I have so much love and empathy for Kestrel and Arin. Every scene with them together made me incredibly happy, and if the book was only that I’d still give it 5 out of 5 stars, because their happiness was that important to me, but this storyline had problems.

To put it bluntly, this book just had too many loose ends: Who is going to rule? Why did the Queen seem so evil the whole story to just not do anything in the end? We aren’t going to get closure with Kestrel’s father situation? Jess? Ronan? Hello? I also felt like the coded message that Kestrel sent was a little too convenient and a little too hard for me to believe. Like, she also left that guard’s body there. No one found it? No one realized something happened there, or that the guard was missing? I feel like Kestrel’s father, this amazing war general, is way smarter than that. Also, how in the hell did no one know she escaped the labor camp?

Even though I felt the overall theme of this book was so close to perfection, I can’t ignore all these things. I’m also all for open-ended stories that you can interpret on your own, but these are all pretty big grey areas, and plot holes, that I feel should have been addressed.

I’m also not saying I needed more bloodshed, or another twist, but it just seemed like something more was going to happen. This book is about war, and in war you suffer losses even if you win. After I finished this book I kept thinking maybe I missed something. I’m not saying Kestrel and Arin do not deserve a happy ending, because my heart couldn’t take anything else, but it still seemed too clean cut for me, and too clean cut for Marie Rutkoski, too.

As stated before, I did enjoy this story. This trilogy is definitely worth a read! It truly is the best YA has to offer, even with a lackluster conclusion. I know I sound really negative in my above paragraphs, but I just hate things that don’t feel complete. Yet, the positives in this story really do outweigh the incomplete feelings I have.

Kestrel’s relationship with her father really struck a chord with me and my personal life. I found myself so emotional, yet so thankful that a book didn’t just deal with romantic relationships, and friendships, but unconventional family dynamics as well. Seeing Kestrel, who is incredibly strong and brave, not being able to deal with abandonment and betrayal from someone she loves was absolutely devastating and pulled at every one of my heartstrings. Seriously, thank you Marie Rutkoski. Because of this, I will read everything she writes.

Oh, and this is probably the only story that I’ve ever read with amnesia that didn’t piss me off. I never thought I’d see the day.

It also needs to be said that I love Roshar and his tiger. I feel like he gets outshined because Kestrel and Arin are so perfect, but seriously, what a fantastic character that brought so much laughter to this story. And his ending scene was pretty phenomenally done as well.

I’ve stated this many times in past reviews, but Kestrel is a freakin’ amazing character that girls can look up to. YA needs more, many more, Kestrels. Arin can be stubborn, but he’s a man he has a pure heart and always does what he believes is right. Kestrel and Arin really are the definition of OTP.

This book is a wonderful physical representation that your heart chooses who it chooses. Love doesn’t see in color or gender or social status. For that alone, I will always praise this series and it will always be close to my heart.

“There is a difference between you and me. If I die, you’ll survive. If you die, it will destroy me.”

The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

I’m not really sure why I waited so long to continue with this series. I read The Winner’s Curse last year and really enjoyed it. Regardless, I’m extremely happy I decided to enter back into this world. I think all the hype from my friends that have read The Winner’s Kiss helped.

“He, too, felt how the heart chooses its own home and refuses reason.”

I am kind of shocked at how emotional I got while reading this. I think the love between Kestrel and Arin is just so pure that it actually hurts to read about and see them not together. I’m not really sure how Marie Rutkoski executes this so perfectly, but she does. Like, the amount I care for these two fictional characters’ well being is probably incredibly unhealthy. I’m legitimately too invested in these characters.

My dislike for Jess was pretty abundant in this book. I understand her feelings towards Arin, but Kestrel saved her in the last book. Kestrel is her best friend, and has been since childhood. Kestrel’s loneliness is actually palpable, and she’s going to abandon her? I’m done with that girl, and I hope Kestrel is too. I do want more Ronan in the next book, even though he behaved like a child in this book. I guess my feelings for him in The Winner’s Curse are carrying over. My heart also breaks for Prince Verex. I hope we also get more from him in The Winner’s Kiss, but I won’t hold my breath from that cliffhanger ending. Seriously, is my anxiety really going to be dependent on a dead moth? Hold me, please.

This book is mostly political with strong emphasis on alliances. It mostly centers on Kestrel’s time living in the Valorian Empire. Here, she is promised to marry the Emperor’s son, Prince Verex, in trade for the freedom of the Herrani people. Even though Kestrel’s body has escaped Herran’s city, her heart sure hasn’t. She has postponed the wedding as far as she can, but in the meantime, she can’t ignore the secrets of the court and the hurting of more Herrani people.

The reason this is just short of perfection for me, just like The Winner’s Curse, is because these characters wouldn’t rip out and step on my still-beating heart if they just shared one freaking sentence to explain what the hell is going on. Their communication issues frustrated me to no end, and I know they each have their reasons, but they (Kestrel especially) regrets not telling their “secret” immediately after withholding the information.

Also, that game of Bite and Sting, where I finally started to feel all my anxiety slip away, and then Arin asks the wrong question. My soul literally can’t live like this, Marie Rutkosk, you’re breaking me.

These books are beautiful, the story-line is unique, the prose is poetic, and the messages they hold are beyond words. I understand this is historical fiction, but we could use a lot more books with messages like this in 2016. Especially with the United States’ current political problems.

These are really solid books that really stand up to anything out there right now. I can’t wait to start The Winner’s Kiss, I just hope my heart can take it.

“His dear face, dear to her, dearer still. How could she love his face more for its damage? What kind of person saw someone’s suffering and felt her heart crack open even wider, even more sweetly than before? There was something wrong with her. It was wrong to want to touch a scar and call it beautiful.”