Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

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“Even girls made of stars are captives, bound at the wrists and traded like property. Even girls made of stars aren’t asked, aren’t believed, aren’t considered worth the effort unless they can offer something in return. Even girls made of stars buy into those lies sometimes.”

Friends, I wish I could put this book into everyone in the entire world’s hands. This book is so powerful, so heartbreaking, so important, and just so beautifully crafted. But before I really even start this review, I want to preface that this review is going to talk a lot about sexual assault. And even though I implore you to pick up this book if you are able, this is a very dark book at times. Major content and trigger warnings for rape, sexual assault, physical abuse, pedophilia, bullying, depiction of grief, trauma, PTSD, and anxiety attacks. Another thing I want to touch on is that I was very surprised that this book surrounds two sexual assaults, not just the one you are originally led to believe. So, I don’t want any of you to be lulled into a sense of safety to only be hurt later on.

Girl Made of Stars is a haunting book that I wish wasn’t so perfectly done. I wish this book wasn’t so realistic. I wish this book only made me cry because of the fictional content, and not because this is the actual world we live in. But in these pages, we follow a young girl named Mara whose brother is accused of raping one of her best friends. And we get to see how this rape impacts this entire friend group. Yet, we also get to see how it impacts Mara’s family, Mara’s school, and the entire community

Mara – The star of this book. Mara is also bi and has panic attacks.
Owen – Mara’s twin brother, who seems perfect and is very popular.
Charlie – Realizing they are nonbinary, Mara’s best friend, and also Mara’s ex.
Alex – Owen’s best friend, and Korean-American.
Hannah – One of Mara and Charlie’s best friend, also Owen’s girlfriend.

Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Only 310 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police. out of 1,000 rapes, 994 perpetrators will walk free.*

“This. This is why I never said anything. Because no one ever believes the girl.”

And we are teaching young girls to not speak up with our actions in this broken cycle of not believing them in a world that already chooses, over and over again, to not believe them. And it’s so fucking heartbreaking. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a relationship with the person. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had sex before. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. It doesn’t matter what you’ve said before. It doesn’t matter any circumstances; if it’s not consensual then it is rape. Rape culture is so real, so apparent, and so very much thriving in 2018.

You can love a person and still know and say that what they did was wrong. And this is a concept that we constantly cannot understand in this world. This book was extremely hard for me to read, because my brother is my best friend in this entire world, and imagining being in Mara’s situation just completely gutted me over and over again. But loving someone doesn’t give them a free pass, and I think everyone needs to be reminded of that. If you say you will believe rape victims, then you have to believe all rape victims. You don’t get to pick and choose. And I beg you to start believing. And for anyone who needs it: I believe you.

Yet, this is a story about healing and reclaiming your body after it has been violated against your wishes. There is no right thing, no right amount of time, not even any correct word combinations that will help. Sexual assaulters take so much more from the victim that people realize, and it’s something that never goes away. But it can get better, and you have to do what is right for you, at your own pace. And this story really is a love letter to that.

“Some parts of me are gone. Some others have come alive, woken by the need to fight, to matter, to be heard. Some parts are wary, others angry, others heartbroken. But I’m still me. I’m still moving.”

This book also does such a beautiful job talking about respecting people’s pronouns, gender, sexuality, and when and how they choose to come out, regardless of identities they’ve already came out about. Gender and sexuality can be so very fluid and always deserves to be respected. Everyone’s experiences are so very different, and only the individual knows what is best for them.

Overall, this was one of the hardest books for me to read all year, but I truly am so thankful that I was able to read it. I recommend this to anyone who is in the right headspace for it. And even though this was a hard book, it’s also really beautiful. I also loved the F/NB romance so very much in this one. Mara is one of my favorite characters in all of literature. And I will read every single thing Ashley Herring Blake writes forever. This is a heart-wrenching, flawless, masterpiece.

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*Statistics from RAINN. They are completely confidential, and available 24/7 if you need to talk to someone. Call 800.656.HOPE at any time.

Buddy read with Shai at Cade Under Books & Yusra! ❤

❤ I also read this for Contemporary-a-thon!

#FridayFrightAThon 2018

#FridayFrightAThon is a readathon that I’m hosting with a few of my very best friends this October! And basically we are just going to pick up a new thriller each Friday! We are going to be talking about all the books using the hashtag #FridayFrightAThon on Twitter and Bookstagram! I hope the books we picked end up actually being amazing, and I hope you all participate if you can! We will be so very honored if you join us! Also, make sure you check out my wonderful co-hosts who I love so much: Amy @ A Court of Crowns and QuillsJen @ Pinot and Pages, & Chelsea @ Chelsea Palmer! 👻

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
October 5th, 2018 🎃🔪

“For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area. Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called the Golden State Killer.”

This book actually helped catch a serial killer. Like, what else do I really need to say? That’s beyond words amazing. And I’m guessing this will be a very powerful and very impactful story.

➽ The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
October 12th, 2018 🎃🔪

“On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.”

Ruth Ware seems to be a polarizing author, and I know so many of my friends disliked The Woman in Cabin 10, but those same friends have assured me that The Death of Mrs. Westaway is her best work yet! And I’m excited to finally read Ruth Ware for the first time!

➽ If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
October 19th, 2018 🎃🔪

“In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extra. But in their fourth and final year, the balance of power begins to shift, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students’ world of make believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent.”

The very first book I read this year was The Secret History, and friends, a day hasn’t gone by that I haven’t thought about that book. Everyone tells me that this is the closest book to give me those same vibes! And it’s more spooky, apparently! Shakespearean actors that are also maybe murderers? Sign me up, please.

➽ The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
October 26th, 2018 🎃🔪

“Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.”

This is one of the few books I get asked a lot if I’ve read or if I’m planning to read. I think Riley Sager and his debut was just very polarizing, so people would like to know where I fall with his work! So, I’ll let you know soon with his sophomore novel, friends!

Okay, friends! I hope you might be able to pick up a book (or four) with us! And I hope we are able to make your Halloween season a little scarier! You know, in the best way possible! But please use caution, because I’m sure many of these books do have very intense content and trigger warnings! Happy reading, loves! Stay spooky! 🍂

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Magic Triumphs (Kate Daniels, #10) by Ilona Andrews

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ARC provided by Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.

1.) Magic Bites ★★★★
2.) Magic Burns ★★★★
3.) Magic Strikes ★★★★★
4.) Magic Bleeds ★★★★★
5.) Magic Slays ★★★★★
6.) Magic Rises ★★★★
7.) Magic Breaks ★★★★
8.) Magic Shifts ★★★★
8.5) Magic Stars ★★★★
9.) Magic Binds ★★★

“I hold gods prisoner, tormenting them for my pleasure. I bring war and terror. I am Neig, the Undying. I am legend. All who know me bow to me.”

Friends, I promise you, no one wanted to love this book more than me. I have been reading this series for what feels like close to a decade. And this will always be a series that I will cherish and keep close to my heart forever. But sadly, this final book just fell a little flat for me.

For those of you who do not know what this series is about, this is a ten book urban and paranormal romance series about a mercenary named Kate Daniels who will do anything to keep Atlanta safe. This Atlanta feels very much post-apocalyptic, and magic waves come and go along with paranormal creatures that sometimes choose to do bad things. Kate is human, but she has teamed up with the animal shifters, the vampires, the witches, and more to help defend Atlanta from everything that is seeking to destroy it.

And in Magic Triumphs something that is much bigger, and much worse, than anything Kate and her friends have ever encountered before, is trying to take over not only Atlanta, but the entire world.

“For the first time in my life I wished magic had never come.”

This review will not have spoilers for Magic Triumphs but it will briefly talk about things that have happened throughout the other nine novels leading up to this final conclusion. So, please use caution while reading this review if you are not caught up with Magic Binds!

I will also give a caveat and say that I did not read Iron and Magic this June, upon release. I just couldn’t fit it in my TBR, because this summer has been so busy for me with work. But I have always loved Hugh d’Ambray, and plan to pick it up one day. I will tell people that you should for sure read Iron and Magic first, because I was spoiled to something rather large at the end of this book, but it didn’t make it so I couldn’t understand or appreciate what was going on.

Though sadly, I feel like nothing really happened in Magic Triumphs until Hugh showed up at the ~70% mark. The previous ~200 pages? It honestly felt like a constant pattern of someone threatening Kate’s child, Kate getting upset, Kate killing whatever the threat is. Rinse and repeat for infinity, apparently. The “real action” literally was just jam packed quickly into the end, and even though I enjoyed it, I just wanted so much more at that point. And not in the good way of wanting so much more.

And yes, one of my favorite parts of this book was finally seeing Kate and Curran start to build their well-deserved happily ever after. And seeing Kate fully step into the role of motherhood, even though she has done a wonderful job transitioning thanks to Julie. Conlan is the cutest baby to ever be written in literature, and I was always giggling way too hard at the things he did or feeling completely and utterly heart warmed at the things he did.

“Conlan Dilmun Lennart squirmed on my chest and cried. There was no better sound in the world.”

I will say that I loved the epilogue. I think it is easily the strongest point of this book, ironically enough, and I feel like Ilona Andrews is really setting up for something that is going to be really amazing. Oh, and I truly believe that Roland is one of the best villains of all-time, too! He is the most morally grey character I believe in all of literature.

And I will always say that this series was probably the first love letter to found families that I’ve ever read. I truly believe that Kate’s found family and her realizing that she is deserving and worthy of unconditional love will always be the forefront of this story for me. And I feel like Magic Triumphs really showcases that beautifully.

Overall, I’m sad to see this come to and end. But maybe it is for the best, considering I didn’t feel the same magic that I felt earlier in this series. I will also say that I completely recommend any and everything that Ilona Andrews has created. I have loved this series, the Edge Series, and the Innkeeper Chronicles more than I have words for. This wife and husband writing duo really are the queen and king and PNR, and I can’t wait to see what they will have me fall in love with next!

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

Content and trigger warnings for murder, death, mass killing, violence, gore, torture, self-harm, talk of past rape, talk of suicide, and war themes.

Giant Days, Vol. 1 (Giant Days, #1) by John Allison & Lissa Treiman

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“Why are… boys… like this?”

This was a really fun, slice of life, college graphic-novel. And I think I liked it a little more because I always get nostalgic this time of year for college and dorm life. But this graphic novel follows three girls, who share a dorm, and are best friends.

Daisy – kind of geeky, likes ASMR, is queer. (basically me.)
Esther – hot, and extremely funny, goth. (basically ideal dating material.)
Susan – smart, and kind of grumpy. (basically the star of this volume.)

Ed – friend of the trio, with a major crush on Esther that’s pure.
McGraw – new to the university and has a mysterious past with Susan.

And we get to see these five character deal with drama, sickness, a gross article that rates girls at the university, and a birthday! But we also get to see them discover a lot about themselves over the course of these four chapters! And we also get to see their friendship grow and become even stronger.

And my favorite thing about this bind-up of the first four single issues was that each issue stands completely on its own. Yet, all four come together to help create a beautiful overarching story. Plus, this was just a lot of fun to read. Also, I didn’t know that this is set at a university in Brittain, so that was a fun treat, too!

Overall, I think this is really fun and the art is really cute, but it didn’t wow me the way I expected it to. This entire series is so beloved in the book community, but I think this could very much be the start of something amazing! I totally plan to continue on!

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❤ I read this for Contemporary-a-thon!


Down the TBR Hole #11

Down the TBR Hole was originally created by Lost in a Story! The point of it is to help cull your reading lists down, or maybe push higher anticipated releases up on your TBR! And maybe you all can help me along the way, and tell me if you’ve loved or hated any of these!

How it works:
➽ Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
➽ Order on ascending date added.
➽ Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
➽ Read the synopses of the books
➽ Decide: keep it or should it go?

Oh my gosh, this post took me back to a bookstore closing and me, being happy, buying some books super cheap, but also being so sad, because a local bookstore was closing! The rest? The books I’ve been meaning to read forever! And these six have all been on my TBR since mid 2016!

The Six Books:

Malice (The Faithful and the Fallen #1) by John Gwynne
Petrik and Eon never lead me astray, and this is one of their favorite series of all time! I know I’m going to love, I just need more time, friends! Soon, I promise, soon!
Verdict: Keep ✅

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes) by Laurie R. King
This is another Winx recommendation! Especially because they are the biggest Sherlock fan, and rave about this particular book a lot! I really think I’m going to love this one.
Verdict: Keep ✅

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
Okay, I bought this one a couple years ago when Hastings was going out of business, so I got this really cheap! But everyone I know who has read this says it is one of the scariest things they’ve ever read! Maybe I should read it in October! Would anyone want to buddy read it? I’m a big baby, fair warning!
Verdict: Keep ✅

Food Wars!, Vol. 2 by Yuto Tsukuda, Shun Saeki & Yuki Morisaki
I loved volume one of this so much, I can’t believe I haven’t gotten around to this next installment yet! Seriously, I love this world and these characters! I need more!
Verdict: Keep ✅

Sorcery & Cecelia (Cecelia & Kate #1) by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
I think this was on my list for the PopSugar Challenge one year? I don’t even know! Hahaha! Let me know if you all have read and enjoyed this one, though!
Verdict: Delete ❌

The Crown’s Game (The Crown’s Game #1) by Evelyn Skye
Oh my gosh, I bought this for clearance at that same Hastings going out of business sale! I actually have heard amazing things about this one, and I’m supposed to buddy read it with Paloma, who makes everything better!
Verdict: Keep ✅

Okay, friends, these are the next oldest six books I have on my TBR! Let me know if you love, hate, and/or recommend me to read or trash any of these books! Thank you all so much, and I hope whatever you’re currently reading is five star worthy! 💛✨

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Fight or Flight by Samantha Young

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ARC provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review.

“I never believed in fate until you”

Fight or Flight is an enemies to lovers romance starring two people who met during a layover in an airport under the worst of circumstances. I’ve read a few books by Samantha Young and I’ve enjoyed every one, but this one had a few aspects that really did have me side-eyeing.

Ava Breevort – Interior designer. Boston local. Grieving the loss of someone who used to mean a lot to her and is currently trying to fly back to Boston after attending a funeral.

Caleb Scott – CFO for an up and coming tech company. Visiting from Scotland. And currently at the airport and realizing that he is going to be stuck in the US for longer than he anticipated.

And I said this was an enemies to lovers story, so they obviously hate each other… at first. But they soon realize that the only way for them to stop thinking about each other is to get whatever it is out of their system. But only for one night. But after that one night, they realize that it might not be enough. Yet, both of these characters have built such walls around their hearts because of things that happened to them in their pasts. Plus, Caleb is stuck in Boston for a little longer. And he gets to see Ava for who she really is, and he gets to slowly meet the found family she has created for herself. This is really a story about fate and how sometimes unexpected things can really completely change the outcome of lives; for the better and for the worse.

“You win when you realize that anyone can hurt you, even those you never expect it from. Once you know that … you’ll never be knocked off your feet long enough to lose.”

This book was completely addicting, and I never wanted to put it down. Ever. No matter how infuriated I got at some of the things Caleb did and some of his gross actions. But I couldn’t write this review without talking about some of the gross things he did in this book. First off, during a sex scene, Ava realizes that he doesn’t have a condom on, and after asking him to go put one on, he kind of hesitates and goes for another stroke and…. *throws up forever* I can’t, friends, I really can’t. Next, he totally villainizes a woman for having an abortion. Like, there are a lot of aspects you could villainize this woman for; lying, using him, whatever really, but villainizing her for having an abortion just makes me sick to me stomach to read. Nothing, and I truly mean nothing, gives him a say in what any woman does with her body, ever. And lastly, this book is for sure an enemies to lovers storyline, but Caleb says some really horrible things to Ava about her appearance and judging her because of it. And I get it, sometimes we all have stereotypical thoughts about people at times, but Caleb turns it into “you don’t have power over me just because you look good” type of shit. And I’ve personally had dudes act like that to me before, and you know where they are? In the fucking trash where they belong. Like, no. It’s unacceptable, especially for the length that Caleb continued to judge Ava.

And I’m not going to say that Ava was my favorite protagonist of all-time or anything, but I really did love reading about her for many reasons. First off, she is successful and did it all on her own, with really shitty parental figures that didn’t do anything to help her. Next, she is just caring and reaches out to help others around her. Her and Harper’s friendship was probably my favorite aspect of the entire book. Lastly, I get that Ava is that typical blonde heroine, that’s skinny but has big boobs, but the author kind of has a unique spin on it, because Ava brings up how everything is always sexualized because of her bigger chest. And, I know this seems so small in comparison to everything else that needs representing in the world, but I used to really struggle with this growing up. My mom would always make me feel terrible, even just wearing a v-neck t-shirt. But, friends, I moved away from home and realized that was entirely her (and society’s) problem, not me or my genetics that I have no control over. Basically what I’m trying to say is that Caleb makes some questionable choices in this book, but Ava really is the shining star of it.

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

Content and trigger warnings for a lot of gross judgmental comments that rubbed me the completely wrong way, severe parental abuse, attempted sexual assault, physical abuse, domestic violence, cheating (in the past & not between the MCs), talk of miscarrying, talk of abortion, a brief and gross unprotected sex scene, slut shaming, loss of a loved one, and a lot of toxic masculinity.

Buddy Read with Lilly, Amy, & Leigh! ❤

❤ I also read this for Contemporary-a-thon!

Phoenix Unbound (Fallen Empire, #1) by Grace Draven

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ARC provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review.

“Witch-fire the villagers named it. An ancient magic woven into the flesh and fabric of a single girl child born each generation in Beroe. No one knew from whence it originated or why only one woman from every generation in a small village inherited it, but the village elders had kept its secret close and had deceived the Empire for decades.”

When Berkley offered me this, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew the author wrote a book that many of my friends love, Radiance, but that’s honestly all I really knew. But friends, I was completely enthralled and captivated by this from page one. I never wanted to put this down, I fell so in love with the romance in this book, and this is one of my new favorite fantasy romances of all time. And I immediately added , Radiance to my TBR!

I will say that the world in this book is very dark, so please use caution while reading. Content and trigger warnings for rape (brief, but at the very start of the book), attempted rape, threats of rape, assault, slavery, captivity, death, murder, torture, gore, violence, sacrificial ritual, blood depiction, self-harm, misogynistic comments, sexual content and war themes.

“Be still. Be silent. Some lust for beauty, others for fear. Don’t show them yours.”

But in this world, every year the surrounding villages are forced to give the empire girls to be given to the gladiators for the night, to only be burned at a pyre come morning. And if a village refuses to give up a girl, they will be made an example of. The empire is the farthest thing from forgiving, and both our main characters witness this first hand.

Gilene – Fire witch who has been the sacrificial girl for her village for the last four years, using her magic to disguises herself as a new girl. Even though she has to endure the torture of the night, she is able to walk free from the fire every year, without anyone noticing. Well, she didn’t think anyone could notice.

“Surely, he couldn’t recognize her. She’d returned to the capital time and again with a different face. Her skills with illusion were as refined as they were with fire. The slavers never knew they brought the same woman from Beroe to Kraelag year after year.”

Azarion – The prime gladiator of the empire for the last ten years. He is a slave, and forced to fight in the arena, yet it also constantly gains him the attention of the Empress who does terrible things to him, in and out of her bed. Yet, when the girls to be sacrificed come in, and he has first pick, he sees a girl that he knows has been there before. And she might be his only chance at freedom.

And the two of their paths come together, and they are both harboring secrets that will change the outcome of the other’s world. Friends, I fell so hard and so fast for this romance. Let me for sure preface the rest of the review with that I am aware there is a very big power imbalance between Gilene and Azarion, since he does force her to help him more than what she agreed to. She is forced to be his captive for about half of this book, but it never feels like a stockholm syndrome type of storyline, at least not to me. And even though this is a dark book with a bit of a power imbalance, the author puts a huge emphasis on consent. And even when Azarion is using his privilege over Gilene, it is always and constantly challenged.

“I will conquer all of the Empire to bring you back.”

(Beautiful fanart by Melanie Bourgeois!) ❤

I think this book always has a really thought-provoking message about living your life for you, and not living your life for the expectations that your family places upon you. Duty is a huge theme in this book, and Gilene and Azarion both become aware that they are so much more than what they are expected to do, and that they both deserve happiness. And I loved watching them both come together, both willing to sacrifice it all for their homes, to both realize that they are worthy of love; not just glory.

And even though this is the start of a series, I really appreciated that the author really made this feel like a complete book. There is no terrible cliffhanger (even though the twists and turns are abundant), there is no unnecessary angst, there are no scenes that feel like filler. Yet, you are left wanting to read a hundred more books set in this world. Seriously, I’m here and ready for a book about a certain healer, a certain witch who can speak to the dead, and a certain f/f side romance that had me swooning. Like, all three (or four) books now, please! I’m begging!

Overall, I really loved this. The worldbuilding is fantastic, the writing is lush and beautiful, and the characters are phenomenal. I feel like it is so hard to find a good fantasy romance these days. Yes, there are a ton of good fantasy with swoon-worthy romances, and my heart will always love the PNR genre more than words, but I always have found it difficult to find a lot of actual fantasy romances. Honestly, the only other one that I love that comes to mind is The Bird and the Sword. Like, I hope 2019 is the year that we just get a ton of books that beautiful blend romance and fantasy the way that Phoenix Unbound has done, because I need more. I can’t wait to see what Grace Draven does next in this world.

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

Buddy read with Amy at A Court of Crowns and Quills! ❤