April 2019 Book Haul

Haul4
Hey, friends! I am officially in Hawaii as you are reading this! I had such a busy April, but my mail-person also had a very busy April, too! I am so privileged and so honored to haul so many of these books! And if you can’t tell by my ebook purchases, I am very much ready to read all things romance on the beach during this vacation!


PURCHASED BOOKS:

The Strangers
Wicked Saints – ★★★★★
The Goal – ★
The Red Scrolls of Magic – ★★★★★
Descendant of the Crane
Normal People


PURCHASED EBOOKS:


A Lesson in Thorns
Enthralled
Arranged


PHYSICAL ARCS FROM PUBLISHERS (and friends):


Red, White & Royal Blue – ★★★★★
City of Bones (Lily, I love you so much) – ★★★
The Monster of Elendhaven
The Unhoneymooners – ★★★★
Well Met
Say You Still Love Me
Serious Moonlight
Heirs of Fate (Thank you, Bethany!)
Sorcery of Thorns – ★★★★



Okay, friends! I think that’s everything! I truly had such an amazing book haul this month! And I will be forever thankful! I hope you’re all having an amazing end to this April, and I hope you’re having the happiest of reading! 💖

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Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren

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ARC provided by Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.

“The world seems full of men who are initially infatuated by our eccentricities, but who ultimately expect them to be temporary.”

Most of you know that I’m a pretty big fan of Christina Lauren! Autoboyography is now one of my favorite books of all-time. And friends, I really enjoyed this book and it made me so unreasonably happy! Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating is set in Oregon and is honestly one of the cutest friends to lovers stories I’ve read in such a long while. I honestly never wanted this book to be over.

Hazel – Teacher, the quirkiest character I’ve ever read, but I mean that in a good way, and has finally reunited with a guy who she has embarrassed herself around for the past almost decade.

Josh/Jimin – Doctor, Korean (Yeah, named Jimin, smart marketing because BTS Armies are going to love him with their whole heart), and currently in a long distance relationship that isn’t working.

And these two’s paths have constantly crossed since college, but fate has truly brought them together when Hazel attends her best friend’s BBQ, only to realize that Josh is the guy who she has embarrassed herself around since college. But after that BBQ, they decided to be friends and it leads to them going on a lot of double dates, which are all mostly bad.

There is a constant theme of family in this book, both from Hazel and Josh’s side, and I loved it so much. Hazel’s relationship with her mother was so inspiring, and I loved how they loved each other unconditionally. Josh is from a much more traditional background, but the love is so there and so very abundant. Seriously, both of these families warmed my damn heart and it was easily one of my favorite parts of this book.

I also really loved how Hazel wouldn’t change herself for anyone. And I think this book does a really good job at showing you how most people are pretty negative about anyone being too loud, too weird, and too different than the standards society puts on us. This isn’t like the typical “oh, the girl is quirky and cute” but this is the more realistic and sad treatment of people who live their life to the beat of their own drum. And seeing Hazel (and Josh) always speak up if anyone was negative or judgmental, was really beautiful. Because, like, who the hell wants to be normal anyways?

“I have chaos around me, but it’s like he doesn’t even care. He doesn’t need me to change or pretend to be someone else. He’s my person. He’s my best friend.”

This book was actually funny, too! Like, I was giggling alone in bed while reading at least a third of this book. Hazel is one of the most fun protagonists I’ve read about, and she and her animals had me laughing constantly. And all the dates? So freakin’ funny! I honestly could perfectly picture this book, and I actually think it would make for a fantastic romcom movie adaptation.

But this book does have a lot of steamy scenes, so trigger and content warnings for sexual content, talk of past death of a loved one, cheating (off-screen and not main characters), and a homophobic slur.

And out of all these trigger warnings, I want to talk more about the homophobic slur, because it was so damn pointless. I mean, it was said in a negative light, but it wasn’t necessarily challenged. Like, it felt so bad to read and took me completely out of the story. These authors could have just as easily said “he said a rude thing” or hell, even “he said a homophobic slur” without actually using the word. Like, I hated it so much and it was easily the worst part of this book.

The only other negative thing I’ll say is that the ending felt rushed. Like, we spend so much time watching these two people become friends, and the romance and love has to come rather quickly. Which I get, and I don’t mind that much, but I was still shocked with how the last few chapters went and then I got hit with the word “epilogue” and it felt so abrupt. Also, this book is 95% light, cute, and heartwarming, and then it just takes a really dark turn during the last tiny bit, and it just felt very disjointed.

“You’re second only to a unicorn as far as best friends go, Josh Im.”

But overall, I really did enjoy this sweet friends to lovers story. I think this is for sure a perfect summertime read. Oh, and even though it has a cover that looks very much like Roomies, these worlds and stories are not connected what so ever. So, don’t be scared or think you have to read Roomies first! But I totally recommend this one, and I hope if you pick this one up, that you’ll enjoy it so very much, too! Happy reading!


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

I’m reading this for #smutathon, which is being hosted by Lainey and Riley! ❤

And this is a buddy read with Lilly at Lair of books!

Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

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ARC provided by Little, Brown in exchange for an honest review.

“Serina and Nomi were like any other daughters in the cold, industrial town of Lanos. But Serina had her beauty. And Nomi had her secret.”

I didn’t know much about this book going in. I didn’t even read the synopsis. I only requested from NetGalley because a few of my best friends wanted to buddy read it with me. But I went into this story expecting nothing. And as I began reading, I was enjoying, but I wasn’t expecting anything great, but the end of chapter three was such an unexpected twist. I never would have seen it coming. And it was when I knew I was going to enjoy this book.

Grace and Fury is a story about two sisters who feel like they are on the path toward the only future they can somewhat control. Yet that path gets so twisted and manipulated, so very quickly, right before their very eyes.

Serina has been taught her entire life how to be the most beautiful girl in the room. From music lessons, to dancing, to being the perfect, and quiet, girl. Her family has instilled in her that the only way she can have a good life is to use her looks to ensure a spot being a Grace for the royal heir.
Nomi has been taught how to be her sister’s handmaiden to help her win and keep that spot. But she has never wanted to live her life serving her sister as a royal, all she’s ever wanted is to be treated equally.

“It isn’t a choice when you don’t have the freedom to say no. A yes doesn’t mean the same thing when it’s the only answer you’re allowed!”

In this world, it is almost like a modern The Handmaid’s Tale, but both serve to prove that oppression wasn’t as long ago in history as people like to believe. In this world, women aren’t allowed any choices, and are forbidden to even learn to read and write. When Serina becomes a Grace, she will literally be sharing one man with many girls, and her time will be spent however he deems fit. Girls in this world who aren’t as fortunate to even begin to compete to become a Grace, are sold away to become wives of other men, with their sole purpose being to birth children. Or they can become servants and/or factory workers.

“Women were forbidden to read. Women were forbidden to choose their husbands, their jobs, their futures. Forbidden to dive for pearls or sell goods at market to help their families. Forbidden to cut their hair unless a man told them to. Forbidden to think for themselves. Forbidden to choose.”

And any woman or girl who speaks out, or does anything that is deemed only acceptable to men, will find themselves on a volcanic island prison that has been abandoned by the outside (besides to bring food and more women there) since the last eruption. And on Mount Ruin, the prison guards rule. They force the women into different clans and make them fight to the death for the food that should be equally distributed.

Trigger and content warnings for captivity, a lot of physical abuse, graphic violence, murder, death, hinting of past rape/sexual assaults, brief implied attempted rape, animal abuse and talk of past animal abuse.

This story is told from alternating points of view between the two sisters that end up going down very different paths than they ever expected. We get to see both girls explore their grace and their fury, and they soon realize that both can coexist simultaneously. When I first started reading this, Nomi was easily my favorite sister. But the more and more I read, Serina is, without a doubt, my favorite.

And I truly did enjoy it, and I loved that first twist so very much, but I feel like the second “reveal” was so painfully obvious that it started to really hinder my reading experience. I still believe that Tracy Banghart created a beautiful set up for what is probably going to be a magnificent series. Yet, I feel like if the second “twist” could have been more secretly woven (like the first), I would have ended up five starring this story.

My favorite aspect of this story was definitely the sisterhood. Together or apart, Nomi and Serina always think about the other one, and are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the other’s wellbeing. Even when things do not go as planned, and even when they are honest about their hurt and their anger, the unconditional love they have for one another always shines through.

Overall, I really did enjoy this. The first half was easily five star worthy. I might not have loved one of the sister’s point of view for the other half, but I still think this was a wonderful twist on the “princess locked away in the castle” kind of trope. And I can’t wait to see where the author takes this beautiful, feminist, story next.


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

❤ Buddy Read with: Lilly | Amy | Jules | Jen

Legendary (Caraval, #2) by Stephanie Garber

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ARC provided by Flatiron in exchange for an honest review.

1.) Caraval ★★★★

“But the best villains are the ones you secretly like, and my nana always said Legend was the villain in Caraval.”

I know that Caraval was a super polarizing read last year when it released, but I fell on the side of totally loving. From the game, to the mystery, to the lyrical writing, to the compelling characters, I couldn’t get enough. I devoured it in two sittings and never wanted to stop the reading experience. And guess what? Legendary was no different.

In Caraval we follow Scarlett and watch her run away from her home, and her abusive father, so that she can try to rescue her sister, Donatella, by winning the magical game of Caraval. Well, immediately after the outcome from Caraval, Legendary picks right up. Except this time, we follow Donatella, and she has stumbled on her own very own mystery and her very own game. And forget everything you think you learned in Caraval, because this trilogy takes a completely new approach, with completely new twists and turns, in Legendary.

“Legend has chosen you to play a game that may change your destiny.
In honor of Empress Elantine’s 75th birthday,
Caraval will visit the streets of Valenda for six magical nights.”

The invitations are distributed and a brand-new game of Caraval is going to begin, in a brand-new empire that is ruled by a very powerful empress. And this time Tella has decided to play so that she too has a chance to locate someone who has disappeared from her and Scarlett’s lives, their mother. Paloma was truly a woman of mystery, but we are able to see a few flashbacks that Tella has of her mother, along with a few of the keepsakes that Tella has kept all these years.

“For it was also said the Prince of Hearts was not capable of love, because his heart had stopped beating long ago. Only one person could make it beat again: his one true love. They said his kiss had been fatal to all but her—his only weakness—and as he’d sought her, he’d left a trail of corpses.”

We also get to see that a magical card prophesied that Tella would be a victim of unrequited love for her entire life. So, a ring that appears to be more than just a ring, and a card (think Tarot cards) that Tella took against her mother’s will, is all she has as clues. That is, until she meets someone who knows much more about that particular card, and the entire Deck of Destiny. And Tella ends up trying to win Caraval for this new stranger, for her mother, for her heart, for her life, and for Legend himself. Because the only way Tella will ever see her mother again is to win this game.

This book also had a bit more romance than Caraval, but I was completely living for it. And I’m still living for it, honestly. And like, we are maybe about to get a love triangle and I’m still totally here for it. And some of these scenes were legit 11/10, and I completely recommend. Also, I’m still swooning over Dante. But I also can’t stop thinking about Jacks and love that good angst. Be still, my heart.

“I’ve never wanted to be someone else until that moment I saw him kiss you on the dance floor.”

Okay, now I don’t want to gush too hard on you all, but you want to know what this book reminded me of? The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King by Holly Black. And chapter thirteen was such a work of art. Probably the best chapter I’ve read in any book in all of 2018.

So, why did I end up giving this four stars and not five with glowing sentences like the paragraph above this one? With so many twists and turns throughout this book, all of which blindsided me and made me fall more and more in love, the ending ended up being so predictable. Like, to the point that I thought it couldn’t be real, and that the epilogue was going to pull the wool from my eyes. But no, the disappointment just stayed. Which is so sad, because this book was so good, and such a treat to read in every single way, but the ending just made this amazing book really end on a bad note.

“Tella would destroy the world before she allowed anything to happen to her sister.”

Also, there wasn’t as much of a positive sibling emphasis in this book. Like, Tella was 100% committed to Scarlett, and we know from Caraval that Scarlett was 100% committed to Tella, but Legendary didn’t do anything to help enforce that percentage. Scarlett was honestly kind of a hot mess in this book, from start to (especially) end. I pray that Finale is either entirely in Tella’s point of view or it switches between Scarlett and Tella’s point of view. I don’t think I can deal with another solo Scarlett book after her actions in Legendary.

But overall, I really did love reading this. Again, I know not everyone does, but I just love Stephanie Garber’s writing and purple prose so much. I completely connect with it, and it completely immerses. I always feel like I’m there for all six nights of Caraval, in the castles, carriages, balls, and cathedrals. Also, these books and their settings are such aesthetic goals, I swear! Plus, this entire series is such a love letter to morally grey characters! I can’t wait to see how this all wraps up in the last book, Finale.


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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! ❤

✨ Receive a custom set of playing cards with four unique suits AND a signed bookplate when you upload your proof of preorder purchase HERE! (US only, I’m sorry)

Ash Princess (Ash Princess Trilogy #1) by Laura Sebastian

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

“My name is Theodosia Eirene Houzzara, Queen of Astrea, and I will endure this.”

Friends, I couldn’t put this down. This was such an addicting and captivating read. This was the first book of 2018 that I read in one day, which is saying something because this book is almost 450 pages. I was just so invested with the romance, the rebellion, and the betrayals, that I couldn’t stop turning the pages.

Ash Princess is Laura Sebastian’s debut novel, which is a story about a girl named Theodosia (yeah, I’m going to be singing Hamilton all day after writing this review), whose ruling mother was murdered, and their land taken over by another kingdom when she was only six-years-old. the Kaiser allowed her to live, but only so that she could live among them, while they take everything she has ever known away. She is used as a reminder for her people that the Kaiser has enslaved, and when they do anything to rise up, Theodosia takes the punishment. Her back is incredible scarred from the whippings she has had to endure, but the Kaiser also inflicts so much mental and emotional abuse alongside the physical.

“The last person who called me by my true name was my mother, with her dying breath.”

The Kaiser conquered Theodosia’s land because there are caves that run beneath four major temples that her people worship (air, fire, water, earth). And gems come from those caves to give people magic, but they also give people with an affinity for the element(s) a lot of magic. The caves have so much magic inside them, that when Theodosia’s mother would rule, people would go down and stay in the caves, most dying, but some emerging and proving that they are worth the element the god and goddesses gave to them. Now that the Kaiser rules, he forces the slaves down there to mine, but most lose their minds after being around the power(s) for too long, and eventually lose their lives.

Theodosia’s only friend is a girl named Cress, whose father is the one who swiped the blade across her mother’s throat. Inside, Theodosia feels a constant battle about what she can do while feeling so absolutely helpless. Yet, Cress also lost her mother when she was very young, so an unconventional friendship grew from two girls both mourning the mothers they never got to know. I loved seeing their friendship develop and become what it was by the end of the book. But Theodosia is constantly reminded of all the things she lost alongside her mother, but she is forced to do the only thing she can: survive. That is, until one day a boy from her past comes and offers her a way out, and a way to maybe right a few wrongs that have happened to her people.

“A life where a crown—gold or ash—doesn’t weigh heavy on my head.”

As I said above, this is a dark story about a girl who is forced to live among the people who ruined her life and killed her mother. Trigger/Content Warnings for racism, enslaving humans, abuse, torture, graphic beating, humiliation, captivation, gore, murder, death, loss of a loved one, bullying, talk of rape in the past, talk of animal murder in the past, sexual assault (unwanted touching), and rebellion/war themes.

The other thing I’d like to talk about is that the Kaiser and his people are white with light features, where Theodosia and her people have darker features and are said to have a “tawny” skin color. On top of the fact that this is a story about how one empire colonizes another, and puts the remaining population in chains and are force them to work (and die) in the mines harvesting gems.

“Maybe his interest in me isn’t just about saving the damsel. Part of him also wants to be saved. If he’s stained by his father’s sins, then maybe I’m the only person who can absolve them.”

My favorite thing about this book was easily the romance. Now, a lot of books have kind of vague, blurry, love triangles, but Ash Princess just has a blatant one, and I loved it. Theodosia is torn between her childhood friend and first love, Blaise, and a boy whose father has taken everything from her, Søren. It is legitimately friends to lovers and enemies to lovers and my shipper heart was so full of happiness. I personally like the enemies to lovers side of the triangle more, and I was falling off my bed, swooning so damn hard, during the last tunnel scene. Like, that is my romance kink, 100%, and if you’ve read this book you’ll know what scene I’m talking about. The romance in this is perfect, and I will read Lady Smoke at midnight upon release to see how these romances progress, because your girl is invested.

“You could ask me for the ocean itself and I would find a way to give it to you.”

So, you’re probably asking, “Melanie, why did you give it four stars if you enjoyed it this much and won’t stop gushing over it?” And that’s because, I’ll be honest, this story doesn’t bring anything new to the YA Fantasy world. If you read a lot of other reviews on Goodreads, you’re going to notice the same line of “this is nothing new” and it is true. A lot of reviewers are also comparing this to Red Queen and An Ember in the Ashes, but I haven’t read either of those! Basically, this isn’t groundbreaking or even unique, but it’s super well written and crafted and it truly made for an un-put-downable read for me.

Overall, I truly loved and devoured this. This was easily the most addicting thing I’ve read in 2018 thus far, and I completely recommend it with my whole heart. Again, it might not be the most original thing, but that doesn’t make it not worthwhile. I loved the characters, the twists, the plot, the friendship, the perfect romances, the atmosphere, the writing, I loved it all. This will probably be one of my favorite YA Fantasies of 2018, and I hope you all give it a try upon release!

“We are not defined by the things we do in order to survive.”


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

 

LIFEL1K3 (Lifelike #1) by Jay Kristoff

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

“Metal or meat. Blood or current. Everyone deserves a choice.”

Gentle friends, I loved this. This was an absolute treat to read! Jay Kristoff’s writing and storytelling is so unique, but if you love it then you will love it with the sum of your being. This book was one of the best things I’ve ever read, and I instantly knew it would make my top books of 2018.

I recommend this with my whole heart for fans of Borderlands, Mad Max, and even Fallout, because that is this book’s aesthetic. Yet, this book also is very reminiscent of one of my favorite Disney Animation movies, but to say which would be such a big spoiler, so I will refrain, but it was so amazing! I was constantly reminded of all these stories constantly, and I loved each and every moment. LIFEL1K3 is such a different book, that I can only compare it to these video games and movies, but I truly think it’s going to completely win over the YA world upon release.

The prologue to this book is one of the most heart-filled, heart-pounding, heart-breaking things I’ve ever read. I was instantly captivated and instantly immersed, and even though I was crying, a hand over my mouth, I could never stop reading. The start of every chapter tells more and more (in true Jay Kristoff style), and my heart continued to break and break, but I promise you; this story is so well crafted. I have no combination of words to even weave together to express how smart and seamlessly this is woven together.

“They used to call it Kalifornya, but now they called it Dregs.”

This story starts out in an alternate post-apocalyptic future of The United States. Robots in this world are the equivalent to slaves, and robots that look like humans (androids) are completely outlawed. Our main protagonist is battling in the WarDome, against robots, in a mech she has built herself from scavenging. She does these battles so that she can afford her grandfather’s medication, and in the opening of the book, she is in desperate need to win. So desperate that something happens to put an X on her back, and she and her friends are forced to flee, because the battles are broadcasted all over Dregs.

Eve – A seventeen-year-old girl, who has been living with her grandpa in Tire Valley for two years now. Eve also only has one eye, and I loved that representation with my whole heart. Also, Eve soon realizes that the life she has always known, might not be the only life she has ever lived. So many secrets. So many twists. So many choices.

“Two lives, colliding like stars inside her mind. The life she knew—the life of Evie Carpenter. Domefighter. Top-tier botdoc. A skinny little scavvergirl eking out a living on the island of Dregs. And someone else. Another girl entirely.”

Lemon – Eve’s best friend, who lives with her. Also, the funniest character I’ve read about in a really long time. I’m talking about full on, have to put the book down, giggles. Like, this book has the best banter I may have ever read, and all of the amazingness came from Lemon Fresh. One of my new all-time favorite characters. But I will say that Lemon does have a scene that bothered me, when she tried to take a peak at what was under a lifelike’s pants. It didn’t happen, but still, things like that are never cute, and her being a girl and him being a boy doesn’t make it okay. But besides this one thing, Lemon Fresh was truly the star of this book for me, and I want to be her when I grow up.

“I don’t care who’s after you. Where you’re from or where you’re going. It’s you, me, Crick and Kaiser. No matter what. Rule Number One in the Scrap, remember? Stronger together, together forever.”

Cricket – AI that was made to protect Eve by her grandpa. And even though they are adorable, my only complaint is about this character. Cricket is with the girls when they find a lifelike, and when they find him, he is missing an arm since it was a really bad crash. Throughout the book Cricket calls Ezekiel “Stumpy” and “Braintrauma” and it just read really bad. It also kind of makes me not like Cricket as much as I’m sure many others will.

“If he wasn’t a real person, why does this hurt so badly?”

Ezekiel – I loved Ezekiel, so much, instantly, right off the bat. He is the lifelike that Eve and Lemon find, when they are rushing home after the events that happened at the WarDome. lifelikes are outlawed everywhere, because they somehow broke the Three Laws that are hard-coded into every single robot.

“He gave us life, but he intended us to live it on our knees.”

And many of these lifelikes resided in a place called Babel. Growing up, you guys might have learned about the story of Tower of Babel as a lesson about why we speak so many different languages. Basically, after the Great Flood happened, a bunch of people came together and agreed to build a tower that would touch Heaven itself. God, realizing what they are attempting, scatters them all around the world and makes them all speak different languages, hence our world today. And the irony was not missed on how perfect of a title for a residence this is. And all the lifelike’s names are also super biblical.

The soul of this novel is about oppression, and the sick things we are willing to tell ourselves to justify it. How people will treat other living being differently, and unjustly, because they feel like they are higher on the social hierarchy. This book may be about humans vs robots, but I think it mirrors a lot of issues going on in today’s world, and I think a lot of people could take away many things from this book.

“Look outside that door, and you will see a world built on metal backs. Held together by metal hands.”

The heart of this novel is about love, and how we are always deserving of it, even if we are searching for it our entire lives. The romance in this was exceptionally done, and I was swooning so hard at so many different scenes. But this book doesn’t just focus on the romantic love between two people, but also the importance of love between friends. Eve and Lemon’s friendship is honestly goals. And this book is for sure a love letter to found families everywhere.

“It’s simple to love someone on the days that are easy. But you find out what your love is made of on the days that are hard.”

And in true Jay Kristoff fashion, he ripped my heart out at the end of this book. I honestly am not sure how I’m going to be able to cope and deal with the wait for the next book. It will easily be one of my most anticipated releases of 2019, and I am so curious what direction the story is going to go. I also believe, with my whole heart, that the second book will be even better than LIFEL1K3. Even though this was a five star read, it was setting the stage for something that’s going to be such a damn masterpiece.

Overall, I loved this. I loved seeing Eve discover who she was, who she is, and who she wants to be. I loved the beautiful, lyrical writing. I loved the important themes and discussions that were expertly woven in. I loved laughing and crying and feeling everything in-between for the characters. I loved this world and traveling it alongside these characters. I even loved all the twists and turns. Also, to say that this has a cliffhanger ending is a damn understatement. But this was such a fun read, and I think there is so much that so many will love, too! I hope you all pick this one up come May 29th!

“Your past doesn’t make calls on your future. It doesn’t matter who you were. Only who you are.”

Content/Trigger Warnings: murder, gore, violence, death, loss of a loved one, bullying, robotic animal cruelty, talk of suicide, talk of cancer, terminal illness, child abandonment, physical abuse, torture, bombings, and war themes.

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

Buddy read with Chelsea at The Suspense is Thrilling Me! ❤



Submit your proof of preorder HERE by May 29th, 2018 to receive a collectible print featuring an original illustration of a map of the Grande Ol’ Yousay by artist Virginia Allyn and four beautiful LIFEL1K3 bookmarks by artist Mona May! (US mailing address required. I’m sorry.)

Circe by Madeline Miller

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

“When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.”

This is the pièce de résistance I’ve been searching for my entire life. Not only did I fall in love with this story, I predict that this will be the best book I’ll read all year. This book is about healing and doing what it takes to come into your own. This book is about love; the love between lovers, the love of a mother, and the love you must find in yourself. This book proves why family of choice will always be greater than family of origin. This book is about magic, and how we can find it in ourselves if we look hard enough. This is a book about becoming the witch you’ve always buried deep inside you.

“They do not care if you are good. They barely care if you are wicked. The only thing that makes them listen is power.”

Okay, maybe I should start this review off with a somewhat personal story. I was very privileged to go a very good high school where I was able to study The Iliad and The Odyssey for a class my freshman year. And fourteen-year-old Melanie fell in love. To say I was obsessed was an understatement, and more and more my heart was filled with love for Odysseus, Athena, and a certain love affair with the witch-goddess Circe.

(Beautiful art by Kevin Nichols)

Even upon finishing that class, I still couldn’t get enough of Homer’s words. And to this day, The Iliad and The Odyssey are the only books that I collect many editions of. All my loved ones and family correlate these epic poems with me, and always bring me new editions from their travels, and give me gifts for special events and holidays the same way they do with Harry Potter. One of the most prized possession I own is an edition of The Odyssey that was given to me by someone who meant a lot to me, at a very important time in my life. And these two tomes will always be a big part of my identity, and I will always recognize that they not only shaped me as a reader, but they shaped me as a human being, too.

So, when I found out that that Greek mythology retelling queen, Madeline Miller, was writing a book centered around Circe, I knew it was going to end up being one of my favorite books of all time. And it ended up being everything I wanted and more. I hate to throw around the word masterpiece, but if I had to pick a book to give that title to, I’d pick Circe.

“Odysseus, son of Laertes, the great traveler, prince of wiles and tricks and a thousand ways. He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.”

And even though Odysseus plays a huge role in this story, this book is Circe’s and Circe’s alone. We get to see her growing up in Oceanus, with her Titan sun god father Helios, and loveless nymph mother Perse, and her three more ambitious siblings, Aeëtes, Pasiphaë, and Perses. We get to see her living her life of solitude, exiled on the island of Aiaia. We also get to see her make a few very important trips, that are very monumental in Greek mythos. But we get to see all of Circe, the broken parts, the healing parts, and the complete parts. We get to see her love, her loss, her discovery, her resolve, and her determination. We get to see her question what it means to be immortal, what it means to be a nymph in a world ruled by gods, and what it means to just live. Her journey is unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and probably unlike anything I will ever read again. I have no combination of words to express how much her life and her story means to me. But I promise, I’m not the same person I was before reading this book.

“…All my life had been murk and depths, but I was not a part of that dark water. I was a creature within it.”

This is ultimately a story about how different the tales will always be told for a man. And how the ballads will always be sung for heroes, not heroines, even if a woman was truly behind all the success the man greedily reaped. How the light will always fall to vilify the woman and showcase her as a witch that needs to be tamed, a sorceress that needs to be subdued, or an enchantress that needs to be defeated. Women, no matter how much agency they carve out in any male dominated world, will always be a means to an end to further the achievements of man. Always. And Circe displays that at the forefront of this story.

Circe is most well known for turning Odysseus’s men into pigs when they come to her island in The Odyssey, but Madeline Miller does such a wonderful job weaving all this Greek mythology into a fully fleshed out, brand-new tale. She has created something so unique, yet so breathtakingly good, I think so many readers will find it impossible to put this new-spin of a story down. I was completely captivated and enthralled from the very first line to the very last line. This book just feels so authentic, I felt like I was in the ocean, on the island, and traveling right beside Circe throughout. And I never wanted to leave her side.

“It was their favorite bitter joke: those who fight against prophecy only draw it more tightly around their throats.”

Overall, I understand that this is a book that is very targeted to me and my likes. Not only is this a character driven story, with a main protagonist being a character I’ve been in love with for over a decade, but the writing was lyrical perfection. I’m such a quote reader, and I swear I would have highlighted this entire book. This book is also so beautifully feminist that it makes me weep just thinking about the things Circe had to endure. And it showcases the unconditional love of found families, yet also between a mother and her child, while simultaneously abolishing the notion that blood is worth more than anything else in any world. This book heavily emphasizes that you will never be the mistakes that your parents have committed. The entire story is a love letter to love itself and reveals all the things we are willing to do in the name of it. And most importantly, this is a book about how we are truly only ever in charge of our own stories, even though our actions may change the fate for others around us. Please, pick this masterpiece up, and I hope it changes your life, too.

Thank you, Madeline Miller, I will carry your Circe in my heart for the rest of my life.

“That is one thing gods and mortals share: when we are young, we think ourselves the first to have each feeling in the world.”

Trigger/Content Warnings: Violence, gore, murder, torture, physical abuse, child abuse, thoughts of suicide, brief scene with cutting, graphic childbirth scenes, mention of bestiality, mention of incest, animal sacrifice, death of a sibling, death of a child, death of a loved one, death of an animal, rape, adultery, and war themes.

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


✨ Signed and personalized copies are available through Main Point Books! (They can ship anywhere in the US, anywhere in the UK, and also to some other international locations!)

Grey Sister (Book of the Ancestor, #2) by Mark Lawrence

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

1.) Red Sister ★★★★★

“But I must warn you, sister, that a sickness runs in me, and if you fashion yourself my enemy I will make a ruin of your life, for I am born of war.”

Grey Sister is such a wonderful addition to this world, and it was everything I wanted it to be and more. Mark Lawrence truly never disappoints, and Nona will always be one of my favorite protagonists of all time. If you guys haven’t, please pick up Red Sister and discover how amazing this world, these characters, and this story truly are.

This is a dark world, where many parents will sell their children because they cannot afford to keep them. Some of these children end up never having their stories told, but a few of them end up having a bit of magic from being a descendant of one of the four tribes, and go to Sweet Mercy’s Convent in hopes of them becoming a very powerful warrior that will always fight for good.

Four Tribes that the people in this world can descend from:
Gerant – Great size and strength.
Hunska – Quick speed.
Marjal – The ability to tap into lesser magic.
Quantal – The ability to walk the Path and work greater magic.

And after horrible situation after horrible situation, our dear Nona gets purchased in Red Sister at the age of eleven. Now, it’s been five years, and Nona is just now entering Mystic class where, despite being one of the strongest young ladies in the school, she is having a difficult time.

“It’s hard to see old friends with new eyes.”

Four Classes in the Convent for the novices to learn as a group:
Red Class – Ages 9-12 typically.
Grey Class – Ages 13-14 typically.
Mystic Class – Ages 15-16 typically.
Holy Class – Ages 17-19 typically.

But these young ladies, who will be training extremely hard and diligently for ten years, can become many different things. Nona, so far, has proven that she will become one of the most feared Red Sisters to ever walk this world. But Zole, her friend from the Ice Tribe, who everyone believes is the chosen one that Nona will protect her whole life, is proving to be one of the most powerful Mystics ever.

Four Paths for the novices to take once they become nuns:
Bride of the Ancestor, Holy Sister – Honors the Ancestors and keeps the faith.
Martial Sister, Red Sister – Warriors skilled in armed and unarmed combat.
Sister of Discretion, Grey Sister – Masters of stealth and potions with shadow work.
Mystic Sister, Holy Witch – Walks the Path and manipulates threads.

But sadly, Nona can’t shake her past, or the terrible things that happened when she was only eleven- years-old. Five years later, people are still after her, and they are relentless in their pursuit to settle past grudges. Yet Nona is now carrying a new friend with her, who amplifies her powers, but at the cost of losing her shadow.

“She had lost a shadow, lost two friends, and gained a devil.”

But about half way into this book, everything gets flipped on its head, and I’m not even sure if my body can produce any more tears. Tears for sadness, tears for happiness, tears because I don’t want to wait a year to read the next book, all the tears, okay? From shiphearts, to arks, to demons, to poisons, to chains, to prophecies, to even the moon; this book has everything and makes you feel everything. And I feel forever thankful for this tale.

This book is also different, because it switches points of view with Abbess Glass a lot! And man, oh man, do I love that woman with my whole heart. This book heavily deals with betrayals, and all of the twists and turns were out of this world. But the things that these Sisters are willing to do for one another? I don’t have any combination of words for how perfect it is.

The theme of friendship, and what we are willing to do for the found family we choose, is constant throughout this amazing book. Unconditional love is the most powerful force in any world, and this book just reinforces that statement. And seeing all these phenomenal girl friendships, while they kick ass side by side? It’s something I don’t even have words for. But I’ll be forever thankful that this series exists.

Another major theme in Grey Sister is forgiveness. Some people will never learn the word, and they will let revenge poison their entire life. Forgiveness isn’t always easy, Nona proves it time and time again, but sometimes its truly the only path worth taking. (I’m not crying, you’re crying!)

“Trust is the most insidious of poisons.”

Trigger/Content Warnings: Physical abuse, bullying, torture, murder, death, gore, death of a child, death of a loved one, and themes of war.

You all know how much I love Nevernight. Truly, with my whole heart. And these two series are so very similar, when it comes to kids training and fighting for a church, when it comes to a girl running from a past she had no control of, when it comes to both of those girls having very distinct companions. You can’t miss the similarities. And even though I do love both, the Book of the Ancestor series is just better. It feels more real, it feels more adult, and it makes me feel even more things. But if you, too, enjoy Nevernight, you have to give this series a try. I promise, you’ll fall in love!

Another amazing thing that I want to mention here, is that Mark Lawrence put a recap section at the start of this book, and it was one of the most helpful things I’ve ever seen an author do. I felt completely aware of everything going on in the world, and which specialty every teacher had, after reading. It was so damn thoughtful, and I wish every single author would do this and make it a series norm.

“We are all part of the Ancestor’s tree. A twig that breaks free will, however advantageous the wind, fall and wither in time.”

Overall, Mark Lawrence weaves together a tale that is so eloquent, yet so filled with action. I love nothing more than seeing the events of the past and the events of the present slowly coming together into a masterpiece of a series. I truly believe this is a once in a lifetime series. Mark Lawrence’s writing is so very teleportative and nothing short of beautiful. I swear, I could highlight at least half of this book. When I open a book of his, I am instantly captivated and enthralled. And I never ever want to put it down. When I say Nona is my favorite protagonist of all time, I don’t throw around that title lightly. And this story is just on a whole other tier for adult fantasy. I will forever cherish these books, and I cannot wait to get my hands on Holy Sister!

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

Buddy read with Lilly at Lair of Books! (If you all aren’t following her, stop depriving yourself, and hit that friend request or follow button now, because she’s a confirmed angel who blesses my life on the daily!)

The Barrow Will Send What it May (Danielle Cain #2) by Margaret Killjoy

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ARC provided by Tor in exchange for an honest review.

1.) The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion ★★★★

This series means so much to me, and I think these are some of the best novellas that Tor has to offer. Friends, please, stop sleeping on these books and give this awesome series about a group of racially diverse, LGBTQIAP+, modern day Scooby-Doo-like (but instead of the Mystery Machine they have a bookmobile), demon hunting, punk rock, anarchists, a try! I’m honestly begging.

And in this second installment, Danielle and her brand-new friends are on the run after the events that took place in The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion with a certain demonic deer that was summoned. Now, they are half demon hunters looking for their next mission, and half just laying low from the law.

“Also I guess I kind of fed an anarchist to a deer a couple days ago but that’s beside the point.”

And the crew? They are pretty much my favorite crew of all time:
Danielle – 28, has been traveling for ten years, now has a precarious hand bite!
Brynn – Tattoo artist, and half of the sweetest, most wonderful, slow-burn romance with Danielle.
Vulture – My favorite, and the funniest member of the group. He is a transman, black, gay, and Instagram obsessed.
Thursday – I loved getting to know him more in this novella. We knew he uses he/him pronouns and is a PoC from book one, but we found out he is also pretty funny in this book. He is also the protector of the group, and is such a heartwarming character.
Doomsday – She is in a relationship with Thursday and was part of the original summoning from book one.

But they have stumbled upon a new town in Montana, that happens to have a squatter owned building, turned library, that specializes in occult books! Oh, and there may or may not be a necromancer that is raising the dead because of a certain spell in a spell book. #myaesthetic

“Pendleton Library. Still free. Still open to the public. 10 a.m.—4 p.m. Run by anarchists.”

But with necromancy, there is always a price to be paid. And this new, somewhat abandoned tourist town, ends up being a brand-new mystery for Danielle and her new friends. And there is so much good within these magical 160 pages. This book really talks about power imbalances and how people will constantly abuse the power dynamic if you allow it. This book talks about how physical contact can not only comfort but can actually heal. There is always a heavy emphasis on pronouns and correctly using them. This book also completely celebrates the importance of found family. And this book has one of the sweetest and most rewarding friends to lovers, f/f relationships I’ve read about in a long while.

“We don’t get to choose how we die, only how we live, and I like you and I’m glad I got to know you.”

And as diverse as this cast is, there is mention of a gender fluid character, there is talk of polya relationships, and this is probably the only book(s) I’ve ever read that normalizes people not conforming to society and choosing to be homeless and travel around. Also, the author themselves is a transwoman. I also feel like these books are very personal to the author, and the love for these characters truly bleeds onto the page. I couldn’t help but fall in love with them too, and all of their realness and all their rawness.

And Margaret Killjoy has written the most realistic depiction of anxiety and panic attacks that I’ve ever read in my entire life. And I have never even seen another author mention a medical panic attack before. This whole series means a lot to me, but I don’t even have words for how seen I felt seeing Danielle dealing with something I deal with at least once a week.

Content Warnings for a car crash, death of a friend, death of a loved one, murder, talk of cancer, and mild violence.

Overall, I wish I could put these books in everyone’s hands. I know so many of my friends would love them, if they only gave them a try. These are such amazing little horror novellas, that have so much representation just shining brightly constantly. I hope that the world gets so many more books in this series. And I’ll read them all with the biggest smile on my face!

“I’ll stay down here, keep an eye on the door. If I’m going to die again, I’d rather be first and I’d rather be surrounded by books.”

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

The Heart Forger (The Bone Witch, #2) by Rin Chupeco

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ARC provided by Sourcebooks in exchange for an honest review.

1.) The Bone Witch ★★★★

“I suppose the trouble began again when I tried raising a king from the dead.”

This series means so much to me. I loved The Bone Witch so much, but The Heart Forger is now in a tier by itself. This is the type of book that makes you wish there were more than fives stars, because it just feels like it deserves something more. It was glorious perfection, and Tea is my favorite necromancer of all time. And Rin Chupeco is a master storyteller.

“She wore the corpses for show. They trailed behind her, grotesque fabrics of writhing flesh and bone, spreading across the plain for miles around us.”

This is an ownvoices, Asian inspired, fantasy story that stars a young necromancer, looking for her place in a world that has constantly told her she is going to become evil. This story is told in two parts, but not equally. The lesser part, before every new chapter, are the events taking place through a bard’s eyes, who is chronicling the events currently, where Tea is proving to become the evil villain the world wanted her to be. But the main story is told in the past, and we get to slowly find out what happened to put Tea on this path that the bard is seeing.

“What’s one more lie to believe when I am just a scheming, murderous bone witch, constantly seeking stars beyond her reach?”

One of the more unique and cool aspects of this world, is that all the people wear heartglasses around their necks. Your heartglass will change colors depending on what you’re feeling but will overall stay mostly the same color. Yet, silver means you draw runes, which means you can fight, whether it be as an asha if you’re a girl or as a solider if you’re a boy. Silver heartglasses are so very important and are so very sought after.

Other ashas control elements: fire, earth, water, wind. But Tea is a bone witch, AKA: a dark asha, and she deals in death. Bone witches are not very respected in this world, even though their powers hold the most important job in this world, because they are the only ones who can defeat Daeva, AKA: different demons who dwell in this world, who are resurrected every so often. Also, bone witches are incredibly rare, but they seem to not live long.

“…black heartsglass is the ultimate fate of bone witches like us, Tea. Dark asha do not live long lives. But when they do, it is only a matter of time before their hearts become corrupted.”

This book places a big emphasis on gender roles and the way the world also forces us to conform to them. A side character, is constantly battling against them, and all the main characters are so supportive and uplifting. Likh is also the sweetest little cinnamon roll and I want to personally protect them at all costs.

Queerness always plays a pretty big part in this story. First off, we have two queer ladies that are big side character that had me smiling from ear to ear. Next, this book is called The Heart Forger, and that heart forger has been ostracized by his ruling father, stripped of his crown, because of the fact he likes men. You all, I don’t have words, only tears. But such wonderful discussions are held within the pages of these books. And I appreciate it so much.

The only “negative” thing I’ll say is that the three boys in this book all have names that start with the letter K, and it is a little hard (at least for me) to keep straight! So, let me do a little break down for you guys, in case you also have this problem:
Khalad – The newest heart forger, but still an apprentice.
Kance – Prince, who will eventually be king. Khalad’s younger brother and Kalen’s cousin.
Kalen – Amazing warrior who is promised to protect Kance at all costs.

But this was honestly my only problem with this book. Besides this little qualm, this book is perfection in my eyes. And this story is so inspiring, I can’t even put the feelings into words. And Tea is one of the most selfless protagonists I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Every choice she makes is so important. And it’s so beautiful to see her choosing actions that go against what everyone thinks she will become. This series has so many feministic themes, and I’m living for each and every one of them.

“Tea, you should prove them wrong. Show them asha are more than concubines for princes.”

You guys know I’m weak for a good sibling relationship, especially between a brother and sister, and Tea and her brother (that she resurrected to ultimately find out she was a bone witch) are goals! Fox is such a good character. And him and Tea’s banter is so believable and perfection. And Tea catching glimpses of her brother and a princess brought me so much joy and too many giggles. And now that we know what Tea is still trying to accomplish in present time, because they both share a lifeline. My heart, I can’t. The love between siblings can be so powerful.

But speaking of love. You all, I wasn’t prepared for the damn romance in this book. The Bone Witch gave us little breadcrumbs, but The Heart Forger busted through the door and asked me to hold their beer. Page 319 did things to me, and I’m still reeling. And, again, to know the outcome from the present time through the bard’s eyes, it equally guts me, yet warms my heart. It is so good.

“He kissed me. In full view of the nobles, in full view of the emperor and anyone who wanted to see, his mouth hot against mine. He tasted like everything I wanted, and he kissed like I could reach into his heart and take everything I desired from it.”

Overall, this has every single element that I look for and love in the fantasy I read. This has such a diverse cast, the magic is so unique, the world building is fantastical, the animal companion of Tea’s is everything, Tea herself is the feminist main character I want in every book, the writing is lyrical, I highlighted at least one quote in each chapter, and I mean, this is ultimately a story about demolishing some patriarchies. This story has it all, and I feel so blessed to have been able to read it. This is, without a doubt, going on my “best of 2018” list.

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

Buddy read with Lilly at Lair of Books ! ❤

Bonus Content:

Cute picture of me and my Grandmother who immigrated here from the Philippines in the 60s, who also loves The Bone Witch! I normally don’t disclose personal things about my family in reviews, but I got permission from her, and I really wanted to emphasize how much this series means to me. My Lola was so happy when I told her one of my favorite books of 2017 (and now of 2018) was written by a Filipino author! And never let anyone tell you that representation doesn’t matter. In your late twenties, in your late seventies, at any age, it matters. I promise.