Review + Q&A: “Foul is Fair” by Hannah Capin

42595554Title: Foul is Fair
Author: Hannah Capin
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Content warning: Sexual assault, rape, physical violence, murder, suicide, transphobic bullying
(For a more comprehensive list of CWs please visit the author’s site.)
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

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ARC provided by the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Dark and gritty, Hannah Capin tells a tale of burning rage and bloody vengeance in her sophomore offering Foul is Fair.

Elle and her friends Mads, Jenney, and Summer rule their glittering LA circle. Untouchable they have the kind of power other girls only dream of. Every party is theirs and the world is at their feet. Until the night of Elle’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Elle as their next target.

They picked the wrong girl.

Sworn to vengeance, Elle transfers to St. Andrew’s. She plots to destroy each boy, one by one. She’ll take their power, their lives, and their control of the prep school’s hierarchy. And she and her coven have the perfect way in: a boy named Mack, whose ambition could turn deadly.

Revenge and murder, these two words seem to always draw my attention, and it’s those same words that brought me to this book.

Foul is Fair is vicious, bloody and unapologetically angry. Capin channels the Bard’s Macbeth putting her own twists to it supplanting power-grabbing, murderous Scottish nobles and prophesying witches with entitled rich kids from an elite prep school and a group of knife-sharp girls bonded by their pact of vengeance.

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This book doesn’t hold anything back but consider yourselves forewarned: a good chunk of what happens in this book is implausible so suspend your disbelief, leave it at the doorstep before delving in.

This book was just impossible to put down. The story is fast-paced; the writing is crisp and sharp. Capin tackles rape culture and privilege head on, no frills, no social commentary buried in complex prose. Manipulative, diabolic, and so full of dark, deadly secrets, her characters in this story are not ones you usually see or even want to root for. These characters are shallowly drawn, almost like a caricature – something that usually turns me off but for this story, it works.

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It may not be for everyone, Foul is Fair is grim, even more grim than I thought it would be. At several points, the story could be too much that’s it’s hard to continue pushing back your disbelief, but there is certainly something freeing reading something that puts into words some of the deepest and darkest thoughts you’ve had. If you’ve enjoyed Sadie (Courtney Summers,) The Female of the Species (Mindy McGinnis,) and Sawkill Girls (Claire Legrand,) this book is for you.

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Though it was tough at times, I enjoyed reading Foul is Fair. It was filled to the brim with heedless, reckless rage, which was just so deliciously gratifying.  So, I’m happy to have a chance to ask Hannah Capin a few short questions about her new book.

What inspired you to write Foul is Fair?

For a very long time, I’ve wanted to write a story that subverts the expected narrative of a sexual assault survivor. FOUL IS FAIR centers a girl who seizes her power back by any means necessary. She isn’t a “good girl,” she doesn’t do what she “should” do, and she absolutely never apologizes.

What would you like readers to take away after finishing this book?

That’s up to the reader! Books should *make* you think, not tell you *what* to think.

In 2 GIFs or emojis, sum up Foul is Fair.

about the authorHannah Capin

HANNAH CAPIN is the author of Foul is Fair and The Dead Queens Club, a feminist retelling of the wives of Henry VIII. When she isn’t writing, she can be found singing, sailing, or pulling marathon gossip sessions with her girl squad. She lives in Tidewater, Virginia.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

 

 

 

 

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Special thanks go out to Meghan Harrington and Wednesday Books for inviting me to this tour and giving me the chance to read Foul is Fair in advance.

Review: “Beyond the Shadowed Earth” by Joanna Ruth Meyer

book coverTitle: Beyond the Shadowed Earth
Series: Beneath the Haunting Sea #2
Author: Joanna Ruth Meyer
Publication Date: January 14, 2020
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Pre-order: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Featuring morally gray characters and an intricate plot, Joanna Ruth Meyer’s companion novel to her 2018 debut Beneath the Haunting Sea is a complex tale about vengeance, guilt, and redemption.

It has always been Eda’s dream to become empress, no matter the cost. Haunted by her ambition and selfishness, she’s convinced that the only way to achieve her goal is to barter with the gods. But all requests come with a price and Eda bargains away the soul of her best friend in exchange for the crown

Years later, her hold on the empire begins to crumble and her best friend unexpectedly grows sick and dies. Gnawed by guilt and betrayal, Eda embarks on a harrowing journey to confront the very god who gave her the kingdom in the first place. However, she soon discovers that he’s trapped at the center of an otherworldly labyrinth and that her bargain with him is more complex than she ever could have imagined.

Though not without flaws, Beyond the Shadowed Earth was, overall, an enjoyable read. Set in the world of Meyer’s debut Beneath the Haunting Sea, this book was ambitious in its coverage; expanding on already established elements and exploring characters previously introduced.

The story focuses on book one’s antagonist, Eda. Intent on taking revenge on the baron who stole her inheritance, a grieving nine-year-old Eda makes a deal with the god Tuer: her life in his service in exchange for the crown. Bargaining with gods, however, are tricky transactions and when Eda fails to fulfill her end of it, she realizes, much too late, that the consequences are bigger than her.

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I’m going to be honest. I had a hard time with this book. Yes, the plot was intriguing, and yes, the world building was well done. I loved and enjoyed both elements. I am, however, of two minds about its characters.

Eda, to say the least, is unlikable. She’s selfish, self-centered, naive, and vengeful. She is so blinded by her anger that it clouds her judgment. She bartered with a god, schemed and killed her way to get the crown. She is everything a villain is.

Being unlikeable, though, isn’t the reason why I have conflicting feelings about her.

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All throughout the book, things happen to Eda – tough ones. She lost both of her parents at a very young age, was displaced and betrayed and used. Her best friend, the one person she truly cares for, is taken from her all while her hold on her empire slips, her barons making their own moves to grab whatever power they could. All these are meant and should have made me, at the very least, a little bit considerate if not totally empathetic towards her. But it was so difficult to connect with Eda. Her character was shallowly drawn and one-dimensional. There just wasn’t so much to her, no hidden depths. This also holds true for most of the supporting characters, which, for a character-driven story, is a big problem.

Setting my issues with character development aside, I still found many things to like in Beyond the Shadowed Earth.

The world building was exquisite. From its complicated politics to its intricate religion, Enduena was fully alive and I gladly immersed myself in it. The magical and almost mythical nine gods, the center of this story’s religion, was the most interesting part for me, and, admittedly, it was what kept me reading especially when Eda’s story wasn’t progressing much.

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Ultimately, even with its share of issues, Beyond the Shadowed Earth was a good read. The conclusion to Eda’s story was satisfying, open-ended enough but with clues that she’s on to the right path. This book is the second of the series, but could pretty much stand on its own. YA fantasy readers, especially the ones that love a good redemption arc will love this story.

about the authorJoanna Ruth Meyer

JOANNA RUTH MEYER hails from Mesa, Arizona, where she lives with her dear family, a rascally feline, and an enormous grand piano. When she’s not writing, she’s trying to convince her students that Bach is actually awesome, or plotting her escape from the desert. She loves good music, thick books, looseleaf tea, rainstorms, and staring out of windows. One day, she aspires to own an old Victorian house with creaky wooden floors and a tower (for writing in, of course!)

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook 

 

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January 8th

The Unofficial Addiction Book Fan Club – Welcome Post

January 9th 

NovelKnight – Guest Post
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January 10th

A Book Addict’s Bookshelves – Interview
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January 11th

Bookish Looks – Guest Post
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January 12th

Sometimes Leelynn Reads – Review + Favourite Quotes
Shalini’s Books & Reviews – Review
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January 13th

Whispers & Wonder – Review
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January 14th

L.M. Durand – Interview
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Giveaway

Review: “Across a Broken Shore” by Amy Trueblood

40024145Title: Across a Broken Shore
Author: Amy Trueblood
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Publisher: Flux
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

 

Set in the latter years of the Great Depression in America, Amy Trueblood tells the story of a young woman divided between family and ambition in her latest YA historical.

The last thing eighteen-year-old Wilhelmina “Willa” MacCarthy wants is to be a nun. It’s 1936, and as the only daughter amongst four sons, her Irish-Catholic family is counting on her to take her vows – but Willa’s found another calling. Each day she sneaks away to help Doctor Katherine Winston in her medical clinic in San Francisco’s Richmond District.

Keeping secrets from her family only becomes more complicated when Willa agrees to help the doctor at a field hospital near the new bridge being built over the Golden Gate. Willa thinks she can handle her new chaotic life, but as she draws closer to a dashing young ironworker and risks grow at the bridge, she discovers that hiding from what she truly wants may be her biggest lie of all.

It’s been a handful of months since the last time I read a historical having favored SFF heavily for most of this year. It was a good run but, admittedly, I missed the cozy comfort that a good historical brings and, reader, I couldn’t be gladder to dip back into this genre with this book.

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With the construction of San Francisco’s famed Golden Gate Bridge in its background, Across a Broken Shore will transport readers to late 1830s America – a time of great hardship for many, but also of hope. It was an enjoyable read, both touching and relatable in equal measures.

The story centers on eighteen-year-old Willa MacCarthy. Having finished high school, Willa’s all but bidding time, albeit with increasing dread, until she enters the convent. It was a fate her traditional Irish-Catholic parents had set for her ever since she was young and, burdened both by guilt and duty, Willa had consigned herself to it that was until she met Dr. Winston. 

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Across a Broken Shore dealt with some complicated and tough topics: the often-limiting and disembodying weight of familial duty and expectations, the stifling rules of tradition and convention, the challenges and prejudices women had to weather and pretend to be immune from in a world built for men. I loved that Trueblood incorporated all these issues within her narrative. It made the story believable and relatable because even if this novel was set some 80+ years ago these are issues are still pretty much a problem for so many other people. 

Still, crucial though they may be, the heart of this novel is still Willa.

Willa, as a character, was relatable and readers will find themselves empathizing with her. She’s strong in her own way, smart, resourceful and capable. I couldn’t help feeling angry on her behalf for the way her whole family, with the exception of Paddy, treats her. They limited her, forcing her to conform to be this person they think she should be. 

Across a Broken Shore quote 3

Dr. Katherine Winston was another character I loved. She was a mentor and a friend to Willa, encouraging her to follow her heart’s desire and, in the end, giving her the means to do so. She along with Willa’s brother Paddy, Cara, Willa’s best friend, and Sam, her love interest, were bright lights in Willa’s life. They advocated for her and pushed her to assert her agency amidst the one-tracked fate her parents laid out for her.

Across a Broken Shore quote 4

Though perhaps the last 50 or so pages were a bit circular before finally coming to a final resolution, Across a Broken Shore was a solid coming-of-age novel. Readers will be inspired by Willa’s determination and will identify with her struggles. This is my first book from Amy Trueblood but it certainly will not be the last. I highly recommend this read, especially for those who love historical fiction.

about the author

amy-t.-bio-photoAMY TRUEBLOOD grew up in California only ten minutes from Disneyland which sparked an early interest in storytelling, As the youngest of five, she spent most of her time trying to find a quiet place to curl up with her favorite books. After graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in journalism, she worked in entertainment in Los Angeles before returning to work in Arizona.

Fueled by good coffee and an awesome Spotify playlist, you can often find Amy blogging and writing. Nothing But Sky, a 2018 Junior Library Guild selection, is her first novel.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Tumblr

Review: “The Never Tilting World” by Rin Chupeco

The Never Tilting World
Title: The Never Tilting World
Series: Never Tilting World #1
Author: Rin Chupeco
Publication Date: October 15, 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves
ARC provided by the publisher through Edelweiss. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Two young goddesses try to right a world gone wrong in Rin Chupeco’s newest fantasy duology The Never Tilting World.

Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon. But seventeen years ago, one sister’s betrayal defied an ancient prophecy and split their world in two. The planet ceased to spin, and a Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in perpetual night, the other scorched by unrelenting sun.
While one sister rules Aranth – a frozen city surrounded by a storm-wrecked sea – her twin inhabits the sand-locked Golden City. Each goddess has raised a daughter, and each keeps her own secrets about her sister’s betrayal.
But when shadowy forces begin to call their daughters, Odessa and Haidee, back to the site of the Breaking, the two young goddesses – along with a powerful healer from Aranth, and mouthy desert scavenger – set out on separate journeys across treacherous wastelands, desperate to heal their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands.

“A demoness is what men call a goddess they cannot control.”

A strong opening for a strong story, The Never Tilting World blew me away. From the amazing world-building down to all the carefully laid out plot twists, this book had everything I wanted and more. It entertained and made me think: about sisters and that invisible thread connecting them, about power and sacrifice, and of the broken world handed down to us and what we could do to heal it.

Rin Chupeco’s writing really shone through in this book.

With details so vividly described they’re almost tangible, this story’s world-building is just something else. The idea of a world that has stopped spinning, split in two by a great unknowable abyss was a fresh one to me. The two halves – one veiled in the darkness of a never-ending night frozen and battered by tempestuous storms, the other languishing under the heat of a set that never sets – and the element-based magic system reminded me a bit of The Avatar: The Last Airbender and Mad Max.

Having multiple point-of-view characters can be a tough thing to work with. Sometimes it works, others it doesn’t. For TNTW though, it’s the latter. In fact, I think, it’s the best way to tell this particular story.

The two halves of the split world setting of this world is a huge ground to cover. Each side’s widely (and wildly) differing natures create an equally diverse set of challenges for everyone in this book. Chupeco, however, used her characters effectively and maximized the use of the first-person narrative. The four POV characters – Odessa and Lan, Haidee and Arjun – give readers a complete and comprehensive view of the story’s world all while moving the plot.

I must admit, for the first 20% of the book I felt kind of overwhelmed. There were a lot of foundational parts of the world-building thrown in with the narrative in the opening part and it was a sensory overload. Processing and separating the plot while trying to get a feel of what the world looked like and how it functioned became a task. Once things start gelling together though, everything just flowed and those bits laid out at the beginning of the book made a whole lot of sense. Plot twists (especially that ONE involving a supporting character) were deftly foreshadowed without sinking down the surprise factor. This is actually one of the first books I’ve read in a while that I wasn’t able to predict how things will go, and I was all the better for it.

The main characters were a treat to read about. They all have distinct voices and unique personalities, making them easy to tell apart. I enjoyed reading about them – Arjun more than most because he’s just hilarious even when he’s not trying. But, as fun as following their journeys through their world and, in turn, watching them grow as characters, I wasn’t able to really personally connect with any of them. This is not something necessarily bad, it’s just a matter of different experiences. Nevertheless, this difference did not stop me from rooting for all four MCs to succeed (or stay alive and unharmed.)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book from beginning to end. It’s an epic adventure featuring young characters who are willing to take on the challenge of righting the wrongs of those who came before them – to break the cycle. It tackles climate change in all its harshness and destruction, but it still carries with it a hopeful note.

The Never Tilting World is a great start to a new series. It tied off a handful of the plot threads it pulled in but left enough to give the sequel a comfortable starting point. I definitely have a number of questions I want to be answered (What exactly did Asteria and Latona do?) and you can be sure that the moment the next installment hits the shelves, I will be making a grab for it. This is a must-read!

about the author

Rin Chupeco

Raised in Manila, Philippines, RIN CHUPECO writes about ghosts and fantastic worlds. She is the author of The Bone Witch series, The Suffering, and The Girl from the Well.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr

Review: “A Treason of Thorns” by Laura E. Weymouth

A Treason of Thorns (Laura E. Weymouth)Title: A Treason of Thorns
Author: Laura E. Weymouth
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1/2
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC access provided by the publisher through NetGalley as part of the Fantastic Flying Book Club’s blog tour. All opinions expressed are my own.

A young girl must decide between duty and heart in this enchanting and haunting YA fantasy.

Violet Sterling has spent the last seven years in exile, longing to return to Burleigh House. One of the six great houses of England, Burleigh’s magic always kept the countryside well. And as a child, this magic kept Violet happy, draping her in flowers while she slept, fashioning secret hiding places for her, and lighting fires on the coldest of nights to keep her warm.

Everything shattered, though, when her father committed high treason trying to free Burleigh from the king’s oppressive control. He was killed, and Vi was forced into hiding.

When she’s given a chance to go back, she discovers Burleigh has run wild with grief. Vines and briars are crumbling the walls. Magic that once enriched the surrounding countryside has turned dark and deadly, twisting lush blooms into thorns, poisoning livestock and destroying crops. Burleigh’s very soul is crying out in pain.

Vi would do anything to help, and soon she finds herself walking the same deadly path as her father all those years before. Vi must decide how far she’s willing to go to save her house – before her house destroy’s everything she’s ever known.

With the hectic thing that was 2018, I missed Laura E. Weymouth’s debut A Light Between Worlds so I’m coming into this new book of hers as a total newbie to her words and worlds. If A Treason of Thorns is anything to go by, however, I think I might just have found a new auto-buy author.

Ultimately a novel about family – of inherited responsibilities and the ghosts of the ones before us – and the bonds that bind us, A Treason of Thorns was a thing of beauty. It was poetic and haunting, lush and dark, atmospheric and almost Gothic. I quickly fell in love with this imagined version of an older England fueled by the magic of six great houses.

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Solid world-building and Weymouth’s almost lyrical writing are two of this book’s many aces. The magic system was a fresh one for me. The thought of old, sentient houses running on ancient magic was such an intriguing idea and I gobbled it up. I had so much fun visualizing what was being described: fireplaces lighting up on their own when you enter a room, moments from the past featuring your forebears playing like scenes from a movie right in front of you. The story’s world is fully alive ready to pop up from the pages.

But, as strong as the world-building and as beautiful as the writing, these elements weren’t what kept me reading.

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A Treason of Thornscharacters remains its strongest suit. I found a compelling protagonist in Violet Sterling. Caught up between duty and the desires of her heart, her dilemma was entirely relatable and very human. She started out the story certain of her purpose and goal – to be Burleigh House’s caretaker, to restore the only home she’d ever known and in turn heal the West Country – her duty having been ingrained in her by her father since her childhood. Uncovering hidden truths, though, Violet quickly realizes that things are not as cut-and-dry. Her situation is made even more complicated when she starts to want things for herself, things that aren’t to Burleigh’s benefit.

I loved Violet. Even from the first few chapters, she made a connection to my heart. She’s stubborn, strong-willed, naive and fallible. Her struggle between what she needed and wanted – family and love, home and heart – was something familiar. I think it’s a bridge we all must cross as we come of age, having the power to choose your own way if only you’d be brave enough to claim it.

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Wyn took his time with me, but eventually, I grew fond of him. He was sort of gray at first, gaining depth as the story progressed. He, like the rest of the secondary characters, added more texture to Violet’s story because, in the end, this is still about her.

In all honesty, I am just floored by how the women in this story were written. They embody strength in different ways, one not less than the others. Mira, the Sterling’s longtime housekeeper who stood as Violet’s mother-figure, showed her strength in the form of loyal and her steadfastness. Frey, the owner of Red Shilling where Violet worked and her father’s lover after her mother left them, showed it in her quiet defiance. Esperanza, the Princess of Wales and King Edgar’s heir, navigated the royal court armed with her cunning, wit and resourcefulness. She was one of the nicest surprises in this book for me as I thought she was going to be an antagonist. It was great being proved wrong.

This review will never do justice to just how good A Treason of Thorns was. It was spellbinding, enchanting. It’s one of the best books I read this year and will surely stay in my head for a long, long time. Teen readers and adults alike will all find something they can relate to in this book. YA fantasy readers will surely eat this story up just like I did. This comes with my wholehearted recommendations. (Also, I’m going to finally pick up A Light Between Worlds after this.)

about the author

Laura E. Weymouth

LAURA E. WEYMOUTH is a Canadian living in exile in America, and the sixth consecutive generation in her family to immigrate from one country to another Born and raised in the Niagara region of Ontario, she now lives at the edge of the woods in western New York, along with her husband, two wild-hearted daughters, a spoiled cat, an old soul of a dog, and an indeterminate number of chickens. She is represented by the inimitable Lauren Spieller of TriadaUS.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

 

Giveaway

Win signed copies of Laura E. Weymouth’s book: The Light Between Worlds and A Treason of Thorns (US/CAN only)

Giveaway ends 24th September.

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SEPTEMBER 10TH

SEPTEMBER 11TH

Utopia State of Mind – Review  + Favourite Quotes
The Book Bratz – Review + Favourite Quotes
The Book Dutchesses – Review + Favourite Quotes
The Hermit Librarian – Review + Favourite Quotes

SEPTEMBER 12TH

Rockin’ Book Reviews – Guest Post
Sometimes Leelynn Reads – Review + Dream Cast
Librorum in Sempiternum – Review + Favourite Quotes
The Baroness of Books – Review + Favourite Quotes
Synopses by Sarge – Review

SEPTEMBER 13TH

Kait Plus Books – Interview
Moonlight Rendezvous – Review + Favourite Quotes
Books of Teacups – Review
Chrikaru Reads – Review
A Few Chapters ’til Love – Review + Favourite Quotes

SEPTEMBER 14TH

Morgan Vega – Review + Playlist + Favourite Quotes
Luchia Houghton Blog – Review + Favourite Quotes
Jrsbookreviews – Review

SEPTEMBER 15TH

NovelKnight – Guest Post
The Reading Corner for All – Review + Favourite Quotes
Novel Nerd Faction – Review + Playlist
In Between Book Pages – Review + Favourite Quotes
Sincerely Karen Jo – Review

SEPTEMBER 16TH

Wishful Endings – Interview
A Court of Coffee and Books – Review + Favourite Quotes

Review: “Kingdom of Souls” by Rena Barron

Kingdom of SoulsTitle: Kingdom of Souls
Series: Kingdom of Souls #1
Author: Rena Barron
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Content Warnings: Blood magic, self-injury for a ritual, challenging familial relationship, psychological torture, death of children, mind manipulation, animal possession, animal sacrifice (mentioned), violence
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC access provided by the publisher through NetGalley as part of the Fantastic Flying Book Club’s blog tour. All opinions expressed are my own.

Built on a world based on West Africa, Rena Barron debuts with a compelling story about a girl with no magic in a world teeming with it.

Magic has a price—if you’re willing to pay.

Born into a family of powerful witchdoctors, Arrah yearns for magic of her own. But each year she fails to call forth her ancestral powers, while her ambitious mother watches with growing disapproval.

There’s only one thing Arrah hasn’t tried, a deadly last resort: trading years of her own life for scraps of magic. Until the Kingdom’s children begin to disappear, and Arrah is desperate to find the culprit.

She uncovers something worse. The long-imprisoned Demon King is stirring. And if he rises, his hunger for souls will bring the world to its knees… unless Arrah pays the price for the magic to stop him.

With all intents of being forthright, I will tell you that I have very complicated feelings about this book. There were definitely parts that I loved and parts that I didn’t. Writing this review took just as much time as reading it with me having to parse through said complicated feelings. This post is an extension of that dissection.

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When this book is at its strongest, it doesn’t only put its best foot forward – it goes all out. Nothing is done by half-measures, which works well half the time playing up strengths to a maximum. It’s brave and something that I really admire in this story.

A world built as strong as it is vast

Kingdom of Souls is an ambitious work and its larger-than-life world attests to it. With West Africa at its foundation, Barron’s world is a lush, colorful one with unique characteristics that’ll separate it from other stories in its genre.

I love how clear the story’s world was described – the dynamics between its peoples, the Five Tribes and the Almighty Kingdom: their belief system, the gods they worship, political hierarchy, and general way of living. They are fully alive within the pages of this story, even the Northerners and Kefu, though I have a feeling there’d be a lot more from those last two in the coming books as they’ve only been discussed in relation with the former.

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Mythology weaved into the narrative

I love mythology and I love that many books have a bit of it included in their narrative. I most especially love when the mythology and lore in a book go outside the usual Greek and Roman ones that have already inspired a handful of earlier YA titles.

But, that’s not the case with Kingdom of Souls.

Mythology and lore are not added as a mere layer to Arrah’s story – it’s tightly woven into the narrative with a life and purpose of its own independent from Arrah. Heka – the god of the peoples of the Five Tribes – and the Orishas – the gods of the Almighty Kingdom – all add something to the whole story. Powerful but fallible and unpredictable, their intentions are not entirely pure and their actions aren’t always for the good of everyone. They are the wild cards of this story and I just have a feeling they will continue to serve up surprises in the coming sequels, which will be really interesting especially given the way things ended in this one.

A compelling heroine

This is one of the biggest selling points of this book for me. Kingdom of Souls is a character-driven story, and it needed a strong character to carry its weight through.

Arrah proved to be more than capable for the part.

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She is a compelling heroine, one that you will root for from beginning to end. She’s tough, fierce, and determined but she’s also plagued with frustration, disappointment, and feelings of inadequacy at her lack of magic, at her mother’s disapproval and condescension. Arrah is loyal and dedicated to her family and her friends, unhesitatingly making sacrifices – crossing lines she set for herself – in the belief that it will save those she loves.

With a solid cast of characters behind her – the charming Rudjek, steadfast Sukkar, and Hassana, her loving father Oshe and her paradoxical mother Arti – Arrah grow by leaps and bounds within the pages of this book and it was such a joy reading about her. I found it easy to empathize with her, despair with her – basically to feel whatever it is that she is feeling. It takes a special kind of character to do that and, if anything, I will be reading the sequels just to find out what happens to Arrah.

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As it is with any book, I had a number of issues with Kingdom of Souls. Some of these I would have easily overlooked but, in the case of this book, they just greatly affected my enjoyment that I had to take note of them.

Too much

I appreciate complex stories, I really do. Sometimes though, when you add one thing after another, it just gets to be too much. This was my main problem with Kingdom of Souls.

Barron served up plot twists like dishes on a banquet, and it became too much, too hard to digest. All the plot threads she pulled into this book alone could easily write a trilogy. It created an imbalance that in turn affected the story’s pace.

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Wonky pacing

This is probably my biggest issue.

Being a character-driven story, I already expected the pace of this book to run a bit slower. But, with all those blocks of story pieces thrown into the plot, the pace just crawled.

This problem was most prevalent in the book’s middle parts. It just sagged, felt unbalanced and repetitive. Characters would go on about something one chapter only to repeat talking about the same thing a few chapters down. I put down the book a handful of times because it just got too exhausting. It was a good thing that the first and last parts of the book were more even-tempered.

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Kingdom of Souls is an imperfect but still sets the beginnings of what sounds like a really promising series. Its strength lies deeply in its character and Barron’s rich world-building. I would definitely come back for the sequels because I’m just too curious (and, honestly, too attached to the characters.) YA SFF readers will find something to love in this book, and hopefully, the whole series.

about the authorRena BarronRENA BARRON grew up in small-town Alabama where stories of magic and adventure sparked her imagination. After penning her first awful poem in middle school, she graduated to writing short stories and novels by high school.

Rena loves all things science fiction, ghosts, and superheroes. She’s a self-proclaimed space nerd. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading or brushing up on her French.

Website | TwitterInstagram | Tumblr

 

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Phannie the ginger bookworm  – Review + Favourite Quotes
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In Between Book Pages – Review + Favourite Quotes
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Frayed Books – Review
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Luchia Houghton Blog – Review + Favourite Quotes
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Moonlight Rendezvous – Review + Favourite Quotes
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Wishful Endings – Review
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Review: “Wild Savage Stars” by Kristina Pérez

Wild Savage Stars (Kristina Perez)Title: Wild Savage Stars
Series: Sweet Black Waves #2
Author: Kristina Pérez
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
Publisher: Imprint
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC provided by the publisher through Edelweiss. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Kristina Pérez picks up where she left off in Wild Savage Stars, her second installment in her Tristan-and-Isolt-inspired series.

Branwen has a secret powerful enough to destroy two kingdoms.

Her ancient magic led to a terrible betrayal by both her best friend, the princess Essy, and her first love, Tristan. Now this same magic is changing Branwen. Adrift in a rival court, Branwen must hide the truth from the enemy king by protecting the lovers who broke her heart – and finds herself considering a darker path.

Not everyone wants the alliance with Branwen’s kingdom to succeed – peace is balanced on a knife’s edge, and her only chance may be to embrace the darkness within…

I read Kristina Pérez’s debut Sweet Black Waves last year and fell in love with her story. It’s one about love – love for your motherland and its people, love for your family, of the sister of your heart, and of love found unexpectedly. Pérez put her own spin on a legend that has been repeatedly told and romanticized over the centuries, breathing fresh life into it by focusing on a different character. It was an exciting start for a new series, and with the way it ended, I knew that I just have to get my hands on its sequel or else my curiosity will kill me.

Well, reader, I got my wish and boy, it was everything.

Brutal, magical, romantic and tragic – Wild Savage Stars was both the sequel I expected it to be and a surprising follow-up to its predecessor. It starts off almost immediately after the events of Sweet Black Waves with Branwen, Tristan and Eseult arriving at Iveriu’s enemy country of Kernyv. Pérez places her original trio in a new land, introduces new characters- both allies and foes – and ups the stakes in this installment.

Wild Savage Stars quote #1

Despite all these additions though, the story felt instantly familiar and I was quickly drawn back into this series’ world. Pérez’s writing is as strong as ever with lush descriptions and dramatic prose that is sure to coax an emotional response even from the most stoic of readers – be it anger, sadness or horror. Her scholarly knowledge of medieval legends, as it has done in her first book, continues to provide a solid foundation for her version of the story. It’s actually one of the things that originally pulled me to this series.

But it wasn’t why I stayed.

Branwen is a complex character. Dutiful to a fault and loyal to the bone, she oftentimes falls victim to her own schemes: making decisions that she thinks will best protect the ones she loves and overplaying her hand in preserving peace for her beloved Iveriu. She is not easy to like – most of the time she’s actually quite unlikeable – but there’s just something so ineffably human about her, in her struggle between what her heart’s wants and her mind’s idea of what is right, in being cleaved in half by love and hate, being caught up in between anger and forgiveness.

This series may be inspired by Tristan and Iseult’s legends, but this is Branwen’s story and she commands this book, dictating its tone and pace like the wildfire that she is. Wild Savage Stars is darker, more complicated than its predecessor. It mirrors Branwen’s growing powers and her new life in a new land – one that she has long seen as an enemy.

Wild Savage Stars quote #2

Indeed, while Tristan (annoyingly repentant to the point of self-flagellation) and Eseult (still selfish, immature, irresponsible, petty and, just so completely, wholly unworthy) remained stagnant, Branwen flourished. She falls in headfirst into Kernyvak politics, faltering at first but quickly became more adept as she gained her footing. She also, finally, comes around to accept her ancient magic – scaling up another level after vacillating between denial and reluctance in SWB and the first third of this second book.

Shifting the focus on new characters – the fair and kind King Marc and the cagey Ruan – instead of meandering on the broken pieces of the Tristan-Branwen-Eseult triangle was actually a godsend as it gave Branwen and the story a depth that the first book lacked.

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I enjoyed reading this book so much and not just because it pushes the series on. Wild Savage Stars can very well stand on its own and even improves on its predecessor – something that a lot of sequels fail to do. With the way this installment ended, (Gasp! Another betrayal!) the series closer is bound to be an exciting one, and I’m in this ride come what way. Historical fiction buffs, Fantasy lovers, Romance readers and fans of retellings will all find something to love in this book. I definitely, definitely recommend this whole series and if you see a girl pushing this book into people’s hands, that’ll be me.

about the author

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KRISTINA PÉREZ is the author of The Myth of Morgan La Fey (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). She holds a Ph.D. in Medieval Literature from the University of Cambridge.

She has lectured at the National University of Singapore on vampires in Western Culture and was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Hong Kong University’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre. As a journalist, her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal Asia, Departures, L’Officiel India, Condé Nast Traveller, CNNGo and the South China Morning Post, among others.

Her debut YA Fantasy, Sweet Black Waves – a Tristan and Iseult retelling – was published by Imprint/Macmillan on June 5th, 2018. The sequel, Wild Savage Stars was published on August 27th, 2019.

Writing as K.K. Péerez, her first YA Sci-Fi, The Tesla Legacy was published by Tor Teen on March 12th, 2019.

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Review: “All the Bad Apples” by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

p-3Title: All the Bad Apple
Author:
Moïra Fowley-Doyle
Publication Date: August 1, 2019 (UK) August 27 (US)
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Content Warnings: Homophobia (challenged), suicide (supposed), rape (incestuous & of other minors), murder & arson (implied), institutionalization, forced labor, abuse (physical, mental & emotional), abortion, forced separation of mother & child
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

  ARC access provided by the publisher through NetGalley as part of the Fantastic Flying Book Club’s blog tour. All opinions expressed are my own.

One teen-aged girl’s quest to find her missing sister uncovers more than she expects. Family secrets and curses, and a country’s unspoken history fuel this brutally emotional contemporary by Moïra Fowley-Doyle.

When Deena’s wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears – presumed dead – her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It’s just another bad thing to happen to Deena’s family. Only Deena refuses to believe it’s true.

And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions – but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse’s roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family’s rotten past – or rip it apart forever.

There are stories that just grip you and crush you into tiny little pieces. All the Bad Apples was one of those stories for me.

All the Bad Apples is a force of its own. Combining contemporary and magical realism, its story weaves together intergenerational stories of the women of the Rys family – a long history deeply rooted and intertwined with Ireland’s own unspoken history of Catholic fundamentalism, discrimination, and institutional abuse.

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Queer representation

Though there wasn’t much racial diversity in this story (Finn is the only black character in the book. The rest were white,) queer representation is not a problem for this standalone. The main character, Deena, and her possible love interest Cale are both lesbians. Finn, Deena’s best friend. Mary Ellen, Deena’s great-great-grandmother, and Ann, Cale’s great-great-great-great-aunt, were in a relationship. Before that, Mary Ellen was with Deena’s philandering great-great-grandfather.

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Nitty and gritty

All the Bad Apples tackles some of the toughest issues there is – homophobia, sexual abuse, and abortion to name a few – but it doesn’t pussyfoot. Fowley-Doyle addresses these issues in a very straightforward manner, her words sharply honed to get to the very core of things. This fitted the story and helped propel her narrative on the right ground.

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Rage, rage, rage

“This novel was, in part, fueled by rage,” Moïra Fowley-Doyle wrote in her author’s note, and, indeed, rage was a palpable and dominant emotion throughout the whole story. It was hard not to feel fist-clenchingly angry with what all the women – not just the Rys’ – went through in this story.

It was not just anger that I felt though.

This book dragged me through a whole range of emotions, back and forth several times over. I felt disgusted at the way men objectified and used women, treating them like objects that can be discarded at any time they pleased; felt sadness and betrayal when families turned their backs on daughters because they don’t conform to their notion of right and normal; shame at the righteousness of the people who deemed themselves the interpreters of God’s word and will – more so because, like them, I’m also Catholic.

But at the end of it all, hope.

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The ending definitely was a satisfying one, having gone through a rollercoaster of emotions to get to it. Fowley-Doyle definitely succeeded in making readers feel what her characters feel, using Deena as a touchpoint through which her audience experienced her fictional piece of the world.

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All the Bad Apples is a powerful story. Though the characters and places are fictional, the history peppered throughout the pages of this novel has happened to real people. This is one book that should be read by everyone.

about the author

p-4MOÏRA FOWLEY-DOYLE is half-French, half-Irish and made of equal parts feminism, whimsy, and Doc Martens. She lives in Dublin where she writes magic realism, reads tarot cards and raises witch babies.

Moïra’s first novel, The Accident Season, was shortlisted for the 2015 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize & the North East Teen Book Awards, nominated for the Carnegie Medal & won the inaugural School Library Association of Ireland Great Reads Award. It received two starred reviews & sold in ten territories. Her second novel, Spellbook of the Lost and Found, was published in summer 2017, received a starred review from School Library Journal and was shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards.

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Win one (1) of three (3) copies of All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle. Open to UK/Ireland only.

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Review: “How the Light Gets In” by Katy Upperman

pTitle: How the Light Gets In
Author: Katy Upperman
Publication Date: August 6, 2019
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Content Warnings: Drug use, alcohol abuse, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, grief, ineffective coping
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐1/2
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC access provided by the publisher through NetGalley as part of the Fantastic Flying Book Club’s blog tour. All opinions expressed are my own.

A YA contemporary featuring a sweet summer romance and a touch of the paranormal, Katy Upperman’s new offering How the Light Gets In is a perfect beachside read.

Since her sister’s tragic death, seventeen-year-old Callie Ryan has basically given up. Her grades have plummeter, she’s quit her swim team, and she barely recognizes the peope her parents once were.

When she returns to her aunt’s run-down coastal Victorian one year after Chloe’s death, Callie resigns herself to a summer of guilt and home renovations. She doesn’t expect to be charmed by the tiny coastal town or by Tucker Morgan, a local boy brimming with sunshine.

But even as her days begin to brighten, Callie’s nights are crowded with chilling dreams, unanswered questions, and eerie phenomenon that have her convinced she’s being haunted. Will Callie be able to figure out what her sister is trying to communicate before it’s too late?

This is my first book from Katy Upperman, but I can safely say that I will be coming back for more.

How the Light Gets In mixes contemporary charm with paranormal mysticism built on the bittersweet foundations of love, loss, and grief. Emotion-charged straight off page one, this story is set to tug, pull and pluck at your heartstrings and leave you contemplating just how precious moments with your loved ones truly are.

I enjoyed this book a whole lot even though it took a while before I really got into it. Once I did though, there was no turning back. I fell in love with the setting, the characters, and their relationships, at the honesty and realness with which the author portrayed grief and loss in this story.

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Real and honest

How the Light Gets In showed grief with an almost visceral realness – how people’s handling of it differs in varying ways, how sometimes grief and loss can drive a person to grab at whatever thing will make the pain go away no matter how temporary, and how you can still mourn and search for someone even if they’ve long been gone…even if you’ve never known them.

I felt for Callie, her mother and father, and Lucy. Losing a sister – a daughter, someone who has so much more ahead of them – is a tough loss that took something from all of them.

I felt for Tucker. Having lost his mother without even knowing her, and having a father who’s reluctant to even tell him a smidge about the woman who bore him left him with questions and made him mistrustful.

As someone who has lost a number of loved ones, this one is something that deeply resonated with me. Grief plays a crucial role in the plot of this story. It is a delicate topic, but one handled well and with much sensitivity.

How the Light Gets In (3)

Small-town charm

I don’t usually mind a story’s setting much. I trust the author to build her story, its world, place her characters in the setting she deems will best serve her narrative. For this one though, I just couldn’t help but fall in love with Bell Cove and it’s coastal small-town charm. There’s just something magical, at the same time eerie about it especially thinking the paranormal elements this novel has. It’s just perfect!

A ghost story & a mystery

This was a bonus I never expected to get from this book. Yes, the blurb hinted at a bit of a ghost story, but that’s selling it short. It plays a slightly bigger role and totally gives this story an added dimension. The inclusion of small-town mystery – the intrigue and rumors surrounding it included – was a welcome and fresh addition.

How the Light Gets In (4)

Family, friendship & love

It wasn’t an immediate connection, but I grew to adore Callie. There’s a vulnerability in her at the same time that there is a hidden, undiscovered strength. Tucker, meanwhile, first appeared to be Callie’s opposite – the bright sunshine to her gloomy raincloud. As the story progressed though, I just couldn’t help but see how much similarities they have – they’ve both lost people, both still grieving. It was beautiful reading how they discover these similarities bit by bit and use it as a common ground to begin something new that’s just for both of them.

Another thing I loved was Callie’s, and by extension Tucker’s, interaction with the rest of the characters in this book, most especially with Lucy because she’s one of my favorites. More than an aunt, she’s like an older sister for Callie, and like her, is also swallowed up in guilt after Chloe’s death (although she copes with it in a different way.)

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Overall, How the Light Gets In is an enjoyable read that perfectly blends summer romance and paranormal mystery. It has its flaws, yes. It starts slow, and at times it meanders through unneeded introspection. But there’s much more to love in this one that I overlooked them and focused on the good stuff instead. I’d definitely recommend this to YA contemporary readers who love a bit of mystery (and a ghost story).

about the author

p

KATY UPPERMAN is a wife, mama, author, reader, baker, and wanderer. She writes novels for teens and teens at heart. She’s a Washington State University alum (go Cougs!), a country music fanatic, and a makeup stockpiler. She loves the ocean, pedicures, sunshine, Instagram, Dirty Dancing and The Princess Bride, Jelly Bellies, true crime documentaries, and Friday Night Lights.

Katy’s debut novel, Kissing Max Holden, was published August 1, 2017, and her sophomore effort, The Impossibility of Us, released July 31, 2018. Her third novel, How the Light Gets In, will be out August 6, 2019. All three books are with Swoon Reads/Macmillan. She’s represented by Victoria Marini of the Irene Goodman Agency.

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Mini-reviews: “The Impossible Girl” and “A Beautiful Poison” by Lydia Kang

I’ve been reading book after book in the last couple of months, but have neglected writing reviews for them as usual. I’m going to rectify that starting with these two books that I’ll be reviewing in this mini-reviews post.

I read The Impossible Girl and A Beautiful Poison back in April when I was on my free trial of Kindle Unlimited. I enjoyed both of these two as they both appealed to the history nerd in me and the medical professional that I am. The crime mystery element weaved into these two books was another thing I really liked about these books.

Given all their similarities though, these two books stand well apart from each other. And me being me, might just prefer one over the other a little bit more.

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Title: The Impossible Girl
Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

Two hearts. Twice as vulnerable.

Manhattan, 1850. Born out of wedlock to a wealthy socialite and a nameless immigrant, Cora Lee can mingle with the rich just as easily as she can slip unnoticed into the slums and graveyards of the city. As the only female resurrectionist in New York, she’s carved out a niche procuring bodies afflicted with the strangest of anomalies. Anatomists will pay exorbitant sums for such specimens – dissecting and displaying them for the eager public.

Cora’s specialty is not only profitable, it’s a means to keep a finger on the pulse of those searching for her. She’s the girl born with two hearts – a legend amnog grave robbers and anatomists – sought after as an endangered prize.

Now, as a series of murders unfolds closer and closer to Cora, she can no longer trust those she holds dear, including the young medical student she’s fallen for. Because someone has no intention of waiting for Cora to die a natural death.

This book was immensely interesting especially with all the medical bits and pieces thrown into the narrative. I ended up on an hour’s worth of research rabbit hole after this, reading more about resurrectionists and the history of anatomy (which was intriguing and gruesome and brow-raising at varying measures.)

But, more than the fascinating history of the time, it was the characters that got me. Cora was just such a strong main character. She’s wily, smart and cunning, but she’s also vulnerable, closed-off. Theo, while immediately appearing to be the opposite of Cora’s grey cloud personality, has secrets of his own. Together, these two form a formidable bond that had me rooting for them right until the very end.

This was a carefully crafted story full of twists and turns. The end actually took me by surprise in a good way. I never expected the ending to happen the way it happened, but when I finally got to it, I realized that it has been hinted to all throughout the book. It’s a testament to Lydia Kang’s subtle plotting, something that I very much appreciated.

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Title: A Beautiful Poison
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

Just beyond the Gilded Age, in the mist-covered streets of New York, the deadly Spanish influenza ripples through the city. But with so many vicims in her close circle, young socialite Allene questions if the flu is really to blame. All appear to have been poisoned – and every death was accompanied by a mysterious note.

Desperate for answers and dreading her own engagement to a wealthy gentleman, Allene returns to her passion for scientific discovery and recruits her long-lost friends, Jasper and Birdie, for help. The investigation brings her close to Jasper, an apprentice medical examiner at Bellevue Hospital who still holds her heart, and offers the delicate Birdie a last-ditch chance to find a safe haven before her fragile health fails.

As more of their friends and family die, alliances shift, lives become entangled, and the three begin to suspect everyone – even each other. As they race to find the culprit, Allene, Birdie, and Jasper must once again trust each other, before one of them becomes the next victim.

A Beautiful Poison was just as interesting as The Impossible Girl. Lydia Kang again uses her medical background and history – the Gilded Age this time – to create a vivid backdrop to her story.

However, I felt like the author just pulled on a bit too much in this one – looping in WWI, the Spanish Flu into this story’s collection of strings. I love plot twists like any other reader does but, with this one, it felt overdone, unnecessarily overcomplicated. It didn’t help that the relationship between the three main characters – Allene, Jasper, and Birdie – was already complex in itself. The three have their own agendas and constantly maneuvered over and around one another just so they get what they want simply because they want it. They aren’t exactly the kind of characters you’ll root for, and I didn’t. I, maybe, felt a bit of empathy but I didn’t care enough about them even after the book ended.

What kept me reading, however, is the mystery – the whodunnit part – that I think was still well done. Piecing together the clues dropped in between dialogues and scenes kept my mind turning. The final twist in this story was a total surprise.

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Both books, though classed as adult fiction, have great crossover appeal. Teens and young adults will just as easily love them. I definitely would recommend them to mystery and historical fiction readers.