Mini Reviews: The Hearts We Sold + The Women in the Walls

MiniI didn’t plan on putting together more than one set of mini-reviews for this month, but ended up with these ones. The Hearts We Sold is a mini-review from last month and The Women in the Walls is one of my final reads of October. They both have a horror feel to them, so they’re perfect for my final reviews of the month. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: The Hearts We Sold
Author: Emily Lloyd-Jones
Series: N/A
Pages: 381
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 8th 2017 

      “When Dee Moreno makes a deal with a demon—her heart in exchange for an escape from a disastrous home life—she finds the trade may have been more than she bargained for. And becoming “heartless” is only the beginning. What lies ahead is a nightmare far bigger, far more monstrous than anything she could have ever imagined.
      With reality turned on its head, Dee has only a group of other deal-making teens to keep her grounded, including the charming but secretive James Lancer. And as something grows between them amid an otherworldy ordeal, Dee begins to wonder: Can she give someone her heart when it’s no longer hers to give?

swirl (2)

“Magic was just another fantasy. It was something she created to comfort herself. There were no fairy tales, no knights in shining armor. Just herself and her own wits.”

The first thing about Emily Lloyd-Jones’s The Hearts We Sold that caught my attention was the premise. The idea that demons have not only made themselves known to the world, but that they grant wishes in exchange for part of a person is potentially horrifying. Despite the unique premise, the world-building still left something to be desired. The ending really threw me for a loop. The “twist” could have been established earlier on and its consequences explored which would have help with the world-building. I really appreciated reading about Dee. I’d like to see more protagonists who have to deal with their parents’ addictions. As the child of alcoholics, Dee feels incredibly isolated. She internalizes a lot of negative thoughts about herself and others. This is a theme that runs throughout the entire novel and affects all of her relationships. At first, it’s easy to scoff at the idea of giving up your heart to a demon for anything, but Dee’s desperation really comes through and it’s hard not to in some ways support with her decision. The side characters in this one were enjoyable, but never felt fully realized. Aside from Dee, James was the one character that stood out. It’s always nice to get a love interest that isn’t a clichéd brooding male. He’s so full of life and lent a dose of levity to the Dee’s world. The Hearts We Sold is good novel for those looking for a darker fantasy with an unusual premise, but probably won’t blow you away in the end.

Rating: 3/5

★★★


Title: The Women in the Walls
Author: Amy Lukavics
Series: N/A
Pages: 278
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: September 27th 2016

      “Lucy Acosta’s mother died when she was three. Growing up in a Victorian mansion in the middle of the woods with her cold, distant father, she explored the dark hallways of the estate with her cousin, Margaret. They’re inseparable—a family.
      When her aunt Penelope, the only mother she’s ever known, tragically disappears while walking in the woods surrounding their estate, Lucy finds herself devastated and alone. Margaret has been spending a lot of time in the attic. She claims she can hear her dead mother’s voice whispering from the walls. Emotionally shut out by her father, Lucy watches helplessly as her cousin’s sanity slowly unravels. But when she begins hearing voices herself, Lucy finds herself confronting an ancient and deadly legacy that has marked the women in her family for generations.

swirl (2)

“Lucy,” I suddenly hear, a pleading, muffled voice coming from the wall. “You won’t believe how much it hurts to be dead.”

Amy Lukavics’s The Women in the Walls is one of the creepiest books I picked up this October. I went into this not expecting too many thrills as the reviews for this one have been on the negative side. I’m a big fan of build-up and think tension is essential for any horror story, so I was put off at first when we are thrust head first into this story. There is also a lot of telling rather than showing and while I do think the book improved as it went on, this was one of its shortcomings. I do want to mention that this novel does deal with suicide and self-harm, both of which I was not expecting. The protagonist is already buckling under familial expectations when the people around her begin acting strange. Lucy’s aunt disappears into the woods surrounding their estate and her cousin Margaret’s behavior becomes erratic. With her aunt gone, her cousin Margaret pulling away, and an emotionally absent father, Lucy begins to come apart. The pacing really picked up once I was halfway through. Once Lucy starts to hear voices from the walls herself, I had to continue reading. If you do decide to pick this one up, there are plenty of spine-tingling scenes that will both terrified and delight the horror fan.

Rating: 3/5

★★★

Advertisements

Mini Reviews: Hunting Prince Dracula + And the Trees Crept In

MiniHello, friends fiends (see what I did there?). It’s been a while since I posted a set of mini-reviews. I’ve been busy reading creepy books this month (I’m excited for Halloween, can you tell I’m excited for Halloween?) and so it’s only appropriate to pair these two together for mini-reviews. Hope you enjoy. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: Hunting Prince Dracula
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper, #2
Pages: 434
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Release Date: September 19th 2017 

      “In this New York Times bestselling sequel to Kerri Maniscalco’s haunting #1 debut Stalking Jack the Ripper, bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer…or has the depraved prince been brought back to life?
      Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine…and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

      But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.

swirl (2)

“Chills invaded the cracks of my emotional armor, sliding their icy fingers along my skin. I gave in to their prodding and shivered in the waning morning light.”

Kerri Maniscalco’s Hunting Prince Dracula is an action-packed historical thriller that had me guessing at every turn. Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell are quickly becoming one of my favorite literary pairs. Their relationship continues to evolve in this one and I really liked how the author balances this with both characters learning important lessons about themselves as well. Audrey Rose is still haunted by the events from the first book and isn’t sure she still has what it takes to pursue a career in forensic studies. Thomas is concerned for her well-being and often oversteps, but I love how assertive Audrey Rose is with both him and her new classmates at the Academy of Forensic Medicine and Science. Thomas was a bit of an enigma in the first book, so I was happy to see him get backstory as well as becoming acquainted with his sister in this one. The majority of the novel takes place at Bran Castle and I loved the dark and dreary descriptions. The eerie atmosphere and murderous mystery is reminiscent of Gothic literature and made a perfect read for October.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★


Title: And the Trees Crept In
Author: Dawn Kurtagich
Series: N/A
Pages: 352
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 6th 2017

      “Stay away from the woods…
      When Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt’s home, it’s immediately clear that the manor is cursed. The endless creaking of the house at night and the eerie stillness of the woods surrounding them would be enough of a sign, but there are secrets too—questions that Silla can’t ignore: Why does it seem that, ever since they arrived, the trees have been creeping closer? Who is the beautiful boy who’s appeared from the woods? And who is the tall man with no eyes who Nori plays with in the basement at night… a man no one else can see?

swirl (2)

“The terror is like a foghorn in the darkness. Like a spotlight pointed at me, notifying the monsters of the world exactly where I am: exposed, armorless. ”

Dawn Kurtagich’s And the Trees Crept In is a novel I’ve really been looking forward to this October. Like Kurtagich’s previous novel, The Dead House, Kurtagich’s uses various methods to tell her story. There’s first person narration, diary entries, and flash backs. All these work together to bring the reader into the story and the mystery of La Baume, the home of Silla and Nori’s aunt. The story opens with Silla and Nori arriving at their aunt’s doorstep in search of refuge. We quickly learn that both these girls have been on the receiving end of their father’s violent outbursts and while little Nori’s wounds are very visible, Silla’s injuries are more emotional and psychological. As their aunt’s behavior grows more and more erratic, Silla begins to suspect that there is more to La Baume and the surrounding woods. Her aunt speaks of the Creeper Man, lying in wait for any who may enter Python Wood. I really liked the growing tension in this book and in many ways it’s more of a psychological thriller than a horror novel. Silla is tormented by the isolation of the house, the lack of food for her and her sister, and unexplained behavior of her aunt. And the Trees Crept In isn’t a perfect horror novel. I liked the beginning more than the latter part of the story. At times it felt a little too long and the ending is cliché, but if you’re looking for a novel that might make you think twice before walking down the hall in the dark, then this is one you’ll want to check out.

Rating: 3/5

★★★

Mini Reviews: Woman in Cabin 10 + Wesley James Ruined My Life

MiniI have one more mini-review from my July reads to share plus another book I picked up in August. You probably won’t see another set of mini-reviews until the end of September, possibly October. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: The Woman in Cabin 10
Author: Ruth Ware
Series: N/A
Pages: 340
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Pres
Release Date: July 19th 2017

      “In this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

swirl (2)

“A hand grabbed at my wrist, the grip far stronger than mine. Blind, mad with panic, I groped in the pitch black with my free hand, searching for something, anything, to use as a weapon, and my hand closed over the bedside lamp.”

Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10 did not have as many thrills as I would have liked, but is still the kind of novel that reminds me that I need to give this genre another go. The novel opens with a bang as the protagonist undergoes a traumatic experience with a burglary. Ware does a great job of showing the aftereffects of Lo’s experience as she tries to regain a feeling of security. Still in an emotionally fragile state, she boards The Aurora, an upscale cruise liner, on its maiden voyage. Lo never gets a chance to catch her breath as she stumbles upon what she believes to be a murder, but with everyone on the boat accounted for, no one is taking her seriously. Lo’s growing sense of isolation is what drives the story forward as she is determined to find answers. She doesn’t know who to trust and begins to doubt herself. There are plenty of suspects in this one and I would have liked the author to have given more time to different players beside Lo. With mysteries, I always feel like as a reader I need to be a part of the unraveling portion of the story, so would have appreciated knowing more about the other people on the cruise. Overall, The Woman in Cabin 10 was a decent psychological thriller that has me contemplating what other books from the genre I need to pick up. Give me your book recommendations in the comments!

Rating: 3/5

★★★


Title: Wesley James Ruined My Life
Author: Jennifer Honeybourn
Series: N/A
Pages: 256
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: July 18th 2017 

      “Sixteen-year-old Quinn Hardwick’s having a rough summer. Her beloved grandmother has been put into a home, her dad’s gambling addiction has flared back up and now her worst enemy is back in town: Wesley James, former childhood friend—until he ruined her life, that is.
      So when Wesley is hired to work with her at Tudor Tymes, a medieval England themed restaurant, the last thing Quinn’s going to do is forgive and forget. She’s determined to remove him from her life and even the score all at once—by getting him fired.
      But getting rid of Wesley isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. When Quinn finds herself falling for him, she has to decide what she wants more: to get even, or to just get over it.

swirl (2)

“Unfortunately. I will never not see him because he’s everywhere. And that has to change, because I just can’t take it.”

I wanted to enjoy Jennifer Honeybourn’s Wesley James Ruined My Life so much. It had all the makings of a really entertaining, fast-paced contemporary, but as soon as I got more acquainted with Quinn’s animosity for former friend Wesley James, it lost me. In truth, the only reason I ended up finishing this one instead of setting it aside was because it was so short. Quinn hatches an immediately plan to get rid of Wesley from her life as soon as he reenters it. He may be over their falling out that took place five years ago, but Quinn isn’t. While I can buy into an eleven-year-old Quinn hating Wesley for revealing a secret that ended up being the last straw for her mother, ending her parents’ marriage, I found it really silly that a sixteen-year-old Quinn would still use the same kind of flawed logic. While I understand that Quinn needs someone to blame and for her it’s hard to see her father as the catalyst for the disintegration of her parents’ marriage, it still bothered me that she needed this spelled out before she could even begin to forgive Wesley. I will say that I enjoyed both the complicated and rich familial relationships in this book. Quinn is incredibly close to her grandmother and has been struggling to come to terms with her Alzheimer’s diagnosis and what it means for their relationship. Quinn’s father has a gambling addiction that the protagonist isn’t always sure how to deal with. I do think it would have been nice to see her mother take a more active role in helping Quinn cope with having a father with an addiction, but she was mostly absent.

Rating: 2/5

★★

Mini Reviews: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda + Lucky in Love

MiniYes, I have yet another set of mini reviews for you. If you haven’t written mini-reviews yourself for the blog, I highly recommend them when you don’t have a lot of time to spend on a full review or you feel like the words just aren’t coming as readily as they should. This week I have a few thoughts to share on Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Kasie West’s latest release Lucky in Love. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Author: Becky Albertalli
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: April 7th 2015 

      “Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
      With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

swirl (2)

“So, I keep thinking about the idea of secret identities. Do you ever feel locked into yourself? I’m not sure if I’m making sense here. I guess what I mean is that sometimes it seems like everyone knows who I am except me.”

Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is as charming as its reputation. Simon Spier has never officially come out and has been dreading it thanks to his overly enthusiastic family. When his emails to the mysterious “Blue” fall into the wrong hands, Simon’s not-so-clear relationship with his secret penpal is in danger of crashing and burning before he ever figures out who Blue is in real life. I absolutely adored Simon’s voice from the very first sentences. He’s an emotionally complex character whose journey I really enjoyed reading about. His email exchanges with Blue are an absolute delight and if the You’ve Got Mail trope is your thing, you need to pick this one up yesterday. I had a pretty good idea early on who Blue was, but still really loved getting to know him along with Simon through emails first. He’s very introverted and hesitant to open up. As much as this is about Simon finding himself, it’s also about Blue as well and how the two teens find strength and inspiration in each other. Albertalli’s minor characters are a treat. They all feel incredibly real and I was surprised to find how much depth each of them had. There’s a really messy, yet interesting dynamic between Simon and his three best friends. It felt like those growing pains you go through when everyone in your close-knit group are all discovering who they are and how you relate to one another begins to evolve. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a novel I regret not picking up sooner as it had me grinning from ear to ear with its final pages.

Rating: 5/5

★★★★★


Title: Lucky in Love
Author: Kasie West
Series: N/A
Pages: 333
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: July 25th 2017 

      “Maddie doesn’t believe in luck. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment —
      She wins!
      In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun… until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now, Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.
      Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?
Why does happiness have to be so hard?”

swirl (2)

“In the kitchen, all by myself, I leaned against the counter and covered my face with my hands. I was a multimillionaire. All our problems were about to disappear. This is what true happiness felt like, I was sure of it.”

While Kasie West’s newest release Lucky in Love is not my favorite by her, it’s nonetheless a fun and adorable contemporary read. Maddie Parker is a driven protagonist who has worked hard to earn her way into college. But with money tight at home, college seems like an impossible dream without financial assistance. When she buys a lottery ticket on a whim and wins, her life takes a dramatic turn. Maddie is a protagonist that I immediately related too. Family is incredibly important to her and she feels responsible for keeping them happy and together. There is a tension under every conversation between her parents. Her father lost his job several years ago and her mother juggles two jobs just to keep the family afloat. Her older bother Beau is back from school, hoping to find a job to pay for his next semester of college. Maddie is constantly trying to make things right between her parents, so winning the lottery feels like a godsend. She learns that money isn’t always a blessing and that it can only be a temporary fix for people’s real problems. So much of Maddie’s life revolves around what makes other people happy and she doesn’t often put herself first. She can be a bit of a pushover and I grew a little frustrated over how often she let other people manipulate her, but also understood it was a part of her personality and lack of experience with having this kind of wealth. I really liked the dynamic between Maddie and her friends, Blaire and Elise, but probably would have liked to have gotten to know both more. Seth was a sweet love interest who very much cared about Maddie. His easy smiles always brightened her day, but it was the small glimpses of the more serious side of his personality that I wanted to hear more about. Despite its flaws, Kasie West’s Lucky in Love is still a must for fans of the author.

Rating: 3/5

★★★

Mini Reviews: More Happy Than Not + Geekerella

MiniI’ve got another set of mini reviews for you today and it won’t be the last you see this month. I usually post one set of mini reviews per month, but in July I decided that I was going to spend more time reading and less time on reviews. This means for the majority of my July reads, I wrote mini-reviews instead of full ones. I got to say, I didn’t hate the experience. This week I have a couple of contemporary reads that could not be more different in tone. Both I believe are worth picking up, but for different reasons. I read my first Adam Silvera novel More Happy Than Not as well as picking up Ashley Poston’s fairytale retelling Geekerella. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: More Happy Than Not
Author: Adam Silvera
Series: N/A
Pages: 304
Publisher: Soho Teen
Release Date: June 2nd 2015 

      “In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.
      When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is. 

      
Why does happiness have to be so hard?”

swirl (2)

“There’s a hole inside me too, and questions in my head I can’t ignore.”

Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not is one of the most emotionally-gripping novels I’ve read this year. Dealing with life after his father’s suicide and his own suicide attempt isn’t easy, but Aaron is taking life day by day. His girlfriend Genevieve has always been there for him and he’s got a close group friends who have his back. When Thomas comes into his life, Aaron begins to question who he really is. Does he really care about Genevieve or only wants to? The more time he spends with Thomas, the more he comes to realize that he wants more than just friendship. Admitting he’s gay to himself is one thing, but letting the people around him know is something else entirely. Silvera takes us on a roller-coaster of a journey as we follow Aaron struggling to come to terms with his sexual identity in a homophobic environment. Community plays a huge role in Aaron’s life which makes their rejection of him so much more painful. Always in the foreground is the Leteo Institute with their experimental procedure that promises to rid its clients of unwanted memories. The harder Aaron’s life gets, the more he considers this to be a better alternative than living in a world that refused to accept who he is. One of my favorite parts of this novel is how effortlessly Silvera explores both the ethical dilemma of this kind of procedure as well as asking readers to question who we are at our core. More Happy Than Not is brutally honest, gut-punching in its impact, and unforgettable at every turn.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★


Title: Geekerella
Author: Ashley Poston
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Publisher: Quirk Books
Release Date: April 4th 2017

      “When geek girl Elle Wittimer sees a cosplay contest sponsored by the producers of Starfield, she has to enter. First prize is an invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. Elle’s been scraping together tips from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck behind her stepmother’s back, and winning this contest could be her ticket out once and for all—not to mention a fangirl’s dream come true.
      Teen actor Darien Freeman is less than thrilled about this year’s ExcelsiCon. He used to live for conventions, but now they’re nothing but jaw-aching photo sessions and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Federation Prince Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the diehard Starfield fandom has already dismissed him as just another heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, closet nerd Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

swirl (2)

“I hide the phone under my pillow. Because I’m not a princess. And this is the impossible universe, where nothing good ever happens.”

Ashley Poston’s Geekerella is at its core an ode to fandom culture and all things deemed nerdy. If you’ve ever seen any kind of modern adaption of Cinderella, you’ll be familiar with the bones of this one. Elle Wittimer is treated unfairly by her stepmother and stepsisters, who have always regarded her as more than a little weird because of her obsession with the cult science–fiction television show Starfield. For Elle, her connection to Starfield and its characters have a lot to do with the times she spent with her father geeking out over the show. In a way, being a part of the Starfield fandom helps her to feel wholly herself and gives her blog gives her an outlet to express who she is. When she comes across an old Starfield relic of her father’s, she takes it as a sign that maybe she can finally do something for herself. In these types of stories, I’m used to reader’s perspectives being limited to one protagonist, but Geekerella features a dual perspective and so we get more than just a glimpse at who our prince charming is. Darien Freeman has just landed the biggest role of his career, stepping into the shoes of Federation Prince Carmindor as a Starfield is set for a movie reboot. Die-hard fans are immediately skeptical, including one particularly harsh blogger, but Darien is determined to be the best Carmindor he can be. While Elle’s character arc revolves around her learning to take a step of faith and finally gaining control of her own life, Darien grapples with fame being a double-edged sword. Feeling trapped most of the time, Darien is always playing a part. If it isn’t the paparazzi keeping a close eye on him, then it’s his father who is much better at playing the part of manager than being a supportive parental figure for his son. Geekerella is a quick read that encourages every nerd out there to embrace who they are in a world that may not always understand their enthusiasm while also having fun a familiar fairy tale trope.

Rating: 3/5

★★★

Mini Reviews: Three Dark Crowns + Song of the Current

MiniI decided to do something a little different in July and wrote mini reviews for all the books I read. This week I have two mini-reviews for fantasy novels, one of which I enjoyed way more than the other. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: Three Dark Crowns
Author: Kendare Blake
Series: Three Dark Crowns, #1
Pages: 398
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: Septemebr 20th 2016 

      “In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.
      But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

      The last queen standing gets the crown.

swirl (2)

“Looking into the mirror, she imagines her body in pieces. Bones. Skin. Not enough blood. It would not take much to break her down to nothing, to strip away scant muscles and pull the organs out to dry in the sun. She wonders often whether her sisters would break down similarly. If underneath their skin they are all the same.”

Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns starts off promising, but its muddle storylines in the end left a sour taste in my mouth. I really appreciate novels that focus on sisters because it’s a great opportunity for an author to explore these complex relationships. Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly what I got with Three Dark Crowns. Every generation triplets are born to the queen and they spend their formidable years apart until their sixteen birthday when they must fight until only one of them is left standing. Katharine, Arsinoe, and Mirabella have been raised apart under the influence of some of the most powerful players on the island of Fennbirn. Though one of them is destined to become queen, who they are and how the navigate the world has been influenced by people who have their own interests in mind. In many ways, these three girls are the least influential players in their own lives. I loved how distinct each sister is from one another and in the beginning, what held my attention was the character study of each. Katharine, though weak in many people’s eyes, is surprisingly ruthless; Arsinoe hides behind a mask of indifference, but has earned the unshakable loyalty of many; Mirabella who is one the most powerful elementals to be born has a very soft heart. About half way through the book, I began to lose interest. At times the novel spent far too much time on its minor characters and although I appreciated this scope, it was at the detriment of its main characters. There was one particular romantic relationship that really derailed this novel for me, both figuratively and literally. I’m still shaking my head at how little preamble there was and wished this novel had focused more on the relationship between the sisters.

Rating: 2/5

★★


Title: Song of the Current
Author: Sarah Tolcser
Series: Song of the Current, #1
Pages: 373
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens Books
Release Date: June 6th 2017

      “Caroline Oresteia is destined for the river. For generations, her family has been called by the river god, who has guided their wherries on countless voyages throughout the Riverlands. At seventeen, Caro has spent years listening to the water, ready to meet her fate. But the river god hasn’t spoken her name yet—and if he hasn’t by now, there’s a chance he never will.
      Caro decides to take her future into her own hands when her father is arrested for refusing to transport a mysterious crate. By agreeing to deliver it in exchange for his release, Caro finds herself caught in a web of politics and lies, with dangerous pirates after the cargo—an arrogant courier with a secret—and without the river god to help her. With so much at stake, Caro must choose between the life she always wanted and the one she never could have imagined for herself.

swirl (2)

“Once we reached the murky dark of the opposing riverbank, I didn’t stop. I rowed so hard it sent up a swirling wake behind our stern. My heart pounded and my blood rang hot. The rain fell in torrents, trickling down the collar of my jacket and into my sleeves. The knit cap kept my ears warm, but my fingers were clammy and half-numb.”

Sarah Tolcser’s debut novel Song of the Current is a swashbucking adventure where a young woman discovers that fate has more in store for her than she ever imagined. Caro Oresteia grew up on the water. The Cormorant isn’t just a wherry, it’s her home and her destiny to take over for her father as captain one day. Her life takes a unexpected turn when her father is taken captive and Caro agrees to deliver a mysterious box in exchange for his release. Caro’s resolve is tested throughout her journey. She discovers more about herself and what she is willing to sacrifice for the people she cares about. I really enjoyed Caro as a character and loved that so much of the novel focused on who she was, her complicated feelings when it came to her mother and heritage, and the internal struggle she has with accepting her fate. I don’t want to give too much away when it comes to her romantic interest, but I loved that although the two characters immediately clash, they eventually develop a mutual respect for one another and they both challenge the other to see the world differently. I was really impressed by Tolcser’s writing considering this is a debut, her descriptions really brought this one to life. The minor characters were also really interesting and I’m particularly curious to learn more about Caro’s cousin Kenté. Song of the Current is a fun fantasy with a touch of romance and magic that’s sure to intrigue fans of the genre.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★