Snapshot Review: Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud

Title: Truly Madly Royally
Author: Debbie Rigaud
Series: N/A
Pages: 304
Publisher: Point
Release Date: July 30th 2019

      “Fiercely independent and smart, Zora Emerson wants to change the world. She’s excited to be attending a prestigious summer program, even if she feels out of place among her privileged, mostly white classmates. So she’s definitely not expecting to feel a connection to Owen, who’s an actual prince of an island off the coast of England. But Owen is funny, charming…and undeniably cute. Zora can’t ignore the chemistry between them. When Owen invites Zora to be his date at his big brother’s big royal wedding, Zora is suddenly thrust into the spotlight, along with her family and friends. Everyone is talking about her, in real life and online, and while Owen is used to the scrutiny, Zora’s not sure it’s something she can live with. Can she maintain her sense of self while moving between two very different worlds? And can her feelings for Owen survive and thrive in the midst of the crazy? Find out in this charming romantic comedy that’s like The Princess Diaries for a new generation. “

“I could not be more shocked if I stuck a wet finger in a janky outlet. The guy hanging out in the library, making anonymous wisecracks through bookshelves? My realest human connection at this school was with someone who. . . is a rightful heir to some throne?”

  • Zora – Zora was such an enjoyable lead character. She’s driven, has the biggest heart, and isn’t afraid of a challenge. I loved how loyal she was and despite the fact that she didn’t always feel accepted at Halstead University during the summer program, she never tried to make herself smaller to accommodate others. Whether she’s dealing with classism or racism, she never tried to be anyone but herself.
  • Black girl at center of a lighthearted novel – This book reminded me that we really need to see more lighthearted contemporaries with Black girl leads because what kind of message is publishing sending when they put so much pressure on Black creatives to produce issues books as though the only stories worth telling are ones where Black characters suffer for the sake of readers learning a “lesson”?
  • Owen – Although Owen is a prince, he wasn’t haughty or above reproach. There is no point where his ego needs to be taken down a few notches because he is always ready to learn and knows that not everyone lives like he does.
  • The romance – I loved the romance in Truly Madly Royally so much. There were the early swoony scenes, including an incredibly adorable meet-cute; but I loved how the relationship between Zora and Owen progresses. Zora immediately challenges him and Owen works to earn her favor. Every scene between the two had loads of chemistry and I could see myself revisiting this one soon just to relive them.
  • Family – I appreciated how much this book focused on Zora’s family. I feel like we got to know her more because of how much time we spent with her and her family.
  • Community – Zora started a program for kids in her community who didn’t have anyone to walk them home. She’s incredibly invested in the program and is always looking to improve life for those in her neighborhood. What’s not to love about this girl?

  • Owen – I kind of wanted more of Owen. There was so much about him that made a reader swoon, but I wanted to see his flaws too.

  • Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud is a swoon-worthy contemporary with a lovable protagonist and features a healthy romantic relationship built on communication and mutual respect.

★ ★ ★ ★
(4/5)

Advertisements

Sazón Book Tours: The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring (Review + Photo Shoot)

I’m so exited to share my post today for Sazón Book Tours. For those unfamiliar, Sazón was created by Caro @ Santana Reads, connecting Latinx authors and Latinx bloggers. Check out their Twitter page here to sign up for future tours.

Title: The Tenth Girl
Author: Sara Faring
Series: N/A
Pages: 464
Publisher: Imprint
Release Date: September 24th 2019
**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher which does not influence my review**

      “Simmering in Patagonian myth, The Tenth Girl is a gothic psychological thriller with a haunting twist.
      At the very southern tip of South America looms an isolated finishing school. Legend has it that the land will curse those who settle there. But for Mavi—a bold Buenos Aires native fleeing the military regime that took her mother—it offers an escape to a new life as a young teacher to Argentina’s elite girls.
      Mavi tries to embrace the strangeness of the imposing house—despite warnings not to roam at night, threats from an enigmatic young man, and rumors of mysterious Others. But one of Mavi’s ten students is missing, and when students and teachers alike begin to behave as if possessed, the forces haunting this unholy cliff will no longer be ignored.
      One of these spirits holds a secret that could unravel Mavi’s existence. In order to survive she must solve a cosmic mystery—and then fight for her life.”

swirl (2)

TW: suicide, self-harm, statutory rape, miscarriage

In 1978 Argentina Mavi Quercia makes the trek to the cold region of Patagonia where a teaching post has been made available at Vaccaro School, a finishing institution for young girls. Mavi hopes here she can escape her past, to outrun the people who hunted down her mother. As Mavi begins to find her place amongst the staff and students, she begins to suspect that Vaccaro School is not the charming, antiquated establishment it looks to be on the outside, but may house spirits who roam the abandoned halls at night, feeding off the inhabitants. As children begin to fall ill and unexplained disappearances befall the school, Mavi races to find answers, but the truth threatens to unravel her world.

With her debut The Tenth Girl, Sara Faring builds a memorable setting and a twisted story that is sure to get readers talking. The setting for this one is unsettling and yet still draws you in. Vaccaro School has a very Gothic feel. Its history is woven into its very fabric. It’s dark, dilapidated, and has secrets it would rather not be discovered. While the backdrop for The Tenth Girl is beautiful and awe-inspiring, Vaccaro School is very isolated. Once Mavi arrives, her only source of human contact is with the other inhabitants. For better or for worse, they become her whole world and when things begin to take a turn, her list of allies is limited. There is a growing sense of imprisonment as Mavi begins to learn that not only is the school haunted by unseen forces, but the odds of escaping dwindle with each passing day.

Though the synopsis focuses on Mavi, there is a second point of view weaved throughout the story. Angel is one of these spirits who haunts the school. Like Mavi, he is also trying to outrun his past and when he possesses the body of the owner’s son, he soon finds a kindred spirit in the young English teacher. But the more invested he becomes in her life and the lives of those at Vaccaro School, the more difficult it is to detangle himself from what is happening. He isn’t quite ready to accept that he is like the others who skulk about, looking to feed off innocent victims, but in order to help Mavi, he will have to confess the truth, even if the truth means no one gets a happy ending. The novel does have issues with its Indigenous representation. The story hinders on the Zapuche tribe casting a curse on the land Vaccaro school was built on. It’s a problematic depiction that includes references to human sacrifice and with no Zapuche characters among the cast, it feels like they are almost mythical rather than a people who were forced from their land because of colonization.

The Tenth Girl is a slow-paced horror that does not give up its secrets easily. Surprising and at times unnerving, this debut will make the insightful reader think twice about what they are reading.

The Tenth Girl Photo Shoot:

This book is so photogenic and I love that it’s fall because it feels like the perfect time to take photos of this creepy read. You can also find these photos on my Instagram here.

IMG_20191008_153330

IMG_20191009_140024

Blog tour

Blog tour

Snapshot Review: Blood of a Thousand Stars by Rhoda Belleza

Title: Blood of a Thousand Stars
Author: Rhoda Belleza
Series: Empress of a Thousand Skies, #2
Pages: 359
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: February 20th 2018

      “Empress
      With a revolution brewing, Rhee is faced with a choice: make a deal with her enemy, Nero, or denounce him and risk losing her crown.
      Fugitive
      Framed assassin Alyosha has one goal in mind: kill Nero. But to get his revenge, Aly may have to travel back to the very place he thought he’d left forever—home.
      Princess
      Kara knows that a single piece of technology located on the uninhabitable planet Wraeta may be the key to remembering—and erasing—the princess she once was.
      Madman
      Villainous media star Nero is out for blood, and he’ll go to any means necessary to control the galaxy.
      Vicious politics and high-stakes action culminate in an epic showdown that will determine the fate of the universe.”

swirl (2)

  • Accessible science-fiction novel – I always hesitate to pick up science-fiction novels. It’s just not my thing and my mind spaces out when things get to science-y. This duology is one of the few science-fiction novels I’d even recommend even to those who aren’t necessarily fans of the genre.
  • Rhee’s arc – In the first novel, Rhee is consumed by her quest for revenge. She’s reckless and her tunnel-vision makes her lose sight of what is important. In this sequel, Rhee is forced to pull back, to make difficult decisions in order to try to save the world from a dangerous man. She can’t be ruled be her emotions any longer, but must play smart, even if she has to make a deal with the devil himself.
  • Multi-layered world – One of the reasons I’m such a fan of this duology is how multi-layered and deliberate the world-building is. Belleza tackles everything from classism to racism (often in the form of prejudice against refugees) to making a commentary on imperialism. I finished this novel and sat there for a while wondering how this duology has gone under the radar.
  • Intersection of politics and technology – One of the main plot lines revolves around stopping a very power and charismatic political leader from gaining control over technology that would help the spread of propaganda, violate a person’s most private thoughts, and take away an entire population’s agency. I found it fascinating.

  • Missed opportunity for certain dynamics – I loved that Belleza often separated her characters because I think it made their individual arcs stronger. That being said, I really wish we had gotten more interaction between several of the characters. I’m torn between wanting certain characters to meet sooner and just wanting this to have been a longer series so I could see them interact more.


Rhoda Belleza’s Blood of a Thousand Stars is an exciting end to her criminally underrated Empress of a Thousand Skies duology that functions both as social commentary and an engaging science-fiction romp.

★ ★ ★ ★
(4/5)

An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley

Title: An Affair of Poisons
Author: Addie Thorley
Series: N/A
Pages: 391
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Release Date: February 26th 2019

      “No one looks kindly on the killer of a king.
      After unwittingly helping her mother poison King Louis XIV, seventeen-year-old alchemist Mirabelle Monvoisin is forced to see her mother’s Shadow Society in a horrifying new light: they’re not heroes of the people, as they’ve always claimed to be, but murderers. Herself included. Mira tries to ease her guilt by brewing helpful curatives, but her hunger tonics and headache remedies cannot right past wrongs or save the dissenters her mother vows to purge.
      Royal bastard Josse de Bourbon is more kitchen boy than fils de France. But when the Shadow Society assassinates the Sun King and half of the royal court, he must become the prince he was never meant to be in order to save his injured sisters and the petulant dauphin. Forced to hide in the sewers beneath the city, Josse’s hope of reclaiming Paris seems impossible―until his path collides with Mirabelle’s.
      She’s a deadly poisoner. He’s a bastard prince. They are sworn enemies, yet they form a tenuous pact to unite the commoners and former nobility against the Shadow Society. But can a rebellion built on mistrust ever hope to succeed?”

swirl (2)

“These are not birds and butterflies like before, but winged dragons and three-headed serpents that are so much more threatening, so much more tangible. They roar and gnash their teeth as they slither through the clouds. From half a block away, I can see each glittering scale of crimson, green, and gold.”

Addie Thorley’s An Affair of Poisons while not necessarily the most groundbreaking historical fantasy, is nonetheless an enjoyable read with likable leads. Mirabelle has spent her life training to be an alchemist, hoping to earn a place in the Shadow Society. Her mother is leader of the Shadow Society, a organization built on helping the common people who are often neglected by the nobles. When Mira unknowingly concocts a poison used to assassinate the king of France, she is forced to see her mother and the society in a whole new light. She strikes an unlikely alliance with Josse, the bastard son of the king who is determined to protect his sisters no matter the cost. Together they must figure out a way to unite the commoners and nobility and overthrow the Shadow Society.

Thorley’s writes really descriptive writing that immediately had me falling into the story. While An Affair of Poisons has a historical backdrop (though the author does take political license), it is the combination of poison-making and magic that make this world so captivating. From healing tonics used to stave hunger pains to a poison called Viper’s Venom meant to make a person’s death slow and agonizing, the practice of alchemy can be used for good or terrible evil. There is also a magical element to this world that I wished had been explored more. Mira helps enhance the magic of one of the members of the Shadow Society, making his illusions corporeal and his magic even more dangerous than before. Unfortunately, the novel sort of dances around how Mira was able to do this and I was surprised that although we get a lot of detail when it comes to her making poisons, this portion of the novel isn’t delved into deeper.

Mira spends most of the novel struggling between what is right and what she’s been taught. She’s always been under the impression that the Shadow Society stood for the people first and foremost. I loved her journey as she finds an identity apart from her mother and embraces a different path. My only issue is that Mira spends so much of her life navigating her mother’s callousness, including how she withholds approval from both her daughters, turning them into rivals that compete for her attention. Yet it takes Mira far too long to accept that her mother is more interested in power than in taking care of commoners. I really enjoyed Josse’s character. Being a bastard son of a king, he has never had the same kind of privileges as his brother, the heir. Still, I love that Thorley has Josse confronting his own privilege. While he has been relegated to working in the kitchens, he still has never gone hungry and even though he hasn’t taken advantage of it, has had opportunities to better himself. There are so many different familial relationships in this one, but I loved that each one was so complex and so important to each character’s arc.

Addie Thorley’s An Affair of Poisons is a promising debut that’s fast-paced and perfect for those who enjoy historical fiction with a touch of fantasy.

★★★

(3/5)