ARC Review | A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Timesbestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

4.5 cupcakes

“For a moment, I wished I had it in me to feel remorse for the dead thing. But this was the forest, and it was winter.”

Aside from the Wicked Lovely series, I haven’t had much luck with faery stories. However, because it’s Sarah J. Maas and I’m still not completely over all of the feels that Heir of Fire gave me, I just had to giveA Court of Thorns and Roses a try – and I’m very glad to say that I absolutely loved it.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is a retelling of both Beauty and the Beast (but not the Disney-fied version) and Tam Lin, a tale that I’m only vaguely familiar with because of The Decembersists’ Hazards of Love album and Tithe. My lack of familiarity with the source material did not dampen my reading experience, though; in fact, many of what I perceived to be twists and turns in the story would have been less unpredictable had I skimmed the Wikipedia article beforehand.

This is very much a character-driven story, and I absolutely loved how the slow pace allowed the relationships between Feyre and the fey to develop. Feyre’s character arc, in particular, is a thing of beauty: she goes from a prickly, reserved, cold young woman to someone who slowly lets down her guard. She’s had an incredibly difficult life, so seeing Feyre’s reactions to being treated kindly by the fae she was raised to fear and experiencing moments of joy was a large part of what really sold me on this story.

It’s not a Sarah J. Maas novel without at least one swoon-worthy boy, and in the case of A Court of Thorns and Roses, there are three: Tamlin, the High Lord of the Spring Court; Lucien, his snarky courtier; and Rhysand, the dark and intriguing anti-hero / High Lord of the Night Court. While I’m 100% on board with the relationship progression (hate-to-love is kind of my favourite), I’m also surprisingly okay with the potential for a love triangle. I guess that goes to show just how wonderfully crafted these boys and their chemistry were.

Overall, A Court of Thorns and Roses was a very strong start to a new fantasy series. It’s dark, seductive, and magical, with all the sexy faery boys. As with the Throne of Glass series, I’m sure that the following books will be even better, so I can’t wait to see where Feyre’s story will go.

I received an ARC from Bloomsbury USA and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Blog Tour + Review: Playing With Matches by Suri Rosen

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When 16-year-old Raina Resnick is expelled from her Manhattan private school, she’s sent to live with her strict aunt — but Raina feels like she’s persona non grata no matter where she goes. Her sister, Leah, blames her for her broken engagement, and she’s a social pariah at her new school. In the tight-knit Jewish community, Raina finds she is good at one thing: matchmaking! As the anonymous “MatchMaven,” Raina sets up hopeless singles desperate to find the One.

Can she find the perfect match for her sister and get back on her good side, or will her tanking grades mean a second expulsion? In her debut novel, Suri Rosen creates a comic and heartwarming story of one girl trying to find happiness for others, and redemption for herself.

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My Review:

Playing With Matches immerses readers into an Orthodox Jewish community, which is something that I am incredibly unfamiliar with. As a result, I was a bit wary about giving it a read; after all, what if all of the references go completely over my head? Thankfully, my fears were completely unfounded. The narration was both interesting and informative, allowing me to follow the story with ease.

Rain was an easy character to sympathize with. Her narration was quirky and cute, and I loved watching how her role as Matchmaven changed her from a self-absorbed teenager to someone considerably more considerate. I also enjoyed how Rain was not given a love interest; the focus of the story was on her relationship with her family and clients, and I feel as though her involvement in a romantic relationship would have taken away from that.

Overall, Playing With Matches was a cute, light, fun read. I look forward to seeing what Suri Rosen writes next!

Thanks to ECW Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out.  But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship.

Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together….

3.5 cupcakes

As the title suggests, A Little Something Different is unlike any book I’ve read before. It’s an ode to love and an ode to shipping, but it’s not your typical love story. Instead of seeing the whole “boy meets girl” and “girl meets boy” scenario unfold from one of the participant’s perspectives, readers get to watch the relationship unfold from the perspective of absolutely everyone else — from Starbucks baristas to squirrels to a bench on the school green. 14 diverse POVs may seem overwhelming at first, but they definitely made for a quirky, fun way to tell a story.

While the multiple perspectives were one of this book’s greatest strengths, they were also, at times, its biggest weakness. I didn’t feel as though I really got to connect with Lea and Gabe all that much; sure, I was rooting for their relationship to happen, but since the majority of the book involves various people trying to get them together, there wasn’t a lot of time spent on its development. The perspectives themselves were very similar-sounding (with the exception of the bench and the squirrel) and the “voices” seemed a lot younger than they actually were. Aside from the occasional party, they definitely didn’t act like college students, so perhaps this would have been better-suited for a high school setting.

The relationship between Lea and Gabe is a sweet, slow-burn story. Instead of jumping straight into a relationship, both parties have issues of their own that they need to work out. Unfortunately, this led to a lot of communication problems that take up the majority of the story; after a while, it started to get a bit frustrating, and I just wanted to shake both characters and tell them to talk already!

Overall, while A Little Something Different seemed to be written for the younger YA range, the multiple perspectives made for a quick, adorable read.

I received an advanced copy of this book from a Goodreads First Reads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegel

Some sixteen-year-olds babysit for extra cash. Some work at the Gap. Becca Williamson breaks up couples.

After watching her sister get left at the altar, Becca knows the true damage that comes when people utter the dreaded L-word. For just $100 via paypal, she can trick and manipulate any couple into smithereens. With relationship zombies overrunning her school, and treating single girls like second class citizens, business is unfortunately booming. Even her best friend Val has resorted to outright lies to snag a boyfriend.

One night, she receives a mysterious offer to break up the homecoming king and queen, the one zombie couple to rule them all: Steve and Huxley. They are a JFK and Jackie O in training, masters of sweeping faux-mantic gestures, but if Becca can split them up, then school will be safe again for singletons. To succeed, she’ll have to plan her most elaborate scheme to date and wiggle her way back into her former BFF Huxley’s life – not to mention start a few rumors, sabotage some cell phones, break into a car, and fend off the inappropriate feelings she’s having about Val’s new boyfriend. All while avoiding a past victim out to expose her true identity.

No one said being the Break-Up Artist was easy.

My Rating: 

4 cupcakes

“We all like to think that there’s one person out there who will rescue us from the tower, slide the glass slipper onto our foot, brush away our one fallen tear and tell us if there’s six more weeks of winter. Or something like that. But that’s not how the real world works.”

As a “singleton” whose friends are all in relationships, I can definitely say that I’ve occasionally felt inferior to those happy couples. As a result, it was easy for me to understand our protagonist, Becca – even if I’m not quite as cynical about love as she is. Becca’s voice is equal bits skeptical, witty, convincing, and funny, making for an engaging read. While she made a few choices that I didn’t agree with, it was really interesting to see how Becca’s actions shaped her character growth over the course of the novel. And, of course, it was a lot of fun reading about her exploits as the Break-Up Artist and seeing the creativity that was put into her schemes.

Contrary to popular belief, The Break-Up Artist isn’t a romance story. It does critically examine high school relationships, but familial relationships and friendships are given equal exploration. These relationships all had their ups and downs, making them authentic in their imperfections. It also explores the question of what love actually is, and how it can vary from person to person and couple to couple.Overall, The Break-Up Artist was such a cute, fun read that I really didn’t want to put down. I can’t wait to see what Siegel writes next!

Thanks to Netgalley and Harlequin Teen for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Life. Death. And…Love?

Emma would give anything to talk to her mother one last time. Tell her about her slipping grades, her anger with her stepfather, and the boy with the bad reputation who might be the only one Emma can be herself with.

But Emma can’t tell her mother anything. Because her mother is brain-dead and being kept alive by machines for the baby growing inside her.

Meeting bad-boy Caleb Harrison wouldn’t have interested Old Emma. But New Emma-the one who exists in a fog of grief, who no longer cares about school, whose only social outlet is her best friend Olivia-New Emma is startled by the connection she and Caleb forge.

Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death-and maybe, for love?

My Rating:  3.5 cupcakes

The concept behind Heartbeat is certainly a controversial one: Emma’s mother is brain dead, and being kept alive by machines for the sole purpose of carrying her unborn child to term. The ethical implications behind it piqued my interest and caused me to request a review copy, however I wasn’t expecting this story to be quite as emotionally taxing as it was.

Emma, our protagonist, is incredibly easy to sympathize with. While I was initially deterred by her anger, selfishness, and resentment – especially in regards to her behaviour towards her stepfather – I definitely understood where she was coming from. In a lot of cases, it’s easier to be angry than it is to be sad, and channeling all of your sadness into anger can make you feel better, if even for a little bit.

While the main focus of the story was a grieving, broken family that was struggling to find closure, there was also a romantic element. Emma and Caleb were both damaged enough to need the other person to be their support system — and this mutual understanding of one another’s situations not only helped them to better understand their own pain, but it also helped them to heal.

Overall, Heartbeat is a thought-provoking and poignant look at what it means to be alive and what it means to love.

I received a copy of this book from Harlequin Teen and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: The Wrong Girl by C.J. Archer

1It’s customary for Gothic romance novels to include a mysterious girl locked in the attic. Hannah Smith just wishes she wasn’t that girl. As a narcoleptic and the companion to an earl’s daughter with a strange affliction of her own, Hannah knows she’s lucky to have a roof over her head and food in her belly when so many orphans starve on the streets. Yet freedom is something Hannah longs for. She did not, however, want her freedom to arrive in the form of kidnapping.

Taken by handsome Jack Langley to a place known as Freak House, she finds herself under the same roof as a mad scientist, his niece, a mute servant and Jack, a fire starter with a mysterious past. They assure Hannah she is not a prisoner and that they want to help her. The problem is, they think she’s the earl’s daughter. What will they do when they discover they took the wrong girl?

My Rating: 3.5 cupcakes

Self-published books always worry me a little bit, since a lot of the ones that I’ve seen have read like unedited first drafts. Thankfully, The Wrong Girl does not fall under that category. Archer’s writing is strong and descriptive, and the book is filled with so many beautifully written quotes.

To say I’d been kept prisoner my entire life in an attic wasn’t quite true.

With an opening like that, it’s easy to understand why I was so quickly drawn into this thrilling Victorian tale. The pacing was excellent, and kept me curled up in bed for the majority of the day, as I really did not want to put it down. Throughout the story, the many plot twists raise more questions than they answer, which has me eagerly anticipating the sequel.

All of the characters had unique voices, and I was simultaneously intrigued by and in love with the main cast. Hannah is immediately painted as a sympathetic character, with her strong desire to protect Violet at any cost and the glimpse we’re given of her “normal” life in the attic. Her determination and never-ending stream of questions made her stand out in an era where there were many social expectations surrounding women – a contrast which was emphasized by Sylvia’s strong sense of propriety. Jack is a bit of a mystery; he’s kind-hearted, sarcastic and headstrong with a past surrounded in secrecy. As the story unfolds, some of these secrets are revealed, increasing the depth of both his character and my love for him.

I really liked the hint of romance that was shown. Although it was quick to build, it was sweet and took a backseat to the more pressing plot points.

Also, can I just say how much I adore the cover? Sure, the girl on the front doesn’t match Hannah’s description at all, but it perfectly captures the Gothic feel of the book and it’s gorgeous. This is definitely going to be displayed on my bookshelf as soon as I can purchase a copy.

Overall, The Wrong Girl was a thoroughly enjoyable read. I can’t wait to get my hands on Playing With Fire!

Thanks to C.J. Archer, Patchwork Press, and Netgalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: Pretty Dark Nothing by Heather L. Reid

1It’s been twenty three days since Quinn has slept for more than minutes at a time. Demons have invaded her dreams, stalking her, and whispering of her death. The lack of sleep and crippling fear are ruining her life. Energy drinks and caffeine pills don’t make a dent. When Quinn dozes off in the school hallway, Aaron, an amnesiac with a psychic ability, accidentally enters her nightmare. The demons are determined to keep them apart, and Aaron from discovering the secret locked away in his memory. Together, they could banish the darkness back to the underworld for good, unless the demons kill them first.

My Rating:  1.5 cupcakes

Pretty Dark Nothing has a promising start. From the first page Quinn’s struggles to stay awake and the demons that plague her nightmares are vividly depicted, setting the stage for a dark, quick-paced read filled with exciting action. Unfortunately, cliched high school and relationship drama quickly overshadow the more interesting paranormal aspects, leaving readers with a story that is nothing like what the synopsis had promised.

For a good 90% of the book, we’re treated to Quinn pining over her ex-boyfriend, flip-flopping between feelings for her ex and feelings for Aaron, dealing with catty cheerleaders, and doing nothing about the demons except for occasionally saying “no” or “go away.” Since it’s a dual POV story, we also get to see Aaron pining over Quinn for the majority of the book, though he does at least use his psychic abilities a few times.

I didn’t find myself connecting with any of the characters which made this a very tedious read. All of the characters came across as extremely one-dimensional and the supporting characters’ roles were reduced to acting as plot devices or comic relief. There was no character development either, which is unfortunate because Quinn really needed to grow a backbone and a less annoying personality.

The plot finally started to pick up again in the last 10% of the book, but by then I couldn’t bring myself to care about what happened next. The ending was composed of a lot of paranormal elements that seemed to come out of nowhere and serve as a last-minute infodump; had they been incorporated into the rest of the storyline, it would have been less abrupt and confusing. There were so many unanswered questions that I imagine will be addressed in the sequel, though I doubt that I’ll be giving it a try.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: Souls of the Stones Omnibus by Kelly Walker

1Souls of the Stones follows Emariya Warren as she navigates the three divided lands of her world, as well as the three families striving for control. The series incorporates traditional fantasy elements such as prophecy and magic with a love story that transcends genre and time.

When Emariya Warren learns enemy forces have captured her father, she’ll do anything to save him. Anything. Even marry a mysterious prince she knows nothing about in order to rally the strength to arrange a rescue. During her journey to Torian’s foreign castle, Emariya comes face to face with her mother’s killers–and a deadly secret.

Not only does Emariya possess a powerful but unexpected magical gift. So does the prince she’s promised to marry, and an ominous prophecy has warned their gifts must never be combined.

If she breaks her promise to marry Torian, she won’t be able to save her father and if she keeps it, she may bring a curse upon everything she holds dear. Determining which choice is best won’t be easy, but when she meets the gorgeous prince who may desire more than just her heart, she realizes she will have to fight just to have a choice at all.

Her heart wants him desperately. Her head begs her to run. If she doesn’t want to share her mother’s fate, she’ll have to find a way to untangle the truth from the lies in time to save herself.

My Rating:  3.5 cupcakes

I love reading omnibus editions of books. Not only do they save me from the inevitable long wait for the sequel to come in at the library (or worse, for the sequel to finally be released), but they also make “middle book syndrome” virtually disappear.

Souls of the Stones possessed many of the qualities that I like in a book: political intrigue, warring kingdoms, plot twists, a strong female lead, excellent world-building, and unique fantasy elements.

The pacing was excellent, and the many plot twists and betrayals kept my interest throughout the 700+ pages. The dialogue was often charmingly old-fashioned, the descriptions were very detailed, and it showed both Emariya and Torian’s POV. All of the characters (including the supporting cast) were well fleshed out and underwent visible changes as the series progressed. The idea of the three Stones was fascinating; their history and effects were interesting, and they served as a believable explanation for the instant romantic connection between several characters – which is saying a lot, considering I usually cringe at the overused plot device that is “instalove.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: Sworn to Raise by Terah Edun

1Seventeen-year-old Ciardis has grown up in poverty, a cleaner in a small vale on the outskirts of the kingdom. But beneath her kingdom’s seemingly idyllic surface lies a hidden secret. Whispers of an inept crown Prince are growing ever louder—intensified by the five year anniversary of the soulbond initiations.

Amidst scandalous whispers, Ciardis finds herself chosen to train for the Companion’s Guild. She leaves her home and sets off on a personal journey to become a Court Companion. A position she’d never thought possible for a lowly servant to obtain, she must prove that she has the skills to attract a Patron.

But she must master those skills quickly. If the legends are true, only Ciardis can harness the power to raise a Prince in an Imperial Court sworn to bring him down.

This sensational series debut melds intricate storylines with remarkable characters and unforgettable magic. Sworn To Raise is ideal for fans of Kristin Cashore, Michelle Sagara, and Maria Snyder.

My Rating:  1.5 cupcakes

The idea behind Sworn to Raise was appealing – after all, who doesn’t like a modified Cinderella story? Unfortunately, it was slow to start and I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. The story certainly started to pick up once Ciardis began learning about magic, however it was around that same point that the story became a bit of a mess. Sworn to Raise is the first in a series, so it’s difficult to understand why all of the action had to be rushed into in the last 50 pages; it ended so quickly that, despite the fact that I read it only a few days ago, I can honestly say that I don’t remember much of what happened.

As I was reading, I couldn’t help but feel as though the supporting characters were merely there to further the plot, since they had no real substance and their back stories were not elaborated upon. For example, it is mentioned on several occasions that Ciardis’ sponsor has an ongoing rivalry with another sponsor, although we are never told how that came to be. It seemed as though Edun was only telling readers what they needed to know in relation to Ciardis; if it doesn’t help her become a proper Companion, it isn’t important.

I found the Companion’s Guild to be interesting: Companions are trained so that they can attract a Patron, who assesses whether or not their magical qualities can be useful to them before making their selection. The training process was not described in depth, which is a shame – it would have been interesting to learn more about the culture, and would have provided much-needed character development.

Overall, Sworn to Raise was not a book I enjoyed reading, and it certainly didn’t live up to the comparison to Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series. Maybe the sequel will be better.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: Dark Child by Adina West

Perfect for fans of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, this intriguing urban fantasy follows the story of Kat Chanter, who discovers that the world she knows is controlled by ancient creatures who feed on blood. And she might just be one of them …

Lately things have been getting weird for pathology technician Kat Chanter. She’s been craving raw meat, and having dreams so realistic they’re scary. When she accepts a job offer from the prestigious Hema Castus Research Institute, she hopes she’ll have the chance to discover what’s wrong with her, but instead, her move to New York thrusts her headlong into a treacherous hidden world, where the wrong move could be fatal…

Tarot, witchcraft and astrology all take on a frightening resonance in Dark Child’s richly imagined alternative reality where vampiric beings live among us, hidden by magic. Dark romance tangles with paranormal fantasy and page-turning suspense in this enthralling tale of ‘dark child’ Kat Chanter, half-human and half-vampire, who has woken an ancient prophecy and must face a formidable destiny.

My Rating:  2 cupcakes

The premise of Dark Child was fairly appealing, though its execution left much to be desired. It started off very slowly and couldn’t keep my attention – to the point where it took me two weeks to finally finish reading it. I wasn’t invested in any of the characters and there was virtually no character growth; Kat was far too passive and willing to accept whatever she was told, the love interests (because of course there had to be a love triangle) were subject to the typical hero and bad boy archetypes, and the villain didn’t even seem that bad. It wasn’t until halfway through the book, when the unalil were introduced, that the action picked up and I became interested enough to read to the end. Unfortunately, the ending was quite abrupt: nothing was really resolved, leaving me with a feeling of disappointment and more questions than answers.

Despite this, Dark Child possessed a few redeeming qualities. Shape-shifters and vampires are quite prominent in paranormal fiction, and West managed to provide a fresh take on these supernatural beings and the legends and lore surrounding them. If I hadn’t been told that Dark Child was originally released in five episodes, I wouldn’t have guessed it: there were no obvious breaks or awkward transitions.

Overall, while Dark Child was much different from The Mortal Instruments, it was very similar to many other paranormal novels that I’ve read: cliched, enjoyable at times, and completely forgettable.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.