Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud (Advanced Readers Copy)

Two identical girls, one a princess, the other a rebel. Who will rule the empire?

After being swept up into the brutal Vathek court, Amani, the ordinary girl forced to serve as the half-Vathek princess’s body double, has been forced into complete isolation. The cruel but complex princess, Maram, with whom Amani had cultivated a tenuous friendship, discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion and has forced her into silence, and if Amani crosses Maram once more, her identity – and her betrayal – will be revealed to everyone in the court.

Amani is desperate to continue helping the rebellion, to fight for her people’s freedom. But she must make a devastating decision: will she step aside, and watch her people suffer, or continue to aid them, and put herself and her family in mortal danger? And whatever she chooses, can she bear to remain separated, forever, from Maram’s fiancé, Idris?

Thank you Netgalley for an ARC of Tiger Queen for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

She’d been kidnapped, as all girls in stories were, and brought against her will to the royal palace to serve as body double to a princess. Once upon a time, the girl – I – had been a rebel, and forced to make a choice between the rebellion and a princess who had undergone a spell of transformation herself. I’d chosen the princess and saved her life.

When I first read Mirage back in 2018, I was completely in love with the first book as it had a strong concept and plot. When I saw that I was approved for the sequel on Netgalley, I was more than excited. After two years of waiting for the sequel, I am feeling whelmed and have mixed emotions about this book.

I’ll admit that I did find the book to be enjoyable for me. The most exciting aspect of Court of Lions was reading Maram’s perspective. The author did an excellent job at capturing the complexity of Maram, a character who I found endearing in the first book. Adding Maram’s perspective in the book did boost the rating higher for me. Maram was introduced as a cold and ruthless princess in the first book, but in Court of Lions, I really enjoyed her redemption arc. I would have loved a bit more chapters on Maram as her transformation into becoming the destined queen for her people was well worth it. I felt that the author could have had alternating perspectives for both Amani and Maram, which would have expanded the story more.

I would have liked more chapters on Maram’s perspective because Maram’s relationship with Aghraas could be more developed. I really enjoyed this pair, but I would have wanted more attention to be focused on their blossoming relationship between the two. I felt that their relationship should have been more focused and centered in this novel.

As for Amani, I really enjoyed her growth in being both a rebel and a supportive sister for Maram. Most of the novel is told in Amani’s perspective as she navigates her alliances between the princess, the rebels, and the courtiers. Amani faces challenges as she navigates the court life posing as Maram’s double. Amani overcomes her obstacles and puts her planet’s needs first by becoming a queen maker and supporting the rebellion. She even put her romance and feelings aside to ensure Maram’s ascension to the throne.

Although Court of Lions has its strong points, the build-up to the story was very underwhelming. Though there were high stakes for Amani, I felt that everything went almost according to plan without any challenges for the main protagonists. Most of the novel is spent on building alliances between royals and the rebels. Many new side characters were introduced and there was no proper characterization for all new folks in this book. Only one of the new characters has at least a background story. If you’re looking for a big climatic battle, this is not the book for you. You would think that a conqueror of four planets would put up a bigger fight against the rebellion. The big confrontation scene between the rebels and King Mathis was so rushed…I honestly could not believe this the final book in this series. I could have saw this book be expanded more as the king was a conqueror of 4 planets…The resolution and the conflict was rushed and it ended up being anti-climatic. Perhaps, the author could have written at least 5 to 10 more chapters to make the climax worth it for readers.

Court of Lions was a good book, but the rushed action and plot were the weaker aspects. After reflecting about the ending, I will have to rate this book lower a bit lower.

Rating: ★★★ (3.5)

Book Review: From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Reading From Blood and Ash was a wild ride for me. For one, I didn’t expect the book to be around 600 pages long, and the time it took for me to finish the book was faster than I had anticipated.

To begin, Poppy is the chosen Maiden of her Kingdom. Poppy has a rare ability that makes her a protected class. Although being the Maiden would be ideal, it is a position that has Poppy trapped. Poppy has no rights or freedoms to be the person that she wants to be. Rather, Poppy is a slave and caged into a position that she did not chose for herself. In her life, Poppy is forced to wear a veil to conceal her face, and is always accompanied by body guards to keep her protected from the public. Poppy does not have the option to converse with other people within her vicinity. Poppy has limited freedoms and has to comply to the rules enforced onto her, or suffer punishment from her caretaker, The Duke.

“I was the Maiden, the Chosen … I wasn’t Poppy but a shadow of a person who wasn’t allowed to experience, need, live, or want.”

Regardless, Poppy has a rebellious streak and a curious mind. What I enjoyed from reading From Blood and Ash, was that Poppy was determined to enjoy her life and make choices for herself. Poppy wanted to take manners into her own hands. She definitely proved she was not submissive stereotype. Poppy learned how to fight in combat, which is not a trait that the Maiden is supposed to have. I really liked Poppy as a character even though I did find Poppy was a little too navie in certain situations, but I understood that she was not experienced as the typical women in her world.

As for the love interest, Hawke is Poppy’s bodyguard. Poppy and Hawke meet in the most interesting dilemma. Hawke is known to be a playboy, cocky, and assertive. Poppy instantly does fall for him as she’s inexperienced in the romance department. Although I did find the romance to be a bit instantaneous, this relationship proved to be a slow-burn romance. I liked how Hawke would prioritize Poppy’s needs rather than force her in a relationship. Hawke made sure to have Poppy’s consent rather than act upon when they finally establish a relationship. Their relationship was both playful and endearing. This is a forbidden romance as the Maiden is supposed to stay a virgin. The romance element by far was the best aspect of this book. I am not the biggest fan of New Adult, but this book proved me wrong.

The world-building could have been developed. I had no idea what the actual Ascension ceremony was all about. It was explained near the end of the book. I felt that the author should have explained certain concepts at the beginning because I was a bit clueless of what it meant to be Ascended in this world. As for the world, it was really simple to follow along. The world was not as complex as it could have been.

Storywise, I thought this was a good story. Again, I really had no idea that this book was going to be thick when I first picked it up to read. What I did enjoy was the fact that the twist was not extremely predictable. I did not expect the twist at all! That’s why I found From Blood and Ash to be memorable. I finally found a New Adult Fantasy book that I liked! I did not expect the ending to end on a high note as well. Though this book did start off slow, the book is actually well worth it. I was completely immersed in the relationship between Poppy and Hawke. I am definitely looking forward to picking up the next book in the series.

Final Rating: ★★★★ (4.25)

Moonscript by H.S.J. Williams

I received an advance review copy for free from BookSirens, all opinions are my own.

Moonscript had a strong and captivating beginning. It begins with the disappearance of Errance, an elven prince who is taken to the dark realm. Immediately, I knew I was up for an adventure and a quest. But, it did take a good while for me to become immersed in the world. I felt the build-up was a bit slower paced as readers were introduced to Tellie and Kelm.

Telly is a young orphan, who lives under Cinderella-like conditions with her distant relatives. One day she discovers Elves in a forest and is given a mission to find the next King. Tellie is also adopted by a nice elf couple, but things do not go according to plan. Telly and her best friend Kelm, are transported to the Dark Realm, where Evil resides and where Errance is being held.

Moonscript is supposed to be an Epic Journey of Redemption and Love. As I was reading, I felt that the author was inspired by Christianity. I believe that Errance represented a Christ-like figure as he endured the punishments unleashed onto him and did not fall into temptation as he was a prisoner in the dark realm.

I have to say that the most enjoyable part of this series was learning about Errance and his tragic backstory. He was the most developed character from his group of friends. Readers can sympathize and love Errance. As for Tellie, she was caring, brave, and loving towards all her friends. She was really the glue in the group. Tellie had lived a life of hardship and I was happy to know that she had one of the best endings in this first book. Unfortunately, not all characters were fully developed, Kelm and Tryss. Tryss was supposed to be like the mother figure, while Kelm was the best friend who secretly had feelings for Tellie.

There is not a lot of romance in this book. An interesting relationship that might have more development in the sequel book is between Errance and Tryss. Errance is extremely untrustful of Tryss and her kind. The author did not really explain what type of being Tryss was supposed to be. She’s not an Elf, but her species is known to be quite treacherous. Although Tryss and her clan are actually good people. It seemed like Errance and Tryss developed some feelings for each other, but there was not a lot going on between them. I liked their “tense” relationship, but it doesn’t seem fully executed well in this book.

I’m not sure how the next book will play out since this one did not end in a cliff hanger. This series had a happy ending which is rare. I felt this book to be decent. I would have wanted this book to have more higher stakes and immediate dangers towards the cast of characters. It would have been far more exciting if there were a cliffhanger to get people excited for the next book. The world building was a bit lackluster. It was hard to imagine each distinct area in this world. Let’s hope Book 2 sets the bar high.

Final Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

ARC: Tiger Queen by Annie Sullivan

Goodreads Synposis

From Annie Sullivan, author of A Touch of Gold, comes Tiger Queen, a sweeping YA fantasy adventure that tells the story of a fierce desert princess battling to save her kingdom.

Fans of Rebel of the Sands and Meagan Spooner will devour this retelling of Frank Stockton’s famous short story, “The Lady, or the Tiger?”

In the mythical desert kingdom of Achra, an ancient law forces sixteen-year-old Princess Kateri to fight in the arena to prove her right to rule. For Kateri, winning also means fulfilling a promise to her late mother that she would protect her people, who are struggling through windstorms and drought. The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raids the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.

But when Kateri’s final opponent is announced, she knows she cannot win. In desperation, she turns to the desert and the one person she never thought she’d side with. What Kateri discovers twists her world—and her heart—upside down. Her future is now behind two doors—only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger.

Commentary

During my stay in Tres Palos, Guerrero, Mexico, I had a lot of time to read while vacationing with my grandparents. My family’s hometown is rural, and my grandparents do not have WiFi. It was an interesting week for me as I got a lot of reading done! Also, wow, first review this year!

Thank you Netgalley for an ARC of Tiger Queen for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

I chose Tiger Queen by Annie Sullivan as one of my vacation books as the premise was interesting, and it was a standalone book. What I had expected was a tale of mystery, deception, and overall an epic tale. Tiger Queen was not that. instead it was extremely generic. The twists and turns did not add much to the story. Given the synposis and the actual story, I was surprised by the overwhelming positive reviews on Goodreads.

Princess Kateri is a tough and headstrong princess. Kateri has spent most of her life fighting in the arena against opponents to win her independence and to become the next ruler of the Kingdom of Achra. The protagonist has a lot at stake to lose. From a young age, Kateri has sought out validation and love from her father, the king. She fights to prove that she is capable as many of the rulers are males. Her life is not made easy due to the severe drought and windstorms that effect the life of her subjects. The protagonist wishes to resolve the issues of her kingdom by seeking to eliminate the Desert Boy, a gang that is responsible for killing her mother, and stealing water from the reserves. Kateri places all the blame on the Desert Boys, rather than seek different solutions to maintain her kingdom. Though she seeks the Desert Boys, Kateri wants to get revenge for the pain they have caused her. She believes that the Desert Boys are making the lives of her people difficult, when that’s not the case. She believes her people love her, but her subjects view her as privilege and greedy.

Kateri has a difficult time adjusting to the truth of the matter. Kateri wishes to uphold her mother’s promise by protecting her people. The drought makes this promise difficult to fulfill. The people of Archa does not see that Kateri suffers in her position. The King expects Kateri to be perfect. Any mistake tarnishes her father’s views of her. Kateri longs to become close to her father, but he is cold and distant. Regardless of their familial bond, Kateri never gives up on her father. Though her life may not be perfect, she endures physical and emotional suffering under her tutor’s lessons. After learning that her tutor, Rodric, Kateri feels completely dismayed by her circumstances. She knows that there is no way to defeat Rodric. The princess understands that to beat her tutor, she has to seek an alliance with her enemies.

As I’ve mentioned, the book is quite generic when it comes to the villains. The actions of the king and Rodric were highly suspicious. I had a feeling each man was evil due to their ambitions and greed. Although Kateri loved her father, he despised his daughter. The king did not seek ways to repair his relationship with his daughter. Kateri was always left out of the loop when it came to the problems of her kingdom. What felt frustrating was that the motives of the villains were obvious. I did not have to look hard for the villains. Instead of having complex characters, the readers are made aware of the goals of each character by the remaining half of the book. The secrets that were revealed were not shocking.

As for the romance, I was not a major fan. I cared more about Kateri’s journey to win her throne. It seemed that the romance between Kateri and Cion was going to be a slow burn. Kateri does not trust Cion as she sought the help of the Desert Boys. She gradually falls for the leader of the gang and begins to learn what real love is. The banter between the characters was cute, but that’s about it. I don’t have much to say about Cion. But I will say is that I am glad there was not a love triangle nor a possible romance between Kateri and Rodric.

Overall, I felt this book was okay. The world building was really good, Kateri made a compelling character, but everything else fell short.

Rating: ★★★

ARC: The Revolution of Jack Frost by K.M. Robinson

The Revolution of Jack Frost.jpg

goodreads-synopsis

No one inside the snow globe knows that Morozoko Industries is controlling their weather, testing them to form a stronger race that can survive the fall out from the bombs being dropped in the outside world—all they know is that they must survive the harsh Winter that lasts a month and use the few days of Spring, Summer, and Fall to gather enough supplies to survive.

When the seasons start shifting, Genesis and her boyfriend, Jack, know something is going on. As their team begins to find technology that they don’t have access to inside their snow globe of a world, it begins to look more and more like one of their own is working against them.

Genesis soon discovers Morozoko Industries is to blame, but when a foreign enemy tries to destroy their weather program to make sure their destructive life-altering bombs succeed in destroying the outside world, their only chance is to shut down the machine that is spinning out of control and save the lives of everyone inside the bunker–at any cost.

commentary

*✭˚・゚✧*・゚*✭˚・゚✧*・゚* *✭˚・゚✧*・゚*✭˚・゚✧*・゚**✭˚・゚✧*・゚*✭˚・゚✧*・゚*

Thank you Netgalley for an arc of The Revolution of Jack Frost for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

*✭˚・゚✧*・゚*✭˚・゚✧*・゚* *✭˚・゚✧*・゚*✭˚・゚✧*・゚**✭˚・゚✧*・゚*✭˚・゚✧*・゚*

Initially, I was going to wait to review the book closer to the publishing date, BUT, The Revolution of Jack Frost proved to be cliched af! I’m disappointed in it. Here’s why:

I made predictions about the story and its progression as I began the book…I DID NOT THINK THAT MY PREDICTIONS WOULD COME TRUE…

damn

♦️ Dystopian World ✔️

♦️ Lack of World Building  ✔️

♦️ One dimensional protagonist  ✔️

♦️ No buildup to a romantic relationship  ✔️

♦️ Government Facilities  ✔️

♦️ Test Subjects  ✔️

♦️ Too many random characters  ✔️

*✭˚・゚✧*・゚*✭˚・゚✧*・゚* *✭˚・゚✧*・゚*✭˚・゚✧*・゚**✭˚・゚✧*・゚*✭˚・゚✧*・゚*

The Revolution of Jack Frost proved to be the MOST cliched book that I read in 2018. I didn’t want to be a Negative Nancy, but this book can be avoided. I was hoping this arc was going to be a Jack Frost retelling, but not this…because this book is extremely predictable. The reading process was not fun, and it was quite dreadful to continue the book. I almost dnfed it, but I managed to finish it…(╬ಠ益ಠ)

The concept was interesting, but I felt that Jack should have been the main protagonist…out of all these randomly selected characters introduced in this series, Jack was the ONLY one to get some sort of personality! The story is told in Genesis’ pov, and SHE HAD NO PERSONALITY BESIDES BEING THE GIRLFRIEND OF JACK…I know more about Jack than I do about Genesis. What’s the point of having a MC when the reader hardly knows anything about their interests, ideas, quirks????? Sadly, this book left a bitter taste in my mouth…

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Most disappointing Jack Frost retelling ever…but the prologue have the best opening.

He was a force of nature. He could warm your soul like the sun and then bury you in ice the next second. He was more destructive than any other universal element or could ever be. It was his way, to be like a hurricane crashing upon the shores, or lightning splintering everything in its path. He was a force. But he was my force. And in the end, it didn’t matter, because he disappeared, just like the weather always does. Here for one brief moment and gone the next. His name was Jack and his love for me was like a flood, now frozen over.

Final Rating: ⭐ (1.5)

Publishing Date: November 6th, 2018

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel PRince

goodreads-synopsis

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

commentary

Ten years ago, a 17 year old Michelle bought a copy of Tithe by Holly Black at Borders. This version of myself was excited for this book, and I hated it. I vowed to myself to never read another Holly Black book ever again. Yes, I was immature. And here I am now, finding myself finished with The Cruel Prince. 

Perhaps it was the hype and bookstagram that led me to read The Cruel Prince. This book has received phenomenal love and praise, but I found it to be problematic. Let’s just say that I am not the biggest fan of Jude and Cardan’s romance. I can see why others may love it since it is a slow burn romance.

Beginning with what I did enjoy from this book. Each character was flawed, and it was hard to like anyone, but it works well for this book. Jude was a bit irritating, but endearing for me. Jude has ambitions and goals, and she knows that she is limited as a mortal in the fae world. Jude seeks power in order to overcome the challenges of being human. She knows that in order to best the fae, she has to become better than them. Jude does love the fae world, while in the mortal world, she does not fit in. Jude has been shaped by her childhood growing up in a different world. Though Jude and Taryn do not belong with the Fae, they do not have a home to go back to in the human realm. Whereas, their older sister Vivi, she loves the mortal world more than anything else, even though she is half fae and is supposed to have a stronger bond with her fellow faeries. Though the story is told in Jude’s pov, I would say that Vivi is the rebel of the family because she longs to be in world with humans and does not comply with the traditions of her people. Taryn seeks assimilation to the faerie world by trying to be in her best behavior with others. Taryn wants to fit in, and does not seek trouble unlike her sister Jude.

Reading this book, I liked the relationship of the twins. Jude is tough, strong, and does not back down. She is emotionally driven, especially when it concerns the safety of Taryn. While Taryn is softer, and kinder. I did like how both sisters were mirror image of each other. Though, I would have liked to have read some of Taryn’s pov. My favorite non-romantic relationship had to be the dynamic between Jude and her adoptive father Madoc. Madoc murdered her parents, but Jude still loved him. Due to his beliefs, he shaped Jude to be fully a good adversary. He trained Jude, but he loved her back. He had his own interests that he sought for himself, and yet, he thought about the safety and concern for his family. Madoc wanted the best for his daughters despite having no blood relation.

What I really loved was the scheming royals and their political plans. Let’s just say that the buildup to the coronation and the events that take place afterward is the stronger half of the story. The first half of the story is not as great as the second half. Let’s just say that it’s dark, intense, and reminds me a bit of Game of Thrones. Ha ha. Honestly, I feel that the title of the Cruel Prince belongs to Balekin rather than Cardan.

My issue with The Cruel Prince is the constant bullying that Jude endures coming from the entourage of Cardan. The romance between Jude and Cardan is not the best. I would have love if Cardan was more of the stoic type that ignored Jude rather than allowing his friends to have free reign to torture and nearly kill Jude. Honestly, it was really difficult for me to root for Cardan and Jude. Jude was placed under a lot of danger especially when dealing with Cardan’s friends. I get that Cardan is a victim of abuse, but that does not justify his behavior towards Jude. I am a bigger fan of Jude getting the power she deserves. I like Cardan as well, but shipping him with Jude, I am not seeing it. Since this is the first book, my opinions can change with The Wicked King. 

Anyways, Locke was a trash character. I had a feeling that he was manipulating the romances between him and Jude. I don’t like that Locke was the figure that was tearing the relationship between Jude and Taryn. Learning about Taryn in the later half of the book changed my view on her. I did like her, but after finishing the book, not a fan. In a way, it can be argued that Taryn sought her own power to marry a fae. Though, I don’t like the message that she chose a boy over her sister.

My last issue with The Cruel Prince was the pacing. I felt that some parts needed to be fleshed out more such as Jude’s training under the Court of Shadows. Because The Court of Shadows does play a big role in Jude’s life, I would have at least liked there to be more interactions between her and the other members. It felt that she instantly became this fully equipped spy. I felt some areas could have been explained more. The pacing felt odd. For example, it was implied that Jude was strategic throughout the book, but the author could have written how Jude was strategic to begin with. It did a lot of telling, but not showing. Though, it was not my favorite book, it was entertaining. I want to see how the events will play into The Wicked King.

Final Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ (3.5)

The Beau & The Belle by R.S. Grey

the beau and the bellegoodreads-synopsis

Beau Fortier starred in most of my cringe-worthy teenage fantasies.

I met him when I was a junior in high school, a time that revolved exclusively around bad hair, failed forays into flirting, and scientific inquiries into which brand of toilet paper worked best for stuffing bras.

That is, until Beau moved into the small guest house just beyond my bedroom window.

A 24-year-old law student at Tulane, Beau was as mysterious to me as second base (both in baseball and in the bedroom). He was older. Intimidating. Hot. Boys my age had chicken legs and chubby cheeks. Beau had calloused hands and a jaw cut from steel. Our interactions were scarce—mostly involving slight stalking on my end—and yet deep down, I desperately hoped he saw me as more of a potential lover than a lovesick loser.

Turns out, I was fooling myself. My fragile ego learned that lesson the hard way.

Now, ten years later, we’re both back in New Orleans, and guess who suddenly can’t take his eyes off little ol’ me.

My old friend, Mr. Fortier.

But things have changed. I’m older now—poised and confident. My ego wears a bulletproof vest. The butterflies that once filled my stomach have all perished.

When I was a teenager, Beau warned me to guard my heart.

Let’s hope he knows how to guard his.

commentary

This book review is LONG overdue. The first R.S. Grey novel I read was Chasing Spring, and even to this day, I still gush about it. SO, I have been following the author on her social media, and I am a huge fan of her covers for adult books. Now, I was in the mood to read a R.S. Grey book, especially her adult books…now how bad could it possibly be?? Those were my initial thoughts, but, boy did I cringed throughout my reading experience!

Maybe I am not the best person to turn to when recommending Adult books…I felt this book was uncomfortable for me. I wanted to go back to my YA books, and not touch a New Adult book.

So, what had happen was that this book included a very questionable relationship between Beau and Lauren. In the first part of the book, Lauren is a teenager that actively lusts for Beau. I had no problems with it. I have to admit that the author wrote Lauren as convincingly human as she could be. Lauren was realistic, and she developed a crush on a much older guy…now my main issue was the behavior of Beau towards Lauren in the first part…He was aware of the very QUESTIONABLE relationship they could have gotten into in the first portion of the book. YET, he felt the same for her…I felt gross…

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Lauren was the worst protagonist as well. She would get mad at Beau for not trying to flirt with her, or be her boyfriend. She wanted a relationship with him, though he kept repeating to her that she was UNDERAGE! This book has no need for the REVENGE element. The protagonist was so stupid…I can’t even. Lauren was so infuriating…and out of all the least liked characters on my list, she is now officially NUMBER ONE.

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Other than that, this was supposed to be a romantic comedy, and yet I found myself neither laughing nor amused. Maybe this wasn’t the book for me. I wasn’t satisfied with either character. Lauren as an adult acted as if she had never gotten away from her cringing teen phase. I wanted Lauren to be a changed person, especially when Beau reappeared into her life. I wanted Lauren to be strong…but I guess I had too many expectations going into this book. May I consider another Adult book from R.S. Grey…maybe….I guess I can try for next year or in the next five years. I was in the mood for something romantic…and yet I found myself hating every bit of this book. I’m disappointed, but this was not marketed for my demographic.

Final Rating: ⭐ (1.5)

ARC: Mirage by Somaiya Daud

miragegoodreads-synopsis

In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death.

commentary

When I first picked up Mirage from my tbr pile at home, I had no idea what I was expecting. I can best describe this book as the female version of The Prince and The Pauper in Space with hints of forced colonialism and imperialism. The first chapter had me hooked on the story, and normally, it takes a couple chapters before I become invested in a book.

Mirage was quite different from what I have read. To begin, it seems like not much happened, that was my original thought when I first finished the book. After letting my thoughts marinate for a couple days, this book does not bring the action, but it builds up to potential conflict that the characters will encounter in the upcoming sequel.

To begin, Amani is not the chosen one, nor is she a Mary Sue character. Amani dreams of having her life with far less restrictions, she and her family live in a village. She has a passion for reading books, especially poetry. She and her brothers live in a society where the Vathek Empire has subjugated other planets into submission, and Amani’s planet is one of them. When Amani’s village is celebrating a special cultural practice, robots serving the empire take Amani by force away from her people and family. Amani is forced into a position in which she has no control over her body, nor her fate.

Amani shares a close resemblance to Princess Maram. Amani is presented as a fragile when compared to Maram’s vicious nature. Amani becomes the Empire’s puppet in order to protect the princess from any danger. Given the tough situation, Amani does get agency. Though being Maram’s body double did give Amani fright at first, she learns that she can wield her own power given her position. Amani obeys and listens to her orders, but, she also learns to manipulate her situation.

The relationship between Maram and Amani is complicated. The princess is shown to be as a morally grey character. As a reader, you question Maram’s ideals. Was she influenced by her nature, or her nurture?  At the same, you can’t help but feel sorry for the princess. She was been raised by her Vathek family, and it has served as a factor to why she behaves in a cruel, and unjust manner.

As for the love interest, I will admit, it was definitely a insta-love situation, and usually I loathe insta-love relationships. But, I found myself digging the relationship between Amani and Idris. It was a forbidden love, and both characters are forced into positions that they have to comply to. Though, I am interested to know how Idris and Maram are in a relationship, because it’s vague and left to the imagination. The ending left me craving for the next book immediately. The very last chapters has the suspense and action that it was lacking in the first portion. I came with little to no expectations when it came to Mirage, but I wholeheartedly love it. It’s science fiction, fantasy, has the drama you need, and I think I might ship Amani and Maram more than Idris and Amani!

Final Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

the darkest corners

goodreads-synopsis

The Darkest Corners is a psychological thriller about the lies little girls tell, and the deadly truths those lies become.

There are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them.

Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn’t have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they’ll disappear for good.

Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved, and childhood friends just have a way of losing touch.

But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.

Only the closer Tessa gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away.

commentary

The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas was possibly the book with  the slowest buildup to a plot. The story revolves around Tessa, a teen who lives with her grandmother in Florida. She is forced to return to her old hometown because her father in prison is dying. Almost a decade ago, Tessa was abandon by her mother. Left with no relatives in Pennsylvania, her grandmother takes her out of state, and away from her best friend Callie. Tessa did not have a normal childhood growing up. Her father was arrested, her sister may have possibly been involved with a murder, and her mother had abandoned her.

When Callie’s cousin Lorrie is murdered by a high profiled murderer, Tessa and Callie help incriminate Wyatt Stokes into jail. Tessa has felt the guilt over the case as she grew up. She is still effected by the case, and looks to forums to see what people are talking about it on the internet. When she returns back to Fayette, Tessa is forced to confront her past, and people she has left behind.

It was difficult to trust characters due to several red herrings! I listened to this book as an audiobook. I have to say, that the premise of the story was interesting, but I felt that the pacing took forever. It was slow, but the buildup to the story and the crazy events that unfolded was the best aspect of the book. Yes, there were many twists that I did not see coming. I was gagged!

One issue I had was connecting with the characters. It felt like Tessa had a detached personality. There was something about her personality that threw me off. She did try reconnecting with people from her past, but I didn’t get emotions from her. I am basing this on what I heard on audio form rather than reading the physical book.

This book did get dark, and I liked the many characters that seemed unreliable. I liked that the mystery behind the murders did not get resolved till the very end. It was enjoyable, but I wished that I were able to really get into this book, especially concerning Tessa. The friendship between Callie and Tessa was possibly the best part of this book. It was presented as a fragile, and broken. Callie and Tessa were completely different individuals, but most of all, Tessa failed to realize how much Callie was broken. Solving the murders of the Ohio River Monster brought the girls together. It was good. If you are looking for romance in this book, there is none.

Final Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ (3 1/2)

ARC: Finding Yvonne by Brandy Colbert

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Since she was seven years old, Yvonne has had her trusted violin to keep her company, especially in those lonely days after her mother walked out on their family. But with graduation just around the corner, she is forced to face the hard truth that she just might not be good enough to attend a conservatory after high school.

Full of doubt about her future, and increasingly frustrated by her strained relationship with her successful but emotionally closed-off father, Yvonne meets a street musician and fellow violinist who understands her struggle. He’s mysterious, charming, and different from Warren, the familiar and reliable boy who has her heart. But when Yvonne becomes unexpectedly pregnant, she has to make the most difficult decision yet about her future.

Commentary:

Perhaps, I am getting older because it is hard for me to find a good contemporary YA book that pleases me in this day and age. Finding Yvonne by Brandy Colbert was a choice. The synopsis was intriguing, the plot did seem something out of the CW, so I took a chance on the book. I did receive Finding Yvonne in Yallwest, but opinions are all my own. So, this is a unpopular opinion. Considering the reviews I have seen for the book, there aren’t much negative reviews. This book was an experience, and I was left shaking my head due to certain events that played out. That being said, this will be a rant review with spoilers.
Starting on a positive note, I did enjoy how Yvonne was unapologetic about herself and her sexuality. I have no issues with a character’s sexuality. Yvonne was confident about her body and her choices. That being said, she made a lot of questionable decisions. I will say that the pregnancy aspect of the book did not play a major role as I had anticipated. The pregnancy revelation was placed near the last third of the book. The synopsis presents a story of how a pregnant Yvonne has to chose the right path due to her circumstances…but, the reality was not the case.
It is hard for me to comprehend the actions of Yvonne, especially when it came to her relationships. So, Yvonne was seeing her father’s sous chef, Warren, but it was not an exclusive relationship. The relationship between Warren and Yvonne was secretive because of the age difference between the two. Warren was protective of Yvonne, and did not want to be sexually engaged with her until she was officially 18. It seemed like Yvonne wanted her relationship with Warren to move at a faster pace. I felt myself siding with Warren because she was underage. Though the age difference was not extreme, it seemed that Yvonne disregarded it for the sake of love. I rolled my eyes…but this was not as bad as The Beau and The Belle by R.S. Grey, a book that I had several issues with…
Yvonne was happy in her relationship despite not being official. When she and Warren hang out in Venice Beach, she finds herself completely and utterly drawn by a street musician named Omar. Despite being in a complicated relationship with Warren, she falls completely head over heels for Omar. A major issue I had with this book was the cheating aspect. Yvonne does get into a major fight with Warren because he chose to work on her birthday, and she reacts by destroying the birthday cake that Warren bought her. Yvonne also seeks out Omar, and considers hanging out with him…DESPITE NOT KNOWING THE GUY!
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The story tried to establish a love triangle, but it was lame. I felt uncomfortable with how Yvonne was seeing Omar, while she had her fight with Warren. Yvonne lies about her relationship status to both men. Instead of being rational and calling her relationship off with Warren, she peruses each man. I fully did not trust Omar, he seemed a bit shady…but instead of getting to know Omar, she has sex with him on her first official date with him. It does not help that she continues seeing Warren, and has sex with him a week after she has had sex with Omar. I assumed that she was going to get pregnant by Omar, but I was surprised. As mentioned previously, her pregnancy does not play a major role in this book. NOR WILL YOU FIND OUT WHO THE REAL FATHER IS!
Literally, this book was about Finding Yvonne, and how she was going to deal with her relationships, ambitions, and career choices. I was not the biggest fan of Yvonne because she did have several immature moments. In my opinion, she manipulated both guys. I knew Omar was shady, which did end up being true. Yvonne goes through minimal growth. It seems that she is used to getting praises all the time. For example, growing up she received praises for her violin skills, and then as a teen, she thrived off praises for her baking skills. I really wanted Yvonne to be an awesome character. The only character that I liked by far was her best friend Sabine. Sabine was looking out for her friend, and even warned Yvonne that she could be potentially used. Sabine was supportive, and dealt with Yvonne’s unnecessary drama and antics. Kudos to Sabine for being the true MVP of this book.
Final Rating: ⭐⭐
Publication Date: August 7th 2018