Book Review – Ember Queen

“There’s no shame in breaking…You just have to put yourself back together again.”

Title: Ember Queen (Ash Princess #3)

Author: Laura Sebastian

Publisher: Delacourte Books for Young Readers

Publication date: February 4th, 2020

512 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

The thrilling conclusion to the series that began with the instant New York Times bestseller “made for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Sabaa Tahir” (Bustle), Ember Queen is an epic fantasy about a throne cruelly stolen and a girl who must fight to take it back for her people.

Princess Theodosia was a prisoner in her own country for a decade. Renamed the Ash Princess, she endured relentless abuse and ridicule from the Kaiser and his court. But though she wore a crown of ashes, there is fire in Theo’s blood. As the rightful heir to the Astrean crown, it runs in her veins. And if she learned nothing else from her mother, she learned that a Queen never cowers. 

Now free, with a misfit army of rebels to back her, Theo must liberate her enslaved people and face a terrifying new enemy: the new Kaiserin. Imbued with a magic no one understands, the Kaiserin is determined to burn down anyone and everything in her way. 

The Kaiserin’s strange power is growing stronger, and with Prinz Søren as her hostage, there is more at stake than ever. Theo must learn to embrace her own power if she has any hope of standing against the girl she once called her heart’s sister.

Review

You aren’t useless. You have your mind, you have your determination. 

ember queen, laura sebastian

I have waited for the conclusion of the Ash Princess series since 2018, ever since I first read Ash Princess and fell in love. Theo is one of my fave characters all time, and I thoroughly enjoyed this conclusion to the trilogy. Ember Queen is a great conclusion that wraps up the story line but still throws some fun twists in for the readers along with extending the plot line from Lady Smoke.

Ember Queen continues Theo’s story of trying to regain her family’s throne in Astrea, that was overtaken by the Kalovaxian Kaiser many years ago. Theo is strong and capable, while trying to be a fair and just ruler. Her rebellion is going strong, but there are some kinks that need to be worked out. The real issue is of the Kaiserin, who has some new powers that no one really understands. Theo must use all of her wits and powers to make her rebellion a success.

It’s hard to write a review for an end book without giving away and spoilers! So, this is the best I can do. I enjoy where Theo’s romantic relationship ended up. It seemed like a fitting end for her romance throughout the books, and is something that isn’t too easy. The writing is as wonderful as the others, and this series will just continue to be one of my favorites.

I am very excited to read more of Laura’s work, both adult and YA. Can’t wait!

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Sky Without Stars

Title: Sky Without Stars (System Divine #1)

Authors: Jessica Brody & Joanne Rendell

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: March 26th, 2019

582 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A thief. An officer. A guardian. 

Three strangers. One shared destiny . . .

When the Last Days came, the planet of Laterre promised hope. But five hundred years later, it’s now a place where an extravagant elite class reigns supreme; where the clouds hide the stars and the poor starve in the streets; where a rebel group, long thought dead, is resurfacing.

Whispers of revolution have begun—a revolution that hinges on three unlikely heroes…

Chatine is a street-savvy thief who will do anything to escape the brutal Regime, including spying on Marcellus, the grandson of the most powerful man on the planet.

Marcellus is an officer—and the son of a traitor. Groomed to command by his legendary grandfather, Marcellus begins to doubt the government he’s vowed to serve when he discovers a cryptic message that only one person, a girl named Alouette, can read.

Alouette is living in an underground refuge, where she guards and protects the last surviving library on the planet. But a shocking murder will bring Alouette to the surface for the first time in twelve years…and plunge Laterre into chaos.

All three have roles to play in a dangerous game of revolution—and together they will shape the future of a planet.

Power, romance, and destiny collide in this sweeping reimagining of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece Les Misérables.

Review

This book is a chunker y’all. I picked Sky Without Stars up on a Barnes and Noble sale awhile back because this cover is gorgeous. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of the next book, Between Burning Worlds, through Netgalley so it was time to dive into this world!

First off, I’ve recently become super into classics re-imagined in space. I’ve only read a few, but I’ve really enjoyed the ones I’ve read, even though I always thought the sci-fi genre was low on my list. Sky Without Stars is basically Les Mis in space, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The characters were interesting, while also having fatal flaws, which was a really good balance.

First off, the characters. I am here for them all (with a special shout-out to my girl, Chatine, who just can’t seem to get her shit together). I like how you get the story told in alternating POV’s – it goes back and forth between the three main characters; Chatine, Marcellus, and Alouette. They each have a distinct voice, which I think was very well done. I appreciate the differences between these three characters, and how you just know they will all be interconnected by the end somehow.

The plot was great. I really enjoyed the retelling aspect. There were parts that were a throwback to my high school History classes learning about the French Revolution (hey there guillotine) that really showed the class issues that were happening at the time. Humans are broken into three social classes; First Estate (royalty and nobles), Second Estate (middle class), and Third Estate (lower class and workers). You can really see how terribly the Third Estate is treated, and can totally understand why riots and rebellions are breaking out.

Lastly, I thought the Bastille adaptation was genius. A horrible prison built on an orbiting moon where people are sent to mine in hazardous conditions? LOVE IT (the concept, not the actual thing obvi). I thought it added a level of pressure to the story, because no one wants to be sent there. Also, a nod to the actual Bastille in France. It’s like a combination of Azkaban and the mines in the Ash Princess series.

As you can see, I can go on about this book for awhile. Some criticisms include the length, I don’t feel like it needed to be this long to get the point across, and the weird love triangle. I don’t mind love triangles, but this one was just strange. I don’t actually ship any of the budding relationships at this point, but we’ll see what the next book brings!

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Between Burning Worlds

Title: Between Burning Worlds (System Divine #2)

Authors: Jessica Brody & Joanne Rendell

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: March 24th, 2020

688 pages

4.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Les Misérables meets The Lunar Chronicles in the out-of-this-world sequel to Sky Without Stars that’s an “explosion of emotion, intrigue, romance, and revolution” (Stephanie Garber, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Caraval series).

A thief.
An officer.
A guardian. 
All from different backgrounds, but sharing one same destiny…

The planet Laterre is in turmoil. A new militant revolutionary group has emerged calling themselves “The Red Scar” and claiming responsibility for a spate of recent bombings. The infamous rebels known as the Vangarde believe that in order to bring about a peaceful revolution, their charismatic leader, Citizen Rousseau must be freed from prison right away. Otherwise the bloodshed will only escalate.

Soon Marcellus, Chatine, and Alouette all find themselves pulled into battle with extreme consequences.

Marcellus is determined to uncover his corrupt grandfather’s plan to seize Laterre—even if that means joining the Vangarde.

Aloutte, trying to unearth the truth about her past, becomes a captive of Marcellus’s grandfather, the general.

Chatine, who is serving time on Bastille, hopes to escape the brutal and horrifying reality of the prison moon.

But the failed attempt to break Citizen Rousseau out of prison launches Aloutte, Chatine, and Marecellus into the middle of a dangerous war for control of Laterre. And in the midst of it all is the legend of a secret and dangerous weapon that could mean complete and absolute power to any that wields it.

Review

**Thank you to Netgalley, Simon Pulse, and Jessica Brody & Joanne Rendell for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Sequel to Sky Without Stars, Between Burning Worlds picks up pretty much where Sky left off. Our main characters have themselves in whole heaps of trouble, and their ingenuity is the only thing that could possible save them. Without giving too much away; Chatine, Marcellus, and Alouette are separated and on their own paths to start the book. Each trying to find out more about themselves, in different ways. But what they find won’t always be fulfilling or satisfying…

I found Between Burning Worlds to be a satisfying middle book. I don’t think it fell victim so much to the middle book syndrome. The world and plot was pretty much built in Sky, so Between Burning Worlds just continued the action. I liked the new characters who were added to bring extra suspense and drama. However, Chatine is still my favorite character and always will be.

The writing is very good in this book. I love the twists and turns and how you can never tell what really is true and what is just a smoke screen. I love a book that keeps me guessing until the end. Speaking of the end, the CLIFFHANGER y’all. I must know what happens…

Between Burning Worlds continues the Les Mis adaptation of Sky Without Stars. If you loved Les Mis and enjoy science fiction books set in space, this series will be for you.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – What I Like About Me

Title: What I Like About Me

Author: Jenna Guillame

Publisher: Peachtree Publishing

Publication date: April 1st, 2020 (originally February 26th, 2019 in the UK)

304 pages

4.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

You know all those movies where teenagers have, like, THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES? This vacation is probably not going to be that.

The last thing sixteen-year-old Maisie Martin thought she’d be doing over vacation is entering a beauty pageant. Not when she’s spent most of her life hiding her body from everyone. Not when her Dad is AWOL and her gorgeous older sister has returned to rock Maisie’s already shaky confidence. And especially not when her best friend starts flirting with the boy she’s always loved. But Maisie’s got something to prove.

As she writes down all the ways this vacation is going from bad to worse in her school-assignment journal, what starts as a homework torture-device might just end up being an account of how Maisie didn’t let anything, or anyone, hold her back.

Jenna Guillame’s American debut features a plus-size protagonist with a compelling, funny, and authentic narrative voice. This relatable and charming novel about friendship, confidence, and self-love will draw readers in as Maisie’s realistic emotional journey unveils the importance of embracing one’s body and celebrating one’s self.

Review

**Thank you to Peachtree Publishing, Netgalley, and Jenna Guillame for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Trigger warning for: body shaming, body image issues, negative self talk

What I Like About Me is a thoughtful and insightful, yet entertaining and fun all in one. Set in Australia, the book follows Maisie, a 16 year old girl on her family trip for the summer. She’s brought Anna, her best friend, and desperately wants to make a move on Sebastian, her long time crush. When Anna and Sebastian hit if off, Maisie is left with Beamer, the irritating boy child who loves to mess with Maisie. You get a look into her romantic life, but the book is so much more than just her relationship status.

The overarching theme of What I Like About Me is body image positivity and learning to love yourself. The author explores how family and friends can impact your self esteem and the struggles of a young girl growing up overweight, or “less than” as society views it. It is heartfelt and was emotional at times. Maisie has low self esteem and the book really explores what it is like to go about a normal day in the life of someone without confidence.

One thing I would have loved to have seen was more on the romance side. I love the secret love trope but I wanted more. You don’t get to hear the backstory of how he fell in love with Maisie or what it is about her that draws him to her. This is a shorter book, so I feel the romance could have been expanded upon without it taking away from the theme of Maisie finding her love for herself, and coming to terms with her family.

I liked that there wasn’t a huge happily ever after. The ending was very realistic and didn’t end in the normal tropes. I appreciate that the author was authentic with the ending, because there was one easy way to make is unrealistic and she didn’t go for that.

Told through journal entrees, What I Like About Me offers a diverse contemporary on the topic of body weight and self confidence. Please read with caution if you struggle with negative self talk, low self confidence, and body image.

Happy reading, folks!

ARC Review – Tigers, Not Daughters

Title: Tigers, Not Daughters

Author: Samantha Mabry

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Publication date: March 24th, 2020

288 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

The Torres sisters dream of escape. Escape from their needy and despotic widowed father, and from their San Antonio neighborhood, full of old San Antonio families and all the traditions and expectations that go along with them. In the summer after her senior year of high school, Ana, the oldest sister, falls to her death from her bedroom window. A year later, her three younger sisters, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, are still consumed by grief and haunted by their sister’s memory. Their dream of leaving Southtown now seems out of reach. But then strange things start happening around the house: mysterious laughter, mysterious shadows, mysterious writing on the walls. The sisters begin to wonder if Ana really is haunting them, trying to send them a message—and what exactly she’s trying to say.
 
In a stunning follow-up to her National Book Award–longlisted novel All the Wind in the World, Samantha Mabry weaves an aching, magical novel that is one part family drama, one part ghost story, and one part love story.

Review

**Thanks to Algonquin Young Readers for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

TW: death, domestic violence, neglect, emotional abuse

Tigers, Not Daughters is a haunting ghost story with themes of sisterhood and perseverance, and also a hyena. No joke, there’s a hyena on the loose during this story. The Torres sisters have been through a lot. Their mom is dead, their dad is neglectful and abusive, and their oldest sister died tragically a year ago. Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa couldn’t be more different, but the one thing they have in common is missing Ana desperately – and wanting to run away forever.

This book is told from each sister’s POV over the course of a several days. Each sister has a lot going on, and are very different. The book tackles some serious issues for each sister, while also being a ghost story – which is just super fun. The ghost story part was probably my favorite, along with the group of boys who live across the street and lightly stalk the sisters.

The writing is phenomenal, where information is provided in tiny morsels over the chapters instead all at once. It created a captivating atmosphere where you needed and wanted to keep reading to get answers to your questions.

I really didn’t like the domestic violence aspect. It’s mostly just due to personal reasons, I’m sure there was a reason for including that plot line, but it was still hard to read. So please, before reading this understand that there are potentially triggering scenes.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC – Girls with Razor Hearts

Title: Girls with Razor Hearts (Girls with Sharp Sticks #2)

Author: Suzanne Young

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: March 17th, 2020

400 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

It’s time to fight back in this second novel in a thrilling, subversive near future series from New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Young about a girls-only private high school that is far more than it appears to be.

Make me a girl with a razor heart…

It’s been weeks since Mena and the other girls of Innovations Academy escaped their elite boarding school. Although traumatized by the violence and experimentations that occurred there, Mena quickly discovers that the outside world can be just as unwelcoming and cruel. With no one else to turn to, the girls only have each other—and the revenge-fueled desire to shut down the corporation that imprisoned them.

The girls enroll in Stoneridge Prep, a private school with suspect connections to Innovations, to identify the son of an investor and take down the corporation from the inside. But with pressure from Leandra, who revealed herself to be a double-agent, and Winston Weeks, an academy investor gone rogue, Mena wonders if she and her friends are simply trading one form of control for another. Not to mention the woman who is quite literally invading Mena’s thoughts—a woman with extreme ideas that both frighten and intrigue Mena.

And as the girls fight for freedom from their past—and freedom for the girls still at Innovations—they must also face new questions about their existence…and what it means to be girls with razor hearts.

Review

**Thank you to Netgalley, Simon Pulse, and Suzanne Young for providing a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

The sequel to Girls with Sharp Sticks, Girls with Razor Hearts picks up right where GWSS leaves off. I enjoy this in sequels because you don’t miss some possibly pertinent information that authors have to catch you up on later. GWRH continues the dark exaggeration of our current society (and it’s really not THAT much of an exaggeration) in regards to women’s rights. The content can be disturbing and triggering, but so powerful and well written.

Suzanne Young has fantastic flow with her writing and continuing to keep the story on track. Attention is given to the right parts and I didn’t feel like there were parts that deserved to be expanded on further. There were some plot twists, but seeing as it’s a middle book in a trilogy, there weren’t as many as the first and what I imagine the third will have in store. There was some info dumping and predictable parts, but I mostly still feel like I have no idea who the “bad guys” are or what the endgame is – which makes it worth reading the third book and will keep me invested in the story.

I have to say that I hope those who pick up this series are ready for the disturbing and violent writing and events in these books. I can’t give the book more stars because the topic does have a negative effect on me. I think it’s so important, but hard to read at times due to the content. So please know your triggers before diving into this series.

Happy reading folks!

eARC Review – The Electric Heir

Title: The Electric Heir (Feverwake #2)

Author: Victoria Lee

Publisher: Skyscape

Publication date: March 17th, 2020

480 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

In the sequel to The Fever King, Noam Álvaro seeks to end tyranny before he becomes a tyrant himself.

Six months after Noam Álvaro helped overthrow the despotic government of Carolinia, the Atlantians have gained citizenship, and Lehrer is chancellor. But despite Lehrer’s image as a progressive humanitarian leader, Noam has finally remembered the truth that Lehrer forced him to forget—that Lehrer is responsible for the deadly magic infection that ravaged Carolinia.

Now that Noam remembers the full extent of Lehrer’s crimes, he’s determined to use his influence with Lehrer to bring him down for good. If Lehrer realizes Noam has evaded his control—and that Noam is plotting against him—Noam’s dead. So he must keep playing the role of Lehrer’s protégé until he can steal enough vaccine to stop the virus.

Meanwhile Dara Shirazi returns to Carolinia, his magic stripped by the same vaccine that saved his life. But Dara’s attempts to ally himself with Noam prove that their methods for defeating Lehrer are violently misaligned. Dara fears Noam has only gotten himself more deeply entangled in Lehrer’s web. Sooner or later, playing double agent might cost Noam his life.

Review

**Thank you to Netgalley, Skyscape, and Victoria Lee for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

The Electric Heir, the sequel to The Fever King, picks up with Noam and Dara a few months after TFK ends. The resistance against Calix Lehrer continues with them at the front lines. The Electric Heir is a solid ending to a truly magical and diverse fantasy world of the future USA.

This sequel continued all the magic and action that I loved from The Fever King. The amount of diversity in this world is totally amazing and made me love it even more. The Electric Heir is jam packed with fights, political intrigue, backstabbing, and magic gone awry. There’s murder and double-crossing. There’s also talk of eating disorders and sexual abuse – so TW for that.

I love the characters in this book so much because they are so tragically messed up and not redeemable but in the best way. Noam and Dara are the cutest together but they have such a hard path to overcome. Ames is a complete mess but is so strong and unapologetic about anything. The camaraderie between the characters in Level IV is what you’d look for from a great team.

One part that took a star away from this book for me was the ending. I was expecting so much more. It was actually kind of anticlimactic in my opinion, and happened way too quickly. Like, I was 97% in and the ending was just gearing up – that’s not enough time for the ending this duology deserved.

The Electric Heir is the conclusion to the Feverwake series and if you are a fan of the Red Queen series, you should check it out.

Happy reading, folks!