eARC Review – Coral

Title: Coral

Author: Sara Ella

Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishing

Publication date: November 12th, 2019

384 pages

3.75/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

There is more than one way to drown.

Coral has always been different, standing out from her mermaid sisters in a society where blending in is key. Worse yet, she fears she has been afflicted with the dreaded Disease, said to be carried by humans—emotions. Can she face the darkness long enough to surface in the light?

Above the sea, Brooke has nothing left to give. Depression and anxiety have left her feeling isolated. Forgotten. The only thing she can rely on is the numbness she finds within the cool and comforting ocean waves. If only she weren’t stuck at Fathoms—a new group therapy home that promises a second chance at life. But what’s the point of living if her soul is destined to bleed?

Merrick may be San Francisco’s golden boy, but he wants nothing more than to escape his controlling father. When his younger sister’s suicide attempt sends Merrick to his breaking point, escape becomes the only option. If he can find their mom, everything will be made right again—right?

When their worlds collide, all three will do whatever it takes to survive, and Coral might even catch a prince in the process. But what—and who—must they leave behind for life to finally begin?

Taking a new twist on Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved—yet tragic—fairy tale, Coral explores mental health from multiple perspectives, questioning what it means to be human in a world where humanity often seems lost.

Review

**Thank you to Thomas Nelson Publishing, Sara Ella, and Netgalley for providing me this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

First off, I want to give a GIANT trigger warning for this book. Depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and suicidality are all major themes in this book and can be hard for some to read. Please be mindful of your mental health while reading this book, and please seek help if you are in need. A great part of this book is that Sara Ella begins the book with a long trigger warning, which is so helpful.

Coral loosely follows the original The Little Mermaid fairy tale. There are three points of view in this book: Coral, a mermaid princess who feels out of place within her family. Human emotion is considered a “Disease” in the mer-world and her eldest sister falls to the Disease after falling in love with a human prince. Merrick is a troubled young man who’s world falls to pieces when his 10 year old sister attempts suicide. He sets of on a journey to help her in the only way he can think of. Lastly, we have Brooke, a young woman who has entered treatment for depression and suicidal ideation. Her story is that of redemption and regaining mental health stability in a world she doesn’t feel she belongs. All three separate stories become forever entwined after mutual loss and love.

There is a lot to unpack in this novel. As someone who’s professional background (outside of reviewing books!) is in Clinical Psychology, I feel qualified to say that Sara Ella provided a realistic and haunting explanation of the affect of depression and suicidal ideation on the self and the family unit. There are a lot of bad examples of mental health and those who suffer from the disease in the media in society, but I see Sara Ella working to dispel the presumptions and biases and applaud her.

One thing I will say is that the timing and pacing of this book seem off. There was a point where I was very confused about the timeline, and I recognize this is due to trying to keep the big reveal from being realized too soon, but this makes the book more confusing than necessary. It’s a good twist, but not worth the initial confusion. Also, the ending didn’t seem to wrap up the story as much as I wanted. I felt disappointed in the lack of clear ending and I feel some ends are still loose.

Overall, Sara Ella has woven a story of life, love, and struggling with internal demons – something we can all relate to whether we want to admit it or not. It starts a conversation about healing and recovery from illness, but also continues the conversation about those who succumb to the disease and move on from this life. Again, please be aware of your own mental health when reading this book.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

eBook Review – Into the Hourglass

Title: Into the Hourglass (The Evermore Chronicles #2)

Author: Emily R. King

Publisher: Skyscape

Publication date: August 20th, 2019

286 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

In the second book in The Evermore Chronicles by Emily R. King, Everley Donovan plunges into the roiling waves of a strange new world to hunt a wicked prince who cheated time.

Everley Donovan’s mission: retrieve the hallowed sword of Avelyn stolen by the wicked Prince Killian, who slayed her family and left her for dead. Should she fail, the seven worlds will come to an end, as could time itself. And no one treasures time more than Everley, whose lifesaving clock heart cannot beat forever. She has set sail with a rogue crew for the otherworlds, where the key to dethroning the prince lies deep within the Land Under the Wave.

But passage through these unknown seas—where horrors lurk and pirates rove—proves a treacherous gamble. The Land Under the Wave was not made for humans, particularly one with a fragile clock heart. Here, Everley’s tragic past resurfaces unsolved questions. Here, too, the prince has hidden secrets more precious than pearls, secrets that could fracture the future forevermore. Everley must take back her sword and break free from this watery world before her time runs out…or so will everyone else’s. 

Review

In the second installment of The Evermore Chronicles, Everley finds herself chasing after Killiam Markham to get her sword back. This quest brings her to the land of pirates, sirens, and fin people – along with some not so fun elves. Everley’s clock heart is beating slower and she’s struggling more to live with it. Each page is full of adventure.

Some things that didn’t change from book one – I still hate Markham and Harlow. They still suck as people and they can leave for all I need. I get why the story needs them but COME ON. On the better side, Jamison Callahan is still swoon worthy as he quite obviously falls in love with Everley, even though she believes she’s incapable of love without a physical heart. Lastly, the amount of interesting creatures and worlds that they get to explore. It ALMOST reminds me of the Pendragon series – but only because of the world jumping to catch the bad guys, and they never quite know what to expect from each world.

Some interesting new developments – the side characters are developed more and start to have their own plot lines and independent thoughts and actions. We learn more things about Markham’s motivations (don’t care – still hate him) but it adds to his backstory.

Overall, I generally dislike middle books more than the first and third books. I actually think this book was better than Before the Broken Star, because they were really able to get into the plot and get the story going. It was a pleasant surprise for me because middle books are often just vehicles to set up for an ending – whereas King is able to keep the momentum going through this book, in my opinion.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

eBook Review – Before the Broken Star

Title: Before the Broken Star (The Evermore Chronicles #1)

Author: Emily R. King

Publisher: Skyscape

Publication date: May 1st, 2019

294 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A fierce young female adventurer battles time itself to claim her destiny in a sweeping new fantasy saga from the author of the Hundredth Queen series.

Everley Donovan is living on borrowed time. The lone survivor of her family’s unexplained assassination, she was saved by an ingeniously crafted clockwork heart. But the time she was given won’t last forever. Now, every tick-tock reminds her how fragile her existence is and hastens her quest to expose Killian Markham, the navy admiral who shattered her world and left her for dead. But Everley’s hunt for justice will be a long and hard-won voyage.

Her journey takes her to a penal colony on a cursed isle, where she will be married off and charged to build the new world. It is here, and beyond, that hidden realms hide, treasures are unearthed, her family secrets are buried, and young love will test the strength of her makeshift heart. When Everley discovers Markham may not be who he seems, her pursuit for truth is bound to his redemption, her tragic history, and her astonishing destiny.

Review

Could you become a monster to destroy one?

Emily r. king, before the broken star

Everley is an apprentice to a clockmaker, who also happens to be her uncle. She seems like an ordinary girl from the outside, but in fact she has a clock heart that keeps her alive after her entire family was brutally murdered and she was run through the heart with a sword. She lives her life focused on revenge, revenge against Killian Markham, the Governor who killed her family and tried to kill her. When Markham walks into her uncle’s clock shop, the perfect opportunity presents itself.

Everley ends up getting arrested and sentenced to live on a new colony on an island far away in order to help populate it. The important part to this is the Markham is the governor of the island, so she hopes to be able to kill him quickly and get on with her life. She has no idea the whirlwind her life will turn into when she gets to Dagger Island. Especially when she is forcibly married to a sweet lieutenant on the ship ride to the island. Before the Broken Star follows Everley’s attempts to understand her past, while living with the reality of her future. She must keep her clock heart hidden otherwise she would be sentenced to death immediately for sorcery.

Before the Broken Star held my attention. I love when books grab me and don’t let go. I prefer to have to wrench myself away to go about the charade of life and adulthood. I followed Everley’s story with excitement, but I can’t say I love where the story ended up. I’m really a Happily Ever After lover, and this is not a trope adhered to in this book. Also, Killian Markham and his associate Harlow are terrible people and it bothers me. They are the definition of irredeemable. Everley continues to help Harlow even when she is completely awful to her! Bothered me for Everley’s sake. BUT Lieutenant Callahan makes up for it *swoon*.

In a universe of magical worlds filled with pixies, grindylow’s, Father Time’s influence, and portals to the other worlds, Before the Broken Star has great world building, writing, and characters. Evie is a bad-a woman and I am with her all the way.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

eARC Review – Gravemaidens

Title: Gravemaidens (Gravemaidens #1)

Author: Kelly Coon

Publisher: Delacorte Press (Random House Children’s)

Publication date: October 29th, 2019

416 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land’s greatest honor…and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave. 

In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame. 

When Alu’s ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her. 

But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is—a death sentence.

Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life—and heart—are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything…including herself.

Review

**Thank you to Delacorte Press, Netgalley, and Kelly Coon for providing me an ebook copy of Gravemaidens in exchange for an honest review**

Gravemaidens is the first in a new duology about Kammani, a young woman who is trying to hold her family together after their fall from nobility, her mother’s death, and her father’s subsequent drinking problem. She is holding it all together until her sister, Nanaea is chosen to be a Sacred Maiden, one of three beautiful, young women who are chosen to follow their ruler’s path to the afterlife. Kammani seems to be the only person who does not see dying with the Lugal as a high honor, and is trying to save Nanaea’s life… whether she wants it or not.

What she comes to find out is that she has bigger problems that trying to save her sister. Her city-state of Alu is in danger as an unknown person is trying to kill the Lugal and take over as ruler. Only she can stop, but when she becomes the next target, she must fend for herself and decide who to trust.

Kammani is a STRONG, female character. I love her, and felt for her through the entire book. Nanaea did not deserve her, and frankly her character was wildly irritating and bratty. She is the reason this book dropped a star in my review. All other characters has redeeming qualities and were well described, but I can’t get over how badly Nanaea’s character sucks.

Kelly Coon has created a captivating world and a strong, female character to live in it. I look forward to reading the sequel when it releases in 2020.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

Book Review – The Wren Hunt

Title: The Wren Hunt (The Wren Hunt #1)

Author: Mary Watson

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Publication date: February 8th, 2018

432 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Every Christmas, Wren is chased through the woods near her isolated village by her family’s enemies—the Judges—and there’s nothing that she can do to stop it. Once her people, the Augurs, controlled a powerful magic. But now that power lies with the Judges, who are set on destroying her kind for good.

In a desperate bid to save her family, Wren takes a dangerous undercover assignment—as an intern to an influential Judge named Cassa Harkness. Cassa has spent her life researching a transformative spell, which could bring the war between the factions to its absolute end. Caught in a web of deceit, Wren must decide whether or not to gamble on the spell and seal the Augurs’ fate.

Review

There would be consequences, I knew that. There were always consequences, usually teeny tiny consequences that you hardly noticed. But the small things added up over time, until eventually they formed one big thing that could crush you beneath its weight.

Mary watson, the wren hunt

The Wren Hunt is the start of a duology following Wren, a young augur about to take an internship wit a house of judges, in order to try and steal a map from them. Set in Ireland, The Wren Hunt posits two gifted groups; judges and augurs. Judges are able to commune with nature and augurs have different abilities centered around understanding patterns and being able to manipulate the world around them. The two sides are constantly at war, and the judges are winning. Wren must tip the scales back into the augurs favor before it is too late, or does the universe have a different plan in store for her?

Whew, this book was A LOT. I spent most of it very confused, and am actually still pretty confused. The book starts of with Wren being chased through the woods by a group of young judges, which apparently happens every year. Apparently the only reason this occurs is because her name is Wren and they must hunt the Wren. Seriously, already it started off weird. Also, I feel like I never got a good explanation for why this happened EVERY YEAR on the same day. But I digress. The events of the book are confusing.

If you like a book where the characters are likable and have redeeming qualities, this book will not fulfill that desire. Even the seemingly great characters end up being terrible, and the MC is no better. I spent most of the book internally yelling at Wren for her actions, and frankly I did the same for most of the supporting characters as well. In a war between augurs and judges, no one plays fair.

I will say, this book had a magnificent plot twist towards the end that I DID NOT see coming in the slightest. I felt more convinced after that that The Wren Hunt was worth my time reading. I picked it up because I was approved for the sequel, The Wickerlight, on Netgalley and I really do NOT like to DNF books. The twist was able to move this book into a solid 3 star book for me.

Lastly, the cover is gorgeous. Simple. Classic. Fitting. The Wickerlight cover matches in style, if not color. I am a fan of a good, simple cover sometimes. YA books lately have been KILLING it with these amazing, colorful, detailed covers – but sometimes I appreciate sleek and simple. The romance is okay – I’d classify it as a slow burn, lovers to enemies romance trope which is not even in my top five of romance tropes. But hey, if you like those, check this book out!

Overall, a mid range book for me. The writing is beautiful and mysterious (which leads it to be confusing), and I enjoyed that it was set in Ireland.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

eARC Review – These Wicked Waters

Title: These Wicked Waters

Author: Emily Layne

Publisher: Owl Hollow Press

Publication date: October 22nd, 2019

274 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A centuries-old curse plagues the island of Viaii Nisi and an ancient enemy lurks beneath the depths of the surrounding water.

Annie Mayfield has heard all the stories and rumors about the island that is now home to the brand new Mayfield Villa resort, and she is definitely not psyched about having to spend her summer working there. The island’s name alone—Viaii Nisi, or violent island—is enough to make any sane person seriously reconsider it as a vacation destination. Then there are the mysterious deaths of every previous owner! It’s a history Annie’s mother is quick to shrug off, but when a guest goes missing on opening night, Annie really starts to get the creeps.

And then Annie makes a truly terrifying discovery: ruins filled with bones and one skeleton that seems to be half human and half fish. Intrigued by the strange remains and determined to help find the missing guest, Annie channels her inner Nancy Drew—minus the skirt and pearls, of course—in an attempt to uncover the truth about Viaii Nisi. But that truth is beyond anything she could ever have imagined. With her mother in complete denial and local officials unconcerned, Annie finds she’ll have to face her biggest fears if she’s to attempt to save everyone she loves.

Review

**Thank you to Owl Hollow Press, Netgalley, and Emily Layne for providing me an ebook copy in exchange for an honest review**

These Wicked Waters was not the book I was expecting when I picked it up. I initially thought this was going to be high fantasy, in a magical new world – however, it is fantasy within the realms of reality. This is not a negative for me, just came unexpected in the first few pages.

Annie is our MC, and she is sent to spend her summer on a private island her mom owns (right??) after she pulled a prank at her boarding school. The island is Viaii Nisi, or violent island in Greek. Disturbing rumors abound about this island, and all of the previous owners have drowned to death. Annie gets to the island and when workers and guests start disappearing, she investigates what could be behind the rumors and disappearances…

Lorelai is a two-tailed siren, who has been forbidden by the siren Queen Thessalonike from using her song to interfere with the lung-breathers on the island. She disobeys, and the results cost her what she cared about most.

These Wicked Waters narrated back and forth between Annie and Lorelai. Background information is given slowly over the book, which is generally not the style I prefer. I spent the first half of the book pretty confused with what was going on. The story did pick up after awhile and I ended up enjoying it.

One thing I liked about These Wicked Waters is that it left the possibly of a sequel open. There was an ending that mostly wrapped everything up, but dropped one last bomb on you (a predictable bomb, but still a bomb) and could be the basis of a sequel. Currently, These Wicked Waters is a standalone but hopes for the future!

Fans of The Wicked Deep and The Sea Witch will enjoy this new spin on sirens and an ocean themed novel. Check it out!

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

Book Review – Spin the Dawn

Title: Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars #1)

Author: Elizabeth Lim

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Publication date: July 9th, 2019

392 pages

4.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh.

Review

“Seize the wind,” I whispered. “Don’t become the kite that never flies.”

Elizabeth lim, spin the dawn

Spin the Dawn follows Maia, the only daughter of a renowned tailor. Her three brothers did not have her talent for tailoring, but women are not allowed to have jobs or run a shop, so she would never be able to fulfill her dream. After her mother dies, her father falls into a great depression and she must keep the shop alive by completing all the work. Her brothers are drafted into the army and she is left alone to run the family. When two of her brothers die at war and the third comes back unable to walk, she knows something must be done. A Crown messenger shows up at the door requiring her father to enter a competition to be the new future Queen’s personal tailor, but he is in no shape to go. Ala Mulan, Maia knows what she must do – she must go in her father’s place and win the competition, or die trying.

Y’all, Mulan was always my favorite Disney movie. It was the first that portrayed Princesses and women as anything but helpless, waiting for a man to come save them. I also used to be obsessed with Project Runway during the early seasons. So when I saw this book billed as Mulan meets Project Runway, I knew I needed to read it – and it did not disappoint. Shoutout to Owlcrate for knowing I needed this and including it in a monthly box.

Maia goes through such a journey during this book to find herself and her worth. She is sent on an impossible quest with a man that will try her every nerve, but also soften every edge. She will give up anything to save her family and those she loves, even if it is from herself. I loved her character.

One thing I will note about this book is that I felt the love story happened too quickly. The trope was enemies to lovers, but the transition went wayyy to quickly in my opinion. I felt it was rushed and really didn’t need to be.

I cannot wait for the sequel, Unravel the Dusk, to be released. I must know what happened to my baby Maia after that ending!!

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂