ARC Review: Gilded by Marissa Meyer

First of all, THANK YOU to Faber for the eARC of this incredible book. I dropped my entire TBR to read it and regret absolutely nothing.

Also may have *accidentally* preordered the stunning Fairyloot edition the second I finished reading it… Anyway –

Gilded follows Serilda, a miller’s daughter who has been blessed by the God of Lies with an ability to spin stories, as she catches the attention of an evil undead ruler and lies her way into his favour.

Convinced that Serilda has the ability to spin gold from straw, the Erlking draws her back at every opportunity and Serilda finds herself trapped between the dead and the living, trying her hardest both to escape the web of lies she’s found herself in and find a way to ensure nobody she cares about gets harmed in the crossfire.

I’ve never read any of Marissa Meyer’s other retellings, but I’ll absolutely be reading them all after this one. Gilded is in part beautiful and magical, and in part grotesque and gothic, as every good Grimm-inspired fairytale should be. The descriptions were so beautifully written that I found myself fully immersed in the villages, castles and forests as Serilda was, and the plot twists were so dark and often unexpected that the amount of scene-setting didn’t slow the pace for even a page. It became obvious early on where the general direction of this story was going, but the twists and turns weren’t predictable and I found myself excitedly awaiting each new section of the story.

Serilda is a bold, impressive protagonist with an unexpectedly solid moral compass for someone so adept at lying, and the cast of characters she surrounds herself with are equally fascinating, from the schoolchildren, to the forest folk, to the dark king himself. Gild (the castle’s mysterious resident poltergeist) was, unsurprisingly, my absolute favourite character, with his intricate and beautifully-told backstory and his adorably charming personality.

I knew halfway through this book that it was going to be one of my favourite reads of this year, and the second half fully lived up to my expectations. Gilded is a dark, magical, twisty tale, and I’m seriously begging for a sequel.

Rating: 5/5 !

Gilded publishes in the UK on 2nd November 🙂

Book Review: Fire With Fire by Destiny Soria

*Thank you to Hodder for gifting me an eARC in exchange for an honest review*

Fire With Fire tells the story of Dani and Eden Rivera, who could almost be your average competitive sisters if not for one added complication: they come from a family of well-renowned and highly dedicated dragon slayers. Eden is the responsible older sister and Dani is the reckless teenager with little interest in the family’s business but, so as to be as unfair of possible, Dani is of course the young dragon-slaying prodigy that excels in every aspect of her training.

As if life isn’t complicated enough for the Rivera sisters, everything becomes a little more confusing and a lot more dangerous when Dani stumbles across a dragon one night and finds that they may not be the lethal, heartless creatures that she’s always been taught that they are. With dragons, slayers, high school romances, sorcerers and rivalries, Fire With Fire is an exciting story about sibling rivalries gone too far, loyalties, and how it isn’t always easy to know who you can trust.

Although I enjoyed it from the beginning, it took me quite a while to get into this book. When I did get hooked though, around 40% in, it became completely impossible to put down. The plot was exciting and the action scenes were well-written, but my favourite thing about this book by far was the wonderful cast of characters. The lengths that her anxiety and pride take Eden to make her a fascinating character, and Dani’s growth was possibly even more gripping to read about. The entire set of side characters – Nox, Tomas, Sadie, Kieran – were also really likeable, and the strength of their trust and friendships was so pure and refreshing to read about.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Its combination of intense and detailed fight scenes, teen angst, magic, sibling rivalry and great representation made it a fun, unique read that I would absolutely recommend.

Rating: 4/5

August Wrap-Up & September TBR

Hi! How is everyone? Hope August was a wonderful reading month!

I’m back from my first ever blog hiatus and excited to share my August wrap-up and September TBR 🙂 I took it easy in August and had some me-time, so I’m back with an overwhelming amount of books to read – once again – and even more to talk about.

I only read a book per week last month so it’s quite a modest wrap-up, but there are some really fun books on here. So, without further ado, my August wrap-up:

Fire With Fire by Destiny Soria – 3.5/5

This was a really fun read with a lot of action, rivalry, drama and… dragons. It was a fun and easy read with an interesting cast of humans, sorcerers and dragons alike and, if you’re a big fantasy reader, I’d recommend.

Survive the Night by Riley Sager – 4/5

I was in the middle of a slump when I picked this book up, and it pulled me out of it so quickly. This is a fast-paced, set-in-real-time thriller with a lot of twists, a lot of tension, and an insanely unreliable narrator.

These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan – 4/5

A story about a girl caught between two rival faerie princes from the Seelie and Unseelie courts??? Honestly, I’m not sure I need to say more, but this was a fun, Cruel-Prince-esque fantasy about handsome princes, dark magic and a fierce heroine.

Every Line of You by Naomi Gibson – 5/5

I think I’d read any book in existence about AIs/VR/futuristic tech at this point. This is a gripping thriller about a girl who falls in love with her morally-corrupt AI and all of the havoc that ensues as a result. It’s such a quick read and I one-billion percent recommend.

And that’s it for August! If you’ve read any of the above, I’d love to hear what you thought!

Although I’m happy with my August wrap-up, I definitely need to be slightly more ambitious with my September TBR to keep on track with my GR goal, so I have quite a lotthat I want to get through this month.

First up, Fools in Love, a short story anthology based on all of the most popular romance tropes out there right now. I’m partway through this and really enjoying it, so I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the stories.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro – this is absolutely not my usual type of book but my fiancé is obsessed with it right now and really wants me to check it out. I’m really looking forward to trying something difference and seeing what the hype is all about.

Jade Fire Gold by June CL Tan – this has been on my ARC TBR for so long and I don’t know why I haven’t picked it up already. It’s an intense fantasy YA (ie. right up my street!) and I’m really excited to check it out.

Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer – another that has spent too long on my ARC TBR and another that I’m insanely excited about. Corruption, action and a star-crossed romance? Yes please.

The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino – I started this one a while ago and really enjoyed it, so I’m not entirely sure why I haven’t finished it sooner. I’m only about 20% in but really excited to see where this one goes. It’s been a while since I read YA Horror, so it’ll be such a fun change from the rest of the month’s reading.

And that’s it! I’d love to read more, but I got some advice to put less on my TBR than I plan to read so that I can branch out a little, and that’s what I plan to do.

What’s the number one book on your September TBR? I’d love some more recommendations and to hear what you’re excited to read.

ARC REVIEW: Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber

First things first: THANK YOU to Hodder for sending me an eARC of this amazing book in exchange for a review. I spent half a day screaming when my request got accepted, and then spent the rest of the day reading it so… thank you!

Evangeline has always believed in true love, fairytales and happily ever afters, but her world is turned completely upside down when she discovers that Luc, the love of her life, is engaged to someone else. Convinced that her love’s betrayal is the result of a curse or magic, she runs to the Prince of Hearts – the mysterious Jacks – and begs him to stop the wedding.

But Evangeline soon realises that you should never make a deal with a Fate, as one small agreement with Jacks sets her life on a whole new path, full of danger, betrayal and dark magic.

Caraval is one of my favourite series’ and I’ve had Once Upon a Broken Heart preordered since last year so my hopes were incredibly high, but it lived up to all of my expectations and more. Evangeline was a great protagonist, with a great combination of selflessness, determination and intelligence, without being needlessly reckless like a lot of YA fantasy protagonists are. She was so easy to root for all the way through and I really think she’s one of the most entertaining protagonists I’ve read this year. Jacks was, as expected, the fascinating character that I remember him being, although I definitely loved him more this time around. He was unpredictable all the time and so consistent with his character in Caraval that it was easy to get sucked back into his story almost immediately.

Stephanie Garber’s world-building is incredible, and her writing never fails to impress me. Every setting felt both real and magical, from the little trinket shop to Wolf Hall, and the story that combined them all was a fast-paced quest with elements of romance, fantasy and adventure that kept me hooked from the very first page. I read this entire book in one sitting because I genuinely couldn’t put it down, and even though I finished it over a month ago now, it’s still completely stuck in my head, in the same way that all of her books so far have been.

I genuinely loved every aspect of this book, from the protagonists, to the story, to the setting, and I’m already desperate to read the next book in the series. Once Upon a Broken Heart is absolutely a new favourite for me, and I’ll definitely be telling every fantasy-lover I know to read it.

Rating: 5/5

ARC REVIEW: As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson

First of all, the biggest thank you in the world to Electric Monkey for the eARC. Words cannot express how excited I was when my request got accepted, and how excited I was while reading it, and how excited I was when reviewing it. So… thank you!

As Good As Dead follows Pip, Little Kilton’s resident teenage detective-slash-genius, as her life descends into chaos once again following the events of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder and Good Girl, Bad Blood.

This time, though, instead of the focus of her investigation being on her friends, neighbours and acquaintances, Pip’s latest case is all about her, and it’s proving to be much darker and much more dangerous than anyone could have imagined.

It’s difficult to put into words just how much I adored this book. I loved books one and two and have been recommending them constantly since they came out, but this book is in a whole new league. It’s so, so much darker than I expected it to be and so terrifyingly clever that it was completely impossible to put down.

Pip’s character is fascinating as ever, but she’s so different now than the cheerful wannabe-detective that she was in the first book that exploring her character is even more gripping. Over the course of the series, she’s become stressed, scared and much less strait-laced, as expected from someone with her track record of getting tied up in murder investigations, but she’s still somehow so recognisable that it really felt like I went through the whole dark, terrifying journey right alongside her. After so many books and so much time getting to know them, I was just as captivated by the growth of Ravi’s character, Pip’s friends and fellow victims, and even the villains of the story as well.

I’ve mentioned how clever this book is, but it’s so important to highlight just how scarily intelligent Holly Jackson must be to write this. It’s a long book at 570 pages, but every single page tied together perfectly and all details seemed well-researched and unnervingly believable. Every time I thought I was ahead of the plot twists, I found myself being tricked and pulled into a different story entirely, until I just gave up guessing in an attempt to get through the story even quicker.

I can quite honestly say that this is one of the best thrillers I have ever read, and absolutely the most gripping book I’ve read this year. It’s fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat scary, clever, dark and somehow sprinkled with comedy at the same time. I haven’t been this captivated by a story in such a long time and am certain that I will read absolutely anything that Holly Jackson comes out with next.

Basically, please please please pick up this series! 1) because I need someone to talk to about it!!! and 2) because you absolutely 100% will not regret it.

Rating: 5/5

ARC REVIEW: Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

First of all, a huge thank you to Hodder for the eARC of this beautiful book, and HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY to Elizabeth Lim! I’ve become so obsessed with Spin the Dawn in the last few months that I was desperate to get my hands on a copy of this, and I’m so glad I got the chance to read and review.

Six Crimson Cranes tells the story of the magical princess Shiori as she finds herself thrown out of her palace home on discovering that her stepmother isn’t who she says she is. In a beautiful YA fantasy take on the classic tale ‘The Six Swans,’ Shiori is cursed and forced to live as a voiceless, unknown peasant girl, whilst her six brothers suffer their own kind of curse by being turned into cranes, unable to return home.

As Shiori works to break her curse, she embarks on a dangerous adventure that takes her into the North, where she encounters danger in so many forms that it’s hard to keep track. From cruel royals to magical creatures, Shiori must face numerous challenges as she fights to find her way home and protect her brothers, and the kingdom, from the dangers that they suddenly face.

As I’ve come to expect from Elizabeth Lim’s books in the past few months, Six Crimson Cranes is a beautifully written, magical book. The setting is described in perfect detail and the magic throughout, both in Shiori and in some of the creatures that she encounters, is so believable that it’s really easy to get sucked into their world and find yourself adventuring right alongside Shiori.

Shiori is a fascinating protagonist and her growth throughout the story is really well done. She begins as an entitled, spoiled princess, but as she faces struggle after struggle, the change in her is evident. Character growth is so important to this story and it was amazing to be able to root for Shiori as she fought to become a better person. Other characters that I adored were Takkan (obviously), Megari, Sheryu and, most surprisingly, Kiki, Shiori’s paper bird companion who I was rooting for just as much as Shiori.

I loved this book so much and it’s definitely solidified Elizabeth Lim’s position as one of my new favourite authors. Her writing has a magical quality that I’ve found to be quite rare, and Six Crimson Cranes is a story so beautifully told that I’m already desperately awaiting its sequel.

Rating: 5/5

BLOG TOUR STOP: THE ISLAND HOME by Libby Page

First of all, a HUGE thank you to Orion for gifting me a beautiful copy of this book in exchange for an honest review and a spot on this blog tour! If you want to hear more about this wonderful book, I fully recommend checking out the rest of the tour 🙂

The Island Home follows two women, Alice and Lorna, as they are thrown together during Lorna’s visit to her childhood home.

Alice, a yoga instructor and farm-owner on the Isle of Kip, has loved island life since the day she first moved, and very voluntarily got wrapped up in its sense of community and the comfort of knowing that all of her neighbours are there to support her. Lorna, meanwhile, is visiting from London out of obligation and wishes nothing more than to get in and out of Kip, the island she grew up on, full of former neighbours and lost family, as soon as possible.

When Lorna reaches the Isle, though, she starts to remember the good as well as the bad, and decides to use the time to make amends with her brother (Alice’s husband) and some old friends that she left behind. What follows is a moving, heart-warming story about community, belonging and friendship.

The majority of books I read have very dark content and themes, so it was so refreshing to get completely sucked into such a moving, heart-warming book. It wasn’t always happy and some quite difficult themes were explored, but Libby Page’s writing is so consistently positive and uplifting that, despite some of the tougher content, the book had an overall really heart-warming and comforting tone. So many characters were just so kind and good that it was hard not to feel like I was part of their lovely community and feel supported as Alice and Lorna did when things got slightly tough.

Alice and Lorna had fairly similar voices, making it difficult at times to differentiate between the two, but this also made it easy to love and root for both of them on their individual journeys. At the beginning, Alice is a welcoming and kind character who embodies community spirit wholly in a way that I rarely read, whilst Lorna is a strong, independent, self-reliant woman who shows just what you can be capable of alone. As the story went on, however, it was lovely to read about how their mindsets started to become more similar and watch as they formed a really sweet bond.

This book is the definition of summer reading and would be so perfect as both a beach read and a book to cheer you up on a miserable day. I certainly found myself getting absorbed in the lifestyle of the characters on the Isle of Kip, and would absolutely recommend you do the same.

Rating: 4/5

The Island Home published in HB and ebook on 24th June, by Orion.

ARC REVIEW: Meet Me in Another Life by Catriona Silvey

*Thank you to Harper Voyager for the eARC of this wonderful book*

First of all: that cover!!! I read this book on kindle last week but have already ordered the stunning hardback edition because I just couldn’t resist…

Meet Me in Another Life tells the story of Santi and Thora as they meet again, and again, and again, in the same place, at the same time, across many different lives. In what may be fate or a coincidence, the two are drawn together across so many lifetimes that the question soon changes from ‘what is happening?’ to ‘why?’ and it becomes clear that they must work together, despite their consistently differing outlooks, to figure it all out.

This book is unlike anything I’ve read before. The way that it is structured, almost making each chapter a stand-alone short story about Santi and Thora, makes it a very quick read, but the questions that the characters pose to each other are often quite philosophical and challenging. Despite this, and the constantly shifting scenarios, it was really easy to get completely sucked in and start theorising my own explanations for their constant meetings. I got through this entire book in a day, desperately waiting for them to figure it all out.

Santi and Thora were fascinating characters and the way their many lifetimes took a toll on them and changed them in each chapter was really interesting to see. Thora especially altered so significantly in the story, but also somehow remained believable, that I was really impressed by how strong her character’s personality was. A lot of this story revolved around the characters finding and understanding themselves, and I think this was done really well. I also loved the way we got to see their characters almost stripped down to the recurring elements of their personalities so that we could really understand why they thought what they did, and see if so many lifetimes could possibly change that.

It took me a while to figure out what was happening towards the beginning, and the major differences in certain lifetimes did throw me off, but I enjoyed every chapter all the same and found myself especially invested in the ending (which did not disappoint). It’s definitely sci-fi but this only comes out in occasional parts of the book and I’d consider it a worthwhile read even for sceptics of the sci-fi genre. I would absolutely recommend this to anyone that is looking for something unique, or for a book that really makes you think.

Rating: 4/5

Meet Me in Another Life publishes in the UK on July 8th!

Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag

It’s that time again! It’s the middle of the year and I’m freaking out for a whole bunch of reasons but, in this post specifically, it’s because of books.

So I checked my GR challenge from last year and, by mid-year 2020, I’d read 22 books (which is a lot more than I expected it to be, to be quite honest). And by mid-year this year, I’ve read 35… so… a win! I’m hoping that means it’ll be easier to answer these questions this year, but I guess we’ll see. So, without further ado, the Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag!

Best Book You’ve Read So Far in 2021

Surprisingly, one of the two books I’ve managed to narrow this down to (it’s physically impossible for me to pick just one) is the very first book I read this year. Not surprisingly, if you follow me on Twitter or if you’ve read the book, it’s Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas. Ugh, I loved every aspect of this book, from the focus on identity and empowerment, to the romance, to the magic. I’ve apparently read 34 books since this one, but I just cannot get it out of my head.

Book two for this answer is Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim! I got obsessed with this book when I first read it, gave it a rave review (here) with the level of gushing I usually save for Marie Lu books, and then told everyone that would listen how truly incredible this book is… And then Hodder gave me an eARC of the sequel and I fangirled just as much, which leads us onto…

Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far in 2021

Surprise! It’s the beautiful and magical and incredible sequel to Spin the Dawn: Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim. But, also, The Block by Ben Oliver because book one was good but book two was incredible. By the way, my review for Unravel the Dusk is here and my review of The Block is here.

New Release You Haven’t Read Yet (But Want To)

So. Many. Possible. Answers. But I’m breaking my pattern of indecisiveness to say Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart. I won an ARC of this in a giveaway and I also have a sneaking suspicion that there’s one in a book box at my parents’ house… so I’m pretty sure the universe is telling me that I need to read this book. And I will. Hopefully soon.

Most Anticipated Release For the Second Part of the Year

When I drafted this tag, my answer included Once Upon a Broken Heart but I’ve since been blessed enough to read an eARC of this! I can confirm that it is 1000000% worth the hype. But anyway, my answer now is Steelstriker by Marie Lu because I can’t do a tag without including at least one Marie Lu book and because Skyhunter was incredible.

Biggest Disappointment

I’ve been pretty happy with most of the books I’ve read this year, but I guess Of Wicked Blood didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

Biggest Surprise

Love in Five Acts by Daniela Krien. This book is not my usual genre at all but I was gifted an ARC so I gave it a go, and I ended up really loving it! My review, if you’re interested, is here.

Favourite New Author

Elizabeth Lim! No explanation needed.

Newest Fictional Crush

It’s been a while since I had a new fictional crush, to be honest… but an eligible book boyfriend that I would recommend is Henry, from From Little Tokyo, With Love. My review of this adorable book can be found here.

Newest Favourite Character

Evangeline from Once Upon a Broken Heart!

Book That Made You Cry

You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao literally made me cry in the prologue… And again in Chapter 1, and so on.

Book That Made You Happy

Although you may not expect it from the title: The Sad Ghost Club. This book was so sweet and heart-warming and adorable that it makes me happy just thinking about it.

The Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought This Year

I’m yet to read it, but I treated myself to the Indie Exclusive edition of Circus of Wonders and it’s one of the prettiest books I’ve ever seen. I literally screamed when I opened the package and saw the floral sprayed edges.

What Books Do You Need To Read By The End of The Year?

So many. But, to name a few:

Fire With Fire by Destiny Soria

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

The Upper World by Femi Fadugba

These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan

Steelstriker by Marie Lu

I’d love to hear how your reading year’s going! Are you on track for your Goodreads Challenge (if you’re taking part)? And what’s your favourite book of 2021 so far?

BOOK REVIEW: IN THE RAVENOUS DARK by AM Strickland

I’m back from yet another unintentional blog hiatus today with a review of a book that I am completely desperate to talk about. I finished In the Ravenous Dark earlier this month, after have the eARC sat on my NetGalley shelf for far too long, and I’m honestly ashamed that I haven’t been raving about it on Twitter every second since.

So… first things first, thank you to Hodder for the eARC of this book!

In the Ravenous Dark follows Rovan, a young bloodmage who, after her powers are discovered and abruptly used against her, turns against the city she grew up in to seek revenge and spark a revolution. She quickly finds herself teaming up with various members of a fascinating royal family, a guardian spirit that she openly despises and a whole host of other dangerous allies to fight against the nation’s dangerous rulers, both in the land of the living and the land of the dead.

Young adult fantasy is easily my most-read genre, but I can honestly say that I have never read anything quite like this. It’s unique, darkly intense and set in such a well-woven world that I was completely sucked in as soon as I started reading. The setting was quite typical of a royal, fantasy YA, but the atmosphere was so unsettling and the blood magic so… graphic, that I was completely unprepared going in for what the book ended up being.

Rovan’s moral ambiguity and her warring desires to do what’s right for her loved ones whilst also seeking power and vengeance made her a fascinating protagonist, and I found myself falling so deeply in love with Japha, Lydia and Ivrilos as well that I couldn’t pick a favourite character from their team of rebels. I love antiheroes, and both Ivrilos and Rovan came across as these, with their motives varying from freedom and revolution to brutal revenge. The amount of representation of LGBTQ+ characters and relationships in this book was also really great, as it included positive representation of pansexuality, lesbianism, asexuality, a major non-binary character and a polyamorous relationship.

The story was incredibly fast-paced, and there wasn’t a single page that didn’t include any intense action, intense romance or intense gore. It’s certainly not an easy read or a book for the squeamish, but it’s so perfect for fans of dark YA fantasy that I know I’ll be recommending it to anyone who will listen.

Rating: 5/5