ARC Review: The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen

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ARC Review: Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

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ARC Review: The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion (Danielle Cain #1) by Margaret Killjoy

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ARC Review: Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

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ARC Review: The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

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When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen? 

review

**** Huge thank you to HarperTeen for sending me an ARC via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review ****

This was kind of disappointing because I felt it had a lot of potential to be amazing but it was just….extremely slow. It wasn’t terrible by any means but I just felt it was boring.

PLOT

Essentially the plot revolves around Brienna who is studying to be a passion of knowledge at Magnalia house with 5 other girls who are studying each passion as well-arts, drama, music, wit, and knowledge. She is left without a patron though and is swept up in a plot to overthrow a king! That’s the story! There’s also a kind of subplot where we are left wondering who Brienna’s father/family history is the entire book too, but this is literally given away by the family tree at the beginning of the book! Why would they do this? You want us to sit in suspense and make it a big mystery throughout the story and yet reveal it in the family tree at the beginning of the book? Needless to say I DO NOT recommend reading those before you read the book.

The plot was extremely slow paced and at times very boring. Brienna’s time at Magnalia house is spent gossiping with the other girls and they talk about their passions and such. It was tedious, so very tedious. From there I usually love the whole “rebellion” side of plots but this was very underwhelming, it completely lacked any action or twists. What twists there were, were completely predictable and in no way surprised me. That was probably one of the things that disappointed me the most since it took away any suspense from the story for me.

I also felt a lot of things were a little too convenient in order to move the plot forward and the ending felt rushed.

I DID like the family dynamics and lineages though, they were fun to keep track of especially with all of the political intrigue.

Also I really loved the idea of the passions and what little world building there was, was really interesting. However, I felt that there could have been a lot more world building and what there was could have been expanded on. I liked the magic system too, in which magic passes woman to woman and not to men whatsoever. Very feminist, which I loved.

The writing did flow well and was very descriptive, I think it’s one of the few reasons I managed to push through the entire 464 pages.

characters

Overall the characters were kind of “meh”, they were all likable enough but I definitely felt like they could have used a little more complexity.

Brienna was an okay protagonist, I didn’t love her and I didn’t hate her. I did like that she was very brave and bound and determined to help aid the “rebels” and that she didn’t make a bunch of stupid decisions either.

There were quite a few side characters such as Brienna’s peers who were all fine, but I really liked the rebel characters the most such as Alderic, Luc, and Yseult. But as I already mentioned I thought everyone could have been developed a bit more.

romance

The romance was definitely my least favorite thing about “The Queen’s Rising” right up there next to the painfully slow pacing. There is a developing romance throughout the book between Brienna and her teacher, Master Cartier. It was extremely awkward, lacked chemistry, and not to mention completely inappropriate. Sorry but I do not enjoy teacher/student relationships and that’s just my opinion.

Plus the romance became too much of a focus at times and was completely unnecessary.

in conclusion

Overall, this book just fell really short for me and I’m left feeling kind of disappointed with it. I expected a lot more action, suspense, and build up.

What I Loved:

  • Liked keeping track of the families and politics
  • Feminism!
  • World building was okay
  • Writing was good

What I Didn’t Love:

  • Complete lack of tension and suspense
  • No action
  • Extremely slow paced
  • Family tree provided at beginning RUINS a plot twist
  • Plot twists were predictable
  • Characters could have been more complex
  • The romance was unnecessary

RECOMMEND

Sorry, but I can’t really say I recommend this book as it wasn’t anything new to the YA Fantasy genre at all and was slow an predictable.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository / Barnes & Noble

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ARC Review: No Saints in Kansas by Amy Brashear

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A gripping reimagining of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and the brutal murders that inspired it

November is usually quiet in Holcomb, Kansas, but in 1959, the town is shattered by the quadruple murder of the Clutter family. Suspicion falls on Nancy Clutter’s boyfriend, Bobby Rupp, the last one to see them alive.

New Yorker Carly Fleming, new to the small Midwestern town, is an outsider. She tutored Nancy, and (in private, at least) they were close. Carly and Bobby were the only ones who saw that Nancy was always performing, and that she was cracking under the pressure of being Holcomb’s golden girl. The secret connected Carly and Bobby. Now that Bobby is an outsider, too, they’re bound closer than ever.

Determined to clear Bobby’s name, Carly dives into the murder investigation and ends up in trouble with the local authorities. But that’s nothing compared to the wrath she faces from Holcomb once the real perpetrators are caught. When her father is appointed to defend the killers of the Clutter family, the entire town labels the Flemings as traitors. Now Carly must fight for what she knows is right.

review

**** Huge thank you to Soho Teen for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!****

Well I’m disappointed because I thought the idea of a retelling of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood sounds extremely creative, however, the execution just wasn’t on. It wasn’t as gripping and suspenseful as I would have liked.

PLOT

The story starts out right after the Clutter family was murdered and the main character, Carly, tries to come to terms with what happened. There are also multiple flashbacks to when Nancy Clutter was alive and the time Carly spent with her. I didn’t like the flashbacks because they weren’t distinguishable enough from the current timeline (aside from Nancy being alive) and just felt messy and confusing at times.

The pacing is also pretty slow throughout the story, as I mentioned already there really wasn’t a lot of suspense. So the pacing was off the entire time and the plotting wasn’t much better, it just felt like there wasn’t a point to the entire story. Carly spends the entirety of the story trying to “solve” the murders by making a series of bad decisions such as breaking and entering as well as contaminating a crime scene. Does that seem smart? No. Does that seem like it’s “helping” anything at all? No. And why? What was the point? She also managed to pull all of this off herself and with the aid of other teens and it was all extremely unrealistic.

On top of all of the bad decision making it just felt like Carly’s reasons behind her “investigating” were selfish. She was extremely focused on making the murders about herself and her friendship with Nancy, which was kind of annoying because it’s not all about you Carly!

Then the ending just felt very rushed and too convenient as well, like the author had to hurry up and finish the story in the last two pages and try and tidy it up. Which in the end just made it feel unsatisfying.

However, I did find the writing pretty enjoyable it kept me interested enough to finish the book after all. I also liked that the chapters were very, very short which also helped keep my attention. I do think Amy Brashear has a lot of potential though!

characters

As I already briefly mentioned I thought Carly’s character was a bit selfish and besides that she also has talent for making stupid decisions. There were times where I felt other characters treated her very poorly in which case she had some of my pity but overall I just didn’t care all that much about her. She was very underdeveloped and remained the same throughout the story, no character arc whatsoever.

There were quite a few other characters but no one was developed at all and everyone just felt very plain and one dimensional. I didn’t really care for any of them either. As for some of Carly’s “friends” such as Landry and Mary Claire they seemed to only show up when it was convenient for the plot and then just disappeared and ignored Carly afterwards. It was odd.

One thing about the characters that I did enjoy was the occasional historical figures that would pop up here and there, of course Truman Capote was one but also JFK as well.

romance

There was sort of some romance in the story and also kind of a love triangle? It, like many other parts of this book, was very underdeveloped. Carly seemed to have fallen for two different boys but it also never really seemed like she cared about either especially by the end of the story since she didn’t really end up with anyone. It was all sort of pointless.

in conclusion

Overall the writing and story were okay but mostly forgettable. As I mentioned earlier the premise sounded great but the execution just didn’t cut it.

What I Liked:

  • Decent writing and short chapters
  • Historical figures added into the book

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Plot and pacing were off
  • Carly constantly makes bad decisions
  • Underdeveloped characters
  • Rushed, abrupt ending
  • Friends conveniently showed up and then disappeared
  • Romance was underdeveloped as well

RECOMMEND

I can’t really say I’d recommend this one, unfortunately since the premise sounded really interesting but the story itself was not.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

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ARC Review: The Devils You Know by M.C. Atwood

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description

Plenty of legends surround the infamous Boulder House in Whispering Bluffs, Wisconsin, but nobody takes them seriously. Certainly nobody believes that the original owner, Maxwell Cartwright Jr., cursed its construction—or that a murder of crows died upon its completion, their carcasses turning the land black. If anyone did believe it all, there’s no way River Red High would offer a field trip there for the senior class.

Five very different seniors on the trip—Violet, Paul, Ashley, Dylan, and Gretchen—have reasons beyond school spirit for not ditching the trip. When they’re separated from the group, they discover that what lies within Boulder House is far more horrifying than any local folklore. To survive, they’ll have to band together in ways they never could have imagined and ultimately confront the truths of their darkest selves.

review**** Huge thank you to Soho Teen for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! ****

Trigger Warnings: Racism, Homophobia, Victim Blaming, and Statutory Rape

Sadly I was more than a little disappointed with this book especially since I’m always up for YA Horror books! Unfortunately this isn’t really a horror book, in my opinion it’s exactly like “Night at the Museum” with slightly creepier things running around. I was expecting to be creeped out and scared a lot more than I was but it still managed to hold my attention for the most part, so there is something to be said for that.

PLOTThe story starts out pretty slow with the set up since we are introduced to each character through their own perspective, which got to be too much to keep track of at times but they did have their own unique voices so it was manageable. After the characters are FINALLY in the Boulder House things start to get a little more fast-paced and a little more interesting as well. They must all now work together in order to escape this house of horrors but may not be able to manage it since they are all harboring secrets they wish to remain hidden.

I thought the “secret” aspect to the plot was pretty interesting since a lot of these kids had some pretty odd secrets but this is where a lot of the trigger warnings I mentioned come into play: racism, homophobia, and the victim blaming/statutory rape (which was the worst one) and that’s why the kids chose to keep their secrets. I won’t spoil any of it but just know that the majority of the plot twists have these triggers in them and they can be a bit over whelming.

As far as the rest of the plot went I just felt like it was a mess, honestly what the heck was even going on? These kids went from room to room and everything got weirder and weirder as they progressed through the house! There’s whales, unicorns, centaurs, vicious angels, and all kinds of odd things that they come across. It just felt like the plot was “trying too hard” to be entertaining and it just came off being strange and messy.

Then there’s the writing….it felt really immature. Granted it is told from the perspectives of high schoolers and I’m sure Atwood was aiming for a younger crowd but it was just too much for me. The phrases “douchemunch”, “asstroll”, and “fuck-a-doodle-doo” show up way more times than I’d like to count, do people actually talk like this? It really got on my nerves while reading.

charactersThe characters are all high school students and all fit into various tropes: shy girl, popular/mean girl, goth girl and her boyfriend, and the jock. They all act accordingly as well, aside from their secrets but as I said I’m not spoiling them! Aside from the fact that they all couldn’t be more different they do try to stick and work together, which I liked since it would have been very infuriating for them NOT to in the situation.

I also liked the dash of diversity among the characters since we do have a lesbian character, bisexual character, and African-American character.

Other than that I didn’t really care about any of them and their dialogue and actions could get really annoying at times, as I mentioned when discussing the writing.

romanceAnother really messy aspect of the story: the romance. Every character got in on this too which is why it got to be too messy and too much overall.

There’s a couple that starts out a couple but one is bisexual and doesn’t care for their significant other anymore, one is secretly gay and has a crush on another character, one is head over heels for their significant other, and two other characters secretly have crushes on each other but won’t admit it.

Too messy, right? I thought so.

in conclusionMy thoughts on this book overall were that it was way too messy and I was very disappointed. However, I did finish reading it so points for that.

What I Liked:

  • Managed to hold my attention
  • Relatively fast paced
  • Bit of diversity in the cast of characters

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Plot was very messy and over the top
  • The writing and dialogue were very immature
  • Overly complicated romantic sub-plot

RECOMMENDThis just wasn’t my cup of tea and that disappointed me. There just weren’t enough horror elements for me to seriously consider this a horror book and everything was too messy and downright weird.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

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