Review: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

What If It's Us
What If It’s Us
by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

I knew from the very first page I was going to love this book, and I did. It’s just so sweet and funny and wonderful and made me smile so hard (and I’m still smiling). I really hope Albertalli and Silvera team up for another book.


Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Maybe more 4.5 stars but what the hell, this book put the biggest smile on my face.

From the very first page I knew I was going to love this book. The pairing of Albertalli and Silvera is just perfect and while you can tell their writing apart, their styles complement each other perfectly.

I am an absolute sucker for YA romances set in New York so there was always a fair chance I was going to love this. It is however the sweetest and funniest romance I’ve read since Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares. I loved the meet-cute at the start, I loved watching Ben and Arthur trying to find each other again and I loved the way their relationship developed. I thought it was wonderful how realistic their relationship was. They have this epic, incredibly romantic start but it’s not all smooth sailing. They each have their own issues and insecurities, they both make mistakes and everything seems to go wrong for them. It keeps you wondering whether they can make it work or if they’re just too different.

Character wise I loved both Ben and Arthur but have to confess of the two it was Arthur who made me the happiest. He’s just so earnest and enthusiastic and gosh darn likeable. I feel like I really need an Arthur in my life, he’s just a little ball of sunshine, but possibly not as the office intern. Ben was a little harder to love, he’s quite negative and closed off, but once he starts to open up he’s kind of adorable too. They really are a great match and I was totally rooting for them to make it.

The secondary characters are also wonderful. Dylan in particular, pretty much stole the book, as he had me laughing in pretty much every scene he was in. (Can he be my best friend?) I also loved the diversity in the characters – Ben is part Puerto Rican, Arthur is Jewish and takes medication for ADHD and Dylan has a heart condition – it’s fantastic to see so much representation in such a natural way.

The writing is as brilliant as you would expect, the pacing is spot on and the story is packed full of feels. I was supposed to be packing to move house and instead I binge read this in a day, I just didn’t want to put it down.

Overall, if you haven’t figured it out, I loved this book and would recommend to anyone looking for a feel good contemporary romance.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. All views are my own.

Review: Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

Broken Things by [Oliver, Lauren]
Broken Things
by Lauren Oliver

Not my favourite book by Oliver but it’s a very engaging and dark story that has some truly brilliant moments. Unfortunately, these moments were not quite frequent enough and while I was gripped at points there were other times where I’m afraid my attention wandered.


It’s been five years since Summer Marks was brutally murdered in the woods. 

Everyone thinks Mia and Brynn killed their best friend. That driven by their obsession with a novel called The Way into Lovelorn the three girls had imagined themselves into the magical world where their fantasies became twisted, even deadly.

The only thing is: they didn’t do it. 

On the anniversary of Summer’s death, a seemingly insignificant discovery resurrects the mystery and pulls Mia and Brynn back together once again. But as the lines begin to blur between past and present and fiction and reality, the girls must confront what really happened in the woods all those years ago—no matter how monstrous.


My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Broken Things is a really dark read and I feel like I should say upfront there are some very disturbing scenes that could be triggering (pedophilia, violence against animals, murder of a child, fat shaming and homophobic slurs). I will confess these did bother me at times and I found myself deliberately distancing myself from what I was reading so it couldn’t upset me too much. The story is however intriguing and I really loved the way the author brought elements of fantasy and fairytale into what could be just another murder mystery.

The story is told from the point of view of Brynn and Mia, the girls believed to be responsible for killing their best friend Summer. It begins in the present as Mia discovers something that could be a clue to what happened back then and seeks out Brynn so they can start their own investigation. This is interspersed with flashbacks to five years previously to shed light on the relationship between the three girls.

It very quickly becomes clear that all three of them, and Summer’s boyfriend Owen, were somehow broken, escaping into a fantasy world that somehow became real. I’m not sure I would necessarily say I connected with or could relate to any of the characters but they are complex and make for some fascinating reading. Each was messed up back then and is even more messed up now that the whole country seems to be blaming them for the murder.

I thought the way in which the author showed the tendency for society to want to find someone responsible and then demonize them  was very cleverly done. These two girls, who were children at the time, are dehumanized and subject to unending abuse and threats including by adults who really should know better. It does make you empathize with Mia and Brynn and makes a lot of their actions understandable. It also explains why they have to turn detectives with the help of a couple of friends rather than involving the authorities.

Their investigation into the murder is for the most part engaging and while it does seem amateurish at times when you think about their age it is probably realistic. I did feel like it wandered off track a little in the middle and lost some of the tension and pace it needed to make it a truly unputdownable read but it did keep me guessing.

The highlight of the story was however Summer’s character. Troubled doesn’t even begin to cover it and my feelings toward her were all over the place. I swung back and forward between feeling sorry for her, hating her and finding her a little scary. It was difficult to remember just how young she was and I was glad of the frequent reminders within the narrative. One thing I would have loved to know though was more of her past and what was going on her head. She just seems to have this power over everyone around her. They either idolize her or are too terrified to cross her.

I also loved the story within the story and how this book the three girls were so obsessed with was such an important part of it. It brought an additional layer to the mystery and also the possibility that there could be something fantastical going on. I will admit I was not so convinced by the extracts from the book (or the girls fan fiction) that preceded each chapter. I’m not sure they added much to the story and I found myself skimming through them.

The writing is however what you would expect from Oliver and there are some genuinely creepy moments but also some that made me emotional. It’s not always easy to read but if you can stand the gruesome bits (or at least skim through them with your fingers over your eyes) it is a great story.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. All thoughts are my own.


Review: Sea Witch by Sarah Henning

Sea Witch by Sarah Henning
Sea Witch
by Sarah Henning

This book reminded me just what it was I loved about villain stories. It’s not perfect but there’s enough mystery and shocks to make it wonderfully addictive reading.


Everyone knows what happens in the end. A mermaid, a prince, a true love’s kiss. But before that young siren’s tale, there were three friends. One feared, one royal, and one already dead.

Ever since her best friend, Anna, drowned, Evie has been an outcast in her small fishing town. A freak. A curse. A witch.

A girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears offshore and, though the girl denies it, Evie is convinced that her best friend actually survived. That her own magic wasn’t so powerless after all. And, as the two girls catch the eyes—and hearts—of two charming princes, Evie believes that she might finally have a chance at her own happily ever after.

But her new friend has secrets of her own. She can’t stay in Havnestad, or on two legs, unless Evie finds a way to help her. Now Evie will do anything to save her friend’s humanity, along with her prince’s heart—harnessing the power of her magic, her ocean, and her love until she discovers, too late, the truth of her bargain.


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love a good villain story and this book made me remember exactly why that is. There’s just something so unpredictable about it, even though I thought I knew what the story would be it somehow managed to take me completely by surprise. The only thing I was sure of was that something bad was going to happen and the main character probably wouldn’t be getting a happily ever after. It’s an uneasy and frustrating feeling but it makes for some truly addictive reading.

Despite being yet another mermaid story (there seems to be a lot of them around at the moment) there was something different and completely unexpected about Sea Witch. I was anticipating a version of the Little Mermaid or a prequel but it was unclear in the beginning how this story fit with the fairytale we all know and love. For one thing the majority of the story is set in the 19th century in a small fishing port on the coast of Denmark. It follows Evie, a 16 year old girl, daughter of a fisherman and best friend to the Crown Prince.

She’s considered a bit of an outcast by everyone, in part due to her friendship with the Prince, Nik, but also due to the rumours of witchcraft surrounding her. This reputation is not particularly helped by death seeming to follow her around. First her mother dies saving her life and then best friend Anna drowns while they are both swimming in the sea.

Things begin to change however when a storm hits on the birthday of the Prince, washing him overboard from the ship they’re holding the celebrations on. He’s rescued by a mermaid who bears a remarkable resemblance to Anna and has a beautiful voice just like her friend had. When this mermaid reappears a few days later, transformed into a girl her own age and on a quest to win the heart of the Prince, Evie vows to help her. But appearances are not always what they appear to be.

I absolutely loved how unpredictable this story was. There are so many twists and turns I had no idea how it was going to end and there were more than a couple of moments which had me literally open mouthed with shock. There is this constant sense that there’s something not quite right and that disaster is approaching for Evie but it’s impossible to tear yourself away.

I liked Evie as a character but I have to confess she frustrated the hell out of me. Her intentions, while sometimes a little selfish, are generally good and she is completely loyal to those she cares about. But, it becomes clear very early on that she’s far too trusting and loyal and that she takes too many risks as a result, messing with things she doesn’t fully understand.

The other characters I wasn’t so sure about. Nik, the high born Prince is a little bit wishy washy and his cousin, who is Evie’s love interest, is never entirely convincing either. The romance between them seems too sudden and to me his feelings didn’t feel genuine. Mermaid turned human Annemette (who may or may not in fact be Anna) is a more intriguing character but at times felt a little over done.

There’s a lot of romance in this story and not one but two love triangles, neither of which I really bought into. Grumpy old cynic that I am I find the notion of true love and being willing to die for someone a bit much for a 16 year old. What interested me a lot more was the relationship between Evie and Anna/Annemette and also the magic system in this world.

I thought the way the magic centered around the sea and was based on a kind of barter system (to get something you have to give something) was wonderful, and a little bit terrifying. Everything has consequences and Evie, who is encouraged to mess with magic by Annemette, has no idea what these could be. It’s intriguing and frustrating and at times breathtaking. When everything is finally revealed I found myself on the edge of my seat, the conclusion is truly epic (and heartbreaking) and totally worth plodding through teenage romance for.

I’d recommend this to anyone who loves fairytale inspired stories without the happily ever after and doesn’t mind a love triangle (or two).

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all thoughts are my own

Review: The Towering Sky (The Thousandth Floor #3) by Katherine McGee

The Towering Sky (The Thousandth Floor, Book 3)
The Towering Sky
by Katharine McGee

A fantastic conclusion to what has truly been an addictive and exciting read. I loved the futuristic New York setting and the characters so much I would not be averse to another book set in this world.

Spoiler Alert: As this is book three there may be some spoilers for the first two (although not for this one) from this point on. You can however go read my review of the first book here.


Welcome back to New York, 2119. A skyscraper city, fueled by impossible dreams, where the lives of five teenagers have become intertwined in ways that no one could have imagined.

Leda just wants to move on from what happened in Dubai. Until a new investigation forces her to seek help—from the person she’s spent all year trying to forget.

Rylin is back in her old life, reunited with an old flame. But when she starts seeing Cord again, she finds herself torn: between two worlds, and two very different boys.

Calliope feels trapped, playing a long con that costs more than she bargained for. What happens when all her lies catch up with her?

Watt is still desperately in love with Leda. He’ll do anything to win her back—even dig up secrets that are better left buried.

And now that Avery is home from England—with a new boyfriend, Max—her life seems more picture-perfect than ever. So why does she feel like she would rather be anything but perfect?

In this breathtaking finale to The Thousandth Floor trilogy, Katharine McGee returns to her vision of 22nd-century New York: a world of startling glamour, dazzling technology, and unthinkable secrets. After all, when you have everything… you have everything to lose.


The Towering Sky is the third and final book in Katherine McGee’s completely addictive Thousandth Floor trilogy. Set in a futuristic New York, it follows a group of teens from different backgrounds who live in a skyscraper with (you guessed it) a thousand floors. For me this series is very YA soap opera in the best possible way, reminding me of the OC or Revenge (it’s also compared to Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars but I haven’t seen or read either). There are secrets, lies, forbidden love, a rags to riches story, drug addiction, blackmail, kidnapping, murder, celebrity and even a bit of politics this time around (ya know all the good stuff). It is definitely not a trilogy you can just jump into anywhere (well maybe but why would you).

Like the first two books in the series this one kicks off with a hell of a hook, Avery, one of our MC’s is standing on the roof of the tower (where one of her best friends fell to her death) preparing to give up on her life. She may have been genetically engineered to be perfect but she’s no longer willing to play the part. The big question is whether she’ll really go through with it and just what has driven her to such an extreme act and well…. you’ll have to read the book (which then flashes back to a few weeks previously) to find out. As you can guess it’s pretty addictive reading.

I absolutely loved being back in the world that McGee has created, it truly is something special, and the amount of detail around the technology of the future is incredible. What I loved even more however was being back with the characters, who despite a rather shaky start in the first book have really grown on me. It’s told from multiple pov’s, Avery, Leda, Watt, Rylin and newish character Calliope so I feel like I’ve really gotten to know and understand them and have somehow become invested in them (well most of them – more on this later).

The story picks up a few months after the dramatic conclusion of the previous book with the characters seemingly moving forward with their lives. Avery is in a new relationship, Leda is recovering from her drug addiction, Watt is okay-ish, Rylin is back with ex boyfriend Hiral and Calliope is settled in New York. Needless to say this progress is all put in jeopardy when the police begin investigating Mariel’s death and find links between Mariel and the others which could result in all of their secrets being revealed. There’s also the big question of who did kill Mariel and why…. and I think I’ll leave it there before I give anything away.

There’s a lot going on this book and the author contends with some big questions and issues, handling everything from teen drug use, our dependence on technology, the dangers of unregulated or illegal technological advances, the pressures of celebrity and the role of the press and also politics and image with great skill. It was only when I thought back over it that I realized just how much the author had snuck in there without me realizing (as I was too caught up in the story).

I do have to admit however that this is not a book without flaws, as there were a few things around that niggled at me. Firstly, this book is badly in need of a previously section or at least some character descriptions. Around the first 15% of the book is taken up with trying to fill in the backstory and there is so much to catch up on that it feels a tad forced and unnatural. It would have been far better in my opinion to have a few pages before the prologue to remind the reader, then the story could have focused on the now.

I also felt that this book was missing a lot of the mystery and the tension of the previous books. What I loved the most about the second book in particular was that it was packed full of shocking twists and turns and kept you guessing till literally the very last page. Not sure if it’s just that I guessed most of the ending pretty early on but there weren’t the shocks or surprises I expected.

And finally, Calliope. I’m sorry but I’ve never really understood her inclusion as an MC, particularly in this story. I don’t like her and other than a minor interaction with one of the others (which okay is important) her storyline never really crosses the others. I could accept her role in the second book but nope, she should have left early on.

This griping probably makes it sound like I didn’t enjoy this book but that’s truly not the case as I did find it to be yet another engaging and addictive read and I had to find out how it all would end. When it does come the ending is pretty much spot on. Rylin and Calliope’s stories are perhaps a little rushed but Watt, Leda and Avery’s are wrapped up nicely. I even found myself becoming a tiny bit emotional, something that never happened in the previous installments. I am a little devastated it’s all over and would not be averse to another book set in this world.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. All views are my own.

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Review: That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger

That's Not What Happened
That’s Not What Happened
by Kody Keplinger

This book about the aftermath of a school shooting deals with some difficult and controversial issues but Keplinger handles it with real sensitivity and a focus not on the shooter (or the why) but on the impact an event like this has on both the survivors and the community as a whole. I loved the messages running through it and also have to applaud Keplinger for the diversity in her characters.


Six survived to tell the story, but who knows the truth? The next hotly anticipated YA novel from bestselling US sensation Kody Keplinger, author of THE DUFF and RUN

It’s been three years since the Virgil County High School Massacre. Three years since my best friend, Sarah, was killed in a bathroom stall during the mass shooting. Everyone knows Sarah’s story – that she died proclaiming her faith.

But it’s not true.

I know because I was with her when she died. I didn’t say anything then, and people got hurt because of it. Now Sarah’s parents are publishing a book about her, so this might be my last chance to set the record straight . . . but I’m not the only survivor with a story to tell about what did – and didn’t – happen that day.

Except Sarah’s martyrdom is important to a lot of people, people who don’t take kindly to what I’m trying to do. And the more I learn, the less certain I am about what’s right. I don’t know what will be worse: the guilt of staying silent or the consequences of speaking up . . .


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There seem to be quite a few books about school shootings at the moment but this is probably the first one I’ve been tempted to read. It’s such a difficult topic and I really didn’t want to read a book that was going to deal with such a heavy or emotionally charged subject. This however appealed to me firstly because of the author but mostly because this book focuses on the survivors and how they’re coping (or not) three years down the line.

Mass shootings and gun control are very topical at the moment and this story does cover a lot of the arguments and some scenes which will be very familiar to anyone who’s watched the news recently. What I liked about it though is rather than necessarily putting across a specific argument or trying to explain the why behind the shooting or how it could have been prevented this looks at the effect of media coverage and all of this arguing on the victims and survivors. News coverage and social media put stories out there instantly and once a particular version of events is out there it often becomes the accepted story. The victims and survivors are often pushed into roles they may not necessarily want, courageous hero, martyr, spokesperson, face of a campaign or if they’re really unlucky, coward or liar. The story becomes twisted to fit the agenda of the various lobbying groups and the truth and more importantly the impact on the survivors and the families of the victims is forgotten.

This book demonstrates very effectively just what it’s like for those to survive this type of ordeal. The story is told from the pov of Lee who was one of six survivors of a mass shooting in her school and was with her best friend Sarah when she was killed. When Sarah’s parents decide to publish a book about their daughter who has become a bit of a martyr as the girl who died for her faith, Lee decides the truth has to come out. She begins collecting the real stories of the survivors and the victims but is she doing it for the right reason and what impact could telling the truth have on her life and the life of those around her.

I thought the author did a wonderful job of portraying what kind of impact this type of ordeal would have on someone and the different ways the survivors have found to cope (or are still struggling). It may be three years later but they’re still grieving, they feel guilty, suffer from flashbacks and panic attacks but with the media attention and the whole community watching them they’re trapped into specific roles.

I loved how this story revealed more about each of the survivors and victims. Lee sets out to show the world that they are more than what happened to them. They were not all heroes and or saints. They were regular people, flaws and all and they were in a terrifying situation. They shouldn’t have to do or be anything and they shouldn’t have to carry the weight or attention of the media or whatever lobbying group. That being said, it also raises the issue of whether it’s okay to put the truth out there when it could upset the families of the victims.

One other thing I have to say I loved about this story was how diverse it was. Lee the main character is on the asexual spectrum (something I don’t think I’ve ever really come across before), there are two characters with physical disabilities, different races represented but also different religious beliefs. I’m not sure I would necessarily say that I particularly loved or connected to any one character but I was invested in their stories.

This really was a brilliantly written story and I loved how sensitive the author was in dealing with such a difficult topic. I do get the impression some serious research has gone into this but if I had one criticism it’s that I wish there was some acknowledgement of this or some details at the back. I was however reading an ARC though so perhaps that will pop up in the final version.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
by Emily M. Danforth

A wonderfully written coming of age story that I wanted so badly to love but couldn’t quite connect with.


When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.

But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone, and Cam becomes an expert at both.

Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship, one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self-even if she’s not quite sure who that is.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a stunning and unforgettable literary debut about discovering who you are and finding the courage to live life according to your own rules.


My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hmm I am really struggling to know what to say about this book. Have you ever read the blurb on a book and thought this sounds like just the sort of story I’ll love. You check out the reviews and everyone you know is raving over how brilliant it is, how it’s one of the best books they’ve read and you think yep I need to read this as soon as possible.

You manage to get a copy and dive right in only to realise pretty early on that it’s not really working for you. There’s nothing obviously wrong with it but it just doesn’t make you feel anything. That was exactly what happened to me with this book. I could see it’s good (possibly even great) but that’s not how it felt.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a classic coming of age story. Set in a small (and pretty religious) town in Montana, Cameron is 12 years old when her parents die in a car accident leaving her to live with her aunt Ruth and her Grandmother. Cameron struggles with her grief but more importantly is struggling with guilt over the fact that when her parents died she was shoplifting and kissing a girl.

The story follows Cammie over the next 4 or 5 years as she deals with the loss of her parents while trying to keep the fact that she’s more attracted to girls than boys a secret, particularly from her Aunt, whose religious views it goes against. Needless to say it doesn’t remain a secret.

I thought the author did an absolutely wonderful job in setting the scene for this story. She is originally from Miles City where the story is set so I’m assuming it’s based on her own memories and experiences but she conveys it so well. Movies are referenced a lot in this story but there’s something very film like in the description of both place and people too. It’s very easy to imagine yourself there, the sights, sounds and even the feel of the place.

The characters are similarly well fleshed out. Each and every one of them and the actions between them feeling very real and natural. Cameron in particular was very intriguing and with the story taking place over several years it was fascinating to watch her grow and develop.

This focus on Cameron and the development of her through her teens is however where it probably went a little bit wrong for me as while her story interested me I didn’t feel particularly connected to her. Consequently I was never emotionally invested in it which in this type of story is really necessary in my opinion.

There were a couple of emotional moments in the beginning but other than that it was more I’m kinda curious where this is going rather than I can’t put this down as I need to know what happens next. I can’t put my finger on what caused this, it was maybe a lack of things in common with Cammie or it could have been the way she tells the story, often reflecting back from some time in the future, which makes her seem a little detached from it rather than in the moment.

Pace wise this is a slow read and I have to confess to being tempted to DNF more than once. There are some pretty long sections where it doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere. There was probably something I was missing in these parts, some symbolism or deeper meaning but I mostly just wanted it to move on.

It does pick up a little in the second half when the truth comes out and Ruth takes drastic action to set Cammie back on God’s path but I don’t think it was enough. The ending when it finally came was also a bit of a let down. I felt like it was just getting interesting and then it was over. I can understand what the author was trying to do but it really frustrated me.

I have to say I am glad to have read it, it opened my eyes to a lot of things and presented such a wonderfully vivid picture of small town America, but it’s not one I’m ever likely to pick up again.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. This has in no way influenced my review.

Review: Smoke in the Sun by Renee Ahdieh

Smoke in the Sun (Flame in the Mist, #2)
Smoke in the Sun
by Renee Ahdieh

The author creates a truly magical and beautiful world in this, the conclusion to the Flame in the Mist duology, however there was just a little too much going on for me to really connect to this story. It has some wonderful moments but I’m sorry to say didn’t quite live up to expectations.

The Blurb

The highly anticipated sequel to Flame in the Mist—an addictive, sumptuous finale that will leave readers breathless from the bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn.

After Okami is captured in the Jukai forest, Mariko has no choice—to rescue him, she must return to Inako and face the dangers that have been waiting for her in the Heian Castle. She tricks her brother, Kenshin, and betrothed, Raiden, into thinking she was being held by the Black Clan against her will, playing the part of the dutiful bride-to-be to infiltrate the emperor’s ranks and uncover the truth behind the betrayal that almost left her dead.

With the wedding plans already underway, Mariko pretends to be consumed with her upcoming nuptials, all the while using her royal standing to peel back the layers of lies and deception surrounding the imperial court. But each secret she unfurls gives way to the next, ensnaring Mariko and Okami in a political scheme that threatens their honor, their love and very the safety of the empire.

My Review

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I can’t believe I’m only giving this book 3.5 stars. This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year and having loved Flame in the Mist I fully expected this to blow me away but it just never happened.

I’d love to say it was me and not the book but I don’t think that’s the case I’m afraid. It’s true that I picked this up having just read some absolutely brilliant books and it was always going to struggle to compete but I’m sorry to say that this is a book with some problems and my more recent reads just highlighted them to me.

It did begin well and I loved the similarities in the first few pages to the opening scene in Flame in the Mist. My immediate thought was “YES!!! This is going to be so good” but within the first couple of chapters my hopes began to sink. It was wonderful being back in the beautiful, magical and dangerous world the author created but I just got so confused. In fairness this was, at least in part, my own fault as I couldn’t wholly remember the first book so should maybe have had a quick re read but it took me a while to figure out who was who again, what relation they were to each other and how they’d ended up in their current positions. It probably didn’t help that at the end of the last book there was a big reveal that certain characters weren’t who you thought and this book began with trying to recap that as well as introduce a few new(ish) characters. My poor brain which is rubbish with names and relationships at the best of times just couldn’t keep up.

I think the story just became too big for me and the author tried to bring in too many storylines and characters. There wasn’t enough space for it in one book and as a result it became too thin and lost focus. There are a lot of characters and it’s told from multiple pov’s so I struggled to connect with it or really feel anything. It’s so frustrating because I love the author’s writing, the world she has created is brilliant and there is potentially a great story there but I couldn’t get to it because it’s trying to do too much all at once. I kind of wish it’d just stuck with main character Mariko and let her be the star.

Mariko is a wonderful character and I love how she has developed over this duology. It’s great to see a female lead who doesn’t have any special powers or super fighting ability but instead uses her intelligence and wits. She has her doubts and her insecurities and that makes her incredibly relateable. I wish she’d been given a little more page time as she begins this story in enemy territory (the palace) and has to play a game she lacks skill in (lying and deceiving) to save the person she loves. The most memorable scenes in this are in fact when she’s either lying and scheming or with Okami, but then I do love Okami and the relationship between them.

The other characters are interesting and there are some welcome additions, Raiden and Kanaka for example, but I’m not sure all were necessary and it became confusing (for me at any rate). I loved when Mariko was amongst the Black Clan but they feature very briefly and instead we have a lot of new characters within the palace. We get to meet the new emperor Roku and his brother (and Mariko’s betrothed) Raiden. There is the old Empress, Roku’s mother and her ladies, Raiden’s mother, the various Lords and advisors and even some servants and soldiers. It’s a lot and there just isn’t the time to fully develop all of them, and to be honest I’m not sure they serve much of a purpose to the story.

The story itself felt quite slow to me but when I think about it there was a lot of action. There are twists and turns, political intrigue, betrayal, torture, battles and even executions/murder but for some reason I just never felt any excitement or emotion from it. Even deaths which should have triggered some kind of reaction passed me by and when I suddenly realized it was all over I felt a little let down. It seemed very rushed and not the ending the story deserved. So much was left incomplete and unfinished and it was just so unsatisfying.

Anyway, it isn’t all bad. The world the author creates is wonderful and there are some very lovely moments I just think it could have been more. I have however been a little down on YA fantasy lately though so please don’t let my review put you off. It is still a duology worth reading for the world building alone.

Thanks to NetGalley and publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

Review: Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Ash Princess
Ash Princess
by Laura Sebastian

The story was a little too familiar for me to really love it but this was an enjoyable enough read and a promising start to a new series.


The queen you were meant to be
The land you were meant to save
The throne you were meant to claim

Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. Ten years later, Theo has learned to survive under the relentless abuse of the Kaiser and his court as the ridiculed Ash Princess.

When the Kaiser forces her to execute her last hope of rescue, Theo can’t ignore her feelings and memories any longer. She vows revenge, throwing herself into a plot to seduce and murder the Kaiser’s warrior son with the help of a group of magically gifted and volatile rebels. But Theo doesn’t expect to develop feelings for the Prinz.

Forced to make impossible choices and unable to trust even those who are on her side, Theo will have to decide how far she’s willing to go to save her people and how much of herself she’s willing to sacrifice to become Queen.

From author Laura Sebastian comes Ash Princess, a nail-biting YA fantasy debut full of daring and vengeance.


I wanted to love this but despite some edge of the seat moments this just never really hooked me. It’s not bad, in fact once I hit the halfway point I found it incredibly difficult to put down, it’s just that there’s nothing particularly new or exciting about it. I felt like this was a story I’d read before, more than once, and those parts that were original I wasn’t sure I wanted.

It’s a common story, a young princess whose kingdom was taken over by an evil tyrant has to fight to free herself and her people. Add in special magical powers, a love triangle involving the princess, her best friend from her childhood (boy next door) and the son of the tyrant and this is essentially the same story we’ve heard a number of times (it reminded me a lot of Red Queen).

There are of course some differences, the author has created an intriguing and well set out magic and belief system and I really liked how the main characters religious beliefs played into her actions. I loved how the ideas of one culture being overtaken by another were reflected. There are elements of eradication (bans on using the language for example) but also cultural appropriation and the impact of this on a “native” of the kingdom were very well presented.

What I wasn’t so keen on however was the level of abuse towards women within the story. I do understand why it’s there (and the author has been open in why she included it) but I’m not sure it was necessary to have main character Theodosia (Theo/Thora) being beaten regularly and subjected to mental torture from the age of 6. I generally don’t mind a bit of violence in books but this felt too much to me and while it did bring an edge to the story it was uncomfortable to read (even though very little occurs on the page).

I also think it raised questions over how believable Theo was as a character. I thankfully haven’t had her experiences but her general attitude, actions and responses just didn’t feel right considering the level of abuse she’s been subjected too. As a character there were aspect of her I liked, how she tried to hang on to her memories and beliefs, how she manages to survive and the insecurities she has but there was a lot about her that frustrated me. She’s too hesitant and too trusting and loyal and I just wanted her to act.

As I alluded to there is quite a bit of romance in this and yet another of those dreaded love triangles with one love interest the boy she was best friends with as a child and the other the son of her enemy. I don’t really mind a love triangle and this one is pretty inoffensive. There are some very sweet moments and I particularly loved the relationship between Theo and the Prinz with all of the questions over how much is real and the conflict between love and duty.

What I found especially intriguing romance wise in this book was Theo’s mothers life. She was romantically involved with a number of different men (leading to the question over who Theo’s father was) but committed to no one. It did make me wonder about her kingdom’s attitudes to love and romance and I would have loved for this to be developed further.

As far as the other characters go some were a little cliched but for the most part they were inoffensive. I didn’t really have strong feelings towards any of them with the possible exception of best friend Cress. She was just terrible and honestly I don’t know how Theo couldn’t see it (this was maybe my biggest frustration in this story). The characters I did find intriguing (the Kaiser’s wife for example) didn’t get enough time and I would have liked to see more from the women in the palace.

Story wise I did find this a little slow in the beginning but it does really pick up around the halfway point and from that point on I did find it difficult to put down. There aren’t a lot of surprises, a lot of it has been done before so you kind of know what to expect but I did still enjoy it.

The writing is pretty good and while there is a little bit of info dumping at the start as the author develops the world, the magic system and the religion, there is some real emotion conveyed. I found myself on the edge of my seat at times with the tension created, horrified with the violence and on one occasion I may have shed a tear.

Overall therefore I’d rate it as good but not great. It’s just lacking that little spark and bit of originality to make it something special. I will however no doubt read the sequel when it’s released as now the world building is largely out of the way I think it could really take off.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. This has in no way influenced my review.

ARC Review: Legendary (Caraval #2) by Stephanie Garber

Legendary (Caraval, #2)
by Stephanie Garber

I had high hopes for the sequel to Caraval and Legendary surpassed them all. I absolutely loved it and I can’t wait for book three.

Spoiler Alert: As this is the second in the series there may be some spoilers for Caraval from here on in.


A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…the games have only just begun.


My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Wow this book was just so good. As soon as I finished I wanted to go right back to the beginning and read it all over again. Having read a lot of great reviews and very much enjoying Caraval I did have high(ish) hopes but wow this surpassed them all.

The story picks up not long after Caraval and this time around follows younger sister Tella as she tries to fulfill her side of the deal she made to rescue her sister Scarlett from their abusive father and discover who Legend really is (something I very much wanted to know too). It’s not long before she discovers the only way to find Legend is to take part in the game and win. Tella may think that she’s been behind the scenes and knows it’s not real but this is a very different game from the one her sister played and the stakes have never been higher.

I did wonder how Garber could follow up Caraval and keep the mystery when the reader knows the truth behind it but she does it masterfully. From the very start it’s made clear that this is not the same. There’s no warning that it’s only a game and not to get swept away but instead that this time it’s real. But, is it or is the “it’s all real” just another part of the game? It’s such a wonderful spin that you still can’t help wondering what’s real and what’s not. We know some of the characters from the previous book and we know they’re actors playing a part but there are a few new characters and Legend is known for setting the scene well before the game begins so just what is an act and what is true, is anyone who they appear and just who is Legend? It’s even more confounding when it turns out that one thing we thought we’d discovered in Caraval was not remotely true.

I was right there with Tella as she quickly began to doubt her own convictions and started to question if everyone was in fact playing some kind of game with her. At moments it seems as if even sister Scarlett could be in on the game and don’t even get me started on love interests Dante and Jacks.

While picking up this book felt initially like sinking into a familiar and reassuring world with characters I knew and cared for Garber takes it to a whole new level, developing both the world and the people in it into something completely new, strange and unsettling but consistent with what came before. The magic system is further developed but there’s also more insight into the wider world, its people and the various religious and belief systems which added so much depth and detail I found myself completely immersed in this magical world.

For the most part I also loved how the characters were developed. I hadn’t been keen on Tella in the first book but she really made this story for me. She’d always seemed quite a selfish and shallow character, thoughtless and determined to get her way but it’s not long until we find her motivations were very different from what I believed. I adored how forthright she was. There’s no hesitation. She may be scared or have doubts but she makes a decision and she goes for it, putting on a show that nothing gets to her and relying on the fact that most people (myself included) underestimate her. She is a little reckless and her actions are frustrating at times but she’s young (something I kept forgetting) and it makes for such an exciting and engaging read.

Tella is also incredibly self reliant and I loved how she didn’t look to anyone else to solve her problems. She’s not looking for romance but that’s not to say she doesn’t find some and when she does it is truly swoon worthy. There were more than a few occasions when I just wanted to melt into a big puddle on the floor. I should add a warning that there’s a bit of love triangle going on but both of the love interests are just yummy and not necessarily what they seem. Dante may be flirty and sweet but he’s one of the performers so may be playing a game and Jacks is probably not part of the game but is very mercurial and changes from cold and nasty to charming from one moment to the next. I found myself completely hooked every time Tella had a scene with them.

To be honest though I found myself completely hooked on the story as a whole. It’s full of mystery and intrigue and there were so many sudden reveals and twists my jaw was almost constantly on the floor. There was more than one occasion when I was seriously considering just staying on the train and not going to work so I could keep on reading.

If I had one criticism, and it is pretty minor, I would have liked to see more in terms of the game and the other players. It feels like a very personal game this time and the focus is almost solely on Tella. I couldn’t help wondering what everyone else was doing, what the game was for them. I was also a little disappointed in Scarlett, how little she featured and how she acted. We are seeing her from Tella’s pov but she felt like a very different character than in Caraval.

This is however an absolutely brilliant read and moved the story on so well. The conclusion when it comes is fantastic but left me wanting more. I hope we don’t have too long to wait for the next book, Finale.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own

Review: Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Dear Martin by Nic StoneA fascinating read that really opened my eyes to some of the issues around race relations in the US. I did think it was maybe a little on the short side but well worth reading.


Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As an ever so slightly older than teenage white woman who lives in a small town in Scotland I don’t think this book was really aimed at me, and I suspect I didn’t “get” it in the same way it’s intended audience would, but I did find it an absolutely fascinating read. My experience of the impact of racial stereotyping is very limited and gun violence isn’t really a thing here (although gang culture is) so this really opened my eyes and highlighted a lot of the issues in a very real and natural way.

At only 210 pages, I did find it a surprisingly quick read (I finished it within a couple of hours) but while I appreciated the fast pace and ease of reading it I think I would have preferred a little more depth and detail. It moves at such a speed that I never felt connected to the characters or emotionally invested in the story. That’s not to say that this is not an emotional read (there were a few truly heartbreaking moments) but I think if there had been more background to the characters and more relationship building I would have felt so much more.

As far as main character Justyce goes I can’t say that I ever connected to or fully understood him and his actions although I suspect this is likely more to do with our relative backgrounds and ages rather than the writing as he is very convincingly portrayed by the author. In fact I think the author did a brilliant job of portraying all of the characters in this story and the dialogue and interactions between them felt especially real.

I also have to give the author praise for presenting the issues in a very clever way so that they’re clearly demonstrated without the story ever becoming preachy. The use of Justyce’s letters to Martin Luther King combined with the discussions at the debate club and his experiences were ideal ways of getting points across and combining both the facts/statistics and the emotional impact on Justyce in a natural way. I do think the author could have gone deeper in certain areas and developed them a little further but there is no doubting that the key messages come across loud and clear.

This is a book with a lot of buzz around it and a very important message so I am glad to have been given the opportunity to read it. It’s definitely one I would recommend.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. All views are, as always, my own.