YVO’S SHORTIES #180 – Dead Wrong & A Heart So Fierce And Broken

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two sequels, albeit two completely different genres. Dead Wrong turned out to be just the dose of crime thriller I was craving and A Heart So Fierce And Broken made me realize I really need to dive into the high fantasy genre more often again.


Title: Dead Wrong
(DC Maggie Jamieson #2)
Author: Noelle Holten

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 14th 2020
Publisher: One More Chapter
Finished reading: September 27th 2020
Pages: 432

“She was always in awe of the landscape around some prisons and secure units. Beautiful on the outside, but housing evil behind the walls.”


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I really enjoyed my time with the first book Dead Inside last year, and I have been looking forward to continue the series ever since… I’m not sure why it took me this long to actually do so, but I guess that in a way I’m kind of glad I did now because that cliffhanger ending is nuclear!! Oh yes, Dead Wrong has the most shocking ending and I will definitely be diving into book three ASAP to find out what happened there. The ending isn’t the only exciting thing happening in this sequel though. While Dead Wrong has a slightly different feel than the first book due to the focus on the murder investigation this time around, both the psychology angle with criminal psychologist Kate and the probation angle with probation officer Lucy will make its appearance along the way. Both women give this crime thriller series a refreshing touch and I really liked the balance with the rest of the murder investigation team. We get to know main character Maggie a little better this time around too, and she is a great character to follow while you are trying to uncover the truth about it all. Dead Wrong will definitely have some twists and surprises for you in store! The writing reads like a train too, and if you are looking for a well written and suspenseful crime thriller, this series in general is an excellent choice.


Title: A Heart So Fierce And Broken
(Cursebreakers #2)
Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: January 7th 2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Finished reading: September 29th 2020
Pages: 464

“Choices are never easy. There are good and bad options, but the most dangerous is to not make any choice at all.”


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I really enjoyed A Curse So Dark And Lonely when I read it last year, so I have been looking forward to read the sequel ever since… It took me longer than expected to finally do so, but I ended up really enjoying my time with A Heart So Fierce And Broken too despite the slower pace in points. There is a shift in focus on the main characters in this sequel, but I actually liked spending more time with Grey instead of Rhen. While I did miss Harper, most of the other interesting characters of the first book take the spotlight along with Grey and a couple of new characters; some might be disappointed by this, but I personally didn’t mind. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that I love Grey’s character, and I really liked new character Lia Mara and what she added to the plot. A bonus: no clear love triangle and instead a slowburn romance between two interesting and easy to like characters. I call that a win! On top of this, we have more magic, a fascinating creature (scraver) and a whole new complicated situation in Emberfall… And that ending!! I definitely can’t wait for book three now to see how things will develop next.


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ARC REVIEW: The Republic Of Birds – by Jessica Miller

Title: The Republic Of Birds
Author: Jessica Miller
Genre: MG, Fantasy, Magic
First published: March 3rd 2020
Publisher: Text Publishing
Finished reading: May 28th 2020
Pages: 304

“Am I glad to be here? I really can’t say. I guess I’m in what Great Names in Tsarish Cartography would describe as uncharted territory.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Text Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I know I don’t read a lot of middle grade stories to begin with, but I’m trying to change that and read at least 10 before the end of the year. I was mesmerized by The Republic Of Birds as soon as I saw the cover, and when I read the blurb and saw the mention of Russian folklore I thought this story would be a perfect fit. What I didn’t expect is that I would end up having mixed thoughts instead… I’ll try to explain why below.

First of all I have to say that I love the idea behind The Republic Of Birds. The winter setting in high fantasy Tsaretsvo, the Republic Of Birds, the discord between humans, birds and yagas, the Russian folklore references… It definitely set the right tone for this story and it was the perfect setting and backdrop for Olga’s story. BUT. I was kind of left wanting for more when it came to the worldbuilding as a whole. We get some descriptions, and we get glimpses of the different parts of Tsaretsvo, but I would have loved to have more as some parts seemed rushed while other parts were basically info-dumps and stopped the flow of the story. The second both applies to the excerpts of a history book included between chapters and certain scenes in the book (for example the whole Bleak Steppe setting). I really feel like the worldbuilding and story could have been so much more with a little more development, although I guess long books with more descriptions might not work as well with a middle grade audience…

As for the characters… I’m not sure what to make of them. While I really liked the idea of the magic behind the yagas as well as Olga’s magic, I would have loved to see it developed a little more. I felt like the short time in Bleak Steppe was used as an excuse to rush things and continue with Olga’s journey as quickly as possible, ignoring the potential of a slower route. I also found it a bit hard to connect to Olga in the first place. Sure, she is the true heroine of this story, and I could really appreciate her love of maps as well as her magic, but her character came over a bit flat and the solutions she found were a bit too convenient to be fully believable. The same goes for the other characters; most lacked more development and didn’t feel well rounded as a consequence. Like with the worldbuilding, I think this story would have benefitted greatly if it would have spent more time developing the characters and the magic in a credible way.

The Republic Of Birds is a middle grade high fantasy read, and as a consequence there is never true danger and things are wrapped up rather quickly. It’s a story about a girl trying to save her sister while also discovering herself and her hidden powers. If you are looking for an extensive and lush worldbuilding and lots of Russian folklore elements, you might end up feeling a bit disappointed… The story didn’t really flow as I hoped either, mostly due to the info-dumps, but I do think a middle grade audience might react better to the lack of details and seemingly quick solutions. It sure is a fast read though!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #165 – The Queen And The Cure & The Accidental Further Adventures Of The Hundred-Year-Old Man

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two sequels of two completely different genres. One, The Queen And The Cure, turned out to be a more than solid read, while the other, The Accidental Further Adventures Of The Hundred-Year-Old Man, failed to blow me away…


Title: The Queen And The Cure
(The Bird And The Sword Chronicles #2)
Author: Amy Harmon
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: May 9th 2017
Publisher: CreateSpace
Finished reading: May 22nd 2020
Pages: 342

“Most of the time the obvious blinds us to the hidden.”

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After enjoying the first book The Bird And The Sword and falling in love with main characters Tiras and Lark, I decided to read the sequel while memories of this high fantasy world were still fresh. I had been looking forward to spend more time with both characters, so I was a bit disappointed when I discovered The Queen And The Cure is mostly focusing on Tiras’ brother Kjell instead. It’s not that I didn’t like his character in the first book, but I liked both Tiras and Lark more… That said, both Kjell and new character Sasha grew on me quickly and I enjoyed seeing their dynamics as well as the characters themselves develop. The writing is just beautiful, but then again I didn’t expect any less of Amy Harmon of course. I loved the new details about the magical elements and it definitely enriched the plot. The whole love triangle vibe was a bit of a let down for me though, and some of the reveals around Kjell and Sasha were just a tad too farfetched as well as too convenient. BUT. I still very much enjoyed this story despite a few misses, and while I do prefer the first book, The Queen And The Cure is still a solid YA high fantasy read.


Title: The Accidental Further Adventures Of The Hundred-Year-Old Man
(The Hundred-Year-Old Man #2)
Author: Jonas Jonasson
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: August 2018
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Finished reading: May 26th 2020
Pages: 448
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Hundraettåringen som tänkte att han tänkte för mycket’)

“The hundred-and-one-year-old certainly had his issues, but if there was anything he was good at, it was surviving.”

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The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared is one of my all time favorites, and as soon as I learned that Allan Karlsson would have a second adventure I knew I just HAD to read it. I’m still not sure why it took me this long to finally pick up the sequel, but in a way I’m glad as I would surely have felt even more disappointed if I had read it straight after the release in 2018. Oh yes, I feel that The Accidental Further Adventures Of The Hundred-Year-Old Man by no means lives up to the first book,,. In fact, if it weren’t for the Allan-Julius duo and their dry humor, I don’t think I would have made it to the last page. Why? Well, this sequel is just way too political for me. The story is basically a constant critique on and satire of the recent political situation in the world, including characters such as Trump, Merkel, Kim Jong-Un and Putin… And it was all just too much for me. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the dry and sarcastic humor and Allan and Julius are once again brilliant, but they were kind of buried under a huge pile of political comments that distracted instead of entertain. I wasn’t too impressed by new character Sabine either… And sadly what was one of my most anticipated releases in 2018 simply fell flat for me.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #164 – Tweet Cute & The Bird And The Sword

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time a YA version, although two different genres… But both turned out to be excellent reads. Tweet Cute by Emma Lord turned out to be the dose of contemporary cuteness I was craving, and The Bird And The Sword by Amy Harmon was a wonderful mix of high fantasy and romance.


Title: Tweet Cute
Author: Emma Lord
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: January 21st 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Finished reading: May 9th 2020
Pages: 362

“It’s weird, how you have no idea how far you’ve come until suddenly you can’t find the way back.”

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After a few misses with recent romcoms, I was really putting all my hopes on Tweet Cute for one last try… And it looks like I finally hit the jackpot: what an absolutely adorable adorable read this was! Trust me, this book is gold if you are looking for a supercute YA contemporary romance read, and it’s without doubt a debut to keep your eyes on. While not without cliches and even a dose of teen angst, those were mostly forgiven thanks to the sheer cute factor of Tweet Cute as a whole. Both Pepper and Jack are extremely easy to connect to and I loved both the Twitter and the food elements in the story. Warning: this story will make you crave grilled cheese and all kinds of delicious sounding desserts though… Although for me that wasn’t a bad thing. The friends to lovers trope is a bit cliche, but Pepper and Jack make it worth it and I can even forgive the hint at a possible love triangle. There is some teen angst and drama going on at points, but overall I had an excellent time with this supercute read and any fan of fluffy and adorable romcoms should give Tweet Cute a try.


Title: The Bird And The Sword
(The Bird And The Sword Chronicles #1)

Author: Amy Harmon
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: May 6th 2016
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Finished reading: May 19th 2020
Pages: 352

“You are what you are. I am what I am. It matters little what we want.”

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I think that it’s no secret that Amy Harmon is one of my absolute favorite authors and I basically adore anything she writes. One of the things that stands out in her work is just how diverse and unique each story is, spanning different genres and even age groups. The Bird And The Sword is the first book of a YA high fantasy duology which has both a high dose of romance and magic. And while I’m normally not a big fan of too much romance in my fantasy reads, Amy Harmon is one of the few authors who can make it work for me. Of course it’s always a blessing not having to deal with a love triangle… I loved the worldbuilding and the descriptions of Jeru; the main focus is mostly on the magical aspects of the high fantasy world, but this was more than enough for me. The writing is simply wonderful and managed to enchant me from the very first chapter. The main stars of this story are Lark and Tiras though, who basically run the whole show. They are both extremely easy to like, excellently developed and make it almost impossible not to fall in love with this story. I loved every single minute of my time with The Bird And The Sword, and while the ending is close and the book can be considered as a stand-alone, I’m already excited to return to Jeru and meet up with the characters again in the sequel. Recommended to anyone who enjoys a well balanced YA high fantasy with thoroughly developed characters, magic and a dose of romance as well as danger.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #160 – Woven In Moonlight & From Twinkle With Love

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA edition… Woven In Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez turned out to be just as wonderful as the cover, but sadly From Twinkle With Love by Sandhya Menon failed to hit the mark for me.


Title: Woven In Moonlight
(Woven In Moonlight #1)

Author: Isabel Ibañez
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: January 7th 2020
Publisher: Page Street Books
Finished reading: April 20th 2020
Pages: 384

“Catalina says that people are like books. Some you want to read and enjoy; some you hate before you’ve even read a word.”


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I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t want to read Woven In Moonlight as soon as I saw that gorgeous cover, but the cover wasn’t the only thing that won me over. Oh no, it was also the blurb and the promise of a YA fantasy infused with Bolivian culture and folkore… I love books which incorporate foreign cultures and as someone who has had the pleasure to get a glimpse of Bolivia during one of my travels, I was looking forward to see its customs and culture incorporated into a story. And boy, did the author do a splendid job! I know the story might not be for everyone as it’s filled with Spanish words as well as Bolivian food and culture references that might become tedious if you don’t understand Spanish (there’s a glossary at the end though!). BUT. I personally loved this fusion of both languages and the simple Spanish phrases, references to Bolivian food and culture impregnated every single page and chapter of Woven In Moonlight; making the Bolivian vibe fully come alive and taking this fantasy story to the next level. Another bonus? There is hardly any romance involved (although we do have the ‘enemy to lover’ cliche), and the story itself focuses on the development of the fantasy world and characters instead while also incorporating references to real world conflicts including the coca industry. I really liked the magical elements in Woven In Moonlight too, and most characters were easy to like. I can definitely recommend this book if you enjoy YA high fantasy with a worldbuilding that mixes parts of the real world with fantastical elements, if don’t mind the use of a considerable amount of Spanish words and phrases in the writing and love a story that is fantasy first, and romance last.


Title: From Twinkle, With Love
Author: Sandhya Menon
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 22nd 2018
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Finished reading: April 23rd 2020
Pages: 337

“Sometimes I worry I don’t know who I really am. Sometimes I’m afraid nothing I do will ever be enough to set me apart.”


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Well hello, unpopular opinion review, I guess we meet again… I probably should have known! I really enjoyed When Dimple Met Rishi back when I read it, and I’ve been wanting to try more of Sandhya Menon‘s books ever since. I was craving a cute contemporary, so I decided to pick up From Twinkle, With Love on a whim as I thought it would be exactly the story I needed at the time. I guess I was wrong! Sure, there is no doubt that this story is the typical cutesy contemporary romance read I was looking for… There were a few elements I loved, including a little insight in Indian culture, diverse characters and the whole film industry elements. BUT. There were also quite a few things that not only turned me off, but started to infuriate me. First of all, the love triangle (square?). Seriously, why o why do we have to deal with that?! It’s like an overdose of cringeworthy romance cliches, and the whole secret admirer thing was so obvious that it made me feel even more annoyed that Twinkle never suspected anything. Talking about Twinkle, I absolutely hated her attitude and behavior towards others. The whole, ‘I like him, but he isn’t popular so I can’t be with him because I need to be with someone who is’ just disgusted me and I seriously feel bad for Sahil for having to put up with her at all. Talk about warped life priorities and not respecting others! And sure, the format was interesting with the diary entries and added texts, emails and such, but there were so many things that bothered me that I just couldn’t properly appreciate it. In short, between the high school cliches, love square, despicable behavior of Twinkle and the writing sounding too forced, I really struggled reaching that final page… Oh yes, From Twinkle, With Love definitely didn’t have that spark for me.


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ARC REVIEW: Ruthless Gods – by Emily A. Duncan

Title: Ruthless Gods
(Something Dark And Holy #2)
Author: Emily A. Duncan
Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: April 7th 2020
Publisher: Macmillan
Finished reading: April 7th 2020
Pages: 432

“It was the time when knives were unsheathed, when plans were created and seen into fruition. It was a time for monsters.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Macmillan in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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As soon as I first heard about this series last year I found myself to be in love with both cover and blurb. I was lucky to be able to join the blog tour for Wicked Saints and had a fantastic time reading what was a dark, gothic and simply glorious read. YA fantasy sadly tends to be on the sappy side, but Wicked Saints most definitely had none of that! I’ve been looking forward to the sequel ever since, and I was stoked to discover my Netgalley wish was actually granted a few months ago. I was fully expecting to fall in love with the sequel too, but somehow that didn’t happen… It might have been my own fault as I didn’t reread the first book to refresh memories or it might have been the fact that my mind simply wasn’t able to cope with high fantasy right now… But the sad fact is that I was seriously underwhelmed by this sequel. I’ll try explain briefly why. First of all I have to state that the beautiful writing is still there, and Ruthless Gods still has that dark and gothic feel. BUT. I felt the spark of the first book was missing, and I struggled to stay focused and interested in the story. There were a few elements that probably contributed…

We have the plot, or rather lack of a proper plot. I felt that there was no solid plot to follow in the sequel and the story felt more like a filler between book one and what is still to come. This made it harder to stay focused… The multiple POV structure and setting changes had the same effect, and distracted instead of enriching the plot and structure of the story. Not only do we have to juggle multiple POVs, but all those strange foreign names and chapter introductions with more foreign names and saints can become confusing and it’s a real chore trying to keep up with them all… On top of that, I wasn’t able to connect to the characters in the same way as I did in Wicked Saints. I struggled considerably with this sequel and even started skimreading at some point as the constant bickering, overdose of strange names and lack of plot really got to me. And no, even the beautiful writing couldn’t rescue that. This might have been the wrong story for me in these strange times, but the fact is that this series has lost its enchantment for me… Don’t give up on this series yet if you enjoyed the first book though, because I’m having a feeling that my reaction to this story resulted into one of those unpopular opinion reviews all over again.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #138 – The Family & A Curse So Dark And Lonely

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two 2019 releases belonging to two completely different genres… But both turned out to be winners. I already knew I was going to enjoy The Family, as I love everything Louise Jensen writes, and my instincts were absolutely right! And I had some doubts about A Curse So Dark And Lonely, but I ended up enjoying it a lot better than I hoped I would.


Title: The Family
Author: Louise Jensen

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: October 3rd 2019 
Publisher: HQ
Finished reading: November 30th 2019
Pages: 383

“Family should stick together. Protect each other. Instead, I chose to come here.

This is all my fault.”


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It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of anything Louise Jensen writes, so I guess you can imagine how sad I was when I discovered I couldn’t request an ARC this time around… I preordered a finished copy instead, and I’ve been waiting impatiently to read it ever since my copy arrived. I can now guarantee you: Louise Jensen has done it again. I started reading The Family late on a Friday night and after only a couple of pages I decided to stop before I couldn’t stop anymore… Because I already knew I was going to want to keep reading. And that is what I did the next day: I cleared my schedule, sat down and kept turning those pages until I reached the end. The Family is definitely one of those psychological thrillers you will want to read in one sitting! And between the plot, writing, character development, secrets and twists, you will find it a very easy job to do just so. The story is told using different POVs, sometimes staying with the same character during various chapters and sometimes switching rapidly between chapters and characters. These everchanging dynamics add to the overall suspense of the story and definitely gives The Family a little something extra. The plot itself is fascinating as well. The cult like feel of the Oak Leaf Farm and its inhabitants, the vulnerability of Laura and her daughter, the secrets and twists that keep you guessing… And on top of that, the plot development is simply spot on and truly enhanced the reading experience for me. The main characters themselves are without doubt interesting as well. Flawed, well developed and realistic, they form the bricks this story stands on and they help turning The Family into the psychological thriller masterpiece it is. Fans of the genre are missing out if they haven’t read The Family or her other titles yet!


Title: A Curse So Dark And Lonely
(Cursebreakers #1)
Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: January 29th 2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s
Finished reading: December 1st 2019
Pages: 496

“We are all dealt a hand at birth. A good hand can ultimately lose – just as a poor hand can win – but we must all play the cards the fate deals. The choices we face may not be the choices we want, but they are choices nonetheless.”


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There has been quite some hype around A Curse So Dark And Lonely this year, and you all know how hyped books and me tend to get along… I’ve been avoiding this first book of a new series by Brigid Kemmerer to be honest, but I just couldn’t resist any longer when I was in the mood for a little something different. I haven’t read nearly enough YA high fantasy this year, and it turns out I was long overdue for a dose of the genre. I ended up enjoying A Curse So Dark And Lonely so much more than I hoped I would! While it’s true that I’m not a big fan of Rhen, I LOVED Grey’s character and Harper was a solid lead as well. The details involving Emberfall and its curse are without doubt intriguing and well developed too. It was interesting to see fantasy and the real world collide and there was quite a some action involved as well. I also appreciated that the romance wasn’t omni-present in this first book. Instead, it’s mostly slowburn romance with only a hint at a possible love triangle… And I just loved the romance between Jack and Noah! A Curse So Dark And Lonely definitely ends with a cliffhanger though, so I’m happy the wait for the sequel won’t be too long. I do hope we’ll see more of Grey in the second book, or else I would probably end up quite disappointed…


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YVO’S SHORTIES #125 – Muse Of Nightmares & Hope And Other Punchlines

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA edition: two most anticipated books that both lived up to expectations for me. Muse Of Nightmares  by Laini Taylor is the duology conclusion and I once again fell in love with the wonderful wonderful prose. I have loved Julie Buxbaum‘s books in the past, and while Hope And Other Punchlines isn’t my favorite of the bunch, it’s still an excellent read and the 9/11 element is well handled.


Title: Muse Of Nightmares
(Strange The Dreamer #2)
Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: October 2nd 2018
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Finished reading: September 15th 2019
Pages: 528

“Wishes don’t just come true. They’re only the target you paint around what you want. You still have to hit the bull’s-eye yourself.”

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I admit I’ve been afraid to pick up my copy of Muse Of Nightmares… After being blown away by the first book of this duology, I was afraid it was going to be almost impossible for the sequel to live up to expectations. But I shouldn’t have doubted the power of Laini Taylor‘s absolutely gorgeous prose! Like with Strange The Dreamer, I was absolutely mesmerized by the words she uses to describe both the high fantasy world, its characters and the plot itself. Things can be said about the fact that not all that much seems to be happening considering its 500+ pages, although I did feel there was more going on in the sequel. But personally I didn’t really care as long as I was going to be able to keep lapping up those gorgeous sentences. Muse Of Nightmares proves that the writing and characters truly can make up for a plot that is slightly bland in places and this story blew me away. I mentioned the characters, and they are definitely one of the reasons this duology is on my list of all time favorites. Lazlo, Sarai and the others won over my hard so fast and my heart really went out for them. I love that a lot of the characters are not either good or bad, walking that grey area instead of simply being described as monsters. The worldbuilding of this high fantasy world is again beautifully done and set the right tone for this sequel. I would definitely suggest reading these in order, as Muse Of Nightmares picks up right where the first book ended and you won’t be able to appreciate the sequel without the character and plot development in Strange The Dreamer. Then again, if you don’t mind a slower and more character driven YA fantasy, you will want to spend time devouring the stunning prose in both books anyway.


Title: Hope And Other Punchlines
Author: Julie Buxbaum
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 7th 2019 
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Finished reading: September 26th 2019
Pages: 311

“I’m so, so tired of always worrying about our world splitting into a before and an after again.”

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Julie Buxbaum is one of the select group of authors who can make me enjoy the contemporary romance genre. After loving her first two YA books, it’s easy to say that my expectations were sky high for Hope And Other Punchlines. It might have been the wrong time to pick up this title, or it might have been that my expectations were a tad unrealistic, because while there is no doubt that this story is an excellent read, it didn’t blow me away as I thought it would. There is a lot to love in Hope And Other Punchlines though. First up is the 9/11 element, an event that has made a huge impact on countless of lives and I could really appreciate how Julie Buxbaum incorporated this into the plot. While both the town and the Baby Hope photo are fictional, I do feel they represent the aftermath of 9/11 realistically and show us just how devastating the impact of this single event is even all those years later. Then we have the main characters Abbi, Noah and Jack. While I had certain issues with some actions in the beginning (blackmailing!!!), it is still quite easy for these three characters to win over your heart. The dynamics between geeky Noah, Jack and Abbi will grow into something absolutely adorable and they are definitely part of the reason this book works. Abbi (Baby Hope) is a very interesting character and she makes you think about the impact one little photo can have on both the life of those portrayed and on many others as it becomes a symbol of hope. I personally adored the camp scenes and I thought the story was well balanced in general. Lighter moments are contrasted with not only 9/11 details, but also other heavy themes as Alzheimer and cancer. I finished this story in no time at all and while I do admit it’s not my favorite Julie Buxbaum, I can definitely recommend it to any fan of the contemporary romance genre looking for a story that is both adorable and heartbreaking.


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ARC REVIEW: The First Girl Child – by Amy Harmon @amazonpub @aharmon_author

Title: The First Girl Child
Author: Amy Harmon
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
First published: August 20th 2019
Publisher: 47North
Finished reading: July 22nd 2019
Pages: 400

“I’ve come to believe that home is not a place. Home is inside of us. Home is the people we love. Home is what we strive for.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and 47North in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I consider Amy Harmon to be one of my absolute  favorite authors and her stories never fail to blow me away. What makes her books stand out is that with each new title we get offered a completely unique story belonging to a wide variety of genres. There are not many authors who can pull off more than one genre, and Amy Harmon is able to do so with utter and total success. The First Girl Child has once again proven to me that she truly is a brilliant writer. I already fell in love with her 2019 historical fiction release, What The Wind Knows, earlier this year, and this new fantasy title is the second book to receive the full five star rating this year. Want to know why you should add The First Girl Child to your wishlist straight away?

This is already my sixth Amy Harmon book and my first time reading one of her fantasy stories (I’ve been meaning to read The Bird And The Sword for ages though), and I was completely blown away by it. I know already that The First Girl Child will stay with me for a long time… Its high fantasy world being one of the favorite places I’ve been lucky enough to visit so far this year. Oh yes, the worldbuilding in this story is absolutely brilliant. Using Norse mythology influences, Amy Harmon has created a new God and son of Odin named Saylok, and has shaped the fantasy world around his story. I loved the idea behind the star-shaped island of Saylok, with its different clans named after the different animals representing the children of Saylok. And the animals are not just for decoration, as the inhabitants of each clan bear a resemblance to their respective animal in both a physical way and through their customs. You will find many many references to the Nordic culture and myths as you are reading Bayr’s story, and this was personally a huge bonus for me as I have a weak spot for Norse mythology and Nordic culture in general.

While the different clans and the inner workings of life in Saylok might have that historical feel, The First Girl Child also gives us a proper dose of fantasy with the help of the magic of the Keepers and the Runes. The fact that we don’t know a lot about the history behind the Runes and its power, other than that it’s basically blood magic, only adds to the mystery around the Keepers and the role they play in protecting Saylok. The Keepers play a big role throughout the story, with the main character Bayr growing up with them, and Temple Hill was a fascinating backdrop for Bayr’s story in general. The plot is well constructed and is build around the curse his dying mother put on Saylok and all its inhabitants. No girls will be born from the day she voiced her curse and died, and Bayr will be Saylok’s only hope… With no further explanation about how he is supposed to save Saylok available straight away, I kept eagerly reading and I loved seeing the future slowly unravel. Years pass in a fluent way, and the pace is kept at a speed that will make you turn those pages like there is no tomorrow. The brilliant writing only adds to this feeling and gives The First Girl Child the high quality I’ve come to expect when it comes to Amy Harmon‘s books.

But this story is nothing without its characters. Bayr, Alba, Ghost, Dagmar… Those are only a few of the characters that will win over your heart and make you fall in love with this story. The main stars of The First Girl Child are Bayr and Alba, and I adored both their characters and their relationship together. The character development in general is brilliantly done and shows them evolving realistically over time. The fact that nobody but Dagmar knows about the curse gives the story an interesting twist, and that is not the only secret that is being kept from the other characters. Things slowly escalate as years pass without another girl child being born, and I had a fantastic time learning all about Bayr and Alba’s story. The First Girl Child ended with a bang and without doubt left me wanting for more… And I’ll keep my fingers crossed we’ll get to visit Saylok and its characters again some time in the future.

The worldbuilding, the Norse mythology influences, the characters and their development, the plot, the writing… Oh yes, there were plenty of reasons that made me give The First Girl Child the full five stars it deserves. I can highly recommend this story to anyone who loves a good fantasy story with characters you cannot help but fall in love with and a healthy dose of Nordic references. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Wicked Saints – by Emily A. Duncan @WednesdayBooks

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the Wicked Saints blog tour! A huge thanks to Meghan Harrington for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I fell in love with the cover and blurb as soon as I first heard about this book, so of course I had no other choice but to accept joining the tour. And I can say it was a good decision… Want to know why? Join me while I share my thoughts on Wicked Saints!

Title: Wicked Saints 
(Something Dark And Holy #1)
Author: Emily A. Duncan
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: April 2nd 2019
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Finished reading: March 17th 2019
Pages: 400

“We are all monsters, Nadya. Some of us just hide it better than others.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Wednesday Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Every once in a while you come across a book with a cover and blurb that will blow you away completely. A book that will have you looking at your calendar longingly until the day arrives when it’s finally published. You might also luck out, and be invited to read it early and join the blog tour to help spread the love… This is exactly what happened when I was approached to read Wicked Saints. A dark, bloody and gothic fantasy story with superpowers, mysterious saints and an assassination plot to kill a king… What more to wish for in a story? This debut without doubt met my expectations and I already can’t wait to find out what the sequel will have in store for us.

So what made this story work for me? The first thing that stands out is just how delightfully dark and gothic Wicked Saints is. This story isn’t for those with a weak stomach and blood, violence and monsters are a constant presence in the plot. This dark and disturbing atmosphere sets the right tone for this wicked beginning of a new fantasy series… The setting itself adds to the overall atmosphere. The two main countries at play, Kalyazin and Tranavia, are clearly inspired by Poland and Russia and I liked the little references to names and culture. Would I have liked to see the worldbuilding more developed with more descriptions to make it truly come alive? Most definitely. It would have given Wicked Saints that little something extra that would have made it in an instant favorite… But I was still more than happy with what I got.

I also really liked how Emily A. Duncan incorporated religion into the story, with a clear difference between the Kalyazi culture and their magic by praying to different gods on one side and the Tranavians using blood magic and being called heretics on the other. It was interesting to see this theme evolve during the story, especially in Nadya’s perception of the world as she no longer find herself in the sheltered monastery and learns to put things in perspective. I liked the idea of ‘light and dark’ magic and how it was developed. The blood magic and the vultures are basically the perfect villains of the story, but like in the real world, definitions are messy and there is not just one villain and side to the story.

Wicked Saints has a dual POV, where the story alternates between Nadya and Serefin. They initially represent the cliche good and evil in the world, but as we get to know the characters better we learn that conclusions are not that easy to draw and things are not black and white but rather grey. I’m personally a big fan of the characters and their development. Not only Nadya and Serefin, but especially Malachiasz as well all turned out to be a fascinating characters. I admit there were some cliches involved and I can’t do anything else but agree there are certain similarities between Wicked Saints and the popular Grishaverse, but personally I wasn’t all that bothered by that. The dynamics between the different characters are great and the secondary characters are mostly well fleshed out as well.

As for the romance… Do I wish the story didn’t go down that road? Probably. Wicked Saints is pretty mild on the romance though and we are spared a love triangle (or at least for now), so that is most definitely a bonus. This is by no means a sappy fantasy story and most of the plot is black and gothic to the core. It’s my kind of fantasy, where the wicked and powerful get a leading role and are ready to kick ass. I loved the duality of this story; between the different countries, cultures and light and dark magic. It is a story with a fascinating premise and a lot of promise for what is yet to come, and without doubt recommended to those who enjoy darker YA fantasy stories with strong main characters.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

EMILY A. DUNCAN works as a youth services librarian. She received a Master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, which mostly taught her how to find obscure Slavic folklore texts through interlibrary loan systems. When not reading or writing, she enjoys playing copious amounts of video games and dungeons and dragons. Wicked Saints is her first book. She lives in Ohio.

SOCIAL LINKS:

Website: https://eaduncan.com/
Twitter: @glitzandshadows
Instagram: @glitzandshadows
Tumblr: http://glitzandshadows.tumblr.com/

BUY LINK:

https://static.macmillan.com/static/smp/wicked-saints/


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