Review: These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy

Premise

A queer retelling of “The Firebird,” a Russian folktale.

When twin heirs are born in Tourin, their fates are decided at a young age. While Izaveta remained at court to learn the skills she’d need as the future queen, Asya was taken away to train with her aunt, the mysterious Firebird, who ensured magic remained balanced in the realm.

But before Asya’s training is completed, the ancient power blooms inside her, which can mean only one thing: the queen is dead, and a new ruler must be crowned.

As the princesses come to understand everything their roles entail, they’ll discover who they can trust, who they can love—and who killed their mother.

My review – spoiler-free

These Feathered Flames is a wonderful fantasy book filled with action, family relationships, scheming and court politics. The book is able to make a perfect combination of all of those things. These Feathered Flames was never boring because of how action packed it is. Action/fight scenes were alternated with people betraying one another, by characters scheming and deciding what steps they’re going to take next.

The story was also quite fast paced, which makes it very easy to read. But it especially makes you want to read on and on and on. The book reads so quickly, that you don’t notice you’re reading an almost 500 page book. The writing is easy to read and makes sure that all elements are smoothly interwoven with eachother. The amazing plot twits also make sure you want to continue on reading!

The characters in this book, esepcially the two main characters, are very interesting to read from. They’re all very distinct from one another, which makes it easy to know who’s who, even though there are quite a lot of characters. The relationships between the characters were done so well as well. The family bonds, the friendships and the loving relationships were all very believable. It’s also fun to read a fantasy book where romance is only a small part of the book, because so many fantasy books these days have a huge romance plotline. It’s nice to have a bit of variation from that.

The world in These Feathered Flames is also easy to understand, but that doesn’t make it less of an amazing fantasy world. The firebird is an interesting creature and this book makes you want to read more about the original folktale and makes you want to read more retellings of that folktale. It’s once again nice to see something that isn’t done often: a retelling of the firebird story. It sometimes seems like the same tales get retold over and over again, especially when it comes to Russian tales, so it’s nice to discover a new folktale, that you might not have known, through this book.

Overall I highly recommend These Feathered Flames if you’re a fan of fantasy books filled with court politics and unique creatures, that for once doesn’t have a huge focus on love.

*I was gifted an e-arc of this book by the publisher, but that doesn’t influence my opinion or the things stated in this review. Thank you so much for the arc, Harper360YA!*

Recensie: De tweede stem van Elin Meijen

Waar gaat het boek over?

De tweede stem gaat over de onzekere Mette, die haar draai probeert te vinden op een nieuwe middelbare school. Als ze besluit zich aan te sluiten bij een musicalgroepje gaat het steeds beter. Iedereen is gek op haar zang (ze krijgt zelfs de hoofdrol!) en ze mag de regisseur helpen met het begeleiden van jongere toneelspelers.

Maar dan komt er ineens een nieuwe zangdocent, eentje die Mette nog kent van haar vorige school en die ze hoopte nooit meer tegen te komen. De zangdocent is zelfs een van de redenen geweest dat Mette heeft besloten van school te wisselen. Wat is er gebeurd? En kan Mette het verleden achter zich laten?

Mijn recensie – zonder spoilers

De tweede stem was zo’n fijn boek om te lezen! Allereerst is het hoofdpersonage, Mette, een heel herkenbaar persoon. Ze is verlegen, maar toch ambitieus en gaat ook echt voor wat ze wil, een combinatie van persoonlijkheidskenmerken die je niet vaak ziet in boeken, maar wel degelijk bestaan in het echt. De rest van de personage waren ook erg realistisch, hoewel er hier en daar al eens een beetje een stereotiep personage inzat, stoorde dat niet echt, omdat het nog steeds realistische personages waren die meer waren dan hun stereotype.

Naast de personages, zat ook de verhaallijn erg goed in elkaar. Er is afwisseling tussen het heden en het verleden. Die afwisseling is erg goed gedaan, want je komt altijd net de informatie te weten die de vragen verklaard waar je nog maar net mee zit. Je moet dus nooit lang op je honger blijven zitten om antwoorden te krijgen.

Vooral het thema rond grensoverschrijdend gedrag is erg goed gedaan in dit boek. Wanneer je een boek leest over grensoverschrijdend gedrag, zijn dat meestal de ‘extreme’ verhalen, die uiteraard ook verteld moeten worden. Maar het is zeker nodig dat de minder extreme verhalen ook verteld worden, want het is nog steeds grensoverschrijdend gedrag, ook al is het niet seksueel getint. Zeker omdat dit boek gericht is aan tieners en jongeren, is het een belangrijk boek om op de markt te hebben rond dat thema.

De tweede stem is een boek waar iedereen zal doorvliegen, of je nu graag leest of niet, of je nu veel leest of niet. Maakt niet uit, dit boek leest als een trein. De tweede stem is dan ook onderdeel van de Blossom Books shorties reeks, een reeks van korte boeken voor jongeren die niet graag lezen of niet graag dikke boeken lezen. Het boek is dus onder de 200 bladzijden. Daarnaast leest het boek ook gewoon erg snel dankzij de vlotte schrijfstijl van auteur Elin Meijen. Het verhaal gaat erg snel en er zijn geen ‘opvulscènes’. Soms ging het verhaal zelfs iets té snel, maar dat is te vergeven omdat de opzet van de shortiesreeks wel is om korte, snelle en makkelijk te lezen boeken op de markt te brengen en in dat opzet is De tweede stem zeker geslaagd.

Of je nu graag leest of niet, of je wil eens een dun boek lezen tussen alle dikke boeken door, of je wil gewoon een fantastisch verhaal lezen, dan raad ik De tweede stem zeker aan!

*Ik heb een recensie-exemplaar van dit boek ontvangen van de uitgeverij, maar dat beïnvloedt mijn mening of de zaken die in deze recensie geschreven zijn niet. Bedankt aan L&M books en Blossom Books voor het exemplaar!*

Review: The Anti-Relationship Year by Katie Wismer

Premise

Johanna Palmer is very much over relationships. After a scarring experience her freshman year of college, she’s decided she would much rather have something fun than something serious.

Her best friend Miller has seen it all—the tears, the parties, the drunken phone calls at four in the morning when she needed a ride. In fact, there might be several things Miller saw that Jo herself can’t remember. Things Miller can’t forget.

With the whirlwind of senior year underway, Jo just wants to move on, get her degree, and land her dream job. But her past might not be as easy to outrun as she’d hoped.

My review – spoiler-free

The Anti-Relationship year is such a delight to read. First and foremost the book reads like a train. When picking it up, you’ll fly through it in no time. The fact that this book is right around 300 pages also helps with the flying through it. Nevertheless it never feels like the story is too rushed or like you’re missing pieces from the story.

Another delight about this book are the tropes that are used in here: dual timeline, friends to lovers and a few other ones that might be a bit spoilery to mention here. Especially the friends to lovers trope is not very popular at the moment (I mean *everything* is enemies to lovers these days) so it was such a nice refresher to read a book with this trope because this trope brings so much yearning and honestly how can you not love yearning in a romance book?!

The dual timeline is also just done so very well! There’s some nice foreshadowing done in both of the timelines for things that have yet to come in the other timeline. You can also clearly see character development between the two timelines. Since the two timelines are freshmen year and senior year of college (for my fellow non-US readers: the first and last year of your Bachelor’s degree) there had to be some differences between the way the characters behave because let’s be honest there is quite a big difference between an 18 year old and a 21/22 year old. And that was very clear in this book. The dual timeline is honestly just done so immaculately well.

Lastly, but definitely not least, the characters in this book. You really can’t not love them! Miller is the type of guy every single girl (or guy) deserves. All of the characters in this book feel so real, like you’re reading someone’s diary. When reading the book you can really feel all of their emotions.

On top of all that, this is just a great book for both experienced NA/romance readers, because it doesn’t use the most used tropes, but it’s also a perfect read for people trying to dip their toes in the NA/romance genre because it’s not super heavy on the smut and because it’s a book you’ll fly through in no time. It’s basically just a must-read for everyone!

I was gifted an e-arc of this book by the author but that doesn’t influence my opinion or anything said in this review.

Top 5 book series I want to finish in 2021

Blog post where I talk about the top 5 series I want to finish in 2021.

Hello there my loves! Today’s blog post will be all about finishing series. As you me know it’s one of my 2021 book related goals to get my ‘currently reading series’ down to 15. I’ll need to finish more than five series for that, but these five series have the highest priority to be read in 2021. So, let’s go!

1. The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

The Broken Earth Trilogy consists of The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky.

I’ve read the first two books so far, I did start 2021 with only the first book read. It’s such a clever series. Considering I only have one book left, I really should be able to finish it in the next 10 months.

Premise of The Fifth Season:

This is the way the world ends. Again. Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

2. Grace & Fury duology by Tracy Banghart

The Grace and Fury duology consists of Gracy & Fury and Queen of Ruin.

It’s been over a year since I read the first book but I do remember flying through that book and thoroughly enjoying it. I’ve also owned the second book for about a year now, so it’s really time to read that this year, for sure considering it’s on my March TBR. Although I’ll do have to refresh my mind a bit on the things that happened in the first book…

Premise of Grace & Fury:

In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi Tessaro face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other in prison. Serina has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace – someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. But when her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, catches the heir’s eye, it’s Serina who takes the fall for the dangerous secret that Nomi has been hiding.

Now trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one way to save Serina: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to release her sister. This is easier said than done. A traitor walks the halls of the palace, and deception lurks in every corner. But Serina is running out of time, imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive and one wrong move could cost her everything. 

3. Cursebreakers trilogy by Brigid Kemmerer

The Cursebreakers Trilogy consists of A Curse So Dark and Lonely, A Heart So Fierce and Broken and A Vow So Bold and Deadly.

Once again a series where I only have the last book left to read. The books in this series are so easy to get through and very addicting. I even preordered that last book, so there’s really no excuse for me to not finish this series in the upcoming 10 months.

Premise of A Curse So Dark And Lonely:

Fall in love, break the curse. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. Before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s pulled into a magical world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom. Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? As she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

4. Shades of Magic trilogy by V.E. Schwab

The Shades of Magic trilogy by V.E. Schwab consists of A Darker Shade of Magic, A Gathering of Shadows and a Conjuring of Light.

Would you look at that, a series of which I’ve only read the first book. On top of that the second and third book in this series are quite chonky. But I have high hopes that I can finish this series in 2021 because Schwab’s books are so easy to read. On top of that I have the second book on my March TBR, so it will happen.

Premise of A Darker Shade of Magic:

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure. Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

5. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

A Song of Ice and Fire consists of A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons. The last two books The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Sping haven’t been published yet and also don’t have an official publication date.

Let’s save the best for last, or rather the longest. I’ve been reading this series since mid 2017, so I guess it really is time to finish the books that are out. I have two books left, well technically three since with the editions I have the last book is split into two books. I would say I procrastinate finishing this series almost as well as George RR Martin procrastinates writing the last book, but that’s not true, A Dance with Dragons came out 10 years ago, so he wins. Anyway I NEED TO FINISH THIS SERIES.

Premise of A Game of Thrones:

Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.

Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

So that’s it, my top priority series to finish this year. Let’s see if I finally finish A Song of Ice and Fire because it’s been a goal to finish that series for the third year in a row now… Oops?

What’s a series you hope to finish in 2021?

Themed TBR: reading the highest rated books on my TBR

Blog post in which I read and review the three highest rated books on my TBR.

Hi there lovely reader! Today’s blog post is my monthly themed TBR post. I took a break from these posts in January because my wrapping 2020 up content, but now they’re back! Now what are these themed TBR blogposts? It’s easy: for these blog posts I pick a certain theme and read books within that theme. The theme of this post is the highest rated books on my TBR. So I went to Goodreads and ranked the books on my ‘to read’ list by average rating. And below you can find the three highest rated books on there. Two of the books are sequels, which is not surprising, but I won’t be spoiling anything about the series in my reviews, however the premises do spoil the previous books, so watch out with that!

So I’ve read and reviewed those three books for you. But, and that’s the fun part of the blog post, my reviews will be little podcast type vlogs. I will not only give you my final thoughts on the book, but also the thoughts I had whilst reading the book. So it’s a bit like a reading vlog, but it’s just my voice. Now let’s get into the books I read and their reviews!

Book one: The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.

Book two: Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza–but who knows what they’ll find seven months after the invasion?

Meanwhile, Kady’s cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza’s ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys–an old flame from Asha’s past–reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict. With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heros will fall, and hearts will be broken.

Book three: The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen – then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers – to show ourselves to the world in bold colour.

I hope you enjoyed this themed TBR post! This is actually a monthly thing I do on my blog, so if you’re interested in any future themed TBR posts make sure you follow my blog! They’ll also always be posted on the second Wednesday of the month.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Or are any of these still on your TBR? Definitely let me know!

Review: Call Me Elizabeth Lark by Melissa Colasanti

Book review of Call Me Elizabeth Lark by Melissa Calosanti.

Premise

Your daughter went missing twenty years ago. Now, she’s finally back. You thought she had returned a few times in the past, and your husband tells you she’s not the one, but you feel it in your bones. Now, what will you do to keep her home?

Twenty years ago, Myra Barkley’s daughter disappeared from the rocky beach across from the family inn, off the Oregon coast. Ever since, Myra has waited at the front desk for her child to come home. One rainy afternoon, the miracle happens–her missing daughter, now twenty-eight years old with a child of her own, walks in the door.

Elizabeth Lark is on the run with her son. She’s just killed her abusive husband and needs a place to hide. Against her better judgment, she heads to her hometown and stops at the Barkley Inn. When the innkeeper insists that Elizabeth is her long lost daughter, the opportunity for a new life, and more importantly, the safety of her child, is too much for Elizabeth to pass up. But she knows that she isn’t the Barkleys’s daughter, and the more deeply intertwined she becomes with the family, the harder it becomes to confess the truth.

Except the Barkley girl didn’t just disappear on her own. As the news spreads across the small town that the Barkley girl has returned, Elizabeth suddenly comes into the limelight in a dangerous way, and the culprit behind the disappearance those twenty years ago is back to finish the job.

My review – spoilerfree

Call Me Elizabeth Lark starts off perfectly. The first chapter is very intriguing and vague. It’s well written and just the perfect start for a thriller. The book keeps being intriguing the entire way through. As a reader you want to know how all these characters and events are connected and why certain characters do certain things. That should be a given for a thriller, but there are quite a few thrillers out there who can’t keep on being intriguing the entire way through, but Call Me Elizabeth Lark is not one of those.

However, where the book does a great job at giving you the feeling there is so much more to the story than you expect, it doesn’t do a very well job of giving you information. It’s not that it doesn’t give you the information you need, it just feels like the author is not certain which information she should give at what time and how she should present it to you. Some very important information is just thrown in the storyline without much elaboration, even though you as a reader need that. And then there are other reveals that are being elaborated too much and those reveals don’t need that.

On top of that it felt like the author sometimes didn’t know which information she had already given. Some scenes felt odly repetitive, a bit like a déjà vu. Certain scenes appeared to be in the book twice, but just a tat different so you weren’t 100% certain whether or not you had already read that scene. However that could be because I read the ARC (advanced reader’s copy), so I’m hoping those double scenes won’t end up in the final copy of the book.

Another weakness of this book are the time jumps. In between chapters, or sometimes in the middle of chapters, there are time jumps. However, those were often times not very clear. So sometimes when you started reading another chapter or paragraph you as reader thought the characters were still at the same place and time, but then it was a week later all of a sudden and you only discovered that a few pages in to the chapter or a halfway through the paragraph. That brought a lot of confusion about the time and it also makes for a constant questioning feeling of whether or not there was a time jump between chapters and paragraphs.

The last thing that can bother quite a few readers is that characters sometimes really acted out of character. The best example, without spoilers, is Elizabeth’s child Theo. The child is five years old but sometimes really sounds like an adult. More than once you have Theo comforting his mother as if she’s his child, instead of the other way around. And that just felt really awkward. Five year olds can be smart, but they don’t sound like adults when they’re smart, they still sound like children.

Overall Call Me Elizabeth Lark is quite the enjoyable read and a true page turner because of how intriguing it is. You’ll especially enjoy this book if you love bingewatching true crime about unsolved missing (children’s) cases.

*I was provided with a review copy through Netgalley. Thanks a lot to the publisher & author. However, that doesn’t influence my opinion or the things said in this review.*

Review: Revenge of the Sluts by Nathalie Walton

Book review of Revenge of the Sluts by Nathalie Walton.

Premise

As a lead reporter for The Warrior Weekly, Eden has covered her fair share of stories at St. Joseph’s High School. And when intimate pictures of seven female students are anonymously emailed to the entire school, Eden is determined to get to the bottom of it.

In tracking down leads, Eden is shocked to discover not everyone agrees the students are victims. Some people feel the girls “brought it on themselves.” Even worse, the school’s administration seems more concerned about protecting its reputation than its students.

With the anonymous sender threatening more emails, Eden finds an unlikely ally: the seven young women themselves. Banding together to find the perpetrator, the tables are about to be turned. The Slut Squad is fighting back! 

My review – spoilerfree

Whenever you see a book that was first published on Wattpad now being traditionally published, it can be quite offputting. It especially makes you a bit weary of the way the book is written and the writing style in general. However, with Revenge of the Sluts that weariness is not necessary. The book is written in a very easy-to-read way and especially doesn’t have too many words trying to say somthing instead of showing it, like a lot of Wattpad books do. Even more, it sometimes could’ve used a bit more adjectives and other ‘extra’ words, because the writing sometimes felt a bit too dry and to-the-point.

It sometimes reads a bit like a news article, which might’ve been done intentionally since journalism is such a big aspect in this book. Our main character writes for her schoolpaper and the whole story is seen through her eyes, so you really see a journalism related point of view, which is a nice switch up because that doesn’t occur often. That point of view can be very relatable if you’re a journalism student or in journalism yourself. On top of that it’s always interesting to read about the importantce of extracurricular activities in the US and how much time American students spend on those things, especially as someone who’s not from the US.

Another thing that was really nice about the main character and her background was that she actually had an ex-boyfriend, which is once again not something you come across often in YA contemorary, especially not since she is more of a shy girl. It was also just really well done in general that there wasn’t a romance storyline for the main character, because this was not her story, it was the story of the girls whose explicit photos got leaked. So a possible romance storyline would’ve brought down the actual messages the book wants to get across. So kuddos to author for that!

And in general it’s just always nice to see girls fight back. This really was an import story to tell, because the leaking of personal photos unfortunately happens way too often. The story was told in such a respectful way and brought a lot of talking points to the table. I think that young teens can learn a lot from reading this book.

However, Revenge of the Sluts was not a perfect book. Where the main character was quite atypical for a YA contemporary, a lot of the other characters felt like caricatures of characters you constantly come across in YA. Take Luke as an example. He was exactly like any other male school bully I’ve come across in YA books and films. And that’s always a pity.

On top of that some relationships felt very underdevelopped. There are a lot of important characters in this book, so to have all of their individual relationships well written, is a hard task. But there were just some relationships where it really bothered me how underdevelopped they were. Take Jeremy and Eden (the MC) as an example. At a certain point in the book Jeremy really wants Eden to go to a house party with him and his boyfriend. He does all he can to convince her, but as a reader you just don’t understand why he cares so much for the fact that Eden needs to come to this party with him. In short: some relationships and actions were just a bit unbelievable.

Let’s finish off with the ending of the book. That ending was also not fully satisfying, unfortunately. Throughout the entire book Eden and her friends are trying to discover Eros’s identiy, the person who leaked the photos of the girls. However, in the end it was not surprising at all who Eros was. From about a third of the way through the book I had already guessed an important part of Eros’s identity, the part that was supposed to be the most ‘shocking’. On top of that the ending wrapped up a bit too quickly, we discover who Eden is and there’s an immediate confrontation and the book ended. It would’ve been better to have that part go a bit more slowly.

However, I’d still highly recommend this book if you’re into YA feminist fiction, and especially if you’re maybe a bit younger than me, and actually fall within the targeted audience of the book.

I received an e-arc of this book through Netgalley, but that doesn’t influence my opinion or anything written in this review. Thanks to the publisher and author for gifting me a copy.

My top 5 least favourite books I read in 2020

Blog post where I talk about my five least favourite books I read in 2020.

Hello lovely reader! Last Wednesday I gave you my top 10 favourite books I read in 2020, and as promised in that post, today I’ll give you my top 5 least favourite reads of 2020. I know there’s always some controversy surrounding these lists, but quite frankly it’s my opinion and I can express that with freedom of expression and all, and if you don’t want to hear it, than don’t read this post.

Where there was a lot of change in my top 10 favourites of the year between my mid year and end of the year one, there’s not that much change on this one, which is definitely a good thing, so let’s go!

5. When It’s Real by Erin Watt

Under ordinary circumstances, Oakley Ford and Vaughn Bennett would never even cross paths. 

There’s nothing ordinary about Oakley. This bad-boy pop star’s got Grammy Awards, millions of fangirls and a reputation as a restless, too-charming troublemaker. But with his home life disintegrating, his music well suddenly running dry and the tabloids having a field day over his outrageous exploits, Oakley needs to show the world he’s settling down—and who better to help him than Vaughn, a part-time waitress trying to help her family get by? The very definition of ordinary. 

Posing as his girlfriend, Vaughn will overhaul Oakley’s image from troublemaker to serious artist. In return for enough money to put her brothers through college, she can endure outlandish Hollywood parties and carefully orchestrated Twitter exchanges. She’ll fool the paparazzi and the groupies. She might even start fooling herself a little. 

Because when ordinary rules no longer apply, there’s no telling what your heart will do…

This book sounded exaclty like a book 14-year old me would’ve loved reading on Wattpad. However it turns out that you might not like the same type of books when you’re 20 as when you were a young teen. Lesson learned, and I’ll probably never read any new releases that sound like young me would’ve loved reading.

If you want to hear more thoughts about this one, I’m redirecting you to me entire review (it’s written in Dutch, but you can translate it at the bottom of the page) here.

4. Orpheus Girl by Bryenne Rebele-Henry

Abandoned by a single mother she never knew, 16-year-old Raya—obsessed with ancient myths—lives with her grandmother in a small conservative Texas town. For years Raya has been forced to hide her feelings for her best friend and true love, Sarah. When the two are outed, they are sent to Friendly Saviors: a re-education camp meant to “fix” them and make them heterosexual. Upon arrival, Raya vows to assume the mythic role of Orpheus to escape Friendly Saviors, and to return to the world of the living with her love—only becoming more determined after she, Sarah, and Friendly Saviors’ other teen residents are subjected to abusive “treatments” by the staff.

I read this book more towards the beginning of the year and I can hardly remember anything that happens in here, so that already says something. The only thing I can remember is that it had some questionable statements in there that were quite biphobic and transphobic.

Once again, for more in depth thoughts I’m referring you to my review here.

3. Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

I’m so angry this book is on this list, because I really wanted to love it, but alas. Once again a lesson learned: I loathe romance heavy fantasies. There is so much I didn’t like about this book, that I’m redirecting you to Read With Cindy’s review, I agree with everything she says except I didn’t like the one scene she did like. Here is her review, but be warned, it’s spoiler filled.

2. Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan

Jasmine and Chelsea are sick of the way women are treated even at their progressive NYC high school, so they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. They post everything online—poems, essays, videos of Chelsea performing her poetry, and Jasmine’s response to the racial macroaggressions she experiences—and soon they go viral. But with such positive support, the club is also targeted by online trolls. When things escalate, the principal shuts the club down. Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices—and those of other young women—to be heard.

Another book I had hoped to love, but is once again filled with homophobia, transphobia and a little bit of racism even though it’s cowritten by a black author. And one of the characters also just annoyed the heck out of me. I have a very long spoilerfree spoken review of this book in this blog post, where I also link some own voices reviews for the transphobia & racism.

1. Lie, Lie Again by Stacey Wise

All three women who live at 1054 Mockingbird Lane have secrets…and with a body at the bottom of their apartment building’s staircase, those secrets need to stay buried.

Sylvia Webb has a plan. And a potential Mr. Right. He’s sweet, simple, and dependably clueless about what she’s up to. The only thing unpredictable about him is his needy ex-girlfriend, who is this close to shattering Sylvia’s dreams. But Sylvia’s not going to let that happen.

Riki McFarlan has a good career and an amazing boyfriend who wants to settle down. If only she didn’t have feelings for her neighbor—who happens to be her close friend’s husband. With everything going so right, why is Riki flirting with something so wrong, so…dangerous?

This was my only one star read of the entire year of 2020, so it had to be my least favourite book of the year. Just thinking about this book frustrates the heck out of me. I have an entire spoilerfree review (and it’s quite long) of this book, you can read that here. But in short: this book just was not a thriller at all and it was pointless and boring.

And that’s it, sorry that this post is so repetitive of the mid year one I did. But to be honest, I’m quite happy I didn’t read many more books I didn’t like in the second half of 2020. Anyway, I’ll see you next week for another blog post!

Review: Secrets of the Starcrossed by Clara O’Connor

Premise

In a world where the Roman Empire never fell, two starcrossed lovers fight to ignite the spark of rebellion…

Londinium, the last stronghold of the Romans left in Britannia, remains in a delicate state of peace with the ancient kingdoms that surround it. As the only daughter of a powerful merchant, Cassandra is betrothed to Marcus, the most eligible bachelor in the city. But then she meets Devyn, the boy with the strange midnight eyes searching for a girl with magic in her blood. A boy who will make her believe in soulmates…

When a mysterious sickness starts to leech the life from citizens with Celtic power lying dormant in their veins, the imperial council sets their schemes in motion. And so Cassandra must make a choice: the Code or Chaos, science or sorcery, Marcus or Devyn?

My review – without spoilers

After reading several reviews I decided to DNF this book at the 50% mark because I was not enjoying it and based on the reviews the story wouldn’t develop into something I’d enjoy reading. I’ll be talking about the points I had written down whilst reading the book in this review, so you’ll still get a clear review of the story. My review will also explain why I put this book down.

If you read the synopsis you could guess that it’s quite a romance heavy book, however if you don’t like reading too much of a synopsis because it often times just tells too much, then you’re in for a surprise. You need to know going into this book that it’s romance heavy, or else you’ll be disappointed.

Even though this book is heavy on the romance, it also has a fair bit of different themes. Within the romance part we have a love triangle, soulmates, arranged marriage and starcrossed lovers. The story takes place in a science heavy world which is based on an alternate history of Europe where they’re basically still living in the Roman Empire, but it’s also quite heavy on British history. None of those world related themes are actually properly explained. There’s hardly any world building at all. The only thing about the world you get to know is that the citizens decide the fate of people who broke the law in an amphitheatre. That was very interesting to discover, but unfortunately you don’t discover anything else about the politics or the world. You don’t get to understand how the world or the politics in it work. But still the book manages to be very info dumping, but the type of info the book was dumping, was not interesting or necessary.

It just felt like the author wanted to add too much tropes and themes into this one book, that none of it was fleshed out or worked properly. Everything just lacked something. For example: the romance between Cassandra and Devyn. They’ve known each other for years but never really talked to each other. But all of a sudden they fall head over heels in love by talking once? And they’re excessively touching each other by the third time they’re talking. There was really just zero chemistry between the two and as a reader you don’t believe it or care for their relationship one little bit.

And then there’s Cassandra’s other love interest Marcus, the one she’s been betrothed since she was 12. Even though he played an obvious smaller role in the story, he felt like the most realistic and fleshed out character out of all of them. He was the only one I cared a little bit for. Even the chemistry between him and Cassandra was bigger than between Cassandra and Devyn, just because Marcus had more personality to him. And that really says something when the author obviously wants you to root for Cassandra and Devyn.

Once you discover Cassandra is supposed to be 22, Devyn 26 and Marcus 27, you’re blown off your socks because they, especially Cassandra and Devyn, act like 14-15 year olds. On top of that they, once again especially Cassandra and Devyn, keep changing personalities every single chapter. They seem to change their mind or the way they think about something and the way they act for no apparent reason. It’s just the next chapter and they act, talk and think in a different way, yep makes sense?! That also just makes the characters so unrealistic. For example: Cassandra is supposed to be the good, rich girl who always follows the rules, but then she discovers her world is not as good at it seems, so she starts rebelling. It was just that one chapter she is a rebel and the next she is goody-two-shoes again without an explanation as to why she changed her mind. It also just became so annoying and repetitive to constantly see her change from the rebel to the girl next door every other chapter. It made her a very unbelievable character.

And last, but not least, the narration style just felt really… awkward. There were these weird time jumps between chapters and they were never really explained. But then the characters would tell you what happened during the time we skipped. What happened to ‘show don’t tell’? Why not just show us what happened instead of letting a character tell us what happened? The characters would drag on and on and on when telling you what happened, so it really wouldn’t have made the book longer to just show the reader what happened without the awkward time jumps.

I still definitely think that if you like fantasy/scifi romance, you might like this. I just prefer my fantasy books to have a great world with interesting politics, and for the romance to be a very little part of the story, or even non-existent, I wouldn’t care. Unfortunately, I couldn’t judge whether or not this book had a great world and interesting politics, because it was never even explained.

*I was gifted an e-arc of this book by the publisher via Netgalley. Thank you very much. However, that doesn’t influence my opinion or what I wrote in my review in any way.*

My top 10 favourite books I read in 2020

Blog post where I talk about my top 10 favourite books I read in 2020.

Hello lovely reader! In today’s blog post I will be giving you my top 10 favourite reads of 2020. In August I posted a list of My top 10 favourite books of 2020 so far, so if you’re curious to see which ones made it onto my final top 10, you’ll have to continue on reading! In that post I did a number 1 to number 10 list, but now we’ll do a little countdown to keep it a bit more suspenseful!

10. Leave The World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Amanda and Clay head out to a remote corner of Long Island expecting a vacation: a quiet reprieve from life in New York City, quality time with their teenage son and daughter, and a taste of the good life in the luxurious home they’ve rented for the week. But a late-night knock on the door breaks the spell. Ruth and G. H. are an older black couple—it’s their house, and they’ve arrived in a panic. They bring the news that a sudden blackout has swept the city. But in this rural area—with the TV and internet now down, and no cell phone service—it’s hard to know what to believe.

Should Amanda and Clay trust this couple—and vice versa? What happened back in New York? Is the vacation home, isolated from civilization, a truly safe place for their families? And are they safe from one another? 

Leave The World behind is definitely my favourite adult thriller I’ve ever read. It’s a short book, but it’s so interesting. You learn so much from this book, about internalised racism, how dependent the world is on electricity and a lot of other things. This is the only thriller I really forsee myself rereading one day.

9. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

In 2020 I learned that I really enjoy reading about fantasies set in contemporary worlds, and Cemetery Boys was one of my favourites within that category that I read in 2020. Especially considering this is a debut novel, this book is just phenomenal and very much a laugh-out-loud-and-sobbing-within-two-pages type book.

8. A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy

Sixteen-year-old Eva is a princess, born with the magick of marrow and blood–a dark and terrible magick that hasn’t been seen for generations in the vibrant but fractured country of Myre. Its last known practitioner was Queen Raina, who toppled the native khimaer royalty and massacred thousands, including her own sister, eight generations ago, thus beginning the Rival Heir tradition. Living in Raina’s long and dark shadow, Eva must now face her older sister, Isa, in a battle to the death if she hopes to ascend to the Ivory Throne–because in the Queendom of Myre only the strongest, most ruthless rulers survive.

When Eva is attacked by an assassin just weeks before the battle with her sister, she discovers there is more to the attempt on her life than meets the eye–and it isn’t just her sister who wants to see her dead. As tensions escalate, Eva is forced to turn to a fey instructor of mythic proportions and a mysterious and handsome khimaer prince for help in growing her magick into something to fear. Because despite the love she still has for her sister, Eva will have to choose: Isa’s death or her own.

A River of Royal Blood is the first repeat from my earlier list, so I’ll talk a bit more in short about this one (and every repeat). This book just has one of my favourite tropes, the ‘people destined to kill each other’ one and does that so well honestly!

7. Not That Bad by Roxane Gay

Cultural critic and bestselling author Roxane Gay has edited a collection of essays that explore what it means to live in a world where women are frequently belittled and harassed due to their gender, and offers a call to arms insisting that “not that bad” must no longer be good enough.

Another repeat and hands down my favourite non fiction book ever. I really want to buy a physical copy of this book, reread it and annotate the heck out of it. If you’re taking away only one book of this list, let it be this one. Not That Bad is without a doubt the most important book on here.

6. Witches of Ash and Ruin by E. Latimer

Seventeen-year-old Dayna Walsh is struggling to cope with her somatic OCD; the aftermath of being outed as bisexual in her conservative Irish town; and the return of her long-absent mother, who barely seems like a parent. But all that really matters to her is ascending and finally, finally becoming a full witch-plans that are complicated when another coven, rumored to have a sordid history with black magic, arrives in town with premonitions of death. Dayna immediately finds herself at odds with the bewitchingly frustrating Meiner King, the granddaughter of their coven leader.

And then a witch turns up murdered at a local sacred site, along with the blood symbol of the Butcher of Manchester-an infamous serial killer whose trail has long gone cold. The killer’s motives are enmeshed in a complex web of witches and gods, and Dayna and Meiner soon find themselves at the center of it all. If they don’t stop the Butcher, one of them will be next.

And here is the second fantasy set in a contemporary world. Witches of Ash and Ruin just has everything I love: witches, a contemporary setting, true crime, LGBTQ+ rep, mental health rep and so much more. It’s the perfect blend of my favourite things, so naturally it had to be on this list!

5. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows. And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

Where I seem to love fantasies in a contemporary setting, I love fantasies set in a historical period at least equally as much. The Bear and the Nightingale won’t be the last one on this list with that setting… I read the entire Winternight trilogy this year but unfortunatley I didn’t love the second and third book as much as this first one, although they were still great books!

4. Arc of a Scythe trilogy

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own. 

The Arc of a Scythe trilogy is the only series that made it to my favourites list this year in its entirity and it’s also one of the only series I’ve ever bingeread, so I guess that already says a lot, eh?

3. A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder by Holly Jackson

The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it.

But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the murder, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final year project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden. And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pip from the truth? 

Would you look at that, my favourite book from my previous list is ‘only’ in the third spot now. I still very much love this book and I never would’ve expected a YA thriller to be one of my favourite books ever that I keep recommending to everyone, but here we are. READ THIS BOOK!

2. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable knowledge that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood impossibly written in this book that is older than he is.

A bee, a key, and a sword emblazoned on the book lead Zachary to two people who will change the course of his life: Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired painter, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances. These strangers guide Zachary through masquerade party dances and whispered back room stories to the headquarters of a secret society where doorknobs hang from ribbons, and finally through a door conjured from paint to the place he has always yearned for. Amid twisting tunnels filled with books, gilded ballrooms, and wine-dark shores Zachary falls into an intoxicating world soaked in romance and mystery. But a battle is raging over the fate of this place and though there are those who would willingly sacrifice everything to protect it, there are just as many intent on its destruction. As Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian venture deeper into the space and its histories and myths, searching for answers and each other, a timeless love story unspools, casting a spell of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a Starless Sea.

I never would have thought I’d fall in love with The Starless Sea. Whenever I heard someone talk about it, it seemed like a book that just wasn’t for me. But oh, I was so wrong. I loved everything about this book and yes, it’s once again a fantasy set in a contemporary world, surprise!

1. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

And here we have my favourite book of 2020. Just like with The Starless Sea I was very much scared to read this book because of the mixed reviews it got and me thinking from those reviews that I wouldn’t love this. But here we are. I can completely understand why this book is not for everyone, but I adored it so much. And look at that, it’s another fantasy set in both a historical and contemporary setting, are we surprised?

I can’t believe 2020 is over, and I especially can’t believe how much I read in 2020. Even though the year was as shitty as it can get, my reading was amazing and I couldn’t be more happy and thankful for that. However, of course there were some books I didn’t really like, you’ll see those in next week’s blog post!