Review: Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Series: Ash Princess Trilogy #1

ash princess -laura sebastianTheodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia’s family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess–a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner.

For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She’s endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.

Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn’t always won on the battlefield.

For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.


4 Drink Me Potions


**Ash Princess comes out April 24, 2018**

An ARC was provided by the publisher and Indigo Books & Music

My name is Theodosia Eirene Houzzarah, and like my mother and all my foremothers before her, I am a Fire Queen, with the blood of a god in my veins.


Ash Princess features a strong heroine who would not be broken by her captors while placing everything on the line for the people she aimed to serve. This was a story that embraced self-sacrifice, the bonds of friendship forged in the craziest of times, and courage. A totally feel-good kind of story where no matter the trials and sacrifices made along the way, the good people will triumph in the end (although that may occur later in the series).

As other reviewers have mentioned, this book wasn’t necessarily a happy story. Theodosia, otherwise known as Thora to her Kalovaxian captors, was subjected to much abuse. Whether it be the physical markings of a whip to her back or the threat of the ruler wanting her physical body, this story can get a bit much at times. Although I wouldn’t say it was as dark as some recent dark YA fantasies (see Rosamund Hodge or Kendare Blake), it’s still not a pleasant situation Theo’s in.

That aside, there’s plenty to love in this book. All your favourite fantasy tropes are here – whether that be a good thing or not. You’ve got your almost-love triangle (where I for once did not hate it at all), a sworn enemy that the protagonist is attracted to against her strongest will, an evil tyrant ruling their beloved kingdom, and a strong heroine who would do anything for her people. Yes, it sounds like any other YA fantasy story out there, even down to the religion and special abilities derived from the 4 elements of nature, but we read these things because we like them, right?

The romance was sweet. I’m a sucker for a forbidden match where you wonder “how can they possibly be together?” The other potential guy is an amazing match for Theo too, but I’m holding my judgment to see where that’s going.

Secondary characters make you want to believe in their cause. None are perfect. Their experiences have been tough, but these rebels who band around their queen – grudgingly or not – make the foundation of the story. Underlying all the self-growth and courageous themes that Theo had to go through, there’s the strong implication that she’d be nothing and nowhere if it wasn’t for those who were willing to step up, no matter their station and circumstances in life, and do their part for their futures. Including encouraging a queen who felt the weight of all her people on her shoulders.

“…that’s how water works. The river flows, pushing against a stone, even as it knows it won’t move it. It doesn’t have to. Enough currents go by, over enough time, and even the strongest stone gives in. It might take a lifetime or more, but water doesn’t give up.”


Of course, this book wouldn’t be complete without betrayal and an ending that makes you want to grab the next novel! For a debut novel, Laura Sebastian is definitely an author to look out for, especially if you love all these common YA fantasy tropes (and don’t mind the somewhat lack of originality).

Overall Recommendation:
Ash Princess has everything I love about YA fantasies. Featuring a heroine who grows into her own as she faces down an evil tyrant for her kingdom, this story is one of growth, courage, and trusting others. While many of the tropes found in this book are not anything you haven’t seen before in the YA genre, the lack of originality is made up by the real and lovable characters, even the semi love triangle that’s kind of going on. All in all, I would say you should give this debut novel a try as you may find yourself falling in love with these common tropes that really do fit so well together.

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Review: The Case for Jamie by Brittany Cavallaro

Series: Charlotte Holmes #3

the case for jamie -brittany cavallaroThe hotly anticipated and explosive third book in the New York Times bestselling Charlotte Holmes series.

It’s been a year since the shocking death of August Moriarty, and Jamie and Charlotte haven’t spoken.

Jamie is going through the motions at Sherringford, trying to finish his senior year without incident, with a nice girlfriend he can’t seem to fall for.

Charlotte is on the run, from Lucien Moriarty and from her own mistakes. No one has seen her since that fateful night on the lawn in Sussex—and Charlotte wants it that way. She knows she isn’t safe to be around. She knows her Watson can’t forgive her.

Holmes and Watson may not be looking to reconcile, but when strange things start happening, it’s clear that someone wants the team back together. Someone who has been quietly observing them both. Making plans. Biding their time.

Someone who wants to see one of them suffer and the other one dead.


2 Drink Me Potions


As mysteries go, A Case for Jamie wasn’t too complex or heavily-focused on the whodunit that I particularly enjoy in mystery novels. No, in fact, this story revolved more around the complexity of Holmes and Watson’s messed-up relationship.

I mean, I guess there are people who absolutely adore their strange chemistry lined with thinly veiled sexual tension. I, for one, am not part of that group of people. And while it was mildly more enjoyable due to the fact that Holmes and Watson were separated for the majority of the book, their thoughts revolving around each other and the toxic nature of their dependency, particularly Watson’s, on one another didn’t make me a huge fan.

Okay, I will backtrack and talk more about the ACTUAL story.

A year’s passed since the events of book 2 – no, I am STILL not over the fact of how that book ended even though it’s been over a year since I’ve read it – and you would think Jamie’s moved on with his life a little. There’s been no signs of Charlotte Holmes, who you can guess, is out for blood in the aftermath of the mess SHE created.

Fan favourites Uncle Leander Holmes and Jamie’s father make fun appearances in this book, playing a bigger role in some ways than in the previous ones. The other students at school are still kicking butt when push comes to shove, although that may only apply to Holmes’ ex-roommate Lena. And as usual, someone’s out to pin the blame on Jamie for crimes he didn’t commit. What’s really new, hmm? You’d think, new year, new Jamie, right?

The main plotline is to find Lucien Moriarty. Holmes for one reason, the Watsons and Leander for another reason (and that’s obviously to find Charlotte themselves). While that may seem kind of exciting – we’re chasing an infamous Moriarty who’s actually representing his last name! – like I mentioned before, this story hardly focused too heavily on it. The one highlight I can think of is finally getting to see inside Charlotte Holmes’ head. And it’s not always pretty thoughts that go on inside that girl.

So how do I really feel about this supposed conclusion? I liked that the relationship was kept minimal due to the separation between Jamie and Charlotte. I still think it’s toxic and they’re not really good for each other. I do, however, think the way this book ended felt right, especially on where their relationship stood. It was healing in a healthier way.

The secondary characters could’ve played a bigger role, in my opinion, and that could’ve happened if the main mystery behind Watson’s supposed crimes and the connections to Moriarty were better fleshed out. But I suppose we don’t get everything we want in life. The mystery culprit(s) behind it all was hardly too astounding, very quickly wrapped up and tied with a bow. I didn’t feel very impressed, but then again, I hardly brought many expectations into this book.

Overall, The Case for Jamie fared better than I felt the other 2 books before did in some ways, but it slipped a lot from its potential as a true MYSTERY novel. Would I necessarily recommend this book (or this series, for that matter)? That answer is a blatant no. The will-they-won’t-they nature of their partnership/relationship was too much and overshadowed all else in this series to make it too enjoyable. In that way, it really limited its ability to just soar with a modern day Holmes-Watson pair in America. Why couldn’t Brittany have taken a page from the show Elementary? No tension, just friendship and plenty of ass-kicking mysteries. Now that’s my kinda Sherlock story.

Overall Recommendation:
The supposed conclusion to this modern-day Sherlock pairing was neither exciting or mysterious in any way. While our Holmes and Watson are separated after the events of book 2 (be still my heart!), their POVs revolved too heavily on what the other was doing or thinking instead of the main “mystery” at hand. Someone was trying to make Watson look bad (oh no!), but it’s not like that hasn’t been done before. You could hardly call it a true mystery when SO little of the book space was truly given to it. Aside from possibly making fans of this Charlotte-Jamie pairing happy, this book didn’t make me feel anything, not even anger at this point, which in my books is not good enough. And no, it doesn’t give any more peace of mind about what happened before. In case you’re wondering.

Review: Dead Girls Society by Michelle Krys

dead girls society -michelle krysYou are cordially invited to participate in a game of thrills and dares. Tell no one, and come alone. If you dare.

Hope is sick of everyone treating her like she’s breakable. Sure, she has cystic fibrosis (basically really bad lungs), but she’s tired of being babied by her mom and her overprotective best friend, Ethan, not to mention worrying about paying for her expensive medication and how she’s going to afford college. And she’s bored with life in her run-down New Orleans suburb.

When an invitation arrives from a mysterious group that calls itself the Society, Hope jumps at the chance for some excitement. This could be her ticket out. All she has to do is complete a few dares and she might win some real money.

But the Society isn’t all it seems . . . and soon Hope finds that playing the game isn’t a choice—it’s a requirement.


4 Drink Me Potions


5 girls. The Sick Girl, the Rich Girl, the Sporty Girl, the Smart Girl and the Badass Girl. What do they all have in common?

Dead Girls Society dramatically set up a mysterious air that mostly lived up to its conclusion. In the same vein as Pretty Little Liars (or so it felt), this book also centred on the unlikeliest friendships and familial relationships surrounding the girls dragged into this Dare Club Society.

Written by a Canadian author (yay, Canada represent!), I was excited about this book since I first heard of its publication. Mystery? Check. Secret societies leaving anonymous letters/clues? Check. Falling for your best friend? Check. It had all the makings of a book that spelled out I WOULD LIKE THIS.

Creepy, fast-paced and filled with things that kept you guessing at the Society’s identity as the girls followed along with the dares that promised a fulfilling ending, I was pleasantly surprised at how the story progressed.

The protagonist, Hope Callahan, was one of the biggest highlights of the book. Aside from the general “whodunit” kind of thread that most mysteries contain, I really enjoyed having a sick girl as the focus of the story. Yes, she knows she’s not going to live forever, but surviving isn’t the same as living (taken from a certain poetry book I’ve read recently). So within the mystery is an underlying vein of a girl who is pushing herself to do things outside of her comfort zone – outside of her mother’s comforts and maybe even her body’s – but for the first time is possibly finding herself since her cystic fibrosis diagnosis.

Honestly, I had some inkling about who may be behind the Society but it wasn’t until near the end that it all clicked into confirmation. Without ruining anything, I thought the motives (which are always important, not just the person) were reasonable although one of the red herrings made it all the more obvious as to the true identity of the Society.

Nonetheless, Dead Girls Society filled its pages with a list of possible suspects, a protagonist struggling to be like a normal girl for once, and a cute romance that didn’t feel like it took away from the main plotline. Secrets came into the light and the dangers escalated for these girls. What started as a daring game they chose to take part in became something a lot more.

My one comment would suggest that this book could’ve been a duology or something. It had such potential with unveiling the individuals in the Society, and the dangers our group of girls faced with each dare could have been prolonged. While this made the book feel more fast-paced, I think fleshing out these ideas could have been a good thing as well.

Overall, Dead Girls Society has something to offer for fans of mysteries, secrets you want to keep buried, and a romantic trope or two. It showcased a wonderful message that couldn’t be better summed up than this quote that I am going to close off with.

“I know I made a lot of mistakes…I did damage to my body, maybe even irreparable damage…But I’m not prepared to go back to my old life. With Mom so desperate to make sure I don’t die that she won’t let me live. To sit in that apartment collecting dust until I can’t breathe anymore. Until I turn to dust.
I can’t live with fear and limits dictating everything I do [anymore].”

Oh, and did I mention that ending? I thought it was the perfect amount of open-endedness.

Overall Recommendation:
Dead Girls Society met the standards of an engaging, fun mystery with characters you could cheer on as well as secretly guess their possible ulterior motives as potential suspects. I liked how this book didn’t heavily focus on Hope’s cystic fibrosis illness as some YA tropes do, but instead used it to showcase courage, bonds of friendship and living for oneself. Whether you picked up this book for the mystery, the cute little romance or the Secret Society-esque vibes, I’m sure there’s more than enough here to keep you wanting for more!