Archives

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.

Advertisements

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!

Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Series: Dumplin’ #1

dumplin -julie murphySelf-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.


4 Drink Me Potions


[The song] is catchy and everyone knows the words, but to me, it’s this reminder that no matter who you are, there will always be someone prettier or smarter or thinner. Perfection is nothing more than a phantom shadow we’re all chasing.


Dumplin’ is that book about an atypical heroine you may think of based on the synopsis, but with way more heart and less cheese-y fluffiness than I had pegged it to be.

This book – and my thoughts on it – can be summarized in a few points.

1) Will’s voice as the protagonist was the perfect balance that didn’t overly make me want to sympathize with her yet also showed her vulnerabilities.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes reading stories about girls who are fat does neither of those things. They either lose weight and “get better” and we get to feel “happy” for them or they embrace themselves in such a way that I’m not sure is fully realistic either. This wasn’t the case here and that was surprising. I cheered her on when she was happy with her body and who she was, and was sad with her when she let her doubts get in the way of everything she could aspire to be.

2) The romance wasn’t the highlight.

Wait, what? That can’t be right. I’m saying I didn’t want the romance to be heavily laid on?
You betcha. I frankly didn’t really love Bo. He’s your average good looking guy who was a jerk (to someone else in the past) but now is all romantic and sweet ’cause he’s fallen hard – somehow, and no, we’re not given a reason why – for Will. He seemed too 2-dimensional for such a 3-dimensional girl. SO yeah, I’m quite happy that it wasn’t the focus, especially for the latter half of the book. (I’m sorry, romance fans!)

But don’t get me wrong. It was still sweet. For all of you who really look forward to this.

There’s some kind of peace that comes with knowing that for every person who is waiting to be found, there’s someone out there searching.


3) The ending was abrupt – but in a good way.

I know, how is that a good thing? Well, to me it left things a bit more ambiguous. Like how life is generally. It isn’t always tied up in a nice bow where all the family drama is solved immediately with a deep heart-to-heart talk or couples throwing themselves at each other in happiness after resolving the romantic tensions between them. (Yes, you can see that I’m feeling rather jaded at the moment towards love). I liked that it ended on a good note but without tying up all the loose threads completely.

4) Heartfelt messages for the win! Or life lessons, if that’s what you wanna call them

“Maybe Lucy wasn’t supposed to be your compass forever. Maybe she was there for you just long enough so you could learn how to be your own compass and find your own way.”


Losing her aunt Lucy was a major theme in this book as Will always felt closer to her due to their similar body size. But this isn’t one of those books where the death of a loved one is driving our protagonist crazy with grief or other kinds of pain. Yes, it’s present and it flares up on some days but it’s not just a plot device. It felt real with the lessons Will was able to draw from all the things she remembered and learned anew about her even after death.

5) Girl power!

This story is all about friendships. Will’s ups and downs with her bestie Ellen took a big chunk of this book. If you know what it feels to have someone you’ve just known and gone through so much crap with, this is how it should be portrayed. But aside from lifelong friends, the new ones Will gains in her journey to the pageant was great. I kinda wish there was less of Bo in these pages and more of these girls. They were atypical secondary characters. Not necessarily your characteristic beauties or smarties or sporties. Just…people who want to fit in but others have deemed them OTHER. I loved them, and I love Julie Murphy for creating a story where girls can support each other, even if it’s a bit unwilling at first.

Aside from these things, my only complaint was the slow pacing of the story in the beginning. You know she’s gonna enter a pageant and show everyone that just ’cause she’s fat doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be able to do this. I adore Will for this. But yeah, it was slow going at first, for at least the first half. I wouldn’t say I breezed through this book at all. Other than that, Dumplin’ holds a lot of good messages that warms my heart at the end of the day.

Overall Recommendation:
Dumplin’ features a cast of atypical girls at the heart of the story, and it’s like no other book I’ve read with fat girls in a starring role. While tugging at our heartstrings in sympathy, it doesn’t just stop there. This is a story of embracing who you are – no matter what size, shape or form – and the courage to be your true self and truly be comfortable with it. The girl friendships gained along the way were empowering. The romance was doable although I could’ve gone without it. Overall, a more remarkable book than I had initially boxed it in. And boy, am I glad for that.