4 star, YA

Review: Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton

Series: Heart of Thorns #1

heart of thorns -bree bartonIn the ancient river kingdom, touch is a battlefield, bodies the instruments of war. Seventeen-year-old Mia Rose has pledged her life to hunting Gwyrach: women who can manipulate flesh, bones, breath, and blood.

Not women. Demons. The same demons who killed her mother without a single scratch.

But when Mia’s father suddenly announces her marriage to the prince, she is forced to trade in her knives and trousers for a sumptuous silk gown. Only after the wedding goes disastrously wrong does she discover she has dark, forbidden magic—the very magic she has sworn to destroy.


4 Drink Me Potions


**Heart of Thorns comes out July 31, 2018**

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

Hatred will only lead you astray. Sometimes love is the stronger choice.

Heart of Thorns took me by surprise. While it was predictable in some sense of where the plot was going, the overall story just worked for me.

Let me explain what I mean by that.

Mia, our lovely protagonist, thinks of herself as a rational, logical scientist. She experiments and studies anatomy, a collector of knowledge, priding herself on not just knowing the subjects she chooses to understand but also mastering them. Have you read of protagonists such as these before? I mean, I sure have. Some worked (see Long May She Reign) whereas others feel like talking boxes of facts with no emotional depth.

I was very conflicted as to which side Mia landed for me initially. Especially when there are passages such as the following littered throughout the book.

Eight carpal bones in the wrist: the hamate, capitate, scaphoid, pisiform, lunate, triquetral, trapezoid, and trapezium.

OR

He brushed a curl from her cheek and her zygomatic bones thrummed in their sockets.


Like, what?? I’m the kinda girl who appreciates anatomical terms better than the average person, but even I couldn’t help but laugh a little reading these sentences. Especially the latter.

Then how could I possibly connect with a protagonist like Mia? And that was something I struggled with in the first say 30% of the book. But there was something that kept drawing me in and kept me entertained.

The plot wasn’t the fastest you’ve ever seen, but an adventure following a map to some unknown destination has always been a formula that I can’t help but continue down. After a disastrous wedding ceremony, Mia and her betrothed/fiance/technically husband Quin escape the kingdom with a map that unravels towards their destination as they move along.

The world building in this sense was better formed than other fantasies I’ve read recently. It felt more organic than just a load of information dumping upon our shoulders at the beginning of the book. As they travelled and the 4 kingdoms of this world came closer to Mia, things were explained in a relevant manner.

One thing that some people may not love is the little “screen time” (page time?) that most secondary characters have in this book. For the most part, this story centres around Mia and Quin as they run away from whatever danger they were exposed to. Other people do appear but I never felt like I really knew them very well just because they weren’t present all that often.

HOWEVER, this still in a way worked for me. With so much time given to these 2 characters, we really get to see how Quin and Mia struggled, changed and grew from their circumstances. Especially Mia. I mean, in a matter of a day, her whole life changed. Her whole perspective on who she was changed permanently.

This is why I found her an amenable protagonist. From this logically-driven girl who thought with her brain, she had to learn – and very much struggled through it at times – to think with her heart as well. Let the emotions and feelings guide her. Even when I didn’t connect with her initially, I understood her in the end. That human nature to subdue the overwhelming emotions we feel at times and just distance ourselves with our brains. But life is rarely ever lived fully without the heart.

So yes, there were things that I thought would totally ruin this book for me. But somehow, all together, it worked for this story. The plot wasn’t all that extensive or had too many developed characters, yet that wasn’t the point. These things were enough to drive home the themes of love, family, heart and mind.

And boy, Bree Barton could sometimes write in such a profound way. Like what was love.

FROM

What was love if not a rippling bunch of nerves and valves misfiring? An equation with no known variables? An incalculable contraction of the heart?

TO

Love was a feeling. Love was an action. Love was a partnership, a fiery union of body, mind, and soul.


And love wasn’t just purely romantic love with Quin. It covered familial love and other really strong emotions. Hate. Fear. Rage/anger.

So what if the other things weren’t amazing on its own? Knit together, Heart of Thorns was a beautiful story of learning to listen to the heart, and to choose love no matter how hard that choice may be at times. I believe that’s something everyone can connect with.

Overall Recommendation:
Heart of Thorns started off on a bit of a rocky note, but it landed in a dear spot in my heart. Following a scientific and logically-driven main character, Mia goes on an unintended adventure with Prince Quin as they escape danger and dive into the unknown world, with uncontrolled magic thrown in the mix. Dealing with themes of what it means to love, the ties of family, and listening to the heart, this novel may SEEM predictable but it packed a more lasting impact after the last pages were turned.

Note: all quotes are subject to change

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4 star, adult

She Felt Like Feeling Nothing by R.H. Sin

This is not a traditional review either. It seems that only poetry books can draw this out of me as I’m normally not a poetry reader.

she felt like feeling nothing -rh sin

I came across this wonderful book by random, flipping through these pages. And in an instant, my heart was hooked. Painfully. For there on the first page were words that wholly described me. Even after 5 years.

Have you ever been in a relationship where the one you loved just never seemed to love you back? No matter how hard you tried, no matter how much you gave of yourself, it was like you were never enough.

This is exactly what she felt like feeling nothing was. And the sad thing is? Having these words still resonate so deeply within me suggested that maybe I hadn’t let go of all that I thought was in my past.

As we move through the stanzas that I’ve selectively chosen from this short but encouraging book, I’m leaving behind on this page a bit of honesty of who I was and where I hope to be one day. To all you women out there who understand this as well, know that you’re not alone. To all of you who may not fully understand it, I’m happy that you didn’t need to go through such an ordeal and I hope you’ll hold onto those who unfortunately have.

what happened to your soul

i see the bruises and the scars

he never deserved to touch your canvas

how’d you forget that you are art

i know it fucking hurts

but i’ll just say this because it’s true

any man who hurts your heart

is incapable of falling for you

This was the first poem in the book that drew me in. A part of me still wonders after all these years if those bruises and scars on my heart have fully healed or if I just cauterized them and pretended that it was good enough. And if only the younger, more naive version of me could’ve understood that someone who made me cry for 3 years would never be able to say yes in the end.

i think there are times

where you miss the version of yourself

who never knew

what it meant to feel betrayed

Looking back, I wouldn’t necessarily undo the pain I’ve been in. It’s changed me into who I am today. But there are times when I find myself wondering who I could’ve been without this hanging over my past. Would I have made better choices later? Would I have been a better person?

a man who is unsure about

the way he feels for you

is unworthy of a space

in your heart

If only the 17 year old in me would’ve believed such words. If only I could’ve learned to let go in my heart.

you are something

that someone

has been waiting

their entire life for

And yet, maybe I have never believed that since. Is there a way back to such a belief?

you’ve hidden so much

of what you’ve felt

in the corners of your heart

refusing to open up

out of fear of being hurt again

To risk one’s heart for something that could be great, but could also bring a world of pain? To feel worthy to be loved? Am I still capable of that? If he was staring right in front of my face, would I be brave enough to reach out and open up my heart?

to love and not be loved in return

is the most destructive kind of love

that type of love is a love

that causes us to lose love for ourselves

In other words, unrequited love. If you thought that sounded romantic, it falls very far from that…

i think you’re just

this beautiful misfit

nothing wrong with being different

in search of something real

in search of someone who will listen

someone who will care

someone who will stay

a love that brings you closer

a love that never strays

I was once a romantic, but now I’m not sure what that even sounds like. Yet I see the stars and the flowers in the spring and find myself wishing the grand stories of love could be true for a mere misfit like me.

it’s hard to forget someone

who used to make your soul smile

but it’s even harder to remember

everything they used to be

Reading this whole book has dredged up a lot of memories for me. Maybe they’re things I should’ve dealt with a long time ago. Maybe it’s a good thing to finally air it out, no matter how hard it is to remember how it once was. The way he made me smile. The way it felt as easy as breathing once upon a time. Until it didn’t.

If it’s anything, taking this trip down memory lane has opened up the floodgates for me. And I’m not saying this book may be for everyone, but it surely was for this still-healing girl here.

Maybe it’ll bring healing. Maybe it’ll hurt worse before it gets better. As I look at who I am now, yes, I’ve made mistakes and I took down with me people who didn’t deserve that. But I’ve grown stronger and I’ve gained perspective and I’m no longer that 17 year old girl.

Maybe someday soon, I will learn to love myself more. And believe that I am worth loving by someone I took a risk for.

But that day just isn’t today.

4 star, YA

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.