3.5 star, YA

ARC Review: A Thousand Heartbeats by Kiera Cass

“Love has a sound. It sounds like a thousand heartbeats happening at the same time.”

Princess Annika has lived a life of comfort—but no amount of luxuries can change the fact that her life isn’t her own to control. The king, once her loving father, has gone cold, and Annika will soon be forced into a loveless marriage for political gain.

Miles away, small comforts are few and far between for Lennox. He has devoted his life to the Dahrainian army, hoping to one day help them reclaim the throne that was stolen from them. For Lennox, the idea of love is merely a distraction—nothing will stand in the way of fighting for his people.

But when love, against all odds, finds them both, they are bound by its call. They can’t possibly be together—but the irresistible thrum of a thousand heartbeats won’t let them stay apart. 

Kiera Cass brings her signature sparkling romance to this beautiful story of star-crossed lovers and long-held secrets.



Overall Recommendation:

A Thousand Heartbeats presents itself as a grand romance and it truly does deliver in that aspect, although I personally believe the enemies-to-lovers trope was too rushed to fully satisfy the perfect angst that was set in the beginning. The fantasy half was subpar with very little originality besides the entangled history between the characters’ two kingdoms. If you come at this as a romance with some fantasy, I guarantee this will be a fun read. If you want more of a fantasy, be warned this will probably not meet your expectations.

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5 star, YA

ARC Review: The Luminaries by Susan Dennard

Series: The Luminaries #1

From Susan Dennard, the New York Times bestselling author of the Witchlands series, comes a haunting and high-octane contemporary fantasy, about the magic it takes to face your fears in a nightmare-filled forest, and the mettle required to face the secrets hiding in the dark corners of your own family.

Hemlock Falls isn’t like other towns. You won’t find it on a map, your phone won’t work here, and the forest outside town might just kill you. 

Winnie Wednesday wants nothing more than to join the Luminaries, the ancient order that protects Winnie’s town—and the rest of humanity—from the monsters and nightmares that rise in the forest of Hemlock Falls every night. 

Ever since her father was exposed as a witch and a traitor, Winnie and her family have been shunned. But on her sixteenth birthday, she can take the deadly Luminary hunter trials and prove herself true and loyal—and restore her family’s good name. Or die trying.

But in order to survive, Winnie enlists the help of the one person who can help her train: Jay Friday, resident bad boy and Winnie’s ex-best friend. While Jay might be the most promising new hunter in Hemlock Falls, he also seems to know more about the nightmares of the forest than he should. Together, he and Winnie will discover a danger lurking in the forest no one in Hemlock Falls is prepared for.

Not all monsters can be slain, and not all nightmares are confined to the dark.



Overall Recommendation

The Luminaries sets a new secret society within our world that guards humankind from nightmarish creatures lurking in the forests at night. Beautiful worldbuilding and mystery subplots keep the momentum going that I couldn’t put this book down at all. The ending was abrupt and most things were not concluded in a satisfactory manner, but this definitely makes me all the more excited for what’s to come in the next book.

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2.5 star, YA

ARC Review: Wishtress by Nadine Brandes

She didn’t ask to be the Wishtress.

Myrthe was born with the ability to turn her tears into wishes. It’s a big secret to keep. When a granted wish goes wrong, a curse is placed on her: the next tear she sheds will kill her. She needs to journey to the Well and break the curse before it claims her life–and before the king’s militairen track her down. But in order to survive the journey, she must harden her heart to keep herself from crying even a single tear.

He can stop time with a snap of his fingers.

Bastiaan’s powerful–and rare–Talent came in handy when he kidnapped the old king. Now the new king has a job for him: find and capture the Wishtress and deliver her to the schloss. But Bastiaan needs a wish of his own. When he locates Myrthe, he agrees to take her to the Well in exchange for a wish. Once she’s fulfilled her end of the deal, he’ll turn her in. As long as his growing feelings for the girl with a stone heart don’t compromise his job.

They are on a journey that can only end one way: with her death.

Everyone seems to need a wish–the king, Myrthe’s cousin, the boy she thinks she loves. And they’re ready to bully, beg, and even betray her for it. No one knows that to grant even one of them, Myrthe would have to die. And if she tells them about her curse . . . they’ll just kill her anyway.



**Wishtress comes out September 13, 2022**

Thank you Edelweiss and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

An interesting premise with lots of potential, Wishtress presents itself as a wonderful allegory in the battle between the light and the darkness in each of us, but ultimately didn’t develop the idea beyond its basic principles.

I will have to first say that I really like Nadine Brandes as a person. I love what she stands for and the grace she exhibits in everything she says or does. However, this isn’t a review about her but about her work, and sometimes there really is a distinction present.

If I had to sum up this book with one word, it’d be slow. Everything took its time. Myrthe is the Wishtress but due to a curse, her next tear will kill her. We all know that from the synopsis, but it takes a decent number of chapters to get to her cursing and the information prior really wasn’t all that interesting or altogether necessary.

The quest for the Well of Talents to help Myrthe with her curse (and also for the whole kingdom) was supposedly going to be interesting. There are Trials that judge an individual’s worth to reach the Well and thus be granted a Talent, some sort of powerful ability. Given that all maps to the Well itself were destroyed long ago, even finding the Trials wouldn’t be easy. However, it felt like the journey was hardly an issue and the Trials itself seemed inconsequential as Myrthe looked for loopholes rather than being truly tested. Everything I thought would make this book great was just mediocre.

From a character perspective, Myrthe and her love interest, Bastiaan, should have been interesting considering the amount of time given to each. This story is most definitely a character-driven one instead of plot. However, I couldn’t fathom their love for one another with their limited interactions. Does she like him because her family members barely treated her like a person instead of an object to dole out wishes for profit? Does he like her because she was once kind to him for no reason? Either way, it never made sense to me how their attraction grew. I felt no chemistry, and the rhythm of their relationship was too instant. Don’t tell me you love each other, show me.

Their individual growth arc and personal battle between choosing what’s good or right (the Talent Well water) and what’s self-serving and power-hungry (the Nightwell water that gives powers called Banes) was okay. I can’t think of a better word. I can see where Nadine is going with the idea and I appreciate the sentiment, but overall I don’t think it was executed the best. Many stories feature this trope, the fight between good and evil and the choice one can make between the two, but it was too simple here. Even when a character was tempted and chose wrong, the realness of the struggle was made too…easy? Like they could’ve easily switched back over to the better choice and it was almost like they never chose wrong in the first place.

I wanted to really love this one but it took me forever to finish and probably placed me in the reading slump I was in for the last month. The ending was actually the only piece I really enjoyed. It surprised me, the only thing that didn’t feel predictable or too easy. I loved that it was kept open-ended – really open-ended – but it felt like it was fitting. I don’t believe this is anything beyond a standalone so I applaud that bold choice for ending it there. It’s an ending filled with hope and a sense of continuation which works for a book that otherwise didn’t make me feel much of anything.

Overall Recommendation:

Wishtress had the potential to be an epic adventure for the powerful Well of Talents that squandered the plot for a character-driven story about the battle between good and evil. That’s not a bad idea to focus on, but its execution was a little too clean and perfect without the grittiness of real struggles people go through. While this may not be a fast-paced read for YA, perhaps its simplistic view of good versus evil would provide a better reading source for younger audiences. Its ending may be a little surprising to some, but personally I found it offered a hopeful note that made the story overall better.