Tag Archive | arc

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: More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer

more than we can tell -brigid kemmererRev Fletcher is battling the demons of his past. But with loving adoptive parents by his side, he’s managed to keep them at bay…until he gets a letter from his abusive father and the trauma of his childhood comes hurtling back.

Emma Blue spends her time perfecting the computer game she built from scratch, rather than facing her parents’ crumbling marriage. She can solve any problem with the right code, but when an online troll’s harassment escalates, she’s truly afraid.

When Rev and Emma meet, they both long to lift the burden of their secrets and bond instantly over their shared turmoil. But when their situations turn dangerous, their trust in each other will be tested in ways they never expected. This must-read story will once again have readers falling for Brigid Kemmerer’s emotional storytelling.


4 Drink Me Potions


Heart-rendering in a way that pulls all my heartstrings, More Than We Can Tell is a poignant follow-up to its companion novel that centred on a unique character whose heart has won over many readers even before picking up this book.

Rev Fletcher was an interesting protagonist to see the world through. Many awful things had happened to him yet it didn’t turn him into a bad person with a jaded view on life and society. Instead, it gave him his heart of compassion and loyalty. But that didn’t mean the demons from his past experiences weren’t following him, and I was so very eager to see how (and who) would help him face these demons head-on.

Our love interest for Rev, Emma, was just as intriguing. Awkward yet lovable, this gamer girl who wanted to stay strong and true to herself was just right for Rev. With her own slew of problems that were no less as painful to go through, this book really focused on strength in the midst of a storm. And while it’s not as light of a contemporary read as others, I found myself particularly resonating with such tormented hearts. Life wasn’t easy and had given them each obstacles to overcome. What they each learned from them, and the process that led them there, was simple yet heartfelt. From the depths of familial love to the deep bonds of sacrificial friendship and trust, there were a lot of encouraging messages that resonated deeply.

While this was an enjoyable read, there was just…something missing from it for me. Maybe it was more that I saw Rev and Emma’s relationship as less romantic and more of a deep friendship? Maybe it’s just the emotional state I was in while reading this novel but I particularly loved seeing how their tentative trust in each other built as fate kept bringing them back in one another’s lives. I mean, wouldn’t you want to find someone like that? I’d love a Rev, honestly. Not so much for his jujitsu techniques and physique (although that’s a plus!), but his forthrightness, his integrity and solid trust in God and a greater meaning to his life.

And that is the other thing. I couldn’t wrap my head around whether or not Brigid saw religion and faith as a negative or a positive thing in Rev’s life. Maybe a bit of both. I don’t think it can be construed as offensive to anyone as the awful religious aspects were considered abnormal, but at the same time, I just don’t know.

Either way, it was interesting to see this kind of portrayal in YA contemporary and I felt like I could connect with Rev more because of it. Fast-paced and a great follow-up to an amazing book, More Than We Can Tell holds a lot for fans of Brigid Kemmerer’s past works.

Overall Recommendation:
More Than We Can Tell delivered a heavy message that was ultimately uplifting while also heartbreaking. Both Rev and Emma’s voices rang true with their individual struggles and as their stories crossed, Kemmerer continues to show how well she can weave a story of the hardships that shape us into the better people that we are. Call me a true fan now as I don’t think she can do wrong when it comes to her contemporaries!

Review: The Academy by Katie Sise

the academy -katie siseFrankie Brooks knows what she wants in life: to become the world’s next great fashion editor. All she needs to do is get into the elite American Fashion Academy in New York City. If she gets in, her life plans will be going right on schedule. Anna Wintour, watch out.

But after Frankie messes up one too many times—hey, it’s hard keeping up with classwork and an acclaimed fashion blog—her parents come up with entirely different plans for her future: Military school. How is Frankie, the least athletic person in the world, who knows absolutely nothing about the military, going to survive a whole semester at the famed—and feared—Academy?

With students who seem to be totally uninterested in her, a course-load that’s even more difficult than at her old school, and the weird athletic War Games competition Frankie has to join—her life is way harder than it used to be. And no one, including her roommate Joni, seems to understand Frankie at all.

As she learns how to cope in about a million drills, a hundred different specialized classes, and is maybe even falling for super-hot and super-smart cadet Jack Wattson, can Frankie prove to everyone that being a fashionista doesn’t mean she can’t succeed?


2 Drink Me Potions


**The Academy comes out May 22, 2018**

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

I’m not sure quite what to make of The Academy but if I could sum it up in two words, it’d be discipline + fashion-obsessed.

Do those 2 words even go together? Have you ever really thought of them in the same context? ‘Cause I didn’t. Before.

Frankie was kind of a naive and spoiled girl at the beginning of the book. She didn’t like to the follow the rules, but at least she felt guilty for the things she knew she did wrong. And it wasn’t a matter of me hating her or anything. Frankly, sometimes I felt for her and was totally on her side of things with the injustice of her situation, and sometimes I just wished she’d get it into her head that she should listen to what people are saying to her. It was all very confusing sometimes!

Being sent to military school for an amateur fashion blogger sounds like a recipe for trouble. She’s free-spirited in some sense, and everything that flows through her brain wasn’t altogether very serious at first. Yet her character lacked the fun and lightheartedness of other fashion-loving protagonists like those seen in The Devil Wears Prada or the Shopaholic series.

Going into the book, I was rather excited. I needed some lighter fluff after the heavier sci-fi/fantasies I’ve been diving into lately! And for the most part, The Academy delivered enough of that for me. The plot centres on Frankie finding her way through military school and where she fit into it all. Her upbringing in her community that reared her towards self-thinking and sometimes pure selfishness/disrespect for others wasn’t ALWAYS her fault, but it was nice to see her develop an attitude of pride for her country and those who serve for the greater good of all. I liked that this didn’t mean she had to give up her love of fashion in order to do that, which to me is a greater message that says you can grow and become better while still maintaining the good in that you love doing.

The love interest, Jack, was nice. Yep, nice. I can’t think of too many other words to describe him. Physically he’s strong and tall and the kinda guy you’d want to hover and protect you from the bad in the world. Personality-wise, he’s sweet and worthy of putting your trust in him.

But. Yes, there’s a but. It’s like something’s missing. It’s like this is your general packaging of an altogether great-guy-that-your-protagonist-should-totally-fall-for. He has some back story that makes us feel for him (and the main character), but he’s just not too memorable. Their LOVE STORY isn’t too memorable.

The relationships with the few other secondary characters were all right too. I personally liked Frankie’s roommate, Joni, a lot. Out of any other name thrown out into this story, she’s really the only other person who features greatly. Frankie’s friendship with her kept her grounded when the going got tough, when it seemed their TAC officer was out to get her or all the training in the world just couldn’t help her get any better. I liked that there was emphasis on another relationship besides the romantic side that got highlighted because friendships are just as important.

I mean, there’s not too much more to say about this book. It had a good message to send out. Frankie grew up a bit and became someone I could be more proud of than she was initially. And then it ended. Very abruptly, I might add. I’m not sure if the author was planning on adding anything else after, but I suppose it left it a bit more open-ended for you to interpret/imagine how it could’ve turned out. It was happy, don’t get me wrong! But all together, at the end of the day, not too memorable after the last pages were closed.

Overall Recommendation:
The Academy did its best to create a fun story that also had a good message at the end about learning some discipline while maintaining the good pieces of who you are even as you grew for the better. Frankie was an all right protagonist, although she could be rather naive and wrong in her actions at times. While the romance and friendships created in this military school were nice, some of it lacked that extra umph that would’ve helped translate this story into something more memorable. When all is said and done, this book was fast-paced and NICE, but not profound enough to make it stick out in a genre full of similar stories.