Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
Posted on Friday, November 18th, 2016 by Emily May

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey CoulthurstOf Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
Published by HarperCollins on November 22nd 2016
Genres: Fantasy, LGBT, Young Adult
Pages: 400
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An atmospheric and romantic debut fantasy perfect for fans of Ash and The Winner’s Curse.
Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile kingdoms. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a land where magic is forbidden.
Now Denna has to learn the ways of her new kingdom while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine, sister of her betrothed.
When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, they discover there is more to one another than they thought—and soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.
But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.

Let’s start with the positive: there’s an LGBT romance. And also there’s… er, nope, sorry, that’s all I got for you.
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One Star

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
Posted on Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016 by Emily May

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica CluessA Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom on Fire, Book One) by Jessica Cluess
Published by Random House Children's Books on September 20th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 416
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I am Henrietta Howel.The first female sorcerer in hundreds of years.The prophesied one.Or am I?
Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she's shocked when instead of being executed, she's invited to train as one of Her Majesty's royal sorcerers.
Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the chosen one, the girl who will defeat the Ancients, bloodthirsty demons terrorizing humanity. She also meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, handsome young men eager to test her power and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her.
But Henrietta Howel is not the chosen one. As she plays a dangerous game of deception, she discovers that the sorcerers have their own secrets to protect. With battle looming, what does it mean to not be the one? And how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?

“Now, listen, Miss Howel. I’ve never seen another girl who could do what you’ve done, and I’ve searched for four years. I’ve never met another sorcerer who could burn and walk away unscathed.”

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One Star

The Graces by Laure Eve
Posted on Tuesday, October 25th, 2016 by Emily May

The Graces by Laure EveThe Graces by Laure Eve
Published by Faber & Faber on August 30th 2016
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 432
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Everyone said the Graces were witches.They moved through the corridors like sleek fish, ripples in their wake. Stares followed their backs and their hair.They had friends, but they were just distractions. They were waiting for someone different.All I had to do was show them that person was me.
Like everyone else in her town, River is obsessed with the Graces, attracted by their glamour and apparent ability to weave magic. But are they really what they seem? And are they more dangerous than they let on?
This beautifully-written thriller will grip you from its very first page.

Every girl with eyes loved Fenrin. But I was not like those prattling, chattering things with their careful head tosses and thick, cloying lip gloss. Inside, buried down deep where no one could see it, was the core of me, burning endlessly, coal black and coal bright.

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One Star

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
Posted on Monday, August 22nd, 2016 by Emily May

Nevernight by Jay KristoffNevernight by Jay Kristoff
Published by Macmillan on August 9th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 384
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In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.
Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.
Now, a sixteen year old Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic — the Red Church. Treachery and trials await her with the Church’s halls, and to fail is to die. But if she survives to initiation, Mia will be inducted among the chosen of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the only thing she desires.
Revenge.

“The three suns hanging on a chain about his throat tried to gleam, but the clouds in the crying sky told them no.”

If I were to write a review in the style of this book, it would begin something like this:

I turned these pieces of former tree, the midnight ink recounting a narrative tumefied by metaphoric wanderings. It pained, O readers, it pained! Persevere, I thought. Quitting now would be a mark of failure, like a baby bird that flutters its wings for the very first time, stretching them out with the promise, the hope, of flight, only to return, defeated, to its nest.

I didn’t finish it. Judge away, O readers, judge away, but I could not force myself through. It was a nightmare. I was so freaking bored. And I had to go read the blurb to remind myself what the book was about. Nevernight is so difficult to get through that I got to a point where I was just counting the pages until I could return to Tana French. Ulysses is easier to read than this book.

You know what it reminds me of? Shatter Me . A denser version. I once said that Shatter Me was not a novel; it was a collection of similes and metaphors that do not make sense. That is a fantastic description for this book! A collection of similes and metaphors that do not make sense. Clearly this works for a lot of people, but it was not for me.

The book is heavy. Lots of descriptions, overuse of similes and metaphors (did I mention that they don’t make sense?) until I had no idea what was going on. I read sentences and thought “Huh?!” It hurt trying to figure out what Kristoff was saying.

There were the ones that I understood but were so eyeroll-worthy that I wished I didn’t:

“Mia sighed. Took her temper by the earlobe and pulled it to heel.”

And then there were all the ones that I really just didn’t understand:

The girl felt the words in her chest. In the deepest, darkest place, where the hope children breathe and adults mourn withered and fell away, floating like ashes on the wind.
**
If her face were a puzzle, most would put it back in the box, unfinished.
**
Something had followed her from that place. The place above the music where her father died. Something hungry. A blind, grub consciousness, dreaming of shoulders crowned with translucent wings. And she, who would gift them.

No, seriously, what the fuck is happening?

And everything is so overwritten and melodramatic. To borrow the quote Anna used: “She introduced her boot to his partner’s groin, kicking him hard enough to cripple his unborn children.”

???????????????? Just say you kicked him in the balls! ^This does not better writing make.

I can’t do it. I’m going to go bury myself in a place where love blossoms and life finds itself carried away on the wings of wonder. Read a better book, that is.

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One Star

The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye
Posted on Wednesday, May 18th, 2016 by Emily May

The Crown’s Game by Evelyn SkyeThe Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye
Published by HarperCollins on May 17th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 416
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Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.
And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know.  The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.
Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?
For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.
And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love . . . or be killed himself.
As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear . . . the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

She was the sun, and he was a mere rock, drawn in by her gravity. He needed to be closer, to feel her magic, to touch . . . her.

Anyone for another boring, fluffy fantasy full of magic and murder instalove, love triangles and ballgowns?

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One Star

The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight
Posted on Monday, April 25th, 2016 by Emily May

The Outliers by Kimberly McCreightThe Outliers by Kimberly McCreight
Published by HarperCollins on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Mystery & Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 352
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It all starts with a text: Please, Wylie, I need your help. Wylie hasn’t heard from Cassie in over a week, not since their last fight. But that doesn’t matter. Cassie’s in trouble, so Wylie decides to do what she has done so many times before: save her best friend from herself.
This time it’s different, though. Instead of telling Wylie where she is, Cassie sends cryptic clues. And instead of having Wylie come by herself, Jasper shows up saying Cassie sent him to help. Trusting the guy who sent Cassie off the rails doesn’t feel right, but Wylie has no choice but to ignore her gut instinct and go with him.
But figuring out where Cassie is goes from difficult to dangerous, fast. As Wylie and Jasper head farther and farther north into the dense woods of Maine, Wylie struggles to control her growing sense that something is really wrong. What isn’t Cassie telling them? And could finding her be only the beginning?

I made a real effort to convince myself this book was worth more than one teacup. After all, I really enjoyed the author’s adult novel – Reconstructing Amelia – and the beginning was more cliche than outright awful.

But this book is nuts. Abso-freaking-lutely nuts. And it just kept getting worse. Like, laughably bad.

As I said, we didn’t start out on the best terms. I’ve seen variations of these YA crime/mystery stories many times and I’ve lost count of how many involve a missing/dead best friend, a hot guy who was involved with said best friend (a douche who turns out to be not so much a douche), a mysterious text, and two teens deciding to solve a mystery without telling any parents or police – and, seriously, they never have a good reason for doing this!

In this book, Wylie’s friend – Cassie – has gone missing. While her dad goes to help Cassie’s mom, Jasper (Cassie’s boyfriend) turns up at the door with a strange text from Cassie. They must go driving across state lines to find her! And they must tell no one! OTT, unbelievable thing #1 .

Despite suffering from agoraphobia since her mom died, Wylie takes a deep breath, grabs her coat and leaves her house for the first time in forever. As easy as clicking her heels together! OTT, unbelievable thing #2.

Then they set out on this long road trip, which is a) boring, and b) when not boring, absolutely ludicrous. Near-death experiences, chases through the woods, and (view spoiler). OTT, unbelievable thing #3. Plus, I started to hate Wylie for ignoring her poor dad’s concerned texts for so long.

Also – are these two TSTL or what? Cassie sends another mysterious text saying the people she’s with are “not who I thought they were” and Wylie is worried. Oh, worried are you, Wylie? How’s about calling the police instead of tootling along to where your friend is in trouble with an unknown number of people? There could be fifty of them with guns, for all you know. OTT, unbelievable thing #4.

And then we get to the final stretch of the novel, which is so ridiculous it is actually funny. One twist after another after another. But they’re not good twists. I promise not to give away any spoilers, but the only way it could be more insane is if Wylie was actually an alien with a mission to destroy earth and she’d been lying to us all this time (I’m only slightly exaggerating).

It’s also possible – though still undetermined – that the author may be taking us towards a complete genre change by the end. Who knows, though? It was so messy, I think I might have got lost.

The novel jolts to a close with a melodramatic cliffhanger that made me snort with laughter. Everything about this book is so farfetched to the point of being farcical. I mean, let me just tell you the last word, just the single last word of the book (spoiler-tagged, of course, even though it doesn’t give away anything): View Spoiler »

Sorry, I need to go laugh some more.

One Star

Once Upon a Kiss by Robin Palmer
Posted on Friday, March 25th, 2016 by Aimee

I received this book for free from Penguin, Speak in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Once Upon a Kiss by Robin PalmerOnce Upon a Kiss by Robin Palmer
Published by Speak on January 5th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: ARC, print ARC
Source: Penguin, Speak
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So much has happened since 1986, and Zoe Brenner is about to find out just how much.
From the author of the book that inspired the Disney original movie Geek Charming!

It's 1986 and sixteen-year-old Zoe Brenner's world revolves around Depeche Mode, Judd Nelson, exercise-obsessed parents, and her best friend Jonah. Then one day, in a freak Fun-Dip choking accident, Zoe falls unconscious, and awakes in the year 2016. So much has changed, and Zoe needs Jonah to help her make sense of it all. But in this life, Zoe is the most popular girl in school, and she soon realizes this Zoe doesn't associate with nerds like Jonah. As Zoe juggles new technology, attempts to hide her enthusiasm for poet blouses, and manages to keep her super jock boyfriend at bay, she tries to rekindle her friendship with Jonah and use her popularity for a good cause. Will she ever get back to 1986? And more importantly, does she want to?

A Review Told in Reaction Images: Once Upon a Kiss
(aka Sometimes I Write Short, Harsh Reviews)

#1: The Plot

Once Upon a Kiss is filled with nothing but filler, filler, filler. And plot holes. Lots and lots of plot holes. (Basically NOTHING that happens is ever explained.)

#2: The Heroine

Zoe is a judgemental “special snowflake” character with absolutely no redeeming qualities. The sad part is, she THINKS she’s totally nice and open-minded, when in fact she’s the quickest one to stereotype and judge. The girl-on-girl hate was just… ugh.

#3: The Writing

This book was so full of pop culture references that it was going to explode. Dude, I get it. Some part of the book’s set in the 80’s–I got that from the 231287 you reminded me so. And by that, I mean the heroine takes every opportunity to TELL us it’s the 80’s.

#4: The Characterization

EVERY. SINGLE. CHARACTER. IN. THIS. BOOK. IS. BASED. ON. A. STEREOTYPE. They’re basically just cardboard cutouts with no depth to them whatsoever.

#5: The Romance

This is the only saving grace of the entire novel for me. Again, it was your typical high school romance, but you guys know how much I love best-friends-to-lovers stories.

Overall, way too shallow and full of teenage drama for my tastes. With annoying language and one-dimensional characters, Once Upon a Kiss was just not the read for me.

One Star

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard
Posted on Monday, March 21st, 2016 by Emily May

Glass Sword by Victoria AveyardRed Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Published by HarperCollins on June 7th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 416
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Victoria Aveyard’s internationally beloved #1 New York Times bestseller is now in paperback!

Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. There, before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.

To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess, and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays the only certainty is betrayal.

This sweeping story of palace intrigue, class hierarchy, and deception will keep readers hurtling along, desperate to find out Mare’s fate. Her honesty and determination, quick wit, and no-holds-barred attitude will surely make readers fall in love with her.

And I am revealed for exactly what I am – a particularly stupid fish, moving from hook to hook, never learning my lesson.


^This is a pretty good summary of the whole book.

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One Star

The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins
Posted on Thursday, March 10th, 2016 by Emily May

The Great Hunt by Wendy HigginsThe Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins
Published by HarperCollins on March 8th 2016
Genres: Retelling, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 432
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Wendy Higgins, the author of the New York Times bestselling Sweet Evil series, reimagines a classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale with The Great Hunt, a dramatic, romance-filled fantasy with rugged hunters, romantic tension, and a princess willing to risk all to save her kingdom.
When a monstrous beast attacks in Eurona, desperate measures must be taken. The king sends a proclamation to the best and bravest hunters: whoever kills the creature will win the hand of his daughter Princess Aerity as a reward. The princess recognizes her duty but cannot bear the idea of marrying a stranger—she was meant to marry for love—until a brooding local hunter, Paxton Seabolt, catches her attention. And while there’s no denying the fiery chemistry between them, Princess Aerity feels that Paxton’s mysteriousness is foreboding, maybe even dangerous.
Paxton is not the marrying type. Nor does he care much for spoiled royals and their arcane laws. He is determined to keep his focus on the task at hand—ridding the kingdom of the beast—but the princess continues to surprise him, and the secrets he’s buried begin to surface against his wishes.

“Everything will be all right, Mama. Father will figure something out.”

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One Star

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
Posted on Monday, January 11th, 2016 by Emily May

Passenger by Alexandra BrackenPassenger by Alexandra Bracken
on January 5th 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 496
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In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles, but years from home. And she's inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she's never heard of. Until now.
Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods-a powerful family in the Colonies-and the servitude he's known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can't escape and the family that won't let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, his passenger, can find. In order to protect her, Nick must ensure she brings it back to them-whether she wants to or not. Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods' grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home forever.

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One Star

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Hi! I'm Emily May but feel free to call me Emily. I'm a book lover, beta-reader, and Politics graduate from the North of England.

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