Category: 4 out of 5 stars

The Boy Next Story by Tiffany Schmidt Review

Title: Bookish Boyfriends: The Boy Next Story

Author: Tiffany Schmidt

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance

Series: Bookish Boyfriends, book two

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

               I
borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               A Date with
Darcy, the first book in the Bookish Boyfriends series, was one of my favorite
books of last year, so when I found The Boy Next Story sitting on a shelf in
the new book section, I took it home. It’s been sitting on the top of my stack,
and as soon as I finished Save Me the Plums, I dove in. This installment in the
series, The Boy Next Story, focuses on the youngest Campbell sister, Aurora,
Rory for short. Shy, artistic, and overshadowed by her older, more vivacious sisters,
she is harboring a desperate and unrequited crush on their next-door neighbor, Toby
May, who just so happens to have a crush on her sister Merri. Her grades are
slipping, and she’s totally not gelling with the assigned English book, The
Great Gatsby. She is assigned Little Women soon after by Ms. Gregoire. When she
is put in an advanced art class and starts exploring her talents, she finds
that there’s competition there, too. When a once in a life time arises, Aurora
must decide if she will let her fear rule her, or if she will gain the courage
to live her life as she pleases.

               I
really enjoyed this book, quite possibly even more than A Date with Darcy. One
of my favorite things about this hilarious, sweet series is how it focuses on
the Campbell family as a unit and each of the sisters individually. I loved how
shy, quiet, artistic Rory got the spotlight this time, and I really related to
her. I was captivated by her sweet, slightly insecure voice, and the pacing was
great. I adored her, honestly, for all her flaws: prickly, shy, snarky and
sarcastic, but artistic, kind, and gentle also. I loved reading about her
struggles: with math, the place in her own family, her identity and her
unrequited crush on Toby. The chemistry between the two of them was explosive,
full of sparks and barbs and so much passion that at times, I was screaming, giggling,
and tearing my hair out. This book made me feel a lot of things. Rory’s
character development from the baby sister unhappy with life to a young woman
unafraid to go after everything she wants, unapologetically. All of the other
characters provided great foils to her, and I loved the way they all played a
role in helping Rory find her courage. I adored the ending. At times, Rory
seemed a bit whiny, but it wasn’t a huge deterrent. I loved her, and the whole
Campbell family, and I’m hoping to the book gods that there’s another book in
store! I have so many questions! The bottom line: Warm, hilarious, romantic and
heartfelt, I loved The Boy Next Story! I hope that there’s more in store for
the Campbell clan! Next on deck: Again but Better by Christine Riccio!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-boy-next-story-by-tiffany-schmidt.html

Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl Review

Title: Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir

Author: Ruth Reichl

Age Group: Adult

Genre: Nonfiction

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

               I
borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               I’ve
always been a great fan of Ruth Reichl, from watching her on food shows such as
Top Chef and reading her restaurant reviews in The New York Times. I’ve been curious
about her other books of food writing, so when I heard about Save Me the Plums
on Instagram, I reserved it at my local library. It’s been sitting on the top of
my stack for a while now, and I wanted to make sure I was able to review it
before I had to return it. This wry, honest and sidesplitting memoir had me
laughing, gasping, and crying as I followed her journey to become the manager
of the now defunct Gourmet magazine. I very much enjoyed it, though I was
hoping that the focus would be more on the food. However, it’s definitely got
me curious about the rest of Riechl’s extensive body of work, as well as food
writing and nonfiction in general. It also makes me sad that I didn’t realize
Gourmet’s existence before it went under.

               Ruth
Reichl, in essence, is a writer. That’s how she’s made her living for a number
of years, so she was, to say the least, surprised when she was approached to
take over a classic food magazine, Gourmet. Which also inspired her to plunge
into the world of food and food writing, not unironically. Feeling intimidated and
completely out of her depth, she decides to go for it anyway, eager for an
opportunity to try something new and be closer to her family for the first time
in years. Hilarity ensues, and so does innovation: Reichl publishes the controversial
David Foster Wallace article about boiling lobsters alive, and more besides. Seeing
the magazine through many changes, I really feel that the magazine, classic,
was really in its modern heyday when she was heading the charge. This book was
thoughtful, entertaining, tender and surprisingly funny; I’d really like to explore
more of her work. As I said, I’d really liked it if more food was involved, but
it was very good! I’m happy I read it, and I’m really looking forward to
reading more of Ruth Reichl and food writing in general. The bottom line:
Hilarious and grim, thoughtful and entertaining, I loved Save Me the Plums!
Next on deck: The Boy Next Story by Tiffany Schmidt!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/06/save-me-plums-by-ruth-reichl-review.html

Kingsbane by Claire LeGrand Review

Title: Kingsbane

Author: Claire LeGrand

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Empirium Trilogy, book two

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               Furyborn was one of my favorite books of 2018, so ever since, I’ve been eagerly looking forward to Kingsbane. And for the most part, the sequel lived up to my expectations, but there were definitely parts that fell short. Nonetheless, if I wasn’t fully invested before, I most certainly am now! Full of dark magic, secrets, lies, and romance, Kingsbane picks up where Furyborn left off, with both Rielle, and her daughter, Eliana, racing against time to stop a terrifying future that could save the world, or destroy it. The prophecy both young women chafe against is about to come to pass, and across the centuries they fight for their own agency, even if it means losing everything…

               I don’t want to say too much about the plot for the people reading who haven’t read it yet, but I will say that LeGrand has penned a worthy sequel to my favorite book in her body of work. As with all sequels, it took me a little bit to remember what was going on, but once I did, the pacing was breakneck and I couldn’t pull away. Even when I was doing something else, the book was always in my thoughts, and my mind was forever working to unravel Kingsbane’s secrets.

I loved the characters, as well as their development; if I’m going to read a book, I have to engage with the characters, or nothing’s going to happen. I adored all of the characters, but Eliana, Rielle, Corien, Audric, Ludivine, and Simon were particular standouts. The pacing was breakneck, and the constant twists and turns had me gasping or screaming, either out of excitement or frustration. The flow of the events between Rielle and Eliana was smooth, though at times it was hard to keep up with all the different countries and customs. More than once, I had to refer to the map and appendix of the novel. However, this book was wonderful. For all its minor flaws, it was great. And that ending, though; my jaw hit the floor! I cannot wait for the last book! I can only hope that it’s going to answer all of the burning questions that Kingsbane has born. I can’t wait to see how this dark, feminist trilogy ends! The bottom line: Though at times a bit heavyhanded, and it was a bit difficult to keep up and keep everything straight, I really enjoyed Kingsbane, and I’m looking forward to the third book! Scary, romantic, and thrilling, I loved Kingsbane! Next on deck: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/06/kingsbane-by-claire-legrand-review.html

Honor Bound by Ann Aguirre and Rachel Caine Re…

Title: Honor Bound

Authors: Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: The Honors, book two

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               Honor Among Thieves was one of my favorite books of last year, and so I’ve been eyeing the sequel since before it came out. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while now, and once I realized that I couldn’t renew it anymore, I pushed it to the top of the stack as soon as I was finished with Somewhere Only We Know. I devoured Honor Bound in two and a half days, and for the most part, this sequel did not disappoint! It took me a little while to remember what was going on, as it’s been over a year since I read Honor Among Thieves, but this series: It’s so unique and well-written. I’m such a sucker for space opera novels, and Honor Bound totally delivered. There were times when I was a bit lost, and the worldbuilding got a tad muddled, but I’m totally obsessed with these books, and I can’t wait for the sequel! I mean, this book has everything: aliens, war, secrets and political intrigue, love and friendship and danger! These characters and the story they tell are so unique and original to me, and I will never forget this ragtag band of space explorers! Aguirre and Caine have, yet again, stolen my heart and sent it soaring past dark, dangerous galaxies!

               Honor Bound picks up where Honor Among Thieves left off, with Zara, Bea, and Nadim scrambling to deal with the new vicious, voracious alien threat, a hive-mind horde known as The Phage. With their Leviathans, Nadim and Typon, both injured from the aftermath of the battle Honor Among Thieves ended with. Forced to go even deeper into uncharted territory, our Honors must make their way to a thriving crime planet known only as The Sliver. Once there, they must strike a dark, Faustian deal with a powerful alien being to stop The Phage. But as it turns out, a nearly forgotten threat has begun to stir, and our heroes must tap into their every ability in order to survive, or it could mean the destruction of the entire universe as they know it…

               This book; it was so awesome! Honor Among Thieves was one of my favorite books of last year, so needless to say, I’ve been very much looking forward to the sequel. And for the most part, it really lived up to my expectations. It took a little bit for me to remember what was going on, but once I did, I was absolutely captivated. Aguirre and Caine have created a dangerous, enticing world that I wish I could live in forever. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately at home again, among some of my favorite characters. I feel so close to them; they feel like my family. I also enjoyed Zara and Nadim’s narration. One of my favorite things about this book was the character development; I was cheering throughout the book for Zara, Bea, and their friends and Leviathans. The twists and turns, though, were what really made this book shine: I was laughing, crying, gasping and screaming as the book went on. And that ending! Oh, my goodness, it was crazy! I can only hope and pray to the gracious book gods that there will be a sequel! The only little flaws I have with this book was that the worldbuilding was a bit muddled, and it was difficult to keep up with all the different names and types of aliens, as well as planets, but that was only minor, and it didn’t distract from the main narrative too much. Honor Bound was well worth waiting for and like its predecessor, Honor Among Thieves, it has become one of my favorite books of 2019! Ann Aguirre and Rachel Caine make an unstoppable and dynamic team, queens of young adult! The bottom line: Lush, thrilling, high-octane, and unforgettable, I loved Honor Bound! I can only hope that there’s more to come in the future! Next on deck: Kingsbane by Claire Legrand!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/05/honor-bound-by-ann-aguirre-and-rachel.html

Fairest of All: A Tale of The Wicked Queen by …

Title: Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen

Author: Serena Valentino

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Villains, book one

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

               I
borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               I was
reading an article a few weeks ago and discovered that Serena Valentino’s
series of retellings of Disney villains’ origins is becoming a TV series, so I
decided to start it. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while now, but
I couldn’t renew it anymore, so I pushed it to the top of my stack as soon as I
was finished with The Guest Book. I adored this adaptation of Disney’s first
villain; it really gave a new perspective on how Grimhilde became The Wicked
Queen. It humanized her, and I very much enjoyed it. I can’t wait to read the
rest of this book series, especially since it’s officially concluding in July!

               Snow
White and the Seven Dwarves. A beautiful girl, a jealous queen, an apple, and a
happy ending. We think we know the story. But what about The Wicked Queen’s
side of things? How did she become so evil? Fairest of All imagines an origin
for Grimhilde, the only daughter of a renowned mirror maker. Plucked from obscurity
when her father passes away, she marries the King and becomes Snow White’s
stepmother. Fairest of All documents the queen’s decline from a loving wife and
mother to a monster capable of killing her own child. I really liked this book;
I love retellings, but one of my favorite things is one told from the point of
the view of the villain. The writing was simple but gorgeous, and the pacing
was really nice. I liked how it took the Disney movie and expanded on it. This
book really made me sympathize with The Wicked Queen, and I loved watching her
descent into the darkness. The ending, too, really redeemed this book; I loved
the continuity of it. One thing I can’t help wondering about, though, is the
mysterious Odd Sisters. If it hadn’t been for them, would Grimhilde have stayed
good? Or would her envy and insecurities have gotten the better of her anyway?
A thought-provoking novel about beauty, envy, insecurity, and society’s heavy
and unrealistic expectations for women, I never imagined that before now, I
would ever feel sorry for The Wicked Queen! I can’t wait for the next books in
this deliciously dark new series! The bottom line: Beautifully written, dark
and seductive, I loved Fairest of All, and I can’t wait to read more from
Serena Valentino! Next on deck: America Was Hard to Find by Kathleen Alcott!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/05/fairest-of-all-tale-of-wicked-queen-by.html

Slayer by Kiersten White Review

Title: Slayer

Author: Kiersten White

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Horror

Series: Slayer, book one

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

               I won a signed copy of this book in a contest from Fierce Reads. Thank you so much!

               Shows like Buffy and Angel were things that I was obsessed with as a teenager because they contained all of my favorite things: monsters, magic, darkness, high stakes, and forbidden love. I haven’t seen either of them in years. But I ordered this book from my local library and before I could finish it, I had to take it back. Which was just as well, because a few days later, I received a copy of Slayer from Fierce Reads, and it was signed! I was so excited. It’s been sitting on my ever-growing book stack for a few months now, and once I was finished with The Everlasting Rose, I started Slayer. Taking place in the same universe as Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer but after the events of the comics. Dark, hilarious, heartfelt and scary, I loved this take on the Buffyverse by one of my favorite authors! One of my favorite books of 2019!

               Nina Jamison-Smythe knows her place in the world. She and her twin sister, Artemis, are both in training to become Watchers, the organization of individuals that help guide Slayers.  She is the healer, the medic, the gentler of the two. She lives in her sister’s shadow, something she both takes refuge in and resents. But when Buffy literally breaks magic, The Watchers are rendered obsolete. Consumed by rage and hatred toward Buffy and Slayers in general, whom she blames for her father’s death, Nina is determined to make a difference in the world. But everything changes when she becomes a Slayer. And not just a Slayer, but the very last Slayer in existence. Forced to bear the burden of powers she never wanted; people begin to die around the castle. Enmeshed in the mystery, Nina must use her newfound powers to save the people she loves. But is she meant to save the world? Or to destroy it?

               Kiersten White is one of my favorite authors, and so when I found out that she was writing a novel set in the Buffyverse, I was so excited! And I was lucky enough to receive a free, signed copy! I loved this book; it felt like I was returning to a place that I had dearly missed, without even knowing! Right out of the gate, I loved it so much. It had all of the darkness, humor, and mystery of Buffy. It’s not a requirement to be a Buffy fan to read this book; it can be read without knowing anything about the comics or show. But I loved the little Easter eggs I kept finding. The pacing was breakneck, and I loved the characters, but especially Nina; I really related to her. I loved her character development, her growth from a timid, resentful child to a fiercely powerful and kind young woman who uses her Slayer powers for the good of her loved ones. Artemis, Leo, Honora, and the girls’ mother were also distinctive characters who provoked a strong reaction with me. Dark, terrifying, and full of humor and heart, this book felt like coming home. I very much enjoyed it, and I can’t wait to read Chosen! At times, Nina butting heads with everyone got on my nerves; it kind of took away from the book, but overall, this series starter was strong, and I can’t wait for the next book! Next on deck: The Guest Book by Sarah Blake!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/05/slayer-by-kiersten-white-review.html

The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton Revi…

Title: The Everlasting Rose

Author: Dhonielle Clayton

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Belles, book two

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

        I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

           Dhonielle Clayton is one of my favorite authors, and my favorite book in her body of work was this book’s predecessor, The Belles. I’ve been salivating for the sequel to that explosive, thought-provoking and dark series debut since I finished it. So, when I realized there was a copy sitting on the shelf of my local library, I went and grabbed it as soon as I possibly could. It’s been sitting on the top of my library stack for a while, and I was delighted when I realized that it was next in line. Unfortunately, this sequel didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but I greatly enjoyed it nonetheless. Action-packed, thoughtful, shocking and romantic, I loved The Everlasting Rose!

               The Everlasting Rose picks up where The Belles left off, with Belle favorite, Camellia Beauregard, fleeing the royal palace from the mad princess, Sophia. Realizing the rotten core that lies under the luxurious, glittering veneer of the country of Orleans, she is rightfully furious and desperate for revenge and freedom for herself and her sisters, her fellow Belles. Camellia soon realizes that revolution is brewing right under the surface of everything, and that to do what is right, she may have to bargain with an even more secretive enemy, The Iron Ladies. With the help of her sisters, Edel and Amber, and her bodyguard, Remy, Camellia must decide if she is strong enough to see this mission through, or fall into a web of intrigue and deception that she may never claw her way out of…

               I really liked this book! It fell a little short for me, in comparison to The Belles, but it was a solid sequel. I just hope that this isn’t the end! The ending seemed as if it was a cliffhanger, but I couldn’t tell for certain. Sequels unnerve me, every time: all too often, it just doesn’t hold up to the first book. But overall, The Everlasting Rose really delivered! It took me a little while to remember what was going on, but once I did, I was all in. This book grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go, not for a moment. I also adored all of the characters, particularly Sophia, but it was Camellia that really stole the show for me. I loved her development from a naïve, ambitious girl to a fierce, angry warrior of a young woman. I also really liked the way that old and new characters were brought in, to great effect. But I think my favorite part of this whole book was the way that Clayton peeled back the extravagant, glittering layers of Orleans to expose its black, rotten heart.  I really enjoyed the way that Clayton finally elaborated on Orleans, and how it was created, but we finally got to what I was most curious about: The Belles and how they were created. The ending was good, but I’m hoping that there’s more: It can’t end like that! I still have so many questions! Dhonielle Clayton has created a beautiful, dark, gilded world full of thorns and secrets and intrigue, and I was absolutely captivated by it! I really hope that there’s more because this book was just not enough! The bottom line: Dark, beautiful, romantic and twisted, I loved The Everlasting Rose, and I really hope that there’s more, because I won’t be able to deal with it if there isn’t! Next on deck: Slayer by Kiersten White!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/05/the-everlasting-rose-by-dhonielle.html

Cape May by Chip Creek Review

Title: Cape May

Author: Chip Creek

Age Group: Adult

Genre: Historical Fiction

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

               I was given an advanced readers’ copy of this book by the publisher, Celadon Books. Thank you so much!

               I started alternating between library books and review copies, so when I was finished with The Vanishing Stair, I decided to push Cape May to the top of my stack. This book is fantastic, gorgeously written and full of heart and emotion. I wouldn’t put it any particular genre; to me, it was a drama. But I absolutely adored it. The prose was gorgeous, the pacing breakneck, and I loved the way that it was a coming of age story. Lush, emotional, painful and satisfying, I loved this debut from a brilliant new talent! Chip Creek has penned an unforgettable first novel that had me in awe. I was crying, laughing, cringing, and there were several times that I had to close the book and walk away to process my feelings.

               Cape May opens with two young, lovestruck newlyweds, Effie and Henry, on their honeymoon. Given Effie’s uncle’s beach house for the week, they are drunk on one another. But boredom begins to set in when they realize they’ve come to the oceanside town on the off-season when there is no one there. But their ennui is soon alleviated when they become friends with three bored, young rich people: effervescent, bubbly Clara, smooth jokester Max, and his younger half-sister, Alma. Pulled into the drama of these strangers, Effie and Henry soon find their young marriage in jeopardy, and they must decide if their new love is worth saving…

               This book was wonderful and nearly perfect. It came as a surprise in the mail, and as soon as I was done with The Vanishing Stair, I dove in. The prose was gorgeously wrought, and the pacing was breakneck. I was utterly seduced by the empty seaside town of Cape May; the setting was vivid and beautiful, and I could almost taste the salt in the air, feel it fall on my skin. I also loved all of the characters in this book, particularly Effie, Henry, and Alma. This book was beautiful, seductive, and erotic; it was a debut that swept me away and stole my heart. Watching Effie and Henry ingratiate themselves into this group of wealthy, bored young people were both stunning and painful. As the book went on, I found my heart breaking, for Effie, in particular. This book was about fidelity, lust, marriage, and friendship, but most of all, it was about watching a new marriage crumble in the summer heat. I really didn’t like Henry as the book went on; he was foolish, selfish, and was rationalizing his indiscretions in the worst, possible way. By the end of the book, I hated him. But the ending saved the book for me; I loved the way that it ended. It was beautiful, heartbreaking, lush and seductive, and I loved every moment of it, even the ones that were painful and made me cry. The bottom line: A beautiful, poignant novel about lust, fidelity, marriage, and desire, I loved Cape May! Next on deck: The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/05/cape-may-by-chip-creek-review.html

Wrecked by Maria Padian Review

Title: Wrecked

Author: Maria Padian

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

     I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               Wrecked was the April book pick for one of the clubs I go to, Young Adult for Adults. I’ve been curious about Wrecked since I first heard about it. I attempted to read it when it first came out, but I had to return it before I could. Wrecked is a searing, thought-provoking novel about consent, agency, and the insidious, pervasive nature of rape culture. I’ve always enjoyed books that have been pulled straight from the headlines, but this book did more than that. It showed the taboo topic of rape of college campuses, through the eyes of two witnesses: Richard, roommate to the rapist, and Haley, roommate of the victim. Sucked into the issue despite wanting to stay out of it, these two characters provide an outsider’s point of view on a traumatic and dehumanizing event. This book was heavy and at times it was really hard to get through, but I’m happy I read it. This book should be required reading for everyone.

               Haley’s roommate, Jenny, claims that she was raped after drinking at a college party, by Richard’s roommate, Jordan. Jordan says that it was just a hookup, but Jenny did not consent. Soon, word starts spreading around the entire college, and it seems no one but the two involved really know what happened. Against their will, both Haley and Richard are drawn into the conflict, and lines are drawn as an investigation is carried out. Who is telling the truth? Who is lying? Will justice be served properly, or will a monster walk free?

               This book was hard to get through, I’m not going to lie. It was heavy and at times uncomfortable. But this book is absolutely necessary reading, for all ages, boys and girls alike. Searing, thought-provoking, and unfortunately true to life, reading Wrecked was like watching a trainwreck: terrifying and unforgettable, but you’re unable to look away, even if you want to. The point of view is split between Haley and Richard, two bystanders turned witnesses. The pacing was breakneck and I was immediately transfixed. I really liked the way that Padian used the point of view of two bystanders to get a read on the situation; it was a new, refreshing way to look at an uncomfortable, but all too necessary, topic. I also liked Haley and Richard as characters, and the way that they developed as the novel went on. At first, they didn’t want to be involved, then, through both of their roommates, they are entangled in the terrible, confusing web of lies and deception that surround the case. One of my favorite parts of it was the bittersweet ending because it was very true to life. Jenny and Jordan were also characters that leaped off the page for me. They were a stark contrast to one another, and I hated Jordan. My heart broke for Jenny, as well as Haley and Richard. At times, there were so many different characters that I had to go back and reread; it got hard to keep track of everything at times. Nonetheless, this book was heart-wrenching, thought-provoking, searing, and absolutely necessary. Required reading for all and highly recommended! The bottom line: A searing, thoughtful and necessary book that pulls no punches, I loved Wrecked! Next on deck: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/04/wrecked-by-maria-padian-review.html

Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith Review

Title: Bloodleaf

Author: Crystal Smith

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Bloodleaf, book one

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               I found Bloodleaf on a book recommendation list for the new books of January 2019, and I ordered it. It’s been sitting on my book stack for a while, and I recently had to start over entirely. But I chose not to take Bloodleaf back, as I had already started it and was invested. With Bloodleaf, debut author Crystal Smith pens a dark, surprising fantasy that evokes Grimm’s Fairy tales and classics, like The Lord of the Rings. It wasn’t perfect, there were some flaws, but overall, this was an amazing book, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store next for Aurelia, Conrad, and Zan!

               Aurelia is the princess of Renalt, the daughter of the late king. Unwanted, surrounded by spirits, and forbidden from using her powerful blood magic, she is forced to flee to the country of her betrothed after a brutal assassination attempt. Disguising herself as a common girl, she finds the happiness she’s never known in her old life. As she begins to actively hone her magical skills, Aurelia finds herself falling for a man that can’t rule at her side. But the ghosts that haunt her so completely refuse to leave her be, and she finds herself giving in, despite the prejudices she’s carried all her life. But she soon finds herself trapped in a web of deceit, evil, and magic that only she can stop. Will she be able to balance the weight of the crown and her newfound freedom?

               This book was such a pleasant surprise! I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect with Bloodleaf, but I really enjoyed it! I loved the way that it took the classic fantasy tropes and turned them on their heads. The pacing was breakneck, and I loved Aurelia’s voice. I also loved the way that the author paid homage to classic fairy tales, specifically Grimm’s fairy tales and The Goose Girl. I also really liked the worldbuilding and the magical system of the book. But what really won me over about this debut was the characters. Aurelia was the princess no one wanted, who was forced to grow from a meek, passive girl into a strong and powerful young woman who shamelessly fights for those she loves. Lisette, Conrad, Kate, Nathaniel, and Zan made really good foils for her. Zan, though, was my absolute favorite! I almost related to him more than even Aurelia. The ending—oh, my goodness, it was crazy! I was absolutely blown away. I can’t wait for the sequel! There were a lot of times when I had to go back and reread because there were so many different characters and places to remember, and some of the romance between Zan and Aurelia felt a little contrived. Nonetheless, Crystal Smith has created a fun, dark fantasy that left me reeling, and I’m so excited for what’s coming next! The bottom line: Dark, magical, and surprising, I loved Bloodleaf, and I’m so excited for the sequel! Next on deck: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon!

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