Tea & Book Chat: Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton (Tiny Pretty Things #1)

Tiny Pretty Things is the first book in a series by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton focusing on the competitive world of ballet.  As soon as I heard the pitch (Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars) I knew this book would be something I would enjoy.  There’s something so fascinating to me about these girls who have such dedication to their talent, follow a strict set of rules and how cutthroat they can be toward one another because they’re competing in an industry with such limited job placement.  The story focuses on three main characters, Bette, Gigi and June and it follows them throughout an entire year at their prestigious Manhattan ballet school. The book is full of drama and it’ll constantly keep you on your toes, never giving you a clear indication of who to trust.  This is one book I devoured and I plan to read the sequel as soon as it debuts.

Tiny Pretty Things has three main POVs that the story is told from.  June is a half Korean girl who is always cast in the understudy role.  She struggles with never having known her father and she after an incident, she never allows herself to get close to anyone else at the school.  Gigi is the new girl and unlike the majority of her class, she’s of African American descent.  She’s much more carefree, having moved from California, and she is by far the most personable, grounded and genuine of the girls.  Lastly, there’s Bette, the stereotypical mean girl and Queen Bee of the ballerinas.  She’s constantly trying to juggle living up to her sister’s legacy, her alcoholic and mostly absent mother, and her own insecurities.  Each character has a compelling point of view of the events that occur while they’re at school and I especially appreciated the diversity between each of them.  There were moments where I felt like each girl was my favorite character.  There are other students who play a predominant role in the story from love interests, to frenemies and even to teachers.  Tiny Pretty Thingsis a book I would suggest reading for the characters alone, though if you struggle with unreliable narrators, you may take issue with the story.

Tiny Pretty Things

On top of the compelling characters, I also fell in love with the setting of the story.  I love that it takes place in Manhattan and having lived in or under an hour away from Manhattan for almost my whole life, I will never tire of seeing the city through someone else’s eyes.  Add the ballet school to the mix, which allows for the excitement of finding out who will be cast in which roles and just how far certain dancers will go to achieve their goals, and I was completely hooked.  The entire time I was reading, I felt as though I was so close to unraveling a mystery but no matter how close I came, there were still pieces missing.  Even as certain things are revealed, there’s still more unanswered questions to keep you wondering.  Tiny Pretty Things also deals with many serious issues that teenagers face including bullying, racism, eating disorders and drug addiction and it’s all done very well.

Final Thoughts:  Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton is a whirlwind of a story set at an elite ballet academy in New York City.  It follows a diverse cast of characters during their trials and tribulations as they ready themselves for the competitive world of ballet.  The book is full of unreliable narrators, backstabbing ballerinas, and it tackles some very serious issues that many young girls face.  I loved everything about this book from the characters to the setting to the plot and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys drama filled YA.  I cannot wait for Shiny Broken Pieces which debuts later this year!
Rating 5

Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars in this soapy, drama-packed novel featuring diverse characters who will do anything to be the prima at their elite ballet school.

Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette’s desire to escape the shadow of her ballet star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever. When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best. (via Goodreads)

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Tea & Book Chat: Split Second by Kasie West (Pivot Point #2)

**Warning! If you haven’t read Pivot Point which is the first book in the duology by Kasie West, there will be spoilers ahead.  You can read my review of the first book instead if you haven’t started the series yet!**

Split Second by Kasie West is the second book in the Pivot Point duology and it is everything I wanted out of this story.  Split Second picks up after the events of the first book, as if Addie has chosen to live with her mother and the events in that timeline have played out, and those in her father’s timeline have never happened.  Needing an escape from the reality of the horrific timeline she chose, Addie decides to go and visit her father in the normal world for 6 weeks.  Once again, Kasie West’s character, plot, relationships and writing had me completely engaged and I ended up loving Split Second.

Since Addie has left the compound but there are still important events going on there, the narrative switches between Addie and Laila (whereas in the first, each chapter was narrated by Addie in each possible timeline).  I really loved getting more acquainted with Laila’s voice and becoming more familiar with the struggles she faces with her family and her guilt over Duke from her actions in Pivot Point.  Laila gets entangled with some questionable people in Addie’s absence but it’s all in an attempt to help her best friend.  The way Laila’s storyline plays out in Split Second is an exciting tale that’s the perfect mix of snark, charm and will have you feeling sympathetic.  Plus, Laila gets a love interest.  And an actual love interest, not just a boy she wants to make out with and then get rid of and it’s honestly the most adorable relationship ever.  I ship them so hard<3

1

Meanwhile, in the norm world, Addie is dealing with her evolving powers and the fact that she has all of these memories and familiar feelings for people she is supposedly just meeting, most specifically of Trevor (her love interest in her dad’s timeline from Pivot Point).  Suddenly, Addie develops the ability to manipulate time in a way she was never capable of before.  She makes the mistake(?) of using those powers in front of Trevor several times, a serious infraction that the Compound would punish her for, and he begins to get suspicious of her.  It’s so difficult to see them in anything other than a romantic relationship but I was just so happy they got to have more interaction because their relationship is so swoony.  In Split Second, there’s another mystery afoot that’s keeping the stakes high throughout the story.  Addie’s father has lied about something very important involving their family and  they’re also being monitored by agents from the Compound.  Things get SUPER intense and just like in Pivot Point, Kasie West will have you unable to put this second installment down until you know the truth.

Final Thoughts:  Split Second is the conclusion to the Pivot Point duology by Kasie West and if you’re hesitant to read it because the first book is so perfect, fear not, Split Second completely honors it’s predecessor and the story lives up to that of the first installment.  One major change is there is now a dual narrative between Addie in the norm world and Laila in the Compound.  It’s a pleasure to spend time in Laila’s head as well and there is another mystery that’ll keep you completely engaged in the story.  Kasie West’s characters are everything and you’ll be rooting for each of them (minus Duke) throughout the book.  If you’ve read and loved Pivot Point but haven’t yet read Split Second, you absolutely must.  It gives such a satisfying ending to Addie and Trevor’s story.Rating 6

Life can change in a split second.

Addie hardly recognizes her life since her parents divorced. Her boyfriend used her. Her best friend betrayed her. She can’t believe this is the future she chose. On top of that, her ability is acting up. She’s always been able to Search the future when presented with a choice. Now she can manipulate and slow down time, too… but not without a price.

When Addie’s dad invites her to spend her winter break with him, she jumps at the chance to escape into the Norm world of Dallas, Texas. There she meets the handsome and achingly familiar Trevor. He’s a virtual stranger to her, so why does her heart do a funny flip every time she sees him? But after witnessing secrets that were supposed to stay hidden, Trevor quickly seems more suspicious of Addie than interested in her. And she has an inexplicable desire to change that.

Meanwhile, her best friend, Laila, has a secret of her own: she can restore Addie’s memories… once she learns how. But there are powerful people who don’t want to see this happen. Desperate, Laila tries to manipulate Connor, a brooding bad boy from school—but he seems to be the only boy in the Compound immune to her charms. And the only one who can help her.

As Addie and Laila frantically attempt to retrieve the lost memories, Addie must piece together a world she thought she knew before she loses the love she nearly forgot… and a future that could change everything. (via Goodreads)

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Tea & Book Chat: With Malice by Eileen Cook

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  This is no way swayed my opinions.*

With Malice by Eileen Cook is a new young adult novel that falls into the thriller genre.  I feel as though there’s a lack of good YA thrillers out there but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed With Malice.  I have to think that the story is largely inspired by a real case that graced our televisions several years ago about two American girls who went abroad in Italy and while there, one of the girls was murdered and the other was accused (although I cannot remember if she was convicted or not).  I didn’t follow the story but my mom was heavily invested so I would constantly catch snippets every time I went in the kitchen to bake.  In With Malice, we piece together the story of Simone and our narrator Jill on their study abroad experience in Italy.  Jill wakes up in the hospital with no recollection of the accident she was in or the death of her best friend.

With Malice

While reading With Malice I formed a very strong hypothesis about who I believed was at fault for the accident and I have to say that I was surprised when I was completely wrong.  Stories where I’m unable to correctly glean an ending are few and far between so on that merit alone, I really enjoyed the story.  It’s challenging to review a book like With Malice because, being a thriller, there are certain pieces of information that it’s important for the reader to discover in real time as the characters in the novel do as opposed to secondhand, through a reviewer. So these are my very censored feelings as to why I enjoyed With Malice.  1) The storytelling – The story is narrated by Jill who cannot remember the past six weeks of her life, so she is very unreliable despite how badly she wants to remember.  I really liked that there were breaks between every few chapters when the reader would get a view of what the general public’s opinion of the case is. 2) The setting – the story is largely set in a hospital but the flashbacks to Italy are quite enjoyable. 3) The characters – Jill is an intelligent girl, bound for Yale come Fall, Simone is (was) her best friend right up until she died in the accident, Jill’s dad is a huge pain in the butt who I couldn’t stand but he is believable and most of all, Anna, Jill’s hospital roommate with an unabashed personality and a strong regard for those she holds close to her.  4) The reveal – as I stated before, I really did not see that coming!  I have to say that the pacing was a little slow until we got closer to the end and while there were new memories resurfacing, there wasn’t always something noteworthy happening in the present time.

Final Thoughts:  With Malice by Eileen Cook is an exciting look at a homicide case that has engrossed the nation.  The story is told by the survivor of the accident who is accused of murdering her best friend and is struggling to regain her memory of the last six weeks.  If you’re interested in thrillers I would definitely suggest reading With Malice because the mystery will hook you and keep you engrossed even if it feels like nothing is happening at that moment in the story.  It’s also worth noting the mixed media sources which give the reader a look into the outside world which has also become obsessed with finding justice for Simone.

Rating 4

A read about a teenage girl who wakes up in a hospital bed and cannot remember the last six weeks of her life, including the accident that killed her best friend–only what if the accident wasn’t an accident?

Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron wakes up in a hospital room, leg in a cast, stitches in her face and a big blank canvas where the last 6 weeks should be. She comes to discover she was involved in a fatal accident while on a school trip in Italy three days previous but was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident…wasn’t an accident. Wondering not just what happened but what she did, Jill tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life. (via Goodreads)

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Tea & Book Chat: The Skylighter by Becky Wallace (The Keepers’ Chronicles #2)

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  This is no way swayed my opinions.*

**Warning! If you haven’t read The Storyspinner which is the first book in The Keepers’ Chronicles duology by Becky Wallace, there will be spoilers ahead.  You can read my review of the first book instead if you haven’t started the series yet!**

The Skylighter by Becky Wallace is the conclusion to The Keepers’ Chronicles duology.  It picks up exactly where The Storyspinner leaves off and things have gotten pretty intense.  I’ve been hearing that you’ll enjoy The Skylighter most if you re-read The Storyspinner prior to jumping back into the world.  Luckily for me, I read The Storyspinner last month so the details were already very fresh in my mind and I wasn’t at all confused when I began reading. I’m so happy that this series was told over two books instead of being stretched into a trilogy because that really would’ve been unnecessary.  Every aspect of the story is described in full and each storyline is wrapped up at the conclusion.  Overall, The Skylighter provides a very satisfying ending.

Following in the footsteps of its predecessor, The StoryspinnerThe Skylighter works really well with multiple perspectives.  The switching narratives were one of my favorite aspects of the first book it continued to be in the final installment.  Each character uniquely contributes a portion to the larger story being told and the reader would not get as much out of the tale without having firsthand knowledge of each character’s motivations.  The second book focuses much more on The Keepers whereas Johanna and Rafi had been the stars of book one.  I have to say that I was completely surprised by Dom, Rafi’s younger and less mature brother.  He really underwent a ton of character growth in The Skylighter and I found myself looking forward to his chapters.  I remained completely invested in Johanna and Rafi and their relationship took a ton of turns that I hadn’t been expecting.  Becky Wallace did a fantastic job crafting their story.

The Skylighter

Again, I was enthralled with the world-building in the first book and the conclusion continued to impress. We traveled to places outside Santarem and saw how the other provinces within the kingdom were being managed.  I think it was really important for both Rafi and Johanna to see what goes on throughout the entire kingdom instead of having a limited perspective of only one section.  The Keepers’ Chronicles duology is unlike any fantasy series I’ve ever read.  The story and circumstances are completely original and it’s heavily influenced by hispanic culture and The Skylighter is much more magic heavy than The Storyspinner.  Plus, I really loved the ending.

Final Thoughts: The Skylighter by Becky Wallace is the perfect ending to The Keepers Chronicles’ duology.  The world-building is unique and unlike any other fantasy world I’ve ever read.  The characters are diverse and the world is inspired by Hispanic culture.  There were constant twists as the story wraps up and all of the occurrences are far from predictable.   If it’s been a while since you read The Storyspinner I would definitely recommend giving it a re-read before jumping into the conclusion.

Rating 5

Johanna and Rafi are in a race against time to save their country before a power-mad Keeper destroys everything they hold dear in the “enthralling magical world” (Cinda Williams Chima, author of The Heir Chronicles) introduced in The Storyspinner.

As the last of the royal line, Johanna is the only person who can heal a magical breach in the wall that separates her kingdom of Santarem from the land of the Keepers, legendary men and women who wield elemental magic. The barrier protects Santarem from those Keepers who might try to take power over mere humans…Keepers who are determined to stop Johanna and seize the wall’s power for themselves.

And they’re not the only ones. As the duchys of Santarem descend into war over the throne, Johanna relies more than ever on the advice of her handsome companion, Lord Rafael DeSilva. But Rafi is a duke too, and his people come first. As their friendship progresses into the beginnings of a tender relationship, Johanna must wonder: is Rafi looking out for her happiness, or does he want the throne for himself?

With war on the horizon, Johanna and Rafi dodge treacherous dukes and Keeper assassins as they race to through the countryside, determined to strengthen the wall before it’s too late…even if it means sacrificing their happiness for the sake of their world. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry

The Love that Split the World by Emily Henry is a truly beautiful novel.  I had been highly anticipating it’s debut ever since I laid my eyes on the stunning cover.  It’s pitched as a contemporary romance heavily laced with time travel, or as Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife.  Having never read / seen either of those, they didn’t sway my decision in either direction, although after reading I began to think that comparison is inaccurate.  My general feeling is that The Love That Split the World is a magical realism novel with hints of sci-fi.  It follows a girl named Natalie who receives hypnopompic visions from a seemingly all knowing visitor named Grandmother.  When the novel begins, Natalie gets her last visit and is warned by Grandmother that she has three weeks to save him.  Having no idea who the him is, Natalie sets out to solve the mystery and save someone’s life.

Emily Henry did an amazing job with this novel, to the point that it’s hard to believe it’s her debut.  Every single character is fully fleshed out, no matter how minor a role they may play.  For instance, Natalie’s brother Jack has less than the equivalent of one full paragraph written about him throughout the book but I have an incredibly strong grasp on his character from the pertinent pieces of information Henry offered. I felt so impressed upon finishing and reflecting on this point.  While the novel is a contemporary romance, it’s the friendship aspect that made it a worthwhile read.  Natalie and her best friend Meg are made for each other.  They have the most intelligent conversations, their humor perfectly compliments one another, and they love and trust each other completely.  Meg even believes in Natalie’s visits from Grandmother.  That’s friendship right there.  I seem to the only one of my friends who guessed one of the twists early on but it in no way detracted from my reading experience. There’s a ton of mystery and intrigue to keep you interested even if you solve one aspect.

The Love that Split the World

There were only two complaints I had about this book but neither of them at all hindered my glowing opinion of the story.  The Love That Split the World is beautifully written, well thought out, accomplishes everything it sets out to do and then some, follows a diverse character, and portrays a realistic array of relationships that will have you emotionally invested in every character.  With all of that being said, the one relationship that it took me a little while to buy was the one between Natalie and her love interest Beau.  Their attraction was a bit insta-lovey for my liking and even after I accepted it, I still felt like Natalie was too good for Beau and that I must be missing something.  My second complaint is a spoiler so instead of writing it here, I’ll leave you with a link to the Spines With Wines Book Club discussion.

Final Thoughts:  The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry is a stunning and genre-bending debut novel.  If you appreciate magical realism and science fiction, you’ll definitely be intrigued by Natalie’s story and the mysterious visits she receives from Grandmother.  The book explores just about every relationship a teenager could have but it’s the friendship between Natalie and Meg that really stands out.  If you’re on the fence about this one I would definitely recommend reading it!

Rating 5

Natalie Cleary must risk her future and leap blindly into a vast unknown for the chance to build a new world with the boy she loves.

Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start… until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.

That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.

Emily Henry’s stunning debut novel is Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife, and perfectly captures those bittersweet months after high school, when we dream not only of the future, but of all the roads and paths we’ve left untaken. (via Goodreads)

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BookTube: Spines With Wines: The Love that Split the World by Emily Henry

For our February book club, Cassie, Melissa and I chose to read The Love that Split the World by which is ta debut genre-bending novel by Emily Henry.  This month’s episode is slightly belated due to how busy I’ve been recently.  You may notice my fancy new background which hasn’t been organized just yet but I’m working on it!  This was a really fun book to review, especially since we all generally like the book but we each gave it a different star rating.  Let me know what you thought of The Love that Split the World if you read it and you can also find all of the links to Cassie and Melissa’s social media and blogs in the YouTube description bar!

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Tea & Book Chat: A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  This is no way swayed my opinions.*

A Fierce and Subtle Poison is Samantha Mabry’s debut YA novel following a teen named Lucas who lives in Puerto Rico. Lucas is not well liked within the community, especially by the local police officer, because he is mostly viewed as a troublemaker who has everything handed to him.  He spends most of his time drinking and hooking up with local girls and he doesn’t have any concrete direction for his future but he expects to work for his father once he’s old enough.  One day, a girl from the states goes missing and her case because the talk of the island.  Then several more girls disappear and their common denominator is Lucas.  On the same day Lucas’s girlfriend disappears, he receives a mysterious note from local legend Isabel, a girl with green skin and green hair who is said to be poisonous to the touch.

A Fierce and Subtle Poison is a diverse read as it takes place in Puerto Rico.  While the main character, Lucas, is half white, half Dominican, all of the supporting characters (except his hotel mogul father and Dr. Ford, a botanist living in the supposedly cursed house at the end of Calle Sol) are native to the island.  The text within the novel is predominantly English but throughout the story, it’s also interspersed with some Spanish.  Having taken Spanish for 5 years in school, I found it mostly easy to follow with the exception of a few words here and there.  If you’re unable to speak or understand any Spanish, you’ll still be able to figure out what the author is saying for the most part (although I did struggle with a couple of words and then curse my memory for not having remembered them once I figured them out).  However, the description of locations within Puerto Rico and the beaches on the islands were absolutely beautiful.

A Fierce and Subtle Poison

Because the characters are living on a tiny island, everyone seems to know everyone’s business.  I appreciated the lore of the island and how all of the senoras would tell younger generations the same legends.  The one legend we read about most is that of Isabel, the supposedly cursed girl who lives with her father Dr. Ford in the house at the end of Calle Sol.  Dr. Ford is a botanist who tends to the Caribbean garden in his backyard and people fear his house because of the circumstances under which his wife left (his wife was a local island girl who was said to be cursed as a child which is why she bore an anomaly such as Isabel).  Lucas becomes involved in their lives during his quest to find one of the missing girls and I won’t spoil what happens from there.  One complaint I have is that the pacing of the story was very uneven.  The beginning of the story is very slow, interesting, but slow and by the final pages I was worried that the story wouldn’t have enough time to tie everything up. The conclusion is open ended so if that’s a thing that bothers you, I would skip this one.

Final Thoughts:  A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry is an intriguing debut YA novel as it is a blend between magical realism and a thriller.  The Puerto Rican island setting is described beautifully and the legends of the cursed girl who’s touch is fatal will keep you intrigued as everything unfolds.  The pacing is a bit inconsistent and the conclusion is open ended but overall I found it to be a quick and enjoyable read.

Rating 3

In this stunning debut, legends collide with reality when a boy is swept into the magical, dangerous world of a girl filled with poison.

Everyone knows the legends about the cursed girl–Isabel, the one the senoras whisper about. They say she has green skin and grass for hair, and she feeds on the poisonous plants that fill her family’s Caribbean island garden. Some say she can grant wishes; some say her touch can kill.

Seventeen-year-old Lucas lives on the mainland most of the year but spends summers with his hotel-developer father in Puerto Rico. He’s grown up hearing stories about the cursed girl, and he wants to believe in Isabel and her magic. When letters from Isabel begin mysteriously appearing in his room the same day his new girlfriend disappears, Lucas turns to Isabel for answers–and finds himself lured into her strange and enchanted world. But time is running out for the girl filled with poison, and the more entangled Lucas becomes with Isabel, the less certain he is of escaping with his own life. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan (Reign of Shadows #1)

Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan is the first book in a series (it’s unconfirmed whether it’s a duology / trilogy or other but it feels like a duology) that is heavily inspired by Rapunzel.  I hadn’t originally planned on reading this one until I read positive pre-publication reviews and then the closer I looked at the cover the more I fell in love with it.  And of course, once I found out the Rapunzel aspect I couldn’t wait another minute for it!  The story follows a girl named Luna who’s spent her life living in a secluded tower due to her complicated royal family history and a boy name Fowler who has a past of his own to contend with.  The pair are living in a world where an eclipse occurred 17 years ago and there hasn’t been light since.  Humans live in fear of dangerous creatures called Dwellers and bats have grown to four feet in size.

Throughout Reign of Shadows there were plot twists at every turn.  I do not want to spoil anything because it was really exciting to discover new things as the story unfolded and I would hate to take that away from anyone.  As the story progressed, I developed very strong feelings for these characters.  They’re polar opposites and the relationship they form leads to a deep connection.  Luna is a unique heroine for several reasons, all of which will not be revealed here.  She is not your typical gorgeous lost rightful heir to the throne.  Luna is a kind spirit and she makes decisions with her heart even when they might not be the best ones whereas Fowler has lost someone in his past and refuses to allow himself to care for anyone because of how bleak their society is.  He’s purely logical in his decision making and despite his rough exterior, he lives by a code of conduct.  My heart was racing during the last 50 pages or so of the book and I needed a hug once I finished reading.

Reign of Shadows

I loved seeing all of the parallels to Rapunzel in Regin of Shadows and I’m curious if they’ll continue in the second installment or if it will branch off into even more of its own story, similar to how The Lunar Chronicles handles itself.  Sophie Jordan did an incredible job with the worldbuilding and convincing me that this is a society I would never want to experience. I couldn’t imagine the constant feeling of living in fear with little hope that anything will change in the future.  The imagery of the forest and the scenes with the Dwellers painted such a clear picture in my mind which doesn’t always happen for me while reading.  My only complaint is that while I was initially excited that the book is so short (without acknowledgements it’s under 300 pages), I really wanted more, especially upon reaching the end.  The story ends very abruptly with a gut wrenching cliffhanger and I need the second one as soon as possible.

Final Thoughts:  Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan is the first book in a fantasy series set in a world which is heavily inspired by Rapunzel.  Jordan crafted an enchanting story in a terrifying and bleak society and I couldn’t get enough of it.  I have so many feelings for Luna and Fowler and I need them to be together because I am shipping them so hard.  Opposites attract and while they could not be more different, each has found their way into my heart.

Rating 5

Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

With lush writing and a star–crossed romance, Reign of Shadowsis Sophie Jordan at her best. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass #0.1 – #0.5)

The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas is a bind up of the five prequel novellas (The Assassin and the Pirate Lord, The Assassin and the Healer, The Assassin and the Desert, The Assassin and the Underworld and The Assassin and the Empire)  leading up to the events in Throne of Glass.  Overall I really enjoyed this collection and the insight it allowed into Celaena’s past.  Many of these events are casually mentioned throughout the books I’ve read (I’m currently up to Queen of Shadows and I was told to read the novellas prior to starting the fourth book) but I wanted to have a fuller understanding of everything before we get to the final two books.  There were definitely some novellas that I liked better than others and I was surprised that I didn’t like Celaena as much in certain stories as I do in the Throne of Glass series as a whole.  She’s very arrogant and a bit less likable but I appreciated seeing her past and the events that have slightly humbled her.

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The Assassin and the Pirate Lord

I love pirates so I knew going in that this would be a story for me.  In The Assassin and the Pirate Lord we really see the initial seeds of friendship and more between Celaena and Sam.  Their personal morals and the decisions they had to make played a huge role in why I enjoyed this tale so much.

Rating 5

The Assassin and the Healer

This was my least favorite of the novellas but by no means was it dissatisfying.  It shows another side of Celaena (sadly there’s no Sam) and how she cannot avoid helping innocent people.

Rating 3

The Assassin and the Desert

This is one of my favorite of the novellas.  Arobynn forces Celaena to leave Rifthold and travel to the Red Desert where she is to be trained by and get a letter of approval from the Mute Master who is sort like an Arobynn from the South.  Celaena is befriended by another female assassin in this story, her patience is majorly tested by the Mute Master, and she undergoes some unconventional training.  And there’s this one scene on horses that was such an excitement to read!

Rating 6

The Assassin and the Underworld

This novella was probably my second least favorite.  I loved that Celaena and Sam teamed up together and again, there’s a lot of growth between their characters but the ending is not my favorite.  I think Celaena should’ve known better at this point considering what a top notch assassin we are always reminded that she is.  I can’t say I ever liked Arobynn but this story really just put my loathing for him over the edge.

Rating 3

The Assassin and the Empire

This is the story. The one where the thing happens that’s talked about all the time in Throne of Glass. My heart shattered into a million pieces while reading this one.  SJ Maas, you are cruel.

Rating 5

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Tea & Book Chat: The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace (The Keepers’ Chronicles #1)

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  This is no way swayed my opinions.*

The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace is the first book in a fantasy duology that follows multiple characters in an historical type setting with hints of magic.  I had been wanting to read this book ever since I had read some reviews and Simon and Schuster had sent me an unsolicited finished copy last year but for some reason it took me until now to pick it up.  Once the release date of book two crept closer, I felt the time was right to delve into The Storyspinner, especially since it’s a duology so there won’t be years of waiting between books which is a huge plus.  Overall, I found The Storyspinner to be a really fun read.  The world is a bit unconventional, the story is intriguing and the cast of characters are a hoot! I’m really looking forward to the sequel, The Skylighter.

The Storyspinner follows a large cast of characters and the narrative often switches between each of them, sometimes even mid-scene.  It took me a little while to get used to the constant jumps, but in the end, the story benefited from having so many POVs.  My favorite story to follow was that of Johanna and Rafi.  Rafi is a young duke who’s father died and is trying to do the best in his position despite missing out on years of training he believed he would have.  He relies heavily on his mother, a quick-witted master of the political games in their society, and he tries to set the best example for his younger, free-spirited and less mature brother Dom.  Johanna is the daughter of two performers and she herself is a Storyspinner, performing songs for audiences.  Her father Arlo tragically dies in the middle of a performance and while it seems accidental, there are some suspicions surrounding his accident.  Their narratives become interwoven with those of Jacaré, Pira and Leão, a traveling troupe seeking out the murderer of several victims, all matching Johanna’s description. Much mystery!

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As I read further, I got more comfortable in the world Becky Wallace set up and I found myself completely enjoying the lore.  I was expecting more of a fantasy world which I think fell short a bit in the beginning but the subtle hints of fantasy interspersed with the historical feel ultimately kept my interest.  Plus, the set up for The Skylighter is pretty incredible.  Other notables that contributed to my enjoyment were Johanna’s profession (I never thought of a story-teller as a Storyspinner but I love that word for her career path), the romance (especially the relationship that forms between Johanna and Rafi.  They start off hating each other but as we all know, there can be a fine line between love and hate) and the magic we’re introduced to.  By the end of the first book I was really hoping there were more pages left.  Also, here’s hoping the map is printed in The Skylighter!

Final Thoughts:  The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace is a strong first half of The Keepers’ Chronicles duology.  It follows a vast cast of characters and there are two main plots which eventually become interwoven.  The story is full of intrigue and mystery and while it is technically a fantasy, it reads similarly to an historical novel with some elements of magic.  Becky Wallace did such a fantastic job of world-building, developing each character, and crafting a plot that will more than hold your interest.  I’m definitely looking forward to The Skylighter later next month!

Rating 5

Drama and danger abound in this fantasy realm where dukes play a game for the throne, magical warriors race to find the missing heir, and romance blossoms where it is least expected.

In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.

The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.

With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

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