Dani & Jessie's January Recap

Sunday, January 31, 2016
January was a bit of a rough start for me. I had some home issues (my hot water heater exploded and ruined the wood floors in the second bedroom) and my first 20 reads had only one 5-star read. Which was a reread of a favorite named The Night Circus - you maaaay have heard of it. I had a few 4-stars and some very enjoyable 3-3.5's but it was not the best month of reading. I also didn't manage to read as many books per month as I usually do but I feel like my mojo is coming back just in time for a February.

Also -- I've only bought four books this month. Two of which were Kindle Daily Deals so I got them for about $2. Not too bad!

Books Read: 24

Notable Favorites: 
The Young Elites by Marie Lu (The Young Elites #1)
The Rose Society by Marie Lu (The Young Elites #2)
Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson (review to come later this year!)
The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine (The Impostor Queen #1)
The Immortal Heights by Sherry Thomas (The Elemental Trilogy #3)

Reviews Posted:
Discussion Review: Underwater by Marisa Reichardt - ★★★
Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto  - ★★★
The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt -  ★★
Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers - ★★
Discussion Review: Worlds of Ink and Shadow  by Lena Cockley - ★★★
The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine - ★★★★
In A Handful of Dust by Mindy McGonnis - ★★★
Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace - ★★★
January DNFs

Favorite Bookstagram:

Important Posts: Something New.... 

January wasn't my most productive month. While I did rally in the second half, the most "reading" I did in the first twelve days was the wiki summaries of Goodkind's books to figure out which one had the evil chicken. Still, I may have only read eight books, but one of them was 1100 pages, which is basically three regular books. I'm counting it.

Books Read: 8

Notable Favorites: 
Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
The Countess by Lynsay Sands
Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

Blog Posts:
TTT: Top Ten 2015 Releases I Meant To Get To
Review: The Countess by Lynsay Sands  - ★★★★★
TTT: Top Ten Books Recently Added to My TBR

Favorite Quote: 

(My actual favorite quote is too spoilery to put here, but if you've read WoR, let me say Swallowed by the Sky.)

That was it. That was how I died. Kayla Davis, age twenty-four. Cause of death: Sexed into oblivion by one Michael Bradbury, Internet billionaire and master of cunnilingus. 
—Rebekah Weatherspoon, SO SWEET

Discussion Review: Underwater by Marisa Reichardt

Thursday, January 28, 2016
Title: Underwater
Author: Marisa Reichardt
Genre: contemporary
Series: N/A
Pages: 288
Source: publishers via NetGalley

“Forgiving you will allow me to forgive myself.”

Morgan didn’t mean to do anything wrong that day. Actually, she meant to do something right. But her kind act inadvertently played a role in a deadly tragedy. In order to move on, Morgan must learn to forgive—first someone who did something that might be unforgivable, and then herself.

But Morgan can’t move on. She can’t even move beyond the front door of the apartment she shares with her mother and little brother. Morgan feels like she’s underwater, unable to surface. Unable to see her friends. Unable to go to school.

When it seems Morgan can’t hold her breath any longer, a new boy moves in next door. Evan reminds her of the salty ocean air and the rush she used to get from swimming. He might be just what she needs to help her reconnect with the world outside.

Underwater is a powerful, hopeful debut novel about redemption, recovery, and finding the strength it takes to face your past and move on.

Like we have done so many times before, today's review is a discussion review between me and Lyn of Great Imaginations.

Jessie: Underwater by Marisa Reichardt. It’s gotten a lot of attention the last few weeks. Thoughts? Feelings? Impressions? Mine were, in general, positive, but this was not a favorite for me.

Lyn: I have some very conflicting throught. There was some good things in the novel, things that I loved to see in a YA novel. But then there were some things that really annoyed the hell out of me. Which ones do you want to start with?

Jessie: Let’s go with the issues we noticed and wind up with the positives that we liked. Cause while this was a mixed bag, I did like it more than I had problems with it. I didn’t like that Morgan’s personal evolution is jumpstarted by a guy. I know you had the same issue -- I just don’t like the trope of a hot guy’s presence “inspiring” or “fixing” a main character.

Lyn: DING! You get points there. That was the very first issue that jumped out at me. “Love” and “cute boy” are so cliche and just reinforce that girls are nothing until they have a boy to impress or try to date. I think that is a really sad message to send to any woman: change for a guy. Only improve to make yourself date-able. Not for yourself, but for the opposite sex.Then top top it all off, Evan was a real asswipe. He hardly knows Morgan, and when she starts to have a break down, and mind you, this is a girl who is a shut in due to some personal issues she is facing, he tells her to stop having a pity party, and then accuses her of blowing him off? He knows NOTHING of her situation. He uses everyone else’s grief to try to make her feel bad for making him feel bad. Everyone reacts differently to a horrible situation, and he just judged her without all of the facts, and she was the one that felt bad. Evan seemed to do no wrong, and was this savior character in the novel, when he labeled someone’s breakdown, after a major breakthrough (which go hand and hand) as a PITY PARTY.  FUCK THAT BOY. There is a time and a place to use very straight forward language, but that wasn’t it, and you don’t use it with someone going to therapy for facing such issues.

Okay, I think I have it all out. That just really pisses me off.

Jessie: Well, I didn’t have the antipathy for Evan that you did. I did have major major issues with how he acted at times, but he also does go out of his way to connect with Morgan, to encourage her when he can. I get that maybe his words could be chosen with more care but he is also a teenage boy who lost his cousin, lost his home, and yet still tries to reach out to another person in pain. I really liked that. He wasn’t perfect -- far from -- but he wasn’t a brash, macho dude with no time for anyone else’s pain. I mean Morgan clearly needs real help -- and GETS IT in therapy, another positive for this novel -- and Evan tries. He’s imperfect, but he tries.

Lyn: I think that impression at the start colored my opinion, because I only found him trying at the end. I found him only doing what he wanted. He never seemed to care about Morgan’s boundaries, like when she was upset when his mother found them together, or only getting warmed back up to her when she started to talk to him. I thought of him as someone who found Morgan worth it if it was worth his time. But I’m also bitter pretty angry in general, so it is interesting to see the different points of view when it comes to Evan. I think I would have blown him off forever, and that would have been that.

What I kinda thought would be cool if it was Taylor who would of helped Morgan after Evan dropped her, like, in a really cool twist, a girl/girl friendship. I would have LOVED more Taylor. She was so AWESOME.

Jessie: I did like that Morgan realizes her snap judgment of Taylor based on her appearance/own prejudices was way off base. All aspects of that interaction were so realistic to teen girls, and even adult women. I liked that Morgan’s path to mental health wasn’t shown to be the only one. I really appreciate that therapy was shown in a positive, healthy, manageable light (more of this, please!) but I do love that Taylor was shown to be coping with the trauma in her own way.

Lyn: I know that poor Taylor was kinda used as the “other girl” angle, but Morgan did learn an important lesson, and I think it did help Morgan, in a way, to see how the tragedy changed her, and she started to see that something so horrible changing you can be a beautiful thing, if you want it to be beautiful, or it can be ugly if you let it bloom into something horrible. And when I found Morgan’s full story, I understood her sorrow and why she held in so much blame, and why she held herself accountable for everyone’s misery. That one one great thing about the novel - a teenage girl would have seen that small act of kindness as something horrible, and would think that it was her fault. That was very true to life. I would have certainly thought it was my fault if I had done the same thing. Taylor seemed to show off her scars with pride, while guilt was chewing away at Morgan, and I think Morgan started to want more. She wanted forgiveness and life.

Jessie: I thought the plotting in this story was excellent. I was worried that the buildup might exceed the strength of the “reveal” of what happened that day but Reichardt really nailed it. The emotions and guilt that Morgan bottled up were so hard to read, especially when you learn what she so desperately regrets and blames herself for. Morgan is realistic in a lot of aspects but dealing with the fallout of all those lives lost and people hurt… I can’t even imagine the mental toll weighing on her constantly. I thought her characterization regarding that was handled so so well.

Lyn: I was surprised that Morgan’s characterization was handled so well, since some other parts fell apart so easily. Like at times, some of the hard parts got the Stephanie Meyer Resolution Technique - difficult situations were just kinda resolved with no resistance. For example, the whole part with Morgan’s father - that didn’t feel very realistic. It felt very Life Time Movie Special-y. You don’t dodge rehab for years due to some very serious PTSD and then just suddenly come around because your teenage daughter yelled at you. But then, the relationship with Ben and Morgan was written perfectly, and Ben wasn’t a super-special kid, he was a regular kindergarten boy, and that made him so loveable, and it was so cute to watch the two of them interact, so the book balanced between believable and then glurgy.

Jessie: I am going to have to disagree with you about her dad. While not all people have a “wake up moment” sometimes it does and can happen that way. I could see the way the author slowly revealed the issues with her dad as adding up to a firmer resolution in the second half of the novel. I didn’t seem abrupt or too fast to me; this had clearly been a years-long battle and seeing that view of himself -- from his son’s eyes and hearing it from his daughter -- could be enough for him to finally extend a hand and accept help. I don’t think that all of a sudden he will be healthy and a part of the family again, but that steps are being taken towards that goal.

Lyn: You have a valid point - sometimes it does that one moment for everything to come crashing down. I worry that the root cause of a lot of issues in the book was never really discussed, you know? I hope that people know that it is going to take a lot more than just LOVE to fix some of the issues that these people faced the in the book. Morgan needed a lot more than a hot next door neighbor. She did have therapy, and like you said, that was the reason why I bumped it up a star, but PTSD or any other disorder was never brought up. I worry that her father’s sudden change of heart will make people think, “Well, he’s going to get all better now!” because he is going to have a very long road ahead of him. He might skip out again. He might never get better. I just really hate to think about the false hope, if this isn’t what would help him. But on the other side of the coin, what if this does fix him, and this leads to some sort of relationship with his kids?

I am certainly not saying it couldn’t happen. I just cringe when people try to say that a sudden change of heart, or some sort of event can suddenly cure a mental illness.  That is what I rally against.

Jessie: Underwater definitely does bring up a lot of mental health discussions (some more successfully than others), and we haven’t even touched on the “event” that set the book into motion. Not that we need to or are going to, but I think this book is great for fostering/starting a discussion at least.

Lyn: I’ll give it this - you’re not going to walk away and go, “Meh.” What was your final rating?

Jessie: For me this was a solid 3-star read. I liked it but it wasn’t without flaws. Morgan/WoC therapist/mental health discussions/strong and believable brother-sister dynamic were high points. What about you?

Lyn: It was 3 stars. I loved the pro-family friendship, Morgan’s realistic traits and emotions, and the therapy, despite the icky romance and the heavy drama overtaking some of the more important issues happening at times. So I awarded it all 3 stars. :)

Check out some of our other discussion reviews: 

January DNFs

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Shade Me by Jennifer Brown

Nikki Kill does not see the world like everyone else. In her eyes, happiness is pink, sadness is a mixture of brown and green, and lies are gray. Thanks to a rare phenomenon called synesthesia, Nikki’s senses overlap, in a way that both comforts and overwhelms her.

Always an outsider, just one ‘D’ shy of flunking out, Nikki’s life is on the fast track to nowhere until the night a mysterious call lights her phone up bright orange—the color of emergencies. It’s the local hospital. They need Nikki to identify a Jane Doe who is barely hanging on to life after a horrible attack.

The victim is Peyton Hollis, a popular girl from Nikki’s school who Nikki hardly knows. One thing is clear: Someone wants Peyton dead. But why? And why was Nikki’s cell the only number in Peyton’s phone?

As she tries to decipher the strange kaleidoscope of clues, Nikki finds herself thrust into the dark, glittering world of the ultra-rich Hollis family, and drawn towards Peyton’s handsome, never-do-well older brother Dru. While Nikki’s colors seem to help her unravel the puzzle, what she can’t see is that she may be falling into a trap. The only truth she can be sure of is that death is a deep, pulsing crimson.

Shade Me is award-winning author Jennifer Brown’s first book in a thrilling suspense series about Nikki Kill.

Reasons I should love this are many but the reasons I put it down are easy: boring, bored, boredest. The synesthesia angle was what largely drew me to an admittedly bland plot but wasn't enough to keep me reading past page 150 in a book of nearly 450 pages. It was predictable and just made of blah.

One Plus One by JoJo Moyes

One single mom. One chaotic family. One quirky stranger. One irresistible love story from the New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You

Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages... maybe ever.

I didn't think Me Before You was a Jessie book. But then I found a copy for $1.99 and was sobbing over it three hours later. So when offered an eARC of this I was game. However, the apprehensions I had for MBY came into fruition here. This is the kind of adult lit that sends me running. It lacked emotion and depth, and I found myself utterly uninvolved and predicting plot points at page 200. I gave it longer than I do most books before DNFing but I feel safe saying this was never going to coalesce into something I cared about.

The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos

All Imogene Scott knows of her mother is the bedtime story her father told her as a child. It's the story of how her parents met: he, a forensic pathologist, she, a mysterious woman who came to identify a body. A woman who left Imogene and her father when she was a baby, a woman who was always possessed by a powerful loneliness, a woman who many referred to as troubled waters.

When Imogene is seventeen, her father, now a famous author of medical mysteries, strikes out in the middle of the night and doesn't come back. Neither Imogene's stepmother nor the police know where he could've gone, but Imogene is convinced he's looking for her mother. She decides to put to use the skills she's gleaned from a lifetime of her father's books to track down a woman she's never known, in order to find him and, perhaps, the answer to the question she's carried with her for her entire life.

Rebecca Podos' debut is a powerful, affecting story of the pieces of ourselves that remain mysteries even to us - the desperate search through empty spaces for something to hold on to.

Oh how I wanted to love this one! Half-Chinese MC with a secret past and mysteries and disappearances... but I just could not get into it. It's long, convoluted and I felt no burning desire to pick this up after I set it down about 150 pages in. Podos has a lovely way of writing and I am definitely interested to see what she will write next. This just was not for me.

Review: Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto

Monday, January 25, 2016
Title: Revenge and the Wild
Author: Michelle Modesto
Genre: western, historical fiction, supernatural
Series: N/A
Pages: 368
Published: expected February 2nd 2016
Source: publishers via edelweiss for review
Rating: 3.5/5

The two-bit town of Rogue City is a lawless place, full of dark magic and saloon brawls, monsters and six-shooters. But it’s perfect for seventeen-year-old Westie, the notorious adopted daughter of local inventor Nigel Butler.

Westie was only a child when she lost her arm and her family to cannibals on the wagon trail. Nine years later, Westie may seem fearsome with her foul-mouthed tough exterior and the powerful mechanical arm built for her by Nigel, but the memory of her past still haunts her. She’s determined to make the killers pay for their crimes—and there’s nothing to stop her except her own reckless ways.

But Westie’s search ceases when a wealthy family comes to town looking to invest in Nigel’s latest invention, a machine that can harvest magic from gold—which Rogue City desperately needs as the magic wards that surround the city start to fail. There’s only one problem: the investors look exactly like the family who murdered Westie’s kin. With the help of Nigel’s handsome but scarred young assistant, Alistair, Westie sets out to prove their guilt. But if she’s not careful, her desire for revenge could cost her the family she has now.

Revenge and the Wild is the simple story of of a girl's need for revenge in a world of cannibals, magic, supernatural creatures,  steampunk technology, conspiracies, and teenage love.  Okay so maybe it's not so simple of a tale. But  it is good, original, memorable,  and very entertaining. It's a bit of mishmash of genres but damned if Modesto doesn't reel you into this westernish historical fiction debut novel. Westie's far from your average YA protagonist but she is not all there is to appreciate in this novel.

This book is just different from the outset of the first chapter. It feels and reads like a combination of a lot of popular elements from all over YA but it still manages to feel fresh and new. A lot of that is down to the main character of seventeen year-old Westie. Westie is many, many things: crude, bloodthirsty, unconventional, strong, flawed, angry, dirty, and determined. She's memorable and different; she shoots first and asks questions later. She makes a lot of mistakes but she's a great character for all those qualities listed before. She's imperfect but realistic. She's the kind of girl that survives, no matter what it takes. 

The plot centers around Westie, her past, and her drive for answers. Along the way Modesto creates  some interesting philosophical dilemmas for our girl to figure out and weather through; like her individual need for vengeance against the greater good of her friends and family.  The story feels a little long at just under 370 pages but Modesto makes those chapters fly by with frequent action, unconventional characters, unique worldbuilding, and a few very well played moments. The worldbuilding doesn't really coalesce completely, but I did like how central the Native Americans were to the magic and technology needed by the white settlers. I also liked that Modesto somewhat showed how terribly these original inhabitants of the continent were treated as people moved west (for gold, to escape the Undying, etc. etc.).

I can't close out this review without mentioning the love triangles. There are a lot of guys interested in Westie -- she's beautiful and smart, and her adopted dad has a lot of fame and pull (and isn't white!) so she's noticeable. Still, between Alistair, James, Cain, Costin... and whoever else, it gets to be a bit much to take. I did like that Westie is far from your typical YA heroine -- she's an alcoholic in addition to her virtues and vices already mentioned -- but I had to roll my eyes at the sheer number of guys who were interested. 


Something New....

Friday, January 22, 2016
Something...something's different, you guys.

I can't quite...

Oh yeah,


Jessie and I are so excited to share this with you. It's been on our minds for quite awhile and after finding the perfect template, we made this upgrade our Christmas presents to each other. In addition to a new template, we've removed a lot of stuff we felt wasn't working or was outdated and we've updated all of our pages. Be sure to drop us a line if you find any problems or broken links! You can find our new and improved contact information in the right sidebar, and of course we always love your comments right here on APR. 

This seems a good time to point out that we are phasing out tags for individual authors. They've just gotten too unwieldy. Instead, visit our alphabetical Review Archive or utilize our search tool, also in the right sidebar. 

Questions? Criticism? Feedback? Comment below and thank you all so much for sticking with us. As we enter our fifth year, we really couldn't have done this without our readers and our community. Thank you. 

I feel overly sappy and uncomfortable. Please enjoy my Hamilton/Words of Radiance mash-up that I posted on Twitter while I go pretend to not have emotions again.

Son -

Don't call me son

This war is hard enough
Without infighting -

Sadeas called you out.
We called his bluff

You solve nothing, you aggravate our allies to the south

You're absolutely right, Kaladin should have
shot him in the mouth
That would've shut him up


I'm notcha son-

No, you literally are.


Review: The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt

Thursday, January 21, 2016
Title: The Distance From A to Z
Author: Natalie Blitt
Genre: contemporary
Series: N/A
Pages: 316
Published: January 12 2016
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 2.5/5

This full-length novel by debut author Natalie Blitt is a pitch-perfect blend of Stephanie Perkins and Miranda Kenneally that proves the age-old adage: opposites attract.

Seventeen-year-old Abby has only one goal for her summer: to make sure she is fluent in French—well, that, and to get as far away from baseball and her Cubs-obsessed family as possible. A summer of culture and language, with no sports in sight.

That turns out to be impossible, though, because her French partner is the exact kind of boy she was hoping to avoid. Eight weeks. 120 hours of class. 80 hours of conversation practice with someone who seems to wear baseball caps and jerseys every day.

But Zeke in French is a different person than Zeke in English. And Abby can’t help but fall for him, hard. As Abby begins to suspect that Zeke is hiding something, she has to decide if bridging the gap between who she is and who he is is worth the risk.

The Distance From A to Z is a book I read solely because of the good word of mouth building around it in the Twitter blogosphere. A few friends had read it and enjoyed it enough for me to reconsider my dismissal of it from when I went ARC-crazy in late 2015. However, while I can't fault friends for enjoying this more than I did, I found The Distance From A to Z to be a somewhat disappointing read. There are things I did end up liking, but this was not a particularly favorite read for me.

My issues began early, with Abby. Abby's reactions, to me, are silly. I'm sorry but she's 17 -- a 17 mature enough to go to college course for weeks; she is emotionally capable of disliking something without being an ass or judging others who do like the thing (like.. how I don't hate everyone who loves this book.....). Abby doesn't do this. Abby acts like a child and then expects everyone to not mention, love, or think about The Thing while around her. She may be 17, but she sometimes reads like a 10 year old. It was not a good first impression. 

After the rough start, I did find several things in The Distance from A to Z to enjoy. The friendship between Alice and Abby is fantastic and one of the best parts of the novel. The author can definitely create chemistry in friendships and also in relationships. She can write the hell out of a kissing scene. I shipped the ship, even when the plotting was predictable (oh noes a big secret that Zeke won't tell! I bet that NEVER comes up!!1! Oh noes his shoulder hurts! I bet that has nothing to do with The Thing that Abby hates!!1! ) because the characters grew and evolved into more fully dimensional people together. I loved the use of French and how driven Abby was to achieve her goals. She is smart but she also works really, really hard for what she wants. That is commendable and realistic.

However, all the good will and momentum that the middle section of the book brought to life, the last 20% pretty much killed.  Zeke attempts to talk to Abby about His Big Secret (oh noes!), only to have her directly shut him down because she doesn't want to hear it. Only later, Abby calls him a liar for not telling her... what she expressly told him NOT to tell her. I'm sorry, but that is bullshit. That is using contrived drama for the sake of narrative structure and I am not having it. It makes no sense except to inject a little more angst before the expected outcome. It was cheap and lazy and so, so predictable. It alone dropped the rating for this from 3.5/5 to 2.5/5.

I wanted to love this; and halfway through, I thought I could see this being a fun, easy read to rec for me to give to contemporary lovers. But lazy plotting, silly characters nixed that idea.  I finished this book frustrated and that's the memory I will take with me when I look back at it. I may be the black sheep for this one but I am A-Okay with that.


Top Ten Books I've Recently Added To My TBR

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

I'm trying to reduce my TBR, not add to it. But I'm still a book blogger and more, I'm still me, so here are the top ten books I've recently added to the TBR even if I totally didn't mean to.

1. Duke of Midnight by Elisabeth Hoyt - A commenter said, "the hero is basically Georgian Batman" and the book was magically already in my Amazon cart???

2 - 3. The Heiress and The Husband Hunt by Linsay Sands - The sequels to my new favorite book? Yes please!

4. Written in Red by Anne Bishop - When I asked the Twitters for ideas on new UF series, I got two answers. The Hollows, which my girlfriend has had on my TBR for ages, and The Others.

5. Last Will and Testament by Dahlia Adler - I mean, we did do a cover reveal for the sequel. And I loved Under the Lights.

6.  The Crown by Kiera Cass - Why fight it? We all know I'm going to read it. And the next. And the next.

7. I'm with Cupid by Anna Staniszewski - I'm not a huge MG reader, but I liked the author's Dirt Diaries and thought this had a pretty cute premise.

8. Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky - Oh my god, have we all read this synopsis? I'm dying. And I mean, so are The Ruperts. (Hate the cover, though.)

9. Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs - I go back and forth on whether or not I like short story collections like these, but my library got a copy so soon it will be mine.

10. Risuko by David Kulder - Cover good. Fire bad. Brain primitive.

So that's where I'm at this fine January, with 10 more books on my TBR and not a one removed. Oops. What about you, readers? Anything here sound good? Anything else I should be adding?

Review: Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers

Monday, January 18, 2016
Title: Assassin's Heart
Author: Sarah Ahiers
Genre: fantasy, romance
Series: Assassin's Heart #1
Pages: 400
Published: expected February 2 2016
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 2/5

In the kingdom of Lovero, nine rival Families of assassins lawfully kill people for a price. As a highly skilled member of one of these powerful clans, seventeen-year-old Lea Saldana has always trusted in the strength of her Family. Until she awakens to find them murdered and her home in flames. The Da Vias, the Saldanas’ biggest enemy, must be responsible—and Lea should have seen it coming. But her secret relationship with the Da Vias’ son, Val, has clouded her otherwise killer instinct—and given the Da Vias more reason than ever to take her Family down.

Racked with guilt and shattered over Val’s probable betrayal, Lea sets out to even the score, with her heart set on retaliation and only one thought clear in her mind: make the Da Vias pay.

With shades of The Godfather and Romeo and Juliet, this richly imagined fantasy from debut author Sarah Ahiers is a story of love, lies, and the ultimate vengeance.

So much about Assassin's Heart seemed like the perfect fit for me: a fantasy world with crime families, betrayal, and maybe a touch of forbidden romance? Sadly for me, the pacing in this 400 page novel is all over the place, the narrative is often repetitive, and the plot is more concerned with romance than I would like for a story about God-sanctioned murder and hell-bent revenge. The book starts strong but once Lea flees Lovero, it becomes a bit of a slough to get through.

There are good bones to Assassin's Heart but it's unnecessarily drawn out. This is not a story that needs 400 pages, especially when a lot of the worldbuilding and characterization just restates facts we've already learned from Lea. Multiple times. The redundant nature of the worldbuilding limited how the reader can envision the world and hampered my enjoyment of the story. A fantasy sinks or swims on the strength of that element and it's one that Ahiers doesn't master over the pages.

Though this is being marketed as a fantasy it is as much a romance as it is a fantasy. And that romance? Goes from  "I kinda hate you" to "I would pick you over my dead family" way, wayyyy too fast. It's jarring and unrealistic. Granted a romance plot with influences of Romeo and Juliet (IT IS NOT A ROMANCE PEOPLE. IT'S A TRAGEDY. They knew each other for 3 days and 6 deaths were a direct result. But I digress..) was going to be a hard sell for me. The plot, when not focusing on love interest Val or eventual love interest Alessio (this is so telegraphed as soon as he is on the page that it is not a spoiler) is action-packed and capable of pulling off a few surprises.

On the positive side, I did like Lea. I liked her competence and even, yes, her arrogance. This is a girl who is smart and skilled and also determined. She's not the most nuanced character I've ever read but she does have facets, virtues, vices. She feels real, the benefit of her strong voice and first-person narration. The other characters start out one-dimensional but a few -- Marcello, Alessio -- are given time and attention over the course to grow into less rigid people. I also liked what I learned about --- this world? Lovero? If Ahiers can flesh out her foundation, I can see a stronger story for the sequels.

I just don't think I personally will be reading book two in the Assassin's Heart series. I can see the comparisons to the His Fair Assassin series but for me this lacked the finesse, the worldbuilding, and the emotions necessary to invest in the central romance. Just not my type of novel, though I think those who have a more favorable view of Romeo and Juliet may find it more fun. 

Review: The Countess by Lynsay Sands

Sunday, January 17, 2016
Title: The Countess
Author: Lynsay Sands
Genre: romance
Series: Madison Sisters #1
Pages: 371
Published: January 25, 2011
Source: borrowed library
Rating: 5/5


Not until her husband dropped dead, that is. He had been horrible enough to Christiana during their short marriage, and she was not going to allow the traditional period of mourning to ruin her sisters' debuts as well. So she decides to put him on ice and go on as if nothing's happened ...

Until the real earl appears. Richard Fairgrave had every intention of confronting his villainous twin who had robbed him of his name and title ... only to discover that he had died. Quietly assuming his identity, Richard must now deal with a maddening desire for his ravishing inherited wife --- certainly a gold digger and possibly a murderess. And Christiana must deal with an unwanted new husband ... and they both must figure out what to do before the ice melts.
This is the Persistence of Memory of romance novels - a batshit masterpiece.

Less dick jokes in the painting, though.
Christiana's marriage to the Earl of Radnor has not gone precisely the way she intended. Mostly because after a year of abuse, he's dropped dead in his office. She can't go into mourning without dragging her sisters with her, which is unfortunate, because Suzette needs to marry in the next two weeks. So like any well bred lady of the ton, Chrissy decides to put the man on ice - literally - for a few days.

My favorite romance blog, Smart Bitches Trashy Books runs a feature called Help A Bitch Out, where readers submit half remembered plots so other readers can help reunite them with a lost book. So when I read, "what's the one where a trio of sisters covers up a murder but then the dead husband's twin shows up?" I thought, "my new favorite book, obviously." And I was right. Half drawing room farce, half smut extravaganza, The Countess is beyond all other Regency romances.

The plot is utterly insane. Evil twin assumes good twin's identity after shenanigans. Death, murder, mayhem, bodies falling out of windows. My only regret is there's no amnesia. It does very much take it's inspiration from soap operas and Victorian comedies, so there are a lot of villainous monologues, red herrings, and "duh duh DA" moments. 

There's also loads of sex.

It's not filthy, but I'd put the spice level about a 6. Sex scenes are well written with a minimum of bad euphemisms. There is a magical virginity-detecting penis and the first scene is a bit dubious, with the mistaken identities and a couple of whiskey drinks, but I didn't find either to detract much overall. For the most part, they're well integrated and serve the story, though the closet did feel a tiny bit ham-fisted. 

Chrissy and Richard-Dicky have good, not great, chemistry due to the fact that he's just a bit too perfect. I'm all for a hero accepting the heroine for who she is, but it has only been two days. It wouldn't be out of the question for him to have some kind of reservation. George-Dicky's also a little too evil, without enough reasoning behind it. Despite that, I don't care. This book is amazeballs. I stayed up all night with it. I'm buying the sequel as we speak. The sequel which tells the same time period from Suzette and Daniel's perspective. Twice the sneaking up on villains with meat forks! I literally don't care if it's this book with the names find and replaced, a'la Life and Death, I'm mad for it.

If you want a super funny yet sweet romance, you need to get on this today. It's not perfectly written, but I wouldn't trade it for a pile of illegally forged gambling marks.

Cover Reveal: Right of First Refusal by Dahlia Adler

Wednesday, January 13, 2016
I am thrilled to help reveal this gorgeous NA cover. It's the second in Dahlia's Radleigh University series and as much as I loved Last Will and Testament's cover.... this may take the cake.

Are you ready???







On the lacrosse field, Cait Johanssen gets what she wants. Off the field is another story. Because what she wants is the school's hot new basketball student-coach, Lawrence Mason, who also happens to be the guy who broke her heart in sports camp two years earlier.

But it's Cait's new roommate who's got him.

Cait and Mase agree it's best to keep their past a secret, but she doesn't expect him to completely ignore their history...or how much it'll hurt when he does. So when a friend on the basketball team asks her to pose as his girlfriend for a night, Cait can't turn down the opportunity for distraction. (Okay, and a little spite.) But what starts as an evening of fun turns into a fake relationship with more lies than the usually drama-free Cait can handle, and it's only keeping her from the one truth that's nagged at her for years: Why did Mase cut her out of his life to begin with?

And is it really too late to get him back?

Tell me that this is not going to look fantastic on your kindle because you are LYING. I'm new to NA but Dahlia's books look and sound like the perfect addition to my burgeoning collection of NA novels.

Check out Right of First Refusal on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

And don't miss out on book one, Last Will and Testament!

Book Haul: January

 So far into 2016, I am doing pretty well on book buying this year. "Pretty well" meaning that I am holding myself somewhat in check. I've only bought three books, one of which was a kindle deal for only $.99. I have been lucky enough to get some pretty new ARCs as well.... including a few I am suuuuper excited for.


Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran
Moran is very hit (Cleopatra's Daughter and The Heretic Queen) or miss (Nefertiti and Madame Tussaud) with me, but I cannot resist Queen Lakshmi and India in 1800s.

The Belgariad Volume 1 aka
Pawn of Prophecy
Queen of Sorcery
Magician's Gambit

and The Belgariad Volume 2 aka
Castle of Wizardry 
Enchanter's Endgame

So these are some pretty old fantasy books. I grew up reading them and I honestly haven't cracked an Eddings novel in at least 10 years. However, last year I read a few old fantasy favorites (Shannara! Wheel of Time halfway!) and it made me want to revisit this series. I don't think the plots are all that original (Garion is literally a farmboy chosen one) but the characters were always what made me love them.


So for my last book haul, Harper had dropped a loooot of titles on edelweiss. They had a another, little mini drop and from that I grabbed a few titles. I also downloaded a few NetGalley reads.

Lilac Girls by Martha Jall Kelly -- This one I do not know too much about except I was invited to read it and it's a historical mystery set in WW11.

Proposal by Meg Cabot (Mediator #6.5) - short little novella set between the YA books and the new adult continuation. I'm on the blog tour!!! for Remembrance so this should be a fun reintroduction.

In the Shadow of the Gods by Rachel Dunne (Bound Gods #1) -- I love fantasies that include a struggle with gods or powers with secrets aaaand that's pretty much what this seems to be entirely. Grabby hands indeed.

The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt -- I hadn't thought too much about this -- and had passed it over in my earlier Harper download-athon, but reviews are coming in and it sounds adorable.

Thorn by Intisar Khanani (bought) -- the cover drew me to this one aaages ago. Basically this is about a princess that switches identities plus maaagic. Yes. I also really hope this is set in a non-European inspired world.

Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate -- seven deadly sins plus YA plus diversity? This had somehow missed my radar until the lovely Dahlia Adler started talking it up. Thanks, Dahlia!

Kingfisher by Patricia McKillip -- veteran author coming out with a fantasy full of powerful sorceresses and tangled family issues. So basically Jessiebait.

When We Collided by Emery Lord -- Emery Lord is a magical being and her contemporaries always hit the spot. I've loved each new one more than the last and she is fast becoming an autobuy author.
Ravenous by MarcyKate Connolly -- I read and loved the author's debut Monstrous last year so this was a no brainer when the sequel popped up on edelweiss. I don't read a lot of MG anymore but the first book was lovely and weird and different.

Kingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon Thomas -- though this is a surprise sequel, I liked A Wicked Thing quite a bit and do think that this story could be successfully expanded into two novels.

Down With the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn -- this seems like an extended, creepy version of "be careful what you wish for" and KKQ is just the author to pull off such a premise.

Risuko by David Kudler (Seasons of the Sword #1) -- this is one I was drawn to because of the cover.

Can you blame me?

Anything new on your shelves from the first two weeks of 2016??

Top Ten 2015 Releases I Meant To Get To But Didn't

Tuesday, January 12, 2016
It's crazy to think 2015 is over you guys. I feel like it was just August and I was hanging out with Jessie and before that it was just March? I'm basically 100% sure I didn't get a full 12 months, which shows in the fact that I didn't read these ten massive 2015 releases.

Because we've covered why I want to read most of these in my Santa and Year End posts,  I decided instead to show my friends' average ratings of each book to illustrate just how huge these oversights are on my part. Onward!

1. Winter by Marissa Meyer
Friend average: 4.52

     1.5. Fairest by Marissa Meyer
     Friend average: 3.94

2. Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
Friend average: 4.62

3. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Friend average: 3.81

4. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Friend average: 3.92

5. Invaded by Melissa Landers
Friend average: 4.0

6. Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger
Friend average: 4.33

    6.5 Prudence by Gail Carriger
     Friend average: 3.25

7. Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson
Friend average: 4.86 (wtf guys?!)

8. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Friend average: 4.61

9. Once Upon a Marquess by Courtney Milan
Friend average: Apparently I'm the only HR reader

10. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Friend average: 4.35

So if my friends are right, (and they usually are,) I have 11 sure thing 4.2 star reads coming up, What about you, readers? Are you smart like my friends or a lazy procrastinator like me?

Discussion Review: Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley

Sunday, January 10, 2016
Title: Worlds of Ink and Shadow
Author: Lena Coakley
Genre: historical fiction, supernatural fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 352
Published: January 2016
Source: publishers via NetGalley

Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. The Brontë siblings have always been inseparable. After all, nothing can bond four siblings quite like life in an isolated parsonage out on the moors. Their vivid imaginations lend them escape from their strict upbringing, actually transporting them into their created worlds: the glittering Verdopolis and the romantic and melancholy Gondal. But at what price? As Branwell begins to slip into madness and the sisters feel their real lives slipping away, they must weigh the cost of their powerful imaginations, even as their characters—the brooding Rogue and dashing Duke of Zamorna—refuse to let them go.

Gorgeously written and based on the Brontës’ juvenilia, Worlds of Ink & Shadow brings to life one of history’s most celebrated literary families.

Jessie: So. Worlds of Ink and Shadow. I have to admit I was drawn to this story for four reasons. #1) Anne, Emily, and Charlotte Bronte and #2) the title.

Lyn: The cover is so beautiful, and I really loved the idea of creating this meta storyline with the Bronte sisters. So I was drawn to the different approach to a semi-autobiography of the sisters and their earlier stories and homelife! I really enjoyed seeing the inspiration and groundwork for what would become classic novels and characters eventually.

Jessie: I was not aware of quite of meta this would get -- or how much of the book was based on real stories of the Bronte children from when they were growing up. It’s a creative way to write about some very popular historical figures in a new way.

Lyn: I wish that the book would have used more of the stories, but after reading the ending, I believe a lot of them were lost. It just seemed like such a wonderful idea, and it was hardly used. Like the author was too afraid of damaging or dabbling too much into the inside story of some beloved writers and their lives. It was very….held back.

Jessie: Yes! I wanted more emotion, more depth. I mean, as soon as we meet some characters you can tell who they are meant to be. I mean… one was basically Heathcliff With A Different Name. I wanted more meat on the bones; it’s all very withdrawn and… pale? The feelings I should have felt at crucial moments… just weren’t there.

Lyn: When we had something come forward, it was pulled back and castrated. I loved the part where Charlotte is haunted by perfection, where everyone must face off against their own fears, and really look over the characters and see the evolve, but as soon as these ideas start to develop, it is cut off, like you would tell an overly excited child to stop chattering. It was like the next-to-the-last draft of the final novel. I wonder if it was due to the subject material. These are some pretty popular authors. And it is going to be hard to please all of the Bronte crowd. But like you said, you could see the archetypes of the characters happening, and then shoved to the side. It was maddening, and the book was like a huge trailer for the Bronte books.

Jessie: That is the exact feeling I got. You don’t really get to know these characters besides the way they have been presented for the last 150 years. I started this novel barely knowing anything about Branwell and I finished it the same way. I wanted liiiiife. It’s weird that in a book about people giving life to imaginary characters… that those main characters themselves have no life to them.

Lyn: Yes! It was sadly flat, and it had so much going for it! And I wanted to know more about the older two sisters as well. There was so much history to explore. Working with real people, and using them as real characters is honestly tricky. The author stuck to some very legitimate material, but when you are using flesh and blood, historical muses, it is going to cause some issues, and it weighed down the book. It drug down the story as much as it enticed me to read it. Would you use real people as characters in a novel you wrote? I think it would be tough, almost violating someone to use them as a fictional character.

Jessie: It was the definition of an average read for me. I had no strong feelings about it and it makes me sad because these women were such fascinating people. I wanted to like it more than I did. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been but it was also nowhere near as good as it could have been with a livelier cast and a more thought-out plot.

Lyn: It had promise, and you could see it come though in little glimmers, but, yes, it was just mediocre, and I had to bribe myself to finish it. Anyone who is a Bronte fanatic will enjoy it, but I was expecting something a bit more from such a rich material source. The ending notes were more fascinating that most of the story.

Overall, 3 stars. It had a few wonderful moments, but I’m not going to remember this one in about a month.

Jessie: 2.5 - 3 stars, agreed. I finished this a bit before you and am honestly having issues remembering any real feeling for or about this novel. I mean.. this is our shortest review together. We are verbose people and our verbosity is stifled by nonemotions.  I have not much to say about it because there’s not much there to talk about.

Lyn: WOMP WOMP. Yeah, if we come here and kinda just phonically shrug at one another….that pretty much speaks volumes right there.

Jessie: THAT’S IT. This is the book form of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Check out some of our other discussion reviews: 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Copyright © 2015 Ageless Pages Reviews. All Rights Reserved.

Amelia Theme by The Lovely Design CO and These Paper Hearts.