Book Review: Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

of-fire-n-stars

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

Published by Balzer + Bray on November 22, 2016

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBT Romance

Pages: 389 – hardcover, 400 – ebook

Format Read: paperback ARC

Rating: 2 stars

Source: HarperCollins

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Blurb:

Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.

Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine—called Mare—the sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two become closer, Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. And soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.


Review:

Thanks to the publisher, HarperCollins, for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way impacted my views and opinions.

Honestly, the f/f romance is the only thing that intrigued me about this book. If it weren’t for the romance, I probably would have skimmed right past this book and onto the next one. It’s that unmemorable. The most frustrating thing in the whole entire world is reading a book with such.good.potential. I didn’t even have any expectations and this book managed to let them down.

Firstly, what irked me the most was the complete, utter lack of character depth. This isn’t like in most books, where only the secondary characters lack complexity. Here, even our main protagonists are as shallow as a kiddies pool. Denna was so incredibly boring. I’m glad hers is not the only POV, because I might not have been able to finish the book otherwise. It’s obvious Denna is meant to be the “good” one, with repeated mentions of how sweet-tempered, polite, and intelligent she is. The literal embodiment of a princess. Mare, on the other hand, is the “wild” princess; she’s fiery, tomboyish, and disobedient, as is repeatedly stated every few chapters. I liked their relationship and how it progressed from enemies to friends to lovers, but I did feel like there was certainly an element of unnecessary angst. The forbidden romance wasn’t even “forbidden”. The ‘I-love-you-but-I-can’t-be-with-you’ trope was heavily employed as a means to further the plot’s angst, which was very annoying.

Aside from Mare and Denna, literally no one else is worth mentioning. The secondary characters are even more unmemorable and shallow than the main characters. What even was their purpose? I wouldn’t even be able to tell you their personalities, because they have none!! Go ahead, ask me their names. I guarantee you, the only name I’d be able to recall is Mare. She’s the only character who was on the right track to being properly fleshed out.

The second thing that bothered me about this book was the insane amount of plot holes and nonexistent world-building. We’re plunged into this world with no knowledge of the political and cultural workings of the land we are in, and no knowledge of the magical system there — something about ambient magic and a siphon and a silver bowl was dropped three-fourths through the book, what is all that? Also, why do the Mynarians hate magic? Who are these ‘Six’ that everyone keeps running around and cursing? Why is there even a need for a political alliance between Havemont and Mynaria? Why does everyone hate the Zumordans when they’ve done nothing to you? I understand this is YA Fantasy, but I’m not expecting Game of Thrones level world-building. Is it too much to ask for at least some semblance of an explanation for the world we’re plunged into? Unfortunately, this book reads like it was written for a much more juvenile audience that wouldn’t care much for character complexity and world-building.

Thirdly, nothing remotely intriguing occurs in the entirety of the book! The politics were extremely yawn-inducing and the incompetence of the adults extremely frustrating. I was looking forward to Mare and Denna’s horse training, but that (like many other aspects of the book) completely fell short. Frankly, I felt like the horses were given more depth, complexity, and attention than the main characters.

In conclusion, I could go on and on about so many other disappointing aspects, such as the obvious contrivedness of some scenes and the predictability of the whole book in general. Of Fire and Stars is a book that had great potential with its f/f romance, but failed to follow through on that potential. Lack of character complexity, one-dimensional relationships, nonexistent world-building, and a tedious plot are mainly what ruined this book for me and many others who had eagerly anticipated this read.

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2 fish

Book Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

tdcThree Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Published by HarperTeen on September 20, 2016

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

Pages: 398 – hardcover, 416 – paperback & ebook

Format Read: eARC

Rating: 2 stars

Source: HarperCollins

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Blurb:

Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.


Review:

Many thanks to the publisher, HarperCollins, for providing me with an ARC of this book. This in no way impacted my views and opinions below.

I know a lot of people have been looking forward to this book, myself being one of them, but I just- couldn’t. Three Dark Crowns had an interesting premise and lots of potential, but it unfortunately failed to live up to it. I would’ve thought that my dislike of this book was because of my reading slump (gosh darn it, school) if I hadn’t seen quite a few reviews complaining about it, too. I never DNF books, and yet I was VERY tempted to do so for this book. It was just.so.boring! While I was reading the book, I actually looked up a few spoiler free reviews to see if anyone struggled as much as I did. I found a few, but they said that it gets interesting near the very end (“with a mind-boggling plot twist!!1!” they said). So I skimmed to the last few pages, and read the “plot twist” and all I thought was Okay? That’s it?? I was just soo frustrated that I wasted all this time on this book.

My main issue with this book is that it’s just so tedious and boring. We have three main POVs from three triplet queens – each with her own unique power. Katharine is a poisoner, Arsinoe, a naturalist, and Mirabella, an elemental. They can’t get the throne merely by royal birth – no, they have to fight each other to the death in order to get it, and the last one standing becomes Queen until she produces triplets and so on. You’d think that with 3 main characters and 3 POVs I’d enjoy at least one of them, right? Wrong. I didn’t look forward to any of the POVs, and I literally didn’t care about any of the aforementioned characters. There’s Jules, Arsinoe’s best friend, though. I didn’t hate her as much as the other characters, but I just wish she was developed a bit more. She deserves so much better!

Since we’re on the topic of characters, let’s take a moment to talk about the love triangle. Yes, yes, I hear y’all groaning. I usually don’t despise love triangles as much as the rest of the book community seems to do, but this one, you guys, this one. I’m internally screaming in frustration just thinking about it. YOU HAD A PERFECTLY GOOD COUPLE, BUT NOO, YOU JUST HAD TO TURN IT INTO AN UGLY ASS INSTA-LOVE TRIANGLE. Add to that the fact that the love triangle includes cheating? Um, I’m out. I’m not going to post major spoilers, but if you typically dislike love triangles, then this definitely isn’t for you. Also, much like the rest of the book, the romance in this book was very dull. There was no spark between the characters and their love interests, and I frankly couldn’t care less about any of them.

Okay, so let’s talk about the actual plot of this book. The reason I haven’t talked about it earlier is as follows: it’s practically nonexistent for the first 80% of the book. Seriously, for a story about sisters having to kill each other for the throne, the action was seriously lacking. The pacing was slow, and the atmosphere was very quiet and restrained. This book was in desperate need of a healthy dose of bloodletting and politics. It may have picked up toward the very end, but that still doesn’t make up for the lack of plot in the first place.

In short, I don’t think Three Dark Crowns lived up to its hype. I tried to find something positive to add to this review, but I couldn’t, so that’s saying something. The three main characters were just there, serving no purpose whatsoever, and the pacing of this book was extremely tedious. Plus, the terribly executed love triangle certainly doesn’t get any bonus points in my book. It’s frustrating thinking about what this book could have been because the premise and cover are absolutely stunning. I may be the black sheep amongst the tons of reviews praising this book, but this just wasn’t for me.

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Book Review: The Girlfriend Request by Jodie Andrefski

the girlfriend requestThe Girlfriend Request by Jodie Andrefski

Published by Entangled Teen: Crush on January 11, 2016

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Pages: 244 – paperback

Format Read: eARC

Source: Entangled Teen Crush

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Blurb:

Updating best friend to girlfriend is more than a change of status…

Emma has been best friends with Eli since she moved to his neighborhood ten years ago. Tired of being cast in the role of the girl next door, Emma creates a fake Facebook profile in the hopes of starting an online friendship with Eli, which would hopefully lead to more. Like…way more. From friend request to In a Relationship–it all seemed so completely logical when she’d planned it.

Eli can’t figure out what Emma is up to. He’s pretty sure she’s the one behind the Facebook profile, but then again, why would she do something so drastic instead of just admitting she wants to be more than friends? And who the heck is this new guy he saw her with? Eli starts to think that just maybe…he missed his chance with the girl next door.

Two best friends, one outlandish ruse. Their status is about to become way more than It’s Complicated…

This Entangled Teen Crush book contains one fake Facebook profile, two best friends who secretly crave each other, and a dreaded sex talk with parents…boy crush in the room included. Pushing a relationship beyond the friend zone has never been so crazy…


 

Review:

*Thanks to Entangled Teen Crush for providing me with an early e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

I had extremely high hopes for this book. I requested this because I thought it’d be this cute, fluffy, well-written story, but unfortunately that did not happen. Instead, it turned to be a mishmash of outdated, cliché YA tropes. Don’t get me wrong, I usually love the ‘best-friends-turned-lovers’ trope, but this one just didn’t do it for me. There were so many frustrating bouts of miscommunication, stupid decisions, and annoying lines. It was all just so painful.

First of all, can we just talk about the main character Emma? Her actions are soo dense! She makes the stupidest decisions and says the stupidest things, i.e. “I quickly reminded myself that I wasn’t some creepo stalker; I just wanted to get a guy to fall in love with me.” Mhm, that’s what all creeps say. She created a fake FB profile to make her best friend Eli fall in love with her and then later on freaks out when he says he wants to ask the “fake girl” out EVEN THOUGH SHE KNOWS THE GIRL ISN’T REAL ANYWAY. IT’S PRACTICALLY HER. Plus, wasn’t that your plan from the beginning….? Honestly, so dense.

Typically, there’s at least some semblance of character development in a book that helps it redeem itself. Unfortunately, that did not seem to be the case here. Emma continues to make brash decisions and overcomplicates simple matters ’till the very end. She created a lot of unnecessary drama between her and Eli, which really put me off. It was just too much for me.

I never even formed a connection with any of the characters, except maybe Jake – I liked him. I felt detachment toward the other characters, and by the time I was halfway through the book, I didn’t really care what happened to them anymore.

Also, half the time, I wanted to punch myself in the face due to the oh-so-conveniently placed mishaps. They were all so cliché and convenient that I could’ve practically guessed what was going to happen throughout the whole book with my eyes closed.

I’d also like to add that this could’ve been a really good story that included deception, but there were too many missed opportunities. Instead of using them, the author chose to select trivial, unnecessary matters to focus on. I felt like this just caused the story to drag on and resulted in an unstable plot.

The one redeemable aspect of this book was the writing. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t this masterpiece of meaningful, flowery words, but it’s actually what kept me reading. It’s what made me keep swiping to next page. It was articulate and easy to read, coherent and fluent, and generally… nice. Normally, I wouldn’t even look twice at it, but in a book where half the things were poorly done, this average writing stood out.

Overall, I’d like to say that this book was definitely not up to par with what I was expecting. The characters fell flat, and the plot was unstable. It got painful. I’ve seen a few people around who’ve enjoyed this and called it a “cute, fluffy” read, so you could give this a try based on their opinion. This isn’t for me, though.

Rating: 2 fish

2 fish

Book Review: These Are the Moments by Jenny Bravo

jenny These Are the Moments by Jenny Bravo

Publication date: May 26, 2015

Publisher: Bravo Publishing

Pages: 348 (paperback), 160 (ebook)

Genres: Contemporary, New Adult

Format: ebook (PDF)

Source: NetGalley


Blurb:

You can’t go back. You can’t go back. You can’t go back. Ten years ago, Wendy Lake fell in love with Simon Guidry, who grew up and went away. Now, not much has changed. She’s back at home, back from college, almost back to normal. Until Wendy’s best friend gets engaged, sending Simon ricocheting back into her life, and leaving Wendy with the questions she’s been struggling to ignore. Do people ever really change? Do two people, who can never make it work, actually make it right? And most importantly, does she even want to?


Review:

It took me exactly one week to determine what I’m feeling about this book. On one hand, you could say I enjoyed it, but in a very detached manner. On the other hand, I’d just like to say that there are so many things that irked me while reading this book, so I’m going to have to leave the judging to you – who knows? Maybe you’re going to like it more than I did, because I have seen reviews praising this book.

I found the characters in this story extremely annoying and difficult to relate to. The protagonist, Wendy, irks me so much, Simon is self-centered, and Vivian is bitchy. Maybe it’s just how the author intended them to be…

The only character I found to be remotely tolerable is Reese, she’s funny and I liked her. She’s the only one who slaps Wendy with a reality check whenever she drifts off into lala land and starts whining about Simon “not reciprocating her feelings”. An example:

Reese shrugged and sipped at her soda. “What do you want from boys in bars, Wendy? A ring?” 

Goddamn, woman. So, generally, I just think Wendy isn’t a very strong protagonist.

…Which brings us to our next point, Wendy & Simon.

The story is told with chapters that alternate from ‘Then’ and ‘Now’, and as a result, it’s pretty hard getting a feel for the characters until later on in the story. I love how the author wrote about Wendy and Simon’s bittersweet love and how she wasn’t afraid to show the ugly sides of a relationship – which I totally admire.  However, I didn’t understand their relationship. Why couldn’t Simon love Wendy? What’s holding him back? We never get answers for that. I also found their relationship damaging; they fought over trivial things and carelessly apologized afterwards (which lessened the value and meaning of the apology after the first – oh I don’t know – three times?)

Also, the writing style in this book is different than what I normally read, more inarticulate – which contributed even more to my disinterest and detachment to the characters.

Overall, I just really wanted to enjoy this book but I unfortunately couldn’t. The protagonist is weak and irritating, the other characters were flat and underdeveloped, and the dynamic between Simon and Wendy just didn’t do it for me.

Rating: 2 fish!

2 fish