Review: Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

14th Nov 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Review: Of Fire and Stars by Audrey CoulthurstOf Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
Published by Balzer + Bray
Pub Date: November 22nd 2016
Pages: 400
Format: ARC | Source: Publisher
Genres: Fantasy, LGBT, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
2.5 Stars

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 before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine (called Mare), sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, each discovers there’s more to the other than she thought. Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. 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.

Of Fire and Stars was one of my most anticipated books of the year; it sounded amazing and looked amazing! I was overjoyed to get a copy at BEA. And even though the world-building and characters were fairly cliché, I was enjoying the first half; it reminded me of The Girl of Fire and Thorns. I liked Mare the most and liked how her relationship with Denna was developing. I was even intrigued with the mystery and political subplot even if the Directorate was totally useless. I couldn’t stop reading.

*Slight spoilers ahead*

Unfortunately it fell apart for me in the last 120 pages. All of a sudden, the pace went at breakneck speed because the story had so much to cram into the end. I’m certain this will be a book with a sneaky sequel. The search for the spy and the dagger was basically dropped; I was left wanting so much more in general. I wanted to know MORE about Affinities, MORE about the different cultures, and I wanted a more natural progression of Mare and Denna’s feelings.

It was so abrupt, from stolen glances and blushing faces to declarations of love and “can’t live without you.” I could feel their emotions in the first half; once they admitted their feelings, it was a lot of telling. I was disappointed to find that Denna was awfully selfish while Mare was somewhat immature. No one else had much personality to speak of.

At the end, I just wanted to finish the book. It didn’t have enough depth for me and had some terrible dialogue in the last 30 pages. I was sincerely happy to see two princesses in love, but I wanted to feel their love and I wanted their story to be more compelling in its other aspects. (Side note: the German cover is so gorgeous I’m tempted to buy it despite everything.)

This is difficult for me because I want this book to do well. Diversity in fiction is important and I’d really really love more f/f fantasy and more LGBTQ fantasy in general, especially from #ownvoices authors. Maybe Of Fire and Stars will work for some readers, but it was mostly wasted potential for me.

Have you read Of Fire and Stars yet? What did you think?

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Review: Timekeeper by Tara Sim

7th Nov 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Review: Timekeeper by Tara SimTimekeeper by Tara Sim
Series: Timekeeper #1
Published by Sky Pony Press
Pub Date: November 8th 2016
Pages: 368
Format: ARC | Source: Borrowed
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, LGBT, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
5 Stars

Two o’clock was missing. 

In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.

But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever.

Let’s start off with a disclaimer: Tara’s agent is one of my very good friends and she was nice enough to lend me an ARC for review, but that in no way affected the honesty of my review or my enjoyment of the book. In some ways, it added a lot of pressure!! Luckily, I needn’t have worried- I loved everything about this book and was pulled in from the very first page.

 

The writing is superb and I love the alternate London with its steampunk elements. It wasn’t too different, just different enough. I loved the historical details.  And I love the mythology behind the clocks and clock spirits! The short interludes with mythology were wonderful and it showed another layer of Sims’ writing and imagination.

Most of all, I loved the characters, especially Danny. They felt so alive and richly drawn. Poor Danny, with the weight of the world crushing his shoulders. His home life is a bit of a shambles, but he loves his apprenticeship, even if most people dislike how fast he’s climbed the ranks- he can’t help that he’s so talented and unique. The fact that he could repair time was such a great addition. He’s stubborn and determined, and has a bit of a Potter streak to him when it comes to solving mysteries and sticking his nose where it might not belong. But he’s endearing and I love his friendship with Cassie. And Colton is quite the cinnamon roll! He’s such a bittersweet character, this spirit pulsing with energy and warmth who loves his clock tower but who wants to experience life (and love) outside his tower.

 

And the rooooomance!! Ahh! Colton and Danny’s relationship was so great, very Casper in some ways, and very sweet despite the myriad of obstacles (with lots of kissing!).  In fact, Danny kisses and flirts more than I expected in this book, and it is excellent. There aren’t any triangles but sometimes you kiss the wrong person before you get to kiss the right one, especially when said person is a spirit. I liked that Danny’s sexuality was part of his story but not the crux of his story.

 

The action really ramps up in the second half and it’s all very exciting and tragic. I couldn’t imagine how the book was so long and part of a series, but now I already want more! The pacing was excellent and it felt magical and charming. There’s so much to this world and these characters. I’ve only read The Archived but I can see fans of Victoria Schwab loving this, along with fans of historical fiction mixed with a bit of fantasy, adventure, friendship, and swoony lovely ships :D

 

 

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Bitsy Words: Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole

14th Oct 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Bitsy Words: Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole

Bitsy Words: Letters From Skye by Jessica BrockmoleLetters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole
Published by Ballantine Books
Pub Date: July 9th 2013
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback | Source: Gifted
Genres: Adult, Historical, Romance
Buy the book! | Goodreads
5 Stars

A sweeping story told in letters, spanning two continents and two world wars, Jessica Brockmole’s atmospheric debut novel captures the indelible ways that people fall in love, and celebrates the power of the written word to stir the heart.
 
March 1912: Twenty-four-year-old Elspeth Dunn, a published poet, has never seen the world beyond her home on Scotland’s remote Isle of Skye. So she is astonished when her first fan letter arrives, from a college student, David Graham, in far-away America. As the two strike up a correspondence—sharing their favorite books, wildest hopes, and deepest secrets—their exchanges blossom into friendship, and eventually into love. But as World War I engulfs Europe and David volunteers as an ambulance driver on the Western front, Elspeth can only wait for him on Skye, hoping he’ll survive.
 
June 1940: At the start of World War II, Elspeth’s daughter, Margaret, has fallen for a pilot in the Royal Air Force. Her mother warns her against seeking love in wartime, an admonition Margaret doesn’t understand. Then, after a bomb rocks Elspeth’s house, and letters that were hidden in a wall come raining down, Elspeth disappears. Only a single letter remains as a clue to Elspeth’s whereabouts. As Margaret sets out to discover where her mother has gone, she must also face the truth of what happened to her family long ago.
 
Sparkling with charm and full of captivating period detail,Letters from Skye is a testament to the power of love to overcome great adversity, and marks Jessica Brockmole as a stunning new literary voice.

 

Letters From Skye was unbearably lovely from the very first page. I loved that it was written all in letters, and that it still managed to be a dual timeline novel. That seems tricky! It made the book focused while still remaining detailed within the letters themselves. The voices were so distinct and I loved the unraveling of the mystery and the blossoming of the romance. It’s a wonderful, quick read that is emotional and thought provoking (I almost cried a couple times), while the early letters contain quite a bit of humor. The story is very charming, full of family relationships & friendships, as well as romance. I highly recommend for historical fiction fans.

 

 

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Review: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

12th Oct 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Review: The Hating Game by Sally ThorneThe Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Published by William Morrow
Pub Date: August 9th 2016
Pages: 384
Format: eBook | Source: Purchased
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Buy the book! | Goodreads
5 Stars

Debut author Sally Thorne bursts on the scene with a hilarious and sexy workplace comedy all about that thin, fine line between hate and love.

Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.
2) A person’s undoing
3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She’s charming and accommodating and prides herself on being loved by everyone at Bexley & Gamin. Everyone except for coldly efficient, impeccably attired, physically intimidating Joshua Templeman. And the feeling is mutual.

Trapped in a shared office together 40 (OK, 50 or 60) hours a week, they’ve become entrenched in an addictive, ridiculous never-ending game of one-upmanship. There’s the Staring Game. The Mirror Game. The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything—especially when a huge new promotion goes up for the taking.

If Lucy wins this game, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign. So why is she suddenly having steamy dreams about Joshua, and dressing for work like she’s got a hot date? After a perfectly innocent elevator ride ends with an earth shattering kiss, Lucy starts to wonder whether she’s got Joshua Templeman all wrong.

Maybe Lucy Hutton doesn’t hate Joshua Templeman. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

I’m so glad I decided to buy The Hating Game after seeing friends talk about it online because I loved it SO MUCH! I haven’t stopped thinking about the book since I finished!! From the opening chapter, I was enchanted by Lucy’s voice- she was so hilarious but real and I was giggling out loud on the bus, which I rarely do.

The publishing house setting was great, as were the office dynamics and oh my gosh, from the get go you just fall in love with Lucy and Josh and their silly office games. They hate each other soooo muchhhh (wink wink), like genuinely seem to hate each other and get under each other’s skin, that you know it’s going to be great when they stop hating each other.

The secondary characters are fleshed out well enough (loved Helene!), and Lucy and Josh could have been total caricatures but they’re not. She has quirks but she’s not a “quirky girl”. She overthinks everything and collects Smurf figures and misses her family, but she’s intelligent and reaching for her dreams. Josh could have been the stereotypical macho guy with a tender heart but he was so much more than that. He hides his shyness and insecurities with bravado, but he’s such a good person underneath that asshole layer. He’ll really surprise you, in a good way.

I also loved that the drama was believable and not that over the top. Family drama, mild dating drama, office drama, etc. There was some miscommunication but it was always resolved quickly. It helped that Josh knew Lucy really well, including her tendency to freak out in a very I Love Lucy sort of way, so a scene that could have been frustrating (her deciding that stopping by was stupid and she’s going to leave) was turned into something humorous: “Stop. Sit down. I’m making you some tea.” I swear I died when he made Lucy a sandwich, wrapped her in a cozy blanket, and watched ER reruns on the couch with her. Just because. Before anything physical really happens.

One of the best quotes is Lucy monologuing how she realizes that Josh is dangling his upturned hand on the couch like seeds to a skittish chicken (her being the chicken); he knows she needs to go slow (even if she doesn’t want to) and it’s honestly adorable. I loved watching their relationship thaw from enemies to coworkers to friends to Or Something- you’ll get that when you read the book!

This is one of those books that is predictable but you love all the individual elements so much that you don’t care. It’s very well written, from the voice to the characterization to the romantic scenes. And I loooooove the taking care of someone when they’re sick trope, like in You’ve Got Mail! Eep! Delirious medicine talk is almost as good as drunk talk, as far as unfiltered thoughts go ;)

The Hating Game is a pure rom-com and such a delight to read. It reminded me of Sophie Kinsella books but I think I loved it even better. I can’t believe it’s a debut and I can’t wait to read whatever Sally Thorne writes next. It was absolutely hilarious, really really adorable and sweet, and so sexy. One of my favorite books of the year for sure. (I’ve already reread THG since I wrote my review. Take that for what you will!)

 

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Review: Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison

10th Oct 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Review: Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan MorrisonDisenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison
Series: Tyme #2
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books
Pub Date: October 11th 2016
Pages: 416
Format: ARC | Source: Author
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Retelling
Buy the book! | Goodreads
5 Stars

Ella Coach has one wish: revolution. Her mother died working in a sweatshop, and Ella wants every laborer in the Blue Kingdom to receive fairer treatment. But to make that happen, she'll need some high-level support . . .

Prince Dash Charming has one wish: evolution. The Charming Curse forced generations of Charming men to lie, cheat, and break hearts -- but with the witch Envearia's death, the curse has ended. Now Dash wants to be a better person, but he doesn't know where to start . . .

Serge can grant any wish -- and has: As an executive fairy godfather, he's catered to the wildest whims of spoiled teenagers from the richest, most entitled families in Blue. But now a new name has come up on his list, someone nobody's ever heard of . . . Ella Coach.

I loved this book SO much for many different reasons! And I’m going to try something new and format my review in bullet points to really drive home my thoughts on Disenchanted.

-This book has all of the adventure, humor, and heart of Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel but still manages to feel completely different, which I think is incredible; the land of Tyme is so huge that each land truly feels like a different kingdom! They have their own cultures, histories, and landscapes, and it’s exciting to get to experience various parts of Tyme. Plus there are two maps!

-There are three POVs (Ella, Dash, Serge) that alternate in various lengths instead of chapters, and it was satisfying to see them begin to interweave while also getting the full scope of the story.

-I loved Ella! She was an amazing, well-realized main character: passionate, brilliant, and while she sometimes spoke too quickly or out of anger, her heart was always in the right place.

-I loved what Megan Morrison did with Ella’s family- it’s not the typical evil stepmother and stepsisters. Ella’s dad is alive and remarried, and she has a stepbrother and stepsister. It’s also more a case of growing pains and misunderstandings rather than them being “evil”. I really loved watching the evolution of their relationships.

-I loved Prince Dash! He was handsome but awkward, and his relationship with Ella (and his kingdom) really grows and flourishes. He takes the time to listen to her, even if he doesn’t agree. Plus there are well earned swoons ;) I loved Dash’s mother too. And the fairy godfathers Serge and Jasper, who I TOTALLY SHIP (and yes, it’s a legit ship!). Also, the head godmother Jules reminded me of the fairy godmother from Shrek 2. What a piece of work.

-I loved everything about the Blue Kingdom: the boarding school, the castle, the Glass Slipper, and the focus on the workshops and business class. It was unexpected and very dark and Dickensian at times, including one particularly harrowing sequence. I really appreciate that Megan Morrison never talks down to her readers. These are mature (but not inappropriate) books and deal with tough subjects much like the Harry Potter books did- through a fantasy lens.

Disenchanted does a wonderful job of capturing a diverse group of characters within its pages, everything from race to culture to class. There are hints of an LGBT relationship too. The world feels multicultural and racially diverse, and the differences in custom and culture between each kingdom is illustrated nicely. Even the groups of fairies vary with regard to their own customs.

-At the crux of Disenchanted, however, is the issue of class and ethical dilemmas. Would you rather buy quality goods for cheap if the workers are treated abysmally or pay more for better goods if you know that the workers are treated fairly? This is what Ella is fighting for, for very personal reasons.

-The book made me emotional at different points- I laughed, I gasped, I almost cried- but last 60 pages are particularly fantastic. I love a good courtroom scene!

-Most of all, I loved all the small details. This world feels lived in, with a rich history that I’m dying to know more about. It’s timeless but modern and I love all the allusions and details from the first book and from fairy tales. I can’t wait to see what else is in store in the land of Tyme!

 

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

22nd Sep 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare BlakeThree Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Series: Three Dark Crowns #1
Published by HarperTeen
Pub Date: September 20th 2016
Pages: 416
Format: ARC | Source: Publisher
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
4 Stars

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.

Three Dark Crowns is dark, strange, meandering, brutal, and fascinating. It’s a great book for fall for those very reasons! I really loved this fantasy world but it’s hard to get completely attached to anyone because the 3rd person present tense is peculiar and makes you feel distant. That being said, I found myself rooting for each queen at different points and I was genuinely shocked and dismayed at various points as well.

I definitely had favorite characters, and the details are fantastic: about the island, about the cities, about the abilities of the queens. It’s one of those books that burrows under your skin and stays with you afterwards. It’s not loud or flashy but it’s inventive and original. I loved how different the triplets Mirabella, Katharine, and Arsinoe were from each other; I also liked the compare and contrast between their upbringing and companions. Nature vs. nurture and all that.

I felt a little meh in the middle; I was going to rate it 3 stars for a while because I thought this was a standalone for some reason. No wonder the pacing felt off to me! It was interesting the entire time but I kept waiting for the story to ramp up. And the ending was fantastic but unexpected for that reason. It was harder to appreciate a slow burn story when my mind didn’t know to expect a sequel. However, I couldn’t get enough once the pace started rolling again towards the end.

It’s a captivating book. Even now, I keep thinking about the story, the characters, the terribly interesting history of Fennbirn Island and their Queens. The world building is so rich! And there is a map! Ellis and I keep discussing our theories for the sequel; there’s so much at play, so much to be answered for, and I can’t wait to see where the story will go.

 

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

20th Sep 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Blog Tours, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Review: Heartless by Marissa MeyerHeartless by Marissa Meyer
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Pub Date: November 8th 2016
Pages: 464
Format: ARC | Source: Publisher
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Heartless was marvelous, enchanting, and oh so heartbreaking. I’ve been looking forward to this book for years and I’m so glad it lived up to my expectations! Marissa Meyers’ Lunar Chronicles is one of my favorite YA series and I was interested to see what a new story would look like from her. Heartless feels very different from her previous series but I loved it just as much.

It’s difficult to reimagine a beloved, well-known story but Heartless is done so well. It’s a slow build with a few pacing issues but I was entranced by the writing and the characters from the beginning. The world building is detailed and full of whimsy with clever allusions to Alice in Wonderland. You truly feel that this is a story taking place in the original Wonderland, but it also feels fresh.

Heartless would be nothing without a worthy main character and Catherine is magnificent. I couldn’t imagine how she could possibly become the Queen of Hearts that we all know; Catherine was full of love and ambition, and had such lofty dreams for her bakery, but you could see the hints of passion and temper simmering underneath. And oh how I loved all of the lemon tarts and spiced pumpkin cakes and other scrumptious treats! It made me want to bake everything.

All of the characters were deliciously complex, just like her recipes, although I didn’t care much for her parents or the King of Hearts. I loved the tea party scene with the Mad Hatter, I loved learning about the lands of Chess and Hearts and their history, and I loved Catherine’s relationship with Jest. It could have felt rushed but I like how it played out and it fit the whimsy of the story. Plus Jest was mysterious, fun, and quite romantic. The story and mystery comes to a head (pun intended) in this explosive crescendo that makes your heart break, even for characters you don’t like. It’s marvelous and awful.

If you love retellings in general, Alice in Wonderland in particular, or tragic romances and baked goods, Heartless needs to be on your reading list. It’s worth the preorder! And it’s the rare standalone that I wish would have a companion novel or two. It’s magical.

gwtw-separate-line

Can you believe there’s only 49 days left until the release of Heartless?!

It’s true!! And Fierce Reads is currently holding a sweepstakes so be sure to visit their site to enter!

Enter the win-a-Tea-Party #Sweepstakes! #HeartlessCountdown http://www.thelunarchronicles.com/heartless/#Sweepstakes

 

About Marissa Meyer

Marissa Meyer is the New York Times-bestselling author of The Lunar Chronicles. She lives in Tacoma, Washington. She’s a fan of most things geeky (Sailor Moon, Firefly, any occasion that requires a costume), and has been in love with fairy tales since she was a child. She may or may not be a cyborg.

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Review: The Hawkweed Prophecy by Irena Brignull

9th Aug 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Review: The Hawkweed Prophecy by Irena BrignullThe Hawkweed Prophecy by Irena Brignull
Published by Weinstein Books
Pub Date: September 6th 2016
Pages: 368
Format: ARC | Source: Publisher
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
3.5 Stars

Poppy Hooper and Ember Hawkweed couldn’t lead more different lives. Poppy is a troubled teen: moving from school to school, causing chaos wherever she goes, never making friends or lasting connections. Ember is a young witch, struggling to find a place within her coven and prove her worth. Both are outsiders: feeling like they don’t belong and seeking escape.

Poppy and Ember soon become friends, and secretly share knowledge of their two worlds. Little do they know that destiny has brought them together: an ancient prophecy, and a life-changing betrayal. Growing closer, they begin to understand why they’ve never belonged and the reason they are now forever connected to each other.

Switched at birth by the scheming witch Raven Hawkweed, Poppy and Ember must come to terms with their true identities and fight for their own place in the world. Enter Leo, a homeless boy with a painful past who – befriending them both – tests their love and loyalty. Can Poppy and Ember’s friendship survive? And can it withstand the dark forces that are gathering?

This book was a mixed bag for me. On the plus side, The Hawkweed Prophecy grabbed me from the very beginning and kept my interest all the way through. I loved the witchy feel; it was unique, secretive, creepy, and otherworldly. It also celebrated the bonds of friendship and sisterhood. I was intrigued by Ember, Poppy, and Leo, and how their lives were intertwined. It was at times sweet and very sad. There were quite a few characters that all had interesting, complicated parts to play.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a complete emotional connection to the characters, which is where I got lost. Plenty scenes made me emotional, and I felt emotion between the characters themselves- love, jealousy, betrayal, loss…. but not between them and me. It’s hard to explain. There were also a few really disturbing sequences that bummed me out, but the writing is great and it worked for the story. The word choice throughout the book was precise and evoked so many senses and details. There is quite a bit of action in the second half while the majority of The Hawkweed Prophecy is very character driven.

It’s going to be a great book for fall. I could see glimmers of the strangeness of The Raven Boys, the witchiness of Unspoken and Beautiful Creatures, the curses and sisterhood of Practical Magic, and the creepiness of The Glass Casket. The book lost some luster for me in the middle and I wish I personally felt more connection, but I’m glad I picked it up at BEA.

Is this book on your Fall TBR? If you’ve read it already, what did you think?

 

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Bitsy Words: Dating Sarah Cooper by Siera Maley

15th Jul 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Bitsy Words, Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Bitsy Words: Dating Sarah Cooper by Siera Maley

Bitsy Words: Dating Sarah Cooper by Siera MaleyDating Sarah Cooper by Siera Maley
Published by Author
Pub Date: July 30th 2014
Pages: 242
Format: eBook | Source: Purchased
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Romance, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
5 Stars

Katie Hammontree and Sarah Cooper have been best friends since the 2nd grade. Katie's welcoming, tight-knit family is a convenient substitute for Sarah when her distant parents aren't around, and Sarah's abrasive, goal-oriented personality gels well with Katie's more laid-back approach to life.
But when a misunderstanding leads to the two of them being mistaken for a couple and Sarah uses the situation to her advantage, Katie finds herself on a roller coaster ride of ambiguous sexuality and confusing feelings. How far will Sarah go to keep up the charade, and why does kissing her make Katie feel more alive than kissing her ex-boyfriend Austin ever did? And how will their new circle of gay friends react when the truth comes out?

This is the kind of fluff I’m always looking for! I read Dating Sarah Cooper in about 4 hours and I really loved it. First of all, Katie and Sarah are extremely likeable despite the very unlikeable fake dating scenario they find themselves in at the start of the book. I loved their voices (especially Sarah) and I really liked the other characters as well. Not all of them were super fleshed out but there’s a good bit of “more than meets the eye” going on.

 

I also adored Katie’s parents and how close and supportive they were of her. One of my favorite scenes is when they reassure her they’ve always “known” about Katie because Katie isn’t even sure what she knows about herself! It was very sweet, but also kind of hilarious and a good turning point. Their quarterly family date night was such a fun idea too!

Not being LGBT myself (but knowing this book comes highly recommended from people who are), I thought Dating Sarah Cooper did a really wonderful job of exploring sexuality, prejudice, and how that all gets confused and fits into high school life. I loved watching Katie’s journey especially, the way she explained and sorted through her feelings, and gosh, this book was just CUTE ok!?! And had some very swoony kissing and really nice friendships. I totally loved it.

 

 

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Review: The Summer After You And Me by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski

11th Jul 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Review: The Summer After You And Me by Jennifer Salvato DoktorskiThe Summer After You and Me by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
Pub Date: May 5th 2015
Pages: 306
Format: eBook | Source: Purchased
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Goodreads
4 Stars

Will it be a summer of fresh starts or second chances?

For Lucy, the Jersey Shore isn't just the perfect summer escape, it's home. As a local girl, she knows not to get attached to the tourists. They breeze in during Memorial Day weekend, crowding her costal town and stealing moonlit kisses, only to pack up their beach umbrellas and empty promises on Labor Day. Still, she can't help but crush on charming Connor Malloy. His family spends every summer next door, and she longs for their friendship to turn into something deeper.

Then Superstorm Sandy sweeps up the coast, bringing Lucy and Connor together for a few intense hours. Except nothing is the same in the wake of the storm, and Lucy is left to pick up the pieces of her broken heart and her broken home. Time may heal all wounds, but with Memorial Day approaching and Connor returning, Lucy's summer is sure to be filled with fireworks.

The Summer After You and Me was such a delightful way to kick off the summer! I really enjoyed it. I grew up 5 minutes from the Jersey Shore myself, about an hour north of the town the book is set in, and it brought back all of these beach memories :)

The book takes place not long after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the East Coast in 2012, so there is definitely a somber tone throughout that’s balanced by the feeling of hope in the air. The town is rebuilding, everyone’s working to get back on their feet; it’s not without setbacks, but Seaside Park is getting there.

I really liked Lucy a lot; her interest in marine life and her academic drive coupled with her love of her hometown was refreshing! I loved her inner monologue, her love of the ocean, and her varied interests. I also loved her relationships with the people in her life. There was a lot of drama, included love triangles, but it felt like very realistic teenage drama. The ache of having seasonal friends, fighting with your parents, growing pains within your friend group, feeling replaced, realizing that you and your boyfriend might not have been meant to be more than best friends, competing with your sibling, and all the other stress that goes along with being in high school.

The thing I liked most is that everyone has these moments where they realize people make mistakes. And it takes work to get relationships back on track but it was refreshing to see them apologize to each other, to be mature and really work on their friendships.

Sometimes the dialogue was cheesy and oh gosh years of missed opportunities is the worst, but the romance was also very sweet although I can’t say I shipped anything very much. I did like Connor and the shared history between him and Lucy. Sometimes the flashbacks got confusing and I couldn’t tell whether I was reading about present day or not.

Overall I would definitely recommend this book to contemporary fans. It wasn’t earth-shattering but I could feel the ocean breeze and smell the boardwalk food. It has a unique New Jersey flavor mixed with summer romance and real relationships between family and friends, which was very appealing.

Have you read TSAYAM yet? What other summer books do you love? And have you ever been “down the shore”? Let me know in the comments!

 

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

27th Jun 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Review: And I Darken by Kiersten WhiteAnd I Darken by Kiersten White
Series: The Conquerors Saga #1
Published by Delacorte Press
Pub Date: June 28th 2016
Pages: 496
Format: eARC | Source: NetGalley
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, LGBT, Retelling, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
4.5 Stars

NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL. 

And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes the first book in a dark, sweeping new series in which heads will roll, bodies will be impaled . . . and hearts will be broken.

And I Darken was incredible. I thought this was amazing alternate history because it felt SO real. Kiersten White took details of real countries, people, religions, and politics and twisted them just so. And the characters! Oh my god. From the opening pages, you are painted a very stark picture of brutal Lada and her scared little brother Radu. They ensnared me immediately. But as with any good story there are layers and twists in every relationship. It’s all so complicated in the best way, sometimes loving and sometimes toxic. 

The story is definitely slower paced but not boring; this is a long haul kind of story and we’re setting the scene. The political machinations, the attention paid to religion, and the moral grayness of characters, the sometimes Machiavellian attitudes, really do bring A Game of Thrones to mind. Every action has a reaction. I also loved the diversity in every aspect, from culture (Turkish/Wallachian/Ottoman/etc) to religion (I learned a lot about Islam!) to sexuality (an unexpected but very welcome surprise). Everything was woven into the story seamlessly. I can’t say enough about the writing, I thought it was wonderful. White really knows how to weave a complicated web.

There are also some excellent kisses, a few ships, and some complicated romances, though not in the ways you might expect (no spoilers here!). It was also interesting to watch how Lada and Radu’s characters shifted over time, learning to soften and strengthen in turn.

The book faltered slightly in the middle just because it is a looong book and it can’t keep up the pacing the whole time. And it some ways I expected plots that happened later in Lada/Vlad’s life. But where the story leaves you is perfect and I can’t wait to follow Lada, Radu, and Mehmed to see how their lives intertwine; loyalty (to family, to yourself, to your country) are big themes throughout. If you love historical fiction, and a lot of political cleverness mixed with action, violence, and romance in a non-Western setting, you should read And I Darken.

 

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Bitsy Words: A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

24th Jun 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Bitsy Words, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Bitsy Words: A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

Bitsy Words: A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon ThomasA Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas
Series: A Wicked Thing #1
Published by HarperTeen
Pub Date: February 24th 2015
Pages: 337
Format: Hardcover | Source: Purchased
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
3.5 Stars

Rhiannon Thomas's dazzling debut novel is a spellbinding reimagining of Sleeping Beauty and what happens after happily ever after.

One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale.

Her family is long dead. Her "true love" is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept. 

As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.

Rhiannon Thomas weaves together vivid scenes of action, romance, and gorgeous gowns to reveal a richly imagined world … and Sleeping Beauty as she’s never been seen before.

I enjoyed A Wicked Thing a lot! It was the perfect fairy tale feel that I’m always looking for and I loved the twist, thinking about what would happen to Sleeping Beauty when she woke up. It was well done and felt believable. I really liked the setting at the castle, and the snippets of history, as well as watching Aurora come to terms with her predicament. I loved Aurora as a character but I didn’t feel very connected to anyone else. Rodric is sweet but bland, the king is cliche, and I’m verrrry interested in Finnegan but he was almost too smooth. Banter is always a plus, though. I also wish more happened but it did get exciting in the second half. I can’t wait to read the sequel! Overall, I loved the detailed setting, Aurora’s love of books, and the language; I just wanted more connection to the characters (aside from Aurora, who I thought was fleshed out nicely). If you enjoy fairy tale retellings, it’s worth a shot!

 

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Bitsy Words: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

10th Jun 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Bitsy Words, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Bitsy Words: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Bitsy Words: The Song of Achilles by Madeline MillerThe Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Published by Ecco
Pub Date: August 28th 2012
Pages: 378
Format: Paperback | Source: Purchased
Genres: Adult Fiction, Historical, LGBT
Buy the book! | Goodreads
5 Stars

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles' mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess.

But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear. 

The Song of Achilles is an absolutely striking novel. The writing is exquisite and lovely; it’s sparse but uses the most wonderful descriptions and turns of phrase. I’ve read and watched my fair share of Troy adaptations but this is the best. It felt fresh and original, accessible, and brought to life these magnificent doomed characters. Ohhhh how you feel for them. The relationship between Patroclus and Achilles is everything you could wish for in a tragic romance. Whether you know the story or not (I did), you can see the twists of fate that bring them closer and closer to impending doom and ugh, it’s horrible not being able to do anything about it!!!

(source)

Madeline Miller humanizes Achilles and makes him a compelling hero worth following, while she raises Patroclus to new heights. There are traces of the gods but it doesn’t feel hokey or intrusive, any more than it is supposed to. Odysseus, Thetis, and Briseis also shine as characters. I felt transported back in time to this incredible story. The emotions are overwhelming and burrowed into my soul. The language is evocative and the action is fierce, the romance tender. Historical fiction fans must read this; I’m so glad I did. I hope we don’t have to wait much longer for Miller’s next novel!

Tumblr is a treasure trove of mood boards, fan art, and on-point fan reactions to The Song of Achilles. Here are a few links to check out:
The Song of Achilles aesthetics
Achilles/Patroclus moodboard
Modern Patrochilles AU aesthetics
The Song of Captain America
Spoilers for Disney fans

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

23rd May 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi MeadowsMy Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Published by HarperTeen
Pub Date: June 7th 2016
Pages: 512
Format: ARC | Source: Author
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
5 Stars

The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.

Like that could go wrong.

This book was so unexpectedly delightful!!! My Lady Jane KNOWS that it’s twisting history and winks at that, which allowed me to get swept up in the story and the characters without constantly comparing it to actual historical events. Comical, fantastical, romantical really is the best way to describe it, like the blurb says. It was refreshing to know that you had no idea how the story would end and that a happily ever after of some sort might be possible.

I loved the three POV characters, and Jane’s obsession with books in particular! She’s a true book nerd like the rest of us. Edward, Gifford, and Jane were easy to tell apart while reading (I still don’t know which author wrote which POV though!!!), but the chapters are nicely labeled for you just in case.

 

Their stories twist and dovetail in ways I didn’t expect, and even though it’s a meaty book, the pacing is great. You really feel for Edward, and Jane and Gifford have the BEST bantery romance. It feels very Austen-y.

  

All three have strong character traits and personalities, and I also liked getting glimpses of other historical figures such as Edward’s half sisters Elizabeth and Mary.

 

I also loved how the fantasy element was woven into the story! Instead of religious factions, you have magic: shape shifters (Edians) vs non-shifters. Some people can shift into an animal form, while others can’t; furthermore, some can control their shifting, while it only happens to others in moments of emotional distress. It lent an air of absurdity and humor to a serious topic (prejudice), while still staying in the framework of the religious wars that swept across 16th century England.

 

My Lady Jane is very funny, very charming, and has some really excellent romances and action scenes, along with narrator asides (I loved the dry humor). It’s silly in a clever way. I had so much fun reading it! There were also quite a few wink wink pop culture references, including my favorite: “Frying pans, who knew?” :D It really is a book in the spirit of The Princess Bride. And it’s a Tudor book without being a Tudor book. I highly recommend it for fans of history and comedy and smiling while you read :)

 

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Review: The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson

16th May 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Review: The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily AndersonThe Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson
Published by St. Martin's Griffin
Pub Date: May 17th 2016
Pages: 352
Format: eARC | Source: NetGalley
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
5 Stars

Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Doctor Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West--and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing--down to number four.

Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben's, including give up sleep and comic books--well, maybe not comic books--but definitely sleep. After all, the war of Watson v. West is as vicious as the Doctor v. Daleks and Browncoats v. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey bars incident in the first grade. Over a decade later, it's time to declare a champion once and for all.

The war is Trixie's for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben's best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice. Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly-painful, but Trixie and Ben's cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship. When Trixie's best friend gets expelled for cheating and Trixie cries foul play, however, they have to choose who to believe and which side they're on--and they might not pick the same side.

I started The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You on a whim one afternoon and laughed on page 1. Definitely a good sign! I continued to laugh throughout this delightful book because it was funny, relatable, and nerdtastic.

It is a loose retelling (reimagining?) of Much Ado About Nothing, of which I know just about nothing aside from it being Shakespeare and there being an excellent hate-to-love Lizzie/Darcy type ship. I am always on board for that.

I can’t speak to how well it followed the play or what else was alluded to but the main romance was everything I love. Trixie and Ben had sparkling banter and could go back and forth all day insulting each other. 

It also had a very 10 Things I Hate About You vibe; Trixie was a loveable unlikeable MC who reminded me so much of Kat Stratford! She means well but can come off as opinionated and harsh, and her words definitely have bite to them. Despite that, it’s hard not to love Trixie and her obsession with comic books or being the best at her genius school.

She does so much for her friends and her family, which really allows the more hidden parts of her personality to shine through. And I loved her parents! They were very hilarious and very present. They acted like parents but weren’t unreasonable, which I appreciated. I loved the presence of different parental units in general. It made the book feel more real.

On that same note, I loved the setting! School was shown to be a BIG part of their life- lots of time in class, studying, doing homework, school events. It made it feel relatable and believable even though it was a genius school. I also liked that it was a genius school because it allowed the characters to be slightly pretentious without being unlikeable. They were ALL smart and showed it in different ways. Each character had their own quirk but fit together in their group like a puzzle.

I loved the nerdy conversations, both academic and pop culture. It could have felt heavy handed or name-droppy but honestly, that’s how my friends and I talked. We were always going on about tv shows and books and movies that we loved. It felt natural and witty, like a game of word play. The comic book store was such an awesome setting, especially the first scene! I’m a big fan of routine, so I liked that the three girls went there every Wednesday to pick up their comics and got slurpees afterwards.

I really liked the mixture of guys and girls too; some had crushes on each other, some had always had a mixed group of friends, and others, like Trixie, were making guy friends for the first time. It was cool to not just have a Love Interest and his friends. It seemed like that at first, but the book does become about the group and not just about the couples. It was as much about friendship, preconceived notions, and the pressures of academic achievement as it was about romance. The mystery was really good too, and even though there was a twisty part in the story that took me by surprise I think it works well.

I honestly haven’t stopped thinking about this book! I loved the voice, the mixture of characters, the pop culture references, and the shippy romance. Plus any book that uses grammar and essay formatting to flirt is a winner in my opinion ;)

 

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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