The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

The Language of Thorns

“This is the problem with even lesser demons. They come to your doorstep in velvet coats and polished shoes. They tip their hats and smile and demonstrate good table manners. They never show you their tails.” 

When Leigh Bardugo does dark, she does it masterfully with nastiness, twists, romance, and sometimes a glimmer of hopeThe Language of Thorns is a collection of fairytales from the Grishaverse. But leave behind any expectations you may have about fairytales, heroes, villains, princes, and monsters because Leigh Bardugo will shatter them.

“You know how the stories go. Interesting things only happen to pretty girls; you will be home by sunset.”

Going into this jewel of a book, I thought I would know how the tales would end—with shining princes, damsels saved, monsters slain, and wicked step-mothers foiled. But Leigh Bardugo draws inspiration from tales we know and love: Hansel and Gretel, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Ugly Duckling to name a few, and subverts our expectations. Leigh Bardgo manipulates language in the most beautiful way and challenges her readers’ beliefs.

“There is no pain like the pain of transformation.”

Each of these tales is dark, rich, and haunting in their own ways. They are universal with characters, stories, and lessons that will stay with the reader long after the final page has been turned. My personal favorites were “Ayama and the Thorn Wood,” “The Soldier Prince”, and “When Water Sang Fire,” but each of these tales was wonderful.

This collection was especially delightful for fans of the Grishaverse. I could imagine characters I loved from the Shadow and Bone trilogy and the Six of Crows duology growing up with these tales.

“This is the problem with making a thing forbidden. It does nothing but build an ache in the heart.”

This is such a delightful and dark collection, perfect for fans of the Grishaverse and those with dark romantic hearts. Bardugo is a master writer and storyteller, and I can only hope this will be the first of many short story collections.

“We were not made to please princes.”


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The Diviners by Libba Bray

The Diviners

“But what was the point of living so quietly you made no noise at all?”

Unique. Thrilling. Atmospheric. Fun. The Diviners follows Evie O’Neill as she moves to 1926 New York City to live with her eccentric uncle who is the curator of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult and help him solve the mystery of the Pentacle Killer. But, Evie has a secret gift she’s determined to keep hidden; a gift that just may be the key to solving the murders.

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I picked up this book, but I was completely surprised, and I mean that in the best way possible. Bray does a fantastic job of weaving together so many seemingly unrelated storylines and characters and bringing them together seamlessly. This book is perfect for fans of the occult, the supernatural, and the unexplainable who are looking for all these things along with the drama and glamour of 1920s New York City.

“There is no greater power on this earth than story.”

What I love most about this story is the world and the characters. Bray does a fantastic job of researching the culture of 1920s New York City, and there is an authenticity to the world and the characters that is often lacking in time period specific fiction. Her characters speak and think so specifically to the time and place that I never forgot when and where the story occurred and even found myself reaching for my phone at times to look up certain slang and terminology.

“I salute your spunk, but I question your sanity.”

Every character in this book is fully fleshed out and their own person, even those who only have one page told from their perspective. I really appreciate the way our supporting characters—Memphis, Jericho, Sam, Mabel, Theta, and Henry—are all connected to one another in some way and have complex relationships with each other outside of their relationships with Evie.

Speaking of Evie…

Evie O’Neill is a fabulous main character full of spunk, tenacity, charisma, and wit; but who is also a girl full of fears and insecurities and can be selfish. Evie experiences amazing growth throughout the book, and I’m excited to continue to follow her throughout this series.

“People always fear what they don’t understand, Evangeline. History proves that.”

The hidden gem in this book, for me, is how political it is. I’m not going to say much on this because Bray does it much better than I ever could and with a mastery few authors are capable of.

Really, the only reason why this isn’t a 5 star read for me is because I was able to predict certain aspects of the ending and felt as though a lot of the tension and suspense was taken away from Evie, Uncle Will, Jericho, and Sam’s investigation of the murder because the reader knows from the very beginning who the murderer is. But, that didn’t take away from my overall love and enjoyment of the book, and it was entertaining to watch Evie and company piece everything together.

“People will believe anything if it means they can go on with their lives and not have to think too hard about it.”

Highly enjoyable and atmospheric with a lovable cast of characters, The Diviners is a great supernatural and mysterious book that ends with enough closure to leave me satisfied, but with just the right amount of loose ends to have me already itching to get my hands on the sequel, Lair of Dreams.

“Life don’t come to you, Memphis. You gotta take it. We have to take it. Because ain’t nobody handing it to us.”


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Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone

“I won’t let your ignorance silence my pain”

WOW. I don’t normally find myself at a loss for words after a book, but Children of Blood and Bone has left me speechless. This is a book that will take you on a wild ride and shake you down to your core, making sure you feel every emotion possible. I laughed, I raged, I grieved, and I loved every moment of it.

“Reality told us we would fail. But again and again, we fought. We persevered. We rose.”

Featuring an entirely non-white cast (YASSS!!!) Children of Blood and Bone follows Zélie as she fights to bring magic back to her people after it was taken by the king who killed her mother. Told from three different perspectives, CBB follows Zélie, Amari, and Inan.

Zélie has been oppressed and beaten down by the royal regime her entire life because she is a diviner—a person with the potential to become a Maji, someone with the gift of magic—and she is an angry and fierce warrior who has experienced so much grief and trauma. She has been chosen by the gods to bring magic back to Orïsha. Amari is a princess whose best friend was a diviner. She turns her back on everything her father has taught her about the Maji in order to aid Zélie in her quest to bring magic back to Orïsha. Our third POV is actually the antagonist, Inan, Amari’s older brother and the crown prince of Orïsha, who is determined to prevent magic from coming back.

“It doesn’t matter how strong I get, how much power my magic wields. They will always hate me in this world.”

I don’t know how Tomi Adeyemi did it, but CBB is an incredible story. Fast-paced. Heart-wrenching. Beautiful. Children of Blood and Bone is the best YA debut fantasy on the market. Adeymi did an amazing job of not only writing an amazing and harrowing story, but also one that is relevant and speaks to larger issues in our society. I was angry with the world Zélie lived in and all of the hate, trauma, and oppression she endured—a world that holds up a mirror to our own. It is worth reading Adeyemi’s author’s note at the end of the book where she discusses her inspirations for CBB.

“As long as we don’t have magic, they will never treat us with respect. They need to know we can hit them back. If they burn our homes, we burn theirs, too.” 

I adored Zélie’s character and her transformation of learning how to channel her anger and grief and conquer her fears in order to become the leader her people need. Tzain, her brother, is perfect and his love, strength, and loyalty broke my heart over and over again. Amari experienced such beautiful growth throughout the book, transforming from a timid girl and to a brave one, unafraid to stand up to a world of hatred. The one character I wasn’t crazy about was Inan. There were times when I sympathized with him and really enjoyed having him as a POV, but I felt as though a lot of his thoughts and actions didn’t make sense and were tailored more so to fit the plot than his character.

“The gods don’t make mistakes.”

Children of Blood and Bone is a chilling, powerful, emotional, and stunning story that everyone needs to read. There is a reason why this is the book that is taking over the world. Read it, savor it, love it, and shout about this book until everyone you know has read it. Thank you Tomi Adeyemi for giving this story to the world and for revolutionizing YA fantasy.

“Courage does not always roar. Valor does not always shine.”

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The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

The Belles


“Don’t be fools. You can’t have both. Who wants love when one can be powerful?”

I expected The Cruel Prince—high stakes court politics, twists, nastiness, and complex, morally grey characters with hidden motivations. And I got The Selection—flimsy characters, a lackluster plot more focused on silly drama than court politics, but YA candy all the same.

The Belles takes place in the fictional world of Orléans where people are born grey, beauty is everything, and only the Belles have the power to make the people of Orléans beautiful. The main character, Camellia, dreams of being better than her Belle sisters, she wants to be the Belle—the Favorite, chosen by the queen to live at the palace and tend to the royal family and the court.

“No one is a prisoner. Even you have the power to make your own choices.”

The world of this book is definitely the strongest component, and why I was so disappointed by the story. I had expected nastiness, a cruel world where beauty measures worth, the members of the court are wicked vipers, hiding their motives behind painted smiles, and an ambitious main character who would stop at nothing to be the best and not only survive her world, but dominate it. Instead, the main characters were predictable and flat with one dimensional motivations and character arcs, and the side characters were forgettable—with the exception of Edel and Amber who were tropes of the rebel and the perfectionist, I could not distinguish between Camellia’s sisters, and don’t even ask me to try to remember the names or personalities of Sophia’s ladies.

“Lies are as dangerous as a sword. They can cut to the bone.” 

I wish I had more to say about this book, the writing was gorgeous, albeit a bit too flowery for my taste at times, and I love the world, but I felt no attachment to the characters—having no stake or vested interest in their fates—and was not surprised by the plot “twists.”

Overall, I’ll probably end up picking up the next book in the series because Dhonielle Clayton is a skilled writer, I love the world, and I want to support a YA fantasy written by a POC author featuring a POC main character, but I can’t say I’ll be anticipating its release or really care what happens.

“Dreams remind us of who we are and how we feel about the things around us.”

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han


“When I write, I hold nothing back. I write like he’ll never read it. Because he never will. Every secret thought, every careful observation, everything I’ve saved up inside me, I put it all in the letter. When I’m done, I seal it, I address it, and then I put it in my teal hatbox.”

I absolutely loved this fun, heartwarming, adorable book! Lara Jean writes a letter to every boy she’s loved—signed, sealed, and addressed, these letters are how she says goodbye and is finally able to move on from these boys. But when Lara Jean’s letters are sent out, her entire world is turned on its head because one of the boys she’s loved is her best friend, Josh, the boy-next-door who also happens to be her sister’s ex-boyfriend.

“How was I supposed to know what’s real and what’s not? It feels like I’m the only one who doesn’t know the difference.” 

Lara Jean brought me back to high school, to the days I felt invisible, where schoolgirl crushes were true love, and when petty drama was life altering. I’ve shied away from contemporary these past few years, but there is just something special about this book. Jenny Han just gets it. She understands the teen angst, the self-discovery, the importance of firsts, how monumental everything feels, the intensity, and the confusion. She gets teens in a way a lot of YA authors don’t.

The characters in this book were so true to life, and yes, Lara Jean is selfish and immature at times, but what teenager isn’t? And she doesn’t handle everything thrown at her in the best way, but what teenager does? I love her because of her imperfections, because she is a teenager who acts, thinks, and speaks like a teenager—something I’ve found lacking in a lot of contemporaries.

“It’s not like in the movies. It’s better, because it’s real.” 

I can’t talk about this book without talking about the love triangle. I’m a sucker for the fake dating trope and I found myself giggling, blushing, and on the edge of my seat waiting to see if they’d fall for each other, if a love triangle would play out, and if so, how it’d resolve itself. I’m not going to spoil anything because the romance and the drama in this book are delicious, but that ending was cruel, and I need the sequel, P.S. I Still Love You now!!!

The other thing I love about this book is how present Lara Jean’s family is. So often in YA family dynamics are pushed to the side, but Lara Jean’s home life is integral to the story. Her home life and personal lives intersect all the time, and while I didn’t necessarily like the fact that so much of this book relies on Lara Jean previously having a crush on her sister’s ex, I thought it was handled very well, and throughout the book, it is constantly reinforced that sisters come first.

The one thing that didn’t sit well with me and is why I can’t give this book 5 stars is the handling of sex. Lara Jean treats sex as though it is something morally wrong unless it is with someone you love or are married to, and she straddles the line between conservative and full on slut-shaming too often for my personal taste. I think it is so important to have sex-positive books like Laura Stevens’ The Exact Opposite of Okay and I like that we have a sex positive character like Chris, but she is still looked down upon and treated like the train-wreck character. I get this book was published four years ago and there’s been a huge shift in how we talk about sex in YA, but I don’t feel right giving this book 5 stars when I’m a huge advocate for talking about sex positively in YA.

“Love is scary: it changes; it can go away. That’s part of the risk.” 

Overall, I am so happy I finally picked up this book and am even more excited for the Netflix movie now! I finished this book in one day and am dying to get my hands on the sequel. THAT ENDING. Even if you’re a contemporary skeptic like me, I definitely recommend picking up this book!

“My letters are for when I don’t want to be in love anymore. They’re for good-bye. Because after I write in my letter, I’m no longer consumed by my all-consuming love…My letters set me free. Or at least they’re supposed to.”

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The Wicked King by Holly Black

Wicked King
Arc provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

1.) The Cruel Prince ★★★★★
1.5.) The Lost Sisters ★★★★★

“We get power by taking it.”


If I thought The Cruel Prince was a wild, dark, and twisted ride, it was nothing compared to the earth-shattering, jaw-dropping, cannot breathe, experience that is The Wicked King. Yes, experience, because this book is AN EXPERIENCE. Picking up shortly after the events of The Cruel Prince, we see Jude learning the lesson that no matter how hard it is to attain power, keeping it is even harder.

“‘For a moment,’ he says, ‘I wondered if it wasn’t you shooting bolts at me.’
I make a face at him. ‘And what made you decide it wasn’t?’
He grins up at me. ‘They missed.’”

I can’t say much about the plot, because we’re pretty far from the publication date (January 8, 2019), but OH MY HIGH KING CARDAN THIS BOOK. I was unable to predict anything, and let me tell you, Holly Black is evil in the best way possible. This book went places The Cruel Prince did not dare. The political game is played at a much larger scale, with Jude truly playing the great game of kings and princes, of queens and crowns, and she’s playing for much more than survival this time—she’s playing to win.

There were truly points in this book where I had to remind myself to breathe (I’m looking at you pages 145-148). The drama, the twists, the nastiness of the world, the nastiness of the players in this game. The Wicked King is a sinfully delicious book, as tempting as Faerie Fruit, and just as rotten because I am WRECKED. THAT ENDING.

“His mouth curls into a smile. His eyes shine with wicked intent. “Look at them all, your subjects. A shame not a one knows who their true ruler is.’”

Of course I can’t end this review without talking about Jude and Cardan. Jude has my complete and utter love. As brave, and clever, and cruel as she is in The Cruel Prince, she is even more so in The Wicked King. I have never felt so much love and respect for a YA protagonist. I loved her in The Cruel Prince and have always adored her character, but she has only gotten better—or should I say worse?—in The Wicked King. As for Cardan, I thought I loved him in The Cruel Prince, but I was a sweet summer child who had not yet tasted the faerie fruit of love. He is sexier, cleverer, and wittier than ever—we really get to see a new side of him, and I’m not just referring to the tail 😉

“My sweet villain, my darling god.”

There are no words to express my undying love for The Folk of the Air books: these characters, their world, the politics, the drama, the plot twists, CHILLS. I will be in a coma until The Queen of Nothing because I cannot go on. DID I MENTION THAT ENDING?!?

“I want to tell you so many lies.”


*All quotes were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication*

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A Court of Thorns by Sarah J. Maas

*this review contains minor spoilers*

“Be glad of your human heart, Feyre. Pity those who don’t feel anything at all.”

*Le sigh* I’m probably the only person in the entire world who feels this way—but I’m not ready to pack my bags and head to the Night Court. The first 70% of this book was so slow, and the only reason I didn’t DNF was because everyone kept telling me it would get better, and it did…marginally.

A loose Beauty and the Beast retelling, A Court of Thorns and Roses follows huntress Feyre as she is taken prisoner to Prythian, the fey realm, as punishment for the fey life she has stolen. A promising premise, right? Well, what we really get is a lot of angst, a lot of Feyre being useless, a lot of Tamlin being broody, and then finally, a weak and unbelievable love story.

I really wanted to like ACOTAR, I did. So many people whose opinions I value and trust love this book, but it just didn’t do it for me. I’d expected more Beauty and the Beast elements and much more faerie lore. Neither of those delivered, and I was especially disappointed by the lack of faerie lore. After just having read Holly Black’s The Wicked King, Sarah J. Maas’s faeries didn’t hold a candle. She teased us with some of their lore such as their inability to lie and vulnerability to iron, just to yank it away and say “oh never mind” when it became inconvenient to the plot. I wanted nastiness and trickery and politics and dark magic, and instead I got a lot of descriptions of fey male beauty and Feyre painting.

“I threw myself into that fire, threw myself into it, into him, and let myself burn.”

I’ll admit the end of the book became a lot more interesting once we finally got past the horrendous info-dump (I was so annoyed I didn’t pick up the book for week), but the ending was still predictable, and I’m sorry, but as soon as the giant worm was introduced in the first trial, all I could think of was the Alaskan Bull Worm from Spongebob—which dissolved me into a fit of giggles, completely eliminating any tension or suspense.

And while we’re talking about the ending—[SPOILER] why did Feyre, a huntress, feel so unrealistically and annoyingly guilty for killing those faeries, and why does everyone love Rhysand? I wanted them both to be merciless, and instead there was a poor attempt to redeem and forgive Rhysand for some atrocious things—torturing her so she’d agree to his bargain, giving her the faerie equivalent of date rape every night, and forcing a non-consensual kiss on her. Honestly, the attempt to redeem him left a sour taste in my mouth, and it would’ve been much more fun for him to be unapologetically nasty, clever, and playing his own game. And Feyre….oh our painting, useless, love-sick Feyre. I’m not even going to start on why it bothered me so much that she was stupidly guilty and overdramatic for killing the two faeries.

“Because your human joy fascinates me—the way you experience things, in your life span, so wildly and deeply and all at once, is … entrancing.”

Contrary to how it may seem, I didn’t hate ACOTAR, and it’s not a bad book. The issue for me was how much potential was wasted. SJM teased me with action and plot—when she commits to those two things, she does them REALLY well—but she was more focused on creating a love story between Feyre and Tamlin that, quite honestly, fell flat anyway.

Overall, this book just had so much wasted potential, and SJM’s true strengths and talents as a writer were lost to a lackluster romance and idle descriptions of Feyre’s meandering. I wish this book had been everything I’d expected, and while I’ve heard A Court of Mist and Fury is much better, I won’t be rushing to pick it up anytime soon.

“I love you,’ he whispered, and kissed my brow. ‘Thorns and all.’” 


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Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton

Strange Grace

“Once, a witch made a pact with a devil. The legend says they loved each other, but can the story be trusted at all?”

In Three Graces, there is no illness, no tragedy, no bad fortune. The price for a perfect existence? Every seven years when the Slaughter Moon rises, the best boy is anointed as the saint and sent to run into the Devil’s Forest, where he will either die or emerge forever scarred. But this year the Slaughter Moon rises early, and when the Grace witch, the saint, and an outcast run into the forest, what they learn will shake the very foundations of their small town.

Strange Grace is incredibly atmospheric, lush, and dark. The writing is entrancing and will suck you right into the world. This haunting, rich tale of love, friendship, and sacrifice is perfect for fans of The Bear and the Nightingale and will leave you wondering the consequences of tradition and gender roles and identities.

“He doesn’t know if he’s in love with her or if he wants to set her on fire.”

There is so much I can say about this strange (pun intended) little book. I could talk about the captivating prose, the vivid descriptions, the chilling world Tessa Gratton has created, or how she dismantles everything we think we know about identity, roles, and traditions, but the true core of this story is the relationship between Mairwen, Rhune, and Arthur.

Witch. Saint. Outcast. These three have the most beautiful and heart wrenching polyamorous relationship. Each of these three characters are so incredibly unique, complex, well written, and experience tremendous growth and development. Mair, Rhune, and Arthur each have their own deep and complicated storylines that are braided masterfully together and leave the reader crying, smiling, in pain, and rooting for them. It was incredible to see such a powerful polyamorous relationship in YA. The representation as a whole in Strange Grace is astounding and is going to mean so much to so many readers across various communities.

“She explored the forest and met the devil who resided there: she saw his form to be beautiful, as mysterious as the night, as elegant as reaching oaks, and dangerous enough to sink through her heart.”

I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to read an ARC of Strange Grace. This spooky, fairytale-esque, lyrical book is unbelievably evocative in its themes and messages as well as its prose and characters. It’s a book that’s going to be so important to the reading community and those within it who don’t feel as though they’ve been represented in literature, and I’m so excited for it enter the world on September 18th.

“The old god and the youngest Grace witch. The story says they loved each other, but can the story be trusted at all?”

*All quotes were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication*


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To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

To Kill a Kingdom

“It started with a prince, as most stories do. Once I felt the thrum of his heart beneath my fingers, I couldn’t forget it.”

Wow. I’m ready to forsake my entire life, find a pirate crew, and live on the seas hunting for my next read because this book was SO GOOD. It should be named To Kill a Reading Slump, because after The Wicked King I thought I’d just slowly wither away until The Queen of Nothing and never be consumed by another book. But, To Kill a Kingdom was un-put-downable, true candy, a pearl amongst other lackluster YA books.

Known as The Prince’s Bane, Lira is a siren, who, every year on her birthday, steals the heart of a prince. And no, we’re not talking make him fall in love with her steal, more like rip his still beating hearts out of their body as he drowns steal. This a LOOSE Little Mermaid retelling, and Lira is, thankfully, no Ariel—She doesn’t want to be where the people, doesn’t want to see them dancing, walking around on those, what do you call them? Oh, feet! (okay I’ll stop now). When Lira breaks one of the most important siren rules, her mother, the Sea Queen, gives her the worst punishment a siren can receive, turning her into a *gasp* HUMAN!!!

Left for dead in the middle of the ocean, now with two legs instead of her tail and no siren song (but she can still talk), Lira is rescued by none other than Elian, our other POV, the golden prince, the pirate captain with a jawline that can cut glass, and who just so happens to be a siren hunter set on killing the Prince’s Bane. Do I sense enemies to lovers??? Yes, yes I do, and I am so here for it.

“It’s like holding a story rather than a person; she feels wild and infinite in my arms.”

Did I already mention how much I love To Kill a Kingdom and want to shout about it from the rooftops? Well too bad because I LOVE TO KILL A KINGDOM. Lira and Elian are one of my new favorite ships. What begins as murderous intentions on Lira’s end and extreme distrust on Elian’s—he doesn’t yet know they’re enemies and she’s the Prince’s Bane—evolves into a dynamic of playful and sarcastic banter with murderous undertones (THE GOOD STUFF) and Lira and Elian fighting side by side and risking their lives for one another (ALSO THE GOOD STUFF.)

Aside from Lira and Elian’s relationship—which is amazing and wonderful—this book also has a cast of side characters with fully developed personalities and stories that I completely adored and an immersive world. I’d love to see a spin off book set in the same universe so we can explore more of the world!

“They celebrate love as though it’s power, even though it has killed far more humans than I ever have.”

If isn’t apparent already, I love this book. Anti-heroines, enemies to lovers, slow-burns, murderous banter as flirting, pirates, fairytale/folklore vibes, what more could I want in a book? If you haven’t read To Kill a Kingdom, do yourself a favor and pick it up and then proceed to not be able to put it down. In the meantime, I’ll be sailing across the seas in my pirate garb, hunting for my next book, and demanding Alexandra Christo write another book set in the same universe.

“Love and madness are two stars in the same sky. You cannot build a roof to keep out last year’s rain.”


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