Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

5/5 Stars

First off, I would like to thank the publisher and author for providing me this ARC to review. Please note that the version I read was an advanced copy, and certain events/language may be changed in the published edition.  While the copy was provided for free, all opinions are honest and my own.

FSOTUS Alex (First Son of the United States) and Prince Henry have always had strong feelings for each other. They have been arch-enemies since the first time they met, after all. But when their latest interaction goes horribly wrong, at a royal wedding no less, the two are forced to spend time together in order to convince the public they’re actually the best of friends. But will their fake friendship become real? Or maybe even something more?

I requested this ARC because it seemed like a super cute gay romance and we honestly need more of that in YA. What I got was exactly that, and so, so, much more. This book honestly has it all, but a cute yet healthy relationship to issues that are relevant to today’s society, all of it packaged in wonderful writing.

I honestly don’t even know if I can discuss my feelings for Alex and Henry, and all the other characters of this book, without devolving into incoherent screeching. From the very first chapter these characters were fantastic, and by the end, I loved them all deeply. The bond you make with these characters in this single novel is deeper than some bonds you make with characters you read 5+ books on, and there are some very good reasons for that. First off, all the characters feel utterly and extremely real, from Alex and Henry to the side characters, Nora, June, Pez, Bea, etc. They all have unique passions and dreams that play a large role in the story, as well as real and sometimes debilitating flaws. It allows McQuiston to fully real human experience on the page while making us care very deeply for the events and emotions of the characters. Then on top of all that technical stuff, all the characters were such pure wholesome people? Like yes, the book has quite a bit of smut but this book is far from a “sexy” book, the relationships and characters are all just so cute and lovely, and I am endlessly sad that this book is over and I’m not sure if I’ll get more of them. If you like supportive friendships and pure relationships, fully fleshed characters and relatable emotions, this book is already for you.

Then there’s also how McQuiston writes these characters, the style she uses to describe these people and events. I was honestly blown away. I can honestly say that the writing is this style is simply beautiful, that it goes above and beyond just telling you and showing you a story. While it isn’t lyrically beautiful, in the fairy tale style of authors like Laini Taylor and Naomi Novik, it is emotionally beautiful, the type of writing that seems to directly transfer emotion on to the page and allows the reader to experience the story alongside the characters. There are some moments where the emotions of the characters are written so beautifully that I wanted to stop and reread certain paragraphs over and over again. This book is the definition of an emotional rollercoaster, and Mcquiston’s writing makes sure you feel ever magical and magnificent part of it.

On top of all that, you’re getting more than just a wonderfully written gay romance story. You’re also getting commentary on American society, as well as a bit on British. This story does still partially follow the re-election campaign of the first female president, of characters that are struggling with their sexuality and identity while in the public sphere, of a mixed First Son and First Daughter of the United States. It manages to comment on all of this throughout the story, especially the American political sphere of today. Since this book is parallel to the recent election, playing out similar scenarios in the 2020 election that takes place in the book, there are moments that just plain hurt, that connect so strongly to emotions you, as a reader, have felt in terms of Trump and other terrible, horrendous things that have happened recently. It shows the fragility of the love and fame of a nation, as well as the love of a family, how that can hinge on you continuing to follow the path that they have set aside for you. It’s a book that will sucker punch you in the gut. But it’s also the book that shines a light on the beauty of the world, on the strength and resilience of the LGBTQ+ community and just how much love there is out in the world for each other. In this sense, the novel also perfectly represents our society, the combination of pain and fresh hurt that exists on a global, national, and local level to the hope that penetrates through it all.

If it’s not clear by now, I really, truly, deeply love this book. It’s a story that’ll stick with me for a long time to come, characters that will never truly leave my mind and my heart. It’s a book that is important now and will stay important for years to come. It’s a book I really think you all should preorder, read, listen to, any and all of it. I know it’s a book I’ll be ecstatic to have on my shelves.


The Dead Queens Club by Hannah Capin

2/5 Stars

First off I would like to thank the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for giving me the chance to read and review this ARC. While the copy was provided for free, all opinions are honest and my own.

The Dead Queens Club is a modern high school retelling of Henry VIII and his wives. It’s got drama, romance, and strong female friendships, narrated by Annie “Cleves” Marck, Henry’s fourth girlfriend. She’s the only one that’s managed to survive dating Henry so far, and she’s starting to wonder why…

The first quarter of 2019 seemed to be ripe for a lot of Henry VIII retellings, and this novel was one of a few that caught my eye. I’ve been especially into murder mystery novels lately, trying to find more YA ones as the genre keeps growing, so this book was an instant add to my tbr. When I was accepted to review it before release, I was even more excited, and couldn’t wait to get started.

While in the end, I didn’t rate The Dead Queens Club all that highly, I did thoroughly enjoy the first half of the book. Cleves was a narrator that truly stuck out, whether it be due to her characterization as well as the how the story itself was written, and I found myself speeding through the first half of the book. The insane amount of drama the book involves was also hilarious to read, and while some of it was a bit ridiculous, I can definitely see some of the people I was in high school with acting this exact way. Additionally, even though the book dealt with a decent amount of death for your average high school story, it still managed to be pretty lighthearted and funny, for the most part. Unfortunately, that latter trait had consequences later on.

I wish I could say I liked where the story ended up going and went into the ending with the same zeal I had started with, but I can’t. Somewhere along the line the book just lost me, and I blame that on a few reasons.

1. The book keeps switching who Cleves/we are supposed to trust. While this is common in mystery novels, the sheer amount and speed at which we are thrown back and forth between characters made me feel like a ping pong ball. I’ve never had a book give me quite this much whiplash, and honestly, I really hope I never do again.

2. We are given way too many different stories on what happened “that night.” I felt like I should’ve been taking notes on all these stories since the beginning since by the time everything started going down, so many different tales with so many different intricacies had been spelled out that I couldn’t even keep them straight anymore. I normally still think for myself as I’m reading, not necessarily taking everything the main character thinks as the truth, but in this case, I just had to trust Cleves because I couldn’t even remember everything anymore.

3. The writing style ends up adding to the confusion. I mentioned the writing style above, and while I did like it then, it’s lack of directness and it’s wishy-washy way of spelling things out just added to the confusion the first two points gave me. I had to reread a few parts to get what was really going on, and even then I’m still not sure if I interpreted the scene properly. While I almost always love unique writing styles, this one just ended up hurting the ending even more.

4. At some point, Cleves stops being suspicious of others. There were tons of moments later on where Cleves just kept on believing what her friends said, even after being shown multiple times that they’ve very frequently not been entirely honest with her. Normally this isn’t so annoying, but if I’m relying on Cleves as much as I mentioned above, and suddenly I feel I can’t trust her, I feel even more lost in the book.

5. In the end, I wasn’t able to actually like anyone. Now I get the point of the book wasn’t to make people likable, but the way this book went made it hard to actually enjoy and go along with some of the scenes and events in the final 20% of the book. I was at the point where I literally didn’t like nor trust anyone, but I had to go along with how it ended up being tied up anyways. I just wasn’t into it anymore.

I’m sure there are more little things that started bugging me the further along I got in the story, but these are the main issues that switched me from loving the book to just being annoyed by it. I feel like it has a lot of potential, and some of these issues may have been fixed enough for the final copy, so I do recommend just trying it. And I’ll definitely see what other books this author will release! However, The Dead Queens Club just wasn’t for me.

Into The Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Do I think they found mermaids? Yes. Of course I do. And I think  the mermaids ate them all.”

4/5 Stars

Into The Drowning Deep follows humanity’s endless curiosity and greed, and what happens when it meets the hidden mysteries of the deep, dark sea. One ship has already been lost to the myth of mermaids, found floating with no crew left in site, and now Imagine, an entertainment company, is planning on sending another. The Melusine is said to be the perfect boat for the quest, but can it protect its passengers from the truly unknown?

Continue reading “Into The Drowning Deep by Mira Grant”

From Lukov With Love by Mariana Zapata

5/5 Stars

From Lukov With Love follows Jasmine, a 26-year-old ice skater that was just dumped by her pairs partner and has been unable to find another, thus unable to skate competitively. She has shifted her life semi away from ice skating towards her familiar and working instead, but her passion and dreams to win are still there. She’s given the chance to partner with her fiercest rival, but can the two ever learn how to work together?

Continue reading “From Lukov With Love by Mariana Zapata”

People Kill People by Ellen Hopkins

“It doesn’t matter how the gun
fell into the wrong hands.

It only matters that it did.”

4/5 Stars

People Kill People follows the story of the essence of violence and a gun, and how these two work to affect the lives of 6 distinct people. Told in a combination of verse and second person prose, Hopkins manages to weave a tale that both grips you and frightens you, all while discussing the truth of violence and weapons.

Continue reading “People Kill People by Ellen Hopkins”

The Darkest Star by Jennifer L. Armentrout (ARC Review)

“There’s nothing we can do other than live with the promise of tomorrow while knowing it may not come.”

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

The Darkest Star is Jennifer L. Armentrout’s YA return to the world of Luxen, taking place just a few years after the end of the original Lux series. It follows a new character, Evie, whose family is tied closely with the government and its secrets, but doesn’t know what political leaders have decided to hide behind closed doors about Luxen and the invasion. It’s a book with aliens, mystery, and romance, and follows the same addictive style of the original Lux series.

Continue reading “The Darkest Star by Jennifer L. Armentrout (ARC Review)”

The Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs

Seven tightly interwoven narratives. Three harrowing hours. One fateful day that changes everything. 

Delaware, the morning of April 19. Senior Skip Day, and April Donovan’s eighteenth birthday. Four days after the Boston Marathon bombing, the country is still reeling, and April’s rare memory condition has her recounting all the tragedies that have cursed her birth month. And just what was that mysterious gathering under the bleachers about? Meanwhile, in Nebraska, Lincoln Evans struggles to pay attention in Honors English, distracted by the enigmatic presence of Laura Echols, capturer of his heart. His teacher tries to hold her class’s interest, but she can’t keep her mind off what Adrian George told her earlier. Over in Idaho, Phoebe is having second thoughts about the Plan mere hours before the start of a cross-country ploy led by an Internet savant known as the Mastermind. Is all her heartache worth the cost of the Assassins’ machinations? The Light Fantastic is a tense, shocking, and beautifully wrought exploration of the pain and pathos of a generation of teenagers on the brink—and the hope of moving from shame and isolation into the light of redemption.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here again with another review!

“The truth is that I couldn’t not be in love with the world if I tried.”

Taking place in the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon tragedy, this book follows seven characters that are about to enter an even more personal tragedy in this already tumultuous atmosphere. With a focus on emotion, Sarah Combs explores the individual behind mass tragedy and the layers of feeling created by a single moment.

Continue reading “The Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs”

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

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

“Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here again with another review!

“The trick is to find that one person who can give it back as good as they can take it.”

Stars (Out of 10): 10/10 Stars

Lemme preface this by saying that romance and contemporary generally isn’t a genre I read a lot of, so I’m often both much easier to please in terms of tropes/plots/romance but also much more way going into the book. But on the recommendation of nearly every single reader in The Book Coven discord, I knew I just had to pick this up. (Link here if you want to join! We talk all things bookish: )

Following their advice and recommendation was probably the best idea I had this month. I’ve been slogging through books recently, a mix of both reading too much of one genre and of being overburdened with reading work in uni, but this book seemed to ignore all of that and hook me from page 1. I originally picked this up on a long, tiring trip home from a concert, when my mind was far too sleepy for something as intense as a fantasy, and even in that state, I found the exact book I needed.

Firstly, I must commend Thorne on her pacing. I’m the sort of person who always needs to finish a chapter before putting a book down, but The Hating Game simply doesn’t let me! Most time jumps are planted within the chapters themselves, with the ends and beginnings of chapters lining up so perfectly that you physically cannot stop reading. You just need to know what happens next, and turning that next page to find out is just way too easy. I’ve almost missed my stops on both buses and trains thanks to this amazing, evil book.

The story itself was also just composed of my favorite things. Like most people, I’m weak for the haters to lovers/enemies to lovers trope, and any hint of it within a book gets me hooked almost right away. Additionally, the setting was also one I found interesting. Rather than just some plain office setting, Thorne brings the publishing house setting to life within the story, even though it is far from the focus. And as someone who hopes to work in that industry in the future, it was just an extra thing to love.

Another thing was the layers to the story. It wasn’t just two flat characters who hated each other for no reason that suddenly went to love “just because.” The relationship developed in a pretty realistic way, even if the whole playing games with your rival thing may have been a smidge far-fetched at points (not complaining though, I still loved it). Additionally, both characters had some pretty complicated pasts and family lives, and the connection of this to the main story made it so much more addicting, and that much more amazing.

The Hating Game has blown my admittedly high expectations away, and I cannot wait to see what Thorne writes next.

The Golden Tower by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

“The final, thrilling installment in this extraordinary series from bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.

A generation ago, powerful mage Constantine Madden came close to achieving what no magician had ever achieved: the ability to bring back the dead. He didn’t succeed . . . but he did find a way to keep himself alive, inside a young child named Callum Hunt.

Facing up to what he is, Callum has battled chaos and evil across four years of magical training at the Magisterium, eventually defeating the armies of chaos in an epic battle.

It came at a cost.

Now, triumphant and heartbroken, Callum Hunt has just about had enough, and is ready to complete his training. But the evil Callum faced has not given up just yet…”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here again with another review!

Stars (Out of 10): 3/10 Stars

I had such high hopes for this book after the redeeming of the series (for me) in book 4. Just in general, there was so much potential for this series, and I had such expectations both from books 1 and 2 and from Clare’s and Black’s prior works.

Now, I get this is a middle grade series. It won’t be as deep as Black’s The Cruel Prince/Tithe/etc. or Clare’s The Infernal Devices/The Dark Artifices/etc. I also get that these books are not necessarily aimed towards me, and both the humor and plot are aimed for those younger than I. However, this series, this book, being a part of a younger genre does not excuse some of the issues this series had, especially in terms of pacing, plot, and characters. It does not excuse the illogical nature of some of the decisions in this book, or the lack of effort (it seems) in the planning of this book, and series as a whole. I was honestly surprised when it seemed as if this book left things purposely open for a sequel series, as it honestly felt, while reading, that the author duo seemed to be less and less interested in these books.

You can possibly blame my earlier love for the series on my younger age, but I’d argue that those books were just overall better, in terms of character dynamics, plot, and pacing (oh god, especially the pacing). Yes the trio and world heavily mimicked Harry Potter, and the series definitely needed to move away from that, but that doesn’t mean that the series needed to lose the normal pacing it had in books 1 and 2. And yes, the plot was not complex at all in the earlier books, but it doesn’t need to be, as that’s not necessarily what I expect from a middle grade book.

Let’s just get the worst over with and discuss pacing. In books 1 and 2 this was fairly well done, with the books spanning an entire school year, and sometimes a bit of the summer beforehand. A standard pacing style for a school based series. Book 3 already broke this pattern by ending about half way through the year (if I remember correctly, it’s been a few years now), and that sharp contrast in time period definitely left the book feeling unfinished. The time period of book 4 is honestly a mystery to me, but at the start of book 5, 4 years of schooling have supposedly passed (I don’t know how). Book 5, while when looked at logically, takes place over a few months or something, reads like it all takes place within the first week of school or something. There is almost no build up or problem solving in this book. Nothing stalls the constant moving plot, and this constant action, combined with weird time jumps/lack of focus on anything but events that directly solve the plot, makes the book read really quickly, as well as feel weirdly timed. I’d have to actually study this book to figure out how the timeline all works together, and even then I can’t promise I’d find an answer. Additionally, the allocation of pages to different periods of time didn’t add up at all. There are a few moments of travelling and driving in this book, but the pacing and logistics of them is so ridiculous that I couldn’t even fully take those seriously and as a part of the actual plot/story. It honestly just felt like badly written filler, even when it contributed directly to the plot.

As I’m already on the subject, let’s talk about the plot. Arguably, the second worst part of this book next to the pacing. There is no true conflict in this book. Nothing goes wrong, nothing is lost, and anytime something gets in the way of Call/Tamara/Aaron, even the main evil of the book, almost no effort goes to actually solving the problem, as a solution is almost always presented immediately. Additionally, this lack of struggle means the entire book reads at the exact same amount of tension. There are no highs and lows. It is all action, and since there are no dull moments to make that action exciting by comparison, the action itself becomes boring. Additionally, there is almost no build up to this installment. Book 4 seemed to neatly wrap up everything in a bow for our duo/trio, so this book definitely needed something to bring that evil back to the forefront, some whispers of dark magic or evil returning rather than just a single hint and then sudden entrance of the big bad.

The characters themselves were also just weaker than in past installments. Call’s main focus was staring at Tamara and worrying about college, admittedly mundane worries for someone with an evil soul who also happens to be harboring the spirit of his dead best friend inside of him. Call ended up being such a let down that I won’t even spend more words on him. Additionally, what the heck was this villain? He was ridiculous to the point of absurdity, and nothing close to the level of evil the past books seemed to contain. I mean, Alex freaking killed someone for their powers, and you can’t even meet that level for your finale? Come on guys.  

I almost never say this, but this series should have been shorter. This series would have actually been stronger if things had just ended on book 4. I can’t say much good about this particular book, but at least it was a quick read.


The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco

“In The Bone Witch, Tea mastered resurrection―now she’s after revenge…

No one knows death like Tea. A bone witch who can resurrect the dead, she has the power to take life…and return it. And she is done with her self-imposed exile. Her heart is set on vengeance, and she now possesses all she needs to command the mighty daeva. With the help of these terrifying beasts, she can finally enact revenge against the royals who wronged her―and took the life of her one true love.

But there are those who plot against her, those who would use Tea’s dark power for their own nefarious ends. Because you can’t kill someone who can never die…

War is brewing among the kingdoms, and when dark magic is at play, no one is safe.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

“Life isn’t fair, dear one. And sometimes, neither is death.”

Stars (Out of 10): 10/10 Stars

I’ve taken a while to finally get to this review, but I still don’t think I’ll be able to properly vocalize how I feel about this book, and a series as a whole.

This sequel contains everything I loved about book 1, and even more. We’ve got the flip flopping past and present POVs, the same characters and tenuous relationships, and both Tea and the Bard narrate as well. What’s added is more action, more plot, and even some romance. One issue many people have with The Bone Witch is its long build-up and slow beginning, but this book does not “suffer” from those same traits. Both the present and past plots deal a lot more with direct actions and consequences, and the tension between the characters increasing as well. It all leads to a much more intense and exciting book.

Specifically in terms of characters, Rin continues to do such a fantastic job of creating fleshed out and real characters. Our main character, Tea, both in past and present, holds so much conflict within her, and her navigation of the truth and lies within her society is such an interesting path to follow. It also helps that we still aren’t sure if her present actions are explained by her past, or if we, as readers, also turn against her later on. The supporting cast all also stands on their own, with almost all characters developing their own stories and backgrounds further. They also work to complement Tea really well, as they do not work to take away from Tea’s story or distract readers, but also show the depth of Rin’s world, and how differently people view the same set of actions.

The plot was also quite intriguing, though I still found myself more interested in the present than the past portions of the chapter. One of the main portions of the plot was almost too well foreshadowed that it didn’t remain so much a mystery to me, and took away from the suspense of the past plot. However, even with this, Rin was able to fully capture me in her tale and world, and I was as fully in love with this book as I was with book 1.

The world was also just as gorgeous as when I was introduced to it in book 1, even now that we begin to see more and more of the shadows of the beauty. We gain more depth in this book, as well as knowledge into other kingdoms, specifically in terms of why some of the authorities in this book do what they do as well as the stark differences between the mindsets of the different members of the world. Additionally, since this book carries more moments of tensions, and actions that bring across consequences, we see more of the world in how they deal with these situations of tension.

But for some reason, grading this book on its individual parts isn’t something that sits right with me. The Heart Forger is so much more than the sum of its parts, and something needs to be said for how well it immerses the reader, and how at home I begin to feel in the world and heads of these characters. In two quick books these characters have attached themselves so strongly to my heart that the characters of much longer series can’t even compare. There is something so compelling and enchanting about the way Rin writes and builds her world that keeps a reader enraptured, even during the less intense, thrilling parts of the book. Simply learning more about Tea’s past, and discovering more about her and her perception of the world and events that lead her to her future is just so interesting.

The Bone Witch world seems to be a world I can revisit and love at any time, and is a book that, to me, can be read at any pace. I’ve admittedly taken longer than I would’ve liked with both The Heart Forger and currently the finale, The Shadowglass, but that somehow does not diminish my experience like it does for some books. All Rin needs is a few lines, maybe a paragraph, to fully suck me back into Tea’s story, and I love this series for it.