Review: Crown of Oblivion by Julie Eshbaugh

Crown of Oblivion
Astrid is the surrogate for Princess Renya, which means she bears the physical punishment if Renya steps out of line. Astrid has no choice—she and her family are Outsiders, the lower class of people without magic and without citizenship.

But there is a way out of this life—competing in the deadly Race of Oblivion. To enter the race, an Outsider is administered the drug Oblivion, which wipes their memory clear of their past as they enter a new world with nothing to help them but a slip of paper bearing their name and the first clue. It’s not as simple as solving a puzzle, however—for a majority of the contestants, the race ends in death. But winning would mean not only freedom for Astrid, but citizenship and health care for her entire family. With a dying father to think of, Astrid is desperate to prevail.

Following my not-so-stellar review of Ivory and Bone, by Julie Eshbaugh, I was a little nervous to try anything else by this author. I'd felt that Ivory and Bone was a great premise but just extremely monotonous to read, but I'd hoped that was just down to the neolithic premise.

Unfortunately I had the exact same experience with Crown of Oblivion. I had expected 'Running Man' meets 'The Hunger Games' meets 'Proxy'. I got something that felt poorly paced and boring to read. Some scenes felt rushed and some scenes felt like they dragged.

I enjoyed the start of this book - the first 15% or so were based on Astrid's life as a surrogate in the palace and I enjoyed the palace politics and just as I started to understand that, I was dragged away into the race and this was just a matter of two characters going place to place, getting into confrontations and then moving on. I never felt a sense of urgency or excitement, and in the end I gave up.

I don't know if there's just something about this author that doesn't exactly 'spark joy' in me, but it's highly likely that I will not be trying any more of this author's books.
DND (at 70%)

Book released 12th November 2019 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: A Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Weymouth

A Treason of Thorns
Violet Sterling has spent the last seven years in exile, longing to return to Burleigh House. One of the six great houses of England, Burleigh’s magic always kept the countryside well. And as a child, this magic kept Violet happy, draping her in flowers while she slept, fashioning secret hiding places for her, and lighting fires on the coldest nights to keep her warm.

Everything shattered, though, when her father committed high treason trying to free Burleigh from the king’s oppressive control. He was killed, and Vi was forced into hiding.

When she’s given a chance to go back, she discovers Burleigh has run wild with grief. Vines and briars are crumbling the walls. Magic that once enriched the surrounding countryside has turned dark and deadly, twisting lush blooms into thorns, poisoning livestock and destroying crops. Burleigh’s very soul is crying out in pain.

Vi would do anything to help, and soon she finds herself walking the same deadly path as her father all those years before. Vi must decide how far she’s willing to go to save her house—before her house destroys everything she’s ever known.

I really really enjoyed this book.

To be honest, I hadn't heard much about A Treason of Thorns before I saw it on Edelweiss and so my expectations weren't huge for it, and whilst it did take a little while to draw me in... when I was in, I was in.

This book has a Victorian Gothic kind of vibe, and what I found was particularly good was how Weymouth managed to give the house a personality and - even more amazing - an arc. I loved how Violet's personal development changed the way we saw the house, from her friend and protector so something so much more wild and terrifying. 

I loved the romance story as well, it was swoon worthy and even more, it wasn't straight up instalove. They've known eachother since they were kids so it makes it so much more believable.

I did feel that at times this book could be a little repetitive. Vi would try to save Burleigh and everytime someone throws a spanner in the works she repeats her mantra of 'A Caretaker always puts their house first'. I also feel like the magic was just 'there' and wasn't described in a way in which I could visualise it, and there were some very good descriptions in this book and so many lush things I could visualise that it felt a bit like a cop out.

All being said, despite a few small issues, I did absolutely love this book. Weymouth is a skilled writer and this book had an amazing atmosphere and brilliant characters.

Book released 10th September 2019 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: The Pioneer by Bridget Tyler (DNF)

The Pioneer (The Pioneer, #1)
When Jo steps onto Tau Ceti E, it should be the happiest moment of her life. After all, she’s been training for as long as she can remember to be a cadet pilot in the International Space Agency. She’s dreamed of the day she and her family would leave Earth forever and begin life as pioneers on a new planet.

But now she can’t stop thinking of everything that has gone wrong on their mission: the terrible accident that nearly destroyed their craft, that set their voyage back years, that killed her brother, that left her unable to fly…

As Jo struggles to live with her grief and figure out who she’s going to be now, she falls in love with her new world. It isn’t hard. Jo’s team is camped out by a pristine, tumbling river at the base of a mountain range that looks like huge prisms buried in the prairie. The soring crystal peaks transform every sunset into rainbows full of colors human eyes have never seen before. And that’s just the beginning. Tau offers Jo and her family a lifetime of beauty and adventure.

Jo throws herself into helping her team, lead by her commander mother, establish their community on this amazing new world. But just when she starts to feel like her old self again, she uncovers a devastating secret her mother has been keeping from her people. A secret that could destroy her family’s pioneering dreams…if they survive that long.

With the fate of the pioneers in her hands, Jo must decide how far she’s willing to go to expose the truth — before the truth destroys them all.

It has been sooooo long since I found a sci-fi book that I really enjoyed. The Pioneer unfortunately did not break this bad streak.

Okay, so first things first... I did DNF this book at 56%, and as you may know from previous reviews I don't always give long reviews for DNF books as it's unfair to do so.

So to sum up the reason that this book was a DNF. I enjoyed the start of the book enough, sure the pacing was off but I liked Jo and her willfullness. It just got a bit weird with aliens and then I just lost the plot a little and I had to give up because I was just not with it anymore.

Book released 5th March 2019 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Missing, Presumed Dead by Emma Berquist

Missing, Presumed Dead
 With a touch, Lexi can sense how and when someone will die. Some say it’s a gift. But to Lexi it’s a curse—one that keeps her friendless and alone. All that changes when Lexi foresees the violent death of a young woman, Jane, outside a club. But Jane doesn’t go to the afterlife quietly. Her ghost remains behind, determined to hunt down her murderer, and she needs Lexi’s help. In life, Jane was everything Lexi is not—outgoing, happy, popular. But in death, all Jane wants is revenge. Lexi will do anything to help Jane, to make up for the fact that she didn’t—couldn’t—save Jane’s life, and to keep this beautiful ghost of a girl by her side for as long as possible.

Recently I have had this huge craving to reread the Mediator series by Meg Cabot, it was the first book that got me into the YA Paranormal genre in the first place. The issue is that I have such a huge TBR pile that I put that thought to the back of my mind and decided to pick a randomly selected book from my TBR list and read it.

That book was Missing, Presumed Dead. Whilst it isn't really on the level of The Mediator, it definitely filled a void and left me feeling pretty contect.

Firstly, let me say how much I loved the Film Noir vibe that this book had going on. From Lexi's spiky exterior and the menance behind the scenes and the almost crime familia kind of thing that Urie has going on, it was amazing. 

There's also some amazing characters as well. As much as Lex herself wasn't entirely likeable, she had her reasons for pushing people away so it's forgivable. She's also compelling to read, and I loved those around her. Deda is an amzing character and even though he wasn't in on the action he was a steadfast support. Ilia... Oh how I loved Ilia... I expected Ilia to be the main love interest to be honest and I am so glad he was not. It's such an amazing representation of how a male can be a protector and that can be completely platonic.

Now let's get onto the less alive characters. Trevor... oh get me a Trevor. he was funny and cute and witty and such a companion to Lex. Jane was also just amazing, so real to life and such an instigator for Lexi's change and arc. I supported the two of them all the way through even though I find dead/alive romance as a trope entirely cringeworthy.

The plot of this book was pretty simple, but the origianlity came from the underground network of magic and powers that exists in a modern day LA. I loved that the descriptions were vague enough to not be infodump but also not entirely complicated so it didn't feel like poor world building.

Overall, Missing, Presumed Dead is one of the better books that I have read recently. It's only because I compare all Urban Paranormal books to the ones that set me on this blogging course that this book won't get 5/5.

Book released 21st May 2019 by Greenwillow Books
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: The Beholder by Anna Bright

The Beholder

 Selah has waited her whole life for a happily ever after. As the only daughter of the leader of Potomac, she knows her duty is to find the perfect match, a partner who will help secure the future of her people. Now that day has finally come.

But after an excruciatingly public rejection from her closest childhood friend, Selah’s stepmother suggests an unthinkable solution: Selah must set sail across the Atlantic, where a series of potential suitors awaits—and if she doesn’t come home engaged, she shouldn’t come home at all.

I feel like this review is going to be a hard one to write. it's barely been five minutes since I finished The Beholder and I can barely put my thoughts into worsdsbecause I'm in two minds.

1) Diversity, amazing secondary characters, intrigue, pretty princesses OMG!
2) What worldbuilding, magical radios and instalove... disjointed retelling.

Let's put these thoughts into words then.

Okay, first the pros. I really really loved the premise of this book. From page one I was hooked by Selah's life and her life in Pontomac and the intrigue with her evil stepmother and ailing father. There were some gorgeous descriptions and some amazing characters.

I particularly liked the crew of The Beholder. They were like a mixing pot of different cultures and backgrounds and they each brought something really fun to the table. Cobie is my BFF for life... I think that their loyalty to Selah even when they weren't being 100% truthful with her was beautiful.

That being said, the whole thing did feel disjointed at times. This is billed as a retelling of The Odyssey but that's nowhere near correct. it's more a retelling of different key tropes of different fairytales and folk stories and fables and they never really knit together as well as you might hope. That, as well as the poor worldbuilding (like really, why is a radio the only technology that exists... why are people in Norway - sorry, I mean Norge - living in a giant tree and where on Earth is Pontomac??) just made the whole thing difficult for me to swallow.

Now lets talk about the love interest. Really, Bright? Do you really need to introduce me to two handsome men that Selah falls for and then just rip through it. Firstly, it kind of makes 90% of the book about arc's which won't be significant down the line and secondly it makes Selah seem desperate, needy and it ruins the integrity of any future love interests. It looks like Captain Lang might be more important in the next book and I just hope that actually goes somewhere. (Torden for life).

The one thing that really saved this book was the writing. Despite a few phrases which seemed out of place for the setting, Bright's writing itself was descriptive and absorbing and took away from the many negatives of this book.

Overall, I will definitely be reading the sequel, but I hope that in it Bright spends more time developing the characters and the world...


Book released 6th November 2018 by Katherine Tegen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Fan the Flame by Anna Priemaza

Fan the Fame
Lainey wouldn’t mind lugging a camera around a video game convention for her brother, aka YouTube superstar Codemeister, except for one big problem. He’s funny and charming online, but behind closed doors, Cody is a sexist jerk.

SamTheBrave came to this year’s con with one mission: meeting Codemeister—because getting his idol’s attention could be the big break Sam needs.

ShadowWillow is already a successful streamer. But when her fans start shipping her with Code, Shadow concocts a plan to turn the rumors to her advantage.

The three teens’ paths collide when Lainey records one of Cody’s hateful rants on video. Because she’s determined to spill the truth to her brother’s fans—even if that means putting Sam and Shadow in the crosshairs.
My notes for when I read this book are scarce, because I read it in a single bath, refilling the water twice, but they pretty much said this: LumberLegs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So yeah.

Look, I have an older brother. He also is a Twitch streamer. He also says things which I might deem inapporpriate. Don't get me wrong, he's not a total jerk like Cody, but I did definitely relate to the culture and the issues in this book.

I think the key to this book is the characters, so lets start with them. None of them were perfect (except maybe Legs) but I was a little annoyed by most of them. Lainey... she is so righteous that she sees everything so black and white - good or bad. I get that she tried to confront Cody and always got spoken to like crap, but I think that the way she approached things was way too heavy handed. ShadowWillow was a user, but she was just fighting tooth and nail to make her place in a mostly male run show. Don't get me wrong, I get that... but still, her obsession with follower counts while ignoring the people who really cared for her 'Zzz'  was frustrating. I really felt for Sam, he has his issues and he can't fight them and he feels trapped but he finds his own place as a streamer and his wa sthe only story that turned out the way it should.

The storyline of this book was brilliant. Whilst I didn't always agree with the character's actions, I think Priemaza has really got her claws into the eGaming and Streaming cultures and wrote about them honestly and authentically and whilst I don't want to ruin this for anyone so I may be vague, it was an honest representation of a culture that prides itself on being 'inclusive' but can be so very elitist.


Book released 20th August 2019 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: A Dress for the Wicked by Autumn Krause

A Dress for the Wicked
Nothing much happens in the sleepy town of Shy in Avon-upon-Kynt. And for eighteen years, Emmaline Watkins has feared that her future held just that: nothing.

But when the head of the most admired fashion house in the country opens her prestigious design competition to girls from outside the stylish capital city, Emmy’s dreams seem closer than they ever have before.

As the first “country girl” to compete, Emmy knows she’ll encounter extra hurdles on her way to the top. But as she navigates the twisted world of high fashion she starts to wonder: will she be able to tailor herself to fit into this dark, corrupted race? And at what cost?

Ok. I love Project Runway, despite the fact that I have the fashion sense of a fish - a very unfashionable fish - I love the drama and the campness and I love Heidi/Karlie and I love the designs and the challenges and when this book was described as a fantasy Project Runway I knew that I had to read it.

Don'd get me wrong. I did enjoy this book, it just didn't blow me away. I read it in a day, so it did keep my attention, but it wasn't particularly memorable afterwards. Emmeline fell flat for me, as did all of the other characters. There was some depth, in the political side of things, but it wasn't enough to make this book wow me.

The love story... oh, it could have been this epic stretched-out thing and it could have saved this book... but our headstrong Emmy just fell apart around Tristan, so I just could not bring myself to really like him, or their relationship.

Overall, A Dress for the Wicked was not quite what I expected and it did definitely fall short in my view. That being said, it was fun it just lacked depth and worldbuilding.


Book released 6thAugust 2019 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Fireworks by Katie Cotugno

It was always meant to be Olivia. She was the talented one, the one who had been training to be a star her whole life. Her best friend, Dana, was the level-headed one, always on the sidelines, cheering her best friend along.

But everything changes when Dana tags along with Olivia to Orlando for the weekend, where superproducer Guy Monroe is holding auditions for a new singing group, and Dana is discovered too. Dana, who’s never sung more than Olivia’s backup. Dana, who wasn’t even looking for fame. Next thing she knows, she and Olivia are training to be pop stars, and Dana is falling for Alex, the earnest, endlessly talented boy who’s destined to be the next big thing.

It should be a dream come true, but as the days of grueling practice and constant competition take their toll, things between Olivia and Dana start to shift . . . and there’s only room at the top for one girl. For Olivia, it’s her chance at her dream. For Dana, it’s a chance to escape a future that seems to be closing in on her. And for these lifelong best friends, it’s the adventure of a lifetime—if they can make it through.

 Ah. Well.

First thing first, I enjoyed Fireworks. I truly did, it was such a throw back to the time of Backstreet Boys and N*Sync and Destiny's Child and that was my time. So that was what sold me on this book.

That being said, I just didn't love this book. It lacked depth that I always find in more 'modern' comtemporary novels. The characters felt so one-dimensional to me, that whilst I enjoyed the story, it was more for the setting and the time as opposed to the characters and the arcs. I feel like this book was carried so well by it's setting and the fact that the target audience for YA books are the people that grew up through bubblegum pop music, that it kind of doesn't aim to be too meaningful or even realistic.

Katie Cotugno is a good writer - no doubt about that - she manages to write in a way that fits the age of the characters, and that in itself is such a big part of writing YA.

Overall, whilst I enjoyed the experience of reading Fireworks, I do not ultimately feel that this book is memorable. It was a good book, I just wouldn't go as far as to call it great.

Book released 18th April 2017 by Balzer + Bray
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: If You're Out There by Katy Loutzenhiser

If You're Out There
After Zan’s best friend moves to California, she is baffled and crushed when Priya suddenly ghosts. Worse, Priya’s social media has turned into a stream of ungrammatical posts chronicling a sunny, vapid new life that doesn’t sound like her at all.
Everyone tells Zan not to be an idiot: Let Priya do her reinvention thing and move on. But until Zan hears Priya say it, she won’t be able to admit that their friendship is finished.
It’s only when she meets Logan, the compelling new guy in Spanish class, that Zan begins to open up about her sadness, her insecurity, her sense of total betrayal. And he’s just as willing as she is to throw himself into the investigation when everyone else thinks her suspicions are crazy.

Then a clue hidden in Priya’s latest selfie introduces a new, deeply disturbing possibility:
Maybe Priya isn’t just not answering Zan’s emails.
Maybe she can’t.
Yes to well represented, well written and absolutely adorable female friendship. Yes to a contemporary book with a main character that makes a series of not-always-right decisions in pursuit of that friendship. yes to authentic dialogue. Yes to plot progression and vibe building and all of the things that kept me hooked to this book.

Yes, yes, yes to Logan and instant connections and funny chats and support and some kind of natural growth for a teen romance.

Honestly, I was expecting a reallu dark mystery, but in reality this book was super absorbing but also light and funny and heartwarming whilst also keeping that more sinister tone of mystery there. 

I loved Zan as a character, honestly I was so hooked on her friendship with Priya that I belived her so much. I believed that Priya wouldn't just ghost her and that something must be wrong because she was so strong and unerring in her own convictions. She was a character that I absolutely adored to read, and I would recommend If You're Out There for that reason, but for many more.

Book released 5th March 2019 by Balzer and Bray
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review