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A Curse So Dark and Lonely (A Curse So Dark and Lonely #1) – Brigid Kemmerer

A Curse So Dark and Lonely (A Curse So Dark and Lonely #1) – Brigid KemmererTitle: A Curse So Dark and Lonely (A Curse So Dark and Lonely #1) Publishing Info: January 29, 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Source: BEA 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: January 27, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Fall in love, break the curse.

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

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A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY was so enjoyable from start to finish! I’ve been struggling with some YA reads lately so I was afraid that like many others I’ve read recently that this would fall into a pit of tropes, but this book soared beyond my expectations! Right off the bat, I loved the tone of the book and I think the crossover/connection between the modern world in Washington DC and the fantasy world of Emberfall really made a difference. The readers are able to get a unique twist on this fantasy concept with a modern voice from Harper and that old-world, medieval-type feel from Rhen.

You may have heard that A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY is a Beauty and the Beast adaptation and I thought that was done brilliantly! Concepts are taking from the classic fairy tale but still given their own twist. Not every piece of Beauty and the Beast was made to fit this novel and A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY also goes along its own paths, not needing to stick to the concept 100%. What I loved even more was seeing the book’s originality lead back to the fairy tale adaptation without realizing we were on that road and I was so impressed seeing things circle back around to the adaption in their own way. I’ve read a lot of retellings over the years and some stories stick too religiously to the original work so I was really happy to see how expertly the author’s original concepts were woven in with the inspiration from Beauty and the Beast.

The characters here were just wonderful and they really made this story what it is in so many ways. Harper is strong and fierce but the way that Brigid Kemmerer chose to craft this character was really special. There are so many badass YA heroines out there that get too cocky or are just magically perfect, but Harper felt more like a real person to me than most of those other leading ladies. I loved that Brigid Kemmerer included Harper’s cerebral palsy and how it was portrayed as the way that Harper was born and not as a disadvantage or weakness. It was also great to see Harper grow into her boldness, from being a little sheltered by her brother to being thrown into this fantasy world and having to make a name for herself, quite literally. She didn’t change in personality but merely let that side of her grow in the proper atmosphere and situation. The reader was able to see that potential in Harper and with her situation in Emberfall and the other people by which she was surrounded, Harper was able to really grow into her confidence and it really felt so natural.

Rhen was another fantastic character in so many ways. Harper originally felt that he was a cocky prince but really he had so many levels that unfolded as the book progressed. Readers learn of his remorse for everything that’s happened to the kingdom and how much he really took it all to heart. Rhen’s challenge in the book seemed to be with his emotions and feelings, having to trust in his heart and let go of some of his overthinking. Being forced to repeat so many scenarios due to his curse, he essentially has ages to plan without growing older and somewhat replaying the opportunity to fall in love to break the curse, he employs different strategies, none of which work, of course, because love can’t be won by strategy. Harper and Grey, Rhen’s commander, help Rhen learn how to trust his heart and not feel so forced to fall in love. He has to let go before he can really latch on.

One of my favorite things about the book was the romance, which doesn’t happen often these days. So many people get excited over big love scenes, passionate kisses, and fiery romances. I was all about this gorgeous slow burn romance that took its time and really established those deep emotions! It’s not quite a hate-to-love situation but since neither Harper nor Rhen trust each other (naturally), there’s quite a spark of mistrust and Harper’s brashness also leads to a few spats that have these two at odds in the beginning. I really loved that as well because it’s so much more rewarding seeing the two soften towards each other and really piques that curiosity if the two can manage to fall in love. That’s the whole point of the book so you assume it’s coming and yet there’s still the question if that really is what will happen and how they’ll both come to believe it. It’s so expertly crafted and those quiet, stolen moments were absolutely everything in this book! I love those moments more than anything in books and I think they’re some of the most special scenes to read.

Finally, there’s the fact that this book delivers something of its own with a few unique twists that I did not see coming! I loved the set up for the next book and reading something like this actually made me glad that it’s a series whereas usually I’m wishing for more stand-alones. I do think that this book could have been made into a stand-alone if that’s what the author had wanted and it would have been beautiful, but I’m also glad that I get to keep reading about these characters, this world, and this beautiful writing for a little bit longer!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Retellings. I’ve been hesitating with some retellings as of late because they’ve been taking the adaptation a little too literally or leaning on it to tell the story, but this was such an excellent blend!
Left Me Wanting More: Depth. I think this could have gone juuuuuust a bit deeper and it would have been an absolute slam dunk! It was already wonderful but there was just a touch of something that could have been that one smidge better!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

I enjoyed this adaptation so much. I’ve been a little hit-or-miss on fairy tale retellings lately because some are just not very well done but this was the absolute perfect blend of original and adaptation!

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Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss – Kasie West

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss – Kasie WestTitle: Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie West
Publishing Info: February 5, 2019 by HarperCollins
Source: Scribd
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Date Completed: February 6, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1), The Distance Between Us, On the Fence, Split Second (Pivot Point #2), The Fill-In Boyfriend, P.S. I Like You, By Your Side

Lacey Barnes has dreamed of being an actress for as long as she can remember. So when she gets the opportunity to star in a movie alongside one of Hollywood’s hottest actors, she doesn’t hesitate to accept the part.

But Lacey quickly learns that life in the spotlight isn’t as picture perfect as she imagined. She’s having trouble bonding with her costars, her father has hired the definition of a choir boy, Donavan Lake, to tutor her, and somewhere along the way she’s lost her acting mojo. And just when it seems like things couldn’t get any worse, it looks like someone on set is deliberately trying to sabotage her.

As Lacey’s world spins out of control, it feels like the only person she can count on—whether it’s helping her try to unravel the mystery of who is out to get her or snap her out of her acting funk—is Donavan. But what she doesn’t count on is this straight-laced boy becoming another distraction.

With her entire future riding on this movie, Lacey knows she can’t afford to get sidetracked by a crush. But for the first time in her life Lacey wonders if it’s true that the best stories really do happen when you go off script.

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I’m a huge Kasie West fan and all of her books are auto-buys, regardless of my reviews for them. Usually I pre-order and I somehow missed this one so I picked it up on audio so I didn’t have to wait!

FAME, FATE, AND THE FIRST KISS fell a little flat for me. When it came down to it, I felt like none of the characters were really all that likable. I didn’t really like Lacey that much and I didn’t find her character relatable either. I thought she seemed a little unreasonable at times and maybe she was a bit too much of a dreamer for me. While I don’t think an acting career is unrealistic, I had a hard time with how much she wanted to push off the end of high school to continue on her acting career when she could have easily managed both from the way that the book sounded. There were times when I liked her lack of filter and it felt genuine to hear some things pour out of her mouth but other times I felt she was rash and quick to assumptions.

I also just find that I don’t really enjoy books about acting or the movie/TV business. I think the only book that I did enjoy like that was GEEKERELLA and only half of the main characters were actually involved in the biz so it brought something a little different to the book rather than it being the only main narrator. I’m not sure what it is… just not being able to relate? I don’t enjoy the business or behind-the-scenes? But for some reason it just doesn’t hold me.

I also wanted just a bit more chemistry between Lacey and Donovan. I really started feeling it towards the end when they finally had some quiet moments together, allowing themselves to be relaxed and cute. I didn’t enjoy all of the tutoring scenes where it was so frantic on-set and Lacey’s co-stars and friends kept popping in and out.

I also thought the sabotage angle was a little cheesy and made it almost a mystery towards the end. I thought it took away from some of the reality of the book and I would have just loved to see more from the characters and a more character-driven novel. I could have dropped that part of the plot and just enjoyed the romance and character relationships.

Not my favorite Kasie West book by far. I think it’s my least favorite and I’m a little bummed about that. The character cameos were fun but they were from LOVE, LIFE, AND THE LIST which was also another not-favorite so it wasn’t as exciting.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Cute contemporaries. I always love a light, cute contemporary. This one wasn’t my favorite but it was just the kind of tone I was looking for!
Left Me Wanting More: Character development. I just feel like everyone was so surface-level. I didn’t really like much about any of them and that was really disappointing.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

If this wasn’t Kasie West, I don’t know if I’d recommend it. I didn’t really enjoy it that much and sadly, it may be my least favorite Kasie West book yet. I do love her books so much and would recommend her no matter what, but this one was a miss for me.

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King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) – Leigh Bardugo

King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) – Leigh BardugoTitle: King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) by Leigh Bardugo
Publishing Info: January 29, 2019 by Macmillan
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: January 31, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1), Siege and Storm (The Grisha #2), Grisha Novellas: The Witch of Duva (The Grisha #0.5), The Taylor (The Grisha #1.5), The Too-Clever Fox (The Grisha #2.5), Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1), Siege and Storm (The Grisha #2), Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3), Grisha Novellas: The Demon in the Wood (The Grisha #0.1) & Little Knife (The Grisha #2.6), The Demon in the Wood (The Grisha # 0.1), Little Knife (The Grisha #2.6), Six of Crows (The Dregs #1), Six of Crows (The Dregs #1), , Wonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons #1)

Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.

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My dearest Leigh Bardugo, congratulations on a phenomenal book. I’ve been trying to rate every book I read 100% sincerely, no matter if it’s a favorite author/series and I feel like I should love it, so know that this rating does not need any fluffing up of any kind.

I’ve loved Leigh Bardugo’s writing since her debut with SHADOW AND BONE and my connection with her and her books will always hold a special place in my heart since she was one of the first authors I ever met. With every book of hers I read, I’m so happy to continue to enjoy the stories she tells and I’m continuously impressed with each subsequent book. I’ve loved all of them but it’s amazing how I still feel like her writing continues to grow with every book or series. Shadow and Bone was the introduction to this universe and had a lot to set up, teach, and resolve within three books. Six of Crows took us to a new part of the Grishaverse with a stunning cast of characters who carried a brilliant heist-type plot but delved even further into character relationships and histories. KING OF SCARS continued to amaze me by diving into a layer of this universe that I didn’t even know existed and I was simply mind-blown with all of the hidden mysteries that I didn’t even realize I was missing.

While the writing style is different, the amount of world-building in KING OF SCARS reminded me of Brandon Sanderson’s books. With each book comes a delicious amount of creation, history, and plot to leave the readers curious and satisfied but then BAM! another layer is introduced and much like I felt when reading Sanderson fantasies, it was a brilliant addition that I hadn’t even considered but fit quite perfectly into the universe. All of the pieces fall so perfectly into place that you wonder how you ever did without knowing these pieces of information, and I love how Leigh Bardugo delivers those reveals to readers. Every reveal is so intentional and carefully crafted, and I really felt like Leigh Bardugo made the Grishaverse a real place for me. It’s like it’s always existed and only Leigh knows every in and out of the universe and she always has — it’s just that we as readers slowly get to discover what’s been there the entire time. So many fantasy works are carefully built but still just feel like stories that the author is inventing as they go along. KING OF SCARS unfolds the next layer of this world with expert connections back to Shadow and Bone as well as Six of Crows, showing how brilliantly all of these books have been masterminded. They all connect back to one another in the most perfect ways, from adding on to the existing world to referring back to favorite quotes to sneaking in pieces of other books as special Easter eggs. Whether or not Leigh had these entire books and plot lines in the back of her mind from the very beginning, she certainly knows her way around this complex world that she’s created and always finds a new way to continue creating new adventures while still building upon the stories that we’ve already read and loved.

There was a point in the book where things got REALLY next-level and it was both cool and also a little confusing. It wasn’t in a bad way but it was just a whole brand-new piece of world-building that I kind of had to wrap my brain around and it took me a little while to get into that big fantasy element. It was amazing to witness this concept that I really never saw coming and it was also so series-changing that it took me a while for my brain to adjust. Once the plot continued and the characters sort of wrangled that piece of the story line into the book, it all came back together and I was able to keep all of those pieces together. It also really did add some stupendous fantasy creations and made this series and universe even bigger than they already were. I felt like Shadow and Bone felt more on the YA side (not in a diminutive way, of course), Six of Crows felt like a crossover series to span from YA into adult audience, and KING OF SCARS really broke any boundaries and had some intensely sweeping concepts that really launched it to the next level.

I also want to applaud Leigh Bardugo for how she handled each narrating character (Nikolai, Zoya, and Nina) and how she handled each of their character relationships. I’ve been tiring of a lot of forced romances in other books, jumping into a romance plot, or pairing characters off so each one might have their own romance. I appreciated the subtlety of Six of Crows and how it established those intense relationship feelings without every character having to instantly fall in love and pair off. While each main character really did have their own pair in the book, it never felt like the romances took over and they all felt natural, falling into place at their own time. KING OF SCARS was exactly what I wanted in the romance department which is to say that it didn’t have much at all. Some characters certainly have romantic inklings or feelings and I’m interested in the direction that it’s heading, but there’s much more to focus on and each character shows the proper restraint and focus on their tasks at hand. So much has happened to each of these POV characters that they’re a little reluctant to open their hearts to someone while attempting to keep Ravka from falling to pieces. Instead, each one slowly starts to let emotion come through, guarded and carefully, and there’s just a snail’s pace towards a romantic involvement. I love the hints, the tension, and the slow burn and I’m glad to see that things may lead somewhere but there’s no rush for that to take over everyone’s priorities. All three of these characters also sort of need to learn to love themselves or let go of a past hardship — or both — before they can move on to a romantic relationship with someone else and I truly appreciate that character development. It’s great to see characters working through their own limitations or hardships instead of allowing a romantic plot to “fix” it all. Leigh Bardugo truly knows what she’s doing here and I’m loving the pace of the story all the way through!

I’m just so impressed with everything on these pages and I’m so happy to have a new piece of the Grishaverse. I had no idea where this series was even going to go when it started and I’m not sure how it’ll finish, but I’m loving this new direction and interesting take on the existing world!

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Digging deeper. I really got to know this world so much better in this book and it was SO interesting!
Left Me Wanting More: Grounding. There were a couple moments where things got a little intense in the fantasy aspect but I did really enjoy it overall!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

I absolutely loved this book. It did get a couple mixed reviews because of some things that happened, which I understand, but I thought it was stunning.

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