Wicked Saints

Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Wicked Saints is a story of good and evil and the balance between. Nadezhda Lapteva, Nadya, is a young cleric who can communicate with the gods. She can hear them speak to hear and is granted their powers to ultimately do good. High Prince Serefin Meleski is a powerful blood mage. He has been on the front lines of war trying to capture and take Nadya back to his kingdom. However, both Nadya and Serefin have a common enemy. Though their ideals conflict, both must come together and fight to save their lands.

The story alternates points of view between Nadya and Serefin. We get to see both sides of the story–those who believe in the divinity and the gods as well as those who believe in the power of their own blood magic. I will admit that this book is dense. There a lot of names to remember, such as those of the gods and goddesses that Nadya can talk to. Blood magic is also a complicated subject. Some can write their own spells while others need them written for them. Some are more skilled than others as well. Because there are two elements of magic, it can be difficult to keep the details straight.

My biggest issue with this book is the predictability of the characters. For instance, Malachiasz continuously gives Nadya hints about who he truly is and what he truly wants. Even Nadya and Serefin are predictable. You know the paths that they will choose because they are confident in who they are and what they stand for.

Overall, I did enjoy this book. Some parts were slow to build and the characters were a little predictable. But I am excited to see where this series goes next.

Rating: 3.5/5

*Wicked Saints is available Tuesday, April 2, 2019*

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

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My Own Words

My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg with Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams

I have two caveats with this book. First, I technically have been reading this book off and on for nearly 2 years. According to Goodreads, I started reading this book on March 17, 2017. I would pick up this book, read a passage every now and then and set it down for months. Second, used mixed media to read this book. I listened to this book via audiobook and read a physical copy. Both are wonderful options for this book, but the audiobook has recordings of Ginsburg giving her own speeches, instead of the narrator reading them. I love this touch. 

My Own Wordsis a collection of speeches, papers, and opinions written by Ruth Bader Ginsburg over the course of her lifetime. Because of this, the book is “dense reading material.” I’ll admit that this book took me a while to get through. Sometimes it’s hard to read and if you’re not used to reading court opinions or legal writing, this book may be a turn off for you. However, I still urge you to pick it up. Even if you’re reading one new speech a day or if it takes you several days to finish an opinion. You’ll learn something from this book. 

I have always had an interest in Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In law school, I wrote a seminar paper on Ginsburg and her contribution to women’s rights in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Over the last few years, she has become an icon and has been dubbed Notorious R.B.G. From books to merchandise of all kinds, people have got on board with the revolution of women’s rights, with many using RBG has their own, personal icon. 

I LOVED this book and encourage anyone with an interest in RBG to add this to their list. Whether she’s a hero to you, or you are curious about any part of her life, this book will shed light on Ginsburg. The book follows her life chronologically, from editorials Ginsburg wrote in grade school to highlights of the 2015-2016 US Supreme Court Term. This book is not only educational, but also inspirational. 

Rating: 5/5

Charmed & Dangerous

Charmed & Dangerous by Candace Havens

Summary

Bronwyn is a powerful witch who has decided to move to the small town of Sweet, Texas. She feels like staying in a small town is a great way to take note of her surroundings and know what’s coming. But she also has an important job. Bronwyn protects the Prime Minister and other important leaders from supernatural and human threats.

As Bronwyn is forced to face her past and enemies from all sides. She’ll carefully consider who are the most important people in her life and what causes are worth fighting for.

This story takes the format of a journal, following Bronwyn across continents and through tales of friends and lovers.

Review

I adored this story. The only reason I’m not rating it higher is because there are a few flaws. The action scenes are a little too short. The big fight that was building took only a few paragraphs. I felt let down that there was no battle between Bronwyn and this all-powerful warlock. And if you pay attention, some other scenes are not well written. But for a fast-paced book that covers a lot of ground, I feel like this is forgivable.

This was a cute, quick read. There is just about everything you’d want in a paranormal romance: love, witches, sass, demons, action, and world-class travel. You will be captivated by Havens’ characters and left wanting to know where Bronwyn is headed next.

Rating: 3.5/5

Binge

Binge by Tyler Oakley

I’ve had this book on my shelf for years. I’ve always had a mild interest in Tyler Oakley and have followed his Youtube channel since I was in high school. But, over the last few years I’ve stopped watching most Youtubers because I just got too busy. I thought this would be a great segway back into it.

While I do have a physical copy of this book, I listened to most of it via audiobook. Tyler Oakley narrates the book himself and I think it adds to the book. Sometimes Tyler “breaks the wall” and talks directly to the listener for a few moments and these have nothing to do with the audiobook. He’s checking in with listeners and encouraging them to interact with him on social media. I can understand why, but sometimes it can be a little annoying.

For the most part, the book follows stories of Tyler’s life chronologically. From his first birthday, to growing up in Michigan, to becoming Youtube famous, going to college, an moving across the country, Tyler recounts stories of his life. I like that his stories are not far-fetched. They’re relatable. We all have moments we’ve overcome in our lives. They may have not been a speech impediment or coming out, but we all have some hardship.

Tyler Oakley is a character, he says so himself. He’s loud and puts up a front. But behind the Youtube Star is a normal guy. Who sometimes gets overwhelmed with life and needs a break. I sympathized with one story recounting a birthday where he just needed to get away from a crowd of people and enjoy time with a close friend. I have been in this similar situation. Sometimes, we have a persona we show the world so that we can hide behind it. But that persona can become exhausting and we need a break. I like that Tyler seems genuine and that is likely why he has a large following still today.

Overall, I enjoyed reading and listening to this novel. I do recommend listening to the audiobook if possible. It feels like a friend is sharing stories with you. But the physical book is also great because there are pictures that accompany many of Tyler’s stories. Whether you’re a die-hard fangirl or just a passing fan, this is a great book to read.

Rating: 4/5

The Wicked King

The Wicked King by Holly Black

Summary

The Wicked King picks up where The Cruel Prince left off. Cardan has been crowned King but he’s still subject to Jude’s true rule. The Kingdom is in turmoil. Some support Cardan, some are slow to accept his crown, and others want to use this time of pandemonium as an excuse to usurp Cardan. Jude must find a way to protect Cardan and his supports. But there are threats from all sides. In this second novel, the main characters are faced with some tough decisions. Whether they should follow their hearts or play the game that has been set in motion.

Characters

Most of the characters I covered in my original review of The Cruel Prince. There are not many new players in this book, but we do get a closer look at the Undersea. I liked seeing the new underwater creatures, but they were not memorable.

Review

I struggled with this book. At every turn, I was left wanting more. I was waiting for Jude to take charge. I was waiting for Cardan to defy Jude. I wanted Taryn to stand up for herself. But we didn’t see any of that.

Jude panders back and forth. While it is true no one listens to her commentary and observations, she could do more to have a commanding presence. She may be the right hand of the King, but she does not have a strong voice. She does not take charge, and I constantly find myself rolling my eyes at her predictable actions.

Cardan just comes off as spineless. He did take an oath to listen to Jude and be under her control, but he’s supposed to be intelligent and is capable of tricking her. What happened the the Cardan everyone talks about? The one that finds loopholes and thwarts Judes plans or wishes. I will say that the ending of this book FINALLY had be cheering for Cardan, but it was not a plot twist.

Overall, I don’t think this is a bad story. It’s a quick read and things feel like they start to come together. I feel like Holly Black has A LOT of explaining to do in this next book, Queen of Nothing. But again, the events of this book are predictable. And I wanted to see more of the Fae Realm and its creatures. Sure, we got to see the merpeople in the Undersea, but I still feel like there was not much description. It felt like an event to rush through.

Rating: 4/5

The Cruel Prince

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Summary

Jude and Taryn are twin girls who are ripped away from their human home and taken to the Fae land of Elfhame. There, they are raised alongside their older sister, Vivi, in a world that is far from familiar. While the Fae cannot lie, they all harbor secrets. Jude and Taryn separately try to fit in by going to classes and keeping up on their swordplay. But nothing in Elfhame is what it seems and each girl must decide the course of their fate.

Characters

Jade, the protagonist, is a young teen who wants to earn her place in the Fae Realm of Elfhame. She wants to rise through the ranks and use her skills to become part of the Royal Guard. She opposes some of the norms of Elfhame. Like humans being treated like their are dispensable. But Jade is cunning and knows how to trick some Fae into following her own plans.

Taryn is Jane’s twin sister. We’re constantly reminded of this as Jane refers to her as her own mirror. She is also determined to fit into the Fae Realm, but she plans to marry into a well-off family. Taryn is less determined than her twin, and is constantly willing to bend to the whims of everyone else around her. Above all, Taryn is a people pleaser who is constantly worried about what others think of her.

Cardan, the antagonist, is a spoiled young prince who does what he wants and gets away with it. He tortures Jade because she’s defiant and is the only one who stands up to him. Cardan is a bully. His passionate hatred for Jane is what drives him. He picks on her every chance he gets and even encourages his group of friends to do the same. Cardan hides behind is crown because he can, being one of the youngest. He knows he’s not destine to become king, so he acts out.

Vivi is the only one who is not in love with Elfhame. Although she is a fae, she desperately wants out and to be part of the human world. She defies her father whenever she can because she’s resentful for being pulled back to Elfhame. She’s the biggest voice of reason and tries to be rational.

Review

I have mixed feelings about this book. I think I expected a lot because there was a huge ope surrounding this novel. I have always been a fan of Holly Black’s writing, but this book falls short.

My biggest problem is Jude. I don’t feel a connection to her. She’s not likable. You spend most of the book yelling at her to stop being an idiot. She thinks she’s being defiant and standing up to someone who bullies her, but she’s at a huge disadvantage. Jude is human and is navigating through a world that is not her own. She constantly underestimates her opponents. I want more for her and I feel disappointed with her.

I also have a problem with Taryn. Much like her twin, she’s not likable, but for different reasons. She’s weak and selfish. She doesn’t care about her sister’s feelings, she only wants what’s best for her. She’s more than willing to lie to and manipulate her twin to get what she wants. But Taryn isn’t even cunning, she does these things because she’s told to. It’ll make her loved and more desirable I she does what she’s told.

I have heard a lot of people praise the world building of Elfhame, but I don’t see it. While there are beautiful new creatures, I don’t otherwise see the draw of Elfhame. It seems like this realm is similar to every other faerie realm I’ve read about.

I also feel frustrated with the potential of Vivi. I was excited to see a bisexual character in this story. Vivi is vibrant and rebellious. She’s like any teenager, but she’s not human and not typical. She’s the only one who wants to escape Elfhame. Vivi has a much better story to tell than the twins do (combined). I wanted to see more of her and why she has a chip on her shoulder.

Overall, I don’t understand the hype surrounding this book. The characters and the faerie realm are nothing spectacular. The only thing that saves this book is how well written it is. But there are some points that feel too verbose or too amateur. I don’t have high expectations for the rest of this series, but I will continue reading the rest of the books.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Girl, Wash Your Face Review

Girl Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Are Meant To Be by Rachel Hollis

When I hear this title of this book and people talking about it, all I can think is “Girl, Shut Up!” I should start by saying that I absolutely HATED this book. I was close to walking away from it so many times, but I figured I should stick it out. Have you ever hate read or hate listened to something? That was this book for me. The longer I listened, the more I rolled my eyes. For someone who hold themselves out to be a guru and give sage advice, I found cliche stacked on top of cliche.

This book is an anthology of self-entitled stories from a woman who is obsessed with herself and her #tribe. She uses experiences she has had as a way to connect to others. But her experiences are not common, unless you too are privileged and self-entitled. She advocates stung with someone who treated her horribly. She has no self-awareness and it shows. Hollis pawns off her experience as all-telling because she has millions of followers. But honestly, I had no idea who Rachel Hollis was until I picked up this book.

I also did not know that this was a Christian book until I started reading. That fact was never advertised anywhere. While I have no issues with Christian novels or content, I found that a lot of the sayings Hollis came back to are general teachings that she pretends are profound.

This book is as shallow as its author. I cannot and will not recommend this book. It is filled with not so humble brags and the kind of advice you’d find on kitten posters in any classroom. Instead of giving useful advice, Hollis belittles others who do not fit into her limited worldview. This is not a story filled with good advice. Most self-help gurus are a self-made scam, and Hollis fits under that category.

Haunted in Hollywood

Haunted in Hollywood by Loey Lane

As a general preface, I have no idea who Loey Lane is because I have not watched her YouTube channel or seen her social media. I didn’t know her name until I saw this book. I picked it up on a whim because I was looking for a light book to read after finishing a dense nonfiction book. This did the trick and refreshed my reading palate.

Haunted in Hollywood follows aspiring model, Loey Lane, to the set of Marilyn Monroe’s most iconic photoshoots. Loey is supposed to be a young Marilyn in a cover spread as a tribute to her greatest and most memorable moments. But when Loey arrives, things don’t seem right. The model she’s replaced has mysteriously disappeared. Everyone says she’s checked out, but she left her makeup in the closet and Loey believes there’s something greater at work. Then, Loey comes encounter with a pink mist and bouts of electricity. She believes that a ghost is after her and calls in the rest of her LitSquad to help solve the crime. But things do not go as planned, and Loey’s enemies, the Grimm Brothers, show up at the hotel and stop up some trouble of their own.

Take this book at face value: it is a short fictional story about a young millennial girl who wants to become a famous model. With the help of her friends and some unlikely allies, the hauntings are solved! The characters are young and predictable. The plot twist you can see coming from a mile away. And this story is littered with millennial slang and hashtags galore. But the story is a little charming and delivers what it promises. I do recommend this book for anyone that wants a quick read and an easy distraction.

Rating: 3/5

Pretty in Punxsutawney

Pretty in Punxsutawney by Laurie Boyle Crompton

The description of Pretty in Punxsutawney offers a mashup of the movies Groundhog Day and Pretty in Pink. I feel like this is an adequate description of the story, and if you walk in with these expectations, you will not be disappointed.

At the beginning of the summer, Andie and her family move to a new town. She spends the summer obsessing over Colton, a soon to be senior and football star who works at the local movie theatre. Andie is a movie buff, but the main reason she spends most of her summer at the theatre is in hopes of having Colton fall in love with her. Finally, at the end of the summer, Andie is ready to make her senior debut at her new school with Colton by her side. However, Andie’s first day at her new high school proves to be anything but typical. After an embarrassing first day, Andie is given the chance at a do-over. But the day keeps repeating, and Andie must find a way to break this curse or she’l be a first-day senior for the rest of her life.

The story gives a huge nod to filmmaker John Hughes and his classic 80s movies. From Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Weird Science, to The Breakfast Club and more, many of the themes, characters, and issues presented mimic Hughes’ classics.

Andie finds that her new school is separated into different cliques. Just like students coming from different backgrounds and leaving as friends in The Breakfast Club, Andie hopes to knock down social barriers. She spends each repeated day trying to find a new way to impress Colton, but she quickly learns that not every social clique is what it seems. The cheerleaders are nice, they’re driven by the sense of being a team and like to give back to the community. The goths are kind and love to laugh. The popular girl is struggling with personal issues and her body image. The nerdy girls are more caddy than you’d expect. Each cycle through the same day opens Andie’s eyes a little more about how Punx High works and the type of person Andie wants to become.

Overall, this is a cute book but it’s not very memorable. I feel like it tries too hard to bring nostalgia for a few 80s classics and blurs the lines into something that has already been done, and done well. The storyline is predictable because the setup is there from the beginning. The main character is likable but frustrating because she’s blinded by some good looking guy and she forgets who is is. This is a quick read that would be ideal for someone who wants a taste of a modern day Pretty in Pink meets Groundhog Day meets The Breakfast Club. Or, you could spend an afternoon watching the movies this book is molded after.

Rating: 3/5

Pretty in Punxsutawney is available today, January 15, 2019.

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

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