Geekerella by Ashley Poston

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“Geekerella” by Ashley Poston

4 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

“Anything can happen once upon a con…

When geek girl Elle Wittimer sees a cosplay contest sponsored by the producers of Starfield, she has to enter. First prize is an invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. Elle’s been scraping together tips from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck behind her stepmother’s back, and winning this contest could be her ticket out once and for all—not to mention a fangirl’s dream come true.

Teen actor Darien Freeman is less than thrilled about this year’s ExcelsiCon. He used to live for conventions, but now they’re nothing but jaw-aching photo sessions and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Federation Prince Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the diehard Starfield fandom has already dismissed him as just another heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, closet nerd Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.”

This was just one of those fabulous books that completely took me by surprise! My sister had told me about the premise of “Geekerella,” and although I thought that it sounded like a really fun, cute read, I was a bit skeptical. Sometimes the descriptions of books are better than the books themselves (as we all know), especially when it comes to contemporary retellings of a classic story or fairy tale. That being said, Ashley Poston hit it out of the park with her retelling of “Cinderella,” and I cannot recommend it enough to all of my fellow fangirls out there!

There have been a LOT of retellings and remakes of “Cinderella” (not all of them good), and with it being one of my all-time favorite childhood movies and stories, this book could have totally put me off. Despite everything that could have gone wrong with this retelling, Ashley Poston did such a great job of creating likeable, charismatic, and nerdy characters that I connected “Geekerella” and its characters instantly. I also loved the “Star Trek” vibes that were present throughout this book, and I swear that Ashley Poston must have based part of “Geekerella” on Hilary Duff’s “A Cinderella Story,” because both my sister and I saw the parallels between the two retellings. I loved the geek-tasticness of the heroine and hero and nostalgia that this book evoked in my while I was reading it; “Geekerella” was exactly what I needed as a fangirl, and its adorable cover didn’t hurt matters, either.

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Throughout “Geekerella” I found myself  completely on board with the story and how it unfolded because Ashley Poston truly UNDERSTANDS the fandom life! Things that I normally have issues within contemporary novels I was willing to overlook because the whole time Elle just preached to the choir about the horrors of having something you love remade or turned into a sequel. Can I just tell you how relateable she was at times, despite being fictitious? Elle was super adorkable, and I loved seeing a fellow fangirl properly represented in the soul of this heroine, and I thought that Darien was the perfect match to her nerdiness.

Darien was SO ADORKABLE it hurt!

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As much as I loved Elle and could relate to her fangirl heart, Darien was my favorite part of “Geekerell.” He was so charming and endearing, and he tugged at my heartstrings multiple times. His and Elle’s “meet cute” through a vengeful review and the Con directory was pretty hilarious and unique, and I enjoyed the two of them being apart for most of the book; I felt like I got to know them both better that way until the real meet cute happened. Before and after his and Elle’s official meeting, I loved the nerdy dedication of Darien and was completely charmed by his character. I also really loved his agent and long-time friend from before he became famous. Their relationship was great, and it added another dynamic to Darien’s character that made him even more likable as the story progressed.

“Geekerella” was the perfect fluff read for any time of the year. Normally I dislike contemporary books with an absentee, lazy, or overbearing parent, but in the case of the story being told, I thought that Ashley Poston did a great job of reinterpreting that aspect of the “Cinderella” fairy tale for a modern audience. Ashley’s choice and approach to Elle’s Fairy Godmother was also pretty comical and creative. From the characters to the small tweaks from the original fairy tale, “Geekerella” was the perfect balance of geeky, cute, with a dash of nostalgia. I personally loved this retelling of “Cinderella,” and if you like all things nerdy and fun, you should definitely give this book a try.

Spirit Followers by Lydia Redwine (Instruments of Sacrifice #1)

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Quality of writing: 4 out of 5 stars.

How much I enjoyed reading this book: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

“When a Royal dies, the realms elect the one to take their place. By reasons Camaria does not know, her realm elects her as the next Royal. Now that she is the new-found sixteenth Royal of the nation of Mirabelle, Cam embarks on a journey with her sisters and a young huntsman to the four realms of the nation to complete training in the four kinds of magic. Once she has completed this training, she will then be permitted to consume her annual amount of magic and possess manifested powers. Her ventures are unexpectedly steeped in precarious events when Cam discovers a secret plan of revolt, a past she never knew, and an ancient people group thought dead who call themselves the Spirit Followers.”

This review has been long in coming, and I am grateful for Lydia’s patience with how long it took me to get to her book! College and life got the better of me, but I was finally able to read the review copy that Miss Redwine sent me, and I am excited to be reviewing it! In lieu of that, I just want to say ‘thank you’ to Lydia Redwine for sending me her book in trade for an honest review. In no way has this influence my opinion or review regarding “Spirit Followers.”

Lydia Redwine’s book, “Spirit Followers,” was a very good debut to what seems to be a promising career as a writer. Lydia is a talented writer, this book being a fairly complex novel for not only the first book in a series but also a debut novel. While reading “Spirit Followers,” I thought that the approach Lydia took toward the fantasy genre was fairly unique compared to some of the other books that I have read within the genre, and her world building was well done. The society and different “cultures” that Lydia introduced in “Spirit Followers” reminded me a lot of Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” series in how each teenager had to decide which magical inlet they wished to become a part of and to live in for the remainder of their lives, especially because of how each “district” was divided by certain abilities and cultural traits. Basically it was the factions renamed with a dash of magical giftings; that aspect was not particularly original feeling, but I don’t think that it was a problem or detrimental to the plot, despite the similarities between this book’s society and other dystopian novels’. Besides the differing magical enclaves, some of the other rebellion themes were reminiscent of other YA fantasy and dystopian books that have been written throughout the years, but I thought that Lydia Redwine did a good job adding different dynamics to her story that made a similar theme completely her own.

Lydia definitely started her debut off with a bang , but for me personally, I wished she had taken a bit more time to introduce her characters and the society before throwing me as a reader right into the thick of the plot. I didn’t feel like I got to know Camaria (AKA Cam) as well as I wanted to before her whole life started to implode and the drama started saturating the story. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy action-packed, fast-paced plots, but I would have liked to have had the time to get attached to Cam and the other characters before their world suddenly went up in flames in the traditional YA way. The pacing was a little problematic for me in the beginning of “Spirit Followers,” but Lydia did a really good job of keeping her plot moving by introducing new characters and having Cam and her group travel around the different “factions” throughout this book.

As with Cam, I did not feel like I got attached to any character in particular. Oliver, Cam’s friend, made an appearance just in the beginning of “Spirit Follows” only to disappear for 90% of the book, and I was a little bummed by that because I thought that he could have been a more dynamic character if he had been present in this book for longer. Riah’s story was vague, but I totally got what Lydia was going for with this character, although I wish it had been more “fleshed-out,” so to speak. I don’t go for the bad boy type where they are actually the enemy, despite their inner struggle between good and evil; that’s just not my personal taste, so Riah was the kind of character that was fairly interesting, but I was not particularly invested in him. Fiera was probably the character that I liked the most, and she reminded me a lot of Nesta from “A Court of Thorns and Roses.” Normally I don’t like the prickly, super intense female characters, but she ended up being the most dynamic character in “Spirit Followers,” and she got business done, which I totally respected.

Besides the characters, I was quite surprised by Lydia Redwine’s world building. She did a fantastic job of not just telling her readers about all of the different regions of her world, but also showing them. Cam and her group of reluctant rebels traveled to most of the little enclaves where she (and her readers) learned about the different cultures and the magic that was present in the region. Lydia did a very good job of making her world feel expansive, and I think that there is a lot of potential in the next couple of books in this series to explore in-depth the history of Cam’s world.

Overall, I thought that Lydia Redwine’s debut was well-written and creative with a fast moving plot, but I do wish that certain aspects had been more developed (like some of the characters) before you-know-what hit the fan. I did not feel as attached to the characters as I had hoped I would be, but they were still very good. I have other things that I want to talk about regarding the plot and the loops that Lydia took her characters for, but I do not want to spoil anything for those of you wanting to read this book! I feel like “Spirit Followers” would be a great book for fans of both the fantasy and dystopian genres, especially fans of the “Divergent” series, and although this book had a high body count, I think that younger readers (middle school) would like this book, too.

Spoiler Review: Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass #5)

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“Empire of Storms” by Sarah J. Maas

3 1/2-4 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

“The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t.

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Aelin’s journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?”

So, I have mixed feelings toward “Empire of Storms.” Don’t get me wrong, I think that Sarah J. Maas’s fifth “Throne of Glass” novel was very well-written and had an engaging cast of characters, but I think my problem with it was the fact that I felt like I had read “Empire of Storms” before; the plot and main romance between Aelin and Rowan did not strike a chord with me because I had already seen and experience a painfully similar romance in “A Court of Mist and Fury.” Beyond the nearly verbatim lines and predictability of Aelin and Rowan’s romance, though, I also found the plot of “Empire of Storms” to be repetitive of what us readers have already read by this author, and it was frustrating to me that the supposedly suspenseful moments ended up being fairly anticlimactic. I wanted to be on the edge of my seat, but I felt like I had already read “Empire of Storms,” just under a different title, and that sometimes killed the momentum of my reading experience. If it hadn’t been for Dorian, and Elide and Lorcan, I probably would have skipped half of this book. But let me tell you, Elide and Lorcan were completely worth reading this novel.

I was completely enraptured by the dynamic that existed between Elide and Lorcan and the relationship that slowly bloomed between them in “Empire of Storms.” I adored Elide as a character because she was one of the few human characters in this book; she had no powers, no special abilities beyond her own courage and cunning, and that made her such a compelling character when compared to the “perfectly” gifted Fae and their robotic queen, Aelin. Elide was a wonderful character to read about, and I adored the chapters that were written from her perspective because she had such a dynamic voice and moving past. Elide and Lorcan probably only got about two hundred pages of screen time out of this seven hundred page novel, if even that, but every moment, every word between the two of them was impacting. If anyone were to ask, I’d say Elide was the queen of this book (Manon also, but we’ll get to here in a minute), not Aelin. And Lorcan wasn’t hurting matters, either…

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Just yes, yes to everything about this character and his relationship with Elide. Lorcan was a real tool in the previous “Throne of Glass” books, and I had had zero affection or interest in the coldhearted Fae when Sarah J. Maas first introduced him, but the first chapter of “Empire of Storms” completely changed how I perceived this character. I had forgotten how good Sarah J. Maas can be at introducing new characters and shaping them into dynamic, key-players in her series, so at first I was taken aback by how interesting and layered I found Lorcan’s character to be from the very first chapter of this book. It was nice to find a character who completely captured my attention, and after his and Elide’s entrance into “Empire of Storms, ” I was wholly invested in them as characters, as well as in their romance.

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One of the things that I loved most about Elide and Lorcan’s sections of this book was how the tension just crackled between them. It has been a while since Sarah J. Maas has written a good relationship with that kind of ever present tension that is not angsty, but it is always there, keeping you on the edge of your seat. “Heir of Fire” was a great book, second only to my beloved “Throne of Glass,” but even in that book I did not feel the same kind of tension between Rowan and Celaena/Aelin. Dorian (be still my heart) also had a romance in that book with Sorcha, and although I shipped their relationship to the ends of the earth and back while it melted my heart into a puddle of feels, theirs was a romance built on friendship and partnership, as well as blossoming affection. Dorian and Sorcha were beautiful and perfect together, but they did not have the same tension between them that Elide and Lorcan had in “Empire of Storms,” which was due to their differing circumstances. Elide and Lorcan’s sections in this book were always weighty and interesting, and the two characters and their reluctant partnership made for an insanely dynamic story. I was honestly on the edge of my seat while reading from Elide and Lorcan’s perspectives, not just because of the amazing tension and character development that they experience, but also because of everything that was at stake for both of them. Elide and Lorcan’s story was unrivaled by anything else in this book, and I honestly wish that “Empire of Storms” had just been about the two of them and their journey, rather than having six additional characters thrown into the mix. Despite my desire to read a book about just Elide and Lorcan’s journey, I still loved seeing Dorian and getting to know Manon.

My heart hurt this entire book for the wonderful but forsaken Dorian Havillard. He has been the best and most consistent character throughout this entire series, and he has been the one to keep me coming back for more torture and torment with this series. Dorian was and is my everything, and that was why it was so heartbreaking to read about how his character changed in “Empire of Storms.” Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed every moment I got with him, but I feel like Sarah has tormented and abused this character too much to not give him more page time. Dorian deserved more time in this book, and so did his fans, to rediscover the recognizable but altered boy with the sapphire blue eyes. I understand that his experiences at the end of “Heir of Fire” and through all of “Queen of Shadows” justifiably broke him, but I wanted to get to know the new, haunted King Dorian for longer than Sarah J. Maas allowed me to. I have loved Dorian as a character since the first chapter of “Throne of Glass,” and I continued to love him in this book, but I was not a fan of how Sarah J. Maas approached his shift in character. I was also very frustrated by how carelessly Sarah threw together the romance between Dorian and Manon.

After the end of “Queen of Shadows,” I was rooting for Manon and Dorian to get together, especially since Manon was the only person who believed that Dorian was still alive despite the awful things that Erawan had done to him; Manon’s also pretty epic, so it was kind of a given that I would want them to be together eventually. I was still really rooting for their relationship throughout this book, but I did not fall in love with them as a couple because Sarah J. Maas never gave them enough time! I was pretty frustrated with the lack of development in their relationship, and I felt thoroughly disappointed with how little effort Sarah seemed to put into writing the romance between these two characters. All that happened between Dorian and Manon was that she saved him a couple of times from and dying and he saved her multiple times from being killed, and then suddenly they were a couple.

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It was a bit disappointing to be anticipating these two amazing characters getting to know one another, and to help each other heal from their broken pasts, only to get a few minuscule conversations that barely even developed a connection between them. The romance of Dorian and Manon felt vague and carelessly thrown together, when what they deserved was some epic development like Lorcan and Elide received. I still loved Dorian and Manon, but there were just some things that Sarah J. Maas did that really frustrated me, and I am pretty disappointed and heartbroken over the lack of respect with which she treated Dorian, Manon, and their romance. I am also pretty angry at what this lack of development means, but we’ll get there a little bit later.

Besides Manon, Dorian, Elide, and Lorcan, there were about four or five other characters who played a central role in “Empire of Storms,” but since a blogger only has so much time to analyze a dozen characters before they drive their readers to boredom or irritation, I will just finish up talking about Aelin and Rowan.

I had really liked Celaena as a character for the first three books. I thought that she was entertaining, intelligent, clever, and caring character when she wanted to show her heart, and I enjoyed the fact that Celaena was a flawed person. She did not always have the answers or solutions to every problem, nor did she always make the right calls during certain situations, but that was a part of her draw as a heroine; she failed many times, but she never stopped getting back up and dusting herself off. Celaena was a well-developed and interesting leading lady, if a bit overpowering at times, yet it has felt like the heroine of this series has been missing since “Queen of Shadows.”

I know that Celaena was just a name that Aelin chose to hide her true identity, but I found it frustrating that the dynamic and flawed Celaena suddenly disappeared after Aelin decided to use her given name again. The experiences and trials that Celaena had gone through, her flawed personality and decision making skills, were suddenly non-existent when she donned her royal name, which just seems silly to me because our experiences and memories make us who we are. Why did Aelin suddenly have everything figured out when Celaena did not? The swagger and charm of Celaena seemed to disappear with Aelin’s rise to power, and now I find everything Aelin-related to be very anticlimactic because I know as a reader that she already has the perfect plan up her sleeve, and that she’s going to make it out on the other side smelling like a rose. Even her romance was too good to be true with Rowan.

Personally, I had really liked Rowan in “Heir of Fire.” Dorian shall forever hold my heart, but it was really nice to have a sexy adult male as a lead character. Rowan had presence in every scene that he was in during Heir of Fire,” and I am going to be honest, I enjoyed the fact that he did not take crap from Celaena and occasionally (but only when justified) put her in her place. I was even rooting for their relationship after finishing the third “Throne of Glass” book, but when “Queen of Shadows” came out, their romance just did not seem as good as it was in “Heir of Fire.” I also felt like Rowan got less time to shine than he deserved in the fourth book because of Aelin overwhelming the show with her queenlyness. Because of the previous book, I was not particularly excited for a lot Rowan time in “Empire of Storms,” so I was quite surprised when I found myself liking this character again.

At first, I felt like I was greeted with a watered down version of the Rowan that I had liked in “Heir of Fire,” especially when he was around Aelin, but as this book went on, I kind of started to like Rowan again. He and Dorian had this epic bro-cation, and it was interesting reading how much the two of them had in common, other than Celaena/Aelin, with their first loves being murdered and losing their way a bit. Rowan all by himself was great in this book; he was a strong and decisive character, but it was the romance between him and Aelin that really felt kind of lame.

“Where have I have seen this romance before?” That was the question I kept asking myself every time Aelin and Rowan had a moment together, and the answer was always the same: I had already seen it in “A Court of Mist and Fury.” For all of you who adore the romances between Feyre and Rhysand and Aelin and Rowan, I am truly happy for you. I think my problem with these two romances, though, is how identical both of them are. Both Feyre and Aelin went through a couple of boys before they got to there current romantic interests, and now they are perfectly matched to their perfect life-long mate, and they are all going to live happily ever after (for all eternity) because their all freaking Faeries! Oh, yes, and let me throw a spoiler for the end in for you! Aelin ended up offering herself to her foe and was taken captive by enemy forces at the very end, and Rowan vows to not rest until he finds and saves her. Sound familiar?

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* sighs * Please, Sarah, I beg of you to throw in something that is not exactly like your other series, or something that is at least a tiny bit less predictable! I’m sorry to all of you who adore the romances in Sarah’s two series, but I just don’t feel any sort of attachment to either couple.

In the end, I enjoyed “Empire of Storms,” but I did not love it nor did I feel held in suspense by its ending. I have a strong sense of what is going to happen in the final book, and everything that Sarah J. Maas wrote in “Empire of Storms” has led me to the conclusion that she is going to kill off Dorian in the sixth “Throne of Glass” book. Aelin will get her happily ever after, Elide and Lorcan will probably survive, (or he’ll redeem himself by dying *sobs*), and Dorian will sacrifice himself in order to make the lock that can save everyone he loves. * sobs harder * It just doesn’t seem fair that this amazing, beautiful character will get the short end of the stick by being the emotional martyr of the series. Someone important but expendable (in the the author’s eyes) always gets sacrificed in the end of a series, and Dorian has the emotional connection to bring tears to the audience. He is also technically expendable because he does not have a solidified romantic relationship with anyone (maybe the romance that Sarah ended up giving him was vague and haphazardly thrown together for a reason!). My heart and soul have dreaded this truth for about four books now, and I feel like Sarah is just that cruel of a writer that she would kill off this wonderfully written character in order to preserve her beloved Aelin.

Due to my dread of impending events, I honestly do not know if I can read the last book. Dorian was my reason for continuing on with this series, and I kind of just want to ignore any ending where he does not get his own happy ending.

Besides my whole Dorian theory and Aelin’s predictably happy ending, I did enjoy reading “Empire of Storms.” Elide and Lorcan were the heart of this book because they were such amazingly dynamic characters with an insanely gripping story, and I am anxious to see where Sarah takes them (if I can somehow pick up the last book). Dorian was still absolutely fantastic, and I’ve enjoyed watching him come into his own over the course of this series; he has always been dedicated and invested in protecting his friends and people, and he did what was necessary in this book to get business done. I do hope that Sarah J. Maas develops his and Manon’s relationship more, because there was a lot of potential for the two of them together. I think that my only major problem with this book (besides the whole Dorian thing, and the plot holes that I don’t have the energy to discuss right now) was that Aelin felt kind of worthless toward the plot. I felt like this massive book would have kept moving without her presence, and I might have liked it more if there had been King Rowan and not Queen Aelin as the star of this series. I also found things involving Aelin to be very predictable, which killed the suspense of this book for me. We all know that Aelin will survive and rise again, so there’s nothing to be anxious about concerning her character and her relationship with Rowan. Despite this book’s predictability, it was a fast read, and I did find myself enjoying most of it. “Empire of Storms” couldn’t beat the first three books of this series in quality or original plotline, but it was still interesting and enjoyable to read.

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Les Petits Bonheurs #32…

ed7a8fc26f21a06c8b58e9fd2212069f(I found this fanart on: https://readatmidnight.com/2016/01/07/read-at-midnight-designs-six-of-crows/)

So, I’m late again this week with a post, but, hey, at least I’m here! So I just wanted to post this lovely fanart, which was created by a fellow blogger (readatmidnight), in celebration of having enough time to read “Crooked Kingdom” by Leigh Bardugo! I adored “Six of Crows” when it came out, and I have been anxious to find out what will happen to Leigh’s characters ever since finishing it. It has been a mild form of torture to look at that gorgeous book on my shelf for the last three weeks and to not have enough time to pick it up. But today that changes, and I am super excited to do a quick read of “Six of Crows” to freshen my memory of the events leading up to Leigh Bardugo’s explosive finale!

Thanks for visiting today! Bonne journée, tout le monde!

Les Petits Bonheurs #30…

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Bon anniversaire, mon petit blog!

I woke up this morning to a wordpress notification that I have had my blog for four years now. It is crazy that this little blog started out as a high school assignment for my English class, and then gradually turned into a hobby and passion. I know that my blog is tiny (and a little sparse as of late concerning reviews) in comparison to the other book blogs out there, but I just want to say thank you to everyone who has stuck with this blog since the very beginning, and also to those who joined in on the journey a little more recently. It’s a miracle you’ve survived my book rants and weepy gif posts for this long, and I hope you’ll be willing to stick around for some more reviews, a few more rants, and many more gifs! ;-D

Bonne journée, tout le monde!

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And I Darken by Kiersten White (The Conquerors Saga #1)

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“And I Darken” by Kiersten White

Publishing House: Delacorte Press

Release Date: June 28th, 2016

Quality of Writing: 3 out of 5 stars.

How Much I Enjoyed It: 1 1/2-2 out of 5 stars.

“NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL.

And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes the first book in a dark, sweeping new series in which heads will roll, bodies will be impaled . . . and hearts will be broken.”

Thank you, NetGalley and Delacorte, for the e-galley of “And I Darken.” In no way has this affected my review.

This is going to be a fairly short review, since I have very little to say about “And I Darker,” especially good things. While Kiersten White is a fairly good writer, I personally found everything about this book to be quite difficult to read, from its empty feeling chapters to its cruel and awful characters. Normally I can kind of enjoy a book if it has a mildly intriguing plot, or if the world/historical elements are done well, but all if the characters in “And I Darken” were so unrepentant in their awful behaviors to an extreme that they tainted anything else that I might have liked about this book.

“And I Darken” began with Lada as a young girl, and I have truly never read a book with a heroine who was as awful as her at such a young age, or who was just awful in general. Lada wasn’t just a difficult child, she was a vicious, cruel little hellion from the start of “And I Darken,” and I was quite disturbed by how horrendously awful she was toward everyone, including her younger brother. I was completely shocked by just how wickedly Lada acted in the first half of this book, but I kept reading it despite how much I disliked her because I wanted to see if there was a moral to this story, a drop of redemption for this girl who enjoyed being a terror upon the earth.

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Yeah, no, that was a terribly foolish thing to hope for concerning “And I Darken” and its protagonist, because there was no redemption to Lada, no moral to her story, and I was thoroughly disturbed that a heroine, whom we are supposed to be rooting for, was no better than the villains who stole her home from her. Honestly, Lada felt more like an antagonist because of how little character growth she had in this book.

I get that Lada was the daughter of Vlad the Impaler, and obviously that’s going to create some familial and emotional issues, but Lada’s aggression went above and beyond that, and even reached sociopathic levels in her utter lack of respect for life. Lada constantly complained that she deserved to have her homeland back, that no one loved it as she did, but upon reading those parts of “And I Darken,” I realized that Lada’s love for her kingdom was only extended toward the land itself and not to the people who lived within the boarders of Wallachia. Question: kingdoms are made up of territories and people who live on said land, correct? Yeah, I thought so. Lada was a terrify creature to read about, and I kept thinking about what would happen to the people, whom she cared nothing for nor ever thought about, when they were under her rule. Lada was barely better than the sultan in how merciless she was, and it felt like she would only be the lesser of two evils when acting as a ruler.

I wanted to enjoy “And I Darken,” but my dislike for Lada and the other characters, who were only slightly easier to read about, stopped me from being able to enjoy anything else that might have been interesting about this book. I was also sad about the plot because it seemed to drag a lot and was empty enough that, when I started grazing pages, there was nothing to miss; I could skip a few chapters at a time when I wanted to and still deduce what was happening quite accurately, which made this books lose what little hold it had left over me.

I finished “And I Darken” because it was a review e-ARC, but if that had not been the case, it would have been a DNF for me. This book never drew me in, not even with its historical aspects, and since the characters were all pretty despicable and manipulative, I had no one to root for and cheer on, which sealed the deal on my dislike of this book. I am so sorry for my strong feelings toward “And I Darken,” especially if you were a fan of it, but there was honestly nothing likable, redeeming, or interesting enough about this book to make me want to move forward with “The Conquerors Saga.” Sorry, but this was a major miss.

 

Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor (Into the Dim #1)

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“Into the Dim” by Janet B. Taylor

Publishing house: HMH Books for Young Readers

Release date: March 1st, 2016

Quality of writing: 4 out of 5 stars.

How much I enjoyed it: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

“When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. Trapped in the twelfth century in the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Along the way, her path collides with that of a mysterious boy who could be vital to her mission . . . or the key to Hope’s undoing. Addictive, romantic, and rich with historical detail, Into the Dim is an Outlander for teens.”

Thank you, HMH publishing, for sending me a review ARC of “Into the Dim.” In no way has influenced my review.

I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable “Into the Dim” ended up being! It took me a while to get adjusted to Janet B. Taylor’s writing style and her heroine’s voice, but one I did, I started to feel more immersed in the historical and time-travel elements that were in “Into the Dim,” and that made reading this book quite fun. Janet is a very good writer, and I enjoyed the “science” of her time-travel in this book, which felt very similar to the style of time-travel in “Timeline” the movie. I adored that film growing up, so the similarities between it and “Into the Dim”definitely endeared this book to me more than anything else in it. Despite being partial to its “Timeline” vibes, I did find some of the characters in “Into the Dim” to be quite likable.

Hope turned out to be a pretty good character. At first, I felt a bit disconnected from the writing style and this character’s voice, but after about a hundred pages, I realized that Janet B. Taylor’s book was going to be a much younger feeling YA novel than was advertised online. “Into the Dim” was marketed as 14 and up, which made me go into reading this book with the expectation that it was going to be far darker and more gritty than it actual ended up being. Once I got into my head that the female character was supposed to feel quite young and that this book seemed to have been written with a younger audience in mind, then I was able to enjoy this character’s perspective and the rest of “Into the Dim” a lot more.

Like I said before, Hope felt like a very young heroine, which was appropriate since she was only sixteen in this book. I have gotten so used to reading protagonists who were sixteen- to nineteen-years-old, but who felt like mature adults, that it was slightly off-putting at first to read a book about a heroine with such a young voice, but once I got used to Hope feeling so young, I was okay with how young she and everyone in this book seemed. In most cases, I prefer more mature protagonists, but I did like that Hope’s young voice left a lot of opportunity for her character to grow and mature over the course of this book, which I liked. I don’t really think that a week and a half is long enough to drastically change and mature an individual, but I still appreciated that Hope and the other characters in “Into the Dim” experienced some personal growth during their journey through time. Although Hope was a pretty good character, I was slightly unsettled by Hope’s infatuation with Bran Cameron.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked Bran in “Into the Dim,” especially since he reminded me a wee bit of Zach Goode from the “Gallagher Girls” series by Ally Carter, but I personally did not buy into Hope’s insta-affection towards Bran Cameron. I liked Bran and thought that he was an interesting and slightly mysterious character, and I did not mind his side of the romance in this book, but even after having finished “Into the Dim,” I am still a little unsettled by Hope’s half of the romantic relationship in this book.

Despite my not-so-fond feelings towards Hope and Bran’s romance, I thought that Janet B. Taylor did a good job of writing a pretty likable heroine and an interesting lead male character, but I think that my favorite part of this book, other than it’s “Timeline” vibes, ended up being the secondary characters. Phoebe, Doug, Collum, Bran, and the adults in this story made it endearing and likable, and at times it felt as if they were more dynamic than Hope, even though she was the protagonist. Oh, and William Lucie and Rachel were adorable together! I really wanted to get to know Janet’s secondary characters better, so I am hoping that she will choose to focus more on them in second book of her “Into the Dim” series.

Overall, I enjoyed reading “Into the Dim.” Janet B. Taylor’s book was well-written and fast paced, but there were also times when it felt a little too rushed, and I found myself wishing for a bit more layering of the historical aspects. All of the historical facts in “Into the Dim” were well-researched and interesting, I just wish that there had been a bit more of them threaded throughout this book in order to make the era that Hope had traveled back to come alive for me as a reader. Other than wishing for a bit more from the setting and historical elements, I enjoyed “Into the Dim,” and I think that it would be a good read for mature middle school aged kids and younger teens.