To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Genre: YA Fantasy

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

A Little Mermaid retelling at heart, To Kill a Kingdom encompasses the essence of a beloved fairytale but for me, didn’t steer far enough to hold its own.

The story follows Lira, a siren, who takes the heart of a prince every year in her birthday month. She’s the daughter of The Sea Queen, who rules over their kingdom and holds the power in the ocean. Never meeting her mothers expectations, Lira is always disgraced in front of her, and one fateful day, is punished. Made into a human, her only way to get back in her mothers good graces is to cut the heart out of Prince Elian, a renowned siren killer. But he has plans of his own, and the lost human he picks up on his ship might hold the answers he’s looking for…

So I liked the book. It was dark, had interesting concepts, and to be honest, it was a great retelling. But I had this overwhelming feeling of meh when I finished it. Did I need to have read it? Why isn’t this living up to the hype for me? And I think I can pinpoint it: it felt generic. Already done. I’ll try and summarise these thoughts because there’s good and bad:

– Lira is a badass character. I’m appreciating that authors are writing more assertive characters these days and Lira fit into that category. She never holds back, fights her own battles, but also has the emotional scale for a character to relate. She should be more savage, but she has empathy, and it’s reassuring to read that. After all, a character should have a scope of emotions and portray them accurately.

– Prince Elian. He’s where I had issues. I’m never one to fall in love with a prince in a book and here’s why – they’re all the same. Arrogant, has everything at their whim, in constant doubt over their loyalty to the crown and wanting ‘a life of their own’. Reminding you of anyone? Dorian, Nikolai or Maxon? Elian just was so generic. I empathised with him but I’ve read him in a bunch of characters before! I want something different!

– The world was interesting. I’d like to give other underwater tales a go as the scope or worldbuilding just enlargens! Finding out about sirens, mermaids and all their folklore was interesting and seeing how it fared against the humans was as well. The human kingdoms and their mythology added to the story, and I appreciated seeing a taste of the cultures that separated them. More if this would’ve been nice but in a standalone, I was happy.

So overall, their were highs and lows. I appreciated the world that was built and the set of characters introduced, but would have liked more originality. This story could have had the essence of The Little Mermaid, but still create a new sense of wonder which I was looking for. A halfway book for me, I’m left wanting more.

A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

Genre: YA Contemporary

Rating: 4/5 stars

One boy. One girl. 14 different perspectives. Lets see how they fell in love…

A Little Something Different was a cute quick read. The story follows Gabe and Lea as they navigate from friends to lovers through the ups and down of life. They both take the same creative writing class, order the same take out, and know the same pop culture references and it seems everyone knows they should be together except themselves. Told from fourteen perspectives (never Gabe or Lea’s) the book was able to give a lot of information without feeling bombarded.

Here are my main points:

– I thought with fourteen perspectives it’d be overwhelming but trust me, it wasn’t. Key characters got more page time, and I actually enjoyed the change in characters throughout. We had the creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, Lea’s friends, Gabe’s friends, and we even got viewpoints from a squirrel and the bench the characters sit on! It somehow all worked.

– I liked Gabe as a character. He’s hella shy and it was nice to see a guy genuinely awkward around someone he likes. His backstory played a big part of his character and I enjoyed seeing some depth to him. Everything isn’t what meets the eye and I liked finding out more about Gabe.

– Lea was a nice character to read. She was understanding, kind but was also able to hold her own.

– For a quick read, I felt everything was spaced out and it didn’t feel rushed. I didn’t need anymore than I was given (maybe a bit more of Gabe and Lea together at last!) but overall was pleased.

Overall, if you want a cute contemporary read, pick this one up. It’s a light read for those who want some brightness in their life, and a set of characters to keep you on your toes.

The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson

Genre: Post apocalyptic/dystopian fiction

Rating: 4/5 stars

If you want to be fully immersed in a world with all of your senses, pick up The Wolves of Winter. It’ll do just that.

The story follows 23 year old Lynn Mcbride who lives with her remaining family in the sparse deserted land in Yukon, Canada. The world has gone to hell as continents clash and fight, with an eventual flu outbreak leaving the world’s occupants scattered to fend for themselves. Things are dire as Lynn and her family hunt to survive and deal with the possible idea that they’re the last of humankind. The story changes pace when Jax, a lonesome traveller, shows up with more questions that need answering…

I quite enjoyed this one. I always appreciate some adult fiction from my normal YA as the character’s ambitions are quite different, and the writing style is more to the point.

Some positive notes:

– The world portrayed was so vivid. The snowy landscape felt so real and I could imagine how cold they all felt. The harsh landscape paired with the driven characters made a formidable novel.

– Lynn was a great protagonist. She’s strong, to the point and knows her worth. It was so nice having an assertive lead who took the reins of her life and went after her own goals.

– The family dynamic added that emotional tether needed in survival fiction. With a father deceased, Lynn’s uncle became the father figure to their makeshift family of Lynn, her mother, brother and family friends son Ramsey. They bonded and worked together to survive, and made a great team against any opposing threats.

Some negative notes:

– I felt the ‘flu pandemic’ aspect that was introduced as part of the conflict wasn’t original enough. The first half of the book started as a realistic post apocalyptic war zone, but the introduction of the disease outbreak, whilst also realistic, made this novel lose its unique appeal. I’ve read too many novels with the outbreak storyline and the ‘perfect cure’ being the only answer. I just wanted something a bit different.

– The romance, whilst quite innocent, wasn’t 100% necessary for me. Trust me, I like romance in a book, but I always wonder in dystopian/survival stories how the characters have time to develop feelings and act on them when their world is going to hell. I understood Lynn and Jax’s romance, but also cringed a bit.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. The stakes were high and I was definitely on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. If you want an intriguing plot, pick this one up!

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Genre: YA Fantasy

Rating: 2.75/5 stars

With an abusive male crushing the main character’s spirit at every turn, The Cruel Prince definitely lived up to its title.

I am sad to say that The Cruel Prince didn’t meet the hype for me. From only a couple chapters in, I could point out its flaws and see the gaping gaps no one looked at fixing before publishing it.

Here are my main problems:

1. We have a set of very unlikeable characters. I’m all for morally corrupt characters as they’re interesting to read about, but man, this book’s characters had no redemptive qualities. This made it hard as a reader to connect or root for a character.

2. The word building was shabby. It did interest me, but wasn’t adequately depicted in some areas, whilst bombarding me with too much information in other areas – like its vast population of different faeries. Too many characters equates to a reader not being able to attach themselves to significant characters.

3. Jude as a main POV was questionable. She was constantly abused and made to feel inadequate, leading her down a dark path. She accepted scraps and I felt this wasn’t highlighted enough as a bad character arc.

4. Prince Cardan has to be the worst love interest to ever have been written. I honestly can’t believe Holly Black thought it was okay to write an arrogant, abusive and spoilt male lead and try and make him appealing. He’s disgusting. He sneers, humiliates and abuses Jude, making her question her worth. They eventually develop feelings and he feels shame in it as it’s against his better judgement. Ugh! The passage where he talks about wanting to hurt her over and over again is enough of a sign that this guy should be locked up.

5. It’d be wrong not to mention Locke. Almost as bad as a perpetrator, a bystander of abuse who somewhat revels in the occasional taunting deserves just as much flack as Cardan. Locke stood by as Jude was hurt and had the sheer audacity to romance her – which she sadly fell for. His character was mind boggling at best as he never really liked Jude, and I felt disgusted once again that he was made to look charming like Cardan.

6. The scene that undoubtedly shook me was when Jude was drugged with Faerie fruit. In real life, someone drugged by a group of people and made to do inappropriate things, and then to develop romantic feelings for their perpetrators, is seen as horrific. But in a fantasy world, no one cares or notices this.

Overall, despite my interest in the storyline, I was unhappy that the abuse was normalised and that as a reader, we were meant to find Jude’s and Cardan’s relationship reasonable. Abuse is never okay and unfortunately, this book left a sour taste in my mouth.

The Wood by Chelsea Bobulski

Genre: YA Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Why hasn’t this book received more attention?!?!?

The Wood by Chelsea Bobukski completely shattered by expectations of it. I hadn’t seen it around anywhere except for Goodreads, but was so surprised at how enjoyable it was to read.

The story follows Winter, a teenager who lives as the sole guardian of the wood near her house after her father goes missing. The wood is like no other, as there are portals to other times and dimensions in history throughout it. Its in her blood to stay on the distinct paths and guard the wood from outsiders, with her often steering travellers who accidentally fall through a portal into her wood, back to where they came from. All hell breaks loose when an 18th century man called Henry enters her wood looking for his parents, and a link is established between these two teenagers. Relationships and order are tested, and the Council who control the Woods are brought into the whirlwind of questions…

My highlights:

– I reaaaallly appreciated the dynamic of the world created. Realism meets fantasy is sometimes hard to portray, but I felt it meshed really well in this book. I also loved the personification of the wood when things became sinister. It was a living thing. The shadows became monsters and I loved the imagery of a black tar like substance oozing off the leaves.

– Winter was a well balanced character. Her grief for her father was managed well, and her wit lightened the book.

– Henry was a joy to read. Obviously unknowledgable in anything modern, I liked reading about him discovering what a TV is, how electricity works and other tidbits of modern society.

– The relationship wasn’t angsty. YA books can be a bit intense but I found this one handled quite maturely. They developed feelings, but were wise to the situation that they wouldn’t really have a solid chance at being together as they were from different time periods. Yes to mature teenagers!

Overall, I was one happy gal with this book. I appreciated the light and dark within the book, and the character dynamic. Pick this one up!

Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Genre: YA Science Fiction

Rating: 4/5 stars

The reviews were right – Unearthed really is Indiana Jones set in space.

The story follows Amelia, a scavver searching for any scraps to sell and survive, and Jules, a scholar’s son who is constantly searching for answers in the world. The two meet when they arrive on Gaia, a distant planet where an ancient civilisation called the Undying have left resources that could save Earth from its problems. Except they’re both there for different reasons – one to raid the temples and grab the loot, the other to study and learn as much as possible about the origins of this alien species. Together, they form a truce and discover that there’s more than meets the eye with Gaia.

I really appreciated the two MC’s. Amelia was headstrong, had her heart in the right place, and had her wits about her. Jules had this nerdy quality, which made him instantly likeable, but also had a nice character arc. It was refreshing to have a female lead who was the adrenaline junkie, and a male lead who was more book smart. Despite crossing over in their strengths, I liked how it wasn’t a ‘tough guy’ vs. ‘brainy’ girl dynamic.

This book had my heart pounding! It was action packed, had nice tones of romance, and a hell of an ending! Like what a cliffhanger! I’m desperately in need of book two and officially won over. 😊

P. S I Like You by Kasie West

Genre: YA Contemporary

Rating: 5/5 stars

I loved this book! It was a win-win situation, as not only was this book great, but I’ve now got a new contemporary author to add to my list.

P.S I Like You follows Lily, an eccentric teen who fills her time with songwriting, making her own clothes, and trying to get through high school. Struggling to write the perfect song for a songwriting contest, she finds inspiration when she idly writes lyrics on her school desk to have someone write back. Throughout writing letters to her new pen pal, she learns about herself, navigates her way through her hectic family life and ultimately finds out that there’s more to a person than meets the eye.

A cute, heartwarming tale of a story, P.S I Like You was an enjoyable read for lovers of romance with a bit of a mystery twist.