Underneath It All by Patricia Vanasse | Book Review

Underneath It All by Patricia Vanasse


Page Count: 300
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Publication Date: March 6th, 2018

(from Goodreads)

Gossip Girl meets The Great Gatsby in this competitive prep school drama that tackles issues of class, diversity, peer pressure, addiction, and first love.
Seventeen-year-old London Mendes is the son of a Cuban mother and Seattle-native bookseller, and he knows exactly what he wants: to be the first in his middle class family to reach the Ivy Leagues. Specifically Princeton, alma mater of his favorite author Mia Merkley, a local mystery writer whose national fame and recent suicide have put her in the news again. Luckily for London, his own fiction and high grades put him on the radar of Birmingham Academy, a prep school that offers him a scholarship to leave public school and study with the richest students in the country.
There London meets Aria: the captivating, mysterious daughter of Mia Merkley. Her grief and darkness draw him in further than any of her mother’s novels. But soon, London learns that Aria is off limits—her blueblood boyfriend Dillon Astor is London’s newest friend and the one who decides London’s acceptance into the academy’s elite. When Aria and London become partners in a creative writing class, their friendship grows and an undeniable attraction threatens to blow London off course. 
London knows he has to work harder than ever for a shot at Princeton. He knows he should stay away from drugs, parties, and Dillon’s girlfriend. But as Dillon slowly reveals his true nature and Aria’s secrets, London fails to see what is underneath it all. Now London can’t help playing hero, and he’ll have to decide what he loves more: Aria, or his own dreams.

–Possible Spoilers! Read at your own risk!–

Disclaimer: A huge thank you to the author for sending me a free ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. All quotes could be subject to changes in the final product.

“Dysfunction is the only entertainment when it’s fiction. In reality it would be a whole different story.”

When the first few pages of the book began with a discussion between two book nerds about literature, I already knew that the main character London and I were going to get along just fine.

At it’s heart Underneath It All is a contemporary novel about unexpected friendships that turn into unexpected attraction and relationships.

The story deals with addiction and unhealthy relationships, and about how the choices we make in life for ourselves and those we love can be difficult, especially when school drama and peer pressure is added into the mix.

“I’m not sure a person can simply stop wanting, or thinking about another person, even if it’s for the best.”

I liked London, we did not have much in common besides our mutual love of books. He is much more of a romantic than I am, but even so, London is so sweet and nice and kind, which I think is so undervalued. His character is kind and supportive, and he is such a great friend to Aria.

“One thing was clear—Aria wasn’t the kind of girl who bent rules—she broke them as a matter of principle.”

Aria was a deeply emotionally broken and mysterious character. She is withdrawn and closed off, and often time no one really knows what truly going on in her head, not even her friends.

Her poems at the beginning of most of the chapters gives the reader glimpses of her problems. They were all so heartbreaking and sad, I didn’t love Aria, but I really felt for her.

Her relationship with London was so unbelievably charming. I found myself smiling at their interactions and their antics, and they were just so adorable.

‘“Music is very important because year from now, when you listen to this song, you’ll remember this moment, what you were thinking, what it felt like, everything’”

I guess my main issue with their relationship was I didn’t really get it? I mean, they were adorable together yes, and they clearly got each other in a way that both of them needed.

But she was clearly in a relationship. Did I particularly like Dillon? Not really. Did I like his relationship with Aria? No way.

I just didn’t understand why London was so captivated by her that he would risk everything for her. There were some lines in his narration that made me uncomfortable because it just seemed like London was in love with the mystery of her.

“The more trouble I had figuring her out, the stronger my attraction.”

That may just be a me thing though. I am really not good with understanding romance. He makes so many mistakes, but it’s undeniable that he grows a lot from his experiences.

That being said the story definitely gets darker and more depressing the more London gets entangled into the complex relationship of the Golden Clique.

“They are envied for their mutual devotion, for their bond, for the way they love and protect one another. A friendship written in the stars, forged in fire, bright like gold.”

The friendship between the Golden Clique was so messed up, and yet there is such a strong loyalty there that is slightly unhealthy and toxic.

They were all so real. Did I like them all or always agree with their actions? No, not at all. But they were all so human in the sense of not wanting to admit their mistakes. It was not all happiness and luxury from being wealthy, they all had their problems and their issues.

I really do not know how I feel about them. I cannot say I really liked any of the clique members, they were all pretty mean, and I will never be okay with bullying.

I did enjoyed Jason and Annalisa as secondary characters. I had a lot of fun learning more about them.

There is betrayal and there is heartbreak and mean bullying, there are secrets and there are lies, but the ending, while bittersweet (and made me a tad bit angry) was satisfying to me. I will be okay with how it ended. I am okay.

“I think love is an embellished idea that compels people to turn it into a set of high expectations. No one can live up to that. One way or another, all loves ends in disappointment.”

Overall, Underneath It All was a lovely, emotional, and beautiful book. The author’s writing was poetic and fun to read, I especially enjoyed all of the literature analogies and metaphors. I loved London’s voice, you could practically feel his love for literature.

It is a character driven story with a wonderful cast of flawed characters. Any fellow book lover will find a small piece of themselves in London.

“Aria looked back at me and smiled. ‘Don’t worry, it’s a good kind of pain.’”

3.5 out of 5 stars


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Everything, Everything by Nicolla Yoon | Book Review

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon


Page Count: 307
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Publication Date: September 1st, 2015

(from Goodreads)

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.
But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.
Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

–Possible Spoilers! Read at your own risk!–

“Sometimes you do things for the right reasons and sometimes for the wrong ones and sometimes it’s impossible to tell the difference.” “Sometimes you do things for the right reasons and sometimes for the wrong ones and sometimes it’s impossible to tell the difference.”

I’m honestly still not really sure how I feel about Everything, Everything.

The beginning was very cute and adorable (so adorable I guess I did not really feel the “danger” of Maddy’s sickness), I laughed out loud during the bundt cake scene.

And although it was very insta-lovey, I thought Olly and Madeline were adorable and could perhaps look past their very quick love.

I loved the diversity, and the human nature of wanting more in life. The poems, the jokes, the miming at the window, the illustrations and charts throughout the book, it was all very cute.

But then I hit a point maybe a little more than halfway through the novel and the cute moments became less cute, the characters started appearing more pretentious and whiny and too angsty for my taste and I just became so uncomfortable with the entire thing.

Then I get to the ending and I am just left thinking “wtf?”

I know, I know, it’s fiction, and I know a lot of the plot holes were to add to the eventual plot twist, but come on!

I don’t want to say too much about what happens because of spoilers, but one can only suspend their disbelief in a contemporary novel so much.

I know a lot of people liked it, so I feel bad, but I just really did not like that ending. I felt like it promoted the idea that “love can cure sickness” which is not a message I will every agree with, nor will I promote.

“Spoiler alert: Love is worth everything. Everything.” 

Is it worth your life though, Maddy? Is it? Had Maddy never met and “fallen in love” with Olly she never would have taken those risks or found out the truth and that just makes me sad.

Overall, Everything, Everything, had an interesting premise, but it honestly was not something I was planning on reading had there not been so much hype. It’s a quick and easy, cliche romantic read with an ending you will either love or hate.

I for one wish that the author took a different direction with the story and gave us more details about Maddy’s sickness, but alas, it did not happen and it was not meant to be.

2.5 out of 5 stars


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Reading Preferences and How I’ve Changed as a Reader | Let’s Chat!

Let’s talk about reading preferences and how we’ve changed as readers.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how much my reading preferences have changed throughout the years.

Just recently I finished Brave, the last book in the Wicked trilogy, by Jennifer L. Armentrout.

Long story short, I didn’t really like it. Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

And it just got me thinking that if I had read it back in 2013 when I first got into the community side of reading, I would have probably loved it.

I think it was a strong case of ‘it’s not you, it me.’

I like to think that over these past few years I’ve grown a lot as a reader and as a reviewer.

I used to only read heterosexual romances.

Before anyone says it, no it was not because I used to be a homophobic asshole. I may not understand relationships or sexual attraction all that well, but I know for a fact people should be allowed to love whomever they want and you can fight me on it.

There is this fantastic quote in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda that states it so well:

“Why is straight the default? Everyone should have to declare one way or another, and it shouldn’t be this big awkward thing whether you’re straight, gay, bi, or whatever.”

I agree with this wholeheartedly. I am not a big fan of labels, but default blanket stating that me or everyone in the world is “straight” is an ignorant way of viewing the world.

But I digress, I mainly read heterosexual romances because I genuinely thought I would not be as invested in the relationship. I distinctly remember being recommended the book Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat and being hesitant to read it mostly because someone mentioned rape and I think I was like 15 at the time, but also because I knew it was M/M and I didn’t know if I would care about the romance enough to read it.

I really do not know why I had this mindset, but I am so glad I got over it because I ended up loving Captive Prince and Damen and Laurent. So many of my all time favorite ships, so many of my all time favorite books, feature lgbt couples whom I love with all of my heart.

I also think a lot of it had to do with the fact that I did not really know any books with non-heterosexual romances either. I will always be so eternally grateful for the Internet for helping me discover new things.

I used to lean away from books with male protagonists.

Again, like with the “only reading heterosexual romances” thing, I did not think I could relate that well to a character simply because they were male and I was female.

I think in a lot of ways I also preferred female protagonists because I wanted someone infinitely cooler and stronger than I was that I could only aspire to be. I wanted a role model to look up to.

And while I do not think there’s anything particularly wrong with preferring one protagonist gender over another, I am so happy I got over it because there are someone amazing male protagonists out there in literature.

I distinctly remember my teacher loaning me a copy A Darker Shade of Magic over the summer and me putting off reading it because I knew there was a male protagonist. And hey, look at me now, Kell Maresh is honestly now one of my all time favorite protagonists out of all the books I’ve read. I love him and I can relate to him with my entire heart and soul. He is forever ingrained into my brain.

I used to hate third person perspectives and want to read only in first person perspectives.

This is probably the biggest flip flop, which also happened around the time I read A Darker Shade of Magic and Victoria Schwab showed me how wonderful third person perspective was.

I used to absolutely dread reading third person perspectives and would actually not want to read a book if it was not in first person. The only exception I had was for Cassandra Clare books because they are fantastic.

Now, I honestly prefer all books to be in third person. I find the stories to be much more rich and more fun because it is more than just one characters brain. While first person let’s you intimately get to know the main character, you do not really get to know everyone else.

While I do not particularly mind first person, I would much rather prefer it in my contemporary novels than my fantasy novels.

I used to force myself to finish a book/series even if I was hating it.

This is a huge one for me. One I am still kind of working on.

I distinctly remember forcing myself to finish the Hush, Hush saga despite hating every minute of it and want to throw the book across the room.

I also remember rating the first book five stars because I was riding the hype and I knew everyone loved it and I wanted so desperately to love it too that I forced my brain to pretend that it did.

Not my proudest moment, I am so glad I have gotten past that.

The truth is, all of these things? None of them are really true anymore.

While I do still try to finish every book I start, I am not afraid to not finish series anymore. I did it with the second part of the Selection and the Bloodlines series. I did it with Throne of Glass and I am so glad I did because those books actually filled me with dread to read.

When a book makes you actually not want to read, do not continue reading it.

I guess what I am trying to say is, I will always be thankful to Jennifer L. Armentrout and her books for being such a critical part of my past self, but I do not think her books are for me anymore.

And I truly think that it’s okay. It’s okay for you to change and grow as a person. It’s okay for your reading preferences to be different.

It’s okay to once love a book and maybe not love it as much anymore.

Perhaps I will check out more of her books again in the future. I did quite like the Problem With Forever, but at the moment I’m done trying to force myself into devouring everything she writes.

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I feel like this could possibly be taken the wrong way, but I just wanted to share this so we could all have a conversation, so let’s chat!

In what ways have you changed as a reader?

I honestly just find it so fascinating how people can change so much that revisiting old favorites just lose their appeal.

Life is complex, people are interesting, everyone is different, and I honestly think that is so cool.

What did John Green say?

“Your now is not your forever.”

I know he was talking about mental illness when he wrote that in Turtles All the Way Down, but I’d like to think it still applies.

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The Vanishing Season by Joanna Schaffhausen | Book Review

The Vanishing Season by Joanna Schaffhausen


Page Count: 288
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: December 5, 2017

(from Goodreads)

Ellery Hathaway knows a thing or two about serial killers, but not through her police training. She’s an officer in sleepy Woodbury, MA, where a bicycle theft still makes the newspapers. No one there knows she was once victim number seventeen in the grisly story of serial killer Francis Michael Coben. The only victim who lived. 
When three people disappear from her town in three years, all around her birthday—the day she was kidnapped so long ago—Ellery fears someone knows her secret. Someone very dangerous. Her superiors dismiss her concerns, but Ellery knows the vanishing season is coming and anyone could be next. She contacts the one man she knows will believe her: the FBI agent who saved her from a killer’s closet all those years ago.
Agent Reed Markham made his name and fame on the back of the Coben case, but his fortunes have since turned. His marriage is in shambles, his bosses think he’s washed up, and worst of all, he blew a major investigation. When Ellery calls him, he can’t help but wonder: sure, he rescued her, but was she ever truly saved? His greatest triumph is Ellery’s waking nightmare, and now both of them are about to be sucked into the past, back to the case that made them…with a killer who can’t let go.

–Possible Spoilers! Read at your own risk!–

“Hope is the thing with feathers, Emily Dickinson wrote, and Reed felt the truth of the words every time he met with the families. Hope could take you so high that you no longer saw the ground.”

Disclaimer: A huge thank you to the publishing company for sending me a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

First off, can I just say how much I loved and hated the opening of this book? It managed to hook me and make me so dang curious, but also annoyed because I knew the author would not be revealing the identity of the person who witnessed Ellery’s kidnapping until the end.

Well played Joanna Schaffhausen. Well played.

The Vanishing Season is a story about Ellery Hathaway who was the only survivor of the infamous serial killer, Francis Michael Coben. Years later she moves away to the small town of Woodbury, MA, changes her name and becomes a police officer. The story starts with her investigating the disappearance of three people three years in a row all around her birthday. Since none of her team believe the disappearances are connected, she calls up FBI Agent Reed Markham, the man who saved her life all those years ago, to help her solve the mystery before another person is taken.

While the prologue was great, it did take me a little bit to get into the story and warm up the characters.

The two protagonists, Reed and Ellery take a while to really trust each other, but their dynamic, their teamwork, and just their friendship was really beautiful and sweet. I loved them together.

“She’s like a soldier back from the war, he wanted to say. She’s strong. She’s shattered. Surprisingly funny, if she wants to be.”

Despite all the awful things that have happened to her, Ellery is so strong and intelligent and brave. I quite liked her a lot, she fights so hard for what she believes is right, and she was just a delight to read about.

Reed’s character was really interesting! I do think the dynamic between him and his wife and daughter wasn’t really fleshed out all that much. We get a taste of his life from before Ellery calls him, we know he loves his daughter, we know he was asked to leave the FBI, but that’s really about it.

While I was hoping for more development for his past, I did end up liking his character. Is he perfect? Far from it, he is flawed and makes mistakes when it comes to his relationships. He is protective of Ellery, for some obvious reasons, but he is also just extremely intelligent and thoughtful when it comes to criminals.

“It’s not up to you to stop it, not by yourself. You’re just one person Ellie.”
She shuttered and wrapper her arms around herself. “Yeah, but I’m the one he wants.”

Together him and Ellery were wonderful.

Though I did end up really liked our two main characters, the other characters weren’t all that memorable. Rosalie and Anna are introduced, but only mentioned like one other time in the book (after I had forgotten their existence).

Sam was interesting, but his character flipped back and forth from not a complete asshole, to plain awful and then back to being alright (not that great, just alright).

Reed’s ex-wife, Sarit and his daughter Tula are mentioned a couple of times throughout the book, but we really do not learn much about them to actually form an unbiased opinion.

(To me, Sarit seemed a bit just like a manipulative journalist. I really don’t want to be too harsh on her since we really don’t know the whole story with her though.)

I personally do not read many mystery novels simply because I am that awful person who will try to spoil myself on who the killer is. However, the plot was gripping and had me flipping the pages non-stop until I reached the end. It did help that the story wasn’t too long as well.

The mystery was interesting, even if I wasn’t that emotionally invested, I was still desperate to reach the end and find out who the killer was.

I did manage to guess who the killer was, but it was honestly just a small hunch that turned into actual suspicion after reading like 75% of the book.

Overall, The Vanishing Season was a well written, slightly creepy, and enjoyable fast paced read with awesome main characters. Despite some of the minor issues I had with it, I definitely recommended for fans of mystery and crime novels. It was so fun watching the mystery unravel and just hanging out with the characters.

“Bump’s a people person,” Ellie replied with a sigh, sounding almost disappointed. “I’ve tried to explain that we’re really just a bunch of selfish, rotten, hateful creature, but he goes on loving us just the same.”

Plus, there is an adorable dog sidekick, whom I loved.

I will definitely be on the lookout for more of Schaffhausen’s books in the future.

“She pinched her leg hard enough to hurt. The pain grounded her in the moment. It told her she was alive.

3.5 out of 5 stars


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The Dark Days Pact (The Dark Days Club #2) by Alison Goodman | Book Review

The Dark Days Pact (The Dark Days Club #2) by Alison Goodman


Page Count: 496
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Publication Date: January 31, 2017

(from Goodreads)

June 1812. Just weeks after her catastrophic coming-out ball, Lady Helen Wrexhall—now disowned by her uncle—is a full member of the demon-hunting Dark Days Club. Her mentor, Lord Carlston, has arranged for Helen to spend the summer season in Brighton so that he can train her new Reclaimer powers. However, the long-term effects of Carlston’s Reclaimer work have taken hold, and his sanity is beginning to slip. At the same time, Carlston’s Dark Days Club colleague and nemesis will stop at nothing to bring Helen over to his side—and the Duke of Selburn is determined to marry her. The stakes are even higher for Helen as she struggles to become the warrior that everyone expects her to be.

–Possible Spoilers! Read at your own risk!–

“In my experience, life is always a question of courage. Which way do we run when we see danger: away from it, or towards it?”

What’s that you hear?

Oh, just the sound of my heart breaking, no big deal.

The Dark Days Pact was just as good as the first book. It was filled with more action, more deception, and especially more pain and sadness.

I am so blown away by the amazing character development, every character is so filled with personality and heart. They are all fighting their own inner battles, they’re all experiencing pain and heartbreak, and it just made them all feel so real.

I love Mr. Hammond, and I especially loved Sprat. What a nice addition to the family, she was so funny and cute.

“It is hard to give up hope, isn’t it? Almost as hard as having it.”

The writing is beautiful. the sheer amount of research Alison Goodman did still makes me so extremely happy. It is never awkward or forced, the historical details are authentic and perfectly weaved in. The pacing is again pretty slow going, but the character and their relationships all but make up for it, I was never bored.

My love for Helen remains as strong as ever. She doubts herself, she makes mistakes, but she has grown so much and she is so strong. I am so proud of her.

“It is because you do not believe my kind can love, Guillaume. I think you do not even believe your own kind can love.”

Lord Carlston has really grown on me, his pain, his entire character makes me feel physical pain. He is not good at sharing, he is not very good at expressing himself, but he cares so much for those under his protection and he truly loves so deeply.

He leaned closer, face fierce. “Do you love him? Is that it?”
“You, of all people , have no right to ask me that.”
“Maybe not, but I ask it anyway. Do you love him?”
“Love him?” Helen’s voice rose. “Apparently I am not allowed to love in this godforsaken world!” 
“Apparently neither am I,” he said through his clenched teeth. “Yet…”
Yet what? His face. his body, were so close. So dangerously close.
“Stay,” he breathed.

I was not really shipping anyone in the first book, but I wholehearted take it back now. Everyone is just so sad that it just made me so inconceivably sad. The romance is so painful it hurts so much. My heart could not handle all of the raw emotions just hitting me in the face.

Public service announcement: I hate the Duke of Selburn.

You can argue for him all you want, maybe I am a bit mean to him, but I really do not like him. I do not like people who cannot take no for an answer. I do not like people who think they’re entitled to get the girl because they’re the “nice guy”.

News flash, you are not.

I do not understand why he keeps asking her time and time again to marry him when time and time again she says no? Why does he keep dismissing and hating on Lord Carlston when it is so clear that Helen loves him?

I know he was just trying to protect her reputation (seriously if he hadn’t shouted her name to the whole world while she was incognito, perhaps the end results and all of my heartbreak could have been avoided), but I do not understand why he wants so badly to be with her. It does not feel like real genuine affection to me. It feels like him trying to “beat” and hurt Lord Carlston. His and Lord Carlston’s fights over Helen are probably my least favorite scenes.

I hate this world where Helen has to dress up as a man to do anything. I hate this world where it is scandalous to be caught with another man unless you plan on marrying him.

I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.

But god dang do I love this book. I love it so much.

It hurts, all of this injustice is so physically painful, and I both hate and love Alison Goodman for making me feel all of these angry feelings.

But nevertheless, I love this book. I love this series. I cannot wait for the finale.

“Every day we will be facing danger and death, and just by that fact we cannot be bound by the normal rules of womanhood. We cannot defer when we must act. We cannot follow when we must lead. We must make our own rules.”

4.5 out of 5 stars


you can read my review of the first novel in the series, The Dark Days Club here.

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The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman | Book Review

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman


Page Count: 482
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Publication Date: January 26, 2016

(from Goodreads)

London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

–Possible Spoilers! Read at your own risk!–

“Sometimes there is no good choice. Just the choice that has to be made.”

Forever in love with Alison Goodman’s novels. They are so filled with action and adventure and feminism, and the romance is always so subtle and slow, but still so passionate and intense.

Her writing is beautiful, her world building is fantastic and the amount of research she does for her novels is incredible. From the politics to the food to the use of real historical people (hello Lord Byron!), it was all so well down.

I did not know much about the Regency era, but reading the book felt like I was a part of it. I loved and appreciated all the little history lessons woven in. They’re not too overwhelming, but still informative. It does take a while for the action to begin, but I really enjoyed the pacing of the book. I did not find it boring at all. Helen does not automatically know everything all at once, instead we are slowly introduced into the world just as she slowly discovers her Reclaimer abilities and learns the secrets and the purpose of those in the Dark Days Club.

“You have far more courage than you think you do.”

Lady Helen is the best! I love her so much, she is so clever and strong and witty. It is so hard to be clever and strong in an era that did not allow women to be anything but housekeepers, but she does, and she is wonderful and brilliant.
Her heroines are some of my favorites.

Helen’s aunt was an interesting character for me, you can tell she genuinely loves Helen and wants what’s best for her, it is not always shown in the best of ways and a lot of it is simply because of the way women were raised in that era.

Her awful, misogynistic uncle and his distaste for the female gender can just go away though. I never want to see him again.

Helen’s friendship with her maid Darby was also so sweet and beautiful. I loved how loyal and supportive they were to each other.

Still a little uncertain about Lord Carlston, but he is slowly growing on me. Plus, if Alison Goodman’s wonderful character development and writing can make me like Lord Ido, I am sure my opinion will keep changing.

As for the Duke of Selburn, I do not really know how I feel about him. Something about him rubs me the wrong way, and I do not trust him. He is just too, nice, or at least he tries too hard to be nice. And I’m not saying that in a mean way, like the whole “nice guys always finish last” thing, I love nice guys, but something about him I just do not trust.

It’s mostly the Elise thing. I know many marriages during that time were not for love, but it seems as if he likes Helen because she reminds him of Elise and he does not want to lose a girl to Lord Carlston again.

That does not sit well with me.

I do wonder why they dislike each other so much. I hope more of their past relationship is revealed in the Dark Days Pact. I am of so curious of Lord Carlston’s past.

I am not sure if I really ship anyone though, but Goodman’s romances have always been extremely slow burn, so I do not think I would mind if something does end up happening.

The Dark Days Club is perfect for lovers of historical fiction with hints of fantasy in them. It is slower paced, but the story is unique and fresh and atmospheric and totally worth the wait.

“In the end, nothing ever stayed the same. Least of all, people.”

4.5 out of 5 stars


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Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh | Book Review

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh


Page Count: 393
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publication Date: May 16, 2017

(from Goodreads)

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.
So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.
The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

–Possible Spoilers! Read at your own risk!–

“Be as swift as the wind. As silent as the forest. As fierce as the fire. As unshakable as the mountain. And you can do anything.” 

What an beautifully written book.

I fell so hard for the setting and the descriptions of food, and just the feudal Japan culture in general. I loved all the Mulan vibes. Though, minus the cross-dressing and the Asian setting, they really do not have much in common.

The plot was a bit slow, but it was filled with so many twists and turns and so much betrayal and manipulation.

“She was beginning to realize that honor did not serve her well in a den of thieves”

I love Mariko so much, she is so strong and intelligent and brave, and oh so wonderfully flawed. She is not perfect, but she goes through so much throughout the course of the book and I am very proud of her.

Okami captured my heart right at the beginning, the author tried to hide him from us by making him appear like a throwaway lazy character when Mariko first encounters him, but I was not fooled.

“I believe the stars align so souls can find one another. Whether they are meant to be souls in love or souls in life remains to be seen.”

His bond with Ranmaru was so heartwarming. The friendship and love between all the Black Clan members and their forest was magical.

There were a lot of names I struggled to keep track of. (and like five of them began with “R”?). But oh man, were the members of the Black Clan just a delight.

Despite my issues with remembering their names, all of the characters were just so intriguing. No one is as they appear to be and it is clear they are all hiding something. Kenshin is an interesting one, I feel as if his heart is truly in the right place, but I feel as if it is his honor and his fixed mindset that will cause him trouble. I am very intrigued by him.

The Emperor’s consort, Kanako was definitely raising some red flags right at the beginning, but it was the Emperor’s actual wife, Genmei who really ended up surprising me right at the end, I am very excited to learn more about her.

I did have a couple of issues with it, some of the narration lines were kind of repetitive and pretentious and some of the dialogue lines felt a bit awkward.

It was kind of like a Throne of Glass thing where everyone just kept repeating how clever and smart Mariko was and I just got slightly annoyed by it.

In addition, the magic system wasn’t really explained. I was confused as to how it worked and how some obtained abilities while others did not. I hope it is more explained in the next book.

“My heart knows your heart. A heart doesn’t care about good or bad, right or wrong. A heart is always true.”

But dang, okay, the romance? I loved the romance. It was so slow burn with so much confused sexual tension, and I loved it. So worth the wait. My heart was pounding and I was screaming.

“There is such strength in being a woman. But it is a strength you must choose for yourself. No one can choose it for you. We can bend the wind to our ear if we would only try.” 

Overall, Renee Ahdieh’s writing is so wonderfully immersive, she creates beautiful characters, her worlds are atmospheric, and her romance is filled with tension and a passion that is palpable. I loved how empowering and feministic the book was. The females of this book are all so strong in their own ways. They are manipulative and wise and cunning, and I loved them so much for it.

Despite my issues, I am extremely excited to see how this story ends.

Cliffhangers are just rude though. I would like the next book now, please and thank you.

“No matter how high a man rose in life, death was the greatest of equalizers.”

4 out of 5 stars


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