TO KILL A KINGDOM - by Alexandra Christo

TO KILL A KINGDOM - Alexandra Christo
Published: March 2018 - Fiewel and Friends.
Genres: Young adult / romance / fantasy / retelling
Pages: 342.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Fantasy violence.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball Publishers for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever. The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

I needed this book as soon as I heard "retelling" and "pirates". Considering that what was my most highly anticipated pirate book, Daughter of the Pirate King, ended up being disappointing and problematic, I was ready for something else. This book met my expectations full on.

Christo's writing grew on me. I don't love it, but for a debut I think it's above average. There is an unfortunate amount of info dumping in certain places throughout the story, but otherwise the writing is good. Christo's a strong writer. She also writes insanely brilliant dialogue - the perfect mix of wit, information, and character personality. And the banter is sublime.
The descriptions are spellbindingly lush. The story is so atmospheric, and every scene is chillingly and deliciously palpable. I particularly love all the underwater scenes because of how Christo brings them to life. They're vivid and creepy, and the final climax takes that above and beyond. The imagery is just captivating. 

The plot is exciting and entertaining, and the action is breathless and dark. The rich mythology coursing throughout the tale is also stunning. It really brings magic to the world Christo's created. Speaking of, the world building is amazing. The depth and the imagination, the fairy tale landscapes and cold waters and haunting seaside towns and brawling taverns all sweep you into their grasp. I love that the characters visit many different lands (islands) on their journey, because as the reader you get to experience a whole array of diverse, magical settings.

I do have some very minor issues re. the plot (they're basically just parts of the story I'd appreciate clarity on), and so I'm just gonna list them below. They're just small things I think the author should've taken the time to explain in the story.
 When Elian saves Lira and brings her on board his ship, she's naked. So he kindly gives her his shirt to wear. Now while that's all very well, his shirt would not have covered her completely, and considering she moved around a lot, surely she needed to be wearing something on the bottom half of her body as well?! What's up with that - couldn't they have given her pants too? Or if they did, why are we, the readers, never told? And if they didn't, why don't the other characters react to seeing *cough* *cough* what they would naturally see if she wasn't wearing pants?
 - Lira first plans to attack Elian when she sees him alone on his ship in the harbour. But considering that the chapter right before that (in Elian's pov) had him wandering around the library in the castle, a jump to him randomly showing up on his boat seems very sudden and coincidental.
 Lira and a mermaid fight over Elian in the water towards the start of the book. He's unconscious for most of it, but then he washes up on the sand and Lira makes a move to kill him (before she's scared away by his guards). Elian is conscious for this. Later, he saves Lira when she's been turned into a human, and he doesn't recognise her. Surely, even though she's human and not siren, he would've recognised her? She couldn't have looked that different.

His hand moves from beside mine, and I feel a sudden absence. And then it's on my cheek, cupping my face, thumb stroking my lip. It feels like the worst thing I've ever done and the best thing I could ever do and how strange that the two are suddenly the same.

The characters are a mix of lovable cinnamon rolls and adorable dark darlings. Basically, they're epic. Lira is a wonderfully fierce, vicious heroine who gets excellent development, and Elian is the perfectly swoony and dashing anti-prince.  The rest of his crew are an amazing bunch of people, too, and they're all well developed, strong personalities. I love them all so much. Even the Sea Witch, a deliciously dark villain, is the kind of character who brightens up every scene just because she's so creepy and vivid. I adore the scenes between her and Lira.

The relationships in this book are brilliantly written.  The romance between Lira and Elian is extremely slow-burn, but their banter is fantastic and the development of their relationship is so well paced. The friendships between Elian and his crew and the friendship between Lira and her cousin Kahlia are also amazing - I love how close Elian's crew is, how Kye and Elian have this gorgeous bromance, and how the banter between the group is so spot-on. There are so many good friendships in this story.

To Kill A Kingdom is the YA pirate fantasy we've been waiting for. Be prepared to be swept away into dark, chilling waters amid a cast of fantastic characters, swoony romance, and epic banter.  It's a swashbuckling, seductive adventure.  

The WIP Diaries: Dark thriller trilogy...

This is another post in my WIP Diaries blog series where I talk about my writing and what I'm currently working on. Check out the previous posts here:

MONSTROUS: a short story
What I'm currently writing...
MORGANA series
The CONTORTION trilogy
JACKIE Aesthetics

Title: Not sure yet, but the series will be a trilogy.

Status: Brainstorming.

Genre: Thriller / contemporary

I went through a stage of rigorously working on these characters, but then other WIPs took over and I haven't thought much about it since. I do know that it'll revolve around two damaged detectives who work together to solve crimes in a small English town, while simultaneously battling their own demons, and it's a kind of Sherlock Holmes retelling that goes way darker. I love my characters though (even if I haven't decided on first names for them yet...... - Ellis, who's a battling alcoholic and lives with her single sister and niece, and Chase, new in town and running from something).

I look forward to digging into it again soon!

Are you writing anything at the moment? What's your WIP about? Do you like creating aesthetics? 


Published: March - Orion Children's Books.
Genres: Young adult / romance / contemporary / magical realism
Pages: 480.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Strong themes of suicide and mental illness.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Leigh Chen Sanders is sixteen when her mother dies by suicide, leaving only a scribbled note: 'I want you to remember'. Leigh doesn't know what it means, but when a red bird appears with a message, she finds herself travelling to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. Leigh is far away from home and far away from Axel, her best friend, who she stupidly kissed on the night her mother died - leaving her with a swell of guilt that she wasn't home, and a heavy heart, thinking she may have destroyed the one good thing left in her life. Overwhelmed by grief and the burden of fulfilling her mother's last wish, Leigh retreats into her art and into her memories, where colours collide and the rules of reality are broken. The only thing Leigh is certain about is that she must find out the truth. She must remember.

This book is beautiful inside and out. That cover is my new favourite thing. I mean, just look at it. It soothes my soul. It also feels incredible, so do yourself a favour and buy a physical copy.

Pan writes lyrically, and her style is stunning. It is purple prose, but the metaphors actually make sense and they slam into your chest with a shocking potency; they aren't just flowery words that sound nice together - they make sense.
I especially love the descriptions of food (specifically Taiwanese food). There is so much food amazingness in this story and I guarantee you your mouth will watering. Mine definitely was.

Another 'purple prose ' aspect to the writing is the colours Leigh continually assigns to emotion. But instead of the author throwing nonsensical colours at emotions, it's Leigh who admits to doing so herself because it's a 'game' she shares with her friend Axel. Lines like "Only the stiff mint green cold of being unable to process what was in front of me", don't really make sense, but it's a quirk Leigh has. It also helps that the story is in first person. It feels more natural; not like the author's trying to be overly creative. The colours-to-emotion quirk is Leigh's.
Does that paragraph even make sense?! I hope so!

The plot is slow - very slow - but what it lacks in physical action it makes up for in emotional depth and the complexity of the characters' relationships. It's a painful story - gut-wrenching - but it's also hopeful. We follow Leigh's painful journey as she comes to terms with her mother's suicide. It's thought-provoking and every scene has so much substance. There are also some great twists at the end of the book, and the story ends very satisfyingly.

“There's no point in wishing. We can't change anything about the past. We can only remember. We can only move forward.”

The characters are painfully human. They're all complex, vivid, and flawed. Leigh has so much pain inside of her, but her character development is excellent. She really grows over the course of the story, and she isn't the only one - her Dad and other family members do, too, and so does Axel.

I also love Leigh's relationships with the other characters. They are all extremely messy and complicated, but they're beautiful at the same time because they are so real. They're broken and hurting and fallible, but they're realistic. It's magnificent. Pan writes them brilliantly.

At first I was hesitate about the romance, but it did win me over. Usually when a book is so much about the protagonist's inner growth, a romance can come across like an unnecessary add-on, and I was worried that this book would fall into that trap.
But it doesn't. Leigh's relationship with Axel is a big part of who she is and where she comes from, and it makes sense within the story and what Leigh's going through.  It doesn't distract from her personal journey - it's a suitable part of it.  Sure, the book wouldn't fall apart without it, but it works.

The Astonishing Colour of After is a kaleidoscope of riveting emotion. Loss, love, grief, hope, hurt, all collide to deliver a deeply moving and well nuanced novel, slow and complicated and held together by a compelling cast of characters.  

Weekly What's Up - school, rain, cold

This week actually felt like winter. Cold, blankets, freezing to death, lots of rain.....HEAVEN. I adored every second and I hope it'll keep up.

I've been watching The Vampire Diaries on Netflix! Finally! I've just started season 2. The main reason I'm watching is because I want to address the problematic content in some blog posts, but I have to admit it's an entertaining show ;) I'm kinda addicted now. I hate Damon, hate Elena, but Stefan's okay and Bonnie and Caroline are amazing. I'm enjoying it.

Posts of the Week

I reviewed Bring Me Back, which was an extremely underwhelming thriller.

I talked about Rhysand's abuse of Feyre in ACOTAR.

I reviewed Batman Nightwalker by Marie Lu. It was a buddy read with my squad <3

I reviewed Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.

I talked about Hollywood's remaking of male led film with women, and whether it's such a good idea.

I reviewed Children of Blood and Bone on Goodreads.

I reviewed Rebel of the Sands and Traitor to the Throne on Goodreads.

Currently Reading

I'm taking it very slow with Warcross...

For Review

I WAS SO EXCITED TO GET THIS BOOK. I've already finished reading it, and my review will be up soon :)

GDPR regulations

I bet all of you have been inundated with GDPR frenzy. Personally, I'm kinda thrown because I know nothing about it and had to research it to make sure I was on track, but unfortunately it applies to all bloggers and now I have to cover my bases by complying. So I've written a privacy policy (which I'm still working on) and you should see a cookies pop up in the bottom left of the screen when you visit my blog for the first time since I added it. By clicking "agree" you're just acknowledging and accepting that my website (among almost every other website out there) uses cookies. It's harmless.

How has your week been? What are you reading and watching? 

Female Film Reboots: Yay or Nay?

Female remakes are a huge thing right now. Hollywood is literally churning them out. It's all to give women better roles, but is it the way to go? Do we need a Jane Bond when they could write an original female badass spy?

Leave a comment and let's discuss!


There's Ocean's 8. Admittedly, the characters are new characters, but let's face it - it's heavily. heavily inspired by the male-led series, and the name's a dead giveaway. Debbie Ocean is also Danny Ocean's sister. There's not much originality there.

There's James Bond. It doesn't been done yet, but there has been a lot of talk about making James a Jane.

There's Lord of the Flies. Just rumours and conjecture, but it's been mentioned.

There's Indiana Jones. Still just talk, but talk all the same. (FYI: I think Lara Croft already covers the female Indy. Just btw).

There's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. A female remake is being made starring Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway.

There was Ghostbusters, the 2016 female remake starring Melissa McCarthy.

There will be more. Hollywood shows no signs of slowing down the reboots - female-led or otherwise.

What are they trying to achieve and do they achieve it?

What with the very current topic of feminism these days, the film industry has felt the effect too. Writers are making a conscious effort to give women great roles to play. They're rewriting the wrongs of the past that predominantly had men playing the three-dimensional, relatable, well written roles. They're feeling the pressure.

But are these writers really doing the best they can do? Is the way to give women epic characters and stories just to rewrite a male hero as a woman and alter his story to fit her? Honestly, I think that's an insult to both men and women. I think it's sexist. It isn't all that empowering, either.

Here's what two actresses have to say:

Rachel Weisz: “Why not create your own story rather than jumping on to the shoulders and being compared to all those other male predecessors? Women are really fascinating and interesting and should get their own stories.”

Rosamund Pike: "I'd just say write a new story. I mean James Bond is a character that Ian Fleming created. I mean, you know of course the brand has become bigger and whatever, but take one of the Bond Girls and give her her own story. I think the character of James Bond is a man. He is really. But I mean, to have such a character in a completely independent series, why should a woman get sort of sloppy seconds? Why should she have once been a man and now it has to be played by a woman? Why not make a kick-ass female agent in her own right?"

In conclusion...

Personally, I agree with the ladies' quotes above. I don't think remaking male stories with female characters is the way to give women decent roles and stories. I think there needs to be more female directors, more female writers, who lend their female perspective to writing new, original stories and original, three-dimensional, exciting new female characters for actresses to play.

Don't just remake a male story and give the hero a heroine makeover. You're messing with characters who were actually written as male characters. Not to mention women deserve more than that. Just be original. Be brave. Be inspired. 

What do you think of these upcoming and potential female remakes? Do you think they're necessary? Do you think they're misguided? Do you think women deserve original stories instead? 

SHATTER ME (Shatter Me #1) - by Tahereh Mafi

SHATTER ME (SHATTER ME #1) - Tahereh Mafi
Published: 2012 - HarperCollins.
Genres: Young adult / romance / science fiction
Pages: 338.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Violence.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Penguin Random House SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days. The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color. The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now. Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

I hadn't heard much about this series before I read the first book myself, but the cover captured my interest right away. It's so chillingly intense.

Mafi writes well and her style is beautiful. Some lines are unnecessarily flowery, and ones like "I melt, hot butter dripping down his body" are ridiculous; I hate how the author skips right past the simile and makes her character become the "butter". It's too much.
Overall, though, the prose is lovely. The chapters are wonderfully short, too ;)

The world is interesting. I think it's a bit limited - I would have liked to have seen more of it - but the imagery we're given is stunning, and that makes the bit of world and civilisation quite fascinating.

The plot isn't original (especially towards the end where the climax is a sequence of scenes I've seen so many times before). Things are also very easy, very smooth running for the heroine, and's never boring. The action is great, and the story is exciting. It's a light, fun read. That's what it is.

Sometimes I think the loneliness inside of me is going to explode through my skin and sometimes I'm not sure if crying or screaming or laughing through the hysteria will solve anything at all. Sometimes I'm so desperate to touch to be touched to feel that I'm almost certain I'm going to fall off a cliff in an alternate universe where no one will ever be able to find me.

I love the heroine. Juliette has a firm set of morals, and despite her inner demons, she's passionate and fiercely devoted to what she believes in. She's easy to root for - I love her beautiful personality.

The characters are vivid, and I like that. At the same time, however, Adam is a boring love interest with very little personality, Warner is an interesting villain but PLEASE do not let there be a love triangle in the second book and then gloss over his problematic behaviour towards Juliette, and the secondary characters are flat, fade-into-the-background figures. Juliette is the best written character by far, and without a doubt carries the book.

I don't ship the romance. Adam and Juliette's relationship isn't well developed, and despite them having apparently known each other as kids, that bit of their past is never tapped into deeply enough. As a result, their relationship in the present feels very insta-lovey. They need more development.

(Also just FYI: 'Kissing it out' when it's actually a conversation they need to be having is not something I support. There are too many scenes where they start kissing to get rid of their troubles, and nope, nope, nope - talk it out, kids. Kissing doesn't magically fix stuff.)

Shatter Me is a fun, intense dystopia with a compelling heroine. But the weak romance and convenient plot line are unfortunate.  


Published: January 2018 - Penguin Random House.
Genres: Young adult / contemporary / retelling
Pages: 272.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Mild violence.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Penguin Random House SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Before he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A reckless boy willing to break the rules for a girl who may be his worst enemy. The Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham City, and Bruce Wayne is next on their list. One by one, the city's elites are being executed as their mansions' security systems turn against them, trapping them like prey. Meanwhile, Bruce is turning eighteen and about to inherit his family's fortune, not to mention the keys to Wayne Enterprises and all the tech gadgetry his heart could ever desire. But after a run-in with the police, he's forced to do community service at Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison that holds the city's most brutal criminals. Madeleine Wallace is a brilliant killer . . . and Bruce's only hope. In Arkham, Bruce meets Madeleine, a brilliant girl with ties to the Nightwalkers. What is she hiding? And why will she speak only to Bruce? Madeleine is the mystery Bruce must unravel. But is he getting her to divulge her secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees? Bruce will walk the dark line between trust and betrayal as the Nightwalkers circle closer.

Marie Lu is a huge name in YA and I've wanted to read her books for ages. I'm also a big fan of Batman and superheroes. This novel looked like the perfect story.
I buddy-read this book with my #squad, Di and Uma. Go check out their amazing reviews HERE and HERE.

I found the writing a bit.....underwhelming. The scenes are vivid and they move like something out of a movie, but the actual word choice and sentence structure aren't brilliant. The writing is average - not particularly astounding. It's too typical.
The dialogue is boring. It's completely unoriginal and weak. It's badly written. One of the scenes in the climax (which is supposed to be all powerful and emotional, and I can't say much more cos of spoilers) is severely impaired by its boring, cheesy dialogue, and that totally ruins the mood.

The plot isn't great. There's not a lot of action, and not much happens. There were so many amazing opportunities (like that prison break scene) for Lu to have spun the story in an exhilarating direction, but instead she played it extremely safe. It stays cliche, and adds nothing to the original Batman we know and love. It's dry and uninspired.
There's also the fact that the incidents that move the story forward are way too convenient. Bruce simply stumbles upon information (like the origami incident) and the climax of the book is easily revolved without much incident. It just doesn't make you go "wow!" It's simplistic and mediocre. I wish Lu could've taken more risks with the story.

“Maybe they weren't a smart match but fate had matched them anyway; and someday in some future perhaps they would be matched again.”

The characters need a LOT more depth and fleshing out. Bruce is a typical Gryffindor (kinda ruins the Dark Knight image am I right?) and bored me almost instantly. I also wish we could've seen more of how his parents' recent deaths affected him; their absence isn't mentioned much, which I think is a missed opportunity for depth and character growth.

Madeline is also a missed opportunity for someone who could've been an extremely compelling anti-heroine. Instead, we're just supposed to buy her connection with Bruce (which is insta-love on his side, and insta-affection on hers) and even though she's supposed to be this dark, dangerous villain, WE NEVER SEE HER FIGHT UNTIL THE END AND EVEN THEN IT'S JUST KINDA PATHETIC. Given her role in the story, I expected more. I didn't want her to go soft so early, and she needed more depth, originality, and personality. But she isn't even compelling.

The secondary characters - Alfred, Harvey, Richard, Dianne - are basically disguised stereotypes. I say disguised because I feel like Lu relied more on their legacy in the fandom (for Alfred and Harvey - since they're already established personalities) and didn't bother to add much depth and quirks to their characters. They're all very average.

Batman Nightwalker is a missed opportunity. The characters are boring, the dialogue is terrible, and the plot is too simple and convenient. It's a relaxing flick of a story, but it's not memorable or brilliant.

BRING ME BACK - by B. A. Paris

Published: June 2018 - HQ 
Genres: Adult / thriller / contemporary / mystery
Pages: 384.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Violence
Format: eBook.
Source: Netgalley.

A young British couple are driving through France on holiday when they stop for gas. He runs in to pay, she stays in the car. When he returns her car door has been left open, but she's not inside. No one ever sees her again. Ten years later he's engaged to be married; he's happy, and his past is only a tiny part his life now. Until he comes home from work and finds his new wife-to-be is sitting on their sofa. She's turning something over in her fingers, holding it up to the light. Something that would have no worth to anyone else, something only he and she would know about because his wife is the sister of his missing first love. As more and more questions are raised, their marriage becomes strained. Has his first love somehow come back to him after all this time? Or is the person who took her playing games with his mind?

I was so looking forward to reading this book. I hadn't ever tried the author before, but the premise was fantastic. It sounded deliciously twisty.

But the writing is weak. There is a gross excess of telling instead of showing, and that made it impossible for me to get immersed into the story; I never got to feel the anger, the pain, the torment, of the characters - it's all simply reported. The bland language doesn't help, either.
The setting of the story isn't fleshed out well enough. It's never fully realised. I wanted more of it. I wanted an atmosphere, and the setting never gives you that.

It's very cheesy and melodramatic. The last lines of almost every chapter end with an ominous cliffhanger such as "You have ten days" or "But then she spoiled everything" or "It was time to find out!" It's just so....eye-roll worthy. The anticipation the author's trying to instill in his readers is too forced. It's cheesy and overdone.

The end of the book has some nice twists. But they are also the kind of twists that make you think "is that really, really clever, or is it just totally bizarre and confusing?" That's how I feel. I'm not sure that the twists do make complete sense, and I for one am still very puzzled with the ending. The details of the ending's incidents are very weak and far-fetched, and they aren't written convincingly. I don't know quite what to think.

“Sometimes we lie for the greater good, don’t we? I wish that’s what you had done.”

The characters are flat. I hate the narrator - the protagonist - because he comes across so aloof and arrogant, and the secondary cast are dull and one-dimensional, too. No one is vivid and layered; they're all half-finished beings with tunnel purpose.
And the author never digs deep with them. That goes for the rest of the book, too. He just doesn't go below the surface, and so we get a weak, glossy surface-level story with no real depth or engagement. It's hollow.

Bring Me Back is badly written with flat characters, and does nothing to draw the reader into its clutches and keep them there. It also sends out mixed messages about abuse, which are never properly resolved. 

Weekly What's Up - sick, school, sleep

The royal wedding. Let's talk about it. I absolutely loved it, thought it was amazing, and Meghan looked incredible. Also, couple goals <3 I melted a few times. 
AND AMAL CLOONEY'S OUTFIT. Gosh. She was my fave - she looked sensational. Also, the Queen, Kate, Meghan's mother, Serena Williams......BEAUTIFUL.  

Apart from an amazing Saturday, it was hasn't been a great week for me. I've only scraped by with school because I was sick, and spent half of Friday in bed with a headache that made it impossible for me to get up. I hate flu because it's not just the nose you get - it's the aches, the headaches, the sensitive eyes, the temperature. And I slept so much
But I'm already getting better :)    

Posts of the Week

I took part in the blog tour for My Sweet Friend.

I shared some aesthetics from my WIP...

I reviewed Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian.

Currently Reading

I didn't actually realise I was reading this many books until I collected their covers for this post ;) Oops.

For Review

Thank you so much, Penguin Random House, for these amazing paperbacks!

Around the Blogosphere

Uma reviews Ash Princess

Heather reviews Zenith

Olivia reviews A Thousand Perfect Notes

Ronnie reviews Nothing But Sky

Amber Elise reviews Furyborn

Aneta reviews From Twinkle, with Love

How has your week been? What are you reading and watching? 

ASH PRINCESS (Ash Princess #1) - by Laura Sebastian

ASH PRINCESS - Laura Sebastian
Published: April 2018 - Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Genres: Young adult / romance / epic fantasy
Pages: 432.
Triggers/Content Advisory: One traumatic whipping scene / mild sexual innuendos / mild violence
Format: Paperback ARC.
Source: Gift from Pan Macmillan.

Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia's family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess--a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner. For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She's endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside. Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn't always won on the battlefield. For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.

I buddy-read Ash Princess with the amazing Uma from Books.Bags.Burgers. You can read her review HERE. After seeing the many 5 star reviews on Goodreads, we were both excited to start reading this book.

The writing is beautiful. There is the occasional info dumping, but otherwise, for a debut, the writing is solid. I liked it.
But the characters are uninteresting. Theo is one-dimensional, there's absolutely nothing unique about her, and I'm not even sure if she has a personality. The secondary characters aren't great either -  they're dull and stereotypical - and the love triangle is predictable and unnecessary.
Overall, I couldn't connect to or care about anyone. They're all cardboard cut-outs.

But the plot is the worst. I could endure the characters and enjoy the writing, but the plot has no redeeming factors:

- There is no real conflict. Sebastian plays it safe with petty troubles and easy-to-control situations, and keeps events on a straight path to a risk-free finale. Every incident in the book is devoid of excitement and extremely underwhelming because of the lack of threat. It's too safe, and considering the premise, it definitely shouldn't be.
- The story is also too easy and convenient, and events are random and coincidental. Blaise killing off Theo's guards to get them out of the way, Blaise giving Theo the poison to use against her enemies, Blaise getting the ships ready for the escape and making sure Theo's friends are safe, are all laughably opportune events. It's all taken care of off the page and it is SO. CONVENIENT.
- There are also incidents like the Kaiser's wife's death and the little uprising that gets Theo punished that I don't think worked in the story simply because they're isolated events with no direct ties to the main plot. They just happen (and they have little consequence). Wouldn't it have been so much better if Theo had implicitly caused the Kaiser's wife's death? Or if she'd done something to cause the uprising? Just get her involved, please! Theo doesn't lead the plot, and as the heroine, she should be doing stuff, making mistakes, following impulses, etc, that set the dominoes in motion.
Yet she doesn't. She thinks about doing stuff more than she actually does the stuff. She isn't making the plot move - it's moving regardless of what she's doing.

Ash Princess is beautifully written with an intense premise. But the characters are cardboard cut-outs, the heroine doesn't move the plot, and the story has very little conflict.  

The WIP Diaries: JACKIE Aesthetics......

This is another post in my WIP Diaries blog series where I talk about my writing and what I'm currently working on. Check out the previous posts here:

MONSTROUS: a short story
What I'm currently writing...
MORGANA series
The CONTORTION trilogy

Today I'm sharing some character aesthetics! The peeps below are secondary characters in my WIP - Jackie - but since I haven't finished my heroine's one yet, she's missing from the group. I'm hoping to shows hers in a few weeks :)

In the meantime, here are the supporting cast: 

Cali (heroine's close friend and Tikee's sister) 

 Liam (heroine's friend and love interest) 

Minh (heroine's best friend) 

Tikee (heroine's friend and Cali's brother) 

Are you writing anything at the moment? What's your WIP about? Do you like creating aesthetics? 

Blog Tour and Intl Giveaway: MY SWEET FRIEND - by H.A. Leuschel

Today I'm sharing an excerpt and international giveaway for this beautiful book! Read on to find out about the story...

A stand-alone novella from the author of Manipulated Lives...
A perfect friend ... or a perfect impostor? Alexa is an energetic and charismatic professional and the new member of a Parisian PR company where she quickly befriends her colleagues Rosie and Jack. She brings a much-needed breath of fresh air into the office and ambitiously throws herself into her new job and friendships. But is Alexa all she claims to be? As her life intertwines with Rosie and Jack's, they must all decide what separates truth from fiction. Will the stories that unfold unite or divide them? Can first impressions ever be trusted? In this original novella, H.A. Leuschel evokes the powerful hold of appearances and what a person is prepared to do to keep up the facade. If you like thought-provoking and compelling reads with intriguing characters, My Sweet Friend is for you.

Goodreads   /    Purchase 

Helene Andrea Leuschel grew up in Belgium where she gained a Licentiate in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She now lives with her husband and two children in Portugal and recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. When she is not writing, Helene works as a freelance journalist and teaches Yoga.

Twitter    /      Website      /     Goodreads     /   Facebook


Win a signed copy of My Sweet Friend!

*Terms and Conditions
– Worldwide entries welcome.
 Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Note from the author: 

Many dream to become the next Husain Bolt, Nobel Prize Winner or movie star? Much of what children are taught today is about reaching goals, coming first, standing out and being one of a kind.

Without hard work and learning to accept failures and hardship, very few are in a position though to reach those heights. So, what if you haven’t got the grit, little personal ambition to sit down and work? What if appearances are everything to you?
There’s one way to get there and that is via the observation of fellow humans, how they tick, what their strengths and especially what their weaknesses are and then lie yourself to the top. Lies and betrayals have fed numerous story lines in literature since time immemorial. From psychopaths, protagonists out to achieve their goal at all cost, deceiving husbands and wives to those simply scared to be found out, lying comes in many shapes and colours. Their consequences are always devastating to the injured party, leaving a trail of hurt.

Deception and lies leave behind broken hearts and suspicion, cause anxiety and often further deceit and in my latest novella ‘My Sweet Friend’ this is no exception.

It had all happened quite fast. I was standing in the queue at the ticket office, waiting for my turn, when my memory travelled back to the day I’d gone back for a cup of coffee to Jack’s apartment. ‘Let’s have some fun, shall we? No one has to know.’
The words had worked their magic because he, like countless others before him, could not resist my direct advances. The signals were clear and without complicated initiation periods. They’d soon be all too keen to assuage their guilty consciences when it suited me later. At the next opportunity, facing each other over evening drinks, I started tickling his conscience.
‘Are you worried about Rosie finding out?’ I asked, and he blanched at the question, his eyes focused on his Apple Martini.
He took another mouthful, then looked at me. ‘I care about Rosie and I think our little game is a mistake.’ He’d chosen the wrong condescending tone, as if he were the father telling off his silly little girl.
 ‘Whoa, seriously? Are you suggesting it was a chore to spend time with me? You’re just like every other guy, you know. Alexa is fun but let’s dump her for the little mouse who prefers women,’ I said, watching Jack squirm and shift in his seat.
 ‘Why do you keep calling her a little mouse? That’s offensive. She’s your friend, you said. Since when do friends talk badly about each other behind their backs?’ He slapped his hand on the table. ‘Calm down. She is, and she’s really sweet, but I sometimes feel she’s too clingy and needy, calling me in the middle of the night to cry on my shoulder, so to speak, borrowing money from me because she can’t pay back her credit card bills.’
The words tumbled out of me without much reflection, so to back them up I showed him the long list of calls and text notifications Rosie had sent, after I had called her in desperation in the middle of the night, then had given her the silent treatment. I left the latter fact out, of course, watching the dismay sadden Jack’s face.

Hope you like the look of this book! 

Weekly What's Up - birthdays, watching, reading

This is a really short weekly round-up ;) Not sure how that actually happened, but oh well.   

It was my birthday on Thursday!! I turned 18! It feels so weird and terrifying and exciting. I got wonderful presents, ate amazing food, and spent most of the day relaxing. My parents also gave me season 1 of Big Little Lies, which I was EXTREMELY ecstatic about. ( I've already finished watching it and it is sooooo good. Go watch it now). 

I'm also watching a Netflix mini series at the moment with my Mum and I highly recommend it. It's called Safe, and is based off of the thriller by Harlan Coben. If you enjoy crime shows, you should love this one too. It's addictive.  

Posts of the Week

I rounded up all the Romanticised Abuse discussion posts that I've done so far.

I reviewed A Thousand Perfect Notes by C. G. Drews.

Currently Reading

I'm not enjoying either of these so far and I feel TERRIBLE :(

For Review

Looking forward to The Astonishing Colour of After, and kinda hesitant about The Darkest Minds #2 and #3...

How has your week been? What are you reading and watching?