Reviews

The Turn of the Key

When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.

It was everything.

She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.


If you know me, you know that I really enjoy Ruth Ware. I’ve read all of her books but one (The Woman in Cabin 10) and have enjoyed all of them; some of them I’ve enjoyed a LOT. So I was highly anticipating this Summer release date for The Turn of the Key. After finally getting my hands on this one, I can happily report that I’m not disappointed.

The Turn of the Key is pretty much everything I wanted from Ware. It is atmospheric, thrilling, creepy, and completely sucked me in from the first chapter.

One aspect I really enjoyed in this novel was the constant wondering WHAT the threat in this book actually was: Supernatural? Mundane? Psychological? I loved bouncing back and forth between theories for the majority of this book and, though the ending still left me with a lot of questions, I genuinely had a lot of fun throughout the roller coaster that was this story.

My favorite thing about this book was how hard it was to listen to in the dark. I don’t get creeped out easily but just imagining that “creeeeeak” that she writes so well coming from the floor above her bed, I began to hear and think about it when I was laying in bed myself. This book was eerie and continually compelling because of that fact. Turn of the Key manages to keep the urgency of a thriller while still creating the slow, deeper dread that a horror novel usually produces.

One thing I’ve always appreciated about Ware’s characters is that they are not detectives or police or even “crime-solving citizens” they’re just women. Women who respond to these mysterious and scary moments with relatable fear, confusion, and just trying their damndest to figure out what they’ve gotten themselves into. I relate to that, especially in the types of mysteries that Ware tells, tangled in the further complicating factors of love and family and work. Aside from a few twists and revelations, this book was no different. Though I wanted to throw Rowan across the room for many of her choices, Ware is great at wrapping the fog of “what is right and true” tightly around her story and her character’s actions, forcing us to also ask the same of ourselves.

I also enjoyed the format and style of this book; I love a good first person narrative. Turn of the Key begins with a letter from Rowan to an unnamed attorney, and the anticipatory dread this created added to the urgency throughout the book. It reminded me a little of the book Alias Grace, where you’re left to decide so much for yourself about what’s actually happened in the story.

The only thing I might have changed is the ending. While it was a shocking and interesting twist, I still have so many burning questions now that the book is over! I feel like there were certain threads throughout the story that got lost in the final pages. I still didn’t see that twist coming, so I consider this a semi-win. I’d love to hear your opinions on this ending if you’ve read it yourself!

Overall, Turn of the Key was a creepy, pulse-pounding thriller that I sped through in a day and I would do it all again. I just had fun reading this book and continuing to find out what happened at every turn. Despite its small plot holes, I still enjoyed this new addition to Ware’s body of work. I hope that you do too!

Find this book on Amazon, here!

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Book Tour, Reviews

The Speed of Falling Objects ( + Giveaway!)

From the author of When Elephants Fly comes an exceptional new novel about falling down, risking everything and embracing what makes us unique. Don’t miss this compulsively readable novel about the most unlikely of heroes.

Danger “Danny” Danielle Warren is no stranger to falling. After losing an eye in a childhood accident, she had to relearn her perception of movement and space. Now Danny keeps her head down, studies hard, and works to fulfill everyone else’s needs. She’s certain that her mom’s bitterness and her TV star father’s absence are her fault. If only she were more-more athletic, charismatic, attractive-life would be perfect.

When her dad calls with an offer to join him to film the next episode of his popular survivalist show, Danny jumps at the chance to prove she’s not the disappointment he left behind. Being on set with the hottest teen movie idol of the moment, Gus Price, should be the cherry on top. But when their small plane crashes in the Amazon, and a terrible secret is revealed, Danny must face the truth about the parent she worships and falling for Gus, and find her own inner strength and worth to light the way home.

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Whew! What a whirlwind of a book!

The Speed of Falling Objects takes off at light speed and does not slow down even once. This story was swift, well-paced, and a thrilling survival tale of a family doing whatever it takes. I had ups and downs with this story, but overall- a frightening, wild tale. Starting the first page off with a plane crash sure does jump-start a book!

The best thing about this book was the rich, descriptive, immersive world that the author creates in the boundless Amazon Rainforest. What seems like such a beautiful and rich place, full of all kinds of different life forms that continue to flourish, proves to be a much less hospitable place than I imagined. For instance: when so much of what’s around you is poisonous, how do you find anything to eat? I’d never thought about that before.

Fischer has a great writing style that clicked well with me too. Her writing simple, straight-forward, and focused. This made it so easy and effortless to read and I flew through this YA contemporary survival story.

My only struggle was that I profoundly disliked one of the characters, the main character’s father. I’ve read some other reviews that struggled with the same character, which leads me to believe- maybe that was the point? Were we supposed to hate him? I’m not sure but, regardless, he will not win father of the year.

Overall, this was a fast, fun, and crazy ride through the jungle at top speed and I flew through this book. If you like thrilling survival tales, this book might be for you. If you like complex characters that make you feel conflicted, this book would be right up your alley.

Check it out for yourself! This one hits shelves tomorrow.

I’m a published author with children’s, teen and adult titles including: The Golden Globe, Lyric’s World and Promises (Junior Jedi Knights Trilogy) for LucasFilm (Berkeley Press), Feel No Fear, The Power, Passion and Politics of a Life in Gymnastics (Hyperion), Monica: From Fear to Victory (HarperCollins), A Journey: The Autobiography of Apolo Anton Ohno (Simon & Schuster), Nadia Comaneci: Letters to a Young Gymnast (Basic Books), and Winning Every Day with Shannon Miller (Bantam Books). 

I’ve written for a circus, a graduate school, tried my hand at waitressing (I was terrible!), baking carrot cakes (I was messy but good!), and been lucky enough to ultimately do what I love – write.

I live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband and our mostly wonderful (but sometimes vorpal) Vizsla. When I’m not conjuring a story, I love to kite-board, bike, ski or plan adventures with my two guys, who both make me laugh for different reasons and are the best partners in fun a gal could ever imagine.

If you want to learn more about my latest novel, When Elephants Fly (publication date September 04, HarperCollins/Harlequin Teen), please visit my website!

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Happy Monday! x – A

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Book Tour, Reviews

Shadow Frost ( + Giveaway!)

IN THE KINGDOM OF AXARIA, a darkness rises.

Some call it a monster, laying waste to the villagers and their homes. 

Some say it is an invulnerable demon summoned from the deepest abysses of the Immortal Realm. 

Many soldiers from the royal guard are sent out to hunt it down.

Not one has ever returned. 

When Asterin Faelenhart, Princess of Axaria and heir to the throne, discovers that she may hold the key to defeating the mysterious demon terrorizing her kingdom, she vows not to rest until the beast is slain. With the help of her friends and the powers she wields — though has yet to fully understand — Asterin sets out to complete a single task. The task that countless, trained soldiers have failed. 

To kill it. 

But as they hunt for the demon, they unearth a plot to assassinate the Princess herself instead. Asterin and her companions begin to wonder how much of their lives have been lies, especially when they realize that the center of the web of deceit might very well be themselves. With no one else to turn to, they are forced to decide just how much they are willing to sacrifice to protect the only world they have ever known. 

That is, of course… if the demon doesn’t get to them first.

From young author Coco Ma comes a dazzling new tale of adventure, power, and betrayal, weaving together a stunning world of magic with a killer cast in an explosive, unforgettable debut.

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Where do I start with Coco Ma’s stunning new fantasy debut, Shadow Frost? Because there is so much to talk about.

Let’s start with my favorite thing about this book: the people in it. Within the first half of this book I had already decided that I would read the rest in the series, simply because I grew so attached to the characters that the story centers around.

Our main character, Asterin, Princess of Axaria, could so easily have fallen into the “Mary Sue” or “Chosen Princess” stereotypical character role and not been much else. But Asterin is no pushover Princess who’s going to follow the “rules” of whatever this “genre” thing is. Her world is complicated, dangerous and dark and she has no time to be anyone but herself. Asterin is fierce, headstrong, and more than anything else- relatable. Flawed and imperfect, all she wants is to live up to her mother’s legacy and be the Queen her people deserve. Like most of us though, she doesn’t know exactly how to do that and makes choices and mistakes that lead her down a winding and completely unforeseen journey instead. This felt so true to life for me, watching Asterin try and find her footing amidst so much uncertainty and danger and, of course, dark magic.

The supporting cast are nothing to scoff at either. If you’re a fan of characters that make you feel so soft you want to just scoop them up and put them safely away in your pocket, Shadow Frost has got you covered. I was so worried for these sweet lil cinnamon buns!! From down-to-earth, to dark and brooding, to refreshingly frank, there is no aspect of personality left unexplored in these characters and I enjoyed that immensely. The banter and the way they play to each other’s strength and weaknesses was so well blended in with the story that it felt natural, at ease, and so effortlessly compelling.

I was also very pleasantly surprised at how fast-paced and twisty this book was! I wasn’t expecting so many plot twists (which was awesome) or what they ended up being (which was even more awesome), and this happened more than once. It was pure enjoyment to constantly be wondering if the status quo will be maintained or upended once more and because it moves so quickly, it gives the story this feeling as if it’s pulling you along instead of waiting for you to read.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how absolutely astounding it is that Coco Ma wrote the first draft of this novel at age 15. While some of the characters have aspects or make choices that highlight this fact occasionally, I was blown away by the luxurious complexity, intricate world-building, and twisted plot surprises in this book. This was an absolutely impressive read, but more than that- it was pure entertainment.

If you’re looking for a rich new world in a series that is only just beginning, this book is for you. If you’re looking for whole and emotional character building or a magic system with a refreshing breath of new life inside it, this book is for you. If you’re just bored and want to try something new and a little surprising and creative, definitely for you.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. — A

Coco Ma is a Canadian-Chinese author and pianist. She wrote her first novel, Shadow Frost, at the age of 15. Since she began playing the piano at the age of five and a half, she has also performed on some of the world’s greatest concert stages and graduated with a pre-college diploma in piano performance from The Juilliard School in New York City. Currently, she studies at Yale University. When she isn’t practicing piano, writing, or studying, you might find her bingeing Netflix or eating cake. Lots of cake.

Follow Coco on Twitter @shadowfrost2019 and Instagram @CakeForCoco or visit her website at Coco-Ma.com!

Enter to win a copy of Shadow Frost by Coco Ma, a signed bookplate, and enamel pin!

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Book Tour, Reviews

The Tenth Girl

Simmering in Patagonian myth, The Tenth Girl is a gothic psychological thriller with a haunting twist.

At the very southern tip of South America looms an isolated finishing school. Legend has it that the land will curse those who settle there. But for Mavi—a bold Buenos Aires native fleeing the military regime that took her mother—it offers an escape to a new life as a young teacher to Argentina’s elite girls.

Mavi tries to embrace the strangeness of the imposing house—despite warnings not to roam at night, threats from an enigmatic young man, and rumors of mysterious Others. But one of Mavi’s ten students is missing, and when students and teachers alike begin to behave as if possessed, the forces haunting this unholy cliff will no longer be ignored.

One of these spirits holds a secret that could unravel Mavi’s existence. In order to survive she must solve a cosmic mystery—and then fight for her life.

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I changed my mind about The Tenth Girl about six times while I read it, but overall I enjoyed this wild YA thriller.

This might be the hardest review I’ve had to write also, because so many of the things that I loved about the theme, message, and complexity of this book have to do with the big, spoiler-y twist at the end. So, instead, I’m going to give you a list of the things I loved about The Tenth Girl, and leave you to discover as much as I can.

One. The atmosphere in this book was insanely effective. The school is almost another character in the book itself, like many great horror classics, and Faring’s descriptions were graphic, detailed, and tangible. I felt like the creaking doors and moving hallways might be happening in my own house down the hall, instead of inside the book in my hands. This novel was eerie, unsettling, but most of all engaging; I had to finish once I’d been sucked into the story.

Two. I never knew what I thought was going on. Mostly in a good way. While there were definitely confusing or redundant moments for me, most of the time I felt a pleasant, ambiguous confusion that made me more curious instead of less. Every answer in the story led to more questions and I never had a solid theory for what was going on until the reveal. Which brings me to the next things I loved more than anything:

Three. The Twist was completely unexpected. And, while some may not, I loved it in particular. As soon as the reveal came so many things clicked right into place. Without saying too much, I have a little experience with the topics and contexts that she explores in this wild 180 and that made the story all the more rich, understandable, and insane. I thought this twist was just over-the-top enough and it really added another interesting layer of complexity to the story. Very interesting.

Four. I love how this book holds up a mirror and asks us to discover truths about ourselves. Now, this is the part that I’m going to struggle to describe without spoiling anyone. The Tenth Girl posed questions about humanity and our choices, about the consequences and environments of those choices and what they say about us. Faring does not shy away from questions of morality and modern social responsibility and I whole-heartedly enjoyed this turn into the philosophical.

The Tenth Girl may be a somewhat divisive novel, it may be confusing at times and a little meandering, but damn if it isn’t a great story anyway. I wholeheartedly enjoyed my read and I hope you do too.

Born in Los Angeles, Sara Faring is a multi-lingual Argentine-American fascinated by literary puzzles. After working in investment banking at J.P. Morgan, she worked at Penguin Random House. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in International Studies and from the Wharton School in Business. She currently resides in New York City. 

Her first novel, The Tenth Girl, will be released by Macmillan/Imprint on September 24, 2019. Sara is represented by Sarah Bedingfield at Levine Greenberg Rostan Agency. 

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Enter to win a copy of The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring!

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Reviews

One True Loves

“In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.

On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.

Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.

That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.

Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?

Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.”


All of you here on my site know that I’ve been going through a Taylor Jenkins Reid-volution lately! After finally getting around to reading Daisy Jones and the Six and falling in love with that story and Reid’s writing style, I went on to devour her other highly-lauded book The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Another smash hit. I loved these books so much that Reid has launched herself right onto the list of my favorite authors, and definitely the authors that I’m watching right now. In that vein, I was curious to see what else she’d written and so I went searching, which is when I found One True Loves.

From the synopsis, One True Loves had my attention. I don’t know about you, but I am a sucker for the whole “loved one back from the dead” trope. All the emotion, the reconciling with new realities, the nuance of human experience in that extreme, all of that appeals to a fascinated part of me. I knew I was going to like this book and, you know what? I did. I really did.

One True Loves is not a simple, sweet, linear love story. That is what I loved best about it. This is a messy story about the messiest parts of our lives: the times when we have to reevaluate everything we thought we knew about life. The main character, Emma, has her life turned upside-down twice in this book: once, when her first love and husband Jesse is lost at sea, and again, years later when he is found and brought back home. This may be a romance novel, but it is also about how we pick ourselves up and move forward after heartbreak. It’s about grief and time, and about how we love in so many different ways.

I cared for the characters in this book. I cared about them. I know that I was wholly swept into this book because it mattered so much to me what happened to them. Reid does such a nuanced and beautiful job of pulling apart all of the tangled, blended emotions that her characters feel in this story. I cheered for them and snarked at them and even rolled my eyes a few times, but mostly I just wanted them to be happy. That’s a powerful thing when an author can create that. Creating characters with depth and complexity seems to be a trend throughout all of Reid’s novels so far and I applaud her for it. It is so masterfully done and creates such an emotional impact.

One True Loves was a quick read but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how perfectly sized, paced, and planned it was too. The book felt like it moved effortlessly from thought to thought all the way until the end, which was– perfect, actually. I loved it. The ending left me happy and teary-eyed and so impressed with the love and nuance used throughout this book.

One True Loves was romantic and sad, beautiful and sweet, and somehow even funny sometimes. All in all, this was a book that I truly enjoyed. I hope you do too.

You can find One True Loves here @ Goodreads & Amazon


Hope you all are surviving the Monday! x — A

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Book Tour, Reviews

Tiger Queen

“From Annie Sullivan, author of A Touch of Gold, comes Tiger Queen, a sweeping YA fantasy adventure that tells the story of a fierce desert princess battling to save her kingdom. Fans of Rebel of the Sands and Meagan Spooner will devour this retelling of Frank Stockton’s famous short story, “The Lady, or the Tiger?”

In the mythical desert kingdom of Achra, an ancient law forces sixteen-year-oldPrincess Kateri to fight in the arena to prove her right to rule. For Kateri, winning also means fulfilling a promise to her late mother that she would protect her people, who are struggling through windstorms and drought.The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raids the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.

But when Kateri’s final opponent is announced, she knows she cannot win. In desperation, she turns to the desert and the one person she never thought she’d side with. What Kateri discovers twists her world—and her heart—upside down. Her future is now behind two doors—only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger.”

I had no idea what to expect with Tiger Queen, but I had SO much fun reading this book.

Tiger Queen is a retelling of a story by Frank Stockton titled “The Lady and The Tiger,” and I was fascinated by this new twist on a story not often in the spotlight. Tiger Queen was rich, descriptive, and full of discovery and color.

One of my favorite things about this book was the strong, independent, forward-thinking main character in Princess Kateri. She experiences an entire shift of her world and yet approaches it with such an open and curious mind, longing to see what the world offers for her. She struggles with figuring out what real strength is: is it power or is it peace? So many of her internal and external struggles were so relatable and wonderfully readable. I rooted for her, cheered for her, and believed that she could become the Queen her kingdom needed.

Annie Sullivan was a new author to me before Tiger Queen, but we are well acquainted now. Her other novel, A Touch of Gold, is also on my TBR and now I want to go read it! Sullivan’s writing style was simple in the best ways and beautifully descriptive and luxurious. Her world sings with color and life and new ideas that I enjoyed encountering around every corner.

If you like Fantasy, if you loved the movie Aladdin like I did, if you like retellings and love expanding your knowledge of other cultures and stories, this book is for you. Tiger Queen was fun, dramatic, and I read it so fast that I was sad it was over when it ended. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Annie Sullivan is a Young Adult author from Indianapolis, Indiana. Her work has been featured in Curly Red Stories and Punchnels. She loves fairytales, everything Jane Austen, and traveling and exploring new cultures. When she’s not off on her own adventures, she’s teaching classes at the Indiana Writers Center and working as the Copy Specialist at John Wiley and Sons, Inc. publishing company, having also worked there in Editorial and Publicity roles. You can follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram (@annsulliva).

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Enter to win a Tiger Queen poster and signed bookplate!

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Reviews

All the Bad Apples

“The day after the funeral all our mourning clothes hung out on the line like sleeping bats. ‘This will be really embarrassing,’ I kept saying to my family, ‘when she shows up at the door in a week or two.’

When Deena’s wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears – presumed dead – her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It’s just another bad thing to happen to Deena’s family. Only Deena refuses to believe it’s true.

And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions – but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse’s roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family’s rotten past – or rip it apart forever.”

I had no idea what to expect when I dove into All the Bad Apples, but I shouldn’t have worried: I enjoyed this immensely.

All the Bad Apples is a magical story full of atmosphere, mystery, and a twisted sense of whimsy. This book is about women, shame, and family while also being a comment on the punishment that the world dishes out to girls who aren’t “nice and normal.” It is so relevant.

Deena in particular is a great female main character. She felt whole and fleshed out, and wielded so much agency and power for a young girl. I love that she develops over the story in more than one way; sexuality, religion, strength. She was a different character at the end of the book than she was at the beginning and that development felt so reasonable and empathetic.

I also loved the background of Ireland for this particular story. The story is so woven into the culture and identity of its setting. I lived in Ireland for a short time, and the intensity of religion and community shown in this book felt very real to me. All the Bad Apples is a story that digs deeply into how the history of a place and a culture can gradually change and twist the views of thousands of people. Very interested to read.

Overall, I just really enjoyed this. I loved the Irish setting, I loved the descriptive and beautiful writing style, I loved the diverse cast in race, sexuality, gender. This book is angry in all the best ways, almost cathartic in the ways that so many women and girls are feeling frustration right now. If you’re looking for something mysterious and atmospheric, and also a little different, this may be the book for you.

Look for this one on shelves on August 27th!

Moïra Fowley-Doyle is half-French, half-Irish and made of equal parts feminism, whimsy and Doc Martens. She lives in Dublin where she writes magic realism, reads tarot cards and raises witch babies.

Moïra’s first novel, The Accident Season, was shortlisted for the 2015 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize & the North East Teen Book Awards, nominated for the Carnegie Medal & won the inaugural School Library Association of Ireland Great Reads Award. It received two starred reviews & sold in ten territories. Her second novel, Spellbook of the Lost and Found, was published in summer 2017, received a starred review from School Library Journal and was shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards.

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Book Tour, Reviews

Crown of Coral and Pearl

Today, I’m excited to introduce you to Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford! I really enjoyed this twist on the mermaid/sea-inspired YA fantasy, and I was lucky enough to join the tour to tell you about it! Let’s get to it.

For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful maidens from the ocean village of Varenia. But though every girl longs to be chosen as the next princess, the cost of becoming royalty is higher than any of them could ever imagine…

Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that’s ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince—while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land.

Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home—a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen… and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.

In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie.”

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford. Would it be the standard YA fantasy fare? Would it feel repetitive? But no, I enjoyed this new addition to the mermaid-inspired fantasy trend and if you enjoy this genre I think you will too.

The best thing about Crown of Coral and Pearl is that it is, at its core, a beautiful little novel in so many ways. The easy flow of the writing, the thought and detail in all the descriptions, and even in the culture of the people in this book. Beauty itself is a sort of theme in this book, one of the kingdoms in which it takes place even values beauty above all else, drawing fascinating questions about what kind of world that builds. This book was gorgeous, I felt like I could see and feel every luxurious detail, and I loved how this concept was woven into the story. Very smart.

Overall, the world-builing in general was a fascinating piece of this book. Each kingdom felt full and lived in, and the issues they faced felt real and layered in complexity. I especially found the politics and relationship between the two kingdoms to be so interesting and could have read a lot longer on these topics alone. I was swept up into this world so well and that is one of the things I appreciate most about reading.

Another thing Coral and Pearl does so well is in showcasing its tough, feminine, relatable main character, in Nor. I found all of the characters in this book interesting, but her most of all. Nor is clever, compassionate, driven, and a great female character. Most of all, I loved the incredibly close but surprisingly difficult relationship between Nor and her twin sister. Watching that relationship develop over the events of the book, in both victories and struggles, was an interesting dynamic considering how close their ties are. Even the villain of this story drew so much empathy and depth of feeling.

My only detractor is that the romance in this book didn’t quite work for me. Overall, it didn’t take away from the overall story but it just…didn’t need it? It seemed too quick and more like infatuation than anything else, so I struggled to root for this facet of the story as much as I did the others. Nor is such a strong character that it was frustrating to see her make certian choices for a romance that felt somewhat out of character. One of the central themes of this book is that beauty is more than just a physical state, its something deeper, and yet for the life of me I couldn’t see any other factor but physical attraction here haha. But hey, that’s valid too, I guess.

Overall, I enjoyed this. It could use a little polishing when it comes to the romance and maybe the ending, but it was a solid debut into the crowded field of YA fantasy novels right now. I am loving this sea-inspired trend, it’s hitting all my nostalgic Little Mermaid buttons, and this just fit right in. Crown of Coral and Pearl was well-paced, interesting all the way through, and set on a great premise. Would definitely recommend.

Keep an eye out for this one in stores on August 27th!

Mara Rutherford began her writing career as a journalist but quickly discovered she far preferred fantasy to reality. Originally from California, Mara has since lived all over the world, from Russia to Peru, along with her Marine-turned-diplomat husband and two sons. A triplet born on Leap Day, Mara holds a Master’s degree in Cultural Studies from the University of London and would rather study the folklore of her next post than the language (which she has found is a lot more fun but not nearly as useful). She is a former Pitch Wars mentee and three-time mentor. Her debut YA fantasy, CORAL AND PEARL, will release from Harlequin Teen in Fall 2019.

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Reviews

Wilder Girls

“We don’t get to choose what hurts us.”

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true. (Goodreads)


“Did I like this??” That is the question I’ve been asking myself since I finished Wilder Girls by Rory Power. There is a lot to consider, despite this little book’s size and I had a very interesting journey while reading it. I went back and forth on this question for almost all of the book before finally deciding…it just wasn’t for me.

First, let me say that there is a lot to appreciate in this book. The atmosphere and descriptive world-building were strange and beautiful, the characters were tough, Queer, young women, even the element of “wtf?” suspense in this novel were wonderfully enjoyable. For a debut novel, this was so creative and original and I genuinely look forward to seeing what else Power writes in the coming years.

But for me personally…this was a big miss. And because my expectations were so high, also a big disappointment. To be fair, some of that is my doing, so I don’t completely blame Wilder Girls for this review, but I wanted to like it so much that it’s still a bummer.

I came to Wilder Girls knowing almost nothing about it except for the synopsis and that it was widely anticipated. I was one of those anticipators! As it turns out, there was one fact that would have been very helpful for me to know about this book before I read it: It’s a semi-retelling of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, unless you’re like me and you hated Lord of the Flies. The ugliness and brutality, in both character and style, just never felt like stress-free entertainment to me, and Wilder Girls felt the same in some ways. My feelings throughout this book made a lot more sense to me when I learned that fact.

I can’t hold a book accountable JUST because I hated its inspiratory predecessor, but it didn’t help things for Wilder Girls. There was something about the emotional style of this book that held me up more than anything else. I don’t know if it was unintentional or a choice by the author, but for most of the book I felt as if I were a cool, casual observer to what was going on. Instead of enmeshed and engaged and actively feeling. I tend to read with my emotions first, so this kind of style gets tiring very quickly. I wanted to feel more and be sucked further into this world, of which there was so much to explore, but for most of the book I felt kept at arms’ length.

This cool, almost detached perspective against the backdrop of this wild, organic, ugly, beautiful world did have its fascinating moments. The bizarre speculative science and mutations in this story also felt somewhat reminiscent of Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, another organic science thriller I read this year. If you liked the Southern Reach trilogy, you may enjoy this YA take on a similar vibe.

Overall, there were a few other struggles for me in Wilder girls: I didn’t click well with the characters, I didn’t understand some of their motivations, and it was often kinda gross. But I could’ve lived with all of that, especially balanced with the book’s positives, if it weren’t for the ending. I’ll try to say as little as possible, which is really hard when reviewing endings, but it didn’t work for me. It almost felt like a sci-fi dystopian “slice of life” novel, in that I did not get any of the answers I wanted. I like answers.

In the end, I’m glad that I read Wilder Girls. Whatever struggles I had, I always wanted to know what was going to happen next. I’m still left wanting to know. I started this one with big expectations and, sure, it let me down. But I also think this is a beautiful, little novel in its own– weird, gross way. Wilder Girls was gritty, dark, bizarre, and wildly creative for all of its more grisly flaws. Read it for yourself and decide.

I want to know what YOU thought of Wilder Girls!

Did you know it was a retelling? Did you like the open end? What did you think of the book??

Leave me a comment letting me know

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Book Tour, Reviews

The Killing Gene

One of my favorite things as a reader, and a reviewer, is picking up a book that I’m skeptical about…and then being totally wrong. It’s the best.

That’s what happened for me with The Killing Gene, by E.M. Davey.

I was sent a request to review this by Duckworth publishing and am very excited to be participating in their #SummerReads tour for this book!

For more information on the tour, and to follow along, I’ll post a schedule at the end of this post that you can use.

And in the meantime, please enjoy my review of The Killing Gene by E.M. Davey.

When a young archaeologist goes missing in the Congo basin, Professor Randolph Harkness and troubled tearaway Ross McCartney go in search of her only to stumble upon a conspiracy to conceal ancient horrors lost to the passage of time.

Evading spies and trained killers, can they expose this cover-up in time or will they be buried with it? An unputdownable thriller The Killing Gene reveals the story of our species, the paradox of the modern mind and our innate predilection for murder…

I stumbled upon this book without knowing anything about it. And I enjoyed it a lot. The Killing Gene is a thrilling, fast-paced, well-researched piece of adventure fiction and it was a lot of fun to read.

The best thing about this book is hands-down the pace at which it carries itself. The writing is detailed, polished, and easy to read, carrying the plot with just the right amount of support. I kept reading almost compulsively. Because the chapters are short, every time I would finish one I would think to myself “It won’t take long to just read one more.” And then it was over somehow! That’s how they get you!

Moreover, this book was so well researched. I really felt that the author understood his subject matter the best that he could and that he translated that understanding to the audience well. Somewhat reminiscent of the feeling I get when reading Dan Brown’s books, The Killing Gene is rife with complex and fascinating theories that dip into history, culture, and science, among others. I feel like I learned some things while reading and I love getting that feeling from a book.

The plot was fun and unpredictable, and just “over the top” enough, in my opinion. I think that it uses the formula well, applying traditional choices when it made sense but then turning things on their heads at the next turn. This kind of writing kept the book interesting. I struggled with the Old Testament references, finding them a little heavy-handed, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the heart-stopping twists and turns on this adventure.

Finally, I enjoyed the characters in this book. Sometimes, with books like these in Historical Adventure, there is a tendency to place all knowledge, competency, and merit on the MC and not on the surrounding characters, or even cultures, that the book also talks about. I didn’t find this problem so much with The Killing Gene and it was a genuine breath of fresh air. Davey’s characters felt likable and relatable. I especially enjoyed McCartney and the complexity of writing a character with a life-changing diagnosis. He continually walked that line of endearing and reckless and I found that to be every entertaining, aware storytelling.

This book was so out of my normal reading comfort zone. I love adventure and thrillers and I used to read books like this ALL the time, but started getting away from the formula as I got older. This was one reason that I accepted the opportunity to review this book, I was excited to dive back into a known/unknown area of reading for a while! And guys, I wasn’t disappointed in the least. If you love the sound of adventure and running through the jungle and danger around every turn, this might be the book for you.


E.M. DAVEY is a journalist at Global Witness specializing in undercover investigative journalism into international corruption and environmental crime, which gives him the opportunity to travel to far-flung and unusual places. His novels incorporate real-world experiences and meticulous research, blurring the lines between reality and fiction. He has taught creative writing with the Wilbur & Niso Smith foundation and is the author of three novels: Foretold by Thunder (Duckworth 2015), The Napoleon Complex (Duckworth 2016) and The Killing Gene (Duckworth 2019). He grew up in Bristol and now lives in Kent. 

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Thanks for stopping by! See you tomorrow! x — A