REVIEW: Ace of Shades, Amanda Foody (April 10, 2018)

Last year, I read Amanda Foody’s debut, DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY, and it was fabulous. Carnival/circus/traveling show-type books seem to be a popular setting in YA books nowadays and I found DOTBC incredibly fresh and original.

So, obviously, I’ve been coveting Foody’s sophomore novel (and first in a new series!), ACE OF SHADES. I was very fortunate to receive a surprise ARC *throws confetti at Harlequin TEEN* and I really, REALLY enjoyed this.

The 411: Enne Salta is a member of the elite dancing family (The Saltas)–who enters New Reynes aka The City of Sin after her mother, Lourdes, goes missing. New Reynes is riddled with crime and populated by three rival gangs, the Irons, the Scarhands, and the Doves, as well as two main mafia fams, the Augustines and the Torrens. And as you can probably surmise, there isn’t a lot of agreement between all of these different parties.

Acting upon a tip from Lourdes, Enne searches out Iron Lord, Levi Glaisyer, who she is told can help her reunite with Lourdes. Levi, however, enormously in debt, gets caught up in an executive-style game with the infamous Phoenix Club. Time is running out for both Enne and Levi, and they must work together to get what they want.

As I mentioned above, I had so much fun with this. Amandy Foody is excellent at world building. Both the descriptions of the Gomorrah Festival in DOTBC and New Reynes in ACE OF SHADES are incredibly atmospheric and well-written. You feel the grittiness of New Reynes in your bones. Because this world is so dense, I recommend creating a character map. I’ve been doing this for a while and it definitely helps keep track of characters, their relationships to each other and how they relate to the world as a whole. These are also great to refresh your memory before starting a sequel.

Ok, so from a diversity standpoint: lots of win here. Levi is African-American and very open about his bisexuality. We can also surmise that Lourdes is genderfluid, or does not identify as any gender. And there is tons more diversity in the side-characters. The best part? Foody doesn’t call excessive attention to these labels. These characters simply are who they are, unapologetically, and it’s wonderful to see.

I’ve also seen some dissenting opinions about Enne, but I personally really liked her. She goes through a bit of an identity crisis after learning some hard truths about her family history, and although she starts out as a strong woman from the get-go, continues to grow even more as the story progresses.

Jac is also a delight. I heart him very much.

There’s also the promise of a romance and lots of pining (which I actually LOVE), but the love story is definitely not the primary focus of this book. It’s very much an adventure, caper-type book. And, um, that ending. Rude, Ms. Foody, just rude. I’m going to need Book 2 ASAP.

MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰
MAY I ALSO SUGGEST: anything by Leigh Bardugo and Marie Lu

Thank you Harlequin TEEN for my galley! Ace of Shades is available April 10.

[I’m also 95 percent positive this book is April’s OwlCrate pick as well. I can’t wait to see how they do this box.]

REVIEW: The Astonishing Color of After, Emily X.R. Pan (March 20, 2018)

Today I am coming to you with another five-star read for me. I knew going in that THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER was going to be up my alley–but holy emotions, Batman, I didn’t expect to be a stuttering pool of salt water. But what’s new?

And also looooook at that B-E-A-U-tiful cover.

The 411: After Leigh’s mother dies by suicide, she is visited by a large, strange bird at night. Afterwards she comes to the impossible but amazing realization: her mother isn’t dead. She’s been reincarnated into a bird.

Leigh makes the trip to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents, with whom her parents had a falling out with due to their interracial marriage. Leigh sorts through her family history, all the while experiencing recurring visits from the bird she’s convinced is her mother.

Oh boy. Ohhhhhhh boy. This book is so beautiful.

Leigh’s mother’s depression feels achingly real–and speaking as someone who was diagnosed with depression at age 14, I connected with her so much.  Her depression and her death are not romanticized, compared as to say, 13 REASONS WHY.

I’ve only recently gotten back into reading fantasy, and I haven’t had a lot of experience with magical realism–but if all magical realism books are like this, I may have found a new favorite genre.

It makes me so intensely happy to see how much representation there is in YA lit nowadays. And if it means so much to me now at 27, I can’t even imagine how much it would have meant to 10-year-old Kate. Reading a cast of characters 90 percent Asian or of Asian-descent is still amazing to me.

And the romance is friends-to-lovers. My absolute favorite thing in the entire world. *throws all the heart-shaped confetti at Emily X.R. Pan*

NOTE: I’ve had several conversations with people who are interested in this book but are wary of the YA label. I have a lot to say in regards to this snap judgment as a whole, but for now just know:

A) Yes, the character is a teen but very mature
B) No Insta-love or love triangles if that’s not your jam
C) YA is awesome no matter your age. So just do yourself a favor and pick up the book.

** Trigger warnings for depression, suicide ideation, and suicide.

MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰✰
RECOMMENDED FOR: lovers of magical realism, family intrigue, and beautiful writing
MAY I ALSO SUGGEST: anything by Anna Marie McLemore and BEASTS OF EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCE by Ruth Emmie Lang

Thank you LBYR for my galley! The Astonishing Color of After is available March 20–and is also a Book of the Month pick for March.

REVIEW: To Kill a Kingdom, Alexandra Christo (March 6, 2018)

Woke up this morning to learn that Snarky officially has had over 90,000 hits!  Thank you for letting me gush about things I love and rant about things I hate.

Speaking of things I love: this book.

Retellings of fairytales and/or classic lit has become a favorite genre of mine. I wasn’t expecting this to be a reinterpretation of THE LITTLE MERMAID and I was a very happy reader. Just swap in sirens and add more blood. A lot more blood.

The 411: Siren Princess, Lira, is known as the Prince’s Bane–having made her name by exclusively killing mortal Princes. One a year for her seventeen years of life. On her way to number 18, she is responsible for the death of a fellow siren and her mother, the Big Bad Sea Queen aka Ursula on Steroids, isn’t having any of that. Lira is transformed into a human (but she doesn’t wish she could be part of that wooooooooooorld) with the mission to deliver the heart of Prince Elian to her charming mother before the Winter Solstice. The trick? Prince Elian isn’t your Prince Eric. He’s a pirate and a siren hunter, dead-set on serving some revenge on the Prince’s Bane.

So there’s glaring similarities to THE LITTLE MERMAID, yes? Ok–but TO KILL A KINGDOM stands completely on its own and is such a fresh, imaginative take that it feels original. Lira is not Ariel and Elian is not Eric and the mermaids in the story are physically hideous and annoying creatures, they’re the Flotsam and Jetsam of this story.

This book was so much fun. If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I love books that skew towards the darker side and this definitely ticked that mark. Congrats, Alexandra Christo! I’m excited to see what you come up with next!

MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰
RECOMMENDED FOR: lovers of retellings with a darker twist and pirates!

Thank you Macmillan / Feiwel & Friends for my galley! To Kill a Kingdom is available March 6.

Preorder links!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Book Depository

BLOG TOUR: She Regrets Nothing, Andrea Dunlop (Feb. 6, 2018)

If you’re like me and are missing your weekly glimpse into the lives of New York’s elite via Gossip Girl, I have terrific news for you. SHE REGRETS NOTHING by Andrea Dunlop is exactly what your CW-loving heart needs. Family drama, backstabbing, an “it” girl, a wannabe…I had so much fun with this book.

The 411: After unexpectedly becoming an orphan at 23, Michigander Laila Lawrence is introduced to her cousins, Liberty, Leo, and Nora,  all of whom are part of New York City’s in-crowd. Desperate to be part of their opulent life and to be near family, Laila makes the move to NYC and immediately starts to ingratiate herself into the lives of the rich and famous. But the rise to the top isn’t linear and doesn’t come without casualties.

As I previously mentioned, SHE REGRETS NOTHING is essentially the adult version of Gossip Girl. Beautiful people making horrible decisions in the Big Apple. There’s not necessarily a deep message or a moral to learn because of this book and sometimes you need that. Sometimes you need a good, drama-filled and addictive story. That’s what SHE REGRETS NOTHING was for me.

Do you like love triangles/squares/pentagons/octagons? You’re going to love this book. In true soap fashion, everyone is hooking up with everyone and lying to each other about it. Oh, and shout out to my girl, Liberty. I absolutely loved her character. I loved that she quit modeling and when she felt uncomfortable, she stood up for herself. I loved that she went into publishing and basically told her mom to accept her this way or lose her forever.

I’m an Iowa native and proud Midwesterner, and books/movies/tv shows that do the whole “I had such a boring life in XYZ state that I needed to go somewhere cool” or “all Midwesterners are naive” sort of thing usually annoy me. Just because we live a more low-key lifestyle and say “pop” doesn’t make us boring or naive. That was the only part of this book that kind of irked me–but Laila was so self-centered I wouldn’t want to claim her as a Midwesterner anyway.

As the Jenny Humphrey of this book, Laila is likewise very unlikable and a completely unsympathetic character. Her rise to the top is full of desperation, she’s manipulative to her family, and feels little to no remorse for her actions. And like Jenny Humphrey, you’re just waiting for the inevitable fall from grace. My lips are sealed as to if this happens to Laila.

Does she really “regret nothing”? Check it out for yourself.

MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰
RECOMMENDED FOR: Contemporary “chick-lit” lovers and non-graphic romance

Thank you Atria Books for  my galley and including me on the blog tour! SHE REGRETS NOTHING is available February 6. Buy here!

REVIEW: The Hazel Wood, Melissa Albert (Jan. 30, 2018)

When there are books that are super hyped up, I’m both nervous and excited to finally read them. I feel like I had been hearing nothing but rave after rave after rave reviews about THE HAZEL WOOD and I was so excited to finally sit down and read one of my most anticipated reads of 2018.


The 411: Our protagonist is Alice, a nomadic teen who has spent most of her life flitting from place to place, receives news that her grandmother has died.  Her grandmother is an old recluse and acclaimed author of a collection of dark fairytales. When Alice’s mother gets taken captive by a mysterious entity who claims to be from The Hinterland, the magical world that her grandmother’s stories take place, Alice is forced to confront family secrets and the book’s crazed fans that she has long avoided.

Ok, so that premise is AWESOME, yes? I want to make completely clear that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this book. It’s super interesting, extremely creative, and has multiple Iowa references…which made this little Hawkeye very happy. I breezed through this in a couple of hours. And it definitely still deserved a place on the most anticipated releases list…

Here’s where the disappointment came in: One of the main things I read in reviews was that the story was twisted and dark. Fantasy + twisted + dark = everything I want in a book. I do recognize that my threshold for creepiness is a lot higher than most people’s, but I didn’t find this book twisted or dark or creepy at all. If I had just picked this book up without hearing anything about it, the rating might be at least four stars.

I’m happy that there are going to be more stories from this world, because I highly enjoyed Alice and The Hinterland and all the fairytale characters. Now that my expectations are different, I predict it will be a completely different reading experience.

MY RATING:  ✰✰✰1/2
RECOMMENDED FOR: YA-fantasy lovers
MAY I ALSO SUGGEST: MENAGERIE series by Rachel Vincent

Thank you Flatiron Books for my galley. THE HAZEL WOOD is available now.

REVIEW: Let Me Lie, Clare Mackintosh (Mar. 13, 2018)

Firstly, I’m going to apologize for how vague this review is going to be. This is for two reasons. 1) I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, and 2) The very last line threw me for a complete loop and I need someone to talk me through it.

I’ve mentioned many times that while I love psychological thrillers with a passion, I am HORRIBLE at guessing twists. I am so easily impressed by mysteries and thrillers because I am consistently shocked. This book was no exception. I changed my mind about where the plot was going way too many times over the few days it took me to read LET ME LIE.

The 411: Anna Johnson is still reeling from the deaths of her parents the previous year, both from apparent suicide, months apart. She is now a mother herself, having gotten pregnant by the shrink hired to help her through this troubled time. Oops. Then on the one year anniversary of her mother’s suicide, she received a card in the mail that simply says, “Suicide? Think again.”

…and that’s all you’re gonna get, sorry.

So, clearly, Anna starts digging into the circumstances around both of her parents’ deaths and finds some stuff. You think the story is going in one direction and then swerves and then swerves again. And then you think’s it’s done and it swerves again.

While I did enjoy both of Mackintosh’s previous books, I LET YOU GO and I SEE YOU, I always felt kind of let down by the ending. I was completely invested and into the whole story until the reveal and they both fell flat for me. That was not the case with this book. I was constantly on edge, I actually got the shivers during part of it.

But, I will be honest here…I’m not completely positive that I understood the ending. I sat and stared at the last sentence for at least five minutes because I was trying to piece together what the hell actually happened. The way that I took it, I was pleased with the ending. However, if it’s a completely different ending than the one I’m picturing, my thoughts might possibly change.

Basically this is a plea to anyone who reads this book to please contact me because I NEED TO TALK THIS OUT.

MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰
RECOMMENDED FOR: lovers of mystery/thrillers and unreliable narrators
MAY I ALSO SUGGEST: the works of Karin Slaughter and Ruth Ware

Thank you Berkley Publishing Group for my galley. LET ME LIE is available March 13.