Review: Everless by Sara Holland

Everless by Sara Holland

In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.

No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.

But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself. 

Review:  I finished Everless days ago and I have been sitting here wondering how in the hell to review the book because I feel it is impossible to really talk about it without giving away all the plot twists so this review will be short but full of reasons on why you need this book in your life all at the same time.

Everless was everything I love in YA Fantasy, great writing, well-developed complex characters, swoon worthy moments, unpredictability and oh lord the plot twists that had my heart racing the whole damn time. That is Everless summed up. Oh and by the way have you seen that gorgeous cover!

Jules is the type of heroine I like to read about. The girl has been through a lot, she lives in a world where blood is time and people if desperate enough use it for currency. Due to unfortunate circumstances, Jules ends up in Everless a place she knows far too well and a place where she is in more danger than she can even imagine. I loved Jules she wasn't weak and always had her priorities straight and was one determined girl.

Okay right off the bat no love triangle!!! Yay! When I started the book I was sure on how the romance was going to play out and with whom but plot twist and I wasn't so sure then more plot twist and I was like well damn I smell a love triangle coming soon and then more plot twist and I was rest assured no love triangle. Needless to say, I was relieved because a fantasy book as amazing as Everless does not need to be bogged down by any unnecessary love triangle. Now the romance that is on the horizon between Jules and the love interest has me really excited because I love slow burn romances and that is what this is going to be from what I can tell and at first I didn't like the guy but holy hell this guy has so many layers that I am just dying to peel back. He is one of those characters that is definitely more than what they seem and I can't wait for Jules to fall hard for him because I'm already falling.

There are so many characters worthy of talking about but impossible to do so without giving away spoilers. Just know Sara Holland knows how to create complex characters and characters who are very hard to forget.

The world building was done very well. I never felt lost or felt that anything was rushed. Holland really throws us deep into the world in the most entertaining of ways possible. I honestly did not want to leave I felt like I was a part of it living through Jules eyes.

For someone who reads a ton of fantasy books I usually always know how things are going to play out and it takes a lot to make me stumble and Holland made me trip over myself repeatedly. It is one of the most unpredictable books I have read in the genre in a long time. I did suspect a thing or two but I was never a hundred percent sure. There are some things I didn't even see coming whatsoever and I am still stunned. The book ends in a huge cliffhanger which has me dying for the next book.


Review: Love Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Love Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape--perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs. 
Review: I knew the moment I saw Love Hate & Other Filters I had to have it. Even though I am not Muslim I was an Indian-American teenager growing up during the time when 9/11 happened and I had quite a few  Muslim Indian-American friends as well whom I saw having to deal with the backlash that came after the terrorist act along with people who weren't Muslim but looked a certain way. All I have to say is that Samira Ahmed did this book justice with the powerful and bold story she told about Maya Aziz and  Love Hate & Other Filters is a very important read especially with all that is going on in our society.

I adored Maya she is stuck between wanting to live her life and the life her parents want for her. It was surreal how well I could relate to her. Maya was a very strong character that you can't help but love and respect, she knows what she wants out of life and wasn't about to compromise on her dreams. In the midst of trying to figure her future out Maya, being the only Indian-American Muslim girl in her school also had to deal with a lot of racism and stereotypes and damn it if my heart did not feel for her. It was so gut-wrenching to see everything that she went through while also bringing up personal memories for me as well.

One thing I wasn't a fan of was the romance and in this case the unnecessary love triangle, I really wasn't feeling it at all. I liked the guy she ended up with but felt the book focused too much time on the romance.

Samira Ahmed has written a riveting coming of age tale about a girl growing up in a world where she has to fight for her right to live her dreams and it is a must-read. I also feel Love Hate & Other Filters will be a great conversation starter as well.


Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever. 

Review:  Do not let the beautiful cover fool you like it did me. The world in which The Belles live may look like a dream come true from the outside looking in but when you bury yourself into those pages and submerse yourself entirely into their world, you learn it's all just a facade. The way things work in the world of The Belles are all oh so very dark and twisted.

It did take a while for me to really get into the book, not saying I didn't find the slower parts interesting because I did, but it didn't become a true page turner for me until the plot really kicked up and people started showing their true colors. I loved the vivid come to life writing by Clayton, I mean the way she described scenes and people and places was almost kind of poetic, I couldn't get enough of it.

The characters in The Belles will infuriate you, some you will love, others you will feel a great deal of sorrow for and then some you will love to hate. Through her characters Clayton really shows the ugliness behind a society who cares too much for beauty, I know our beauty-obsessed society is nowhere near as bad as what is in this book but it's a little scary to think what if we had Belles in our world would we go as far as the people in this book do. A great conversation starter in my opinion.

I am a little upset with the way things left off, okay I'm devastated and I get it cliffhangers keep us coming back because we need our damn closure and boy did this book have one hell of a cliffhanger. I need the book gods to bless me with the next book in the series like yesterday. I am very excited to see what happens next, the ending was intense and I have so many questions and let me put it like this for all of you, nothing was resolved at the end...nothing.

Overall I highly recommend it, I just wish I had read this closer to the release of the next book.


Review: Beyond A Darkened Shore by Jessica Leake

Beyond A Darkened Shore by Jessica Leake

The ancient land of Éirinn is mired in war. Ciara, Princess of Mide, has never known a time when Éirinn’s kingdoms were not battling for power, or Northmen were not plundering their shores.

The people of Mide have thankfully always been safe because of Ciara’s unearthly ability to control her enemies’ minds and actions. But lately, a mysterious crow has been appearing to Ciara, whispering warnings of an even darker threat. Although her clansmen dismiss her visions as pagan nonsense, Ciara fears this coming evil will destroy not just Éirinn, but the entire world.

Then the crow leads Ciara to Leif, a young Northman leader. Leif should be Ciara’s enemy, but when Ciara discovers that he, too, shares her prophetic visions, she knows he’s something more. Leif is mounting an impressive army, and with Ciara’s strength in battle the two might have a chance to save their world.

With evil rising around them, they’ll do what it takes to defend the land they love…even if it means making the greatest sacrifice of all.

Review: Beyond A Darkened Shore surprised me, maybe it's because I didn't have any expectations going in for the novel, I just knew it had a breathtaking cover and I wanted to read it. This book is not just a pretty cover, inside the pages is an epic fantasy filled with magic, Norse and Irish mythology, undead armies, monsters, love and loss along with characters you will come to love or love to hate. I'd say it's pretty damn amazing. 

Any epic fantasy read needs to have phenomenal world building and Jessica Leake nailed it. She knows how to create a world that pulls its readers in, as I was reading the final page it was bittersweet because I didn't want to leave Ciara and Leif and the magical world of Beyond a Darkened Shore.

I don't think there was a dull moment in the book, not even a few pages in and we are thrust into a raid on Ciara's village and that is where she meets Leif, kind of. More like they are enemies and she kicks his ass and takes him prisoner. The two of them realize rather quickly there is something bigger than any threat the two of them could be to each other and so the two put their differences aside and go on a journey to save the world. I loved everything about Ciara and Leif, the slow burn romance, their loyalty and fierceness and most of all what was admirable was their love for their siblings. It was impossible not to root for them.

The reason I gave this 4.5 stars and not the full 5 is because I wish we got to know more about the villains. There were some hints that there was more to them than just these evil creatures but it was never really explored and I love complex villains, so they were a little one-sided for me.

I was thrilled that this was a standalone but at the same time I'm not too happy about it because I feel there is so much more left to explore in this world, so I'm crossing my fingers that maybe there will be other books if not revolved around Ciara and Leif, maybe other characters in the same world.

Overall, I highly recommend Beyond A Darkened Shore especially to all my Fantasy lovers, it is a must-read, and I can't wait to see what else the author has in store for us because she is definitely someone to be excited about.


Q&A with Amanda Hocking - Between the Blade and the Heart

Q: What or who was the inspiration behind Between the Blade and the
A: I have already written several books inspired by Scandinavian folklore, and
I was always fascinated by Valkyries. But because I had already done in
Scandinavian fantasy, I wanted to come at this one from a different angle. I
imagined the Valkyries helping to police a gritty, diverse, cyberpunk
metropolis, in a world filled with not just Norse figures but from many

Q: What are the life lessons that you want readers to glean from your book? 
A: That love is a strength, not a weakness.

Q: If you were given the chance to go on a date with one of your characters,
who would you choose and what would you do together? 
A: Oona. She doesn’t swing that way, but since I’m married anyway, it would
be a friendship date. I think it would be fun to go to an apothecary with her
and have her show me around the magic. Or maybe just veg out and watch
bad movies.

Q: Would the essence of your novel change if the main protagonist were
A: Yes, it would be changed dramatically. For one, Valkyries are women. But I
also think the book explores the relationships between mothers and
daughters, and friendships between young women.

Q: What is your definition of true love in YA literature? 
A: There has to be passion and desire – not necessarily anything physical,
but so much of young love is about yearning. But I also think that true love is
based on mutual respect and selflessness.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to be an author/start
A: My biggest piece of advice is to just write. It’s so easy to get caught up in
self-doubt or procrastination. There are lot of great books and blogs about the
art of writing, but the most important thing is really to just do it. The best way
to get better at writing is by doing it.

Q: What’s one book you would have no trouble rereading for the rest of your
A: It would be a toss up between Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli and Cat’s
Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve read both of those books a dozen times
already, at least, and I never get sick of them.

Q: How did you name your characters? Are they based on people you know
in real life?
A: It’s combination of names I like and taking inspiration from the world itself.
With Between the Blade and the Heart, the names were inspired both by the
mythology they come from – many Valkyries have Norse names like Malin,
Teodora, and Freya, for example – and the futuristic setting of the book, so I
wanted names that seemed a bit cooler and just slightly different than the
ones we use now.

Q: Alright, Amanda, I know you& are a movie buff. What are some movies your
characters would pick as their all-time favorites?
A: That’s a tough one. Malin – The Crow, Oona – Pan’s Labyrinth, Quinn –
Wonder Woman, Asher – Inception, and Marlow – Twelve Monkeys.

Q: Which mythological character is the most like you?
A: Demeter, because she’s pretty dramatic – she basically kills all the plants
in the world when her daughter goes missing – but she’s also determined,
and will stop at nothing to protect those she cares about.

Q: Who is your favorite character in this book and why?
A: Oona or Bowie. Oona because she’s so practical, supportive, and
determined, and Bowie because he’s adorable.

Q: What is your favorite scene and why?
A: I don’t know if there is one particular scene that I loved more than the
others, but I really enjoyed writing about the city that Malin lives in and all the
creatures that inhabit it.

Q: What cities inspired the urban haven where the Valkyries live?
A: I was really obsessed with this idea of an overpopulated metropolis, and so
I took a lot of inspiration from some of the biggest cities in the world,
particularly Tokyo, Mexico City, Mumbai, and Manila. The city itself is actually
a sort of futuristic, alternate reality of Chicago (one of my favorite cities in the
world), and I wanted to incorporate that into it as well.

Q: What came first: The world, the mythology, or the characters?
A: I usually say the characters come first, and the world builds around it. But
for this one, it really was the world that drew me into it. I knew I was writing
about a young woman who was a Valkyrie, but that about all when I began
building up the world and the mythology.

Q: I love that these characters are in college. What inspired this choice?
A: Because of the complex relationship Malin has with her mother, I knew I
wanted some distance between them, so I thought putting her in college,
living away from her mom, was a good way to do it. Plus, I thought it would be
fun to explore the all the supernatural training that would be needed to do

these specialized jobs that come up in a world where every mythological
creature exists.

Q: What songs would you include if you were to make a soundtrack for the
A: This is my favorite question! I love creating soundtracks that I listen to
while writing a book, and here are some of my favorite tracks from my
Between the Blade and the Heart playlist: Annie Lennox – “I Put a Spell on
You,” Daniel Johns – “Preach,” Halsey – “Trouble (stripped),” Meg Myers –
“Sorry (EthniKids Remix),” and MYYRA – “Human Nature.”

Q: Was this book always planned as a series or did that develop afterwards?
A: It was always planned as a duology. I don’t want to go into too much or risk
spoiling the second book, but I had this idea that one book would be above,
and the other below.

Q: Your novels and characters are so layered. How do you stay organized
while plotting/writing? Do you outline, use post-it notes, make charts, or
something else?
A: All of the above! This one was the most intensive as far as research and
note taking goes, and I also had maps, glossaries, and extensive lists of
various mythologies. I think I ended up with thirteen pages of just Places and
Things. I do a lot of typed notes, but I also do handwritten scribbles (which
can sometimes be confusing to me later on when I try to figure out what they
mean. I once left myself a note that just said “What are jelly beans?”) For this
one, I really did have to have lots of print outs on hand that I could look to
when writing.

Q: You've said that pop culture and the paranormal both influence your
writing. How do these things intersect for you? 
A: In a way, I think they’re both about how humans choose to interpret and
define the world that surrounds us. So many mythologies come from humans
trying to make sense of the seasons and the chaos of existence, and even
though we’ve moved past a lot of the scientific questions, pop culture is still
tackling our existence. Even when looking at shows made for kids, like Pixar,
they handle a lot of difficult concepts, like what it means to love someone
else, how to be a good friend, facing your fears, and overcoming loss. These
are things that mythologies and stories have been going over for centuries.

Q: Did you choose the title first, or write the book then choose the title?
A: It depends on the book, but I will say with this one that it took a very, very
long time to come up with a title. It was already written and edited, and we
were still bouncing around different names.

Q: How many more books can we expect in “Between the Blade and the
Heart” series?
A: One more! From the Earth to the Shadows will be out in April 2018.

Q: What scene from the book are you most proud of (because of how you
handled the atmosphere, characters, dialogue, etc)?
A: I don’t want to say too much or risk spoiling it, but there’s a scene near the
end of the book where a confrontation leaves Malin reeling. I wrote it in an
almost present tense, stream-of-consciousness way because I thought that
was the best way to capture the raw intensity of her emotions.

When the fate of the world is at stake
Loyalties will be tested
Game of Thrones meets Blade Runner in this commanding new YA fantasy inspired by Norse Mythology from New York Times bestselling author Amanda Hocking.
As one of Odin's Valkyries, Malin's greatest responsibility is to slay immortals and return them to the underworld. But when she unearths a secret that could unravel the balance of all she knows, Malin along with her best friend and her ex-girlfriend must decide where their loyalties lie. And if helping the blue-eyed boy Asher enact his revenge is worth the risk—to the world and her heart.

Amanda Hocking is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

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Social Links:
Twitter: @Amanda_Hocking

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