Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim – Spoiler Free ARC Review

Publisher: Knopf

Publication Date: July 09, 2019

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

| Amazon | Pre-Order Swag

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh.

*Thank you so much to Net Galley and Knopf the the e-arc in exchange for an honest review!*

Project Runway meets Mulan is a perfect tag for this book! Y’all, I was extremely invested in this world. Lim paints a picture of fashion so alluring I wanted to see them in real life more than anything. I loved the competition in the first half and the adventure in the last! Both were very different and very interesting!

Characters. Maia was very likable and relatable. Her character progression was done very well. She was shy at first but then owned her skills. She was just a nice person to read about, without being boring. Edan was intriguing and mysterious. He was a good mix of cocky and sweet. The person I wanted to know more about was Lady Sarnai! She was straight up FIRE! I hope to get more of her in the next book! And the Emperor can go away. He’s so annoying.

World. There’s not really a magic system. It’s extremely rare in people and in enchanted items. It was interesting to learn about how the Enchanters were made though. I really enjoyed the China-like world. Lim did a fantastic job of giving detailed descriptions.

Plot. Very unique. I have not read something like this. Have I said I loved the descriptions of the fashion yet?! Lim writes like a dream! The first half of the book is very different than the last half. The first half was more Project Runway and the last half was Mulan. The journey Maia goes on to collect the magic she needs for her dresses is amazing! It’s the type of adventure I love! Magic, romance, danger, and an ending that leaves you wanting more.

Final Thoughts. The ONLY things I didn’t like were very minor. There was a time where Maia stabbed a creature with her scissors and ran but then they were with her later. Then another time where she left her cane at the Summer Palace but then randomly had it at the Fall Palace. Small details like that happened a few times. I loved this book. I didn’t really get the Sarah J. Maas vibe but I do agree that it’s like Renee Ahdieh! I highly recommend! I cannot wait for the next book! Also, officially obsessed with Lim’s writing!

Is this on your radar for this year?

The Red Fox Clan (Ranger’s Apprentice: The Royal Ranger, #2) by John Flanagan Spoiler Free Review

I am so excited to be a part of the blogger reread campaign by Penguin Random House! Thank you for the free books in exchange for a review!

This week is book two of The Royal Ranger’s series by John Flanagan!

Publisher: Puffin Books

Publication Date: August 21, 2018

Genre: Middle Grade, Adventure, Fantasy

| Amazon

”   Picking up where The Royal Ranger: A New Beginning left off, this next installment continues the story arc featuring young apprentice, Maddie, and the student-turned-master, Will Treaty. The time has come for the next generation to assume the mantle and become protectors of the kingdom of Araluen. 

     After passing her third-year assessment as a ranger’s apprentice, Maddie is called home to Castle Araluen. Forced to keep her ranger training a secret, Maddie feels trapped by the monotony of castle life and longs to find a way out. But there are whisperings of a new threat to the kingdom. The mysterious Red Fox Clan, a group of anarchists all donning fox masks, have threatened Castle Araluen and question Princess Cassandra and Madelyn’s succession to the throne. Will they succeed in unseating Cassandra and Madelyn and take the throne for themselves? 

     Bestselling author of the Ranger’s Apprentice and Brotherband series, John Flanagan returns in the captivating follow-up to The Royal Ranger: A New Beginning. Perfect for fans of Tolkien, Redwall, and Game of Thrones! “

This was such a fun adventure! The action kept going from book one into book two. Maddie is a little bit older now and is falling into place quite nicely with the Rangers. She’s an extremely strong opponent. I love how the author supports strong women and gives them real abilities that you can actually learn. He also gives them strengths and weaknesses to balance them out. Any young girl would love to be Maddie! A princess AND a Ranger?! I choose that. She is smart, clever, and dangerous. But she also has a soft side to her that loves people (and horses). Her interactions with her mother in particular were so sweet and genuine. Her mom is not to be messed with either! And the secrets Maddie finds out are delicious!

I had a great time learning about tactics in small scale battle, when it was from Gilan’s POV. I kept tensing up whenever something would happen, afraid he might get hurt! It was awesome to see Horace in action too! I highly recommend for any girl who needs a boost of self confidence and is looking for adventure! This series makes me want to really take up archery!

John Flanagan grew up in Sydney, Australia, hoping to be a writer. John began writing Ranger’s Apprentice for his son, Michael, ten years ago, and is still hard at work on the series and its spinoff, Brotherband Chronicles. He currently lives in the suburb of Manly, Australia, with his wife. In addition to their son, they have two grown daughters and four grandsons.

Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Page Street Publishing Co.

Publication Date: January 15, 2019

Genre: Fantasy, Retellings, YA, Romance

Adventure Rating: 5 Stars

| Amazon

” Echo Alkaev’s safe and carefully structured world falls apart when her father leaves for the city and mysteriously disappears. Believing he is lost forever, Echo is shocked to find him half-frozen in the winter forest six months later, guarded by a strange talking wolf—the same creature who attacked her as a child. The wolf presents Echo with an ultimatum: If she lives with him for one year, he will ensure her father makes it home safely. But there is more to the wolf than Echo realizes.

In his enchanted house beneath a mountain, each room must be sewn together to keep the home from unraveling, and something new and dark and strange lies behind every door. When centuries-old secrets unfold, Echo discovers a magical library full of books-turned-mirrors, and a young man named Hal who is trapped inside of them. As the year ticks by, the rooms begin to disappear, and Echo must solve the mystery of the wolf’s enchantment before her time is up, otherwise Echo, the wolf, and Hal will be lost forever.”

As you can see, I rated it 5 stars, so I obviously loved it. I literally have nothing bad to say.

Writing. Absolutely beautiful. Meyer paints a richly colorful story that I very desperately want to be in. I never once got lost or confused, and let me tell you there were some things in this book you really had to imagine. She writes like how you dream. The rooms in the house were so fantastical that I loved how different it was from anything I’ve read! One of the rooms had glass bobbles that had different things in them, like lightening, but when you touched them they cut you like knives. Not to mention the wonderful library! Who wouldn’t want to hop inside of a book?!

Plot. I LOVED how she did a retelling of the original East of the Sun and West of the Moon. That’s the story that beauty and the beast was based off of so naturally it’s one of my favorites. Also, I saw a movie as a kid that was based off of this and I loved it! So this read was actually kind of nostalgic for me! (Side note: I need to find that movie. :P) I really enjoyed the super sweet romance. It was perhaps a bit slow burn? Or maybe somewhere in between slow burn and insta love. The message of the book was love, but with a strong dose of forgiveness. I love when authors write about forgiveness. Not a lot of people forgive these days. It made the characters relationship quite relatable actually.

Characters. Another element that was done really well. Echo was strong and brave, but also sweet and nice. She had a nice balance. She has severe scarring on her face and even though she fights low self-esteem because of it, she knows it’s not a measure of what she’s worth. The Wolf was so sweet as well! He always tried to protect her. Hal was very interesting. He was always so mysterious and his story is extremely compelling, and how it ties in with the other characters. Mokosh… sigh. I feel so bad for her! That’s all I will say!

Final Thoughts. Um, read this. Everyone. Well, if you like fairytales and retellings. It’s such a beautiful book!

*Normal disclaimer that content warning isn’t necessarily my personal thoughts. It’s for parents. *

CONTENT WARNING: Kissing, violence, the characters share a bed but it’s more for safety reasons.

OTHER CONTENT: Learning how to be in a relationship, making friendships, forgiveness, love is the most powerful thing in the world.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: April 15, 2014

Genre: Contemporary, YA, Romance

Adventure Rating: 3 Stars

| Amazon

” To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.”

I don’t normally read contemporaries, but I’m glad I picked this up! I had just read a heavier book and was in a bit of a funk over it, so this was the perfect fun, fast, cute read! It was sort of a pallet cleanser for me. And even though I had a couple of issues with it, I am still interested in reading the other books in the series!

The thing I did really like was the plot! I’m a sucker for a fake dating plot! I think they are so funny and cute and how could it not create a little va-va-voom between the characters?!

Okay the issues I have are a little sporadic. I liked all of the characters but they all had some major flaws. Maybe it’s my age (27), so I couldn’t relate anymore, I don’t know. Also, let me say, that I have had quite a few people tell me I reminded them of Lara Jean when I was in high school.

Lara Jean. She was so cute and naive. But I hated that she had a crush on her sister’s ex, Josh. Not that she did in the first place, but that she did after they broke up. Now, I don’t have sisters, only brothers, so maybe I don’t understand how she could do that. It just seemed kind of icky.

Josh. I know a lot of people liked him, but he was my least favorite character. He was kind of a schmuck, but acted like the nicest guy. Maybe he was both?

Peter. He was kind of the opposite of Josh. He was a sarcastic meanie some of the times, but he was actually really nice.

Also, I’ve got to say Margot was kind of annoying. She dumps her boyfriend so she can have fun in college. Wow. So mature…

Do y’all read contemporaries? What do you like?

*Disclaimer for CONTENT WARNING. This is so parents can make a decision. It does not necessarily reflect my personal views.

CONTENT WARNING: They are in high school so lots of sex talk and some bullying. Kissing scenes. Minor swearing.

OTHER CONTENT: Strong friendships, family bonds, forgiveness, how to navigate bullying.

*Gorgeous sign by Bookish Signs! I have a code too! Lauren20 to save on two or more items!*

Gray Wolf Island by Tracey Neithercott – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: October 10, 2017

Genre: YA, Mystery, Magical Realism

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

| Amazon

” Right before Sadie died, she begged her sister, Ruby, to do the one thing she could never do herself: Find the treasure on Gray Wolf Island.

With just a mysterious treasure map as a guide, Ruby reluctantly allows some friends to join her on the hunt, each of whom is touched by magic: a boy allegedly born to a virgin, a girl who never sleeps, a boy who can foresee his own death, and a boy with deep ties to the island. Each of them is also keeping a secret—something they’ll have to reveal in order to reach the treasure.

As the secrets come to light, Ruby will have to decide: Can she make peace with her friends’ troubled pasts and continue to trust them? Can she forgive herself for doing the unspeakable? Deep in the wilderness of Gray Wolf Island, Ruby’s choices will determine if they make it out with the treasure—or merely with their lives.

From debut author Tracey Neithercott comes a darkly compelling tale of profound friendship, adventure, and finding the strength to tell the truth. “

This was a weird book. But in a good way. I don’t normally like Magical Realism. But I actually enjoyed this one! It was a tad bit more on the magical side than real, which helped. I found the mystery extremely compelling and interesting.

I loved how the relationships in this book played out. Even though it was only over a week, they went through really traumatic experiences individually and together. I think going through something with someone no matter how long you’ve known them, creates a connection.

Character growth was done really well too. Especially for a 300 page book. Everyone confessed something and grew from it.

I really enjoyed the writing style! It was very beautiful but also straightforward. If that makes sense. She did a really good job of having the main character likable despite her awful secret. It’s a hard thing to do! I liked that it was from two different points of view! There is Ruby, and then there is this mystery character. Very well done.

The only thing a slightly disliked was that it took awhile to get into. The first half was really slow. But the last half I couldn’t put it down. I had to know the secret of the treasure and Island.

And the ending broke my heart and I wasn’t expecting that. I actually like when books do that though, because it’s surprising.

So, if you think a weird, magical realism, mystery about treasure and an Island sounds good to you, then you should read this. I really don’t have anything to compare it to. It was very different.

*I have read a lot of reviews that compare this to The Raven Boys. I am not sure why. I have read that book and didn’t think it was that similar. Her writing style DOES remind me of Maggie Stiefvater’s though!

Do you like Magical Realism?

*Usual disclaimer about the content warning, I just put these here for YA books for parents who want to make the decision to let their kids read or not to read a book. This does not necessarily reflect my own person opinions.

CONTENT WARNING: Swearing, mention of rape but not following through with it, sexual talk, kissing, murder, death, depression, lying, trauma, assisted suicide, bullying

OTHER CONTENT: How to handle a traumatic event, healing, friendship, healthy relationships, telling the truth, dealing with bullies

This Splintered Silence by Kayla Olson – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Harper Teen

Publication Date: November 13, 2018

Genre: YA, Sci-fi, Thriller

Adventure Rating: 4.5 Stars

| Amazon

” Lindley Hamilton has been the leader of the space station Lusca since every first-generation crew member on board, including her mother, the commander, were killed by a deadly virus.

Lindley always assumed she’d captain the Lusca one day, but she never thought that day would come so soon. And she never thought it would be like this—struggling to survive every day, learning how to keep the Lusca running, figuring out how to communicate with Earth, making sure they don’t run out of food.

When a member of the surviving second generation dies from symptoms that look just like the deadly virus, though, Lindley feels her world shrinking even smaller. The disease was supposed to be over; the second generation was supposed to be immune. But as more people die, Lindley must face the terrifying reality that either the virus has mutated or something worse is happening: one of their own is a killer.”

Kayla Olson is a traditional story teller. It gives me a nostalgic feel whenever I read one of her books. It just feels old fashioned, in a good way. She is also a plot driven, not character driven, writer. Here’s the thing, USUALLY I am a character driven reader, BUT I love her writing and story telling so much AND her plots are suuuuuper well thought out, that I get sucked into the books right away. Her books are a go-to when I need a readers palette cleanse! She has a really unique writing style that sets her apart from other authors.

I didn’t dislike any of her characters by any means, it’s just that you don’t get their full thought processes, you just get snippets of who they are. And in this case, I am okay with that. Lindley was still a well rounded character. The reader still understands why she made the decisions she made. As long as I can understand WHY the character did the things they did, then I don’t complain! The five other side characters rounded out nicely as well. Even though you don’t get their POV, you still SEE them. And understand their choices, even if you don’t agree with them. And boy did they have a lot of really hard choices!

Literally, everything goes wrong. I started getting anxiety every time because it just seemed like they were all going to die at any given moment. And I mean, some did. I kept trying to figure out, who the killer was, AND how they were going to fix their many problems. I never got it right. It was intense. Plus, my knowledge of space stations is next to zero, so, there’s that.

The tiniest bit a didn’t like, and I mean really tiny, half a star tiny, is that the ending seemed a bit rushed. Everything resolved itself, it just seemed really fast.

So, Kayla Olson is one of my favorite authors. She is an autobuy and I’ve never rated one of her books under 4 stars. I am so excited to see what she comes up with next!

*I got positive feedback on my new content addition to my reviews. Again, I am putting the disclaimer of this is for parents who want to know the content of the book without having to read it, to see if it is something they want their kids to read. I LIKE YA! These are NOT my personal views on whether or not a book should or should not have specific content!

CONTENT WARNING: Violence, death, murder, dead bodies, blood, a couple of kiss scenes.

OTHER CONTENT: Courage, dealing with fear, healthy grief, perseverance, how to deal with tragedy, how to be a leader, how to deal with people, friendships, overcoming pride.

King of Scars (Nikolai Duology, #1) by Leigh Bardugo – Spoiler Free Review

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Publisher: Imprint

Publication Date: January 29, 2019

Genre: Fantasy, YA, Magic

Adventure Rating: 3.5 Stars

| Amazon


“Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.”

3.5 Stars. I know. Unpopular opinion alert. This was one of my, if not THE most anticipated release of 2019, and I felt let down. It didn’t get my heart racing, or make me feel like if I don’t know what happens I might die. It was just pretty good. So I guess I’ll start with my dislikes. It was boring. It only picked up about HALF WAY through the book. Yikes. Nina was my favorite character from the Six of Crows Duology, so I was very disappointed in her story line. Her’s never picked up. I was boring all the way through. In fact, I gave up hope that it would ever pick up, so after a while, whenever her chapters came up I just wanted to skip them. I honestly think the book would have been better if these chapters weren’t in it. That was my main complaint, but I have a small irritant as well. About 2/3 through the book, there is another random POV. And while, I like that character, I couldn’t help but feel his POV was pointless as well.

Man, that first paragraph was harsh, so let’s talk about the good stuff, because there was A LOT of good stuff! Zoya. I LOVE her. She was refreshing. She used anger and her beauty as a shield to protect herself from the world around her. She has a rough childhood. Her character growth was probably the greatest out of all of them. Nikolai. Loved him. Always will. His was the most interesting story line. Which is good, since the book IS about him… He goes through battles internally and physically. His relationship with Zoya is SO interesting to watch unfold. Their witty, sarcastic, back and forth banter was actually pretty funny at times. All of my stars go to their story. My favorite part of the whole book (don’t worry, no spoilers) is when they leave and go on a bit of an adventure and train.

I really liked the inventions mentioned in this book. I hope there will be more talk of those. It could become a pretty cool magic/ steampunk world.

As usual, the writing style is A+! Descriptive without losing you in the story.

The ending though… WOW! SO GOOD!

So I’m going to try out a new thing in my YA reviews. I am going to add a content section. I have had a few people throughout my years of reviewing book DM me (Instagram) about if a book would be appropriate for such and such age. BUT I want to put a disclaimer, I LIKE YA BOOKS. I read them no matter what the content is, BUT I am a 27 year old adult. I am asking people right now to not get in a hubbub if I put something in the content that they think doesn’t matter. This is just so the parents can decide themselves. So, I will be putting a content warning AND other content. The things in my content warning may also be things that are necessary for certain situations. So I am not saying that they are necessarily bad. That’s why I am saying I am leaving it up to the parents to decide. I am probably over explaining myself but better that than have misunderstandings. So let’s give this a try.

CONTENT WARNING FOR KING OF SCARS: Swearing, sexual innuendos, violence, blood, depression, death, a couple scenes where dead people come out of the ground, drinking, talk of worshiping saints and gods.

OTHER CONTENT: Strong female POV, strong male POV, healthy relationships, friendship, camaraderie, overcoming your fears, using your mind to think through situations, protecting others.

** Beautiful sign is from Bookish Signs and More shop! Rep Code to save on two or more items: Lauren20