Book Reviews

A Heart So Fierce and Broken // Brigid Kemmerer

“I am crying because you are a prince,” I say softly. “And I …” I let out a breath. “I am not a princess.”

This was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020. I loved A Curse So Dark and Lonely (admittedly I was late to the party with reading it), but it was fantastic. I had extremely high hopes for this one. And to a degree, I am so chuffed to say that they were met! I hadn’t read anything about this book before I read it, not even the blurb, so I was going in blind with the impulse that I liked the 1st book, so why wouldn’t the sequel be just as good? I was excited to see where the story was going to go.

Firstly, I love the cover on this thing. I mean, it’s vivid, the title is in keeping with the previous, it’s melodic, there is so much shiny sparkle! A big 10.

It became apparent fairly early on that this novel was not going to go the way I expected. As I realised that Harper was getting very little book-time, I was gutted. She was my favourite character last time – why is she omitted to such a high level this time?! But then Lia Mara came onto the scene. WOW. A power-protagonist if ever I saw one. She is fierce. I love her as a female heroine and central member of this book team. Well sassy. Well strong. Girl power! The book jumped between 2 main perspectives, Grey and Lia Mara, which all in all was super sweet. Sometimes this makes the story hard to follow but Brigid Kemmerer is a natural at this. Really outstanding. As our two main protagonists who are new to one another, it really helped to understand their individual turmoils and monologues around their experiences and their discoveries of power, self-worth and independence. And it made it really cute to see how they both viewed one another and their peers.

Rhen is rubbish in this. I understand why Brigid did this; to begin the deeper exploration in Grey’s character arc and his storyline, reasons for fleeing, reasons for discovering is magical ability, blah blah. But it was poor show, no?! Rhen was a real life Prince Charming last book, and this time he was an ARSEHOLE. What the heck. Why is he acting like this??? Grey was the definite male lead within this instalment and I really connected with him. He is obviously facing an identity crisis after finding out he is the long lost heir and that his family were not who he thought they were. It’s heartbreaking and powerful at the same time. I really enjoyed his development and the fact that Brigid did not confine him to the frequent ‘macho male’ boundaries; he was incredibly sensitive and struggling when confronted with issues of the heart and mind.

A big portion of this book was spent roaming around forests. I’m all for this, it’s the best place for romances to bloom. But the world building was a bit lack lustre and when we did finally see a castle – it was assumed that the reader knew what a castle would be like. For the record, as someone who is Scottish and works within the tourism/heritage industry, I DO know what castles look like. It’s my number 1 hobby to look at castles. I get bought castle-based gifts. Despite all this, I think that when reading a book you should be provided with enough information about the characters’ surroundings to entice your imagination to form images in your head. I felt I wasn’t provided that with this.

The romance within this was lovely, however, and for that – THANK YOU! I love romance. I love fairytales. To be expected within a book series that began with a fairytale retelling, a budding romance became apparent within this. Although Rhen was acting proper weird and I still don’t understand why his character was depicted to be so horrible, I started to become concerned that Harper and Grey were going to get together. But alas, they are just besties. Phew. The real romance was between Grey and Lia Mara and I just adored it. It was not the ever-so-frequent instalove that occurs in novels but a romance that seemed incredibly organic and built on respect and admiration. There were indications of each finding the other attractive but this was not the basis of their attraction and romance. Really, truly well done.

Out of 5, I’m giving it a 4. I would recommend this for definite but with a solid push to others to read the 1st book in the Cursebreaker series first! 1) It will greater develop your understanding of the characters and their motivations but 2) you will get to see Rhen for actually being a nice guy, not as awful as he is depicted in this series (majorly).

I bought this and the previous books on Kindle but I will definitely be investing in hard copies for my bookcase. They are too pretty to not.

What did you think of A Heart So Fierce and Broken?

Book Reviews

The Royal Companion // Tanya Bird

I know nothing about war, but I understand grief. I know it extinguishes everything else, even victory I imagine.’ She twisted a piece of his hair and let it go. ‘How odd it must be to return home a hero and be confronted with celebration while grieving.’ She slipped her hand into his. ‘How ludicrous you must find the feasting as you count the empty chairs before you.

This is a quick one but felt it deserved a wee review cause I think… This is my favourite book so far of 2020. I know. I’m surprised too – relatively unknown and not a cult following fantasy read; but I just couldn’t put it down!

WOAH. This did a total 180 on me. Started incredibly slowly and I struggled to keep interest, however it definitely picked up by about a 1/3 of the way through. This is definitely a romance front and centre, so don’t assume anything else when you pick this up.

Some of the perspectives are a bit *ahem* sexist and degrading to women but I think this is the entire point and helps to present the contrast between the main character and her love interest nicely – in both senses of the word they are looking for the opposite of what ‘royal society’ is constraining and categorising them to.

My one bug-bear is that the world-building and characterisation is a bit empty… A lot more could have been done with this to help the story develop and help the reader become fully immersed within the read. That being said, some of the writing was truly beautiful and had me pause after reading (like the quote above) and think, “huh.”

For a free book on Kindle it is definitely worth a read – and there are loads more in the series! However, I feel I have been trapped as all others are £4 (Still cheap but now I need to buy them ALL to follow what happens next).

TOP 10

TOP 10 OTP's

I couldn’t not kick this off with indulging in my romantic self, could I?! OTP’s, also known as ‘One True Pairing’ are a derivative of ‘ships’. They are crucial to a successful romance story. And often the reason why I keep going back to a book series for the next installment. See below for my Top 10 so far – in no particular order. (Potential spoilers and artist credits have been applied where possible).

Feyre & Rhysand

I mean, are we really surprised? Feyre and Rhysand from Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series are the ultimate enemy-to-lovers paradigm. And I love it!

Feyre & Rhysand – Charlie Bowater

Warner and Juliette

Another classic enemy-to-lover story, Warner and Juliette from Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi are, quite frankly, stunning. Their relationship blossoms over the course of the Shatter Me storyline and is empirical to both Warner and Juliette’s character development.

Juliette & Warner – Morgana0anagrom

Thomas Cresswell & Audrey-Rose Wadsworth

Ooft. The Stalking Jack the Ripper series by Kerri Maniscalo was definitely one that got me out of a reading slump and I think it is all down to these two. The whole series is fab and all the better for them being in it.

Cresswell and Wadsworth – Morgana0anagrom

Adam & Ronan

From the moment these two were introduced I knew there was more than meets the eye… and there was! Just love them. The perfect contrasting couple from the most FANTASTIC YA fantasy series – The Raven Cycle.

Adam & Ronan – llstarcasterll

Aelin and Rowan

Another on SJM couple – are you shocked, yet? There may be a theme here… I love Aelin and Rowan. ULTIMATE power couple. Their love stroy is a bit less mature than that shown within ACOTAR, however nonetheless gorgeous. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, READ THRONE OF GLASS.

Aelin & Rowan – Gabriella Bujdoso

Lou Le Blanc & Reid Diggory

A pretty fresh one for me, but Lou and Reid were the OTP I never knew I wanted (or needed!) I feel like Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin is one of those new cult classics within the fantasy genre and Lou and Reid’s relationship is just, lovely.

Lou Le Blanc & Reid Diggory – Gabriella Bujdoso

Thorne and Cress

From Marissa Meyer’s fairytale retelling bonanza series The Lunar Chronicles Thorne and Cress were the all-reigning couple that stole my heart! There were a lot of relationships going on in this series, and I did enjoy the development of all, but I think they get the ticket. Also a sci-fi series rather than fantasy made a nice change – I’m trying to expand!

Thorne & Cress – Arz28

Cartier & Brienna

I feel like The Queen’s Rising series doesn’t have the attention it so, SO deserves…! Cartier and Brienna’s relationship is fantastic, and their character writing is truly stunning. Brienna is defo the sassy heroine we should all aspire to be more like!

Cartier & Brienna – Paris of Ink & Wonder Designs

Mare & Cal

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard was the first book I read post-uni; the first one I read for leisure rather than essays, anyway! Mare and Cal (and actually Mare and Maven)’s turbulent relationship(s) made for a wild ride, and their story was pretty intense…

Fitzwilliam Darcy & Elizabeth Bennett

My forever favourite novel and pairing – Darcy and Bennett from Pride & Prejudice are the romance I have always wished for and think I have now found! It was a slow start for them but they got there in the end and Austen’s writing makes it magical when they do get together.

That’s it! Who are your all-time favourite OTP’s? I’m almost looking for new stories and romances to dig my teeth into so let me know!

Annabelle xo

Book Reviews

Mageborn // Jessica Thorne

4/5 stars. WOWIE! This book took me on a wild ride. Thank you to the author and publishing company for giving me the opportunity to review this book as an ARC!

I’ll be honest, I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. I would say this gave me definite Serpent & Dove vibes; if you enjoyed that, read this! I managed this in 2 days.

Mageborn is a fantasy surrounding magic and mystery, like all the best ones are! It has the perfect smattering of enemies to romance, smut and powerful protagonist portrayal you could hope for! The book follows a simialr thread to a lot of others within this genre, mystical kingdom is under threat by [X], powerful heroine needs to help save the kingdom from [X], along the way she either meets a dashing hero or has to SAVE said hero from [X]. This is the writing cocktail I adore, and so it was completely for me. Think Sarah J. Maas-esque creation. Superb.

I would say there are two main protagonists within this read, and their perspectives are split chapter-to-chapter. This, for me, enabled the build-up of the relationship that forms between the two to become all the more hard-hitting, as you get the chance to really see how one is feeling about the other. Likewise, the writing style really helped the world to come alive for me, and I was truly engrossed from start to finish. The overall storyline delivered enough adventure and action to keep me on my toes but allowed a real exploration into the developing burdens and implications faced by the characters.

Not to be missed – well worth the read!

Annabelle xo

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The New Year's Resolutions Book Tag

I’m a bit late with this one as it’s almost the end of January (WHERE has the time gone?!) but figured until it hits the 31st, it’s still valid to complete. Onto the post!

  1. An Author You’d Like To Read That You’ve Never Read

I feel the list for this is pretty long actually… So I’ll select a top 3! My TBR list and bookshelf seems to be endless. I feel like Marie Lu is pretty coveted and I have her The Young Elites series waiting to be picked up; I would love to finally get round to reading the Legend series too. Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Queens series is another that is high up my list but am yet to read.. Been getting Red Queen // Victoria Aveyard vibes from the reviews – is it going to be like this and as good? And finally, Megan Whalen Turner and the Queen of Attolia series… My GOD I have heard good things and I cannot wait to see what the hype is about.

2. A Book You’d Like To Read

With the dawn of a new decade I feel it is only right to finally finish a book that has received countless renown and 5 * reviews over the past few years. Normal People by Sally Rooney defintely takes the ticket.

3. A Classic You’d Like To Read

For Christmas 2019 I received my long-desired Penguins Classics Edition of Pride and Prejudice. It. Is. Stunning. So I immediately dragged myself out to my local bookshop and purchased more Penguins Classics to add to my collection! Sense and Sensibility (Yes, I have seen the movie before reading the book – loved it) by Jane Austen is the next classic on the list. Also, after re-reading The Infernal Devices series by Cassandrs Clare last year, Will Herondale and Tessa Gray keep talking about A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens and so I feel I have to finally read this too.

4. A Book You’d Like To Re-Read

When it first came out – I read the Delirium by Lauren Oliver and the the other 2 books in the series subsequently. I loved it then but I feel like my reading style may have moved on since then, so I have it down to re-read in 2020? Is it still worth the read? I am definitely always into fantasy and dystopian YA so feel like it should still be my jam.

5. A Book You’ve Had For Ages and Want To Read

Ever since its 2017 release, I have had Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman sat in bedroom. It is so highly-raved about, I definitely need to read it this year. 3 years is long enough!

6. A Big Book You’d Like to Read

This is one I haven’t got a scooby for! A big book? What constitutes as ‘big’? I think I’ve been ruined by kindle books. I haven’t really got a clue what the size of books are all I do is download them…

7. An Author You’ve Previously Read and Would Like to Read More Of

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven rocked me to the core when I finished it, years ago. I haven’t read anything else by Jennifer Niven yet but her wiritng style was incredibly powerful and really, pure magic. Will definitely be reading more of her stuff this year.

8. A Book You Got For Christmas and Would Like To Read

I received for Christmas this year (at my own request), The King is Dead: The Last Will and Testament of Henry VIII by historian, Susannah Lipscomb. I have been fascinated with the Tudor period of British history ever since my undergraduate thesis and I find Henry VIII particualy interesting. Was he a tyrant? Was he misunderstood? With a background in theology, I can’t wait to dive into this!

9. A Series You Want to Read from Start to Finish

Good question…! How can I possibly choose?! The immediate one that springs to mind is the Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson. I am very excited to finally get round to and and have high expecttaions. Will it live up to them, is the question?

10. A Series You Want To Finish That You’ve Already Started

I’ve got two for this one (Sorry! – too indecisive). The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski was a slow read for me initially, but now that I’ve finished it and had a few months to stew it over, I can’t stop thinking about it! I think I definitely need to read the next two installments to see what happens. Likewise, The Queen of Tearling by Erika Johansen had me hooked throughout but when I finished it I felt a bit…deflated? It took a lot to get through to the ending, so I wasn’t immediately pushed to pick up the next one. Now that some time has passed, it seems to have fuelled my appetite for the story again.

Do you have any book-base resolutions for 2020 and this new decade? I think my main one (not questioned) is to just embrace my reading and actually give myself the time to do so a bit more. I would love to hear your thoughts!

Annabelle xo

Book Reviews

The Night Circus // Erin Morgenstern

3/5 stars. It was great! But not fantastic. Do I understand the hype? Honestly? I’m not sure.

I’m not really sure what to say about this book. It was VERY slow at the start… and I mean very. I struggled to keep with it.
I made a mental note of when it picked up: 53% (kindle).

I think that’s when Marco and Celia had their first confrontation and their romance really began, which I think is what I was searching for the whole time. The second-half of the book was definitely my favourite; and the twist at the end did have me surprised. Although the finale did leave me feeling a little bit deflated. A bit like, is that it?

Something which I admired about the book and it delivered extremely well: the world building. I loved the whole facade and adventure of The Night Circus. The tents and ‘worlds’ invented within them were incredible. The descriptive writing; beautiful. I also really enjoyed the turbulent romance between Marco and Celia. I was happy with their ending though, and found myself really feeling like they deserved to be together. Saying that, Marco was a bit pining, wasn’t he? Let Celia be the independent powerhouse that she is(!)

Something which I think the book could have done better: I enjoyed the different perspectives offered through the time-hopping, however it was a bit confusing. At times I was struggling to follow who I was reading about and where they were, and in what time. And I may have been missing the point entirely but Bailey… I found his story-line the most dull?! Anyone else or am I just being very pessimistic?

My favourite quote of the entire book: “I would have written you, myself, if I could put down in words everything I want to say to you. A sea of ink would not be enough.” The sentiment behind this is stunning and totally soppy and just what every romantic wants to read/hear/experience.

I wanted to love this but I struggled to. I would give it a solid 3/5 stars. It was good, borderline great, but the only reason I persisted with it was because of the following it has gained in recent years and its popularity with other readers. If it was a lesser known novel, I think I would have struggled to finish it.

What I will say is this – I would try it again. I have not completely given up on it, I feel like maybe it deserves a bit more of my time and possibly a different reading environment? I did try to squeeze a lot of this in on my 30mins lunch breaks with my tuna mayo sandwich!

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From Me to You

Hello!

My name is Annabelle and I’m a Scottish 23 year old trying to navigate my way through the working world of Edinburgh!

Welcome to my blog. I am a self-certified bookworm. I’ve been reading avidly (although I swear everyone says that) since I was wee. When I was in primary I had to be assigned my own special reading over that of the rest of my class-mates, because I powered through stories like a duck to water.

I think that’s where my book obsession began, and never ceased. I think that a good book can act as both an escape from the mundanity of my daily trawl through the world of tourism, heritage and culture – although I am lucky to work within something that I love – as well as providing the perfect bookish accessory and furnishing for my house. That’s why I’m a compulsive book-buyer and hoarder, with an ever-growing pile of to-be-reads. Help. But the affliction gets worse – kindle books are both a dream and a nightmare, so cheap, so easy, but so tempting! I absolutely blast through these. Double help.

I’ve decided that it is now time to take a stand (!) and fight back against my incessant book purchasing and browsing habits, and find a place to put all of my thoughts down… Here!

Join me on my journey as I attempt to read almost every YA, fantasy and romance novel ever written. You may just find something for you to lose yourself in, too.

You can find me in some other places, too: