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With Her Head in a Book

Ardyss / twenty / los angeles / blogger / writer My world is a vast combination of just 26 letters.
A History of Glitter and Blood - Hannah Moskowitz

Thank you Netgalley and Chronicle Books for this ARC copy of AHOGAB.

Did-Not-Finish at 33%

I absolutely love fairies and all fairy-related stories out there. If a book’s summary includes “fairy” in the description, I’m probably going to pick it up. Thus, I read an excessive amount of fairy books. A History of Glitter and Blood exists in a darker world than most other fairy novels I have read.

“Missing body parts were nothing to cry about and nothing to take too seriously.”

The city of Ferrum thrives on a very careful balance between the many species that live within the walls. The fairies dominate the world, except every now and again a neighbor loses an appendage to the gnomes. These instances are looked at as the price to pay for a stable city. After all, it’s said that fairies never die. Who needs an arm and a leg when you have the rest of forever to look forward to? But when all that is left is glitter and crumbs, is anyone really alive? Their society has dissolved into nothingness as the war between gnomes and tightropers wage on with the fairies caught in between.

There are various mythological creatures included in AHOGAB. Namely, the fairies, gnomes, and tightropers, but there is mention of other beings living in the city from time to time…at least until the gnomes get to them. The main characters include Beckan, Scrap, Josha, and Cricket - the remaining four fairies in Ferrum. Essentially, they’re a basket case of personal issues, drama, and secrets.

AHOGAB starts out with a lot of potential and many more ideas, but it fails to deliver. The novel is ideally written as a dairy or as someone’s first telling of the history of their species, hence the title. Unfortunately, the writing style is distracting and excessively messy. The overall plot feels weird and absentminded as the story jumps between past and present with little notification. It doesn’t even read as someone telling a story until the narrator breaks the fourth wall saying to disregard what has previously been written and more in later chapters. These instances are completely out of place, pointless, and honestly, weird for this novel. Even taking in account for the narrator’s style, the novel needs more editing to simply make the story flow better.

The book is described as a lyrical fantasy, but I can’t see how that term applies in this case. There are multiple drawings in addition to the story itself. I also couldn’t figure out the meaning of the majority of the pictures and how they related to that part of the plot. Where does the conflict or plot even begin? It’s a boring account about the characters running from place to place, doing unimportant things. Very “tell, don’t show” - the exact opposite of what you want in a book.

Overall, I would not recommend this novel. It’s not for everyone. Honestly, it’s “for” very few people. There are a lot of Did-Not-Finish reviews for this book, which I did not expect beforehand. Upon reading, though, I completely understand why it’s so hard to get through this book. I will add, though, that the author commented saying the e-ARC edition does have formatting issues (” missing some scene breaks, pictures not showing up right, etc”) that interferes with the novel. Hopefully these issues are the main source of my problem with the novel and all are solved upon the release date, August 4th, 2015.

Plot: 1/5
Characters: 2/5
Writing style: 1/5
All around idea: 2/5
Final Score: 1/5

Source: http://withherheadinabook.tumblr.com/post/122895998817/a-history-of-glitter-and-blood-by-hannah-moskowitz
Ruin and Rising - Leigh Bardugo

A lot of this series reminds me of Game of Thrones. Not that they’re all that similar, but that they both share the common trait of “if you thought something good was going to happen, you were wrong.” It’s also apparently a trend for the books to start with Alina being weak, rising to power, and finishing even weaker than she was before.

There’s a fair amount of humor in the series, especially this book, which I loved. Ruin and Rising had the most and best in my opinion. Alina cracks some of the best jokes. I honestly liked her the most in this final installment. She has her moments when I don’t feel so, but honestly, she’s human. She’s gone through hell and faces a lot of dark moments thanks to the Darkling. In the end, things work out, though. It’s cliche, but it’s not terrible.

In this addition, we get to see the rest of their world - something I really loved and expected more of in the second book.

I really enjoyed all the folklore about the phoenix and Morozova. Baghra turned out to be one of my favorite characters, especially as we learn some of her backstory. She’s so flawed and she never denies that. As evil as she could have been, I think she sides with goodness. Maybe to make up for all of her years before.

Most of all the side characters become much more filled out in this book. I never knew if I could trust them before, but they stuck together until the end. Alina couldn’t have gotten to where she is without them.

As I wrote in my review of Shadow and Bone, I originally went into the series expecting Mal to have a big role - whether he was a Grisha or instrumental for Alina to be able to cast sunlight - so I was not surprised by him being the third amplifier. I was not happy that he came back to life! I get the logic behind it, but gosh dang it!! Mal is still my least favorite character in the series. He’s slightly better in this portion (as is everything in Ruin and Rising), but it didn’t matter to me by this time…especially after falling in love with Nikolai. Even if I ignore how much I wanted Alina to accept Nikolai’s proposal, Mal still should have stayed dead. His story was done.

Speaking of Nikolai, I was worried he was a goner! If not physically, I thought he was going to be controlled by the Darkling. I was surprised that the Darkling’s effect was undone. I especially like the quote “I can still feel that darkness inside me. I keep thinking it will go, but–“ and her reply “I know.” That was it. They could have recovered together from the darkness, the chaos, the death of both the Darkling, Mal, and all of their friends… Even Tolya held onto his hope! I’ll forever be sad about this ending.

I originally thought the Darkling was irresistible but a bit overdone. Now? He’s one of my favorites especially after reading his novella and this book. He became so human. I loved that he went after his mother instead of chasing Alina. I thought he had stopped caring about her. He’s also the most compelling and complex character. I almost wanted Alina to go back to him because I like him so much. Then I remember he’s actually pretty evil and that would be such a dishonor to the previous books. I also really enjoyed the powers they stole from one another. Namely visiting the Darkling. Like calls to like.

The ending wasn’t as I hoped. While I figured the ending would be a positive one, it wasn’t as good as I wished for! The 4.5 rating isn’t a 5 because the ending wasn’t all that I had hoped for. BUT it also got that 4.5 instead of a 3.5 or 4 like previously because Ruin and Rising has so much more action and emotion.

Ultimately, Bardugo is a great writer. She’s got a talent for developing her worlds and writing one hell of a villain. I’ll probably read anything she ever writes. I’ve picked up a few of the novellas and plan to read the rest soon. What I’ve read so far has been amazing.

Overall, I would recommend this book to fantasy lovers, but be wary; this isn’t the ultimate romance novel. You’ll probably be angry at the ending like everyone else.

Plot: 4.5/5
Characters: 4/5
Writing style: 3/5
All around idea: 4/5
Final Score: 4.5/5

Source: http://withherheadinabook.tumblr.com/post/120402576162/ruin-and-rising-by-liegh-bardugo-from-goodreads
Your Voice Is All I Hear - Leah Scheier

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for providing this ARC.

“Sickness can be a story too, one that we can all learn from.”

The new high school transfer, Jonah, is a major hottie so it’s a big surprise when he falls in love with the invisible girl, April, who’s always been outshone by her BFF, Kris. The painter and musician duo experience their first romances together, but their joy is cut short when Jonah begins to spiral out of control. April watches her boyfriend enter a dark space in his mind as his past catches up to him. These teenagers have to deal with troubles no child should ever have to and are forced to sober up into adulthood before their time.

Kris is a girl filled the confidence of knowing who she is. She swaps from boyfriend to boyfriend with ease. It’s said she "will drop a guy because he didn’t like a movie she liked.” She’s model material with her blonde hair and legs for days. As of this year, she’s moved an hour away to attend a private school, thus leaving our leading lady, April, alone.

April on the other hand has never quite fit in well with the others with her social anxiety issues. Her mother describes her as fiercely loyal -“friendships mean more to you. And so will your relationships.” When she falls in love, she falls hard. And she’s head over heels for Jonah, her best friend.

Jonah once was a confident guy with a passion for art. He’s gentle, kind, vibrant, talented, but also mysterious. As the year spent at Fallstaff High School progresses, he begins to exhibit increasingly worrisome behavior. He’s schizophrenic.

The cast of characters in Your Voice is All I Hear are extremely realistic. They’re distinctly themselves, but I found myself noticing similar traits between the characters and people in my life. I felt like the events in the novel were something that could actually happen in my own life, just as they were told (if only I were still in my Sophomore year in High School). It’s raw and brutally honest about what it’s like watching your loved ones go down a dark road and how to cope with this strange new reality. It’s a quick read that will leave your heartstrings aching. You might even shed a few tears like I did. The writing style is easy to immerse yourself into as if each line flows into the next; once you pick this up, you won’t want to put it down. And look at that title! It’s a literal perfect fit for this novel!

Overall, I would recommend this. I think everyone should read this book. Schizophrenia is a topic rarely discussed even in books about mental illnesses and it’s important to see this side of life. This standalone novel blew all my expectations out of the water and I think you’ll all love it as much as I did. Especially since the novel deals with so many issues such as a multitude of mental illnesses, suicide, bullying, homophobia, family, and love. Pick this up when it releases on September 1st, 2015.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Writing Style: 5/5
All Around Idea: 4/5
Final: 4.5/5

Source: http://withherheadinabook.tumblr.com/post/123059877207/your-voice-is-all-i-hear-by-leah-scheier-from
Queen of Blood - Jill Myles

Thank you Netgalley and Jill Myles for this ARC edition of Queen of Blood.

Thousands of years ago, the daughter of a ruthless king swore to devote her life to the Goddess against her father’s command. In the king’s rage, he took revenge on all the priests and priestesses in his kingdom, including his daughter, for being traitors. The Goddess became outraged and cursed the king and his lineage. He would never again conceive a daughter and all of his sons would be as cursed as him, unable to thrive underneath the sun and compelled by a powerful thirst for blood. The spell will only be broken if an Eterna is found, but people are beginning to believe they are a myth.

Queen of Blood is a novel dipped with Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and Goose Girl references. Seri is a Vidari young woman scrambling to make ends meet as a goose girl. With her father frightfully ill and her sister blind, she is left to tend to their farm on her own. When possible her husband-to-be, Rilen, lends a hand, but he’s more caught up in the rebellion against the Athonite which has only grown in size as Prince Graeme of Athon recently moved into the nearby Vidari castle.

The best part of the novel is the world building which shows best in the very different cultural expectations of the Vidari and Athonite. The two countries are severely divided by their cultures. Rumors fly and create wicked stereotypes. For example, the Vidari are said to be wild savages. The women must be whores because their knees and necks are clearly visible. Some even say Prince Graeme is one of the Blood, a group of men that survive by sucking on blood, avoid the sun, and all around resemble a vampire, but you’ll never see mention of such in the novel.

Of course, Seri and Graeme fall in love, Their relationship isn’t exactly healthy, but their sex life sure is! They don’t talk about their issues, but instead rough it out over the bed. Romance is the number one aspect of the novel despite other plot elements screaming with potential. The rebellion and soon-to-arrive King of Athon (and evil dictator) are both heavily neglected. Pure romances are perfectly acceptable, but I expected a bit more since the rebellion was made out to be an important issue and ultimately wasn’t.

It’s a quick read. Without realizing what I was doing, I was done with the book in a day. There are no twists. Each moment that is supposed to be an unexpected development is very cliche and mimics earlier scenes. The novel also suffers from “saying the wrong thing at the wrong time repeatedly for plot development.” Again, there were some very interesting aspects to the story that could have made up for the weak plot devices, but unfortunately the author didn’t take advantage of her story’s strengths. The use of two points of view doesn’t exactly add to the story either, but there aren’t too many chapters where we see from Graeme’s side of things so his POV isn’t distracting. It would have been good if his chapters included information about his family and life before coming to the castle.

The ending is also very abrupt and not very satisfying. It left me wanting to know more about how the events smoothed out. I wanted reassurances for the future more detailed than the epilogue. What about their daughters? How does the world change by their union? And (view spoiler)

The idea of Queen of Blood is truly exciting. I couldn’t wait to pick up the novel. It has it’s fair share of issues, but was an enjoyable read. All things considered, I would recommend this for those that enjoyed The Selection, another novel that I truly wanted to like but couldn’t (even though I read every single novel and novella as quick as I humanly could). So if you liked the rebellion and royal romance of The Selection and want to add a dash of steamy sex scenes, pick upQueen of Blood.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Writing Style: 3/5
All Around Idea: 4/5
Final Score: 2/5

Source: http://withherheadinabook.tumblr.com/post/123527046967/queen-of-blood-by-jill-myles-from-goodreads-for
Vengeance Road - Erin Bowman

Since starting Vengeance Road, every piece of writing and conversation has taken on a Western vibe. It’s 100% the fault of this novel. The narrator’s voice is so strong that it actually affected my life. I only wish I could sound as authentic as Kate Thompson herself.

Vengeance Road first caught my eye a few months back when I saw the cover reveal. Boy, what a beauty! I will likely be buying the novel despite receiving a physical ARC copy (which captured the beauty but not quite).

Of course I hoped the novel would be good (why wouldn’t I?) but as a YA with romance, I did worry about how truly gritty it would be. If that happens to be one of your concerns, do not fret. Vengeance Road is not a fluffy tale that’s all talk but no bite. The romantic interests are on the back burner while a blood thirsty hunt dominates the novel.

Living in such a harsh environment means that one must become equally jarring to survive. Kate must play a bold game of cat and mouse to fulfill her promise of revenge. She’s unforgiving in that the facts are the facts. Right off the bat, she unapologetically kills two men. With ease, I can imagine her imitating Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride - "you killed my father, prepare to die." That sets up the mood of the rest of the novel. There’s a high risk to this challenge that likely will end up with no one walking away. It’s a wild ride from start to finish. The novel is a quick read with a speedy pace as Kate speeds after the Rose Riders with a thirst for blood. I’m surprised her horse didn’t drop dead in the pursuit.

The plot is a bit like any classic cowboy movie. The trio are on a rugged quest on the lookout for gold and blood. There’s love and death, betrayals, regret, crazy hero antics, and witty smack talkin’. Even though the writing is so fantastic in bringing this story to life, I find the plot a bit lacking in creativity. I did enjoy that the idea for the novel came from a true historical moment. And no, I’ve never read a novel quite like this, but the cowboy movies I have seen do sing the same tune.

All that is made up with the author’s choice of how to tell the story.

As said, the author’s writing style is outstanding. Easily, it’s the best part of the novel to me. It stole the “scene” in the first few pages, the first few paragraphs. At the end of the first chapter, I was head over heels in love. If you want to see beautiful writing at work, pick up this novel. The voice of the narrator will carry you away.

Beyond the harsh scene of the world, the characters have their own set of personal issues. Kate’s parents are dead. Jessie can’t handle the past. Will... Will is in love with a woman from the pleasure house and worries so strongly about his family’s well being. And then there’s Liluye; Lil is my girl. She speaks with wisdom, suffers such pain, and still manages to live freely.

My biggest issue with the novel is: Liluye speaks like a stereotypical Native American. By the timeVengeance Road takes place, Native Americans were already familiar enough with the English language to not speak like “savages.” How she speaks isn’t even consistent. To be honest, even the voice of Kate fades toward the end. I get it - it can be hard to keep such a unique voice the entire length of the novel. I just wish Liluye had been treated with more respect than as a symbol of some character’s developmental point.

The novel does gives insight to “minority” groups of 1800′s Arizona - ladies and Indians. Women weren’t terrible common in the West in early settlements. It was a "man's world" and Kate verifies this by dressing as a man as she travels. We also get brief flashes of what life is like for the remaining tribes. Plenty of the characters carry their prejudices. At times, she and her companions are cruel to the innocent in their quest for vengeance. People that shouldn’t die, do. People that shouldn’t be hurt, are. And there are some heart wrenching twists that I didn’t see coming.

Anyone that enjoys action, adventure, and historical fiction novels should pick up Vengeance Road. There’s a touch of romance, plenty of grit, treasure hunts, and a young woman kicking ass. Were I to pick three novels to recommend from all the books I’ve read this year, Vengeance Road would be on that list! I encourage you to ride over to your local bookstore and pick up this beautiful novel. Just remember to buckle up and put on your best cowboy boots - it’s going to be one heck of a ride.

I received an eARC of VENGEANCE ROAD from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I also won an ARC edition from Goodreads as a First Reads giveaway winner! Thank you!

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 4/5
Writing Style: 5/5
All Around Idea: 4/5
Total: 4/5

Source: http://withherheadinabook.tumblr.com/post/128681668587/vengeance-road-by-erin-bowman-from-goodreads-when
Siege and Storm - Leigh Bardugo

It’s always good when the next book in the series is just as good as the original book. Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm basically have the same pros and cons and also follow similar type of plot points which turned me off. Both books have such a great beginning and end that the main chunk of the novel is very slow, leaving me wishing for more. Though, I will say, the ending to S&S is better than S&B. I found myself devouring the pages faster than a delicious treat.

Readers finally get to see more to the Grisha world while Alina and Mal are on the run from the Darkling. Again, Alina suffers from her low esteem and questions whether Mal really likes her. This is the #1 trait I cannot stand about Alina mostly because she flops back and forth between not worrying about beauty to having it be her only thought. She has this wonderful and unique power, but can’t help but think she’s more plain than Plain Jane. Though she grows a lot in this book, that’s one thing she just can’t seem to shake.

It’s not long until they return to Ravka. They take up refugee on Sturmhond’s ship (my favorite character in the entire series) where we are introduced to some of my other favorites. Side characters become substantially much more important in S&S, one of the biggest pros. Sturmhond is one hell of an inventor. Multiple creations of his are revealed and use throughout the novel.

Sturmhond also reveals a bigger twists of S&S. One that I should have seen coming, but didn’t. While it was happening I was saying to myself “yes yes yes!!” but was also kind of pissed off.

The story really turns slow when they return to the Little Palace. Heck, even the trip to the Little Palace is more interesting (and we get to see a lot of cute romance!). I basically fell in love with Nikolai. He teaches Alina so many important things and is one of the key characters in her development. Side note that is spoilery, but not to the plot: I was pretty pissed off and excited (again) when Nikolai pulls Alina in for a kiss just to show off in front of the crowd. I feel like he deserves to be punched, but that was before I liked him so I’ve definitely changed my opinion on that.

Speaking of romance, Mal needs to stop. Stop looking, breathing, existing...stop everything. He’s annoying and is even worse in S&S than S&B. I originally had been rooting for him and Alina to be thing when the Darkling was the only other choice but now I really want them to be over. He’s just as toxic as the Darkling, just in a different way. Alina should either be with no one or Nikolai (because OH MY GOD NIKOLAI).

The Apparat makes an appearance which I’m happy about. His part in S&B is left hanging, but we still don’t get to learn what his intentions are. I’m willing to say he’s just as creepy and untrustworthy as before.

The ending comes at an unfortunate time with by an unexpected twist. Everything is left up in the air and you can’t trust anything or anyone! Basically that sums down to once you finish Siege and Storm you will want to pick up Ruin and Rising IMMEDIATELY.

Overall, I would recommend this book.

Plot: 3.5/5
Characters: 4/5
Writing style: 3/5
All around idea: 4/5
Final Score: 4/5

Thorn - Intisar Khanani

Thank you Netgalley and Intisar Khanani for this ARC copy of Thorn!

Language is a weapon, Alyrra. You must learn to defend yourself with what you can.

The story of Princess Alyrra begins like the tale of any princess - she’s about to be married off to the prince of a nearby kingdom. Is he kind? Or is he cruel like her brother? And what of the king? These questions remain unanswered as a terrible curse shortly befalls the Princess and new challenges arise. Thorn faces many issues such as what it means to be trustworthy, loyal, just, and forgiving.

Let me just start by saying I was blown away by this book. I had gone into this expecting a typical romance between Prince and Princess while they face together a wicked enemy. Maybe some Beauty and the Beast elements (hence Thorn as in a rose bush’s thorn). While there are a vast variety of retellings included, namely the Goose Girl, the rest is mostly untrue.

Alyrra begins as a quiet girl, believed to be weak by most of her court. Even her mother and brother have little affections for her. As terrible as this sounds, I actually liked that her relationship with her family was poor (an understatement). Based off my many readings of similar genre books, this is not common. Lucky for her, she’s become friends with many of the servant - her family when none other existed.

A mysterious sorcerer curses Alyrra by swapping bodies with another female and of course she cannot tell anyone about what happened. Alyrra does not want to be reminded of who’s body she’s within so she takes on the name of Thoreena (which becomes Thorn) after reaching Menaiya, the neighboring kingdom. Here in the new lands, she flourishes. She’s able to have the kind of life she’s always wanted - one without responsibilities, the stares, and the dreadfulness of court. Thorn faces disputes over her new life, though. Should she ignore her duty to her people and those endangered by sorcerer so she can retain the little slice of peace she’s gained?

Thorn is essentially amazing and I’m willing to label her as one of the most outstanding women in literature. She’s quick on her feet and knows how to play the games of power and words like an expert (even if she’s rather leave the court behind and avoid the shenanigans). She able to quickly adapt to whatever her environment is which proves to be one of her greatest strengths. Thorn takes everything she’s learned from the palace, the stables, and some very unfortunate events to develop her own well-rounded ideas and uses what power she has left to obtain the best outcome for all. She tries very hard to be selfish, to live for herself, but compassion overruns her.

There is a boy but their relationship isn’t about romance, though one day it might be. Thorn’s reasoning could have been inspired by a cheap love, but it isn’t. She does what she does because it’s the right thing to do and she’s willing to die for what’s right. That’s the most empowering element to this novel - one I rarely see as strongly depicted as in Thorn.

Thorn is also a bit of an emotional roller coaster. Death is not shied away from. The terrible people and the terrible things they do are everywhere. Thorn is ultimately about how to deal with all the awful things that happen in life in the most honest way possible. Things that shouldn’t happen do happen. It’s thought-provoking and it hurts.

Part of the reason I am so surprised by the greatest that is Thorn is because the novel starts out weak. It suffers from the “all will be explained later” idea which, while everything is eventually explained, I was left wondering who various characters were in social standing and personally to Alyrra. This made me step back from the story, thus I took longer to become immersed into Khanani’s world. A simple explanation after the character’s name and introduction would have sufficed and solved any issues. The writing style is also not the greatest at first, but that changes as Alyrra changes. I grew to see the positives of the writing style and respected how Khanani chose to tell her tale.

Finally, there are a ton of great references in Thorn. I’m not sure all were intentional, but two really stood out to me. Such as when Alyrra says “You have no power over me.”Labyrinth anyone? No? Maybe? That’s okay; I have a major crush on the Goblin King and have watched David Bowie’s movie enough to know it word for word. Also, there is a talking Horse that befriends Alyrra and offers sage advice. His tale reminds me of Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. Mostly because I just recently read it but similar traits exist in both Horses of the two books.

Overall, I would recommend this book for readers that like a strong female lead, classic retellings, a bit of magic, and a story not strictly about romance.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 4/5
Writing style: 2/5
All around idea: 4/5
Final Score: 3.5/5

Source: http://withherheadinabook.tumblr.com/post/121035590837/from-goodreads-forced-to-marry-a-powerful