And I Darken by Kiersten White

And I Darken by Kiersten White
Release Date: June 28, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format: Paperback ARC
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Ratings: badass Surprised Me characters 

My Thoughts

You know the “unlikable character” thing? I have a lot of messy thoughts on that. The one solid thought I have on it though is female characters often don’t get to be “unlikable.” Male characters get to be horrible and are called “interesting” and “flawed.” When female characters are the same way, people have a hard time rooting for them and they’re hated. This isn’t much different than how women are treated in real life.

In And I Darken, one of the main characters, Lada, is the definition of an “unlikable” character and I love it. She is vicious and mean in ways I often don’t see female characters get to be without being the villain. She’s manipulative. She mostly has her own interests in mind. She is also fascinating, fighting – sometimes literally – in a world stacked against women.

That particular world is our own world, but from a historical standpoint. And I Darken takes place mostly in the Ottoman Empire which forced me to brush up on what I learned freshman year of high school. It’s not a part of history often visited in Young Adult fiction and it brought something different to my reading experience. There’s a lot of grit and uncomfortable truths. It’s not easy to root for the main characters. Their intentions aren’t always honorable. Right and wrong is a massive grey mess. While plenty of YA tip toes into that area, this book stomps into it. It challenged my thinking and asked more questions than it answered.

Radu, Lada’s brother, is the book’s other main focus. He is his sister’s opposite in most ways. He is gentle and handsome where she is brash and ugly. Their dynamic is what shapes this book into what it is.

And what is it? A lot of things. But mostly it made think about both power and love. Power beyond power over others, but power within oneself. Love beyond romance. Love when it’s ugly. Love when it brings both power and powerlessness. How both tie into womanhood. How being a woman, throughout history, is so often tied to the power of men. How love and power can be used to survive as a woman.

There are two more books to come and I hope they continue to explore these themes. I am left with a lot to think about until then.

+ Characterization, especially of Lada, who I am grateful to have in fiction
+ The exploration of womanhood
+ All the complicated dynamics
– There is more of Radu and Mehmed I think could have been shown, but there are also two more books to do that.
? There is a lot of setup in the beginning and I haven’t quite decided if all of it was needed or not.

In Summary
This book rewrites a part of history that was a brief lesson in school and challenges what is expected of a female heroine. It destroys the line between right and wrong, leaving the reader with a lot to mull over.

As a final note, I am bored to tears with comparisons to Game of Thrones* already and I might have to display some of Lada’s viciousness as a result.

*I tried reading GoT and it wasn’t interesting enough to me. Women do better at writing women than GRRM. SORRY.

Note: An advanced copy of this book was provided free by the publisher for review consideration. This in no way influenced my opinion.

TBR Essentials: Labyrinth Lost and A Torch Against the Night

Hello and welcome to this new feature where I tell you to add a book (or 2 or more) that isn’t out yet to your To Be Read list. I know I can’t make you reserve it at the library or preorder but I am STRONGLY SUGGESTING you do.

labyrinthLabyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
Release Date:  September 6, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Format: e-arc
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Fantasy
Ratings: Page Turner badass I Ship It 


Quick Summary




Apparently this is the comment I made on my friend’s status (hi, Alyssa) about this book. Someone was mad this book has Spanish words in it because that’s a totally rational thing to be mad about. As if people who live in the US and have Hispanic roots don’t sometimes use both Spanish and English words. I’m third generation Italian and don’t actually speak Italian yet still use Italian words sometimes. *rolls eyes*

ANYWAY, this book is totally kickass. It follows Alex, who comes from a family of brujas (witches), but doesn’t exactly want powers. Her attempt to get rid of them goes terribly wrong and she has to travel to an in-between land to save her family. There’s a wonderful blend of grit and humor along with familiar and new fantasy elements. Córdova took inspiration from Latin American traditions and stories and mixed it with her own ideas. The result is GREAT.

Why Add It?

There are creatures and challenges and surprises around every corner. Alex is a character you can easily root for as she realizes the importance of family, learns who to trust, and grows in self love.

torchA Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
Release Date: August 30, 2016
Publisher: Razorbill
Format: Paperback ARC
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Romance
Ratings: fave2 Page Turner characters badass I Ship It Wow Factor Gut Punch


First things first, have you read the first book, An Ember in the Ashes? No? Go do that. Right now. It’s inspired by the Roman Empire and it’s amazing. So go read it and then come back to the post.

Okay, hello, I am now assuming if you are continuing to read you have read book one. If not, sigh, fine, but do it soon.

This was everything I wanted from the sequel! It kept me guessing. SO MUCH HAPPENS. Many scenes got my heart rate up. Sometimes I had to pause to breathe. Often I yelled things out loud. Reading this was a multi-level experience.

Both Laia and Elias grow so much. We get the added perspective of Helene and GAH SO MUCH HAPPENS. I am being vague, I know. I’ll be slightly more specific in my full review closer to the release date.

Why Add It?

If you read Ember and were unsure or meh about it, this book is EVEN BETTER. If you read Ember and loved it, this books is EVEN BETTER.

Make sure both these books are on your radar then look out for my more detailed reviews in August and September. Or don’t. Your loss.

Book Mix: The Square Root of Summer

The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Format: Hardcover
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Science Fiction, Romance
Ratings:Surprised Me I Ship It Gut Punch 

A common occurrence for me is reserving a book at the library and then, once it becomes available, having no recollection of what the book is about or even reserving it at all.

The Square Root of Summer is one of those books which I decided to jump into without reading the synopsis so it was all surprising to me. Perplexing and curious, the story grabbed my attention. Based on basically nothing (the cover? the title?) I expected a lighthearted story, but got something much more serious. Grief and love and wormholes and equations.

Something I specifically appreciated was the depiction of grief after the death of a grandparent. The deaths I come across in fiction that deeply affect someone are usually a parent’s or SO’s or sibling’s or friend’s. I don’t seem to find as many stories where the loss of a grandparent is so central. It’s usually someone dying too young. The MC’s grief over the loss of her grandfather resonated with me.

This story ended up being generally sadder than anticipated, but also more beautiful than anticipated. There’s heartbreak and romance, three dimensional secondary characters, and life lessons all with a side of being sucked back into time.

While listening to The Dø in the car, Miracles (Back in Time) seemed like an appropriate song for this book’s soundtrack so an entire playlist was born.

The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Romance, Fantasy, Retelling
Ratings:fave2Page TurnerPretty WordscharactersI Ship It

If you haven’t read The Wrath and the Dawn, stop reading this and order it or reserve it at the library. Whatever you need to do to get it read. The book is luscious. A warning that it ends on a cliffhanger, but that’s okay because we were gifted The Rose & the Dagger.

The Basics
So if you still haven’t read the The Wrath and the Dawn, it’s inspired by A Thousand and One Nights. The caliph Khalid marries one girl each night and kills her the next morning. One of those girls was Shahrzad’s best friend so she volunteers herself as a bride to get revenge. It’s wonderful so go read it. Right now.

If you’re one of those monsters who reads summaries to later books in a series before reading the first, book two is about after Shahrzad finds out why Khalid has to kill the girls (a curse) and falls in love with him. At the end of book one they are separated (for reasons) and Shahrzad is determined to break the curse with a war looming against Khalid because he killed all those girls and no one knows why (because he won’t tell them… for reasons.)

And all of this is told in beautiful language with quite a few descriptions of delicious food so these books may also leave you hungry.

My Thoughts
To put it all in a non-spoilerly way: The Rose & the Dagger was everything I wanted from a sequel.

The book throws you right back into Khorasan’s unsettling events. The chaos that Wrath ends on is there and you start to get some answers. While the first book starts a little slowly because there is a lot to introduce the reader to, the second is instantly dramatic. Shazi and Khalid are separated. She is keeping the secret of the curse, while trying to figure out what she can do to fix all the unrest. It’s instantly captivating.

There are a couple new characters, but mostly old characters given a broader story. Knowing more about Tariq and Rahim as well as Shazi’s father and sister added a new layer to everything going on, as well as gives more insight to Shazi’s life before she became the calipha.

There are so many surprises and little revelations that kept me engrossed. I could gush about all of them, but then I would ruin it for you.

“This is why the world would be a far better place
in the hands of women.”

And then there is Shazi who is definitely one of my favorite characters of all time. I have said before that I am a huge fan of difficult women and Shazi is one of them. She speaks her mind even when it’s not exactly safe to. She’s passionate and headstrong and oh how I love her. She loves fiercely and imperfectly and fights for who and what she cares for. There is so much more of her greatness in Rose.

Also the romance is great. I SHIP IT. I ship it in several instances. And in more serious terms, Ahdieh does wonderfully at building the relationship between Khalid and Shazi. In book one, she puts them on equal footing to be able to fall for one another. “Get up, Shahrzad al-Khayzuran. You kneel before no one. Least of all me,” is such a gorgeous and necessary line in the first book. It summarizes how Khalid sees her as an equal. This carries into the second book and there is growth in their love. Fear not, Ahdieh doesn’t take Khalid down the broody “I don’t deserve love” path like many heroes. She has instead created two characters that see the worth in each other and themselves. It’s not a perfect love, as no love is, but it is one that burns deep and expands and learns to be better.

+ The action, the tension, the female characters, the romance, everything?
– ??? There isn’t more?

In Summary
The Rose & the Dagger is a deeply satisfying follow up. It provides the important answers to questions created in The Wrath & the Dawn. It keeps the plot moving. It gives more insight to characters only barely introduced in the first book. It has kickass woman saving the day. And it has Shazi and Khalid finding a way for their love to exist.

If you loved or even just liked The Wrath & the Dawn, you should read the second. It’s everything I loved about the first book plus more.


BookCon Wishes

Currently my laptop is off being repaired. *sobs* Everything is breaking around me which has kept me from all the posts I had planned. (I’ll spare you my sob story though.) Right now my lunch break is providing me with the computer and time for this post so…

This week is BEA and therefore this weekend, BookCon. (yay!) I considered doing the full week of BEA, but decided to wait for the NYC return and just head to BookCon this year. I’ve been meaning to visit Chicago friends for a while so this provides a quick trip that also involves books. There’s a lot I’m looking forward to!

My Must See Panels

love book panels, okay? As much as I also love walking around the floor and getting ARCs, panels are always my priority. I feel like I’m in the minority here since a lot of people I know who go to BEA/BookCon strategize autograph lines and galley drops before panels. But the way I see it, the books always come out eventually. Panels are more of a once in a lifetime kind of thing. And autographs? When it comes to BookCon, I’ve only stood in autograph lines for free books. Meeting authors can be great, but I’m also not a meet and greet kind of person. So here are my priority panels:

What is Light Without Darkness? Balancing Good and Evil in YA Literature w/ Veronica Roth, Lauren Oliver, Sabaa Tahir, Melissa de la Cruz

Who isn’t game for a good v. evil discussion? It’s part of most books even if it’s not a superhero or dystopian situation.

Friendship is Magic w/ Sarah J. Maas, Susan Dennard, and Alexandra Bracken

I am having a problem. That problem is the Moone Boy panel (a show I LOVE) is the same time as this panel. But these three are the CUTEST friends. So I think it has to be my Must See. I might change my mind last minute and go see Chris O’Dowd, because I have seen Sarah and Susan together before but gahhh. Decisions, decisions…

Leigh Bardugo and Marissa Meyer: Truth or Dare w/  Leigh Bardugo, Marissa Meyer, Isabella Biedenharn

This sounds like pure fun and Bardugo’s Six of Crows was one of my favorite books from last year.

The Power of Storytelling w/ Sherman Alexie, Kate Dicamillo, Meg Cabot, Anthony Breznican

Like many, Meg Cabot was a grade school/high school fave. I also love Sherman Alexie. So it’s those two drawing me to this panel. They both tell very different stories so I’m interested in hearing how their views on writing vary.

The Simon & Schuster Sisters: Morgan, Siobhan…and Jenny! w/ Morgan Matson, ,Siobhan Vivian, Jenny Han

Another wonderful friendship panel. Always here for strong female friendships.

These aren’t the only panels I plan to go to. There are so many that look amazing, but these are the top ones on my radar. It’s a lot though and sometimes I feel like taking a break just to roam around so I will see where the day takes me.

ARCs Wishlist

Although I try not to get too caught up on must have ARCs because that gets so stressful and is inevitably disappointing, I do have a few I’d love to get my hands on.

Regardless of whether I get any of these, I always come home with something great to read.


A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Only three of these are being given away so I’m not holding my breath on this one. It also comes out this August so it’s not that much longer to wait. But holy cliffhanger on book one.


geminaGemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I have no idea if they are even giving more than a few of these away, but the first one blew me away a little so GRABBY HANDS.




The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Everything Everything was an ARC I got at last year’s BookCon. I had heard a little bit about it and then ended up loving it. This one is already being hyped up by the authors I follow on Twitter.


snow Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

Paige is doing a signing for these so maybe if I have time, I’ll join that line. We already know she can do retellings/reimaginings well judging by Dorothy Must Die and this one sounds just as fun.


I have 2.5 more days of work to get through then off to Chicago for books and friendship! I’m going to do some panel note-taking and possibly some live tweeting for those who can’t make it to BookCon this year, so watch out for that.