The Wicker King by K. Ancrum (Book Review + The Legend of the Golden Raven Novella)

Publisher: Imprint
Page Count
: 305

CW: hallucinations, unhealthy co-dependency, negligent treatment of children, harmful behaviour and self-endangerment 

I’ve wanted to pick up The Wicker King ever since I saw a finished hardcover copy of it in a store in Canada almost 1.5 years ago. If you are a sucker for beautiful covers and extravagant design inside and outside of books, you will have a hard time resisting this one. Although I try to get better at not just buying books because of their beauty, the Wicker King definitely paid off.

All the superficial details aside, I honestly am glad I finally read the book. It’s not an easy read for sure, but it has lovely characters and such an important story to tell. I don’t want to spoil anything, but you don’t necessarily wonder as much about what is fantasy and what is reality as it might seem at first glance. I’ve had my fair share of books that mastered the art of completely bending your mind with the possibility of what might be happening, but there were very few doubts about the going ons in the Wicker King for me, which is probably why it was almost scary to read sometimes.

August and Jack are wonderful characters and I often just wanted to jump into the story and mother them, hug them and protect them. I did not agree with all the choices they made nor the behaviour they sometimes showed, but those boys did the best they could and deserved so much better. It’s not that I believe their parents didn’t love them, but they did a terrible job at it. Circumstances can make life hard and people crumble and break at times, but if you have kids, you really have to power through regardless. I know it’s easier said than done from where I am comfortably sitting childless behind a computer screen, but wow, did I wish that I could somehow help them and care for them, because their parents sure didn’t. In the end, it was good that they took care of each other, even if they could have done with a guardian in their lives.

There are a couple reasons I didn’t fully adore this book though and I think those are just very me reasons. While I love myself some short chapters, I was confused about the POV in the beginning (which is August’s by the way) and then felt like they hindered me from really connecting in some moments. I also didn’t love the continued hook ups, but my main sore point of the book was the relationship between August and Jack somehow. I liked that it was ambiguous in the beginning, because I am not the kind of person who just puts a romantic label on things just because I can. However, the longer I read on, the more I got afraid for them. They were so important for one another, so entangled in each other’s lives. The presence of August was like a necessity to Jack and vice versa. I understand that it’s one of the main points of the book, but it almost seemed unhealthy to me and therefore I couldn’t 100% root for them to be together. As I said though, this is a very me thing and maybe that worked perfectly fine for other people.

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! Definitely worth a read even if I didn’t click with every part of it.

If you know me, you also know that I am not much of a novella person, but The Legend of the Golden Raven was free for Kindle, I got it and really enjoyed it.

In only 40 pages, The Legend of the Golden Raven shows Jack’s condensed view of the events of The Wicker King. I thought that was a really neat addition to the main book and was happy to see a whole lot more magical/fantastical elements included. Obviously, the author couldn’t go into detail with it, but it still fills some gaps and rounds up the tale nicely.

It’s most likely not a must-read, but if you enjoyed the Wicker King, then I would recommend this as well.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! 

 

Have you read The Wicker King and it’s companion novella? Do you want to? Let’s talk about it!

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi (Book Review)

Publisher: HarperCollins
Page Count
: 310

Tahereh Mafi is one of my all-time favourite authors. I haven’t read everything by her, however, most of what I have read was more in the dystopian (??? gosh, I am terrible with genres) category, whereas A Very Large Expanse of Sea is Mafi’s first YA contemporary! I wasn’t sure how her writing style would translate to this genre, but it was a truly amazing read!

Where to even start? Set one year after the terrible events of 9/11, it chronicles a particularly memorable time for Muslim teenager Shirin. You can immediately tell that it is a very personal story and while I don’t know all the specifics that went into this book, I am certain that Tahereh drew some parts of it from her own experiences. Even though I can’t say I was really a teen in 2002 just yet myself, I was slowly getting there, and it instantly brought back some memories from that peculiar time. I remember the news reports and the fear and all that even though I was living on an entirely different continent. But I also associate those years with a certain kind of nostalgia, when everything was getting more digitalised while not quite being there yet.

Aside from a setting I could easily wrap my head around, I was most enamored with the characters. Shirin is a no-bullshit kind of narrator and a really smart one at that. She manages to paint a picture of all the people in her life in a way that makes them seem real, even if you only meet them briefly on the page. Her growing relationship to Ocean was exactly how I picture teens in love for the first time. Everything happened fast but at the same time with caution and the awareness that the other person might just have the power to break their heart.

The entire story tackled so many different topics. This isn’t just a love story, although there certainly is a focus on it, but also a tale about family, friendship, finding your passions and having to handle racism and Islamophobia. It hurts deeply to know that there are such vastly ignorant and hateful people out there. I always wished that those parts of the story were fiction only, but unfortunately that’s not the case.

Lastly, Tahereh Mafi finished the story off in the most bittersweet way. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I am not going to go into the details here, but it felt right to end it in that certain way, while you also wanted so much more afterwards.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! This book was packed with so much in such few pages in comparison.

Have you read A Very Large Expanse of Sea? Is it something you’d be interested in? How did you feel about Tahereh writing in another genre? Let’s talk about it!

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo (Book Review)

Publisher: Hot Key Books
Page Count: 368

Before starting this review, I want to give a huge shout out to Ari @The Romance Corner Blog because To Kill a Kingdom was one of the books I won in her giveaway. I rarely win those, so when she messaged me I was over the moon (and looking at the two books that came my way and that I absolutely love, I still am over the moon now) and she deserves all the thanks for making this happen. And second, I also want to thank Marie @Drizzle and Hurricane Books for being my buddy reader for this adventure. Don’t forget to check out those lovely ladies’ blogs and to keep a lookout for Marie’s own review of the book.

Sooo, that was a lot of unrelated preface for my review. I am trying my best not to simply scream at you that I loved the book. However, from the get go, it had everything I liked in a story. Sirens, pirates and the cold ruthlessness and beauty of the ocean. I know that to Kill a Kingdom is a sort of retelling of the Little Mermaid, but I really didn’t have a hard time separating those two stories. First of all, Lira is a siren and there is a vast difference between sirens and mermaids in the book (SO appreciated that!! You know how fuzzy I get about those two getting mixed up together). And then I feel like the story just had a completely different vibe.

The descriptions were whimsical and dark. There was so much murder and ripping out of hearts in the beginning, I reveled in it and knowing what was about to come. We tried to pace ourselves, but at some point I just couldn’t stop reading anymore. I needed to know how long Lira could keep up her ruse, who’s hearts would be broken and who would survive the wrath of the evil Sea Queen. I wouldn’t claim that the book was entirely unpredictable, but it still kept you on your toes, with some cruel chapter-cliffhangers but an amazing conclusion in the end.

While I loved reading both Lira and Elian’s POVs, I think I can consider Lira being one of my new idols now. Her change was gradual and comprehensible, I loved how she discovered humanity and grappled to come to terms with siren-hood at the same time. Her hate-to-love-story with Elian never really seemed forced or suddenly uncharacteristically mushy, but rather involved daggers, fights and bickering that seemed true to their nature and was a lot of fun to read. The only thing I quarrel with a bit is the fact that Elian calls himself a pirate. He is a prince, a diplomat wherever he goes, and I don’t think he has ever plundered a ship? How can he be a pirate? I guess he may have taken the bounty of other pirate ships, but that’s just like him executing the law? To me he was a sailor and not so much a pirate …

I didn’t just love the main characters, but I also really fell for some of the side characters (mainly people from the crew, but not only). There was something about the style of writing that just made it really easy to picture everyone and every place. I would want nothing more than to travel through those kingdoms during a time of peace, as it sounds absolutely beautiful.

I hope that some of my rambles actually made sense, but most of all that my excitement and love for this story swept over to you. At some point during our buddy read, I was reminded of a picture of an actress I really adore and it just screamed Lira at me. I know that everyone pictures characters differently, but I couldn’t end this post without sharing it with you!

Doesn’t she just look like someone who could rip out your heart? And she definitely has pirate vibes too!

Fazit: 5/5 stars! Whenever anyone will ask me for a Fantasy recommendation in the near future, this will inevitably come up!

Did you read To Kill a Kingdom? Do you want to? Let’s talk about it!

 

Caraval by Stephanie Garber (Book Review)

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Page Count
: 402

When Caraval was released last year, I remember it being all the hype. People compared it to the Night Circus, which is one of my most favourite books in the world and therefore set standards very high. I bought one of the UK mystery hardcover editions very early on, but then soon realised that the hype was just too much and there was no way I could possibly enjoy it as much as I might have if I hadn’t heard a thing about it before. So, I waited and let some time pass to allow my brain to forget some of the things it had learned and I think that was a good call.

First of all, Caraval still wasn’t close to the Night Circus. Magic was there and it might have still been very intricate, but I feel like the focus of the story was less on enchanting the readers, but more on creating drama and putting all the characters in constant peril. As a whole, I still very much enjoyed the book. The story in itself was absolutely fascinating, but my issue was more along the lines of the characters.

Scarlett and I have a difficult relationship. I appreciate her undying devotion to her sister. I like that she has principals she is unwilling to relent on, but some of her behaviour just didn’t add up. Her past is tragic and I very much understand her mistrust in others after the abuse she has suffered from her father. However, she kept making the most naive decisions and wasn’t cautious with her trust at all. After a while, I was just constantly frustrated with her choices and and the people and things she chose to believe in or not believe in for that matter. Also, she constantly criticised her sister, Tella, for being impulsive, when literally none of her actions were thoroughly thought through. Speaking of Tella, she didn’t have the benefit of being present much in the story, but despite her overall motive of wanting to save Scarlett from a life in misery, she just still seemed utterly selfish to me.

I hear that the second book, Legendary, has Tella as a main character and that it is supposedly better than Caraval. I am definitely curious about how the story continues in the sequel, because Caraval was full of wonderful twists and turns and revelations. I call bullshit on anyone who claims to have predicted everything that happened in that book, because I am usually very good at spotting those kind of things and there was no way I could have guessed all of those twists.

In the sequel, I hope that we get to go a little bit more into detail on how Caraval actually works and that we get to find out more about Legend. I like a mysterious villain who may not be a villain at all.

 

Fazit: 4/5 stars! Liked the story more than the characters, if that makes any sense.

Have you been enchanted by Caraval? Is it a book you’d be interested in? Let’s chat!

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee (Book Review)

Publisher: Amulet Books
Page Count
: 310

First of all, huge shout out to my cousin, because she technically bought this book back when she visited me in Canada. Because she went off on a world tour (making her sound like a rock star and being totally fine with it), she didn’t want to bring it along and left it with me instead. Due to my inability to not buy books during my stay abroad, I was able to ship it back to Austria with my other stuff, where I finally had the time to dive into this epic tale. Long story short, this read was sponsored by my lovely cousin – thank you!

To begin with, this book was laugh out loud funny! And sometimes that is exactly what you need in life. I am not saying it doesn’t have numerous kick-ass action sequences and even some thought provoking conversations, but I am sure that whenever I will think back about The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, I will think about its amazing humor.

I went into this book knowing very little about the plot. I was aware that there was some Chinese folklore and mythology involved, but I would be lying if I told you I knew much about that either. All I did know with a certainty was that a lot of my friends and mutuals in the book community loved reading it and had a blast. I am always wary of diving into books where the hype is real (which explains why I often read them with quite the delay to everyone else), but I am all the more happy when the hype was completely justified.

Everything was very witty and straightforward from start to finish. You were either on board with Genie’s hilariously charming but also angry voice or you weren’t and I was definitely there for all of that. The characters in general all stood out with their own personality traits, with Quentin and Genie’s interactions being weird and awkward while simultaneously amazing. (Again, I laughed out loud a lot!)

Finally, I really enjoyed seeing some parental involvement (still far too rare in YA for my taste), getting a better look at Genie’s cultural background and experiencing some real struggle to balance her demon-hunting with life/love/friendship/school/extracurriculars, because let’s face it, some book heroes just make it seem way too easy.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! Can’t wait to see where future installments will lead!

Have you read The Epic Crush of Genie Lo? Did you like it? Would you want to pick it up if you haven’t read it yet?

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab (Book Review)

Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Page Count
: 510

Our Dark Duet is the second and final book in the Monsters of Verity duology (you can read my review for the first book, This Savage Song, here). While I will try to avoid spoilers for this part as best as I can, I don’t recommend you read on if you haven’t read This Savage Song.

Back in 2016, I talked about this series all the time. So much so, that I pre-ordered the hardcover copy of Our Dark Duet, fully knowing that I’d be in Canada by the time it would arrive and therefore also buying the ebook version for my Kindle. All of that because I truly loved This Savage Song. I loved how quietly exciting it was, how original the creation of the monsters was. But most of all, I loved the characters and that’s what lead me to put off reading the book for such a long time. I was worried about their future and their livelihood and rightly so, because Monsters of Verity doesn’t have a happy end, but it might just have a hopeful one (even if it comes at a price, as Schwab so deftly put it in her acknowledgements).

To me, Our Dark Duet was a lot … well, darker. Whereas Kate’s opportunity at a family and a place where she belongs got once again taken away, August tried to embrace his supposed purpose in life and lost himself in the process. They had to grow up even more than in the last book and it just made me feel terribly sad for their circumstances. Only when the two are together, they can allow themselves to be themselves. I am very protective of my son August, but Kate grew even more on me here than she did in the last book. They see each other for who and what they are and that’s such a vital and beautiful quality whether it’s in friendship or whatever else they were having. It’s my favorite part about their relationship, while I simultaneously hated that they spent most of the book apart.

The book didn’t just deliver more of the same old, it had quite a lot of new elements  a terrifying monster and a new Sunai, by the name of Soro. The latter, in particular, was quite the enigma to me, which leads me to a final statement I want to make with this review: There’s still a lot of unanswered questions. It’s not like the book ended on a cliffhanger and I won’t survive, but there is so much more that this world has to offer, so many characters that we could still explore and I truly want to spend more time with. I don’t know if that is an option, or if Schwab is truly done with this world, but I, for one, would really enjoy some sort of spin-off or continuation in Verity and its surrounding areas (aka maybe a Prosperity spin-off???).

A lot happens in the book, we get several different POVs and there was a lot of heart in the story. My heart broke and hurt for hours after I was done. It’s always that way when I truly loved something and I just need to establish it one more time – if I could, I would adopt August and coddle him for life!

Rating: 5/5 stars! I am sad it is over, but this story was freaking fantastic.

Have you read the Monsters of Verity duology? I am telling you, it is totally worth it!

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (Book Review)

Publisher: PUFFIN
Page Count
: 336

I am on a roll right now, folks, and I have to use that energy to get as many blog posts out as possible before it fades. Even if my Goodreads time stamps might claim something different, I also seem to read books in a day now … this is new … or at least hasn’t happened in a while. I knew I’d eventually get back into reading once I was in Vienna.

Anyhow, the book! Considering how long it took me to jump on the Simon vs. (read my review here) bandwagon, it should come to no one’s surprise that it took me forever to read Upside as well (even though I did pre-order it!). I was ready to love this book with all my heart and even though it wasn’t exactly as I expected, it easily won me over. Becky has this incredible talent to write a super fluffy story but with the most relatable and realistic characters.

When I look at Molly, I could do a checklist of how similar the two of us are … so, that’s what I am going to do because it shows why this story worked so well for me.

  • We are both chubby girls. ✔️
    I’ve seen how dismissive or over-reactive some people have found Molly’s thoughts. I always feel like some guys and girls might not understand how deeply rooted self-criticism and doubt can be in a person that doesn’t have the societal normative body type. It hurts double when your friends and family are the ones suggesting you should lose weight, because it just makes you feel all wrong and like you don’t fit in even with the people that love you. So, yes, during my days on this planet, I have wondered if I could possibly crush a potential love interest and how someone could possibly like me when they saw me next to my much skinnier/taller/cuter/whatever-you-have-it friend. It takes time and work to come to terms with your body and yourself but it instantly made me bond with Molly because we shared the same insecurities. Also, going shopping is a nightmare!
  • We both have a lot of crushes but rarely do anything about them. ✔️
    Admittedly, my crushes are either actors, actresses or fictional characters and I am never serious about them nor do I want to actually date any of them, but I do get the sentiment of how a simple kindness or a brief look might spark an epic crush. It happens!
    Still, it’s hard to put yourself out there, especially when everyone else makes it seem so easy and you’re just sitting there, wondering how to even start. It’s easier to not even let anyone close enough to do any damage in the first place.

  • All my friends had relationships before me as well and drifted away/thought I could not possibly understand their life now. ✔️
    I don’t think I had the time during High School to date. It’s not even that I studied that much, but thinking back, I just don’t know how a person would have fit into my life. Heck, I don’t even know how a person is supposed to fit into my life now. But I digress, I may not have a twin sister like Molly does, but I do get the pain of drifting from the people you were once closest to because they now hang out with their significant other. I do understand that balancing friendships and a relationship can be tricky, especially if you are new to it or have no experience, but you can hang out with one person at a time. Believe me, it is possible. And getting this opportunity, I just want to say that I was really strongly siding with Molly during that entire story as well. Cassie found a tough audience in me. This in no way means that Molly always handles every situation the right way, but I would have felt hurt by some of the stuff Cassie did too. She was hella condescending at times.
  • We both have anxiety. ✔️
    Does this need explaining? Social gatherings with new people or new situations in general trigger anxiety in me and it seemed like Molly felt similarly.
  • We are artsy in our own way. ✔️
    Just threw that in there to have one more point for the list, but it’s true.

In addition to me really clicking with Molly, she had just the cutest love interest that I would have loved to know even more about. And I also sense a story or two (or a hundred) for the broader friend circle (Will and Olivia – I am especially looking at you!). I definitely haven’t given the most detailed account of what’s going on in this book, but I would love for you to find out by yourself. It is heartfelt and lovely. It deals with so many questions I had as a teen and shows that you are rarely ever alone in having them. For that and so many more reasons, I think it will be a great book for teens as they figure out life, just like Simon’s story was as well.

Speaking of him! The shortest but most certainly favorite part of it all were the brief crossovers to Simon and his friends. I shrieked with happiness whenever it happened, which just makes me all the more excited for the upcoming Leah on the Offbeat!

Fazit: 4.5/5 stars! Definitely a worthy and great addition to Simon’s universe!

Have you read The Upside of Unrequited? How did you feel about it?