Book Review: Four Dead Queens By Astrid Scholte

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Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:​

Get in quick, get out quicker.

These are the words Keralie Corrington lives by as the preeminent dipper in the Concord, the central area uniting the four quadrants of Quadara. She steals under the guidance of her mentor Mackiel, who runs a black market selling their bounty to buyers desperate for what they can’t get in their own quarter. For in the nation of Quadara, each quarter is strictly divided from the other. Four queens rule together, one from each region:

Toria: the intellectual quarter that values education and ambition
Ludia: the pleasure quarter that values celebration, passion, and entertainment
Archia: the agricultural quarter that values simplicity and nature
Eonia: the futurist quarter that values technology, stoicism and harmonious community

When Keralie intercepts a comm disk coming from the House of Concord, what seems like a standard job goes horribly wrong. Upon watching the comm disks, Keralie sees all four queens murdered in four brutal ways. Hoping that discovering the intended recipient will reveal the culprit – information that is bound to be valuable bartering material with the palace – Keralie teams up with Varin Bollt, the Eonist messenger she stole from, to complete Varin’s original job and see where it takes them.

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I was lucky enough to receive an advanced readers copy of this book from Allen and Unwin, and wow! I am so happy I got to read this incredible stand alone debut from, fellow Aussie, Astrid Schotle, early! I am still reeling from the high this book gave me, it was phenomenal! The plot, world building and characters! All of it was amazing!

Four Dead Queens follows a ruthless, sassy thief named Keralie, navigating a world full of deception, conspiracy, love and self acceptance. She is joined by the stoic and handsome, Varin, who together, become insnared in the tangled web that has left the four ruling queens of Quadara dead. We get to see this story unfold through several different perspectives- that of Kearalie and the four queens of Quadara. Each queen rules over a seperate region of Quadara and is responsible for overseeing  different aspects of life such as art, agriculture, technological advancement and exportation and exploration.

To begin with, I wasn’t sure about this book. I was having a hard time connecting with some of the characters, however, it didn’t take long at all for me to become so engrossed in the world, that I had a hard time putting the book down. The characters were beautifully diverse and it was really enjoyable seeing diverse, female characters in positions of power. The world building was rich and thorough and the plot itself was full of genuine surprises! Have you ever looked up from a book and audibly gasped because you didn’t see a twist coming? Because I have now!

The pacing was good. It was jam packed full of action, which I really loved. It felt like the story progressed well. My only criticism would be that it was, at times, hard to discern how much time had passed throughout the story because it was all action, all the time. This wasn’t too big of an issue though due to the fact the story was so well done and the use of different character perspectives had the story flowing nicely.

Overall, I haven’t got anything really negative to say about this book. I really enjoyed the fact that the author was able to blend a dystopian fantasy novel with a murder mystery and have it work so seamlessly. Four Dead Queens kept me guessing all the way though and it was truly a pleasure to read! Because of this, I am giving it 4.5 stars!

January Reading Wrap-Up

January was a great reading month for me. With my (fairly) new baby taking up most of my time, I didn’t think I’d get much reading done, so my TBR was only two books long! I ended up reading another three! With five books already under my belt, I am well and truly on my way to reaching my Goodreads reading goal!

One of my goals for 2019 was to read more and start a blog so I could review what I read! I feel like I have really hit the ground running this month! If you’re interested to see a summary of what I read in January, check out the list below! All of my corresponding in-depth reviews will be linked.

My Review System

5 Stars: This. Book. Blew. My. Mind. I’d read it again and again and would highly recommend it.
4 Stars: The book was great! I enjoyed it and I may read it again.
3 Stars: I could take or leave this book. It had some interesting moments, but nothing too captivating.
2 Stars: Not a very good book, I’ll more than likely forget about its existence once it’s lost in the expanse of my book shelves.
1 Star: A book I wish I didn’t waste my time on. I did not enjoy it at all and would definitely not recommend it.

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Title: Scythe (5 stars)
Author: Neal Schusterman
Genre: YA Sci-fi/Dystopian

You can read my in-depth review here.

My Recommendation: I would recommend this book to everyone. E-VE-RY-ONE! I am not usually a huge fan of sci-fi, but this book had the perfect blend of genres and it was really captivating! It really gets you thinking about life, death and your morals as a human being! I cannot recommend this book enough! Go read it!

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Title: Thunderhead (3.5 stars)
Author: Neal Schusterman
Genre: YA Sci-fi/Dystopian

You can read my in-depth review here.

My Recommendation: If you enjoyed Scythe, I’d give this one a read. It wasn’t as captivating in my opinion and felt like it suffered from a little bit of “second book syndrome” in which reading it felt like it was more or less a bridging novel, necessary to expand the plot. I think because I enjoyed Scythe so thoroughly, this book had huge shoes to fill for me and it didn’t quite meet those expectations.

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Title: The Cruel Prince (5 stars)
Author: Holly Black
Genre: YA Fantasy

You can read my in-depth review here.

My Recommendation: I. Bloomin. Loved. This. Book. It was completely up my alley in terms of genre! It was utterly magical and had some awesome characters. I absolutely loved the overall plot and would highly recommend this book to fans of Cassandra Clare or Sarah J Maas.

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Title: Stalking Jack The Ripper (3 stars)
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Genre: YA Murder Mystery/Historical Fiction

You can read my in-depth review here.

My Recommendation: I’d recommend this book to anyone who doesn’t mind a light “whodunit” read. I found this book too predictable for my liking having picked who Jack the Ripper was within the first few chapters. The book was still entertaining enough due to the witty characters and Sherlock Homles vibes. However, it did feel like a lot of useless “filler” information was given to try and keep the mystery alive. It fell a little flat for me.

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Title: Truthwitch (3.5 stars)
Author: Susan Dennard
Genre: Fantasy

You can read my in-depth review here.

My Recommendation: I found this book really hard to review. It felt like the first section of one really long book, with no satisfying conclusions to any of the character storylines. I enjoyed the overall premise of this book, but I would not recommend it to fantasy lovers who enjoy in-depth lore or world building. It had some great moments and some really quippy character banter that I enjoyed. Be warned though, it has a pretty intense case of  “insta-love” that some might find cringey!

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Title: Twilight (chapters 1-5)
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

You can read my in-depth review here.

This month I re-read the first 5 chapters of Twilight, 14 years after I read it last. I documented my thoughts and feelings which you can find in my in-depth “review.” I will be continuing my read through of this book as the year progresses as I really disliked it and I’m not sure I can continue anytime soon! I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone, I found it to be utter trash. Ha! Sorry 15 year old Aimee!

Book Review: Stalking Jack The Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

Presented by James Patterson’s new children’s imprint, this deliciously creepy horror novel has a storyline inspired by the Ripper murders and an unexpected, blood-chilling conclusion…

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

The story’s shocking twists and turns, augmented with real, sinister period photos, will make this dazzling, #1 New York Times bestselling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.

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So I’m going to start this review off by saying, that although this book was fairly entertaining, I guessed which character would turn out to be “Jack The Ripper” when I got about three chapters in. I felt the book did too good of a job directing me away from the murderer, which in turn, made it much too obvious who it would be in the end. Unfortunately, this made the book less enjoyable for me. However, it was still a decent read.

As I said, the story itself was entertaining enough. I did find that there were times I grew bored with the amount of unnecessary details and scenes within the plot, once again, I presume, to take the readers attention off the overall “whodunit” aspect of the story and to keep you thinking. I really enjoyed the use of accurate historical facts throughout the story and I found the characters fairly enjoyable, particularly Thomas, who gave off some pretty fantastic Sherlock Holmes vibes. Our main protagonist, Audrey Rose, was a different story for me. I found her a complete contradiction half the time. Although she is described as a highly intellectual girl, one moment she would be ranting about womens rights and how women are just as capable and intelligent as men, only to then knowingly put herself in dangerous situations to impress a boy. This bothered me a lot and I found myself rolling my eyes more often than I’d have liked.

The story has a lot of potential, but I feel like the pacing was a little off. I don’t read a lot of murder mystery style novels though, so perhaps this is indicative of the genre. The story felt, to me, painfully slow to unfold with too much useless information given to try and maintain the mystery. This fell a little flat for me and made me care less about the whole story.

Over all, I didn’t mind Stalking Jack The Ripper. It had its moments and I really enjoyed some of the characters witty quips. I loved that we got a bit of romance as a sub plot, but even that was frustrating at times. It wasn’t until the very end that I felt any urgency to the plot that I really enjoyed. I highly doubt I will ever read this book again, because of this, I am giving it 3 stars.

Book Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

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Oh. My. Gosh. How do I even begin to describe how much I fell in love with this book!? I was blown away! I couldn’t put it down! I finished it and immediately purchased The Wicked King. The author truely out did herself. I was completely immersed in her world and characters.

This. Book. Was. Fantastic. It was right up my alley in terms of genre, I adore YA fantasy. Not only was the story itself beautifully done, the art work within the book was gorgeous as well, fitting to the story and adding another layer to the magic of the whole reading experience. The world building was phenomenal, I could feel the magic of Elfhame leaping off the pages, it was so intently described. Not only did I get that sense of mortal terror with the characters, but the world itself is even described as though it wants nothing more than to devour you whole. Enchanted drinks, poison fruit that makes you feel utter joy to the point of making you completely and utterly compliant and of course, beautiful, cruel fey all come together to create an incredible otherworldly story that sucks you in completely.

The characters were perfection. Even when I found myself disliking, or down right hating a character, it was very hard not to enjoy reading about them and their backstories. We get an incredibly smart and headstrong main character in the form of Jude, a mortal girl who, after seeing her parents murdered, is taken away (by said murderer), along with her half sister Vivi and her identical twin, Taryn, to Elfhame, the land of Faerie! Some characters were wonderfully frustrating, showing character depth and personality differences. I was also pleasantly surprised that not once did I feel bored or annoyed while reading from Jude’s perspective. Occasionally with YA novels I find the main character’s decision making something that really irks me! But not so with The Cruel Prince! The fey themselves are described as having the potential to be down right diabolical and cruel (and handsome! Oh heeeeeyyy Cardan), which is something I really enjoyed. It’s not often you get to read a more traditional take on fairies!

The plot of this book was so well done. There were twists and turns that kept me guessing and revelations I did not see coming! The overall story arc was incredibly gripping and I cannot wait to get my hands on The Wicked King and continue Jude’s story! Until then, you’ll find me at my post box over the next few weeks, waiting impatiently for the next book to arrive! Because of this, I am giving this immersive read 5 stars!

 

Book Review: Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?

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There is always a sense of trepidation when knowing you will be reviewing an absolutely stellar books sequel. All too often the first book in a series is the most compelling to me. Unfortunately, that’s exactly how I feel about Thunderhead. It seems rare that I find the second book in a series more than just a “bridging novel.” Thunderhead didn’t give me the same gripping, intense love that Scythe did and I am finding it hard to pinpoint exactly why it feels that way. (Speaking of which, If you haven’t already, and would like to read my spoiler free review of Scythe, you can do so by clicking here.)

Thunderhead picks up a year after the events of Scythe. We are introduced to new characters from the get go, which felt a little bit like “starting fresh” rather than a continuation of the original plot. I understand that these characters, one in particular, will have a bigger role in future novels, however I just felt that Thunderhead was, for lack of a better word, a little boring for the majority of its pages. It took me at least 200-300 pages into a 500 page novel before I started to enjoy the book as much as I did with Scythe. I never felt that “drive” to keep reading like I do with so many other books.

The main characters from Scythe, particularly Rowan, didn’t get much airtime until later in the book which was upsetting because his chapters where the ones I found most compelling. And although we are specifically told that certain characters serve a bigger purpose in the corrupt world of the Scythes, it’s not really explored all that much in this novel and again, felt like a set up for the following book. There was however, a couple of great moments throughout the book. Times where I did find myself on the edge of my seat or being blown away at how well the author can turn us in circles before we know what’s really going on! But like I said they were few and far between or were towards the end of the novel.

The “Thunderhead” itself is described as being essentially like the “iCloud” of today but has advanced enough to become a conscious being, which acts as a virtual “mother” so to speak, to the Earth and its inhabitants. I did enjoy this books exploration into how drastically humanity relies on technology, a sentiment that resonates with us even in reality, and what happens when that technology can no longer sit idly by when the corrupt begin to disrupt the peace and order it has maintained.

I will pick up the next book, if only because the last two hundred-ish pages were action packed enough for me to want to see what happens to these characters. We are left with quite a cliffhanger and some really brilliant and tragic revelations. I just wish I could have felt that same intrigue for more than just the last half of this book. That is why I’ll be giving this book 3.5 stars.

Bookish Gift Guide For Readers

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Ringing in the new year means a whole host of birthdays once again coming our way. I have often found it hard to find the perfect gift for certain loved ones in my life, but when it comes to bookworms, I’ve got you covered! So if you have a book lover in your life, why not try to find them something they will really love! Below are just a few ideas of gifts that every bookworm will be ecstatic to receive!

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Bookmarks

Save your book lover from using a receipt, business card or tissue as a bookmark! There are plenty of beautiful bookmark companies out there! Ink and Wonder is just one of these many companies, but it is easily my favourite! They have created what they call a “woodmark” which is made of very thin, ethically sourced wood. They have a whole range of beautifully vibrant and incredibly designed products, not just bookmarks, including tote bags, enamel pins and stickers!

Game of Thrones Woodmark from Ink & Wonder

Book Sleeves 

Chances are your bookworm carries a book with them everywhere they go. This often means throwing said book into their bag or even onto the back seat of their car! Book sleeves keep their books safe when they are on the move! A quick google search will have you covered in this category! There are plenty of beautifully handmade book sleeves on Etsy! A couple of wonderful book sleeve companies  I enjoy are Bookbeau and Thumbelara!

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Bohemian Book Sleeve from Thumbelara

Bookish Candles

I know what you’re probably thinking! “Candles? Really? That’s what I buy my mother when I don’t know what else to get her!” But these candles are different! They are themed! Themes usually range from different books/series to things bibliophiles love (like bookstores, cafes or the great hall from Harry Potter)

If your book lover is also an avid instagrammer (or bookstagrammer) candles also make fantastic props! A few of my favourite candle companies include Flick the Wick, Spark and Sparrow, In The Wick Of Time and Alchemy and Ink!

The Raven Cycle Candle from In The Wick of Time (Owlcrate exclusive)

A Book Subscription Box

A book subscription box is a monthly subscription, delivered to your door, full of amazing bookish content, including a book! This is on the pricier side, especially if you choose to subscribe for longer periods of time! However, one off purchases are available and it’s essentially a “lucky dip” for book nerds! Owlcrate, Fairyloot and The YA Chronicles are just a few of these fun boxes!

A Coffee/Tea Mug

Give me the name of one book lover who doesn’t enjoy a cup of coffee or tea while they are reading?! I’ll wait!

Seriously though, you can’t go wrong here! Especially if you find out if they have a particular book or series they absolutely adore and you find a mug that coincides with that book! I received the below Harry Potter themed mug in an Owlcrate subscription box and have been in love with it ever since!

Harry Potter Mug (Owlcrate exclusive)

A Reading Journal

a reading journal is a fun way for bookworms to track and plan out their reading for the week, month or even year! There are a lot of beautifully designed journals and a quick google search will have you on your way! A journal is a far more intimate and personal way for your book lover to track their reads as opposed to sites like Goodreads.com (which I also love)!

So there you have it! If you have a book lover in your life and you have no idea what book to buy them next, why not skip buying them a book or voucher all together and get them some fun bookish merch!

How To Gain Followers On Bookstagram

I am sorta new to Bookstagram. If only because most of the time I have had a Bookstagram I was also pregnant with my daughter and had a heck of a lot to think about, which means instagram went by the wayside for a little while. But! If you are completely new to Bookstagram (hi, lets be friends!) Bookstagram is an Instagram account dedicated to, you guessed it, books! My account grew from 0 followers to 600+ within the first month I started. I am in no way an expert and there are accounts with tens of thousands of people following them that probably know a lot more than I do. Below are just a few tips I picked up along the way. Had I been more consistent in my first year I would probably have had more growth than I do now. However, below I will discuss my first few months on Bookstagram and things I learned when I got started.

Choose A Theme By Letting It Come Naturally

When I started my Bookstagram or even my personal account (years ago) I never really decided on a set theme which made it hard for me to dive right in and decide what I wanted my Bookstagram to look like. However, I encourage you to take a look at your personal account, if you have one. What colours do you favour? Do you use a particular filter to make all your photos look similar? I went into Bookstagram with an aim of creating photos I enjoyed the look of. For me that means a lot of neutral tones, natural light and a little bit of what feels like ‘home’ when I look at them! For others, it can mean the total opposite. But I encourage you to let your theme develop naturally. You don’t want to be half way through posting and realise you aren’t enjoying your content at all because it isn’t really “you” in any way! Your style may slowly change over time, but as long as you are focusing on what you like and not trying to determine what other people want you to create, you’ll do just fine!

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Your theme will change and develop over time. (@readingsumpton)

Interact With Fellow Bookstagrammers

This one’s easy and in my opinion, the most important! Talk! Comment, message, like people’s content, but above all, be sincere. Don’t just comment “great pic :)” on every picture you see. Be engaging! This platform is as much for making friends as it is for getting your content out there and seen! I know I have made some wonderful friends on Bookstagram and you can too!

Don’t Ask For Shoutouts, But DO Ask For Advice

Don’t go to big accounts asking for a shoutout, they won’t like it. These people have worked damn hard to get that many followers. But if you have a question for them, whether it be “How did you manage to expand your follower base? Do you have any tips for someone starting out?” or “I love your photos, just wondering if you could let me know what camera you use?” most people won’t mind this at all and it builds relationships with more successful bookstagrammers! I have been lucky enough to have some of my more successful friends give me shoutouts and its honestly, the most wonderful thing in the world when it comes naturally and they are not feeling forced into it!

Camera Or Iphone, It Doesn’t Matter

I know a lot of people use DSLR’s to capture their Bookstagram content. You want to know what I use? Well it’s your lucky day because Imma tell you! I use an iPhone 7 Plus. Yep, I use an iPhone! I have even had people ask me what camera I use for my photographs before! So don’t be hesitant to start your gram purely because you feel your camera isn’t good enough! I would however, get accustomed to using the iPhone camera settings! Make sure you learn how to control the exposure and focus of your iPhone camera (its as easy as a tap on the screen, but get friendly with it and learn how to capture the best photo you possibly can)! I started my Bookstagram with the intent of it being fun and easy, this meant, pointing and shooting with my iPhone!

Make Good Use Of Hashtags

If you look at any number of accounts with a higher follower count, you will notice that nearly all of them use hashtags to ensure their content has a wider reach. Below are just a few of the tags I have seen and used! By using hashtags you are expanding the amount of people who can see your content from just the people who follow you, to people who browse and follow certain hashtags!

#bookstagram, #bookstagrammer, #bookish, #igreads, #yareads, #reader, #bibliophile, #booklover, #booktography, #instabooks

You can find the more popular hashtags by checking out the accounts of Bookstagrammers you follow and seeing what they are tagging their pictures with. This really helps expand your reach.

Host A Giveaway (Optional & Not Necessary)

When I got to 500 follows, I decided to host a giveaway! This is totally optional, but it is a huge part of why my follower base climbed from 500 – 800 in about 2 weeks! I will organise another post on how to run a giveaway later, but if you plan to do one, I encourage you to research as much information as you can before you decide to open a giveaway! Look into other peoples giveaways and check out some bookish blog posts about it. It can be tricky to strike a balance as you don’t want people outside the Bookstagram community entering, only to unfollow you when the giveaway is over! So as I said, I highly recommend doing your research before you host a giveaway!

Most Importantly, Just Have Fun

So those are my tips for anyone looking to join the Bookstagram community! My follower count is still steadily growing, but above all I am having fun. Bookstragam should be a way to get to know more people who enjoy the same things as you. Don’t obsess over the number of followers you gain or lose. Just focus on creating content you are proud of and make some friends! If you are interested in following my account, I am @readingsumpton.

See ya round friends!