Four Dead Queens Review

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 *SPOILER ALERT*

SYNOPSIS

Four dead queens. Three days to catch a killer. Two forbidden romances.
One shocking twist you won’t see coming.

Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington may seem harmless, but she’s, in fact, one of Quadara’s most skilled thieves and a liar. Varin, on the other hand, is an honest, upstanding citizen of Quadara’s most enlightened region, Eonia. He runs afoul of Keralie when she steals a package from him, putting his life in danger. When Varin attempts to retrieve the package, he and Keralie both find themselves entangled in a conspiracy that leaves all four of Quadara’s queens dead.

With no other choices and on the run from Keralie’s former employer, the two decide to join forces, endeavoring to discover who has killed the queens and save their own lives in the process. When their reluctant partnership blooms into a tenuous romance, they must overcome their own dark secrets in hopes of a future together that seemed impossible just days before. But first they have to stay alive and untangle the secrets behind the nation’s four dead queens.

~~~

First off, I enjoyed the mystery and atmosphere of this book. From the layered culture that felt like a fun blend of fantasy and sci-fi–kings and queens and carriages mixed alongside holograms and futuristic suits formed from microorganisms that regulate your body temperature, help you heal, etc.–to the murder mystery added into the mix, I was immediately drawn into the concept. After all, fantasy, sci-fi, and mystery are all genres I love to read!

The plot kept me guessing, too. For someone who grew up on Agatha Christie and her ability to ceaselessly shock readers with her books, the ending definitely surprised me. I kept suspecting the inspector, to be honest. At first, I was a little disappointed when Arebella came into the picture…it felt, too obvious. Of course it is Marguerite’s missing daughter! However, I thought the sci-fi-tech twist of Mackiel using Keralie to commit the murders was pretty clever. The clues were all there, and even I failed to see them.

There were, however, a few places where the plot was fuzzy or boring for me. In the beginning, many of the queens’ narratives were slow-paced, because they told rather than showed a lot. There were a few info dumps to explain Quadara’s history, and those dragged for me. A few times I was tempted even to skip the queens’ POV chapters (I didn’t). Then more queens began to die and I was dragged in, wanting to know what was happening and half-hoping one of them would manage to survive.

Another aspect that bothered me was the way time was handled at the end of the story. I found myself a little confused about the passage of time when Keralie and Varin were in the palace–four days passed? It felt like less time. What did they eat? How often did they sleep? It felt a little garbled to me. I understand, now that I’ve read the ending and know what was happening to Keralie, that that was at least partially intentional on the author’s part, but these issues pulled me out of the story a little. It was hard to focus on the action when I was wondering, Where the heck have they gotten food while they’ve been hiding in the palace for four days?

One final thing that really nagged at me was the moment when they overheard the inspector, and he later revealed he’d known they were there. I thought it was weird that he knew but didn’t try to capture and question them sooner. He admitted he thought they were suspicious, but did nothing about it while queens were continuing to die? It was because of things like this that I spent so much time suspecting this guy!

In the end, I found myself desperately wanting Keralie to succeed in her mission to save the queens. It was a bit of a relief to see at least one of them survive, because after it all I felt a little bit more connected to the queens and wanted them to survive. I liked that twist as well, since it gave Marguerite the opportunity to confront her daughter. The plot twists shocked me. I enjoyed watching Keralie’s character develop, and I thought she and Varin were cute together, adding in just enough romance to give us some swoon-worthy moments. Overall, it was an enjoyable read, with a unique genre mash-up that I would like to see more of in books, and I’m interested to see what Astrid Scholte writes next.

Always Never Yours & If I’m Being Honest Review

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Because I read these books back-to-back, I’m doing back-to-back reviews of them. As always, beware of SPOILERS if you haven’t read these books.

Always Never Yours Review:

I loved this book! It was exactly the cute, fluffy read I was looking for. With a delightfully bold and witty heroine and an adorable and intelligent love interest, the banter was great, the romance was swoon-worthy, and the Shakespearean references made my nerdy heart happy. Plus, seeing the twist that the authors put onto a classic Shakespeare play and letting us see it from a different perspective was fun and refreshing.

I also appreciated the way family was portrayed in this book. Though Megan doesn’t have perfect relationships with all her family members, she loves them. It was a beautiful depiction of brokenness in family being mended back together in a new way…despite the fact that hurt will always linger, it shows readers that healing and happiness can be found again. Even when your family falls apart. Considering how many teens have to deal with divorce and step-parents, I found this to be a compassionate, heart-felt depiction of that struggle.

Yes, some of this book’s plot was predictable, but aren’t plots always a bit predictable in a rom-com? I think that is half the appeal. 🙂 I loved seeing this happy ending come together and our heroine grow into herself and become even more confident. She finds that she doesn’t always have to hang back and subject herself to behind-the-scenes roles, or sell herself short. When Megan realizes she’s been letting people walk on her–even her best friend–she doesn’t fall apart. She doesn’t accept poor treatment. She learns to value herself and believe in herself, whether it’s in daily life or on the stage.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun, light-hearted teen romance. 

If I’m Being Honest Review:

This book still included the fun Shakespeare references, a twist on one of his classic plays, a strong heroine, and cute romance, but, in my opinion, it also dealt with some heavier topics. Cameron is, at first glance, a classic mean girl. It was almost hard to read the book in the beginning, with how manipulative and mean she was at times.

However, this book handled Cameron’s “transformation” in a great way. I loved the message that someone can maturely face their mistakes, apologize for them, strive to be kinder, and yet still remain true to who they are deep down.

The dysfunctional family was again addressed in this book, but this time with a mother that seems to be fighting bipolar disorder and a nasty, verbally abusive and distant father. Cameron has had to be the adult for too long in her house as her mother struggles and dips into bouts of depression and pines for a cruel man.

Seeing how Cameron grows, how she learns to accept that maybe her father isn’t worth it, and how she develops new friendships and comes to terms with losing some old ones–all of this was almost more interesting to me than the romance! Not that I didn’t love Cameron and Brendan’s banter.

After these two adorable books with heroines you love to root for, I can’t wait to see what these two authors come up with next. I’m sure Time of Our Lives will be as wonderful…I just wish we didn’t have to wait until next spring for it!

Call It What You Want Review

4.5 Stars

*I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher. This is my honest review.*

**I tried to keep this review SPOILER-FREE**

This is only my second Brigid Kemmerer book, and I think it has solidly placed her among my favorite authors.

I loved the way she dealt with grey areas and controversial topics with grace and compassion. This story covered a variety of characters in a variety of situations and struggles. None of the main characters were fully innocent, but they were all relatable and all people you wanted to root for.

Characters like Rob and Maegan are held accountable for their mistakes, but they also have second chances to make things right. All of the topics Kemmerer covered, she handled well by showing that there are always two sides to every story. She didn’t skim over difficult topics or problems real teens might have to wrestle with. Instead, she faced them head-on. It was refreshing to see her characters address them with honesty and always work to pursue what was right.

We see consequences for bad choices and we see realistic struggles even for good choices made. I will say that I saw one of the big plot twists coming, but it didn’t really seem to take away from the book overall, so I only took off a half star. (Because personally, I like to be surprised.)

I look forward to reading more of Kemmerer’s work!

I Love You So Mochi Review

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*Spoiler Alert*

This book was exactly the light, romantic, cute book I was looking for. I loved that it also revolved around Japan and learning about Japanese culture–it felt like I was getting to experience some of the tourist spots and try some of the Japanese cuisine along with Kimi. And of course, the theme of family ties–lost, begun, or rekindled–were heart-warming. It was endearing to see Kimi’s grandparents get to know her and for her to get to know them. I loved seeing her bond with them! Maybe, at times, even more than I loved swooning over her budding romance with Akira.

The one thing that consistently frustrated me was how obvious Kimi’s solution was. I felt like I wanted to slap her a few times and yell it in her face. How long will it take you to see that your passion is staring you in the face?! Gah! On the other hand, I understand that the author was painting a picture of just how much Kimi was letting her mother’s dreams for her, as well as her own self-imposed guilt/need to please her mother, were blinding her and taking over her identity.

It was thrilling to watch her embrace her dream with courage. In the end I had the exact fluffy, happy feelings I wanted from a book like this!