Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

32454291In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.


Title: Circe
Author: Madeline Miller
Genre: Fantasy/Mythology/Retelling
Publisher: Lee Boudreaux Books
Source: Hardcover
Release Date: April 10th, 2018
Rating: ★★★★

I was hesitant to review this book, only because I wasn’t sure if I had everything to add to what’s already been said. I also don’t feel like I could ever do Circe justice, but I’ll try.

This book drew my eye very early on. I love Greek mythology and retellings, and Circe is such a fascinating character to me. I’ll admit, this book took me a long time to read. Three months, to be exact. I kept finding myself putting it down and moving on to other books, then coming back to it. It wasn’t because it didn’t interest me, but rather that it is a very character-driven, inner-monologue focused, slow-burn story. I couldn’t skim or speed-read; I needed to absorb every single word on the pages.

“But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.”

A majority of this book is spent on the island of Aiaia where the goddess Circe is exiled. If you are unfamiliar with Greek mythology and the Odyssey, like I was, much of the content in this book will be new for you. Centuries and generations of Greek myths are folded into this book, but they are told in stories by visiting characters. We don’t actually see any of the action, but action and adventure is not what this story is about.

“My divinity shines in me like the last rays of the sun before they drown in the sea. I thought once that gods are the opposite of death, but I see now that they are more dead than anything, for they are unchanging, and can hold nothing in their hands.”

This is the origin story of Circe and her development over centuries of love and loss. She is a goddess with the voice of a mortal, who empathizes with mortals and loathes the ways of all other self-serving gods and goddesses. This is not a happy story. She suffers greatly, but everything that happens to her helps shape her into the strong, powerful, and somewhat jaded witch that she is. She isn’t perfect; at times she is a villain, at times she is a heroine, but it’s interesting to see how she grows from these experiences.

“Her eyes held mine, gray and steady. It is a common saying that women are delicate creatures, flowers, eggs, anything that may be crushed in a moment’s carelessness. If I had ever believed it, I no longer did.”

The underlying theme in Circe is how the stories of men are often glorified, while the heroines are undermined no matter how prominent their own role was. This is a very women-empowering, sex-positive book about finding yourself in a world where men are given agency, and women are reduced to being in the background.

“The thought was this: that all my life had been murk and depths, but I was not a part of that dark water. I was a creature within it.”

Book Blogger Confession Tag

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I was tagged by the wonderful Melanie @ meltotheany. This was so fun to do!

1. Which book, most recently, did you not finish?

26892110[1]The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

I wanted to like this one, I really did! It ended up just being a little too out there for me. It could have been a right-book-wrong-time situation, so who knows. Maybe I’ll return to it someday.

2. Which book is your guilty pleasure?

15858248[1]Wallbanger by Alice Clayton

There are so many New Adult romances I’ve read that would easily fall into the “guilty pleasure” category. Like, there are so many trashy romances out there that I’ve enjoyed reading, but aren’t objectively good, if that makes sense. I picked this one because it’s lighthearted and funny, and other people seem to enjoy it just as much as I did.

3. Which book do you love to hate?

41865[1]Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

If you weren’t obsessed with these books in 2007, then you’re lying. It’s funny to look back on how much I loved these books at the height of their popularity, whereas I now realize how poorly written and insanely problematic this series was. Still, Twilight got me back into reading, so I can’t hate these books too much.

4. Which book would you like to throw into the sea?

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Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L.James

I’m not one to judge a trashy book for being trashy, but this was just way too dark and emotional to ever be enjoyable for me. I see it everywhere, but I have no interest in ever finishing this series.

5. Which book have you read the most?

3[2]Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

I was a huge nerd for these books back in the day (*Istillmightbe*) and must have read this series from start to finish at least four times.

6. Which book would you hate to receive as a present?

656[1]War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

I feel guilty if I receive books as gifts and don’t read them, but War and Peace is so intimidating that it would sit untouched until the end of time. The classic status would never be enough to get me interested in this 1300 page monster.

7. Which book could you not live without?

25489134[1]The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

This question is a little dramatic, but it would be unfortunate if I never got to read The Bear and the Nightingale. This book is so lovely and different than anything I’ve ever read before. It raised the bar for my standards and changed the way I approach new books.

8. Which book made you the angriest?

27774758[1]An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

It may seem like a negative, but the fact that this book made me so angry is a testament to how good it actually is. The world portrayed in this book is brutal. The characters go through hell, and are made to do terrible things to survive. The tension is unreal, only because there doesn’t seem to be a limit to how far the antagonists will go.

9. Which book made you cry the most?

35604686The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

I’ve never cried reading a book, but this one did melt my icy heart just a fraction. This book deals with suicide, grief, and acceptance. It’s a wonderful story, and I think everyone should read it.

10. Which book cover do you hate the most?

22544764[2]Uprooted by Naomi Novik

This may be an unpopular opinion, but I really don’t like this cover. I thought the foreign editions were much better (in fact, I bought the UK paperback from The Book Depository). But to each their own! The story inside is amazing, and that’s all that really matters.

 

I Tag:

Norrie @ Reading Under the Blankie
Kayla @ Books and Blends
Danielle @ Life of a Literary Nerd

Review: From Lukov With Love by Mariana Zapata

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If someone were to ask Jasmine Santos to describe the last few years of her life with a single word, it would definitely be a four-letter one.

After seventeen years—and countless broken bones and broken promises—she knows her window to compete in figure skating is coming to a close.

But when the offer of a lifetime comes in from an arrogant idiot she’s spent the last decade dreaming about pushing in the way of a moving bus, Jasmine might have to reconsider everything.

Including Ivan Lukov.


Title: From Lukov With Love
Author: Mariana Zapata
Genre: Romance
Publisher: Self-published
Source: eBook
Release Date: February 1st, 2018
Rating: ★★

I wanted to love this. After reading other reviews, I really thought that I would. Unfortunately, it was just okay for me.

First, the things I did like:

1. The figure skating
2. Jasmine’s take-no-shit attitude
3. Creative use of swearing
4. The banter was fun, for a little while

Now, the things I didn’t like:

1. The constant mention of characters blinking. This is my biggest complaint about this book. The constant mention of Ivan and Jasmine blinking at each other was just surreal to me. It was described like it was a voluntary action instead of an automatic human reflex. There was literally a line in the book that went something like “I blinked. He blinked. Then it was my turn to blink.” Wtf? Once would be enough, but lines like this were spread throughout the entire book.

2. The banter and sharp comebacks were fun, at first. I love hate-to-love romances, a la The Hating Game, but the bickering kept going until the very end. After awhile, it just seemed childish. Like when Jasmine was sick and Ivan was caring for her and trying to get her to take her medicine, and she just kept fighting him over it. I wanted to reach through the book and shake her like bitch just take the medicine you keep saying you want to get better so just fucking do it ugh.

3. The whole “we’re only partners for one year” thing seemed like a contrived plot device that was just kind of brushed away in the end, and Jasmine was made to feel stupid for thinking it was true, even though Ivan repeated it several times throughout the book like it was his mantra.

4. Too much of Jasmine’s inner monologue. I don’t think this book needed to be as long as it was. It seemed like there were massive chunks of text in between each bit of dialogue, which slowed down the pace and resulted in a lot of skimming from me. In contrast, there were a lot of scenes that were briefly mentioned in passing, though I feel like they could have added more to the book. Skating was a significant aspect, but very little time was actually spent on the ice.

I really did enjoy reading this book, for the most part. There were just too many things that bothered me, and I couldn’t really get past that

Review: Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

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My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?


Title: Sometimes I Lie
Author:
Alice Feeney
Genre: 
Psychological Thriller
Publisher:
Flatiron Books
Source: 
Hardcover
Release Date: 
March 13th, 2018
Rating: 
★★★★★

There are three things you should know about this book:
1. There are three timelines.
2. The twists will probably melt your brain.
3. Not everyone will feel the same way I did.

Oh, you crazy little book. What is this mind-fuckery? Those twists. That ending. I feel like I just did mental gymnastics and I haven’t quite recovered from it.

“There is always a moment before an accident when you know you’re going to get hurt but there is nothing you can do to protect yourself. You can raise your arms in front of your face, you can close your eyes, you can scream, but you know it won’t change what’s coming.”

Amber is in a coma, but is aware of everything going on around her. She has no memory of the accident that put her in this state, but has her suspicions. Was her husband involved? Her sister? What about the mysterious man who visits her at night?

By listening to the voices around her, Amber tries to piece together the events that lead to her coma. The present day timeline is interspersed with the events preceding the accident, as well as childhood diary entries.

I’m usually pretty good (annoyingly so) at guessing the twists and reveals before they happen. That wasn’t the case with this book. This story is written in three different timelines, all of which tie perfectly together in a way that will keep you guessing. For me, everything was a surprise. As soon as I began to believe one thing, it would be crushed in the following chapter. All of the plot twists were so delightfully unexpected. None of the characters were particularly likable, even the narrator. You can’t trust anyone in this story. Everyone lies. Everyone has secrets.

“There are always ripples in the water before a big wave. I’ve learned already to just let it take me; far easier to surrender and let it wash me up when it’s good and ready. I fear one day the dark water will swallow me down for good, and I won’t always be able to resurface.”

I really liked that this book is relatively short (it’s less that 300 pages). The pacing was fast, instead of there being a drawn-out plot that would give you too much time to speculate, which I feel like is the case with many psychological thrillers. Every chapter is important.

With that being said, I think that there were some loose ends left for the imagination that may bother some people. I could have used a few more answers (and an explanation for that shocker of an ending) but this didn’t make the story any less mind-bending or enjoyable.

The less you know going into this book, the better.

Wrap-Up, March 2018

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I’ve been pretty busy, so it’s been a pretty slow month for reading overall. Still, I’ve managed to review a couple books and read some others that have been on my TBR. I just came back from a trip to Miami and I have another trip coming up in April, but my goal is to read at least ten books in the coming month (don’t hold me to it).


Books I’ve Reviewed:

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw
Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan


Other Books I’ve Read:

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
This book was so fun! I didn’t know how much I wanted to read a romantic comedy until I had it in my hands. I fully intended on saving this for the beach on my trip, but I couldn’t help but finish it in one day. It was funny, sexy, and very enjoyable. Why can’t I have a Joshua Templeman in my office? Life isn’t fair.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
I’ve wanted to read another Neil Gaiman novel after reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and I’m so glad I finally did. This book was dark and fantastical and mysterious. Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar were probably the cruelest/funniest/most endearing villains I’ve ever encountered, and I grew to adore all the characters. The last 100 pages or so had me on the edge of my seat, and I love how everything unfolded.


Currently Reading:

I told myself I was only gonna read one book at a time, but here I am, starting two new books. To be fair, I picked up Sometimes I Lie from the airport and started it mid-flight. I’ll probably finish that one, then move on to finishing the The Snow Child.


Next to be Read (For Now):

The Best Books to Bring to the Beach

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In honor of my upcoming trip out of the frozen New England tundra and onto the warm, sunny Miami Beach, I decided to list some of my favorite beach reads! I always wait until the last minute to pack, so I’ll most likely end up overpacking (per usual). Don’t pull a Becca, and plan ahead for your beach necessities!

When I think beach reads, I mostly think of romance or contemporary fiction. I need something light that doesn’t require too much attention or effort, but still keeps me hooked.

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Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

A murder mystery that takes place in a beach town. I actually did read this on the beach, and would recommend this to anyone in the mood for something highly addictive.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

A fast-paced mystery/thriller with an unreliable narrator. This was much better than I expected. It’s easy to read, and will keep you guessing!

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

A romance with an unexpected twist that completely shattered me.

All the Missing Girls by Jessica Strawser

A mystery/suspense novel about a young woman who returns to the town she grew up in to face a crime committed in her past. This one isn’t exactly a light read. Since it’s written in reverse, it’s a little bit more of a challenge to know what’s going on. Still, it was highly entertaining!

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

A short, atmospheric book that is both magical and frightening.


What I’m Bringing:

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The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

I’m so excited to read this! It’s not new, but for some reason I’ve been hearing a lot about this book lately. I’m definitely in the mood to read a workplace hate-to-love rom-com, so this is what I plan on bringing along on my trip.

Review: Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

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When a group of neighborhood women gathers, wine in hand, around a fire pit where their backyards meet one Saturday night, most of them are just ecstatic to have discovered that their baby monitors reach that far. It’s a rare kid-free night, and they’re giddy with it. They drink too much, and the conversation turns personal.

By Monday morning, one of them is gone.

Everyone knows something about everyone else in the quirky small Ohio town of Yellow Springs, but no one can make sense of the disappearance. Kristin was a sociable twin mom, college administrator, and doctor’s wife who didn’t seem all that bothered by her impending divorce—and the investigation turns up more questions than answers, with her husband, Paul, at the center. For her closest neighbor, Clara, the incident triggers memories she thought she’d put behind her—and when she’s unable to extract herself from the widening circle of scrutiny, her own suspicions quickly grow. But the neighborhood’s newest addition, Izzy, is determined not to jump to any conclusions—especially since she’s dealing with a crisis of her own.

As the police investigation goes from a media circus to a cold case, the neighbors are forced to reexamine what’s going on behind their own closed doors—and to ask how well anyone really knows anyone else.


Title: Not That I Could Tell
Author: Jessica Strawser
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Source: Hardcover
Release Date: March 27th, 2018
Rating: ★★

I hate giving this book two stars, but it took me ten days to read it. I kept waiting to get sucked in, and it just didn’t happen.

It started off interesting enough, with the mysterious disappearance of Kristin and her two children. The night prior to the disappearance, Kristen and several other women from the neighborhood are drinking wine around a campfire. The next morning, Kristin is gone, and the neighborhood is left to speculate the cause. Was it about money? Was there something sinister involving her ex-husband, Paul?

The story is told through the two main perspectives of Clara and Izzy, two neighboring women. Interspersed between each chapter, there are very brief (one to two page) introspective chapters from Kristin’s perspective, describing what was going through her head and why she needed to disappear. These pages alone provide a mysterious and foreboding atmosphere, but I didn’t get that from the rest of the novel.

To be honest, I was just bored. The book wasn’t bad by any means and some parts were interesting, but nothing ever really hooked me. I was skimming so much toward the end that I almost missed the twist, which was surprising but didn’t affect the story all that much. There was never any real threat of danger, and the person I was lead to think was the bad guy was *shocker* the bad guy. Throughout the entire middle portion, I kept wondering if anything I was reading was actually relevant. It just… didn’t work for me.

Maybe this just wasn’t the book for me. I almost feel like I would have enjoyed it more if I was a mother, with the constant references to family life and the pains of raising children/being a stay-at-home mom. I think a lot of people will find these women relatable, but that wasn’t the case for me.

Sunday Spent in Bed With…The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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With Circe being my most anticipated release for the month of April, I really wanted to read Madeline Miller’s debut novel, The Song of Achilles! I finally picked this book up, and I’m loving it so far.

11250317Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

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I adore mythology and retellings. The Song of Achilles stays true to the original Greek mythology while offering its own spin. It’s more romantic than I expected, but I don’t mind. I think there might be a little more action going forward, with both Achilles and Patroclus going to Troy.

I’m a little nervous to finish this book since I know how the story ends, and I’m not really in the mood to have my heart ripped out of my chest (stay tuned). I’m hoping to finish this at some point today!

Review: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

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Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.


Title: The Wicked Deep
Author: Shea Ernshaw
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: Hardcover
Release Date: March 6th, 2018
Rating: ★★★

“From the black waters of the harbor, their song sinks into dreams, permeates the brittle grass that grows along steep cliffs and rotting homes. It settles into the stones that hold up the lighthouse; it floats and swirls in the air until it’s all you can taste and breathe.”

The Wicked Deep is a dark, magical, atmospheric read. I enjoyed it, but there were a few things that bugged me.

This book is about a small coastal town in Oregon called Sparrow. This town is cursed by three witchy sisters who were drowned by the town’s residents two hundred years ago. Every year, the Swan sisters return to inhabit the bodies of girls and lure boys out to the ocean where they drown to death.

“It’s as predictable as the tide and the moon. It ebbs and flows. Death comes and it goes.”

I guessed the twists pretty early on, but the writing was compelling enough to keep me interested until the end. I really liked that each chapter was separated by short chapters (usually only a page or two long) of flashbacks from when the Swan sisters were still alive. These mini-chapters added to the dark, mysterious atmosphere of the book.

One thing that really bothered me was the fact that there were basically no adults in this book. Throughout the whole thing I just kept thinking, where tf are your parents? All the teenagers aside from Bo and Penny were insufferable and shallow. Despite the death that occurs every year, none of the townsfolk seemed to have any real sense of danger. In fact, they throw parties and celebrate the “Swan season” like its all just a big spectacle, or just a quirky facet of their town. With a population of 2000 people and multiple boys dying every summer, you would think that people would be a little more devastated. After all, in a town that small, everyone knows everyone. Instead, they throw parties, get drunk, and dare each other to go into the water for fun, even though most people believe in the sisters and are aware of the danger.

“For in a place like Sparrow, rumors spread quickly, like small pox or cholera, confusing the mind, rooting itself into the fabric of a town until there’s no telling truth from speculation.”

I never became invested in the insta-love romance, which was a pretty big part of this book, but it didn’t really bother me. I actually like the way the romantic aspects were handled (SPOILER SPOILER highlight at your own risk: Although Bo and Penny have sex, which is all fine and good except for the fact that Penny is actually Hazel? So she’s having sex with someone else’s body? A little icky and a lot wrong.) So yeah.

There were some things that weren’t really answered, but maybe its better off that way. There were also some weird punctuation mishaps, which most people probably won’t care about or even notice, but its something I’m a huge stickler for.

With all that being said, The Wicked Deep was an enjoyable read. The writing was good and the concept was unique. I would recommend this to anyone in the mood for a mysterious, romantic, atmospheric book about witches and revenge.

Review: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

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Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?


Title: To Kill a Kingdom
Author: Alexandra Christo
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
Publisher: Feiwel Friends
Source: Hardcover
Release Date: March 6th, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

This book is The Little Mermaid, if The Little Mermaid was darker, grittier, nastier, and spent more time aboard a pirate ship than on land. In short, it’s actually nothing like The Little Mermaid. The basic premise is the same, but Alexandra Christo has taken a fluffy fairy tale and made it so much more. As much as I love the original story, I love this twisted version even more.

I adore Lira and Elian. The characters are all so well-developed, even the secondary characters. The witty banter between everyone is just so fun, and I couldn’t help but find all their little quirks endearing, from the arrogant Kye to the strong-minded Madrid to the quiet but fierce Torik. To Kill a Kingdom is split between the perspectives of Elian and Lira, and they both have their own distinct voices and unique personalities. They’re both arrogant, sharp-tongued, and ruthless, but underneath it all, they are caring and good-hearted. Lira especially goes through a huge transformation, from a murderous and cold-hearted siren princess to someone who cares and empathizes with humans.

“His face is roguish when I sneer up at him, nothing like the sweet and gentle princes I’ve taken before. The ones whose hearts are buried beneath my bed.”

The word-building in this book is very well done. You have the cruel and nasty world under the sea where kindness is seen as weakness and savagery is strength. Sirens steal the hearts of their victims and keep them as trophies, while mermaids and mermen are more fish than human and are just as cruel. Above ground, we see many different kingdoms and languages. There’s political intrigue, as everyone seems to scheme for their own benefit and use each other as means to an end.

I loved To Kill a Kingdom. It’s dark, twisted, and witty. There was romance, but it was secondary to the main story, and seeing the build-up and the character development was way more fun, anyway. As much as I would love to see more from these characters, I appreciate the fact that it’s a standalone because I thought the story wrapped up perfectly. I can’t wait to read more from this author!

“We continue on that way, swords arcing through the air, our breath ragged. Soon there’s sun in the distance, or perhaps even moonlight. Everything is muted and as Lira swoops her blade down on mine once more, I let it all fall away. My mission, my kingdom. The world. They exist somewhere other than in this moment, and now there is only this. Me, my ship, and a girl with oceans in her eyes.”