The Darkest Star by Jennifer Armentrout | Sister Review

The Darkest Star by Jennifer Armentrout | Sister Review

This review is a combined effort between me and my sister. We read a book and review it by asking each other questions related to the title we are reviewing. The idea is to provide you with two different perspectives.

This review might contain spoilers! We might discuss any part of the story (sometimes the questions we ask each other might be general, while other times they might touch upon something specific about the ending, etc). If you have not read the book and do not wish for the story to be spoiled you might want to avoid this post!

The Darkest Star by Jennifer Armentrout | Sister ReviewThe Darkest Star Series: Origin #1
Published by Tor Teen on October 30th 2018
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
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four-stars

When seventeen-year-old Evie Dasher is caught up in a raid at a notorious club known as one of the few places where humans and the surviving Luxen can mingle freely, she meets Luc, an unnaturally beautiful guy she initially assumes is a Luxen...but he is, in fact, something much more powerful. Her growing attraction for Luc will lead her deeper and deeper into a world she'd only heard about, a world where everything she thought she knew will be turned on its head...

Iris asks Merel

It’s been quite some time since we last set foot in the world of the Lux. Did you need a refresher on all that had happened in the original series or did you have no problems jumping back in? 

I did not reread the books before starting TDS, and I found that it wasn’t really necessary to do so. Even though this series is a continuation of The Lux series, I think you could read it without having read the previous books, you just wouldn’t understand some references and jokes. Had I had the time, I totally would’ve reread the entire series! I did have to think about certain things every now and then, but in the end, it all fell into place and the story came rushing back quickly!

The anticipation of a new book set in this world was quite nerve-wracking, did The Darkest Star live up to your expectations? 

I tried very hard not to have any expectations (though that was rather hard, especially with all the teasers leading up to the release!) since I loved the Lux series. I think Armentrout did a great job. She didn’t try to turn The Darkest Star in a Lux series 2.0. The characters were all their own, as was the storyline. I loved how some of the characters made their returns, and I think they might play a bigger role in the books to come.  I think Armentrout did a great job writing The Darkest Star. The book made me laugh out loud a lot, the story was realistic following the earlier books, it was action-packed and the characters were realistically flawed as much as they are lovable!

There is quite some time between the Lux series and The Darkest Star being published, looking at the two of them together do you feel there is a difference between the two (e.g. writing style)?  

There is! I have to admit that it’s been a while since I’ve read the Lux series. (I feel a reread coming up!) But what I do remember is that Jennifer Armentrout has a certain way with her dialogue. She did this as well in The Darkest Star. The main characters are different people with different personalities, but the bickering and humour is ever present! The books are probably not written in the exact same writing style since I feel like she grew and changed as a writer, but this didn’t bother me. It’s not like the two series don’t fit into each other.

Jennifer Armentrout’s books always tend to make me laugh because there’s so many funny scenes and great dialogue present. What scene made you laugh? 

Oh, this question is impossible to answer! There were a lot of moments that made me laugh out loud, which you know because we’ve talked/skyped/facetimed/texted about it quite a lot! But for me to have to choose one particular scene… that’s impossible! All I could say to other people is: Read this series, because it will brighten your day and make you laugh out loud! Not to mention, you’ll find yourself with another book boyfriend, haha.

There’s quite some contrast between the way the Lux live in the first books (in secrecy) and the way they live/are being treated in The Darkest Star. How did you perceive this?  

I think The Darkest Star was realistic in the way this changed. In book four of The Lux series the apocalypse pretty much started, and after what happened at the end of book four and in the final installment of the series, it wouldn’t have been realistic had people just continued as if nothing had happened. Even though the way of living for the Luxen changed in one way, it did not change that much in another. Sure, they no longer have to pretend to be human and try to blend in. However, in this new reality, they still aren’t free to be themselves and to roam as they wish. The Luxen are forced to register and wear disablers so they lose their powers. Moreover, as the story continues you learn how the tension keeps getting worse, and how there is even talk about “Luxen only communities” in order to separate the humans and Luxen at all. And I think we all know what happens once you start putting different groups in ‘communities or reservations’ separated from each other…

Merel asks Iris

So, another Jennifer Armentrout book! The Darkest Star reconnects us with a world we were already familiar with, the one from the Lux series. Did it live up to your expectations?

Yes! It most definitely lived up to my expectations in the way that every book by Jennifer Armentrout does. It was great fun to read and I felt that it was so easy to dive back into the world of the Lux. Though I very much enjoyed this book, I do have to admit that I loved it less than I thought I would. This had nothing to do with the quality of the book (this was superb as always), but rather with the characters they concerned. I like Luc and Evie and I think they’re great characters, but I might just love Katy and Daemon slightly more.

What was (were) your favourite part(s) of the book? 

I think my favourite parts where the nudges towards the earlier books and how The Darkest Star builds onwards from all that happened in the Lux series. What I loved just as much is that even though these earlier events from the other books matter, Luc and Evie’s story stands on its own as well.

What did you think of the main characters? 

Smart-assed, witty and a lot of heart. Honestly, what’s not to like?

One of my favourite parts of Jennifer’s book is the dialogue. What’s your opinion about this? 

Jennifer Armentrout definitely has a way with dialogue that is witty and a lot of fun to read. The Darkest Star is no exception! The dialogue plays a huge role in what makes these books so attractive. It truly wouldn’t be the part of the Lux series if the dialogue wasn’t on point (and it really was!).

TDS takes place four years after the last Lux novel. Do you think the setting and issues in the book are realistic? 

I think the way The Darkest Star unfolds builds very logically and realistically upon earlier events in from the world of the Lux series. It continues exploring certain themes and events introduced in the earlier books, but also brings into play new issues that fit the course of the new story and add to series as a whole.

Lastly, since we both pre-ordered the book, we received a bonus scene. What did you think of that?

Do not hurt me for this… I have, unfortunately, yet to read the bonus scene. Even worse is that I can’t seem to find the bonus scene anywhere in my mailbox, so it appears I have to take a raincheck on this question (and beg you to forward it to me…).

four-stars
Books I Keep Rereading

Books I Keep Rereading

As one book addict extraordinaire to another I probably don’t have to tell you that we all have our favorite books. Whether that book is part of a series or a standalone, some books are simply made for rereading. Today I am sharing my favorite books with you, ones I’ve read over and over again and will probably continue to reread over and over again.

First things first, why read the same book so often you ask? Glad you did, because I made a list:

  1. I simply love the story and want to bask in its amazingness again.
  2. There are ALWAYS details you miss the first time around. When you read it that second time, that little detail of awesomeness you missed the first time around will slap you in the face and make you fall in love with the story EVEN MORE (even though you didn’t think that was possible).
  3. You can appreciate the way an author structured his or her plot, even more, when you know how the story goes. You might miss that subtle hint of what’s to come when you first read a story, but when you know how the story ends you’ll see it for what it truly is.
  4. The next book in a series is releasing soon and you want to brush up on ALL the details.
  5. I just feel like it.

Now you know the reasons why I reread, it’s time to share some of my favorite books (and series) that I keep rereading over and over again!

A Court of Thorns of Roses

From the very first book and onwards I have loved this series. I make no secret of the fact that I have an infinite amount of love for Sarah J. Maas’s writing, but the second book in this series, A Court of Mist and Fury, holds a special place in my heart. It is so beautifully written and this book wrecks my heart every single time before putting it together again. Sometimes I reread only the second book, and sometimes I do the whole series. Do I even have to express my excitement about A Court of Frost and Starlight? Cause I am ALL over that when it releases!

The Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit

I always like to say that my love for all things Tolkien was passed down from generation to generation. My grandfather LOVED Tolkien’s work. I’m not kidding; his old, worn, well-loved, beat-up copies are proof of this. After my grandfather came my mother, who shared her love for this beautiful series with me. I knew the stories and I can still recall that sense of wonder after having finished the books and then being introduced to the films. I even did my BA thesis on Tolkien (which proved to be the perfect excuse to reread all the books (yet) again.

Harry Potter

You did not think Harry Potter would be missing from this list, did you? This magical series pretty much sums up my youth. Whether I reread this series to convince my niece and nephew to read it or just because I need some magic in my life, Harry Potter is the answer!

Anything Jennifer Armentrout

Whether it’s aliens in the Lux series, demons and whatnot in the The Dark Elements series, or some good old romance in the Wait for You series. Jennifer Armentrout is a jack-of-all-trades, and the very best one there is! Her writing is the best and her dialogues are even greater. I love her books (as much as I love the witty author herself) and sometimes I just feel like reading her stories because I know they’ll make me laugh and feel good.

So there you go, these are (just) four of my favorite books to reread. There are many, many more books I could mention, but I think these are the ones I reread most. As we’ve come to the end of this post, there’s just one more thing left to say: you never need an excuse (even though I sometimes like to pretend I do) to reread a book!

What are your favorite books or series to reread?
Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh | Book Review

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh | Book Review

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh | Book ReviewFlame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
Series: Flame in the Mist #1
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on May 16th 2017
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance
Pages: 393
Format: Hardcover
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three-half-stars




The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

Flame in the Mist was a very enjoyable read, albeit a bit confusing with a plot that was a bit all over the place. Before I start this review, I first need to get something off my chest… Because, honestly, calling it a Mulan retelling seems a bit of a stretch, as one of the few things the two tales have in common is that both protagonists grab a knife and cut off their hair in order to hide their feminity. This too doesn’t really hold, as the idea of genderbending isn’t really exclusive to Mulan… It has been used before by many other authors, one of the most prominent being Shakespeare in Twelfth Night (which is believed to be written in the early 1600s). That being said… I LOVE GENDERBENDING. I need more genderbending stories, so this book is a step in the right direction!

This review has been waiting to be written for such a long time, but somehow I just couldn’t bring myself to write it. My main problem is that I have such mixed feelings about Flame in the Mist. I enjoyed the story quite a bit and I know I want to read the sequel, but I’m just not blown away by the story and a part of me expected to be blown away by it.

The romance was good… but it wasn’t great. The thing is, though, it was a slow burn romance and I’m usually ALL over that. But I think my annoyance stemmed from the fact that the love interest was simply the only ‘available’ love interest in Flame in the Mist. That, and I didn’t feel like this story necessarily needed a love interest. I think instead of focusing on the romance the story should have focussed more on who tried to kill Mariko. That way the plot would have been a little less all over the place and kept some focus.

Another plot element that I wasn’t sure about was the fantastical part. More than anything, that part confused me. I realize that this can very easily be solved in the sequel, but it doesn’t change the fact that it was ‘just there,’ and none of it is explained. The end of the story was pretty damn awesome, but it felt rushed and as a result, it left me unsatisfied and I really didn’t know what to do with it all.

Flame in the Mist was enjoyable but confusing. The story was really interesting, but the plot was all over the place and it left me unsatisfied as a result. I need that sequel to find out what happens next and to explain the leftover vagueness its predecessor left! I guess what I am trying to say is: Flame in the Mist had some awesome bits and some unsatisfactory bits, but I am not giving up on the story!

 

three-half-stars
Three things working at a publishing house has done for my reading

Three things working at a publishing house has done for my reading

As some of you might know, the end of last September I started a work placement at a Dutch publishing house. That’s right, I’ve officially joined the working class: this girl now works a nine to five job! Ever since I started my PR & Marketing internship at Overamstel Publishers I have been wanting to share some of the perks of working at a publishing house (aside from spending all my time surrounded by books). So here they come:

Books in Dutch have rejoined my TBR

Most books I read are written in English by native speakers. When I became fluent enough to read in English instead of Dutch I never really looked back. Slowly, so slowly I didn’t even realize it happened, I stopped reading books written by Dutch authors. When I started my internship at Overamstel I was suddenly surrounded again by the Dutch written word and meeting all those authors once again peaked my interest. I picked up a non-fiction book written my Maartje Laterveer, a freelance journalist for Vogue and multiple dutch major newspapers, and I finished the whole book in three train journeys to and from work! Next up was the thriller Broertje (roughly translated: little brother) from Michael Berg, while I almost never read thrillers, and I completely lost myself in the story. And so it continued. I recently finished Dagboek van een getuige (roughly translated: the diary of a witness) by Astrid Holleeder and it was such a powerful book about hardship and perseverance.

What I am really trying to say is: I am finally reading in dutch again. I finally realized reading in dutch doesn’t mean that I have to read translations, there are SO MANY wonderfully talented dutch authors just waiting to be discovered and I am so happy to have rediscovered this. It was somewhat of a revelation to me and I am making it my goal to discover as many as possible in the years to come.

You simultaneously read less and more

This sounds so logical and illogical at the same time. It’s just that at the publishing house I read quite a lot and when I get home I don’t always feel like reading even more. I mostly find myself reading on the train journey’s to and from home, that is if I can find a place to sit… So I have a lot more selective about the books I read. I’m not the type of reader that is able to read multiple books at the time, that will just end up annoying and confusing me. So I have become choosy in what books I read, and I am totally fine with it. I’ve found that the amount of books I read has cut back drastically, but overall I enjoy them way more and end up rating them pretty high. I’ve become so attuned to my likes and dislikes, so choosing books that I’ll actually enjoy reading has become a lot easier.

My reading is developing again

Overall, I have been reading a lot more as my reading just doesn’t solely consist of books anymore with the publishing house related stuff thrown in. Moreover, I have started reading different books! For starters, I’ve discovered a newfound love for non-fiction. Two of the Dutch books I previously mentioned are non-fiction and I enjoyed both books immensely. You will actually be seeing some of that in the upcoming month, as I have a dual review scheduled of When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. I’m really excited about posting this review as it is very different from my regular reviews. It’s more of a discussion between two people on a certain book and you will be treated to the point of view of a medical student (my sister) and a literature student (me), which, especially regarding When Breath Becomes Air, will prove a really interesting combination. I have also begun reading poetry again, such as Robert Burns, Rupi Kaur, and Robert Frost. I’ve just really seen my reading develop again, and frankly, it makes me excited to discover new books outside of my comfort zone.

So there you have it: three things I saw change about my reading since I became an intern at a publishing house! One thing that hasn’t changed though, is my excitement to see what I’ll read and discover next.

Have you seen your reading habits change in any way?

The Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine | Book Review

The Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine | Book Review

The Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine | Book ReviewThe Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine
Series: Ravenspire #1
Published by Balzer & Bray on February 16th 2016
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance
Pages: 387
Format: Hardcover
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four-stars




Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.

But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

If you know me at all, you know that I’m all for fairytale retellings, and The Shadow Queen was all that a fairytale should be! A fantasy story with magic and dragons. You can sign me up for that anytime.

I think what I loved most about The Shadow Queen was that while it was gory and hard at times it also had that classic fairytale feeling to it. Like most fairytales, the story was brutal and choices were made that had to be made. There were plenty of plot twists and turns that I didn’t see coming (and frankly… I’m quite good at figuring out plot twists before they happen).

The protagonist, Lorelei, is calculated and kickass. I like how she’s a planner and has carefully got herself to a point of challenging the antagonist. Together with her brother Leo and Gabriel, who sort of became a father figure to them, they form a great team and have a great dynamic going. Trow a recently crowned king and his entourage into the mix and you got what I deem a recipe for a solid story. Kol is a Draconia, which means he can shapeshift into a dragon (COOL!) and he meets Lorelei early on without knowing who she is which causes plenty of problems for the both of them later on.

Although it is quite obvious early on who is going to end up with whom, I love that there was no instalove to be found. They slowly get to know each other (and themselves) and their relationship slowly blooms into something more. The fact that they’re both trying to save their respective kingdoms give them that something important in common that is the beginning of so much awesomeness.

Even more awesome is the fact that the antagonist isn’t just a villain for the sake of needing a villain in the story. Irina actually has a lot of depth and I enjoyed the chapters from her perspective as they provided an insight behind her motivations. She’s very well-written and a part of me actually felt for her as her past was filled with pain. Her narrative was confusing, but this only added to the whole vibe she had going on.

The Shadow Queen might not be the most impressive fairytale retelling, but it was a VERY enjoyable read and a solid read. In fact, I love how Lorelei and Kol’s story got resolved within this story. It was a fun book, with tons of great fantasy elements and very enjoyable characters! If you, like me, love fairytale retellings I suggest you give this one a go.

four-stars
Patience, Young Grasshopper: Instagram Tips and Tricks

Patience, Young Grasshopper: Instagram Tips and Tricks

It has been a while since I joined the #bookstagram scene and now I’ve settled into a comfortable Instagram routine I thought it would be fun to share some of my do’s and don’ts. I am in no way a professional or expert on Instagram, my follower count should tell you as much, nor do I know THE magic formula to grow your account. However, I do think that I have picked up on some things that might come in handy if you’re working on building your account.

Now, the main advice I was given when I started was: original content, good quality, and post consistently. Those are three very important things, but when you’re just starting out this might seem incredibly vague and just too broad. How can best be creative? What do you need to ensure good quality pictures? And, what helps you post consistently? I’ll share what I think those three things entail.

Original Content

The problem with original #bookstagram content is that when you first start out you have to find out what works for you. You see tons of people working with beautiful pictures that use tons of props and cool items and the first problem you’re going to run into is where to find all that stuff. Even more importantly, are you good with props? I hate using props… I love how much effort goes into those pictures, but whenever I try to incorporate them my pictures always become so messy. Props are just not for me.

I love working with nature. I love how clean my pictures look, the lush green and brown colors, and how nature does the work for you. My advice: try it all. Try working with props and try going outdoors with a big bag filled with books, but most importantly take lots of pictures. You’ll find something that works for you eventually and you’ll get better at it as well.

Good Quality

I can’t really tell you much besides what you probably already know about this. However, contrary to what you might think, you don’t need an expensive camera to take good quality pictures. If you own a good camera, great! If you don’t have one or can’t afford one, that’s fine. I bet you own a smartphone and one of those will do just fine. I know tons of amazing bookstagrammers that only work with their phone! Plus, there are tons of apps you can use to edit your pictures.

If you want to use props and/or take your pictures inside, you’ll need a good and even background/backdrop. You can simply find a spot with an even background in your house, but if not there are tons of shops online where you can find cool mini backdrops for a reasonable price. Or, if you’re creative you can fabricate one yourself. Just google it! You can have a marble-like or wooden backdrop, there’s something for everyone!

Post Consistently

Now this, I can help you with! It’s going to sound so logical and self-explanatory, but take pictures a week or month ahead. I used to take the picture I was going to post that day the morning itself, which was so counterproductive. Whenever I had something going on that day I often forgot to take a picture and thus had nothing to post that day. So, with a little help, I started taking pictures for an entire week ahead. I would take pictures every weekend (read: I’d drag a week’s worth of books to my parent’s house every weekend) and that way I was sure I would be able to post consistently.

Do you have trouble figuring out what you want to post about? It might be a good idea to join a #bookstagram challenge then! The challenge will provide you with a theme to post about and provides a fun way to meet new people by visiting and interacting with other people that use the same hashtag. It’ll also help you to stay creative! I have been participating in the #grimdragon challenge for about two months now and I love their daily challenges!

Remember, what works for one person doesn’t necessarily have to work for you, try different things and find out what works for you!