Friday, February 28, 2020

Foul is Fair, or, Just Read Macbeth Instead


Foul is Fair

by Hannah Capin

Pages: 336
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: February 18th, 2020

Cover Comments: Not a huge fan of this cover. I don't know what they're going for here. The paperback cover on Amazon is much better for me.

First Lines: 
"Sweet sixteen is when the claws come out.

               Goodreads丨 Amazon
Elle and her friends Mads, Jenny, and Summer rule their glittering LA circle. Untouchable, they have the kind of power other girls only dream of. Every party is theirs and the world is at their feet. Until the night of Elle’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Elle as their next target.

They picked the wrong girl.

Sworn to vengeance, Elle transfers to St. Andrew’s. She plots to destroy each boy, one by one. She’ll take their power, their lives, and their control of the prep school’s hierarchy. And she and her coven have the perfect way in: a boy named Mack, whose ambition could turn deadly.

Foul is Fair is a bloody, thrilling revenge fantasy for the girls who have had enough. Golden boys beware: something wicked this way comes.


I really wanted to like this book. A novel about a girl taking revenge against her assaulters, inspired by Macbeth sounds utterly engrossing. And it definitely should have been. The storyline itself is interesting, and if I were to describe the way the novel unfolds from beginning to end to a friend, it would sound incredibly intriguing, thrilling, and interesting. However, reading the book itself was a slog and the well-crafted plot couldn’t make up for the so-so writing and lack of characterization.

I get the writing style that the author was going for here - sparse and startling, without much description or dwelling on the thoughts and emotions of the characters. I’ve seen this style pulled off well before, but it just didn’t work for me for this book. There were phrases and sentences that stuck out to me as being very striking and well-written, but it felt like there was no flow to the writing, just short staccato bursts of dialogue and bare-bones descriptions.

My biggest gripe with Foul is Fair and the one-dimensional characters. Every character in this book could be described with two adjectives, and it would cover their character from beginning to end. Jade/Elle is vengeful and sharp-edged. Mack is sweet but complacent with his friends’ crimes. Jade’s four friends (Mads, Jenny, Summer and Lilia) are completely interchangeable. There is no growth or development, even in the case of one character who theoretically underwent a huge transformation. I could get over the fact that none of these characters would exist in the real world, but at least make them fully-formed in this revenge fantasy setting.

Lastly, there are a couple things I didn't care for in the way the book handles sexual assault/rape. First, the crime is never reported, even though Jade tells her parents. Second, Jade looks down on the therapy that's offered after her assault, deeming it for the weak. Lastly, the phrase "they picked the wrong girl" is a refrain in this book, and it rubs me the wrong way. It gives me the sense that Jade is shaming other victims of sexual assault that didn't murder their assaulters.

All that being said, if you’re just in the mood for a manically plotted revenge fantasy and don’t give a hoot about well-crafted characterization, feel free to enjoy this wild ride. I've also heard good things about the authors' debut book, The Dead Queens Club.

*Thanks to Wednesday Books and the author for the chance to read Foul is Fair before its publication date, and participate in the blog tour.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Foul is Fair Blog Tour & Excerpt

A couple months ago, I was asked to be in the blog tour for Hannah Capin's new book, Foul is Fair (you may know of Capin from her last novel, Dead Queens Club). I was super excited to dig into this novel, a revenge fantasy where Jade, the protagonist, rains down hell on the boys who made her live it; inspired by Macbeth. I'm glad to see the topic of sexual assault being broached more and more in literature, and it's definitely something that needs to be talked about. I'll post my full review on Friday, but check out the excerpt below to see if this might be up your alley!

TW: The primary thematic material of Foul is Fair centers on sexual assault (not depicted), rape culture, and violence. Additionally, the book includes an abusive relationship, a suicide attempt, and a brief scene with transphobic bullying. For a more detailed description of sensitive content, please visit

"Sweet sixteen is when the claws come out.

We’re all flash tonight. Jenny and Summer and Mads and me. Vodka and heels we could never quite walk in before, but tonight we can. Short skirts—the shortest. Glitter and high- light. Matte and shine. Long hair and whitest-white teeth.

I’ve never been blond before but tonight my hair is plati- num. Mads bleached it too fast but I don’t care because tonight’s the only night that matters. And my eyes are jade-green to- night instead of brown, and Summer swears the contacts Jenny bought are going to melt into my eyes and I’ll never see again, but I don’t care about that, either.

Tonight I’m sixteen.

Tonight Jenny and Summer and Mads and me, we’re four sirens, like the ones in those stories. The ones who sing and make men die.

Tonight we’re walking up the driveway to our best party ever. Not the parties like we always go to, with the dull-duller- dullest Hancock Park girls we’ve always known and the dull-duller-dullest wine coolers we always drink and the same bad choice in boys.

Tonight we’re going to a St Andrew’s Prep party. Crashing it, technically.

But nobody turns away girls like us.

We smile at the door. They let us in. Our teeth flash. Our claws glimmer. Mads laughs so shrill-bright it’s almost a scream. Everyone looks. We all grab hands and laugh together and then everyone, every charmed St Andrew’s Prepper is cheering for us and I know they see it—

for just a second—

—our fangs and our claws.

The first thing I do is cut my hair.

But it isn’t like in the movies, those crying girls with mas- cara streaks and kindergarten safety scissors, pink and dull, looking into toothpaste specks on medicine cabinet mirrors.

I’m not crying. I don’t fucking cry.

I wash my makeup off first. I use the remover I stole from Summer, oily Clinique in a clear bottle with a green cap. Three minutes later I’m fresh-faced, wholesome, girl-next-door, and you’d almost never know my lips are still poison when I look the way a good girl is supposed to look instead of like that little whore with the jade-green eyes.

The contact lenses go straight into the trash.

Then I take the knife, the good long knife from the wed- ding silver my sister hid in the attic so she wouldn’t have to think about the stupid man who never deserved her anyway. The marriage was a joke but the knife is perfectly, wickedly beautiful: silver from handle to blade and so sharp you bleed a little just looking at it. No one had ever touched it until I did, and when I opened the box and lifted the knife off the dark red velvet, I could see one slice of my reflection looking back from the blade, and I smiled.

I pull my hair tight, the long hair that’s been mine since those endless backyard days with Jenny and Summer and Mads. Always black, until Mads bleached it too fast, but splin- tering platinum blond for the St Andrew’s party on my sweet sixteen. Ghost-bright hair from Mads and jade-green eyes from Jenny and contour from Summer, almost magic, sculpt- ing me into a brand-new girl for a brand-new year.

My hair is thick, but I’ve never been one to flinch. I stare myself straight in the eyes and slash once— Hard.

And that’s it. Short hair.

I dye it back to black, darker than before, with the cheap box dye I made Jenny steal from the drugstore. Mads revved her Mustang, crooked across two parking spots at three in the morning, and I said:

Get me a color that knows what the fuck it’s doing.

Jenny ran back out barefoot in her baby-pink baby-doll dress and flung herself into the back seat across Summer’s lap, and Mads was out of the lot and onto the road, singing through six red lights, and everything was still slow and foggy and almost like a dream, but when Jenny threw the box onto my knees I could see it diamond-clear. Hard black Cleopatra bangs on the front and the label, spelled out plain: #010112 REVENGE. So I said it out loud:


And Mads gunned the engine harder and Summer and Jenny shrieked war-cries from the back seat and they grabbed my hand, all three of them, and we clung together so tight I could feel blood under my broken claws.

REVENGE, they said back to me. REVENGE, REVENGE,


So in the bathroom, an hour later and alone, I dye my hair revenge-black, and I feel dark wings growing out of my back, and I smile into the mirror at the girl with ink-stained fingers and a silver sword.

Then I cut my broken nails to the quick. Then I go to bed.

In the morning I put on my darkest lipstick before it’s even breakfast time, and I go to Nailed It with a coffee so hot it burns my throat. The beautiful old lady with the crooked smile gives me new nails as long as the ones they broke off last night, and stronger.

She looks at the bruises on my neck and the scratches across my face, but she doesn’t say anything.

So I point at my hair, and I say, This color. Know what it’s called?

She shakes her head: No.


She says, Good girl. Kill him."

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Kingdom of Souls, or, The One Where Everyone Dies (Really, Everyone)


Kingdom of Souls

by Rena Barron

Pages: 496
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: September 3rd, 2019

Cover Comments: This cover is fantastic. I love the font of the title, the clothing the girl is wearing, and her throne-type setting.

First Lines: 
"Be still, Little Priestess.

               Goodreads丨 Amazon

Explosive fantasy set in a world of magic and legend, where one girl must sacrifice her life, year by year, to gain the power necessary to fight the mother she has never been good enough for.

Perfect for fans of Sarah J Maas, Tomi Adeyemi and Black Panther


Arrah is a young woman from a long line of the most powerful witch doctors in the land. But she fails at magic, fails to call upon the ancestors and can't even cast the simplest curse.

Shame and disappointment dog her.

When strange premonitions befall her family and children in the kingdom begin to disappear, Arrah undergoes the dangerous and scorned process of selling years of her life for magic. This borrowed power reveals a nightmarish betrayal and a danger beyond what she could have imagined. Now Arrah must find a way to master magic, or at least buy it, in order to save herself and everything she holds dear.

An explosive fantasy set in a world of magic and legend with a twist you will never see coming.


I was really excited to read this one, thinking the setting and world-building seemed fresh and interesting. And it was. I loved the mythology behind all the events happening in the novel, and the way the plot twists and turns. However, I feel like there was way too much crammed into this one book. There was one "big bad" that seemed to rise and fall much too quickly. Despite the packed nature of the book, the first part dragged on, while the second half seemed too hurried. The set-up for the next book is definitely intriguing, but I think if there had been some more breathing room to develop the characters and delve into the world-building in this one, I'd be more interested in continuing the series.

It was also quite a bummer of a book. The protagonist, Arrah, basically keeps sacrificing more and more and getting knocked down at every turn. The girl just can't win, and there's a ton of loss of major characters in the book. I don't mind a little darkness, but there's gotta be some light too.

I did enjoy the world and characters in Kingdom of Souls, and hope the next installment is a bit more evenly paced.


*Thanks to HarperTeen and the author for the chance to read Kingdom of Souls before its publication date.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Throwback Titles (6): A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

Throwback Titles are books that I've been meaning to read for a very, very long time, but have just now gotten around to it. In other words, it's that book you picked up in middle school that may have been a little bit above your reading level, and also happened to have 14 sequels. And what do you, a rational adult do now that you've realized that you stopped a mere five books from finishing the series? Continue, of course.

That's most of my stories, but I consider a throwback title to be any book 5 or more years old. Let's clear these babies out of to-be-reads and remind people of their favorite 2005 novel! I'll be posting a throwback title every Thursday (naturally). If you'd like to join in, please link to your post in the comments and use my graphic (above) in your own post.


1920581 A Long Way Gone

by Ishmael Beah

Pages: 229
Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books
Publication Date: February 13th, 2007

Cover Comments: I didn't look at this cover in detail since I was listening to the audiobook, but now that I do, it's striking. The small size and stature of the boy juxtaposed with the weight of his gun and bayonet is sad and frightening.

First Lines: 
"My high school friends have begun to suspect I haven't told them the full story of my life.
The devastating story of war through the eyes of a child soldier. Beah tells how, at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he’d been picked up by the government army, and became a soldier.

This is how wars are fought now: by children, hopped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s. Children have become soldiers of choice. In the more than fifty conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them.

What is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this hell and survived.

In A Long Way Gone, Beah, now twenty-five years old, tells a riveting story: how at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he’d been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts.

This is a rare and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.


This was a hard read, as can be expected (or listen, since I got the audiobook version). Beah's memoir covers his childhood, starting when war broke out in his area and he had to go on the run to avoid being killed or forced into being a child soldier. As the reader already knows from the subtitle of the book, running did not work, and Beah is ultimately forced into the army and brainwashed into viewing the rebels the army is fighting as the enemy, and the ultimate reason for the upheaval of his life.

The writing is sparse, but with striking details that jump out at you every once in a while. Much of the book describes Beah and his various companions' travels before their conscription into the army, where they went for long stretches of time without regular food or water and were regarded with suspicion by almost every village they passed through, the villagers fearing that they were boy soldiers themselves. This portion dragged on a bit, but was necessary for understanding how the army was almost a welcome respite after Beah's struggles. In the village housing the army that the boys are taken to, they find peace for the first time in a long time. Until it's time to go to battle. Beah and his fellow soldiers fight for revenge for their ravaged villages and families, but none of them truly know what they're fighting for, ultimately. They're led around, following orders but kept in the dark as to the reasons why.

Beah's story is haunting in its horrible truths and the distant familiarity of it. I know that in far-off countries, terrible wars are being fought, and boy soldiers are still very much a reality. A Long Way Gone brings that reality to life, right in your face in a way you can't turn away from. It's not a pleasant book, but is an important one.



Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Girl the Sea Gave Back, or, Just Skip to the Last Quarter


The Girl the Sea Gave Back

by Adrienne Young

Pages: 327
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: September 3rd, 2019

Cover Comments: I LOVE this cover. The sea sweeping up around Tova and the way the title is centered on her is fantastic.

First Lines: 
"Give me the child.

               Goodreads丨 Amazon
For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.


I finished The Girl the Sea Gave Back a couple months ago, shortly after finishing Sky in the Deep, and really enjoying it. While I can still recall the plot and details of Sky in the Deep, I had trouble remembering everything about The Girl the Sea Gave Back and thought I must have been forgetting something because I only remembered a few things happening in the plot. But that’s exactly it. Nothing much happens, until the end. I can appreciate that this is a wholly different novel from its predecessor, and I was looking forward to discovering more about the world and the new characters this book introduces. However, I found both main characters to be flat and forgettable. Events in the story that should have made me feel some emotion left me cold, because I never connected with the characters.

The romance was strange and halted for me. It takes way too long for the love interests to meet, and even once they had, it seemed like the only connection they had was “fate”, which is not a compelling love story. I was even a little surprised when a kiss finally happened, because it didn’t seem to fit with the relationship that had been built at that point.

In spite of all of the above, Adrienne Young really can write some great battle scenes, and the last few chapters of the book were truly riveting. I just wish I had been hooked before the end.

*Thanks to Netgalley and the author for the chance to read The Girl the Sea Gave Back before its publication date.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Coral, or, The One with Some Mermaid Stuff But Not Enough Mermaid Stuff



by Sara Ella

Pages: 384
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: November 12th, 2019

Cover Comments: This cover is so cute and may have been part of the reason I picked this book up. The front of Coral, the human and mermaid silhouettes, it all works.

First Lines: 
"She's not sick. She's not.

               Goodreads 丨 Amazon
There is more than one way to drown.

Coral has always been different, standing out from her mermaid sisters in a society where blending in is key. Worse yet, she fears she has been afflicted with the dreaded Disease, said to be carried by humans—emotions. Can she face the darkness long enough to surface in the light?

Above the sea, Brooke has nothing left to give. Depression and anxiety have left her feeling isolated. Forgotten. The only thing she can rely on is the numbness she finds within the cool and comforting ocean waves. If only she weren’t stuck at Fathoms—a new group therapy home that promises a second chance at life. But what’s the point of living if her soul is destined to bleed?

Merrick may be San Francisco’s golden boy, but he wants nothing more than to escape his controlling father. When his younger sister’s suicide attempt sends Merrick to his breaking point, escape becomes the only option. If he can find their mom, everything will be made right again—right?

When their worlds collide, all three will do whatever it takes to survive, and Coral might even catch a prince in the process. But what—and who—must they leave behind for life to finally begin?

Taking a new twist on Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved—yet tragic—fairy tale, Coral explores mental health from multiple perspectives, questioning what it means to be human in a world where humanity often seems lost.


First, I really appreciate what the author is trying to do with Coral. Mental illness needs to be discussed more often, especially in YA, and the way that Coral is set up, with the different POVs and the mermaid aspects is ambitious and has potential. However, I don’t think it was executed well, which is a shame.

There are some problems with the writing here, large and small. First, I never connected with the characters. They seemed entirely defined by the people around them, their surroundings, or their mental illness. The writer left tons of things unexplained throughout the book, with no hints or nudges that it’s a mystery, leaving me to wonder if she just didn’t think about it. For instance, Merrick hates his father, even jumping to the conclusion that his father beat up his little sister readily at one point - why? We don’t really know. Merrick’s POV never refers to some event that happened in the past, hinting that it will be explained, or even show Merrick’s dad being anything worse than a little distant. The characters’ reasons for their actions didn’t really make sense except to move the plot forward. And plot? What plot? I don’t actually care if books are plot-driven or character-driven, but this was neither.

The overall tone of the book is dark, but Coral’s sections earlier on in the book especially doesn’t really match the tone of the writing. It’s like the author was trying to make it fun and whimsical, like the Little Mermaid movie, but it’s just jarring in a novel that’s largely about mental health, suicide, and death. I felt like every page, Coral’s inner monologue would reference something about the sea, i.e.:

“ graceful as a manta ray's glide”
“The intrusiveness of his gaze wrapped Coral's nerves in jellyfish tentacles.”
“The earthquake inside her bones rivaled a shifting seabed.”

A little heavy-handed. Coral’s POV also referred to her as “the little mermaid” about six times too many. I was most intrigued by the mermaid aspect of the book, so it was disappointing when those sections were the most annoying. Some of my gripes make sense later on in the book, but I still think it’s lazy writing not to flesh out this portion of the book, or at least hint at later revelations about it.

The story kind of gets turned upside down right near the end, and I had a big problem with it. Nothing made sense throughout most of the book about Coral’s life, Brooke’s history, or how their POV’s connect with Merrick. This gets resolved near the end with this dramatic reveal, and I honestly felt cheated by it. I’ve seen books do a plot twist like this well, but it simply made me mad in Coral. It seemed to me that the author just misled readers by changing details so that there’s no way they would guess the twist, which means it came out of nowhere, with no breadcumbs that could be followed from earlier on in the story.

I don’t want to complain about this book forever, so I’ll quickly list the other negatives:
- I didn’t connect with the romance and thought it was unnecessary.
- There were huge sections of the book that jump forward in time or leave out details (to service the twist at the end, I think).
- Side characters that could have been explored and fleshed-out were only given a cursory glance. I would have loved to know more about the grandmother and what exactly happened between her and - - Coral to strain their relationship.
- The mermaid/underwater portion of the book is heavily emphasized (cover and all) but was not really a major part of the novel.

Again, I respect what the author was trying to do here, but I really struggled to even finish this book, much less enjoy it.

*Thanks to Netgalley and the author for the chance to read Coral before its publication date.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Throwback Titles (5): The Summer I Turned Pretty, or, The One with All the Summer Nostalgia

Throwback Titles are books that I've been meaning to read for a very, very long time, but have just now gotten around to it. In other words, it's that book you picked up in middle school that may have been a little bit above your reading level, and also happened to have 14 sequels. And what do you, a rational adult do now that you've realized that you stopped a mere five books from finishing the series? Continue, of course.

That's most of my stories, but I consider a throwback title to be any book 5 or more years old. Let's clear these babies out of to-be-reads and remind people of their favorite 2005 novel! I'll be posting a throwback title every Thursday (naturally). Please join in the fun by adding to the linky below and adding my graphic (or one of yours, as long as it links back here) above to your post!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

5821978 The Summer I Turned Pretty

by Jenny Han

Pages: 276
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 5th, 2009

Cover Comments: Nothing to write home about, but I don't mind this cover that much. I love Belly's gaze and appearance, but the boys look kind of strange. I love the sun peeking out over the left side, and the font change of "pretty".

First Lines: 
"We'd been driving for about seven thousand years.
Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer—they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one terrible and wonderful summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.


I was a little surprised that I loved this book so much. From the outset, it seems like typical YA summer fare: a pretty girl is torn between two guys and also: beach stuff! But The Summer I Turned Pretty was so much more than that. In fact, while the romance aspects of the book took up a lot of time and words, I didn't feel like it was the meat of the story.

What I found so compelling was the perfect portrait that Han paints of the magic of summer when you're an adolescent/teen. This book brought back perfectly the feeling I got when I returned to the same "summer place" feeling completely different every year. There's this hope at that age that you can change completely over a year, and the people you only see during the summer months will notice and everything else will change too. That never quite happened for me, but it does for Belly.

I also loved the setting of a small beach town imbued with years' worth of Belly's memories. I'm not always a big fan of flashbacks, but they fit perfectly in this book and added to the complexity of the current summer.

Lastly, the other big plot point concerning Susannah (Conrad and Jeremiah's mom) was very touchingly done and while obvious to me from the beginning, made for some interesting moments closer to the end.

I'm not so sure that the end was the one I wanted or focused on the right things (I'm a summer nostalgia junkie I suppose), but I'm excited to continue the series.

In a nutshell: a wonderful book full of perfect and bittersweet summer snapshots.


4/5 snapshot summers