Puck

Puck by Kim Askew & Amy Helmes

Puck was an unexpected treat, I  initially passed it over because the cover is uninspiring (Yes I am that shallow! Covers are the first impression they play a huge part in my decision to add to already overwhelming TBR).  It also sounded like a summer-camp type story and I have yet to find one of those I like. Then title and main character Puck (aka Robin) hinted at a Shakespearean retelling and (hangs head in shame) Shakespeare and I are not the best of friends.

I’m very happy to be wrong!

I’m very happy to be wrong! I was totally sucked into this book.

A loose retelling of Midsummer’s Night Dreams, Puck is gripping from start to finish. Its secrets are released slowly keeping the anticipation on a high. I couldn’t bear to put it down, needing to keep reading #DoNotDisturb.

The characters are brilliant. Realistic and so relatable, I just want more of them (hoping there is a sequel). I would love to know what happens at the next camp.

Go and pick it up today

I’m so glad I took a chance on this read. Don’t let the cover put you off. Go and pick it up today so it can weave its spell on you.

4 Star

 

Recommended age: 12+

Title: Puck
Series: Twisted Lit
Authors:
Kim Askew & Amy HelmesPuck
Publication Date:
15 November 2016
Publisher:
Source: Review copy

 

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Life isn’t always fair, and no one knows that better than fifteen-year-old Puck. When she’s unceremoniously booted from yet another foster home, this city kid lands at DreamRoads, a rehabilitation wilderness camp. Her fellow juvenile delinquents include a famous pop star with a diva attitude, a geeky, “fish out of water” math whiz, and a surly gang-banger with a chip on his shoulder. The program’s steely director aims to break Puck, but she knows that every adult has a breaking point, too. Determined to defy this realm of agonizing nature hikes and soul-sucking psychobabble — even if that means manipulating four lovestruck camp counselors and the director’s dim-witted second-in-command — Puck ultimately gets much more than she bargains for in this “wondrous strange” outdoor odyssey inspired by Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” — Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Holding up the Universe

Holding Up The Universe … where do I start? I am probably going to rain on everyone’s parade because this is my biggest disappointment of 2016.  I must be the only person in the world who hasn’t gone crazy over this book. I just don’t get the fuss and hype.

Is it good? Well, it’s not awful, but I didn’t find anything special about it. No spark. No fizz. It’s sweet, in a cheesy, patronising happily-ever-after, rainbow filled, unicorn dancing kind of way.

Realistic? Not even a little drop of realism there. It may have fared better as a fantasy. How can I judge? I’ve been there. Overweight teen, bullied… I have been there. I am there.

The clichés and miracle type coincidences

Clichés and miracle type coincidences in spades. They just kept on coming.

Spoiler box alerts ahead

The clichés & coincidences

Two extreme, diverse cases of ill-health in one town… in one street. They are in the same school. They have a past. They help each other. They fall in love

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Then to top it all there is one HUGE omission and some confusing times…

The omission

Jack’s family ignore his 18th birthday. Nothing. He pretends to be sick and no one cares. Hello. It’s his birthday! Yes, there was some dysfunction in his family, but nowhere near as extreme to be an excuse to forget his birthday.

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Things that had me confused

No one knew?

I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that none of Jack’s family realised he had a disability. It would have been more believable if at least one of them, possibly his little brother who was so close to him, to be in on his secret.

[collapse]
The confession

Then there is the sudden desire to confess to Libby. Why here, why now? He has acted like a jerk many times before while trying to hide in plain sight.

[collapse]
Weight loss without commitment

Being so overweight that a crane is required to leave the house is rare. This is not just obese and it’s not easy to lose that weight. Although there are many mentions of how hard it was, Libby appears to miraculously keep the weight off and has no worries about stretch marks or lose skin. Other than a little dancing in her bedroom she apparently has no regular exercise, no gym, dance classes… This makes the weight loss message come across as patronising to all those who are trying to lose weight. Anyone who has had to lose a considerable amount of  weight would have a regular exercise routine in place. It’s hard work.

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I so wanted to love this book.  I wanted to join in on all the fangirling. But alas I am sitting alone wondering what is wrong with me #bookwormproblems2 Star

Recommended age: 12+

Title: Holding Up The Universe holding-up-the-universe-1
Author: Jennifer Niven
Publication Date: 6 October 2016
Publisher: Penguin
Source: Purchased
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Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed ‘America’s Fattest Teen’. But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to see who she really is. Since her mum’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the art of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his own brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game which lands them in group counseling, Libby and Jack are both angry, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world – theirs and yours. — Abstract from Goodreads.com

Must Read 2016 New Releases

Must-Read 2016 New Releases

2016 has been a great year for reading. Not only did Netgalley and Edelweiss approve some of my requests for review copies, while traveling I purchased many new books – long before they were released in South Africa or Indonesia. I smashed my Goodreads challenge and released my first #BooksWithWings book into the wild.

But which of all the new 2016 releases I read during the year stand out? The must-read books that need to be shouted from the rooftops? Surprisingly  these are all 5-star reads – I don’t give out 5 stars lightly. But anyone who stayed still long enough for me to force them to read brighten their day knows just how much I loved them.

This is my list of 2016’s Must-Read New Releases

 

under rose-tainted skiesUnder Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

I didn’t expect it to touch me as much as it did. It was real and sad but at the same time full of hope. Read more of my review

Norah has agoraphobia and OCD. When groceries are left on the porch, she can’t step out to get them. Struggling to snag the bags with a stick, she meets Luke. He’s sweet and funny, and he just caught her fishing for groceries. Because of course he did. — Abstract from Goodreads.com

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Three Dark CrownsThree Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

With the combination of superb characters and the rich storyline which flows like thick treacle, oozing with venom,  this is a book I will not forget. So very dark. Read more of my review

Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Abstract from Goodreads.com

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The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue HitchcockThe Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Invited into the homes of Alaskan families, I discovered warm, rich characters whose lives interweave in extraordinary ways. Read more of my review

In Alaska, 1970, being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. Four very different lives are about to become entangled.  Abstract from Goodreads.com

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All the Missing GirlsAll the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

An original, unpredictable story line and a very unusual format. Read more of my review

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. — Abstract from Goodreads.com


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Recoil by Joanne MacgregorRecoil by Joanne Macgregor

Recoil is an unpredictable, fast-paced, exhilarating ride. Read more of my review

When a skilled gamer gets recruited as a sniper in the war against a terrorist-produced pandemic, she discovers there’s more than one enemy and more than one war. The Game is real. — Abstract from Goodreads.com

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The Way I Used to BeThe Way I Used to Be  by Amber Smith

An emotional rollercoaster that I am so glad I got on. Read more of my review

Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.— Abstract from Goodreads.com

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heartlessHeartless by Marissa Meyer

I gobbled this book, dreaming of the characters. Trying to savour the flavours but instead gulping it almost all at once – like an unexpected treat that could be snatched away at any moment. Read more of my review

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. — Abstract from Goodreads.com

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1P.S. I Like You by Kasie WestP.S. I Like You by Kasie West

The richly layered fudge cake characters were climb-under-my-skin and sprinkle-crumbs-over-pajamas. The kind of characters who are now your best friends because you know and love them. Read more of my review

What if the person you were falling for was a total mystery? While Lily is spacing out in Chemistry one day, she picks up her pencil and scribbles a line from one of her favorite songs on the desk. The next day, someone else has written back to her on the desk!  — Abstract from Goodreads.com

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The Summer Before ForeverThe Summer Before Forever by Melissa Chambers

I loved the unique, edgy characters, but the real plus is the inclusion, and positive portrayal, of a learning difficulty. Read more of my review

Chloe Stone’s life is a hot mess. Determined to stop being so freaking skittish, she packs up her quasi-famous best friend and heads to Florida. The goal? Complete the summer bucket list to end all bucket lists. The problem? Her hot soon-to-be stepbrother, Landon Jacobs  — Abstract from Goodreads.com 

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And I Darken by Kiersten WhiteAnd I Darken by Kiersten White

Dark at times, with a rich deeply layered plot and well-developed characters. Intrigue, espionage, treason, murder, betrayal, loyalty and lies interspersed with love and swords. Read more of my review

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. — Abstract from Goodreads.com

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Top Ten Tuesday

 

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish.

 

Through the Lens by Shannon Dermott

Through the Lens by Shannon Dermott

A wannabe-thriller or contemporary?

Through the Lens is a YA wannabe-thriller but reads as contemporary. Slow and descriptive the story focuses chiefly on angst and the love triangle that is (or isn’t?) there.

The characters

I liked the two main characters and was rooting for them from the beginning, the other characters coming and going as they brushed up against the couple. Sometimes playing a large role in the story only to fade away before coming back into focus again. I would have liked to have had the chance to get to know Jessa’s siblings better.

The thriller side and finale

I only wish the thriller, suspense side of the story had been more dominant. At times I felt like everyone had conveniently forgotten Carly, she only came up in passing. The ending was weak and disappointing and having read the preview of the second book I am not sure whether I will pick it up. The characters in the first few chapters of book 2, which starts only weeks after book 1, show two very different people – could they have changed so much so quickly?

If you’ve read further in the series let me know what you think.3 Star

Recommended age: 12+

Title: Through the Lens  
Series: Through the Lens #1Through the Lens by Shannon Dermott
Author: Shannon Dermott
Publication Date: 25 August 2015
(first published 22 November 2012)
Publisher: CreateSpace
Source: Review copy
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Being a twin isn’t all that bad, nor is it all that good. Being the fat twin makes things a little worse. Seventeen year old, Jessa Shelby has been all but ignored. Trimmed down, but not skinny like her sister, she has decided to make her mark in her final year in high school.

Things begin anew the summer before her senior year when she makes friends with Ethan Hart, a boy with a twisted past, and Allie, his near celebrity status girlfriend, while taking pictures with her new prized possession. Hanging out with them opened her eyes to a lot of new possibilities including Josh Macon, whom she’s secretly crushed on all through high school. No longer the ‘fat girl’, Josh now seems interested in her too.

Long before the day comes to graduate, Jessa finds herself gasping for air. With her vision clouded from tears born of pain as the straps from her precious camera tighten around her throat, clarity sets in. They say that just before you die your life flashes before your eyes. And on the threshold of death claiming her, she finds that partially true. Her flash begins as if to explain just how she ended up on Death’s door. With mere moments left, she has to wonder if trust had come at a very high price.   — Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

But then I came back

But Then I Came Back by Estelle Laure

One glance at him, and it’s nerves upon nerves eating nerves and spitting them out again, then consuming more nerves.

But Then I Came Back almost didn’t get read. The story started off disjointed, with the writing almost stumbling. I felt as though I had come into a story that had started before and I was perpetually on the back foot. And then all of a sudden the murky confusion lifted, and I got it. I got Eden. Identifying with her in a powerful flash. It was only afterward I realised, although a standalone, it features characters from This Raging Light which I haven’t read yet.

“What about you? You got a guy?” he asks.
I unzip my jacket. “Please,” I say. “Have you seen me? I’m patchy.”

Still feeling in a parallel universe where the story unfolds in skips and plops. It’s not smooth, but it is unique. Good, extraordinary… Addictive. My eyes glued, my heart stopping as the words washed over me. It’s sad. Melancholy perhaps. But also funny and ultimately hopeful. I loved it.

Flint taps against the granite in me, and before I can tamp it down, there is a spark. 4 Star

Recommended age: 13+

Title: But Then I Came Back
Author: Estelle LaureBut Then I Came Back
Publication Date: 4 April 2017
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: Review copy

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Eden Jones, a 17-year-old girl, feels lost after surviving a near fatal accident. Unable to connect with her family and friends, Eden forms an unlikely relationship with Joe, a boy who comes to the hospital to visit Jasmine, a friend who may soon be gone forever. Eden is the only person who can get through to Jasmine, but is she brave enough to face a world that’s bigger and more magical than she ever would have allowed— Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Disclaimer: The quotes appear in my advanced review copy and may not appear in the final version.

bww-label-with-credit

Books With Wings… Let Them Fly

#BooksWithWings, a pay-it-forward style book exchange, is something that has been brewing in the back of my mind for a couple of years. Although I have left books behind before I’ve always wondered where they end up.

A global book share project#BooksWithWings

I envisioned a global book share project that starts simply by leaving a book in a random place with a message inside. Yesterday, as I sat among the orchards in Changi Airport’s Terminal 2, #BooksWithWings began and I posted the following on FaceBook.

I have just left a book at Changi Airport, Singapore with a message inside. I hope it will find its way into happy hands. This is the first of many books I hope to release into the wild in a project called #bookswithwings.

I always read a physical book when flying as many countries don’t allow the in-flight use of electronic devices during ascent and descent and this is the time I need to be distracted the most! I had just purchased a new books in Singapore so it was time to let one go.

I hope the book(s) get read to death

Despite the daily affirmation that this is naïve, I believe in humanity. I root for people. So I hope that this project that truly takes wings. That the books find themselves read to death, literally. That they pass through so many hands, hearts and minds that they eventually fall apart and the remains recycled to become part of a new book.

#BooksWithWingsThe first #BooksWithWings book

The book I left in the wild is a YA (Young Adult) contemporary, aptly entitled Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between. Written by Jennifer E. Smith and published by Headline in 2015. Although this will be its first journey with new readers, the book has travelled over borders before. Originally bought in South Africa, it travelled with me to Indonesia before it was set free in Singapore.

The bookmark I left inside the book is one that author Katie McGarry kindly posted to me in South Africa. It features her book Nowhere But Here.

I’d love to track the book(s) progress around the world

If you find the book let me know, I’d love to track its progress around the world. I hope to be able to share photographs of traveling books in their new surrounds. But please for privacy reasons don’t share photos that include people.

Spread bookish love

I would love this project to spread. Anyone can join in. Leave books for others to discover.
Spread bookish love. #BooksWithWings

Stranger Game

The Stranger Game by Cylin Busby 

(These quotes are taken from early in the book to prevent spoilers)

I felt as if the ground below me would swallow me up, like a big black hole was opening again, the hole Sarah left when she disappeared. 

The Stranger Game is full of suspense. Dark and gritty the thrilling storyline was captivating, albeit a little slow. While some parts were easy to see coming, the ultimate twist was totally unexpected, but surprisingly not very satisfying. I was left with “is that it?” on my mind when I put the book down. The build-up was so engrossing that the end was a letdown.

Loved the first line:

I knew my sister was dead. I felt it in my body, as if my bones could tell me the truth.

Then throughout the book the alternating voices kept up the suspense…

The door closed and I heard the lock slide into place. I was alone again, in the dark.

3 Star

Recommended age: 13+

Title: The Stranger Game
Author: Cylin Busby
Publication Date: 25 October 2016Stranger Game
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: Review copy

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When Nico Walker’s older sister mysteriously disappears, her parents, family, and friends are devastated. But Nico can never admit what she herself feels: relief at finally being free of Sarah’s daily cruelties.

Then the best and worst thing happens: four years later, after dozens of false leads, Sarah is found.

But this girl is much changed from the one Nico knew. She’s thin and drawn, where Sarah had been golden and athletic; timid and unsure, instead of brash and competitive; and strangest of all, sweet and kind, when she had once been mean and abusive. Sarah’s retrograde amnesia has caused her to forget almost everything about her life, from small things like the plots of her favorite books and her tennis game to the more critical—where she’s been the last four years and what happened at the park on the fateful day she vanished. Despite the happy ending, the dark details of that day continue to haunt Nico, and it becomes clear that more than one person knows the true story of what happened to Sarah. . . .     — Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Disclaimer: The quotes appear in my advanced review copy and may not appear in the final version.

crop-definitions-of-indefinable-things-by-whitney-taylor

Definitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor

“How does anyone know they are depressed? You feel equally alive and dead and have no idea how that’s even possible. And everything around you doesn’t seem so full anymore. And you can’t tell if the world is empty or you are…”

Definitions of Indefinable Things is one of those rare books where I totally lost myself in the feels. It’s honest. Witty. Moody and raw, sometimes to the point of pain. But real in the best possible way.

“Snake?” That was the most obscenely ambitious nickname I’d ever heard.

Beautiful writing combined with head-spinning twists, this story is so real it could be true. Gritty, complicated characters whose depression is realistically portrayed.

He was staring at me with a weirdly attractive grin on his face, and I felt like telling him to screw off.

I felt everything. Hope, melancholy, joy and sorrow. Sad to the point where I feel the characters life is being leeched. But at the same time, I felt happy, grounded, satisfied.

There was only one conclusion to reach, one answer to a question so incomprehensible that it made my blood go warm in anger.5 Star

 

Recommended age: 13+

Title: Definitions of Indefinable ThingsDefinitions of Indefinable Things
Author: Whitney Taylor
Publication Date: 4 April 2017
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: Review copy

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This heartbreaking, humorous novel is about three teens whose lives intersect in ways they never expected.

Reggie Mason is all too familiar with “the Three Stages of Depression.” She believes she’s unlocked the secret to keeping herself safe: Nobody can hurt you if you never let them in.

Reggie encounters an unexpected challenge to her misanthropy: a Twizzler-chomping, indie film-making narcissist named Snake. Snake’s presence, while reassuring, is not exactly stable—especially since his ex-girlfriend is seven months pregnant. As Reggie falls for Snake, she must decide whether it’s time to rewrite the rules that have defined her.   — Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Disclaimer: The quotes appear in my advanced review copy and may not appear in the final version.

Who Reads Your Posts

Book Bloggers – Who Reads Your Posts?

Who Reads Your Posts? After almost three years of blogging I’ve noticed a disturbing thing – the majority of people who read (and interact with) my blog are fellow book bloggers. I often feel like I’m recommending ice to polar bears, instead of a book to potential readers.

Just like a review from a book blogger promotes a book, a share on social media recommends a blogger.

I know many authors prefer not to read reviews of their own books, but just like a review from a book blogger promotes a book, a share on social media recommends a blogger. It would mean so much to us if authors (and publishers) shared positive reviews to their followers. Not only of their own books but reviews of their fellow authors too.

Getting comments and shares of my posts mean the world to me.

I’m not blogging for an income, in fact despite affiliate links on my sidebar and on review posts I have made a sum total of 5 cents (not that I don’t wish for more – I dream of the day my earnings allow me to buy a new book to review). And please don’t think I am ungrateful for ARC’s – I would have little to review without them and I work hard to keep my stats up to improve my chance of approval for these advanced copies. But getting comments and shares of my posts? That means the world to me.

One click to share a good review with your fans will make a book blogger’s day.

So, please authors and publishers think of your colleagues in the industry next time you go online. One click to share a good review with your fans will make a book blogger’s day.

Heartless

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Oh, Heartless is clever, very very clever. So clever in fact, it manages to be both unique and heart-stoppingly familiar at the same time.

And I assure you the Hatter throws the maddest tea parties this side of the Looking Glass.

Dare to delve headfirst into your childhood memories? To come out with a different view of Wonderland? You’ll find a land as rich as double cream and characters you didn’t know you needed in your life.

… and she saw that he was smiling, and his smile was heart-thumpingly open, honest, beautiful. His lavender eyes sparkled as they found her…

It’s whimsical, swoony, fun and fanciful. And there’s cake. It’s full of cake. And Jokers. And Hatters.

Catherine’s mouth ran dry. A crack was burrowing through her chest, threatening to break her open.

I gobbled this book, dreaming of the characters. Trying to savour the flavours but instead gulping it almost all at once – like an unexpected treat that could be snatched away at any moment.

There was a moment of suspension around them. She could feel his heart beating near to hers, and his breath in her hair.

What do I want next? What am I desperate for?… Jest. I would love to hear Jest’s narration. A whole story from his POV. Here’s hoping Marissa Meyer hears my plea!

“Sometimes your heart is the only thing worth listening to.”5 Star

Recommended age: 12 +

Title: Heartless 
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publication Date: 8 November 2016heartless
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Source: Review copy

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Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king’s marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans    — Abstract from Goodreads.com

Thanks to Pan Macmillan South Africa for the review copy.
The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Disclaimer:
The quotes appear in my advanced review copy and may not appear in the final version.