Review: First & Then

Review: First & ThenTitle: First & Then
Author: Emma Mills
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Release Date: October 13, 2015
Genre/Age Group: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: For review
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: 4 Stars

Devon Tennyson wouldn't change a thing. She's happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon's cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn't want them first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.

my thoughts

Pride & Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights. That’s the simple description of Emma Mills’ debut novel First & Then that immediately stirred up some HUGE expectations in me. That is a mega comparison to make for a debut novel, and when I first read this book’s synopsis several months ago, I was partly ecstatic (football book!), but also partly scared that this comparison would cause a lot of disappointed readers, myself included. No matter how hard I tried to reassure myself that I was going to read First & Then with an open mind and NOT compare it to one of my all time favorite TV shows (and classic books), it was hard. I was excited from the moment I first read that it was going to feature football, and with that gorgeous cover, I just knew deep down that it was destined to be a new favorite of the year for me.

While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s my absolute favorite book of the year, First & Then ranks pretty damn high on my list. It turned out to be a debut novel that is able to stand on its own merits (though I admit that it DOES hold up well to that  Pride & Prejudice/FNL comparison). It did start off a little bit slow for me. At first, I felt a little disconnected from Dev, though I couldn’t really put my finger on why that was. As the story progressed though, I began to warm up to her, and by the middle of the book, I was rooting for her and a certain football star. However, in my opinion, it was surprisingly Foster who stole the show. Foster, Dev’s younger cousin who came to live with her family after his mom’s drug problem spiraled out of control, is a bit unusual, though he is immediately likable. Being an only child for the last 17 years, Dev is a little resistant to him at first, and she isn’t exactly happy that her parents rely on her a lot to help Foster fit in. However, watching her and Foster’s relationship grow is one of my absolute favorite things about this novel.

Despite the initial appearance of a love triangle, don’t let that keep you from reading First & Then. It isn’t what you think, I promise. Even if you are one of those readers who detests love triangles to your very core, I think you will like this book (I’m not a huge fan of them either). The romance that does develop between Dev and _____ is one of tension and awkwardness and I love it. It makes it seem so realistic and high school-y. The girl and guy are both unsure of how the other feels, and just like real life, this causes them to make some infuriatingly stupid moves regarding the other person. Emma Mills, are you sure you didn’t know me in high school? It sure does seem like you walked the halls with me. I was one big ball of awkwardness and stupid moves with my first boyfriend, but just like these two in First & Then, I had those same amazing butterflies that make you wish you could hold on to that feeling forever. But I digress. ;)

Then there’s the football motif in First & Then. IT’S PERFECTLY PERFECT. It has Ezra, the typical star player who has his pick of colleges (a la Smash Williams or Jason Street-pre-injury, for my fellow FNL fans). Then there’s Foster, the player with all the heart–the one who is by no means the best but who has enough heart to carry the whole team (Matt Seracen, anyone?). We also get a glimpse into the brotherhood that develops between teammates, and it made me want to squish Ezra and Jordan and Foster into a big “guy” hug. Emma Mills captured the bond and camaraderie that develops between guys on a team so well, and she also does an good job of portraying the ugly side– the jealousy.

Even if you aren’t a fan of football or sports stories, I think you’ll enjoy this one. Dev Tennyson, the main character and narrator, grows a lot throughout First & Then. A LOT. She becomes much more likable as the story progresses. I can’t decide if it is the growth of Dev’s character, or if it was the fact that Mills’ writing gets even better as the story progresses, but despite a slow start, the second half of the novel definitely scores a touchdown (I almost said knocks it out of the park, but this is a football book, so I decided I better change my metaphors accordingly!). I can’t wait to see more from Emma Mills!

memorable quotes

Taken from the ARC.

“Football was something everyone had in common– like a mutual religion. We all believed in touchdowns and field goals. We were all baptized in the floodlights.”

“So why don’t you look happy when you play [football]? You’re the best at it. You’d think you’d be the happiest guy in the world.”
“When you love something, you can’t be happy all the time, can you? Like that’s why you love it. It makes you feel all kinds of things, not just happy. It can hurt, it can make you fucking mad, but…it makes you feel something, you know?”

“I should’ve been better. But sometimes all you can really stand to do is think about yourself. Sometimes it’s the only way to cope. The only way to make sense of something as colossal and intimidating as the world is to make it about you.”

“A thousand electric cars could run on how you feel when you know that person you like likes you back. It feels incredible. Like it shouldn’t be possible. Of all the happy coincidences to ever exist, it’s one of the happiest.”

Wallpaper Wednesday: Heir of Fire


For my Queen of Shadows blog tour last week I decided to try something new and put the random bookish wallpapers I usually just make for myself out into the world. The response has been amazing, but even if it hadn’t been, I discovered that I would actually really like to share some more wallpapers of the many I currently have on my laptop. This idea is far from original (original credit goes to Elena’s Arts & Crafts feature and later also Hafsah’s Quote Candy and Jen’s The Writing’s on the Wall) but you can never have enough bookish wallpapers, right? Anyway, to stick with last week’s Throne of Glass theme, here is a wallpaper I made for my shared-second-place favorite book in this series, Heir of Fire. This might be my all time favorite line from the entire book and it makes me cry on a daily basis . I hope you like it!


1280×7201366×7681440×9001680×10501920×1200 | 2560×1400
iPhone 4 | iPhone 5 | iPhone 6 | Samsung Galaxy

Review: Grave Mercy

Review: Grave MercyTitle: Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1)
Author: Robin LaFevers
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: April 3, 2012
Genre/Age Group: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Source: Purchased
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

my thoughts

I feel like Grave Mercy was, in a way, written especially for me. Even though I have been putting it off for the longest time, because I was worried it might be long-winded, I ended up loving it. It has everything I love in and want from a story: stunning surroundings, fascinating history, incredible mythology, political intrigue, court shenanigans, interesting characters, and most of all, assassin nuns. Honestly, how could I have put off a book about assassin nuns for so long?! I did feel like this story could have been a bit longer though. I know that with almost 500 pages and a pretty slow plot a lot of people were a bit bored, but I couldn’t get enough, and I think the ending was very abrupt (although I think the second and third books will deal more with that). Also, I wish the romance had been built-up a bit more. I really liked it, but I personally prefer a very slow build-up. Still, I couldn’t put this book down.

The thing I liked most about this book was the premise: Ismae is a handmaiden of Death at the convent of St. Mortain. These daughters of Death are trained to be assassins from a very young age, and know how to kill a man in every possible way. Ismae was not the most memorable character to me, but I did love her a whole lot. From the moment she got excited over killing men, I knew she was my kind of girl. (I like violence, okay?) When Ismae gets her first and second official assignments from the abbess of the convent to prove herself, she runs into Gavriel Duval, who keeps trying to get to her victims before she can (but is unsuccessful, because Ismae is glorious). As could have been expected, Ismae and Duval develop feelings for each other, and though I’m very picky with my romances and I wish theirs had been built-up more, I did really like them together. Of course, that was helped by the fact that View Spoiler ».

Anyway, Ismae is then sent to go to the court of Brittany, because the abbess doesn’t trust Duval, but mostly to ensure the safety of the (twelve-year-old) duchess Anne. This is another aspect in which Grave Mercy excelled: the setting is just fantastic. I didn’t know much about the French oppression of Brittany, and I loved learning about it just (even though it made me very, very angry) as much as I enjoyed the politics of this story. Books with a focus on politics are some of my favorites, and I think Robin LaFevers wrote this aspect really well. There is so much going on at the Breton court. From the moment Ismae arrives, she is unable to trust anyone, although with the help of Duval (whom she is pretending to sleep with – it’s complicated, okay?), she’s able to befriend the the duchess, who is just precious. I adored their friendship a whole lot. Still, Ismae couldn’t trust anyone, and I loved following her as she tried to figure things out. Sneaking around and trying to figure out who to trust and which rumors to believe are my favorite things.

I wish I could write a better review for this book, because it definitely needs it, but also it’s been a month and pretty much all I remember is that I loved it. My only really issue was that, while there are some parts of the story that have been resolved by the end of the story, there is still so much going on politics-wise that I wasn’t entirely happy with where the story left off. This was also a little bit because there’s a villain speech at the end, and those never work for me. Still, I think that this series is brilliant in it the way you would exactly expect from a book about fifteenth century Brittany assassin nuns hanging around at court. It’s glorious, and I can’t wait to finally start Dark Triumph.

memorable quotes

“You do not care for de Lornay’s beauty, demoiselle?” Beast asks.
I wrinkle my nose. “I am not impressed with pretty men in general, my lord.”

“When I tried to wake you, you stabbed me.” He sounds sore put out, and I cannot blame him. (…) I’ve wiped away most of the blood and can see a two-inch scratch along his collarbone. “I must resume practicing,” I mutter. “I missed.”

“Have you no practice at needlework?” she asks.
“Only with a much larger needle,” I mutter.
She smiles grimly at my joke. “Ah. Perhaps we can find some larger pieces for you to practice on.”

“Not all men are the same, you know. with someone such as Gavriel, I would suggest appearing aloof, not chasing too much. He might see that as suffocating rather than charming.” Her words are sharp, but her voice is sweet, like honey on the edge of a blade, and meant to be cutting. I comfort myself with the knowledge that if Duval ever feels smothered by me, it will be because I am holding a pillow over his face and commending his soul to Mortain.

I stare at him coldly. “I do not care for needlework.” I pause. “Unless it involves the base of the skull.”

“Are men truly such idiots that they cannot resist two orbs of flesh?”

August in Review


Welcome to our super belated August wrap-up because Ellice and I are terrible at getting posts ready and Ellis has been ready for ages, oops, sorry Ellis. Anyway, this is what we did in August, month of sun and freedom and summer vacation, please come back, I miss it already. – Judith

we did

Ellis: August was a trip. I first went a few days to Copenhagen with my family. It’s a beautiful city, but there were some things under construction at the time, so there was a lot we couldn’t see. My mother and one of my brothers had been a few times before and they both said it was better to visit it in the autumn, because better weather to be walking around all day (seriously, I got sunburnt in the weirdest way) + fewer people. With the flying and everything, three days seemed incredibly short, but it was a pretty cool city trip. My other brother and I flew back home after a few days, while the rest of my family moved on to Sweden and road-tripped there for another ten days or so. MEANWHILE I had an evening and a morning to get ready by the time I got home from the airport because Judith would arrive the next day for what would be one of the best weeks of my life. Gaby and Gillian wouldn’t be arriving until the next day so Judith and I pretty much hung around the house, talked bunches, stroked pretty books, ate pizza hawaii and watched the Georgia Nicolson movie. My favourite moment was when Whelk Boy said something absolutely ridiculous and we both spontaneously burst out laughing and didn’t recover until 10 minutes later. It’s probably not even that funny but it was prime entertainment at that moment.

Picking up Gaby and Gillian was an adventure in itself. I remember that Judith and I were so proud of ourselves because we were much earlier at the airport than Gaby said she’d arrive, so we sat down and started talking, and then suddenly Judith looks behind us and starts laughing. At that point, I still thought she’d just seen someone she knows and was having one of those OMG SO FUNNY TO SEE YOU HERE moments but nope, turned out Gaby was sitting behind us the entire time. I have no idea how I eventually got labelled the mama duck because CLEARLY I’m the kind of parent who forgets her child in the supermarket parking lot. Gillian wouldn’t arrive until ten hours later so we drove back home, Gaby took the longest nap in existence, I took a mini nap in comparison, and Judith was super productive and wrote blog posts and bonded with my brother. (I think. I heard sounds downstairs and have decided that was what was happening.) (Note from Judith: I got him to tell me where the food was because priorities.) Eventually we picked up Gillian, introduced Gaby and Gillian to the phenomenon that is a frituur, ate a bucket of fries while Gaby and I also split a bottle of wine, and crashed hard. Or at least Gaby and I did because apparently Judith and Gillian don’t need sleep and are still able to function as perfectly normal human beings, which HOW. Oh, and Gillian used the fries to act out her in-plane face-space sharing with Tom Felton. Important detail.


The most important detail is that we spent an entire day IN BRUGES. (Gaby’s going to kill me.) Before that, we also walked around IN ANTWERP, Judith and I also spent some time IN BRUSSELS when G&G were already gone, and there were also a lot of shenanigans AT HOME. We played Cards of Humanity a lot. We also introduced Gillian to Belgian supermarkets (Judith was already a connoisseur at that point seeing as how we did some emergency shopping the first day) and I have never in my life seen someone so excited over pickle chips. Gaby was taking another nap at the time. Other notable things: Gaby got kicked off the tram by a very rude driver, I got kicked off the couch by gravity, Gillian got to meet Belgian delicacies such as European macaroni and stoofvlees (Flemish beef stew), and Judith paparazzo’d everything (read: me) AGAINST MY WISHES. (Okay, I’m glad she took spontaneous pictures of everything but don’t tell her that.) There’s a lot more, but most of it has been reduced to inside joke status at this point so that’s not really interesting to anyone else.

The rest of August was a mix of getting back to work, trying to read, and getting back used to not waking up to three blogger friends that have either been up, reading, and drinking coffee for hours (Gillian), what I just said minus the coffee (Judith), or still asleep but ready to cook some eggs and pancakes the moment she’s up (Gaby). BEING ALONE AGAIN WAS WEIRD 0/10 WOULD NOT RECOMMEND. Especially when you then run into things like the coffee drink Gillian forgot about, or one of her cardigans, or all the yoghurt and stracciatella ice cream we bought way too much of. Oh, and my brother left for his study in Paris and his room is now doubling as a gym.

Judith: Ellis’s recap of our Belgium adventures is pretty much all I have to say about it. I honestly had the best time ever and I laughed so hard I cried over so many things (IN BRUGES, FUCK ELLEN, GODDAMN JEN). I wish we all lived closer (well, Ellis and I live close so that’s good at least) so we could do this every weekend. What I really loved was how completely comfortable I felt the entire time, and that’s not always the case with me when staying at people’s houses. It really was one of the best weeks I’ve ever had.


Other than that, I celebrated my 3rd blogoversary, I had a few beach days before the weather started to become terrible, and I went on a short hotel retreat with one of my best friends. This was actually a thing that I’d won through Twitter, by posting a picture and using a hashtag that I had no idea were even part of a competition. But it was amazing: the hotel was beautiful and spending three days wandering around a new city and eating great food was fantastic and exactly what I needed towards the end of August. That last thing mostly because August was a mix of ups and downs for me, and I struggled with mental health issues a little bit, especially (unfortunately) to the end of the Belgium trip and the two weeks after that. It’s annoying when half of you is ready to have fun and go out, and the other half is just not having it. Fortunately, the past week has been very good, and I’m very excited to get back to uni and try new things this year. *


Ellice: For about two weeks, I had written two sentences for my August recap. They said: “What did I do this month? I have no idea.” Hahaha. I’m telling you this for no other reason than I laughed just now when I saw that because it still pretty much sums up August perfectly! It’s been a whirlwind of students coming back to campus, readjusting to work with lots of people after getting used to a VERY quiet library over the summer.


The week after school started back, my coworkers and I did manage to squeeze a fun weekend trip into our agenda– we went to the First Annual Mississippi Book Festival in Jackson! YAY! It was a lot of fun, although it was a typical Mississippi summer weekend (i.e. miserably hot!). There were tents set up outside where you could buy the authors’ books from Lemuria Books (Jackson’s indie bookstore), and then the panels were (thankfully!) inside the capitol building (which is BEAUTIFUL, as you can see in the picture). Mississippi is well-known for the many writers who call it home, so that made for a pretty awesome adult fiction lineup (John Grisham, Greg Iles, and MO Walsh, to name a few). However, there are hardly any YA authors, so my favorite genre wasn’t really represented. :( My boss reserved tickets for us to go to a luncheon featuring John Grisham (a book event in Mississippi isn’t complete without THE MAN, haha). The atmosphere at this restaurant was the best part– it was very Southern and bluesy, and there was a blues band playing while we ate. All in all, it was a fun trip. I don’t think the ones who organized the festival anticipated such a huge turnout because they had to turn people away all day as the panels filled up. Maybe that means next year will be even bigger and better :)

All in all, August was busy but fun. I got my first package from Secret Sister, who is so incredibly thoughtful– it was full of librarianish things, aka it was perfect! I can’t wait to find out who she is!

We’re 9 days into September as I’m writing this, and I can’t wait for the next recap post because it’s already been an awesome month, thanks to some very awesome cobloggers, a sweet Secret Sister, and the beginning of FOOTBALL. wheee! So there ya go… a teaser for September’s recap, to keep you coming back for more. ;) haha

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Queen of Shadows Blog Tour: Wallpapers + Giveaway


Hello! Today I have the most exciting post ever! It’s been a year since the Thirteen Days of Ash & Fire blog tour that I hosted with Alexa, Rachel, Jaz and Katie, a year since we founded the Maas Thirteen and named ourselves Sarah J. Maas’s unofficial street team, a year since I cried over Heir of Fire and posted my playlist as part of the blog tour. And now we’re back, to celebrate the release of the latest installment in the Throne of Glass series, a pretty unfamiliar book called Queen of Shadows. You probably haven’t heard of it. In all seriousness, Queen of Shadows is the best book in this series so far, and one of my favorite books ever. So today I’m kicking off yet another Sarah J. Maas blog tour hosted by the Maas Thirteen: Queen of Shadows edition! You can also read my review of the book here. I quite liked it.

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