Book Review: Velvet Was the Night

This book was a highly anticipated read in the book community, and that was an anticipation that I shared in.

– Please note: this is not a playlist created by me. This playlist was created by the author and promoted by them.

“As Maite and Elvis come closer to discovering the truth behind Leonora’s disappearance, they can no longer escape the dangers threatening to consume their lives, with hitmen, government agents and Russian spies all aiming to find or protect Leonora’s secrets – at gunpoint.” Velvet Was the Night: an edgy, passionate, simmering noir thriller from a writer at the very top of her game.

– Velvet was the Night, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I had previously read Mexican Gothic by Silvia Morena-Garcia, so I thought I was going in with a pretty fair knowledge of her writing style. And while that was true, I still ended up being disappointed by this book.

I was extremely excited by the premise. A 70’s noir set in Mexico City sounded exciting and enrapturing.

Maite was a character I wanted to root for. She was ordinary and lived a hum-drum life, dreaming of one more interesting where she was the star. Who doesn’t dream of that? She was relatable in that way. Unfortunately, that was the only good thing about her. She came off as whiny, and she had a habit of thieving from her neighbors when she was trusted to look after their animals. This was brought up once or twice and never touched on again except to be used as an plot device.

On the other hand, I really loved Elvis’ character. A young man who loved music as much as Maite did, but was striving to better himself at every turn even despite his naivety towards El Mago. He had the most character growth and development throughout the book, and I was always eager to get to his chapters and skip over Maite’s entirely.

The plot itself was intriguing, though I did feel as if there were pieces that were cobbled together to make sense. The book was rather short, which was detrimental to laying out an intrigue plot and I often felt as if I was missing clues, or that pieces of the puzzle were coming together in a way that was convenient to drive the story forward, rather than believable.

The romance. If I had to read more of Maite and Rubén being painfully awkward with one another, seeking human companionship and knowing that ultimately, he was never going to choose her, I was going to throw the book across the room. Thankfully, it was a clean ending, despite Maite’s feelings. The annoying part was that Elvis and Maite were set up to be the romantic interests, and the two of them didn’t properly meet until the last few pages of the book. And hardly anything happened.

A winding, choppy plot. Flat characters. Monotonous writing. Pitiful romantic subplot.

The only good thing about this book was getting to see and learn about the world of Mexico City in the 70s.

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Book Review: Wild Women and the Blues

This book was beautiful, and gave much needed insight to a familiar time period that is quite frankly, white-washed significantly in history.

The blurb: Piece by piece, Honoree reveals her past and her secrets, while Sawyer fights tooth and nail to keep his. It’s a story of courage and ambition, hot jazz and illicit passions. And as past meets present, for Honoree, it’s a final chance to be truly heard and seen before it’s too late. No matter the cost . . .

Wild Women and the Blues, by Denny S. Bryce

This book reminded me quite a bit of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, for a number of reasons. Both of these stories are told parallel to the past, and the future, with an older woman revealing their history to someone trying to complete a project. In Wild Women and the Blues, we have an elderly lady, Miss Honoree, telling her story to Sawyer, who is trying to complete his thesis.

I found that as I read the story, it took some time for it to pick up and get to a point that I felt was the action of the story. Though I will say, the beautiful prose and vivid immersion of the 20’s through the eyes of Honoree were intriguing and while it was slow, I could almost forget that fact with the trips into the past.

Honoree’s story was the most interesting part of this book. Which is good, considering the story is focused on her. Unfortunately, the supporting story of Sawyer felt rushed, cobbled together, and at times, vapid. Very little happened, and the interesting pieces that could have made his story more interesting, happened off screen.

The plot twists in this book were unexpected when I came to them, but not in the way that left me scratching my head like some books. This one had all the clues peppered in, throughout character decisions, small lines that seem like throwaways, and perfect turns of phrase.

All in all, it was a gorgeous book full of evocative prose, and a stunning look into a world often overlooked.

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8 Productivity Hacks for Authors

Productivity for authors is such a hot topic, because we always want to be more productive! Put out more content, connect with more people, market more, write more, DO more. Being productive takes practice and building those practices into a solid routine. Whether it’s to write more books, grow their author brand and sell more of those books, it can feel daunting to get everything done. 

But there are ways to save yourself time and get more done in a day. So let’s get started with these 8 productivity habits for authors.

  1. Set Daily Writing Goals: Sitting at the start of a book with the cursor blinking on a blank page is overwhelming. We have all been there, wondering just how we’re going to start and where. One of the best ways to break past the barrier is to set a daily writing goal. Choose word count, a certain number of sprints, even a time limit and keep at it daily until it becomes integrated into your routine. 
  1. Use Brackets: Everyone knows that access to the internet often leads straight down into rabbit holes of research, cute cat videos and funny memes. Avoid this when it comes to your writing by incorporating the use of brackets. When you come to a part in your scene where you need to look something up, aren’t sure how to continue or forgot something from another part and you need to go back and check, use brackets in that place. You can write [look up Scottish castle design here] and go back to writing seamlessly with the note to find out later when you aren’t in the creative flow.
  1. Schedule a Daily Writing Time: A fixed schedule for writing becomes a routine and one that an author protects and sets boundaries about. It’s easier to say no, you cannot do something, when you know you have to be writing at a certain time. It also creates a habit that stimulates your brain into knowing it is time to write and thus, time to get into creative mode.
  1. Update + Recycle Old Content: You are going to constantly have new followers who haven’t seen your old blogs and posts. So polish them up with any necessary updates to information, call to actions and then post them again. You can also use these old pieces to build new pieces that are adjacent.
  1. Content Goes A Long Way: One piece of content can stretch pretty far. Blog posts can be shortened and adjusted for newsletters, and quotes taken out to be used for social media graphics, pinterest posts and more. You can turn podcasts into blogs or vice versa, create videos from podcasts, newsletters and blogs, and turn that video content into short clips for Reels or TikToks. Do more, with less.
  1. Plan Ahead: Batch create your content. It’s much easier to focus on writing your social media captions at once, then to do it every day. The same with blogs and newsletters! Decide what you want to work on and then spend your time focusing on that specific kind of writing. Rather than struggling to find out what you’re going to write and getting into that particular writing zone over and over again, do it once.
  1. Automate Your Systems: There are so many ways of scheduling things that it’s crazy! You can schedule your social media in advance, your blogs, newsletters and more. So take advantage of these things! Instead of worrying about posting everywhere every day, or making sure that you get that blog out, or your newsletter sent out on the correct day, schedule them. That way, they get sent and all you have to do is give a quick double check and engage with anyone who responds rather than wasting time.
  1. Outsource Non-Writing Tasks: If all else fails and you’re still struggling to be productive, it’s time to delegate. An author assistant is a great way of getting tasks handled so you can focus on the creative process, rather than all the admin tasks that get in your way.⁠ If you’re looking to outsource your administrative and non-writing tasks, I’m accepting clients. You can email me at, comment below or DM me on any of my social media channels.

Let me know if you try any of these productivity hacks, and if they help! I’d love to hear from you.

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Book Review: A Crown of Gilded Bones

This was a highly anticipated read for me. As soon as it dropped to my Kindle, I was reading it.

I wasn’t disappointed!

My only issue was that it tended to have some big info-dumps that while important for the story, did take away from it in some ways.

It slowed down the pace and bogged down the story in certain parts that felt like it was a bit of a slog to get through.

That being said, the action parts were great! The book started out incredibly strong, and I was sucked in from the very beginning.

Then it slowed down and it was a bit of a problem getting through, despite the fact that the information was important, relevant, and interesting too.

It was so damn good to see a badass character like Poppy STAY a badass, instead of getting weak and needing a man to save her. Even with the bolt issue, she was kickass and Casteel supported her at every single turn.

Casteel was and is, such a good character and I’m delighted that he stayed that way. He is all about his QUEEN AS HE RIGHTFULLY SHOULD BE, and Kieran is a treat.

The ending was predictable, but in a good way in my opinion. Situations are escalating and ramping up and it’s time to bow down to the Queen, or kneel.

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Book Review: A Court of Silver Flames

I had high, high hopes for this book and was such a let down.

The romance was good.

But the fact that Nesta is constantly harassed and berated for how she is dealing with her trauma is terrible. She tries to deal with the fact her father decided at the last minute to be useful and save a world when he couldn’t save her. Dealing with the way her mother shaped her to be. Dealing with the war and everything she suffered, being in the Cauldron, her powers and then the aftermath of all that.

The other characters make terrible comments, such as Cassian saying things like: “everyone fucking hates you.” Rhysand’s constant hatred. They decide that Nesta is finally too much of an embarrassment to the family and that now’s the time to rip her away from the place she’s built up for herself to a new place, as if she were a disobedient dog in need of obedience training. And let’s not forget the way she perceives herself as an absolute monster because of the way everyone else has perceived her.

And then she turns around to apologize to them because she’s depressed and traumatized and she should have really helped herself before they had to have their intervention. Ugh.

Nesta is an amazing character. Bold. Opinionated. Mean. And she has this incredible transformation in the Cauldron, but it is traumatic experience and I was so glad to see that this was taken seriously. By Nesta, at least. She suffers. Hard. But the people around her don’t seem to understand this at all, and make it a thousand times worse for her. They leave her alone to suffer, then treat her like a dog when they finally decide to do something.

I wanted to see more of her coming into her own with her powers. This amazing power she stole from the Cauldron that made her one of the most powerful people, even more so than Rhysand and…. we see hints of it. But she never really comes into her own with it, except at the very end when she gives it up for Feyre. And uses it to alter the three sisters’ pelvises so they can have winged babies without dying.

And more on coming into her own, she ends up making friends and I loved this. I really did. They even begin training and becoming warriors in their own right (Valkyries: which sounds exactly like what it is in real life). And then… she doesn’t even get the payoff of that. When she and her friends are dropped off for the Blood Rite, she never finishes. She’s steps away from the top, and then Cassian swoops in and finishes the job for her. And turns out his mind has been taken over.

This whole ending was just a big let down. Everything Nesta had been working towards, is taken away from her like it didn’t matter that she had put in all of this effort to heal and become powerful in her own right.

I was so incredibly disappointed by this ending.

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Bullet Journaling as an Author with Anxiety

I have lived with anxiety for most of my life. However, I’ve also been incredibly good at masquerading it from others.

For most of my life, when I’ve brought the topic up, people didn’t believe me. I come across as a very calm, put-together person. I typically tend to be the rock in the storm for others. That persona however, is part of the symptom of my anxiety. Underneath that mask, I am more often than not a ball of twisted up stress and anxiety.

Having control over things is what helps me keep my anxiety in check. Being organized, lets me feel in control. It staves off the imposter syndrome. I lived as such for many years, whether it was through keeping my workspace incredibly organized, my home clean, or my entire outfit for the day planned out the night before – then I found Bullet Journaling.

Bullet Journaling is a process in which you take a notebook, and then organize everything you desire about your life. Appointments, due dates for blogs, meetings and far more are placed into this journal. 

Bullet Journaling + Work Anxiety

This concept, and the process of bullet journaling, has helped my anxiety immensely. I was often fearful that I would forget important deadlines, dates and appointments because I have an awful memory. Being able to have all of these things in a single place has eliminated my concerns. When something new comes up, I flip to the date I need, write it in and continue on with my day. There are no more tedious tasks of pulling up my phone calendar, or grabbing a sticky note and hoping I don’t lose it until I find my phone. No more digital screens with tabs of to-do lists and meetings and more hiking up my anxiety because everything feels unorganized.

Bullet Journaling + Life Anxiety

Even beyond work, bullet journaling has become a useful tool for me. I have created several collections for myself, whereby I track books that I have read and want to read, TV shows I want to watch, movies, restaurants and much more. There are times I dreaded choosing what to watch next, because I was tired after a long day of work and the prospect of flipping through books or shows didn’t seem worth the hassle. There’s certainly nothing wrong with deviating from your list, but often, I find that it has made relaxing after the end of a long day that much easier because I have already decided what I would like to watch, or read. Plus, it allows me to keep track of things I have already seen or read, and there’s no wasted time on trying to remember if I have.

Bullet Journaling + Author Anxiety

I’ve also done this for my writing. I have collections for character names that strike me, character ideas, scenes I’d like to include, snippets of dialogue or whimsical phrases that inspire me. When I feel uninspired, it helps me to look at those pages and remember why I’m writing. This has been useful for me in keeping everything in order as well. No more notebooks laying around with half finished pieces that I can’t find, as it’s all in one place. It’s been a great way of tracking my marketing efforts too. Keeping track of things to post, my analytics, ideas I have to market and so much more.

Bullet Journaling + Creativity

Another unique way that bullet journaling has helped my anxiety, has been by giving me a creative outlet. Many people choose to keep their bullet journal aesthetic minimalist, though I personally enjoy being able to decorate it the way I desire. Choosing a monthly theme, and pasting in images, writing quotes and drawing, has allowed me a way to be creative that is different than what I usually do. As a writer and graphic designer, I rarely did anything that was considered “crafty,” so this monthly sit-down has been a nice way of reflecting over the past month, and welcoming the new month in an innovative way. Being able to stretch my creative muscles in such a manner also means that I enjoy each page that I have created. I’ve chosen things that resonate with me, and creates a bit of a safe haven in the form of a journal where I can jot down anything that comes to mind and free it from my thoughts.

Which brings me to the journaling aspect of bullet journaling. I often begin my day by thinking over the previous day, and writing a few sentences about the things I did, or how I felt about something that impacted me. Having this moment in the morning before I dive into my hectic day of tasks has allowed me a more thoughtful approach to the rest of my time. I no longer feel as harried, or even as upset or anxious about something that happened, because I was able to take a moment, contemplate it, and move on. Making myself stop and think, has also forced me to learn this habit for other areas of my life. When I approach a task, I break it down into parts and tackle them one by one, so that I can tick that off of my to-do list. It no longer feels as though I am trying to climb an insurmountable mountain.

It has also been an interesting process, tweaking my bullet journal for work. I have a few pages each month dedicated to a “brain dump,” that allows me to write out words, phrases or even doodles that come to mind about things. When I’m feeling stumped, or have writer’s block, I often flip to those pages to find something. This has helped me significantly when it comes to plotting out social media posts, generating blog topics and other content. I no longer feel the end of the month desperate rush of trying to figure out what I’m going to create for my business.

In The End

Whether just one of these things would have impacted my anxiety, or simply the combination of all of the above, my stress has been reduced significantly. Bullet Journaling has truly changed the way I approach my life, whether work or personal, and I no longer feel as though I am masquerading as a calm and put-together person. I am a calm and put-together person, with a pink and silver notebook, and colorful pens.

Blog originally written for Petite Melanie.

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Storm Navarro Romance Author Logo Project

Storm Navarro is a fun client of mine, who has branched out into contemporary romance!

Right now, she’s working on a series about DREAMers, featuring Latinx leads, fun romances and themes built on the real life struggles of immigrants.

When she first came to me, she wanted a logo indicative of the culture, but also one that showed her love of conchas while paying homage to her grandmother.

This is what I created:

While working on this logo, I had the opportunity to try conchas for the first time! The pink ones are a definite favorite of mine.

Be sure to follow Storm Navarro to keep up to date on all her projects.

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Project: Who Asked Us Podcast

Two of my fabulous former clients Storm Navarro and Jolene Navarro, decided to create a podcast!

Blue-Collar vs. White-Collar: episode 1.18 Who Asked Us?

This week, mom and I get into what kinds of careers a romance author can give their heroes/heroines. Whether it's being in charge, behind a desk, or working with their hands!
  1. Blue-Collar vs. White-Collar: episode 1.18
  2. Procrastination station: episode 1.17
  3. Mothers: episode 1.16
  4. Sports in Romance: episode 1.15
  5. Movement & Creativity w/ Lyssa: episode 1.14

This podcast is all about their unsolicited opinions on various topics in the romance genre industry. They have an episode on Saturday mornings, 9 AM CST.

They asked me to create a logo with the lilac and mint coloring that would embody their romance background and theme, as well as show that they were a podcast.

This is what I created:

Make sure to follow them wherever you listen to podcasts.

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Combating Writer’s Overwhelm

combating writer's overwhelm, ariel author va

Chances are, you’ve thought the phrase: I’m just not cut out for writing. 

Or some variation of it, because all of us suffer from anxiety, dread and imposter syndrome. It is an unfortunate part of the process. We’re extremely creative people and it’s hard to think about putting our own thoughts and designs into the world to be viewed and judged.

It can also seem like a daunting task when everything happening around you feels opposed to what you’re trying to accomplish. From happenings in the world, to your day job and even to your home life.

Writers everywhere suffer from this malady. They find themselves staring at the cursed, blinking cursor with fingers hovering over the keyboard. Finally, 20 minutes have passed and still, a blank document screen stares back. So they give in. They’ll try again tomorrow.

Then “I’ll try again tomorrow” turns into a week. A month. A year, perhaps.

Good news, is that as mentioned, writers suffer this all the time. Bad news, is that writers can quickly let it become an excuse. And here’s the truth – published authors never let it be an excuse, and neither should you.

Dan Brown, author of Inferno and The Da Vinci Code, uses gravity boots. Hanging upside down helps him gain a new perspective, and oxygenates the brain. Dan Brown, and other authors recognize that writer’s block is evidence that you need to change how you approach your writing and projects.


Sometimes, we all need a break. A mental recalibration (Mass Effect fans, you know what I’m talking about), and that’s totally normal. It can feel like getting words down on the page is like pulling teeth. That sucks, hard. But in times of stress, no matter the source – you don’t need to push yourself. You shouldn’t feel like you need to push yourself, either. Taking a break for a little while is actually way more beneficial than struggling to put out work. The more you force yourself, the less you like it.

Instead of writing, try something relaxing. Treat yo-self! Take yourself out for a quiet dinner and get that really tempting dish you’ve been looking at, and a drink. Visit a museum, or go for a hike. Have a spa day (even one at home)! Put on a face mask, do your nails and binge your favorite Netflix show.


It is totally okay to not do anything creative. It really is. But if you still feel the need for a creative outlet there are other options than your tried and true wordcraft.

If you’re feeling burnt out, try something new. One of my favorite things to do is to color. I like pulling out my pretty colored pencils, choosing a cool picture in my coloring book and just losing myself in coloring everything in.

I also from time to time, like to cook fancy things. I’ll find a cool recipe, and experiment with something new. Try picking up a hobby like knitting, baking, glass blowing or anything else that catches your eye. There’s something invigorating about being creative in a way you aren’t normally.


Another aspect to really consider if you’re feeling discouraged is that it’s not actually burnout, but time to try doing things differently. Maybe you’re a pantser who has never managed to finish your first draft. If that’s the case, it might be beneficial to start plotting your book even if it’s just a skeleton framework. I was a pantser for many, many years and never actually finished anything. Then I learned the magic that is outlines, and I’m consistently creating for my book because I have a map of where I need to get and how to get there.

Maybe you’re a plotter – it might be time to try some free writing. Don’t worry so much about your outline. Focus on the words and let them carry you where they will. It might turn out to be nothing you can put in your book this time, but it might be useful for another book. It might also only serve to get you out of a rigid mindset, allowing you to dive back in with a renewed vigor.

Whatever the case might be, don’t be hard on yourself. Writing is hard work! People that are not in the writing industry struggle to understand – but making yourself sit down day after day to create whole worlds, events and people out of thin air requires a mental acuity most do not possess. Make sure to take care of yourself to avoid feeling burnt out! And don’t give up – just realize writing is a real profession and it comes with all the implications, pros and cons as any other career. 

Discipline allows magic. To be a writer is to be the very best of assassins. You do not sit down and write every day to force the Muse to show up. You get into the habit of writing every day so that when she shows up, you have the maximum chance of catching her, bashing her on the head, and squeezing every last drop out of that bitch.LILI ST. CROW


A psychiatrist named Edmund Bergler first used this term in academia during the 1940s. Studies were made of the phenomena, and a popular theory before it was proven untrue and dismissed, as that writers were “draining themselves dry of inspiration.”

Further studies proved that writer’s block was often a symptom of depression, anxiety and authors who felt generally dissatisfied with their current situation. These things, as well as environmental issues such as a pandemic, times of crisis and other factors create mental blocks. When these arise, you have to fight for your creativity.


  • Exhaustion: Sometimes, you’re just tired. You’re burnt out and you need to give your brain a break. Take a nap if you’re physically tired, and go do something else if you’re mentally weary. 
  • Perfectionism: You might be stuck because you feel like your writing has to be perfect, even on the first draft. Allow me to introduce you to the idea of the zero draft. Type out all your words and don’t worry about going back to anything. The zero draft is for the crap.
  • Imposter Syndrome: This one hits a lot of people, not just writers. Whether you feel like an imposter because you haven’t published anything, or you’re feeling it despite publishing – you just don’t feel good enough. Nothing could be further from the truth.


  1. Listen to music. I personally like music with lyrics, but many swear by ambiance or non-lyric. Natural sounds, or slow, soothing music lowers blood pressure, heart rate as well as stress hormones.
  2. Exercise: it lowers stress hormones and it improves your sleep. Walk for 15 minutes, start a yoga routine, or go for a bike ride.
  3. Color! Or do something else creative that isn’t writing to reset your brain.
  4. Skip the introduction. Write the action and go back to the start later on. 
  5. Pomodoro Technique. Decide what you want to write, and then set a timer for 25 minutes. Write until the timer goes off, then take a five minute break. Repeat.
  6. Create a writing routine. Hack your brain into writing mode by setting a routine that forces your brain to connect a place, a time, or set up that means “it’s writing time!”
  7. Shut off the distractions. Sometimes, I just need to turn off the wifi, set the phone in another room and focus.
  8. Aromatherapy: certain herbs and scents can help reduce stress. Try lavender, rose or chamomile candles or essential oils.

Sometimes, being afraid of writing is harder for us to deal with, than actually just sitting down and writing. Other times, the words come easily. Experiment. Find what works for you, to overcome the overwhelm and use it. If you want to make a career out of writing, then part of your job is to do the writing and get it done. Even when it feels like you can’t make it.

Warren Ellis says it best: “Writer’s block? I’ve heard of this. This is when a writer cannot write, yes? Then that person isn’t a writer anymore. I’m sorry, but the job is getting up in the fucking morning and writing for a living.”

Creatives like us have no problem with getting caught up in negative thought cycles. All it takes is one errant thought and we’re suckered into a mindset trap that isn’t healthy for us in the slightest.

If it were as easy as one positive thought getting us back on track, life would certainly be a lot easier wouldn’t it?

That being said, when you catch yourself swirling down into negative thoughts, learning to stop yourself and reverse that thought into something positive can go a long way to helping.

Mine is always… “I’m not writing enough.” Reversing that would look like… “I AM writing enough, and my pace is just fine.”

What negative thought do you fall into, and how can you reverse it to something positive?

Book Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

I absolutely fell in love with this book. Dreamy, magickal, seductively sinister and upliftingly tragic.

The blurb: “France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.”

My review: This book blew me away, entirely. I can’t stop talking about it and I can’t stop thinking about it. This is the first book in… ever, that after reading it through the library, I specifically went and purchased a physical copy for myself to own.

Admittedly, it did have a slow start, but it was a gradual beginning balanced by the lovely flowing prose that made this entire novel feel luminous. I felt Addie’s plight in my soul, understood her desire to and willingness to let herself drown in Henry and even the willingness to drown herself in Luc. 

This is the nail art it inspired:

The story wanders between past and present and this is polarizing among readers, but I found it indicative of Addie’s mental state. Past bleeding into the present, with no real hold on the future, because while she is a person who no one remembers, she’s cursed to remember everything. 

The plot doesn’t pick up until somewhere in the middle of the book, but the beginning was moody and atmospheric and in my own personal opinion, I felt as if those qualities and the stunning writing more than made up for it, especially when one considers it in the light of Addie herself as a character. She has spent all of those centuries being a wayward wanderer chasing sentiments and shadows, desperate to make her own mark on a world that won’t accept it – and then finally, she meets the one who can help her do that. Then, finally, her story truly begins, because no story can exist if the mark cannot be made.

"Deja vu. Deja su. Deja vecu. Already seen. Already known. Already lived."

This was my first book from V.E.Schwab and it did not disappoint. 5/5

What did you think of Addie LaRue?

Get Your Copy:

Visit V.E. Schwab’s Website:

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