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.

               GoodreadsδΈ¨ 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.

               GoodreadsδΈ¨ 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.