Review + Giveaway: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

queen of hearts


Queen of Hearts (#1 The Crown) by Colleen Oakes

Genre: Fantasy, Fairytale retelling

Publisher: Sparkpress

Pages: 205

Published: February 14th, 2014

Links: Amazon |  Goodreads

Author Links:  Goodreads  |  Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Pinterest

Not every fairytale has a happy ending.
This is the story of a princess who became a villain.
A Father’s Betrayal. A Kingdom with a Black Secret. A Princess Slowly Unraveling.

As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life.

When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.

Part epic fantasy, part twisted fairy tale, this dazzling saga will have readers shivering as Dinahs furious nature sweeps Wonderland up in the maelstrom of her wrath.

Familiar characters such as Cheshire, the White Rabbit, and the Mad Hatter make their appearance, enchanting readers with this new, dark take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Both WICKED and THE TRUE STORY OF THE THREE LITTLE PIGS transformed the evil villains into sympathetic and misunderstood characters.  Colleen Oakes succeeds in doing the same for THE QUEEN OF HEARTS.  It seems that the root of Dinah’s attitude problems stem from the fact that she wasn’t hugged enough as a child.  Truth-be-told, her father makes the future queen of hearts look docile and sane.  This is possibly the darkest version of Wonderland that I’ve read.

Most of the familiar characters return for this series, although in much different roles than they traditionally occupy.  There’s some romance, yet it’s not center stage.  I do like that Dinah’s love for this person seems genuine.  I’m still on the fence about whether his feelings for her are the same.

Our main character, Dinah, is a spoiled princess who abuses her powers to get what she wants.  However, her situation is so precarious that I can’t help but feel sympathetic for her.  The only way she knows how to get people to respond to her is to force her will upon them.  She’s a complex character, whose faults are so plentiful that it’s amazing that she can manage to smile when she does.

What’s truly remarkable is that the author manages to imply quite a bit about the other characters and the world without Dinah picking up on the clues.  Dinah is so self absorbed in her own world that she doesn’t see it crashing down around her until it hits her (literally).

The story and characters deserve five stars.  I just wish that the writing was as magical.  Personally, I think Wonderland needs purple prose to make it feel complete.  I never got the sense of how extraordinary the layout of the land or the characters were because description was either lacking or plainly written.  In most fantasylands, I don’t think it’s necessary to flaunt details and quirks, but Wonderland holds a special place in my heart and I like the weirdness of the place.  I do plan on continuing the series, since my love for well-written villains trumps everything.

B rating

(I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.)

giveaway image lizzy dark fiction

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Day 7 – Top 10 Book Blogger Pet Peeves




I wasn’t quite sure where to go for this one, so here are the top 10 pet peeves in regard to blogging/reviewing.

1.  When I’m sent a PDF review copy from the publisher/author/blog tour.

If you have a kindle, then you understand that PDFs and Kindles are as compatible as dogs and cats.  Sure, there’s always the one odd couple that clicks, but the majority of the time they don’t work well together.  The font size is super tiny and nonadjustable.  The search, notes, and dictionary don’t work in the document.  The formatting is atrocious.  Sometimes, my review copy looks like it has just been attacked by a mob of wingdings.  There’s missing letters, sentences, or even whole paragraphs.  I can’t handle it.  No PDFs…ever.

2.  When WordPress forgets to publish my scheduled post.

I usually procrastinate to the point where this doesn’t happen, but when I try to be proactive, WordPress “forgets” to post my post and I still have to scramble to get the post up in time.

3.  When a giveaway has more hurdles than a high school track.

I like entering giveaways.  I don’t like having to tweet, post a blog comment, AND follow 8 different ways to enter a giveaway.

4.  When my brain refuses to produce a “meaningful” comment.

People like meaningful comments.  These are the comments that give the blog owner that warm, fuzzy feeling and make them say…oh, yeah…someone loves me.  There are times where my brain is right there and has a million different witty things to say.  There’s also times where I’m as uninspired as….yeah, can’t even finish that metaphor, since it ironically requires inspiration.  The best I can come up with is “great review” or “it sounds like something I would like” or the most uninspiring comment ever “+1″.

5.  When people friend me on Goodreads, Google +, Linkin, or Twitter just to send me a review copy of their book.

I am more than a review service.  I am a person.  Socialize with me before you sucker punch me with a review request.

6.  When there is no unhelpful button on Goodreads reviews.

Why is it that on many popular books that the top review is either a fangirl or a troll?  Neither of which have actually reviewed the book and provide any meaningful advice on whether to purchase or not purchase the book.  I want the option to promote the reviews I like and mark down the reviews I don’t — just like on Amazon.

7.  When people quote mistakes on an ARC.

Guys, there is a disclaimer in the ARC that specifically tells you to check with the final product before quoting from an ARC.  Things are fixed.  Things are changed.  I saw this one review where this person gave a one star review because there was ONE sentence that wasn’t grammatically correct in an ARC.  OMG.  Not only that, but 85 freaking people agreed that this was a huge deal and that it was a way better review than the other hundred or so that reviewed the whole book and not one sentence.

8.  When authors have blatantly obvious grammatical or spelling errors in their review request.

It will make me delete your email.  Please don’t ever say “my English isn’t good”.  No, not what I want to hear when I’m trying to decide whether to spend 4-8 hours reading your book.

9.  When there are more gifs than words in a review.

I like gifs, but I need context to understand exactly what and why you choose to use a gif.  Why did you choose a facepalm or a dancing fat man?  What does it really mean?  I over think things too easily.  Just tell me.  Leave the showing to the author and the book.

10.  When bloggers I love have blogs that I hate.

There are some people who I think are absolutely amazing.  I just can’t ever find anything worth commenting on when I visit their blog.  It’s either in genres I don’t read or it’s all promotional bullshit.  It kills me that I can’t reciprocate the love I feel for them via their blog…but I can’t.

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What I Expected vs What I Got — Goodreads

As much as I love Goodreads, it falls short on what I hoped it would be when I first discovered it.

Goodreads is the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations. Our mission is to help people find and share books they love.  (source)

From this statement, I would assume that the focus of the site would be towards the consumer.  There’s two parts to Goodreads’ mission:

a) help readers find books they love

b) help readers share books they love

And here arises the difference between…

What I Expected vs What I Got


1)  Book Recommendations


What I expected:  I want my friends to know the type of books that I love and find that hidden gem that I’ll fall in love with.

What I got:  Recommendations of books in genres I never read or books that are clearly in need of a red pen.  These books are either written by the “friend” who send me the recommendation or suspiciously seem to be written by a close friend of that “friend”.


2) Messages

What I expected:  When I get a message from someone on goodreads, I’d like it to be personalized.  I’d like for it to be about books or something casual that relates to books.

What I got:  It’s a tie between a random review request and contest spam.

3) Groups

What I expected:  I want to discuss books, genres, and related content with other people.

What I got:  The groups seem to be flooded with authors begging for reviews and bloggers begging for people to visit their blogs.

4) Reviews


What I expected:  Well thought-out reviews that focus on the pros and cons of the book.

What I got:  Gifs.  Lots and lots of animated gifs.

5)  Quizzes

What I expected:  Quizzes that test my literary knowledge of books I have read.

What I got:  Quizzes from books I have either never heard of or never EVER wanted to read.


What I expected:  A site to discuss book and book related things.

What I got: A site with members focused on self-promotion.

What are your thoughts about Goodreads?

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Giveaway – Signed SWAG from Aprilynne Pike and Suzanne Young

the program suzanne youngslayers c j hillearthbound


A couple of weeks ago I was able to meet three amazing teen authors:  C J Hill, Aprilynne Pike, and Suzanne Young.  I also snagged an ARC copy of JUST LIKE FATE, which comes out August 27th.  You can check out my review of it on the 22nd.  I plan on reviewing EARTHBOUND by Aprilynne Pike and SLAYERS by C J Hill in September.

Both Suzanne Young and Aprilynne Pike were happy to provide some signed SWAG for my blog followers!  C J Hill signed my book but unfortunately she didn’t have any extra SWAG.  Next time though!



- poster of JUST LIKE FATE by Suzanne Young

- poster of THE PROGRAM by Suzanne Young

- poster of EARTHBOUND by Aprilynne Pike

- bookmark of THE PROGRAM by Suzanne Young

- bookmark of EARTHBOUND by Aprilynne Pike

- whatever that other thing is with the EARTHBOUND cover by Aprilynne Pike

suzanne aprilynne

(Dog not included.  She wanted to lay on the SWAG to get in the picture.  I wanted her not to mess up the SWAG.  So, we compromised and she got to be in the picture but not on the SWAG.  And she’s low-allergen and non-shedding, so if you’re allergic to walking balls of fuzz you should be okay.  Not trying to give anyone hives.)

Comment with either your favorite or most anticipated book by C J Hill, Aprilynne Pike, or Suzanne Young.  

(Click on the author’s name to view a list of their books on Goodreads.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

taiwanese manga

Hopefully you won’t end up with this instead of the SWAG!

This giveaway will be available for US/Canada only due to shipping costs. Ends 9/16/13. Winners have 48 hours to respond by email with their US/Canadian mailing address.

Not responsible for items lost in the mail. Trust me, it happens. I mailed MYSELF a package of books across country and somehow ended up with a box of Taiwanese manga instead (yes, written in Taiwanese!). I’ll go see if I can find the pic of it. Yes, found it! Definitely not the Terry Goodkind books I packed a month earlier. :(

And no, the dog wasn’t in the box.  She does manage to photobomb my pictures a lot, doesn’t she?

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Book Blogger Challenge – Day 8

It’s not too late to join in!  Sign up and participate at Good Books and Good Wine.

Quick!  Write 15 bullet points of things that appeal to you on blogs

(AKA 15 rants about blogs)

It took me forever to come up with 15 bullet points!  This post killed my brain.  I had to visit a dozen different blogs to figure out what I liked, because I was out of ideas on my own by #6.


1.  Easy to read – I’d rather the blog have a default design than something that distracts from the blog posts.  The background of the blog posts should be a light color; the text should be dark and not in some funky font.  Neon colored text is never okay.  Neon color background is never okay.  Neon is only cool in moderation.

2.  Regular updates - Most of the blogs I visit update daily, however I’d say a minimum of once a week would be okay.  I just want to know that if I come back next week, I’ll see something new to read.


3.  Unique content -  I like for there to be something on this blog that I can’t find anywhere else.  It could be a certain meme, great reviews, or thought-provoking discussion posts.  If it seems like everything on the blog is regurgitated, then I won’t return.

4.  Moderate amount of comments – I get intimidated by blogs that get hundreds of comments.  I don’t feel like if I respond that my comment will even be read, never mind responded to.  I’d much rather visit a smaller, newer blog that I know the will read and respond to me.

5.  Easy to enter giveaways – If there’s giveaways on the blog, I don’t want a whole lot of hoops to enter.  I know I’m guilty of doing this in the past on my own blog, but it’s not fair that I have to bombard my twitter followers every single day with giveaway spam to stand a chance to win that awesome book.  I also don’t like the ones that require a blog post comment when there’s nothing to comment on.

Blog:  Hey, I got an ARC signed book by this author!  Leave a meaningful comment to enter.

Me:  *sad face, closes tab*

What constitutes as a meaningful comment?  Are you looking for me to gush about an author/book I’ve probably never read?  Do you want me to brown-nose and tell me how awesome your blog is and how I promise to comment every day for the next 16 years if I’m picked.  Do you want me to come up with some random question to ask the author when all you’ve posted is a synopsis of the book?  What?  What?

6.  Scratch my back – I love it when people respond to my comments and I get all tingly when they go the extra step and visit my blog and comment.  It makes me feel special and you gosh darn better believe that I’m coming back to your blog again and again.

7.  Negative reviews – It’s difficult for some bloggers to “hurt” an author’s feeling by giving them a negative review on his/her book, however it’s necessary for your opinion to have any merit with me.  If you rate every book 5 stars, then your blog feels more like a promotional platform.  Negative reviews are not a bad thing for authors to get.  You’re not hurting them by giving them one or two stars.  I’ve often bought more books based on the negative reviews than I have of the positive reviews.

8.  Well-written reviews – Please give me concrete evidence for why you liked or hated a book.  The review doesn’t have to be long, it just has to cover what worked and what didn’t work.
9.  Personality – Show off your quirks and don’t be afraid to like what your friends hate.  I also like bloggers that have a “thing”.  See me, I like to read about kick-ass villains.  I enjoy horror over romance.  When talking to my designers about my next blog theme, I always say:  Don’t be afraid to add more blood.  Never can have enough blood.

10.  Opinionated – I like it when a blog is a die-hard supporter of a couple authors.  I also like it when a blog is willing to take a controversial stance on a topic.  Be true to yourself and promote what feels right.

11.  Pictures – I’m not a huge gif fan, but I do like there to be at least one picture in a post.  It helps break up the wall of text and my eyes thank you.  For reviews, just add a cover and maybe a photo of the author.  For discussion posts, find a semi-relevant image/gif and stick it somewhere in the middle.  And yes, there is a point where you have too many pictures.  Don’t break my phone just because you want to upload your entire Photobucket album.

12.  Memes in Moderation –  Memes are an easy way to fill up empty days in your blogging schedule.  They’re a great way to meet people.  But when every day is a meme day, it feels like there’s no unique content on your blog.  I try to do 1-2 memes a week, 2  reviews, and 1 discussion post.

13.  Maturity – I like reviews to focus on the book.  If you feel the need to insult the author in your review, then don’t write the review.  I waited nearly a week to write a review for a book I hated because it got me so heated, but it’s childish to insult a writer when I know nothing about the person.  All I know is that I didn’t like the book the author wrote.  And thus, that’s what needs to be in my review.  Also, it sickens me when bloggers go on and on about how hot a character is in a YA series.  They’re no better than Beiber fans…ugh.  Their “gushing” tells me nothing about the book itself.

14.  Links – If you’re writing a book review, include links so that I can buy the book or at least check it out on Goodreads.  If you were inspired for your discussion post by another post, include the link so I can follow your inspiration.

15. 1337 speech – I don’t mind the occasional LOL or BFF, but I prefer blogs that are written in English, not “Newspeak”.


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