ARC Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

For as much hype as this book had, I was hoping for a little more. (Also I actually read this a while ago, but am very overwhelmed with school so I’m tapping into my review reserves)

19 year old Feyre lives near the wall between Faeries and humans, where a tenuous treaty keeps the two worlds at peace. However, one day while hunting in the woods, she kills a wolf and brings on the unexpected wrath of one of Tamlin, one of the Fae. She is forced to return with him to the Faerie realm, where she must confront her warring feelings for him, as well as a dark power that is growing in the land.

There were several parts in this book that I got lost in, both in good and bad ways.

The most enjoyable aspect of it for me was Prythian (the Faerie realm). The world-building was really great, and I loved the different Courts of the Faerie kingdom. It was interesting to see Faerie mixed with a retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story, as these are two concepts that worked great together, but I would never have thought of.

However, I was disappointed with the characters. The enemies-to-lovers relationship we got in this book felt rushed, forced, and just awkward at times. Despite the story lagging on in many parts, the romance was very fast in a way that wasn’t believable. It seemed like there was so much of the plot that could have been condensed and instead replaced with a better buildup of the different character’s feelings. 

The other major problem I had was the repetition (both in language and plot). I NEVER. EVER. Want to see the words growl, snarl, feral, ignorant, or human ever again. I think I would have been less frustrated with this if a more expansive vocabulary had been used instead of the same four descriptive terms over and over. Additionally, there was a lot of rehashing of Feyre’s inner thoughts that made the book much longer than it needed to be.

Despite the problems though, I think that the general storyline had a lot of promise. I was very invested in the world and wanted to find out its fate, even if I didn’t connect very well with the characters. I’m really excited to see more of Prythian, and hope that writing will be better divided between character building and plot in the next books of the series.

Happy Reading!

Rating: 3/5
Pacing: slow beginning, medium end
Content warnings: mentions of sexual assault, gore
Intended audience: Adult* 

*Side note, there is a lot of debate about if this book should be categorized as YA or not. I believe this is an adult book, as there are many graphic scenes, and a lot of the central plot points revolve around physical intimacy

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Favorite Friday topic: Favorite place/time to read

Book Review: We Were Liars

If you liked this book, you may be in for a rough review.

Cadence Sinclair is from a prominent and seemingly idyllic Massachusetts family. But, things are not what they seem. All of her relatives are fighting over their inheritances, meanwhile Cadence is wrestling with feelings for her friend, Gat, and trying to figure out what happened in an accident that took her memories. With Gat and her cousins’ help, she must figure out the truth and attempt to repair her life once again.

After finishing this, all I had to say was “so what?” I really didn’t get the point. There’s a rich family with grossly racist undertones, some really dangerous and unbelievable mistakes, and a very dramatic plot twist. And I don’t mean dramatic in a good way. I’m not someone who needs a message or lesson in every book, but this really felt like a bunch of random events strung together without any intention.

I also didn’t feel connected to the characters AT ALL. They read as an odd mixture of childish and robotic, and I couldn’t for the life of me keep everyone straight. In retrospect that could’ve been on purpose (though I won’t spoil why), but truly I have no clue. Cadence as a narrator wasn’t awful, but also didn’t add anything to the story.

Really the only good things I have to say was that it was short, and the plot twist was a little unexpected? But wow, was it drawn out. And once it’s revealed, Cadence spends about 10 years rehashing all of the other character’s personalities for the hundredth time. Then *poof* the book ends. After such a long build up, I was definitely expecting more of a resolution. I read the author’s note Hoping for some clarity, and she talked about how the book was a risk, and that she feared people wouldn’t get it. I was definitely someone who did not.

That being said, I can understand why some people liked it. After reading the original proposal Lockhart included, I kind of got it. But not enough for me to change my own opinion. Who knows though, there’s a reason it resonated with so many people, so it may be worth a shot for you.

Happy reading
(P.S. let me know what you think of the new dividers I have!)

Rating: 2.5/5
Pace: slow-medium
Intended audience: young adults
Content warnings: death of a loved one, mention of rape, drug abuse

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Favorite Friday topic: Favorite fantasy book

ARC review: Opium and Absinthe

This was a very enjoyable, although slightly predictable, read!

After injuring herself in an accident, Tillie Pembroke awakes to find her entire life turned upside down. Her sister, Lucy, has been murdered in what appears to be a vampire attack, and Tillie begins to rely on opiates to relieve her physical and emotional pain. She resolves herself to finding her sister’s killer while battling an opiate addiction and attempting to evade the disapproving watch of her family. 

I have to say, I really enjoyed this book despite not being a huge fan of the gothic genre in general. Usually gothic novels are very stiff in my opinion, and are somewhat challenging to read. Opium and Absinthe however was very fast-paced, enjoyable, and kept me turning pages until the end.

Although I was a fan of this, I feel it may not be for everyone. The murder-mystery aspect of it wasn’t the biggest draw, as I had figured out the “why” and was very close on the “who” at about 60% in. I don’t think that really hindered my enjoyment of the story though, because I was so invested in the journey and the way the novel was narrated. Nonetheless, more seasoned mystery lovers may be disappointed.

I also thought that the characters were not the most lovable; the only one I really liked was Ian, and maybe the newsies, though they were not a large part of the story. Tillie was almost unbearably naive. I understand that as this took place in the 1890s, Tillie lead a very sheltered life as one of the elites, but it still was a bit unbelievable. I was constantly torn between feeling great pity for her because of the way her family treats her, and anger at some of her decisions. Despite that, I did greatly admire her perseverance, and desire to pursue knowledge despite her family’s views on a woman’s place in society.

The setting was very entertaining in my opinion. I liked the historical New York setting, and was really able to enjoy it without the heavy tone gothic usually takes. It definitely helped with the feeling of suspense/mystery for me.

In the end, I can’t quite put in to words why I enjoyed this as much as I did. Nothing about it stuck out, but the writing/story flowed in a way that was very pleasant to read. If you’re looking for an easy and enjoyable read, I recommend giving this one a try.

Happy reading!

Rating: 3.5/5
Intended audience: Adult
Pacing: Fast
Content warnings: assault, murder, death of a loved one, mentions of rape, drug abuse

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Favorite Friday Topic: Favorite fantasy book

Book Review: The Haunting of Tram Car 015

This is going to be a short review for a short (and enjoyable) book!

In an alternate Cairo of the past, machines, magic, and humans live side by side. Agent Hamed al-Nasr and his new recruit, Agent Onsi, work for the the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, the organization that keeps humans and magical creatures living together in harmony. But when a haunted tram car turns out to be more than it first appears, the two will have to work together quickly to keep the balance in check.

I’m learning that I really, really like short novels. This one is about 130 pages, and perfect to read in a lazy afternoon. Although it was short, it felt like a really well-built world, and I liked the characters a lot.

Cover of the book “The Haunting of Tram Car 015”

Agent Hamed and Agent Onsi are definitely the stereotypical grumpy old guy and overexcited newbie on the job, but their characters were still really fun to observe. I could definitely see this becoming a short series of detective novels with them as the main detectives. (the first book, A Dead Djinn in Cairo, is set in the same universe, but with a different MC)

My favorite part of this book though, was the world. Though it may sound strange, I really think the cover of this one helped immerse me into the story. Everything was described how I saw it there, and Combined with the awesome descriptions, it made for a really vivid picture. I felt like I was actually walking the streets of Cairo with the agents. The mystery aspect was also interesting, and as I knew nothing about the lore included, I was on my toes until the end.

So if you’re ever in the mood for something short and sweet, I highly recommend this book!

Happy reading!

Rating: 4/5
Pace: medium
Intended Audience: Adults (although I think this would be fine for YA readers too)
Content warnings: none that I can remember??

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Book Review: Passing Strange

A sapphic historical romance that ALSO has magic?? You bet I scrambled to pick this one up as soon as possible.

Six women come together in 1940s San Francisco, united by a common love that society doesn’t understand. Together they explore a world of art, magic, chance, and ultimately, romance. 

I absolutely ATE THIS BOOK UP. For starters, all of the scenery is described so, so beautifully, which I guess makes sense given that one of the main characters is an artist. It really felt like I was looking into a painting. I don’t usually like long descriptive passages, but every single image was rendered in such gorgeous detail. 

Although the blurb claims that there are 6 main characters, I only saw three: Helen, Haskel, and Emily. I loved the romance, and this is another book that I so wish had a sequel where we could follow it further. I will say that this was also a tough read at times, as the way that LGBTQ+ people and POC were treated in this period was absolutely horrible. There’s a very big focus on how these communities had to “sell” themselves as entertainment in order to survive in society (I really want to emphasize the content warnings for racism/homophobia here so that nobody goes into this not knowing what to expect). 

While I was absolutely in love with the MCs and the way the story was written, especially for this being such a quick read, I was a little disappointed with the magic incorporation. It was kind of tossed in at the beginning and end, with little reference or importance throughout the middle. I think if the story had been expanded, the central conflict could have had more of a build up, and the magic could’ve been integrated better. 

But really, I very much enjoyed this. It had a very relaxing pace, but also brought up some really difficult topics in history. And of course, the romance was the best part. 

On a final note, I’d like to offer a disclaimer. This work takes place in the 1940s, and focuses on a couple of marginalized groups. There are a lot of stereotypes/slurs both used and discussed with the characters. In this review I aimed to evaluate how enjoyable the story and writing was, but I am in no way qualified to speak to the sensitivity or historical accuracy in how these communities were represented. I ask that if anyone has read this book and feels that it offers harmful representation, PLEASE don’t hesitate to let me know. 

Happy reading!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ 3.5/5
Pace: Slow (but in a good way)
Intended audience: Adult
Content warnings: abuse (partner and parental), homophobia, slurs, sexual assault, mentions of terminal illness, suicide 

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Favorite Friday topic: favorite underrated book

ARC Review: Shielded

I think the beginning and end of this are two totally different books.

Princess Jennessara has hidden her magic for her whole life; as the second born child in her family, she isn’t supposed to have it. Determined to do aid her struggling kingdom, she agrees to a betrothal to Prince Enzo in exchange for military aid. But when Jenna’s caravan is attacked on the way there, an ancient power is revealed that could destroy everything, and her magic could be the only thing to stop it.

The first half of this book seemed like a really, really slow version of Shadow and Bone. Thankfully, once the setting shifted, things got a lot more interesting, and a lot less familiar. Once Jenna met Mari, Chiara, and Enzo, I actually found the book really enjoyable. I’m a sucker for found family tropes, and the relationship Jenna has with all of them was really sweet. The characters were definitely the best part, and I hope we get to see a lot more of them, with less of the filler/background in the next book. (Also, side note, I really loved the Italian elements thrown in, because I haven’t seen that done before in a book like this!)

The plot was just okay for me. There were parts that were confusing, and parts that were really predictable, which made for a bit of an odd mix. Although toward the end there was a nice little twist that I wasn’t expecting at all. I do wish that the in-between perspective chapters had come together quicker, as I had no idea what was happening in them for a while. The ending also felt a little strange, almost like a list of what was going to happen in the next book, but that’s being a little picky.

To sum up, this book didn’t have much that made it feel particularly new or exciting plot wise, but the character’s relationships seemed a lot more real than in other fantasy I have read. I really did find it likable though, and have higher hopes for the next installment. 

Happy reading!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ 3.5/5 stars (rounded down)
Pace: slow beginning, fast end
Intended Audience: Young Adult
Content warnings: murder, death of a family member, sexual assault

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Favorite Friday topic: Favorite underrated book

Book Review: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

Somehow, this book had me laughing, crying, and screaming “WHOA, plot twist” at my family. 

Tristan Strong is still reeling from the death of his best friend, Eddie, when his parents send him to work for his grandparents for the summer. After a thief attempts to steel Eddie’s journal, the last piece Tristan has of his best friend, all chaos breaks loose. In his efforts to get it back, Tristan ends up punching an ancient bottle tree, ripping a hole through our world and the world of Alke.  Now, Tristan must get to know a world of myths that are real, and confront his worst fears to get back home. 

I very much underestimated this book. I think because it’s technically a middle-grade read, I was expecting it to be slow, easy, and predictable. Let me tell you, it was none of the above. I’m not even sure where to begin here, so let’s just go with the characters. Tristan is the most developed protagonist I have read about in a long while. I loved that he wasn’t sure of himself in every step of his quest, unlike so many heroes. I found myself thinking of a quotation from Coraline while reading his story: “When you’re scared but still do it anyway, that’s brave.” Tristan Strong is definitely brave.

I do wish we’d seen more of Ayanna’s character. I just have a feeling she is going to be set up to be the Annabeth to Tristan’s Percy, so to speak, and I hope readers get to know her better in book 2! On the other hand, Gum Baby is the most hilarious character I think I have ever encountered. I have about a million highlights in this book, and her dialogue is half of them. 

Above all else, I loved the message, and it is one I feel particularly important to remember in these times. This book is full of beautiful (and heartbreaking) African Mythology, and a lot of it is rooted in the stories of slaves. What Tristan tells us is clear: we need to tell the stories of the past, with all of the pain, and all of the joy. When we begin to rewrite stories, as so many of our history books have tried to, we cause nothing but harm. Tristan said it best, so I will leave you with a final quotation, and my insistence that EVERYONE READS THIS BOOK.

“As Anansesem, it was my job to carry the stories of the land to its people. All the stories. If we ignored the past, how would we learn from it?”

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 4.5/5 (rounded up)
Pace: Fast
Intended audience: Middle Grade (but all ages should read this book)
Content warnings: mentions of slavery

Shoutout to JV for picking this for our book club’s monthly read, and Happy reading!

Favorite Friday topic this week: Favorite genre to read

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Book Review: The Wicked King

This was an absolute roller coaster from start to finish. (please note this is the second book in the series, so there may be some spoilers for the first one)

Jude is the seneschal to High King Carden, but almost half the time of their bargain has passed and she she has no way to renew it. While attempting to hold on to power, she must keep her father away from the throne, Cardan under control, and figure out who in her midst will betray her before it is too late.

Jude Duarte is my absolute favorite YA narrator of all time (except possibly Tris, but I haven’t read Divergent in a hot minute). I’ve never read from the perspective of someone quite as merciless as she is, especially within this genre. And it is still interesting to try and figure out if she truly wants power to protect her brother, or if she wants it for herself. She certainly seems to be becoming more and more vicious to hold onto it. In my onion, it is really a mixture of the two, but I wonder which one will win out in the end.

Cardan is also SUCH a pain and I love it. I like that they are slowly coming to tolerate each other, but at the same time I want to knock their heads together and tell them to stop being stupid and just work together. Then again, the fact that their relationship is actually developing is what makes it believable. So I guess I really can’t complain. 

What this book had that the first one did not is a fast pace from start to finish. I genuinely didn’t want to put it down, and as always, the writing was very pretty. Although, nothing really different happened until about halfway through, when we get to the betrayal. Now THAT was interesting, but I had a few questions. Since Jude had been warned, why not just ask all the Fae close to her if they would move against her? They can’t lie, so it felt like an easy loophole she missed. Granted, that wouldn’t have worked on the humans around her, but something is better than nothing, right? 

Other than that small point, I really have nothing negative to say about this. The cliffhanger at the end is delicious. I can’t wait to read queen of nothing, and I have high hopes that this will be a trilogy that doesn’t end in something unbelievable or weird happening. 

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

Intended audience: young adult

Content warnings: on page murder, blood

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Book Review: Shadow and Bone

For once, I completely understand why everyone’s obsession with this book.

Alina is a seemingly ordinary girl who serves in the nation’s first army as a mapmaker, adrift in a world torn by war, poverty and the Shadow Fold. When her regiment is tasked to cross the deadly Shadow Fold, a sea of land plagued by darkness and monsters, she discovers a power that could be the key to saving her world. She is whisked away from everything she knows to become a member of the Grisha, the magical beings who serve in the Second Army, and the mysterious Darkling. But she soon comes to find that true power comes at a cost, and that nobody can be trusted.

The Grishaverse has the most stunning world building I have come across in  the YA fantasy genre in quite some time. Although learning the designations/powers of the different Grisha was a little confusing at first, I quickly became immersed in the world. There was a great balance between description and plot that made the story fast-paced, while also letting readers really get involved in the beauty of the land. I especially loved Alina’s time spent in the Little Palace and all of the little intricacies that were included there. The world is just totally unlike anything I have read before. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy fantasy set in Faerie and other familiar magical lands, but I really liked how original this book felt. 

There were also some truly great characters. Alina starts off as naive and shy, but I can already see the beginnings of her growth/arc, and I’m so excited to se where that goes. Seeing her relationship with Mal play out was really fun, and I’m glad there wasn’t any insta-love (I’m sorry, but I’m a bit sick of the trope at this point). By far my favorite character though was Genya. What’s not to love? She’s strong, fierce, and adds some great drama with the other Grisha girls. And then, of course, The Darkling. I don’t usually swoon over fictional characters, but there was something really, really magnetic about him. Bardugo did a great job of making me feel the same magical pull that Alina describes throughout the book. 

I did get a little bored about two thirds of the way through when the setting switches, but I also think that it was a necessary evil for where the plot ended up. Because the rest of the book was so fast, it didn’t really bother me. And wow, that plot twist! Maybe I’m losing my touch, but I really didn’t see the first big one coming. The others were a little predictable, but getting one good twist is pretty good in my opinion. 

I’m really glad I decided to read this when I did, because it has restored some of my faith in the fantasy genre after my last read. I highly recommend checking this one out, and will keep you guys posted on the rest of the series!

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ 4/5

Intended audience: Young Adult 

Content warnings: mentions of sexual assault 

Happy reading!

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ARC Review: A Neon Darkness

I’m sure there is an audience who will enjoy this book, it just doesn’t include me.

Robert always gets what he wants, literally; it’s a power of his that is both a blessing and a curse. At only 18 he feels he has the world at his feet and nothing to live for. However, when he arrives in LA he meets Indah and her friends, and thinks he may have found where he belongs. As his power strengthens and the group face a growing threat, he may come to find that there are some things even his abilities can’t grant. 

Let me start by saying, although this is labeled as a standalone, if you haven’t either listened to the Bright Sessions podcast or read the first book, I recommend doing that first. A Neon Darkness was my introduction to the world, and I feel that was one of the biggest things stopping me for really enjoying it. This book is also labeled as an “origin story,” and without the word “hero” or “villain” in front of it, I thought it would just be the main character’s story of growth in general. Let me tell you, that is the farthest thing from the truth. Do NOT go in to this expecting character development from anyone. At all. 

I really, really disliked Robert from the start. At first I understood that he was struggling with his power (to make others want what he wants), and empathized a bit. It was an interesting twist to have a character who gets everything they want, but still isn’t happy. However, when it became clear that Robert’s arc wasn’t going anywhere, I was extremely disappointed. Neon, Indah, and the others just keep having the same “don’t use your powers on us” argument with him over and over, which he would then ignore, and it got really tedious and repetitive. 

Which leads me into my next issue: nothing really happens in this book, besides that same argument. The villain is very bland, and there isn’t really any resolution or point to his story (though I am not sure if this is another element that would be solved by having prior exposure to the Bright Sessions). Even the final confrontation with him in the book seems inconsequential. I was left going wait, that was it? That’s what the entire story was building to? 

The only real bright spot in the whole book for me was the diversity. We have POC, Muslim, and LGBTQ+ representation which I really enjoyed (although I am not able to speak to the accuracy/sensitivity of all of the portrayals). All of the characters, with the exception of the MC were fairly interesting. However I couldn’t fully appreciate them because of Robert. I would have much preferred a novel about the tough, caring, and kick-butt quad (Neon, Marley, Indah, and Alex).

I never enjoy giving books poor ratings, but this one took me 8 whole days to get through. It felt so, so long at only about 250 pages. That being said, if you are already immersed in the Bright Sessions, this may be worth giving a go.

Star rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆  2/5

Intended audience: Young adult

Content warnings: sexual assault, drug abuse 

Happy Reading!

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