Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Beach Reads

A weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Fluffy Contemps
1.) Simon Vs. the Homosapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli - Add to Goodreads
This book is adorable and hilarious but it also has a message to it which is cool. It was one of my absolute favorite books of last year and of you have not yet read it then take it with you the next time you go to the beach.

2.) Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson - Add to Goodreads
The book that got me into reading Contemps about a year and a half ago had to make this list. Plus Morgan's books just scream summer and this one is no exception. This one is fun and sweet and I really liked it.

3.) The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You by Lily Anderson - Add to Goodreads
I only just read this one but it made such an impression that when I was putting this list together I had to add it. It's cute, fluffy, and adorable and a really fast read which is perfect for taking to the beach. Plus there's the Retelling element which gives it that something extra.

 Not So Fluffy Contemps
4.) Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz - Add to Goodreads
I read this book last year at this time and absolutely loved it. It takes place over a summer so of course it has that vibe going for it but it's also a great story of friendship and finding yourself and so much more. Side note: Hamilton fans, the audio is brilliantly narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda!

5.) I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios - Add to Goodreads
This book might take place in summer. Or just somewhere super hot. But either way, it has summer vibes to it. I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did but it balances serious and lighthearted and has a great romance.

6.) Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell - Add to Goodreads
When making a list of Contemps I have to put Rainbow Rowell on it. She is my favorite, after all. Plus Eleanor and Park is just such an amazing book. It's sweet, it's funny, it's serious. Even when I thought I didn't like romances, I loved Eleanor and Park.

7.) Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas - Add to Goodreads
If I am being totally honest my favorite beach reads are mysteries. I like the drama and opportunity to solve something when I kick back on the sand. Not only is this one fantastic but it takes place on a tropical spring break so you have the beach vibes for sure.

8.) The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes - Add to Goodreads
My next read is the sequel to this book and I am so excited. It's a fantastic read that is like YA Scandal. It's got so many great mystery elements that for me is perfect to take to the beach.

9.) We Were Liars by E. Lockhart - Add to Goodreads
Despite the fact that I didn't think this was a super complex mystery I still really liked it. Plus it takes place on a beach house on an island so there are serious summer vibes to it. I'm not sure I would recommend taking it to your beach house because reasons but a trip to the beach, for sure.

10.) Nil by Lynn Matson - Add to Goodreads
Today the final book in this series comes out and I am so excited to read it. This series is YA Lost which I love and therefore it takes place on a mysterious tropical island. So there are summer vibes with the island and there's the mystery aspect for me.

Fantasies - In Case You're Not a Contemp Fan
11.) Jackaby by William Ritter - Add to Goodreads
I originally had this in my mystery category but then decided to do a fantasy one so I moved it. But seriously these books are brilliant. They're hilarious and complex and I am super obsessed with them. They're pretty fast reads so you can marathon them in August when book 3 comes out.

12.) Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine - Add to Goodreads
I read this last year and it definitely has summer vibes for me. It is kind of a boarding school book which shouldn't feel like summer but it's set in Alexandria so there's the desert which maybe counteracts that. Plus it's just a great book and I want more people to read it.

13.) The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh - Add to Goodreads
I'm definitely a fan of this series. It's got subtle fantasy elements and great characters. What I like about it for this list though is that it has a lot of aspects I like about contemporaries so if you are more into reading those over the summer maybe check this out.

Those are my favorite beach and summer reads? What books made your list? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, May 30, 2016

ARC Review: The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You by Lily Anderson

Title: The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You
Written by: Lily Anderson
Published: May 17, 2016 by St. Martin's Griffin (Macmillan)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Doctor Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West--and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing--down to number four. 

Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben's, including give up sleep and comic books--well, maybe not comic books--but definitely sleep. After all, the war of Watson v. West is as vicious as the Doctor v. Daleks and Browncoats v. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey bars incident in the first grade. Over a decade later, it's time to declare a champion once and for all. 

The war is Trixie's for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben's best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice. Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly-painful, but Trixie and Ben's cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship. When Trixie's best friend gets expelled for cheating and Trixie cries foul play, however, they have to choose who to believe and which side they're on--and they might not pick the same side.

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not change my opinion. ***

I did not expect to be able to read this book any time soon but I had a small window in my reading schedule after finishing something earlier than planned so I squeezed this in and am really glad I did. It was seriously fantastic.

In one respect this is a really fun modern rebelling of Much Ado About Nothing. I'm realizing more and more that I love these Shakespeare retelling and this was no exception. It was an interesting and modern spin on the classic, one of my favorites. I like the comedies so much more than the dramas. But even if you don't know the original story you will appreciate this book. The author does a great job of taking the basics of the original story and not only bringing it into the current period, but putting her own spin on it. It's not a shot for shot retelling but it's pretty close in the best possible way.

The real heart of this book, and let's face it Much Ado About Anything, is in the relationships. If you're familiar with that play then you know the infamous Beatrice and Benedick relationship. Here we have Ben and Trixie. Like their classic counterparts this is a fantastic hate to love romance, a trope that is one of my all-time favorites and I will almost always get behind. Because oh the banter, you guys! When they were competing and fighting I absolutely loved the snarky digs and verbal jabs between them. But then when the love part clicked in, it was so freaking fluffy and adorable I could barely handle it in the best possible way.

But in general I really loved these characters. Part of the modern spin is that the book takes place in a school for geniuses, which worked so well with the quick-witted characters of the original. But they were also fantastic nerdy type characters talking and arguing about pop culture and geeky references that had me seriously fangirling. Trixie and Ben were fun but they also had a great group of friends around them. I loved that Trixie's friends Harper and Meg called her out for being too mean. And while Ben's friends did kind of blend together in my mind, it was great to see a solid group of nerds with shared and varying interests supporting one another. And another great thing about this books was the parents. Not only were they involved but they added something positive to the plot. It's sad that that is refreshing. But I honestly like Trixie's parents, they were fun in a realistic kind of way.

Plus on top of all of that, there was a fun mystery to the book. I wasn't able to predict who the culprit was hear and so I really love this book for keeping me guessing and the subtle clues that it unraveled. But the mystery is also my main criticism. The synopsis kind of gives away a bit too much (you may have noticed that I hid a portion of it, that's intentional) and the actual mystery elements didn't kick in until two-thirds of the book. I honestly thought that there would be more to this aspect of the story but I was perfectly fine with the contemporary romance aspect of the story then suddenly the mystery changed the plot completely. It's not that I didn't like the mystery, because I did, it just felt a little too late. I think more of it throughout the book or just rework the synopsis so it doesn't give away so much.

On the whole I absolutely melted for this book. I flew through it, laughing, fangirling, and swooning along the way. It's an amazing modern Shakespeare retelling with great geeky characters that I think everyone will love.

I give The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You by Lily Anderson 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. I really loved this book and I would totally recommend it to basically anyone. If you are a big contemporary fan then definitely get your hands on it. If you are a Shakespeare fan grab it for that aspect. But even if you just want something quick and fluffy then check this out.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Stacking the Shelves: May and BEA Edition

A weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews

Hi Everyone,
May is almost over. Can you believe it? I can't. Where did this month go? Where is this year going? But now that it is drawing to a close it is time for my monthly Stacking the Shelves. If you haven't been following me for awhile (hey new followers, hey!) then you might not know that I'm on a book buying ban. And then last month I mentioned my serious addiction to Netgalley and how I'm trying to be better about not impulsively requesting books from there. Well I am happy to report, I did good on both accounts this month.  I only bought two books and got three for review. YAY ME! Who's proud of me? I'm proud of me

But I know what you're thinking, this post is going to be super boring then. NOPE! The main focus of this is going to be spotlighting the books I got at BEA. So if you don't have any of the books you saw in my TBR and you want to add them to yours or learn a little bit more about them you can.


The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson - Add to Goodreads
I loved Since You've Been Gone and I've been wanting to read more of her books. But while her backlist doesn't interest me, this sounds fantastic!

The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye - My Review
I've been waiting on this book for like a year and a half and it did not disappoint. I mostly listened to the audio but I also have a pretty finished copy to stare at.

For Review

Cure for the Common Universe by Christian McKay Heidicker - Add to Goodreads
This is contemporary romance set in a video game rehab clinic. If there is one thing I know it's that I love books about nerdy teens finding love.

The Gallery of Lost Species by Nina Berkhout - Add to Goodreads
The lovely folks at St. Martin's press sent me a beautiful finished copy of this. I hope to read it but it came right after I got back from BEA so I was a bit overwhelmed.

White Sand by Brandon Sanderson, Julius Gopes, and Ross Campbell - Add to Goodreads
Things I love: Brandon Sanderson, fantasy, graphic novels. Combine all three and make it Read Now on Netgalley and you have me hook, line, and sinker.


Okay so there are a lot of books here, obviously. I don't want to take too much time talking about them because that would take forever and I'm trying not to write super long reviews so why do super long Stacking The Shelves. But I will mention the age and genre for the book and you can learn more by heading over to Goodreads by clicking on the title. Or if you want to know more leave me a comment or hit me up on Twitter and I will tell you all about it.

The Raven King by Maggie Steifvater - YA Magical Realism? Published 4/26/16 by Scholastic
Lois Lane Double Down by Gwenda Bond - YA Retelling/Mystery Published 5/1/16 by Capstone
The Lie Tree by Francis Hardridge - YA Historical Mystery Published 5/7/16 by Amulet
Baby Doll by Holly Overton - Adult Mystery Published 7/12/16 by Redhook/Hachette
The Ringmaster's Wife by Kristy Cambron - Adult Historical Fiction Published by HarperCollins Christian
How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather - YA Fantasy Published 8/23/16 by RandomHouse
Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliot - YA Dystopian Published 8/2/16 by Little Brown
Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter - YA Historical Mystery Published 8/23/16 by Algonquin Young Readers
Thieving Weasels by Billy Taylor - YA Mystery/Thriller Published 8/23/16 by Dial (Penguin)
Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer - YA Contemporary Published 8/30/16 by Dutton (Penguin)
The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee - YA Dystopian Published 8/30/16 by HarperTeen
And the Trees Crept in by Dawn Kurtagich - YA Horror/Thriller Published 9/6/16 by Little Brown
The Graces by Laure Eve - YA Fantasy Published 9/6/16 by Amulet
The Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner - MG Magical Realism Published 9/13/16 by Aladdin/S&S
Kingdom of Ash and Briar by Hannah West - YA Retelling/Fantasy Published 9/15/16 by Holliday House
The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron - YA Mystery/Sci-Fi Published 9/13/16 by Scholastic
Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter - YA Fantasy Published 9/20/16 by Tor Teen
Metaltown by Kristen Simmons - YA Steampunk/Sci-Fi Published 9/20/16 by Tor Teen
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake - YA Fantasy Published 9/20/16 by HarperTeen
Stalking Jack the Ripper b Kerri Maniscalco - YA Historical Mystery Published 9/20/16 by Little Brown
Warp by Lev Grossman - Adult Sci-Fi Published 9/20/16 by Macmillan
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis - YA Contemporary Published 9/20/16 by HarperTeen
A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess - YA Fantasy Published 9/20/16 by Random House
Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz - YA Contemporary Published 9/27/16 by Harlequin Teen
Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige - YA Retelling/Fantasy Published 9/20/16 by Bloomsbury
Rebel Genius by Michael Dante Dimartino - MG Fantasy Published 10/4/16 by Macmillan
Spare and Found Parts by Sarah Marie Griffin - YA Sci-Fi/Steampunk Published 10/4/16 by HarperTeen
Distruption by Jessica Shrivington - YA Dystopia Published 10/4/16 by HarperCollins
Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson -MG Historical Fiction Published 10/4/16 Atheneum/S&S
Replica by Lauren Oliver - YA Sci-Fi/Mystery Published 10/4/16 by HarperTeen
Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel - YA Contemporary Published 10/11/16 by Cinco Punto Press
Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - YA Sci-Fi Published 10/18/16 by Random House
Iron Man: The Gauntlet by Eion Colfer - MG Sci-Fi Published 10/25/16 by Marvel Press/Disney
Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin - YA Historical Fantasy Published 11/1/16 by Little Brown
The Sun is Also a Star by Nikola Yoon - YA Contemporary Published 11/1/16 by Random House
The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid - YA Sci-Fi Published 11/1/16 by Simon & Schuster
Heartless by Marissa Meyer - YA Retelling/Fantasy Published 11/8/16 bu Macmillan
Spindle by E.K. Johnston - YA Retelling/Fantasy Published 12/6/16 by Disney Hyperion
The Continent by Kiera Drake - Published 1/3/17 by Harlequin Teen
Caraval by Stephanie Garber - Published 1/10/17 by Flatiron(Macmillan)
The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles - YA Dystopian Published 1/31/17 by Bloosmbury

Okay, those are all the books I got this month. What books did you get? Did you go to BEA? What books did you pick up? Are you excited about any of these? Do you have any questions? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Friday, May 27, 2016

On Rereads: Fantasies with May Sequels

On Rereads is a monthly feature on My Thoughts Lit where I talk about the books I reread during the month. It's an opportunity to share some new thoughts on a book I read before and usually to prepare for a new release. For the foreseeable future I plan to do one reread a month so I want to share my thoughts on these books the second time around.

I usually try to do a few rereads a month to prepare for upcoming sequels. I had four on my list for May but I honestly only got to half of them. I'm still trying to decide if I want to push the ones I didn't read to June or to just say

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
(Amazon / Goodreads / AudibleMy Review)

I loved this book when I read it last year. I was so impressed by the world, the plot, and especially the characters. I fell helplessly in love with Shazi, adored Khalid, and totally ship them. I was excited for the sequel, The Rose and the Dagger, to come out so I decided to reread this one to refresh my memory.

And boy did I need a refresher. This was, I think, the first book I read that was set in a high fantasy world inspired by the Middle East with magic that slowly came into the book but it wasn't the last. They all tend to blend together after awhile and so I needed to be reminded of the plot of the book. I honestly forgot so much. Well except how amazing Shazi is, that I remembered. And I loved the story again. Even though I knew how it would go, I still felt like the stakes were high and there was a lot of exciting moments.

But that being said, I didn't love the audio for this one. I have such a hard time with certain female narrators and what I assume is the way that they try and create atmosphere. The narrator here was one of the examples of what I don't like. She was just entirely too breathy for me and I even speeding it up didn't help much.

But I am really glad that I reread it. It was a great refresher for the series and I was able to dive right into The Rose and the Dagger knowing what had led to that point.

The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury
(Amazon / Goodreads / AudibleMy Review)

Hilariously, so this is going to be the total opposite of what I said above. Well except for this first point. I absolutely loved this book when I read it originally. I have it 10 stars and it actually pulled me out of a reading slump when I read it last winter. So with the sequel/companion coming out at the end of this month I was excited to reread it.

And yes, I do still like the story but I think this is a case where I should not have reread. For one thing, I remembered a lot of details about this book. It's not a super complex story. The main plot is about the character learning about the way things really are and then there is a bit at the end that will set up future books. One of the things I liked about this book this the first time was the mystery and the big reveals. Not having that here kind of made the story not as exciting.

There is also a lot of world-building. Like a lot, a lot. The first time around I really liked the way that this book combined religion, history, and politics to create a complex and engaging world. But this time I just wanted the plot to kick in. It just felt like a lot of exposition. It may have just been a case of timing. Good timing the first time around and bad timing this time around.

But despite the fact that I did like the audio. I felt like the narration did a good job of setting the tone of the story. There was a lot of mystery and confusion with it and the internal conflict of the characters were evident in their thoughts and manner of speech. If you are reading this for the first time and are a fan of audiobooks I would recommend this one.

Have you read the The Wrath and the Dawn or The Sin Eater's Daughter? Did you reread in preparation for their sequels? Have you done any rereads lately? What books? Do you like doing rereads or not? Tell me why.  Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

ARC Review: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

Title: The Art of Being Normal
Written by: Lisa Williamson
Published: May 31, 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Macmillan)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he's gay. The school bully thinks he's a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth: David wants to be a girl. 

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal: to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long , and soon everyone knows that Leo used to be a girl. 

As David prepares to come out to his family and transition into life as a girl and Leo wrestles with figuring out how to deal with people who try to define him through his history, they find in each other the friendship and support they need to navigate life as transgender teens as well as the courage to decide for themselves what normal really means.

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not change my opinion. ***

I'm not a huge contemporary reader. It probably only makes up about 10% of my annual reads. But I do love a good coming of age story and lately that has meant enjoying more and more contemporaries. The Art of Being Normal is one that I liked a lot more than I expected.

For one thing, it is an interesting story about identity. That's one of the things that I love about YA contemporaries because the teenage years are so important to figuring out who you are as a person. I thought that The Art of Being Normal brilliantly walked that line between wanting to be accepted and loved, and wanting to be who you are. It's a very modern and complex story about two teenagers coming to terms with who they are inside and reflecting that to those around them despite some terrible consequences for their honesty. This is a common theme with a lot of YA novels but here it is was even more heightened because this is about transgender teenagers.

The book alternates perspectives between two transgender youths who are struggling with coming out and the consequences that would have. Things are definitely not easy for either characters and there were some tough moments to read as the characters dealt with bullying and worse. First there is David, who while he identifies as trans, hasn't told anyone except his two best friends and is reluctant to take things to the next level. His struggle throughout the book of taking the leap was interesting and encouraging. Then there is Leo who was born a girl but is living as a boy. His history is a little less encouraging. It has been a tough road for him and I definitely empathized with his struggle. And while each of them had great and supportive people around them they also had toxic and not supportive people around them. Seeing them figure out who was who and being surprised by the acceptance they received from people was another fantastic element of the book.

I've read some reviews that say that this book is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to trans issues and I think that makes sense. I would not be able to speak for the trans community, as a cis woman, but I do think that this books is an interesting look into an often not talked about subject matter and it makes me think a lot about the struggle both internally and externally for trans teens. You are able to connect with the characters and see the struggle both internally and externally that they may have to go through. If you are looking for different kind of LGBTQIA story that will make you think then check this book out.

But one thing I didn't love about this book was the pacing. Or maybe it was the plot development. Or maybe the problem was the synopsis. I don't know. I just know that there was a lot of dramatic irony, especially when it came to Leo. I wouldn't want to rush a person's coming out but as a reader we know that he is transgender and even when we have the book from his perspective, it's not mentioning that. The struggle for him to tell people and come clean is totally valid but from the standpoint of the reader it was frustrating. I would have rather that point not be part of the synopsis or Leo at least recognize it. I get that maybe he wouldn't want to in order to move on with his life but it got to a point where I wasn't able to make an emotional connection with the character because I was waiting for that to be stated.

On the whole, The Art of Being Normal was a quick and interesting contemporary that made me think. It is a complex coming of age story about transgender teens and more than that it's about teenagers figuring out who they are and finding a support system of people who will accept them no matter what.

I give The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson 8.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow/Bypass. If you are a fan of contemporaries, especially those of the LGBTQIA variety or you like coming of age stories than I would check this one out. There were some story elements that I didn't totally love but it's an engaging read for sure.

Have you read The Art of Being Normal? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

A weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine

Title: This Savage Song
Series:  Monsters of Verity #1
Author: Victoria Schwab
Published: July 7, 2016 by Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins)

Synopsis: There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

Why I'm Waiting 

I mean it's all Victoria Schwab. That's really all I need to be excited on a new release. She's a total autobuy author. Especially when it comes to fantasies. I've always been super impressed with her world-building and characterizations. So it doesn't matter what the content of the book is, if it's Victoria I will read it and I'm sure love it.

But even if it was written by a different author I would still be really excited about this book. For one thing it is a dark YA fantasy, something I am typically a big fan of and definitely want to see more. And for another thing it is about monsters. Literal monsters. One of the main characters is a monster. And the other main character is an enemy of those monsters and I think I remember Victoria saying that she wanted to be a monster. I smell drama!

Obviously I need this books. A favorite author writes a book you are excited about and would be really excited about regardless of the author. A dark fantasy about actual monsters. I am so freaking excited about this book. I have it preordered and I'm pumped to read it when it comes out in July.

What about you? What are you waiting for this Wednesday? Are you waiting on This Savage Song along with me? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I Probably Won't Continue Because I Feel Less Excited About Them With Time

A weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

*** Disclaimer: I don't hate any of these books. I thought they were okay but they didn't impress me enough so I probably won't pick up their sequels when they come/came out. If you are super obsessed and think these series get better and I should read them, let me know why and I'll think about it. ***

1.) Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige - My Review
I was super excited about this book when it came out. A Wizard of Oz retelling where Dorothy is the villain, sign me up. But I remember nothing about it and I'm generally just not interested in finishing the series.

2.) The Remnant Chronicles by Mary Pearson - My Review
I know this series is super popular but it as far as fantasy goes it did not impress me. And I hated the narrative structure and wish they had maintained the mystery a little bit more. It just wasn't my thing.

3.) A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas - My Review
Speaking of wasn't my thing. Please don't hate me for this! I love Sarah J. Maas and the Throne of Glass series is a favorite but this series just wasn't for me. But everyone flailing about the second book does make me a little more interested.

4.) Half Bad by Sally Green - My Review
There was so much hype surrounding this book when it came out. And I liked it but now that I realize the series is complete and I have no interest in finishing it. I think maybe it just didn't stick with me after I read it.

5.) Blood of Gods and Royals by Eleanor Herman - My Review
I thought Legacy of Kings was alright but there were just so many perspectives and I found the reveals a bit predictable. I know I probably won't finish this series when I passed on getting a copy of this at BEA.

6.) The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker - My Review
Speaking of passing on getting a copy at BEA. I actually rolled the sequel in the Little Brown dice game and just gave it away to a random person in line because I wasn't at all disappointed about it. I may have read it, but probably not.

7.) Reawakened by Colleen Houck - My Review
I kind of liked this one when I read it but now that I sit with it I realize that it felt a little tropey and that I didn't connect with the characters or the story even. I saw the cover for the sequel and thought I should be excited about that and wasn't really.

8.) The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas - My Review
I liked this book when I read it but the more I thought about it the more I realized that the tropes within it are not my favorites. It just didn't find it as creative a fantasy as I had hoped. Plus it's hard to impress me with elemental magic sometimes.

9.) An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir - My Review
Seeing everyone waiting in the crazy long line for this at BEA made me realize that I am totally the black sheep on this one. I liked it but there were a lot of moments and character development that didn't sit well over time.

10.) Court of Fives by Kate Elliot - My Review
This is the one on the list that I think I will read. For one thing because I did get a copy at BEA and while I don't remember much about the details on this one I do remember I liked it. I think I just need a reread and then I will get excited again.

There you have it, the ten books whose sequels I probably won't read because I'm not as excited about these books as time goes by. Should I rethink my plans to not read the sequels? Do they get better? Have you loved any of these books?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Book Review: The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye

Title: The Crown's Game
Series: The Crown's Game #1
Written by: Evelyn Skye
Published: May 17, 2016 by Balthazar + Bray (HarperCollins)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side. 

 And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death. 

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has? 

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her. 

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love... or be killed himself. 

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear... the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

It's always great when a book you have been excited to read for a long time meets your expectation. That's exactly what happened to me for The Crown's Game.

Before I go any further on this review I just want to say how I listened to the audiobook and that I loved it so much! I mean how could I not, it's narrated by Steve West who is one of my all-time favorite narrators. His voice and manner of speech lulls you into the world and magic of the book. Not to mention that each character had a distinct and different accent and way of speaking which helped develop them in an interesting way. I usually don't love books that are heavily accented and to be honest when someone does a Russian accent I almost always hate it, but Steve West did it well. Plus it was just the perfect style of read for the audio format. The rich and descriptive detail made for something so engaging. I honestly couldn't stop listening. If you like audiobooks check this one out. 

Okay, onto the real review.

The first thing that struck me about this book is the magical system. I usually like my magic to have clear rules and guidelines but here it was a free for all. If you can do magic, you can do basically anything. The quote being "imagine, and it can be. There are no limits." But somehow that worked. You never knew what to expect and what the characters were capable of so you kept being surprised. The possibilities made for so many fantastical and creative moments. And then the Game made the stakes higher as the book went on. The characters had to try and out do one another so the magic got even more impressive and interesting towards the end. If you are looking for fantasy read with a lot magic without rules then you will definitely enjoy this one.

But I also really liked the world of this book. It's a reimagined Imperial Russia, which is not something totally revolutionary, especially for YA fantasies, but is something that I love and really enjoyed about this book. I've always been such a Russophile so I couldn't wait to explore that in a fantasy setting. The Crown's Game is a case where the world-building was subtle. But as a warning, if you enjoy fantasy with a lot of political intrigue, history, and exploration of an interesting new world you will not find that here. I think in future books they may explore the larger world more but here the setting is just that, a location for the story to take place. But I kind of liked that. It didn't get bogged down with a lot of confusing detail and needless conflicts (although to be fair it did have it's moments for that). But I might be a little biased because it's one of my favorite places to inspire a high fantasy world on.

As far as the characters go, it took awhile for me to really connect with them, especially Vika. Because this is a book where all magic is possible the main characters of Vika and Nikolai did feel a little overpowered and almost unstoppable. And the focus on the magic made for less characterization, but that's not really a dealbreaker for me. At times the characters did feel a little tropey, especially when it came to the romance which was a bit of a love triangle, but I'm so used to not liking the romance that I honestly block it out through most of my reading. Plus this is the kind of book that has a lot of perspective, so many in fact that I lost count. And while I could keep them straight because of the different accents in the audio it was difficult at first to fully connect with any of the characters completely. But as the book went on and I saw them interact with each other I started connecting with them and being torn about who I wanted to succeed.

Probably the most surprising thing for me however was how I liked the plot despite that it not really feeling very specific. Most of the book revolved around the Game which, while being high stakes, didn't seem to have a clear progression from scene to scene. It was really all about just doing magic and out doing one another to win. But I liked the magic so much that I didn't mind. That is until about 2/3rds of the book when a perspective which seemed to not really connect, was brought into the main story and secrets began to be revealed. And then in the end I felt like it did build to a thrilling ending that resolved everything and still left it open for future books. And I honestly cannot wait for more books. When I was finished I had that feeling of satisfaction at how good this was and the desire for more. That to me is the mark of a good read.

On the whole I really like The Crown's Game. I thought it was an interesting and engaging YA fantasy. It had a fantastic magical system despite a lack of rules, characters that grew on me as the book went on, and an engaging plot. And the audio is absolutely amazing!

I give The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye 9.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. I've heard mostly amazing things about this book and I absolutely understand. Fans of YA fantasies, especially those inspired by Imperialist Russia, should add this one to their list. And if you like audiobooks then definitely listen to this one. Steve West's narration is everything!

Have you read The Crown's Game? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Series Review: The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce (Published 1983 by Atheneum) (Amazon / Goodreads)
In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce (Published 1984 by Atheneum) (Amazon / Goodreads)
The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce (Published 1986 by Atheneum) (Amazon / Goodreads)
Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce (Published: September 1988 by Atheneum) (Amazon / Goodreads) 

Series Synopsis: Noblewoman Alanna of Trebond, disguised as the boy "Alan," exchanges places with her twin brother Thom, to go to the royal palace in the city of Corus to train for knighthood, while Thom studies magic. Throughout the four novels Alanna befriends George, the king of the thieves; the scholar Sir Myles of Olau; senior students Gareth (Gary) of Naxen, Raoul of Goldenlake, and Prince Jonathan of Conté; Princess Thayet of Sarain; Liam Ironarm, a martial-arts champion; and Buriram (Buri) Tourakom, Thayet's bodyguard. Her principal rivals are classmate Ralon of Malven, and Jonathan's kinsman Duke Roger, who becomes the chief antagonist in the final book. 

By reason of her double identity, small size, inherent magic, and impatience, Alanna is often shown questioning her own character; but resolves these questions in the third book, in which she becomes an honorary member of the 'Bazhir' (a Bedouin-like ethnicity), through gaining unique acceptance because of her gender. In the final volume, she becomes King's Champion to Jonathan and Baroness of the coastal estate Pirate's Swoop.

This is such a beloved series by fans of YA fantasy. I can't believe I never read it as a kid but with the popularity of it around the blogosphere I knew I needed to take the time to read it, So when my OTSP Secret Sister in the last round bought me copies of the series it was the perfect opportunity to read it during my high fantasy month as my Rock My TBR Challenge.

I had high expectations for this series because it is so popular. And while I wasn't completely blown away by it in the way I had hoped, I really enjoyed it. On the whole I think The Song of the Lioness Quartet is a classic sword and sorcery high fantasy series. It's not a super high stakes adventure but it has a great combination of magic and action.Throughout the series, it slowly brings in more and more magic and fight scenes as the series goes on to really build to a thrilling conclusion. But along the way there were lots of moments that kept you reading and interested. For one thing, I really liked the magical system and world-building here. It was the perfect kind of show not tell as you learned about the world without being overwhelmed with detail. It was interesting and engaging.

My one main criticism though is with the pacing of the series. Each individual book was really well-paced but it didn't feel like much of a cohesive series until the very end. Even when I had finished the third book it left me wondering how it would all end, what the ultimate conflict was, and who the "big bad" of the series was. All of that wasn't really revealed until the second half of the last book. Now I get wanting to wait to reveal everything until you're ready but it left me wondering too much. I couldn't tell if this was just a book about Alanna's adventures or if there was an ultimate conclusion. And because of that, the stakes didn't feel as high as they could of and often are in these kinds of novels. It didn't feel like one of those epic end of the world kind of stories like I was hoping.

The first book in the series, Alanna The First Adventure, was probably my least favorite in the series. If you read this blog regularly then you know I always have a rough time with first books. They often contain too much exposition for me and this book was no exception. There was some great moments of action and some fantastic scenes with the magic, but on the whole those were few and far between. But the first book did do a great job with characterization. I loved Alanna and was invested in her story to continue which is one of the main reasons I kept reading.

The second book in the series, In the Hand of the Goddess, by contrast may have been my favorite. It took everything I loved with the first book and gave me more of that. It had more magic, more mystery, and much more action. It even kind of resolved some of the conflicts from the first book which was really interesting. But this was about the time where I started to question what the big picture stuff was because of that resolution. But the great characters and characterization continued, especially with new characters like Faithful.

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, the third book in the series, felt a lot like your typical third book in a series. Often what I see a lot in trilogies is that with the third book the author will expand the world and show you a different part of the universe. That's exactly what happened here as we were taken to the desert to live with the Bazhir people. It was an interesting turn for the series and I liked exploring it, but it felt a little bit like a diversion before the finale.

Lioness Rampant however redeemed so much of that. The last book in the series was a fantastic conclusion and could be my favorite in the series too. One thing that I loved about is the way that it took everything full circle. It harkened back to some great moments of the the first book especially which was fantastic, plus by the end there you did have the high stakes adventure that I was missing in some of the other series.

On the whole, The Song of the Lioness quartet was a fantastic young adult fantasy. It has great characters that you will fall for quickly and a great combination of magic and adventure. As a cohesive story the pacing is a little problematic but each individual book is engaging and interesting. It was a good read.

I give The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. If you have not yet read this series then check it out. I would absolutely recommend it to fans of the genre. If you haven't read it as a kid then take the opportunity to read it now. It's reminiscent about a lot of our favorite modern fantasies and you will love Alanna a tough but feminine female hero.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

ARC Review: Roses and Rot by Kat Howard

Title: Roses and Rot 
Written by: Kat Howard
Published: May 17, 2016 by Saga Press (Simon and Schuster)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Imogen and her sister Marin have escaped their cruel mother to attend a prestigious artists’ retreat, but soon learn that living in a fairy tale requires sacrifices, be it art or love. 

What would you sacrifice in the name of success? How much does an artist need to give up to create great art? 

Imogen has grown up reading fairy tales about mothers who die and make way for cruel stepmothers. As a child, she used to lie in bed wishing that her life would become one of these tragic fairy tales because she couldn’t imagine how a stepmother could be worse than her mother now. As adults, Imogen and her sister Marin are accepted to an elite post-grad arts program—Imogen as a writer and Marin as a dancer. Soon enough, though, they realize that there’s more to the school than meets the eye. Imogen might be living in the fairy tale she’s dreamed about as a child, but it’s one that will pit her against Marin if she decides to escape her past to find her heart’s desire.

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

I am placed with a real dilemma here as I write this review. I want to flail about how much I loved this book but I don't want to give anything away. I went into it not knowing much about it and I think that's the best way to read this book. You need to experience it on that level. So all I will say is that, wow I loved it.

If you are looking for a beautifully written book with an atmospheric tone then definitely check this one out. You may have noticed on the cover that it is blurbed by Neil Gaiman. That probably gives you some indication of what the tone of this book will be. It starts off with a really fantastic gothic vibe. The main characters start attending this prestigious artist retreat, confusing and unexplained things start happening, it's all mysterious and wonderful. Then halfway through the book there is this big reveal and the tone changes but for the better. It's still incredibly atmospheric but in a very different way. It had kind of a magical realism vibe to it and I think I may have said this recently, but I'm really into that subgenre of fantasy. It makes for an interesting and compelling world and this book was no exception.  It's not a fast read though. maybe it was because I was reading it during BEA, but in general this was the kind of book where you have to slow down and really let the words sink into your consciousness. It's the kind of book where you just fall into the beauty and atmosphere.

At it's heart though, I think this is a book about family and the relationship between families. I went into Roses and Rot thinking it would be a fairy tale retelling. I actually thought it was Snow White and Rose Red, it's not. Or is it? It's not so specifically a fairy tale retelling but it is at the same time. It borrows more from the idea and thoughts of fairy tales more than it does from the actual stories. One of the things it borrows is the idea of a terrible parent. There is more than one bad mother in this book and it adds a lot of additional drama and characterization. But it also borrows the idea that there is strength in the sibling relationship from fairy tales. The relationship between Imogen and Marin was fantastic, sweet, complex, and full of emotion. I love the way the women interacted with one another, whether it was good or bad it felt real and interesting.

Part of the realness about the interaction between the sisters, and well the other characters, was this really fantastic theme about fame and success. This is a book about artists. About dancers, writers, singer, poets, sculptors, artists. Plus the setting is this prestigious artist retreat where many famous artists have attended before they became successful. So there is this layer of fame and desire with the characters and this undercurrent of competition. Especially with the sisters. I could absolutely relate to that being someone who always strived to be the best and better than my siblings as a kid. But as the synopsis leads you to believe, that success comes with a price. That made for a really complex conflict as the thing you want the characters to do would also be something that causes them problems. It was fantastic.

I even kind of liked the romance here. Now don't get me wrong, I wasn't super impressed, you guys know me and my romancephobic heart. I could have done without it and did think it was a bit instalovey but it felt different in a lot of ways. Here there were two romantic leads, one for each sister. I didn't think I was enjoying Marin's relationship but it grew on me over time. You could feel how much he cared about her which was interesting because we mostly saw it through Imogen's eyes. With Imogen's relationship, it had some pretty steamy moments which I liked, and despite it being very instalovey and seemingly cliche at first, the best part was the way it ended. It was not all sunshine and rainbows. It felt realistic in it's bumps and trials along the way, which sadly was refreshing when it came to romance in books. And that's what I think I liked most about the romance, it played with the tropes and relationships in a way that felt realistic and interesting.

But that's what this book did on the whole, it played around with what we know and like about fairy tales and magical realism and made something familiar and creative at the same time. It was beautifully written book with an atmospheric tone that you will fall into and characters that will get so attached to by the end that you will feel things you didn't expect.

I give Roses and Rot by Kat Howard 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of fairy tales and magical realism. It's beautifully written and creative but familiar at the same time. But go into it without knowing much. That was I think one of the best things I did when I read this book. But I would also warn people that this is not a fast read. It's the kind of book that forces you to slow down and take it all in despite it's length. So if you have a week to spare, pick this beauty up.

Have you read Roses and Rot? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!