Weekend trip turned nightmare | S.T.A.G.S by M.A. Bennett [ARC]

S.T.A.G.S. STAGSGreer just started at her new boarding school, a posh place called St. Aidan the Great School. As a scholarship student, she doesn’t fit in among the elite upper class–the ones who look born to be wearing the black Tudor coats that is their school uniform. So when she gets invited to spend the long weekend with the “it” group on campus, the Medievals, she leaps at the chance. The invitation says they’re in for a fun weekend of “Huntin’, Shootin’, and Fishin'” and Greer can’t wait to prove to these popular upper classmen that she deserves to be friends with them (and maybe even more in the case of Henry de Warlencourt). What she doesn’t expect is to have the picturesque weekend marred by creepy servants and terrible “accidents”.

TL;DR – There was way too much clumsy foreshadowing. The plot wasn’t as exciting as it initially sounded. Characters were just…meh. Pass.

I had pretty high hopes for this book. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I have a strangely specific passion for books about unique boarding schools. This book also sounded like it had some Hunger Games elements to it so I was all in. Unfortunately, I don’t think that the writing was up to par the entire time and the plot was a little weak.

The way the book is written, Greer is essentially narrating the events to the reader. She drops a lot of “hints” throughout the book as to what is actually happening. But instead of creating suspense, as maybe the author hoped, it destroys it and becomes more than a little annoying. There is a time and a place to use foreshadowing effectively, but it was just too heavy-handed in this book–not at all subtle and definitely overkill. Greer keeps referencing how the weekend ends and she makes it seem like aĀ really big deal. By the time we actually get to that point, I was a little let down. It almost didn’t seem like as big a deal as Greer had made it out to be throughout the book.

Like I said earlier, the plot was intriguing to me going in, but once I was actually in the book, it started to make less sense. I understand how the entire plot comes together in the end, but it still seems a little bit of a stretch–just not very believable. I’m not saying that every plot has to be super believable, but in this case, a believable plot would have made the book seem a lot more interesting. I don’t want to get too much into it because of spoilers, but I feel like this same plot could have been done in a much more intriguing and clever way.

The characters themselves were just okay. I don’t really feel like any of them were fully fleshed-out, not even Greer. That made it hard to really care for any of them. It didn’t really matter to me if they made it out alive or not. I think it would have been a lot more interesting if Greer hadn’t been the object of a certain character’s affections. The author made it seem like he might like someone else at the beginning and I think following through with that would have been a lot more unexpected and interesting. And wouldn’t have had a huge impact on the story line.

Overall, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book. There were so many parts of it that just dragged. I was really hoping this book would be so much better than it was.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Moderate
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: None

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Taxonomies & Tourette Syndrome | A Taxonomy of Love by Rachael Allen [ARC]

A Taxonomy of LoveSpencer has Tourette Syndrome. You know, that thing where people start swearing randomly? Except it’s a lot more than that. He’s learned pretty well how to manage his tics and he also knows which neighborhood boys to avoid (read: all of his older brother Dean’s friends). Then Hope Birdsong moves in next door. They soon become best friends, but when Hope starts dating Dean, it puts a strain on their friendship. But things are still fine until Hope and Dean breakup and Spencer tries to kiss her (whoops). As they progress through high school, Spencer loses himself in wrestling and his new girlfriend Jayla. But he can never quite forget about Hope.

Recommended if you liked: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
TL;DR – I learned about Tourettes. The characters were moderately deep and had a good developmental arc, but I wasn’t a huge fan of how the author chose to pace the book.

First off, I’ve never read a book with a character who has Tourette Syndrome. To be honest, I knew very little about it before reading this book, but I feel like it does a really good job of treating it in a very frank and honest way while also being extremely respectful. I feel like I’m more prepared now if I were to ever interact with someone who has Tourettes.

I thought that the characters had a pretty good developmental arc throughout the book, but the pacing was a little weird sometimes. I was reading from a digital galley and I think some formatting things were lost in translation because all of the sudden the next chapter had skipped to the next summer and I felt like I had to catch up. I’m sure this is resolved in the final physical copy, but it made it hard for me to enjoy the book at first (I think my copy was just missing some headings or something). The book spans from when Spencer and Hope are around 13 to 19 so there are huge sections of these characters lives that are “left out”. At the same time, it gives a pretty good picture of how people change throughout high school and in response to life events, etc.

This book is less plot-centric than character driven so there isn’t too much to comment on in that area. I will say, it felt aĀ little lazy to me that the author had Spencer and Hope’s friendship rebuilt “off-screen”. We leave them at a tentative truce and then in the next chapter it’s a year later and they’re friends again? I would have liked to have seen more of that develop than just having it be handed to me as a reader.

Overall, I thought this book was pretty good, but not necessarily mind-blowing. I did come out of it feeling more educated than I had been going in, but I had a really hard time adjusting to the pacing and time skips, etc. I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to learn a little more about Tourettes in a casual setting or to anyone who wants a break from the YA female narrator.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Modereate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Two teens. One airport. | The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody [ARC]

The Chaos of Standing StillRyn needs to get home by New Years. Unfortunately, her father believes in paying the least amount on flights as possible. Which is why she is flying on Cheap-o Airlines with a layover in Denver on December 31st. Also, there’s a blizzard raging outside. Being stuck in the airport the night before the first anniversary of her best friend’s death is hard enough, but now she seems to have attracted a sidekick who won’t go away and keeps getting her into trouble. His name is Xander and he seems much too happy to be stuck in the airport overnight. Ryn has so many unanswered questions about Lottie’s death, but maybe Xander can help her to see that not every question needs to be answered.

Airports are kind of fascinating, aren’t they? They’re almost like little cities, but people are always in such a rush to get out of there that they hardly ever take the chance to explore. Honestly, though, this book made being stranded overnight at the airport sound not that bad.

Ryn was a pretty…weak character for me. She was kind of written that way on purpose and I think we were supposed to see a lot of growth from her as the book went on, but she kind of just stayed weak the whole time for me. I didn’t hardcore dislike her, but I didn’t like her very much either and didn’t really find myself with too much sympathy for her. I didn’t think she tried very hard to understand Xander or his situation. Speaking of Xander, as per the usual in YA books, he was way too mature/understanding/kind/forgiving for an 18-year-old boy. I’m not saying that all teenage boys are trash, but they’re definitely not like Xander.

I have my issues with Lottie too, but it feels kind of bad to criticize a dead person–even if they’re fictional. I just don’t really think she was a good friend for Ryn. Their friendship seemed enormously one-sided even though I think the author tried to paint it as two-sided.

There was not too much to the plot as it was mainly a character-driven book, but there were certain aspects that I questioned a little bit. While I love hearing Denver Airport conspiracy theories, I didn’t really understand why that was brought up. Or even what that character’s purpose was.

Overall, I think the book was pretty good. The pacing was quick and moved things along even with Ryn’s “flashbacks”. The writing was good as well and didn’t drag the story down. I wasn’t blown away by this book, but I would recommend it if you’re looking for a holiday read that isn’t a complete fluff-piece.

Disclaimer for my ratings: Usually while I read books I make notes about the content. But since I’ve been on hiatus, I haven’t been doing that. So my content ratings may not be 100% accurate (but I did try really hard to remember).

Overall Rating: 4 (rounded up from 3.5)
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Revisiting the Russian Fairytale | The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden [ARC]

This is the second book in the Winternight Trilogy. To see my review of the first book, please click here.

The Girl in the TowerAfter the events of the first book, Vasya knows that she can’t stay in her small town. She bridles her horse, Solovey, and takes off to finally have the adventure that she’s always longed for. Soon after, she discovers a village that’s been burned to the ground. Many of the villagers are dead and some have had their daughters taken. Vasya can find no trace of these bandits but doesn’t let that stop her. As she continues on her journey, she’ll find herself embroiled in Moscow politics and longing for a life that she may never be able to have.

This was a great follow-up to the The Bear and the Nightingale. It was very much in the same tone and the characters were just as real and complex as they were before (if not more so). Vasya isn’t always the most likable character, but she does make sense. She lives in a different time where women were just expected to stay in their towers all day, every day. Instead, Vasya longs for adventure and the reader can feel that throughout the book. She’s so conflicted because she doesn’t like lying by pretending to be a boy, but she knows that she wouldn’t be as helpful (or happy) if everyone knew she was a girl.

As far as other characters go, we get to know Morozko, Sasha, and Olga a lot better than we did in the first book in addition to new characters like Dimitrii and Olga’s daughter. This gives the reader a really diverse and interesting cast of secondary characters to get to know. I, personally, was not in favor of the priest from her hometown coming back. He’s just so…creepy. But I guess that’s the point.

The plot is slow-moving, but not boring by any means. I didn’t necessarily feel compelled to pick the book back up after I was done reading for the day, but I think that says more about my own reading preferences than the book itself. Arden is a talented writer and that shows through in this book just as it did in the first one. There’s the smallest little bud of a romance that blossoms in this book. I’ll be honest, I was wanting this romance from the first book, so I’m glad it’s getting explored and I hope we see more of it in the third book.

If you’re interested in historical Russia, Russian fairytales, or just love beautifully written (albeit slow-moving) books, then I would definitely recommend this book. I look forward to seeing what Arden comes out with next.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Heavy, but not SUPER descriptive
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

Note: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Not back from my hiatus mini-reviews

As the title suggests, I’m not back from my hiatus yet, but I do have a ton of NetGalley reviews to get off my plate, so here are some mini-reviews for you! And for those of you that care, I’ll have a life update at the end.

Gray Wolf IslandGray Wolf Island by Tracey Neithercott

This book was not anything that I thought it would be really. I guess I just kind of thought it would be a treasure hunt? It definitely did have those elements to it, but it also a magical realism element to it that made it really fun. I can’t say whether or not I would have enjoyed the book more without the magical realism…I think it just would have been a completely different story. With that being said, the five main characters are each unique and interesting. They all have secrets and I really did feel like we got to know them quite well in a short time. 4/5

BerserkerBerserker by Emmy Laybourne

I have no idea why I requested this book. In fact, I feel like I distinctly remember reading the synopsis and deciding NOT to request it. All the same, the approval landed in my inbox so I must read it. It was better than I thought it was going to be for sure. I liked some of the sibling relationships, but I thought the youngest sister was just SO ANNOYING. I mean…she really seemed to have no awareness of their situation and she just seemed so spoiled. Main characters were pretty bland to me. Plot was okay but didn’t make sense at times. I was also a little confused because the characters made it sound like there were two additional gifts, but they never explained what they were. 3/5

A Messy, Beautiful LifeA Messy, Beautiful Life by Sara Jade Alan

This book is about a girl who finds out she had cancer. Because of that, I think I expected the tone of the book to be a little more serious or something, but it wasn’t. So the tone of the whole book just felt a little off to me which kept me from really getting into it. I thought the characters were mostly alright, but Jason is unreal. Like, seriously unreal. He’s way too mature for how old he’s supposed to be. The plot of the book was mostly alright, but I thought the ending was too clean–too fairytale. Also, there was like this weird spiritual element to the last 1/4 of the book that wasn’t there for the first 3/4. I have nothing against that kind of thing, but it wasn’t a consistent theme throughout the whole book. 3/5

A Dangerous YearA Dangerous Year by Kes Trester

I like teen spy books and I especially like teen spy books set at boarding schools that may or may not have some of its own secrets. I thought the main character, Riley, was pretty fun. She seemed way smart without being chippy or over-dramatic. And by chippy, I mean having a HUGE chip on her shoulder/needing to prove herself at every opportunity. The other characters were okay as well if a little flat–perhaps they’ll be developed more in later books. I really liked Riley’s relationship with her dad and the security guy. I wasn’t a big fan of the love triangle that developed, but what are you going to do? In the end, I would definitely be interested in reading more from this series. 4/5

Murder, Magic, and What We WoreMurder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones

Overall, I liked this book okay, but I’m not looking to read more in the series. I thought the main character was pretty annoying, honestly. I wish that there had been more about Millie because she seemed WAY more interesting. At least give us multiple POVs! I could see what this book was trying to do with the plot, but it’s just been done better in other books, honestly (check out the These Vicious Masks books). I thought the magic in this book was really interesting and had a lot of potential, but it was also a little confusing and may have benefited from a bit of an explanation. 3/5

Odd and TrueOdd & True by Cat Winters

I LOVE CAT WINTERS. I know I’ve mentioned that on this blog before, but every book I read by her is amazing! I love how she creates the perfect spooky atmosphere without being too scary. She creates these likable, strong, and independent female characters who are also flawed and vulnerable. Her stories always leave you guessing about what’s real and what’s simply in a character’s head. Also, she does an AMAZING job of putting you in the historical time that the book is set in. Every book of hers is another glimpse at an older America that I feel like we don’t get to see very often and this book is no exception. I really appreciated that this book is about SISTERS and even though there’s a little romance, it doesn’t really play into it.Ā 4/5

Girls Made of Snow and GlassGirls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

I thought this book moved SOOOOOO SLOOOOOOW. It was honestly very hard for me to get into and then to get through. I didn’t really feel a connection to any of the characters. I didn’t really care what happened to them in the end. I did like how this book gave more depth to the original fairytale, though. The author did a good job at explaining actions by deep-rooted motivations that made sense even if I didn’t agree. Overall, I just don’t think this book was for me. I think I’ve read that some people really loved it, but I honestly can’t get over the pacing. SO SLOW. 3/5

InvictusInvictus by Ryan Graudin

But guys….THIS BOOK. Ryan Graudin has done it again. I am truly converted (not that I really needed converting) and will read LITERALLY ANYTHING that she writes. This is by far the most realistic take on time travel that I think I’ve ever seen. I love the future world that Graudin has created and I honestly want to live in it. I was super into the initial premise of Far’s team performing these historical heists and I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see any of those, but the actual plot was also very interesting. It was a lot deeper and more emotional than I expected. All the main characters were super likable so that made it all the more emotional for me. IĀ care about these guys! I’ll admit to being a little confused by the ending…I fell like it went over my head a bit but overall, I would definitely recommend this book! 5/5

Life Update: Okay, as promised (for those of you who care)…one of the reasons that life has been so crazy lately is that I’m pregnant! I’m almost 14 weeks at this point with my due date being in May. Luckily, I haven’t really had bad morning sickness at all, but I have been super tired and (lately) hungry like ALL THE TIME. So anyway, I just have all that going in my head and haven’t felt motivated to blog. I’m not sure how the baby will change my blogging habits. I won’t be working full-time anymore, but on the other hand…baby? So we’ll just have to see šŸ˜‰

Note: I received these books free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

September Wrap-Up/October TBR

Wrap-Up & TBR
September

ARCs
The Victoria in My Head by Janelle Milanes ā€“ DNF pg 182,Ā review
Invictus by Ryan Graudin ā€“ Read, review coming
A Dangerous Year by Kes Trester – Read, review coming
Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones – Read, review coming
A Messy, Beautiful Life by Sara Jade Alan – Read, review coming
Berserker by Emmy Laybourne – Read, review coming
Gray Wolf Island by Tracey Neithercott – Currently Reading

Other
Stars Above by Marissa Meyer ā€“ Currently Reading

So yeah, this month I managed to finish five books and had one DNF. Things have just been super busy with my husband starting grad school, etc. Also, TV. So, there’s that. I’m like 24 books behind on my Goodreads challenge right now *shrugs*. Also, I now officially suck at blogging.

October

ARCs
Nemesis by Anna Banks
Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge

Other
Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

There you have it. I have low expectations for October. Luckily, I don’t have any ARCs that are getting published in November, so these are just a couple from my backlog.

September Reading Update

ARCs
The Victoria in My Head by Janelle Milanes – DNF pg 182, review
Invictus by Ryan Graudin – Currently Reading
A Dangerous Year by Kes Trester
Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones
Berserker by Emmy Laybourne
Gray Wolf Island by Tracey Neithercott

Other
Stars Above by Marissa Meyer – Currently Reading

So far this month I’ve only managed to DNF one book. Reading has been going super slow for me and I can’t quite figure out why.