November ARC Mini-Reviews

mini-reviews
Secrets & Suitors by Joanna Baker

I’m always down for a good Regency romance–I love the feel-goodishness of them. There’s something about the propriety of the time that somehow makes the leading men that much more swoon-worthy too. With that being said, it’s still important to have a feisty heroine and I mostly felt like Nora was a wet blanket. I hoped that she would develop and mature as the book went on, but I was to be disappointed. Honestly, I think Susanna would have been a MUCH more interesting protagonist. I just thought Nora was too down on herself! She can’t be charming and desirable while simultaneously being COMPLETELY oblivious to any of her good qualities. Nora also had an unbearable amount of angsty internal dialogue. If I had a dollar for every time she thought something like, “We are only friends” or “I must control my heart” or “He doesn’t feel the same” I would have much money. In the end, I didn’t think this book was SO bad, but it wasn’t great either. Just okay. 3/5

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Deadly Little Scandals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I really liked the first book in this series (Little White Lies) and I was super excited to continue the story. From the beginning, I’ve found Sawyer to be an extremely likable protagonist (if somewhat overly capable). In this book especially, I really liked Sawyer’s relationship with both Lily and John David. I love how protective Sawyer is of Lily and their relationship. Sawyer grew up without any extended family, so that relationship is really precious to her. I also liked the main friend group of Sawyer, Lily, Campbell, and Sadie Grace. They’re all supportive and mostly nice to each other which is refreshing. Unfortunately, the plot in this book was just so complicated. There are two main plot points that get mashed together and I feel like the author should have just picked one of them. It almost feels like this book just got away from her? There are elements of it too that I don’t feel like jive with how characters were portrayed in the first book. I still liked the book (Sawyer really carries it for me) and I’ll read the next one (if there is one) but man, some really weird stuff went down in this book. 4/5

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Sisters of Shadow & Light by Sara B. Larson

I thought this book was maybe going to be a Sleeping Beauty kind of thing (I mean, there’s a giant hedge) but it’s not. So if you thought that too, just know it’s not. Zuhra as a main character was…okay. I really wanted to like her, but I just found her to be a little whiny and overdramatic at times. I also thought she lacked consistency? I hoped this book would be really focused on the sister relationship and while that was semi-present, it felt like both Zuhra and Inara’s romances got in the way of developing that. And (as is often the case in YA unfortunately) there was almost no basis for the TWO romantic threads that we’re given. Literally, almost no context for why the romantic interests are drawn to our leads. *sigh* I guess I’ll just keep waiting for a well-developed YA romance. My main issue with the book, though, was pacing. It took me SO LONG to read this book. Honestly, I felt like the author could have cut out half the words and it still would have been a well-written book. HALF THE WORDS. At around 70%, I just started skimming. In addition to that, hardly anything happens from chapter to chapter and a lot of them alternate perspectives between the sisters which does NOT help–it just makes the story end up feeling really jerky. In the end, I’m a little intrigued by where the story goes next, but I probably won’t continue the series. 2.5/5

The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever read a King Arthur retelling…? At the very least, I haven’t read one in a long time. I mostly liked Guinevere as our main character, but she kept coming to these conclusions that just seemed completely wrong to me and barreling full steam ahead. I mean, I recognize that the reader usually has more information than the characters do, but she just really needed to slow her roll. It was also difficult to fully embrace Guinevere because she doesn’t really know who she is (literally). Her memory of her past is super spotty and it made it hard for me to get a good sense of who she is as a character. So while I liked her, I didn’t feel like I could get completely on board with her. The plot was intriguing enough and we’ll see where the next book goes. I have one big issue with this book, but it’s kind of spoiler-y so I won’t talk about it, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending. I’ll just close by saying that book two better have like five times as many Arthur/Guinevere moments. 3.5/5

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Note: I received copies of these books free from NetGalley in exchange for honest reviews.

Holly Black Mini-Reviews [Part 2]

Click here for my first set of Holly Black mini-reviews.

mini-reviewsI read all three of the books in the Modern Faerie Tale series when I was…in junior high? That seems about right, but honestly I can’t believe I read these books back then. All three books are pretty heavy in the language department and the second book also has heavy drug use (a fancy faerie drug, but still). Regardless, I read this series again as a refresher for the new Folk of the Air book. I just wanted to make sure I had the full context of Holly Black’s Faerie.

Tithe

This book is so much darker than the Folk of the Air series. As I’ve read her newer stuff, it’s felt more polished while this felt dark and gritty. I found Kaye and Corny to both be pretty likable. There were times I found myself having a hard time with them, but it usually passed quickly. Roiben is everything you could want in a cold faerie knight, but I didn’t always understand his attachment to Kaye. What drew him to her in the first place? Why did she have such an impact on him? In a world like Faerie with extraordinary beings, I find it hard to believe that Kaye really stands out. In the end, though, I do like them as a couple. Overall, I didn’t like this book as much as I remembered liking it, but I do think it’s a great introduction to how Holly Black does faeries. 3.5/5

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Valiant

I liked this one the least of the three. I didn’t feel like there was any real plot for the first 75% of the book. I would have liked more scenes of Val making deliveries for Ravus or perhaps more investigation into the faerie poisonings. Similar to Tithe, I wasn’t totally sure I bought Ravus’ feelings for Val, though I felt like they perhaps had a little more context. I did like the homelessness representation–I haven’t read many books depicting that. Another thing to note is that this book introduces the concept of lady knights which Black returns to in other books. 3/5

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Ironside

Out of the three books, I felt like this one had the strongest plot and I liked how this book brought the first two together. Kaye and Roiben make a cameo in Valiant, but this one really ties everything up in a neat little bow (though Ravus did NOT get enough screentime). As far as characters go, Corny was a little harder for me in this one while I found Kaye and Luis to both be much more likable than they had been in the previous books. One sticking point for me plotwise, though, is I didn’t feel like it was ever really explained WHY Roiben didn’t want Kaye to be part of the court? And I feel like that’s a pretty key piece of information–I mean, it’s why he gave her the impossible quest in the first place. But even with that, I found this book to be pretty good and I enjoyed my reread of the series. 4/5

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White Cat

To be clear, this book is NOT part of the series above. It’s the first book in a separate series (and all of the covers are AWFUL). I wanted to like this book so much, I really did. Unfortunately, it was just okay. If I didn’t know better, I would have guessed that this series was written before the Modern Faerie Tales. It just felt rough and undeveloped. Especially compared to her most recent series, I just didn’t feel like this book was written that well. I felt confused for most of the book regarding the “magic” system and how things worked. It really felt like I was playing catch-up the whole time and that made it hard to enjoy what was happening. This book was about a family of con artists and SHOULD have been right up my alley, but I was having too hard a time trying to figure out what the story was and what Cassel was trying to accomplish. As a character, I liked Cassel and I found the other characters to be interesting as well. There were definitely things about this book that I found interesting, I just think it suffered from poor structure or something. In the end, I don’t feel compelled to pick up the rest of the series. 3/5

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Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills [Review]

Famous in a Small TownSophie’s marching band has been invited to march at the Rose Parade. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like they’re going to be able to raise enough money to actually get there. That’s when Sophie comes up with a genius idea–if she can get hometown celebrity Megan Pleasant to come to a local festival, they might just be able to raise enough funds to make the trip. Sophie enlists her friends and newcomer August in this mission to get Megan Pleasant to come home at last.

TL;DR – Characters feel like characters rather than real people and the main character’s kind of taken for granted, but still a really enjoyable read.

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I absolutely tear through these books. Emma Mills is really good at writing characters that are enjoyable to read. Even though her characters are a little¬†too witty almost all of the time, I still find myself enjoying the banter. You kind of just have to accept that these are obviously characters–not real people. One thing I liked about this book is that Sophie already has an established group of friends. I’ve noticed a trend in YA Contemporary where the main character is kind of this misfit and/or a really introverted girl who gets absorbed into this quirky friend group and is handed a love interest. I thought Sophie’s group of friends was interesting and I felt that their shared history gave the group depth.

On the other hand, there were a lot of times when I felt like Sophie was being completely taken advantage of and the rest of the group was acting really selfishly. Sophie cares so much for other people–ESPECIALLY HER FRIENDS–and I felt like she was repeatedly getting trampled on (figuratively speaking). I mean, how hard is it for her friends to care about the Megan Pleasant thing for TWO SECONDS just because it’s important to Sophie?!? TWO SECONDS. I just wish they’d been more supportive of Sophie.

The plot takes some interesting turns, but I don’t want to spoil anything. I’ll just say that one of the twists had me bawling and the other seemed…a little bit of a stretch. How everything played out just seemed a bit questionable and maybe a tad too convenient?

Overall, I liked this book as much as Mills’ other ones and will definitely continue to pick up her stuff. I had some minor issues with it, but nothing that really prevented me from enjoying it.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Heavy

Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

 

Holly Black Mini-Reviews

Let’s be honest, this is probably only part 1 of a series of Holly Black reviews (I’m on a binge) but I need to get these reviews out. I read the Tithe books years ago in junior high (I think I was just a¬†tad too young to be reading them, but here we are) and haven’t really picked up any Holly Black since. I remember really liking that series and I just hadn’t gotten around to picking up anything else by her even though I kept adding her books to my TBR. This month I finally took the plunge and I am HAPPY to be back.

mini-reviews

The Cruel Prince

I didn’t really know what to expect going into this book. I remembered Black’s version of Faerie, but I didn’t know anything about this series specifically. I’ll be honest–I don’t LOVE Jude as a protag. I guess she’s supposed to be an anti-hero? Perhaps I’ve just been extremely spoiled in my anti-heroes, but I didn’t find her as likable as some others that I’ve read. She was just a little much for me. I really wanted her to slow down and think a little bit more and for her to be less chippy. One thing I loved about this book were Black’s previous character cameos. THIS is how you do a character cameo *cough*LeighBardugo*cough*. It felt natural and not at all name drop-y. To be honest, I wasn’t totally sure that the cameos were happening–I had to go look up Black’s other characters. In the end, I did quite enjoy this book and was happy to find that I could immediately check out the next one. 4/5

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 The Wicked King

Just a quick spoiler warning for this one: this mini-review may spoil some of the events from the first book–just a warning.

Jude continued to be a confusing character for me. I don’t totally understand her constant lust for power. I felt like maybe I needed more backstory from her featuring the times when she felt most powerless. How did she get to this point? I also don’t love the relationship between Jude and Taryn. They’re twins that went through this really traumatic thing together and I wish they were closer. I really wanted them to be on the same team. I guess the argument could be made that Locke essentially turned them against each other? But I think if they’re relationship had been stronger, it would have been able to withstand that. Mostly, I just found myself a little confused throughout this book over characters and even sometimes over plot. I felt like I would have benefited from one or two other POVs. As it was, I didn’t feel like I completely understood everything that was happening. Without spoiling¬†this book, I 0% understand why the person who betrayed Jude did. They gave minimal reasoning, but it still doesn’t make sense to me. Lastly, Valerian cursed Jude when she killed him towards the end of the last book and that literally hasn’t come up once. Just wondering if that’s ever going to come into play… Regardless, I will clearly be reading the last book and anticipation is HIGH.¬†4/5

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 The Darkest Part of the Forest

This book mostly takes place in the human world which was both good and bad. I find the faerie world that Black has created to be extremely fascinating so I love getting to explore it. With that being said, I also thought it was really interesting how this mortal town has accepted the Folk and have learned to live around them. I really liked Hazel as a character right away. I thought she was tough and I felt like I could understand her as a person and why she made certain choices. In contrast, I felt like Severin got almost no development as a character and the romantic relationship that involves him also had zero development–it just kind of happened. Literally, Severin declared, “I love this person!” and we’re all just supposed to go along with it. Ummm…okay, I guess? One part of this that I especially liked was the relationship between Ben and Hazel. I liked that they were a monster-fighting team. They were friends and siblings and their relationship felt super pure. I’d love to see these characters (but especially Hazel, Ben, and Jack) in future/other books.¬†4/5

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In which I read three books for one book club | Liane Moriarty Mini-Reviews

Nine Perfect Strangers

This was the first book that I read by Liane Moriarty and was originally supposed to be THE book for book club. However, the hosts decided they didn’t LOVE this one, so they opened up the discussion to any of her books. I thought this one was really interesting as it made me consider the assumptions that I hold about other people. All of the characters make huge assumptions about everyone else at the retreat and it just makes you think about how you interact with others. The ending was pretty weird and as I was reading I was just kind of like, “….what….?” For that reason, I’m glad that I read this one first. If I’d read one of her other books before this one, I think I would have been disappointed. 3.5/5

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Big Little Lies

As soon as I started Big Little Lies, I could tell a night and day difference between this and Nine Perfect Strangers. It immediately sucked me into the story and I was so invested. In this book, I really came to appreciate the way Moriarty writes. It’s super casual, fun, and easy to read. Some writers have a way of writing that allows you to read their books super fast–that was how I felt about Moriarty’s writing. Especially in this book, I literally felt like I COULD NOT READ FAST ENOUGH. The story is interesting and the little interview snippets keep you anticipating what’s to come. I had a prediction for the “mystery” but was wrong. So wrong. 4/5

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Truly Madly Guilty

I didn’t like this one quite as much as the first two. I had a hard time getting into the story (perhaps that’s because I’d read two of her other books shortly before this one). I did think the characters were pretty interesting, but I didn’t find myself sympathizing with them like I did with the Big Little Lies characters. However, I thought the atmosphere in this one was the best. The rain creates this really heavy and uneasy atmosphere–you can’t get comfortable. Something I noticed especially in this one is that Moriarty is really good at toying with her readers. She knows what assumptions we’re going to make with the plot and she teases us relentlessly. The ending just about killed me, but with that being said it felt like this book was about 100 pages too long. 3/5

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Wait…is this Grisha fan-fiction? | King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

King of ScarsIt’s been a few years since the Darkling was defeated and Nikolai’s still trying to figure out how to keep Ravka afloat. This task is made much harder by the fact that Nikolai seems to turn into a monster most nights. A literal monster. He’s desperate for a solution and when a Darkling-loving monk turns up with a possible answer, Nikolai has no choice but to listen to what he has to say.

TL;DR – So much of this reads as Grisha fan-fiction. There were definitely parts that I liked, but a lot that I didn’t as well.

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It took me so long to finally read this book. I think I was just a little scared maybe. I really loved Nikolai from the original trilogy and I didn’t know how this was going to go. Starting off, I felt like I needed some kind of recap for the Grisha trilogy. I literally could not remember a single thing about Zoya. This book leans heavily on the assumption that everyone who picks it up has read Bardugo’s previous series’ which isn’t necessarily going to be the case. So yeah, I think it would have been wise to include at least a recap for the trilogy for those who don’t remember what happened in the original series or for those who never read it in the first place.

The narration mostly rotates between Nikolai, Zoya, and Nina but Nina is over in Fjerda so she’s got a different storyline than the other two. Honestly, I didn’t¬†love Nina in the Six of Crows duology and this book possibly makes me like her even less. Her storyline was not compelling to me at all and I don’t see how it ties in with Nikolai’s main storyline. Honestly, it kind of felt forced as a way for Bardugo to bring her two series’ together (and every time Nina made some name-drop-y reference to the Ketterdam crew, I cringed). And then there’s the whole Nina/Hanne relationship that’s obviously coming and that started approximately five seconds after Nina buried Matthias’ body. I’m sorry, is this fan-fiction? Did someone write some f/f Nina fan-fiction and it accidentally got published as part of this book? I’m not trying to knock fan-fiction at all, I’m just trying to convey that this aspect had an inauthentic feel to me.

My other issue with Nina is that she’s selfless in this really selfish way. She doesn’t trust that people will help her if she gives them all of the information or tells them her whole plan. Nina puts people in tough situations and sometimes even in danger because she has her own agenda regardless of the consequences. She’s just not a team player and was a really frustrating character for me to read.

Nikolai, on the other hand, continues to be his most charming and lovable self. I appreciated getting to see some of his and Zoya’s respective backgrounds. I thought his storyline was a lot more interesting. His quest to find a cure was really interesting but I would have also liked a little more of “the bachelor” stuff to be thrown in–we didn’t actually get much of that. I really liked Isaak as a character and wished he’d been a narrator from the beginning. He deserved more than what he got and that’s all I’ll say about that.

And the ending…I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who DOESN’T have a strong opinion on the ending. Without being too spoiler-y, I’ll just say that once again, this reads like fan-fiction. That was a fan-fiction ending and I hate it.

Overall, I liked most of this book. I didn’t like Nina’s storyline or the ending, but everything else was great! I like the way that Bardugo seems to be expanding on the powers of the Grisha and I like the interesting political climate. I just think she’s spending too much time on things that aren’t relevant or wholly original instead of developing these interesting facets of her story.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Mild
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None

Adult summer reads | Mini-Reviews

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but ever since I started my job at the library last year I’ve been reading more adult books (rather than YA). Even though I had to leave my library job at the end of May, I’ve still been reading adult books! Here are a few that I’ve read since then (and I’m only just now noticing that all of these covers are red).

Dark MatterDark Matter by Blake Crouch

Going into this book, I knew it was about alternate timelines but nothing else about it. As the book starts, I felt like not much was happening and I was just waiting for Jason to figure out that he was in an alternate reality. With that being said, I did feel like the narrative picked up significantly when he and Amanda started traveling to different timelines. I liked the few chapters we got from Daniela’s perspective. It made me wonder what I would do if I started noticing small changes like that in my own husband. Without giving too much away, I thought the big discovery that happened 3/4 of the way through was mind blowing but also made perfect sense and really turned up the stress levels. One thing that didn’t make a ton of sense to me was the box itself. I didn’t really understand how it just…WAS in every reality. I feel like it should only exist in the realities in which it’s been built and you should only be able to travel between those realities? Like bus stops. I don’t know–maybe I’m just not understanding the science. Overall, I thought this book was pretty good and interesting, but it wasn’t AMAZING. 3.5/5

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VengefulVengeful by V.E. Schwab

After the first book, my expectations for this one were HIGH. It didn’t quite live up to those expectations, but I still liked it. I thought the beginning was a lot slower and the time periods were harder for me to keep track of–I think there were maybe too many different Sydney time periods. As the story finally started to unfold, I wasn’t sure how all of the characters were going to fit together, but when I did start to see it, it was glorious. I thought Schwab did a great job of creating a new antagonist while also making room for Eli to continue being Eli. I wasn’t super invested in the mini-plotline of Sydney resurrecting Serena. I know they were sisters but…I just don’t see how Sydney could possibly think that would be a good idea–especially with her resurrection powers being less predictable on EOs. So yeah, in the end I didn’t think it was as good as the first book, but I liked it and I enjoyed how all the pieces fit together. Seems like there’s potential for a third book? I’d read it. 4.5/5

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Magic for LiarsMagic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

I like that Ivy isn’t stupid. That feels kind of weird to say, but sometimes main characters can be a little clueless? I like that we get to see her explanations for how and why she’s manipulating/evaluating people. She’s observant–other characters can’t easily pull one over on her. I liked this world that’s been created. It’s Harry Potter-esque (what magical world isn’t at this point?) but from a non-magical perspective. I thought Ivy’s musings while watching the teenagers doing flippant magic was really compelling. If I were in Ivy’s place I would also be frustrated at seeing kids do stupid magic. You could do so much more and you’re using your magic to change the color of your locker? Or something dumb like that. One issue I did have was that Ivy really didn’t want Rahul to know she wasn’t magical, but I feel like she said 1,001 dumb, non-thinking things to him that would have tipped him off. But overall, I thought this was a really great mystery (and one that I was actually able to solve myself before the end!) and I could maybe see this becoming a series? Like Ivy could go investigate other magical cases. We’ll see. 4/5

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