Sibling rivalry is brought to a whole new level | Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Three Dark CrownsThree queens are born, but only one can survive. Every generation, triplet queens are forced to fight to the death. Whoever survives reigns as the new queen. Arsinoe, Mirabella, and Katherine have known this their whole lives. Unfortunately, both Arsinoe and Katherine are still working to master the gifts that the goddess has given them. Everybody knows that Mirabella is going to end up queen, but Arsinoe, Katherine, and the families that fostered them aren’t willing to go down without a fight.

TL;DR – Great main characters and plot, but the world building could use a little work/additional explanation. Also, get ready to be overloaded by secondary characters.

This book had been sitting on my shelf forever it seems. I finally got around to reading it, and immediately after I finished I made my husband go to Barnes & Noble to pick up the second book. I didn’t really think that I’d like it as much as I did–I think I might have heard a couple of negative reviews about it.

The first thing I noticed is that Blake did a really good job making all three queens likable. I didn’t necessarily have a favorite and I was really torn about which queen I wanted to end up winning. I think it could have been really easy to paint one queen as the hero and the other two as villains, but the whole premise of the book means their relationships and decisions are so complicated. I love how each sister has her own conflicting desires. It really makes you wonder how previous queens felt and reacted.

The overall plot was great and I really liked how politics played so strongly into the story line. I’m really intrigued to see how this series ends and I appreciate that the author is taking her time. I wouldn’t have been surprised if this book had ended with one of the sisters killing another, but it seems like that kind of thing won’t happen until later books. I will say, though, that the ending was very unexpected for me and was part of why I was so eager to get my hands on the second book.

The world building is the only part that I find a little weak. This is a very complicated world and it’s not fully explained. We’re not really given any history or background for how this place came to be or who/why the goddess is, etc. Why triplets? Why don’t queens reign longer? Who reigns while the triplets are growing up? How does the queen know what gifts the babies have? Why do people live in groups based on ability? Is it possible for a poisoner to be born to elementals? What would happen to them? Just so many questions.

My last little issue is that there were SO MANY secondary characters. Seriously. I only started to figure out who everyone was after about 2/3 or 3/4 of the book. Other than that, though, I really enjoyed this book and am also enjoying the second book so far. I would definitely recommend.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate (a couple of scenes, no explicit descriptions)

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This book was so Jake | The Diviners by Libba Bray

The DivinersAfter a careless night of drinking and partying, Evie is being sent to live with her uncle in New York. New York of the 1920s doesn’t seem like such a punishment to Evie especially when she gets there and finds out that her uncle runs a museum based on the occult and all things supernatural. Her uncle seems pretty cool but his assistant, Jericho, is a total wet blanket. Evie plans to just have a good time in the big city with her friend Mabel and her new friend Theta but that’s brought to a screeching halt when a serial killer is discovered. That alone is scary enough, but this killer seems to have ties with the occult and Evie, her uncle, and Jericho soon find themselves in the middle of the investigation.

If you liked this, you should also read: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

TL;DR – A great setting and murder mystery were hampered by a slow pace and multiple subplots that don’t add to the main plot (but will probably come into play later in the series).

I LOVE the 1920s as a time period. Not that I would have wanted to be alive back then, but looking back at that decade is always fun. There’s just so much glitz and glamour. Every day is a party. I know that this is incredibly romanticized, but I can’t help it. This book does a great job of evoking all of those feelings but also showing some of the rougher sides of the 1920s. I especially appreciate the frank depiction of Theta and Memphis’ relationship as an interracial couple. I also feel like Bray did a good job of showing a little bit of what every day life was like in the 1920s–not just the speakeasies. The language seemed super authentic to me and that was something I really enjoyed.

The plot of this book was pretty fantastic but it started off SO SLOW. Honestly, the only reason I kept with it past the first 200 pages is because I know how many people really love this book and series. There was nothing inherently wrong with the beginning of the book, but there wasn’t much that made me want to get back into it after I set it down. Not much was happening and I didn’t find Evie to be a very likable character.

Speaking of Evie…she just wasn’t my favorite. She was immature, selfish, and impulsive. While she did show some growth throughout the book, it wasn’t much (especially not 600 pages worth). She’s pretty much the same character at the end as she is in the beginning. She just doesn’t think things through or think about other people! The rest of the characters were fine and I felt like there was a lot to be explored with them, which will probably happen in future books.

Another issue I had was just with how LONG this book is. I don’t necessarily mind a 600 page book, but not all of the characters and subplots were essential to the story. Obviously the author is setting up the rest of the series, but I just don’t feel like that was necessary to do in the first book. If she had cutout all the extra things about Theta, Memphis, and Henry, then the book probably would have been a much more manageable 300 pages. The whole time, I was expecting a bunch of characters to come together in the end with their special skills to take down the bad guy but…that never happened. So then here I am at the end of the book feeling unfulfilled and not really caring about Theta or Sam Lloyd or Henry DuBois (or the girl from the Chinese restaurant–what does she have to do with anything???).

Overall, I actually did like this book (despite my critiques). I thought the murders were creative and the way the characters solved the mystery seemed logical and was fairly easy to follow. However, while I think I would probably enjoy the rest of the series, I have no drive to actually pick up the next book. I would recommend this book for those who don’t mind a slower pace and are willing to invest for the long haul.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Heavy (slightly graphic but not too descriptive)
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy
Sexual Content: Moderate

The quickest of takes and the mini-est of reviews

I read a bunch of books while I was out on my hiatus and since I was on hiatus, I wasn’t taking notes as usual. Let’s just say that I remember some of these books better than others. But it’s the lasting impressions that really count, right?

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab – I LOVED the first book in this series! And this one honestly did live up to my expectations. If you liked the first book, you’ll like this one too. Everything that I liked about the characters from the first book were in this one as well plus more. The book was just…deeper. I cried. 5/5

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – My first experience with E. Lockhart and I absolutely loved it. I loved the writing, I loved the characters, I loved the setting. The plot was masterful and I think I started to suspect what the twist was exactly when the author wanted me to. I will definitely be reading more by her. 5/5

The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee – I don’t really know what I expected this book to be… It was just a little too artificial for me. The characters were all fake with each other (as they were supposed to be, but still) and the setting of the tower also seemed a bit contrived. I don’t think there were any characters that I really just liked. I won’t be reading the second one. 3/5

Imprudence by Gail Carriger – I keep reading this series because I keep hoping it’ll get better. I adore the Finishing School series and I just want this series to be a little more like that. Something about Prudence repeatedly rubs me the wrong way. She’s just so…arrogant? Bossy? Entitled? I’m not exactly sure what it is. Nevertheless, I will probably read the next one. 3/5

Proof of Forever by Lexa Hillyer – This book was just so…weird. The girls were in the past, but they could remember everything about the future. There was no real reason why they should need to recreate a photo in order to get back to the future. And then the ending with one of the characters seemed a little dramatic and unnecessary. I also didn’t really like any of the characters. 2/5

The Siren by Kiera Cass – The story was okay, but had some elements that left me scratching my head. The main character’s decisions didn’t always make sense to me. I didn’t feel like she always acted rationally or like…thought through her decisions. Secondary characters were all just okay. 3/5

The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh – This was a great follow-up to the first book. I enjoyed the strategy involved at various points throughout the story–it just kind of mixed things up a little bit. I also enjoyed getting to know the little sister better as a character. 4/5

The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne – I liked this book more than I thought I would! The main character was relatable and likable. I loved her interactions with her half-siblings and her dad’s wife (especially that last relationship). Her struggles seemed genuine and the conflict that she has to face was really well done. I would definitely recommend this book! 4/5

Fireworks by Katie Cotugno – This book…I liked that it was set in the 90s. The girl band/boy band thing seemed genuine because of the time period. But then there’s just a lot of girl/girl fighting and backstabbing and not being good friends-ing. I did like where the main character ended up though. 3/5

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han – To be completely honest, I haven’t been on the Peter train since the second book (John Ambrose all the way–don’t @ me). So this book was a little bit ugh for me. But also, I know that we all want happy endings, etc, but why do YA authors want us to believe that all high school relationships will work out in the long run? I know that some do, but the vast majority of high school relationships are just that–high school relationships. NOT “always and forever” love. I would not have wanted to end up with any of the boys I went to high school with. Just saying. 3/5

The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian – The main character was a pill and I didn’t like her 85% of the time. She was a butt to the love interest for the first 95% of the book but then he still likes her in the end? I just don’t even know. Also, is this plot something that could really happen? If so, local government can be scary. 3/5

Lucky in Love by Kasie West – I was excited that this book portrayed an interracial relationship (I’m all about that rep) but then the love interest might as well have been white. I don’t remember any defining characteristic that made him Asian except for his last name. Kasie West has been super hit or miss for me. Some books I love, but others are just flat. I did like the zoo setting though. 3/5

Let me know which of these books you’ve read in the comments! Do you agree or disagree with my quick takes?

New Year, New Mini-Reviews

Apparently I’m already 2 books behind on my Goodreads challenge. How is that even possible??? Regardless, here are a couple of books that I’ve already finished in 2018.

I Am the MessengerI Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

I first read this book around the time that I was a freshman in high school. At that point, I remember enjoying it but in hindsight, I feel like I was too young to really get it. Recently my husband and I were discussing how great this book is and I decided to reread it now that I’m about 10 years older (I’m more committed than ever to the reread). Guys. This book is SO GOOD. It just makes you think. It makes you look around at the people you see every day and it also makes you think about the people you don’t. I love how spectacularly normal Ed is, but he still makes an impact–sometimes by doing something so small. Zusak gives the reader an unapologetic look at what it means to be human by showing normal, daily struggles. He also illustrates that anybody can make a change. There is a moderate amount of adult content in this book, but I would definitely recommend it for older teenagers. Honestly, this should be required reading in all schools. 5/5

RenegadesRenegades by Marissa Meyer

I’ll be honest, this book was pretty disappointing to me. I still liked it, but not as much as I’d hoped I would. I love the Lunar Chronicles and Heartless. AND I love superheroes. I really thought this would be a match made in heaven, but something about it just wasn’t as satisfying. I think part of me was making direct comparisons between this book and the Reckoners trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. The world building just didn’t really compare. It also took a while for me to feel any connection towards the main characters and even at the end, I don’t feel like I really know any of them. Nova could be a really likable and complex character, but I feel like we were more told that instead of being shown it. One thing I did really like was the idea of Adrian’s power–very original. The ending was a surprise and I am interested to see how that plays out, so I’ll for sure be reading the next one. Overall, I still liked it, but was ultimately left wishing it was a bit more. 4/5

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. 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. I 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 😉

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