Welcome to the auto-read club| Emma Mills Mini-Reviews

I’ve been meaning to read some of Emma Mills’ books for a while now and I’ve finally taken the leap. I’m happy to report that I love them! Her characters are always so likable and her books so easy to read. Here’s my quick take on her first three books.

First & Then

First and Then

This book actually was a surprise to me. I wasn’t loving it or Devon (the main character) at first, but both grew on me. I thought Devon’s progression as a character was great and not too extreme and I like how in the end, she had resolved to do better in a specific area. I ended up really loving Devon’s relationship with Foster. It felt real to me and like it progressed at a genuine pace. As Devon started to care more and more about Foster, so did I. Another thing I was surprised by was the depth that I felt the characters had. I just didn’t really expect that for some reason and I thought the secondary characters were all lovely as well. I thought the dialogue between characters was great and felt authentic–sass levels were v high. Lastly, I liked that this book was a sports book, without REALLY being a sports book. 4.5/5

Purchase: Hardcover | Paperback | eBook

This Adventure Ends

This Adventure Ends

First, I’m just going to say that I’m not going to pretend that the characters were realistic because they’re just…not. They were all just a little too shiny, but I still thought they were fantastic with great chemistry and sharp dialogue. I thought Sloane was immediately likable and funny. It made me literally LOL a few times in the first 100 pages. I thought her dynamic with her dad was especially fun. Something I especially liked about Sloan was that I didn’t feel like she was timid. I thought she could hold her own with her new friends. I’ve gotten a tad tired of the “extreme introvert being absorbed into a magnetic friend group” trope (sorry Sarah Dessen). Another character I loved was Laney! She was an absolute gem and reminded me a lot of Kitty from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before in some ways. The one thing I will say is that we got hardly any scenes of Sloane at work with Gabe and it just seems like that should have played into things a bit more? But overall, a great read. 4/5

Purchase: Hardcover | Paperback | eBook

Foolish Hearts

Foolish Hearts

This book was so compulsively readable! Seriously, before I knew it I had blown through 200 pages and it felt like nothing. I thought all of the characters were all likable and I liked that Claudia was a gamer, but was also normal. I think a lot of times authors rely on stereotypes for their characters because it’s easier, but I appreciate when an author can “break the mold”. I liked all of Claudia’s interactions with Iris, but I found it a tad unbelievable that Claudia wouldn’t have ANY friends at school until senior year? But perhaps it’s because everyone else at her school is so rich… I don’t know, it just didn’t really ring true to me. While I enjoyed this book and Claudia’s story, I found myself wondering more and more about her older sister, Julia. I almost would like a story about her starting with the beginning of her pregnancy. She just seemed like a really interesting character and I wanted to know more about her–I found myself hardcore relating to her. Perhaps that’s just showing my age… Another great book from Mills and I’m excited to read more from her! 4/5

Purchase: Hardcover | Paperback | eBook (currently on sale for $3!)

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Morally grey characters dressed in black | Vicious by V.E. Schwab

ViciousVictor has been thinking about the moment he would confront his former best friend Eli for a long time. For 10 long years while in prison to be exact. He wants to punish Eli but unfortunately for Victor, Eli is a little…unkillable. With Victor’s former cellmate Mitch and a runaway named Sydney by his side, Victor will put his plan into motion and finally find the justice he’s been seeking.

TL;DR – Schwab’s storytelling devices keep the plot moving quickly and the suspense high. While there are no good guys in this book, there are plenty of likable characters.

Purchase: Hardcover | Paperback | eBook

I loved this book so much–possibly more than her Shades of Magic series (which I also LOVED). I first encountered this author’s YA books (under the name Victoria Schwab) and was immediately hooked on her world-building. I had no idea what was to come when I made the leap to her adult works. Her skill in creating likeable “bad guys” is out of this world. Victor is not a good guy. He’s done bad and questionable things, but I still REALLY LIKE him. It’s the darnedest thing. All the characters, in fact, are incredibly well fleshed-out. They all have depth and I felt like the reader gets to know them on a deeper level than we do most characters in books. And don’t even get me started on the antagonists… (so evil, but also evil isn’t quite the right word?).

The world that Schwab has created for this story isn’t that different from the one we’re currently in except for the existence of EOs (ExtraOrdinaries). The entire concept of EOs isn’t necessarily revolutionary (think X-Men) but the way that they get created in her world seems entirely too plausible. What Eli and Victor do with that information also seems extremely realistic (without being too spoilery).

This story could have been told in a really linear, straightforward way, but that’s not how Schwab has decided to tell it. Chapters all start with a reference to an event: “6 hours before”, “10 years ago”, “The day before”. That kind of thing. This lets the reader know that we’re building up to some big event, but we don’t know exactly what it’s going to be until it’s almost upon us. This creates an almost unbelievable amount of tension as we’re left trying to figure out what we’re building up to. The way the different timelines and the story is woven together is just plain genius.

You guys. This book is GOOD. Highly, highly recommend if you’re looking for something a little sci-fi-y but not like, too sci-fi-y. I would also recommend if you’re just plain looking for a good book to read.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild

Library book mini-reviews

So far this year I have read 49 books and 37 of them have been library books! 11 have been ARCs and only one has been a book that I actually own (oops…). Here are a few mini-reviews from some of my recent library reads!

mini-reviews

 

 

A Gathering of Shadows/A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

I absolutely adored this series. I’m partly kicking myself for waiting so long, but then at the same time I feel like I read it in a good time in my life when I could read all three books back-to-back and really feel like I understood what was going on. I really liked the competition aspect in the second book. With both Lila and Kell pretending to be other people, the suspense was HIGH. Then, in the third book, I continue to be astounded at the depth that Schwab has created for the character Holland. I completely understand why Rhy and Lila hate his guts, but I can’t bring myself to feel the same way. Despite everything, I LIKE him. One criticism that I have is that I want to know more about these worlds beyond London. It’s kind of a blank globe outside of the city. I highly recommend this series and could definitely see myself rereading them. Real quick, though, did anyone else ship Lila with Alucard? Or was that just me? 5/5

Shadows: eBook | Hardcover | Paperback
Light: eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

The Lady from the Black LagoonThe Lady From the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara

This book was featured on one of Book Riot’s podcasts and the author was also on What Should I Read Next? In the end, I’m glad I picked this book. It was really different from the other non-fiction books that I’ve read since this author isn’t a non-fiction writer. Actually, she’s not really even an author (though, I guess she is now). Her tone was a lot more casual and I liked her snarky little footnotes. This book was definitely part history and part memoir and I thought the two combined rather well. I did have one issue with it, though. There was a brief section where O’Meara touched on something that is actually pretty personal to me and I don’t feel like she did it in a super respectful (or accurate) way. That cast a cloud on the rest of her book and gave me some doubt as a reader as to the accuracy of some of her other claims. Other than that, though, I really did enjoy learning about Milicent Patrick. 4/5

eBook | Hardcover

Always Never YoursAlways Never Yours by Emily Wibberly & Austin Siegmund-Broka

Blah. This book wasn’t what I hoped it would be. I think most of that centers around our main character, Megan. I think I was hoping for someone a little nicer and sweeter who handled her breakups more gracefully. Instead, Megan is really quite in your face while also being simultaneously oblivious. She just wasn’t the main character I was hoping for with this story line. I also hate when characters are all like, “OMG why am I obsessing over this guy’s hair? It’s not like I LIKE him or anything!” when they very obviously DO like him. Are people’s feelings really so mystifying to themselves? 3/5

The Enchanted HourThe Enchanted Hour by Meghan Cox Gurdon

This was another non-fiction book that I read and I read it for a book club. The premise doesn’t sound that compelling, but I’m actually super glad that I read it. As a new mom, they drill into you that “IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY TO READ TO YOUR BABY!!!!!!!” Like, literally, they’re shoving that down your throat. Which is fine, I’m not trying to dispute that or anything, but no one really explained to me why? I mean, I was going to do it, but how exactly does it help? I just want to know! This book answered most, if not all, of my questions about the benefits of reading aloud to my kid. Every time I would finish a chapter, I would feel so motivated to go read to him. A criticism I do have, though, is that the author isn’t super forgiving. Everything she says regarding technology came off as super harsh to me and it made me feel like a bad parent for ever defiling my baby’s eyes with a screen. But sometimes I need to take a shower, dang it, and he’ll sit quietly in his Pack n’ Play if I turn on Word Party! Overall, though, still a good read. 4/5

Loved this quote from C.S. Lewis that she included: “He does not despise real woods because he has read of enchanted woods: The reading makes all real woods a little enchanted.”

eBook | Hardcover

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn HardcastleThe 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

This book is super twisty. It was already on my TBR when my sister texted and was like, “YOU HAVE TO READ THIS.” So the next time I saw it on one of our library displays, I grabbed it. I absolutely LOVED the premise. Each of Aiden’s hosts contributes more pieces to the puzzle. Longtime followers may know that I hate mysteries where the reader doesn’t have all the information necessary to solve the mystery. With this book, I do feel like we were presented with all of the information necessary, but the author didn’t quite lead us to the final solution. In the end, I found the conclusion of the book to be a little…out of nowhere, but I still enjoyed. I could definitely see myself rereading this one and picking up on more clues. 4/5

eBook | Hardcover

CirceCirce by Madeleine Miller

When I was a Sophomore in high school, we read The Odyssey in English. I enjoyed it and ended up writing my essay on how the Greek Gods absolutely do NOT deserve their power. This book just brought back all of those feelings. Seriously. Disney’s Hercules gives you all of these warm, fuzzy feelings towards the Gods when in reality they’re THE WORST!!! Anyway, I wanted to like this book more than I did. I’ve always been a fan of Greek Mythology, so I liked it from that standpoint, but it wasn’t totally for me. The writing was a bit much at times and the pacing was a little strange. All of the sudden, a thousand years would pass without warning–but I guess that’s what it must be like when you’re immortal. I didn’t really care for Circe for a good 50-60% of the book, but in the end, I found myself happy when she found happiness. One thing I really did like about this book was the portrayal of motherhood with both Circe and Penelope. Being a mom is freaking HARD and so some of Circe’s struggles with Telegonus really resonated with me. 3.5/5

March Mini-Review Madness

Did anyone else do a bracket for March Madness this year? My husband’s family is super into sports so we do a family competition every year. This year, I really didn’t put much thought into it and ended up barely beating my nephew (who is 4). I know games are still being played, but at this point I don’t have any of the top 4 so…I’m out. But on to the reviews!

mini-reviews

A Darker Shade of MagicA Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I’d been meaning to read this series for forever and I’m so glad that I finally picked it up! I love the covers and am looking forward to one day having the whole series on my shelf. I thought the initial world explanation all happened really smoothly. Schwab also did a great job of making Kell (and Lila) super likable right from the start. She’s obviously put a ton of thought into this world with the magic system and languages. I appreciate that she doesn’t shy away from hard decisions (i.e. killing characters, no spoilers). Where I was most amazed, though, was how she managed to create a sympathetic character out of Holland (at least, for me). I get the sense that he isn’t as evil as he portrays himself. Don’t get me wrong, he did some truly evil things in this book, but I still sympathize with him for some reason? And she doesn’t even tell us that much about him! That’s what’s truly amazing. 4.5/5

eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

VoicesVoices by David Elliott [ARC]

I’ll premise this review by saying I know almost nothing about Joan of Arc. I wasn’t going to pick up this book, but then I read an excerpt and found it really compelling. I’ll also say real quick that I know pretty much nothing about poetry and what makes good poetry. So take my comments with a grain of salt, I guess. With that being said, I thought the poems were interesting and beautiful at times. I really liked the perspectives from the different objects and I found the fire to be especially impactful for some reason (though I do feel like the fire’s last poem was missing, but maybe that was just because I had an ARC?). I also really liked the short sections that were quotes from her actual trial. In the end, I used to know nothing about Joan of Arc, and now I feel like I know a little bit about her. 4/5

Note: An ARC of this book was provided to the library where I work.

eBook | Hardcover

The Girl Who Drank the MoonThe Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Trigger warning: Intended infanticide

Ever since having a baby myself, I’ve found mentions of babies dying to be really hard. So the beginning of this book was difficult for me. But then we get into it and Xan is amazing and I love her for saving all the babies. I really enjoyed all of the (good) characters in this book and the found family aspect was really fun to see. Luna, in particular, was a great character though I wish we’d gotten to know her and her personality a little bit better. I thought the ending was fantastic and tender and so much more than I had even realized I wanted it to be. The only thing about this book is that I question its middle grade-ness. I feel like if I was middle grade age, so much of this book would just go straight over my head. Only as an adult do I feel like I can even scratch the surface of what this book is about. 5/5

eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

The Other EinsteinThe Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

This book was not my cup of tea. First of all, it’s never clear throughout the whole book which parts are completely fictionalized and which parts are true or partially true. I think I needed an author’s note in the beginning or something because I felt pretty confused throughout most of the book. I didn’t like any of the characters and found most relationships between characters to be stifling. I felt like Mileva was an extremely weak character and I just wanted her to stand up for herself. I also came out of this book completely hating Einstein which is kind of a weird feeling… 2.5/5

True Crime + LA + Libraries = Heart Eyes | The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The Library BookOn April 28, 1986 there was a huge fire at the LA Public Library. While this was obviously a big deal, the news got lost as Chernobyl happened the same day. When Susan Orlean moved to LA with her husband and son, she discovered this largely untold story and started doing some investigating. This book details the history of the LA Public Library, the fire itself, and the arson investigation that took place afterwards. Woven throughout that narrative is Orlean’s love letter to libraries themselves.

TL;DR – Orlean seamlessly intertwines several narratives. LA history, arson investigations, and the day-to-day of public libraries are all presented as equally fascinating.

eBook | Hardcover

First, let me say for anyone thinking about purchasing this book, it is GORGEOUS. Definitely bookstagrammable. However, if you decide to get the hardcover on Amazon (link above) just be warned that it does come with that “Reese’s book club” stamp (eye roll) which is not removable. If you would like an unmarred copy, I’d suggest getting a copy in person and B&N or something.

On to my review. My love affair with non-fiction continues! My husband helped me to discover recently that I’ve really been enjoying non-fiction books written by journalists (see Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis, and recently Kirk Wallace Johnson). Susan Orlean was a journalist for the New York Times before writing this book so she fits right in my wheelhouse. Plus libraries, so it was always going to be a slam dunk.

This story is actually so fascinating, but the parts I loved most about this book were the descriptions of the day-to-day life of the library. At the very beginning when she’s writing about the library opening for the day, I legitimately got chills. I loved seeing all the different departments from her perspective and I could definitely relate to some of the stories.

I also really liked how she opened each chapter with some catalog listings that fit what the chapter was going to be about. I just thought it was a really nice touch and I liked guessing what kind of stuff was going to be in each chapter.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book. If you love libraries, read this book. If you love true crime, read this book. If you love LA, read this book.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Def thought this was the last book in the series (it’s not) | Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard [ARC]

Note: This is the third book in The Witchlands series and may contain spoilers for the first two books.

BloodwitchI’m not going to write a summary for this book. I tried and just couldn’t do it so I’ll just get into the review. To address the title, when I picked this book up, I was under the impression that the series was just a trilogy. It didn’t take long, however, for me to realize that there are actually going to be two more books AFTER this one. My plan to binge the entire series was frustrated, but I’m not too mad at it. I’ve really loved this series much more than I thought I would, so I’m happy.

Something I really love about this series is that it’s diverse without trying too hard or feeling like it’s trying to check every box. It does a good job of not being overly obvious and I think that’s the ultimate goal when people are asking for diverse characters and books. Referring to a character’s skin color or sexuality every other chapter almost creates this otherness about them. Specific traits for them are being singled out and consciously brought to our attention. I don’t want an author to tell me about how a character’s diverse, I want them to show me.

The characters in this series are all pretty much equally enjoyable for me. I’ve been surprised at how sympathetic a character Vivia has become. I really liked the sections from her POV and the struggle she’s having to be the leader that her father wants her to be while also reconciling who she actually is and her family’s history of mental illness. I knew from the beginning of this series that I would really enjoy Prince Leopold as a character, so I was THRILLED when he made a reappearance. It was really great to get to know Aeduan a little more in this book and I love him and Iseult together. Safi and Iseult continue to be utterly delightful and I absolutely love that their relationship continues to feel so strong when they haven’t even been together for two books. They’re constantly thinking about each other and ultimately, I think their goal throughout these books is just to get back with each other.

This book really moves the overall plot of the series forward. We’ve kind of thought that the plot was one thing this whole time, but later in the book, we start to realize that there is much more going on. Some hints have been dropped along the way throughout the series, but now we’re seeing bit and pieces of the larger plot start to form. Now, maybe I would know some of this stuff if I’d read Sightwitch? But as I’ve stated in an earlier post, I don’t believe in these supplemental short stories and novellas and prequels. So I’m just going to continue on and see where that takes me. One last minor plot point that I thought was interesting is how Safi and Iseult always seem to be in danger at the same time. Why is that? Because they’re the Cahr Awen? I just really hope that gets explained in a later book.

While I absolutely loved this book, I do have some questions:

  • Iseult says that animals don’t have threads, but mountain bats and sea foxes do. Why is that?
  • I wish we had some kind of background or explanation as to why everyone hates Nomatsis. Maybe in a future book?
  • I feel like deceit is an emotion or something that Iseult should be able to see in someone’s threads.
  • Why do some people have Threadsiblings and others don’t?

I have a couple other questions too, but they’re kind of spoilery, so I won’t ask them here.

Overall, this was a great third installment. I hear fans of the series had to wait a REALLY long time for the third book, so I’ll just be over hear hoping the fourth book gets here a little quicker than the third. If you haven’t already started this series, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT.

eBook | Hardcover

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None

Note: An ARC of this book was sent to the library where I work.

Friendship to the MAX! | Lumberjanes: An Overview

Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten HolyI recently got into Lumberjanes and it has been amazing! The basic premise is that it’s about a group of girls who are away at a summer camp (Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types). Mal, Molly, Ripley, April, and Jo (and their counselor Jen) are in the Roanoke cabin and they’re getting along swimmingly. They notice some weird stuff happening in the woods around camp, however, and start to realize that this camp isn’t exactly…normal.

I love the friendship that the girls have with each other and the love that they have for Jen as well. I think it would be really easy for Jen to be cast as an antagonist since she’s kind of an authority figure, but the girls just love her! (Especially Ripley). The girls don’t always agree with each other, but they really take the Lumberjane Scout motto (Friendship to the Max!) seriously. Even between cabins (they have a slight rivalry with another cabin) in the end, they’re still supportive. Although this is a camp full of girls and you might expect more drama, there is no girl-hate here. Only love and support.

Each of the girls in Roanoke cabin is such an individual with their own strengths and weaknesses. I love how the format of a graphic novel makes it so much easier and natural to see the diversity of the characters. The author doesn’t have to come out and say that Jo has darker skin or reemphasize that every once in a while. We can just see her there on the page! I also like how there isn’t much emphasis on Molly and Mal’s relationship. They’re just quietly holding hands or next to each other in the corner of the panel. It’s so refreshing to me! Sometimes I feel like I’m getting hit over the head with diversity when an author has to describe things all the time. I like that graphic novels just kind of lay it out there for us and I can observe at my own pace. They don’t have to draw attention to diversity, because we can just see it along with everything else!

Overall, I really love this series. I’d be hardpressed to pick a favorite character, but I might go with April or Jo. I’ve read nine volumes and I’m not tired of the characters or story at all. They keep things fresh and bring back old characters and it’s just overall a lot of fun! Highly recommend.