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.

Purchase: Hardcover | Paperback (preorder) | eBook

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

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Not my fave, but Asian rep so… | Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Descendant of the CranePrincess Hesina knows her father was murdered, now she just needs to convince everyone else of that fact. She embarks on a journey to not only prove that he was murdered, but to also find his murderer. As she does, she will learn things about her country, her family, her friends, and herself. Hesina’s world is turned completely upside down as she grapples with these revelations and she’ll need to decide what kind of ruler she wants to be.

TL;DR – There were things that I liked about this book, but I don’t feel super invested in the story or the characters. Asian rep was cool though.

Purchase: Hardcover | eBook

This book started off really slow for me and that proved to be just the beginning of my issues with the plot. Several “shocking” plot points ended up being pretty obvious to me and others came out of left field and made little to no sense. The Sooth premise was interesting, but again, was mildly confusing. I didn’t really understand how their powers worked. I thought I understood the thing with their blood, but then halfway through the book I got confused. The author does try to explain certain things but it still doesn’t really make sense? And then the ending is just so…convoluted. I’m sure more things will be explained in the next book, but I don’t know that I’ll get to it.

The characters were fine. I didn’t love Hesina, but I did appreciate some small things about her. I liked that the author addressed periods as a thing that happens to women. I also liked that Hesina was a competent ruler. Even though she acquired the throne unexpectedly, she’d been adequately prepared for the role and knew how to do things like administrative paperwork, taxes, etc. I didn’t love Hesina’s relationship with her brother, Sanjing. I thought it was pretty obvious that he was just looking out for her and she pushed back at him to the extreme. It also doesn’t totally make sense to me how a 16-year-old boy could be trusted to lead the entire military? But, okay. Akira was fine but I wish his character had been explored more. He kind of just popped in at convenient times. Caiyan was pretty bland for most of the book and then all of the sudden got really interesting at the end. With that being said, since he wasn’t interesting for 99% of the book, I don’t feel any motivation to continue with his character arc in the next book.

Overall, I appreciated the Asian rep–always a great thing–but I didn’t LOVE this book. I thought the story was just kind of confusing and the characters weren’t great. There were some subtle things that I did appreciate, but I’m not really invested and probably won’t continue the series.

Overall Rating: 3.5
Language: Mild
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Summer TBR | Final Update

At the beginning of the summer, I posted a list of 9 books that I hoped to read. Then, I posted an update halfway through July. Now that summer is over, I just wanted to give a final update on how I did.

The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley – This was read from before. I’m continuing with my audio binge and am currently on #8
eBook | Paperback

Legendary by Stephanie Garber – Still waiting on my shelf…
eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo – I read this one as a buddy read last month and had some thoughts. Review coming soon!
eBook | Hardcover

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He – I checked this one out from the library. It took me longer than I thought it would to get through and I didn’t love it.
eBook | Hardcover

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen – Read from before. Sarah Dessen is a queen and I really liked this one. Review
eBook | Hardcover

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo – Read from before. I was a bit disappointed in this one. Review
eBook | Hardcover

This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills – Read from before. I’ve read all of her books that are out now (I think?) and have enjoyed them all! Mini-review
eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black – I’m hoping to get to this one within the next couple of months!
eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi – Still haven’t gotten to this one unfortunately, but the eBook is like…always available from the library, so hopefully soon!
eBook | Hardcover | Paperback (Preorder)

With my last update, I’d read 4/9 and at the end of the summer I’d gotten to 6/9. Which I don’t think is too bad! Especially considering two of the three books I didn’t get to are currently sitting on my shelf, I think I’ll finish this list before the end of the year.

Let me know in the comments what your favorite 2019 summer read was!

What a crazy summer | August Wrap-Up & TBR Update

I can’t believe August is over already! It seems like we just moved to California last week, but we’ve actually been here for almost three months. As I’ve been seeing everyone’s back-to-school/end of summer vacation social media posts, I’ve realized that we’re in a super interesting time of life where our summer vacation doesn’t really end? We don’t have any kids in school yet and we’re not in school anymore either. The weather will get cooler but like…we’re in California so it’s not going to get that cold. My husband has been working full-time all summer and he’s going to continue to do that…things just aren’t really changing for us like they are for everyone else. We can still go do summery, outside things basically as long as we want. Anyway, unrelated to book things but it was an interesting realization that I had.

monthly tbr

Also read/reading:

Books finished this month: 14 with 1 DNF
Books currently reading: 1

Well, would you look at that! I actually managed to complete my TBR and then some this month! Way to go me!

A couple other things real quick, I finished my Goodreads Reading Goal this month! I had no idea how this year was going to go (especially with last year being a bit of a dud reading year) so I set my goal to 70. Luckily, I’ve exceeded my expectations! My new goal for the year is 100. Second, I’m working on a TBR weeding project. I’m going alphabetically and I’m trying to just take one letter at a time, figuring out what I want to keep on my TBR and what can go. So you’ll see my TBR count going down significantly and that’s why.

Overall TBR:

TBR at the beginning of the year = 383
TBR at the beginning of August = 469
Books added to TBR = 8
Books read/deleted from TBR = 65
Total on TBR now = 412

How did your reading go this month?

Well…at least I can say I’ve read it | Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane EyreJane Eyre is an orphan raised by her uncle’s wife. Despite her uncle’s dying wish to have Jane raised as one of his own children, his wife treats Jane as nothing more than a nuisance. Jane is glad to be sent away to school where she makes new friends and eventually grows into a learned young lady. After some time, she feels that it is her duty to move on and advertises her skills as a governess. Her employer, Mr. Rochester, is unlike any man she’s ever known. As she finally starts to find happiness in her life, Jane will have to find the strength to stick to her principles and learn what it means to be an independent woman.

TL;DR – A deliciously Gothic setting surrounds two characters who I really don’t care about.

I became interested in reading this book because it’s one of those stories that I think a lot of people generally know (he kept his crazy wife in the attic!) but I knew nothing else about it. Then I read My Plain Jane and really enjoyed it, but there were a few plot points that I was just like, “Wait…does this REALLY happen in Jane Eyre?” So I had to read the source material to find out.

Unfortunately, I did not like this book. I feel bad about it because both my mom and sister told me this was one of their favorite books but I just…didn’t feel the same (why is this book a favorite? WHYYYYY????). Firstly, I didn’t care for Mr. Rochester. He didn’t really seem like that great of a guy to me. I found almost all of his conversations with Jane to be abrasive and confusing–it was like a very aggressive ping pong match that he was playing with himself. Despite that, he also had these moments of ultimate patheticness and I just wanted to grab him by the collar and say, “BE AN ADULT”. He was both overly aggressive and overly whiny and it just wasn’t a good combo.

Reading Goodreads reviews when I had finished, I realized that a lot of people really like Jane’s progression, I guess? While I do see some growth, I never particularly cared for her character either. There’s just something about her–even as a little girl–that rubs me the wrong way. I think similar to Rochester, there were some times that I just wanted to say, “PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER”. I don’t really see the strength in her that a lot of other readers see. I don’t understand how she managed to fall in love with Mr. Rochester while he was basically baiting her with the whole Miss Ingram situation. It almost felt to me like her feelings for Mr. Rochester were at least partially born from a sort of self-loathing? And because of that, I never liked them together. The parts where I most liked Jane is when she had moved on and had become a teacher. But then she goes on back to Mr. Rochester for no reason and with no notice (rude). I just don’t see their relationship as being romantic in any way. I’m sorry, I don’t.

Secondary characters were fine. I liked Adele though I wish we’d gotten some kind of translation for her (alas, I do not speak French). I liked Jane’s cousins too, but I feel like St. John kind of gets the shaft. He helps Jane immensely but then he doesn’t get a happy ending? I mean, I think he ended up doing what he wanted, but I’m not convinced he was happy. He was a good guy and I think he deserved more than that.

In the end, I’m glad that I can say I’ve read Jane Eyre now, but I’m not in any hurry to give it another go. I read it over the course of two months so perhaps if I read it quicker it would read better? With that being said, I don’t feel it would make me like the characters any more.

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

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

Purchase: Hardcover | eBook | Paperback

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

Purchase: Hardcover | eBook | Paperback (preorder)

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

Purchase: Hardcover | eBook

Twins, mountains that are castles, and evil princes | Crown of Coral & Pearl by Mara Rutherford [ARC]

Crown of Coral and PearlOnce a generation, the Varenians send their most beautiful girl to Ilara to marry the prince. It is a great honor and twins Nor and Zadie have been groomed their whole lives to become a princess. However, because of a childhood accident involving some blood coral, Nor’s cheek is scarred and she knows she could never be chosen. Nobody is surprised when Zadie is selected, but she’s in love with a boy from home and begs Nor to help her get out of it. In the end, Nor takes Zadie’s place, but she is unprepared for what she will find on the mainland and what she will need to do to save her home.

TL;DR – Nor says many unwise things and makes many unwise decisions, but is still a likable character. Some things don’t make a ton of sense, but can be ignored.

Preorder: Hardcover | eBook

This book was a little different than I thought it would be but at the same time is also exactly what I thought it would be. Does that make sense? Plotwise, there were many things that the reader knows is going to happen (because of course) but the author takes her sweet time getting there. For example, it took FOREVER for Nor to come to the conclusion that she needs to take Zadie’s place. I understand in the context of the story that it wasn’t that simple, but we probably could have saved at least 50 pages. It’s when Nor gets to Ilara that things take some interesting turns that I didn’t really anticipate.

I thought the relationship between Nor and Zadie was a really interesting one. The author herself is a twin (as I found out in the Acknowledgements section) and that gives authenticity to the sister relationship. Never having been a twin myself, I felt like I understood better what it would be like to go through life with someone always at your side. I appreciated that there was no jealousy between the girls. They were legitimately the best of friends and sisters.

There were some minor plot points that didn’t quite make sense to me. Some of them were explained (kind of), but some weren’t. There were times when Nor’s plans didn’t make sense and I can’t tell if that was purposeful to show her naivety or…what. I also felt like she didn’t act or speak with the appropriate amount of caution, especially when Talin was involved. Ceren is this seriously dangerous dude and she’s just randomly mouthing off to him or snubbing him in favor of Talin whenever possible. HE COULD END YOU, NOR.

As far as the other characters, I felt like the author was maybe trying to create some moral grey-ness with Ceren? But then she also wanted to make sure we knew he was a BAD GUY. It just made his character seem inconsistent and I didn’t feel like that worked with the story. Also, his and Talin’s relationship made approximately 5% of sense to me.

Overall, I actually liked this book quite a bit and will definitely be reading the second. Though, I’m not really sure where the plot can go from here? I have some suspicions, but if my suspicions are correct, I don’t like it. I guess we’ll see!

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

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