MINI-REVIEWS: New Notebook Edition

I take notes while I read because it helps me when I’m trying to write reviews (because I don’t usually get to them right away…oops). It’s a helpful way for me to organize my thoughts and I also can note my content ratings right after finishing instead of trying to remember after the fact. I found the PERFECT book journal a couple years ago at B&N–the hardcover, spiral, lined Canson size 8×5. And the best part? It was under $10. Fast forward to present me and I can’t find this notebook (or an equivalent) ANYWHERE. If only I had known the company was going to discontinue this notebook when I first bought it! Ah well. After a couple months of hunting, I did finally settle on something from Amazon, but I’m curious–what do you guys use to take notes? I tried my phone for a little bit in the interim, but didn’t LOVE it. Anyway, that’s just a long way for me to say, here are the rest of the reviews from my old notebook that I haven’t gotten around to posting until now.

mini-reviews

Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake

Honestly, this series has gone downhill in a hurry for me. I started the series either shortly before or after the third book came out. I devoured the first one and was left on such a cliffhanger that my husband ran out and bought the second one for me so I could keep going (I know, he’s a good guy). I was SUPER invested in the first two, moderately invested in the third one, but this one? Just meh for me. I’m just kind of tired of the story at this point. I don’t really understand the politics or motivations anymore. I’ve gotten to the point where I wouldn’t read the next book if there was one. The beginning was just confusing to me–there are SO many characters. And in the end, I didn’t really care for the Jules/Emilia relationship. It just seemed kind of random and thrown in there? Overall, I wasn’t super impressed. 3/5

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Legendary by Stephanie Garber

I reread Caraval for a book club and then went ahead and finished the series (but it doesn’t look like I took any notes on Finale, so oh well). I found the whole plot of this book to be confusing (and the next book too, tbh). Tella as a character was confusing. The fates were confusing. I really loved Caraval the first time I read it, but I don’t feel like it held up to a reread (especially compared to The Night Circus which TOTALLY DID). I found Scarlett’s plot-line to be distracting and Tella just annoyed the crap out of me. She kept doing things that were CLEARLY a bad idea just to tick someone off. The writing was also just…not good for me. I could tell the author was trying to be lyrical with these lush descriptions, but if I have to read about how Dante smells like ink and darkness one more time, I swear… WHAT DOES DARKNESS EVEN SMELL LIKE. 3/5

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The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

I don’t feel like this book was quite as dynamic a conclusion to this trilogy as I was hoping for, but it was still good. I liked that this book was filled to the brim with strategy and political scheming. I also felt like Jude was more palatable in this book than in the previous two. With that being said, there were a few plot points that I was a little confused by. Pretty early on in the book, Taryn asks Jude to take her place in Faerie for a little bit, but I’m not really sure how she planned to get Jude back out? And then everything that happened with Carden…while I didn’t see it coming, once it happened I felt like the solution was really obvious. Like, REALLY obvious. I thought the overall ending was pretty good, but it seemed like it all happened really fast. I also wish that Grima Mog had gotten more screen time, she was awesome. We’ll see where Black decides to take Faerie next, but I’m hoping we get a book set in the Court of Teeth (fingers crossed). 4/5

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Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

I was so disappointed by this book. I’ve only heard great things about it (and the series in general) but I just couldn’t get on board with the characters. I thought all of the characters had these exaggerated flaws that they kept dwelling on and thinking about, but then they didn’t really do anything to overcome those flaws. I mean, I guess Amari did in the end, but Zelie and Inan did not. Zelie was particularly hard for me. She has NO impulse control. Absolutely none. Her temper is too quick to flare and she never thinks about long run consequences which drove me absolutely CRAZY. I thought the magic system was pretty interesting, but I also feel a little confused by it. Zelie mentions that maji exist in other countries, but the gods that the magic comes from seem pretty Orisha-centric. Do the other countries believe in the same gods? Did Saran take magic away from the whole world or just Orisha? Overall, I’m just pretty confused by how this world is set up. I probably won’t be continuing with the series. 3/5

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MINI-REVIEW: How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian [ARC 1/28]

I didn’t really know what to expect from this book and in some ways I was really pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed some of the characters and felt that they were mostly more than just cardboard stereotypes (as is so often the case). There were definitely some characters that could have used more development, but it wasn’t too bad. I did have a big issue with Roz, though. She’s clearly not a good friend even from the very beginning and I felt like the author was sending us mixed messages about what Izzy should do about her. First, Izzy’s mom is telling her to cut Roz loose because she’s dragging Izzy down. But then Izzy’s cousin comes along and is trying to tell Izzy to help Roz out. It was just a little confusing (but I was on the dump her side). I also felt like Izzy didn’t always make the most thought-out decisions. She clearly should have thought a little more about hanging out at the Shackelton’s house when she KNOWS that Roz regularly spies on them. Overall, I thought this book was pretty good. I definitely think there were ways it could have been better and tighter, but it wasn’t bad. 3.5/5

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Note: I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Club Mini-Reviews

The awesome thing about book clubs is that they sometimes help you to read books that you wouldn’t pick up otherwise. These are a couple of those books and were ones that I ended up LOVING.

mini-reviews

Where the Crawdads Sing Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

I knew nothing about this book going into it, and was pleasantly surprised by the plot. The setting is such an amazing part of this book. You really get a great feel for the Carolina marshland. Kya was a really compelling character for me–I just wanted all the good things for her and it killed me every time someone was cruel to her for no reason. My main takeaway from this book is that we all just need to be kind to other people. There are many people in this world who are terrible and mean, but then there are others who are just GOOD. It honestly made me want to go out of my way to be nice to someone. 4/5

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A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor TowlesA Gentleman in Moscow

I had literally no desire to read this book before book club and I was surprised by how enjoyable I found it. It’s so different from the books I usually read. The pacing is slow–I would describe it as being a really gentle book. It unfolds incredibly leisurely and I felt like it gave me the opportunity to become really invested in the characters. There were times when I felt like the book was a little wordy and I had a hard time keeping track of some of the characters, but overall, I found this book to be so enjoyable. 4/5

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MINI-REVIEWS: Arc of a Scythe series

I’d been meaning to read this series for a while and I’m happy that I finally did! My timing was really good too since the third book came out pretty soon after I finished Thunderhead.

mini-reviews

ScytheScythe

I liked both Rowan and Citra as main characters. There was also a great cast of secondary characters and antagonists. Everyone is really complicated and this is a crazy world to try to wrap your mind around. There were definitely some plot twists that I saw coming, but some that took me completely by surprise. And that ending! Definitely did not see that coming. Just one complaint I had plot-wise…when they decided that the loser would be gleaned, I feel like Scythe Faraday had an obvious argument against that. He should have argued that that condition was not in the original offer. He originally offered that the loser would be able to return to their regular life. If they had known that the loser would be gleaned at the end, they may not have chosen to become apprentices. In the long run, I guess that doesn’t really matter, but it just seemed so obvious to me at the time. 4/5

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Thunderhead

Thunderhead

One thing I loved that this book really explored more was how each of the scythes are still individuals and glean differently. I especially liked Citra’s method of gleaning. I thought Rowan’s path was really interesting as well and wished that we had gotten more from Scythe Lucifer. The Thunderhead started to develop more as a character as well which I thought was really intriguing. Greyson of course is a great character and I was very interesting to see how he would develop in the last book. I’m amazed that he was only introduced in this book but I felt just as invested in him as I did with Citra and Rowan. One thing I didn’t LOVE about this book was that there was an extreme amount of foreshadowing. Just too much especially when Shusterman usually went on to tell you exactly what happened to the character. So…why foreshadow in the first place? One last little thing I liked was the mention of the revival center’s ice cream. It’s little running gags like that that help make a series really enjoyable. This book ended on such a cliffhanger and I could not WAIT to get my hands on the last book. Seriously, I had no idea how he was going to end this series. 4/5

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The TollThe Toll

This book was SO COMPLICATED. It’s honestly so crazy how complex the plot becomes in this book. It’s also amazing to me how Shusterman was able to bring in these characters that he might have mentioned in an off-hand way, but then they end up playing a huge role (or at least, a bigger role than you might have predicted). In this book I really grew to love Greyson even more. I felt like he stayed true to who he was and didn’t let being “The Toll” effect him in a negative way or let that go to his head. I also loved Scythe Faraday and his three year long temper tantrum–the best. I didn’t love the way the story unfolded though. The timelines kept getting a little confusing for me. I wished that the story had been told in a more linear timeline. 4/5

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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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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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Non-fiction in the summer | Mini-Reviews

mini-reviews

StiffStiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Stiff is one of those book that you’re always hearing about. It was inevitable that I’d eventually read it. With that being said, I was a little disappointed. I’ve read some really good narrative non-fiction over the last few years. While this was good, it wasn’t as entertaining or easy to read as some of the other non-fiction books I’ve read. Roach definitely has a sense of humor that comes through in the book, but she uses a lot of big words. Overall, this book has more of an academic feel than I was hoping for. With that being said, I still thought this book was really interesting. I learned so many things about what happens after you die and I feel more than ever that I want to be an organ donor one day. This book is not for those with a weak stomach as she goes into plenty of detail. Lastly, this book was published a while ago (back in 2003) and I’d love to read an update or something. In the book she talks about the future of the funeral business and options other than a ground burial, but I feel like I personally haven’t heard about any recent developments. 3/5

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The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik

The Big Year

I loved this book! My husband and I watched the movie a few years ago (starring Jack Black, Owen Wilson, and Steve Martin–link to trailer below) and then he read the book it was based off of and highly recommended it. I finally got around to reading it this month and just fell completely in love with the idea of birding. I know literally nothing about birds but this book made me want to do a big year. Just reading about the preparation leading up to the three big years was really exciting for me! And then the author does a really good job of keeping the suspense up throughout the big year as well. This book was just great. Even if you know nothing about birds, like me, I’d highly recommend this book. 5/5

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Movie: Trailer | Rent

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

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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

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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

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9 Best NetGalley Reads

I’ve been blogging for a while now and have requested MANY books from NetGalley. Over that amount of time, I’ve read quite a few duds unfortunately. That being said, I’ve also read some AMAZING books and have been introduced to some great authors and series as well.

Favorite NetGalley Reads

Here are nine of my favorite reads that I got approved for on NetGalley. I’ll just include a quick TL;DR review for each title with a link for my full review (so you’ll get to see some of my OG reviews haha).

180 Seconds by Jessica Park – Subtly diverse characters created an authentic atmosphere for our main character to develop realistically with her mental health.

Full Review

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin – Action, action, action with likable characters. You’ll start reading for the motorcycle race and you’ll keep reading for Yael.

Full Review

Invictus by Ryan Graudin – The most realistic time travel I’ve ever seen with super likable characters that just make the book so much deeper and more emotional.

Full Review

Iron Cast by Destiny Soria – This book had such a great atmosphere and the two main characters are seriously #friendshipgoals.

Full Review

Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno – This book will make you wish you had an abuela. The Cuban culture is so authentic throughout that it makes my heart hurt.

Full Review

Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes – The main character is tough as nails and I like how the book focused on her development as a character and her relationship with the women in her family instead of some rando boy.

Full Review

You Were Here by Cori McCarthy – The variety in the chapters was really fun despite the heavy topics explored in this book.

Full Review

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine – An amazing start to a great series with a fantastic cast of diverse characters and evil librarians. Highly recommend this whole series.

Full Review

You’d Be Mine by Erin Hahn – Flawed main characters have a surprising amount of depth. The author did a great job of creating emotion when I wasn’t expecting it.

Full Review