14 Best Book Deals for 1/26/19 – TWO FREE BOOKS, Notorious RBG, The Belles, The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, and more

There are some great deals this week!

Free

Queen of Someday by Sherry D. Ficklin

Slave, Warrior, Queen by Morgan Rice

How can you turn down free books? Both of these are ones I’ve downloaded and I’m excited to get to them!

Less than $1

Truth or Dare by Madeleine Labitan – This is actually a novella and it sounds like a great love to hate story!

A Tale of Beauty and Beast by Melanie Cellier РI absolutely adore retellings (especially Beauty and the Beast). This one looks great!

Less than $2

Stealing Snow¬†by Danielle Paige – Again, with the retellings! I seriously can’t get enough.

Loving vs. Virginia¬†by Patricia Hruby Powell – I loved this book so much! I don’t read many books written in verse, but as part of an interracial couple, this was a must-read for me. It tells this true story in such a delicate and beautiful way. I was literally moved to tears multiple times. (my review)

A Year with C.S. Lewis¬†edited by Patricia S. Klein – This seems like it would be a great way to start every day–with a little bit of C.S. Lewis.

Winterfolk by Janel Kolby – I just heard about this book and it sounds really interesting! I haven’t read a book with contemporary homeless representation before and I grew up near Seattle so it especially hits close to home for me.

Less than $3

A Date with Darcy¬†by Tiffany Schmidt – This is the first book in the Bookish Boyfriends series and it sounds so cute! Who hasn’t fantasized about their bookish crush coming to life?

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee – I have heard so many good things about this book! And I love a strong Asian American protag. Represent!

Less than $4

Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon РWith the RBG movie coming out, this could be a good book to familiarize yourself with her story.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton – This book was hyped SO MUCH last year. If you haven’t read it yet, then where have you been?

About $5

The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner РThis sounds like a great book with serious fairy tale vibes and (hopefully) a strong sister relationship.

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer РI really loved this book which features two characters falling in love via letters (swoon). Highly recommend! (my review)

 

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Let’s just say it’s been a while since I’ve read some of these books [Mini-Reviews]

There are so many books that I read last year that I still haven’t gotten around to reviewing. Hopefully, this post can make a (small) dent in that list.

mini-reviews

The Conspiracy of Us and Map of Fates by Maggie Hall

map of fates

conspiracy of us

I really thought I was going to like these books because it seemed like it was going to be one massive treasure hunt. Instead, we’re gifted with insta-love and a completely unnecessary love triangle. I also don’t really understand why there’s this slight magical element? I mean, one of the characters is literally fireproof and I don’t know how that can be explained without magic. The main character is so naive and very annoying. I never understand why protagonists have such a hard time being left behind on “missions” when they have no training and would clearly only get in the way. I, personally, would be happy to sit on my behind in the hotel room and let people with ACTUAL TRAINING take care of the dangerous stuff. I honestly don’t know why I even bothered with the second book, but I am definitely NOT going to be reading the third one. 3/5

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

Orphan Monster SpyI wasn’t super impressed by this book. I thought it actually started off pretty strong, but it didn’t maintain that excitement through to the end. While I felt like it had a different tone from most books, that didn’t really make things any more interesting. The plot was fine, but not super engaging and I had a hard time figuring out what the end goal was supposed to be. Our main character is going through a bunch of stuff, but for what? I also didn’t find myself connecting to any of the characters. The main character was…fine. Kind of bland–you really don’t get to know her that well.¬†The author also chose to include some pretty messed up characters, but I didn’t really feel like they added to the story. 3/5

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

The ArchivedThis book had been on my TBR forever because I really liked the Monsters of Verity duology. Also, I love any kind of twist on the “library” so if you know any good alternate library books, let me know in the comments! To get into my review, I felt like the world was pretty complex and didn’t really get explained very well at the beginning, which just left me feeling confused. I was also very confused for the first three chapters because I didn’t realize that Da and Dad were not both Mackenzie’s father. I liked Mackenzie as a main character, but she made some really questionable decisions. I never really understood her resistance for sharing information with the librarians, but especially Roland. He seemed to obviously be on her side and some things could have been prevented if she had been more transparent. I thought Wesley was a bit much as a character, but I did like watching his relationship with Mackenzie develop. Owen, on the other hand…that relationship seemed to come out of nowhere. In the end, there was a twist that I did NOT see coming and I’m just left with so many questions. Like, what is up with Ms. Angelli? Such a mystery. 4/5

ebook | Paperback

The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher

The ChristmasaurusThis is such a fun middle grade Christmas book. The language was pretty silly throughout, so I would definitely recommend for younger middle grade readers, but I think that age will find the silly language really enjoyable. This book has wheelchair representation which I don’t think I’ve seen in any other books–let alone middle grade. I’m no expert, but it felt like it was portrayed accurately and definitely felt super respectful. I also thought that the characters developed in a realistic way. Even though Brenda is horrible, I felt like I understood her and that’s not always the case with antagonists. I loved all of the illustrations throughout and the Christmas feels were SO STRONG. There’s a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming (am I just oblivious???) which was such a fun surprise. I recommend getting the version of the book that comes with the soundtrack–not necessary, but a really fun and festive bonus.¬†4/5

ebook | Hardcover | Musical Edition

Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

Two Dark ReignsOkay, I’m hoping to get through this review without any spoilers, but it’s book three in the series, so I’m really sorry if I reveal anything from the first two books–unintentional. After the second book I wasn’t sure how invested I would be in the rest of the story–I didn’t really see where Blake could take it from there. However, the third book got me reinvested real quick. I found myself liking this book much more than the second one and the different POVs continued to be a nice change of pace. I enjoyed each POV equally. There continue to be many, many questions and I need the next book asap. The ending took me by surprise and I’m still not sure exactly what’s going on or what’s going to happen. There’s some interesting things going on on the island and I guess we’ll just have to see what happens next. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, & Brodi Ashton

my plain janeI love this series! The tone is fun and light and easy to enjoy. Once again, I thought the rotating perspective worked well, but Jane’s sections were probably my least favorite. I do wish that I’d read Jane Eyre first, though, because there are certain plot points that were so strange and I don’t know if they were extra or if they’re part of the original text. This is partly why one of my 2019 reading goals is to read Jane Eyre. I also liked that this is somewhat of a “Jane Eyre origin story”. The plot itself was good, but not completely thought out or explained. Why do the talismans work on ghosts? What really determines if a ghost moves on or not? Is a special “moving on” room really necessary? I also felt like red rooms were mentioned several times and I don’t really know why. Despite all that, the tone of the book is so enjoyable that I happily overlooked the times when things weren’t fully explained and I’m excited to continue on with this series. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover


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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)

I find it weird that these books never mention Dylan Thomas once | This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back [ARC] by Estelle Laure

Lucille and Eden have been friends forever. But the summer before their senior year, Lucille’s mom decides to take off on a solo vacation. She promises to come back before school starts, but Lucille and her little sister Wren are left waiting long after that deadline has passed. Meanwhile, Eden is struggling to come to terms with her future in ballet and the new feelings that have arisen between Lucille and her twin brother, Digby.

Just to start off, I really liked This Raging Light and¬†But Then I Came Back was also enjoyable, but I didn’t like it AS MUCH. I just really had so many feelings about Lucille and Wren. Lucille has to be so tough and is put in this impossible situation. I noticed that some reviewers haven’t liked how mean she is to Eden and Digby after a little while, but I feel like I can understand it completely. She has to be so stressed out and she can’t REALLY talk to anyone about her situation. But one thing this book does do is make me believe in the kindness of strangers. So…there’s that.

The relationship between Lucille and Digby is…a little weird. It feels completely one-sided at the beginning of the book and it’s not completely clear what makes Digby have a change of heart. He’s got a girlfriend at the beginning of the book and he cheats on her with Lucille which is NOT OKAY. That being said, I did end up liking their relationship in the end. Mostly, though, the relationship that I really liked was between Lucille and Wren. I LOVE a good sister relationship and I felt that this book definitely delivered in that area. There’s a sizable age difference between the two girls, but they love each other and are there for each other through everything. My heart was seriously just breaking for these girls throughout the whole book.

There wasn’t too much of a plot beyond trying to survive while Lucille’s mom is gone, but I was okay with that. Again, there have been some reviewers that disliked how the first book ends because they felt like there wasn’t a resolution. I can definitely see that, but I finished the first book and immediately went into the second which picks up right where the first one left off so…I didn’t really mind the lack of a resolution.

The title is something that really drew me to this book initially. The poem it’s quoting is great (who doesn’t love it?) and the girls discuss it a little in the book. But then they never mention Dylan Thomas to my recollection. There’s no real reason why the NEED to talk about him, but perhaps it could have added an interesting layer or dimension to the book.

This is the point where I’m going to transition into my review of the second book, so if you don’t want some things spoiled from the first book, do not continue reading.

I didn’t like Eden as a narrator as much as I liked Lucille. There’s just something a little…chippy about her? I felt like she had this undercurrent of anger throughout a lot of her interactions with people. Then because Eden’s just woken up from a coma, there are some weird things that she sees that almost gives this book a magical realism feel to it where that was NOT present in the first book. It almost feels like a different genre.

The new characters that were introduced in the second book are interesting. I was a little confused, though, because apparently Eden has these two really good guy friends who are over all the time but who are never mentioned in the first book. I didn’t like the way that her new guy friends or even her parents and brother reacted to Eden at times. They got really angry with her when she didn’t want to do something–the girl just got out of a coma! I would think she’s allowed to not want to go to a club or party.

This book was interesting because we really get Eden’s point of view in the whole fallout between her and Lucille. Lucille really isn’t painted in the BEST light in this book, which was hard for me since I liked her so much in the first book. At the same time, I thought it was a great way of showing that there are two sides to every story, you know? I understood why Eden felt the way she did and ultimately why she reacted to Lucille how she did in the first book.

Overall, I thought these books were pretty great. I think it would make more sense to read them in order, but you could definitely read them separately and I think the second book would still make sense…mostly.

Overall Rating: 5 (TRL), 4 (BTICB)
Language: Moderate for both
Violence: Moderate (TRL), Mild (BTICB)
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate for both
Sexual Content: Moderate (TRL), Mild (BTICB)

Note: I received But Then I Came Back free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Just another place I’ll never be able to visit | Caraval by Stephanie Garber

CaravalScarlett has dreamt about attending Caraval ever since her grandmother told her magical stories from the last time Caraval was in town. But now that Scarlett’s arranged marriage is looming, she’s given up on that dream and only wants to make it to her wedding day so that she can get herself and her younger sister, Donatella, away from their abusive father. Unexpectedly, a letter arrives from Caraval’s orchestrater, Legend himself, inviting Scarlett, Tella, and Scarlett’s fianc√© to attend this year’s Caraval performance. Scarlett has already put Caraval behind her, but Tella won’t take no for an answer. They soon find themselves on Legend’s private island with a sailor, Julian, who neither knows much about as they finally enter the world of Caraval. It’s only a game, but what happens when everything starts to feel too real?

My new dream in life is to attend Caraval. I would literally trade 1,000 Hogwarts acceptance letters to attend one week of Caraval. This place sounds amazing. There’s a scavenger type hunt and lots of intrigue and yummy sounding foods. You pay for things with secrets, desires, and truths and you’re only allowed out at night. Talk about atmospheric! I thought the author did a pretty good job describing the scene, but if we’re going to compare it to The Night Circus¬†(which everybody has been) then more definitely could have been done to create the atmosphere and build the world. All of the places that Scarlett goes are pretty well described, but they don’t always make sense in the grand scheme of things. Because of that, it makes elements of the plot feel a little too coincidental throughout the book. While I could visualize specific shops, I had a hard time imagining what Caraval must look like as a whole (even with the map in the front cover).

The plot itself was pretty good. There’s a clear goal, but the journey would get a little fuzzy at times. The clues didn’t always make the most sense to me. I know they were supposed to be kind of obscure, but it didn’t feel clear enough how things were supposed to connect with each other. Again, this made elements of the plot feel super coincidental instead of calculated as I think they were intended to be. Without getting into any spoilers, I felt that the ending was a bit of a let down with how the rest of the plot had been built up. There were too many convenient things that happened which, I felt, cheapened the rest of the story. It was just kind of like, “Oh, this plot point is explained by this thing that was happening but nobody knew about, but trust me it was happening. Boom, plot point solved.” I would have appreciated some loose ends or at least less closure.

The characters were just okay for me. I thought some of the secondary characters were pretty great like Jovan and Aiko, but the main characters themselves weren’t much more developed than the secondary characters. Everybody seemed to be pretty one note with one motivation and one motivation only. Scarlett just wanted to get her sister and go home–she didn’t want to let herself enjoy Caraval at all and for someone who’d been looking forward to it, I didn’t find it genuine that Scarlett didn’t loosen up at all. Tella was just kind of selfish the whole time. There was a small glimpse of her love for Scarlett at the beginning of the book, but those strong feelings never really surfaced in the rest of the book. Julian was just kind of a weird character. I didn’t feel very connected to him and I didn’t feel that the relationship between him and Scarlett was super believable or well-developed. All of a sudden, it was just happening. Honestly, I was rooting for Dante, but Scarlett probably doesn’t deserve him. Legend was kind of a strange character as well. He spends so much time off-screen, so to speak, that I’m not really sure how I feel about him.

Overall, this review kind of makes it sound like I didn’t enjoy the book, but I really did. There were so many things to love about it but I think my expectations were a tad too high. I love scavenger hunts and so I was a little disappointed with how that all worked out and atmospherically, this book can’t really compete with The Night Circus. With that being said, I would definitely recommend this book. You’ll find yourself lost in the world of Caraval and imagining which shops you’d visit first and which foods you’d taste. You’ll ponder whether you would be a player or a watcher (I’d probably play, but I wouldn’t be super competitive about it). I’ll be interested to see how the next book¬†plays out (yeah, I didn’t know this was going to be a duology either).

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Mild
Violence: Heavy. Quite a few scenes with the sisters and their physically abusive father.
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate

Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt

When Mallory finds her boyfriend, Jeremy, cheating on her with an online girlfriend, she decides to give up on all¬†modern technology. Using a list written by her grandmother in 1962 as a guide, Mallory plans to regain control of her life and find her “thing”. What she doesn’t count on is how this list will effect her relationships with her friends and her family.

The List10594356

  1. Run for pep squad secretary
  2. Host a fancy dinner party/soiree
  3. Sew a dress for homecoming
  4. Find a steady
  5. Do something dangerous

Nevermind that her school doesn’t have a pep squad, she has no idea how to cook or sew, and the fact that she’s sworn off boys, I love that Mallory is determined to finish this list. She’s such a spunky character with a very fun voice. If all of Ms. Leavitt’s main characters are going to be like this, then I might need to check out her other books. Mallory just seems so real and so does her sister. I love the relationship that they have with each other–it’s the kind of relationship that I think all sisters should have. The parents are grandmother seemed a little more like sitcom people, but they were alright as well.

I was very happy that Mallory never¬†really considered getting back together with Jeremy. It seemed like she had the natural post-breakup regrets, but she knew that he was no good for her. I also liked that she didn’t start dating some other boy right away. She (realistically) realized that she needed some time and actually took it. The last thing that I love about Mal is that she has a collection of MLB bobble-heads. I’m a big baseball fan, so this was just a little thing that made me like her even more.

Overall, I thought this book was written well and was a fun, easy read!

Overall Rating: 4
Violence: None
Sexual Content: Mild
Language: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Mild. Mal’s parents have a drink once or twice.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Cath and Wren are identical twins moving away to college for the first time. Cath is worried about leaving her bipolar father by himself and she’s angry at Wren for not wanting to room together. Now she’s stuck in a room with her scary roommate Reagan and the ever-present Levi–too scared to go find the dining hall. This is the story of Cath’s first year in college and how she learns who she is without Wren, who she is as a writer, and most importantly what things matter most.FANGIRL_CoverDec2012

This is the second time I’ve read this book and it’s one of the few books that I own on my Kindle even though I was able to check it out from the online library. It’s just…THESE CHARACTERS. I cannot get enough of Cath or Levi or Wren or Reagan. I fully expect to drive to Nebraska and find these people living and breathing. It’s really amazing to me how even though Cath appears weak and kind of weird at the beginning of the book, I wasn’t annoyed with her, I just empathized. This was definitely not my experience with my first year of college (I was more like Wren, minus the alcohol) but I felt like I understood it anyway.

Now, don’t even get me started on Reagan. I take notes in a journal while I’m reading just so I know what I want to blog about later. This was my note on Reagan: “Reagan. Is. Awesome”. She’s strangely protective of Cath and I love it! She’s so fiery and strong but so kind at the same time. Just read this:

“I feel sorry for you, and I’m going to be your friend.”
“I don’t want to be your friend,” Cath said as sternly as she could. “I¬†like that we’re not friends.”
“Me, too,” Reagan said. “I’m sorry you ruined it by being so pathetic.”

I don’t know, that might seem kind of mean for her to say, but really. Just classic. She’s an awesome character. Maybe you have to read the book to understand.

Levi’s great as well, of course. He’s an imperfect guy, but he’s almost perfect for Cath (I say “almost” because I think one of the points of this book is that no one’s perfect). I get tired sometimes of reading about guys who are “so ridiculously good looking” or who walk around all Adonis-like. Give me a break.

This book is definitely¬†geared towards¬†more mature YA readers. There’s nothing explicit in it, but I’d definitely say¬†16+ so just be prepared for that kind of content. Topics that parents may want to be aware of: Family issues exist from Cath and Wren’s mother leaving them at a young age, the family is dealing with Bipolar Disorder, and underage drinking. All major themes.

Overall Rating: 5
Violence: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate. Mentioned quite a few times but not explicitly or crudely.
Language: Heavy. College language, but again, not too explicit.
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy. A couple characters smoke, one has a major drinking problem, but the main character does not do either.