Category Archives: Fantasy

Legendary (Caraval #2) – Stephanie Garber

Legendary (Caraval #2) – Stephanie GarberTitle: Legendary (Caraval #2) by Stephanie Garber
Publishing Info: May 29, 2018 by Macmillan, Flatiron Books
Source: Scribd, ALAAC18
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: May 2, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Caraval (Caraval #1)

A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister, Scarlett, from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister's. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice, but now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever...

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . the games have only just begun.

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I re-read CARAVAL in order to prepare for LEGENDARY and yeahhhh. I didn’t need to do that. Let’s back up and assess how this read went for me.

So CARAVAL? Was just an okay read for me. I wanted to love it and expected to but so much of it just felt messy (maybe because it was far too whimsical for my taste?) and totally lawless. Anything could happen, characters (and readers) were intentionally duped and led astray but not in that good way where they’re clever and figure things out, and the villains were SO nasty that it was just disgusting and uncomfortable. I was hoping for a little change after we had gotten some of that stuff out of the way in CARAVAL but I think LEGENDARY actually got worse.

LEGENDARY follows Tella’s story from her POV and I wasn’t excited for it because I found Tella really annoying and immature in CARAVAL and while some people said it helped being from her POV in this book, it really didn’t do anything for me. I still found her far too impulsive in all the wrong ways and like Scarlett in CARAVAL, she just had a one-track mind and had blinders on for almost literally everything else.

Where I felt like the game of Caraval was totally random and lawless, I kind of felt like the whole plot of LEGENDARY followed suit. It was sloppy, choppy, and hopped around without and real transition or groundwork. So much time is spent on the visual aspects and imagery that there’s no real world building aside from the bare-bones structure of Caraval itself and the overall outline of where this book is going. The two books don’t really connect together aside from the fact that this takes place after the events of CARAVAL and the girls’ mother is mentioned a handful of times in CARAVAL without any other backstory to go with it, really. I feel like some really good world-building would have included mentions to any of the Deck of Destiny, more about their mother’s disappearance, or any single mention of the Fates. Plus it’s still pretty muddy how all of this magic even works. So much of it was a rumor and then we’ve got the power of the Fates and the cards and how did this all work out again? I know in fantasy novels sometimes magic just IS but the abilities and limits to the magic in these books goes from being “the closest thing to magic”, which makes you think it’s not magic at all, to actual magic like a magician type, to being compared to godlike, to Fates which are powerful beings and they came from where and why? There’s just a lot of groundwork that could have been laid for LEGENDARY in CARAVAL that wasn’t and this felt nearly unconnected plot-wise. I feel like the game of Caraval was included in this book purely to connect the two because it really wasn’t necessary for them to play the game at all in this book and it didn’t really add anything to it. The magic could have been incorporated in some other way and had a better flow to push things forward instead of making things fit into this Caraval box again.

I still find the whole concept of Legend himself confusing. We find out his true identity in this book but he was kept as two separate characters for so long that I feel like I only know one of them and I still don’t really know Legend. His story just seems to change to fit wherever the plot is going and there’s still so much that just doesn’t feel right. Too much of him still seems like an idea and not an actual character.

This book just didn’t do much for me. It actually irritated me more than I enjoyed it. I’ll still read/listen to Finale to finish it but I don’t even know where this series is going. There’s not a real series arc so I don’t even know what the plot of FINALE might even be. CARAVAL was pretty much only about finding Tella, and then LEGENDARY was pretty much only about finding their mother soooo. What now?

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Kept Me Hooked On: Descriptive Fantasy. Stephanie Garber is great with her descriptions and really brings worlds to life! The books are definitely highly sensory.
Left Me Wanting More: Plot flow. CARAVAL was lacking some flow to me and LEGENDARY felt even messier in that regard. I feel like things could have been arranged much better.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

This series is HUGE with the readers out there but there are also some like me who feel the same way. If you liked CARAVAL a lot, I feel like you’ll like LEGENDARY!

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BOOKS LIKE LEGENDARY

             

Warrior of the Wild – Tricia Levenseller

Warrior of the Wild – Tricia LevensellerTitle: Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller
Publishing Info: February 26, 2018 by Macmillan
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: March 9, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Daughter of the Pirate King (Daughter of the Pirate King #1)

How do you kill a god?

As her father's chosen heir, eighteen-year-old Rasmira has trained her whole life to become a warrior and lead her village. But when her coming-of-age trial is sabotaged and she fails the test, her father banishes her to the monster-filled wilderness with an impossible quest: to win back her honour, she must kill the oppressive god who claims tribute from the villages each year or die trying.

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WARRIOR OF THE WILD was such a fun read! I was a little worried because I’ve been really hit-or-miss with YA fantasy recently (a lot of it feeling too young in many ways, which is not a bad thing since it is young adult fiction but just not something I’ve been connecting with as of late) so I was really happy that I enjoyed WARRIOR OF THE WILD so much! I immediately got hooked on the tone of the book and really connected with Rasmira as a fierce warrior and really felt her fierceness in a true way.

The characters really made this book for me. I really enjoyed Rasmira’s character and loved that she was fierce but not a caricature of a fierce warrior. She had many layers to her characters and I could tell that a lot of thought and care was put into her reactions and interactions with other characters. There were many instances where she would stop to think how she was relating to another character and how it affected her, really taking into account the full picture. It wasn’t just a quick reaction or stubbornness for the sake of being fierce. The stubborn quality came from a true place in her heart where she stuck to her morals and beliefs while still growing to question where they came from and what was best for her.

I really enjoyed the story taking place in the wild, away from the bustle of the fantasy society to really focus on a few characters. I really loved the character relationships and interactions and I loved how they developed. The trio of Rasmira, Soren, and Iric was perfect. There was no love triangle and the friendships were beautiful. Each friendship was complicated with its own conflicts and I really liked how the introduction of Rasmira into the duo of Soren and Iric really shook things up to create a new dynamic. I actually could have used less romance, as little as there was, because I was enjoying the friendships so much and some of the kissing just felt a little out of place at times, but that could have also been because I was enjoying the friendships so much.

I also REALLY liked that it was a stand alone. I totally felt like it could have been drawn out into a series, following what happens if/when the characters return back to their villages, but I really appreciated that it wasn’t forced to continue into a series and bring up a whole new set of conflicts. This was wholly resolved in one book and I like where the end of this book left the readers! It was a quick read, settling on the perfect amount of time — not dragging on too long and not wrapping up too quickly. addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: YA Fantasy. I’ve been reading more adult books lately and have been shying away from some YA, just not hooking onto the tone. I’m so glad I enjoyed this one and fell right into it!
Left Me Wanting More: After-story. I really did enjoy where the book ended but it also made me want to see what else would happen! I wanted to see where the characters would go and what would happen after the book ended.

Addiction Rating
Read it

This was a great read and really fun all-around! The sass amongst the characters was perfect and I enjoyed the world-building and story.

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BOOKS LIKE WARRIOR OF THE WILD

             

Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass #7) – Sarah J. Maas

Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass #7) – Sarah J. MaasTitle: Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass #7) by Sarah J. Maas
Publishing Info: October 23, 2018 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Source: Anderson's Bookshop
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: November 17, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: The Assassin's Blade (Throne of Glass #0.1 - 0.5), Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1), Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2), Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3), A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1), Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4), A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2), Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5), A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3)

Years in the making, Sarah J. Maas’s #1 New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series draws to an epic, unforgettable conclusion. Aelin Galathynius’s journey from slave to king’s assassin to the queen of a once-great kingdom reaches its heart-rending finale as war erupts across her world. . .

Aelin has risked everything to save her people―but at a tremendous cost. Locked within an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will as she endures months of torture. Aware that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, though her resolve begins to unravel with each passing day…

With Aelin captured, Aedion and Lysandra remain the last line of defense to protect Terrasen from utter destruction. Yet they soon realize that the many allies they’ve gathered to battle Erawan’s hordes might not be enough to save them. Scattered across the continent and racing against time, Chaol, Manon, and Dorian are forced to forge their own paths to meet their fates. Hanging in the balance is any hope of salvation―and a better world.

And across the sea, his companions unwavering beside him, Rowan hunts to find his captured wife and queen―before she is lost to him forever.

As the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight, if they are to have a chance at a future. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever in the explosive final chapter of the Throne of Glass series.

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So. This was the end and I had one roller coaster of a ride with this series! I went from enjoying the first book to adoring the next three, like favorite-series-ever adoration, to being super salty about EMPIRE OF STORMS, DNFing TOWER OF DAWN, and falling somewhere in the middle with KINGDOM OF ASH. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a mixed range of feelings toward a series overall, so bear with my thoughts here. I’ll try to express both the loves and the things I didn’t enjoy.

Let’s start with the good things. Sarah J. Maas created this huge series that appealed so to many readers who didn’t think they were fantasy fans, including myself. This was one of the series that launched me into reading fantasy and knowing I could enjoy these big series. She created a very firm, passionate connection with Aelin, packed a lot of punches and surprises, and brought so many characters to life that became immense fan-favorites. I loved how she connected things from the entire Throne of Glass world in the first four books and the ending for Aelin and the crew felt right and satisfying.

My issue throughout all of KINGDOM OF ASH was just that it was too long. In Sarah’s Chicago tour stop, she said she “would die” (yes, that’s a direct quote) if she had to cut any more from this book and I felt like there was a lot that could have been condensed, especially from books 4- 7. There’s a lot that happens on the page with so many characters and as much as they are loved, I think characters like Elide, Manon, Aedion, and Lysandra didn’t really need as much on-page time as they were given in KINGDOM OF ASH. Aedion and Lysandra to carry a lot of that action when things are happening away from Aelin, but it didn’t really push the story forward. There was a lot of battle action and, of course, there was romance, but everything felt like it really could have been shorter and more focused. I didn’t think Nesryn needed any POV chapters at all and her part in this book really didn’t push anything forward. I’m still salty about Chaol’s role in the series, being so prominent through QUEEN OF SHADOWS, being eliminated in EoS only to have ToD and then his real purpose for the series seemed only to bring Yrene to the fray, which was EXTREMELY important and made me even more upset that Yrene only came to the series in a novella and in TOWER OF DAWN when she should have been a much more prominent character of this series from the start. I actually think she should have swapped focus with Manon, who I loved earlier on but didn’t connect with in KINGDOM OF ASH much at all. I also felt like Manon didn’t get the ending she deserved, not because of the THINGS that happened but because I was so excited for her connection with Aelin and how they crossed paths in the previous books and something just didn’t connect. Yes, her storyline does play an important role in the battle at Terrasen but I feel like we left her in a place that is deserving of a whole new series focused on Manon because I just don’t like where her story ended in this series.

I also noticed right away that I had issues with the writing this book. There were a lot of sentence fragments.
On every page.
In so many ways.
In every third paragraph.
And it really broke up the flow of the story. There were a lot of places where a sentence was chopped into fragments where it could have just gone on as a continuing idea and it really made things choppy and dramatic. I get it — they’re for effect — but it doesn’t have to be every other paragraph or every fifth sentence. It was a LOT.

I also felt like there was a real lack of world-building here. There was a lot of time spent with characters and witnessing their actions, but too many big moments and concepts were presented with not a lot of weight supporting them. Some of the big worldly concepts felt like they just happened without a lead up and readers are just expected to accept them as things that are possible in this world because hey, there’s magic. Granted, there’s a certain understanding that some of these characters have fae magic and that doesn’t really need explanation, and that I get, but some of the wyrdkey/portal/magical item/god/magical ability concepts seemed to just sort of happen. For how big and detailed these books are, I felt like more attention should have been focused on some of these interesting details about the political structure and magical rules. Too many characters seemed to be able to just have these certain magical abilities all of a sudden and I wouldn’t question it if it was just one who discovered they had more powers than they knew, but it kind of happened a lot and other moments seemed to come out of nowhere with these random grand magical gestures happening at the most convenient times when they were never mentioned before. I’m not off-put by their existence but I would have liked to see the characters discuss more about how some of these abilities worked, what sort of lore there was behind powers that could destroy the Valg, why some people inherited or developed X powers, etc. There were too many things that I felt like I was just supposed to take as they came instead of making a really cool connection into the rules of the magic.

And lastly, while I did feel like the ending was a great way to wrap up the series, I did still feel like there weren’t enough risks taken and not enough was… sacrificed, mostly because I’ve had these feelings before with the Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy and I couldn’t shake that feeling in this epic conclusion either. War isn’t clean and it isn’t pretty and it doesn’t protect all of the best people. There were some choices made and sacrifices given but it still felt a little too happy and perfect in a few ways. I’m glad I finished the series and I’m glad I read it and it was quite the epic adventure.

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Finales. I am glad that I finished the series! It’s always so complicated ending a series but it’s so refreshing as well.
Left Me Wanting More: PLOT. Ugh, I felt so frustrated that this book barely moved anything forward. It was the finale!! We spent far too much time with the characters and their love stories or random action sequences that did nothing for the book when so much could have been happening.

Addiction Rating
Read it

If you’ve made it to the end, it’s worth finishing! I did like finishing the series even if I didn’t really love it.

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BOOKS LIKE KINGDOM OF ASH

             

The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air #2) – Holly Black

The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air #2) – Holly BlackTitle: The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air #2) by Holly Black
Publishing Info: January 8, 2019 by Little Brown
Source: ALAAC18, Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: January 8, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, White Cat (Curse Workers #1), Red Glove (Curse Workers #2), Black Heart (Curse Workers #3)

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

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I have such mixed feelings about The Folk of the Air, mostly because of how much everyone loves these books and all of the hype. I’m plenty interested and I love the clever, well-thought out twists that really make these books so interesting but there’s just something that I keep missing and I think it has to do with the characters.

Don’t get me wrong — I actually love all of the characters, even the horrible ones. Jude is awesome, strong, and so true to herself. Cardan is terrible but also softening towards Jude and I love their hate-to-love relationship….. And yet, I feel like I just don’t connect to Cardan as much as I’m wanting to. I don’t think a book needs to have split POVs to connect to both main characters by any means, but I’m noticing the same issue I had in THE CRUEL PRINCE where I don’t feel like we spent enough time with Cardan and actually getting to SEE who he is. We’re told he’s cruel, doesn’t like to do work, doesn’t want responsibility, etc and there are instances that show that but I just feel like I don’t get to see that hidden layer as he softens to Jude. I guess because he still kind of doesn’t. They do both still hate each other and yet there’s an obvious attraction. It still just felt so icy and shut off and I still feel like I didn’t get to know him as much as I want to.

The plotting, as always, is amazing. The big twists and reveals are mostly saved for a big finale, where everything in the book ties together for the grand next step in the plot to steal the throne. I love seeing everything come together like that and the surprise to the characters as well as the audience. I kind of love how even though Jude has been planning things for a long time, it’s not revealed to the readers so everyone gets a good surprise! I do still have the same issue that I had in THE CRUEL PRINCE, though, where I wished that I had a hint of where things were going or some sort of other… thing to keep me engaged. I mean, I still was engaged in the story and I was invested so it’s hard to explain. There’s just a little something that was missing in both books that kept me from being wowed and I don’t know what it is.

I do think I became more invested in everything in THE WICKED KING and I actually really liked the ending, as world-changing as it was. You just never know where Holly Black is going to take you and as much as I can guess where things might go in books, I really don’t expect any of these monumental changes. It is quite exciting and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Cardan. I started to get the Cardan appeal a bit more with this book! He had some really great moments and I felt more connected than the first book!
Left Me Wanting More: Movement. The ending of these books hold so much excitement but I just feel like I want things to keep moving forward and not just rush to happen all at once at the end.

Addiction Rating
Read it

It’s a suuuuper popular series that so many people love. I’m stuck on not understanding that love as much but it is still a solid series.

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BOOKS LIKE THE WICKED KING

             

A Curse So Dark and Lonely (A Curse So Dark and Lonely #1) – Brigid Kemmerer

A Curse So Dark and Lonely (A Curse So Dark and Lonely #1) – Brigid KemmererTitle: A Curse So Dark and Lonely (A Curse So Dark and Lonely #1) Publishing Info: January 29, 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Source: BEA 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: January 27, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Fall in love, break the curse.

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

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A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY was so enjoyable from start to finish! I’ve been struggling with some YA reads lately so I was afraid that like many others I’ve read recently that this would fall into a pit of tropes, but this book soared beyond my expectations! Right off the bat, I loved the tone of the book and I think the crossover/connection between the modern world in Washington DC and the fantasy world of Emberfall really made a difference. The readers are able to get a unique twist on this fantasy concept with a modern voice from Harper and that old-world, medieval-type feel from Rhen.

You may have heard that A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY is a Beauty and the Beast adaptation and I thought that was done brilliantly! Concepts are taking from the classic fairy tale but still given their own twist. Not every piece of Beauty and the Beast was made to fit this novel and A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY also goes along its own paths, not needing to stick to the concept 100%. What I loved even more was seeing the book’s originality lead back to the fairy tale adaptation without realizing we were on that road and I was so impressed seeing things circle back around to the adaption in their own way. I’ve read a lot of retellings over the years and some stories stick too religiously to the original work so I was really happy to see how expertly the author’s original concepts were woven in with the inspiration from Beauty and the Beast.

The characters here were just wonderful and they really made this story what it is in so many ways. Harper is strong and fierce but the way that Brigid Kemmerer chose to craft this character was really special. There are so many badass YA heroines out there that get too cocky or are just magically perfect, but Harper felt more like a real person to me than most of those other leading ladies. I loved that Brigid Kemmerer included Harper’s cerebral palsy and how it was portrayed as the way that Harper was born and not as a disadvantage or weakness. It was also great to see Harper grow into her boldness, from being a little sheltered by her brother to being thrown into this fantasy world and having to make a name for herself, quite literally. She didn’t change in personality but merely let that side of her grow in the proper atmosphere and situation. The reader was able to see that potential in Harper and with her situation in Emberfall and the other people by which she was surrounded, Harper was able to really grow into her confidence and it really felt so natural.

Rhen was another fantastic character in so many ways. Harper originally felt that he was a cocky prince but really he had so many levels that unfolded as the book progressed. Readers learn of his remorse for everything that’s happened to the kingdom and how much he really took it all to heart. Rhen’s challenge in the book seemed to be with his emotions and feelings, having to trust in his heart and let go of some of his overthinking. Being forced to repeat so many scenarios due to his curse, he essentially has ages to plan without growing older and somewhat replaying the opportunity to fall in love to break the curse, he employs different strategies, none of which work, of course, because love can’t be won by strategy. Harper and Grey, Rhen’s commander, help Rhen learn how to trust his heart and not feel so forced to fall in love. He has to let go before he can really latch on.

One of my favorite things about the book was the romance, which doesn’t happen often these days. So many people get excited over big love scenes, passionate kisses, and fiery romances. I was all about this gorgeous slow burn romance that took its time and really established those deep emotions! It’s not quite a hate-to-love situation but since neither Harper nor Rhen trust each other (naturally), there’s quite a spark of mistrust and Harper’s brashness also leads to a few spats that have these two at odds in the beginning. I really loved that as well because it’s so much more rewarding seeing the two soften towards each other and really piques that curiosity if the two can manage to fall in love. That’s the whole point of the book so you assume it’s coming and yet there’s still the question if that really is what will happen and how they’ll both come to believe it. It’s so expertly crafted and those quiet, stolen moments were absolutely everything in this book! I love those moments more than anything in books and I think they’re some of the most special scenes to read.

Finally, there’s the fact that this book delivers something of its own with a few unique twists that I did not see coming! I loved the set up for the next book and reading something like this actually made me glad that it’s a series whereas usually I’m wishing for more stand-alones. I do think that this book could have been made into a stand-alone if that’s what the author had wanted and it would have been beautiful, but I’m also glad that I get to keep reading about these characters, this world, and this beautiful writing for a little bit longer!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Retellings. I’ve been hesitating with some retellings as of late because they’ve been taking the adaptation a little too literally or leaning on it to tell the story, but this was such an excellent blend!
Left Me Wanting More: Depth. I think this could have gone juuuuuust a bit deeper and it would have been an absolute slam dunk! It was already wonderful but there was just a touch of something that could have been that one smidge better!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

I enjoyed this adaptation so much. I’ve been a little hit-or-miss on fairy tale retellings lately because some are just not very well done but this was the absolute perfect blend of original and adaptation!

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BOOKS LIKE A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY

             

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1) – Rick Riordan

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1) – Rick RiordanTitle: The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1) by Rick Riordan
Publishing Info: June 28, 2005 by Disney Hyperion
Source: Scribd
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: August 7, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles #1)

Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can't seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse - Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy's mom finds out, she knows it's time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he'll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends—one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena - Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.

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Yes, this was my first time reading Percy Jackson! It was a fun read! I know it’s middle grade but it’s still a little younger than I expected. It was definitely cute and fun but a little too goofy at times for me reading for the first time as an adult. When this and Harry Potter are compared as the two big middle grade to YA series, crossing over to adult readers, this one definitely felt a lot younger than Harry Potter and actually reminded me of Brandon Sanderson’s Evil Librarian series, which also feels young and silly to me. I’m not sure if I would have appreciated it more at a different age and I also don’t know how in-depth the rest of the series gets, so I guess we’ll see!

I did enjoy the book and it was a solid read but some of the action felt a little jumpy, adding in sequence after sequence which seemed like a little too much for one book when there could have been more time developing the story and character relationships. I mean, I know it’s only book one so there’s lots of time to develop things.

I don’t feel a huuuuuge desire to continue the series right away. I think I still want to because I did actually read the first book in the Egyptian mythology-based series and I can see similarities in tone but it also seemed to flow a little bit better. I mean that was a few years ago by now and it was after this series so that allows writing growth too.

There were lots of laugh-out-loud moments and plenty of comic relief! I did also see the Percy Jackson movie ages ago and I don’t really remember what it was about but it seems like it combined a few books, maybe? Or didn’t follow the books? I just know it definitely wasn’t focused on this one. I think it would be fun to finish the series and then watch the movie again too!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Middle Grade/younger reads. I don’t read a lot of middle grade books. I do love YA but I’ve been having a harder time lately with books geared toward younger audiences. Usually middle grade doesn’t really do it for me with exceptions like Neil Gaiman or Harry Potter. This one was fun!
Left Me Wanting More: Intensity. Okay, okay, I know. It’s middle grade, and it was fairly intense for middle grade! I don’t know, there’s something about Harry Potter that starts at about the same age that has that tone that lends to more maturity. I think I just wanted that!

Addiction Rating
Try it

If you haven’t read this series yet, it’s worth trying if you’re interested! This was my first time reading it and it was fun! I’m not sure if I’ll continue any time soon but it was still worth the read.

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BOOKS LIKE THE LIGHTNING THIEF

             

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss – Kasie West

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss – Kasie WestTitle: Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie West
Publishing Info: February 5, 2019 by HarperCollins
Source: Scribd
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Date Completed: February 6, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1), The Distance Between Us, On the Fence, Split Second (Pivot Point #2), The Fill-In Boyfriend, P.S. I Like You, By Your Side

Lacey Barnes has dreamed of being an actress for as long as she can remember. So when she gets the opportunity to star in a movie alongside one of Hollywood’s hottest actors, she doesn’t hesitate to accept the part.

But Lacey quickly learns that life in the spotlight isn’t as picture perfect as she imagined. She’s having trouble bonding with her costars, her father has hired the definition of a choir boy, Donavan Lake, to tutor her, and somewhere along the way she’s lost her acting mojo. And just when it seems like things couldn’t get any worse, it looks like someone on set is deliberately trying to sabotage her.

As Lacey’s world spins out of control, it feels like the only person she can count on—whether it’s helping her try to unravel the mystery of who is out to get her or snap her out of her acting funk—is Donavan. But what she doesn’t count on is this straight-laced boy becoming another distraction.

With her entire future riding on this movie, Lacey knows she can’t afford to get sidetracked by a crush. But for the first time in her life Lacey wonders if it’s true that the best stories really do happen when you go off script.

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I’m a huge Kasie West fan and all of her books are auto-buys, regardless of my reviews for them. Usually I pre-order and I somehow missed this one so I picked it up on audio so I didn’t have to wait!

FAME, FATE, AND THE FIRST KISS fell a little flat for me. When it came down to it, I felt like none of the characters were really all that likable. I didn’t really like Lacey that much and I didn’t find her character relatable either. I thought she seemed a little unreasonable at times and maybe she was a bit too much of a dreamer for me. While I don’t think an acting career is unrealistic, I had a hard time with how much she wanted to push off the end of high school to continue on her acting career when she could have easily managed both from the way that the book sounded. There were times when I liked her lack of filter and it felt genuine to hear some things pour out of her mouth but other times I felt she was rash and quick to assumptions.

I also just find that I don’t really enjoy books about acting or the movie/TV business. I think the only book that I did enjoy like that was GEEKERELLA and only half of the main characters were actually involved in the biz so it brought something a little different to the book rather than it being the only main narrator. I’m not sure what it is… just not being able to relate? I don’t enjoy the business or behind-the-scenes? But for some reason it just doesn’t hold me.

I also wanted just a bit more chemistry between Lacey and Donovan. I really started feeling it towards the end when they finally had some quiet moments together, allowing themselves to be relaxed and cute. I didn’t enjoy all of the tutoring scenes where it was so frantic on-set and Lacey’s co-stars and friends kept popping in and out.

I also thought the sabotage angle was a little cheesy and made it almost a mystery towards the end. I thought it took away from some of the reality of the book and I would have just loved to see more from the characters and a more character-driven novel. I could have dropped that part of the plot and just enjoyed the romance and character relationships.

Not my favorite Kasie West book by far. I think it’s my least favorite and I’m a little bummed about that. The character cameos were fun but they were from LOVE, LIFE, AND THE LIST which was also another not-favorite so it wasn’t as exciting.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Cute contemporaries. I always love a light, cute contemporary. This one wasn’t my favorite but it was just the kind of tone I was looking for!
Left Me Wanting More: Character development. I just feel like everyone was so surface-level. I didn’t really like much about any of them and that was really disappointing.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

If this wasn’t Kasie West, I don’t know if I’d recommend it. I didn’t really enjoy it that much and sadly, it may be my least favorite Kasie West book yet. I do love her books so much and would recommend her no matter what, but this one was a miss for me.

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BOOKS LIKE FAME, FATE, AND THE FIRST KISS

             

King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) – Leigh Bardugo

King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) – Leigh BardugoTitle: King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) by Leigh Bardugo
Publishing Info: January 29, 2019 by Macmillan
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: January 31, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1), Siege and Storm (The Grisha #2), Grisha Novellas: The Witch of Duva (The Grisha #0.5), The Taylor (The Grisha #1.5), The Too-Clever Fox (The Grisha #2.5), Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1), Siege and Storm (The Grisha #2), Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3), Grisha Novellas: The Demon in the Wood (The Grisha #0.1) & Little Knife (The Grisha #2.6), The Demon in the Wood (The Grisha # 0.1), Little Knife (The Grisha #2.6), Six of Crows (The Dregs #1), Six of Crows (The Dregs #1), , Wonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons #1)

Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.

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My dearest Leigh Bardugo, congratulations on a phenomenal book. I’ve been trying to rate every book I read 100% sincerely, no matter if it’s a favorite author/series and I feel like I should love it, so know that this rating does not need any fluffing up of any kind.

I’ve loved Leigh Bardugo’s writing since her debut with SHADOW AND BONE and my connection with her and her books will always hold a special place in my heart since she was one of the first authors I ever met. With every book of hers I read, I’m so happy to continue to enjoy the stories she tells and I’m continuously impressed with each subsequent book. I’ve loved all of them but it’s amazing how I still feel like her writing continues to grow with every book or series. Shadow and Bone was the introduction to this universe and had a lot to set up, teach, and resolve within three books. Six of Crows took us to a new part of the Grishaverse with a stunning cast of characters who carried a brilliant heist-type plot but delved even further into character relationships and histories. KING OF SCARS continued to amaze me by diving into a layer of this universe that I didn’t even know existed and I was simply mind-blown with all of the hidden mysteries that I didn’t even realize I was missing.

While the writing style is different, the amount of world-building in KING OF SCARS reminded me of Brandon Sanderson’s books. With each book comes a delicious amount of creation, history, and plot to leave the readers curious and satisfied but then BAM! another layer is introduced and much like I felt when reading Sanderson fantasies, it was a brilliant addition that I hadn’t even considered but fit quite perfectly into the universe. All of the pieces fall so perfectly into place that you wonder how you ever did without knowing these pieces of information, and I love how Leigh Bardugo delivers those reveals to readers. Every reveal is so intentional and carefully crafted, and I really felt like Leigh Bardugo made the Grishaverse a real place for me. It’s like it’s always existed and only Leigh knows every in and out of the universe and she always has — it’s just that we as readers slowly get to discover what’s been there the entire time. So many fantasy works are carefully built but still just feel like stories that the author is inventing as they go along. KING OF SCARS unfolds the next layer of this world with expert connections back to Shadow and Bone as well as Six of Crows, showing how brilliantly all of these books have been masterminded. They all connect back to one another in the most perfect ways, from adding on to the existing world to referring back to favorite quotes to sneaking in pieces of other books as special Easter eggs. Whether or not Leigh had these entire books and plot lines in the back of her mind from the very beginning, she certainly knows her way around this complex world that she’s created and always finds a new way to continue creating new adventures while still building upon the stories that we’ve already read and loved.

There was a point in the book where things got REALLY next-level and it was both cool and also a little confusing. It wasn’t in a bad way but it was just a whole brand-new piece of world-building that I kind of had to wrap my brain around and it took me a little while to get into that big fantasy element. It was amazing to witness this concept that I really never saw coming and it was also so series-changing that it took me a while for my brain to adjust. Once the plot continued and the characters sort of wrangled that piece of the story line into the book, it all came back together and I was able to keep all of those pieces together. It also really did add some stupendous fantasy creations and made this series and universe even bigger than they already were. I felt like Shadow and Bone felt more on the YA side (not in a diminutive way, of course), Six of Crows felt like a crossover series to span from YA into adult audience, and KING OF SCARS really broke any boundaries and had some intensely sweeping concepts that really launched it to the next level.

I also want to applaud Leigh Bardugo for how she handled each narrating character (Nikolai, Zoya, and Nina) and how she handled each of their character relationships. I’ve been tiring of a lot of forced romances in other books, jumping into a romance plot, or pairing characters off so each one might have their own romance. I appreciated the subtlety of Six of Crows and how it established those intense relationship feelings without every character having to instantly fall in love and pair off. While each main character really did have their own pair in the book, it never felt like the romances took over and they all felt natural, falling into place at their own time. KING OF SCARS was exactly what I wanted in the romance department which is to say that it didn’t have much at all. Some characters certainly have romantic inklings or feelings and I’m interested in the direction that it’s heading, but there’s much more to focus on and each character shows the proper restraint and focus on their tasks at hand. So much has happened to each of these POV characters that they’re a little reluctant to open their hearts to someone while attempting to keep Ravka from falling to pieces. Instead, each one slowly starts to let emotion come through, guarded and carefully, and there’s just a snail’s pace towards a romantic involvement. I love the hints, the tension, and the slow burn and I’m glad to see that things may lead somewhere but there’s no rush for that to take over everyone’s priorities. All three of these characters also sort of need to learn to love themselves or let go of a past hardship — or both — before they can move on to a romantic relationship with someone else and I truly appreciate that character development. It’s great to see characters working through their own limitations or hardships instead of allowing a romantic plot to “fix” it all. Leigh Bardugo truly knows what she’s doing here and I’m loving the pace of the story all the way through!

I’m just so impressed with everything on these pages and I’m so happy to have a new piece of the Grishaverse. I had no idea where this series was even going to go when it started and I’m not sure how it’ll finish, but I’m loving this new direction and interesting take on the existing world!

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Digging deeper. I really got to know this world so much better in this book and it was SO interesting!
Left Me Wanting More: Grounding. There were a couple moments where things got a little intense in the fantasy aspect but I did really enjoy it overall!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

I absolutely loved this book. It did get a couple mixed reviews because of some things that happened, which I understand, but I thought it was stunning.

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BOOKS LIKE KING OF SCARS

             

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children #2) – Seanan McGuire

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children #2) – Seanan McGuireTitle: Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children #2) by Seanan McGuire
Publishing Info: June 13, 2017 by Macmillan
Source: Scribd
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: July 5, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you've got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

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I was surprised by and interested in EVERY HEART A DOORWAY but wasn’t quite sure how the rest of the books would tie in so I was excited to continue on! I was glad to see that DOWN AMONG THE STICKS AND BONES was about Jack and Jill because I really loved Jack in EVERY HEART A DOORWAY and she was my favorite character in the book.

DOWN AMONG THE STICKS AND BONES takes us to the door/portal world that Jack and Jill discovered and then left. I really loved getting into their story and it was interesting to see those pieces of their life before they discovered the door, their time in the world where they belonged, and really how everything went wrong from there. It was interesting to see two characters in a world and how Jack and Jill interacted with the world, each other, and the other residents there. It added another dimension to this particular story with two new residents instead of just the one, and it was also interesting how each girl really found their place as well as started to discover who they were and what they wanted… or thought they wanted.

I love how short these books are buuuuut I’ve also felt like both of these could have used just a bit more somewhere. I don’t think the story needed to be longer in DOWN AMONG THE STICKS AND BONES but it is interesting to think about how this series is structured. The first book kind of had the whole plot all in one book and this book was more of a prequel, really. It told Jack and Jill’s story in their world — their first trip and discovery, how their lives changed while they were there, and how they ended up leaving. It’s a really interesting series construction and I’m even more curious to see what comes next. Since it’s a unique concept, it’s a little hard to grasp but I’m impressed and intrigued!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Darker worlds. This was sort of a vampire world but had many other aspects that made it so much more. It was interesting to see the sort of dark concepts that were normal here, as well as other gender norms.
Left Me Wanting More: Plot Development. I love the short length of these books but I wish there was just a bit more time spent here, learning more about the world and the people in it.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

I really enjoyed the concept, execution, and emotion involved in this book. I think this one doesn’t read as well as the next two do but I really enjoyed this a lot.

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BOOKS LIKE DOWN AMONG THE STICKS AND BONES

              

Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) – Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) – Seanan McGuireTitle: Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire
Publishing Info: April 5, 2016 by Macmillan
Source: Scribd
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: June 29, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

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I had seen things about EVERY HEART A DOORWAY pretty much everywhere, seeing lots of praise and even receiving a free digital copy in a sweepstakes from Tor. I was definitely interested and also drawn in by the length, or lack there of, of this quick but pleasing book. I wasn’t sure what to expect except for a parallel universe concept and this was really interesting and pleasantly peculiar!

Essentially, the book is about a school for wayward children, those of which have been through doors to portals that transport them to magical parallel worlds and who have been kicked out, left, or were sent back and aren’t able to return to the world nor to their former lives. I haven’t read Miss Peregrine’s but I picture this book would be Miss Peregrine meets Narnia meets The Magicians. We spend most of the time in this book reading about the children back in the normal world after they’ve returned from their doors, hearing about the children’s experiences in the worlds that they can no longer access. It was really interesting to hear how the worlds differ and how they were so appropriate for each person. I loved the concept of all of these different portal worlds and each child finding the world meant exactly for them.

What I really wasn’t expecting was a murder mystery, and I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. I think I would have loved to just enjoy the world-building and have the conflict of the book focus more on the fact that these children weren’t able to get back to the worlds they so longed for, or how they got along with each other in the school/home. There were a lot of things going on with the mystery and it was interesting and I didn’t see some things coming, but it wasn’t where I thought the book was going to go. I loved the emotion and world-building side of this concept so much more, but having already read the other books in the series, I see how it connects to future books. I do think I would have enjoyed less of a mystery but I still appreciated it all!

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Portal worlds. I’ve been reading a lot of books involving portal worlds this year and last year and I’ve been absolutely loving them. I love the concept of alternate worlds and I loved this new take on a fantasy portal world.
Left Me Wanting More: World-Building. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty! But I also wanted to spend soooo much more time in these worlds, exploring them, and less time with the mystery.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

I really enjoyed the concept, execution, and emotion involved in this book. I think this one doesn’t read as well as the next two do but I really enjoyed this a lot.

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BOOKS LIKE EVERY HEART A DOORWAY