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By Your Side – Kasie West

By Your Side – Kasie WestTitle: By Your Side by Kasie West
Publishing Info: January 31, 2017 by HarperCollins
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: January 16, 2017
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

In this irresistible story, Kasie West explores the timeless question of what to do when you fall for the person you least expect. Witty and romantic, this paperback original from a fan favorite is perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson.
When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.
Only he doesn’t come. No one does.
Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?

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So it’s been a while since I finished this book before I started writing my review (two months, actually. Oops. Life has been busy, okay!?) and this is one of those books where my feelings about it change the further I get away from it. Some books I end up loving even more after the fact but BY YOUR SIDE sort of sticks out as one that’s fizzling out the more time that passes. When I first finsihed BY YOUR SIDE, it wasn’t a Kasie West favorite but it was cute and fluffy and just what I needed at the time… But the more time I spend away from the book, the more I realize how unrealistic it seemed which is such a shame because although Kasie West’s books are cute and light, they still have a sense of true, honest characters and some wonderfully realistic family and friend situations.

Let’s start with the good stuff. I did love Dax and how he came around to Autumn! I really liked seeing him let someone in and I’m a sucker for that boy-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks vibe. I didn’t totally love his story because I felt like it was maybe a bit too melodramatic for the current context and I thought he could have used a bit more personality… But he was definitely my favorite character of this book. I just love Kasie West’s romances and I always love a good bad-boy type finally opening up and falling for someone. It’s so cliche sometimes but it’s such a heart-warming trope that I’ll never get sick of it (as long as it’s done well). I instantly loved Dax and his whole vibe.

I also enjoyed the way that the book wrapped up. While I didn’t really love the journey to get there, I liked that it ended on a harmonious note and could have been incredibly dramatic. I actually kind of didn’t see that coming and I liked the way that Autumn’s friendships resolved, which is always something I enjoy in Kasie West’s books.

Now for all of the things in the middle that left me wanting…

I didn’t feel as much personality as I have from some of Kasie’s other female leads. While I appreciate how the book highlighted someone with an anxiety disorder, I didn’t really feel like it was realistic. Granted, I don’t personally deal with anxiety to that extent but I know several people who do — both socially/situationally and generalized anxiety — so this just didn’t really feel natural to me. While I appreciated that it was in the book, I’m not sure that it’s the most accurate portrayal. I did like that a plot point wasn’t how she discovered the extent of her anxiety but rather that she hadn’t told her friends about it because she didn’t want to be treated differently. I liked that she wasn’t embarrassed by it but just didn’t want to be treated like she was emotionally fragile, but on the flip side, that’s exactly the kind of things I would tell my friends and that they could support me on. It seems like she doesn’t really have a very good relationship with her friends if she can’t even tell them about her anxiety and panic attacks and they can’t even tell that she’s getting anxious and removing herself from situations.

It’s funny because in my initial reactions upon finishing, I wrote down how much I lvoed this friend group and how much her friends ended up supporting her… but that didn’t really happen until the very end of the book. Her friends left her in a library, didn’t notice she was missing, and hadn’t noticed for years that she gets anxious in certain situations and that’s why she’s leaving. They’re all too self-absorbed to notice, I guess. I did like the way that the book ended with these friendships but looking back, I feel like Autumn was not with the right group of friends. Too many of them seemed like they were not even interested in what Autumn was feeling and I felt like she was forcing her way into this friend group.

And let’s not even talk about how the main characters were locked in a library and neither one was like, “Dream come true!” Come on. You’re appealing to bookworms, here…

It’s weird how time changes your perspective on things. I’m not changing my rating because I did enjoy the book while reading it but I think this was the Kasie West book with the biggest problems and while I love all of her books, this one is at the bottom of my list. It’s a bummer because Kasie is one of my queens of contemporary! I’m hoping for better with the next book that’s coming out so soon!

Oh, and I happened to read it during the actual weekend that the book took place so high five for good timing! It just made it that much more fun.

Autumn // Character obsessions: Her crush, her friends, Dax
Soooo, Autumn. She fell pretty flat for me. She was a decent enough character to read about but she didn’t have nearly as much personality as Kasie West’s usual heroines! I always love Kasie’s strong, spunky, proud females and Autumn was much more subdued and shy to the point where she didn’t even feel comfortable with her friends.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Kasie West. This wasn’t my favorite but I will forever be a fan of her books! BY YOUR SIDE was not nearly as fun as her other works but I still enjoyed it while I was reading it.
Left Me Wanting More: Reality. Kasie West’s books can have deep or serious issues but they usually don’t feel so melodramatic. It wasn’t the anxiety but the way it was handled and portayed, amongst other things. I just really wish it had been a little bit different.

Addiction Rating
Try it

I still enjoyed the book and the less-than-happy thoughts didn’t hit me until later. Some loved it. Others didn’t. It’s worth a try!

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BOOKS LIKE BY YOUR SIDE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    26 kisses

Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere – Neil GaimanTitle: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Publishing Info: September 2, 2003 by HarperCollins
Source: Gift
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: December 21, 2016
Related Posts: Fortunately, the Milk, Stardust, American Gods, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Under the streets of London there's a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.
Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.

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NEVERWHERE was such a magical experience! I have Alyssa to thank for introducing me to Neil Gaiman and telling me to listen to the audio of this book and actually buying the audiobook for me! Neil Gaiman is an amazing narrator and I always love listening to authors narrate their own story because nothing is left to interpretation. You know they’re reading it exactly the way they want it told.

As much as the whole experience was magical, the characters really made the book. I absolutely loved Richard who is a sweet little cinnamon roll and just so much fun to follow on this journey. He’s so pure of heart and gets into this whole mess because he stops to help a stranger in need. I loved his sweet disposition throughout the book and he was just so utterly charming. I really connected with his characters so much. I also loved strong yet sweet Door and the quest that she’s on throughout this book. She’s a wonderful mix of confident, independent, caring, and thoughtful. And of course I loved the Marquis de Carabas who is part slick, part mentor, part questionable, and part father-figure. He was that character that I love who seems a little bit questionable and has a lot of gray areas when it comes to morals or doing the right thing but when it comes down to it, he really ends up protecting the other characters and has a soft spot deep down.

I will admit that the journey got a bit fantastical for me (which Alyssa warned me might happen because she knows my tastes so well). It wasn’t a bad thing at all, but I’m very much a rule person when it comes to fantasy worlds (which is why I get along with high fantasy so well!) so in spots where the reader is constantly learning about new places or meeting new people with no added history of what/who they are or why they’re a part of the story, my mind just begins to wander and tries to logic them into place, which isn’t the intent of the book. Again, not a bad thing and not something I mean to critique — just a point of why it wasn’t total 100% five stars for me! But when reading stories like these, I try my best just to go with the story and allow myself to get lost in it. I tried to take on Richard’s mentality of suspending the disbelief, which was fun too because it was a struggle for him!

I absolutely LOVED the ending of NEVERWHERE. I won’t spoil anything of course but it was such a wonderful way to wrap everything up. I loved being able to see Richard really figure out what he wants in the end and the final appearance of everyone just warmed my heart! I’m never disappointed in the endings of Neil Gaiman books and really, that’s such a crucial part for me as a reader. A bad ending could ruin a whole book and Neil Gaiman always wraps things up so wonderfully.

AUDIOBOOK IMPRESSIONS

NEVERWHERE was an amazing audiobook for many reasons. Firstly, because Neil Gaiman himself narrates it. He has such an amazing narration voice and I just love when authors narrate their own books because you know that everything is pronounced right, the inflections are all correct, and nothing is missed. It was also SO COOL because there were some neat sound effects (echoes when in a tunnel, muffled voices and static on the phone, etc) and I was just so giddy to hear them! They really made the experience so special. And if you read this, be sure to get HOW THE MARQUIS GOT HIS COAT BACK on audio too! I paid a few bucks for it but it was the full BBC production with a full cast, lots of sound effects, music — it was SO entertaining and so worth the cost of a cup of coffee for that.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Fantastical worlds. I do love fantasy but I’ll admit that I’m more of a high fantasy person than books that involve creatures and things like that. I did enjoy this zany other side of London and it was so much fun to experience in this sort of setting!
Left Me Wanting More: Rules. I always love world-building that has a lot of rules. It sets up a great structure for me and I adapt better to rules than to whimsy!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

If you’re a fan of any type of fantasy, NEVERWHERE is a great read. It’s fun and light and still maintains a world of depth and danger.

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BOOKS LIKE NEVERWHERE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    THE MAGICIANS

Bone Gap – Laura Ruby

Bone Gap – Laura RubyTitle: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Publishing Info: March 3, 2015 by HarperCollins
Source: Borrowed from Hoopla
Genres: Young Adult, Mythology, Magical Realism
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: December 11, 2016

Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?
Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.
As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.

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BONE GAP has been highly praised and sounded incredibly intriguing, often being marked as “magical realism” by several of its readers, so when I saw the audiobook pop in my options from Hoopla, I knew I really wanted to read it! I’ve been getting into magical realism more and more lately and it sounded like something I was definitely in the mood for, especially with its positive feedback.

I guess the biggest thing that stuck with me after finishing the book is that I’m not really sure in what category to put this book! It ended up being on a sort of Raven Cycle plane where it’s kind of magical realism, kind of mythology, and kind of its own genre. BONE GAP felt like took a while to get to the “magical” parts but there were some things that were constantly developing that finally blossomed into their full potential towards the end of the book, sort of causing that magical reveal. I do have to say, though, that I was hoping for a bit more of that throughout the beginning and middle. It definitely had a unique feel and was unlike anything I’ve ever read but I still struggled — as I have with a lot of books lately — in feeling connected to the overall concept in the earlier portions of the book.

The ending of the book seemed like a little too much at all once. The portions of the book with Roza were certainly leading there, and the reader is fully aware that what’s happening to Roza certainly isn’t normal, but the ending almost left me with more questions than answers in some respects. One big issue I also had with this book was my own interpretation of the synopsis.

Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised.

I accidentally took this statement literally, and with so many mentions of magical realism, I was assuming that the gaps were literal gaps in the corn field — like a Field of Dreams sort of concept — and people ended up disappearing. I mean, the town is named Bone Gap so I thought the gap was literal. Whenever I have misinterpretations like that, it really takes me a while to adjust, so that was more of a personal problem and I had to really refocus.

The bright, shining piece of this book for me what the interesting cast of characters! Finn, Sean, Roza, and Petey are such complex and interesting characters, with many different relationships to tie them together. I loved all of the different forms of love that are included in this book and how many different layers there were to each one. Each personality was so different too! The characters all have their strong points and each one really helps the others learn and grow. It’s a beautiful, tangled web and I really enjoyed each character that the book featured!

BONE GAP was cleverly written and wonderfully layered. The whole concept (aside from the magical aspects) was built upon a reveal that I didn’t even see coming until it was almost revealed and it was wholly unique and a little heart-breaking. I was impressed with Laura Ruby’s creativity, depth, and ability to plot out the whole book in ways that I hadn’t imagined. I always feel like it’s super impressive when I’m able to be caught off-guard because being an avid reader, I’ve just read so many different things that it’s always impressive to see even more originality in a book.

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Incredibly unique concepts. I love being able to read a book unlike anything else I’ve read before! In a blogging world where I’m constantly looking for read alikes, it’s very, very cool to read something that I can’t even compare to anything else.
Left Me Wanting More: Clarity. I had the minor (well, maybe more than minor) issue that I misinterpreted the synopsis and unfortunately, it did affect how I read the book. I also had the moments in the book itself where I just wanted a little bit more information on the world and the details.

Addiction Rating
Try it

Sadly I didn’t love this book but I also didn’t dislike it. It was a smooth read from start to finish but I do think that some things could have been described a bit more. Others have totally loved it though! I’m definitely interested in reading more from Laura Ruby and I’m excited to see what else she comes up with!

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BOOKS LIKE BONE GAP

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    SHADOWLANDS

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil GaimanTitle: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Publishing Info: June 18, 2013 by HarperCollins
Source: Borrowed from Hoopla
Genres: Adult, Magical Realism
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: November 7, 2016
Related Posts: Fortunately, the Milk, Stardust, American Gods, Neverwhere

A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.
A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

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Apparently the end of 2016 was filled with Neil Gaiman after listening to two full-length novels and one extra, all on audio. I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump and was looking for something comforting and that I knew would be pleasant to listen to and it doesn’t get much better than Neil Gaiman’s stories and his own narration.

I’m really glad that I waited to read/listen to THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE and didn’t pick it up right away. Magical realism is a genre that’s been growing on me over the years and I’ve reached a point where I’ve read a few books within the genre of which I’ve grown quite fond. Usually when I experience a genre clash, it’s all about reading the right books and my latest magical realism reads have just really been clicking. I fear if I had read THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE too soon, the magical experience of everything may have been lost on me and I might not have connected well and I’m so glad that I was really able to appreciate this book!

Alyssa, my friend and master of Gaiman novels, described this one to me as a children’s story for adults, being that the narrator is an adult who is telling the story but it’s about a series of events that happened to him as a child, all around when he was about seven years old, and I think that’s a great way to describe this novel. THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE felt very much like an adult-oriented book and yet it had the younger, children’s mentality due to its time frame and focus. Despite how well I think Neil Gaiman writes for any age, I feel like I tend not to wholly connect to a book that mixes or crosses ages like that. I don’t often like when adult books dip down into a childlike focus and the mix of mentalities can be a bit too much for me sometimes, and that seems to be why I didn’t totally 100% love this story.

I really did enjoy the magic that occurred throughout the book, though! I love magical realism because it doesn’t have to play into stereotypical creatures or situations that are so often found in paranormal or urban fantasy genres and yet it still connects with real life. That slight blur between the narrator’s home life and the magic of the Hempstock family was just delightful and I love the feeling of it being right on the surface. The little beasties and dangerous magical things are that much more frightening in THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE as well because the characters don’t know or understand the rules of their world and often time can’t predict how to control, discourage, or manage them. They’re that much harder to get rid of as well when there’s a limited amount of help and not an entirely fantastical community to offer support.

THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE was a quick read and I loved the overall atmosphere and feel. I don’t like stories that dip into the childhood years as much because it’s just not something I connect with as much as I do young adult or adult novels but I still enjoyed it from start to finish. Neil Gaiman always creates the most wonderful atmospheres that have readers completely believing in these worlds and I loved being totally sucked into the story.

AUDIOBOOK IMPRESSIONS

I borrowed this audiobook from Hoopla (bless you, Hoopla) because I was having an audiobook slump and needed a narrator I could trust who was also a male voice. I just wasn’t in the mood for a female voice after striking out a few times. I love when authors narrate their own books because I just feel you really get things EXACTLY the way they intended, especially parts that were songs (and actually sung)! Neil Gaiman has a wonderful narrating voice as well and his audiobooks are just so pleasant to listen to.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Magical Realism. This is still a new-ish genre to me and I’m finding that I’m enjoying these stories more and more!
Left Me Wanting More: Sophistication. The book was actually plenty sophisitcated, I guess, but I just don’t connect to that childlike mentality as much.

Addiction Rating
Read it

If you’re a fan of Gaiman, looking for a good audiobook, or attempting to get into more magical realism, this is a great place to dive in!

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BOOKS LIKE THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

BONE GAP    THE RAVEN BOYS

Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns #1) – Kendare Blake

Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns #1) – Kendare BlakeTitle: Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns #1) by Kendare Blake
Publishing Info: September 20, 2016 by HarperCollins
Source: BEA 2016, Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: September 7, 2016
Related Posts: Antigoddess (Antigoddess #1)

Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.
But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.
If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.

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One of the exciting things about being a book blogger is being able to read review copies before a book or series is published. There are a few drawbacks to ARCs (advanced reader copies) sometimes and I had a huge upset while reading THREE DARK CROWNS in the sense that I didn’t realize it was a series until I finished the book… BY finishing the book and finding a cliffhanger. Book info doesn’t always get updated right away and I started reading THREE DARK CROWNS before realizing it was a series.

Aside from the “surprise” of a series, the book definitely had a feel like things were taking a long time to go anywhere. Looking back, I can see where this would be a natural part of a series opener BUT I also felt like I shouldn’t have been so disconnected, even without that knowledge. I was so excited for something dark and sinister, magical and mysterious, and THREE DARK CROWNS really missed the mark on a lot of those things for me. With a concept of three sister queens pitted against each other and only one surviving, I was expecting a lot more darkness and a lot more intrigue. I was actually rather interested in the beginning. The book has this overall eerie, misty, inky feeling that you get when you watch creepy movies. I really picked up on the darker vibe, especially in the Poisoner chapters, but I did want a little bit more of it from the other two sisters as well. It was towards the middle of the book where I started to feel like things really weren’t going anywhere and I felt like even being the first in a series, it could have been a little better-structured.

The story just didn’t quite feel exciting. The sisters are separate (alternating but still third-person POVs) so there’s not much crossover with their story and once they do meet, things seem to bob around and not really flow. I almost felt like I was missing chapters the way things jumped around. The romances felt really rushed, unfinished, and one was plain unnecessary (in this book) and I just didn’t like it at all. The characters were also very hard to keep track of, with each girl having maids and priestesses and aunts and mothers and townspeople… it was just a LOT of names and with some people even described so similarly, it was hard to remember the name with the proper association to each queen, much less who they actually were.

I also was kind of disappointed in the concept of each ability, maybe because I didn’t see how the other sisters stood a chance against an elemental. If you’re trying to kill each other, poison just seems like too easy of a thing to avoid. And I don’t really know what the Naturalist powers can do since they’re not really explained too much (not as much as the others). But despite all that, I actually liked Katharine (the Poisoner) and Arsinoe (the Naturalist) the best. I loved their stories and their settings the most and their relationships really expanded in the best ways. Maybe I also liked them better because they were the underdogs, with Elemental sister Mirabella being the favorite and highly doted upon.

Overall, I just didn’t feel anything blending in THREE DARK CROWNS. The story lines for each sister felt like three very separate stories, even when they all converged. The only way they really felt connected was the basic concept that they’d have to go head-to-head eventually. I really wanted more twists and just didn’t feel that dark, twistiness that I really wanted. UNTIL the very last sentence. (I actually said WHOA. And then the book ended.) So will I read the next book? Maybe. Probably? I love where the ending was heading but as of right now, I don’t feel the draw to read more. I guess we’ll see when it comes out how I feel.
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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Katharine // Character obsessions: Poisons, proving herself, first loves.
I was hoping for Katharine to be a bit darker… But I also understand why she wasn’t! Katharine was the Poisoner queen but she also was still struggling to come into her powers. She kind of seemed like she was on the sweeter side and and was trying to be “bad”!
Arsinoe // Character obsessions: Nature, finding her familiar, best friends.
Arsinoe was the Naturalist queen and I really enjoyed her chapters! I loved her best friend but I also found these chapters difficult because the best friend really took the spotlight with more power and the love interest so that kind of put Arsinoe in the background for me.
Mirabella // Character obsessions: Elemental magic, freedom.
Mirabella was actually my least favorite queen. I felt like they praised her so much that I wanted to root for the underdogs more — and she also ended up being sort of sweet. I was wishing for the book to be dark and sinister so I shied away from the “sweet” of this book.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Family feuds. The battle between sisters was interesting! I was wondering how it would all play out and since it’s a series, it’s still not over! I’m curious to see how it goes.
Left Me Wanting More: Darkness! It’s Three DARK Crowns! Let’s get some serious darkness up in here!!!

Addiction Rating
Try it

Some people really loved this one while I struggled with some structure and pacing. I feel like maybe if I had known it was a series that might have helped… But I think I still would have found parts to be slow either way. It was literally one of my most-anticipated reads of the year and those are always hard when they’re a bit of a let down!

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BOOKS LIKE THREE DARK CROWNS

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    THE STORYSPINNER

My Lady Jane – Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

My Lady Jane – Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi MeadowsTitle: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton
Publishing Info: June 7, 2016 by HarperCollins
Source: Edelweiss, Subscription Box
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling, Historical Fiction
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 23, 2016
Related Posts: Everneath (Everneath #1), Everbound (Everneath #2)

The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.
At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane is about to become the Queen of England.

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MY LADY JANE is such a fun and unique concept. There isn’t a lot of satire out there in YA right now and this was such a fun way to bring both history and humor together. The book is told by narrators who frequently interrupt their own story-telling to add notes for the reader and inform them of historical inaccuracies, fun facts, or just silly tidbits. It was a lot of fun and really reminded me some of wonderfully comedic Mel Brooks movies in which characters often break the 4th wall to address the audience directly. It’s even more fun to incorporate satire with a historical account (or rather, a quite fictionalized historical account) because of all the anachronisms and pop culture references that really make the book even more funny!

Admittedly, I don’t know a lot about the story of Lady Jane Grey. Obviously by now, I know the broader points of history (and I still blame my middle school and high school education for a seriously lack of historical knowledge) so I think the book could have been a bit more fun if I was more of a history buff. I know a few friends who love history and have an extensive knowledge on historical events who took a little more joy from the story overall, so that’s really just a personal experience that unfortunately can’t helped. I will say, though, that the book was enjoyable whether you know the history or not! I had a basic understanding but details are explained and even if you don’t care about the true story, the book will carry you through with a fun historical-fiction romp (and they change the ending anyway so I suppose it doesn’t matter too much in the end)!

The concept of Eðians (people who magically change to and from an animal form) was so much fun! I loved how it was incorporated in to the book in so many ways — from selecting to change to being cursed, the support and blatant rejection, the people in disguise — it was a great way to incorporate magic from start to finish. I liked that it was the only real form of magic in the book so it brought that magical element but didn’t turn into a full-out fantasy. It was the perfect way to alter history just a bit and keep things tied to the actual facts.

I just loved the collaboration from Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton, and Cynthia Hand. They really put together a fun and unique book and MY LADY JANE easily found a place in so many readers’ hearts. MY LADY JANE easily appeals to fans of The Princess Bride with its historical feel and slight satire, Disney fans for its animal magic and pop culture references, and historical fans who love a twist on history. There are direct references to books and movies like The Princess Bride, A Game of Thrones, Monty Python, and I’m pretty sure I saw Tangled in there! It also had the magic of all of seeing everything combined and so many loves in one place. I laughed out loud so many times and the book was just so clever!

I had a weird experience in which reading this book was so enjoyable and yet it felt really long! The book is over 500 pages so it’s no speed-read but the content was so light and fun that I feel like I should have finished it fasted. Maybe it was just my reading schedule… but I do feel like it could have been a little bit shorter. A lot of people said the book just flew by and it didn’t feel to long until I was nearing the end and it still wasn’t over. Don’t get me wrong — I was enjoying the whole thing — but there was just something that was off that was making me anxious for things to wrap up. That’s seriously one of my only qualms, though. MY LADY JANE was always fun and these authors did a great job of putting things together!

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Satire. I’ve barely read any satire but when it’s done right, it’s SO much fun! These authors totally nailed it.
Left Me Wanting More: Swiftness. At some points I felt like the book was a bit long. I was hoping for a couple things to be wrapped up a bit quicker but I still enjoyed it all around!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

MY LADY JANE was just so much fun. No matter if you enjoy history or not, this is such a great read and will definitely make you laugh out loud!

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BOOKS LIKE MY LADY JANE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA    

The Female of the Species – Mindy McGinnis

The Female of the Species – Mindy McGinnisTitle: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Publishing Info: September 20, 2016 by Source: Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Psych/Mental Health
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 20, 2016
Related Posts: A Madness So Discreet

Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.
While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.
But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.
So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.
Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

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THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES is a hard book to talk about. It’s incredibly important in so many ways and has some great not only feminist but also important universal notions that really bring to light how we excuse certain male actions and condemn female ones for the exact same thing (sex, drugs, violence). I really did love how Mindy McGinnis said so many of these things right to readers’ faces and makes people truly confront all of these issues. That’s part of the beauty of Alex’s character as well. She’s described as both closed off and yet feeling too much. She isn’t afraid to say what she thinks or do what she thinks is right because she’s really never been the person to cater to a society’s “norms”. She confronts people, makes people pay for their actions, and somehow becomes this great antihero for us to gather around.

The book has a sort of Dexter-like feel and yet stands on its own. Alex has a darkness within her. It drives her every day life, takes over in moments of extreme emotion, and she once she actually finds people to care about and who care about her, she tries to be as “normal” as possible to not scare away her new friends. She uses this darkness to right wrongs and to seek vengeance on people who have committed horrible acts of violence, sexual abuse, or general heinous injustices. THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES isn’t focused on Alex as a serial killer (because she’s not) and I was both confused and satisfied with the ambiguity of “what she was”. Alex couldn’t even put a label on herself, seeking to fit in the category of sociopath or psychopath and didn’t quite seem to fit anywhere. I liked the uniqueness and originality, not fitting into a specific box, but I was also anticipating more of something… which I guess Alex would probably reprimand me for trying to put a label on her! I think the anticipation of the something affected the read a little bit for me because I felt like I was missing something and the book never quite crossed that line into supremely satisfying for me.

THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES doesn’t shy away from really anything. Whereas some young adult books clean things up a bit for the sake of readers or publishing, Mindy McGinnis chooses to include all of the realistic speech (including swearing, descriptions of sex, and lewd behavior) that other books play down in order to reach a younger audience. I would definitely recommend this for a more mature young adult audience (although we always have that taboo of censoring younger teen audiences — I’m not a librarian, educator, or parent so that’s not for me to say but it a moderately explicit read even as an adult). There are also several instances or mentions of rape, date rape, sexual abuse, and scenes with near instances of all of these occurring so if that’s a trigger for you, do be aware that it pops up many times throughout the book.

One thing that actually bothered me about the book was the confusing involvement of animals. If you have an animal abuse trigger, it will likely bother you for this one (more than one person has brought up that it was an issue for them), and it’s not a trigger for me but I thought the violence towards animals was quite unnecessary. It wasn’t out right on the pages with a character abusing an animal but there are some really hard-to-read scenes about what happens to a few animals that I just didn’t get. It wasn’t directly tied to a character and didn’t push a plot point forward. The characters actually do take care of and help quite a few animals too but I didn’t know why the harsh scenes with injuries and death needed to be included. It didn’t serve a purpose for the book or assist a character’s story line. There was also a very gruesome scene at a meat factory that wasn’t abuse but a part of the job, but still seemed unnecessary to include (especially when I was trying to read this book as I was eating lunch — that was just unfortunate timing on my part).

My middle of the road feelings aren’t due to any of those factors though. As much as I thought the message was extremely important and valid, I just didn’t really connect to the characters in the book. I know Alex is sort of emotionally closed off and yet over-feeling and I kind of felt stuck between those two emotions. I just didn’t connect with her as much as I wanted to. I understand that she’s not someone you really connect to emotionally but I wanted to understand her just a little bit more or be able to stand behind her a little bit more and I just didn’t quite get there. It’s a weird spot because in a way, that’s the whole point of her character — she’s complex, she’s cold, she’s overly angered by injustices, she’s not your average person in terms of emotional ranges — but somehow it just didn’t click for me. It’s not that there was a lack of character development in any of the other characters either but none of the relationships really slid into place for me. It was just the little things with characters or perhaps the writing that just didn’t click and although the content was there, I just didn’t get bowled over like I thought I would.

Long story short, I’m just sort of a jumbled up from this book. I can’t quite sort out what I feel but I know that I don’t feel as wowed as I had hoped. When I end up rating books, it’s based on an overall feeling and THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES had a whole lot going on. The overall message of the book is so important but I feel like I can’t rate a book for its message alone. There are several factors involved in my feelings toward a book and this one had so many things for me to consider.

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Alex // Character obsessions: Justice, darkness, friendship.
Alex is a very simple and yet very complicated character all at the same time. She’s a very black-and-white sort of character, knowing exactly she feels is right and what she feels is wrong, and she’s not afraid to right the wrongs she sees in any way she deems correct. She carries a certain darkness with her that tends to lead to violent situations, which really brings out the anti-hero in her character as readers root for the violence to “correct” injustices within Alex’s town. I think I actually struggled a little bit when Alex started figure out some friendships and tried to be “normal”, as she called it. It was also complicated because Alex didn’t fit into an easily identifiable category for what she “was”. She stated that she felt TOO much, not that she was unfeeling, as so many psychopathic or sociopathic characters are and that really complicated things for me as a reader and former student of psychology. (Not like I’m any expect but I’ve always been incredibly interested and took many classes in high school and college.) I think it was hard for me that she didn’t quite fit into a common classification — and it was actually hard for her as well! It was a very interesting addition to her character but it also kind of confused me because I couldn’t figure her out!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Antiheroes. I love a good antihero. It’s so interesting to have the main character of a book have some normally abhorrent behavior but when it’s combating someone else’s worse actions, things get interesting.
Left Me Wanting More: Darkness. This is actually a pretty dark and serious book… But I think I just wanted more darkness, more shock from Alex. Maybe it was the way I went into the book. The way that the synopsis read and the way that the book was pitched, I think I was assuming that Alex would be more of a Dexter-type: a more easily-classifiable pathology, violent but with a purpose, and still loveable. I found some of those things but there seemed to be more gray area with Alex than I expected so I think I was expecting some more BIG “omg” moments, which I think a lot of content came from other characters that I didn’t expect. I actually didn’t know that it was narrated by three voices so that also threw me as well.

Addiction Rating
Try it!

This is kind of a hard recommendation for me. I was personally left with some off feelings — not bad, but off — and I just didn’t click with it somehow, which leads me to feeling hesitant about truly pushing this book to someone. BUT I think there is a lot of important content and some really important messages to not only today’s teens but really to a large audience of adults on the treatment and expectations of women, and even just our society in general.

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BOOKS LIKE THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    KILLER INSTINCT