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Love, Life, and the List – Kasie West

Love, Life, and the List – Kasie WestTitle: Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West
Publishing Info: December 26, 2017 by HarperCollins
Source: Amazon
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Date Completed: July 5, 2018
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

Seventeen-year-old Abby Turner’s summer isn’t going the way she’d planned. She has a not-so-secret but definitely unrequited crush on her best friend, Cooper. She hasn’t been able to manage her mother’s growing issues with anxiety. And now she’s been rejected from an art show because her work “has no heart.” So when she gets another opportunity to show her paintings Abby isn’t going to take any chances.

Which is where the list comes in.

Abby gives herself one month to do ten things, ranging from face a fear (#3) to learn a stranger’s story (#5) to fall in love (#8). She knows that if she can complete the list she’ll become the kind of artist she’s always dreamed of being. But as the deadline approaches, Abby realizes that getting through the list isn’t as straightforward as it seems… and that maybe—just maybe—she can’t change her art if she isn’t first willing to change herself.

This is the first in a set of three standalone books with crossover characters.

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LOVE, LIFE, AND THE LIST was another wonderfully put-together Kasie West book! You know I’m a sucker for friend-to-more romances and this was another one that I really loved. The friendship was so great and enjoyable and I really liked how everything felt so realistic with the way that Abby handled her crush on her best friend. Did I love how Abby acted in every situation? No, and that’s what made it so realistic. Teenagers (and hey, even adults) don’t make very good decisions when feelings are involved and I know we’ve all made some choices that have hurt people when trying to figure out our love lives. I actually really appreciated that everything wasn’t perfect and smooth.

I will say that after reading this book, it kind of made BY YOUR SIDE seem a little less realistic with it the way that the anxiety issues were handled. It’s hard not to compare sometimes and LOVE, LIFE, AND THE LIST handled Abby’s mom’s agoraphobia much better than the anxiety issues in BY YOUR SIDE.

While LOVE, LIFE, AND THE LIST is still not my favorite out of all Kasie West’s contemporary books, it was so strong, realistic, and just really well done. I loved the sarcasm, banter, and friendship and all of the different friendships throughout the book. There were so many moments that felt natural and not forced and I really appreciated how Katie West handled so many of the situations here. I could have even gone for a few different endings but I was also really happy with how everything wrapped up!

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Messy romances. I’m sure every romance in a book is a little messy and has its drama, but really there were so many different ways that this book could have ended. I could have gone for a few different endings, but I actually kind of liked that it was so complicated that I didn’t know how it would end and who Abby would choose.
Left Me Wanting More: Development. I could have used a bit more time with Abby and Cooper actually together without the animosity of the other girl.

Addiction Rating
Read it

I’m a big fan of all of Kasie West’s books. Even the ones I don’t love as much, they’re all so solid and great.

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BOOKS LIKE LOVE, LIFE, AND THE LIST

             

Escaping From Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3) – Kerri Maniscalco

Escaping From Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3) – Kerri ManiscalcoTitle: Escaping From Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3) by Kerri Maniscalco
Publishing Info: September 18, 2017 by Hachette, Little Brown, Jimmy Patterson
Source: Amazon
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Historical Fiction
Date Completed: June 4 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Related Posts: Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper #1), Hunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack the Ripper #2)

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are en route to New York to help solve another blood-soaked mystery. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, they’re delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly.

But then, privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The strange and disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow ever more freakish, with nowhere to escape except the unforgiving sea. It’s up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation as even more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer’s horrifying finale?

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I’ve enjoyed all of the Stalking Jack the Ripper novels and ESCAPING FROM HOUDINI was no exception! It didn’t quite bowl me over the way the previous novels have but I always love a good murder mystery and the chemistry between Audrey Rose and Thomas is stellar, as always!

Let’s start with the awesome things. Audrey Rose always feels like such a real character. She’s strong, quick-witted, and she’s still human and makes typical mistakes that we’ve all mad. Sometimes it’s frustrating (and some things in the book did frustrate me more than I would have liked), but that’s all very true character-building. Thomas really comes more and more alive in each novel and I really felt like this was his best book yet. Where I’m normally drawn to Audrey Rose, Thomas really stole the show here and I was itching for more scenes with him front and center while Audrey Rose was off having carnival adventures! There was something that caused their chemistry to be shaken up here, which honestly, I didn’t love, but I did love how much more it connected me to Thomas and his emotions.

I noticed here were moments where I was having a hard time getting into the setting and putting myself in that place and I’m not sure why. It’s happened before (mostly in HUNTING PRINCE DRACULA) and I’m wondering if it’s maybe the historical element throwing me off since I don’t read or enjoy a lot of historical fiction. Usually it’s not an issue when a mystery or some sort of supernatural element but for some reason I just haven’t been as attached to settings like Bran Castle and here, the cruise ship. I had moments where I’d be into it and then moments where I just didn’t feel like things were clicking but I still can’t quite pinpoint why, even looking back. I think the settings are just so different from book to book that maybe I’m just missing the London/Whitechapel/original setting.

I do basically live for Audrey Rose and Thomas though. I have so much love for the chemistry between those two and I was saddened to see how a few things were handled here because you know I hate shaking up couples, depending on how it’s handled. I don’t want to say a lot more so I don’t spoil anything but I just really wanted more time with them together and the murder investigation be the only thing that really shook things up. I’m so curious to see how the final copy differs from the ARC! The ending was changed and now I need to know so I’ll have to decide whether I want to go reread the whole thing or peek at the last section! addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: Historical murder mysteries. The historical aspect of a murder mystery really makes things interesting! I love the lack of technology and how much the characters have to rely on investigative skills. Left Me Wanting More: Couple time. I was really saddened to witness a few of Audrey Rose’s choices. I guess I can understand how a mysterious stranger is alluring but she also doesn’t seem like she should be manipulated so easily, especially at the expense of Thomas.

Addiction Rating Read it!

I do enjoy this series so much and I’m a big fan! This wasn’t my favorite book of the series but was still very enjoyable. I’m hoping with this obstacle out of the way, we get back to some major swoons again!

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In the Afterlight (The Darkest Minds #3) – Alexandra Bracken

In the Afterlight (The Darkest Minds #3) – Alexandra BrackenTitle: In the Afterlight (The Darkest Minds #3) by Alexandra Bracken
Publishing Info: April 24, 2018 by Disney Hyperion
Source: Amazon, Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopian
Date Completed: April 23, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Related Posts: The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1), Passenger (Passenger #1), Never Fade (The Darkest Minds #2)

Ruby can't look back. Fractured by an unbearable loss, she and the kids who survived the government's attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. With them is a prisoner: Clancy Gray, son of the president, and one of the few people Ruby has encountered with abilities like hers. Only Ruby has any power over him, and just one slip could lead to Clancy wreaking havoc on their minds.

They are armed only with a volatile secret: proof of a government conspiracy to cover up the real cause of IAAN, the disease that has killed most of America's children and left Ruby and others like her with powers the government will kill to keep contained. But internal strife may destroy their only chance to free the "rehabilitation camps" housing thousands of other Psi kids.

Meanwhile, reunited with Liam, the boy she would-and did-sacrifice everything for to keep alive, Ruby must face the painful repercussions of having tampered with his memories of her. She turns to Cole, his older brother, to provide the intense training she knows she will need to take down Gray and the government. But Cole has demons of his own, and one fatal mistake may be the spark that sets the world on fire.

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Mehhhhh. I just did not enjoy the conclusion to this series at all. I’m so far past my dystopian fascination that I just wasn’t really interested after so much time went by but. I really did want to finish the series but I was worried about all of that going in.

Aside from the genre qualms, I really did feel like this series didn’t really need to be a trilogy. I think it could have done fine at two books, maybe even one depending on editing. Things felt incredibly dragged out in IN THE AFTERLIGHT and there were a lot of things that I thought could have been addressed in NEVER FADE, and things that I really wanted to be addressed the previous book, like more about the cause of the abilities. As far as action and content, I think a lot could have been cut to be a two book series but I guess trilogies were really hot at this point in time.

The thing I feel with a lot of dystopians nowadays is that that everyone feels whiny and everyone feels SO dramatic. I get it — it’s the literal end of the world, but things like that tend to need a bit more comic relief or a little less “dude that I love is my life and soul.” Teenagers are dramatic as well bu sometimes it’s just too much for me.  Ruby took on a lot of this for me and characters like Chubs and Vida were more fabulous and provided some of that relief, but the drama still took the spotlight. Liam was maybe TOO good for my tastes. It felt a little too polarizing for Liam to be GOOD and Cole to be the BAD boy. At least Cole had more going on. The villain became a bit too villainous and everyone was just so black and white when I would have loved more human grey areas, as is natural. I found myself just wanting to be done so I could finally be done and move on. If I hadn’t listened to these as audiobooks, it would have taken me forever or I may have not even finished.

But at last, it’s done and I am happy that I did finish the series. Dystopians have just lost their sparkle and appeal to me. I’ve read so many books since I fell in love and out of love with dystopian that it’s just all so tropey to me. Plus, this was Alexandra Bracken’s debut series and I think her writing was still growing. (Although I didn’t love Passenger either…)

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Kept Me Hooked On: The last of my dystopian loves. I really did LOVE dystopians — hardcore — back in 2011 and 2012. I wanted to inhale them. I liked heading back to THE DARKEST MINDS after all these years.
Left Me Wanting More: Developed characters. I just didn’t feel like anyone had depth! I actually feel like Chubs was the more relatable character. I didn’t connect with Ruby, Liam was too good, and everyone was so black and white.

Addiction Rating
Finish it

I think it’s worth finishing the series to find out why everything happened but I just had a really hard time with it.

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BOOKS LIKE IN THE AFTERLIGHT

              

Obsidio (The Illuminae Files #3) – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Obsidio (The Illuminae Files #3) – Amie Kaufman & Jay KristoffTitle: Obsidio (The Illuminae Files #3) by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Publishing Info: March 13, 2018 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes, Amazon
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Date Completed: March 26, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Related Posts: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1), Gemina (The Illuminae Files #1), Unearthed (Unearthed #1), These Broken Stars (These Broken Stars #1), Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1)

Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza—but who knows what they'll find seven months after the invasion?

Meanwhile, Kady's cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza's ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys—an old flame from Asha's past—reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict.

With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heroes will fall, and hearts will be broken.

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What an obsession this series is! I also received the audiobook at the same time but I knew I had to read the print copy because of its unique formatting. As much fun as the audiobooks are, I think I enjoy all of the visual effects more (although the audiobook does some really neat things too)! I did listen and read side-by-side a couple of times but I read much faster than I listen so sometimes it was just too slow to do both.

Of course, I enjoyed OBSIDIO but endings are so bittersweet! I didn’t realize before the book came out that main character Asha is Kady’s cousin, and I actually think I would have liked it more if it was a whole separate character without an actual relation. It did help bring things full circle back to Kady and the start of the book, but there were also times where Asha’s story felt forced. I actually didn’t really connect to Asha or main male lead Rhys as much as I connected to any other main character so things just weren’t as exciting plot-wise in OBSIDIO for me.

As much as I love the hate-to-love romance, I was disappointed to see a THIRD one in this book. The first two were fun but oy. It’s overload to read the same trope three books in a row and we knew where it would end up anyway.

For me, Kady, Ezra, Nik, and Hanna were where it was at! Amie and Jay like to give their readers heart attacks and my favorites were facing some close calls and serious situations! I also loved AIDAN’s involvement and how he was still such a big part of the series overall! I could have gone on reading this series forever but I did like the conclusion. I think I would have liked things to really focus more on the plot rather than the romance in this book and I kind of feel like a third couple wasn’t necessary, but naturally, I enjoyed OBSIDIO overall.

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Kept Me Hooked On: The Amie & Jay duo. They’re just such a good writing team and their teamwork is so seamless. I love how I can’t tell who wrote which parts (although we found out that Aidan is all Jay).
Left Me Wanting More: Plot. There was a lot of romance and couple focus in this book and with such an epic series to conclude, I was hoping for more of the plot all throughout.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

If you loved the first two books, of course you need to finish! I think this is my least favorite read of the series but I do love them all so much.

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BOOKS LIKE OBSIDIO

              

Red Rising (Red Rising #1) – Pierce Brown

Red Rising (Red Rising #1) – Pierce BrownTitle: Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown
Publishing Info: January 28, 2014 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Amazon
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Adult, Action/Adventure
Date Completed: December 27, 2017
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Related Posts: Golden Son (Red Rising #2), Morning Star (Red Rising #3), Iron Gold (Red Rising #4)

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity's overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society's ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies... even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

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By the time I got around to writing my review for RED RISING, I’ve already finsihed the entire first trilogy and finished the first installment in the next era with IRON GOLD, so admittedly, I have quite a different view of this book than when I write down my initial thoughts. It actually makes it all the more interesting to see how I’m able to look back at this book in a such a different light, so I’ll try to capture both aspects since I’m able to do so!

RED RISING really wasn’t what I expected at all. First off, it’s not really young adult. It’s a young adult book in the sense that it has a teenage protagonist and involves many things that are prominent themes in YA novels, but the whole series is marketed and was sold as adult, which I had no idea! It’s weird because I don’t find young adult to be young, or limiting, or unable to reach the depth that adult novels have, but there was a sort of different tone that had a more mature feel and made the journey much more of one where the main characters are being pushed into adulthood rather than experiencing the normal coming-of-age transition that many YA novels focus on. This also becomes a lot more noticeable throughout the series, at least for me.

To go along with that feel and concept, the book had a much different flow than I was anticipating. I’m not sure what I really was expecting with this book but I was not anticipating a HUNGER GAMES read-alike, something of which I have never truly found. The book kicks off with Darrow and his life on Mars, setting up the current state of things and once that’s established, it quickly moves to murder school where the teens essentially learn what it is to be an adult in this type of society. I was kind of disappointed with the abrupt switch because I really wasn’t expecting it and it felt like a whole different plot and even a different book. That being said, I did still enjoy everything that happened, but it was quite a different feel! It was super brutal and really had that cut-throat (sometimes literally) feel of the HUNGER GAMES mentality, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away and everything that takes place there sets up the relationships for the entire series, which I loved.

At the end of the book, I wasn’t totally dying to run and pick up the next one. I had mixed feelings on the overall flow and while the writing was deep and beautiful and amazing, the way that it ended just didn’t push me to pick up GOLDEN SON right away (even though I basically did). It was hard to see where life was headed after this and it was set up but still quite fuzzy. I could tell it was going to delve much more into the politics but without knowing what the world was like outside of this academy, it was hard to anticipate exactly what the feel of the next books would be. 

This was the first book I’ve read (in print) in a while that I’ve really been able to focus on and enjoy so that did have me excited to continue with the series! The hype was real and while I didn’t seem to love this first one as much as other people had, obviously at this point in time, I know the hype for the series is real! If you’re new to the series, it is definitely worth it, even if you’re not in love with RED RISING; however, if you’re not a fan of the themes, action, or writing of RED RISING, that is the general feel of the whole series so you may want to think how you might feel about future books!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Mars?! I loooove books that take place on other planets. I love space and it’s so neat to see how authors create livable atmospheres on other worlds.
Left Me Wanting More: Flow. The book didn’t really flow like I had wanted it to. It felt a little choppy in the beginning but I think it really came together in the end!

Addiction Rating
Read it

This one wasn’t my favorite of the series but it really sets up everything for the series and the characters, action, twists, and adventure are so worth it!

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BOOKS LIKE RED RISING

          

All the Crooked Saints – Maggie Stiefvater

All the Crooked Saints – Maggie StiefvaterTitle: All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
Publishing Info: October 10, 2017 by Scholastic Inc.
Source: ALAAC17, Amazon, Audiobook borrowed from library
Genres: Young Adult, Magical Realism
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: October 13, 2017
Related Posts: Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls #1), The Scorpio Races, The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle #1), The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2), Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3), The Scorpio Races, The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1), The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2), The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4)

Here is a thing everyone wants: a miracle.
Here is a thing everyone fears: what it takes to get one.

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.

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Every Maggie Stiefvater read is such a unique experience and it’s something I love and wholly appreciate. It does, however, lead to some unpredictability for whether I’ll be wholly invested and re-read the book a million times (THE SCORPIO RACES, THE RAVEN CYCLE) or just really not connect with it (SHIVER). Unfortunately, ALL THE CROOKED SAINTS was not a hit for me.

This book is absolutely character driven, as are all of Maggie’s books that I’ve read, but this book was SO character-driven that I didn’t really feel like there was much of a plot. That’s okay — I don’t always need that — but I needed it with this book, especially with so much magical realism in the concept of miracles and how that affected all of the characters.

I was especially sad that I didn’t connect with really any of the characters. The potential was there but there were so many that the focus got spread out and we didn’t get to see that core development that I love so much. No wait. Strike that — because there are tons of characters in The Raven Cycle and I still love every single one of them, even the freakin’ crazy ones. So yeah… I guess it just wasn’t there for me.

The concept was interesting but ultimately didn’t take me anywhere and I didn’t feel like I got anything special from the book. I’m glad I read it because it’s Maggie and I will read whatever she writes but I’m pretty bummed with this one. At least with SHIVER I could tell it was more the concept of wolves that I wasn’t loving but this didn’t seem to really move, even for a character-driven book.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Reading outside of my comfort zone. I definitely wouldn’t have picked this one up if it wasn’t Maggie Stiefvater. While The Raven Cycle and THE SCORPIO RACES are also in the realm of magical realism, this book bore a different feel of the genre and it’s not one I usually connect with.
Left Me Wanting More: Plot. I don’t need ACTION for a book to be enjoyable but I just kind of felt like I didn’t understand what the end goal was of this book.

Addiction Rating
Try it

It’s Maggie, so it’s worth trying, but I think you’ll know right from the start whether you’ll enjoy it or not. I tried to see if I would enjoy it more along the way and it just didn’t come together for me.

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BOOKS LIKE ALL THE CROOKED SAINTS

          

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?

bookreview1

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

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) – Leigh Bardugo

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) – Leigh BardugoTitle: Crooked Kingdom (The Dregs #2) Publishing Info: September 20, 2016 by Macmillan
Source: Amazon, Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: October 12, 2016

When you can’t beat the odds, change the game.
Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team's fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

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** No spoilers for CROOKED KINGDOM but there will be spoilers for book one, SIX OF CROWS so if you haven’t read SIX OF CROWS yet, avert your eyes! ** 

CROOKED KINGDOM was one of my most-anticipated reads of the year because naturally, anything Leigh Bardugo has me jumping up and down with anticipation! I actually really enjoyed this book more than SIX OF CROWS and I think part of that was because I was already so immersed in this world after being able to read SIX OF CROWS twice and then let all the characters settle in and my love for them grew as I waited for CROOKED KINGDOM!

I felt like CROOKED KINGDOM had a little more of that heist aspect which was definitely established in SIX OF CROWS, but the job in CROOKED KINGDOM really did have a different feel! The overall tone felt a little lighter and had a little more fun snark whereas SIX OF CROWS felt a little bit more serious. I also absolutely looooved the addition of the extra crossover to the original Grisha Trilogy. I won’t say exactly how it does crossover so anyone who hasn’t read CROOKED KINGDOM can still be surprised and excited, but I will say that I was just delighted by the connections made to the Grisha Trilogy in this book and how it played into the plot of CROOKED KINGDOM. It was so much fun and involved some of my favorite things from the original trilogy. It’s not something that people will miss out on if they haven’t read the Grisha Trilogy yet but it does make it more fun to see that connection!

I really just connected to this more than I did with SIX OF CROWS. I mean, I loved them both, but I think reading, and then re-reading, and then letting those characters sit with me over time really had my love grow even more and so I felt so much more of a connection. And of course, reading the second book in a series also allowed me to sink into the work and think about it for months and months before the book’s release. I just felt like I got to know everyone and everywhere just a little bit more and now that the group was established, it really felt so much more cohesive too. To be fair, they were always pretty cohesive but I loved the way the group settled and they all just belonged together.

Leigh Bardugo is just a master. From plot to romance to action, she can write any aspect of a book and totally nail it. The Grishaverse is one of my favorite places and I’m so happy to have been able to read these stories. I’m actually really glad that this was a duology and not more of a series because it closed out so well (which amazing job, Leigh!) and it didn’t need to be dragged out into one or two or more books. I would always love to read more but I like that it was wrapped up so quickly and neatly! It felt perfect.

AUDIOBOOK IMPRESSIONS

I actually didn’t like the audio narrators as much this time around. I was really bothered by the fact that they didn’t pronounce things all the same and some were just straight up pronounced wrong. With a cast of 6 audio narrations, that’s kind of (aka really) important.
Anyway! I thought that CROOKED KINGDOM had more heists AND more humor AND more cross-over than SIX OF CROWS and I looooved it. The crossover was simply fantastic and I actually wish I had read it instead of listening because of one of the characters who appeared and the narrator didn’t to them justice.

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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: Two-book series. I’ve become a pretty big fan of duologies and duets! I really like being able to get more of a story or world but not have a series drag on forever. I love how neatly this was wrapped up!
Left Me Wanting More: Crossover. Don’t get me wrong — the crossover was fantastic. I just can’t get enough! I love the original trilogy so much that I’m always up for more!

Addiction Rating
Buy it, treasure it

Leigh Bardugo is queen and her books are amazing. BUY THEM. READ THEM. LOVE THEM.

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BOOKS LIKE CROOKED KINGDOM

(Click the cover to see my review!)

THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA    REBEL OF THE SANDS

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5) – Sarah J. Maas

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5) – Sarah J. MaasTitle: Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5) by Sarah J. Maas
Publishing Info: September 6, 2016 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Source: Amazon
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: September 25, 2016
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), A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3)

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don't.
As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.
Aelin's journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?

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I’m actually fairly disappointed with this book which makes me very sad because QUEEN OF SHADOWS was literally one of my favorite books of 2015 and I’ve fallen so in love with Sarah J. Maas’ books. Admittedly I did have a harder time finding time to sit and read this one but I did read 400 pages more or less in a weekend to finish and still wasn’t captivated. This surprisingly felt like that “second in a series slump” that I so often hit with trilogies, possibly because it’s the second book in the second half of the series.

I didn’t feel as engaged with this book at all. I had met all of these characters in QUEEN OF SHADOWS but so many were secondary characters there and I didn’t quite feel that solid transition from supporting to main character. The stories felt disjointed and not as detailed and alive as in QUEEN OF SHADOWS. I did love Elide and Lorcan the most because there was a lot to discover there and their personalities really started to shine. I felt less drawn to Aelin, which was so incredibly disappointing. She should have grown more, as she had been in previous books, and really started to come into her own as the rightful Queen of Terrasen, and I just felt like her character became very tired and less important with all of these other new main characters to follow. I also somehow lost that magic with her and Rowan and I just didn’t even feel that connection anymore.
I really didn’t feel as connected to Manon in this book either, which is a shame because I loved in her QUEEN OF SHADOWS and I was so excited to see where her story was going. I mean, I’m hoping it connects back to the main story line in the last book because otherwise, Manon should have just had her own series, to be honest. I enjoyed what was happening with her and her Thirteen (and others) in EMPIRE OF STORMS but I’m still not 100% sure why it’s so relevant to Aelin and her story. I can only assume the pieces all fall into place in the last book but I’ve been waiting for three books now, really, to see how this ties in and why it’s so important to have Manon’s whole point of view, so hopefully we’ll see that in the last book.
I also felt like Chaol was completely thrown away and that was incredibly frustrating, and I wasn’t even a Celaena/Chaol shipper. I don’t understand why he was such a main character only to switch a romance (which I was fine with, actually) to Rowan and then totally cut him out of ALL of book five. I understood quieting his role down, as he may not be playing as major of a role, but I don’t really understand what his purpose was then if he’s just getting totally pushed to the side. I guess Sarah J. Maas can write whatever she want, of course, but it just seemed like a big injustice to his character.

I feel like Sarah J. Maas incorporated some tired tactics to keep this story going and not a lot of new stuff happened here. The things that did carry the story over, which are the things I’ve loved from her in the past, weren’t really refreshed enough for me and I had a hard time remembering some of those things from other books, especially references to the novellas. I read those a long time ago and I didn’t have the time to reread an entire series for this book so it would have been nice to have some more details and updates on the events in the novellas that appeared in EMPIRE OF STORMS. I also think more details would have been very beneficial to those who haven’t read the novellas. I spoke to friends who haven’t read the novellas and they actually felt less lost than I did since they didn’t know it was a reference back to the novellas but I also think the characters, the history, and the plot could have been so much richer with those little updates.

I’m mostly disappointed in the elements that were used in both the Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses series. When writing two Fae series at the same time I think it’s super important to keep them very different and I don’t think these two are, which is especially disappointing because that was something I noted on the positive side after reading A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES. I had actually really liked that Feyre and Celaena/Aelin were so strong and yet two very different personalities. The more I read of both series, the more they really blended in concept and plot direction.  I felt like A COURT OF MIST AND FURY had too many elements from QUEEN OF SHADOWS and now reading EMPIRE OF STORMS, I noticed some twists that were already used in ACOMAF, and that was really disappointing. The ending became totally anticlimactic because it borrowed an exact same situation from ACOMAF and I was just so let down that it didn’t seem like an original idea.

EMPIRE OF STORMS was still enjoyable and I am still interested in the Throne of Glass series, but admittedly, I’ve lost a lot of faith in Sarah J. Maas at this point. I feel like this just didn’t have as much substance and character as previous books in this series. I loved QUEEN OF SHADOWS and to feel like this after EMPIRE OF STORMS is a major let down. I’m just very upset after finishing this book and even more so after reviewing it because I feel like I’ve really started to fall out of love with this series after EMPIRE OF STORMS and I’m losing faith in Sarah J. Maas.

view_from_goodreads1

“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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Aelin // Character obsessions: Terrasen, Rowan, freedom, power.
I actually lost so much interest in Aelin this book and I don’t know how this happened. She just felt like she actually lost so much depth and really, she lost all her spunk. I get that she’s more serious now that she’s fighting for control of Terrasen but I kept missing all the sass and banter and FUN that we saw from Aelin in previous books. She felt so flat in EoS.

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Kept Me Hooked On: New characters late in a series. I’m not an author so I can’t tell you what is good/bad/iffy to introduce late in a series but I really enjoyed new characters Elide (who was previously in the series but a small role) and Lorcan. When they’re done well, they bring a new and exciting element to a series and help fit even more pieces together. I actually did love a few (well really, I loved all of the new characters) but I also had a hard time with why they were really important to have MAIN character roles. I did like Elide and Lorcan because of their connection and romance but others I really wonder if they needed to be lead roles and what they brought to the book, even though I enjoyed getting to know them.
Left Me Wanting More: Terrasen. I thought this book was going to be all about Terrasen considering where QUEEN OF SHADOWS left off and we barely even saw it. I was really missing that because the whole quest for QoS was leading there and that was not where we left off in EoS.

Addiction Rating
Read it

I mean, I still recommend reading the book. I fell so in love with the series in the first four books but this one felt like it was too much filler and not enough happened. Lots did HAPPEN but it didn’t all feel really relevant and I felt like there was a lot of time spent building up romances that didn’t need to happen too.

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BOOKS LIKE EMPIRE OF STORMS

(Click the cover to see my review!)

TRUTHWITCH    THE IMPOSTOR QUEEN

Crooked Kingdom Blog Tour | Matthias Is…

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Welcome to the blog tour for
Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo!

I basically have two super-huge fandom loves and Leigh Bardugo’s books are one of them! Leigh Bardugo’s books are special to me for so many reasons but I’ll always remember that the Fierce Reads tour in 2012 was the very first author event that I ever went to and I bought SHADOW AND BONE because of that tour! I fell in love with the book and have been obsessed with everything Grisha ever since! (As you can see, the love for all things Grisha is STRONG!)

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I’m so excited to be on the CROOKED KINGDOM blog tour today, sharing some thoughts and quotes about one of my favorite Dregs characters, Matthias! Matthias Helvar is almost sort of the straight-man for the group of thieves, cons, and misfits. Even after being accepted into the group as one of them and eventually accepting that he really does sort of fit in with these “heathens”, as he affectionately calls Nina at once point in time, Matthias is still the person who (ineffectively) tries to be the voice of reason and morality. I think I love his story the most in SIX OF CROWS because I think he goes through the largest personal transformation. The only reason he survives in Hellgate is because he’s so intent on exacting revenge on the girl who got him there… who happens to be Nina. He also used to be a member of the Druskëlle, a group of Fjerdan “witch hunters” who hunted down those with Grisha powers. Matthias really stuck with me throughout this book because I loved seeing all of the changes within him. The Dregs crew springs him from prison so he owes them for his freedom and agrees to work with them… And the more time he spends with them, the more they grow on him. He realizes that Grisha powers doesn’t make someone a bad person. Those hard edges soften and he begins to let people in. And he starts down the load and beautiful road of one of my favorite tropes, a hate-to-love romance, with finally letting that vengeance grudge against Nina go and letting her into his heart. I loved watching Matthias find his place with this band of misfits, him being one himself after not being able to return to the Druskëlle. I also love watching his gruff demeanor soften and all of the glorious, glorious banter that occurs between Nina and Matthias throughout the  book as they really grow fond of each other.

My task on today’s blog tour stop is to share some things about Matthias by completing the sentence “Matthias is…” so for those of you who said TL;DR to my love-professing paragraph above, check out these short and quick descriptions of one of my favorite SIX OF CROWS characters, Matthias Helvar!

This beautiful Matthias image is by Kevin Wada!

This beautiful Matthias image is by Kevin Wada!

MATTHIAS IS… a convict.

“A gambler, a convict, a wayward son, a lost Grisha, a Suli girl who had become a killer, a boy from the Barrel who had become something worse.”

Matthias is broken out of Hellgate prison, a convicted man after Nina essentially got him stuck there.

MATTHIAS IS… traditional.

“Why don’t Fjerdans let girls fight?”
“They don’t want to fight.”
“How do you know? Have you ever asked one?”
“Fjerdan women are to be venerated, protected.”
“That’s probably a wise policy.”
“It is?”
“Think how embarrassing it would be for you when you got trounced by a Fjerdan girl.”

Matthias is a bit more traditional in his ways of thinking and not as modern and progressive as the rest of the Dregs. Nina is pretty much a badass, sassy, and whip-smart. She keeps Matthias on his toes and calls him out when his antiquated thinking is getting him in trouble. Matthias learns a lot from the strong women he meets along the way of this story and really starts to understand that women are so much more than things to be protected. (Or witches.)

MATTHIAS IS… reasonable.

“Kaz leaned back. “What’s the easiest way to steal a man’s wallet?”
“Knife to the throat?” asked Inej.
“Gun to the back?” said Jesper.
“Poison in his cup?” suggested Nina.
“You’re all horrible,” said Matthias.”

I love how Matthias is essentially the voice of reason for this crew. I’d say he used to be a bit pious in his former Druskëlle days and he still carries around that notion to make things “right” and “respectable”. It cracks me up to watch the rest of the Dregs crew throw morality out the window and Matthias appalled reactions to it!

MATTHIAS IS… strong.

“Matthias and Wylan seized the rope to pull him up. Jesper wasn’t sure how much Wylan was actually helping, but he was certainly working hard.”

Matthias is the brute force of the group. Where others have strength in wits and education, Matthias has more strength in physicality.

MATTHIAS IS… passionate.

Then he cupped her face in his hands. “Jer molle pe oonet. Enel mörd je nej afva trohem verretn.” Nina swallowed hard. She remembered those words and what they truly meant. I have been made to protect you. Only in death will I be kept from this oath. It was the vow of the drüskelle to Fjerda. And now it was Matthias’ promise to her.

I’d say Matthias is one of the most passionate of the bunch! While many of the others in the Dregs crew have worked on hardening themselves and shutting themselves off to feelings, Matthias lets his emotions dictate his actions in so many ways. He joined the Druskëlle and let his passion for witch-hunting define who he was. He allowed his rage to consume him and drive his life forward when all else was lost in Hellgate. And he made a vow to Nina to protect her at all costs when she won his heart.

MATTHIAS IS…  a tulip.

“I wonder what Matthias would have to say about that outfit.”
“He wouldn’t approve.”
“He doesn’t approve of anything about you. But when you laugh, he perks up like a tulip in fresh water.”
Nina snorted. “Matthias the tulip.”
“The big, brooding, yellow tulip.”

In all ways that Matthias is a brute and brooding and fierce, he’s also just a little yellow tulip that perks up whenever Nina is around.

LEIGH BARDUGO ON MATTHIAS

Oh, Matthias, my big blonde tulip. So Jay Snyder narrates Matthias’ chapters in the Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom audiobooks, and he has this fantastic movie trailer voice. In Crooked Kingdom, Matthias is really wrestling with his feelings for Nina and his ideas about propriety, and I could not get Jay’s voice out of my head. It always left me giggling. I’d just imagine Jay in the recording booth, looking up from his script and saying—in that super gravelly Optimus Prime voice—”Really?”

I 100% agree with Leigh! I LOVE Jay’s voice. It’s perfect for Matthias and kind of dreamy to listen to. It’s makes his personality come alive that much more — and I can’t wait to see what Leigh Bardugo has in store for Matthias in CROOKED KINGDOM after that snippet!!

Author Links/Info

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

Full International Blog Tour Schedule
Each blog features different original blog content as well as exclusive content from Leigh Bardugo about the main characters of The Dregs crew!

GIVEAWAY OPPORTUNITY: Anyone who comments on all 12 blog tour posts (US and UK) by 11:59 PM EST on Monday, October 3, will be entered into a raffle for a special Grisha Prize Pack thanks to the team at Macmillan/Fierce Reads! Check out the full schedule below to see where you need to head to be entered!

September 21:
JESPER is…
UK: FANTASY FACTION
US: Two Chicks on Books 

September 22:
WYLAN is….UK: BENJAMIN OF TOMES
US: The Irish Banana Reviews

September 23:
MATTHIAS is…
UK: JESS HEARTS BOOKS
US: The Book Addict’s Guide

September 24:
NINA is…
UK: MUGGLENET
US: Adventures of a Book Junkie

September 25:
INEJ is…
UK: BOOKSMUGGLERS
US: Across the Words

September 26:
KAZ is…
UK: WINGED REVIEWS
US: The Midnight Garden


Thanks so much for stopping by for this Matthias-filled post! Hope you enjoyed the exclusive content from Leigh Bardugo and don’t forget to visit the  other stops on the blog tour to enter yourself in the raffle to win a Grisha prize pack!!