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Review in a Tweet | The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Re-read)

REVIEW IN A TWEET is a feature that I need from time to time when I don’t have a ton to say in a review. Sometimes even mini-reviews are too long to write when you finished a book months ago and didn’t write a single note down on Goodreads. But the good news is that I started tweeting and saving very, very mini book reviews thanks to a concept that Lindsey at Bring My Books introduced me to! I’ve saved all of my super duper quick reviews to my timeline and under a hashtag (my 2017 books are under #bookadd17) for my own person way to review all of my books read this year at a glance.

Today’s Review in a Tweet is THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern! I re-read this book for the first time in FIVE YEARS (oh my gosh, I read this five years ago!?) and to be honest, I had forgotten a LOT of the book, so the re-read was almost like reading it for the first time again. It was funny reading my original review because it was kind of the opposite of what I remember feeling so apparently my thoughts changed over the years!

I wanted to do this review as a tweet because I use to review my re-reads but it ended up being a lot of repetition, especially for books I’ve already loved so much or have re-read multiple times. This is a fun way to keep talking about a re-read fresh even if a tweet review isn’t much of a review at all. If you want to read more thoughts about THE NIGHT CIRCUS, you can check out my original review or see my re-read reactions on Goodreads!

Without further ado, here’s the tweet!

 

The Lonely Hearts Club – Elizabeth Eulberg

The Lonely Hearts Club – Elizabeth EulbergTitle: The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg
Publishing Info: June 1st, 2010 by Scholastic Inc.
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 14, 2017
Related Posts: Revenge of the Girl With the Great Personality, Better Off Friends

Love is all you need... or is it? Penny's about to find out in this wonderful debut.

Penny is sick of boys and sick of dating. So she vows: no more. It's a personal choice. . .and, of course, soon everyone wants to know about it. And a few other girls are inspired. A movement is born: The Lonely Hearts Club (named after the band from Sgt. Pepper). Penny is suddenly known for her nondating ways . . . which is too bad, because there's this certain boy she can't help but like. . . .

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This book was very cute! I’ve really enjoyed all of Elizabeth Eulberg’s books, some more than others, so I knew I would enjoy THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB pretty much no matter what! It turned out not to be my favorite of Elizabeth Eulberg’s, since I think she’s had some deeper stories and cuter romances, but she just has such a fun voice that makes her books so easy to read!

I loved the Girl Power in this book and the encouragement of female friendships instead of witnessing so many cat fights or frenemies. It was girls standing up for their friends, sticking together, and being okay with not being in a relationship, which is a nice change of pace! I do adore romances in books but I kind of loved that this was about not being in a relationship. The focus on being single allowed the girls to really get to know themselves and not try to be who they thought a crush wanted them to be and really helped foster beautiful friendships in the absence of the boy-crazy talk. I also liked how crushes and relationships still came about in this book because everyone swearing a vow of single-dom is also not really realistic. The plot adjusted based on what was best for each individual girl and I loved that it didn’t stick to the rules simply for the sake of sticking to them!

Some of the characters were a little over-the-top BUT we are reading about high school characters so teenagers are allowed to be a little over-the-top. I always feel like I wasn’t super melodramatic when I was a teenager… buuuut I’m pretty sure I actually was. (Bad teenage poetry and sappy love songs? Oh, yeah. I was so there.) I think it’s harder reading some of that drama because I’m an adult now and so far removed from those more volatile and new emotions that it can be a little much but I also don’t think it was unrealistic!

I really liked that what I thought would turn into a Mean Girl situation actually went directly in the opposite direction and turned into a wonderful friendship. There was a Mean Girl or two in the book but they were quickly squashed as unsupportive and the characters didn’t allow them to take over or run their emotions. This book was all about bonding and finding your true self and I thought the message was really lovely!

Overall, this was fun, quick, and delightful! Elizabeth Eulberg’s books continue to be quick and fun contemporary reads for me and I love the levity while still conveying a great message.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Female Friendships. I’m not really a fan of mean girls in books and I loved how the more bully-like characters were not at all tolerated and the strong female friendships won!
Left Me Wanting More: Maturity. Okay, that’s a silly thing to ask. These are teens and I know that. I just felt like things were a little dramatic at times and I could have enjoyed that more if it was less dramatic, but that’s life!

Addiction Rating
Read it

Elizabeth Eulberg is an absolute will-read author for me! I pick up pretty much anything she writes and this book was no exception. Very cute and a lot of fun!

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BOOKS LIKE THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    26 KISSES

The Crown’s Fate (The Crown’s Game #2) – Evelyn Skye

The Crown’s Fate (The Crown’s Game #2) – Evelyn SkyeTitle: The Crown's Fate (The Crown's Game #2) by Evelyn Skye
Publishing Info: May 16, 2017 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes, Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: May 23, 2017
Related Posts: The Crown's Game (The Crown's Game #1)

Russia is on the brink of great change. Pasha’s coronation approaches, and Vika is now the Imperial Enchanter, but the role she once coveted may be more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever expected.

Pasha is grappling with his own problems—his legitimacy is in doubt, the girl he loves loathes him, and he believes his best friend is dead. When a challenger to the throne emerges—and with the magic in Russia growing rapidly—Pasha must do whatever it takes to keep his position and protect his kingdom.

For Nikolai, the ending of the Crown’s Game stung deeply. Although he just managed to escape death, Nikolai remains alone, a shadow hidden in a not-quite-real world of his own creation. But when he’s given a second chance at life—tied to a dark price—Nikolai must decide just how far he’s willing to go to return to the world.

With revolution on the rise, dangerous new magic rearing up, and a tsardom up for the taking, Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha must fight—or face the destruction of not only their world but also themselves.

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** Warning: This review DOES contain spoilers for the book! I will be talking about specifics! ** 

THE CROWN’S GAME was one of my favorite reads of 2016 and I absolutely loved how much it reminded me of THE NIGHT CIRCUS in so many ways (which I actually just finished re-reading and it cemented this feeling even more)! Naturally, I was very excited to read THE CROWN’S FATE and it was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017! It’s always so hard when I have an most-anticipate read coming up because I tend to hype the book up for myself so it was an interesting experience reading THE CROWN’S FATE!

There’s no way I can talk about this book without specific spoilers, so first I’ll talk about some non-spoilery things! I loved that this world felt the same! There are some times with sequels that it feels like a totally different book but I was able to fall back into this world right where I left off.
The world where we left it after THE CROWN’S GAME was much more political and while I don’t mind that, I did miss some of that fun and a “challenge” aspect of THE CROWN’S GAME itself (the game, not the book) because it was a fun structure and involved some creativity on the characters’ parts to explore their abilities.
And I still love Pasha. He was very different in this book because of all the political ramifications and situations that he had to deal with so he just wasn’t as much fun but I still loved his spirit.

Okay, so here are the spoilers. While the world felt the same, why why whyyyyy did we have to have Nikolai turn bad?! Nikolai was too pure and sweet and precious and he was my favorite part of the whole darn book, so I was SO SAD to see that his character was essentially removed from the story line since his whole personality changed. I know it was because of REASONS, yes, but still. My favorite part of this story was changed and to boot, that affected the romance too which I wanted to see developed even MORE but that got put on hold because “bad” Nikolai, of course, wasn’t pursuing romance. SIGH. The book was still enjoyable but this changed so many things and took away those little nuances that really had me enjoying the series so much!

I also just wanted more magic…? The magic involved in this book was kind of dark, which is cool, I can appreciate dark magic… But I missed that sparring between Vika and Nikolai so much. I guess I’m just tired of everything ending in war or battles (which is silly considering that this series is also kiiiiind of historical fiction, with magic) so I didn’t really want to see things come to that. I just really loved the structure of the Game itself, which encouraged the enchanters to grow and explore their powers and THE CROWN’S FATE was more of a desperate battle for power or to stop that power, so it lost that magic and that spark that I loved so much. I didn’t feel as enchanted, no pun intended.

I DID appreciate that things didn’t turn out too sunshine-y though. I actually liked what happened to Vika in the end, actually. There has to be something in the events of war because no one comes out wholly unscathed and it’s a great shock to readers when something happens to a main character, even if it’s not a death. I applaud Evelyn Skye for taking it there like so many other authors have avoided. I know it’s hard to have something difficult happen to your characters without a way to “save” them but these things need to be done to keep things realistic or at least not a cheesy happy ending.

When it comes down to it, this was not the ending I was expecting or hoping for the series but I also appreciated how it wrapped up. I think I just wanted more romance and more Nikolai. Always more Nikolai.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Historical fiction meets magic. I never used to enjoy history or historical fiction so I’ve really been appreciating books that combine it with magical elements! It’s kind of a way for me to catch up on some historical events or at least feelings, even if they are fictionalized and combined with other things.
Left Me Wanting More: Romance. I don’t always need romance in a book but I was so delighted by the relationship between Vika and Nikolai in the first book and things were heading in a great direction… until the end. But then they didn’t really continue in this book!! I almost feel like THE CROWN’S GAME should have been a stand alone in many ways, but maybe that’s just because I didn’t totally love the finale here.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

If you loved THE CROWN’S GAME, it’s definitely still worth the read! It was different than what I was expecting and I would have loved just a bit more but I also did appreciate so many things still!

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BOOKS LIKE THE CROWN’S GAME

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    GRAVE MERCY

Mini-Review: Pretty Baby – Mary Kubica

Mini-Review: Pretty Baby – Mary KubicaTitle: Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica
Publishing Info: July 28, 2015 by Harlequin
Source: Audible
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: May 5, 2017
Related Posts: The Good Girl

She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can't get the girl out of her head...

Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a nonprofit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Disheveled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal—or worse. But despite her family's objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home.

Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow's past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she's willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.

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PRETTY BABY definitely wasn’t as strong as THE GOOD GIRL for me. The story line wasn’t as intriguing and I’m glad that it had a different feel but I also wasn’t as fond of the plot involved in this book. Call me silly, but any time a baby is a main part of a plot, I just find it unappealing. I don’t have anything against the baby, but babies are so vulnerable that it really holds a character back and I find it frustrating. While it’s a part of real life, it’s just not something that I usually choose to read about.

PRETTY BABY seemed to be a little less intriguing as well, not only compared to THE GOOD GIRL, but just in general compared to other mysteries or thrillers. I really felt like there was a lot of time spent in places where the plot could have moved forward and more info through the backstories could have been provided to keep the reader intrigued. It seemed like there were a few missed opportunities to really keep things moving and some big things were delayed a bit too long.

Things did end up unraveling for a fast and furious finale so that did bump up my rating just a bit. I did enjoy the ending and it was expected, yet not. I could see something coming but to actually watch the events unravel was kind of mind-boggling.

I actually liked the twist of characters throughout the book and I enjoyed how I started out with one impression of each one of the narrating voices and changed my opinions slowly the more pieces of the puzzle I gained. Some of the more unlikable (or simply less warm) characters became more likable towards the end once I gained a little more perspective on what exactly they were dealing with.

I’m definitely still interested in more from Mary Kubica (and I love that her books are set in Chicago! Hello, St. Charles/Kane County mention!) but this one wasn’t as strong as her first for me.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Adult thrillers. I’ve always been a big mystery/thriller fan and I’m enjoying getting into Mary Kubica’s books! It’s really fun to take a break from YA and get into an adult mindset.
Left Me Wanting More: Plot Development. I wanted things to keep moving forward just a little bit. I didn’t mind a bit twist/reveal/thing at the end but I was hoping for just a little bit more forward motion throughout.

Addiction Rating
Try it!

I did enjoy this one but it wasn’t as strong as other thrillers for me. I think it’s a good read though and I enjoy Mary Kubica’s writing!

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE PRETTY BABY

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     

Review in a Tweet | Alcatraz vs. The Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

REVIEW IN A TWEET is a feature that I need from time to time when I don’t have a ton to say in a review. Sometimes even mini-reviews are too long to write when you finished a book months ago and didn’t write a single note down on Goodreads. But the good news is that I started tweeting and saving very, very mini book reviews thanks to a concept that Lindsey at Bring My Books introduced me to! I’ve saved all of my super duper quick reviews to my timeline and under a hashtag (my 2017 books are under #bookadd17) for my own person way to review all of my books read this year at a glance.

Today’s Review in a Tweet is ALCATRAZ VS. THE EVIL LIBRARIANS by Brandon Sanderson. It’s the first in Sanderson’s middle grade series and I wasn’t planning on reviewing these books since I don’t have a whole ton to say about them, but with this new concept of a review in a tweet, I thought this would be the perfect way to still say a little bit!

I’ve read the first two Alcatraz books so far and they’re very fun! A little bit silly, but it is also middle grade so there’s that younger tone there. It actually reminded me of the tone in the Reckoners series, with some intentional laugh-out-loud moments that are there purely for laughs. The story line is a bit young for me (but again, middle grade) so it’s not as engrossing as I would say his other books are but the Alcatraz books are such quick and easy reads! I’ve been trying to go through them on audio because it’s so fast and they’re easy to listen to at high speeds too!

 

Flat-Out Love (Flat-Out Love #1) – Jessica Park

Flat-Out Love (Flat-Out Love #1) – Jessica ParkTitle: Flat-Out Love (Flat-Out Love #1) by Jessica Park
Publishing Info: May 18, 2011 by Independent
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: April 29, 2017

Something is seriously off in the Watkins home. And Julie Seagle, college freshman, small-town Ohio transplant, and the newest resident of this Boston house, is determined to get to the bottom of it. When Julie's off-campus housing falls through, her mother's old college roommate, Erin Watkins, invites her to move in. The parents, Erin and Roger, are welcoming, but emotionally distant and academically driven to eccentric extremes. The middle child, Matt, is an MIT tech geek with a sweet side... and the social skills of a spool of USB cable. The youngest, Celeste, is a frighteningly bright but freakishly fastidious 13-year-old who hauls around a life-sized cardboard cutout of her oldest brother almost everywhere she goes.

And there's that oldest brother, Finn: funny, gorgeous, smart, sensitive, almost emotionally available. Geographically? Definitely unavailable. That's because Finn is traveling the world and surfacing only for random Facebook chats, e-mails, and status updates. Before long, through late-night exchanges of disembodied text, he begins to stir something tender and silly and maybe even a little bit sexy in Julie's suddenly lonesome soul.

To Julie, the emotionally scrambled members of the Watkins family add up to something that ... well... doesn't quite add up. Not until she forces a buried secret to the surface, eliciting a dramatic confrontation that threatens to tear the fragile Watkins family apart, does she get her answer.

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I picked up FLAT-OUT LOVE in an Audible sale because Julia Whelan is one of my favorite female audiobook narrators and I had seen a lot of positive reactions from my Goodreads friends. I really didn’t know what it was about before I started but I was pleasantly surprised with its content and tone!

FLAT-OUT LOVE was a wonderful mix of serious and sarcasm. Main character Julie ends up moving in with a family friend (and the family that comes with her) after being scammed on an apartment listing for college and ends up staying there throughout the year. The story revolves around the family that Julie moves in with and their delicate balance of affection and stoicism, most noted by 13-year-old Celeste’s attachment to a cardboard cut-out of her older brother Finn, who is away travelling the world. I won’t rehash the whole plot but essentially Julie brings levity and a fresh outlook on life to this family and really breaks through a point where they were all standing still, holding their breath. I loved Julia’s personality and attitude. She brought a light to that house and so much humor, sarcasm, and high spirits. There were plenty of serious moments, as this book is clearly harboring some deep secret with Celeste’s quirks that no one will talk about, but I thought the balance was really well done. If this had been a strictly serious or tragic book, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it nearly as much.

Every relationship was really well-crafted. Julie is able to connect with each person in the house on a different level, even if it’s not deeply. Julie shakes things up and yes, breaks a few hearts by making them admit the “bad things”, but ultimately is able to show them that standing still is no way to live if you can’t ever move forward. I don’t really know how I feel about the romance because without spoiling anything, it gets complicated on soooo many levels and there’s a level of trust that was broken with me as a reader that I don’t think I could have personally come back from, but Julie is a forgiving soul and of course she wants to make the relationship work because it is quite sweet in its core.

While FLAT-OUT LOVE was a quick and addicting read for me, I really don’t have any interest in its companions. I tried reading FLAT-OUT CELESTE and her voice was just very difficult for me to at least listen to, though I don’t know about reading, and I don’t have an interest in FLAT-OUT MATT since it’s really just the same story but in parts from Matt’s POV. Julie was the best part of the book and without her, the stories don’t really have a draw for me.

I think FLAT-OUT LOVE is a great contemporary read and good book for those who don’t want to shy away from real life but also appreciate some good humor and lightness in times of darkness.

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Kept Me Hooked On: The nitty gritty. I’ve been shying away from the more rough patches of life and have had a strong preference for the light and fluffy. I’m glad I read FLAT-OUT LOVE and that the balance of light and dark was there.
Left Me Wanting More: Honesty. If the family had been able to just tell Julie what their life-changing situation was, there wouldn’t really be a book… so obviously that’s why there’s a secret there, but I wish everyone had just been a bit more honest. I know they didn’t want to talk about the THING but it seemed silly to keep it from the person who was living in your house.

Addiction Rating
Check it out

I actually really enjoyed this one, which surprised me! I loved Julie’s outgoing, sarcastic, and friendly tone.

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BOOKS LIKE FLAT-OUT LOVE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    MY LIFE NEXT DOOR

Mini-Review: Snapshot – Brandon Sanderson

Mini-Review: Snapshot – Brandon SandersonTitle: Snapshot by Brandon Sanderson
Publishing Info: February 17, 2017 by Dragonsteel Entertainment
Source: Audible
Genres: Adult, Science Fiction
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: April 19, 2017
Related Posts: Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1), The Well of Ascension (Mistborn #2), The Hero of Ages (Mistborn #3), The Alloy of Law (Mistborn #4), Legion (Legion #1) & Legion: Skin Deep (Legion #2), , The Emperor's Soul, The Eleventh Metal (Mistborn #0.5), , Firstborn, Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5), The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn #6), Calamity (The Reckoners #3), , Perfect State, Mistborn: Secret History (Mistborn #3.5), Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell, Elantris, The Rithmatist (Rithmatist #1), Warbreaker (Warbreaker #1), The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1)

If you could re-create a day, what dark secrets would you uncover?

From New York Times #1 bestselling author Brandon Sanderson comes a detective thriller in a police beat like no other. Anthony Davis and his partner Chaz are the only real people in a city of 20 million, sent there by court order to find out what happened in the real world 10 days ago so that hidden evidence can be brought to light and located in the real city today.

Within the re-created Snapshot of May 1st, Davis and Chaz are the ultimate authorities. Flashing their badges will get them past any obstruction and overrule any civil right of the dupes around them. But the crimes the detectives are sent to investigate seem like drudgery—until they stumble upon the grisly results of a mass killing that the precinct headquarters orders them not to investigate. That’s one order they have to refuse.

The hunt is on. And though the dupes in the replica city have no future once the Snapshot is turned off, that doesn’t mean that both Davis and Chaz will walk out of it alive tonight.

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I love Brandon Sanderson’s novellas and one thing I really enjoy about them is how so many of them (probably most of them) delve into the sci-fi world. Most of his full-length novels are fantasy-based (although STEELHEART was more sci-fi with a dash of superhero and some of his fantasy concepts fit well with scientific explanations). It’s a fun change of pace and a great way to dip into a new world.

SNAPSHOT was a really fun novella! It takes place in the not-too-distant future of 2018 where “Snapshots” have been developed to help a local police branch relive a specific day in order to gain some insight or knowledge on a particular crime. A snapshot is a full recreation of that specific day and the snapshot plays out as the day had originally happened from start to finish. The premise of the story is that Davis and his partner are “IRL” people (as opposed to the recreations in the snapshot) and they go into each scenario to try to gather any information that might give their IRL cops a lead to investigate. The concept was really fun and interesting, constantly trying to wrap my mind around a snapshot and how the interaction of “in real life” people altered the course of the day that was playing back.

Of course it’s Sanderson and I knew a twist was coming but I had no idea what that twist was. I really should have guessed it but I was enjoying my listen to this audiobook so much that I just let myself get lost in the story and didn’t try to figure it out. I really enjoyed the ending and it was a rather interesting finish!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Sanderson sci-fi. I love dabbling into the more sci-fi side of things, which seem to happen more often in Sanderson’s novellas than his full-length novels!
Left Me Wanting More: Surprises. The ending was good and a little twisty but I can always use a few more exciting moments!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

Perfect for Sanderson fans, true to tone, quick, and fun!

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE SNAPSHOT

(Click the cover to see my review!)

 LOYALTY IN DEATH    ALL OUR YESTERDAYS

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1) – Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1) – Laini TaylorTitle: Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1) by Laini Taylor
Publishing Info: March 28, 2017 by Hachette
Source: Audible, Anderson's Bookshop
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: April 18, 2017
Related Posts: Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1), Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2), Night of Cake and Puppets (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2.5), Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3)

Strange the Dreamer is the story of:

the aftermath of a war between gods and men
a mysterious city stripped of its name
a mythic hero with blood on his hands
a young librarian with a singular dream
a girl every bit as perilous as she is imperiled
alchemy and blood candy, nightmares and godspawn, moths and monsters, friendship and treachery, love and carnage.

Welcome to Weep.

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When you write a series as epic as Daughter of Smoke and Bone and then your next release gets delayed even more (to make it that much more perfect, that is), it could be really, really hard to live up to the hype of the book… But Laini Taylor had no such problem with STRANGE THE DREAMER! To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect because I hadn’t know what to expect with Daughter and it constantly surprised me so I knew I was ready for some more magic of the same quality!

STRANGE THE DREAMER was actually quite similar to DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE in some ways. There was a distinct separation from the humans and the magical beings, some bad blood to draw up that tension, and a star-crossed romance, so in that respect, I did wish that STRANGE THE DREAMER did venture out on its own plot-wise and away from the world of Eretz. The books aren’t of the same world but Laini Taylor did say that they’re of the same multi-verse and may cross paths one day, but for now, two totally different things so I was hoping for a bit of a difference in big picture.

That really is the only “disappointment” I have about this book, which isn’t really a disappointment so much as something else I was looking for. STRANGE THE DREAMER really swept me off my feet with Laini Taylor’s ever-gorgeous writing. She’s one of the authors whose writing style I just love to read and I just get lost within the pages (along with Maggie Stiefvater and Neil Gaiman who also hold that magical ability to suck you into their books). The world is amazing and gorgeous and I love that the humans are even still in a different fantasy world, not Earth as we know it, to add that extra sense of magic and wonder.

All of Laini Taylor’s characters are poetic and deep. From Lazlo Strange, the dreamer whose nose was broken by a volume of fairy tales, to Sarai, the Muse of Nightmares with a gentle softness. They compliment each other and bring a wonderful balance to the book, and each character serves a real purpose to the story. Every character is so unique and Laini Taylor does an amazing job at bringing each one to life. I always feel like I’ve really gotten to know each one of them!

I won’t really get into the story itself because like all of her books, it’s one to experience, but I just loved being wrapped up in her stories again. I’ve missed that feeling of being so involved in a story and being in kind of a reading slump, it was wonderful to enjoy something so much again!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Pretty prose. Some authors just have a knack for story-telling and putting gorgeous words on the page and Laini Taylor is one of them. It doesn’t always work with such vivid descriptions but I could read Laini Taylor’s details forever.
Left Me Wanting More: Uniqueness. The only thing I would have asked for was to have more of a different big picture plot than DoSaB!

Addiction Rating
Buy it!

This is such a beautiful book and a wonderfully heart-breaking start to a new series (only two books! We think). It’s a must-read!

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BOOKS LIKE STRANGE THE DREAMER

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    shadow and bone

Series Review: Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I had put off reading A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC for a while now, for a couple of different reasons. I had some personal reasons involved, some worries that it might be too much like NEVERWHERE, and I actually wanted to let some of the craze die down because hype really kills a book for me and I didn’t want to be caught up in it. I started A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC on audio because I really wanted to listen to Michael Kramer narrate the 2nd and 3rd books (along with Kate Reading) because he’s one of my all-time favorite narrators. It was funny though — I actually preferred the 1st books narrator on a lot of things so that was a surprise! I think he just got those voices all set up in my head and then I couldn’t shake them.

Anyway… I binge read all three books on audio and decided to review them all together instead of one-by-one!

Reviews for each book/the series are a whole are generally spoiler-free for any major occurrences or twists but may contain info about plot points so I can properly discuss the plot. 

Series Review: Shades of Magic by V.E. SchwabTitle: A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab, Victoria Schwab
Publishing Info: February 24, 2015 by Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: March 24, 2017
Related Posts: Vicious (Vicious #1)

Kell is one of the last travelers--magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.

There's Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King--George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered--and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London--a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they'll never see. It's a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they'll first need to stay alive.

This was really good! I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect because I had really enjoyed VICIOUS and didn’t like THE NEAR WITCH (I never finished it) and I also had some personal qualms about starting this book… but I’m really glad that I did because it was actually really enjoyable! I actually enjoyed that some things were set up in book one that weren’t resolved. They weren’t cliffhangers but things that will be important to the plot in future books (I’m pretty sure I know what’s up with Lila) and I like that it wasn’t all resolved in ADSOM so it keeps me pulled to keep reading (even though I would anyway).

That being said…

This was a fantasy world that just totally came together as my kind of book. I LOVE anything with parallel worlds and I really liked how it was incorporated into fantasy instead of just sci-fi. The magic system is really interesting too. It’s not just magic and non-magic… there really are shades of magic and each world has varying degrees of how magic is incorporated and affects its citizens. I am still suuuuper curious about Black London and I kind of hope we journey there in a future book. I just have to know!!

ADSOM wraps up nicely and closes out a story line which is nice not to be left on a cliffhanger! There’s a lot more to discover so I’m sure the next book will get into that and also dip into what spiraled into play here so I thought it was nice on world-building side. There was a solid foundation but there’s still so much more to discover, and everything was nicely built into the story and I didn’t feel any infodumps about this world-system.

I also liked that the romance was slow and steady. Obviously there’s something building between Lila and Kell but it wasn’t instalove and their relationship is built on a friendship — that almost isn’t even a friendship! They butt heads, Lila is stubborn, Kell is kind of a loner (minus his affection for his brother), and yet their sparring and jabs totally work. I do love banter in my book relationships and although this was less flirting and romantic banter, it was just perfect for these two.

I’m actually surprised how much I enjoyed this because I really hadn’t expected to. I listened to the book on audio, having purchased it in an Audible sale, and mostly wanted to listen to the audio because Michael Kramer narrates the second and third books and he is one of my all-time favorite narrators! (Okay, and Kate Reading but Michael is most important.) I actually did like the narrator of this book so I’m not sure how the switch will go, even though I love the narrators of the next books! Steven Crossley is British so it was perfect for a book about Londons and I really enjoyed his narration and will actually go seek out more books that he voices. I didn’t like how he voiced the spell casting (it was much too formal because it wasn’t described as “said”, not anything that had to be so formally announced and pompous) but really that was the only thing I didn’t like about it.

Series Review: Shades of Magic by V.E. SchwabTitle: A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V.E. Schwab, Victoria Schwab
Publishing Info: February 23, 2015 by Macmillan
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: March 31, 2017
Related Posts: Vicious (Vicious #1)

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell's possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland's dying body through the rift--back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games--an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries--a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

Wow, I am so sorry for anyone who read this book when it first came out and had to wait for the third book. That ending was EVIL.

A GATHERING OF SHADOWS was very enjoyable! The beginning was good but the first half sort of felt like a book one instead of a book two. SO much happened in ADSOM that when things slowed down to this pace again instead of continuing on and escalating, it felt a bit like a step back.

The games/competition was really fun, but also felt like a book one thing that could have set up the magic system, worlds, and characters so it didn’t really feel necessary at all for this book. Unless it plays a big part in the third book, I don’t really think it pushed the plot forward much at all. The characters from the neighboring lands don’t seem to directly play an important part in the book and actually, Kell even said it himself that there was a totally different way this could have all played out (that’s vague, I know, but if I say more, it’s definitely a spoiler).

I did LOVE Alucard, who is my new favorite. (I think I just love all privateers. They’re so sassy and are always involved in banter.) And I also loved where Lila and Kell’s relationship went in this book. We had a bit of book-two-forces-the-lovebirds-apart syndrome here but it actually resolved nicely which is better than a lot of books!

Series Review: Shades of Magic by V.E. SchwabTitle: A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab, Victoria Schwab
Publishing Info: February 21, 2017 by Macmillan
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: April 6, 2017
Related Posts: Vicious (Vicious #1)

Witness the fate of beloved heroes - and enemies.

THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED...
The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.

WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell - once assumed to be the last surviving Antari - begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?

WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace - but never common - thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.

WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

And so I say anoshe to this series.

The ending to this book was just beautiful and a wonderful way to wrap things up. I loved the finality of everything and yet the openness to allow the characters to go off and pursue other things. The series was complete and yet there could totally be more books or a spin-off series with more things to come.

I will say, though, that the thing that struck me the most about this book was HOW MUCH happened. It’s the last book in the series so of course things will escalate but there were so many things that could have been put in the second book — like backstories, more world-building, explanations, etc — that felt a little too crammed into the final book when this would have been more suited for the action and not building things up at the same time. I would have loved to have learned more about Holland in AGOS instead of ACOL, as a specific example, and some of the revelations could have been developed in AGOS with a final reveal in ACOL instead of it all happening at once. I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the length of the book but it just did feel like a whole lot was flung at me at once, especially in the beginning. It’s not that it was hard to follow but it was a lot to constantly take in.

Definite (mild) spoilers for the series in the rest of the review below so skim to the bottom if you want to avoid them! 

I also still have some questions that weren’t really answered… I understand the unspoken concept of the one black eye for Antari but I also wish that was more directly addressed. I wish we had known who Kell’s parents were and what his name was before he came to the royal family but I understand leaving that one open because who he was is not who he is and he chooses to be present instead of dwelling in the past. I also wanted to know more about Lila’s past, how she lost her eye (it was said to be an accident but I always wondered if it was more to cover up her true nature), and what led her to where she was. There were so many hints that Lila was so much MORE than basically everything but it was never said that she was more than an Antari… so was she more or was she just Antari? Or an exceptional Antari? Or am I just looking for too many answers that I should attain for myself? I figured out that she was Antari pretty much immediately once it was revealed that she was missing an eye but then the actual reveal wasn’t even an event. It just kind of… happened. Like oh yeah, Lila is doing magic now and she’s doing crazy stuff so I guess she’s an Antari and everyone else was just like, okay, guess so. Maybe because Lila does whatever she wants so people weren’t surprised when she broke all the rules anyway, but still. Again, I understand not wanting to go fully into each character’s past and reveal every little thing but just a few words of wrap-up could have left things more final, I think.

Then there were the THINGS with the magic system. I’m a huuuuge magic-system geek and I love learning about all of the rules and what a magician/wizard/whoever can and cannot do. It felt a little inconsistent to me with new abilities popping up where they were convenient. I did like that average citizens of Red London were able to wield magic and how differently it was accessible to the “common” people and also how its accessibility was different from world to world. I did love that Antari were next-level magic users and the only ones who were able to use blood magic to perform extraordinary feats and that they could use every element and not just one or two or three. Does the black eye signify black magic? It seemed like it should due to the story line here but that really wasn’t addressed. Was it a piece of black magic within them or was it just magic and the essence of Black London had just turned bad? Was it a coincidence that the three Antari were from the three different Londons? Was there a Black London Antari and there is only allowed one from each London? Was it a coincidence that the three Antari had three different colored eyes (Lila: brown, Kell: blue, Holland: green)? Was this all planned and the rules of magic or was it all just randomly coincidental? Maybe I’m just naturally too curious but it seemed like these things were rules but never talked about. Maybe the characters don’t even know themselves. I’m just a total sucker for learning as much as I can about a magic system so that really felt incomplete to me. Maybe I’m just spoiled with Brandon Sanderson books that detail everything so much that I’ve eaten it all up and come to expect it in other books. (The Antari reminded me of Mistborn in a way, with their ability to use all types of magic so there was a minor association for me there.)

I also for some reason didn’t totally love the Osaron concept… maybe because I didn’t love the concept of magic taking a human form? I’m not sure. There was just something about it that I didn’t love and something just felt “off” there for some reason. Maybe because it seemed like some sort of a turn in the concepts and I was expecting a different direction regarding the escalation of the black magic. I was also hoping for more time in Black London because I’m just TOO DARN CURIOUS. So I guess most of my disappointments were just hopes and my curious brain demanding more answers!

Despite all of the thoughts I’ve just expressed, I did enjoy the series. I actually think the first book was the strongest in terms of plot and structure and it still remains my favorite. If things hadn’t gotten derailed with the games in AGOS and had continued with strong plot development, I think the series could have been even stronger and more cohesive. All of the books were entertaining and the characters were really just wonderful. I really loved the character dynamics, the personalities, and the wonderful relationships. As a series, I think AGOS just really killed the plot momentum and while it was still highly entertaining, it could have pushed things so much further and more time could have been dedicated in ACOL to tying things up along with the action instead of jamming everything into a final book. I loved every character and the ways that they all interacted with each other and I did think that was so well done. I really connected with each one and just loved the feelings that I got from their relationships. The ending of the series was bittersweet and just the perfect way to say goodbye, or rather, anoshe.

SERIES THOUGHTS

The first book in this series was definitely my favorite. I thought it was the most solid in terms of setting up the book’s overall plot and kicking off the series. I was disappointed with the lack of series development in A GATHERING OF SHADOWS (book two) because of the games involved and that really ended up taking the spotlight. It was still very entertaining but I’m such a world-building nerd that I can’t get enough of it and I don’t feel like things kept developing until the end of the book. A CONJURING OF LIGHT was also still very entertaining but things took a biiiiit of a weird turn for me and mostly, I just wanted more answers about this world. I feel like some were implied, some we could infer, and others were maybe coincidental? I thought things could have shaken out just a bit more to really settle all those burning questions, although the overall wrap up was very nice!

Now I just need to own the series in print so I can put them with my As Travars candle…

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Addiction Rating
Read them!

To my surprise, I really enjoyed this series. I had no idea what I was going to find within these pages (or I guess… audio files in my case) and I think it’s a solid series that could benefit from a little more plot and world-building.

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BOOKS LIKE SHADES OF MAGIC

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     

Closer to Home (The Herald Spy #1) – Mercedes Lackey

Closer to Home (The Herald Spy #1) – Mercedes LackeyTitle: Closer to Home (The Herald Spy #1) by Mercedes Lackey
Publishing Info: October 7, 2004 by Penguin
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: March 13, 2017

Mags was once an enslaved orphan living a harsh life in the mines, until the King's Own Herald discovered his talent and trained him as a spy. Now a Herald in his own right, at the newly established Heralds' Collegium, Mags has found a supportive family, including his Companion Dallen.
Although normally a Herald in his first year of Whites would be sent off on circuit, Mags is needed close to home for his abilities as a spy and his powerful Mindspeech gift. There is a secret, treacherous plot within the royal court to destroy the Heralds. The situation becomes dire after the life of Mags' mentor, King's Own Nikolas, is imperiled. His daughter Amily is chosen as the new King's Own, a complicated and dangerous job that is made more so by this perilous time. Can Mags and Amily save the court, the Heralds, and the Collegium itself?

bookreview1

This was my first Mercedes Lackey book and I had high expectations because of so many reviews! CLOSER TO HOME was actually nothing like I expected. It was lighter than I thought it would be and I actually was really surprised with the plot… And that there wasn’t one…?  I purchased this book in an Audible sale because I had heard so much about Mercedes Lackey and Nick Podehl narrates and he’s one of my favorites so this is how I ended up here!

I really didn’t know what the point of this book was, to be perfectly honest. It wasn’t until halfway through that the focus really started to shift to Brand and Violetta, but Mags and Amily are the main characters so it was confusing for a while what was really happening. I really did love Mags and Amily — Mags even more so — so it was kind of disappointing that they were more helpers of the plot and that the book wasn’t even really about them.

I have been told that this book starts a new series BUT it is also part of a kind of series of series about the world of Valdemar… But while a series of series is fine, it really did feel like it picked up in the middle of story instead starting its own series or a portion thereof. There was a mention of how Amily and Mags ended up coming back home but it was never elaborated on and so it felt really unfinished. There was so much more to discover as far as world-building, especially on the magical abilities, but I suppose that could be something I’m missing from a previous series of series.

I most just felt like I didn’t know what the plot of this book was. Even though things happened, it just didn’t seem like a large conflict and then at the end, all of a sudden it was this huge deal. It was a weirdly constructed book and I just didn’t quite connect with it, which was a shame because I really did like the characters and the world! As much as I’d like to spend more time with them, I don’t know what the rest of the series would be life and if it would be worth continuing.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Mind speech. I enjoyed the concept of mind speech here and how it was a different ability and could be used differently too!
Left Me Wanting More: Plot. This just didn’t have a clear direction and I was left wondering what the point of this book even was.

Addiction Rating
Start at the beginning

Mayyyyybe you shouldn’t start with this book like I did. In my defense, I didn’t realize what exactly this series was all about but if you want to start with these books, check out the first Valdemar book.