Tag Archives: YA

Killing November (Killing November #1) – Adriana Mather

Killing November (Killing November #1) – Adriana MatherTitle: Killing November (Killing November #1) by Adriana Mather
Publishing Info: March 26, 2019 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Heists/Spies/Espionage
Date Completed: March 19, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: How to Hang a Witch, Haunting the Deep (How to Hang a Witch #2)

It’s a school completely off the grid, hidden by dense forest and surrounded by traps. There’s no electricity, no internet, and an eye-for-an-eye punishment system. Classes include everything from Knife-Throwing and Poisons to the Art of Deception and Historical Analysis. And all of the students are children of the world’s most elite strategists—training to become assassins, counselors, spies, and master impersonators. Into this world walks November Adley, who quickly discovers that friends are few in a school where personal revelations are discouraged and competition is everything. When another student is murdered, all eyes turn to November, who must figure out exactly how she fits into the school’s bizarre strategy games before she is found guilty of the crime…or becomes the killer’s next victim.

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I absolutely loved Adriana Mather’s debut HOW TO HANG A WITCH and followed up with the book’s sequel so when I heard that she had a new book coming out, I knew I had to pick up KILLING NOVEMBER!

If you’ve watched SyFy’s show Deadly Class, you may be the perfect audience for this book. If you haven’t, well obviously you can still enjoy it and maybe you’ll want to watch Deadly Class after this because I continued binge watching after I finished! KILLING NOVEMBER finds titular character November in a new, mysterious school after things are shaken up at home. November doesn’t exactly know how serious it is but she’s dropped in the middle of nowhere full of prominent badass/ninja/assassin/secret agent-type families (except they’re not allowed to talk about it) and she’s not entirely sure why she’s there, but we all know there’s some sort of reason!

I loved the sort of mafia/assassin/secret agent feel in KILLING NOVEMBER, especially at a boarding school specifically for the families who work in this type of secrecy or espionage. It was such a fun read with a really fun concept, full of a great balance of the severity of the situation and levity at how weird it would be to be dropped there, plus some great character sass.

I didn’t realize this was a series when I started it but thankfully this book has that sort of feel anyway! I could tell by the pacing that it was setting up for a series and I am totally here for it! There’s a little bit revealed in this book about the overall series plot and some little hints of things you see coming, but there’s still a whole lot more to explore and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Assassin School. The whole assassin/espionage concept was just so much fun! I loved the assassin school and all of the secrecy surrounding it.
Left Me Wanting More: Reveals. Even though it is the first in a series, I did want juuuust a bit more history and reveals in this installment!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

I had a lot of fun with this one and it really hit the sweet spot of so many things that I enjoy in a book! I’m really looking forward to continuing the series.

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BOOKS LIKE KILLING NOVEMBER

             

Superman: Dawnbreaker (DC Icons #4) – Matt de la Pena

Superman: Dawnbreaker (DC Icons #4) – Matt de la PenaTitle: Superman: Dawnbreaker (DC Icons #4) by Matt de la Pena
Publishing Info: March 5, 2019 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Superheroes
Date Completed: March 15, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

When the dawn breaks, a hero rises.

His power is beyond imagining.

Clark Kent has always been faster, stronger--better--than everyone around him. But he wasn't raised to show off, and drawing attention to himself could be dangerous. Plus, it's not like he's earned his powers . . . yet.

But power comes with a price.

Lately it's difficult to hold back and keep his heroics in the shadows. When Clark follows the sound of a girl crying, he comes across Gloria Alvarez and discovers a dark secret lurking in Smallville. Turns out, Clark's not the only one hiding something. Teaming up with his best friend, Lana Lang, he throws himself into the pursuit of the truth. What evil lies below the surface of his small town? And what will it cost Clark to learn about his past as he steps into the light to become the future Man of Steel? Because before he can save the world, he must save Smallville.

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This was a pretty disappointing installment in the DC Icons series and though I haven’t read Catwoman yet (I haven’t had a chance to get my hands on the audio), it’s the most disappointing. This book didn’t even feel like Superman’s origin story much at all. Aside from some of the things that even non-Superman fans know about him (strength, speed, x-ray vision), there really wasn’t much to show how Clark Kent started exploring his powers and what that meant to him as a person and especially as a teenager figuring out who he was and what he wanted to do with his life, which is even heavier than the normal coming-of-age story because of his powers and his potential.

Each of these books has a villain which, not being a comic book reader, I would say may or may not be the most “notorious” villain that we know from the comics or movies. We see Lex Luthor here but he’s not the main antagonist of the story, similar to seeing Harvey Dent in the Batman installment of this series. I don’t really know any other Batman villains so I don’t know if the one in this book is canon or not but he didn’t really feel very complex in any way. Actually, none of the characters seemed complex at all. For it being Clark Kent’s story, there wasn’t much personality packed in here and the side characters didn’t really provide much character growth either.

Some of this could have been overlooked if I had enjoyed the story, which I really didn’t connect with either. Matt de la Pena took this opportunity to explore some important issues of immigration and racism but it just didn’t fit with the Superman story for me and the way that it was incorporated actually felt more demeaning instead of eye-opening. I felt like we needed to actually spend time with Clark and his story (since this IS a book about Clark Kent/Superman after all), so trying to put all of those concepts and issues in this book left us with little time, only exploring the surface areas of these issues with some blanket statements that didn’t tackle the issue well. Maybe it could have worked better somehow but I felt like it was not adapted well into this book and some of the supernatural elements of the adaptation made it feel hokey, taking away from its importance.

This was just a big miss for me. I had hoped to enjoy reading more about Superman and getting to know Clark Kent’s story and I feel like there just wasn’t really much about him at all besides basic plot points that could have been shared in a few paragraphs or chapters.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Superheroes, I guess. I’m not a big comic person and I don’t follow a lot of superhero stories but I actually was interested in reading about Superman since I kind of had the tiniest of childhood connections to him, at least compared to the other DC Icons featured.
Left Me Wanting More: Superman Substance. I felt like this book wasn’t even about Clark Kent. The basics were involved but it didn’t really make me feel like the author knew or cared about writing the Superman origin story.

Addiction Rating
Skip it

Even if you have read the others, I still wouldn’t recommend this book. I was really disappointed in it in so many ways. I guess if you’re finishing the series, it’s worth it just to finish but I can’t make any promises that you’ll enjoy it, especially if you’re expecting a good Superman story.

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BOOKS LIKE SUPERMAN: DAWNBREAKER

             

Warrior of the Wild – Tricia Levenseller

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

How do you kill a god?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addiction Rating
Read it

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

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BOOKS LIKE WARRIOR OF THE WILD

             

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Addiction Rating
Read it

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

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BOOKS LIKE KINGDOM OF ASH

             

Skyward (Skyward #1) – Brandon Sanderson

Skyward (Skyward #1) – Brandon SandersonTitle: Skyward (Skyward #1) by Brandon Sanderson
Publishing Info: November 6, 2018 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Amazon, Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Date Completed: February 5, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
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), Snapshot, Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive #2), Edgedancer (The Stormlight Archive #2.5), Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive #3)

Spensa's world has been under attack for decades. Now pilots are the heroes of what's left of the human race, and becoming one has always been Spensa's dream. Since she was a little girl, she has imagined soaring skyward and proving her bravery. But her fate is intertwined with that of her father's—a pilot himself who was killed years ago when he abruptly deserted his team, leaving Spensa the daughter of a coward, her chances of attending Flight School slim to none.

No one will let Spensa forget what her father did, yet fate works in mysterious ways. Flight school might be a long shot, but she is determined to fly. And an accidental discovery in a long-forgotten cavern might just provide her with a way to claim the stars.

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Well, this is awkward. I seem to be one of the only people so far who hasn’t really loved or enjoyed this book. SKYWARD was just…. fine. I’ve read all of Sanderson’s major published works (minus some of the latest Alcatraz books since I’m not a big MG reader) and this one fell really flat for me. I’ve come to know Sanderson’s writing and no matter what kind of book he’s writing, there’s still that typical style that packs a novel with punches and sass. SKYWARD did have some enjoyable moments and it did have its great sassy characters, but nothing really stood out for me while reading.

I felt like SKYWARD, in short, was slow. I kept waiting for things to get interesting and they kind of never did until the very end, by which time my interest was long gone. I’m used to picking up more things along the way and I kept trying to grab those pieces as I read but the “clues” either felt really obvious or weren’t divulged at all, making for a frustrating reading experience. It almost felt like he toned down the world-building for this, and I won’t say it’s *because* it’s YA but it felt like he aimed to write this younger than his adult novels, which is fine and that appeals to the actual teen audience, but I also felt like it was a little too muted. I really missed a lot of his incredible writing style where there are so many layers to the book and I just didn’t really feel it here. The big plot twist (towards which the whole book is building) happens at the very end, but even then I didn’t quite love it. I felt like all of the flight school and repetitive mentions of how the main character’s father was a coward was overkill. There were a lot of action sequences with fighting off the bad guys where I felt the book could have benefitted from other important pieces of plot or world-building.

I also didn’t love the character relationships here either. I did like the friendships created but I still didn’t feel connected to them, like these characters were really a squad. They did come together and I enjoyed it, but I don’t know… they just never felt totally cohesive where I wanted to shout “#squadgoals!”, you know? I liked that this book didn’t really have a romance because I really don’t need a romance to enjoy a book. Things did start building in a certain direction but I also think I would have enjoyed it more if that tension had started building a little bit more in book one. I don’t need characters to get together right away but that development felt slow to me also. I wanted to see more on-screen time with the two we know are building towards a love interest to really build their relationship for me and there were only small portions of that here with the two of them alone. I did see the chemistry but it was in too short of a timeframe.

SKYWARD was a fine read and it wasn’t a bad one by any means, but compared to the other books I’ve read from Brandon Sanderson, it’s by far my least favorite. I just felt like it could have used a lot more development and a lot fewer details and fight scenes. I’m sure I’ll continue the series because it’s Brandon Sanderson and that would be hard NOT to continue but I’m also really bummed that I didn’t love this book and it’ll be hard to go into the next book with an open mind.

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Space Adventures. I really, really love adventures in space, especially ones that take us to new corners of the galaxy.
Left Me Wanting More: Advancement of plot. Brandon Sanderson has the great concept of some serious twists but I wanted it to lead up to it a little bit more. I felt like there was some poor hinting and then it just happened. I wanted more of that adult-feel with the plot development and it felt too easy or quick.

Addiction Rating
Try it

It was enjoyable even though it wasn’t a favorite of mine. A lot of people seem to still like it so I’d say give it a shot!

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BOOKS LIKE SKYWARD

             

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

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

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

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Addiction Rating
Read it

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

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BOOKS LIKE THE WICKED KING

             

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

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

Fall in love, break the curse.

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

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

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

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

bookreview1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addiction Rating
Read it!

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

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BOOKS LIKE A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY

             

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addiction Rating
Try it

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

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BOOKS LIKE THE LIGHTNING THIEF

             

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss – Kasie West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

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

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BOOKS LIKE FAME, FATE, AND THE FIRST KISS

             

Love A La Mode – Stephanie Kate Strohm

Love A La Mode – Stephanie Kate StrohmTitle: Love A La Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm
Publishing Info: November 27, 2018 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Date Completed: January 24, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Rosie Radeke firmly believes that happiness can be found at the bottom of a mixing bowl. But she never expected that she, a random nobody from East Liberty, Ohio, would be accepted to celebrity chef Denis Laurent's school in Paris, the most prestigious cooking program for teens in the entire world. Life in Paris, however, isn't all cream puffs and crepes. Faced with a challenging curriculum and a nightmare professor, Rosie begins to doubt her dishes.

Henry Yi grew up in his dad's restaurant in Chicago, and his lifelong love affair with food landed him a coveted spot in Chef Laurent's school. He quickly connects with Rosie, but academic pressure from home and his jealousy over Rosie's growing friendship with gorgeous bad-boy baker Bodie Tal makes Henry lash out and push his dream girl away.

Desperate to prove themselves, Rosie and Henry cook like never before while sparks fly between them. But as they reach their breaking points, they wonder whether they have what it takes to become real chefs.

Perfect for lovers of Chopped Teen Tournament and Kids Baking Championship, as well as anyone who dreams of a romantic trip to France, Love la Mode follows Rosie and Henry as they fall in love with food, with Paris, and ultimately, with each other.

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LOVE A LA MODE was an overall enjoyable book! It was compared to ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, which are big shoes to fill in my book since I re-read that every year, but honestly aside from the Paris setting, it really shouldn’t be compare to ANNA. Not in a bad way but they’re really not that similar, and I actually feel like Paris had even less to do with LOVE A LA MODE because it wasn’t explored and didn’t mean as much to these main characters. The main focus here was the cooking and baking, which was a lot of fun to read about! I used to get into watching Chopped and the Cooking Channel (though I don’t much anymore) and I do enjoy cooking and baking on a basic level, so it was fun to read about something new to add a theme and a unique concept to a book! I think the cooking and Paris setting helped it stand out a bit from other contemporary YA novels but I also think it could have had a little more that helped it stand on its own two feet.

I think overall, I feel like everyone and everything could have had just a little more depth. I would have loved to see more from the main characters aside from their crushes, more of the Paris setting… We did see a lot of cooking but as much as I enjoy cooking and baking, it’s not really on a technical or fan-based level, so I wasn’t as connected to that. I enjoyed the book overall and I think the maturity level and interactions between these teens was accurate, but I still felt like we could have learned even more about them, their stories, something to make them more well-rounded characters. We dipped into some family histories but there wasn’t a whole lot there to really bring the characters’ experiences to the page until later on in the book.

There was a bit of a love triangle but I also liked that it wasn’t really Rosie truly caught between two boys. There was an instant attraction to Henry and then she had a crush on a TV star’s son (who is also a bit of a TV star). Once she gets to know the star, she figures out her true feelings for each of the boys, but it isn’t dragged out to be going back and forth between the two. What I didn’t really enjoy were Henry’s jealous feelings, which were valid but it was another case of “if these two just talked we wouldn’t have an issue”. I know that’s not always how life works but sometimes the way it plays out on the page can be a little frustrating, and this time it got the best of me!

Overall, I did enjoy listening to LOVE A LA MODE on audiobook. The narrator was actually the author and I really enjoy listening to authors narrating their own works! You know that everything is being said exactly how they want it to be said, inflection and all. I think she was a good narrator, not my favorite, but enjoyable to listen to. The story was cute, had a unique spin, and an easy read for me!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Cooking and baking. There are a lot of characters in books who enjoy baking and this book took it to a whole new level with a cooking school! I didn’t connect as much because I don’t know things on a technical level but I think it was really fun to read about!
Left Me Wanting More: Character depth. I would have loved to see more personality and character depth! They could have been a bit more well-rounded, I think.

Addiction Rating
Read it

This was enjoyable and a lot of fun! I think it’s definitely worth the read. It was cute and interesting!

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BOOKS LIKE LOVE A LA MODE