Tag Archives: YA

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

Top Ten Tuesday: June 6, 2017 – Ten Books Recently Added to My TBR

It’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the wonderful blog at The Broke and the Bookish! This week’s topic: 
Ten books recently added to my TBR

This was technically supposed to be broken down by genre but since I haven’t been adding much to my lists recently (I have way too many things — 1001 books, to be exact) that I still want to read to add everything so I’m just picking the most recent things that I’ve added!

THE HANGING GIRL by Eileen Cook
I still have yet to read a book by Eileen Cook and yet ALL of them are on my TBR! They just sound so good but somehow they’ve all gotten pushed to the back burner. Nevertheless, THE HANGING GIRL is on my TBR and I grabbed this one from Edelweiss!

CHANGES IN LATITUDES by Jen Malone
I’m not totally sure if this is my kind of topic right off the bat but I adored Jen Malone’s previous book, WANDERLOST, and would love to read more form her!

NOTEWORTHY by Riley Redgate
Acapella was really all you needed to say for this one.

NOGGIN by Johh Corey Whaley
I don’t know how this wasn’t on my TBR because I’ve actually had for… several years. I figured it out the other day so it was time to add it!

TOP TEN by Katie Cotugno
Was there ever a better book to be on Top Ten Tuesday? I actually recently finished FIREWORKS, which was the first book I’ve ever read from her, and it wasn’t really what I had hoped so I’m a bit hesitant about TOP TEN now… BUT it sounds like it’s a book that’s much more my style so I hope it goes well!

NICE TRY, JANE SINNER by Lianne Oelke
This sounds kind of satirical and funny and an interesting concept! I grabbed it from Edelweiss but it doesn’t come out until January so I have some time to read it!

AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR by Nancy Werlin
This actually wasn’t originally on my TBR when I first saw it because it sounded a little slasher film/cheesy but I received a copy from the publisher and I’m totally willing to give it a shot now that I have it! I’m always up for a mystery/thriller so we’ll see how it goes!

ALCATRAZ VS. THE KNIGHTS OF CRYSTALLIA by Brandon Sanderson
I’m making my way through Brandon Sanderson’s entire works, even the middle grade series! The Alcatraz books are a little silly but quick and fun so I’ve started a mini-binge. I’ve listened to the first two on audio and added the rest of the series to by TBR. I added books 3-5 all at once so I’m just listing book #3 to count for all of them for this list’s purpose!

THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA by Megan Whelan Turner
Same deal here — I added THE THIEF waaaay back when to my TBR but I didn’t want to add the rest of the series until I knew I enjoyed the first book… but I received the entire series for review on audio from Harper so I added the rest of the series all at once, the second book here standing in for the rest of the whole series. I just started THE THIEF yesterday so I’m curious to see how it goes!!

THE INFINITY OF YOU AND ME by J.Q. Coyle
This book doesn’t have the best rating on Goodreads (3.43 stars) BUT it only has 150 ratings and 51 reviews. You also just never know when you’ll love a book when others don’t so it’s on my TBR because it piqued my interest. I am suchhhhh a sucker pa06rallel worlds that I’m willing to try anything. Plus that cover is gorgeous!


So those are ten books that I’ve recently added to my TBR! Are any of these recent adds for you? Anything that’s already been on your TBR forever or books that I should get to ASAP?

Fireworks – Katie Cotugno

Fireworks – Katie CotugnoTitle: Fireworks by Katie Cotugno
Publishing Info: April 11, 2017 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 1, 2017

From Katie Cotugno, bestselling author of 99 Days, comes Fireworks—about a girl who is competing with her best friend to become the new pop star of the moment—and all the drama and romance that comes with it—set in Orlando during the late-'90s boy-and-girl-band craze.

It was always meant to be Olivia. She was the talented one, the one who had been training to be a star her whole life. Her best friend, Dana, was the level-headed one, always on the sidelines, cheering her best friend along.

But everything changes when Dana tags along with Olivia to Orlando for the weekend, where superproducer Guy Monroe is holding auditions for a new singing group, and Dana is discovered too. Dana, who’s never sung more than Olivia’s backup. Dana, who wasn’t even looking for fame. Next thing she knows, she and Olivia are training to be pop stars, and Dana is falling for Alex, the earnest, endlessly talented boy who’s destined to be the next big thing.

It should be a dream come true, but as the days of grueling practice and constant competition take their toll, things between Olivia and Dana start to shift . . . and there’s only room at the top for one girl. For Olivia, it’s her chance at her dream. For Dana, it’s a chance to escape a future that seems to be closing in on her. And for these lifelong best friends, it’s the adventure of a lifetime—if they can make it through.

Set in evocative 1990s Orlando, New York Times bestselling author Katie Cotugno’s Fireworks brings to life the complexity of friendship, the excitement of first love, and the feeling of being on the verge of greatness.

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Heads up, talking about specifics so there will be SPOILERS.

This book wasn’t quiiiite what I thought it would be and that was okay but there were things that just didn’t quite fit. I liked Dana a lot but it never really felt right for her to be a part of this pop star world. I feel like it would have been a little different if there had been an expressed interest in singing before she took Olivia to her audition. It just felt so off of Dana to even enter the world of singing and show business without even wanting any part of it before she got there. Maybe that’s just me as a big choir nerd not understanding how you can jump into this without a passion for music or performing… I have no idea. Not staying that you HAVE to have experience in order to get into the music industry but trying to think about it as someone who was only a part of choir was overwhelming, not to mention voice lessons, dance lessons, and all of the show biz type stuff that you have to do. I don’t know… I just felt like Dana didn’t belong there, which I guess was the point, but it felt wrong to take that opportunity away from someone else just because she wanted to get out of her town. There are so many people who have that DREAM and while she may have been a natural performer, I don’t know… It just didn’t click for me and I actually was not rooting for her to make it in the industry. It really bothered me throughout the whole book and despite the fact that she was actually putting a great effort forth to grow and listen and perform… I still didn’t think that was the right place for her and I knew it the whole time.
Aside from that, let’s not even tap into the fact that four girls are chosen for this girl group and out of four in the whole country, Dana is selected ALONG WITH her best friend, even when she sings Happy Birthday and… that’s it. No other auditioning process? No other callback? No tests to see if she even knows how to read music or if she’s a good dancer or if she doesn’t have an attitude, etc etc etc?? I 100% understand selecting someone for their star quality but people aren’t selected because of that alone. There has to be something else going there to make someone think they can turn that person into a star and that the work is going to be worth it. They flat-out didn’t see enough of Dana to even know that.

The friend thing bothered me too. One of the reasons I loved Open Road Summer so much was the fact that the best friends were supportive and things didn’t get catty. One was the star, one was not, and it wasn’t a competition. I didn’t like that Olivia sort of abandoned her best friend for the other girls because they had more experience and were, for lack of a better word, cooler than Dana was. I didn’t like that this book pitted the two best friends against each other and then Olivia stabbed Dana in the back!!! Ugh UGH UGH. I couldn’t stand that.

I also just had more hope that this was going to have some more 90s/early 2000s type feelings with all of those shows like Making the Band and Popstars. That was what I immediately went to when I heard the girls were going to audition for a girl group and there were some feelings of it there but I would have loved to get a little more of that feel. There wasn’t much of a time era feel aside from music references, which I would have loved to see more of because HELLO 90s, like the best time ever (ha)! There wasn’t that nostalgia that I had hoped for at all.

There were other feelings I got from this book though, in so many ways. I actually felt a lot of Center Stage because of all of the industry moments and things we got to see that happen in closed-door meetings. People get cut from groups, deals are made, people get stabbed in the back, images are created. I also felt some That Thing You Do! and Selena with some of those musical moments about trying to get your music out there and be heard, so that was a fun feeling.

The book was entertaining but I feel like I had a totally different image going in. FIREWORKS is a cute title for it but the cover is pretty misleading for what the book is about (despite the fact that I love it). Things were not really fun and friendly… they were kind of catty. And the fireworks were a small part of the book although related to kind of a big concept. I feel like it made the book seem so much lighter and easy-going and it was intense show business work!

When it comes down to it, I enjoyed the read and it was quick but I can’t quite give it four stars because I didn’t feel like Dana ever fit into this world and it stuck out to me the whole time. I just felt like everyone was forcing her into that role even though SHE knew it wasn’t the right place for her either, even if she did have that star-quality. It made it hard for me to root for her to succeed because I didn’t feel like even she wanted it.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Not-quite-historical-fiction. I love books set in specific eras that aren’t quite historical fiction since they’re still somewhat current (even though the 80s are now 30 years ago and the 90s are 20 years ago!). It’s fun to have that nostalgia while still peeking into a time frame that I was actually alive and enjoying!
Left Me Wanting More: Fun. This book just wasn’t… fun. The girls were mean to each other, there wasn’t a lot of 90s nostalgia, and it all felt a bit dramatic. I just really was hoping for more a light summer read.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

Some people LOVED this book. It just didn’t work for me. I think I went into it thinking it was something else so I guess it depends on what you’re looking for!

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BOOKS LIKE FIREWORKS

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    THE REECE MALCOLM LIST

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!)

     

Book Title Buzzwords | SUMMER

Book Title Buzzwords

I love noticing title trends in the YA world (and in adult books too!) and I can also tell that there are certain words I latch onto. Book Title Buzzwords features books that I’ve read (or want to read) that follow some recent trends! 

I don’t even know where spring went but it’s almost summer! The weather is getting warmer quickly here in the Midwest (and then in traditional fashion, I’m sure it’ll come right back down) so we’ve all got summer on the brain! If it’s not a buzzword in books right now, it sure is around town. Here are some of my favorite “summer” titles and ones I still need to read!

SUMMERTIME, SUMMERTIME

open road summerOPEN ROAD SUMMER by Emery Lord | Bloomsbury | April 15th, 2014

OPEN ROAD SUMMER was my first Emery Lord book (well, it was her first Emery Lord book too since it was her debut… ha!) and I totally didn’t expect to love it like I did. I knew it involved a lot of country music and a country pop star and since I’m not a country fan, I was very hesitant. I don’t know why since it’s not like the book was forcing me to listen to the music but anyhow… I read it. I loved it. I treasured it. Emery Lord knocked it out of the park with her debut and I’ve loved all of her books since! It’s the perfect summertime read full of best friends, road trips, romance, ice cream, fairs, and redemption. I love, love, love the friendship in this book and the romance was totally swoony too!
Find it on Goodreads | Review

THE SUMMER I BECAME A NERD by Leah Rae Miller | Entangled | May 7th, 2013

I probably wouldn’t have read this book if we hadn’t read it for the Selective Collective and I surely wouldn’t have known about it if I wasn’t a blogger so that makes me even more glad that the stars aligned for me to read this one. I simply ADORED it. The book is so stinkin’ cute from start to finish and I loved that it was about a cheerleader who’s secretly a huge nerd and not a nerd who wants to be a popular girl. Who knew LARPing could be so cool? The cover is not my favorite and it’s a weird stock image with weird font so if you’re not a fan of the cover, don’t let it fool you. The inside is purely awesome! (The German cover is actually super cute and it’s called “Flirt mit Nerd” which literally means Flirt with Nerd and I love it.)
Find it on Goodreads | Review


summer of sloane erin l. schneiderSUMMER OF SLOANE by Erin L. Schneider | Disney Hyperion| May 3rd, 2016

SUMMER OF SLOANE was another great summery read, both in title and in season! There’s so much in this book about family, friendships, and relationships developing in both. I did enjoy the romance but I actually really liked what this book did for Sloane’s family and her friends. She has old friends who she may never fully reconcile with and new friends (who are old kind of very old friends) who become like a family. I really appreciated all of the relationships in this book and I also LOVED that it took place in Hawaii! I’ve never been but the book almost made me feel like I was there (and yes, I totally do need to go someday).
Find it on Goodreads | Review

SUMMER GIRLS…

TWENTY BOY SUMMER by Sarah Ockler
I loooove my first Sarah Ockler book (THE BOOK OF BROKEN HEARTS) but then had a series of misses or less than stellar reads so even though I’ve had this book forever, I still haven’t read it. Someday!
Find it on Goodreads

THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY by Jenny Han
I still haven’t read a Jenny Han book (but hey, I finally read a Morgan Matson so can we lay off?) and this title and character just kill me. THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY just sounds grammatically incorrect and the girl’s name is Belly? I couldn’t get over it so I never started it.
Find it on Goodreads

SECOND CHANCE SUMMER by Morgan Matson
I don’t know if I’ll ever get to this one due to its content (it sounds too sad for me) but it’s still on my reading list and has been for years!
Find it on Goodreads

TWO SUMMERS by Amy Friedman
This book sounded cute, light, and just plain fun. It seems to have mixed reviews but I still have an ARC of it that I’d like to read! 
Find it on Goodreads


What are you favorite “summer” books? Have any of these titles caught your eye for some summer reading?

Top Ten Tuesday: May 9, 2017 – Ten Things on My Reading Wishlist

It’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the wonderful blog at The Broke and the Bookish! This week’s topic: 
Ten things on my reading wishlist

If you say any of these things, I’m pretty much ready and lining up to read these books! This list has probably changed a lot over the years so here are my current reading obsessions! 

BANTER
Give me alllllll the flirty, romantic, sexual-tension banter. I absolutely love it and can never get enough!!

BROMANCES
I just love strong male friendships. I don’t know why but bromances just get me. I love seeing loyalty to friends.

TIME TRAVEL & PARALLEL UNIVERSES
This is nothing new and I’m sure some people are sick of all the time travel books but as of right now, I can never have enough. I want all of it. All the time.

PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLERS THAT I CAN’T GUESS
It’s hard to have a psychological thriller nowadays where I can’t guess the ending and be toooootally bowled over. I’ve been a big mystery/thriller reader for a long time so when you read so many, you tend to catch on to patterns from authors and pick up on things. I want to be TOTALLY FLOORED.

MAGICAL REALISM
It still depends on the context a little bit but somehow I’ve become a sucker for magical realism! I used to actively avoid it because it just wasn’t for me and something just changed over the years.

UNIQUE RETELLINGS/ADAPTATIONS
Forget fairy tales. I want to see retellings of other awesome things, especially things that make me nostalgic for my childhood. Troop Beverly Hills. Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Fraggle Rock. Legends of the Hidden Temple. Indiana Jones. Babes in Toyland. Let’s do itttttt.

ALL-ENCOMPASSING FRIENDSHIPS
The friendships in The Raven Cycle were just so amazing. It can be hard to get a group together like that without it being clingy or stalkery or without love triangles/squares/pentagons(?) but I’d love to see more!

And while we’re on the topic… REALISTIC FRIENDSHIP GROUPS
I’d love to see more groups of friends and not just girls with girl best friends, guys with guy best friend or a male and female best friend falling for each other (although I do love a friends-to-more story). One of the things I loved about THE START OF ME AND YOU was the friendship group and how it was a whole bunch of kids hanging out. I had my best friends as a teenager but I also had regular groups of people that we all hung out with.

NEW MAGIC SYSTEMS
I love elemental magic but there are only so many ways we can figure out how to make that work in a story. I love seeing new magic systems and that’s one of the reason I love Brandon Sanderson’s books so much! Every book has a brand new magic system and some of them are soooo unique and every single one is so detailed.


Okay so that’s only nine and this wasn’t a very decorative post but my eyes are hurting from the computer screen and I’m tired and I wrote this on Monday and it’s MONDAY. (Well, by now it’s Tuesday but you know…)

Which of these things would you love to see more of in books!?