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The Starless Sea – Erin Morgenstern

The Starless Sea – Erin MorgensternTitle: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Publishing Info: November 5, 2019 by Penguin Random House, Doubleday Books
Source: Amazon
Genres: Adult, Magical Realism, Fantasy
Date Completed: September 2, 2019

Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: The Night Circus, The Night Circus

Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable knowledge that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood impossibly written in this book that is older than he is.

A bee, a key, and a sword emblazoned on the book lead Zachary to two people who will change the course of his life: Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired painter, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances. These strangers guide Zachary through masquerade party dances and whispered back room stories to the headquarters of a secret society where doorknobs hang from ribbons, and finally through a door conjured from paint to the place he has always yearned for. Amid twisting tunnels filled with books, gilded ballrooms, and wine-dark shores Zachary falls into an intoxicating world soaked in romance and mystery. But a battle is raging over the fate of this place and though there are those who would willingly sacrifice everything to protect it, there are just as many intent on its destruction. As Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian venture deeper into the space and its histories and myths, searching for answers and each other, a timeless love story unspools, casting a spell of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a Starless Sea.

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THE NIGHT CIRCUS is one of my favorite books and I’ve been waiting so long for a new Erin Morgenstern book that I was SO NERVOUS for THE STARLESS SEA! I also have a tendency to hype myself up and sometimes overhype myself for some of my favorite books so it was quite the effort to let myself get immersed in the book and not get ahead of myself! Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about because Morgenstern’s master prose easily wrapped me inside of the pages of this book and I was instantly swept away.

THE STARLESS SEA is basically a love story to books, reading, writing, and anything literary. There are so many amazing quotes about books and literature here that it was easy for me to love on so many different levels, but it wasn’t just about the characters being book lovers. The concept of stories made up this book on a magical level, adding fantastical elements to storytelling in the real world. It’s really kind of impossible to describe but Morgernstern once again nails that dreamy element of magical realism that lets you peek behind the curtain into the magical undercurrent of the normal world. It’s truly mesmerizing and it was such an incredible thing to read.

There’s quite an array of characters in the book, all of which were lovable, really. All of them have their flaws but I absolutely loved following the story of main character Zachary Rawlins. He sort of reminded me of a Quentin-type character (from The Magicians) except not quite as tragic and not quite as… erm… whiny, I guess (sorry, Q. It’s a common complaint). He’s a book-lover, has a studious mind, is a little more reserved, and just has something about him that reminded me of Quentin, which is funny considering I read later on that Erin Morgenstern actually kind of borrowed the concept of the bee-key-sword combination from Lev Grossman and The Magicians!

It’s kind of funny how THE STARLESS SEA seems to leave me wordless and tongue-tied when it’s so beautifully written but it’s slightly indescribable and so hard to review! I think the beauty of the book speaks for itself. I loved the stories within the story that linked back to different stories that represented things in real life which were also magical. (See? Impossible.) Everything just folded back in on itself and connected so perfectly and it was a truly wonderful read.

 

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Bookish magic. Can it really get much better than magic inspired by and revolving around books and stories? I don’t know if it can.
Left Me Wanting More: Time with the ending. There is a point in magical realism books where I have a hard time merging the fantasy and reality and that point in THE STARLESS SEA really came towards the end for me. I just wanted a biiiiit more time to spend with some of the magical elements to really feel grounded with them and know that this was real.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

I know that this book isn’t for everyone BUT if you enjoy magical realism or think you might get along with this book, I do highly recommend it! The writing is definitely more etherial.

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Capturing the Devil (Stalking Jack the Ripper #4) – Kerri Maniscalco

Capturing the Devil (Stalking Jack the Ripper #4) – Kerri ManiscalcoTitle: Capturing the Devil (Stalking Jack the Ripper #4) by Kerri Maniscalco
Publishing Info: September 10, 2019 by Hachette, Little Brown, Jimmy Patterson
Source: Amazon
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Historical Fiction
Date Completed: December 25, 2019

Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper #1), Hunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack the Ripper #2), Escaping From Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3)

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell have landed in America, a bold, brash land unlike the genteel streets of London they knew. But like London, the city of Chicago hides its dark secrets well. When the two attend the spectacular World's Fair, they find the once-in-a-lifetime event tainted with reports of missing people and unsolved murders.

Determined to help, Audrey Rose and Thomas begin their investigations, only to find themselves facing a serial killer unlike any they've heard of before. Identifying him is one thing, but capturing him---and getting dangerously lost in the infamous Murder Hotel he constructed as a terrifying torture device---is another.

Will Audrey Rose and Thomas see their last mystery to the end---together and in love---or will their fortunes finally run out when their most depraved adversary makes one final, devastating kill?

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It’s no secret that I’ve been a big fan of Kerri Maniscalco and her Stalking Jack the Ripper series! Audrey Rose and Thomas were such a beautiful couple and the books were so much fun, getting me into a historical fiction perspective while having a fun mystery and a dash of romance. I actually started CAPTURING THE DEVIL around when it released back in September and just due to a busy schedule, I wasn’t able to finish until my holiday break in December. I’m really glad I was able to give it time so I could spent a good chunk reading!

I was incredibly curious about the inclusion of H.H. Holmes AND the finale of the whole series, really bringing everything full circle! I really enjoyed how there were pieces of this book that were hidden throughout the series. I did find that portion to be a little rushed, though, and I really wished we had gotten to see more of Audrey Rose’s and Thomas’ interactions with Holmes and not just a quick rough & tumble portion where things concluded in a frenzy. We barely even got to see Holmes or the “murder castle” and I just thought the characters would be spending much more time there and not just a quick, fast-paced conclusion. I feel like the other books spent a lot more time setting up and developing the mystery where this book spend a large amount of time with the romance.

While I do love Audrey Rose & Thomas, I just felt like there was way too much time spent on their romance and I wanted it to flow more naturally within the story and not take up a third of the book on its own. I feel like when it came down to it, this book was more about Audrey Rose & Thomas and their romantic drama than it was about the mystery, so that was really a bummer for me. I know that tons of people love their romance and I can imagine a lot of people being happy with it, but for me, I liked it more when it was a part of the character development that came along with the story and felt natural as the mystery investigation was going on. The beginning of the book and the wedding drama felt really forced and totally unnecessary and I really wish there had been no drama revolving around the wedding and that it would have been a shining moment to close the series. Instead it was kind of a negative thing for a long time. I guess I did like that it wasn’t an ideal situation and that Audrey Rose & Thomas were once again able to work through something that was a “scandal” or wasn’t a society norm.

Sadly, this was probably my least favorite book of the series. Series finales are always hard for me but I just really wanted so much more murder mystery and time focused on H.H. Holmes. It seemed like he and the murders were more of a thing in passing instead of being the most important thing of the book.

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Murder Mysteries. It was really neat to see things taking place in Chicago and to get a glimpse of H.H. Holmes to uncover what was happening there.
Left Me Wanting More: Murder Mystery. I just wanted so much more mystery and far less romance. I just don’t like when the romance takes over a book when it’s not “supposed” to be the main plot. It was very important in this book but it just felt like a little too much of the focus.

Addiction Rating
Read it

If you’ve been following the series and you’ve been enjoying it up to this point, I would say definitely finish the series. I’m glad that I did! If you haven’t enjoyed the series much then I’d say maybe this book wouldn’t be for you either.

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BOOKS LIKE CAPTURING THE DEVIL

             

Call Down the Hawk (Dreamer #1) – Maggie Stiefvater

Call Down the Hawk (Dreamer #1) – Maggie StiefvaterTitle: Call Down the Hawk (Dreamer #1) by Maggie Stiefvater
Publishing Info: November 5, 2019 by Scholastic Inc.
Source: Amazon, Subscription Box
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magical Realism
Date Completed: November 6, 2019

Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls #1), The Scorpio Races, The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle #1), The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2), Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3), The Scorpio Races, The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1), The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2), The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4), All the Crooked Saints

The dreamers walk among us . . . and so do the dreamed. Those who dream cannot stop dreaming – they can only try to control it. Those who are dreamed cannot have their own lives – they will sleep forever if their dreamers die.

And then there are those who are drawn to the dreamers. To use them. To trap them. To kill them before their dreams destroy us all.

Ronan Lynch is a dreamer. He can pull both curiosities and catastrophes out of his dreams and into his compromised reality.

Jordan Hennessy is a thief. The closer she comes to the dream object she is after, the more inextricably she becomes tied to it.

Carmen Farooq-Lane is a hunter. Her brother was a dreamer . . . and a killer. She has seen what dreaming can do to a person. And she has seen the damage that dreamers can do. But that is nothing compared to the destruction that is about to be unleashed. . . .

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I was super excited but also super nervous to read CALL DOWN THE HAWK! I knew I’d love it but I was also scared to read about new characters and have some focus away from the Gangsey. Thankfully I was able to jump in and start listening to the audiobook right away, super excited that Will Patton was back for the CALL DOWN THE HAWK audiobook too!

I’ll admit that it was a little different and maybe slightly difficult to adjust to the new character POVs in CALL DOWN THE HAWK. It wasn’t a bad thing but I’ve re-read The Raven Cycle so many times now that I got used to the different voices there, including those that weren’t the main characters. I had to re-learn how to adjust to a new character AND how to adapt to the new story line that she brought to this new series which again, wasn’t bad but different. I definitely enjoyed Hennessy and the concept of a new Dreamer with a different story very much!

What I really loved above all else was how this series continues in the same world but it’s its own series. It’s one thing I love about Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse and Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere. Now Maggie has… the Dreamerverse? The Raven Cycle established this world, these characters, and this magical ability and CALL DOWN THE HAWK just expands upon this idea even more. Like many other great fantasy authors, Maggie Stiefvater continues to reveal history and backstory like it truly is history and was always there. The new things we find out about existing characters continue to astound me and fold in seamlessly to her existing canon. We get to know side characters like Declan Lynch, who become main characters and expand depths upon depths that we never knew existed. Who knew that curmudgeonly, blah, controlling Declan had so many reasons to be so and there was so much more to him than we realized? I adored getting to know more about him in this book which was quite the surprise!

Of course I loooooooved reading more about Ronan and it was even interesting to see more about Adam peripherally through his POV. I actually liked that this focused more on Ronan and the Dreamer side of the story over Adam’s POV and how he was involved in the Gangsey side of The Raven Cycle. The separation made this more of its own series too, allowing new characters to become the focus and take us into the story. Adam’s story wrapped up in THE RAVEN KING and we do see a new character arc come into play, but now that’s more to do with Adam discovering who he wants to be and what he wants to do with his life for the first time and doesn’t really have to do with the magical elements of Ronan’s life. He’s able to be there for Ronan as someone who knows and understands what he goes through but he also needs to lead his own life and write his own story. It makes it interesting to see all of that from Ronan’s perspective too.

There’s so much that happens in this book that I feel like I already forgot so much but it was so interesting. Like The Rave Cycle, I immediately just wanted to stop and re-read… but I forced myself not to. I will definitely do a re-read again next year (starting with THE RAVEN BOYS and finishing with CALL DOWN THE HAWK) and I can’t wait to read this book again knowing what I know. I feel like it’s been so long since I read a new book in this world (three years since THE RAVEN KING?!) and it’s so special to be able to read something new with super fresh eyes and I’m equally excited to read it again and pick up everything new that I missed the first time around. You know it’s a fantastic book when you already can’t wait for the subsequent re-reads.

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Kept Me Hooked On: The Dreamerverse. Yeah, I made it up, but that’s what I’m gonna call it! I looooved being able to read a new book in this same world but also have it be something that felt like its very own.
Left Me Wanting More: Connection in the beginning. The thing about these books is that they’re perfectly laid out. It took me a while to adjust and connect in the beginning BUT when I re-read, I won’t have that problem. These books and series are just so perfect but for me at least, I have to be so fully immersed in the world that things are even better on the re-read than the first read. I wished I had been able to instantly connect more but I know I’ll be in so deep with the next book and the next read.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

You MUST read the original series first, in my opinion. If you want to read the series independently of one another…… I guess you COULD read CALL DOWN THE HAWK first but I really, really wouldn’t recommend that. But if you did love The Raven Cycle, you should absolutely read CALL DOWN THE HAWK and get sucked into this new series!

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Snow Like Ashes (Snow Like Ashes #1) – Sara Raasch

Snow Like Ashes (Snow Like Ashes #1) – Sara RaaschTitle: Snow Like Ashes (Snow Like Ashes #1) by Sara Raasch
Publishing Info: October 14, 2014 by HarperCollins
Source: Amazon, Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: December 9, 2018

Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

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I’ve had SNOW LIKE ASHES on my TBR for forever (I think quite literally four years) but I had tried the audio and didn’t like the narrator so I decided to wait until I was ready to read the print copy. I finally got around to picking this one up and it both went as I expected and I was surprised I enjoyed it!

Reading so many YA novels, some of the themes and writing styles can really kind of blend together to feel like one large book. While SNOW LIKE ASHES still did have that similar feel, I also feel like it branched out a bit in ways I didn’t expect regarding the magic system and a couple of interesting twists. I did see some of that coming but it was also still done in a way that was pleasing and somehow still surprising. In some small ways, it reminded me of the overall concept of the Mistborn trilogy (thought not quite to the crazy world-building extent that Brandon Sanderson takes things), but that really made me want to keep reading the series.

I also really liked the relationships in this book! I thought once things started shifting, it would start feeling like a love triangle, but it really didn’t. It felt like a natural shift in Meira’s life and a shift in her emotions as she starts to figure out who she really is and how she might help out in this world and it didn’t feel like she was trapped in a triangle at all. I started to really love Theron so I hope we see a lot more of him in future novels!

There were a couple patches that felt a little off as I was reading but things ended up coming around in the end to fit nicely together. I didn’t love some of the places the book went but it all ended up being necessary which made me feel better about it in the finale. This is definitely a series I’d like to continue soon!

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Kept Me Hooked On: A fun, original fantasy world. I really liked this fantasy concept revolving around seasons! There were a few more aspects to it but I thought it was really neat and I enjoyed the different ways the kingdoms were formed.
Left Me Wanting More: Continuity. There were a couple places where I felt things could have flowed better bu it was still fun overall!

 

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Addiction Rating
Try it

I really had fun reading this one! I still didn’t LOVE it where it was like “this is amazing” but it was an enjoyable first book in a series and I’d like to continue reading!

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Supernova (Renegades #3) – Marissa Meyer

Supernova (Renegades #3) – Marissa MeyerTitle: Supernova (Renegades #3) by Marissa Meyer
Publishing Info: November 5, 2019 by Macmillan
Source: Amazon, Libro.FM
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Superheroes
Date Completed: November 21, 2019

Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1), Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2), , Glitches (The Lunar Chronicles #0.5), The Queen's Army (The Lunar Chronicles #1.5), Carswell's Guide to Being Lucky (Lunar Chronicles #3.1), Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1), Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2), Cress (The Lunar Chronicles, #3), Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4), Stars Above (A Lunar Chronicles Collection), Heartless, Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 (Wires and Nerve #1), Renegades (Renegades #1)

All's fair in love and anarchy...

The epic conclusion to Marissa Meyer's thrilling Renegades Trilogy finds Nova and Adrian struggling to keep their secret identities concealed while the battle rages on between their alter egos, their allies, and their greatest fears come to life. Secrets, lies, and betrayals are revealed as anarchy once again threatens to reclaim Gatlon City.

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While I enjoyed reading SUPERNOVA, I really do feel like this series should have been two books. There was so much that happened in SUPERNOVA that I would have liked to see earlier on, likely in ARCHENEMIES, and it would have solved the issue that while ARCHENEMIES was also enjoyable, I didn’t feel like enough really happened plot-wise to have it be a book of its own. Thinking about the series overall, I think a lot could have been cut down and condensed into two books. There were also a few moments where the pacing just felt odd, like some really long battle scenes, and I ended up losing focus.

The epilogue was definitely a stunner but… it was another thing that I really wanted to be in the second book and the open-ended question that’s leftover could have been resolved in this book. I think that would have added nice depth to the plot and added a nice grab/twist in the second book because I really don’t feel like there was much memorable about it, as entertaining as it was. I also wished I had more time to enjoy the contents of the epilogue. To be honest, I really don’t want to continue this story any more so I’m actually hoping there ISN’T a spin-off. Not in a bad way, but I feel like a new series wouldn’t offer a new enough plot and I don’t want to continue the good vs. evil concept in a new series because I feel like too many of the same themes would be repeated.

I didn’t really feel like I was waiting for too many answers in SUPERNOVA. I wanted to know what Phobia’s backstory was (and we do find out and it is really cool) but that was just about it. Basically I kind of figured there would be a happy ending, which isn’t a bad thing, but there were a few things that wrapped up a little too neatly. I felt like for everything that happened, Adrian and Nova ended up being all lovey-dovey a little too easily for all of the secrets and betrayals. There were some cool things that happened in the end to wrap things up but then a couple things unfolded that just felt a little TOO nice and neat. Some of the ending just kind of seemed to nullify the whole series? And start the cycle all over again.

I enjoyed the whole series and I had fun reading it but I don’t think it’s something I need to reread in the future. I enjoyed the original superhero story and I had fun spending time with these characters but I actually felt like the plot could have been improved upon and it lacked the connection that I’ve felt with other Marissa Meyer books.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Superheroes. I don’t really a lot of superhero books and I never got into comics. It was really fun to read an original superhero story, especially seeing all of the different powers!
Left Me Wanting More: Structure. I would have loved to see a different structure to this series. Marissa Meyer said it was always meant to be a trilogy but the publisher originally had planned it for two books. I wish it had been condensed into a duology! I think the pacing would have been better and there could have been a better/different focus.

Addiction Rating
Read it

If you’ve already read the other two books, it’s definitely worth finishing the series! I’m no editor but if I was a reader able to give feedback, I probably would have voiced some things I would have actually liked to have changed. If you haven’t read the series, I still think they’re worth reading! They’re all still fun, even if I didn’t love the whole set-up.

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Serious Moonlight – Jenn Bennet

Serious Moonlight – Jenn BennetTitle: Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett
Publishing Info: April 16, 2019 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Amazon
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Date Completed: July 3, 2018

Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Starry Eyes, Alex, Approximately

After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that the most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

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This was such a fun read and another great story from Jenn Bennett! She has such a way of making her characters into real people and I absolutely adore the families included in each book as well. I feel like each of her books contains a different family dynamic and it’s so great to read. I also want to take the time to appreciate the cover and how the characters are actually portrayed as they’re described in the book! Daniel even has a ponytail (something I don’t even think I noticed until I read the book) and I always love to see the cover actually match the character descriptions.

SERIOUS MOONLIGHT was just a really great book. I really enjoyed getting to know Birdie and her love of mysteries as well as getting to know what it’s like to live with narcolepsy. That was another great addition to the story to bring narcolepsy into the minds of Jenn Bennett’s readers which probably isn’t something that a lot of people consider. I really appreciated getting to know more about it and I also liked how the characters handled what Birdie was going through. Even if they weren’t the “right” decisions, they all felt really realistic. It’s hard to address a medical issue sometimes and you don’t want to admit something is wrong if you don’t have to, and I’m sure many of us have gone through that mindset of thinking in our own ways, so I could totally relate to that.

The romance was also very cute and something you don’t see a lot of in young adult! I kind of liked that Birdie and Daniel started off with a physical relationship (or I guess encounter, since they then had to decide if they wanted a relationship) and that for once a YA book that started with sex wasn’t about being pregnant. I liked that she had a supportive maternal figure (Mona, friend of the family who was like an aunt and helped raise her) that she could talk to about it and she had some really positive support. I also kind of liked the absence of a best friend in this book and that Mona was kind of like Birdie’s best friend. It made for a more interesting relationship between the two of them and I like eliminating the possibility of that friend fight that almost always happens in YA novels (because it almost always happens in real life). It was just a great way to sort of break that mold that so many books repeat, just because it is so relatable, but Jenn Bennett brought a new relationship to the pages of this book and a different sort of friendship.

Jenn Bennett is definitely an auto-buy author for me and I really enjoyed SERIOUS MOONLIGHT! I’ve enjoyed every one of her books that I’ve read so far and each one really has a unique story with a great variety of characters and situations.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Unique families. I love seeing different, unique, and realistic families represented! I love seeing these special relationships and different types of families being included.
Left Me Wanting More: Chemistry. I really did like the relationship here but I think if I had (personally) felt a liiiittle more chemistry, it would have been even more wonderful!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

Jenn Bennett is definitely an auto-buy author for me and I’ve enjoyed all of her books that I’ve read so far! SERIOUS MOONLIGHT was a great addition to her contemporary collection and I can’t wait to read even more!

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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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King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) – Leigh Bardugo

King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) – Leigh BardugoTitle: King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) by Leigh Bardugo
Publishing Info: January 29, 2019 by Macmillan
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: January 31, 2019

Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1), Siege and Storm (The Grisha #2), Grisha Novellas: The Witch of Duva (The Grisha #0.5), The Taylor (The Grisha #1.5), The Too-Clever Fox (The Grisha #2.5), Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1), Siege and Storm (The Grisha #2), Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3), Grisha Novellas: The Demon in the Wood (The Grisha #0.1) & Little Knife (The Grisha #2.6), The Demon in the Wood (The Grisha # 0.1), Little Knife (The Grisha #2.6), Six of Crows (The Dregs #1), Six of Crows (The Dregs #1), , Wonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons #1)

Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.

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My dearest Leigh Bardugo, congratulations on a phenomenal book. I’ve been trying to rate every book I read 100% sincerely, no matter if it’s a favorite author/series and I feel like I should love it, so know that this rating does not need any fluffing up of any kind.

I’ve loved Leigh Bardugo’s writing since her debut with SHADOW AND BONE and my connection with her and her books will always hold a special place in my heart since she was one of the first authors I ever met. With every book of hers I read, I’m so happy to continue to enjoy the stories she tells and I’m continuously impressed with each subsequent book. I’ve loved all of them but it’s amazing how I still feel like her writing continues to grow with every book or series. Shadow and Bone was the introduction to this universe and had a lot to set up, teach, and resolve within three books. Six of Crows took us to a new part of the Grishaverse with a stunning cast of characters who carried a brilliant heist-type plot but delved even further into character relationships and histories. KING OF SCARS continued to amaze me by diving into a layer of this universe that I didn’t even know existed and I was simply mind-blown with all of the hidden mysteries that I didn’t even realize I was missing.

While the writing style is different, the amount of world-building in KING OF SCARS reminded me of Brandon Sanderson’s books. With each book comes a delicious amount of creation, history, and plot to leave the readers curious and satisfied but then BAM! another layer is introduced and much like I felt when reading Sanderson fantasies, it was a brilliant addition that I hadn’t even considered but fit quite perfectly into the universe. All of the pieces fall so perfectly into place that you wonder how you ever did without knowing these pieces of information, and I love how Leigh Bardugo delivers those reveals to readers. Every reveal is so intentional and carefully crafted, and I really felt like Leigh Bardugo made the Grishaverse a real place for me. It’s like it’s always existed and only Leigh knows every in and out of the universe and she always has — it’s just that we as readers slowly get to discover what’s been there the entire time. So many fantasy works are carefully built but still just feel like stories that the author is inventing as they go along. KING OF SCARS unfolds the next layer of this world with expert connections back to Shadow and Bone as well as Six of Crows, showing how brilliantly all of these books have been masterminded. They all connect back to one another in the most perfect ways, from adding on to the existing world to referring back to favorite quotes to sneaking in pieces of other books as special Easter eggs. Whether or not Leigh had these entire books and plot lines in the back of her mind from the very beginning, she certainly knows her way around this complex world that she’s created and always finds a new way to continue creating new adventures while still building upon the stories that we’ve already read and loved.

There was a point in the book where things got REALLY next-level and it was both cool and also a little confusing. It wasn’t in a bad way but it was just a whole brand-new piece of world-building that I kind of had to wrap my brain around and it took me a little while to get into that big fantasy element. It was amazing to witness this concept that I really never saw coming and it was also so series-changing that it took me a while for my brain to adjust. Once the plot continued and the characters sort of wrangled that piece of the story line into the book, it all came back together and I was able to keep all of those pieces together. It also really did add some stupendous fantasy creations and made this series and universe even bigger than they already were. I felt like Shadow and Bone felt more on the YA side (not in a diminutive way, of course), Six of Crows felt like a crossover series to span from YA into adult audience, and KING OF SCARS really broke any boundaries and had some intensely sweeping concepts that really launched it to the next level.

I also want to applaud Leigh Bardugo for how she handled each narrating character (Nikolai, Zoya, and Nina) and how she handled each of their character relationships. I’ve been tiring of a lot of forced romances in other books, jumping into a romance plot, or pairing characters off so each one might have their own romance. I appreciated the subtlety of Six of Crows and how it established those intense relationship feelings without every character having to instantly fall in love and pair off. While each main character really did have their own pair in the book, it never felt like the romances took over and they all felt natural, falling into place at their own time. KING OF SCARS was exactly what I wanted in the romance department which is to say that it didn’t have much at all. Some characters certainly have romantic inklings or feelings and I’m interested in the direction that it’s heading, but there’s much more to focus on and each character shows the proper restraint and focus on their tasks at hand. So much has happened to each of these POV characters that they’re a little reluctant to open their hearts to someone while attempting to keep Ravka from falling to pieces. Instead, each one slowly starts to let emotion come through, guarded and carefully, and there’s just a snail’s pace towards a romantic involvement. I love the hints, the tension, and the slow burn and I’m glad to see that things may lead somewhere but there’s no rush for that to take over everyone’s priorities. All three of these characters also sort of need to learn to love themselves or let go of a past hardship — or both — before they can move on to a romantic relationship with someone else and I truly appreciate that character development. It’s great to see characters working through their own limitations or hardships instead of allowing a romantic plot to “fix” it all. Leigh Bardugo truly knows what she’s doing here and I’m loving the pace of the story all the way through!

I’m just so impressed with everything on these pages and I’m so happy to have a new piece of the Grishaverse. I had no idea where this series was even going to go when it started and I’m not sure how it’ll finish, but I’m loving this new direction and interesting take on the existing world!

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Digging deeper. I really got to know this world so much better in this book and it was SO interesting!
Left Me Wanting More: Grounding. There were a couple moments where things got a little intense in the fantasy aspect but I did really enjoy it overall!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

I absolutely loved this book. It did get a couple mixed reviews because of some things that happened, which I understand, but I thought it was stunning.

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BOOKS LIKE KING OF SCARS

             

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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Love, Life, and the List – Kasie West

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

Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1), The Distance Between Us, On the Fence, Split Second (Pivot Point #2), The Fill-In Boyfriend, P.S. I Like You, By Your Side

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

Which is where the list comes in.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Addiction Rating
Read it

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

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BOOKS LIKE LOVE, LIFE, AND THE LIST