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Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Trilogy #1) by Leigh Bardugo
Published June 5th 2012 by Henry Holt and Company
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★☆

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

Hi, my name is Chri. I run a book blog called Aerou, obsess over tiny details, and read books fifty thousand years behind everyone else.

I had a pretty hard time rating Shadow and Bone, actually, because I actually enjoyed Shadow and Bone quite a bit, but my read wasn’t without reservations. It actually came as a bit of a surprise, because a lot of people I know had bones to pick with the plot, the characters, or both. And in all honesty, I wasn’t too wowed by the plot. It’s nothing terribly new – it’s a little on the predictable side, even. But I really enjoyed the way the author crafted and wrote the story and the way her main characters seemed to lift off the pages. Shadow and Bone was interesting and engaging in Leigh Bardugo’s words, with just enough mystery and intrigue to keep you flipping the pages. The story feels dark and cold and strange and a little desperate. I finished this one in one sitting.

And the characters! I loved the complexity to Alina’s character – how she wasn’t exactly strong but wasn’t exactly weak, as well as the struggle that brought on, especially as the plot thickened.

I wasn’t a fan of Mal at all at the beginning of the novel. He was denser than you’d think was possible and couldn’t read the atmosphere for shit, and it really made me wonder why Alina even bothered sticking around. On the other hand, I was super on board with The Darkling – my shounen manga character tastes are seeping into YA lit too (oops), and I like those dark, raw characters with redemption arcs. Which I thought was going to be the case in Shadow and Bone. Heck, it kind of happened? Kind of? Before everything did a complete 180 and I’m reminded of why I tend to wait until a series has been completely published, or until a series has at least half of its books on the shelves before I start reading.

Because I actually ended up liking Mal a lot! His character in the later half of the book is sweet and selfless and brave. You can definitely see the author setting up the relationship between him and Alina to be the endgame, and honestly, I don’t mind. He definitely improved with the story, but conversely, I ended up liking The Darkling less than I did at the start? It’s mainly what the story did to him – if you’re going to make a character a villain, make him a villain. He doesn’t have to be unapologetically a villain, but I feel like it would be so much stronger if he was unapologetically written in. Since the author’s planning on dropping the bomb like that, make it benefitting of his character! I felt like everything was revealed too early on and too half-heartedly, adding to the whole manipulative, did-it-for-the-gasps kind of feeling that isn’t all too pleasant to experience as a reader. In the process, he ended up losing a lot of that build up and characterization, which is a shame because he’s really quite an interesting character, regardless of where he actually stands.

The much-quoted “Fine… make me your villain” line, though! I knew it was coming, and it still had that shot-through-the-heart effect… Damn.

My favorite character by far was Genya, though. Where the rest of the story felt a little well-worn, and a little predictable at times, Genya was a breath of fresh air. I love what she brought to Shadow and Bone in terms of her voice, her character, her relationship with the other characters, her backstory… just, her. She added a kind of depth to the court and Alina’s post-summoner confusion that would’ve made the story rather bland otherwise, I think. I’d definitely read an entire book on Genya. She’s really, really cute, and I hope she gets her happy ending.

Though the plot could be rather typical at times, the characters and the writing really upped that sense of emotional attachment and sent the pages flying. And though I wasn’t entirely blown away enough to feel an overwhelming sense of urgency in picking up the sequel, I’ve added Seige and Storm to my TBR list, and I’m definitely looking to get started on that soon.

I’ve broken 1,500+ books added on Goodreads right now, which is kind of insane – especially since half of them are under the to-read label. And a good portion of them are books from a series, be it the first book, or a following one. I think I tried cutting down that to-read shelf a couple times, but somehow it kept growing and growing, and now I don’t even know where to start trying to downsize that monster…

I just want to curl up in bed without any of the usual responsibilities and read all the books – is that too much to ask?

I used to be better at keeping up. I remember really liking the Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa. I started really book blogging around the time the original trilogy was published (before The Iron Knight – now you can guess at how long I’ve been doing this thing! loloops). I EVEN MADE IT ALL THE WAY UP TO THE IRON KNIGHT. That’s how in love and dedicated I was!! And then the author extended the series, and I tried! I think I got an ARC of The Lost Prince (hoooly crap nostalgia’s hitting me like a truck right now), but it fell apart after that. I didn’t even know the next two books were called The Iron Traitor and The Iron Warrior, so I’m kind of a failure at being a fan of the series. There’s just too many books and all of them are gorgeous and shiny and I WANT TO READ THEM ALL.

Continuing the trend of series I started way back when, I also remember reading The Girl of Fire and Thorns! I think it’s the Rae Carson one? I don’t really remember what I thought of it. I do remember that it didn’t really catch on until a while after the first book was published, so when the buzz started going around I also distinctly remember thinking that I should get back into the series! But. Guess who hasn’t yet.

But really – I don’t know how you guys all do it?

Like, man, cliffhangers get to me too. But I think because of that, I generally try to wait until the entire series is done, or at least until the majority of the books in the series are published before starting. I know, I know, my willpower is great heheh.

– I kid. I’m actually just the lazy type^^;;; whoops.

And also The Ascendance Trilogy! I read The False Prince and remembered really enjoying it, and I remember telling myself that I had to pick up book two… but then book one ended too neatly? Maybe that’s why. So even though I loved the book, I never really felt the urgency to continue.

I’m a ball of complications and a failure of a series fan.

Flash forward to the semi-present day, and it’s the Shadow and Bone series! I’m probably the last person on the planet to read Shadow and Bone, but HORRAY I DID AND I LOVED IT. I ALSO BOUGHT SIX OF CROWS AND I READ WONDER WOMAN and at this point I think I will read whatever Leigh Bardugo writes, even if the actual story doesn’t quite float my boat.

But Shadow and Bone. IT WAS A GREAT READ.

…and, again – I told myself I’d pick up book two (Seige and Storm?).

I read The Young Elites! I told myself I’d pick up book two – The Rose Society.

But I haven’t. And as much as I enjoyed reading those books, I don’t really feel an urgency to continue the series? This is probably in part due to the fact that I have this weird habit where if I read book two and there’s more then I HAVE TO CONTINUE. Which is probably the only reason why I finished all the YA PNR that were big back when I started blogging. Y’know, Hush, Hush, Fallen, Halo, Twilight, and the like. Because once I read book two, I’ll finish the series unless something super shitty happens, but the amount of motivation, for the lack of a better word, needed for me to start book two is high. It’s like one of those exothermic reaction curves okayIllstopnow.

I have serious commitment issues.

Glad we established that.

I’m even having a hard time continuing the A Darker Shade of Magic series…! I also haven’t had time to stop by the bookstore, but last time I went with the intention to buy A Gathering of Shadows, I ended up walking out with other books instead which is weird because I loved ADSOM? As many complaints as I have for Schwab’s YA, I love her adult? I’m just. Why am I like this. Why.

But I just recently finished Red Queen and I OWN Glass Sword (so I’m most likely going to read it because I’m weird about small things like having to read every book I own before it leaves my hands, even if it takes me forever to getting around to doing so), and King’s Cage came out so – I might be able to finish a series? Finally? DUN dun DUNNNNN…

We’ll see 😀

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab
Published February 24th 2015 by Tor Books
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★½

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

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.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then 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.

4.5

I’m something like two years late to the party, but oooooh wow. Dang. All that hype? They aren’t lying – A Darker Shade of Magic is really, really good.

There’s something about the author’s writing that I love. I’m usually a huge fan of delicate descriptions and subtleties weaved into prose, and while it’s not quite like that – the author’s writing is a lot more matter-of-factual – there’s something about it that just works really well, especially with stories of this sort. It’s the ordinary undertone she takes while telling fantastical stories, I think, and the way she moves the story so fluidly from being gentle and quirky and whimsical to uncertainty and despair. The former bit like so:

“Kell wore a very peculiar coat.
It had neither one side, which would be conventional, nor two, which would be unexpected, but several, which was, of course, impossible.
The first thing he did whenever he stepped out of one London and into another was take off the coat and turn it inside out once or twice (or even three times) until he found the side he needed. Not all of them were fashionable, but they each served a purpose. There were ones that blended in and ones that stood out, and one that served no purpose but of which he was just particularly fond.”

The story is also pretty fucking cool, and the execution lives up to expectations. There are many Londons! Magical Londons! Non-magical Londons! Crumbling Londons! Pirates and whimsical magic and chess pieces and curious stones and masquerade parties and traveling smuggling princes and! I! Just! It’s a little strange and a little out there but it worked, and it made for an incredibly interesting read.

The characters were just the same, from Kell – a little curious, a little cool, and a little morally gray, taking with him elements of the author’s other book, Vicious, which may be one of my all-time favorite reads – to Lila, who was self-confident and brave and determined, though it did take me a bit to warm up to her (her introduction wasn’t exactly the most endearing of scenes). There’s also Astrid Dane and Athos Dane, both chilling and unflinching and villains to the bone and Rhy, the prettily charming and charmingly pretty prince. And Holland, who, at first glance, seems like the stone-cold foil to Kell, but! It’s a V. E. Schwab book, so everyone’s vulnerable and nothing’s as it seems and so of course shit happens and of course I feel partial to Holland and of course my taste in characters is equal parts terrible and untimely. 🙂 sobcriesbye

I do wish there was a glossary of sorts at either the beginning or end of the book, though, with some of the Antari phrases and their meanings. I’m a little slow at remembering that kind of stuff, and a lot of the book would read so much smoother and engaging if I knew what the characters were saying and what they meant when they said it, rather than having to pause every once in a while to flip back to the beginning to look for an explanation.

The ending’s unexpectedly satisfying for a book that’s the first in a series – no cliffhanger! Which, in theory, means you could just stop here. The real question is, why would you?

(Also, um. I. Really want that coat?)

As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti
Expected publication: January 2nd 2018 by Sourcebooks Fire
Source: ARC from Publisher
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

What if you could ask for anything- and get it?

In the sandy Mojave Desert, Madison is a small town on the road between nothing and nowhere. But Eldon wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, because in Madison, everyone gets one wish—and that wish always comes true.

Some people wish for money, some people wish for love, but Eldon has seen how wishes have broken the people around him. And with the lives of his family and friends in chaos, he’s left with more questions than answers. Can he make their lives better? How can he be happy if the people around him aren’t? And what hope is there for any of them if happiness isn’t an achievable dream? Doubts build, leading Eldon to a more outlandish and scary thought: maybe you can’t wish for happiness…maybe, just maybe, you have to make it for yourself.

How do I put this? I really like the concept of the new cover for As You Wish – it’s really eye-catching and well thought out, and definitely something I’d put up on the wall. I wouldn’t, however, buy a copy of the book itself for my bookshelf.

Reason number one: Eldon was a prick. A giant bag of dicks, if you will. He was also the main character, so you can see where that might present a bit of a problem. As You Wish opens with Eldon working his shift at the gas station, preening about how good-looking and charming he is while inwardly mocking the customers, and it’s only downhill from there. Throughout the novel, he beats people up when things don’t go his way, blames everyone else for his missteps, and inflates his insufferable ego. In all honesty, I’m surprised he has friends – he treats everyone around him terribly, and they just? Keep coming back? (Though granted, that entire town isn’t exactly the most pleasant bunch either.) I get that his sister’s in a coma, it sucks that he was dumped (though not for the reasons Eldon keeps assuming, which was also pretty shitty of him) and hey it kinda sucks that he’s not in shape on the football field anymore BUT HI HELLO IT DOESN’T CHANGE THE FACT THAT
1) Eldon’s an insufferable jerk.
2) Eldon needs to get over himself and grow up.
3) tRAGIC BACKSTORY DOESN’T EXCUSE AWFUL BEHAVIOR.

Oh, and get this: when he bumps into a drunk classmate, his first thought is that he cAN GET INTO HER PANTS BECAUSE SHE’S DRUNK. Then a short while later, he kisses a girl who didn’t want to be kissed and feels indignant, then writes it off as being drunk. The victim-blaming is strong in this one and I wish I couldn’t believe I’d actually read those scenes with my own two eyeballs. If anyone figures it out, do tell me when things were supposed to start to change because every sentence vaguely tied to him read as another nail in the proverbial coffin that housed Eldon’s problematic self.

And on that note, this is a pretty long story and nothing happens for the first 90%? This book would’ve been a lot better if 90% of it hadn’t been Eldon angsting over his wish and spewing his misogyny onto all the girls in his life – he didn’t even spare his mom – while vehemently insisting otherwise. And when things do start happening… none of it makes any sense? Random characters appear out of nowhere and random bridges that Eldon burned magically repair themselves and suddenly everything’s falling neatly into place except in a bizarrely disconnected way? I like plot-driven novels. I tend to like character-driven novels slightly more, so slow-moving plots to me are fine if the character’s changing but this book? It was neither plot-driven nor character-driven. Or anything-driven, really. It barely moved, which is a pretty incredible feat for 430+ pages.

And, for all that talk about how people shouldn’t attempt to play God, the attempted resolution was one very big attempt at playing God. It was also another shitty move by Eldon so. Congratulations, Eldon – you managed to make it through your “redemption” arc and get worse instead of better.

One more: okay so I was actually liking all the historical tidbits about other people who had made their wishes UNTIL we got to the part about someone who wished their gayness away and became romantically and sexually attracted to nobody, except the entire thing was written in an insultingly ace/aro-phobic way at which point WELP please leave.

Final verdict? I thought it was a cool idea and the author obviously had a lot to say, but the execution sorely missed the mark. I also do apologize if I got any of the chronological orders wrong in my review but I really didn’t want to go back and pick through the book. Once was more than enough.

Raised by Wolves (Raised by Wolves #1) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Published June 8th 2010 by EgmontUSA
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Adopted by the Alpha of a werewolf pack after a rogue wolf brutally killed her parents right before her eyes, fifteen-year-old Bryn knows only pack life, and the rigid social hierarchy that controls it. That doesn’t mean that she’s averse to breaking a rule or two.

But when her curiosity gets the better of her and she discovers Chase, a new teen locked in a cage in her guardian’s basement, and witnesses him turn into a wolf before her eyes, the horrific memories of her parents’ murders return. Bryn becomes obsessed with getting her questions answered, and Chase is the only one who can provide the information she needs.

But in her drive to find the truth, will Bryn push too far beyond the constraints of the pack, forcing her to leave behind her friends, her family, and the identity that she’s shaped?

Because I’ve been staring at this page for a few days now and still have no idea how to start this review, some lists!

Things I liked:

  • I enjoyed the first third-or-so of the story! It was fast-paced, interesting enough, and Bryn’s voice really shone through the pages. You could feel her strong character, and while she was kind of cringe-y at times – maybe just because I’m pretty close to her polar opposite and wouldn’t do a lot of the things she did – it was really fun to keep up with her.
  • The cubs! They were really cute.
  • Ali, Bryn’s mom, is fierce and protective and loyal and all-around wonderful and must be protected.
  • SHE PROTECTS BRYN AND TREATS HER RIGHT AND WHEN ABSOLUTE SHIT HITS THE FAN, SHE SAYS THINGS LIKE THIS: “…if we weren’t leaving because of what they’d done to you, we’d be leaving because the pack has twisted you enough to make you think that it’s okay for someone to treat you that way.”

Things I disliked:

  • I said I liked a third of a book but it’s more like the first quarter or the first fifth? I liked everything up until when Chase popped in.
  • Who’s Chase? Some super hot, super mysterious werewolf guy. I think. I have no idea. He was super protective of Bryn, and super love-struck if that counts?
  • But really all we know is that a handful of short, supervised meetings between him and Bryn are enough to get her to throw away her family, her friends, and the life she’s always known to basically tie the rest of her life to this guy.
  • We’re treated to a lot of cheesy lines but there’s very little substance to Bryn and Chase’s relationship. I want to swoon and coo over their relationship but there’s nothing to swoon or coo over because their relationship is built on very close to nothing.
  • The book after Chase appeared meandered in this downward spiral toward nothingness.
  • All that talk about how extra super special Bryn was really didn’t help the book’s case either.
  • There is also some plot – if you read close enough. About a rabid. But it’s drowned out by Bryn and Chase’s attraction and all this talk about how Bryn’s a Super Special Snowflake.
  • I actually kind of liked Callum in the beginning, and then he became more and more overbearing, and then he took things way too far. Protecting someone! Isn’t an excuse! For beating the shit out of them!
  • !!!
  • !!!!!!!
  • I haven’t read a lot of werewolf books, and I think Raised by Wolves might be my first YA werewolf book, or at least the first Goodreads and I can remember, but yeah, I get that a lot of fantasy novels about werewolves like to play with and reinforce the idea of strong bonds between the pack members, the idea of a pack hierarchy, and consequentially, what happens when those things are toyed with or broken. But still! I like to think that everyone, human, somewhat, or not, would agree that violence is hardly not the answer, and definitely not the answer here.
  • Raising a hand against someone in the name of protecting that very person is not okay, but everyone aside from Ali – even Bryn – just accepts it.
  • Holy fucking shit.
  • Callum gets of way too lightly, with very little repercussion. Instead, he’s basically crowned as all-knowing and all-seeing. //gag//

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer
Published February 5th 2013 by Feiwel & Friends
Source: Borrowed
Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

I’m going to be honest here: probably the only reason why I finished Scarlet was because I read it during history (because I’m a perfect model student, didn’t you know?). Because, really, anything is more interesting than history with a clueless substitute teacher. Even a story that nearly drove me to tears of boredom and frustration.

The most annoying thing about Scarlet was Cinder’s identity. Or, rather, the other characters’ inability to put together two and two and realize who Cinder was. I’m pretty close to crying, guys. Scarlet and Wolf were LOOKING for Princess Selene. By the end of the book, they KNEW the princess was secretly smuggled to earth and taken in by someone with the last name “Linh.” They KNEW that a Lunar teenager had recently broken out of prison (don’t tell me they didn’t know there were so many broadcastings about it) with the last name “Linh.” If they were really looking for Princess Selene, wouldn’t they have been just a little suspicious? Then if they’d done the math, they would have realized that – surprise! – the escaped fugitive and the princess were around the same age. Don’t even get me started on Captain Thorne (HE WAS WITH HER FOR THE LONGEST).

And KAI. It’s been maybe a year since I’ve read Cinder, so I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that whole capture thing at the end of Cinder and the Lunar Queen (whose name I’ve conveniently forgotten) were huge clue-ins to Cinder’s identity as Princess Selene. Of course, that’s not the only fuck-up from him. His big decision at the end to “save everyone” made no sense whatsoever. Yeah, okay, Earth’s going to be okay for a little bit. A couple years at most. But after that? It’s going to be goodbye, Earth.

Cinder? It’s best if you stick with Captain Throne. Granted, he isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but at least he hasn’t doomed an entire planet. Yet.

That aside, the romance didn’t raise any points for Scarlet, either. It wasn’t terrible, I suppose. Just… lacking. There wasn’t really any base for the romance. Since romance is one of the genres, it’s pretty obvious that Scarlett and Wolf are going to get together, but when they do, it’s pretty disappointing. One minute they’re flinging fruits at each other and in the next they’re kissing in a jail cell and there’s literally no in-between.

The Queen’s Army/wolf pack left me equally interested and confused. I will admit to skipping over some details and things towards the end because I just wanted the story to hurry up and end already, but even so… the hierarchal system and the wolf/man concept just seemed hazy and I felt so lost. Other little things confused me too, like the setting. Sometimes it took a while to figure out where they were because all the settings seemed so similar, and the narrative neglected to point out any landmarks or such for clarification.

Captain Thorne, inability to see what was dancing in neon lights right in front of his nose aside, was funny and witty, and generally I liked him. Cinder too had turned quite interesting and badass (I greatly preferred her narratives over Scarlet’s). But that aside, there weren’t very many redeeming points for Scarlet as far as I’m concerned.

The way my rating system’s set up, I’ve described a one-star as “eh, don’t bother” and a two-star as “interesting enough to finish, but too many flaws for my liking” – pretty much Goodread’s “did not like it” and “liked it.” So I’m setting Scarlett in the middle. I did finish it, but would only recommend it for people who really enjoyed Cinder. Then again, 86% of Goodread-ers gave Scarlett 4 and 5 stars, so I guess I’m the black sheep?

But there’s my two cents ( ´ ▽ ` )ノ

The Bone Season (The Bone Season #1) by Samantha Shannon
Published August 20th 2013 by Bloomsbury USA
Source: Purchased
Rating: dnf

The year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.

It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, drugged and kidnapped, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

I felt like I was drowning.

The Bone Season was quite possibly my most anticipated book of 2013. Granted, that was years ago and my reading tastes could’ve changed, but I was really, really, really looking forward to it. There was so much hype from so many people I share similar tastes with, and the blurb had me at “criminal underworld.” That’s probably where things started going wrong.

Thing is, The Bone Season starts out perfectly fine. There might be one too many characters to keep track of at first, but it’s not bothersome. Paige, while nothing outstanding, is a character that I’d be comfortable enough to spend the book’s 500-or-so pages with. Then things kicked off – dangerous, criminal underworldly events that got me really excited, and I remember telling my friend who had gifted me the book that things were getting really good and I was starting to really love it. Famous last words, right?

Flash forward a handful of pages and the book does a complete 360. No more criminal underworld. Goodbye to the life vest and flotation device – a couple chapters in, Paige wakes up in a completely different place, and it seems as if the author just discarded the first part and restarted. The Bone Season drop kicks you off the cliff, and it’s all downhill from there.

The world-building is everywhere and nowhere all at once, and I found myself constantly flipping back to the glossary at the beginning, and still completely and utterly confused. Information comes in huge, indigestible glops, the breaks between which are just as massive, and it’s amazes me how something can be so simultaneously vague and intricate. The Bone Season really doesn’t do anything half-assed.

Somewhere between the realization that you could pretty much kill off any character, Paige included, and I wouldn’t be able to care less, and the awkward budding of romance that had no basis upon which to exist, I gave up and set the book aside, and I don’t think I’ll be continuing.

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
Published September 17th 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Source: Traded
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

It’s been so long since I’ve written a review, and I’ve pretty much forgotten how to do so. Gah. I was going to make this my first proper, thorough one, but the more I thought the angrier and more convoluted this review became, so I’m just going to keep this (relatively) short: I liked This Song Will Save Your Life, but I also really didn’t like it.

I like the intent; I enjoyed the DJing; I really liked many parts of the overall message.

But I hated how Elise’s attitude. She hated people judging her, but she kept judging other people and looked down on people who didn’t share her interests. Elise sits alone with earphones plugged in and this holier-than-thou attitude – everyone who likes pop music is a brainless idiot? – and even goes as far as to scoff at her friends’ likes and interests. She then turns around and harps on other people for their friendship choices, for being too judgy, and basically insinuates that she’s not “cool” because everyone at her high school’s too mindless, their interests too bland. Therefore she, as the one and only special snowflake, has to take her amazing gifts and talents elsewhere – a warehouse nightclub, with “cool older people” who fawn over and fluff her ego (true friendship). She’s so self-centered and hypocritical and I just. I mean. Wow. Tone it down a little, yeah?

The ending contains little acknowledgement of her own missteps, and while I get that she’s experienced a lot of hurt and loneliness, when she remains like so, unrepentant, for the great majority of the book, it’s really hard for me to garner sympathy for her.

The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold #1) by Traci Chee
Published September 13th 2016 by Putnam
Source: FC from Publisher
Rating: ★★★½☆

Once there was, and one day there will be. This is the beginning of every story.

Sefia lives her life on the run. After her father is viciously murdered, she flees to the forest with her aunt Nin, the only person left she can trust. They survive in the wilderness together, hunting and stealing what they need, forever looking over their shoulders for new threats. But when Nin is kidnapped, Sefia is suddenly on her own, with no way to know who’s taken Nin or where she is. Her only clue is a strange rectangular object that once belonged to her father left behind, something she comes to realize is a book.

Though reading is unheard of in Sefia’s world, she slowly learns, unearthing the book’s closely guarded secrets, which may be the key to Nin’s disappearance and discovering what really happened the day her father was killed. With no time to lose, and the unexpected help of swashbuckling pirates and an enigmatic stranger, Sefia sets out on a dangerous journey to rescue her aunt, using the book as her guide. In the end, she discovers what the book had been trying to tell her all along: Nothing is as it seems, and the end of her story is only the beginning.

I was on hiatus when all the buzz for The Reader happened, so I didn’t actually know this existed until recently, but I’m glad I decided to pick this up! I was sold at “swashbuckling pirates and an enigmatic stranger,” and the book proved to be a really fun read.

The writing’s really suitable for fantasy – a little mysterious, a little lofty, a little wry, alternating between lines like “people passed stories from mouth to mouth like kisses, or plagues…” to characters huffing, “Yes, I’ll read now. But if Captain Cat continues to act like a yellow-bellied coward, we’re skipping it” (which by the way, is me at all the waffling main characters of numerous books. Get moving!!).

And really, reading the book was like a mini adventure or a treasure hunt of its own. I’m not sure if the book’s design is the same across all editions, but I have the hardcover edition, and I love the little intricacies of the design! I don’t want to give too much away, but just as the story dropped little fragments and clues and left the reader to gather them all up and piece them together at the end, so did the book’s designs, which really added to the reading experience.

The setting is lush and sprawling across the pages, and the plot is rather intricately layered – it was really cool to see all the parts that I thought were insignificant and/or unrelated come together at the end – but if I had to pick a favorite, the experience of reading The Reader would be the best part. The Reader’s just one of those books that just work really nicely in physical book form: the design is well-planned to match the story, and then the story sweeps you along so that every little thing about the design of the book in your hand is heightened by Sefia’s experience with the book in her hand. And that was really pretty cool. Although I do have to mention – while it was lovely to see Sefia fall in love with books – eyes wide and dreamy, unlike my own 0 to 100 experience – the whole “this is a book” thing got repetitive after a while, and then annoying after that. So while I loved the idea of a book about books, there was a point where the novelty wore off. Maybe somewhere around here? –

“Reading herself in the book.
Reading herself reading herself in the book.
Reading herself reading herself reading herself…
Maybe someone was reading her right now, and if she looked up, she would see their eyes staring down at her, following her every move. Maybe someone was reading the reader.”

(And then, a couple paragraphs later, cue: “THIS IS A BOOK.” /sighs/)

I also really enjoyed the romance. Really, really enjoyed the romance. Maybe in part because it was light and fair and barely-there, given life by the plot instead of the other way around, as is common with a lot of reads. Mostly, though, because of Archer, resident cinnamon roll who could kill you, but is still a cinnamon roll who deserves all the love and happiness in this world because he’s pure and deadly and sweet as fuck.

“He could not remember wanting anything so badly as he wanted to kiss her now. To be that close to her, mouth to mouth, testing the shapes of her teeth and her lips. It was as if he’d never really wanted anything, and now this wanting blazed inside him like a lamp, the light reflecting out of him as bright as a beam from a lighthouse.

But he didn’t dare.

He looped his arms over the rails, and made his sign for the book.

And Sefia began to read to him, her voice clear and strong in the wind, and that was enough. It didn’t matter what the book or the legends said. What mattered was that he and Sefia were there, legs kicking idly off the edge of the quarterdeck, with the breeze and the bright afternoon sun pouring over them. What mattered was that they were together… and he was happy.”

Kind, lovely, cute, dangerous cinnamon roll. Yep.

I also really loved the chapter (section?) “The Boy from the Sea – Harison’s Favorite Song,” which was just three short stanzas but made me feel all sorts of bittersweet and sad, but I’ve already quoted two things and this review’s already more than long enough as is, so: page 325 of the hardcover! Please read it.

I did have a few other small bones to pick with the book, though. For one, there were a couple glaring inconsistencies, most of which surrounding Sefia’s book knowledge. I found it really strange that she didn’t know about books and reading, but was somehow able to teach herself to read? I get that she remembered a little from what she’d seen from her parents when she was very little, but I can’t imagine how she’d be able to come up with the proper sounds just by looking at letters she doesn’t recognize? Also, she didn’t know what a book was, but the word and meaning of a bookmark seemed to come to her very naturally… how?

And, then while it was pretty cool to have all the pirate inserts, and Lon’s chapters… I felt like they weren’t that necessary for the overarching plot? It was intriguing at the beginning, but as the story went on, they began to feel more and more like filler chapters – and I’ll admit to skipping and skimming parts of them. If those parts were cut down a little, and more scenes were introduced into the climax, particularly around Tanin’s big part, then I think the story would’ve read more cohesively and smoothly.

But overall, I loved the idea of a book celebrating the magic of books, and with the really lovely reading experience, The Reader delivered! And, one more quote to end this review, because I can’t resist, and because this passage just stuck with me for a long time:

“I’d be lyin’ if I said I didn’t want to be part of that story… We got such a short time in this world, you know? Cut shorter by the blasted foolishness of men. Tavern brawls, rival outlaws, wars that claim the lives of thousands. Our existence is so small that most of us only matter to a handful of folks: the captain, the crew, maybe a couple others. But bein’ part of a story like that? A story that’d blow all others outta the water in its greatness and scope? It wouldn’t give me more time here, but if I were part of something like that, maybe my life wouldn’t be so small. Maybe I could make a difference before my time ran out. Maybe I’d matter.”

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Published March 14th 2006 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Source: Borrowed
Rating: ★★★☆☆

A story about, among other things: A girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

I feel kind of heartless writing this review. I guess that’s the thing about books dealing with topics like these; I wanted so badly to say I bawled my eyes out after reading The Book Thief, or that it broke my heart into tiny, tiny pieces, or point to the mountain of tissues by my side but instead I’m sitting here a good chunk of time later, with no clue how to start.

Let’s just start with: yes, this was sad. It’s almost a given, seeing the topic. But it didn’t strike any chords, didn’t trigger the waterworks, and didn’t make me want to read and re-read over and over again to savor the story. Yes, Zusak is a brilliant writer. He really knows how to craft sentences, everything is incredibly well-written, and his prose is probably the thing that convinced me to keep reading. But I felt very disconnected from the characters, the setting, the story.

One of the first things you’ll hear about when people talk about The Book Thief is how it’s narrated by Death. Which seems interesting until you actually read the story, and then you realize that Death’s narrative is akin to placing me in front of a classroom filled with strangers, and giving me an hour to talk about a topic I’ve never researched: I’m going to ramble and stutter and repeat myself over and over again, and you’re hardly going to be interested in, much less pay attention to, a good chunk of it. It was interesting at first. Every chapter or so Death would come in with these little interjections and offer us a little glimpse into the future or the past, or a random little musing that wouldn’t quite seem so significant, but would make you curious enough to mull over. But it got old quickly. The thing about giving your readers little tidbits to mull over on the side is that it takes away from the actual story. The Book Theif was simultaneously trying to tug at your heartstrings with Liesel’s story and bait you with tidbits and musings from Death, but didn’t juggle the two carefully enough, resulting in an incredibly disjointed story, and a disconnected reader.

I loved the idea. The Book Thief is about the people on the “other side.” I’ve read so many Holocaust novels from Jewish perspectives. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry was perhaps the first historical fiction novel in this time period that featured a different narrator. The Book Thief was the second, and I went in expecting something bigger, something deeper, but it pretty much just touts a everyone-in-the-army-is-evil mantra. Is it too much to say that I was hoping for something more? Needless to say, The Book Thief stayed small, safe, and disappointing. I feel like there were bigger things, bigger problems that The Book Thief only skimmed over. I mean, I know Liesel’s still a child, and people probably made an effort to shield her from what they could, but Nazi Germany’s reach was global. They were a Big Deal, but the The Book Thief pretty much disregarded that.

Next time I go into a book with this big and this wrong of an expectation, yell at me?

I liked it enough to finish it; The Book Thief was a decent novel. I really liked the “power of words” theme, and the characters, while not the most memorable cast I’ve ever “met,” were solidly written. I liked the idea of a book thief (and, after misspelling it again and again in this review, I’ve learned that, unlike most of the words in the English language (?), it’s spelled with “ie” and not “ei”) and her scenes running around town.

I was, however, a little disappointed to find that, while she was called the “Book Thief,” she only stole two or three books. With a title like that, I was thinking of thefts climbing into the double digits.

So, all in all, it was okay. I’ll probably look up excerpts and quotes from time to time, because Markus Zusak’s writing is lovely in that quiet kind of way. And while The Book Thief made a decent one-time read, it wasn’t outstanding by any stretch, an apt bookstore-read, though I am glad I read it.