Wild Things (Chicagoland Vampires #9) by Chloe Neill
Published February 4th 2014 by NAL Trade
Source: Library
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Since Merit was turned into a vampire, and the protector of Chicago’s Cadogan House, it’s been a wild ride. She and Master vampire Ethan Sullivan have helped make Cadogan’s vampires the strongest in North America, and forged ties with paranormal folk of all breeds and creeds, living or dead…or both.

But now those alliances are about to be tested. A strange and twisted magic has ripped through the North American Central Pack, and Merit’s closest friends are caught in the crosshairs. Gabriel Keene, the Pack Apex, looks to Merit and Ethan for help. But who—or what—could possibly be powerful enough to out-magic a shifter?

Merit is about to go toe to toe, and cold steel to cold heart, to find out.

In hindsight, the series took a bit of a nosedive after around book four, but somehow I’ve already wandered this far in, so I’m going to see it to the end, dammit. I love all the secondary characters (the shifters! Malik! Jonah! her grandfather’s crew! Luc! Lindsey!) and some of the Merit/Ethan scenes are so soft and precious! but mostly not. On the whole, Ethan has the characterization of a cardboard standee – it’s been nine going on ten books now, and I’m still trying to figure out what his charm points are? The striking/glowing/blazing/insert-choice-adjective-here green eyes Neil keeps reminding us about? And Merit’s been demoted to a hand-wringing bystander who watches the house and waits dutifully for her boyfriend to come home/save the day. :/

Blood Games (Chicagoland Vampires #10) by Chloe Neill
Published August 5th 2014 by NAL Trade
Source: Library
Rating: ★½☆☆☆

While Merit didn’t choose to become a vampire or Sentinel of Cadogan House, she vowed to fight for her House and its Master, and she’s managed to forge strong alliances with powerful supernaturals across Chicago. But even though Merit has had wild adventures, this may be her deadliest yet…

A killer is stalking Chicago, preying on humans and leaving his victims with magical souvenirs. The CPD hasn’t been able to track the assailant, and as the body count rises, the city is running out of options. Vampires and humans aren’t on great terms, but murder makes for strange bedfellows. Can Merit find the killer before she becomes a target?

(shout out to my part-time job for letting me sit in a room full of books and letting me read said books during hours, supporting my much-belated UF romance kick)
Blood Games was a pretty solid 1.5 stars. I’m going to preface this and be honest and admit that my enthusiasm for the series has long since died, but I’ve gotten this far already, and I’m nothing if not stubborn.
– I really like the Scooby Doo, episodic mysteries. It’s nice to have some overarching plot tying all the novels in the series together, but it’s also really nice to be able to get some sort of solid closure at the end of every novel. It didn’t really work out with Blood Games, though – it’s just gotten to the point where there’s so much? The serial killing, Ethan’s plotline, the RG, Darius… and Blood Games keeps sliding in favor of Ethan, making everything else feel like tiny, poorly done afterthoughts.
– It feels like Neill’s trying to keep all the elements, the jokes, the plot threads, etc from all the previous books, and then add an extra heaping onto that, but there’s too much that’s been recycled too many times, and it’s really not working anymore.
– Ethan is a self-centered egomaniac. He’s always been a self-centered egomaniac, but all his me!me!me! speeches and petty theatrics here just made him even more so one.
– Merit needs to draw her line in the sand and she’s going to have to do it soon because it’s been ten books and Ethan STILL keeps pulling the same old shit. IMHO he should’ve stayed gone, and we could’ve gotten, say, a Merit/Jonah pairing instead. Or, honestly, a Merit/anyone-who-isn’t-Ethan pairing. Or just Merit, friends, and chaotic Chicago. That’s more than enough material for a series.
– oh, and fuck the fake proposals. fuuuuuuck them.

Night Broken (Mercy Thompson #8) by Patricia Briggs
Published March 11th 2014 by Ace
Source: Library
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

An unexpected phone call heralds a new challenge for Mercy. Her mate Adam’s ex-wife is in trouble, on the run from a stalker. Adam isn’t the kind of man to turn away a person in need—and Mercy knows it. But with Christy holed up in Adam’s house, Mercy can’t shake the feeling that something about the situation isn’t right.

Soon her suspicions are confirmed when she learns that Christy has the furthest thing from good intentions. She wants Adam back, and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get him, including turning Adam’s pack against Mercy.

Mercy isn’t about to step down without a fight, but there’s a more dangerous threat circling. Christy’s stalker is more than a bad man—in fact, he may not be human at all. As the bodies start piling up, Mercy must put her personal troubles aside to face a creature with the power to tear her whole world apart.

Oh man, Adam’s likeability score plummeted ass-first into the ground and then kept falling. Who shares ~tender looks~ with his ex-wife in front of the current wife he proclaims to be very much in love with? Who stands by while his ex-wife lobs attack after attack at and attempts to turn the pack against his current wife, and then is just like, yeah, that happened? Who does that? And then instead of apologizing and maybe groveling a little as he should, he does the whole ~condescending but I’m pROUD OF YOUR LEVEL-HEADED ACTIONS YOUNG LADY~ thing. Haaard pass, thanks. And Mercy just? Doesn’t stand up for herself? All but martyrs herself in her head? (the blue hair dye thing doesn’t count she literally nearly dIED for Adam’s speshul snowflake ex-wife and after putting them all through the blender and withholding crucial information and after Mercy ended up in the goddamn hospital fixing problems she still has the gall to threaten her? On her hospital bed? And yeah Christy might have blue hair, but everyone hates Mercy. So. Who’s the real winner.) And then there was the rest of the pack, and, yeesh. This was just one large internalized misogyny party, with a generous helping of victim blaming.

And I Darken (The Conqueror’s Saga #1) by Kiersten White
Published June 28th 2016 by Delacorte Press
Source: Library
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

I saw this at the library and picked it up on a whim – I remember seeing this everywhere at one point and was a little curious. It didn’t occur to me until later that this Kiersten White was also the Kiersten White who wrote Paranormalcy and Mind Games, and. Wooooah. Her writing’s gotten so, so much better. The beginning was intense and atmospheric and engaging! The middle, though, felt like wading through molasses. The plot putters along under the weight of all these extra tidbits and tangents that I know contribute to future plot points and characters, but! But! The book is at a fairly hefty ~500 pages, with little more than some nicely arranged words to show for a good 300 pages at least, and without an interesting enough plot to motivate. And the decisions on the portrayal of history? I’m hardly an expert, and many have explained the missteps better than I ever could. I’ll just. Yikes.

Archangel’s Blade (Guild Hunter #4) by Nalini Singh
Published September 8th 2011 by Gollancz
Source: Library
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

The severed head marked by a distinctive tattoo on its cheek should have been a Guild case, but dark instincts honed over hundreds of years of life compel the vampire Dmitri to take control. There is something twisted about this death, something that whispers of centuries long past…but Dmitri’s need to discover the truth is nothing to the vicious strength of his response to the hunter assigned to decipher the tattoo.

Savaged in a brutal attack that almost killed her, Honor is nowhere near ready to come face to face with the seductive vampire who is an archangel’s right hand and who wears his cruelty as boldly as his lethal sensuality…the same vampire who has been her secret obsession since the day she was old enough to understand the inexplicable, violent emotions he aroused in her.

As desire turns into a dangerous compulsion that might destroy them both, it becomes clear the past will not stay buried. Something is hunting and it will not stop until it brings a blood-soaked nightmare to life once more…

I wasn’t a huge fan at the beginning, but it did pick up a lot once the book went on… only to spiral into NOPENOPENOPE at the end because fuck that bullshit plot point. Dimitri and Honor deserve better.

Archangel’s Storm (Guild Hunter #5) by Nalini Singh
Published September 13th 2012 by Gollancz
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

With wings of midnight and an affinity for shadows, Jason courts darkness. But now, with the Archangel Neha’s consort lying murdered in the jewel-studded palace that was his prison and her rage threatening cataclysmic devastation, Jason steps into the light, knowing he must unearth the murderer before it is too late.

Earning Neha’s trust comes at a price—Jason must tie himself to her bloodline through the Princess Mahiya, a woman with secrets so dangerous, she trusts no one. Least of all an enemy spymaster.

With only their relentless hunt for a violent, intelligent killer to unite them, Jason and Mahiya embark on a quest that leads to a centuries-old nightmare… and to the dark storm of an unexpected passion that threatens to drench them both in blood.

I was super curious about Jason so this turned out to be a little disappointing. He and Mahiya had so much potential! The book was on this upward curve and it was gETTING BETTER but then the ending was so terribly bland and I was terribly disappointed. (Also we could’ve done without all the Dimitri/Honor snippets and still been happy, thank you very much – it’s the whole Jason/Mahiya ending part we’re missing. Where did that ending putter off to? Where??)

Illusive (Illusive #1) by Emily Lloyd-Jones
Published July 15th 2014 by Little, Brown and Company
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★☆




When the MK virus swept across the planet, a vaccine was created to stop the epidemic, but it came with some unexpected side effects. A small percentage of the population developed superhero-like powers, and Americans suffering from these so-called adverse effects were given an ultimatum: Serve the country or be declared a traitor.

Some people chose a third option: live a life of crime.

Seventeen-year-old Ciere Giba has the handy ability to change her appearance at will. She’s what’s known as an illusionist. She’s also a thief. After crossing a gang of mobsters, Ciere must team up with a group of fellow superpowered criminals on a job that most would have considered impossible: a hunt for the formula that gave them their abilities. It was supposedly destroyed years ago – but what if it wasn’t?

Government agents are hot on their trail, and the lines between good and bad, us and them, and freedom and entrapment are blurred as Ciere and the rest of her crew become embroiled in a deadly race that could cost them their lives.

I’m always down for superheroes and thievery and moral dubiosity, and Illusive definitely fits the bill. It minded me a little of The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, actually, which is great because I freaking loved The Naturals.

Admittedly, Illusive and I didn’t get off to the best of starts. The beginning is splotchily heavy on the info-dumps – all of chapter two, and most of chapter six, just to name a few – but while the info dumping at the beginning saw the story off to a bit of a rough start, it did get progressively better and better as it went. Illusive isn’t a book that’s jaw-droppingly amazing from the get-go, but it does slowly build up to a highly enjoyable read. I loved how all the little bits and pieces of the story fit to give you a clearer and more three-dimensional view of all the characters – like the scene with Kit, Magnus, and the FBI agent. You need a little bit of patience at the beginning, but you’ll get there, and I loved it when I did.

…Magnus’s gloved fist connects with Kit’s jaw. It happens so fast that Ciere’s eyes don’t register the movement – all she sees is Magnus’s arm drawn backward, and then Kit is on the foyer floor, gingerly touching a spot on his jaw. Magnus doesn’t say a word. He picks up his bag and steps over Kit’s fallen form, his long strides carrying him into the house and out of sight. It takes Kit a second to recover. When he rises to his feet, Ciere cannot decipher the look on his face.

“Well,” Devon says, suddenly cheerful, “we have our mentalist. Let’s rob some lawyers.”

Ciere isn’t my favorite main character, but she has her charms, as does Devon, though, for all the writing’s claims as to the contrary, he does read too much as a cute mascot – here purely to provide the British accent and quirky one-liners – for my taste. Though, if that was the author’s plan, she succeeded, because I can admit to being won over by all those one-liners. What can I say? I’m weak like that when it comes to characters in books^^;; Daniel – the other POV – is equally okay. He reads like a slightly older version of Ciere, with the same brand of dry humor, so it’s pretty easy for his chapters to blur together with Ciere’s, but I found myself enjoying his chapters slightly more. They were more high-stakes, you know? Though, one thing I did notice was that most of the story, though told through Ciere and Daniel’s POVs, involved more of them running/being dragged around while other characters did the actual important things. Which put a dampener on some of the action. I did like Kit though! I’m all for guardian figures with slightly questionable motives and occupations and large presences in YA. All the better to wreak havoc with, am I right? And Magnus was fun to read about; his banter with Kit and Devon gave me life. Separately, none of the characters in Illusive were all too outstanding, but together, they just clicked and made for a highly interesting read.

Alan was the only character whom I feel didn’t quite fit. It’s hard to explain, but scenes with all the other characters carried a really nice tension and flow, then every time Alan came around, that buildup was broken.

And, I don’t know – the “twist” there at the end was pretty cheesy, but I liked it? I’ve never seen Ocean’s Eleven, but I have seen X-Men, Illusive definitely gives off that vibe, and the twist fits right in. Our world’s going to shit every other week, and so it’s nice to read about another world where the main character can fuck shit up and walk off into the metaphorical sunset still pristine and looking like a badass.

Illusive is a wonderfully layered story about a motley gang of characters with superhero-like powers and amAZING PLATONIC GIRL-BOY FRIENDSHIP THANK GOODNESS. I found myself really, really enjoying it by the end.

The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes
Published February 17th 2015 by HarperTeen
Source: Won
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Ever since the night of the incident with Luke Willis, the preacher’s son, sophomore Hallelujah Calhoun has been silent. When the rumors swirled around school, she was silent. When her parents grounded her, she was silent. When her friends abandoned her… silent.

Now, six months later, on a youth group retreat in the Smoky Mountains, Hallie still can’t find a voice to answer the taunting. Shame and embarrassment haunt her, while Luke keeps coming up with new ways to humiliate her. Not even meeting Rachel, an outgoing newcomer who isn’t aware of her past, can pull Hallie out of her shell. Being on the defensive for so long has left her raw, and she doesn’t know who to trust.

On a group hike, the incessant bullying pushes Hallie to her limit. When Hallie, Rachel, and Hallie’s former friend Jonah get separated from the rest of the group, the situation quickly turns dire. Stranded in the wilderness, the three have no choice but to band together.

With past betrayals and harrowing obstacles in their way, Hallie fears they’ll never reach safety. Could speaking up about the night that changed everything close the distance between being lost and found? Or has she traveled too far to come back?

I usually don’t read religious books. It’s just a personal thing, really. And it feels kind of stupid to say this know, seeing as the synopsis does mention Luke’s the pastor’s son, and Hallie’s name being Hallelujah should’ve told me something, but I didn’t know religion would play such a huge part? That aside, I did find myself enjoying the other parts of the novel. The writing was quiet and beautiful, and I loved the character development Hallie went through: she’s so, so brave, and the book’s rather quick and short, but even so, the characters are well fleshed out. Hallie’s hard to like at first, but as the story goes on I found myself sympathetic towards and rooting for her just the same. Rachael is precious, and I’m so glad someone like her met someone like Hallie. Jonah… he was a bit of a tricky character? I didn’t really have any particular opinion toward him, but I really appreciate the author’s choices regarding some aspects of his and Hallie’s relationship, especially Hallie’s hesitation about the relationship between them while they were lost in the wilderness.

All in all, The Distance Between Lost and Found was a poignant, beautiful read. The parts I wasn’t sold on was more of an its-not-you-its-me thing, and I’d definitely jump at the chance to read more of the author’s books.

How to Disappear by Sharon Huss Roat
Published August 15th 2017 by HarperTeen
Source: Won
Rating: ★★★★☆

Vicky Decker has perfected the art of hiding in plain sight, quietly navigating the halls of her high school undetected except by her best (and only) friend, Jenna. But when Jenna moves away, Vicky’s isolation becomes unbearable.

So she decides to invent a social life by Photoshopping herself into other people’s pictures, posting them on Instagram under the screen name Vicurious. Instantly, she begins to get followers, so she adds herself to more photos from all over the world with all types of people. And as Vicurious’s online followers multiply, Vicky realizes she can make a whole life for herself without ever leaving her bedroom. But the more followers she finds online, the clearer it becomes that there are a lot of people out there who feel like her— #alone and #ignored in real life.

To help them, and herself, Vicky must find the courage to face her fear of being “seen,” because only then can she stop living vicariously and truly bring the magic of Vicurious to life.

I was initially kind of hesitant because from the synopsis it sounded like Vicky had photoshopped herself into other people’s pictures, and then people followed her on Instagram thinking that she’d actually gone to all those places. Which isn’t what happened at all – she photoshopped herself into other people’s photos, and its clear that she didn’t actually go, but that’s kind of the point: she photoshops herself into places she wishes she’s at but isn’t, and people follow her because they share the same sentiments. Everyone feels lonely and out of place and the account brings them all together, and there’s so many ways it could go wrong and the story hints and teases at some, but ultimately the account makes a wonderful, emotional impact. How to Disappear does make things rather simplistic, especially where the account is concerned, but it really gets you thinking.

The tone was a bit young for my personal preference, but this book punched me right in the feels and it was uncomfortable but in a good way? It was uncomfortable in the way it should be given me as a person and I’m shit at reviewing books I liked so hi hello please know that How to Disappear messed me up and I think you should read it.

Before She Ignites (Fallen Isles Trilogy #1) by Jodi Meadows
Published September 12th 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Purchased (Owlcrate!)
Rating: ★★☆☆☆


Mira Minkoba is the Hopebearer. Since the day she was born, she’s been told she’s special. Important. Perfect. She’s known across the Fallen Isles not just for her beauty, but for the Mira Treaty named after her, a peace agreement which united the seven islands against their enemies on the mainland.

But Mira has never felt as perfect as everyone says. She counts compulsively. She struggles with crippling anxiety. And she’s far too interested in dragons for a girl of her station.


Then Mira discovers an explosive secret that challenges everything she and the Treaty stand for. Betrayed by the very people she spent her life serving, Mira is sentenced to the Pit–the deadliest prison in the Fallen Isles. There, a cruel guard would do anything to discover the secret she would die to protect.

No longer beholden to those who betrayed her, Mira must learn to survive on her own and unearth the dark truths about the Fallen Isles–and herself–before her very world begins to collapse.

There’s not that much to say about Before She Ignites. It wasn’t an explosive read on either end of the spectrum. Really, it read like a prequel of sorts? A set-up for future books in the series. “Illegal dragon trafficking” sounded right up my alley (DRAGONS!!), but everything turned out to be pretty shallow, and the before/after time skips didn’t really help the story along, so much as it did provide filler scenes between already-filler scenes. I did like the dynamic between a lot of the prisoners, and it was so, so nice to see this kind of mental health rep in YA fantasy. But also… a good chunk of the story in Before She Ignites turned out to follow Mira wandering around the prison and telling herself her parents will come save her soon – where were the dragons??

Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) by Victoria Aveyard
Published February 9th 2016 by HarperTeen
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.

Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.

Mare’s mantras of “I am special” and “I am the lightning girl” really grated on me (please get over yourself?), as did the quasi love-square (CAL AND KILORN DESERVE SO MUCH MORE) thing, and the second half was pretty much just a repeat of the first half in a different setting, but tHE ENDING. Thanks, Glass Sword, for reminding me of how weak I am to cliffhangers. Onto King’s Cage it is, then.

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
Published April 15th 2014 by Walker Childrens
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★☆

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own.

Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence.

This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking.

The first thing Open Road Summer did was make me feel really nostalgic for country-era Taylor Swift. Think Jump Then Fall, Sparks Fly, Speak Now. Open Road Summer doesn’t quite carry the same vibe – it’s far less hopeless romantic-like – but something about it still reminds me of my Taylor Swift phase back in middle school. Or maybe Lady Antebellum and Rascal Flatts? Anyhow.

“Laughter feels like our flotation device – it won’t pull us out of the storm, but it might carry us through, if we can just hang on.”

The very best thing about Open Road Summer was Reagan’s friendship with Dee. I love it to pieces, and I would read every single one of Emery Lord’s books if they all contained friendships like this. Seriously. Their wasn’t perfect and they rattled each other at times but they never shut each other out and they just got each other, you know? It made me think of the saying – how it’s better to have one true friend than a dozen distant ones. Dee is so precious and wholesome and down-to-earth and sweet and adorable, and I like how she’s there to smooth down a lot of Reagan’s rough edges bUT ALSo I think Reagan really complements her as well, and is there to provide for some of the edges Dee doesn’t have but needs at times. It’s a really sweet relationship. It’s a two-way street. So. Freaking. Friendship goals. Right here. Reagan and Dee. These are the kinds of friendships I want to read more of.

And then there’s Matt Finch and-

“”I,” he says, plunking his strawberry-fest down on the counter, “didn’t realize you were a soccer mom justifying her chocolate craving with the fact that raisins are a fruit.”
Matt Finch hits back. I like it.”

SO DO I. Matt Finch is the epitome of the sweet boy-next-door type: charming and attentive and witty and sweet. And I can’t help but root for him and Reagan because the chemistry’s very much there and wow I am so sorry for all the run-on sentences in this review but I’m kind of really blown away by the main characters and their relationships and Matt and Reagan made me feel all warm and gooey inside and I AM ALL HERE FOR THIS. The banter between him and Reagan was super fun to read, and I really liked the three main characters.

I liked how everyone seemed super normal! Matt was super chill and Dee was super sweet and they were just… people. I mean, duh, Chri – celebrities are people too. But sometimes we forget that? And granted I’ve only read a few contemporaries with celebrities, but they always seem larger-than-life, like caricatures of human beings. So it was really nice to see a book about romance and summer and celebrities that placed everything in a normal light.

Also. Brenda. Can we talk about Brenda for a moment? Because I really liked Brenda. Maybe because I’m also more of the “practical type” as Reagan puts it, but I think I can empathize with her quite a bit? I felt really bad for her amidst all the mud Reagan was slinging at her in the beginning. I can get why Reagan would feel that way, but also because I’m more similar to Brenda than Reagan, I can get why Brenda’s actions were as they were. Brenda and her relationship with Reagen was an example of how wonderfully complex and how much change happened over the course of Open Road Summer, and I loved that scene toward the end with Brenda and Reagan. Things are never going to be 100% okay for everyone but it’s the effort and the thought that counts. And it was really nice to see Brenda finally speak up about how she was feeling. And it was really nice to see Reagan start to look at things from Brenda’s perspective. That was nice.

I really liked that.

(Also fucking props to Corinne because she made an undeniably shit move and though it doesn’t excuse what she did, I’m very much impressed by her persistence in knocking on the front doors of multiple O’Neill families just to find Reagan and apologize.)

AND WHILE WE’RE ON THAT TOPIC, the main reason why this rating won’t ever budge any higher despite me loving so much of it is because of the ridiculous amounts of girl-hate scattered throughout the book. Everything else was sO NICE and I actually liked Reagan’s character? Not in the way that I approved of and endorsed everything she did, but I liked her prickly exterior and her vulnerabilities. I liked that she seemed tough and snarky but wasn’t without flaws, and that she was willing to open up about them. But goddamn, all the girl-hate. Brenda definitely wasn’t spared. Dee’s publicist was slandered in every sentence she was mentioned in. Dee and Dee’s mother were the only two girls I think that came out of the book 100% unscathed. All the other girls, even if they only had one sentence to their name, had their appearance tagged with some sort of scathing, derogatory, or otherwise insulting remark. Every other girl in the story was, at one point or another, most often at every mention in the story, completely and utterly slandered by Reagan – for being slutty, for being gross, for being floozy, for being dumb, for being ugly, you name it. I can see where you can argue that it shows Reagan’s character development, as there are points where you can see her changing and reflecting. But the sheer volume and magnitude of it was just… Was that really necessary? (It wasn’t. It really, really wasn’t.)

But all in all, Open Road Summer was a highly enjoyable read. I’d heard great things about it, and Emery Lord is a blessing on my Twitter feed so I was all sorts of excited to read it, and it lived up to the hype! It was definitely one of my better reads of 2017, and I just went to the bookstore so I’m going to do my best not to drop by until the end of the month at least (restraintrestraintrestraintrestraaaaint) but I’m definitely going to pick up more of the author’s books when I get the chance!

I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo
Published May 30th 2017 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Desi Lee believes anything is possible if you have a plan. That’s how she became student body president. Varsity soccer star. And it’s how she’ll get into Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life. She finds guidance in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Steps to True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and staged car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.

This book made me feel all smiley and fuzzy and want to watch all my favorite kdramas (The Moon Embracing The Sun!!! Also 10/10 would recommend Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo and Doctors and Strong Woman Do Bong Soon and ahhhh if you’re ever looking for recs just let me know!). BUT parts also made me want to bash my head against the wall.

I’ll ditch my usual review pattern and start with the good: I Believe in a Thing Called Love was a cute, fun read! It’s clumsy and quirky overall, and the highlight for me was definitely her relationship with her Dad. It was so natural and strong and just… really nice. Reading their scenes and their banter never failed to put a smile on my face. Loving father rep in YA, as far as I’ve seen, has been pretty dismal – I was really happy to read of a relationship like theirs.

And, okay, I spent the great majority of the book cringing and hiding my face in my hands (a portion of which was probably fully intended by the author, and the other portion just because I’m, well, me) and – no Desi why stop please don’t stop noooo. But in that good way, you know? That way by which you’re super invested in the story, regardless, in spite of, or maybe even because of all the cringing and excessive heaping of second-hand embarrassment. And then you reach the end and in spite of the raging fireball of disaster, everything works out! And you feel super relieved. It’s kind of like kdrama catharsis. I Believe in a Thing Called Love had that.

But. I Believe in a Thing Called Love had one glaring But: who plans a car accident? Who fakes drowning in a pool? In what world is that even remotely okay (and she planned TWO accidents)? I can get being desperate for a boyfriend and doing crazy things (I mean, I can’t really, but it happens?). But staging an accident? One that has real and serious consequences? That’s an entirely different issue. Which is entirely fucked up. I couldn’t get behind at all – not the way it started, not the way it played out, and not the way it ended and was resolved.

All in all though? I Believe in a Thing Called Love was up my alley – Asian rep and healthy familial relationships for the win! If you’re a fan of that over-the-top style asian kdrama – think The Heirs level – then this’ll definitely be the book for you.

Zodiac (Zodiac, #1) by Romina Russell
Published December 9th 2014 by Razorbill
Source: Traded
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

At the dawn of time, there were 13 Houses in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now only 12 remain….

Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to make accurate astrological predictions, Rho can’t solve for ‘x’ to save her life—so instead, she looks up at the night sky and makes up stories.

When a violent blast strikes the moons of Cancer, sending its ocean planet off-kilter and killing thousands of citizens—including its beloved Guardian—Rho is more surprised than anyone when she is named the House’s new leader. But, a true Cancerian who loves her home fiercely and will protect her people no matter what, Rho accepts.

Then, when more Houses fall victim to freak weather catastrophes, Rho starts seeing a pattern in the stars. She suspects Ophiuchus—the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend—has returned to exact his revenge across the Galaxy. Now Rho—along with Hysan Dax, a young envoy from House Libra, and Mathias, her guide and a member of her Royal Guard—must travel through the Zodiac to warn the other Guardians.

But who will believe anything this young novice says? Whom can Rho trust in a universe defined by differences? And how can she convince twelve worlds to unite as one Zodiac?

So I’ll admit – I was lured in by the whole “thirteenth zodiac thing” because of Fruits Basket. I can’t help it, really. Anytime I see the phrase “thirteenth zodiac” for the rest of my life, I’m probably going to flash back to Fruits Basket. And cry a little. But Zodiac turned out to be nothing like Fruits Basket. It was more… think Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series! But with Divergent houses, and it’s set in space. Except for Zodiac doesn’t read nearly as cool as it sounds.

First of all, nothing really happens at the beginning? The first few parts are kind of boring and makes you tempted to skim, except for there is crucial worldbuilding stuff lurking around, so you can’t really. Then we hit the second half and honestly the politics and psy stuff would be kind of cool. And I loved the Gemini twins. But when we hit the second half, we’re also plunged into this love triangle which can be explained, as Mathias so kindly puts it: “He’s forbidden, and I’m too old.” So. It’s lovely.

HA. Paragraph break and you thought I’d leave the love triangle stuff as is but I’M NOT DONE. So there’s Hysan and Methias, and, well, I thought Hysan was pretty cool – he’s the sunny, cocky, confident type, and made the book more bearable and interesting. I experienced the burning urge to eject Mathias off the ship, but then after the love triangle started and heated up I started feeling really bad for him instead because wow does Rho leads them on. She sleeps with one of them and then gets jealous of him hanging out with other girls – which call me crazy but gives off the impression that she’s got a serious thing for him? – but then in the next instance, she’s actively encouraging the other guy with implied love confessions? ??? ??????? Is this messy love triangle really necessary? Can Rho not just. Be a young guardian and save the world. Does that not make for a good enough book?

Also I was really confused because at the beginning of Zodiac, there’s a part where Rho and Mathias interact for the first time in the book at least, and it reads as if they’re meeting for the first time ever, or at least are distant strangers, but later on Rho talks about how he’s been important to her for ages and I am Confused.

ALSO they keep emphasizing how cancer was nurturing and all about family but whereee are those qualities in Rho because I don’t see it? The family stuff’s hammered in here and there when the story remembers that Rho’s mother and father and brother exist, but the nurturing part… Well. It leaves room for discussion, to say the least. Most of the other characters were also pretty dry and forgettable in the same way, until all their personalities started melting into one large, undefined mass of Secondary Character.

Actually, in that same vein, the whole book was pretty filler-y and dry. The politics and intergalactic expeditions would’ve been super super cool had it actually gotten adequate attention and page time; the thing thirteenth zodiac guy of myth was really cool – him showing up as a different person/thing to every single house was a really smart move. Why does he fall apart when he actually shows up in the book? I don’t know if it was meant to highlight how special and capable and amazing Rho is, but in implementation, it doesn’t make Rho seem any more capable. It just makes both of them seem woefully incapable.

But most of Zodiac is overshadowed by the love triangle. As well as the writing, constantly reminding us that Rho’s special and talented and wonderful.

Zodiac had so much potential but in the end, everything I would’ve enjoyed about it took a backseat to everything that didn’t work for me.

Scorched (Scorched #1) by Mari Mancusi
Published September 3rd 2013 by Sourcebooks Fire
Source: Traded
Rating: ★★½☆☆

Don’t leave me here… It starts with a whisper. At first Trinity thinks she’s going crazy. It wouldn’t be a big surprise—her grandpa firmly believes there’s a genuine dragon egg in their dusty little West Texas town. But this voice is real, and it’s begging for her protection. Even if no one else can hear it…

He’s come from a future scorched by dragonfire. His mission: Find the girl. Destroy the egg. Save the world.

He’s everything his twin brother Connor hates: cocky, undisciplined, and obsessed with saving dragons.

Trinity has no idea which brother to believe. All she has to go by is the voice in her head—a dragon that won’t be tamed.

Scorched – I keep misspelling it as Schorched ughh – was interesting? Interesting! I picked this one up because, well, DRAGONS. DRAGONS. And yeah there were dragons! (The book under the dustjacket is absolutely GORGEOUS I’d highly recommend you take a peek) And the dragons were kind of cute? The one we see the most is a baby dragon and she’s super precious. And the writing was decent.

But. Um. I’m really not a fan of the whole love-triangle-with-brothers thing. But that thing was a huge part of the whole “beautiful special snowflake needs to decide who to trust and ends up leading on two hot brothers who time travel back to get her because she’s the one that’ll destroy the world or save it” thing this book keeps emphasizing. Which could’ve been okay, had Scorched not then decided to focused way too much on the “beautiful special snowflake” and “leading on two hot brothers” aspects and not enough of the whole “destroy or save the world part.”

Which, you’d normally think would take precedence? Maybe?

The Dracken had potential, and I liked the idea (I also really liked where the name came from! Most books see groups with super meaningful names, but they also forget that these groups were supposedly formed by teenagers? So a super important world-influencing group named after video games was both really funny but also fit), but the setup was pretty lackluster. Most of the time the book focused less on the Dracken and more on Trinity and Connor and Caleb mooning after each other with the Dracken in the peripheral, so the Dracken ended up coming off as a half-assed cult group, and the rest of the plot read rather messily. Needless to say, I ended up skim reading a lot toward the end.

Scorched wasn’t an awful read, but at the same time, I’m kind of glad I traded for this instead of buying it.

Antigoddess (Goddess War #1) by Kendare Blake
Published September 10th 2013 by Tor Teen
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Old Gods never die…

Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health.

Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god.

These days, Cassandra doesn’t involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn’t even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning.

Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out.

Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath.

The Goddess War is about to begin.

I stick pretty closely to Goodreads’s rating system: 1 star is “did not like it,” 2 stars means “it was ok,” 3 stars for a “liked it” read, and so on. And, Antigoddess? It was okay.

I’m fascinated by mythology. Was obsessed with it at one point, actually. Long before I fell into YA, I pretty much exclusively read mythology books – Greek, Roman, Japanese, Chinese, Egyptian, Babylonian, you name it. I think I might’ve checked out every book on myths in my school library twice, and while I’m no longer anywhere as obsessed with mythology as I had been in the past, I always get excited to see them in YA. And, so, Antigoddess.

The premise was super interesting: a war between dying gods. And the beginning of the book? I was really drawn in by how it opened, chapter zero, with Athena choking on feathers and Hermes slowly wasting away to a haunting, tragic end, more of a whisper than a bang, an end nowhere near benefitting of a god or goddess. It’s really tragically beautiful, in a way.

And then… things took a turn and went… somewhere. It wasn’t terrible – nothing in Antigoddess read as terrible. The whole thing was just very okay. Very bland. The book started out tragically beautiful and haunting, then nosedived into “meh” territory and was never able to crawl its way back out.

The story alternates between Cassandra and her boyfriend Aiden, and Athena and Hermes; the story alternates between two teenagers scamming high school freshman in cafeterias and attending parties, and two dying gods stumbling across the country, bickering and scowling amongst themselves to find Cassandra and Aiden. It sounds more interesting than it really is, and the synopsis sounds much more action-filled than the entire book delivered. Most of it was the parties and the running and scowling. A lot of what I thought would be more crucial points – how the gods and goddesses got to where they were now, what happened to, y’know, everyone else, how the whole “waking up with your past memories” thing actually works, as well as the “swapping out your old body with a new” that was only briefly mentioned in passing with Odysseus – were very vague, details passed over in favor of drawing out… something. Something? The characters’ shuffling and waffling and grumbling?

The pacing was slow, the climax almost unpleasantly jarring and anti-climactic, and the entire book almost reads as the preface to something bigger and bolder. The thing is, though, with the way Antigoddess ends, it could pass as a stand-alone. And with the way it read, I’m happy to take it as such.

King’s Cage (Red Queen, #3) by Victoria Aveyard
Published February 7th 2017 by HarperTeen
Source: Borrowed
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

Wheeere oh where has the plot gone? I’m pretty sure you could’ve rolled Glass Sword and King’s Cage into one book and wrapped up the series as a trilogy.

So here’s the thing: I can see why everyone likes this series so much. It’s formulaic and there’s not one part of the series that hasn’t been done before, but all parts of the series have been done before and worked, and now we have the Red Queen series. And it’s clearly working for a lot of people. It worked for me in the beginning, too – I really liked Red Queen. But then the series started to miss the mark.

King’s Cage is one giant filler scene; the writing’s trying too hard to load itself up with quotable one-liners and snarky exchanges; all the secondary characters are flat, dull, and forgettable; 500 pages isn’t quite enough to contain the annoyance that is Mare’s inflated ego.

The upside? While reading Glass Sword, I thought that this series would turn into a Nightshade kind of situation for me, when the only character I liked ended up dead at the end of the series (THE VERY END OF THE SERIES) but hey, King’s Cage got me starting to like another character, so the odds are looking a little better? Marginally? So half a star for that shaky assurance, one star for the scene where Cal and The Scarlett Guard rescued Mare (YEEEEEEEESSS), and another half star because fuck it, I’m still holding out for a Maven comeback, or for Cal to regain all that character I liked about him that he lost.