Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
Published April 5th 2016
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★½☆

Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

If it were me and I got a random email like that, especially from someone calling themselves Somebody/Nobody? It would’ve gone straight in the trash. Which is also probably why Jessie’s the main character of this novel, and I’m sitting here writing about it.

Overall, Tell Me Three Things was really cute and engaging! The falling in love through the written word thing gets me every single time – it’s probably my most searched fanfic tag and I love the idea to death – and it was no different here. Theo was my favorite character overall, and I really enjoyed seeing how his relationship with Jessie developed over the novel. The treatment of Jessie’s stepmother, in the latter half of the book had me pleasantly surprised, and I liked how, even though you can kind of guess who the mystery SN is, there are moments here and there that brings about doubt and uncertainty. I thought Ethan was kind of creepy and weird though. Sorry? There was all this stuff he did and said that I know was supposed to come off as sensitive, cute, considerate, or all of the above, but it all just rubbed me the wrong way. He was pretty main, though, and so, primarily because of him, every time I started really getting into Tell Me Three Things, and every time I thought the story was starting to get really really good, it would faceplant into something ridiculous and/or cringey and a little part of me just died.

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
Published June 6th 2017 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Love lives between the lines.

Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry Jones. The day before she moved away, she tucked a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. She waited. But Henry never came.

Now Rachel has returned to the city—and to the bookshop—to work alongside the boy she’d rather not see, if at all possible, for the rest of her life. But Rachel needs the distraction, and the escape. Her brother drowned months ago, and she can’t feel anything anymore. She can’t see her future.

Henry’s future isn’t looking too promising, either. His girlfriend dumped him. The bookstore is slipping away. And his family is breaking apart.

As Henry and Rachel work side by side—surrounded by books, watching love stories unfold, exchanging letters between the pages—they find hope in each other. Because life may be uncontrollable, even unbearable sometimes. But it’s possible that words, and love, and second chances are enough.

“But I love you, and before you say it words do matter. They’re not pointless. If they were pointless then they couldn’t start revolutions and they wouldn’t change history and they wouldn’t be the things that you think about every night before you go to sleep. If they were just words we wouldn’t listen to songs, we wouldn’t beg to be read to when we’re kids. If they were just words, then they’d have no meaning and stories wouldn’t have been around since before humans could write. We wouldn’t have learned to write. If they were just words then people wouldn’t fall in love because of them, feel bad because of them, ache because of them, stop aching because of them, have sex, quite a lot of the time, because of them.”

Cath Crowley writes beautiful books. I’ve read two and a half now – snippets of A Little Wanting Song, Graffiti Moon in its entirety, and now Words in Deep Blue. They’ve all been quiet, lyrical sorts of reads, and it’s really highlighted in Words in Deep Blue with the Letters Library, which was a really cool touch. It was probably my favorite part of the story, actually: I loved reading all the letters, tucked between chapters of the story just as they would’ve been in the actual Letters Library, and Cath Crowley’s writing really shines through the most here because every single letter’s so delicate and lovely, especially George’s exchanges with “Pytheas.”

But while I really like the letters, I felt this huge disconnect with the rest of the story. Mainly because I couldn’t bring myself to care much for Rachel, and Henry was an asshole, and I couldn’t figure out what Rachel saw in him? Which was a downer. The rest of this book read as a gorgeous love letter of sorts to books and the written word, and then Rachel and Henry’s parts basically tracked mud all over that letter.

Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas
Published March 11th 2014 by Harper Teen
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★☆

Despite what her name might suggest, Heart has zero interest in complicated romance. So when her brilliant plan to go to prom with a group of friends is disrupted by two surprise invites, Heart knows there’s only one drama-free solution: flip a coin.

Heads: The jock. He might spend all night staring at his ex or throw up in the limo, but how bad can her brother’s best friend really be?

Tails: The theater geek…with a secret. What could be better than a guy who shares all Heart’s interests–even if he wants to share all his feelings?

Heart’s simple coin flip has somehow given her the chance to live out both dates. But where her prom night ends up might be the most surprising thing of all…

I thought this was really cute! It was the perfect read for my mood – fluffy, a little silly, and plenty adorable. The two routes writing style hardly ever works for me but Ask Again Later is one of the few exceptions. I can’t say I thought it was the best way to go as it still threw me off a little especially in the first half, but the author made it work, and I thought the ending was super sweet and satisfying.

Spellbinding by Maya Gold
Published April 1st 2013 by Scholastic Point
Source: Library
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

There’s more than one way to be powerful . . .

It is during a routine school project that Abby Silva–sixteen and nearly friendless–makes a startling discovery: She is descended from women who were accused of witchcraft back in 1600s Salem. And when Abby visits nearby Salem, strange, inexplicable events start to unfold. Objects move when she wills them to. Candles burst into sudden flame. And an ancient spellbook somehow winds up in her possession.

Trying to harness her newfound power, Abby concocts a love potion to win over her longtime crush–and exact revenge upon his cruel, bullying girlfriend. But old magic is not to be trifled with. Soon, Abby is thrust headlong into a world of hexes, secrets, and danger. And then there’s Rem Anders, the beautiful, mysterious Salem boy who seems to know more about Abby than he first lets on.

A reckoning is coming, and Abby will have to make sense of her history–and her heart–before she can face the powerful truth.

A quick read, almost painfully ridiculous for the most part, with ridiculously obvious “twists.” I’m not exactly the best at spotting plot twists, so when I can make a fair shot at mapping out the story – “unpredictable” twists and all – from almost the get-go, that should be a huge warning sign. And forget pulling cliches out of a hat – it felt as if the author just sat down and emptied it all out onto the story.

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab
Published Published July 5th 2016 by Greenwillow Books
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

So I have this thing with Victoria Schwab’s books. I think. Hear me out: I used to think her books were pretty hit-or-miss with me, but I’ve read The Near Witch and The Ash-Born Boy, The Archive, Vicious, A Darker Shade of Magic, and now This Savage Song as well. With The Near Witch being the outlier, I’ve pretty much fallen in love with all Victoria Schwab’s adult novels, but there’s something about her young adult novels that I can’t follow. Can’t connect with. Which is kind of weird, because I’m still firmly in that young adult category, but. Anyhow.

The opening of This Savage Song was gripping. I was sucked in right away – between the school and the flames (and, let’s be real, the one-too-many sentiments Kate and I shared about Catholic schools, even though we both attended but for brief periods of time) – Victoria Schwab really knows how to start a book.

The individual elements were incredibly interesting: Kate’s the daughter of a crime boss, August is a monster playing human who lures in his prey with music, there are borders and political intrigue with monsters, as well as a violin with History, and an eerie little song that goes like so-

“Monsters, monsters, big and small,
They’re gonna come and eat you all.
Corsai, Corsai, tooth and claw,
Shadow and bone will eat you raw.
Malchai, Malchai, sharp and sly,
Smile and bite and drink you dry.
Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal,
Sing you a song and steal your soul.
Monsters, monsters, big and small,
They’re gonna come and eat you all!”

But together, and something doesn’t quite click. There are monsters! But the monsters don’t seem quite like monsters, and read more like the ones in those bedtime stories my mom would read my little brother years ago – with just enough creepy and just enough monster to say it satisfies his request for a “monster story,” but not enough to make him feel it in his bones. There is politics with monsters! But honestly, it’s all kind of glossed over, and I could never really get a proper feel for the city, as intriguing as it sounded in the synopsis. Kate is the kick-ass daughter of a crime boss! And we’re told this again and again until every page bleeds two-dimensional kick-ass girl trope and Kate starts coming off as less fierce and desperate, and more and more as a privileged, insensitive asshole with daddy issues. Then every other chapter, we’re granted a relief from Kate and subjected instead to August’s gloom of teenage angst. I didn’t hate him; I didn’t love him; honestly, I didn’t have any particular feelings about him? He was there, and he was a character, and something happened to him, and that’s basically my overall feelings about This Savage Song.

I wanted so badly to like this as much as everyone else did. And there were little moments here and there – the beginning, Kate’s first(?) kill, August’s flashback, and the violin – that made me think that things were starting to look up. Though, ultimately, they didn’t. Not really.

The author made This Savage Song sound so, so good:

“It’s the story of Kate Harker, the only daughter of a crime boss, and August Flynn, the son of a man trying to hold his city together. She’s a human who wants to be a monster, and he’s a monster who wishes he were human.”

And Victoria Schwab – she’s got this way with words, you know? Everything flows so nicely and wraps up in such an orderly way, and there are so many quotable lines in every chapter. She’d have to majorly screw up somewhere to get me to stop reading because there’s just something about the way she writes that tugs me right to the end of the book each time, even if I need to take several breaks along the way to get there.

I-

“I mean, most people want to escape. Get out of their heads. Out of their lives. Stories are the easiest way to do that.”

mean-

“It was a cruel trick of the universe, thought August, that he only felt human after doing something monstrous.”

just-

“She cracked a smile. “So what’s your poison”
He sighed dramatically, and let the truth tumble off his tongue. “Life.”
“Ah,” she said ruefully. “That’ll kill you.”

read-

“But the teacher had been right about one thing: violence breeds.
Someone pulls a trigger, sets off a bomb, drives a bus full of tourists off a bridge, and what’s left in the wake isn’t just shell casings, wreckage, bodies. There’s something else. Something bad. An aftermath. A recoil. A reaction to all that anger and pain and death.”

this.

“It was a cruel trick of the universe, thought August, that he only felt human after doing something monstrous.”

But, ultimately, aside from the premise, the wonderful writing, and the small snippets of scenes here and there, This Savage Song didn’t deliver on a lot of aspects, and just didn’t do it for me.

(I’ll admit I was 100% sucked in by that preview of Our Dark Duet at the end, though sos I’m so weak so I just might end up giving this duology another shot anyhow? Maybe?)

Snow Like Ashes (Snow Like Ashes #1) by Sara Raasch
Published October 14th 2014 by Balzer + Bray
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★☆

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

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

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

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

The minimalistic design under the dustjacket is gorgeous and I straight up spent a good hour just admiring the book’s design instead of reading it whoops But then I started reading Snow Like Ashes! And GUYS. The story’s just as interesting as the cover and I really like both of them!

White strands stream around me, some matted with sewer muck, but most tossing in the wind. A living snow-storm, a vibrant white reminder that they haven’t enslaved every Winterian. Some of us are still alive. Some of us are still free.

And some of us are half a locket closer to taking back our kingdom.

Meira’s hands-down one of the best main characters in the books I’ve read this year. I love how strong and relatable and determined she comes across, with a tinge of sarcasm and wry – because we all need some kind of humor to keep us aloft when the world is falling apart, right? She’s not perfect, but I love the massive amounts of self-reflection and subsequent character development she goes through. She comes across as sweet and struggling and genuine. She’s not perfect, but she tries – she really does, and that’s what makes her all the more likable and relatable. Meira’s the kind of person who’ll throw a tantrum, then get back to her feet and do.

I’ve been so selfish, haven’t I? Selfish and narrow-minded and wrong, because I wanted to matter to Winter, but in my own way. Within my own set parameters that would also fit who I wanted to be. I choke on a laugh, hating that it’s taken me this long…

And I really liked Sir also! I loved how he was a kind of but not really father figure to the story, and I loved how he was this important adult figure that actually had a hand in helping the plot along! Oftentimes in YA the world’s falling apart, and we’re supposed to believe that everything’s put back together by a band of teenagers, which (though granted, some teenagers are hella smart) isn’t the most believable. I loved how, in Snow Like Ashes, it was a group effort. Sir was doing his best to keep it together and bring things back together; Mather was doing his best to shoulder this huge responsibility he thought he had; Meira was doing her best to come into herself and do what she could to help her kingdom. The relationships were complex and distinct, and all the main characters were easily differentiable because they came across as genuine, genuinely thinking they were doing the right thing, genuinely thinking that if they struggled onward, things would look up.

The romance – though, really, does every YA series need a love triangle? is there some ironclad rule? why is this a thing? – was surprisingly okay. I really could’ve done without all that metaphorical dick measuring between Theron and Mather, but it wasn’t all-consuming, and it didn’t detract much from the story. It was a little annoying in places, but I could deal. I rather liked the two, actually? (Also, reading books with YA love triangles has shown me how easily swayed I am and I don’t know what to do with this information.) I liked how balanced Theron was, how consistently respectfully he treated Meira throughout the book. And if I didn’t like him enough before, that scene where he blew up on his father and basically opened his father’s eyes to the truth? Won me over. Completely. BUT THEN ON THE FLIP SIDE Mather was also nice – I felt kind of bad for him throughout the story, actually, because he had all this responsibility, and he did make some questionable decisions but he was genuinely trying to do the right thing and he did try to make it up afterward. They were both just nice boys with kind hearts and good intentions in a shitty situation. That’s definitely something I could get on board with.

Someday we will be more than words in the dark.

The set-up was also fairly easy to follow once you got the hang of it, though it did take some time. Another thing I really enjoyed about Snow Like Ashes was how it switched things up! Most of the time, if it’s the elements, Fire is the bad guy, and if we’re talking seasons, Winter’s the antagonist. I liked how Snow Like Ashes switched things up a little, with Winter being the protagonist, and Spring the antagonist. It was really refreshing to read!

I do have a few complaints, though. First, Snow Like Ashes dragged in the middle. This book’s pretty hefty for the plot it covers – it could definitely be cut at least a hundred pages. Also, the “big reveal” toward the end is pretty blatantly obvious from chapter two. The little flashback-like scenes here and there just give too much away in one go! It would be a lot more impactful and shocking if the information was rationed instead of all laid out like that from the get-go. And, lastly, the scene at the beginning with Meira and the locket – she got out of that sticky situation way too easily. Meira practically got in and out of a heavily guarded area with minimal chasing and minimal notice, which is highly unbelievable, especially considering the terrifying might she’s supposedly dealing with.

All in all though, Snow Like Ashes really surprised me. With a kick-ass, relatable protagonist, a cast of characters that were likeable and genuine, solid writing, and an original set-up, it’s easily one of my favorite reads this year.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons #1) by Leigh Bardugo
Published August 29th 2017 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★☆

She will become one of the world’s greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning. . . .

Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world.

Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

“Diana said nothing. If her reading on politics had taught her anything, even a loyal man might be swayed under the right circumstances.”

This book made me want to split trees with my bare hands or oust the president or something.

You know, to be honest I wasn’t entirely sold on this when I first heard about it? Like I just watched Wonder Woman (movies come out late as fuck in Japan /sobs/) in theaters, and I was a little dubious about how the author would pull off an original, memorable take on a fan-favorite character. But she did it! And it was really good? And she also became the first author whose signing I went to. (It was hilarious – 10/10 would recommend going to see her because Leigh Bardugo is really, really great) I’m actually a little shocked I managed to drag myself there because it was late and cold and far and rainy but hey, if you’re paying the ridiculous NYC rent fees, might as well get the most out of your time in the city, right?

And, like with Shadow and Bone – though, granted, these two are the only two Leigh Bardugo books I’ve read – there’s something about the plot of the story that, even towards the end of the book, I’m never entirely sold on. But then, hand in hand, there’s something about her writing? There’s something about all those witty one-liners (ooooh boy) and the world building and there’s something about the way the author writes and crafters her characters that pulls everything together and makes me enjoy the book just the same. I’m so conflicted because it’s been two books by Leigh Bardugo now and I didn’t enjoy them as much as I could’ve but at the same time I really enjoyed them and I don’t know how to explain why.

But (please forgive my rambling) this one was good! /thumbs up/

I really liked how diverse and quirky and strong the cast of characters were! While I wasn’t deeply and irrevocably emotionally attached to any of them, they all left really strong impressions – they were splintered at times and together at others, close and open to each other yet at the same time complete mysteries to one another. No two were the same. I loved the relationships between them (strong female friendships represent!) and the complexity of each character – even the ones that didn’t get as much page time. This is the kind of cast you’d want to weather out a series with (Theoooo). This is the kind of cast you’d want to go on some apocalypse-preventing, humanity-saving, adventure-of-your-life with.

Another thing I was kinda iffy about, on the other hand: the author has this thing (and I say thing with full confidence because I’ve… read… two of her books…? shifty eyes clears throat right okay so) she does with male leads that I’m not super on board with? Both times, it’s been awkward and unlike the character and super cringy where it should’ve been super shocking.

Final verdict? I enjoyed Wonder Woman: Warbringer! Immensely. And I’m still confused and I spent something like 3300+ words rambling to no conclusion about how I feel iffy about a few prominent things and really like Leigh Bardugo’s books at the same time but. In any case.

This book?

I’m a fan.

“”I bet I could convince you.”
“How?”
“Let’s just say I don’t get many complaints.”
“From your lovers?”
The man blinked. He had sandy hair and freckles on his nose. “Uh, yeah.” He grinned again. “From my lovers.”
“It’s possible they refrain from complaining in order to spare your feelings.”
“What?”
“Perhaps if you could keep a woman, you’d have less call to proposition strangers.”

Between the Blade and the Heart (Valkyrie #1) by Amanda Hocking
Publication date January 2nd 2018 by Wednesday Books
Source: ARC from Publisher
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Valkyries have one great responsibility: to return immortals to the afterlife by slaying them. As a Valkyrie, Malin has always known that the balance of the world rests on her ability to carry out orders. But when Malin discovers that her mother spared the life of an immortal who was destined to die, her world is thrown into chaos.

Malin not only wrestles with the knowledge that her mother might not be who she thought—she’s also thrust into the path of a gorgeous blue eyed guy named Asher who needs her help slaying the rogue immortal who destroyed his family. The balance of the world is at stake. And, as Asher competes with Malin’s ex for her love and loyalty, so is her heart.

Aside from tidbits about Loki, Odin, Thor, and Freya, I know very little about Norse mythology. But I always thought the idea and what little I knew of Valkyries was really cool! So when I got the opportunity to read Between the Blade and the Heart, I was incredibly excited. It’s Game of Thrones meets Blade Runner (according to the blurb)! A “commanding new YA fantasy!” I was picturing, I dunno, Wonder Woman x an army or something? Or something.

Well. Between the Blade and the Heart was definitely an “or something.”

Good things first? Quinn! She’s steadfast and supportive and brave. She’s so incredibly loyal too – like she’ll sell an old family heirloom to help her friend in dire straights, or hang around waiting an entire night just to make sure a friend gets out safely because she heard something and was worried, and I just? Ugh. I also love how direct she is – she knows what she wants, and she doesn’t beat around the bush.

AN EXTRA PARAGRAPH FOR QUINN because she basically single-handedly saved this story from my dnf-pile.

And, um. Sloane’s character arc was nice?

I kid, guys. That’s all I’ve got. Thank goodness for Quinn.

RIGHT SO. MOVING ON. I’m a huge fan of chapter zeros and prologues, but the three-page intro at the beginning? Highly unnecessary. It might feel different in a movie, or a trailer! A trailer – I’m picturing a panoramic shot of the Valkyries going about their daily duties while Malin parts of those three pages in the background and yeah, that’s a pretty cool intro, but book-wise? Not really. It’s a pretty jarring infodump of unnecessary information. What readers need to know from it will be rehashed later on in the story when the information’s important, and the unnecessary bits are never touched on again, so. The whole thing’s effectively useless and a pretty jarring way to start the story.

Then the actual story came, and most everyone was super inconsistent, especially Malin and her mom. I get if unusual circumstances throw them off, or if they’ve been hiding things, but usually, your core character would stay the same. After a while, all the characters in Between the Blade and the Heart all blurred together because their personalities kept flip-flopping between one type and another. Most of them were never really consistently anything, leading most of them to read as the same inconsistent character.

Okay, that’s unfair – Malin was consistently a dick. I’ll give her that much. She kept whining about how people were smothering her (when she basically did whatever she wanted whenever she wanted, other people’s opinions, common sense, and common courtesy be damned) and how she never got to really be, then had this mini-crisis over supposedly not getting love and affection when? Quinn? Asher? Her mother? What Marlow had for Malin did seem like a kind of love. Maybe not the warm, affectionate kind we typically see, but she did look out for and want good for Malin, and it did seem like she felt genuine affection for Malin. Granted, the characters were incredibly inconsistent, but that was the sort of feeling I got from Marlow most of the time. On the other hand, Malin was the one consistently pushing people away, judging them for the smallest things, and refusing their affection (i.e. after the funeral when Quinn tries to extend a hand to Malin and basically gets flipped off and raged at for being too restricting).

And, augh, I seem to be all-around incapable of writing short reviews. But. In any case. Moving on.

The writing pretty much relied on telling, the plot was non-existent for most of the story, and the dialogue scenes were incredibly stilted. See (all quotes taken from the ARC – may be inconsistent with the finalized, finished editions):

“How are you ladies doing this lovely morning?” Atlas asked, with a broad grin to match his broad shoulders.
“Just finished the job,” I replied.
“I assume that it all went well for you,” Atlas continued grinning.
“Is Samael in?” Marlow asked, cutting Atlas’s chatter.

“Thanks,” I muttered, slamming my book closed, and got to my feet. “I’m looking for help, and you kick me when I’m down. Nice.”
I started walking away, but Sloan sighed and called after me. “Sorry. I didn’t realize you were actually having a genuine existential crisis.”
I stopped to look back at her. “Well, I am.”
“All the Valkyries I’ve ever known have been dumb jocks,” Sloan explained, as if that would somehow make me feel better. “I’m working on trying to get over my own prejudices, and it’s unfair of me to stereotype you like that.”

(OH SHOOT I JUST REALIZED – someone I’d initially thought of as one character was actually two? Take that as you will about the state of the characters…)

And YES I’M WRAPPING UP SOON I PROMISE. Just one last thing: the entire buildup, a good 200+ pages of the story was ended in – I kid you not – one page, and the author attempts to offset that by building up that anticlimactic result, as well as the remaining few pages, into hype for the next book in the series. And it sounds pretty like a pretty disappointing climax point but honestly? At that point, it was pretty much like deflating an already deflated balloon for me – I just wanted the book to be over.

(I’m really, really amazed, though. This is my first Amanda Hocking book, but apparently it’s her twenty-second published novel? Even if each novel was just 120,000 words, that’s 2,640,000 written and published words! Which is like 455 of these reviews. Or 290 of that one medical anthropology essay I’ve been putting off and should really get to finishing. Or if you wrote a word a second for every minute of every hour of every day, it would take you roughly a month to write enough words to fill those novels, even with that extremely low word estimate per book. Holy crap.)

(AND ANOTHER COOL FACT YOU PROBABLY NEVER NEEDED TO KNOW: it’s incredibly cool and also kind of shocking to hear that Amanda Hocking is publishing her 22nd book because I was already book blogging when she published her first! (Count the years – or don’t. Thinking it over, it’s kind of scary. In the blogoverse, I’m practically ancient^^;;;))

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 😀

THREE weeks until I’m officially done with this semester and able to fly home and I can’t wait. I’m so excited and tempted to pull out my suitcase and start packing but I told myself I’d wait until at least December to do so. Also, midterms are finally done and out of the way, and we’ve just finished with the last batch of research participants down at my lab, so things are finally starting to feel a little like the end of the semester! And now, to the blog – here’s how November looked-

November on the blog

  • I reviewed Scarlet by Marissa Meyer with unamused Benedict Cumberbatch gifs, which basically sums up my reading experience.
  • Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes was… marginally better… but I still kind of wanted to punt some of the characters off the edge of a cliff.
  • I switched things up a little and posted an ongoing list of amazing Asian drama! 10/10 would highly recommend watching them when you get the chance^^
  • As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti was another disappointing read, to put it lightly.
  • tHEN I READ A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC BY VICTORIA SCHWAB AND IT SINGLE-HANDEDLY SAVED MY READING LIST THIS MONTH PRAISE.

Out and about

/Insert inhoherent screaming and tearful rambling here because I JUST RECEIVED TO KILL A KINGDOM BY ALEXANDRA CHRISTO and not going to like the tentacles on the cover look hella weird bUT IM STILL EXCITED ASDFJDLKGDSF/

In the realm of beauty products… I’ve gone through and tried out most of the new products in my stash, so there really isn’t much to say anymore. I did finally open the TonyMoly Panda’s Dream White Hand Cream. I love the packaging! It’s super cute, and as for the inside – the formula smells amazing, and while I don’t see any of the effects people are raving about online, it’s true that it isn’t too oily, and absorbs nicely into your skin. It’s rather meh, though, packaging aside. I also tried TonyMoly’s shiny foot moisture cream with similar results, cute packaging aside. It’s decent and does the job, but doesn’t go above and beyond, and isn’t worth raving about.

I was so, so tempted to splurge on Black Friday, but bills are kind of tight this month (@NYC what’s up) – which, speaking of, because of this I’m going to put up a ton of the books I have for sale, so if you’re interested, please keep an eye out on my twitter! Aughhhh there were so many eye-catching sales though! Did you guys get anything? Let me know so I can live vicariously through you, heheh.

All that aside, this entire month’s mostly been an endless cycle of eat, sleep, school. I wish I could post about more interesting things, but unfortunately, the most noteworthy thing I’ve done was accidentally burn the skin off my pinky and dye half of my left hand purple (which is a more common occurrence in our lab than you’d think, ahah). Next month, though! I’ll be heading back home and getting to eat all that good food and catching up with my friends, so there’ll be things to ramble about then. I can’t wait <3

October on the playlist

  • 打上花火/DAOKO×米津玄師(cover)【96猫×天月】
  • 病名は愛だった / 天月×96猫 【歌ってみた】
  • back number – 「瞬き」
  • [Alexandros] – 明日、また (MV) (short ver.)
  • Rita Ora – Anywhere

So there we have it! My November in a nutshell. And now, onto you – how was your month? How was your Thanksgiving, if you celebrated it? (Or rather, how did you celebrate it? I’ve never done so, and I’m curious!)

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.