King’s Cage [Review]

MILD SPOILERS BELOW

King's Cage Cover.jpgSynopsis (Taken from Goodreads.com): 

When the Lightning Girl’s spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

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.

Pages: 512

Goodreads Rating: 4.03/5 Stars

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

My Opinion

I’ll admit, this was one of the books that I had on pre-order earlier this year, so I have had a copy of this novel since it first dropped back in February. However, I felt myself procrastinating on this book like no other until a couple weeks ago, when I forced myself to read it and to just get it over and done with. This novel was a case of me beginning to read the story and then putting it aside when other books came along. I was able to finish the book when I was on vacation, but it was a hard fight to reach that point.

I’m not quite sure what it was that caused me to have such a difficult time with the novel. If I was to place one possible aspect, it would probably be the overall pacing of the book. For myself, it felt as if there was a lot happening, but also nothing at the same time. I’m not sure if that’s because I have spent so much time away from the story and the world itself, or if that was an actual problem with the writing in general.

I was also struggling with the characterization. It felt as if we have hit a rut with the character development. Since this is a four book series, there is a lot that Victoria has to balance out in terms of plot and characterization. With the first two books doing heavy lifting in with both of those aspects, I feel that this book plateaued with both. I simply wasn’t seeing Mare evolve into the hero that I want her to be – which, in some ways, is refreshing; but, it also meant that I grew quickly disinterested with the happenings of the novel. (However! The unveilings about Maven’s past with his mother, Elara, definitely suceeded in making me more empathetic towards our antagonist, even if I still dislike him.)

But, I was surprised to see Victoria weaving other character perspectives into the plot as well. With Mare being cut off from the Red Guard, it was a strong move to bring in the point of views of other characters within the story. While she used a couple minor characters to illustrate this, I found that I enjoyed these perspectives more than those from Mare’s perspective. I liked these other perspectives because they came from characters of varying ages and it gave us, the reader, the chance to view both Mare and the events of the story from new eyes. That’s something that is always refreshing and important to story telling, as it can completely alter the reader’s thoughts about the main character.

In the end, the novel didn’t start picking up for myself until the last two hundred pages or so. When my ship (Cal and Mare forever!) reunited, I grew more invested in the story. (What can I say – I’m a sucker for romance.) With the space between us and Maven, our villain, more suspense and tension grew for me. Not only that, but the relationship between Mare and Cal developed in ways that I wasn’t imagining would happen in this novel.

Overall, I definitely did not enjoy this book as much as Red Queen. Victoria’s debut novel simply cannot be denied its freshness and originality; nevertheless, the following two novels have not gotten to that level of awesomeness for myself. Here’s to hoping for a kick-butt finale!

*****

Red Queen (Series)

*****

“Those who know what it’s like in the dark will do anything to stay in the light.”
― Victoria Aveyard, King’s Cage

Summer Reading Challenge: August!

Hey guys!

As many of you know, Michaela (Bookish Reviews and More) and I are hosting a summer reading challenge to help take the edge off of our to-be-read piles! Previously we did a reading challenge from the weeks of May 22nd-28th, June 12th-18th, and July 24th-30th. (Although, due to starting a new job, I was unable to participate in the July reading challenge, which is why I did not make a post about it.)

But, tomorrow is the beginning of our fourth reading challenge, which will run from August 14th-20th.

For this reading challenge, we want to read five books in one week (from Monday-Sunday). We kept the requirements basic for each week of the summer months! The challenge is this: to read one duology/triology/series, one contemporary, and one other book to fill up the five books for the week.

With this round of the challenge, I did have books specific to our qualifications, but I have the feeling that I won’t end up using them. Currently, I am in a horrible reading slump and none of the books on my shelf are appealing to me at the moment. So, instead, I’ve been reading a lot of manga and manhwa’s lately to pass the time! I’m working on reading the 24 volumes of The Bride of the Water God and I am planning on purchasing the rest of the volumes of Deathnote as well! So, essentially, this week is going to be full of manga!

I hope you can join us in our last summer reading challenge!

See you next time,
Nicole

I Believe In a Thing Called Love [Review]

SPOILER FREE REVIEW

I Believe in a Thing Called Love Cover.jpgSynopsis (Taken from Goodreads.com): 

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.

Pages: 336

Goodreads Rating: 3.77/5 Stars

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

My Opinion

As many of you know, lately I haven’t been in the mood for contemporary novels. I don’t know what it is, but fantasy has just been calling to me lately and it’s where I’ve been spending most of my time. However, since I am in a bit of a slump thanks to King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard, I decided to take a short break from young adult fantasy and picked up a copy of this book, which was recommended by Katytastic from Booktube.

I will admit to initially having a difficult time getting invested into this novel. For myself, the hardest aspect to get used to was the writing style. It was following the patterns of a more inexperienced writer – general description, focused on brief and rapid moving dialogue, etc. – which was a turn off initially. Although it took me about 140 pages, it was around that point that I started to ignore the state of the writing and simply sat back to enjoy the lighthearted characters and unfolding plot. (Needless to say, this is a habit that I need to take up more often.)

There is one aspect that I completely adored about this novel – the diversity. It was refreshing to read a book that had a diverse cast of characters that not only had unique personalities, but played off of each other very well. FINISH THIS

Overall, the plot had many things that were difficult to believe, so it definitely pushed the reader in terms of suspension of disbelief. FINISH THIS

The highlight of this novel, by far, was the use of k-dramas. (Now, I will admit to being an avid k-drama watcher myself, so that was one of the reasons why I picked up this novel.) Maureen Goo did a beautiful job of explaining what k-dramas are (even if she did spell it wrong as K drama – that was a pet peeve of mine that increasingly grew more and more annoying as I read on, but that’s a rant for a different day) and used the tropes and formulaic plot well within her own novel. More than once, I found myself saying that I felt as if I was watching a k-drama rather than reading a young adult contemporary novel. Not only did Desi use the k-drama steps to get her first boyfriend, but her life definitely turned into a k-drama, with unrealistic plot points on all. However, by having that nod to the television show genre, it made everything more lighthearted and humorous to read about.

While I do love a good k-drama and this book did a great job of working off of those, I definitely can say that this wasn’t one of my favorite contemporary reads from 2017. Although, if you’re a k-drama fan and are looking for a fast and amusing read, I do recommend this novel to you!

Flame in the Mist [Review]

SPOILER FREE REVIEW

Flame in the Mist Covers.jpgSynopsis (Taken from Goodreads.com): 

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

Pages: 393

Goodreads Rating: 4.05/5 Stars

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Opinion

As a huge fan of Renee’s writing – every time I read one of her books, it helps motivate me to write my own – and her storytelling skills, I was thrilled to hear about a new duology that she was working on. Not only that, but the more I learned about the basis of the story, the more excited I grew for it.

Foremost, it was refreshing to have a young adult novel set in a foreign country. I’ve always been interested in Asian cultures, so having the opportunity to explore a story within Japan was exciting. Renee did a wonderful job of including as much Japanese culture as she could through the use of world building aspects – terms and phrases, scenery, and culture in general. Although I did find myself referring to the glossary more than I thought I would, I still had a lot of fun tracking the world development, which was, by far, the strongest part of this novel. (Plus, it was a mix of Japanese culture and magical realism – what’s not to love?)

As far as the plot and pacing went, it was on the speedier side of the spectrum. Since I was reading this book in short bursts of time – due to a busy schedule – it was sometimes difficult to come back into the book and remember all of the events that had happened. (But, the twists and turns were definitely hard to predict and surprised me many times!) The other difficulty with the entire book unfolding quickly meant that the characterization and relationships unfolded rapidly as well.

Mariko and Okami were, by far, my favorite characters from this book (which makes sense, since they are our main characters and main love interests). Mariko’s development was truly remarkable, even if she was following the typical path of a hero quest. Seeing as she was more of the scholarly type of person – another refreshing aspect of her character – and develop into someone who can at least defend herself in attacks. Overall, though,

However, the ultimate reason why I gave the book 4/5 stars was because of the romantic relationship. Considering how rapidly the plot moved across the pages, the romance moved equally as quickly. Now, I don’t know if it was because I was reading the book in so many bursts, but I definitely seemed a little early for romance to be introduced. It is true that it is only a duology, but the romance felt a little misplaced and that it was only there to amp up the stakes for the next novel. (Nevertheless, I do ship Mariko and Okami, so I am curious to see how deep their relationship will go!)

I will continue on with reading the rest of this duology! I love Renee and I am excited to dive back into her world within Japan. This intial book was a quick read, so I’m sure the next one will be as well. Hopefully we’ll get a title for the next one soon.

*****

Flame in the Mist (Duology)

  • Flame in the Mist
  • Untitled

*****

“You are first and foremost a person. A reckless, foolish person, but a person nonetheless. If I ever say you are not permitted to do something, rest assured that the last reason I would ever say so would be because you are a girl.”
― Renee Ahdieh, Flame in the Mist

The Unexpected Everything [Review]

SPOILER FREE REVIEW

The Unexpected Everything CoverSynopsis (Taken from Goodreads.com): 

Andie had it all planned out. When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future. Important internship? Check. Amazing friends? Check. Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks).

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life. Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected. And where’s the fun in that?

Pages: 519

Goodreads Rating: 4.07/5 Stars

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Opinion

It has been a long time since I last enjoyed a contemporary novel as much as I enjoyed The Unexpected Everything. Honestly, Morgan Matson is quickly rising on my list of favorite young adult contemporary authors, so I highly recommend checking out her books if you haven’t already!

Following similar themes to Since You’ve Been Gone, this book was focused on summer break for our main character Andie and the life lessons she learned across those three short months. I enjoyed many of the heartwarming themes and messages Morgan wrote about in these pages – covering ideas such as friendship, family, and change. (Also, this book made me nostalgic for my own summer breaks during high school and how much fun I had with friends and family during that time. I hate being an adult sometimes.)

There was a lot of admirable writing covering the pages of this novel. The imagery was pretty vivid and I had no problems falling into a first person point of view – it’s been a long time since I last read a novel in that perspective. It was a nice change to be thoroughly involved within a character’s head and to truly experience the world through her eyes. Along with this, it gave the reader the ability to enjoy Andie’s character development from beginning to end.

For a 519 paged book, it was also paced well. I normally don’t come across contemporary novels that extend beyond 400 pages, so it was interesting to watch the developments across the pages. While I wish the plot, in general, was a little less predictable and I wish that Morgan gave us a few more scenes showing the development of Andie and Clark’s relationship. However, those wishes were definitely balanced out by the scenes with Andie’s friends and her father.

Furthermore, there were three aspects to the book that I adored:

1) We got snippets from a fantasy series that would play an important role in the novel plot (MORGAN WHERE ARE THE FULL FANTASY BOOKS, I WANT TO READ THEM, THEY SOUND AMAZING).

2) A inside joke between Andie’s friend group relates a lot to the silliness of romantic relationship portrayals in movies and television shows, which I loved.

3) We were able to see into the text messages on Andie’s phone, which is a rare find in books these days. (While they may not have been completely formatted to match that of a text conversation, the general feeling was there.)

All in all, Morgan did a great job in portraying the attitudes and developments of a teenage girl. Also, I loved the Easter Eggs she left – in reference to her previous book, Since You’ve Been Gone – as it made the book more fun to read, especially when I recognized the locations and previous character’s we’ve seen before. While I might have been disappointed in the predictability of the novel, the good definitely balanced it out and I enjoyed this fantastic summer read.

*****

“It’s always a risk. Wherever there is great emotion. because there is power in that. And few people handle power well.”
― Morgan Matson, The Unexpected Everything

Snow Like Ashes Trilogy [Review]

SPOILER FREE REVIEW

Snow Like Ashes Cover.jpgSynopsis (Taken from Goodreads.com): 

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.

Pages: 416

Goodreads Rating: 3.99/5 Stars

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

****

Ice Like Fire Cover.jpgSynopsis (Taken from Goodreads.com): 

It’s been three months since the Winterians were freed and Spring’s king, Angra, disappeared—thanks largely to the help of Cordell.

Meira just wants her people to be safe. When Cordellan debt forces the Winterians to dig their mines for payment, they unearth something powerful and possibly dangerous: Primoria’s lost chasm of magic. Theron sees this find as an opportunity—with this much magic, the world can finally stand against threats like Angra. But Meira fears the danger the chasm poses—the last time the world had access to so much magic, it spawned the Decay. So when the king of Cordell orders the two on a mission across the kingdoms of Primoria to discover the chasm’s secrets, Meira plans to use the trip to garner support to keep the chasm shut and Winter safe—even if it means clashing with Theron. But can she do so without endangering the people she loves?

Mather just wants to be free. The horrors inflicted on the Winterians hang fresh and raw in Januari—leaving Winter vulnerable to Cordell’s growing oppression. When Meira leaves to search for allies, he decides to take Winter’s security into his own hands. Can he rebuild his broken kingdom and protect them from new threats?

As the web of power and deception weaves tighter, Theron fights for magic, Mather fights for freedom—and Meira starts to wonder if she should be fighting not just for Winter, but for the world.

Pages: 479

Goodreads Rating: 3.79/5 Stars

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

*****

Frost Like Night Cover.jpgSynopsis (Taken from Goodreads.com): 

Angra is alive, his Decay is spreading—and no one is safe.

Meira will do anything to save her world. With Angra trying to break through her mental defenses, she desperately needs to learn to control her own magic—so when the leader of a mysterious Order from Paisly offers to teach her, she jumps at the chance. But the true solution to stopping the Decay lies in a labyrinth deep beneath the Season Kingdoms. To defeat Angra, Meira will have to enter the labyrinth, destroy the very magic she’s learning to control—and make the biggest sacrifice of all.

Mather will do anything to save his queen. He needs to rally the Children of the Thaw, find Meira—and finally tell her how he really feels. But with a plan of attack that leaves no kingdom unscathed and a major betrayal within their ranks, winning the war—and protecting Meira—slips farther and farther out of reach.

Ceridwen will do anything to save her people. Angra had her brother killed, stole her kingdom, and made her a prisoner. But when she’s freed by an unexpected ally who reveals a shocking truth behind Summer’s slave trade, Ceridwen must take action to save her true love and her kingdom, even if it costs her what little she has left.

As Angra unleashes the Decay on the world, Meira, Mather, and Ceridwen must bring the kingdoms of Primoria together…or lose everything.

Pages: 496

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

*****

My Opinion

I’ve been collecting this trilogy since they began publishing in 2014 and, I have to say, I am super excited by how pretty the hardcovers look side-by-side on my bookshelf. Anyways, I’ve had the completed series for a while now, but only just now had the ability to read the trilogy (which is all thanks to my summer reading challenge). Although it was very obvious that this trilogy was written by a debuting author, I did love many of the moments the book had and tried to overlook some of the young adult tropes that were also found within the pages.

If I was to describe this trilogy in one word, it would be an easy thing to do. Fast. Fast-paced, fast-development, fast world-building; you name it, and the books were fast-paced. This was one of the aspects I tried my best to overlook because Sara Raasch did have an interesting story beneath the fast-paced everything, even if it was the typical hero quest seen in the majority of the young adult novels in the world. (The hero-quest plot line is nearly impossible to avoid when writing a book, so it was easy to forgive that.)

Out of the three books, I found the first one to be the best one. Although the world building was a lacking – I wasn’t quite comfortable with the world until halfway through the second book – it was interesting to watch the beginnings of character development and to get introduced to the main question of the novels – Will the world be better off without magic?

While the plot didn’t start truly heating up until the third novel, the majority of the first and second books were spent exploring and traveling around the world. Usually, if books spend too much time doing that, I tend to get bored or frustrated with the unfolding of the novel, as traveling tends to slow down the pacing of the book. However, that was not the case with this trilogy, which I found surprising. I believe it came down to rapid nature of which the books were unfolding, which balanced out the travel.

The biggest failure of these books was definitely the romance. We did have an established love triangle by the end of the first book, I was weary of the insta-love that kept occurring for Meira and her two love interests. While one of the relationships had the background to occur – and ultimately was my ship in the end – the other was developed to be more or less a plot point for the subplots. But, Sarah did do a wonderful job of making me dislike both of the love interests at different points in the novel, so I was impressed by that.

In the end, if I hadn’t been using this trilogy for the reading challenge, I probably would have struggled to get through the books. At times, it felt like there was more fluff than concrete aspects on the pages. But, since she is a debuting author, I forgave her for many of the follies that were found in the pages. Nevertheless, I did take enjoyment from these books and I am curious to see what future projects this author has in the future.

*****

Snow Like Ashes (Trilogy)

  • Snow Like Ashes
  • Ice Like Fire
  • Frost Like Night

*****

“That’s why literature is so fascinating. It’s always up for interpretation, and could be a hundred different things to a hundred different people. It’s never the same thing twice.”
― Sara Raasch, Snow Like Ashes

Scythe [Review]

SPOILER FREE REVIEW

Scythe Cover.jpgSynopsis (Taken from Goodreads.com): 

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Pages: 435

Goodreads Rating: 4.29/5 Stars

My Rating: 2/5 Stars

My Opinion

Once more, this novel is an example of my falling into the trap of over-hyped books. Well, it’s not that this book was over-hyped, per say, but it was greatly promoted on the internet (specifically, BookTube), which helped to cultivate my interest in the novel. However, I fall into the minority of being someone who didn’t find enjoyment in this novel. It had a neat premise and an exciting plot promoted within the synopsis – so what went wrong?

Foremost, the characterization was something that greatly bothered me. Neither of the main characters were particularly interesting in my opinion and I didn’t connect with either of them. They felt like your typical run-of-the-mill young adult characters that were thrown together by circumstance. Also, none of the character development was either enticing or truly believable. We had Citra, who never truly changed at all across the pages, and we had Rowan, who was the more moralistic of the two and ended up falling to more questionable morals by the end of the novel. (In the end, I was more interested in the backstory about Scythe Faraday and Scythe Curie, who were the minor characters of the novel.)

In correlation to the weak characterization, Shusterman also wielded the young adult trope that I hate with a burning passion: insta-love. As many of you have probably seen in previous reviews, I have a burning hatred for that trope. It doesn’t develop the characters in any way and it is typically used as a generic plot point that doesn’t generate any excitement for the readers in general. In the case of Citra and Rowan, their “love” was both unnecessary and had no real foundation built into the story. If anything, it helped to garner my annoyance at the already poorly written novel.

Another important aspect to novels comes down to imagery and description – both of which the novel was very much lacking. With a premise as neat as the utopian society Shusterman has created (which is also not easy to write, as there aren’t many plots author’s can use in a society like that), I was disappointed that the description was so lacking. Sure, there were a few areas here and there in which we got a quick snapshot of the character or location appearance, but it wasn’t consistent throughout the novel. When it comes to description, an author has to be consistent if they want the reader to truly have an immersive experience, which I didn’t.

I believe that lack of immersive nature also falls along the lines of the poor world building that occurred. Considering how rare it is to have an utopian based young adult novel, I was excited to see what sort of world Shusterman had in store for the readers. Unfortunately, it wasn’t much, since we barely got any information about it. We have the Thunderhead (the Cloud that somehow developed itself into an AI?), no governments world-wide, and Scythedom (literally we couldn’t come up with a better name?) that is its own mini-governing faction that handles the gleaning of the population. Outside of that, there were many times in which Shusterman broke his own fragile world rules in order to create new plot points and further the action of the novel.

For myself, the plot also was a point of weakness, which is one of the worst things a writer can say about any novel. It felt like there was too much happening with the simultaneous feeling that nothing was happening at all. There were too many plot points that either 1) didn’t pique my interest or 2) were predictable in their outcomes. Not only that, but the pacing also reflected this movement. The novel spanned a period of one year, and that one year felt like it spanned on forever.

As you can see, I found very little enjoyment in this novel. Honestly, I don’t even know if there was an aspect that I truly came to like, which is sad and disappointing when it comes down to it. This also explains why it took me a week to read this novel – I struggled to find the desire to read and to continue reading once I did start. When I’m experiencing something like that, you know there’s some type of problem with the novel in general. Overall, I know that I am one of the few who did not enjoy this book, so perhaps some of you will find the good aspects to it that I missed.

*****

Arc of Scythe (Duology)

  • Scythe
  • Thunderhead (2018)

*****

“Hope in the shadow of fear is the world’s most powerful motivator.”
― Neal Shusterman, Scythe

I’ll Give You the Sun [Review]

SPOILER FREE REVIEW

I'll Give You the Sun Cover.jpgSynopsis (Taken from Goodreads.com): 

“We were all heading for each other on a collision course, no matter what. Maybe some people are just meant to be in the same story.”

At first, Jude and her twin brother are NoahandJude; inseparable. Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude wears red-red lipstick, cliff-dives, and does all the talking for both of them.

Years later, they are barely speaking. Something has happened to change the twins in different yet equally devastating ways . . . but then Jude meets an intriguing, irresistible boy and a mysterious new mentor.

The early years are Noah’s to tell; the later years are Jude’s. But they each have only half the story, and if they can only find their way back to one another, they’ll have a chance to remake their world.

This radiant, award-winning novel from the acclaimed author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.

Pages: 375

Goodreads Rating: 4.14/5 Stars

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Opinion

As most of you can see from my reading trend, I tend to not read a lot of contemporary novels these days. I’ve been on a fantasy kick lately – I hope I don’t feel burned out from this genre like I do with dystopian and science fiction – which means that I haven’t had a taste for other genres for the most part. However, I was surprised by how quickly I ate up this novel (although it was a book from my summer reading challenge) and wanted more pages.

The writing style was what really drew me into these pages. Nelson writes in a similar way to me – using out-of-the-ordinary words and phrases to develop description and imagery. One would think that descriptions of that caliber would be distracting and difficult to adjust to, but I found no issue in flying through the pages and wanting more after the story had ended.

Furthermore, I connected strongly with the characters of Noah and Jude. One of the factors into this was definitely their artistic tendencies. Not only that, but their sibling relationship is something that was easy to connect with. The lies, the antagonizing, the challenges – these were all snapshots into everyday sibling relationships that added a layer of realness to the tale as a whole. Watching their story of healing wasn’t what I was expecting from this novel, but it was the perfect story for these twins. In addition, I enjoyed how Nelson brought in undertones of mental illness, without truly making a big ordeal of it all. (Although, I would love to see a sequel dealing with those undertones.)

The plot and pacing of the novel were beautifully done, as well. These two things working in tandem made it easy to fly through the pages and get deeper into the tale of Noah and Jude. My favorite part of the story was the creative use of sliding between Noah in the past and Jude in the present. (Going in, I believed the story would be told like The Last Five Years, but the way it was shaped chronologically worked a lot better instead.) It was a weird balance of foreshadowing what was to come in Noah’s chapters of the past – ruining the suspense slightly – and complementing the unfolding story.

Overall, this was a heartwarming story of healing, finding your way back to your family, and ultimately discovering your identity. I am so thankful that I was finally able to read this enlightening tale and I hope to pick up Jandy Nelson’s debut novel soon!

June Reading Challenge! (June 12th-18th)

Hey guys!

I thought I would give you an update on my June Reading Challenge progress! It was a busy week for me with work and other responsibilities occurring, so it was hard to crunch reading time into the week.

During Monday and Tuesday, I did well in crushing my way through Snow Like Ashes and Ice Like Fire. However, Wednesday through Saturday, I had to work my two jobs, which completely crushed my reading time. I was able to finish the Snow Like Ashes trilogy by reading Frost Like Night and made it about halfway through The Unexpected Everything by Sunday Night.

Although I am disappointed that I wasn’t able to complete the challenge of reading all five books in a week, I am happy that I made progress on my to-be-read pile and brought the count down from 30 to the high 20s!

*****

Here’s a quick overview of the summer reading challenge, if you are interested in joining in on it!

For this reading challenge, we want to read five books in one week (from Monday-Sunday). We kept the requirements basic for each week of the summer months! The challenge is this: to read one duology/triology/series, one contemporary, and one other book to fill up the five books for the week.

If you couldn’t join us for this round of the challenge, never fear! We still have two more weeks that we’ll be doing the reading challenge. These other weeks are:

July 24th-30th
August 14th-20th

We hope to see you in the final two weeks of the reading challenge if you’re able to join us! It’s a great way to make your way through a heavy to-be-read pile and spend your days doing something you love.

See you next time,
Nicole

Lord of Shadows [Review]

SPOILERS BELOW

Lord of Shadows Cover.jpgSynopsis (Taken from Goodreads.com): 

Would you trade your soul mate for your soul?

A Shadowhunter’s life is bound by duty. Constrained by honor. The word of a Shadowhunter is a solemn pledge, and no vow is more sacred than the vow that binds parabatai, warrior partners—sworn to fight together, die together, but never to fall in love.

Emma Carstairs has learned that the love she shares with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, isn’t just forbidden—it could destroy them both. She knows she should run from Julian. But how can she when the Blackthorns are threatened by enemies on all sides?

Their only hope is the Black Volume of the Dead, a spell book of terrible power. Everyone wants it. Only the Blackthorns can find it. Spurred on by a dark bargain with the Seelie Queen, Emma; her best friend, Cristina; and Mark and Julian Blackthorn journey into the Courts of Faerie, where glittering revels hide bloody danger and no promise can be trusted. Meanwhile, rising tension between Shadowhunters and Downworlders has produced the Cohort, an extremist group of Shadowhunters dedicated to registering Downworlders and “unsuitable” Nephilim. They’ll do anything in their power to expose Julian’s secrets and take the Los Angeles Institute for their own.

When Downworlders turn against the Clave, a new threat rises in the form of the Lord of Shadows—the Unseelie King, who sends his greatest warriors to slaughter those with Blackthorn blood and seize the Black Volume. As dangers close in, Julian devises a risky scheme that depends on the cooperation of an unpredictable enemy. But success may come with a price he and Emma cannot even imagine, one that will bring with it a reckoning of blood that could have repercussions for everyone and everything they hold dear.

Pages: 720

Goodreads Rating: 4.58/5 Stars

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Opinion

It’s been a couple days since I finished this novel, but I needed the time to process what it was that I just read. Within the 699 pages of this story, so much happened, and so much remains to be revealed within the last novel. Basically, Cassandra Clare did it again with her brilliance and I cannot wait to get the last book in my hands – if waiting until 2019 doesn’t kill me first.

But, even now, I can hardly believe that I finished this novel and that it was in front of my eyes. I’ve been reading these novels for almost a decade now, but the waiting between each installment is always the worst part. That never changes and it never will, but what does change is how I am feeling after finishing each novel. If I’m being completely honest, after finishing this novel I felt empty inside. It was emotionally traumatizing and I loved every minute of it.

Much of my emotional trauma came from the characters, themselves. Emma stated that Julian was scaring her at one point and, honestly, I can say the same. Julian was willing to give up everything – including the parabatai bond for the entire world – which was ultimately terrifying. As a brother, a friend, and a father figure, it is terrifying to know that he will sacrifice anyone and everything to protect them. Especially when it comes to Emma; when he came about the idea of sending one of them into exile, he was too quick to suggest this idea, with the full knowledge that he would be asking Emma to sacrifice her relationships and her family (the Blackthorns). Although avoiding the parabatati curse for as long as possible is ideal, Julian is terrifying with his drive to protect. In the end, his protection will come calling and someone is going to get hurt.

One thing that was apparent to me was the two love triangles that Cassandra had created within this book. For myself, I am growing tired of seeing the love triangle trope withing young adult novels. While it tends to be a staple trope these days, it does get tiresome to see it over and over and over again. Cassandra’s books always have them in there, so I was surprised to see two of them being set up and played around with. In the case of Lord of Shadows, I sensed a triangle being set up between Kit, Ty, and Livvy; another was being created between Cristina, Kieran, and Mark. For the younger kids, it definitely wasn’t as prominent and the lines could have been blurry between romance and friendship; however, that is not the case for Cristina, Kieran, and Mark. When it comes to that triangle, I ship Mark and Cristina all the way (I also was having trust issues with Kieran, so that was probably one of the causes for dislike there). While playing around with the romantic relationships are great and all, I look forward to seeing the triangles resolved soon.

Something that I never noticed as I was reading was the huge hint Cassandra dropped in terms of the possibilities of a love child between Sebastian and the Seelie Queen. Dru played a vital role when it came to this reveal, as she was the one who discovered his existence. If I’m being honest, I didn’t make the connection about the child until I talked about the novel with Michaela (bookishreviewsandmore) and she mentioned the child. I’m curious to see where Cassandra will be taking this subplot in the next book!

I can’t finish this review without talking about how badly that ending wrecked my emotions. I think I hate the Cohort more than I have hated any other Cassandra Clare villain. Being honest, I blame them for the final events of the novel. When we lost Livvy… It hurts to even write that sentence. I had a suspicious feeling that something was going to happen to one of the twins by the end of the novel – we had been spending too much time with them, which was a move to make us care more about the characters – and that, unfortunately, came true. I never realized how much I came to care for Livvy until she was gone. The fallout of this death is going to be one of the worst Cassandra’s books have ever faced and it’ll be interesting to see what events this catalyst.

Overall, I had a lot of fun with this novel! The pages flew by quickly – as they usually do with her novels – and I am already dying to get my hands on the next book. Although this isn’t my favorite book by her, I am excited to get the finale in my hands and to have my emotions crushed forever.

*****

The Shadowhunter Chronicles (In Chronological Order)

*****

QUOTE