Furyborn by Claire Legrand

Follows two fiercely independent young women, centuries apart, who hold the power to save their world…or doom it.

When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable–until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world–and of each other. ”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

First off, I would like to thank the publisher and author for providing me this ARC to review. Please note that the version I read was an advanced copy, and certain events/language may be changed in the published edition.

Stars (Out of 10): 5.5/10 Stars

Favorite Character: Eliana

Spoiler Free: I was super excited when I received this ARC back in the November Fairyloot box, and then proceeded to hide it on my shelf for a few months! I finally picked it up now, the month of release, and I’m actually happy I waited (waiting for the next book is going to suck.)

Overall, this was a really nice read, though there were still some issues I had with it. There was no portion of the story (in terms of world, plot, characters, etc.) that I unconditionally loved, but in the end, I still did enjoy the story!

Firstly, we have the expansive world that Legrand creates. Not only are there multiple kingdoms and continents, but also a semi-large magic system that couples with the long-standing fight to keep the angels at bay. While this large world leaves a lot to be explored, and a lot of places to pull surprising twists from, it seems almost too big. There are political issues between the kingdoms, there’s a prophecy, there are patron saints of magic and inner turmoil within the main kingdom, and that’s only in Rielle’s story. We then also have Eliana’s story to understand, which takes place a thousand years later, where magic does not exist and almost all of the kingdoms have been conquered by an “Empire.” This leads to a lot to remember, while also not allowing Legrand to delve deeply into any of the areas. This leads to both an abundance of information and a lack of it. For example, I feel I don’t fully understand how magic works and how it’s called upon. There are moments it is tied to emotion and moments it follow prayers, and I wish Legrand builds upon this later.

We then have the plot, which makes up for the lack of simplicity in the world. It’s fairly straight forward, with a few twists within Eliana’s storyline. By telling both the tale of Rielle and of Eliana, we get both a pretty standard tale of royals in a kingdom (Rielle’s story) as well as a rebel story (Eliana’s story.) This blend, this contrast, kept both sides quite interesting, and I found myself quickly enraptured by each chapter. The only issue here was that you switched back and forth with each chapter, and with such a stark contrast between the two stories, it made some portions hard to follow. Just when I was sucked into the Eliana’s tale, I had to switch back to Rielle’s, and vice versa.

Additionally, our prologue is truly the ending of Rielle’s tale, which means that most of the “twists” are already known to us. This does put the tale in an interesting perspective though, as we look for foreshadowing the crevices of each sentence. It also creates of sense anticipation, as you are constantly waiting for the moments that build up to what we saw come to fruition. However, Rielle’s tale does continue into the rest of the books, so we do not truly get to connect her beginning with her end yet, but I am excited to continue reading for that.

Lastly, the twists contained within Eliana’s tale are all quite predictable due to how much the prologue unfortunately gives away. I’m even quite sure of one of my theories for the later books, as everything else was quite predictable so far.

When thinking more on the characters and relationships, I personally feel this is where the book fell the most flat. Out of the entire cast, I probably find two characters interesting. Thank goodness one was one of the protagonists, Eliana, and the other also played quite a large role, Corien. Compared to the other characters, these feel the most layered. We have Eliana, whose main goal is survival and protecting her family from the expanding Empire, even if it means working for it. Her wavering moral code and steadfastness to this goal is what makes her interesting. She doesn’t flip easily from her set path, and often looks at the world selfishly, trying to see what she can get out of it. While this does not make her the most likable character in the world, it does make her interesting. Corien is a different matter. I can’t say much without spoilers, but he follows a trope I find quite interesting, and changes within the story. Yet he still isn’t a simple mystery to solve either, and I still am unsure of his motivations at the end of this book.

However, the other characters, and relationships between them specifically, are where the problem lies. Most of the cast of both stories felt rather flat, they carried one or two main characteristics and that was it. Additionally, I didn’t see them really grow. While I did like some of them more than others, namely the princess in Eliana’s story and Ludivine. And while I had to love Eliana’s little brother, the rest of the characters often felt like shadows, clinging on to a small part of personality. The romance was, unfortunately, even worse. Both MC’s are involved in a relationship or two, yet none feel real, and all moved too quickly/felt fake. I wasn’t invested in any of them by the end (even though I did start invested in Rielle’s romance.)

All in all, this kind of brings me to a conclusion. I didn’t love this book, but I did like it, and enjoy the time I spent reading it. It might not be a book I preorder, but it is definitely a series I will continue reading when I can!

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Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel

“World War Z meets The Martian in the explosive follow-up to Sleeping Giants (“One of the most promising series kickoffs in recent memory”—NPR) and Waking Gods (“Pure, unadulterated literary escapism”—Kirkus Reviews).

In her childhood, Rose Franklin accidentally discovered a giant metal hand buried beneath the ground outside Deadwood, South Dakota. As an adult, Dr. Rose Franklin led the team that uncovered the rest of the body parts which together form Themis: a powerful robot of mysterious alien origin. She, along with linguist Vincent, pilot Kara, and the unnamed Interviewer, protected the Earth from geopolitical conflict and alien invasion alike. Now, after nearly ten years on another world, Rose returns to find her old alliances forfeit and the planet in shambles. And she must pick up the pieces of the Earth Defense Corps as her own friends turn against each other. ”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

“I don’t care what happens to my soul. I don’t care if there’s still a me. But I really want there to be a you. The world makes more sense, if there’s a you.”

Stars (Out of 10): 10/10 Stars

Favorite Character: Vincent! (I mean, a lot of this may also have to do with the amazing narrator)

Spoiler Free: There will be spoilers for the first two books in this review, as I really can’t discuss this book without mentioning important plot points from them!

When I first started listening to this book (definitely check out the audiobooks, they make the story even better!), I was surprised by the huge time jump. The story has jumped about a decade from where Waking Gods left off, and we now see the cast older and ready to escape from the alien world they’ve been stuck on. A lot has changed it seems, Eva is older, and Vincent and Rose seem much more morally flexible.

Thankfully, we get the answers to all our questions anyways, as the story follows a parallel structure, telling the story on from the time jump while still explaining what we missed in those ten decades. Vincent and Eva have also learned a new language, the one of the aliens, which is amazing to listen to spoken, and finds its way tied in with the normal English the narrators speak (for example, Eva seems very fond of an alien curse word.) The way these two tales are blended together are done an in amazing way, as I loved both learning about the past and seeing where the future went (as Earth is very different now).

A lot happens in the plot, with an interesting twist/tale in both the past storyline and the present storyline. I was enthralled the entire story, as there were never any lulls or empty spaces in the story. There was always something going on, something to pay attention to, and I loved it. Additionally, it wrapped up the story very well, and tied together all the loose ends amazingly.

The characters, once again, were fantastic. While we were unfortunately missing some of my favorites (Kara and The Interviewer), the story was still just as full of emotion and conflict with our smaller crew. I especially love that this story carries itself so well on friendships/familial relationships that almost no romance is needed to keep it interesting. This story especially focused on the father/daughter relationship of Vincent and Eva, and what happened to that while on the alien planet. This led to a lot of super emotional scenes that the audiobook narrators did a fantastic job of bringing to life (if I had just read this book instead of listened, I probably wouldn’t have cried as much. That’s how good that audiobook is)

We also get almost all the answers in this book. Books 1 and 2 left many gaps in terms of the aliens, we could only ever guess at what they wanted and their future plans. Now, we finally get those answers in the best form ever, a trip to the world itself. We even get to learn their culture, portions of their language, and the conflicts affecting them. It’s all very interesting, and brings this book to an entirely other level.

Overall, I absolutely loved this series, and cannot wait to see what Neuvel brings out. This book had science and plot, yet still was full of emotion, full of humanity. Each book seemed to get better, which doesn’t happen often with a series, and it will be a series I will definitely carry in my heart for a while.

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Author Maureen Johnson weaves a tale of murder and mystery in the first book of a new series.

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym, Truly Devious. It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

“You have to take things as they are, not how you hear they’re supposed to be.”

Stars (Out of 10): 9/10 Stars

Favorite Character: Stevie and Nate! Jury isn’t out on David yet

Spoiler Free: I have never felt so betrayed by a book while still loving it. I am just plain mad at the state this book has left me in. I mean I loved every second of this book, but the ending is so frustrating and unsatisfying!

Okay, now to back it up to the rest of the book. I honestly loved every part of it. I recently watched Sherlock (the BBC show), and so I’m just super into detectives/watching people solve crimes right now, and this book was perfect fit with that! Stevie notices the little details in a similar way (though to a lesser extent when compared to Sherlock), but this skill is also combined with realistic traits, such as her anxiety and difficulty making friends/expressing emotion. She’s still entirely human, unlike some portrayals of Sherlock. Additionally, I just found her narration super funny to read, and I felt myself click with her way of seeing the world almost right away. It made reading the book such an amazing and fun experience!

In terms of plot, the book also did super well. It did a good job of both hiding facts that were detrimental to the ending while still putting them right in plain sight. It both didn’t give away the twists too soon while still ensuring they didn’t just come out of nowhere, which is just the best thing a mystery plot can do in my opinion. It also did a good job of paralleling the 1936 murder with the present one, making it super interesting to see both of them being solved simultaneously. Additionally, the book still blended in enough romance and friendship to keep the book feeling realistic and relatable, and it overall just did an amazing job of connecting with me as a reader, even if I’m not necessarily a super huge crime fan.

The setting of the book also fit in perfectly. We get this secluded manor that is both house and school, and carries dark undertones due to its past. However, it still functions super well as a scholarly setting, and doesn’t give the book too gloomy of a vibe. Additionally, all the secret pathways and crevices added a bit to the setting/plot as well, although I do feel this whole set of tunnels could have been utilized a bit more (only one was really focused on.)

The only reason I even dropped this book a star was due to the ending. Throughout the book, we’re given 3 main questions, as well as many sub ones, yet the ending only truly answers one of the subquestions, leaving me utterly lost on the answers to our main plot points. While I get the need to stretch the murder arc farther into the series, and not to give too much away too soon, I still expected some sort of closure, and the super ultra ending just leaves me wanting more, and feeling as if I didn’t truly read the end.

Overall, I did absolutely love this read, even though it’s left me super frustrated! Am now anxiously awaiting the next book!

Careful! Spoilers beyond this point!

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The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

“Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

“But you know, there’s an upside here. Because when you spend so much time just intensely wanting something, and then you actually get the thing? It’s magic.”

Stars (Out of 10): 9/10 Stars

Favorite Character: Reid

Spoiler Free: Someone could say I’m on a bit of a contemporary binge right now. That someone would be right. I’ve probably more than doubled my contemporaries read so far this year in the past few weeks. And so far I’m loving all of them!

Back in my Simon Vs. review, I said I most likely found another favorite contemporary author. The Upside of Unrequited has just further cemented that point! There is just something about the voice of the characters that I can’t help but love, and the fact that all of Albertalli’s books so far have had happy but meaningful endings is also a huge plus (not that I dislike sad endings, I just love some happiness sometimes!)

In comparison to Simon, this was still quite a different book. We had a female, straight narrator instead, where the insecurity rested in weight rather than sexuality. This led to quite a different tale, with a focus on self-love rather than overall acceptance. However, in both this book and Simon, I absolutely loved the romances + family relationships.

I was less into the plot of this one, as Simon had a whole mystery aspect tied to it that I just loved, but I devoured this book just the same. The narration was just so fantastic that no matter how boring the actual events had been, I still would have probably enjoyed the book thanks to Molly’s narration alone.

I also really loved the characters, and how tied together everything was (which is kinda how it is in real life!) They felt real, from their inner thoughts (for Molly), to their reaction to certain events/changes, to how their relationships developed and changed with one another. The only character I still cannot find myself liking is Cassie, but I’ve explained that more in the spoiler section. Also, can I just say that I audibly gasped when I found out how this book connected to Simon. Vs, I was so surprised! (Even though it was kind of obvious had I been actively looking for it.)

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I cannot wait for Leah on the Offbeat now!

Careful! Spoilers beyond this point!

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The Martian by Andy Weir

“Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills — and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit — he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

“I guess you could call it a “failure”, but I prefer the term “learning experience”.”

Stars (Out of 10): 7/10 Stars

Spoiler Free: This was another one of those books that I’ve heard about for ages and just kept putting off because some part of it frightened me, and I did not want to be the only one that disliked it. For this book, it was probably the fact that it was adult sci-fi, and I honestly have mainly read YA sci-fi up until this point. However, after many recommendations from friends with the same taste, I finally picked it up!

While my expectations may have been, in the end, a bit too high, I did really enjoy this book. The thrilling dangers of sci-fi mixed with a bit of humor here and there from our wonderful narrator, Mark, made for an overall super fun to read sci-fi.

To begin with, I’m just going to get the main issue off my chest already. There was a lot of technical details, and while it overall added to the realness, it also made the book take quite long, and feel slow at points. Some passages even required me to read them twice, just so I could be sure I was understanding what was going on. It also led to some chapters/logs feeling dry and lacking personality, since some pieces of technical explanation did not have a lot of personal interjection from our narrator.

However, that really was it in terms of things I didn’t like. Yes there was less humor than I had believed, but it was still in amazing balance with the rest of the story. Sarcasm was used in much smaller amounts than I was used to (YA tends to overuse it quite a bit), but in the end it made the moments it was used even funnier.

The plot also was fantastic. Everything that went wrong did, and it was so cool seeing all the genius fixes to the problems that Mark and the world came up with. By the end, I was holding my breath, just hoping it would all go right this time!

Overall, I’m happy I finally read this book, and am super excited to watch the movie now!

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

“Neil Gaiman, long inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction, presents a bravura rendition of the Norse gods and their world from their origin though their upheaval in Ragnarok. In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki?son of a giant?blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.

Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose, these gods emerge with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here again with another review!

Stars (Out of 10): 8/10 Stars

Favorite Character: I loved the personality of Freya in this retelling!

Spoiler Free: Ever since I was a kid, I loved all sorts of mythology. A lot of this was due to just always growing up with the tales of Greek gods, whether it be in cool elementary school projects (my class hosted its own set of Olympic Games + learned a lot about Ancient Greece) combined with the constant presence of Rick Riordan stories (even now!) When I heard Neil Gaiman was coming out with his own retelling of Norse mythology, I was super interested. I hadn’t read any of his work before (only a short story in a college class a few weeks back), but I knew he was popular. I recently picked up this super pretty version of it in the States, and just now was in the mood for it!

First off, the main thing that surprised me was how much I already knew. I’m by far no expert on any sort of mythology, especially Norse, but I have read Riordan’s series set in it, and was surprised by how much that one series had taught me. Additionally, it was also just interesting to read Gaiman’s note in the beginning, and to learn that so much of this mythology has been lost over time.

Overall, I had a lot of fun reading this. It was really just a collection of stories loosely tied together by the overarching presence of Ragnarok to come, but I still really enjoyed each one. I think almost every single story held my attention, and while there were no characters there to really “bond” or connect with, I still found myself saddened when reading their final chapter, Ragnarok.

I also really enjoyed the way Gaiman told the stories. It was fairly informational, and didn’t focus much on use of emotion or scenery, but I still found myself really liking it. In the end, it was a bit dry, but that’s also just the best way to present these sorts of stories!

In the end, I do not regret picking this book up at all, and really enjoyed the afternoon I spent reading it! It’s honestly exactly what you should expect from a book of myths!

Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge

“When the mysterious fog of the Ruining crept over the world, the living died and the dead rose. Only the walled city of Viyara was left untouched.

The heirs of the city’s most powerful—and warring—families, Mahyanai Romeo and Juliet Catresou share a love deeper than duty, honor, even life itself. But the magic laid on Juliet at birth compels her to punish the enemies of her clan—and Romeo has just killed her cousin Tybalt. Which means he must die.

Paris Catresou has always wanted to serve his family by guarding Juliet. But when his ward tries to escape her fate, magic goes terribly wrong—killing her and leaving Paris bound to Romeo. If he wants to discover the truth of what happened, Paris must delve deep into the city, ally with his worst enemy . . . and perhaps turn against his own clan.

Mahyanai Runajo just wants to protect her city—but she’s the only one who believes it’s in peril. In her desperate hunt for information, she accidentally pulls Juliet from the mouth of death—and finds herself bound to the bitter, angry girl. Runajo quickly discovers Juliet might be the one person who can help her recover the secret to saving Viyara.

Both pairs will find friendship where they least expect it. Both will find that Viyara holds more secrets and dangers than anyone ever expected. And outside the walls, death is waiting. . . .”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

“With every line he teaches her, the world grows a little wider. She had never known before how words could sing, how a turn of phrase could unlock a window in her mind.”

Stars (Out of 10): 6/10 Stars

Favorite Character: Vai

Spoiler Free: This book is not your standard Romeo and Juliet retelling. It’s main focus isn’t even their romance, as their passionate and quick romance and their marriage has all taken place before this story is set to begin. All in all, romance barely even plays a part in this story.

What this book takes from Romeo and Juliet is the basics: it takes a city that houses two powerful and warring families, and it takes the original relations between characters. We have our Romeo and Juliet and Paris, whose names are taken directly from the text, as well as other characters from the tale, Runajo as Rosaline, Makari as Mercutio (though far from Mercutio’s original role).

Where it differs is a much longer list. Viyara is the only city that isn’t plagued by the walking dead, or revenants, and is officially ruled by the old royal line of Viyarans (though the Mahayani/Montague family is the house with true power.) It also features a sect of Sisters who are only accepted due to their ability to keep the city safe. On top of this, there is a large range of belief systems, as each clan/family within the city (and there are many) has their own set of beliefs. The Catresou/Capulets believe in afterlife and gods, while the Mahayani do not. The royal Viyarans only care about fun and the Sisters, once again, also carry a different set of belief. We even get introduced to a character that is almost the last of their own clan, with another set of beliefs. Overall, there is quite a lot going on in this book.

If I’m being honest, you cannot take this book as a whole and understand. The only way I was able to understand the story was to focus on certain pieces of it at certain times. For example, in the beginning of the story, I couldn’t even see the book as a Romeo and Juliet retelling, as then I was unable to understand and look at what was actually happening in the world. There was just too much.

Additionally, like I said above, there was also just no romance. As the synopsis suggests, Romeo and Paris end up working together/bound while Juliet becomes bound to Runajo/Rosaline. This means that the lovers of the story spend the entire book without each other, specifically presuming the other is dead and thus wishing to die themself.

The plot itself was also filled with almost too much. Both POVs of the story are set on their own paths of discovery, and therefore the reader is the one with all the pieces of the puzzle at the end. However, the way it is done is almost too frustrating, as by 50% of the book the reader has practically figured out what is going on, but the actual characters are still entirely confused.

Lastly, I’m just extremely frustrated by the ending. I’m of the mindset that a book, especially the first book, should solve some portion of the main conflict presented in said book, but leave enough unresolved for the series to continue off of. Unfortunately, this book leaves everything to be resolved later, and I’m left, as a reader, with no satisfaction in the ending, as if I only read 70% of the book and was then forced to stop. Additionally, with pacing that felt like the plot train had come off the tracks and was moving at an increasingly faster speed towards the end, the suddenness of the emergency brakes, stopping me from reaching that conclusion, just hurts my head. It just feels unfinished.

Overall, I will most likely read the sequel, as I did enjoy the world and plot and characters, but that can’t change my annoyance with how the first book was planned.

Careful! Spoilers beyond this point!

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A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

“The Winter Solstice. In a week. I was still new enough to being High Lady that I had no idea what my formal role was to be. If we’d have a High Priestess do some odious ceremony, as lanthe had done the year before. A year. Gods, nearly a year since Rhys had called in his bargain, desperate to get me away from the poison of the Spring Court to save me from my despair. Had he been only a minute later, the Mother knew what would have happened. Where I’d now be. Snow swirled and eddied in the garden, catching in the brown fibers of the burlap covering the shrubs My mate who had worked so hard and so selflessly, all without hope that I would ever be with him We had both fought for that love, bled for it. Rhys had died for it.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

“Stars flickered around us, sweet darkness sweeping in. As if we were the only souls in a galaxy.”

Stars (Out of 10): 9.5/10 Stars

Favorite Character: Azriel

Spoiler Free: Picking up a new Maas book has started to feel like slipping back into my favorite pair of pajamas. It’s a comfy sort of feeling, a feeling of coming back home, being surrounded by familiar faces and places. ACOFAS has been no different.

While ACOFAS was different in the sense that it was a novella, and therefore really only introduced things that were detrimental for later books instead of actually solving any large problems, it still carried the same feel of the series that I’ve known and loved the past few years. And while it was super short (though longer than a normal novella), and I did feel like it was over way too fast, it was still just enough to hold me over until the next book, as well as get me excited for the continuation of the series again. Seeing an ending to the main trilogy in ACOWAR had somehow dulled the excitement for what comes after, leading my love to become more muted.

As I said above, this novella could have been considered an extended prologue for the next book, setting the scene for how the following books would come to fruition. In a sense, it also served as an extended epilogue to ACOWAR, both reinforcing its ending as well as revealing more hidden behind the ending, showing how the characters are left, broken and scarred, after the war. (It took quite a toll, and I love how real the characters felt due to it.)

There wasn’t much more to this novella, but overall I just want to say that I’m mostly happy with the direction Maas chose to go with both this novella and the rest of the story so far, as this book didn’t sugarcoat anything while still giving us cute and funny moments.

Careful! Spoilers beyond this point!

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Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke

“The only thing 17-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than failure is pity. After a personal crisis and her subsequent expulsion from high school, she’s going nowhere fast. Jane’s well-meaning parents push her to attend a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, and she agrees, on one condition: she gets to move out.

Jane tackles her housing problem by signing up for House of Orange, a student-run reality show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. Living away from home, the chance to win a car (used, but whatever), and a campus full of people who don’t know what she did in high school… what more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that understands why she’d rather turn to Freud than Jesus to make sense of her life, but she’ll settle for fifteen minutes in the proverbial spotlight.

As House of Orange grows from a low-budget web series to a local TV show with fans and shoddy T-shirts, Jane finally has the chance to let her cynical, competitive nature thrive. She’ll use her growing fan base, and whatever Intro to Psychology can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard TV—that she has what it takes to win.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review! I’ve been excitedly wanting to read this ever since I heard of it, and I recently was gifted it by my amazing friend!

“The past doesn’t exist. It’s just a story we tell ourselves. And stories change each time you tell them.”

Stars (Out of 10): 8.5/10 Stars

Favorite Character: The one and only Jane Sinner

Spoiler Free: Ughhhhhhhh I loved this book so much! It’s honestly everything I wish for from a contemporary!

How To Make A Good Contemporary

  1. Have a strong, and sometimes hilarious, narrative voice
  2. A good blend of struggle, humor, and love
  3. Add a cat

And then this book had to go and add a competition into the mix. It’s like this book is after my heart!

Now, to get a little more serious, I did seriously enjoy and love this book, and the main reason for this definitely had to be Jane. Her voice and her struggles felt so real and brutal and honest all while remaining absolutely hilarious. From her facade of having no care in the world to how hidden she keeps her true emotions reminded me of myself at points, but then Jane always came in with some funny quip to keep me from dwelling too much. Additionally, the way the emotions were written along made me feel them almost as strongly as I image Jane did, which also added to overall “realness” that the book held.

The plot itself was also pretty amazing. I didn’t guess any of the “twists,” as I was too wrapped up in Jane’s competitive strategy to really consider what the others were up to, and I preferred it that way. Additionally, the competitions were just really fun to read through, and getting to hear about everything after it happened (since this book was written in the form of a diary) allowed for Jane to add her afterthoughts to them. The pacing itself was also pretty great, spreading the action and emotions throughout the book in a fairly balanced way.

Unfortunately, the only reason I dropped this book a star was due to its ending. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the ending of the book itself, but I didn’t like how short it was compared to the rest of the book. For reasons I’ll explain a bit better in the spoiler section, it felt a bit rushed and unfinished, and I didn’t feel fully satisfied by the end of it, almost as if it needed a bit more words/pages to provide proper closure for the book. But I still absolutely loved what the ending contained, and what it meant for Jane and her future.

Overall, this book made me laugh a lot, cry a bit, and taught me something about myself along the way, and that’s all I can really ask from a book.

Careful! Spoilers beyond this point!

Continue reading

Spell Speakers by Day Leitao

“14-year old Darian was raised in an isolated village, resisting the King and his army. When his life takes a tragic turn, he ends up in the castle, closer to his former enemies than he has ever imagined. His only solace is Cayla, a girl who helps him smile again, for whom he slowly falls in love. But the castle has more dangers than he imagined.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

First off, I would like to thank the publisher and author for providing me this ARC to review. Please note that the version I read was an advanced copy, and certain events/language may be changed in the published edition.

Stars (Out of 10): 3/10 Stars

Spoiler Free: This novella was meant to introduce the world and make readers more interested in the series, but I don’t really think this book did that at all. If I were to judge this novella purely on how well it accomplishes that task, it would’ve received 1 star. It barely bothered to explain the world at all, the one we were supposed to be growing interest in, and focused instead on a very oddly paced plot with characters that all read kind of the same.

Unfortunately, I found out pretty early on that I would most likely not be a fan of this novella. This revelation came purely from the writing style at first, as it felt super cut and dry, very simple and uninteresting. Instead of utilizing language to properly make readers feel and understand the world better, everything just felt stated. “Character A did this. Character B reacted like this.” It told more than it showed, which caused a major disconnect between me and the characters.

Additionally, the plot itself was fairly simple to guess, yet wasn’t aware of this. It not so subtly dropped many clues before every twist, so every reader would have actually picked up on it before it was revealed, but somehow our MC, Darian, was entirely clueless to everything going on around him. The pacing of the overall plot was also fairly weird. We had a very quick-moving start, almost as if we were dropped into the middle of a story, and then we get a lull in the middle, followed by a final chapter in Darian’s POV that suddenly dumps a bunch more information on the reader. When combined with the simple writing, it almost felt as if I was reading a very detailed outline of what the book was going to contain, instead of the book itself.

The world itself, as I mentioned above, is also just poorly explained. We learn nothing of the magic system (which is part of why I requested this novella, it sounded interesting), and almost nothing on the tension between the smaller villages and the kingdom, just that magic is the cause of it. It leaves readers in a limbo of who to believe, as we aren’t given a sympathetic outlook on either side. All we know is that the king is burning villages in search of a witch that is probably dead (but how do only the villages know this? Why doesn’t the king?) It’s all really confusing, so I’m trying not to dwell on it.

Lastly, I wasn’t able to get a grasp on almost any of the characters. While I overall did find Sian interesting, and the interplay of motives running through him, this same level of depth did not come through well in the other characters, and instead made them feel incontinuous. For example, with our main hero Darian, we don’t actually get to learn about life back in the village, or anything that makes us sympathetic to the cause Darian’s mother was fighting for. Furthermore, this makes his constant longing for his old life hard to empathize with, since we have no understanding of that life. His inner voice also seems to shift dramatically within the story, from a focus on home/hatred of the evil king, to a focus on love interest only, and then back to a focus on revenge/hatred without regard of said love interest. This imbalance actually comes through in that love interest as well, and I have a hard time gauging what her inner thoughts actually are, even after having read a POV chapter from her.

However, I was still intrigued. Even with everything above, I still want to learn more. Some might say that this want for more stems from the lack of content that the book provided me with in the first place, but I also didn’t expect much coming into this in terms of content (it is only 100 pages!)