Mini Reviews: Hunting Prince Dracula, Graceling, & Saints and Misfits

Hunting Prince Dracula

Hunting Prince Dracula

Author: Kerri Maniscalco

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery

Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper #2

Publication Date: September 19, 2017

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson

Synopsis: Following the horrifying revelation of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth flees her home in Victorian London to enroll as the only female student in Europe’s most prestigious forensics school. But it’s impossible to find peace in the dark, unsettling Romanian castle that houses the school—and was also once home to the depraved Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Prince Dracula.

When a series of troubling deaths brings whispers of Vlad’s bloodthirsty return from the grave, Audrey Rose and her sharp-witted companion, Thomas Cresswell, must unravel the cryptic clues that will lead them to the shadowlike killer—living or dead.

my-thoughts-2

I was so excited when I was able to get an early copy of this book because I had read and adored the first book in the series, Stalking Jack the Ripper, when I read it last year! While I did enjoy Hunting Prince Dracula, I unfortunately didn’t like it as much as I did the first book. Some parts in this book seemed to drag on for too long and I began to lose interest a bit. Also, I was a bit confused sometimes as to what was actually going on because there was so many different people and so many different possibilities. What I did love (just like I did in SJTR) were the main characters, Audrey Rose and Thomas. They’re spectacular both as individuals and as a couple! I really loved their chemistry in this book. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in their next adventure!

3.5 stars

3.5 out of 5 stars


Graceling

Graceling

Author: Kristin Cashore

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Series: Graceling Realm #1

Publication Date: October 1, 2008

Publisher: Harcourt

Synopsis: Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

She never expects to fall in love with beautiful Prince Po. She never expects to learn the truth behind her Grace—or the terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.

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This book has been sitting on my bookshelf for SO long now and I’m glad I finally got around to reading it! What really gave me the extra push was that I read a different book by the same author last month and really enjoyed it. I enjoyed Graceling a lot as well! It was an interesting fantasy novel with a main character who I really liked. I enjoyed most of the side characters, especially Bitterblue and Raffin. While some parts dragged a bit, I liked the book overall. I’m a bit bummed that the next book in the series, Fire, doesn’t seem to feature Katsa, Po, and Bitterblue. But I’m pretty sure they’ll be featured later in the series so I’m looking forward to that!

4-stars

4 out of 5 stars


Saints and Misfits

Saints and Misfits

Author: S.K. Ali

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Series: N/A

Publication Date: June 13, 2017

Publisher: Salaam Reads

Synopsis: There are three kinds of people in my world:

1. Saints, those special people moving the world forward. Sometimes you glaze over them. Or, at least, I do. They’re in your face so much, you can’t see them, like how you can’t see your nose.

2. Misfits, people who don’t belong. Like me—the way I don’t fit into Dad’s brand-new family or in the leftover one composed of Mom and my older brother, Mama’s-Boy-Muhammad. Also, there’s Jeremy and me. Misfits. Because although, alliteratively speaking, Janna and Jeremy sound good together, we don’t go together. Same planet, different worlds. But sometimes worlds collide and beautiful things happen, right?

3. Monsters. Well, monsters wearing saint masks, like in Flannery O’Connor’s stories. Like the monster at my mosque. People think he’s holy, untouchable, but nobody has seen under the mask. Except me.

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TW for Saints and Misfits: Sexual assault

I went into this book not knowing too much about the plot other than the main character, Janna, is sexually assaulted at some point. This takes place pretty much right at the beginning and is something that (obviously) makes a huge impact on Janna throughout the novel. While I liked reading about Janna and I feel like a lot of people will really relate to her, I also felt that there were way too many side characters. I got confused several times while reading because I couldn’t remember who was who. I also don’t think the story had a very good flow to it. I noticed this especially with the ending – it was way too abrupt. I feel like it definitely could have been added to. However, I was never bored while reading Saints and Misfits and I most definitely don’t regret reading it!

3-stars

3 out of 5 stars

Review: Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

Long May She Reign

long-may-she-reign

Series: Standalone

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mystery

Publication Date: February 21, 2017

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 422

Synopsis: Freya was never meant be queen. Twenty third in line to the throne, she never dreamed of a life in the palace, and would much rather research in her laboratory than participate in the intrigues of court. However, when an extravagant banquet turns deadly and the king and those closest to him are poisoned, Freya suddenly finds herself on the throne.

Freya may have escaped the massacre, but she is far from safe. The nobles don’t respect her, her councillors want to control her, and with the mystery of who killed the king still unsolved, Freya knows that a single mistake could cost her the kingdom – and her life.

Freya is determined to survive, and that means uncovering the murderers herself. Until then, she can’t trust anyone. Not her advisors. Not the king’s dashing and enigmatic illegitimate son. Not even her own father, who always wanted the best for her, but also wanted more power for himself.

As Freya’s enemies close in and her loyalties are tested, she must decide if she is ready to rule and, if so, how far she is willing to go to keep the crown.

Links: Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Book Depository

my-thoughts-2

I went into this book with somewhat low expectations for a couple reasons: 1) the average rating for the book on Goodreads was quite low and 2) a lot of my Goodreads friends had rated it somewhere between 1 and 3 stars. While 3 stars isn’t a bad rating necessarily, I still went into the book feeling skeptical because of the 1 and 2 star ratings. Fortunately, I really enjoyed this book and I think going in with low expectations was actually a good thing!

This fantasy standalone had a huge emphasis on science and politics, as well as a mystery aspect. I was always interested while reading this book and was thankfully never bored. One thing I especially loved was that the main character, Freya, had anxiety. A main character with such clear anxiety is almost unheard of in fantasy books. I don’t think I’ve ever read a non-contemporary book where the main character had anxiety! I’ve always wanted a book featuring an anxious main character, especially in my favorite genre of fantasy, because I myself have an anxiety disorder. It was SO great seeing that in this book! I was so proud of Freya for pushing through her anxiety and doing what needed to be done to save not only herself, but the ones she loved and her kingdom as well. It really gave me hope and a bit of inspiration too since I’ve been really struggling with my anxiety lately. I mean, if Freya can handle being queen while multiple people want to kill her, I can handle pretty much anything, right?

Okay, so let’s back things up a bit and talk about the main plot of this book. Our main character, Freya, is distantly related to the current king of her kingdom and she is twenty third in line for the throne. Freya never expected to rule so she instead focused her time on doing scientific experiments and hanging out with her adorable cat and her best friend, Naomi. Freya always dreamed of one day leaving her kingdom for the Continent to become a scientist. Those dreams unfortunately came to a drastic halt. On the night of the king’s birthday feast, Freya and Naomi leave the palace early because Freya had a great idea for an invention she had been working on. In the early hours of the morning, Freya’s dad rushes home with palace guards looking for Freya and fearing she is not alive. At the feast, hundreds of people – including the king, queen, and the 22 people that came before Freya in the line of succession – were murdered. All of a sudden Freya is now queen and has to figure out 1) who poisoned all those people and why, 2) how to be queen, and 3) how to stay alive.

In some reviews I’ve read, people don’t think this plot was executed as well as it could have been, but I really don’t agree with that. It was so interesting following Freya around and trying to figure out the mystery of who the murderer was while at the same time, rooting for Freya to be a great queen. In my opinion, the book also wasn’t predictable at all! I had many guesses as to who could have poisoned all those people and I was constantly being proven wrong. It was quite a shock to me when we figured out who the murderer was and I loved all the suspense throughout the book! In addition to the plot, I really loved the characters as well. I especially loved Freya – she was smart, kind, and an all-around good person. The side characters Naomi, Fitzroy, and Madeleine were great as well!

The one thing this book lacked a bit of was world-building. I think this is a crucial element in a fantasy novel and unfortunately, Long May She Reign didn’t completely deliver in this aspect. I know you can only do so much in a standalone novel, but I wish this world would have been a bit more fleshed out.

Bottom Line: If you enjoy fantasy books with an awesome main character, an interesting plot, and some science and political intrigue, I would definitely recommend you pick up Long May She Reign as soon as you can!

4-stars

4 out of 5 stars

Review: Sparks of Light by Janet B. Taylor

Sparks of Light

Sparks of Light

Series: Into the Dim #2

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Time Travel, Historical

Publication Date: August 1, 2017

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Pages: 435 (ARC)

Synopsis: For the first time in her life, Hope Walton has friends . . . and a (maybe) boyfriend. She’s a Viator, a member of a long line of time-traveling ancestors. When the Viators learn of a plan to steal a dangerous device from the inventor Nikola Tesla, only a race into the past can save the natural timeline from utter destruction. Navigating the glitterati of The Gilded Age in 1895 New York City, Hope and her crew will discover that high society can be as deadly as it is beautiful.

In this sequel to the dazzling time-travel romance Into the Dim, sacrifice takes on a whole new meaning as Hope and Bran struggle to determine where—or when—they truly belong.

my-thoughts-2

TWs for Sparks of Light: animal cruelty, talk of sexual assault, violence, racism

Wow, this sequel was a big step down from the first book. When I first read Into the Dim last year, I really enjoyed it and gave it 4 stars. After rereading it earlier this month, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much so I lowered the rating down to 3.5 stars. It’s a miracle that I actually finished Sparks of Light! There were many times where I wanted to just give up and DNF it, but I was still curious so I continued on.

The book for the most part was very boring. I thought that things would pick up once they traveled back in time, but even then it took a little for me to get interested. However, the whole part where Hope was trapped in a place (won’t say where because of spoilers) was extremely disturbing to me (and not in a good way). I don’t know why it bothered me so much, but I was SO glad when it was over. When I wasn’t bored or disturbed, I was confused. At times, I had no clue what was going on or who a person was. The flashbacks randomly thrown in didn’t help matters either.

The only reason why this book is getting a 2 star rating instead of a 1 star rating from me is because I was actually interested at some points and I do like some of the characters. Other than that, I really didn’t like this book! It sounds like there’s going to be at least one more book in this series (I don’t see it on Goodreads yet though) but I’m not sure if I’m going to continue on. While I’m a bit curious to see what happens next, I’m not sure it will be worth my time.

2-stars

2 out of 5 stars

Review: Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Radio Silence

radio-silence

Series: Standalone

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Publication Date: March 28, 2017 (originally published February 25, 2016 in UK)

Publisher: HarperTeen (originally published by Harper Collins Children’s Books in UK)

Pages: 474

Synopsis: You probably think that Aled Last and I are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and I am a girl. I just wanted to say—we don’t.

Frances Janvier spends most of her time studying. When she’s not studying, she’s up in her room making fan art for her favorite podcast, Universe City.

Everyone knows Aled Last as that quiet boy who gets straight As. But no one knows he’s the creator of Universe City, who goes by the name Radio Silence.

When Frances gets a message from Radio Silence asking if she’ll collaborate with him, everything changes. Frances and Aled spend an entire summer working together and becoming best friends. They get each other when no one else does.

But when Aled’s identity as Radio Silence is revealed, Frances fears that the future of Universe City—and their friendship—is at risk. Aled helped her find her voice. Without him, will she have the courage to show the world who she really is? Or will she be met with radio silence?

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I first heard about this book pretty recently so when it was published, I immediately put it on hold at the library. When it recently became available, I checked it out from the library and brought it home with me. This past Sunday afternoon I was bored so I went looking on my bookshelves for something to read. Since I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to read, I took a couple books off the shelf and planned to read a few pages of each of them before deciding which one I would commit to. I started with Radio Silence and I was immediately drawn in! Before I knew it, I had read 100 pages! So obviously, I didn’t even end up opening the other book.

I ended up enjoying this book so, so much! I completely FLEW through it. In about 7 hours I had finished the almost 500 page book! I can’t remember the last time I read a book of this length in that short amount of time! One of my favorite parts of the book were the characters. They were so fantastic and dynamic! I especially loved that this book focused on a friendship between a girl and a guy with no romance between them whatsoever. This doesn’t usually occur in books, especially YA ones, so it was a really nice change! The friendship between the main character, Frances, and Aled was spectacular. They had known each other for a few years but hadn’t really talked despite living across the street from one another. I loved how their friendship really bloomed once they got through that awkward stage that most new friends experience. They went from shyly complimenting each other’s clothes and messaging each other on Facebook to hanging out constantly and saying they were platonically in love with one another. It was just so great!

Another aspect I loved about this book was all the diverse rep it had! The main character, Frances, is biracial and bisexual and there are also gay characters, an ace-spectrum (most likely demisexual) character, and several people of color. As an ace person myself, I thought this was incredibly cool to actually see asexuality discussed and named! While it wasn’t a huge part of the story, it was still so awesome to see the words in a book! Hopefully this will continue in other books (especially YA) so that people that don’t currently have the vocabulary for what they’re feeling could discover it. In addition to the on-the-page discussion of asexuality and demisexuality, gender identity was also talked about on multiple occasions.

Moving onto the plot! This book was centered around Aled’s Youtube podcast series called Universe City that he has been making for two years. Frances has been a listener and avid fan of the series since the very beginning. When she’s not busy studying, Frances spends the rest of her time creating fan art based on the podcast and posting them under a pseudonym on Tumblr. The two become friends when Frances accidentally finds out that Aled is the creator of Universe City and they bond over the series and a multitude of other things, including their many similarities. Eventually, Frances contributes to the podcast by officially making art for it and even starring in some episodes. At this point, no one else besides Aled, Aled’s friend Daniel, and Frances know that Aled is the one who created Universe City and Aled would like to keep it that way.

Another big part of this book had to do with school – specifically preparing for university. The book showed how many different characters dealt with school and also how much pressure there was – from family, society, and themselves – to study hard and get into a good university. Frances in particular has had her sights set on Cambridge ever since she began exceeding in school when she was young. She felt that just because she was good at school, she had the obligation to go to university. Frances also thought that the only way to happiness was to get into Cambridge, graduate with a degree, and get a good job. Throughout the course of the novel, Frances discovers that attending Cambridge and studying something she isn’t passionate about isn’t going to make her happy. This book really emphasized that while some do achieve happiness from attending university, others do not – and that that’s okay!

Overall, this book was so fun and addictive to read. Like I said previously, I finished the book in 7 hours so obviously I couldn’t put it down! In addition to this, Radio Silence was also super relatable and a book I think a lot of people would really enjoy! Even if you’re not a huge contemporary reader, I urge you to give this book a chance. Personally, I’m really, really glad I decided to pick it up!

4.5 stars

4.5 out of 5 stars

Review: Bound by Blood and Sand by Becky Allen

bound-by-blood-and-sand

bound-by-blood-and-sand

Series: Bound by Blood and Sand #1

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publication Date: October 11, 2016

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Pages: 310

Synopsis: Jae is a slave in a dying desert world.

Once verdant with water from a magical Well, the land is drying up, and no one remembers the magic needed to keep the water flowing. If a new source isn’t found soon, the people will perish. Jae doesn’t mind, in a way. By law, she is bound by a curse to obey every order given her, no matter how vile. At least in death, she’ll be free.

Elan’s family rules the fading realm. He comes to the estate where Jae works, searching for the hidden magic needed to replenish the Well, but it’s Jae who finds it, and she who must wield it. Desperate to save his realm, Elan begs her to use it to locate the Well.

But why would a slave—abused, beaten, and treated as less than human—want to save the system that shackles her? Jae would rather see the world burn.

Though revenge clouds her vision, she agrees to help if the realm’s slaves are freed. Then Elan’s father arrives. The ruler’s cruelty knows no limits. He is determined that the class system will not change—and that Jae will remain a slave forever.

my-thoughts-2

Wow this book was really enjoyable! I believe I first heard of this book before it was published and put it on my Goodreads TBR but then had forgotten about it by the time it was published. I’m surprised I haven’t seen too much talk of it in the book community because it was a good book! I’m glad I picked it up on a whim while at the library.

Here’s a little background info on the story: In this book, there is a group of people called the Closest. The Closest are forced to obey every command given to them by the group of people called the Avowed. Basically, they’re slaves that are treated extremely poorly. It is believed that the Closest’s ancestors started a war against the group of people called The Highest and The Highest cursed the Closest because of it. The story follows Jae, a Closest girl who lives in a town on the outskirts of civilization. This town has been in a drought for quite some time and The Highest are planning to move the Avowed living in the town elsewhere while leaving the Closest behind to die. One day Jae accidentally taps into magic that was put into a fountain on the property by one of her ancestors generations ago. After discovering this magic, Jae begins to learn the truth about what really happened between the Closest and The Highest in the past and how she can use this new found magic to save her people.

As I said before, I really enjoyed this book. I especially liked all of the magical aspects. It was similar to magic in other books in that it was elemental magic, but I think it was pretty unique as well! I loved learning more and more about the magic, its history, and what Jae could do with it.

I wasn’t able to rate this book 4 stars or higher mostly because of the fact that I wasn’t completely connecting with all of the characters. I liked Jae and her brother, Tal, but I wasn’t totally sold on Elan (the son of one of The Highest). I understand that he was brought up thinking a certain way and while he wasn’t horrible to Jae in the beginning, he still was pretty condescending. Elan ends up redeeming himself throughout the later parts of the book, but he still rubbed me the wrong way in the beginning.

I must also note that there was no romance in this book! That’s something you don’t usually find in YA. I was waiting for Jae and Elan to start falling for each other, but they didn’t. There’s always a possibility of it in the next book, but I’m so glad there was nothing like that in this book! I just think it would have taken away from the rest of the story and been unrealistic as well.

Bottom Line: While this book wasn’t perfect, I still really enjoying reading it. I’m looking forward to seeing how the story wraps up in the next book!

3-75-stars

3.75 stars

Review: The Rose & the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh

the-rose-the-dagger

The Rose and the Dagger

Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #2

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publication Date: April 26, 2016

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Pages: 416

Synopsis: In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.

The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.

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Wow, what an amazing conclusion to a fantastic duology! What drew me in in The Wrath & the Dawn was the beautiful writing, the interesting world, and the spectacular characters. These things continued (and were expanded upon) in The Rose & the Dagger.

I enjoyed so many aspects of this book but to start off, I have to note that it was very interesting to see more of the characters that were in The Wrath & the Dawn but had played a smaller role in that book. In particular, I loved getting to know Shahrzad’s younger sister, Irsa. At first, Irsa was a very timid, very quiet girl. Her whole life had just been uprooted and she doesn’t really know her place in things quite yet. Throughout this book, however, she really grows as a character. She comes into her own with the help of an unexpected special someone in her life. I also enjoyed seeing even more of Despina, Jalal, and Vikram – even if they didn’t take up a lot of the focus of the book.

Another thing I really enjoyed about The Rose & the Dagger was that Khalid and Shahrzad’s love continued to grow and flourish. Even though they faced many obstacles and hardships, their love for one another never wavered. I really admired that!

The only complaint I have about this book was that at times, things were a bit slow and dragged a little. It didn’t take away too much from my overall enjoyment, but it did stop me from giving the book a full 5 star rating.

Bottom Line: This book held many twists and turns, sacrifices and heartache, & selflessness and courage. It was an emotional rollercoaster at times and it made me scared to see how it would end. Overall, I loved it so much. I would highly, highly recommend this duology to anybody and everybody!

4-5-stars

4.5 out of 5 stars

Mini Review: Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

ever-the-hunted

ever-the-hunted

Series: Clash of Kingdoms #1

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publication Date: December 27, 2016

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Pages: 390

Synopsis: Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.

my-thoughts-2

Unfortunately, I didn’t end up liking this book overall – which was quite disappointing because I was really looking forward to reading it.

My biggest problem was that this book was just so generic. I read a lot of YA fantasy and honestly, there was nothing new in this book. It features a girl who has a special power (she has no idea that she has the power of course) and she must use that power to help save her kingdom. And of course there was also an angsty romance. In addition, the world seemed so two-dimensional. There wasn’t enough world building to satisfy me. Most of the characters were two-dimensional as well – I didn’t 100% connect with any of them. The one I came closest to connecting with was Enat.

Going back to that angsty romance, I really wasn’t feeling the relationship between Britta and Cohen. I really didn’t think they had that much chemistry. It was more like, Cohen was the only male (other than Britta’s father) who had been nice to her so she fell for him. *swoon* …. not.

The reason why this wasn’t a 1 star book for me was that I did like Enat and also Britta’s relationship with her.

Bottom Line: If you’re not a frequent reader of fantasy and/or you enjoy simpler fantasy worlds and stories, then this might be the book for you. If you’re like me and are looking for more unique fantasy reads, you might want to pass on this one.

2-stars

2 stars

Review: A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

a-torch-against-the-night

A Torch Against the Night

Series: An Ember in the Ashes #2

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publication Date: August 30, 2016

Publisher: Razorbill

Pages: 452

Synopsis: Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.

my-thoughts-2

Let me start off by saying that I’m so excited that I finally read this book! After reading and loving An Ember in the Ashes last year, I knew I had to read the sequel. (If you’re interested, check out my review of An Ember in the Ashes by clicking here.) After many failed attempts of getting the ARC, I ended up reading A Torch Against the Night after release day — immediately after rereading the first book in order to jog my memory.

Something I immediately noticed was that the tone of this book was completely different than in the first book. This was most likely because of what the main characters had endured in the first novel and because of how high the stakes have become. I thought that this urgent tone would make the book more intense — and in turn, more interesting — but I found the pacing of the story to be extremely slow in parts. This was something that wasn’t present in the first book and it unfortunately took away from my overall enjoyment of the story.

In addition to the pacing problems, another reason why I didn’t like this book as much as its predecessor is because I didn’t feel very emotionally connected to the characters for some reason. In the first book, I was really attached to the characters. I felt for them, rooted for them, and wanted the best for them. In this book, I still wanted things to work out for the characters of course, but I didn’t feel as passionate towards them as I should have been.

Now that we got the negatives out of the way, lets focus on some positives!

Something I liked about Torch was that it had chapters from Helene’s POV. I managed to really feel for her in the first book — even without her own POV — so I was very excited to get inside her head in this book. While reading from her perspective wasn’t always interesting, it did give us readers a lot of insight into her family, the different Illustrian gens, and Helene’s Blood Shrike duties.

Something else I enjoyed were the twists that were placed throughout the novel. Just when I was feeling a bit bored because of the slow pace — BAM! Something huge and unexpected happened. I won’t give any specifics because of spoilers, but there were some definite surprises in this novel! One of these surprises explained why I was never able to connect to a certain character, even in the first book.

Lastly, I enjoyed the introduction of additional magical themes in this book. There was some magic in the first book (i.e. Helene’s magical healing ability) and I was hoping there would be even more in the sequel. Let’s just say, I definitely got my wish! We were introduced to numerous magic-related story lines in this book and they were super intriguing! I’m very much looking forward to seeing where they go in the future.

Bottom Line: Even though I didn’t like this book quite as much as the first book in the series, I still really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with the characters and the story as the series progresses!

4-stars

4 out of 5 stars

Mini Review: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

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More Happy Than Not

Series: Standalone

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Publication Date: June 2, 2015

Publisher: Soho Teen

Pages: 293

Synopsis: In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.

Why does happiness have to be so hard?

my-thoughts-2

I have really mixed feelings about this book. I was feeling pretty “meh” about the whole thing in the beginning. I didn’t understand how a guy who had no internal thoughts about being gay was all of a sudden coming out to his (male) friend/crush. When he was losing his virginity to his girlfriend, he was never thinking “This isn’t that great” – he was acting like well, a straight guy. When Aaron starts to have feelings for his new friend Thomas, I was just thinking that he might be bisexual. Because, again, he gave no indication that he didn’t enjoy the romantic times with his girlfriend.

But then, THE THING happens. (You know what I’m talking about if you read the book.) I was shocked when it happened, but when I thought about it, it made perfect sense! I thought this twist was so well done; it made me like the book so much more! It definitely changed my “meh” feelings into thinking that I could give the book at least 4 stars.

However, I didn’t end up liking how some things were handled – particularly the ending. To avoid spoilers, I’ll just say that while Aaron ends up “more happy than not”, I didn’t. I will still definitely be trying more of Adam Silvera’s books in the future, even though I didn’t 100% love this one.

3-stars

3 out of 5 stars

Mini Review: This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

this-is-where-it-ends

This Is Where It Ends

Series: Standalone

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Publication Date: January 5, 2016

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Pages: 285

Synopsis: 10:00 a.m. The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve. 

10:02 a.m. The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class. 

10:03 The auditorium doors won’t open. 10:05 Someone starts shooting.

Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

my-thoughts-2

This was a book that I was very excited to read – mostly because I was interested in the subject matter. School shootings are horrific events that unfortunately happen way too often in the United States. I have previously read one book covering this topic and I really enjoyed it. I wanted to see this author’s take on it so as soon as my library had a copy, I checked it out.

Unfortunately, I didn’t end up enjoying the book as much as I thought I would. My biggest problem would have to be that with all the POVs the book had, it never showed the gunman’s perspective. I definitely think that this was a missed opportunity. Usually a shooters’ motives aren’t made clear from the start so I would have been okay with not getting a POV from the beginning, but I still hoped for one later on in the novel.

Other than that, I didn’t really connect with the characters. I didn’t dislike them by any means, but I definitely didn’t like them either. I liked that they were diverse, but other than that, they were quite forgettable. I noticed how disconnected I was from them probably halfway through the novel when I realized that I really didn’t care if the characters ended up alive or dead.

Bottom Line: This novel was very underwhelming in my opinion. If some aspects of the book had been changed or expanded upon, I feel like the story could have been greatly improved.

1-5-stars

1.5 stars