New Adult/Adult, Romance

Much Ado About You by Samantha Young

Pages: 384

Publisher: Berkley

Release Date: February 2, 2021

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis

“At thirty-three-years old Evangeline Starling’s life in Chicago is missing that special something. And when she’s passed over for promotion at work, Evie realizes she needs to make a change. Some time away to regain perspective might be just the thing. In a burst of impulsivity, she plans a holiday in a quaint English village. The holiday package comes with a temporary position at Much Ado About Books, the bookstore located beneath her rental apartment. There’s no better dream vacation for the bookish Evie, a life-long Shakespeare lover.

Not only is Evie swept up in running the delightful store as soon as she arrives, she’s drawn into the lives, loves and drama of the friendly villagers. Including Roane Robson, the charismatic and sexy farmer who tempts Evie every day with his friendly flirtations. Evie is determined to keep him at bay because a holiday romance can only end in heartbreak, right? But Evie can’t deny their connection and longs to trust in her handsome farmer that their whirlwind romance could turn in to the forever kind of love.”

What Did I Think?

Much Ado About You was just the book I needed to read right when I did! I’m starting to get a little antsy with this quarantine business, but the little English adventure this book took me on was the perfect escape from the wildness of our reality!

The overall concept of this book was literally EVERYTHING. The English seaside setting was absolutely dreamy! Even though I have never been there, I felt like I had because of all the beautiful details Young incorporates through the novel. Much Ado also threw together two of my favorite things into a fun little package: adorable indie bookstores and Shakespeare! Honestly, I would have died and gone to heaven if I had the opportunity to run a bookstore like the one Evie had all to herself! While a good bit of the book was fluffy and cute, there were some very moving moments and important lessons to be learned, too, and I found those to be equally as compelling as the cutsie moments.

In all my years of reading, I have never found a character that I would consider my twin, but that totally changed when I met Evie Starling. Even though she is a little bit older than I am, I saw so much of myself in her character. Her love of animals, passion for reading, and inner strength that came out when she least expected it to completely resonated with me. I also really enjoyed her witty sense of humor and the wisdom she was always quick to share with those who needed to hear it most. As a whole, Evie is just one of those characters you can’t help but love, and I honestly wish there was a sequel to this book just so I could see where life takes her from here!

Moving on to the LOML, Roane Robson. Ughh… this dude had my heart the second I realized that his Great Dane was his BFF. I mean, come on. Nobody can resist a super adorable farmer with a love for all animals, can they? One of the things I loved most about Roane was that he was such a hard worker and didn’t take even the tiniest of things for granted. He was always so present and willing to stick his neck out for anyone who needed assistance, and his kindness toward those around him really went a long way for me. I also really liked the fact that he wasn’t protrayed as this perfectly maculine man, but rather as someone who was warm, inviting, and just had a good heart. It’s hard to pick a favorite character, but if I had to, I think it might just have to be Roane (err, okay, maybe Shadow the Great Dane comes first, but Roane is definitely a close second!).

I couldn’t possibly end this review without expressing my love for all of the fabulous supporting characters. Caro, Viola, and all of the pub-goers were so much fun to read about, and I loved their banter with one another. The inclusion of such a wide array of characters with different backgrounds and lifestyle added an extra layer of depth to this already jampacked story, and I would pay good money for this small English seaside tale to continue with a book (or 50) about each of these guys!

Much Ado About You is one of those contemporary reads that has the capability of melting even the coldest of hearts. The descriptions of its quaint and cozy seaside setting had me wishing I was there soaking it all in with Evie, Roane, and of course Shadow! The plot was nicely paced, and I really enjoyed that there was a good mix of humor and seriousness that permeated the story line at the most perfect of moments. If you’re looking for a romantic, Hallmark-esue tale sure to make you smile, Much Ado About You is the book for you!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you’ve read almost every Shakespeare play in existence, dig cozy vibes and sickeningly sweet romance, and love a good English setting, Much Ado About You was MADE for you, my friends!

I would also recommend this book to Jenn Bennett, Mackenzie Lee, Rainbow Rowell, and Talia Hibbert.

Bonus Content, Favorites Lists

Most Memorable Opening Lines of All Time

Hello, bookish friends, and welcome back to the blog! Over the years, I’ve read a lot of books, but one thing that always remains memorable to me are intriguing opening lines. Sometimes they’re funny, super serious, or in one way or another end up snagging my attention. For today’s post, I thought I’d share eight of my favorite opening lines with you. It was so hard to narrow this list down because there are so many great ones, but I hope you enjoy those I’ve found pretty darn memorable. Let’s get into it then, shall we?

“Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.”

“There is blood under my fingernails.”

“I’ve been locked up for 264 days.”

“There was a demon in McDonald’s.”

“Spontaneity is overrated.”

“I’ve been looking for Sawyer for half a lifetime when I found him standing in front of the Slurpee machine at the 7-Eleven on Federal Highway, gazing through the window at the frozen, neon-bright churning like he’s expecting the mysteries of the universe to be revealed to him from inside.”

“I’ve read many more books than you.”

“I have just taken an overly large bite of iced bun when Callum slices his finger off.”

There you have it, folks – eight fabulous opening lines that, I’m just now realizing, happen to come from books I thoroughly enjoyed reading! Did one of your favorites not make the list? Drop it in the comments below! There are seriously SO MANY hooks that are sure to pull all of us avid readers in from the start.

Until next time! May the rest of your week be filled with all the books 😊

-Sarah

Fantasy, New Adult/Adult

A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Pages: 637

Series: Blood and Ash #2

Publisher: Blue Box Press

Release Date: September 1, 2020

Genre(s): Fantasy

Format: Paperback

*NOTE: If you have not read From Blood and Ash, please stop reading this review NOW! Spoilers for this book follow, but feel free to check out my non-spoiler review of FB&A here to see if you’ll enjoy the series :)*

Goodreads Synopsis

“A Betrayal…

Everything Poppy has ever believed in is a lie, including the man she was falling in love with. Thrust among those who see her as a symbol of a monstrous kingdom, she barely knows who she is without the veil of the Maiden. But what she does know is that nothing is as dangerous to her as him. The Dark One. The Prince of Atlantia. He wants her to fight him, and that’s one order she’s more than happy to obey. He may have taken her, but he will never have her.

A Choice…

Casteel Da’Neer is known by many names and many faces. His lies are as seductive as his touch. His truths as sensual as his bite. Poppy knows better than to trust him. He needs her alive, healthy, and whole to achieve his goals. But he’s the only way for her to get what she wants—to find her brother Ian and see for herself if he has become a soulless Ascended. Working with Casteel instead of against him presents its own risks. He still tempts her with every breath, offering up all she’s ever wanted. Casteel has plans for her. Ones that could expose her to unimaginable pleasure and unfathomable pain. Plans that will force her to look beyond everything she thought she knew about herself—about him. Plans that could bind their lives together in unexpected ways that neither kingdom is prepared for. And she’s far too reckless, too hungry, to resist the temptation.

A Secret…

But unrest has grown in Atlantia as they await the return of their Prince. Whispers of war have become stronger, and Poppy is at the very heart of it all. The King wants to use her to send a message. The Descenters want her dead. The wolven are growing more unpredictable. And as her abilities to feel pain and emotion begin to grow and strengthen, the Atlantians start to fear her. Dark secrets are at play, ones steeped in the blood-drenched sins of two kingdoms that would do anything to keep the truth hidden. But when the earth begins to shake, and the skies start to bleed, it may already be too late.”

What Did I Think?

THIS. BOOK. KNOCKED. MY. SOCKS. OFF. ‘Nuff said. Kidding, kidding! You guys know me – I always have way too much to say about my favorite reads of all time, and I think the Blood and Ash series has officially made that very prestigious list!

Let’s kick this thing off with a little background on where A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire picks up. At the end of From Blood and Ash, Poppy learns that Hawke Flynn isn’t exactly who he says he is – she’s been kidnapped by the Dark One himself, also known as Casteel Da’Neer, the Prince of Atlantia. She also learns that he has every intention of using her as ransom by trading her in to the Queen and King of Solis so that Casteel’s brother can be released from his centuries-long captivity and torture by the Ascended. Poppy and Hawke certainly had a romantic connection with one another in From Blood and Ash, but there’s something about HARDCORE BETRAYAL that throws cold water on the romance blossoming between these two. Poppy feels very conflicted because just when she thought she managed to obtain freedom from her obligations as the Maiden and has escaped those that seek to harm her, she is once again a pawn in someone else’s game. Casteel is also in a very precarious position, as even though he had every intention of trading Poppy in to save his brother, it’s clear that he is struggling internally to decide if that’s really something he can do now that he and Poppy have become rather close. This confusion comes to a head when Casteel very unromantically proposes to Poppy at the very end of the novel, stunning Poppy (clearly) and all of us readers! Plans are made for the crew to travel to Atlantia for this very unexpected wedding (among other things), and that is where the reader is left to impatiently wait for A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, EEEPP!

The first thing I wanted to chat about is how the world-building has evolved so beautifully in A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire. Since it’s not uncommon for there to be a lot of time and detail spent on explaining what’s happening in a fantastical world in a first book in a series, it was hard for me to get a complete picture of what each location actually looked like in From Blood and Ash. However, Jennifer, as always, gave us just what we needed in the first novel, as I was able to piece together those details with the new ones in A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire so I could begin to visualize each and every location in vivid detail. The descriptions that she uses to illustrate what these places look like in A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire are beautifully written, and being able to envision the places Casteel, Poppy and gang travel to was so much fun for me. I felt like I was on my own little adventure without having to even leave my couch!

I am completely overeager to talk about our absolutely stunning, murderous little creature, Poppy! I seriously do not even think it’s possible to have a character undergo more character development than this girl right here! By the end of FB&A, Poppy has transformed significantly, but that was just a drop in the bucket for how much she grows in this book. At the beginning of the novel, Poppy’s still reeling from Casteel’s betrayal, and while this leads to her making some imperfect decisions, I believe that this just made her character feel that much more human and relatable to the reader. I mean, come on! How the heck would you react if you went through half of what Poppy has? I think I would be more stabby than she is, and that is saying A LOT! Going off of this stabby note, one of the elements of Poppy’s character that remained constant was her need to fend for herself and her generally fiery personality. I love her sassiness and the fact that she is confident enough in herself now to snap back at those who are disrespecting and/or making false accusations about her. Both her saucy comebacks and kick-butt wielding of weaponry serve her well in this novel, that’s for sure! Moving past Poppy’s slightly violent personality, I think a lot of fictional characters tend to be a little blind to when the changes in themselves appear and what prompts them, but Poppy certainly does not fit this mold. I really enjoyed her reflections on how she began to take her life back into her own hands, and that she didn’t solely come to the conclusion that Casteel was the one who prompted all the changes in her (though he was definitely a catalyst for a good many). Her evolution began long before he even showed up, and her acknowledgement of this and giving herself credit for her own strength and fortitude was really nice to see. I also enjoyed the fact that she was willing to take a look at who she is and what she wants out of life. I found this so relatable because humans around Poppy’s age are trying to answer similar questions themselves as they journey into adulthood. As a whole, I thoroughly enjoyed Poppy’s character and watching her continue to learn more about herself in this book. Can’t wait to see how these plans shake out in the next book, especially given what she uncovers about herself at the very end of this one!

On to a character who I think managed to give me legit anxiety: Casteel Da’Neer, aka Hawke, aka The Dark One, aka Cas… yeah, he’s got way too many names, but all are equally as endearing, I suppose! This may be a little inflammatory (sorry, FB&A Casteel lovers!), but I wasn’t really sure I was Team Hawke even then, and then when that shizz went down happened right at the end, my distaste for his character was even more potent. However, you all will be happy to know that I am OFFICIALLY on the Cas train after reading this book! I am a total sucker for characters that are a little mysterious and dangerous, but have this softheartedness to them that’s just super hard to see. Until this book, I legitimately found Casteel SUPER heartless. I know, I know. The dude has been through stuff, but I think because he wasn’t opening up to anyone about it, it was hard for me to like him and just take his word for it when he wasn’t exactly forthcoming about a lot of things surrounding his past. However, this book showed me how very wrong I was about him, so thank you Jen for helping me see the light! As with the first book, I really enjoyed Casteel’s hilarious banter with those around him and seeing the various sides of his personality (both the ones I find so adorable and those that freak me out a little because he can get downright scary). The love that Casteel has for his fellow Atlantians really shined in this book (ughh… I can’t help but also bro-ship Cas and Kieran… they are so cute!), and it was so great to see that though his actions were questionable at best sometimes, he truly was doing what he was in an effort to protect those he cares about. Reading about Casteel’s past with the woman he previously loved and when he was in captivity in Solis seriously broke my heart, but I think those moments were what allowed me to truly understand how far Casteel’s character has come and why I should respect him, even if the reader wasn’t introduced to him until after he has managed to partly move on from these experiences. Overall, I found myself swooning amongst the rest of you Casteel-lovers in this book, and I literally cannot wait to read more of his witty (and often, wholly inappropriate but oh-so-humorous) commentary in the next installment!    

You really thought I was going to skip over discussing the ROMANCE in this book? Heckkkk no, y’all, though I am going to be super vague since I’m not about that spoiler life. First and foremost, THE ANGST. Normally, I don’t mind when there’s a little “I love you, I love you not” action going on, but there were moments where I literally wanted to throw my book across the room because I literally couldn’t take the back and forth anymore. However, I do think the romantic tension between Casteel and Poppy was completely necessary in this book because they had so much they needed to work through following all of the half-truths told and betrayal from the first book. All of the back and forth really did make certain moments that much more moving. And, if I’m being honest with myself, I don’t think I would be shipping these two nearly as hard if there hadn’t been as much angst and if I hadn’t had watched them both try so hard to move past their previous baggage to make it work between them. I wish I could say more, but to avoid spoiling anything for you all, just know that there were moment where I got legit teary-eyed because Poppy and Casteel are EVERYTHING!

Before closing out this review, I have to take a second to talk about all of the out-of-this-world-amazing supporting characters in this novel. With the exception of Kieran (who without a doubt is right up there with Poppy and Casteel in terms of LOML status), I am hard-pressed to pick one that I like more than the others. Just as Armentrout spends time developing our main leads, she doesn’t shirk her responsibility of creating equally as compelling side characters that make the dialogue and action within the story that much more enjoyable. Each and every one serves a purpose, and I had so much fun seeing each of their personalities shine. I am so looking forward to seeing more of these guys in the next book!

A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire had everything I was expecting it to have and more. I loved each and every character, the movement of the plot was smooth as butter, the action and romance were on-point, and the descriptions of this fantastical world were beautiful to read and envision for myself. I was on the edge of my seat from beginning to end, and I am absolutely STOKED for The Crown of Gilded Bones to release in April of 2021… or before? PLEASE?!?!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

*NOTE: This book is definitely only for mature readers (the romance is STEAMY and there is also quite a bit of graphic violence/murder). I would not recommend this book to readers under the age of 18.*

If you thought you were totally in love with this series after reading From Blood and Ash, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet – pick up A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire immediately! It won’t disappoint 😊

Bonus Content, Favorites Lists

My Favorite “In General” YA Tropes

Howdy, bookish friends, and welcome back to the blog! If you’ve been following for a while now, you know that my love for YA books knows no bounds. Part of why I love this category of literature is because there are certain trends that pop up again and again in these works – no matter how different the pieces may be – that keep me coming back for more. Today, I’m going to share some of the tropes I come across all the time that I can’t help but love!

1) Kick-Butt Female Lead

This trope comes up SO MUCH in YA that I really did think I was going to get tired of it… but I really haven’t! I always think it’s so awesome when writers make their female leads just a tough if not stronger than their male leads. I also appreciate when these strong females aren’t just physically strong, but also have some evident mental toughness to them as well, which in many novels they need just to survive the circumstances they’re put in.

2) Epic Battle Montages

Let’s face it: the vast majority of us can hardly walk on a flat surface without tripping, much less wield a sword like a complete BOSS. There’s something so exhilarating about reading novels that have characters throwing down when they need to, and watching those moments play out over the course of even just a few chapters is always such a blast for me (even when I am also equally as terrified that my fav characters are going to be killed off in said battle scenes).

3) The Dark and Mysterious Male Lead

Haters gonna hate, but this has to be one of my favorite tropes of all time. While any character with a mysterious past intrigues me, those male leads that are super quiet, dark, and maybe even a little creepy are always quick to draw me in. I love watching their stories unravel as the novel goes on, and even though I’m no detective, I always have so much fun guessing what the heck happened to these guys that made them so heartless (well, APPEAR to be so heartless, anyway!). This trope has been around for as long as I can remember, and I can’t even fathom a world in which it no longer exists!

4) Witty Characters that Keep You Laughing… Even When the Story Gets Dark

These days, I have a hard time reading books that get super dark and intense because HELLO PEOPLE, 2020 was a mess of very upsetting for so many. Something I’ve seen a lot recently in YA are characters making jokes or continuing their sarcastic conversations in the most intense of moments, and I am all here for it! This also includes dark humor that I know I shouldn’t laugh at but simply can’t refrain from (like jokes about dying on a battlefield when they’re literally about to fight in a battle… yikesss but I can’t help myself!).

5) The Revenge Seekers

I find protagonists who aren’t afraid to obtain revenge for themselves and those they love to be quite admirable. Watching this journey unfold on the page always makes me feel like Nancy Drew – I get to try and uncover clues right alongside the protagonist who is on the hunt for the person or people that did them wrong. Books with this trope are often fast-paced, and I love a plot that moves along quickly and keeps me on my toes from beginning to end!

6) Supporting Characters Equally as Likeable (Maybe Even More So!) Than the Leads

While some supporting characters are kind of just floating around, doing whatever the protagonist tells them to do, I am a HUGE fan of authors who invest time and effort into their supporting characters. Just like with the protagonist(s), I love when I feel like I am getting to know the personalities of their sidekicks. Lucky for us, many more writers are starting to do amp up their games when it comes to this trope, and I am here for it!

7) Destroying the Corrupt Hierarchy

In many dystopian and fantasy novels, there are often various power structures/groups that have preexisting tensions with one another. Through I went through a period of time when I got so sick and tired of this trope (the Divergent and Hunger Games years brought me to my wit’s end), the way this trope has been laid out in novels published within the past couple of years has made me love it again. Nobody likes to see the bad, powerful dudes and dudettes at the top of the food chain win, am I right?

8) Characters with Super Dope Powers

Fun fact about me: I literally cannot stand watching those Marvel superhero movies. I know – I probably just crushed some hearts with that little tidbit of info! However, I think part of this stems from the fact that the powers they have are never as cool as those so many literary fictional characters have. Some of my favorite novels of all time have characters that on the surface appear human, but actually have super wicked powers that I think could really come in handy. Like how cool would it be to be able to heal someone’s injury with the touch of your hand? Ughh… so jealous of my literary pals that can do just that!

….

I think that’s a wrap, you guys! I hope this list of tropes brings fond memories of some of your favorite books to the forefront of your mind. Did I miss a trope you love, or maybe you dislike some I had on my list? Leave me a comment below and let’s chat!

May the rest of this week’s reading be filled with some of your favorite tropes! 🙂

Fantasy, Young Adult

Henry and Violet by Michelle Zink

Series: Once Upon A Time #6

Pages: 368

Publisher: Kingswell Teen

Release Date: May 8, 2018

Genre(s): Fantasy/Contemporary?

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

“Henry and Violet finally have a chance to be alone. Granted, it’s on a school field trip, but with some clever planning and strategic maneuvering, they can orchestrate their own adventure in New York City, a fairytale land in its own right.

While they search for a treasured item that once belonged to Violet’s father, they are met with obstacles they could never have predicted. What they thought would be a romantic getaway ends up being a true test of their relationship.

Are they destined for a happily ever after – or a new story altogether?”

What Did I Think?

My drive for giving this book a read is that I absolutely fell in love with the Once Upon A Time TV show and was so sad that I never really knew what happened to Henry and Violet. While I wish I could say I loved this book to bits just as I did the show, I had quite the opposite reaction. I am just as bummed to be writing this as you are to be reading my not-so-happy thoughts – trust me on that one!

As I mentioned above, this novel is based on the Once Upon A Time TV show created by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. The vague plot of this show is that there is a lady who puts the entire town of Storybrooke, Maine under a spell so that all of the people in the town can’t remember who they are (aka different characters from both classic and more modern fairytales). Henry, a young boy who was adopted by said “evil” lady, Regina, goes on a mission to find his birth mother, Emma, and attempts to get her to believe that the town is cursed so that the spell can be broken. Somewhere along the way, Henry and Violet end up dating each other, but things kind of dissolve between the two in an unnatural way when Season 7 of the show premiered. Zink’s novel tries to fill in this gap in their relationship timeline in her novel, Henry and Violet.  

Before I jump into my “ehh” feelings about this read, I did want to mention a couple of highlights. It’s been years now since Once Upon A Time stopped airing, and to this day I have missed the characters so so much! This book gave me the opportunity to connect with some of my favorite fictional friends once more. I loved that Zink paid close attention to ensuring the dialogue between the characters and their actions matched nicely with what the creators of the TV show laid out to begin with. I found myself thinking time and time again, “Wow… she really embodied these characters!” and even laughed out loud a few times at some of their snarky comments I’ve missed so dearly. I also really enjoyed learning more about Violet, considering the show didn’t really touch on her personality very much. I think Zink’s perspective on Violet fit nicely with the little we know about her from her life in Camelot/Storybrooke, and seeing her character come into her own throughout the book made me like and appreciate her character that much more. If I had to pick one highlight, I think it would have to be that the story was very much that of a coming-of-age tale for both Henry and Violet, and I think their struggles to figure out their futures were both realistic and relatable to readers of all ages.

Moving onto the not-so-fun aspects of this book. One of the main issues I had was the dual perspectives. I don’t mind when some information is repeated when perspectives switch off, but literally the first page (and sometimes more!) of each perspective change was dedicated to repeating what was going on at the end of the previous chapter. I did not find this technique effective at all, mostly because there would be phrases that already told us how the non-narrating character was feeling before said character started spouting the same thing when they began narrating again. Similar to this point, I found that there were numerous moments where it would have been nice for Zink to show us how each character was feeling rather than just straight-up telling us. While these are the two main issues I had with the novel, I do have one additional (rather large!) complaint to add to the list: the ending was not satisfying at all. I won’t spoil it for you, but regardless of if you’ve seen the show or not, the ending just felt empty rather than leaving me feeling okay about how things resolve between Henry and Violet. It was almost like their words said one thing, but their actions screamed another, and I just felt like my purpose for reading the novel (aka seeing what happened to those two) was not fulfilled.  

While I did have some (relatively big) issues with Henry and Violet, I thoroughly enjoyed reuniting with these characters one last time and in literary form (my FAV form), no less! Just as the characters made me love them in the show, I couldn’t help but love them almost equally as much in this book. I wish the execution of the novel had been at a higher level and that the ending would have made me feel something other than neutrality/disappointment, but this read still had some fun components that kept me reading until the end.  

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you enjoyed Once Upon A Time (the TV show and/or the other books written about the TV show), there is a good chance you will enjoy this book, as there are many familiar faces that pop up that I am sure you’d love to be reunited with!

I also recommend this book to fans of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles and Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood if you’re super into fairytale retellings. I would also encourage readers of any coming-of-age tales to give Henry and Violet a read.

Bonus Content, Book Tags

The Folklore Book Tag!

Hello, bookish friends! I hope you have all had a fabulous week thus far. I’m a tad bit late to the game on this tag, but once I saw Erin’s @ Rin’s Reads’ version, my old-school Swiftie heart couldn’t resist the temptation of doing it myself! I mean, come on. Can anyone think of a better combination than TSwift and books? Yeah… I thought not 😉 I know you all must be anxiously awaiting to check out what I have goin’ on in this tag, so without further ado, let’s get this thing rollin’!

The Rules:

  • Tag the original creator: Ilsa @ A Whisper of Ink
  • Tag at least three people: If you haven’t done this tag yet and are as obsessed with this album as I am, I am officially tagging YOU!
  • Declare the rules and list of prompts in your post
  • Thank whoever tagged you and link to their post: thanks so much for the inspiration, Erin!

This award has to go to A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire by Jennifer L. Armentrout. No spoilers here, folks, but that ending was WILDDDD. Thank goodness April is only a few months away so I can get my hands on the next book in the series!

One of my more recent reads totally fits the bill: Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton. Our protagonist, Adam, suffers from schizophrenia, and while his narration is absolutely hilarious due to his matter-of-fact attitude, the moments where his fears of remaining in control of his hallucinations shined through were really sad (but eye-opening) to witness. The rollercoaster of emotions the audience goes on as they read the novel is one of the many ways in which this tale stands out from the crowd!

I could pick any number of books for this one because there are just so many out there, but I’d have to hand this one to Romanov by Nadine Brandes. I found the mysterious history of the real Romanov family so interesting to read about along with the magical elements Brandes included to provide explanations for why Alexei and Nastya’s bodies were found in a separate location than those of the other members of the family. The story was put together in such a clever way and Brandes’ writing was so beautiful to read that I can’t help but rave about Romanov every chance I get!

Hands down The Cellar by Natasha Preston. There was nothing inherently wrong with the book, but I read it when I was around 14 or 15 years old and now, at 21, I still have flashbacks of how creepy it was every time I see the cover. Needless to say, I rehomed the copy I bought a long time ago as to avoid any further stress to my psyche!

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas totally takes the cake for this one. I don’t typically cry for very long even if something that happens is super sad, but since I’ve followed the Throne of Glass series for so long and this book was the finale, it just hit me different. There were SO MANY moments in this almost 1,000-page beauty I got misty-eyed at, and for that reason, it’s gotta be the winner.

The overall message of Jenn Bennett’s Starry Eyes was without a doubt meant for people like me, who plan their lives away and leave little to chance. I could totally understand Zorie’s struggles with this and saw a lot of myself in her — both the good and the not-so-good. While both of us are sure to still plan some things out, I think both of our adventures have taught us that going with the flow won’t kill us and sometimes, the plans we don’t make turn out way better than those we could have possibly laid out for ourselves!

I recently made a whole post just on some of my favorite childhood reads, but the one that stands out the most to me is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I just love the “give and give freely” message it sends to readers of all ages, and I think it’s a lesson that’s so important for all of us to remember as we go through life!

I am 100% addicted to summery contemporary reads, so this is a super hard one for me to answer. The first book that came to mind was The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen, so we’ll go with that one! I loved the summery lake setting and the hilariously relatable characters that, as high schoolers, just wanted to live it up (even to their own detriment sometimes!). Whenever I pick up a summery contemporary, I expect it to bring a smile to my face, and The Rest of the Story kept me smiling from ear to ear throughout the entire novel!

Watching Camryn’s journey to work through her grief and find herself again in J. A. Redmerski’s The Edge of Never was one I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget. Being in your early to mid twenties sure does make life feel like a super tricky maze, but sometimes trying to navigate through it is part of the fun, even if you find it in the unlikeliest of places. Ughh… just writing about this book makes me want to do ANOTHER re-read!

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo — ’nuff said. I honestly don’t think I’ve been able to work through this one yet, and I read this book going on three years ago now! I’ve heard that there are plans in the works to have one more in the series that takes place quite a few years down the road from the other two, and I really hope this is the case because I MUST know what the Ketterdam gang is up (and if a certain two characters did end up sparking up a little romance after all!).

As I was thinking up an answer to this question, I realized how many amazing female characters there are in YA and it made my heart so happy! One of my favorites is Katherine from Virginia Boecker’s An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason. She is just such a dynamic character — on one hand, she’s content enjoying her role in Shakespeare’s upcoming play, but on the other, she’s secretly having to come up with a plan to murder the queen. Seeing both sides to Katherine’s character and watching her true, witty and hilarious personality shine through from time to time was just a blast to watch play out. I so wish there was a sequel!

I hardly ever read books that I would consider “haunting,” but I do remember reading Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick many years ago and Britt’s story has remained ingrained in my brain ever since. Getting stuck in a snowstorm, being taken hostage, attempting to escape alive… yeah, I’d say that qualifies as haunting, just in a non-ghostly way!

Mackenzi Lee’s The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy totally fits the bill for this one! Well, the entire Montague Siblings series does, basically, but that’s because these books are so much fun to read! I absolutely adore Lee’s writing style, the quirkiness of the characters, and how any time I open one of these books, I’m completely captivated and feel an overwhelming sense of adventure. Since the release date for the final book keeps getting pushed back, I am yearning hardcore right now for more of these fantastic characters!

I’ve always said that animals are so much better than humans, and I guess this holds true for fictional animals as well because I would totally lay my life down for Bambi the snake from Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Dark Elements series. Not only is she totally dope, but it’s clear that he people love her very much and after a certain EVENT happened in one of the books, I can’t deal with Bambi not getting the chance to live a long, happy life.

I’m so sad to even be typing this, but The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. It’s one of only a handful of books I wasn’t able to finish, and I was so upset because the synopsis was right up my alley. I may try to give it another shot in the future, but that possibility looks grim as of the moment.

That’s it for the Folklore Book Tag! I absolutely love putting together these types of tags because 1) I love music and 2) they make me think super hard about all the books I’ve read so I pick the best ones I can for each question! Agree/disagree with some of my picks, or maybe you’ve done this tag yourself? Leave me a comment below and let’s chat! Drop me links to your versions, as well – I always loving seeing your answers! Until next week, bookish buddies!

May your weekend be full of fun reading with TSwizzle providing a relaxing ambiance in the background 🙂

Fantasy, New Adult/Adult

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Pages: 626

Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #2

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Release Date: May 3, 2016

Genre(s): Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

***NOTE: If you have not read the first book in the ACOTAR series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, please stop reading this review! You will be spoiled and this series is so good that you totally don’t want that!***

Goodreads Synopsis

“Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas’s masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.”

What Did I Think?

.It’s rare that I get chills when I read a book the first time. It’s near impossible for the same work of literature to accomplishing this TWICE, but A Court of Mist and Fury was that book for me. I honestly think I could read it a million times and still be moved by its awesomeness!

Before jumping into the fun of this book, let’s recap the ending of the first book in the series, A Court of Thorns and Roses. Amarantha is FINALLY long gone (may she NOT rest in peace), and though Feyre ended up dead at her hands in the process of freeing Tamlin and breaking the curse, each of the High Lords of the various courts brought her back to life, but in High Fae form. Tamlin and Feyre return home at the very end of the book, but there seems to be a lot of tension between them because of Tamlin’s lack of a backbone and Feyre’s need for independence. And oh, yeah. Did I mention the very mysterious yet eerily handsome High Lord of the Night Court brokered a deal with Feyre, requiring her to stay with him at his home a week out of every month? Ahh… a very important detail to remember as we jump into my through on this beauty! The reader is left with the vibe that war is still on the horizon, and Feyre’s going to have to figure out where her loyalties lie to save those she cares about most.

Anndddd that brings me to my thoughts on A Court of Mist and Fury. While I was super impressed with the worldbuilding in ACOTAR, it was even better in this book! The first book stayed mostly to the human realm, Spring Court, and Under the Mountain, and it left me wanting to explore more of what Prythian. Boy did Maas deliver on that one! I had so much fun getting to take a closer look at more of the fae courts in this book, as well as seeing how each of them were adjusting to life post-Amarantha’s reign. With so much of this world left to sift through, I’m really looking forward to seeing how Maas’ worldbuilding continues to evolve. I hope it involves visiting more courts because I am here for it (though I think the Night Court may have stolen my heart forever!).

I honestly cannot express how much I loved watching Feyre’s character grow in this book. After her experiences Under the Mountain, it comes as no shock that she felt completely insecure in her own skin and wasn’t happy with who she was made to be. Not only that, but she now has to come to terms with the fact that she is now immortal while still having mortal thoughts and feelings. I absolutely loved the way Maas portrays Feyre’s ways of coping in this book following the aftermath of the trauma she experiences. There are moments of vulnerability that broke my heart, but other moments where Feyre’s independent nature comes to the forefront that kept me rooting for her to find her own sense of happiness in the world. In just 600 short pages, Feyre “Cursebreaker” Archeron grew leaps, bounds, and then some, and I can’t wait to see more of this fast-moving yet oh-so-believable character development in the next book in the series.

Moving right along to my Fae Baes: Rhysand and his entire Inner Circle. In short, I LOVED their characters with literally every ounce of my being. Maas crushed giving each of them their own unique backstories, and I loved learning how Cassian, Azriel, Mor, Amren, and Rhys all ended up knowing each other. Sometimes friends become your family, and though they’re hella dysfunctional at times, I loved the fact that these guys were always there for each other through thick and thin. I am HYPEEEE to see what this gang gets up to in the next book in the series because when the Rhys and the Inner Circle are in the house, it’s bound to be a good time!

In case you were wondering, yes, Tamlin and Lucian are still doing their thing in this book, but my love for Rhysand and his crew is just much stronger than what I have for the Spring Court buds. You guys will all just have to read the book and pick your team, but #sorrynotsorry for being super vague about what these two are getting up to in the Spring Court!  

A Court of Mist and Fury had everything I wanted to see in this second book and more, and my expectations were super high to begin with! “Second Book Slump” is a real thing, but there wasn’t one piece of this book that I wasn’t obsessed with. The characters continued to grow, but did so in a way that felt very real, and the plotline was paced so nicely with plot twists thrown in that caught me off guard time and time again. The second I set A Court of Mist and Fury down, I immediately began the next book because that ending was EVERYTHING! ACOMAF was so amazeballs that I don’t even know how Maas can make this third book any better, but I am so ready to find out what tricks she has up her sleeve next!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

*** This book contains some mature elements (romance and violence) that may not be suitable for younger readers. I would only recommend this to readers ages 17+***

As obvious as this may be, I highly recommend you continue reading the ACOTAR series if you loved the first book as much as I did! You ain’t seen nothin’ yet until you’ve read ACOMAF, trust me!

Bonus Content, More Bookish Fun!

#LittleFreeTips: Bookish Photography

Hello, bookish friends, and welcome back to the blog! This week’s post is actually something I’ve never done before: We’ve got a guest blogger in the house, woot woot! My very dear and wildly talented bookish friend, Nicole (aka @little_free_librarian over on Insta) is here to share some of her amazeballs bookstagram photography tips with you today! Let’s commence with passing over the honorary torch to her, shall we?

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Bookstagram…. Ya’know, Instagram but for books? Crazy right! But there’s this whole entire community out there loving, hating, reviewing, and photographing books on Instagram. 

The other day in a class, we had one of those ever lovely and oh-so-popular ice breakers that we bookish folk love so much, and that ice-breaker was to describe something that you know a lot about. People were sharing about cooking the perfect baked alaska or bungee jumping and explaining the inner mechanics of the ‘chute deploying… I’m a librarian, I read for my fun and for work. I know very little beyond books. What was I supposed to talk about? 

But then, of course, that answer is books. The answer is always books. I’m not a professional photographer by any means (though I did photograph that one wedding one time… ), and I’m only so-so popular in the booksta community, but I do love a good flat-lay. So that’s what I shared, and people were enthralled! “What’s bookstagram?” “That’s a thing!?” “Are there accounts for Manga?” and the answer is yes and yes and yes.

A flat-lay is a photographer and marketing term which means to take a photo from directly over top of an item, giving the viewer a birds-eye view. The Nikon School says that flat-lay photography has never been more popular than it is right now. And for good reason… Just look at this flat-lay magic!

My favorite props are twinkle lights, cute junk, and everyday items. I burn that candle, I use that candle, and the rest? Mostly stuff you can find at your local craft store, the dollar section at Target, or the dollar store! And my background is usually just a plain white canvas I bought at Walmart! Some people use blankets, some people use other books – a background can be anything that sparks joy for you! I’m currently just a fan of the clean lines of a canvas. 

Are you trying to get a good flat-lay shot of your e-reader? Here’s a fun tip… photoshop that cover on! It’s way easier than dealing with your reflection in the screen. Here’s a before and after of an image I superimposed the cover onto using Canva (Canva is my best friend)

Don’t be afraid of layers and textures! I use blankets and sweaters to add a good texture to my photos. I like the fuzzy, cozy feel that it adds to the photo. 

Your props, whether candles, blankets, or what have you, will help you curate your feed (if that’s something that you’re into). I try to keep at least one prop consistent in my top 9 photos – unless I veer away from my flat-lay, which even I do sometimes – to keep the feed consistent and welcoming. Your top 9 photos are your first impression for new viewers or would-be-followers, so cater to that first impression – you only get to make it once! But don’t stifle your own creativity, either. I am constantly changing my own editing and themes! This is a creative outlet. Have fun. Enjoy it. Don’t make it feel like work. 

Did you try your hand and find… “Hey. None of my pictures look anything like hers!” Well, welcome to bookstagram where we value creativity and the exchange of ideas. No two people’s flat-lays will look identical.

The photos on booksta are always stellar… Plus of course we love the book reviews. My TBR list has grown exponentially since I’ve joined this community… But that’s exactly what this is first and foremost. This is a community, and I’ve met some very good and fun people through this app. Here are two of my booksta bffs who are wildly talented beautiful people who have vastly different styles to me and to each other! 

Meet my friends @inkedhemlock (MJ) and @kaylas.pages.and.places (Kayla)

MJ is like me in the sense that she loves her props! You can see them scattered around the photo, but the difference is in her staging and editing. MJ’s photos are much moodier and more “dark-academia-vibey” than my own and check out that gorgeous depth she creates by placing her books spine-up. A flat-lay doesn’t have to appear flat. We love depth! You can create this by putting your books on a platform to make them higher than the rest of your photos or showing them spine up like MJ does. Or if you have floral, try holding it in front of the lens (hand off camera) and click to focus on the image below. It will create a nice floral blur and provide depth to your photo. 

Kayla’s own flat-lay is one of my favorite techniques. You’ll see a lot of bookstagrammers including their legs to create a special detail shot! I have not perfected this technique, but Kayla’s is so chic and crisp. I love the use of the white linen as the backdrop and the contrast with the dark coffee. Where MJ is moody and I am dreamy, Kayla is modern and utilizes vibrant colors to her advantage. You can even see the pull of oranges through the photo with her sweater and the cover of the book. 

Ultimately, the best flat-lay is the one you enjoyed making! Bookstagram is fun and flat-lays are just one of many book photography techniques. Explore, find what you like, and have fun. I hope to see you around the ‘gram soon. 

You can always reach me at @little_free_librarian. Let’s be friends!

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Thank you so much for sharing some of your super fun bookish photography tips with us today, Nicole! I for one am going to be trying some of these out myself on my own bookstragram feed, and so should all of you!

Until next week, bookish peeps! May your weekend be filled with trying out all these super fun bookstagram photography tips. I know mine will be 🙂

Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody

Pages: 432

Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: May 14, 2019

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis

“Ryn has one unread text message on her phone. And it’s been there for almost a year.

She hasn’t tried to read it. She can’t. She won’t. Because that one message is the last thing her best friend ever said to her before she died.

But as Ryn finds herself trapped in the Denver International Airport on New Year’s Eve thanks to a never-ending blizzard on the one-year anniversary of her best friend’s death, fate literally runs into her.

And his name is Xander.

When the two accidentally swap phones, Ryn and Xander are thrust into the chaos of an unforgettable all-night adventure, filled with charming and mysterious strangers, a secret New Year’s Eve bash, and a possible Illuminati conspiracy hidden within the Denver airport. But as the bizarre night continues, all Ryn can think about is that one unread text message. It follows her wherever she goes, because Ryn can’t get her brilliantly wild and free-spirited best friend out of her head.

Ryn can’t move on.

But tonight, for the first time ever, she’s trying. And maybe that’s a start.

As moving as it is funny, The Chaos of Standing Still is a heartwarming story about the earth-shattering challenges life throws at us—and the unexpected strangers who help us along the way.”

What Did I Think?

I REALLY wanted to like this book… like, so bad. Unfortunately, it just didn’t quite live up to the expectations I had for it.

The overall concept of The Chaos of Standing Still was of the variety that I couldn’t imagine myself NOT liking, and this hypothesis held true. I mean, come on! Who doesn’t love unexpected detours, finding friends in the strangest of places, and characters that have a lot of growing to do? I haven’t spent much time in an airport, but I was happy to see that the Denver airport has all kinds of bells and whistles, considering that was the primary setting of the novel. I found that I really enjoyed the wintery blizzard, “finding love/friendship while stranded in the airport” concept Brody uses here as a whole. I also really enjoyed all of the different types of people Ryn encounters in her travels, as one would in an actual airport. I think this added a more realistic competent to a not-super-realistic, “insta-love” story line, though I did enjoy it, nonetheless! As a whole, I found the overall concept and plotline of the novel stands alone as being quite original and intriguing.

Moving right along to our protagonist, Kathryn “Ryn Ryn” Gilbert. From the very beginning of the novel, the animosity and bitterness stemming from her inability to fully grieve her friend’s death is palpable, and, as one would expect, unpleasant to the reader’s senses. HOWEVER, as Ryn’s story went on, I started to warm up to her, but it just wasn’t quite enough to actually feel invested in her journey/growth as a character as she learns to cope with the loss of her best friend. I tried (and epically failed) to put myself in her shoes with the hopes of trying to understand her motives and emotions on a more personal level, but I couldn’t quite manage it. This ended up being further exacerbated when Ryn was not super nice to Xander, even when he was bending over backwards to try and make her happy. On the flipside, I did find myself enjoying the “before” chapters where the reader sees more of Ryn’s personality and the beautiful friendship she had with Lottie. I think this made my sympathetic button work (FINALLY!), and also allowed me to appreciate the growth Ryn has undergone since the beginning of the novel by its end. I always find it difficult to enjoy a novel to its fullest when I’m not 100 percent supportive of the protagonist, and unfortunately, Ryn and I just couldn’t manage to mesh for the vast majority of the novel.

Xander ended up being one of the saving graces of The Chaos of Standing Still for me! Even though he had his own issues to work though, he still managed to find joy in something as ordinary as an airport. I loved his sense of humor that I firmly believe would make even the grumpiest of people crack a grin. Though there were moments where his immaturity became evident (understandable and relatable, given that he is a teenager himself!), his ability to lighten Ryn’s mood and bring a little piece of sunshine to the story kept me reading until the end.   

We’re all about honesty here, so I can’t sign off of this review without explaining a few of the reasons why this book didn’t tick off all of my boxes. The biggest issue I had with The Chaos of Standing Still was that there were so many loose ends that I felt needed tying up that just weren’t. There were so many moving parts in the novel (many of which I found rather clever/entertaining!), but they seemed to just abruptly ended with no further explanation as to why. The other large issue is that the setting is essentially completely stagnant: THEY NEVER LEFT THE AIRPORT! While maybe I should have been expecting this based on the synopsis, I thought for sure that at some point, they’d have to get out of the Denver airport. My issue with a stationary setting for 400+ pages is definitely a personal pet peeve, as it just didn’t work for my adventure/escape-seeking brain.

While The Chaos of Standing Still wasn’t my favorite read of all time, there were still aspects that motivated me to read this tale until the end. The misfit characters Brody incorporates into the story line were so much fun to read about, and there were even moments when I wanted to join in on their shenanigans. Xander had the patience of a saint, and I lived for the moments where his humor managed to bring a little joy to Ryn’s grief-stricken face. As always with these reviews, they are simply just my opinions, and just because I wasn’t in love with The Chaos of Standing Still doesn’t mean YOU won’t be!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you enjoy contemporary reads that center on a main character’s journey of coping with grief and learning to live again, The Chaos of Standing Still may just be your next great read!

I would also recommend this book to fans of Kasie West, Jenn Bennett, and Emery Lord.

Monthly Reading Recaps

Monthly Reading Recap: February 2021

Happiest of weekends to you, bookish loves! We have officially reached the end of the shortest month of the year, but it looks like this didn’t impede on my reading progress (or enjoyment!) at all. I had the opportunity to re-read the last bit of one of my favorite series of all time, and read a book that I never would have picked for myself but was so moving and discusses an unbelievably important topic. Let’s jump into the juicy details, shall we?

What I Read This Month

Let’s Break It Down

New Books Read: 1

New Novellas Read: 0

Book Re-Reads: 3

Novella Re-Reads: 0

Monthly Total: 4

Average Rating of this Month’s Reading: 4.75 stars

Favorite Read of the Month: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Most Surprising/Impressive Read of the Month: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Least Favorite Read of the Month: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Ratings

I was obsessed with A Court of Mist and Fury the first time I read it, but I think I might have just loved it even more when I gave it a re-read. All of my #Feysand ramblings coming soon in my review, but until then, just give this series a read already, won’t you?

You may have gasped when you saw that this was my least favorite read of the month, but as you can see, that’s really not saying much since I still gave it four stars. When I first read A Court of Wings and Ruin, I was completely in awe of it, and I still am. It just isn’t my favorite book in the whole series, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t amazeballs. Such a good (basically?) ending to Feyre and Rhysand’s storyline!


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Reading this tiny little novella was the perfect way to wrap up my ACOTAR series re-read. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to give it four or five stars, but went with five because I honestly just had so much fun reading it. One of my favorite things about A Court of Frost and Starlight is that it’s told from a bunch of different perspectives. So excited to jump into A Court of Silver Flames (hopefully) next month!

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I am currently taking a course called Headline Literature, and this was our first read of the semester. It probably won’t shock you to know that I would not have picked this book up on my own to read for fun. However, I am so glad it was on the reading list for this class because it was stunningly heartbreaking and oh-so-important. Stevenson is a lawyer, but his writing was so poetic and moving from the beginning of Just Mercy until the end. If you’re ever looking for a book that illustrates the injustices of the United States criminal justice system that doesn’t bore you with straight facts, this is the book for you.

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Another month of absolutely fabulous reading is in the books! I started back to school this month and figured my pace would slow a little bit, but I am so proud of myself for making the time to read for fun. Here’s to hoping this trend continues for the rest of the year and beyond! What was your favorite read of the month?

May your March reading be equally if not more prosperous than February’s! 🙂