Bonus Content, Let's Talk Books!

Let’s Talk Books: Book-to-Film (and TV!) Adaptations

Hello, bookish friends, and welcome back to the blog! As you can tell from the title of this post, I am going to be sharing my thoughts on books that are turned into movies and/or TV shows. I have found that many readers have very strong feelings about these, and while I’d like to say I’m not one of those people, I do have some pretty fierce opinions myself. Let’s jump right into those, shall we?

First and foremost, I am definitely that person who has to read the book before seeing the adaptation, not the other way around. While this does make me more biased when watching the film (especially if I fell in love with the book first), I’m a firm believer in appreciating the original work at its source before exploring the various branch-offs of said work. I have plenty of friends who prefer to read the book only after they’ve seen the adaptation, and that’s cool, too, but since I HATE spoilers, this approach has just never worked for me!

On to the question you’re probably all thinking: What, in my opinion, constitutes a good book-to-film/TV adaptation? The avid reader in me says that the film should stay completely true to the book, and while I totally wish this were possible, it’s extremely difficult to include all 400+ pages of a book into a 2 hour movie or even a season or two of a TV show. Because of this, I would say that a solid adaptation should include some of the most important lines and plot points of a novel, and that the acting of the cast stay true to the personalities, attitudes, behaviors, etc. of the characters as written in the book to the best of their ability. Part of me doesn’t necessarily even care (well… okay. Sometimes I do in very limited cases!) if the characters look the way I pictured them in my mind while reading, as long as the way the characters are represented in the book are very similar to the way the actor portrays them on-screen.

There are very few things that I can think of that make me just straight-up not like an adaptation. The first is that the plot of the movie is changed drastically and is essentially completely different from the book. In my brain, I can’t even consider that kind of film an adaptation because the movie turns into a completely separate entity without much overlap with the book. While sometimes I can overlook this, I also don’t love it when there are characters in a book that never show up in a movie. Like with the plot, this is just a big inconsistency that makes the movie feel completely separate from the book itself.

Overall, I think my expectations for film/TV adaptations of novels are relatively reasonable, as many of those I have seen, I’ve really liked! Speaking of those I’ve seen… let’s end this thing with just a few of my own favorites and not-so-favorites!

My Favorites

My Not-So-Favorites

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Well, folks, I think that’s a wrap on my ramblings about book-to-film/TV adaptations! I know it can be hard to think objectively about these, especially when it’s one of your favorite books. However, I do think it’s pretty awesome that so many producers are willing to take on such a daunting task these days, so mega props to them for all their efforts!

May the rest of your week be filled with lots of fabulous reads, and thanks for tuning into this week’s bonus content post! 😊

Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett

Amazon.com: Chasing Lucky (9781534425170): Bennett, Jenn: Books

Pages: 406

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: November 10, 2020

Genre(s): Contemporary Romnace

Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis

“Budding photographer Josie Saint-Martin has spent half her life with her single mother, moving from city to city. When they return to her historical New England hometown years later to run the family bookstore, Josie knows it’s not forever. Her dreams are on the opposite coast, and she has a plan to get there.

What she doesn’t plan for is a run-in with the town bad boy, Lucky Karras. Outsider, rebel…and her former childhood best friend. Lucky makes it clear he wants nothing to do with the newly returned Josie. But everything changes after a disastrous pool party, and a poorly executed act of revenge lands Josie in some big-time trouble—with Lucky unexpectedly taking the blame.

Determined to understand why Lucky was so quick to cover for her, Josie discovers that both of them have changed, and that the good boy she once knew now has a dark sense of humor and a smile that makes her heart race. And maybe, just maybe, he’s not quite the brooding bad boy everyone thinks he is…”

What Did I Think?

For those of you who have been following my blog and/or bookstagram for awhile now, you all know all about how much of an auto-buy author Jenn Bennett has become for me. As soon as I saw that Chasing Lucky was releasing, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on another one of her contemporary romances. Let me be the first to say that I REALLY wanted to love this book, but it unfortunately fell flat.

Let’s start with the overall concept and plotline. When I first read the synopsis, I was so excited to jump into a book that I thought was going to be friends-to-lovers and had a strong grounding in the workings of family dynamic. However, my expectations from the summary on the back did not align with the content of the actual book as I was reading, so that was where my confusion (and frustration!) kind of started. However, there were some elements that I really enjoyed, such as appearances from Bean the Magic Pup and the sense of adventure I felt while reading. I also found the pacing of the plot to be spot on throughout the book and appreciated the fact that for the most part, each plot point smoothly transitioned into the next. There were also some elements of the book that I have found to be very distracting in a bad way, specifically those regarding the past of the protagonist’s mother and how some of that comes rushing back to the forefront of the story every five minutes. Overall, I found to be the overall concept to be rather mehh, but the pacing of said plot to be right on the money.

The female lead, Josie, was really something else and not at all what I was expecting in some really great ways. I loved how she was immediately established as such a passionate photographer. I’ve never been a great one myself, so seeing the world throgh her creative lens was so much fun. I also think that her naivite that shone through her character as the novel progressed was very fitting for her age, even when at some points I wanted to shake her a bit. Seeing her character mature over the course of the novel was also great – love some good character development, particularly in younger protagonists! While not my favorite main character of all time, I did think Josie’s characterization made sense in the contect of the novel’s plot.

Lucky was a tough pass for me. I appreciated his dry sense of humor and love of animals, but I wasn’t a huge fan of how selfless he was. While this may seem like a great trait to have, I felt like he was just using it to get what he wanted and make other people feel bad about their actions. As I was reading, I enjoyed his banter and adventurous nature, but when I had some time to sit and think, there were just some things that rubbed me the wrong way and made me not love him as much as I thought I did in the moment. My goal whenever I am reading a book with a male love interest is to fall in love with the character myself, and I felt far from that about Lucky, unfortunately.

Overall, I though Chasing Lucky was a cute and sweet summertime contemporary read. The setting was so unique and quirky, and I thoroughly enjoyed all the moving parts that somehow all ended up working together. Even though I think this book was far from Bennett’s best, it was a quick and fluffy read that did manage to bring an occasional smile to my face.

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

Fans of Talia Hibbert, Sarah Dessen, and Samantha Young would likely fall in love with Jenn Bennett’s Chasing Lucky. And, if you’re already a die-hard Jenn Bennett fan (like me!), grab a copy of this bad boy!

Bonus Content, Book Tags

Mid-Year Freak Out Book Tag: 2021 Edition

Welcome back to the blog, bookish friends! I can’t believe it is already the middle of July. It kind of feels like this year just started, but we are already over halfway to 2022. I did the Mid-Year Freak Out Book Tag last year, and I had such an awesome time reflecting on my progress that I decided to do it again this year! Without further ado, let’s dive right into all this fun:

1) Best book you’ve read so far in 2021

Amazon.com: Hill Women: Finding Family and a Way Forward in the Appalachian  Mountains (9781984818935): Chambers, Cassie: Books

2) Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2021

Amazon.com: Namesake: A Novel (Fable, 2) (9781250254399): Young, Adrienne:  Books

3) New release you haven’t read yet but want to

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

4) Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

The Nobleman's Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks (Montague Siblings, #3)
Fun Fact: This was the answer to last year’s most anticipated release question, but the publication date keeps getting pushed back. 2021 is the YEAR, baby! 🙂

5) Biggest disappointment

Amazon.com: The Chaos of Standing Still (9781481499194): Brody, Jessica:  Books

6) Biggest surprise

Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton

7) Favorite new author (debut or new to you)

Amazon.com: Romanov (9780785217244): Brandes, Nadine: Books

8) Newest fictional crush

Much Ado About You - Kindle edition by Young, Samantha. Literature &  Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.
We all need to find ourselves a freaking adorable farmer BF like Roane, am I right?

9) Newest favorite character

A Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns and Roses, 5): Maas, Sarah J.:  9781681196282: Amazon.com: Books
Gwyn and Amelia give me LIFE so they are both my newest favorite characters!

10) A book that made you cry

Amazon.com: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (9780812984965):  Stevenson, Bryan: Books

11) A book that made you happy

Amazon.com: Get a Life, Chloe Brown: A Novel (The Brown Sisters Book 1)  eBook: Hibbert, Talia: Kindle Store

12) The most beautiful book you’ve bought or received so far this year

The Crown of Gilded Bones (Blood And Ash Series): Armentrout, Jennifer L.:  9781952457258: Amazon.com: Books

13) A book/books you need to read by the end of the year

BONUS: I am exactly halfway to my reading goal for the year – YAYY!

Thank you all so much for tuning in for this super fun book tag! As the saying goes, there are so many books and so little time, but I’m super happy with the progress I have made this year in terms of number (and quality!) of books read. If you haven’t done this tag, I am officially tagging YOU!

Until next time 🙂

Sarah

Series Reviews, Young Adult

Series Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Individual Book Ratings

  • The Assassin’s Blade: 5/5 stars
  • Throne of Glass: 5/5 stars
  • Crown of Midnight: 4/5 stars
  • Heir of Fire: 5/5 stars
  • Queen of Shadows: 5/5 stars
  • Empire of Storms: 5/5 stars
  • Tower of Dawn: 5/5 stars
  • Kingdom of Ash: 5/5 stars

What Did I Think?

As you all can clearly see, I am completely obsessed with the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas! Trust me when I say this series was completely worth the hype – so much so that me, a person who rarely re-reads books, has read this series at least twice, if not three times now in its entirety!

Let’s talk about all the worldbuilding that had to go into this series to make it as great as it truly is, shall we? One of the things I loved so much about the Throne of Glass series is that the reader is constantly being taken to various fantastical locations – each of which Maas spends lots of time detailing for us so we, as readers, can imagine exactly what these places look like in our minds. I greatly appreciated that so much time was devoted to these descriptions, and I don’t think I ever found myself tiring of them.

If you don’t appreciate anything else in this series, you should at least give props to Sarah for her ability to create such complex, multidimensional characters that eventually steal your heart, regardless of how much you resist it at first. Hardly any characters truly were exactly who they were on the surface – they had so much more to give than what the readers first see from them. These characters continue to shed layer after layer of themselves as they moved through the series, and seeing this process makes our “indestructible” walls around our hearts melt a little at a time as we begin to understand, sympathize, and relate to these fictional beings that feel oh so real.   

I wholeheartedly believe that Throne of Glass is one of those series that will go down in history as a true masterpiece of young adult fantasy novels. Oh yeah. I mean right up there with Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and the Shadowhunters Chronicles – it’s seriously THAT GOOD.

Is This Series For You?

If you’re a sucker for a mature fantasy novel that is so intricate and action-packed that it takes a whole lotta brain power to roll through, Throne of Glass is definitely up your alley!

Calling all the magical Fae-lovers of the world: READ. THIS. SERIES. I am convinced Sarah J. Maas is the QUEEN of Fae writers, so you definitely do not want to miss out on her books if this is your cup of tea!  

Finally, anyone who loves kick-butt female (and male!) leads, characters that you want to hate but fall in love with instead, and books that have the capability of emotionally destroying you a million times over, Throne of Glass was written just for you, my friends!   

Words of Advice?

Do NOT let the size of this series intimidate you, you guys! I know it consists of eight 400+ page books, but it’s so addictive that each book really does fly by. In fact, if you’re anything like me, you will be wishing there were more books in the series when all is said and done!

I would also highly recommend that you start the series by reading The Assassin’s Blade before you jump into Throne of Glass. By doing this, you will have some additional details about Celaena and those she encounters in her travels prior to her enslavement in Endovier, which is where the first official book in the series picks up.  

Lastly, JUST READ IT, YOU GUYS! I promise you won’t regret it one bit! 😊

A Few Updates, Bonus Content

I Haven’t Posted Since April… Here’s What I’ve Been Doing!

Hello, bookish friends! Long time, no see! I know that I’ve dedicated this blog to all things books, but since I haven’t posted in so long, I wanted to update you all on what I’ve been getting into. I’m also writing this piece just kind of for myself as a way to reflect on all that I have managed to accomplish over the past few months. Sometimes, we all get the feeling that maybe we aren’t doing as much as we could be until we really think back on what we actually have done, so in a way, this little post is going to serve as some good ol’ fashioned therapy. Here goes nothin’!

1) Survived My Final Semester of College

I honestly thought everyone was joking about Senioritis being a thing, but let me tell you: It is the real deal, and my final semester of college, I felt it hardcore. In addition to continuing to adjust to pandemic life, I was trying to stay on top of my studies, work three jobs, and start prepping for post-graduation life. There were days during this time when I honestly couldn’t wait for college to end enough, and I took the biggest sigh of relief when final grades were entered and I was officially home free.

2) Graduated – YAYY!

It wasn’t until I finally walked across that stage on May 29th of this year that I felt this great sense of pride wash over me. Four years, three jobs, a truckload of memories, and so much more is what came out of my time at Roanoke, and to see that chapter close was both a huge relief and a little sad. I am so proud to be an alum of Roanoke College, and though it was a crazy busy four years I couldn’t be happier with the outcome of all that hard work.

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3) Participated in New York University’s Summer Publishing Institute

For the month of June, I had the opportunity to attend the Summer Publishing Institute (virutally!) through New York University. This intensive was three weeks long, and during that time, we got to hear from tons of amazing publishing professionals about a variety of topics surrounding magazine publishing, digital media, and book publishing. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget, and I learned so much about the industry. I will be posting a recap of my experience in the very near future, so please do stay tuned for that in the coming weeks!

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4) Started Reading for Fun Again

During my final year of college, I was so swamped with schoolwork that I really didn’t have much time to sit down and read books for fun, much less create content for my bookstagram and blog. But, as soon as I turned in my final projects in May, I’ve been reading as much as I can for enjoyment. I don’t think I realized that I had kind of fallen out of love with reading until I got to pick up a book from my very own bookshelves, sit back, and just soak it in without an assignment being attached to it. Needless to say that while I’ve made a small dent in my TBR, it keeps on growing as more amazing books are released this year

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5) Jumped Back Into Blog Post Writing (A Tiny Bit!)

Last but not least, my creative juices are finally flowing back again and I have begun creating new blog content – YAYY! It has been a slow process, but I hope to get back on my normal, twice a week posting schedule shortly. I have already read so many amazing books that I can’t wait to review for all of you, plus began creating some super fun bonus content posts!

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Thank you all so much for giving this post a read! I’m so excited to be getting closer to posting on a regular schedule again, and I can’t wait for you all to see what is in store.

<3,

Sarah

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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.