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?

***

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!

***

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! 🙂

Bonus Content, Listologies Galore!

For Shame: Books on My Shelves I Haven’t Read Yet

Hello, bookish friends, and welcome back to the very first edition of “let’s shame the book blogger!” Ha, just kidding, but maybe not? For this week’s post, I thought I’d take a gander at all of my bookshelves and make a list of all the books I own but haven’t yet read. Then, at the end of 2021, I would see how much progress I’ve made on getting these books read. I love seeing these kinds of posts on other blogs and thought I’d jump on the bandwagon myself this year! Let’s get started, shall we?

  • The Queen’s Resistance by Rebecca Ross
  • The Heir by Kiera Cass
  • Everless by Sara Holland
  • Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian
  • Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine
  • Rook by Sharon Cameron
  • Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz
  • An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley
  • Lovely War by Julie Berry
  • The Queen’s Handmaid by Tracy L. Higley
  • Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally
  • Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally
  • Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally
  • Meant To Be Broken by Brandy Woods Snow
  • Illuminated by Erica Orloff
  • How Many Letters Are in Goodbye by Yvonne Cassidy
  • Essential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti
  • The Book of Summers by Emylia Hall
  • Menagerie by Rachel Vincent
  • Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
  • The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige
  • Reflection by Elizabeth Lim
  • Red’s Untold Story by Wendy Toliver
  • 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
  • Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
  • The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai
  • Only a Breath Apart by Katie McGarry
  • Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
  • Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi
  • The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima
  • Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
  • One Small Thing by Erin Watt
  • Courting Darkness by Robin LeFevers
  • Tempest and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce
  • Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith
  • The Memory of Light by Francisco Z. Stork
  • Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan
  • The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid
  • Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
  • Les Misérables (shortened version!) by Hugo Reimann
  • Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire
  • The Rose Society by Marie Lu
  • Proxy by Alexander London
  • The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry
  • Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett
  • 99 Days by Katie Cotugno
  • The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
  • Open Road Sumer by Emery Lord
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord
  • Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare
  • Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare et al.
  • The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare et al.
  • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
  • A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir
  • The Darkest Legacy by Alexandra Bracken
  • Once and For All by Sarah Dessen
  • The Natural History of Us by Rachel Harris
  • The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead
  • Till Death by Jennifer L. Armentrout
  • See Me by Nicholas Sparks
  • Promise to Return by Elizabeth Byler Younts
  • Reason to Breathe by Rebecca Donovan
  • The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks
  • The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks
  • The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks
  • Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Christmas at Harmony Harbor by Debbie Mason
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
  • Hold Me Closer by David Levithan
  • Replica by Lauren Oliver
  • A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer
  • Fable by Adrienne Young
  • Much Ado About You by Samantha Young
  • It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne
  • These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
  • Lore by Alexandra Bracken
  • Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
  • New Moon by Stephanie Meyer

Holy moly, you guys! This list was honestly way more extensive than I thought it was going to be. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, considering I had such a slow year of reading last year (and kind of a big year for purchasing new books), but DANG. How many books are on your TBR for the year?

Well, looks like I ought to sign off of here and get to reading then! Happy Weekend, and may it be filled with putting a dent in your very own TBRs! 😊  

Historical Fiction, Young Adult

Romanov by Nadine Brandes

Pages: 337

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: May 7, 2019

Genre(s): Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them, and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of saving herself and her family are to either release the spell and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya has only dabbled in magic, but it doesn’t frighten her half as much as her growing attraction to Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her.

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other.”

What Did I Think?

My reading Romanov could quite easily be equated to going on a blind date – I bought the book for the cover and my knowledge of any kind of Russian history is slim-pickens. But you know what? I think it was probably the best date I have every been on in my entire life by far, so SCORE!

For those of you who have followed me for a while now, it probably comes as no shock to you that going into this book, I knew absolutely nothing about the mysterious circumstances surrounding the execution of the real Romanov family in 1918. And to be honest, I’m so glad I was completely clueless, as my lack of knowledge allowed me to just completely immerse myself san background noise in an absolutely beautiful story that I don’t ever foresee myself forgetting.

The overall concept of Romanov was so intriguing to me – the more I read, the more I fell in love with this twisted tale of both true events and the magical elements Brandes incorporates to fill in some of the blanks the history books can’t seem to fill in. I greatly appreciated the fact that the horrific living conditions of the Romanov family weren’t overly romanticized, which allowed me to sympathize with their struggles but also admire the strong bond this family had with one another that much more. It comes as no surprise that Romanov was a rollercoaster of heartbreak and triumph, and it truly was so special to be able to experience all of these events and emotions right alongside the characters.

Speaking of characters… Let’s jump into my ramblings about our main protagonist, Anastasia. We meet Nastya when she is just sixteen years old, and if it hadn’t been written in the novel, I would have assumed that she was much older. I greatly admired her maturity and ability to face challenges head-on in a logical, well thought-out way. Regardless of the hardship thrown her way, she continued to carry herself with poise and never lost sight of the fact that even in the darkest of moments, hope for a better future can never be completely lost. I also appreciated the fact that she was never quick to jump to conclusions – she was almost always willing to listen to another perspective and try to understand their side of the story, which is something even full-blown adults have difficulty doing. On the flipside of her maturity, I equally loved the moments where her teenage shenanigans came out in full force. It really showed that she wasn’t going to let the Bolsheviks take everything she loved away from her and that deep down, she was still a kid who wanted to have some good old fashioned fun from time to time. Overall, I honestly couldn’t get enough of Nastya’s narration and watching her story play out, even when it broke my heart to see her struggle through some heartache along the way.  

One of the reasons Nastya is as mature and understanding as she is has to do with her upbringing and how much she cares for her parents and siblings. I love to see strong family dynamics in young adult novels, and I can admit wholeheartedly that the Romanov family unit has to be one of the best portrayals of this I have ever seen. Their family motto speaks for itself: “The bond of our hearts spans miles, memory, and time.” I greatly admired Nastya’s Papa and how even though the Bolsheviks mistreated and misjudged him, he was the first to throw compassion and understanding back at them rather than ugly retaliation, and his wife and children were quick to follow his lead. I could see so much of him in Alexei and Nastya, and I had so many “proud parent” moments as I watched them work through their trials with as much poise and dignity as their father would have.

The most complex character of the novel would have to be Zash, one of the Bolshevik soldiers charged with looking after the Romanov family during their exile. I’m a sucker for mysterious characters that have so much more depth than what they show on the surface, and Zash totally fits this mold. I won’t go into too much detail about his character (you’ll just have to read Romanov yourself for the full scoop!), but I will say that watching his walls come down as the story went on and seeing his perspective on his role when it came to the Romanov family continued to catch me off guard, but in the best of ways. I never knew what we were going to get from Zash, and that suspense factor is honestly what made his character so enjoyable.  

Though the overall concept and characters in the novel were intriguing right from the get-go, I don’t think Romanov would have been nearly as compelling had it not been for Brandes’ stunning writing style. Each line of the novel made me feel something, and I can’t think of one word that was just placed in the story as filler. I seriously couldn’t get enough, and I am so looking forward to diving into Brandes’ other books to get my fill of all her writing has to offer.

If I were to make a list of everything I would expect to see in an ideal historical fantasy novel, I have no doubt someone would hand me a copy of Romanov. I fell in love with the dedication these characters had to their causes, the bravery that shone through in the most dire of circumstances, and how through it all, they never completely lost hope in what could be for themselves and their country. The plot was engaging and kept me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end, and I couldn’t help but want more by the time the tale came to a close. If you’re looking for a mysterious historical fantasy that’s quick to grab your attention and never let you go, look no further than Romanov by Nadine Brandes.   

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

Romanov is perfect for readers who love standalone historical fantasy titles that are fast-paced with complex characters and strong familial relationships.

I would highly recommend Romanov to fans of Ryan Graudin’s writing style and eye for integrating fantastical vibes into her knowledge of history.

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 😊