New Adult/Adult, Paranormal

Haze by Rebecca Crunden

Pages: 265

Publisher: Independent

Release Date: August 6, 2018

Genre(s): Contemporary with Paranormal Elements

Format: PDF Copy from Author

*** I received a copy of Haze from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts/opinions in the review below are all my own and have not been influenced by this exchange in any way.***

Goodreads Synopsis

“When Eliza Owens gets a phone call in the middle of the night from a girl she’s never met, she doesn’t know what to think. The girl introduces herself as Paige, and says she used to date Erik Stern, Eliza’s fiancé. What’s more, she has something important to discuss.

The only problem? Paige has been dead for years.

Believing it to be a sick prank, Eliza tries to force it from her mind until Sam, Eliza’s older sister, tells her she met Paige only a few weeks before. And, according to Sam, Paige has nothing nice to say about Erik.

The fight which follows shatters the lives of everyone involved, and Erik disappears without a trace.

Five years later, Erik returns to town after his father’s death. Old wounds quickly resurface, and with them several burning questions. None the least of which is: Who spoke to Eliza and Sam if it wasn’t Paige? And why?” 

What Did I Think?

To describe this book in a few words …. dark, mysterious, and downright spooky!

The overall concept of Haze fascinated me from the get-go. The vibe is probably split 50/50 between contemporary and paranormal, which I found really intriguing, given that I haven’t encountered other books with such an even mix of both before. Though the narration isn’t truly alternating between our main protagonists, I found myself really enjoying learning about what Erik and Eliza were doing separately just as much as I liked the moments when the story was being told with them in the same location. I’m a total sucker for anything in books that breaks from the normal text, so seeing those journal entries pieced into Haze was so cool to see. Though the main plotline of the book is pretty intense and serious, I think the humor in the dialogue between characters kept me engaged and from getting too sad about the events that sparked our characters’ adventures. While Haze isn’t something I likely would have picked up on my own due to it being on the darker side of things, I thoroughly enjoyed the change of pace and exploring a novel with an overall concept so different from anything I’ve read before.

Though I’ve never experienced half of what Eliza, our main protagonist, has gone through in her life, I found myself so sympathetic to her cause, even when she turned to not-so-great habits to cope with these hardships. After the death of someone very close to her and another just up and leaving, it seemed perfectly reasonable for Eliza to crack and sink to her lowest point. I appreciated the realness we got to see from her character during this time even though it totally did break my heart to read about. However, Eliza’s fiery personality we see at the very beginning of the book is never fully smothered. I lived for the moments when she would put her foot down and stand her ground, even when I thought she was totally crazy for doing whatever it was she insisted on — it’s the effort and drive that counts, right? My favorite moments from Eliza were those where she used her inner strength to help pull others out from under the control of their own personal demons (though it was a little hypocritical in some instances). It didn’t happen often, but I couldn’t help but appreciate this compassionate yet insistent side to Eliza that I also think helped her move past her anger and bitterness for life. As a whole, I liked Eliza’s character okay, though I did find it difficult to connect with her in any real way outside of just being sympathetic to the struggles she has been going through since tragedy struck.

I found that I had a stronger connection with our second main protagonist, Erik. While I couldn’t connect with the tragedy he’s had to face and the people of Riverside’s general wariness of him due to his father’s past sins, I think his reserved yet sincere personality is similar to mine, making it easier for me to understand his motives (even if I didn’t always agree with how he approached things). I appreciated the fact that while Erik has made some pretty terrible choices in life, he does his absolute best to atone for his actions and make it up to the people he’s hurt. I also loved the fact that he didn’t hide what he was feeling or mince words — he’s always quick to tell Eliza how he feels about things, even though she did her best to avoid any emotional topics (to her own detriment, I think!). Overall, Erik’s charismatic nature was kind of hard to resist, and I couldn’t help but respect him all the more for how hard he tries to make up for time lost in Riverside with those he cares about.

I’ll be the first to admit that if there had been no Miles in this book, there’s a good chance it would have been way too dark for my psyche to handle. This dude brought all the humor, laughter, and a good time to all the situations he was put through and did so with a great attitude. I loved the banter he carries on with both Eliza and Erik, as well as how he wasn’t afraid to give them a piece of his mind when they needed it. I think everyone needs a friend like Miles in their life — funny, loyal, and ready to face whatever comes his people’s way right along side them!

While I very much enjoyed Haze, there were some things I wasn’t super keen on. One of the main issues I had dealt with the lack of development from the main characters. I thought there were so many times where a moment would help one of our protagonist start to change course but never did. While not all characters have to have a huge amount of development, it just seemed like all of them stayed relatively stagnant throughout the course of the novel — I just expected so much more from them, in the end. I also had some issues with pacing. I’m a huge fan of fast-paced plots, but this one almost moved TOO fast, leaving some plot holes and the storyline feeling rather incomplete in the end. I think slowing down the action and spending some additional time on transitions (i.e. making it clear when a character left one place to go to another, as one example) would have made the plot a little more clear and easier to follow. The only other component of Haze I just wasn’t sold on was the ending bit. No spoilers, but it just went too far into the paranormal. Did I enjoy it? Totally, but it didn’t work for me in terms of consistency with the rest of the book.

Haze is a quick read sure to satisfy any reader’s paranormal contemporary romance craving! It was spooky, funny, and a whole barrel of mystery I had a blast uncovering alongside our crew of characters. If you’re looking for a dark, ghostly read to get you in the mood for the fall season/Halloween, Haze would be the perfect choice!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

***NOTE: While nothing is necessarily explicit, there are certainly mature themes mentioned on more than one occasion (drug usage, some components of romance, and violence) that you should be aware of before giving Haze a read!***

If you are a fan of the New Adult/Adult paranormal/paranormal romance genres and don’t mind a substantially dark read, Haze is the perfect choice for you!

I’d also recommend Haze to fans of Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Don’t Look Back and Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush series.

Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

It Started with Goodbye by Christina June

Pages: 269

Publisher: Blink

Release Date: May 9, 2017

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis

“Winner of the 2018 Young Adult Virginia Book of the Year

Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.”

What Did I Think?

While the overall concept of It Started with Goodbye appears to be like other fluffy and sweet contemporaries, this book was so much more than that! The other loose fairytale retellings I’ve read have been in the fantasy genre, and I loved that June was able to create such a fabulous retelling of “Cinderella” through a modern, contemporary lens set in today’s world. The emphasis on Tatum and the relationships she has with the other members of her blended family remained at the forefront, setting the tone for the wonderful coming-of-age story that this book transforms into.

For someone as young as our protagonist, Tatum, she sure does handle all the new changes in her life like a trooper. Unfortunately, Tate was the victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time when some shizzz went down and has basically been forced into seclusion by her father and overly-controlling stepmother… well, except when she is out on the town doing community service. I greatly appreciated the fact that while Tate wasn’t thrilled with how her summer unfolded, she managed to find some good in what was thrown her way and took the extra time she had to focus on things that she saw value in, like honing her graphic design skills. A part of me got really upset that it took Tate so long to stand up to her stepmother in a constructive way, but given her reserved, quirky personality and her parents’ refusal to listen to her previously, I began to understand why she was so hesitant to handle conflict head-on until she really hit her breaking point. Overall, I found Tatum’s character relatable and the development we see from her very realistic for the age and stage she’s in.

I can’t help but take a moment to comment of how intriguing Tatum’s family is. She is a part of a big blended family (something so many readers can relate to!) and the personalities of each member are vastly different from that of other members. I loved how Tatum’s abuela was so free-spirited and always willing to use logic to help sort out conflict within the family. I also appreciated the fact that she wasn’t afraid to step in on behalf of Tatum when her stepmother and father were way out of line. Tilly sure had a massive attitude on her, I found it interesting to see how she and Tatum got along as sisters, as their personalities were kind of born to clash. I think it would be a hoot to see this family spending time together all at one time — I’ll bring the popcorn!

While the vast majority of the story follows Tatum and her family, there is also a very charming and endearing virtual Prince Charming we totally need to discuss. While under house arrest, Tatum works on a website for her “virtual pen pal” of sorts and they strum up a solid friendship. I enjoyed the fact that like Tatum, Secret Pen Pal was kind of quirky and certainly not what one would consider a mainstream teen. I loved the fact that both Tatum and Mystery Man were able to help and support one another from a distance and seemed to be what the other needed just in the nick of time.

It Started with Goodbye was a very sweet, wholesome, and beautiful read that highlighted the importance of forgiving those who have wronged you and mending relationships that have never quite been whole. It has the perfect blend of humor and hardship, friendship and family, and misunderstanding and learning to understand. The characters were flawed but relatable, the family dynamic was complex but so intriguing, and June’s writing was just stunning to read and totally fit the fairytale whimsicality that frames Tatum’s story. The lessons presented in this book are timeless, and I truly believe that readers of all ages can take at least a tiny morsel of wisdom with them by the end of their reading of It Started with Goodbye.

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you’re in the mood to read a contemporary with hilarious dialogue between characters, a strong emphasis on family, and a coming-of-age tale through and through, I highly suggest giving It Started with Goodbye a read!

I’d also recommend this book to fans of Jennifer E. Smith, Miranda Kenneally, and Morgan Matson.

Fantasy, New Adult/Adult

From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Pages: 625

Series: Blood and Ash #1

Publisher: Blue Box Press

Release Date: March 30, 2020

Genre(s): Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis

A Maiden…

Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.

A Duty…

The entire kingdom’s future rests on Poppy’s shoulders, something she’s not even quite sure she wants for herself. Because a Maiden has a heart. And a soul. And longing. And when Hawke, a golden-eyed guard honor bound to ensure her Ascension, enters her life, destiny and duty become tangled with desire and need. He incites her anger, makes her question everything she believes in, and tempts her with the forbidden.

A Kingdom…

Forsaken by the gods and feared by mortals, a fallen kingdom is rising once more, determined to take back what they believe is theirs through violence and vengeance. And as the shadow of those cursed draws closer, the line between what is forbidden and what is right becomes blurred. Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel.”

What Did I Think?

Y’all, I am SHOOK. A little backstory for you all: JLA announced the title and cover of this book on THE DAY IT FREAKING RELEASED (yes, seriously — not even exaggerating!) AND it was her very first time releasing an adult high fantasy novel. As if that didn’t shock me enough, I am completely flabbergasted to say that now that I’ve read it, From Blood and Ash just might have made my top three favorite books of hers of all time!

Now that you understand why I am completely SHOOKETH, let’s discuss the overall concept of this total gem! From Blood and Ash had just about everything I could ever want in an adult high fantasy novel: multi-dimensional characters, stunning descriptions of the very complex world of Masadonia, all the political intrigue, and an action-packed plot that kept me on my toes from beginning to end. I thought the religious tie-ins were fascinating to read about, and I thoroughly enjoyed them in conjunction with the mythical creatures and themes that were also woven into the story. From Blood and Ash has so many moving parts, and I thought all of them worked together beautifully — like a well-oiled machine!

Poppy, our main protagonist, is a force to be reckoned with. Given the role of ensuring the Ascensions of the people of Masadonia, Poppy is forced to live her life in solitude, following the explicate orders of the Duke, Duchess, and priestesses. However, the reader learns quickly that Poppy often secretly breaks away from what is expected of her in order to try and maintain some control over her life. From the very first chapter, we see that she’s not too keen on following direct orders from the people who are supposed to “rule over her” and that she is more than capable of protecting herself when need be. Throughout the course of the book, we continue to see her question everything she previously thought was true, and the more she manages to discover, the more she begins to fight for what she feels is right and what she wants, rather than what those around her expect her to do for the “good of humanity.” I loved that the reader sees the fire in her from the first page and that we hardly ever see it go out, even as she struggles through some very tough moments. I found myself rooting for Poppy over the course of the entire book, and I am so excited to see how the events of this book have shaped her character in the next one!

As always, JLA gives us a totally swoon-worthy supporting lead, and this go-round, it’s Hawke Flynn: handsome, crazy clever, and one of the wittiest JLA characters of all time, if you ask me! Though he comes across as this very mysterious tough guy, he also has a softer side to him that had me saying “awhh!!!” in my head like a million times over. One of my favorite components of Hawke’s character is the fact that instead of trying to protect Poppy from every little thing as her royal guard, he understands her need to take control of her own life and fight for herself. I’ve never been the biggest fan of the whole “tough guy constantly save the damsel in distress” trope, so I was happy to see that Hawke helped when needed, but wasn’t the overbearing, brood-y male lead we often times see in similar novels. To say that Hawke never got on my nerves/made me really angry is a total lie (no spoilers, friend! Just give this book a read and you’ll totally get what I mean!), but a part of my soul still loves him to pieces. Hawke’s character has so many secret layers, and I cannot wait to see more of them unravel in Book #2!

One last comment before I cap this review off: THAT FRICK FRACKIN’ ENDING, YOU GUYS! PREPARE YOUR HEARTS AND SOULS BECAUSE THAT WAS CRAY!

From Blood and Ash was basically what you’d end up with if Throne of Glass and Twilight had a baby. I loved watching Poppy navigate through the uber-controlling world she lives in and how Hawke provided the breadcrumbs she needed to sort the facts from fiction she’s been told her entire life. The romance was legit FIRE, the characters had so many layers that I loved seeing unravel as the story went on, and the plotline was so fast-paced that it was legitimately breathtaking. I am so thankful that the second book, A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, releases tomorrow because I seriously cannot wait to dive back into this world!

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’ve read Jennifer L. Armentrout’s other books (particularly her paranormal romances!), From Blood and Ash may just turn out to be your next great read!

I’d also whole-heartedly recommend From Blood and Ash to fans of Sarah J. Maas, and Stephanie Meyer.

Fantasy, Young Adult

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

Amazon.com: A Curse So Dark and Lonely (The Cursebreaker Series ...

Pages: 484

Series: Cursebreakers #1

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Release Date: January 29, 2019

Genre(s): Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

Fall in love, break the curse.

Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. Before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s pulled into a magical world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? As she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.”

What Did I Think?

A Curse So Dark and Lonely was my very first Brigid Kemmerer book, and I can honestly say that it totally lived up to all the hype surrounding its release,

The overall concept of A Curse So Dark and Lonely in some ways fits what I was expecting from a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but also completely broke away from any preconceived notions I had before giving it a read. The bones of the story remain the same as the tale: a curse that needs to be broken, a misunderstood beast, and a distraught (at first) damsel who has the power to break the curse and save the land. I loved that this retelling creates a modern twist to the tale by having the perfect blend of time spent in modern-day Washington, DC and that spent in Emberfall, the story’s magical land. I really enjoyed the fact that it was told from both Rhen and Harper’s perspectives in alternating chapters, as they both have such distinct voices and life experiences that are equally important to the story. As a whole, I found the overall concept to be intriguing from the very first page. Pair that with the beautiful writing and world-building, and I am SOLD.

Harper’s character was one of those I don’t foresee myself forgetting for a long time (if ever!). As we learn early on, she has a pretty rough home life. Her brother is trying to make ends meet by taking less than ideal jobs from a group of criminals in DC, and Harper spends her time watching over him and their terminally ill mother. I’ve never read a book where the protagonist has cerebral palsy, and I found reading about Harper’s struggles with this condition in her daily life really enlightening, as I wasn’t all that familiar with what someone with a less severe case of this condition goes through to accomplish everyday tasks. Though she doesn’t have a cream puff life, Harper is a SPIT FIRE, let me tell ya! She has sass, class, and is totally kick… err, you can fill in the blanks on that last one, but I absolutely loved all of the moments where we got to see Harper open a can of kick butt up on someone, as well as when the more compassionate side of her personality shined through. While Harper has a whole lotta layers, all of the facets that made up her characterization worked together beautifully. I can’t wait to see how her character has changed (and stayed the same, in some ways!) in Book #2.

Rhen, Rhen, Rhen. While the whole “tortured male lead that decides to just hide his problems from everyone” trope isn’t my favorite, I thought having his character fit this mold worked perfectly in this case due to A Curse So Dark and Lonely being a Beauty and the Beast retelling. Rhen is the prince of Emberfall, and for someone who was cursed at the age of 18 by the evil enchantress Lillith, he has had a rough go at life so far. In order to break the curse that has held him hostage for so long, he has to fall in love, but this is obviously easier said than done. What I liked about Rhen’s character the most was that even though Grey’s job is to protect him and Harper was brought to Emberfall to essentially serve as a contestant on The Bachelor, Rhen protects those he’s close to fiercely and doesn’t let his past mistakes dictate the decisions he makes in the present. I also loved the fact that while he is haunted by his past, Rhen cares deeply about the people he rules over (as the reader sees time and time again) even if his subjects don’t realize it. While I enjoyed Rhen’s character in this book, I’m looking forward to getting to know him in a more sincere way (if I had to pick one fault, it was that I couldn’t connect to his character in this book) and seeing how Harper’s presence changes him as the series goes on.

Last but certainly not least, let’s discuss Commander (aka Scary) Grey. If I had to pick a favorite male character from this book, it would 100 percent be Grey, hands down. Even though he’s around the same age as Rhen and Harper, he is definitely wise beyond his years. I cracked up every time he gave Rhen advice (good advice at that!) because he sounded like a legit prophet or something. He was the only guard to survive a brutal attack on Emberfall, and now serves as Prince Rhen’s personal guard (and, maybe just maybe is also his only true friend). I loved that even though Grey was super hardcore on the outside, he also had a softer side to him that was hard not to love. I think everyone needs a friend like Grey — smart, witty, and loyal to the core. After that ending, I am so excited (but also slightly afraid!) to see what’s up with Grey in the next book!

A Curse So Dark and Lonely was one of those books that I found myself unable to put down. The plot was perfectly paced and full of action, the journeys of the characters were both heartbreaking and compelling. Kemmerer’s writing style was the icing on this beautiful cake that made this story come straight off the page. I’m really looking forward to picking up the next book, A Heart So Fierce and Broken, in the very near future!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you’ve read Brigid Kemmerer’s other works and enjoyed her beautifully whimsical writing style, you should totally check out A Curse So Dark and Lonely.

I’d also recommend this book to anyone looking for a fast-paced fantasy read with complex, witty, and clever characters that are sure to steal your heart. Oh, and did I mention that there’s a little dash of romance as well? If you’re into all of these things, go get you a copy of this book!

Fans of Jennifer L. Armentrout, Holly Black, and Sarah J. Maas will also likely enjoy A Curse So Dark and Lonely.

Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Alex, Approximately

Pages: 390

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: April 3, 2018

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis

“Classic movie buff Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online by “Alex.” Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new arch-nemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever-it-is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

In this delightfully charming teen spin on You’ve Got Mail, the one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

What Did I Think?

One of the things I always love about Jenn Bennett’s books are their unique overall concepts, and that of Alex, Approximately is no exception. I loved that while the setting was in California, there was a small town vibe to it that makes the reader feel like we’re locals. I’m a suckers for playlists, illustrations, and anything else that breaks up the chapters and tells us more about the characters, so seeing the messages between Alex and Bailey via the film fanatics website was so cool to see and even more fun to read. While there were some really heart wrenching moments in the book, they were balanced out well by the quirky characters and their witty senses of humor. I also really appreciated the fact that while Bailey and Porter don’t necessarily have a “traditional” upbringing, the family they do have in their lives are so supportive of each of them and always have their best interests at heart.

I loved our protagonist, Bailey, from the very first chapter. She avoids conflict at all costs (including moving all the way across the country to do just this), has a very distinct sense of humor, and isn’t afraid to get nerdy about all things film. She’s had to come to terms with some pretty traumatic events in her life thus far, but I love how this doesn’t hold her back from taking a chance on new things as she explores her new Cali home. While she starts out reserved and avoids the spotlight, I loved the moments where Bailey came out of her shell and lost her temper at people who tried to walk all over her. Though her character didn’t develop all that much, I think that moving to a different placing, getting her first real job, and finding her voice were realistic steps in her journey to become a more mature young adult, and I could see this change in her by the end.

Porter, our main man, really threw me for a loop. I really REALLY did not want to like him, especially after the little charade he pulled during Bailey’s training day at the museum. But eventually his natural charisma drew me in and I couldn’t help but like and respect him once I got to know a little more about him. I loved the fact that he was always eager to help his family, even when it was inconvenient for him to do so, and how proud he is of his sister’s surfing accomplishments. Like Bailey, he has had to deal with some hardship in life, but I loved the fact that he took those memories and used them as fuel rather than cow-tailing to his fears. Overall, as mad as I got at Porter, my anger never overshadowed how good of a guy he really is at heart!

While there is very little not to love about this book, I couldn’t give it a full five starts for a few reasons. The main reason is that the biggest spoiler on earth is literally on the back of this book in the synopsis: Porter is Alex. GEEZ! That literally took the mystery out of the whole thing, and I was really bummed about it. While the reader surmises pretty quickly that this the case, I wish we would have been left to figure it out on our own rather than being spoiled BY THE AUTHOR HERSELF. Another less upsetting issue I had with this book was that while I loved the fact that there were so many intricate details thrown in, by the end, I just felt like there were loose ends that still needed tying up. This is not to say that the ending wasn’t satisfying (it TOTALLY was), but some things just didn’t feel complete to me. However, don’t let these issues deter you from giving Alex, Approximately a chance because overall, it was a fantastic read!

Alex, Approximately was about as loaded of a contemporary romance as you’ll find, and I loved every moment of untangling all the little details! The characters had such unique backgrounds and personalities, and I enjoyed the fact that the connection that each of these characters have with their families remained at the forefront of the story. The plot was well-paced, and I found myself completely engaged in Bailey’s new Cali adventures from beginning to end. Alex, Approximately was both heartwarming and heartbreaking, funny and cringe-y, and just an overall blast to read.

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

Looking for a summery contemporary romance with a strong emphasis on family, friendship, and learning how to overcome your past and reshape your future, this book is for you!

If you’re like me (aka you’ve read her latest works before picking up this gem up) and enjoyed Jenn Bennett’s Starry Eyes and Serious Moonlight, I highly recommend you give Alex, Approximately a read!

I’d also recommend this book to fans of Morgan Matson, Rainbow Rowell, Katie McGarry, and Sarah Dessen.

Paranormal, Young Adult

Rage and Ruin by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Rage and Ruin (The Harbinger, #2)

Pages: 608

Series: Harbinger #2

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Release Date: June 9, 2020

Genre(s): Paranormal Romance

Format: Hardcover

*If you have not read Storm and Fury (Harbinger #1), please STOP READING HERE. The review below CONTAINS SPOILERS! However, you are welcome to check out my review for Storm and Fury, as it does not contain any spoilers!*

Goodreads Synopsis

“Half-angel Trinity and her bonded gargoyle protector, Zayne, have been working with demons to stop the apocalypse while avoiding falling in love. The Harbinger is coming…but who or what is it? All of humankind may fall if Trinity and Zayne can’t win the race against time as dark forces gather.

As tensions rise, they must stay close together and patrol the DC streets at night, seeking signs of the Harbinger, an entity that is killing Wardens and demons with no seeming rhyme or reason. Forbidden to be with each other, Zayne and Trinity fight their feelings and turn to unusual sources for help—the demon Roth and his cohorts. But as deaths pile up and they uncover a sinister plot involving the local high school and endangering someone dear to Zayne, Trin realizes she is being led…herded…played for some unknown end. As anger builds and feelings spiral out of control, it becomes clear that rage may be the ruin of them all.” 

What Did I Think?

Boy do I have some THOUGHTS for you on this book, my friends! Since this is the second book in the Harbinger series and you already know all about the overall concept established in Storm and Fury, let’s begin with a little recap of what we know so far and where Rage and Ruin picks up:

At the end of Storm and Fury, we learn that Zayne is now Layla’s official replacement Protector, which, while somewhat exciting because we already know they will be spending a lot of time together, also reestablishes the (unfortunate, for all of us shippers out there) main trope that’s at the forefront of the Harbinger series: forbidden love. In the first book, Layla and Zayne were kind of like “Ehh, ya know, we shouldn’t be together even though we totally want to be,” but now it’s like “WOAH, NO. We can’t do this because the golden rule is that Trueborns and their Protectors CANNOT be in a relationship with each other or we’ll get struck down by the Alphas or worse.” This shift in dynamic obviously causes some issues between Zayne and Trinity, who are still feelin’ some type of way about each other. Oh, and don’t forget the the Harbinger is still out there somewhere on the prowl, and these two still have no idea who it is or what it wants.

Given all that Trinity has been through, I think it’s fitting to talk about her journey in Rage and Ruin first. After being the one forced to kill her previous Protector, Misha, as well as dealing with some other heartbreaking issues, Trinity certainly carried around a lot of baggage in this book. I thought her reactions to various events in this book were written very realistically, as I know many people who tend to just shut down when having to deal with tragedy and trauma. I think her inability to cope in a healthy way made her push those who care about her away and made her more hot-tempered than she already was, which was both frustrating and understandable. I also found myself relating more to Trinity this go-round, particularly in terms of our shared ability to “compartmentalize” thoughts so we can focus solely on the tasks at hand. I loved that we still got to see the super awesome warrior that Trinity is, but also the more vulnerable side of her, particularly when she opens up about her eye condition. I loved watching Trinity’s character go through some serious emotional development in this book (it was MUCH needed), and I look forward to seeing how these breakthroughs influence her decision-making and her characterization in general in the final book in this trilogy.

Zayne REALLY shocked me in this book (mostly in good ways, don’t worry!). He’s still the kind, considerate, gentlemanly, and handsome guy we all love, but a different side of him definitely came out (dare I say it) more often than his old one. I think many of the changes in Zayne were a result of his new-found responsibilities as Trinity’s Protector, but also due to the fact that he was coming to terms with understanding that his feelings for Layla weren’t what he thought they were, and those for Trinity may be stronger than what he really wanted to admit. I thought this balance between the “old” and “new” Zayne worked really well, considering everything he was juggling and the amount of pressure he was under. I’m curious to see how things change for Zayne in the last book in the series and how he adapts to the new challenges that have been thrown his way.

As with Storm and Fury, I enjoyed seeing what Roth, Layla, and Cayman were up to in Rage and Ruin! Even though the reader could already tell from the first book that Roth, Cayman, and Layla are close to Zayne (and now Trinity), it’s clear in the second book that the connection that they all have with one another resembles that of family rather than just friendship. I love the dynamic between all of these characters, and I can’t wait to see them in action together in the next book.

While I wish I could give this book five stars because in a lot of ways it deserves it, I hesitate for two reasons. The first is that there was one conflict that was drawn out WAY TOO LONG (to the point where I was literally angry at my favorite author, which NEVER happens. I’m usually just mad at the characters). This conflict also made both characters seem very immature for their ages, especially since their characterization appeared to the the opposite for the rest of this book and all of the last one. The second issue (more of a personal want that didn’t really happen) was the fact that I just expected more action. I think I went into it with the expectation that there would be some awesome fight scenes, and there were, but overall I just wanted more on this front. Also, no spoilers, y’all, but the book should have ended after the second to last chapter, just my opinion. Just give it a read and you’ll pick up with I just threw down.

As you can probably surmise, there was a lot going on in Rage and Ruin, but it all managed to come together well. I enjoyed that this book was a little more fast-paced and while I expected more action-packed scenes, I found myself appreciating the different sides of the characters when they were at their most vulnerable — a rarity from this crew. I’ve had so much fun jumping back into this world of gargoyles, demons, and so many other paranormal critters, and I can’t wait (but I’m also terrified) to see how this series wraps up with Grace and Glory, coming out next year!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

*NOTE: This book, like Storm and Fury, does have a good amount PG-13+ references and scenes (specifically in relation to the romance), so just be aware of that going in!*

So obvious, I know, but if you enjoyed Storm and Fury, I highly recommend you continue the series by reading Rage and Ruin!

Dystopian, Young Adult

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

Amazon.com: The Darkest Minds (A Darkest Minds Novel ...

Pages: 528

Series: The Darkest Minds #1

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Release Date: December 18, 2012

Genre(s): Fantasy with Romantic Elements

Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis

“When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.

When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.”

What Did I Think?

 Supernatural powers meets dystopian landscape meets cross-country adventure while avoiding the eyes of the authorities? Yeah, there’s a lot going on, but The Darkest Minds was DOPE. Continue reading for all the deets!

The overall concept of The Darkest Minds was both intriguing and disturbing (like most dystopian tales). I liked the fact that this book is kind of like those superhero movies in that children have these crazy cool powers that also just so happen to intimidate adults, resulting in the kids being sent away (or worse). Having the children’s gifts all falling under a color seemed so simplistic at first, but I think it was the perfect choice to help keep the associated powers straight in the reader’s mind. The word-building, descriptions of various settings, and all the events that were taking place could easily be visualized by the reader, and I found myself completely engaged in all the action from beginning to end. As a whole, The Darkest Minds was unlike any of the other dystopians I’ve read in the past in terms of its overall concept, and, while a little upsetting at times given that children are the main focus of the misfortunes in the book, I enjoyed being immersed in this fictional world.

While the characters and their development often took a backseat to the plot, I appreciated the amount of diversity I saw in this group of characters. As a whole, I liked our protagonist, Ruby, and I think a lot of readers can relate to her quiet, reserved personality. It was good to see her come out of her shell and start fighting for what she wants by the end. However, I did find Ruby to be a little immature and naive, but given the fact that she’s so young, I tried to overlook this as much as possible. There were just times where I found it frustrating because even though she’s clearly been through a lot in her short 15/16 years of life, I expected these memories to shape her and, realistically, I think her life experience thus far would have likely forced her to grow up more quickly. In the next book, I hope to see a little more maturity from Ruby, and I look forward to seeing how the events in The Darkest Minds shape her character moving forward.

Moving right along to my man, Liam. I absolutely loves his character, even though he does embody the “ideal” male lead, in a lot of ways. In addition to being the total dad friend to the whole gang of runaways, I appreciated the fact that he also tried to think logically through things rather than just jumping headfirst into the unknown. His level of maturity definitely balanced out what I found lacking in Ruby’s character. Liam carries a lot of baggage from his past with him, and I appreciated seeing his more vulnerable moments of reflection on these memories, as it made his characterization much more realistic. I’m really looking forward to seeing more of Liam in Book #2!

You didn’t think I was going to write this whole review and not mention Chubs and Zu, did you? While their personalities are starkly different from each other, I really enjoyed the balance the two of them brought to the crew. Zu doesn’t talk, but I love how quickly she can get her point across by just the arch of an eyebrow. She’s certainly stubborn and has a strong personality, even though she is so young and has witnessed some pretty terrible things in her life. Chubs, the brains of the operation, was an absolute HOOT. His comebacks are legendary, and, even though it was annoying at times, I had mad respect for the fact that he wasn’t quick at all to warm up to Ruby until he knew she had good intentions. If there was one stand-out element of this entire book, I’d have to say that Chubs and Zu take the cake for being one of the main reasons why I enjoyed The Darkest Minds as much as I did.

Overall, I had so much fun reading The Darkest Minds, even when I hit some pretty sad/upsetting parts (Hey, it’s a dystopian. Can’t expect all rainbows and butterflies). I loved the fact that I felt like I was actually the fifth member of the Black Betty crew, going on all the gang’s adventures with them. I though the plot was very well paced, and each event flowed well into the next without too much lag. Given all the plot twists and that CRAY ending, I’m really looking forward to picking up Never Fade in the near future!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you’re in the mood to read a fast-paced dystopian that’s full of adventure and fairly dark with some little rays of sunshine peeking though, The Darkest Minds will likely be right up your alley.

I’d also recommend this book to fans of Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, and Victoria Aveyard.

And, as obvious as it sounds, if you’ve read any of Bracken’s other books (Prosper Reading series, Passenger series, Star Wars novels, etc.), and enjoyed them, I highly suggest you check out The Darkest Minds!

Dystopian, New Adult/Adult

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Handmaid's Tale (orig) - Two Dollar Radio Headquarters

Pages: 314

Series: The Handmaid’s Tale #1

Publisher: Anchor Books

Release Date: April 1985

Genre(s): Dystopian

Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis

“Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now . . .

Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid’s Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.”

What Did I Think?

Given its dystopian genre, the overall concept of The Handmaid’s Tale was both intriguing and disturbing if one takes the time to think about what it would actually be like to live in a world like Gilead. I enjoyed the “before and after” separation of the story. It allowed the reader to gain an understanding of how different things were and orient themselves in the “new look” of the world our protagonist, Offred, is living in. I enjoyed the flashback of the past that came up in the present-day parts of the story, as well as how thoroughly the logistics of Gilead were explained. While I have found myself growing out of my love of dystopian novels, The Handmaid’s Tale had the perfect blend of elements that make it dystopian and those that are completely unique to this story, keeping me engaged from beginning to end.

I fell in love with Atwood’s writing from the very first chapter. Every line is so poetic, and the way she describes this world and the happenings in it are absolutely beautiful to read — a sharp contrast to the objects and situation she’s actually illustrating using this language. The fact that she spends the most time describing things that aren’t all that relevant to the plot is an interesting twist on what a lot of modern writers do, and I found myself really enjoying it. For example, the reader finds out exactly what’s in Offred’s bedroom, though this setting is rarely mentioned again. If I had to pick one stand-out from the entirety of The Handmaid’s Tale, it would have to be Atwood’s writing style and the places she chooses to add these beautiful descriptions, hands down!

Offred’s character was so fascinating to me. At first glance, it appears that Offred it okay with just going with the flow of the standard that Gilead has for handmaids — they are to have the Commander’s children that the Wives can no longer have due to being rendered infertile. This obviously frustrated me because unlike so many of the other characters, Offred remembers what it was like in the “before,” and I kept thinking, “Why are you settling for a life like this when you know how good it used to be?” However, another side to Offred came out as she started interacting with some other multi-dimensional characters. Given how horrible Gilead’s consequences for resistance are, it makes sense that Offred would have been afraid to speak out against those who have more power than her. In an attempt to keep spoilers at bay, I enjoyed seeing Offred’s character develop more and more as she realizes that she’s not the only one looking for a way out.

The Handmaid’s Tale was a compelling dystopian read that contains many overarching themes that are still relevant today, though it was first publishing in 1985. I found the plot engaging and well-paced, and the characters (very nondescript names and all) very dynamic, as many aren’t as they first appear. Atwood’s beautiful and descriptive writing style was the icing on the cake to this masterpiece. While The Handmaid’s Tale is already considered a classic for more reasons than one, I have a feeling that past and future readers will hold onto this book and never let it go!

*UPDATE: Just saw that there is a second book called The Testaments, YAYY! Definitely going to be giving that a read in the near future, especially after the cliffhanger at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale!*

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

*NOTE: This book is only suitable for mature audiences due to graphic violence and other adult themes. For this reason, I would not recommend this to readers under the age of 16*

If you’re a lover of the world-building and overall darkness of other dystopian novels, I highly recommend you give The Handmaid’s Tale a read!

I would also recommend The Handmaid’s Tale to fans of Veronica Roth’s Divergent, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, and Alexandra Bracken’s The Darkest Minds.

Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

Pages: 440

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Release Date: June 4, 2019

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

“Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when she was ten. But she does remember the stories her mom told her about the big lake that went on forever, with cold, clear water and mossy trees at the edges.

Now it’s just Emma and her dad, and life is good, if a little predictable…until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family—her grandmother and cousins she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.

When Emma arrives at North Lake, she realizes there are actually two very different communities there. Her mother grew up in working class North Lake, while her dad spent summers in the wealthier Lake North resort. The more time Emma spends there, the more it starts to feel like she is divided into two people as well. To her father, she is Emma. But to her new family, she is Saylor, the name her mother always called her.

Then there’s Roo, the boy who was her very best friend when she was little. Roo holds the key to her family’s history, and slowly, he helps her put the pieces together about her past. It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of North Lake—and Saylor finds herself falling under Roo’s spell as well.

For Saylor, it’s like a whole new world is opening up to her. But when it’s time to go back home, which side of her will win out?”

What Did I Think?

I’ve read a good many of Sarah Dessen’s books, and they’re usually either a HUGE hit or a big miss for me. Her latest release, The Rest of the Story, falls into the latter category, and dare I say it, there’s a good chance it’s my favorite book of hers yet!

The overall concept of The Rest of the Story appears pretty simplistic at first glance, but is actually super intricate as you delve deeper into the book. I thought that having the lake have “two sides” was super unique and realistic, as I think there are high and lower-end parts of real recreational destinations. The rivalries between the two sides also nicely reflects Emma’s/Saylor’s internal battle of figuring out who exactly she wants to be, which was a really interesting touch that continued to pop up throughout the book in great ways. I really enjoyed that the reader sees both the points of view of locals and tourists, as their perspectives on things are totally different even though they are essentially in the exact same place. As a whole, I thought that while some components of the overall concept were pretty traditional for a summertime contemporary (i.e. the setting), the amount of detail that lay beneath the surface made this book something unlike those I’ve read in the past in the best ways imaginable.

I am so excited to talk to you about these characters because they were so much fun to read about! Let’s start with our main gal, Emma Saylor Payne. I don’t know why exactly this was, but I found myself drawn to her from the very first page. Like me, Emma/Saylor tends to organize and clean things when she gets overwhelmed or anxious (undiagnosed OCD friends, unite!), and also tries to stay out of the limelight in an attempt to please others and avoid conflict. I loved every moment of watching her character figure out who she wanted to be (Emma or Saylor? You’ll have to wait and see for yourself!) and how her time at North Lake seemed to change her for the better. As hard as it may be to believe, Emma/Saylor’s character developed more in 440 short pages than many of the characters I’ve read about in other books developed over four, 440-page books, and did so in a way that was realistic and believable. I had so much fun experiencing Emma/Saylor’s adventures at North Lake with her, as well as watching her learn more about her mother through her time with that side of her family.

While I wish we could have gotten to see more of Roo, I’ve got to take a second to rant about what an awesome catch this guy is! First of all, his nickname comes from his childhood love of kangaroos. How adorable is that? Other than that fun fact, I generally loved everything about Roo’s character. He’s naturally charismatic, hilarious, hardworking, understanding, ridiculously respectful of his elders (even when I totally think he should have opened a can of kick butt on a certain someone who was a total JERK to him for no reason) and deeply invested in the relationships he has with his family and friends. He’s just one of those people that everyone’s naturally drawn to, which I think is rare in a fictional character. I mean, usually you can find at least one flaw, but I literally could not when it came to Roo! Whenever his name would pop up, I was immediately excited to see what he was up to, and when he wasn’t around, I was wishing he was. He balances out Emma/Saylor so well, and I think they both learned a little something from each other: Roo to be more in-tune with how he feels about his dad not being around and to let loose a little bit and have some fun, and Emma to block out what everyone’s been telling her about her mother and instead do some digging on her own to fill in the gaps in her mom’s story. I love both Roo and Emma/Saylor separately, I love them together, I love them any way we get to have them because they are simply superbly written characters with so much depth to them!

If I had to pick just one, the standout of this entire book has to be the supporting characters, including but not limited to Bailey, Jack, Trinity, Gordon, Vincent, Taylor, April, and so many more. Each of them added so much fun to the story’s more serious moments. I literally lived for when the entire gang was together, having a good time! The fact that they took Emma/Saylor under their wing and included her in their summer fun (and work, as well!) was so sweet, and that they were able to recognize that her lack of visiting them in North Lake was not her doing but rather her father’s was really mature of them given their ages. If I had to pick one fictional family/friend group to be a part of (aside from a magical, fantastical one, of course!) it would be this one, hand’s down!

One of the things that hold me back from giving this book five stars is that I felt like there were some elements that were introduced at the beginning that weren’t fully explained by the end or that didn’t reappear until the very end after originally being mentioned. For example, the reader learns that Emma/Saylor likes to organize things when she gets anxious, as establishing in the opening chapter. However, it’s rare that this point is blatantly mentioned again until the very end. I think I would have just liked to have seen these moments a tad bit more developed. I also found a few aspects of the book to be pretty unrealistic, such as why Emma/Saylor’s dad would let her stay with her grandmother on her mom’s side when they don’t know each other at all and him thinking they are bad influences. While these are relatively small issues, they did impact the reading experience and left some things to be desired from my perspective.

The Rest of the Story had everything I always expect in a Sarah Dessen book and more: a strong focus on the family dynamic, a little dash of romance, a main character on the cusp of adulthood whose trying to embrace their new-found independence, and a beautiful summertime setting that is sure to bring a smile to every reader’s face. The pacing was well done with the exception of a few places that were a little too detailed for my liking, and the plot and characters were so compelling that I honestly wished the book was longer or that there was a second one! Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of reading The Rest of the Story, and I think there’s something to be learned from and appreciated by anyone who gives it a chance.

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you are looking for a summery, coming-of-age read that’s all about adjusting to change and embracing what’s to come, The Rest of the Story is the perfect read for you!

If Sarah Dessen’s other books are your jam, why haven’t you given this book a read yet? Just kidding, but I highly suggest bumping this book to the top of your ever-growing TBR!

I’d also recommend this book to fans of Morgan Matson, Jessie Kirby, and Jenny Han’s sweet and summery contemporaries.

Fantasy, Young Adult

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince (Folk of the Air Series #1) by Holly Black ...

Pages: 370

Series: The Folk of the Air #1

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Release Date: January 2, 2018

Genre(s): Fantasy with Romantic Elements

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.”

What Did I Think?

I was totally down for some fey folktale reading when I hit this book up, and it did not disappoint. Other readers have said that Holly Black’s fey worlds are virtually unmatched, and after reading this book, I can see why! I love how Black’s writing style matches the whimsical setting she’s writing about, as well as all the beautiful world-building she manages to do in just a few short chapters. I was totally entranced when learning about the grandiose lifestyles of the fey, which made up for my lack of love towards a good many of those that lived there (sorry not sorry to say, because some of them are JERKS). I also thought the family tree situation was intriguing (and slightly depressing), particularly when we learn how Jude and her sisters ended up with Madoc in the first place. As a whole, I thought the overall concept of The Cruel Prince was unique and well constructed.

*Let me just preface this section of my review by saying that these characters weren’t exactly my cup of tea. Sure, I enjoyed some elements of a good many of them, but overall, I struggled to connect and appreciate their personalities (I know, I’m terrible, but bear with me and hear me out, kayy kayy?).*

Let’s start with Jude. One of the things I really admired about Jude was the fact that she was quick to stand up for herself and her family when the fey would talk smack about them, as well as her willingness to fight for those in a place she wasn’t even born in (and, at times, doesn’t even particularly like). Even though Jude is a human living in Faerie, she fiercely tries to make it the best place it can be when push comes to shove. I found myself appreciating the fact that she was a total spitfire and was quick to follow her instincts, even when others tried to dissuade her from what she believed to be true. However, I have to say that the biggest issue I had with Jude was her jealously of the fey. At first I thought, “Okay, this makes sense. They have a lot of things she never will,” but this point came up so much that it made her seem immature, when for the rest of the book, I thought her characterization made her more mature than most people her age would have been. This was more of an issue of moderation for me, rather than just not understanding or liking the fact that Jude was jealous of the Fae. Other than that, I found Jude’s character appealing, and I look forward to seeing how her character evolves in the next book.

Oh, Cardan. One of my least favorite tropes in YA basically sums up (almost) the entirety of his character: the misunderstood male character. Ughh. While I think the goal was to show that Cardan isn’t as cruel as he appears at face-value, the damage was already kind of done by the time I realized this was the point of his character. I didn’t find myself wanting to know all that much about him because he just seemed to be a terrible dude. However, a trait I did find myself appreciating was the fact that he would secretly perform acts of kindness for other people — at least then I knew he really did have a heart in there, which was questionable for a good chunk of the book. I also have to point out that he has a pretty dope fashion sense that I couldn’t help but admire, so here’s to hope that saving grace continues to be around in the next book! I’m also hoping (begging, really) for some development and more background on Cardan so then I can sympathize and, heck, maybe even like the guy by the end of the series.

While I had some issues with the main characters, I thought the supporting characters were awesome! Madoc has so many layers to him, and I look forward to seeing how his character keeps progressing as the series goes on, particularly when it comes to his relationship with Jude. I also found myself really enjoying learning more about Jude’s sisters, Vivi and Taryn and seeing how they react so differently to each of the events that took place.

One of the major issues I had with this book were the romances. I didn’t feel invested in who was with who, and in some cases, I found the partnerships completely unhealthy for both individuals involved. I’m definitely looking for more development here in the other books in the Folk of the Air series because I’m always look for more couple to make ship names for, but at this point in time, the romance is a no-go for me.

Overall, I had a lot of fun reading The Cruel Prince. I’m a sucker for books about fey, and this book totally fulfilled my dream of learning more about them and the super magical lives they live. The plot was fast-paced, and the plot twists were very well positioned — I never knew when they were coming! With the exception of a few (somewhat large, now that I reflect?) issues, I really enjoyed The Cruel Prince and I’m looking forward to continuing this highly-loved series!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you’re like me and looking for a book that takes place in a magical world full of fey, I’d highly recommend this book to you!

I’d also suggest fans of Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series and Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series give The Cruel Prince a shot.