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.

New Adult/Adult, Paranormal

Torn by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Pages: 360

Series: The Wicked Trilogy #2

Publisher: Jennifer L. Armentrout (Self-Published)

Release Date: July 19, 2016

Genre(s): Paranormal with Romantic Elements

Format: Paperback

*If you have not read the first book in this series (Wicked) , please stop reading this review now! SPOILERS FOLLOW for Book #1!*

Goodreads Synopsis

“Torn between duty and survival, nothing can be the same.

Everything Ivy Morgan thought she knew has been turned on its head. After being betrayed and then nearly killed by the Prince of the Fae, she’s left bruised and devastated—and with an earth-shattering secret that she must keep at all costs. And if the Order finds out her secret, they’ll kill her.

Then there’s Ren Owens, the sexy, tattooed Elite member of the Order who has been sharing Ivy’s bed and claiming her heart. Their chemistry is smoking hot, but Ivy knows that Ren has always valued his duty to the Order above all else—he could never touch her if he knew the truth. That is, if he let her live at all. Yet how can she live with herself if she lies to him?

But as the Fae Prince begins to close in, intent on permanently opening the gates to the Otherworld, Ivy is running out of options. If she doesn’t figure out who she can trust—and fast—it’s not only her heart that will be torn apart, but civilization itself.”

What Did I Think?

Guys I frick frackin’ LOVED this book! A lot of times the second book in a series is the hardest to write, as it has to pull together ideas from the first book while setting the stage for the third, but this book was one of my favorite second books in a series of all time!

Instead of going into the overall concept (which you already know I love from my review of Wicked), let’s talk about how are characters are adjusting to life after that crazy plot twist JLA threw at us at the end of Wicked! Like with most of her books, I fall more and more in love with the characters she creates as a series goes on. I mean yeah, they literally stomp all over my heart every time, but for some reason I keep coming back (and it’s totally worth it each time, I swear!).

I respected Ivy so much more in this book than I did in the first one. Throughout the course of Torn, she was very anxious and kept to herself a lot, and I really don’t blame her, considering the entire Order demanded that the halfling (aka Ivy) be killed on-site. This distance Ivy was keeping definitely changed the relationship she had with Ren– it basically made it non-existent for a time, which drove me literally insane because I ship them so hard– but at the same time, I thought her reaction was super understandable and realistic, given the circumstances. It’s human nature to want to fight for your survival, and I think Ivy’s approach to trying to do so made total sense and felt real, even though it was clear she hated having to isolate herself from those she loved to keep them (and herself) out of harm’s way. The perseverance and bravery we see from Ivy in Torn is definitely going to make her a stronger character come the third book, and I can’t wait to see how her character deals with the next set of obstacles she has thrown her way in Book Three!

A short letter to my good friend, Ren: Oh, Ren. I love ya, buddy, but you CRUSHED MY SOUL in this book. I get it, I totally do, but I still expect you to make it up to me (and Ivy, but mostly me) in the next book. In all seriousness, though, Ren’s personality stayed pretty true to what it was in the first book– sweet, hilarious, and oh so lovable, even when he was being a dummy. I wish I could give you all the juicy deets about why I have such mixed feelings about Ren’s actions in this book, but you’ll just have to read it for yourself to find out why I’m so conflicted! I will say that he redeemed himself towards the end of the book, but I can’t help but hold a little bit of a grudge because I expected so much more from him (ughh… why do I sound like a disappointed parent here? Regardless, it’s the truth, yo).

Last but certainly not least, MY MAN TINK! If anyone who’s read this book says that don’t like Tink, you definitely shouldn’t be hanging out with them because they are CRAY! He added so much humor to a book that had some pretty dark moments, and I love when his hidden knowledge of all things Fae and demons comes out when you least expect it! Some big things happened for Tink in this book, and I can’t wait to see what shenanigans he gets into in the next book!

Andddd we are down to my final thoughts! The pacing for this book was right on the money. I didn’t find myself skimming, and I was completely focused and invested in all this book had to offer from beginning to end. The characters demand attention from the audience, and I am so here for how much our MCs have developed in just the first two books. JLA’s writing style is so beautiful and compelling, and her books always take the reader on some of the best (and most insane) journeys ever–Torn could be one of the wildest yet!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

*TRIGGER WARNING: This book contains very mature content (both in terms of violence and romantic themes) that exceeds that of the first book in the series, so I would only recommend individuals 18+ give it a read!*

This recommendation is obvious as HECK, but if you loved Wicked, you should definitely be reading this book like right now!

New Adult/Adult, Paranormal

Wicked by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Pages: 375

Series: The Wicked Trilogy #1

Publisher: Jennifer L. Armentrout (Self-Published)

Release Date: December 8, 2014

Genre(s): Paranormal with Romantic Elements

Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis

“Things are about to get Wicked in New Orleans.

Twenty-two year old Ivy Morgan isn’t your average college student. She, and others like her, know humans aren’t the only thing trolling the French Quarter for fun… and for food. Her duty to the Order is her life. After all, four years ago, she lost everything at the hands of the creatures she’d sworn to hunt, tearing her world and her heart apart.

Ren Owens is the last person Ivy expected to enter her rigidly controlled life. He’s six feet and three inches of temptation and swoon-inducing charm. With forest-green eyes and a smile that’s surely left a stream of broken hearts in its wake, he has an uncanny, almost unnatural ability to make her yearn for everything he has to offer. But letting him in is as dangerous as hunting the cold-blooded killers stalking the streets. Losing the boy she loved once before had nearly destroyed her, but the sparking tension that grows between them becomes impossible for Ivy to deny. Deep down, she wants… she needs more than what her duty demands of her, what her past has shaped for her.

But as Ivy grows closer to Ren, she realizes she’s not the only one carrying secrets that could shatter the frail bond between them. There’s something he’s not telling her, and one thing is for certain. She’s no longer sure what is more dangerous to her—the ancient beings threatening to take over the town or the man demanding to lay claim to her heart and her soul.”

What Did I Think?

Let’s dive right into my thoughts on the overall concept/construct of this bad boy! Jennifer L. Armentrout is literally the queen of paranormal, and Wicked was no exception to this rule! I loved the New Orleans setting and how Jennifer combined paranormal elements with some real New Orleans’ hot-spots (Cafe Du Monde beignets, anyone?). Her world-building was well constructed, and I loved how all the moving parts in this book worked so well together.

Hate me if you must, but at the beginning of this book, I was not a huge fan of Ivy. I just felt like she was doing the whole “woes me” thing (understandable, to an extent, but STILL), and it wasn’t until learning about her past that I was finally member of the Team Ivy fan club. While she is totally kick butt at her job (and in all things life, to be honest), other members of The Order had little to no respect for her and thought she was crazy, which was just plain irritating to read because all of us readers know how awesome she is. However, I appreciated the fact that she didn’t let them deter her from doing her job and doing it better than most of the other members of The Order, nonetheless. The determination that she had to do what she thought was right even if The Order didn’t approve was one of the traits I admired most about her and I think served her so well as various events started to go down.

Can we please just take a moment and focus on REN? So good looking, so freaking awesome, and so funny and witty, ughh. Pretty dang close to a perfect specimen, if you ask me. As much as I wanted to resist his charms, it was an epic fail. I loved how he didn’t baby Ivy and gave it to her straight, especially at the beginning when she was kind of a hot mess. I also really appreciated his levelheadedness, as it helped balance out Ivy’s fiery temper. Needless to say, I’m totally on board the #Revy ship, folks (yes, I just made that ship name up because they make such a great pairing!). Ren’s relationship with Tink also literally almost killed me. It was so funny to watch them bicker back and forth, but with such a fondness for one another, even if they’d never admit it! I hope these two become BFFs as the series continues.

You didn’t think I’d leave this little (sometimes big) guy out, did you? Tink has got to be one of my favorite characters of all time! If you love characters that have literally no filter but loyal to those they love to whatever end, you’re sure to be obsessed with him too! My favorite part of his characterization is that he is so wise. We don’t know all that much about his past, but it’s clear that it has shaped who he is and has also resulted in him being seriously knowledgeable about things that aren’t all that well known to other characters (even when they need that information to deal with various plot events that go down). Overall, I love him, but I’m excited to see his character develops more in the next book and learning more about his kind!

Down to the nitty-gritty. I thought that Wicked was well-paced and that the plot events flowed seamlessly from beginning to end. As with any new series, there has to be time to world-build and sometimes the reader can get bogged down with logistics, and I felt like this was the case, ever so briefly, though, in this book. However, I do think that this information will be very beneficial to the reader as the series goes on. Overall, I thought this was a great read with a compelling storyline and some really hilarious interactions between characters, not to mention a crazy good cliffhanger to top things off and a whole truckload of plot twists along the way!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

*Due to mature content (both violent and romantic themes), I would not recommend this book to anyone under the age of 17/18.*

If you’re as big of a JLA fan as I am, I don’t even know why you’re reading this review when you COULD BE READING THIS BOOK. Just kidding, but this book is definitely for you!

I’d also recommend this book to anyone who loves books by Sarah J. Maas, Cassandra Clare, and Wendy Higgins.

Or, maybe you’re just looking for a book with a fun cast of characters, plot twists at every corner, and a whole lot fighting between humans and supernatural critters. If so, this book may just be right what you’re looking for!

Fantasy, New Adult/Adult

House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City): Maas, Sarah J ...

Pages: 816

Series: Crescent City #1

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Release Date: March 3, 2020

Genre(s): High/Urban Fantasy with Romantic Elements

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

Bound by blood.
Tempted by desire.
Unleashed by destiny.

“Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.”

What Did I Think?

Okay, y’all. I think I’ve finally calmed down from the awesomeness that it this book enough to formulate all of my thoughts, so here it goes:

The world-building in this book was fantastic, as with all of Sarah J. Maas’ books! In all my years of reading, I’ve never read anything quite like this world, and I absolutely loved every moment of piecing the imagery and descriptions of this world together and creating a visual in my mind of exactly what Lunathion (aka Crescent City) would look like!

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this book was the fact that even though Danika and the Pack of Devils weren’t physically present for a good portion of the book, I was so invested in their characters and fell in love with them instantaneously, which made the more emotional moments of Bryce’s journey that much more heartbreakingly beautiful for me to be a part of. It takes incredible talent for someone to be able to write characters that stick with the reader long after they’re gone (not gonna spoil anything, folks, so just read the book to find out what I mean!), and the fact that Maas could make the reader connect with a group of nearly-invisible characters on this deep of a level in literally a couple of chapters is completely insane, but in the best possible way!

Speaking of characters… First and foremost, I love every freaking character in this book, including the mean ones (yeah, I’m talking to you, SABINE, MICAH, AND THE AUTUMN KING). Ruhn, Queen Hypaxia, Flynn, Declan, Naomi, Isaiah, Ithan, Amelia (err, okay, my like of this one is still up in the air), Tharion, Fury, and so many more have totally stolen my heart, and even though I know there’s bound to be casualties in the other books in this series (A SARAH J. MAAS SPECIALTY, much to my dismay), I really hope that a lot of these guys make it to the end and get their happy endings (I know, unlikely, but one can hope, right?).

Okay, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the ROMANCE between Hunt and Bryce! At first, I wasn’t sure I was sold, to be honest. I think this was because I feel like with all relationships (fictional and in real life), you have to work on yourself first before you can really connect with someone else, and these two both had things they needed to figure out. However, as I continued reading and learning more about their individual struggles, I couldn’t think of a better pairing, as they were able to help one another through the challenges they were facing because the battles they were fighting individually were very similar to the other’s. While Bryce and Hunt’s individual journeys in and of itself themselves were incredibly raw and beautiful to watch unfold, I think the emotional bond (and, of course, the romantic bond) they created with one another makes their stories that much more compelling because they had one another to lean on and trust, when at the beginning they each had close to no one in their corners.

A quick shout-out to my FAVORITE element of this whole book, as cheezy as it may sound: the fact that EVERY SINGLE MOMENT circled back to the idea that there is real power in love, and that sometimes it’s the only thing that keeps you moving forward, whether it be love for your friends, family, a romantic partner, or maybe even a combination of all three.

Okay, so I’ve rambled a whole lot about this book, so here are my final thoughts:

The plot moved at a perfect pace for me, and I thought the story line was very well constructed– complex enough that the reader is certainly going to have to think things through, but not so complicated that our heads are spinning. The characters and their development were FABULOUS and their motivations/journeys and their reactions to various plot points were represented realistically, and I loved all of the “OH SNAP NO FREAKING WAY” plot twists that kept getting thrown our way! I would seriously give this book 1,000,000 starts if I could, but since I can’t fit that many on this post, I’ll just have to settle for 5/5!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

Due to mature content (both in terms of romantic elements and violent themes), I would only recommend this book to mature audiences (17/18+).

If your’re looking for an adult fantasy novel that’s action packed, full of plot twists, and has has a little dash of “forbidden romance” thrown in, this book is totally for you! If you’ve read Sarah J. Maas’ other books and fell in love with her characters and world-building, I highly recommend you check this book out!

I also recommend this book to those of you who are big fans of Jennifer L. Armentrout, Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, and Leigh Bardugo!