Fantasy, New Adult/Adult

The Crown of Gilded Bones by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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

Pages: 645

Series: Blood and Ash #3

Publisher: Blue Box Press

Release Date: April 20, 2021

Genre(s): Fantasy

Format: Paperback

*NOTE: If you have not read the first two books in the Blood and Ash series (FB&A and AKOFAF) please stop reading this review NOW! Spoilers for this book follow, but feel free to check out my non-spoiler reviews of FB&A and AKOFAF :)*

Goodreads Synopsis

She’s been the victim and the survivor…

Poppy never dreamed she would find the love she’s found with Prince Casteel. She wants to revel in her happiness but first they must free his brother and find hers. It’s a dangerous mission and one with far-reaching consequences neither dreamed of. Because Poppy is the Chosen, the Blessed. The true ruler of Atlantia. She carries the blood of the King of Gods within her. By right the crown and the kingdom are hers.

The enemy and the warrior…

Poppy has only ever wanted to control her own life, not the lives of others, but now she must choose to either forsake her birthright or seize the gilded crown and become the Queen of Flesh and Fire. But as the kingdoms’ dark sins and blood-drenched secrets finally unravel, a long-forgotten power rises to pose a genuine threat. And they will stop at nothing to ensure that the crown never sits upon Poppy’s head.

A lover and heartmate…

But the greatest threat to them and to Atlantia is what awaits in the far west, where the Queen of Blood and Ash has her own plans, ones she has waited hundreds of years to carry out. Poppy and Casteel must consider the impossible—travel to the Lands of the Gods and wake the King himself. And as shocking secrets and the harshest betrayals come to light, and enemies emerge to threaten everything Poppy and Casteel have fought for, they will discover just how far they are willing to go for their people—and each other.

And now she will become Queen…

What Did I Think?

Before I jump into my (likely unpopular!) opinions of The Crown of Gilded Bones, let’s recap where things left off in A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire. Poppy and Casteel had A LOT to work through since he basically kidnapped her to use as ransom against the Queen of Solis in From Blood and Ash. Understandably, there’s a ton of conversations in which Casteel, Kieran, and everyone else has to convince Poppy that the Atlantians aren’t the enemy and that they really are (mostly) peaceful people, but it takes awhile for Poppy to come around. There is also lots of chatter about the impending marriage of Casteel and Poppy, which clearly she was not down for since Casteel whisked her away from Masadonia. However, as the novel progresses and more evidence of the horrors of Solis are exposed, Poppy’s hatred of Casteel starts to dwindle and she realizes that even though his approach to wooing her wasn’t ideal, she really does love him. Eventually the two marry (right before a straight up battle goes down in Spessa’s End… YIKES!), and she and Casteel travel the rest of the way to Atlantia to meet up with Casteel’s parents. Long story short, everything goes to heck in a handbasket, as Poppy is attacked and it is revealed that she is the true queen of Atlantia by bloodright. Then BOOM! We had to wait for the next book on that wild cliffhanger.

As I mentioned in my reviews for the other two books in this series, I thoroughly enjoy the way Armentrout has crafted this universe. I won’t lie to you all: There are still times that it is so complex that my head spins a little and I forget things, but I think she and her editors knew this would happen, as there are often clarifications added into those points to jog the reader’s memory. However, in terms of plot, I felt like the storyline drug on for too long at some points and that not enough details were included in others. The plot still flowed nicely from point to point, but the inconsistent pacing was jarring sometimes as I was reading and messed with my ability to fully absorb what was happening at times.

Since From Blood and Ash, Poppy has come a long way in terms of character development. This was particularly evident in the leap from From Blood and Ash to A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, with less development occuring in The Crown of Gilded Bones. This totally makes sense in a way because Poppy has so much coping to do in the first two books that probably things that were happening around her didn’t shock her a ton in the third book except for some more traumatic experiences that went down (no spoilers, I swear!). I will say that I was pleased to see that she does become more comfortable in her own skin and isn’t afraid to speak up as much in TCOGB, and I was always so excited to see her put her foot down and basically command any room she was in. Through everything, I was so pleased to see that Poppy is still super kickbutt at fighting and being all stabby, and I hope this trait continues to be a part of who she is in the books to come because it is my absolute favorite thing about her. I can’t really talk about the ending because *spoilers*, but I will say that that was my absolute favorite Poppy moment to date and I hope the fire we see in her then will stick with her in the next book!

Oh, Casteel. Okay, so like I said, this review is going to have some unpopular opinions in it, and this could be one of the big ones for those of you who are fictionally married to this guy. I’ll start with the positives here: He’s super smokin’, has some really dope combat skills (just like Poppy those his methods of murder are somewhat unconventional), he does everything he can to protect those he loves, and when he takes a notion to joke around, he’s super witty and funny. However, I really had an issue with Casteel in The Crown of Gilded Bones. It has been established that Casteel loves the people of Atlantia, but that didn’t really shown through since he was more concerned about Poppy 99% of the time. Yes, he should care about her, but sometimes I felt like it was at the expense of others which just doesn’t line up with how devoted he was said to be to his people. Additionally, he was selfless to the point of no return. I love a good character that is willing to do anything for those they love, but some of his actions just seemed unnecessarily heroic to me. I know some of you want to punch me and that’s fine (unless you actually try to… then please refrain!), but something about Casteel just wasn’t it for me in this book. I have faith that the next book may change my mind about him, but alas it is too soon to tell!

A huge plus for me was getting to reacquaint myself with all of the amazing supporting characters in this series. Kieran has my freaking soul, and dare I say this… I like him so much more than I do Poppy and Casteel at this point. I’m not even sure why that is but I can’t help but smile every time his name popped up or he cracked some joke at the most inappropriate of times. Delano, Naill, Vonetta, and Emil just keep getting better and better, and it was so good to see more dialogue pop up with these guys in it in TCOGB. I’m super excited to see more of these guys in the next installment, and I hope they have even more opportunities to showcase their personalities then becuase I literally live for them!

And here I go, beign the bearer of bad news. Unfortunately, there were some additional aspects of this book that just didn’t jive for me. The first is that the partnership aspect of the romance is starting to fizzle for me a bit. For some reason, it just felt like Poppy wasn’t as invested in being a support system for Casteel when he is firmly invested in providing emotional support to her. This one-sidedness really got on my nerves, and I really hope this gets turned around in the next book because I really want to love this couple. Speaking of romance… Each book in this series has been someone scandalous in one way or another, but I felt like TCOGB took this to an extreme that, for me, disrupted the plot in not great ways. I totally understand that one of the big things about Poppy’s character is the fact that she has been forced to not have physical connections to other people, but it just seemed like certain types of moments were overused in this book.

As a whole, I really enjoyed The Crown of Gilded Bones. The worldbuilding was exceptional, the supporting characters were so much fun to get reacquainted with, and, per Jennifer’s style, the plot twists just kept on coming. While I can’t say this book didn’t have some (what I would consider) flaws, the overall reading experience was enjoyable, and I am eager to get my hands on the next installment, The War of Two Queens, in March of 2022. Thank goodness I have A Shadown in the Ember, a spin-off novel, releasing in just a few months to tide me over until next year!

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 enjoyed the first two books in the Blood and Ash series, you will definitely want to continue the series with The Crown of Gilded Bones!

Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon: 9781524718961 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

Pages: 304

Publisher: Penguin (Delacorte Press)

Release Date: June 3, 2021

Genre(s): Contemporary Romnace

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

“In this romantic page-turner from the author of Everything, Everything and The Sun is Also a Star, Evie has the power to see other people’s romantic fates–what will happen when she finally sees her own?

Evie Thomas doesn’t believe in love anymore. Especially after the strangest thing occurs one otherwise ordinary afternoon: She witnesses a couple kiss and is overcome with a vision of how their romance began . . . and how it will end. After all, even the greatest love stories end with a broken heart, eventually.

As Evie tries to understand why this is happening, she finds herself at La Brea Dance Studio, learning to waltz, fox-trot, and tango with a boy named X. X is everything that Evie is not: adventurous, passionate, daring. His philosophy is to say yes to everything–including entering a ballroom dance competition with a girl he’s only just met.

Falling for X is definitely not what Evie had in mind. If her visions of heartbreak have taught her anything, it’s that no one escapes love unscathed. But as she and X dance around and toward each other, Evie is forced to question all she thought she knew about life and love. In the end, is love worth the risk?”

What Did I Think?

Don’t be fooled by the vibrant cover that gives off all kinds of happy vibes. Instructions for Dancing will tear your heart into tiny little pieces, glue it back together, and repeat this cycle a million times over before its end!

I picked up Instructions for Dancing because I was super intrigued by the whole “romantic psychic” part of the story, as well as the fact that I’m kind of obsessed with ballroom dancing (even though I’ve only taken one lesson in my entire life!). Usually it takes me a few chapters to become hooked on a story, but within the first two pages, I was completely entranced by Yoon’s writing. The whole book was written in a pretty casual voice, but then there would be moments when I would be totally caught off guard when a beautifully poetic line would pop up that made me stop and think a little harder about what the story was trying to convey. Between the super interesting overall concept, stunning writing, and this book was an absolutely gem from the get-go!

I always love when the protagonist is a fellow book lover, so reading Instructions for Dancing from Evie’s perspective made this tale that much sweeter, even though she could also be considered an anti-book lover when we first meet her. Evie’s been through the wringer over the past year, and I think anyone who has ever been through what she has would totally understand why she is so against falling in love. Though her character continued to evolve as she figured out how much she wanted to risk herself, I appreciated the fact that her dry sense of humor and love that she has for her friends and family never left her, even when she didn’t realize it. Overall, I thought Evie’s character was very well developed and I found that I could relate to her more than I originally thought I’d be able to, which was a total plus!

I was absolutely obsessed with X, his whole family, and Fifi the dance instructor. They brought so much life and light to a story that has so much heartbreak thrown into it. They always kept is realer that real, and I think that was exactly what Evie needed in her life. Seeing some of these characters’ lives play out in Evie’s visions were some of my favorite moments of the entire book, even when we got glimpses well into the future that my heart was often not prepared for. You seriously can’t help falling in love with the whole dance crew, so don’t even try to resist it – it will be to no avail!

Instructions for Dancing was the book I never knew I needed to read. I thought it was going to be a standard, fluffy contemporary, but it was so much more than that. Yoon’s writing was absolutely captivating, and through it I think all readers will learn so much about what is most important in life.

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

I’d highly recommend Instructions for Dancing for anyone looking for an unconventional contemporary read with both heartbreaking and heartwarming moments that you may not even see coming. If you’ve read any of Nicola Yoon’s previous books and thought those hit you in the feels, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

I’d also recommend this book to fans of Sarah Dessen, Mary H.K. Choi, and John Green.

Fantasy, Young Adult

Fable by Adrienne Young

Amazon.com: Fable: A Novel (Fable, 1) (9781250254368): Young, Adrienne:  Books

Pages: 357

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Release Date: September 1, 2020

Genre(s): Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

“For seventeen-year-old Fable, the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home she has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one, and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father, and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him, and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men. Fable takes you on a spectacular journey filled with romance, intrigue, and adventure.

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What Did I Think?

Just want to start by saying I FREAKING LOVED THIS BOOK! I know that I am only giving it four stars (will explain later!), but Fable was seriously like no other book I have ever read. Somebody ship me off to the Narrows, would ya?

The overall concept of Fable had me hooked almost instantly. The world in which the story takes place was immediately established as cutthroat yet whimsical (yes, apparently it is possible to be both!). I quickly fell in love with the vivid detail Young used to describe each individual location the characters traveled to, as well as the way in which we were able to see how the various characters viewed the places they traveled to through her strong use of dialogue. It took me a couple of chapters to get hooked on the story, but that didn’t bother me too much since there was a lot about its setting that needed to be expained early on. The plotline moved at a brisk pace while still making sure that each of the plot points meshed together in a logical way. I seriously have nothing I can complain about when it comes to the concept and plotline of this book – it is AMAZEBALLS!

I have such mad respect for the protagonist, Fable. She was left to her own devices on a brutal island as a young girl, and really took the challeneges she faced in stride rather than cowering to the HUGE amounts of fear she must have felt while being on Jeval. I was so intrigued by Fable’s work as a dredger and totally found myself GEEKING each time she went diving because I love things that sparkle almost as much as the gem merchants in this series! I appreciated Fable’s tenacity, willingness to take risks to benefit the greater good of those around her, and that even though she has had a hard life so far, she managed to continue to be compassionate towards others who (questionably) don’t deserve it. Fable’s character developed slowly in this book, and I look foward to seeing how much farther she comes in Namesake.

Even though I doubt I would make it long at sea for the stints of time the Marigold’s crew manages to, I kind of wish I got to be an honorary member of their crew! West, Paj, Auster, Hamish, and Willa were such a tight-knit group that they were more like family than just a ship crew. I really enjoyed reading about each of these characters’ individual lives and how those experiences led each of them to the Marigold. Young provided so much background on each of these characters that is was almost like they were all protagonists in the story. I loved watching each of their personalities shine through just as much as Fable’s did, and I can’t wait to see more of the whole crew in the next book!

There is only one big thing that is preventing me from giving this book a full five stars: The main romance. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good slow burn as much as the next person, but the way this one is established comes across as a little unnatural. I’m hoping that this aspect of the storyline grows on me in the second book because I really want to love it, but can’t quite yet.

Fable was seriously so much more than I expected in all the right ways. The worldbuilding was absolutely breathtaking, the plot progression was smooth as butter, and I finished the book wishing I got to be a part of the Marigold’s crew myself, even though they did manage to get themselves in quite a bit of trouble! Fable was my very first Adrienne Young book and it totally solidified the fact that she will now be an auto-buy author of mine from here out. Now onto reading Namesake!

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Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you’re all about nautical-themed fantasy novels, such as Daughter of the Pirate King or Passenger, I highly recommend you give Fable a read.

I would also strongly encourage anyone looking for a book with an enemies-to-lovers trope and who wants to be swept away on a whirlwind of an adventure filled to the brim with plot twists to definitely check this book out!

Fantasy, New Adult/Adult

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Pages: 705

Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #3

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Release Date: May 2, 2017

Genre(s): Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

***NOTE: If you have not read the first two books in the ACOTAR series, A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury, 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 WILL BRING VENGEANCE.

She has left the Night Court – and her High Lord – and is playing a deadly game of deceit. In the Spring Court, Tamlin is making deals with the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees, and Feyre is determined to uncover his plans. But to do so she must weave a web of lies, and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As mighty armies grapple for power, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

BUT WHILE WAR RAGES, IT IS HER HEART THAT WILL FACE THE GREATEST BATTLE.

THE THRILLING THIRD BOOK IN #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING FANTASY SERIES FROM SARAH J. MAAS.”

What Did I Think?

My oh my. A Court of Wings and Ruin sure does take its readers on one wild ride. I HATE rollercoasters, but this is one that I never wanted to get off of!

Before we jump into my review of this book, let’s do a quick recap of what went down in A Court of Mist and Fury. The book kicks off with Feyre and Tamlin returning back to the Spring Court following their time under the mountain. Understandably, Feyre has undergone a lot of trauma and is having issues coping with it, while Tamlin basically ignores the fact that the person he supposedly loves is wasting away right before his eyes. Tamlin and Feyre’s wedding day finally arrives, and just as Feyre is about to sprint down the aisle AWAY from her hubby-to-be, Rhysand, the High Lord of the Night Court, saves the day by whisking Feyre away to the Night Court to hold up her end of the deal they brokered while Under the Mountain. Though skeptical at first, Feyre starts to enjoy the company of Rhys and his Inner Circle, and quickly learns that Tamlin hasn’t been very forthcoming with her about many *very important* things. The closer Feyre grows to her companions in the Night Court, the more she loathes returning to Tamlin and the Spring Court, especially after the High Lord of Spring traps her in his manor. Luckily, Mor arrives to rescue her and Feyre opts to reside in Velaris on a more permanent basis. Hybern has begun his hunt for the Cauldron, and the members of the Night Court are determined to not let him succeed in his mission. Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned after good ol’ pain in the butt Tamlin sells Feyre, Rhys, and crew out, and Elain and Nesta are Made into High Fae with the Cauldron. And oh, yeah. Did I mention that Rhys and Feyre are MATES? Well, the mating bond sure does come in handy when Feyre pretends to want to return home to the Spring Court with Tamlin out of her “love” for him, when really she’s going to spy on him for Rhys and the Inner Circle as the newly appointed High Lady of the Night Court. I could talk about that ending FOREVER because it was so good, but instead, I think I’ll just move right on in to my review of A Court of Wings and Ruin!

I really enjoyed watching Feyre’s character evolve in the first two books in this series, and that trend definitely continues in A Court of Wings and Ruin. In ACOTAR and ACOMAF, Feyre spends a lot of time overcoming the traumas she has experienced in life, but this shifts a little bit in ACOWAR. I was captivated during the moments when Feyre would just be totally content with simply living, and seeing her actually enjoy her life at times was honestly so awesome because those moments had been very rare up until this point. I also loved that Feyre was just as fierce and strong-willed as she was in the first two books, and that she used that fire within her self to serve the people of Velaris (and beyond!) over and over again. It would have been so much simpler for her to just turn a blind eye to their needs, and I honestly found her generosity to be one of my favorite characteristics about her. Overall, I still love Feyre (even though I will admit that I did get a little annoyed with her at times as I was reading this book!) and I’m excited to see where else she’ll go in the next book.

Though I’m convinced he was already stealing my heart in the other two books, Rhysand has officially been deemed the love of my life by the end of A Court of Wings and Ruin. I loved that even though this book was really serious at times, Rhys maintained his swagger, playful attitude, and kick butt magical/Illyrian vibes I loved so much in the first two books. However, there was also a major shift in his character that I really appreciated – the fact that was willing to finally let himself feel true joy without being bogged down with haunting memories of his past. The mix of exposing his vulnerabilities and soaking in the happiness those around him bring him was beautifully balanced. As usual, I need more of the High Lord of the Night Court in my life. Thank the Cauldron there are more books in the series!

One of the most exciting parts of A Court of Wings and Ruin for me was all of the supporting characters getting more page time. Mor, Cassian, Az, and Amren literally give me LIFE, you guys! I found myself always slowing down my reading pace when everyone was together because I didn’t want to see them all go their separate ways again. Dare I say it, but I think this is one of those rare times when I like the supporting characters equally as much (if not more!) than the main protagonists! Nesta, Elain, and Lucian are also starting to grow on me after giving this book a read. I wasn’t sold on them to begin with, but as more of their personalities come through on the page, the more I am rooting for them to find their happy endings. Each and every one of these characters and their stories were so well developed, and I am so excited to see more of them as the series continues!

While it wasn’t my favorite book in the ACOTAR series so far, that honestly isn’t saying much because I was completely entranced from beginning to end by A Court of Wings and Ruin. The smoldering romance, endless action, witty humor, ALL the drama… ughh! It was all there and flowed so nicely together in a well laid out plotline. If I had to pick a highlight, it would have to be seeing how far each of the characters have come and seeing the supporting characters’ stories be filled in more substantially. Just like the other books in the series, A Court of Wings and Ruin will draw you in from the very first page, and you won’t ever want it to come to an end.

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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+***

If you’ve read the first two books in the ACOTAR series and fallen in love with (almost) everything about them like I have, I highly recommend continuing the series with A Court of Wings and Ruin!

Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett

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

Pages: 406

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: November 10, 2020

Genre(s): Contemporary Romnace

Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis

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

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

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

What Did I Think?

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

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

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

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

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

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

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

New Adult/Adult, Romance

Much Ado About You by Samantha Young

Pages: 384

Publisher: Berkley

Release Date: February 2, 2021

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis

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

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

What Did I Think?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

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

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

Fantasy, New Adult/Adult

A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Pages: 637

Series: Blood and Ash #2

Publisher: Blue Box Press

Release Date: September 1, 2020

Genre(s): Fantasy

Format: Paperback

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

Goodreads Synopsis

“A Betrayal…

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

A Choice…

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

A Secret…

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

What Did I Think?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

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

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

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.

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!

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.