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 😊

Bonus Content, More Bookish Fun!

#LittleFreeTips: Bookish Photography

Hello, bookish friends, and welcome back to the blog! This week’s post is actually something I’ve never done before: We’ve got a guest blogger in the house, woot woot! My very dear and wildly talented bookish friend, Nicole (aka @little_free_librarian over on Insta) is here to share some of her amazeballs bookstagram photography tips with you today! Let’s commence with passing over the honorary torch to her, shall we?

***

Bookstagram…. Ya’know, Instagram but for books? Crazy right! But there’s this whole entire community out there loving, hating, reviewing, and photographing books on Instagram. 

The other day in a class, we had one of those ever lovely and oh-so-popular ice breakers that we bookish folk love so much, and that ice-breaker was to describe something that you know a lot about. People were sharing about cooking the perfect baked alaska or bungee jumping and explaining the inner mechanics of the ‘chute deploying… I’m a librarian, I read for my fun and for work. I know very little beyond books. What was I supposed to talk about? 

But then, of course, that answer is books. The answer is always books. I’m not a professional photographer by any means (though I did photograph that one wedding one time… ), and I’m only so-so popular in the booksta community, but I do love a good flat-lay. So that’s what I shared, and people were enthralled! “What’s bookstagram?” “That’s a thing!?” “Are there accounts for Manga?” and the answer is yes and yes and yes.

A flat-lay is a photographer and marketing term which means to take a photo from directly over top of an item, giving the viewer a birds-eye view. The Nikon School says that flat-lay photography has never been more popular than it is right now. And for good reason… Just look at this flat-lay magic!

My favorite props are twinkle lights, cute junk, and everyday items. I burn that candle, I use that candle, and the rest? Mostly stuff you can find at your local craft store, the dollar section at Target, or the dollar store! And my background is usually just a plain white canvas I bought at Walmart! Some people use blankets, some people use other books – a background can be anything that sparks joy for you! I’m currently just a fan of the clean lines of a canvas. 

Are you trying to get a good flat-lay shot of your e-reader? Here’s a fun tip… photoshop that cover on! It’s way easier than dealing with your reflection in the screen. Here’s a before and after of an image I superimposed the cover onto using Canva (Canva is my best friend)

Don’t be afraid of layers and textures! I use blankets and sweaters to add a good texture to my photos. I like the fuzzy, cozy feel that it adds to the photo. 

Your props, whether candles, blankets, or what have you, will help you curate your feed (if that’s something that you’re into). I try to keep at least one prop consistent in my top 9 photos – unless I veer away from my flat-lay, which even I do sometimes – to keep the feed consistent and welcoming. Your top 9 photos are your first impression for new viewers or would-be-followers, so cater to that first impression – you only get to make it once! But don’t stifle your own creativity, either. I am constantly changing my own editing and themes! This is a creative outlet. Have fun. Enjoy it. Don’t make it feel like work. 

Did you try your hand and find… “Hey. None of my pictures look anything like hers!” Well, welcome to bookstagram where we value creativity and the exchange of ideas. No two people’s flat-lays will look identical.

The photos on booksta are always stellar… Plus of course we love the book reviews. My TBR list has grown exponentially since I’ve joined this community… But that’s exactly what this is first and foremost. This is a community, and I’ve met some very good and fun people through this app. Here are two of my booksta bffs who are wildly talented beautiful people who have vastly different styles to me and to each other! 

Meet my friends @inkedhemlock (MJ) and @kaylas.pages.and.places (Kayla)

MJ is like me in the sense that she loves her props! You can see them scattered around the photo, but the difference is in her staging and editing. MJ’s photos are much moodier and more “dark-academia-vibey” than my own and check out that gorgeous depth she creates by placing her books spine-up. A flat-lay doesn’t have to appear flat. We love depth! You can create this by putting your books on a platform to make them higher than the rest of your photos or showing them spine up like MJ does. Or if you have floral, try holding it in front of the lens (hand off camera) and click to focus on the image below. It will create a nice floral blur and provide depth to your photo. 

Kayla’s own flat-lay is one of my favorite techniques. You’ll see a lot of bookstagrammers including their legs to create a special detail shot! I have not perfected this technique, but Kayla’s is so chic and crisp. I love the use of the white linen as the backdrop and the contrast with the dark coffee. Where MJ is moody and I am dreamy, Kayla is modern and utilizes vibrant colors to her advantage. You can even see the pull of oranges through the photo with her sweater and the cover of the book. 

Ultimately, the best flat-lay is the one you enjoyed making! Bookstagram is fun and flat-lays are just one of many book photography techniques. Explore, find what you like, and have fun. I hope to see you around the ‘gram soon. 

You can always reach me at @little_free_librarian. Let’s be friends!

***

Thank you so much for sharing some of your super fun bookish photography tips with us today, Nicole! I for one am going to be trying some of these out myself on my own bookstragram feed, and so should all of you!

Until next week, bookish peeps! May your weekend be filled with trying out all these super fun bookstagram photography tips. I know mine will be 🙂

Bonus Content, Listologies Galore!

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

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

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

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

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

Historical Fiction, Young Adult

Romanov by Nadine Brandes

Pages: 337

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: May 7, 2019

Genre(s): Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

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

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

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

What Did I Think?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

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

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

Fantasy, New Adult/Adult

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Pages: 432

Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #1

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Release Date: May 5, 2015

Genre(s): Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

.“Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price…

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.”

What Did I Think?

I first read A Court of Thorns and Roses back when it first released in 2015, but decided to give it a re-read to prepare for newest book in the series releasing this year. I can honestly say that I am so so happy I decided to pick this book up again because I had totally forgotten how much I enjoyed it the first time!

The fact that this book is basically a very loose, fae-themed Beauty and the Beast story made my fairytale retelling-loving heart so happy! I quickly started falling for the stunning descriptions of Prythian and the different creatures roaming the mystical lands of the Spring Court that sharply contrast with the simplistic (and poverty-stricken) mortal realm of the novel. Maas quickly but thoroughly establishes the history between the fae and humans, which allows the reader to sympathize almost immediately with why the humans are so fearful of their faerie neighbors. Overall, the overall set-up and concept of this beauty was right up my alley!

Our main protagonist, Feyre, is so very human – both biologically and psychologically – and it’s one of my favorite things about her because it makes her experiences so relatable and understandable to the reader. The dedication she has to her family throughout the entire novel was so admirable, especially given the fact that they have undergone a lot of hardship that has created rifts in their bonds with one another. Through everything, Feyre continually cares for her family and ensures their safety, regardless of the way she’s been treated since her mother’s passing and the pain these efforts cause her. I really enjoyed the fact that while she is fiercely independent to the core, she begins to appreciate being cared for herself when she arrives in the Spring Court. Sometimes we all need some help, and seeing Feyre come around to that and to find joy in a life that could just be hers is something she wholeheartedly deserved. I also appreciated the moments when Feyre’s bravery shined through her fears – fears that fae wouldn’t have, but that any human in fae territory totally would have felt. Lord knows I would have been terrified to face half of the things Feyre did, but she took it all in stride to save herself and those she loves. I had a blast getting to know Feyre in this book, and I can’t wait to see how her character evolves in A Court of Mist and Fury.

Moving on to our Spring Court friends, Lucian and Tamlin. I am hands-down obsessed with Lucian. I found his bluntness extremely funny, even when his comments were not exactly the kindest by any stretch of the imagination. I also loved that he was always quick to admit when he’d made a mistake and try to make up for it however he could. Though he uses Tamlin as an excuse, I think he secretly has a soft spot for Feyre himself. Speaking of Tamlin… I also really enjoyed his character! While he not be my favorite male supporting lead of all time, his character certainly had a lot of depth. The moments when his true self managed to shine through the “beast” in him were some of my favorites to see, as well as those when he started to see Feyre as more than just a murderer/useless human. As a whole, Lucian and Tamlin were both very dynamic characters, and I’m excited to see how their viewpoints shift in the next book.

A Court of Thorns and Roses was just as fun to read this time as it was when I first picked it up. Maas’ world-building was beautifully done and had just enough detail for the reader to begin getting a feel for Prythian while leaving us wanting more of these mystical lands. All of the characters were nicely developed while leaving room for them to continue to grow as the series progresses, and the plotline was action-packed and well-paced. While this was a re-read, diving into A Court and Thorns and Roses once more felt like I was reading it for the first time. I am so excited to continue my re-read, and I have a sneaking suspicion that my love of these books will only grow as I keep flying through this series!        

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you love a good fae-filled fantasy novel that’s more on the mature side, A Court of Thorns and Roses may just be your next great read! I’d also recommend this book to readers who are suckers for loose fairytale retellings (like me!).

Fans of Holly Black, Jennifer L. Armentrout,  and Leigh Bardugo will also likely fall in love with the worldbuilding and characters in A Court of Thorns and Roses.

Bonus Content, More Bookish Fun!

Tour My Bookshelves: Part One!

Hello, bookish friends, and welcome back to the blog! I don’t know about you guys, but I can never resist those bookshelf tour videos what pop up incessantly on my YouTube suggested watch lists. If you’re like me and can’t help but admire all the beautiful bookshelves that are out in the universe, then this post is for you! Instead of a video, I’ve decided to give you a play-by-play of each of my bookshelves and tell you a little bit about my personal organization method. I’m especially excited about this post because I just finished reorganizing all of my bookshelves for the first time in YEARS. This is going to be a three part series, so stay tuned for Parts Two and Three those in the near future! Shall we get Part One of this thing rollin’ or what?

The Quirky Contemporaries

The Montague Siblings series is hiding behind Carry On!

Of all my bookshelves, this one has to be one of my favorites because it holds contemporary reads that I have deemed simply unforgettable. Whether it be the impeccable writing, out-of-the-box overall concept, or hilariously eccentric characters I couldn’t help but relate to, all of these books have managed to steal my heart!

The Cassandra Clare Shelf

The Bane Chronicles, The Red Scrolls of Magic, Chain of Gold, and an illustrative Mortal Instruments book are behind the 10th Anniversary edition of City of Bones!

Given the fact that Cassandra Clare has about a million books in her Shadowhunter Chronicles, I had no choice but to dedicate an entire shelf (and then some!) to these beauties. I read the Mortal Instruments series many years ago, and I love seeing how the OGs have changed and meeting new characters as more books are released.

The Sarah J. Maas + Honorable Mentions Shelf

All merch in this picture was purchased from the Bookish Shop in their Throne of Glass and ACOTAR limited edition boxes.

Like so many of you, I am completely obsessed with anything Sarah J. Maas writes and I don’t see that changing anytime soon! In addition to her writing, Bloomsbury has done a fantastic job of making her covers absolutely STUNNING and it just seemed completely sacrilegious to hide them behind all the Maastastic merch I’ve collected over the years. I also included a few books by Holly Black and Brigid Kemmerer on this shelf because I found myself enjoying them almost as much as I did Sarah J. Maas’ books (some elements, I may have even liked more, as crazy at it is to believe!).   

Homage to the QUEEN (aka the Jennifer L. Armentrout Shelf)

The merch pictured was either purchased from the Bookish Shop, Hello Lovely, or I picked it up at Jennifer’s yearly ApollyCon event. Lots of hidden books on this shelf: the Harbinger series, part of the Dark Elements series, the Titan series, the Wicked trilogy, and the Wicked novellas.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time laying out this shelf because the QUEEN doesn’t deserve any less than perfection! I have been a JLA fan since I was 14 years old and I don’t see myself ever NOT being one. Each book I read by Jennifer is quick to draw me in and her plot twists/cliffhangers are like none other. Though this isn’t my entire JLA collection, this shelf contains all of my favorites by her (other than the Covenant series, which is on my Nook!).

The Fantasy Faves Shelf

I am totally blanking on where I purchased the Six of Crows prints from (I’m guessing I got them in either a Fairyloot box or a Bookish Box?), but the bookmark was from Barnes and Noble! The rest of the Darkest Minds series and Prosper Redding are hidden behind The Darkest Legacy.

This shelf contains a mix of some of my favorite fantasy reads. For the most part, these are those that I could read again and again and not tire of them!

The (Mostly!) Summery Contemporaries Shelf

Lots of hidden friends on this shelf, too: The Geography of Lost Things, Stay Sweet, The Boy Most Likely To, and My Life Next Door are behind The Chaos of Standing Still. The Unexpected Everything, Second Chance Summer, Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, The Promise of Amazing, and The Natural History of Us are all behind Again, but Better.

This next shelf is for my go-to summer reads (or pick-me-ups I read in the winter when the cold starts getting to me!). As you can see from how packed this shelf is, I love a good contemporary romance that has a beachy/summertime setting and am always quick to add them to my ever-growing collection!

The Unforgettable Series Shelves

The Hunger Games series and the Beautiful Creatures series are peeking out from behind my Throne of Glass coloring book!

I decided to used these little cubes at the bottom of my bookshelf to store some of the series I’ve really enjoyed over the years. The one on the left contains the Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series – two series so long that it totally warranted its own cube! I didn’t have quite enough room on my SJM shelf for the Throne of Glass coloring book, so I decided to savor its beauty from here instead!

Quick and Easy Romance Reads Shelves

As the title suggests, these shelfs hold the vast majority of my adult contemporary/romances, most of which were gifted to me in some form or another. I look forward to putting more of a dent in these at some point this year!

The Fantasy/Dystopian Series Shelf

This is the first of two shelves that are actually build into the headboard of my bed (a splurge when I bought it, but totally worth it for the extra storage!). You’ll find just a few fantasy/dystopian series on this shelf. I have read all of these but the Uglies series, which I hope to dive into once my brain stops momentarily rejecting the dystopian genre (ughh… the struggle is real, you guys!).  

The Leftovers Shelf

This shelf is a bit of a mixed bag, as I honestly just ran out of room on my other shelves and these were my odd balls I couldn’t quite figure out where to put. Some of these I just wasn’t a huge fan of, while others I remember thoroughly enjoying.

The Rando Book-Related Items Shelves

I used these two shelves to store some of my bookish merch. On the left is where I store all of my Book Beaus and bookish-themed pouches I’ve gotten in boxes and at events, as well as blankets and tapestries. On the right is where I store my Nook, any books I borrow from other people, and a binder full of the bonus stories I have received from preorders/author campaigns.

That’s a wrap on Part One of the Tour My Bookshelf series! I hope you all enjoyed checking out how I’ve decided to organize these first few shelves. How do you organize your bookshelves? I’ve always wanted to try to make a rainbow design, but I’m a little two OCD about series titles being together that I haven’t been brave enough to try it!

Until next week, bookish peeps! May the rest of your week be filled with beautiful bookish fun! 🙂