Photo Review – The Bat (Harry Hole #1) by Jo Nesbo

The Bat (Harry Hole #1)

By Jo Nesbo

Summary:

Inspector Harry Hole of the Oslo Crime Squad is dispatched to Sydney to observe a murder case. Harry is free to offer assistance, but he has firm instructions to stay out of trouble. The victim is a twenty-three year old Norwegian woman who is a minor celebrity back home. Never one to sit on the sidelines, Harry befriends one of the lead detectives, and one of the witnesses, as he is drawn deeper into the case. Together, they discover that this is only the latest in a string of unsolved murders, and the pattern points toward a psychopath working his way across the country. As they circle closer and closer to the killer, Harry begins to fear that no one is safe, least of all those investigating the case.

Source: I purchased a paperback to read for the Nordic Noir category of the 2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge.

Review:

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Photo Review – All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

All the Missing Girls

By Megan Miranda

Review – From the Earth to the Shadows (Valkyrie #2) by Amanda Hocking

 

From the Earth to the Shadows (Valkyrie #2)

By Amanda Hocking

SummaryThe epic conclusion to the thrilling Valkyrie duology by New York Times bestselling YA author Amanda Hocking, From the Earth to the Shadows.

While dealing with dark revelations about her life and her world, Malin finds herself with new allies–and new enemies. Her quest for the truth leads her to places she never thought possible, and she’s never been one to shy away from a fight. But for all her strength and determination, will it be enough to save the world before it’s too late? 

Grab a copyAmazon . Barnes & Noble . Books-a-Million . IndieBound . Powells

About the Author: Amanda Hocking is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book. 

http://www.worldofamandahocking.com/ . @Amanda_Hocking . @AmandaHockingFans . Author Blog

Source: I received a digital copy in exchange for participation in blog tour and honest review.
 
 
Review:
 
Book One Review is here
 
I really enjoyed Between the Blade and Heart as a fun and somewhat unique urban fantasy with valkyries, gods, drama, and mayhem. From the Earth to the Shadows is the much anticipated sequel. 
 
I liked the supporting characters in the first book and I was glad to see more of them in the sequel. 
 
If I’m being honest, From the Earth to the Shadows wasn’t the thrilling sequel that I expected. It felt very much like a second book instead of an epic finale. Something was missing and the writing felt clunky. I don’t remember not liking the writing in the first book, so I’m not sure if the tone changed or if I’m just more forgiving when I’m reading a first book. I do tend to forgive a first book for feeling a little like info-dump, but it didn’t work in a second book. It just felt like the characters went from point A to B to C without a lot of world or character building in a way that would have smoothed the story out.
 
The plot itself was good, I just wished the story was executed in a more polished way. 
 
If you’re looking for a fun urban fantasy, the story is good. If you tend to read a lot of unpolished indie books and don’t mind a little bit of roughness in the storytelling, it’s definitely a great read and I thought it ended well. 
 
Star 3
 
 
 
 

Review – Restore Me (Shatter Me #4) by Tahereh Mafi

Restore Me (Shatter Me #4)

By Tahereh Mafi

SummaryJuliette Ferrars thought she’d won. She took over Sector 45, was named the new Supreme Commander, and now has Warner by her side. But she’s still the girl with the ability to kill with a single touch—and now she’s got the whole world in the palm of her hand. When tragedy hits, who will she become? Will she be able to control the power she wields and use it for good?

Source: I preorded a hardcover

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Review:

If you know me, you know that the Shatter Me series is one of my absolute favorite YA series. I reread it almost every year because I sometimes miss the unique writing style and I just haven’t found anything quite the same. So when I found out the author was continuing the series, I was excited. And I knew we’d be getting a POV from Warner, which I liked in Destroy Me, so I thought Restore Me would be amazing.

What I liked about Restore Me:

As a dystopian story, even I will admit the Shatter Me series failed to really give readers much in terms of worldbuilding. We are caught up in Juliette’s brain and she was not aware of a lot of what was going on. She was also focused on other things. As the story progressed and she turned outward, we got a lot more information, but there was still a lot to build on. I liked that Restore Me acknowledged that by being a book that dealt with the state of the sector and became more of a global book since there were additional characters, areas, plots, and Juliette wasn’t the only narrator. In terms of dystopian stories, Restore Me was a great book that dealt with the hardships of running things, leading others, and fighting against an entity that oppresses people.

As a standalone, if we vaguely knew some backstory about the series, it would be a good dystopian novel of its own that would compete with the likes of The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc.

However, it’s not a new series.

It’s a continuation of a series. It’s a continuation of a series I love, a series that is written differently than this book… and that is where it ultimately fails for me.

To understand why I didn’t like Restore Me, you have to understand why I love the original series.

I love that the series starts with Juliette in an asylum frantically counting and crossing out her thoughts and then progresses and the writing style with it. As Juliette grows into a person who isn’t so afraid of her own bad thoughts and demands to exist in her own way, the crossing out of lines stops and she becomes who she was always meant to be. And along the way, her relationships and own perception of other people change as well. It’s so ingenious because we realize as readers how unreliable she is as a narrator when she’s trapped in her own head. Although the outside plot of the original series was open and largely unexplained, the story arc of Juliette was completed. She became herself. The story was never about the rest of the world. It was a story about her. The poetic writing worked with the story, the fact that Juliette’s narration wasn’t focused on the outside world was sort of the point to me.

I already said that there was definitely room to expand upon the actual world of Shatter Me and include other characters, but that it wasn’t the point of the story. While the original series is a YA dystopian series, it’s not really a YA dystopian if you compare to other books. For me, the story mirrors growth. Juliette’s relationship with Adam was a symbol of what society always wanted her to be, what she thought she HAD to be to survive, and her growth and development into a confident and strong person who discovered her own strength didn’t leave room for that scared and meek girl Adam loved. Her relationship with Warner was a result of finally understanding herself, what she was capable of, etc. She even said in Ignite Me how awful it was that the entire time she was counting in a corner in the asylum, she was capable of walking through concrete and didn’t know.. didn’t get angry or focused enough to even try. That’s the point of the series to me. We see Juliette’s character growth and her narration changes along with her.
So this is why I didn’t like Restore Me:

Restore Me feels like what happens when you grow up and perhaps grow out of things. You grow up and think, You’re a teenager, Juliette, what could you possibly hope to accomplish by becoming Supreme Leader? Did you really think you could do this without any hardships? And who falls in love with THE ONE at your age? You guys are bound to have issues. Do you even really know him? Ugh, you are so immature! And what about the rest of the world? Why didn’t anyone explain The Reestablishment? 

And it feels like the author came at the story with all of that in her mind and proceeded to (sorry) RUIN everything I loved about the series. Like when you pick up an old favorite with new adult eyes and realize maybe the main character was immature. Like when you watch The Little Mermaid as an adult and think maybe Ariel’s father was right and Ariel is being a brat and she’s only 16, so she’s still a kid in the grand scheme of things.

OR.. the author, having been a YA author and in the YA community, has read much more YA than she did previously, discovered where other series were having success, and proceeded to pepper the story with tons of YA tropes, issues, and worldbuilding in order to provide conflict because thats what other successful YA stories have.

OR both of those things happened. I’m not really sure.

Either way, Restore Me is just not what I expected.

I found it to be an unncessary continuation of the story that proceeded to destroy most of what I love about the series.

To explain: In the book, it’s been 16 days since the end of Ignite Me and our cast of characters have changed dramatically.

Juliette, who FINALLY discovered herself and her potential, proceeded to turn into an unsure, somewhat whiny, and clueless girl (not even the same unsure girl she used to be) after just 16 days of success in overthrowing the Supreme Leader. Also, the one person she had a mutual connection with and strategized with and trusted is no longer her go to person for help because of … reasons? Suddenly, she’s just a completely different person for no reason and everything she respected about Warner is suddenly forgotten or something?

Warner, who loves Juliette with all his heart and has COMPLETE confidence in himself and Juliette, suddenly turned into this weird person who doesn’t communicate at all and second guesses himself and also offers Juliette no assistance despite being the type of person who 16 days ago would have drawn up a complete spreadsheet on who everyone leading each sector was and how to win them over or beat them. He knows his job and wouldn’t just leave Juliette hanging.. or wouldn’t have 16 days ago.

His new “personality” legit angered me. Like… IDK who the F this Warner is, but even if I give him credit for grieving and also wanting to give Juliette space to lead, there’s literally no possible way he’d ever let things spiral out of control the way he did. Their entire relationship was BUILT on TRULY understanding one another and I just don’t believe they would have the crazy communication issues after just 16 days, EVEN knowing that Warner keeps a lot to himself. It’s like the author spent the entire original series building this whole mutual understanding and amazing relationship only to decide that Juliette shouldn’t need a man, even a man that makes her a better person. It feels like the whole point of Restore Me was watching the author try to make Juliette independent by destroying her relationship with Warner. Or maybe just create discord for plot suspense. Either way, the Warner I knew wouldn’t watch Juliette flounder in a society she knows nothing about while he holds the key to helping her understand the other sectors. He wouldn’t have done that in a million years.

Kenji, who became an amazing friend, is suddenly back to being the Jokester, except blander than usual.

Castle, who was always a naive and optimistic leader of the rebellion suddenly became super organized and knows everything about the sectors and decides to share all the news in passive aggressive sneaky ways in order to cause chaos and discord between Juliette, Kenji, and Warner. What happened to the Professor X type of character? Suddenly, it feels like he exists only to make everyone second guess themselves by being passive aggressive.

And to top it off, the author also decided to pull a Sarah J Maas (I love you, Mafi and Maas, but for real).. and decided to whip up some secondary characters with mysterious backgrounds and throw them into the story for fun. If I didn’t know and love the original series, maybe I’d be up for this, but I was already frustrated by the old characters who were suddenly different people and I SO didn’t have time for actual different people.

Also, there’s no more amazing poetic writing.

Basically, it’s your typical YA dystopian novel complete with over the top plots, unnecessary miscommunication drama, relationship drama, and mysterious characters along with the twist of WHO IS JULIETTE REALLY. (Which, again, would be fine if this wasn’t a contination of a series that was completely different 16 days ago!) If it wasn’t for the fact that the series already existed and was completely fine by itself, Restore Me was a kind of exciting first book in a dystopian series. The ending was cool, the drama, though over the top, was fun, and there was definitely more of a focus on things aside from Juliette and her head, but this was just so unnecessary.

I LIKED being stuck in unreliable Juliette’s head and watching her grow. I liked Warner and the way he believed in her and inspired her to be amazing. I liked the ambiguous not really explained dystopian setting. I liked the crossed out sentences and purple prose. I liked it all.

I read that Mafi wanted to give her fans what they asked for – more plot, less poetry.. and she did, but I can’t help but think that she wasn’t writing this for fans who loved the first book. It feels like this book is for people who only sort of kind of liked the series and wanted it to be more Divergent-esque.

To be as fair as possible, I’m giving Restore Me 3 stars. It’s more of a 1-2 for me, but it’s really not a bad book, so I can’t be quite that harsh. For me, I’ll just pretend Restore Me didn’t happen after Ignite Me and maybe continue this weird spin off series by pretending it has no relation to the Juliette and Warner from the first “trilogy” and call it a day.

Star 3

Review – Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2) by Victoria Schwab

Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2)

By Victoria Schwab

Summary: THE WORLD IS BREAKING. AND SO ARE THEY.

KATE HARKER isn’t afraid of monsters. She hunts them. And she’s good at it.

AUGUST FLYNN once yearned to be human. He has a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

THE WAR HAS BEGUN.

THE MONSTERS ARE WINNING.

Kate will have to return to Verity. August will have to let her back in. And a new monster is waiting—one that feeds on chaos and brings out its victims’ inner demons.

Which will be harder to conquer: the monsters they face, or the monsters within?

Source: I purchased a hardcover.

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Review:

Our Dark Duet started with our characters completely changed. Kate wasn’t even in town anymore, off hunting other monsters in other cities.

August was becoming his brother more and more every day, which was a bit sad to see.

Eventually, the characters came together and worked toward an end, but I can’t really say I enjoyed the ride. I get why the story shifted and understand that people are changed by circumstance, but that’s not anywhere near the journey I wanted to see them make.

Reread and Review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1)

By Victoria Schwab

SummaryThere’s no such thing as safe.Kate Harker wants to be as ruthless as her father. After five years and six boarding schools, she’s finally going home to prove that she can be.August Flynn wants to be human. But he isn’t. He’s a monster, one that can steal souls with a song. He’s one of the three most powerful monsters in a city overrun with them. His own father’s secret weapon.Their city is divided.Their city is crumbling.Kate and August are the only two who see both sides, the only two who could do something.But how do you decide to be a hero or a villain when it’s hard to tell which is which? 

Source: I received a hardcover in my Owlcrate box.

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Original Review:

I received This Savage Song in an Owlcrate box and I wanted it very badly. While I haven’t read any of Schwab’s YA novels, I really enjoyed Vicious and I knew she had the ability to wow me with a tale of monsters. I was right. I LOVED This Savage Song. It was unique, interesting, well executed, and awesome with characters I loved immediately. I really enjoyed August’s character and the way he fought internally over his humanity. I loved Kate and her desire to be fierce and unforgiving.

In a fast paced adventure, August Flynn debated what it meant to be human, attempted to feed without falling, and Kate Harker struggled over where she fit in with her father keeping her away from Verity. She did everything she could to come home, only she knew she had a lot to prove to a person she wasn’t sure she trusted. I love that the story, while still fast paced and full of betrayal and close calls, took the time to talk about what it meant to be human, what being a good person was about, and I felt like I fully understood the weight of each choice the characters had to make. Vicious did a similar thing, so I feel like the author really cuts to the heart of good and evil in her books and I can’t wait to read more of her novels.

Schwab is an author to look out for. She’s extremely talented and I love the way she writes. The plot of This Savage Song was unique, but the idea of a hero losing his humanity and a heroine attempting to be fierce are not new to the YA sphere and the book could have easily turned into another forgettable YA adventure if placed in another author’s hands. Schwab balanced complexity with adventure and she did it well!I cannot gush enough about This Savage Song. I was so afraid it would disappoint me because I had such high expectations after reading Vicious. Fortunately, it appears the author isn’t going anywhere and she’s putting out some pretty amazing work! I highly recommend the book if the synopsis intrigues you. I don’t know that it would appeal to those who stick to the contempories and other realistic fiction, but for lovers of fantasy or alternate worlds and strange creatures, it’s awesome.

2018 thoughts:

Not a 5 Star Read to me anymore, but still good.

Review – Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Girls Made of Snow and Glass

By Melissa Bashardoust

Summary: Frozen meets The Bloody Chamber in this feminist fantasy reimagining of the Snow White fairytale

At sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

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Source: I purchase a hardcover.

Review:

I really wanted to love this book. I thought the Snow White retelling would be dark and enchanting, but I failed to connect with any of the characters.

Even the villains of the story fell a bit flat and I feel that this was a bit of a waste of potential. The premise was great.. it just was a bit slow and tough to get through, with very little payoff. I would’ve liked to see a bigger finish or a meatier story.