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Review – Beastly (Kendra Chronicles #1) by Alex Flynn

 

Beastly (Kendra Chronicles #1)

By Alex Flinn

SummaryI am a beast.

A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright—a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.

You think I’m talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It’s no deformity, no disease. And I’ll stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy.

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Review:

I’ve seen the Beastly movie a handful of times and enjoy it, for the most part. I decided to finally check out the book and see if it was any better. I like the movie, but there are times when the movie is unbelievably cheesy.

Beastly is a great Beauty and the Beast retelling that is modern, young,  and from the beast’s point of view. In a lot of ways, it was pretty good. It seemed a tad more serious than the movie and I liked that it kept the theme of roses and we got to see Kyle grow as a person when he transformed. I enjoyed the twist with the maid that wasn’t a part of the movie. I also liked that I got a little more insight into Lindy’s life and her father’s drug problem that the movie kind of rushed through.

However, I think I prefer the movie in every other way. 

I liked that the movie turned Kyle into a different version of himself, but he was still human. I liked that he had to learn how to be an ugly person, but was otherwise fairly normal looking. His flaws and scars were just enough to turn heads, but it wasn’t like he was some furry and clawed animal trying to walk around. I feel like learning to be ugly is a much better lesson and more believable. People are going to scream when an animal starts walking around town, so I felt like it was a little far fetched to turn him into that like that book did. 

I also did not like the weird IM chatroom between the various fairy tale people. I mean, I felt like it was interesting, but it made the story seem that much more unbelievable to me. I think I preferred the strange Kendra magic that was not quite explained in the movie, but was otherwise unconnected to other fairy tales. 

Still, I’m glad I read the book and I do like that it’s one of the few out there that modernize the story and give us the POV of the beast based on why he was initially turned. It was a little awful to be stuck in Kyle’s shallow head, but it was so much more satisfying to watch him grow into a better person.

Star 3

 

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Review – A Million Junes by Emily Henry

 

A Million Junes

By Emily Henry

SummaryFor as long as Jack “June” O’Donnell has been alive, her parents have had only one rule: stay away from the Angert family. But when June collides—quite literally—with Saul Angert, sparks fly, and everything June has known is thrown into chaos.


Who exactly is this gruff, sarcastic, but seemingly harmless boy who has returned to their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, after three mysterious years away? And why has June—an O’Donnell to her core—never questioned her late father’s deep hatred of the Angert family? After all, the O’Donnells and the Angerts may have mythic legacies, but for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them.

 

As Saul and June’s connection grows deeper, they find that the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers seem to be conspiring to reveal the truth about the harrowing curse that has plagued their bloodlines for generations. Now June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored, and she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all the O’Donnells before her—to let go.

Source: I received a hardcover as part of my Book of the Month Club subscription

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Review:

I heard great things about A Million Junes, but it sat on my TBR shelf for quite some time. I picked it up to complete a category in the 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge (book with a month in the title), but I didn’t have high expectations. I didn’t enjoy The Love That Split The World and magical realism is hit or miss for me. I have my go to authors for it and I definitely have to be in the mood, but I was so disappointed by her other book that I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy this one. I almost didn’t choose it for my BotM Club pick, but the reviews were so great that I knew I should try it out.

A Million Junes was dazzling. 

I enjoyed the story so much and immediately grew to care about all of the characters. I enjoyed the legends about the O’Donnells and the family feud with the Angerts. I wanted to unravel the mystery for June, especially as she found herself constantly around Saul Angert and realized maybe it wasn’t as simple as she thought.

I felt like the author really captured a wonderful story about growing up, falling in love, family, friendship, and letting go of the past all in one magical story. I loved that the magical elements were there, but not overpowering. It was just a taste of the supernatural in an otherwise regular world. It was brilliantly executed and I thoroughly enjoyed the story. I cannot gush about it enough. I felt completely immersed in the book from page one and I couldn’t wait to see how it all unfolded.

I highly recommend A Million Junes. It was so much better than I’d expected! It actually makes me want to reread The Love That Split the World because maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood for it at the time? I’m not sure. But I preferred the actual plot in A Million Junes, too.

 Star 5

Review – The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle

The Goblins of Bellwater

By Molly Ringle

SummaryA contemporary romance inspired by Christina Rossetti’s eerie, sensual poem, “Goblin Market.” Four neighbors encounter sinister enchantments and a magical path to love in a small, modern-day Puget Sound town, where a fae realm hides in the woods and waters…

Most people have no idea goblins live in the woods around the small town of Bellwater, Washington. But some are about to find out. 

Skye, a young barista and artist, falls victim to a goblin curse in the forest one winter night, rendering her depressed and silenced, unable to speak of what happened. Her older sister, Livy, is at wit’s end trying to understand what’s wrong with her. Local mechanic Kit would know, but he doesn’t talk of such things: he’s the human liaison for the goblin tribe, a job he keeps secret and never wanted, thrust on him by an ancient family contract.

Unaware of what’s happened to Skye, Kit starts dating Livy, trying to keep it casual to protect her from the attention of the goblins. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Kit, Skye draws his cousin Grady into the spell through an enchanted kiss in the woods, dooming Grady and Skye both to become goblins and disappear from humankind forever.

It’s a midwinter night’s enchantment as Livy, the only one untainted by a spell, sets out to save them on a dangerous magical path of her own.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

I picked up The Goblins of Bellwater on a whim while book shopping. I was drawn to the cover and the fact that it’s set near where I’m currently living. I love the idea of goblins in the woods and have enjoyed every goblin/faery story with that plot/backdrop, so I felt like this was a great pick for me.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think the book was as gorgeous as the cover. I don’t know what I expected, but I think what ultimately failed for me was the execution. I knew going into it that was more of an urban fantasy/new adult romance and that was fine, but i think I expected a bit more magic and even the sensual aspects, since it was based off of the poem, to be higher and more ramped up. Skye lingered in the forests and was drawn to the spell of the goblins, but I didn’t FEEL it. When she was quiet and cursed, I didn’t feel the longing that way I expected. Instead, the POV switched over to the sister and became more of an ordinary small town romance. I wish I wouldn’t been more connected to the characters.

In the end, the book felt more like a contemporary romance that you’d find for 2 bucks on Amazon and I don’t mean that in a good way. It was forgettable and not as enchanting as the synopsis or cover suggested. It was frustrating because there was so much potential for the story to be amazing and it just didn’t fit together in a way that grabbed me. 

Star 2

 

Review – Before She Ignites (Fallen Isles Trilogy #1) by Jodi Meadows

 

Before She Ignites (Fallen Isles Trilogy #1)

By Jodi Meadows

SummaryBefore

Mira Minkoba is the Hopebearer. Since the day she was born, she’s been told she’s special. Important. Perfect. She’s known across the Fallen Isles not just for her beauty, but for the Mira Treaty named after her, a peace agreement which united the seven islands against their enemies on the mainland.

But Mira has never felt as perfect as everyone says. She counts compulsively. She struggles with crippling anxiety. And she’s far too interested in dragons for a girl of her station.

After

Then Mira discovers an explosive secret that challenges everything she and the Treaty stand for. Betrayed by the very people she spent her life serving, Mira is sentenced to the Pit–the deadliest prison in the Fallen Isles. There, a cruel guard would do anything to discover the secret she would die to protect.

No longer beholden to those who betrayed her, Mira must learn to survive on her own and unearth the dark truths about the Fallen Isles–and herself–before her very world begins to collapse.

Source: I received a hardcover in an Owlcrate

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Review:

I couldn’t wait to read Before She Ignites because I love YA fantasy and I feel like we don’t get enough dragons in YA fantasy, so the promise of dragons hooked me. 

The book is difficult to review because I did enjoy it, but I didn’t like it at times. It’s hard to really decide how I feel about it overall. I think this is one of those times when the second book in a series will ultimately decide how the trilogy itself will be for me in the end. As a first book, Before She Ignites was flawed, but a thrilling second book will redeem every bit of it because the end was decent and there was a ton of potential with the basic foundation laid out in the book. The beginning was good, but the middle faltered a bit and I almost put it down because I was bored and getting irritated by how much it felt like a YA dystopian novel just set in a fantasy world. Part Three of the book picked up the pace and I felt like I was finally getting into it, caring about the characters, and feeling that maybe it wouldn’t be so predictable in the end. 

Right now, the trilogy as a whole could go either way and be super awesome or extremely forgettable. It has a ton of potential and I just need to see how it unfolds in order to make a final decision about whether I really enjoyed this book or not.

One disappointment is that the book talked about dragons and even had a handful of scenes with dragons, but was not really a dragon fantasy and I think my expectations were too high in that regard. 

On a good note, though, there didn’t seem to be any real insta-love, love triangles, or any of that other awful YA trope stuff. 

For people who suffer from anxiety, Mira is probably a character they can relate to and see a bit of themselves in and I do like that a fantasy decided to feature that in a way that worked well for the reader. Still, it was difficult to like Mira for quite some time as she fell from privileged rich girl to prison scum and her naivety was a bit much in the beginning. Like YA dystopian novels, it went through the painful phase in which the main character started to realize perhaps her people were lying to her and maybe everyone else and work through the motives and consequences of that. 

For now, I think 3 stars is fair until the sequel comes out and I can decide if it makes this one worth reading.

Star 3

Review- Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

 

Mask of Shadows

By Linsey Miller

Summary: “I love every aspect of this amazing book—a gender fluid hero, a deadly contest, and vicious courtly intrigue. Get! Read! Now!” —Tamora Pierce, #1 New York Times bestselling author

I Needed to Win.
They Needed to Die.

Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class—and the nobles who destroyed their home. 

When Sal steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of The Left Hand—the Queen’s personal assassins, named after the rings she wears—Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge. 

But the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. And as Sal succeeds in the competition, and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive.

Source: I received a digital ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: 

Mask of Shadows started very strong and I fully expected to enjoy it. Sal was a confident, if somewhat arrogant, main character who intrigued me with the carriage robbery in which Sal was both sneaky and polite, flirting with the victim of the robbery in a witty banter. I was so excited to get a Celaena-like character in another fantasy who wasn’t afraid to be sassy/bold.

I kind of suck at reading book blurbs and remembering what the book was about, so I completely forgot about/ignored/never noticed that the main character was supposed to be gender fluid so I wasn’t really sure what Sal was when I first began and it took a few pages before Sal mentioned anything at all about gender fluidity, but aside from Sal’s few mentions about it, it wasn’t really talked about. 

Side note: I don’t know much about gender fluidity at all, but the book did not help me to become any more knowledgable about it, which is a little disappointing because I usually expect books and fiction to educate the reader about issues if they are big enough issues to discuss. I often read to put myself in the shoes of others and a lot of readers do the same, so I had hoped to walk away from the book feeling a little less confused about it. Instead, Sal dressed sometimes like a girl and sometimes like a boy and preferred the pronoun that fit the dress and that was about the only thing mentioned about it. In fantasy novels, women often dress like men in order to fight/move around/be an assassin and also to be taken seriously. (And since pants weren’t really an option for women in the first place, any woman wearing pants would essentially be wearing men’s clothes.) I don’t really think it worked well to have that be the main and only mention of Sal’s gender fluidity because women who dress like men in fantasy books typically still wished to be addressed as women (and usually just want to wear pants!), so I didn’t really understand why Sal would get irritated when people addressed Sal as a girl when in men’s clothing, nor did I really get to know the other characters and understood what they were wearing in relation during each interaction to help me better understand it all. I get that in today’s society, perhaps those who are gender fluid can and do use their manner of dress in this way, but it doesn’t work as well for me given the setting. I think the whole gender fluid aspect only served to make people who already understand it happy that there was a main character who was and is a great aspect, but didn’t do much to really put anyone else in Sal’s shoes and enlighten them. (I am perfectly happy to look everything I have questions about up myself and did not expect to walk away from the book as an expert on the matter, I just hoped I’d have one or two less questions about it all)..

Truthfully, how Sal dressed or was or felt was a non issue and had no impact on my review or feelings about the novel in a negative way. The reason this review isn’t a stellar one is solely based on the rest of the book. In fact, Sal’s gender fluidity was the best and most unique aspect of the entire book. 

Mask of Shadows did not do anything new in the YA fantasy genre aside from the diverse MC. It was the first book of Throne of Glass almost exactly in terms of plot. It was a competition among people to become the Queen’s Assassin with the tests involving training, expertise, and it was up to the contestants to wipe each other out and whoever was left standing would essentially be the winner. The main character also had issues with politics and those politics directly impacted the main character’s childhood and upbringing, so revenge was a big motivator. Sal was also like Celaena because of the romance with someone already at the court/palace and was not related to the game itself, but helped with aspects of training. Other than the gender fluidity of Sal, it felt like a book I’ve already read before.

Unlike Throne of Glass, the rest of the competition remained pretty much faceless strangers. I did not feel like I got to know anyone else at all. There was not a lot of character building or world building, as the competitors donned masks and avoided each other. I had hoped for some alliances to be made so that there was more at stake emotionally for Sal and/or the reader, but they were just faceless numbers falling off and helping Sal get closer to winning.

I kept reading the book hoping for a twist or turn that would make the book seem more exciting/dangerous, but Sal remained fairly unscathed for most of the book and I knew Sal would be chosen as the next Opal and that’s pretty much how the book would end. When the final test came about and Sal had to execute the name on the paper, I had hoped for it to conflict with Elise somehow so that there would at least be some romantic drama, but no.

Other reviews keep saying that Mask of Shadows had great world-building and was so action packed, but I just don’t agree and I kind of feel like I must have been reading a completely different book. The book did have a lot of potential to be amazing, but it fell short in just about every aspect. I needed more world and character building, more high stakes, and less Sal just being good at everything and eye-rolling insta-love. (As much as I loved how unconventional and diverse the whole relationship was, it’s still eye rolling insta-love and could’ve been much better developed). 

 

Star 2 

Review – Ivory and Bone (Ivory and Bone #1) by Julie Eshbaugh

Ivory and Bone (Ivory and Bone #1)

By Julie Eshbaugh

SummaryA prehistoric fantasy—with allusions to Pride and Prejudice.

Hunting, gathering, and keeping his family safe—that’s the life seventeen-year-old Kol knows. Then bold, enigmatic Mya arrives from the south with her family, and Kol is captivated. He wants her to like and trust him, but any hopes of impressing her are ruined when he makes a careless—and nearly grave—mistake. However, there’s something more to Mya’s cool disdain…a history wrought with loss that comes to light when another clan arrives. With them is Lo, an enemy from Mya’s past who Mya swears has ulterior motives.

As Kol gets to know Lo, tensions between Mya and Lo escalate until violence erupts. Faced with shattering losses, Kol is forced to question every person he’s trusted. One thing is for sure: this was a war that Mya or Lo—Kol doesn’t know which—had been planning all along.

Source: I purchased a hardcover

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Review:

Ivory and Bone was incredibly disappointing. 

Jane Austen retelling/reimagining books in the YA world have been extremely dazzling and unique. I expected there to be a reason for the setting in prehistoric times and I expected a story that focused on interpersonal relationships because there was little else for clans to do in prehistoric times but create legends, survive, and carry on. 

To be quite honest, I couldn’t help but feel like the book was a waste of potential. The setting, while boring to some, left a lot of room for real character development. The Pride and Prejudice inspiration seemed like it would be a story that was inspired and passionate. There was even a unique aspect to the POV because Kol, the narrator, spoke to you, a love interest in the story. But none of those things worked well. I almost feel like the prehistoric aspect was a way to strip down a simple story and make it even more simple and to the point. It is a story that could’ve happened anywhere, so I don’t feel like there was real storytelling or character development.

At the end of the book, I didn’t feel like I really knew anyone. Let me be clear, there was next to nothing else aside from characters interacting with one another in the book because that’s all there was. Someone hunted, they moved, they made pelts, they found honey, they told stories. It was a prehistoric setting. So to feel like I didn’t really know anyone meant that the ONLY aspect in the entire book that existed wasn’t very well done.

I just.. I just don’t get why this book exists. It didn’t really work. It was boring, forgettable, and it told a story that could’ve been whittled down to a few sentences because there wasn’t much else going on. Why would anyone do this story in this setting in this way?

To be honest, I would’ve been more intrigued if it was detailed in the way they hunted, made weapons, worshipped, and lived their lives. Chapters full of the hierarchy of each clan, complete with legends told by the fire would’ve made the book worth my time because there would’ve been something MORE to it. 

The POV didn’t work at all. The lack of communication and lack of understanding that everyone had for one another just made the first person to second person narration simple (since Kol only understood his own life and assumed everything else about Mya’s and we never really got into Mya’s head because we were in Kol’s the whole time) and I think I would’ve needed to get into the head or daily life of everyone to have enjoyed myself. 

Star 2

Review – Caraval by Stephanie Garber

 

Caraval

By Stephanie Garber

SummaryRemember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

Source: I received a hardcover in an Owlcrate

February_owlcrate_circus.jpeg

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Review:

I enjoyed Caraval so much. It promised an atmosphere similar to that of The Night Circus and it came in the Run Away with the Circus themed Owlcrate box. It wasn’t quite the same, but I see why the two books are compared or recommended to fans of one or the other.

I enjoyed the mystery and intrigue. Everything that happened from the moment Scarlett awoke to find herself headed to Caraval was a mystery. Who could she trust? Could she even trust herself? What would happen? Is everything just a game? I love books that can surprise me and throw something at me and make me doubt my own instincts. Caraval did a wonderful job with maintaining the atmosphere, surprising the reader, and remaining unpredictable to the very end.

My only real complaint was that I never really cared for Scarlett or her sister and I thought the book could’ve been amazing had they been more likable. But I am one to read books often with characters that are unlikable, sometimes on purpose, and enjoy them, so it wasn’t off-putting for me. Fair warning, if you tend to dislike books as a whole when you don’t like the main character, Caraval may not be the book for you.

I definitely recommend Caraval and I’m glad i finally picked it up and read it. It was exactly what i was in the mood for and did not disappoint. I loved the ride and figuring out what, if anything, I could trust.

Star 4