S.T.A.G.S. by M.A. Bennett

So I was just going through my list of ‘read’ books for this year on Goodreads and I have read 25 books not including short stories and what-not. That’s pretty much on-track with my reading goals, so YAY for me! Blog-wise I have also made exactly 25 posts, but they aren’t all bookish, some of them are Tag Tuesdays or Readathons or Monthly Wrap-ups or whatever so I have a little catching up to do on my reviews! That’s what my blog is supposed to be doing, afterall! So without further ado, here is one I missed!:

Title: S.T.A.G.S.
Author: 
M.A. Bennett
Pages: 296 pages, Hardcover
Publication Date: January 30, 2018
Publisher: Delacorte Press

35926234STAGS is a boarding school for the wealthy elite. Greer (“Grey-uh” for us Americans who are un-used to seeing this name) is admitted on a scholarship, whereas most other students at the school have had generations of attendees in their families. When Greer and two other new/outcast students are invited for a weekend of “Huntin’. Shootin’. Fishin'” with the Medievals (the elite clique of students at the school), she is warned against going by a former friend, but ultimately decides to go, seeing it as a chance to finally make friends and be accepted. What occurs instead is a weekend of veiled bullying and the thrill of the chase.

I honestly feel that this is one of the better YA thrillers I have read lately. That being said, though, the book certainly has its flaws. However, regarding the genre, I thought M.A. Bennett did a terrific job of setting up a bit of background for the Medievals by showing them flaunting their personal family lineage back to the crusades in class and even around the dinner table. Their shady words alluding to hatred of outsiders was a first clue as to their true motives. However, their talk is so flowery and conversation so natural that who would really think that there was a threat present? Nel just wants to make friends, Greer wants conversation, and Shafeen wants to stand up for himself.

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Borrowed from Alba in Bookland.

The setting in a boarding school and then a large family estate on the moors of Northumberland was also perfect. Beautiful, yet ominous and eerie…much like the Medievals themselves. I could just imagine mists and fog and these elite teenagers showing off their knowledge of “huntin’, shootin’, and fishin'” to the outcasts who had never or who had hardly been exposed to that before. It truly was another world for the three outsiders, or “Savages” as they came to be called. The author’s descriptions were just wonderful and added an extra dimension of creep factor.

Despite the good in the book, I will admit that I never felt fully invested or connected in the main characters. I cared for them, yes, but I was preoccupied with the bigger picture in the book. Greer is a teenage narrator who really reads like a teenager. She is constantly referencing movies–which I didn’t mind much, and it sort of made sense since her father makes films–and jumping around in her telling of the story (“But that was not nearly as bad as what was to happen next,” etc.). I could do without that. I felt that some of the descriptions were too drawn out and the action too underplayed. I wanted a bit more out of those.

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And of course, the ending. I like the concept and how the book wrapped up. Certain aspects I saw coming, while others were a nice touch. If ever there was a book that should be a movie, its this one. I can absolutely see this as a screenplay and I would definitely go see it.

Book Soundtrack: Danse macabre, Op. 40 by Camille Saint-Saens

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Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

37834816Just in case you live under a rock, Ruin and Rising is the third and final book in the Grisha Trilogy. The trilogy centers around the conflict between the Grisha (known as the practicers of the small science, they are the magical elite who can do things like heal, summon wind [or light or darkness if you’re really special], etc.) and the otkazat’sya (‘the abandoned’; those who do not practice the small science). Our three ‘heroes’ are Alina, Mal, and Nikolai, and we follow them through a war with the sexiest, broodiest book villain ever: The Darkling.

So Ruin and Rising was quite a turnaround from the previous two books in the Shadow and Bone (Grisha) trilogy. FINALLY I got the feels I was looking for and expected based on the hype around the series. I mean, yes, I liked the first two books, but book 3 finally brought things together and completely sucked me in! There were a few times when I literally had to stop reading because I was overwhelmed by what was going on in the book. FEELS!!!! Thank you, Leigh!! But now its over! 😦

78487280f7266a3a32838801b739e97fAll gushing aside, the book was not perfect. After three full books, I still feel connected to maybe half of the side characters. Zoya’s sarcasm and mood was hilarious; Hershaw and Oncat are great just because I love to picture a big man toting a little cat all across the countryside; Genya is a badass (ruination, baby!) and David…well, he’s good at what he does; and Misha was a great new addition to the little crew. So cute!! As for everyone else in the party, meh. The twins I could never figure out and remember who was the guy and who was the gal. I hardly remember the others’ names and they were with Alina through most of book 2 and all of book 3 for the most part.

And now to discuss the ships. It seemed like all three guys practically got their own book. Was this the intent? Book 1 was pure Darkling. Book 2 was Nikolai’s time to shine. And Book 3 was Mal. Yes, there were smatterings of each character in each book of course, but there was certainly a focus to each installment. As for the ending and who she ultimately ends up with? Alina’s decision reminded me of Katniss in The Hunger Games. I pretty much guessed that this was where she would end up, but I still had my hopes for other suitors.

d1209313b65f0fb322e99cc22530b600I did love the epilogue though. I that was a suitable ending and it was touching. That being said, though, I wouldn’t mind this being a series where we got to see Leigh’s take on all three (or four) possible scenarios. I was expecting something along the lines of the third amplifier to happen so while I was a bit surprised, I wasn’t overwhelmed (see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), and I knew something was coming.

And a final thought, Alina and the Darkling’s ‘connection’ TOTALLY reminds me of Kylo and Rey in The Last Jedi. Just have to throw that out there. That is so stuck in my head now, and its not a bad thing!

Soundtrack: “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Lorde

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No Good Deed by Goldy Moldavsky

35217969No Good Deed….is okay. I found it categorized by my library under the subcategory ‘humor.’ But with the black cover with the spray paint plus the synopsis talking about ruin and warfare, I expected mischief and violence and maybe some mystery. Let me just tell you, there is none of the above (humor included). 

So Gregor Maravilla (last name always included) goes away to summer camp with lofty ambitions to save the world by feeding the children. Everyone else at “Camp Save the World” has similar ambitions. Feminism, Men’s Rights, Eat Dirt, Anti-Robotics, etc. As you can sort of see, some of them are a little sideways, some of them are common. The camp turns these campaigns into competitions to gain the campers points to try to win an internship with the head honcho who can’t seem to find time to actually leave his office in the big city and visit camp in person. Of course things get cutthroat and quite crazy.
I hardly found there to be any depth or connection to this book. I really liked the ‘love interest’ Ashley Woodstone, who Gregor swore to hate from the very beginning. She was really the best part, even though when she did finally open up about herself, it was relatively brief and Gregor had a hard time taking it all in. Ashley was the most spirited person at the camp, and everyone else looked at her like she was crazy!

tim-mossholder-302970-unsplashThe biggest thing about the book that I had a problem with, I think, was that the ending felt like a loose end. In the first third of the book, Gregor and Ashley break into Jimmy’s office and Gregor finds something very revealing about the camp and how the campers all came to be there. Basically he finds a boatload of information he could expose that would make a huge impact on future summers. When there is a press conference at parents weekend, Gregor only exposes information about the internship. WHY?! All the way to the end of the book, the info about the campers is never brought to light. Again, WHY!??! You know all of this, why don’t you fix it? Do something?! All this talk about ’causes’ and needing to better public speaking and bla bla bla. Jimmy and his father being exposed and the camp coming to justice just seems like a big loose end to me! Gah!!

So that’s my take. The book has some fun ideas. Its relatively unique. Some of the causes are worthy of a good chuckle. I still wouldn’t eat the dirt even if my favorite celebrity told me to. I have a deep love for summer camps in my heart but my bias for them did not envelop this one. Better luck next time, Goldy.

Book Soundtrack:

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Caraval by Stephanie Garber

21645469-_sy540_Well hey, I finally got around to reading Caraval in honor of book #2 releasing soon! I hate to miss out on all of the goodies coming out soon…plus, of course, I’ve been hearing about Caraval non-stop since it was released so I gave in to the pressure! I don’t have regrets!

So there are a couple of expectations that I have to quash right off the bat: first – “caraval” =/= carnival, so don’t expect circus tents and a formal show with clowns and popcorn and elephants, etc. Not quite. Second – Legend (master of “Caraval”) is not an omniscient or stalker-ish presence like the Wizard of Oz. Maybe I’m the only one, but I was expecting something like that. I won’t say any more because I don’t want to spoil anything but….the Legend part of the book was NOTHING like how I expected it to be.

caravalAs for the rest of the book, I really enjoyed it!! The twists and turns of the game keep you very involved and the other players are diverse and fun to meet. Scarlett (the MC) was on the annoying side. She is engaged to be married in 4 days (?), though Caraval ends in 5, so she is obsessed with the idea of finding her sister in time to get back for her wedding. Furthermore, she gets romantic attention from a handsome guy and she’s a blatant jerk about it because she’s engaged to a man back home who she has only met via correspondence. She is obsessively “that’s not ladylike” this and “oh, that’s so improper” that, bla bla bla and it is so obnoxious. Add to that constant whining about her sister being missing and she is a complete broken record for the first two-thirds of the book.

The last third of the book, though, is when the action really picks up and there is just too much happening for there to be any whining or thinking about fiancees or any of that other junk. Its all just go-go-go. I feel that it sounds like I’m listing a lot of negatives but I really did enjoy the magic and the romance in this book. I can’t wait to dive into Legendary !!

Book soundtrack:  “Twisted” by Aaron Taos

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A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland

a_semi-definitive_list_of_worst_nightmares_krystal_sutherland_fall_2017_ya_booksWow, you guys. I am amazingly shocked by how much I enjoyed this book. This is an example of don’t-judge-the-book-by-its-cover. Its not really an ugly cover, per se, but it isn’t glittery and mind-blowing for sure. I would never be drawn to it in a million years. However, after reading it, I absolutely recommend it. This book had so much humor and so much heart, I want anyone reading my reviews to go and read this book next.

janko-ferlic-391257-unsplashSo what is it about, you may now be asking? Esther Solar and her “semi-definitive list of worst nightmares.” Esther and her family have been under a curse to suffer from one great fear in their lifetime ever since her grandfather met Death in the war. Now this family is quirky. The father, for instance is agoraphobic and will not leave their basement. Esther’s brother, Eugene, is afraid of the dark and turns on candles and lamps and strings of lights when the sun goes down.

The curse hasn’t hit Esther yet, and when she has a hapless reunion with a former crush, he discovers her list and challenges her to face her fears. Together they tick off the nightmares, and of course, the surprises along the way.

This book definitely has trigger warnings of suicide, depression and anxiety, which I didn’t really know going in. In the afterward of the book, the author does a really nice follow-up about mental health and mentions a piece of Adam Silvera’s that is a “must read” for every person no matter where you are in life. Forgive me, for I don’t have the book in front of me so I can’t pull up the exact title at the moment.

claudia-nuta-362408-unsplashAside from this, as I mentioned before, the book is overall a very sweet, funny, and touching story. I didn’t realize there would be so much depth in a book with such a simple cover. I think it should also be mentioned that this book…while I wouldn’t label it as fantasy, one could view it as magical realism in some ways. That’s what I would call it anyway.

Book Soundtrack: “Wolves Without Teeth” by Of Monsters and Men

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Kiss of Deception by Mary E Pearson

18490681There is no way to state my opinion of Kiss of Deception other than to just come out and put it bluntly: I expected far more from this book. The synopsis on Goodreads makes it sound like there will be action and intrigue and peril. I suppose there is, but the pacing of the book is so incredibly slow that its astounding anything gets done at all!

Currently there are three books in The Remnant Chronicles series, with the fourth set to release….sometime, I’m not sure when and I couldn’t find the information on GR. From those whom I have talked to about the series, the characters and relationships are enough to keep you reading, though the pace never really picks up. Fortunately I do really enjoy Mary E. Pearson’s writing, her characters, and the world building. I am curious to see the choices that the characters make now that the first book left off in the middle of a tense situation.

kiss-240x300The final comment I feel that I need to make was my confusion about the book’s fantasy genre tag. I noticed it on Goodreads and then just because of the slow pacing, for most of the book, I had no idea why the book was tagged Fantasy since there was no magic or fantastical beasts or system really in the book. Yes, the lands were made up but really that was all. What the heck was going on!? Who did I even contact to get this fixed?!!? Well, finally a change in the wind (metaphorically speaking) came along and answered my question so now all is settled. It was just strange to me.

So overall, Kiss of Deception does not hit anywhere near one of my favorite books, YA or otherwise. However, I did think it was okay and I am interested to see how things progress with the guys and the kingdoms. I think I’ll head to book 2, but not in a rush.

Book Soundtrack: “Dust and Bones” James and the Wild Spirit

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Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm for me is hard to rate. On the one hand, I am loving this GrishaVerse trilogy overall so far. I think that the world building is good, the characters are well-built, and the overall story line is really great.

35529904I still am not all that impressed with Alina as a main character and heroine. To me she is just okay. She doesn’t do anything that really annoys me–she’s not a whiner or a weakling, but she isn’t particularly brave or outgoing or really trying to go anywhere either. She’s just….there. And, of course, all of the boys like her. So then there’s the boys. In book one, I thought Mal was also pretty useless. The first half of this book, he was still pretty useless. Finally, though, he started to show some personality and some life so maybe Mal can actually be a contender! We meet Nikolai in this book and he completely steals the show. Nikolai I love. I mean, how can one not love this guy?! And then, of course, there’s the Darkling. *swoon* He isn’t in this book as much but he’s still as dark and alluring as always.

Aside from the characters, I felt like the plot moved way slow in this installment as well. We saw some action in the beginning, and then really nothing for a long time. The gang sat in waiting (or did some travelling) for the majority of the book with a couple little rifts in the middle, or maybe a couple little discoveries along the way, and one big skirmish at the end….and then the book is over. Maybe that’s how most books are but I expected so much more out of this one!!

So that is my take on book 2 of the Shadow and Bone trilogy from the GrishaVerse. Of course, by the end of the book, I’m left SO ready to go into book 3 but if I go straight into it, I will have a book hangover so bad! So I’m going to wait at least another week until I start the third book. But I will be back for more. Stay tuned!

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Book Soundtrack: “Undefeatable” by Young Rising Sons

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Wow. Just wow.

So first of all, my surprise comes because I was not a big fan of Carry On. It was my first Rainbow Rowell read and I felt like there was so much hype around it. I gave it 3.5 stars and just didn’t get into it. I expected all this world-building and excitement like Harry Potter because I heard it was moderately based/inspired by HP and it was sort of fan fic of HP and it was very, very different from it.

fangirlHere I am a year and a half later giving Rainbow Rowell another shot because its almost Valentines day and I’m trying to read books that I have for a challenge and my edition is pink and what the hell? I’ll give RR another chance. Well surprise, surprise. I freakin’ LOVE this book!! Cath is totally me my first year away at college. I would have rather starved than ask strangers where the cafeteria was! ha! I was shy and awkward and classes and just about anything specifically college-related intimidated the crap out of me. Oh, and “freshman time.” Yeah, that was definitely a thing.

tumblr_mti8miwcni1qhz2h3o1_1280The only things that I didn’t appreciate in this book were Cath’s stubbornness (aka stupidness) about her writing project and the ending. I felt too empty at the end. Where is book 2?!?! There is so much detail in every other aspect of the book! There were so many other conflicts that occurred in the book where it felt like “Oh, after this happens and gets resolves, the book could end”….oh but wait, the book still has 225 pages yet. I’m not done!! So that was nice, but then we finally do get to the end and I don’t feel resolved hardly at all! Its not a cliffhanger by any means, but its not exactly a neat little bow either. Its just an ambiguously wrapped gift without a label or a ribbon or a tag or a bow. So that’s my little schpiel on all of that!

In the end, I’m coming away with Levi being one of my absolute favorite book boyfriends. I’m not usually the nice guy book BF type, but somehow the guy just had me under his spell and swooning. I loved all of the characters and I really appreciated the college setting. Great read overall–I’m so glad I gave Rainbow Rowell another shot!

Listening to: “Paranoid” by Kanye West

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Fantasy Friday: Everless by Sara Holland

3232066135883046Heck YES, I just made that up off the top of my head! Fantasy Friday(TM)!! This week I’m talking about Everless by Sara Holland. This book dropped on January 2nd but I got my copy in my Fairyloot subscription box in December. Being a YA fantasy book by a debut author with not just one but TWO super-beautiful covers and a sweet synopsis, there was a LOT of hype around this one. So what was the actual turn-out after reading? Let’s discuss.

The unique piece of the book is the ancient story of this world about the Sorceress and the Alchemist, who turned blood more or less into time. Time, of course, is precious currency. Most people in this world it seems are poor and working as servants, tradesmen, or soldiers. They settle their debts by sacrificing their blood to be made into coins to be given to the Gerling family, who offer protection to the land. Personally, I didn’t find the land/setting to be very unique, developed, or exciting, but I liked the looming Sorceress/Alchemist legend and the time currency.

ben-white-199953Main character Jules did not impress me much. Everything that I would have done she didn’t do. Everything a main character should NOT do…you guessed it! She did. It was one of those “My father told me to stay away from the Queen and never let her see me but I have no idea why. Well that means I should work for her and be her slave! Great idea!!” **Lindsay begins banging book against her head** Whywhywhy?!?!

Let’s talk about pacing, because this was big for me this book. I felt that the book was slow from the beginning. Everless begins in Jules’ small town and then she decides to leave to home when it is announced that the Queen and her daughter, Ina are coming. Things are moving slow. Maybe they’ll pick up at the Gerling estate! Jules is reunited with her childhood BFF, Roan, and she begins work as a servant girl. As time goes on, secrets about Ina and the Queen come to light…and the pace really doesn’t pick up until the VERY. END!!!!! So that was a bit (a lot) frustrating.

HOWEVER. THAT ENDING THO!!!!! For that reason, I WILL be reading the next book!!

Book soundtrack: “Turn to Dust” by Wolf Alice

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On the eleventh day of #blogmas … Kiss Me in New York by Catherine Rider

34220850 I would call this book a cute, sweet, but relatively forgettable YA holiday romance. Charlotte is on her way back to London with a broken heart when her flight is cancelled due to a blizzard. Anthony is planning on surprising his girlfriend at the airport, but he is the one who is surprised when she breaks up with him after she gets off the plane and runs into the arms of another guy. Together, Charlotte and Anthony make their way through a book called (something like) Ten Ways To Get Over Your Ex, all the while–you guessed it–falling for each other.

Of course, this is all set in New York and occurs on Christmas Eve. The book seems to not mean much because these are high schoolers so how long can a relationship like this really last? The two promise to reunite, as Charlotte is trying to decide what college to attend.

So like I said, the book was super-cute. It was easy to read–I sat down and read the entire thing in a day. It was quotable and cliche, but that’s what Christmas is all about isn’t it? ;P

Book soundtrack: “A New York Christmas” Rob Christmas

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