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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The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

35121240From the first time I saw the cover for The Hazel Wood, I was desperate to read it. I remember seeing it plastered everywhere at ALA in Chicago last summer and I was SO bummed that I wasn’t able to get an ARC. This book just screamed my name with all of those little cover details in silver and gold and its promise of dark fairy tales and mystery! I never got my ARC and I had to wait all the way until release day to read it. AHH!! Once I did read it though….well….its one crazy ride, let me say that!

In The Hazel Wood, we read about seventeen year-old Alice and her mother Ella, who have lived their lives on the run trying to escape the bad luck that seems to follow them. Alice’s grandmother, Althea, is a famous author who wrote a collection of dark fairy tales called Tales from the Hinterland. When Alice and her mother receive word that Althea has died, they believe they can stop running from life. Ella marries a rich New Yorker and Alice settles into school. One day their lives are turned upside-down again when Ella is kidnapped by two people claiming to be from the Hinterland. Alice’s only thought is, of course, to save her mother and to do so, she enlists the help of a rich friend (guy–duh) from school, named Ellory Finch. The adventures in the Hinterland and the Hazel Wood thus ensue.

The first half of the book has a relatively straightforward, young adult, urban, contemporary feel to it. We meet the characters, we see Ella and Alice’s relationship and background, we feel the curiosity about Althea’s book, we definitely get a feel for Alice’s hot temper and icy attitude (in my opinion–not good character qualities and she wears on my nerves). I was never bored because there is always curiosity being fed and then eventually it just smacks you in the face.

So about a third through the book everything breaks loose when Ella is kidnapped. Worlds collide and now we really meet Ellory Finch. Now, its a good thing the guy who has a crush on Alice happens to have parents who don’t care about him AND a credit card without a limit. They run around the city of New York and search and run away and search, etc.

61cfb50fac2c90725043dd5378250617Maybe halfway/two-thirds through, we make it to the Hinterlands. I’m not going to lie. I feel like I just need to read this whole part over again because so much happened and I didn’t fully latch onto the logic of the where and the what and the big picture. Honestly it was just rather a blur of confusion. There were some good concepts and some neat ideas and I absolutely loved the darkness and creepiness of it!! HOWEVER, it made my head spin and I felt like I was the one lost in the Hazel Wood. Maybe that was the point?!

To sum this up, I liked the writing and the concept…I think I just need to read it again and smooth out some of the details in my mind. My mind was lost in the dark forest but I was really enjoying the scenery!

Book soundtrack: Freak on a Leash by Korn

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Phoenix Fire by S.D. Grimm

To open, I hereby present you with a synopsis of the book named above as written by NetGalley:

2c8b641f9eebb5ac312c04485b2c4396After spending her life in foster care, Ava has finally found home. But all it takes is a chance encounter with hot nerd Wyatt Wilcox for it to unravel. Now, things are starting to change. First, the flashes of memories slowly creeping in. Memories of other lives, lives that Wyatt is somehow in. Then, the healing. Any cut? Gone.

But when Cade and Nick show up, claiming to be her brothers, things get even weirder. They tell her she’s a Phoenix, sent to protect the world from monsters—monsters she never knew existed. It’s a little hard to accept. Especially when they tell her she has to end the life of a Phoenix turned rogue, or Cade will die.

With Wyatt’s increasingly suspicious behavior, Ava’s determined to figure out what he’s hiding. Unless she can discover Wyatt’s secret in time and complete her Phoenix training, she’ll lose the life, love, and family she never thought she could have.

38492055Definitely not the best summary, but the NG ones never are. Here is what I can tell you about the book: After reading it, I was pleasantly surprised. I went into Phoenix Fire not really knowing what to expect because all I got was….well, what NetGalley told me. Being completely honest, I saw a cool phoenix on the cover, I saw the YA fantasy genre, and I said “let’s give it a shot!”. I’m glad that I did!

So in the beginning of the book, things were a little cliche. Our main character, Ava, is in a foster house and never feels like she belongs, and doesn’t really want to belong. Then she starts to experience memories and maybe come into certain “powers.” *Eyeroll* and I’m thinking “crap, is this a middle grade book?” because it really seemed way to juvenile early on. Enter: new guys. New guys with secrets about her past, her powers, and what she has to do with said powers.

635811964343779843-thinkstockphotos-490635524When it came down to it, I really enjoyed the uniqueness of the phoenix life cycles, as well as the familial ties and how all of that came into play. Also, the romance in the book came was really sweet but also had its bitterness as well. Wyatt, at times, got a little whiny but I really liked seeing his character and his relationship with Ava and the two brothers unfold. Plus I think it will be really interesting to see what further role Yuki will play in things. I am very intrigued to read the next book in the series!!

Book Soundtrack: A Crime to Remember by Pop Evil

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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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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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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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Fairest by Marissa Meyer

22489107THIS. BOOK. (!!!)

If you have read/are reading this series, this novella is a must read. I have completed the entire series and I am so glad that I went back to read Levana’s story. The book is numbered “3.5” but really it takes place before any of the series take place, when the main characters of the series (Cinder, Winter, etc.) are being born and Levana is first rising to power. It does cover a long time span, I suppose, and ultimately, it leaves off during the book series.

Here is what you really need to know about <u>Fairest</u>: It is the story of how the ‘villain’ of the Lunar Chronicles (Marissa Meyer’s 4 book series) becomes the villain. As always, Meyer’s writing is beautiful as she describes Levana’s sordid childhood as the bullied younger sister. She grows up and falls in love with a man who never loves her back, and is barren her entire life. In a nutshell you can see why she’s bitter. Other things we learn (very generally, without giving any details): how Levana got her scars and why she wears her glamour, why Lunars decide to unleash a devastating disease on earth and how it originated, why Levana is so seriously twisted, and much, much more!!

Honestly, I cannot understand how the author crammed all of this information into a mere 222 pages. I never felt like I was bored or restless, I was just so interested in the characters and the story. Also, the audiobook is great for this as well. I definitely recommend it!

Book soundtrack: “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence

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Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

13578987This book has been on my TBR since it first released I’m pretty sure. I remember seeing the description and thinking “Wow, that sounds really neat!” I remember buying it as a Kindle daily deal at some point quite a while ago and just never got around to reading it until now. There has been so much hype lately around Leigh Bardugo, I just couldn’t put it off anymore and I’m glad for that because I really enjoyed the book.

So just in case you are one of the people left in the world who still has not read Shadow and Bone, the book is centered around our orphaned heroine Alina. She is a map maker in the king’s First Army along with her best friend, Mal, who is a soldier in the army as well. The author does a pretty good job with the world building, as the world is meant to more-or-less parallel/alternate Russia. However, in the middle of it all is The Fold, a dark epicenter filled with winged beasts called the Volcra, that will show mercy on no one. When the Army travels through The Fold, Alina must save Mal’s life and unknowingly calls upon a light within herself that turns out to be a rare Grisha power. The Darkling, and many others, take notice of this gift and whisk Alina away to the Little Palace. Here she settles into what should be a life of comfort, but in stead is hard training and (spoiler) meetings with the Darkling, who is filled with secrets.

36315977That’s about all I can say plot-wise without going into bigger spoilers. Regarding my character impressions thus far, I will say that I am not 100% impressed with Alina but I am not disappointed. Orphan-to-Princess/Powers isn’t my favorite trope so that might be part of it. I definitely don’t dislike her though, I’ll say that. She’s just not my Katniss (my favorite heroine ever). Mal–the best friend–is pretty ok as well. Thus far he is pretty stubborn and he was a little “I didn’t notice you before but I see you now” and to me he loses points for that. The winner of the book, however, is the Darkling. I love dark characters with secrets. I’m sorry, guys. Other examples: Jean Claude in the Anita Blake books. The Darkling has the good one-liners, the moves….oh man, I’m sorry, but if we’re making him the villain, he’s my favorite villain because….yeah. Just, yeah. Its all up in the air as to what direction the series is going to go at this point and I am definitely reading on!

Book Soundtrack: “Over” by Portishead

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“The Best Kind of Magic” by Crystal Cestari

There is so much that I loved about this book!! ‘Windy City Magic #1’ felt like a cozy mystery for teens and it was my JAM!!! Or you could look at it as Urban Fantasy/Romance for teens just the same. A couple of my little pet peeves showed up and made my eyeballs twitch a bit, but overall, I can’t wait for the second book! Or third or fourth! Let me first give a brief synopsis, and then I’ll cover my opinions:

25436641The Best Kind of Magic gives us a tour of all kinds of magic in the Windy City of Chicago. We see goblins, fairies, leprechauns, werewolves, vampires, sirens, and of course, witches. Amber Sand is a not a witch. Her mother is, but Amber is a matchmaker, meaning that she can look into people’s eyes and see their true love. One day, the mayor’s son (who is also the most talked-about boy in school) comes in to visit Amber at her mother’s shop, Windy City Magic, and requesting her help in finding his father’s missing girlfriend. Thus begins an adventure with romance, humor, bad guys, a twist and a turn and a to be continued in book 2!! (not a cliffhanger! This book wraps up nicely…..mostly.)

The first thing I liked about this book was the genre feel. I am a sucker for a cozy mystery, I enjoy paranormal romances, and then put those things in a YA format….have I died and gone to heaven?! Almost too good to be true. I loved it. I wish there was more of this writing out there. So with this genre comes the characters. There was a good mix of humans and paranormals. I liked how Amber and her mother, and even their coven, had a certain struggle with Amber’s matchmaking talents. It was a very different and clever spin on the traditional “coming of age story” that you usually get in YA books and I really liked that. Amani (Amber’s best friend) has her own struggles with her magical gifts of being a precog. Their friendship in the book is wonderful, by the way. I just saw a meme the other day that went something like this:

Friend: Oh, I’m so sorry, what can I do?
Best friend: 1/2 price shakes at Sonic. Get your butt in the car, I’m driving!
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That’s the kind of friends Amber and Amani are. Partially because of their mystic powers and partially because they are comfortable and secure in their own selves (which other high school students find “weird” and “different” of course), the two friends are outcasts and have a very close friendship. Back on track. Charlie is a human and he does a great job taking in everything in the PRN world. You almost wonder every once in a while if he and his father have trace amounts of supernatural in their blood somewhere. Of course, the biggest wrench in the story comes when Amber sees that Charlie’s match is not her, but could she be wrong? That’s why we’re eagerly awaiting book 2!

Ok, I will speak of my one biggest pet peeves that occurred in this book: immature language. I hate when authors frequently use immature language. If you want to call it that. To me, its almost Valley Girl…rich snob…Pretty Little Liars…I barely hear kids talking like that and I work in a private high school myself. Granted, not in Chicago, but in Northern Illinois within 60 miles of Chicago. I do not hear students commonly using the words “natch” instead of natural (I’ve never heard that), or “cas” for casual (I have heard this, but not frequently). In the first 100 pages of the book when we are first meeting the characters, this kind of abbreviated language is EVERYWHERE. It DEFINES Amber’s personality and sense of humor. Toward the middle, it fades out and she is more just sarcastic and witty with Charlie but in the beginning, we are NOT talking to a lowly girl. I just didn’t see her as having that much of a consistent attitude. Ivy, the blonde cheerleader mean girl? For sure. But Amber? No. I hated that. I like to read full English words and sentences. Maybe that’s the adult in me reading a YA novel so excuse this paragraph if so. But I’m just saying. I HATE abbreviated teen-speak. Ugh! Not appropriate for books, IMO.

I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Soundtrack: “Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas

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