Hot British Boyfriend by Kristy Boyce Review

Hot British Boyfriend by Kristy Boyce

Publisher: Harper Teen

Release Date: February 9, 2021

Pages: 336

Available Through The Book Depository & Bookshop

Cover Artist: Jacqueline Li and Chris Kwon (designer)

Summary: After a horrifying public rejection by her crush, Ellie Nichols does what any girl would do: she flees the country. To be more precise, she joins her high school’s study abroad trip to England. While most of her classmates are there to take honors courses and pad their college applications, Ellie is on a quest to rebuild her reputation and self-confidence. And nothing is more of a confidence booster than getting a hot British boyfriend.

When Ellie meets Will, a gorgeous and charming Brit, she vows to avoid making the same mistakes as she did with the last guy she liked. Which is why she strikes up a bargain with Dev, an overachieving classmate who she’s never clicked with, but who does seem to know a lot about the things Will is interested in—if he helps her win over her crush, then she’ll help him win over his.

But even as Ellie embarks on a whirlwind romance, one that takes her on adventures to some of England’s most beautiful places, she still needs to figure out if this is actually the answer to all her problems…and whether the perfect boyfriend is actually the perfect boy for her.

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ¾

My Thoughts: Hot British Boyfriend is a fun, entertaining YA romcom filled with adventure, academia, and friendship! Ellie joins a study abroad program in England after a humiliating video goes viral. But, along the way she learns to boost her self-confidence and discovers what she’s truly passionate about. A light-hearted, fluffy debut!

Before going into my review I will say that despite my 3-star rating, I liked this debut a lot because I could see what the author was trying to do in terms of Ellie’s development throughout the book and it surprised me by putting a focus on friendship for about 50% of the story!

So, Ellie has recently moved to Washington DC with her mother and is anxious of what the new year will bring now that her friend Crystal is joining a study abroad program. However, she’s convinced her crush Andy is going to ask her to be his girlfriend at a party. After misreading the situation and humiliating herself, she can no longer face her classmates. Then, when a spot opens up for Waterford’s study abroad program at Emberton Manor in England, Ellie takes the opportunity to step away for a bit and also gain some self-confidence along the way.

As she adjusts to her new surroundings for the semester, higher-level classes, and her studious roommate Sage, Ellie quickly finds herself hatching a plan sure to give her the confidence she’s looking for, by finding a British boyfriend!

After meeting Will and his best friend Hank at a flea market, she believes in order to reinvent herself during her time there, the only thing she can do is slowly lie to her boyfriend, which in turn leads her to not be fully honest with him about her interests like unicorns and fairy gardens. There’s this underlying anxiety she feels that he may not embrace the real her, which propels her emotional arc. There’s an authenticity to this as Boyce portrayed both Ellie’s anxiety and lack of confidence consistently to emphasize her development throughout the story.

However as Ellie begins to hang out with Will more, she can’t help but feel a pull towards the new friends she’s made. Even with the help of her classmate Dev, they team up to help each other win over their crushes/loves which adds a fun layer to their dynamic. But as Ellie begins to realize Dev is really the one she can be honest with, will she make the right choice and follow her heart?

This is a nice YA Contemporary. Boyce builds in the wanderlust / adventure and academic atmospheres very well through Ellie’s perspective. From the descriptions of the locations they visit, classes, and lots more, the setting becomes such an integral part of how the character dynamics are explored. While the summary doesn’t hint at this too much either, there is a lot of focus + development on friendship and Ellie’s new friend group. Established early on, Ellie only had one friend (now ex) and has moved a lot in the past, so she’s never really had many.

Seeing how Ellie connects more and grows in ways she never realized because of her friends like Sage who inspires her to be more studious and appreciate the uniqueness of her hobbies, Dev for how they can be so honest with each other, even Huan for just being a supportive friend…these dynamics were such strong layers and I appreciated how Boyce gave this theme such an important role in Ellie’s story.

Now in England, she’s given the opportunity to meet new people and classmates she never really bonded with before. Also I know friendship is a big part of the story here, but her moments with Dev were very adorable and the slow development of their relationship kept me wondering what would happen next.

A relatable element and also interesting observation of this novel was how everyone around Ellie seems to have some sort of life plan heading into senior year, but she is still learning to accept her hobbies (gardening, building fairy houses, etc.) and learning to embrace them, while at the same time figuring out what her own academic future holds.

There’s a relatability to that feeling that consistently builds Ellie’s character as well while she’s trying to figure out what she wants to do after high school. Not many will know, but I appreciated how Boyce normalized that idea and showcased the importance of using your passions and hobbies to guide you.

Another observation I had was my personal interpretation into some “privilege” that certain characters had. Where Ellie’s classmates like Dev, Sage, and Huan are there to prepare themselves for college/uni, there’s many scenes that remind her they are there to focus on their studies. While Ellie struggles and does improve along the way, little by little, she does mostly spend that time to think more about her love life, while leaving her studies at the back of her mind. Then with Will, he comes from a rather privileged family and he is eager to break away from his family’s business to start his own, however he doesn’t have much of a solid plan and does have advantages of not needing to worry about schooling (or finances) for the time being. This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing but an interesting observation that stuck with me as I read.

Overall I think what left my rating is left at 3.75 stars despite how much I liked it, was the more I realized seeing Ellie’s relationship progress with Will throughout the book not only felt too fast, but also rather hollow? Whenever she would meet up with him, I would think ‘what is even the point?’ He’s nice and all, but there’s literally nothing interesting about his character the more I read. He was also at points being unintentionally self-centered and was always focused on his own issues not really listening to Ellie that much anyways (in my opinion). Then coupled with the fact that Ellie and Dev has a WAY better dynamic, there was this superficial/pointless feeling to her relationship with Will. Then it was only about waiting about 100 pages left in the book where Ellie could finally realize that too.

However, above all I personally loved seeing the focus on Ellie’s growth as a character in figuring out what she wants to do with school and her life after high school was a nice arc to explore. Despite being the point of the book, I still think her romance with Will, surprisingly, bogged it all down. While this novel was just an okay, fun read for me personally, wouldn’t mind checking out the author’s 2nd book in this “series” (which she recently announced in March). Despite my overall feelings on it, what will stick with me was the personal journey that Ellie took and the focus on friendship!

Hot British Boyfriend is a fluffy, light YA romcom that despite some flaws, puts a focus on friendship, boosting self-confidence, and discovering ones passions!

The Queen Of Nothing by Holly Black Review

The Queen Of Nothing by Holly Black (The Folk Of The Air #3)

Publisher: Little Brown & Company

Release Date: November 19, 2019

Pages: 305

Available Through The Book Depository: The Queen Of Nothing

Summary: He will be the destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold on to. Jude learned that lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.

Now, as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time, determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.

Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines, she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.

And when a terrible curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity….

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ¾

My Thoughts: The Queen Of Nothing is the entertaining conclusion to the Folk Of The Air trilogy! When Jude’s exile is cut short by her sister, she’s given an opportunity to return to Elfhame, confront Cardan, and give it one more shot at her hold for power. Dynamic character arcs, dramatic politics, and more make this a page-turning finale!

As 2020 was coming to a close, I was very undecided on what my final read of the year would be. Then remembering one of my goals was to finish up QON after the gripping sequel that was The Wicked King, it wasn’t surprising at all that as with the previous book, it was read in practically a day. Taking a pause on blogging gave me more time to think about all the things that happened in this finale and while I find these reads to be just pure escapism, still felt there were parts that could’ve been better.

What kept me motivated to finish up Folk Of The Air was not only Jude x Cardan dynamic, but also the fate of Elfhame after Jude’s exile. Though without question, TWK is by far my favorite book in this series.

Jude is barely getting by in the human realm and continuously feeling out of her element, with her sister Vivi and Oak. However, when a quest involving the a former Court fae by the name of Grima Mog offers her the chance to brush up on her strategy / training she’s retained within her since being exiled, she knows she has to find a way back.

Then when her twin sister Taryn gives the perfect opportunity by switching places with her and attempt to pardon her after murdering her husband Locke, she questions whether she should take this chance and risk facing the King of Elfhame, Cardan again.

While seeming rather disjointed and unpredictable early on from Jude’s moments undercover at the Court Of Teeth to her eventual return to the palace, there’s importance to these scenes especially in how Jude’s power as queen and the stakes are confronted later on in the story.

Both a pro and a con of this finale is how sympathetic I felt for the cast, which is supposed to be filled with morally grey / bad fairy folk. When Jude is reunited with her sister again, there’s that moment of fear for Taryn and the feeling of triumph that Jude finally has a way back to Elfhame. When she sits down with Madoc at the Court of Teeth, there’s a sense of understanding in knowing now why Jude and Taryn were brought up so differently with Madoc. However, why this majorly impacts the story is that it takes away from the whole purpose of what I thought this series was meant to be: these are morally bad people and Jude being one of them, we’re still compelled to root for her in her journey to gain power.

In a way our characters felt weirdly out of character. That intense greyish morality and cunning was swapped for this idea that now everyone is just misunderstood. Did I like some of those characters regardless? Absolutely, in the context of the book I enjoyed it, I’m not sure about you but I felt like I finally understood Taryn in this one even Nicasia. However, in general it felt like that mystery of whether characters can be good was just taken away and didn’t seem like it made sense when looking to the series as a whole.

The politics, while not as strong as in The Wicked King, do carry an important weight as we begin to see the impact power, prophecy, and the fae lore has on the future of this world. The division between Elfhame and the mortal world was a much needed addition that brought a nice balance of realism to the fantastical elements of the Folk Of The Air. The way it operates is pretty different than in Elfhame and it was fun to see that introduced.

Next I wanted to talk briefly about the writing. While it does have a fairytale-like quality to it and Black is very clever (in this book especially) with weaving together plot points/ fae’s ability to say things a certain way in order for them to come true later. I feel like it gets me to remember specific scenes, and allowing those important tidbits of info to stick with you. But as a whole, the writing in general doesn’t have much substance to it. It’s very focused on Jude’s internal and emotional thoughts which leaves little to no detail for the setting or building more concrete elements into the world itself.

Okay now onto Cardan and Jude!  The ending of the second book left them off on an interesting twist and no doubt I was invested to see what would happen to them in the finale. Out of all the characters, he was the most interesting and one of my favorites throughout the series. I think their dynamic here was more like an established partnership (which was nice) as their fitting into their roles as king and queen, but I thought that angst and uncertainty wasn’t as strong in this one. While I won’t spoil specific scenes, it felt like a core piece to Jude as a person did a complete 180 in this book because of their roles and established relationship. Again, I didn’t dislike their relationship, but it felt like something was missing here.

The pacing itself is also a bit weird. It’s fast paced at times and yet it felt it like I was stuck at certain spots forever, like the Court Of Teeth and the Madoc stuff near the end. It felt like that sense of urgency to the story wasn’t always there. Also a very random side note, I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this in previous reviews of The Cruel Prince or Wicked King, but overall, don’t really like Bomb, Roach or Ghost…In this book I thought they brought interesting surprises for Jude in the story for sure, but sadly I’m just not the biggest fan of them and honestly could not tell you a single thing about them.

The ending does wrap-up rather quickly, though the build-up towards it felt like forever. Spoiler’s ahead: Probably one of my favorite chapters in the entire book was the throne room stuff near the end, yet I felt like it was bogged down with trying to show Jude become more comfortable in her role as queen on her own. But in general it’s a nice ending so I’ll leave it there. Overall this series was just fun, entertaining, escapism, and I could probably see myself rereading them in the future one day.

The Queen Of Nothing is the conclusion to the Folk Of The Air series! Wrapping up all the loose threads this finale does seem a bit out of place compared to previous books, but overall it’s filled to the brim with politics, intrigue, some romance and is just entertaining all around!

Hunted By The Sky by Tanaz Bhathena ARC Review

Hunted By The Sky by Tanaz BhathenaHunted By The Sky by Tanaz Bhathena (The Wrath Of Ambar #1)

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux (Fierce Reads)

Release Date: June 23, 2020

Pages: 384

Available Through The Book Depository: Hunted By The Sky

Cover Design: Elizabeth Clark

Summary: Gul has spent her life running. She has a star-shaped birthmark on her arm, and in the kingdom of Ambar, girls with such birthmarks have been disappearing for years. Gul’s mark is what caused her parents’ murder at the hand of King Lohar’s ruthless soldiers and forced her into hiding to protect her own life. So when a group of rebel women called the Sisters of the Golden Lotus rescue her, take her in, and train her in warrior magic, Gul wants only one thing: revenge.

Cavas lives in the tenements, and he’s just about ready to sign his life over to the king’s army. His father is terminally ill, and Cavas will do anything to save him. But sparks fly when he meets a mysterious girl–Gul–in the capital’s bazaar, and as the chemistry between them undeniably grows, he becomes entangled in a mission of vengeance–and discovers a magic he never expected to find.

Dangerous circumstances have brought Gul and Cavas together at the king’s domain in Ambar Fort . . . a world with secrets deadlier than their own.

*Received ARC through Goodreads*

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ¾

My Thoughts: Inspired by Medieval India and Persia, Hunted By The Sky is a novel that follows Gul, a girl who can wield powerful magic and Cavas, a palace stableboy who’s only looking to heal his ill father. Filled with intrigue, revenge, and romance, Bhathena’s fantasy debut is set in a vibrant world, brimming with magic!

Perhaps its because I recently finished watching all of Avatar, but the expansive feel of Ambar gave me major ATLA vibes! I feel this is the kind of fantasy that blends the subtle world building and underlying character development in a way that’ll appeal to people that liked the show.

This was a fantasy I was really looking forward to because, I’ve read a bit of the author’s contemporary books and adored her writing style, so I was interested in seeing how her style transitions to a fantasy setting. No doubt this is a novel that takes risks as it introduces many elements to its world and expand on them over the course of the novel. Its layered and detailed setting hint at more to come in future books.

A series debut that’s definitely gone under the radar, Hunted By The Sky revolves around Gul and Cavas, two people brought together each for their own reasons. Gul’s parents were killed by Sky Warriors (who were seeking the legendary Star Warrior) and so, she’s forced to flee until she finds a mysterious rebel group of women. They help her understand her magic and aid her in taking revenge on the kingdom that took her family away.

Cavas, whose lived among the palace for years only wants to help his ill father from a fever that’s taken a toll on him for years. The death of his mother has also left him feeling lost in the world. The 2 find themselves drawn together as Cavas is tasked with helping Gul into Ambar Fort where the ruthless King Lohar lives.

While told through a dual POV, I appreciated how they each have their own storylines and distinct journeys that allow them to question their world and role within it. Its a gradually unfolding narrative led by two compelling protagonists that have been hardened by the tragedies around them. This is very much an introspective and character-driven fantasy that while slow paced, feels so immersive.

There’s mentions of Pashu (animals with human-like qualities), choli and ghagra, and an abundance of food that bring a richness in detail to the world’s culture. Also in the author’s note, Bhathena mentions that she drew on her Persian and Indian heritage to create her own myths and you can really sense the wonder and creativity woven into the tales of different deities, magic system, stories, and more!

Cavas finds he can communicate with spirits around him and yet he is labeled as a non-magi. Gul is a fabled Star Warrior who will bring an end to a tyrannical ruler and yet, she cannot come to terms with the destiny unfolding at every turn. As a magi, she grew up with parents who had magic and she herself is a whisper, able to communicate with animals telepathically.

The magic system is divided between Magi and Non-Magi, which highlights clear class division and inequality. Those with magic are treated with better schools, living arrangements, etc. compared to those without and Bhathena’s development of this system was one of the strongest throughout the novel. There’s also lots of different magical abilities from truth seekers, whisperers, and much more. Its established that powers within each magus react differently depending on the person and you can sense that with the different magis we encounter.

Because Gul is more unfamiliar with the palace, she is brought in undercover in order to infiltrate and seek the perfect moment to take down the king. However, she has to gather her intel all while feeling the stares of the court and palace at every turn. The plot overall, was very unexpected and I loved being surprised at what happened next. Also, there’s lots of scenes where the characters are very much going day-to-day in the palace and while it gives more perspective and insight to the world and characters, it does make the intrigue of the palace falter because it slows the pacing.

As she becomes familiar with the surrounding buildings of Ambar Fort, the royal siblings like Malti, Prince Amar, and the 2 other princes, she’s still trying to better understand her abilities and grasp her duty as the Star Warrior. All the while, she tries to find time with Cavas in order to learn as much as she can.

What Bhathena does so well is weave together threads of the magic system, history, lore, and character arcs that make it so much fun to try and connect it all!

The writing is descriptive and the 1st person POV really allows you to delve deep into the head space of our main characters. However, when it comes to the actual structure of the writing I felt it could have better conveyed the magic woven throughout the story with a different style.

Themes of this novel are that of destiny and how one chooses to accept it and family because its a major motivator for our 2 protagonists as they grow along their journey. The atmosphere is intriguing / fantastical as we delve deeper into the politics of the world, palace, and the developing magic system.

Now onto more about my rating! No doubt, I’m definitely interested in continuing this series, because of the unique world and its cast (including: Sisters Of The Golden Lotus, the princes, Latif, & Major Shayla). However alongside the writing, I think the pacing really impacted my reading experience. It felt like the story took more than 1/2 way to pick up as a lot of page time was spent still establishing Gul and Cavas as they had yet to meet.

This is also something I noticed while reading that actually booktuber Marines from MyNameIsMarines mentions in one of her recent videos titled “Story Elements That Worked For Me In One Book, But Not The Other” and it got the exact feeling I had while reading this book. Although I love political intrigue in novels, I think with Hunted By The Sky in particular, it really didn’t work for me. Mainly due to the slow pacing and the intrigue/court politics feeling quite brief and yet also somewhat obvious, I felt there wasn’t much room to delve into the grey area of the characters morality. I think after watching Marines’s video, I may do a blog post comparing elements that did/didn’t work with certain books, because that was definitely the case here.

I truly believe though, this was more of the case of Hunted By The Sky not being for me personally (and that’s okay!). But I do have faith that the sequel unravel new mysteries and answers left by this first book! Because wow, the ending really picks up and leaves me wondering!!

Hunted By The Sky is a character-driven fantasy tale filled with romance, intrigue, and introduces readers to a unique world! Gul and Cavas propel this story in very interesting ways that weave together an intriguing magic system, expansive world, expansive cast of characters, and page-turning story! An immersive new fantasy series definitely worth reading!

I’ll also be shouting out fellow book blogger reviews today! 📚🎉

First, I recommend Krisha’s Review which delves into character motivations, themes, and more! We also had similar ratings and I enjoyed reading her review. However, I love that its a mostly positive one if that’s what your looking for alongside a 3 star rating.

Next I recommend Fanna’s Review which is a beautifully written post that delves deeper into the #OwnVoices aspects of the culture represented in the novel. There’s also lots of detail in Fanna’s review if your looking for a more in-depth look into specific aspects of the world/story! Overall, I recommend both of these reviews if your interested in reading OwnVoices (Indian and South-Asian bloggers) thoughts on it! ✨

Fence Vol. 2 by C.S. Pacat Review

Fence Issue 2 by C.S. Pacat + Johannah The MadFence Vol. 2 by C.S. Pacat, Johanna The Mad (Artist) & Joana Lafuente (Artist)

Publisher: BOOM! Box (Boom Studios)

Release Date: January 15, 2019

Pages: 112

Available Through The Book Depository: Fence Volume 2

Cover Illustration: Johanna The Mad

Summary: Nicholas Cox is determined to prove himself in the world of competitive fencing, and earn his place on the Kings Row fencing team, alongside sullen fencing prodigy, Seiji Katayama, to win the right to go up against his golden-boy half-brother.

Tryouts are well underway at King’s Row for a spot on the prodigious fencing team, and scrappy fencer Nicholas isn’t sure he’s going to make the grade in the face of surly upperclassmen, nearly impossibly odds, and his seemingly unstoppable roommate, the surly, sullen Seiji Katayama. It’ll take more than sheer determination to overcome a challenge this big!

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ¾

My Thoughts: Fence Vol. 2 is a fun and fast-paced continuation to the series! Tryouts at King’s Row force both Nicholas and Seiji overcome challenges as they work towards finding their place on the team! This volume focuses on the deeper, emotional sides of the characters and what’s at stake if they don’t make the cut!

Fence is one of the first comic series that really motivated me to pick up more single issues as it got released weekly in 2018! I’ve reviewed the first 3 issues and Volume 1 on the blog and felt this was a series that would really draw me in with its complex characters and unique story. After reading this volume, I can’t say for sure whether I love this series as much anymore, but I’ll admit it is a lot of fun!

What all readers can appreciate about this series is how interesting, fast-paced and fun the story is! Everything feels heightened, dramatic, but that’s what makes it super enjoyable.

Nicholas is struggling to find his place on the King’s Row team, but as tryouts continue he gets the push he needs to finally be a more focused fencer. While Seiji on the other hand, is starting to struggle. I liked that contrast between the two and it made for an interesting arc in this volume. My favorite characters definitely include Bobby & Dante, but I feel that it’s Seiji and Nicholas’s dynamic that’s keeping me invested in this series!

We get more of a glimpse into Seiji’s past and his connection to Jesse―that moment really surprised me, but it was one of my favorites. Another one included finally seeing Nicholas find his ground in fencing and I appreciated that we as the reader get to note his dynamic energy and have it shine through. It’s clear he has the skills and he’s not yet perfected them, but this volume showcased his potential to be a better fencer! A major story arc was definitely seeing the matches and who’d be paired with Nicholas & Seiji.

This volume mainly focuses on the tryouts alongside the development and interactions between 2 characters, such as Nicholas & Bobby, Seiji Vs. Aiden, Adien & Harvard, etc. It’s in the way this series highlights how two characters bounce off each other and the moments they share that always leaves you wanting more!

However, I still feel like the pacing of this series moves way too quickly, while at the same time it can feel like not much is even happening. There’s not any major plot progression other than the tryouts and I can kind of sense Pacat’s plan, but so far this volume all just felt like build up. The story always feels like its ending too soon, even when realistically not too much has happened yet.

As for characters, I like them all and their enjoyable, but they still feel a bit static (and Aiden continues to be my least favorite). Again, I liked the more quiet, personal moments with Harvard, Seiji, even Nicholas. But with a mix of static personalities (characters that need more development), minimal plot progression and a story that seems stuck, its starting to get difficult for me to feel super attached to these characters (aside from my favorites) and their journey.

But of course there were moments that stood out to me, so I’ll highlight some of my favorites: ↠ Seeing a moment of Seiji’s past when he & Jesse were young fencers together
↠ Nicholas better focusing on his fencing
↠ Bobby being happy to get advice from Seiji ❤
↠ Getting more into Seiji’s character

Now onto more critiques! While I really appreciate that the art gives a lot of focus to particular characters or certain emotions at intense moments, the art itself is still rather simplistic and I find that the backgrounds have barley any detail. In some scenes it makes the school feel empty. As a positive though, the art looks more suited to be animated for a cartoon adaptation, especially with how extremely fast the story goes.

The paneling felt a bit off in this one too. The pages were presented with a lot of wasted space, odd cropping choices, and with the big panels, there’s a lot of full page art that never really ended up adding a whole lot to the story, in my opinion. There can definitely be more room for background detail, more panels, and dialogue.

Overall though, I’m interested in seeing where the story is headed because it truly is just a fun, entertaining series with an interesting cast of characters and mystery as to where their journey at King’s Row is headed!

Fence Vol. 2 is a solid continuation to the series! There’s more time spent between characters, developing the more personal moments. The cast has somewhat of a clearer focus as to their own personal stories, with much more hinted at in future volumes. Nicholas and Seiji’s dynamic really takes the stage in this volume! With mystery, fencing rivalry, and a fast-paced story, this series always leaves you wanting to know what happens next!

I’m also shouting out a fellow book blogger review today😍📚🤺

 Fence Vol. 2 review from Autumn at Chaptermalliumpkin

As a 5-star review, Autumn goes into detail as to how this series completely stole her heart, the rivalries between the team, and how connected she feels to the characters! I also love the chapter-by-chapter breakdown, it reminded me of even more details in the series I forgot! If your a fan of this series, check out Autumn’s fabulous review (it even includes a great bookstagram) 📸💞

Finale by Stephanie Garber Review

Finale by Stephanie Garber CR: Flatiron BooksFinale by Stephanie Garber (Caraval #3)

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Release Date: May 7, 2019

Pages: 478

Available Through The Book Depository: Finale (UK Paperback Edition)

Summary: A love worth fighting for. A dream worth dying for. An ending worth waiting for.

It’s been two months since the Fates were freed from a deck of cards, two months since Legend claimed the throne for his own, and two months since Tella discovered the boy she fell in love with doesn’t really exist.

With lives, empires, and hearts hanging in the balance, Tella must decide if she’s going to trust Legend or a former enemy. After uncovering a secret that upends her life, Scarlett will need to do the impossible. And Legend has a choice to make that will forever change and define him.

Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun. There are no spectators this time—only those who will win, and those who will lose everything.

Welcome, welcome to Finale. All games must come to an end…

*Finale spoilers are in this review*

My Rating:★★★☆☆ ¾

My Thoughts: Finale is the page-turning conclusion to the Caraval series! Expansion on the lore of the world, focus on character-development, and romance take center stage as sisters Scarlett and Tella work together to save their world while also finding their happy endings!

Finale! This is a book I was actually surprised I’d put off to the side when it first released because I’d read Caraval and Legendary back to back last year! But I’d finally taken time to see what this final book had in store and finished it within just a couple days! Now that I’ve finally read it, I have so many thoughts on it, but overall I’d say its a really satisfying ending to this series!

What I appreciated about this final book was how it continued to build on the lore and mythology of the world, especially regarding the Fates!

For me, Caraval has always been one of those series where I’d sped through each book within a couple days and enjoyed immersing myself in a fun fantasy world for a while–that’s something I really appreciate these books! No matter my critiques of this series, I’ve always just appreciated finding the fun in following Scarlett and Tella on their grand adventures throughout the world of Caraval!

Finale starts with both Scarlett and Tella in a place of sadness. Scarlett’s felt abandoned by Julian decides to see if she can make her arrangement work with Nicolas d’Arcy, while Tella has felt nothing but loneliness since Legend left her and he only visits her in dreams while he reins over as prince.

Throughout this novel, both sisters go on journeys of growth and development to better understand who they want to be in this magical world they’ve gotten themselves mixed up in.

Overall, as I’m reflecting on Finale I found that message was something that stuck with me as I followed each character’s story. From Legend, Jacks, to the Fates, Paloma, etc. what this last book really takes time to explore is the sacrifices characters learn to make not only for themselves, but for others and their world. This novel really focuses on the growth and healing of our main cast of characters!

Slowly Scarlett, Tella, and Julian begin to realize that now with Fates having escaped, they’ve found their way into the real world and are causing havoc in Elantaine. But, it goes beyond more than just that as Tella learns they still have a connection to her mother, but more specifically one in particular–The Fallen Star.

Finale is incredibly character-driven and I appreciate that! Throughout the series, Garber has always written her characters in such a way that’s allowed me to really connect with them and in Finale I felt she made that an even bigger focus.

This last book also has a lot more romance, which was nice! However, I did find it took up a lot of the story at points, especially when it came to Tella’s story-line. I definitely understood why it did though: Tella feels all by herself and when we learn Legend is avoiding her because its tied to his immortality/powers, Jacks is the only one willing to help and be honest with her, agreeing to alter her emotions to take away her pain.

But as I read, I felt the romance did drag a bit too much for too long. Especially when it came to Tella and Legend, it took steps back when it didn’t need to and the plot point of Scarlett creating a competition between Julian & Nicolas–why??  Its so obvious Julian is meant for her and just felt like filler.

I will say though, I loved Jacks and would say he’s probably one of my favorite characters  & Fates in this book (and the series maybe?), he deserved more in my opinion!! He helped Tella and offered her answers to help with the Fates when she wasn’t sure. Although he is cunning and deceptive, even knowing he just wanted to win over Tella, he still decided to help them anyways.

It was also great to see Julian and Dante interact with the original Caraval crew again, though I am sad because they were only present for a small portion of the story. Finale delivered a lot of growth and development to the 3 guys: Julian, Legend/Dante, & Jacks and you could really see how they each changed over the course of the story!

Now onto more critical points that lowered my rating on this last book! I think the whole reading experience of Finale made me think more about series finales as a whole and how they wrap up. I did read Finale with a more critical lens because the journey of reading this hyped-up series overall and being an aspiring fantasy writer, just made me go into it analyzing different elements of the story a lot more deeply!

Firstly, the pacing. While it was great to get both Scarlett and Tella’s POVs because it added so many layers to the story, compared to previous books, I felt Finale was definitely slower. Which is interesting because when I looked at the page counts, Legendary is only about 20 pages less. Plot points for me really dragged for a while longer than they needed to–such as Tella jumping between Legend and Jacks & Scarlett being trapped with the Fallen Star to name a few.

For me I felt it wasn’t until Jacks helped Tella out, that her storyline began to move forward a lot faster. Though I will say that I appreciated Scarlett taking a more active role compared to her role in Legendary!

Now onto world-building! I loved getting all these facets to explore the lore and how it developed alongside the plot, such as getting to meet the Fates and seeing them interact with the universe of Caraval. For example, seeing Poisoner’s work early on with Scarlett and Julian and understanding how Legend could help Jacks regain all his power. However, I’m not sure what it is exactly, but I didn’t feel like the setting itself expanded or changed in this book a whole lot. I’m also not sure if this makes sense, but when looking at Caraval, Legendary, and Finale together as a whole…it felt like the mechanisms and atmosphere of each of them (in regards to the world) changed between each one and I’m not sure how I felt about that.

The writing itself, while it was cinematic and nice to read, did feel overly descriptive. Generally speaking, I felt it didn’t do much to really build on the actual setting itself. Also, I’m not sure if its just me but there were SO many dress descriptions in this book 😂!

I think another element of the story that made a decline the further I read, was the main villain and his motivations. I felt they really fell apart and just ended up dragging up until Tella, Scarlett, and the team developed their plan, then the story and pacing got a lot better (there’s also time-travel involved! I’m only disappointed it was brought in this late into the series and was used to conveniently tie up the ending).

I will say though that I loved exploring the magic system a lot more in-depth through not only the Fates, but also characters we’ve gotten to know such as Legend, Jacks, and more interestingly Scarlett!

Above all, Finale had a lot of different plot threads and I’m happy that Garber wrapped them all up very nicely!

Finale is Garber’s last return to the world of Caraval, tying together the Dragna’s sisters journeys! The mystery, romance, character-development, and mythology are just some of the many elements weaved into this final book that will keep you reading till the last page! The dark, magical, and immersive world of Caraval comes to an end in this satisfying conclusion!

The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen ARC Review

The Merciful Crow by Margaret OwenThe Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen (The Merciful Crow #1)

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. (Fierce Reads)

Release Date: July 30, 2019

Pages: 384

Available Through The Book Depository: The Merciful Crow

Summary: A future chieftain

Fie abides by one rule: look after your own. Her Crow caste of undertakers and mercy-killers takes more abuse than coin, but when they’re called to collect royal dead, she’s hoping they’ll find the payout of a lifetime.

A fugitive prince

When Crown Prince Jasimir turns out to have faked his death, Fie’s ready to cut her losses—and perhaps his throat. But he offers a wager that she can’t refuse: protect him from a ruthless queen, and he’ll protect the Crows when he reigns.

A too-cunning bodyguard

Hawk warrior Tavin has always put Jas’s life before his, magically assuming the prince’s appearance and shadowing his every step. But what happens when Tavin begins to want something to call his own?

*Received ARC from Yallwest*

My Rating:★★★☆☆ ¾

My Thoughts: The Merciful Crow is a YA Fantasy debut that takes readers on an adventure following future chieftain Fie, a runaway prince, and his bodyguard as they travel across Sabor to save Fie’s fellow Crows! The setting’s atmosphere and cast of characters will keep readers immersed in this action-filled debut that presents a unique magic system and intriguing politics that build as the story develops!

The Merciful Crow was one of those debuts I knew I just had to read! I was really looking forward to the story not only because it had a really unique concept, but also I’d seen so many positive reviews and that had me even more excited to check it out!

Though Owen’s debut wasn’t a 5-star read for me, it still had a lot of elements that I enjoyed and that I’ll be exploring more in-depth!

From the opening pages featuring a Caste Legend, I knew I was going to be immersed in a distinct fantasy world unlike any I’d really read before!

The world of Sabor is divided into 5 different castes which all have separate classes within them, all named after different birds (Peacock, Swan, Dove, Hawk, and Vulture, to name a few), with Phoenix being the highest caste.

Among these castes, people are all born with a Birthright that gives them a specialized skill or affinity (for example, the Vulture caste has an affinity for hunting). Crows, however have no affinities or skills, so they must take teeth of the dead from other castes to perform magic. Crows are also the only ones with the unique ability to defend themselves against the Sinner’s Plague, a deadly disease that can wipe out entire cities within days. However, even with this life-saving ability, they are still treated poorly by the other castes.

We follow Fie, future chieftain of the Crows, who travels across the land with her band who deliver mercy killings to those struck with illness. When the Crows find themselves at the royal palace that’s been struck by the plague, it’s just another average day. However what we quickly learn is that 2 boys have recently been struck with the illness, and one of them is the crown prince.

It turns out however, crown prince Jasimir and his Hawk bodyguard Tavin, were actually using that as a cover to escape the royal palace, because the queen Rhusana is trying to get rid of him.

As the two join Fie’s Crows, they agree to a pact that will offer the Crow’s lifelong protection from the assassins and castes loyal to the crown, such as the Oleanders and Vultures, who don’t give much thought to how they’re treated.

The Crows do a very important job within this world, but are still seen as outsiders in a society that at the end of the day relies on them, as the illness continues to spread.

The setting and atmosphere of Sabor, with its dense forests, stone infrastructure, traveling bands of friends and family, together painted for me, a picture of an early century Europe. This image I had in my mind definitely wasn’t by accident because, according to a recent article from Tor where Owen discusses the inspiration for The Merciful Crow, she states that she was inspired by the history of executioners of Medieval Europe!

“One of the most overt parallels is the ostracization of historical executioners and that faced by our heroine, Fie. For background, Fie belongs to a caste known as the Crows, who are not quite executioners, but may as well be: they are immune to a fast and terminal illness called the Sinner’s Plague, one that is believed only to initially infect people as divine punishment. The Crows are expected to remove the infected, mercy-killing them if need be, and give them funeral rites. Like executioners of old, they may not hand out the sentence, but it’s their duty to carry it out…”

Owen explored the dynamics between Crows and their societal standing extremely well, where you sense that tension (and division) between castes throughout the entirety of the book. You can see how the politics of each caste and especially treatment of the Crows is built with so many layers/threads that definitely leave for more exploration in the sequel!

When Fie’s tight-knit group of Crows are taken, she embarks on a journey with the help of  Tavin and Jasimir to get them back. However with a pact ensuring future protection for the Crows, she tries not to lose hope even as they avoid the Oleanders, trackers, and monstrous ghasts that chase them at every turn!

While the fantasy world of Sabor was distinct and that’s something I really loved about it,  I wish there was further development of this vast setting as the story progressed. We focus on the Crows, Vultures, and Hawks (mainly) and while we definitely get glimpses into each caste, I felt there just wasn’t enough information to really connect me to the world fully–pockets of this world seemed to be missing and because of that I didn’t feel such a strong connection to the world in its entirety.

As for plot, while I do enjoy journey stories (which this one definitely is), I did find that the team jumped around from one spot to another a bit too quickly. Because new locations were introduced every few pages with very brief descriptions and then moved onto a new place, I felt lost as to where the Crows were headed exactly, early on.

I will say though, what I enjoyed about the journey that Fie, Jas, & Tavin embark on together was how with each new location, it did layer more of the politics and perspective of different castes within the world–I just wish it was more developed.

One of my favorite parts about The Merciful Crow was the dynamic between the main trio! Jas and Tavin had grown up together and as Fie learns more about them, we see how strong their bond really is. While it does seem that Fie has more page-time with Tavin, I liked that Owen weaved in a good amount of development with both of the guys and we learn a lot about their fears and hopes for their own futures and of the world!

Owen’s writing really highlights how wonderfully developed she makes her characters and I really appreciated that! As I continue to read more YA Fantasy, I realize that I also try to find that connection to the cast–the dynamic of Fie, Tavin, and Jas brings a lot of great energy to the story and was a definite highlight of The Merciful Crow!

Fie is a character who’s fierce and loyal to her caste. While it can seem like there isn’t much more explored beyond that, its the little moments in the journey she embarks on, where you see bits of her character shine through.

Jas is a royal prince who jumps at the chance to bring change to his world, especially the Crows! His deal with the Crows, alongside joining them to reach his forces deep in Sabor, takes him on his own journey outside his lavish palace as he sees more of the outside world he’s planning to one day lead!

Then there’s Tavin, Jas’s protector along this journey! As he connects more with Fie, we learn while he’s well aware that he’s in Jas’s shadow, he also fears the uncertainty of where that duty will end and he can begin! I really loved his character arc and felt it explored so much about identity and forging your own path when you feel one has already been laid out!

The writing while immersive and descriptive, just didn’t flow well with the constant starts and pauses in the journey. Through 3rd person, there’s good glimpses into each character and I really appreciated that! However, when it came to the world itself, I still felt a bit distant from it and found the exploration of the setting (either new or previously explored), seemed to be a bit surface level and felt it could been more developed.

While the writing successfully creates a unique atmosphere for the setting, if I were to look at just the writing itself, I found it was a bit generic–descriptive when it needed to be, but in the end it was quite hard to find that special element that also made it stand out alongside the story.

Aside from those critiques though, I’m personally really looking forward to seeing more of how the characters develop in the sequel! They are what kept me reading and I can’t wait to see where their journeys take them next!

The Merciful Crow is an atmospheric fantasy debut that introduces a unique and immersive world! Fie embarks on a journey to save her people and along the way, gather the wisdom to determine if she’s ready to be the chieftain her people need! If your a fan of character-driven journey stories, Owen’s debut is one to check out!

Today I’m also shouting out a fellow book blogger’s review 😍💕📚

The Merciful Crow ARC Review from Sab over at Vengeance & Starlight

We follow each other on twitter & for a while I’d been seeing all her lovely tweets talking about this book! She goes into discussion of a couple topics I wasn’t able to cover much in my review such as the oppression of the Crows and the interesting change in writing voice as the story progresses! 💞

Overall she gave this book 5 stars and as I read her review I could feel the love she has for this delightful book from the characters to the world and how everything ties together! If you need more convincing to check out Margaret Owen’s The Merciful Crow, check out her wonderful review!

August 2018 Wrap-Up

# Of Books Read: 4

A Thousand Beginnings And Endings by Ellen Oh and Elise Chapman1.A Thousand Beginnings And Endings edited by Ellen Oh & Elsie Chapman

Library | Started July 28 + Finished August 2 | Rating: ★★★★☆ | A Thousand Beginnings And Endings Full Review

Overall Thoughts: This is a wonderful YA anthology that contains 15 short stories inspired by East & South Asian Folklore/Mythology! There are stories inspired by myths/folklore from Korea, the Philippines, China, India, Vietnam, & much more! Every author’s story delivers its own unique spin to their favorite tales. Within each story, the writing pulls you in! While there were some stories I enjoyed more than others, this is not an anthology to miss! While I loved so many of the stories, these were some that were definitely my favorites: Forbidden Fruit, Olivia’s Table, Land Of The Morning Calm, The Smile, Bullet Butterfly, & Daughter Of The Sun!

Interludes From Melancholy Falls Vol. 1 by Jeff Heimbuch2. Interludes From Melancholy Falls Vol. 1 by Jeff Heimbuch

Owned | Started August 3 + Finished August 6 |Rating: ★★★★☆ | Interludes From Melancholy Falls Vol. 1 Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Fans of the Return Home podcast do not want to miss out on this short story collection! Filled with 16 short stories, Heimbuch expands on the world of the Return Home podcast, by centering the stories around the lesser known settings and characters! Told through different mediums, each story builds into the world or even an episode of the show! Because the stories are more character/plot-driven, there are moments when the descriptions were a bit minimal! However, this is a great addition for readers looking to learn more about the world of Return Home!

Shadow And Bone by Leigh Bardugo3.Shadow And Bone by Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha Trilogy #1)

Owned | Started + Finished August 14 |Rating: ★★★★★ |Tattered Sundays feat. Shadow And Bone

Overall Thoughts: Not much to say other than I loved it even more than when I read Shadow & Bone the first time! What I loved about this re-read was how I focused more on the characters & their development! I just found myself loving the characters even more (like The Darkling, Alina, etc.) and connected to the story more on a level of characters & world-building/development than just the story as a whole. I picked up on little details I forgot the first time around that also helped me as an aspiring YA Fantasy writer! 

Ace Of Shades by Amanda Foody4. Ace Of Shades by Amanda Foody (The Shadow Game #1)

Library | Started August 9 + Finished August 22 | Rating:★★★☆☆ ¾ | Ace Of Shades Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Ace Of Shades is an immersive YA Fantasy that delivers such unique and different elements through its world! What I loved the most about this book was the main characters, Enne & Levi! The dual POV really built them both as characters, but also how they see the world of New Reynes. However, there were elements that made this book fall a bit flat for me: Pacing, made-up swear words, repetition of phrases, & lack of expansion on the world + some characters! Aside from that however, the way Foody crafts her stories makes it unexpected & immersive! The journeys that Enne & Levi have ahead, is what will definitely keep me invested in  book 2!

Additional Posts From This Month:

Podcasts In Publishing feat. Sadie by Courtney Summers {Literary Listens}

Book Bytes #14

Sacred Lies Mini-Series Review

YA Contemporary Books That Need Netflix Adaptations {Book Blog Discussion}

Tattered Sundays: Shadow & Bone + My Heart And Other Black Holes

Plans For September:

~ Catch up on ARCs & read more! I was a bit disappointed at the lack of ARCs I was able to get through this month, so next month I’m really planning to catch up + read/review upcoming ARCs & ones from a week ago! 💖📚📚🎉

~ Post TBR Lists! I’ve been drafting a couple TBR lists that I’ve had in the works for a while, but just haven’t had the chance to share yet! I’m definitely planning to share them & recommend some great upcoming books! 📚✨💖💕

~ I’ve also been planning another Literary Listens post & I’m really looking forward to sharing this one! 😍💕🎙✨

~If I make time for it, I definitely want to finish up my summer reading bullet journal & talk about it on the blog! ☀📝✨📚

What books did you read this month? 😍📚

Ace Of Shades by Amanda Foody Review

Ace Of Shades by Amanda FoodyAce Of Shades by Amanda Foody (The Shadow Game #1)

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Release Date: April 10, 2018

Pages: 408

Summary: Welcome to the City of Sin, where casino families reign, gangs infest the streets…and secrets hide in every shadow.

Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.

Frightened and alone, Enne has only one lead: the name Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and a con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn’t have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne’s offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems. 

Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless Mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi’s enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…

And she’ll need to play.

My Rating:★★★☆☆ ¾

My Thoughts: Ace Of Shades is a character-driven story set in a fantasy world with cons, casinos, politics, and so much more! Enne is on a mission to find her mother in the City Of Sin, with danger and intrigue at every turn! Foody’s immersive tale, engaging main characters, and unique world makes Ace Of Shades a fun YA Fantasy!

Last year I read Amanda Foody’s debut novel Daughter Of The Burning City and really enjoyed it!

I was anticipating Ace Of Shades to get even more of the things I loved in Foody’s previous book and just getting immersed in another creative and unique fantasy world!

While there were definitely elements I liked, I was sadly disappointed with this book! Its sad because I was really looking forward to enjoying but, it happens!

And the main characters really made had me invested by the end of Ace Of Shades, so I’m definitely not too bummed, because the ending has me wondering where the journeys of Enne & Levi in book 2, King Of Fools, will be headed!

The unlikely duo find themselves working together and seeing how they change and grow over the course of the story was one of the highlights of this book too.

Ace Of Shades follows Enne Salta who is looking for her adopted mother Lourdes in New Reynes. The transition from Bellamy Finishing School to the City Of Sin, isn’t easy for her as she has to set up a new life for herself in order to get the answers she’s looking for!
Then there’s Levi Glaisyer, a con man & street lord who is stuck working cons and getting money back in order to pay off dangerous lords and influential people who may want him dead.

Enne basically has to set up a life for herself in this new city to not catch suspicion as she works with Levi to find out more about where Lourdes went and where she may be and may even learn more about herself along the way!

What I really enjoyed about this book, besides the main characters, was the creativity of Foody’s world, plot, magic system, and overall how the story easily immerses you and it definitely kept me invested!

With the way Foody crafts her stories, I never know what’s coming next and that’s what makes her books so much fun to read!

With Ace Of Shades being told through a dual 3rd person POV, I found it really worked for the story to really develop and build Enne & Levi’s characters, while allowing you to see differing perspectives on the world of New Reynes!

New Reynes is an interesting world with casinos, magic, gambling, etc., and the way Foody describes the world really creates that atmosphere! (For me, I definitely found this book to be atmospheric in the style of Caraval & Six Of Crows).

Its also so great to see diversity in fantasy: There’s Levi who is black & bisexual, Japanese rep. from a side character, & according to another review I read on Goodreads (though I’ll have to double check) there’s also gender-fluid rep (Enne’s adpoted mother: Lourdes).

There were so many creative elements that Foody weaved into the story that I really enjoyed reading about: The magic system (called Talents) which are divided by Split & Blood talents. They are magical or unique abilities inherited by each parent with one being stronger (or more dominant) than the other.

The creativity of that made the story really stand out and add a unique element to the idea of magical abilities! I also liked how Foody used it to explain family connections (as Enne later on, meets someone with her last name).

Other unique and fun fantasy elements include: currency in the form of orbs called Volts and the use of Omertas (or magical commands).

I also enjoyed the way Foody weaved together her plot. It really made it easy to follow and I never found it all too predictable, which was good!

Similar to Daughter Of The Burning City, the romance that develops is slow and doesn’t really become a central part of the main plot, but does keep you interested to see what happens between the 2 main characters!

Now onto the elements of Ace Of Shades that had me disappointed:

1.The Pacing: If I spend too long on a single book (w/ this one it was close to 2 weeks), I usually end up not really loving it all too much! With this book, I just felt the writing could have sped up the story and have it not drag as much as it did. To me it felt really slow.

2. Made-Up Swear Words: I’ve definitely seen reviews from others who weren’t a fan of this either. It just ended up coming across as really cringey to me.

3. Repetition: Throughout the book, there were certain lines repeated way too often. While I saw it as Foody wanting to use them to emphasize a character, their growth, or show symbolism, for me it really didn’t work. With the repetition, I found those lines just ended up losing their meaning & just didn’t flow well.

For example: “She was a pistol wrapped up in silk. She was a blade disguised as a girl.” This was a common line that was used to describe Enne and while the line really stuck out to me at first, it just became annoying to keep reading it so many times, over & over, throughout the book. The impact of that line just lost its effect the more it was used.

4.World-Building/Character Development: While I really did love the setting of this book, similar to DOTBC, I wished there could have been more expansion on the world itself.

The way it was written never really made it feel explored thoroughly. Things like setting, events, or location descriptions would be given or stated so directly that it felt like the only aspect to the development of the world.

Elements of the various settings to New Reynes also seemed so specific, that it felt very lacking when seeing it overall.

The differing gangs of New Reynes like the Irons, Doves, & Scarhands are given minimal description and because of that, when they are mentioned I forget why it even matters because they don’t feel they end up tying too well into the story anyways (only in certain plot points when its necessary).

Same for the magic system! While I really enjoyed it, there were just basic statements about the talents that just never got too much development. There were so many questions I had, like: “do certain things determine certain powers?” “what are their limits?” “Is there a pattern in the abilities that would be seen as Blood or Split talents?” 

I felt the elements to that weren’t really explored at all…

+ There were minor & somewhat main villain/side characters that were never really developed and I never really cared much for them.

Well aside from those elements I wasn’t really a fan of, another aspect I loved as the book progressed, was the group dynamic that forms between Enne, Levi, Jac (one of Levi’s gang members), & Lola (who is from the Doves)! It wasn’t something I was expecting to develop the way it did and I could really see the great dynamic between them nearing the end!!

So overall…

Ace Of Shades is uniquely plotted story, with a world that’s immersive and different! The story is filled with intrigue, politics, mystery, magic and centers around 2 main characters you’ll really love following! While elements to the development sometimes falter, its great for fans of Six Of Crows!!

Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch Review

Love & Luck by Jenna Evans WelchLove & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: May 8, 2018

Pages: 320

Summary: Addie is visiting Ireland for her aunt’s over-the-top destination wedding, and hoping she can stop thinking about the one horrible thing she did that left her miserable and heartbroken—and threatens her future. But her brother, Ian, isn’t about to let her forget, and his constant needling leads to arguments and even a fistfight between the two once inseparable siblings. Miserable, Addie can’t wait to visit her friend in Italy and leave her brother—and her problems—behind.

So when Addie discovers an unusual guidebook, Ireland for the Heartbroken, hidden in the dusty shelves of the hotel library, she’s able to finally escape her anxious mind and Ian’s criticism.

And then their travel plans change. Suddenly Addie finds herself on a whirlwind tour of the Emerald Isle, trapped in the world’s smallest vehicle with Ian and his admittedly cute, Irish-accented friend Rowan. As the trio journeys over breathtaking green hills, past countless castles, and through a number of fairy-tale forests, Addie hopes her guidebook will heal not only her broken heart, but also her shattered relationship with her brother.

That is if they don’t get completely lost along the way. 

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ¾

My Thoughts: Love & Luck is Welch’s spin-off to Love & Gelato, which follows Lina’s friend Addie, as she spends her time in Ireland for her aunt’s wedding. Though a quick detour offers Addie the chance to mend her broken heart and her complex relationship with her brother! Character-driven and filled with adventure, Love & Luck is perfect summer contemporary!

Back in 2016, I read a book called Love & Gelato! I was expecting a light summer YA Contemporary set in Italy, but what I got was so much more!

So, of course when I saw that the author would have another YA Contemporary, I knew I had to pick it up!

Where to start with Love & Luck! Well, I really loved its focus on family and sibling relationships/dynamics!

Addie has 3 older brothers: Ian, Walter, & Archie! They all are really into sports and though tease each other every now & again, are always there for one another.

However at the start of Love & Luck, when Addie & Ian’s argument leads them to go rolling from a cliff, they definitely have some issues to work out.

Their mother has had enough of their arguing and so, as punishment, they are forced to stay together and make their way to Italy and get along!

With Addie’s soccer & Ian’s football on the line, if they don’t get past their arguing, its also a chance for them to overcome their own heartaches and mend their relationship.

The main focus of this book is really Addie & Ian learning to get along again as Ian’s detour through Ireland forces them both to stick together as Addie’s anticipated trip to Italy (to see Lina) comes to a halt!

The sibling dynamics are at the heart of this story and having sisters myself, found the complexity of those dynamics were explored really well!!

Along the way Addie follows a guide book she found in the hotel during her stay for the wedding titled: Ireland For The Heartbroken: An Unconventional Guide to the Emerald Isle!

She follows the guide when she learns that the trip to Italy will take a bit longer than expected and along the way, uses it to overcome her recent break-up with Cubby and the difficulties that came with it!

What made Love & Luck such an immersive read, was how character-driven it was! From Addie, Ian, & their new friend/tour guide Rowan, I felt I really got to know them and understand them fully by the end of this story!

What I find so great about Welch’s books is how invested you become in the characters! She really builds her main cast and as you learn more about them you also get more insight into their strengths, doubts, insecurities, etc.!

There’s also so much more to Ian & Addie’s difficult dynamic ( & argument) that gets revealed as the story progresses!

With much more to Ian & Rowan than Addie first expects, I was just as surprised as she was when I learned more about them.

Another plus of Love & Luck is how atmospheric it was and how Welch really builds the setting and gives it a life of its own through her characters!

I really loved Rowan! He is actually an online friend of Ian’s and as the secrets about their detour to Ireland get revealed, it turns out Ian wants to follow the different memorable sites of his (& Rowan’s) favorite band Titletrack, to in the end see them live at a festival: Electric Picnic!

He also becomes the tour guide of sorts as all 3 of them stop at various spots throughout Ireland!

I really loved his character! While he seems to be just an average guy, there’s so much more to him that gets revealed as he & Addie become closer on their journey through Ireland!

What also made Love & Luck so wonderful was that because it wasn’t really focused on romance, we really get to see the wonderful friendship between Addie & Rowan as they rely on each other to overcome their heartbreak!

+ There’s also a certain cameo I was waiting for, so of course I really loved seeing Lina & Ren again!!

Now as to why I didn’t love this book as much as Love & Gelato:

~Well, because it runs parallel to Love & Gelato, the pacing felt incredibly slow because I knew where the story was headed! (+ the in-between tour guide sections (though I liked them) really slowed the pacing for me too!)

~ Beside’s Addie, Ian, & Rowan, the other characters seemed pretty forgettable

~ There’s also the plot point of the entire reason Addie & Ian are arguing & while things are revealed, I felt that the major history to it was shared way too late in the story! Because of that, it felt that most of their problems could have been fixed with better communication, considering how quickly it was rushed through when more backstory to it is finally mentioned!

& to me what I personally found odd throughout the book, was that if Addie & Ian were being punished and had to get along, why was their mother leaving them alone & expecting them to get to Italy on their own with no problems? (This is just an odd personal gripe I had).

Overall though, what really made this book good was the focus on the main characters, their growth and the emphasis on friendship, overcoming heartache & sibling dynamics!

Love & Luck is a YA Contemporary that is perfect for summer! The story really shines through its characters and the development they undergo!  Its a character-driven, immersive and atmospheric story that focuses on overcoming heartache & the complex bonds of siblings! 

June 2018 Wrap-Up

# Of Books Read: 5

Heavy Vinyl by Carly Usdin + Nina Vakueva1.Heavy Vinyl Volume 1 by Carly Usdin +Nina Vakueva (Heavy Vinyl #1)

Owned | Started/Finished June 1 |Rating: ★★★★★ | Heavy Vinyl Full Review

Overall Thoughts: A fun, diverse, graphic novel with so much girl power set in 90’s New Jersey! Heavy Vinyl follows Chris who works alongside her all-female co-workers at her local vinyl store. With anxiety, she wants to fit in with her new friends but hasn’t gotten the chance! That is until a case of missing singer introduces her to the world her co-workers have been hiding from her: their vigilante fight club! Now she’s tagging along with them to solve the mystery and maybe uncover more along the way! This is an incredible graphic novel that’s character-driven, diverse, and just a fun story! Friendship is at the heart of Heavy Vinyl and it really shows with each page. Additionally, there’s a lot of fantastic representation among the main cast/side characters: f/f & m/m relationships, lesbian rep., black & Puerto Rican rep., interracial relationships! I adored this graphic novel so much & highly recommend it!  I think there’s only 1 volume planned which is sad, because it ends on at place leaving you to want more from the story & characters, so definitely pick it up & support it, you won’t be disappointed!

Running With Lions by Julian Winters2.Running With Lions by Julian Winters

Owned| Started June 3 + Finished June 7 |Rating: ★★★★☆ ½| Running With Lions Full Review

Overall Thoughts: A coming-of-age YA sports contemporary, that really focuses on characters! Sebastian Hughes is ready for his last summer of soccer training camp with his teammates, before senior year. However things get a bit complicated when his former friend, Emir Shah, shows up. Though regardless of their past, Sebastian is eager to make Emir feel at home! Through a 3rd person POV, the characters, plot, summer setting/atmosphere come to life! A huge aspect of this novel is the way Winters explores sexuality, with characters identifying as gay and bisexual + through the teammate’s support + acceptance of each other throughout the entire book! The characters really grow as they spend their time at Camp Haven and I loved seeing their friendship dynamics with each turn of the page! The plot, characters, etc. are all wonderfully developed and the pacing is great! Highly recommend checking out Winter’s debut!

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl3. Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

ARC| Started June 9 + Finished June 12 |Rating:★★★☆☆ ¾| Neverworld Wake Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Neverworld Wake was an intriguing YA Contemporary that blends with science fiction! Beatrice Hartley gets the opportunity to reconnect with her friends from boarding school at an estate, since the year or so since her boyfriend Jim’s passing. But when a mysterious man arrives, he tells them they’ve been caught in the Neverworld Wake and only one person can make out alive by the end. The mystery that surrounded Neverworld and how the info was revealed was both delivered and explored at perfect moments throughout the story. While the plot and mystery remain such huge parts of the story, I did find myself not enjoying this book as much as I’d hoped. The writing (which is 1st person) never really made me find a connection to Bea as a character and with the simplicity to the writing, some elements of the story, like side characters were pretty forgettable. However, what definitely made Neverworld Wake an immersive read, was definitely the mystery, and exploration + complexities to the Neverworld!

Not The Girls Your Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi4.Not The Girls You’re Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi

ARC| Started June 13 + Finished June 18 |Rating:★★★★☆ ½| Not The Girls You’re Looking For Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Aminah Mae Safi’s debut explores the complexities of family and friendship (especially female friendships) in her debut! I connected with Lulu, the main character, from the very first page! She’s outgoing, not afraid to speak her mind and I just–loved her character so much.  This novel explores the messiness of friendship in an honest + complex way, and its such a huge theme of the story. Safi really allows for both friendship & family to be explored, and I was able to really see the many different sides to these dynamics. The unique plot, themes explored, character dynamics, etc. all came together so wonderfully in Not The Girls You’re Looking For to make for such a fantastic YA Contemporary!

A Reaper At The Gates by Sabaa Tahir5. A Reaper At The Gates by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember In The Ashes #3)

Library| Started June 19 + Finished June 25|Rating:★★★★☆| A Reaper At The Gates Full Review

Overall Thoughts: This is very much a darker continuation to the An Ember In The Ashes series! Character development and lore/mythology are such huge parts of this book and really take center stage. I loved seeing the development and growth to Laia, Helene, and Elias. They are such phenomenal characters and you really see where their fates lead them in this book! War and the dark aftermath of it are explored in this novel and its just heartbreaking. While this was such a great book, I found for me personally that the pacing in the first 1/2 or so made this book a bit difficult for me to really love it as with the previous ones. With the pacing, I felt that with the urgency of the stakes that are given + alongside the writing that made side characters, setting, etc. feel a bit under-developed and not as fully immersive for me in previous books. However regardless of that, as soon as I reached the end, I needed the next book right away. So, I am beyond excited to read the final book and see what Sabaa has in store for the world/story of Ember! 

Additional Posts From This Month:

Book Bytes #12

Audio Dime Museum Podcast Review {Literary Listens}

Currently Reading & YA Books On My June 2018 TBR!

Circle Of Shadows by Evelyn Skye Exclusive Cover Reveal

Dark Ages Podcast Review {Literary Listens}

Plans For July:

~READ MORE!! I feel like I just haven’t been reading much as I’d hoped (;´༎ຶД༎ຶ`) & before summer ends, really want to catch up on my TBR! If you have any tips to read more, definitely let me know!! 😭💕📚📚

~ Post more podcast reviews for Literary Listens! June was my first month posting audio drama podcast reviews & they were such fun posts to make!! I really hope to review/recommend more audio dramas next month too!! 🎙✨💖

~Continue working on my summer bullet journal 😍📒💕☀

What books did you read this month?? 😍📚

+ What are your bookish goals for July? Lets discuss in the comments!! ✨✨