Review: Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

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Title: Sky in the Deep
Author: Adrienne Young
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Source: Hardcover
Release Date: April 24th, 2018
Rating: ★★

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield — her brother, fighting with the enemy — the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

img_1926I’ve seen this book described as being action-packed, with three-dimensional characters and a strong protagonist. I feel like I must have read a completely different book.

The beginning sucked me right in with the opening fight scene, but this book didn’t hold my interest much after that. A large portion of it is spent on pastoral activities like peeling garlic and cleaning armor. I didn’t think it was action-packed at all, but rather just some action scenes mixed in with the day-to-day life of Eelyn as the enemy’s prisoner.

The romance is so incredibly bland. Fiske is uninteresting as a character, and him and Eelyn had absolutely no chemistry. One minute he’s shooting her with an arrow, while the next minute she’s blushing and trying to ignore whatever “connection” they have. The enemies-to-lovers thing didn’t make any sense. I also thought that Eelyn’s acceptance of the Riki happened far too quickly. She is captured by the enemy clan that has fought and killed members of her own clan for years, becoming their slave to be bought and sold. She is given a metal collar and is brutally mistreated by the Riki, but somehow grows to love the family that owns her. For a character who is supposedly a vicious warrior, her subservience doesn’t make a lot of sense.

In general, the characters are bland and lacking any depth or complexity. Familial conflicts were mentioned but then never properly resolved. The writing style is awkward and clunky, which kept pulling me out of the story. There’s a lot of telling-not-showing and a lot of passive voice used: two of my writing pet-peeves.
img_1927Overall, I thought Sky in the Deep was shallow and unimaginative. This book would have been great had there been a little more world-building, better character development, and maybe a few more rounds of edits. After all, a Viking-inspired world with a warrior main character would usually be right up my alley. The execution just wasn’t up to par with my expectations.

I always feel bad giving one or two star reviews to books that other reviewers raved about. My opinion should be taken with a grain of salt, as I’m clearly in the minority.

Status Update (+ A Court of Frost and Starlight Mini-Review)

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It’s been a busy couple of months for me, so I figured it’s time for a May update! I’m way behind on my reading goal and have a lot of ARCs to catch up on, but I’ve managed to at least make a dent in my TBR.

Mini-Review:

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A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

Rating:★★

It’s not that I didn’t like this addition to the ACOTAR books, it’s just that I didn’t think it was really…necessary?

I love Rhysand and Feyre, but I think we can officially say that their story has come to a close. I don’t feel as excited reading about them anymore, though I’m glad they’re getting their happy ending. This novella succeeded in getting me excited to read the next few books, which I predict will be about Cassian/Nesta (confirmed), Azriel/Elain (I need this), and the Lucien/Jurian/Vassa friendship trio.

I really feel the need to express my opinion about the confirmed next book in the series, which may be an unpopular one: I hate Nesta. She doesn’t come across as a strong and interesting character to me. She’s just horrible. I’ve never wanted to reach inside a book and strangle a character more. She’s selfish, mean, and self-pitying, for literally no reason. How could she do a complete 180 with Cassian and treat him the way she does? It doesn’t make sense. She also blames Rhys, Feyre, and the inner circle for becoming Fae, but like…bitch please. Enough.

Now that I have that off my chest, I’ll mention another thing that bothered me about this book: it was kind of boring. There was a lot of exposition (especially at the beginning) which was just tedious to slog through. I kept waiting for there to be at least some form of plot, but there never really ended up being one. The novella is entirely character-driven, which is totally fine, except I don’t feel like it added anything to this series. Nesta is still a bitch, Rhysand is still sexy, Cassian is still funny, Azriel is still my precious muffin, Elain is still kind of pointless, and Lucien is still kind of absent.

I’m glad that Feyre and Rhys’s story was wrapped up nicely, but now I’m ready to read about other characters in this world.

Currently Reading:

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Circe by Madeline Miller
Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

I started Circe, then went on vacation, then came home and got distracted by shiny new books, but as soon as I finish Sky in the Deep I’ll be going back to it!

ARCs to Read and Review:

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On Hold (For Now):

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books with Red Covers

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*Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl to bring bookish friends together. A new topic is posted each week.

This week’s topic is about books that have your favorite color on the cover. My eye has always been drawn to red books, so this was an easy list for me to make!

  1. Vicious by V.E. Schwab

  2. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

  3. Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

  4. This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab

  5. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

  6. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

  7. Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

  8. Darkfever (Fever #1) by Karen Marie Moning

  9. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

  10. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Waiting on a Wednesday: Anticipated Sequels

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*Waiting on a Wednesday is a weekly feature in which I spotlight upcoming releases that I can’t wait to read!

This week, I’m focusing on to-be-released sequels that I would give up a limb for.

  1. The Wicked King by Holly Black

  2. The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

  3. Legendary by Stephanie Garber

 

Can we just take a moment to admire these covers?! They’re absolutely amazing.

The Cruel Prince killed me, it was so good! I can’t wait to read The Wicked King and find out what’s in store for Jude and Cardan. I wouldn’t even hesitate to sell my soul for an ARC of this.

The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower became two of my favorite books. I didn’t think there was any way the second could be better than the first, but somehow it was. Katherine Arden is a phenomenal writer, and I can’t wait to read the third and final book in this magical series. It almost (almost) has me wishing for winter.

Caraval was one of my favorite reads of 2017! This book was so fun and twisty. I was riveted until the very last page, and I’m counting down the days until Legendary hits shelves!

 

Review: From Lukov With Love by Mariana Zapata

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Title: From Lukov With Love
Author: Mariana Zapata
Genre: Romance
Publisher: Self-published
Source: eBook
Release Date: February 1st, 2018
Rating: ★★
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If someone were to ask Jasmine Santos to describe the last few years of her life with a single word, it would definitely be a four-letter one.

After seventeen years—and countless broken bones and broken promises—she knows her window to compete in figure skating is coming to a close.

But when the offer of a lifetime comes in from an arrogant idiot she’s spent the last decade dreaming about pushing in the way of a moving bus, Jasmine might have to reconsider everything.

Including Ivan Lukov.
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I wanted to love this. After reading other reviews, I really thought that I would. Unfortunately, it was just okay for me.

First, the things I did like:

1. The figure skating
2. Jasmine’s take-no-shit attitude
3. Creative use of swearing
4. The banter was fun, for a little while

Now, the things I didn’t like:

1. The constant mention of characters blinking. This is my biggest complaint about this book. The constant mention of Ivan and Jasmine blinking at each other was just surreal to me. It was described like it was a voluntary action instead of an automatic human reflex. There was literally a line in the book that went something like “I blinked. He blinked. Then it was my turn to blink.” Wtf? Once would be enough, but lines like this were spread throughout the entire book.

2. The banter and sharp comebacks were fun, at first. I love hate-to-love romances, a la The Hating Game, but the bickering kept going until the very end. After awhile, it just seemed childish. Like when Jasmine was sick and Ivan was caring for her and trying to get her to take her medicine, and she just kept fighting him over it. I wanted to reach through the book and shake her like bitch just take the medicine you keep saying you want to get better so just fucking do it ugh.

3. The whole “we’re only partners for one year” thing seemed like a contrived plot device that was just kind of brushed away in the end, and Jasmine was made to feel stupid for thinking it was true, even though Ivan repeated it several times throughout the book like it was his mantra.

4. Too much of Jasmine’s inner monologue. I don’t think this book needed to be as long as it was. It seemed like there were massive chunks of text in between each bit of dialogue, which slowed down the pace and resulted in a lot of skimming from me. In contrast, there were a lot of scenes that were briefly mentioned in passing, though I feel like they could have added more to the book. Skating was a significant aspect, but very little time was actually spent on the ice.

I really did enjoy reading this book, for the most part. There were just too many things that bothered me, and I couldn’t really get past that

Mystery & Thriller Week

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It’s Mystery & Thriller Week on Goodreads, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to talk about some books that I have read and plan on reading!

Recently Reviewed:

Reviews:

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser
Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan
Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Currently Reading:

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I received an ARC of Our House by Louise Candlish from NetGalley.

Synopsis:

When Fiona Lawson comes home to find strangers moving into her house, she’s sure there’s been a mistake. She and her estranged husband, Bram, have a modern co-parenting arrangement: bird’s nest custody, where each parent spends a few nights a week with their two sons at the prized family home to maintain stability for their children. But the system built to protect their family ends up putting them in terrible jeopardy. In a domino effect of crimes and misdemeanors, the nest comes tumbling down.

Now Bram has disappeared and so have Fiona’s children. As events spiral well beyond her control, Fiona will discover just how many lies her husband was weaving and how little they truly knew each other. But Bram’s not the only one with things to hide, and some secrets are best kept to oneself, safe as houses.

To Be Read:

  1. Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

    This is (one of) my Book of the Month picks for the month of April, along with Circe by Madeline Miller. The synopsis sounds so creepy and weird… I can’t wait to read it!

  2. Keep Her Safe by K.A. Tucker

    My first K.A. Tucker book was Ten Tiny Breaths, which is one of my favorite books. I’ve read several other spin-off books in this series, but I haven’t touched one of her books in awhile. I’m especially excited to read a thriller book from her, since many of her books are romance.

  3. Bird Box by Josh Malerman

    I’ve had Bird Box on my TBR for over two years. I don’t know why I haven’t read it yet, but something about this book has kept it near the top of my list. It sounds right up my alley. Also, apparently it’s getting made into a movie?! Starring Sandra Bullock?! So now I have no choice but to read it as soon as possible.

Three of a Theme: Sports Romance

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Since I’m currently reading From Lukov With Love, I wanted to talk about some other sporty romance novels that I’ve read in the (very distant) past. These books are chock full of clichés and incredibly corny, but they’re also funny, swoon-worthy, and so very entertaining!

  1. The Deal by Elle Kennedy

    It’s been so long since I’ve read this book, I don’t even have it listed. Basically, it’s about this girl Hannah who is crushing on this guy, so she makes a deal with the college hockey star. She tutors him to get his GPA up, and he helps her make this other guy jealous. Obviously, in tradition with most romance novels, they start liking each other.

  2. Scoring Wilder by R.S. Grey

    If you’re looking for something light and funny, I would definitely recommend Scoring Wilder. It’s about Kinsley, a soccer player who is preparing for Olympic tryouts, but is crushing on her hot professional soccer playing coach. Hilarity and sexiness ensues.

  3. Amour Amour by Krista and Becca Ritchie

    This is probably the only book between the three that I enjoyed for more than just the romance. In fact, this book almost made me want to join the circus (kidding, but not really). Thora dreams of being a professional acrobat, and tries out for her dream role in the acrobatic Vegas show Amour Amour, opposite the leading performer, Nikolai. I loved the romance, but more than that, I admired how dedicated Thora was to achieving her goals. She never gave up, despite everything that stood in her way.

Review: Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

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Title: Sometimes I Lie
Author: Alice Feeney
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Source: Hardcover
Release Date: March 13th, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★
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My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?
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There are three things you should know about this book:
1. There are three timelines.
2. The twists will probably melt your brain.
3. Not everyone will feel the same way I did.

Oh, you crazy little book. What is this mind-fuckery? Those twists. That ending. I feel like I just did mental gymnastics and I haven’t quite recovered from it.

“There is always a moment before an accident when you know you’re going to get hurt but there is nothing you can do to protect yourself. You can raise your arms in front of your face, you can close your eyes, you can scream, but you know it won’t change what’s coming.”

Amber is in a coma, but is aware of everything going on around her. She has no memory of the accident that put her in this state, but has her suspicions. Was her husband involved? Her sister? What about the mysterious man who visits her at night?

By listening to the voices around her, Amber tries to piece together the events that lead to her coma. The present day timeline is interspersed with the events preceding the accident, as well as childhood diary entries.

I’m usually pretty good (annoyingly so) at guessing the twists and reveals before they happen. That wasn’t the case with this book. This story is written in three different timelines, all of which tie perfectly together in a way that will keep you guessing. For me, everything was a surprise. As soon as I began to believe one thing, it would be crushed in the following chapter. All of the plot twists were so delightfully unexpected. None of the characters were particularly likable, even the narrator. You can’t trust anyone in this story. Everyone lies. Everyone has secrets.

“There are always ripples in the water before a big wave. I’ve learned already to just let it take me; far easier to surrender and let it wash me up when it’s good and ready. I fear one day the dark water will swallow me down for good, and I won’t always be able to resurface.”img_1927
I really liked that this book is relatively short (it’s less that 300 pages). The pacing was fast, instead of there being a drawn-out plot that would give you too much time to speculate, which I feel like is the case with many psychological thrillers. Every chapter is important.

With that being said, I think that there were some loose ends left for the imagination that may bother some people. I could have used a few more answers (and an explanation for that shocker of an ending) but this didn’t make the story any less mind-bending or enjoyable.

The less you know going into this book, the better.

March Wrap-Up

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I’ve been pretty busy, so it’s been a pretty slow month for reading overall. Still, I’ve managed to review a couple books and read some others that have been on my TBR. I just came back from a trip to Miami and I have another trip coming up in April, but my goal is to read at least ten books in the coming month (don’t hold me to it).

Books I’ve Reviewed:

  1. To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
  2. The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw
  3. Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser
  4. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

 

Other Books I’ve Read:

 

  1. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

    This book was so fun! I didn’t know how much I wanted to read a romantic comedy until I had it in my hands. I fully intended on saving this for the beach on my trip, but I couldn’t help but finish it in one day. It was funny, sexy, and very enjoyable. Why can’t I have a Joshua Templeman in my office? Life isn’t fair.

  2. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

    I’ve wanted to read another Neil Gaiman novel after reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and I’m so glad I finally did. This book was dark and fantastical and mysterious. Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar were probably the cruelest/funniest/most endearing villains I’ve ever encountered, and I grew to adore all the characters. The last 100 pages or so had me on the edge of my seat, and I love how everything unfolded.

 

Currently Reading:

I told myself I was only gonna read one book at a time, but here I am, starting two new books. To be fair, I picked up Sometimes I Lie from the airport and started it mid-flight. I’ll probably finish that one, then move on to finishing the The Snow Child.

 

Next to be Read (For Now):

Review: The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

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Title: The Astonishing Color of After
Author: Emily X.R. Pan
Genre: Contemporary/Magical Realism/Young Adult
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Hardcover
Release Date: March 20th, 2018
Rating: ★★★★
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Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.
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This book was beautiful, heart-wrenching, devastating, and hopeful.

Leigh is half-Asian, with very little connection to her Asian heritage aside from a very small knowledge of Mandarin. When her mom commits suicide and her spirit turns into a bird, Leigh follows clues left by her mom’s spirit to Taiwan, where she meets her grandparents for the first time. What follows is a series of flashbacks as Leigh comes to learn why her mom left Taiwan in the first place and how she had been hurting for a very long time. The topics of mental health and suicide are not glorified or sugar-coated. Instead, we are shown how these issues can affect a family, but how that family can learn to let go and continue on.

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I loved the setting. It was a beautiful glimpse into Taiwanese/Chinese culture, from the food to the customs to the language. Since Leigh is half-Asian, we are shown how she is perceived in America (fetishized and stereotyped) and then how she is perceived in Taiwan (being pointed out by strangers for being “mixed). We also see how there is a stigma surrounding mental illness.

The flashbacks were my favorite parts to read. I loved getting to see Leigh’s family history, from the time her grandmother was born to the time her mother met her father. We also saw the development of Leigh and Axel’s friendship, and how it evolved over time to become something more.
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There are some heavy topics in The Astonishing Color of After, but it ends on a hopeful note. I thought that everything was handled beautifully, and the magical realism never felt over-the-top. Some of the reveals at the end were completely unexpected.

Don’t go into this expecting a light read, but if you are in the mood for something a little sad, a little hopeful, and a little magical, I would recommend The Astonishing Color of After.