Review: Legendary by Stephanie Garber

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A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…the games have only just begun.


Title: Legendary
Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Source: eBook
Release Date: May 29th, 2018
Rating: ★★★★

This book was so, so fun!

I adored the first book, Caraval, and this book definitely exceeded my expectations as a sequel. It was such a magical, whimsical ride, and I couldn’t put it down. I loved returning to this world.

The writing is poetic and sucks you right in:

“The air tasted like wonder. Like candied butterfly wings caught in sugared spiderwebs, and drunken peaches coated in luck.”

Donatella Dragna is everything I want in a main character. She is strong, brave, and levelheaded. She likes attention, flirting with men, and knows that she’s pretty, but above all else, she isn’t ashamed to admit it.

“One look at her honey-blond curls, her girlish smile, and her pretty dresses, coupled with the fact that she liked to enjoy herself, and people dismissed her as a silly girl. Tella might have been many things, but she was far from silly or worthless or whatever labels people liked to affix because a person was young and female. Tella liked to think that was where much of her strength came from. She was bold. She was brave. She was cunning. And she was going to come out of this triumphant – no matter the cost.

I enjoyed being in her head more than her sister Scarlett’s, who was the main character and point of view of Caraval. I also enjoyed the romantic aspects a little more than Caraval. This book certainly had enough steamy scenes to satisfy my immoral soul.

“Good was the word people used to describe how they slept at night and bread fresh out of the fire. But Dante was more like the fire. No one called a fire good. Fires were hot, burning things children were warned not play with.”

I absolutely adored Dante.

(Side note and potential spoiler: I see hints at a future love triangle which is usually a huge nope from me, but in this case I’m actually okay with it slash completely living for it).

Legendary messed with my head. I was second-guessing and third-guessing until my head was spinning in circles and I couldn’t even read the words anymore. There were so many possibilities and so many potential outcomes, that I can’t even say if any of my predictions came true. Legendary will do it’s best to mislead you, so I eventually gave up guessing and just went along for the ride.

I loved the morally grey, semi-villainous actions of each of the main characters. No one is really the hero and no one is really the villain; everyone has their own agenda. Even Tella admits that she might be the villain in her own story.

Scarlett was kind of a mess. I liked her perspective in Caraval, but there wasn’t much of her in this book and what I did see was just confusing and kind of obnoxious. There wasn’t as much as a sibling emphasis in Legendary as there was in Caraval, and I hope that changes in the next book. Scarlett’s actions in this one just really bothered me, so I think I would be completely okay if the third book is once more from Tella’s perspective, or even a dual POV.

All of the characters we know are still around, as well as some new ones. Scarlett and Julian’s story continues in the background from where the first book left off, and I’m interested to see how it continues for these two in the third one.

I gave this book four stars out of five, because I thought the ending was a little predictable. Still, Legendary was the most enjoyable read for me so far this year, and I can’t wait to see what Stephanie Garber has in store for us with Finale!

Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

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On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.


Title: The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Author: Ruth Ware
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: May 29th, 2018
Rating: ★★★★

*ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is my second Ruth Ware book, and I’m starting to think she may be becoming the queen of the mystery/thriller genre.

Harriet (Hal) Westaway finds out that she will be receiving a legacy from her wealthy grandmother who has just recently passed. Hal has never met this grandmother, and after some digging, finds out that she is not the right person. Still, desperate times call for desperate measures, and with piling bills and looming threats from a loan shark, Hal decides to pretend. She goes to the funeral and meets Mrs. Westaway’s three sons, all the while pretending to be the daughter of their estranged sister. Soon, she discovers that everything is not as it seems at Trepassen House, and finding out the truth may be more important than money.

Admittedly, it took some time for me to get into this book. The writing is phenomenal and the beginning was definitely interesting, but it is a slow-build book that only increases in tension the further along you get. There is an overwhelming sense of wrongness throughout the entire story, and the creepy, eerie descriptions only add to the foreboding atmosphere. You will sense that something the story is building to something big, and can I just say, you will not be disappointed. The story changed for me at around the 60% mark, and from that point on, I could not peel my eyes from the pages.

I was guessing every character’s motive. It was impossible to tell who to trust. Who is lying, and who is telling the truth? Truth and lies is a major theme of this book, and one that comes full circle. The chapters are interspersed with occasional diary entries from Hal’s mother, which gives you just enough insight to draw your own conclusions but not enough to give any sort of clarity.

I loved the tarot card readings and the way that the cards were used to predict and symbolize aspects of the story. I also liked that Hal never put too much stock in the cards, but rather used them to give herself and others the opportunity to find their own answers. Hal is a great main character. She’s strong, brave, and intuitive, and I enjoyed witnessing the story unfold through her eyes.

All in all, a great read. I didn’t know how much I needed a good mystery novel until I had this one in my hands. I look forward to reading more Ruth Ware books in the future!

Book Blogger Confession Tag

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I was tagged by the wonderful Melanie @ meltotheany. This was so fun to do!

1. Which book, most recently, did you not finish?

26892110[1]The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

I wanted to like this one, I really did! It ended up just being a little too out there for me. It could have been a right-book-wrong-time situation, so who knows. Maybe I’ll return to it someday.

2. Which book is your guilty pleasure?

15858248[1]Wallbanger by Alice Clayton

There are so many New Adult romances I’ve read that would easily fall into the “guilty pleasure” category. Like, there are so many trashy romances out there that I’ve enjoyed reading, but aren’t objectively good, if that makes sense. I picked this one because it’s lighthearted and funny, and other people seem to enjoy it just as much as I did.

3. Which book do you love to hate?

41865[1]Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

If you weren’t obsessed with these books in 2007, then you’re lying. It’s funny to look back on how much I loved these books at the height of their popularity, whereas I now realize how poorly written and insanely problematic this series was. Still, Twilight got me back into reading, so I can’t hate these books too much.

4. Which book would you like to throw into the sea?

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Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L.James

I’m not one to judge a trashy book for being trashy, but this was just way too dark and emotional to ever be enjoyable for me. I see it everywhere, but I have no interest in ever finishing this series.

5. Which book have you read the most?

3[2]Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

I was a huge nerd for these books back in the day (*Istillmightbe*) and must have read this series from start to finish at least four times.

6. Which book would you hate to receive as a present?

656[1]War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

I feel guilty if I receive books as gifts and don’t read them, but War and Peace is so intimidating that it would sit untouched until the end of time. The classic status would never be enough to get me interested in this 1300 page monster.

7. Which book could you not live without?

25489134[1]The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

This question is a little dramatic, but it would be unfortunate if I never got to read The Bear and the Nightingale. This book is so lovely and different than anything I’ve ever read before. It raised the bar for my standards and changed the way I approach new books.

8. Which book made you the angriest?

27774758[1]An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

It may seem like a negative, but the fact that this book made me so angry is a testament to how good it actually is. The world portrayed in this book is brutal. The characters go through hell, and are made to do terrible things to survive. The tension is unreal, only because there doesn’t seem to be a limit to how far the antagonists will go.

9. Which book made you cry the most?

35604686The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

I’ve never cried reading a book, but this one did melt my icy heart just a fraction. This book deals with suicide, grief, and acceptance. It’s a wonderful story, and I think everyone should read it.

10. Which book cover do you hate the most?

22544764[2]Uprooted by Naomi Novik

This may be an unpopular opinion, but I really don’t like this cover. I thought the foreign editions were much better (in fact, I bought the UK paperback from The Book Depository). But to each their own! The story inside is amazing, and that’s all that really matters.

 

I Tag:

Norrie @ Reading Under the Blankie
Kayla @ Books and Blends
Danielle @ Life of a Literary Nerd

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Worlds I Would and Wouldn’t Want to Live In

img_2469*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 weeks topic is about book worlds that you would or wouldn’t want to live in. Since world-building is my favorite aspect of any novel (especially fantasy), this was a really fun topic for me!

Worlds I Want to Live In:

  1. Red London

    Shades of Magic (series) by V.E. Schwab

    This magical alternate version of London sounds like an amazing place to live.

  2. Prythian (Winter & Summer Courts)

    A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

    Sarah J. Maas has been very descriptive with these two courts of Prythian in the ACOTAR books. I belong somewhere warm and near the ocean, but the Winter Court sounds like a wonderful world to live in, with towering palaces, roaring hearths, and tall evergreens. The main method of transport is reindeer-pulled sleighs, plus they have polar bears! And their celebration of the winter solstice sounds like my kind of party.

  3. Hogwarts

    Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling

    I’m still waiting on my letter. I would be in Slytherin for sure.

  4. Wonderland

    Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

    Alice in Wonderland was my favorite Disney movie growing up. This is a world where nothing makes sense and everything talks. What more could you want?

  5. Narnia

    The Chronicles of Narnia (series) by C.S. Lewis

    Did anyone else try to find Narnia in the back of their closet as a child, or was that just me?

 

Worlds I Wouldn’t Want to Live In:

  1. White London

    Shades of Magic (series) by V.E. Schwab

    This alternate London is a chilling, cutthroat world where no one is safe.

  2. Prythian (Spring Court)

    A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

    Tamlin. Need I say more?

  3. Verity

    This Savage Song/Our Dark Duet by V.E. Schwab

    Verity is a city in which sins committed by humans create monsters.

  4. The Martial Empire

    An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

    This is a brutal world inspired by Ancient Rome. It’s citizens are oppressed and the government resorts to violent and terrifying acts to keep the people in check.

  5. Panem

    The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

    If picked for the Hunger Games, I would 100% be the first to die.

Finding Time to Read (When Life Gets in the Way)

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Finding time to read can be tricky, especially if you have a busy and unpredictable life. If you have a lot going on, sometimes reading is just one additional task that you just don’t have time for. The trick is to stop thinking of it as an obligation and start thinking of it as something that you enjoy doing. We should all find time for the things that make us happy, especially something as important and enriching as reading books. Reading sparks your creativity, improves your memory and focus, and allows you to experience the world in different ways through different perspectives.

So how do we make time?

1. Start reading in the morning when you’re drinking your coffee, or at night before you go to bed. These are the parts of the day when you have the least going on, so you won’t feel guilty about setting aside time in your busy schedule.

2. Bring a book with you to work or school, so that you have something to do in your downtime. I like to read on my lunch break or during my morning commute.

3. Use a Kindle or download the Kindle app on your phone to read eBooks. It seems like it would be hard to read books on a phone, and maybe it takes some getting used to, but this is how I read a majority of my books. Your phone is something you always have on you, so it’s really easy to open the app and start reading when you’re waiting in line or walking to the bus stop! Just don’t be like me and trip on the sidewalk when you’re not paying attention.

4. Find books that interest you enough to want to read them. If you force yourself to read something that doesn’t really capture your interest, that’s only going to make you come up with excuses to avoid reading.

5. Forgo your seventh binge of The Office to read a new book instead. I love Netflix as much as anyone, but sometimes you need to put the laptop away and take out a book instead.

6. Reread books that made you love reading in the first place (though I’ll probably skip on rereading Twilight).

7. Go to the library. Books can be expensive to buy, and having a return deadline can keep it from lingering on your shelf for too long.

8. Use GoodReads to track books you’ve read and want to read. This site is also a great resource to find books you might have never heard of. You can also set a yearly reading goal, and GoodReads will keep track of your progress.

9. Find books that fit in with your current hobbies or habits. I spend a majority of my free time in the summer laying on beaches, so I usually always have a go-to beach read handy!

10. Take up reviewing. Not only is this a great way to read more (free) books, but it’s also fun way to learn what kind of books you do and don’t like!

Review: Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

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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.


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

I’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.

Overall, 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:

3595974034726469Circe 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:

35226186[1]3592449936373481[2]


On Hold (For Now):

11250053[2]13623848[1]

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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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.


Title: From Lukov With Love
Author: Mariana Zapata
Genre: Romance
Publisher: Self-published
Source: eBook
Release Date: February 1st, 2018
Rating: ★★

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