March Book Haul

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Me at the beginning of March: ok. I’m going to be careful with my money and just read from my TBR shelf and not buy any books this month. BOOK BAN UNTIL APRIL.

…except for Book of the Month.
…and Beacon Book Box. (if you’re interested, use JEN10 for 10% discount on first box)
…and books in a series.
…and new releases in March.
…and really good deals on ebooks.

Me at the end of March: …shit.
Total count for books acquired in March: 18. (large collection of ebooks acquired not pictured) Oops. Better luck next month?

I don’t think I made any money in March, because I spent my all of my paychecks on books. I mean, look at this stack. Did I really need THAT many books? (the answer is always yes). And this doesn’t even include the e-books I bought. I also got approved for my first (several) ARCs this month, which is really exciting!

My March Wrap-up can be found here.

From top to bottom as pictured:

  • Three Dark Crowns
  • The Final Six (included in March Beacon Book Box)
  • To Kill a Kingdom
  • The Astonishing Color of After (Book of the Month)
  • Not That I Could Tell (Book of the Month)
  • Carve the Mark
  • King’s Cage
  • Glass Sword
  • A Court of Wings and Ruin
  • A Court of Mist and Fury
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses
  • Six of Crows
  • Children of Blood and Bone (see review here)

E-books Not Pictured:

  • An Ember in the Ashes (see review here)
  • A Torch Against the Night (see review here)
  • All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother (ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review; see review here)

I honestly don’t know when I’m going to get to all of these books, but I can’t wait to dive in. Maybe they’ll actually keep me occupied through the month of April, and I won’t end up buying that many…but I doubt it.

xoxo,

Jen

March Wrap-Up

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2018 is turning out to be such a great reading year!

In total, I read 7 books in the month of March, which is pretty ambitious for me. These books also included my first ARC, of which I’ll be posting a full review in the next few days.

Thunderhead: ★★★★

The Cruel Prince: ★★★★.5

The Hazel Wood: ★★★★

An Ember in the Ashes: ★★★.75

Children of Blood and Bone: ★★★★★

A Torch Against the Night: ★★★.5

All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother (ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss): ★★.5

I was so excited to receive my first ARC this month, and hope I did the review justice. I really enjoyed the experience, and as I already have 4 more that I’ve been approved for (eek!) I look forward to continuing the excitement!

A Children of Blood and Bone was definitely the March highlight for me. I cannot believe how much I loved this diverse, action-packed, beautifully written book. Check out my review if you haven’t read it yet!

I hope you all had great March reads as well! I have  a lot of re-reads planned for April, so we’ll see how far I get on those!

xoxo,

Jen

Review: All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother

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Book: All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother

Author: Danielle Teller

Release Date: May 22, 2018

Pages: 384

My Rating: ★★.5

Summary: (from Goodreads)

In the vein of Wicked, The Woodcutter, and Boy, Snow, Bird, a luminous reimagining of a classic tale, told from the perspective of Agnes, Cinderella’s “evil” stepmother.

We all know the story of Cinderella. Or do we?

As rumors about the cruel upbringing of beautiful newlywed Princess Cinderella roil the kingdom, her stepmother, Agnes, who knows all too well about hardship, privately records the true story. . . .

A peasant born into serfdom, Agnes is separated from her family and forced into servitude as a laundress’s apprentice when she is only ten years old. Using her wits and ingenuity, she escapes her tyrannical matron and makes her way toward a hopeful future. When teenaged Agnes is seduced by an older man and becomes pregnant, she is transformed by love for her child. Once again left penniless, Agnes has no choice but to return to servitude at the manor she thought she had left behind. Her new position is nursemaid to Ella, an otherworldly infant. She struggles to love the child who in time becomes her stepdaughter and, eventually, the celebrated princess who embodies everyone’s unattainable fantasies. The story of their relationship reveals that nothing is what it seems, that beauty is not always desirable, and that love can take on many guises.

Lyrically told, emotionally evocative, and brilliantly perceptive, All the Ever Afters explores the hidden complexities that lie beneath classic tales of good and evil, all the while showing us that how we confront adversity reveals a more profound, and ultimately more important, truth than the ideal of “happily ever after.”

Review:

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

2.5 stars for All the Ever Afters. This book took a while for me to get into, and I honestly didn’t know if I was going to finish it, but it really did start to grow on me around the 60% mark.

WHAT I LOVED:

  • The idea. This storyline was unique and different and more realistic than any fairytale. Everybody knows that there is (at least) two sides to every story, and Teller did a great job at giving life to the stepmother’s side. Behind every piece of the story as we know it, All the Ever Afters provided logic and reason to explain it from the other side. Incorporating the beloved fairytale of Cinderella into this novel was beautifully and seamlessly done, and in a way that did not take away from Agnes’ telling.
  • The grey area. If you’ve read my reviews before, you know that I love when stories, or characters, are grey. And there was SO MUCH of it in this book. I loved that every character was neither inherently good or evil – and this was even specifically pointed out in the book. Everyone has some dark and some light to them, and this truth shone through in every aspect of this book. No one was perfect, everyone had to live with difficult decisions, and real-life fairy tales are not always what they seem.

WHAT I DIDN’T:

  • As I already stated above, this book took a while for me to get into. This is for a couple of reasons. 1, it started off extremely over-written with very formal writing. I get that this is supposed to be dating the story and indicating it’s status as a fairy tale, but this style is just not for me. It did improve as the story went on, and the storyline became so intriguing that by around 60% I was able to look past it. 2, if you like dialogue (which I do), this book is not for you. This account of the Cinderella fairytale is told primarily by Agnes (the stepmother), and is supposed to be a written account of her memories. Therefore, very little dialogue exists and it takes place mostly inside of Agnes’ thoughts. Again, a style of book that just isn’t for me. That’s not to say that this was done poorly – it wasn’t. Agnes is a very fleshed out, morally grey and supremely human character and Teller did a great job at making her extremely relatable, despite all of our preconceptions about the evil stepmother. I just need a little more dialogue to keep me entertained.

Like I said, I almost DNF this book but I’m glad I decided to continue. I really enjoyed the storyline, especially the last third of the book, and even though this style wasn’t for me, it was well done and I think others will enjoy it.

xoxo,

Jen

Review: Children of Blood and Bone

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Book: Children of Blood and Bone

Author: Tomi Adeyemi

Pages: 525

My Rating: ★★★★★

Summary: (from Goodreads)

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

Review:

First five star book of 2018! Honestly this review is going to be short and sweet because A. I’m going to find it hard not to give any spoilers. And B. I loved this book. STOP READING THIS REVIEW AND GO BUY THE BOOK.

WHAT I LOVED:

  • Everything. I’m not joking. For a debut novel (or ANY novel) this was a phenomenal start for Adeyemi. I finished the book and immediately went to look up when the second one came out (what do you mean it’s not tomorrow???). I had reservations about starting this because 1. The hype. I’m almost always let down. And 2. The initial storyline: magic disappears, young girl is the only one who can bring it back. Hello, can you say TOG fan fiction? But you guys. This isn’t that. This is a strong YA fantasy series in it’s own right, with it’s own unique plot and set of characters. Speaking of the characters, the development of each one was phenomenal (the length of the book lends itself to this) and I loved the different POV chapters. And the ending of this book: what a cliff-hanger! I never even saw that twist coming. I have very minor complaints about this book, and they aren’t even enough for me to knock this down from a 5 star rating.

WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS BELOW.

Minor complaints:

  • The first 50 pages were a little slow to me. It took a while for me to get sucked in but once I did, I didn’t come up for air until I was done.
  • Mama Agba. Give me more. I need to know more about this lady!
  • Tzain POV, where you at??
  • THIS IS THE PART WHERE YOU SHOULD STOP READING IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS. At one point in the story, I was starting to get a little annoyed because it looked like each set of siblings was going to fall for the other. For such a phenomenal storyline, it seemed like too much of an easy ending – this is not a world where everyone gets to end up happy. BUT Adeyemi fixed it so THIS ISN’T EVEN A REAL COMPLAINT.

Seriously. Go buy this book. You will not regret it. I GIVE THIS BOOK ALL OF THE STARS.

xoxo,

Jen

Review: A Torch Against The Night

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Book: A Torch Against the Night

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Pages: 452

My Rating: 3.5/5

Summary: (from Goodreads)

Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.

Review:

3.5/5 stars for A Torch Against the Night. I’ll be honest, I do truly enjoy this story and I read it quickly, but for some reason it seems to fall flat for me. It’s fun to read and I certainly don’t dislike it, but I’m just not that impressed. Here’s why: (mild spoilers below)

WHAT I LOVED:

  • Helene. While I didn’t love her chapters as much as I thought I would, I did appreciate the insight! In book one, Helene was one of my favorite characters. I didn’t love her as much in this one – mainly because the storyline depicted her as weak and incapable, which just doesn’t fit with how she was developed in book one to me – but I’m hoping she’ll continue to grow and develop in the next book.
  • The evilness! Same as in book one, Tahir pulls no punches. The Warden and the prison are pure evil, and the Commandant doesn’t disappoint either (although I was disappointed we didn’t learn much more about her, but it seems to be set up for more info in book 3!).
  • Elias. While I didn’t love him in the first book, I genuinely enjoyed his chapters in this one. He is much less angsty, although this may be because he’s passed out in the Waiting Place for half the book, but I’ll take it. I was really rooting for him, and Tahir did a great job at really letting his empathy and selfless character shine in this book.

WHAT I DIDN’T:

  • THE LOVE TRIANGLE. WHY IS THIS BACK. Keenan, I thought we got rid of you, and unfortunately I was wrong. I am just not a big fan of love triangles that are presented in this way: where the girl seems to just be in love with whichever one she’s with at the time. Grow a pair, Laia! Make a choice! The bouncing back and forth is just annoying to me. Also, the foreshadowing about Keenan was so heavy-handed that even though I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen, I didn’t trust him from the get-go. Don’t make a character look suspicious and shady and then try to swing the love triangle in his direction!
  • The magic. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good fantasy storyline just like everyone else who picked up this book. But… it’s so nonchalant in a world where everyone doesn’t really believe in these creatures or magic anymore. WHY IS NO ONE SURPRISED THAT LAIA CAN DISAPPEAR? Even Laia herself is just like, eh. cool. I’m gonna master this myself and then use it to blow up a high security prison. THE PLOT HOLES ARE ENORMOUS. And this nonchalance, lack of set-up and explanation for the fantasy element is carried through to Helene and Cook as well. Speaking of Cook: WHO IS THIS CHICK? She just pops up everywhere with no explanation and again, no one seems surprised. This feels like lazy plot set-up to me.

After the first book I expected to like this one more, but I was misled. I do want to continue with the series, but I’m going to try to not get my hopes up for a large improvement.

xoxo,

Jen

Review: An Ember in the Ashes

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Book: An Ember in the Ashes

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Pages: 446

My Rating: 3.75/5 (can I do quarter stars??)

Summary: (from Goodreads)

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Review:

3.75 stars.

I did this book as a buddy read with a really fun book club and really enjoyed it! I don’t really know why I hadn’t picked it up before now since it’s right up my ally, but I’m glad I did now – and just in time for the 3rd book to come out later this year. However, I did have some complaints with it.

WHAT I LOVED:

  • GIRL POWER. Laia, her mom, Helene, the Commandant, even Izzy. This book is full of strong, independent women stepping up and doing what needs to be done (even if that’s something evil – looking at you, Commandant). I particularly loved Helene’s character, and am hoping we get some chapters from her POV next book.
  • The evil vibe. While other YA fantasy books kind of dance around how ugly things can really get, An Ember in the Ashes does not shy away. The Trials, the Commandant, the punishments at the school. This book is vicious, brutal, and in your face. Speaking of the Commandant: GIVE ME MORE. I need to know more about this lady, and why she’s so evil. This is one of my complaints about the book, BUT since there are more books to come I’m not putting it in the negative section and giving her character the chance to be fleshed out.

WHAT I DIDN’T:

  • I’ll be honest, while this book did definitely entertain me and having Laia become a slave to spy for the resistance was a nice spin, I’ve read this story before. In every YA dystopian/fantasy novel ever. This book felt like TOG, Red Queen, and even a little Hunger Games all mushed together.
    -Elias. For someone who was raised as a warrior from the age of 6 in the most brutal upbringing imaginable, he is way to angsty for my taste. Even Laia stepped up and had more backbone than this guy, and she literally has no idea how to defend herself.
  • The rape culture. Listen guys. If this is a trigger for you, do not read this book. I get that everything in this book is harsh and violent and takes everything to the extremes. But rape is mentioned and talked about in such a casual way throughout the entirety of this book – it’s talked about more casually than the whippings, than the disfigurement of the slaves. It is essentially just glossed over and used as a way to advance the plot. Beware.
  • The love triangles. Again, another must-have for any YA dystopian/fantasy cookie-cutter plot. But…two? Did we really need two? Also, Keenan…do you even offer anything of consequence to this story?

All in all, I did enjoy reading this book and will be reading the second one, but I felt like it didn’t live up to the hype.

xoxo,

Jen

Review: Thunderhead

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Book: Thunderhead

Author: Neal Shusterman

Pages: 504

My Rating: 4/5

Summary: (from Goodreads)

Rowan and Citra take opposite stances on the morality of the Scythedom, putting them at odds, in the second novel of the chilling New York Times bestselling series from Neal Shusterman, author of the Unwind dystology.\

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?

Review:

A solid 4/5. This book was an excellent follow-up to Scythe, and I cannot WAIT for the third book to come out.

What I loved:

  • Pretty much everything I loved from Scythe. It is rare in a sequel for everything to remain so consistent, but Shusterman managed it. Thunderhead maintained the WOW factor from Scythe without sacrificing much. The last 50% of the book had my draw dropping so much that I thought I’d drool all over my book. I cannot believe how many times this book managed to surprise me – and they weren’t always good surprises (side note: I love to hate the ending).
  • The character arc of Citra to Scythe Anastasia. This was accomplished flawlessly. You really felt the moment when Anastasia let Citra go.
  • The Thunderhead. Just like the journal entries from Scythe, except for better.

What I didn’t:

  • The beginning. To me, after having my heart ripped out and torn to pieces and my adrenaline pumping from the end of Scythe, I expected a little more from the beginning of Thunderhead. It had a bit of a slow start that left me dragging for about 40% of it.
  • Greyson. Yes, I know he was pivotal to the plot and to the world, but his character was just so BLAND. I also found it a little odd how attached he was to the Thunderhead. But that’s just me.

That’s it guys. Literally only two things I didn’t love about this book. If you have not read this series yet, you are missing out.

xoxo,

Jen

Review: Scythe

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Book: Scythe

Author: Neal Shusterman

Pages: 435

My Rating: 4.5/5

Summary: (from Goodreads)

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Review:

I went into this as a buddy read knowing literally nothing about this book, and I am so glad I did. It was such an unexpected surprise, and so different from the usual YA novels. Mild spoilers may be hidden below.

What I loved:

  • The WOW factor. Seriously, I gasped out loud several times while reading this book, had to put it down and walk away and take emotional breaks, and stayed up late into the night finishing it. This book will shock your socks off, in the best way possible.
  • The characters. I started off ‘meh’ about Citra but really grew to like her towards the end, and loved Faraday, Rowan, and Curie from the very beginning. I was so invested in each and every one of these characters, and the development of each one speaks volumes of Shusterman’s attention to detail.
  • The journal entries. I LOVED this. Not only do you get to see the world through two young apprentices, but also from the minds of seasoned scythes. This was such a unique way to show the reader all sides of the story.
  • The GREYNESS. There are so many grey themes throughout this entire book that it keeps you thinking and wondering and questioning, both in relation to the story as well as “what if…?” There is really only one character I can say was truly “evil”, or the villain of the story. Everyone else, every other theme – grey. I LOVED IT.

What I didn’t:

  • This is my only complaint: the supposed romance between Citra and Rowan that is alluded to in the second half of the book, especially the ending. I honestly loved that this YA book was able to succeed without any huge romance – the relationship between these two felt more like a friendship to me. However, the ending is riding on the supposed ‘love’ between these two, and I find it a little unbelievable, simply because Shusterman didn’t really develop it. The narrative focused on so many other things – which I loved – that the ‘love’ that these two said they had for each other felt like an afterthought. To me, I wish the ending had occurred simply because they were such good friends, NOT because of some supposed depth of romantic feelings for each other. If you only like to read YA books because of the epic romance that usually exists, this book is not for you.

IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THIS BOOK, READ IT NOW. GO. GO. GO. You will not be disappointed.

xoxo,

Jen

Review: Everless

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Book: Everless

Author: Sara Holland

Pages: 362

Rating: 4.5/5

Summary (from Goodreads): In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.

No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.

But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself.

Review:

This book was awesome. Different from the books I’ve been reading lately!

What I loved:

  • The writing. It didn’t feel overwritten at all (rare for a YA book) and flowed smoothly from start to finish.
    The female characters. Strong, independent, and Holland introduces them to you in a way that makes you feel like they’re your own friends. When SOMETHING HAPPENS (no spoilers) your heart breaks.
  • The cliff hanger (although I also hate it). This book definitely left me wanting more!

What I didn’t:

  • Liam and Roan’s character development. I wanted to know more, and feel like I never got properly introduced to them. The only way you really got to know them was through Jules’ childhood memories, and I wanted to know them present-day.
  • The info dump. I know, I know, whenever you present a new dystopian society there’s going to be an initial info dump so that you can follow the plot, but I struggled with this one. I was STILL confused on some of if halfway through, and feel like this is the only area where Holland’s writing/storyline could have improved.

All in all, this was a great book and I can’t wait to read the sequel!

xoxo,

Jen

Hello blog world!

Hello everybody!

My name is Jen, and I’m a late 20-something year old physical therapist who also has a passion for reading, running, wine, and dogs. I live in Michigan with my husband and our 5 year old cat and our 6 month old puppy.

I’m so excited to join the blog world and start posting my book reviews and updates here, and to share my love with all of you. My favorite genres are YA, fantasy, mystery/thriller, and contemporary. I would love to connect with other bloggers, authors, and readers, so give my blog a try!

In the meantime, check out my bookstagram account @pinotandpages247 and my goodreads account.