Monday, July 13, 2015

The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski

Read from May 5 to 9, 2015
Published: March 3, 2015
Publisher: FSG (Macmillan)
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 402 pages
Source: Purchased
Series: The Winner's Trilogy, #2

This review is entirely spoiler free, even if you haven't read book one, The Winner's Curse.

The Winner's Crime is a fantastic continuation of one of the best fantasy series out there. Full of scandal, wonderful romance, and excellent world-building, The Winner's Crime is spectacular.

I'll be honest when I say that The Winner's Crime was slow in the beginning. This sequel focuses more on the government and behind the scenes scandal of the world, and it took a bit adjusting to that. Plus, the tables have turned since the last book. Kestrel and Arin have completely evolved into completely different people, so The Winner's Crime takes a completely different turn than the first book. While I had a little trouble adjusting to that, it was around the 100 page mark that everything clicked and I fell completely back into this world. Kestrel is one of my favorite heroines I've ever read about. She's strong and will fight for what she wants, and I love being on this journey with her. Arin takes a complete 180º in this sequel. I definitely appreciated how Rutkoski wasn't afraid to make her characters bend and change in this sequel instead of staying along the same path. Fantasy is one of my top favorite genres, and you can definitely bet that this trilogy has landed a place as being one of my favorites.

The stakes are completely raised and Rutkoski takes it to a whole new level in this sequel. You can definitely count on backstabbing, betrayal, and scandalous secrets in this trilogy, and The Winner's Crime does not fall short with the suspense. The world-building is expanded, and I loved how we get to see how Valoria's (where Kestrel lives) actions affect the rest of the world and the consequences that come with it. This series has so many layers to it; it's spectacular.

And the writing. Marie Rutkoski has one of the finest voices in YA. She pays attention to the details of her world, and she definitely takes a hold on the actions that come about. Another great part of The Winner's Trilogy is the fight scenes because there are two parts to them: you have the fight sequences, but the story mainly focuses on the behind-the-scenes scheme of the war. And it's so interesting. The bargaining, the planning, and the plot to do whatever it takes to win is definitely fascinating, and I couldn't get enough of this sequel.

AND THAT ENDING? I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. I have no idea where Rutkoski is going to take this story in the conclusion, The Winner's Kiss, but I'm so ecstatic to see how it all wraps up!

Overall, The Winner's Crime did start off just a tad bit rocky for me, but it definitely picked up and the momentum never stopped. Rutkoski has created a rich, spectacular tale that is impossible to put down. Absolutely one of my favorites.

M Y   R A T I N G

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Mid-Year Review: Top 10 Books of 2015 (So Far!)

It's absolutely crazy to me that it's July! Since we're halfway done with 2015, I think a mid-year favorites post is due.


To All the Boys I've Loved Before was one of my favorites last year, so it wasn't any surprise to me that this one made its way onto this year's list. There are so many things I love about this series. Jenny Han makes these characters so believable and absolutely wonderful. I absolutely love the Song girls. Lara Jean, Kitty, and Margo are a powerful trio that have the perfect balance of compare and contrast in each of them. And the plot is stellar in this sequel! Lara Jean goes through some major changes in this book, and I didn't think it was possible for me to love her more than I already did, but Han has a charm of proving me wrong. P.S. I Still Love You was an absolute wonderful conclusion.

(P.S. I really want to play a game of Assassin now)


Another contemporary on this list! This one is much darker than P.S. I Still Love You, but Warga takes on the dilemmas of suicide and depression with total grace in this one. My favorite part about My Heart and Other Black Holes is that it doesn't focus on the dark side of depression; it shows the light that's in the world and shows the little things that makes life worth living. Jasmine Warga's debut was stellar, and I'm ecstatic to see what she comes up with next.


This was one of the first books I read in 2015, and it's still stuck with me. Everything about Atlantia worked for me: the underwater setting, the science behind how the habitat works, the mystery behind the truth, everything. I loved the relationship between Rio and her sister and how Rio will fight for whatever she loves. And the world-building was incredible. Condie created this new, aquatic world in Atlantia that was rich, fascinating, and darkly grim all at the same time, and I loved it. But I'm almost positive I remember this being bought initially as a duology, but Atlantia is now a standalone. Even though it wraps up nicely, I wouldn't object to reading the sequel. Still, sequel or no sequel, Atlantia was a definite hit for me.


It's official: Megan Shepherd is one of my all-time favorite authors. The Madman's Daughter trilogy remains one of my favorite series ever, and The Cage is an extremely promising start to her new series. Brimming with sci-fi and world-building I've never seen before, I had high hopes for The Cage right from the beginning, and they were all met and exceeded. So many twists and turns, The Cage is sure to keep you up all night. Sequel now, please!


Courtney C. Stevens's debut novel, Faking Normal, remains to be one of my top favorite contemporaries ever, and I knew that she would bring it again with The Lies About Truth, and I wasn't wrong! The Lies About Truth is a novel about healing and forgiveness, and Stevens put a beautiful touch on this story with Sadie and Max. Sadie was such a wonderful protagonist. I had so many emotions with her: I was cheering her on to find herself again, I became frustrated with her at times at her apprehension to situations, but I always stuck by her side. These characters come to life off the page, and The Lies About Truth is definitely a new favorite of mine. Then again, this is Courtney C. Stevens, so I knew I would be adding this to my favorites shelf after I turned the final page!


The Winner's Curse is one of the best books I've ever read (making the spot at #2 on my favorite books of 2013). I adore high fantasy, and Rutkoski's world of Valoria was enriching and brilliant. I was so stoked to return to it in the sequel, and I was not disappointed! It started off a tad slow in the beginning, but right around page 140, the tables were turned and twist after turn was thrown at me from there until the ending (that ending?! Seriously?! I need book three now!) and I loved every second of it. And I loved how The Winner's Crime didn't follow the same pattern as the first book; this sequel mainly focus on the politics and the "playing to win" strategy of this country's government, and it was so refreshing to see something new like that. This has quickly became one of my favorite series of all-time. I can't wait to see how it all concludes in The Winner's Kiss!


It's no secret that The Lunar Chronicles is one of my favorite series ever. It's also no secret that its villain, Queen Levana, is my favorite villain in YA. When it was announced that we were getting an extra book in this series that would be a prequel and focus on Queen Levana and her origins, I was bouncing off the walls. You get to see how Levana unravels to insanity in Fairest, and I soared through this book. Marissa Meyer posted a quote about villains, saying that "The villain believes they are the hero of the story", and it's so interesting to read Fairest with that mindset. Levana is no doubt wicked and cruel, but she believes that what she does is so good, and it's so interesting to see her downfall in this prequel. WORDS CANNOT BEGIN TO DESCRIBE HOW EXCITED I AM FOR WINTER, YOU KNOW IT'S GOING TO DEMOLISH US ALL.


OH GOOD GOD, THIS SERIES IS GOING TO BE THE DEATH OF ME. No words can do justice the epic novel that is Heir of Fire. I will be honest that this wasn't my favorite installment in the beginning. I found the new world that Celaena was dropped into to be awkward and out of place. However, I eventually came around to it, and halfway through this behemoth is when everything clicked and I was completely absorbed into this world. That ending was phenomenal. Celaena is on her way to becoming my favorite heroine in YA. She's strong, cares for the ones she loves, and is the definition of epic. Each installment in this series keeps getting stronger and stronger, and we still have three more to go! NOW GIMME QUEEN OF SHADOWS I CAN'T WAIT ANY LONGER.


Sarah J. Maas, you are such a genius. I've been raving about ACOTAR ever since I finished it, and I don't see that stopping anytime soon. My favorite part about ACOTAR is the world-building. The Fae world was lush and dense, and the human world was brutal and frigid with winter. The compare and contrast was stunning. And Feyre (like Celaena) was SO AWESOME. She's cunning, whip-smart, and an absolute blast to be with on this journey. Maas has became of my favorite authors this year, and I'm excited to see where she'll take us next with her both of her series. These books are absolutely incredible!


*screams on the inside for five years*

This is only Tahir's debut novel, but this was SPECTACULAR. It's high fantasy (which I'm a sucker for), and everything about An Ember in the Ashes hit the mark with me. Laia was such a wonderful character; she starts off broken in the beginning, but she evolves into this firecracker by the end. And Elias strayed away from the norm with being a rebellious, prodigy soldier, and I appreciated the diversity in his character. The Trials were fantastic and kept me on my seat the entire time. The world-building was kept to Laia's hometown and the empire, but I still loved seeing those. However, we'll get to hopefully see more of this world in the sequel. Speaking of which, SEQUEL! THANK GOODNESS! I cannot contain my excitement. An Ember in the Ashes was absolutely brilliant. I'm still in shock. 

What were your favorite books you've read this year so far?

Monday, June 15, 2015

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Read from May 12 to 15, 2015
Published: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin)
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 446 pages
Source: Purchased
Series: An Ember in the Ashes, #1

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.

CANNOT COMPUTE HOW FANTASTIC THIS WAS. I'm an absolute sucker for a good fantasy novel, but woah, this novel absolutely blew me away. Thrilling and un-put-down-able, An Ember in the Ashes is truly one of a kind. I've never read anything like this; it's been weeks since I've finished this and it's still on my mind. I absolutely loved this.

Whenever there is major hype surrounding a book, it's easy to have expectations and be disappointed when they're not met. However, I can fully say that An Ember in the Ashes lives up to and deserves all the hype and praise surrounding it. What I loved most about this novel was that every time I put it down, I always looked forward to picking it back up. I can't believe that this is Tahir's debut novel. Her writing was marvelous. She intertwined two completely different stories and characters to make it one incredible arc of a novel. I am completely blown away by An Ember in the Ashes. An absolute must-read!

The world-building was fantastic. From the slums of Laia's home to the vast, mysterious academy where Elias is, An Ember in the Ashes creates a world that is dark and imaginative, and I loved every second of it. I'm ecstatic to see more of this world in the sequel. Speaking of which, Thank. God. there is a sequel. And the action in this book! There's so many twists and turns throughout An Ember in the Ashes and I couldn't put it down.

Laia is such a wonderful heroine. She starts off as a weak, broken character in the beginning, but as the novel progresses, she morphs into a force to be reckoned with. I really loved seeing her character development; she definitely did a complete 180º, and I'm ecstatic to see where her story goes in the sequel. And Elias was such an awesome lead too. I thought that he would be the typical "perfect soldier" who changes his mind after meeting the female protagonist, but Tahir made him really unique and strayed away from the norm, and I really appreciate it. They were a fire duo; definitely one of my new favorite power couples in YA.

Overall, An Ember in the Ashes is a radiant read that grabs you from page one and doesn't let you go. One of my new favorite fantasies of all-time.

M Y   R A T I N G

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Read from May 23 to June 2, 2015
Published: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 416 pages
Source: Purchased
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1

A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.


When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

You know that feeling when you are so ecstatic for a book you can hardly stand it? And even better, when that book exceeds all of your expectations? I'm so pleased to say that A Court of Thorns and Roses was wonderful in every sense of the word. Brimming with magic between the pages, ACOTAR is a spectacular start to a very promising series. Sarah J. Maas is easily one of my new favorite fantasy writers.

I've been looking forward to ACOTAR ever since it was first announced. Not only was I excited to see a new series from Maas (I adored Throne of Glass), but the concept for this one was so intriguing: a re-interpretation of Beauty and the Beast with fae and hunters; sign me up! ACOTAR did not disappoint whatsoever. Maas perfectly blended together this new fae world with Beauty and the Beast. Feyre was such an awesome heroine to follow around. She was headstrong, determined, and wasn't afraid to stand up for herself; I can always count on Maas to give me a hero that doesn't need anyone else to save them, and it's so refreshing to see that in YA. Tamlin's two personalities were really stunning: you have his calm, good-natured side and you have his wild, beastly (literally) side. Even though they both have their flaws, I never once stopped rooting for Feyre and Tamlin. These characters were wonderful to follow, but then again, this is Sarah J. Maas book, so I didn't expect anything less.

My favorite part of any novel is the world-building, and ACOTAR's world was incredible. I loved seeing two sides to this world: there's the harsh, winter landscape of the mortal world that is crumbling to pieces, and then you have the lavish, rich world of the fae. Both sides are vast opposites, but Maas does a spectacular job entwining them together. And there's so many layers to this world! From dark, creepy forests to marvelous castles to mountains that will scare the heck out of you, ACOTAR has everything you could possibly want in a fantasy novel.

Maas can write a storm of a novel. I was hooked from page one, and it was nearly impossible to put down ACOTAR. The action sequences were thrilling, the romance was realistic and wasn't forced, and I loved the drops of foreshadowing that Mass included throughout the book. The ending! Mind = literally blown. No spoilers here, but seriously, I was so pleased with this ending; I didn't see it coming, and it made the story 10x better. Book two, please!

Overall, A Court of Thorns and Roses lives up to all the hype it has garnered. Burning bright with magical elements and nail-biting sequences, ACOTAR is a true gem. I can't wait for the sequel!

M Y   R A T I N G

Friday, July 25, 2014

Brad About Books: Between the Spark and the Burn by April Genevieve Tucholke

Expected Publication Date: August 14, 2014
Publisher: Dial (Penguin)
Format: ARC
Page Count: 320 pages
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review
Series: Between, #2

This review is entirely spoiler free, even if you haven't read book one, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.

Between the Spark and the Burn was everything I hoped it would be and more. With an eerie atmosphere and prose that grabbed me right from the beginning, Between the Spark and the Burn is an absorbing, exhilarating sequel that shouldn't be missed.

It's no surprise that I absolutely adored Tucholke's first part in this duology, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. With its fantastic atmosphere and characters worth rooting for, what's not to like? So needless to say, I was thrilled to see just how things would wrap up for these dark, brooding, mysterious characters. And I loved this sequel. Absolutely, one-hundred percent loved it. Tucholke's writing has an eerie, spine-tingling vibe that comes off the pages, and I never knew if I could fully trust the characters. It's vivid, lush, and completely addictive. So many twists and turns shocked in Between the Spark and the Burn. Due to the events at the end of book one, I had no idea how River and Violet's story would pan out, but I certainly didn't expect a lot of things that happened in this sequel. And I loved how Tucholke always kept me guessing. There's never a dull moment in this duology. 

Violet and River were two of my favorite characters from my 2013 reads and seeing their character progression and development in this finale was stunning. Violet, though she's broken on the inside, is fierce and strong, and River is completely insane, but they make for even more dark, haunting characters. Following Violet as she searches for answers and secrets was thrilling. Tucholke shows the reader more sides of this eerie landscape, and getting an insight into the world of River and his past in Between the Spark and the Burn was seriously awesome. I didn't think I could like them more than I already did, but Tucholke definitely proved me wrong.

And can we just talk about this series as a whole? It's got everything a paranormal fan could want: fantastic world-building, characters you can never fully trust, and an ending you'll never see coming. Seriously, Tucholke's books have landed a permanent spot on my Favorites shelf. If you're looking for the next series to binge-read, completely dive into, and be hooked on, look no further. The Between duology is for you. We all know the dreaded Sequel Slump, but that completely passed over Between the Spark and the Burn. I loved this one even more than the first book. So, so good.

Overall, Between the Spark and the Burn is a sequel of epic proportions and twists and turns that will have you on the edge of your seat the entire time. One of the best sequels I've read in a long time.

M Y   R A T I N G

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Brad About Books: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Read from June 16 to 17, 2014
Published: July 8, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 308 pages
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now.

Maybe that was always besides the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

Landline is a thought-provoking, mesmerizing tale of the true meaning of love and finding out what's most important in this world. Just as I expected, Rowell delivered once again a masterpiece of laugh out loud moments, heartbreak, and times where I was fully captivated by the book. Landline is hands down a must-read.

I read Eleanor & Park and Fangirl by Rowell in 2013, and obviously, I fell in love with them (because seriously, who doesn't love Rainbow Rowell?). Landline was my first venture into her adult novels, and I have to say, I was definitely pleased with what I received! While it didn't have quite the exact same emotional appeal that I had with the previous two novels I had read, the emotional appeal was there for sure. Every character in Landline is a gem - seriously. Georgie is, without a doubt, one of the best protagonists I've ever read about. She has her flaws and isn't sure what to do with her life, and I loved venturing with a character who didn't have everything figured out with her life, though she's expected to by now. She's broken and bruised and trying to keep her head up, and my attachment with Georgie went beyond the pages. And I loved how this book wasn't one sided - Georgie is selfish at times, Neal (her husband) is selfish at times too, so Georgie gets her heartbroken from Neal. But, Neal also gets his heartbroken from Georgie - I believe it's rarely shown in novels both sides of the spectrum of heartbreak and selfishness, and I applaud Rowell for incorporating everything of this dilemma between these two people in Landline. Seriously, Rainbow Rowell never fails with her novels.

Rowell's writing style is always one of a kind, and Landline was no exception. With Landline, the emotional attachment you feel to Rowell's characters is different compared to her other ones. Honestly, I didn't always like Georgie at times. I found her to be self-centered at times and downright oblivious at times to everything around her; however, I loved Georgie for this. She wasn't perfect, and Rowell didn't leave out any of the gritty parts of her character and didn't sugarcoat anything. I was so attached to Georgie in this book. Then again, I'm always attached to Rowell's character, so what else was to be expected of? 

And if you're needing something to spice up your reading life with uniqueness, Landline has got you covered. With Rowell's signature style and a dash of magical realism folded throughout the pages, Landline is sure to have you tangled up in its storyline until the very end. While it was definitely different to see a magic telephone that allowed Georgie to talk to her husband before they were married, it was quirky and interesting. I had some questions though of how Neal-before-marriage and Georgie-before-marriage could have discussions if what Georgie-in-present-day said to Neal-before-marriage altered his opinion on things, but still, Rowell handled the parallel plot-lines masterfully.

Overall, Landline is a powerful, sizzling novel full of heartbreak, first love, and hardship that is executed like none other. Rowell's latest novel is sure to appeal new fans while pleasing previous ones. Absolutely loved it!

M Y    R A T I N G

Monday, July 7, 2014

Brad About Books: Earthquake by Aprilynne Pike

Read on July 6, 2014
Expected Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin)
Format: ARC
Page Count: 383 pages
Source: Publisher in exchange for a honest review
Series: Earthbound, #2

This review is entirely spoiler free, even if you haven't read book one, Earthbound.

Aprilynne Pike is undoubtably one of my favorite authors of all-time, and she nailed it with this sequel. Earthquake is a vibrant, pulse-pounding sequel that not only lives up to the expectations set by the first installment, but passes them greatly. One of the most unique and absorbing series I've read in a long time.

Like I said before, Aprilynne Pike is one of the authors I know I can trust to have me hooked in her story and completely engulfed by the world and characters, and believe me, she did just that it with Earthquake! Everyone (including me - most definitely me) is scared of the dreaded Sequel Slump where the sequel doesn't live up to expectations, but that slump completely missed Earthquake. There's never a dull moment on these pages, and running around with Tavia, Logan, and Benson again was fantastic. As Tavia learns more about herself and harnesses her inner self, she morphs from this naïve character to one of the strongest heroines I've read about, and I adored her character development in this sequel. She's fierce, determined, and loyal to all those she trusts, and getting to see Tavia in full action again was great. Needless to say, this sequel did not disappoint. 

If you're needing a refreshing, original series to completely sweep you away, the Earthbound series is the way to go. With its charming prose and intoxicating world, this series is one of the most addictive stories I've read in a long time. When I'm with Tavia, I feel completely emerged into her world of secrets and lies, and I never know what to expect on the next page - and I love that Pike can keep me guessing like that. Earthquake raises the stakes even higher for Tavia. I was flipping through these pages as fast as I could; the storyline was so enthralling, and this sequel is the kind of the sequel that hooks you in right from the beginning and never loosens its grip. 

Aprilynne Pike is a master of suspense and buildup. Whether its intense action or hair-raising secrets that change the game for Tavia forever, Earthquake is always keeping the energy alive as Tavia races to find the truth about the world surrounding her. If you loved Earthbound, prepare to be pulled further in by this second installment. A true gem amongst the sci-fi genre. 

Overall, Earthquake is an electric, absorbing sequel that is sure to draw in more fans and leave fans gasping for more. Rich, exhilarating, and absolutely incredible, Pike has once more crafted a heart-racing story with an impeccable world and a heroine worth rooting for.

M Y   R A T I N G