Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

*This review will contain some spoilers, if you haven’t read Six of Crows.*

“I would have come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together-knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.”

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Synopsis from GoodreadsKaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.

Feelings: I love Bardugo’s writing and the way she weaves in characters’ back stories with the present action. We’re constantly learning new things about them as the story moves along and it adds so much dimension. Emotionally, this ride was up and down – the drama, the laughs, the tears. This book took me longer to get through for some reason than the first one. I think it just didn’t move in the same way that the first one did. But I read the last 200 pages or so in one sitting, partly because I was determined to finish and partly because I was so IN.

Issues: The only issue I had was that it lost my interest at times. I’m not sure if that’s because I was comparing it to Six of Crows for a while or if it was the actual plot that did me in. There were certain parts of this ride where I was gripped and on the edge of my seat and others where we were just filling in before the next exciting bit.

Characters: I needed more Kaz and Inej. And Nina and Matthias. And Wylan and Jesper. Just a little more of everyone. I understood the limits that they had and it made sense with the world and the story up to that point. Just personally, I need another book to see how those pairings play out, or don’t. (No spoilers. No mourners. No funerals.) It was especially interesting to get more of Wylan’s history and relationship with his father. With all the new back story information, we also saw even more character growth. They found themselves and banded together as a crew and a family.

I really value the diversity of this cast of characters. Not just diverse in skin color or gender, but in their diverse upbringings and experiences. They’re all so different but each member of the crew is equally important. Their differences are what makes them valuable and each has a story to share. This type of storytelling is really beautiful and I feel like everyone can find something or someone to connect to. 

Just like in Six of Crows, there wasn’t a clear hero or even a set villain. No one was perfectly fit for either label and I kind of enjoyed that. It made me question who I could trust, which kept me engaged and wondering. I really respect Bardugo’s choice for Kaz to not develop into some hero who overcomes his past. He remains an anti-hero from beginning to end and while he finds pieces of humanity along the way, he’s still Kaz. 

Some characters from Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy show up in this book, too! I recognized their names, but I couldn’t remember exactly who they were. So I Googled them. Ha! It was cool to see those characters pop up again. Like I said in my review of Six of Crows, you don’t have to have read the Grisha trilogy to understand what’s going on in this book. But it does help a little.

 

Final thoughts: In the end, I did enjoy this book and I’m glad I read it. Some of my predications came true, while others were way off, but that’s what makes reading fun! I recently found out that Bardugo will be releasing short stories that will be from this same Grisha world. These stories will be like old wives tales told and passed down through generations. I can’t wait to see the depth these add to this world!

Pick this up if you liked:

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Goodreads rating: 4.64/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.7/5

My rating: 4.25/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

5 Things I Do to Prepare For a New Book in a Series

If I had to choose between only reading standalone books for the rest of my life OR only books in a series…I wouldn’t even have to think about it. My answer will forever and always be: gimme that series! I love watching as characters grow and change over time, go on new or continuing adventures, and meet other characters that impact them along the way. I live for a new book to come out, meeting up with those characters who have become like old friends.

However, I read a lot. And my memory is useless when it comes to the long-term. So I also have to deal with some stress about whether or not I’ll remember what’s going on before a new book comes out.

Here are 5 things I do in order to be ready for a new book in a series.

1. I like to read or watch book reviews for the other novels in the series.

If it hasn’t been too terribly long since I read the previous book, all I need is a little refresher. In these cases, I’ll read some of my favorite blogger’s reviews (or even my own) and a lot of times I’ll even watch videos on YouTube of people sharing their thoughts. Doing this not only helps me remember plot points and character information, but it reminds me of any scandals or crazy things that happened! Reading and watching reviews gets me back into that emotional state I need to be in before the next book comes out.

2. I like to visit my favorite series recap website.

Last year, a friend told me about the website bookseriesrecaps.com and you guys…please check it out (after you finish reading this, of course). They do a great job on this website of reminding readers what happened in previous books, as well as reviewing new ones. Their posts with recaps are titled “What happened in…?” They include a quick, spoiler-free overview and then laundry list everything that happened. These have been especially useful for me when a new book in the Throne of Glass series comes out. So much happens in 1 book!

3. I like to look back over my notes from the previous books.

I typically only take notes on a book if it’s part of a series, if there are a lot of characters, or if it’s just a long book…or all of the above. I have a journal where I specially write about books or I’ll type into the Notes app on my phone or iPad. Sometimes I’m so into whatever I’m reading that I just speak into my phone and the Notes app types it out for me. That way, I never even have to take my eyes off the book. Ha! I always write down questions I have and predictions for what may be coming, which is helpful when reviewing the last book in a series. It’s like I can get back into my own thinking and pick up where I left off.

4. I like to talk to my reader friends about the series.

In some cases, all I need is a little conversation. I have a few friends who like to read about as much as I do and we’ll gather up to discuss what we remember. Sometimes we’ll read reviews together, but most often one of my friends remembers every little detail and helps me to remember as well. Talking about a series that I love also helps me get hyped for what’s to come and I get even more excited to get my hands on the new book.

5. I like to reread previous books or listen to the audiobooks.

Sometimes, reviewing notes just isn’t enough. I have to dive head first back into the world and walk around with the characters for a while. I do this when it’s been more than a year since I read the last book. If I read the hardback copy the first time around, then for my re-read I’ll switch it up and get the audiobook. Sometimes the narrators help me pick up on things I hadn’t even noticed on the first read.

 

Do you have to do anything before a new book in a series comes out? Are you as manic as me? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy Reading! – Caitlyn

5 Books I Read Because of Hype

I’m one of those readers who runs on recommendations. I’m always looking for the latest craze or hype-inducing storyline. I want to know what I’m talking about when I join the conversation, so I always fall prey to hype. These are 5 books that I read because of all the conversations they started amongst the blogosphere and Goodreads threads.

anna and the french kiss

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

SO MANY people told me to read this book. I was skeptical because I hadn’t really gotten into the contemporary scene at that point. But I finally decided to dive in on a sick day and I’m so glad that I did. Since I finished reading about Anna and Etienne, I’ve read the next two books in this companion story trio and I loved them. This book is the reason I reach for a contemporary romance. Plus that cover art. *Swoon*

throne

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

I love high fantasy. I’m always interested in new worlds and innovative magic systems. I’d heard a lot of people talk about this series after the sequel came out, but the cover threw me off. It seemed weird, I’ll be honest. But I watched a spoiler-free review of the first book and the vlogger was SO into it. I love fangirling, so I wanted what she was having. And now? I freaking love this series. I always pre-order the new books long in advance and anxiously await their arrival, even clearing my schedule for them. These stories consume me. There are so many characters and so much world building that I’m too invested to stop now.

outlander

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Everyone and their cat’s mom has talked about this series. I’m all about historical fiction and time travel, plus romance and Scotland…hubba hubba. But then, the romance also made me hesitated. I’m not one of those people who just LOVES blush inducing love scenes, call me crazy. Once the TV show started airing, I wanted to be part of the conversation, so I picked up the first book. I actually read it as I watched the episodes, which was pretty interesting. Then I watched the second season of the show and haven’t read the book. I AM glad that I read it. I thought the writing was powerful and the world was engaging. I would like to continue the series, but I haven’t settled on whether it’ll be print or TV, or both.

wrath

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

I read a few blog posts and watched some booktube videos of readers raving about this story, so I picked it up. I sat down and read it cover to cover in one sitting. Not necessarily because it was a work of genius, but because it hooked me in and I had the time. Since then, the sequel has been released and I have yet to read it. I don’t really remember what happened in the first book, probably because I read it TOO quickly. I don’t know that I’ll pick up the second book any time soon. I already have it on my Kindle, staring at me, longing to be given a chance. Maybe the hype sucked me in TOO much the first time around.

all the light

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Again I say, I love me some historical fiction. Last year, I was on a major WWII kick and read book after book about that time period. I was also teaching The Diary of Anne Frank along with a WWII unit, so I was thirsty for more information. Everyone kept telling me that I should read this book, but the page count was daunting. Once I finally decided to give it a chance, I flew through it. The characters lept off the page and I was so emotionally invested in their fictional little lives. I love this book. It’ll forever be one of my favorites.

What books has hype made you read? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

This was the LAST book I read in 2016!

“Three dark queens/Are born in a glen,
Sweet little triplets/Will never be friends

Three dark sisters/All fair to be seen,
Two to devour/And one to be Queen”

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Synopsis from GoodreadsEvery generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.

Feelings: I read this book in one sitting. I found myself with some “me” time (AKA while everyone else was out partying on New Year’s Eve), started this book, and shortly realized I was almost done with it. I was quickly hooked into the world and desperate to understand how it all worked. Sometimes authors give us a giant information dump in the first few chapters to where it reads more like a history lesson. Blake, however, slowly weaves information in and out of the characters’ lives. I wrote down many questions I had while reading and by the last page, they were almost all answered.

The politics! The intrigue! The family drama! The danger! Oh my! There was so much going on that kept me wanting more and more. So many possibilities for the second book and I have zero predictions and guesses. Everything I thought would happen in this first book got spun on its head, so I’m just going to wait and see how it all plays out!

Issues: Each place we went to was different and for me, it was easy to figure out where I was and who was there when the POV changed with the chapters. However, sometimes the world building became confusing and we didn’t find out important information until the second half of the book. Sometimes it was done well, filling us in at the best time. At other points, it made me more confused and have more questions. Most of the things I was stumped on included the world itself, like the government system, the process of finding king consorts or suitors, and the history of this queen ritual.

The other kind-of issue I had was with the romances. Part of me didn’t care about the romances because I was so invested in who was going to become THE queen and learning about their powers. The other part of me loves a good romance story and was disappointed that each individual love story had some sharp turns and side steps. None of them really ended well…which was kind of let down.

Characters: One thing I really enjoyed about this book were how the main characters are triplets, but they’re totally different. Each one had their own unique personality, struggles, and hopes. I found myself being totally invested in each one equally. I wasn’t speeding through certain chapters to get back to a beloved character. I loved all of them!

Katharine’s storyline was the darkest of the three…probably because of all that poison. I really wanted everything to work out for her, but I kept getting conflicted because I just knew that two of the sisters would have to die. Kat was probably the weakest of the three girls in the beginning. By the end, I wasn’t so sure anymore. I think she’ll find power in other ways, rather than some inherent gift.

Mirabella was expected to be the most powerful and the queen to fear. I think her particular story arc showed just how much of a teenage girl that she is and I liked that the author did that. She needed some kind of weakness in order for her to be relatable and worthy of our cheers.

Arsinoe was probably the most underwhelming of the sisters to me at first. She seemed rough and tumble, then she was sweet and caring. Then we questioned her gift and she showed us just how cunning she could be. I’m really excited to see where her story arc goes in the next book. She probably had the biggest plot twist by the end of the book!

Final thoughts: This is one of those books that I’d recommend you have some knowledge of before reading. It’s not the kind you just dive into. I mean, you could, but for me it would have taken longer to figure out the world that way. I’d highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a girl powered fantasy ride!

Pick this up if you liked: (How about some other QUEEN books?)

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Goodreads rating: 3.85/5

Amazon.com rating: 4/5

My rating: 4.5/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

*This review does contain some spoilers.*

“I didn’t know what was worse: to have your shot and screw it up, or to never have had a shot in the first place.”

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Synopsis from GoodreadsWhen your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know? Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still the yellow brick road, though—but even that’s crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy.

They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I’m the other girl from Kansas.

I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, and I’ve been given a mission:

REMOVE
The Tin Woodman’s heart,

STEAL
The Scarecrow’s brain,

TAKE
The Lion’s courage,

And then—

DOROTHY MUST DIE.


Feelings: This story had a lot going for it. Spunky main character (whose name doesn’t seem to really fit her), plot twists, and some added zest to a story we thought we knew. However, a lot of that potential hit the fan early on. What was really weird, though, is that the questions I had and the plot elements that were throwing me off got somehow rationalized by the characters in the end. It’s like the author was writing and she started to see plot holes and decided that it’s easier to explain them away, rather than go back and fill them.

For a while, I wasn’t really sure what we were building up to. New realm and making new friends along the road. Scratch that. Recruited into a secret Order and learning about all of Oz’s drama. Moving on. Secretly living in the palace and waiting for a chance to strike. End of book. Mixed in with all of that were issues with her mother and the bully from her school. The pacing of the story was kind of up and down, making it hard to track what the point was. I think each piece was interesting and added value, I just wish it had been pieced together better.

Issues: My first issue is actually with the synopsis above. We don’t find out that Amy has to steal the heart, brain, and courage until the last few pages of the book. Why is that part of the synopsis for this first book??

That common YA thing where characters instantly accept change happens here in spades. New world? Cool. Learning magic? Whatever. Being forced to murder a stranger? Rolling with it. No one telling her the master plan? *shrugs*

Ugh. Instalove. Not only was it a cool learning magic and training scene that was ended by a pretty gown and a cute boy, but the cute boy is super shady. Kiss me. Don’t kiss me. Be angry at me. Now be concerned about me. I have zero interest in Nox. And the fact that Gert thought Amy would need a love connection in order to fight for them is stupid. Why couldn’t she want to fight because SHE wanted to?

The author dumbed things down for the reader sometimes. She’d make a reference, then add in its definition or explain it. It became annoying and threw off the flow of the story.

Finally, the title is Dorothy Must Die. The synopsis tells us that she has to die. Twice the story builds up to Amy being told that Dorothy needed to die. And multiple chapters end with this same “revelation” that she would have to die. We get it already.

Characters: Amy is SO not an Amy. I don’t know what that means, but all I DO know is that I’ve never read a character that seemed so disconnected from their name before. She fit the name Astrid more than Amy. At some points, she seemed to fit back about what was mysteriously expected of her and follow her own instincts, then other times she was just what the Order wanted her to be. By the end of the book, I wasn’t completely sure I knew who Amy was. Then again, I think she was struggling with her own identity.

Nox is confusing. I really didn’t care for him at all. He was too hot and cold for me. (See issues above.) And Pete? First of all…Pete?? What’s with the names in a magical realm? I was really interested in who Pete would turn out to be and honestly had no guesses, which is rare for me. Talk about a plot twist. Like a weird, confusing plot twist that’s making me reexamine my feelings.

The Order was a strange cast of characters. We had these older, more experienced witches with their own specific abilities, then these younger magical ones who we knew very little about and seemed to pop up out of nowhere. The whole ground just felt disjointed. I wish the author had explained how the magic worked a little more. That might have helped to understand this group dynamic.

 

Final thoughts: I really wanted to like this book. I’d previously almost picked it up multiple times, but decided against it for some reason. It could have been far more interesting than it was, but it wasn’t awful. I think if you’re a fan of the original story, this twist may be interesting to you. I probably won’t continue on in this series, though.

 

Goodreads rating: 3.85/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.2/5

My rating: 3/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

December 2016 Wrap Up

This is what I was able to read in December…I read 5 books, listened to 2 audiobooks, and read 0 graphic novels, for a grand total of: 7! (This count has been updated since I originally posted this. I managed to squeeze in one more book for the month!)

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

  • Nostalgia. Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.
  • My rating: 4.5 stars

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (audiobook read by Jennifer Ehle)

  • Second read/listen. Victorian Fantasy. Plot twist!
  • My rating: 4.5 stars

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

  • Second read. Better the second time. Plot twist again!
  • My rating: 4.75 stars

Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Krisoff

  • Space adventure. So many plot twists!
  • My rating: 4.75 stars

Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between) by Lauren Graham (audiobook)

  • Narrated by BFF Lauren. Hilarious. Heartwarming.
  • My rating: 4.25 stars

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

  • Part boring. Part surprising. Questions.
  • My rating: 3 stars

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

  • Unique. Read in 1 sitting. Plot twists. 
  • My rating: 4.5 stars

What all did you read this month? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

*This review may contain spoilers if you haven’t read Illuminae.*

“And blood and tears and screams did not matter anymore, because at least they are together.”

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Synopsis from GoodreadsMoving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed. The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminaecontinues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and theHypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands. But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

Feelings: I really like Illuminae. I read it a second time to prepare for this book and loved it even more. I was wondering how Gemina would accomplish the same things without it just being a repeat and was pleasantly surprised. There were new types of documents for us to read and dig through and a new cast of characters to get to know. Kaufman and Kristoff once again do an incredible job of allowing readers to understand characters without just reading paragraph after paragraph of description. We know who these people are, we feel what they feel, and can (sometimes) anticipate their actions.

Issues: We went from a zombie-making killer virus to drug-inducing slugs. Not quite as thrilling and creepy! The Phobos virus in Illuminae was legit nightmareish. I couldn’t really picture these worm things with 4 heads. And they just didn’t have the same scary tone.

While I find the formatting of these books to be really engaging and thrilling, Gemina felt a little more detached. We had more scenes from an outsider’s perspective (the camera records) rather than really living the story with our main characters.

The ending. It felt somewhat similar to Illuminae in the sense that what we thought had happened…didn’t. Without spoiling anything, in this book…things happened then it wasn’t true…like 5 times in a row.

Characters: What was so compelling about Illuminae was the way we were able to connect with Kady and Ezra. We were in their heads, understood their motivations, and were constantly in fear for their lives. In Gemina, it’s similar, but not quite as intense. I like Nik from the beginning. He’s charming and witty. And honest. Very, very honest. Hanna was a good character. I didn’t find her to be absolutely amazing and I was sad when things didn’t go her way, but not devastated. Finally, Ella. I liked that she was so different from the other characters in the sense that she was physically limited while Hanna and Nik were out there kicking butt. She added a different dynamic, in the way that AIDAN did in the first book. (Not comparing them…just saying they were both 3rd wheel POV characters.) Overall, interesting people to go on this journey with.

Final thoughts: I love a good plot twist. If you do, too, then you should absolutely pick up this series. They’re both thrilling and complex and make you want to go to space like…yesterday. Even with the issues I had, they weren’t enough to make me not enjoy this book from cover to cover.

Pick this up if you liked:

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Goodreads rating: 4.62/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.7/5

My rating: 4.75/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn