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Merin is a teacher, a book blogger, a baseball addict (Go Cardinals!), lover of music, movies and TV crime dramas, and YA/MG connoisseur. Follow me on my blog at http://ahandfulofconfetti.wordpress.com!

Currently reading

Her Highness, the Traitor
Susan Higginbotham
Progress: 23/323 pages
Jane Eyre
Ruben Toledo, Charlotte Brontë
Progress: 162/453 pages
The School for Good and Evil
Soman Chainani
Progress: 40 %
Rainbow Rowell
Progress: 46/433 pages
Confessions of an Almost-Girlfriend - Louise Rozett I have not been shy when it comes to announcing exactly how much I loved Confessions of An Angry Girl. I find Rose refreshingly real, with an indomitable spirit, quick wit, and sharp tongue, who I can easily relate to on pretty much every single level. Her journey in the first book made me laugh, cringe and cry in equal measures, and I knew that she would quickly become one of my favorite fictional narrators. I therefore dove into Confessions of An Almost-Girlfriend with eager joy, hoping and praying that it would be as good as the first. And not only is it as good, it's actually even better; I came away from this book with more feelings than I knew what to do with, much like Rose herself.What I love most about Rose is the way she is trying her best to cope with her life. She's still grieving over her father's death, but now has an incommunicado Jamie on her hands, who she can't stop thinking about. Add to that her brother's own personal issues, and finding herself once again caught up in some sort of school scandal, and it's pretty clear that Rose isn't going to get the peaceful sophomore year she was hoping for. This book was very much about Rose's personal journey: she's searching for who she wants to be and reconciling that with who she actually is. I loved the steps she took to actually find some happiness and to find herself; her introspection at times brought tears to my eyes with the depth of emotions she's feeling pretty much constantly. I can't imagine having all of what she's dealing with going through my head at one time.Along with Rose, though, is an amazing supporting cast of characters, each with their own set of issues and their own unique personalities. I loved the addition of Holly, who is just a really nice person. I liked the growth and change in Tracy and Rose's friendship, and the reintroduction of a newly-revamped Angelo. And then, of course, there's Jamie, who still makes me swoon even when I kind of want to smack him. I was so happy to finally get some background on him, because it allowed not only Rose but the reader as well to feel like they finally knew him. Or, at least, knew him better than before. The way Ms. Rozett wrote the relationship between Rose and Jamie was so well done, with the awkward conversations and the way he really seemed to get her, and her him. There were so many scenes between the two that I wanted to highlight and keep in order to re-read them over and over - Christmas Eve, outside Tracy's house, the restaurant - and even when their interactions didn't go the way I was wanting them to, I still loved them because of the end result: a stronger, more sure of herself Rose. And since Rose is the main draw of these books, ultimately it's her I'm rooting for more than anything else.There are also so many issues tackled in each of these books: peer pressure, bullying, abuse, tolerance, etc., and they're all handled in such an understated and strong way. While Rose keeps telling herself she's not going to get involved in other people's problems, it becomes quite apparent that she just can't let things be when she knows she should act. I especially liked the whole dynamic with Conrad - another very strongly crafted character - and the way he really forced her to rethink and re-evaluate her choices, decisions, and preconceived notions.All I can really say is that, if you haven't read these books yet, you are seriously missing out. There is so much to love about these books: a realistic portrayal of high school, a strong main character who's doing her best to find herself, a swoon-worthy love interest, and the way issues are handled in a sensitive way that really make you think. Just do yourself a favor, and check them out as soon as you can!An e-galley was provided by the author via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!
Born of Illusion - Teri Brown Born of Illusion is my kind of historical. It had a wonderful atmosphere, complete with a fabulous 1920s vibe, and featured a spitfire of a main character in Anna, who undergoes all the right kinds of character development, complete with making mistakes and growing as a person. Add in a complicated relationship with her mother, and a swoon-worthy love interest - plus a twist of paranormal - and I was definitely sold on pretty much every single thing this story had to offer.I found Anna to be a wonderfully constructed character. She has her flaws - her inability to trust being the top one - and has a very uneasy relationship with her mother, who is a mentalist. Because séances are illegal, Anna has had to get her mom out of jail several times, which means she's had to become well-versed in the art of lock-picking. In fact, Anna excels at all kinds of magic, and it's her growing ability - and desire for a bigger part in her mother's act - that's causing the most strain between mother and daughter. I very much liked watching Anna tiptoe through her mother's moods, while working to figure out what she wants. The back and forth between the two provided some nice tension to the story, and was actually the main thing keeping me reading towards the end of the book.This book is very much a paranormal read with historical flourishes. Anna has some special abilities that are making themselves more and more known - we're introduced to her visions in the very first chapter - and these abilities really help drive the plot forward. Anna wants help figuring out what's happening with her, particularly since her mother seems to feature prominently in the visions and she's worried about her safety. Throw in secret societies and a mix of others with their own unique gifts, and this book was brimming with plenty of twists to keep the reader turning the pages.I also couldn't help but swoon a bit over Cole, who pretty much captures Anna's attention from the beginning and definitely plays an important part in the overall story that's told. However, Anna is a very strong character who's more than able to stand on her own two feet, and I liked seeing this stubborn, capable girl make her own choices (and mistakes) and deal with the consequences. I also loved her friend, Cynthia, who was charming and over-the-top in a completely wonderful way. She really helped balance out Anna's seriousness, and I look forward to seeing more of her.While I did have most of the mystery figured out well before Anna, there was plenty in the character development department to keep me invested in Born of Illusion until the very end. This is certainly a book that has a little bit of something for everyone, from historical 1920s New York City, to the magic permeating the story, to the very capable Anna. I can wholeheartedly recommend it, and am very much looking forward to the sequel!***To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!
Glitter & Doom - Bethany Griffin 2.5/5 stars.I don't really know what to say about this one. I mean, it provides a nice bridge between the two books, but other than that, I don't know that it was really necessary. Obviously I may change my opinion on that once I read [b:Dance of the Red Death|13599291|Dance of the Red Death (Masque of the Red Death, #2)|Bethany Griffin|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1349811814s/13599291.jpg|19190626], and if so I shall update this review space. But right now? I'm just sort of "eh" about it.I did like the background it provides on both April and Elliot, though, since I liked that glimpse into what makes Elliot tick. You got these glimmers of insight into Elliot through his interactions with Araby in the first book, but otherwise he was difficult to read. Perhaps this novella will make him less so? Time will tell.***To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!

Of Triton

Of Triton - Anna Banks

Can we all just take a minute to swoon over that cover? I mean, SERIOUSLY. These books have the best covers. ♥

Right. ANYWAY. Of Triton picks up right where Of Poseidon left off, which is good for those of us who didn't like the cliffhanger-ish ending. NOTE: I am going to attempt to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible for the series. Hopefully you avoided the summary for this book, because it basically renders reading Of Poseidon obsolete if you didn't!

I am the first to admit that I had some pretty significant issues with Of Poseidon. I felt like it was just too typical YA paranormal for my taste, complete with a love interest who likes to tell Emma what to do and enjoys making her blush in embarrassment. However, Of Triton was pretty much the complete opposite of the first book. I really felt like the author matured in her writing - which continues to be witty and funny, with some laugh-out-loud moments - and got away from the checklist that so many YA paranormal writers seem to use.  Emma really grew as a character, relying on her own judgement to make her decisions instead of just allowing Galen to decide what she should and shouldn't do. The set-up for Of Triton meant that Galen and Emma spent quite a lot of time away from each other, and I really loved the fact that Emma didn't just sit around moping. She used the time away to really think about her situation and what she wanted, and I give her major props for that.

The reader also gets fully immersed in the world of the Syrena, which - while I had some issues with aspects of their lives in the first book - is a really well-designed and thought-out world. This book allows us an inside look at the proceedings and laws that govern this underwater world, and I personally found it all quite fascinating. There was a lot of underhanded political maneuvering going on which put Galen and his family in quite a lot of danger, and I just really loved watching the twists and turns and grasps for power. This book had a very "edge of your seat" feel to it, even when it was just Emma going to school. There was an underlying tension and sense of danger that was written into the story in such a way that I, personally, found it very difficult to put the book down. I read it in nearly one go.

All in all, Of Triton was a massive step up in every single category from Of Poseidon. I really felt like the book was its own unique concept, and loved the fact that Emma was allowed some space for personal growth. The romance was made even more swoon-worthy because of Emma's decisions, and I found myself liking both her and Galen much more than I had previously. I am curious as to why there's a third book in this series, though, as things seemed wrapped up quite nicely. Considering how much more I liked this book than its predecessor, though, I will definitely be checking it out!



To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!

Black City - Elizabeth  Richards Black City has been on my radar since early 2012, well before its release. The folks who were lucky enough to get early ARCs were all raving about it, and at that point I was still interested in reading books about vampires. Admittedly, my interest in vampires has waned a bit since then, but nonetheless I was pretty excited to finally have a reason to read this book, since it had been sitting on my shelves (or rather, in a giant pile in my bedroom) since its November release. The cover definitely played a factor in my interest - I mean, just look at it! - but I found the story itself to not quite live up to the gorgeous packaging.At its heart, Black City is a book involving a forbidden romance. Yes, there is a dystopian world, and the city the characters live in is falling down around them. But at its heart, this is a romance between Natalie, whose mother is the Emissary in charge of the city, and Ash, a twin-blood Darkling, or vampire. Mixing the two races is expressly forbidden, and in fact, Ash is considered property, not a person. In Black City is a ghetto that houses all the other Darklings, but because Ash's father is human, Ash is allowed to remain outside of the ghetto walls.As someone who is a sucker for forbidden romances - even if I'm oftentimes disappointed - I was hard-pressed NOT to pick this book up. And there were so many aspects of this book that I really and truly enjoyed. The world-building is phenomenal; the depictions of Black City are amazingly bleak, with the ash raining down around everyone from the burned out buildings, the laborers who are struggling to survive in this less than hospitable landscape, and the giant walls of the ghetto rising up over the landscape in the distance. There's also a lot of political intrigue, in the form of plots that Natalie's mother has put into play, and the very scary leader, Purian Rose, who seems to have an eye on everything and has turned into a cult leader who preaches purity of blood. I got a very large Holocaust-vibe from this book, particularly when it's mentioned that Darklings were rounded up and sent to concentration camps in the Barrenlands. While this world is dark and bleak and horrifying, I found it to be extremely compelling.The biggest problem with Black City for me personally was, unfortunately, the romance. I wasn't completely sold on Ash and Natalie's connection, and considering that their romance plays such a huge role in the overall story, this caused some issues for me. I was more interested in Ash and Natalie's personal growth, as opposed to their feelings. I did like watching Natalie become stronger and more determined to do what she felt was right, and likewise enjoyed watching Ash's growth into someone who was tired of being pushed around. But the romance itself seemed very typical YA paranormal to me, adding nothing new to what I've already read in other stories. Considering all the things that were done so wonderfully in this book, I just found the romance to really fall flat.Nonetheless, the events at the end of Black City have guaranteed that I'll pick up the sequel, Phoenix. The political aspects of the world have really ratcheted up, including an appearance by Purian Rose that doesn't bode well for anyone. I look forward to more development of the romance - make me feel something, please! - and more personal growth for both Ash and Natalie. I think they can become quite the powerhouse couple if things are done the way I'm wishing!***To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!
Team Human - Sarah Rees Brennan, Justine Larbalestier I can clearly remember when Team Human was released because it was a book that definitely piqued my interest, not only because it seemed to poke fun at the typical YA vampire tropes, but also because I'd heard really good things about both authors. Needless to say, I will definitely be checking out other books by both Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier, because I found this book to be refreshingly different. I adored the very tongue in cheek nature present in the story, but also appreciated that this wasn't just a humor book; there is a surprising amount of depth to the story and the characters, and I found all of it extremely entertaining and even poignant in places.This book very much makes fun of some of the more common tropes seen in YA vampire books, particularly that of Twilight. I loved the fact that there are several folks who are concerned with the insta-love between Cathy and Francis, to the point where there are numerous comments about how they're rushing into things. Mel, of course, is the most vocal of these characters, and because she is our point of view character, the reader gets taken on quite the ride as she tries to convince Cathy to make different choices. Mel is brash, stubborn, and completely uncouth, and while I'm not sure I'd love a friend like this in reality, I had to love her devotion to her friends and the amount of love she has for Cathy in particular. I liked the fact that, throughout the book, Mel has to come face to face with her preconceived notions and admit that perhaps she doesn't really have the right to tell others what to do, even when she doesn't like their choices. Mel does a lot of maturing in this book, and I was very pleased to be able to go along with her on that ride.Team Human also has a really solid mystery at its core when it comes to Anna's dad, and I loved how Mel refused to accept the adults' answers to her questions and did her own digging. (And I agree that Kit is superb at sidekicking!). The mystery added a lot of suspense to this book, and kept it from being all about the romance or Mel's dislike of Francis and the impact his appearance has on Cathy. However, one of the best things about this book is indeed of the romantic variety: I found Mel and Kit's blossoming relationship to be incredibly well-written, complete with miscommunication of the normal variety and a definite "like" not "love" factor. To put it succinctly, they were adorable, as two people who like each other should be. I definitely approved!All in all, I found Team Human to be a great mix of mystery, romance and humor. Despite being laugh-out-loud funny in some places, the depth of emotion experienced by Mel and the others made this a fabulous combination of fun with a heavy dose of levity that made for an extremely enjoyable read. It's definitely a book that has a little bit of something for everyone!***To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!
Sky on Fire - Emmy Laybourne 3.5/5 stars.After reading Monument 14 last year, I was looking forward to seeing how the series would continue, considering the very open ending. Thankfully, Sky on Fire picks up right where the first book left off, with two different journeys taking place via alternating viewpoints. Whereas Monument 14 was a bit of a light post-apocalyptic read, considering the confined environment that the kids are living in, Sky on Fire is much darker, more gritty and doesn't shy away from the fallout of the explosion at the plant that's released chemical warfare compounds into the air. While I'm not necessarily one for horror in any aspect, I did appreciate the fact that Ms. Laybourne didn't shy away from her descriptions of the horrors the kids face. All of their experiences really helped ground the book and kept me eagerly turning the pages.My one complaint about this book is that, despite the fact that it is compulsively readable and really grabs hold of the reader, the way the book is written comes across as stilted in many parts. I especially noticed that there seemed to be several instances where things were explained when elaboration really wasn't necessary. I don't know if that was simply to remind the readers that the narrators are themselves quite young, or what, but I personally found it unnecessary and a bit like the author was talking down to whomever was reading.I also never really emotionally connected with either of the people telling the story. While the book is definitely gripping - I read it all the way through in one sitting - it didn't impact me on an emotional level like I was hoping it would, aside from a vague desire to have everyone reunited with their loved ones. Now, this might be because the last book I read literally punched me in the gut and not through any flaw of Sky on Fire itself, so do take that with a grain of salt. Obviously, your mileage may vary!Ultimately I think that, if you liked Monument 14, you will likewise enjoy Sky on Fire. It is definitely a solid continuation of the series, where things are ratcheted up and the danger and suspense are much more ever-present. Based on the ending, it looks like there might be a third book in the works; should Ms. Laybourne write one, I will certainly give it a read!An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!

Siege and Storm

Siege and Storm -

Upon completing Siege and Storm, I was left with a pretty serious dilemma: how does one go about reviewing a book that made her feel all the emotions, that she loved from beginning to end, that provided constant twists and turns so that the reader hardly knows what's up? That's the situation I'm currently facing, as I stare at the blinking cursor in my update box. How can I accurately sum up my feelings and thoughts on this absolutely amazing book? I fear that I won't adequately be able to express exactly what I'm feeling, or - perhaps even worse - simply descend into fangirl ravings. So let me say this to start, just in case things get out of hand: this was everything I could have asked for and desired in a sequel to a book I adored, and has cemented Leigh Bardugo as one of my absolute favorite authors. Make of that what you will!

There is such amazing character development in this sequel, to the point where I really found myself understanding character motivations and the ways their lives and the situations of the stories have entwined them together. Alina, in particular, is so much stronger in this installment, really embracing her power and abilities and wanting to make up for the occurrence at the end of the first book. There are a lot of parallels drawn between her and the Darkling, and I personally found them fascinating, particularly when he so often echoes her thoughts. These parallels are part of the reason she and Mal start to grow apart, though, not only because Mal isn't keen on Alina's powers, but because her being Grisha places them on different societal levels, which come with their own mix of issues in this magical world of Ravka. There is a lot of talk of people's place in society, all of which I personally found very interesting, especially when all of these characters all have roles to play.

"There are no others like us, Alina," he whispered. "And there never will be." - 13%

The Darkling continues to be as alluring as ever, but with an added edge of darkness and danger that makes him very scary to behold. And yet, Alina continues to be drawn to him, and the phrase "like calls to like" comes up quite often. I still cannot help but want more Darkling, even when he's doing truly horrific things. It's for this reason that I was glad that - while Sturmhond is more physically present in this book than the Darkling - the Darkling is still very much a fixture in Alina's thoughts, even when he's not there in the flesh. And when he IS there? Oh, good Lord. How he manages to be sexy and evil at the same time shall forever be a mystery to me.

"So you don't trust me to resist [Sturmhond's] charms?"

"I don't even trust myself. ... I'm pretty sure the rocks and trees are getting ready to swear fealty to him." - 41%

But the showstopper of this book is definitely the dashing, egotistical privateer named Sturmhond, who has a habit of stealing every single scene he's a part of. While he isn't as magnetic as the Darkling, he had a way of making me smile and laugh every single time he opened his mouth. Some of my favorite lines came out of his mouth, and I really just liked watching his interactions with Alina. For someone who's actually quite untrustworthy, he sure has a way of putting folks at ease, which - of course - is the true mark of a con man. His conversations with Alina were the kind that made you think, even when you wanted to also smack him, and really made Alina do a lot of personal contemplation and introspection. Without him, I don't know that we would have gotten as much development from her, which would have been a real shame, because her growth was one of the strongest parts of this book.

"...But when all this is over, Alina, I wonder if you'll still want me." - 37%

One thing I was not expecting was how emotionally heart-wrenching much of this book is. The difficulties between Alina and Mal actually hurt you to read in some places, particularly since it's so obvious just how much they love each other. Even with the abundance of potential love interests, it's very clear who Alina would choose if things like power and status weren't an issue and Mal weren't suffering so badly with his current place in life. I think it's worse than most books because there is no easy fix here, which makes their struggles even harder to witness. Their relationship makes me very nervous and I fear for what Ms. Bardugo has in store for those of us who just want them to fix the cracks and make it work.

Siege and Storm is definitely a case of a second book that outshines its predecessor. Fear not, fellow readers: there is no middle-book syndrome here. The action is ratcheted up, the stakes are higher, the danger and intrigue never-ending. Alina has some very serious obstacles that she's going to have to overcome, and I, for one, shall be eagerly anticipating the final installment of this amazing trilogy. I don't know how the series can get even better, but if this book is any indication, Ruin and Rising is going to absolutely blow our minds!

An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.



To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!

Undone: An Unraveling Novella

Undone - Elizabeth Norris

Geez, Ben pretty much breaks your heart, doesn't he? And the ending of this makes me want to immediately dive into Unbreakable, even though I need to read something else first. Dilemma!


My favorite parts were when he talked about all the things he loved about Janelle. It could have easily been written in a completely mushy gushy way, but that's not what happened here. His feelings just were, no fluff or frills, just love. I seriously love this boy. ♥




To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!

What's Left of Me - Kat Zhang 3.5/5 stars.What's Left of Me is one of those books that I felt everyone but me had already read. Not only had they read it, but they'd raved about it so much it made me nervous to actually pick it up. And while I don't think I ultimately liked it as much as most folks have, once I got past a rather slow start, the book had nice flow, a unique plot, and intriguing characters that I did end up ultimately enjoying.This book is told from a unique perspective, because for much of the book, Eva - the recessive soul who was meant to die away, but didn't - isn't in any kind of actual control of the body she shares with dominant soul, Addie. That set-up made for unique storytelling that was very much focused on Eva's feelings and Addie's actions. One thing I wish was explained in more detail is how the world came to be this way. Is this our world that's been changed in some way? Or is this a made-up world in which the way we live and are never existed in the first place? I didn't feel that this information was explicitly stated, and made for a lot of questions on my part, and one of the reasons I wasn't completely sold on the story at the start. There is a lot of talk about the scary dangerous hybrids (which Eva and Addie are, although they live in secret) and the effects they've had on the rest of the world, and there's talk about the Americas (which are North, Central and South America all rolled into one giant super-country), but no actual explanations of how it all came to be. I want explanations! Call it the part of me that loves history, but I just feel like it would have really grounded the story and made it more relatable. But then again, that could just be me.Around the 20% mark, though, the book picks up in action, because Addie and Eva are shipped off to a rather frightening clinic due to a suspicion that they are indeed hybrid. The rest of the book is spent with them trying to figure out what's going on at the clinic, and trying to find a way to escape. There's also some romantic developments between Eva and Ryan, made all the more intriguing because Addie isn't at all interested in either Ryan OR his other soul, so she's definitely fighting Eva at every step, even if it's not intentionally. There's also the obvious give and take necessary as Eva becomes stronger, which adds tension to the girls' relationship and makes sharing a body even trickier. The sequel to What's Left of Me seems to focus even more on the girls' issues, so I'm looking forward to seeing how the author has taken that concept and expanded on it.All in all, while I wasn't completely in love with What's Left of Me like most people seem to be, I did find the book compelling and unique in equal measures. Eva is a wonderful narrator, and I liked watching her growth and strength. She and Addie are definitely two totally different girls, so the fact that they have to share a body - and only one can be in control at a time - makes for interesting developments that you definitely don't see every day. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel and seeing how their journey progresses.***To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!
Star Cursed - Jessica Spotswood Admittedly, I was a little nervous going in to Star Cursed. I didn't love Born Wicked, and was worried that my feelings for the sequel would be similar. I found the first book to be overly slow in places, and it took a very long time for anything significant to happen. There were a lot of social calls, tea drinking, and conversations about witchery in Born Wicked, but very little actual magic. Considering that I read books about witches for the magic, I found it all to be slightly disappointing, even if I did love the romance. Thankfully, Star Cursed improved on every single thing that disappointed me, and I came away from this book with much more positive feelings.Cate demonstrates a lot of growth in this second installment, becoming more comfortable with her magic and her potential place in the prophecy that's sent her to New London and forced her to leave everything she knows behind. I loved that we got to see her using actual spells and standing up for herself. While we don't get a lot of background into how exactly she does magic, there is a definite paranormal aspect permeating much of this book, which was a nice change from the first, which had a more classic historical flair. I also liked that Cate's journey encompassed more of the world, allowing us to see a new town and the very frightening Harwood Asylum. All of this helped ground the novel in this alternative history of the late 1800s that the author has created, and really brought the book to life.I continue to be so incredibly frustrated with Cate's sister, Maura. While she wasn't my favorite in the first book, I was able to sympathize with her. That's not so much the case here, where she seems to just be willfully difficult. I'm not positive I understand her reasoning, and that makes her all the more infuriating. Not only is she catty and manipulative, but she's also easily manipulated by those she wants approval from. I think I know where her story arc is going to take her, although I hope that she'll figure things out and work to fix her mistakes. Considering the prophecy, though - which we finally get to hear the full text of in this book - I'm not sure if that will be possible.Tess continues to be my favorite of the Cahills, which is interesting, considering this is very much Cate's story. Even though she's only twelve, she is so strong and stubborn, and I can't wait to see more of her. I was glad we didn't have to go too terribly long in this book without both her and Maura, as they tend to bring the best (and worst) out in Cate, which further heightens the danger and intrigue. Tess and Maura's arrival at the convent also helps push Cate's character growth and really moves the story along at a nice clip.Star Cursed is an improvement on pretty much everything in the first book. There is more action, higher stakes thanks to the Brotherhood's actions, and more danger, which allows for an extremely suspenseful atmosphere. Cate is a stronger, more enjoyable character this go around, and I really liked seeing her come into her own. It was also nice to finally know exactly what this prophecy says, and to see where it might lead. With an ending that grabs you by the heartstrings and pulls, Star Cursed is a wonderful second installment of the Cahill Witch Chronicles. I'm definitely looking forward to what comes next!An e-galley was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.***To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!
Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2) - Marissa Meyer As someone who basically devoured Cinder and loved every single second of it, I couldn't wait to get my hands on Scarlet. I was expecting more of the same: awesome characters, nonstop action, and a pulse-pounding pace of events that kept me thoroughly engaged in the story. However, while I ultimately came away from Scarlet liking it quite a lot, I didn't love it as much as Cinder. There were a number of reasons for this, I think, but it got to the point where I started thinking of this as the read-along that wouldn't end, which wasn't what I (or Lauren) was really going for. While I wouldn't call Scarlet a disappointment, I do wish I weren't the black sheep; it seems like nearly everyone else loved this book more than the first!I think my biggest problem with Scarlet was that the focus wasn't simply on Cinder, but instead on a whole new cast of characters. I know, the title should have clued me in, but I had really grown to love Cinder, and really didn't like sharing her "screen time" with someone else. This isn't to say that I didn't enjoy Scarlet - I liked her stubbornness, her love for her grandmother, and the way she refused to give up - but I wasn't drawn to her like I was to Cinder. This is probably because Scarlet's upbringing was quite a bit different from Cinder's, in that she mostly had a safe, stable home, and grew up with someone who loved her. The letumosis likewise wasn't a constant threat to Scarlet as it was to Cinder and those around her, which just gave the town of Rieux a much different feel than New Beijing. All in all, it just took me longer to warm up to her and really become invested in her story.There were also SO many different viewpoints in this book! We had Cinder, Scarlet, Kai, and even a chapter from Levana's point of view at the end. That made the book really busy, at least to me personally; just as I'd get interested in one storyline we'd switch to another. This gave the book a sort of jerky feel to it, as if the author were tugging the reader in more than one direction at a time. This is the biggest reason I was able to set it down for so long without any desire to get back to it; with so many loose plot threads, I ended up feeling ambivalent to pretty much everything (except Kai).Even though it took me most of the book to warm up to some of the new characters, I did ultimately come away from Scarlet liking everyone we'd met. Thorne was hilarious, and provided some much-needed comic relief, and I couldn't help but love Wolf, particularly his conversation with Scarlet at the end ("mushy stuff in the galley", aww ♥). I loved that Scarlet wasn't at all a damsel in distress, and also seemed to have unending faith in people, even when they didn't necessarily deserve it. I was also happy to see Iko back in a fabulous new form, and my heart broke time and time again for Kai, who is just really having a terrible time of it. I can't wait to see how Cinder's going to get him out of the mess he's in!While Scarlet wasn't a favorite like Cinder was, I did still very much enjoy the story. I love how Ms. Meyer has combined the two fairy tales, and can't wait to see how she's going to add Rapunzel into the mix. I do worry about adding even MORE characters, since that was my biggest complaint with this book, but am hopeful that - since I did eventually get used to it in Scarlet - it won't bother me as much the next time. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what will happen next in Cress!***To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!

In the Shadow of Blackbirds

In the Shadow of Blackbirds - Cat Winters

As someone who loves a well-done historical novel, I was really looking forward to In the Shadow of Blackbirds. I haven't read too many books set during World War I, although the one I've read most recently - A Very Long Engagement by Sébastien Japrisot - was extremely well done and quite emotional, so I was hoping this book would be in that same vein. I'm happy to report that it definitely was. Not only does In the Shadow of Blackbirdstake place during the war, but it also includes even more historical occurrences, from the 1918 flu pandemic to seances and spiritualism. The amount of research the author must have done to write this novel is astounding, and the fact she spent so much time making her book as realistic as possible really stands out in the writing and the reader's enjoyment. This was a book that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Mary Shelley Black is an amazing main character. I loved her wit, her love of science, and the fact that she wasn't at all like other sixteen-year-old girls growing up in 1918. Mary Shelley has her own way of doing things and her own beliefs, which I found quite refreshing to read about. I loved how she started out skeptical about ghosts and spirits, only to have to re-think her position. She was very analytical about things, and I loved how she continued to do what she thought was right, even when she was told by her aunt or others to leave things alone and just worry about keeping herself safe.

The atmosphere of this book, however, was what really tipped this into five-star territory. The descriptions of the streets, from the people moving about with gauze masks on (which in the end did little to help anyone escape the flu), to the seances, to the mourners wanting their relatives to return to them, everythingwas just written about in a way that the reader could really see what was happening. While sometimes there can be too much description, with Blackbirds I really felt like those depictions were necessary to help set the mood and develop the suspenseful feel of the book. The air of mystery and confusion that reigns through much of the book as Mary Shelley tries to figure out what Stephen's spirit wants from her really helped drive the plot and keep the reader engaged. I found this book to be pretty much unputdownable.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds is easily the best debut I've read this year. The historical flourishes, the air of mystery, and the headstrong main character all combined to create a book I devoured and loved from start to finish. If you haven't yet had a chance to read this amazing book, you definitely need to do so soon! You won't be disappointed.

ARC provided via DAC ARC Tours in exchange for an honest review.


To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!
Ranma ½, Vol. 1 - Rumiko Takahashi I don't really consider myself a fan of manga (or graphic novels, or comics, etc.), but this story was kind of charming in a really silly way. I'm intrigued enough to eventually check out the second volume, if nothing else.
The Last Academy - Anne Applegate I have to admit that I was sort of afraid to read The Last Academy, due to some not-so-positive reviews that were populating the blogosphere. Luckily, I went ahead and took the plunge, because I am definitely one of those in the minority who really enjoyed this book. Don't get me wrong - I can see why it would strike some as weird or "bad" - but for me, the atmosphere and use of mythology were enough to keep me fully engaged in the characters and plot and eagerly turning the pages until the end.Camden was an interesting main character. She's having to deal with a fallout with her best friend, Lia, as well as adjusting to a new school clear across the country from where she grew up. While she did strike me as a bit younger than she was supposed to be, I still ultimately liked how she took the steps necessary to come to terms with her life and the strange occurrences that happen at the school. I don't want to spoil anything, because part of this book's draw for me personally was the way the suspense was written. While I figured out what was going on fairly early on, I still enjoyed watching Camden's journey into the truth and how it impacts her future.One thing that was done incredibly well in this story was the way the setting was written. You get a definite spooky vibe from the school and its faculty, and the way the author involved the paranormal aspects into the plot were first-rate. Camden is well aware that there's something not right with her new school, and I liked the way she continued to delve into the students' stories and try to figure out what was going on with her classmates and herself. Again, it becomes pretty apparent early on what the ultimate truth is going to be, but I still found plenty within the pages to keep me invested in her story.The Last Academy was a good mix of suspense, mythology, and paranormal. It's a quick read that ultimately left me quite satisfied, not only with the plot but also with Camden's personal journey. If you like spooky reads full of atmosphere, and don't mind figuring out the "twist" before the main character does, then I think you'll like this one quite a bit. I know I did!An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!


Naturals - Tiffany Truitt

I enjoyed Chosen Ones, but can easily say that Naturals is better. You can certainly tell that this is Ms. Truitt's second book. The plotting and pacing are better, and the characters more relatable. I found Tess, especially, to be extremely strong in this installment. She was much more willing to confront her feelings and think about how her upbringing impacted her. I liked her strength of character and her conviction that what she was doing was right. For me, the main draw of this book is Tess, and I was really pleased to see her growth.

I also liked that this book helped further establish the dystopian world used in this series. Tess is away from the compound, out in the so-called "wilds", and you really got a better sense of what the world was like through her journey to the Isolationists' camp. It was interesting to see the stark contrast between compound life and the life these people chose to live away from everyone. It was very much reminiscent of the pioneers' journey out west back in the early days of the United States, when food was not in abundance and everything had to be gained through physical work of some sort. Since Tess was "pampered" for most of her life, she finds the transition difficult, and I found her journey to be extremely realistic and well done.

"I can't help but wonder if there has ever been a place where freedom truly existed. I think freedom is what mankind fears most in the world. When you're free, you can't blame anyone or anything for who you become." - 81%

This book is much more action-packed, even though a large portion of it is taken up by Tess' learning to fend for herself and work to keep herself and the community alive and thriving. Even though she is supposedly safe, there is a definite sense of threat underlying everything, and this is ratcheted up when she becomes ill. I was really pleased that we got to see James again, even though Henry's actions leading up to their reunion really rubbed me the wrong way. He is such an angry character, and while I suppose some of it is warranted, I can't get behind his actions or thoughts, and really found myself not liking him at all. Like the contrast between Tess' previous life and the one at the camp, James and Henry are so different from each other. I like that James really seems to respect Tess' decisions and is willing to let her lead, whereas Henry wants to be the one in control and do what he feels is best for her, regardless of her feelings on the subject. I will be interested to see how their relationship progresses with the events at the end of the book.

Naturals is a much faster read than its predecessor. Tess is more likable, and the reader is really able to get inside her head and understand her feelings and where she's coming from. I loved seeing her personal growth, and can only hope that continues, even with the reveal at the end. I like how she still struggles to not be the girl the Council turned her into, and the steps she's taking to ensure she lives her life according to her own rules. If you liked Chosen Ones, you definitely need to pick up Naturals, as it is an extremely solid continuation of the series. Just be forewarned that the ending will leave you extremely anxious and impatient for the as-yet-unnamed final installment!

An e-galley was provided by the publisher for blog tour purposes.



To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!