March Mini-Reviews

How is it already the end of March? 😮 This month has gone by so quickly. Between job interviews and some frustrating Life Stuff, I’ve been keeping busy. But here are some mini-reviews of the books I’ve read this month — and lucky for me, all of them were four- or five-star reads!

WSWicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan
Release Date: April 2nd, 2019

Have you ever read a book that you loved so, so much that you’re just… at a loss for words? I finished reading Wicked Saints at the beginning of March, and it’s taken me nearly the entire month to figure out what to say about it. In short: It’s phenomenal. ❤️ While I’ve seen plenty of comparisons made between it and Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone Trilogy — and I can understand why — this book seemed more reminiscent of Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless. And much like Deathless, I could probably gush about it until the literal end of time. It feels like Duncan peered down into my soul and wrote the book that I’ve always wanted to read. If you like books with blood magic, love-to-hate romance, monstrous boys, bisexual princes who love (many, many) good drinks, morally gray EVERYTHING, and cliffhanger endings that leave you lying on the floor, wondering what you’re going to do with your life until the next book comes out… READ THIS BOOK.

RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

SPStrange Practice by Vivian Shaw

After finishing Wicked Saints, I had a terrible book hangover. So, what did I do? Read a book that Emily A. Duncan herself recommended. And it did not disappoint. Greta Helsing is a doctor who treats the “differently alive” — vampires, were-creatures, mummies, ghouls… Even though she’s a human, it’s the family business, and she’s damn good at what she does. Throw in a delightfully-domestic vampire who makes tiramisu and latte art, uses Bumble and bumble hair products, and writes passive-aggressive letters to newspaper editors; an ex-demon with a chronic cough, a penchant for wearing pinstripe suits, and a certain friend he simply refers to as “Sam” (😈); a vampyre (there is a difference!) with gothic good looks and a not-so-small crush that turns him into an adorably-embarrassed mess; and a museum curator with a peculiar family history. Oh, and some homicidal monks with glowing eyes and very stabby weapons. 🗡 I couldn’t put it down! If you like urban fantasy, definitely give it a go.

RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

DCDreadful Company by Vivian Shaw

The follow-up to Strange PracticeDreadful Company begins in Paris, with Greta and Ruthven attending an opera at the legendary Palais Garnier. The rest, as they say, is spoiler-y. But there’s a bloodthirsty vampire coven, some bizarre-yet-adorable wellmonsters, one precious cinnamon roll of a werewolf, psychopomps, summoning spells, The Phantom of the Opera (YEP), and some famous, sassy ghosts. And did I mention the world’s on the verge of ending? 😬 Although I really enjoyed this book, and I think Shaw did an excellent job of building on the events of Strange Practice and introducing new, compelling characters, there were a few parts that seemed a little slow. But I can’t wait for the next book in this series, Grave Importance, which comes out later this year. A luxury spa for mummies! Dr. Faust! More Greta and Varney! ❤️

RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

AEORAn Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

I decided to reread this gem of a book for a few reasons. The first is that I’m going to be meeting Margaret Rogerson next month (YAY YAY YAY), and the second is that it’s one of my favorite comfort reads. For me, some books are more immersive than others, and this one truly transports me from this world to another. Rogerson’s writing is lush and lyrical, the world of Whimsy is so detailed it feels real, and although the book is on the shorter side, so much happens over the course of Isobel and Rook’s journey. And Rook… Where do I even begin? 🧡 Although he’s one of the fair folk, he’s so much more than he appears — proud, occasionally self-absorbed, adorable, sweet, at turns bewildered and bewildering… Sure, there’s some hints of instalove here and there, but unlike other books that utilize that trope, for whatever reason, I didn’t mind it at all. He and Isobel are just too stinkin’ cute. And I adore Gadfly. He’s a secondary character, but from the moment you meet him, he practically preens right off the page. 😄 If you’re looking for a magical, beautifully-written book that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside, look no further.

RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

February Mini-Reviews

I’ve fallen a little behind on my reviews, but here’s some good news: I’ve finally finished my Grishaverse read-a-thon! 😀 Below, you’ll find my mini-reviews of The Language of Thorns and The Demon in the Wood. And tomorrow, I’ll post my review of King of Scars. (FYI: I’m still not over it. 😵)

TLOTThe Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

I’m so glad I finally read this! If you’re a fan of the Shadow and Bone Trilogy or the Six of Crows Duology — or even just fairy tales and folklore — I would definitely recommend these stories. Some may seem familiar, but don’t worry; there’s always a delightful twist.

“Ayama and the Thorn Wood” was probably my favorite tale in this collection. (Is it because she marries the monster? WHO KNOWS? 😂) The final tale, “When Water Sang Fire,” is also excellent — and it features a familiar character from the Grishaverse… I won’t spoil it, but this story of friendship and betrayal left me thinking about it long after I finished reading it.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the gorgeous illustrations. Each story’s images are different, and the way they grow and change as the pages turn is truly special. ❤️ I think the artwork looks best when viewed in the physical copy of the book, but if you’re looking for a great deal, the Kindle ebook is currently on sale for $2.99!

RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

TDITWThe Demon in the Wood by Leigh Bardugo

I was initially under the impression that this was a novella, but it’s actually a short prequel story about the Darkling. I figured it would be a quick read — and easy to squeeze in before starting King of Scars. And let’s be honest. I’m always eager for some quality Darkling backstory. 😏

This story takes place well before the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, when the Darkling is a child. Because of its length and the events that take place, it’s hard to talk about it without spoiling anything. But this story reveals some of what he went through, being both a living amplifier and a boy burdened with strange and powerful abilities.

Overall, this story was intriguing, and I think it shed some light on the Darkling’s motivations in the Shadow and Bone Trilogy. I did wish it were longer, but I would also be thrilled to read an entire book about the Darkling, so… 😅

RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Six of Crows Duology

I was very excited to read the Six of Crows Duology, because I know it’s beloved by many Grishaverse fans, and the premise sounded intriguing — and so different from the Shadow and Bone Trilogy. My only regret is that I didn’t read these books sooner, but I also can’t imagine reading the first book and then having to wait a year for the second one. Talk about torture! 😱 These reviews are as non-spoilery as possible, so without further ado…

SOCSix of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

After hearing so many great things about this book, I was curious to see if it would live up to the hype. Spoiler: IT DID. The writing is sharp and superb, the pacing is flawless, and the character development is truly next level. In a story with six main protagonists, there’s a risk of focusing too much on some and not enough on others. But Bardugo strikes the perfect balance between all of the Dregs, providing each of them with a distinct personality and backstory. Honestly, I love them all, and I would join them for waffles in a heartbeat. ❤️ I finally understand tweets like “I WOULD DIE FOR KAZ BREKKER,” because he is an incredible character, and I want nothing but the best for my ruthless, stabby boy. 🔪🔪🔪 But the thing that most impressed me was the story itself. It’s about a high-stakes heist that takes place in a fantasy world; I’ve never read anything quite like it. And just when you think you’ve figured out Kaz’s plan, he throws a curveball straight at your face. Even if you weren’t a big fan of the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, I would definitely recommend giving this book a shot. There’s a clear improvement in Bardugo’s writing, the narrative style is completely different (and works much better than first-person narration), and — drumroll please — there’s no love triangle! 😁

RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

CKCrooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

I’m going to try to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, but I’ll tell you this: Prepare to have your heart ripped out — repeatedly. I was warned before I read it, but still… DEAR LORD, THAT WAS DEVASTATING. 😭 Much like Six of Crows, this book revolves around a dangerous heist — among other things — and has impeccable pacing. The Dregs are faced with enemies on all sides, and the tension is consistently palpable. I can’t remember the last time I stayed up until 2 AM reading a book, but I just couldn’t put this one down until I finished it. If you’ve read the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, you’ll see some familiar faces in this book. (Also: If you plan on reading King of Scars, this duology is pretty much required reading. It provides valuable insight into certain characters’ motivations, as well as context for many of the key plot points in King of Scars.) We learn more about the Dregs’ lives prior to the Ice Court heist, we see relationships grow and change, and we’re forced to watch as each of them is pushed to their absolute limit. This is a fantastic conclusion to the duology, and the ending left me teary-eyed but (mostly) happy. ❤️ I’m probably going to spend the rest of this month — if not my entire life — yelling at people to read this book.

RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Shadow and Bone Trilogy

In anticipation of Leigh Bardugo’s newest Grishaverse book, King of Scars, I decided to reread the trilogy that started it all. (I’ll also be reading Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom, and The Language of Thorns.) Instead of writing full reviews of each book in the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, I decided that three mini-reviews would be best.

SPOILER WARNING: I’ve tried to make these reviews as non-spoilery as possible, but if you haven’t read these books and wish to remain completely, 100% unspoiled, proceed with caution! 😬

sabShadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

This book is a good start to the series. It introduces us to the main characters, handles a ton of world-building, and sets things into motion for the second and third books. That being said, I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time I read it. 🤔 Knowing that Alina and Mal both change by the end of the series, I was a little more patient. But I can see a first-time reader feeling frustrated — or even bored — by both of them. One of the most interesting characters is the Darkling. (I also have a weakness for ancient, magical men with dark pasts and villainous tendencies. 😂) This book does utilize some well-known YA tropes; Alina is the “chosen one,” and there’s definitely a love triangle. I do think, however, that Bardugo uses them in interesting ways. 

RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

sasSiege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

This is my favorite of the three books. The pacing is impeccable, we get the perfection that is Sturmhond, and the ending… WHEW. There’s a scene that, even now, still gives me chills. 🖤 (For those who’ve read this book, I’m talking about pg. 418-422.) This book has some serious momentum, and there never seems to be a dull moment. It’s honestly hard to write about it without spoiling some major plot points, but you can expect high seas adventure, secret identities, witty banter, bad decisions (SO MANY OF THEM), hope, pain, and wanting to start the next book immediately after you finish this one. And did I mention Sturmhond? We are truly blessed by his literary existence. 😍

RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

rarRuin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

While Siege and Storm has impeccable pacing, this book seems to drag on and on… We spend so much time in the White Cathedral (nearly 20% of the book!) and, later, the Sikurzoi. But then the final battle seemed to happen so quickly. 😐 I do like the ending more than I did when I first read this book. I will warn you — it might feel like this book repeatedly rips your heart out and throws it across the room. Don’t worry. This is normal. 😫 I’m still curious about what the trilogy would have looked like if Alina had given in and agreed to rule alongside the Darkling. (I know, I know. He’s undeniably monstrous. But just look at this fan art. Look at it and join me in the pit of despair.) Also, Baghra and Nikolai’s bickering is the fantasy buddy cop movie I never knew I wanted.

RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

January Mini-Reviews

mmiycMatch Me If You Can by Tiana Smith

This book deals with lots of secrets. And while it doesn’t have online dating, it does have an online matchmaking service… for high schoolers! I related to Mia in many ways. She’s struggling to figure out what — and who — she wants, worrying about the school newspaper and her college aspirations, and… well, she’s pretty awkward. It sometimes felt like I was looking in a mirror. (Or like my seventeen-year-old self was looking in a mirror. That was a loooooong time ago. 😅)

While I realize that Mia and her friends are still in high school, I still found many of their actions to be overly-dramatic and not very believable. (Her exchanges with Elena? WHEW. I felt like I was watching Riverdale — and not in a good way.) Some small things become big things, and some big things — like Mia logging into Robyn’s email account behind her back to send Vince fake matchmaking results — seem to just… not matter all that much. And seriously, why does Mia keep calling Vince “genuine”? He only asks her to homecoming because of the email she sends — not because he has any feelings for her. Maybe I’m biased since I thought she and Logan had great romantic tension right from the start.

I stand by what I said in my January TBR — I would definitely recommend this book to fans of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Sandhya Menon’s From Twinkle, With Love. And anyone who enjoys modern-day Shakespeare adaptations would likely enjoy seeing how Smith wrote her own take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Note: Thank you to Macmillan and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

mfhnsMy Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren

This book checked all the boxes for me. Friends-to-lovers trope? Check. Online dating, with lots of emailing back and forth? (I’m a sucker for a good epistolary romance.) Check. Complex, hilarious, and memorable characters? Check. And the main character, Millie, is an expert on female serial killers! She’s also a self-proclaimed “Level Five Hot Mess,” but watching her learn from her mistakes and grow as a person… *chef’s kiss*

But as much as I enjoyed this book, there were times when I became frustrated with all the secrets. Millie and Reid keep the fact that they had sex a secret from their friends. Millie keeps pretty much her entire life a secret from her friends. Then she creates her “Catherine” dating profile and keeps her true identity a secret from Reid. And the list goes on and on. I don’t usually have a problem with secrets, but there came a point when I was practically shaking the book, shouting, “JUST COME OUT AND SAY IT!” (It probably didn’t help that I was reading Match Me If You Can — another book that’s full of secrets — at the same time.)

That being said, this book was an absolute delight. ❤️ The alternating POVs work well, the dialogue is perfect, and the ending will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside. I would recommend this to fans of Christina Lauren’s other books, especially Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating. And if you’re a fan of My Favorite Murder, you’ll likely find yourself wishing you could be BFFs with Millie.

RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

sasSense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Having never read Sense and Sensibility — or even watched an adaptation — I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I was pleasantly surprised, and even though it took some time for me to become invested in the story, I quickly became eager to find out what would happen to Marianne and Elinor.

I would definitely call it a romantic comedy, for the most part. The characters are all so dynamic and well-written — I fell head over heels for the Dashwood girls, who, while very different, are complementary heroines. 😊 There were some slower parts, and I initially felt a little disoriented. (It’s been a while since I’ve read any Austen, though.) But the humor, the complexity of the characters, and the suspense kept me reading. If, like me, you’ve only ever read Pride and Prejudice, I think you’ll find that this book is similar in all the best ways.

RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

needThe Need by Helen Phillips
Release Date: July 9th, 2019

I don’t usually gravitate toward thrillers — mostly because I’m easily scared. But I couldn’t resist the bizarre premise of this book: Molly, a paleobotanist and mother, is at home with her two children when she hears footsteps in the other room. While this is happening, you learn that the fossil quarry she’s been digging in has yielded some puzzling finds, including a controversial Bible that draws unwanted — and, at times, frightening — attention from tourists. What happens next is unnerving, mind-bending, and psychologically harrowing.

I liked that this book was a thriller that also functioned as an introspection on what it means to be a mother. We see Molly struggle, and there’s nothing held back. Her love for her children is complicated and messy and fierce, and it is the beating heart of this book. The pacing was superb, mostly because of the short chapters. They built a momentum that kept me reading until late at night, unable tear myself away. The big reveal wasn’t too surprising; the author drops several hints before it’s actually confirmed. And there were a few other things that I wish had been a little less predictable. I anticipate the ending dividing some readers, since it’s one of those endings that doesn’t entirely feel like an ending. 🤔

In some ways, this book reminds me of Michael Rutger’s The Anomaly, Thomas Pierce’s The Afterlives, and even Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation. It’s the kind of story that blurs reality just enough that you’ll be left looking at the world around you in a different way long after you’ve turned the last page.

Note: Thank you to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️