Monday, November 19, 2018

FIRE & HEIST by Sarah Beth Durst

Rating: A-
Release Date: 12/4/2018
Synopsis:
In Sky Hawkins's family, leading your first heist is a major milestone--even more so than learning to talk, walk, or do long division. It's a chance to gain power and acceptance within your family, and within society. But stealing your first treasure can be complicated, especially when you're a wyvern--a human capable of turning into a dragon.

Embarking on a life of crime is never easy, and Sky discovers secrets about her mother, who recently went missing, the real reason her boyfriend broke up with her, and a valuable jewel that could restore her family's wealth and rank in their community.

With a handpicked crew by her side, Sky knows she has everything she needs to complete her first heist, and get her boyfriend and mother back in the process. But then she uncovers a dark truth about were-dragon society--a truth more valuable and dangerous than gold or jewels could ever be.


My thoughts on the book:
Fire & Heist is a really cute and fluffy read. There isn't a whole lot of depth to the story, and the characters are pretty run-of-the-mill, but Sky's snark really saves this novel. I haven't read any of Durst's work before, but she has a strong voice as an author, though some of her world-building and descriptions were lacking. I got more than a few chuckles out of this story, though, and when I finished the book, I felt lighter than I had when I started it, so it is a good "pick me up" type of novel. 

Sky is a decent female lead. She's funny, a bit stubborn, and she has more depth than she gives herself credit for. She's a good weredragon, and she really cares about the people in her life. She's smart and witty, though a bit whiny at times. She came across as a real teenager, which is rare in YA novels these days. Ryan is a good love interest, and instead of being some broody, narcissistic, emotionally abusive jerk, he's actually a sweet guy. I appreciated Durst having a healthy relationship in her novel. Most of the secondary characters are cookie cutter... nothing really special about them. The dad won't listen to anything his daughter says. The three brothers are each some male prototype (one is overly built, one likes explosions, and one can't decide what he likes). The villain is like a cheesy comic book villain almost, but at least they didn't do a monologue. It's fine, though, because they aren't really the focus. Ryan and Gabriela (who is my favorite fictional person in the world now... I LOVE YOU, MY FELLOW RESEARCHER) are a lot more developed. Everyone grows throughout the course of the novel, so that's also a good thing. 

The plot twist surprised me a little, and then it took a sharp right. It made sense for the story, but it was a little jarring. The world-building and descriptions for this second setting didn't really paint a picture for me. I felt like I had a decent grasp of the first setting, but the second setting just didn't work at all. However, this is a standalone book, and I can't imagine trying to develop two worlds in one novel. The writing, aside from that, is pretty strong. The plot made sense, and there weren't really any holes. The humor is really what made this book. It was lighthearted and serious. It pointed out flaws in our society and in other societies, showing that nothing is perfect and we should always work to better ourselves and the world we live in. The ending was a happy one. The pacing is super fast, too, I flew through this one.

Overall, I'd recommend this novel to anyone who wants a light, fun read. It's an action-packed and fun-filled fantasy that promotes healthy relationships. It doesn't get much better than that. 


Friday, September 28, 2018

KILL THE QUEEN by Jennifer Estep

Rating: C-
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Synopsis:
Gladiator meets Game of Thrones: a royal woman becomes a skilled warrior to destroy her murderous cousin, avenge her family, and save her kingdom in this first entry in a dazzling fantasy epic from the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Elemental Assassin series—an enthralling tale that combines magic, murder, intrigue, adventure, and a hint of romance.

In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten.

But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre.

Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of war, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move.

But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen.
 


My thoughts on the book:
I am usually a huge fan of Estep's writing, so I am pretty disappointed that I didn't enjoy this book very much. I didn't hate it, and there were some poignant moments, but for the most part, I was bored throughout the novel. When I finished the book, I was left feeling "meh." Also, the cover for this book looks way too much like the covers for the Elemental Assassin series. 

The characters in this novel are not very noteworthy. Evie evolved and everything, sure, but she kept telling the reader every time any tiny thing about her changed. It's better to see an evolution happen, not be told about it. Also, she was kind of a selfish brat. At 28 years old, she needed to grow up some, in my opinion. Then there was the love interest. Meh. I didn't feel any connection between them, though Estep really tried to make one. The other characters were run of the mill, too, and it was just boring. 

In addition to boring characters, the plot was extremely predictable. I could predict every twist and turn before it happened, which kept me pretty bored. Also, the descriptions were really overdone. When you write over a page describing one room, there's a problem. The novel goes on and on and on, and like the Elemental Assassin series, this series seems to be centered on food, too. The magical types are similar to the Elemental Assassin series, and the main character's backstory is also a lot like Gin's. I don't know that I'll read the next book in the series because it's just not that original. 

Overall, I wasn't blown away by this novel. I mean if you have nothing else to read and you want to read a fantasy book, then check it out from the library. A lot of people loved this book, and you may, too. The writing itself was well-done. This book just wasn't for me, unfortunately. 

UNCHAINED by J. Lynn

Rating: B+
Synopsis:
Between the pissed off creatures that want demon-hunter Lily Marks dead and the fallen angel who just...wants her, Lily is about ready to trade in forever for a comfy job in a cubicle farm.

The fact that she and Julian are civil to one another is enough to have her thrown out of the Sanctuary, but she can't shake her not-so-angelic stalker or how he brings her dangerously close to ecstasy.

Her forbidden relationship with Julian provides the perfect fuel for suspicion when a traitor is discovered to be working within the Sanctuary. Lily quickly finds herself hunted by well, everyone.

Her only hope is to discover the real traitor before she loses everything--and she'll need Julian's help. That is, if Julian is really there to help her...and not destroy her.


Yeah, being a Nephilim isn't everything it's cracked up to be.

My thoughts on the book:
According to the information at the end of this novel, this was the first book that Jennifer L. Armentrout wrote, and when I think about it, it's obvious that she hadn't developed her voice 100% when writing this. The novel itself is a great read, and the writing is good. The characters are interesting and flawed and humorous in a way that only JLA can pull off, but her big reveal, while shocking, was a little obvious. Usually in her novels, she surprises me, at least a little bit.

I really liked Lily, though she made me mad a couple of times due to her prejudice that she'd had beat into her, more or less, since day 1. Overall, she was a good leading character, though, and unapologetically herself. She didn't try to change for anyone, and she did what was right for her (for the most part). She was brave in many ways and selfless, though at times she was too selfless. Julian was also a really complex character, and I absolutely adored him. The entirety of his story surprised me, and it made me love him even more when it was revealed at the end of the novel. They made a great couple, and their chemistry was through the roof. The secondary characters felt like real people instead of cardboard cutouts, which is something JLA has always excelled at.

The pacing of the story was pretty spot-on. My main contention with the story was that about 3/4 of the way through, it became glaringly obvious who the traitor was. Usually JLA is sneakier than that, and the big reveal was still shocking due to the reaction of the traitor, and everything the traitor did was actually more twisted than I'd thought. That being said, the lack of surprise is what made me give this book a B+. The writing was entertaining and engrossing, and like all JLA books, once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down. I also think the story really shows what happens when you assume certain traits about people, or in this case supernatural beings, based on their race alone, and that's always a good reminder to have in a book.

Overall, I'd recommend this novel to anyone who is a JLA fan and who loves urban fantasies with flawed yet wonderful characters and a lot of steamy romance.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

HIDDEN PIECES by Paula Stokes

Rating: D-
Synopsis:
Embry Woods has secrets. Small ones about her past. Bigger ones about her relationship with town hero Luke and her feelings for someone new. But the biggest secret she carries with her is about what happened that night at the Sea Cliff Inn. The fire. The homeless guy. Everyone thinks Embry is a hero, too, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Embry thinks she’ll have to take the secret to her grave, until she receives an anonymous note—someone else knows the truth. Next comes a series of threatening messages, asking Embry to make impossible choices, forcing her to put her loved ones at risk. Someone is playing a high stakes game where no one in Embry’s life is safe. And their last move...is murder.


My thoughts on the book:
I really wanted to like this book. The synopsis had me hooked, and I couldn't wait to dive into it. However, this is one of the lamest "thrillers" I've ever read. The writing is subpar - all telling and no showing, the characters aren't likable, and the mystery/thriller aspect isn't very mysterious or thrilling. The only reason I gave this book a D- instead of an F is because I was actually able to finish it. 

Embry is not a likable character at all. She whines and insults herself constantly. She thinks she's a terrible person all the time, and she sounds like a broken record about it. Because of this, she makes stupid decisions and is too scared to be up front and honest with anyone in her life. There isn't much to respect about her, really. She's not very strong, even though she had been through a lot before the book started. Holden was a nice enough guy, but he changed mid-book, and it didn't really seem to fit. It seemed like two completely different people, and that was jarring... the change was pretty much for no reason, too. No transformative experiences happened to him. The secondary characters are all clich├ęs, so I'm not even going to waste time talking about them. Even the creepo of the story is boring. 

The writing for this book isn't that good. This author didn't actually show anything. No pictures were painted. It was all Embry telling us stuff. There were very few scenes where she wasn't just going on about whatever her problem was for that minute. It was too much in her head and not enough in the outside world. The pacing is ridiculously slow. The person who is asking her to do absolutely stupid things comes up with even dumber "punishments," and there was no edge of your seat feeling to it because the whole concept felt thrown together at the last minute. It was like Jiminy Cricket had gone rogue or something... the whole "just be honest" message was too strong and ridiculous for anyone to buy into. It just didn't feel like a scary situation. It was just stupid. The supposed climax of the storing was boring and ridiculous. The ending was dull. 

Overall, I'd say skip this book. There are a lot of other thrillers out there that have deeper characters, better writing, and a plot that isn't just ridiculous. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Bookish Business Spotlight: Literary Book Gifts



Welcome to the first post of my newest feature, Bookish Business. At least once a month, I will choose an independently owned online business, craftsperson, or vendor and spotlight their website and material. When possible, I will also offer a giveaway and/or a promotional discount. The business who has agreed to be my first spotlight is called Literary Book Gifts. Fall Into Books is able to offer an exclusive 20% discount to this amazing store! See below for code.

Store Name: Literary Book Gifts
URL: https://literarybookgifts.com/
Promotional Discount: falln2books20
Favorite Products:


Comments/thoughts about the store:
My favorite thing about this store is that it has a wide variety of authors. I have chosen products that features some of my favorite books and authors of all time. Another thing I really love about this store is that you can customize all of the shirts by choosing the background color. I'm also obsessed with totes, so I love that Literary Book Gifts offers a wide variety of totes.

Thanks for stopping by! Don't forget to grab the promo code before you go on your shopping spree!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

ONE SMALL THING by Erin Watt

Rating: A
Synopsis:
Beth’s life hasn’t been the same since her sister died. Her parents try to lock her down, believing they can keep her safe by monitoring her every move. When Beth sneaks out to a party one night and meets the new guy in town, Chase, she’s thrilled to make a secret friend. It seems a small thing, just for her.

Only Beth doesn’t know how big her secret really is…

Fresh out of juvie and determined to start his life over, Chase has demons to face and much to atone for, including his part in the night Beth’s sister died. Beth, who has more reason than anyone to despise him, is willing to give him a second chance. A forbidden romance is the last thing either of them planned for senior year, but the more time they spend together, the deeper their feelings get.

Now Beth has a choice to make—follow the rules, or risk tearing everything apart…again.


My thoughts on the book:
This was my first Erin Watt book, and I loved it! I really enjoyed this novel, though at times it was incredibly frustrating. The situations were very real, and sometimes I wanted to smack people for being blind, etc., but it was so much like real life that I related to the characters on a deep level. I lost my father this year, and I understand that pain, and how there's never a right way to grieve. No matter how you grieve, someone is going to tell you that you're doing it wrong. The other social issues in this book were extremely realistic, too, and the writing was beautiful. 

Beth was, in my opinion, a very relatable character. I felt so bad for her because of her parents being way too over-protective, to the point of insanity. No one would listen to her. No one cared what she wanted. Everyone wanted to dictate how she should feel and act because apparently they all thought she was incapable of making her own decisions. Therefore, she acted out. A lot. Which didn't help her cause any, but I can't say that I blame her for her reactions. Chase was a complex love interest, and not just because he's the one who is to blame for her sister's death. He has a lot of baggage in addition to that, but he's a good guy. I liked him quite a bit. Scarlett wasn't my favorite person, but she redeemed herself a bit in the end. 

My favorite thing about this book is that it didn't pull any punches. Not everything was sunshine and roses. Horrible things happened, things that wouldn't be okay, and that was okay. I like messy books with messy endings a lot better than everything in the book being fixed at the end. I mean the ending wasn't depressing or anything, but it wasn't perfect, and I appreciated that. Also, it's always refreshing to see authors take on behaviors such as bullying, grief, parental over-protectiveness that borders on abuse, sexual assault, and relationship abuse. This is a real book. Additionally, but just as important, the book was well written and the plot was engaging. 

Overall, I'd recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good YA contemporary romance that deals with real and very messy issues. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

I DO NOT TRUST YOU by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz

Rating: F
Synopsis:
Memphis "M" Engle is stubborn to a fault, graced with an almost absurd knowledge of long lost languages and cultures, and a heck of an opponent in a fight. In short: she's awesome.

Ashwin Sood is a little too posh for her tastes, a member of an ancient cult (which she’s pretty sure counts for more than one strike against him), and has just informed Memphis that her father who she thought was dead isn’t and needs her help. 

From the catacombs of Paris to lost temples in the sacred forests, together they crisscross the globe, searching for the pieces of the one thing that might save her father. But the closer they come to saving him—and the more they fall for one another—the closer they get to destroying the world.


My thoughts on the book:
Normally I like a book with a lot of intrigue and adventure, but this book just fell flat for me. The main problem was that I was unable to achieve a willing suspension of disbelief, which made me not even believe the story to start with. I just kept thinking that the entire scenario was the most ridiculous thing I'd ever heard of and how unlikely that is to actually happen. It did not work for me at all. I also really didn't like the characters. The writing was choppy, and the random switching of the third person limited POV got confusing because the voice didn't change at all.

M was boring, condescending, and just flat out rude most of the time. My dad died at the beginning of this year, and even I couldn't find any sympathy for her. And to be sooooooo smart (she was a total know-it-all), she did a lot of really dumb things. And who goes by M? That is annoying within itself. Ash didn't seem to have two brain cells to rub together, and he also did a lot of stupid things. The secondary characters were hardly there and when they were, they were stereotypes and also annoying.

The entire concept of this book is just ludicrous. I couldn't believe that any of it would actually happen. Everything was just so unbelievable and nothing felt thought through at all. It was just ridiculous. The pacing was also slow since M was stalling constantly, and as I mentioned, the writing wasn't engaging. The romance felt forced and just not natural, too. Everything about this book just fell flat for me.

I know some people have enjoyed this novel, but unfortunately it wasn't for me.