From the day that it was announced, to the day I had it in my hands, Iron Gold built up its own hype in my mind with little to no outside influence. I was excited because obviously I loved the Red Rising trilogy, and returning to see some of my favorite characters was sure to be an adventure. But also more than a little nervous because, well, have you read the Red Rising books?! Pierce Brown has no issues with bringing unmentionable pain, or killing off his characters, beloved or not, and the odds of my favorites surviving another three books seemed slim to none.
Warning before picking up Iron Gold: If you liked the ending of Morning Star, or if you would prefer a happy ending for your favorite characters, than it is probably best that you pretend that Iron Gold doesn’t exist. Because some people will undoubtedly be uncomfortable with the way Pierce Brown makes them feel in this 600+ page monstrosity. Pandora’s box has been opened, all hell has been unleashed, and picking up Iron Gold is most certainly a commitment to emotional pain. Isn’t reading fun?
Well that was a journey that I am still not sure I was entirely ready for.
Receiving an ARC of Shadowsong was a dream come true (corny yes, but also entirely accurate). I finished reading it early into my plane ride home for Christmas and was then left to stew in all the feelings that SJ Jones invoked in me. I have been trying to formulate thoughts for three weeks, and I really hope I can do Shadowsong justice. So, with that being said, let’s get to it.
If you pick up Shadowsong expecting the same type of story that Wintersong brought you, then you are going to be disappointed and/or confused. Wintersong was a romantic journey, but it also read (to me) as a novel of self discovery. Leisel was never quite sure where she belonged in her family, in her society, and found acceptance in the Underground with the Goblin King and his realm. Shadowsong is a journey into the troubled mind of Leisel (and her brother Josef) but also is about peeling back the consequences of burying ugly emotions for years. I was left picking apart and analyzing what leaving the Underground really did to Leisel throughout the book, and I am not sure I am even accurate on my assumptions. Wintersong is a beautiful book, but superficial in retrospect. Shadowsong is deranged and dark, and heartbreakingly sad at points.
I had a pretty decent reading month in September, especially when you consider the size of some of the books that I finished!
I really tried to focus on new releases, since September was overflowing with them. I had this grand plan and vision of keeping up with all the books that I had preordered, and unfortunately, that plan did not come to fruition. But! October, November, and December are sparse with the new releases that I am actually planning on reading, so hopefully I can use the time to catch up.
So, putting my nonsensical rambling aside, let me share with you the books that I completed in September!
After strong urging from the little sister to read the Shatter Me trilogy, I finally gave in. (Well, to be honest, she sent me her extra copies of the books, so it was like I was almost doubly obligated to read them.) With little hesitation, I finally dove into this bizarre, kind-of-a-mess-but-you-keep-reading-anyway series, and… I have a lot to say now.
On one hand, I am really glad I checked these books off of my “absolute must read YA books” list, but on the other hand I kept thinking to myself: “these are not the type of books I like WHAT AM I DOING!?”
I don’t often read books without reading the synopsis before hand, but that wasn’t the case with This is Really Happening.
I had just gotten the book in the mail from Penguin, and the combination of the adorably fun cover, plus the short length of the book itself meant I dove right in without a second thought.
Probably shouldn’t have done that.
This is Really Happening is a collection of essays / stories of Erin Chack’s life. She is a senior writer at Buzzfeed (awesomeness), is insanely weird (love it), and is also a cancer survivor (wasn’t expecting that).
The book opens with Erin discussing her cancer diagnosis which was the exact diagnosis I received myself almost four years ago. The first essay was a fun and playful take on an extremely nonplayful topic, and Erin discusses how awkward it was for her to share her diagnosis with her friends and extended family. I have consistently switched back and forth between the two extremes of being a cancer survivor: either the “I’M A SURVIVOR HEAR ME ROAR” or the “wow, I want to forget that ever happened to me“. So, when I picked up TiRH, I couldn’t immediately decide which of these mentalities I was going to embrace, and it put me into a mild panic.
BUT. I worked through the trigger, kept reading, and I am really glad I did.
I hard-core connected to Erin regarding our similar cancer experiences (and the morbid gallows sort of humor that goes along with that), and I laughed out loud on more than one occasion. While I did think that a couple of the stories didn’t really serve a point, and there were a few instances of redundancy that probably would have gone unnoticed if the book was a bit longer, overall I really enjoyed the read. Erin has a pretty distinct writing voice, and this was a great book to tackle while I was in the tub over a couple of days.
If you like essay style books but you are looking for something with a younger feel, I would definitely recommend picking up TiRH! Big thanks to Penguin Teen for sending this book my way, the cover is so adorable too!
I finished Strange the Dreamer two months ago, and I am still struggling to put my feelings into words. BUT. I think about this book all the time. Like, ALL THE TIME. I am borderline consumed with thoughts on what my precious Lazlo is up to, and how everything is going to play out in the next book.
So, since it has been on my mind for months now, I thought I should at least attempt to write a semi coherent review. Here goes nothing!
I am not usually a fan of YA contemporary, but I am so happy that Penguin Teen sent this book my way because this was one of the more addicting books I have thrown myself into this year. The tag line had me hooked: As bubbly as champagne and delectable as wedding cake, Once and for All, Sarah Dessen’s thirteenth novel, is set in the world of wedding planning, where crises are routine. The world of wedding planning?! Sign me up, I’m sold.
The main character and narrator of Once and for All, Louana, is graduating high school. Usually I steer clear of high school contemporary reads, but in this book, her age wasn’t as much of a turn off as usual YA contemporary leads tend to be for me. Louana was extremely grounded, wise beyond her years, and has some serious personal growth throughout the story that really drew me to her.
The longer I have sat on this review since I have finished A Court of Wings and Ruin, the more problems I find with it. Trust me, I didn’t want it to be this way, yet here we are.
Let me just say that when I read ACOTAR two years ago, I was… unfulfilled. Yes, I liked it. But I genuinely did not understand the hype. I think Sarah J. Maas is a brilliant writer, and her stories of fae and powers and warring kingdoms are wholly addicting BUT, I still didn’t get the hype. Then ACOMAF came into our lives, and I was blown away. The character development and growth of Feyre and her story has resonated with me to my very soul, and I am not sure if that book will ever be knocked out of my top 5.
However, ACOMAF and ACOWAR are two completely different types of books that happen to reside in the same series. While Mist and Fury was a story of discovering and healing, Wings and Ruin is truly a book of war. Did I like it? Yes. But when you compare it to its predecessor, I think you are going to be mildly disappointed.
There were lots of aspects of this book that I absolutely loved, and the main one being the war scenes / intricate battles that SJM painted. Holy shit. Even with Feyre’s limited first person point of view (more on that in a few paragraphs) I was seriously so impressed with the how visual all of the battles were of this war. The scope was…enormous, and I felt like SJM put us on that hill with Feyre, or on the field with Cassian as she wrote. My heart was in my throat, my palms were sweaty, I felt physically nauseous reading these scenes. So, I guess you could say she did a damn good job with that.
The introduction of new characters was so much fun, and I am glad that SJM started to flesh out some of the older ones. For example, we learned SO MUCH about the Bone Carver and the Weaver, and encountered little plot twists with Lucien, Mor, and Jurian which made me have to put the book down and walk around my apartment. And, we are finally starting to scratch the surface of what/who Amren is, which is relieving, but not quite satisfying if you know what I mean. Also, getting to meet all of the new High Lords and their courts gave me actual goosebumps; I love them all and I can’t wait to learn more about them.
And a list of new characters that JUST GAVE ME LIFE: (because no review is a good review without a little list 😉)
Did I mention I am obsessed with Brayxis? Well, I am.
While I could go on and on about certain scenes that I loved or which characters I adored, at the end of the day my favorite aspect of ACOWAR is how many real and raw emotions it brought out in me. I laughed out loud in some parts, I gasped, I cried, I paced my apartment in a panic, and I sobbed. While of course there are things about the book I didn’t like, that doesn’t take away from this reading experience; it was simply magical. And for that feeling alone I will continue to read SJM’s books because there is emotional magic in her words. (Well, that and the fact that there is so much potential in this world, it’s astonishing.)
Now, unfortunately, it is time for the things that I didn’t really like. I don’t think it would be fair to just write out a bulleted style list, so I will try to flesh out these ideas as much as possible. There is no way to do this without spoilers, so proceed at your own risk!
I mentioned earlier that I really appreciated how well SJM wrote a war through only a single first person POV. And while I do feel like she did a fantastic job with that, I think ACOWAR would have benefited immensely from either multiple POVs, or a third person POV to really capture everything that was going on. Trust me, while I type this up, I know it’s ultimately a Catch 22, because while I am saying the story would have benefited with a third person POV, I know I would have complained about the inconsistency between the three books if that were the case.
This is a harder issue to explain, but I feel like there were quite a few “GOTCHA” or “SIKE” moments that rubbed me the wrong way. The first being that the book opened with a chapter from Rhysand’s point of view. I was expecting there to be a flip-flop back and forth between Feyre and Rhys, but that wasn’t the case at all. Instead, we had the opening chapter, and one single chapter at the end of the book from Rhys’ POV that served absolutely no purpose in furthering the plot.
There were a couple other fake out moments towards the end of the book that bothered me as well. The almost betrayal of Amren, the almost deaths of both Rhys and Amren, and the almost ending of Cassian, it was all… pointless. There was no reason for Amren to have ‘come back’ from wherever she went in the cauldron. Her leaving the story whether in death or some other mysterious way would have been way better for her character than what actually played out. I felt kind of duped because of COURSE I was happy that everyone lived, but again, I don’t think they should have.
Talking to others non-stop about this ending and the characters made me realize something that I didn’t immediately pick up on, and that was the lack of fun banter between Rhys and Feyre that I felt was significantly lacking in ACOWAR. I adore them individually as their own characters, but also I loved their relationship and closeness in ACOMAF. But there was a definitive spark missing in this book. I love that Rhys respects Feyre as her own person, and lets her make her own decisions, but he shouldn’t just take a back seat to everything she wants or decides. They are supposed to be equals. I hate to say this, but in her quest to make Rhys the ultimate book boyfriend, SJM made him so perfect he ceased to be interesting. Another Catch 22 dontcha think?
Lastly, the ending was too clean and too happy for a book that has the word “Ruin” in the title. This book was about war, the preparation of that war, and the death / havoc that war brought upon Prythian. Yet every single person that was important to this story was able to walk away alive? I don’t know. I didn’t want any of my favorite characters to die, but I would have accepted if they did you know?
So in summary, I finished this book with a gigantic head ache and completely drained of all emotions. I rushed to Goodreads to mark it as finished and just knee jerk reaction gave it 5 stars because that was the only rating I had really EXPECTED to give it. But after days of discussing the book with my sister and with my BFF Kori from @_livelaughread, I realized that I was being totally unfair to myself. I couldn’t force myself to love this the way I loved ACOMAF just based on expectations. And there were too many things that just nagged and nagged and drained my emotions even more.
I hate doing this, I hate it; but, ACOWAR was a solid 3.5 star read.
I am totally that person who reads a super hyped book and then rates it 2 stars. It happened with A Court of Thorns and Roses (bleh), it happened with Empress of A Thousand Skies (don’t even get me started), and The Grisha Trilogy (didn’t even finish that). So, I was 100% prepared to not like Caraval after all the hype surrounding the book basically built it up to be the best thing since sliced bread.
And, I am happy to report that it passed my hype test!