The Hating Game

Image result for the hating game sally thorneTitle: The Hating Game
Author: Sally Thorne
Genre: romance; fiction; contemporary
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome. 2) A person’s undoing 3) Joshua TemplemanLucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude. Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game
Review: When you read book like this there are some things that are just straight up guaranteed —cliche or not, you read these books for the familiarity. You want a narrator who is both human and likeable, a bit of a pushover who wants to be more fierce. You want a brooding male lead who is handsome, strong, stoic. You want tension between the two. You want drama that inevitably makes the narrator grow a backbone. You want a HEA.
Well, you get ALLLLLLL of that in this Pride and Prejudice retelling. You get all of that but with an originality that is both refreshing and engaging. Lucy is perfect in that she’s flawed and charismatic. Josh is the perfect paramour all furrowed brows and strong chin. The tension is, ahem, amazing. The drama is unexpected but well written. The HEA is dreamy.
The prose and wit that Thorne embeds in this novel is fast pace and biting. It’s funny, like, laugh out loud funny, and full of heart. You root for the characters because they just fit.
I loved every minute of this book

A Court of Thorns and Roses

Image result for a court of thornsTitle: A Court of Thorns and Roses [Book I/VI]
Author: Sarah J Maas
Genre: Fantasy
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price … Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jeweled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.
Review: Recommended to me by one of my friends, this book was interesting to get into. It’s very much a fantasy book, but it reads more like a coming of age novel with a strong and stubborn female lead. This lead, Feyre (pronounced fay-ruh), is caring and wise, and as a reader, you root for her success.

​As an avid reader, I was impressed with the author’s ability to create a character like Feyre. She feels intense emotion, she doesn’t make all the right decisions, and she’s driven by instincts and the goodness in her heart. She felt so real and authentic that I couldn’t wait to keep reading. It was obvious to me that this was a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but at no point did I feel like I knew what was coming. Instead, I fell in love with Feyre and Tamlin along with the rest of the Spring Court and counted on Feyre to conquer all.

A Court of Mist and Fury

Image result for a court of mist and furyTitle: A Court of Mist and Fury [II/VI]
Author: Sarah J Maas
Genre: Fantasy; Action; Adventure; Romance
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) SPOILERS FROM BOOK 1
Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people. Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.
Review: This book has all of the things I’m looking for in a good novel — it has a great plot line, amazing subplot lines, organic and realistic characters, and the suspense factor that makes you turn the page. Now, from the reader and ACOTAR fan in me, I love this book because the main characters are so, so, so lovable and believable.  I like when I can get behind a character and fall in love with their arc. That’s exactly what has happened here. The characters you love in ACOTAR are built upon and made more complex in this second installment. The characters you meet in ACOMAF are strong and fun and interesting. Maas has a gift for character development and shows that most clearly through Feyre’s development. Plus. Yummy Rhysand, amiright?

The Persephone and Hades subtext was not lost on me. I loved that so much. Maas is great at turning what I loved about ACOTAR on its head. Feyre is still Feyre, but she’s seeing through new eyes and without the constant fear of dying at Amarantha’s hand, she can begin to see clearly.

I cannot wait for book 3.

A Court of Wings & Ruin

Image result for a court of wings and ruinTitle: A Court of Wings and Ruin [III/VI]
Author: Sarah J Maas
Genre: Fantasy; Romance; Adventure; War
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit—and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well. As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords—and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

Review
: As with ACOTAR and ACOMAF, Maas clearly understands the written word. She has brought us back into this Prythian universe, into the heart of the battle, and all the while we know exactly what we’re in for, because we know Feyre. A character as complex and daring as any heroine I’ve ever seen, Feyre can handle everything thrown at her, without the savior that most female heroines are bent on having in books elsewhere. She’s flanked by powerful characters on all sides. The depth of the relationships all intensify and become much more realistic in this third installment of the series. The Feyre and Rhysand relationship intensifies in the most delightful way. He’s everything I look for in a male lead. He’s tender, loving, and trusting. He’s strong and selfless, and at times, you want to knock him upside the head because he’s being too selfless. All that being said, I quite enjoyed the diversity of the minor characters in this one, more so than the others.  The yummy Helion, the sweet Tarquin, and Mor! OMG Mor….All that’s to say that I can’t wait for Book 4 in the ACOTAR series.

The Brief & Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Image result for oscar waoTitle: The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Author: Junot Diaz
Genre: fiction; contemporary; magical realism
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fukœ-the curse that has haunted the Oscar’s family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim. Diaz immerses us in the tumultuous life of Oscar and the history of the family at large, rendering with genuine warmth and dazzling energy, humor, and insight the Dominican-American experience, and, ultimately, the endless human capacity to persevere in the face of heartbreak and loss. A true literary triumph, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao confirms Junot Diaz as one of the best and most exciting voices of our time.
Review: When I picked this book up originally, I thought I was going to love it — outcast nerd who likes weird things and wants to be a famous writer someday — but I couldn’t really get all the way into it. I liked that it was told through another perspective, and I love the cultural dissonance between the two characters, but for some reason, when I finished the book, I wasn’t inspired. Yunior’s storyline is bittersweet — he can’t figure out what he wants and with this engrained idea of who he has to be and how he has to act, he doesn’t really grow up until the end. Oscar is the complete opposite of that. He realizes that he can only be who he is, even if it “sucks” because it’s “all he has.” I wouldn’t consider Oscar to be “wondrous” but I do like his “I’d die for love” attitudes.

​Overall, I enjoyed it. Just not as much as everyone said I would.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Image result for fried green tomatoes bookTitle: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe
Author: Fannie Flagg
Genre:  fiction, historical fiction, LGBT, feminism
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) It’s first the story of two women in the 1980s, of gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women — of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth, who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern kind of Cafe Wobegon offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder.
Review: If you’ve seen Fried Green Tomatoes and liked it, you’ll love the book a thousand times more. The book answers all of those ambiguities from the movie and sheds more light on all of the characters. Ruth and Idgie’s relationship is pure and beautiful and clearly defined. Ninny as a storyteller is wonderful and Evelyn is much more defined.

If you haven’t seen the movie, this book is told from multiple perspectives in multiple eras. Depression Era south, 1980’s Birmingham. It’s got everything you’d expect a historical fiction novel to have — a busybody with her own news column, family, love, loyalty, action, and humor. When you read this, you’ll fall in love with Flagg’s characters — from Smokey Lonesome, the hobo who tramps around the country on the rails, to Idgie Threadgoode, feminist icon who defies gender roles in a time where women were meek and obedient.

The only thing that stopped me from giving this a 5/5 is how Flagg wrapped up a few of my favorite characters. The writing style is unique — each voice is distinct, and no one gets left behind.

One Dark Throne

Image result for one dark throneTitle: One Dark Throne [II/IV]
Author: Kendare Blake
Genre: Fantasy; Young Adult
Synopsis​: (from Goodreads) With the unforgettable events of the Quickening behind them and the Ascension Year underway, all bets are off. Katharine, once the weak and feeble sister, is stronger than ever before. Arsinoe, after discovering the truth about her powers, must figure out how to make her secret talent work in her favor without anyone finding out. And Mirabella, once thought to be the strongest sister of all and the certain Queen Crowned, faces attacks like never before—ones that put those around her in danger she can’t seem to prevent.
Review: I have been waiting for this book since I read Three Dark Crowns and literally couldn’t put it down all day. It was exactly like stepping back into the world that Blake has created. Fennbirn was just as I remembered it, but the queens were not. Katharine was haunting and I’m still not super sure what happened to her down in that pit, even after finishing the novel. Mirabella was different too. Arsinoe, since she found out who she was supposed to be, was much more clear. Jules as a character was very different too. Overall I really enjoyed this read but some of the character developments felt forced, much more so than in the first book. The last page is interesting. I’m looking forward to whatever Kendare Blake has in store for us next.

Edit: As I kept thinking about this book, I had to drop my Goodreads rating. I would definitely still recommend it, but the characters I liked most changed in ways that felt completely outside of their character arcs and as I continue to think on it, it’s still bothering me.

*Special thanks to the publisher for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Beloved

Image result for belovedTitle: Beloved
Author: Toni Morrison
Genre: Fiction; Classics; Magical Realism; African American Culture
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Her new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.
Review: I admire Toni Morrison’s writing as much as I admire any writing out there. She is able to create complex characters with ease… characters you come to care deeply about. Sethe is as complex as they come, and after a while, you begin to understand the decisions she makes, even if you could never understand or fathom the horrors she’s lived through. There’s a lot to this story — hauntings, magical realism, love, tragedy, horror. The plot moves swiftly in three sections of a narrative, each more intense than the last. The intensity of the story, the intensity of the trauma, that’s what makes the story so beautiful and difficult to read.

Toni Morrison, like Sandra Cisneros, holds a special place in my heart as a reader and would-be writer. If I could do just an ounce of what they do in their writing, I would feel accomplished.

Shadow & Bone

Image result for shadow and boneTitle: Shadow and Bone
Author:  Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Fantasy; Action; Magic; Romance;
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee. Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. … With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.
Review: Full disclosure. I picked this up, read 45 pages, and then put it down for NINE MONTHS. I bought it on Black Friday and didn’t pick it up again until July. I wasn’t pulled in to read it all in one sitting like I normally am with books but when I picked it back up again, just….

Wow. This book is full of amazing things. It’s got the action and fantasy elements I was looking for but it was also grounded and real. Alina felt like a fully developed character — one who makes mistakes, makes bad decisions. She didn’t immediately have all the right answers and she didn’t get saved over and over again by things or people planted by the author. It wasn’t a romance book masquerading as a fantasy novel. There was romance though. It fit the storyline for sure, but the book isn’t revolved around the love story, instead, it’s about Alina and her journey. Can’t wait to read book two.

Caraval

Image result for caravalTitle: Caraval
Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: Fantasy; Magic; Romance
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Remember, it’s only a game… Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation to Caraval finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner. Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.
ReviewThis book was recommended to me by a friend. We’d read The Night Circus together and she’d heard this was the next best thing. I LOVED Caraval. The magic and twists and suspense was out of this world. I can’t wait to see where the story goes from here. My favorite part of this book was how Garber wrote her characters. As a reader, you can’t trust anything Scarlett thinks and feels and the writing style adds so much to that. Everything, even the ending (OMG!) is written with a dramatic flair. From character development to setting the scene, this book is a sheer delight.