Without Merit by Colleen Hoover | Book Review

Book: Without Merit
Author: Colleen Hoover
Series: Standalone
Genre: Contemporary Romance
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

“Not every mistake deserves a consequence. Sometimes the only thing it deserves is forgiveness.”

Once in a while I find myself craving a Colleen Hoover book, and when it came time to read one this time, I was drawn to Without Merit because I had owned it for years and I wanted to get it out of the way. The reason why it took me so long to read it was because I had read a lot of reviews that pretty much summed up how this was collectively the least favourite CoHo book, but I finally decided to give it a try regardless.

Merit is tired of keeping her family members’ secrets. Nobody ever communicates, so she’s left carrying the weight. And yet she’s the one who always gets blamed, who everyone is always mad at. And of course it was too good to be true when an attractive guy, named Sagan, randomly made out with her. She was left with the humiliation of him mistaking her for her twin sister. Everything is suddenly too much. While things spiral out of control, she decides it’s finally time for the secrets to come out and writes her entire family a letter.

Slight Spoilers Ahead:

Like my more recent experiences with CoHo books, I was annoyed by the writing. She writes in a very list-like way. What I mean is that she develops her scenes by saying this happened and then this happened and so on. I also found it to be repetitive. Eventually, though, I got into the story and ignored the writing style the best that I could.

Personally, I didn’t think this needed a romance. I know this is the genre she always writes in, but the family dynamic, working through everyone’s problems, and Merit’s insecurities and hatred towards her family, was enough to be compelling.

“I used to feel like I was on the top of the world. Then one day, I noticed that it felt like I was no longer on the top of the world. I was just floating around inside of it. And then eventually, it felt like the world was on top of me.”

But the more I read, the more okay I was with it. It seemed like Sagan was the only calm addition to the family, so he was a nice buffer between them all. But out of the books of hers I have read so far, this was definitely my least favourite romance.

This one stumped me in terms of figuring out the direction it was intending to go in. It was so weird and ridiculous and sad, and knowing CoHo, I was expecting it to shock me in some way. But it didn’t really shock me. It was a series of small events instead of one BIG reveal. I don’t think a few of the issues were dealt well with by the end, but maybe that was the point. It’s not the ending but the beginning of them mending their issues. It’s not a story of complete resolution but a story that drives this family to go down that path. And we are left to imagine how that will play out.

Do I agree with the reviews about this book? Yes. It is definitely at the bottom of my CoHo list. But I’m happy that I finally read it.

TW for suicide attempt.

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A Conspiracy of Stars by Olivia A. Cole | Book Review

Book: A Conspiracy of Stars
Author: Olivia A. Cole
Series: Faloiv, #1
Genre: Sci-Fi
My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Is this how humans got ourselves into this mess? By believing that we have as much right to this planet as the Faloii? Do we think we own the galaxy?

For a some time now I’ve been meaning to read more Sci-Fi books, so I’ve been slowly expanding my collection in this genre. I received A Conspiracy of Stars in a book box a while back, never having heard of it. As I read it, I decided that this was definitely an underrated book; it deserves more attention.

Humans, forced off of their original planet, only had one choice for a new home: Faloiv. This is a small planet inhabited with foreign animals and plants, as well as, the indigenous people known as the Faloii. Because of an agreement after the humans crash landed, they were able to build a small community of compounds to study the animals and plants of the planet in order to ensure their continued survival. But when teenagers are suddenly allowed to enter the labs to intern, like sixteen year old Octavia English and her classmates, they begin to discover the sketchy happenings behind the scenes. And with Octavia learning about her deep connection with the animals, an experience that no one else she knows possesses, she begins to see past the excitement of lab work, towards the dangers that are occurring due to humanity’s desire for power and control.

“Facts are not always facts. The version of the truth we know is what is shown to us.”

I found that it was very easy to follow along when I first started reading. I quickly understood what was happening, as well as, went along with the terms they used. The basic information aside, there were a lot of different species named. Obviously species of all kinds on this planet were a huge focal point in the plot and conflict and I appreciated what Cole created. What she came up with, in terms of their unique characteristics, was fascinating and creative.

Sometimes books don’t need romances and it felt like it was added just for the sake of adding it in this case. The concept alone was engaging enough for me, so I found the romance to be irrelevant. It was just too instalovey and bland. But I still liked the characters individually.

Almost everyone’s education and careers revolved around science, while other paths were almost nonexistent (which is evident in Rondo’s passion for music and how he didn’t have an outlet to pursue it). It’s scary to expect everyone to have the same interests. So many shady things were going on, and the secret keeping that was slowly being revealed gave me chills. It even created a tense family dynamic because we had parents going along with it. This was not just about humans crash landing on a new planet and building a small community, it was about how far they were willing to go to gain power. I mean, there was a corrupt leader who only worked with the people who voted for him.

I think the climax was very gripping because I cared about the stakes. I was angry along with the main characters and I was in tears reading about what the animals, and a Foloii indigenous man, went through in captivity.

Almost everything that was mentioned earlier in the book tied together by the end. The author had a clear path she wanted to go down and it showed. I just wish more facts about the previous planet were mentioned. I wanted to know what happened to cause the humans to evacuate. I don’t know if I will continue with the next book. I would definitely pick it up if I had it, but I’m not going to go out of my way to purchase it anytime soon.

Reading Vlog: https://youtu.be/IZRpQmSn4vA

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Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare | Book Review

Book: Chain of Iron
Author: Cassandra Clare
Series: The Last Hours, #2
Genre: Urban Fantasy
My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

“We are none of us perfect, and no one expects perfection. But when you have hurt people, you must allow them their anger. Otherwise it will only become another thing you have tried to take away.”

Reading Chain of Gold, the previous book, had given me everything I had imagined and dreamed of in terms of seeing characters I have adored, all grown up, with their own families. So of course I was looking forward to the sequel in order to continue this demon-slaying, drama-filled story, with these unforgettable Edwardian characters.

After Cordelia’s reputation is shattered to protect James from being accused of a crime, they hastily decide to get married. The plan is to stay married for a year and then get divorced. But as weeks go by, Cordelia realizes that this marriage will not be easy to endure because of her unrequited love, especially with James longing for Grace Blackthorn while wearing the bracelet she gave him. But other problems begin to arise. The London Enclave is hit with a new mystery: Shadowhunter murders taking place at dawn after night patrols are over, with obvious signs that no demons had a part in it. The Merry Thieves, Anna, Cordelia, and Lucie take it upon themselves to solve this mystery. But Lucie must also act to bring back Jesse from the dead, one of the many secrets that are being kept from each other, threatening their friendships and relationships.

Spoilers Ahead:

There was not a lot of action in the beginning, and by action I obviously mean demon hunting. You would think that after making this statement many times about her previous books, I would expect it. But no, I was still surprised by how domestic things were for a good chunk of the page time. The domesticity was really a result of Cordelia and James’ marriage, which happened almost right as the book began (another thing that I wasn’t expecting). The beginning was also really heavy with society and the formality of it all through balls and such, which was a reflection of it being the early nineteen hundreds. I always found it interesting how, despite Shadowhunters claiming they are very separate from mundanes, they still apply mundane expectations and lifestyles into their lives.

The overall feel of the book was intriguing. I loved the way Clare created a vivid winter imagery; I could picture it really well. Then there was the unexpected murder mystery: a very consistent plot point throughout the story. Obviously I was engaged with this concept because I was trying to find hidden clues to figure out who it was (but I guessed wrong, which makes it better because it wasn’t predictable).

There was a lot of set up for romantic couples in this. Clare masterfully crafted situations where certain characters were forced to interact, and knowing that it would lead to a potential relationship made it so much more entertaining. Of course she leaves me with a million ships. But it’s frustrating too because most of these situations were not happy ones. The whole book I was like: when is James going to take that damn bracelet off?? And when it finally happens we are left with even more angst. I love angst though. Even though miscommunication is the worst, I really want Cordelia and Matthew to have a good time on their trip, especially because poor Matthew is hurting and I want him to have the world. I am begging Clare to give him happiness in the next book.

“Love is not always a lightning bolt. Sometimes it is a creeping vine. It grows slowly until suddenly it is all that there is in the world.”

Some things I wasn’t a fan of: I was surprised that I didn’t care as much for Lucie and Jesse this time around. Going into it, I assumed that they would be one of my top favourite ships, but instead I found myself bored every time they were on the page. Another thing, Clare’s books are known for being funny. The dialogue between characters stood out to me in the past, and though there was some of that in this book, certain jokes made by the characters were a little off. I guess it just wasn’t my taste.

That ending ruined me and I expect the next book to hurt but also give me good things. I look forward to the final book in this trilogy. I can’t believe we are almost done with another Shadowhunter series.

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A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas | Book Review

Book: A Court of Silver Flames
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses, #4
Genre: High Fantasy
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

“That’s the key, isn’t it? To know the darkness will always remain, but how you choose to face it, handle it… that’s the most important part. To not let it consume. To focus upon the good, the things that fill you with wonder.”

This book felt never-ending, which was a relief considering I waited four years to read it. I thought about the way it would play out every one of those days (no that’s not an exaggeration) and finally having it in my hands was so surreal. It was a bittersweet experience because as much as I wanted to get through it, I was sad at the idea of finishing it. When you look forward to something so much, for so long, it’s difficult to imagine what to do after it is done. But I have to be honest, I wasn’t one hundred percent satisfied with the book.

Struggling through her PTSD and depression, Nesta Archeron tries to stay as isolated from her family as possible, passing through life drinking and taking strangers to bed. But when her family has had enough, she is given a choice: move to the House of Wind and train with Cassian or get dumped in the human lands. Nesta wonders if working in the library and training will truly pull her out of the dark despair she has found herself in. As she finds friendship and purpose and love, though, it gives her the strength to make that progress more reachable, more possible. But the threat of war looms again, and with it, a Queen determined to seek revenge on Nesta, who stole too much power from the Cauldron and prevented her from the life she desires.

Spoilers Ahead:

I have to say that naming a book as “the most anticipated book of my life” really set me up for disappointment. I think I would have absolutely loved this book (like 5 stars love) if my expectations weren’t so high, if I didn’t analyze every scene of them in the previous books and thought about what scenes I wanted in this one. I came up with scenarios that would happen between them, that would make sense with knowing how Maas tells stories, but realizing they wouldn’t happen was a huge let down. So finishing this book left me feeling like a lot was missing.

What I didn’t like between them: I think they started getting steamy a little too fast. I didn’t like the friends with benefits aspect of it because it lasted too long and practically the whole time they were both insecure about how the other was feeling and why they left after; a lot of miscommunication. I feel like we missed important conversations in terms of their relationship and the past events that happened between them. It was either sex or training, which is why I believe what was lacking for me was a romantic dynamic. Even the conversation about the mating bond wasn’t romantic.

Obviously I still love the Nessian ship, and have loved them since ACOMAF. Being able to actually read through their story after so much anticipation was a dream. I’m happy that they’re happy, because that is all I ever wanted for them. I just wish the execution for how they got there was a little different.

Side note (because this is important): after years of wondering what was in the box, I can’t believe I finally have the answer. But honestly, the one he gave her this time around was much better, perfect for her actually.

As much as I was focused on Nessian, the friendships Nesta made grabbed my attention just as much. I’ve been waiting for the Emerie and Nesta friendship since ACOFAS, and Gwyn was such a sweet addition. One of the best scenes, and in my opinion a pivotal moment for Nesta’s growth, was when she went out of her way to swap a book before Gwyn got in trouble, and they weren’t even close at that point. I loved how all three of them talked about romances and trained together, determined to become Valkyries. Which leads me to the last one hundred pages, where it really picked up for me: the Blood Rite scenes. The way they found each other and worked together was epic, probably my favourite section of the book actually.

“Nesta gazed at her friends. And saw pain and sorrow in their tear-streaked faces, but also the openness of letting each other see the broken places deep inside. The understanding that they would not turn away.”

Ever since I read the teaser prologue and first chapter of this book, which was included after ACOFAS, I expected them to go to the Illyrian Mountains together. I mean, as I should considering that’s what it said on the page. So I was not expecting them to instead reside in the House of Wind. But I loved the House of Wind and how it “talked” to Nesta and read romance books (not exactly sure how). It was as if Maas decided to give Nesta a house companion instead of a pet companion, and she’s always the best at creating them for her main characters (see Abraxos, Fleetfoot, and Syrinx).

There was a lot of repetition in terms of training. I mean I loved the training scenes, but it was a lot of the same thing. I expected Nesta to train her powers while also training physically. I was surprised that there wasn’t an attempt for her to master it when we saw her use it poorly with the King of Hybern in ACOWAR. But of course Maas decided to just get rid of it in the end so she didn’t even bother to try. Though, Nesta being an excellent dancer was not something I thought I needed.

The hype I felt for this book will probably never be outmatched. Just the way I thought about it every day for years is evidence of that. I look forward to reading all of the future books in this world, especially so I can see how Nessian grow as a couple.

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Legendborn by Tracy Deonn | Book Review

Book: Legendborn
Author: Tracy Deonn
Series: Legendborn, #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
My Rating: 5/5 Stars

“The most important thing you can do in this world, the most necessary thing, is to survive it. You can’t do anything for anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first.”

This is why I always push through books when I feel like putting them down. I was not immediately excited about this, but when I kept reading, I realized that this was going to be a new favourite. I loved this so much.

After an accident takes her mother’s life, Bree decides to go through with her plan to attend a program at UNC–Chapel Hill, for high schoolers, with her best friend Alice. What Bree does not expect to uncover, during this experience, is a secret society of descendants of King Arthur’s knights called the Legendborn, who fight the demons she has begun seeing. As she regains memories that were erased by powerful Merlins, she believes that perhaps the answers to what happened to her mother are not so simple, that it was not just an accident. So she recruits her new school mentor, who was a part of this society until he decided he wanted out, to help her join and gain a high enough title in order to have the right to demand answers. But first, she has to get through the trials.

“If the world is simple, certain people will never be inconvenienced, never need to adapt. I disrupt those people, and you do too.”

This was everything I didn’t know I needed. Almost every scene captured my attention. Considering this was an urban fantasy, I enjoyed the balance of contemporary and fantasy elements it was giving. Like yes we were reading about a young character embarking on her first experience in college, but it became so much more than that. What was interesting was how we found out information about the Order with Bree. For example, other characters would use terms that were not defined yet and we would both be confused.

Bree’s experiences, what she discovered, and just everything that worked and connected together, resulted in the most epic character growth. She was strong, she called people out, but she also had to carry the weight of so many heartbreaking truths. She took something that was rooted in so much tradition and history and carved a place for herself, whether they wanted her there or not. And that’s why the end reveal, despite its appalling cause, will be such a big you know what to the racists and the system they’ve built.

“From buried lives to beaten ones. From blood stolen to blood hidden. I map this terrain’s sins, the invisible, and the many, and hold them close. Because even if the pain of those sins takes my breath away, the pain feels like belonging. And ignoring it, after all I’ve just witnessed, would be a loss.”

So, I need to talk about the romance because I was all for what took place between Bree and Nick and I didn’t even care that it happened too fast because I thought it was cute.

“How does he do it? How does this boy navigate my emotions like a seasoned sailor, finding the clear skies and bringing them closer, when all I seem able to do is hold fast to the storms?”

But then, out of nowhere, I became a Sel stan and that’s when a new ship arose. Okay, hear me out, Sel becomes an unexpected ally for Bree, someone she decides to share secrets with when Nick specifically told her that he was dangerous. They form this bond, this trust, while Nick kept disappearing because he was busy. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, trying to pick up on foreshadowing for the next book, but it really does seem to be going in that direction. And I have to say, the interactions and conversations Bree and Sel had (after he realized that she wasn’t a demon) were so much more interesting that I started looking forward for more. And yes, I did freak out every time their dialogue was funny. I might be a little biased though, considering Sel became my favourite character.

I’ve realized that I enjoy books with a community, something that brings a group of people together (in this case demon hunting). Obviously, I am looking forward to the sequel to continue reading about the relationships, friendships, and Bree’s journey.

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Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia | Book Review

Book: Gods of Jade and Shadow
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Series: Standalone
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Historical Fiction
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

“She had looked up at the night sky far too often, trying to divine her future in the face of the pockmarked moon. Casiopea was a realist, but her youth also made it impossible to remain rooted to the earth every second of the day. Once in a while she sneaked a line of poetry into her heart, or memorized the name of a star.”

A coming of age narrative filled with dreaming, history, and mythology. On the surface, I expected to enjoy this; it reminded me of The City of Brass. But I had a weird experience with it instead. It started out okay, and my heart and soul were preparing to read through a new favourite book, because once they got into their quest, I got invested. But that went downhill as my desire to read plummeted. Do I have an explanation as to why this happened? No. I still can’t really tell if my lack of desire to pick up this book was due to me being in a reading slump or because the story did not continue in the way I imagined. Probably a mixture of both. Regardless, I will highlight my thoughts ahead.

When Casiopea Tun accidentally resurrects the former Supreme Lord of Xibalba, from an endless sleep put upon him by his usurper brother, she finds herself bound to him in an unexpected way. Now they must not leave each other’s sides and embark on a journey to find the missing pieces of his essence so that he can reclaim his throne and unlink Casiopea from a slow death. Despite the necessity of joining him, Casiopea has always been eager to leave her Grandfather’s house, where she has been treated poorly. And her dreams have always stretched further than the town of Uukumil, where she grew up. If they are unsuccessful, not only will she never see her dreams come to pass, but her world will turn into bloodshed and death.

“Folktales are full of such coincidences that are never coincidences at all, but the brittle games of powerful forces.”

Slight Spoilers Ahead:

I loved the dynamic that took place between Hun-Kamé and Casiopea: the way she used sarcasm and the way he replied to those remarks seriously. It was different and my anticipation for where their relationship was headed was strong. But at the same time, Hun-Kamé barely ever talked. I mean him and Casiopea had conversations, but there were times when I wondered why he had no reactions. I felt like it put a barrier between their relationship development.

I enjoyed the rivalry between Casiopea and Hun and Martin and Vucub, especially with how it played out by the end. I was not expecting Martin to play such a big role in this book.

“He was afraid, like when he’d been a small child and thought monsters lurked under his bed; only now they did, and he assisted them.”

Honestly, I was expecting more from an adult fantasy book. The events that took place throughout their journey were average at best. Nothing they went through was remotely interesting. It took me what felt like forever to get through it. Though, I did enjoy how almost every chapter began with some kind of historical fact about the places they were traveling to, the style, and the ways of life in the 1920s.

I was surprised that such a huge event took place in the last 30 pages or so. It seemed like something that needed more time to develop. The ending was satisfying in the most unsatisfying way (if that makes sense). It was bittersweet because of course she becomes the hero she claims she is not. There was no way around the dangerous fate that would await the people of her region if she decided to be selfish. I guess for me, with the books I’ve read in the past, they always find some sort of loophole, but this was the adult aspect of the book.

“One day mortals would make songs about his victory, narrating how death killed death and carved himself a magnificent new kingdom. An impossible task. A thousand years they’d sing and a thousand more.”

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A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir | Book Review

Book: A Sky Beyond the Storm
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Series: An Ember in the Ashes, #4
Genre: High Fantasy
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

“He has tried to hurt me. But I will not allow myself to be hurt. He has tried to break me. But I will not allow myself to be broken. And I will not be dictated to by a man so afraid to fight the jinn that he must criticize a woman to make himself feel bigger.”

This was the final to a series I started over five years ago; it had gripped me from the very first page all the way through to the end. Despite the long wait between books, I easily fell back into the story and the characters every time without fail. Needless to say, I am sad that it’s over.

Spoilers Ahead:

Laia of Serra and The Blood Shrike escaped the attack on Antium with fellow Scholars, Martials, and the infant Emperor. With the Karkuns and the Commandant, now named Imperious Ivictius, claiming power, there is much to do in order to secure back the Empire. But war is coming and the Nightbringer will ensure that his now liberated kin will get their revenge. And despite The Soul Catcher’s duty to Mauth and the ghosts of The Waiting Place, restored memories and an unknowable threat forces him beyond the confines of his vow.

“I will not accept death. Why should I, when there is life yet burning in my veins? I will not let the Nightbringer win so easily when it is my fury that will destroy him, and my strength that will release the Scholars from the yoke of his terror.”

Complex politics and war in fantasy books intrigue me because it is never so simple, so black and white. We know who the enemy is here, the Nightbringer, but we can also look into what motivates him and why he seeks vengeance and understand where he is coming from. The way Laia took care of him in the end is a reflection of this. Both parties were wronged, but as Laia said:

“Perhaps you and I are doomed… Doomed to always hurt. But what we do with that hurt is our choice.”

Things really wove together. I loved it when I would get to the end of a chapter and come to the realization of why the author mentioned certain things in the beginning of the chapter. For example, when Harper gives The Blood Shrike the contraception because he knows she doesn’t want kids, that same chapter ends with Livia’s death, leaving her nephew an orphan. Contradictions are a specific overall theme. I do remember something of this nature happening again in a later chapter: the introduction of an opinion or a thought that ended with an event that contradicted it.

As much as I found Laia and Elias’ perspectives interesting, and as much as I was rooting for them to find a way to be together, their romantic storyline was too repetitive. It was as if we were going in circles: they would constantly meet and separate, have intimate moments only to be divided by duty, and it resulted in no progress being made for the majority of the book. Don’t give me the same thing over and over again with the same results. It’s boring and frustrating.

The character that I looked forward to reading about the most was The Blood Shrike. I considered her to be such a badass queen. She’s definitely on my favourite characters of all-time list (Nesta and Manon included; I clearly have a type). And I am so pissed on her behalf. First of all, the good: her relationship with Harper. Honestly I was surprised that despite her busy role, she was involved in so many domestic moments and conversations that had nothing to do with the heavy plot of war and survival. But then we got the bad: I’m MAD and I’m tired of these strong women characters losing the love of their lives. And for what? I could not come up with a logical reason why Harper had to die. His death made no sense because Helen had ALREADY lost her whole family (her sister in the same book no less) yet Tahir decided she should be even more alone in the end? For what? Why is that the ending for these kinds of characters? It’s depressing, not empowering. This is not the way to go about “a strong independent woman” character. She was still strong and independent WITH Harper by her side. I don’t ever want to come across these kinds of storytelling decisions again. Because ultimately it was put there for shock value, not because it had any substance for the plot or the characters.

As I’ve stated, this book was victorious but also sorrowful. Regardless, I am so glad I decided to pick this series up all those years ago; it has been an epic journey, to say the least. I just hope that in the future Tahir’s endings will not tear me apart, but that’s probably asking for a lot.

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