Meet Me in Paradise by Libby Hubscher | Book Review

Book: Meet Me in Paradise
Author: Libby Hubscher
Series: Standalone
Genre: Romance
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

“Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”

Wanting a good romance book to read, I searched Goodreads for new recommendations because there was nothing I owned that I was interested in. Especially with the weather turning warmer at the time, I was craving a tropical vacation themed romance and Meet Me in Paradise seemed to fit that description perfectly.

Ever since their mom passed away, Marin has been looking after and constantly worrying about her little sister Sadie. Choosing a life of comfort over traveling the world like her sister, Marin stayed sheltered and was okay with that. But Sadie was not, so she came up with a plan: send Marin alone to the tropical island of Saba under the ruse of a sister getaway, have someone steal her passport, and demand she take risks or else she couldn’t come home. During a terrifying flight, Marin meets Lucas Tsai, the man who owns the airline and the hotel she’s going to stay at. Through her distress of being trapped on an island alone, Lucas takes it upon himself to help her get out of her comfort zone as he shows her around. And Marin has no choice; she needs to impress Sadie enough so that she would be willing to help her find her way back home.

“Everything great is on the other side of fear.”

There were specific chapters, through Sadie’s thoughts and perspective, dedicated to Marin’s past and their overall characterization. I found them to be annoying because I was forced out of the tropical paradise storyline that I was trying to invest in. But I will say that I enjoyed how these chapters slowly revealed what was going on with Sadie and who she was talking to. It was a good build up.

“She needs to see the sun turn a mountain gold. She needs to feel the sensation of having conquered something hard, and that means she’ll have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when she’s tired, even when she’s scared.”

The first fifty pages really drew me in. It was fast paced and practically got to the point of the plot straight away. There were many times where I laughed out loud, especially during Marin’s multiple clumsy moments in a short span of time. But as the story went on, I found that there was something missing, something that kept me from falling completely in love with the story and the characters. I mean Marin and Lucas’s island adventures were definitely fun to read about, and I liked their romance, but I didn’t feel completely attached like I thought I would at first. I think it came down to this book being different from what I expected.

I would say don’t pick this up if you’re just looking for a fun summer romance. Though it has some of those elements, it turned out to be a much more serious and somber story. It was about finding oneself, sisterhood, and grief, with romance being a small focal point. I mean that’s not a bad thing, but it wasn’t what I was craving, and as a result, I got through it slowly.

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We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal | Book Review

Book: We Hunt the Flame
Author: Hafsah Faizal
Series: Sands of Arawiya, #1
Genre: High Fantasy
My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

“Together, we will raise the dunes from the earth, and rain death from the sky. Together, we are capable of anything.”

I’ve had many plans to read this book over the years. Especially when I participated in a MENA region readathon. Obviously I’m sold on any middle eastern inspired fantasy books because that is my background, but I still ended up picking this up, randomly, years after I bought it.

The kingdom of Arawiya has been without magic for decades, leaving Caliphates without the means that once made them thrive. In Demenhur, where snow exists instead of sand, Zafira ventures into the dreaded Arzs in order to feed her village. But everyone knows her as the Hunter, for her accomplishments would be overlooked if she ever ceased dressing as a man. In The Sultan’s Keep, lives Nasir, the Crown Prince who must obey his father, the Sultan’s, commands as his hashashin. With a father who is growing more and more cruel, Nasir has no chance of another life. That is until his new mission sends him to Shar, an infamously dangerous island, because a certain Hunter has been sent to find an object that will bring back magic. His task? Let the Hunter find the object then kill him. Easy enough for Nasir, until he lets the piece of himself, not yet touched by darkness, overtake him.

“We hunt the flame, the light in the darkness, the good this world deserves.”

Spoilers Ahead:

I always love a good enemies-to-lovers dynamic in the fantasy books I read, but the anticipation of these characters meeting really dragged on. It took too long. I was desperate to see them interact and develop a camaraderie, but the slow burn was a lot in this case.

“If I told you my name, would you bow?” His voice was soft. A melancholy caress. He lifted his chin when understanding dawned on her face. “Or would you flee?”

I also think the story in general started out really slow. It took about 200 pages before it picked up. I was excited to start reading but the way it dragged on really put a damper on my experience with it.

I liked how a particular story from the past would be revealed in stages. We get bits of it in certain scenes until finally all of the pieces fell together and the character revealed all of the details. There were so many twists and turns and it made me face how wrong I was in terms of my understanding on the importance of certain characters (I didn’t think Altair would be as involved, and I didn’t think Deen would die).

Deens death was sad (even if I didn’t know him well yet) because it was unexpected and early. After the life he explained he longed for, his death was shocking because you realized he would never achieve his life goals. Plus the protagonist lost her best friend. At the same time, I was kind of glad he was out of the way because I wasn’t sure how it would work with him tagging along. If this was supposed to be a slow burn, enemies-to-lovers, romance with the prince, Deen would make it more complicated if he was also in love with Zafira.

The banter between Altair, Nasir, and Zafira was a hit or miss for me. I mean some interactions with Altair made me laugh, but some of it was a little cliché and didn’t really hit the mark like the author probably expected it to. Not gonna lie, I sensed some sexual tension between Altair and Nasir, so you could imagine my shock when I found out they were brothers at the end. Please tell me I wasn’t the only one!

This was a pretty solid fantasy. Nothing about it was really unique or special, but it wasn’t bad by any means. I’m definitely happy I picked it up and crossed it off my large TBR pile. I have the sequel waiting on my shelf, so hopefully I will be back in this world very soon.

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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.

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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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