Zenn Diagram

Zenn Diagram by Wendy Brant
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Man, I really love stand-alones because you’re less likely to get a cliffhanger of an ending, but I’m quite sad that this one is over! Eva is a math genius with a quirk – if she touches people (or certain things) she can “see” them. She gets “fractals” and can essentially learn lots about someone which has essentially caused her to stop touching people and objects unless she has to. When you can’t touch people or things, you’re going to come off to be somewhat odd – and Eva’s oddness has had her avoid guys pretty much her entire life. And then Zenn comes along.

There were a lot of interesting story arcs of this book that I wasn’t really expecting. I liked the tension and dramatic parts, but I also loved the fact that unlike many other romance books, there’s always something that causes an intense break up halfway through the novel, so you just spend hundreds of pages wanting that to happen. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen exactly like this in Zenn Diagram.

I’m surprised to look around and see lower reviews, because I sped through this and liked every minute. There is a hell of a lot of cheese, but I mean, who doesn’t like some swoony lit? I felt that it wasn’t overly predictable – some of the things that I thought were going to happen did not. I honestly thought there was going to be more drama with the best friend and her boytoy but no. It was simple and sweet with the drama in the background that’s really out of everyone’s control. I’m trying to come up with things I didn’t like, but I can truly get past them all to give this a 5 star rating. It made me squee just a little (and quite possibly yell that the ending was semi-abrupt).

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

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Mask of Shadows

Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

There is a lot of negativity going around about this book, but I genuinely liked it.

A lot of different reviewers are going on and on about how this is The Hunger Games or it’s got the same plot as 5 million other books, but I didn’t necessarily see that. Sure, there are numbers involved (but they are numbers according to entrance to become an assassin – similar to Throne of Glass) but that doesn’t mean that it is just like the number districts in The Hunger Games. There are people competing to become an assassin, but it is not at all like it was in Throne of Glass. I’ll admit that I found it pretty boring towards the beginning, but similar to Divergent, I felt that the second half of the book was much quicker and better than the first. If you eliminate a large chunk of the descriptive nature you may get a much more entertaining book.

One of the great things going for this book is that there is gender fluidity! It actually took me forever to figure out whether or not Sal was a boy or girl until I realized that they wanted to be identified by what they were wearing – you don’t really see this very often in YA books, so it is really nice to see that. Do I think they could have done more than this? Absolutely yes.

There were a few problems with the book. With as much as you see the Left Hand, I still couldn’t remember who was who. There were some over-dramatized moments, especially with Elise, that bothered the crap out of me. And Sal is the most teary eyed character I’ve ever read about in my life. It also seems like you’re going to get a lot more magic or more of these “shadows” but you just don’t — though this definitely may occur in later books! Despite the flaws though, I still liked it – and even though it may have some common characteristics of half the other fantasy YA novels, you know what, I’d still continue to read the series.

I received this ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Hazel Wood

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
To be published in January 2018
I was really excited to read this book, which is being advertised as a sort-of creepy fairy tale novel. At the beginning of the book, you’re getting the story of Alice, a teenage girl who has spent her life moving around from place to place with her mother – always seemingly running away from something that is only really described as a “curse.” The only thing she really knows is that her grandmother wrote a creepy fairy-tale storybook which seems to have all but disappeared from the earth and amassed a sort of cult following. When her mother gets kidnapped, Alice’s background comes to the forefront, and everything is not at all what it seems. Sounds really cool, right?

Well the first half of the book is surely amazing. 5 stars all around – I was enchanted and itching for more. I couldn’t wait to see what happened, and I was eager to learn more about this “Hinterland” – the location of all of the fairy-tales. Alice continues her life-adventure with Finch, a rich-boy who is one of the cult-followers of Alice’s grandmother. He’s got much more to him than meets the eye, and Alice definitely senses something about that. This isn’t a romance, so don’t get your hopes up for that. It is as it seems – a fairy tale.

The second half of the book dives more into the Hazel Wood and those of the Hinterland. I was so excited for this portion of the story, but was disappointed. Here, my rating drops more to a 3 star (hence the overall 4). I found myself getting more distracted while reading this, even though it was what I craved so much. I liked it, but I just wasn’t anxiously flipping pages like I was in the first half of the book. I could not picture what was happening quite like the first half, as everything seemed to be moving so much faster. I think that Melissa Albert could have slowed all of this down a bit and stretched it into a two part series – with only two parts, not more. This way, we could have gotten more details, more stories… and the ending wouldn’t have seemed so rushed.

The Hazel Wood is great, and it’s unlike anything that I’ve read for a while. I just wish that it was a bit more! I even would have been fine if maybe a hundred or so more pages of the Hazel Wood and the grandmother were included. Things are build up so much in the first book, but then half of the truly interesting characters.. the danger.. just go away.

I would definitely love to re-read this book to see if I pick up on anything else, and I definitely would read more of Melissa Albert’s works. I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Before I Let Go

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
To be published in January 2018
So this was a pretty quick read, but it almost pained me to continue reading. It was almost a “lost interest” or “did not finish” – but I pushed through because I was hoping there would be some sort of an ending to this mystery that made the journey less boring. Alas, I was disappointed.

Before I Let Go is the story of Corey, a girl who returns to her hometown of “Lost” after finding out that her best friend Kyra has died. Once there, Corey strives to find out how exactly Kyra died, and is met with all sorts of mystery and road blocks.

The story revolves around Kyra and her bipolar disorder and the stigmas surrounding it. The setting is pretty cool – it’s a very small ghost like town in snowy Alaska, where there are auroras and old hot springs. Half of the book revolves around “outsiders” of this town, and turns the townspeople into some sort of cult that worships the girl who they once ignored. As Corey gets to the bottom of the so called “mystery”, you have to sit through a bunch of repetitive, flowery nonsense about storytelling, being an outsider… being “Lost” – ha, cause that’s the town name… big mystery. There is a whole lot of build up – like 300 pages worth – with seemingly only like 2 characters (and one is dead). And then when you get to the climax of the story, it’s like 3 pages and doesn’t even have an end result. I was hoping that this story would go somewhere, but it really seemed like more of an attempt at flowery words, emotions, and trying to make something into a literary work of art that wasn’t.. something that just ended up being a whole bunch of words with no meaning.

If you want to read through 300 something pages of thrilling literature, you’re not going to find it in this book. I was never at the edge of my seat, and I never really got a supposed resolution. Maybe someone else can read more into the fluff and see that as art instead of the half-plot, but I just couldn’t.

I received an ARC of this from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Empire of Storms

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t even know where to start with this book.

Sarah J. Maas, you hurt my heart. Why, oh why are you such a good writer? I haven’t felt this way about a series… or a singular book… in years. You make me fall in love with each in every character. Honestly, I feel as anxious to read what happens after this as I did reading the Harry Potter books – so that’s REALLY saying something.

Assassins, Fae, Magic, Witches, Shape-Shifters. All of this and more is what you will get when you read the Throne of Glass series. But in the fifth installment you will be ripped out of your seat with excitement as the group of heroes finally meets up with each other to help rid the world of Erawan. You’ll get so many ships that it’s not even funny. You’ll be hit with one surprise after another, and then you’ll want to hit something when it ends because the last 100 pages will literally have you on the edge of your seat with the screen essentially going black.

I love Aelin and Rowan – there’s definitely more mature content in this book, which was super surprising considering that it’s a YA book, but I for one was totally for it. You get a lot of other couple pairings in this book, some of which are unexpected, but still drool-worthy. Maas writes romance parts in such a way that honestly, I don’t care who gets together — she just makes it right.

Elide comes out of this book with “BOSS” written on her forehead, because oh my goodness she develops some balls. Manon is just probably one of my favorite characters. She goes around not giving a shit, even when she gives sooo many shits. (Ha). You kinda fall for Lorcan… just a bit. And don’t get me started on Dorian. I love him. He’s just… he’s so much more interesting than Chaol ever was. And there’s just not enough of him in this series.

When I finished this earlier today, I was pretty much just reeling – in disbelief that the book was over after ONLY 700 pages – 700 quick pages. I really wish that I had read The Assassin’s Blade before this, because there are definitely characters thrown in. So now I will have to go back and read that, and then immerse myself into Tower of Dawn until more Aelin, Rowan & crew return to my life. This stupid amazing book may force me into fanfiction land again.

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Queen of Shadows

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Despite the fact that I took a month-or-more long hiatus while reading this, it was yet another absolutely fantastic addition to the Throne of Glass series. If you’re looking for a series with a bunch of kick ass female characters, look no further. Queen of Shadows just reinforces this even more. If you’re looking for characters who actually change, look no further. Talk about character evolution! Calaena Sardothien/Aelin is by no means the same character she was in the first book. Is she still amazing? Yes. If you want stagnant storytelling where you figure out the love interest in the first book and it stays the same throughout the entire series, you’re looking in the wrong place.

Okay, so it seems as if people go one of three ways with this series and the relationship stuff. They’re either pissed because it didn’t go their way, happy because it did, or just confused as fuck because Sarah J. Maas likes to do this thing where our favorite assassin has like 50 different love interests throughout the series. Honestly, I’m just rolling with the punches and am just so happy that Maas somehow writes in a way that makes me like every direction the story goes, and I’m generally surprised with certain things. Not just with the relationships, but with everything.

From now on, I’m going to stop being general and get on with the spoiler-fied, opinionated portions – so beware… The below text is full of SPOILERS.

I may be one of the few who says this, but I did NOT like Chaol with our dear assassin. I liked her with Dorian. To me, Chaol was the person who I expected, because he was meh in the background… silent and broody. Dorian had flair but you could tell there was more to him. And then shit happened. But ANYWAY, then Rowan pops up and I absolutely hate him at the start, as is expected. Then as he evolves with Aelin, you start to fall.. and fall.. and then SJM keeps throwing up the “they are BFFs and there is nothing romantic between them” barrier, but also keeps throwing up the whole “OMG, he’s so hot” notes that you just couldn’t count something out between them, and thus ship them because it’s expected. So I for one am super happy that Aelin and Rowan are going to be something. Maybe. Hopefully. Such is character evolution and great writing that makes you okay with the direction the author is taking the story! Also, I was completely thrown off by Duke Perrington being the true big bad — I realize looking back that maybe I shouldn’t have been, but I was. End story.

I am so excited to continue Aelin’s adventure. I look forward to being shocked and possibly frustrated throughout another several hundred pages.

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Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ll openly admit that I’m mad at myself for not reading this sooner, because man, was it good! I rushed through it faster than I could have imagined (all before lunchtime at work — I know, I’m shocked myself).

The story opens very quickly with a conflict – a fellow student, Martin, has found one of Simon’s secret emails with “Blue”. The problem? Simon’s gay, and so is Blue – but neither of them have told anyone. Martin decides to blackmail Simon into helping him get with his friend Abby – if he doesn’t help him, Martin will tell everyone Simon’s secret, and potentially Blue’s (pen name) as well. As Simon and his relationship with Blue blossom, everything else around the two becomes a little bit more complicated as friendships/relationships, identities, and more are threatened.

So why did I like this so much? Well, I can’t identify with the whole “coming out” ideal, but the whole “falling in love before you’ve even met” part was essentially my teenage life. Simon and Blue click so well that they are afraid to meet because it could ruin what they have created. They’ve both become so comfortable with each other and are so able to be “themselves” that the thought of that going away is just terrifying. And Simon’s also so enraptured in this online person that he’s ignoring those around him who are interested: “I’ll probably never have a boyfriend. I’m too busy trying not to be in love with someone who isn’t real.” This hit me so closely because I too was terrified of every online relationship I ever had — when they finally met me, would they like me as much as they do now? Albertalli really does a great job at making the conversations and feelings so REAL. I think that’s part of the reason I went through this so quickly — I wanted that happy ending for those of us who were just as afraid as Simon and Blue.

The formatting of alternating between the email exchanges and actual life are also very entertaining – you get to be a part of their conversations and then see the aftermath.

And the relationships with friends and family when it comes to “coming out” are very well done – we have a situation where it was done according to plan, and another where it was not. The author does a good job at addressing the love and the anger and the hate that can come out as well.

I highly recommend this book to fans of YA, coming-of-age, and LGBTQ fiction.

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