Review: ‘The Night Circus’

Ahhh this cover is so gorgeous! I actually picked this up due to Goodreads and so many friends on there were reading it and loving it.

 

Title: The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Series: Standalone

Rating: 2/5 stars

Summary

This book follows the story of Celia and Marco, as well as the rest of the performers at the Night Circus. The Night Circus appears in a different city every few nights and is open from dusk till dawn, closing at that exact time. There are those who try and follow the circus but Celia and Marco became involved for a different reason: they are bound together and to the ‘game’, something that one of them must win in order to end it. But, love has a different idea for the both of them and not everything goes as their ‘masters’ planned.

Likes

I thought the concept of the circus was interesting. It kind of reminded me of Caraval and Daughter of the Burning City in the carnival aspect of it. I also liked that the author separated parts of the book by describing an area that you could walk into during the circus, what you would see, and what you would think. She used ‘you’ and it really put you into the circus at the point and I enjoyed that. I wanted to feel like I was at the circus and what I was experiencing while there. That was a unique aspect aspect and it propelled you into the world a little bit more. I am one for magic and I thought that Celia’s illusions were very cool. One thing she was able to do included changing the fabric of her clothes itself and making new outfits right on the spot. Of course, some would say that’s a party trick, and while it kind of is, she was much more powerful than that. Celia was a likable character and she was extremely intelligent. That quality came out in the story in a variety of ways, including solving the big question that formulated as the plot in the book. Her partnership with Marco was also inspiring and the two of them truly risked it all to be together.

Dislikes

Here is another example of me not liking a book that was super hyped and rec’d for me. And that’s completely okay, it was just disappointing. First, I wish there was more about the actual circus. I understand that there was a side plot that was the bigger picture, but other than those little blurbs I mentioned earlier, I didn’t really get to see what was happening in the circus. I wanted to hear about the characters doing their different acts–the main characters’ acts weren’t touched on in those blurbs. The two twins in the book also had a side plot that was interesting and I wanted to hear more about their part of the circus as well. I also wasn’t attached to these characters at all. I was trying my best to breeze through the book because I just wanted to finish. It was short, so that was possible, but I didn’t feel anything like I normally do when reading. The ending definitely surprised me and I think it was executed well but it should have evoked emotion and it… didn’t. So it missed the mark on an emotional connection for me.

Recommendation

Since it is below 3 stars for me, I’m not sure I could actually recommend this book. But, I will say it is for fans of the books I mentioned above and for those who are fans of the Crown’s Game. the Game is pretty similar and I think that also threw me off.

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

 

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Review: ‘The Star-Touched Queen’

I picked up The Star-Touched Queen on a whim – I had just finished a few contemporary stories and needed something magical to read. I checked Overdrive (an app & website that is part of your local library!) for a new audiobook and saw this was available so I figured, why not give it a try!

Title: The Star-Touched Queen
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Series: Standalone – but with a companion novel, A Crown of Wishes
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

I liked this book a lot, but I’m also left very confused by it. I couldn’t tell you what exactly I liked about it or very specific details or tell you how things happened because… I’m not sure?

Now that might sound weird but it’s the only way I can think to describe it. This book was beautiful, but I was confused 90% of the time. I want to attribute that to me listening to this via audiobook rather then reading the print book. I listened to audiobooks all the time and rarely have an issue understanding or following the audio but for this story, I just couldn’t follow along. Don’t get me wrong – the narration was absolutely beautiful. I loved the narrator – she had the perfect voice. I loved being able to hear the names of people/places/things that I otherwise would’ve had a hard time pronouncing. (Maya and Amar, got it. But Gauri? I was a little lost without the audio.) The narrator switches between no accent when reading text but uses an Indian accent when the characters are speaking. I enjoyed that and it was a natural flow, nothing felt forced or overdone.

Back to the writing – it was beautifully descriptive and flowing but sometimes I became lost in all the words. I’m not sure how the characters got from Point A to Point B most of the time. I just accepted it and went along, but I was left feeling confused. I liked the beginning more then the ending – I think by the end, I just wanted to know how it ended and be done with it.

This story did remind me of Renee Ahdieh’s Wrath & The Dawn series so if you were a fan of that or looking for something similar, I would recommend this! I just would not recommend this as an audiobook. After reading other Goodreads reviews, it seems this story is really a hit or miss – you loved it and gave it 5 stars, or were like me and were left confused. It was an enjoyable read and maybe you will like it more then I did!

~Missy

Review: ‘Retribution Rails’

Erin Bowman does it again with another western novel, set in Arizona in 1887! Now you may be thinking, “I don’t like westerns” but TRUST ME for a minute and give this story a try! You might be pleasantly surprised to find you love this world, just as I did! I’m not typical a fan of “westerns” either, and I can’t say I can name more western YA books, but this is a solid, fast paced, fun gun slinging horse riding railroad chasing read!

Title: Retribution Rails
Author: Erin Bowman
Series: Vengeance Road companion
Rating: 4/5 stars

Retribution Rails takes place ten years after its companion novel, Vengeance Road. (If you want to read our review of Vengeance Road, head right on over here!) While it is not necessary to have read Vengeance Road to read and enjoy Retribution Rails, I would recommend reading that first and it definitely helps as we see some of our favorites (and not so favorites…) from Vengeance Road return.

This story was action packed right from the get go, as one would expect from a western! It follows Reece Murphy and Charlotte Vaughn and is told in dual perspectives. Reece is forcibly dragged into an infamous gang. Charlotte wants to be a journalist and is seeking freedom from her conniving uncle. Their paths cross and our story is off!

Reece was just a kid who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, he isn’t a bad guy. Charlotte wants to become a journalist who tells the truth – because the entire truth is important to her. Both of these characters grew on me and grew as people as the story progressed and that’s what I love to see in a story – character development.

Reece and Charlotte quickly cross pass with our favorites from Vengeance Road and I will admit, I squealed. A lot. It’s nice to see some familiar faces in a new story. It feels like coming home after a long journey. If you loved Vengeance Road, you will, without a doubt, love Retribution Rails!

I should mention that I listened to the majority of this story via audiobook and I would highly recommend the audio! There are two narrators, one for Reece and one for Charlotte, and for me, hearing someone speak in the western accent really helps set the mood of the novel. It is written as western speaking accents and while my New Yorker self cannot easily speak like that, I found listening to the audio quite enjoyable! (I also listened on 1.75x or 2x speed, since, like I said, my New Yorker self naturally speaks at 2x speed HA!)

As noted in the authors notes, a lot of what is said in this story is historically accurate, including when and where the railroads were build in Arizona. As with any story, it is mentioned some pieces were fabricated, but its great knowing there is historical accuracy to much of this story as well!

The ending left me wanting more, I need more answers!!! It was a fitting ending though, and I am satisfied with it.

After reading these two novels by Erin Bowman, I am very much looking forward to what she writes next and will have to go and read some of what she has written before Vengeance Road! She has proven herself as a strong writer and can’t wait to see what she puts out next!

Charlotte and Reece, I hope we meet again someday!

~Missy

Review: ‘All Rights Reserved’

“In a world where every word and gesture is copyrighted, patented or trademarked, one girl elects to remain silent rather than pay to speak, and her defiant and unexpected silence threatens to unravel the very fabric of society.”

This is the premise of All Rights Reserved, as taken from the Goodreads page. I loved the concept of paying for every word or gesture, that everything has a cost. That freedom of speech isn’t free at all. But unfortunately, this story fell short for me.

Title: All Rights Reserved
Author: Gregory Scott Katsoulis
Series: Word$
Rating: 2.5/5 stars

I really wanted to like this story. But as soon as I started reading, it immediately reminded me of both the Divergent series and the Uglies series. I liked both of those series, so ok, that wasn’t a bad thing. As I read on, there was just too much similarity to those worlds for me to really think of this one as unique. Don’t get me wrong – dystopian world isn’t trademarked (ha, irony) by those two worlds or any other dystopian YA novel – but this didn’t feel new to me, even with the concept of paying for words.

Every word or action you do has a price to it and after you turn fifteen, you will have a cuff attached to your arm and be charged for every single word or gesture – even shrugging or holding hands is something that you will be charged for. This world has found a way to copyright and trademark everything and the rights holders will be paid when you use what they own. If you run into debt, you will be put to work to pay off your debt. Oh yeah, and did I mention they can charge you for things your great-great-great ancestors did, such as illegally downloading music, movies, or other forms of media? They can and they do, which leads to most children in this world not being raised by their parents, who are taken in to pay off past debts.

For the majority of this book, I had a difficult time figuring out where this world was supposed to be set. It is said later on this is actually America and it seems maybe 30-40 years in the future. (This is just my estimate.) They live in a dome (feels like Divergent) but they know they are in a dome, which controlled weather and temperature and seasons, and that there are other domes out there. There are states, Texas as a state is specifically mentioned as being hot and somewhere you’re sent to work when you cannot pay your debt.

There are some moments that made me laugh and then actually stop and think. The concept of “liberties” where you can borrow books for FREE as long as you promise to return them seems like a myth to the main character Speth and her siblings. Freedom of speech is something we taken for granted here in America and I did appreciate that this book made me stop and realize that we are protected by the Constitution to be free to say what we want. We can speak, write, and put our thoughts out there without fear because we live in a free country – this futuristic world is not free. If I took nothing else away from this book, it was how important freedom of speech really is.

There were a lot of questions I had while reading this that were not answered. Goodreads says there will be a second book to this series but I’m doubtful it will answer my questions. Such as: How do you get a job? How much does your job pay you? You print your own food – how much do the printing supplies cost? If books are expensive because they are copyrighted, can people use the internet to read/learn or does that cost the same amount? Do they have cell phones if they have wifi? Do they have computers? Are you charged for talking over the phone/computer?

Those are just a few. I feel like this book poses problems or questions and does not answer any of them. It feels rushed. For me, this story just missed the mark of being good. I feel like if it was more fleshed out, if I were left with fewer questions at the end, I might have really enjoyed this. The ending really isn’t an ending, it feels very abrupt and I hope book 2 resolves some of this. You may enjoy this story more than I did, seeing as most of the Goodread reviews as of now are 4-5 stars – I might be in the minority here.

~Missy

Review: ‘Once and For All’

I am a huge Dessen fan and I will literally read anything she writes.

 

Title: Once and For All

Author: Sarah Dessen

Series: Standalone

Rating: 3/5 stars

Summary

This story follows Louna, whose mom is a wedding planner. Louna works for her mom in the business and is great at planning, as well as executing everything to the T. She meets Ambrose at one of the weddings and is surprised when her mom hires him to work with them for the summer, at the request of the bride’s mother. The story gets interesting when the two make a bet about living the other’s love life situation and both are challenged to date in a way they never have.

Likes

Sarah Dessen’s stories are cute. They’re romantic a lot of the time but they usually tackle the bigger picture rather than the small one. I think this did just that and showed how Louna’s love life was severely affected by the death of her boyfriend and how she failed to recover after that. Louna is a relatable character and honestly I think I’d love to work in the wedding planning business after reading this. I love to plan and organize, which Louna also does very well. She is a relatable character and I could see the two of us being great friends. Then we come to Ambrose. What kind of name is Ambrose anyway?! is what you’re thinking, right? It’s as unique as he is, I guarantee. I kind of hated him int he beginning because he acted like this pretentious asshole who only cares about himself and is also a major playboy. I know that kind of character is often attractive in novels but I am so immune at this point. Anyway, Ambrose definitely had a huge development throughout the book and that was one of my favorite parts. He has to change his attitude for the bet but I really think that he learns from this change and realizes that it is more than just about him. Louna teaches him this I feel like and also the job teaches him to be more responsible and care about others and their well-being too. The big picture in this story, for me, was to not let go of the past–remember it and realize how it affects you–but look forward to the future.

Dislikes

This wasn’t my favorite Dessen novel. I didn’t feel as attached as I did in other ones to the characters. Louna was fantastic but the supporting characters lacked luster. Her best friend in the book didn’t really hit me as someone that I would love to be friends with and she seemed like a side plot. I also didn’t feel much from the love story. I felt like they were great friends, and work partners, but the love story didn’t really hit me until the end and by then I wasn’t ready to have one thrown at me. It felt kind of rushed since it was admitted so far towards the end and I really love how Dessen’s love stories are so this made me sad!

Recommendation

I’d suggest this to other fans of Dessen, because her writing style is very much the same and it’s enjoyable. I’d also suggest to those who want a quick read because it was so much shorter than I imagined!

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

 

Review: ‘A Semi-Definitive List Of Worst Nightmares’

Krystal Sutherland is now officially an auto-buy author for me. I will read anything and everything she writes. I LOVED A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares. L-O-V-E-D IT. And nobody is talking about it! Well, I’m here to talk about it and I hope you’ll decide to give this book a chance!

Semi-Definitive List and her previous book, Our Chemical Hearts, felt so REAL to me. Contemporary YA can easily be over the top and eye roll worthy lovey dovey no-way-this-would-happen-in-real-life feeling, but both of Krystal’s books have felt realistic to me and that’s what I have loved about both of them. (So yes, I also recommend her debut book, Our Chemical Hearts.)

Title: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares
Author: Krystal Sutherland
Rating: 5/5 stars

Trigger warnings: Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, self-harm, suicide attempt, and abuse. This book deals with mental health.

(I don’t want these warnings to scare you off from reading this and if you want more information about any of the above triggers in this book, please comment below, DM on twitter (@frayedbooks) or email and I’ll let you know more!)

Esther Solar’s family is cursed by Death himself and her entire family has been doomed to suffer one great fear in their lifetime—a fear that will eventually lead each and every one of them to their graves.

Esther has created a list of everything that scares her, a Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares. She encounters an old elementary school classmate one day at the bus stop, Jonah, and he ends up stealing everything she had on her – her phone, all her cash, a Fruit Roll-Up she’d been saving, and her Semi-Definitive List. But this is the start of a rekindled friendship between the two. Jonah wants to study film and after reading her list, wants to help Esther face her fears and film each one as practice. A win-win deal for both of them.

Week after week, Esther and Jonah face one of the fears on her list – starting at the end and working backwards. In the process, their friendship also grows closer, with each of them learning about the other and their family life. Esther’s twin brother, Eugene, and her best friend Hephzibah also begin to join in, facing these fears as well. Eugene has his own great fear – of the dark. Slowly but surely, they work their way through the list, Jonah filming each fear, each fear having a different outcome. (Spoiler: facing your fear of geese will probably result in them attacking you. There’s no way around this.)

Esther truly believes in the story her grandfather told her and Eugene as a child – that he met Death and Death cursed their family. In reality, the members of her family each deal with a mental illness but they simply look at it as a curse instead of admitting something is wrong and asking for help.

It’s okay to not be okay. It’s ok to ask for help. That is something Esther and the other characters in this story need to come to terms with. It’s hard to say what happens without spoiling the story, but something major happens that makes Esther and her family all realize that things need to change before its too late. It’s okay to ask for help from your family or friends and seek professional help.

This book deals with important topics that still seem taboo even in today’s society, but mental health is real and needs to be addressed. This story also has a lot of lighthearted moments that had me laughing. In the beginning, Jonah accidentally hits a kitten with his moped but Esther’s father, previously a veterinarian, is able to save the kitten. Jonah decides to name the cat Fleayoncé.

Semi-Definitive List left me smiling at the end and also hopeful! THAT ENDING. YES. SO MUCH YES. Perfect ending to this story.

Mental health is never an easy journey, but it is just that – a journey. It’s okay to ask for help and just like Esther, you don’t have to face your fears alone.

~Missy

 

Review: ‘Duels and Deception’

Another book I received from a giveaway! I actually spotted a finished copy in my library the other day, which raised my expectations a bit more.

 

Title: Duels and Deception

Author: Cindy Anstey

Series: Standalone

Rating: 3/5 stars

 

I didn’t know what to expect from this book but it seemed like an interesting concept, with a period mystery and some romance. The story follows Lydia, the heiress to her family’s fortune, who gets kidnapped along with her law clerk. It is all set in Victorian times and it does have quite a beautiful cover that I would compare Pride and Prejudice to.

But, this was no Pride and Prejudice. It wasn’t about finding love, or not trying to find love. A lot of it was about love, in fact. Lydia chose to marry her father’s choice, who he chose before he died, and the choice didn’t seem to keen on it at first. As she is traveling, her carriage is ransacked and she is kidnapped with Robert (the law clerk). I thought that most of the story was going to focus on this, but it didn’t – more on that later. I actually liked Lydia as a character. I thought she was smart and cunning and didn’t really live up to those ideas of women not being able to take care of themselves. Actually, when she was kidnapped, she was pretty good at thinking of a way to get them out alive. I think the picture was painted very well and every chapter had a cute little blurb that was a funny synopsis of what happened in that chapter. I haven’t seen that before and I thought it was unique and add to the humor.

As I said before, I thought the bulk of the book was going to be about them being kidnapped and trying to get away. But in reality, they got away pretty quickly and that left a bulk of the book a different plot altogether in some ways. They began to receive letters asking for bribe money and the rest of the book focuses on the two main characters trying to find out who sent the letters. I thought it was an interesting investigation and I certainly enjoyed the way it progressed. I was surprised by the ending and that doesn’t often happen, so it was a cool element! I also have to say that I didn’t really like Robert. He seemed to care for Lydia very much but he just didn’t resonate with me like Lydia’s character did. I can’t exactly put my finger on why but he definitely wasn’t my Mr. Darcy.

I would recommend this book to fans of Pride and Prejudice or any other novels set in the Victorian era. It’s funny and lighthearted and a quick read as well.

Happy reading! ~ Taylor