Storybound

Storybound

First Lines: (sorry I don’t have them for this one…I guess there isn’t a digital copy and I’ve already returned the book to the library.)

If there’s one trope that I will always gravitate toward, it’s books where real people and fictional characters can meet. I think, as a reader, that’s something a lot of us dream of. What would happen if we could actually meet our favorite characters? So when I stumbled upon this at the library, I really wanted to check it out and see what happened.

Edie and her mom move a lot. In the last six years, she’s lived in nine towns and started over at nine different schools. The only constant she’s had is the Kingdom of Mithres series she’s read and loved for years. So when she walks into a bookstore in her newest town, the last thing she thought she’d find was herself transported into Mithres and face to face with her book boyfriend, Kane the Traveler. Except…Mithres isn’t quite what she expected. And neither is Kane. But Edie is determined to help Kane because he doesn’t know what’s coming in his future–and she does. She has the chance to save Kane and change the story forever, but will she be able to go home after?

I felt like a lot of this was really relatable and interesting, which is always fun from a book I’ve never heard of and only has 201 ratings on Goodreads.

This story is all about Edie and her love of the Kingdoms of Mithres series. She’s been in love with the main character, Kane, since she was 11 and started reading the books. So when Edie accidentally finds herself in the world of the story after crossing a threshold in a bookstore she didn’t know was there, well, she practically falls right into Kane’s apartment. With her knowledge of the last book in the series, Edie is able to help Kane and his friends try to take down his enemy, Smythe, before Smythe ruins everything and hurts too many people.

I did like Edie in this story. She’s feisty and stubborn and clever, the way you want a heroine in a fantasy story to be. She’s also caring and she has a dark backstory that colors the way she acts sometimes, but it’s well integrated into the story. I even really liked Kane, who is different from his book persona in some subtle and some large ways. It was cool to see his perspective through the “excerpts” from his book. It just gave him more personality.

But I had some trouble with this book despite the fact that it was always easy to pick up and read. My problems partly stem from Mithres itself. We’re thrown into a fantasy world we know nothing about and frequently, the writing felt a bit lazy in the way it introduced things to us. Like, “Oh, look at that! A creature you’ve never heard of before but has shown up in all the books is now here to attack us!” There isn’t much here in the way of foreshadowing things because it always just crops up out of nowhere. Even when the characters did allude to foreshadowing after the fact (“His actions made more sense now”), I still didn’t see it. Either it was super subtle foreshadowing or it wasn’t there.

I also have an issue with how this book ends. It 100% sets up a sequel. There are more loose ends than there are tied ones. There’s no closure. I did see something about how this is planned to be a trilogy, but I’ve seen no word on when a second book may come out or anything. But still, couldn’t we have tied up a few more things before ending this book? It’s so frustrating and unsatisfying.

It’s actually a pretty easy book to get into and I did enjoy reading it, but I just had some issues with the writing style and world building.

The Glass Queen (The Forest of Good and Evil, #2)

The Glass Queen (The Forest of Good and Evil, #2)

First Lines: Once upon a time, in a magical land teeming with good and evil, a beautiful queen birthed an incredibly special daughter.

I’m a big fan of Gena Showalter and have been for a while. But even I’ll admit sometimes her books are hit and miss for me. The first book in this series was a semi-miss for me. Like, I liked it, but I didn’t really get the concept it was going for. So I was a bit hesitant with this one.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Ashleigh Anskelisa is known in her kingdom as the Glass Princess because of her famously weak heart. Walking more than a dozen steps leaves her winded and she’s often confined to her bed. But Saxon, king of the Avian, knows Ashleigh is more dangerous than she seems. An old prophecy known as The Little Cinder Girl seems to involve Ashleigh, perhaps even as the Cinder Girl herself. And if that’s true, she could spell Saxon’s downfall. Desperate to keep Ashleigh beneath his thumb and as weak as possible, Saxon comes up with a plan to get his revenge before Ashleigh can do anything to harm him. But as Saxon gets to know the Glass Princess, and as Ashleigh gets to know the man who can be surprisingly gentle despite his gruff exterior, they begin to think that maybe this story doesn’t match the prophecy…though no one ever truly escapes it…

You know, I just think I don’t get this series. As much as I love fairy tales…I don’t get these versions in this series.

This story is loosely based on Cinderella, my least favorite by far of the typical ones everyone knows. The characters know the story as “The Little Cinder Girl” and there are differences between it and Cinderella as we know it. But because of prophecies, MANY people know they are involved in the tale. The only question is how. The fairy tale is twisted and doesn’t necessarily resemble the story we know, which is nice, but sometimes it was so different I started wondering why compare this to the fairy tale in the first place? Why not just write a really good fantasy?

Ashleigh is a lovely lead. I actually adored her. Born with a weak heart, she’s been called the “Glass Princess” because it seems like just about anything could break her. A walk around the gardens can wind her so much she needs someone to carry her inside. But as she gets older, she gets stronger and finds a belief in herself and her abilities. So what if she can’t fight any enemy with her fists and strength? She’s a brilliant inventor and can fashion weapons that will do it for her. Her strength of character far outshone her actual strength and I kind of loved that.

Saxon wasn’t a bad lead either, but he paled compared to Ashleigh. Saxon is Crown Prince of the Avian and he needs to assert his power and dominance while constantly being undermined by his family, the same family that banished him as a child because of the role he was to play in the Cinder Girl story. Ashleigh undermined his power on accident a few years ago and, with the knowledge that she–in her past lives–nearly decimated the Avian race, Saxon is out for revenge. But Ashleigh is different from her past incarnations and it isn’t long before Saxon begins softening toward her.

What I didn’t like about this was the ending. Well, and some of the stuff leading up to it. I thought the beginning of the story was good, but then by the end, it’s like all the plot lines went out the window and now we’re just throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. It felt like a mess. I couldn’t follow who was doing what, who was on whose side, and just what was happening. Maybe I read it too fast. Maybe I missed something. It’s always a possibility, but I just…didn’t get it. And that kind of wrecked it for me.

I still love Gena Showalter, but I think maybe I’m done with this series.

Happy Thanksgiving!

For those of you in America, Happy Thanksgiving! For those of you around the world who don’t celebrate this holiday…Happy Thursday!

I haven’t posted much this year, and I realize that, but I’m really thankful for those of you who have stuck around and still check in on the newest posts about what I’m reading and what I thought of them. I really do appreciate all of you and I hope that all of you are having an amazing day.

I also wanted to share with you guys something else I’m very thankful for this year, especially since I haven’t mentioned it much.

For those of you who have been following me for years, you know I’ve been pretty open about my romantic life and struggles I’ve had with dating. Back in April, on a dating app, I reconnected with a guy I went to middle and high school with. We were actually pretty good friends in middle school (he even asked me out in 8th grade), but we didn’t have much in common by the time we got into high school. I hadn’t talked to him or really even thought about him in the 11 years since I last saw him. But we got talking and decided to get dinner on Sunday night and…see what happened.

The rest is history.

I truly do believe he is the love of my life. He’s The One. We’re opposites in a lot of ways (I’m far more comfortable without technology, he loves it; I love musicals and Christmas and candles and books, he tends to dislike them), but we have a lot of the same values in common, like the importance of communication, family, and our own independence. We work well together. Sure, he gets frustrated about how terrible my eating habits are sometimes and I have trouble with the fact that he loves talking about cryptocurrency and stocks when I couldn’t care less, but that’s any relationship. What makes us different also makes us stronger. He strengthens my weaknesses surrounding finances and technology and I’m able to bring the creativity and a new perspective to our debates.

We knew pretty quickly that this relationship was different. From the third date, we knew this was special. It was our first “alone” date where we weren’t in public and the connection was just so undeniable. He was a gentleman from the very beginning (he asked for my consent before even hugging me after our first date) and he’s been super sweet all the time. (For our six month anniversary, he commissioned an artist to do a drawing of me as Hermione that he then got printed on a canvas for me to hang in my house.) He’s thoughtful and funny and caring. He really is the best thing I’ve probably ever had.

I’m very excited to spend the holidays with him and our families. I’m very thankful that I have him, even if spending time with him does cut into my reading time. I still wouldn’t change anything.

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving and I’ll be back with some more posts soon!

~Holly

The Girl With the Make-Believe Husband (Rokesbys, #2)

The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband (Rokesbys, #2)

First Lines: His head hurt. Correction, his head really hurt. It was hard to tell, though, just what sort of pain it was. He might have been shot through the head with a musket ball. That seemed plausible, given his current location in New York (or was it Connecticut?) and his current occupation as a captain in His Majesty’s Army.

This is part of the prequel Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn. I was certainly intrigued by this, as the Revolutionary War is one of my specialties in history. It was interesting to think that this was going to be from a British perspective (most things I find are from the Americans), and I was looking to see what kind of hijinks the characters would get into.

Cecilia Harcourt has a tough choice to make. With her brother, Thomas, injured in the Colonies, orphaned Cecilia can either move in with an older, spinster aunt or she can marry a conniving cousin to keep her home. But Cecilia isn’t conventional and creates a third option: travel across the Atlantic to find and care for her brother. But after a week of searching and coming no closer to finding her brother, she does find her brother’s best friend, Captain Edward Rokesby. He’s injured, unconscious, and in desperate need to care. She’s determined to care for him, even if it means telling a few little lies. When Edward wakes up, he’s very confused. Sure, the injury knocked out the last six months of his memory, but shouldn’t he remember getting married? He knows who Cecilia is, and with everyone else calling her his wife, it must be true. Cecilia is risking everything for the man she has come to love, but when the truth comes out, Edward may have some surprises of his own for Mrs. Rokesby…

I really liked this. Like, more than the first book, even if the first book was wittier.

In this book, we’re introduced to Cecilia, a young woman desperate to find her brother in the Colonies during the Revolutionary War. Thomas was injured, but when she arrives, she finds out no one knows where he is. No one has seen him, and the only person who might have answers is Edward Rokesby, Thomas’s best friend–and a man who happens to be unconscious and possibly near death. Which is when Cecilia spontaneous, and falsely, claims to be Edward’s wife.

Cecilia and Edward are really sweet and interesting characters. Cecilia knows she’s in a terrible place of her own making, but she lied to help Edward (no one would let her get close to him unless she was family). And she did nurse him for days. But as her lies snowball, she knows she’s digging a deeper and deeper hole for herself. And Edward is this loyal, honorable, and sweet man who doesn’t remember marrying Cecilia–or anything of the past 3-4 months–but he’s determined to protect her and cherish her despite it all. Which makes Cecilia feel even worse, as it’s all false.

I really like that this dealt with history so much as well. I thought it was cool to see New York in the Revolution, to see the British side of things (since it’s normally so focused on the Colonists), and to see some of the hardships of their lives. It just added to the color and atmosphere of the story and I really enjoyed how many added layers it brought to the story.

The emotions in this one were real and I really appreciated that it was nuanced. This isn’t an easy love story for our main couple, but it’s worth it.

Instructions for Dancing

Instructions for Dancing

First Lines: Books don’t work their magic on me anymore. It used to be that if I was in a funk or in the barren hinterland between sad and mad, I could just pluck any random one from my favorites shelf and settle into my fuzzy pink chair for a good read.

I haven’t read as much by Nicola Yoon as I know I should have, but I do respect her as an author. But this certainly caught my eye because of dancing. I am/was a dancer and I love reading about dancing, so this was definitely high on my to-read list.

Evie Thomas no longer believes in love, not after she witnessed her family fall apart. But she definitely doesn’t believe in love anymore, not after the strange afternoon where she witnessed a couple kiss and saw how their love story began…and how it will end. No one escapes from a broken heart. As Evie tries to understand why she’s suddenly having these visions, she finds herself at the La Brea Dance studio learning waltz, fox trot, and tango with a boy simply named X. X is everything Evie is not: adventurous, passionate, easy-going. His personal philosophy is to say “yes” to anything, including entering a dance competition with a girl he’s just met. X is not what Evie wants or needs, especially with all these visions of heartbreak she’s experiencing. But as they dance and get to know each other more, Evie has to ask herself: is love worth the risk?

I don’t know what I was expecting from this book, but I was more than pleasantly surprised by it.

This book is mostly a realistic, contemporary YA romance. I say “mostly” because Evie has these visions of people’s love stories. (Admittedly, this was something that drew me to the story before I even started reading it. I liked this slightly unrealistic touch.) Otherwise, it’s a typical contemporary. Evie is a high school senior with close friends who are struggling with what life will look like after they graduate.

The characters are all very sweet in their own ways. Evie is cynical, but for good reason. X is a total sweetheart. Martin is an adorkable weirdo. Fifi is hilarious. I mean, there are a lot of minor characters who pop in and out and still manage to leave their mark on the story. I thought they were quite realistic and interesting in their own ways.

The story is mostly told in prose, but the chapters are surprisingly short. Sometimes, the chapters are just text conversations between people. Sometimes they’re lists Evie has written. This story just flew, really. I mean, after a certain point, I had a hard time putting it down. I wanted to read it all the time and see what happened next.

The themes in this, though, are really my favorite. It ended up hitting me harder than I anticipated when I started the book (given how light and funny it had been the whole time). I read Yoon’s author’s note/acknowledgement at the end and it really put the whole book into a different perspective and I appreciated that. I think this is a powerful story that really manages to pack a punch, even when you find yourself so happy because of it. Like a Pixar movie, it sneaks up on you and smacks you with the lesson when you least expect it.

This is just such a super sweet story. I really loved it.

The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart (Magic Most Foul, #2)

The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart (Magic Most Foul, #2)

First Lines:Isn’t that the man wanted for those murders in New York City?” I tried not to let my face betray the panic flooding through my body. I’d thought once we made it out of New York City and onto the train, we’d be safe.

The first book in this series is a bit special to me. Want to know why? Because it was one of the early reviews I had on this blog. Because I was in college when I read it. I read the first book in 2012, my friends. Ugh. On top of suddenly feeling old writing that, I suddenly really wonder why I continued to leave this on my to-read list so long…even if I did get around to it.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Natalie is used to being different. From spending most of her life mute to falling in love with a man in a painting–literally–she’s used to being thought of as potentially insane. But her reality is suddenly more insane than even she thought possible. Possessions of the living. Resurrections of the dead. Whispers in her dreams. Natalie thought Jonathan was the one person she could count on to get her through this, but he’s become a double agent for the dark side. And he’s playing his part so well, Natalie begins to wonder if he’s even acting…

So with this book, the time between reading the first book and the second clearly impacted my enjoyment. I didn’t connect with the characters. I didn’t connect with the plot. I actually did remember some things from the first one despite the time, but it didn’t help with the connections.

Natalie is supposed to be this brave, but shy, leader who is learning to believe in herself. But most of the time, she ends up coming off mousy and accidentally keeps stumbling into answers or problems. And Jonathon, for all the book jacket tries to build him up as a potential villain, just never comes off that way. I have no idea what the plot was trying to do with that.

Nothing about this book excited me. I thought going up against demons would be more interesting than it turned out to be. Even when there was an air of danger to a scene, it never ended up coming across as having too many stakes. I don’t know if that’s a writing issue, a 2010s writing trend, or if it was just my own interpretation. Whatever it was, I was never really hooked.

That said, the book was a pretty quick read. There are some quirky or just strange minor characters who, while usually not vitally important to the story, were enough to liven up the scene when the leads weren’t enough. The story overall may not have been the most interesting thing, but I was mildly interested in certain aspects of the story. But it really was something I should have passed on after all this time.