I received this book for free from Publisher, Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

REVIEW: scythe, by neal shustermanScythe by Neal Shusterman
Series: Arc of a Scythe #1
Published by Simon & Schuster, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Simon and Schuster on November 22nd, 2016
Genres: Action & Adventure, Death & Dying, Dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher, Simon and Schuster
Amazon // The Book Depository
Goodreads

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

THIS BOOK IS PHENOMENAL.

when i received this title in the mail – having known nothing about the story or read anything by the author – i wasn’t sure if i’d like it. i sworn off dystopian novels after reading one too many but this one sounded so interesting. so i decided to read the first page and i knew, right off the bat, i would love this novel.

i love everything about this book – the writing, the plot, the characters, everything. my love for this book came in quiet waves. i started off being really intrigued, but that soon became something more. the plot began to build (love all the twists and turns it all has – nothing i was expecting!) and soon enough i was flipping through pages and rooting for characters and screaming at situations. i also love how there was a romance in the story, but it was very slow-burn and wasn’t the main point of the storyline. it was so small that i almost thought there was no romance at all! but the chemistry builds and it becomes more obvious as the story progresses.

the main reason why i love this novel is due to its recurring themes. i find it hard to see meaning/a purpose in some dystopian novels aside from an entertaining story, but SCYTHE was different. when you’re forced to kill people as your job (or you’re learning to kill people), your humanity becomes questionable. when you live in a world where there is no pain and your life is immortal, you see how detached we can become. nothing is at risk. is that really a perfect world? it made me really think about what it means to be alive and what it means to be human. it made me question the meaning of life and death.

the one thing i will say is it was a bit hard to reaaaaaaally connect with characters at first because the book is written in an omniscient POV. the story would jump around from person to person, making it easy for me to stop reading and do something in my daily life. also because of this, i didn’t feel the need to continuously read. BUT, this is my first time reading a book with this type of writing and it didn’t bother me too much. the writing itself was beautiful and i often found myself wanting to annotate.

all in all, this book is amazing. i wasn’t expecting much from it and now it’s one of my favorite reads of 2016. not only is the story well thought out, but i also gained a lot of perspective on what it means to be alive. and that, i think, is something really special.

Rating Report
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Overall: 4.6

review-heartless, by marissa meyer

I received this book for free from Macmillan, Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

REVIEW: heartless, by marissa meyerHeartless by Marissa Meyer
Published by Feiwel & Friends on November 8th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Legends, Myths, Fables, Retelling, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 464
Format: ARC
Source: Macmillan, Publisher
Amazon // The Book Depository
Goodreads

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

HEARTLESS by marissa meyer

marissa meyer twisted together a tale that is different, and yet familiar.

i had high expectations going on HEARTLESS. marissa meyer is one of my favorite authors and ALICE IN WONDERLAND is one of my favorite stories. naturally, the mix would be amazing. but this book is nothing like THE LUNAR CHRONICLES, and this story is not your ordinary retelling. i came to love the story and its characters, but i do have some minor complaints.

before beginning, i’d recommend going over a wikipedia of what the original ALICE IN WONDERLAND story consists of. i knew a small basis – alice follows a rabbit down a hole and ends up in wonderland – but i didn’t bother with the details. i always imagined wonderland as a sort of place with a plethora of mysteries yet to be discovered. and so, i didn’t remember or care for minor characters. lemme say this again: KNOW THE ORIGIN STORY. not only will it make the book more enjoyable, but you’ll also be less confused. for the majority of the book, i was confused. but i didn’t mind so much because that’s wonderland. marissa meyer wrote the novel in a style that made me feel as if i should already know the world, but i didn’t. there were also (of course) parallels between the original tale.

the writing style was really unexpected – and i loved it. everything from the characters to the setting to plot made the whole atmosphere feel so magical and wistful. i felt like i was IN wonderland and i was watching all the events string together. it took some getting used to – i was expecting something similar to TLC – but by the end i was in love. (and also drooling. don’t read this book when you’re hungry because the DESCRIPTIONS OF FOOD OMG. the main character is a baker and i just *sighs* I WANT THE FOOD.)

what bothered me slightly about this novel was the pacing. i had a hard time getting into it (see: confusion) and when i did, there’d be chunks of chapters that were so sloooooooooow. there wasn’t much going on, and i couldn’t see where the focus was, and then BAM last hundred pages had me clutching the book like it was a missing arm. suddenly, i realize i love all the characters and the plot clicks into place. BUT i do think the climax could’ve come earlier in the book because it went from snail’s-pace to sofastsofast. although when the climax was revealed, i was an emotional wreck. marissa meyer can be SO HEARTLESS sometimes. (pun intended)

HEARTLESS was a bit of a weird read for me. there were so many aspects i loved about the book – the characters, writing, plot, etc. – but the pacing and world threw me off. however, i also feel it’s partially my fault because i had expectations of what the story might be or “should” be. like wonderland, this book is not one you can predict. there are twists and tricks and turns and flips; so sit back, relax, and enjoy the story – because i’m sure you’ll have sympathy for the so-called evil queen of hearts by the end of the journey.

Rating Report
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Overall: 3.7

there are only 46 days until the release! are you excited to pick up this novel? (you really really should)

review - how it feels to fly

I received this book for free from HarperCollins, Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

REVIEW: how it feels to fly, by kathryn holmesHow It Feels to Fly by Kathryn Holmes
Published by HarperTeen on June 14th 2016
Genres: Anxiety, Contemporary, Death & Dying, Depression & Mental Illness, Fiction, General, Girls & Women, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: HarperCollins, Publisher
Amazon // The Book Depository
Goodreads

A struggle with body dysmorphia forces one girl to decide if letting go of her insecurity also means turning her back on her dreams.

Sam has always known she’d be a professional dancer—but that was before her body betrayed her, developing unmanageable curves in all the wrong places. Lately, the girl staring back at Sam in the mirror is unrecognizable. Dieting doesn’t work, ignoring the whispers is pointless, and her overbearing mother just makes it worse.

Following a series of crippling anxiety attacks, Sam is sent to a treatment camp for teens struggling with mental and emotional obstacles. Forced to open up to complete strangers, Sam must get through the program if she wants to attend a crucial ballet intensive later in the summer. It seems hopeless until she starts confiding in a camp counselor who sparks a confidence she was sure she’d never feel again. But when she’s faced with disappointing setbacks, will Sam succumb to the insecurity that imprisons her?

This compelling story from Kathryn Holmes examines one girl’s efforts to overcome her worst enemy: herself.

how it feels to fly

it’s frightening how much i related with the main character.

HOW IT FEELS TO FLY is a book that is ME. the story follows a ballet dancer who struggles with anxiety, panic attacks, and body image issues. although i don’t have anxiety, i am a ballet dancer and i do struggle with my body image from time to time. (when you critic yourself in the mirror for hours on end every day — wearing a skin-tight leotard and tights — it’s hard not to judge.) needless to say, the main character’s thought process didn’t stray too far from my own on a day-to-day basis. her’s was just an intensified version of mine.

most “ballet books” i’ve read are a mild version of BLACK SWAN, which isn’t the slightest bit accurate in terms of dancing and feeling. this novel was the first i read that made me feel that yes, the author must’ve been a dancer herself, and yes, everything was en pointe (pun totally intended). i could imagine samantha being a girl at my studio, or a girl i could meet at a summer program, or even in some cases, myself. sam’s character arc was really refreshing because we can slowly see her getting better, and wanting to get better.

“She’s light, but grounded. She moves like water, like a reed, like the wind. She shines on stage.” (pg. 111, ARC)

since the story is set in a mental illness camp for teens, we also meet other characters who hope to pursue careers in gymnastics, football, tennis, figure skating, acting, and more. i liked this aspect because it’s also not something you would “normally” see. most people focus on academics and all these professions are very specialized. although relationships build between these characters, i didn’t feel its depth and thought it was a bit reserved.

my biggest issue with this book was the romance because it was completely UNNECESSARY and frustrating (like i-want-to-throw-this-book-across-the-room frustrating). the summary is so misleading because it makes it seem like the romance was a big deal, but it honestly wasn’t. it started off being really subtle and i wasn’t even sure if it was a ~thing~. but towards the end it was suddenly “important” and afterward, it was just left unresolved. i think the story would’ve been better if it wasn’t there. the author could’ve gone deeper into sam’s own character and self-discovery. i know the male lead helped develop her character, but it sends a message that makes me feel squeamish; like, does a person HAVE to “fall in love” in order to recover? it made me feel like you HAVE to be reliant on someone (romantically) in order to get better. it was frustrating and frankly, dumb. (also there’s a thing about the ending that bothered me just a tiiiiiny bit, although it was really realistic.) View Spoiler »

“I think you have to love something if you’re gonna make sacrifices for it.” (pg. 118, ARC)

i connected with the main character and situation really well, but i can’t be sure everyone else will. however, i do think people should read it simply because it’s so insightful on anxiety and mental illness. it shows the way athletes can mentally overwhelm themselves in addition to physically. it shows that it’s okay to ask for help and it’s okay to want to get better. i can’t say if it’s the perfect book for you, but i can say it was the (almost!) perfect book for me.

Rating Report
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Overall: 4

REVIEW: a court of mist and fury

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
REVIEW + DISCUSSION: a court of mist and fury, by sarah j maasA Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #2
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Action & Adventure, Dating & Sex, Depression & Mental Illness, Epic, Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic, Fiction, High fantasy, Love & Romance, New Adult, Retelling, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 624
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Amazon // The Book Depository
Goodreads

Feyre survived Amarantha's clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can't forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin's people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

A COURT OF MIST AND FURY

sarah j maas has proved that this is more than “just another great fantasy series.”

the ending of ACOTAR was very conclusive, so if i hadn’t had a copy of this book after finishing the first, i don’t think i would’ve picked it up. which is to say, i’m REALLY grateful for the timing i’d decided to read this series. everyone was hyping it and my expectations were already over the moon, but somehow, sarah j maas still managed to surpass them. if you thought ACOTAR was good, ACOMAF is on a whole new level.

i don’t think i’ll be able to stop saying this, but WOW this book is phenomenal. it’s kind of amazing to see how much maas has grown as an author because the plot and writing flowed SO well thought out. there were parts of TOG series where it felt as if things were decided on a whim, but it’s clear that this series is not the case. the characters go through an extensive amount of development; the plot unfolds and we go beyond the “happily ever after”; the themes are stronger than ever, and the writing itself improves so much. everything kinda clicks into place, but since it’s only the second book, i know there’ll be more connections in the finale.

“To the stars who listen – and the dreams that are answered.” (pg. 337)

i would highly HIGHLY recommend reading this series for anyone who’s a fan of high fantasy. the first book was kinda an intro to the story and situations, but ACOMAF is when things really start to happen. although if you’re uncomfortable with really intimate and sexual scenes, i’d maybe pass. (that’s my only so-called complaint? sometimes i’ll be like “okay okay skim”) but yes, absolutely phenomenal and i can’t stop talking about it. go read it if you haven’t already!

Rating Report
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Overall: 4.9

spoiler filled discussion beginning! please do not continue reading unless you’ve finished ACOTAR and ACOMAF. consider yourself warned. but seriously, DO NOT read this unless you’ve finished the book.


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review: the raven king

REVIEW: the raven king, by maggie stiefvaterThe Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle #4
Published by Scholastic on April 26th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy & Magic, Fiction, Friendship, General, Legends, Myths, Fables, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 439
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Amazon // The Book Depository
Goodreads

Nothing living is safe. Nothing dead is to be trusted.

For years, Gansey has been on a quest to find a lost king. One by one, he’s drawn others into this quest: Ronan, who steals from dreams; Adam, whose life is no longer his own; Noah, whose life is no longer a lie; and Blue, who loves Gansey… and is certain she is destined to kill him.
Now the endgame has begun. Dreams and nightmares are converging. Love and loss are inseparable. And the quest refuses to be pinned to a path.

the raven cycle

the raven king is emotional, unexpected, and more than what i’d ever dreamed it’d be.

series finales always worry me. i can’t wait to read them, but i also don’t want to read them for fear of disappointment and the knowledge that we won’t ever hear about these characters ever again. how morbid. but THE RAVEN KING is one of those rare conclusions that not only continue the story after the end, but also enhanced all the previous novels. it made all the previous books make much more sense.

i’d found the first three raven cycle books to be kinda murky and mysterious. the story follows a group of prep school boys and a psychic’s daughter to find a dead welsh king? it’s not exactly fantasy and it’s not exactly contemporary; it just is. but what am i really reading?????? all previous foreshadowing and misinterpreted references become clear. it’s like a veil is lifted and i suddenly UNDERSTAND. it’s so evident that maggie stiefvater knew how the story would play out before even starting THE RAVEN BOYS. everything just clicked together and the story was whole.

“I just want you to look at your future as a world where anything is possible.” (pg. 75, ebook)

the main thing that kept me entrapped in the series were the characters. each and every one of our characters are uniquely themselves. by the final book, you’d expect them to just be themselves but like real people, they continued to be infinitely complex and human. gansey, ronan, adam, noah, and blue are stripped apart (metaphorically) and we finally finally see them as who they are under these dire situations. it made me love them even more. a new-ish character is also introduced and I LOVE HIM. the relationships are great; the characters are great; everything is great.

“Humans were such tricky and complicated things. (pg. 371, ebook)

the most unexpected aspect of this experience (aka reading TRK) is how emotionally invested i was. if i’m being completely honest, the first three books left me feeling neutral. i enjoyed the story and cared for our characters, but that was just… it? but even from the prologue of TRK, i knew this book was going to be different. every other chapter made my hair stand on its end, made me take a moment to stop the rising tears, made me feel like my lungs were going to burst from the internal screams. it was strange and scary and exciting and refreshing, especially since i hasn’t felt this way about a book in a loooooooong time.

“When you dream, do you dream of the stars?” (pg. 288, ebook)

if you’d asked me before reading THE RAVEN KING, i’m not sure if i would recommend the series to you. not because i didn’t like it or anything, but because i felt that the strangeness might not be everyone’s cup of tea. but now? GO READ THIS SERIES. the writing is so good. the pacing is so good. the characters are so good. everything is so good. i usually try to be critical with my reviews, but there’s nothing i can say wrong about this conclusion. THE RAVEN CYCLE deserves all the hype it gets.

Rating Report
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Overall: 5