Frankly in Love by David Yoon

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆1/2
Title: Frankly in Love
Author: David Yoon
Series: Frankly in Love #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Raymond J. Lee
Length: ~10 hours (432 pages)
Publisher: Listening Library
Release Date: September 10, 2019
Source: Library (Libby app)

SYNOPSIS

High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo–his term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents’ traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance–“Date Korean”–which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful–and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it’s the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy’s fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love–or himself–at all.

MY THOUGHTS

I really wanted to love this book. I highly anticipated this release because I’ve enjoyed Nicola Yoon’s books, but I should not have placed my expectations for her writing on him. I almost DNF this book, and the only reason I finished it is because my next audiobook was on hold.

My biggest issue was that it felt like two different stories were happening that did not blend together well. Some parts of this book were so great, but others not so much.

I’ll start with the good. There were important discussions about race, identity, and family that were very deep and well-written. I think this idea could have worked as a short story or essay about the Korean-American experience, because the family dynamics in this book were so insightful, but as a whole the book did not come together.

Now for the bad. THE ROMANCE. This book has “love” in the title, but the romance was just not good. This book featured several YA romance tropes (instalove, fake dating, cheating), none of them well-executed. The cheating didn’t even bother me that much because the relationship never felt real to me in the first place. In general, the interactions between Frank and other teenagers felt awkward and inauthentic.

David Yoon knows how to write about Korean-Americans, but he does not know how to write believable teenage characters. YA is not the right fit for him to tell his story. I might consider reading something from him in the future in a different genre or platform, but I will not be reading the sequel to Frankly in Love.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Renegades
Author: Marissa Meyer
Series: Renegades #1
Genre: Science Fiction
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Rebecca Soler, Dan Bittner
Length: ~17 hours (556 pages)
Publisher: Macmillan Young Listeners
Release Date: November 7, 2017
Source: Library (Libby app)
Recommended for Fans of: superheroes, antiheroes

SYNOPSIS

Secret Identities. Extraordinary Powers. She wants vengeance. He wants justice.

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies — humans with extraordinary abilities — who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone… except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice — and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.

MY THOUGHTS

SO. GOOD. I always love a good superhero story, and this one did not disappoint.

I love that the main character, Nova, is a villain and gives us a unique perspective on the Renegades. She isn’t a villain because she’s evil; she’s a villain because when she was a child the Renegades did not come. At the beginning of the story she seems like she’s an Anarchist through and through, but as we get more inside her head we see that while she believes the Anarchist cause is just, she doesn’t always agree with her fellow Anarchists that the ends justify the means. Throughout the book she struggles determine what she truly stands for and where her loyalties truly lie as both Renegades and Anarchists challenge her beliefs.

In contrast, Adrian is a born Renegade who fully supports what they stand for, but his desire to learn the truth about his mother’s death and test the limits of his power cause him to keep his own secrets from the council. He, too, comes to question whether the Renegade organization is always exercising its power appropriately, but his goal is to change it from within, not destroy it.

Nova and Adrian had such a slow burn before they finally admitted their feelings for each other. I am so curious to see how their relationship develops in book 2 and how their secrets will impact their romance. I’m rooting for them! But they might not be able to forgive each other when the truth comes out.

The ending actually blew my mind. Marissa Meyer pulled off some truly spectacular twists that I did not see coming but they made so much sense.

I also thought that the narrators did an amazing job with the audiobook, and I would highly recommend that format! This is my second time reading this book, and I only listened to the audiobook so I could reread it before I continue the series. The narration was so good I almost want to finish the series on audio, but the books waiting on my shelf will not be ignored!

Series I Finished in 2019

Recently I shared the ridiculous number of series I am “currently reading,” so this week I’m sharing the series I actually finished or caught up on last year! A lot of these series I read entirely in 2019, but others span several years. You’ll also notice I frequently used audiobooks to reread initial books before I continued the series, a practice I’m continuing in 2020!

Constellation series by Claudia Gray

Books & Dates Read:
1. Defy the Stars – Jun. 2017 (audio), May 2018, Dec. 2019 (audio)
2. Defy the Worlds – Jun. 2018
3. Defy the Fates – Dec. 2019

Overall Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Genre: Science Fiction
Audience: Young Adult

My Thoughts:
This is one of my all-time favorite series. It’s a YA, sci-fi, space adventure with a dash of romance, but it’s so much more than that. This series tells the story of unlikely allies Noemi, a human soldier for the rebel planet Genesis, and Abel, Earth’s most advanced mech. The story has so much heart and grapples with some incredibly deep and important questions about identify, humanity, war, and free will. Defy the Stars is a masterpiece. Defy the Worlds takes the story in a surprising new direction and avoids the dreaded middle-book slump. Defy the Fates provides the perfect conclusion to the trilogy. This series is so underrated, and everyone needs to go read it right now.

Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo

Books & Dates Read:
1. Six of Crows – Mar. 2018, Nov. 2019 (audio)
2. Crooked Kingdom – Nov. 2019

Overall Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult

My Thoughts:
I thought Six of Crows was really good, but Crooked Kingdom was phenomenal! It was one of my top reads of 2019, and it will remain a favorite for a long time. On a basic level, Six of Crows is about a band of criminals and misfits attempting to pull off an impossible heist. These characters are all so strong and bold, and I love them all so much! This series will keep you on the edge of your seat as you laugh, gasp, and weep your way through.

Caraval series by Stephanie Garber

Books & Dates Read:
1. Caraval – Jun. 2019
2. Legendary – Aug. 2019
3. Finale – Nov. 2019

Overall Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult

My Thoughts:
This series is about a magical traveling carnival is so enchanting and whimsical! The first book gave me a lot of Alice in Wonderland vibes, but the adventure takes a dark and dangerous turn as you’re never quite sure what is real and what is just part of the game. I love how the relationship between sisters Scarlett and Tella is central to the story. Legendary took the magic and the storyline to the next level, and Finale was a satisfying conclusion to the series.

To All the Boys… series by Jenny Han

Books & Dates Read:
1. To All the Boys I Loved Before – Aug. 2019 (audio)
2. P.S. I Still Love You – Aug. 2019 (audio)
3. Always and Forever, Lara Jean – Nov. 2019 (audio)

Overall Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Audience: Young Adult

My Thoughts:
This series was adorable. It’s been awhile since I’ve enjoyed a YA contemporary since I can’t always relate to the characters, but this series struck the perfect balance between light, fluffy, teen romance and something with a little more substance. Laura Knight Keating did an excellent job narrating the audiobooks; I highly recommend that format for this series. The characters were so developed and had me laughing and crying in my car on my commute to and from work. I’m so glad I read the whole series before the next two movies come out on Netflix! SO CUTE.

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Books & Dates Read:
1. Stalking Jack the Ripper – Sep. 2017 (audio), Sep. 2019 (audio)
2. Hunting Prince Dracula – Sep. 2019 (audio)
3. Escaping from Houdini – Sep. 2019 (audio)
4. Capturing the Devil –

Overall Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Audience: Young Adult

My Thoughts:
I really enjoyed listening to these macabre mysteries around spooky season. These dark and sometimes gory Victorian tales revolve around Audrey Rose, a lord’s daughter who aspires to learn forensic medicine and solve crimes, and Thomas Cresswell, her uncle’s brilliant and dashing assistant. Each book takes place in a new location with a new murderer. Audrey Rose could be a very frustrating narrator at times, and I really didn’t love all of the storytelling choices in the last book, but overall I enjoyed this series and would recommend it to fans of the gothic.

Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French

Books & Dates Read:
1. In the Woods – Mar. 2016
2. The Likeness – Mar. 2016
3. Faithful Place – Sep. 2016
4. Broken Harbor – Jan. 2017
5. The Secret Place – Feb. 2019
6. The Trespasser – Jun. 2019

Overall Rating: ☆☆☆☆1/2
Genre: Mystery
Audience: Adult

My Thoughts:
I love these mysteries. I think they are beautifully written and I love the heavy imagery. However, if you are not the type of reader who oohs and ahs over a well-constructed metaphor, these are not the books for you. Each book is told from the perspective of a different detective on Dublin’s Murder Squad, so they can be read as standalones. I started reading this series several years ago, and I finally caught up with The Secret Place and The Trespasser this year. I’m not sure if there are plans for more books in this series, but I certainly hope so!

Firebird series by Claudia Gray

Books & Dates Read:
1. A Thousand Pieces of You – Apr. 2019
2. Ten Thousand Skies Above You – May 2019
3. A Million Worlds with You – May 2019

Overall Rating: ☆☆☆
Genre: Science Fiction, Romance
Audience: Young Adult

My Thoughts:
I thought this series sounded perfect for me: traveling through alternate dimensions chasing your father’s killer only to fall for his doppelganger, and it’s by one of my favorite authors? Sadly, this series was a miss for me because it included the most unnecessary and eyeroll-inducing love triangle of ALL. TIME. It was always obvious who Marguerite was going to choose so the love triangle was pointless, boring, and took away from the exciting action! The first book didn’t pick up the pace until the last 100 pages or so. Books 2 and 3 were definitely better than book 1 and had some really surprising and interesting twists, but UGH THAT LOVE TRIANGLE really brought down the whole series. They have the most beautiful covers though, don’t they?

Carve the Mark duology by Veronica Roth

Books & Dates Read:
1. Carve the Mark – Aug. 2019 (audio)
2. The Fates Divide – Sep. 2019 (audio)

Overall Rating: ☆☆☆
Genre: Science Fiction
Audience: Young Adult

My Thoughts:
This series is kind of like Star Wars in that it’s about interplanetary politics and people get powers from “the current” (aka the Force). Otherwise, it’s not really like Star Wars at all. It starts off pretty slow, but has some interesting worldbuilding. I think it is a true blend of science fiction and fantasy since current gifts can’t really be explained with science. I enjoyed the enemies-to-lovers relationship between Cyra and Akos. Book 2 had some truly crazy twists that I did not see coming, but again, it was slow, and the intricacies of the politics were sometimes confusing.

What series did you finish last year? Have you read any of these?

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆1/2
Title: The Wives
Author: Tarryn Fisher
Genre: Thriller
Audience: Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Graydon House
Release Date: December 30, 2019
Source: Purchased (Book of the Month)
Triggers: miscarriage and infertility are central to the story

SYNOPSIS

Thursday’s husband, Seth, has two other wives. She’s never met them, and she doesn’t know anything about them. She agreed to this unusual arrangement because she’s so crazy about him.

But one day, she finds something. Something that tells a very different—and horrifying—story about the man she married.

MY THOUGHTS

The Wives was my December Book of the Month pick. Overall, I found it to be an underwhelming, disappointing, generic domestic thriller. This started off promising, with an unusual premise that seemed unique, but the execution fell flat for me.

I quickly realized I did not care for the main character. As an avid thriller reader, I don’t expect to like every MC, but I did not connect to her at all. I felt no sympathy when she suddenly became unhappy with the arrangement for her husband to have two other wives that she had agreed to.

About halfway through the book there was a major twist that came out of nowhere, and from that point I had no idea what was going on–not in the good, suspenseful way, but in the confusing, why-is-this-happening way.

The last few chapters left my head spinning as about a dozen different versions of “the truth” were revealed before settling on an unoriginal conclusion that left a bad taste in my mouth. What started off as a seemingly original story went down the same path that many domestic thrillers follow.

I gave this 2.5 stars instead of just 2 because despite my lack of satisfaction with the story, it was still fast-paced and gripping enough to keep me turning pages until the end.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: The Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller
Genre: Fantasy (mythology)
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Length: ~11 hours
Publisher: Harper Audio
Release Date: March 6, 2012
Source: Library (Libby app)
Recommended for Fans of: Greek mythology, Circe

SYNOPSIS

The legend begins…

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Built on the groundwork of the Iliad, Madeline Miller’s page-turning, profoundly moving, and blisteringly paced retelling of the epic Trojan War marks the launch of a dazzling career.

MY THOUGHTS

I read The Song of Achilles after reading Madeline Miller’s other mythology retelling, Circe. I liked Circe a little bit more, but this was still amazing.

The writing is beautiful, insightful, and mesmerizing. The story moves slowly, making room for Petroclus’s experiences, emotions, and developing relationship with Achilles.

Even though the book spans the saga of the Trojan War, this is not an action/war story. This is a story about desire versus destiny, identity versus duty. Relationships are central to the story, and not just the relationship between Petroclus and Achilles, but the interactions between all characters.

Madeline Miller has a way of breathing new life into old myths. She tells a story that feels true to the original mythology while grounding and humanizing heroes and gods of legends.

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Sorcery of Thorns
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 456 pages
Publisher: McElderry Books
Release Date: June 4, 2019
Source: Gift
Recommended for Fans of: Harry Potter, Gail Carson Levin books, Beauty & the Beast, Caraval

SYNOPSIS

All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

MY THOUGHTS

What’s not to love about a magical library? This is every book lover’s dream, and the library’s magic is so unique! I love how the books are “alive” and have their own personalities.

I loved all of the character development in this book, especially Elisabeth’s. She is strong-willed, compassionate, and open-minded. When she is forced to leave the security of the library–the only home she’s ever known–she must confront all kinds of new obstacles for the first time: sorcerers, demons, sexism, and prejudice, including her own. She realizes that she can’t trust everything she was taught and learns to think for herself, and watching her discover her own beliefs and values was a highlight of this book.

And Nathaniel! A brooding and tortured young sorcerer, haunted by his past and his family, who has a kind heart underneath it all. I was here for Elisabeth and Nathaniel’s slow burning and very clean romance (except for one brief scene that doesn’t get very far).

Silas was a great surprise. Cruel and cunning by nature, he is deeply protective and truly cares for Nathaniel, even though it goes against his nature.

This book was utterly magical! It is exactly the kind of book I loved growing up, the kind of book that made me fall in love with reading. It made me nostalgic for all my old favorites like Harry Potter and The Two Princesses of Bamarre. I don’t think a book has ever made me want to go back and reread a totally unrelated book so much! I highly recommend this to fantasy lovers everywhere.

From a Certain Point of View (Star Wars) by Various Authors

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: From a Certain Point of View
Authors: Various (see below)
Genre: Science-Fiction
Audience: All ages
Format: Hardcover
Length: 479 pages
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Source: Purchased
Recommended for Fans of: Star Wars

SYNOPSIS

40 Years. 40 Stories.

In honor of the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars: A New Hope, this unique anthology features Star Wars stories by bestselling authors, trendsetting artists, and treasured voices from Star Wars’ literary history. Over 40 authors have lent their unique vision to 40 “scenes,” each retelling a different moment from the original Star Wars film, but with a twist: every scene is told from the point of view of a seemingly minor character. Whether it’s the X-wing pilots who helped Luke destroy the Death Star or the stormtroopers who never did find the droids they were looking for, Star Wars: From A Certain Point of View places the classic movie in a whole new perspective celebrates the influence and legacy of the unparalleled cultural phenomenon, Star Wars.

MY THOUGHTS

These 40 stories added new perspectives to A New Hope besides the major characters. I was drawn to this collection because I love Star Wars and so many authors I love were included in this collaboration. I bought this book when it was published in 2017 and read a few stories, but I didn’t pick it back up until the end of 2019 when The Rise of Skywalker came out.

Reading From a Certain Point of View was like watching A New Hope in slow motion, zooming into the minds of different characters in the background along the way. Overall I enjoyed these new perspectives, but this book got repetitive at times when multiple stories in a row retold the same scene from different points of view. Other stories seemed kind of pointless when their inclusion did not add anything of particular significance to the original story.

Some of my favorite stories told what other well known characters were up to during the events of A New Hope (like Yoda and Lando), but I appreciated how this anthology gave voices to some blink-and-you’ll-miss-them background characters from the movie, even if they didn’t all hit the mark for me.

I enjoyed this anthology overall, but I would recommend reading it a story or two at a time instead of powering straight through the book (like I did). If you are a diehard Star Wars fan like me, you will enjoy this collection.

Featured Authors

Elizabeth Schaefer (Editor), Ben Acker, Tom Angleberger, Ben Blacker, Jeffrey Brown, Jason Fry, Christie Golden, Pierce Brown, Ashley Eckstein, Mur Lafferty, Ken Liu, Griffin McElroy, John Jackson Miller , Kelly Sue DeConnick , Nnedi Okorafor, Daniel José Older , Ian Doescher, Mallory Ortberg, Madeleine Roux, Gary D. Schmidt, Matt Fraction, Cavan Scott, Sabaa Tahir, Kieron Gillen, Glen Weldon, Chuck Wendig, Gary Whitta, Meg Cabot, Pablo Hidalgo, Adam Christopher, Rae Carson, Zoraida Córdova, Delilah S. Dawson, Paul Dini, Alexander Freed, Claudia Gray, E.K. Johnston, Paul S. Kemp, Elizabeth Wein, Beth Revis, Greg Rucka, Charles Soule, Wil Wheaton, Renée Ahdieh