Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Crooked Kingdom
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: Six of Crows #2
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Roger Clark, Jay Snyder, Elizabeth Evans, Fred Berman, Brandon Rubin, Kevin T. Collins, Lauren Fortgang, Peter Ganim
Length: 18 hours (546 pages)
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company; Audible
Release Date: September 20, 2016
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: Shadow & Bone, heists

SYNOPSIS

Welcome to the world of the Grisha.

Kaz Brekker and his crew of deadly outcasts have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives.

Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties.

A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets – a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

MY THOUGHTS

This is easily one of my top favorite books of all time. I love the character and relationship development so much! Not sure how I loved it more on the reread, but I did.

review from November 2019: I thought Six of Crows was really good, but Crooked Kingdom was phenomenal! I love this ragtag band of misfits so much! They found themselves in impossible situation after impossible situation, but Kaz was always scheming a new plan. This book kept me on the edge of my seat. I laughed so many times throughout as the characters found humor in dire situations, and the last few chapters left me sobbing. This is a new favorite; I cannot stress how much I love this duology! Everyone needs to read this ASAP!

Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Six of Crows
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: Six of Crows #1
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Jay Snyder, Brandon Rubin, Fred Berman, Lauren Fortgang, Roger Clark, Elizabeth Evans, Tristan Morris
Length: 15 hours (465 pages)
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company; Audible
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: Shadow & Bone, heists
Content Warnings: sexual harassment, sexual assault

SYNOPSIS

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. . . .

A convict with a thirst for revenge

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager

A runaway with a privileged past

A spy known as the Wraith

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes

Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

MY THOUGHTS

This was my third time reading this book, and I love this crew more and more each time I read it. The Crows are my bbs.

This book starts off a bit slow slow as the characters, setting, and conflict are introduced, but once the story takes off I AM HOOKED! If you are struggling to get into the book, please give it about 100-150 pages before you set it aside.

The story is so clever and always keeps me guessing. I cannot recommend this duology enough.

Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Ruin and Rising
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: Shadow and Bone #3
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
Length: 11 hours
Publisher: Audible Audio; Henry Holt
Release Date: June 17, 2014
Source: Personal collection

SYNOPSIS

The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for. 

MY THOUGHTS

For a tragically mediocre series, this book is actually pretty great.

Escaping the Apparat. The Darkling and Morozova’s backstory. Dark Nikolai. Hunting the Firebird. Killing [spoiler]. Killing [SPOILER]!

I absolutely love final battle scene, but I hate the actual ending. I do not agree with some things that happened.

I must say, I really liked the audiobook narration. Lauren Fortgang’s performance gave me so many emotions and actually brought me to tears even though I don’t love this series!

Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Siege and Storm
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: Shadow and Bone #2
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
Length: 12 hours
Publisher: Audible Audio; Henry Holt
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Source: Personal collection

SYNOPSIS

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her—or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

MY THOUGHTS

This story really drags. Siege and Storm is SUCH a middle book and is definitely the weakest in the series.

Alina has the worst taste in men; she has so many suitors, yet she pines for Mal. I knew Mal sucked, but I forgot how much he sucks in this book. He wants Alina to be common, and he is jealous and insecure that she is extraordinary. Whereas every other man wants to make her a queen.

Nikolai is this book’s saving grace. He is my favorite character in this series. The final battle with the Darkling was also REALLY GOOD, but there was a lot to slog through along the way.

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: Shadow and Bone #1
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
Length: 9 hours
Publisher: Audible Audio; Henry Holt
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: Russian folklore
Content Warnings:

SYNOPSIS

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

MY THOUGHTS

I think I liked this more on my reread than I did the first time I read it, but I still think it’s just an average YA fantasy book.

I love Bardugo’s writing and world building, but there is so much I don’t love about some of the story and character choices. Alina needed to not be so obsessed with Mal because he sucks.My reread (and the show) turned me into a Darkling stan — he deserved better. His “Fine, make me your villain” line is ICONIC.

This book had so much potential, but it just doesn’t live up to it for me. This is a rare case where I think the show is better.

Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: The Dream Thieves
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle #2
Genre: Fantasy / Paranormal / Dark Academia
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 439 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: September 17, 2013
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: dark academia, light paranormal, conspiracy theories
Content Warnings: domestic violence

SYNOPSIS

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

MY THOUGHTS

I loved The Raven Boys, but I thought this suffered a bit from middle book syndrome. It took me way too long to get through because it was just not as engrossing as book 1.

The concept of dreaming objects into the real world was super cool. However, the pacing of the plot and some of the character development felt a bit off to me. I really liked Adam’s arc in this book, but I wish he had figured some things out sooner to speed things up. The whole thing with Kavinsky was weird. I have so many questions about the Gray Man and his brother!

I still love the writing style and this group of lost boys so much, and the cliffhanger ending left me so excited to see what comes next in this series.

Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: The Raven Boys
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle #1
Genre: Fantasy / Paranormal / Dark Academia
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 409 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: conspiracy theories
Content Warnings: domestic violence (abusive father), guns, death/murder

SYNOPSIS

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.

MY THOUGHTS

This is one of those series that has been on my radar for years, but I really didn’t know what to expect going into it. Turns out, it is exactly my cup of tea. This book was lyrical, spooky, and mysterious. The story had a sense of otherworldly nonreality, yet it felt grounded.

I loved all the characters so much. Blue and her family of psychics were strange in the best way. The Raven Boys were so intelligent and lost and I just wanted to give them all a big hug.

The plot involves ley lines and a search for the resting place of a Welsh king who can grant wishes. It sounds bizarre, but this book blends conspiracy theories, the paranormal, and boarding school to perfection.

This book is for those who believe the world is more than meets the eye and want to uncover its secrets. I am so curious to see where this series goes.

Review: Forever Wild by K.A. Tucker

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Forever Wild
Author: K.A. Tucker
Series: The Simple Wild #2.5
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: ebook
Length: 156 pages
Publisher: self-published
Release Date: December 1, 2020
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: The Simple Wild

SYNOPSIS

From the international bestselling author of The Simple Wild comes Forever Wild, a novella that continues the story of Calla’s journey to the Alaskan wild and a life she never imagined for herself.

The holiday season is upon Calla and Jonah, and with the mistletoe and gingerbread comes plenty of family drama. Jonah is bracing himself for two weeks with a stepfather he loathes, and while Calla is looking forward to her mother and Simon’s arrival, she dreads the continued pressure to set a date for their wedding … in Toronto.

Add in one bullheaded neighbor’s unintentional meddling and another cantankerous neighbor’s own family strife, and Christmas in Trapper’s Crossing will be anything but simple.

MY THOUGHTS

I honestly liked this more than Wild at Heart. This short and sweet holiday novella is the perfect ending to Calla and Jonah’s story. It was fun bringing their families together for Christmas and wedding planning, and while this story was mostly fluff, there was some emotional action that was different from the previous two books.

I still think The Simple Wild works better as a standalone. The will-they-won’t-they enemies to lovers tension is what made me fall in love with these characters, and I didn’t really like their relationship without that. However, with this novella it seems that Calla has finally, actually found her place in Alaska and isn’t just going along with whatever Jonah wants. If you’re a fan of this series, you might as well read this; it’s quick and enjoyable, even if it’s not totally necessary.

Review: Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Milk & Honey
Author: Rupi Kaur
Genre: Poetry
Audience: Adult
Format: Paperback
Length: 204 pages
Publisher: Andrews McMeel
Release Date: November 4, 2014
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: confessional/feminist poetry
Content Warnings: rape, abuse

SYNOPSIS

Milk and honey’ is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. About the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose. Deals with a different pain. Heals a different heartache. ‘milk and honey’ takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.

MY THOUGHTS

I wish I had read this sooner, but I know these words came into my life right when I needed them most. These poems of love and breaking and healing filled my soul and brought tears to my eyes. This collection is a love letter to women, their bodies, and the amazing things that happen when we seek love from within instead of validation from others.

Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆.5
Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Historical/Contemporary
Audience: Adult
Format: ebook
Length: 388 pages
Publisher: Atria
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: old Hollywood, celebrity gossip
Content Warnings: sexual assault/rape, domestic abuse, suicide, cancer, infidelity, manipulation, car accident, homophobia

SYNOPSIS

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life.

When she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

MY THOUGHTS

I found this book entirely engrossing from the beginning. When I wasn’t reading, this book was constantly on my mind, and I counted down the minutes until I could pick it back up. I was captivated by Evelyn’s early life during the Golden Age of Hollywood and her ruthlessness to do what it took to get was she wanted (fame and love, in that order). She was a shrewd, calculating, manipulative, horrible person, but I just loved reading her story, which made me want to look up some real life Old Hollywood tea.

The pacing slowed a bit in the middle, and I found Evelyn’s relationship with Celia to get a bit repetitive, which is why I docked half a star from my rating.

The ending really surprised me. I liked how Evelyn’s story was told in dual timeline through the lens of the interview with Monique. I would’ve liked a little bit more of Monique’s story, but I appreciated the character development we saw as a result of spending time with Evelyn.

I totally understand the hype for this book and author now. This is a story that will stick with me. It was my first Taylor Jenkins Reid book, but it will not be my last.