Try A Chapter Tag

My TBR has been overwhelming me lately. I didn’t physically read anything while in school, but I was still ordering books so I’ve been trying to catch up this summer. The problem is that I don’t read fast enough, and there are books I want to pre-order that I’m more interested in. So I thought I’d try reading the first chapter of some books I’m not sure I’m interested anymore. I wasn’t tagged by anyone. I just need to get this TBR pile down so it stops causing me stress.

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Catching Stars by Cayla Keenan

Verdict: Donate

Initial thoughts: I got this in an Owlcrate box last year, so I figured I might as well give it a shot. Well, I didn’t even manage to finish the first chapter (the prologue). The writing is not for me. It’s very initially info-dumpy (so much so that I was confused after the first paragraph). It’s also super repetitive (and I only read 4 pages).

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Damsel by Elana K. Arnold

Verdict: Donate

Initial thoughts: The writing is clearly going for a very fairy tale-esq feel, but it’s not doing a very god job at actually accomplishing that. I also haven’t heard anything but bad things about it since buying it last year (including the many content warnings it comes with).

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To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Verdict: Keep

Initial thoughts: The first chapter was very info-dumpy, but I’m still interested in this one.

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Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer

Verdict: Keep

Initial thoughts: I’m always up for morally grey characters, and this one is super interesting so far.

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Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer

Verdict: Donate

Initial thoughts: I got this in a Beacon Book Box, and while there’s nothing explicitly worng with it, it just didn’t grab me/ intrigue me.

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Sherwood by Meagan Spooner

Verdict: Keep

Initial thoughts: I wasn’t sure I’d like this one, but that prologue was so interesting that I need to know what happens next.

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Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Verdict: Donate

Initial thoughts: Again, there’s nothing I concretely didn’t like about it. It just didn’t grip me.

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Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith

Verdict: Donate

Initial thoughts: I was really excited for this one earlier this year, but the first chapter (and a little bit of the second chapter) are telling me this one might not be for me.

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The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan

Verdict: Keep

Initial thoughts: I really liked the voice in this one.

The Devouring Gray Book Review

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Number of pages:  368

Rating (out of five stars): 5

When I first finished this book, I decided it wasn’t a full 5 star read, but that it was really close to one. However, I haven’t been able to get this book out of my head since, and considering the only issue I had with it is one I’ve been having with every book I’ve read since May, I’m going to blame it on depression and call it a day (you may have noticed I’ve been saying this in most of reviews lately).

Firstly, I need to make in known I’m offended that this book has not gotten more love. Like I know there were a lot of other hyped books that came out on the same day as The Devouring Gray, but way more people need to read this.

This book is so atmospheric. I think it would make the perfect fall/Halloween read because it’s so magically creepy. The creepy alternate world monster, looming forest, cult, resurrected cat, and more will do that I guess. There’s also the added bonus that this book is gorgeously designed to perfectly fit the words inside.

Back on the resurrected cat, content warning for gruesome animal death. The cat comes back to life, but it’s a bit sickening to read the descriptions of it’s broken body, and that’s compared to the gruesome human deaths in this book.

I could not stop thinking about this book while reading, and I still can’t stop thinking about it. It’s one of those quietly addicting books and I love those. You know the ones that worm their way into your heads and stick around. The Devouring Gray was one of those books for me.

It also had my heart racing the whole time. The atmosphere and the fact that the characters don’t really know what’s happening/ what to do and are trying to figure it out made for the perfect suspenseful read.

I loved all the characters. Violet, Harper, Isaac, Justin, and May are my new babies and I will protect them at all costs. I’m especially a fan of Violet and Isaac, but that doesn’t mean I liked the others any less. (Someone explain to me why everyone hates Justin) They all have their issue to work through, but the main thing is that they care about their town (and each other). I have a feeling Christine Lynn Herman is going to put them through more pain in the sequel, and I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet.

I loved the messy relationship dynamics in this. It’s not even just romantic relationships that are messy. The-who-should-I-trust/be-friends-with dynamics are equally messy and complex. I would also like it known that I probably ship Violet and Justin’s moms the hardest out of all the potential relationships.

Overall, I loved The Devouring Gray, earning it 5 out of 5 stars

We Hunt the Flame Book Review

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Number of pages:  480

Rating (out of five stars): 4.25

This book is the first physical book I’ve read since October, so yay for that. It also happens to be a magical book that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Time flew by whenever I picked up We Hunt the Flame. I would sit down to read and then look up 2 hours later having felt like only 5 minutes had past. I was hooked and it was magical.

I think the characters were really well done. They felt very human and flawed and I feel like equal attention was paid to all the characters. I especially liked seeing the dynamics that developed between the members of the Zumra.

The only issue I had with the characters was that I liked, but didn’t absolutely love them. I think this is a me (and my depression) issue because I’ve been feeling like this with every book I’ve read in the past couple months. I also got really upset when certain things happened, so I really think it’s a me issue.

One thing that I has to do with the characters that I absolutely loved (and am about to nerd out about) was how Hafsah Faizal wrote the perspectives of Zafira and Nasir. I’m not sure how well I’m going to be able to explain this (so bear with me), but their chapters were written in such a way that you got to see their similarities and differences perfectly. This is in everything from the first lines of their chapters to finding out their names both mean victorious to other moments that I can’t really share. I remember there was one point where it was super obvious and I just started geeking out about it at like 12 am. It’s times like these when I remember why I’m an English major.

This is an ancient Arabia inspired fantasy book, so it does contain Arabic. As a person who doesn’t speak Arabic, I think everything was well defined in-text or you could figure it out within the context of the text. However, if you’re nervous about not being able to figure it out, the author has put a glossary and pronunciation guide up on her website.

The one tiny (and non-mental health related) gripe I do have is that the dialogue felt awkward at times. There were a bunch of sentences that I read over 4 times and still could not convince myself a real person would say what that character had said. It took me out of the story.

Overall, I really enjoyed We Hunt the Flame and I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel, earning it 4.25 stars out of 5.

Books I Want More Merch For

I love Six of Crows as much as the next person, but there are so many books I feel need more love in the merch department. This isn’t to say merch for these series/ books/ authors doesn’t exist. It just means that as far as I’ve found there isn’t much of it.

Roshani Chokshi Books

the gilded wolvesA Crown of Wishes

The fact that there isn’t more merch for her books is a crime against humanity. There are so many gorgeous and hilarious quotes to choose from and so many gorgeous descriptions that could be illustrated. I am not talented enough to create any of it, which is why I wish someone else would.

Kiersten White Books

Kiersten White has so many books and practically the only things you can find have that one quote from The Chaos of Stars. She’s one of my all-time favourite authors and I desperately want to see more stuff that has to do with her books.

Sandhya Menon Books

I would love some art prints that were all pastel with quotes and stuff from her books (again, not talented enough to actually do it myself). Her books are what convinced me I didn’t have to avoid contemporary books because I was clearly reading the wrong ones.

Sky in the Deep

Sky in the Deep

All the merch I see for this one just says “Breathe Fire”, which is the translation of what the characters actually say. That’s great and everything and I’m glad this surprise of a book got some love, but there are so many other good quotes from it to pick from that show they’re from something.

The Shadow Game Series

Ace of ShadesKing of Fools

Maybe I’m biased after being on the street team, but I want all the art for this series. Book 1 might not have been a perfect read for me, but book 2 more than made up for it and I want it to get so much more love.

The Devouring Gray

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I finished this one recently (review to come when I figure out my life), but imagine all the creepy, spooky art that could come out of this book. I don’t know if there already is merch out there for it, but even if there is there needs to be more. I have so many ideas (and one thing I’m going to attempt despite my better judgement (for me, not to sell)) and there have to be more talented humans that feel the same.

The Young Elites Series

The Young Elites

I remember searching Redbubble for merch for this series years ago and finding one (stunning) art piece of a White Wolf and it deserves so much more love than that. There are so many pretty quotes to choose from.

 

What are some books/ series you want to see more merch for?

Dear Evan Hansen DNF Review

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Number of pages: 368

Rating (out of five stars): 0 (technically 1 star on Goodreads)

I love the musical Dear Evan Hansen, so it made sense that I would read the novelization. Waving through a Window is a song I feel in my soul. So, that it is my first DNF in years comes has a huge surprise. That I’m also reviewing a book I stopped reading at 114 pages should pretty much tell all you need to know, but let’s get into this.

One of the main reasons I DNFed this was how gross reading it made me feel. There were multiple jokes made about Connor potentially being a school shooter and how much of a freak he was. Like most of the jokes are made by a guy Evan calls a dick, but Evan isn’t much better. Evan makes a similar comment about Connor being the person most likely to be a school shooter later on. It was so gross, especially considering Evan went on an out of place rant about school shootings before we even met Connor.

Evan also is about a step away from stalking Zoe. I got the impression from the songs that he just sort of noticed her and had a crush on her, but the way it’s presented in the book was disturbing and uncomfortable to read about.

There were other gross jokes made, but I think that mostly comes down to the fact that this is clearly written by an adult who has no idea how teenagers talk. I have a teenage brother who makes jokes he shouldn’t all the time, but it’s just to get a rise out of me. It isn’t presented as him actually trying to be funny, and he wouldn’t say 90% of what these characters say even to make me upset.

There was a girl at my high school who died when I was in grade 9 (I didn’t know her), so I know how people react when someone they go to school with passes away, and it certainly isn’t how it’s presented in the book. There is a valid argument to be made about social media here, but it doesn’t accomplish it even as well as the musical does (based on the songs included in the soundtrack). People wore plaid in her memory the next day at school, and there were condolences directed to the family and friends, but no one posted about her like the kids in this book post about Connor. No one who didn’t know her posted about how much they would miss her. People were respectful.

Evan is also just his anxiety. He doesn’t have hobbies or interest; all he has are anxiety spirals. Like people with social anxiety just have trouble interreacting with people. It doesn’t mean we’re devoid of personality and goals. There were parts of Evan’s anxiety I related to, but at the point I stopped reading, relating to those things just made me feel gross about myself because of how gross of a character Evan was. And it was normal anxiety stuff I was relating to like having anxiety spirals and having trouble eating in the cafeteria.

The addition of Connors POV was weird. It made Evan (our supposed hero who rights his wrongs in the end) look even worse, it didn’t do a great job on representing his mental health struggles, and it felt out of place. I know Connor’s ghost (or rather Evan’s imaginary Connor) is a part of the musical, but this wasn’t the way to do it.

I only got to the part where For Forever is referenced, but the inclusion of the lyrics was not well done. It felt like the book wanted to just stick the song lyrics on a page in the middle of the book but couldn’t, so it did… that? (That being awkwardly shoving exact lyrics into internal monologue and conversation). It didn’t work, and it wasn’t necessary.

Overall, I still like some of the songs from the musical, but oh boy can I not support this, earning Dear Evan Hansen a DNF.

Slayer ARC Review

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Number of pages:  404

Rating (out of five stars): 4.75

Release Date: January 8th, 2019

*Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing a copy in exchange for a review. My opinions are honest and my own.

Kiersten White is one of my favourite authors, so you can imagine how ecstatic I was to get approved for an ARC of one of her books on Netgalley. You can also imagine how much shame I feel for taking so long to review it.

I’ve only watched 4 ½ episodes of Buffy, so I didn’t have this big attachment to the show going in. I’ve seen fans of the show go either way on this one, so if you’re a major fan I highly recommend reading some reviews from reviewers you trust who are also fans of the show.

Because I had no previous attachment to the show, it took me until 18% of the way through to really get invested in the story. There were a lot of “I should recognize this name but don’t” moments, but it didn’t end up mattering that much once the story got going because I was hooked after that. You don’t actually need to have seen any episodes of Buffy to read Slayer.

The characters were all really complex. I know this because I spent half the book wanting to stab them, and half the book sympathizing with them (not all at the same time of course). In particular, I both hated and loved Artemis depending on what was happening.

I did really love Nina, though. She made some… interesting choices, sure, but based on my Goodreads updates I just wanted to protect her and give her a hug.

I remember the action scenes being great. And by I remember, I mean I have a note from right after I finished Slayer (in January) that says exactly that and nothing else. I can remember what happened in them, but I can’t for the life of me remember what made them so great. I guess you’ll have to read the book for yourself to find out.

The same goes for my last point, which just says “Oh my god that ending”. Apparently the ending was really something because not only does my Goodreads review read “Holy !!!!” (at least before I post this one there), but I also have a couple updates for the end of the book that show how blown away I was. Let this be a lesson to you to not wait too long to write your reviews.

Overall, I really loved Slayer, earning it 4.75 stars out of 5.

Imagine Us Happy ARC Review

imagine us happy

Number of pages:  384

Rating (out of five stars): 4

Release Date: October 23rd, 2018

*Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing a copy in exchange for a review. My opinions are honest and my own.

I would like to apologize to Harlequin Teen for taking so long to read this, because yikes am I ever late to reviewing this. I’m still catching up on stuff from August 2018 on my blog. I’m sorry for being a disaster.

Sometimes I forget why I love reading books with mental health rep and then I read them and remember exactly why I love them. They always feel like home. I get to see myself in a book and it feels amazing (#representationmatters). Imagine Us Happy was no exception.

The book follows Stella (who has depression and is taking medication and seeing a therapist for it) and Kevin (who also has depression and is seeing a therapist, but I forget if he’s on medication) and their relationship. It’s told from Stella’s point of view, but we still get to see both of their struggles with the illness that also controls my life. I loved getting see how depression affects them both similarly and differently. Normally with mental health YA you only get one mentally ill character and a neurotypical love interest, so it was really nice to get to see how depression affects two different people. Content warning for self-harm (discussion of scars, relapse)

There were also so many thing Stella does that I do. Struggling to get out of bed in the morning until the last second, getting angry as defense mechanism, and other things I’m blanking on. Not all of those necessarily have to do with depression. It was just nice to be able to see myself in these characters.

Going off that, the characters were well done. They all felt really complex and human, which is always nice to see. Kevin and Stella weren’t just their depression. They had interest, passions, goals. A lot of the side characters were also similarly complex.

Imagine Us Happy is told in non-chronological order and it really works for the story. There are no surprises. The reader knows Stella and Kevin aren’t together by the end at the beginning of the story, so it’s all about discovering how they got there. There are friendship breakups, neglectful parents, parent marriages dissolving, and even an acknowledgement that they probably shouldn’t try a relationship before they even start anything. You get to see how that all contributed to the ending, and it’s fascinating to watch.

Speaking of fascinating to watch, I was hooked for the majority of the book. I needed to know how this all went down. There were some spots where my enjoyment faltered, but for the most part I didn’t want to stop reading.

This book also made me beg Twitter for an explanation of the American school system, so it was also a learning experience. Our schools are very different (at least where I’m from), so thank you to the many kind people who explained things to me.

The one slight complaint I have is that I felt a sort of disconnect from the story. I have a similar complaint for a lot of the books I’ve read recently, so it could very well be my depression’s fault. It’s not that I wasn’t interested. It’s more that I never really latched on to anything in the story. Like I would recognize something I do in the characters, but I never had a moment of “Oh my god this is so me”. I hope that makes sense.

Overall, Imagine Us Happy is definitely worth the read if you’re looking for a book with depression rep, earning it 4 stars out of 5.