Paging Serenity http://www.pagingserenity.com A Literary & Lifestyle Blog Fri, 07 Aug 2020 00:28:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.2 http://www.pagingserenity.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/cropped-icon-32x32.png Paging Serenity http://www.pagingserenity.com 32 32 Review – A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-good-girls-guide-to-murder-jackson/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-good-girls-guide-to-murder-jackson/#respond Fri, 07 Aug 2020 04:05:16 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=5527
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson is a good mystery but it didn't quite meet my expectations.
Review – A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder
TITLE: A Good Girl's Guide to Murder
AUTHOR: Holly Jackson
Publisher: Delacorte Press
PUBLICATION DATE: February 4, 2020
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
RATING: 4 Stars

For readers of Kara Thomas and Karen McManus, an addictive, twisty crime thriller with shades of Serial and Making a Murderer about a closed local murder case that doesn't add up, and a girl who's determined to find the real killer--but not everyone wants her meddling in the past.

Everyone in Fairview knows the story.

Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town.

But she can't shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer?

Now a senior herself, Pip decides to reexamine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent . . . and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn't want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.

This is the story of an investigation turned obsession, full of twists and turns and with an ending you'll never expect.

Setting the Scene

Review in 10 Words (or Less)

A good mystery but it didn’t quite meet my expectations.

Mood Before Reading

Kind of in a slump? I was excited to read this but the last thriller I read, Girl from Nowhere, didn’t really meet my expectations.

Dates Read

July 20 – 21, 2020. I probably would have taken longer to read this if it wasn’t due back to the library on the 22nd. More on this later.

Review

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is about Pippa, a girl who decides to try to solve a 5-year-old murder in her small town in Connecticut for her senior project. I liked Pippa and could relate to her. I admired her tenacity and her heart. But I didn’t really connect with her. At least, emotionally. I don’t know, I just didn’t really feel anything for her.

Okay, wait, that’s a lie. The one emotion I felt for Pippa was fear. A whole lot of fear and anxiety. Especially since it didn’t seem like she felt an adequate amount herself. Oh, and I also felt embarrassment on her behalf, as well.

There was so much secondhand embarrassment (how she questioned/interviewed people, for example) and horror movie-esque “no!! Don’t do that!” type of mental screaming that it became so hard to read the story at times. It prevented me from getting too sucked in because every time I was about to, Pippa would have some stupid idea, and I’d need to take a break from the story to mentally prepare myself for whatever fallout it might cause. All those breaks added up and it ended up taking me a lot longer to read A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder than I thought it would. I honestly don’t think I would have finished it as fast if it wasn’t due the next day.

So I guess that despite our similarities, Pippa’s total lack of concern of consequences created a wall between us. Usually, I’d agree that those issues are a very “me” problem (I’m definitely more sensitive to secondhand embarrassment than most readers). Still, after reading the acknowledgments, I wonder if cultural differences played a factor as well. Holly Jackson is British, and in the UK edition, this murder mystery occurs near London, not Connecticut, in the United States. Maybe some subtleties were lost in “translation”?

That said, I really did enjoy this thriller. It’s a pretty unique concept in terms of setup and execution. I liked that sometimes it felt like I was Pippa’s silent partner in her little detective agency. I also loved the mixed media formatting of the book – it’s told in a mix of third-person, focused on Pippa, and first-person journal reports written by Pippa. There are also maps and other imagery that’s sprinkled in throughout that help to add interest and clarify some key facts.

I also appreciate how A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder takes some time to point out the complexities of human nature. I thought it thoughtfully touched upon racism and the role of journalism in crime-solving.

And the ending, well, it was pretty satisfying. I wouldn’t say that I was blindsided by the twists, but they were pretty decent, and it is by no means a perfect ending. It definitely could have been closer to perfect without the romance. Let’s just say I don’t think that the relationship development between the new couple was advanced enough for their love to feel convincing.

In conclusion…

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is a great thriller that’s told in an interesting way. The mixed formatting adds a new layer to the mystery but I wish there was more character development and less secondhand embarrassment.

Final Rating
Characters
3.5 Stars
Pacing
4 Stars
Plot
4.5 Stars
Romance
3 Stars
Writing
4.5 Stars
Overall: 3.9
Emz Chang
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Review – The Fixer http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-the-fixer/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-the-fixer/#respond Fri, 31 Jul 2020 04:05:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=5222
Review – The Fixer
TITLE: The Fixer
AUTHOR: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
SERIES: The Fixer #1
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
RATING: 4 Stars

This thriller YA is Scandal meets Veronica Mars.

Sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick has spent her entire life on her grandfather's ranch. But when her estranged sister Ivy uproots her to D.C., Tess is thrown into a world that revolves around politics and power. She also starts at Hardwicke Academy, the D.C. school for the children of the rich and powerful, where she unwittingly becomes a fixer for the high school set, fixing teens’ problems the way her sister fixes their parents’ problems.

And when a conspiracy surfaces that involves the family member of one of Tess's classmates, love triangles and unbelievable family secrets come to light and life gets even more interesting—and complicated—for Tess.

Perfect for fans of Pretty Little Liars and Heist Society, readers will be clamoring for this compelling teen drama with a political twist.

Review:

The Fixer is a political science novel dealing with the inner workings of the politics that take place in Washington, D.C. It’s centered around Tess, who is uprooted from her grandfather’s ranch and forced to live with her sister, Ivy in D.C. Ivy is a fixer, someone who fixes problems of high ranking politicians. The Fixer focuses on how Tess follows in her sister’s footsteps.

I really enjoyed reading The Fixer. Since I read it back in 2015 when it first came out, I’ve reread it many times, and my opinion of it is still the same. The Fixer is a book worth buying.

I liked its take on political science and how the interworkings of the disaster that is the American government are sprinkled across the novel. You don’t need to have an extensive understanding of American politics to understand what’s going on in the book. Still, if you do, you’ll be able to understand just how essential or damaging certain events can be. You can also get a better grasp of some of the foreshadowing that sprinkled throughout the novel.

Speaking of foreshadowing, I think one of the reasons why I love this book so much is its ability to blindside me. I’m usually good at picking up hints and predicting the future (in a book), but this is one thriller that managed to catch me off-guard. Multiple times. There were just so many twists and turns I didn’t see coming.

Another aspect of The Fixer that made me love it so much is perhaps its characters. I love how Tess is pretty average – she’s not overly smart or athletic. It makes her easy to connect to and more natural to experience her story with her. I love how the reader was able to make connections as she was and that she wasn’t just pulling things out of nowhere (cough cough Sherlock).

In conclusion…

The Fixer is a great thriller full of twists and well-written characters.

Final Rating
Characters
4 Stars
Pacing
4 Stars
Plot
4.5 Stars
Writing
4 Stars
Overall: 4.1
Emz Chang
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A Breakdown of My Bookshelf Audit + Free Templates http://www.pagingserenity.com/bookshelf-audit-breakdown/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/bookshelf-audit-breakdown/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2020 04:05:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=5501 { "@context":"https://schema.org", "@type":"Review", "datePublished": "2020-07-29T04:05:00+00:00", "description": "\n\n\n\n\nBack in June, I was inspired by @pullupforchange to audit my bookshelves for books written by authors of color. @pullupforchange is an initiative on Instagram designed to encourage companies", "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Paging Serenity" }, "url": "http:\/\/www.pagingserenity.com\/bookshelf-audit-breakdown\/", "itemReviewed": { "@type": "Book", "name": "", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "", "sameAs": "" }, "isbn": "" }, "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Emz Chang", "sameAs": "http:\/\/www.pagingserenity.com\/" }, "reviewRating": { "@type": "Rating", "ratingValue": false, "bestRating": "5" } }
auditing my shelves + a free template for you

Back in June, I was inspired by @pullupforchange to audit my bookshelves for books written by authors of color. @pullupforchange is an initiative on Instagram designed to encourage companies to be more transparent about the number of BIPOC they employ.

Now, I’m not a business, but I do buy books, and I often “employ” those books on my Instagram feed. The more inclusive my shelves are, the more inclusive my #bookstagram account is. So naturally, working to diversify my shelves is important to me.

To hold myself accountable, I decided to create a visual representation of my shelves. It’s a lot easier to ensure my book buying habits have become more inclusive with it compared to just a simple #shelfie. I figured I can just audit my shelves and update the graphic every few months or whenever I get new books and compare it to the last one I made to make sure I’m moving in the right direction.

Another layer of accountability is making the graphic public on Instagram. So not only am I personally holding myself accountable, but there’s also my #bookstagram friends to help me stay on track too. I got a few questions about my audit and the template so I figured I’d explain it more here, on the blog.

The Auditing Process

My auditing process is not foolproof and leaves much to be desired so if you can think of a better way to do it, please let me know. Essentially, I went through all the books I own and looked up their authors online. As you can imagine, it was a very slow process and took a while.

It was also surprisingly difficult because some authors didn’t mention/allude to their race/ethnicity in their bios or on their various social media accounts. That made it hard for me to determine which race(s) they identify with. Someone’s race isn’t the easiest thing to determine and it’s not something you can just assume based on a headshot or last name. As such, whenever I felt iffy about someone’s race, I’d have to do some more research to see if it was mentioned somewhere else. If my research was inconclusive, I’d just assume the author is white, hence why I think this process has a lot of room for improvement.

How the Templates Work

So, let me explain how the template works. A fair warning, there’s some math involved (basic math, don’t worry).

The template includes a bookshelf with an outline of 100 books. To decide how many books to fill in, once I determined how many books I own that are written by authors of a certain race, I would divide that number by the total amount of books I have. And then did some rounding.

For example, I own 23 books written by Asian authors and 250 in total. 23 divided by 250 is 9.2%. I rounded 9.2% to 9% which is why I filled in nine books on the graphic with the color I assigned to represent the number of books written by Asian authors.

Now, I used Photoshop to create my graphic and fill in the books, but there are tons of free programs you can use instead, like Microsoft Paint and GIMP.

Download the Templates

To download the template, just click on one of the pictures below. That should take you to a Google Drive link where you can download it at a higher quality optimized for Instagram.

Some Additional Notes About the Templates

  • These templates are free for you to download for personal use only.
  • Please do not post the blank templates or redistribute them in any way.
  • If you use the template and post it on social media, please try to tag/mention me in your post. I’m @pagingserenity on most platforms.
  • If you enjoy these templates, please consider buying me a (cheap) cup of coffee through Ko-Fi.
  • DM or email me if you want me to make any minor alterations to the template like changing the heading, or filling it out for you, for example. I’m willing to do so if you buy me a cup of coffee. 😉

I hope you find these templates helpful! I challenge you all to audit your shelves!

Let me know if you use them or have a suggestion for a better auditing process!

Emz Chang
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Review – Instructions for a Secondhand Heart http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-instructions-for-a-secondhand-heart/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-instructions-for-a-secondhand-heart/#respond Fri, 24 Jul 2020 04:05:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=4650

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

Review – Instructions for a Secondhand Heart
TITLE: Instructions for a Secondhand Heart
AUTHOR: Tamsyn Murray
Publisher: Poppy
Source: NOVL
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
RATING: 3 Stars

Jonny knows better than anyone that life is full of cruel ironies. He's spent every day in a hospital hooked up to machines to keep his heart ticking. Then when a donor match is found for Jonny's heart, that turns out to be the cruelest irony of all. Because for Jonny's life to finally start, someone else's had to end.

That someone turns out to be Neve's twin brother, Leo. When Leo was alive, all Neve wanted was for him (and all his glorious, overshadowing perfection) to leave. Now that Leo's actually gone forever, Neve has no idea how to move forward. Then Jonny walks into her life looking for answers, her brother's heart beating in his chest, and everything starts to change.

Together, Neve and Jonny will have to face the future, no matter how frightening it is, while also learning to heal their hearts, no matter how much it hurts.


Review:

Instructions for a Secondhand Heart tells the story of Jonny, a teenager who recently received a heart transplant, and Neve, the sister of the donor of Jonny’s new organ. I have so many mixed feelings about Instructions for a Secondhand Heart. I really liked the concept. I think it’s pretty unique. At least in YA. I can’t remember ever reading the story about two characters who are connected by a donated organ before. But the new concept is one of the few things I really enjoyed about this story. Everything else was kind of meh, in my opinion.

While on paper, the concept is unique, this story is not so much. It’s a bit cliche and pretty predictable. Furthermore, this story is built on emotion. Jonny was dying before the transplant. Neve’s brother actually died. And yet, I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t feel sadness and relief for Jonny. I didn’t feel guilt or grief for Neve. I just felt nothing. Maybe because by nature, I’m not too emotional. Or it’s because I also didn’t care for the characters that much.

The characters, Jonny and Neve, were just so distant to me. Obviously, I have no idea what they’re going through, but I also could not relate to them on the most basic level. I felt like Jonny was a creep and a terrible friend and Neve was underdeveloped. While I could sympathize with them, they both made me want to bang my head against the book way too many times. And the romance – I just wish it didn’t exist. I think I might actually have enjoyed Instructions for a Secondhand Heart more if romance wasn’t involved.

That being said, there’s no denying the book has a little special something going for it. The writing is charming and intriguing enough to keep you turning the pages despite all its flaws. That’s the difference between a book you do no finish and one that was mediocre.

In Conclusion…

Instructions for a Secondhand Heart is a decent read. While it doesn’t have the best characters or romance, its unique concept and charm kept me reading until the end.


Final Rating
Characters
3 Stars
Pacing
3 Stars
Plot
3 Stars
Romance
3 Stars
Writing
3.5 Stars
Overall: 3.1

Emz Chang
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Review – Girl from Nowhere http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-girl-from-nowhere-rosenhan/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-girl-from-nowhere-rosenhan/#respond Fri, 17 Jul 2020 04:15:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=5466

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

Review – Girl from Nowhere
TITLE: Girl from Nowhere
AUTHOR: Tiffany Rosenhan
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
PUBLICATION DATE: July 21, 2020
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
RATING: 3 Stars

Red Sparrow meets One of Us Is Lying in this action-packed, romance-filled YA debut about a girl trying to outrun her past.

Ninety-four countries. Thirty-one schools. Two bullets.
Now it’s over...or so she thinks.

Sophia arrives in Montana with the promise of a normal high school experience. But after a turbulent few years abroad with her diplomat parents, forgetting the past is easier said than done. After all, “normal” high schoolers aren’t trained in several forms of combat.

Then Sophia meets Aksel and finds herself opening up in ways she never thought she could. Except Sophia’s past is about to catch up with her, and she must confront who she really is, why she was betrayed, and what she is capable of in the name of love and survival.

Full of heart-stopping action and breathtaking romance, this cinematic debut features a girl willing to risk everything to save the life she built for herself.

Setting the Scene

Review in 10 Words (or Less)

Confused & disappointed.

Mood Before Reading

In a bit of a slump. 😔

Dates Read

July 3, 2020 – July 15, 2020.

It really didn’t take me as long to read as it looks like. I started it on July 3rd, got to around chapter 8, put it down, and kind of forgot about it. I picked it up again on July 15th and finished it that day.

Review

Girl from Nowhere starts quite fast – we’re thrown headfirst into Sophia’s new life. She and her diplomat parents have just moved to Montana after years of traveling abroad. We get to watch Sophia (struggle to) adapt to the life of a “normal” teenager. I enjoyed the beginning and discovering more about Sophia’s past as she drops details when talking to new friends and through flashbacks.

But then we meet Aksel, Sophia’s love interest and that’s where things start to go a little downhill.

I just didn’t find Aksel interesting as a character – he was a little too perfect. And Sophia and Aksel’s romance was not as good as advertised. It felt a bit like insta-love but less believable. Come on, where’s the chemistry, the fun banter, the awkward interactions? It went from 0 to 100 pretty quickly.

Not to mention, I was honestly quite confused while reading Girl from Nowhere and left a bit confused after I finished. And in this case, “confused” is not a synonym for “intrigued” or “curious”. It is straight up, head-scratching, “huh???” confusion.

One of the causes for all the confusion is all the info dumps that occur. Throughout the first half of the book, bits and pieces of Sophia’s past and her parent’s work are sprinkled into the story. That strategy works well at first to create genuine intrigue and mystery. But then instead of getting crumbs of information, huge wedding cake size parts start falling into the plot. Seriously, there’s an entire chapter of dialogue purely dedicated to Sophia’s backstory. Not only are the info dumps a bit awkward, but they also add confusion and more questions. Instead of helping me connect some dots, I’m stuck trying to figure out how the new details fit in with everything else.

Another cause of confusion is basically everything that went down in the second half of the novel. Girl from Nowhere really starts picking up then, and we go from something Gallagher Girls-esque (think teen spy school) to something out of the Bourne movies (action-thriller movies about a CIA assassin).

I’m kind of confused on how we made that transition, but okay, whatever, it’s fun. I like a bit of adventure. For the most part, I enjoyed reading about all the action that went down, but the more action sequences I read, the more things didn’t add up. Even my overactive imagination and spy/thriller/mystery-loving brain had trouble making sense of things.

In Conclusion…

I feel like Girl from Nowhere would have been so much better as a movie (the writing was very cinematic) and if there were less info dumps and Aksel was more believable as a love interest.

Final Rating
Characters
3 Stars
Pacing
3 Stars
Plot
3.5 Stars
Romance
3 Stars
Writing
3.5 Stars
Overall: 3.2
Emz Chang
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Review – Reign the Earth http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-reign-the-earth/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-reign-the-earth/#respond Fri, 10 Jul 2020 04:05:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=5225

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

Review – Reign the Earth
TITLE: Reign the Earth
AUTHOR: A.C. Gaughen
SERIES: The Elementae #1
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Source: Bloomsbury
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
RATING: 4 Stars

Shalia is a proud daughter of the desert, but after years of devastating war with the adjoining kingdom, her people are desperate for peace. Willing to trade her freedom to ensure the safety of her family, Shalia becomes Queen of the Bonelands.

But she soon learns that her husband, Calix, is motivated only by his desire to exterminate the Elementae—mystical people who can control earth, wind, air, and fire. Even more unsettling are Shalia’s feelings for her husband’s brother, which unleash a power over the earth she never knew she possessed—a power that could get her killed. As rumors of a rebellion against Calix spread, Shalia must choose between the last chance for peace and her own future as an Elementae.

This intense, richly drawn high-fantasy by the author of Scarlet will hold readers spellbound.

Review:

The power of the story told in Reign the Earth is rooted deeply in Shania, the main character, herself. She’s an incredibly strong and righteous heroine, without whom this story, and the conflict of her struggles would be very different. I really liked Shania, mainly because although she’s a character with a golden heart, she is not a perfect person. She has her faults, and that makes her so much more likable.

One of Shania’s faults can be found in the romance department. There is a love triangle. Yes, a love triangle. Gah! But even I, with my immense hatred of them, cannot deny that this love triangle works well for this story. [View post to see spoiler] The romance in Reign the Earth is exciting, given that things are not all lovey-dovey and in the worst ways possible.

If you’re looking for a light, fluffy fantasy, this is not the book for you. Reign the Earth, while well written, is quite heavy, simply because it encompasses a whole lot of heavy topics, such as abusive relationships, pregnancy/miscarriage, death, rape culture, and gender roles. There are so many parallels you could draw from this fictional book to what’s happening in the world today. 

In conclusion…

Reign the Earth is a book that makes you think and tells a story that is not to be taken lightly. I think it would be a great book club read.

Final Rating
Characters
4.5 Stars
Pacing
4 Stars
Plot
4 Stars
Writing
4 Stars
World Building
4.5 Stars
Overall: 4.2
Emz Chang
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My Most Read Authors http://www.pagingserenity.com/my-most-read-authors/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/my-most-read-authors/#comments Mon, 06 Jul 2020 04:05:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=5459 { "@context":"https://schema.org", "@type":"Review", "datePublished": "2020-07-06T04:05:00+00:00", "description": "\n\n\n\n\nTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and Bookish and now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.\n\n\n\nThis Week's Prompt\n\n\n\nThis week\u2019s topic is... Authors I\u2019ve Read the Most Bo", "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Paging Serenity" }, "url": "http:\/\/www.pagingserenity.com\/my-most-read-authors\/", "itemReviewed": { "@type": "Book", "name": "", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "", "sameAs": "" }, "isbn": "" }, "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Emz Chang", "sameAs": "http:\/\/www.pagingserenity.com\/" }, "reviewRating": { "@type": "Rating", "ratingValue": false, "bestRating": "5" } }

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and Bookish and now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This Week’s Prompt

This week’s topic is… Authors I’ve Read the Most Books By. This one was really interesting to put together – some of my most read authors are surprising to me. As in, I forgot I read them. 😅

To compile this list, I just sorted the “read” books on Goodreads by author and did some counting and crossed my fingers (I didn’t use Goodreads consistently until around 2016-ish). For the most part, I counted novellas and short stories as half a book. But if they appeared in a complication, then then all collectively counted as one book. Oh, and if there’s a tie, I just sorted them alphabetically by author’s last name.

Anyways, in order of most read to least read, here are the authors I’ve read the most books by.

The List

1. Jennifer L. Armentrout (22.5 books)

Honestly, not that surprising. JLA has published a crap ton of books and I love her writing. Or I should say, I love her fantasy books – I haven’t read any of her contemporary books yet.

Breakdown of all the JLA books I’ve read:

  • The Dark Elements series (3.5 books)
  • The Harbinger series (2 books)
  • Covenant series (5 books)
  • Titan series (4 books)
  • Wicked trilogy (2 books)
  • Lux series (5 books)
  • Opposition (1 book)

2. Rachel Caine (16 books)

I knew I read a lot of Rachel Caine books because the Morganville Vampires series is mad long. But I think I forgot just how long the series is. There are 15 books in the series. 15!! And then there’s also Midnight Bites, a collection of short stories.

3. Ally Carter (11.5 books)

As the author of two of my all time favorite series, the question was not whether or not Ally Carter would make my list, but rather where on the list she would fall.

Breakdown of all the Ally Carter books I’ve read:

  • Gallagher Girls series (6.5 books)
  • Heist Society series (3.5 books)
  • Double Crossed [Gallagher Girls & Heist Society crossover novella] (0.5 book)
  • Not If I Save You First (1 book)

4. Rick Riordan (11.5 books)

Like Ally Carter, I knew Uncle Rick would make this list, I just didn’t know where. If I ever get back into reading middle grade books, I’ll finish the Trials of Apollo series.

Breakdown of all the Rick Riordan books I’ve read:

  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (5.5 books)
  • Heroes of Olympus series (5 books)
  • The Hidden Oracle (1 book)

5. James Patterson (11 books?)

Okay, so this is kind of iffy because I’ve been reading James Patterson books since I was a kid and some of them were more memorable than others. If I had a better memory (or was better at using Goodreads), he might actually belong higher on this list. And he’s written way too many books for me to go through all of them and see if any of them sound familiar. My bad. 🤷🏻‍♀️

Breakdown of all the James Patterson books I’ve read:

  • Maximum Ride series (8 books)
  • Witch & Wizard series (1 book?)
  • Confessions series (1 book)
  • Some romance book I forgot the title of (1 book?)

6. Richelle Mead (10.5 books)

Someday, I will finish reading the Bloodlines series but that day is not today so here we are.

Breakdown of all the Richelle Mead books I’ve read:

  • Vampire Academy series (6 books)
  • Bloodlines series (4.5 books)

7. L.J. Smith (9.5 books)

Want to hear a funny story? Rumor has it that Strange Fate, the 10th and last book in the Night World series will be published in 2030. Yeah, 2030 – that’s not a typo. What makes it funnier is that latest Night World book was published in 1998, the year I was born. So I’ve practically been waiting for the last book my whole life even though I first read the series in like 2010.

8. Anthony Horowitz (9 books)

This is one the surprises. Not going to lie, I kinda forgot about Alex Rider. Which is really sad given how much I loved the series when I was in middle school.

9. Penny Reid (9 books)

I did not realize the Knitting in the City series was this long when I read it last year.

10. Jennifer Lynn Barnes (7.5 books)

Jennifer Lynn Barnes is one of my favorite thriller/mystery writers.

Breakdown of all the Jennifer Lynn Barnes books I’ve read:

  • The Fixer duology (2 books)
  • The Naturals series (4.5 books)
  • The Lovely and the Lost (1 book)

Who are you’re most read authors? Do we have any in common?

Emz Chang
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Review – Cinderella is Dead http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-cinderella-is-dead/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-cinderella-is-dead/#respond Fri, 03 Jul 2020 04:05:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=5452

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

Review – Cinderella is Dead
TITLE: Cinderella Is Dead
AUTHOR: Kalynn Bayron
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
PUBLICATION DATE: July 7, 2020
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
RATING: 3.5 Stars

It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.

The Good

Unique Retelling

Cinderella is Dead is a refreshing reimagining of Cinderella. It’s honestly one of the more creative retellings I’ve read. I really did not expect the story to go where it. Just the way elements of the age-old fairytale were reframed to fit into the world of this book blew my mind. It’s been a few days since I’ve finished reading it, and I’m still amazed at how Cinderella was retold.

Sophia, our lovely main character, is not quite another edition of one of my favorite princesses, but yet still embodies (what I believe are) Cinderella’s best qualities.

Important Read in Today’s World

Sophia lives in a world where all girls must attend a ball to be chosen by a man to become his wife. Girls who leave the ball without being selected risk their reputation, and that of their families, and may face exile or death. As such, Cinderella is Dead addresses many modern-day issues like sexism, freedom of choice, LGBTQ+ rights, oppression, and a little about race (subtly?). These struggles were all nicely woven into the story, and while maybe slightly overdone, I cannot imagine this book without these points. Some of the passages and quotes hit particularly hard at this time, especially given the United States’ current “leadership”.

The Not-So-Good

Lack of development pretty much accounts for everything in this section, especially the characters, world-building, and romance. If any of the three were more fleshed out, Cinderella is Dead could have been at least a 4-star read for me instead of a 3.5-star one.

Flat Characters

First up, let’s talk about the characters. The characters were fun to read, and I liked how they were all so different from one another. It was especially fun to see them bicker with one another. That said, most of them were pretty undeveloped. Like, I know more about what Sophia stands for than who she is.

Quick World Building

It didn’t take me long to understand the world Sophia lives in or the standards she has to conform to in this society. Which would typically be a good thing except most of the world was built through “telling” and not “showing”. It sometimes felt like I was reading a history textbook, but Sophia is not supposed to be a history teacher. On top of that, all the world-building in the first few chapters caused the beginning of Cinderella is Dead to be slow and awkward, which is not exactly the best way to start a book.

Sophia’s Love Life

Sophia’s love plays a significant role in getting the plot rolling in Cinderella is Dead – she’s willing to risk it all for the chance at a happily ever after with her girlfriend. However, their romance doesn’t read like some great love, and their friendship feels tenuous.

Sophia’s love life later in the book is sweeter, but I wish I could have seen more of their romance unfold in the story.

In conclusion…

Cinderella is Dead is an important read and a unique reimagining of Cinderella. But it could have used some more development in some areas.

Final Rating
Characters
3 Stars
Pacing
3.5 Stars
Plot
4 Stars
Romance
3.5 Stars
Writing
4 Stars
World Building
3 Stars
Overall: 3.5
Emz Chang
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My Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2020 http://www.pagingserenity.com/my-most-anticipated-releases-for-the-second-half-of-2020/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/my-most-anticipated-releases-for-the-second-half-of-2020/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2020 04:05:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=5444 { "@context":"https://schema.org", "@type":"Review", "datePublished": "2020-06-29T04:05:00+00:00", "description": "\n\n\n\n\nTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and Bookish and now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.\n\n\n\nThis Week's Prompt\n\n\n\nThis week\u2019s topic is... \"Most Anticipated Releases for ", "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Paging Serenity" }, "url": "http:\/\/www.pagingserenity.com\/my-most-anticipated-releases-for-the-second-half-of-2020\/", "itemReviewed": { "@type": "Book", "name": "", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "", "sameAs": "" }, "isbn": "" }, "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Emz Chang", "sameAs": "http:\/\/www.pagingserenity.com\/" }, "reviewRating": { "@type": "Rating", "ratingValue": false, "bestRating": "5" } }

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and Bookish and now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This Week’s Prompt

This week’s topic is… “Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2020”. Hopefully, none of these will be delayed because I really hope to read them soon.

The List

1. Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

A Cinderella retelling? Yes, please!

2. Girl from Nowhere by Tiffany Rosenhan

This one is being marketed as an “action-packed, romance filled” thriller. That pretty much checks all my boxes for books I’m interested in.

3. Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

Okay, full disclaimer, I’ve already read this one, but I’m excited to see what everyone else thinks of it.

4. Now that I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest

A scavenger manhunt with a side of romance? Sign me up!

5. Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe

The synopsis claims it’s “sharply funny” with characters who end up getting themselves into more than they bargained for. Needless to say, I can’t wait for September to come.

6. Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

This one sounds like a book Jennifer L. Armentrout would write and I love her books.

7. The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I’m a sucker for anything Jennifer Lynn Barnes writes.

8. Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao

Fake dating with the possibility of turning into something more? Taiwanese parents? Sounds right up my alley.

9. Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett

I read Jenn Bennett’s Alex, Approximately and Starry Eyes earlier this year and now I’m obsessed with her writing. Or at least, as obsessed someone can be without access to a library (mine is still closed).

10. These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

This is a Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai. The synopsis definitely piqued my interest.

What are you looking forward to reading? Are you interested in any of these books?

Emz Chang
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Review – Rage and Ruin http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-rage-and-ruin-armentrout/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-rage-and-ruin-armentrout/#respond Fri, 26 Jun 2020 04:05:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=5410
Review – Rage and Ruin
TITLE: Rage and Ruin
AUTHOR: Jennifer L. Armentrout
SERIES: The Harbinger #2
Publisher: Inkyard Press
PUBLICATION DATE: June 9, 2020
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
RATING: 3.5 Stars

Dangerous secrets and forbidden desires lead to shocking consequences… Don’t miss book two of the fantastical Harbinger trilogy from #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout.

Half-angel Trinity and her bonded gargoyle protector, Zayne, have been working with demons to stop the apocalypse while avoiding falling in love. The Harbinger is coming…but who or what is it? All of humankind may fall if Trinity and Zayne can’t win the race against time as dark forces gather.

As tensions rise, they must stay close together and patrol the DC streets at night, seeking signs of the Harbinger, an entity that is killing Wardens and demons with no seeming rhyme or reason. Forbidden to be with each other, Zayne and Trinity fight their feelings and turn to unusual sources for help—the demon Roth and his cohorts. But as deaths pile up and they uncover a sinister plot involving the local high school and endangering someone dear to Zayne, Trin realizes she is being led…herded…played for some unknown end. As anger builds and feelings spiral out of control, it becomes clear that rage may be the ruin of them all.

Setting the Scene

Review in 10 Words

Overall a good read, but disappointing in some ways.

Mood Before Reading

Excited! I’ve been waiting over a year to read this.

The Good

The Plot

Omg, the plot was so good! I made putting up with all the side drama worth it. Never would I have guessed the outcome in a million years. Seriously! There were so many twists and turns that kept me rethinking and rethinking what I thought was going to happen next.

And that cliffhanger! Ugh, I need the next book ASAP. To try to make up for the year I have to wait, I decided to reread Every Last Breath (The Dark Elements #3), and now I have a working theory of what may have happened. But still! I need confirmation! Speaking of The Dark Elements (TDE) series…

The Dark Elements Callbacks

I still stand by the idea that you don’t necessarily need to read The Dark Elements series (though you should – it’s one of my favorite series) to understand what’s going on in Rage and Ruin. That said, having that background is more beneficial this time around than with Storm and Fury. There are just a lot more throwbacks and vague mentions, so reading TDE would enhance your understanding of what’s happening by quite a bit.

And of course, reading TDE would give you more info about Roth and Layla’s (and I guess Zayne’s) background. Honestly, Rage and Ruin earned an extra half star just for the appearances and mentions of TDE characters. I missed Roth’s snark, Layla’s goodness, Cayman’s sassiness, and Bambi’s cuteness, so it made my day to see them again.

Disability Rep

In Storm and Fury, we learn that Trinity has retinitis pigmentosa (RP), the eye disease that JLA has in real life. If I remember correctly, we saw a bit of how RP affected Trinity’s life, but it wasn’t that much of a focal point. In Rage and Ruin, however, RP takes on a more significant role. I appreciated reading about Trinity was coming to terms with having it, more on how it affects her life, and how she has to compensate for the gradual loss of her vision. It’s clear that Trinity is still a badass regardless of the state of her eyes. Reading about it is especially interesting because there aren’t many fantasy novels where the main character has a disability that can affect her abilities.

The Not-So-Good

Reliance on The Dark Elements Series

Okay, first off, I still stand by what I said earlier, that Roth and Layla’s appearances/mentions helped up my enjoyment of Rage and Ruin. That said, their appearances also inadvertently highlighted some of the weaker points of the book. I was just so much more invested in them and their love than I was of that of the actual main characters of the book.

The Characters

I… sigh I wanted to like Trinity and Zayne so much, but I just wasn’t entirely convinced. They both had their moments where they shined, but neither of them felt fully fleshed out or deserving of my love. Which is fine – characters don’t necessarily have to be likable for me to like the book. But the fact that I like a sidekick ghost character (hi Peanut!) more than either of the two main characters is a tad problematic.

Trinity was just so childish sometimes. Every time something went wrong or didn’t go her way, she would just pout. Sometimes I forgot she was in her late teens, and not twelve. Trinity also comes with a sense of eh, how should I put this… entitlement? over her angel blood. It made her come off as a brat at times. Bratty and childish isn’t exactly a great combo. That said, I did appreciate whatever character development Trinity did go through, and I get that she had a sheltered upbringing where everyone treated her like a special snowflake, so I get her attitude isn’t entirely her fault.

Zayne, on the other hand, was completely flat – he’s almost as closed off and stony (pun intended, thanks Roth!) as he was in the first book. Which, I guess, isn’t that big of a deal since he’s been through a lot with everything that happens in TDE universe. Plus, we only see him from Trinity’s point of view, so who knows what he’s thinking, but it still kinda bothers me.

The Romance

Yeah, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the romance. It wasn’t that I didn’t like Trinity and Zayne together (we all know I’m a sucker for forbidden love). It’s just like with the characters; I felt like the romance was underdeveloped. Maybe in part due to the lack of character development. I feel like they had more chemistry in the first book? The whole triangle and miscommunication issues certainly didn’t help.

In conclusion…

I enjoyed reading Rage and Ruin with all its twists and turns. I liked the plot, the return of old characters from The Dark Elements, and how retinitis pigmentosa was integrated into the story. However, I had problems with how the characters and romance were written and developed.

Final Rating
Characters
3 Stars
Pacing
3.5 Stars
Plot
4 Stars
Romance
3 Stars
Writing
3.5 Stars
World Building
3.5 Stars
Overall: 3.4
Emz Chang
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Ten 2016 Releases I Meant to Read But Still Haven’t http://www.pagingserenity.com/2016-releases-i-meant-to-read/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/2016-releases-i-meant-to-read/#comments Mon, 22 Jun 2020 04:05:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=5436 { "@context":"https://schema.org", "@type":"Review", "datePublished": "2020-06-22T04:05:00+00:00", "description": "\n\n\n\n\nTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and Bookish and now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.\n\n\n\nThis Week's Prompt\n\n\n\nTop Ten Tuesday Turns 10 this week! I've decided to go wi", "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Paging Serenity" }, "url": "http:\/\/www.pagingserenity.com\/2016-releases-i-meant-to-read\/", "itemReviewed": { "@type": "Book", "name": "", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "", "sameAs": "" }, "isbn": "" }, "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Emz Chang", "sameAs": "http:\/\/www.pagingserenity.com\/" }, "reviewRating": { "@type": "Rating", "ratingValue": false, "bestRating": "5" } }
Ten 2016 Releases I Still Have to Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and Bookish and now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This Week’s Prompt

Top Ten Tuesday Turns 10 this week! I’ve decided to go with Option 1: pick a past TTT topic you’ve done and re-do/update it.

Back in January 2017, I wrote a list of 2016 releases I meant to read but didn’t. Today, I’m going to update it.

Six of these books that were on my old list. Out of the ten books I mentioned there, I actually have only read one of them so far (Three Dark Crowns). The other three are now either much lower on my tbr or no longer on it at all.

The List

1. Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

I love Alexandra Bracken’s writing but time travel isn’t exactly one of my go-to genres.

2. Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

I read a sample of this one and really enjoyed it. But then I kept getting distracted by other books to actually find a copy and finish reading it.

3. The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

I’ve been saying I’m going to read this one every summer since it came out. Fast forward four years and it’s still on my summer tbr.

4. Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

I keep saving this one to read during the winter when we get snow, but I always end up too depressed to read fantasy novels during that season. We’ll see how this winter goes.

5. Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz

I read to escape so you can see why I’ve been avoiding reading a story that deals with immigration and deportation. Still, I hope to read this one day soon.

6. Scythe by Neal Shusterman

I’ve heard a lot of good things about this one but four years later, it’s still on my tbr. Oops.

7. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Another story with deportation. I’ll probably get around to reading it when I’m in a better reading mood.

8. Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell

I haven’t read a fairytale retelling in quite a while. Maybe this one will be the first to break my dry spell.

9. The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Again, this one has an interesting premise but time travel books are never at the top of my tbr.

10. Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers

This was recommended to me by a friend who found out I love a good assassin story.

Are there any 2016 releases still on your tbr?

Emz Chang
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Review – Storm and Fury http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-storm-and-fury/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-storm-and-fury/#comments Fri, 12 Jun 2020 04:05:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=5216

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

Review – Storm and Fury
TITLE: Storm and Fury (The Harbinger, #1)
AUTHOR: Jennifer L. Armentrout
SERIES: The Harbinger #1
Publisher: Inkyard Press
PUBLICATION DATE: June 11, 2019
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
RATING: 4 Stars

Eighteen-year-old Trinity Marrow may be going blind, but she can see and communicate with ghosts and spirits. Her unique gift is part of a secret so dangerous that she’s been in hiding for years in an isolated compound fiercely guarded by Wardens—gargoyle shape-shifters who protect humankind from demons. If the demons discover the truth about Trinity, they’ll devour her, flesh and bone, to enhance their own powers.

When Wardens from another clan arrive with disturbing reports that something out there is killing both demons and Wardens, Trinity’s safe world implodes. Not the least because one of the outsiders is the most annoying and fascinating person she’s ever met. Zayne has secrets of his own that will upend her world yet again—but working together becomes imperative once demons breach the compound and Trinity’s secret comes to light. To save her family and maybe the world, she’ll have to put her trust in Zayne. But all bets are off as a supernatural war is unleashed…

Setting the Scene:

Thoughts Before Reading

Really excited, but scared to read this – I loved The Dark Elements series (White Hot Kiss, Stone Cold Touch, Every Last Breath). I was so happy when I was approved for an ARC.

Review:

Okay, before we begin, it’s important to note that Storm and Fury is a spin-off of The Dark Elements series and that spin-offs are always hit or miss for me. (This was a hit, btw). You don’t have to read The Dark Elements (can we just call it TDE?) before reading this, but I recommend that you do as it’d give you some more backstory into the world and also Zayne.

Speaking of Zayne, he’s a tad weird in Storm and Fury. Not weird, weird, but just… different. Sometimes it was hard for me to believe that this is the same guy from TDE – he’s changed THAT much. Granted, after everything he went through, it’s not unwarranted, just surprising. I do kind of hate that a lot of his development happens off the page and isn’t fully shown in the story.

Trinity, our female lead, on the other hand, goes through a LOT of development throughout the story. I enjoyed seeing her grow, although she’s still a bit too impulsive for me to really like her. Just a bit! One of the things Storm and Fury does so well is discuss real-life topics despite being a fantasy novel. It was a joy to read about retinitis pigmentosa, a real-life eye condition that Jennifer L. Armentrout, herself, has. Despite her eye disease, Trinity is still a major badass.

I also loved Zayne and Trinity’s relationship and watching it progress. Their bickering was so fun to read!

Still, despite all the things I enjoyed, Storm and Fury is not without its faults. While the plot bought some surprises, it was kind of (a wee bit) predictable. And as much as I love Trinity and Zayne, they have a hard time competing for my love of Layla and Roth. Low key, Layla and Roth’s guest appearances, along with that of a certain snake familiar’s, were some of the biggest highlights of the story for me.

In conclusion…

I really enjoyed Storm and Fury! It’s a fantastic spin-off to a series I love. There’s action, romance, chemistry, and so much more, all with a hint of sass courtesy of Trinity. I can’t wait to read the sequel!

Final Rating
Characters
4 Stars
Pacing
4 Stars
Plot
4 Stars
Romance
3.5 Stars
Writing
4 Stars
World Building
4 Stars
Overall: 3.9
Emz Chang
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Series Review – The Dark Elements Trilogy http://www.pagingserenity.com/series-review-dark-elements-armentrout/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/series-review-dark-elements-armentrout/#comments Fri, 05 Jun 2020 04:05:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=5365

This series review is (probably) going to have spoilers. You have been warned.

Click the arrows to reveal my reviews for books #2 and #3.

Series in Review

The Dark Elements series is honestly one of my favorites. It’s just so swoon-worthy. It’s one of my go-to’s when I’m in need of an excellent romantic fantasy read.

White Hot Kiss (#1)
Series Review – The Dark Elements Trilogy
TITLE: White Hot Kiss
AUTHOR: Jennifer L. Armentrout
SERIES: The Dark Elements #1
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
RATING: 4.5 Stars

In the instant New York Times bestseller that started the Dark Elements series, one kiss is enough to kill...

Layla just wants to fit in at school and go on a date with Zayne, whom she's crushed on since forever. Trouble is, Zayne treats Layla like a sister--and Layla is a half demon, half gargoyle with abilities no one else possesses. And even though Zayne is a Warden, part of the race of gargoyles tasked with keeping humanity safe, Layla's kiss will kill anything with a soul - including him.

Then she meets Roth - a demon who claims to know her secrets. Though Layla knows she should stay away, it's tough when that whole no-kissing thing isn't an issue. Trusting Roth could ruin her chances with Zayne, but as Layla discovers she's the reason for a violent demon uprising, kissing the enemy suddenly pales in comparison to the looming end of the world.

Review

Ugh, there’s so much to love about White Hot Kiss. It’s honestly so close to perfect, imo. The world-building was so good, and the premise was really fascinating. Roth, one of the main male characters, was just so dreamy. Needless to say, this book features a swoon-worthy romance. I particularly enjoyed the discussion of some more meaningful topics, like labels vs. true identity, good vs. evil, discrimination, and more. Those discussions woven into the plot led to some excellent character development. Especially, since I found Layla, the main character, a bit too naïve at first. And how could I forget the greatness of Bambi, Roth’s animal familiar?

That said, I wasn’t a big fan of the love triangle. Or was it a square? Yeah, I’m not a big fan.

Final Rating
Characters
4.5 Stars
Pacing
4 Stars
Plot
4.5 Stars
Romance
5 Stars
Writing
4 Stars
World Building
4.5 Stars
Overall: 4.4

Stone Cold Touch (#2)
Series Review – The Dark Elements Trilogy
TITLE: Stone Cold Touch
AUTHOR: Jennifer L. Armentrout
SERIES: The Dark Elements #2
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
RATING: 4 Stars

ONE TOUCH CAN HEAL

Layla Shaw is trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. Her best friend, Zayne, is forever off-limits thanks to her mysterious power of a soul-stealing kiss. Suddenly, the Warden clan that has always protected her is keeping dangerous secrets. And she can barely think about Roth, the forbidden demon prince who understood her in ways no one else ever could.

Rock bottom is only the beginning once Layla’s powers finally start to evolve. She’s offered a tantalizing taste of what has always been forbidden, finally getting what she has always wanted, but with hell literally breaking loose and the body count piling up, the price may be higher than Layla is willing or able to pay.

Review

Stone Cold Touch suffers from second book syndrome a bit. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, just that it wasn’t as good as White Hot Kiss. Maybe because I didn’t get enough of Roth.

Oh, and the annoying love triangle from the first book got upgraded to a stupid, stupid, stupid love triangle. It was whatever when its existence was implied in White Hot Kiss, but it was totally different to see it in action. I’m not the biggest fan of Zayne and Layla together. I’m usually all for friends to lovers stories, but these two just didn’t work together. For starters, I think they were portrayed way too much like siblings to pull it off (at least from Zayne’s perspective). And because of that, they kind of lacked romantic chemistry, especially when compared to Roth and Layla.

It was also sad to see Layla’s development in White Hot Kiss regress a bit. Although, thinking about it now, I do think it makes the story a bit more realistic. Or at least, as realistic as a book with demons and live gargoyles can be.

As much as those things annoyed me, I did enjoy reading Stone Cold Touch. It has such an interesting plot with so many surprises. I really like the way the storying is going.

But did I mention the love triangle. Ugh!

Final Rating
Characters
4 Stars
Pacing
4 Stars
Plot
4 Stars
Romance
3.5 Stars
Writing
4 Stars
World Building
4.5 Stars
Overall: 4

Every Last Breath (#3)
Series Review – The Dark Elements Trilogy
TITLE: Every Last Breath
AUTHOR: Jennifer L. Armentrout
SERIES: The Dark Elements #3
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
RATING: 4.5 Stars

EACH BREATH MAY BE THE LAST

Every choice has consequences and Layla Shaw faces tougher choices than most. Light or darkness? Hardest of all, Layla has to decide which side of herself to trust. What will she do with the new problem at hand? A Lilin, the deadliest of demons, has been unleashed, wreaking havoc on all around her. To keep her best friend from a fate worse than death, Layla must strike a deal with the enemy while saving her city from destruction.

Torn between two worlds, Layla has no certainties, especially when an old bargain comes back to haunt them all. But sometimes, when secrets are everywhere and the truth seems unknowable, you have to listen to your heart, pick a side and fight like hell.

Review

Every Last Breath was such a fitting end to a great series. It had everything that Stone Cold Touch was missing, *cough cough ROTH. It also had a few heartbreaking moments. Not going to lie, I cried a few times. It just tugs on your heartstrings.

Every Last Breath had a great mix of humor, action, mystery, and of course, romance. I really enjoyed watching Roth and Layla’s characters development and their relationship blossom.

Final Rating
Characters
4.5 Stars
Pacing
4 Stars
Plot
4.5 Stars
Romance
4.5 Stars
Writing
4.5 Stars
World Building
4.5 Stars
Overall: 4.4

Have you read this trilogy? What did you think of it?

Emz Chang
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10 Books that Give Off Summer Vibes http://www.pagingserenity.com/10-books-that-give-off-summer-vibes/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/10-books-that-give-off-summer-vibes/#comments Mon, 01 Jun 2020 04:05:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=5378 { "@context":"https://schema.org", "@type":"Review", "datePublished": "2020-06-01T04:05:00+00:00", "description": "\n\n\n\n\nTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and Bookish and now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.\n\n\n\nThis Week's Prompt\n\n\n\nThis week's topic is \"Books that Give Off Summer Vibes\". ", "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Paging Serenity" }, "url": "http:\/\/www.pagingserenity.com\/10-books-that-give-off-summer-vibes\/", "itemReviewed": { "@type": "Book", "name": "", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "", "sameAs": "" }, "isbn": "" }, "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Emz Chang", "sameAs": "http:\/\/www.pagingserenity.com\/" }, "reviewRating": { "@type": "Rating", "ratingValue": false, "bestRating": "5" } }

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and Bookish and now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This Week’s Prompt

This week’s topic is “Books that Give Off Summer Vibes”. Summer always puts me in the mood to read contemporaries, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that most of the list are… wait for it, contemporaries. 😆

The List

1. Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

This book takes place in a California beach town. It may also involve a boardwalk, some surfing, and an outdoor movie festival.

2. Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

A summer road trip take one.

3. Breaking the Rules by Katie McGarry

A summer road trip take two.

4. Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson is the son of Poseidon, Greek god of the Sea. In my mind, sea = beach = summer. Hence why it gives me summer vibes despite the fact that I’m pretty sure the books don’t actually take place during that season.

5. Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Another book that takes place in a beach town during the summer.

6. Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian

There’s ice cream on the cover. Need I say more?

7. The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

Summer is literally in the title.

8. Two-Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt

A summer road trip take three.

9. The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

There’s an ice cream truck on the cover. Few things scream summer more than an ice cream truck.

10. The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

If I remember correctly, I think most of the book takes place in January? Which isn’t exactly a summer month in the US. Unless, or course, you go to somewhere like Hawaii, where the majority of the book takes places. That’s as summery as you can get!

TL;DR

The Queens of YA Contemporary are great at writing books with summer vibes – they account for 80% of this list. Christina Lauren, the Queens of Romantic Comedies, contributed 10%. The only fantasy book that made my list is the Percy Jackson series. Percy Jackson is also probably the only one on the list that doesn’t strictly take place during the summer.

What are some of your favorite summer reads?

Emz Chang
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Review – Light Years http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-light-years/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-light-years/#respond Fri, 29 May 2020 04:05:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=5230

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

Review – Light Years
TITLE: Light Years
AUTHOR: Kass Morgan
SERIES: Light Years #1
Source: NOVL
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
RATING: 4 Stars

Reeling from the latest attack by a mysterious enemy, the Quatra Fleet Academy is finally admitting students from every planet in the solar system after centuries of exclusivity.

Hotshot pilot Vesper, an ambitious Tridian citizen, dreams of becoming a captain - but when she loses her spot to a brilliant, wisecracking boy from the wrong side of the asteroid belt, it makes her question everything she thought she knew. Growing up on the toxic planet Deva, Cormak will take any chance he can get to escape his dead-end life and join the Academy - even if he has to steal someone's identity to do it. Arran was always considered an outsider on icy Chetire, always dreaming of something more than a life working in the mines. Now an incoming cadet, Arran is looking for a place to belong - he just never thought that place would be in the arms of a Tridian boy. And Orelia is hiding a dark secret - she's infiltrated the Academy to complete a mission, one that threatens the security of everyone there. But if anyone finds out who she really is, it'll be her life on the line.

These cadets will have to put their differences aside and become a team to defend their world from a cunning enemy - but the danger might be lurking closer to home than they think...

Review:

Light Years tells the story of how four strangers have to work together to achieve their dreams and save their world.

While reading Light Years, one of the first things that stood out to me is the diversity. In this sci-fi story, the four main characters, Cormak, Vesper, Arran, and Orelia, come from different places, cultures, and backgrounds. On the surface, they can’t be any more different, but deep down, they hold similar values.

They also had distinct personalities. After a few chapters, it was pretty easy for me to figure out who was narrating each chapter without looking at the chapter headings. That being said, I feel like some characters were more fleshed out than others, not only in their development and narration time but also in their backstories.

I really enjoyed reading about the dynamics between Cormak, Vesper, Arran, and Orelia. I just wish I could see more of their relationships develop. I felt like there was this weird time jump, and suddenly they weren’t strangers to each other anymore.

The romance in Light Years was also lovely. The characters, for the most part, had excellent chemistry with one another, but it was so so obvious who was going to end up with who. There weren’t many surprises in the romance department which I found a bit… uninteresting?

Speaking of surprises, I liked the thriller bits the story provides. But they too were a bit predictable. That doesn’t mean there weren’t any great twists (that ending! gasp), but it wasn’t as exciting plot-wise as I thought it would be. Still, I devoured Lights Years so fast! I don’t think I could have flipped the pages any quicker!

And can I just say that I NEED THE SEQUEL! WHERE’S THE SEQUEL?! GIMME THE SEQUEL! The ending definitely took the story in a direction I didn’t expect. It also brings along so many questions I need to be answered.

In conclusion…

I came here for the plot but stayed for the characters. Some twists were predictable, but others were mindblowing – I’m desperately and impatiently waiting for the sequel!

Final Rating
Characters
4 Stars
Pacing
4 Stars
Plot
4.5 Stars
Romance
3.5 Stars
Writing
4 Stars
World Building
4 Stars
Overall: 4
Emz Chang
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8 of My College Regrets & Delights http://www.pagingserenity.com/college-regrets-delights/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/college-regrets-delights/#respond Wed, 27 May 2020 04:05:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=5359 { "@context":"https://schema.org", "@type":"Review", "datePublished": "2020-05-27T04:05:00+00:00", "description": "\n\n\n\n\nAfter my freshman year of college, I posted about six regrets I had and seven decisions I'd make again. Now that I've graduated (hopefully, I'm still waiting for it to be official), I figure", "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Paging Serenity" }, "url": "http:\/\/www.pagingserenity.com\/college-regrets-delights\/", "itemReviewed": { "@type": "Book", "name": "", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "", "sameAs": "" }, "isbn": "" }, "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Emz Chang", "sameAs": "http:\/\/www.pagingserenity.com\/" }, "reviewRating": { "@type": "Rating", "ratingValue": false, "bestRating": "5" } }

After my freshman year of college, I posted about six regrets I had and seven decisions I’d make again. Now that I’ve graduated (hopefully, I’m still waiting for it to be official), I figured I’d kind of take a look back on my college experience as a whole. For reference, I graduated from Rutgers Business School – New Brunswick with a bachelors of science in Supply Chain and Marketing Science.

Regrets

Solely Relying on Rate My Professor or Word of Mouth

Let’s start this list with a minor regret. I definitely could have chosen some of my classes more smartly. In my first few years, I’d blindly believe whatever Rate My Professor or upperclassmen have said about specific courses. But here’s the thing – everyone is different, and everyone is biased.

I find Rate My Professor incredibly helpful and still stand by my advocacy of using it. But I’ve learned to take what I learn from that site with a grain of salt. You’ll notice most professors on there will either get extremely high ratings or extremely low ones. And that’s because most people only bother to rate professors when they feel passionate about them – whether they hate the professor for giving them a bad grade or love them for making the course super duper easy.

Same thing with some of the advice I got from upperclassmen. I had many of them tell me this one class was the hardest prerequisite I’d have to take in the business school. They just kept hammering that idea home. But it turns out it was one of the easier classes for me because I had prior knowledge of the course material.

My advice would be to take everyone’s opinions – from Rate My Professor, upperclassmen’s experience, and also your university’s own professor performance rating system to come up with a more well-rounded idea of what to expect from a professor or course.

Planning Out My Course Schedule Poorly

Going into college, I had a general idea of what classes I wanted to take every semester in order to fulfill all the requirements and credits I needed to graduate. I messed up. I took too many hard(er) classes at once, I jam-packed some days too densely, and I took too many credits in some semesters.

Part of it comes from not knowing what I really wanted – if I wanted to double major, taking 18 credits most semesters would be necessary. But I still ended up taking 18 credits even when I decided not to double major. Ultimately, this led me to go part-time and take only six credits in my last semester. I could have saved money and graduated a semester early if I had taken an extra class during semesters, where I had a lighter load. Or I could have saved myself some stress and evened my schedule out. But I didn’t.

Essentially I had a nasty habit of biting off more than I could chew even when I didn’t have to. If I could go back, I’d take more time to think about what classes I need to take every semester.

Not Starting My Job Hunt Sooner

This is honestly one of my biggest regrets. It’s not hard to see why – I graduated without lining up a fulltime offer. Recruitment season for full-time jobs and internships typically start late summer to early fall. The earlier you apply, the higher chance you have of getting hired. I don’t know why, but I never could seem to get my act together enough to apply during that time. Maybe because I’m the idiot who always took more credits than necessary during the fall semester (see above).

Overestimating How Much Time I Have as a College Student

Throughout my four years at college, my friends and I would make all these plans. We’d come up with fun things to do like spending a day in the City (aka New York City), but we could never seem to find the time. So we’d always push it off. “Oh, there’s always next semester.” That’s also pretty much how I approached my college bucket list. There’s nothing inherently wrong with waiting for the right time to do things. Except for one big problem.

We’re now out of semesters.

I wish I took a more proactive approach to make some more memories. I kept thinking I had more time. But then we got kicked off of campus with two months left of the semester. Some of those plans may never happen.

Staying Home Instead of Socializing

This one kind of goes with the idea of taking more time to make more memories. I’m an introvert by nature, so I’d much rather stay home to read or watch tv than go out. But now I really wish I had said “yes” when friends invited me to go eat or do things like go bowling. Especially now that I’m starting to realize I might never see some of them again in person. Some things are worth pushing your comfort zone or only getting 4 hours of sleep.

What I’d Do Again

Living On Campus in a Living Learning Community

If you can afford it, I’d definitely recommend living on campus, at least for your freshmen year. There’s just a different type of social interaction that occurs within freshmen dorms than anywhere else. People are typically more open to making friends and hanging out because you’ve all been thrown into the deep end together.

This is especially true if you live in a living-learning community. Being apart of an LLC during my freshman year helped me make a lot of friends and gain a lot of resources to help me succeed.

Getting an On Campus Job

I spent three years working at the computer labs on campus, and I loved the experience. The actual job could be a bit of a chore at times (why can’t people read signs?), but the hours were great, the pay was good, and the people (for the most part) were nice.

The thing about working on campus is that our shift schedule was dependent on the University’s. So whenever the University had breaks, so did the lab. And whenever the University decided that a Tuesday was to be treated as a Thursday, the lab did too. It made scheduling really easy so I rarely had to worry about switching or putting up shifts for coverage.

Sacrificing My GPA for a Better Class or Professor

Some of the most valuable classes I’ve taken were also some of the hardest. Sometimes the difficulty was because of the course material itself. Sometimes it was because the professor has high standards. Either way, taking those classes was worth the hit my GPA took as a result. GPA isn’t everything, but what I learned from those classes will really help me later on in life.

I honestly can’t remember much from some of the easier classes/professors I took because I just coasted through them. But the harder classes tend to stick more because they required more effort. And although some of the professors were harder, they were also much better teachers.

Sometimes it’s worth doing things the hard way.

Getting Involved on Campus

One of my regrets from my freshman year was not getting too involved on campus. So during my sophomore year, I changed that. I started as serving as a committee member on a club related to my major and eventually worked my way up to the executive vice president. It wasn’t the most glamorous position, and there were definitely times that serving on the executive board was a pain in my behind, but I’d do it all over again if I had the chance. I learned so much from my time there.

Emz Chang
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My Favorite Opening Lines http://www.pagingserenity.com/my-favorite-opening-lines/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/my-favorite-opening-lines/#comments Mon, 25 May 2020 04:05:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=5342 { "@context":"https://schema.org", "@type":"Review", "datePublished": "2020-05-25T04:05:00+00:00", "description": "\n\n\n\n\nTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and Bookish and now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.\n\n\n\nThis Week's Prompt\n\n\n\nThis week\u2019s topic is... \"Opening Lines\" so here are the", "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Paging Serenity" }, "url": "http:\/\/www.pagingserenity.com\/my-favorite-opening-lines\/", "itemReviewed": { "@type": "Book", "name": "", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "", "sameAs": "" }, "isbn": "" }, "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Emz Chang", "sameAs": "http:\/\/www.pagingserenity.com\/" }, "reviewRating": { "@type": "Rating", "ratingValue": false, "bestRating": "5" } }

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and Bookish and now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This Week’s Prompt

This week’s topic is… “Opening Lines” so here are the ten I like the most. Not going to lie, I had to do a bit of research to remember them all.

The List

1. Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

“People often shit themselves when they die.”

I don’t think this one needs an explanation.

2. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

“Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood.”

Me as a child: WTF is this dude talking about?

3. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

“Grace Somerfield was the first to die.”

I was kind of skeptical about reading The Darkest Minds at first but that line sure got my attention.

4. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

“I felt her fear before I heard her screams.”

Well, that’s a bit creepy.

5. Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

“I hate having to dress like a man.”

Hmmm… interesting…

6. White Hot Kiss by Jennifer Lynn Armentrout

“There was a demon in McDonald’s. And it had a powerful hunger for Big Macs.”

Okay, okay, I kinda cheated with this one, but come on, how could I leave out the second line?

7. Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

“No night was perfect for treason, but this one came close.”

Treason always makes for an interesting plot.

8. White Cat by Holly Black

“I wake up barefoot, standing on cold slate tiles.”

Ooookay, this is not weird at all.

9. The Angel Experiment by James Peterson

“Congratulations. The fact that you’re reading this means you’ve taken one giant step closer to surviving till your birthday.”

Well, this is helpful given that my birthday is less than a month away.

10. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

“They say that just before you die your whole life flashes before your eyes, but that’s not how it happened for me.”

TL;DR

It turns out I’m a sucker for opening lines that grab your attention, usually through creating WTF moments.

What are some of your favorite opening lines?

Emz Chang
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Review – Rule by Ellen Goodlett http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-rule-goodlett/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-rule-goodlett/#respond Fri, 15 May 2020 04:05:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=4744

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

Review – Rule by Ellen Goodlett
TITLE: Rule
AUTHOR: Ellen Goodlett
SERIES: Rule #1
Source: NOVL
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
RATING: 3.5 Stars

Three girls with three deadly secrets. Only one can wear the crown.

The king is dying, his heir has just been murdered, and rebellion brews in the east. But the kingdom of Kolonya and the outer Reaches has one last option before it descends into leaderless chaos.

Or rather, three unexpected options.

Zofi has spent her entire life trekking through the outer Reaches with her band of Travelers. She would do anything to protect the band, her family. But no one can ever find out how far she's already gone.

Akeylah was raised in the Eastern Reach, surrounded by whispers of rebellion and abused by her father. Desperate to escape, she makes a decision that threatens the whole kingdom.

Ren grew up in Kolonya, serving as a lady's maid and scheming her way out of the servants' chambers. But one such plot could get her hung for treason if anyone ever discovers what she's done.

When the king summons the girls, they arrive expecting arrest or even execution. Instead they learn the truth: they are his illegitimate daughters, and one must become his new heir. But someone in Kolonya knows their secrets, and that someone will stop at nothing to keep the sisters from their destiny... to rule.

Magic, mystery, and blackmail abound in this sensational and striking fantasy debut.

Review:

Rule is the story of three different girls who are torn from their normal lives after discovering they are illegitimate daughters of a king in need of an heir. Of course, there is no easy path to being queen. Only one can be crowned next in line to rule the kingdom, and they all have nasty secrets that could get them killed. Secrets that someone else knows.

Rule was such an exciting read! While the basic concept is not the most unique (Three Dark Crowns, anyone?), its world-building and characters set it apart. The magical elements add a refreshing twist. It’s quite intriguing how the magic can be harnessed and used. But I wanted to see more of it.

While the magical elements are fascinating, my favorite aspect of this story was reading about the background of the kingdom and learning more about each part through the three girls. Because they come from different places, are of different races and social classes, and have different sexual orientations, they bring different pieces to the big puzzle, which I thoroughly enjoyed putting together.

The diversity each girl brings was so fun to read. But most importantly, they have different stories. I really enjoyed reading about how their experiences have shaped them into who they are and watching them develop.

That being said, I wish I got to see more of their relationship with one another and other characters develop. I was surprised by how quick some of their relationships shifted. Their individual point of views also felt a bit tedious and chunky at times. Even though the pov switched, sometimes I felt like I was reading about the same character going through the exact same events.

The mystery behind the secret keeper was really captivating. Although the pay off was a bit disappointing – it was a little predictable since it was more of a mystery for the girls than the reader – the ending made up for it. I did not see that coming at all! Of course, we’re stuck on a cliffhanger, and I cannot wait to see what happens next!

In Conclusion…

I really enjoyed Rule and reading about the world it’s set in and the three strong female characters, but it’s not without its issues. I wish there was more (and better) character development, as well as a more compelling mystery.

Final Rating
Characters
3.5 Stars
Pacing
4 Stars
Plot
3.5 Stars
Writing
3.5 Stars
World Building
4 Stars
Overall: 3.7
Emz Chang
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