Paging Serenity http://www.pagingserenity.com A Literary & Lifestyle Blog Fri, 23 Oct 2020 02:19:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.3 http://www.pagingserenity.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/cropped-icon-32x32.png Paging Serenity http://www.pagingserenity.com 32 32 Review – Chasing Lucky http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-chasing-lucky-bennett/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-chasing-lucky-bennett/#respond Fri, 23 Oct 2020 10:05:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=5601
Review – Chasing Lucky
TITLE: Chasing Lucky
AUTHOR: Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon Pulse
PUBLICATION DATE: November 10, 2020
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
RATING: 3.5 Stars

In this coming-of-age romance perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen, a rule-abiding teen embraces her more rebellious side while falling for her ex-boyfriend’s arch-nemesis.

Josie Saint-Martin is well-versed in the art of concealment. Bullied as a child, she’s spent most of her life with her single mother, moving from city to city, covering up what she doesn’t want others to see, comfortable behind the lens of her favorite vintage camera . . .until Josie’s grandmother dies and they return to her mother’s historical New England hometown to run the family bookstore. There, Josie pulls off the ultimate camouflage: dating Adrian, the Harvard-bound son of the most influential man in town.

But her smokescreen is blown when Adrian breaks up with her during his high school graduation party, and Josie’s poorly executed act of revenge lands her big-time trouble—jail alongside the last person she’d want to share a mugshot with: the mysterious and brooding son of the boat mechanic next door, Lucky Karras.
Forced to spend the summer together in mandatory community service, Josie and Lucky become the talk of their coastal town—shamed, trolled, and publicly disgraced. The weird thing is, Josie starts to not mind, because the pair have more in common than she once thought. A lot more. But during a summer of secrets, in a town built on gossip, everything rises to the surface. Can Josie and Lucky swim past these obstacles, or will they both go down together?

Setting the Scene

Review in 10 Words (or Less)

Cute, but not as good as I hoped.

Mood Before Reading

Three words: massive reading slump.

It was really bad, like I had to DNF a bunch of books within the first chapter, bad.

Dates Read

August 27, 2020 – September 5, 2020

Review

A Jenn Bennett book about Josie, a teen photographer, reconnecting with her childhood best friend, Lucky, who’s now the town’s bad boy? Sounds like a great read, right? But unfortunately, as much as I liked it, it fell a little flat for me.

To be fair, I had high expectations (did I mention it features an old childhood friend who’s now the bad boy?!?), and I was stuck in a pretty bad reading slump. But Chasing Lucky just — ugh, I wanted it to love it so badly, but I just couldn’t.

The first quarter was sooo hard to get through. I have a pretty well-documented problem with secondhand embarrassment (it’s a “me” problem), and let’s just say Josie, our lovely main character, did not help with that. At all. I wanted to shake some sense into her so badly! In Josie’s defense, I do feel like some of my issues with Chasing Lucky, and my annoyance with all the secondhand embarrassment is related to the age of the characters. I might be getting a little too old for YA contemporary – there’s a bit of a disconnect between me and the characters (it’s like a five year age gap) that I can’t seem to get past.

Still, the secondhand embarrassment was so bad that I had to put off continuing this book for a few days. I thought this would be a short and sweet read, but it ended up taking me (who usually prefers to read books in one sitting) over a week to finish this.

Part of why it took me so long to read Chasing Lucky (by my standards) is that I feel like it’s missing something. Despite her rash behavior, I actually did like Josie. And as far as love interests go, Lucky is a pretty good one. But there was just something to keep me from becoming fully invested in their story. They had me smiling and laughing so much my cheeks hurt (when I wasn’t too busy being embarrassed). And I had a great time reading it; it just failed to draw me in and keep my attention during the first half (the second half had less awkward and embarrassing moments and had more things going on).

In conclusion…

Chasing Lucky was a cute read that had me grinning until my cheeks hurt. But it was missing a little extra spark and had too many awkward and embarrassing moments for comfort. Out of the three Jenn Bennett books I’ve read, this would be my third favorite (Starry Eyes has the top spot, followed closely by Alex, Approximately).

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

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

Emily
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Am I Too Old for YA? http://www.pagingserenity.com/am-i-too-old-for-ya/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/am-i-too-old-for-ya/#respond Wed, 21 Oct 2020 10:05:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=5596
How does age affect your enjoyment of YA?

Some Backstory

I’ve been thinking about this question over the past few years and even more so in the last few months. Why? Well, I haven’t really enjoyed reading Young Adult fiction as much lately, so I have to ask, am I too old for YA?

As I’m writing this, I’m 22, so not too much older than most YA characters who are usually around 14 to 18 years old. But it still feels like a significant age gap and a huge barrier that has started to form due to it.

What’s Wrong with YA?

There’s a reason why I’ve started to read way more New Adult and romance books than YA contemporary in the last two years. It’s because it’s becoming harder and harder for me to relate to characters in YA books. This isn’t a problem by itself, but it can significantly impact my enjoyment of a novel when the genre is usually character-driven. When a book relies on the character to sell the story, I feel like the reader needs to connect with the main character somehow. It doesn’t necessarily mean I have to like the MC, but I have to, at the very least, understand or be willing to put up with her. But I feel like as I’ve gotten older, the disconnect between a teenage MC and me has become harder and harder to disregard. And that makes it so much harder for me to read and enjoy a book.

I’m not saying, “oh, look, I graduated from college, and now I don’t understand those silly teenagers.” It’s more like I’m older now and their worries and main motivations seem a little… inconsequential. So what if that cute boy doesn’t like you back? Or you don’t have a date for prom? I currently have bigger problems to worry about, like finding a job and doing taxes, and deciding how much longer I can go without washing my laundry. And to be completely fair, I can still relate to some of the issues YA MCs face, like dealing with peer pressure or deciding what college to attend. But those are all deeper issues than the surface level problems that tend to be blown out of proportion in a lot of YA books. Girl, the world is not going to end if he doesn’t text you back.

Mature Characters, Please!

Interestingly, this disconnect caused by age is more applicable in YA contemporary versus YA fantasy. And because of that, I think it’s not so much the age of the characters that is the problem, but the maturity and storyline that occur as a result. In most fantasy/sci-fi books, the main character has to grow up fast, take ownership of her actions, and, overall, be a leader. Lives are at stake, sacrifices and tough decisions need to be made.

Some contemporary characters aren’t written that way.

They’re more innocent and sheltered, and that annoys me makes them harder to relate to now that I’m more jaded. Take To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, for example. One of my biggest problems with that book is Lara Jean’s naivety, but I don’t think I would have minded it as much if I had read the books a few years earlier. I’d probably like her more and find her more endearing when I was still in high school versus when I was dealing with the stress of college and living on my own.

And I’m not saying I don’t enjoy YA contemporary anymore; it’s just that I tend to prefer books with MCs that are more responsible and mature. All my favorite YA contemporaries feature characters that are about 16 or older, for instance, Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry, Magnolia by Kristi Cook, and Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett.

I Need a Strong Connection

I guess the real question isn’t whether I’m too old for YA, but rather how important it is for me to be able to connect with the main character of a story.

Because there’s another question, I can ask: am I too young for adult fiction? For a while, seventh grade (12 or 13-year-old) me didn’t think so. I happily devoured Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen series (Chocolate Chip Cookie MurderStrawberry Shortcake Murder, etc…) and even some of James Patterson’s romance books before I realized that I was definitely too young to be reading those books. It wasn’t so much the content, but after a certain point, I just could not relate to the characters that starred in them — I lacked the life experience to. A woman who’s getting pressured to “settle down” is not someone 12-year-old me could connect to, no matter how hard I tried.

So maybe it’s not so much about being too old or too young to read a certain genre. But instead, how my age affects my perspective and how that perspective affects my ability to connect to characters.

What do you think?

Do you think age can affect your enjoyment of books?

Emily
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Mini Reviews – Jenn Bennett Edition http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-alex-approximately-starry-eyes/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-alex-approximately-starry-eyes/#respond Fri, 16 Oct 2020 10:05:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=5578

I’m trying something new today: a set of mini reviews. I don’t usually post shorter reviews but I was tempted to after reading these two Jenn Bennett books. I just didn’t have too much to say about them but still wanted to gush about them here. Jenn Bennett is probably one of my favorite new-to-me authors that I discovered this year and I’m looking forward to reading her other books.

Click to skip to a particular review: Alex, Approximately | Starry Eyes


Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett: a mini review
Mini Reviews – Jenn Bennett Edition
TITLE: Alex, Approximately
AUTHOR: Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon Pulse
PUBLICATION DATE: April 4, 2017
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
RATING: 4 Stars

Classic movie buff Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online by “Alex.” Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new arch-nemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever-it-is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. [View post to see spoiler]

In this delightfully charming teen spin on You’ve Got Mail, the one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Setting the Scene

Mood Before Reading

Craving some romance reads after finishing The Bromance Book Club.

Dates Read

April 27, 2020 — April 27, 2020

One day read. I put everyone else on hold to read and finish this.

Review

Alex, Approximately was such a fun read! It’s about Bailey, a film geek, who just moved to the same town as her internet crush, Alex, and how she deals with her new job and her annoying coworker, Porter. Honestly, the synopsis ruined some of the magic of this book for me, so if you haven’t read the synopsis yet, DON’T. There’s a bit of a spoiler in it that prevented this story from being a 4.5 star read for me. [View post to see spoiler]

Regardless of the spoiler in the synopsis, I found Bailey to be really relatable, and that connection with her kept me turning the pages. Not going to lie, the first few chapters were a little tough to get through (they were kind of awkward), but Alex, Approximately turned into such a cute read afterward. I can definitely see myself rereading this later when I need a quick pick me up read. It just has so many cute and fluffy moments that make me so happy to read.

I should also note that unlike Bailey, I am not a film geek, so I might have missed some classic film Easter eggs and references that fans might enjoy. Still, not quite understanding those references didn’t deter me from enjoying this book at all.

In conclusion…

Alex, Approximately is a cute and quick read that I look forward to rereading. It was a great introduction to Jenn Bennett’s writing and a perfect summer read.

Final Rating
Characters
4 Stars
Pacing
4 Stars
Plot
4 Stars
Romance
4 Stars
Writing
4.5 Stars
Overall: 4.1

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett: a mini review
Mini Reviews – Jenn Bennett Edition
TITLE: Starry Eyes
AUTHOR: Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon Pulse
PUBLICATION DATE: April 3, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
RATING: 4.5 Stars

Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern-day Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.
What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?

Setting the Scene

Thoughts Before Reading

I really enjoyed reading Alex, Approximately so I was excited to try another Jenn Bennett book.

Dates Read

May 2, 2020 — May 2, 2020

Once I started it, I couldn’t stop reading.

Review

There are few tropes that I love more than enemies-to-lovers and friends-to-lovers, and Starry Eyes has both. Sort of. In Starry Eyes, former best friends and current enemies, Zorie and Lennon, are stranded in the woods together. It’s such a great premise and features some of my favorite elements, so of course, I was excited to read this. I was not disappointed. At all.

In fact, I was left speechless at the end. Starry Eyes was so good it even gave me a bookish hangover. I don’t even know the last time I got a bookish hangover, let alone one from a YA contemporary (my least read genre these days). Ugh, I loved reading it so much!

Zorie and Lennon were both so cute and relatable to read about. I love how neither of them are stereotypical teenagers and that they both have their own little quirks. But even more than that, I really loved watching them work on their relationship and finally revisit why their friendship ended in the first place.

Still, as much as I love Starry Eyes, there’s just something preventing me from giving it 5 stars. Perhaps it’s just me being stingy, but I feel like it just was missing something. Hmm, maybe it was just missing some… tension? Like everything was wrapped up a little too fast and neatly? I honestly don’t know. 🤷🏻‍♀️

In conclusion…

Starry Eyes is one of the best YA contemporaries I’ve read in a while. I loved it so much it gave me a bookish hangover after I finished reading it.

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

Have you read these? What did you think?

Do you prefer shorter or longer reviews?

Emily
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Review – The Silvered Serpents http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-the-silvered-serpents-chokshi/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-the-silvered-serpents-chokshi/#respond Fri, 18 Sep 2020 10:05:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=5567 The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi is better than The Gilded Wolves.

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 – The Silvered Serpents
TITLE: The Silvered Serpents
AUTHOR: Roshani Chokshi
SERIES: The Gilded Wolves #2
Publisher: Wednesday Books
PUBLICATION DATE: September 22, 2020
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
RATING: 4.5 Stars

Returning to the dark and glamorous 19th century world of her New York Times instant bestseller, The Gilded Wolves, Roshani Chokshi dazzles us with another riveting tale as full of mystery and danger as ever in The Silvered Serpents.

They are each other’s fiercest love, greatest danger, and only hope.

Séverin and his team members might have successfully thwarted the Fallen House, but victory came at a terrible cost — one that still haunts all of them. Desperate to make amends, Séverin pursues a dangerous lead to find a long lost artifact rumored to grant its possessor the power of God.

Their hunt lures them far from Paris, and into the icy heart of Russia where crystalline ice animals stalk forgotten mansions, broken goddesses carry deadly secrets, and a string of unsolved murders makes the crew question whether an ancient myth is a myth after all.

As hidden secrets come to the light and the ghosts of the past catch up to them, the crew will discover new dimensions of themselves. But what they find out may lead them down paths they never imagined.

A tale of love and betrayal as the crew risks their lives for one last job.

Setting the Scene

Review in 10 Words (or Less)

THAT ENDING THOUGH!!! LOVED THE BOOK!

Mood Before Reading

Suffering a book hangover from the first book in the series, The Gilded Wolves.

Review

Holy shit!

That’s it. That’s my review.

No, but really, holy shit! That ending really caught me off guard! My heart is racing again, just thinking about it. It’s been a while since I’ve been that blindsided by a book. And I’m already dying to read the next book in the series. I hate cliffhangers!!

The Silvered Serpents picks up a little while after the events of The Gilded Wolves. There have been some changes as everyone is struggling to cope with everything that happened. Poor Séverin has not been handling it well, and that’s trickling down to the rest of the team. It was insightful to see the group dynamics change and how it affected the individual friendships within the group.

It was also lovely to dive deeper into everyone’s backstories and see how their personal histories affect who they are today. The development they all go through really helped drive the story and the emotions behind it, in my opinion. The treasure hunt and unraveling all the mysteries associated with it wouldn’t have been as enjoyable without the individual characters’ distinctive personalities and inner thoughts and feelings. Reading from their different point of view added another level of intrigue to the story.

In a way, The Silvered Serpents feels like a more refined version of The Gilded Wolves. It has most of what I enjoyed about the first book and improved upon some of the issues I had with it. One of those issues was the predictive nature of the plot and characters. Unlike the last book, when I was able to put the pieces of the puzzle together too soon, I started drawing predictions right before they happened while reading The Silvered Serpents. The improved timing/dispersal of clues led to more unexpected twists and boosted their shock factor by a lot. I’m still reeling from the shock of the ending. After I finished reading this book, all I could think was “holy shit!” over and over again, hence the start of this review.

Ugh, my heart still hurts thinking about it.

The Silvered Serpents is also told at a faster pace, which I appreciated. I think it suits the story a bit better and helps amp up the emotions a bit. However, it comes at a cost. It’s not as poetic or magical as the first book. Part of what made the first book so magical was all the worldbuilding, but the second book has less of it. But the worldbuilding also made the book slower to read, so I guess it’s a give or take.

Something to Think About

While I truly loved reading The Silvered Serpents, it’s important to note that the main characters may not be totally accurate representations of the cultures they claim. Now, I’m not from any of the cultures the characters represent, but Uma (@books.bags.burgers) is. And in her review of this book, she talks about how Laila’s not the best representation of South Indian culture.

To be fair, The Gilded Wolves series is historical fiction, and Laila is often considered an #ownvoices character. However, accurate representation is always important in works of fiction, regardless of genre, so the fact that it contains questionable/poor rep is quite disappointing. It’s honestly why this book isn’t a 5 star read for me.

In conclusion…

I massively enjoyed reading The Silvered Serpents, even more so than I enjoyed The Gilded Wolves. I loved learning more about each character, and the twists at the end really caught me off guard. But it lacks a bit of magic compared to the first book, and there’s some questionable Indian representation. I can’t wait to read the next book, though!

Final Rating
Characters
4.5 Stars
Pacing
4.5 Stars
Plot
4.5 Stars
Romance
4 Stars
Writing
4 Stars
World Building
4.5 Stars
Overall: 4.3

Have you read The Silvered Serpents? What did you think?

Emily
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Review – The Gilded Wolves http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-the-gilded-wolves-chokshi/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-the-gilded-wolves-chokshi/#respond Fri, 11 Sep 2020 04:05:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=5558 The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi is a book full of wonder. Review – The Gilded Wolves
TITLE: The Gilded Wolves
AUTHOR: Roshani Chokshi
SERIES: The Gilded Wolves #1
Publisher: Wednesday Books
PUBLICATION DATE: January 15, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
RATING: 4 Stars

No one believes in them. But soon no one will forget them.

It's 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.

Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history--but only if they can stay alive.

Setting the Scene

Review in 10 Words (or Less)

Wow, that was a really rich read!

Mood Before Reading

Kind of in a reading slump after reading Fable.

Review

Set in 1889 Paris, The Gilded Wolves tells the tale of a group of thieves on a treasure hunt for an object that can potentially change their futures. It’s one of the best and most memorable books I’ve read so far this year. Everything is so intricately woven together, from the history, the artifacts, the puzzles, and the characters with their own personalities and their backstories.

The world-building was spellbinding, and so was the writing. I loved the reimagining of history to fit the world this novel is set in and learning snippets about various cultures worldwide. This book is not at all a fast read, nor should it be. The Gilded Wolves is definitely meant to be savored slowly. You can’t rush through reading this book because all the little details are essential. It got my brain thinking more than any of the thrillers/mysteries I’ve read this year. The writing was rich and decadent, like a luscious chocolate cake. A small piece is incredibly delicious in one sitting, but too much of it is hard to swallow. The writing was elegant and beautiful, but hard to entirely consume in one sitting. It didn’t stop me from flying through the pages, though.

But my favorite aspect of The Gilded Wolves is by far the characters and their found family dynamic. Their banter and love for one another is gold. I loved how all the characters had their own personalities and distinctive quirks. They’re so diverse, not just in backstories and as characters, but also they’re all members of marginalized groups and from all different walks of life. Their bond towards one another made me smile and laugh a lot and even got me to get a little misty-eyed. A little.

I do think some of the characters were a little too perceptive to what the others were feeling. It just seems a little far fetched that most of the characters are so good at reading people that they know exactly what everyone else is thinking/feeling only based on facial expressions is a little far fetched. It also makes it feel like some critical aspects of the story are being told, rather than shown.

But my biggest problem with The Gilded Wolves is its predictability. Some events carried a little too much foreshadowing that allowed me to accurately guess what would happen next. Having an idea of what was coming took away the “oomph” factor that the story relied on at times. Without the ability to incite a surprised gasp, I failed to feel the full range of emotions for these characters, despite caring and empathizing with them.

In conclusion…

The Gilded Wolves is a magical read with wonderful world-building and a host of diverse and likable characters. I just wish it was a little less predictable.

Final Rating
Characters
4.5 Stars
Pacing
3.5 Stars
Plot
4 Stars
Romance
4 Stars
Writing
4 Stars
World Building
4.5 Stars
Overall: 4.1
Emily
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Review – Fable by Adrienne Young http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-fable-adrienne-young/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-fable-adrienne-young/#respond Fri, 28 Aug 2020 04:05:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=5551
Fable by Adrienne Young is a quick read full of intrigue.

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 – Fable by Adrienne Young
TITLE: Fable
AUTHOR: Adrienne Young
SERIES: Fable
Publisher: Wednesday Books
PUBLICATION DATE: September 1, 2020
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
RATING: 3.5 Stars

As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn't who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they're going to stay alive.

Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men.

Setting the Scene

Mood Before Reading

In a need for a pick-me-up read. The last book I read before this one was pretty disappointing and since everyone was raving about this one, I figured it’d be a good choice.

Review

Oh, goodness, where to begin? Fable is about a girl named, wait for it, Fable, who aspires to be a powerful trader (think pirate businessman) like her father and partner up with him. The only problem is her father abandoned her on an island in the middle of nowhere a few years ago, so reaching her goal is not as easy as it might sound.

The world-building in Fable is quite fantastic. Right off the bat, Fable, our narrator, starts painting a rich picture of the world she lives in, and it’s quite enchanting. That said, I hope the published version has a glossary or something because even with my inference skills, some of the terms Fable uses (mainly boating/ship related terms) threw me for a loop. Some of the transitions in the first few chapters certainly did not help my comprehension, and it got to the point where I thought my ARC might be missing some pages. That’s how confused I was. But don’t worry, I was able to make sense of everything. Eventually.

It was quite interesting to read about Fable herself. I admired her grit and strength, but most of all, I loved her development throughout the book. I appreciated how she learned to grow as a person as she dealt with all the twists life (and the plot of Fable) threw at her. I wish I could say the same about all the side characters. Let’s just say there was a real potential for them to feel like a found family, but they fall short of that. All the side characters are just too underdeveloped, so they feel like a bunch of friendly coworkers instead of a family.

But my biggest issue with Fable is its plot. I don’t know, it just feels kind of… empty, almost like nothing much happened? It’s reminiscent of a travel vlog that only documents a plane ride with a few bumps in the road (in the air?). It’s interesting, but also kind of stagnant despite its fast pacing.

Fable does have some nuggets of mystery mixed in with the plot that add allure, but none of it feels like it was going anywhere. Mostly, it planted a lot of seeds for things that might be explored more in the future but never really grow any plants in the story. In short, Fable felt like one massive setup of its sequel.

Oh, and about the romance. What romance? I liked how it didn’t play a significant role in the story but hate that it was even a thing at all. It needs more development to be even somewhat believable.

Don’t get me wrong, Fable is exciting, and a quick read and I genuinely did enjoy it. But I do think my experience of it was tainted a bit by my expectations. Everyone I know was hyping it up so much, and the synopsis really talked it up, and unfortunately, it fell a little short of that. I’m still excited to read the sequel, though. And I’m glad it’s coming soon because Fable‘s ending is the textbook definition of a cliffhanger.

In conclusion…

I liked Fable, but I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as everyone else seems to. 😅 It’s a quick read and full of intrigue, and the world-building is really nicely done. I just wish the side characters were more developed, and the plot was meatier. The whole book honestly feels like a setup for the sequel, which I can’t wait to read after the way Fable ended. Good thing it comes out in March!

Final Rating
Characters
4 Stars
Pacing
4 Stars
Plot
3 Stars
Romance
3 Stars
Writing
4 Stars
World Building
4 Stars
Overall: 3.7
Emily
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Review – Where Dreams Descend http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-where-dreams-descend-angeles/ http://www.pagingserenity.com/review-where-dreams-descend-angeles/#respond Fri, 21 Aug 2020 04:05:00 +0000 http://www.pagingserenity.com/?p=5533

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 – Where Dreams Descend
TITLE: Where Dreams Descend
AUTHOR: Janella Angeles
Publisher: Wednesday Books
PUBLICATION DATE: August 25, 2020
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
RATING: 4 Stars

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.

Review

Confused.

That’s how I felt for the most of Where Dreams Descend, and definitely after I finished. Only the ending resulted in a more of a “WTF just happened!” confusion versus the “I don’t know what’s happening” confusion I experienced while I was reading. I’m not mad that I was perplexed – it definitely makes me more interested to read the sequel, but I am slightly annoyed that only a few of the sources of my confusion were resolved by the end of the story. This is honestly probably my biggest problem with Where Dreams Descend. If there are any mysteries in a novel, I need some sort of payoff or resolution to them by the end of the book.

Another source of confusion is my reading habits while reading this book. I’m naturally more of a one sitting reader, but I found myself willingly taking breaks while reading Where Dreams Descend. I don’t know, I just couldn’t read a lot of it at once, which is unusual for me. The story was wonderfully written and intricately woven, but it just didn’t pull me in until past the halfway mark after most of the world building is established and the plot picks up.

But that might be because of the writing. As beautiful as it is, it can get a bit redundant and flowery at times. It kind of reminds me of Jay Kristoff’s writing in Nevernight.

I also felt like some of the characters were underdeveloped and didn’t experience any significant development throughout the story. I get that they’re all supposed to have mysterious pasts, but again, it’s just too much mystery and not enough answers.

As for the romance, let’s just say this one I blame on the synopsis. It was not what I was expecting. The characters had great chemistry, but I still felt like the romance was a bit forced. I think it might have just needed some more time for it to feel more genuine.

Despite my complaints, I really did enjoy reading Where Dreams Descend. Where it shines is with its star, Kallia. She is just so fierce and confident! There are times where she does toe the line between confidence and arrogance, but I can hardly blame her. Even though the story takes place in a fictional world, I loved how it alluded to many modern-day struggles and issues, such as the fact that women, and especially women of color, have to work harder to be taken seriously. Kallia is an excellent representation of that. I feel like she often wears her confidence like a suit of armor against those that want to belittle her accomplishments and potential.

In conclusion…

Where Dreams Descend is an intriguing read full of mysteries, almost too many. I loved Kallia and her fierceness and how magic was woven into the plot but it wasn’t as spectacular as I’d like. I can’t believe I have to wait until 2021 to read the next book.

Final Rating
Characters
4 Stars
Pacing
3.5 Stars
Plot
4 Stars
Romance
3.5 Stars
Writing
4.5 Stars
World Building
4 Stars
Overall: 3.9
Emily
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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
Emily
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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
Emily
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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
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!

Emily
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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

Emily
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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
Emily
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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
Emily
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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

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?

Emily
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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
Emily
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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

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?

Emily
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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
Emily
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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
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?

Emily
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