A Darker Shade of Magic

22055262A Darker shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Victoria Schwab)

4 stars

“I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.”

Schwab has this way of presenting a story where you aren’t really rooting for the typical good guys. In A Darker Shade of Magic we are introduced to multiple Londons.

Grey London-what we would be familiar with, magic free (no Harry Potter’s here, sorry), where one of our main charater’s, Lila, hails from
Red London-a flourishing magical city with a red river, where our other main character, Kell, hails from
White London-another magical London that is essentially fading
Black London-well, let’s not talk about that place, because nothing good comes from Black London

These Londons sort of…overlap…so to speak. People used to be able to go from one London to another, but now only Antari (like Kell) can make their way with their magic to cross between through doors they can conjure with blood. While Kell is on a special mission he somehow gets into some trouble, bumps into Lila, and shit pretty much hits the fan.

The World Building-I loved the idea of these overlapping Londons. My favorite part about the Londons were their different levels of magic, and that even though they are all called London, they are nothing alike…except that one spot where there seems to always be a bar/tavern no matter which London you are in. There are different languages and even a limit to the magic that everyone has. Even when it comes to elemental magic there is a variety to it. There aren’t a bunch of people just moving water, fire, and other elements around with their magic. It just isn’t that simple.

The Story-The only reason why I didn’t give this book 5 full stars was because it honestly took me a little bit to really get invested into the story. It took me a good 25% before I was really sure I was going to keep going, because honestly, before that I probably easily could have set it aside and left it to back burn for a while. Fortunately I had enough people pestering encouraging me to read the book that I kept going. Thank the Lord for that. Once you start to really understand all the London stuff and have all the characters established is when the fun starts. It’s original and exciting, and you never know what kind of sticky situation Kell & Lila are going to have to get their way out of.

You know what else? We have a handsome young man and fierce young woman for our main characters. You know what they don’t do throughout the entire book? Swooning for each other. It is so refreshing to read a fantasy story that was primarily driven by romance. Don’t get me wrong, I love those books too. It’s just….refreshing.

The Characters-Let’s be real. It’s the characters that really make this book. I love the idea of the magic & world, but without Kell & Lila, the story would be boring. I love Lila, she really is such a hoot. She’s the type of girl that may fail or make a mess out of things, but doesn’t back down from a fight. She stands up for what she believes in and fights for those that are weaker than their enemies. She seeks adventure and is willing to drop everything familiar and safe to get it. I felt like Kell was so lonely, even with having a family and all his needs met. I don’t think he truly realizes it until he meets Lila and realizes what he is missing.

Now I am eager to read the next book, and ready to spend just a little more time with the fantastic Delilah Bard.

-Scrill

Traitor to the Throne

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton 


4 Stars


“Ahmed would tell me that an eye for an eye would make the whole world blind. Shazad would tell me that was why you had to stab people through both eyes the first time around.” 

Well that was well done and a stellar sequel. I don’t even have a good excuse as to why it took me so long to finish, because it was exciting from start to finish.

TTTT picks up pretty much where RotS leaves off and our Blue Eyed Bandit just can’t seem to stay out of trouble, even with the help from her friends. Throughout this book you are forced to reconsider who are your allies and who are your enemies and whether or not you can draw a clear line between the two. Amani winds up at the palace and is determined to not let her position go to waste, but while she is there she faces more challenges than she expected and her faith in the rebellion might be wavering. 

The Story-this book had so many twists that there was never really a moment that you could stop and rest easy. Amani suffers a great deal in this book and somehow survives through it all. Her heart and determination is the only thing keeping her going. My heart broke for her so many times, and trust me when I say that it didn’t even have anything to do with her love for Jin. if you’re looking for more romance between her and Jin, then just be warned that it is not a primary aspect of the story.

The Characters-We already met most of our rebels, but what I found interesting was seeing the other characters developed much more in this book, especially the sultan. His ideals and aims are much more different than what is expected, and the things he does to keep his rule barely intact is astounding. The man is definitely someone to fear. Again, the real question Amani has to face is who to place her trust in.

The World Building-The history of the Djinni is elaborated a lot more in this book. The magical elements are somewhat minimal, in fact for a majority of the book there aren’t many grand gestures of magic. 

One of my biggest problems with the book was the cover. For one very simple reason. Why is Amani (I am assuming that’s who it is) holding a bow and arrow when she is a gun sharp shooter? She uses a bow once…when she is trying to shoot a duck and it is such a tiny moment that it seems ridiculous to somewhat feature her with a bow on. the. cover!

-Scrill

Kissing Max Holden

Kissing Max Holden by Katy Upperman

4 Stars

 

Publish date: August 1, 2017

ARC from Netgalley and Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for a fair review

 

THE FEELINGS GUYS!

 

Kissing Max Holden was not your average boy-next-door trope. It is much more real, dramatic and heartbreaking. Jillian kisses Max, unfortunately, he’s already got a girlfriend. Then what happens? Well, a LOT. There’s kissing, crying, lying, betrayal, OH MAN, life freaking happens, and my heart hurts so hard from this book.

 

The RomanceReally, boy next door is usually fool proof for me. I will always read (and probably adore) boy next door stories. This one really takes it to the next level. I wouldn’t say it’s the HBO version because it stays pretty PG13, however, it’s definitely not the charming story you find on the Hallmark channel either. 

 

The CharactersI love that Max sort of was like this bad boy, but wasn’t really. There were real reasons to why he was acting out and a friendship between Jillian and him that was grounds for their romance to take off. All the characters were incredibly endearing and added to the story.

 

I can’t really say much more about the book without giving away spoilers. But let me just say, that there is a lot of hurt happening in this book. A lot of the time, I felt just as bad as Jillian knowing that she helped a guy cheat on his girlfriend. No one wants to be that other girl. My heart broke with hers throughout the book. 

 

The only reason why I docked it a star was just because there was a lull I had to drag myself out of around 60-80% through the book. But it honestly wrapped up nicely. Excuse me while I go find all my family and friends and tell them I love them.

 

-Scrill

I Believe in a Thing Called Love

I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

4 stars


“I had always assumed that when relationships went bad, that was the end. But the entire premise of K dramas was that they always ended happily. And that if you looked closely, there was a formula for making a guy fall in love with you.” 

I believe in a thing called love is about Desi, a go-get-it kind of girl who is good at everything she tries except boys. In fact, she is so bad when interacting with boys that she likes that her best friends call her flirting, flailure. In an attempt to snag the guy that she likes, she decides she needs a step by step plan that she can follow. Her inspiration, Korean dramas. The ultimate romantic drama from her very own culture.

Guys, when I first saw there was a book about a girl who uses k dramas as a plan to land the guy she has a crush on, my reaction was something like this:

I was going to give this book 3 stars, but you know what? This book nails the whole K drama thing. There is seriously a huge culture to just the clichés of K dramas and I think it did pretty well. Although, I am not sure if anyone who has never seen a k drama would quite understand the hype, much like Desi is in the beginning of the book. I LOVE k dramas. They are fantastic, and incredibly addictive (as seen in this book). As we first get to read firsthand how Desi is around boys, I was then all for the idea of doing a k drama plan.

As the story progresses I started to realize, holy shxt, this is actually pretty dang crazy, and beyond manipulative. The things that Desi puts on her list was absurd. Never really coming out quite how she planned but still landing her a check mark next to each cliché that can be found in a K drama. Luca is definitely not the ideal lead for a k drama as he doesn’t seem to pick up on all the ques that Desi keeps dropping. I mean duh he never chased after her in a moment where she walks away and grabs her wrist. But you know what? She manages to create all sorts of scenarios to help her get the result she was aiming for.

The stunts that she pulls are both dangerous and incredibly manipulative. How can she go from completely sensible to so crazy! Poor Desi is so caught up in her plan that she can’t step away from the situation and look at what she is actually doing, even if her intentions were sweet. Sometimes, I thought, I know there are some girls out there like this. Then I thought, oh gosh, I feel bad for every single person alive & thank God I don’t have to go to any extremes to get the guy to look at me. The entire time I was reading I felt more like this:

Despite thinking that she was crazy the entire time, I adored the book. Her father is endearing and I loved their dynamic. There were many a time that I read the conversations with her dad and thought, awww I wish I had a Korean dad. But then I remembered I had a Filipino mom and she does the same type of stuff in her own way too.

-Scrill

Flame in the Mist

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

4 stars

 

“The only power any man has over you is the power you give him.”

Flame in the Mist was supposed to be a Mulan retelling, right? After finishing I have decided it to be more of a inspired by type of story. Mariko is off to an arranged marriage when her transport is attacked. In an attempt to retain her family honor and find out who was behind the attack she makes a resolve to infiltrate the Black Clan. The bandits she believes responsible for the attempt on her life.

The world building was fantastic. When I first noticed that it would be a Japanese version rather than Chinese my interest peaked and was never let down. First off, lets just point out that a majority of the book was set in the Jukai Forest, AKA Aokigahara. 

This forest is incredibly lush and dense, naturally giving off an eerie vibe. This is a forest that is infamous for death, from ubasute a cruel form of killing off an elderly by abandoning them lost in the forest, to being noted as the perfect place to die by Wataru Tsurumi, author of The Complete Suicide Manual. Just at the mention of the Sea of Trees gives me the chills (despite Japan’s efforts to deter the dark imagery surrounding the forest). Even if you didn’t already know the background of the forest, you should be given the hint by the reaction of the Samurai escorting Mariko. Their thoughts are clearly that only evil lurks in the forest. I loved the addition of yōkai spirits and jubokko trees. All these little bits of Japanese folklore really make me anxious for what haunts the setting.

Mariko was exactly what I expected. Here was a privileged girl who wanted to be seen as more than surface value.

“Her tears stained the front of her kimono silk. She refused to die like an animal locked in a cage. Like a girl with nothing save her name.”

Throughout the story there was never a moment when she was suddenly a superior warrior by any means. Even her intelligence and wit was met evenly. It’s only realistic that no matter how determined she was to evolve her mind that she would still have some limitations due to her limitation on just life experiences. The part that makes Mariko was her determination, her resolve, and her courage.

“And in doing so, she’d displayed one of the seven virtues of Bushidō:
Courage.
The way of the warrior.”

I loved Ōkami. From the moment we meet him I couldn’t get past comparing him to the fox (I know not a wolf) yōkai, Tomoe, in the anime/manga Kamisama Hajimemashita. The handsome but broody and sly personality played very well with the sense of loyalty that he had towards Ranmaru. He was also the perfect type to keep Mariko on her toes and not get too comfortable.

The romance was very sweet and was woven nicely into the story. Though it was an element that was important to the story it did help the characters come to make decisions that affected their situations. After a while of just dancing around the subject, the romance certainly came on a bit strong out of nowhere. 

All in all, I was very happy with the book and cannot wait to see what the next one has to offer. Renee Ahdieh has a way of ensnaring my interest easily without over complicating a story. And of course, with Japanese inspiration I am almost always hooked.

-Scrill

Frost Blood

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Frostblood by Elly Blake

4 stars

 

While I was reading Frostblood, I felt like I had read it before. Like deja vu, but only because there were so many elements about it that made me think of other books. Here’s what you might find familiar from some other books:

 

-Two different blooded people pitted against each other (frost vs fire)

-A dark matter/being controlling someone

 

And of course other stuff that’s pretty common

sort of a love triangle

-girl with sad back story has life changing power

Okay, so what? So, there are a lot of familiar aspects in this book. I don’t even need to summarize the story because just pointing out the elements right there should have done enough for you. But it was still good! I enjoyed it quite a bit and am excited to see where the story takes us. Sure, there were a few romantic scenes that were almost cringe worthy in sappiness. But that’s okay, it worked okay in the book. 

Our characters were great. Between our little snarky fireblood who’s personality burns as hot as her power and a broody, scarred frostblood who gets the sparks flying. The dynamic of their relationship made the first half of book go by really quickly. 

My favorite part I think might have been the arena. Super gladiator-esque but with opposing elements. In fact, I thought most of the action sequences were very well done, and helped the pages fly by.

-Scrill

Love & Gelato

Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

4 Stars

” Maybe that was just part of the Italian experience. Come to Italy. Fall in love. Watch everything blow up in your face. You could probably read about it on travel websites.”


Love & Gelato is all kinds of adorableness. Lina is in Italy, her mother just passed away of pancreatic cancer and she has essentially been sent for the summer to meet the father she never met. Coping with her grief while avoiding the awkwardness with her father, Howard, she is given a token of her mother. A journal. The journal she kept while she was studying photography in Florence. What she discovers is the story of what happened those 16 years ago when her mother fell in love and found herself pregnant in Italy. Lina’s summer abroad has suddenly turned into a scavenger hunt to find out the truth about her mother’s past and why she left Howard if they were so much in love.

About halfway through this book I decided that it very much reminded me of the movie Letters to Juliet. There’s even a guy named Lorenzo and a handsome British guy to sweep unsuspecting Lina off her feet. Aside from that and the hunt in Italy, there really aren’t that many similarities to be honest. Still, everything about this book made me want to book the next flight out of the states and head to Florence, see the sights, and try some stracciatella gelato. I almost stopped reading to start a pinterest board for my non existent future trip to Florence featuring all the locations she goes to and lists of gelato flavors to try. I suppose I should brush up on some Italian first. The book wove Italian flare not only with the wonderful descriptions of its architectural and art and it’s food, but also by throwing in the occasional Italian phrase or word. I loved it, there was so much more personality in the book because of it.

The characters themselves were super sweet. It was hard not to feel for Lina as she struggled to cope with the loss of her mother while finding herself in a completely strange place to her with a complete stranger that was supposed to be her dad. Ren was such a good friend trying to make her experience smoother by showing her sights, introducing her friends, and even giving her the occasional shoulder to cry on. Though brief, the other characters through the book gave a lot more flare here and there.

The writing was smooth, however, the beginning of the book sort of dragged a little bit. It took me a good 75 pages before I really got into the book. But after that, I started flipping through it pretty fast. Once she really starts getting into appreciating the fact that she is 1. in Florence and 2. has one more opportunity to learn something about her mom the story rolled down hill picking up speed as it went. It was super sweet and touching while she learned more about her mom and more about Howard as well as discovering more about herself in the process. The heartbreaking information hit at the perfect timing the book to push to the end.

-Scrill

Textrovert

Textrovert by Lindsey Summers

Publish date: May 2, 2017

Received an ARC from KCP Loft via a Goodreads Giveaway


4 stars


Textrovert by Lindsey Summers was sweet and super cute. After accidentally grabbing the wrong phone, Keely and Talon get to know each other over the week before they have a chance to exchange the phones to the rightful owners. Under the guise of anonymity they are able to be themselves and get to know each other honestly, or as honestly as it may seem on a surface level. After swapping phones, they still can’t get enough of each other. However, their true identities might actually get in the way of the connection they had been building. While everything they told each other was the truth, it’s what wasn’t said that actually gets in the way of their relationship.

So this book was pretty short; easy enough to finish in just a few hours of reading. Despite the shortness, you still get a full story for a YA contemporary. The story is simple, relatable, and tackles a subject that many teens have to come to terms with-honesty in who they are growing up to be.

The premise of this story largely wraps around the idea that these two kids had their phones swapped and slowly get to know each other. There is something about talking to someone who you don’t know at all that makes it easy to not have any sort of expectation of the outcome. You can be entirely yourself without the pressure of the consequences of letting them down. Technology and social media makes it so easy for us to make friends in ways that are entirely unique to this current generation that makes this book applicable to the younger readers that may pick it up. The only thing that I would have added into the book would be the real complication of building a foundation to friendship via texting-there is no way to convey secondary communication via tone of voice or non-verbal cues. Emojis only go so far, and this concept could have added to any sort of miscommunication or drama that could have ensued.

The characters were great. Our main character, Keely, is able to really let herself out and learn to have her personality show via her interactions with Talon. She had lived the life of trying to please the people around her that she never really got to be selfish in her own way and never got to win any battles when it came to her needs versus those of her twin or her best friend. Talon, despite superficially having a super life, was given a little depth. Nothing that was excessively deep, but enough to give the kid some personality, something that was more than what first meets the eye. What I liked about the relationship between Keely and Talon was that it was super low key and not over the top romantic antics. It was realistic on the level of teenagers. Sometimes, YA contemporaries have these moments that are too much like a scene from a teen movie. Life just isn’t like that. While the characters had their immaturity as far as doubts and emotions, they still had their moments where they had to sit and think about their own actions and reflect on them. While that’s the case, there weren’t crazy big parties, sex scenes, or even outrageous dates. It was real, it was just two kids getting to know each other and jumping the hurdles that came their way.

The delivery of the book was great. When I first looked into the book I thought it would largely been written as text messages back and forth, but really the communication is just a underlying factor. We are still given a full story with just enough feels to make your heart get a few twists during the misunderstandings.

This book will be released on May 5, 2017. Thank you to Goodreads and the publishers for the ARC.

-Scrill

Alex, Approximately

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

“Meeting real-life Alex could be great, but it could also be on big awkward disappointment. Which is why I’m not really sure if I want to know anything more about him.”

4 stars

This book was too cute. I love me a YA contemporary, but I especially love me a mistaken/hidden identity story as well. Now while this was a You’ve Got Mail retelling, it only just barely had its similarities. Baily & Alex are friends on some movie app/website thing. Their online personalities just click, and turns out Bailey’s dad lives in the same town as Alex. Not wanting to be shocked into a real life friendship, when Bailey ends up living with her dad she decides to try to find Alex by the clues left by their online conversations. Her summer plans are interrupted by none other than life carrying on.

As a re-telling I really wish the Bailey & Alex bit was a little more involved. Once she moved over we had more interactions with her friends, and I was really hoping for the moments that Alex would be…well helping her find Alex knowing all the while he had to woo her. Instead, we get her normal relationship with Porter and Gracie. Still, it was super sweet, and now I want to watch You’ve Got Mail. I loved all the movie quotes in the beginning of each chapter because it sort of set you up vibe wise with what you would encounter in that section.

The descriptions of the area in NW Cali was all on point and all I want to do is sit on the beach now with the morning fog rolling in around the ocean.

I loved the characters. They had these normal lives. Bailey had some unfortunate events that developed her character. There is reason as to why she loves the old flicks, there’s a reason why she doesn’t really get close to people, and a reason why she has an alias online. The only problem I had was that she had these classic movie obsessions, but it doesn’t really come out that much when she’s hanging with her friends. Sure she does her hair like Lana Turner, but I mean, if I was super into something my friends would know…So it was hard to believe that it never came up with her friends that she was a serious classic movie buff. I appreciated that she had her own style, but it wasn’t a major player in her character, it was noted, but it didn’t drive the story. There was never a moment of super low self-esteem, just typical shyness that a teen might have over her body or its marks.

I liked that Bennett didn’t pretend that kids just stop at making out. Kids have sex, all the time. Now, while I don’t want to have graphic detail of some teenagers getting it on, I also don’t want to pretend that things either 1. fade to black, or 2. it’s okay to start slut shaming. Thankfully Bennett doesn’t do either of those. In fact, the way she talks about the interactions of Bailey’s is almost comical in a -I’m a teen and I am not going to tell you everything, but let’s just get this straight, things happened. – sort of way.

Porter had that typical super-hot boy co-star thing going for him. But I mean, he’s a surfer, of course he has a great bod. And honestly, given his heritage, I’d probably swoon over him too. Porter had this defensive attitude that at first really turns Bailey off. Fortunately we don’t have to suffer through it as we get to know that Porter is actually just a sweet guy with his own issues and history.

Gracie is rad. I love that she and Bailey have a normal friendship. Sometimes in YA contemporaries we get stuck with these catty girls, and neither of these girls is like that. They support each other and cheer each other on, and when a small hiccup arises in their friendship they hash it out, even though it’s hard.

Davy hit a sore spot for me. And not in a ‘this character is not real’ sort of way, quite the opposite for me. Sometimes we get caught up in the romantic teen angst part of the story that we forget that people have real problems, and not just family stuff. To me, Davy was a completely believable character because I had a friend just like that – surfer, heroin addict turned homeless – all before the ripe age of 20. So when I see a character like Davy, it really breaks my heart. And I totally understand how much Porter suffers with trying to help a friend, only to have to let go if you don’t want to drown right with them.

-Scrill

Age of Myth

Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan

“A terrible reckoning is still on its way. We as a people stand atop a precipice, backed up to the very edge. We have no choice. We must find the courage to fight for our lives even against those we once thought to be gods.”

4 stars


Age of Myth was all the embodiment of epic fantasy. Beautifully constructed history, world building and characters Sullivan gives a story of bravery, companionship, and magic.

Many paths converge in Age of Myth. As several different stories collide normal humans find themselves heading into a war with the Fhrey, or the Gods. The small stories build to create one interwoven story. Starting with Raithe and his father encountering and killing a Fhrey, causes him to be a nomad, spreading his story as The God Killer with his new ex-Fhrey slave companion Malcom. Persephone, loses the title of chieftan’s wife as her husband returns from an unsuccessful raid against a great bear that has been ravaging her village. Suri, a young mystic, comes to Dhal Rhen to warn Persephone about her mentor passing and events to come.

Despite the length and an entire world being built, I never felt overwhelmed. Sullivan does a wonderful job of painting a stunning world rich with landscape and history. With a classic trope of power-driven villains, the dynamic of multiple stories comes together gives an original world to escape in. The story itself does drag a little and is a bit lengthy…but it sort of still worked. I just had to take a break a few times. The fact that the Rhune (human) sides of the stories are broken up by the Fhrey stories helps breaks up the monotony of the story. Still, this is the only reason why I give 4 stars, instead of 5. The story could have used a little more ummph to get through the long journey. Something to break up the scenes a little better and keep me coming for more.

The characters in the book were very well thought out. Every single person has their own history that compels their actions and personalities. There isn’t a waste of character either, they each have their own role, and each contributes something to the story as well. My favorite was Suri. She is such a bad ass and I mean, come on, she has a wolf for a best friend. She is brave and enchanting at the same time and I want her to be my friend too.

-Scrill