DID THIS MEET THE HYPE? From Blood & Ash Review

71bH9PgPr4LSummary (from the publisher):

Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.

A Duty…

The entire kingdom’s future rests on Poppy’s shoulders, something she’s not even quite sure she wants for herself. Because a Maiden has a heart. And a soul. And longing. And when Hawke, a golden-eyed guard honor bound to ensure her Ascension, enters her life, destiny and duty become tangled with desire and need. He incites her anger, makes her question everything she believes in, and tempts her with the forbidden.

A Kingdom…

Forsaken by the gods and feared by mortals, a fallen kingdom is rising once more, determined to take back what they believe is theirs through violence and vengeance. And as the shadow of those cursed draws closer, the line between what is forbidden and what is right becomes blurred. Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel. 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

Since I am a huge fan of Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns & Roses series, many readers recommended that I check out one of her fellow fantasy authors, Jennifer L. Armentrout, & her high fantasy book, From Blood and Ash. I totally admit that I didn’t know much going into this one other than the ACOTAR comparison. In short, From Blood and Ash follows Poppy, a Maiden who has many restrictions placed upon her life by the King & Queen due to her abilities, and her budding romance with one of the guards, Hawke. As strange occurrences and deaths occur in the kingdom, Poppy questions if she even wants to face the mysterious Ascension, a ritual which would secure her place as one of the highest beings in the kingdom. 

From Blood and Ash is super well loved in the high fantasy and fantasy romance community. I’ve recently been watching a few Book Tok videos on Tik Tok and From Blood and Ash is absolutely everywhere.  It was the Goodreads Best Romance book for 2020, beating out so many of the contemporary romances I loved last year. I really only know of one book blogging friend who was ‘meh’ about this one, while all of my friends & book bloggers with similar reading tastes as me LOVEEE the series.

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Currently Reading, Mini Life Updates, & My Spring Break TBR 

How are you doing? I’ll be completely honest, I’ve been super all over the place this past month! So many exciting things have been happening behind the scenes of the blog, both bookish and personal life wise – for example, I fortunately have quite a few spring & summer ARCs to dive into over the next few months, and I am in the home stretch of my grad school program, with graduation ahead in May. I realize I haven’t been too detailed about my grad school coursework, but you may know that I’m in a master’s in teaching program to receive my English teaching certification and I keep information about my clinical practicum super private. In the future though, I do want to write some sort of blog post about books I’d love to read with students or use in my classes.

That being said, this month has been super stressful between grad school assignments, including a major assessment that I’m so happy to be completed with but am nervously awaiting my final score, a dead car battery, and loss of a loved one in my family. Although I’ve been content with my blog content this month & I’m really excited sharing reviews for said spring releases in April & May, I feel so behind on blog post scheduling & editing and writing non-review posts. Fortunately, I’m on spring break next week, so I plan on using that time to get caught up on all the things AND read as much as possible. Today’s blog post is a bit of a ramble/life update-esque, but I wanted to talk about what I’m currently reading and what I want to read over the next 2 weeks.

Currently Reading: From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout. I added this much loved high fantasy romance to my TBR last fall, but saved it for post-reading Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Silver Flames, rightfully realizing that I’d be in the mood for another fantasy read. At the time of writing this post on Thursday afternoon, I’m over 400 pages in and plan on finishing it ASAP (or hopefully even by the time this post is published). I’m going to have a full review posted on the blog sometime next week, but I have liked this book a lot so far. I feel like this book does a lot of world-building for the next two books, based on all the details and setting up, but I do admit that once I got to the Rite about halfway through, I have been absolutely HOOKED. 

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Popular Books I Won’t Read: Anti-TBR Tag

It’s been a while since I’ve did an unpopular opinions-esque book tag. I recently watched Jess of Peace Love Books on BookTube complete the Anti-TBR Tag, which made me think of some books that I had no interest in reading (although I do admit it’s a little difficult to remember said books when actually responding to the tag!). Of course, I want to include a disclaimer by saying that just because I have no interest in reading the following books doesn’t mean that you may not enjoy them or be interested, nor should my disinterest influence your opinions of the books below. This Anti-TBR Tag was created by Nicole of Nicole & Her Books

A popular book EVERYONE loves that you have no interest in reading?  

I really wish I loved or had as much interest in this companion series as everyone else does, but I don’t see myself reading Talia Hibbert’s Take a Hint, Dani Brown anytime soon. Like nearly all of the series below, I wanted to LOVE The Brown Sisters series but struggled to connect with the writing style of book #1, Get a Life, Chloe Brown. 

A classic book (or author) you don’t have an interest in reading?  

I feel like this is shameful to admit as an English teacher – although I’m a big advocate of reading more modern classic or current books in English class – but I tend to not be the biggest fan of the classics. I will admit that some YA retellings of classics does have me interested in reading the classic inspiration – for example, I may actually pick up Anna Karenina one day thanks to Tash Hearts Tolstoy and Anna K. Never say never, but I’ve never been too interested in picking up Moby-Dick or A Tale of Two Cities.

 An author whose books you have no interest in reading? 

Everyone knows that while I do enjoy a good fantasy or two, I’m not the biggest fantasy fan out there, so it may likely not be a surprise that I don’t have too much interest in reading Brandon Sanderson’s books. I sometimes felt like I HAD to read his Mistborn series back when I was really into BookTube a few years ago, and I’ve seen so many people pick up The Stormlight Archives and Skyward series, but I’m overall just not interested in their synopses. 

An author you have read a couple of books from & have decided their books are not for you? 

I don’t think I have a definitive author for this one, but I have a love-hate relationship with Colleen Hoover’s books, especially her latest releases. I LOVED Verity, but I have mixed feelings about and have little interest in her books since Verity’s release.Read More »

A MARCH MUST-READ & MORE CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE: March 2021 Mini Reviews Round 2

Another March Monday, another round of mini reviews from this month’s reads! I got a slight taste of my upcoming spring break this weekend, having eaten up two books – one is featuring in this round of mini reviews, while another will be getting the full review treatment in early April. I’m really looking forward to having time off next week to dive into as many books as possible. Today I’ll be sharing reviews for a recent release that is SO worth the read and two books from a much-loved contemporary romance companion series. 

Float Plan by Trish Doller

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

I forget exactly how I first found out about Float Plan, but I do remember a comparison to Bravo’s Below Deck (aka my current favorite reality TV show) made me add Float Plan to my TBR immediately. While I understand where the sailing comparison from Below Deck came from, Float Plan is definitely a much more heavy read than drunken mega yacht shenanigans. This contemporary follows Anna, a twenty-five year old woman who is understandably reeling from the death of her fiancé by suicide almost a year later. All Anna has left of Ben is his sailboat and the sailing trip from Fort Lauderdale to Puerto Rico he had planned for them. After a first rocky night at sea & on land, Anna hires Keane, an attractive Irish sailor who is also contending with a future he didn’t plan. 

I think Float Plan is considered to be a contemporary/women’s fiction book, which I understand, but there is some slight contemporary romance. There’s a romance scene or two,  but I think the balance between contemporary and romance was PERFECT in this book since Anna and Keane are both dealing with loss in different ways. Although I did get tripped up on the sailing terminology from time to time, Float Plan is the type of book you will not be able to put down. I loved traveling from place to place with Anna and Keane and seeing their relationship grow stronger with each stop. The sailing and travel both quenched and made my wanderlust grow even more. I really want to explore Europe once travel is back, but this book really made me interested in island hopping in the Caribbean too! I was nervous that their relationship was going to fall into some romance tropes (aka some sort of unexpected or big conflict that dramatically threatens to tear them apart), but I was so happy with the course of their relationship. As someone who consumes so many romance books, it made their romance & relationship feel super refreshing – and how could I not love an Irish male lead with a fun sense of humor &  big heart anyway? Overall, Float Plan is a contemporary/contemporary romance not to sleep on this spring & summer. Fans of Emily Henry’s Beach Read will especially enjoy this one, between some of the heaviness, personal growth, and relationship development. Read More »

Recent TBR Additions: March 2021 Edition

I think it’s time to just make my recent TBR additions a monthly feature on the blog because I love writing these posts so much… but maybe not as much as I love adding books to my to-be-read pile apparently. Despite being busy with school and work, I think I’ve actually been on a pretty normal reading pace. According to Goodreads, I’m currently 8 books ahead of schedule to meet my Goodreads goal of reading 75 books in 2021 and on track to meet my real goal of reading at least 100 books. As we get deeper into spring release season, I’ve been finding more & more 2021 releases I want to read ASAP, including a few books featured below. 

The Flatshare and The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary – After LOVING Beth O’Leary’s The Switch last week, I added both her debut and 2021 release to my TBR. I am SO into the synopsis of The Road Trip – Addie and her sister are roadtripping to Scotland for a wedding when they’re forced to continue the journey with Addie’s ex after a car accident – and I feel like The Flatshare is such a must-read for British contemporary fans like me. The Road Trip comes out on June 1, 2021. 

Arsenic and Adobo (Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery #1) by Mia P. Manansala – You probably can infer based on my taste in contemporary romances that I am such a fan of Berkley (the publisher). I’m really excited to check out a mystery from this publisher & Mia P. Manansala’s Arsenic and Adobo has been described as a cozy culinary mystery. Arsenic and Adobo comes out on May 4, 2021. Read More »

RECENT CONTEMPORARY & NON-FICTION READS: March 2021 Mini Reviews 

During March so far, I just have been in the mood to READ. Things have been pretty busy when it comes to grad school and my personal life right now, so whenever I do have some down time, I have been turning to books the most (and my rewatch of Sex & the City on HBO Max). Today’s three mini reviews are all books that I finished reading last week. I ate up the two contemporaries in a matter of days, while I finally finished up my non-fiction pick for the month – blame it on A Court of Silver Flames and my need for some lighter reads for distracting me from finishing it sooner.

28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars 

You likely know that I tend to save any book having to do with summer for late spring and summer time in order to embrace the season. But let’s be honest, I’m always ready for a read featuring my favorite season. Elin Hilderbrand is such a classic summer reading author, so I was excited to check out her much loved 28 Summers. I actually didn’t feel too guilty picking up this beach read in March because the book takes place throughout the year. 28 Summers follows love interests Mallory and Jake, who spend Labor Day Weekend with one another every year since the 1990s, no matter where they are or their relationship status. Ever since she inherited her aunt’s cottage on Nantucket in her twenties, Mallory has always called Nantucket home and longs for her annual weekend with Jake. Jake’s own relationship status with his childhood sweetheart has taken him all over the place in life, but like Mallory, always drops whatever he is doing for their weekend. 

I know it may be difficult for some readers to set aside their feelings about Mallory and Jake’s annual affair – trust me, I had SO many moments while reading this where I just wanted to scream at the two to just be together full time – but my biggest piece of advice is to just enjoy the ride at face-value. This is the PERFECT book to fly through in one sitting on the couch on a chillier day or at the beach this year. I purely am giving it a high star rating because I loved the reading experience of setting down almost everything to just read. I absolutely loved the way the story unfolded, as Elin Hilderband first brings readers to present day 2020 and then transports back in time to the start of Mallory and Jake’s relationship in 1992. Don’t be alarmed by the title of the book as well, since while most of the chapters recap Mallory and Jake’s long weekend, they also explore their lives throughout the year. Most of the book actually doesn’t recap their weekends together, but the time spent apart. I really loved following Mallory’s small-town life living on Nantucket and teaching at the local high school while following her relationship endeavors with Jake and other men. There was something just so wholesome about her personality and life. In short, if you’re any kind of contemporary fan, READ THIS ONE. Read More »

A Court of Silver Flames Review & Rambles 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Almost two weeks after finishing A Court of Silver Flames, the time has finally come for me to share my thoughts on Sarah J. Maas’s latest release. As I draft this review, I’m jumping from idea to idea to try to capture everything I want to say about the fourth installment in the ACOTAR series – I’m getting major flashbacks to my House of Earth & Blood review last March. It’s just a given now that my Sarah J. Maas book reviews are triple the size of my normal book reviews, which is fair being that I break my habit of reading 250-350 page contemporary & romance books to immerse myself in her 700+ page fantasy beasts. 

There will be no spoilers for ACOSF within this review, but there will be spoilers for the first three books in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series. 

I don’t think people have necessarily complained about it, but a few of my bookish friends & reviewers that I follow have pointed out that ACOSF is likely the most character-driven book out of all SJM’s novels. For a fantasy read, the plot definitely takes a back seat to Nesta’s personal journey and her relationship with Cassian. I think that ACOSF acts a little bit of a ACOTAR world reset for the upcoming books in the series, in that the world building & plot sets the stage for the rest of the series. 

However, you likely know this about me if you’ve caught on to my reading tastes, but the combination of character growth and plot in ACOSF was the PEFECT blend of relationships meets plot for me. Honestly, I’ve read less and less fantasy over the past two years because I’ve realized that I care way more about character development and relationships in most of my fantasy reads than I do plot and trying to navigate between action and connecting the plot points.  My love for ACOSF and SJM’s books as a whole really results from the fact that while there are complicated magic systems & plots involved, she just makes it so digestible and easy to understand. 

You likely know this from my reading tastes too, but it’s no surprise that my favorite part of ACOSF was Nesta and Cassian’s relationship…and yes that includes all the romance. I was putting books on hold from the library a few nights ago and was curious to see how many people had put ACOSF on hold – side note that I bought my own copy of the Barnes & Noble edition and that all 10 county library copies were either checked out or being transferred to patrons – and I was shocked to see that ACOSF is listed still as YA. As a side note, ACOTAR and ACOSF are now being marketed as adult fantasy, which has been made helped the book’s cover changes. As per usual with some of SJM’s covers, I like ACOSF’s cover a lot more in person and it makes sense given the plot in the book, but it’s still not necessarily a favorite book cover of mine and leaves me wanting something more? I think in general even the first three ACOTAR books shouldn’t be considered YA (hellooooooo chapter 55 of ACOMAF), but ACOSF IS NOT YA because of the romance scenes. 

But again, let’s be clear: I loved the romance scenes and honestly any scene involving Cassian and Nesta! Their sarcasm and ease with one another was so fun to read, alongside their more serious moments involving some conflicts. I really think that SJM has really nailed the balance between romance and relationship development between ACOSF and House of Earth and Blood alone. This balance is definitely seen in the first 3 ACOTAR books and the Throne of Glass series as well, but SJM’s latest two releases have a more mature take. Read More »

SISTERS & SUMMER CAMP: You Have a Match Review 

Summary (from the publisher): 

From the beloved author of Tweet Cute comes Emma Lord’s You Have a Match, a hilarious and heartfelt novel of romance, sisterhood, and friendship…

When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie…although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.

But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.

When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents — especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.

The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby’s growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.

But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because sometimes, the hardest things can also be the best ones.

 

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

Emma Lord’s You Have a Match was one of my most anticipated YA releases of 2021, and I’m so happy to report that this Parent Trap inspired read about two sisters lived up to my expectations & more. When Abby takes a DNA test, the last thing she’s expecting to find out is that she a sister… let alone one who lives pretty much down the road & has a major Instagram following. I admit that The Parent Trap comparisons I had been reading in reviews sort’ve threw me for a loop (not that it influenced my reading) that Abby and Savy are not twins, but rather, Savy is a year and a half older than Abby. 

Although sisterhood is at the heart of the book, You Have a Match is a bit more than Savy and Abby’s relationship. Abby actually takes the DNA test in part to her friend and love interest, Leo, who takes the test to figure out more about his birth family. When Abby and Savy meet IRL, they decide to go to the summer camp where Savy is a counselor to try to figure out why their parents hid this major secret away from them…and Leo just happens to work at the same camp and had grown up going to camp with Savy and their crew. 

You Have a Match was such a fun read while also exploring Abby’s relationships and her personal growth. After the death of her grandfather, Abby’s grades in school have slipped, and she feels like all her parents do is chase her about extra tutoring. Without surprise, finding out about the sister she never she knew about is a major shock to Abby, so much of the book is spent with Abby and Savy figuring out their relationship and dealing with the fact that both of their parents hid such a big secret from them. Abby is also trying too figure out her feeling for Leo, her best friend who apparently doesn’t have feelings back  but is strangely weird about Abby hanging out with Finn, another guy at camp. I loved the balance of all these elements and Abby just getting to hang loose a little bit at summer camp. She grows close with the girls in her cabin and finds herself having more time than ever for her true passion, photography. 

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When Were Infinite Review & Blog Tour

Summary (from the publisher):

From award-winning author Kelly Loy Gilbert comes a powerful, achingly romantic drama about the secrets we keep, from each other and from ourselves, perfect for fans of Permanent Record and I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter.

All Beth wants is for her tight-knit circle of friends—Grace Nakamura, Brandon Lin, Sunny Chen, and Jason Tsou—to stay together. With her family splintered and her future a question mark, these friends are all she has—even if she sometimes wonders if she truly fits in with them. Besides, she’s certain she’ll never be able to tell Jason how she really feels about him, so friendship will have to be enough.

Then Beth witnesses a private act of violence in Jason’s home, and the whole group is shaken. Beth and her friends make a pact to do whatever it takes to protect Jason, no matter the sacrifice. But when even their fierce loyalty isn’t enough to stop Jason from making a life-altering choice, Beth must decide how far she’s willing to go for him—and how much of herself she’s willing to give up.

 

 

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

When We Were Infinite is an extremely heavy read tackling many difficult topics. The book follows Beth and her tight-knit group of friends during their senior year, trying to balance college applications and orchestra practice with family life and their daily hangouts. While Beth dreams of limo rides to the homecoming dance and the potential that she will go to the same college as her four best friends, Beth and her friends’ lives are shaken up when Beth and Brandon witness Jason being hit by his father and how Jason’s struggles unravel from there.

When We Were Infinite is without a doubt an emotional punch. The book contains so much surrounding parental and family relationships, emotional and physical abuse, suicide, depression, and mental health. The event that really triggers the opening up of Jason and his struggles happens very early on in the story. From there, we see Jason struggle with his mental health while Beth and their friends try to help as much as they can. Beth wants to be there for Jason as much as she can, both as a friend and as someone who’s always something-more-than-friends feelings from him, but she too struggles with her home life. Beth has never felt super connected to her single mom, and she still doesn’t understand her parents’ divorce and where her father fits into her life. The book also delves into much discussion about ethnicity, sexuality, and representationBeth and the friend group all identify as Asian. However, Beth struggles with her identity as the daughter of a white man and Asian, while her friends’ heritage and culture are such profound parts of their lives.  Read More »

FINALLY GETTING TO THESE BOOKS: March 2021 TBR

I shared my March TBR last year around this time in honor of my then spring break, which ultimately became the spring break that never ended because I was sent back home from college within 48 hours at the start of the pandemic. As we all know, this March somehow looks both a lot different and similar as March 2020. Aside from continuing to live with the pandemic, I’m back at my college for my grad school program and of course still reading as much as I can between grad obligations and spending time with friends & family. I have spring break during the last week in March, in which I will be spending as much time away from my laptop as possible and eating up so many of these books & more – as per usual, I’m hoping to get to more books than the ones on this list, but the following books are my priority reads.

The Happy Ever After Playlist (The Friendship Zone #2) by Abby Jimenez – I just finished reading and really enjoying Abby Jimenez’s The Friend Zone, so I’m even more excited to check out the second book, The Happy Ever After Playlist, because so many romance readers are OBSESSED with this one. 

A Pho Love Story by Loan Le – I mentioned that I recently borrowed A Pho Love Story from the library in my February 2020 book haul. I’m always ready for an enemies-to-lovers, and I’m really looking forward to diving into this one about two teens whose families own rival pho restaurants. 

Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper – Unfollow is my non-fiction read for March. I’m about halfway through this book exploring Megan Phelps-Roper’s experience growing up in the Westboro Baptist Church. I really didn’t know anything about this group prior to reading her book – I tend to gravitate towards non-fiction books about religion – but I definitely see myself going down a research spiral after finishing this one. 

From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout – I was 110% correct when I predicted that I would be in a fantasy romance book hangover after reading A Court of Silver Flames. I’m so glad I saved From Blood and Ash to dive into cure my craving for more ACOTAR like books. Read More »