july wrap-up

It’s that time of the month…

July was a busy summer month for me! I did lots of hanging out with friends and family, a trip to Chicago, working, and of course, reading and crafting and blogging! I didn’t do quite as much reading as I hoped–I think I was slightly in a weird slump for a little while. I read a lot, but didn’t finish many books. However, I’m off on vacation tomorrow so I’m sure I will make up for that in the days to come!

Read on for my monthly wrap-up!

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bookish things

stats

  • Total books: 5 books
  • Total pages: 2,278 pages
  • Longest book: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
  • Shortest book: Poison Study by Maria V Snyder
  • Favorite book: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
  • Least favorite book: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

(most beautiful covers, July edition)

mini reviews

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir: ★★★☆☆

I found this slow-paced, with a love square that was really unnecessary. Some characters were intriguing, but the overall story was nothing special to me. Read my full review here.

Poison Study by Maria V Snyder: ★★★★☆

This book has such an interesting concept. I really liked reading Yelena’s journey as she became a food taster and discovered more about her magic. Plus, the slow burn romance was delicious. Read my full review here.

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab★★★★☆

This book was a great follow-up to This Savage Song, but I still had some qualms with it. August was lovely, Ilsa was awesome, and Kate was a little confusing. Also, the monsters were monstrous. Read my full review here.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee★★★★★

This book is SO LOVELY and you must go read it now. It’s exactly what you’d expect from reading the synopsis–a wacky, adventurey, romantical historical fiction book. Read my full review here.

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb: ★★★★☆

This is an intriguing start to this enormous series from Robin Hobb. There is so much going on, and poor young Fitz is caught up in the middle of it all. This is a must read if you love little orphan boys who bond with puppies as they try to find their place in the world.

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crafty things

I finished my first official commissioned project this month! My sister’s friend is soon to have a baby girl, and I made a minty green and pink chevron blanket for her. My sister seems pleased with how it turned out, and I am too! Plus, I was able to use some of the leftover yarn to experiment with some baby hats and create an original pattern. Success!

completed

  • two baby hats — and I created the pattern myself!
  • mint green and pink chevron baby blanket

in progress

  • hexagon blanket-turned pillow cover
  • body pillow cover
  • round yellow cushion cover

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bloggish things

Man, I was a busy blogger this July! In case you haven’t realized, I created a blog posting schedule, FINALLY. It shall be:

Mondays = book reviews
Wednesdays = bookish posts
Fridays = crafty, personal, writing, or random posts

ANYWAY. Here are some of my blog highlights from this month:

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How was your month of July? What were some of your highlights?

Until next time,
Brianne

book review | poison study by maria v snyder

poison study by maria v snyder

My Rating: ★★★★☆

Imprisoned for murder (of the self-defense variety), Yelena knows she’s soon to die. However, she receives an offer to become the Commander’s food taster rather than face execution. Though the job is deadly and certainly not easy, she accepts. This alters her path in ways she couldn’t expect, and she finds herself confronted by poisons, politics, magic, and her dark past.

Recommended if you like:

  • Hardworking, realistic heroines
  • Lowish fantasy with magical intrigue
  • Slow-burn romance

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My Spoiler-Free Review

I really really enjoyed this while reading it. It was one I didn’t want to put down, and didn’t get bored of quickly! I find the entire concept of this book interesting–I mean, a murderer getting a second chance at life by becoming a food taster? Sounds super intriguing right off the bat!

However, after finishing the book, I had the “that was it?” kind of feeling. Which is unfortunate. And looking ahead at reviews of the rest of the series, I’m a little bummed that they don’t seem to go quite in the direction I was hoping.

Nonetheless, this book on its own was a solid and enjoyable read.

My likes

As already mentioned: the concept. Very cool.

Yelena. Our main character is not the automatically perfect badass heroine. She trains hard to build up her strength. She does research to learn how to become better at tracking and hiding in the wilderness. She has a natural intelligence and wit, but she doesn’t get everything right. She doesn’t know immediately who is ratting her out to a spy or who’s behind the mystery. This type of protagonist and heroine will make me instantly love a book 1000 times more than others without such realistic, relatable protagonists.

And the romance! It wasn’t quite perfect, but pretty near. I really loved the progression of it; it was a slow burn for sure. And it wasn’t the focal point of the storyline. Plus, they were a wonderful balance for each other.

The pacing. This book wasn’t high action all the time, but the slow moments came at welcome times and balanced out the plot. Even the “slower” moments I found interesting–anything about Yelena learning about poisons or unraveling the mysteries of the political situation one step at a time were still super intriguing.

My not so likes

I guess the general lack of not quite taking it there? I expected the book to go in a different direction than it did, and while I do like how it went, I don’t think it got quite as epic as I thought it would. And like I said, when I finished, I felt a bit ~hm. And that feeling was emphasized when I read synopses/reviews of the rest of the series and didn’t find them too appealing.

Also, the reveal of Yelena’s magic. When other characters finally find out that she has magic–and a certain someone has been proven to hate magicians–their reactions did not make sense to me. (view spoiler) I found that pretty annoying, because it was built up to be a big thing…but then again, I guess not.

Overall

Read it! This is not hard/high fantasy, so most readers would enjoy Poison Study. Besides, it functions all right as a standalone, so if you’re not interested in continuing the series (like me) you can enjoy this one and call it good.

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Have you read Poison Study? What did you think of it? Leave your thoughts below!

Until next time,
Brianne

book review | our dark duet by victoria schwab

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

My rating: ★★★★☆

Our Dark Duet is the sequel to This Savage Song, and the conclusion to the Monsters of Verity duology. The story continues with Kate and August, and their efforts to eradicate their world of monsters born from violence. August is at the very center of the task force in Verity, a key player as a Sunai monster and very hard to kill. Kate is drawn back to Verity herself in pursuit of a new kind of monster. Once again, their paths cross and together they question who they are, what they stand for, and how to better the world they live in.

Recommended if you like:

  • Monsters
  • Music
  • Books that make you question your moral and ethical beliefs

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My Spoiler-Free Review

*Note: There are slight spoilers below for This Savage Song, so beware if you haven’t started the duology yet!*

I had a hard time deciding how to rate this book, because I love Victoria Schwab. I love her as a person and a writer. She seems like an awesome person. The way she puts words on a page is beautiful but concise, and I envy her writing skills.

However, her books don’t always have the impact on me that I wish they would. Unfortunately, Our Dark Duet is one example of such a case.

There are so many things I love about this duology and this book in particular. But, there are other things that don’t quite work for me. I didn’t find myself completely engaged in this book once I got to the second half or so. I finished the book feeling a little let down, which feels bad on its own, not to mention how frustrated I felt because I so wanted to finish it and love it.

That said, I’m still not sure I’m happy with giving Our Dark Duet 3.5 stars, but I’m going with it for now. Maybe a re-read in the future will change my mind.

My likes

The concept. I LOVE the concept of this book, that the characters are dealing with monsters created by acts of violence. I love the moral and ethical questions it brings up and makes me ask myself. I love seeing the characters’ internal battles with defining what makes a monster or a sinner and, particularly in Our Dark Duet, if people can change and if they are deserving of a fresh start. All of this is so deep for YA yet also very relevant for anyone and important to think about.

The evolution from book one to book two. Mainly I really like the set up at the beginning of Our Dark Duet; I felt very satisfied with where the characters were in comparison to book one, and also where they had to go and how they had to grow. Their character arcs weren’t complete yet, which brings me to my next like: August’s character arc. I just loved his personal journey. He ended This Savage Song accepting what he is–a monster–and now in Our Dark Duet, he needs to spend some time also accepting WHO he is–a compassionate, thoughtful boy.

Ilsa. And Allegro. Need I say more? (I really wish we had gotten more and more and more Ilsa. She’s so lovely.) Also, Alice. She was creepy and scary but wonderfully done. I really enjoyed reading her, and her interactions with Sloan. (Parallels between Kate and her dad much?!)

August’s violin. As a violist myself, I simply find the notion of August walking around with his violin all the time SO endearing. And also, when it’s used as a weapon, SO awesome. In general, the way Schwab ran with the musical themes and metaphors in this book was really lovely; not overdone at all, but incorporated at just the right moments.

art by @nucleicacid

My not so likes

The pacing. As mentioned before, I didn’t love the second half of the book. I was not engaged. I was SUPER engaged in the first half; interesting, actiony things were happening in both Kate and August’s POVs, and there’s always that sweet anticipation of reunion when the two characters are kept apart. HOWEVER, when we got past that reunion, things got a little messy plot-wise. There was a lot of back and forth, short scenes, not as much action. I was a little confused by the inclusion of some events–(view spoiler)–and the sequence of some events. When reading, this makes me distance myself from the plot, disengage, and as a result I wasn’t hyped up when I reached the climax and ending of the book.

Kate. I didn’t enjoy her in This Savage Song, and while I liked her more in Our Dark Duet, I still didn’t really connect with her. I guess I didn’t understand her motives? Also, her character development was not as clear as Augusts’s; in fact, I’m not sure she had any.

The Sloan POV. Now, there were moments I really liked this. Sloan is so creepy that in a way I perversely enjoyed reading all the icky things he was doing. But there were various chunks of his POV that seemed completely not needed; they didn’t contribute to the plot. Other times, it felt they contributed too much. I personally like to be more surprised about the villain’s next move, being surprised by it just like the main characters. In Our Dark Duet, reading everything from Sloan’s POV, I was surprised by nothing.

And then…a certain moment occurred that really bothered me. I think my enthusiasm for the book went downhill from there and just kept going down. But it’s a spoiler, so  check out my review on Goodreads if you’re interested in reading more about that (and a few other spoilers).

In the end

I think the fact that I have so much to say and pick apart from this book is an indication that I did enjoy it, at least to some extent. And I did! Certain things just turned me off, and it didn’t quite live up to my expectation towards the end.

Do I still love Victoria Schwab? YES. Will I still read her books? YES. Will I reread this duology someday? PROBABLY.

Should you read this book? YES.

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Have you read Our Dark Duet? What did you think of it? Leave your thoughts below!

Until next time,
Brianne

book review | an ember in the ashes by sabaa tahir

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

My rating: ★★★☆☆

In this book, two worlds collide. On one side, we have Laia–newly made a slave and a secret spy for the resistance movement. On the other side, we have Elias–the golden boy of his academy, competing to become the next emperor. These two cross paths and, together and individually, start to uncover their true selves, what they’re willing to fight for, and just what freedom is.

Recommended if you like:

  • YA romance–and inevitable love triangles/squares
  • Plot lines that keep you guessing
  • Troubled, angsty boy characters or determined, hardworking girl characters

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My Spoiler-Free Review

When I first started reading An Ember in the Ashes, there were a few elements I was intrigued by. I hoped they would mold the book into something really interesting. Alas–not so much.

In the end, I liked this, but I didn’t really love it.

My likes

Laia’s character development! She grows a lot throughout the story, and I enjoyed her journey. I can certainly relate to not quite feeling like you can compare to others around you or in your family, so I did feel a connection with her. Her growth was realistic and gradual, too. She wasn’t suddenly some bad ass female protagonist like in other YA books.

The writing. Clear, concise. Not overly flowery, which I prefer. Also, the POV shifts were so nicely done! The chapters were short, so you flip back and forth often, which I find preferable to those long chapters where you’re aching to get back to the other POV. Both Laia and Elias’s POVs were enjoyable to read.

Elias and Helene’s friendship. I adore deep friendships such as theirs. They really have each others’ backs and their friendship is founded on years of trust and shared experiences. I liked the way their friendship played out through the Trials and how it also added a unique tension.

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art by @banana-books

My not so likes

The love square. I could SO do without this. I hate love triangles, and I hate love squares even more. Sometimes they can be written really well, but in this case it just did not work for me. The characters were too flighty, able to switch back and forth between their love interests so easily. So annoying to me! By the end of the book, I didn’t want anyone together because I was so fed up.

The pacing/plot. The book just felt so dragged out. Nothing much really happened until the very end! I did want to continue reading and find out what happened next, but I found myself getting bored. It was easy to put the book down.

The world-building. I mean–it was nonexistent. I could not picture the world at all, and the culture was only described in bits. This created a huge disconnect for me as I tried to immerse myself into the book.

Overall

It was certainly more enjoyable than other YA books I’ve picked up this year. But will I continue the series? Eh. I’m not in a rush at all. Though I’m slightly more motivated now that I’ve learned Helene gets some POV chapters in book two.

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Have you read An Ember in the Ashes? What did you think of it? Leave your thoughts below!

Until next time,
Brianne

june wrap-up

It’s that time of the month…

I wasn’t around the blogosphere very much during the beginning of June…oops! I went through a reading slump, and I think that also affected by blogging motivation. But I’m back, for now anyway! And I have a few posts queued up for the next few weeks, so I’ll hopefully be around during July too.

Read on for my monthly wrap-up!

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bookish things

stats

  • Total books: 6 books and 1 audiobook
  • Total pages: 2,725 pages read and 393 listened
  • Longest book: Morning Star by Pierce Brown
  • Shortest book: Red Rising by Pierce Brown
  • Favorite book: Morning Star by Pierce Brown
  • Least favorite book: The Kiss of Deception by Mary E Pearson

(most beautiful covers, June edition)

mini reviews

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch: ★★★ 1/2

Don’t tell anyone, but I blame my reading slump on this book. It took me forever to get through, and while I think I liked it, I think I also disliked it? It wasn’t quite what I expected it to be, and while I adored the characters, the writing just wasn’t for me.

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E Pearson: ★★★

This book felt like another typical YA read; enjoyable but definitely a few issues going on with it. The love triangle for once wasn’t terrible, and I didn’t even mind the main character, but the story wasn’t in any way exciting or original for me.

Red Rising series by Pierce Brown: ★★★★★

I’m giving this series an overall 5 stars, even though I rated the first two books only 4 stars. However, with how much I loved the final book and how it really completed the journey, I think the overall series is worthy of 5 stars. It’s a definite new favorite series, and I can’t wait to read more from this world next year! Please read if your love space and excellent characters and character development.

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh: ★★★★

I listened to this on audiobook, so a few of the details were lost on me. But overall, I really enjoyed this! It’s not really a Mulan retelling, but it IS unique in terms of YA. Plus, I didn’t find Mariko annoying, and I definitely swooned over Okami. So, success. Can’t wait for the next one!

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers: ★★★★

This book is just lovely. It’s much more of a character study, and not action-packed, but I think it’s really hard to dislike this book for that or for any other reason. The world and the characters are amazing and full of depth, and the book is thought-provoking and heart-warming.

DNFed

The Trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan

I didn’t really mean to DNF this one; I would have finished it if it didn’t become due at the library. However, the fact remains that I did set it aside and could have finished it if I really wanted before returning it. I was enjoying it well enough, but like I said in previous posts, I think I’ve grown out of Rick Riordan’s books.

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crafty things

Once again, I kept myself busy with crochet this month! I started a bajillion projects and finished hardly anything. But I still love it. I’m also still thinking about an Etsy shop, but for now I’m more focused on finishing some projects and also getting an Instagram started! You can now find me at @briannecrochets if you’re interested.

completed

  • thermos cozy — this was dearly needed
  • various baby hats
  • chevron gray and maroon afghan for my sister — finish today, on her birthday!

in progress

  • hexagon blanket-turned pillow cover — I made the tiniest bit of progress on this!
  • body pillow cover — this is still going, ran out of yarn though
  • white and purple star blanket
  • round yellow cushion cover
  • mint green and pink chevron baby blanket

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bloggish things

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How was your month of June? What was your favorite book you read or crafty thing you made?

Until next time,
Brianne

may wrap-up

It’s that time of the month…

I had a great balance of activities in May. Read a decent amount, completed a few bigger crochet projects, made decent headway on a story I’m writing, and started a new job! Plus, summer has finally arrived, and I couldn’t be happier for the sunny weather.

Read on for my monthly wrap-up!

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bookish things

stats

  • Total books: 6 books and 1 novella read, 1 DNF
  • Total pages: 3,044 pages
  • Longest book: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas
  • Shortest book: The Hope of Elantris by Brandon Sanderson (novella)
  • Favorite book: Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
  • Least favorite book: It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover

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mini reviews

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas: ★★★ 1/2

I was disappointed with this one. I will always love Feyre and Rhys, but this conclusion to their story really fell flat for me. I didn’t really like the plot, the ending, or the writing.

Read my full review here.

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh: ★★★★

I liked this! It was a solid YA read–which I think is both a compliment and a complaint. The writing was good, the romance was sweet, and most of the characters were nicely crafted. I’m planning to read the sequel in June.

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson★★★★ 1/2

My last (adult) Sanderson book–of COURSE I loved it. It took me a little longer to get into this one, as it’s more heavily focused on religion and I didn’t enjoy Hrathen’s chapters as much. But eventually I was totally sucked into Raoden and Sarene’s story. I didn’t want it to end!

The Hope of Elantris by Brandon Sanderson: ★★★★★

A very sweet (and short!) novella that felt like a sentimental epilogue to Elantris. Loved it.

The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1) by Rick Riordan: ★★★★

This was fun! Riordan has his book formula down pat, and yet he manages to make each book full of new adventures and diverse characters. I think maybe I’ve outgrown these books, but they’re fun to read when the mood strikes.

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab: ★★★★

This one was different yet more than I expected. The more I sit on it and think about it, the more I think I really liked it–especially my newest book boyfriend, August. *heart eyes* However, I did have some issues with the ending and overall pacing.

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover: ★★

Blegh. Didn’t enjoy this one, but I can see how others might. It was the entertainment I needed at the time, but it’s the kind of contemporary I can never seem to enjoy at all. Not to mention it’s all about domestic abuse, which I was completely clueless about before I started reading.

DNFed

The Heartbeats of Wing Jones by Katherine Webber

I’d read a few good reviews about this one, but by about 30 pages in, I had to set it down again. I didn’t love the characters, and the setting was too high school for me. And again–contemporary (even with a touch of magical realism–though I’m not entirely sure if this book has that or not) just isn’t doing anything for me at the moment.

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crafty things

I was busy with crochet this month! Baby blankets are too fun to make. I know of a few expectant moms through my friends and sisters, so I might get commissioned to make a blanket or two in the next few months. These blankets ended up being great practice! Plus, I am still definitely a novice but my finished products don’t come out looking too shabby, do they?

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completed

  • peachy ripple baby blanket (above left)
  • teal icicle stitch baby blanket (above right)
  • set of 6 gray hexagon coasters for my sister

in progress

  • hexagon blanket-turned pillow cover — I’m lazy and procrastinating on this
  • body pillow cover — somehow ended up extremely messy, but it’s going
  • chevron gray and maroon afghan for my sister — chipping away at this daily!

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bloggish things

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How was your month of May? What was your favorite book you read or crafty thing you made?

Until next time,
Brianne

 

book review | a court of wings and ruin by sarah j maas

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas

My Rating: ☆☆☆

A Court of Wings and Ruin is the third book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series and concludes the story arc for Feyre and Rhysand (as far as we know, anyway). Feyre finds herself back in the Spring Court and immediately begins her work that continues throughout the rest of the book: stopping the King of Hybern from destroying the world she knows and loves. Along with the help of the Night Court, her sisters, and other allies, Feyre concludes her epic journey, though not without some mishaps and romance on the way.

Recommended if you like:

  • Fantasy of the fae and fantastical creatures variety
  • Steamy romance
  • Fun, dramatic characters with great chemistry

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My Spoiler-Free Review

Just like many other readers I know, I eagerly anticipated the release of this book for months. I enjoyed book 1 in this series, and book 2 was even better–possibly one of my favorite new books. I couldn’t wait to see how Feyre’s story would wrap up.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

After loving the first two books so much, I certainly had high expectations, but the book fell short on so many levels that I can’t figure a way I’m being unfair. It just missed the mark. I didn’t love the writing, I didn’t love the plot, and I finished the book feeling unsatisfied.

The few things I enjoyed about the book were enough to keep me reading; most of all, I love Feyre and Rhysand. Their relationship was what I loved most about book 2, and Rhys continues to support and love Feyre just as hard in ACOWAR. He makes me swoon for days. *heart eyes*

I also love many of the side characters in this series, and it was fun to see how newer characters meshed with those I grew to love in book 2. There was interesting and entertaining chemistry between some character that I didn’t expect.

It was clear that Maas took to heart some criticisms regarding diversity in her books, because ACOWAR included many diverse characters! That was great to read.

However, for all the things I enjoyed, they still weren’t quite what I’d hoped for.

In book 2, it was great to see Feyre and Rhysand’s growth, individually and together. ACOWAR really lacked any sort of growth between them or in each individually. Not to mention that Rhysand is basically perfect–he has no flaws. While I still adore him, looking back on it, his character was a little flat in this novel.

There were SO MANY side characters, and I often found them overly dramatic. They’re supposed to be immortal fae, but they act and talk like immature teenagers in this novel. This didn’t sit right with me, and neither did some of the romantic pairings.

And as for the diversity, the representation was great but it didn’t feel genuine. Many of the LGBT+ characters seemed to be thrown in just for the sake of being there. I liked the diversity, but I think it could have been done in a better way.

I could probably go on and on–I have a lot of thoughts about this book. If you’re interested in reading more, check out my Goodreads review, which includes more spoiler-free thoughts and also a spoilery gushy/ranty section.

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Have you read ACOWAR? What did you think of it? Leave your thoughts below!

Until next time,
Brianne