Monday, February 29, 2016

Monthly Rewind: February

Friends, February was a hard month. It probably doesn't seem that way since I've managed to post more this month than I have all of sophomore year so far, but, this month destroyed me.

3 Things About My Life This Month

My Choir Squad! We're not ice skating but we are celebrating Choir Valentine's Day!
1. I went Ice Skating with the Choir! I’ve gone ice skating approximately three times in my life, so needless to say, I was clutching the wall of the skating rink while the Wellesley College Choir skated circles around me. But we had such a good time and I really got the hang of it by the end. I’ve been really close with the choir since our tour in California so spending time with them outside of rehearsal has been a huge highlight of the month for me. :)

2. I went to a real adult party! A friend of mine who graduated early, last semester, is now living and working in Boston. She invited me and a few of our other friends over to her house on a Saturday night and I felt incredibly adult having to hang my coat in a real closet and walk through a city to get to an apartment. It was a really great night.

3I’m finding this semester to be really tough. It’s been academically challenging, of course, but that I expected. What I didn’t expect was to feel as overwhelmed as I currently do. If I’m not in class I’m working one of my three jobs and if I’m not doing that, I’m attending e-board meetings or choir rehearsals. I rarely see my best friend during the week and the weekend doesn’t seem like enough time to relax, catch up with my friends, and somehow find the energy to go for a party or simply stay up and not crash into my bed. Anyway, this has been a tough month but…I’m hoping it gets easier from this month on.

Favorite Book I Read This Month

The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen, #1) by Alison Goodman. I adored this book! I can get lost in Goodman’s words of Regency Era any day, not to mention a combination of her originality and slow-burn romances always have me weeping on the floor. Anyhow, this was fantastic. If you haven’t already, you can read my review of it HERE.

3 Most Popular Posts

Post I Wish Got a Little More Love

My review of The Dark Days Club because I absolutely adored this book! You can read it HERE.

Obsession of the Month

Jane the Virgin! I'm still on Season 1 of this show but it is so good! Not only does it do such a fabulous job paying homage to Latina culture but the strong women of color at the core of this show inspire me. Plus, it's based off of a Venezuelan telenovela and the fact that this is a murder mystery, love story, and so much more all in one just continues to blow my mind. This comes so highly recommended from me so definitely give it a try if you haven't watched it yet and if you have let me know in the comments below if you're #TeamMichael or #TeamRaphael! ;)

(It should also be noted that while I hate love triangles in YA I find that the love triangle in Jane the Virgin is done extremely tastefully. Everyone is #TeamJane and Jane is such a strong, fantastic character that you can't help but support her in everything she does. Also, it should be noted that Jane is with Michael when she is accidentally inseminated with Raphael's sperm and now has to contend with the fact that her boyfriend is unprepared to raise another man's child and that guy, Raphael, is handsome, wealthy, and is going to make a great dad. The love triangle truly has me torn and hasn't felt unnecessary at all so far in the show so I'm curious to hear what other fans think too!)

Something I'm Looking Forward to Next Month

Umm, Spring Break! Duh! I not only get to lie on my giant queen bed for an entire, glorious, seven days but I also get to eat homemade Indian food and make brownies and hug my mom!

How was your February? I want to hear all about it in the comments below!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Review: The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

Title: The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen, #1)

Author: Alison Goodman

Rating: 4 Stars

I adored The Dark Days Club. While Goodman’s previous duology, the famed Eon/Eona pairing that pitched fantasy with East Asian folklore, is still, by far, my favorite of Goodman’s work, The Dark Days Club has been well worth the wait.

Lady Helen is a young woman who has been raised by her aunt and uncle, a childless couple who have struggled to maintain the highest order of propriety ever since Helen’s mother and father, supposed traitors to the crown, drowned at sea. Thus, Helen has gone her whole life knowing that she must never succumb to the madness that took her mother. But strange things have been happening to Helen lately…her senses are more acute than ever, her speed and agility have grown exponentially, and her strength has nearly tripled. The only person who has answers is Lord Carslton, a distant cousin of her uncle who is rumored to have murdered his wife and escaped to the Continent. Now that he is back, Helen simply cannot keep away and must have her answers, no matter the cost to her propriety or the danger…to her life, even.

Lady Helen is a vivacious, formidable heroine. I connected to her voice from the first page itself, my heart going out to her as she worried about pleasing her aunt and uncle, all while fighting to understand who her mother really was. Helen is plunged into a dark and different world from the London she has grown up knowing but she never backs down and faces ever challenge headfirst. I love that she is both ashamed of sneaking away to read and study subjects only men are permitted to know about yet she is proud of her intelligence and refuses to dumb herself down for anyone or any society. Her relationship with Darby, her maidservant, is a charming friendship and a highlight among her strained relations with her aunt, uncle, and older brother.

Lord Carlston, the enigmatic and sly earl who introduces Lady Helen to the Dark Days Club, a society of special individuals who fight demons, shares a story arc much like—dare I say it?—Mr. Darcy. Carlston is aloof and uncanny at first but as we begin to peel back his layers it is impossible not to fall in love with the strong, capable man he truly is. Moreover, he appreciates Helen just the way she is and enjoys her wit and character, which is more than a match for him. Their romance is a slow burn, I will warn, but it’s oh-so-good and I look forward to their continued arc in the next two novels.

The plot of The Dark Days Club is simple enough but its richness lies in Helen, her interactions with those around her and her struggle to find herself in the two worlds she has been thrust into. In order to please her aunt and uncle she must find a suitable man to marry but in following the life outlined by Lord Carlston she can pursue the same path that her mother before her chose as well. It’s not a particularly page-turning arc but I never grew bored or tired of Helen’s voice and I thoroughly enjoyed every chapter. Goodman is such a stellar writer, her historical fantasy just as good as I expected it to be. If you’re a fan of Goodman’s work or simply a lover of good historical fantasy then this is not to be missed.

A quick note : I just want to throw in a quick note that there are extremely minimal hints of a love triangle but there is no love triangle in this book. Essentially, Helen is pushed towards a kind and gracious suitor in order to please her aunt and uncle but although she enjoys the company of this suitor immensely, she does not wish to marry him. Her feelings develop only for Lord Carlston and I didn’t find the presence of Helen’s suitor to be a hindrance to the novel in any way. If anything, it nicely added to the tension of Helen’s choice between the two worlds she has been offered and absolutely did not hint at or follow any typical love triangle tropes. I also think that this will not become a full-blown love triangle in the sequels. A gentle, but reassuring warning, I hope, to my love triangle averse friends.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Romance Reads: Cozy up for Winter Edition

I don't know about you, but especially in the winter I crave cozy reads; the ones that don't require too much thinking and can hold your attention seamlessly. While I can't promise that the following novels will rock your world or make it onto your favorites shelf, they're the perfect pass-time read and I've certainly enjoyed them very much this past season. Plus, at the very least you'll be compelled to go through the backlog of these authors sometime in the coming month and be assured to find a story you fall head-over-heels for; I'm sure of it. :)

Title: When a Scot Ties the Knot (Castles Ever After, #3) 

Author: Tessa Dare

Rating: 3 Stars

I've thoroughly enjoyed Dare's recent trilogy, predominantly because they feature headstrong, feminist heroines and men who don't fit the classic mold. With When a Scot Ties the Knot, we have the female protagonist we expect--and one I love!--but the hero sadly reverts to being the all-too-familiar handsome man with a tortured past. As a result, the banter and much of the romance build-up didn't feel unique or exciting; it just felt expected. Still, a Tessa Dare romance is better than most and this one still has some fantastic moments and memorable characters so for fans of the first two novels, this is a must-read. For those who haven't picked up a book in this series yet, I cannot recommend them enough. You'll fall in love with these fairy-tale-like settings and vivacious heroines; guaranteed.

You can read my review of Say Yes to the Marquess, Book Two of this trilogy and one of my all-time favorites from Tessa Dare, HERE.

Title: Frisk Me (New York's Finest, #1)

Author: Lauren Layne 

Rating: 3 Stars

What I've come to really love and expect from Lauren Layne are fresh, modern characters--especially women--who are ambitious, driven, and practical in their approach towards life. I've become accustomed to cracking open one of her novels and not only swooning, but also finding rich female friendships and a deeper understanding of what it means to be a working woman than I do in other books in this genre. That being said, Frisk Me read much more like a classic romance novel--which isn't a bad thing at all. It just means that my expectations needed to be adjusted (which they weren't, prior to reading this novel) and is probably why I wasn't as huge a fan of this as usual. I'll definitely be continuing with the series but her debut series had my attention much more steadfastly with the core group of independent females rather than a family of hot Italian men.  Nevertheless, Layne writes complex characters and slow-burn romances that linger so if either of those seem even remotely interesting to you, Frisk Me and the rest of her backlog will be exactly up your alley.

You can read my review of previous Lauren Layne series such as Love, Sex, and Stiletto (After the Kiss, Love the One You're With, Just One Night, The Trouble With Love), Redemption (Isn't She Lovely, Broken, Crushed), and The Best Mistake (Only With You, Made For You).

Title: The Deal (Off Campus, #1)

Author: Elle Kennedy

Rating: 4 Stars

Get this: The Deal is a surprisingly good New Adult novel. I didn't think I'd be saying that this summer, that's for sure. But Elle Kennedy has managed to create the rare gem that is an angst-free, intelligent, sexy, and fun New Adult read. It isn't genre-defying or particularly earth-shattering--in fact, it's basically what you'd expect from its synopsis--but it's still leagues better than most of the novels churned out in the New Adult genre and, by that standard, The Deal shines.

What I particularly love about The Deal is that Hannah and Garrett's relationship is both a slow-burn of romance and of friendship. While its synopsis may seem to portray it as a sex-filled novel, or at least one that begins early-on with sex, in reality the sexual tension is built up and explored in length. Hannah is a rape victim, which we find out early in the novel, having been raped at the age of fifteen. Unlike a typical New Adult plot line, however, in which Hannah is raw and hurting, it has been years after her rape and Hannah has dated in-between. Yet, ever since her rape she has been unable to have a successful sexual relationship with her boyfriends and, at the advice of her therapist, is setting out to pursue one which she finally feels comfortable.

I loved Hannah's character: her strength, her passion, and her determination to move on despite the hand that life had dealt her. What's more, Garrett truly blooms over the course of the novel, proving to be far more than a talented jock. I especially enjoyed the fact that casual sex for women isn't looked down upon or treated with disdain. One of the biggest problems with New Adult novels is the fact that they continually slut shame and put down women who, at their college-age, are exploring themselves, what they want from life, and their bodies. The Deal not only avoids these potholes, it also passes the Bechdel test and I couldn't be happier. If you're searching for a fun, hot, and sexy read, The Deal should definitely make your TBR. It's spades better than most other New Adult reads and I'm surprised it didn't make itself onto my radar earlier.

Title: Playing with Trouble (Capital Confessions, #2) 

Author: Chanel Cleeton

Rating: 3 Stars

I've really been enjoying this series by Chanel Cleeton. Although it plays into all-too-stereotypical tropes about the overblown celebrity-status that politicians enjoy and the minute actions they perform that become breaking news stories, it's still wildly romantic, smart, funny, and steamy to boot. Yet, it turns out that after years, the alpha male just isn't doing it for me anymore. I found Will, from the previous novel in this series, to be far sexier as the down-to-earth "nice guy" who could be hot when the situation called for it. Somehow, the chiseled "bad boy" professor didn't amp up the steam factor, as I expected he would. Nevertheless, though the steamier aspects of this romance didn't impress me, the characters and story play out well. Don't expect anything too different with Playing with Trouble but if you don't mind a classic romantic storyline against the backdrop of sisterhood and D.C. politics--with some really great conversations about not having your life figured out even after undergrad--then this is for you.

What are some of the winter romances you've been curling up with recently? 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Review: Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Title: Their Fractured Light (Starbound, #3) 

Author(s): Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner 

Rating: 4 Stars

Note: This review is SPOILER-FREE but does mention characters from the previous books. If you would like to read my spoiler-free reviews of the prequels, click the link to read my review of These Broken Stars and This Shattered World.

3 Things I Loved About Their Fractured Light:

1. Gideon and Sofia's Doomed Romance

Oh, my. Gideon and Sofia. In their efforts to take down LaRoux Industries they wind up bumping into one another and reluctantly working together, despite the fact that they don't trust one another at all. What's more, Gideon is the famed internet hacker, the Knave of Hearts, and Sofia just happens to hate the Knave. After all, the Knave has been chasing her across planets relentlessly and won't seem to let her breathe. Only, Sofia and Gideon don't know who each other really are--they don't trust anyone, remember?--and as they slowly fall in love, the inevitable looms ever closer.

I really enjoyed Sofia and Gideon as a couple. I'll admit that their romantic angst got to be a liiiitle much by the end of the novel, only because it had dragged on for a full novel, but theirs is my favorite couple swiftly following Tarver and Lilac. You're going to be rooting for these two, both as individuals and as a couple which is always a common component in my favorite couples--if I can't love you both as strong, independent heroes then I can't fall for the dynamic duo you make together. With Gideon and Sofia, though, they tick off all the right boxes. I especially love that they are not always likable; they do not always do the right thing. Yet, they still find it in themselves to be forgiving, to love each other, and to recognize the truest parts of both themselves and the other person. It's so, so special and beautifully written... I adore it.

2. Cameo Appearances

Roughly half of this novel is all Gideon and Sofia but then the second half introduces our old favorites--Lilac, Tarver, Flynn, and Jubilee. I thought that the manner in which these three threads intertwined was brilliant and I loved seeing the three couples we've come to love and support individually join forces to take down LaRoux Industries. Their combined brain power, knowledge, and strength is immensely satisfying to behold and while the showdown isn't easy, simple, or even remotely predictable, it's enjoyable and an absolute page-turner. It's so hard to write a finale because it needs to be as grand and epic and plot twist-y as readers are hoping it's going to be and, let me tell you, this writing pair knows how to deliver. I already cannot wait for whatever they plan to write next because I'm sure it's going to be just as well-scripted and clever as this, their debut trilogy.

3. World Building

There are so many small pieces of world building that come together in this novel and, for me, this series is really DEFINED by great world building. It's evident in each novel on its own as the world building plays a huge role in the politics of every planet, shaping its conditions and its people in bold, rich hues. It's even more evident in this final installment, though, as we begin to zoom out to see the big picture. I won't say much more for fear of spoilers, but I will say that we get to know a certain group of creatures much better than we may think going into this novel and the insight that they brought, both to the world-building and the plot twists, were phenomenal.

Their Fractured Light did not disappoint in the least and I am so thrilled to not be disappointed with a series end, for once in a long time. This series has been consistently fantastic throughout, delivering believable, hard-won romances in a war-torn world with unique world-building and, what's more, it delivers on diversity in a way that few other fantasy/dystopian/sci-fi novels do. Like I said before, this writing duo is one to watch out for and I can only prepare myself for whatever they next throw as us readers.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Title: Truthwitch (The Witchlands, #1)

Author: Susan Dennard

Rating: 3 Stars

A breakdown of Truthwitch:

The First Half: 2 Stars

I'll be honest: I contemplated abandoning this novel many, many times. It's not that it's boring or drags in pace but rather that it simply was not the high fantasy YA epic that the hype had led me to believe. Dennard's debut series wasn't a favorite of mine--not beyond the first book, at any rate--but I still had high hopes for this series. But, let me tell you, Truthwitch is YA fantasy-lite at best, with meager world-building and a slew of rather familiar concepts.

Obviously, my main qualm with this novel is the fact that its world-building is practically nonexistent. We have a multitude of countries who have signed a peace treaty--one which is coming to an end--and as the treaty has not been renewed, war is brewing just around the corner. Why these countries were at war in the first place is unclear. As is the individual politics of each nation, the mannerisms and culture of every country, and the general political scheme at play. The plot revolves entirely around our heroine, Safiya, who is a Truthwitch--rare and coveted witches able to discern truth from lie. In this time of political turmoil, Safiya could be a dangerous weapon in the hand of any politician and, as such, she is whisked away to safety with the help of her best friend and Threadsister, Iseut. What a Threadfamily's significance is and why everyone doesn't have one is something I can't tell you because, you know, lack of world-building.

Safiya is hot-headed and irrational, the type of heroine who acts first and thinks later. It's not quite grating kind of is. Iseut, her opposite in every way, is calm and cool, able to see the threads that bind individuals and display emotions. While both girls are extremely different, I was unable to really become invested in either during this first half. I found Safiya cumbersome and I found Iseut inscrutable. Combined with the poor world-building and the inclusion of secondary characters I felt absolutely nothing for, it is a surprise I continued with this novel at all.

The Second Half: 4 Stars

But, the second half of this novel picks up tremendously. We are introduced to action sequence after action sequence, which keeps us on the edge of our seats, and, what's more, I finally grew to care for these characters. Safiya undergoes a fair amount of growth in the second half of this novel, which I appreciated, and though Iseut grows more and more mysterious--turns out Safiya isn't the only "special" one here!--I also found myself able to understand and relate to her far more than I could originally.

It helped that the secondary characters really begin to shine in this last half, too, becoming individual personas in their own right. Adeuan, the Bloodwitch hunting Safiya and Iseut, is utterly fascinating and I desperately want to learn more about his backstory. As far as villains go, he's rather remarkable. Prince Merik, chartering a ship that holds Safiya and Iseut, is further thrust into the spotlight as our romantic interest. While the romantic tension between him and Safiya often plays out rather childishly--endless bickering!--I warmed up to them by the end. Now, that's not to say that their romantic arc is well-plotted, because it reads rather like insta-love in some parts, and further I find that Merik's personality is composed largely of his concern for Safiya but, I have hope that their relationship will be explored and develop much better in the sequels.

Unfortunately, the world-building doesn't improve in the second-half but it does expand and thought Truthwitch has had a lot of flaws for me, the second-half of this story was thoroughly enjoyable and I am definitely planning to pick up the sequel. For fans of high fantasy, YA or Adult, Truthwitch isn't going to impress. If, however, you're looking for a novel to get you into the first forays of fantasy or simply enjoy the fantasy-lite that YA is known for, then this is exactly up your alley. It has ball gowns and sea monsters, magical powers and dizzying kisses. At its core is a strong female friendship and a journey of growth and development. It isn't the political novel I wanted it to be but, nevertheless, give it a shot. It just may surprise you.