Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Title: Cruel Beauty
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Series: Cruel Beauty Universe
Rating: ★★★

I am confused on how to rate this. There is no denying that Hodge created a beautiful, interesting world with an interesting history. The characters are flawed, yet wonderful. The ending felt a little fast, but I still liked it. I’m not quite sure that it’s “Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast,” but it’s still a captivating read.

Nyx has known for most of her life that she would be the sacrifice. Here sister is the beloved daughter and she is the useful one kept at a distance. She knows she will be married to the Gentle Lord, the one who rules all demons. She knows she is expected to destroy him, and in the process either be trapped with his forever or die. Nyx has never felt loved or valuable to her family, something that plays an important role later in the story. She’d developed a tough skin and an even tougher heart. She knows that if she doesn’t let herself care for anyone, no one can use that against her.

Nyx fascinated me as a character. Her father has never shown her much love, instead showering her sister with affection while training Nyx to be the revenge he desires upon Ignifex. Nyx and her sister were part of a bargain their father struck with Ignifex, but it cost him his wife. As revenge, Nyx is supposed to marry and destroy him and his castle. Her father’s desire for revenge leaves no room for compassion and love for Nyx. She’s angry and hurt. She wants someone to feel for her situation. She feels like she is not a person, just a tool.

Ignifex somehow breaks her down and reveals a different side to Nyx. She suddenly has someone she wants to care for. She’s meant to destroy him, but finds common bonds that make that task difficult. The main fault I find between Ignifex and Nix is that they barely spend much time together before it becomes love. I wish the relationship had been developed a little more right from the beginning.

The world building was done well. There’s some Greek mythology mixed with the Beauty and the Beast elements. My favorite piece was the castle, though. It’s forever changing, revealing new secrets and hiding others constantly. I loved reading Nyx’s wanderings of the castle. Everything was so vividly described I could picture it all easily. The castle is its own character.

In the end, despite how I loved individual pieces of the novel, I didn’t fall head over heels in love with it. It was good, yes, but not amazing. I think the Beauty and the Beast elements will really draw people in. It’s a lovely and well-written novel, just not exactly what I thought I was getting into. Still worth a read for the imagery alone. Everything else is just an added bonus.

If Cruel Beauty sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Barnes and Noble

Thank you to Edelweiss and Balzer + Bray for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Review: This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

Title: This is What Happy Looks Like
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Rating: ★★★★

I’ve only read two books by Smith, but I think I already know why I find myself enjoying them so much. They’re happy books. I don’t mean that everything is rainbows and sunshine and unicorns. It’s not. But when you finish reading, you just feel happy.

Graham is a movie star, but he’d rather stay at home with his pet pig, Wilbur. Ellie lives with her mom and dreams of being able to do more. When Graham accidentally emails Ellie, the two start a friendship. They don’t know names, but they know the small things. Through those emails, they learn the details about each other, the little things that matter. When Graham convinces the movie production to move the shoot to Ellie’s small Maine town, he knows it’s his chance to finally meet the girl on the other side of the computer. The relationship that develops is sweet and heartwarming.

Ellie knows her life with her mother is the best one she could have had. That doesn’t stop her from wondering what life would be like if she had grown up with a relationship with her father. All she has are foggy memories. She can’t help but feel a little resentful of the life he lives while she and her mother have a home and shop that could use some help and Ellie dreams of attending an Ivy League school, something far out of their budget.

Graham was found by chance. He tried out for a spot in a school play to impress a girl and from there he went straight to Hollywood. He’s still a 17-year-old boy, though. He’s not into the famous life with the fake people and big parties. He wants a more quiet life with his family and the people who mean most to him. He loves acting; he just doesn’t like the life that comes with it.

The relationship brings something out in both of them. Ellie discovers how much she can take and Graham finds he values his family more than anything. They show each other that there is something more that they can hope for. But on top of that, they just make each other happy. Maybe it’s not the best relationship for either of them from on outside observer, but being together makes them happy. It makes everything else in their lives manageable.

This is What Happy Looks Like is the prefect title for this book. Nearly every page of this book just feels happy. This is the book you pick up when you want to smile and feel your heart flutter.

If This is What Happy Looks Like sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Barnes and Noble

Review: Champion by Marie Lu

Title: Champion
Author: Marie Lu
Series: The Legend Trilogy
Rating: ★★★★★

The Legend series has gotten better with each book. After reading Legend, I didn’t think Lu could write anything better. Then I read Prodigy and was amazed at how Lu outdid herself, but was sure she couldn’t top it. There was no way. And then there was Champion. Even if she had written a novel that wasn’t as great as the first two, it would still be fantastic. But I loved this book even more than the first two. It’s not a “let’s wrap this up in the perfect bow” book. It’s a “let’s make an impact and give the characters the ending they deserve” book.

June is one of three Princeps-Elects. She is getting a firsthand experience in the world of politics. Day has a high-level military position and works to keep the peoples’ faith in the Republic. Despite their high ranks, life isn’t perfect for them. June feels out of place in politics, even though she knows it’s a position of high honor. Day is trying to move beyond the past and make a new life for him and his brother. But there’s a piece missing in their lives they both try to ignore. When they are brought together again because of a growing threat, they have to deal with saving the Republic and saving their relationship.

The characters are what make me love this novel. The plot and action are nice, but without the right characters, I probably wouldn’t have loved reading this book so much. June is analytical, but that’s the way she keeps her head when everything is falling apart around her. When she lets her guard down, though, she’s vulnerable and just wants something, someone real to hold on to. Day has a tough exterior, having to fight for everything growing up. But he cares so much for the people he loves that he would do anything to take pain away from them. These two characters alone are what make this novel so amazing, not to mention all the secondary characters.

I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. I wasn’t sure how Lu would be able to end things. I had all these ideas and scenarios in my head, but none of them compared to what actually happened. Just when things look like they’re getting better, something pops up and a whole new plan has to be formed. I felt my heart drop at times, only to have it lodged in my throat a few moments later.

Champion is the best ending this series could have. It wrapped things up, but left pieces to the imagination of the reader. There’s tragedy and pain, but hope and happiness, too. This is the ending the characters deserved. The entire Legend series is a must read.

If Champion sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Barnes and Noble

Review: The Offering by Kimberly Derting

Title: The Offering
Author: Kimberly Derting
Series: The Pledge Trilogy
Rating: ★★★★

After reading The Pledge, I knew this series would be one that I loved. It had wonderful characters, and interesting storyline, and it was well written. Throughout the series, I have only fallen more in love. With the end of the series coming in The Offering, I knew I wasn’t ready yet. Once I read those final words, there was no going back. Sure, I can reread. But it’s never quite the same.

Charlie has done amazing things for her country. She’s brought back communications and removed the evils of Sabara from their country. She’s learned how to control Sabara’s Essence. She knows she’s doing the right things for her country, but with the eyes of everyone on her, she feels the pressure. A neighboring country has delivered a gruesome warning and the only way for her to keep war from entering her borders is to sacrifice herself. She’s not sure what will happen after she meets Queen Elena, but she knows she has to try to save her country.

Charlie finally comes into her own in this novel. She knows how to fight, but she knows how to think, too. Sure, she’s still nervous and has a few flaws, but they are what make her shine. She knows that her country cannot save a war and that one person’s life is not more valuable than another’s, but she is willing to give herself up in order to save her people. She shows true courage and I admire her for that.

Max, although not a huge presence in parts of the novel, is still as wonderful as ever. Whenever he was around, it was perfect. I could feel myself melting anytime the love he has for Charlie was shown. He’s courageous, yet vulnerable. He’s always ready to show Charlie just how much she means to him. I’m a little happy he’s not in the entire book, though. It makes the moments we see him even sweeter.

The story itself was fantastic. I’d always try to guess what was about to happen, and I’d maybe get a little piece right, but I was still shocked when things were revealed. The way Derting can throw something in that’s completely unexpected yet makes perfect sense is amazing. Her curveballs never feel like they were thrown in to make things more dramatic. They always feel like that was exactly how things were supposed to happen.

The Offering is an amazing end to a fantastic series. It has action, love, and a fantasy dystopia that’s perfect for the novel. It’s definitely a must read.

If The Offering sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Barnes and Noble

Review: Where You’ll Find Me by Erin Fletcher

Title: Where You’ll Find Me
Author: Erin Fletcher
Rating: ★★★★★

When I decided to request an ARC of Where You’ll Find Me, I wasn’t sure if I’d like it. It had the potential to be either really bad and cheesy or really amazing. A teen drowning her sorrow through drinking and partying meets a boy hiding out in her garage. I think if Fletcher has chosen to stay at surface level and focus on the romance, it would have been a bit of a flop for me. Instead, she uses the relationship as a catalyst for Hanley to face her demons, as well as make the reader think about death.

Hanley changed in middle school. She went from being a sweet, behaving daughter to rebelling with drinks and partying. She drowns her pain with alcohol and surface-deep relationships. She knows she’s doing this, but she doesn’t see a reason to change. She’s managed to run away from her problems and keep them from catching up. When she finds Nate living in her garage, things begin to change. Drinking and partying don’t sound as fun. Being with this adorable boy sounds better than anything else. Through their relationship, both Hanley and Nate face their life choices and come to terms with things beyond their control.

Hanley was a fascinating character. She blames herself for things that she couldn’t know. She’s broken, but instead of showing her true pain, she distracts herself and others from seeing the truth with alcohol. If people only see her acting like a misbehaving teenager, then people can’t see just how much she’s really hurting.

Hanley distracts herself from her problems and Nate runs away from them. That’s why Hanley finds him living in her garage. He’s sweet and charming, but vulnerable as well. He kept his secrets hidden even as Hanley opened up to him. It’s clear he’s hurt by the secrets he’s keeping, but he doesn’t see a way to avoid them other than running away. What starts as an easy friendship turns into something more. Hanley’s forced to face her demons, but with Nate there, she has someone to lean on and get strength from. She’s able to speak her mind, say everything she feels, and to have someone there to listen. When Nate is the one who needs help, she’s ready to be there for him. It’s a wonderful relationship that digs below the surface and forges connections based on more than a feeling.

Where You’ll Find Me is about so much more than a girl falling for the guy hidden in her garage. It talks about death, blame, and forgiveness in a real and touching way. It’s a fantastic read.

If Where You’ll Find Me sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Barnes and Noble

Thank you to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Edge of Always by J.A. Redmerski

Title: The Edge of Always
Author: J.A. Redmerski
Series: The Edge of Never series
Rating: ★★

I really enjoyed The Edge of Never. Not only did it have a fascinating story, but Redmerski made me feel for the characters. I was pulled right in. If I’m being honest, I didn’t think it needed a sequel. The ending was wonderful, closing the story up while leaving the future open. So when I saw there was a sequel, I was a little hesitant to read it. Unfortunately, the magic of the first novel wasn’t quite here.

Camryn and Andrew suffer a great loss and tragedy. Andrew seems to be handling things okay, but Camryn spirals down to a dark place. After Andrew catches her taking care of her pain in a dangerous way, he decides something has to be done. Wanting to capture the hope and happiness of their lives when they first met, he takes Camryn on a road trip across the country.

I had a few issues with this novel. First was Andrew’s seemingly lack of grief. He’s upset about it, yes, but for some reason it felt like he just didn’t care as much as Camryn. Camryn’s grief is palpable. She’s devastated. We don’t see that from Andrew and I would have really liked to see his feelings about the loss. He talks about Camryn pushing feelings under the rug, but it felt like that’s what he did.

There was a lot of time jumping in the novel. Sometimes this works. This was not one of those times. I would have like more of their road trip. That’s what I fell in love with the first time and those are the parts of the novel I liked this time around. Camryn and Andrew finding themselves while on the road is what made me love the first novel so much. This time around, it felt like Redmerski was trying to get so much done in a condense package. I didn’t need to see all the future stuff. That actually detracted from the novel for me. I would have been completely happy with Cam and Andrew finding their happiness while driving across the country.

I will say that the promises they make to each other throughout the novel really tugged at my heart. Those were there moments where their relationship shined. They were sweet and touching, demonstrating the kind of relationship they both wanted going forward.

Overall, The Edge of Always just didn’t do it for me. I didn’t connect with this novel like I did the first and while there are moments of sweetness; there was a lot that I didn’t find necessary or enjoyable. I’ll probably still reread The Edge of Never, but I’ll pass on rereading this one. I know what happens in their story and I’ll just add those thoughts to the end of The Edge of Never.

If The Edge of Always sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Barnes and Noble

Thank you to NetGalley and Forever for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley

Title: The Splendour Falls
Author: Susanna Kearsley
Rating: ★★★

I love how Kearsley can blend history with the present in such a way that it all flows perfectly from one story to another. The history is such an important piece of the present, setting up situations and characters that draw me right in. The Splendour Falls not only has that perfect mix of the times, but it has a murder mystery and a missing person case wrapped up in there as well.

Emily Braden is convinced by her cousin to join him in France. It will be a vacation for her while he gets some research done. When she reaches the hotel, her cousin is nowhere in sight and no one seems to know where he is. This is nothing new for Emily’s family, as her cousin has a habit of not being the most reliable, so she doesn’t worry too much. She starts getting to know the others staying in the hotel, all the while wondering about her cousin’s whereabouts and thinking about the history of the town she’s staying in. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding the events of the past that still has an impact in the present day.

Just like in the other Kearsley novels I’ve read, the characters are unique and amazing. Even Garland, the woman who doesn’t think before she speaks, is a fascinating character to read. Each character has a personality that differs from every other character. It’s easy to see them existing in real life, not just in the pages of a novel. They’re real, with dimensions and flaws, and each one serves a greater purpose in the novel. I might love the way Kearsley weaves history into the present, but it’s her characters that make her books excellent.

The murder/mystery/missing person aspect of the novel was very well done. For once, I didn’t see the twist coming. I figured there’d be one, but my guesses were way off. There’s a lot of cover-up and things hiding beneath the surface. I spent half my time reading trying to figure things out. I do wish there had been a little bit more of the historical mystery written about. It’s there to drive the characters along, but it stays mostly in the background.

The romance of this book is in the background. It doesn’t play a major role, but it’s always there, hovering at the edges. I’m glad that it wasn’t a major focus. It allowed me to fall in love with every character and with the setting.

The Splendour Falls has everything that I enjoy about Kearsley’s novels. When I pick up one of her books, I trust that I’m going to love it. Even if the historical angle doesn’t appeal to you, the characters make this book worth reading.

If The Splendour Falls sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Barnes and Noble

Thank you to NetGelley and SOURCEBOOKS Landmark for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi

Title: Into the Still Blue
Author: Veronica Rossi
Series: Under the Never Sky
Rating: ★★★★★

I had loved every book in this series. The world and characters Rossi created are so incredibly thought out and real that finishing this book felt like saying goodbye to friends. It was a sad feeling, but in the best possible way. After Under the Never Sky and Through the Ever Night, I had high hopes and expectations for Into the Still Blue. Rossi far exceeded everything I wanted for this book.

At the end of Through the Ever Night Perry had moved the Tides into the safety of a cave. They knew Hess and Sable had teamed up to travel to the Still Blue. They also had Cinder. Aether storms were getting worse and time was running out for everyone. Soon, the storms would destroy everything, including them. Perry brings a team together to rescue Cinder and steal enough hovers for the Tides population. The team is dysfunctional, though, and from the beginning things don’t always go to plan. The rest of the novel is filled with action, drama, romance, and everything I could have wanted.

The relationships in this book, in this series, are what make it so amazing. Of course there’s the love story between Aria and Perry. They’re just as wonderful in this book, having to go through a few rough patches before coming out stronger and better. But every relationship in the book is that way. They all have dimension and feel incredibly real. Aria and Roar have one of the best friendships I’ve read in a book. Rossi could have easily turned this into a love triangle, but she didn’t. Instead she created a friendship that I envy. They are always there for each other, and love each other, but it’s still friendship. One of the strongest I’ve ever read. Even the relationships with the more minor characters are fleshed out and wonderful.

I don’t want to go into too much about the plot. I don’t want to spoil any piece of this novel for anyone. But something I love about how Rossi writes is how she paces everything. It’s not action upon action upon action through the entire novel. Instead, she throws a lot at you, makes your heart race and your breath catch. Then she gives everyone a break, a few chapters to breathe and to recover. There’s sweetness and swoons, usually, in those breaks. The action and plot make you fall in love with the book, the pauses make you fall in love with the characters.

There were times when I was close to tears. Sometimes it was because of what was written. Other times it was because I knew I was nearing the end of the book. I’m not ready to leave the world of Aria and Perry, yet I also loved how the story ended. This is a series I will be reading over and over again. It’s nearly perfect in every way and I’m incredibly grateful to Rossi for writing it.

If Into the Still Blue sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Barnes and Noble

Thank you to Edelweiss and HarperCollins for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.