Dumplin

City of Bastards (Royal Bastards #2) by Andrew Shvarts | An okay sequel

City of Bastards (Royal Bastards #2) by Andrew Shvarts | An okay sequelCity of Bastards (Royal Bastards, #2) by Andrew Shvarts
on June 5, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 377
Source: Library
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Tilla, bastard of House Kent, has it made. Safe from her murderous father in the dazzling capital of Lightspire, she lives a life of luxury under the protection of the Volaris King, alongside her boyfriend Zell and best friend, Princess Lyriana.

So why isn’t she happy? Maybe it’s the whispers and stares that follow her wherever she goes, as the daughter of the traitor waging war against Lightspire. Or maybe it’s the memories of her beloved brother, Jax, who lies cold in his grave even as she tries to settle into a life in the city's prestigious University.

Then, Tilla stumbles upon the body of a classmate, a friend. The authorities are quick to rule it a suicide and sweep it under the rug, but when Tilla herself is attacked by a mysterious man with terrifying powers, she’s convinced of a conspiracy. Her friends beg her to stay silent; what she's suggesting is impossible... and treasonous.

But Tilla can't, won't, let it go. And the deeper she digs, the more questions she uncovers. How is the West beating the supposedly invincible Lightspire Mages in battle? Is it connected to the shadowy cult wreaking havoc in Lightspire? Nothing is as it seems in the glorious capital, and Tilla’s presence might just be the spark that sets the Kingdom aflame.


✦ Click here to see my review of Royal Bastards ✦

I really loved Royal Bastards. It was funny, imaginative, and just overall an enjoyable read. The ending left me wanting more and I was super excited for what would happen in City of Bastards. Unfortunately, City of Bastards didn’t live up to my expectations.

Zzzzzz. The first half of this book felt like a chore to read. Tilla is now at Lightspire with Zell and Lyriana, and all we pretty much got in the first 100 pages was Tilla walking to class, going to parties, making out with Zell, and eating delicious food.

Poor Lonely Tilla. Tilla kept pretending that everything was okay when it clearly wasn’t. She’s still reeling over her brother’s death and her father’s evil deeds, and because Zell is keeping secrets and is often MIA, and Lyriana is almost always on a bender, Till is left isolated and sad. The lack of interaction between these three also contributed to the boring parts of the book.

Whodunit. The murder mystery hinted to on the cover was good. The reason for it, and culprit’s reveal, was surprising and clever.

Shocking ending. There’s a huge cliffhanger that changes everything for the characters, and I’m looking forward to see how they’re going to deal with it in book three.

I’m not totally surprised that book two wasn’t as good as book one. This unfortunately happens a lot. I’m just going to cross my fingers and hope that book three will be better.

three-half-stars
Dumplin

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

Starry Eyes by Jenn BennettStarry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
Published by Simon Pulse on April 3, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 432
Source: Library
Goodreads
three-stars

Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?


I’m sad that I couldn’t give Starry Eyes more than 3 stars. So many readers love this book, and I’m over here like “meh”.

Zorie frustrated me a lot, because she refused to acknowledge how awful her “friend” Reagan was. Reagan is a total b*tch, who doesn’t mind hurting Zorie’s feelings, and Zorie just sits there and takes it. Multiple people tell Zorie that she deserves better, but she just ignores them, preferring to live in denial.

Lennon was definitely my favorite character. He’s just a really cool *out there* guy. He doesn’t care about labels. He dresses emo, loves reptiles, horror manga, and all things macabre, and doesn’t care what people say or think about him. I wish that I could be as confident and comfortable with myself like he is.

This book bored me for 200 pages, I loved it for 150, and then I got bored again. I think that it had far too many pages, and that the whole *Lennon and Zorie are alone in the woods* thing should have happened sooner than it did.

Even though I thought this book lacked some luster, I plan on reading other books by this author. I think she’s a good writer, and that this book just wasn’t for me.

three-stars
Dumplin

Love, Life and the List by Kasie West

Love, Life and the List by Kasie WestLove, Life, and the List by Kasie West
Published by HarperTeen on December 26, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Goodreads
four-stars

Seventeen-year-old Abby Turner’s summer isn’t going the way she’d planned. She has a not-so-secret but definitely unrequited crush on her best friend, Cooper. She hasn’t been able to manage her mother’s growing issues with anxiety. And now she’s been rejected from an art show because her work “has no heart.” So when she gets another opportunity to show her paintings Abby isn’t going to take any chances.

Which is where the list comes in.

Abby gives herself one month to do ten things, ranging from face a fear (#3) to learn a stranger’s story (#5) to fall in love (#8). She knows that if she can complete the list she’ll become the kind of artist she’s always dreamed of being. But as the deadline approaches, Abby realizes that getting through the list isn’t as straightforward as it seems… and that maybe—just maybe—she can’t change her art if she isn’t first willing to change herself.


*This review is for the audiobook version*

Love, Life and the List, like every other Kasie West book I’ve read, is filled with heart, smiles, tears, and a dash of laughter. These are all the things I’ve come to expect and look forward to in any book written by Kasie West, the queen of contemporary romances.

When I’m reading a book by Kasie West, I never feel like I’m meeting the same characters or seeing the same story being told again. Every character that this author has ever created, has had their own individual personality, with unique strengths, weaknesses, and an original voice.

The story in Love, Life and the List is told by Abby, a fun, smart, super-snarky girl, who has been head-over-heels in love with her best friend Cooper for a long time. I loved Abby and Cooper’s relationship, their hilarious banter, and the stories of the past mischief they’ve gotten into. They have such great chemistry, and I was rooting for them to take their relationship to the next level the entire time I read this book.

Abby is quite possibly my favorite Kasie West character to date, because she was deeply conceived, with a great character arc. When the director of the art museum Abby works at tells her that her paintings lack “heart”, Abby starts a heart-growing list as a way to expand her horizons, to gain a greater outlook on life, and to tap into the deeper emotions she’s being told she doesn’t express well enough.

I thought it was pretty shitty of the art director to say that Abby’s work wasn’t good enough, because “art is subjective”, but I also didn’t disagree that Abby would highly benefit from trying new experiences. She has a lot of insecurities, tends to avoid confrontation, and is afraid of change, and the list she created with the help of her mom, and grampa, helped her work through all of those things. The heart-growing list is full of things like face a fear, learn a stranger’s story, read a classic book, and other tasks designed to help push Abby outside of her comfort zone.

Luckily, besides Cooper, who works through the list with her, Abby has her hilarious and endearing grampa to encourage her every step of the way. Her grampa is incredibly smart, and snarky, and definitely gave Abby her snarky-ness. I really loved his character, because I rarely see books with grandparents who play vital roles. Abby’s dad is off in the armed forces during the whole book, so her grampa filled that absent fatherly role. He was Abby’s number one fan, and it was so heartwarming.

Audiobook narrator: She was perfect! Not only did she sound like an actual teenage girl (what a relief), she was able to put a lot of emotion into her voice during highly emotional scenes.

Love, Life and the List is a must read for lovers of contemporary romances!

four-stars
Dumplin

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

The Wicked Deep by Shea ErnshawThe Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw
Published by Simon Pulse on March 6, 2018
Genres: Supernatural, Romance, Young Adult, Macabre
Pages: 320
Source: Library
Goodreads
two-half-stars

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.

I think my reading experience for The Wicked Deep was doomed from the beginning. My expectations were too high because of the many ravings by bloggers, authors, and the already announced Netflix adaptation. Don’t get me wrong, this book wasn’t horrible, but I felt like it should have been better.

I’m not 100% sure why this book didn’t workout for me, but I suspect it mostly had to do with the fact that I was often able to correctly guess where the story was headed. I try not to, but more often than not, I find myself scrutinizing characters, guessing the decisions they will make, and contemplating what the most logical and/or shocking outcome the author can conjure up . I really need to learn how to kick this bad habit, because it’s helped ruin too many books for me.

This review was purposefully left mini and vague, because I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone interested in reading this book. The Wicked Deep is built on WTF moments, and I don’t think it has much else going for it once they are revealed.

If you love macabre, supernatural books, and aren’t the type to scrutinize story-lines, you might enjoy this book.

*One last irrelevant thought – this book cover is stunning! It’s a bummer I didn’t love this book, because it would have looked gorgeous on my bookshelf.

two-half-stars
Dumplin

A Kiss in the Dark by Gina Ciocca

A Kiss in the Dark by Gina CioccaA Kiss in the Dark by Gina Ciocca
Published by Simon Pulse on March 6, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 341
Source: Library
Goodreads
four-stars

When the lights go out at a Georgia high school football game, Macy Atwood finds herself in the arms of a boy who kisses her senseless – but is gone by the time the lights come back on. All she knows is that there was something special – and oddly familiar – about her mystery kisser.

Noah Granger, Ridgedale’s resident bad boy and newest transfer student, has no problem taking credit for the kiss, but Macy can’t shake the feeling that he’s lying. Especially since a photograph of Macy and former star football player Joel Hargrove resurfaced online moments before the blackout, a not-so random reminder of how hard she fell for Joel last year. And how doing so ultimately sent her lifelong friendships with Meredith Kopala and Ben Collins up in literal smoke.

Soon junior year’s wounds begin to reopen as Macy realizes the events that unfolded are somehow tied to her mystery kisser. Discovering how means finally facing what really went wrong with Meredith, Ben, and Joel – and finding out what Noah is covering up.

But the closer Macy gets to figuring it all out, the more she starts to worry that the boy who kissed her in the dark and the boy who is stealing her heart might be two very different people.

 


This was a cute, surprisingly non-soap-opera-y contemporary romance. Usually when there’s multiple teenage suitors in contemporaries it can get corny and over-dramatic. Thankfully the characters in A Kiss in the Dark were reasonably and refreshingly mature.

I really liked Macy. She’s always the first to befriend new students and the first to stand-up to bullies. Even though she had a tendency to cower when it came to her heart, she was always fearless when it came to protecting others.

It’s senior year when this book starts out, and during a football game, the stadium lights go out and Macy shares a kiss with a mystery boy. Macy spends her time in A Kiss in the Dark trying to figure out who the mystery kisser is, while also trying to process what led up to a falling out she had with three classmates junior year, two whom were good friends, and one who was a sort-of-almost boyfriend. I loved how Macy wasn’t one of those “poor me poor me” characters. She generally cares about her ex-friends and acknowledges that she played a part in the fall out.

This book flashes between the now (senior year) and the then (junior year). The swap back-and-forth was smooth and each timeline held my interest.

I couldn’t pick a favorite suitor, because I liked all the guys / potential mystery kissers. They were all wrapped in mystery and had secrets I was dying to find out. There wasn’t a single boring character in this book!

I’m not a fan of football, but strangely enough I loved the TV show Friday Night Lights, which this book reminded me of. A Kiss in the Dark is set in a quaint Southern town where football is life and the entire town comes together for spirit week and homecoming. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wished I had grown up in a town like that. My high school didn’t even have school dances and this book made me so jealous.

This book was paced nicely in the beginning, and then halfway through it started feeling off. I think it could have done with 50 or so less pages. Towards the last quarter of the book I guessed where the ending was headed for the characters, and even though I was right, I was still pleased and impressed with the wrap-up

I’d definitely read another contemporary by this author.

four-stars