BookTube: My Top 15 Books of 2015

Overall, 2015 was an AWESOME reading year for me.  I feel really pleased with the number of books I’ve read, and more importantly, with the quality of those books. There were so many new favorites this year that it was challenging to narrow down my list (but I was at least able to justify a top 15 instead of top 10 list!).  What were your favorite reads of the year?

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Tea & Book Chat: The Prophecy of Shadows by Michelle Maddow (Elementals #1)

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  This is no way swayed my opinions.*

Purchase on Amazon –Elementals: The Prophecy of Shadows

When I heard about Michelle Maddow’s new series, Elementals, I knew I had to read it.  The first book, The Prophecy of Shadows, introduces the reader to a world that combines greek mythology and witchery.  The story follows the main character Nicole and four of her classmates from the unusual homeroom class she’s placed in where everyone is descended from Greek Gods.  Because it’s become less common for Greek Gods to visit Earth and procreate, the offspring in the bloodline consider themselves to be witches since their blood is diluted.  They’re discouraged from becoming involved with humans in an effort to preserve their bloodline.  Being descendants has allotted them some unique abilities and they use colors to channel their energy.  While Nicole is learning everything about her newfound abilities, a comet passes over her town and changes everything.

While I found much of the storyline of The Prophecy of Shadows to be predictable, I still enjoyed reading the story.  The plot is very formulaic and full of common tropes but the story still manages to be engaging and quick paced.  The main character is the normal human with a newfound ability that we learn everything through.  She is pining for a bad boy (Blake) who’s in a relationship with a seemingly awful and possessive female classmate (Danielle – both of whom are in the Elementals group).  Then we have the over-achieving intelligent girl (Kate), and the guy she likes (Chris) who’s more of a nerdy outsider.  It’s almost like a modern day Breakfast Club of Greek Gods descendants, all led by their homeroom teacher Darius, a member of the Elders who helps to regulate magic on Earth.  The group comes together when their powers are exacerbated by a comet and they set out on a hero’s quest to find the meaning of an illusive prophecy while learning about and testing out their powers.

The Prophecy of Shadows

I noticed many similarities between The Prophecy of Shadows and Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan.  Since both deal with Greek Gods, it’s difficult not to draw comparisons between the two series.  While The Prophecy of Shadows is aimed at a slightly older audience, I still found the story to read at more of a middle grade level than a YA level.  While the characters faced their trials and tribulations, it seemed a little too unbelievable to me that they would be able to master their powers so quickly.  I understand that it’s the first book, but their obstacles didn’t seem challenging enough for the situations they found themselves in.  This first installment did a good job of world-building and introducing the reader to the characters which leads me to believe that the second book will have a higher payoff.  The ending already left us with a taste of the excitement to come!

Final Thoughts:  The Prophecy of Shadows by Michelle Maddow is an interesting first installment in the Elementals series.  If you’re a fan of Greek mythology or Percy Jackson, I would definitely recommend giving this series a go.  I had a lot of issues with the book overall but it didn’t take away from the enjoyment of reading it.  The book is full of tropes and the story is formulaic but it’s also quick paced and keeps you interested.  As you can tell, my feelings were very mixed on this one!

Rating 3

Filled with magic, thrilling adventure, and sweet romance, Elementals is the first in a new series that fans of Percy Jackson and The Secret Circle will love!

When Nicole Cassidy moves from sunny Georgia to gloomy New England, the last thing she expects is to learn that her homeroom is a cover for a secret coven of witches. Even more surprisingly … she’s apparently a witch herself. Despite doubts about her newfound abilities, Nicole is welcomed into this ancient circle of witches and is bedazzled by their powers—and, to her dismay, by Blake—the school’s notorious bad-boy.

Girls who get close to Blake wind up hurt. His girlfriend Danielle will do anything to keep them away, even if she must resort to using dark magic. But the chemistry between Blake and Nicole is undeniable, and despite wanting to protect Nicole from Danielle’s wrath, he finds it impossible to keep his distance.

When the Olympian Comet shoots through the sky for the first time in three thousand years, Nicole, Blake, Danielle, and two others in their homeroom are gifted with mysterious powers. But the comet has another effect—it opens the portal to the prison world that has contained the Titans for centuries. After an ancient monster escapes and attacks Nicole and Blake, it’s up to them and the others to follow the clues from a cryptic prophecy so that they can save their town … and possibly the world. (via Goodreads)

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Tea & Book Chat: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken (Passenger #1)

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  This is no way swayed my opinions.*

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken was my most anticipated ARC at BEA (and I managed to get it!) but after finding out there was an updated draft I made an executive decision to wait until the finished copy… until, an updated ARC was printed.  I was lucky enough to receive one and the moment it appeared in my mailbox I was so ready to dive in!  I’m very happy to say that Passenger did not disappoint.  The story is full of time travel and pirates (two instant selling points for myself) and it follows Etta and Nicholas who embark on a journey through time to recover an artifact that could destroy the time stream completely if it falls into the wrong hands.  From the moment I started reading until the moment I finished I was completely enthralled with the story and the characters.  Passenger is a truly gripping read.  You still have time to enter my Passenger giveaway too!

A big part of why I loved Passenger so much is because Alexandra Bracken’s imagery made me feel like I was time traveling along with the Etta and Nicholas.  I found it took me longer to read Passenger than it has to read other books of a similar size and I think it’s because I was so overtaken by the story.  I felt like I had to read at a slower pace to absorb each and every detail.  Time travel stories can often feel confusing or convoluded but when they’re done correctly, like Passenger,they’re one of my favorite types of stories.  The way in which all of the rules of the world were described made complete sense and makes the story approachable to those who aren’t accustomed to reading science fiction.  The story is complicated in the best kind of way and I already began planning a re-read before I finished the first time.  The race for this mysterious artifact had me HOOKED.

Passenger

I love both Etta and Nicholas separately and together I ship them so much!  Etta is a violinist from modern day New York set to debut at The Met when she’s thrust into this life that her mother never explained to her yet she manages to take everything in stride and quickly adapt to her situation.  She’s driven by love and the desire to do what’s right and she won’t let any male or female get in her way despite the century she happens to be in.  Etta challenges social issues from earlier times that she doesn’t agree with and I love her quick wit.  Nicholas’s polite and calm demeanor balances out Etta’s impulsive whims.  I particularly love his way of fighting back civilly during the Voltaire conversation despite the other character not deserving any of Nicholas’ time or attention.  He’s a man who’s always been dealt an unfair hand due solely to his race and I want nothing more than for him to move to the current century with Etta and live happily ever after but that ending remains to be seen.  I really need the second book in the duology, Wayfarer, as soon as possible.  I also really enjoyed learning about Ironwood and the way he has been controlling time traveling families for years.  He is a prime example of someone whose had a taste of power and will never be satisfied.  He is out for his best interest despite how the consequences will effect anyone else.

Final Thoughts:  Passenger by Alexandra Bracken is the first book in a time travel duology that is a must read for anyone with a penchant for pirates and / or historical fiction.  The world that Bracken has built is an enchanting and enhanced version of our own.  The main characters Etta (from present day) and Nicholas (from the past) are the perfect pair to recover the astrolabe before our villain gets his hands on it and destroys the time stream for his own benefit.  I ship them together so much (and I especially love using that phrase in regard to Passenger because pirates).   It was so hard to keep this review spoiler free because I want to talk about every story element of it with everyone!  Please read this book!

Rating 6

passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are play­ing, treacherous forces threaten to sep­arate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home . . . forever. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi (Shatter Me #1)

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi is the first book in the Shatter Me trilogy.  The book follows a girl named Juliette who has spent her life avoiding touching living things for fear of accidentally killing them.  She lives in a dystopian society but she hasn’t been outside in years.  Not since her parents had her locked away.  Unfortunately I did not like this book as much as other people seem to but there are some redeeming qualities.  I also wonder if I would have enjoyed it more if I had read it earlier on in life before dystopians saturated the YA market.

I had such a challenging time rating this book because I found the beginning and the ending very interesting but the middle barely held my interest.  I know I fall on the unpopular end of the spectrum since everyone seems to love and rave about this series but it just didn’t get me excited like it has for others.  It’s possible that the book was overhyped and I went into it with high expectations which weren’t met.  I’m also not a huge fan of stories that are heavily militial.  About three-fouths of the way through the book did a complete 180 and the story suddenly grabbed me.  I felt more like I was reading an X-Men origin story comic than a YA novel.

Shatter Me

What I enjoyed most about my reading experience is Mafi’s writing style.  It’s very fluid and Juliette’s narrative is a stream of consciousness which allows the reader to plow through chapters at an exceptional speed.  However, I did feel like there were a lot of scenes that seemed like something out of an erotica novel.  I never truly warmed up to Juliette despite feeling bad for her being unable to control her ability.  I grew to like Adam more than her, specifically because of his relationship with his little brother James and I even liked the villain, Warner better.  However, I did not like the insta-love between Juliette and Adam.  I will also say that the novel is full of action and there are constantly things happening to advance the plot, but nothing excited me until the final chapter and epilogue.  I’m so torn on whether to keep reading since I like where the story is going or stopping for fear of not getting into the second book either.  I don’t know what to do!

Final Thoughts:  I did not enjoy Shatter Me as much as many others seem to have but I do see potential in the series.  The first book lays the groundwork for an X-Men story in the making and the while the writing is lyrical and fluid, the action didn’t hold my interest.  I would like to see where the story goes but I haven’t decided if I’ll be reading on.  If you enjoy dystopians, I would suggest checking it out!

Rating 3

I have a curse
I have a gift

I am a monster
I’m more than human

My touch is lethal
My touch is power

I am their weapon
I will fight back

Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson (Shades of London #2)

**Warning! If you haven’t read The Name of the Star which is the first book in Shades of London series by Maureen Johnson, there will be spoilers ahead.  You can read my review of the first book instead if you haven’t started the series yet!**

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson is the second book in The Shades of London series and it picks up shortly afterThe Name of the Star ends, with our heroine, Rory Devereaux, recovering from the events of the Jack the Ripper-like serial killer from the first installment.  She’s living with her parents, having not been able to return to school, and all of her communication with her ghost police friends has been cut off.  Unfortunuately, I think The Madness Underneath suffered from second book slump syndrome but there were still some redeeming elements, especially toward the latter half of the book.

Rory is left with a huge scar and many trust issues while she’s cooped up in her parents apartment.  She can never talk openly with anyone about what actually transpired in the bathroom at Wexford and the few friends / colleagues she can trust, she’s had no contact with and no idea of how to get in touch with them should she want to.  Early on, Rory makes the very brave decision of returning to school and instead of wallowing in self pity, she finds herself empowered by her past.  She sets out to find a purpose for herself and she willingly puts herself in new and similarly dangerous situations.  She opens herself up to a new therapist who seems too good to be true and she reconnects with some familiar faces. The Madness Underneath is a discovery period for Rory.  She’s transitioning into her new life and coming to terms with who and what she is now.

The Madness Underneath

A big reason why I did not enjoy this installment as much as the first is because there was a lot less action and a lot more internal monologue.  This also means there is a lot less of the story dedicated to the supporting characters.  I wanted to know more about Boo, Jazza and Alistair.  I never warmed up to Rory’s boyfriend Jerome and I very much disliked the ending in regard to Stephen.  It was unexpected to see the relationship form between Rory and Stephen and while I suppose it makes sense on some level, I had a hard time believing them together.  It seems more like a choice based on limited options.  My friend Cassie lent me the ARC of The Madness Underneath so I could read the original ending which was changed prior to being published and I liked it a lot more than the ending the publisher chose to use.

Final Thoughts:  The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson is a disappointing follow up to The Name of the Star.  It suffers from second book slump syndrome and while it’s not completely unejoyable, it just did not live up to the excitement of the first book.  I will be continuing on with the story because there are some redeeming qualities and I feel invested enough in the characters that I want to see it through but I am not as eager to pick up the third installment as I had anticipated.

Rating 3

After her near-fatal run-in with the Jack the Ripper copycat, Rory Deveaux has been living in Bristol under the close watch of her parents. So when her therapist suddenly suggests she return to Wexford, Rory jumps at the chance to get back to her friends. But Rory’s brush with the Ripper touched her more than she thought possible: she’s become a human terminus, with the power to eliminate ghosts on contact. She soon finds out that the Shades–the city’s secret ghost-fighting police–are responsible for her return. The Ripper may be gone, but now there is a string of new inexplicable deaths threatening London. Rory has evidence that the deaths are no coincidence. Something much more sinister is going on, and now she must convince the squad to listen to her before it’s too late.

In this follow-up to the Edgar Award-nominated THE NAME OF THE STAR, Maureen Johnson adds another layer of spectacularly gruesome details to the streets of London that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake (Anna Dressed in Blood #2)

**Warning! If you haven’t read Anna Dressed in Blood which is the first book in the duology by Kendare Blake, there will be spoilers ahead.  You can read my review of the first book instead if you haven’t started the series yet!**

After devouring Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, which is the first book in the duology, I was eager to start Girl of Nightmares because I had to know what was going to happen to Cas, Thomas, Carmel and Anna.  I’m really pleased that Kendare Blake chose to tell this story as a duology instead of stretching it out into a trilogy.  While I enjoyed Anna Dressed in Blood more than Girl of Nightmares, I felt very satisfied with the conclusion.  I would love if one particular thing could be addressed in a short story at some point, but overall there is definitive closure.

While the first book focused largely on Anna, the second book dealt more with Cas’s emotions following the aftermath of book one.  The pair were the perfect compliment to one another and I loved learning more about the history behind Cas’s world although I truly wished for more of Anna’s perspective because of what a strong willed and non-damsel-in-distress character she is.  Anna is a scarier read overall, but Girl of Nightmares certainly has its moments (ie. the Suicide Forest).  There seemed to be so much at stake in the second book and having already grown attached to everyone every tension-filled situation weighed heavily on my heart.  Almost every decision made in Girl of Nightmares had the potential to be life altering, and absolutely was in some cases.

Girl of Nightmares

In the first book, Anna was my clear favorite character but in the second, Thomas earned that place.  I was so invested in his relationship with Carmel and his unwavering loyalty toward Cas even when others were dismissing him.  Plus, Thomas is the perfect comic relief.  For a series that’s so beautifully creepy and terrifying, Thomas still managed to make me laugh out loud at points.  My favorite Thomas scene involved his reaction to something he ate during Cas and his quest for information.  Cas, Carmel and Thomas each bring something vital to the table and together their trio is a force to be reckoned with.  We’re also introduced to a new character whom I would love to read about in a spinoff series.  She’s an intelligent teenager who enjoys a good challenge.  She’s the kind of character who can disagree with someone fundamentally but still manage to get along with them on other levels.

Final Thoughts:  Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake provides a very satisfying conclusion for fans of Anna Dressed in Blood.  Blake continues the story with her signature imagery which flawlessly blends the beautiful with the horrific.  The stakes are high in this installment and the tension runs deep for all the characters involved.    If you’re a fan of horror and flowery language you should definitely give this duology a read!

Rating 5

It’s been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can’t move on.

His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live—not walk around half dead. He knows they’re right, but in Cas’s eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.

Now he’s seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he’s asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong…these aren’t just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.

Cas doesn’t know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn’t deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it’s time for him to return the favor. (via Goodreads)

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Tea & Book Chat: The One by Kiera Cass (The Selection #3)

**Warning! If you haven’t read The Selection and The Elite which are the first two books in The Selection trilogy by Kiera Cass, there will be spoilers ahead.  You can read my review of the first book, The Selection and the second book, The Elite instead if you haven’t started the series yet!**

The One by Kiera Cass is the third and (sort of) final book in The Selection series.  I say sort of because a companion series has begun being released but the overall story arc four our main character America concludes in this installment.  After experiencing a bit of second book slump with The Elite, I was worried that The One would end up annoying me but I still felt compelled to finish because I just couldn’t go on not knowing whether America ends up with Maxon or Aspen.  I was pleasantly surprised while I devoured this book in just the tow days it took me to read it.  The One has ended up becoming my favorite of the three books for a number of reasons.

First of all, the stakes kept getting higer as the end drew nearer.  I mentioned in my last review that the politics in The Selection world were part of what kept me hooked as the series progressed and The One focused largely on the wider world outside the palace than on the love triangle America found herself involved in.  Threats from the Rebels, both North and South, continue to worsen and it becomes too dangeous to even step outside.  Everything surrounding the revolution is action packed and intense which causes emotions to run rampid.  I even found myself tearing up duing the last two chapters which was completely unexpected and quite frankly, makes me feel like a bit of a dork.

The One

America managed to be less annoying than she was in previous books (this is largely due to the focus she devotes to the politics of her world as opposed to her two suitors).  I even found myself warming up to her and her thought process which I had previously written off.  I felt proud of her for the way she handled scenes with her family and I started feeling confident in her ability to rule as Queen.  I also loved how the relationship between the final four girls shifted during the latter half of the competition.  People can surprise you and that is exactly what happened.  Maxon is wonderful as always and I appreciate the subtle ways he begins to defy his father.  I had high hopes for the ending of this series and Kiera Cass’s ending more than delivered.  I think I might have lost it if anything had gone differently.

Final Thoughts: The One by Kiera Cass is the best book in The Selection series beyond a shadow of a doubt.  The characters make a much stronger impression and their growth throughout the series culminates into some of the most heart wrenching, exciting and intense scenes I’ve had the pleasure of reading.  The One is more than anything I could have wished for as the conclusion to this story.  It continues to read as a fast-paced regal reality show with serious political undertones and it’s possibly the most addictive series I’ve read to date.

Rating 5

The time has come for one winner to be crowned.

When she was chosen to compete in the Selection, America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown—or to Prince Maxon’s heart. But as the end of the competition approaches, and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realizes just how much she stands to lose—and how hard she’ll have to fight for the future she wants.  (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking #2)

**Warning! If you haven’t read The Knife of Never Letting Go which is the first book in The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness, there will be spoilers ahead.  You can read my review of the first book instead if you haven’t started the series yet!**

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness is the second book in the Chaos Walking trilogy and it is a doozy.  The story picks up right where it left off in The Knife of Never Letting Go with Todd and Viola arriving in Haven.  The characters undergo some serious development in this installment and Patrick Ness blurs the lines between villains and heroes.  Seriously, this book will make you question everything and there will be so many feelings.  It’s taken me a while to even get into the mental headspace to write this review because of all of the mind games Ness has played with everyone in this book so I hope I can articulate everything as best as possible!

One of the aspects I enjoyed the most by far in this book is the dual narratives between Todd and Viola.  In The Knife of Never Letting Go, Viola is a supporting character and we do not get to experience her inner thoughts and motivations firsthand.  All of this changed in the second book and the result added so much more to the story.  When Todd and Viola arrive in Haven, the Mayor is already in control and he has named himself President.  He separates the males from the females so our two main characters have unique experiences on their own which provides a major contribution to the shaping of their characters.  It also leaves the characters with nothing but their faith in each other while they’r ebeing manipulated by major players in the civil war they’ve found themselves involved in.  Throughout the entire story I found myself really missing Manchee.  Angharrad was pretty okay but that horse did not fill the void.

The ask and the answer

I am still amazed at how many issues Patrick Ness was able to cover in what for me was such a quick read.  The Ask and the Answer touches upon war, terrorism, genocide, racism and feminism.  The most intriguing topic which is what hooks the reader is the ongoing war because it leaves you with so many conflicting feelings and so many questions.  Whenever there is a war it involves at least two sides who each believe that what they’re fighting for and the casualties they sustain during their pursuit is in the name of what’s right.  But how can characters determine what’s right when both sides have done wrong?  In this case, we have Todd working for the Mayor turned self-declared President and Viola aligning herself with the resistance, all the while attempting to maintain their loyalty to each other.  There are so many life altering events that occur in this second installment that I’m eager to pick up the last book.

Final Thoughts: The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness is a very emotionally heavy read.  While the story is fast paced and the characters are compelling, the mind games that come along with war can be tiring, but I assure you it’s worth it.  This second installment is high intensity and it tackles many important issues.  Each of the main characters shine as they relay their experience on the opposing sides of the war.  Lines will be blurred and feelings will be felt!

Rating 6

We were in the square, in the square where I’d run, holding her, carrying her, telling her to stay alive, stay alive till we got safe, till we got to Haven so I could save her – But there weren’t no safety, no safety at all, there was just him and his men…

Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss. Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor’s new order. But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even still alive? And who are the mysterious Answer? And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode…

“The Ask and the Answer” is a tense, shocking and deeply moving novel of resistance under the most extreme pressure. This is the second title in the “Chaos Walking” trilogy. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: Winter by Marissa Meyer (The Lunar Chronicles #4)

**Warning! If you haven’t read Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Fairest which are the first through fourth books in The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer, there will be spoilers ahead.  You can read my review of the first book Cinder, and the fourth book Fairest, instead if you’re not caught up on the series yet!**

I can’t believe that the end to The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer is already upon us.  It’s been so long sinceCinder debuted and each year we’ve been introduced to new characters in a new installment, all of whom contributed to the major overarching storyline.  I vividly remember being drawn to the gorgeous design of Cinder‘s cover and I devoured the entire story in one sitting because I was so enthralled.  While there was some predictability within the series, I still found myself loving almost every minute of their action packed adventure (with the only lack of interest surrounding Scarlet and Fairest).  Winter is absolutely the greatest series send off I could’ve ever wished for.  I’ll be gathering some of my thoughts in this review but if you’re looking for a very in depth account which includes spoilers, you should check out the video Cassie, Melissa and I recently posted where we discussed Winter for our Spines With Wines book club.

Meyer struck the perfect balance of characterization and world building in her development of The Lunar Chronicles.  I was fascinated to learn about Luna’s landscape and political system, as well as the republic currently operating on Earth.  The descriptions of some of the places in the palace, particularly Levana’s Throne Room are so easy to envision and the need for rebellion is evident.  While all of the aforementioned elements intrigued me, I do believe it’s the characters who kept my heart in the story.  I struggled with reading Scarlet, not finding myself as interested in her story but I continued reading because I had to know what would happen to Cinder and Prince Kai.  When I got to the third installment, Cress, I couldn’t have been more pleased that I decided to continue.  Cress and Thorne easily became my favorite characters and their romance is so endearing.  There are four definitive ships, each with a very different type of love and each of which I grew to deeply care about.  And not a single one is a love triangle.

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The newest character who we caught a brief glimpse of in Cress and Fairest is Princess Winter.  I initially liked her and as the story progressed I grew to love her.  She’s the perfect fractured fairytale counterpart to Snow White.  Winter is so kind that she would rather give up the use of her Lunar gift to her own detriment than make a potentially bad decision for someone else.  She’s fair and just and while many view her as slightly nutty, Winter’s mind is much more sound than she’s given credit for.  I loved the scenes between Scarlet and she and their way of getting along is heartwarming.  As for the rest of the crew, Thorne is hilarious as ever, Cinder is forced to make tough choices after she becomes the face of the rebellion under her true identity as Princess Selene, Kai and Cress show bravery beyond measure, Iko provides the perfect amount of comic relief, and Levana is just as evil as ever.

Final Thoughts: Winter by Marissa Meyer is the perfect conclusion to The Lunar Chronicles series.  If you’re a fan of fractured fairytales, you should not hesitate to start the series.  I would suggest reading the books in publication order (despite Fairest being a prequel) and I would encourage anyone to give Princess Selene and her squad an opportunity to work their way into your heart.  Every thing is wrapped up nicely and the conclusion is satisfying.  The Lunar Chronicles is indeed a fairytale from start to finish.

Rating 5

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters? (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (Anna and the French Kiss #3)

**Warning! If you haven’t read Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door which are the first and second book in the Anna and the French Kiss companion trilogy by Stephanie Perkins, there will be spoilers ahead.  You can read my review of the first book, and the second book instead if you haven’t started the series yet!**

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins is the third and final book in the Anna and the French Kiss companion series.  I was hesitant going into the book because of the mixed reviews I had read but I feel awful for ever having doubted Stephanie Perkins because I really loved everything about Isla and Josh!  In fact, my final ranking of the series in order of favorite to least favorite is 1. Anna, 2. Isla and 3. Lola.  I’m honestly devastated that this series is over and I’m really hoping Stephanie Perkins will revist the world she created whether it be as short stories or further books following other secondary characters (particularly Meredith).

I went into Isla and the Happily Ever After expecting a formulaic third couple with the romance following the suit of Anna and Lola but this was the first of the pleasant surprises I encountered while reading.  Isla and Josh become a couple very quickly.  Instead of spending the majority of the book chasing each other, they’re clear on their feelings from the beginning and the reader is able to enjoy many more of the awww moments between them.  I really enjoyed spending less pages on the build up and more on the actual relationship.  Of course there are doubts and angst as with any high school romance, but I thought each character’s concerns were valid.  I also really loved that while the book is about the love between Isla and Josh, it’s also largely a story about each of the characters figuring out what they want in life.  Josh is certain of his future and Isla is anything but.  Also notable are the secondary characters, particularly Isla’s best friend Kurt.  Kurt is mildly autistic and since he hasn’t perfected social cues, he’s Isla’s complete voice of reason and truth, even when it’s not what she wants to hear.

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The second surprise I encountered is that I had expected the majority of the book to take place in New York City because of the cover which depicts the NYC skyline and the fact that Anna focused on Pairs and Lola on San Francisco (with their covers each depicting the correlating skyline).  However, Isla and Josh largely took place in Paris as well.  And at the same high school Anna and Etienne attended.  You may remember their artistic friend Josh would dated Rashmi?  Well, that’s the same Josh who woos Isla.  Isla is briefly mentioned in Anna as well but I honestly never would’ve put those pieces together if it hadn’t been spelled out for me.  Part of my love for this book is because of all of the interconnectivity between past characters. While there is less physical involvement of past characters (until one part which just melted my heart and made me sob in public), their spiritual presence is of the upmost significance.

Final Thoughts: I am so sad this series is over and I absolutely forsee myself re-reading all three companion novels by Stephanie Perkins.  Isla and the Happily Ever After is exactly that.  I adored the romance between Isla and Josh and I was immediately drawn to each of their characters as individuals.  It’s exciting to revisit the school in Paris that started it all and experience the interconnectedness between each tale.  Overall, I loved Isla and the Happily Ever After and I would urge anyone who has heard negative reviews to ignore those!

Rating 5

Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last?

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, Étienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin
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