Arc Review: The Sandcastle Empire

The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson – 1.5 stars

The Sandcastle Empire originally pulled me in with a completely awesome opening. We begin on a beach where Eden is waiting to execute her escape plan. Shit gets real very fast and Eden encounters Alexa, Hope, and Finnley. Both Eden and Alexa had so much character potential and intrigue about them. There’s a bit of infodumping, but Kayla Olson creates a picture of an intriguing world.

Unfortunately, that beginning went completely to waste.Everything in this novel was a prop for the plot, and the plot was far too weak to carry this novel.

WORLDBUILDING: 2.5 stars. The existence of the Wolfpack feels arbitrary, and it’s not made clear exactly how much of the world they’ve taken over. Somewhere in this novel, Olson had something to say about environmentalism and corporate greed. She just didn’t get the message across very well.

ROMANCE: 2 stars. The two characters have no connection, they just get together because the author wants them to.They also get together far too early in their relationship, which takes any tension out of their interactions. Not that there was any. Instalove ruins everything again.

CHARACTERS: 1.5 stars. Alexa and Eden’s initial potential is totally wasted, and they both turn into generic stock characters who are obsessed with their boyfriends. I hate it when characters have no motivations, and these characters certainly did not. Hope, Finnley, and Lonan don’t even pretend to have solid characters.

AND WHAT ABOUT THE PLOT….?

Oh yes, the plot. Well, there was one. I think? Maybe?

The plot felt completely manufactured and convoluted, partially because of the lack of character-driven action. The characters’ plans changed at the drop of a hat. You could’ve cut over half this novel out and the ending would be the same. The entire section from when the girls got to the island to when the Generic Hot Guys showed up could’ve been cut. I’m serious.

The other major problem with the action scenes is that everything revolves around setting, and the setting isn’t described clearly. There’s a lodge, and a lake, and a cave, and some kind of tree. The book didn’t describe where they are in relation to each other, it’s just kind of assumed that we Get It Already. I didn’t understand anything about the setting, which made the plot seem even weirder.

The writing style is good, but it’s too subdued to hold the action.

VERDICT: I’m really sad I didn’t enjoy this, especially when the beginning was so fantastic. Eden’s interlude chapters were intriguing as well, but they couldn’t carry this terrible plotting for me. Not recommended.

Top Five Wednesday Throwback: Angsty Romances

I honestly don’t really love this week’s top five Wednesday. I’ve loved reading everyone else’s posts, but I had no inspiration. So here’s a throwback top five Wednesday: angsty romances.

Honestly angsty romance was not my thing as a kid. My only ships in my childhood years were Katsa and Po from Graceling and, to some degree, Diana and Caine from Gone. In recent years, I’ve grown more fond of romances and discovered some new faves. I’m keeping this list entirely to super-angsty books I’ve read in the past year or so, just because there really aren’t any other examples.

#5: Natalie and Hannah, Love Letters To The Dead

This is the only couple from a contemporary book making it to this list. This romance is actually told from another character’s point of view, but their relationship is truly so quality. They’re each people with very difficult lives, one of them a high school bad girl and one of them an abuse survivor, who learn to love each other.

#4: Radu and SPOILER, And I Darken Trilogy

I liked And I Darken a decent amount, but book two, Now I Rise, hit me like a freight train. I truly consider it one of my favorite books of all time. This was mostly because of Radu’s character development and the slow-build relationship between him and this new character. This romance is so, so angsty; Radu is technically spying on the guy and lying to him every minute. But their slow buildup is so important to me. I just… really want them to be happy. Please?

#3: Karou and Akiva, Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy

There’s a cute little buildup in book one, and it all leads into an entire book of hatred and mixed feelings and mutual loneliness. I love both their characters so much that I truly believed it. They’re each romantics and people who hope for more, but they’re also torn up by their loyalty to their families. I could cry right now.

#2: Ronan and Adam, The Raven Cycle

I can’t believe they’re number two, and trust me, I almost put them on number one. But you know, they’re not quite as angsty as couple number one.

I loved that their relationship is tied up in character development. These two characters would not have worked as a couple in book one; neither was ready for a relationship at all, frankly. The angst here mostly comes from the fact that they’re very different people and they each have their own issues. I love how character driven their conversations are, how emotional their scenes could be despite neither of them doing anything other than fighting.

#1: Kaz and Inej, Six of Crows Duology

This. Freaking. Couple. This is the best type of angst. I can’t really find the words to describe how much I care about them. The genuine care between them despite all they’ve been through gets to my emotions. I guess I just… like the way their trauma is handled. I love that Bardugo acknowledges their mutual trauma without using it as a romantic plot device. Neither of them are ready to kiss yet and that’s okay. What matters is that they emotionally open up to each other, let each other through the walls. The emphasis on opening up emotionally, rather than physically, was so important to me. God, I could just cry right now. Moving on.

I Attempt To Find The Patterns In My Top Fives, Again

So, what are the patterns here?

  1. My top three angsty romances are all told from both parties’ points of view. This is because I like seeing both people develop and change, rather than just one person. In all of these books except And I Darken, both parties grow and change a lot.
  2. I’ve always loved relationships tied up in character development. What I mean by that is the characters wouldn’t have worked when they first met but do work at the end of the book / series. This holds true for every single couple on this list. Character development is my jam, people.

What do you guys like in your romances? Also, tell me your favorite couples, because I love hearing about them. And remember to check me out on goodreads, because I review far more on there.

TBR Stuff

I felt like screaming into the void about my tbr today, so of course I came onto my blog to do it. I’m sure we’ve all felt this before; when your tbr just feels so infinite you want to ignore it.

I’ve been trying desperately to cut down my tbr to only new releases, and I’ve been doing fairly well. I actually currently only have about 100 books on my tbr, around half of them new releases and arcs. But then I feel like I’m ignoring books that have been recommended to me.

Since for some reason I only discovered booktube about a week ago, I’ve been watching videos, and I found a fairly popular tag called My Intimidating TBR.

  1. What book have you been unable to finish?
    I usually just DNF books if I don’t like them. I suppose there’s always The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry, which I found incredibly boring, but there were parts I truly enjoyed. I DNFed it at the time, but who knows. I might finish it someday. There’s also Tigerlily by Jodi Lynn Anderson, which I found so completely disappointing. Everyone loves this book, so I had ridiculously high expectations, but… nothing about it worked for me. Tigerlily was a cool character until she met Pan, who was a dick, and then she became a bland character obsessed with a boy. That’s cute, I guess? I might finish this book someday just to see if I get ANY of the hype, but… I honestly can’t see myself finishing this.
  2. What book have you not read because you haven’t had the time?
    To be quite honest, this could apply to every single series on my tbr. I have trouble motivating myself to start series because I tend to bingeread them. There’s the Engelsfors Trilogy by Mats Strandberg, the Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, the Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, Ruined by Amy Tintera… and those are just the ones I own. You get the point. I don’t have motivation for series.
  3. What book have you not read because it’s a sequel?
    I am actually really great about reading series all at once. I guess the one exception is the book Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau. This is the last book, and I read the series five years ago. I bought book three immediately after it came out and immediately fell into my great three-year reading slump. Bad timing. Will I ever read book three, considering I remember nothing? Hm. Maybe. Convince me in the comments if you’ve read the series.
  4. What book have you not read because it’s brand new?
    When I started reading this last night, I would’ve said Release by Patrick Ness. I haven’t actually bought a copy yet, but man, was I excited. But apparently it doesn’t come out in the US until September. Yikes.
  5. What book have you not read because you didn’t like their other books?
    This one is easy: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken. I found book one of Darkest Minds completely boring, with flat characters and insta-romance. I’ve heard mixed things about Passenger, but the concept sounds amazing, there are side lesbians in book two (yes, this does matter to me), and a few people I really trust have highly recommended this to me.
  6. What book have you not read because you’re not in the mood?
    On the Edge of Gone by Corrine Duyvis. I’ve seen good reviews for this and I loved the author’s other book Otherbound. But everyone says it’s very slow and meditative, and I’m just never in the mood for it. Maybe this summer?
  7. What book have you not read because it’s huge?
    The Diviners series. I love Libba Bray’s earlier book Beauty Queens, and I’ve heard amazing things about this series, but it is four books, two of which are out and reach 600 pages.
  8. What book have you not read because it’s a coverbuy with bad reviews?
    I picked up an arc of The End of Our Story by Meg Haston exclusively for the cover, and I have yet to read it because I couldn’t care less about the concept. I’ve actually seen good reviews, but this really doesn’t seem like my thing. I might just swap it; I never spent money or effort, so what’s the point?
    In terms of coverbuys, none right now. Thank god. I think the closest is probably Blood Red Snow White by Marcus Sedgewick. It’s a fairly pretty cover, but I honestly bought it mostly for the author. And the reviews aren’t that bad!
  9. What is the most intimidating book on your tbr?
    Probably the A Court of Thorns and Roses series. This series is so, so polarizing, and with my dislike for book one of Throne of Glass, and my absolute hatred for at least 70% of fictional romances, especially those with bad boys, I can’t see myself liking it. But everyone else loves it, and I know that even if I dislike book one I need to read book two or everyone will kill me, and it’s just generally incredibly intimidating.

Comment and let me know what the worst ones on your tbr are. Honestly, let’s all gripe together.

May TBR

I barely ever do conscious TBRs; I generally just pick up whatever I feel like. So obviously this will not be complete. My reading challenge for this year is to read five books a week, and I’m caught up currently (May 6th), so I need to read around 15 books for the rest of this month. This list will contain just a few of the books I’m hoping to read.

Since I’m doing the SUNRISES challenge from Clear Your TBR, I’ll be reading books to match the word sunrises this month.

  • S – Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, which I’m currently reading and therefore not counting for my fifteen. This book has taken me so long, but I’m still definitely enjoying it. Sarai and Lazlo are such well-developed, thoughtful characters.
  • U – Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Everyone and their mother has recommended this to me, and I own a copy, so I’m going to try it this month, hopefully.
  • N – Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke. This is apparently about… a web series version of Big Brother? It looks amazing. I got an arc of this but hadn’t planned to read it for a while. But this ended up being one of the only books on my tbr with an N title. So here’s hoping it’s good! If I don’t get around to this one, I might pick up another arc, The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord.
  • R – Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto. This book is a Western / Fantasy mix that looks absolutely badass and amazing. I’ve just checked out a copy from the library, so I need to
  • I – If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch. I’d heard such good things about this that I got a copy around a month ago. To be quite honest, this is a priority for me mainly for its short length.
  • S – Still Life With Tornado by A.S. King. I’ve read two A.S. King books so far, one which I liked and one which I didn’t,
  • E – Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett. I have an arc of this and it looks pretty good, so here’s hoping I enjoy it.
  • S – Sovereign by April Daniels. I got approved for a netgalley arc of this book, and considering my love for the first book, Dreadnought, I’m pretty excited.

Aside from these ones, there are a few more books, mostly arcs, I’m so desperate to read that I’m going to try to get to them.

  1. Cruel Prince by Holly Black – I got an arc of this and I am absolutely desperate to read it.
  2. The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenaut Rivera – Fantasy with wlw. But that’s not all; it got blurbed by V.E. Schwab. I am so excited that I got an arc of this.
  3. Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde – I am absolutely ready for a book revolving around conventions and bi girls. This one is also pretty short, so I’d like to get it off my list.
  4. The Weight of Feathers by Anne Marie McLemore – I’ve heard good things about this author and this book, so I picked this out of the library recently. I might return it and try When the Moon Was Ours first, but we’ll see.

So there’s my tentative May tbr. Comment below and let me know what’s on your list!

Friday Five (Ten) 2017 Anticipated Releases

There are so many great releases coming our way this year. I’ve read a ton of great new releases this year; A Conjuring of Light and Allegedly have both come and gone, and I’m still waiting for my favorite arcs to come out – No Good Deed by Goldy Moldavsky, Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart, and Now I Rise by Kirsten White all got five stars from me, and none of them are even out yet! There are still so, so many books this year I’m excited to read, and it’s going to be very hard to trim this down.

A few of these are books that I have now received as arcs. They still count, right?

1. The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie (4/18)

I’ve been excited for the sequel ever since I read book one almost a year ago. The Abyss Surrounds Us was a blend of pirates, sea monsters, sci-fi elements, and chemistry between the two leads. I’m so excited for the sequel.

I know it’s come out, but I still haven’t read this one yet, and it upsets me so much.

Cover: not quite as great as book one’s cover in my view, but still pretty cool.

2. Because You Love To Hate Me by Various Authors (7/11)I
love story collections, I love villains, and I love these authors. Victoria Schwab, Renee Ahdieh, and Adam Silvera are all SUCH incredible authors. I’m sorry, I’ll try not to gush, but I really can’t imagine not enjoying at least a few of these stories.

Cover: Honestly… it’s ugly. It’s really, really ugly. I’ll buy it anyway.

 

3. The Tiger’s Watch by Julia Ember (8/22)

Everything about this sounds good. 1) We definitely need more nonbinary characters in YA and fantasy, and this book seems like the perfect release to tackle it. 2) I’ve heard great things about Julia Ember’s books. 3) The premise – about a friendship between a human and a tiger – sounds amazing. I love interspecies friendships. What about this isn’t great?

Cover: dear god, it’s so pretty. I feel like crying from the beauty. All of this author’s covers seem to be done in a similar style, and it’s a style I really love.

4. Girls Made of Snow And Glass by Melissa Bashardoust (9/5)

This is a retelling of Snow White, and it sounds absolutely fantastic.  It follows both young stepmother Mina, the evil queen, and Lynet, the Snow White character, who is a girl made literally out of snow.

There are so many great things about this concept.  First of all, I love retellings from the villain’s point of view.  I’ve been especially fascinated by the Evil Queen’s point of view ever since my Once Upon A Time obsession began, and even though that show has gone down the drain, I still absolutely love Regina’s season two character arc.  I hope Mina lives up to her for me.

Secondly, while I don’t know exactly how, this book is also lgbt.  I love lgbt retellings as well, so this sounds right up my alley.

Cover: I like the simple beauty of it a lot. It’s total coverporn in a very subtle way.

5. Jane Unlimited by Kristin Cashore (9/19)

UPDATE: I have an arc of this now!! Look out for my review.

I’m honestly not sure how unbiased I can remain about this one.  I read and loved Kristin Cashore’s Graceling trilogy around grade six, and it’s remained one of my favorite series ever since. This will be her fourth book, and I’m completely excited.

Honestly, I didn’t even look at what it’s about, but it sounds like a murder mystery. Just one more strike in its favor to me.

Cover: This is one of my all-time favorite covers. Thank god it’s on a book I know I’ll love.

6. The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo (9/26)

As anyone who knows me will be able to tell you, I am obsessed with the Six of Crows duology. I can’t wait for more content in this world.

What else should I even say? Marry me, Leigh Bardugo.

Cover: I’m not totally in love, but it’s definitely pretty.

 

 

7. 27 Hours by Tristina Wright (10/3)

There is one thing in YA that I love almost without exception, and that is group dynamics.  Group dynamics can get me invested in otherwise forgettable books.  I’d probably read this book on that merit alone.

Ignoring my odd obsession with #booksquads, this sounds really interesting. It’s dystopia / scifi and I honestly don’t totally understand the blurb, which I count as a good thing. I’ve also heard some great things about this.

As a plus, it’s also extremely diverse, with multiple lgbt and poc characters. One of my goals for this year was to read more diverse fantasy, since that category seems to produce most of my favorite books. Here’s hoping!

Cover: Hmmm. I think I like it? The colors are definitely nice, but I’m worried it’s a bit much.

8. The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera (10/3)

UPDATE: I have an arc of this now!!

This is honestly on here mostly for the concept. A fantasy novel with two main girl characters sounds like exactly what I want right now. But my hype level is caused at least 75% by V.E. Schwab’s glowing five star review and blurb.

Cover: A very typical high fantasy cover. I like the abstract art style, though, it’s a nice touch to an otherwise meh cover.

 

9. That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston (10/12)
UPDATE: I have an arc of this now!!

So here are two things I love: 1) Lots of lgbt representation. 2) E.K. Johnston’s writing. This book, somehow, is integrating both. I will not have a brain aneurysm. I promise.

My love affair with Johnston’s books is well-known and ongoing. Back in fall of 2015, I read her book A Thousand Nights and absolutely fell in love. It was one of the first more literary fantasy books I fell in love with, in fact. A few months later, I fell in love again, this time with her book Exit, Pursued By A Bear. These two books are opposite in both style and genre, yet they’re both some of my all-time favorites.

Johnston is brilliant, and I can’t wait to jump into her new book. The concept sounds amazing, and I’d read anything she wrote anyway.

Cover: I really like the cover of this one. It’s pretty in a very abstract way. It seems to fit the book too!

10. Three Sides of a Heart by Various Artists (12/19)

UPDATE: I have an arc of this now!!

I am very much a story collection lover, especially when fave authors of mine get their stories in. Stories about love triangles might not totally sound like my thing, but I’m hoping these impress me and subvert some typical tropes.

This particular collection has authors like E.K. Johnston, Renee Ahdieh, Brandy Colbert, Sabaa Tahir, Brenna Yovanoff, and Veronica Roth. Needless to say, I’m excited.

Cover: Not anything particularly special, maybe, but pretty! I love the colors so much.

What are your most anticipated releases for this year? Let me know!