REVIEW: The Beholder – Anna Bright

36558159Title: The Beholder (The Beholder #1)
Author: Anna Bright
Rating: ★★½

I struggled with a rating, because while there were parts of the story I enjoyed, for the most part I felt pretty meh about the book. But before I get into my review, let’s talk about that cover because wow is it gorgeous. And I’m blessed to have the FairyLoot edition which has pastel pink sprayed edges and rose gold foil lettering – two colors that I absolutely love. It’s such a pretty book!

I’m not sure why The Beholder has been described as The Odyssey meets The Bachelorette, because the only thing resembling The Odyssey is a member of Selah’s crew named Homer. So if you’re going into this expecting a retelling of that particular tale, you are going to be disappointed.

My biggest issue is the world building. I’ve seen other reviewers mention their concerns and I totally agree that the setting felt extremely disorganized, confusing, and anachronistic. There are so many contrasting aspects present and it pulled me out of the story multiple times. The book begins like it’s planning to be an alternative historical fiction set not too long after Potomac’s separation from England, however, later in the book there’s the presence of radios; and yet no other mention of technology exists, such as electricity. Different parts of the book read like they took place in different time periods, and the dialogues featured a lot of present day words and phrases. There was just way too much going on to make any sense of anything.

And now the romances. Here’s where I need to give Anna Bright a lot kudos for getting me to successful root for multiple love interests in the same book. We meet one of suitors early on, and I grew to really enjoy his character and the blossoming romance between him and Selah as the pages went on. Upon meeting the next suitor, I was very surprised to find myself also loving this particular love interest and becoming totally invested in Selah’s relationship with him to the point that I literally forgot about the previous suitor.

While I didn’t mind the multiple love interests (it’s obviously a huge part of the plot and unsurprising to the reader because of the synopsis), I took issue with the way the romances were written. Developing attraction, affection, and feelings in a short period of time is understandable and relatable. Falling completely in love in a two week period (with back to back guys) is not love: it’s infatuation. There’s also a third hinted love interest (and the direction I’m pretty sure the author is ultimately going to take it…unfortunately), as well as another potential suitor we’re destined to meet in the sequel, who I’m actually really interested in learning more about. If I decided to read the next book, it’ll be because I’m really excited about him!

It wasn’t my intention to rant, because honestly I did not hate the book and I truly don’t believe it’s a bad story. The Beholder has a very intriguing and unique premise, and I think with some extra polishing and structure it could have been a great story. In the end, I felt too confused by all the different elements of the plot and world-building to enjoy it as much as I had hoped.

REVIEW: The Friend Zone – Abby Jimenez

42785825Title: The Friend Zone
Author: Abby Jimenez
Rating: ★★★★

What I expected upon picking up The Friend Zone was a light-hearted, fluffy contemporary romance perfect for summer. And while the book delivered with the romance, angst, and humor, it also contained a layer of emotional complexity that was unexpected in the best way.

I’ll admit, I was pretty hesitant reading upon reading the first quarter of the book. The beginning of the story features some very grey-area cheating, which is not my cup of tea. However, I was thankful that that particular conflict was resolved early on in the book, allowing me to then fully immerse myself in the story and the characters.

A large focus of the story was on Kristen and her infertility issues, and I think Abby Jimenez did an very excellent job with the subject. Kristen was a great character and it’s impossible not to root for her – even when she’s being extremely stubborn! It was easy to understand her reservations and struggles, but still want her to take a chance on a the person she loves.

Other than the grey-area cheating at the beginning, there were a couple other things that kept me from fully loving this book. Josh constantly compares Kristen to other women, repeatedly saying things along the lines of how she’s “not like other girls” and she’s a “cool girl.” I really don’t appreciate when the heroine of the story is show in a positive light by bringing down other women in comparison. The other thing that bothered me is probably going to sound super nitpicky but YOU CANNOT USE A DEFIBRILLATOR WHEN SOMEONE IS FLATLINING!!! This is a huge misconception perpetuated by all the medical drama shows. Stop this nonsense. The paddles are used for when the heartbeat is dangerously out of rhythm, not when there is an absent of a heartbeat. This honestly made me so irate.

The ending took me by surprise. The best way I could describe the events of the last few chapters would be bittersweet. There is a particular part of the story that is emotional and heartbreaking. The epilogue was the perfect ending and helped balance the heartache. Overall, I was really impressed by this debut and would recommend The Friend Zone to anyone looking for a moving, captivating read!

REVIEW: The Candle and the Flame – Nafiza Azad

39821312Title: The Candle and the Flame
Author: Nafiza Azad
Rating: ★★★★

I try not to be too predictable, but if a book’s synopsis features the word djinn there is a 100% chance I will be reading it. I went into The Candle and the Flame without knowing too much about the plot, but I thoroughly enjoyed this immersive, beautiful story.

The Candle and the Flame is a slow-paced novel. Books without a whole lot of action are really hit or miss with me, and while I struggled at first with the pacing, the story really hits its stride by the middle. The third person omniscient narration was an adjustment as well, and although I would have preferred first person, I think the third person was excellently done and fit the tone of the book perfectly.

The writing was absolutely gorgeous. I loved how diversely rich in culture and history the book was; the author’s descriptions paint a vivid picture for the reader. There were a lot of words and terms that were unfamiliar to me, but a wonderful glossary is included in the back of the book (which I didn’t realized until I had finished). However, if you’re naturally inquisitive like me, it was simple enough to Google the words to learn more about them.

Nafiza Azad has mentioned that this is a book about women being women, and I couldn’t agree more. There were numerous female characters, each with distinct personalities and likes/dislikes, which made them unique in their own fantastic way. I really loved all the different characters, relationships, romances, and the political intrigue featured in the story. I honestly wish the book had been a bit longer because I would love to have seen what happens next!

The Candle and the Flame was an excellent, beautifully written debut. I had been waiting for its release for months and it was definitely worth the wait! I look forward to reading more from Nafiza Azad in the future.

REVIEW: Dark Shores – Danielle L. Jensen (ARC)

41438037Title: Dark Shores (Dark Shores #1)
Author: Danielle L. Jensen
Rating: ★★½

ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

I promise, no one is more surprised by this rating than me. It really came down to the fact that I was expecting an action-pack, high-seas adventure and Dark Shores is neither of those things. I really, really wanted to like this because I love Danielle L. Jensen’s Malediction trilogy, but it honestly just fell flat.

Dark Shores is not a fast-paced book, and coupled with the lack of action, I struggled to get through it and had to force myself to sit down and read a few chapters at a time. Nothing happens for almost 80% of the book. The story is told through alternating POVs of the two protagonists, Marcus and Teriana. While I think the characters themselves are fine, I personally did not feel a connection with either of them, and so it made it really difficult to care about their journeys or their struggles.

Some of the early marketing for the book led me to believe this would be a swashbuckling tale featuring some pirates and epic adventures on the seas, but this is not that book. I know Danielle has worked hard to try to steer clear of that image because it’s not correct, but unfortunately my early ideas of what this book would be made an impression in my mind, and it was hard to ignore those expectations as I was reading. Although Dark Shores wasn’t the story for me, I’m still really looking forward to Jensen’s other new series, The Bridge Kingdom, finally becoming a print book later this year and hope I enjoy that more!

REVIEW: Again, but Better – Christine Riccio (ARC)

41147279Title: Again, but Better
Author: Christine Riccio
Rating: DNF @ 63%

ARC provided by the publisher.

This book might be for other readers, but it was not the book for me. First off all, I prepared to love this. I studied abroad for a semester my senior year of college and to this day it remains the best experience of my life. So I was really excited about Christine Riccio writing a YA contemporary that I was hoping would remind me of my amazing memories. Unfortunately, there was so much I disliked about Again, but Better that I couldn’t even force myself to finish the book. 

My first grievance is with the writing. It was so disjointed; there was no flow and it read like a bunch of short anecdotes pasted together one after another. Not only that, but it was like I was just being told what was happening, instead being able to read the story and figure it out for myself. There was a whole lot of telling and not a lot of showing. And this might be me just nitpicking, but there was a lot of overuse of exclamations and sentences that were made to exclamatory when it was totally unnecessary. 

The writing also felt very personal. Other reviews have mentioned how similar the story and the main character, Shane, is to Christine’s life to the point that the story is almost semi-autobiographical. Now, I’m not into booktube so I don’t follow Christine’s channel, but even I could spot the numerous similarities. It was almost uncomfortable to read because it was like I was reading her journal. 

My biggest issue, however, which made me ultimately decide to stop reading the story were the characters. There is ton of light cheating present and I would argue that the crux of the story centers around the fact that the main character, Shane, believes herself to be in love with a guy in a relationship. As soon as it’s mentioned that Pilot has a girlfriend, I hated him. He’s the kind of guy that wants to take a break with his girlfriend before travelling abroad for a few months because he “doesn’t know what’ll happen” while he’s away. Pilot not only hides the fact that he’s currently in a relationship at first, but then seems to have no qualms about engaging in some grey-area cheating (holding hands, sharing a bed with another girl, and kissing). And Shane is no better. She hardly ever mentions his girlfriend and seems to ignore her existence, but yet she actively flirts with Pilot and attempts to make a move on him. 

The fact that I disliked both Shane and Pilot made it extremely hard to continue this book. Why would I want to read something when I literally do not care for characters and am actively rooting against the protagonist? I knew girls like Shane. I knew boys like Pilot. And I hated them both. Literally the only character I cared about in the book was Amy (Pilot’s girlfriend) because not only is she made out to be a villain when she obviously has the right to feel threatened, but she has a really shitty boyfriend and ends up getting the short end of the stick by the end of the book (I’m assuming). Give me a story about Amy moving on from this P.O.S. and living her best life. 

Anyway, rant over. I’m sure there are plenty of readers who will love Again, but Better and are not bothered by the light cheating but that person is not me. I was really, really looking forward to this but I was extremely let down.