Review: When the Moon Was Ours by Anne-Marie McLemore

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Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy, Magical Realism, LGBT
Pages: 288
Audiobook Duration: 8 hours and 18 minutes
Narrator: Raviv Ullman, and Bailey Carr
Series: None
Release Date: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books/Audible Studios

Amazon   Goodreads   Audible Link

4 Stars

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I listened to another audiobook! And I actually finished it this time, thank God. I tend to not be very good at that. But anyway, this was a good experience. I loved the female narrator. I think she did an amazing job with the voices of all the character and with conveying the perfect amount of emotion. The male narrator, in comparison, was a bit monotonous. Though I do see why it was significant to have a male narrator for Sam.

Sam is a teenage boy with a secret only a few people in his life know. One is his mother. Another is his best friend Miel.

This book has a surrealistic setting. On one hand, we’re in the real world. On the other hand, there are people who can cure heartsickness and people who have roses growing from their arm. Miel came to the town when an old water tower was tipped and broken by the townspeople. She came out of the water tower. People find her to be peculiar because of that, and because the bottom of her skirt is always a little damp and because roses grow from her wrist.

Sam befriended her the moment she came. Sam, who’s also a bit peculiar, being the boy who paints and hangs moons all over town. The two live close by. They’re the same age. And Sam’s mother is friends with Miel’s guardian, Aracely, aka my favourite character.

But before I get to her, I want to stress that this book is absolutely gorgeous. The writing is magical and it makes you feel like you’re gliding with the poetry of it. It’s also very diverse book. Sam’s family is from Pakistan and the culture and stories he’s heard deeply affect him. You can tell that the author has a lot of respect for all that she’s writing because it shines through in the way she tells the stories. There are other factors that makes the book special, but I’m not sure if they would be considered spoilers so I’ll avoid them.

Getting to the characters. We have many. There are, of course, Sam and Miel. There’s Sam’s mother, and Aracely. We also have the Bonner sisters. The four sisters who could make any boy fall for them but are now losing that ability. And they think Miel’s roses will fix everything and are willing to do whatever it takes. They’re the villains, but they’re also just young girls and so much more complicated.

Every character is complex and well-developed, with flaws and vulnerabilities and things that make them want to be strong. I can’t explain, exactly, what it is about Aracely that makes me love her. I think it’s because of how unfazed she is by most things. She also has no patience for whining or moping or rude behavior. She’s so confident in herself and you can tell that she’s worked hard to achieve that. She’s probably the most fascinating character, and so is Sam’s mother. I honestly liked the adults more than the kids.

Not that I didn’t like the kids. But they could be very dramatic and inner monologue prone. Every time Aracely was in a scene, she made things more interesting. And the inner-monologue-prone-ness is my one issue with the novel.

I’ve already said this book is beautifully written. But toward the end, it got wearying. The prose is full of metaphors and similes relating to colours and smells. Its’s all about our senses. But if you were to read it all in one to three sittings, you might get tired of the paragraphs upon paragraphs of those descriptions. It felt repetitive and, when we were close to the end, unnecessary.

Overall, a beautiful book that I highly recommend. It sometimes goes overboard with the prose but everything else is perfect. The is exactly the kind of diversity we need. The kind that feels genuine and respectful, instead of diversity just for the sake of it.

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Review: Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

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Genre: Young-Adult, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT, M/M
Pages: 407
Series: None
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

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3 Stars

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I had high hopes for this book. And while this wasn’t an entirely bad experience, it was enough to make me think that maybe Christina Lauren and I just aren’t meant to be.

The main reason is that I simply didn’t connect with the characters or the romance, just like with Roomies. But where Roomies didn’t start to go bad for me until halfway through, this one had issues right from the start, when Tanner, a closeted bisexual teenager living in Utah, joined a writing seminar in his final semester at high school and fell into instant infatuation with the class assistant.

The class assistant is Sebastian. He took the seminar the previous year and the book he write during the semester was so good that it’s getting published. The moment Tanner sees him, there’s an “instant connection” moment. And I’m not sure if I’ve said this before, but the insta-connect is not my cup of tea.

But I held on to the hope that their relationship would develop beyond the intensity of their feelings in each other’s presence. What happened was… not that. The two spent plenty of time together but during the entire thing, there was nothing that made me think that they liked each other. Sure, there were “feelings” and “intensity” but that doesn’t make a relationship. I could not, for the life of me, tell you what they liked about each other.

And, like in Roomies, we knew very little about the love interest. Sebastian, that is. Sure, we knew how he made Tanner feel and we knew about his life, but not much else. Until, that is, we got a few chapters from his perspective near the end.

The only thing that kept me from hating the book was the main conflict, which was prevalent throughout the novel. Sebastian is a Mormon. His father is actually a Bishop. And for those who aren’t familiar with Mormons (like I wasn’t), they’re a religious group and are not very progressive when it comes to member of the LGBT community or women in positions of power. Sebastian really has faith. And it leads to conflict of identity for him.

What I liked about that, first of all, is the plot obviously. I’m non-religious but I do like reading about different religions from various perspectives. They’re interesting. And I liked that the authors didn’t simply criticize the religion, but tried to understand the positives as well.

That said, I think that having Sebastian’s perspective right from the start would have been very helpful. It would’ve made the book a lot more interested, as evidenced by the fact that when we didn’t get Sebastian’s POV, the book became better. That was the reason I started to warm toward both the book and Tanner and Sebastian’s relationship, near the end. Unfortunately, it was a little too late by that point.

Overall, the characters were a weak point, their development and their likability. The romance was more infatuation than love. But the religious plot was good. Though maybe not enough for me to recommend the book.

Review: The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon

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Genre: Young Adult/New Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 252
Series: The Bird and the Sword Chronicles #1 (works as standalone)
Release Date: May 6, 2016
Publisher: CreateSpace

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4 Stars

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I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I love Amy Harmon. She is an extremely talented author. I love her prose and her characters. And how she always manages to deliver an emotional punch. I love her stories and this time is no exception.

Bird and the Sword is a book about a girl, Lark, whose mother was killed but the king because her words had magical abilities. Lark has similar abilities. Before her mother died, she took away Lark’s voice and placed a curse that meant that if Lark were to die, her father would too. Her purpose was to make sure he protected Lark. Only, Lark grew up as a prisoner of her own father.

And I’m not sure what else I’m allowed to say here. The synopsis I read before reading the book was very simple and didn’t give much of anything away. I kind of want to do the same. But since you already know it’s a romance, I’ll mention the male protagonist.

His name is Tiras and he’s the king. He’s also the son of the man who killed Lark’s mother. But he’s not like his father. He’s not prince charming by any means, but he wants to change the kingdom for the better. To bring safety and justice, to maybe eliminate the prejudice against the gifted that prevails for so many generations. He’s a good king and he cares much for his kingdom, willing to go to any length for it.

As a love interest though, I had some difficulty with him. His intentions with Lark were to use her for the kingdom. And he never lied about that. He also gave Lark freedom and knowledge. But there was possessiveness there and he could be a bit of a dick. I didn’t hate him like some readers did, but it took a while before he grew on me. Mainly because of his practicality.

As for Lark, she was great. She was a little thing who had so much fire in her. She didn’t let her father and the imprisonment break her spirit. She took any opportunity she could get to learn and to live the life that had been taken from her. She could be unreasonable at times but she also accepted things for what they were. She was strong and she knew to choose her battles. Her and Tiras made a good pair. He would always try to be bossy and she’s refuse to listen. He’s be sweet and she would reciprocate. I didn’t love the romance but it was good.

I did love the prose. Seriously, Amy Harmon writes so beautifully. Her prose is utterly captivating and you can’t help but get swept up in the magic. And that’s the main reason I’m recommending this book. Though there’s also the really interesting world and story with a half-bird species attacking the kingdom. Really great book and I can’t wait to read the sequel.

Review: The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket

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Genre: Fiction, Young-Adult
Pages: 272
Series: A Series of Unfortunate Events #7
Release Date: April 24, 2001
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

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3.25 Stars

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At this point, these reviews seem more like progress updates. But I might have something relatively new to say.

Violet, Klaus and Sunny are, once again, in need of a guardian. And when Poe gives them options as to where they could go next, they come across the name V.F.D. and find out it’s a town. A really weird one too. The people there take the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” way too seriously, but only in the matters that suit them. So the kids get the chores of the entire town but no one wants to keep them or feed them. And that’s without all the crows.

Thankfully, the town council selects someone for them, and he’s a good guy. He treats the kids well, which is a nice change for them after the events of the last six books. There were a few changes in this book, but certain annoying things prevailed.

One was the sheer incompetence of every single adult ever. I know the kids are supposed to do stuff on their own, but would it really hurt to have one adult in there who isn’t useless? Olaf seems to be the only one around with half a brain. It wasn’t fun in The Bad Beginning and it’s still not fun. We’re also still getting multiple dozed of being told what each of the kids’ interests are. Sunny still makes no sense.

But things are slowly changing and maybe, in time, Sunny will learn to speak, and will develop an interest other than getting into sword fights using her teeth —that scene is still the most bizarre thing in this series.

Anyway, there were positives. Like how short and easy-to-read these books are. And there were a couple of surprises, one regarding Count Olaf. But mainly, I’m really happy about the direction the book took near the end. It was something that could really change the series. It gave me hope that maybe the old formula is about to change, which makes things interesting.

Review: Dawn of Eden by Julie Kagawa

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Genre: New Adult (though the series is YA), Fantasy, Paranormal, Dystopia, Romance
Pages: 122
Series: Blood of Eden #0.5 (You can read it before the series)
Release Date: July 1, 2013
Publisher: MIRA

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3 Stars

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I could easily divide the book into two parts, plot-wise. One I found to be very interesting, the other I more or less hated.

The one I liked was related to the world building. There is a deadly plague that has spread and it is dangerous enough to be an apocalyptic event. Kylie is a doctor. She has set up a free clinic to help the sick. There’s no cure and there are (very) few who recover, but she’s wants to at least be doing something; even if it’s just making them comfortable until they die.

Ben comes to the clinic with a heavily injured friend, asking for help. Kylie knows there’s something going on with the two when she sees the nature of the injury and when Ben is less than forthcoming about what happened.

That’s the part that was good. This is a well-written novella that does a good job of introducing us to the world that it’s set in. Things are bleak and getting no better and I found that plot of the book to be interesting and I definitely wanted to read more. I still do actually, which is why I’m going to be reading the series despite the part of the novella I didn’t like.

That was the romance. It was pretty obvious that there would be one, from the moment Ben showed up. And I wouldn’t have minded; I like romances. But this was so poorly done. It was beyond rushed, the attempt to make Kylie and Ben like each other was transparent, and things got way too serious way too fast.

I think it was the author trying to give a well-rounded story without any open endings regarding the characters and how they would end up. But sometimes, when it’s just a novella and the romance isn’t even the main plot, you have to leave it open, especially if the protagonists have just met. I get wanting to write a complete story—open ending can be annoying—but it’s better to suggest what would happen or give an epilogue, than to rush things. The romance, by the end, was just gushy and gross. Didn’t like it at all.

But that doesn’t dissuade me from the series because even though there will likely be a romance there as well, the author will be able to take her time with it. I liked all the other aspects and that’s what’s important. I can’t say whether fans of the series will like it, but I thought it was pretty good.

Review: Trick by Natalia Jaster

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Genre: Romance, Fantasy, New Adult/Young Adult
Pages: 310
Series: Foolish Kingdoms #1 (Can be read as Standalone)
Release Date: November 4, 2015
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform

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Star

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I came across this book about two years ago, maybe longer, and the synopsis intrigued me. Yet for some unknown reason, I didn’t pick it up until a few days ago. Still, I had a feelings it would be good and I’m super happy to be proven right.

The book is set in the kingdom of Spring. There are four kingdoms: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. I don’t think there’s any other fantasy element, except that. The book is mostly romantic and political. The latter was unexpected. The story is about the Court Jester of Spring, Poet, falling for Princess Briar of Autumn.

Ordinary people aren’t allowed to travel between kingdoms, much less migrate. Royals can only do it if there’s a big reason, like, in this case, a peace talk. There’s already peace between the kingdoms but they still get together to discuss matters.

Poet and Briar don’t get off to the most amicable start. Poet is, of course, a jester so he’s going to joke around and entertain. Briar is a very prickly sort of person. She’s not tolerant of people kidding around with her, for personal reasons. She can also act quite superior, what with her being a princess and most people being “beneath” her. That’s one of the things that bothered me about her, that she too often said that Poet was “lesser”.

But as a whole, I liked her. Most of her behaviour can be attributed to her need to maintain the facade of the perfect, composed princess. You see, the society we see has many flaws. It’s not sexist or homophobic at all, which is awesome but the social divide is extreme. It’s not even acceptable for a princess to befriend a commoner.

Another issue, an infinitely worse one, is regarding the mentally challenged. They’re called Born Fools. Anyone suffering form a mental disorder from birth, on discovery, is considered property of the Crown. Then they’re used as slaves or locked up, if they’re dangerous or too erratic. They’re not even thought of as humans. And it’s a major conflict in the novel, trying to change these inhuman laws and maybe change public perception.

That’s why I said the novel was political. The world is very well-developed, as you might already be able to tell from everything I’ve mentioned, and I’m really glad there are more books set in it because I would love to explore the other kingdoms.

The romance is also great. Poet is so much fun. He’s quite arrogant because of all his talents but he has soft sides. He also has quite the way with words. I also love that when he and Briar argue, which is often, and she says something really mean, he retaliates in the same way. I’m tired is seeing guys who just accept bitchiness and simply flirt back, because the book is usually being pandered to woman. It’s annoying. And I loved seeing that it wasn’t the case here.

Poet and Briar, despite their differences, come to see each other’s true self, and I loved how much they cared about each other even though there could be no future for them. They were both realists, you see, and knew that being together in any capacity was pretty much an impossibility. Yet they always cared. It was beautiful; as was the writing.

I’ll be honest, though. This wasn’t my preferred type of prose. I prefer simpler stuff and this was very lyrical. Lots of metaphors. It gave me a limerick-like feel. I know there are lots of people who would eat all this up and while I liked it as well, it was still a bit too lyrical for my taste. That, and the bit I mentioned about Briar’s meanness, are my only two complaints with the novel. I loved the book, especially for the well-rounded world, and I highly recommend reading it. Seriously, the e-book is less than a dollar on Amazon, you gotta give it a shot.

Review: Cronin’s Key II by N.R. Walker

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Genre: Paranormal, Romance, M/M, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 242
Series: Cronin’s Key #2
Release Date: May 22, 2015
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform

Amazon   goodreads

3.5 Stars

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In the first book, we were introduced to Alec, who was an NYPD detective, and Cronin, a twelve hundred year old vampire. They were fated/soulmates and, despite some issues, they worked things out. We found out that Alec is also the key to stopping an evil vamps and couldn’t become a vampire himself until he’d fulfilled his purpose or whatever.

One purpose was to stop a would-be goddess and, this time, another evil vampire has come to life and Alec has to stop him too. But the story isn’t as compelling as it was in the first book. The villain isn’t that interesting and I ended up liking the book less than the first.

There were plenty of good things. Like Alec still being a great character and Cronin being a sweetheart. Eiji was still just as funny and brilliant and I loved the revelations about who Alec is, where he comes from, and the further look into what makes him different from other humans. There was also the addition of a few other characters, mainly the British head vampire, and a seer named Jord (loved him). And the subplot with some of the ill effects of Alec’s “special blood”, I liked that too.

But the other parts, like the lack of development with the antagonist, the abundance of exposition, the anti-climactic final show down… well, the final showdown wasn’t “anti-climactic” per se, it just had a lot of stuff going on. It got convoluted and rushed and things weren’t explained as well as they could’ve been.

In book 1, Alec tried to understand what Keket was up to and, when the moment came to defeat her, he figured it out and it made sense how he did it. There was proper built-up. This time, there was barely any planning, stuff simply happened and most of the revelations had no effort on anyone’s part. It was disappointing because I love how smart Alec is and it sucks that he was almost out-of-commission for the most part.

Overall, this wasn’t as good as I’d hoped it would be but it was still good. There were many redeeming factors and I am definitely reading the third, and final, book (though not immediately) and I’m still hoping to find out more about the fated concept.

Review: Evolved by N.R. Walker

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Genre: Science-Fiction, Romance, M/M
Pages: 242
Series: None (I really wouldn’t mind a spin-off)
Release Date: April 21, 2018
Publisher: BlueHeart Press

Amazon   goodreads5 Stars

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How cool is it that N.R. Walker seems to be exploring difference genres and doing such a good job with them all? She’s awesome!

This time, we have science fiction. Lloyd Slater has OCD. He likes things a certain way and certain things bother him. But to the people in his life (there aren’t many since he doesn’t like people much), he’s unreasonable. He’s been dumped because of the things he likes and dislikes and his last boyfriend told him that he should try dating an android. And since the year is 2068 and technology has gotten quite far, he can actually do that.

Shaun is the “latest model” of android, you could say. He looks very human and acts that way as well. Lloyd, on getting him, is very happy. Shaun is everything that he wants.

Of course, soon he finds himself falling for Shaun. Now usually, falling in love with an android can’t end well. But this time, it’s almost like it could end well after all. Shaun acts too human. He learns, he adapts, he has opinions and feeling. But don’t expect him to be participating in big action scenes. This is still a romance at its core, android or not.

But it’s better with the android. Shaun is so much fun. His progress into human-like behavior is gradual but he’s always cheeky and flirty and very vocal about wanting to get Lloyd naked. Lloyd gets all flustered because that was not the plan. He wanted to build a connection with Shaun first, like he would do with a human boyfriend. He always treated Shaun like a person, better than he himself was often treated, and he never wanted to do anything that might seem like he was talking advantage.

Shaun, of course, being curious and eager to experience everything, was having none of Lloyd needless reservations. It was completely adorable, the two of them together. I was grinning so wide the entire time because of just how adorable they were. Everything from the flirty conversations to the discussions about Moby Dick, one of Lloyd’s favourite books; they bonded on every level.

Another thing that stood out to me was that the book reminded me of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (still love that title) and then they mentioned the book! Which makes sense because it explores similar themes of what it means to be human and what makes us human. Plus there were little things, things that Shaun did, that we don’t even notice are very human. Like there was this one scene in which Shaun made a pun:

“Very clever.” And it was. It required free-thinking, creativity, and knowledge of how the English language worked and how to play with it.

It always comes down to the little things, doesn’t it?

I do have one teeny complaint-ish. Homophobia was insinuated in plenty of scenes but never elaborated. I’m not even sure to what extent it exists. I would have liked to know. About it and how society, in general, has changed in the years. There was some stuff (like talk of technophobia) but maybe a little more…?

Overall, the “complaint” isn’t a big thing at all and this book is really freaking good. I loved reading it and I now love the author even more.

Review: Cronin’s Key by N.R. Walker

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Genre: Adult, Paranormal, Romance, M/M, Urban Fantasy, Vampires
Pages: 265 (330 for paperback)
Series: Cronin’s Key #1
Release Date: March 12, 2015
Publisher: Independent Publishing Platform

Amazon   goodreads
4 Stars

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Confession first. I like the soulmate trope. For fictional characters, that is. For myself, I could be in love with the guy and I’d likely dump him just to spite fate; but in books there’s a simplicity to the whole thing. There are still aspects of the trope I’m not jazzed about but we’ll talk about them later.

The main characters in this book are Alec and Cronin. Alec is a twenty-nine year old, human, NYPD Detective. He’s also the “fated” of a vampire who’s over a thousand years old. But he doesn’t know that, not until some weird stuff happens and his life is in peril. It’s then that he meets Cronin, the vampire, and they find themselves facing a crazy, Egyptian, vampire “goddess” trying to take over the world.

From this synopsis alone, there are a lot of things that are great. It’s an urban fantasy, which I love; it’s a romance, another plus; and we’ve already established that I like the soulmate thing.

Also, I’ve always been interested in Egyptian history and myth, not to mention the alternate universe-esque aspect that comes with vampires having existed for millennia and the way they’ve impacted history; without humans ever finding out about them. Finally, add in the fact that the author is N.R. Walker, who is awesome and who’s done a really good job, and we’ve got a winner.

This book just works. Alec, for one, is a great protagonist. He’s used to weird things happening to him and he handles the new revelations well. But that doesn’t mean he’s unaffected. He definitely doesn’t like that he’s destined to be with some guy he’s only just met, and that he doesn’t get a choice. But he’s willing to give things a shot and he acknowledges if he’s being unreasonable, which he rarely is. He’s also really smart, funny and composed in the face of shit going haywire. Cronin’s great too but Alec stole the show. And Eiji, who is another vampire and very entertaining.

I also liked the balance between the romantic and non-romantic plots. There was a good amount of world building and plans to defeat the villain. And Alec and Cronin’s relationship was developed without ever seeming like the characters were getting their romance on when they could be saving the world. Like I said, good balance.

The thing that I’m not “jazzed” about is the part where fated couples are inexplicably linked. We’re told that if one dies, so does the other. It wasn’t elaborated so it’s possible that could just be a metaphorical death (because of grief) and not an actual one. I’m hoping that’s it.

If it’s the other one, we might have a problem. The reason I like the trope is because, to me, it’s like nature has some algorithm/future predicting mechanism which pair you up with the person you’re most likely to be happy with. That’s good. But the whole “you die, I die” thing is not cool. If your soulmate-person dies, even if you don’t get another one, you should get to live your life. You could date like us mortals or just chose not to be involved with anyone else. That’s up to the individual.

Overall, this is a really good book and I’m excited to see what the future two books will bring to the lives of the characters. Maybe we’ll also see what other kind of supernatural creatures, if any, there are. And I’m hoping on some more details about the “fated” concept.

Review: Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi

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Genre: Young-Adult, Dystopia, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 389
Series: Under the Never Sky #3
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins

4 Stars

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Another addition to my series-I’ve-finished list! And the best part is that it’s a really good addition. It’s always wise to be wary of the last book of a series (especially if it’s a trilogy) but this was great!

I read the first two books what feels like ages ago, even though it’s only been a year, and I’d forgotten so much stuff. But a little skim through the second book, Through the Ever Night, and I was good to go. The first one is still a blur but I’m planning a reread soon. What’s important, and surprising, is that I have only fond memories of those two. And I’ll have fond memories of this one as well.

We start off a few days after Aria, along with Roar, comes back and after she and Perry save a group of dwellers; including Soran, who is supposedly not a horrible person anymore. Aria’s recovering from her gunshot wound and Perry is trying to manage the Tides and figure out how to get to the Still Blue. Roar is devastated over Liv’s death. I can’t believe she’s really dead. I though she’s still be alive somehow but no, she’s gone for good. And I feel bad for Roar …Or I would if he wasn’t being a total dick about it.

He has a right to be sad and angry, but is lashing out at Perry really the best option? The guy is trying his best to hold it together for the hundreds of people who are depending on him and Roar is no help at all.

Of course, refusing to talk about a problem isn’t the best choice either but you can hardly be mad at Perry for it. He’s one the most selfless people to ever exist. Everything he ever does is for others and with others in consideration. If shutting down a little helps him deal with his sister’s death, and the fact that his girlfriend left him in the last book, then give him a break. And Aria is really understanding of that. I always liked that girl. She even understands that she screwed when she left without telling Perry (that was really bad move).

But anyway, to the plot. They need to get the location to the Still Blue, they need to get Cinder back, and they need to kill Sable. That last one isn’t necessarily about the Still Blue. Sable is just a despicable human being who needs to die. I don’t know if I hated him in the last book, but I so hate him in this one.

I also hated/wanted-to-strangle both Roar and Soran. First for being grade-A dicks, then for doing something really fucking stupid.  But they both grew on me. I really like how the author can make you like any character. I like the story, I like the protagonist, I like how easy these books are to read, I like the writing and how well it flows, I like the fast but unhurried pace… I like this series as a whole. I don’t often get to the end of a series and have it be on a positive note; it’s good to have that.

In the end, I’ve said all that I needed to (I think). This was a really good conclusion and it reminded me that I need to pick up something else by this author soon.