A Duke by Default Review

Holy. Whoa. I never thought that I was a “romance” fan. I fully am eating my words on that one. Between Alyssa Cole and other contemporary and diverse authors I’ve become a rabid fan, eagerly searching out more like this. 

As far as this specific book is concerned, I laughed, I cried, and I had just an absolute blast reading it from beginning to end. Portia is so relatable in her personality that I had no problem immersing myself in her story and this world. Her relationships with her friends shown through just their text conversations is put together so well that I felt like they were real and present in the story. Her own fears and anxieties are presented in a sympathetic and non-hysterical or jokey manner, which made my own feel validated. It was amazing to see her growth throughout the novel, and the fact that Alyssa Cole made Portia’s therapy connect to her family and friend relationships grounded the story. I loved the idea that Tav’s character arc is actually the more trope-y one, from pauper to duke, but who doesn’t love a gruff love interest thrust into a world beyond his comfort zone? But the way that Cole handles Portia’s tendency to people please in the context of her relationship with Tav impressed me by giving the strong stance of if they were going to be happy together she couldn’t just be his personal assistant. She was given a voice and power of her own, not reduced to a damsel that needed saving or shaping up. In the world today it can be hard to find moments of happiness and hope, but even though this is fiction, it gave me real concrete feelings that things will be okay eventually. I also really enjoy that even though I read this one without having read Reluctant Royals #1, I was never lost, or confused because they aren’t dependent on each other to make sense. 

To sum it all up – go NOW and get this book. I checked the e-book out from my library, but I’ll definitely be purchasing it for a re-read. I love when I find a new author I love this much!

FINALE!! (finally)

Thank you so much to Flatiron Books and Stephanie Garber for providing me an ARC of Finale through NetGalley!

First let me say, that this book did not at all go how I was expecting. It was another beautiful and fantastical trip into the world of Carval that Stephanie Garber has built, without an actual Caraval event to propel the story. I was a little worried at first that after the curtain had been drawn back on the magic, and Legend’s identity had been revealed, that this book wouldn’t contain what I had loved about the previous two. I was wrong. The love stories, the twists, the magical Fates, the fate of the empire! It’s all rich and suspenseful with a little bit of cheeky fun thrown in.

In Finale, Garber deviates from the single perspective, and alternates between Tell and Scarlett’s stories. I’ll admit, that at first I was rushing through Scarlett’s chapters and waiting for Tella, but towards the end I really wish that we had seen more details of Scarlett’s time with the Fated Menagerie. No spoilers – but her development there seemed like it could have been expanded upon with great results. Truly, this encompasses my only complaint with the final book of this trilogy. I wanted more. More on the Fates, more on Tella and Scarlett’s mother’s backstory, more on the Fated locations, more on Jacks, more on Tella and Scarlett’s feelings about the events happening around them. This really could have been made into multiple novels, and I hope Stephanie Garber gives us some prequel or in-between material because this world is so interesting and complex. I would devour as much material as I can get!

I really did enjoy the departure from the Caravals being the center plot device. Without that restriction, we got a much broader view of magic and a great look at the bits of the capital we might not have seen otherwise. It also led to the sisters working together more than they had in previous novels, and I was happy to see more of their interactions. AND THE LOVE STORIES. I can’t write too much, because spoilers abound, but holy swoon and hard decisions. Stephanie Garber could definitely write stand-alone romances or family dramas. The characters each are so wonderfully crafted, with complex motivations, but without a slog of telling me exactly why they feel those ways. The plot never seems to stagnate, and she continues her streak of giving me a few solvable mysteries and a few great twists I never saw coming. And the way that she describes the environment is beautiful without being too flowery. There are so many good quotes, but the following highlights what I love about her writing style, and just really transported me to that space.

Everything smelled of dust trapped in light, cracked leather, and wayward dreams.

This book felt like a dream. All-in-all I definitely recommend it to everyone who loves a good YA fantasy. Garber’s world-building skills are excellent, and she manages to balance her plot and character building perfectly. If you haven’t picked up Caraval yet, start there, Finale just released yesterday May 7, 2019 so GO CHECK IT OUT!!

Let me know if you’ve read it in the comments, or tell me some of your favorite YA fantasy stories!

Legendary – In Anticipation of FINALE

I fell in love about a year ago. I got drawn in and mesmerized by the magical land of Caraval, because what girl doesn’t want to believe that there’s some otherworldly experiences out there? When I realized the last book in the series, Finale, comes out on May 7th, 2019, I realized I needed to play some catch up. So, I picked Legendary by Stephanie Garber up at my local library. Support your public libraries people!

I swept through this and overall I’d give it 4.5 Stars. I’m docking a half star because there are still some questions I have about details that seemed important but weren’t addressed. It’s the whole if a knife shows up in the first act, someone needs to use it in the third type thing. Although if it all gets put together gloriously in Finale, it’ll be worth ALL THE STARS.

It was extremely hard to write this review without spoiling everything because the author so deftly weaves important details throughout the novel. Much like Legend himself, Stephanie Garber reveals enough clues to encourage guessing as to what the twist might be. Some of the twists can be anticipated by readers paying close enough attention, however, she always throws one or two fully unexpected solutions in. The best part is that even the surprises make perfect sense within the story to me. No out of place dues ex machina here. I love that I can still be surprised like that in a book without feeling confused as to how the twist came about.

Hearing more of Tella’s story was a treat! I enjoy her perspective differently than I did Scarlett’s. Scarlett was a lot like me, timid, protective, and maybe an overthinker. Tella is imperfect and jumps into things feet first, and I am always into a main character who isn’t the picture of perfection. Tella lies and gets it wrong sometimes, but to me that only makes her a more enjoyable narrator. And don’t even get me started on her relationships with men, cause heckin right that girl knows how to flirt. Getting to explore her complex emotions about the other characters in the story was such a relatable journey because Tella wants to be able to make her friends and family simple and explainable, but she struggles. The dynamic of an ageless performer interacting with and becoming friends or more with someone outside of the Caraval is something I hope is explored more in Finale.

I’m currently working on reading an Arc of Finale by Stephanie Garber that was provided to me through NetGalley and Flatiron Books. Make sure to be on the look-out for my review which will drop a day or two before May 7! Definitely pick this series up if you love a little bit of magic, hijinx, and wonder in your life!

8 Souls Review

First let me say how excited I was to receive my very first ARC (advanced reader/reviewer copy) on NetGalley! It’s been a dream of mine for some time to review books since I love to read and wanted to turn it into a bigger hobby. So thank you NetGalley, Entangled Publishing LLC, and Rachel Rust for providing me this advance copy for review.

I wish this book was longer. The concept and all the bones of the story are incredibly interesting. I’m all-in on the spookiness and romance. The author does the best she can within the confines of the book, but some of these things are so complex and either get wrapped up too quickly and neatly or don’t get the in-depth time I wished they had. Samantha and Mateo are both characters whose relationships with Chessie and the story as a whole I would have liked to seen more of. Rachel Rust does a great job at creating that spooky ambiance and really getting the creepy crawlies under your skin – I left my closet door barricaded a couple nights. My only real critique isn’t your typical “show don’t tell” but just don’t tell me. She does a great job already showing, but she also then includes the tell. If the gray mist smells of rotting corpses, gives Chessie a sense of foreboding, and tries to choke her, I don’t need the author to tell me it’s an evil mist. Rachel does excellent at creating realistic teens who aren’t too grown-up for their stories. All-in-all it was worth the read and I would recommend it to anyone interested in a little supernatural/romance hijinks. It releases on May 6, 2019, so make sure and go check it out!

This review was initially posted on Goodreads where I review less in-depth. I want to try and switch up my style a little for my website. If you have any suggestions for my reviews leave them in the comments!

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