Top 5 (Not)Tuesday: Books Under 300 Pages

Apologies for my accidental almost-two-week-long hiatus–it’s been a scramble of unpacking from one vacation and prepping for another, not to mention half a dozen social affairs crammed into just a few short days. Technically, this past week was Bionic Bookworm’s hiatus (click here for the August topics!) so there was no Top 5 Tuesday but since I missed the last one I figured I’d post it this round. I’d planned to have this ready for the Tuesday past and be all “hey, at least I got the day right this time!” but, ah, no. Alas.

Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

As far as contemporary romances go, Shut Out was a fun change. Inspired by the Classical Greek comedy Lysistrata, as the wives in the original play, the gals of Keplinger’s novel vow to abstain from any kind of sexual activity with their boyfriends until they put a silly feud to rest. This one’s on the list not only because it was funny and different and because the Greek inspo automatically gives it points in my book (which it does) but because the sexual foundation gives way to some frank and important discussions about virginity and consent and knowing what feels right. All the girls come from different levels of experience, different opinions about what they’re doing, and different stances on why they’re doing/not doing it; the realizations they come to by the end of the book were important for me to hear in high school and definitely useful to other girls too. So yeah – top points for impact!

Two Lies and a Spy by Kat Carlton

I am a sucker for a good spy novel. Two Lies and a Spy was one I expected to be little more than contemporary romantic fluff with some action suspense thrown in; fast forward to crazy family drama, Russian conspiracies, a decent love triangle, a relatively complex espionage adventure, and a main character that grows on you backed by supporting ones you love from the start and it turned into a book I rather enjoyed! It’s not my favourite spy novel ever but it was a really great read and definitely one of my favourite short books.

The Almost Truth by Eileen Cook

Another contemporary romance here! Stocking to the ‘espionage’ and secrecy theme of the previous pick, The Almost Truth centres on a family of con artists and a daughter ready to walk away from it all. Though cliché in ways at the outset, it’s the best friend–a boy also taken under the MC’s father’s conman wing–that really made the book for me. Sadie is likeable enough but I found myself attached to Brendan, the flirtatious boy with a broken past and strong loyalties. The con plot is intriguing and surprising, but the family dynamic and the Brendan-Sadie thing make it a top pick for me!

Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

Okay, by now most associate Schwab (Victoria for YA, V.E. for adult) with wildly unique and completely amazing fantasy writing. I may (still…) not have read any of the A Darker Shade of Magic books but years ago I read her debut and was just as blown away by it as the rest of the world has been by her more recent work. I actually had an unfinished review for it saved from when I read it in 2015 that spent a single paragraph saying how surprising it was–it was never finished because I couldn’t figure out how to put my thoughts into words. It’s that good.

Crash by Lisa McMann (Visions #1)

This was one of my first reviews on this site (click here to read) so hurray for throwbacks! I was so caught off guard by how much I enjoyed McMann’s whole Visions trilogy – all of which are under 300 pages and each of which could be picked for this top (the second is my fave). Gonna be honest here: I bought it because the eye on the cover was stunning and the blurb’s feuding Italian restaurant families gave off some Romeo and Juliet vibes, from which I am utterly incapable of turning away. But the crazy murder visions and fast-paced prevention chase kept me chasing Jules until I flipped the last page.

Top 5 Tuesday: ABCDE

Hello again, my book-obsessed beloveds! Today I thought I’d jump in on Bionic Book Worm’s Top 5 Tuesdays, especially since the theme for July is so fun: best books by letter. The alphabet-matching is significantly more difficult than I had expected it would be, with some letters being impossible to choose a single top book and others being impossible to find a book I enjoyed enough to count it as a top. All indecision aside, here’s my list of top reads from letters A-E.

So y’all know: Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme where Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm explores different topics. If you are interested in participating she would love to have you! Just ping back your post to a specific post of hers so she can add you to the participants list!

A:

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

If you’ve read my earlier posts, this one definitely doesn’t come as a surprise! Maas’ ACOTAR series quickly became a favourite of mine, with this sequel spearheading it. A Court of Mist and Fury just did such a great job at developing Feyre’s character from the ‘weak’ human trapped in the Fae lands to the independent warrior she becomes. The novel tackles the effects and manifestations of depression and PTSD, takes a good look at a toxic relationship, and demonstrates the value of a relationship–platonic and romantic–based on equality and mutual acknowledgement of worth. Not to mention the complex fantasy plot and steamy romance to wrap everything together! Click here for my full review.

B:

(The) Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler

I was torn between this book and C.C. Hunter’s Born at Midnight for the longest time, but eventually I settled on The Book of Broken Hearts because it has stuck with me the most. A fluffy, cute contemporary romance at first glance, Ockler’s novel also deals with the complexities of family, the difficulty with conflicting loyalties, and finding confidence in one’s own decisions. Emilio is a sweetheart trying to bounce back from a difficult past while Jude is too wrapped up in her sisters’ pasts to let herself see the good in him. The book is sweet and wholesome and genuine and romantic in the best kinds of ways.

C:

Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter

Apparently many of my top books start with Cs! After debating with Colleen Gleason’s patchwork of The Clockwork Scarab (review here), Cassandra Clare’s City of Glass–an all-time favourite–Kevin Kwan’s perfectly ridiculous Crazy Rich Asians, and the pleasant surprise of Lisa McMann’s Crash (review here), I settled on the second of Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girl series. These teen spy action-romance books are in major part the novels that turned me into a reader. Callie in this one is a sophomore in her all-girls spy school thrown for a loop when a bunch of teenage spy guys enrol in her academy. This second book is not only my favourite of the series (and therefore one of my absolute favourites ever) but also the one that introduces Zach Goode, a major early fictional crush (I love sarcastic “bad-boy” sweethearts) and begins the conflict that carries the rest of the series.

D:

Devoured by Amanda Marrone

So on the opposite end of the too-good C books, turns out D books don’t tend to be my favourites. More specifically, the D books I’ve read often happen to suffer second-book-syndrome and lose the excitement of the rest of the series, such as with Dreamless by Josephine Angelini (Starcrossed trilogy) and Darkness Falls by Cate Tiernan (Immortal Beloved trilogy)–both series are absolute favourites but neither D book is. Devoured stood out to me for this because the concept is rather unique. Though the GR blurb waxes on about a love triangle, the real excitement here is a fairytale-based murder mystery with some ghosts thrown in–and yes, of course, that dash of romance. I originally borrowed it from my public library but liked it so much I went out and bought a copy myself! Definitely recommend if you’re feeling for something mysterious and different but easy to read.

E:

Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik

This fluffy romantic retelling of Pride and Prejudice is an all-time feel-good fave. LaZebnik specializes in modern Jane Austen and Epic Fail most certainly did not disappoint! Elise is a perfectly sarcastic and protective Elizabeth, sure of herself and her contentment without Derek, who is withdrawn and irritating enough for you to resent like Darcy but not so much to be irredeemable or unforgivable. The Bingley and Jane are positively heartwarming-ly adorable and the Wickham is charming enough to delude until you learn why he’s trash. It’s also still a great read if you haven’t read Pride and Prejudice–I read this before I read Austen’s original and loved it just the same! One caution is that this is not for those iffy on the romance genre since this one here is pure love story, but if you also have a sweet tooth specially for saccharine romances then definitely give it a shot!

The Clockwork Scarab

17084242The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

What happens when a genius, a vampire hunter, and a time traveler walk into a museum?

I don’t even know where to begin with The Clockwork Scarab. This book is probably the craziest mismatched hodgepodge of different elements I have ever read…and yet I enjoyed it immensely!

The novel introduces Alvermina Holmes and Evaline Stoker, niece of Sherlock and sister of Bram, a detective and vampire hunter tag-team duo called to investigate missing persons and a murder. It really is such a shame that they hate each other and refuse to work as a unit–or maybe not, since their antics are hilarious! Enter a time-traveling teen and the cult of an Egyptian goddess in a steampunk Victorian London, et voilà! A masterpiece of strangeness. Continue reading

The Kiss of Deception

16429619The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

You know that feeling you get when a book takes you completely by surprise? The Kiss of Deception takes that feeling and multiplies it to a million, then throws in a little extra for good measure.

THIS BOOK BLEW ME AWAY!

I don’t even know how to put into words how much I loved this! I love Lia, I love the assassin/prince stuff, I love the world, I love the plot, I love EVERYTHING. And yet all over goodreads people are dishing out one-stars like candy?????????

Does.

Not.

Compute. Continue reading

Unrivaled

26116460Unrivaled by Alyson Noël

The degree to which I was dreading reading this book just proves how moronic I must be.

You see, I read the first two books of Noël’s The Immortals series and had to stop. There was something about the writing, I thought, that I just wasn’t fond of so when I finished book two and seriously disliked it I thought it best to steer clear of her books since they must just not be for me. Then Unrivaled came along with it’s pretty gold-dripping strawberry cover and featured position on that fateful Costco table and suddenly I found myself walking out of the store, book in hand, despite the fact that a) it’s by an author I don’t like, b) the synopsis is not a book I’d typically enjoy, and c) reviewers compared it to the PLL books which I gave up after #1 because I didn’t like them. Basically I only bought it because it looked pretty so when a BookTubeAThon challenge was to read a book you got for the cover, I knew this was it. And I whined about the prospect of having to get through it.

That was a spectacular misjudgement on my part because oh my stars Unrivaled is. so. good! Continue reading

The Wrath and the Dawn

18798983The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

All it took was opening the cover for The Wrath and the Dawn to DESTROY ME.

You know how sometimes they print an excerpt on the first page of a book, before the title and the copyright and the actual story start?

THAT. That is all I read. And I just…dissolved.

THIS BOOK IS FANTASTIC! BEYOND FANTASTIC! SO FANTASTIC I’M AT SUCH A LOSS FOR WORDS I JUST KEEP SAYING ‘FANTASTIC’!

The Wrath and the Dawn is a retelling of (more so inspired by) the old Middle Eastern story One Thousand and One Nights or The Arabian Nights. In the original story, the basis is that the caliph takes a new wife every night only to kill her by morning until he marries Shaharzad who each night captivates him with a story. By leaving each tale unfinished every night she manages to keep the caliph so intrigued for 1001 nights that he doesn’t kill her. This is the part that Ahdieh takes into The Wrath and the Dawn, as well as her own versions of the traditional tales, but the rest is an entirely new world and an altogether mesmerizing new creation. And it is–wait for it!–FANTASTIC! Continue reading

Lady Midnight

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Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Unpopular opinion time: I didn’t absolutely love Lady Midnight.

Here’s the thing: I wanted to love Lady Midnight. Very badly. And I don’t NOT like it–it’s still amazing!–but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

First issue I had is that it takes a reeeeaally long time before seriously getting started. There’s a lot of introducing characters and solidifying relationships but even through the whole mysterious murders thing starts in the very first chapter, it’s not until a good 400 pages in that the Emma and her crew put some actual effort in to figure it out. It’s the first book of the series–I don’t care that it’s Cassie Clare and most people are going to be reading it just because of her and of Clary and Jace and Tessa and Will and Jem, it needs to grab and sustain our attention from the beginning. 400 pages of set-up, no matter how interesting the world is, is frustrating to read. Continue reading

Scarlet

13206760Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet is the second installment in Marissa Meyer’s Cinder series–you know, those books that basically the entire world except me has finished? Yeah…those… Anyway, Scarlet switches setting and story to 18-year-old Scarlet (Little Red Riding Hood) who’s dead-set on finding her beloved grandma’s kidnappers and is joined by street fighting bestial hot boy, Wolf, who aids in her quest.

I absolutely adore Scarlet. She’s forward, determined, and won’t take shit from anyone. She’s also an inherently good person and vehemently defends Cinder to everyone despite that she’s a lunar and even though they’ve never met. Just because it’s right. She’s got a lot of spunk–more, I’d argue, than even Cinder in the first–and even when things start to go sour she never once seriously considers bailing. There’s no ‘either save my grandma or nothing at all’ because the nothing isn’t an option–there is only saving her grandmother. Continue reading

Dancer Daughter Traitor Spy

17262751.jpgDancer Daughter Traitor Spy by Elizabeth Kiem

Slow. That’s the first word I would use for this book. With only 264 pages, the first 100-150 were purely set-up, which I’m sure you all know quickly becomes obnoxious. This is supposed to be a spy thriller! Where are the spies? The thrill?? The ANYTHING INTERESTING WHATSOEVER????????? Honestly. On average I read 100 pages in roughly an hour and yet Dancer Daughter Traitor Spy took me forever and there were multiple times in which I considered just giving in and not finishing it at all (which I pretty much NEVER do).

I genuinely wanted to enjoy this. I love espionage, Russia is fascinating (I actually took a course last year on intelligence in the Soviet Union so I learned a lot about the KGB, especially their dealings in and with the USA), and the spy war of the Cold War was so ridiculously intense and often cruel that if properly reflected in the book it would have made a pretty kick-ass novel. Continue reading

Changeling

12988106.jpgChangeling by Philippa Gregory

I must admit (quite shamefully) that upon finishing this I realized it’s been on my TBR bookshelf for six years.

SIX YEARS.

I AM HORRIBLE.

Anyway, sometime in those six years I realized the well-known tidbit that Gregory is the author of not only The Other Boleyn Girl, but a whole plethora of adult historical fiction, mostly on bad-ass Tudor and Plantagenet women (for the non-history majors out there, those are two hugely important royal families in English history). From all you history fans in the back, can I get a “Hell yeah!”?

HELL YEAH!!! Continue reading