Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Summary:
About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.
And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.
As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear…

Book Cover

Review:
I’ve just finished rereading Poison Study for my “Rereading Books I Loved as a Teenager” blog post which I will be wrapping up later this month. I read this series back in 2012 when I found it randomly at my local library. I remembered really loving them, so I bought the trilogy when I found them at one of my local used bookstores a year or so ago. But with all the moving I’ve done and will be doing in the future; I’ve been working on rereading books I don’t remember anything about other than the fact that I liked them so I could see if I still liked them or not.
Poison Study follows Yelena who is about to be executed for murder. But when Valek, the Commander’s chief of security, offers Yelena a position as the Commander’s new food taster. After Yelena accepts, Valek teaches her how to sniff out and taste poisons that might be used to kill the Commander. I thought Yelena’s training in poisons was a great part of the story. It was interesting to learn about the poisons but while she’s learning that, we’re also learning about how this world works and the governing of Ixia. We learn a bit about Ixia’s past. The start of the story is pretty slow. We know that Yelena killed the son of someone important. The fact that she’s still alive is something that this man isn’t happy with. Along with learning about how to identify poisons, Yelena is being targeted by several different people. So, not only is she trying not to be poisoned to death, but she’s also on the lookout for anyone trying to physically attack her as well. This is when the story starts to get more complicated and a bit political.
Yelena and Valek are suspicious of the man trying to have Yelena killed, but he’s in a position of leadership, so it’s complicated. I think the political twists and turns of the plot were interesting ones. There were some that were predictable, people that were so obviously ‘bad guys’ but what was interesting was figuring out how they were doing the things they were doing. You could see all of the pieces and it was pretty clear that they were all connected, but finding out how exactly the puzzle pieced together was a compelling story.
This story was way darker than I remember. Yelena’s childhood was filled with trauma, from torture (that’s pretty explicitly described) to rape. She was not treated well. But she seemed like a pretty well-adjusted person for someone that had been through all of that and then spend a year in a dungeon. We’re told about her trauma and shown what she’s been through and it seems that the biggest thing from everything she’s experienced is that she wants to learn to fight so that she’ll never be defenseless again. Also, she has a ghost following her that we don’t really know much about what exactly that means, so I guess we will find out more in the next book.
The romance between Yelena and Valek was one I enjoyed. I’ve read mixed reviews about this as many pictured Valek to me an older gentleman and Yelena is supposed to be only 19. But we learn more about Valek’s history it’s clear he’s not an old man. I think their romance was slowly developed and believable. I really enjoyed it and I’m very excited for the ‘forbidden romance’ aspect of the next book.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was way darker than I was anticipating, but I enjoyed it. There is also a trans man in this first book that I believe we will see again later in the series, but I can’t speak to whether it’s good or bad representation, so if you’ve read this and you can speak for the representation, let me know. I’ve seen lots of people compare this to Throne of Glass and I can sort of see the comparison, but this series came first so. I’m eager to continue the series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda

Fire by Kristin Cashore

Summary:
It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men.
This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own.
Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there’s more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom.
If only she weren’t afraid of becoming the monster her father was.

Fire (Graceling Realm, #2)

Review:
Fire is a part of the Graceling series. From my understanding, these are all just companion stories. I’ve been rereading them since there has been another installment in this series released this year. It’s been years since I’ve read any of the Graceling books, so I thought I’d reread before getting to the newest one. You can find my recent review for Graceling here.
Fire follows the main character, named Fire, in the kingdom of the Dells. This is a different part of the world than what we learned of in Graceling. So, it felt like I was learning the world all over again, because I was. I think it was easier to become familiar with this world. The magic was interesting with the monsters that live in this part of the world. They have an irresistible magic about them. I thought that was really interesting to see how it worked with all the different kinds of monsters, from monster insects to Fire, the last human monster. I think the world was, like Graceling, a bit confusing to keep track of which leaders where who and where they ruled. Add on to that, some of them are forming alliances and there is a war brewing. I liked the political aspect of the story. At times, it was a bit drawn out, but overall, I enjoyed it.
Fire was a really compelling character. She was the best part of this story. I enjoyed learning about her past, her struggles, and her secrets. She was a great choice of main character for this story. She really kept me interested in the story when I felt that it was dragging.
Overall, I liked Graceling better than Fire, but I still liked this one. It was an interesting story that shared more of the world we didn’t get to see in Graceling. I thought Fire was a great character (that I believe we see again in the future?) I’m eager to continue onto Bitterblue so that I can get to the newest story in the series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Rereading Books I Loved as a Teenager – TBR

Hello, lovelies! This post idea was originally going to be me rereading books I loved in high school, but looking back through the books I read then, I realized it was mostly Twilight, City of Bones, and adult books. So, instead these will be books that I read when I was a teenager, as the title says. But there are some books that I can’t bring myself to reread (which I’ll have a list of, some with the reasons why I won’t reread). Today, I’m just going to share the books I plan to reread. I also have reread some books over the last year or so that I loved when I was a teenager that I don’t feel the need to reread again. So, I’ll be sharing those today to give some thoughts on them. This will be a TBR of sorts (I say of sorts because as I’m scheduling this post I’ve already reread some of them) but they’ll be in my wrap up post with more details. I’m just going to be naming the first book (many of these are series) but if I like it when I reread I’ll probably continue the series and give my thoughts on the whole series. Let’s get into it!

Books I Want to Reread

The Angel Experiment by James Patterson
Born at Midnight by C.C. Hunter
Evermore by Alyson Noel
Evernight by Claudia Gray
Crank by Ellen Hopkins
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Halo by Alexandra Adornetto
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Books I Won’t Be Rereading

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
I have actually tried to reread this a few times over the years. I first read it in 2007 and obsessively read and reread the series until Breaking Dawn was released. But every time I’ve tried to pick it up to reread, I haven’t made it more than a few pages before I give up and end up reading something else. Also, after getting into the book Twitter community, I’ve learned more about some more of the problematic elements of the book.

Divergent by Veronica Roth
I tried to reread this one a few years ago and just couldn’t do it. I think because I’ve watched the movies so many times and read the books so many times when I was a teenager, I know everything that happens pretty well and just couldn’t stay interested.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
I’ve heard some pretty gross things about this author that have to do with sexual harassment. I don’t really want to support anything like that and feel no need to reread this one.

Matched by Ally Condie
I actually did try to reread this one sometime last year and DNF’d it because I couldn’t get through it and didn’t really care about anything that was happening.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
This is another that I tried to reread last year, and it just wasn’t good. So, I DNF’d it.

House of Night series by P.C. Cast
I have read some of their newer work and have no interest in revisiting this series.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
I’ve reread this series (and all of the rest of the shadow hunter books) so many times that I don’t need to reread it again. Instead, I’ll just share my preferences for the series, starting with my favorite and ending with my least favorite. You can find my reviews for pretty much every book in the series on our Master Review List page under Cassandra Clare.
1. The Dark Artifices
2. The Last Hours
3. The Eldest Curses
4. The Mortal Instruments
5. The Infernal Devices

Books I’ve Already Reread

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
I feel so much nostalgia for this series. I found the full series for pretty cheap at my local used bookstore. Westerfeld has started a new series set in the same world but with different characters so I wanted to reread the original before I started the new series. I think there are definitely problems with this series that I didn’t notice when I devoured this series again and again as a teen. But I think the plot and adventure holds up pretty well. My review is linked here.

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
This series is still absolute perfection. I reread them via the audiobooks and couldn’t get enough. I listened to this series so quickly. I think the vampire lore and the characters are still so well done. This is really a series that has held up through the passing years. I think this series can easily find new readers that will enjoy it just as much as I did when I first read it as a teenager. I think the same goes for the spin off series, Bloodlines. The characters and story are easy to love and might even be better than the original series. You can find my review for the first book in the Vampire Academy here and my review for Bloodlines here.

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
I reread Beautiful Creatures via audiobook and while I did make it through the whole book, I didn’t end up continuing my reread for the rest of the series. I wouldn’t say that it’s totally bad. It was still an interesting and entertaining story, but I wasn’t invested like I was when I read it as a teenager. I think this series is another that could find new readers that will love it, but I think I’m no longer the audience for this series.

Vampire Diaries: The Awakening by L.J. Smith
This was….not good. I listened to the audiobook to reread. I made it through the first book (probably because it’s super short) but got halfway through the second book and just didn’t care to focus on the story. I think there are some things that the t.v. show did better and some things that the book did better, but I don’t know that I would actually be able to recommend this one to others.

The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa
I reread this full series, plus the Call of the Forgotten series, in anticipation for Kagawa’s newest release, The Iron Raven, which is set in the same world but follows Puck. We finally are getting Puck’s story. I have a full series review for both The Iron Fey and the Call of the Forgotten series here and here. I think these series are the ultimate Fey series and absolutely top the super hyped one that I won’t name. Meghan can be a little annoying, but her growth is so so good. The creatures and Fey that we meet in the series are so fascinating. I stand by this series excellence and cannot recommend Kagawa’s work enough.

Alright. That’s what I have for you today, folks! Some books that I will be rereading in the next few weeks/months (however long it takes me). Some books that I will probably never read again. And some books that I reread before I had the idea for this post with some brief thoughts on them.

What books did you love as a teenager that you think you would still love if you read them again now? If you are a teen, what books do you love that you think you will love once you’re no longer a teen? And the other side of that, what books did you love (or do love, if you’re a teen) that you don’t think you’ll love upon rereading?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Summary:
Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.
She never expects to fall in love with beautiful Prince Po.
She never expects to learn the truth behind her Grace—or the terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.
With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.

Graceling (Graceling Realm, #1)

Review:
Graceling tells the story of Katsa, the niece of a king. She has the Grace of killing. She has been trained to be the king’s weapon, doing his bidding. But one day, Prince Po comes to court and Katsa finally finds a challenge. The two end up on an adventure they did not expect.
I don’t really want to spend too much time talking about what happened. So, I’m going to get into my thoughts on the things I liked about this book. Katsa was raised to be the king’s enforcer. Despite this, she finds ways to rebel against the things she’s made to do. She and her friends have created the Council. This Council helps those in need. I really liked that while Katsa mostly did what the king ordered, she found ways to do good things too. I mostly liked Katsa. She’s angry, abrasive, and stubborn. She can be selfish at times, but when it counts, she does the right thing.
Then there’s Po. I loved Po. He does his best to find ways in the cracks of Katsa’s armor. He gets to know her, even though she doesn’t really want that. I loved learning about the other kingdoms through Po and his experiences. I think Po was a well-developed character. I liked his family connections. I think Po’s personality was a really good balance for Katsa. They’re basically opposites, so things were really interesting when their relationship turned romantic.
I think the world building was alright. It wasn’t anything to call home about, but it was interesting. There was a bit of information dumping at the beginning. I think the politics of this world were one of the more interesting aspects of the story. The different kings were all pretty horrible, but it was interesting to see their differences.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story. The plot is super interesting and the characters, while imperfect, kept my interest and I found myself easily invested in their story. I am very excited to continue onto Fire. I also forgot to mention at the start of this review that this was a reread. I read this series years ago, but with the release of Winterkeep, I wanted to reread all the books in the Graceling Realm before diving into the new one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Shadow and Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo (Full Series Review)

Hi, lovelies! Today I have a full series review for you all. With the new Netflix adaptation of Shadow and Bone coming out in April, I decided that I wanted to reread all of the books in the Grishaverse. Soon after, I realized I’d never reviewed the original trilogy. So, this past week I binge read the three books in the Shadow and Bone trilogy. Instead of giving each book its own review, I thought it would be easier to just review the whole series in one post. So, that’s what I have here for you. (I’ve already reviewed Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom if you want to check out those reviews when you’re done reading this one.)

Book One – Shadow and Bone

Summary:
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart. 

Shadow and Bone (Shadow and Bone, #1)

Review:
I enjoyed Shadow and Bone but I think because I’ve read it before it felt lackluster. There were some things I didn’t remember, but nothing that really surprised me (maybe because I haven’t waited long enough to forget). I feel like so much happened in this book but at the same time, it felt like nothing happened the whole time. There were also some things that bothered me that I don’t think I noticed the previous times I read this book. One of those things is how quickly Alina accepts her power as Sun Summoner. I think this is supposed to be because it made sense to her, but I would have liked a bit more internal conversation about her acceptance of this. She goes from disbelief to throwing herself into her new studies too quickly for my liking. Another thing is her ‘friendship’ with Marie and Nadia. We’re supposed to care about these two girls that have befriended Alina, right? Because we know next to nothing about them in this book and I didn’t care about them at all.
It was easy to read, aside from remembering what Grisha had which power. It felt like a simple story (especially compared to her other books). Alina had one goal, well two if you count finding Mal, and she didn’t reach it. Which I think that’s why it feels like nothing happened. She was trained with her ability and then ran away. But when she got her courage together and tried to do the right thing she failed. So, it’s almost like the whole story was pointless. I know there’s two more books and I am picking up the second one tonight. I don’t know, I just feel like I remember liking this series so much more than the reading experience I just had.
As for Mal and Alina, their ‘romance’ wasn’t very easy for me to get invested in. It seemed like Alina was the one that cared more. I made a note while reading that said, “Alina shows Mal a lot of loyalty, but does Mal show the same thing back?” I think maybe eventually, but I didn’t see that in this book.

Book Two – Siege and Storm

Summary:
Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.
The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her—or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm. 

Siege and Storm (Shadow and Bone, #2)

Review:
There were a few things that managed to surprise me in this book. I forgot about a certain plot point that happens with Genya (who I still love with my whole heart). Alina starts to gain confidence in herself and we see that when she speaks up a few times. Though, she is still in denial about that fact that she needs to save the world which was annoying.
I definitely see why everyone says this suffers from second book syndrome. Beacuse it does. They plan and plan and plan, and literally everything fails. I understand why some of the stuff needed to be in there, but I feel like there was so much unnecessary story. Mal pissed me off the whole time, they found literally nothing on the firebird and Alina almost died. I think this could have been a much shorter story. And while I understand that things needed to happen, like meeting Sturmhond (the only good part of this book), there was so much telling and barley and showing because nothing is really happening. Alina is being paraded around, and people are preparing but nothing is happening. That’s really my biggest complaint. This was almost 500 pages and almost nothing happened. But I will say, despite nothing really happening, I was, surprisingly, never bored.

Book Three – Ruin and Rising

Summary:
The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.
Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.
Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.
Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

Ruin and Rising (Shadow and Bone, #3)

Review:
The first thing I want to mention about this book is the setting and the writing. I probably could have mentioned it for the previous books, but it stood out the most for me in this one. Bardugo’s writing is stunning. She really knows how to set a scene and describe the setting these characters are in. It stood out the most to me while the gang is traveling through the tunnels.
This book is my favorite out of all three. This was the book where I found myself finally invested in the relationships. Where we’re seeing all of these characters together and how they’ve grown after all the trials they’ve faced together. Zoya is my Queen and favorite. I liked that Alina and Zoya managed to find a sort of friendship when they started out hating one another. There were quite a few things that I completely forgot about in this story. I found myself surprised by twists I should have remembered more than once. I really enjoyed being surprised and I thought all of these twists were well done.
Overall, I enjoyed this one the most. There were plot twists that I’d totally forgotten about. I grew to love characters I didn’t like when I started my reread. I even ended up really liking Mal and Alina together. So many people say that he’s controlling and boring and blah blah, but I didn’t see any of that. I thought the almost constant nods to his tracking abilities were a little over the top, but after finishing the book I realize that it’s done that way on purpose. I love Nikolai with my whole heart. Genya, Zoya, David, and the twins are my favorites. I think overall this series was really well done. I know many don’t like the way this book ended, but I did. I think it was a satisfying ending that brought things to a full circle, ending where they began. Alina never wanted to be special, so I liked that she got her quiet life back.

Now, this series as a whole stands up against time, I think. I think individually each book has its issues. But if you look at all three books together, they are really great books. When I was reading the first and second books, I was considering unhauling my copies after I finished my reread. Now, that I’ve finished I remember why I loved this series so much. I may not have liked all of the choices the characters made, or even liked all of the characters, I think this was an incredible adventure. I think this series will find fans for many years to come.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda

Blogmas Day Ten: Series to Reread in 2021

Hey, bookworms! While we often talk about getting our physical TBR’s down, there are also lots of books that we own and really want to reread. We’re both pretty big rereaders, so there are some books and series that we’re really excited to hopefully get back into in the upcoming year.

Amanda’s Series to Reread

Shadow Falls series by C.C. Hunter

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Zodiac by Romina Russell

The Bride Quartet by Nora Roberts

The Origin Mystery series by A.G. Riddle

Antonia’s Series to Reread

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

The Bride Quartet by Nora Roberts

The Bridgertons by Julia Quinn

The Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima

Joust by Mercedes Lackey

The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist

These are the series we are excited about rereading in 2021. Do you reread books? If so, what books are you thinking about rereading in the upcoming year?

Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday – Freebie

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. Each week we talk about our top ten with a different topic provided by Jana. This week’s topic is top ten – Freebie! Since it’s a freebie topic, I went back to look at the list of past topics and have decided to talk about ten books I’m hoping to reread in the next year or so.

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone by J.K. Rowling

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

The Bride Quartet by Nora Roberts

Jane Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

The Selection by Kiera Cass

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Talon by Julie Kagawa

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

What books on your shelves do you want to reread soon? Let me know below! Tell me what you chose for the freebie this week.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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