May 2022 Reads and Reviews

Sadly, I did not read a lot during March and April. The books I did read were repeats, like:

the ACOTAR series
Cinder and Ella
and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Because of that, I didn’t feel I had much to add for those months. After our trip, however, I began reading again and now I am here to bring you four new books and my thoughts on them!

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

Alessandra is no stranger to crimes of passion, and now she’s on a mission to become the most powerful person in the kingdom. Her plan is simple:
1) Woo the Shadow King
2) Marry him
3) Kill him and take over the kingdom.

Soon she’s in the King’s confidences and helping him uncover plots. When she learns the secret to his power, she knows exactly what it would take to achieve her goals. She just has to make sure someone else doesn’t kill him first.

Okay, let’s get the bad over with. It annoyed me to no end how many times I heard the term, “When I’m Queen.” It came up at the most inane moments, and each time it did, I contemplated chunking my kindle. Or at the very least, quit reading the book. At one point, I literally thought the saving grace of this book was Kallias, the Shadow King.

Also, the ending. Well, not the ending-ending, but the climactic ending. It made zero sense how Alessandra put all the pieces together. There were no clues, hidden or otherwise, in the rest of the book. She just had this one clue to go on and suddenly she knew everything? Levenseller tried to explain it away, as she did much in the book, but I didn’t buy it.

I felt that Alessandra was too confident and yet forgetful at the same time. Let me just say, if you have a certain something stashed away, you are not going to easily forget it. And when the other secret is found out, by the king no less, he’s not going to just brush it aside.

So what was good about it? Well, the concept of how Kallias’ shadows work was interesting. In the beginning, I was concerned that this was going to be another ‘which book are we talking about because all the male and female MCs are basically the same people’ rut that YA has fallen into. And okay, I’m not saying it’s not, (Blood-thirsty wanna-be queen? Hello Jude.) but I did appreciate the thought that actually went into Kallias.

Truly, I like Kallias better than I do Alessandra. The poor boy just wants a friend and because he suspects everyone around him, he finds a fresh face in Alessandra. Plus, he has a dog. He loves his dog. Always trust someone who loves dogs.

One thing I do like about Alessandra is that she designs her own clothes. They may be a little Regina from Once Upon a Time, but I can’t fault Levenseller for that. Those outfits were awesome. But yeah, Alessandra designs her own fashions. She encourages her friends to look beyond social class and norms to find what makes them happy, and she is legitimately willing to help out her friends. If only she wasn’t so focused on being Queen.

The Upside of Falling by Alex Light

Books are Becca Hart’s life. With books, everything is tied up in a neat little bow, but she knows true love doesn’t really exist. Which is why she’s shocked when she tells her former best friend she’s seeing some in real life. What’s even more shocking? Popular guy Brett Wells steps right up and claims to be said mystery guy by planting one on her in the middle of the school hallway. Now they’re playing the perfect couple for the masses while behind they scenes they’re becoming close friends. The thing is, fictional books never prepared Becca for when reality breaks in.

I read this book twice in a row. I’m not sure what it is, but I enjoy the whole fake relationship. Maybe because it’s a form of friends to lovers? Sort of?

I can relate to Becca on quite a few levels. She loves books, her parents are divorced, and her mom bakes. A lot. She isn’t too versed in the relationship part. She doesn’t surround herself with a lot of people and doesn’t really like attention. She also likes to make Pro-Con lists.

There’s more to Brett than just a pretty face and the guy who’s rumored to have it all. Yeah his parents are rich, but they’re still together and in love, he’s an only child and his parent’s pride and joy. If we want to shorten it, Brett Wells basically lives every kid-from-a-broken-home’s dream. Life has been almost too easy for him.

I like that they really work toward becoming friends. They don’t know everything about each other right off the bat. I mean, he walks into the bakery without putting two and two together? They don’t like the same ice cream flavor, but everyone can agree on Jelly-Bells (I don’t blame them). The whole deal with the Arcade, even small towns have some secrets apparently.

We see them growing closer and we see Becca struggling with herself. It’s not they pretend to be in a relationship and two chapters in they can’t keep their hands off of each other. I feel like there’s a nice progression so that it’s totally believable when Becca becomes the one Brett leans on. There are some typical cliché moves, but if we want to look at it in a positive light then we can simply say that it ends up showing how deep their friendship actually goes.

I think the one big surprise for me was how Becca chooses to deal with her dad. Part of me doesn’t think it adds up to her character, but it’s probably more that her decision clashes with what I would do in that situation.

Either way, this is a really good book. The Upside of Falling would be a great Summer Read.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Born with a cursed mark, Ismae has been rejected and brutalized all her life. Her fate changes when she escapes to the convent of St. Mortain and is trained to be an assassin, a handmaiden to Death. There, Ismae learns the art of poisons, weaponry, and womanly arts, all to aid her as she serves the convent and its master. When Ismae is ordered to the High Court of Brittany, she is put into the path of Viscount Duval, brother to the very Duchess Ismae is working to protect, but not all is at it seems at court and Ismae struggles with who to trust. It’s clear someone is pulling the strings, but who is the real mastermind? Is it Mortain’s will she is serving, or someone else’s? Ismae is determined to succeed in her mission no matter the cost, even if the cost is her heart.

I first picked this book up a few years ago but couldn’t get past the first few pages. After reading The Shadows Between Us, I was in the mood for something similar and Grave Mercy came up so I decided to try it again. I ended up skimming the first few chapters. The first five chapters are basically background information, important for world building and knowing who-is-who, but no real action begins until chapter six.

I like that there was a true character arc. Ismae is young and grateful to the convent which took her in, but in the space away from the secluded life, she begins to become her own person. She learns to question and make decision for herself instead of simply doing what she is ordered to do. Ismae becomes strong in character and it makes her a wiser and more merciful person.

I think Duval has every right to mistrust Ismae. I would mistrust someone who so conveniently got in my way multiple times, too. They finally come to an understanding because they both want to protect the Duchess. You know, the enemy of my enemy is my ally. Or however it goes.

It is Duval who challenges Ismae to see beyond the orders she’s given. He encourages her to really see the events playing out. When Ismae stops focusing only on her orders, the two are able to come together and work to protect the best interests of Brittany.

One of my favorite scenes is when Ismae confronts her father. Although, confront might be too strong a word. I expected a somewhat emotional scene. How it actually played out was so perfect for Ismae. I’m glad LaFevers included it.

I can’t say I was surprised by the reveal. I had my suspicions closer to the beginning of the book of who the traitor was. I even figured out how the poison was being administered before it was revealed. What I didn’t have figured out was how the character was being healed and, up until the scene, I didn’t know if they would survive or not. Perhaps because the healing process was a bit absurd to me.

It has just occurred to me that this book is also a type of fake dating. Sort of. Enemies to fake lovers to friends?

Grave Mercy may be a slow start, but I’m glad I stuck with it. I would classify this as Historical Fiction, I think, but there is definitely a fantasy aspect to it. Also, assassins. Who doesn’t love a book about assassins?

The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn

Viscount Anthony Bridgerton is London’s most elusive bachelor. When it comes to playing the consummate rake, nobody does it better. Yet Anthony has finally decided that it’s time to marry and he has found Edwina Sheffield to be the most suitable candidate as the future Viscountess Bridgerton. The only problem is her meddlesome sister, Kate. Kate’s determination to stop the betrothal from ever happening drives Anthony mad. For the sake of the Bridgerton name, he’s determined to win this little game of theirs, but he’s finding it difficult to deny the spark between them.
Contrary to popular belief, Kate Sheffield does not think that reformed rakes make the best husbands, and as everyone knows, Anthony Bridgerton is the most wicked of them all. Which is why Kate will do everything in her power to protect her younger sister from him. In fact, she’s so busy protecting her sister that she forgets to protect herself. When their spark bursts into flame, Kate comes to realize that there may be more to Anthony Bridgerton than she first thought.

Yep, I’m going here. In my defense, I actually began reading the Bridgerton novels before Netflix ever came out with the series. Granted, it was the third book but I believe I should still get some credit for it. It was a book I just happened to find at the book store, a retelling of Cinderella, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Benedict’s story may remain my favorite (so far) but I do enjoy reading the other’s stories.

What to say about this book? There are so many funny moments, I don’t see how anyone could not enjoy this book. My favorite scene is definitely the Bridgerton’s game of Pall Mall. Hilarious. Second favorite would have to be the first ballroom scene with Colin’s scheming.

“Colin turned deliberately from his brother to Kate. “I think I might need another glass of lemonade,” he gasped.
“Or maybe,” said Anthony, “something stronger. Hemlock, perhaps?”

I love the sibling dynamic in this book. Quinn gets it right every time. There have been times when I, too, contemplated fratricide, no matter that I love my brother to pieces and would stand in the way of anyone else who would try to harm him. I’m the only one allowed to contemplate his demise. The same goes for the siblings in the Bridgerton household.

I feel like I need to do a comparison between the show and the book. For one, the show leaves out the true drive behind Anthony’s decision to marry now. Anthony’s sudden decision to marry is that he is under the complete belief that he will die young. As in, within the next few years. So he has decided to take his responsibility as a firstborn Bridgerton seriously. His biggest rule for the marriage: He will not fall in love. Get along and be friendly with his wife, definitely, but love her? Nope.

Something the show touched on but did not explore was Kate’s fear of storms. In the book, she is absolutely and completely terrified of them. That library scene? It happens, only Kate isn’t so at ease when Anthony finds her. She’s scared stiff. Literally. The reason behind her fear is actually pretty sad, too, but I’ll leave some mystery there for you readers.

A change I did like in the show was the nationality change for Mary, Kate, and Edwina. In the book, Edwina and Mary are described as having blonde hair and blue eyes, while Kate is described as having brown hair and eyes. I love culture exploration and I think this was done so well in the show. I’m not sure I could go back to imagining Kate as anything other than Indian.

In case you’re wondering, Edwina never had her sights so set on Anthony. Her heart went to another. There was never the drama of an altar, though there is some drama in how Anthony and Kate become engaged.

I’ll finish this review by saying this: If you watched the show and think you know everything there is to know about The Viscount Who Loved Me then you would be incorrect. I would encourage any show watcher (or non-watcher) to give this book, and this series, a try.

What are some interesting books you read these last few months?

Let me know in the comments! I might be tempted to pick one of them up, too.

Happy Monday!

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