Yellow Brick War (Dorothy Must Die #3) by Danielle Paige

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Why did I think this was the last book?

I think the better question is, why wasn’t this the last book?

As much as I love how short and sweet the books in this series are, I think this one was even more filler than the last one. We spend half the book in Kansas, looking for a magical pair of shoes, and then half the book in OZ, not killing Dorothy (again). Oh and there’s a new villain or something who pops up here and there. This could have easily been part 2 of book 2, and then we would have had a much more rounded story to lead us into the last part (which is on my to-read after A Court of Wings and Ruin).

Not that I didn’t enjoy reading it. Paige’s writing just sucks me in so bad. I love the ever-changing dynamic of the characters and their relationships. I love being on the inside of Amy’s mind while at the same time feeling like I’m also on the inside of everyone else’s mind too. It’s fantastic. I’m excited to see how this series ends, I’m just glad I didn’t start it when book 1 came out and had to wait for each book because I would have been quite disappointed in the lack of progression.

Overall, a good continuation of the story that leaves you yearning for more.

The Selection by Kiera Cass

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Since arranged-marriage-turned-love scenarios are my guilty pleasure books, I figured I’d give this a try. It’s kind of a modern fairy tale, and I’ve been eyeing these covers for a while.

I almost read the whole thing in one sitting. Because who needs sleep?

Just like watching TLC or any of those Bachelor TV shows, this book was the chocolate bar hidden in the underwear drawer. It was the perfect compilation of teenage romance and class dystopia, with royalty, and a love triangle, and that special girl who could have been anyone – even you.

And I loved it.

A part of me feels like a cheat reviewer giving this book 5 stars when the top voted Goodreads reviews are mostly 1 star because it’s unoriginal or the names are ridiculous or a myriad of reasons, but I don’t care. I enjoyed it. Yes, it was no literary masterpiece but reading it made me happy and isn’t that what life is all about?

However, I will say that I will not be picking up the next one. I was on the fence because I didn’t like how the competition didn’t end with book 1, so I was curious, but apparently in book 2 the love triangle continues on in a way that’s just not my style. No thanks. So I’ll sit the rest of this series out and keep the shiny memories of this 5 star in my head.

Overall, a very enjoyable guilty pleasure read. Don’t expect anything but that and you’ll be satisfied.

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

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One thing I can get behind is trying to get behind a label. When people see you as a geek/queer/jock/whatever, they see what those labels define, not the actual person beneath them. Once you fall into one, it’s branded on you until you do something drastic to change it.

How many of us wished we could just start over? Leave our old lives behind and be someone new? That’s what this book is about.

It’s also about the fact that you can’t. Making new friends doesn’t change who you are. Trying new activities doesn’t make you stop liking your old ones. You can always better yourself, but if you’re lying and repressing your true feelings then it’s not worth it.

Openly Straight was the kind of book that comes with a message, and it’s not afraid to show it. Not a ‘gay is ok’ message, but a ‘the only person who cares about your image is you’ message. How you see yourself is half of how others see you.

I have to say, I really enjoyed this book, the story is interesting and engaging and fun to read, but for some reason I couldn’t quite connect with the characters, aside from Ben. They all felt so judgmental. It didn’t matter which label they were on, they all judged others based on theirs. Even at the end, Rafe (the MC) has his revelations and still (subconsciously?) criticizes his ex-friends for being who they are. It was a bit off-putting. Still, Rafe did accept responsibility for his actions, and that’s what matters.

Overall, it’s a great book for teens, and I would recommend it to anyone struggling with self-identity, queer or not.

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

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I did not expect to love this book so much.

Modern day fairy tale retellings have a huge caveat for me. They either make it so the fairy tale never existed, which feels fake, or they make it too close to the original storyline (or its retellings) where it’s more eye-roll worthy than unique.

If I had to categorize, Geekerella was the latter, with the modernized name ‘Ella’ a staple in these kinds of stories, and yet it was still so fresh and wonderful and inspiring I would read a hundred more of these.

I could list all the ways I relate to her in terms of geekery and fandom, from my /played on WoW to my horde tattoo, but it’s so much more than that. It’s the comradery in the geek world that really made the book for me. When everyone came together at one part I teared up because that’s what it’s like to connect with people without ever knowing them.

This book was a fun and adorable read, and if you’re geeky and looking for something short and sweet this is perfect.

Thanks to Netgalley for giving me this ARC!

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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Sometimes you read a book, and you wonder ‘why did I wait so long?’ Because it’s So. Freaking. Good.

That’s how I felt about Ready Player One.

Maybe I’m biased, because a small part of me lives in World of Warcraft (though there was a time when all of me did, much like the book). Wade’s feelings were a mirror of my own on so many levels, from friendships to anxiety to the sense of belonging in the virtual world more than the real one.

And who is to say what’s real and what isn’t? The people are real. The excitement over finally killing a raid boss is real. The memories of playing are real. As John Lennon (and many others) have said, Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

They may be just pixels on a screen but we are all just atoms in the universe. 

Anyway, back to the book.

Since I grew up in Russia I didn’t get most of the 80’s references, so for me it wasn’t as a trip down memory lane as for most people reading this book. ‘Nostalgia-porn’ as other reviewers seem to call it. I had to piece together a lot of it from my pop culture studies and teenage years in the anime club. Still, I enjoyed everything from start to finish. I truly did not want to put this book down. It made me wish Blizzard did a scavenger hunt in WoW, but at the same time it would just be datamined so it probably wouldn’t work. Still, maybe a live hunt, where you had to find a dev in game in a certain amount of time and then get a clue to the next place. That would be awesome. No million dollar reward needed.

I truly loved this book and boy was I ecstatic when I found out they were making a movie! /dance

So if you like MMOs you will probably enjoy this, even if you haven’t grown up in the 80s or in English-speaking countries.

Death’s Mistress: Sister of Darkness: The Nicci Chronicles by Terry Goodkind

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I’m not going to lie. I was scared to pick this up after Nest. However, I haven’t missed a Goodkind book yet and I wanted to give it a chance, if to prove myself wrong.

While reading Nest, I questioned whether I was remembering the incredible writing in Sword of Truth correctly, or if it’s always been the plain and expository style and I just didn’t see it behind the veil of my youth. It genuinely scared me.

So when I picked up Death’s Mistress, I began to read with a certain tightness in my chest. Did the illusion break after Nest? Will I find it dull and boring?

The first page answered with a loud, resounding no.

From just the first page, all my fears had vanished and I was immersed into a world of magic and fantasy. I walked along Nicci and Nathan on the skull graveyard, going to see Red the witch. I breathed the air and listened to the crows. God I love that world. I grew up in it. I lived in it. For some people, it’s The Lord of the Rings. For others it’s A Song of Ice and Fire. But for me, it is and has always been the Sword of Truth.

This book was dark and gritty at times but a far cry from the latest Richard and Kahlan series. It wasn’t all suffering and torture and death. It was a true epic adventure, told like episodes in a TV show, with familiar charismatic and likable characters. There were battles and magic and prophesy. And yes, there was death, but after the first few jabs in my chest I learned not to get too attached to anyone, and for good reason. There was no romance, and the book is better for it.

Let me confess something: I used to be a skimmer. I would skim pages upon pages of description because I wanted to get to the ‘good parts’ aka dialogue. My brain was already giving me all the imagery I needed.

But this book? All of it were the good parts. I read, in awe, the descriptions that Goodkind had written, guessing words I’d never heard of through context because if I looked them all up I would never have finished the book. And yet they flowed seamlessly, transporting me from my living room into the book. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer that I appreciated it all, but I could not stop being amazed. If you’re writing an epic fantasy and you need help with how to describe pretty much anything, this is the book to reference. Wow. Just wow.

Overall, I enjoyed the story, and I will definitely be picking up the next volume. I still wish we got a second Confessor book but I’ll take this too. There’s always a chance he’ll write it in the future.