The End of an Era - Kingdom of Ash Review

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: October 23rd, 2018
Pages: 984 (!!!!!)
Song: Left Behinds by Paris Blohm
Rating: 4 stars

The final battle is here.

Aelin Galathynius has vowed to save her people - but at a tremendous cost. Locked within an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will as she endures months of torture. The knowledge that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, but her resolve is unraveling with each passing day...

With Aelin captured, friends and allies are scattered to different fates. Some bonds will grow even deeper, with others will be severed forever. As destinies weave together at last, all must fight if Erilea is to have any hope of salvation. 

I've been dreading this moment for 5 years. 
I was a little late to the ToG game. I picked up this series as Heir of Fire came out back in 2014. And I have Christine Riccio to thank (also known as PolandBananasBooks on Youtube) because her review was the sole reason I picked up Throne of Glass. How I even knew of it in the first place. I hadn't yet created this blog, so I was out of the book world loop.
I was hooked from the first page. 
I have a soft spot for vivacious, sarcastic heroines. Rose Hathaway from the Vampire Academy  series was my first dip into it, which will always be my number one series. Those books own my heart and soul. But the second I finished ToG, Celaena came smashing her way into my heart as well. The only difference between the two series' is that I was only invested in a few of the characters from VA; the ToG world? I was invested in everybody. For as many flaws that the series has, Maas really knows how to write empathetic characters. Even the assholes. 
I was a fanatic for this series. The wait between Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows was absolute death for me. The longest year of my life, and once I got my hands on QoS, nothing stopped me from devouring it. 
I'm going to start spoiling, so shoo if you haven't read this series. And shame on you, really. 
I'm not going to get into it, because I don't want this to be long winded. I've accepted QoS as what it truly was: the end of Celaena, and the beginning of Aelin. And it was never the same after. Aelin wasn't the same. At the end of HoF, I had zero qualms about the narrator. Yes, she had accepted herself and was now going by Aelin, cool. I was pumped.
But there was something off. Something I still can't even put my finger on, but Aelin came across different. And I was devastated. Absolutely, heart-crushingly hysterical. 
It wasn't the same. And, as most of you know, it only got worse as Empire of Storms came out and SJM apparently decided to ditch the YA category entirely and jump to NA. Or maybe even Adult, if you want to push it. 
Kingdom of Ash only ripped the bandaid off that wound and proceeded to shred into it. REPEATEDLY. I thought I had cried enough in Queen of Shadows but oooooh no. I've never, in my entire life, cried as consistently as I did will reading a book. Once Aelin caught up with Chaol and Yrene, it was over. I was done. I cried the entire rest of the way through the book. I was heartbroken all over again cause these characters were so vastly different from what I had wanted them to be, but I was also happy that they were all coming together to save Erilea. To save Terrasen. 
The biggest shock though? The Thirteen. 
I did not think their deaths would hit me as hard as it did. That, and the ending, was when I sobbed. Just outright threw the book on the floor and buried my head under my sheets. That was one of the most beautiful scenes written in this series, the way the Thirteen had used the Yielding to destroy the Witch Tower. 
I rated KoA four stars. I docked the one star for my inner naive little self still wailing over the characters, but this book was a feat. Truly a magnificent, bloody ending.  SJM's writing, as always, is phenomenal. While bleak and heartbreaking, that's just the way war is. Did it feel like Lysandra and Aedion had been fighting THE ENTIRE FUCKING BOOK? Yes. (Because they were.) But you couldn't really expect anything else from Erawan and Morath. They wanted to crush them. SJM had to convey that, which she did. Over and over and over again. 
I was definitely surprised it took Aelin so long to get to Terrasen. I expected her to be there well before the last quarter of the book, but I guess that's just the suspense of it all, to really ram in the effect of Aelin finally going home. Stepping through the walls into Orynth itself. 
There was much less death than I thought. But I need to talk about Gavriel. 
One word.
It seemed so random, so pointless, to make him fight that hard to get back to Aedion, to only sacrifice himself for really no reason. They could've barricaded the wall and been just fine. It felt like Maas threw that in there last minute to tug some heart strings, but really it came across as unnecessary 
Everyone got their happy ending obviously, which makes me happy. But nothing made me quite as happy as LORD LORCAN LOCHAN. I will NEVER get over that. Those two were pretty damn close to winning it all for me. I don't know why. Maybe cause he was this gigantic, brooding, death-is-literally-flowing-through-my-veins man and this smol little feisty bean took one look at him and brought him to his knees. 
I'm going to cap this here before I ramble on. I'm sad to see these characters go (and the sarcastic jabs because I lived for those) and I am hoping SJM might pull a ACOTAR and write little novellas at some point. We'll see!

Thank you for reading. See you next time <3
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Tentative TBR for 2019

Monday, February 4, 2019

So, my goals for reading this year are drastically different from previous ones. Mostly because I don't have as much time to read anymore. If I'm not getting home late from work, eating dinner, and then immediately passing out on the bed, Chris and I have scheduled time to watch our favorite shows (currently obsessed with The Resident), or we're golfing, or I'm helping him with a side job, or we're hanging out with friends, etc.
You're probably thinking to yourself, "Bah, excuses, EXCUSES, BITCH." I wholeheartedly agree with you! But until I figure out a solid balance, my reading is sporadic and desperate at best. But! That doesn't mean I don't have a TBR list. I made 50 books my goal this year for the Goodreads Reading Challenge, and am dedicating all of 2019 to destroying my TBR pile. I'm embarrassed to say I have one that's been sitting on my shelf since 2014. And I'm not even going to say what it is because you might reach through your computer and smack me upside the head cause it's definitely one by Laini Taylor and I definitely REALLY LOVED THE FIRST BOOK, I DON'T KNOW WHAT MY PROBLEM IS, I'M SORRY.
So, without further ado, here are some of the books I'm looking forward to reading this year!

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

I'm emotional about Chaol for many, many reasons. Mostly because she turned my dream man into a sniveling, whiny brat and I hated it. That wasn't who he was, and I'm pretty sure she only did it so people would ship a certain main character with a certain male with face tattoos. But from the reviews, Chaol comes out fairly normal in this so I guess I'm okay.

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas

And obvious book to follow Tower of Dawn. I'm emotional just reading the damn synopsis, so I'm going to be hysterical and possibly comatose when I finish this. For as much as I hated how the story went and how the main character changed halfway throughout the series... This is my OG series. The first series to truly morph me into a rabid fangirl. It'll be a wild ride.

Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar

Since I will be in a state of absolute devastation from KoA, I figured this snarky romance would ease me through my mourning process. Here's a little blurb:

"It's all Girl meets Boy, Girl steals from Boy, seduces Boy, ties Boy to a chair and burns Boy's stuff. Just your typical love story.

A searingly honest and achingly funny story about love and sex amid the hotbed of university colleges by the award-winning author of Raw Blue."

Sounds amazing, right? YES.

Who's surprised? NO. ONE. I've been waiting for this moment ever since I finished Ruin and Rising one rainy night in December of 2014, absolutely crushed over what my poor Nikolai went through. At Yallwest, when Leigh was signing my Six of Crows book and asked who my favorite character was from that series, I blurted out "Nikolai." 
And she laughed really hard and said he wasn't in that series and I start blabbing about how he was too good for this world and he deserved his own series so he could have a happy ending, and I even got her damn friend who was standing next to her to back me up. So. I would like to formally take a small claim in thinking she wrote KoS because of me.
You're welcome. 

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Back in my Reading Dark Ages (that's what I'm calling my year and a half hiatus from the book world hehe), I still kept getting some kick ass book mail. I received this, but wasn't too keen because I had read Black's The Coldest Girl in Cold Town and wasn't super thrilled with it. So I didn't think much of The Cruel Prince until I jumped back into the book world and WOW WE'RE MY ASSUMPTIONS WRONG.
I read that this is like Game of Thrones? And some people don't like it because it's so vicious and dark???? Um... SIGN ME THE FUCK UP. 

The Winter People by Rebekah L. Purdy

This is a suuuuuper random book that's been on my TBR for over two years. As mixed as the reviews are, the synopsis keeps getting stuck in my head and intriguing me. It's about this girl who fears winter time, and the cold, because of something that happened to her as a child. I know there are faeries involved, and honestly I love the idea of creepy faeries. So I'm going to give this a go.

I will definitely be reading waaaay more books, but these are ones I have on hand that I plan on reading immediately. Since I was so out of the loop, I have zero idea of what's coming out in 2019, so most of my TBR are books dating from 2018 and before. 
So! Tell me what books you're most excited to read this year. Any new releases I should keep an eye out for?
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Did I fall off the face of the Earth? Sort of

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Hi guys.

Honestly, I don't even know where to start this post. I'm surprised I'm even writing this because I thought I was done with the book world forever. That sounds a little dramatic, but it's true.
Up until 5 days ago, I hadn't picked up a YA fantasy (or really any book) in a year and 8 months.
A year. And 8 months.

Yeah. You read that right.

Writing this post is kind of a slap of reality to the face because I don't even know what happened. People can get busy and reading can be put on the back burner. Everyone goes through it. But I almost turned away from it completely. The idea almost made me anxious, the notion that I used to read and blog and take all these pictures of books. It was a whole side of me that just shut down.
So for anyone reading this who wants the short version of the story: I took a break from the book-world, and two months later life got in the way. And it's only just now starting to calm down.
I have no idea if I'm going to really jump back into all of this. The idea has been nagging at me more and more lately. I miss my fan girl side. It was my passion in life. But I think this is a good start, right? (If I even post this, lol.)

Anyways, if any of you beautiful souls out there want more details of what happened and what I've been up to this past year and a half-ish, keep on reading.


I would like to say it all started when I accepted a position at a media production company as an administrative assistant, but looking back on it, my anti-book mindset starting creeping in two months before that.
It wasn't a sudden change. There was no catalytic moment that made me suddenly turn my back on reading. I think I just got a little tired of it all. I had been actively reading and blogging and basically drowning myself in everything book-related for two years. Some people don't need to come up for air. But I did. It started to become monotonous for me, the same wave of emails coming in, the same books I got in the mail, the same posts I had on Instagram and on this blog. I'm sure most of you understand, so I don't really need to explain this.
So, I decided to take a break.
I started making more time for my friends and family. I threw myself completely into my job, which I loved with a passion. I started thinking about my future more and what I wanted to do. I had turned 21 that year and stared going out more. I was just living life, ya know?
I accepted the position at the media production company, and then it was a balance to juggle my work and social life. Reading was so far out of the question it wasn't even funny.
And in the middle of all that, I started talking to the love of my life. He was a golfer at the country club I worked at, so I knew him for quite a while before that fateful day where I friend requested him on Instagram and he immediately slid into my DM's. (Babe, if you're reading this, you can deny it all you want but that's exactly how it went.)
We're engaged now, and we get married on May 18th of this year. He's my best friend and soulmate. I knew those things even before we started dating, and he pushes me to be the best version of myself and to never stop fighting for my dreams.
During our whirlwind romance I quit those two jobs to pursue something in the event coordination field, but it fell through. I didn't have a job for a while, and that was probably one of the darkest times of my life. My anxiety and depression were so bad that I probably cried more in those 4 months than I did in my entire life. I kind of lost myself for a little there and poor Chris went through a lot during that time. But he stuck by my side and was my lifeline.
I found a job in March. Once I got back into the rhythm of that, I was able to deal with my anxiety, which I realized fed off me not having any purpose in my life. And in the past couple months, as life finally slowed down, I started to think back to a time when one of my purposes, one of my passions, was reading.
And here we are now. Slightly nervous, slightly excited, my mind still on the first few chapters of A Court of Thorns and Roses that I started over the weekend (because what better way to jump back into reading than with a SJM novel?).

Update: I wrote this post back in December of last year, and I just finished A Court of Frost and Starlight. I'm not sure if I'll write up a review of ACOMAF and ACOFAS, but I might. We'll see. Next up? More SJM, duh. She's finished the ToG series and I NEED to finish it. I think I'm going to dedicate 2019 to finishing all the series' on my shelves, like Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor and The Illuminae File by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kauffman.

So, my friends, here's to the new year and (hopefully) the return of bookworm Mariah.
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Blog tour: Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse music playlist!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 7th, 2017
Pages: 336
Rating: 4 stars

Sophia has seven days left in Tokyo before she moves back to the States. Seven days to say good-bye to the electric city, her wild best friend, and the boy she's harbored a semi-crush on for years. Seven perfect days... until Jamie Foster-Collins moves back to Japan and ruins everything.
Jamie and Sophia have a history of heartbreak, and the last thing Sophia wants is for him to steal her leaving thunder with his stupid arriving thunder. Yet as the week counts down, the relationships she thought were stable begin to explode around her. And Jamie is the one who helps her pick up the pieces. Sophia is forced to admit she may have misjudged Jamie, but can their seven short days of Tokyo adventures end in anything but good-bye?

Hi guys! So, you're probably a little confused as to why I had to repost this. There was an issue with the distribution of ARC's for the tour, so The Fantastic Flying Book Club had to postpone the blog tour for two weeks so the reviewers could read it. But we're back! I'm so excited to be a part of the Seven Days of You blog tour. I read this at the end of 2016 and thought it was SO freaking cute. It was funny, relatable, and light, the perfect book to read if you're in the mood for something easy, or need to be yanked out of a book slump. You can read my short review here on Goodreads. But I'm not here to review it -- I'm here to show you my playlist for it :)

(Pretend Welcome to New York is Welcome To Tokyo instead because IT WOULD BE SO PERFECT.)

About the author
I was born in France but then moved to Japan. And then to the States. And then back to Japan. And then back to the States. When I was 18, I moved to New York where I was homesick for nearly seven years. After that, I got a job in a cold, snowy city in northern Japan and, from there, I headed to Scotland where I got my master's in creative writing and lived off tea, writer tears, and Hobnobs.

I still live in the U.K. and spend most of my time writing, reading, baking, and getting emotional over Tori Amos albums. Hobbies include pretending Buffy the Vampire Slayer is real, collecting a lipstick to match every Skittle flavor, and listening to a thousand podcasts a day.

A pup named Malfi and a Renaissancist named Rachel are my favorite things in the world. That, and books. I should probably mention the books again.

Follow the tour!

3/2: Never Too Many To Read - Guest Post
3/2: Vibin With Books - Playlist
3/2: Defiantly Deviant - Review

3/3: Feed Your Fiction Addiction - Guest Post
3/3: A Thousand Words A Million Books - Review + Favorite Books
3/3: Collector of Book Boyfriends - Promotional Post

3/4: Reading To Unwind - Review
3/4: Here's To Happy Endings - Review
3/4: Once Upon a Twilight - Promotional Post

3/5: The Bookish Angel - Guest Post
3/5: Literary Meanderings - Interview
3/5: Her Book Thoughts - Review + Playlist

3/6: Zerina Blossom's Books - Review + Favorite Quote
3/6: Library of a Book Witch - Review
3/6: YA Obsessed - Review

3/7: Reading for the Stars and Moon - Review + Dream Cast

3/7: Eli to the nth - Review + Favorite Quotes
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Interview with Jus Accardo, author of Touch!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Hi guys! Today I had the amaaaaaazing opportunity to interview Jus Accardo, the author of several fantastic paranormal/sci-fi books (you can read my rabid fangirl review of her most recent novel, Infinity, here!)

Hi Jus! Thank you for joining me on Vibin With Books today. First, I just wanted to say that I loved Touch. I though it was a fantastic and intriguing look on supernatural powers. Where did you find your inspiration for the powers, and what kind of research did you do for Denazen Corporation?

*waves* Thanks for having me!

I’ve always been a huge fan of stories revolving around people with extra ordinary abilities. Just the idea of someone getting to do more. Be more. When you have abilities like that, there’s just so much potential. The inspiration was everywhere. It was like just looking around and thinking, huh. How cool would it be if that person could fly/change shape/hear thoughts/control elements. On the other side of that though, the not so cool aspects were just as intriguing. Take Kale for example. While other people can do all these amazing things, his ability has always been this blackness hanging over his head.
I can’t say that I did any real research. The whole book kind of unfolded very suddenly and without any kind of plan. I went into it taking part in a 30 day boot camp thing and had no expectations. Hell, I really only came up with the basic idea a day or so before I started writing it. Written, edited, and submitted to agents all within the 2 month mark. It was one of the craziest, most fun things I’ve ever worked on!

Did the characters come to you easily or did you have to root around for some of them?

For Touch (for most of my books, really), the characters were actually the first thing that came to me. My first thought of the book revolved around a girl that was running through the woods. She was bare foot and everywhere that her feet and hands touched, turned to dust. From there it all rolled right along. They basically created themselves!

What’s your writing process like? Has it differed since writing Touch?

When I wrote Touch my life was a lot simpler. It was before my mom got sick, and I could sit down and just word vomit until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore—and I loved every minute of it. I was a hardcore pantster, which made for more complicated edits, but it worked for me at the time. Now though, I find that I need to plan things out more. Granted I’ll never be considered a plotter. If I tried to outline an entire book, my head might explode. But some amount of planning needs to happen because of time restrictions. At the very least, I have to the basic idea mapped out, as well as several of the major plot points. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was actually a huge adjustment for me since I was used to just spinning it all out as I went along.

Since Touch (which came out in 2011), you’ve written 10 books and 2 novellas. That’s absolutely incredible and mind-boggling. How have you kept everything organized? And how much coffee did you consume to accomplish that? Because I probably would’ve hooked up a coffee IV line to myself after the 3rd book!

I go through 3 to 4 pots of coffee most days. ;) As for organization, I’m NOT an organized person. I have notes everywhere. Scraps of paper, backs of notebooks…sticky notes. MY GOD the sticky notes… But, the chaos works for me, ya know? I think if I tried to do it any other way, I’d be lost.

I’ve noticed that all of your work has elements of paranormal, sci-fi, or crime-related mystery. Have you always loved writing the darker aspect of stories? Do you ever see yourself writing a contemporary?

I love the darker stuff. That’s pretty much where my heart lives ;) I do have a few contemp ideas—one in particular—that I’d love to explore if my schedule allows. Probably not this year, but I’m hoping next!

Who’re some of your favorite authors?

Darynda Jones, Jeri Smith-Ready, Sarah J Maas, Marissa Meyer… There are SO many! 

And finally, can you tell us what you’re currently working on?

I’m currently working on edits for Omega, book #2 in the Infinity Division series, as well as writing book three of the same series. I’m also working on a super-secret sci-fi project that I hope to share news about soon!

Thank you so much for letting me poke at your brain a little, Jus!

About the author
Jus Accardo spent her childhood reading and learning to cook. Determined to follow in her grandfather's footsteps as a chef, she applied and was accepted to the Culinary Institute of America. But at the last minute, she realized her true path lay with fiction, not food.
Jus is the bestselling author of the popular Denazen series from Entangled publishing, as well as the Darker Agency series, and the New Adult series, The Eternal Balance. A native New Yorker, she lives in the middle of nowhere with her husband, three dogs, and sometimes guard bear, Oswald.

Goodreads / Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

The Books

Touch (Denazen, #1) 
  When a strange boy tumbles down a river embankment and lands at her feet, seventeen-year-old adrenaline junkie Deznee Cross snatches the opportunity to piss off her father by bringing the mysterious hottie with ice blue eyes home.
   Except there’s something off with Kale. He wears her shoes in the shower, is overly fascinated with things like DVDs and vases, and acts like she’ll turn to dust if he touches her. It’s not until Dez’s father shows up, wielding a gun and knowing more about Kale than he should, that Dez realizes there’s more to this boy—and her father’s “law firm”—than she realized.
   Kale has been a prisoner of Denazen Corporation—an organization devoted to collecting “special” kids known as Sixes and using them as weapons—his entire life. And, oh yeah, his touch? It kills. The two team up with a group of rogue Sixes hellbent on taking down Denazen before they’re caught and her father discovers the biggest secret of all. A secret Dez has spent her life keeping safe.

A secret Kale will kill to protect.

Hell is looking for a way to break loose...

Jax lost the genetic lottery. Descended from Cain, the world's first murderer, he's plagued by a curse that demands violence in exchange for his happiness. He left everything behind, including the girl he loved, but thriving on the pain of others is lonely… And it's killing him.
After a series of heartbreaking losses, Samantha put rubber to pavement and headed for college as fast as her clunker could carry her. But she can't outrun her problems. When an attack at school drives her back home, she's thrown into the path of a past—and a guy—she's been trying to forget.
Sam strains Jax's control over his darkness, but running isn't an option this time. Someone—or, something—followed her home from school: a ruthless monster with a twisted plan centuries in the making. Forced together to survive, and fighting an attraction that could destroy them both, Jax and Sam must stop a killer bent on revenge.

A little sin can be deadly...

   Jessie Darker goes to high school during the day, but at night she helps with the family investigation business. Cheating husbands and stolen inheritances? They're your girls—but their specialty is a bit darker. Zombie in your garage? Pesky Poltergeist living in your pool? They'll have the problem solved in a magical minute. For a nominal fee, of course...
   When gorgeous new client Lukas Scott saunters into the office requesting their help to find a stolen box, it sounds like a simple case—until the truth comes out. The box is full of Sin.

Seven deadly ones, in fact.

They've got five days to recapture the Sins before they're recalled by the box, taking seven hijacked human bodies with them. Easy peasy—except for one thing...
There's a spell that will allow the Sins to remain free, causing chaos forever. When the key ingredient threatens the life of someone she knows, Jessie must make the ultimate choice between love and family—or lose everything. (The Infinity Division, #1)
Nobody said being the daughter of an army general was easy. But when her dad sends a teenage subordinate to babysit her while he’s away… That’s taking it a step too far.
Cade, as beautiful as he is deadly, watches Kori with more than just interest. He looks at her like he knows her very soul. And when he saves her from a seemingly random attack, well, that’s when things get weird.
Turns out, Kori’s dad isn’t just an army general—he’s the head of a secret government project that has invented a way to travel between parallel dimensions. Dimensions where there are infinite Koris, infinite Cades…and apparently, on every other Earth, they’re madly in love.
Falling for a soldier is the last thing on Kori’s mind. Especially when she finds herself in a deadly crossfire, and someone from another Earth is hell-bent on revenge… of Survival
If you want to survive, you have to follow the rules…

   Mikayla Morgan is wanted for her mother's murder. She's been on the run for almost a year now, avoiding not only the police but the real killer. Tired of running and desperate to clear her name, she breaks one of the most sacred rules: never return to the scene of the crime.
   Every bounty hunter on the Eastern Seaboard is after the Morgan girl—but Shaun Denver and his partner snagged her. She's a piece of work, and Shaun can't decide if he wants to kiss her or kill her. When things take a sharp turn south, Shaun does the only thing he can think of to keep her close—he handcuffs them together.
   As the danger mounts and the killer closes in, the chemistry between them threatens to explode. Shaun and Kayla will need to break all the rules if they hope to get out of this alive.

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Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: May 26th, 2015
Pages: 445
Song I Played While Reading: Lady Wood by Tove Lo
Rating: 5 stars

   Seventeen-year-old Emily likes her life the way it is: doting parents, good friends, good school in a safe neighborhood. Sure, she's curious about her biological father -- the one who chose life in a motorcycle club, the Reign of Terror, over being a parent -- but that doesn't mean she wants to be a part of his world. But when a reluctant visit turns into an extended summer vacation among relatives she never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father, and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understood them both.
   Oz wants one thing: to join the Reign of Terror. They're the good guys. They protect people. They're... family. And while Emily -- the gorgeous and sheltered daughter of the clubs most respected member -- is in town, he's gonna prove it to her. So when her father asks him to keep her safe from a rival club with a score to settle, Oz knows it's his shot at his dreams. What he doesn't count on is that Emily just might turn that dream upside down.
No one wants them to be together. But sometimes the right person is the one you least expect, and the road you fear the most is the one that leads you home. 

They're certain books that you just know you're gonna love. The ones where you read the synopsis, and instantly smash the buy button (or throw the book at the lady at the register). It has all the clues in the summary, and for me, Nowhere But Here had exactly 3 things in it that I knew I was going to love: a motorcycle gang with a heavy focus on family, Emily's father telling Oz to keep her safe from a rivaling gang, and these ~secrets~.
And fuck me if I wasn't right. This book KILLED ME. Seriously, the last book to pull such a reaction out of me as I flipped the final page was Crooked Kingdom back in November. I was absolutely devastated, even though it had a happy ending. Do you guys ever have that?
I don't think I was prepared for the amount of emotion McGarry wove into her story. It was shockingly poignant. I was expecting a relatively froo froo storyline, and instead I got sucker punched in the gut with the raw emotions, an intense, slow-burning romance, and devastating family dynamics.
I've never read a book about a motorcycle gang before. I've never talked to someone in one (that I know of), or even been around one. I've seen them briefly in passing when I was driving cross-country with my mom to California, but that was about it. So this was a new experience for me, and I can happily say that not only was it intriguing, but I'm ready to meet a gorgeous biker boy of my own and settle down with him.
Like, now, please.
The Reign of Terror are a clean-cut biker gang. They're ride or die. (Hehe.) The brotherhood is sacred, and they value honesty and integrity. I don't know about most biker gangs, but I was impressed that they didn't deal in any shady side businesses. It would be easy to, since most people are scared of them and cops in small towns like Snowflake, Kentucky, don't want to deal with 'em. But the Terror didn't, and I instantly respected all of them, Oz included. He was head-strong and loyal, always ready to help a brother or family member out. There was nothing he wouldn't do for them, and it basically had me in tears the entire time. (In case you didn't know, a protective and loyal guy is My Thing™.) I was a little more iffy on Emily, however. She could be my only complaint of Nowhere But Here because she could be... conservative, I guess you could say, on certain things. It wasn't everything, thank god, but she would be really nit picky and judgy on things, like if Oz had a gun on him (for protective purposes, I might add), or the bras that were nailed to the wall in the clubhouse. I'm a relatively laid back person, and that sort of stuff doesn't bother me. In fact, I think I would fit damn well in their world. I liked the dark, wilder side of the clubhouse, and wouldn't have minded my shot at getting my bra nailed to the wall or taking part in the wet t-shirt contest. It bothers me when someone walks into another persons home (or clubhouse, if we're being specific here) and judges them for what they do and how they act. It's their place. They can do whatever the hell they want, and you can leave if you don't like it.
Even though she irritated me, I couldn't deny the scorching sexual tension between her and Oz. I would literally start to sweat while reading about them. McGarry's writing, while somewhat cliche at times, was meticulous and enthralling. I felt like I was right there with Emily and Oz in the woods, or with Olivia in her log cabin.
What really made Nowhere But Here stand out was its side characters. There was a lot, and at first, it was a little hard to keep up. There was Eli, Olivia, Cyrus, Izzy, Razor, Violet, Chevy,  Jeff... I was tripping over names left and right for the first quarter of the book. But once I got the hang of who was who, I slipped easily in this messy, chaotic, beautiful family. Unearthing all the secrets of the McKinley family was painful and tender, twining a story of unshakable love and devastating loss.
Give this one a try, fam. I think you'll like it.

"This club is legit and it will say legit. You are legit. Do you understand?"
"I got it. I'm clean. The club's clean. We're so jacked up on suds that we squeak when we walk."

"My gaze immediately hits Olivia. She presses a hand to her heart, like she did when she lowered herself to my height and explained that it was time for me to go live with Mom and Dad. Just like she did when she wiped my tears away and explained that this would always be my home. That I would always be her family.
Ten years later and when I tell someone I'm coming home, it's not to the trailer down the way, it's to here. Olivia is my home."

"After I tell you, though," Oz hedges. "I want you to promise me something."
"That you'll leave here for a few minutes. Eat. Rest. Talk with your dad."
Panic cramp my stomach at the idea of leaving Eli. "I don't know."
Oz's arms create a protective shelter. "I want you to trust me to watch Eli while you take a break. Trust me to chase your monsters away."
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My (extremely late) 2016 end of year book survey!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Okay, wow, SORRY THIS IS SO LATE. January was crazy busy, plus my mental health was on the rocks again, so I really didn't have time to do this until the wee end of the month. The lovely Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner created this end of year book survey and I loved doing it last year, so I jumped on board again this year :) 
Number of books I read: 81
Number of re-reads: 0
Genre you read the most from: 

Best book you read in 2016?
It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover. Not only did this leave me a sobbing mess at the end, but it, once again, proved that CoHo is a wordsmith. Her writing is searing and honest, and it never fails to resonate with me.

Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn't?
Caraval by Stephanie Garber. There was sooo much awesome hype for this, but I was disappointed. I really enjoyed the plot and Scarlett's overall character arc, but for most of the book she was so strict in her beliefs. She was incredibly dull. I felt like I was reading the entire book through a lens; it was almost good, but not quite there.

Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2016?
The Rift Uprising by Amy S. Foster! Even though the mc could be a little stiff at times, I was shocked at how thought-provoking this was. I summed my feelings up perfectly in my Goodreads review:

Book you "pushed" the most people to read (and they did) in 2016?
Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas! I frequently shout on Instagram that people should read this book or that, but Dangerous Girls was the one book that I pushed on my friends and they actually read it.

Best series you started in 2016? Best sequal? Best series ender?
Best series I started was hands down The Graces by Laure Eve. I was enthralled in Rain's story from beginning to end. Best sequel (this is technically a series ender, but it's a duology, so fight me) was The Mirror King by Jodi Meadows. One of my favorite scenes in a fantasy book EVER is in this masterpiece, and it still makes me laugh hysterically to this day. And finally, the best series ender was Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. This sucker-punched me in the gut and shredded my heart, but I would gladly go through it all over again just to relive the feels.

Favorite new author you discovered in 2016?
Julie Buxbaum! Her YA debut, Tell Me Three Things, was poignant, tender, and heart-warming, finding room on my all-time favorites shelf. I absolutely loved it, and I'm eagerly anticipating her next novel that comes out in 2017.

Best book from a genre you don't typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
I don't read that many YA crime novels because I feel like they're usually lacking that thrill that I get from reading adult crime books. There's a certain line you can't really cross in YA, but Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas knocked it out of the park. She toed the line, delving into the complicated and tumultuous relationships between girls in high school. It was dark, electrifying, and sexy. I absolutely loved it.

Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas. I have an extremely complicated relationship with this series, but I can't deny that SJM can whip out books that are bursting with action and suspense (also, slight fae porn.) Especially when it comes to Aelin, who always has something up her sleeve.

Book you read in 2016 that you are most likely to re-read next year?
This is a hard question, because I re-read a book, or a series, if the final book is coming out. For example, I'll be re-reading Frostblood by Elly Blake in preparation for the final book. (It's only a duology.) But I'm assuming this question means a book you loved so much that you want to re-read it again. I'm going to cheat and give two books: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, which is the bet rom-com I've ever read in my entire damn life, and After The Fall by Kate Hart, which I finished this month and still am buzzing about. It was incredible.

Favorite cover of a book you read in 2016?
I'm cheating again, SORRY: After The Fall by Kate Hart and Crooked Kingdom by Queen Bardugo. I couldn't pick between the two, because they're both absolutely stunning in two very different ways.


Most memorable character?
Lucy Hutton from The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. Unless you've read the book, you don't understand how truly weird she is. She's me. I'm her. That's all I can say, folks. 

Most beautifully written book?
It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover. Her writing is truly unlike anything I've ever read before. 

Most thought-provoking/life-changing book?
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. This was an eye-opening book about what it's like to truly be an introvert. Thanks to my mom, I learned pretty early on what an introvert was, but Cain named off examples of things that I truly thought I had only experience before. I realized, however, that I wasn't an introvert, and was a mix of an introvert and an extrovert: an ambivert. So that was pretty eye-opening. 

Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read?
The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler. Oh my gawwwwwd this book, you guys. I read, and fell deeply in love with, Twenty Boy Summer in middle school. (I even got all of my friends to read it!!! I was so proud.) But if I loved it so much, why did it take me 8 years to read her other work? I have no fucking idea. But The Summer of Chasing Mermaids didn't disappoint. At all. It's now a new all-time favorite. 

Favorite passage/quote?
"I have been made to protect you. Even in death, I will find a way."


Shortest and longest book you've read this year?
The shortest was a novella from Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy: Pale Kings and Princes, which was 40 pages. The longest was Empire of Storms by SJM at a whopping 701 pages. Give me any other author and that would probably take me years to read, yet I finished EoS in 3 days.

Book that shocked you the most?
This is a tie between After The Fall by Kate Hart and The Mirror King by Jodi Meadows. After The Fall had such a sudden heartbreaking plot twist that I was in denial for like, 50 pages, and cried my eyes out, while The Mirror King has THE BEST scene in the entire world at a certain wedding and I still can't believe Meadows did that. It's so juicy.


Favorite non-romantic relationship of the year
Honestly, none. A brotp hasn't stuck out to me this year. Nothing as legendary Juliette and Kenji from Shatter Me, or Celaena and Rowan in HoF.

Favorite book you read in 2016 from an author you've read previously?
The Problem With Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout. I LOVED her Lux series, and TPWF didn't disappoint. I swear, Armentrout and SJM have a literal gift for writing swoon-worthy guys. It's crazy.

Best book you read in 2016 that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else/peer pressure?
Dreamology by Lucy Keating! I read Brittany's review on it and immediately added it to me TBR list, then signed up for the blog tour. If I hadn't seen her review, I highly doubt I would've read, and loved, it.

Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2016?
Motherfucking Rhysand from A Court of Mist and Fury. How much do you want to bet that he'll be the answer to this question on most people's post for 2016?

Best 2016 debut?
Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn. This was such an astonishingly important book. It deals with safe sex, cheating, assault, bullying, and slut-shaming in a raw and realistic way. We need more books like this, guys. It's so, so incredibly important to show readers a reliable MC who enjoys sex. We need to get uncomfortable with the idea that girls are bullied for doing things a guy gets congratulated on. It's utter bullshit, and I love how Flynn explores this topic in Firsts.

Best world-building/most vivid setting your read this year?
Crooked Kingdom. Just... this was everything. I can't elaborate on that, except to throw CK at your head and tell you to read it.

Book that put a smile on your face/was the most FUN to read?
The Hating Game. Not to sound like a used record, but seriously, nothing was as light-hearted and fun as this damn book. At least not in comparison to anything else I read this year.

Book that made you cry, or nearly cry?
Crooked Kingdom, It Ends With Us, After The Fall, Empire of Storms, A Court of Mist and Fury, Tell Me Three Things, Second Chance Summer ... SHALL I GO ON? My empathy will be the death of me. A book doesn't even need to be sad to make me cry, someone could just be really fucking funny and I'll start wailing.  I don't understand it either.

Hidden gem of the year?
Cherry by Lindsey Rosin. I've seen few people talk about this, and think EVERYONE should at least give this a shot. A trend I noticed in 2016 was YA sex-positive contemporaries. Granted, there weren't that many, but they started popping up noticeably, and I think this is such an important topic for teens. Saving your virginity for a serious relationship is totally fine, and that's depicted a lot in YA. But what's also totally okay is casual sex, and I think it's important for everyone to know that. Girls are held to such a ridiculously high-standard in todays day and age, and I want to rip that fucking thing to pieces. (This topic always gets me heated, and I wanted to quickly throw out another book dealing with this topic: Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn. 1000000/10 would recommend!)

Book that crushed your soul?
It Ends With Us and Crooked Kingdom. V HEARTBREAKING. MUCH HURT.

Most unique book you read in 2016?
I don't want to spoil what made A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz so insanely cool... so I'm not. Instead, feast your eyes on my Goodreads review:

Book that made you the most mad (doesn't necessarily mean you didn't like it)?
Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. The mc, Taylor, in the beginning of the story really struggled with confronting her demons and standing up for herself, and I found it really irritating at times. While I can relate on a certain level (I hate confrontation 80% of the time), Taylor really gave a whole new definition of running away from your problems.

New favorite book blog you discovered in 2016?
Grace from Words Like Silver! I stumbled upon her Twitter when I was looking for bookish people to follow (my handle is @vibinwithbooks if anyone was interested), and I was immediately in awe of her writing and how much she had already accomplished in her 18 years of existence. Her reviews are in-depth and absolutely flawless.

Favorite review you wrote?
My favorite review can barely be considered a review, because I basically said, "I don't want to spoil anything, so get the fuck up and read this yourself. IT'S INCREDIBLE." That was for The Graces by Laure Eve, which I read in a single sitting and now bow down to whenever I see it on my shelf. 

Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?
Oh my gosh, definitely my "Holy crap, I'm writing a book" post! Two stories came to me this year, and I finally hunkered down and started researching both of them. I've never had this much interest in any of my ideas before, so I took that as a good sign that this is legit, and whipped up a post about it. I added some helpful links that I had been using, like a world-building questionnaire for fantasy stories, and got so many positive responses to it.

Best event that you participated in (author signings, festival, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
I, Mariah Smith, went to THE Holy Grail of all book events: BEA, aka Book Expo of America. They hosted it in Chicago, the love of my life and my hometown, and if that wasn't a sign from above to go, then I don't know what was. I persuaded my mom to come with me to be my wingman, and we (or at least I), had an absolute blast. I wrote a whole post about it, recanting all the people I met (Leigh Bardugo! Jennifer L. Armentrout! The Booksplosion trio!) and all the fabulous books I got. This is definitely something to go to at least once in your life.

Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?
This is a little more personal than the question entails, but since it was, and still is, affecting my blogging and reading life, I thought I would mention it. I've been struggling heavily with anxiety since the end of August. I've never had this issue before, so I have no idea what caused it, but it got bad enough that I had to drop my classes because I couldn't keep up with the workload and couldn't be around all those strangers. It felt like someone was stuffing bees into my head and body, and the more people I was around, the louder they got, until I felt like screaming. Throw in some panic attacks (which, again, I've never had before) and this overwhelming feeling of absolute dread and fear that I'll never finish school, and I was basically falling apart. I told that to someone, and I almost started laughing and crying hysterically because it had never been so terrifying true before. BUT, fear not, I'm a (little) better, and my mom and I have kind of rooted out what causes my anxiety to rear its ugly head. So, it's a process. I'm getting there. Good vibes, yo.

Most popular post this year on your blog?
Randomly enough, my review of The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee.  I have no idea why, because I didn't do anything special with it, but that's gotten the most views. A close second is my book writing post. 

Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
Oh dear god, definitely the books for trade hashtag on Twitter. It's simplicity is what is really amazing -- you just trade books that you don't want for books that you do. It's that damn simple. (Also, I've been slowly gathering some major unicorns, and am almost ready to unleash them on the world to finally get my SJM ARC's. My heart, body, and soul are ready.)

Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of the year?
Yes! Thanks to listening to Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan, which was split up into novellas for the audio book (and Goodreads counts as individual books) I was almost 16 books ahead of schedule at one point. It was glorious.

One book you didn't get to in 2016 but will be your number priority in 2017?
There were a loooooot of books that I wanted to finish in 2016 (namely, my entire TBR), but... it grew instead. I wholeheartedly blame BEA for that.

Book you are most anticipating for 2017 (non-debut)?
Definitely Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo. And The Ends of the World by Maggie Hall. And Terra by A.C. Vaughn. And Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios. And A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas. *starts to sweat* Don't make me choose. Please.

2017 debut you are most anticipating?
A Shiver of Snow and Sky by Lissa Leuddecke! I randomly saw Scholastic tweeting about this, and immediately was intrigued by the summary on Goodreads:

Red, red, the lights glow red
Beware the dangers up ahead…

On the frozen island of Skane, the sky speaks. Beautiful lights appear on clear nights, and their colours have meaning: Green means all is well, and the Goddess is happy. Blue means a snow storm is on the way.
And then there’s red. Red is rare. A warning.
Seventeen years ago, the sky turned red just as Ósa was born, unleashing a plague that claimed the lives of hundreds of villagers, including her own mother. This time, when the night sky once again bleeds crimson, she must discover what it means before so many lives are lost again.

Sounds insanely cool, right? Sign me the fuck up.

Series ending/sequel you are most anticipating?
Kings Cage by Victoria Aveyard. I have a hard time connecting to Mare, but I'm so invested in Cal and Maven's story that I need to know what happens to my beautiful boy-king and his brooding brother. And Aveyard is kind of ruthless, so I'm curious to see how much blood will be shed in this third installment.

One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging life?
I possibly want to re-do my blog design. I'm not sure yet, because that's such a staple on who I am and I have business cards printed out and everything... but it's been bugging me. I also want to get graphics done for my posts, and take another book picture. And for my reading goal, I'm crossing my fingers that I'll crush half my TBR. My ultimate goal is to see the entire shelf empty, but that's pushing it. So I'll stick with reading half of it. 

A 2017 release you've already read and recommend to everyone: Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott! Ohhhhh my gosh did I love this. It has everything: a slow-burning romance, action, fantastical-elements, WILSON (something you didn't realize you needed until you finished this book), an entertainment house, a sweet friendship, swearing, and some elements of PTSD/over coming emotional abuse. This comes out in May! I leave you with the mysterious summary:

DOMINO: A runaway with blood on her hands.

CAIN: A silent boy about to explode.

MADAM KARINA: A woman who demands obedience.

WILSON: The one who will destroy them all.

When Madam Karina discovers Domino in an alleyway, she offers her a position inside her home for entertainers in secluded West Texas. Left with few alternatives and an agenda of her own, Domino accepts. It isn’t long before she is fighting her way up the ranks to gain the madam’s approval. But after suffering weeks of bullying and unearthing the madam’s secrets, Domino decides to leave. It’ll be harder than she thinks, though, because the madam doesn’t like to lose inventory. But then, Madam Karina doesn’t know about the person living inside Domino’s mind. 

Madam Karina doesn’t know about Wilson.

*sobs* I just loved Wilson so much, I NEED MORE OF WILSON IN MY LIFE, VICTORIA.

Okay, holy shit, it's done. I've finally finished this end of year survey (late, I know, I'M SORRY). Link me to your 2016 posts! I would love to see what your favorite books were, and if Crooked Kingdom broke you as bad as it broke me :)))))))
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