It’s Grace here, to discuss one of the things in book world I can never get away from. Curating reads online means that I follow a ton of other bloggers and ‘grammers who read the latest and greatest hits.
I’ve always seen my niche as highlighting the smaller books, the ones that are phenomenally written but don’t get as much love because they might focus on quieter stories that have a lot of humanity in them. Very much so an advocate for those titles.
But, I do succumb to the hype. There are many I give a wide berth to, simply because I know they’re not my taste. If you’ve been on here long, you know that most high fantasy blends together for me. But there are some that just blew my mind. Here, I’m going to talk about some of the nuances of five of each.
For the record, I also like to think of my blog vibes as more positive — like, I rarely review books that I didn’t like, because I usually know myself well enough to never pick them up in the first place. And I don’t see the point of bashing a book! But, I’m letting go of that for one indulgent post.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern | Goodreads
I read this book every year, just because it’s so singularly absorbing and magical. Not to throw this around lightly, but it gives me the same feeling Harry Potter does, of having a fully-developed story world right out of our reach. And the plotting, imagery, and non-chronological jumping around are fabulous.
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro | Goodreads
Y’all know that this series has been my favorite for the past two years. Sherlock Holmes retelling, chock full of romantic tension, intense suspense, and some of the most picturesque and thoughtfully curated human details.
The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski | Goodreads
I devoured this series in less than a week. The plot twists! The romances! Also, it’s rooted in a military feel that does so much for the anticipation. This is a book that’s both engrossing and smart.
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead | Goodreads
I don’t think any book will ever top the amount of paranormal intensity in this read. It has great and indulgent world building, phenomenal (and feisty) characters, and an absorbing quality that I’ve found impossible to duplicate.
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh | Goodreads
This is one of those reads I’d seen around (and heard people talking about) for ages before I finally picked it up myself — and it quickly became one of my favorites. The desert setting is lush, the relationship between the love interests is both fascinating and magnetic, and the concept is classic while executed freshly.
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard | Goodreads
This is the one title I really have to rant about. It. is. not. good. It’s the same plot in literally every other high fantasy book — divided by red or silver blood. Poor girl discovers secret power. The plot twists were obvious, there was no tension because you’d seen everything a thousand times before, and the writing was just bleh.
Tropes are only good when they’re done well.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo | Goodreads
Again, I thought this one was okay. Kaz was easily my favorite, and for good reason, because he’s awesome. Still, the pacing wasn’t great so it kind of dragged for me. (Also, I never finished her “main” series.)
Caraval by Stephanie Garber | Goodreads
This book felt messy. I received it as a bound manuscript, but waited to read it until it was out in a gorgeous-looking paperback. I was not a huge fan. For one, I never felt invested in the characters (especially the sister relationship.) For another, plot threads felt SO all over the place and underdeveloped. There wasn’t a lot of structure, and for me, it didn’t work.
Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty | Goodreads
I read this book because a lot of my campers were reading it — and because Asheville is a city of my heart — but didn’t find it as compelling. Admittedly, I usually have very high hopes for middle grade books. I just didn’t find the mystery all that gripping, and so it seemed a bit pointless. The plotting left something to be desired.
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George | Goodreads
This book was so awkward and cheesy. I didn’t like the main character much; he was pretentious and way too obsessed with romance, to the point of being excessive. I hated everything about my experience reading it, because my mom and sisters and friends had all loved it. I just didn’t find it to be well written or lyrical at all, and was hugely disappointed in both the writing and whatever it was that was supposed to be going on with the plot.
When I say “hated,” I don’t mean loathed necessarily. I mean they were okay, or generic, or not well-written, and so it makes me angry that they got popular in the first place over titles that I thought were much better.
When I look at the list of hyped titles, I usually end up loving the ones that are. For my “five I loved,” I had a long list to narrow down — and debated adding an “honorable mentions” section at the end. So I need to start buying into it more.
Still, inevitably, as with any guess-and-check, especially with books outside my comfort zone, there are some that just fall flat.