Are you a fan of Goodreads? Did you try out the Reading Challenge this year? I did. And even with all the craziness this year, I still managed to find the time to meet my own goal. Of course, I did set the number kinda low. Aaand I have actually passed my goal of 20 books. But for today’s blog post, I wanted to share with you not only just the titles I read for my challenge, but also I wanted to rank them from least favorite to favorite. Now, keep in mind that the following remarks are my own personal opinions. And even though a book may be at the bottom of my list, it’s not necessarily a bad book. It just wasn’t as enjoyable as the ones at the top of my list. So without further explanations, let’s get started!
15. Crewel / Altered / Unraveled
Set in a dystopian society, Earth has been forgotten. Adelice and the rest of her known world resides in Arras, a utopia run and controlled by spinsters. Or so everyone thinks. Even at a young age, Adelice knew that she had the gift of weaving and seeing the threads that make up the world around her. But that isn’t the life she wants. For years her and her parents try to hide her gift, but when the time comes for her to be tested, nothing goes according to plan.
This is where book 1 begins and every other chain of events occur as a result of this starting point. Gennifer Albin begins the series on a strong note. The plot is a mystery to her readers and we simply want to know more. Her writing is beautiful and the characters are well-developed.
However, with a love triangle that spans nearly the entirety of the three book series and the drama that follows, I simply couldn’t fall in love with these books. A character’s plausibility hinges on shreds of reality. The fact that Adelice was at times consumed with picking between the moody older brother or the debonair younger brother simply didn’t ring true. For three books, I tried to get behind Adelice’s plight. But that love triangle couldn’t be overlooked. With the addition of the spinsters constantly being prepped and dolled up, the series felt more concerned with female whims and desires than the world at stake.
Brenna Yovanoff brings us the next title in my countdown–Fiendish.
Clementine, the protagonist, was trapped in a cellar for ten years. She can’t remember why or how she got there. But when she is finally freed from her prison, she begins to learn the mysteries that took place those many years ago. And what is happening again.
Once again, readers are offered a juicy concept. After reading the opening chapter of the book, I was sold. I had to know more about this girl and about the boy who rescued her. I had to know about the town’s secrets and why things were the way they were.
I wanted to love this book. I really did. A girl mysteriously locked up in a cellar? Sign me up! Yet, the execution of the plot simply didn’t bring any satisfaction. The characters were uninteresting and the climax at the end was a let down. Overall, the execution felt…off.
The writing was beautiful and the book was cohesive. But in the end, I wasn’t hooked.
Etta and Nicholas have been separated and time is running out for both of them. There is a war raging and people are hunting down Etta. And they will stop at nothing to get to her first.
Ah, the Passenger duology. Such a wondrous tale of hope and love. Passenger was masterfully written, engaging readers and drawing them in until they simply couldn’t get enough. Wayfarer, on the other hand, not so much. It dragged. Several times. And there’s also the nagging feeling at the base of your skull as the two lovers don’t meet until the very end of the story. As a reader, I felt a little jaded because of that.
While there were aspects of Wayfarer that I did not enjoy, I did like the book overall. It was well-written and well-thought out. Alexandra Bracken is a masterful storyteller and it shows in her books. And she isn’t afraid to highlight social issues and how they would have been perceived during the various time periods she explores. However, I do believe that this title could have been condensed and the pacing sped up in some places.
12. Eona: The Last Dragoneye / Eon: Dragoneye Reborn
If you’ve read Eon, you may be wondering why it’s so far down the list. If you’ve read Eona, you might understand why.
Set deep in the Asian culture, where dragons exist and man harnesses their powers, Eon is a beautiful tale of triumph and failure. Eona, disguised as the boy Eon, has trained for several years to become the next Dragoneye. Her master has done everything he could to both keep up her disguise as well as prepare Eona to succeed. When Eona passes the test, things only become more complicated as she is faced with new dangers and realizes that one of the Dragoneyes has a plot to kill off the others. And if Eona is discovered to be a girl, she herself will be killed.
Eon was a beautiful story. Long, but beautiful. And it was enjoyable to read Alison Goodman’s take on Asian culture. Both the characters in the story and the plot were excellent from start to finish. However, it was book 2 that ended my enjoyment.
Eona picks up where Eon left off. The stakes are higher and the challenges are nearly insurmountable. So why didn’t I love it? Because it was 637 pages of–you guessed it–relationship issues. The protagonist is now not only facing the overthrow of the empire, but also an explosive love triangle. But it’s not just the new Dragoneye who is dealing with relationship issues. Even the secondary characters are having difficulties. But besides the romance, there’s also the simple fact that after reading 637 pages the book was beginning to drag. A lot. So while I did enjoy Eon, the same cannot be said for Eona.
11. Shadow Run
Nev, a prince in disguise, has one mission: bring Qole to his home planet. He believes that with her unique abilities, she can help his uncle research the affects of the deadly element Shadow. But Qole doesn’t trust him or his noble cause. And for good reason.
Shadow Run has the makings of a good story. A diverse group of characters: check. A beautiful setting, i.e., the expanse of space: check. An intriguing plot that makes readers want to know more: check.
Overall, I enjoyed the story. The pacing was good and the length never felt too verbose. Recently, I have discovered that I have a thing for space scifi so I did enjoy that aspect of the book as well. And there were some pretty cool fight scenes with Nev weilding his disruptor blades.
But, once again, the execution of the story fell flat. I never really got behind the characters on this one. I felt for Qole, I really did. Her life has been difficult and she keeps losing the people she loves. But I just couldn’t bring myself to become invested in the story. But the most crushing aspect of the story, for me, was the ending. It was the climax that was the biggest letdown because it felt…weak. Perhaps it’s foolish of me to want flecks of reality mixed in with my fiction, but the ending was not believable. And I believe that good fiction requires a touch of reality. That is the thing that makes readers relate to the story.
9. Gates of Thread and Stone
Kai has a secret. A very deadly secret. She can slow down time. And if anyone finds out about her powers, she could be killed. Without any memory of who she is or where she came from, she has been raised by her “brother” Reev. But when he disappears, it’s up to Kai to find him. With the help of Avan, she must track down the secrets locked away about the city and herself.
Lori M. Lee has a unique concept here. One that intrigued me enough to pick up the book and read until it was finished. There were several shining moments in Kai’s story. The mystery surrounding her past and her powers was interesting. You as the reader want to know more and to learn who Kai really is. A few fight scenes dot the storyline, such as when the heroes battle their way outside the safety of their city’s walls.
However, it was the romance in the story that, once again, bogged everything down. Kai seems to be constantly swooning over the nearness of Avan and every little touch seems to send electricity through her veins. At this point in my countdown, it may sound like I dislike any story that includes romance. Trust me, this isn’t the case. Yet, when romance heavily outweighs every other element in the book (and it’s not supposed to be a romance novel) then yes, I don’t particularly enjoy the story.
While there were a few other nagging qualities to the book, the romance was the biggest issue that caused me to votedown on the story. Due to the fact that this is a series rather than a stand-alone title, I will attribute a few of the other aspects–such as the random gargoyles–as playing a bigger role in the sequels.
In Paraffin, Vermont, the Grosholtz Candle Factory stands as the town’s must-see attraction. But when Poppy discovers that there is more to the candle factory than what seems possible, she must discover the hidden truths. With the help of a living wax boy, she will have to battle against the evil threatening to destroy the town.
Coming in at #10 is Wax. If you’ve read the book jacket and walked away thinking that this would be a creepy story, then you made the same mistake I did. At first, I was disappointed. I wanted a story of mystery and suspense. Instead, it was a story of humor and cunning. However, by the end of the book, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.
The characters, especially Poppy and Dud, were comical yet engaging. The antics that result from being friends with a wax statue is surprisingly hilarious. So while Wax was not what I expected, both the plot and the characters were a joy to read and I don’t regret picking this one up.
8. After the End
Juneau has lived her entire life with her tribe in the Alaskan wilderness. Years ago, the world was destroyed by nuclear radiation and war leaving only the frozen landmass habitable. Or so they say. When Juneau’s village is attacked and her people are taken, she finds out the truth about her past: there was no war.
The premise of After the End is intriguing if not a little vague. The unique thing about this story is that I didn’t like it–at first. The further I read the less I enjoyed it. Juneau was an okay character who turns out to have some sort of mystical connection to the earth (kind of weird). It was an unexpected twist to the story and one that I wasn’t really into. However, the more I read the more I wanted to find out the ending. And surprisingly, I really enjoyed the story.
Juneau, the backwards girl who doesn’t know anything about modern-day, and Miles, the privileged city boy, are forced to work together. For much of the story, their goals are polar opposites and they have a strong disliking for each other. But, I have to admit, that their budding relationship was adorable and I was totally cheering them on.
After the End was a pleasant surprise to a story I wasn’t too sure about.
Grey has lived her entire life in Mercury City–a city controlled by the Chemists, a powerful group governing over the citizens. But when her best friend is punished and her father is arrested, Grey’s life is about to change forever. Because her grandfather knows the secret to unlocking an enchanted world: Curio City. When Grey finds herself trapped in the beautiful yet deadly place, she must find the one person who holds the key to her escape and the key to saving her family.
If you are looking for an enjoyable read, look no further. Curio is clean making it an excellent choice for younger readers, but has enough of a grip to engage older readers as well. Grey and Blaise are well-developed and the plot is focused. The author had me hooked from the beginning as I delved into the strange world full of porcies and tocks. The steampunk quality of the setting was interesting and refreshing. The only downside that I faced was the pacing. Occasionally it felt off as it dragged in a few places. And the climax of the story was a little blurry making me wonder where it began and when it ended.
But none of these “flaws” were enough to destroy the adventure. The plot was solid and I thoroughly enjoyed this one.
6. The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Mary has been taught about the dangers that lurk just on the other side of the fence: the Unconsecrated who roam the forest. To stay inside the village is safety, but to leave is death. As she learns the secrets of the Sisterhood and the Guardians she will learn more than she ever wanted to. And when the safety of her family and her home is compromised, there is only one option left: escape.
Set in a post-apocalyptic setting, The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a strange read. Carrie Ryan has created a world of Unconsecrated, zombie-like creatures that are cursed. The story is not particularly long, giving you the right amount of time to learn what you need to before the author hurls the story forward. The main focus in this novel is the setting/plot rather than the characters.
There is the existence of a love triangle in this story, which was the only annoying aspect of the story. It became the typical sequence of events: (1) pine over the man you can’t have while you’re promised to another, (2) finally get your way by trading men with best friend, and (3) become unhappy once you have the man you pined over. The presence of the fickle love triangle was obnoxious and made me dislike Mary just a little bit.
However, the portions of the book that were not focused on the romance were excellent. And the ending? Well, you need to read it for yourself.
5. The Dark Days Club / The Dark Days Pact
Lady Helen is a normal girl in 19th Century London. Balls and fashion are her main concerns, although she longs for a life outside the stuffy propriety. But when a house maid goes missing, Helen becomes entangled in the web of a secret organization that hunts demons.
The Dark Days Club and its sequel the Dark Days Pact is a masterful blend of fantasy and high-society. It was a thrill delving into the convoluted world of Lord Carlston and the darkness that shrouds his past. To watch as Helen becomes comfortable in her new role while maneuvering around the hurdles of proper behavior for a lady was never dull.
Alison Goodman’s writing is lovely as she describes the grandeur of the settings and placing her readers in the heart of the action. If you haven’t already picked up this series, be sure to do so. And I’ll be looking forward to Helen’s future adventures.
4. The Curse of Crow Hollow
When a group of teenagers decides to celebrate Scarlett’s birthday at the mines, no one would have guessed the consequences of their actions. But the mines aren’t just a forsaken wasteland. They’re also the home of the witch, Alvaretta Graves. And when the kids cross paths with the old woman, things go from bad to worse. Because the curse doesn’t stop with them–it follows them back to town.
Warning: this is not a horror book. Now that we got that out of the way, let me recommend this book to you. Seriously, though. I really loved this one. The pacing is a little slow at times. Yes, I did occasionally want the characters to hurry up and move on to completing their objective. But even with the slower pacing, I enjoyed Billy Coffey’s story. He masterfully shifts the reader’s POV by way of an omniscient narrator–who we don’t know much/anything about until the end of the story. Coffey’s analysis of human nature and its flaws is 100 percent accurate and *cringe* relatable at times.
While The Curse of Crow Hollow is by no means a horror story, the suspense and mystery around what’s happening held my attention from page 1 to page 416. I strongly recommend this one.
3. Stalking Jack the Ripper
Audrey Rose Wadsworth is unlike any other girl in 19th Century London. While she remains a part of the upper-class society, she holds a secret that very few know. Audrey has an unquenchable desire to work with a new form of science: forensics. While much of her family disapproves of her hobby, she finds ways to study and hone her skills alongside her uncle. When a mysterious string of horrific murders begin taking place on the streets of London, Audrey must put everything, including her reputation, on the line to find the killer before he finds his next victim.
If you hold any love for forensics or murder mysteries then let me point you in the direction of Stalking Jack the Ripper. Audrey–when she is not preoccupied with social gatherings–can be found in her uncle’s basement assisting with autopsies. As a girl who is unafraid to get her hands dirty, she may occasionally succeed at making you as the readers squirm. While the story is not obsessively gory, it does deal with death and grisly murders.
And I loved it. Maniscalco’s descriptions of the time period are spot on and full of beautiful imagery. There is a romantic element in the story, but it is never unwelcome. SJTR is a must-read and I am so glad I picked this one up.
2. Six of Crows / Crooked Kingdom
Set in the city of Ketterdam, the Barrel is home to the cities’ thieves, gambling dens, and pleasure seekers. Survival on these streets requires nothing less than a steel spine and an unbreakable will. Yet, when the offer for an impossible heist is offered to Kaz Brekker, it will take him and an unlikely crew to pull it off. But even when the Dregs succeed, nothing turns out the way they planned.
Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom are titles that you can’t simply walk away from. The stories stay with you standing out as something so much more than a simple story. It was an adventure that you began with six unknown characters. And by the end, you felt as though you knew them. They had become close friends that you are unwilling and unable to part with. Bardugo swings readers up to the highest highs and the lowest lows, making us cry and laugh over the words on the pages. Both titles are necessary to add to your reading list. Of course, as much as I’ve raved over them in previous full reviews, I hope that you’ve already enjoyed both novels.
For years, Scarlett has dreamed of experiencing the enchanted world of Caraval. As a girl, Scarlett’s grandmother told her of the fantastical world that was created by a mysterious man called Legend. Although there are myths floating around the man’s existence, no one truly knows who he is. After years of wishing, she finally gets her chance to play the game. Yet, not everything at Caraval is what it seems. When her sister disappears and her only ally is a mysterious sailor, Scarlett must race against time to save her sister and herself before either of them is “swept too far away.”
Coming in at #1, Caraval is probably no surprise to you. Caraval has been at the top of lists across the internet, as it steals your heart and blows you mind. Caraval is built within an enchanting world that you want to get lost in. Scarlett is a fantastic protagonist and one that I felt for every step of the way. Garber developed a plot that revolves around distrust and deception and this bleeds out to the audience’s perception. I found myself wondering who to trust and what was real.
By the end of Caraval, there was only one thing I knew for certain: I love this story.
So there you have it. That is my Goodreads Reading Challenge ranked. While I am quick to recommend the titles at the top of my list, I am by no means trying to dissuade you from picking up the others. Be sure to give them all a try and see what you think. Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any (or all) of the novels I’ve listed. Do you agree with my opinions or not so much?
Until next time. Happy Reading!