Might as well make use of some of these new emojis…interesting bunch we’ve got here
And sorry for the lack of a book review this week, I just didn’t have the energy for it once the afternoon/evening came (first day after spring break, am I right or am I right).
The beginning of March was a bit of a slog, what with all my classes trying to cram a bunch of stuff in before spring break. I finally have that big research paper out of the way though, and we did loads of fun projects in creative writing!
My reading month was good, I’d say; very few books that I didn’t like (no 1-stars and only one 2-star!), my first 5-star read of the year, and indulging in a Smoke Thieves trilogy re-read. I finally got into Heartstopper after all these years of having it on hold at the library too! Worth the wait.
This month was also the month that I finally, finally started sharing my WIP with people! I’ve sent it to some family and friends, and…not gonna lie here, my hands were shaking whenever I put it out there, but I’m proud of myself for getting over the initial hurdle after clamming up about my writing for so many years. Baby steps.
Other than that, I went to see the new Batman (AMAZING!), re-watched The Rocky Horror Picture Show, continued with Raised by Wolves and started Severance, and went to the museum and played guitar there. They have a guitar exhibit at the Denver Museum right now, so I put on a one-man show for my dad and the security guard. The very short setlist consisted of “Trimm Trabb” and “Savior Complex.”
And yesterday, I hit 500 followers!! I’m going to make a longer post later, but for now, thank you all so much for your love and support. 💗
READING AND BLOGGING:
I read 20 books this month! I thought I’d read less for some reason…it feels like I haven’t had as much time to read this month, but I suppose I did read some short books.
Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope this week has treated you well.
This week was my last week in school before spring break, so after I got my tests out of the way, everything just slowed down and relaxed. I welcomed it 100%—I like having a nice, gradual slow-down to my school work before the break starts. And I won’t have any real homework for a week! We had a snow day on Thursday too, so that’s always lovely. (Minus the shoveling…) However, I’ve had a cold since Thursday afternoon, so that’s sucked. It’s getting better, though. At least I can breathe out of both nostrils now. (Kind of.)
I spent most of the week re-reading the Smoke Thieves trilogy, and I had a lot of fun diving back into that world! I made a whole post about it too—I’ll link it under Posts and Such. I wasn’t able to go to the library this week because of said cold, so I’ll probably be trawling the Kindle library for spring break reads.
School slowing up allowed me to write a little during school hours, and I’m getting close to finishing my final (for now) edits! I’m back to the climax right now, it’s getting fun…
Other than that, I’ve just been watching Raised by Wolves (anybody else feel like you’re being pummeled with a hundred different twists per episode? Not complaining, but w h o a ), attempting to help train Ringo, talking comics with my creative writing teacher, and listening to almost nothing but Rings Around the World and Heaven or Las Vegas. (Two great albums!)
Happy Thursday, bibliophiles, and happy St. Patrick’s Day! 🍀 We got dumped with snow over here last night, and we got a snow day today! So I’m sitting here in my pajamas, watching the snow slowly die down.
In last week’s Weekly Update, I mentioned that I’d be re-reading the Smoke Thieves trilogy, and I’ve kept my promise. It’s one of my favorite fantasy series, and I’ve been meaning to go back through it ever since I finally got a copy of The Demon World. (Perks of being involved with the library—getting books that go out of circulation!) So since I’ve already done full reviews of all three books, I thought I’d just compile some thoughts I had while reading each book.
Fair warning: this post will be crawling with spoilers. Sorry.
Let’s begin, shall we?
THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S THOUGHTS WHILE RE-READING THE SMOKE THIEVES TRILOGY
Right off the bat…I remember these books being dark, but WHOA. One of the first scenes is somebody being forced to watch a brutal execution, and…yeah, it only gets worse from there. Yeesh.
Also I forgot how angry March was??? It’s understandable, honestly, but this man is just THROBBING with rage
Tash!!! My demon-hunter child!!
And Catherine!! I liked her already, but going back and reading this books again makes me love her even more. She’s so wonderfully independent.
Headcanon: Catherine is bi. She’s gotta be. I know the whole joke about Tash was just that, but I just know she’s gotta be bi. Call it gaydar.
Also, I want to wear Catherine’s wedding dress. HHHHHGH
Ambrose was my least favorite character of the main five when I first read these books, and…I still stand by that. His only personality trait is that he’s got the hots for Catherine and knows he can’t have her, and it just gets tiring after a while. Meh. But nonetheless, he deserves better. Green does explore some of his grief after Tarquin gets killed (in the worst possible way…agh, brutal…), but I wish we got a more in-depth exploration of it.
@ SALLY GREEN CAN YOU PLEASE GIVE MARCH A BREAK P L E A S E
Overall, I had so much fun getting back into Sally Green’s detailed world! 100% holds up after about two and a half years. Same rating: 4.25 stars.
Can we appreciate how creative the concept of the Pitorian army is in terms of the hair dye allegiance concept? Gotta love it
“Hey there demons, it’s me, ya boy” – Tash
What if 😳😳😳 we slept together next to a demon’s corpse to keep warm 😳😳😳 (and we were both boys) 😳😳😳
The whole time I was reading the scene where Edyon, March, and Geratan are trying to jump into the demon world, all I could think of was this:
The whole demon world itself was super inventive!! I especially love the concept of how everybody had to communicate through touch-based telepathy—that was very creative.
Gonna need more of the Tash and Geratan friendship, please and thank you
HAHAAAAA THE FIST BUMP AFTER THEY BOTH GOT OUT OF THE DEMON WORLD
I completely blocked out the trial scene from my memory, but honestly, it…did drag a little. I liked seeing Catherine as the judge, but it still went on for too long, in my opinion.
Also, I didn’t remember Edyon being so forceful about his and March’s relationship? He gets better about it, but in the beginning, it was almost hard to read. Hey…Edyon…uh…why don’t you try…letting people make up their own minds about relationships and not…forcing them into anything…
Catherine wearing a suit of armor is everything
AGH I FORGOT ABOUT THAT CLIFFHANGER! I remembered there being a cliffhanger, but the March/Edyon situation and Tash getting trapped in the demon world ONE AFTER THE OTHER WHEW
The Demon World was originally a 5 star read for me, but I don’t feel quite the same way now. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it immensely—I did, but parts of it just didn’t do it for me the second time around (The beginning stages of Edyon and March’s relationship, the trial scene, etc.). Bumping my rating from 5 stars down to 4.5 stars, because it was still great stuff, but not quite a 5-star book anymore.
Alright. Let’s talk about the cover. The fact that 3/5 of the figures are knocked over stressed me out when I first saw it, but at the same time…WHY DOES IT LOOK SO FUNNY IT JUST LOOKS LIKE SOMEONE DID THIS
OKAY THE PAIN WHENEVER EDYON AND MARCH THINK ABOUT EACH OTHER WHEN THEY’RE SEPARATED 😭 P A I N
Geratan ripping off his hat to reveal his new hair color is absolutely iconic. The right way to do it. Wish I’d thought of that freshman year when a) my hair was also dyed red (very different red though), b) my hair was short enough to cover with a hat, and c) I HAD a hat that I could’ve done it with
Sally Green understands the power of hundreds of brainwashed, adolescent boys. Everything with Harold and the Bull Brigade is appropriately disturbing.
Can we talk about Catherine’s almost-corruption arc? Sally Green executed it so well; she’s tasting power (and demon smoke) and realizing the extent of both, and it nearly makes her the same as her father—the one she vowed to not be like in the first place. For me, Catherine’s the most well-developed character in the series.
Forgot to mention him in the Demon World section, but Twist!! What a guy
Took Ambrose three whole books to realize that he and Catherine weren’t meant to be…yowch
I forgot how brutal and…just horrifying the battle with Harold and the boy army at Calidor was…I feel like I was tensed up for the whole scene. I have to hand it to Sally Green for making some of the most tense battle scenes I’ve ever read in any series. Right up there with the last 100 pages of Aurora’s End. At least Harold got his comeuppance.
THE FIRST PART OF THE EPILOGUE?? WHERE MARCH AND EDYON ARE FINALLY BACK TOGETHER AGAIN AND THEIR SYMBOLS ARE JOINED ON THE TITLE PAGE???? GAAAAAAAH
AND I COMPLETELY FORGOT ABOUT THE LAST SCENE WHERE TASH AND GERATAN GO FISHING BAHAHA!! In all seriousness, it’s so sweet how he became a father figure over the course of the last few books—as much as Gravell protected Tash, Geratan was far more of a positive role model for her. Again, love their friendship.
Also, can we just imagine Tash wearing this?
Now that I’ve read the whole series in one sitting, I can say with certainty that The Burning Kingdoms was a fantastic end to the trilogy—and maybe even my favorite book in the series! Although the ending felt a bit rushed, it was still a satisfying way to wrap up the series. Bonus points for showing that everything doesn’t wrap up neatly after a costly war. I’m remembering now what makes The Smoke Thieves so special to me—there’s so much love put into every ounce of it, from the worldbuilding to the characters to their relationships. Reading it all at once is like looking at a giant tapestry, thousands of interconnected threads coming together to make a beautiful and cohesive image. Needless to say, I had such a fun time re-reading this series. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you haven’t picked up these books—highly recommended! Keeping my rating at 4.5 stars for this one.
TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read The Smoke Thieves trilogy, and what did you think of them? Let me know in the comments!
That’s it for this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope this week has treated you well.
This week’s been a little tiring. I had another couple of quizzes and tests, and I’ve been proofreading my big research paper and I had to crank out a short story in the span of about a week. At least the short story was a lot of fun—went just past 10 pages on google docs, somehow.
Reading-wise, it’s been a slower week; most of the time I’d normally be reading, I was either writing said short story or drawing, so I didn’t get through my whole library haul. I did like everything that I read, though—all 3-4 star reads for me! I’ll have some good material to review next week. Most of my writing time has been taken up by the short story, but I’ve been able to go back and edit some of my WIP in the later part of the week.
Other than that, I’ve been spending time with Ringo, trying to drive in the snow (oof), listening to Guerilla Toss, Cocteau Twins, and Super Furry Animals, and watching the new Batman! Without question, one of the best Batman movies I’ve ever seen—unexpected but perfectly-cast characters, fantastic acting, and some of the most beautiful character development I’ve seen out of Batman himself. Go see it if you haven’t!
And now I’m almost at 500 followers! I can’t believe it, thank you all so much! 💗
Trilogies are a tried and true length for so many good book series. Having three books in the series makes for a larger three-act story overall, and it sits in the happy medium between a quick duology and a longer, more drawn-out saga. But even so, the trilogy often falls prey to a sometimes fatal curse: a middle book that doesn’t hold up to the rest of the series. Just like in a single novel, a lull often happens in the middle of the trilogy, and that lull almost always happens to land in book 2. It’s like Pulp Fiction—the first and last third are fantastic, but the middle seems to drag on and on without any consequence to the plot, or in this case, the series as a whole.
I’ve read plenty of trilogies—good, bad, and just decent. But a lot of them fall into this pattern of having great first and third books, but not-so-great second books. So I decided to look into what makes middle books fail—or succeed. I’ve gathered up three examples of lagging middle books and three fantastic middle books, and from there, we can determine some of the root causes of a sagging middle.
Now, keep in mind before I dive in—this is a very, very subjective analysis. These are examples of books that I personally think fit the bill of good or bad middles, but it’s not true for everyone! Think for yourselves. Now, let the ranting investigation begin…
Let’s begin, shall we?
THE CURSE OF BOOK 2: WHY DOES THE SECOND BOOK IN THE TRILOGY SOMETIMES FALL FLAT?
I got into the Shades of Magic trilogy last year and loved it—except for this one, which was still decent, but nowhere near the others in terms of quality. My main issue was that the plot was almost entirely filler; the Elemental Games were entertaining, sure, but they were inconsequential in comparison to everything else that moved the plots of A Darker Shade of Magic and A Conjuring of Light forward. The only thing tying A Gathering of Shadows to its predecessor and successor was the main villain—brought back by the resurrection trope, no less. What made A Gathering of Shadows so lackluster was that it emphasized the worst aspect of its predecessor—the weak plot—and amplified it into 500 pages of filler.
I wasn’t attached to Serpent & Dove as much as I was to A Darker Shade of Magic, but I recognize blatant filler when I see it. The sad part about Blood & Honey is that the Serpent & Dove series was originally supposed to be a duology, but it got so popular that the publishers pushed Shelby Mahurin to make it a trilogy. So in the grand scheme of things, the pitfalls of Blood & Honey could have been prevented.
Even though this was a 3-star read for me, it was still a major slog. I’ll say this in A Gathering of Shadows’ favor—it may have been filler, but at least it was entertaining. Blood & Honey was just 500 pages of the characters being separated and then hemming and hawing as they attempted to find their way back to the main plot. And then it had to end with a ridiculous cliffhanger.
However, the case of Blood & Honey isn’t exactly like all the other trilogies in this post—it wasn’t the worst book in the series, but after Gods & Monsters, this was the signal of what I felt was the nosedive in quality of this series.Gods & Monsters was even worse. My advice? Just stick with Serpent & Dove and then let it be.
Apparently I’m in the minority for this one; a lot of people really seemed to like the direction that Kingsbane took the Empirium trilogy. For me, though, it lacked the emotional weight that made Furyborn and Lightbringer so impactful. Though I liked it a lot more than I did A Gathering of Shadows and Blood & Honey, this one was also a lot of rushing around. By the time the cliffhanger came, its impact was dumbed down for me. And this one was 600 pages long, so it was easy for the important parts of the plot to get bogged down with what occurred in the interim. (That’s not to say that all long books are unnecessarily lengthy—ever read Dune?)
Maybe I’m a little biased since this is my favorite series, but I truly think Aurora Burning is a textbook example of book 2 done right. The key here is consistency: while it still took the plot to new heights and directions, it kept a similar pace, tone, and emotional weight throughout. What I mean by “consistency” isn’t that this was just Aurora Rising 2: Electric Boogaloo, but that it stayed on the same path set out by book 1, and kept the pace flowing as though it was all the same book. Unlike Blood & Honey and Kingsbane, this consistency of pacing is what helped build the tension and give weight to the infamously devastating cliffhanger.
(I think this is the only book cover in this post that doesn’t have a warm color scheme lol)
Like Aurora Burning, Thunderhead’s saving grace was that it kept the pacing and tone consistent with that of Scythe while also introducing new and very consequential plot points along the way. Thunderhead drops a whole host of bombshells over the course of 500 pages, which forces the reader to constantly be on their toes. This slow building of tension and suspense is what made Thunderhead’s cliffhanger as bleak, horrifying, and painful as it was. And that was a real gut-punch of a cliffhanger…I don’t think I’ve fully recovered in the 4 years since I’ve read it…
Although it employs the same tools as Aurora Burning and Thunderhead, the unique thing about The Demon World was that it managed to be the highlight of the whole trilogy. This book is the black sheep in my general middle book theory—instead of being the low point between books 1 and 3, it manages to overshadow them altogether. With a new threat introduced at the end of The Smoke Thieves, The Demon World had a perfect setup for building tension and increasing the gravity of the conflict. It was emotional, it was action-packed, and it delivered another whopper of a cliffhanger.
So with all that said, what is it that makes the middle book stumble and fall?
Filler plots: whether it’s a product of the author not knowing how to bridge the beginning to the end or publisher pressure, filler plots often result in a sequel that lacks the same emotional weight or consequence as book 1.
Inconsistent pacing and tone between books: this is often a byproduct of a filler plot; if the story itself isn’t as monumental as the first book, the pacing slows down where it was once sped up. This often results in a feeling that whatever happens in this book isn’t as important as what happened previously or what will happen next.
Both of these end up leading to:
Cliffhangers with unnecessary twists: this is where the aforementioned inconsistent pacing and tone culminate. Although bombshell cliffhangers can be a valuable tool in catching and keeping the reader’s attention, if the book already has less emotional weight, the cliffhanger feels like a lazy attempt to tie the events of the book to the series as a whole.
TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What are some middle books that you didn’t like? What are some middle books that you thought were fantastic? Let me know in the comments!
Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles! I blatantly refuse to believe that we’re actually halfway through September…nope…
Sorry that this review’s coming a little later than you all are probably used to; I had a ton of homework to do this afternoon, but I’ve got it all done for today, so here I am now! Better late than never, I suppose.
I’ve been following and loving Sally Green’s Smoke Thieves trilogy for about a year, gobbling up books 1 and 2 in weeks flat. It’s one of the most immersive, detailed, and gripping fantasies that I’ve ever read, and now that I’ve read book 3, I can say it’s true for all three books. The Burning Kingdoms came out just under a month ago (August 25), and I was able to snag it a few days after its release when I promptly blew the contents of my bookstore gift card. In short? The Burning Kingdoms was a perfect end to a near perfect series.
WARNING: This review likely contains spoilers for books 1 and 2, The Smoke Thieves and The Demon World, so I suggest you tread lightly if you intend to read them and haven’t yet!
Catherine, Tash, Ambrose, Edyon, and March dedicated their lives to halt the impending war in its tracks. But despite their efforts, war has come, and it could cost them their lives–and the lives of their nations.
King Aloysius has unleashed his invincible boy army, powered by demon smoke, across all who dare cross his path. There, March finds an opportunity to reunite with Edyon, his beloved, after a betrayal saw them torn apart and him banished. Edyon grapples with his newfound power as the heir to the throne of Calidonia, and Tash must find her way out of the demon world.
Meanwhile, Catherine must grapple with the fate of her country and her secret addiction, while Ambrose is determined to win back her heart at all costs. Their paths will collide in order to avert this great war–but will they make it out alive?
Admit it: everybody–yes, everybody–who has ever dyed their hair has done the exact same thing as Geratan–dye it, put on a hat, and then dramatically rip it off in front of everybody. The only proper way to reveal your new hair color, if you ask me.
All of my fellow book bloggers and readers know the feeling that comes along with finishing the final book in a series. It’s like reuniting with an old friend, only to have them leave you. No matter what, though, their memory will live on in you forever.
That’s the feeling that finishing a great series gives you, and certainly the one that The Burning Kingdoms gave me. This entire series is criminally underrated, a true force to be reckoned with in the world of YA fantasy, and I’m delighted to say that book 3 is no exception!
The Burning Kingdoms is definitely one of those books where you’re just being dragged along with the character’s bad decisions–five POVs, five times the grave mistakes! (Quite a lot of “March, no–” “MARCHYES” going on). However, it isn’t to the point where you’re internally groaning in frustration, because it propels quite a lot of action, and provides for character development in all five.
As always, I loved seeing how the relationships between the characters developed. March is still my favorite of the bunch, but I had such a blast getting back into all five of their heads and exploring their internal conflicts. Green does such a masterful job of writing both authentic characters, but genuine development for them as well.
The immersive and detailed worldbuilding and politics were as sharp as ever, making for a novel that I could imagine nearly every detail of. There’s plenty of action and drama to spare, and I enjoyed every page. The Burning Kingdoms is a finale that truly has something for everyone–and delivers on every possible aspect.
All in all, a beautiful end to an underrated and immersive fantasy. 4.5 stars!
The Burning Kingdoms is the final book in Sally Green’s Smoke Thieves trilogy, preceded by The Smoke Thieves (book 1) and The Demon World (book 2).
Today (September 15) is also the start of National Latinx Heritage Month, so sometime this week, I’ll also be posting a list of Latinx YA reads to celebrate. Stay tuned! 🙂
Brain: oh, so math is boring you?
Me: yep, you got that right
Brain: so why don’t I get this REALLY DEPRESSING song stuck in your head–
Me: WAIT NO
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
WHAT IS YOUR MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASE FOR THE SECOND HALF OF THE YEAR?
The Burning Kingdomsis the final book in the Smoke Thieves series, and I am SO EXCITED TO GET MY HANDS ON IT. I requested an eARC of it and it got declined, but I requested it again, so we’ll see how that goes…
I had low/average expectations for The Scorpion Rules, but it ended up blowing me away! I really want to read the sequel soon…
WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE NEW TO YOU/DEBUT AUTHOR?
I just discovered The Invisible Libraryseries and Genevieve Cogman this April, and I’m so excited to read more of her novels! I have The Burning Page on hold, and it shouldn’t arrive for a few more weeks, but I can’t wait…
WHAT ARE 6 BOOKS THAT YOU WANT TO READ BY THE END OF THE YEAR?
Excluding some of the TBR ones that are already on here…let’s see…
WHAT IS YOUR FANTASY ORIGIN STORY? (First fantasy novel you read)
I can’t quite pinpoint the exact first fantasy book I read, but one of the first was most definitely The BFG. I have especially fond memories of reading this one. My brother gave me all of his Roald Dahl books a while back, and I’ve added to the collection and kept them all on my shelves ever since.
IF YOU COULD BE THE HERO/HEROINE IN A FANTASY NOVEL, WHO WOULD WRITE IT, AND WHAT IS ONE TROPE YOU WOULD INSIST ON BEING IN THE STORY?
I think I’d like to have Marie Lu write this fantasy story. Absolutely no guarantees of a happy ending, but her lush writing style and characters would ensure that there would never be a dull moment. As far as tropes, I’d definitely want some sort of misfit-filled, found family team kind of dynamic. As someone who’s had to do a lot of searching to find where I fit in, this trope/theme speaks to me quite a bit.
WHAT IS A FANTASY YOU’VE READ THIS YEAR THAT YOU WANT MORE PEOPLE TO READ?
Especially with what’s going on in the U.S. and elsewhere, The Black Witchis not only a lushly written novel, but one that explores themes of defying racism and xenophobia.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FANTASY SUBGENRE? WHAT SUBGENRE HAVE YOU NOT READ MUCH FROM?
I’m not sure if I have a favorite subgenre of fantasy, per se, but I enjoy reading paranormal fantasy, though there’s a plethora of books in that genre that have gone terribly awry. I suppose I haven’t read much high/epic fantasy, but I’ve enjoyed books like The Smoke Thieves,so maybe it’ll do me some good to read more of it.
WHO IS ONE OF YOUR AUTO-BUY FANTASY AUTHORS?
Though I’ve never actually bought any of her novels (I borrowed them from the library), Sarah Maria Griffin would definitely fit the bill. If she comes out with anything else soon…SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY…
HOW DO YOU TYPICALLY FIND FANTASY RECOMMENDATIONS? (Goodreads, YouTube, Podcasts, Instagram, etc.)
I usually find my recommendations by way of Goodreads, and sometimes from my fellow bloggers.
WHAT IS AN UPCOMING FANTASY RELEASE YOU’RE EXCITED FOR?
I am ECSTATIC to read The Burning Kingdoms!It comes out in late August of this year, and I requested an eARC of it on Edelweiss, so…🤞
WHAT IS ONE MISCONCEPTION ABOUT FANTASY YOU WOULD LIKE TO LAY AT REST?
I suppose I’d say that there isn’t much that makes a book fantasy/not fantasy. There’s really no limits to the genre–anything from supernatural occurrences to royal conflict can be considered fantasy, really. Each reader has their own definition, but in terms of content, it’s a fairly fluid genre.
IF SOMEONE HAD NEVER READ A FANTASY BEFORE AND ASKED YOU TO RECOMMEND THE FIRST 3 BOOKS THAT COME TO MIND AS PLACES TOSTART, WHAT WOULD THOSE RECOMMENDATIONS BE?
First, I’d say Shadow and Bone, for its lush worldbuilding and unforgettable characters.
Second, I would highly recommend The Young Elitesfor the incredible writing, the gripping plot, and again–unforgettable characters. Can’t go wrong with Marie Lu.
Last, I would recommend Three Dark Crownsfor the complex plot and the gripping action and intrigue.
WHO IS THE MOST RECENT FANTASY READING CONTENT CREATOR THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHOUT OUT?
For this tag, I’d like to shout out Classy x Book Reviews! Though they read a variety of novels besides fantasy, I can always count on their reviews being sincere and in depth. 🙂