Hello and happy Top Ten Tuesday, you guys! This week’s theme is books you loved more/less than you thought you would, so… I decided to go with less, just because this happens quite a bit more often than the reverse (unfortunately). 😂
Here we go! ✨
1) Caraval – Stephanie Garber
Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.
Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.
When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.
THOUGHTS: Magical, but overall kind of forgettable. Too much deus ex machina for me to enjoy and get behind. Also, insta-love. 😞
2) Openly Straight – Bill Konigsberg
Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He’s won skiing prizes. He likes to write.
And, oh yeah, he’s gay. He’s been out since 8th grade, and he isn’t teased, and he goes to other high schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that’s important, all Rafe really wants is to just be a regular guy. Not that GAY guy. To have it be a part of who he is, but not the headline, every single time.
So when he transfers to an all-boys’ boarding school in New England, he decides to keep his sexuality a secret — not so much going back in the closet as starting over with a clean slate. But then he sees a classmate break down. He meets a teacher who challenges him to write his story. And most of all, he falls in love with Ben… who doesn’t even know that love is possible.
THOUGHTS: Great premise, problematic execution. Also kind of boring. 💁
3) The Scorpio Races – Maggie Stiefvater
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.
Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
THOUGHTS: I buddy read this book with the lovely Sara @ Freadom Library and Estefani @ Fiction Jungle and heeey, what do you know? I’m the black sheep for this one! I thought the plot was sluggish and the characters were kind of dull. 😐
4) The Crown’s Game – Evelyn Skye
Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.
And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.
Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?
THOUGHTS: Really, really interesting premise that’s potentially similar to The Night Circus (which I haven’t read), but ultimately empty and forgettable and unremarkable. Also has insta-love. 🙈
5) Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here – Anna Breslaw
Meet Scarlett Epstein, BNF (Big Name Fan) in her online community of fanfiction writers, world-class nobody at Melville High. Her best (read: only) IRL friends are Avery, a painfully shy and annoyingly attractive bookworm, and Ruth, her weed-smoking, possibly insane seventy-three-year-old neighbor.
When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series—they’re the real-life kids from her high school. And if they ever find out what Scarlett truly thinks about them, she’ll be thrust into a situation far more dramatic than anything she’s ever seen on TV…
THOUGHTS: Loved the references to fandom and fanfiction, but found the characters so unlikeable and infuriating, I just didn’t enjoy it. 😭
6) Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas
Meet Celaena Sardothien. Beautiful. Deadly. Destined for greatness.
In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake. She got caught.
Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted? (less)
THOUGHTS: SJM’s works and I don’t really get along, and after the hype Throne of Glass has gotten, I was sorely disappointed. I didn’t really like Celaena and I think it bled through pretty much everything else. 🙉
7) The Next Together – Lauren James
Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again, century after century. Each time, their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated.
Spanning the Crimean War, the Siege of Carlisle and the near-future of 2019 and 2039 they find themselves sacrificing their lives to save the world. But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace?
Maybe the next together will be different…
THOUGHTS: The idea was amazing but writing and characters didn’t really do it for me. Such a shame, because again… that idea was amazing. 😫
8) Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor
Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low. And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.
When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
THOUGHTS: This book is super hyped (I think) and while the writing was beautiful and the world-building commendable, the characters and romance didn’t really work for me. I suppose it’s one of those things where the trope — insta-love, again — just isn’t for me no matter the circumstances. 🙃
9) Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blake
In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown, all possessed of a coveted magic.
Mirabella, a fierce elemental, can spark hungry flames with the click of a finger. Katharine, a poisoner, is known to be resistant to the deadliest of snake bites. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is rumoured to have the ability to bloom the reddest of roses.
But becoming the Queen Crowned is not just a matter of royal birth. These three sisters must fight to the death for the throne, and on the night they turn sixteen the battle begins. Only one queen can inherit the crown.
THOUGHTS: I was really, really, really excited for this book — I love fights to the death and the idea that sisters get to do it? Awesome! But then the book came and… nothing happened. I still think the series has potential, but as a book this one was really more of a setup than an actual book, if that makes sense. 🤔
10) Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz
Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common.
But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.
THOUGHTS: Loved the idea and enjoyed the execution, but ultimately, the writing was very distant to me and made me feel rather disconnected from the characters. What was supposed to be an emotional read fell flat on that front. 😶
What’s on your TTT this week? Leave me a link or let me know in the comments! 💓