Earlier last week, I saw a post about a new Percy Jackson themed readathon happening in June. I had just heard the news that Percy Jackson was becoming a Disney + show, so I thought I would celebrate by participating.
How It Works:
All you have to do is pick a house to represent and read books based off the prompts to win points for your cabin. The cabin with the most points wins the readathon. To declare your team you submit a form that can be found on the Olympic Games twitter page. The prompts can be found here.
I don’t own as many books as a lot of the people on twitter seem to own and the libraries are closed where I am, so my book choices are limited. That’s part of the reason why I’m choosing to represent Team Hades : the prompts work out best for the books that I have. The other reason why I’m choosing Team Hades is because I love Nico DiAngelo and that love only grew after my recent re-read of Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
Mandatory Challenges and My Picks:
The Ghost King: Read a book featuring the undead
I know it doesn’t exactly feature the undead but this was the closest I could get to the prompt out of the books I have. I’m choosing to count it because it features women killed by a serial killer who is still unknown today.
Bring a book back from the dead by reading something you have
already read before.
I read this book earlier this year but I want to get further into the series so I’m re-reading it for this challenge.
The underworld is a dark and dreary place. Read a book with a dark cover.
I think the cover speaks for itself here.
Death comes randomly and without warning. Choose a book from
your TBR at random.
This wasn’t as random as I wanted it to be, but it worked out all the same.
Hermes is the only Olympian free to visit the underworld. Complete a prompt that honours Hermes. (a book with a snake on the cover)
Finding a book with a snake on the cover was harder than I thought it would be. Luckily I haven’t picked this one up yet.
Sword & Shield: A book featuring a character whom you would not get along with.
This book features six main characters with different personalities. I figured I wouldn’t get along with at least one of them if they were real.
Monster Fighting: A book featuring magical creatures
I’m choosing this book so that I’m able to continue the Mortal Instruments while staying within the challenge guidelines. Demons are magical creatures, and they’re hunting demons so it works.
The Handmaid’s Tale meets Wilder Girls in this unique, voice-driven novel from Kelly McWilliams.
Agnes loves her home of Red Creek–its quiet, sunny mornings, its dusty roads, and its God. There, she cares tirelessly for her younger siblings and follows the town’s strict laws. What she doesn’t know is that Red Creek is a cult, controlled by a madman who calls himself a prophet.
Then Agnes meets Danny, an Outsider boy, and begins to question what is and isn’t a sin. Her younger brother, Ezekiel, will die without the insulin she barters for once a month, even though medicine is considered outlawed. Is she a sinner for saving him? Is her sister, Beth, a sinner for dreaming of the world beyond Red Creek?
As the Prophet grows more dangerous, Agnes realizes she must escape with Ezekiel and leave everyone else, including Beth, behind. But it isn’t safe Outside, either: A viral pandemic is burning through the population at a terrifying rate. As Agnes ventures forth, a mysterious connection grows between her and the Virus. But in a world where faith, miracles, and cruelty have long been indistinguishable, will Agnes be able to choose between saving her family and saving the world?
DISCLAIMER: I received this E-ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a review. All thoughts are my own and are not intended in any way to hurt anyone’s feelings or offend the author.
As soon as I saw Handmaid’s Tale meets Wilder Girls at the top of the blurb, I knew I wanted to read this novel. I will say though, the rest of the blurb is accurate but I didn’t really get Handmaid’s Tale or Wilder Girlsfrom this book. Both are much darker books for one thing although there are a couple of references to the Handmaid’s Tale in regards to the strict rules the girls have to follow and the fact that they can’t wear red (the color that the Handmaids in Atwood’s novel are notorious for wearing). The similarities stop there.
Onto the novel itself, I thought it was interesting. I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened to Beth and Agnes as the situation with the cult and the Virus outside grew more intense. Both main characters are strong women who know what they want despite the conflict over where they stand in their religion. The religion is one aspect of this book that McWilliams does well and throughout the entire plot I could see and feel the struggles both girls were having in this strange world.
I liked the side characters (although I may or may not have mixed up Agnes’s nickname for ‘Zeke’ with Max.) I saw a lot of Danny but I wish I saw the romance between him and Agnes more or the one between Cory and Beth. I know that it wasn’t necessary with Agnes because the book is focusing on her and her religion but I think Cory and Beth’s relationship could’ve added even more to the plot.
At first, the suspense was killing me. As soon as I learned Ezekiel’s situation with the insulin, I was nervous for him so I guess I wasn’t surprised when all of it broke and his life was at risk. I think him surviving was the only event I didn’t expect to happen. Come to think of it, so many lives are miraculously saved throughout the book. Now that I think back on it, I guess that is the point because it is about God being kind and miraculous but also ruthless as well. Honestly the main problem I had was that everything was a little too convenient for the characters. I mean, I thought for sure Agnes was going to die but then Danny saved her. Same thing with Beth. I knew she was going to get out because I was only about a third in, but still Magda was right about to go at her and Cory grabs her and helps her escape out of the bunker.
I do like the ending. I like how Agnes is now a prophet of this ragtag group of survivors and Danny is a doctor and that Beth is going to see the world. It was a good way to end it I think.
Nina once bought into the idea that her fancy liberal arts degree would lead to a fulfilling career. When that dream crashed, she turned to stealing from rich kids in L.A. alongside her wily Irish boyfriend, Lachlan. Nina learned from the best: Her mother was the original con artist, hustling to give her daughter a decent childhood despite their wayward life. But when her mom gets sick, Nina puts everything on the line to help her, even if it means running her most audacious, dangerous scam yet.
Vanessa is a privileged young heiress who wanted to make her mark in the world. Instead she becomes an Instagram influencer—traveling the globe, receiving free clothes and products, and posing for pictures in exotic locales. But behind the covetable façade is a life marked by tragedy. After a broken engagement, Vanessa retreats to her family’s sprawling mountain estate, Stonehaven: a mansion of dark secrets not just from Vanessa’s past, but from that of a lost and troubled girl named Nina.
Nina’s, Vanessa’s, and Lachlan’s paths collide here, on the cold shores of Lake Tahoe, where their intertwined lives give way to a winter of aspiration and desire, duplicity and revenge.
DISCLAIMER: I received this E-ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a review. All thoughts are my own and are not intended in any way to hurt anyone’s feelings or the author.
Thoughts: Although I wouldn’t put this book on a favorite list, I did enjoy it. The characters Vanessa and Nina are for the most part well done but during the middle their relationship was difficult to read about because they were judging each other over something that could’ve easily been fixed. Honestly, it wasn’t until later in the book when I learned more about both of them that I began to like them because at the beginning Nina was judging Vanessa based on her lifestyle and Vanessa couldn’t put together the dots.
Of course, Vanessa and Nina aren’t the only characters in the story. There’s also Nina’s mother, Lily, her partner/boyfriend Lachlan, Vanessa’s brother Benny, and then Vanessa’s parents who are mentioned more than they show up in the book. Benny was probably the only character I liked (or semi-liked) the entire book because I did empathize with him and his situation. I didn’t have many opinions of Vanessa’s mother who I felt was more there for backstory than to be a character. I hate Vanessa’s dad, but I think we’re supposed to hate him for reasons that just keep piling up as the book goes on. As for Lily, I did like her for most of the book. She was a single mom taking care of her daughter while also battling cancer- it was hard not to like her- then certain events happened.
I can’t elaborate much more without spoilers so I’ll continue on to the plot. The beginning was great. I mean the first line of the book – “When a body goes down in Lake Tahoe, they say, it does not rise again” was everything I could ask for in a first line. It was shocking, it grabbed my attention, and made me ask a lot of questions. Frankly, I’m sad I can’t use it for one of my stories because it is so good! The ending was great too. There were so many twists that I didn’t anticipate and I loved that. It was the middle that got me. The backstory was important to the story, but I felt the middle didn’t have enough action – at least for me it didn’t. I also felt the book got a little preachy about social media. It involves social media (for crying out loud Vanessa is an Instagram influencer!), so I understand there’s gonna be some commentary about social media but there were a lot of times where a character just went off.
When Vanessa and Nina got over their differences and began working together against Lachlan (or Michael but I’m calling him Lachlan because that makes more sense to me) I was ecstatic. When Vanessa started saying how she was going to steal Nina’s guy and then was poisoning her drink to get more time with him, I genuinely thought their relationship would turn out to be one of those cliches “pit the girls against each other” things. I’m relieved it wasn’t.
Now for the twists. There was one twist that got me and it was that Lily had had an affair with Vanessa’s father which was the reason they had to leave Tahoe City. The clues were all there and when the reveal happened I had to stop reading for a second to just sit in awe of what had just happened. I lived for that. As for the others… they felt bizarre. I didn’t see them coming at all but couldn’t figure out where the warning signs were. They felt random. Lily working with Lachlan to keep Nina in the dark or Lily pretending to have cancer later on just didn’t add up. I don’t think the plot needed either in order to have a great ending. If anything, I feel the ending would be better if it didn’t have that along with it.
My opinions aside, this is still a book you should go out and buy. If you like thrillers and drama (I feel this book has a lot of that) this is the one for you. The links to get it today are above the synopsis.
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. . . .
A convict with a thirst for revenge
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager
A runaway with a privileged past
A spy known as the Wraith
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes
Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first
Thoughts: For the sake of avoiding spoilers, I will be talking about just the first book here and the series overall. In short: I loved it. In the books, there are six main characters (Wylan, Jesper, Matthias, Nina, Inej, and Kaz) who come together to pull off the most dangerous heist anyone has attempted to pull off. I’m not typically a fan of character driven stories, but this one had me hooked. I didn’t care that the heist was in the last one hundred pages because I felt there was so much going on with the character’s backstories which Bardugo does a great job with.
The characters are great. You don’t really get to know Jesper and Wylan until the Crooked Kingdom but when you do, their backstories are incredibly detailed and tie in well with the story. Romance wise I liked how it added to the plot line instead of taking away. There are many books that I’ve read where the romance feels unnecessary. The romances here have the chemistry and are realistic. No one is possessive or gets jealous easily which is refreshing to read. That leads me to my next point about the friendships- they feel real. Inej and Nina joking about Kaz and Matthias or when the group teases Wylan about playing the flute are interactions I could see happening between people today.
The world building is incredibly well done. I can only imagine the amount of plotting it took to make sure all those tiny details Bardugo put in don’t contradict each other. Of course knowing the magic structure and the traditions of each country is important but it’s the small details that I’ve come to appreciate. Crooked Kingdom has many of these details that help the team out when they need it. My favorite detail was probably everyone’s obsession with Ketterdam waffles. This could be because I’m a big fan of waffles myself.
Kaz and Inej. Already I know the Kanej shippers know what I’m talking about. I loved the chemistry between these two but they had such a slow burn! If it wasn’t for the action between Nina and Matthias and Jesper and Wylan I would’ve combusted but when I did get those scenes- perfection- especially the ending with them holding hands and Kaz drops that he found Inej’s parents. This ending made it seem like that romance will continue so I’m satisfied.
Matthias. His death came as a shock to me. I’m not surprised that someone died (with a group this big someone usually does) but I was devastated to see him go. Matthias coming to terms with his prejudices and facing them was something I felt really added to his and Nina’s dynamic and made him realistic as a character.
Lastly, when Nikolai showed up with Genya and Zoya I was so happy. I didn’t expect to see him and his interaction with Kaz was hilarious. I’m not surprised at all Kaz figured out Sturmhond was Nikolai. I actually thought this would happen if they interacted and it did!
I could probably write a whole novel on my thoughts on this book but unfortunately that is too long for people to read. I already have a hole even though I finished this series not that long ago. Luckily for me there’s a show coming out.