Again, But Better

Again, But Better by Christine Riccio

My rating: five stars

Genre: YA, Romance

Edition: Barnes and Noble Hardback

Goodreads summary: Shane has been doing college all wrong. Pre-med, stellar grades, and happy parents…sounds ideal—but Shane’s made zero friends, goes home every weekend, and romance…what’s that? Her life has been dorm, dining hall, class, repeat. Time’s a ticking, and she needs a change—there’s nothing like moving to a new country to really mix things up. Shane signs up for a semester abroad in London. She’s going to right all her college mistakes: make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure! Easier said than done. She is soon faced with the complicated realities of living outside her bubble, and when self-doubt sneaks in, her new life starts to fall apart. Shane comes to find that, with the right amount of courage and determination one can conquer anything. Throw in some fate and a touch of magic—the possibilities are endless.

Let me preface this review with the fact that I have been watching Christine Riccio’s YouTube videos for years and adore her so much. I will definitely try my hardest to be unbiased and give an honest opinion of what I think of this story as if I had no clue who she was. 

Likes: I resonate with Again, but Better so much, I relate to the main character and what she is going through on a personal level. I am at a time in my life where I am questioning certain decisions that I made and am wondering what could have been if I made different choices. So the fact that Shane also felt this way through the story really made my look into my own life and made me feel like I am not alone. Most YA stories deal with teenagers (which to be honest I still relate to because I feel younger than I am at heart) but Shane being in college is more relatable to me. I have seen several negative reviews about the writing style but I honestly like it. Christine writes how I imagine an actual person talks and thinks – at least how I talk and think. I do love more “mature” writing but for YA romances I like when I can put myself in the main characters shoes, which is made easier when the way the main character thinks is how I think. Lastly, the plot twist! I don’t want to spoil anything but I’ll just say it was very unexpected. 

Dislikes: the main love interest’s decisions just really frustrates me. I don’t mind his personality but the way he seems to lead Shane on and how he puts things off or doesn’t seem to want to finish things just irks me. It just really bothers me when characters settle for being unhappy when there is a better option for everyone, they are just too afraid of change to take it. I understand that these decisions are life-changing and difficult, but there was seriously almost no reason for him to keep doing the things he was doing. 

Overall, even though the main love interest was frustrating, I can kind of understand why he would be nervous about change and I don’t want to deduct a star just because I don’t share the same opinions as a character. I connected more to this book than I have ever connected to a book before. I had such a good time reading it, it was uplifting and put me in a wonderful mood. Therefore, I gave it five stars. 

The Magicians

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

My rating: three stars

Genre: Fantasy

Edition: Paperback

Goodreads summary: A thrilling and original coming-of-age novel for adults about a young man practicing magic in the real world. Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he’s still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery. He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin’s fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined. His childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart. At once psychologically piercing and magnificently absorbing, The Magicians boldly moves into uncharted literary territory, imagining magic as practiced by real people, with their capricious desires and volatile emotions. Lev Grossman creates an utterly original world in which good and evil aren’t black and white, love and sex aren’t simple or innocent, and power comes at a terrible price.

I first became interested in The Magicians after watching the TV show. The TV show was so entertaining and fun, I wanted more! My friend ended up buying the book for me – I didn’t even know there was one at the time! – because he had read it before and liked it. And I am so glad he got it for me!

Likes: This book is often compared to Harry Potter and for me this is a positive! It is honestly like a more mature and serious Harry Potter. I love that it takes place at a school where Quentin is learning classes and learning about the world as we the readers are. How Quentin finds out about the world is mysterious and unique. I like that the school is slightly off in terms of weather – it shows that the magic is not perfect and it is just a little aspect that makes the story more realistic. The writing style itself makes the story more believable, especially when describing the main character’s depression and how that affects the way views his life. The book also has fewer sexual scenes – the show had a lot that seemed to have no point except to just be sex scenes; the show also made some of the sexual stuff main plot points which was strange. I like that the sexual scenes in the book seem to have purpose and weren’t just thrown in there to try and please the audience. 

Dislikes: The ending was very abrupt and anticlimactic for me to be honest. I definitely don’t want to go into detail and spoil anything so I won’t say more than I expected more. I love when books go into the reality of life and explain depression in an honest way. However, sometimes when they go too deep into something that I feel personally, it is less of an enjoyable, educational experience and it just makes me feel down. This book was one of those cases. I enjoyed it a ton but I also felt down emotionally by it.. 

Overall, this story was a fun, imaginative, story that brought me back to when I was reading Harry Potter for the first time. It was mysterious and really sucked me into the story. However, the disappointing ending and dark themes were the reason I gave it three stars. I would definitely recommend it though!

The Wicked King

The Wicked King by Holly Black

My rating: five stars

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Edition: Hardcover 

Goodreads Summary: You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring. The first lesson is to make yourself strong. After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished. When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world. 

How do I even begin to describe how I feel about this book?? I know this series tends to be a hit or miss for most people, and let me just say that the first book was a huge hit. I have always been intrigued by the idea of a society where people (or in this case fae) cannot tell lies. The loopholes that the faeries find in all conversations are interesting and quite brilliant. How Jude and her sister use this to their advantage is smart, though it is surprising that people take them at their word. 

Likes: As discussed above, I love how cunning the faeries are in getting around the truth and I find it to be realistic. To imagine a world where everyone tells the truth with no ulterior motives sounds perfect but improbable. The tension between Cardan and Jude is intoxicating, though frustrating. Jude’s ability to use her power to her advantage while not letting people know that she is in such a high position is brilliant. She continually lets people underestimate her which gives her such an advantage over everyone else. The storyline is complex and there are twists and turns that I never would have expected. 

Dislikes: Jude’s sister is so cruel and I don’t understand how Jude is okay with this. Sure, she is upset for a large part of the book but her sister doesn’t even act like what she did in the first book is wrong! I don’t understand her reasoning for allowing her fiance to be so mean to Jude and lead her on like that. Seriously, her reasoning just doesn’t make any sense. Ugh. Anyway, moving on. 

Though I obviously was extremely annoyed by part of the story, I still gave this book five out of five stars. I loved how cunning everyone was, the storyline was fast paced and kept me guessing, and I would love to read this story over and over again.

Eragon

Eragon by Christopher Paolini 

My rating: five stars

Genre: Fantasy

Edition: Audiobook

 Goodreads Summary: One boy… One dragon… A world of adventure. When Eragon finds a polished blue stone in the forest, he thinks it is the lucky discovery of a poor farm boy; perhaps it will buy his family meat for the winter. But when the stone brings a dragon hatchling, Eragon soon realizes he has stumbled upon a legacy nearly as old as the Empire itself. Overnight his simple life is shattered, and he is thrust into a perilous new world of destiny, magic, and power. With only an ancient sword and the advice of an old storyteller for guidance, Eragon and the fledgling dragon must navigate the dangerous terrain and dark enemies of an Empire ruled by a king whose evil knows no bounds. Can Eragon take up the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders? The fate of the Empire may rest in his hands.

This year I reread Eragon which is what I am basing my review on. I originally read it when it first came out in 2002 and just recently decided that I want to read the whole series. I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I absolutely loved the movie. I have seen it more times than I can count and I am not ashamed to say it. I think this is because I first watched it when I was a lot younger and I was immediately awe-struck by it, so now, as an adult, it reminds me of my childhood and the childlike fascination I had with it. 

I actually really like the audiobook. The reader was okay, a little slow, but I liked his voice and the tone in which he described scenes and actions. I am listening to the second one and it is a lot harder to follow. I think the audiobook for the first one was good for me because I have seen the movie so many times and so I basically know what is going to happen. Whereas, in the second book it is all new to me so the reader is a little hard for me to follow. 

Likes: I love the cast of characters in Eragon. Each character has such depth to them and are all different and unique from each other. Brom was so harsh but humorous, he was a great contrast of a character and definitely one of my favorites. I also really like the magic system and how it is based off of words and their meanings. There is more of that in books now, but I feel that was a relatively new magic system back then and I found it to be unique. 

Dislikes: I guess I was a little confused when it kept going back to the cousin’s point of view. It seems oddly random and like a plot that doesn’t have a purpose. Maybe I am just not seeing why we follow him, and maybe in the later books it starts to make sense, but in this book it just seems to be filler which wasn’t enjoyable. 

Overall, I gave this book five stars. Honestly, I probably shouldn’t rate it that high, but I just have  a love for this world and it brings me back to my childhood when I first read it. And though the movie wasn’t great, it was one of my favorites growing up and so the book brings a sense of nostalgia to me when I read it. The writing of this book was wonderful, the characters were deep, and the story line was complex. With the only negative being the alternate POVs, I am giving this five stars.  

Thunderhead

Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe #2) by Neal Shusterman 

My rating: five stars

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Edition: Audiobook

Goodreads Summary: Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?

I listened to this book on audiobook and I think this might be the most satisfying audiobook that I have ever listened to. The voice of the reader was so calming yet they were somehow able to make me feel as if I was really there – to where I was sitting on the edge of my seat towards the end.

Likes: I don’t know how Neal came up with a world like this, it is such a unique but logical idea. I feel like so many people want immortality but don’t realize the negative effects that would take place and the fact that we would have to somehow control the population. Though the idea of Scythes is dark, I love it. The twists and turns in this book were so surprising and disarming, the direction that it went wasn’t a direction that I saw it going at all – though that’s not a bad thing. There was a lot of political intrigue in the book which adds another layer to the world and the book expands upon the effect the end of the first book has on the story. 

Dislikes: There were a few confusing and slower parts when a third character’s point of view comes into play. This character does some things that I didn’t necessarily understand, though I realize that it was most likely on purpose. That is honestly the only negative thing I can think of for this book. It would say that it was too long but the pacing and the different plots with multiple POVs kept it entertaining the entire time.

Overall, I gave this book five out of five stars because I would honestly read it over and over again. I thought Scythe was complex and well-thought out, but I was definitely not ready for Thunderhead. This book blew me away with the beautiful writing, intricate plots, and jaw-dropping plot twists. I would recommend this book to everyone, just make sure to brace yourself!

Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: Four stars 
Genre: Sci-fi, YA
Edition: Audiobook

Goodreads Summary: IN THE YEAR 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. 

But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

I initially became interested in Ready Player One after seeing the movie. For me, the movie was so much fun. I love gaming and the OASIS truly seems like the perfect game. The world building and nerdy references sucked me in and I am not ashamed to admit that I have watched it several times since it came out. After my boyfriend told me that he enjoyed the audiobook, I knew that I had to listen to it. 

First off, Wil Wheaton did a great job reading this audiobook. Sometimes that can make or break a story and I was not disappointed – and I am relatively picky about these things. 

Likes: The OASIS is such a beautiful place, I would honestly pay so much money to be able to join in the game! The thought process that went into each of the trials was so intricate, I can honestly tell how much time the author took thinking of them. I also liked how the school system was transferred into the OASIS to show how much the OASIS truly affected their everyday life. The author showed unique ways that the game could be used that I would not have thought of but made sense – schooling, working out, etc. 

Dislikes: The relationship between the main character and love interest happened so quickly and honestly seemed a little forced. The back and forth nature of it seemed to just be added for drama and left a whole segment of the book that was a little boring. There were also some really important scenes in the book that happen but the author made the scenes so long and so boring – seemingly to offset how important it is supposed to be so that it would be a surprise. 

Differences between the book and the movie: I know that many people were annoyed that the movie was so different from the book, and I don’t know if it was because I read the book after or not, but I enjoyed both. They were extremely different but I understand there are only so many scenes that can be put into a movie. The book still had the nerdy references that I loved, however, they were older references so I did not get as many. The references in the book were more about old games that am not familiar with while the movie had newer references that made me geek out. 

Overall, I gave this book four stars because, while I would definitely read it again, the book did have some issues and slow points that would stop me from wanting to read it often. I loved the world and the humor but there was a whole section of the book towards the end (I don’t want to discuss because spoilers) that I don’t know if I would want to dredge through again. 

About Me

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

Hi, and welcome to my blog!

My name is Sydney and I am a 20-something year old lover of pretty much anything that is “nerdy”. I love reading, kpop, gaming, anime, and so much more.

I initially started this blog to write book reviews but I have many ideas and look forward to using this space as my creative outlet. I hope to be able to post about most of my hobbies while meeting other people that enjoy the same things as me! I hope you enjoy this space ❤

Favorite genre of books: YA, Fantasy, and Sci-Fi (though feel free to recommend books to me!)

Favorite Kpop Groups: BTS, Stray Kids, Hyuna, CL, and OG groups (2NE1, Super Junior, MBLAQ, SHINee…)

Favorite Food: Steaaaakkkk, Pho, and Bubble Tea

Instagram: @classicsquidney