Monday, January 15, 2018

ARC Review: S.T.A.G.S. by M.A. Bennett

S.T.A.G.S. by M.A. Bennett
S.T.A.G.S.
By M.A. Bennett
Publisher:
Delacorte Press
Format: Print ARC
Source: YALLFest
Publication Date: January 30, 2018

To Sum It Up: Greer MacDonald has become the new scholarship student at a highly prestigious boarding school. However, the excitement of her new school quickly wears off as Greer is treated like an outsider by most of her wealthy classmates. When Greer is invited to Henry de Warlencourt’s estate for the weekend, she eagerly accepts, excited by the prospect of forming connections with her peers. But the weekend takes a turn for the sinister, and Greer must face some shocking truths.

Melissa's Review: The premise of this story was fascinating to me. I mean, who doesn’t love stories about elite boarding schools with a dark twist?! M.A. Bennett does an excellent job of immersing the reader in the setting of her story by providing interesting, but not an excessive amount of detail. I thought the most intriguing part of the book was Bennett’s ability to set such a gripping and continuous pace. I read this book in only two sittings!

I felt as though the characters were not fully developed, and they seemed somewhat one-dimensional. Additionally, the relationships between characters were weak and not quite believable. This lack of development made the characters unrelatable and the reader unsympathetic to their plights. While there certainly was an interesting ideology behind the motives of the antagonists, there was a serious lack of relatability, making it hard for the reader to suspend their disbelief.

The ending was, unfortunately, very dissatisfying. There seemed to be a forced sense of the story coming full circle. It was boring in its predictability. I think if the book had ended a chapter or two sooner, the ending would have been more fitting for the rest of the story.

All in All: S.T.A.G.S. was certainly a quick read, and Bennett has a talent for pace within her writing. The downfall of this book was ultimately a lack of character development. It was enjoyable all the same.

Lee's Review: Given my ongoing struggle with reading for any extended length of time, it’s pretty amazing that I finished S.T.A.G.S. in a single weekend. That is entirely due to the book’s absolutely brilliant pacing; once I began reading, I could. Not. Stop. S.T.A.G.S. actually brought me back to my Twilight days, when I spent every available minute buried in the book because I needed to know what happened next.

It quickly becomes clear that there’s a “The Most Dangerous Game” type element going on here, but it’s not the “what” that spurs you on reading. It’s the “how” and the “why.” While both are eventually revealed, the motivation behind the actions of the Medievals, a clique of students at St. Aidan the Great School (the titular S.T.A.G.S.), fell short for me. I expected something more complex than what the book offers, and this was quite disappointing considering how solid the build-up was.

I still would have given S.T.A.G.S. at least three stars if the ending hadn’t also fallen flat. It seemed both rushed and anti-climactic, and it even annoyed me a bit because the previous three-quarters of the book had been so compulsively readable. Although the insight into the mindset of the Medievals’ leader, Henry de Warlencourt, wasn’t wholly satisfying, I would’ve been fine with the story ending there instead of trying to set up a possible sequel.

I also wasn’t really impressed with the main character, Greer. She’s named after actress Greer Garson and is a film buff, and she drops a lot of film references, so much so that it feels heavy-handed sometimes. What bothered me most about Greer, though, was how oblivious she could be to what was really going on around her. Overall, Greer’s character development never quite took off, and none of the secondary characters, particularly all of the Medievals except Henry, was especially memorable.

S.T.A.G.S. was an odd read of sorts for me because I tore through it despite having a few big issues with it. If the book had ended as strongly as it started, this would have been a fantastic read.

All in All: S.T.A.G.S. boasts some impressive pacing, but unfortunately, the book loses the momentum it builds up so brilliantly in the beginning and ends without fully delivering on what drives some of the characters to act as they do.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

2018 Releases I Need to Read

As much as I'm really, really, really, really, really trying to stick to a budget this year, I've got to make allowances for all of these lovelies:

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
Publication Date: January 16

This comes out next week, and I'm super excited! I love Maureen Johnson's Shades of London series and am eagerly awaiting this one very much.

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
Publication Date: February 27

I freaked out when I spotted ARCS of this at YALLFest and was lucky enough to snag one. Set in the same world as Rachel Hartman's fantastic Seraphina, I can't wait to return to that world.

Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi
Publication Date: March 6

When I heard that Juliette, Warner, Kenji, Warner, Warner, Warner, Warner were returning for more books, my first thought was, "WHAAAAAAAT????!!!! MORE WARNER????!!!!!!!!" So, um, yeah, I'm a tad excited to read this book. Possibly because of Warner. XD

Defy the Worlds by Claudia Gray
Publication Date: April 3

I just about jumped for joy when I held an ARC of this in my hands at YALLFest. Defy the Stars was one of my favorite reads last year, and anyone who's looking for a bit of a Westworld fix while waiting for the show to return might want to check out this series.

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas
Publication Date: May 1

Like everyone else who's enjoyed the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, I'm curious to see where the story heads next.

Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare
Publication Date: December 4

Oops, I didn't get to Lord of Shadows last year, but I've got a bit of time to catch up before this final book in The Dark Artifices releases.

And, of course, there's:

Throne of Glass 7 by Sarah J. Maas

It's too early for a title or cover, but I know one thing that's certain: this book is probably going to absolutely wreck me. And I can't wait! XD

Are any of these books on your TBR? What other 2018 releases are you looking forward to reading?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Meant To Read In 2017 But Didn't Get To

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is:
Ten Books I Meant To Read in 2017 But Didn't Get To (And Totallyyyy Plan to Get to in 2018!!)

It's been a looooooooong time since I participated in Top Ten Tuesday! I loved this week's topic, though, and thought it would be a great time to jump back in!

Last year was the worst reading year I've had since I started blogging in 2012, thanks to a prolonged reading slump. :/ It's hard to narrow down the list of books I'd wanted to read but didn't in 2017 to just 10 because really, it was ALL THE BOOKS. These are the ones I'm determined to read in 2018, though:

1. The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman

GAH! This was one of my most anticipated sequels of 2017, and I didn't read it thanks to the reading slump that I spent most of last year trying to get out of. :/

2. Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

This is one of those books that I feel like everyone except me has read at this point, LOL. Gotta catch up before the final book in the series comes out later this year!

3. Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

Yet another 2017 sequel that sat on my shelf unread.

4. Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

I can't believe I didn't get to this one considering how much I love Chaol.

5. All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater is an auto-buy author for me, and while I did pre-order this, it, too, has sat unread on my bookshelf since its release.

6. Lirael by Garth Nix

This is going to be the year that I read Lirael, especially since I received a copy of the third book in the series, Abhorsen, for Christmas!

7. Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

The size of the Outlander books intimidates me a bit, but I've fallen behind on the TV series because I'm such a nerd and have to read the book first.

8. Manners and Mutiny by Gail Carriger

I've stalled on reading the final installment in the Finishing School series. This will be the year that I finish it!

9. Dawn Study by Maria V. Synder

I MUST find out what happens to Yelena and Valek and their friends in this series finale!

10. The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

This was supposed to be my 2017 Christmas read, but that didn't happen, so say hello to my 2018 Christmas read! XD

Are you looking to read any of these in 2018? What books made your list?

Monday, January 1, 2018

Reading and Blogging Goals for 2018

Happy New Year, everyone! I'm trying to start 2018 off right by actually posting, LOL. 2017 was the least productive reading and blogging year I've had since I started blogging, and I didn't even bother putting together a year-end post because there was hardly anything to look back at. :\ That was last year, though, and it's time to begin with a clean slate:

  • Read 25 books. I'm determined, determined to complete my Goodreads Reading Challenge this year!
  • Read 15 minutes every day. I think I finally need to accept that unless I schedule reading time in my planner, it's not going to happen. I also really struggled with finding the motivation to just pick up a book for most of last year. I'm hoping that success with short reading sessions will build some reading momentum.
  • Get back to regular blogging. Not only did I slack off with reading in 2017, but I also slacked off big time with blogging and feel really out of touch with the blogosphere. I'm thinking of participating in a meme like Top Ten Tuesday again to reconnect.
  • Reach 300 reviews on Goodreads. I thought I was going to hit this number last year, but alas, I did not. I'm 14 reviews away from 300 and am going to make it happen in 2018!

Good luck to all of you with your 2018 reading/blogging goals and challenges! I'm cheering you on! :D

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