Tag Archives: series

The Stone’s Heart by Jessica Thorne (The Queen’s Wing #2)

The first in this science-fantasy series, The Queen’s Wing, is the best book I’ve read this year hands down, so suffice it to say that I was beyond excited to read The Stone’s Heart and bought it the day of release. The Stone’s Heart picks up pretty much exactly after the last book ended and introduces Petra, Bel’s bodyguard, as a new POV; the book shifts between their POVs throughout. It took me a little while to feel fully immersed in the book, but that was really a me-thing instead of a book-thing—sometimes you’re just not in that SFF mood, you know? But things clicked for me about a quarter of the way in, and I was fully along for the ride.

Thorne crafts great characters and excellent plots, with world building that’s just the perfect ratio of science fiction to fantasy. As I think I said in my review of the first in the series, whoever is doing the marketing for this series is picking the wrong comps (Sarah J. Maas and The Selection). I think a wayyyyy better comparison is the Lunar Chronicles series if it were aimed at slightly older readers. And can we talk about that last bit? Because this series is not YA; I don’t care what the marketing and the cover indicate. Yeah, it’s written in a YA-ish voice that’s going to appeal to YA fans, but these characters are too old for that designation, sorry. I get it, that’s where the money’s at, but… can we try the New Adult thing again? Pretty please? Because a couple books I’ve read this year fit super well in that category, and I just wish traditional publishing and bookstores would acknowledge that we can make this a thing if we all just take a trust fall together.

I really enjoyed the new POV; these characters are full-fledged, with their own hopes, dreams, and back stories. If you are a fan of courtly (and interplanetary!) intrigue, definitely pick this series up, since there are a ton of twists, turns, and back stabbings. Thorne is really skilled at writing plot twists that truly come from left field but feel absolutely plausible. There’s no listed third book on Goodreads, but I’m praying that the author has one in the works, since I’m on board for this series for the long haul—hoping it’s not a trilogy, so we can get more, more, more! And in the meantime, I might take a look at her back list, since she also writes under Ruth Frances Long and R. F. Long.

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

Okay, what do I even say about Maureen Johnson at this point? She’s awesome? I love her characters, her voice, her plotting? Does that about cover it?

Listen, Maureen Johnson has a certain style that you’ll either like or you won’t, and her books are all different versions of the same wonderful thing. Quirky and intelligent MC, no parents for miles, a way of inserting detail and humor into the text that keeps you just reading one page, no, two pages, no, twenty pages more… If this is the sort of thing you enjoy, then go read the first in the Shades of London series, or Truly Devious, or 13 Little Blue Envelopes. (And presumably anything else by Johnson, all of which I’m sure I’ll read eventually.) If you’re trying to decide between her series, here’s a cheat sheet:

  • Shades of London series for ghosts (this book, The Madness Underneath, is book two)
  • Truly Devious series for true crime and historical elements
  • 13 Little Blue Envelopes series for quirky road trips

It’s been a while since I read the first Shades of London book, so I got to rediscover the MC, Rory, in this second in the series. A Louisiana native transplanted to a London boarding school, Rory behaves in a way that feels authentic. There are more than a few points in the book where I was mentally screaming at her to do something, anything other than what she was doing, but even when Rory’s making bad choices, you can see why she’s making them. She’s flawed but relatable, and you can’t help but be on her side, even when she’s royally fucking up.

So what else do I have to say about this book? It had that classic “recovering from the first book” feel, especially given the emphasis on therapy. I can understand if a lot of readers feel this book lags in the first half, but again, I don’t care; something about Johnson’s writing just calls to me, and the rip-roaring ending made up for any slowness. Plus it’s totally allowable to slow things down temporarily after the frenetic ending of the previous book. Our MC is in high school and just went through some truly traumatic events—it would be unrealistic to push ahead with the story any faster.

As the book moves toward the finish line, there’s a plot twist that I’ll admit I saw coming, but the execution and details of the surprise were still exciting and unexpected. As can be expected from Johnson’s other books, there isn’t so much a resolution at the end of this book as a pause and shift in the action, compelling us to reach for the next in the series. Cliffhangers are just something you have to deal with if you’re a Maureen Johnson fan.

I did also feel that the plot held together more cohesively than the first in the series. Leaving aside the aforementioned cliffhangers, the ends of both books struck me as a little bit off, like the reader is being expected to take a too much of a leap of faith, all at a breakneck pace. You can definitely leave both of these books with a dazed, what even just happened feeling. Yet the second book is an improvement on the first—not quite so manic, not quite so out-of-the-blue.

So overall The Madness Underneath was a crazy fun read (I mean, it’s not Truly Devious, but whatever…) and I’m looking forward to picking up the third book in the series.

#TSOOSI (Two Series Out, One Series In)

I’m sure we can all relate. You see that awesome review on Goodreads or a blog. Bookish intuitions aquiver, you know it’s a book you need to read right now. But then you see a #1 by the title, and with a sinking heart you realize that this is not a standalone, but the first of a series, which means commitment—commitment which, let’s get real, many of us don’t follow through on or push off for literally years.

Friends, I am here to say that my name is Katie, and I have a problem: I start series and never finish them, despite the very best intentions. Case in point, last year I read Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson, which I adored and is the first in a series. I knew the second book was coming out in 2019, so to tide me over until release day, I picked up 13 Little Blue Envelopes, also by Maureen Johnson. Once I’d devoured that, did I finish the Blue Envelope series like a responsible human? Of course not—instead I decided it was much more important for me to start another series by Maureen Johnson. So if you’re keeping score, that’s three series I started by Maureen Johnson within a span of approximately six months, and I am only now trying to rectify this mess.

This has to stop. It stresses me out to look at my TBR shelf, knowing that there are sequels up there that I have been pushing off for years, the details of the first in the series fading fast from my memory. So I’ve decided to institute a personal rule, which I invite anyone else suffering from this problem to adopt. I’m calling it Two Series Out, One Series In, or in abbreviated form, #TSOOSI. Slightly inane-sounding, I know, but that’s what we’re going with. Essentially, I’m making sure to finish or get up to date on two series before I can start another series. Hopefully this will whittle away at the problem until my TBR is cured of unfinished-series-itis.

Here are the series I can think of off the top of my head that I need to finish or get up to date on; I am sure there are more than this, though. Revealing all these is… a little embarrassing, I’ll be honest.

Right now I’m in the middle of The Stone’s Heart, which is the sequel to The Queen’s Wing (and there is no prospective third book listed on Goodreads) and I’ve just gotten up-to-date on the Truly Devious series, so after I’m done with The Stone’s Heart I can introduce another series—I’m thinking The Call by Peadar O’Guilin. I know getting “up to date” doesn’t exactly solve the problem, but it’s definitely better than nothing, so that’s what I’m going with for right now.

What do you think about TSOOSI? Have you tried something similar to wrangle a stress-inducing TBR? I’d love to hear how you balance the excitement of starting new series with the need to finish series, so drop a comment down below!