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Ranking My 13 Most Recent Reads

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at PSU chapter.

Warmer weather is coming and so is the time for sitting out in the sun on a bench or at an outdoor table to sip an iced coffee and read a great book. 

There’s no question that being a Penn State student takes up a lot of your time, but books can be a great way to destress. The problem is that you don’t want to waste valuable time on a book that you’ll end up hating. 

Over the last few months, I have read 13 books. They were all great, but some were definitely better than others. I’ve created a ranking of titles to hopefully help you narrow down what books you might want to carve out time in your busy schedule for, starting at number 13 and working up to my number one pick.

“The Brothers Hawthorne” by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Book Four in “The Inheritance Games” series)

I have mixed feelings about The Inheritance Games series. I liked the first book but did not feel too strongly about it one way or another. It was a good summer evening read.

The second book grew on me and I started to fall in love with the characters and the world Barnes built, and by the third book I genuinely loved the series overall. However, “The Brothers Hawthorne” was the first book in a long time that took me over a week and that I struggled to finish.

The first half is capital “S” Slow, and the switching perspectives kept it feeling even slower when both perspectives felt like their storylines were barely moving. I loved Avery’s point of view in the first three books and just didn’t really care for Grayson’s or Jameson’s.

However, the end of the book was intriguing and I did manage to push through and finish it. For me, this one ranks the lowest on my list because I was bored.

This book felt like a filler to carry readers into the next book and to set some things up for the next read. I am hopeful for the next book because I believe that this book left us in an interesting enough place to pick up from. 

“A Thousand Heartbeats” by KIEra Cass

I had fun reading “A Thousand Heartbeats” but it was definitely a little cheesy and a slow read. I picked this one up because I love “The Selection” series, which was also written by Cass. Although this book was cute and I finished it in a sitting, it did not hold a candle to “The Selection.”

I loved the female protagonist, but for the first half of the book, every time it switched to the male protagonist I found him boring and dislikable. The love story was cute but very sudden and did not have much behind it.

I love a soulmate trope every now and then, but this was too sudden. They hated each other and then suddenly fell in love without ever getting to know each other. Also (SPOILER ALERT!), I hated that the female main character found out he killed her mom and just, forgave him and ended up with him? Without any struggle?

Don’t get me wrong, this book really picked up in the second half and I loved the twist at the end, but the first half was just frustrating and slow. Compared to “The Selection,” these characters lacked depth. However, I still really enjoyed the read overall. 

“The Crooked Kingdom” by Leigh Bardugo (Book #2 in the “Six of Crows” series)

This book was good, but I was left a little disappointed by the ending. I was hoping for two characters to end up together after building up to it for two whole books and was upset by another character’s death that, frankly, felt like lazy writing. However, the world-building was great, the plot was complex and I thought this was a really entertaining fantasy read.

If you were convinced to read this book by BookTok as a great fantasy read, you should. The world-building is great and the plot has a lot going on. If you like books with multiple perspectives, this is also a great one for you.

If you were convinced because you heard that Kaz Brekker is an incredible love interest and that this is a “romantasy,” I would not recommend this one.

There was not much romance involved in this story and Brekker is definitely not the love interest that Booktok made him out to be (the only thing he has in common with characters like Rhysand and Aaron Warner is the fact that he’s very morally gray, not that he is a good love interest). 

However, I loved the women in this series. I thought Nina and Inez were strong, complex and independent women navigating their own past trauma while still handling every situation with a combination of grace and badassery. They also refused to take any shit from the men in their group, which was iconic. 

“Six of Crows” by Bardugo (Book #1 in “the Six of Crows” series)

This book is perfect if you’re interested in big cons, heists, dangerous fights, multiple perspectives, magic and gang activity set in a complex fantasy world (the same world as “Shadow and Bone,” which is on my TBR after finishing this book). 

I really enjoyed this first book and the cliffhanger it left leading into the second. It was so interesting navigating this fantasy world and the kingdoms within it. 

The best part of this book truly was Bardugo’s world-building. She flawlessly creates a universe that feels so real because she links aspects of our world with the places she writes about. 

“The Love Hypothesis” by Ali Hazelwood

To be honest, at first I thought that the writing in this book was cringey and that I wouldn’t like it. However, after a few chapters, this book undeniably sucked me in and was a really cute romance. 

It’s stereotypical, it’s filled with cheesy tropes, and yet it has so much heart to it and you really fall in love with the walking stereotypes of characters. The banter is adorable and I loved all of the relationships in this story. Olive and Adam do indeed have my heart. 

I would absolutely recommend this one as a light, fluffy, quick read if you need something to cheer you up at the end of a long day. 

“A Court of Silver Flames” by Sarah J. Maas (Book #5 in the “A Court of Thorns and Roses” (ACOTAR) series)

This book is only so low on my list because the first half was so hard to get through, which is especially painful when the book is about 800 pages. Most of the first half was suffering through watching Nesta ruin her own life by lashing out at everyone who loves her, all while justifying it to herself because of her trauma.

Although it was understandable, it was painful to watch, like a trainwreck in slow motion. 

However, this book more than made up for it in the second half.

Nesta’s character arc? Incredible. Nesta and Cassian? One of my favorite book couples ever. The Valkyries? Love. Nesta and Feyre at the end of the book? So cute, made me cry. 

Although I really missed Feyre’s perspective in this story (she has my heart), Nesta and Cassian are both very interesting characters and I still really loved this book. 

Reading book with cat
Original photo by Arden Ericson
“Bright Young Women” by Jessica Knoll

I haven’t finished this book yet, but it captured my attention from the first chapter and I have been hooked on it.

I have two hours of driving every Tuesday and Thursday to get to and from student teaching, so this book has been my audiobook to fill the drive for the past week. I’ve been loving it, arguably too much (to the point that it’s been at the back of my mind the whole time I’m student teaching). 

If you’re interested in thrillers, murder mysteries, serial killers and strong independent women determined to get justice, this book is perfect for you. This one is based on the real-life sorority targeted by Ted Bundy during his final killing spree.

“How to Fail at Flirting” by Denise Williams

I got this book at a bookstore in Savannah as a “Blind Date with a Book.” It was wrapped up in brown paper with the description on the front: “One daring to-do list, a crash course in flirtation, type A’s world turned upside down, healing from past trauma, banter, heat, and swoons, and blends rom-com with emotional depth.”

This book has held true to this description on its packaging (thank you E. Shaver Books).

I read it on the beach the next day and it was such a perfect beach romance. It’s got likable characters, great banter, and it’s perfect for a nice easy read. I really loved it and would highly recommend this one to any fans of a cute, fluffy romance with all the tropes. 

“A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Maas (Book #1 in the “ACOTAR” series)

I thought this book had a slow start and at first I struggled to get into it because I did not like the love interest (which worked out for me later in the series). However, the last quarter of the book was genuinely incredible and had me so sucked in.

During the second half, I really fell in love with Feyre, her strength and Prythian as a world. I think that “ACOTAR” is an incredible standalone book, but compared to the rest of the series, it just wasn’t quite as great. 

Maas truly continued to outdo herself with this series. As much as I love “ACOTAR”, it pales in comparison to the second, third, and fourth books. 

“House of Earth and Blood” by Maas (Book #1 in the “Crescent City” Series)

Just like she did with “ACOTAR”, Maas created deeply complex, interesting characters surrounded by an even more interesting world for this series. The first quarter of the book was honestly pretty difficult to read because this world is so complicated and there was so much world-building, but it’s so worth it to get through the world-building to get to Bryce and Hunt’s stories.

The romance, the secrets, the powers, the twists, the battle — everything about this book was the definition of enthralling (once you get to the second half). It is a long one (803 pages), so if you’re reading this one, buckle up, because the whole series is just as long. 

I’m currently 383 pages into the second “Crescent City” book, “House of Sky and Breath” which is 805 pages long. The third book, “House of Flame and Shadow”, just came out recently (and rumor has it that it’s a crossover with the “ACOTAR” series), and is 816 pages. So far, “House of Sky and Breath” is just as great as the first “Crescent City” book. I love Hunt, I love Bryce, but most of all, I love Syrinx. 

This series is a time commitment, but it really is great and I highly recommend it.

“A Court of Frost and Starlight” by Maas (Book #4 in the “ACOTAR” series)

This book was basically the cutesy Christmas special of the “ACOTAR” series and I ate up every minute of it. It really set up the next book nicely and gave readers a much-needed peaceful read to just see our favorite characters be happy for a little bit. 

Feyre and Rhysand are my favorite book couple of all time, and this book really confirmed that for me. Don’t skip this one, it’s worth the read.

“A Court of Wings and Ruin” by Maas (Book #3 in the “ACOTAR” series)

The best word to describe this book is epic. 

The friendships, romance, politics, strategies, drama, battles, alliances and war weave together to create a complex, intricate story that will truly take you on an emotional rollercoaster. I cried multiple times at the end of this book, and I genuinely loved every minute of reading it.

“A Court of Mist and Fury” by Maas (Book #2 in the “ACOTAR” series)

I read this book about two months ago and it immediately became my favorite read of all time. This is the best slow burn I have ever read, but in addition to the romance, this is a book about a girl discovering her own power and worth. I genuinely could not recommend this book enough and I want everyone I know to read it so that I can talk about it all the time.

If you’re reading “ACOTAR” and questioning whether you can get through it or if it’s a book for you, just push through so you can get to this one. The first book is all about building a world and characters so that the second book can be the genuine masterpiece that it is.

In conclusion, this is the best book ever and you need to read it immediately so that you can also fall in love with Feyre and Rhysand and you can marvel at their cool powers and world. Read it now, please. And then DM me about it @emmahogan___ on Instagram because I would love nothing more than to analyze this book with you. 

I hope that some of my recent reads might stand out to you and inspire you to pick up a new book or series.

I promise that all of these books are worth reading, even my lower ranked ones. If you ever need any more ideas to add to your TBR, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local Her Campus at PSU bookworm. I promise I’ll have plenty of ideas for you. 

Happy reading!

Emma is a third-year Elementary and Early Childhood Education major at Penn State University. When she's not writing, you can usually find her singing, reading, painting, going on walks, hanging out with friends/her incredible boyfriend, and drinking iced chai lattes. Outside of Her Campus, Emma is the President of the Penn State Singing Lions, a Students United Against Poverty Ambassador, a member of the Phi Eta Sigma honors fraternity, and works at an after-school program.