Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic

5 Stars
Slow to start, totally worth it.

Kell is a blood magician who can travel between the four worlds, each with a different affinity for magic but sharing the anomaly of the name 'London'. When Kell finds a dangerous artefact, he must return it to the darkest form of London before it falls into the wrong hands.

I found the beginning slow with too much exposition, but intriguing nonetheless. At first I struggled to get to grips with the different worlds as they're each very different in description, history, characters - of course there needs to be a lot of world building in a book about multiple worlds, but it made Kell's narrative heavy to read. Yet, it had many redeeming quirks, like the elemental toy and the enchanted coat, which made me think the book could swing either way for me. I kept reading with an open mind.

When Kell bumps into Lila Bard, the book really gets going. Lila's a thief who yearns for adventure, and with very little to lose, she's very happy to get herself tangled up in danger as she seeks the thrills and riches of life. She bounces well off of Kell, adding in a feisty spirit and a bit of humour, taking what could have been a dry fantasy into an entertaining adventure.

Exposition aside, the book is full of adventure, mystery and magic - what's not to love? I would recommend it highly, but only read it when you're ready to properly get into a book. You have to give a little before you get anything back with this one.

Source: Bought it!

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Book Review: Homecoming

HOMECOMING (The 100 #3) by Kass Morgan
3 Stars
Verdict: Not much to say.
#1 - The 100
#2 - Day 21

The dropships have landed, and now the colonists are being led by the old Vice Chancellor, who I pictured as Governor Ratcliff from Pocahontas. He’s pretty thick, arrogant, with not enough to him to be redeeming. It’s a mystery to me why he’s in charge, but there you have it. Let’s start a war.

It’s quick and light read, with not much to say. The idea behind it is brilliant, but the book itself is meh. The target audience is on the younger side of young adult, and maybe the TV series set my expectations too high. The ending went to mush too, like the last book, and that sets me off on a down note.

The problem with so many characters in a short book is that none of them really get fleshed out. The author tended to tell exactly how the characters feel or who a character is, when really I wouldn’t have guessed. Whether they were happy or sad, it felt shallow.

I’m glad these books are out there, but I can’t say I enjoyed the book series too much.

Source: Bought it!

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Book Review: Day 21

DAY 21 (The 100 #2) by Kass Morgan
3 Stars
Verdict: It's okay.
#1 - The 100
#3 - The Homecoming

Oops, I forgot to write a proper review for this one when I read it last December, so this might be a bit short.

In truth, I read it quickly and moved on. Nothing really stood out, good or bad, that I haven’t already said for book one.

It’s an easy read and it's written in a straightforward manner… plus with further explanations to make sure you really get the point. From that, I gather this is aimed at the younger side of the young adult spectrum, so maybe it lost me a little there.

I enjoyed the unravelling of the characters’ pasts alongside where are they now. It's not a style I usually enjoy, but Morgan does it well.

I think the ending got to me the most. It’s anticlimactic, and once after watching the TV series, I expected depth, grit, and shocking twists, and instead it was easy, simple, and – how dare it – happy. In the end, I just expected to feel more from it.

Source: Bought it.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Book Review: The Sun Is Also A Star

5 Stars
Loved it!

This story is about one momentous day. It’s Natasha last day to stop her deportation back to Jamaica, the place she was born but feels little connection to. It’s also Daniel’s day to shine in an interview for Yale that he couldn’t care less about, but his first-generation Asian immigrant parents believe it is the best thing for him. Their encounter is improbable, their relationship doomed from the start, yet they’re meant-to-be.

I fell in love with Natasha and Daniel. Natasha likes observable facts, only believing in what can be studied – not fate, or karma, and definitely not love. Daniel is more comfortable with the unknown and a hopeless romantic. Over the course of one day, he tries to prove that they’re meant to be together.

Okay, so one day is a little fast, but I like to think the quality of their interaction is what mattered – how open they were, how much they learned. Or maybe I’m willing to make excuses because I enjoyed reading it.

The gorgeous writing had me engaged from start to finish. I’ve never read so much detail in a single day – I’ve never thought such minute actions could be fascinating until now. Every second mattered, and every character had history, a story to tell, another side that you would never suspect.

I enjoyed the snippets of science, history, and culture spotted throughout. I loved the shifts in the narrator which showed us another way to perceive the story, ultimately demonstrating that perception is as flawed as we are. It’s also refreshing to read multiple points of view where they actually sound like different people.

By the end of the book, I felt like they were both dear friends that I didn’t want to part with. I will definitely read another Nicola Yoon book in the future.

Source: With thanks to the publishers via NetGalley.com

Monday, 5 December 2016

Book Review: Gambit

GAMBIT by C. L. Denault
3 Stars
An unexpected romance novel.

It started out strong, with lifelike characters and a rich, warm setting for the tale of the lost heir with genetically amazing powers. It felt a lot like Red Queen in a good way, with enough differences for it to stand out.

Our main character Willow starts out naive and rude, but full of spirit, and I hoped she’d grow throughout the story into a strong, feisty woman. However, Willow didn’t exactly grow throughout the book. Although everyone called her strong, I found her immature, rude, aggressive, and stroppy – a complete brat, and that isn’t the same thing as strong to me.

When the terribly dystopian-guard Reese was introduced as her love interest, I struggled to go with the flow. I didn’t think it made much sense (for spoiler-related reasons), and the pair had too many petty arguments for my tastes, where the same points would be rehashed with different words, circling over and over until things got ugly…

So the plot that started out strong withered away into romance, just romance, nothing surprising over here. No mystery, no twists, no intrigue. That’s where I started to lose interest, especially as I didn’t feel comfortable with the spotlight being on such an abusive relationship. When it’s a subplot, it’s one thing, but as the main attraction I just didn’t enjoy it.

In the end, I realised I really didn’t like most of it. I liked the writing style and found the plot always moving forwards, but I’d have preferred some intrigue, an overarching puzzle or goal to move the focus from rough romance to intrigue.

Source: With thanks to the publishers via NetGalley.com

Monday, 21 November 2016

Book Review: The Shock of the Fall

2 Stars
Verdict: Not worth it.

It took me 307 days to get through this book, which I’m sure is not the intended reading span. It just didn't grip me like I hoped it would.

From early on, I already felt like I knew Matt’s story enough to guess what wasn't said. It made it difficult to keep reading, and so I kept putting it down. Maybe I would have got more out of it if I read it one go, but I just couldn’t.

It opens with the death of Matt’s brother, and leads on to an uncomfortable relationship with his strange mother. From there, I felt like the book didn’t have much of a plot, just Matt’s life but in a jumbled ordered. I found it bland, and unsurprising. Page 178 is when I managed to push through to the end, but by then, it had already lost me.

I think too much was given away at the start. The gaps which were probably meant to keep readers guessing were small enough for me to stride over and reach the finish line long before the book was done.

What I enjoyed from reading this book – a few lines here and there, a good metaphor, the use of typography – wasn’t worth the effort (maybe I tried too hard). I can see from other reviews that a lot of people found it funny, emotive, and engaging, so all I can say is I couldn’t find those same qualities. I found it flat, and that is that.

Source: Bought it.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Book Review: The A to Z of You and Me

THE A TO Z OF YOU AND ME by James Hannah
4 Stars
Verdict: Depressing but addictive.

This is a book about Ivo, who has made a lot of bad decisions in life for not enough reasons. It's about drugs, and illness, and death; ruined friendships, lost love, and forgiveness.

It's a depressing book, misery throughout, from rough beginnings to the very end. Somehow I blazed through it like fluff on fire so I know I found it engaging and meaningful.

I felt hollow after finishing it.

I adore the idea behind the chapters. The story is told through Ivo recalling the A to Z of body parts, each with a story behind them, and most of them reminding him of the girl he loves. It's a beautiful idea, although a soul crushing tale.

One of the reasons I enjoyed it, is it explores a different life to my own, a very different set of friends, yet there was still room to relate. It has characters that go against what society prefers, characters who I wanted to understand better

But this is not a book everyone will enjoy. If you're looking for upbeat, optimistic, or even romance, you won't find much in this to enjoy.

Source: Bought it!

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Book Review: Slated

SLATED by Teri Terry 
4 Stars
Like Delirium, but erasing memory instead of love.

Just like every young offender, Kyla has been stripped of her memories for a second chance at life.  With her old life forgotten, she must relearn the world around her and of course stay happy, happy, happy, or the device on her arm will render her unconscious. This is her last chance to prove to everyone that she can be a trusted member of society, after all.

This story is mostly made up of school, family, teachers, and long distance running. In that way, it reminded me of Delirium. I know it’s YA, but I’ve always preferred a little less normality than the daily routine can provide. I find this meant there were a lot of characters and mundane repetitive scenes (hospital, class, bedroom, running, group - repeat), and generally not a lot to get excited about.

Despite that, I found myself enjoying it. I think that’s thanks to the mystery of who was Kyla before she was wiped, and who can she trust? The setting mirrors the present but with a few things askew, enough to keep me wondering what’s not right.

What I enjoyed the most is that nobody acted the way I thought they would. Who’s on Kyla's side, who’s against her? That’s what kept my eyes pinned to the book through what could have been repetitive. The scene might be repetitive but they change with a shift in trust. I honestly think my opinion on every single chapter flipped at least once.

It also asks interesting and complicated questions. If someone said you committed a terrible crime, would you want know what you did? And if you have no memory of it, is it still you who did it? I almost think the integrity of these questions is loosened as soon as characters were taken away for what I'll dub 'dystopian reasons', although I still really like the concept. 

I also appreciate the fact it’s set in England, with sixth form and tutor groups. I’ve read so many American books that I sometimes end up calling sixth form high school. So I'm raising my tea cup for an English spin on a light dystopian.

Source: Bought it!

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Book Review: Reckless: The Petrified Flesh

3 Stars
Verdict: Imaginative storyline, distant prose

Once upon a time, Jacob discovered a fairy tale world through a mirror and became a treasure hunter. When his brother is cursed with jade flesh, he promises to find a cure before the jade consumes him.

My favourite thing about this book was the magical items Jacob acquired from his treasure hunting and the references to the brothers Grimm. I also loved Fox. She’s a caring, stubborn, and strong friend who Jacob could rely on, and they made a great team.

I wasn't so keen on the writing style. The third person narrative was distant and often skipped past scenes which could have been brilliant for character building and general understanding. I had to adapt to the writing style, and that involved, unfortunately, caring less about the details that bring a story to life and sticking with the general idea. For example, Will is cursed before we meet him, and since he's never the same afterwards, we don't really get to know him or feel his relationship with Clara.

While we're on Clara, she felt far too soft for the mirror world. She's delicate, naieve, and quite plain - which is perfectly fine, except she insists on coming along for the ride without bringing anything to the table, and the mirror world is as dark as it is dangerous. Her presence didn't fit. From what little I know about her, I think she would have preferred to stay behind.

On the up side, the pace is smooth, and each chapter is full of magic. The illustrations at the start of each chapter are a nice touch too. All in all, I enjoyed this book, even if I could only handle it in segments at a time.

Source: Review copy from publisher via NetGalley.com

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Book Review: Shadow and Bone

SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo
4 Stars
Verdict: Enjoyable if you don't overthink it.
#2 Rise and Rising
#3 Siege and Storm

Alina Starkov is a lonely orphan who lacks energy, until she releases a dormant power, one that could destroy the creatures that plague Ravka. She's torn from her best and only friend Mal and forced to learn the ways of the magically elite known as the Grisha.

Alina’s transformation is a beautiful thing to read. She sheds her uncomfortable cartographer self and grows into someone completely distinguishable.

There were some surprisingly girly parts in this, from appreciating clothes and magical makeovers, to gossiping and best friends. Only a touch, but enough for me to say I understand why the cover is purple.

I loved the way magic was used in this book, but I found there was a lot to learn and even more left unsaid. Why is sunlight so amazingly powerful? I never really knew until very late in the book. While I loved the Russian touch, I later discovered it wasn't particularly well researched... I guess it didn't actually matter while reading it, although it's a little disappointing to learn. Oh well.

I also found it played to a lot of the usual YA tropes, which is almost impossible to avoid with so many good books out there. It made it predictable in places, but it's still very enjoyable to read.

I'm torn between 5 stars and 4 stars... At the end of the day, I’m still in love with this book. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, but if a magical, romantic fantasy with Russian influences takes your fancy, then you might be in for a treat with this one. 

Source: Bought it.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes

5 Stars
Verdict: Beautiful. Brutal, but brilliant.
#2 - A Torch Against the Night

Laia is a slave, spying on behalf of the resistance in order to rescue her brother. Elias is a soldier, facing trials to become the next emperor in a broken kingdom.

I’d heard a lot about this book beforehand, but I never thought it could live up to the hype. Maybe that helped manage my expectations, as I absolutely loved it.

The writing style is beautiful, igniting imagery from sentence to sentence. It opens on a life-changing moment for Laia where her family is ripped apart, and the pace doesn’t let up after that. When the POV flipped to Elias, the reluctant solider set on escaping his villainous fate, I was hooked. Tahir managed to keep both Laia and Elias' perspectives taut at all times so that each chapter left me longing for the next.

The characters are likable, and so are the love interests, which makes room for a sticky love square. I have no idea who to back, but I can't wait to see how it unravels across the series.

The trials reminded me a lot of the triwizard tournament from you-know-where, except there's less puzzle to them and more emotional turmoil. One of the trials in particular will stay with me long after I finish this review. I didn’t think the writer would go there, but they did…It made me feel that anything could happen – even terrible things that I wish wouldn’t, but that’s what made it more exciting.

This book made me feel loss and sacrifice, hope and victory - so many feels. The brutal commandant made me fear for both the characters at all times. Sometimes I read books and think I could survive that terror, but not the commandant. Usually, books tend to build up a horrible character and they turn out to be redeeming in some way, but not the commandant.

It ends on a high, managing to both grant closure and entice me to read on. I can't wait to get hold of the sequel!

Source: Bought it.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Book Review: The Universe Versus Alex Woods

5 Stars 

Verdict: Endearing, funny, thoughtful.

I’ve already pestered my significant other and he enjoyed it too. It’s the type of book you just have to share with others to find out what they think of bits here and there. So much to think about, so many funny observations delivered in a way that made me smile throughout and almost cry in other places.

How does a seventeen year old end up in customs with an urn, thirteen grams of marijuana, and with half the world in awe of him? From the perplexing opening, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to put this book down for long. I wanted to know how it all came together, how a teenager ended up in such a mess, and how on earth would he get out of it.

Alex’s logic is dry and simple, often creating humorous explanations that I just had to share with the nearest person. There was a moment when Alex’s mother has dragged him to Mr Peterson’s front door, and the scene is so perfect and funny I really wish it were true.

I liked the mix of misfit characters too. The alternative mum, Ellie the rebel, Mr Peterson the loner. Even Alex himself has been isolated from his peers through illness, and never quite sees eye to eye with them the way most kids just do. His perspectives almost felt like he had an adults mind, especially his enjoyment of learning, but other areas of his life are fairy naive which leave him a misfit it all worlds.

The book also deals with difficult topics in an honest but sensitive way, with the help of Alex's unbending logic. It left me with a lot to think about, long after I'd finished the last page. 

Source: Bought it.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Book Review: The Girl on the Train

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins
5 Stars
Verdict: More captivating than Gone Girl (controversial, I know!)

I like characters to be a bit messed up in the head. I need them to do things I wouldn’t dare to, and get caught up in avoidable messes. This is definitely one of those books.

Rachel. Pains me to even think of her. She’s miserable, living to regret, barely getting by. She’s completely hung up on her ex even though he’s clearly no good for her or anyone for that matter. Her life has hit rock bottom in the type of way that breaks both your ankles to stop you from getting back up.

She watches a house from the train, or more specifically a young couple living a life she isn’t ready to part with, and because she’s a self-destructive meddler, she gets herself involved in their troubles. This isn’t her story, but she makes herself a part of it against her better judgement.

There seems to be a lot of Gone Girl comparison, so I’m just going to say it: both my partner and I preferred The Girl on the Train. We found it more 'readable'. Not as shocking, but interesting earlier on, and enough twists to be commended on. Maybe it's because we live next to a train station, or maybe because I'm from Oxfordshire (although I don't think the author is because there isn't a station in Whitney)? No, that's not it. We just both absorbed the book like Jack Daniels in Rachel's gut.

There is a moment towards the end which had me cringing slightly. There's a traditional villain monologue, but at that point the book had already slotted into place and it needed to end quickly. Its not the best way to end a book, but it's certainly the quickest.

Anyway, I'll be off to see the film with friends this week. I've lent it to someone and they've almost finished it too. Three whole reads in under a week - poor book's already tatty!

Source: Bought it.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Book Review: Delirium

DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver
5 Stars
A dystopian romance with prose to die for.

Imagine a world where love is a disease, one that you’re cured of when you graduate. A disease you live with for years and years, watching others get cured before you, their lives boxed off into neat little ‘compatible’ categories. That’s what Lena is facing, and it all seems a normal-but-scary part of life, until she meets someone who shows her the truth about love.

Lena is fairly ordinary. She could be you or me. She’s skin for you wear while you read. I prefer characters with a bit more bite to them, but she grows throughout the book in a way that made me back her.

I liked how friendship and familiar love is just as strong a theme as the romantic side, and I found Lena’s friendship with Hana more intriguing than the romance. It was almost painful to read how the two grew up together and drifted apart, and I desperately wanted them to overcome their issues and become stronger than before.

I also loved the idea of The Book of Shhh, which is quoted in the story when explaining deliria nervosa. In fact, each chapter starts with snippets of various propaganda material, each interesting in their own right, layering the world-building with every chapter.

The overall plot is fairly predictable. Once you’ve read a few dytopians, you know how this will play out from start to finish. It reminded me of The Island, The Giver, even Divergence, and definitely We. The beauty of this book is not what happens, but how it makes you feel, and this one packs a punch to the heart in every sentence.

Some of the prose felt superfluous, slowing down the pace so that the author could show off her awesome imagery skills. I think some it could be shaved off, although I wouldn’t go as far as it say purple prose. Every line had a purpose, every word breathed life into the story. The imagery is exceptional, powerful and passionate as if the authoress was born to write this book. It just felt a long winded. Extended. Repeating the point. You get me?

I knew early on it would get five stars out of me. It’s a dystopian romance with prose to die for, and if you like the idea of the concept, you’ll probably fall in love with this book.

Source: Bought it.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Book Review: The Fifth Wave

THE FIFTH WAVE by Rick Yancey
5 Stars
Verdict: Utterly immersive.

I picked up this book knowing it will be a rough ride, and so the opening didn’t disappoint. The concept isn’t actually original, but it pulled me in and kept my heart racing. I felt the setting immediately, and became immersed within a page.

The blurb is melodramatic, vague , and utterly gimmicky. This book is actually about a girl who has survived waves and waves of unnatural disasters, who needs to survive just that little bit longer to fulfil a promise to her brother, and a boy, who is being trained as a soldier to fight for humanity - a battle that already feels lost.

The characters are what make this novel exceptional. They’re broken, fighting for survival, and struggling with trust in a world ruined by the previous waves. Their whole lives are gutted out for us to see, mixing past and present to make us feel the weight of their personal baggage.

It’s the questions they asked which really kept me engaged throughout. I wasn’t really expecting the story to split off at different characters in different situations, but once I could figure out who was taking – which got easier throughout the book – it gave a rich sense of world building. This is one of those novels where I wasn’t counting the pages, but enjoying the ride, and disappearing inside the world and enjoying it from start to finish.

I haven’t seen the film yet, but I’ve seen the reviews and I’m not really too surprised they’re a little low. It’s not the story than makes this book epic, it’s the characters and the emotion embedded in the writing. It’s the reader’s imagination too, as a lot is left for pondering, wondering, imaging what would happen to you in this situation. That’s not always an easy thing to convey in a film. What is easy is the generic alien invasion action, and that’s not really the beauty of this book.

Source: Bought it myself!

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Book Review: American Monsters

AMERICAN MONSTERS (Demon Road #3) by Derek Landy
5 Stars
: A brilliant end to the trilogy.
#1 - Demon Road
#2 - Desolation

Amber struggles between her confident but demonic skin, and her average-but-caring human side in her newly acquired position as the ‘Devils Lapdog’. Between her morally questionable tasks, she’s on the hunt for her parents who once tried to eat her, but learns that embracing her demonic instincts doesn’t always leave her feeling satisfied.

It’s an easy read, entertaining from start to finish, and always speeding forwards. A creepy house, then an old friend, and all of a sudden Amber finally gets to face her parent’s head on, and that’s only the first few chapters. What I love about the series is not having to trudge through a momentous build up for something exciting to happen – not to have to wait for the finale to feel a sense of danger or solving a mystery.

It starts off in a very strange place that I’m going to swiftly pretend never happened (teddy bears will never look the same), but that’s almost part of its charm. So much happens – ghost attacks, escapes, hostage dependent deadlines – it’s hard to predict how everything will work out. I couldn’t guess how all the pieces came together but found the ending satisfying, even if some stuff happened that I really hoped wouldn’t…

As much as I loved it, I can see its flaws. Some parts sounded rambly or dialogue heavy. I didn’t really feel the romantic connection, but I think that’s because I struggled to care about anyone who wasn’t Amber, Milo, or Glen. It also had the same issue as the previous books, where every character is full of personality but they’re only a slight variation on the last person they bumped into. I enjoyed reading it enough not to care about these things, but I couldn’t ignore them here.

Now for something I usually ignore: the cover. Ah, it’s just so bad to look at, and the name is a pants all round. The final product wouldn’t attract me to the series, but the actual story itself is exactly what I love, so there’s a real mismatch between audience and design that I do not hold against the author in any way. I just hope it doesn’t scare off too many potential readers, as I’d love to see this series really take off.

Source: Publisher via NetGalley.com

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Book review: And I Darken

AND I DARKEN by Kiersten White
3 Stars
Not for me, thanks.

The imagery, the language, the feels… The writing in this book is fantastic, laced with beautiful lines and natural dialogue that hold a weighty punch. Unfortunately, the heavy politics means this series is not for me, but I would definitely read more from this author.

Lada is a fascinating main character based on a gender twist of Vlad the Impaler (if you’re wondering who that is, google it – the context is kind of necessary to read this book). I wouldn’t call her psychotic just yet, but she’s definitely strong-willed and ferocious. On the other hand, her younger brother is beautiful, likable and smart – the complete opposite of Lada. I thought the reversed gender roles works really well.

Without giving too much away, the romance in this book felt intense from every angle. Radu’s love is pure and beautiful whereas Lada is much more complicated. Both intrigued me, and I found the idea of love in this book both complicated and beautifully diverse.

With all those compliments so far, you might wonder why I didn’t rate it higher?

My first quibble was with the style of the story. We experience Lada and Radu’s most important memories from birth to early adulthood, which I quite liked at first. The narrative soon became too quick and distant, with months and years flying past as we flitted from one disaster to the next big choice. I wanted to linger, to get to know, to feel closer to the character’s decisions, but there was no time. The story kept gathering momentum, building up to a defining moment, only to skim past with another blank gap for the reader to fill in themselves.

As the action scenes dwindled into heavy conversations, I lost interest. There’s a lot of political chatter, and even discussions about religion, and that’s just not what I expected when I read the blurb.

I’ll admit, the historical era and the area landed entirely in my blind spot, and I don’t recommend it as your introduction to the Ottoman Empire. While I love being thrown into new world, or lessor-used historical settings, I found this one to be more about the political context than the imagery of the setting and the feel of the time. I can only assume if I knew more about the Ottoman Empire I’d be able to picture it better, but the author doesn’t cater for this. The use of language made me feel, but it didn't help me see.

So there’s a lot to love in this, but overall, it’s just not for me.

Source: Big thanks to the publishers via NetGalley.com

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Book Review: The Giver

THE GIVER by Lois Lowery
5 Stars
Verdict: Why didn’t I read this sooner?

I almost can’t put my finger on what I enjoyed about THE GIVER. I didn’t necessarily connect with twelve-year-old Jonas, but I felt oddly proud of him as he took his first steps towards adulthood and chose to learn about the world in a different light. The plot seemed so simple and almost slow paced at times, yet I just couldn’t put it down and the pages flew by. Something kept drawing me in…

It must have been the mystery. I wanted to know what the community meant, and what the memories would do to someone like Jonas. At the end of book one, his world still doesn’t add up to me, but I’m excited to continue the series.

I wish I read this years ago when I was closer to Jonas’ age. I can still appreciate it now, but I’ve gorged on dystopian novels and already experienced a lot of what this book had to offer in a more modern way. I guess that’s what makes this a classic!

I also felt united with the book’s main theme, or at least the one that tends to creep into my own writing too. Freedom of choice defines us, makes us, and breaks us, and that’s why it’s so special. If you’re wondering whether or not to read this book, well, it’s entirely up to you.

Source: Bought it!

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

3 Stars
Well, the last 10% was entertaining.

This review has taken me a long time to write because I was almost certain I was going to love this book. I loved book one and two of THE GLASS THRONE series, I love Maas’ writing style, and I think she’s a brilliant writer. I love fairy-tale retellings, and the blurb sounded perfect, but I didn’t love this book at all.

As it’s taken me a couple of months to get to reviewing this, I can’t remember it too well but I did scribble some notes at the time. Unfortunately, the middle section has almost entirely faded from me – I think that says it all really.

Although Maas’ writing is often beautiful, I thought the tropes of the writing style were overplayed. There was too much overlap in voice from the author’s past series. A lot of the time Maas didn’t finish her… Or it would feel jarring – the romance didn’t interest me.

I had multiple issues with the plot devices too. The whole ‘I must either kill you or offer to set you up for life in my house and spoil you rotten’ didn’t sit well with me in the slightest, and I couldn’t understand why the characters accepted it so easily. The disease which glues masks to faces, but only when they are in human form, sounded ridiculously specific. And creating a creature with the sole purpose of info dumping on the reader everything I would expect the author to show felt like a lazy and unengaging way to progress the story. It’s probably why I don’t remember the middle very well – it felt slow and unengaging.

Ultimately, I didn’t fall in love with the characters and so the romance felt very, very dull. On the other hand, Lucian fascinated me. His past sounds novel worthy, and the war the characters speak off also sounded like a much more interesting context for the book. I’m glad he was there.

The end sequence really spiced up the book, which is the reason I’m giving it three stars instead of one. There’s action, a puzzle, stakes – all too little too late. It almost felt like a different book.

But as it came at the end of the book, I feel like maybe book two could carry its own. I might read it… or I might just stick to the author’s other novels.

Source: Bought the kindle version. 

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Book Review: The Selection

5 Stars
Unexpectedly enjoyable dystopian romance.

I wasn’t expecting to like this as much as I did. Just look at how pretty and girly the cover looks – and the blurb screams romance, squabbling girls, pretty dresses… But then again, the book had a lot of popularity so I wanted to know what the fuss was about!

Right from the start there’s a dystopian feel to it which lured me in. It’s an easy read, one that I found enjoyable throughout. The main concept is simple: girl enters a contest to win a prince’s hand in marriage. It reminded me of Hunger Games without the physical brutality, although the actual book is more about America and Maxon’s complicated friendship.

America heads into the contest broken and conflicted. She’s not like the other contestants because she doesn’t want what they want. I liked her as a character because she seems quietly confident, enough to stay true to herself even at difficult times.

Maxon is a slightly… odd prince. I found him a bit creepy at first, but grew to like and understand him over time.

I enjoyed the added layer of danger from the rebel attacks. I liked how it means the selected princess will need to be strong and brave, not just a pretty face or likable. The high number of contestants at the start is a little overwhelming, but thankfully some individuals stand out more than others. I think the author handled the character juggling quite well.

My only criticism is the obviousness of the concepts, and while this means it’s very accessible to a range of ages, my tastes lean towards the more complex and thought provoking, even for YA. One contestant clearly has no redeeming traits, whereas I’d prefer to see a more rounded character whose hard to dislike at times. Also, the class system simplifies the social standings of the girls into numbers, and the contract for the competitors is also clearly meant to rile the feminists inside of us. I think the book would have still worked fine without the ideas being so simplified.

By the middle, I was hooked and didn’t want it to end. I’ll definitely read the next in the series.

Source: NetGalley.com

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Book Review: The Kind Worth Killing

4 Stars
Verdict: Light and thrilling, with darkness and killing.

Two strangers meet in a airport bar and plot to kill a cheating wife. It starts fast and builds steadily, with a clever plot and devious characters. There are a couple of truly unpredictable moments making it a very entertaining read.

In a book full of unethical characters, I’m surprised I found a character to root for. But I did. I felt sorry for Lilly, and I felt like she had logical reasoning behind her actions. Not that would hold up in court, mind you, but enough so that I wanted her to succeed, and I didn’t want her to get caught.

Ted surprised me a lot. He seemed innocent and normal at first, but every character in this book has darkness in their past (and present). The book opens with a promise of murder, but it's getting to know the characters and their reasons for why they ended up where they are now which really drew me in.

I found the book fascinating: the characters, the plot, the motives… The prose on the other hand is a little bland, yet I still found it almost impossible to put down.

Overall, it’s a really good book. I’m not gushing over it, but I would recommend it to anyone in the mood for a thriller.

Source: Bought this one for the shelf!

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Book Review: The Martian

THE MARTIAN by Andrew Weir
5 Stars
Original, witty, intelligent - what more could you want?

This is a futuristic novel about a man stuck on Mars, yet the details and atmosphere make it feel like it could be based on real events. Sci-fi isn't a genre I roam into often, but I'm glad I did for this one!

Mark Watney is a fantastic main character. He’s resourceful and intelligent. He maintains a sense of humour throughout his plight, which turns what could have been a depressing situation into a problem solving adventure. I found it inspiring to read about someone who face countless challenges and failures, especially as they picked themselves up each time. He’s a hero to root for.

Watney does a great job of explaining what’s going, using humour as a tool. The technical stuff gladly sailed over my head but I could still understand the point and I enjoyed how real and logical it felt. That said, I wouldn’t read another book like this. It works because it’s utterly unique, and I hope it stays that way.

With how the scientific knowledge oozes off of every page, I was shocked to discover this is from self-inflicted research. Weir is not an astronaut or a doctor of physics. He’s a dedicated writer, and that’s truly fantastic.

There are some nail biting moment, but with a book like this, I felt I didn’t need to read it all in one go. I could pick back up where I left off like visiting an old friend. There’s a pattern to the book – disaster, all is futile, resourcefulness, survive – and it makes it an easy read. As a standalone novel, it’s definitely a book I’d recommend.

Source: My boyfriend might have pestered me to read this one after enjoying it so much. :)

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Book Review: The Master Magician

THE MASTER MAGICIAN by Charlie M. Holmberg (The Paper Magician #3)
2 Stars
Verdict: Disappointing.
#1 - The Paper Magician
#2 - The Glass Magician

In book one, Ceony journeyed through a stolen heart and learned to love an intelligent but reserved man.

In book two, we learn more about Gaffers and other magics in an action packed sequel.

What happened in book three?

All I know is, as much as I wanted to, I just didn’t care about any of it.

Ceony crosses the line from a strong willed woman, to a rude, reckless, and unreasonably stubborn woman. She talks down to others with a self-righteous attitude, and then ignores perfectly sound advice. Her intentions are good, and she clearly cares about her family and wants to help, but that doesn’t really justify the way she treated people.

What bugged me about this book was the general lack of motives. Ceony has very little reason to risk her life the way she did, and is pretty lucky that most of the book glided along without any real stakes or sacrifice. I even found myself asking why Ceony and Emery are in love. Emery is easy to adore, but there’s not much chemistry between the two. What does Emery love about Ceony? What makes him more than just a mentor or friend?

We also meet Ceony’s sister in a random side plot that adds no value to the book. I get the sense it was thrown in to buff out the pages.

The real motive conundrum is the villain. Saraj Prendi is a terribly bland and underdeveloped. What does he want? Who knows. He says his life don’t revolve around Ceony, but author practically admits he has no motives when we’re told it’s just a game to him. He also stands out as the only ethnically diverse character… although he happens to be a stereotypical villain who makes comments like “you English” followed by the most absurd comments about what all English supposedly are. It’s a little cringey to be honest.

I still enjoyed the vintage style of the writing, but I found myself bored with the slow pace. It took until 50% for anything substantial to happen, and even that was over within a few page flicks. It generally lacked the spark from the first in the series.

I get the feeling that book 3 wasn’t really part of the author’s plan. Book one was the core of the idea, and book 2 allowed us to spend more time with Ceony. Book 3 ties all loose ends in a way that made me not care about them anymore… Perhaps all it needed was more time, more ideas?

I’m glad this series is over. Still, I’d like to read another book from this world. I think there’s a lot to play with that the author hasn’t touched yet. But to dive into another Holmberg trilogy, I’m going to need convincing that there’s more than just part one up her sleeve.

Source: Bought the kindle version.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Book Review: Desolation

DESOLATION by Derek Landy (Demon Road #2)
4 Stars
Would work better as a film.

DESOLATION was mostly an enjoyable read, and overall I’ve give it 3.5 stars. I enjoy Landy’s quirky style and attention to pace. It wasn’t as good as DEMON ROAD, but I found myself drawn in by the mystery and promise of demon deals and life-or-hell situations.

Where book one was a series of episodes leading up to a finale, book two is more like a movie. Actually, most of it would work better as a movie, but I’ll get to that later.

I don’t think Amber grew as a character – in fact, most of the book wasn’t about her. Lots of other characters were introduced, and we followed them for sections instead. I didn’t mind the two old TV actors, but the Scooby gang parody felt like too much, too fast, too thin.

Sadly, Milo and Glen were my favourite characters of book one. With one down to start with, the story felt like it was missing most of book one’s appeal. The other had reduced page time to make way for a whole host of other characters. I hope this changes in book three.

Now for a mini spoiler (feel free to skip paragraph, although I’ll keep it vague). I applaud the modern romance, but it was rubbish. It came out of nowhere, lacked connection, and I can’t see it being particularly relatable to teens. Amber doesn’t grow as a person or ask, and then deal with, the questions and excitement that should have followed. I’m not sure it really counts as romance. It felt more like two casual adults who know themselves well, rather than a sixteen-year-old experimenting or realising who they are. It almost feels like it was thrown in just to be diverse.

Mini spoiler over, and onto the style. Where the humour worked, the writing was witty, entertaining, and full of character. By the second half of the book, it felt aimless and manufactured rather than organic. Landy goes out of his way be funny, and I found myself asking ‘but what’s your point?’. One scene contained four side characters squabbling for several pages. It stood out as a peculiar detour away from the actual story.

Similarly, I loved the action where it worked, but other times it dragged (no pun intended). The middle section launched into a sequence that left me unable to work out who was where and what was going on. Action and circumstance drove most of the scenes, not intelligence or characters or plot. It was surprisingly dull and overly complicated.

What made this book interesting was the mystery behind it, not the action or skits. The village is a strange, strange place with villagers who act even weirder. I didn’t know who to trust, and I wanted to work out what was going on. I also liked the tie ins from book one, which pumped some of the series’ charm back into the storyline.

Here’s the thing – this book would probably work better as a film or TV series because it felt visually orientated - action and quips. But books are more than what you can see, don’t you think?

Source: NetGalley.com, via the awesome publishers. 

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Book Review: Glass Sword

GLASS SWORD by Victoria Aveyard (Red Queen #2)
2 stars
Verdict: Repetitive prose, slow pace, and lacks plot.
#1 - Red Queen
#3 - King's Cage

In my opinion, this book had two flaws: the story and the way it was written. I wanted to love it as much as I enjoyed book one, but I honestly found it dull.

The story followed a predictable path. Book one ends with Mare and a list of newbloods to recruit. Book two, Mare travels around collecting newbloods. I didn’t need to read GLASS SWORD to know what would happen. It lacked originality, and the author compensated for this with a rather indulgent prose which killed the pace entirely.

Aveyard is the master of tautology; she knows how to say the same thing in so many beautiful ways. If you read a few lines in isolations, it’s easy to gush over the beauty and flow of the writing – it’s a book to quote, and that’s why I’ve given it two stars. Unfortunately, when you put all these sentences together, the narrative becomes repetitive, slow, and downright superfluous.

With that in mind, the predictability of the prose had me rolling my eyes. Mare constantly reminisces about everything we learned in book one – but we know what happened. We’ve read it. If Mare needed to state or declare something, Lady Blonos was called forth first. The amount of times we’re told Cal is a military man and Kilorn is a ‘fish boy’ is excessive compared to the times these bits of information are actually shown to affect the plot.

Because of the way it was written, I found Mare whiny. I know she’s been through a lot, I know she has every right to moan, but we don’t call people whiny until they complain tirelessly about the same, futile point. I started to resent Mare, and that’s not a good feeling to have about a protagonist.

The narrative also skips across time in a way that lacks intimacy. Either months or weeks pass by, I have no idea, but what I do know is things develop without a thought to the details of how, why, and who.

I feel the general plan for the book set it up for failure: recruit too many new characters to flesh out, keep Mare in mourning for everything that once was, and end on a cliff hanger which would have worked much better if it happened as the book’s main conflict. I’m left wondering what the overarching story of this book was, and I’ve decided it doesn’t have one. It’s just a bridge to the next in the series.

So I’m a little disappointed. I wanted the writer to surprise me, to take me on an unexpected adventure, or even throw in some new ideas and new concepts of this world. That didn’t happen. I sincerely hope book three can save this series.

Source: With thanks to the publisher, via Netgalley.com

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Book Review: The Red Queen

THE RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard 
5 Stars 
Verdict: Depth of epic fantasy, speed of YA.

The silver blooded are gifted, magical, and prideful. The red blooded are nothing in comparison – well, except hard workers sent to die in a war that won’t bring them any power.
Mare is a skilled thief. It’s the only way she can help her poor, red-blooded family, even though they are uncomfortable with her ways.
This book is all about power in society – what the many can do... What the few can destroy.

Mare’s outlook starts off grim. I felt sorry for her being cast in her sister’s shadow. She clearly cared for her family and tried to do what she thought was best at the time. Unfortunately, her well meaning decisions tend to have disastrous consequences.

Each chapter curves the story in a new direction. It starts fast and doesn’t hang around - just the way I love it.

THE RED QUEEN had the potential depth of epic fantasy with the speed of young adult. I rarely say this, but the book could be longer: the details of the world could be richer, and the character could have been fleshed out more, and the story could have used more of what it set up. I almost felt like a lot of the side plots were glanced over, but at the same time, I knew the author has all the answers, just not the space to write it in. With the pace, there just wasn’t room.

Romance isn’t the centre of Mare’s unfair world - it's vital to the story, yet not overpowering. Mare made some stupid mistakes, but in the end I realised I was rooting for her. Not any of the guys – just her and what she wanted.

The only thing I didn’t like about the book was the names. Mare, Mareen, and Maven – oh my. And Grey Town... because it’s a grey town. This hardly detracts from how awesome this book is. It’s just an observation really.

When the good guys are also the bad guys, it’s really hard to pick sides. If you like the way moral-grey makes you think, then this could be the book for you.

Source: Bought the ebook, and loved it enough to buy the paperback!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Book review: Throne of Glass

THRONE OF GLASS by Sarah J. Maas
5 Stars
This is a series I want on my shelf!

Hmm, yes, this one is interesting. Dark and cunning are just how I like lead characters to be, and Celaena the assassin is exactly that. If only there were some forbidden romances and –

But wait. Yes, we have two. Maybe even a future third. It’s practically a love triangle.

Okay, I’ll stop that. Maas has style. Voice. Her writing is strong, and her characters even stronger in all senses of the word. I can’t wait to read the whole series, especially with such as dark leading gal to follow through it.

Celaena Sardothien, notorious assassin, has spent the last few years in slavery. She’s snarky, arrogant, and lethal, which is exactly why she’s chosen by the Crown Prince to compete in a competition to become the king’s champion, or personal assassin.

The third person POV also hovers over the shoulder of Dorian, a cocky and charming prince who is nothing like his ruthless father, and his best friend Chaol, the stoic Captain of the Guard. Both spend enough time with Celaena to realise she’s fascinating… I bet you can see where this is going.

There was always something to keep me reading., like the tension between the characters with blossoming romance, as well as the characters who I wasn’t sure whether they could be trusted. There’s danger, a competition with few rules, secret passageways, violent murders, and more than one great line to make me really appreciate the writing too.

This book is probably best for those who like the idea of epic fantasy, but don’t want to get bogged down with place names, unpronounceable characters, and lengthy world building which is more for site seeing than plot. I can see why there was a lot of hype around this one!

Source: Bought it!

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

I'm still alive!

Hey everyone,

The last few months have whipped by. Over Christmas, I moved into a cosy flat. It's not a time of the year I'd recommend for this sort of thing, but I'm happy to call this new place home.

Mini announcement: I completed my reading challenge for 2015! I ended up reading 53/52 books last year...which is why I'm yet to finish a book this January. I need a little time off reading, which naturally means I'm writing again.

THE CLEARING has exceeded my expectations too. So many of the comments have been super supportive, so thanks everyone who's taken the time to let me know. I can't believe how many people have found it and read the whole thing within a day. It even reached #5 on Wattpad in the paranormal section for a bit - I really didn't see that coming!

I've edited through yet again, putting the old version to shame, or at least that's how it always feels. I could edit it endlessly, which is why I'm sliding my focus over to the sequel for now.

Anyway, I have a review of THRONE OF GLASS by Sarah J. Maas lined up for tomorrow. A lot of the book I read from October to November have yet to be reviewed, so I need to get my thoughts articulated before I forget what happened!