Monday, 1 May 2017

Book Review: Fly on the Wall

FLY ON THE WALL by E. Lockhart
4 Stars
Verdict: A short tale of naked truths.

Contemporary usually isn’t my thing. I need life threatening stakes, magic, and twisted, villainous plans – but E. Lockhart’s books are a welcomed break from what I call ‘the norm’. They’re short, and packed full of emotion and meaning. FLY ON THE WALL in particular felt relatable, full of diversity, and got me thinking about life in the way a demon fight never could.

Gretchen sees herself as ordinary, which is why she loves drawing her larger-than-life comic book muses. Her drawing style isn’t appreciated by her art teacher, and she doesn’t really like the other students. In fact, she’s a bit judgemental – until she becomes a 'fly on the wall', and learns the naked truth about the people she had previously dismissed.

Just like Gretchen, the plot starts off a little ordinary, and the overall pace of the book is helped by the fact its so short. It sets the scene, twists, makes a point, and ends without room for much more. I personally wanted a quick read, so this was perfect for me at the time.

I think most people will be able to find a character they can relate to. Usually, with this many characters, the focus would be too diluted for me to connect to any of them, but I think the large cast was handled well. I thought the transformation would leave Gretchen a passive character, but somehow it worked.

They style, the plot, the characters, the length – it's all a little unconventional, but somehow Lockhart pulls off the unconventional.

Source: Bought it!

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Book Review: Skulduggery Pleasant

5 Stars
Verdict: Fun, weird, and magical - what's not to like?

In short, it’s a fun MG book. It has humour and a jovial spirit running through its pages, getting serious at times when it needs to, but never feeling like a heavy weight of despair and angst that comes with YA. A welcome change from my normal genre!

I love how there's a quirky spin on the story. A thirteen year old girl inherits her strange uncle's house, bumps into a walking talking skeleton with magical powers, and the two team up to beat the bad guys from acquiring ultimate power.

They both have a good sense of humour, which made it a fantastic read. Fun, weird, and magical sums it up the best.

At times I felt the high amounts of action would be better placed in a film than a book, and the description tended to be at a minimal, but I liked this book a lot. I like how it’s different, standing out from the large heap of books I’ve swept my eyes through lately.

It’s short too, with a good pace, so well worth a try if you're curious.

Source: Bought it.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Book Review: Gates of Thread and Stone

2 stars
Verdict: Not good.

I always feel bad for writing two star reviews. Most of the time it's just a book that could do with more work, not a bad author. But I'm going to be bluntly honest.  I felt the writing was dull, the world building was flat, and the pace was slow. I’ve read worse, but that doesn’t make this story better.

After Kia eats a sandwich, wanders around, eats another sandwich, visits the shops… eventually, her brother goes missing. He childhood crush insists on helping her, and together they leave everything behind to find him.

Kia is also able to control the threads of time, a gift she must keep hidden. I think Kia stuck to this a little too tightly though, because I completely forgot she had magic for most of the book.

The concepts puzzled me. There were too many ideas, but none of them were used to their best capacity. Is a sentinel the same as a hollow? What is a mahjo? How is that different from the Infinite? Let’s go back to the mahjo thing: is Kia a mahjo, or is Aven a mahjo? Is the ruler a mahjo? Wait a minute, is no one a mahjo?

Then what is a mahjo?

There were some gargoyles. Then the gargoyle bit was over.

Something happened with the sun at one point. I have no idea why but that also turned out to be nothing important.

I never quite understood what the famine place was, and I couldn’t help feel that that whole section could be skipped. 

Similar to the concepts, we meet a lot of characters, but we never learn what happens to them. Kia ditches them when they’re no longer of use, leaving their storylines incomplete. I think a bit of character recycling would have helped here. Other people were introduced too late so that the end of the book was top heavy on the info, whereas the adventure to get there felt irrelevant at times.

The book ends in a burst of exposition, a plethora of information thrown at the reader as if trying to smother you with it. A lengthy backstory introduces things that the story didn’t even touch on, and could be a book in itself. It seemed convoluted to me, and I can’t help but noticed Kia's journey could have been avoided if… well, no spoilers. I felt that the motives were a product of the actions rather than the other way around. When Kia asked why, I wanted one of the characters to turn around and say ‘Because otherwise it wouldn’t have been a very good story!’

So that's my opinion on this one. Strip the excess characters and plot down to size, and tone Kia’s gushing over Aven (and instead focus on the missing brother). There needs to be a few more magical moments, a lot more creative lines, and scenes which foreshadow that brain frazzling ending a bit better. There’s a five star book in this, I just don’t think it’s there yet.

Source: Kindle lending library. 

Monday, 13 March 2017

Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

4 stars
Verdict: Very 'readable'.

It's my favourite type of narrator, the naive in a broken world. Charlie (if that is in fact his real name) watches, listens, and both understands more than others as well as fails to comprehend what is obvious to the reader. He's very different from others his age, more honest, possibly slightly autistic, and broken. Definitely broken.

The book is written as a series of letters from our narrator Charlie to an unknown receiver, and trying to work out whom could drive you insane. It's a character we don't know, a character who could be us, unless of course you did sleep with that girl just because you could. That aside, it's left purposefully vague.

There's not too much plot, just things that happen, the story bumbling along, and then a moment at the end that reveals a little more about Charlie, and then that's it.

A lot of the characters were pretty nice in this, including Charlie. Not the usual cliche bunch. I liked that. It certainly makes a change from the usual manipulative or just plain evil characters I usually read about.

I don't think I understand this book as well as I could. There's a lot to pick apart, to wonder, to discuss, but the book itself doesn't drive me to do that. Maybe the issues were too vast to focus on - homophobia, drugs, molesting, rape, racism, etc. It makes it very difficult to pin down what this story is about. That might be the point, but as I said, the book itself doesn't drive me to wonder for too long.

So it's quite good. That's about it from me on this one.

Source: Bought it!

Monday, 6 March 2017

Book Review: Ruin and Rising

RUIN AND RISING by Leigh Bardugo
2 stars
Verdict: Didn't really enjoy it.

The author has all the signs of an awesome writer, but I just didn't think it was an awesome book.

There’s a fantastic twist which links all three books together, and while it was amazing it doesn’t change the fact that I only enjoyed reading bits of this series. It didn’t seem so bad at the time, but I couldn’t read more than a couple of pages before deciding I needed yet another a break.

There wasn't enough to get excited about, and even though there are some great sequences, they were too short and far between. A good book makes those mundane linking scene, like travelling, seem interesting, but the amount of travelling in this book was a tall order, and it ended up feeling as if a lot of irrelevant buffer material was plumped into the book’s sparse feathers.

I realised at some point that I didn't really like or connect with any of the characters, either. Alina talks too much inside her own head. She reiterates what’s just happened in a beautiful, almost poetic language, but says little of substance, telling us bits of the story instead of showing it to us. Mal bugged me because he seemed to love the idea of Alina but not who she was, and while Nikolai was interesting, his part in the book felt like a second thought. I didn’t really care for the new book three characters either. Too many, too late - they were what I expected to be, darkling fodder, and I'll say no more.

Part of the problem could be me. I thought the book was heading in a different direction, and for that reason I feel the ending isn’t true to the nature of the story. Or maybe book two was too far misaligned for the series. The morals did seems a bit… skewed, and the overall message is murky.

I'm up for reading SIX OF CROWS, but this isn't a series I'll revisit.

Source: Bought it!

Monday, 27 February 2017

Book review: King's Cage

KING'S CAGE by Victoria Aveyard (Red Queen #3)
4 Stars
Verdict: Good but long.
Or at least it felt very long to me.

I almost tapped out at book two. If I'm honest, my main complaint of book 2 – that it’s overwritten – still holds true for this book, except for everything else works so much better this time around. The plot could have turned any which direction, and that made me read on eagerly.

Mare has handed herself over to the king in order to spare her friends, giving Maven a powerful tool to twist against the Scarlet Guard. She isn’t whiny this time – she's utterly trapped, and does what little she can to help her cause. She stays strong in a way that shows how far she’s come, and I found myself liking her again.

The writing is what made it feel long to me, yet at times it's worth it. It might be superfluous, but it’s still beautiful and vivid, full of emotion. Every word evoked a new emotion in me, although it did tend to hit the same nerve until it was deadened… You can see I went back and forth with this one.

I thought it was interesting to show the side of Cameron, a newblood aligned with the Scarlet Guard. While Cam didn't feel like a very important character, she provided a window for the ones I did care about. We even get to see Evangeline’s point of view, and while I couldn’t help but noticed how similar it was to Mare’s, it still helped develop Evangline from cliche to intriguing. 

On a side note, I got a bit muddled with the names at times. Mare, Maven, Cam, Cal, Elane, Elara… It’s asking for trouble. I'm wondering if anyone else noticed this, or was it just me?

Anyway, I have faith again in this series! I enjoyed this instalment, and will probably read the next too.

Source: From publishers via 

Monday, 23 January 2017

Book Review: Siege and Storm

SIEGE AND STORM by Leigh Bardugo
3 Stars
Verdict: Starting to lose interest

As much as I wanted to love this series, this felt like a second book to me in every way. Battles are lost, relationships are sunk and mended, but none of the events were particularly surprising. I've read other reviews and I'm just not on the same page.

I'm at a slight loss already as I hear the main appeal of this book is the Darkling, and to me he's too vague and absent to grab my attention. Learning more about his past would have been intriguing, but in this book we mainly see how power affects Alina and Mal's relationship.

It opens fast as Alina and Mal face the Darkling once more, but after that the pace dwindles. The author has a beautiful way with words, but spends them on the wrong things. There's so much time inside Alina's head and teaching us about the world, and not enough actually happening in the now.

As the book goes on, Alina transforms into an unlikable character. She whines, makes terrible decisions, gets jealous, insecure, and power hungry. It's the classic decent of a sequel protagonist.

Mal's development isn't positive either. I got the feeling he hated himself most of the time, and by the end of the book I stopped liking him entirely.

On the other hand, Nikolai seemed like a very interesting character. He's charming, with secrets and wit, and he added more to the plot and kept me reading. I hope to see more of him in the future.

In general, I would have preferred less broken romance and more plot. I can't see book three knocking my socks off, but I'd still like to complete the series. I love the folk-tale quality to it and the concept of the amplifies, and I'd like to see how it all wraps up.

Source: Bought it myself!

Monday, 16 January 2017

Book Review: Ink and Bone

INK AND BONE by Rachel Caine
5 Stars
Verdict: For the love of books

I found this a slow burner, but once it got going I absolutely adored it. Set in the Great Library of Alexandria, this book offers a historic fantasy feel as well as speculative fiction vibe as it asks what would have happened if the Great Library grew in power and controlled the use of books. There's even a bit of steampunk and a grande adventure - this book has a lot to offer!

I didn't initially connect with the way Caine writes, and often found the prose to linger on heavy description without building any substantial picture in my mind. Somehow, this didn't matter in the end as the plot, the magic, and the characters were so creative and intriguing that I adapted to the prose.

Every character intrigued me, each of them complicated for very different reasons. The students each have their pasts, their desires, their secrets, and strengths, as well as different cultural backgrounds. The side characters were more than just tools to move the story along - they had substance too.

I try not to throw around associations lightly, but I did find a striking resemblance to Harry Potter, if book one had been written for older teens. It's also very different, but if you love one you might love the other.

So with a mix of history and fantasy, and overall a great adventure across Europe, this was a fantastic book I'm glad I read.

Source: Bought it myself!