This book was recommended to me by Goodreads itself, based on my ratings and my favourite genres. To be fair, Goodreads tend
Actual rating: 2,5 stars
This book was recommended to me by Goodreads itself, based on my ratings and my favourite genres. To be fair, Goodreads tends to get it right. Not this time, though.
First of all forget the title. It has absolutely nothing to do with the story. I picked up this book thinking, "Yay! A book from the 80's! No clichés that became obnoxiously ubiquitous in recent times!" Yeah... no. Heads up, this book contains a love triangle - that by itself made me want to put it aside. But I had actually ordered it for my birthday...
So onto the plot. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of good things about it. Tevra, our main character, is at the top of her career. She's a no nonsense lady, she navigates well the sexist culture and the political traps that keep springing up.
That is, until she meets the Forest King and starts falling apart over her attraction to him. Despite being a strong and observant character (you can't get to her post without a gift for reading people) she is blind until the very end about the feelings of her closest friend/soldier, Hetwith. This dude could not have been more blatant about his interest.
The Forest King is basically an underdeveloped wishy-washy idiot who had been raised to be king but was so inept that he'd probably wear his crown pointy-side down.
Another thing, Tevra kind of sets out to be this experienced woman, one who's had lovers in the past and is unashamed and in control of her sexuality (as she should be). Yet, get her near a love interest and she acts like an inexperienced virgin.
Conclusion: a nice fantasy with well developed political intrigues, that got swamped by a love triangle and trite romance. ...more
An incredibly funny story! I've read the complaints regarding this book: riddled with clichés, an unoriginal story, etc etc. B
actual rating 3,5 stars
An incredibly funny story! I've read the complaints regarding this book: riddled with clichés, an unoriginal story, etc etc. But those are reasons why I liked the book!
Sophie is sent to Hex Hall, a reform school for witches and warlocks who have misused their powers. Hex Hall is pretty much what you'd expect for the genre: a school filled with shapeshifters, witches, warlocks, a few vampires... and a mystery.
I really can't say I predicted how the mystery was solved nor its outcome, so that's a plus.
The book was extremely funny, Sophie is an excellent narrator, very relatable, likeable, and never tstl.
So why the 3,5 stars? There were a few things I dislike about the book: Girl on girl hate, and a lot of it at that. A weird romantic interest, I really cannot deal with protagonists falling in love with people who are blatantly dangerous for them - that's not the message you should pass in YA books. And a hint of a love triangle in the future...
Still it was a very entertaining read - I think this will be perfect for fans of The Princess Diaries.
My heartfelt thanks to Susana, who gifted me this book for my birthday!!!
Mae and her father gather wood from the edge of the Waerg Woods. Poor, dark-skinned, and supposedly taint
ARC provided by the author through Netgalley
Mae and her father gather wood from the edge of the Waerg Woods. Poor, dark-skinned, and supposedly tainted by the woods' curse, they live as pariahs in Halts-Walden.
Mae is the craft-born, the one whose nature-connected magic can revive the kingdom - only Mae has to try her hardest to keep her powers secret, for the King has decreed that the craft-born shall marry his son, Prince Casimir.
It seems Mae is in luck: Ellen, the miller's daughter, pretends to be the craft-born and the Prince is coming to get her.
While venturing into the Waerg Woods with the Prince, to convince him not to hunt her white stag Anta, Wanderers from the Waerg Woods come into Halts-Walden to steal Ellen, whom they believe to be the craft-born, and end up killing Mae's father in the struggle.
This is an odd book to rate, and I struggled with it for quite some time. As a YA book it's mediocre. However, once I chose to read it as Middle-Grade, it's quite good. It's an entertaining fairytale-like story, but the characters' dialogue and actions, the very descriptions and world building, only work if it's read as MG. It's perfectly fine and reminiscent, in fact, of classical fairytales in its simplicity: this is the heroine, the heroine does this for straight-forward simple reason, heroine announces her thought-processes, we're told a lot because the audience is not meant to have the ability to analyse things in depth.
This may sound critical, but I'm not trying to be. I'm trying to point out how this is being marketed to the wrong audience. As a YA book it doesn't work. As a MG book it's pretty good.
So that rating is the balance of the two. If I were to rate this as YA, I would give it 2 stars, as MG I'd give it 4 stars, so here we are, at 3 stars.
There is a lot to recommend this book, chief of all the Waerg Woods. They are well written and creepy in a sort of la Motte-Fouqué way (for those of you who've read his Undine). The Waerg Woods are divided in sections, each harbouring a new evil: malevolent black birds that swoop into the sky and form clouds that pour down burning rain, a creature that attacks by preying on your fears, deadly cold fog that tries to lure you to a sleepy death, clinging vines that attempt to drain you of your blood. This book is worth reading for the Waerg Woods alone.
However, there are also good things about the characters - if one reads them as MG, Mae goes from a whiny, arrogant, impetuous and tstl YA-type adolescent, to a young girl who doesn't know better and goes through the usual fairy tale tropes to learn valuable lessons. It's also nice that she never wanted to be Queen and wanted only to live close to nature, being true to herself.
One thing I can't help pointing out, be it YA or MG, is that if you're placing your story in a fantasy realm with a Medieval or Renaissance feel to it, do NOT use the word "okay" in dialogue! It's really, really absurd.
But quibbles aside, I really want to read the next one! So, in conclusion, if you plan to read this as MG, I recommend it! ...more
The amazing Khanh (check out her awesome blog Bookistry) once mentioned we needed to form a support group for those of us horribly addicted to Pride
The amazing Khanh (check out her awesome blog Bookistry) once mentioned we needed to form a support group for those of us horribly addicted to Pride and Prejudice retellings - and, more often than not, I'd finish one of these retellings feeling like I really, really needed help escaping this addiction: too much drama, too much angst, both Darcy and Elizabeth behaving like they'd been replaced by pod people considering how out of character they were both behaving.
Then the usual plot of Darcy and Elizabeth, once having declared their love, becoming these nauseatingly, irrecognisable, diabetic-induced-coma sugared versions of themselves: constantly spouting Hallmark card-worthy declarations of devotion. ...And I kept reading? And I couldn't stop? HELP!
But then we get books like Unequal Affections! Those rare treats that make it all worthwhile!
In this book Elizabeth is still the recipient of Mr Darcy's infamous declaration of love and proposal of marriage. She's shocked, as we'd expect her to be - but Ormiston took a turn I hadn't even considered: she made Elizabeth pause and think, "All this time I assumed he was attempting to put me down, showing his scorn... but he was actually in love with me. What else have I mistakenly believed about this man?" So, while not blithely setting aside the insulting manner of his proposal, she decides to give him a chance. She asks for time to consider his proposal, and best of all, she actively tries to get to know him.
She tells Darcy she does not share his affections - hence the title - but she is willing to get to know him better and perhaps become his wife. I really, REALLY, liked this! No lies, no pretending. Just an honest:
“Sir, I think it only right to tell you that I cannot, at this time, return your affections. If you wish to withdraw your offer in light of this information, then I would understand completely and not hold it against you.”
It's so refreshing to see historical romance characters behaving like rational, pragmatic adults!
And throughout the book we see them coming to turns with their pride, their prejudices. We see them trying to better themselves for the other, because that's what a healthy relationship is about: someone bringing out the best in you.
This book isn't all just happiness and sunshine. Both Darcy and Elizabeth, prior to their courtship, had been quite vocal about their thoughts of the other one's failings. These come back to cast a spectre over their blooming relationship, as do the expectations of their friends and relations: they had both been so adamantly adverse to each other, it's not easy to accept their new-found courtship. Some of them were quite funny, I must admit...
“Well, la, why should he want you, Lizzy?” asked Lydia tactlessly.
There are only two things I must point out in this book: There was a lot of talk about the difference in Elizabeth and Darcy's stations but, as Elizabeth herself told Lady Catherine, he is a gentleman, and she is a gentleman's daughter. Darcy has no title, what he has is money. Also, Elizabeth makes mention in the book that she has no dowry. In the original it's mentioned the girls will have £5,000 between them - therefore £1,000 each, with a further £100 per year while their father is alive.
But these are small things when considering how lovely it was to read this book!
If you like Pride and Prejudice retellings then this is the book for you! ...more
ARC provided by Strange Chemistry through Netgalley
Cécile is close to leaving her father's village to follow in her absent mother's footstep
ARC provided by Strange Chemistry through Netgalley
Cécile is close to leaving her father's village to follow in her absent mother's footsteps as an opera singer. It's all she's ever dreamed of achieving in life - treading the stage, the fame, the glory, doing what she loves: to sing. But she ends up being kidnapped to Trollus, the troll's underground city. They plan to wed her to the troll Prince Tristan so she may fulfil the prophecy: that when a prince of night bonded a daughter of the sun, the curse would be broken and the trolls would be set free from their mountain.
I went into this expecting something like Clare B. Dunkle's The Hollow Kingdom, (which I quite enjoyed), since it shared a basic summary: young girl kidnapped to wed a hideous groom (a goblin in The Hollow Kingdom, a troll in Stolen Songbird). I really like that premise - not the kidnapping bit, of course, - but the one where the love interest is undeniably unattractive. You know for sure that the author won't just say, "He was so handsome, she fell in love at first sight" etc. ad nauseam. You know the author will really have to develop everyone's personality and their relationships.
But Tristan, as it turns out, though there is some "wrongness" to him, is exceedingly attractive, and to be perfectly honest, I found that disappointing. Not that their relationship was less fleshed out because of this, or that Tristan wasn't a fully developed character - but it's always nice to see an author make such a bold choice. Besides, it would be a much more interesting story if she found them all to be monstrous looking and they found her just as horrifyingly disgusting to look at.
But on to what really matters: I absolutely LOVE the dialogue in this book! Especially between Cécile and Tristan:
"(...)perhaps you might say something. It would be best if it were humorous. I enjoy a good jest.” “You are dreadfully rude,” I said to him. He sighed. “That wasn’t the slightest bit funny.” “Nor are you in any way a gentleman.” “Cruel truths, mademoiselle, but tell me, did you expect otherwise?” His eyes gleamed, not with humor, but something else. “I confess my expectations were low,” I snapped. “I’m a firm believer in low expectations, myself,” he said cheerfully. “Makes for less disappointment in life."
“Of course. We agreed to her weight in gold, did we not?” I gasped, as horrified as I was astonished by the amount. “Aye, Your Highness,” Luc replied. “You see, Mademoiselle de Troyes, another instance where low expectations have served me well. Given the contract your dear friend Luc made with us, I half expected him to deliver me a girl of prodigious girth to tip the scales in his favor. Imagine what a pleasant surprise it was for me to discover you were just a little bit of a thing.”
I really, really liked Cécile. She's not a Mary-Sue, she's not whiny, she's not needlessly bitchy. There was a moment or two where she was a bit tstl, but I guess we're all entitled to those. She's a strong, brave, normal girl who sees her life take a turn she abhors and refuses to accept:
"This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. I was supposed to be on my way to Trianon to get everything I had ever wanted. Now, not only had I lost everything – my family, my friends, my dreams – I had just been informed that what life I had left would be spent in an endless nightmare."
And she's really not falling for any Stockholm Syndrome tactics:
"Although you did not choose this life, perhaps, over time, you might come to find it satisfactory.” He stood up. I met his gaze. “Is that what you aim for in life, my lord? Satisfactory?”
She doesn't stop thinking about escaping, even while being drawn into troll politics, and I thought that was something great.
We get dual POVs, Cécile's and Tristan's, I think it would have been a more intriguing book if we'd had only Cécile's POV and had to guess Tristan's character from his actions and how Cécile saw him, but I have to say that it was well achieved. It certainly allowed for a slow development of the relationship between Tristan and Cécile, which didn't have the greatest start, what with her being kidnapped and neither of them wanting to marry the other.
The secondary characters were awesome: The Duchesse Sylvie, Marc, the maids, Anaïs, the twins, I really liked them all. I hoped to see more of the Duchesse, because she seemed like a really amazing lady.
The underground kingdom was an astounding setting, it was just... I don't even have words, it felt real!
I must warn that this book is slow to start, but this is one of those I urge other readers to hang in there and just keep reading because it gets amazing.
So why only 3,5 stars? The thing is, at 436 pages this book was just too long. From about 65% forward there was just more and more unnecessary drama. It just read like filler, to be honest, and did this book a disservice. There is enough plot, world building, character development, and writing skill here to preclude this.
Don't let that stop you from reading, I'm a notoriously stingy reviewer, I could easily round this up to a 4, and this is still one book I cannot wait to get my hands on the paperback as soon as it's out! And I can hardly wait for the sequel! ...more
WIN AN EBOOK COPY OF COBWEB EMPIRE (see end of post)
Do you ever regret giving 5 stars to the first book of a series, not because it doesn't deserve i
WIN AN EBOOK COPY OF COBWEB EMPIRE (see end of post)
Do you ever regret giving 5 stars to the first book of a series, not because it doesn't deserve it, but because the second book is even better and you have no way to make the rating reflect that?
Because that's the case here.
I absolutely LOVED Cobweb Bride, I think I ended up making myself somewhat of a nuisance and recommending it to my entire friends' list on Goodreads because I couldn't bear the thought that someone somewhere was not, as I was, still trapped in that book's universe and willingly searching for Death's Keep in the Northern Forest. No, they were just going on with their lives...
Cobweb Empire picks up right where Cobweb Bride left off - I can't say where, and how, exactly, because that would just spoil the whole first book for those who haven't read it, but let's just say that Percy is a girl on a mission, appointed by Death himself (this is still weird for me, by the way - in Portuguese Death is a woman...) and the whole troupe is there with her.
But things are getting progressively worse in the world. It's not just the fact that people have ceased dying - places are disappearing at dusk, going missing into the shadows and sometimes, when light returns, they do not come back. So Percy's mission, which she undertakes accompanied by the Black Knight Beltain, must be completed with the utmost urgency. Still, Percy has some trouble dealing with her new "status", shall we say...
We revisit the delightful Lady Amaryllis and Lord Nathan of Morphea, who are still prisoners and have the most imaginative escape I've ever read! I love these two so much! I really hope we'll get to see more of them!
We are introduced to some new characters - I'll let everyone discover them on their own when they read the book, with one exception: the Sovereign of the Sapphire Court, Rumanar Avalais. I could spend the rest of my life writing about my fascination and, dare I say it, love for evil ladies. For instance, Princess Aurora is so dull, all she does is sleep and sing, but Maleficent? That's a lady with a plan, an awesome name, an amazing wardrobe, a clever pet, and the ability to turn into a dragon. Also, Izma, and Ursula, and all the awesome poisoners, schemers, power hungry women in every story ever. Evil ladies, what can I say? Role models, really.
Her Brilliance (a title I shall claim if my plans to rule the world come to fruition) Rumanar Avalais entered right away into this pantheon. She has the most amazing beauty routine, which consists of draining the life out of beautiful young girls and keeping herself forever young. Right there I was quite taken - but she did all this while ruling her own kingdom and being the very definition of "all shall love me and despair". Plus, she's quite the trickster as we come to find out in the very last page... I shall say no more but that Rumanar Avalais is probably my second favourite character of this series.
The first being, of course, the undead Infanta Claere Liguon who though admittedly lacking in evil ways makes up for it by being a very frail lady who suddenly finds herself empowered by her death (...or undeath) at the hands of her murderer turned... what? Yes, that's the only downside to this book. I was really looking forward to Claere and Vlau and their complex relationship. Because really, what do you do when you kill someone and then fall in love with them?
Still, I loved this book so, so much! I'm still suffering from an absolutely soul crushing book hangover because of it. Send help. In the form of the third book, preferably.
The Rise of Renegade X is, without a doubt, one of my feel-good books. If I'm feeling down, I'll reread it and it just puts a smile on my face. The
The Rise of Renegade X is, without a doubt, one of my feel-good books. If I'm feeling down, I'll reread it and it just puts a smile on my face. The Trials of Renegade X, however, was a bit angsty - BUT most definitely in a "hurts so good" kind of way.
Campbell has a gift: she wrote one of the most awesome YA protagonists to have appeared in print. There are plenty of sarcastic main characters, always with a quip at the ready, but Damien never, ever!, fails to be hilarious! So while other characters like this eventually just devolve into annoying static caricatures, Campbell lets us see the consequences to everything Damien says or does and - surprise, surprise - they're seldom positive. But what I love most about it is that Damien learns from his mistakes and evolves as a character.
There are some pretty big issues tackled in this book, as in the previous one in the series, on the nature of good and evil, and while they're masterfully dealt with I would be ruining the plot to expound on that particular part of the plot.
One thing I absolutely love about these books: family. In YA, parents are almost always absent (tragically dead, or in need of rescuing, or just conveniently gone with no explanation). That is weird, family is important throughout your whole life and it's always a missed opportunity to not include it in YA books - a genre aimed at a public who are most likely to identify with the struggles portrayed in this book. Damien was kicked out by his mother, who raised him by herself for 16 years, because he turned out not to be the son she expected him to be. The whole situation is complicated, she may have kicked him out but that doesn't mean either one of them stopped loving and caring for the other. Then there's Gordon, Damien's father, who Damien has trouble trusting - this guy only found out about his son 6 months ago, what's keeping him from washing his hands clean of the whole thing and sending Damien on his way? It's complicated, and real, and awesome. Campbell's ability to write family dynamics - not just parents, but sibling relationships as well - is amazing. I wish we'd get more of that in YA.
But don't think this book is some kind of downer, which I suppose my review is making it out to be, it's extremely funny! Campbell's dialogues - you read them and they just spark, they feel real, they are fresh and witty! I absolutely love them! Sometimes there are books that just attempt to sidetrack the reader with a lot of flowery descriptions to try and make up for the fact that the dialogue is sub-par, I prefer it when things are straight forward with no flourishes but the dialogue just zings - that's enough for me. Campbell, however, is talented enough to balance description with dialogue, a rarity among writers.
I just saw that there will be a 3rd Renegade X book and, quite honestly, I cannot wait, because I know Chelsea Campbell will not disappoint! ...more
YA UF in Botswana with a protagonist of colour? Sign me up! I tried to get the arc for this book, I didn't get it, but thankfully I requested it clos
YA UF in Botswana with a protagonist of colour? Sign me up! I tried to get the arc for this book, I didn't get it, but thankfully I requested it close to its release date, so I could just buy it and read it to my heart's content!
I was already excited about this book featuring a WOC, but I was even happier when it turned out she is biracial - I, myself, am biracial and if it's hard to find books featuring non-white protagonists, it's practically a miracle to find books featuring biracial ones. I'm sure plenty of people would think "Who cares about her race" - it's not about that, it's about visibility: media representation is important, if you grow up without seeing others like you on tv, in books, you are alienated. The beauty standards never reflect what you look like, your experiences are never given voice. So, yes, Conyza's race is important, and let us all be thankful that the cover wasn't white-washed.
Conyza (Connie) was a very sensible, realistic character. Her forays into what-ifs in her head are hilarious and relatable. Of course, she possesses the not so relatable ability to tell the future and see dead people. She starts out with these inklings of when disaster will strike and then she has a massive headache during which Rakwena, the scarred school's outcast, warns her something is imminent. When she wakes up, she is able to hear what people are thinking. Naturally, she is intrigued. How did Rakwena know what was going on? But everyone, including her grandfather, once a college professor like her father, and now a wise man to whom people go for advice, warns her away from Rakwena.
With her new-found powers Connie realises something: a group of young girls' minds are blank, as if they were being controlled by a puppetmaster. The whole thing is really creepy, since the girls are very young and they have periods of time they cannot recall, they're bruised and injured and they know they've been doing bad things - things they wouldn't do if they were in control of themselves. Connie makes it her mission to use her skills and free these girls with the help of her grandfather and her friends.
The book was a bit too slow paced and predictable at times, but the only thing I really disliked about it was the girl-on-girl hate. It was very upsetting to read Conyza being judgemental over Kelly's choices and putting her down at every possible turn, with catty comments about how being a Playboy centerfold is her most promising career option. It was upseting to read Lebz slut shaming a girl she was jealous of. Ladies, we need to move past these things.
But there are so many things to like! The fact that it's YA and it's in Botswana! Connie's relationship with her grandfather. Connie's relationship with her white father (my personal favourite). Connie's maturity in dealing with the fact that her father and grandfather do not get along ("(...)you two don’t agree on anything. But you’re both family, and you both love me. That’s enough."). Her friendship with Lebz and Wiki. And, most importantly the whole mystery that involves the paranormal but not the tired YA paranormal standard fare....more