What started off as wonder (and I admit, a bit of confusion) just became absolutely exceptional. What a spectacular book! I did try to resist as warti...moreWhat started off as wonder (and I admit, a bit of confusion) just became absolutely exceptional. What a spectacular book! I did try to resist as wartime books really aren't my cup of tea but I couldn't not love it. Full review to come.(less)
This book made me swoon, laugh, cry and quiver in fear and loathing. Exceptional story and world-building, with characters to love. Full review to com...moreThis book made me swoon, laugh, cry and quiver in fear and loathing. Exceptional story and world-building, with characters to love. Full review to come!(less)
Frustratingly bad. Just as insipid as the main character Layla, the book has almost no storyline and rambles for far too long. The whole book is essen...moreFrustratingly bad. Just as insipid as the main character Layla, the book has almost no storyline and rambles for far too long. The whole book is essentially Layla being sexually attracted to someone, then whining, overreacting and wallowing in self-pity. As for the men, they were also both alpha male drama queens, which you wouldn't think was likely but they really were. Throw in some random lesbianism for shock value and that's pretty much it.
The sex scenes were good, but really not enough to read this whole book for. And oh Lord, there's a sequel. (less)
3.5 Stars. Great world and really fascinating concept, but I didn't find myself attached to any of the characters. Will read the next one though, what...more3.5 Stars. Great world and really fascinating concept, but I didn't find myself attached to any of the characters. Will read the next one though, what an ending! Full review to come.(less)
It started out with such a great premise—Romeo and Juliet meets the X-Men—and such a gorgeous cover...more2.5 stars. Originally published at Winged Reviews.
It started out with such a great premise—Romeo and Juliet meets the X-Men—and such a gorgeous cover that I immediately knew I had to read it. Sadly, even with the cool dystopian Manhattan setting, Mystic City fails to live up to my expectations.
In this world, Manhattan has suffered from the effects of global warming and is flooded. A new city is built high above the island called the Aeries (which I pictured to be just like the Jetsons) where only the rich live. Mystics (those with special energy and powers) are considered dangerous outcasts who get drained of their powers and are confined to live on the remains of Manhattan in relative squalor. Mystic energy is used to fuel the Aeries, but was also once used as a bomb against the city hence the ‘dangerous’ tag. I thought the world was fascinating and well-realised and I could imagine the colourful lights of the Aeries as well as the polluted rivers down in the Depths vividly.
Where the book fails to impress me is the characters and the plot. Aria Rose is the daughter of one of the most prominent families in the city and the book starts with her waking up from a supposed overdose, engaged to the rival family’s son Thomas. She has no recollection of how they met and fell in love, only that their union is now uniting both families against the growing Mystic threat. Confused and unable feel any affection towards Thomas, she somewhat tries to find answers down in the Depths to questions she doesn’t even know she has.
The majority of characters were insufferable and really under-developed—very one dimensional. For example, Aria’s father was the strict and powerful ‘mafia boss’ and her best friend was a flighty socialite. I found all the teenagers from the Aeries grating and Aria particularly whiny. Most of her motivation (and indeed her actions) were extremely immature, like expecting to feel fireworks when in love. She also suffers from fatalistic heroine syndrome, where she keeps putting herself in unnecessary danger and bears no self-preservation instinct.
Even the romance was superficial. She eventually meets Hunter, a rebel Mystic (one that hasn’t been drained of their powers), who saves her several times during her trips to the Depths. It seems the only reason they fall in love with each other is because of their good looks, which is repeated constantly. It also frustrated me that the tone of the letters written from Aria’s love is wildly inconsistent with any of the characters we meet in the book. It’s a shame because Hunter is normally the type of character I really like—a skilled, witty, strong leader-to-be. However his bizarre attraction to Aria really dampens his style.
The story was interesting, but very predictable. It tried hard to shock and surprise, but I could see most twists coming for miles and even the character reveals were cliché. Without giving anything away, the ending certainly was shocking, but it just left me muddled. I’m hoping the sequel focuses more about the power struggle between the Aeries and the Mystics and all the characters grow up a bit. Really disappointing for a story that had such a great world and so much promise.(less)
2.5 stars. I agree with a few other reviews that the writing could be more engaging. I like the world and the thought that's gone into it, but in the...more2.5 stars. I agree with a few other reviews that the writing could be more engaging. I like the world and the thought that's gone into it, but in the end I was a bit bored and didn't find myself caring about any of the characters. A good middle grade read though.(less)
Just brilliant. I'm finding it tough to say more than that, but Tom Pollock has created a city within my city filled with wonder, war and compelling c...moreJust brilliant. I'm finding it tough to say more than that, but Tom Pollock has created a city within my city filled with wonder, war and compelling characters. I also did not see any of the last 50 pages coming! Full review to come!(less)
Got a wee bit more interesting towards the end, but overall I felt the tone of the book was a bit younger. Sort of a predictable ending, but...more3.5 stars
Got a wee bit more interesting towards the end, but overall I felt the tone of the book was a bit younger. Sort of a predictable ending, but left it interesting enough for me to want to read the sequel. Full review to come.(less)
It was ok. I think I'm too old for this book, which is tough for me to say because I always feel (wish) that I'm still 18. There was all too much angs...moreIt was ok. I think I'm too old for this book, which is tough for me to say because I always feel (wish) that I'm still 18. There was all too much angst, which I expected, but what I didn't expect was that I didn't really care about Rose. Full review to come.(less)
This, my friends, is how you do chemistry. I literally wrote that every single time I made a note whi...more4.5 Stars, originally published at Winged Reviews
This, my friends, is how you do chemistry. I literally wrote that every single time I made a note while reading the book, because it was just that good.
Pushing the Limits is the story of Echo Emerson and Noah Hutchins, both outsiders in their own way. Echo was once popular but after she disappeared from school and returned with her arms covered in scars, she found herself the subject of gossip and without many true friends. Noah has been bounced around foster care since his parents died in a tragic fire and casually does drugs and looks for one-night stands. They are both broken and they need to find their way out of it. When Echo is encouraged by her guidance counsellor to tutor Noah, well, the sparks just fly.
Noah and Echo’s relationship sizzles in so many ways, it’s really hard to describe without reading the book yourself (and I cannot recommend it highly enough). Everything about them is so intimate, and watching them both peel back each other’s physical and emotional layers got my heart rate racing. Each little touch or teasing word is just as electric as the bigger moments (my personal favourite is when Noah touches Echo’s scars). I got so many tingles when reading this book, it was just romance done absolutely perfectly.
What makes it work for me is that Echo and Noah are both not trying to change themselves and each other. They are just encouraging each other to be better versions of themselves. For Echo, it was about understanding what happened to her and finding happiness at home with her family. For Noah, it was about letting his brothers have the life they deserve and instead of fighting so hard for them. They were there for each other and even through all those up and downs I was rooting for them. Their journey down to the very end was really beautiful to read.
The book handles a lot of deep issues, like mental illness, foster care, drugs and sex, so it may not be for everyone. That said, I really loved the way the author handles them in the book, especially the fact that the adult characters weren’t just clichés. I think it’s refreshing to have a helpful guidance counsellor or a parent emotionally wracked with guilt. It made the book all the more believable.
There is a sequel planned, but it focuses on another character in the story so I will definitely miss Noah and Echo. I am, however, looking forward to more of this amazing chemistry and characters that Katie McGarry writes. This was the best contemporary book I’ve read this year, and I highly recommend it for anyone that loves to read and fall in love with a relationship.
Thank you to MIRA Ink for providing a review copy via NetGalley.(less)
I love death. Not so much dying, but the personification of death. He's one of the best characters that crop up...moreOriginally published at Winged Reviews.
I love death. Not so much dying, but the personification of death. He's one of the best characters that crop up in literature, DEATH of the Discworld being a very notable example. So whenever a story has reapers in it, I get overly excited and my expectations probably rise tenfold. Thankfully, Inbetween hasn't let me down.
Inbetween is told from the alternating point of view of Finn and Emma. Finn died as an 18-year old WWII fighter pilot and now works as a reaper, specialising in sending souls to the 'inbetween' where they await a second chance at life. Emma keeps getting into accidents and she's certain she's not crazy. Finn has sworn to protect Emma since he helped her survive a car crash two years ago that killed her father and inadvertently led a vengeful soul to take revenge through her.
This is a sweet love story that spans reincarnations. The plot is interesting and actually takes you to hell and back. The mood of the story shifts seamlessly from light-hearted humour to deep tragedy and I'm not ashamed to say that it made me well up with tears a few times. Tara Fuller's writing is extremely emotive, especially in the way she captures danger and heartache. Despite all of that though, the book stands out most for me because of the wonderful characters.
I sympathised with Emma, misunderstood as she is when she had every reason to be paranoid. She was vulnerable, but she grew stronger in the end, facing her fears and standing up for those she cares about. She was brave in her own way. I also loved best friend Cash, who is cool and dreamy in his own right. I love how he has a bad boy image, but is really a softie and he's arrogant because he can be. They grew up together and genuinely care about each other, which is really sweet. I'm a sucker for great guy-girl best friend relationships.
The rest of the supporting cast is also fantastic. Finn's fellow reapers, Anaya and Easton personify which section they work for (i.e. reaping for Heaven or Hell), but aren’t clichés. Their brother-sister relationship with Finn makes them a great, albeit dysfunctional, little family. Maeve, as the villainous soul after Emma, is pitch perfect—creepy, arrogantly mean and deeply bitter. In fact, every character encountered in this book is really well-developed and distinct.
I’m saving the best for last in Finn. I haven’t swooned about a YA boy in a long time, but Finn deserves it. For me, it's his unyielding love for Emma that makes him swoon-worthy. There is no wavering, or indecisiveness—he’s wholly and completely in love with and committed to her without question. Plus the sacrifices he goes through to keep her safe at his own expense are really touching. It also helps that he's kind, caring, good-looking and loyal. I wish I had my own reaper guardian angel!
The only thing that stopped me giving it full marks is that I wanted Emma to come to love Finn a little bit more in her own time. I understand that she still holds feelings from her reincarnated self, but as a separate person, I wish she got the chance to choose to love him in her own way. They are incredibly sweet together though, and some of their scenes gave me goosebumps—the good kind.
I can’t wait for the sequel, and word around is that it will focus on some of the other characters we’ve come to know and love. Tara, I absolutely can’t wait.
Thank you to Entangled Publishing for providing a copy for review.(less)
I wanted to read this debut due to a review that said one of the main characters reminded her of a cert...more3.5 stars, originally posted at Winged Reviews.
I wanted to read this debut due to a review that said one of the main characters reminded her of a certain scarred prince close to my heart. I also love high fantasy, pirates, assassins and eastern-influenced culture and this book had it all in spades. While the world building was phenomenal, the aforementioned main character was a complete let down. In fact, both of them were.
Ananna of the Tanarau is the only daughter and successor to a wealthy pirate clan. In order to carry on the legacy, her parents arranged for her to marry Tarrin of the Hariri, another pirate clan. Like every girl who finds herself with an arranged marriage, she felt it would crush her dreams of being the captain of her own ship. So instead of going through with it, she goes all runaway bride and takes the risk that the Hariri clan would send an assassin after her for disgracing them.
Assassins in Clarke's world are not just skilled at stealth and fighting. They are a shadowy clan of their own, feared for their use of blood magic. The threat of an assassin like Naji being sent after you usually means a certain and painful death. Fortunately, she's the main character in her own book, so instead of dying, she inadvertently kills an asp, saves Naji's life and triggers his dormant curse. Instead of being able to finish the job, he now is sworn to protect her or it will cost him his life. He even feels actual physical pain when she is in danger or hurt. Together, they travel through the vast dessert, across the ocean and mystical islands in order to find a cure.
The world building is really something else. At first glance (of the cover), it's Arabian Nights inspired, with dessert towns, marketplaces and camels. But as Ananna and Naji continue their quest, there are traces of 17th Century pirate docks and mystical island surroundings reminiscent of Doctor Moreau but with creepy plants instead of animals. There is also the shadow world, which is here, but isn't. Everything was described much better than I just did and each place they travelled through and each situation they found themselves in came alive for me. I also really enjoyed the way magic was dealt with in this book, as it and its rules fit seamleassly into the world.
As for Ananna and Naji, they fell flat. I admired Ananna's courage to defy her parents and heritage, but didn't understand her actions and motives most of the time. She was strong-willed but insecure and very stubborn in her insistence to stick with Naji. I wanted her to find her dreams, instead of being more concerned about the well-being of someone who just tried to kill her. Naji was also just as, if not more, insecure as Ananna due to the scar on his face. He was also cold and stubborn and the lack of communication from his part made me want to shake him really hard and yell. He also seemed frightfully ignorant of people's feelings and perception of him. As you can imagine, they fought constantly. Sadly, it wasn't in the "we have chemistry" way, it was just plain fighting. I really don't know why Ananna ends up developing feelings for Naji, because it came almost out of the blue.
I do have higher hopes for the second book, now that both characters have developed and formed a somewhat mutual respect for each other. I love quests, and completing three impossible tasks to cure the impossible curse will be fantastic to read about. So, a slow start, but it has the makings of a great series.(less)
Defiance is an incredible book, with each page like a move in an intricate, high-stakes chess game between the c...moreOriginally published at Winged Reviews
Defiance is an incredible book, with each page like a move in an intricate, high-stakes chess game between the characters. It was beautifully written and full of unexpected twists. Best of all, it has Logan, who in the author CJ Redwine’s own words is like the love-child of Sherlock Holmes and MacGuyver.
The book is set in a dystopian city-state society, where citizens live in walled cities in fear of a Leviathan-like ground monster called The Chosen One. Baalboden, the city where the story starts, is ruled by the sinister, power-hungry Commander Chase who tells Rachel that her father, a courier, hasn’t returned on time and has been declared dead. He hands over her Protectorship to her father’s young apprentice, Logan.
The story was well-plotted, working both character-driven scenes and high action. Even when I thought the story was going the way I expected, Redwine managed to catch me out at every turn. It kept me on my toes the entire time. The words were also beautifully crafted and showed a great range from humorous awkwardness, real heart-wrenching emotion and everything in between.
The book uses an altering point of view narration between Rachel and Logan, and subsequently both main characters were incredibly well-developed. Their motives, priorities and feelings matured with each chapter. Rachel, with each passing loss grew from being stubborn, determined, and impulsive to more thoughtful, grounded, and detached and I came to admire how she coped with the cruel hand fate dealt her. Logan, always logical and well-planned, started to act on his emotions a little more. It was a nice contrast as they took on some of the other’s personality traits–they are an extremely well-matched pair.
The narration style also allowed us to get into the hero’s brain, and boy was it a good one. I wanted to take a blanket and snuggle up inside the head of our resident inventor. Logan grew up as an outcast orphan, his mother sentenced to death for breaking the law at the hands of the Commander. He taught himself how to wield a sword and to invent tech in order to create a better life for himself and there’s nothing I enjoy more than a smart, skilled fighter. Logan also has a strong sense of justice, loyalty and fairness, and when mixed with a certain awkwardness makes him extremely charming. I especially love his logical mind, always thinking through best and worst case scenarios, always having a plan of action, always succeeding in finding a way out of each passingly worse situation. This is definitely someone I would want as my Protector—or, you know, to Claim me.
The Commander is an excellent villain, the perfect mix of ruthless and controlling. He was a genuine threat to Rachel and Logan throughout the book and I always felt nervous during each of their encounters. Sweet Oliver was a great father figure to them both, someone they loved and respected and he was comforting. There are also glimpses of other minor characters that I have a feeling will grow into their own in the second book and I can’t wait.
I highly recommend this book if you’re a fan of anything dystopian, fantasy or if you’re just in need of a new book boyfriend. Best Case Scenario: You love the book. Worst Case Scenario: You dislike the book, but love Logan anyway. It’s a win-win. Trust me, Logan won’t let you down. “If you can’t believe that right now, believe in me.”(less)
Once in a while you discover a new fantasy world that blows you away with its great characters and k...more4.5 Stars, originally published at Winged Reviews.
Once in a while you discover a new fantasy world that blows you away with its great characters and killer dialogue. Throne of Glass, the debut novel from Sarah J. Maas has that and more in spades and I was utterly engrossed by heroine Celaena Sardothien's journey, as she weaved seamlessly through a world filled with swordfights and magic and beautiful ball gowns.
I'm a huge high fantasy fan and I wish this book was around for teenage me to read…oh wait, it was! Then called Queen of Glass on Fictionpress, it was one of the most popular stories on the site. I really wish I had discovered it then, as Maas does a great job world-building, giving you a sense of the landscape, political state, and hints of magic. The settings are memorable, particularly the grandeur of the glass castle built atop older ruins (I would love to see this brought to life!) and I can't wait to be treated to more of the world as the series progresses.
The best thing about the book is the characters—each interesting in their own way with a great combination of wit and vulnerability. Celaena is a tough, skilled fighter, but she's also arrogant, vain, and frivolously girly. She shows spite just as much as compassion. She’s not a character people immediately like, but it made her unique. Celaena's various friendships definitely helped me warm to her, especially with Nehemia, who was a great character in her own right. There was a great mutual respect there, and even though they had reasons to be suspicious of each other, they found a way to enjoy each other’s company.
I also loved her relationships with the two main men in the book. Chaol Westfall is the strict and discreet Captain of the Guard who acts as Celaena’s overqualified babysitter trainer throughout the competition. Their relationship was very well-developed; from frustration to mutual respect, friendship, and possibly attraction. With Chaol, it’s a quiet simmering affection, which suits his personality.
On the other hand, there was more flirtation than friendship with Prince Dorian Havilliard. Initially cold, they bond through their mutual love of books and puppies, and boy does it get steamy! Plus, Dorian is witty, charismatic and growing into his own conscience—he’s becoming the ruler the country needs. He reminds me of Arthur Pendragon from BBC’s Merlin and anyone who knows me knows that makes me Team Dorian all the way.
The book just falls short of perfect marks for me due to the assassin competition being given less prominence than expected. Some of the events were, but others were only mentioned in passing. I’m going to notch this one down to editing the book down to a reasonable length, but I for one was hooked with this premise in the synopsis and I would’ve loved to read each task in all its detailed glory. I’m also hoping there will be more assassinations as the series goes on!
If you’re a fan of high fantasy, freshened up like Graceling by Kristen Cashore, then Throne of Glass is a must read for you. I’m currently keeping myself occupied in this world a little longer with the four prequel novellas, starting with The Assassin and the Pirate Lord, but I absolutely can’t wait for the sequel!
Thank you to Bloomsbury for providing a review copy via Netgalley.(less)
My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century was a breath of fresh air! I loved the sound of the book from the blurb and I’...moreOriginally published at Winged Reviews.
My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century was a breath of fresh air! I loved the sound of the book from the blurb and I’m happy to say it didn’t disappoint one bit! This debut is full of charm and is a light funny read while staying true to beautiful sixteenth century Rennaissance Florence.
Cat Crawford is the daughter of a famous Hollywood director and actress. Since her mother abandoned her and her dad, she likes her life out of the spotlight. So when her future stepmother Jenna steps in and wants to plan an extravagant Sweet Sixteen party to further her own career, Cat vehemently refuses and it takes a trip to Florence, Italy for art-loving Cat to reluctantly be persuaded by her dad. Little did she know her trip would whisk her back to the sixteenth century in order to learn some important lessons about herself!
It was great fun reading about Cat trying to fit into sixteenth century culture. When she arrives, she assumes the role of Patience D’Angeli, a relative from England, and stays with her aunt, uncle and cousins Cipriano and Alessandra. Her ‘Englishness’ hides a whole mess of historical faux pas, but the reaction of the locals is priceless. I love how Rachel Harris writes Cat with such spunk that you can’t help root for her, even through that cringe-worthy singing!
One of the best parts of the book is Cat’s relationships with her new era family. Her aunt and uncle welcome her into the family with open arms, and she learns to love them even though her aunt looks remarkably like her estranged mother. She also gets along famously with her cousins Cipriano and Alessandra and the three of them form a strong friendship. It’s lovely to see her and Less (as she nicknamed her) eventually become best friends and I got a warm, fuzzy feeling when they both opened up to each other. I loved Alessandra and her genuine affection and general niceness made her a stand out character for me.
And of course there’s Lorenzo, Cip and Less’ friend who is obviously gorgeous, but is also caring, strong-willed and artistic. He also has that air of confidence and debonair attitude that a modern boy wouldn’t have and Rachel writes him pitch perfectly. Despite her reluctance to trust anyone, Cat eventually opens herself up to his affection and I loved their little dates (especially the waterfall scene) and seeing the relationship grow. She encourages him to follow his dreams as an artist and the little ‘easter egg’ when Cat eventually makes it back to her own time was just one of the many little touches that make me love this book.
If you’re in the mood for something charming, undeniably sweet and incredibly feel-good, then don’t hesitate to pick this book up! I’ll be waiting (im)patiently for the sequel!
Thank you to Entangled Publishing for providing a copy for review.(less)
I originally read this book when it debuted last year and loved it. Shadow and Bone had everything I...more4.5 stars, originally published at Winged Reviews
I originally read this book when it debuted last year and loved it. Shadow and Bone had everything I wanted in a fantasy—a uniquely imagined world, fantastic characters, and great writing. After having the pleasure of re-reading the book recently (thanks to the lovely team at Indigo’s 2-in-1 mega ARC), I need to caps, bold and add an exclamation mark to my original assessment: I LOVED IT! I know it’s hard to imagine, but it was even better the second time around.
Shadow and Bone is the story of Alina Starkov, an orphan girl who finds out she’s so much more. She is Grisha, a master of the Small Science and a very special one at that—someone gifted with the unique ability to stop the Shadow Fold, a dark wasteland that blocks the country’s only access to the True Sea.
I found the world of Ravka genuinely fascinating. It’s been said countless times but it is extremely rare to find a fantasy book set in a place that isn’t reminiscent of medieval England. This book brought tsar-punk into our lexicon, which is a magical mix of military fur, snow-covered forests, mysterious regal animals and smouldering men in black. Plus I really want one of those Grisha kefta robes to lounge around in.
Also, I can’t remember the last time I read a book with such a charming cast of characters. Alina’s self-doubt combined with her low threshold for taking crap from others makes a really entertaining combination. I instantly rooted for her and her self-deprecating humour. The book also brought us The Darkling, the perfect anti-villain who oozed charisma and power. I don’t know anyone who wasn’t seduced by his dark charm. I also held a soft spot for Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend, whose friendliness and easy-going way made him instantly likable. And even with them all, my favourite character was gorgeous, confident Genya. I wanted to be her AND be her best friend. She’s like a silk dress boned with a corset of steel—beautiful and fierce. I really loved her friendship with Alina and her unique position in the palace.
The writing is wonderfully rich. Bardugo has a knack for immersing you completely in her world within seconds and keeping you glued to the page with her compelling story. The dialogue was simply delightful—from the sarcastic snark, to the declarations of love, to the world-changing proclamations—all infused with that twinkle of humour and passion that Bardugo has in spades. The book is so damn quotable that it is impossible for me to pick my favourite.
If you haven’t read Shadow and Bone yet, I hope this review has given you enough reasons to do so. If you still aren’t convinced, let me take you out for some kvas and let’s talk.(less)