Review

Review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

Because I don’t have a lot of space for storing books, I do quite often donate them to charity after reading if they aren’t favourites or I don’t think I will re-read them. This allows me to buy even more without taking up more space, so my book collection pretty much remains at the same size. Revolution was in my ‘donate after reading’ pile, and as I will soon be moving I’ve been trying to work through more of these so I don’t need to take them with me.

I’m not really sure what I expected when I picked up this book. In fact, after a couple of chapters I almost DNFed it because of the main character, Andi. The book opens with Andi hanging out with her friends, and they immediately seemed so pretentious and ridiculous, but I decided to keep going. And whilst I finished the book, Andi was definitely not my favourite of characters. I loved that she was so passionate about music and art, and really knowledgeable, but at times she felt elitist and a bit of a snob. Not to mention the whole very ‘try hard’ emo style she was going for. I get that she’s grieving. I get that she’s gone through this horrible event. But it kind of felt lazy for the author to use the emo look to portray someone who is struggling to get over the death of someone close to them.

However, Revolution was a clever story. I thought the use of the French Revolution, and entwining both Andi and Alex’s stories to be very well done. I maybe didn’t enjoy reading Alex’s journal entries as much as I’d expected – they just didn’t flow as well – but it was nice to revisit this area of history that I studied in detail eight or nine years ago.

Overall, this was a quick and easy read, and actually a lot more enjoyable than I’d reckoned – but let down in places by the portrayal of the main character.

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Review

Review: The Dead Men Stood Together by Chris Priestley

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2 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

The Dead Men Stood Together was, perhaps, not quite what I was expecting. I actually ended up reading this in print, rather than the e-galley originally from Netgalley, and the cover of the finished version gave the impression of a book for much younger readers than I’d originally thought. This is supported by the size of the font (HUGE), which for some reason was all in bold, a choice I found rather odd.

Formatting aside, this was a strange book. It is based on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, an odd choice considering the book’s intended audience – and especially when, on reading, I think I would have appreciated the book a lot more had I prior knowledge of the poem, which I expect most middle grade/teen readers won’t have. It is not entirely clear when the book is set, the prologue is clearly the late 19th century but the majority of the story is centuries before that – from the elements of the story I would hazard a guess at the 1700s, which is also when Ancient Mariner was published.

The Dead Men Stood Together tells of a young boy who joins his uncle on a supply ship, but their ship gets lost in a storm and ends up in frozen and foggy waters. They are soon frequently visited by an albatross, whom the crew begin to see as a beacon of hope. However, the boy’s uncle, who is possibly mad and completely untruthful, kills the albatross, and the crew turns on him. Fortunately, just before they can kill him, the ice and fog begin to clear, and they are free. It just gets weirder from there – although this is all a direct retelling of the Ancient Mariner, the poem in prose form. The only original element is the narrator, the young boy on a journey with his uncle.

This was an easy and quick read, but a very odd one. I would definitely have appreciated it a lot more if I’d previously read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and I have a feeling the book will suffer a lot for much of its target audience being unfamiliar with the poem. I have to admit, whilst I’d heard of it, I knew very little about it before now. There were no names in the book – as with the poem, I believe – but this only meant that I had no chance to ‘get to know’ the characters. And now that I know that the book is pretty much the poem exactly, with a few additions at beginning and end, it feels almost lazy.

Review

Review: The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

The Winner’s Curse is a tricky book to define – I honestly have no idea what genre to put it under. The setting doesn’t quite feel fantasy, but it also doesn’t quite feel science fiction. I suppose it could considered to be a dystopian novel, but in a very different way to other Young Adult dystopian such as The Hunger Games or Divergent. I’m not really sure what I was expecting when I picked it up – there are a lot of positive reviews on Goodreads – but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this.

The setting seemed a little odd. There was obvious Graeco-Roman inspiration, e.g. the empire, slaves, villas, names such as Trajan and soldiers with names ending in ‘x’, but there were plenty of names that didn’t fit. I suppose it doesn’t have to be inspired by one particular culture, if any at all, but it does make it feel more grounded and ‘real’, in a way. The world-building didn’t feel very strong. There was a vague sense of history – the Valorians enslaved the Herranis a while before the events of the book, but that was about it.

Kestrel, the protagonist, was a relief. She may have been from an aristocratic family, but she wasn’t amazing at everything, despite all the opportunities. She was clever, quick-witted and musical, but not a good fighter. She doesn’t mope about, there’s no talk of how she’s plain or any ‘special snowflake’ behaviour. And she has a genuine friendship with a female friend that doesn’t just revolve around the friend being a handy way for Kestrel to discuss her feelings – although it does seem that way at first, it is later shown that Jess is truly important to Kestrel. However, Arin felt quite flat. There was a little bit of his history, but I wasn’t able to get a real sense of his personality. It’s a possibility that he was meant to be mysterious and aloof, but it didn’t really come off that way.

I am writing this review a few weeks after reading the book, and I have to admit that if it weren’t for my notes, I’d have great difficulty writing this. Despite having read the book not that long ago, it took me a little while to recall all of the details. It may not be the most memorable of stories, but I do know that I really enjoyed it! And the best bit? No insta-love!

Review

Review: The Mime Order (The Bone Season #2) by Samantha Shannon

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3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I won a gorgeous hardback copy of this book from Debby – thank you so much!

Having read The Bone Season at the beginning of 2014, and found it not quite as amazing as many of my fellow Goodreaders and bloggers, I was still impressed by the whole concept and story and gave it a solid four star rating. Yet when it came to reading this, I found I had forgotten the majority of the events of the first book – but luckily the Recaptains were there to help me out, and my memory was jogged as I read on. I remembered that the premise was intriguing, even if some of the characters were a bit lacking, and I loved the idea of this monstrous camp juxtaposed against the ruins of beautiful Oxford.

That, however, is where I believe The Mime Order fell short for me. Without that setting, without the whole camp, the feeling of Paige being in constant peril, without the Rephaim always around, it just wasn’t the same. London just wasn’t as exciting or interesting as Oxford, and the entire book felt so slow. There were whole sections where nothing really happened, and I was waiting for some action. In addition, it really didn’t feel like Paige had prepared for the Scrimmage enough, and why was she not more scared about what could happen? Because of her lack of fear, there was no tension or sense of peril over what would happen and it somehow felt like a big anti-climax without all the build up.

I also much preferred the wider cast of characters from the first book. I don’t feel that Paige is particularly exciting or inspiring as a main character, in fact Jaxon feels more well-built than her, with some real personality. And for some reason I’ve always had real trouble picturing how the Rephaim appear!

But yes, overall I DID like this book. It’s a ‘didn’t quite meet my expectations but I still liked it’ kind of three-star book. I’m just really hoping that the rest of the series, especially considering that Shannon has signed on for a seven book deal, are as good as the first, rather than this one – which to me, definitely suffers from ‘second book syndrome’.

Review

Review: Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) by Sarah J. Maas

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Are you looking for a magical fantasy series that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy, wishing you could somehow teleport yourself to this fantasy land and live out your days frolicking with various mythological beings?

This is not that series.

Instead, it is a series that will draw you in, have you turning page after page long after you probably should have stopped for the night, cheering on Celaena, hoping that X and Y get together – and then it will tear your heart out and stomp on it.

When I first started Throne of Glass, I had high expectations that it most definitely lived up to, but I never expected to get so emotionally evolved. With Heir of Fire, I was more invested than ever and that meant that every little bad thing that happened actually hurt. The way that Celaena’s responses to grief were written were both wonderful and heart-breaking – I could feel her pain, her utter hopelessness. It’s not often that a book really grips me emotionally; I mean sure quite a few books have made me cry, but this was something else. Certain moments just left me with a hollow feeling in my stomach, a disbelief that they’d actually just transpired.

From the very beginning of Heir of Fire, Celaena was tougher than ever, and after the past two books it was no surprise that she was so much more bloodthirsty. I don’t want to describe my favourite scene because there will be some major spoilers in there, but my respect and love for Celaena as a character pretty much skyrocketed at that point, and with no other way to put it – she was a MAJOR badass. And with even more of Celaena’s history opened up to the reader, you can’t help but love this fierce warrior of a girl, with her determination and loyalty.

But it’s not just Celaena who is in the spotlight this time. I loved that we got to see the different points of view of Chaol and Dorian, as well as Manon – who I can’t wait to learn more about, especially to see how her story weaves into the bigger picture. Like Celaena, she was violent and determined, but in a huge contrast also brutal and vicious. I felt her chapters also gave the book more of a fantasy element than the previous two books.

It is books like Heir of Fire that remind me just why I love the fantasy genre. With some truly beautiful prose, heartbreaking moments as well as others that make you want to punch the air in triumph, Sarah J. Maas has done it again with this absolutely fantastic addition to the Throne of Glass series – and boy am I glad it’s not over yet.

Review

Review: Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

Firstly I need to thank my Goodreads and book blogger friends for their excellent taste: I saw this book on many a book blog, the majority of the time with glowing five-star reviews. Well mine is going to be no different, as this is a wonderfully crafted and enthralling tale.

You know you’re going to like a character when she absolutely adores books:

“The library.” The two words were like a shot of lightning.
“The…” She looked at the claw-shaped iron handles. “Can we– may we go in?” The Captain of the Guard opened the doors reluctantly, the strong muscles of his back shifting as he pushed hard against the worn oak… She’d entered a city made entirely of leather and paper. Celaena put a hand against her heart. Escape routes be damned. “I’ve never seen– how many volumes are there?” — (page 54)

What stood out to me the most about Celaena was how tough she is. That might be obvious, given her occupation, but romance plays a part in this story and in YA fiction that often means the female protagonist turning into some sort of nervous, blubbering wreck. Celaena, however, doesn’t seem to feel even a tiny bit guilty about having an interest in both Prince Dorian and Chaol, the captain – and why should she? In so many books these days, the female characters are attracted to men that they know aren’t right for them and they tear themselves up about it. Celaena knows that Dorian has a reputation as a womaniser and that nothing could ever become of a relationship between herself and the Crown Prince. But does she worry about the consequences of her flirting and teasing? No, she does not. It’s so wonderfully refreshing to have a female character in charge of her own feelings who does what she wants, when she wants, and throws all reason out of the window. She doesn’t once chastise herself for finding Dorian or Chaol attractive.

Aside from the romance, Celaena is tough, as well as quite cheeky and sarcastic (I have a tendency to love such characters and Maas certainly succeeded there). She teases, she flirts – despite the danger she is in, despite the fact that if she fails the Tests she will most likely go to her death in Endovier – she lives her life, even though it is highly restricted, unlike many a YA protagonist. And when this character is overcome by a matronly handmaid with no time for her attitude, well it’s just funny. It was also lovely to see a female main character with a female best friend who wasn’t just there to gossip about the boys. Nehemia was a brilliant supporting character with some surprises of her own up her sleeve.

But talking of the boys… well I liked them both, in their own ways. Dorian, the Crown Prince, was at first appearances a smooth womaniser, and reminded me a little of Ser Percy Blakeney from The Scarlet Pimpernel – a soft, foppish exterior combined with a brave, sensitive heart. He essentially plays the fool to most people, appearing more interested in the finer sides of court life than politics. Chaol, on the other hand, shows more of his real self – tough, concerned with politics and war, a rather stoic presence – but keeps his true feelings hidden inside, which we see in the occasional chapter from his point of view.

To me, the mark of a good book is when I’m completely and utterly invested in the lives and emotions of fictional characters – and Throne of Glass definitely hit the spot. Certain moments had me gasping and cheering internally, and the duel towards the end is so tense and well-executed that I had to read it at double-time to reach the conclusion more quickly. Sarah J. Maas’ writing style is wonderful: it flows smoothly and she has built a wonderful world in which Celaena, Chaol and Dorian dwell. Even though the entire novel, apart from the very beginning, is set in the grounds of the castle and inside the castle itself, I got the impression of a huge and beautiful land, filled with all types of people.

Despite Celaena being an assassin, there is no room in this novel for assassinations. So if that’s what you’re hoping to read, you’ll be disappointed. However what you will find is a magical novel, about a young girl given a second chance at her freedom, and friendships blossoming in unlikely places. I loved absolutely everything about this book – the characters, the setting, the writing, the plot, and I was completely enchanted by it. Definitely one of my favourite reads of the year, I can’t wait to pick up the sequel – which is waiting on my bookshelf – and meet Sarah in October at Cheltenham Literature Festival!

Review

Review: All Our Yesterdays (All Our Yesterdays #1) by Cristin Terrill

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads
From a non-linear, non-subjective view point, time is not simple. No, in fact it’s more…

 

Thank you, Doctor*. Bearing that in mind, books about time travel are never going to be simple. It is something that has fascinated humans for a long time, the possibilities it would bring but also the potential troubles it would cause. And when I heard that this book, so loved by many a YA fan, was about time travel, I was quite surprised.
That was, until I read it myself.
Because it’s not simply a story about time travel. Whilst that is the main essence of the story, the focus of the plot, it’s so much more. It’s also a story of young love, of heartbreak, friendships, power, intelligence. The story is so well-structured; the flitting between past, present and future works so well and builds up to the final events perfectly.
From the very first chapter, I knew I had to find out what was really going on, and soon. As if that wasn’t enough, a couple of chapters in one little word had me reeling, needing to know more. The plot is exciting, the action fast-paced and exhilarating and there are several little twists thrown in to catch you off guard. Although I guessed one important element of the story early on, it was revealed shortly afterwards and is a crucial plot point from thereon out.
The time travel in this book is explained early on, conveyed through exposition, and best of all it’s not unnecessarily complicated. I’m not particularly scientifically-minded, so I don’t know how it would sound to someone who is, but it made sense to me – at least in the context of the story and its universe.
With well fleshed out characters and relationships, built up more effectively by ‘flashes’ – moments where a character blacks out and relives a past moment, caused by the time travel – Cristin Terrill cleverly makes you both like and dislike the same character through the use of different points of view. And that’s what makes this such a tense read, because you’re at once both aching for someone to get their comeuppance and simultaneously be saved. It also meant that I wasn’t always rooting for Em and Finn’s success in their mission, and at other times I was.
Marina, one of the main female protagonists, was snobby and rather selfish, as well as being a bit of a spoilt rich kid. But I couldn’t dislike her completely, I felt that her lack of parental contact redeemed her from that a little, and she had a certain naivety to her that couldn’t be ignored. There was a great contrast during the first third or so of the book, between Marina’s normal life, where her biggest worry was confessing her feelings to James, and that of Em, imprisoned, tortured and with a secretive and tangled past. Em is tough and hardened, mysterious and brave.
And as for the guys… it was nice that they weren’t too different, which is how it often seems to be. Often they have opposite colourings, interests, body types, personalities… but both boys are intelligent and ultimately well-meaning. James is so brilliant and full of good potential but… it’s hard to write much about the characters of this book without getting a bit spoilerific.
Take it from someone who knows all about spoilers.
It’s not often a book has me totally torn between characters and events. It is powerful, drawing you in and making you unsure of the conclusion you wish for. The ending was heart-breaking but with a sequel on the way, things might not be as they seem… and I’m fine with that.

 

I like GIFs now. GIFs are cool.
*Disclaimer: I am not sorry in the slightest for the Doctor Who references.