Top Ten (Not)Tuesdays: Childhood Classics

Today I’m taking it back to when I was young boy, just starting to become interested in reading. In this list, are some of my favourite books as a kid, books that made me the avid reader I am today! So without further ado…

10. Inkheart – Cornelia Funke

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The concept of being able to bring book characters to life just by reading a book was a magical concept to me as a child, which is why this book is on my list. It is also one of the first larger books that I read, so I felt really smart after I finished it!

9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis

lion

I was all about The Chronicles of Narnia as a kid, and this book in particular was one of my all-time favourites. Again, the concept was really cool – a wardrobe that serves as a gateway to a whole other world! The varying personalities of the Pevensie children made for some great tension amongst the characters, and we can’t forget about the awesomeness that is Aslan the lion.

8. Lola Rose – Jacqueline Wilson

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Jacqueline Wilson’s books always explore complex family relationships, and Lola Rose was no different, but the idea of a character having to take on a whole new identity was why I put this book on my list over some of Wilson’s other books. ‘Lola’ was a very relatable character, but there was always a feeling of dread that her and her mum and brother would be found by Lola’s dad, which made for tense reading.

7. Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors – Terry Deary

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These books managed to teach history in such a fun way, especially with all the funny animations. In particular, since I was really obsessed with Henry the Eighth (I even got to play him in my primary school play) and that period of time, The Terrible Tudors was my favourite. I’d even bore my mum with all the facts I’d learnt straight after reading it, which shows the influence these books had over me.

6. Lord Loss – Darren Shan

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I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t obsessed with the horror genre, which was probably worrying for all my relatives. When I think of my favourite horror writer, it has to be Darren Shan, and when I think of Darren Shan, I think of the Demonata series. The way all the stories eventually connected was like a cinematic universe before I knew what a cinematic universe was, and Lord Loss was the book to kick that off.

5. Matilda – Roald Dahl

matilda

I’ve already mentioned this on another list, so I won’t say too much about it, but I definitely related to the character and her love of books. If only I could have her powers as well. Oh, the mischief I’d get up too…

4. The Story of Tracy Beaker – Jacqueline Wilson

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Another Jacqueline Wilson classic. Like most of these books, I saw a part of myself in the protagonist. I definitely related to Tracy’s over-active imagination, but there was almost a sadness to her character as you realise how in denial she is about her situation and her mother. For a children’s book, this managed to cover such a grown-up topic really well, and it had a great adaptation in the TV show!

3. The Spiderwick Chronicles – Holly Black & Tony Diterlizzi

This one is kind of cheating since I included the whole series, but the books are so short that if you put them together they’d make for one large novel. From the creatures, to the action, to the quirky characters, there was very little that I disliked when it came to this series.

2. A Series of Unfortunate Events – Lemony Snicket

Cheating again with another series, but it was hard to pick a favourite amongst these books. The best part was trying to solve all the clues throughout the series, especially towards the end, and while some questions went unanswered, the ride was still enjoyable. Not to mention, some great illustrations and very unique characters.

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling

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I think I’m going to have to start banning Harry Potter from these lists, since they always make it to number one. The reason why I chose Prison of Azkaban specifically was because this is my favourite book in the series and was the first book that had me truly invested in the series. The series was starting to get darker, and we have time travel, what more can you need? When I think back to my childhood, it’s impossible to do so without thinking of the Harry Potter series.

How about you? What would be on your list? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

 

 

 

Top 10 (Not)Tuesdays: Series Finales

I’ve done a top 10 list for series openers, so it was only a matter of time before I listed my top 10 book series finales! So, without further ado…

10. Morning Star – Pierce Brown

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Red Rising took me by surprise since I don’t really read a lot of sci-fi, but I ended up really enjoying it! Morning Star concludes the trilogy well, there are a lot of twists and turns, a lot of losses, and a lot of tragic moments as we see characters we love die or fall into perilous situations. The story does end in a way that could spurn more books, and lo and behold, Iron Gold will  be coming out in 2018!

9. The Wrath of Mulgarath – Holly Black & Tony Diterlizzi

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One of my childhood favourites! I remember reading this for the first time as a kid and just freaking out from page one. The Grace children’s mother had been kidnapped, their house had been destroyed, and the entire world was in danger. Plus, there are dragons, and I looove me some dragons. The illustrations are beautiful and really added to the story, and as a kid, this was a finale of epic proportions.

8. Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins

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Not my favourite in the series, but still a good finale to a great series. Katniss is finally out of the games, and we finally see a rebellion against the Capitol, with Katniss as a symbol of hope. This book does have devastating consequences (and a final chapter that screams of the Harry Potter epilogue), but it resonated with me enough to make it onto this list.

7. The End – Lemony Snicket

the end

This series was my life! When I saw this final book on the shelves, I was practically frothing at the mouth to get the answers I’d been craving for the past twelve books.  And while we still don’t have the answers to everything (which I’m totally not bitter about), we do see a final confrontation between the children and Count Olaf, and it was good to see how much the kids had changed from book one.

6. Winter – Marissa Meyer

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This entire series had such a unique take on the classic fairy-tales we’ve come to know, and Winter brought all the characters we loved together to finally defeat Queen Levana. It is a hefty book, but I think it was necessary in order for everything to be wrapped up, and since we’re dealing with so many characters, it was important to see what role every character had to play. Concluding in such a happy way, I loved this series, and this book in particular.

5. Monsters of Men – Patrick Ness

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I’ve said it time and time again, but I love the Chaos Walking trilogy. The second book in the series does end with a cliff hanger, so I was eager to see where Monsters of Men picked up from. There’s chaos, there’s drama, there are three armies all trying to kill each other, all while Todd and Viola are caught in the middle. All this adds up to a final book that is extremely intense and satisfying.

4. A Court of Mist and Fury – Sarah J. Maas

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When I read the end of ACOMAF, I was thirsty for some characters to die in the harshest ways possible, and in ACOWAR some of those characters did. But just the fact that I was so invested in these characters proves how much I enjoyed this series. Like a lot of fantasy books there was a huge final battle at the end, but I think the thing I enjoyed the most was the character development, especially with Feyre growing in confidence, as well as her connection with Rhysand.

3. A Conjuring of Light – V.E. Schwab

29939230Victoria Schwab became one of my favourite authors because of this series, and A Conjuring of Light put some of my favourite characters together in a confined space, and forced them to work together to defeat an enemy. These interactions were what made it for me. P.S. Alucard and Lila will remain awesome in my eyes for all eternity.

2. Clockwork Princess – Cassandra Clare

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In my opinion, this is the best series in the Shadowhunter Chronicles (we’ll have to see how Dark Artifices plays out) and so I couldn’t not include Clockwork Princess in this list. I usually really hate the love triangle trope, but even that was done really well here, as well as answering our questions about Tessa’s heritage. It also connects brilliantly to The Mortal Instruments, which only makes it that much more enjoyable.

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling

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Hardly a surprise that this is my number one choice. Harry Potter will always be a childhood classic, and one of the books that made me love reading. Reading about the battle of Hogwarts, and Harry Potter finally confronting Voldemort was one of the most exciting things I’ve read in a long time, plus,  seeing my favourite characters all come together had me jumping for joy. The entire series was a whirlwind, and I couldn’t have hoped for a better finale.

How about you? What are your top 10 series finales? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Top 10 (Not)Tuesdays: Standalones

*No, I did not call this Top 10 (Not) Tuesdays because I forgot to post this yesterday.*

Coming up with this list was so difficult! Which tells me that I definitely don’t read as many standalones as I thought I did. However, out of the ones I have read, here are my top ten:

10. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

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This book was heart-breaking! For someone who mostly reads YA, this was a massive step out of my comfort zone, but I’m glad for reading it. The novel also explores a culture that I don’t often read about, so it was nice to explore a new perspective.

9. Kiss – Jacqueline Wilson

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Jacqueline Wilson was one of my favourite authors as a kid – in fact, I could probably do a top ten list on her books (and I might just do that!). Kiss, along with a lot of Wilson’s books, explores really important themes like friendship and sexuality, and as a kid, this book really blew me away.

8. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

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If you want to read a book that will give you trust issues, then Gone Girl is definitely for you! While a slow build, this novel managed to pull so many emotions out of me – shock, anger, intrigue, pure disbelief – and the twists just keep coming. As a bonus, I thought the film adaptation was pretty good too!

7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

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The thing I love the most about Perks is Charlie himself. The innocence of Charlie as a protagonist makes this such a warm book, as well as the unique style of telling the story through letters. Fair warning, it does get a little dark towards the end, but overall, it’s a great story that takes you on an interesting journey.

6. A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

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Talking about dark books… This one is definitely a heart-wrenching read. It takes the theme of loss and finds a really creative way of exploring it. And of course, it’s written by Patrick Ness, so it you know it’s going to be good.

5. More Than This – Patrick Ness

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Whaaaat? Two Patrick Ness books in a row? I couldn’t not include this on the list, since there is so much mystery and intrigue to this novel. Even after I finished reading, I wasn’t exactly sure what was real and what wasn’t, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the journey. And again, it’s Patrick Ness.

4. Misery – Stephen King

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Oh boy. It’s a Stephen King novel, so you know there’s going to be some edge-of-your-seat, oh-my-god-I’m-going-to-explode-with-the-tension moments. It’s amazing how gripping a book can be when it really only focuses on two characters. Annie Wilkes is such an unnerving villain because she isn’t a demon or a zombie, she’s an actual human with some major issues. And I looove the horror genre.

3. Matilda – Roald Dahl

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Another nostalgic one! I related to Matilda so much as a kid (ok, not the horrible parents or the evil headteacher part) but I loved and still love books, which made Matilda one of my favourite characters. I was so young when I read this that I actually thought if I kept reading, I’d get powers too…so you can imagine my disappointment when reality kicked in. Nevertheless, Matilda will always have a place in my heart.

2. History is All You Left Me – Adam Silvera

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There’s clearly a theme here with all these heart-breaking books! This was my introduction to Adam Silvera, and what an introduction it was! I know I joke about having a heart of stone, but HIAYLM was a very tragic novel with a really hopeful conclusion. The characters all had interesting arcs – some characters you initially dislike end up being your favourites, and vice versa. I haven’t read More Happy Than Not yet, but after this, I’m definitely looking forward to it.

1. Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli

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Simon and Blue are cute. That’s it, that’s all I need to say. No, but in all seriousness, this is a really heart warming story (wow, I’ve used the word ‘heart’ a lot in this list) that you just can’t help but smile once you’ve finished. It really captured the awkwardness of teenage life and the fears of liking someone, as well as the added mystery of who Blue was. Out of all the books on this list, this is definitely one I could read over and over again!

And that is my list! Do you agree/disagree? What are your top 10 standalones? Leave your thoughts in the comments alone!

Top 10 Tuesdays: Series Openers

Personally, I love a good series – the longer, the better – but I think in order for a series to be really successful, the first book needs to be strong enough to make you want to read on further. Some series start off ok and get gradually better, but this list will feature series openers that had me hooked immediately. I’ve changed my mind at least ten times trying to come up with this list, but without further ado, here are my choices for the top ten opening books of a series!

10. Red Rising – Pierce Brown

I’m not necessarily a massive fan of Science Fiction, but Red Rising was one of the first books to get me interested in the genre. I struggled for about the first 30 pages in Red Rising, but after that, it was non-stop action that had me fully engaged.

9. Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas

I am a big lover of Fantasy, and Throne of Glass didn’t disappoint. I loved Celaena from the first page, and was fully immersed in the world that Sarah J. Maas created. I loved some of the books more than others, but I think Throne of Glass was a great introduction.

8. A Darker Shade of Magic – V.E. Schwab

Having read A Conjuring of Light very recently, this series is still fresh in my mind. Again, being a Fantasy fan, I was already intrigued by the premise of parallel Londons, but Victoria Schwab executed this concept really well. A Darker Shade of Magic was a lot of fun, and the series just gets better and better.

7. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

Ok, so if you haven’t heard of The Hunger Games by now, you’re probably living under a rock. This was one of the first YA novels I read, and The Hunger Games was filled with action, with a concept that I thought was really interesting. While Catching Fire is my favourite in the series, The Hunger Games did well in introducing the series.

6. Illuminae – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Illuminae is one of the most unique books that I have ever read, and another sci-fi novel that got me interested in the genre. The series isn’t even finished yet,  but I have high hopes for the final book in the trilogy, since Illuminae and Gemina have been so good.

5. Clockwork Angel – Cassandra Clare

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love me some Mortal Instruments, but I definitely feel that The Infernal Devices is a stronger series, with Clockwork Angel being a great introduction to the series. Tessa makes for a compelling protagonist, and the setting of Victorian London really added to the story.

4. The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness

This was not just my introduction to the Chaos Walking trilogy, but my introduction to Patrick Ness, and I am glad to have discovered both. The Knife of Letting Go had such an interesting concept, with characters that stay with you long after it’s finished. And a bonus: it’s being made into a movie, starring Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley!

3. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J.K. Rowling

Whaaaat? Why isn’t Harry Potter first on this list, you may ask? While the Harry Potter series is and always will be my favourite series, I wasn’t fully hooked onto the series until I read The Prisoner of Azkaban. Still, The Philosopher’s Stone is a magical story (literally) that does really well in setting up this world and the characters.

2. Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

This is a weird one because I haven’t even read Crooked Kingdom yet, but I was so blown away by how much I enjoyed Six of Crows. I loved the characters, I loved the world, and I loved the plot. And the book ended in a way that has me dying to know what will happen next.

1. A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin

Just looking at that Winds of Winter book cover has me dying to know when the next book will come out! But, without further ado, my favourite series opener, is A Game of Thrones. I put it first on my list because it’s filled with rich characters, set in a well-developed world, and packed with twists and turns. Fantasy is my favourite genre (I think I’ve said that a billion times now!), so this book and series was perfect for me, and the icing on the cake? Dragons!

What about you? What are your favourite series openers? Comment below if you agree/disagree!

Book review: A Conjuring of Light – By V.E. Schwab

Tconjuringitle: A Conjuring of Light
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publishing Date: 21st February 2017 – Titan Books
Pages: 666
Genre: YA, Fantasy

Links to purchase: Amazon UK, Waterstones

THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED…
The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.

WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell – once assumed to be the last surviving Antari – begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?

WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace – but never common – thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.

WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay. (Goodreads)

Initial Thoughts

I think it’s very difficult to conclude a series that satisfies everyone, especially as the finale of a book can effect how you view the series as a whole, but I think V.E. Schwab concluded this trilogy really well! Even though it was sad to say goodbye to some of my favourite characters, it was great to see how the story ended.

Characters

Kell’s relationship with all the other characters in A Conjuring of Light was heavily explored and developed, particularly during the voyage with Lila, Alucard and Holland. In particular, his interactions with Alucard were hilarious since Alucard knew exactly how to get under Kell’s skin, especially with his innuendos about Rhy! Also, the chemistry between Lila and Kell remains strong. As someone who is very curious (or nosy, as some would say), I’d say my one criticism is how infuriating it is that Kell chose not to have his memories restored and learn of his past. It was something hinted at throughout the series, and it was so annoying to find that Kell didn’t want to know the truth.

(Queen) Lila was and always will be my favourite character in this series, and she really grows in this book, understanding the limits of her powers, and learning to work with Holland despite hating him (understandably). It’s always fun to see characters who hate each other be forced together, which made for great reading here.

Rhy grew up the most in this book as he had to take charge in Kell’s absence. I still thought he made some reckless decisions, but they were his decisions to make as Crown Prince. And can I please just take a moment to point out the perfection that is Alucard and Rhy’s relationship. We got enough backstory for me to feel emotionally invested in them as a couple, especially Alucard’s history with his family.

I couldn’t stand Holland in the previous books, but similar to Alucard, we got a lot more backstory with him, giving us a clearer understanding of his motivations. I think it’s always better when villains are made more morally grey, and while Holland wasn’t a straight villain, he was the catalyst for a lot of terrible things that happened in the Darker Shades story. By the end of the novel, you’re much more sympathetic to his plight, though he still wasn’t my favourite.

Plot

The stakes were at an all-time high with Osaron slowing taking over London and venturing across to the other worlds, and so the majority of the novel was Kell, Lila, Alucard and Holland travelling by ship to retrieve an item that could defeat Osaron. It was basically a road trip with four characters who couldn’t stand each other – Lila hates Holland, who hates Kell, who hates Alucard, who kind of hates Holland too, hence, a lot of drama. Essentially, it made this part of the book the most enjoyable as it created a lot of awkward tension for the group, but also allowed for everyone to confront everyone about their issues.

All the characters had to grow up in this book and put their egos aside, the result being Kell, Holland and Lila working together to kill Osaron, which made for a great final showdown. Osaron himself was a creepy villain, especially as an unrelenting force of magic that just wants to destroy and corrupt everything. One thing I wasn’t so sure on, was how his power was able to reach the other Londons, but that didn’t diminish how terrifying he was, especially as he possessed more and more people from the city.

The side plot with another royal family trying to take over felt slightly unnecessary, if only to lead to the death of a character I won’t spoil, but again, a small criticism.

Overall, I was surprised that none of our major characters died in the end, but that didn’t take away from how much I enjoyed the conclusion to this trilogy. I was happy with how things ended with every character, and this has really got me interested in reading some of Victoria Schwab’s other work!

My rating:

five of five

Book review: Lord of Shadows – By Cassandra Clare

lord of shadowsTitle: Lord of Shadows
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publishing Date: 23rd May 2017 – Simon and Schuster
Pages: 699
Genre: YA, Fantasy

Links to purchase: Amazon UK, Waterstones

Would you trade your soul mate for your soul?

A Shadowhunter’s life is bound by duty. Constrained by honor. The word of a Shadowhunter is a solemn pledge, and no vow is more sacred than the vow that binds parabatai, warrior partners—sworn to fight together, die together, but never to fall in love.

Emma Carstairs has learned that the love she shares with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, isn’t just forbidden—it could destroy them both. She knows she should run from Julian. But how can she when the Blackthorns are threatened by enemies on all sides?

Their only hope is the Black Volume of the Dead, a spell book of terrible power. Everyone wants it. Only the Blackthorns can find it. Spurred on by a dark bargain with the Seelie Queen, Emma; her best friend, Cristina; and Mark and Julian Blackthorn journey into the Courts of Faerie, where glittering revels hide bloody danger and no promise can be trusted. Meanwhile, rising tension between Shadowhunters and Downworlders has produced the Cohort, an extremist group of Shadowhunters dedicated to registering Downworlders and “unsuitable” Nephilim. They’ll do anything in their power to expose Julian’s secrets and take the Los Angeles Institute for their own.

When Downworlders turn against the Clave, a new threat rises in the form of the Lord of Shadows—the Unseelie King, who sends his greatest warriors to slaughter those with Blackthorn blood and seize the Black Volume. As dangers close in, Julian devises a risky scheme that depends on the cooperation of an unpredictable enemy. But success may come with a price he and Emma cannot even imagine, one that will bring with it a reckoning of blood that could have repercussions for everyone and everything they hold dear. (Goodreads)

I know, I know, it’s been a while. Hopefully now that I have graduated (whoop! whoop!) I can produce reviews more frequently. So, here are my thoughts on Lord of Shadows…

Initial Thoughts

Holy crap. Holy. Crap. Those were the first words out of my mouth as soon as I finished Lord of Shadows, because this book was intense! So much happened, and I can’t fit all of it in this review, but without further ado…

Characters

So, there are a lot of characters in this book, and a lot of relationships that are explored, but if I were to dive into each one, you’d be reading this review forever! I will say that the dynamic between Julian and Emma was really intense and frustrating – it took a large portion of the book before Emma finally told Julian about the parabatai curse, and the build up to that was really hard to read since I felt so sympathetic towards Julian. We did learn of a way to end the parabatai bond, which I won’t spoil here, but if they were to go through with it, it would have dire consequences for all Shadowhunters. We also got a glimpse of a darker Julian in Lady Midnight, and in this book that has gotten even stronger, so I can’t wait to see where he goes in the next book – it’s really refreshing to have a protagonist who is morally grey.

I still totally ship Kit and Ty, and I shall continue to ship Kit and Ty until this happens!  It was fun seeing Kit battle with wanting to be a Shadowhunter and a mundane. Originally, I had thought that Kit, Ty and Livvy would make a great trio, and then some things happened that completely shattered that little theory. *sobs in a corner*

Like I said, there’s a lot of complicated relationships in the book. The dynamic between Mark, Christina and Kieran was a weird one, because I couldn’t tell who should be with who, never mind that relationship issues was the last thing these people should have been thinking about. I was very sympathetic to Kieran’s situation, but at the same time I could understand Mark’s concerns with being with him.  Meanwhile, Diana and Gwyn – something I did not see coming – were really fun to read. We knew Diana had a secret from the previous book, but when it was finally revealed here I was really surprised but also appreciate Clare covering a topic that isn’t discussed or explored enough in YA fiction (again, no spoilers).

I’d like to take one moment to say, I HATE Zara Dearborn and the cohort. We were supposed to hate them, and Clare is very good at making us hate them. Almost every word out of Zara’s mouth was a lie, and I found myself getting more and more frustrated with the crap she was saying, particularly towards Alec, who made a great cameo in the book, alongside my personal favourite character, Magnus Bane. I think the saddest part of all, without getting too political, is that the Cohort are very reminiscent of certain factions in real life society.

Plot

The thing that made this book so enjoyable was how high the stakes were – there were so many villains, from Malcolm to the Cohort, to the Unseelie King and the riders of Mannan to Annabeth (?), and so all our protagonists were constantly being thrown into perilous situations. The main plot point was that everyone wanted the Black Volume of the Dead, which happened to be in Annabeth’s hands, and so a large portion of the book centred on finding it, but it seemed that every step the characters took to retrieving it, brought more problems, which was both fun and terrifying to read.

Now, let’s talk about that ending, because it truly shook me. I will say one of the small complaints of the Shadowhunter series is that major characters don’t really die. That kind of changes by the time you reach the end of this book. I won’t spoil it, but we lose two really important characters that are going to shape the next book in the series. This entire scene was already tense, it had finally reached a point where things might be going well for the Blackthorns (which should have been a clue), Annabel was being co-operative, and then of course, that was all ruined. The dread built to a shocking conclusion, and the book left me feeling dead inside.

As cliff hangers go, I think this one was huge, because so many things are up in the air. There’s the mystery of an illness infecting all the warlocks. The Seelie Queen and Unseelie King are at war, the Cohort are just insane and growing in power, and the whereabouts of the Black Volume of the Dead seems to be up in the air? Never mind that Annabel caused huge problems for our protagonists (understandably, but still).

Overall, this book managed to cover so many things, introducing us to some many villains from various realms. And something I didn’t mention before, but we even got to explore a bit of London and the London Institute – and yes, we did get to see Jessamine. I always say that Clare is great with her characters and the relationships between them, and that is no different here, however some of these characters, Julian in particularly are more morally grey than usual, which was refreshing. The book certainly puts this world in a darker place, and I absolutely loved in. (Seriously, though, the ending will break you!)

My rating:

five of five

Book review: Gemina – By Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

geminaTitle: Gemina
Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Publishing Date: 18th October 2016 – Rock the Boat
Pages: 659
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi

Links to purchase: Amazon UK, Waterstones

Hanna Donnelly is the station captain’s pampered daughter and Nik Malikov is the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. Together they struggle with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, blissfully unaware that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall with news of the Kerenza invasion.

Picking up about five minutes after Illuminae ends, Gemina is the electrifying sequel to the hottest YA novel of 2015. (Goodreads)

Initial Thoughts

From wormholes to psycho BeiTech soldiers to creepy parasites, this book was a whirlwind from start to finish, and even crazier than its predecessor. Though told from the perspective of two new characters, this book managed to capture the same intrigue that the first book had, and kicked everything up a notch!

Characters

Hanna and Nik were great protagonists for this novel and I really loved the chemistry between them. I appreciated how different they were to Kady and Ezra – Hanna is the daughter of a captain and has amazing strategic skills, and Nik is part of a criminal family with a really dark past. Essentially on two different sides of the spectrum, these characters are a great example of how opposites attract. Both had enough of an interesting back story to leave you rooting for them the whole novel – and when you throw Ella into the mix, the banter with all three of them is hilarious. (Side note, how awesome is Ella?)

Jackson. He seemed so perfect at the beginning of the book that I immediately found him annoying, then certain things came to light and I really couldn’t stand him. He does kind of get a redemption at the end, but by then, it was too little too late.

Every time I hear the word ‘bliss’ I will now forever shudder in horror as I think of Falk, a villain that made my blood boil (something that hasn’t happened in a while). I suppose since he produced such a reaction, it’s a testament to Kaufman and Kristoff in their ability to write a good villain. Arrogant till the end, his best scenes were his interactions with Hanna, especially when she foiled his plans or killed one of his crew.

As for Kali… Girl, bye. No, but in all seriousness, another great villain who really had me on edge with every scene she was in. Like Falk, her arrogance was her undoing, and it really made me appreciate Hanna’s character more when these two women came head to head.

Plot

A common theme for the Illuminae series is that when it rains, it pours. After the 100-page mark, everything just kicks off, and rarely slows down. Our protagonists are placed in an impossible situation: BeiTech have taken over Heimdall, a parasitic worm is slowly circulating around the ship (which was terrifying), and the ship’s wormhole is malfunctioning. The odds were heavily stacked against Hanna and Nik, so it was fun watching how they navigated through each problem.

Because of the events in Illuminae, I refused to accept when any character died, even when it was very clear that they were dead – I was always waiting for a twist or for certain characters to be secretly alive,  and while that was the case sometimes, Kaufman and Kristoff still managed to surprise me at times. The whole thing with the wormhole and parallel universes completely surprised me since I didn’t realise the book was going to go in that direction and that portion of the book completely blew my mind. It also made me eager to see what sort of things could happen in Obsidio.

As I’ve said before, the villains themselves (particularly Falk and Kali) were infuriatingly annoying, but every time a BeiTech member was crossed off on that character list, I just got more and more excited. Similar to ACOWAR, this book just made me bloodthirsty for revenge.

Furthermore, like the previous book, this is told through interviews, camera footage, emails and various other forms of media, which was really fun. Since I’m used to this format now, I caught on to the story much quicker than I did with the first in the series, and was able to connect with the story faster – though, I did look insane spinning the book around when I was on a train full of people!

Overall

I think I enjoyed this even more than the first book, with the new characters introduced and the return of some of our favourites from the first book. The stakes were much higher as BeiTech continued to cause chaos, and the introduction of wormholes was a crazy but excellent addition. This book bleeds nicely into the next, and I can’t wait to read it!

Book review: A Court of Wings and Ruin – By Sarah J. Maas

kTitle: A Court of Wings and Ruin
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publishing Date: 2nd May 2017 – Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Pages: 699
Genre: YA, Fantasy

Links to purchase: Amazon UK, Waterstones

Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all. (Goodreads)

Initial Thoughts

I’m always really excited to see how a series is going to end, and this one didn’t disappoint. I do feel as though we didn’t get full closure with everyone, but Sarah J. Maas managed to conclude what was a really enjoyable series in an action-packed and well-developed way.

Characters

I’ve always liked how Feyre’s mental health was addressed in the series, and that continued in this book as she slowly got stronger, both physically and mentally.  She developed so many relationships throughout the series that it would be impossible to talk about all of them, but I love how she found a family with Rhysand and his court, especially when the one she had in her mortal life was…difficult, to say the least.  In terms of her family from the mortal realm, the dynamic between her and Elain and Nesta was so tense since they were all so different, and I think Maas managed to blend these different personalities together well. The sisters didn’t always get along – especially with the shade Nesta was constantly throwing at everyone – but in the end they were all loyal to one another.

Rhysand, hands-down was the most complex character in the series, my opinion of him being drastically different from the first novel. He was self-sacrificial, which at times could be frustrating, but I think he and Feyre made a perfect pairing since he allowed her to make her own decisions while still trying to protect her, unlike certain people *cough* Tamlin *cough*. In terms of Rhysand’s court – I so badly wanted Cassian and Nesta to get together! Every interaction they had just made me go ‘gaaah kiss already!’ The only characters who didn’t really develop for me was Azriel, and Mor’s reveal in this novel kind of came out of nowhere for me.

Tamlin. I still couldn’t stand him. Nuff said.

Amren. Loved her, always have. Nuff said.

Lucien. Slightly redeemed, don’t want him to get with Elain though. His realisation that Rhysand wasn’t the villain he painted himself out to be was really interesting, and I’m curious to see where Lucien’s character would go from here.

Plot

This book made me very bloodthirsty for revenge – especially on Ianthe – but what this book actually does is show how war is not a glamorous, beautiful thing, and that killing your enemies doesn’t just ease all your pain (deep, I know).  I’ve said this a million times now, but Maas’ strongest skill is her character relationships. Even with people I didn’t like *cough* Tamlin *cough* or Hybern or Ianthe, I was still fascinated to see what course of action they’d take, or learn about their motivations. The book opens up in a fun way – Feyre playing mind games with the Spring Court and working cleverly against Ianthe, so right from the off-set I had a good time.

I’m not saying that every single book necessarily has to be diverse, but it was good to see an array of races and sexualities in the novel. Without getting too heavy, I know that there are certain issues – like a certain character’s sexuality in this book that seems to come out of nowhere, or certain tropes, like all the bisexual characters sleeping around – nevertheless, I was really surprised to see such a diverse amount of characters in the novel – even a High Lord with a male partner!

From start to finish I was fully gripped – the battles were intense, and just when it looked like our group were winning, Hybern would do something else to thwart the main group’s plans. There were so many twists and turns that I could never really tell what was happening or how Hybern was going to be stopped, but I couldn’t wait to see how things were resolved (which I was very satisfied with). The novel does end with the world being a changed place, which I think will lead right on to the companion novels, especially as some of the character relationships weren’t given complete closure – like Cassian and Nesta, or Lucien and Elain.

Overall…

This was a great conclusion to the series, but still allows for more novels to follow and expand this wonderful world that Maas has created. I’ve really enjoyed reading about these characters, and I can’t wait to see what Maas comes up with next!

My rating:

five of five

Book review: Caraval – By Stephanie Garber

30964236Title: Caraval
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publishing Date: 31st January 2017 – Hodder and Stoughton
Pages: 402
Genre: YA, Fantasy

Links to purchase: Amazon UK, Waterstones

Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . .

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.  (Goodreads)

Before reading Caraval I wasn’t sure what to expect, all I knew is that a lot of people were raving about it. Now that I’ve read the book, I can see why – this book is filled with adventure, romance and mystery, all that make the components for a fun book (although it is not without its faults). So, without further ado…

In terms of character, I was really intrigued by Legend and the mystery that surrounded him. The opening chapter with all the letters was a great way of introducing him, and the fact that we never know what he looks like adds to the sense of mystery to him. I kept suspecting every single character we met at Caraval of being him, which was both frustrating but also fun to guess.

As for the protagonist, I enjoyed Scarlett’s character due to her determination for finding her sister, and her conflicting feelings about Julian and her father and her fiancée. Her dynamic with Julian was fun to read, although I was always on edge since you don’t really know much about him, and there was a tiny part of me suspecting him of being Master Legend. The development of their feelings was definitely enjoyable to read, although I do think their feelings developed a little too quickly considering Scarlett was supposed to be looking for her sister. Speaking of which, for the longest time, Tella got on my last nerve. I found her naivety to be incredibly annoying, until we get to the end of the book and yet another twist is revealed…

The story itself was very easy to get through, and I think it flowed really well due its fast pace. Caraval was a magical place to read about, and I appreciated all the mechanics, like how people slept during the day and came alive at night, or how secrets worked as currency. The world building was fun to read about, especially all the shops and all the magical things they offer. Some of the metaphors didn’t work for me, but they weren’t too distracting to be a problem (the moon was described a lot). The level of mystery kept me engaged since I was constantly trying to work out the clues that Scarlett had to follow to find her sister (side note: I failed miserably) and the build-up to finding Scarlett was really intense, especially when it became apparent that Legend might be more sinister than first appeared.

Towards the end of the book we get a lot of explanations for Legend and Scarlett’s kidnap and etc… and while it was great to fully understand everything, I do wish we could have gotten this information in a different way, since it felt like info dumping. I will say that some of the things we learnt did make Tella more likeable however.

Overall, Caraval was a fun fantasy novel fuelled by mystery and intrigue. While there were some info-dumpey parts towards the end, overall I think this world was set up well and captivated my imagination. The way the novel ended suggests there will be a sequel, so I look forward to seeing what happens next with these characters.

My rating:

four of five

Book review: A Gathering of Shadows – By V.E. Schwab

20764879Title: A Gathering of Shadows
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publishing Date: 23rd February 2016 – Tor Books
Pages: 512
Genre: YA, Fantasy

Links to purchase: Amazon UK, Waterstones

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall. (Goodreads)

A Gathering of Shadows is the second book in the Darker Shades trilogy, expanding on the world of the previous book by introducing us to several new characters. The Element Games attracts people from across the world, which means the reader gets to learn more about the political side of Red London, as well  as providing some tension for the main characters as they all become involved in the Games through one way or another.

Kell continues to be an interesting character, with citizens now fearing him as a result of the events in the previous book. As well as that, his life is now bonded to Rhy’s, which creates an interesting dynamic as they both struggle to adjust to this new way of living. I was particularly interested in seeing Rhy’s change in behaviour – in the previous book we only saw him as the rebellious and flirtatious prince, but here we got to see his guilt for being alive, as well as his romantic feelings for another character we’re introduced to, which I thought was very interesting and took me completely by surprise. I love the relationship between Rhy and Kell, they’re both loyal to each other despite the predicament they’re in. Rhy often defends Kell when the king and queen treat him like crap (which happens a lot in this book).

Something that didn’t surprise me, was how much I loved Lila. She was great in the first book, and she takes it up a notch in this one, especially as she becomes involved in the Element Games. This part of the storyline was the most interesting to me; seeing Lila’s powers grow, her interactions with Alucard and watching her assume a new identity. She has a flare for getting into trouble and has the best one-liners.  There’s also the mystery of where her powers come from, and I like that this is kept a mystery. I’m also glad that there are still limits to her powers, she’s not a master at magic overnight, and has to work at it. Her and Kell make a great couple, and I really hope to see more of them together in the next book.

As for the main threat, it is actually subtly interspersed within the story, with the Element Games taking up most of the story. I enjoyed this, though, because it put me on edge the whole time, just waiting to see what Osaron was going to do, especially as he comes from Black London. The last few pages are agonising as Osaron’s plan comes into place, and I’m dying to know what happens next, and how all the characters deal with the problems they face at the end of the book.

Side note: I really can’t stand King Maxim – I have a feeling we’re going to learn about Kell’s past in the next book, and I think he has something to do with it.

Extra side note: One of Kell’s new guards (Hastra) was absolutely adorable in this book!

Overall, A Gathering of Shadows hooked me into the story almost straight away, with old characters and new characters  being equally enjoyable and complex. Darker Shades is slowly becoming one of my favourite series, and I just hope the conclusion to the trilogy is as good as the first two.

My rating:

five of five