Review: Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Release date: April 26, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 320
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Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes.

At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall.

As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.

MY THOUGHTS

I received a review copy from the publisher. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I have read and loved all of Jennifer E. Smith’s novels and Windfall was definitely no exception. It was beautifully written and had such a captivating story that I sprinted through the book. I thought it was cute and uplifting and definitely one of my favourite contemporaries that I’ve read so far this year.

The book starts with Alice buying a lottery ticket for her best friend, Teddy’s, 18th birthday. They’ve been best friends for 9 years and Alice has been secretly in love with Teddy for almost the entire time. They’ve bonded over their bad luck for years and years but things change when the lottery ticket turns out to be the winning ticket. Teddy’s life changes in the blink of an eye and Alice finds herself slowly losing Teddy and the friendship that they used to have. What I loved most about this novel was that it wasn’t just about the romance. At the forefront of the novel is a coming of age story and I highly enjoyed it. We got to learn a lot about Alice’s past and what happened to her parents 9 years ago that left her an orphan. We got to see Alice embrace who she is and who she wants to become and step out from her parents’ shadows. At the same time, we also get to see Teddy become a more responsible person as his life rapidly changes.

I adored the characters in this novel. I connected with Alice almost instantly and was really able to understand all of her fears and concerns, not only about her future but about her deteriorating relationship with Teddy. I really enjoyed her character growth throughout the novel and admired her strength at the end of the book. I also really loved Leo, Alice’s cousin, and the way that he was there for her and has been there for her the entire time that she’s lived with his family. I love seeing close relationships between siblings/family in YA novels and I found their relationship and bond to be really heartwarming. I also loved Leo’s personal story and his romantic with his boyfriend, Max. Teddy was a character that took me a little while to like but he grew on me throughout the story when he started to grow as a person.

The romance was probably my least favourite part of this novel, not because it wasn’t adorable, but because I couldn’t really connect with it. I felt that it needed a little bit more development and that everything progressed really quickly, which is probably understandable considering Alice and Teddy have been friends and probably harbouring feelings for each other for years. It just wasn’t really my favourite of all the friends to lovers romance that I’ve read. I felt like their friendship together was a much stronger bond and I enjoyed reading about that aspect a little bit more.

Overall, there wasn’t really much that I didn’t love about Windfall. Jennifer E. Smith never ceases to wow me with her contemporary novels and I loved all of the different themes that were explored in this book, especially the coming-of-age elements.

Review: Starflight by Melissa Landers

starflight Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release date: February 2, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 369
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Life in the outer realm is a lawless, dirty, hard existence, and Solara Brooks is hungry for it. Just out of the orphanage, she needs a fresh start in a place where nobody cares about the engine grease beneath her fingernails or the felony tattoos across her knuckles. She’s so desperate to reach the realm that she’s willing to indenture herself to Doran Spaulding, the rich and popular quarterback who made her life miserable all through high school, in exchange for passage aboard the spaceliner Zenith.

When a twist of fate lands them instead on the Banshee, a vessel of dubious repute, Doran learns he’s been framed on Earth for conspiracy. As he pursues a set of mysterious coordinates rumored to hold the key to clearing his name, he and Solara must get past their enmity to work together and evade those out for their arrest. Life on the Banshee may be tumultuous, but as Solara and Doran are forced to question everything they once believed about their world—and each other—the ship becomes home, and the eccentric crew family. But what Solara and Doran discover on the mysterious Planet X has the power to not only alter their lives, but the existence of everyone in the universe…

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

Starflight is a fast-paced and addictive YA sci-fi novel. I was hooked from the very beginning and devoured the book in two short sittings because there was so much action and hilarity. I highly enjoyed the plot and the characters, but the standout for me was definitely the romance!

In this story, we follow Solara, who’s a criminal desperate for a new start in the Outer Fringes of the universe. But in order to get there, she needs passage on a ship and her only option is to indenture herself to her high school enemy, Doran Spaulding, heir to the biggest fuel company in the universe. But things quickly go wrong and the two of them find themselves on board the Banshee, which is home to a crew of misfits with their own secrets. What I loved most about the plot of this book was that it was nothing like what I expected going into the book. I started the story with an idea of what was going to happen but it deviated pretty quickly from what I expected. I enjoyed all of the action in the book and it kind of had everything: from space pirates to accidental marriages to betrayals to unexpected surprises at the end. I loved it all. I also really loved that the book was really funny. There was a lot of banter between the characters and some of the things that happened were hilarious.

The characters themselves were great and while I wasn’t sure about some of them at the start, I grew to love all of them really quickly. The crew were a family and it was hard not to fall in love with all of them. My favourite character was definitely Doran. He was super cute and I loved his learning curve in the novel. He really developed from a bratty rich kid into a wonderful and loyal man. I also really enjoyed Solara throughout the book. She did annoy me a little at the start but it was impossible not to relate to her and fall in love with her character and personality. I also loved the crew members, especially the first mate, Renny. He’s a kleptomaniac and steals the most random things because he can’t help it. I thought he was so funny and I loved him to bits. And of course, I really enjoyed the Captain, who has a pet sugar bear that he pretends not to love but secretly does. I just loved them all.

She’d learned that home was a fluid thing, and whether on a planet, on a satellite, or on a rusted bucket of a ship, this crew was her home.

The romance in the book definitely had my attention from the start. One of my favourite romantic tropes is hate to love and this book executed it perfectly. The development from enemies to friends to lovers was perfect and I shipped Solara and Doran sooooo hard. I cannot wait for the sequel, Starfall, to come out so that I can see my two babies together again.

If you’re looking for an addictive space opera, look no further. Starflight is absolutely amazing and it’s honestly embarrassing that I’ve had it for so long and only just picked it up now. It’s a fast-paced and light read and perfect for anyone who just wants a bit of action and fun.

Review: This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills

this-adventure-ends Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Release date: October 4, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 320
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Sloane isn’t expecting to fall in with a group of friends when she moves from New York to Florida—especially not a group of friends so intense, so in love, so all-consuming. Yet that’s exactly what happens.

Sloane becomes closest to Vera, a social-media star who lights up any room, and Gabe, Vera’s twin brother and the most serious person Sloane’s ever met. When a beloved painting by the twins’ late mother goes missing, Sloane takes on the responsibility of tracking it down, a journey that takes her across state lines—and ever deeper into the twins’ lives.

Filled with intense and important friendships, a wonderful warts-and-all family, shiveringly good romantic developments, and sharp, witty dialogue, this story is about finding the people you never knew you needed.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

Oh my gosh, I loved this book. I really enjoyed Emma Mills’ debut novel, First and Then, but this one blew me away. It was more polished and sophisticated and I really enjoyed the story and its themes. It’s a great coming of age story and I loved the friendships in the book.

This is a story about different relationships and I loved the way that they were explored. At the forefront of the book is a story about friendship but romantic relationships and familial relationships are also interwoven into the narrative. Not only were these different relationships explored wonderfully, they were also extremely relatable and resonated with me throughout the reading experience. The story begins when our main character, Sloane, who has recently moved from New York to Florida, meets some new people at a party. She’s used to being alone and not having close friends but she quickly develops close bonds with these new friends and learns what it’s like to be dependable to them and depend on them too. I loved these coming of age aspects of the book and I connected with them because I’ve always been the same introverted and independent person trying to find the people who I belong with.

I absolutely loved ALL of the characters in this book. There wasn’t a single one that I didn’t like and I especially loved Sloane. She was funny and sarcastic and I highly enjoyed her voice. I related to her story and I appreciated her coming of age journey. I also loved her group of friends, Vera, Gabe, Aubrey and Remy. I thought they were all extremely realistic characters and their stories were also relatable and believable. The characters are also likeable from the  very first moment that you meet them, which is sometimes rare in YA, and I really appreciated that. I also absolutely fell in love with Sloane’s family. Her dad is a pretty major side character in the book and he was so funny and adorable, and I also really loved Sloane’s 9 year old sister, Laney. She was the sweetest! I also highly enjoyed the romance in this book. It was very low key and I appreciated that it didn’t take over the whole story.

“We should all find something to be weirdly passionate about, don’t you think?”

What I also loved in this book were the different arty hobbies. Sloane’s father is a writer who’s going through writer’s block and he’s rediscovering his love for writing through his obsession with fanfiction. There are a lot of fandom things in the book that readers can definitely identify with and I loved all the shipping that the characters were doing. I also enjoyed the art aspect of the story that ties in with the cover of the novel and I really loved the search that Sloane did for her friends’ painting, and how that brought her closer to some of the other characters.

There’s not a lot  that I didn’t love about This Adventure Ends. I loved the writing, the characters and the themes of the book. It’s a slow-paced book but the messages and the coming of age story is extremely beautiful.

Review: Between the Lives by Jessica Shirvington

between-the-lives

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Release date: May 1, 2013
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 336
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For as long as she can remember, Sabine has lived two lives. Every 24 hours she Shifts to her ′other′ life – a life where she is exactly the same, but absolutely everything else is different: different family, different friends, different social expectations. In one life she has a sister, in the other she does not. In one life she′s a straight-A student with the perfect boyfriend, in the other she′s considered a reckless delinquent. Nothing about her situation has ever changed, until the day when she discovers a glitch: the arm she breaks in one life is perfectly fine in the other.

With this new knowledge, Sabine begins a series of increasingly risky experiments which bring her dangerously close to the life she′s always wanted… But just what – and who – is she really risking?

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

I am so in love with Jessica Shirvington right now! I read her Disruption duology back in July and absolutely fell in love with it and I’m happy to say that Between the Lives was just as good.

This is a contemporary novel with a paranormal twist. Sabine has lived two separate lives for as long as she can remember. Every night at midnight, she Shifts into her other body and lives that same day again, except as her other self. And her two lives and selves could not be any more different. In one, she’s the slightly rebellious girl from a poor family who runs a small pharmacy. She has a younger sister who she adores but not much else going for her. However, in her other life, she leads a privileged life and has the perfect relationship with the perfect boy. During her entire existence, her Shifts have been governed by the same rule, that anything external or not part of her body cannot be transported from one life to another, but anything internal such as illnesses will appear in both lives. Until one day when her broken arm in her delinquent life doesn’t transfer to her other life. Sick and tired of living two lives as two separate people, and going through the panic that comes with Shifting each night, Sabine runs a series of tests on herself in an attempt to extinguish her delinquent life in order to live only her more privileged life to the fullest. However, things don’t always go to plan and Sabine definitely didn’t plan on meeting Ethan.

The story and plot of this book was just so captivating! I was drawn in from the very first page and I just constantly wanted to know what would happen next. I thought the concept of the book was brilliant and that it was executed extremely well. While Sabine’s two lives were slightly cliched (perfect rich girl vs poor delinquent), the plot of the book drew my attention away from that because I was just so focused on how the story would end. Because the novel constantly alternated between Sabine’s two lives, I found the book to be quite thrilling and exciting because we (and Sabine) were constantly left in suspense until she Shifted back 24 hours later. It was this constant uncertainty and mystery that drove the book and made me so interesting to read. My only small criticism with the book was that there were a few things that I thought could have been resolved a little bit more, but I really loved the last few chapters of the book and thought it was a fantastic ending.

Sabine’s character really made me love the book as well. While she has two different lives that forces her to behave in two different ways, I never felt that she was two entirely different people. Her personality really came across to me, even though who she portrayed herself as was different depending on where she was supposed to be. I really loved the internal struggle that Sabine had. On one hand, she doesn’t want to let go of either of her lives because of the people around her but at the same time, she’s exhausted from having to live each day twice and having to transform into two different people and constantly reminding herself of who she needs to be. I loved this internal conflict that she had and it was so strangely relatable (no, I do not have two lives) that I couldn’t help but just sit in my little corner cheering Sabine on.

And of course there’s Ethan. I can’t say that Sabine and Ethan’s romance is OTP status for me like Maggie and Quentin from Jessica Shirvington’s other work, but I loved them together anyway. I didn’t feel this all-consuming passion but I thought they were wonderful for each other. They each brought something to the other’s life (or lives) and that really hit me hard and made me tear up.

There wasn’t very much that I didn’t like about Between the Lives. It was a quick read, filled with lots of brilliantly executed elements. Highly recommend!

Review: The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

the-thousandth-floor

Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: August 30, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 448
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A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose.

Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.

Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.

Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one?

Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.

And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

Amid breathtaking advancement and high-tech luxury, five teenagers struggle to find their place at the top of the world. But when you’re this high up, there’s nowhere to go but down…

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

I don’t know where to start with this review. I loved this book so much more than I expected to! I have to admit that this was first and foremost a cover-buy (I could go on a 10 minute ramble about why this cover is the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen, so don’t get me started) but I enjoyed the writing, the world and the story in The Thousandth Floor so much!

The standout aspect of this novel is definitely the world that Katharine McGee has created. The novel is set in the near future in the 22nd century. There’s a lot of really advanced technology but it wasn’t so farfetched that I couldn’t imagine everything actually existing. There were so many wonderful inventions that I wanted to have or try out, and I’m so sad that I won’t be able to in my foreseeable future. There was an incredible communication system where people wear a digital display as contacts… if they can afford it. There’s also a really advanced transportation system of hovers, autocars and trains that can travel from Manhattan to Paris in 3 hours, under the Atlantic. But most exciting of all, Manhattan is literally inside a Tower with 1000 floors. There are streets and different landmarks on different floors, with transportation running up and down the Tower as well as on each floor. For example, Central Park is on the 307th floor of the Tower. I thought this was such an interesting concept and the world was built so nicely in the book. I was just really enamoured by the world and it kept me immersed and interested in the story throughout the entire novel.

The plot of the book was also captivating. The story starts with a prologue that describes a girl falling to her death from the very top of the tower. We don’t know who she is, why she was there or what caused her to fall from the tower, but we slowly find out as the story progresses. I loved the mystery in this book but I tended to forget about it because there were so many other things going on. It wasn’t until the last 100 pages that I remembered that it was supposed to be a mystery. But I didn’t really mind that because I was so intrigued by all of the characters and what was happening in their lives. The Thousandth Floor definitely has a Gossip Girl vibe to it. There are lots of first world problems and dramas but I found them to be kind of relatable in a weird way. I found myself really caring about what happened to these characters and what they would do next, and this really kept me invested in the story. I was a fan of Gossip Girl though, so I guess it was no surprise that I’d love the drama and the multiple POVs in this novel.

The characters themselves were also interesting. I didn’t really feel a close connection with any of them but I understood and empathised with most of them. They weren’t particularly likeable characters but I still found myself caring. If I had one criticism, it would be that I thought some of the characters could have been a little bit more complex and developed. They were at times a little bit too typical or one-dimensional and I would’ve liked to have seen a little bit more out of them. My favourite character in the book was Cord, who isn’t a main character in this book but I’m really interested to see more of him in the upcoming books. I liked Rylin, Avery and Eris quite a bit in this novel. I thought they were the most relatable to me and I was most interested in their stories. Leda and Watt were a little bit too creepy for my liking but I still appreciated what they brought to the novel and the roles that they played.

There were a lot of romantic relationships in this book and I can’t say that I was a huge fan of any of them. Having said that, I didn’t dislike any of them either. I was just ambivalent and I’m hoping that we’ll get much more development in the sequel and that there will be a romance that I can latch on to and champion. I did really like that there was a F/F relationship that didn’t just last a couple of pages and I’m happy that there’s some diversity of sexual orientation and race in this book. However, there is a bit of cheating in this story and a relationship that could be considered taboo, so if either of these things are a dealbreaker for you, you may want to avoid this novel. I should say, however, that these were two very minor aspects of the novel and the rest of it was incredibly well done.

I’m super excited for the sequel of this book. The Thousandth Floor does end in a slightly unresolved way (though I wouldn’t call it a cliffhanger) so I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book to see how the story continues. I enjoyed the writing immensely and I absolutely loved the world and the idea of Manhattan being literally inside a tower.

Review: Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

empire-of-storms

Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens
Release date: September 6, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 704
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The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius as war looms on the horizon. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t.

With her heart sworn to the warrior-prince by her side, and her fealty pledged to the people she is determined to save, Aelin will delve into the depths of her power to protect those she loves. But as monsters emerge from the horrors of the past, and dark forces become poised to claim her world, the only chance for salvation will lie in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

In this breathtaking fifth installment of the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series, Aelin will have to choose what – and who – to sacrifice if she’s to keep the world of Erilea from breaking apart.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

Empire of Storms is the fifth book in the Throne of Glass series, which means that this review may contain spoilers for the first four books.

Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia for sending me a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I loooooved this fifth installment of this series but I didn’t love it more than Queen of Shadows and Heir of Fire. While there were lots and lots of elements and plot points that I highly enjoyed, I had a few minor issues. But they were so minor that I could probably overlook them.

The plot of this book was great and I thought it followed on nicely from the ending of Queen of Shadows. However, at times, I felt that the plot lacked logical flow and transitions. There were things that kind of happened out of the blue and I think that’s a little bit inexcusable for a book that’s 700 pages. Having said that, while it did make me slightly confused at times, it didn’t really bother me and I loved where we went in this story and how the book ended as well. It fit in really well with the overarching story arc of the series and I’m super excited to see where the finale takes us and how it’ll end.

This book follows a couple of different perspectives and character journeys and I enjoyed all of them. We follow the stories of not only Aelin and her court but also Manon’s story, Elide’s journey to finding Aelin and Lorcan’s own personal quest to find the Wyrdkeys. I loved finding out more about Elide and Lorcan because they were intriguing characters that we didn’t really get to see a lot of in previous installments. Those two characters really, really grew on me throughout the novel and I love them so much! I also highly enjoyed Manon’s story arc. I loved her in previous books but now I think she might be my favourite character of the series. Her journey throughout the book was heartwrenching but worked so perfectly with plot of the series. What I think was slightly missing in this book was Chaol’s story. I’m not the biggest Chaol fan but he wasn’t in this novel at all and I did find myself wondering what he was up to. I can understand why his story wasn’t included in this book since it was already filled with lots of juicy action but I think fans of Chaol will really be disappointed by the lack of Chaol in Empire of Storms.

All of the characters were fantastic in this novel. I had problems with the characters in A Court of Mist and Fury but I was definitely not disappointed by Empire of Storms. I do have to say though that some of the side characters overtook Aelin as my favourite. I thought the complexity of Manon and Elide’s characters in this fifth book were much more appealing and interesting to me than Aelin. She just felt a little bit less feisty and funny than in previous books. We saw a much more serious and responsible side of her in this novel, which worked well with the plot and makes complete sense. I just found her to be slightly less interesting to me than some of the other females in this book. In terms of the other characters, I continued to love Rowan in this novel. But I felt that his character was also slightly different to who he had been in the past. He was also a bit more subdued and at times came across as a bit weak and needy, as opposed to the big, bad Fae warrior he was in Heir of Fire. These are all very minor criticisms though because I love the cast of characters in this series and the things they make me feel.

All you really need to know about Empire of Storms is that it is absolutely amazing. Fans of Chaol might have a bit of a problem with the lack of Chaol in the novel but you definitely cannot deny that this is a wonderful installment with a clear story arc. I can’t wait to find out how it all ends and I’m so sad that it’ll be another year before I find out.

Empire of Storms was published by Bloomsbury on September 6, 2016 and is now available at Australian retailers for $17.99.

Review: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

the-final-empire

Publisher: Gollancz
Release date: October 1, 2009 (originally July 17, 2006)
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 647
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In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with colour once more?

In Brandon Sanderson’s intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage— Allomancy, a magic of the metals.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

After much coercion from every single person on this planet, I finally read The Final Empire, the first book in the Mistborn series. I had high expectations going into the series and, despite the novel going in a much different direction to what I had anticipated, I wasn’t disappointed at all by it.

The Final Empire has a very interesting world and a unique magic system. Being the first book in a series, much of this novel is actually spent on the world building and setting up the magic system, Allomancy. Allomancy was really intriguing and unlike any other magic system I’ve encountered before. The magic wielders ingest different types of metals and by ‘burning’ them, they’re able to acquire certain powers from these metals. However, once the store of metals inside your body has been used up, Allomancers are not unlike normal, non-magic wielding people. As much as I love the world and magic system, it took me a while to get into it, and it wasn’t until I’d reached maybe the 150 page mark that I was really immersed in the world. However, what I really did like was that we were introduced to the magic system by Kelsier, a charismatic and trouble-making Mistborn who is able to use all metals he ingests, teaching his apprentice Vin to use her Allomantic skills that she didn’t know she had. It gave the reader a very comprehensive look into Allomancy and what Allomancers and Mistborns can do.

“You ask why I smile, Goodman Mennis? Well, the Lord Ruler thinks he has claimed laughter and joy for himself. I’m disinclined to let him do so. This is one battle that doesn’t take very much effort to fight.”

As for the plot, I loved the concept of it. I’ve had this novel pitched to me as a heist story and I don’t really agree. For me, this is definitely a story about rebellion from the lower classes who are oppressed by the nobility, and mostly by the Lord Ruler, who is immortal and rules over the entire world. Sure, the operation is run by a bunch of thieves from the underground, but I’m not sure that that makes it a heist story. I was a little bit surprised by how little action there was in the book. I was expecting it to be super action-packed and fast-paced but it’s quite a slow-paced read that was a little bit draggy at times. I did listen to a small part of the novel via audiobook though, and that probably made it even more draggy. I just felt like there were big chunks of the book that was filled with intrigue and planning but not a lot of action. I also had a problem with some of the action scenes being a bit too descriptive, especially at the beginning of the novel. Almost every move that a character made during an action scene was written out and it was a bit hard to follow (ironically). But overall, I did really like the story. I just wanted a bit more out of it.

The characters in the book were wonderful though. My favourite had to be Kelsier. How could I not love this crazy, crazy man? He was very impulsive and quirky and I loved that about him so much. He had so many brilliant ideas and was a great leader to the crew. He was also a great mentor to Vin and omg I loved him. I’m a bit annoyed about the direction that the story took him and I’ll probably be annoyed for a long time to come. Another character who I absolutely loved was Elend. He reads books at parties so it was pretty much guaranteed that I’d love him. His character was a bit flat though so I’m keen to see how he develops further. Now, on to Vin, who’s arguably the main character in the book… it took me a long time to warm to Vin. She started off as a very cautious and mistrusting person who was a bit self-deprecating and shy. But I felt like she was also simultaneously really stubborn and had an inflated sense of self-importance that really annoyed me. Thankfully, I grew to like her a little bit more as the book progressed but it took probably 400 pages for me to start liking her. Luckily there were a whole cast of side characters who I could enjoy while I struggled to overcome my issues with Vin. I really liked most of the side characters and thought they were all extremely interesting. The characters all felt relatable and I enjoyed following their journey very much.

The Final Empire wasn’t what I thought it was going to be but I highly enjoyed it anyway. The pacing of the book is a bit slow and I’m not sure when I’ll be able to motivate myself to pick up the next books. I am definitely intrigued by where the story is going to go next and will be reading them at some point.

Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

the-hunger-games

Publisher: Scholastic
Release date: December 1, 2011 (originally September 14, 2008)
Format: Paperback (boxset edition)
Source: Purchased
Pages: 454
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Winning will make you famous.
Losing means certain death.

In a dark vision of the near future, twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live TV show called the Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed.

When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her sister’s place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

May the odds be ever in your favour.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

I finally read The Hunger Games! Going in to the book, I kinda knew what the book was about without really knowing anything and this was reflected in my reading experience. As I was reading, I felt like I was reading something very familiar, but still feeling completely shocked and surprised by a lot of things in the book. There’s probably not a lot that I can say about this book in my review that hasn’t already been said but here’s my experience with The Hunger Games anyway.

Dystopian novels aren’t really high on my list of preferred genres, which is one reason why I haven’t read or watched anything from The Hunger Games franchise until now. But I ended up enjoying this book a lot more than I thought I would. It was thrilling and action-packed and I enjoyed the small bit of brutality that was in the novel. I also enjoyed how the book doesn’t really waste any time and goes straight into the plot from the very first chapter. It’s very fast-paced and I don’t think there was any part of the book that felt draggy. There were a few twists and turns in the book that I really, really liked and they kept me interested in the story. Like who doesn’t love a mutant dog? In addition to the action of the plot, it also has a ‘reality TV’, competition aspect that I think appeals broadly to YA readers.

The characters in the book were also great. I thought they were nicely developed and I got a good sense of who they all were. Katniss is such a fierce and smart character, with some crazy survival skills that I wish I had. She’s quite an aspirational character and I loved almost everything about her. I did, however, think that she was a bit oblivious when it came to the way she perceived herself and others. I think there’s definitely room for development on that front and I’m keen to see how she changes throughout the trilogy. I also really liked a lot of the side characters in the book, especially some of the other tributes. Rue was a beautiful character and I wish we could have seen more of her. And of course, I loved Peeta. He’s definitely my kind of character and I really felt for him at the end of the book. I’m keen to see how this plays out in the next two books.

Overall, The Hunger Games is worth the hype for me. I was definitely skeptical going into the trilogy but it exceeded my expectations and I’m keen to see how the rest of the series plays out, though I do think this novel can stand alone by itself.

Review: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

a-gathering-of-shadows

Publisher: Titan Books
Release date: February 23, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 508
Goodreads || Book Depository

Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.

In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like 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.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

This is the second book in Shades of Magic trilogy, which means that this review contains spoilers for the first book. Proceed with caution. I also received a sampler of A Gathering of Shadows from NetGalley.

A Gathering of Shadows is the sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic, and being a chronic non-blurb-reader, I was kind of surprised by the direction that this sequel took. I thought that I had an idea of where the series was going to go after the first book and, while I do feel that this was a good continuation from ADSOM, it felt like this book was taking a bit of a detour. It felt very much like a filler book and I’m not sure that it added all that much to the trilogy. Having said that, I did really like what I read and enjoyed the plot of the story very much.

A Gathering of Shadows is very much about the aftermath of A Darker Shade of Magic and how Kell and Lila are living their separate lives. It’s also about their reunion and about a competition between magicians. Meanwhile, in the background, something dark and sinister is happening, which could cause the collapse of Red London. I loved the pacing of this book. It was extremely slow-paced but I thought that the pacing really suited the atmosphere of the book and what the plot was trying to achieve. There wasn’t really much happening in the first 300 pages of the book but I enjoyed slowly seeing how Kell and Lila are coping with what happened during A Darker Shade of Magic. There was a lot of character development built into this book and I thought it was done very successfully.

I enjoyed every single character in this book. They all served a purpose and I thought that they were all extremely complex and well-developed characters. They were multifaceted and I really enjoyed not knowing exactly what to expect from them. One of my favourite characters of this book was Alucard Emery. His character just gave me so much joy because he reminded me of beloved characters from other books. I also loved the old characters who we’d met in the first book. Kell was a magnificent character as always and I enjoyed Lila as well. I still haven’t managed to warm fully to Lila and I’m still having a hard time seeing why people love her so much but she’s definitely growing on me.

Overall, this was a great sequel, even though it felt a bit like a filler book in the story arc. I can’t wait to revisit these characters in A Conjuring of Light!

Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

vicious

Publisher: Titan Books
Release date: January 10, 2014
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 340
Goodreads || Book Depository

A masterful tale of ambition, jealousy, desire, and superpowers.

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates – brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find – aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge – but who will be left alive at the end?

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

I love a good story about ambition and vengeance and Vicious definitely delivered. It’s an intense story about jealousy, ambition and heroism, from the perspectives of a group of antiheroes and misfits.

Despite having heard a million times what Vicious is about, I still managed to be surprised by the plot that unfolded. It was engaging and suspenseful and played out in the most seamlessly unpredictable way. We follow Victor Vale, a man who has just escaped from prison and is intent on getting revenge on his former close friend in college. Victor and Eli were intelligent and driven boys who were intrigued by the possibility of creating ExtraOrdinary people who have superpowers. The boys tested their hypothesis on themselves, and their relationship and their sense of morality deteriorates rapidly soon after. When Victor is locked up in jail, he spends his ten years in prison planning his escape and his revenge against Eli. And when, upon escaping, he realises that Eli is on a mission to ‘remove’ all ExtraOrdinaries from the world, he’s more determined than ever to get his revenge.

There were a couple of things that drew me in to the plot of Vicious. The book starts off with a very intriguing and mysterious first chapter that reminded me a lot of The Raven Boys. I was then immediately captivated by the science in the first couple of chapters and how the boys talked about variables and the scientific method. But all of that was quickly eclipsed by the chilling actions of the boys and how the idea of villainy and heroism was explored. I really liked how Vicious explores what it means to be a hero and whether possessing superpowers makes you a hero. It also explores whether eradicating powers that you think are evil, makes you a hero. I just enjoyed and appreciated how much the novel made me think.

This novel is split into two parts and for the first half of the book, we explore the events that have led up to the present day. We get to see the Victor and Eli from ten years ago, who are experimenting with their lives and going down a dangerous path. We get to see the events from a couple days ago when Victor escapes from prison with his cellmate, Mitch. And we get to see what happens when Victor finds a girl who’s been shot, as well as the things that have happened to her to get her in this predicament. There are lots of different timelines in this book and the chapters jump back and forth between them. I actually really liked this non-linear format because it added some suspense and allowed me to try to put the pieces together before they were revealed. The second part of this book also contains a non-linear timeline but is more focused on the present day. The last 50 pages of the book follows a much more linear timeline, as the book literally counts down to its climax. I really enjoyed the format of the book and that the chapters were short. It made the story very exciting to read.

I also enjoyed the writing of the book immensely. I thought the pacing was slow but it was just the right amount of slow for the tone and atmosphere of the story. It was slow in a dark and dangerous kind of way and I thought it worked really well. V.E. Schwab’s writing drew me in and I just sped through the book because it was so captivating.

Of course, the characters were spectacular in this book and I believe they are what makes this novel exceptional. They were complex and I love a book about villains and antiheroes. I love a book that focuses on morally grey characters and makes them simultaneously relatable and repulsive. There wasn’t a single character in this book who I didn’t like (though like may not be the right word here since we’re dealing with villains and dislikable people). I thought they all added something to the story and represented a different shade of morally grey. The characters were brilliantly conceptualised and I thought they were all developed and utilised to their potential.

I’m really excited about the sequel that’s in the works and I can’t wait to see how the story continues because I loved Vicious a lot as a standalone.