Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

heartless Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release date: November 8, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Aila @ One Way or an Author
Pages: 464
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Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

MY THOUGHTS

35 stars

The Lunar Chronicles is one of my favourite series of all time and I was extremely excited to read another retelling by Marissa Meyer. Sadly, Heartless fell way short of my expectations and I hate to say this… but I’m glad that it’s a standalone and that we can move on to bigger and better things.

Heartless is a villain origin story. It’s an Alice in Wonderland reimagining and we follow the Queen of Hearts from my childhood (or young adulthood) into her descent into evilness. Prior to being the Queen of Hearts, Cath was a girl who was not interested in being a society girl and marrying into a wealthy family. All she wanted to do was to open a bakery with her maid and best friend. However, without the approval from her parents and the resources to do so, she’s left with no choice but to enter into a courtship with the King of Hearts. But when she meets the court jester, Jest, they fall in love and begin a secret relationship…

My biggest problem with Heartless was the romance. I didn’t think that Cath and Jest had any chemistry together. I didn’t feel any passion or love between the two of them, which was a really big surprise to me because of how much I love all of the ships in The Lunar Chronicles. It didn’t feel like Marissa Meyer had taken the time to develop the relationship between Cath and Jest, and it just felt extremely forced. In terms of the characters themselves, I didn’t feel like Cath or Jest were particularly interesting characters. Besides Cath being a talented baker, there was nothing about her that stood our and her characterisation just fell flat. I felt similarly about Jest. I was expecting him to be quirky and interesting because he was the court jester but he came across to me as another typical male love interest. There just wasn’t much to the characters in this novel.

I didn’t think that the world building was strong. The world just felt like every other Alice in Wonderland-inspired novel that I’ve ever read. It wasn’t particularly original and there wasn’t a lot of time dedicated to developing it. I was honestly a bit underwhelmed by it. However, I did enjoy the plot of the book and how it fit into the world. I was a bit disappointed with the first half of the book because there was absolutely nothing happening and I found it extremely hard to get into the novel. But I did start to enjoy it more towards the middle of the story when there was a little bit more action. I loved the story of the Jabberwock and the role that it played in the book. That was perhaps my favourite aspect of the novel. The last section of the novel was interesting but I wasn’t the biggest fan of it. Knowing that Heartless was a villain origin story ruined the ending for me a little. I knew that Cath would start becoming evil and when she did, I found it to be a bit underwhelming. I thought that it happened too abruptly because one moment she was not evil, and the next she was. I also found the catalyst of the whole thing to be kind of predictable.

Overall, Heartless was not the book that I wanted it to be. It wasn’t exciting enough for me and I thought the characters, the romance and part of the plot were boring and disappointing. However, Marissa Meyer’s writing never disappoints so I still managed to enjoy it.

Blog Tour: Moon Chosen by P.C. Cast

moon-chosen Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Release date: October 25, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 600
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Mari is an Earth Walker, heir to the unique healing powers of her Clan; but she has cast her duties aside, until she is chosen by a special animal ally, altering her destiny forever. When a deadly attack tears her world apart, Mari reveals the strength of her powers and the forbidden secret of her dual nature as she embarks on a mission to save her people. It is not until Nik, the son of the leader from a rival, dominating clan strays across her path, that Mari experiences something she has never felt before…

Now, darkness is coming, and with it, a force, more terrible and destructive than the world has ever seen, leaving Mari to cast the shadows from the earth. By forming a tumultuous alliance with Nik, she must make herself ready. Ready to save her people. Ready to save herself and Nik. Ready to embrace her true destiny…and obliterate the forces that threaten to destroy them all.

MY THOUGHTS

35 stars

Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for providing a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Welcome to my stop on the Moon Chosen blog tour! I will be sharing my thoughts and opinions on this first book in P.C. Cast’s new series. Moon Chosen isn’t really my typical read but I found it quite enjoyable to read. Even though it was a giant book with 600 pages, I read it all in just two days!

Moon Chosen follows our heroine, Mari. She belongs to a clan of Earth Walkers, where her mother is a Moon Woman, who is the most important person of the clan because of her healing abilities. Mari has inherited these abilities but has spent most of her life hiding in secrecy because her father belonged to a rival group. Unsure of what her identity means for her existence in her Earth Walker clan, she has never shown her true self. However, when her clan is attacked by the rival group and things start getting out of control, Mari learns the extent of her powers and begin to embrace who she is.

It’s a little bit difficult explaining the plot of this book because the novel is quite slow-paced and there isn’t really a lot of action. Most of the book is spent setting up the world and getting the reader comfortable with all of the different clans and customs of each clan. I did find the world to be very confusing at the start of the book. It took me over 100 pages to have everything sorted in my mind. There were a lot of characters introduced and I had a hard time putting everything together and figuring out how they all fit into the story. However, I got used to it pretty quickly after that and had no trouble following the story. I found the world to be quite interesting and not like many other worlds that I’ve read before (though admittedly, I am no expert in fantasy worlds). The world felt like a early history kind of world, with clans and tribes and lots of nature and biology. But what I found most interesting was that this was a post-apocalyptic world where all things man-made and technological had been wiped out. Whether it’s post-apocalyptic or not doesn’t really factor into the story but I just thought that that was unexpected and interesting.

While the plot and the story was slow-paced and dragged out, it didn’t bother me too much because the  characters were engaging and I couldn’t help but care about them. I was right with them throughout the book and I loved watching the friendships form and seeing how they interacted with each other. Mari was a character who I wasn’t a big fan of at the start but she grew on me throughout the book and I enjoyed her development into a slightly whiny girl into a caring and independent woman. I loved her kind personality and the lengths she goes to to help others who are not probably not so deserving of her help. I also loved her friendship with Sora, who also grew on me extremely quickly in the novel. I also really liked Nik, the male from Mari’s rival tribe. I wasn’t sure of his intentions at the start and was highly suspicious of him, but he proved to be a character who was also quite easy to love. But of course, one of my favourite characters was Jenna. Yes, simply because she shares my name.

Perhaps my favourite aspect of this novel was the concept of the Companions. Certain tribes in this book have animal allies that are bonded with tribe members. This bond is extremely strong and those who are bonded are tied together for life. If you love reading about animal companions, like Manchee in The Knife of Never Letting Go, you will love Moon Chosen because this series takes it to a whole new level.

Despite really enjoying most aspects of the book, there were a few things that I didn’t like so much. I was not a big fan of the dialogue in this book. At times, it felt very forced and I couldn’t really imagine people talking that way. There were also a lot of instances where characters spoke aloud to themselves and that just seemed a bit strange to me. I also had a bit of a problem with the pacing. While I didn’t mind that the book was very long, I did think that there wasn’t really a climax to this book, so it never really got intense and exciting for me. It just wasn’t as epic as I wanted it to be and I just wanted it to be paced a little bit better. But overall, I enjoyed the book and thought that it was a great read despite some of my problems with it.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

pccast PC was born in the Midwest, and grew up being shuttled back-and-forth between Illinois and Oklahoma, which is where she fell in love with Quarter Horses and mythology (at about the same time). After high school, she joined the United States Air Force and began public speaking and writing. After her tour in the USAF, she taught high school for 15 years before retiring to write full time. PC is a New York Times Best-Selling author and a member of the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame. Her novels have been awarded the prestigious: Oklahoma Book Award, YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Prism, Holt Medallion, Daphne du Maurier, Booksellers’ Best, and the Laurel Wreath. PC is an experienced teacher and talented speaker. Ms. Cast lives in Oregon near her fabulous daughter, her adorable pack of dogs, her crazy Maine Coon, and a bunch of horses.

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Review: Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

blood-for-blood Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
Release date: October 6, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 496
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There would be blood.
Blood for blood.
Blood to pay.
An entire world of it.

For the resistance in 1950s Germany, the war may be over, but the fight has just begun.

Death camp survivor Yael, who has the power to skinshift, is on the run: the world has just seen her shoot and kill Hitler. But the truth of what happened is far more complicated, and its consequences are deadly. Yael and her unlikely comrades dive into enemy territory to try to turn the tide against the New Order, and there is no alternative but to see their mission through to the end, whatever the cost.

But dark secrets reveal dark truths, and one question hangs over them all: how far can you go for the ones you love?

This gripping, thought-provoking sequel to Wolf by Wolf will grab readers by the throat with its cinematic writing, fast-paced action, and relentless twists.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

Blood for Blood is the sequel of Wolf by Wolf, which means that this review may contain spoilers for the first book.

Wolf by Wolf was one of my favourite releases of last year and I’ve been highly anticipating Blood for Blood since last year. And it definitely did not disappoint. Wolf by Wolf ended on a bit of a cliffhanger and I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this sequel other than more fantastic storytelling and lots of intense action. Ryan Graudin definitely delivered both of those things and I can say that this was one of my favourite releases of this year.

Blood for Blood picks up exactly where Wolf by Wolf ended, with Yael running away from the ball. It’s a little bit hard to describe exactly what this book is about because there are so many things going on, but throughout the novel, Yael and her comrades escape from various foes and work with the Resistance to bring down the Third Reich and the Fuhrer. I absolutely loved the plot of this book. There were countless unexpected twists that kept me on my toes, and it’s definitely a book where nobody is safe from death. There was never a sense that our beloved characters were untouchable and I really enjoyed that about the book (even though I will protect my babies until the end of time). This book was extremely action-packed even though it wasn’t as fast-paced as Wolf by Wolf. I thought the pacing was perfect for the story and I loved the intensity of everything that was going on. Some of the events in this sequel had me visibly shaking and it’ll take me a little while to get over all the feels. The last 100 pages of the book absolutely blew my mind and I really loved how everything was revealed and tied together neatly at the end. There was definitely a lot of internal screeching as I was reading Blood for Blood, but it was completely worth all of the pain and fear I felt.

Was it really so surprising that Yael was nothing like the slurs Luka’s father/teacher/Fuhrer spewed? That out of all the souls Luka had ever come across, hers was one of the brightest? It held the bravery of one hundred Iron Crosses, melted down and forged into something purer – a courage not corroded by cruelty.

I absolutely loved the characters in this book, even though we have a potential traitor in our midst. I appreciated Yael so much more in this book because she was completely herself and not a fake Adele Wolfe. I loved her compassion, her strength and her convictions and she’s definitely one of my favourite fictional heroines because of these qualities. Her resilience was astounding and I enjoyed everything about her character. I also continued to love Luka in this book, which is probably a surprise to no-one because I loved him immensely in the first book. We got to see so much more of his character and I really connected with him and his story. I love every side of his character – his cockiness, his ability to find humour in every situation and his love for doing what he thinks is right. As for some of the other characters, I really did not like Felix in this book. He really grated on my nerves but I did like the way that his character was developed. I also really enjoyed seeing some of the characters that were mentioned in Wolf by Wolf. It was nice to see them make an appearance here in the book and to see the relationship that they had with Yael.

There wasn’t a lot that I didn’t like about this book. While it didn’t have the excitement of a fast-paced motocross race, it did have war, strategy, survival, family and love all wrapped up nicely into one book. My only criticism would probably be that there isn’t another installment.

Review: When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

when-the-moon-was-ours Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release date: October 4, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 288
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To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.

But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

When the Moon was Ours is the epitome of everything that I love in a story. It had beautiful writing, a romance and friendship that gave me hope, and magical realism elements that left me in wonder. This book isn’t for everyone, but if you love all of the things that I mentioned above, I think you will absolutely fall in love with this story.

I read Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Weight of Feathers at the beginning of this year and fell in love. That novel is still my favourite of her books but When the Moon was Ours explores other things that are near and dear to my heart. The diversity in this novel is absolutely amazing and I loved the exploration of and focus on identity and having the courage to be the person we want to be. This novel follows two LGBTQ+ characters: Sam, a transgender boy, and his queer best friend, Miel. And what I appreciated about this LGBTQ+ representation was that it didn’t feel forced. McLemore incorporates the exploration of gender identity so well into her plot, her characters and her magical realism elements, and everything just worked seamlessly and effortlessly. While I do read a lot of LGBTQ+ fiction, I’ve read very few books that feature transgender main characters and When the Moon was Ours is by far the best. It thoroughly examines the struggle that transgender people go through, including the fear of rejection by the community and the fear of nonacceptance by family and friends. It explores the courage that it takes to tell others and to own your identity. It was evident that these issues mean a lot to the author and it’s particularly special knowing that her own personal story is reflected in this novel.

This book not only has diversity of sexual orientation, it also includes lots of culturally diverse characters. Sam is Pakistani and there’s a lot of Pakistani food and culture mentioned in the book. McLemore uses a Pakistani cultural practice called bacha posh quite heavily in her book and I really enjoyed how much of the plot and Sam’s identity was tied to this. Bacha posh is a practice where families without boys will choose one of their daughters to dress and live as a boy until they are old enough to get married. In the novel, Sam hides behind the practice of bacha posh and uses it as an excuse to keep living as a boy, without hurting or disappointing his mother. I just really appreciated how these cultural elements were incorporated into the story and that the author wasn’t scared to include a lot of diversity in her novel. Cultural identity is important and McLemore highlights this importance brilliantly in her book.

She was a place whose darkness held not fear, but the promise of stars.

My favourite thing about this book is definitely the relationships. The romance between Sam and Miel was first and foremost a friendship and I loved how much they supported each other through the good times and the bad. Their connection was great and the way that they kept each others secrets and protected each other was really beautiful. But it wasn’t just the relationship between Sam and Miel that warmed my heart. I absolutely adored Sam’s relationship with his mother, as well as Miel’s relationship with Aracely, the lady who takes in Miel at a young age. The family and friendship elements were exquisite and made the book extremely touching and enjoyable to read.

All of the beautiful elements that I’ve discussed above make it unnecessary to even talk about the plot because at this point you’ve probably already run away to order the book. But I also absolutely loved the plot. I thought it was extremely clever and the way that the magical realism elements tied into the themes of the book as well as the plot was really masterful. I loved all the magic and the quirkiness of the story and its setting, even though it was surprisingly creepy and thrilling. There were some amazing plot twists that I didn’t see coming and I highly enjoyed every last word of this novel.

Review: Swarm by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan & Deborah Biancotti

swarm

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Release date: September 28, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 400
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EVERY POWER HAS A DARK SIDE

Keep the secret.
Use your power for good.
Keep out of trouble.
Stick together.
Or things will fall apart.

It’s the holiday season, but the celebration at the Zeroes’s underground nightclub is blown apart when two strangers with new powers take to the dance floor. The Zeroes pursue them, only to discover that they’re fleeing an even more sinister power-wielder, Swarm. The Zeroes must learn all they can about this dangerous new player if they are to stay safe.

Meanwhile each of the Zeroes also has their own issues to deal with. Bellwether’s confidence is challenged, and Mob questions the nature of her power. Crash’s conscience gets a workout, and Anon and Scam face harsh truths about belonging. And it’s up to Flicker to pick up the reins and lead the Zeroes into a terrifying showdown.

A terrific sequel with a cracking pace that raises the stakes in this brilliant and unique superheroes series.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

Swarm is the second book in the Zeroes trilogy, which means that this review may contain minor spoilers for the first book.

Thank you to Allen & Unwin for providing a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

All I can say right now is whoa. And I need the next book ASAP! Swarm ends on an incredibly painful cliffhanger and I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself for the next 12 months while I wait for the next book to be released…

This trilogy is getting better and better. I enjoyed Zeroes immensely but wasn’t completely sold on all the characters and the plot of the book. Swarm takes it to a completely different level. It was engaging, fast-paced and action-packed. The whole novel takes place over just a few days and there’s so much that happens in the book that it’s hard not to get swept up in everything that’s going on. It also struck me again how unique and interesting the superpowers in this series are. This book picks up 6 months after the events in Zeroes and is about what happens when our group of Zeroes meet a pair of other Zeroes that don’t have good intentions. As they try to stop this couple from causing mass destruction, it turns out that there’s a bigger enemy called Swarm who has a mission that puts all Zeroes in danger. I really, really loved the plot of this book. I enjoyed it more than the events in Zeroes because, to me, it seemed a bit more logical and clear. I connected with it much more and was really invested in what was going on in the story. This might have been because I was more familiar with the characters at this point and could focus on the plot – who knows? I just thought that the plot explored a lot of really interesting questions about superheroes and superpowers, and whether having a superpower means that you’re automatically doing good. And what happens when your powers unknowingly destroy things and cause harm instead?

The other thing that I really loved about this book were the characters. When I read Zeroes, the only two characters that I really liked were Flicker and Anonymous. The others I either disliked or didn’t really care for. However, the character development in this book was fantastic. In the previous book, I felt like I didn’t have a good idea of who some of the characters were but Swarm definitely rectified that. We got to know more about Crash and she became a character that I came to like a lot more. We also get to see a different side to Bellwether and that was really refreshing. I also started to like Mob a little bit more. She was a character that I didn’t really understand or connect with in Zeroes but her character really morphed into somebody who was really interesting. Finally, there’s Scam… I’m still not completely sold on Scam. While the Ethan side of him is kind of endearing because he’s so awkward, I find it really hard to connect with his character. He also didn’t have a lot of page time in this book and I don’t feel any closer to him than before.

I really loved the character relationships in this book. I will adore Flickonymous forever and ever, and I’m really keen to see how their storyline plays out in the final book of the trilogy because this book killed me with all the feels. What I really enjoyed about Swarm was that the other romances in this book weren’t obvious. There were ships in the previous book that I was sure were going to sail in Swarm but the authors definitely turned some things on their heads. It was really refreshing and enjoyable to see. The group as a whole is more tight-knit and I’m interested to see where the next book takes them.

Swarm was published by Allen & Unwin on September 28, 2016. It is available at all Australian retailers for $19.99.

Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

crooked-kingdom

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Release date: September 27, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 546
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When you can’t beat the odds, change the game.

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

As Crooked Kingdom is a sequel, this review may contain spoilers for Six of Crows.

Crooked Kingdom is my favourite book of this year. I’ve read close to 150 books so far this year so it’s a big call but I can so confidently put this novel on my list of all-time favourites, right next to Six of Crows. I loved everything about this sequel and there’s absolutely nothing that I would change… except maybe that one tiny plot point at the end of the book that made me cry like a baby.

This book had everything that a great book should have. It had captivating characters whose stories draw you in and make you want to learn more. There’s thrilling action and intrigue that keeps you on your toes. And there’s fabulous writing that just sings and makes you never want to let go of the book. I honestly don’t even know where to start with this review. Let’s start with the plot. I absolutely loved how this book moved and flowed and how everything was planned to perfection by Leigh Bardugo. I thought the plot of this book was so perfectly constructed, with each character playing a crucial role in the ‘job’ and in the novel. There was nothing predictable about the plot at all and I was constantly worrying about my babies because I had no idea what was going to happen. There were also about a million plot twists in Crooked Kingdom and I loved every single one of them. Everything worked out so well and it all made sense together, which made the story a pleasure to read. Also, because the book has multiple perspectives, there was a lot of suspense and mystery in every chapter and this added to the sense of excitement that I felt as I was reading the book. The pacing of the story and the writing was so perfect that I raced through this 500+ page book in a few short sittings.

“This is the city that I bled for. And if Ketterdam has taught me anything, it’s that a guy can always bleed a little more.”

What I love most about this duology is that the characters are absolutely ruthless and it’s just so much fun to read. I will never tire of Kaz’s cruel but seamless plans and his hard exterior. He’s a perfect main character because of his complexity and his soft, gooey, marshmallowy centre. And that’s what I love about all of the characters in this novel. They’re all extremely complex and I’ll never stop discovering new sides to them no matter how many books Leigh Bardugo gives us (I’m devastated that this is only a duology!). I love that the book is peppered with little flashbacks so that we get to see the characters’ backstories and further understand where they came from. While a lot of Six of Crows was about the pasts of Kaz, Inej, Nina and Matthias, Crooked Kingdom places greater emphasis on Jesper and Wylan’s stories. I loved learning more about them because I didn’t really care for them as much as I did the other four characters in Six of Crows. I started to care more about them and see them as more than just side characters, which they were to me in the first book of the duology. And of course, I continued to love the rest of the characters and even developed a bit of a soft spot for Kuwei, who’s a bit of a troublemaker!

“I would come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together – knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.”

The relationships and the dynamics between the characters were what made this book for me. I, of course, loved the three couples. I loved how Jesper and Wylan were there for each other and supported each other throughout their family issues and devastating pasts. I loved Nina and Matthias’s relationship and how he was so awkward at expressing his feelings. I love that Matthias is strong and tough but is secretly a romantic, and I love how Nina balances him out by being her shameless, indulgent self. And I love Kaz and Inej, and how they’re both broken but they fit so well together. I love all the things that Kaz does for Inej and how her happiness comes first. But I also really love how all these characters interact with the other characters who aren’t their romantic partners/love interests. I really enjoyed Jesper’s banter with everyone around him, especially Kaz and Kuwei. I loved how Inej brings out the protective older brother in Jesper and Matthias. And, of course, Kaz and Nina hold a special place in my heart that I reserve for great fictional friendships.

But they were his first friends, his only friends, and Wylan knew that even if he’d had his pick of a thousand companions, these would have been the people he chose.

I could go on for another ten days about all the things I love about Crooked Kingdom and the duology in general. There’s really nothing that I didn’t like about the book and I could go on reading about the mischief that these characters get up to for another 100 books (pleeeeasseeeee!). I absolutely love this series and this world and I’m so sad to be saying goodbye.

Review: Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini

trial-by-fire

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Release date: November 10, 2015 (originally September 2014)
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 373
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Love burns. Worlds collide. Magic reigns.

This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying many of the experiences that other teenagers take for granted … which is why she is determined to enjoy her first (and perhaps only) high-school party. But Lily’s life never goes according to plan, and after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class Lily wishes she could just disappear.

Suddenly Lily is in a different Salem – one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruellest of all the Crucibles is Lillian … Lily’s identical other self in this alternate universe. This new version of her world is terrifyingly sensual, and Lily is soon overwhelmed by new experiences. Lily realizes that what makes her weak at home is exactly what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. It also puts her life in danger.

Thrown into a world she doesn’t understand, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can’t hope to shoulder alone, and a love she never expected. But how can Lily be the saviour of this world when she is literally her own worst enemy?

MY THOUGHTS

3 stars

Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for providing a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Trial by Fire was an interesting read for me. I love books and stories about science and magic, whether it’s about an integration of them or the tension between the two camps, and that’s exactly what this book had. However, I didn’t really enjoy the reading experience and, while I think many fans of fantasy or paranormal books would like it a lot, Trial by Fire just wasn’t for me.

This novel is about Lily, a sickly girl from Salem, Massachusetts who suffers from lots of allergies and is prone to having seizures. Professionals have no idea what is wrong with her and her condition has just been something that Lily has had to deal with her whole life. Until she is transported to another Salem – a parallel universe – that is simultaneously medieval and advanced at the same time. This world has magic and witches and for the first time, Lily is able to understand why her body and health is the way it is. What she wasn’t prepared to find out was that this world’s version of Lily is the Lady of Salem and the most powerful witch in the world. And in this world, the Lady of Salem is responsible for the abolition of science and the murder and unjust treatment of many people.

I had a couple of issues with the plot of this book. I found it to be really draggy and dull. For most of the book, I didn’t have a clear idea of where the story was going and it also didn’t help that the chapters were really long and added to the feeling of sluggishness. I had a hard time understanding the logic of some of the things that were happening and was quite confused about a lot of the plot and why things were happening. There were some great plot points but I felt that the novel lacked a story arc or clear transitions, which made the reading experience a little bit unpleasant.

However, I did love the magic vs science aspect of the novel. I especially enjoyed that the magic system in the book had a scientific aspect to it, despite the witches and magic wielders insisting that it wasn’t really science. I thought the parallel worlds were interesting and I liked that the magical Salem had both a medieval and futuristic feel to it. Having said that, I didn’t really get a good sense of how the magic system worked. There weren’t clear rules set out and I found it to be really confusing to grasp. Lily was a little bit of a special snowflake and she seemed to be able to learn and perform new abilities almost instantaneously so there wasn’t a lot of time spent explaining how everything worked. I love when we get to learn about a world or a magic system as a naive character learns about it in the story, and this was lacking in Trial by Fire because Lily barely had to learn anything.

The characters in the novel were good but not exceptional or particularly interesting. I liked Lily as a main character but she did get on my nerves at times because of her stubbornness and her tendency to think that she knows best. She did grow on me slightly throughout the novel but I wouldn’t consider her to be one of my favourite fantasy heroines. I, however, really disliked her doppelganger, Lillian. She was villainous and did a lot of despicable things. But my biggest problem with her character was that I didn’t understand her motives. She was neither a complex character nor a simple villain who’s just evil. She just came across as extremely confusing. My favourite character in the novel was probably Rowan, the main love interest in the novel. There isn’t really any romance in the book but it’s definitely developing and I can see it becoming a more prominent theme in the rest of the trilogy. I liked Rowan because he was not only a noble and strong character, but he was also sensitive and caring. I liked him a lot in this book.

Overall, I wasn’t enamoured by Trial by Fire. I don’t think my kind of book and I just didn’t really enjoy reading it. It wasn’t a book that captivated me and made me want to continue the trilogy, but I can see lots of readers liking it a lot.

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

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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.