Blog Tour: Freeks by Amanda Hocking

freeksPublisher: Pan Australia
Release date: January 31, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 336
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The Carnival is all she’s ever known – but an old terror could tear it down.

In the spring of 1982, the carnival comes to small-town Cauldry, Louisiana. Then events take a dangerous turn. For Mara Besnick, the carnival is home. It’s also a place of secrets, hidden powers and a buried past – making it hard to connect with outsiders. However, sparks fly when she meets local boy Gabe Alvarado. As they become inseparable, Mara realises Gabe is hiding his own secrets. And his family legacy could destroy Mara’s world.

They find the word ‘freeks’ sprayed on trailers, as carnival employees start disappearing. Then workers wind up dead, killed in disturbing ways by someone or something. Mara is determined to unlock the mystery, with Gabe’s help. But can they really halt this campaign of fear?

MY THOUGHTS

35 stars

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour! Let’s start with my thoughts on the novel before jumping into a brief Q&A with the author!

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

I’m not the biggest reader of the paranormal fantasy genre but I really enjoyed reading Freeks by Amanda Hocking. It was a fast-paced and slightly eerie standalone novel and I especially loved the carnival setting

The novel begins with Mara and the carnival travelling to a small town in Louisiana. They are desperately low on money and were offered a large sum of money to set up in Cauldry. However, as soon as they set up camp, strange things begin to happen. Carnival employees are attacked every night by a mysterious creature and there’s a sinister energy in the area that’s causing their supernatural abilities to be weakened. As it gets more and more dangerous and carnival members begin to gradually leave, it’s up to Mara to try to figure out what’s happening. I really liked the concept of the book and thought that it had a really great build up to the climax. However, I was a bit disappointed with the last section of the book. I felt that everything happened very quickly and was revealed very quickly. There was a lot of build up and it all ended a bit too quickly for my liking. I also found that it was slightly predictable and the ending was just a bit lacklustre for me. However, I really liked the first three-quarters of the book and enjoyed how fast-paced it was.

I also enjoyed most of the characters, though I did find Mara to be a bit frustrating at times. She ignored or dismissed her instincts about a hundred times throughout the book and I wanted to yell at her from annoyance because it was so blatantly clear what was going on. Other than that, I thought she was a good main character. I didn’t find her to be extremely interesting but she wasn’t too frustrating to read about and I enjoyed her moments of courage and bravery. I also enjoyed some of the other characters from the carnival, especially Roxie, who I found to be sassy and snarky but also had a softer side to her. I loved Gideon, who was the head of the carnival and I also really loved Luka because of his self-healing powers. I also liked Gabe, the love interest, but I didn’t find him to be a standout character. There is a bit of diversity in this book – Mara has Egyptian ancestry but I can’t comment on the accuracy of the representation. There was also an LGBTQ+ relationship in the book.

When it came to the romance between Mara and Gabe, I wasn’t a huge fan. There was a little bit of insta-love and the relationship definitely moved very quickly. At times, I felt like the romance overtook the whole plot of the book and I wished there was less focus on it and more time spent developing the plot. I liked Mara and Gabe together but their romance definitely felt a bit tropey and generic at times.

Overall, I enjoyed the reading experience and thought that Freeks was a really easy read. It was fast-paced and engaging but I wished the ending hadn’t been so rushed. The romance was nice but overshadowed the story and the plot a little so ultimately, Freeks left me feeling like it hadn’t reached its full potential.


Q&A with Amanda Hocking

How did you decide on the travelling carnival premise? Are you a fan of carnivals?

I was actually watching an old X-Files episode where Mulder and Scully investigate a carnival, which features real life sideshow performers from the Jim Rose Circus. I thought it seemed really cool and interesting, and I did some research about Jim Rose and his performers, and that’s where the idea for the carnival started.

What do you love most about being a writer?

Escaping into a new world. The freedom to just go and hide away with made up friends on exciting adventures is definitely the best part.

Can you give us a glimpse into what we can expect from you next?

I have a duology coming out sometime next year, I believe. I’m still working on the second book, and I haven’t come up with a good description for it yet. It’s YA and paranormal and gritty, and I’m very excited about it.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

amanda-hockingAmanda Hocking is twenty-six years old, lives in Minnesota and had never sold a single book before 15 April 2010. She will shortly sell her millionth. Her books have been a self-publishing phenomenon – according to the Observer, Amanda is “the most spectacular example of an author striking gold through ebooks”. In her own words, Amanda is an Obsessive Tweeter. John Hughes mourner. Unicorn enthusiast. Red Bull addict. Muppets activist. Fraggin Aardvarks guitarist. Author of the USA Today bestselling books the Trylle Trilogy.

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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: 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: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

vicious

Publisher: Titan Books
Release date: January 10, 2014
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 340
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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.

Review: Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

lady-midnight

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release date: March 8, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 720
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In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, parabatai is a sacred word.

A parabatai is your partner in battle. A parabatai is your best friend. Parabatai can be everything to each other – but they can never fall in love.

Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter, and the best in her generation. She lives for battle. Shoulder to shoulder with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of Los Angeles, where vampires party on the Sunset Strip and faeries – the most powerful of supernatural creatures – teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge – and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks… and before the murderer targets them.

Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. And each clue she unravels uncovers more secrets. What has Julian been hiding from her all these years? Why does Shadowhunter Law forbid parabatai to fall in love? Who really killed her parents – and can she bear to know the truth?

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

Lady Midnight is the first book in Cassandra Clare’s new Shadowhunters trilogy, The Dark Artifices. Even though Lady Midnight is the first book in the trilogy, if you haven’t read The Mortal Instruments or The Infernal Devices and you plan to in the future, I’d recommend reading those first because Lady Midnight contains spoilers for those books and will ruin your reading experience if you plan to go back. (If you haven’t read The Infernal Devices, what are you doing with your life?) Lady Midnight also has spoilers for Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, which is a collection of short stories that you should read after TMI. I was waiting for the hardcover bind-up to be released at the end of this year before reading them, and I regretted that decision because my reading experience with Lady Midnight could have been enhanced if I’d read those short stories first.

Enough ramble. Lady Midnight is set 5 years after the events of The Mortal Instruments, and we get to meet Emma Carstairs as a 17 year old. Since coming back to Los Angeles from Idris after City of Heavenly Fire, she’s had the parabatai ceremony with Julian Blackthorn and has been secretly investigating the mysterious murders of her parents with little success. This book begins when a string of very similar murders occur in Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Institute is approached by the Fey to investigate. In return for identifying the murderer, the Fey promise to give Mark Blackthorn the opportunity to be returned to his family, but they must solve the mystery in 3 weeks. However, due to certain things that happened in TMI, Shadowhunters are not allowed to associate or work with faeries, so the LA Institute must investigate without the Clave (governing body of the Shadowhunters) knowing and without outside help.

I really enjoyed the plot of the story. It explored magic and dark magic, which is something that we didn’t see a lot of in the previous Shadowhunter books. We also get to learn more about the Fey and the different courts. In TMI, we mostly saw the Seelie Court and the Seelie Queen, but this book features the Unseelie Court and the Wild Hunt, which I thought was super interesting. I did find the pace of the book to be a little slow, particularly at the beginning. There wasn’t really much happening in the first 200 pages but the pace started to pick up gradually. I really enjoyed how the pieces of the puzzle came together and nothing felt rushed or sudden. It was a well thought out plot that developed nicely. Also despite this book not being particularly fast-paced or action-packed, I read it pretty quickly in 3 sittings. The plot had me immersed in the world and I was just keen to see how it would all play out.

Even though the plot was great, the characters in this book (as with most of Cassie’s other books) were the standout. I love reading about big families and the Blackthorns is definitely a big family with lots of unique and diverse characters. We have the twins, Livvy and Ty, who are almost inseparable and very protective of each other. Ty has an autism spectrum disorder, which made him a very interesting character and one that you hardly ever encounter in fantasy novels. I loved how much Cassandra Clare highlighted his little quirks and made it clear that his differences were completely okay. We also have Drusilla, who’s on the slightly chubbier side and the adorable Tavvy who’s the youngest of the family.

And then of course, we have Julian who’s spent all these years looking after his siblings and acting like the parent of the family. I really liked Julian’s character and the way that he cares for others and for Emma. He didn’t wow me or give me heart-eyes like the other male leads of Cassie Clare’s books (probably because I first met him in TMI when he was 12) but I still found his character to be wonderful. There were times when I was a little bit scared of Julian’s ability to lie and how far he would go to protect those he loves, but I can see where he’s coming from. I also really liked Emma, and I wasn’t really expecting to because I didn’t like her very much in TMI. She’s another one of Cassie’s headstrong female characters who rushes into situations without thinking. I did find it to be a little bit annoying at the beginning of the book but she quickly grew on me, and I definitely like her a lot more than I liked Clary Fray. I also really loved that she’s not new to the Shadowhunter world, like Tessa and Clary were. She grew up in a Shadowhunter family and she’s known that she’s a Shadowhunter her whole life, which allowed us to jump right into the story without having to go through the torturous “oh no, I can’t be a Shadowhunter” thing.

My favourite character in the book, though, was Mark Blackthorn. He was just such an interesting and complex character. He’s half-Shadowhunter and half-faerie and I really liked how we got to see both sides of him. I loved seeing how his time with the Wild Hunt had changed him and how he doesn’t really know how to interact with others in the real world anymore. I’m really glad that we got to see so much of him in the book. I wasn’t really expecting him to play such a large role in it and was really happy that we got to see him interact with his family. The other character who I really enjoyed was Cristina. She was fierce and fantastic but also very gentle and warm. I loved her back story and I wish we got to see a little bit more of her in this book. I can’t wait to read more of her story in the sequel though!

Now on to the romance, which was a surprisingly small aspect of the book considering how much hype there was about the forbidden parabatai romance. I thought it was handled well for most of the book, until we reached the end. The ending felt a little bit tropey and dramatic, and I can already tell that I’ll probably dislike how the romance is going to play out in the next book. It also ended on an unbearable cliffhanger and I need to know what happens next! There was much more focus on the parabatai bond than the actual romance and I really, really appreciated that. However, pretty much every mention of parabatai made me cry because I kept thinking about Will and Jem’s bond in TID. I loved how much we explored the bond between parabatai and why certain rules exist. It was really interesting and I’m curious to see how Emma and Julian can find a way around it because I don’t really see any loopholes.

Overall, I was really impressed with Lady Midnight. It wasn’t as good as the Infernal Devices books but I liked it more than most of the Mortal Instruments instalments. It was a really great focus on family and friendship and I loved how the book wasn’t romance-heavy, which I expected it to be. The plot was great and I have zero idea about what’s going to happen next. I hope we don’t have to wait long for the sequel!

Review: Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

lady-helen

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Release date: December 14, 2015
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 448
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London, April 1812. Lady Helen Wrexhall is set to make her debut at the court of Queen Charlotte and officially step into polite Regency society and the marriage mart. Little does Helen know that step will take her from the opulent drawing rooms of Mayfair and the bright lights of Vauxhall Gardens into a shadowy world of missing housemaids and demonic conspiracies.

Standing between those two worlds is Lord Carlston, a man of ruined reputation and brusque manners. He believes Helen has a destiny beyond the ballroom; a sacred and secret duty. Helen is not so sure, especially when she discovers that nothing around her is quite as it seems, including the enigmatic Lord Carlston.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

I received a copy of Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club from the publisher. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club is set during the Regency period in London and follows Lady Helen, a girl who has just been presented to the Queen and is expected to marry somebody of high standing. However, she quickly realises that she’s developing some strange abilities and discovers a secret world full of demons that she didn’t know existed.

My favourite aspect of this book was the setting and time period. I love historical fiction and the detail that was put into building the world was incredible. I had such a vivid image of what Regency London looked like, including the way people dressed and the customs and traditions that they followed. Everything seemed very authentic to the time period and it was clear that a lot of research had gone into creating a historically accurate world. Alison Goodman spends a good portion of the book really setting the scene and making sure that her readers are immersed in this Regency London scene. What I didn’t think was done as well was the building of the paranormal world. There’s very little information given and we’re learning about it as Lady Helen discovers more about it herself. We don’t find out a lot about the different kinds of demons and what ‘Reclaimers’ actually do. We’ve barely scratched the surface of the world in this book and I just needed a little bit more to really get into the series because I was left with a lot of questions.

However, what I did learn about the paranormal world, I really liked and was intrigued by. I thought it was interesting that there were different kinds of demons that feed on different things or aspects of a humanity, such as creativity, lust or violence. I did find the demons to be a little bit weird though… They’re tentacled creatures that grow more tentacles as they feed from humans. The whole process of the feeding was just weirdly sexual and I found it to be kind of creepy and disturbing. I was also intrigued by the work of the Reclaimers and how much alchemy is involved in the process of reclaiming a soul that’s been taken over by demon. Like I mentioned previously, there isn’t a lot of information given about the processes and a lot of what we were told was very complex. There are lots of things going on like transferring demonic energies to the earth, meditation and even drinking elixirs. I actually gagged a little when I read about the elixir because it sounded so disgusting!

I really enjoyed Lady Helen as a main character. She was intelligent and independent, without being reckless, and I really appreciated that she still continued to follow the rules of society. I enjoyed that she respected that women needed to behave in certain ways but that she also recognised that she could be more than who she was expected to be. She was just a wonderful balance of femininity and independence. I thought her character was complex and multifaceted, and it’s very difficult to not fall in love with her, as her friends would agree. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the friendships in this book. Lady Helen is fantastic with her fellow society ladies, but she’s also extremely kind to her maids. The relationship between Lady Helen and her maid, Darby, was my favourite in the novel and I’m just in love with these strong female characters and friendships.

I also appreciated that instead of focusing on the romance, this book was primarily about Lady Helen’s discovery of her identity as a demon hunter and her choice to become a demon hunter or stay as a society lady. There’s very little romance in this book, though there is a small love triangle and a hint of more to come in subsequent books. I enjoyed that there was no insta-love and that Lord Carlston acts as her mentor rather than her love interest (like I was led to believe from the blurb). It felt very refreshing and I appreciated that the very small hint of romance that we got to see was very sensible and mature. It’s definitely not a passionate and all-consuming romance.

Lastly, I wanted to talk briefly about the pace of the book. This book is incredibly slow. It definitely reads like a historical fiction novel, and if historical fiction isn’t really a genre that you like to read, you might not enjoy the pace of this one. Nothing much really happens during the first third of the book beyond setting the scene. However, there was lots of mystery at the beginning and it had me very intrigued and captivated, so I didn’t mind the slow pace too much. I did think that the book could have been quite a bit shorter though, since there’s only a small amount of action.

Overall, I thought this was a great first book to the series. It was a wonderful introduction to the world and hopefully we’ll learn more about the paranormal aspects in the next book.

Review: Yuki Chan in Bronte Country by Mick Jackson

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Publisher: Faber & Faber
Release date: January 21, 2016
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 272
Goodreads || Book Depository

The new novel from Mick Jackson, Booker Prize-shortlisted author of The Underground Man and Ten Sorry Tales.

‘They both stop and stare for a moment. Yuki feels she’s spent about half her adult life thinking about snow, but when it starts, even now, it’s always arresting, bewildering. Each snowflake skating along some invisible plane. Always circuitous, as if looking for the best place to land…’

Yukiko tragically lost her mother ten years ago. After visiting her sister in London, she goes on the run, and heads for Haworth, West Yorkshire, the last place her mother visited before her death.

Against a cold, winter, Yorkshire landscape, Yuki has to tackle the mystery of her mother’s death, her burgeoning friendship with a local girl, the allure of the Brontes and her own sister’s wrath.

Both a pilgrimage and an investigation into family secrets, Yuki’s journey is the one she always knew she’d have to make, and one of the most charming and haunting in recent fiction.

MY THOUGHTS

35 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are mine.

Yuki Chan in Brontë Country was a little bit of a strange read for me. I had no idea what to expect going into this book but it surprised me and disappointed me at the same time. It was an incredibly insightful book with a lot of wonderful elements but it wasn’t as emotional as I would’ve liked it to be.

This book starts off with our main character Yukiko travelling to Haworth, which is a place that’s associated with the Brontë sisters. The story is ostensibly about a young Japanese tourist visiting notable Brontë landmarks, but we soon realise that Yuki is no avid Brontë fan. She quickly escapes from the tour she’s joined and sets off on her own journey around Haworth. We get to see Yuki’s true agenda as she walks around searching for places that her mother visited a decade ago, hoping for some clue or insight into her mother’s mysterious death. Along the way she meets some interesting characters, forms a new friendship and uncovers what really happened to her mother 10 years ago.

My favourite aspect of this book were definitely the characters. I can count the number of characters in this book on one hand, but I really appreciated that we got to see so much of Yuki. I could feel the loneliness yet wonder of travelling alone in a foreign country and I thought this book really captured the tone beautifully. Yuki is a very intelligent and independent character and I thoroughly enjoyed following her around on her quest to uncover the secrets of her mothers death. I liked her focus and her tenacity, and the fact that she wasn’t afraid to find ways to get what she wanted. Her character was complex and completely relatable, and I just wanted to be her friend because she was so smart and funny. She’s a character that is likeable from the very first chapter and I couldn’t help but be sucked into her story.

The pace of this book was slow for the most part, but I enjoyed how much the pace and the writing of the book added to the atmosphere of the story. The slow pace really complemented the mysterious and the slightly eerie paranormal elements in the book. The writing was extremely calming and soothing and had wonderful flow throughout the book. The mix of humour with melancholy worked beautifully in this book, and I felt like I was there with Yuki as she navigated the snowy winter days and nights in Haworth.

I have to admit that I didn’t always know what was going on in the book, but it almost didn’t matter because everything was wrapped up so nicely at the end of the book. The building sense of discomfort and melancholy ended with such a cathartic release that I felt very satisfied with what I read. Of course, I wished that the book could have been a little bit longer and more fleshed out, in order for me to connect even more with Yuki’s story and the emotion behind her loss, but overall I thought this was a wonderful and charming story.

Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

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Publisher: Scholastic
Release date: October 21, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 391
Goodreads || Book Depository

Blue Lily, Lily Blue is the third instalment of The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. This review doesn’t contain any spoilers for the first two books, The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves, but you should probably read those reviews first.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue Synopsis

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

Blue Lily, Lily Blue is my favourite of The Raven Cycle so far. It was well-paced and the story was captivating. I enjoyed the characters even more in this book (and I didn’t think that was possible).

This third instalment is much faster in pace than the two previous books. It’s still quite slow, but compared to the first two books, this one almost moves at a regular pace. It had more of a sense of urgency, which made the book even more mysterious and eerie for me. This book was also more magical and paranormal than the previous books, adding to the mysterious atmosphere and tone of the book.

While The Raven Cycle and The Dream Thieves provided more questions than answers, Blue Lily, Lily Blue started answering some of these questions. Pieces of the puzzle started to come together and the story developed much faster as a result. The whole book just made more sense and allowed me to start theorising and speculating, which I wasn’t able to do for the first two books because I was so confused. It was the first book in the series so far that had a plot that was almost as captivating as the characters. Almost.

This series remains a character-driven series for me. Each of the characters underwent even further development, which I didn’t think was possible because Maggie Stiefvater’s characterisation has been perfect already. The characters became even more multifaceted and I just fell in love with them further. Each character has skills to bring to the table and they’re all essential to the story. Certain characters that I didn’t love in the first two books definitely became more likeable in this third book and I was firmly behind them and on their side.

Blue was perfectly aware that it was possible to have a friendship that wasn’t all-encompassing, that wasn’t blinding, deafening, maddening, quickening. It was just now that she’d had this kind, she didn’t want the other.

The relationships between the characters were the most noteworthy aspect of Blue Lily, Lily Blue for me. Blue and the Raven Boys care so deeply about one another that my heart was just squeezing inside my chest the whole time. I absolutely loved every Gansey and Blue scene and I will ship Blansey until the end of time. But I also absolutely enjoyed everybody’s worry and love for Gansey and OMG MY HEART.

I absolutely cannot wait for The Raven King to be released in April! The ending of Blue Lily, Lily Blue had me on the edge of my seat and I need to know what happens next!

Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

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Publisher: Scholastic
Release date: September 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 439
Goodreads || Book Depository

The Dream Thieves is the second book in Maggie Stiefvater’s, The Raven Cycle. This review doesn’t contain any spoilers for the first book, The Raven Boys, so feel free to stay if you want to know if the series is worth pursuing.

THE DREAM THIEVES SYNOPSIS

If you could steal things from dreams, what would you take?

Ronan Lynch has secrets. Some he keeps from others. Some he keeps from himself.

One secret: Ronan can bring things out of his dreams.

And sometimes he’s not the only one who wants those things.

Ronan is one of the raven boys—a group of friends, practically brothers, searching for a dead king named Glendower, who they think is hidden somewhere in the hills by their elite private school, Aglionby Academy. The path to Glendower has long lived as an undercurrent beneath town. But now, like Ronan’s secrets, it is beginning to rise to the surface—changing everything in its wake.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

The Dream Thieves picks up a few weeks after the events in The Raven Boys but it doesn’t exactly pick up where the first book left off. After finishing The Raven Boys, I was a little bit confused about some of the things that had happened and the consequences of those things happening. I was hoping that The Dream Thieves would give me some clarification or explain what had gone down in The Raven Boys. However, this book went into a completely different direction and the questions I had at the end of the first book were left unanswered. Which is completely fine… but I just felt like there were more and more unanswered questions and puzzles to solve and very few answers being given.

To me, the plot of The Dream Thieves felt largely unrelated to what happened in the previous book. At times, it almost felt like a filler book before we moved on to bigger things in the next two books. In this novel, we follow Ronan, the impulsive brawler of the group. We find out at the very end of The Raven Boys that Ronan is able to take things out of his dreams (this is not a spoiler since this is never explored in the first book) and in this book, we explore his story and the whole process of the dreaming further. Of course, Ronan’s dream thievery is linked to the greater story of the ley lines and the search for the lost Welsh king, Glendower, but for a huge section of the book, it felt almost like a separate and unrelated story. Having said that, I really enjoyed getting to know Ronan a little bit more because we didn’t get much of his back story in Book 1 and he was the enigmatic and closed off one of the group. I found his background and his family’s story to be really unexpected and interesting, and I thoroughly enjoyed everything we learnt about him.

I enjoyed the plot of this second book a little bit more than the first one. It was magical, fascinating and very strange at times and I couldn’t help but be drawn into Ronan’s story and want to read more. There were some plot points that genuinely surprised me. I did, however, find the climax of the book to be slightly lacking. It wasn’t as exciting and intense as I had hoped it would be but I still really liked it and can’t complain about it too much.

The pace of this book is very slow, probably even slower than The Raven Boys. It took a very long time for the book to get started and I wasn’t really engaged until after the 150 page mark. The story and the characters were still intriguing enough that I finished the novel in two sittings and I never felt bored even though there wasn’t very much happening. Obviously, I wish that the book could have been a little bit more fast-paced but the writing and the pace really enhanced the atmosphere of the book and I didn’t mind it too much after I got past the slow patch at the beginning.

The characters were still the stand out aspect of this series so far. They really filled in the large gaps in the book where there wasn’t much going on. My favourite characters are still Blue and Gansey. Their characters were the easiest for me to relate to and they felt the most normal to me. They’re so full of love for their family and friends and I just want to hug them. I also enjoyed Ronan’s character a lot more in this book. He’s still a little bit difficult to connect with since he’s such a closed off and distant person but getting to know his background and his cool dream thieving abilities really helped me relate to him a little bit more. The character that took a nose dive in terms of likability was Adam. I liked him quite a bit for most of The Raven Boys, but he became very annoying in this one. He acted like he was entitled to things just because he’s had a tough time and he wasn’t able to see things from the others’ perspectives. His need to be better than other people was infuriating and I just wanted him to work with the team!

“Being the Magician isn’t about being powerful when you have things and useless when you don’t,” Persephone said. “The Magician sees what is out there and find connections. The Magician can make anything magical.”

Yes, Adam. Take note. We are also introduced to a few new characters in this sequel. We have Mr Gray, a hit man who’s searching for something called the Graywaren. He does some atrocious things but his character was so complex, layered and unexpected that I really ended up loving his addition to the book. I think what Maggie Stiefvater does so well is really spending the time to develop her characters and make them multi-faceted. She plays around with stereotypes and tropes and I really love her characters.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and Maggie Stiefvater’s writing and characters. I didn’t think the plot of this novel made any developments to the series and it almost felt like a side story with some links to the overall story arc of The Raven Cycle. However, I still really liked the book and I’m predicting that the events that take place in all these books will probably have some impact on what happens in the finale.