Review: Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell

Publisher: Bonnier
Release date: April 26, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 400
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How do you survive a mage’s duel without magic? Kellen’s about to risk everything: His family, his home, even his own life…

When you’re a Jan’Tep initiate approaching your sixteenth birthday, you’d better be ready to prove your worth as a mage. Either that or have a miracle on the way. And Kellen isn’t counting on either. He knows he’ll need a few tricks up his sleeve to avoid disgracing his family and becoming a Sha’Tep servant. So when a sassy, straight-talking traveller arrives in town, Kellen is all ears. Ferius Parfax is jaded but worldly, an exile who lives by her wits and the three decks of cards she carries. She can’t teach him to spark his bands and access the seven magics, but with the hand that Kellen’s been dealt, he knows he needs all the help he can get… A rich, compelling and laugh-out-loud new series for all teen, YA, adult and fantasy readers. Perfect for fans of The Dark Tower, Firefly, Hunger Games and Guardians of the Galaxy.

MY THOUGHTS

Thanks to Allen & Unwin for providing a review copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Trigger warning: animal cruelty

Spellslinger is the first book in a new YA series by Sebastien de Castell. This novel follows 15 year old, Kellen, who is a boy without magic, living in a world full of magic. Even though Kellen is the son of a powerful Lord Magus, he shows no sign of having any magical abilities and is at risk of becoming a Sha’Tep and serving the powerful and magical Jan’Teps for the rest of his life. When a strange lady, Ferius, arrives in town, Kellen begins to learn that there are alternative ways to be the hero that he’s always wanted to be.

That was kind of a vague synopsis of the novel but I’m having a really hard time recalling what actually happened or what the book was about. The plot was a little bit messy and confusing and seemed to jump around quite a bit. I just wanted a little bit more flow from it. I couldn’t really engage with the story and it took me a really long time to finish what was actually a really fast-paced book. I did like the magic system for the most part but I found bits of it to be confusing and underdeveloped. There were so many different aspects and I couldn’t really grasp the rules of the magic system because it seemed to be kind of limitless. I appreciate that the author wanted to put in a lot of plot and action but for a fantasy series… I wish he’d spent a little bit more time setting up the world and magic system at the start. The world building was kind of lacking and I didn’t really get a good sense of where they were or what the culture of the world was… besides the part where all the female characters were subservient and submissive.

Having said that, I did like Kellen’s character a lot and I think this redeemed the book for me. He was sassy and funny, and I found him to be strangely relatable. I most appreciated that he wasn’t the Chosen One (in fact, he’s kind of the opposite) and it was really easy to connect with him because he was kind of completely ordinary. I really enjoyed his character development throughout the book and the way that he found himself and who he wanted to be by the end of the novel. But I can’t say that I liked the rest of the characters as much. Ferius was an okay character for me. She was extremely enigmatic and I didn’t know what her motivations were by the end of the novel. I loved that she was there for Kellen and supported him but I don’t really know how I feel about her. I also liked Reichis, Kellen’s squirrel cat friend (or business partner, as he calls himself), and I can’t wait to see more of him in the upcoming books. I do have to mention though that there is some animal cruelty in this book and there was one particular scene that had me shuddering in horror.

The rest of the characters, I found extremely unmemorable and bland. And it also didn’t really help that it was difficult to remember their names. Some characters were from the same family and had really similar names that were easily confusable. And on top of that, a lot of the characters actually changed their names during the book, once they’d reached mage status. I also wasn’t a huge fan of any of the other characters and thought that they were either pure evil or just terrible, terrible friends. I didn’t care about any of them and wasn’t really that invested in their stories or what was happening to them.

All in all, I don’t think Spellslinger was for me. I liked the action in the novel and Kellen’s character a lot but I couldn’t latch on to anything else. I wasn’t able to get into the world or the magic system so the book ended up being a little bit of a drag for me.

Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Publisher: Simon & Schuster’s Books for Young Readers
Release date: May 2, 2017
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 336
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Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

MY THOUGHTS

Always and Forever, Lara Jean is the third and final book in the series so this review may contain spoilers for To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You.

I think my rating for this book is probably closer to a 4.5 stars but it’s inflated just because of sentimental reasons. I’ve been waiting for this book since the first book came out. I really liked P.S. I Still Love You but this was the book that I wished that one was. If you love Lara Jean and Peter together, this is a must-read for you. There are no love triangles, I promise!

Always and Forever, Lara Jean is about the final few months of Lara Jean and Peter’s senior year of high school. Peter’s been accepted to the University of Virginia already and Lara Jean is convinced that she’s going to be accepted too. She’s already planned out her college experience with Peter and is extremely excited about being able to be with Peter, as well as close enough to home to visit regularly. However, things don’t always go to plan and suddenly Lara Jean and Peter find themselves having to alter their plans and learn who they are as individuals away from each other.

I really loved the plot of this book. It’s been a long time since I graduated from high school, but I felt really connected with this story because my co-blogger, Aila just graduated and was going through some similar experiences recently. I really connected with Lara Jean’s struggles when it came to figuring out what she wanted to do after high school, especially after her plans fell through. I enjoyed watching her character development throughout the book as she learned to become more independent and put her own needs and wants before others.

But of course, my favourite aspect of the book was the adorable romance between Lara Jean and Peter. This is the first book in the series where we get to see the two of them together for the entire book and it was so worth the wait. The two of them are so perfect together and I loved how Peter just indulges Lara Jean’s quirks. I enjoyed how they worked through their problems together and I just thought their relationship was sugary sweet and everything I needed.

I’m so glad that Jenny Han decided to come out with this third book in this series. I wasn’t super happy with how P.S. I Still Love You ended because I wanted more of Lara Jean and Peter’s story. I’m extremely happy with what we got in this third novel and I’m going to be binge rereading this on sad and rainy days for a long time to come.

Review: Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release date: May 23, 2017
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 699
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Would you trade your soul mate for your soul?

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

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

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

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

MY THOUGHTS

Lord of Shadows is the second book in The Dark Artifices series, which means that this review may contain spoilers if you haven’t read Lady Midnight… or the other 8 books that came before this series.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Cassie Clare book but I was surprised by how quickly I got back into the world. I didn’t really need to be reminded of any details from the other books, which I think is a huge testament to how great of a writer Cassie is. But this book absolutely broke me. The last 50 pages or so of the book were so intense and devastating and I don’t really know how I’m going to recover from it. Couple that with the fact that the third book of the series isn’t going to be out until 2019… I honestly don’t know how I’m going to survive. Having said that, I’m really excited to read about James Herondale’s story (and to maybe see more of Will and Jem) so I’m not that mad that the first book of The Last Hours is coming out next year instead.

It’s a little bit hard to describe the plot of this book because there’s so much that happens in this massive tome! The story picks up a little bit after the events in Lady Midnight. There is suddenly a large presence of sea demons in Los Angeles and it seems like it might be connected with the fact that Malcolm Fade’s body and the Black Volume are still somewhere in the sea. An army of Centurions from the Scholomance are sent to the Los Angeles Institute to recover Malcolm’s body and the Black Volume and the Blackthorns are not happy with the appearance of these strangers that could disrupt their lives and uncover their secrets. As it turns out, they had a right to be antsy because some of the Centurions have ulterior motives that threaten the alliance between the nephilim and the Downworlders. On top of that, it seems like everyone is after the Black Volume and the Blackthorns are determined to be the ones that get to it first.

I love, love, loved the plot of this book… besides the cliffhanger at the end that left me literally breathless and crying. It was so action-packed and intense, and I feel like I need to go back and reread the whole thing in order to catch every single last detail. This is a second book in a series done right. It never felt like a filler book but instead had so much information and development that you just know that the third book is going to be EPIC. I have to admit that I finished the book with a ton of questions but it’s exciting to know that they’re all going to be addressed in the final book of the series. I have a bunch of crackpot theories and I’m so, so excited to see how the story ends.

But it wasn’t just the plot that drew me into the book. It was really the characters and the relationships between them that made me fall in love with the novel. We got to see so much more of the younger Blackthorn siblings in this book, particularly Livvy and Ty, who I both loved. I really liked what they brought to the story and that the series was no longer just about Emma and Julian, as much as I love them. I enjoyed the friendship that is beginning to form between Ty and Kit and I absolutely loved how well Kit understood Ty and was there for him when he needed support. I’m interested to see how this relationship develops further in the next book. I also really loved seeing the developing relationships between Mark and Cristina, Kieran and Cristina and I’m super curious about how that weird potential threesome is going to turn out. And of course, I loved seeing more of Emma and Julian’s story.

We got to see a glimpse of Julian’s dark side in Lady Midnight but it was so much more pronounced in Lord of Shadows. I like that his character is a little bit morally grey and that he prioritises his family over everything else. It’s a nice change from Cassie Clare’s other male lead characters who are extremely heroic and pure-hearted for the most part. Emma was also great in this book but I didn’t feel particularly connected with her in this novel because there were so many other fantastic characters who I wanted to get to know. I loved so many of the side characters, including Diana Wrayburn and Gwyn from the Wild Hunt. They were absolutely fantastic and I enjoyed the part that they played in the story. And finally, for fans of the previous Shadowhunter books, Magnus and Alec are in a significant chunk of this book and I really, really enjoyed getting to see them again. As always, I enjoyed the diversity in these books and I was really happy to see the inclusion of a transgender character in this novel too.

This is becoming a long review so I’m going to cut myself off here but I have so many more thoughts about the book. I enjoyed it just as much as I did Lady Midnight, though The Infernal Devices still remains my favourite of Cassie’s series. I cannot wait to see how The Dark Artifices ends!

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

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Release date: January 1, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 464
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After the scandalous events at her presentation ball in London, Lady Helen has taken refuge at the fashionable seaside resort of Brighton, where she is training to be a Reclaimer with the covert Dark Days Club.

As she struggles to put aside her genteel upbringing and take up the weapons of a warrior, Helen realizes that her mentor, Lord Carlston, is fighting his own inner battle. Has the foul Deceiver energy poisoned his soul, or is something else driving him towards violent bouts of madness? Either way, Helen is desperate to help the man with whom she shares a deep but forbidden connection.

When Mr Pike, the hard bureaucratic heart of the Dark Days Club, arrives in Brighton, no one is prepared for the ordinary evil he brings in his wake. He has a secret task for Helen and Mr Hammond, and the authority of the Prince Regent. They have no choice but to do as he orders, knowing that the mission will betray everyone around them and possibly bring about Lord Carlston’s annihilation.

MY THOUGHTS

This is the sequel to Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club, which means that this review may contain spoilers for the first book.

Thank you to HarperCollins Australia for providing a review copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I read and really enjoyed Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club last year and was extremely excited for the release of its sequel this year. I loved Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact even more than the first book and it’s made me even more excited for the last book in the trilogy.

Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact picks up a few weeks after the end of the first book and we follow Lady Helen as she starts her training. Meanwhile, Lord Carlston is acting increasingly strange and Lady Helen, as well as the members of the Dark Days Club, are concerned about Lord Carlson’s motives and his future. When Lady Helen is approached with a dangerous task that will betray the people she has grown to love, especially Lord Carlston, she struggles with what the right decision is. I really loved the entire plot of this book. I thought it was exciting and I didn’t find any of it to be predictable. I was kept on my toes for a lot of the book and I found the last third of the novel to be really exciting. The pace of the novel was quite slow for the first two-thirds but I didn’t mind it too much because I thought it set up the climax brilliantly. The ending of this novel really left me wanting more and I’m highly anticipating the third book in this trilogy.

I really, really enjoyed all of the characters in this installment and I really liked learning more about each of the characters and their backstories. I loved Lady Helen’s strength and intelligence. I loved reading about her journey and the way she approached the troubles she was facing. I also really liked some of the side characters and the role that they played in the novel. I’m not entirely sure how I felt about Lord Carlston in this book because he was kind of moody and wasn’t really himself. I’m looking forward to learning more about him in the next book. The only character who I wasn’t a big fan of in this book was Duke Selburn. I absolutely loved him in the first book but I found him to be extremely annoying and clingy in this novel. I honestly cannot wait to see how the trilogy is going to end.

As a whole, I was extremely happy with Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact. I thought it was a wonderful continuation to the story and I can already see a really exciting finale in store for us. I’m looking forward to learning more about the characters and the world, and I can’t wait to see how the story wraps up.

Review: Windwitch by Susan Dennard

windwitchPublisher: Tor UK
Release date: January 10, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 382
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Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies…

After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.

When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?

After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

Windwitch is the sequel to Truthwitch, which means that this review may contain spoilers for the first book.

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

Windwitch was a fantastic sequel to Truthwitch. There was a lot of character development and I really enjoyed how much more we got to learn about the characters and the world. In this second installment, we follow the four main characters on their separate journeys. We have Safi who is now travelling with the Empress of Marstok, Vaness. Their ship is attacked and during their escape, they are captured by the scary Hell-bards. Prince Merik has also found himself the victim of an attack and after losing his ship and most of his crew, he roams his lands searching for the one who’s responsible for his disfigured face. Along the way he discovers a dark secret that could change everything. Iseult is on a mission to find her Threadsister, Safi, but runs into Aeduan, who has been tasked with the job of capturing Iseult. The two strike up a deal and end up travelling together but they both find out more about themselves and each other during their journey.

I loved everything that went down in this book but I did feel that it was a bit of a filler book. I didn’t really have a good idea of where the book was going and how everything fit together until close to the end of the novel. There isn’t a lot that actually happens besides a lot of walking around, escape and survival. It was definitely more of a character-driven book than a plot-driven book, and because of this, it took me a while to get through it because I was unsure of what was happening and where the series was going. The last 100 pages of the book, however, makes things a lot more clear and by the end of the novel, I could see a clear direction of where the series was going. I also didn’t really mind that it was a character-driven book because the characters were extremely interesting to me.

I highly enjoyed how much the characters developed in this book, and I loved seeing the relationships between them deepen. The dynamic between Safi and Vaness was a really interesting one and I enjoyed seeing the respect that grew between them. I also really enjoyed Safi’s interactions with the Hell-bards and how the group dynamic changed throughout the book. I enjoyed seeing the complexities of Merik and his sister, Vivia’s relationship. I really appreciated being able to follow Vivia’s perspective throughout Windwitch too because I thought she was a fantastic character and I’m glad that we got to see so much of her. But most of all, I enjoyed Aeduan and Iseult’s budding relationship that evolved from animosity to respect to companionship. I just ship them so hard! I can’t wait to see how all these relationships unfold in Bloodwitch.

Overall, I thought this was a really strong sequel, despite not being able to latch on to the plot. I highly enjoyed all of the characters and I’m really excited to see how everything plays out in the next installment.

Review: Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

wayfarerPublisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release date: January 3, 2017
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 532
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All Etta Spencer wanted was to make her violin debut when she was thrust into a treacherous world where the struggle for power could alter history. After losing the one thing that would have allowed her to protect the Timeline, and the one person worth fighting for, Etta awakens alone in an unknown place and time, exposed to the threat of the two groups who would rather see her dead than succeed. When help arrives, it comes from the last person Etta ever expected—Julian Ironwood, the Grand Master’s heir who has long been presumed dead, and whose dangerous alliance with a man from Etta’s past could put them both at risk.

Meanwhile, Nicholas and Sophia are racing through time in order to locate Etta and the missing astrolabe with Ironwood travelers hot on their trail. They cross paths with a mercenary-for-hire, a cheeky girl named Li Min who quickly develops a flirtation with Sophia. But as the three of them attempt to evade their pursuers, Nicholas soon realizes that one of his companions may have ulterior motives.

As Etta and Nicholas fight to make their way back to one another, from Imperial Russia to the Vatican catacombs, time is rapidly shifting and changing into something unrecognizable… and might just run out on both of them.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

Wayfarer is the sequel to Passenger, which means that this review may contain spoilers for the first book. Check out my review for Passenger instead, if you haven’t read it yet.

I really enjoyed Passenger when I read it last year and was really looking forward to Wayfarer. It wasn’t really what I expected but I definitely wasn’t disappointed by it either. I did have some issues with the book but those were probably issues that I had because it had been a whole year since I had read Passenger and it took me a while to get used to the world again.

My main issue with the book was that I found the plot to be confusing. I don’t know if it’s because I’d forgotten a lot about the world and the time travel rules, but I had a hard time following what was going on, especially in the first 50 pages. I reread the ending of Passenger to familiarise myself with what had gone down in the first book and that helped a little bit but I still found it difficult to understand some of the time travel logic and the world at the start of the book. This book talks about many different timelines and I found myself really confused for the first 20% of the novel and couldn’t really follow along. It did get better as I progressed through the book though.

The other problem that I had with the plot was that I had no idea where the book was going for the majority of it. We follow Etta and Nicholas through two separate story arcs and I didn’t quite know what to believe because we were being led to believe two different things. The motives of the side characters and key players of the book were unclear and we were deliberately made to be suspicious of everything, which just added to my confusion as to what was happening. It also didn’t help that there were a lot of different parties with vastly different motives and goals. I couldn’t really keep track of who wanted to do what and I just felt a bit overwhelmed and found it to be too much at times. Ultimately, I just went with the flow and decided not to think about it too much and I ended up really enjoying everything that happened and how the story played out anyway.

We are, all of us, on our own journeys…

I loved all of the characters in this book. The characters were all very complex and multidimensional and I really enjoyed that there wasn’t a single one who was purely evil or purely good. I enjoyed reading about each character’s motivations as well as about some of their origins. I loved the new characters that we got to meet in this book, like Julian Ironwood and Henry Hemlock, as well as the old characters that we got to revisit. The character development in this book was also great and I learnt so much about some of the characters that I didn’t really like in Passenger. The character relationships in this book were spectacular and I loved the friendships that were forged in this book as well as the reunion of family. As a huge Etta and Nicholas shipper, I was a bit disappointed that the two characters spent so much of the book apart, but I was pretty happy with how their reunion played out.

I really enjoyed this duology. I’d love to reread the books again because I think it’ll help me understand Wayfarer a little bit better. Despite the confusion and how overwhelmed I felt while reading this book, I highly enjoyed it. It was action-packed and I loved all of the places that the characters time travelled to. It was so much fun and I loved the characters so, so much!

Review: Starflight by Melissa Landers

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

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

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Replica by Lauren Oliver

replica Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release date: October 6, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 520
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Lyra’s story begins in the Haven Institute, a building tucked away on a private island off the coast of Florida that from a distance looks serene and even beautiful. But up close the locked doors, military guards, and biohazard suits tell a different story. In truth, Haven is a clandestine research facility where thousands of replicas, or human models, are born, raised, and observed. When a surprise attack is launched on Haven, two of its young experimental subjects – Lyra, aka number 24, and the boy known only as 72 – manage to escape.

Gemma has been in and out of hospitals for as long as she can remember. A lonely teen, her life is circumscribed by home, school, and her best friend, April. But after she is nearly abducted by a stranger claiming to know her, Gemma starts to investigate her family’s past and discovers her father’s mysterious connection to the secretive Haven Institute. Hungry for answers, she travels to Florida, only to stumble upon two replicas and a completely new set of questions.

replica_covers

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

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

Replica is a sci-fi novel with a very interesting format. It is written from the perspectives of two different girls, Lyra and Gemma. You can read Lyra’s story first and then flip the book over and read Gemma’s story. You can do the opposite and read Gemma’s story first. You also have the option of reading alternating chapters of Lyra and Gemma’s story until their stories meet in the middle.

I personally read Replica in alternating chapters, starting with Lyra’s story and then ending with Gemma’s. I decided against reading one perspective after the other because I thought it would take away some of the suspense of the story because I’d already know important plot points from reading the first perspective in its entirety. Having now read the entire book, I would still choose to read it by alternating perspectives every chapter, but if you were to read one perspective at a time, I don’t think that there is too much overlap. One thing to note is that there is one extra chapter in Gemma’s perspective, so if you decided to read Replica in alternating chapters starting with Lyra’s perspective like I did, you’ll find yourself left with two Gemma chapters after Lyra’s story is over.

I really, really loved the concept of this story. I don’t read a whole lot of sci-fi but Replica falls into my favourite type of sci-fi. I enjoyed the concept of the Haven Institute, which is home to thousands of replicas or clones that are experimented with and observed. These replicas have extremely weak bodies and have never been outside of the Haven Institute. They’re born and bred at the Institute and spend their days undergoing cognitive testing and physical exams. They are completely uneducated and are unable to read. The only people they come in contact with are the doctors and nurses who work at the Institute, who constantly remind them that they’re different and are lesser than human beings. I loved the Haven Institute and all of the mystery surrounding it. Lyra’s perspective gave us some really good insight into the Institute and how the system of the replicas worked. I initially went into the book expecting the replicas to be like robots or androids but they were no different from humans. They displayed the same kinds of physical and mental illnesses and humans, including eating disorders and suicide ideation, which I found really intriguing and interesting. My only criticism of the Haven Institute is that I felt like the world needed a bit more development and that there were some things missing from the book. The novel spends a lot of time focusing on the origins and the purpose of the Haven Institute and I would have liked a bit more focus on the operations within the Institute. Having said that, Replica is the first novel in what I believe is a duology so I’m hoping these things will be addressed further in the sequel.

I loved both of the main characters in this novel but my personal favourite was Lyra. I thought her story was so interesting and unique and I really loved her voice. I enjoyed how Lyra had never really experienced the real world and how she handled learning about new things. I did however think that Gemma’s story was fleshed out a little bit more than Lyra’s (possibly because Gemma lives in our contemporary world that doesn’t need much development) and I would’ve liked to have seen a little bit more from Lyra’s perspective. I thought Lyra was sensitive, kind and intelligent and I connected with her character from the very beginning. I wasn’t enamoured by Gemma from the very start but she quickly grew on me. Her character and her worries were extremely relatable and I ended up loving her and wanting to read more about her story by the time I reached the end of the novel. Her perspective worked extremely well with Lyra’s and I thought together, the two stories came together in a very exhilarating manner.

What I really enjoyed about the plot and the two different perspectives was that they worked together seamlessly. There was a tiny bit of overlap in plot and dialogue but the two characters do spend a large amount of time apart, leading to separate and unique stories. There were an endless number of plot twists, some predictable and some not, and I was so captivated by the story and how everything fitted together that I didn’t want to put the book down. Another thing that kept me invested in the book were the romances, even though I did have some issues with them. I thought there was a lot of insta-love and every boy that appeared in the book seemed to be a potential love interest. Having said that, I thought they were super sweet and I enjoyed the roles that the boys played in the story.

Overall, I thought this was a very interesting read and the ending definitely left me wanting more. The writing was easy to read and I sped through the book. I’m excited to see what the sequel will bring and whether it will be in the same format as Replica.

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

swarm

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Release date: September 28, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 400
Goodreads || Book Depository || Booktopia

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.