Sunday, 29 November 2015

"Champion" (Legend #3) by Marie Lu

Champion (Legend, #3)Champion by Marie Lu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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I actually sat in bed staring at the cover of Champion for a solid thirty minutes after I finished reading it. This book was amazing. I was not that impressed with Legend, and although I liked Prodigy a lot more, Champion blew them both out of the water. Wow. Just wow.

This book was bursting with action from cover to cover. And not that mindless action you find in some dystopian novels, that is overly detailed and serves no true purpose, but the kind of action that makes it impossible to look away because you just have to know how it plays out. These sequences tied in with the political aspects of this novel, which were gripping and realistic. Lu describes at least three separate societies in depth and I believed them all - a lot of dystopian authors can barely manage to describe one well, so I was truly impressed.

June and Day's relationship in this novel was the perfect mix of angsty and satisfying... Originally, I was not barracking for them at all - the relationship seemed forced in Legend. In this novel, I was desperately hoping for them to live happily ever after. I followed their relationship and found myself caring as much about them as I did about the political issues in this book. Sigh. You won me over, Lu. You won me over so badly!

The ending of this book will be felt in my soul forever. It was a great ending, though - I was worried it might end predictably, and I could not have been more wrong. I don't want to spoil the ending, but you won't be disappointed.

Overall, this was an insanely satisfying and action-packed ending to a beautiful and truly unique series. I would recommend this series to anyone who wants a solid dystopian story line with two likeable main characters.

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Saturday, 28 November 2015

"Prodigy" (Legend #2) by Marie Lu

Prodigy (Legend, #2)Prodigy by Marie Lu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ah, this is the kind of writing I came to (masochistically) love and expect from Lu in The Young Elites series. I could see a great difference in the overall angst and pain (to the reader, as well as June and Day) between Legend and Prodigy, which greatly added to the depth and individuality of this series.

The best thing about Prodigy, without a doubt, was its world building. The best dystopian novels are those that create a world that makes sense both within itself, and as a logical extension of today's world. Both The Republic and The Colonies were described in a way that never made me question their reality, without bogging me down with extraneous details. The concept behind The Colonies was especially intriguing (rampant consumerism gone mad), and that is something I look forward to learning more about in Champion.

The political aspects of this book were intense. I have no idea who I actually want to win ultimately out of the major political groups! The incorporation of back-stabbing and double agents were very true to the often cutthroat nature of the political world (albeit in an exaggerated way). I also appreciated the descriptions of the rest of the world's politics. So many dystopian novels talk in great depth about their own society, and forget that others probably exist too. Oh, and Africa is not presented as destitute and hopeless for once - hurrah!

One of my major problems with Legend was that I felt that June and Day's relationship was rushed. Lu definitely remedied this in Prodigy. Seeing the relationship between these two develop throughout the book, their love no longer felt forced. It was one of those perfect, angsty relationships where one of them was always upset with or separated from the other for varying reasons. This made their love a lot more realistic (and therefore heartbreaking) this time around.

Be prepared for the ending of this novel to destroy your soul a hundred times more than Legend. I will say no more.

Overall, this novel had superb world building, with brilliant political aspects and a believable romance. Even if you did not love Legend, I urge you to read this novel anyway!

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Thursday, 26 November 2015

"Siege and Storm" (Grisha Trilogy #2) by Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(mild spoilers)

Siege and Storm was a brilliant second novel in The Grisha Trilogy. I enjoyed it slightly less than the first, but not enough to drop it to three stars... Especially since most series fall prey to "middle book syndrome", and this one did not.

I loved that Alina and Mal were not separated from other characters for very long. I was really worried that Bardugo would leave them out of Ravka and we would hear about The Darkling's escapades through rumours and gossip, rather than through our hero's actions. When we got onboard Sturmhund's ship, I was a little too excited. Partly because The Darkling is my favourite character, and partly because Sturmhund/Prince Nikolai was a great addition to the series! I hope that Ruin and Rising delves more into his story, even though Alina and Nikolai were separated at the end of the book.

I continued to feel no emotional connection to Mal. Like at all. His character seemed to just be in the way most of the time! I also did not feel a deep emotional connection between him and Alina. Sure, Bardugo writes about how much they love each other, but I never feel that between them. Alina seems to have a stronger connection with The Darkling, which is really saying something...

Alina is an amazing character. I loved seeing her come into her own during Siege and Storm, both as a Grisha and as a leader. When she first arrives in Os Alta, her leadership is shaky at best, but as time progresses she really shows her true colours. She is by no means lovable at all times, but she is always relatable and interesting.

The ending of this book was, to put it simply, brilliant. That's all I'm going to say here, so read the book!

Overall, this book was a great adventure with an amazing and inspiring heroine and secondary characters (mostly). A great second novel!

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Wednesday, 25 November 2015

"Frankie" by Shivaun Plozza

FrankieFrankie by Shivaun Plozza
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Penguin Teen Australia for the ARC!

Anyone who has heard me talk about books (so basically everyone who has ever met me), knows that I am not a huge contemporary fan. Why would I want to read about real life? I already have one of those. Every so often, however, I read a YA contemporary novel that makes me eat my words - and Frankie is one of them. Maybe because it's an Australian novel and I could actually relate to the characters; maybe just because Plozza writes really well.

One of my major problems with the contemporary genre is that it seems to exist in a frustrating dichotomy - its stories are either fluffy or preachy. Frankie is a novel that strikes the perfect balance between these two. It posed a lot of questions about our society - why are the rich, white kids the only ones who seem to matter? Why do people commit crimes, anyway? These are important issues that need to be addressed, but nobody wants to hear a sermon. Characters like Frankie demonstrate the truth of low socio-economic living, sans condescension - the issues just come up when we talk about her life.

Frankie Vega is a unique and entertaining protagonist. She makes some pretty dodgy decisions (don't we all?), but you never really stop cheering for her. I felt like I was Aunt Vinnie throughout the entire novel, because I really wanted Frankie to succeed, but sometimes I wanted to yell at her as well. I think this was largely down to Plozza's writing - because above everything else, Frankie was hilarious. I actually laughed out loud at a lot of her comments, making her a much more sympathetic and relatable character.

The characterisation in this novel was its true strength (I swear I actually knew Cara in school). The romance never felt forced because I got to know the characters separately first, and saw them gradually develop feelings for each other (no insta-love, hurrah). Perhaps the only thing I did not love about this novel was its pacing. Frankie is attempting to solve a mystery of sorts throughout the novel, and we do not reach a resolution until right at the end. I would have liked to explore the aftermath of this discovery for just a little longer.

Overall, this is a stunning standalone novel with an interesting protagonist and brilliant characterisation. I would recommend this novel to anyone who wants a story about realistic Australian characters, or just feels like reading something honest and raw. I look forward to reading many more novels from Plozza!

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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

"The Rose Society" (The Young Elites #2) by Marie Lu

The Rose Society (The Young Elites, #2)The Rose Society by Marie Lu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been staring at the screen for about five minutes trying to think of how to word this review. I was completely awestruck by The Rose Society.

To say The Rose Society was dark would be an understatement of ridiculous proportions. This goes beyond the usual mild-moderate level of angst you found in the average YA novel - and I loved every minute of it. Have you ever been reading a book and thought, "Hey, the villain in this story must have an interesting story, I'd love to hear it from their perspective"? Maybe I'm the only one. But if you have as well, then The Rose Society is the book for you.

Adelina is the best kind of evil - the kind that I could still empathise with. I am a huge fan of morally ambiguous characters, because nothing in the real world is as "black and white" as how a lot of novels portray good and evil. In The Young Elites, Adelina is more of a sympathetic character; one that makes some bad choices, but not because she is a bad person. In, The Rose Society, Adelina becomes truly morally ambiguous, by deliberately making choices in the sole interest of increasing her own power - and somehow, I still empathised with her.

Lu's addition of Adelina's "whispers" really made me ponder about power dynamics. At what point does our power start to control us? Throughout the novel, Adelina's mental state deteriorates steadily. She has hallucinations, and little ghosts whisper to her and tell her to kill things, seize power, and generally wreak havoc. Adelina gradually loses control over her power, but the idea of not having it is too terrible to bear. Adelina is a wonderfully complex and interesting, if not exactly likable protagonist. An Erin Morgenstern quote kept popping into my head while reading - "Is not the dragon the hero of his own story?"

Besides Adelina, there were several characters I thoroughly enjoyed reading about. Magiano's alignment to joy makes me hopeful for Adelina's redemption (although, in many ways, I would love for her to go out guns blazing)! Magiano was a light, fluffy character in the midst of a lot of dark, heavy characters, so I thoroughly enjoyed his scenes. Despite his role as The Big Bad, Teren was self-hating and deluded to the point of sympathy. Reading the story from his perspective was jarring to say the least. Raffaelle continued to draw me in - the idea that in a world of elites with power over fire and death, that playing with someone's emotions could be just as deadly was intriguing. Though he definitely was not in the story enough.

Overall, The Rose Society was a haunting depiction of power and its ability to warp us, with an intriguing protagonist and an interesting premise. It was even better than the first novel in the series, I cannot wait to see how Adelina's story ends.

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Monday, 23 November 2015

New Book Spotlight!

Frankie by Shivaun Plozza

Last night I attended Penguin Teen Australia Live to hear all about Penguin's upcoming YA releases. Needless to say, I fangirled extremely hard. Besides hearing about all the amazing books coming in the next year, I also got my hands on Champion by Marie Lu (which I've been hunting for months) and an ARC of Frankie by Shivaun Plozza. I am unreasonably excited to read Frankie, check it out:

"Frankie Vega is angry. Just ask the guy whose nose she broke. Or the cop investigating the burglary she witnessed, or her cheating ex-boyfriend or her aunt who's tired of giving second chances...

When a kid shows up claiming to be Frankie's half brother, it opens the door to a past she doesn't want to remember. And when that kid goes missing, the only person willing to help is a boy with stupidly blue eyes … and secrets of his own.Frankie's search for the truth might change her life, or cost her everything."

Frankie is written by an Australian author, which is all kinds of exciting for me as an Australian reader. YA is definitely dominated by the Americans, which is fine, but sometimes it's nice to read a contemporary novel set in a town you have actually visited (or even heard of!) 

I'll share my review as soon as I've finished it, but if you like the look of Frankie, it hits shelves 23 March 2016 (also, Melina Marchetta recommends it on the cover - what else do you need to hear?!)

-Grace Lucy

"Fairest" (The Lunar Chronicles #3.5) by Marissa Meyer

Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles, #3.5)Fairest by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I will admit it - I am a huge fan of Queen Levana. In the way one is a huge fan of Lord Voldemort or Scar because they just make for such entertaining fiction. Levana was a fascinating character in the first three books of this series, and that was before we knew too much about her. Reading her backstory is truly illuminating.

Fairest reveals a lot about Levana to us: why she hates mirrors so much, how Queen Channary was not the beloved monarch we were led to believe, and why she keeps Winter around even though she clearly dislikes her. We begin to understand her history, her motivations and her desires.

In fact... part of me feels bad for the evil Queen. She did a lot of terrible things, don't get me wrong, but those terrible things almost come from a good place... in a roundabout way.

Overall, this book is a brilliant bridge to Winter. It teaches us more about the villain of The Lunar Chronicles, making us uniquely equipped to understand the possible direction and end of the series... Though part of me still wishes Levana was redeemable!

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Sunday, 22 November 2015

"The Iron King" (The Iron Fey #1) by Julie Kagawa

The Iron King (The Iron Fey, #1)The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Iron King was more of a 3.5 star rating. It was a solid read, but not one of my favourites and it certainly had some flaws.

Kagawa had some exceptional world building in this novel. She clearly put a lot of research into the fey mythology, to the book's benefit. As a huge fan of A Midsummer Night's Dream, I really loved that Oberon, Titania, and particularly Puck were featured. The writing was sometimes a little slow, but not so much that I lost interest.

A downside to this world building, however, was that there were almost too many different species of fey. It was hard to keep track of them all! And I don't mind a lot of species and characters, as long as they all have a clear purpose - but a lot of them didn't. A lot of them were thrown in to make Meghan's day more difficult and nothing else (think the goblins, redcaps, and gremlins).

Having said this, I think the concept of iron fey was truly unique. The existence of these iron fey really got me thinking about technology, and how we sometimes advance it at the expense of nature. I loved that it was thought-provoking and touched on these larger issues without being preachy.

The romance aspect of this book was, unsurprisingly, very disappointing. Ash did nothing to make me like him besides being attractive. He's a fairly typical brooding bad guy - very cookie cutter, with no unique twist. Puck, on the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed! He was true to his Shakespearean inspiration - the ultimate trickster - but was intensely loyal to Meghan throughout the novel. I personally hope Meghan will end up with him, but I am almost positive she will choose Ash (because, don't they always?)

Ash and Puck weren't even my favourite characters - I am obsessed with Grimalkin. Maybe I'm just a crazy cat lady, but the idea of a talking cat is heavenly - and Grimalkin was thoroughly entertaining. Whenever I found myself losing interest in this book, it was because Grimalkin wasn't around! Grimalkin for President (and the packrats for senate).

Overall, this was an entertaining read, with great world-building and some interesting characters (though the romance was flat). I would especially recommend this novel to anyone who loves fey mythology or A Midsummer Night's Dream, because Kagawa is very true to the lore.

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Saturday, 21 November 2015

"Everbound" (Everneath #2) by Brodi Ashton

Everbound (Everneath, #2)Everbound by Brodi Ashton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(I've left the major spoilers out of this one - follow this link if you want to read the full review, spoilers and all!)

Brodi Ashton, you have done it again! Everbound was just as addictive and hard to put down as Everneath, but the ending was a million times more satisfying!

A short synopsis, to get you in the mood: The Tunnels, a pretty scary place that is somewhat analogous to hell, has taken Jack after he sacrificed himself to save Nikki. Nikki cannot forgive herself for letting Jack take her place, and so she turns to Cole in her efforts to save him. They trek through the Everneath to find him, facing various obstacles along the way.

Ashton's writing continued to grip me in Everbound. The prose flowed so well I barely noticed I was reading. You know how some books require a concerted effort to keep reading? And you are super aware that you are reading? Everbound was definitely not one of them. However, the writing was not simplistic to the point of boredom. It struck a perfect balance between simplicity and complexity - something that very few authors get that right.

I enjoyed Everbound's central story line a lot more than Everneath's. I have a mild (okay, strong) feeling that it was mostly because Jack was barely in this novel. Cole, for all his flaws, is just the more interesting and entertaining character to read about. Jack is one of those dull-as-dishwater lover-boys that is meant to look amazing compared to the evil guy. I barrack for the good guy in a lot of romances, but only if his character is three dimensional (spoiler alert: Jack is not). Besides the Jack factor, I thought the Everneath was a wonderfully constructed world. I did not question its 'realness' for even a second.

Even the secondary characters in this novel were better than those in Everneath! I was crushed (view spoiler). Regardless, I cannot wait to learn more about Ashe, Adonia and even Max going forward. I am especially excited to understand the Queen and her motives in Evertrue!

The ending to Everbound was equal parts soul crushing and extremely satisfying! In those last few pages, right before the true ending is revealed, I started thinking that everything was a little too happy. I prayed that something more dramatic would happen - and Ashton answered my prayers, hallelujah! And, even after all of that, I could forgive Cole all his evils, if only he hadn't (view spoiler)

Overall, this was a gripping read from start to finish, with a well-imagined world and interesting characters (besides Jack). Even better than Everneath!

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Friday, 20 November 2015

"Legend" (Legend #1) by Marie Lu

Legend (Legend, #1)Legend by Marie Lu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've listed this as 3 stars, but I would say it is actually closer to 3.5 stars. Legend was a really quick read (even by my own speedy standards), and had some really good points. I just found it was lacking that je ne sais quoi that makes a book amazing.

Synopsis: Day is a criminal who lives on the streets. June is a military student who gets perfect scores in every test she takes. When June's brother dies, she is sure that Day is responsible, and dedicates her life to hunting him down.

Okay, so I should say that I read The Young Elites before this, so I had already fallen in love with Lu's writing style. Having said that, I definitely think the writing in Legend is nowhere near as beautiful. It's a smooth read but it lacks the lyrical quality I loved in The Young Elites.

I thought that having the Les Misérables homage would be enough to sell me on the story line, but it really was not. I found a lot of what happened really obvious. I hate books where I can tell what's coming from a mile away. I really would have preferred if Day had killed Metias, because at least that would have been interesting. It's a good overall story line, with some great bits thrown in (the truth about June's parents; that Day got a perfect trial score), but there is nothing unique about it. I am sorely hoping this changes as the series progresses.

I did enjoy the political aspects of this book. YA books usually present their corrupt governments as universally hated (even if nobody can do anything about it). But most of the time, corruption is a lot more subtle than that. I think Lu portrayed this well - June spends a majority of this book believing in the righteousness of the Republic, and as a hard time believing they did anything wrong at first. This makes so much more sense, because June grew up being told the government was great - she would not have realistically abandoned them over one rumour. Lu also left me wanting to know more about the government - why are they making the plagues? What's with the new mutation? What's with the Elector Primo? - which always keeps me hooked in a series.

Another series with a lackluster romance. If you have read any of my reviews before, you will know that one of my biggest pet peeves is forced romance. Day and June knew each other for about 3 days and I am supposed to believe they are in love? I was almost okay with the romance until the last few pages. They share a kiss early in the book and clearly like each other from a friendly perspective - this was more of a flirtation than an oh-my-god-I'm-in-love-with-you kind of thing. But at the end of the book, they are together romantically? Can YA authors please give some time for love to develop instead of forcing it?!

Overall, this was an easy read and worthwhile for fans of the dystopian genre. A solid world and standard plot, but the romance is a little forced.

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Thursday, 19 November 2015

"The Winner's Curse" (The Winner's Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy, #1)The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Mild Spoilers)


This book is a headscratcher - and not in a "trying to solve a mystery" way - in a "I can't tell if I liked it or not" way.

"The Winner's Curse" was incredibly easy to read - it flowed well and the language was simple (but pretty). So, I managed to finish this book in less than two days. If you are looking for something short and sweet to read, I recommend this book!

The start of this novel troubled me. I felt that there was absolutely no introduction into Kestrel's world. We have only a few pages until the love interest is introduced and I felt that the author forced the romance way too early in the novel. I understand that whole "instant connection" thing, but surely Arin should have been a little less inclined to break bread with his enemy?

Near the end of the book however, once you suspend your disbelief about the circumstances surrounding their introduction/blossoming relationship, Kestrel and Arin grew on me. Though this brings me to another problem (and one that a lot of novels with romance as a main theme have)... Don't get the couple together, only to break them up and then physically separate them. If "The Winner's Crime" has Kestrel and Arin separated (geographically, I mean), I am going to find it very hard to cheer for them. In order for me to want them to get back together, I have to have enjoyed their relationship when they were together...

The political undertones of this book were it's saving grace. I enjoyed the reversal of power between the Valorian and Herrani people; it definitely allowed for commentary on revolutions and imperialism. I loved that women were encouraged to join the military as much as they were encouraged to marry! And Arin's leadership skills were pretty great (even if his leadership was obtained in a somewhat implausible fashion).

Overall, I think this novel had strong themes and characters, but that Rutkoski forced relationships and situations. She wanted a situation to occur so she just kind of made it happen... Without a second thought to the plausibility of such an event (think Kestrel and Arin's romance, Kestrel's engagement, Arin becoming the Herrani leader). The second novel will ultimately determine how I judge this series.

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Wednesday, 18 November 2015

"My Heart and Other Black Holes" by Jasmine Warga

My Heart and Other Black HolesMy Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


My Heart and Other Black Holes was a well-written book with an important message. I would not say that I enjoyed this book per se, but I am glad I read it - it was a delicate portrayal of the pain that is depression.

Our book starts with Aysel explaining that she is going to kill herself. She even goes online and finds herself a suicide partner to help her through. Enter Roman - a teenager around her age that seems to have it all: popularity, money, and a supportive family. But, underneath all that, Roman has depression stemming from a traumatic event in his past.

Aysel was an engaging protagonist because she was so different to others in the young adult genre. There is a big focus on the "strong female" protagonist in YA - which I love, most of the time. Those females who take their harrowing life experiences and become hardened warriors in one way or another... Aysel felt more real to me. Depression is an incredibly common condition in our world, and yet so few of our YA protagonists suffer from it.

I also loved that Aysel was a scientist, like myself. Again, it seems exceptionally common that YA ladies are artistic in some way, so it was great to see a scientist as a main character.

I loved the juxtaposition of Aysel and Roman. Aysel was a loner, outcast and nerd - she came from a broken home and felt like an imposition on her Mum and her new family. Roman was a popular kid, jock and all-around loved guy - his parents are invested in him getting better and their love is evident throughout the novel. I thought this was especially important considering the stigma surrounding depression. So many people think that depression is only "real" if it affects people with lives they perceive as "bad". Showing both Aysel and Roman's stories showed that anyone can be affected by this mental illness.

So, you're probably reading this review and thinking - "why didn't she give the book 5 stars, since everything she's written sounds so positive?" Well, I'd have to say, the ending ruined this book for me. Aysel acts as though loving Roman has cured her or something - how ridculous! Sure, having loved ones is helpful to people with depression, but it is definitely not a cure. I had hoped that this book would avoid Aysel and Roman falling in love altogether - the whole "insta-love" and "love conquers all" angle is a bit overdone.

Overall though, I highly recommend this book. Be warned - there is not much happiness in this novel (though, it may be slightly triggering if you have depression yourself.)

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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

"Poison Study" (Study #1) by Maria V. Snyder

Poison Study (Study, #1)Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Poison Study was one of those rare books that perfectly combined fantasy, adventure, mystery, action and romance. Not once did I groan at how predictable the plot was, or at how unbelievable the relationships were - two things I am finding far too common in YA these days. I'm still in (an elated) shock!

Synopsis: Yelena has been imprisoned for over a year, and on the day of her execution she is offered an opportunity - become the Commander's food taster, or accept her death. She chooses to become the food taster, of course, and thus begins her new life studying poisons. But Yelena has enemies, and in her new environment, she must always be on her guard...

Poison Study drew me into a well-written, well-imagined world. Snyder included just the right amount of information on Ixia and Sitia - I did not once question the reality of this world. This is hard to find in fantasy novels, which sometimes expect us to suspend a little too much disbelief. The characters were all well-rounded and purposeful; none of them felt like obvious plot devices.

The central story line of Poison Study was complex enough to be creative and unique, without becoming bogged down in unnecessary detail. The Commander's story was especially intriguing and unexpected - though the ending to his aspect of the story enraged me, to say the least. Snyder also perfectly set up the important characters for the next novel. Even though each character has a different and divergent path, I am excited to learn what will happen to them next (am I the only one shipping Janco and Ari?!)

The level of romance in this novel was perfect. YA novels these days seem to force romantic relationships where they are not necessarily warranted. Even worse is when two characters are introduced to each other in one chapter, and are declaring their undying love for one another in the next chapter! Yelena and Valek began their relationship with a mutual respect, followed by begrudging friendship, and finally, after pages and pages of beautiful character development, things turn romantic. Yes! Finally, a romance that does not feel forced, or unrealistic!

Overall, this book was a well-written and imaginative story, with compelling characters and a believable world. I especially recommend this book to people who are looking for a YA fantasy novel with a believable romance subplot!

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Monday, 16 November 2015

"Everneath" (Everneath #1) by Brodi Ashton

Everneath (Everneath, #1)Everneath by Brodi Ashton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Mild Spoilers)

Everneath was one of those beautifully addictive books that you just cannot put down! I had a lot of homework I was supposed to be finishing when I started reading this... I definitely do not recommend reading this book if you have general life commitments. Even stopping to get a glass of water seemed difficult!

Brief synopsis: Nikki Beckett returns to her home in Park City, Utah, after spending a century (six months in Earth time) in the Everneath - an underworld-like place where immortals feed on the emotions of humans. She has only six months on Earth to spend with her family, friends and ex-boyfriend before the Everneath sucks her back under. Oh, and she is most definitely still pining after her ex...

This book was a beautiful modern day retelling of different myths. Hades/Persephone and Orpheus/Eurydice are the two major ones. I personally love anything with a mythology layer, say that was what convinced me to read this novel. I think Ashton perfectly weaved aspects of the mythology with unique elements. As much as we love those mythology stories, if the modern day retelling has nothing unique about it, it feels pointless. This definitely had a good combination of both.

Ashton's writing style was immediately appealing. It had that wonderfully "easy" quality to it - I never had to reread portions because I had lost attention midway through a sentence. The supporting characters were intriguing enough to keep me interested even when I got a little blase about the main story line (Mary and Will were probably my two favourites)!

I am still not sure whether this book was necessarily a love triangle. I thought it would be, but there was almost never any true interest in Cole from Nikki's perspective. This was refreshing, considering the love triangle is such an obvious staple in the YA genre. Having said this, I do have a feeling that the next novel will heavily center on Nikki and Cole's relationship (whether romantic or not).

So, what stopped me from giving this 5 stars? The love story between Nikki and Jack just did not work for me. I cannot even pinpoint exactly what about them I did not fall in love with! It seemed that from the first page we knew that Nikki and Jack were desperately in love and being kept apart by some sense of betrayal on both sides. For me, the only time a love triangle really works is when we genuinely cannot tell who the protagonist is going to choose. In this novel, it was blatantly obvious the whole time that Jack would win out against Cole.

Overall, I found this book to be a beautiful combination of traditional and fresh mythology ideas. It was insanely addictive, and well-written! Not recommended for those of you who don't love romance to be center stage in a novel.

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Sunday, 15 November 2015

"The Jewel" (The Lone City #1) by Amy Ewing

The Jewel (The Lone City, #1)The Jewel by Amy Ewing
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was a real letdown. It's really 2.5 stars, but I've given it 3 stars because I am feeling generous.

So, Violet has special skills (read: magic) that make her the ideal surrogate for rich women, who for some reason cannot have children of their own.

Firstly, The Jewel was incredibly slow moving (and I mean incredibly). I feel like nothing even happened for the first two thirds of this book. Like, nothing. Sure, we get the cursory description of the world, the social structure and the surrogacy system... but I feel like the information we are given about the world is unfinished, that I ended up with more questions by the time Ewing was done explaining things. Like why can't the royalty have babies? Also, how do they implant their eggs into surrogates if all the royalty are sterilised? And why/how do the Auguries exist? And those are just the unanswered questions I remembered while writing this review.

The romance was pitched as one of the central "points" of this book, and yet we do not meet Ash until ~200 pages into the book. They fall in love ridiculously quickly, which felt forced and unrealistic. I really liked the character Ash, seeing as the idea of the companions was an interesting side to this book. I enjoy novels that approach the idea of sex work in a semi-positive fashion, since it's such a stigmatised topic in real life.

So why did I give it 3 stars if I saw all these negatives? One thing that redeemed this novel for me was Ewing's writing style. I enjoyed her prose, and reading The Jewel was relatively easy because of this. I do not think I could have sat through the earlier parts of the novel if the writing was sub-par. Kudos, Ewing! I also liked some of the secondary characters, as they seemed to have a little more personality than Violet - Annabelle, Raven, Lucien and Garnet come to mind. The ending kept me intrigued enough to read the next book as well - I rate a good ending highly, especially in the first novel of a series.

Overall, this book was slow-moving with a romance that felt forced, and a bunch of unanswered questions (and not the good cliffhanger-y kind). Ewing's quality writing style and some of the secondary characters made the novel worth a read.

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Saturday, 14 November 2015

"The Young Elites" (The Young Elites #1) by Marie Lu

The Young Elites (The Young Elites, #1)The Young Elites by Marie Lu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(mild spoilers)

The Young Elites is a different book in a lot of senses. Honestly, most of the time I was reading it I was thinking "this is, like, 3 stars max", but as the book progressed it improved to a solid 4 stars. Here's why!

Adelina is a brilliantly flawed protagonist. You pity, fear, adore, hate, and respect her all at once. She has <1% of a good experience throughout the entire book, haha! But watching her internal struggles and development throughout the story is intriguing. I would not say that I love or even relate strongly to Adelina, but I appreciated the chance to get to know a protagonist that's a little different to usual.

Raffaelle almost single-handedly pulled this book up to 4 stars for me. I loved that from the very start of the novel he was presented as a friend, and a relatively mild and non-threatening one at that... He seemed to have a fairly boring power compared to the others... And then we realise there's more to him than meets the eye. I am very excited to see how his story progresses going forward.

Finally, both the shock death in the ending and the epilogue cinched my love for this series. I love an author that is not afraid to kill of beloved characters because it creates such angst - and great motivation for the remaining characters! The epilogue, Maeve and Baldain in general all made me hunger for the next book (also - potential for a main character to be queer? YES! And a society that passes royal titles down to the women by default? YES YES YES!).

Overall, I found this book a little hard to get into to begin with, but I am definitely glad I stuck with it. A worthy read with complex characters and an intriguing world.

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Friday, 13 November 2015

"Shadow and Bone" (Grisha Trilogy #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think we always enter a new story world with pre-conceived notions and ideas regarding what it will be about. This book was one of those amazing ones that told a story I was not expecting to hear. The front of my edition has a quote from Veronica Roth: "Unlike anything I've ever read." And I think that's the best way to describe this book.

Quick synopsis: Alina is a small-time officer in the Army when she is told her unit will enter the Unsea, the field of darkness that sweeps through Ravka. When she enters the fold, she reveals a secret power in herself that gets her noticed by the most powerful Grisha of all: The Darkling.

To me, Shadow and Bone was the perfect mix of fantasy, romance and adventure. Not too much of any one of those, but enough to keep me interested. I think the key to a good high fantasy novel is that we do not question the existence of such a world. Good writing with a concentration on continuity achieves this feat, and Bardugo certainly did.

On the romance front, I feel a little ashamed at how much I loved The Darkling. Even knowing his true intentions, I still want redemption for him! And if not, at least a great sex scene with Alina. I know, I am a fool! So yeah, I really want him and Alina together. Which is bad. Since he's super evil and literally plotting world domination. Which brings me to my next point...

I just was not feeling Mal. I know they will end up together, but honestly, Mal was such a lukewarm character. He was the reason I cannot give this book 5 stars. It happens - sometimes, even if a book is great, we just do not connect with a particular character. I have a feeling it's because Mal is missing for most of the book, whereas The Darkling is somewhat omnipresent. Regardless, Mal is boring (sorry everyone).

I loved The Palace, and everything to do with the other Grisha. I especially hope we see more of Genya and Baghra! I have a feeling that they both may be critical to the outcome of this story. Bardugo certainly plants seeds about a lot of characters and events that will most likely become important at a later date. Way to keep me hooked, Bardugo!

I felt very unsure about the ending. I just really hope that Siege and Storm brings Alina and Mal back to Ravka, so they can actually fight The Darkling.

Overall, this book had amazing world-building and a unique story line. I have great hopes for the second book!

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