How do you Review a Classic? – Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

“I will be calm. I will be mistress of myself.”

Sense and Sensibility

Elinor is sensible, she knows how best to act in society and plays the affairs of her heart very close to her chest. Marianne is a hopeless romantic, swept up by the handsome Willoughby before she can truly assess what she is doing. Both sisters feel the ups and downs of love as they are presented with the complicated ways of courtship, and are surprised when their different approaches to life and love land them in very similar situations…

Can you really spoil a 200 year old book…? But just in case, spoilers.

I always try to read a classic at least (at the very least) once a year. But when it comes to reviewing them I always find it really hard. This book in particular has been around since 1811, that’s 207 years. Whatever can be said about the book has already been said, and I always think there must be a reason this book is still standing the test of time. Thankfully with most Jane Austen novels I have read this generally is true, Pride and Prejudice still holds fast as my favourite classic of all time. But not all of them are as good as their reputation, and I think accepting that fact is something everyone must do. Just because that book is revered as a classic by almost every literary critic, it doesn’t mean it will appeal to your particular tastes. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot, The Major of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, and Villette by Charlottle Bronte are books that I just could not make it through without a struggle. I thought that this is what was going to happen with Sense and Sensibility, but thankfully I was wrong.

I started this book all the way back in October 2017, and simply put it down in favour of something more exciting, and because I found the opening far too slow. It’s been a while since I read a classic like this and I had forgotten how it can often take a while for the story to progress. But I forced myself to pick it back up after binge watching North and South (2004), this had put me in a period drama mood, which definitely helped when reading Sense and Sensibility. I thoroughly enjoyed reading more Austen, and the story picked up later as the focused shifted more from Marianne and Willoughby to Elinor and Edward. Even though Marianne is supposed to be the more romantic heroine, the sensibility to Elinor’s sense, I enjoyed reading about Elinor so much more which helped me complete the novel.

Elinor was just a heroine that appealed to me more, she was quiet about her feelings and never let them influence other people or become an issue. She was deeply observant and caring, and I just felt like I could relate to her quiet steadfastness more so than Marianne’s dramatic personality. I wonder how I would’ve felt if I was still a teenager when I first read this novel, but we shall never know. I certainly enjoyed the sisterly relationship the most in the book, I was glad when the middle portion of the novel seemed to focus more on their relationship and the complexities of it with their seemingly clashing personalities; this could be because of my own close relationships with my sisters. This is where the book really shone for me, the romance didn’t hold a candle to that of Pride and Prejudice. Colonel Brandon and Marianne didn’t interact enough after the Willoughby situation for me to care whether or not their got together. I cared slightly more for Elinor and Edward, but I wish they had more interactions between her learning about Lucy and their happily ever after. I was more intrigued to read about Elinor and Marianne gaining a better perspective on each other and realising they weren’t as different as they both believed; the defensiveness they both held over each other was very realistic to me and a high point in the novel.

However, despite how much I loved this book I couldn’t quite give it 5 stars, one reason was definitely the slow start, but the other was the rushed ending. Austen seemed eager to tie everything up with a nice neat bow and it didn’t fit with the rest of the narrative. Now, I loved the character of Colonel Brandon, he was a great character and his friendship with Elinor included some of my favourite moments, and yet I don’t think that Austen should’ve married him to Marianne in the end. If they had more interaction I could probably see the appeal of their union, but it felt like a way to make sure that all her characters got the “happy” ending. I’ve heard the theory of Marianne being punished for her open heart by marrying him, but I didn’t get that vibe, I just think it would’ve worked better if it had been hinted they both found someone else. Marianne was not interested throughout the whole book and then suddenly she was; in short I wanted more proof that she wasn’t settling for someone safe after the heartbreak she suffered early on in the book. It was rushed, and there’s not much worse than a rushed ending. Even if it was one I was anticipating from the very start.

I’m very glad I got back to reading this novel and finally convinced myself to read it. I own a beautiful copy and it was just a perfect read for the mood I was in at that time. Although definitely not Austen’s strongest, I can see why people love it so much and would definitely say (now I’ve read 4 of Austen’s books) that it is one of the ones I would rate most highly.

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Top 10 Tuesday – Books I’d Slay a Lion to Get Early

I seem to have said I was going to do this… but deadlines have swamped me over the past few months and I haven’t had the chance. It’s typical that I’d try again on such a hard topic. I don’t really wait for releases, I normal build up my TBR from books that are already out; things that I have been planning to get to forever. But now I’m attempting to be a part of the publishing industry keeping up with up-and-coming releases is something that seems key, keeping an eye on things that people are most hyped about. It’s hard, especially when your Goodreads TBR is 84 books are growing.
So I’m just going to list the ones that I can think of, I definitely know there won’t be ten, but if you guys have a recommendation to add to my list, let me know!
(Top 10 Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl)

Foyles

Foyles book shop (London) The amount of of books I actually want to read…

1. Vengeful by V.E. Schwab 

After reading Vicious I’m dying to read this. Not only because I love Schwab’s books, but because I don’t know how she is going to continue it… It could have easily stayed as a standalone novel, however I know that she will have come up with something amazing, otherwise she wouldn’t have written (something that I really admire).

2. The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue by V.E. Schwab 

Okay so it’s another Schwab, surprise, surprise, yet the basic outline of this book we’ve been given makes it sound so intriguing. A love story involving the devil and a girl who sells her soul, but who is damned to be forgotten by everyone she meets. Give me it now it sounds so compelling and unique.

3. Reaper at the Gate by Sabaa Tahir 

The first two novels are a recent read for me, and the ending of the second one was left on such a cliffhanger that I want more because I need to know what happens. These books are a good, thoroughly enjoyable tale about a fantasy world based around Ancient Rome and as I am trying to diversify the type of fantasy I read these definitely hit the mark for me.

4. Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

I have literally just learnt that this book exists while writing this post?? Although it technically out I will say I’m waiting for the paperback release. I adored Seraphina, it is one of my favourite books, so I am delighted to hear that there is another book taking place in the same world but following what sounds like a kickass character.

5. The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J. Harris 

I actually have an arc of this novel (thank you London Book Fair and HarperCollins) but it doesn’t technically come out till May. It’s about a boy with Synaesthesia who witnesses a murder, but of course because of his condition it isn’t quite as simple as it should be. As I’m trying to diversify my reading this was the perfect book to pick up. A murder mystery with a unique twist. I can’t wait to start it.

The Pressure of Reading: Are We Made to Feel Like We Aren’t Reading the Right Kind of Books?

Lately I’ve been thinking about expectations that can be placed on us as readers.

I recently went into a bookshop to spend a voucher that I had been clinging to for a few months until I needed a little book shaped pick-me-up. And yet… while I was walking around looking for something to pick up or books that I had been meaning to read for a long time but never got around to, I felt like I should’ve been looking to buy other books.

If it isn’t clear from my reviewing history, I like Fantasy, I like Sci-Fi, I like Young Adult novels, and stories that sweep you away and take you to another world. Books for me are an escape from here, so it’s quite rare when I read a book that is contemporary. I enjoy the type of books I read, I like adventure and worlds where anything can happen, yet this time, in the book shop, I felt like I wasn’t reading books that I should’ve been; books that are comments on society, something more like literary fiction.

I have read books like this before, literary fiction and the like, that I have seriously enjoyed. I’m better with classics actually, Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite novels, as is Frankenstein. But I feel this pressure to read more, and stretch the boundary of what I’m reading. I spent an hour in this shop debating with myself whether or not to read the recent winner of the latest literary prize, or the Science Fiction novel that has been in the corner of my eye for the past year. Should I read that book that everyone seems to have read but just doesn’t appeal to me or the fairy tale like story that I know I will enjoy? These seem like easy answers, why would you read something you don’t want to, its stupid right to waste your money on something you’re not totally invested in. But I could not shake this feeling.

I read a lot. I am a reader. Yet because I’m not reading these no doubt fantastic literary novels, I felt like a fake. A poser, if you will. I don’t know why I sudden felt like this, maybe it has something to do with the fact that my whole Twitter feed is full of publishing people as I am determined to continue my journey into that industry and seeing what they are up to and what they are raving about is important to understand where the next step might be for the industry. I understand why it’s important to read broadly, I’m not denying that people should do that, but I eventually came to the conclusion that just because I am not reading these books doesn’t mean that I’m a fake, or missing out, or not as good as anyone else.

As long as you are reading, and loving what you read, you are a reader. Other peoples’ choices and preferences shouldn’t shape the way you feel about the things you love.

I feel like I need to remind myself that the books I am reading are of value too, Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels often have deeper messages in them, they are often a comment about something in our current society that needs to be spoken about. They are just veiled in a different cloak. And recently, especially within Fantasy and YA Fantasy, I have managed to find loads of diverse and wonderful books that are totally different from ones I have read before.

At the end of my trip I managed to talk myself out of my stupidity and I left with three hopefully fantastic books that I have been wanting to read for a while. Each of which has a different and exciting hook that I’m eager to experience. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi is a high fantasy novel that would’ve caught my eye anyway, yet it’s pull from African culture makes it unlike anything else I’ve read. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden is a book I’ve heard many things about, but the story sounds beautiful and I don’t think I’ve read much centred around Russia. And finally Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel just sounds like the fast paced Sci-Fi novel I’ve been craving, told in interviews rather than regular prose.  

Newpile28-04What I’m wondering is, has anyone else felt this way? That they are not reading the books it seems like they should?

And if you have, stop. It’s a hole I was digging bigger and deeper the more I thought about until I realised that it was a silly train of thought anyway. The variety of books these days is amazing, you can read from whatever genre about whatever you like and almost all of it is worthy content. Just because it always seems to be deep literary fiction that it acclaimed by so many people and award bodies, doesn’t mean that other books and genres aren’t also saying deep, meaningful and important things.

So I’m not going to force myself to read books that I don’t want to just because I feel like I should. I will read from other genres when a book catches my eye or someone makes a glowing recommendation, but reading is supposed to be enjoyable, we should read what we like and be proud of our tastes no matter what they are.

The important thing is you enjoy reading, so we should keep it that way.

Reworking the Legends We Know – The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

“It was the smile she’d given the basha, the smile she’d given to hundreds of arrogant men throughout the years just before she swindled them for all they were worth.
Nahri always smiled at her marks.” 

Nahri is a con woman, navigating the streets of 18th century Cairo, while ignoring her weird healing abilities and how she can sense illness in those around her. But while pretending to perform a ritual to heal a soon to be married girl, she accidentally summons Dara, a djinn warrior who claims she one of them.
Djinn are nothing like the stories she’s been told, and as she runs for her life from the beings that are hunting her, Nahri learns that maybe the stories were telling a nicer tale than reality. The only place they can run is Daevabad, Nahri’s ancestral home where Dara believes they’ll be safe – or safer.
Yet relationships between the six djinn tribes in Daevabad are strained, and tensions are building to a climax as a long forgotten war threatens to return. Nahri’s is more important than she ever thought, and even her abilities to heal may not be able to save her this time.

Minor Spoilers below. But only small ones I swear. 

How amazing are free books? I’ve never had more of an opportunity to get them than now during my Publishing MSc, purely because I’m going to events I never even thought existed before. My favourite free book so far has definitely been The City of Brass I was lucky enough to go to London Book Fair this year (and no it’s not just a place for free books, it’s actually a highly interesting publishers event filled with talks, and stalls, and amazing book related things). HarperVoyager were being lovely and giving away free books, and one of which was The City of Brass, a book I had heard so many BookTubers talk about that I had already added it to me TBR. Thankfully I managed to snag the last beautiful copy, and jumped straight in when I returned from London.

And reader, I loved it.

One thing that can either make or break a fantasy book for me is the world building. If you are making a fantasy world, even one such as this which is layered over our own, it needs to be well thought out. There was a heavy focus on this throughout Chakraborty’s novel, every djinn tribe, every power and city was described to within an inch of it’s life. A task I’m sure will have taken a lot of work and I highly appreciate the skill it will have taken to make a world so believable and interlinked. Although I loved the level of world building, it did take me a moment to settle into the onslaught of information we are given at the start; there was just so much to digest in one go that I was pleased when it settled down later on in the book. Yet I am aware that this could of just been the pace I was reading it at, I am known for blasting my way through books and suddenly everything is in my head all at once.

That’s how you’re supposed to read right?

Another thing I loved was the narrators, both Nahri and Ali had strong voices that bounced off each other quite well, I never mistook one for the other; a sign of good characterisation. I loved Nahri instantly, her life as a con woman and thief in 18th century Cairo was instantly compelling – I just wish we had more of this as she seemed to lose a little of herself as the book progressed. This however, has a reason, as she learns of her Daeva heritage and is forced to compile with a world that she doesn’t know or even care about. Her ancestors religion is not hers, not the one she knows and it is clear that she loses some of herself because of this. I only hope that the end of the novel helps shift something in her and she gets a little of the Cairo thief back because I feel like there is so much more to play with there. In comparison with Ali, who I didn’t like at the beginning of the book, he was overly judgemental without a clear sense of loyalty. His development is definitely more positive throughout the book and one I thoroughly enjoyed reading. It was confusing and fun for my opinion on him and Dara to swap so much throughout the book.

When it comes to Dara, I thought he was going to end up the typical brooding love interest with a dark past who gets pulled into the light by our heroine. Thank god that this wasn’t necessarily what happened. Dara having such a huge role in the book but no POV chapters of his own was a fun way to learn about him. The blindness Nahri had for him did get a little irritating near the end, purely because we also got to see him without her through the eyes of Ali. He was much harsher, more dangerous, and arrogant without her around to keep him steady. He is not the romantic hero the first few chapters painted him out to be and I like the change you can see him go through. He’s a character whose next moves I can’t predict.

As far as romance goes, I was not bothered about the one laced through the background of this novel. Aside from the fact Chakraborty turns Nahri and Dara’s on it’s head a little, I can feel a love triangle forming in the background, and I don’t know how I feel about that. Haven’t they been done enough? (Although I totally guessed the other romance hovering around before it was even hinted at, go me).

One thing about the book that proves that this is the first in a series is the fact that nothing really happens once Nahri and Dara get to Daevabad. Tensions slowly simmer in the background between the six djinn tribes, but they only seem to simmer, no dramatic changes are made and you can tell that this is simple setting the stage for a larger more dramatic story in the next instalment. This is maybe why I breezed through it so fast, aside from my love of the world and the history Chakraborty weaves, I was looking for the action that was missing in the middle 200 pages or so. The beginning and the end (the twists, the twists!!) were definitely my favourite parts.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and loved the fact it was set somewhere more diverse and different from almost every other fantasy novel out there. It gave it an edge that helps set it apart from the rest of the genre, as well as the details, the twists, and the characters – all that makes it a must-read.

Story of a Story – The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.”

TNOTW

Tales have been told about Kvothe like legends. He’s burnt down cities and saved countless lives, he was expelled from the most famous university in any land, he can call lightening down from the sky. He’s a magician, a demon-killer, a thief, a legend, and hero. But no one really knows his true story, and the Chronicler wants to hear it.
And that can only come from the man himself. Disguised as the lowly inn-keeper Kote, he’s finally ready to tell his tale.

There’s too much going on in this book, which means, spoilers.

How many times have I been recommend this book? Too many times to tell, but I finally got around to reading it after receiving it for Christmas. From the hype of the ‘best fantasy book ever’ I was expecting big things. I got some of them. That is not to say I didn’t enjoy this book, I really did, the storytelling is masterful and the world-building excellent, but can I admit I thought it was a little over-hyped?

The novel took me a while to get into, although key to his story, I felt like we spent far too much time following Kvothe as a young orphaned thief in crime-filled city. This was a common theme throughout, even though this is the tale of Kvothe’s life, it took me a while to get to a part where I was deeply intrigued by his story. I am not one for bildungsroman type novels usually, but the constant praise made it hard to keep ignoring.

However, I am deeply interested in Kvothe as a character, having him tell the story as well as being observed by an extra omniscient narrator is delightfully complex. You can tell that Kvothe truly believes he is smarter than everyone else, that he deserves, or deserved, all the worship, and yet you know something must’ve gone wrong for him to be in hiding. I don’t read a lot of first person narrators, but this is done very well and you can tell straight away how unreliable he is when telling his tales. He is cocky but doesn’t see it, he is harsh and cold but doesn’t see that either. Kvothe seems a mystery to himself as much as he is to everyone else. I just wish he didn’t focus on such trivial things, I’m a reader who like plot and action and sneaky links to the true motive of the book.

One other thing is that I can’t seem to figure out the motivation of this book. If that makes any sense to anyone but me.

There is such a cast of characters in this book that I love, Kvothe’s parents and the rest of his troupe are so widely entertaining, as are his professors at the university and his friends, and Devi, Fela and Bast. The only character I struggle to connect with is Denna. Maybe this is another flaw in Kvothe’s story, he says she was not perfect yet noting she does is wrong in his eyes; not when she disappears near the end of the book, not the cold way she acts around some people. The only time I really enjoyed her was near the end while she was high, which isn’t what you want from a character really. I’m praying she will get better as their relationship develops and he gets a better handle on her character.

Although I had some issues getting into this book, and I still don’t think it deserves the title of ‘Best Ever Adult Fantasy Book’ (have you read The Final Empire? Like seriously the first book I thought was truly amazing), I will definitely continue reading with A Wise Man’s Fear. I want to know how he gets expelled, I want to know more about what is happening in the present, I want to know more about the Chandrian and the world that is being built, and more about Bast’s motivations because that ending was extremely unexpected.

This book is worth a read, but anyone like me needs to be warned – it takes a moment to get really into it and a few more to digest what is really happening.

I hope Patrick Rothfuss gets that 3rd book written because I am invested.

Baking Time – Double Chocolate Surprise Muffins.

One thing about me that I feel like I haven’t mentioned enough, or at all, it that I love to bake. I have recently been branching out thanks to the Candice Brown Comfort cookbook I received from Christmas. I just want to bake everything in it; I’ve already made a Spanish flavoured savoury tart, Millionaires Shortbread Hearts, Biscotti and a few others.

One thing I’ve never done however, is bake without a recipe. I live by the book while baking aside from a few ingredients changes, but I’ve made buns a million times before, it’s something I grew up doing with my family. So for this basic sponge I didn’t even need to be told what to do, thankfully it all turned out okay. Pretty deliciously okay in fact.

backing2

So what did I do? I knew I wanted to make something chocolatey – I had a craving. So I started with a basic Victoria Sponge mixture. I weighed 3 eggs and added sugar, butter, and self-raising flour to the same value as the eggs. This was something I’d seen my mum do.

Once mixed well together (which took forever because I don’t have an electric mixer, only my poor tired arms), I added a teaspoon of vanilla, two tablespoons of cocoa powder and a tablespoon of milk. I wouldn’t normally include milk but the mixture seemed a little stiff so it was mainly to loosen it.

I then added even more chocolate in the form of half a bar of roughly chopped 70% cocoa dark chocolate that I had got for Christmas. I’m not a big fan of that sort of chocolate alone, but in cakes it’s perfect.

Baking

I scooped 1 tablespoon of mixture into each of the 12 bun cases, because I’d had an idea to take these from basic to a little more exciting. I added a dollop of seedless raspberry jam that I had in the fridge and layered more cake mixture on top to hide it. I have a weakness for chocolate raspberry things, I also add them to the top of my brownies.

They went in at 200 for 20 minutes.

baking3

Of course I had to taste test. And they are lovely, for my first time winging it without a real recipe I’m pretty proud, the raspberry manages to balance that sharpness of the dark chocolate without overpowering or compromising the sponge. I’m not sure they’ll be any left for my flatmates…

This has been a bit of a change from my regular book posts but I do love baking. So while I go enjoy another muffin, I hope you guys enjoyed reading about how I made them :P.
baking4
Love Stephanie.

Starting The Top Ten Tuesday

I’ve been wanting to get more active on my blog, and within the book reviewing community, one way I thought to do it was get in on a blog meme! So I researched and this one certainly sounds like a fun way to start.
(created by The Broke and the Bookish, continued on by That Artsy Reader Girl)

Books That Have Been On My TBR the Longest and I Still Haven’t Read

Want to read

There. Are. So. Many.

  1. The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini – It’s basically classed as a classic by now, I’ve seen so many people say it was apart of their childhood. Just not mine. This series blew past me and it’s been on my Goodreads TBR since I first opened an account. I love dragons and have a feeling I’m missing out. I just haven’t made it to picking it up yet. Will I ever? Who knows.
  2. The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead – I have actually read every other book in this series after getting hooked on the Vampire Academy. I waited for every Bloodlines book to be released with such patience. Maybe my patience just ran out after 5 books and I didn’t rush to get the final one. I’d probably have to do a full series reread before I read this one because I honestly only remember the main plot line. That just seems like a lot of effort when I could be reading new exciting books.
  3.  The Archived by V. E. Schwab – *gasp* I LOVE her books. She is my favourite author and I had this book shelved before I even knew who she was (it’s fate I tell you). Yet even knowing who wrote this series, I still haven’t read them. I want to, these are ones I know I will pick up, but I don’t know when.
  4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – I love sci-fi, yet I’ve never read any classic, beloved novels from the genre. I have this all ready to go on my kindle, I just haven’t. I feel like I would have to seriously been in the mood to read this book and I haven’t yet. Fingers crossed I get there.
  5. Any Virginia Woolf – The people I know love her novels, some just love her. I’ve always felt the need to read at least one of her books, it’s just choosing which one. (Any suggestions?)
  6. The Handmaid’s Tail by Margaret Atwood – The only reason I haven’t read this yet is because I don’t own it. That is easily rectifiable, however other novels always seem to jump ahead.
  7. Grimm’s Fairy Tales – I own a beautiful copy and I’ve read about… 3 of the stories in there. I am ashamed to call myself a fairy tale lover.
  8. Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales – This is a trend.
  9. One Thousand and One Nights – A terrible, terrible trend. Especially when they are this beautiful…
    fairytales
  10. The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman – This is another case of, I read the others but just haven’t got around to picking up the next in the series. I’m starting to realise that I love series but am often terrible at continuing them when I don’t already own them. Unless I’ve been highly anticipating them for ages (Crooked Kingdom, Winter – I could go on).

So these are mine, and now I’ve realised maybe I should move these books up the TBR list and get it over with. What are yours? Do you have any better reasons than my stupid ones for not reading these books?

A Book with Potential – The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

“Once there was a girl who was drawn to wicked things.
Things like forbidden, ancient stories.
It didn’t matter that the old stories killed her mother. It didn’t matter that they’d killed many before her. The girl let the old stories in. She let them in eat away at her heart and turn her wicked.”

TLN

When Asha was a child she told the old forbidden stories to the First Dragon, until he turned on her, burnt her kingdom down and left her scarred for life. Determined to redeem herself in the eyes of her father and her people, Asha has become the Iskari, the fearsome dragon hunter. Yet even though she is one of the most feared people in Firgaard, Asha is still bound in chains, promised to the cruel commandant Jarek who saved her from the dragon’s flame.
There is only one way to free herself and seek revenge, bring back the head of the First Dragon for her father. But something is stopping her at every turn, and with the life of a mysterious slave on the line she must decide what matters the most – her revenge or saving a life. The truth of the world she thought she knew is about to shatter, and Asha must decide if she is ready to let the truth in.

Spoilers below

Sometimes you just need to read a book with dragons in. It doesn’t matter what book it is, as long as it has dragons I’m willing to give it ago. It is one of my many book weaknesses. The Last Namsara is a new release that I hadn’t actually heard about on the internet, I found it in my local Waterstones and quickly added it to my Goodreads (thank goodness for Goodreads because otherwise I’d forget all the amazing books I’m planning to read). They say don’t judge a book by it’s cover, but with this one the beautiful hardback drew me to it instantly – although I did buy it on Kindle in the end.

A part of me thinks that I am slowly growing out of the YA fantasy genre, this book was good, but not awe-inspiring. The plot was almost one we had seem a million times before; tyrant king, suppressed people, rebellion, forbidden love! It fills out all the criteria for a YA fantasy novel. Yet I’m still willing to read any sequels that come along because the world built behind the generic plot was incredibly interesting and well thought out. The fact that stories are a power, that they are what fuel a dragons fire, is such an unusual concept; it could be used and twisted in so many different ways because that is the power of storytelling. Anything can happen.

One of the best things about this book was the way Ciccarelli told the stories. Some of the old forbidden stories were weaved between chapters, and slowly revealed more about this world and it’s history. I particularly like the idea of the old stories being events that actually shaped their world, rather than legends or folklore, it adds a depth I liked. The random placements of the stories worked well for me because it broke up the plot a little; when things were moving too fast the stories slowed it down, where backstory was missing, the stories filled us in on what came before. I also really liked Ciccarelli’s writing style within these little excerpts, she made them sound like fairy tales, secret fairy tales that we weren’t supposed to know.

In comparison the characters were… okay. Asha was a good character to follow, as the conflict within her was very clear. She was harsh, determined, pretty badass and incredibly loyal to those who had earned it. Although she sometimes felt like a background character in her own story. Her brother was plotting a rebellion without including her until the very end, the villains used her like a pawn (or like a tennis ball, whacking her back and forth for their own amusement) but she wasn’t overly involved with them either. Even her love interest seemed to have other things simmering on the back burner that he didn’t really need to include her in. Asha also seemed to do what the Old One asked far too quickly, though she knew there would be consequences to not obeying Him she didn’t put up too much of fight. To me, she should have done if He was her supposed ‘enemy’ at the beginning of this novel, or she needed a more valid reason to follow what He required of her. Maybe it was her true calling and nature shining through, maybe I’m being too critical and it was the speed at which I read book that made the plot seem far too fast in certain places (yes I’m also talking about the romance, maybe I’m just used to love that grows over the series these days rather than within one book; I love some slow-burn romance).

Characters that did really interest me however, were Dax and Roa and their shaky alliance. I hope that in the next book we are given more focus on these two characters and their motivations. Why did Dax go to the people who imprisoned him to help with a rebellion? What pushed him to want to overthrow his father in the first place? Why is Roa the one her people chose to link to the new king, and why did she agree? I do have more questions but hopefully you get the gist. Also Torwin! It is briefly mentioned how he learnt all his skills, but it still felt like we could have been given more; I was expecting him to turn out to be a spy because of how involved he suddenly was with Dax and the Scrublanders. Alas I was wrong, but he was still an interesting, honest character who I’d love to see more development from throughout the series.

Something else that I would love to have more focus on – the dragons! They were some of the more interesting dragons I have read, with their story hoarding, their loyalty to the Old One, and the way they link with their riders. But they were simply tools used in the characters many escapes. I just wanted more focus on the dragons. I love dragons, and these had an intriguing background story to be told.

Whereas the love story got a lot of the “screen time” within the novel. Thankfully even though the characters seemed to fall for each other pretty quick, in the end I felt there was an equal relationship between the two main characters. If not in the world itself, at least between each other, which was a massive growing point for Asha’s character.

This book was a interesting, fast-paced, well-written YA fantasy that is probably one of the better ones I have read recently. But if this book/series is to make a large splash within this overly populated market, it’s going to need to do something truly spectacular in the next book.

We Are Not Superheroes – Vicious by V. E. Schwab

“The absence of pain led to an absence of fear, and the absence of fear led to a disregard for consequence.”

Vicious

Victor Vale is good at pain, he can take it or he can give it, because he’s an EO; an ExtraOrdinary human. When his college roommate and best friend Eli believes he’s uncovered what it takes to make a superhuman, their friendship begins to crack when they decide to test out his theory and turn themselves into EOs.
After 10 years in prison Victor is finally free, and there is only one thing he’s wants to do. Kill Eli. But Eli has a mission of his own, to wipe out every other EO from the world and rid humanity of their stain. Yet Victor is on his tail, determined to use whatever resource he can find to help him bring down Eli “The Hero” Ever, even if that includes 12-year-old EO Sydney Clarke. Superpowers do not necessarily make you a superhero. Sometimes there are only villains.

Spoilers below

Sometimes I’ve found while reading (and while writing) that when the plot is so full of twists and turns, when it’s so detailed and complex, the characters sometimes lose out on development; it’s the same the other way round too. It’s no secret that I love a good V. E. Schwab book; her writing is masterful. The thing I love about Schwab’s writing is that it never falls short on either sides, and thankfully Vicious is no exception. I’ve made it my mission to get through all her works and I’ve not been disappointed yet.

Basically every character in this novel is a terrible person. Eli is hunting and killing innocent people because they are EOs and he believes them to no longer be human after returning from their near death experiences. This of course is layered in hypocritical behaviour, because he is an EO himself. He believes he is the exception, God’s righteous avenger, a hero. His character is so cleverly written because we known he is a horrible person, but Eli just cannot see it. When he relishes his kills, he manages to pull himself away from the idea that he is just as broken as them, using his faith as a shield against these thoughts. The way Schwab writes from his perspective gives you a glimpse into the villain’s perspective that many books do not give you. He has a reason for his actions, and though this reason is terrible and flawed, you understand why he believes it. He thinks he is good, but he never really has been.

Victor is almost the opposite. He has always known there was something dark in him, even before becoming an EO, but he has a softer side that contrasts this. He’s still a terrible person, relishing in the pain of others, but there is something that Schwab had layered beneath that makes you relate to him more than Eli. Maybe its because we are given more of his perspective, maybe its because Victor believes he is the hard-done-by character in his tale that we believe it too. It’s hard to pinpoint what you should feel, which is what makes it so great to read, it’s grey areas are so grey you can’t tell if you’re a horrible person for wanting either of them to succeed or just going along for the ride.

Even the ‘good’ characters in the novel are still a little on the grey side. Sydney wants Victor to hurt Eli – granted he did try to kill her so I think it’s pretty understandable (in a completely fictional sense mind you). Mitch did commit a crime, but he did it because he was getting arrested for everybody else’s crimes, why not get arrested for his own? His sin was so passive in that sense, and I loved it.

The other stand out thing about this novel is the none linear timeline. We know that Victor has just gotten out of prison and of his desire to kill Eli, yet in the flashbacks they are still best friends. The way Schwab has laid out that novel means that we are not sure of everyone’s motivations until she wants us to know. Bits and pieces of the characters motivation is dotted throughout the novel, you must read to know; it’s a great motivator to continue reading. Although it is not a completely new style of storytelling, I think Schwab handles it fabulously, nothing feels too rushed and you aren’t waiting in too much agony to find out the next juicy piece of information (a part of me thinks that Schwab gains her powers through the agony and angst of her readers, but we return because it’s just that good).

A Darker Shade of Magic still reigns supreme in my heart as my favourite of her novels, but this was a great read and is filled with the things Schwab does well every time, gritty plot, action and a cast full of morally grey people who are always exciting to read about. Although this novel does not feel like it necessarily needs a sequel, I wait for it eagerly.

My 5 Favourites of 2017

Long time no blog, which can only be because I’ve been so busy with deadlines and Christmas that I have not have chance to really pick up a book, never mind write a review about one! Now the year has come to a close, and we’re well into ringing in 2018 I was unable to finish my goal of reading 40 books by the end of the year. I got pretty close though, 38, which I’m still counting as an achievement.

So what we’re my best reads of the year?

  1. A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab 

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I knew this would be on here even before I read the book as the series is one of my favourites. A Darker Shade of Magic has claimed my heart as my current favourite, so thank goodness that Schwab did not disappoint. The book was filled with everything I wanted, development and screen time for every character, action, suspense, adventure, and a perfect round off to the trilogy. Schwab’s writing is so immersive I’ve added Vicious to my TBR as she’s never let me down before. I was gutted to be finishing this trilogy, but have enjoyed it immensely and to prove my love my first book of 2018 is a reread of A Darker Shade of Magic because there is no better way to start off the year.

    2. Heartless by Marissa Meyer

heartless

Meyer knows how to retell a fairy tale; The Lunar Chronicles anyone? But I was not as bothered about this one, Alice in Wonderland is not a story I’ve ever really been interested in. There are a few adaptations that I have enjoyed , but nothing to truly pull me into the world, yet Meyer’s take on the story was wonderful. I’ve always enjoyed reading how villain’s develop, so a take on the Queen of Hearts was refreshing. Although the book is fluffy and cute, with a sweet romance to rot the teeth, it was an overall fun, enjoyable read. The reason it is on this list is because it managed to stay in my head, particularly the characters, and Meyer’s handle of immersing all of the senses. I wanted to eat every single thing she described. Not every read has to be serious and a comment on humanity, sometimes you just need a books to chill with, and this was a perfect choice for that.

   3. Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman 

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This book was such a surprise. I had heard so many good things about it but I was still not sold on it’s method of storytelling. It did take me a while to get to grips with the unique layout of the book but it was totally worth it. I blasted through this book, and it’s sequel, while constantly on the edge of my seat. My love of Science-Fiction has grown this year, so this was the perfect book for me to get my teeth into this summer. There was no way this book wasn’t going to be listed; I’ve been recommending it to anyone and everyone who will listen. I even managed to write a review for it! REVIEW

   4. The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

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It seems like such a long time ago that I started this series, but I didn’t want to rush it and because books are so long I needed to make time to truly dedicate myself to them. This past year I finally manged to finish the trilogy, and The Hero of Ages quickly made its way on to my favourites of the year. Well of Ascension was also read this year but it did not make as big of an impact on me as the concluding novel did. We sped towards the end with high paced action as more secrets about the world were divulged and revealed, and at no point did it feel like a pointless divergence from the main plot. The second books felt like a filler, but this felt like a ending, a book with a purpose. Another good way to wrap up a phenomenal series.

   5. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline 

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I was recommend this book by so many people that eventually I just gave in, and I was not disappointed. It was fun, engaging and unique in comparison to anything else I have read. It is a true piece of 80s nostalgia, while also looking at how we view the internet, and how we often use it to escape and become someone else. I enjoyed following Wade as he pieced together puzzles, I love a good puzzle but I will admit that I would never have figured any of it out thanks to my lack of 80s knowledge; thankfully that meant everything was a surprise. The only problem I had with it was the forced romance/nice guy trope lathered all over the book from the middle onwards. It is a credit to how much I enjoyed it that I was able to ignore this and have the last new book I read in 2017 be such an enjoyable read.

   Honourable Mention –  Dalila by Jason Donald 

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Now this is an unconventional one for me to choose, and for me to have read. It was way out of my comfort zone and something I certainly something I would never have picked up by myself.  I was on a shadow panel for the Saltire Literary Awards this year and it gave me the chance to read six books that I never would have done otherwise. Dalila was my favourite out of them all, it was a heart-wrenching, honest, bleak and hopeful read. It’s about a Kenyan woman seeking asylum in the UK after running from her violent uncle, and how she becomes just as trapped in the system as she was back in her home country. It was a topic I had never really thought about before, and this novel felt like it was handled in such an open honest way it truly affected me. This novel proved to me that I can read outside of my comfort zone and sometimes it might just pay off.