A Series of Serious Problems, In Space – The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

“He presses the triggers. And like roses in his hands, death blooms.”

illuminae

In the year is 2575, Kady Grant thought her biggest problem was facing her recently dumped ex. Until her planet Kerenza IV is attacked by a rival corporation, and then it’s a race to escape on the evacuating fleet. However safety isn’t so easy, the enemy dreadnought the Lincoln is on their tail and gain fast, meaning it’s a deadly countdown until the fleet is caught. The last thing they need is anymore problems. But when one of the ships is destroyed and the Lincoln is nowhere to be found, the real trouble is only beginning.
Determined to find out what is really going on, Kady finds herself hacking into the fleets’ databases to discover the truth that no one will admit. Yet some answers are just out of her reach, and the only person who can help is the last person she wants to speak to, her ex, Ezra Mason. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Spoilers… no hacking necessary.

Illuminae is the first book I have added to the Favourite shelf of my Goodreads since A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab, and I do not add books to it lightly. It is reserved purely for books that I cannot put down, ones that blow me away with marvellous plot and excellent writing, who’s characters have a permanent hold on my heart. I don’t know what I was expecting of this series, I knew it was highly acclaimed by many people, and I love a bit of Science-Fiction, but I wasn’t ready for the ride each book took me on.

So I was actually going to start my review on a different point but it was so hard not to mention the format. It was unlike anything I had ever read. To be honest the only thing I can think of that is anything like this is The Princess Diaries, and that’s only because its a diary; otherwise they are as different as chalk and cheese. Told in something similar to an epistolary novel, both books are filled with interviews, chat-room conversations, audio and visual transcripts, and AIDAN’s own personal data files. It is a style so original to me that it immediately stands out as one I am unlike to forget. Though it did originally take me about 100 pages to get to grips with reading this style and remembering all the key information, it’s story gripped me so much I had to push through this initial problem. It’s so unique and beautiful that a physical copy of the series is a must.

There was so many uncertain components that I was never sure what was going to happen. Never. The twists were so unexpected and exciting, but not unnecessary. At the start of Illuminae I had so many questions, to be honest I was rather confused – there was a lot of terms I didn’t understand (spacey ones), and it throws you into the middle of the conflict. And I mean the middle. Kady and Ezra are both being questioned about the day of the BeiTech attack and the action starts instantly. The format helps to keep key pieces of information and plot points from us until necessary, as all the data the Illuminae Group have collected is arranged chronologically. The main characters are also in the dark about so many different things that we are kept there too, it helped keep me connected to the characters. It is the same with Gemina too, the Illuminae Group are hiding things right till the end for a reason, and it keeps you on the edge of your seat all the way through. Who’s dead? Who’s the enemy? What can you believe? I’m still not entirely sure and I love it.

Even though we do not exclusively follow a point of view in the traditional sense, once I knew the characters I did not feel detached from them, which could have been a major problem in a book of this style. Kady grew on me slowly, her harsh edges and ‘I-don’t-care’ demeanour takes a moment of getting used to, but she’s so smart, caring and snarky that it’s hard not to care by the end. I was gutted to find out that Gemina focused on different characters living on Jump Station Hemidall, the intended destination of Kady and Ezra’s shipHowever, both Hanna and Nik are excellent characters and totally different from the leads in Illuminae. Every person in this series so far is interesting and flawed, they are human and have genuine human reactions to the events that surround them. They are not destined to save the world, they are people trying to do the right thing.

I can’t talk about these books without quickly mentioning how unprepared I was for the horrors of the deadly virus in Illuminae, and the creepy parasitic alien worms in Gemina. These two plot points add such a uncontrollable danger to the books, and the writing when describing these scenes… I’m pretty sure I’ll be scarred forever. They were so vivid and, frankly, terrifying, that I had to look away a few times.

I loved these books. They were so gripping and it’s peculiar format has kept me thinking about them still. I can’t wait for Obsidio, I’m not one for wishing time to pass, but March 2018 can not come quick enough.

Advertisements

Book Series I Won’t Finish

Controversial opinions are my one favourites to read and watch on YouTube, because it just shows that not everyone loved that popular book that’s floating around, and that you aren’t as alone as you thought.
There are a few popular book series that I just haven’t had the motivation to finish and the ones in this list are the ones I may never get around to completing. And for a change I’m content with that, normally I have to finish a series but these are books that just didn’t fill me with the love and excitement books are supposed to.

The Wolves of Mercy Falls – Maggie Stiefvater 

shiver

This is probably the oldest series that I have that I know I will never complete. I read it years ago, so much so I can barely remember what happened. There were werewolves, which I was into at that time, a doomed romance and… a bookshop? All really know is I loved the first one, but the second one left me bored and unsatisfied so I just didn’t want to read the the last one. Even though I own it I never managed to convince myself to pick it up. It’s definitely a book that I thought suited more to a stand-alone novel than a trilogy.

The Young Elites – Marie Lu

TYE

I feel like this book was raved about for ages online. Its a dark novel about a teenage girl who isn’t you’re typical hero, but more of a villain. It’s filled with questionable characters and morally problematic decisions, unfortunately for me this book just didn’t hold my imagination. I couldn’t connect with the characters; their personalities, their motivations and backstories failed to pull me in. The plot was vaguely intriguing but for me characters hold more sway over whether I enjoy a book or not. You can have the most fantastic plot with millions of twists but if i can’t connect with the characters then I just don’t care. That’s what happened here.

The Winner’s Curse – Marie Rutkoski 

TWC

Here is yet another example of me picking up a book because I heard so many good things about it. And yet another example of me wondering what the rest of the world saw that I didn’t. Did we read different books? Sure this novel had an intriguing premise and an absolutely beautiful cover, but it’s another example of characters I couldn’t find a connection with. I didn’t care who succeeded in the end, I just wanted to get there. Kestrel was too one dimensional for me to care about. I also found the whole “I fell in love with a slave I bought” too problematic, though this might change as the series goes on I don’t think I’ll ever found out.

Red Queen – Victoria Aveyard 

Red Quenn

This sort of novel is always big, a new dystopian world where for some reason humans are divided – normally falls on the lines of Rich and Poor – with a tight totalitarian government. I usually eat these novels up, but either I’ve finally had my fill or Red Queen just didn’t bring anything new to the table. The powers were cool, and the twist at the end truly shocked me, I loved Maven, and Mare’s family, but not Mare herself. She was quite a well-built character, yet something about her grated on me. I don’t really know why I’m not motivated to continue, I even started the second one, it just isn’t grabbing my attention like I feel it should.

Graceling – Kristin Cashore 

Graceling

This is a book I did enjoy, honestly, but so far I just haven’t felt the urge to pick up the next one. Maybe that’s because I ordered the next one online and it came in French (I can’t speak a lick of French). However, it just wasn’t as exciting or badass as I was expecting. At least I liked the characters this time. The world was great and the powers unique, I honestly don’t know why I don’t want to read more. I haven’t completely ruled it out in the future, though for now I would rather be reading other things.

These Broken Stars – Amie Kaufman &Meagan Spooner

TBS

I love Science Fiction, especially ones that are literally in the future on a spaceship or a foreign new planet. I just read Illuminae and it was everything I wanted – These Broken Stars was not. This time it was the romance that got to me, it was too rushed and flimsy. Did these people even really like each other or was it because they were the only two humans on the planet? It was overly mushy, and took focus from what could’ve been a great plot. I know it was supposed to be a romance based Sci-Fi novel, but when romance is the focus it has to be real, relatable, and organic; thid was not. I’m worried that the other books in this series will be carbon copies of this one, which is why I won’t be picking them up.

Lush, Lavish, Left with Questions – The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

“This dangerous girl. This captivating beauty. This destroyer of worlds and creator of wonder.”

IMG_2291

Every morning in Khorasan the Caliph murders a bride, extinguishing their life without a whisper of why. His people are angry at the heartache he causes across the kingdom, but none more so than Shahrzad who is determined to bring revenge on the man who killed her best friend. Making the decision to volunteer to be his next bride Shahrzad sets herself on a dangerous path as every night she must weave enchanting tales to the Caliph in order to keep herself alive for another day. But nothing is as it seems,  the Caliph is more than she first thought, and there’s more secrets behind the murders than just a king with a love for bloodshed. Khorasan is on the brink of breaking apart and Shahrzad has just landed right in the middle of it.

Definitely going to include spoilers because I’m reviewing the duology together.

Fairy tale retelling? Sign me up. I didn’t know too much about 1,001 nights before going into this series, something I am going to correct, so I was quite blind to what elements might influence this tale.

Not going to lie, this didn’t live up to my expectations at all. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, because I did immensely, it was a easy, fast-paced read and I’m glad I had both books so I could finish it straight away. Ahdieh writes so beautifully, the way she described the world was so lush and rich it was easy to imagine the world that she was building. Since I’m also used to reading more European based fantasy it was great to finally get my teeth into something more diverse. Yet I was expecting something a little more gritty than what I got.

It was a lot more angst-filled than I had expected. I thought it would be darker, what with Khalid murdering young girls every morning, instead it was very introspective. The struggle Shahrzad had with her feelings takes up an awful lot of the book… and yet her romance with Khalid seems too rushed. It takes barely two nights of her story-telling for Khalid to decide she is the one to escape the previous fate of his brides, and one kiss for Shahrzad to all but give herself over to him. Though Ahdieh makes sure to keep her internal struggle at the centre of the novel, it didn’t convince me quite as much as it probably should have. Maybe it’s because forbidden love isn’t for me, but something just missed the mark. The romance and the trust between them that built up over both novels however was lovely to see in a YA romance, especially the trust, which probably sold me on their romance more than anything else.

Playing in the background to their relationship was a highly intriguing political plot, magic and background stories. Or the “what-could-have-been’s” of this tale as they weren’t drawn on as much as I believe they could have been. I was left with so many questions at the end of this duology that a part of me was left completely unsatisfied for these characters that I had begun to care for. The magic that hung over the whole story within Shahrzad, her father, Artan and the curse itself, seemed to hold so much possibility. Ahdieh had a unique way of describing the magic that engulfed her world, and it appeared like she had a whole background tale to go with it. Yet it was a passing note in Artan’s few appearances as a quick fix to Khalid’s curse. I wanted more of an explanation and was disappointed that this disappeared as soon as the book that caused Khalid’s curse was destroyed. Shahrzad also seemed to have enormous potential with magic, but it was mainly used for escape and flight. I was waiting for a badass moment of magic and it never came. Thankfully she still had plenty of badass moments without it.

Another thing that seemed all too convenient was how by the end of the novel almost everyone was paired off in their happily ever afters. Though only a brief mention in the epilogue of a potential romance between the rejected Tariq and new ruler Yasmine, I could have done without it. These two characters barely interacted – I actually don’t think they ever did – and shoving them towards each other felt like a cop out. At least Irsa and Rahim had a small amount of build up, which was incredibly cute, before their romance was even mentioned. No surprises that their ending broke my heart.

Another thing that I believe should have been focused on my was the actual destruction of Khalid’s curse… It almost seemed too easy, and once it was done we never got complete confirmation that it had worked. What had been the main focus of the first book seemed to slip into the background a little. Maybe Ahdieh was trying to deal with too much in the second book, maybe I’m just picky, but a little line about whether or not the people understood their Caliph in the end would’ve been nice.

 

I enjoyed the second book a lot more than the first, we were given more of an insight into the whole of Ahdieh’s cast, and it wasn’t so heavily focused on the struggle of Shahrzad’s feelings since she was no longer struggling with them. It had a quicker pace, with an intriguing story, though I am bitter that Artan’s story wasn’t explained further and that poor Rahim and Irsa had their happy ending torn from them (because lets face it he was the only truly decent boy in this duology).

The language and the vivid images Ahdieh created were beautiful, the characters were flawed and human, the premise interesting. I just wish that these books had been bigger to be able to include everything that Ahdieh was trying to convey.

With the Feeling of a Traditional Fairytale – The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon

“The world is alive with words.”

tbats

The powered people of Lark’s world are hunted, people are frightened of them to the point of violence, so of course they must hide. Lark inherited the gift of a Teller from her mother, meaning she can manipulate the world with words. But on the day her mother was killed she pressed a curse upon Lark, and now she cannot speak the words that are desperate to escape, and her life is tied to her father’s to keep her safe.
She lives an almost invisible life, until the king decides to use her as a pawn in the game to keep his throne from her father who longs for it. But the king hides a secret of his own, one he believes Lark can solve with the words she cannot speak. And with a dangerous threat invading the kingdom she has a chance not only to save the kingdom but to find a true home.

I’m actually going to try and talk about this book without giving into the urge to reveal spoilers.

I got this book for Christmas so of course it was one of the ones sat on the top of my TBR for 2017. It sounded like a truly original tale, something along the lines the traditional fairy tales of Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson. I saw mixed reviews on this book, but decided that I should make up my mind for myself and ignore the reviews (ironic), and  I enjoyed it. It did not blow me away with complicated plots or complex but lovable characters but I’m glad I read it nonetheless.

The prose itself was beautifully written, it flowed easily and simply felt magical. Harmon clearly has a way with words herself, not just Lark. In 300+ pages a lot happened, and while I enjoyed how fast paced the novel was, I was left wishing that parts of it had been developed further. This book was heavy on the romance, which took up much of the plot, but it had some great moments of conflict within it that could’ve been extended into more of a key feature if allowed to progress.  Particularly the end conflict and the resolution of the fear of powered people. Mild spoiler (I knew one would come up) – the people just give up their hatred of the powered people because they destroyed a more dangerous force? It came about too easily, and though the book did show some people having more sympathy for them than others, this should not suddenly solve hundreds of years of prejudice. (It would be nice if that did happen, then maybe we could do something about the political situation at the moment but the horrible truth is that it doesn’t – some people are just that stupid). Although this is a fantasy story, I suppose real life logic does not apply when the hero of our story can make tables dance around the room.

One thing I did love about this book was Lark. She was intriguing from the get go. A girl who could not speak, her only companion a troll name Boojohni, and someone who tried to take any piece of freedom she could from her neglectful father. She had seen horrors at a young age and cursed by her mother, yet was still inherently good – one of the first things we witness is her innocent desire to help an injured bird and her connection to the world around her. She even helps the king by using her powers, even though she knows that this could mean her death. This character really held the book together for me. And though she was very heavily doused in cliche romance trope (one that happened too quickly for my tastes, but I’ve always loved a good slow burn) this did not take away from her character as it often can.

Though I didn’t make an as good of connection with King Tiras – his mood and behaviour were too erratic and unpredictable for me to click with – I actually enjoyed reading about his brother Kjell. He was a well written complex character, one who actually moved through the  period of acceptance in relation to Lark’s powers at a realistic speed. I also enjoyed the conflict within himself, but I wish there had been more focus on him throughout.

Overall I did enjoy this novel, I was just left wanting more from the intriguing world Harmon created.

2016 Wrap Up – The Books I Loved Most

So according to my Goodreads account I read…. 32 books. Which is good, but still I wish I’d had the time and motivation to read more (and some of them were even rereads because sometimes you want to curl up with the characters you already love). However, it looks like between work and Christmas I will not be able to squeeze another read into my 2016. Though I will hopefully find time to finish The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson (you know, all 700 pages…).
There have been some great novels, some I haven’t even gotten around to buying yet but that’s all things to look forward to in 2017! I decided instead of a review I would write a wrap up of all the books that really made an impact on me this year.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E.Schwab 

image5

This book… I read it to get myself out of a reading slump during Easter and it quickly became one of my all-time favourites. It has magic, intrigue, danger, and morally questionable characters you can’t help but love. Schwab brings to life some fantastically intriguing concepts, I love the idea of multiple intertwining Londons all steeped in different levels of magic that only the antari can travel between. Though the plot is amazing, I think it’s the characters that really shine in this novel and make it one I’d happily read twenty times over.

A Court of Mist of Fury by Sarah J Maas

image3

This book blew up the internet (or tumblr, where I practically live) and while I knew of the first one I wasn’t bothered about reading it before. Unpopular opinion time! I’m not a big fan of Throne of Glass, while Maas clearly has talent, I just didn’t connect with her characters so I was reluctant to read her new series. Until curiosity got the better of me. The first one was a bit… meh. It took me till Feyre went Under The Mountain to really get into the story, the romance was lacklustre and Tamlin was useless. But thank god I carried on, this sequel made powering through the first worth it. The characters are entertaining, the plot is intense and do I really need to mention Rhysand?

Days of Blood and Starlight  by Laini Taylor

image2

This book is on the list simply because I didn’t want to read it. I don’t know what it was about the first one but I just didn’t get the hype, and I wasn’t bothered about continuing it. However I forced myself to read it and see if I could find what everyone else had been seeing in this series and was pleasantly surprised! Don’t you love it when that happens? Taylor seemed to kick everything up a gear and suddenly I was hooked. We delved deeper into Karou’s twisted world of angels and demons and the stakes were much higher than they were before. I also found Karou and Akiva’s romance a lot more interesting in this book than I did the first, maybe because they spent most of the novel apart, growing and learning and changing. That’s always a plus.

This Savage Song by V.E.Schwab

image6

Yet another book from Schwab. I just like her writing okay? It’s so immersive and effortless. This is a novel about monsters, ones that are created from every terrible thing people do. Pretty snazzy idea right? August Flynn doesn’t think so, he’s a monster that wants to be human, while Kate Harker is a human trying to be more monstrous. Even though they’re on opposite sides of a war, August and Kate are thrown together and suddenly have to depend on each other for survival. This novel is filled with deep beautiful quotes (literally everywhere), and brings up some thought-provoking questions about humanity in a fun-filled fantasy kinda way.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo 

image5

There are no words to describe my love for this duology. Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom have been some of the best books I’ve read in a while and if you haven’t read it yet, get to it! You won’t regret it. Kaz Brekker, a well-known criminal, is tasked with assembling a team to break into the most secure place in their world. Crooked Kingdom continues their journey in the aftermath of the cliffhanger Bardugo left us with. These novels are just so clever and intense. You’re sat on the edge of your seat the whole time wondering if they are all going to make it, how they will get out of it now, will these goddamn couples ever get their acts together?! Every time you think you’ve got it figured out, Bardugo is ten steps ahead with twelve twists waiting in the wings. I love it, and I just really really love the dregs and all their growth, and backstory, and badassery.

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

image4

I heard about this book from Booktube, people were raving about it so I thought I’d give it a go. I had never really read an adult fantasy novel before, they just always seemed so intimidating, and the YA section has always held a tight grip on my heart. Now I’m prepared to read more in this section because this was just amazing. In a world where the Dark Lord won and turned the world into a dark empire, who else could try to overturn him but a ragtag bunch of criminals? The world that Sanderson created was just so detailed and precise, it was unlike anything I had ever read. Especially the magic system, where people called mistborns and mistings can ingest a certain set of metals and burn them for different powers. I would try and go into more detail but I can’t, it’s so well thought out and complicated that I would just sound silly. If this is the last book I actually complete in 2016 I’m okay to end on such a high.

A Book About Important Books – The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

“The atmosphere of the place soothed her automatically; the rich lantern lights, the sheer scent of paper and leather, and the fact that everywhere she looked, there were books, books, beautiful books.”

img_1535

Irene works for The Library, her job is to take important books from every universe to preserve them. Normally her job is relatively simple – a bit of spying, a bit of deception, and always a bit of thieving – but this time she’s stealing a book that could reveal dangerous things. Not only is the book important to The Library, but it’s in a chaos-infested world, filled with Fae, werewolves and the odd vampire.
Lumbered with a new assistant in Kai, a mysterious student who doesn’t fit any of her perceptions, she must trust him or they’ll lose the book forever.
Irene is forced to work with a keen-eyed detective and her worst enemy to unravel the clues of the books’ location before a centuries old threat gets to it first. She’d much rather be reading about such adventures than being a part of one.

Only mild spoilers in this one. 

I’ve been a reading slump every since I finished Crooked Kingdom but this had been sitting on my to-read list on Goodreads since last summer so I thought I’d give it a go.

At first this book took me a while to wrap my head around, the world was actually an unlimited number of worlds which just made it all the more confusing for me to place the characters in their settings. My first thought was it was based in a Victorian setting, but this turned out to be false as soon as Irene (our narrator) started talking about necromancy and magic and flying gargoyles. My image of this world didn’t settle until Irene was sent on the mission to find the book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales with an added story from what we know.

Though it was a gripping opening with Irene stealing a book and running from hell-hounds, I was left lost and rather confused. I’ve recently read a lot of books that instantly laid out the world in a precise but easy manner, Bardigo’s Six of Crows and Mass’s A Court of Thorns and Roses, this books lacked this. Thankfully it was immersive enough to keep my interest and eventually (about 5 chapters in) the world begun to make sense.

Cogman invents her own unique version of magic in the Language, a way that Librarian’s command the world they’re in to do what they want. They can open locks, make floors swallow people whole, and even bring stuffed animal displays to life. I particularly enjoyed the rules that Irene had to navigate to use the Language as it makes it more realistic (as realistic as magic can be). Chaos-magic also took me a while to understand but it comes slowly through the book as most things did.

All the way through the book we are entirely in Irene’s head, and yet we never leave third person. Free indirect speech is handled quite masterfully in this book and it makes Irene a more dynamic character. She is brave, snarky but can be quite cold towards the people she interacts with. Though she is forced to be detached because of her job; in and out without complications or much personal interaction. However, she grows throughout the novel and begins to trust the people who she drags along into her investigation, (yay for character development) becoming especially fond of Vale, Cogman’s answer to Sherlock. There is also Kai, who seems to slip from one personality to the other without seeming to settle for quite a while. His only characteristic is his loyalty to Irene, until the reason for his standoffish personality is revealed. Which makes him a lot easier to understand.

The book is very plot based, which works as it was a mix between a fantasy novel and a classic work of detective fiction as Irene pieces together intricate clues to track down the mysterious book. It was clever how the whole thing played out, though I am left with questions, ones that will hopefully be addressed in the sequel, even if the synopsis makes it out to be a completely unrelated tale (aside from including the same characters).

It was a delightful change of pace for me as a more mature fantasy novel. The romantic questions were answers quickly and put away in favour of focusing on the events, which was good to see someone not distracted by a romantic entanglement. There was a bit of gore which made me squirm, I love it but I can’t deal with it at the same time, and everything was written in such good detail that once my head was in the story I could see everything perfectly. Well… as well as you can imagine a 7 foot tall robot centipede when you’ve never seen on before in your life. I’m definitely looking forward to reading the sequel.

A mix between The Librarians, A Darker Shade of Magic and all those well loved detective novels, would certainly recommend.

A Book About Secrets Buried in Glitter – The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

“Up here on the roof, so close to the stars, she felt young and alive and hateful.”

IMG_1327

A hundred years into the future everybody has secrets, and even if they’ve got top of the range technology to protect them somehow they’re always come to light.
Avery was genetically engineered to be perfect, her life on the thousandth floor is the envy of everyone living in the Tower. She has the perfect face and body, the most amazing apartment and the perfect life. But she feels like she’s living a lie unable to be with the only boy she’s ever loved. She isn’t the only one swept into the lies that haunt the youth living the the New York Tower, Leda hides a secret addiction, Eris’s family is torn apart by a decades old betrayal, Rylin begins to lie to everyone she knows when she’s swept upTower for a job, and Watt knows everything about everyone because of the illegal quant in his brain.
They all become entangled in each other’s lives as they’re secrets come closer to the light that might just have dark consequences for them all.

Spoilers from now on.

The novel had an intriguing opening, a girl plummeting down to her death from the roof of a tower with thousand floors. Suddenly I wanted to know how she ended up there, was she pushed? Did she jump? Slip? And a novel is only as good as it’s hook, give me a good mystery and I’m there.

It also included some amazing sci-fi elements, the world that McGee builds is easy to become immersed in. I love the contacts as their way to communicate, and the humorous images it left of people’s gaze glazing over randomly in the middle of conversations, and that they have to speak commands to them to send messages, or “flickers”. Not very private but an intriguing idea. The Tower it’s self was an impressive feat, filled with different elements that were weaved into the story effortlessly; it’s better when this works in sci-fi novels so we’re not left behind wondering how things work.

To me the book quickly lost momentum after it’s dramatic opening. I didn’t connect with the  characters instantly, they were all insipid, self-involved and annoying. Apart from Watt and Rylin who are both from downTower. Maybe this is why I connected with them faster than the others, I felt like they had more relatable problems. Avery and Leda just seemed obsessed with Atlas, their lives revolved around him, even their friendship suffered because of their feelings for him.

However, Avery grew on me throughout the novel, the fact that she wasn’t bothered about Eris having to move downTower or that Watt is lives on the 236th floor. She’s kind and sweet and loyal which truly redeemed her character for me, and I loved her interactions with Watt (secretly rooting for them even though I knew that the Atlas dilemma wouldn’t disappear). Leda definitely  did not grow on me as she became more obsessive and erratic, though her development made her a good villain at the end of the novel as she twisted out of control. The way she manipulates the rest into lying to the police was a tense moment.

Eris grew on me too as her development took her from a vain, self-obsessed girl to someone who became caring, and ultimately very likable. I’m very bitter about what happened to her; I was praying throughout the novel for the fallen girl to not be Eris or Rylin… At least I got to keep one of them. But I do see that to lead on to the next novel everyone else had greater secrets for Leda to manipulate, which I can’t wait to see played out in the next novel (why must we always wait a year for new books?!).

The way the lives of the characters were linked was clever and led to a very tense build up as everything came to a head in the last 50 pages. I breezed through them as I had to know how it was all coming to an end, and I liked how our 5 protagonists were all drawn together; it rounded it off quite well. The multiple points of view worked, because sometimes it can become an issue, and there was not one character that I wasn’t bothered about reading from.

One thing that never sat well with me was Atlas. We know nothing about this guy and we never seem to learn anything throughout the novel. He is just the object of Avery and Leda’s affection and rivalry, and I felt nothing for him. He started off a little mysterious having previously disappeared from the Tower with no reason and told no one where he was going. Intriguing until it’s revealed it’s because he’s in love with Avery. Who, did I mention, is his sister? Adopted yes, but this still didn’t sit right with me, and their end scenes made me a little uncomfortable (I was with Watt on this one). But why does he love her? Why does Avery love him? We know nothing about their relationship other than how they feel. I wasn’t bothered about this story line, but bored and annoyed. I’m hoping Atlas is either developed in the next novel or hardly focused on at all. McGee does a brilliant job with all her other characters but Atlas seemed to be lacking even though he was the source of a major plot point.

Overall this novel turned into an enjoyable read, definitely one I’d recommend for people who are looking for a character driven, futuristic novel that doesn’t take place in some dystopian future. Lets just hope the next book is focused the characters that McGee was actually successful with.

 

How is This Classed as Children’s Literature? – The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

“There was a hunger in her, and girls were not supposed to be hungry. They were supposed to nibble sparingly when at table, and their minds were supposed to be satisfied with a slim diet too.”

IMG_1095
Faith is not supposed to be clever, but she cannot stop her desire to learn, to grow, to discover. Always pushed aside because of her sex, Faith has disappeared  into the background her whole life, until her Father is shunned by the scientific community for faking evidence. After running to the Vane, her Father is found dead, presumed by everyone to be suicide, but Faith cannot ignore the feeling that someone else brought an end to his life. And that it is all tied to the mysterious plant her Father was so protective of.
Faith discovers this is no ordinary tree, feed it lies and it will unravel the truth. It’s the only way to discover what truly happened to her father, and she will do anything to find out the truth. Besides what harm can a few harmless lies do?

Spoilers below. 

Since this book was awarded Costa Book of the Year for 2015 I’ve heard a lot about it and seen it everywhere. The premise sounded intriguing and original so I thought it has to be good right? And it was, but it just wasn’t what I was expecting. One thing I didn’t expect was the heavy focus of the role of women in science during the 1800s; I didn’t even know that’s when it was set as no synopsis I read let on to this fact. However, once I got into the mindset of this era it was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Faith, a 14 year old girl, acts exactly as she is supposed to in polite society, quiet, demure and good. Yet there is an edge to her which makes her character a more memorable one, she sneaks around behind her parents backs to discover their true motivations in moving to the Vane, and learns everything she can about her Father’s work. She wants to be scientist in a time when women were considered to be lesser beings with no head for the sciences or anything counted as a ‘manly’ profession. And she’s dark! She enjoys making the men uncomfortable when she knows something she shouldn’t, she particularly enjoys freaking out Paul Clay by talking about the dead people his Father’s photographs. She also has a knack from spreading lies and having people believe them.

The small details used to make the lies spread shows Faith’s sharp mind, and Hardinge manages to make it believable that these lies would take. She does not push her characters to make bigger, bolder movements that would make the plot of the story unbelievable (you know… aside from the tree that feeds from lies and grows magical fruits that reveal truths).

However it took me a while to get into this book, I was waiting for the plot to kick in for a few chapters and for Faith to settle as character.At the beginning I didn’t care what happened to these characters. At first Faith seemed stiff and awkward, but once she got into the mystery of her Father’s death she flourishes, and so does the book. I think that it is because Faith is finally allowed to express those dark emotions she has been pushing aside; she finally feels like a real 3-dimensional character and I finally cared.

For a the plot, there is a lot of set up before the Reverend Sunderly actually dies (does it sound bad if I say that I was just waiting for someone to bump him off?) and I feel like the book does not completely find it’s footing until then. But when it does find it, The Lie Tree is a deeply intriguing read, it shows the terrible consequences that can come from telling lies and that you never really know a person as Faith discovers all these women who are hiding aspects of their personality to be accepted within society; just like she is.

The women in this book hide until the very end (which is a shame because I would’ve loved to know more about them) but when they emerge they challenge everything Faith thought about the order of the world and pushes her to declare that she will not hide in the shadows anymore. A light ending after a novel filled with dark thoughts, murder and some truly Gothic themes.

The reveal of the killers was so well handled by Hardinge. I loved that the tree did not just show Faith exactly what she wanted to know, and that she had to unravel the truths for herself. And I didn’t expect it, the clues where so well hidden in the novel that it was a delightful surprise, one that I didn’t see coming.

One thing I did not understand is how this can be classed as a children’s novel?! It’s darker than I even expected, the tree hovers the whole novel as an unnerving whispering presence and the photographs of the dead relatives even made me shiver. Though I know some children’s novels are darker than you’d think if you look in between the lines, this was not hidden at all. It is just because Faith is 14 this is counted as a children’s/teen novel?

I would recommend this book for lovers of a good murder mystery, and maybe someone looking for a original paranormal twist.

Oh and here’s a question… Was Faith’s snake shedding it’s skin supposed to be a metaphor for Faith revealing who she truly is? Because that’s what I saw!

I’m A Sucker for a Fairy Tale Retelling – The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

“The will of this boy thief flows in golden streams. It is the thread with which I weave, the colors with which I paint, the element with which I create.”

IMG_0730

Everyone knows the story of Aladdin, whether it be the Disney version or the original tale, it is tale everyone grows up with. But what happens when the Genie’s are giving their chance to shine in the spotlight? The Forbidden Wish. Though now they are called the Jinn and more than one Jinni appears in this novel.
Zahra has been trapped inside for 500 years when a young thief finally discovers her trapped in her tomb of glittering jewels. Punished by the King of the Jinn, Zahra is forced to offer her masters 3 wishes and be chained to the lamp for the rest of her immortal life. Until he offers her a deal that could grant her freedom, if only she can free his son from the depths of the Palace in Parthenia, a place where Jinni’s are illegal and hated.
But now she has Aladdin, who has his own reasons for wanting to be in the palace, all she has to do is convince him to wish to be a prince.But nothing is ever simple as emotions she has tried to ignore come floating to the surface and suddenly using Aladdin is the last thing Zahra wants to do.
But Zahra cannot focus on only her own problems as Parthenia is threatened from inside and out, and the only person who could save them all is her. Even if it means sacrificing the one thing she has always craved – her freedom.

Spoilers are coming. 

I received this book for my birthday and am quite pleased with how it turned out. Fairy tale retellings always have a lot to live up to because I love the original stories so much, and because The Lunar Chronicles did it so well while keeping it original. But I think The Forbidden Wish is a lovely, light read that pulls on the story we all know while still keeping things fresh and exciting. Khoury focuses more on the jinn in her novel, expanding their world and by making her main character the jinni we get the story told from a fresh point of view.

Zahra is instantly intriguing, especially as she is technically not human. When we first meet her, she is nothing but smoke in a lamp and this feeling is conveyed well as she senses everything around her –“I fold and unfold, I swirl and curl, waiting with bated breath. My sixth sense is blurred, like watching fish swim in a rippling pool, and I must concentrate very hard to see him at all.” Her point of view is unique, and though it took me a couple of chapter to get used to the present tense writing and Zahra’s voice, I never once considered putting the book down.

Zahra was definitely my favourite character in the book, she is good despite the stories told about her, sharp, loyal and strong. “I can’t stop Nardukha from killing us both, but I can choose to not be the monster he wants.” Thousands of years old yet acts like a teenage girl. Her banter with Aladdin is enjoyable and amusing. Her history is often referred to in the book and gives an extra depth to the character that was needed to make her more three dimensional; I love the detail about how she became a Jinni. Eventually Khoury finds her groove and her character comes to life. I loved the descriptions of Zahra’s magic, her deep history and the world of the Jinn, this for me is probably the strongest part of the book.

The writing itself is hypnotic and wonderfully descriptive. The world that Khoury creates is vivid and steeped in culture that jumps from the page.

Aladdin is quite like the Disney movie version, a lover not a fighter, can often be selfish but does the right thing when it comes down to it. Except this Aladdin likes being a thief, he even tries to train Zahra. He has a temper and a dark side that all stems from the fate of his parents – who were revolutionaries put to death by Khoury’s version of Jafar, Sulifer. He struggles with the mantle now placed on his shoulders to finish his parents work, and for most of the novel he simply wants revenge for his parents but this swiftly changes when his home and love is in need. In the end he is deeply loyal to Zahra, even though we had been warned that his attention quickly changes from girl to girl this does not seem to come into play at all (it could’ve brought in some nice angst scenes if this was developed further but it is refreshing to read a novel that doesn’t). I feel like there was a lot of expectation placed on Aladdin simple because of his name, but Khoury manage to bring in different aspects to his personality that make him a more complex character.

Another thing I loved about this novel was Princess Caspida and her Watchmaidens; the warrior girls who protect they’re princess with expert skill and fierce loyalty, even though I’m pretty sure Caspida could protect herself.  These are the good guys, the purely good guys who only want to protect Parthenia and it’s people.

As for the villains, they do not have the charm that the rest of the characters possess. Sulifer wants the throne (of course) and planned to used Zahra to get it. He does get to make wish for an army more numerous than the stars, and Zahra fashions them out of the darkness, but this quickly back fires on him when he cannot summon them in the daylight. He is supposed to be a big threat but for most of the novel he takes a back seat. Nardukha the Shaitan King of the Jinn is mentioned throughout the book as Zahra tries to win her freedom from him, and because she is terrified of him. He takes away the threat Sulifer poses by presenting a bigger one, he could easily wipe out the whole of Parthenia without breaking a sweat.

There are so many tiny plot points and stories going on in this novel that I feel like it should’ve been bigger so we could’ve explored it all and really developed this world filled with jinni’s. The main focus is the romance between Zahra and Aladdin, which takes up a large portion of the middle of the novel while the plot takes a back seat. However, their romance is sweet and lovely to read so I didn’t mind too much. (My favourite part had to be when they practiced dancing for the Fahradan festival, it was when I truly believed in their romance).
“We dance like this, wrist to wrist, twirl and turn, step for step, for several more minutes. He holds my gaze, our eye connecting at every turn, anticipating one another’s movements”   

The action at the end is fast paced and engrossing, I only wish it had gone of longer because everything was so quickly resolved in one fell swoop. It is a book that relies on it’s characters to carry it through.

A wonderfully light read in the midst of a lot of heavy Young Adult novels. Compelling, original, dashed with splashes of humour and filled with a endearing (and for once not complicated) romance.

“I’m not sorry I met you. I’m not sorry I fell in love with you, Zahra, and neither should you. I love you.”

Definitely recommend for lovers of fairy tales, romance, magic, who just want a light warming read.

Who Doesn’t Love Dragons? – Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

“We were all monsters and bastards, and we were all beautiful.”

IMG_0531

Seraphina Dombegh lives in a world where dragons can take human form and have been living in peace with humans for four decades. Or that’s how it supposed to be… but hundreds of years of hatred between the two kinds has not been diminished, especially not since the Prince of Goredd was found dead with his head missing.
Seraphina has spent her whole life hiding and alone, straddling both sides of the human/dragon divide so no one will ever found out her secret. However, not long after she takes a job as the palaces’ music mistress, she is drawn into the intrigue and mysteries that surround the court and the Prince’s death. As she gets closer to finding out the sinister plot being laid to destroy the already unstable peace between dragons and humans, she risks her own secrets coming to light and revealing what could change her whole world.

Spoilers below! (just so you know)

I read this book not too long after it came out, but I’ve read it so much I can’t actually remember when was the first time. Obviously, it’s one of my favourites. I had never read a book with dragons before this one, but Rachel Hartman makes her dragons so interesting and different that they stand out even now. Purely pragmatic and systematical, Hartman’s dragons do not feel as human’s do, but rather value order over emotion; they like to keep things “all in ard.”  They have trouble stopping those emotions from appearing when in their “saarantras”, their human form, and you can really see the struggle of their adjustment. Particularly in Orma, who struggles with his bond to his half-dragon niece, Seraphina. Whose relationship is so sweet and moving that you can get past all of the awkwardness of dragons; especially at the end.

The title character Seraphina is probably one of my all time favourite heroines, mainly because of how she changes throughout the novel. At first described as “prickly”, which seems like an apt description as she keeps almost everyone at arms length lest they learn what she truly is. Her hatred for herself at several points in the novel is easily felt, mainly when she is determined to rip out the scales that decorate her left arm. She uses her mind alone to figure out of escape situations, (though I do love a good fight scene this change is refreshing). I love characters that use their minds and words to get out of sticky situations (this may be because I have the strength of a twig so I can’t relate to fighting my way out). On numerous occasions throughout the book, Seraphina spins webs of words to distract her opponent, and I love it. She goes from pushing people away to learning to let others in, to opening her heart not only to love, but to her fellow half-dragon brethren. As this book is often driven purely by its characters, it’s a good thing that Hartman creates some complex and lovable characters. By the end I was really rooting for Seraphina to achieve her happy ending.

Even though I knew there’d be a second book, but a girl can dream that all her characters will be completely happy and settled by the end.

The other characters in the novel are also wonderfully created. There’s Orma, who I mentioned eariler. Princess Glisselda, whose pure bright heart is charming and who is so willing to be better and learn so she can fairly rule her people. The other half-dragons, Lars, Abdo and Dame Okra help push Seraphina to grow in their own ways and are unquestionably loyal, and even the background characters are so well written that the novel really comes to life.

My other favourite character in Seraphina is Prince Lucian Kiggs, Captain of the Guard and keen investigator. He takes his promise to his patron Saint St Clare to always speak the truth very seriously, which provides a nice contrast to Seraphina as she must always lie. He is honest, loyal, and open which makes it difficult for Seraphina to push him away as he is everything I believe she wishes she could be. Their subtle, bittersweet romance does not distract from the plot, it hovers in the background at a natural progression to the story which is always nice for people who like a dash of romance in their novels.

Seraphina takes a journey of self-acceptance throughout the novel and it’s totally believable and wonderfully written.

Hartman creates a variety of characters and her world building is so successful and beautiful that you’re sucked in almost instantly. The religion of  Goredd is fleshed out and believable, the descriptions of the world is delightful. Particularly those of music, which seem especially special, and help the reader connect to Seraphina on a deeper level. Though I did originally find it took me a moment to get into the novel as we are given Seraphina’s history, but this information is later necessary to knowing how she fits into this world. Or rather how she thinks she doesn’t. We also see how her dragon mother fell in love with a human, and how emotions can change a dragons nature so drastically.

Also kind of tedious is the constant reference to Serphina’s mind garden that she has from her powers as a half-dragon. This is a place where she can contact and find all the other half-dragons across her world, but later on this drops into the background as the plot takes over, even though her powers become a key component throughout (even more so in the second novel).

This is a fantasy novel that has stayed with me for years, I recently completed another reread and it was just as exciting as the first time I read it. It will probably stay with me for many more to come.

You know what… here are a few of quotes that I think let the beauty of this novel shine:

  • “The world inside myself is vaster and richer than this paltry plane, peopled with mere galaxies and gods.”
  • “That’s the secret to performance: conviction. The right note played tentatively still misses its mark, but play boldly and no one will question you. If one believes there is truth in art – and I do – then it’s troubling how similar the skill of performing is to lying. Maybe lying is itself a kind of art. I think about that more than I should.”
  • “Love is not a disease…I cannot let them cut you out of me, nor her either. I will cling to my sickness, if it is a sickness. I will hold it close to me like the sun.”
  • “I barely noticed loneliness anymore; it was my normal condition, by necessity if not by nature.”