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.

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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 

acol

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 

illuminae

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

hoa

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 

rpo

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 

saltire

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.

Stories from Space – Wayfarers Series by Becky Chambers

“Do not judge other species by your own social norms”

alwtasap

The Wayfarer is not the nicest ship in galaxy, nor is it the best, but it’ll do for Rosemary, who needs a fresh start away from a world filled with bad memories. This motley crew is filled with a variety of species, it’s a place she can disappear. It’s a place she might be able to call home. If they survive that long. The crew have just taken on a dangerous job, one with a lot of benefits, but it might just kill them all if it doesn’t go to plan. Through the darkest parts of space they must just learn how to survive, and how to trust each other.
The whole crew has something to hide. Yet it’s hard to keep things under wraps when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere with the same six sapiens… Especially when disaster is on the horizon at every turn.  

You all know the drill, it’s time for the spoiler warning. 

I read the first novel in this series back during my holiday in July, it was the perfect, easy Sci-Fi read for a relaxing break. Although every synopsis of this book makes it seem like this is a fast-paced, action-packed read… it isn’t. Although this isn’t a bad thing. It’s very hard to describe this book without focusing on the danger that hovers over the entire novel. Both novels in fact (although I didn’t expect this going into the second one as I already knew what Becky Chambers was really going for with this series). These novels are more of a social commentary on the futuristic world she has created. It’s focus is the differences and similarities between each species, the differing societies within this mixed universe, and how they all interact. If you want to get really critical, it’s practically an analogy for human beings right now; how much more beautiful the world would be if we all got along despite out differences, just like the diverse crew of the Wayfarer. If you want to get really deep. Nevertheless, it’s just as much fun to read without the critical spectacles and simply enjoy Chambers quality storytelling.

Chamber’s is a master at creating a vast array of species, she makes them all seem so real and believable that these could be real species she’s revealing to us. We just don’t know it. The Aandrisk, Sianat Pair, and Grum that fill the halls of the ship are each given time to explain their culture to Rosemary (and us), without it feeling too much like a diversion from the story. Which is good, because if it’s one thing this novel doesn’t need, it was to go off on long tangents that lost the readers attention.

One thing I am pretty disappointed with is that there wasn’t more of a plot. I like to think of this as Sci-Fi Literary Fiction; it focuses more on the connection of its characters and making important statements about life. This isn’t necessarily a bag thing, I just like a little more action in my Sci-Fi. The ending of the novel truly had me gripped as the hovering, almost invisible threat, came charging to the surface. I’m a sucker for those typical ‘heart-in-your-mouth’ moments, and this novel just didn’t provide.

acaco

For some reason, even though A Closed and Common Orbit was even more character focused, I enjoyed it more. This time Chambers only has two points of view and they jump between time streams, which I really liked. Finding out about Pepper’s backstory was a highlight in this book, I was always more eager for her chapters rather than Lovey’s. Even though at times they were just as slow, Pepper’s story gripped me, I wanted to blast through to the end and see whether she got off the planet. Which of course she did, she was in Lovey’s chapters, that was how lost I got in her chapters.

This novel seemed to have more of a direct focus than it’s predecessor, it really looked at sentient AI’s and whether or not they were the same as other sapiens. A tough question to answer, but it’s hard not to agree with the outcome after going through Lovey and Pepper’s journeys. However, my need for drama was met in this novel, as both points of view had a more constant danger element. Pepper trying to escape the planet she was trapped on, and Lovey’s constant battle with not being found out as a rogue AI. Maybe I just connected with the characters more, but this is definitely my favourite one so far. Although, I did want the wayfarer crew to pop up at least once to keep the connection between the novels. They were mentioned briefly, but this was very clearly a different story. Not a sequel, but a companion.

I did enjoy these books, and I’m certain I’ll pick up the next one. First I may need to figure out if there is one and when it will be released, but I’m assuming that Chambers will be expanding her world with another set of characters. So if you’re looking for a softer Sci-Fi novel, then this series is perfect. It gives you all the tech babble you need, with sweeping characters stories that really try to make you think about the world. Or the universe…

A Magical Mystery – The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy

“But really, aren’t there bits of magic everywhere we look?’ Dr. Cliffton continues. ‘We’ve just stopped seeing it that way.”

the disappearances

After Aila’s mother dies and her father is shipped off to fight in World War II, she and her little brother are sent to Sterling, where people they’ve never even met seem to hate them. Aila soon realises there is something strange happening in Sterling, she can’t smell anything, the stars are never out, and she can’t see her reflection no matter how hard she looks.
She soon learns that every seven years something disappears, and that the only person to escape Sterling’s terrible fate was her mother. But Aila refuses to believe that she is to blame, and will do anything to find out the truth about the disappearances. And maybe be the one to save the town from it’s terrible fate.

There’s definitely going to be spoilers, hard to talk about this book otherwise! 

This is yet another novel I heard about on YouTube, and it came at just the right time because I was in the mood for a mystery. As always with this type of book it’s better to go in not knowing too much about it; makes the mystery much more tantalising, so that’s what I did.

The Disappearances was a very enjoyable novel, but for some reason it took me so long to finish it. Maybe it’s because I’ve been so busy with university work once again, or maybe it was because parts of this book just seemed to drag. There were long sections of the book where nothing seemed to happen, no progress was being made, we were just going through the motions of Aila’s new life in Sterling. Constant arguments with her brother, Miles, angst filled moments with Will, and worrying about the fact her mother may have been to blame for the curse after all. This pacing issue was disappointing because it was a great book, it could’ve been a 4 star book instead of a 3.5, (a huge difference I know).

The ending of this novel, however, was great. Revelations come on thick and fast, and the team effort to free Sterling was completely heartwarming. I loved the inclusion of Shakespeare in the novel. I love Shakespeare and the way Murphy managed to weave such a clever, almost believable story out of his works was remarkable. It was great to see the way she pulled magic from the pages of Shakespeare and knitted it into her story. It was a unique idea that I truly enjoyed. You could definitely see the research that had gone into this piece of work, and it helped create a great atmosphere for this book.

Although, this may have taken focus off developing characters. It took me quite a while to connect with anyone. Aila was strange, quiet and honestly quite mean to her grieving younger brother. There was just something about her that didn’t let me connect straight away, or ever. She was a good narrator, but I didn’t completely care about whether or not she got her happy ending, not until the very end when she comes to the Cliffton’s rescue and solves the mystery of Sterling. Even though it’s not her alone that solves it. She is all but given the solution which is my only true problem with the ending, yet I can also see that no one who have been able to figure it out without a little help.

Which brings me to the second narrator of this novel. A mysterious character who doesn’t really seem to fit into the plot until you learn who he really is. He’s horrible, devious and twisted, but I really enjoyed reading from his perspective… I wonder what that says about me. Murphy did a very good job of convincing me that he was Juliet’s (Aila’s mother) lover before she left Sterling. Whether or not this was the intention that’s what I pulled from it, until he began to share some memories and I wanted to smack my forehead because I was stupid enough not to see it before. Quite a lot of the book was like this, Murphy was very good at slowly revealing the mysteries of this small town. It’s the main thing that kept me reading.

I was really intrigued when I first picked this novel up that it was set in World War II, I’m not an avid reader of that era but I was looking forward to a change. I know for many people this worked, yet for me it didn’t. This is purely because it didn’t feel like the time period it was supposed to. There was nothing there for me to connect with that time, aside from her father conveniently going to war, there was nothing to indicate the period. Stick one iPhone in the book and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Maybe I’d feel differently if I read it again, but for now I didn’t get a feel of the time period at all.

Overall this book was very enjoyable, and many things were handled well, it was also beautifully written with a great concept. A Shakespeare Curse? Love it. Every damn time. Yet there was so much more that could’ve been done with this book to make it the success I wanted it to be, but I wouldn’t rule out reading it again, not just yet.

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.

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 

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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

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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 

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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 

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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

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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.”

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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.”

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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.