The Ship of The Dead (Magnus Chase and The Gods of Asgard #3)

34879201Book: The Ship of The Dead (Magnus Chase and The Gods of Asgard #3)

Author: Rick Riordan

I was super excited about the final book in the Magnus Chase trilogy, as I have loved reading this series over the past year and this November was the perfect time to read it, because I had an awful lot of assignments to do and I needed something light, short and fun in order to get me through the month. Whilst I did enjoy the book, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting for a series finale? It felt kind of anticlimactic for the conclusion of a trilogy, I was hoping for a little bit more I guess. It was still an incredibly fun and enjoyable ride, but I wasn’t as thrilled by it as I was hoping to be, though I don’t know if it was the book or because I was weighed down by assignments at the time I was reading it. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Loki the trickster god is free from his chains. Now he’s readying Naglfar, the Ship of the Dead, armed with a host of giants and zombies, to sail against the Norse gods and begin the final battle of Ragnarok. It’s up to Magnus Chase and his friends to stop Loki’s plans, but to do so they will have to sail across the oceans of Midgard, Jotunheim and Niflheim in a desperate race to reach Naglfar before it’s ready to sail on Midsummer’s Day.

Along the way, they will face angry sea gods, hostile giants, and an evil fire-breathing dragon who happens to be a former acquaintance. But Magnus’s biggest challenge will be facing his own inner demons. To defeat Loki, Magnus will need to use words, not force. This will require finding a magical elixir so deadly that it will either make Magnus Chase powerful enough to out-talk the silver-tongued Loki, or destroy Magnus utterly.

First off, I have to start with the elephant in the room: Percy. As everyone who has read the second book knows, it is hinted that Percy makes an appearance in this one. And he does, however, the blurb makes it seem as if Percy will be involved in Magnus’s adventures. He isn’t, he appears briefly at the start of the book where he helps Magnus out training in water, we find out that he and Annabeth are going to college in New Rome and that his mum has had her baby (Estelle) and then they leave again, only to be mentioned once more at the end of the book. This is fine, it is Magnus’ story and not Percy’s after all, but I just wanted to mention it because the blurb is rather misleading on this point. We do get a rather hilarious sequence where Magnus’s sword Jack tries to chat up Percy’s sword Riptide (who is apparently a girl) out of Percy’s appearance and some very cute Percabeth moments though, so it’s not totally wasted.

There were several typos that I noticed in this book, I wonder if Rick Riordan had less time to edit this one or something, because I don’t usually notice any typos in his books and there were several glaring ones here.

The chapter lengths were nice, relatively even about 10 pages per chapter, some a little longer, some shorter, but I still felt like the pacing was off? I don’t know what it was about this book, lots was happening but it seemed to move at a very slow pace compared to the other two. This might just have been me and my assignment addled brain though!

I enjoyed that Magnus’ Floor 19 flatmates had a bigger role in this one, we got to find out so much more about Mallory, Halfborn and TJ and that was nice as they’ve played mainly supporting roles up to this point, so it was nice that they all got the chance to shine and play a part a bit more in this book, their backstories and personalities feel a lot more fleshed out after this book which was nice.

Alex is still probably my favourite of the characters from this series, she/he (if you haven’t read the second book, Alex is genderfluid and his/her pronouns change frequently throughout the book, Alex never goes by they though, hence me not using it in this review), Alex is fierce, smart, sassy and so confident in who she/he is, I’m actually genuinely in awe of him/her. The rest of the cast of characters is equally cool though, I feel like in this book especially, Magnus really came into his own, he no longer feels like a carbon copy of Percy, he has his own personality and style and that is very evident through this book. Sam is also wonderful, her character arc through this book of finally being able to stand up to Loki was great. Basically everyone on Magnus’s team brings something different and it was great to get to see them all interact in this book.

I still loved the humour, the chapter titles in this book were just brilliant and it will always baffle my mind how Rick Riordan manages to make fight scenes both intense and humourous (case in point, this book features a fight scene between ceramic pottery warriors). The pop culture references again bothered me though, I get that Riordan includes them in order to connect with the kids reading, but they felt a little old even for me and I’m a lot older than the target audience of this book!

Magnus’ narration reached a new level of sarcastic in this book which I really appreciated because ya know, the more sass the better.

The diverse representation in this series is just so amazing. Sam’s Muslim faith is handled very respectfully and I have never before seen a book feature Ramadan before, so it was very interesting to see her faith integrated into the storyline for the book, as obviously quests are very draining, and fasting can present an additional obstacle to that. I obviously can’t attest to how accurate the rep was, not being Muslim myself, but there was nothing that I could see that was glaringly problematic (if you are a Muslim, feel free to correct me). Hearth is deaf and uses ASL to communicate. Alex is obviously gender fluid, & TJ & Blitz are black. Riordan has got so much better at including diversity in his books since the initial Percy Jackson books and it always makes me very happy to see such a wide array of different characters portrayed in a middle grade book.

There is a small amount of romance in this book, not very much, but I was very happy to see the Magnus/Alex relationship finally come to fruition in this book! I mean it was hinted at very heavily in the last book that Magnus had a crush on Alex and it was nice to see that finally come to fruition. I also loved that Riordan included a scene of them at the end where it shows Magnus kissing Alex whilst Alex is identifying as a guy, Magnus says and I quote:

Alex is male right now. I have just been kissed by a dude. How do I feel about that?

I have just been kissed by Alex Fierro. I am absolutely great with that

This entire part just made me squeal, I was slightly worried that Rick Riordan would go down the path of having Magnus only be interested in Alex when Alex was identifying as a girl, so it was great to have this scene confirming that Magnus is interested in Alex no matter what gender Alex is identifying as, it also pretty much confirms that Magnus is pansexual, which yay awesome!

I wish that Blitz and Hearth had been confirmed canonically gay though, that was a bit of a disappointment to me as I felt like Rick Riordan had been hinting at it for the past two books and it would have been nice to have the same on page confirmation for them as we had for Magnus’ pansexuality. It just seemed like such heavy hinting for something that never actually came to fruition. I hope that if he does another Magnus Chase series in the future, then this is actually confirmed.

The UK finally appeared in a Rick Riordan book! This probably got me happier than it should have, and they’re only there for like two chapters, but I can finally say that a Rick Riordan adventure took place (if only for a little bit) in my home country and that is very cool! There was also a little bit that took place in Norway, a country I’ve never actually seen in a book I’ve read before, so that was pretty awesome.

There was a dragon! (That is totally not the most important part of that section, Hearth gets closure with his dad and it’s sad and kind of beautiful, but you know, I’m dragon obsessed so of course that was the bit I got excited about).

I feel like I must be the last person on the planet not to know that a group of crows is called a murder? I told my friends this and they were like “Duh you didn’t know that?” so clearly I have been out of the loop on that one. Still I think it’s pretty awesome!

I thought the final fight with Loki was a little bit too easy? Like yeah, it’s beautiful that Magnus said all that wonderful stuff about his friends and it was a very moving sequence, but I was expect the final showdown to be slightly more dramatic! It is kind of fitting with his character though, he’s not a fighter, he’s a healer and a team player, so it did make sense that that was how he defeated Loki, it was just different to what I was expecting!

Chocolate tug of war sounds absolutely amazing (tug of war over a chocolate lake) and I really want to try it!

I felt like the ending was a little anticlimactic? And that it was more there to set up the next Trials of Apollo book than close this one, which I didn’t like, Magnus and co. deserve their own proper ending. It just felt like everything wound down a bit too quickly and the last four chapters or so were just filler.

Overall, I did enjoy this book, but it wasn’t quite as action packed as I was expecting. It was great to see the development of the other characters from Floor 19 and see Magnus and Alex finally come to fruition but I was a little disappointed with the resolution of the Loki storyline. Still, it was exactly what I needed at the time, a light, fun filled story, so for that I am grateful and I hope that Riordan returns to these characters at some point, because after three books, it’s safe to say I’ve fallen in love with them!

My Rating: 3.5/5

I don’t know what I’ll be reviewing next as I’m reading 3 books at the moment and I don’t know which one I’ll finish first, so I guess it will be a surprise!

 

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House of Ash Review (e-ARC)

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Book: House of Ash

Author: Hope Cook

Published by: Abrams Kids

Expected Publication: 26th September (yes I know, this is super late!)

Format: e-book

I received this book via Netgalley. As always, this in no way affected my opinion of the book. As always, thank you to Netgalley and Abrams Kids for allowing me to read it.

I requested this on Netgalley months ago, but I’ve been super busy since University started and was having problems with my Adobe Reader a few months ago, so it’s taken me a while to finally read it and review it. I thought the concept for this book sounded amazing, a mystery about an old haunted house sounded just the sort of thing I would love. And I did enjoy it but not as much as I thought I would. I can’t really explain exactly why, there was nothing glaringly obvious wrong with it, it was for the most part a relatively enjoyable and intriguing story, it just didn’t grip me quite as much as I’d hoped it would. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

After hearing voices among an eerie copse of trees in the woods, seventeen-year-old Curtis must confront his worst fear: that he has inherited his father’s mental illness. A desperate search for answers leads him to discover Gravenhearst, a labyrinth mansion that burned down in 1894. When he locks eyes with a steely Victorian girl in a forgotten mirror, he’s sure she’s one of the fire’s victims. If he can unravel the mystery, he can save his sanity . . . and possibly the girl who haunts his dreams.

But more than 100 years in the past, the girl in the mirror is fighting her own battles. When her mother disappears and her sinister stepfather reveals his true intentions, Mila and her sister fight to escape Gravenhearst and unravel the house’s secrets—before it devours them both.

I thought it was a very interesting choice that the author started the book with dialogue as you don’t see that very often and her writing style overall throughout the book was really nice, there were some lovely passages of description in there that I really enjoyed. There were a few typos, but since it was a proof copy I was reading, that’s to be expected. There was a particularly great line of dialogue at the end, where Avi says, “She’s British, she’s freezing, of course she wants tea” which made me laugh so hard.

The transitions between Curtis and Mila’s POV’s were a bit clumsy to start off with and this wasn’t helped by the fact that the chapters were quite short so as soon as you’d got into one of their POVs, it was the other ones turn. Still, the author created the sense of time very well in both, you could definitely tell they were from different time periods and the voices were distinct which is always a worry when reading multiple POV books.

I didn’t really fall in love with either of the characters. I mean I found Mila’s chapters more interesting than Curtis’ because more of the paranormal elements were present in her chapters, but she still felt very bland to me, as did Curtis. Also their insta-love was entirely unrealistic to me, Curtis literally sees a picture of Mila and falls in love. Mila sees him in the mirror once and is having steamy dreams about him. I felt like I could root for Mila a lot more than I could root for Curtis though, she is trying to escape the house to get away from her abusive stepfather, whereas Curtis is just trying to find Gravenhearst to prove that she’s not crazy. Curtis’ friend Avi and his sister Sage seemed to be the only ones with any real personality and I wished we’d got a bit more of them.

I would have liked to get a chance to get to know Wynn better, she seemed really sweet and we barely got a chance to get to know her before she disappeared.

I wasn’t a fan of how the mental health aspects of this story were portrayed, Curtis’ father has some form of mental illness, the exact one is not named in the story. It felt like Curtis’ father’s mental illness was merely used as a plot device in order to explain Curtis’ fear at hearing voice and giving him a “tragic” backstory and that didn’t really sit well with me. I wasn’t a big fan of how Curtis dealt with his father’s mental illness, he’s not very understanding, he just gets angry. Also I didn’t like how the author used Curtis believed mental illness as a plot twist, that didn’t sit right with me either. The scenes portraying Curtis’ father’s mental illness can be quite violent and could be potentially triggering, so just a warning for that. It did find it weird since their mother died when they were so young and their dad had been ill for all that time that they hadn’t been taken into care, it didn’t seem realistic.

The first half of the book was quite slow paced for me, it was only in the second half when Curtis and Mila’s POVs started to really come together when I became properly engaged with the story.

I liked the Canadian setting, it’s so rare for me to read books set outside the US/UK (if it’s not a fantasy world), so it was nice to see a different setting.

I did like the mystery with the house and how everything came together with Mila and Curtis’ storyline intermingling at the end, I thought that was really well done. Gravenhearst, the house that shifts through time was suitably creepy and you could tell why Mila was desperate to get out of there. Deemus was horrible, truly awful and totally deserved what he got. I would have liked a bit more information on how Gravenhearst worked though, you get vague details but I thought it could have been explained better.

There was some LGBTQ rep with Curtis’s sister, and Mila’s father but it’s very much background and you only really hear about it second hand so I wouldn’t exactly count this as an LGBTQ book.

This is a minor thing, but there’s a passage where Mila was reading out loud from a book and the passage from the book probably should have been italicised.

There were some decent twists towards the end that I didn’t see coming, but the pace was so fast at the end as compared to the slow build up that you didn’t really have time take them in and there were certain things that confused me, although saying what would have been spoilery. I would have liked Zahra to have a bigger role during the story, given her role during the conclusion.

I wasn’t really sure what the illustrations added to the book, but maybe that’s just me being not a particularly visual reader.

The book ended sort of abruptly, it seems like the author is leaving the path open for a possible sequel, but perhaps not, I don’t know, it definitely wasn’t closed enough for a standalone though.

Overall this was a decent haunted house story, the writing was very pretty but the character development was a little lacking and the pace was very uneven, so it felt like the climax was rushed.

My rating: 3/5

My next review will be of the final book in the Magnus Chase trilogy, The Ship of The Dead. I’m not sure when it will be though as I’m only about halfway through now.

Scythe (Arc of A Scythe #1) Review

28954189Book: Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1)

Author: Neal Shusterman

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, my love of Neal Shusterman’s work will probably be no secret to you. His Unwind Dystology is one of my favourite series that I have ever read and Challenger Deep was one of my favourite books I read last year. I will take any opportunity I can to recommend any of his books that I have read. This is all to say, that naturally I was very excited to read his latest YA offering, a book set in a perfect world where no one dies naturally so people are recruited (Scythes) to kill them off in order to keep the population in check. This concept was very appealing to me, but it did take me a while to actually get into the book, I was almost halfway through before I really got hooked, but once I was, I couldn’t let go. This was definitely a great book to be reading on my 5 hour train journey back up to Scotland after reading week! I wouldn’t say I loved this as much as I loved Unwind, or even Challenger Deep, but it was still really good. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

First off, the concept of this is obviously amazing. A world where no one can die naturally and have to be killed off (gleaned) by people specially chosen for the job, who can’t actually want to be Scythes because otherwise the world would be run by psychopaths. I really loved the world building as well, it was so intricate, you have the Scythes and their whole political system, all the different methods of gleaning, the whole AI system which is kind of like The Cloud, everything about it was really well thought out and interesting. The only thing I could slightly complain about with the world building is that it doesn’t really deal with natural disasters, like okay this is a perfect world, but how do you eliminate flooding, earthquakes, hurricanes etc. Shusterman kind of touches on this with fire, but I wish he’d expanded a little on how the other natural methods of dying were dealt with.

I also love that Shusterman’s novels always deal with some kind of big philosophical question but are never heavy handed about it. This one is obviously dealing with the moralities of death and killing but also the consequences of what would happen if we lived forever, would humanity just become useless because we don’t have the fear of a natural death forcing us to strive and achieve? It’s all very interesting, and Shusterman explores all the possible facets of his perfect world. I did feel like the morality conflicts could have been slightly better in this book, whereas in Unwind, everyone is pretty morally grey, in this book the distinction between the heroes and the villians were pretty stark.

The pacing was a little off throughout the book, it’s only really after about chapter 17 that I really started to get into the story and the stakes started to feel a little higher, for most of the first couple of parts of the book it kind of felt like it was just gliding along, not really going anywhere. The chapter lengths were for the most part good, although there were some that were overly lengthy, particular in the parts of the book that dealt with the conclaves (Scythe meetings). I also felt like it took a bit longer than it should have to get to the whole winner of the Scythedom has to glean the loser thing, given that it’s told to you in the blurb of the book!

I loved the named chapters! It’s such a small thing but it really makes a difference for me, I love it when authors take the time to give the chapters names, it’s just a little extra detail that helps me get even more into a book.

It was kind of weird for me that the acknowledgements were at the front of the book, I mean it doesn’t really make much difference, it’s just that most YA books have the acknowledgements at the back so it was slightly jarring having them first.

The scythe journal entries between each chapter were awesome, they just added that little something extra to the book which I liked.

It took me a while to warm up to the main characters Citra and Rowan, I felt like you didn’t really get to know them much when they were together and it was only when they were apart that you got to see their true personalities shine through. I also felt like the whole one of them having to kill the other made less and less sense as the book went on, with every twist, it started to seem more like a formality than something actually to be feared. I initially liked Citra more, she was bold and inquistive and was always asking “Why?” something had to be done, but I actually found Rowan the more interesting of the two by the end, because he actually had to struggle morally, between whether gleaning was right or wrong and if it should be enjoyed, due to who his Scythe mentor ended up being, so his story actually became more interesting to me than Citra’s. Citra kind of gets off easy, as she gets a Scythe mentor whose views very much match hers, so she doesn’t have to struggle as much morally as Rowan does. I hope that they both get developed more as characters in the next book, because that did feel like it was lacking here.

I thought the mystery with Scythe Faraday was a little simplistic, I worked out what was going on basically as soon as it was introduced, so it was kind of a waiting game to see when you knew what was going to happen was revealed. I did appreciate that the mystery allowed Rowan and Citra to diverge though and develop separately.

The romance I felt was very flat and really unnecessary. It would have been more believable if Rowan and Citra had formed a real bond as friends and that’s why they didn’t want to kill each other, but the romance was just forced, because honestly there was zero chemistry there.

The writing was good, but a little dense at times? Still there were nice moments of humour in there, which were much needed to lighten the mood.

I did love seeing all the different Scythes, and how no one Scythe seemed the same as the others, even the ones who had similar ideas on gleaning went about it in different ways. I particularly liked Scythes Curie and Faraday.

The ending in particular was very strong, and has me incredibly excited to see where the next book goes.

Overall, this was a decent book, it struggled with pacing at times and the character development could have been much better than it was, but the world development and the amazing concept definitely prevailed in that I still really enjoyed this book despite what would usually be pretty massive weaknesses for me and that I cannot wait to read the sequel when it comes out next year!

My rating: 3.5/5 (3 for the first half, 4 for the second)

The next book I will be reviewing is Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds. In the meantime though, I will have my October #RockMyTBR Update up very soon!

The Girl From Everywhere (The Girl From Everywhere #1)

25950053Book: The Girl From Everywhere (The Girl From Everywhere #1)

Author: Heidi Heilig

So this was my October #RockMyTBR read and I was really excited about it because I had heard such good things (although of course this is always a danger as you’re more likely to be let down with higher expectations). I’m happy to say though, that I really enjoyed The Girl From Everywhere! September was a bit of a down month for me (shame because it was my birthday month) as both the books I read were a little underwhelming, so I was really happy to read something that I genuinely enjoyed. I’ll admit that the time travel elements kind of went over my head, but I love the characters and the historical setting, I’ve never read anything set in Hawaii before and I have no idea why because it was such a wonderful setting. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

It was the kind of August day that hinted at monsoons, and the year was 1774, though not for very much longer.

Sixteen-year-old Nix Song is a time-traveller. She, her father and their crew of time refugees travel the world aboard The Temptation, a glorious pirate ship stuffed with treasures both typical and mythical. Old maps allow Nix and her father to navigate not just to distant lands, but distant times – although a map will only take you somewhere once. And Nix’s father is only interested in one time, and one place: Honolulu 1868. A time before Nix was born, and her mother was alive. Something that puts Nix’s existence rather dangerously in question…

Nix has grown used to her father’s obsession, but only because she’s convinced it can’t work. But then a map falls into her father’s lap that changes everything. And when Nix refuses to help, her father threatens to maroon Kashmir, her only friend (and perhaps, only love) in a time where Nix will never be able to find him. And if Nix has learned one thing, it’s that losing the person you love is a torment that no one can withstand. Nix must work out what she wants, who she is, and where she really belongs before time runs out on her forever.

So first off, obviously the premise is awesome. A ship that can travel through time? Yes please. I would have loved if there had been more explanation as to exactly how the whole Navigation thing worked, as I didn’t really understand it, but Nix (our narrator), didn’t really either so I guess that worked well? I did love it though, the whole idea of using maps to travel through time is really creative and it’s not something I’ve ever seen before, so I give props to Heidi Heilig for coming up with such an awesome idea. I absolutely love maps as well, I always say a fantasy book can be improved with a good map, so I loved having a book that centred around them and we got some pretty awesome illustrations through the book which was amazing.

I felt like the main character Nix was kind of outshone by the main guy character in this book? Well at least for me. Kash was smart and sly and sassy and funny whereas Nix felt kind of dry to me? I didn’t feel like I got a great sense of her personality, which is not exactly what you want from a main character. I did like that she loved to learn and was keen on adventure and liked all those different mythologies though, I could definitely connect to her on those things. Her dad, Slate, was kind of a contradictory character, he seemed to be switching between protective, loving father and “I don’t really care if you die when I go to get your mother back”. Still I did love that this book explored father-daughter relationships, because it’s so rare in YA! It was nice to see a parental character not just there, but actively involved in the adventure.

I loved the inclusion of different mythologies throughout, I’m a bit of a mythology nerd and I loved getting to see lots of different ones included.

The writing was incredibly pretty, but there were a few grammatical errors and typos here and there, which is slightly jarring to read in a finished copy.

The setting was amazing! I’ve never read anything set in Hawaii before, and I loved it. It was such a great setting for this book, really added to the magical feel. I also liked the little author’s note at the end explaining some of the historical aspects, as I really didn’t know anything about Hawaii before reading this book, so it’s nice to come out feeling like I’ve learned something! All the little aspects of Hawaiian culture she weaved into the book were amazing.

I did feel like the plot was a little confusing? I didn’t understand why they needed to go to all the places they went to and honestly sometimes the plot just seemed a little thin, the entire book mostly felt like set up for the part at the end. I also found it kind of anticlimactic, although I can’t really explain why because it would be spoilery. Honestly my liking of this book was more for the feel and the history and the characters than the plot. It wandered a little and a lot of the book felt like jumbled puzzle pieces that didn’t quite fit together.

I was also sad that the sea dragon didn’t seem to have any real purpose. I mean you give me this dragon and it has no role in the story? Don’t tempt me with dragons and then yank them away!

There is a little romance, not a lot, but a little and Nix and Kash were a very shippable couple. There’s also a bit of a love triangle with Kash and another guy she meet in Hawaii which I didn’t love because it brought out the worst in both male characters!

There were plenty of animals in this book between the dragon and Blake’s dog and horse, which made me very happy.

There was also a ball which made me very happy because I’m sure you all know by now, I love a good ball with pretty dresses and boys dressed up in suits.

I did love the diversity in this book, Nix is half Chinese, Kash is Persian, one of the crew members Bee was African and a lesbian, it was great to see. Also the author is biracial just like Nix and actually comes from Hawaii!

I don’t feel like this necessarily needs a sequel? I mean it’s quite open ended, but it feels like a standalone in the way it’s written. Still I am very happy that there is going to be a sequel as I want to spend more time with this crew, I want to get to travel to more places (as they are largely in Hawaii for most of this book), I want to know how Navigation works (like how can you travel to mythological places? How is that possible?) and I want to get to see Nix’s personality evolve more. Okay, so I guess it’s quite good there is a sequel! (Point still stands though, it reads well as a standalone).

My Rating: 3.5/5

The next book I will be reviewing is Neal Shusterman’s Scythe, I’m almost halfway through and enjoying so far. I’m hoping to have a discussion post and something else a little special up during the rest of my time at home, so stay tuned for those things!

 

And I Darken (The Conqueror’s Saga #1)

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Book: And I Darken (The Conqueror’s Saga #1)

Author: Kiersten White

I was really excited for this book as I’d heard such great things about it, that it had a lot of stabbing, that the female main character was very fierce and that it was generally a great read. However, I found myself struggling to read it, it took me three weeks to get through which is slow even for me, especially with a 400 page book, three+ weeks is usual for me for 600+ page books, but  not for something like this. It was just incredibly dense, both the prose and the story itself and whilst I was promised a stabfest, what I actually got was a political yawnfest. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.

Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.

Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.

The first of an epic new trilogy starring the ultimate anti-princess who does not have a gentle heart. Lada knows how to wield a sword, and she’ll stop at nothing to keep herself and her brother alive.

The premise sounded amazing, a genderbent retelling of Vlad The Impaler? Sign me up! However the book didn’t really live up to the promise of its premise. There was a lot of dense political talk and romance and religion, but not exactly very much of Lada being stabby and vicious, at least not as much as I was expecting.

The story was VERY slow. It moved at an almost glacial pace throughout, even when they arrived at the Sultan’s court, it’s still incredibly slow. That combined with all the politics, the dense prose and the large focus on religion made it a struggle to get through. I mean I appreciated seeing the religious aspects, as religion is too often glossed over in YA, but this in combination with the politics and the dense prose really did not work. I can’t speak to how good the Islam representation was, but it is there, if there are any Muslim reviewers reading this who have read the book, I’d love to know what you thought about the rep in this.

I actually lost track of how old the characters were, because there was so much skipping about in time. First they were kids, then they were 10 and 11 then loads of time skipped and they’re suddenly like 15 and 16, but they felt a lot younger? I don’t know, it just bugged me a little, because I always felt they were a lot younger than they actually were, so some of their actions didn’t make complete sense to me.

I did like Lada, but she wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I was expecting her to be really, really vicious and she was sometimes, but nowhere near to the level that I wanted her to be. I also didn’t like how she seemed to do a complete 180 when she fell for Mehmed. Still I did like that she was fierce and knew her own mind and beliefs and stuck to them that was great. Radu was sweet and I liked him at first but once the whole Lada/Mehmed thing started, he got all jealous and brooding and I wasn’t such a fan? I also didn’t believe that Mehmed could be that dense about Radu’s feelings for him, I think he’s using him.

I really hated that it had to be constantly emphasised how ugly Lada was. Like I get you need to show that she can’t rely on her looks but I don’t think it was necessary to be reminded every other page how ugly she was.

Mehmed really bothered me. I didn’t get why he wanted Constantinople so much and it honestly seemed like he was just using both Lada and Radu. He had his harem, he didn’t need Lada and yet he keeps her around just because he wants her. Honestly it felt like he was emotionally abusive to both of them and I didn’t really like that.

There is LGBTQ+ representation which I liked, because it’s not something you see very often in historical fiction, especially not in this time period, but there is a bit towards the end that utilises the “bury your gays” trope. That really disappointed me because I had thought the rep was okay up until that point.

The plot wasn’t particularly coherent and didn’t really seem to have a point until right up at the end. I will admit I really loved the climax, especially with what happened to Lada’s character. I was just expecting far more action throughout the book and I didn’t really get it.

I have seen some reviews from native reviewers, Romanian in this case, who have said that they weren’t pleased with the representation of their history, so that’s something to take into account when choosing whether to read this book.

Some of the chapters were definitely a little overlong, which contributed to the lagging pace.

Overall, it’s not a terrible book, but it could have been so much better. Lada was great, but most of the other characters I didn’t really get along with, the plot was slow, it was very dense and generally just not particularly easy to read. This would be great for anyone who likes historical reads, packed with politics and religion but not so much for lovers of action packed, fast paced reads like me.

My Rating: 3/5

The next book I will be reviewing is Heidi Heilig’s The Girl From Everywhere, as my #RockMyTBR book for October. Also I promise guys, my September Update is coming, I will hopefully have it up for you tomorrow!

 

 

 

Charlotte Says Review (e-ARC)

Book: Charlotte Says

Author: Alex Bell

Published By: Stripes Publishing

Expected Publication: 7th September (oops!)

Format: e-book

I received this book for free via Netgalley. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.

As always, thank you to Netgalley and Stripes Publishing for allowing me to read this book.

I enjoyed reading Frozen Charlotte by this author over the summer, so when I saw that there was going to be a prequel to it coming out this year and that it was available on Netgalley, I immediately jumped at the chance to read it and requested it. Luckily for me, my request was granted! If possible, this book was even creepier than Frozen Charlotte and I definitely felt more unsettled when reading it, but I think I enjoyed Frozen Charlotte just a tad more? Maybe because I had no expectations. I also kind of knew where the story was going to go in this one because a lot of the events are mentioned in Frozen Charlotte, having said that, the way events unfurled really surprised me! Here is a short synopsis of the book:

The much-anticipated prequel to the bestselling FROZEN CHARLOTTE, a Zoella Book Club title in Autumn 2016.
Following the death of her mother in a terrible fire, Jemima flees to the remote Isle of Skye, to take up a job at a school for girls. There she finds herself tormented by the mystery of what really happened that night.
Then Jemima receives a box of Frozen Charlotte dolls from a mystery sender and she begins to remember – a séance with the dolls, a violent argument with her step-father and the inferno that destroyed their home. And when it seems that the dolls are triggering a series of accidents at the school, Jemima realizes she must stop the demonic spirits possessing the dolls – whatever it takes.

First off, you don’t necessarily need to read Frozen Charlotte to read this one, it’s a completely stand alone book and it really depends whether you want to know the backstory first or whether you want to read Frozen Charlotte and then find out the backstory.

This book was definitely a lot more intense than the first one, what with the dolls, the evil schoolmistress, Jemima’s sadistic stepfather, all of it together makes for a very intense reading experience and I was definitely more horrified at this one than I was at the first one. It’s a lot more graphic as well, there’s animal abuse, human abuse, murder, some pretty nasty injuries, so definitely not for the fainthearted and possibly more for older teens than younger ones, I think. Also warning to anyone with the same phobia of needles as me, there are some scenes involving needles in this, so you may want to flick past those!

I found it interesting that the book started with dialogue as it’s not something that you see very often but I think it worked well here.

I liked the integration of the flashbacks with the present story, it was all woven together really well and the transitions between past and present weren’t clunky like they sometimes are.

This book answers many of the important questions we were left with from the first book, why are the dolls evil, how did they get to the school, what happened for the school to be closed etc whilst still leaving the end slightly open, so you’re not entirely sure what will happen to all the characters once the story is over.

I’m not sure how I really felt about Jemima as a character, for most of the story I was really rooting for her, I wanted her to find out what was happening with the Frozen Charlotte dolls and I felt really bad for what happened to her with Redwing but there was a big twist at the end that kind of changed my opinion of her? I did find it a bit weird that she was 17 and an assistant schoolmistress, but this was the 1900’s so I think that was pretty normal back then.

The schoolmistress, Miss Grayson, was absolutely horrible, I mean it fits with what I know about schools in the 1900s, but it was still quite shocking to see how awful she was! I felt really bad for all the poor girls, especially Estella, who I just wanted to give a massive hug to.

The dolls were just as creepy, if not more so than in the first book. It’s cemented now, I definitely hate dolls. Why do we think those things are cute? They’re freakin’ terrifying!

Jemima’s stepfather Redwing, is one of the most atrocious human beings ever, he’s truly awful and the chapters detailing his forcing Jemima to communicate with his dead daughter were very difficult to read.

I didn’t really see the point of Henry. He seemed to just be there to provide the requisite YA love interest and didn’t have much of a personality aside from being a nice, too perfect, kind of blank guy.

I will admit, wasn’t a huge fan of the sexism in this book. I know it’s the time period, but this is a story where demonic dolls can control human beings, I think you can tone down the sexism! There was also the classic YA girl on girl hate that needs to die a slow painful death like now please? It’s getting old!

I loved the little cameo from Cameron, it was a nice throwback to Frozen Charlotte.

Once again, the setting was awesome, I love reading books set in Scotland and it’s such a good setting for horror novels, so atmospheric! Alex Bell is definitely very good at setting a scene.

The pacing felt a lot better than the first book, the chapters were shorter, the mystery felt tighter, and actually by the end I was wishing there was more!

The epilogue felt very similar to the one in the first book, except I actually liked it better here, because implying that the dolls are still out there doing damage, leads quite well onto Frozen Charlotte.

Overall, this was another engaging horror story from Alex Bell, it was a fast, if not necessarily an easy read as it’s quite horrifying and if you liked Frozen Charlotte, then I would definitely recommending continuing (or starting, if you want to read this first!) the dolls’ story.

My rating: 3/5

My next review will be of Kiersten White’s And I Darken, which I finished last Sunday, but have been so busy with essays, I haven’t had a chance to write it yet. Will try to get it up ASAP!

 

 

 

Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) Review

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Book: Glass Sword (Red Queen #2)

Author: Victoria Aveyard

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this book, the first book wasn’t my favourite thing in the world but it had potential and I was hoping that the sequel would expand on the potential seen in the first one, plus I met the author just before I started reading it and got it signed so I was really hoping that I would like it. Unfortunately I definitely felt like this book suffered hugely from second book syndrome, it was a LOT of set up with very little reward at the end and was probably about 100-200 pages longer than it really needed to be. Sure the end sets up for some pretty exciting stuff but you can’t expect readers to sit through hundreds of pages of boring to get to the good stuff, just so they’ll keep on with the next book! Here is a short synopsis of the book:

If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.

Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.

So where do I start with this? I think the pacing is probably the best place as that was incredibly irritating. We switch between extensive Mare-monologues, to action sequences that really leave absolutely no punch at all, and back again, I don’t even know how many times over the course of this book. The actual plot is relatively simple: find and save newbloods, it shouldn’t have taken nearly 500 pages to do that! It also throws you straight into the new story without giving any kind of background on what happened in the first book and I’m sorry but it’s been over a year since I read Red Queen, I’m not gonna remember everything! You cannot assume that your reader is going to be going into the book, fresh off reading the first in series. This isn’t really a particular bug bear just with Aveyard, it’s authors in general really. Series synopses need to be a thing! The chapters were also overly long, it felt like I was trudging through them to get to the end, as opposed to actively enjoying them.

I also didn’t love Aveyard’s writing? She tended to lean on the same phrases and use them over and over again throughout the book. Seriously, I could have made a drinking game out of the number of times Mare used the phrases “lightning girl” and “anyone can betray anyone” in this book! She treads the line between cheap action sequences that didn’t really add anything to the plot asides from being “flashy” and info-dumping throughout most of the book. I actually said in my first Red Queen review that I liked her writing, so I don’t know what changed in this book, but it really irritated me.

Whilst I quite liked Mare in the first book, despite her awful name, in this book she became absolutely unbearable to me. Her inner monologues were lengthy and boring, she had the tendency to contradict herself all the time, she was arrogant to the point where you kind of wanted to punch her, she was so dismissive and rude to her friends and I felt like she kind of looked down on anyone who wasn’t a newblood? Correct me if I’m wrong, but it felt that way to me! She feels so incredibly entitled and yet is so self-pitying at the same time, it’s not a fun combination to read. I complained in the first book that she didn’t seem to have much agency, and as far as I could tell, that didn’t really change much in this book, she still didn’t feel like much of a leader to me.

The plot was incredibly thin on the ground. It was basically them rushing between one part of the Kingdom and another to rescue newbloods, who just so happened to have the exact powers Mare needed them to in order to complete the big mission at the end. Almost every chapter read the same to me, and I often found myself flicking through to find out when they would be over.

Cal, I actually appreciated more in this book. He seemed to be one of the few who was willing to call Mare out and tell her when she’d gone too far (him and Cameron), he’s actually lost far more than Mare has and deals with it a lot better than she does. I wouldn’t go as far as to say he was totally fleshed out, but I felt like he was more on the way there.

The villains’ just totally dropped off the map in this book! I mean Maven and Elara are kind of there in the background, but they really don’t make their presence felt at all, I mean we’re supposed to believe that all the newbloods are in danger from them and they’re this force to be reckoned with, but they kind of just slink around for the entire book. It would have been nice for them to be more scary really!

I still enjoyed all of the abilities, but it annoyed me that everyone they recruited just happened to have a skill they needed, you’re recruiting all these people. it’s likely that one of them won’t have a useful skill! It just felt too coincidental to me, it would have been better if the characters had powers that fit their personalities, that could have been a prime chance to develop their characters, but no we don’t get that, they are barely developed.  I liked the hints that we saw of Cameron, she was great,  but all the rest basically seemed to be there as props to do Mare’s bidding.

I also didn’t like that for someone who family is supposed to mean so much to, Mare basically forgot about her family half the time throughout this book. There’s no point your YA character having a present family (a big score point) if they just forget about them all the time! I did like that this book explored her relationship with her brother Shade a bit more though, that was good.

I felt so bad for Kilorn, Mare treated him so badly when all he was doing was trying to help. I actually enjoyed his character, he and Cameron were basically the only characters that showed any real spark in this book!

The romance in this was again pretty bland. So Kilorn is basically out of the picture and she tells him as much, which I did appreciate because I hate it when the guy who is obviously not going to win the girl’s affections is led on. Maven and Cal both still appear to be in the running for Mare’s heart, despite the fact that Maven is evil now, Mare doesn’t seem able to let go. It all just felt rather bland to me, I didn’t really feel the chemistry between Cal and Mare and Maven’s not really there for most of it and on his side, Mare feels kind of like a possession, which is something I hate. I don’t feel like romance is Victoria Aveyard’s forte!

I didn’t really feel like the world building was expanded much in this book. They travel through basically the entire Kingdom, but there’s no map and no real expansion of the world, it was just, oh we’re going to this part of the kingdom, now this part, now this part and I just felt completely confused by it! It’s never really been explained why the Silvers are in power or where the whole divide came from, only the vague, “oh there was a war a long time ago and now everyone hates everyone else”. And we still have no idea why newbloods exist, they just do.

It also really bothers me that Mare has no female friends at all, now I’m not saying that girls can’t get along better with guys than girls, but there are very few YA books that show positive female friendships and I would love to see more of this, because I feel like teenage girls need that sometimes, they need to know that other teen girls aren’t the enemy! It wasn’t as bad as the first book with all the girl on girl hate between Mare and Evangeline, but the only girls who have much of a presence in this book are Mare, Farley and Cameron, Mare and Farley, I guess are friends but I’m not sure you could tell by the way they act. Cameron is hostile to Mare from the get go and that’s understandable, but I would have liked it if she had one close female friend. Just one.

The fantasy elements from the first novel seemed all but gone in this one as well, I liked that the first one was a kind of dystopian/fantasy cross, but it seemed like this book couldn’t decide what it wanted to be, dystopian, sci-fi, fantasy, who knows?

There are TOO MANY characters! Have a few characters and focus and really develop them, rather than throwing in all of these newbloods with different names and powers and no personality for readers, just give us a few well developed ones, we won’t mind! We might even actually thank you for it. I read a lot okay, I do not have time to remember every single random character you want to throw into the story and it must be even worse for people who read hundreds of books a year.

I was hoping the Scarlet Guard would have more to do in this one, but aside from at the very start and the very end, they basically do nothing.

It got a bit more exciting towards the end, but still, the action sequences were rather clumsily written, she writes them in a big, cinematic sort of way, which is fine for screenplays, but in books, you don’t necessarily want that.

I also don’t understand how Mare could have got so good with her powers so quickly, she wasn’t even in the palace for that long!

Basically, much as I wanted to like this book, it really wasn’t for me, far too much style over actual substance, Mare was irritating, character development was thin on the ground and world building was practically non existent, there were too many characters, and the plot pretty much wasn’t there at all. I think it would take something really special for me to want to continue the series at this point!

My Rating: 2/5

The next book I will be reviewing is And I Darken, the first book in The Conqueror’s Saga by Kiersten White.