By A Charm and A Curse Review (e-ARC)

By a Charm and a Curse by Jaime Questell

Book: By A Charm and A Curse

Author: Jaime Questell

Published By: Entangled Teen

Expected Publication: 6th February

Format: e-book

Thank you to Entangled Teen and Netgalley for allowing me to read this book early, it was one of my most anticipated debuts of 2018, so I was super excited to get to read it before it released!

I was really excited for By A Charm and A Curse, because I have enjoyed circus/carnival type stories in the past, and am super obsessed with The Greatest Showman, so naturally, reading a book with a circus setting was right up my alley, plus the idea of a curse being transferred by a kiss was really cool to me. There were some things which could have been improved, but overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it was refreshing to read a shorter, standalone fantasy story, when I usually read thick tomes that are part of series! Here is a synopsis of the book:

Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic isn’t like other traveling circuses. It’s bound by a charm, held together by a centuries-old curse, that protects its members from ever growing older or getting hurt. Emmaline King is drawn to the circus like a moth to a flame…and unwittingly recruited into its folds by a mysterious teen boy whose kiss is as cold as ice.

Forced to travel through Texas as the new Girl in the Box, Emmaline is completely trapped. Breaking the curse seems like her only chance at freedom, but with no curse, there’s no charm, either—dooming everyone who calls the Carnival Fantastic home. Including the boy she’s afraid she’s falling for. 

Everything—including his life—could end with just one kiss. 

First off, I loved the concept, it was definitely different to the other types of circus stories that I’ve read before, and whilst the idea of a kiss being used to break a curse is quite a common one, I quite liked that in this one it was the kiss that caused all of the problems.

The setting was also really cool, I liked that it was a modern day circus, in both Caraval and The Night Circus, the circus/carnival type setting was more ethereal, more magical, but this one was a more recognisable circus, with all the things you would usually expect, acrobats, horses, food stalls that kind of thing and I really liked that, you had this modern setting, but still with that sense of awe and wonder that you get from Caraval and The Night Circus.

I also loved the dynamics between the characters, as a group, you could definitely tell they had known each other and worked together a long time, it felt like a really authentic dynamic and it was nice to read. I would have liked to get to know the side characters a little better though, it seemed as if they were just there to prop up Emma and Benjamin rather than having any significant role in the plot. Emma and Sidney in particular had a rather interesting dynamic, as he

The curse was amazing, so creepy! Emma basically turns into a sort of living version of Pinocchio, she turns completely solid and cold and like a puppet in human form and it was awful to see her go through that but it was also such a cool idea. I liked seeing how Emma struggled and adjusted to her new life and how she became a part of the little circus family.

I would have liked Emma to be a tad more developed, it has to be said. I liked that we got to see how the curse affected her and how it ultimately made her stronger, I liked that she didn’t wallow in her new life, she worked to try and find a way to solve her problem but I felt like Ben got a lot more of a backstory than she did and I would have liked to learn just a bit more about her, as it seemed like Ben’s story was a lot more important to the plot, despite Emma being the main character. Still, I did  like her and was rooting for her to break the curse.

Ben seemed nice, I mean I wouldn’t say he was my favourite main character ever, but he was sweet and caring and that was a nice change from a lot of the morally ambiguous YA love interests! I will say that sometimes I got a little confused about Emma and Benjamin’s narrations, their voices could have been more distinctive, I did occasionally get confused and think one was narrating when it was actually the other! Emma and Ben’s romance was sweet, I liked that even though yes they were instantly attracted to each other, their relationship developed in a really natural, authentic way, it wasn’t like they were telling each other they loved one another in a week or something.

I will admit, I got a little annoyed at some of the carnival members, like you see this poor person suffering, but you don’t even try to help break the curse, you just keep going because this benefits you? How selfish is that! It seemed weird to me that they hadn’t tried to break the curse before now.

The curse was a little difficult to understand at first, but as the story went on and we got more explanation, it made a lot more sense and I was amazed at how much detail Jaime put in to the passing on of the curse and the history of it and everything, it was really cool!

There were a few uncorrected proof errors, but that’s to be expected and nothing that annoyed me so much I had to stop reading.

Ben’s mother was incredibly intense and I didn’t really like her, also her subplot with Sidney was really weird and I’m not sure how much it added to the plot, aside from offering a reason as to why she wasn’t keen on Emma and Benjamin being together.

It was nice to see teens drinking in USYA, I feel like that’s not something that is shown very much? Although to be fair, I don’t know what the teen drinking culture in the US is like, so I don’t know whether it’s realistic that not many teens drink in USYA or not!

I liked that the chapters were short, it meant the book had a nice flow and a nice pace to it and I never found myself getting bored by the story which was good!

I definitely felt for the characters and the stakes they were up against because every time something happened because of the charm weakening I felt really bad for them and wanted them to fix it! I also thought it was really clever, how the explanation for the charm weakening tied into to how to break the curse.

The climax was totally thrilling, I was on the edge of my seat just reading it, and there were definitely shocks along the way! I liked the ending as well, despite some of the events of the book, it ended on a happy and positive note, closed in the sense that you know there’s not going to be a sequel, but open in the fact that it ends with lots of possibilities for the characters in the future and I think that’s a really good way to end things.

Overall, this was a fast paced, unique little carnival story, and I really enjoyed it! I would definitely read more by this author in the future.

My Rating: 4/5

Bechdel Test: Pass, Emma and Jules have a conversation at the beginning that doesn’t revolve around boys and the female cast members talk about the curse throughout.

To win a By A Charm and A Curse swag pack, use the link below (US only, sorry!):

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1cb554951221/

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The Fandom Review (ARC)

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Book: The Fandom

Author: Anna Day

Published By: Chicken House

Expected Publication: 4th January (yes I know, this is very late!)

Format: Physical copy, paperback

Thanks to Chicken House for allowing me to have an ARC of this book, even if it did take me a while to get through it!

I got an ARC of The Fandom when I was at YALC last summer, and initially I was really excited. I mean a group of friends at Comic Con, getting transported into their favourite fictional world? Sounds like every book lover’s dream right? However I found the actual book quite a struggle to get through, the plot lagged for most of the book and then everything was far too fast at the end and you had no time to take anything in. Also the fact that the book came about as a result of an Ideas Contest and the author wasn’t actually the one who originated the idea just doesn’t sit right with me. I also wasn’t a massive fan of the writing, the author repeated a lot of the same phrases over and over again. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Cosplay ready, Violet and her friends are at Comic-Con.

They can’t wait to meet the fandom of mega movie, The Gallows Dance. What they’re not expecting is to be catapulted by freak accident into their favourite world – for real. Fuelled by love, guilt and fear, can the friends put the plot back on track and get out? The fate of the story is in their hands …

A fast-paced, genre-flipping YA fantasy adventure from a brand new author, writing in homage to the best YA fiction.

It’s an interesting concept, but I felt like this book couldn’t decide what it wanted to be? Was it a dystopia, a contemporary, a fantasy? It could have been any of the above and whilst I do love it when authors bend genre tropes and explore more than one genre in their books, in this particular book, it felt really clumsy, not as if the author was wanting to subvert the tropes  of different genres, but that she simply couldn’t decide what kind of story she wanted to write, so threw everything plus the kitchen sink into this book.

I also felt like the story was insanely predictable, I mean it starts off with Violet giving a presentation about The Gallows Dance and pretty much telling us the plot of the rest of the book, so you know exactly what is going to happen, right up until the final page. Sure there are a few surprises along the way, but for the most part, the entire plot of the book is highlighted in a few pages at the beginning, which means there’s absolutely no tension, even in places where there should be. You know exactly what is going to happen and how things are going to end up, so it’s really difficult to care, even when the characters are in precarious positions. There are some okay twists, but even then, you know that the story can only end one way, so they lose any impact that they may have had.

I never really felt connected to any of the the characters, they just didn’t feel fleshed out enough to me. Violet and her inferiority complex got irritating real fast, Alice felt like just your stereotypical blonde and Katie, who might have been interesting, just wasn’t given enough page time for you to really care about her. Nate was quite cute but again, I didn’t feel totally connected to him.

I liked the romantic twist with Violet falling for the wrong guy, but her romance with Ash didn’t feel totally believable, Ash was kind of bland and their love seemed pretty instalovey to me, sure they had a more believable connection that Rose and Willow, but they still weren’t very shippable to me, and it just seemed like their romance was in here because it’s a YA and there “has” to be a romance.

The friendships, oh my. Alice, Violet and Katie’s friendship was totally toxic, or at least, both their friendships with Alice were, particularly Violet and Alice. They barely even seem to like each other and Violet and Katie say horrible things about Alice, slut shaming her constantly and Alice seems to look down on both of them. I know bitchy friendships are part of school life, but personally? Don’t want to read about them. The world pits women against each other enough, without us doing it in fiction too. I quite liked Katie and Violet’s friendship, in fact it kind of seemed like there might have been something more there, at least on Violet’s end and I wish that had been explored more. Katie was quite funny, with all her inventive curses!

There was absolutely no sense of urgency, knowing how the story was going to end ahead of time, made me feel like I was just going through the motions, exactly like Violet seemed to be for most of the story.

I liked Violet’s relationship with her little brother, it felt like a very authentic sibling relationship and even though it was irritating how she kept infantilising him, as a younger sibling myself, I can relate to that one! It was nice to see a brother/sister relationship in YA, I feel like those are often neglected? Or maybe that’s just me? Nate totally didn’t deserve what happened to him in the end.

The action sequences were decent, but again, they lacked urgency because we already knew the ending.

It’s completely unbelievable that none of them were injured by having fricking scaffolding collapse on them, like I’m sorry, there’s just no way, if you are crushed by tonnes of heavy metal, you will get more than a fricking bump on the head!

It was great that they all learned something and seemed to have changed from their experience in The Gallows Dance, I liked that the author showed that, it would have been completely unbelievable that they would have gone through all of that without having changed at least a little.

There was a scene in the Gallows Dance part where Violet is almost sexually assaulted by a guard (someone steps in before it goes too far), and I thought that was totally unnecessary and a step too far, with everything happening in that area in real life at the moment, it’s not something we need to casually see in fiction as well.

I liked how the author expanded on the stories of the side characters in her fictional universe, so often we don’t get to see the stories of minor characters in novels, so it was nice to see that.

There were way too many info dumps about things that happened in canon and then we had to see those scenes play out after having just been told about them, it just didn’t feel at all authentic!

It definitely felt more for younger teens than older ones in the way that it was written, the repetitive style, the language, I don’t know, just something about it felt a lot more like something I would have loved when I was 13, than when I was 16/17, not that that’s a bad thing, we need more books for younger teens!

The mocking of dystopian novels felt a bit much, I get the author was trying to be clever and subvert genre tropes, but it didn’t feel like it was done in a loving way, it felt like the author was being way harsh on everything that had come before, and again, dystopia has changed a lot in the past ten or so years since The Hunger Games and Divergent, so it doesn’t land as well as it might have had this book been published earlier. Subvert tropes all you want, but you can do it without besmirching the books that got you to where you are now.

Overall, The Fandom had potential, but the way it was executed was poor, it was poorly written and incredibly predictable, the characters felt flat, I was not here for the incredibly toxic teen friendship and it was pretty slow, right up until the end where it went too fast and then didn’t explain anything. Also the ending was completely unsatisfying!

My Rating: 3/5

Bechdel Test: PASS-Alice, Katie and Violet have several conversations that don’t revolve around boys.

My next review will be of Jaime Questell’s A Charm And A Curse, which should hopefully be going up next week as part of a review tour for it.

Everless Review (e-ARC)

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Book: Everless

Author: Sara Holland

Published By: Orchard Books

Expected Publication: 4th January (whoops!)

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 Orchard Books for allowing me to read this book, I was very excited for it and it was great to get to read it early!

I think Everless was possible one of the most hyped fantasy debuts of 2018? There was a massive buzz around it at YALC but unfortunately my friend and I were too late to get an ARC from there so as soon as I saw it on Netgalley, I jumped at the chance to request and happily, was accepted. I was a bit worried that Everless wouldn’t live up to the colossal hype that I had heard about it, but I really did enjoy it. Here is a short synopsis for the book:

Time is a prison. She is the key. Packed with danger, temptation and desire – a perfect read for fans of The Red Queen. 

In the land of Sempera, the rich control everything – even time. Ever since the age of alchemy and sorcery, hours, days and years have been extracted from blood and bound to iron coins. The rich live for centuries; the poor bleed themselves dry.

Jules and her father are behind on their rent and low on hours. To stop him from draining himself to clear their debts, Jules takes a job at Everless, the grand estate of the cruel Gerling family.

There, Jules encounters danger and temptation in the guise of the Gerling heir, Roan, who is soon to be married. But the web of secrets at Everless stretches beyond her desire, and the truths Jules must uncover will change her life for ever … and possibly the future of time itself.

I thought the concept for this one was really cool, it’s not something that I’ve ever seen in a YA fantasy before. I was a little confused at first, there was a lot of information coming all at once, but as the story went on, things became clearer, and I really liked the magic system that the author had set up, I thought it was great and really inventive.

I also really enjoyed her writing, whilst she did have a tendency to info-dump in places, I thought the writing in the book was really pretty, especially in the first couple of chapters.

I’m kind of unsure what to think about Jules? I didn’t mind her, but I wouldn’t say she’s the most memorable of YA heroines ever. I liked that she was described as having brown eyes and curly brown hair because that’s like me and despite the fact that my look is fairly common, the brown eye/brown hair combination is not a common one in YA! But personality wise, she was quite bland, there was nothing about her that really stood out for me. Still it didn’t matter so much, because I enjoyed the plot and despite finding Jules quite bland, I could root for her, so that was good. I find myself getting irritated at her at points though, she made some stupid decisions and gave herself away when she should have, but then I suppose we all make stupid decisions!

I wasn’t overly keen on the casual sexual harassment by the Everless guards towards the girls at the beginning, I didn’t think it was at all necessary.

The plot was a little bit slow at first, even though the main mystery was introduced quite early on, it all unravelled quite slowly through the book, although for the most part the chapters were a decent length (with the occasional overly long one) so it didn’t take me too long to get through them and I was engaged throughout because I wanted to find out the mystery behind Jules. I had various ideas about where the mystery would go and I was completely wrong, so the twists at the end were very effective!

I wasn’t overly thrilled by the romance, though that seems to  be a recurring theme in YA fiction! I didn’t really feel the spark between Jules and Roan, despite the fact that she went on and on (and on) about him and I didn’t really feel it between Liam and Jules either and am I the only one who thinks the two brothers love triangle needs to die a painful death? Cause seriously, not cool.

There were some uncorrected proof errors but that’s to be expected and I’m sure they will be fixed in the final book.

There was a minor thing that bothered me, it was slightly disconcerting when Jules mentioned riding Western style and I didn’t know if that necessarily fits in a fantasy world? I don’t know, I just found it jarring.

The last few chapters went along at breakneck speed, it almost seemed too fast, we got reveal after reveal and whilst it was very exciting, I would have preferred it if the pacing was more even throughout! Still I loved the twists at the end, I didn’t guess any of them. I need the second book after the way this book ended because MAN THAT WAS SOMETHING. It’s hard to talk about without being spoilery, so I’ll just say that it’s pretty awesome.

Overall, this was a great debut, the pacing might have been a little off and I didn’t totally love the MC, but it was a unique idea, executed and written well, the resolution to the mystery was absolutely mind blowing and it kept me on my toes all the way through the book. I look forward to the sequel, Evermore, next year!

My Rating: 4/5

Bechdel Test: PASS-Bea and Jules have a conversation about the Queen’s servants and Jules, and Caro, Jules and Ina talk about the Queen and Ina and Jules talk about their family and where they came from, lots of conversations between named female characters that aren’t about men!

My next review will be of Anna Day’s The Fandom.

 

 

 

 

Shadow and Bone (Shadow and Bone #1) Review

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Book: Shadow and Bone (Shadow and Bone #1)

Author: Leigh Bardugo

First book review of 2018, everyone! Who’s excited? Okay, just me? Moving on then. My first read  of 2018 (and my first #RockMyTBR read) was the first book in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, recently renamed The Shadow and Bone trilogy as she is expanding the Grishaverse. I was super excited for this one, because I absolutely loved Six of Crows when I read it last summer but sadly it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. The plot was slow paced, and didn’t really pick up until right at the end, so it felt a lot longer than the 300+ pages of the book and I really couldn’t connect to the main character at all, which was such a shame. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite – the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance. Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and Laini Taylor.

First off, the pacing was incredibly uneven. Some chapters were like thirty pages long and some were like seven and I didn’t like this at all, it made the book very difficult to get into, especially when the plot was incredibly thin on the ground for most of the book (the prologue was really gripping but then it severely slowed and didn’t pick up again till the end), for the most part it focus on Alina training and learning how to use her powers and whilst that’s important, it wasn’t the most fun to read about for twenty or thirty pages at a time.

Then there was Alina herself, who I just couldn’t connect to at all. I mean okay, I am in my twenties now, so that could be part of it, but even considering that, I’ve managed to find YA characters that I could connect to before. Alina for me, just seemed bland, for a lot of the first half of the book she was incredibly mopey, she got a little better when she started to grow into her powers but I still found her a little dull and I just didn’t really care about her at all. Mal as well, didn’t really seem to have any semblance of a personality, so of course, I didn’t really feel the romance between them because how can two such bland characters have any kind of chemistry? Answer: they can’t.

I also hated how Alina acted to any girl who showed even the slightest bit of in Mal, like girl, you haven’t told him how you feel about him, he’s not dating you, other girls are allowed to be interested!

Whilst Leigh Bardugo did go for the special snowflake here, I appreciated that despite having these awesome powers, Alina did struggle in learning to use them, it’s irritating when protagonists have awesome powers and are amazing at everything else, Alina might have had these cool powers but she wasn’t good at everything and I appreciated seeing her struggle.

The Darkling was an interesting and complex character and I wish more time had been focused on him, he’s this charming and manipulative and ruthless guy but we don’t really get to see that side of him very much as Bardugo spends a lot of time trying to convince us and Alina that he’s decent. I wasn’t much of a fan of the hints of romance between The Darkling and Alina though, he’s several hundred years older than her for one and that makes me rather uncomfortable, I know it’s common in Fantasy, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Also must we with the love triangles? I know this was published a few years ago, but the point still stands!

The world building was okay, I guess. I liked the magic system with all of the different types of Grisha powers, I thought that was cool, if not the most inventive system in the world. The world is Russian inspired, but some of the Russian influenced words didn’t make sense, especially the fact that Alina’s surname was the masculine version of the name when it should have been the feminine version. There were other mistakes in the names as well, Genya and Ilya are both male names used for female characters and one of the characters’ names is a swear word, so overall, more research needed to be done into Russian culture. I did think that the way the Grisha’s use of their powers actually made them stronger was pretty cool, as most fantasy books tend to go with using magic making the wielder weaker. Still, whilst I think the Grisha and their society were developed well, I would have liked to know more about the world in general. I found The Shadow Fold incredibly confusing and there were a lot of places that were just kind of brought up and then dropped.

I really enjoyed Genya and Alina’s friendship and I was kind of sad with what the plot twist did to them because aside from her, Alina didn’t really have any female friends. I liked Genya as well, she was kind of vain, and funny and I just enjoyed reading about her, so I hope those two find a way to patch things up in the next two books! There was a lot of focus on looks, Alina seems to be obsessed with how pretty other girls are, and whilst I can understand that from a teenage girl point of view, twenty one year old me found it kind of irritating. I also didn’t like how Alina shamed Genya for calling herself beautiful, like self acceptance is a good thing Alina?

I think Leigh Bardugo’s writing skills have definitely got better over the past few years, not that this was badly written, it wasn’t at all, but I preferred the writing in Six of Crows, one of her later books, it was tighter and involved less inner monologue!

The map was very cool, I always love it when books have a map!

There were some interesting twists, mostly in the latter half of the book and I’ll be interested to see how those twists affect what happens in the next book. Honestly, if those twists hadn’t happened, I would have been unlikely to finish this book, so I’m glad they did, although you do kind of have to suspend disbelief with how quickly Alina accepts one of the plot twists.

Part of my problem with this book is not actually the book’s fault, I had been told so much about Nikolai Lantsov by my friend, who loves him, so I kept expecting to see him and love him, without realising that he doesn’t actually appear until the next book!

Overall this book was decent, but it does read as a rather cliche YA fantasy and was a little bit of a letdown after Six of Crows. I am going to continue on with this trilogy as I want to meet Nikolai and see what happens with The Darkling, but I definitely wouldn’t count this book amongst my favourite fantasies I’ve read.

My Rating: 3/5

Bechdel Test: PASS-Genya and Alina have various conversations that don’t relate to boys (I should explain here: I’m analysing the books I read this year to see if they pass the Bechdel Test, a test for female representation in media. In order to pass, a piece of media must have two or more named female characters who discuss something other than a man).

My next review will be of Everless, by Sara Holland, my latest Netgalley read, I should have it up for you guys tomorrow as I have the day off Uni.

 

 

Chainbreaker (Timekeeper #2) Review (e-ARC)

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Book: Chainbreaker (Timekeeper #2)

Author: Tara Sim

Published By: Sky Pony Press

Expected Publication: 2nd January

Format: e-book

I received this book for free via Edelweiss, this in no way affected my opinion of this book.

As always, thank you to Edelweiss and Sky Pony Press for allowing me to read this book, I loved Timekeeper, so I was super excited to get to read Chainbreaker a few weeks early!

I loved Timekeeper when I read it last year, so of course, there is always an element of nerves when you’re reading a sequel to a book you really loved, as you’re worried it won’t live up to the first book but that was absolutely not a problem here, Chainbreaker was even better than it’s predecessor! Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Clock mechanic Danny Hart knows he’s being watched. But by whom, or what, remains a mystery. To make matters worse, clock towers have begun falling in India, though time hasn’t Stopped yet. He’d hoped after reuniting with his father and exploring his relationship with Colton, he’d have some time to settle into his new life. Instead, he’s asked to investigate the attacks.

After inspecting some of the fallen Indian towers, he realizes the British occupation may be sparking more than just attacks. And as Danny and Colton unravel more secrets about their past, they find themselves on a dark and dangerous path–one from which they may never return.

You know when a book starts with a map, that you are onto a good thing, and this one started with a map of India, so you know, only good omens starting this one!

The character development in this was just INCREDIBLE! We get to see so much more of both Daphne and Colton in this book and both of their story arcs were so amazing, so emotional. Colton’s went to a place I never expected before reading this, I don’t want to spoil anything, but have the tissues handy. It was nice seeing him have his own story arc outside of Danny, and I feel like I really know Colton much better after this book, which is nice. I mean I loved him in Timekeeper, but now he really is my precious cinnamon roll who must be protected at all costs. Daphne’s storyline was also beautiful, seeing her go to India and struggle with finding a place there even though she has Indian blood felt so raw and even though I knew the author had taken this from her own experience as she is half-Indian, I wasn’t expecting Daphne’s storyline to touch me anywhere near as much as it did. When I wrote my review of Timekeeper, I said I wanted to see more of Daphne and learn more about her in the next book and I definitely got that with Chainbreaker. Danny to a certain extent kind of fades into the background somewhat in this book, he’s still there, but his story doesn’t have the same emotional impact as Daphne and Colton’s. I didn’t really mind that though, because Daphne and Colton’s stories were so strong. I also would have liked to see a little more Cassie in this one, as she was one of my favourite characters in Timekeeper, I hope we get to see her more in the final book of the series.

It was a little sad not to see Danny and Colton together much, as their romance is very shippable and they are very cute together, but I think it was good we got to see them apart in this second book as it allowed them to develop independently of each other, which I always like to see. We do get to see a kind of sex scene between them before Danny leaves though, which is nice, and it wasn’t overly smutty, it was actually kind of nice (which feels strange for me to see as I usually hate sex scenes). There’s a scene featuring Colton with a former boyfriend and I thought that was pretty cool as you rarely ever get to see exes in YA fiction.

There was a slight time jump which I wish the author had made clearer at the start as I was a little confused to start off with, until I worked out some time had passed between Timekeeper and the start of this book.

I liked the little clock graphics at the start of each chapter which showed the chapter number, I thought they were really cool!

The writing in this was just gorgeous, but not in a way that feels like the author is trying too hard to make it pretty, it was just lovely writing!

It was lovely to see Danny’s parents in this book, it is so rare to see present parents in YA, and even rarer to see them interact with their child’s love interest, so all the scenes with them and Colton in this book made me really happy. It was also really nice to see Danny’s dad have an active role in this one after the events of Timekeeper.

It was very cool to find out that Danny lives in Lambeth, because I was actually born there, so it makes me feel like I have a cool link with him!

The world building in this was amazing, we find out so much more about the clock towers and how they came to be, we get a whole new setting in India which introduces a whole new culture and religion and customs and new characters as well, plus it was cool to read a book set in India as I’ve never read one set there before. Tara Sim is a master at weaving together different threads to create her alternative Victorian world, it’s so engrossing and wonderful. The development of the clock towers was especially interesting, how they came to be is just horrifying!

Seeing the interactions between the British main characters and the Indian ones was quite interesting, especially considering the time period, some of the racism towards the Indian characters was quite difficult to read and it’s horrifying to think that this actually happened under the British Empire.

There were so many interesting twists and mysteries in this one, involving the falling clock towers in India and I really enjoyed seeing where the story went, I didn’t guess a single thing and was on the edge of my seat the entire time. The plot was so much faster paced, tighter and even more interesting this time around, I sped through it in two weeks, which is pretty fast for me for a Netgalley read, I was obsessed!

There was the occasional error, in spelling and numbering of chapters, but since I read an uncorrected proof, I assume these errors will have been corrected in the final version.

There is another new romance introduced in this one, Daphne, and an Indian pilot Akash. It was very shippable, but given what happens in the end, I have serious worries for what might happen with the two of them in the next book!

There’s so much amazing diversity in this one, not only is Danny gay, and Colton pansexual, Daphne is biracial and there’s an interracial gay relationship between a British captain and an Indian sepoy.

There’s a bit in this where Daphne smokes, which I found quite interesting as I’m not sure I’ve ever read a YA book where a MC smokes? I also liked seeing the inclusion of Hinduism in this as I also don’t think I’ve read a YA book which has featured that and it was cool to see how Sim intertwined a real world religion with her own world’s mythology.

I liked that the author used italics to show when they were speaking in Hindi, obviously the lines were in English, but the italicisation really helped in making sure I knew they were speaking Hindi, not English.

Why are all the Jo’s in books Josephines? Seriously? I love seeing characters that share my nickname but it would be nice if for once I found a Jo in a book that was a Joanne, like me!

The ending to this book…..WOW. JUST WOW. I have not felt this personally attacked in a long time, THAT CLIFFHANGER. It comes close to the end of Mark of Athena and the end of A Gathering of Shadows in the whole “How the hell could you make me wait a year for the next book after this author?” stakes. The entire last few chapters are really intense and that ending…..just wow. I need the next book like now okay? Not next year, now! I’m seriously hoping I get to read an ARC of the third book, because I don’t think I can wait until 2019 to find out what happened after that.

The acknowledgements…..I don’t usually talk about the acknowledgements to books very often, but Tara Sim’s father died last year and she dedicates the book to him in the acknowledgements and it’s just so sad and yet so sweet, I nearly cried while reading them.

This was an incredible sequel, with stunning world building, amazing character development, a glorious new setting and lots of twists and turns along the way. I cannot wait for the conclusion to this trilogy!

My rating: 5/5

My next review will be of my first read of 2018 (since both reviews I’ve posted so far in 2018 have been 2017 reads), Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone.

 

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) Review

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Book: Scarlet

Author: Marissa Meyer

I wasn’t so keen on Cinder, the first book in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series when I read it last year, but I was told by basically everyone in the blogosphere that the second book in the series was much better and that I should keep going with it, so I put it on one of my #RockMyTBR polls for 2017 and Book Twitter decreed that I should read it, so there you go. I genuinely did like this one better than Cinder, I’m still not sure that this will become a favourite anytime soon and I don’t think I’ll be rushing to read Cress, but I did enjoy this one more than I thought I was going to, so I count that as a win. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Cinder is back and trying to break out of prison—even though she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive if she does—in this second installment from Marissa Meyer.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother, or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana.

Scarlet was a great addition to the cast of characters introduced in this book and I think a lot of the fact that I enjoyed this book more than Cinder was that I found her more interesting than I did Cinder. Cinder just felt bland to me whereas with Scarlet, her personality really shone through, she was this fierce teen who really loves her grandmother and will do anything to find her and the fact that I liked Scarlet actually meant I was more invested in Cinder’s story in this one because they were tied together. I also really loved Captain Carswell Thorne, another new addition to the cast of characters in this one. He was so charming and funny and I smiled every time he was on the page, he definitely made this book a much more fun read for me than Cinder was. I actually enjoyed him and Cinder together a lot more than her and Kai, not necessarily in a romantic sense, but they just seemed to have more banter and he brought her out of her shell, she didn’t seem quite as bland with him as she did with Kai.

Wolf, I’m not entirely sure about. He kind of fills the role of mysterious bad boy and you never really get to know enough about him to make a judgement on whether you like him or not. I did however appreciate the relationship between Scarlet and Wolf way more than I did the one between Cinder and Kai in Cinder, the chemistry was definitely far more there and that meant that the twists later on in the book had far more impact. Still, I’d like to maybe get to learn a little bit more about Wolf if I read the next book.

I wasn’t really sure about Kai’s role in this book? I mean he was there, he was doing stuff but to be honest, I don’t think I would have missed him if he wasn’t there, I still find him pretty bland!

I thought the fairytale aspects were better utilised in this book, whereas in Cinder it felt like Meyer just lifted everything and adjusted it slightly, in this book, it didn’t feel like Meyer was using absolutely everything from the story of Little Red Riding Hood, she took aspects and twisted them in a way that worked really well for the story.

I still really love Iko (my fave character from Cinder) and her being a ship in this one really made me laugh!

It was a little strange in the beginning when we jumped straight into Scarlet’s story, when we had left off with Cinder’s in the previous book, and it did take a while for the two separate stories to actually intertwine, so for a while it felt like you were reading two different books, but once Cinder and Thorne and Scarlet and Wolf’s stories did come together, they came together beautifully.

I would have liked to maybe see a little bit more of Scarlet and her grandma together, I mean we get through Scarlet that they were close but we don’t really get to see it very much, which is a shame because grandparent/grandchild relationships are incredibly rare in YA.

There were definitely a lot more twists and a lot more action in this one which I appreciated, though I had kind of worked out the twist involving Wolf quite early on in the book, there were still several other exciting things that happened that I didn’t see coming.

I still would have like a little more world building, I mean we get a pretty good idea of the structure of society on Lunar, but even in a different part of Meyer’s futuristic world, we still don’t get much of an idea of what this futuristic France looks like and I still feel that smushing the entire world into six countries is ridiculous. It also seemed weird that not one person is mentioned speaking French this entire book, given that they are in France? I mean Scarlet calls her grandmother, “grand-mere” but that’s all. I mean I get that maybe we’re meant to interpret that she’s speaking French most of the time, but I still feel like a few more French words thrown in there would have been good.

I also still don’t feel like Queen Levana is a scary enough villain, she seems incredibly detached from her supposedly “villainous actions” and I don’t know, I think the fact that we don’t really know anything about her motivations makes her seem like just this bland cookie cutter villain. I liked that this book explored more of Lunar society, the whole LSOP thing was really interesting and I hope we get to see more stuff like that in future books.

Overall, this book definitely upped the ante from Cinder, it was faster paced, more intriguing with excellent new additions to the cast of characters in the form of Scarlet and Thorne. I’m still undecided as to whether I will read the third book, Scarlet doesn’t end on such a cliffhanger that I’m dying to pick up Cress right away, so if I do read the third book, it might be a while. Still I am glad to say I enjoyed the second book much more than the first.

My Rating: 3.5/5

My next review will be of Tara Sim’s Chainbreaker, an e-ARC I read in December, as the publication date for that one is tomorrow!

 

The Crown’s Fate (The Crown’s Game #2)

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Book: The Crown’s Fate

Author: Evelyn Skye

I read the first book in this duology back in February, as part of my #RockMyTBR Challenge, and I really enjoyed it, all the different enchantments, the setting, the actual concept of the game, everything was really good for the most part so naturally after I read it, I was really excited for the sequel to come out. I saved it for December as I thought it would fit really well with this time of year (which it did) but I have to admit, I was a tad disappointed. Compared to the first book, this sequel was kind of lacklustre. Without the Game as a driving force, the pacing seemed even slower than it was the first time around and when the book came to an end, I just felt like “Well was that it?”. It certainly didn’t end the series with a bang, that’s for sure. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Russia is on the brink of great change. Pasha’s coronation approaches, and Vika is now the Imperial Enchanter, but the role she once coveted may be more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever expected.

Pasha is grappling with his own problems—his legitimacy is in doubt, the girl he loves loathes him, and he believes his best friend is dead. When a challenger to the throne emerges—and with the magic in Russia growing rapidly—Pasha must do whatever it takes to keep his position and protect his kingdom.

For Nikolai, the ending of the Crown’s Game stung deeply. Although he just managed to escape death, Nikolai remains alone, a shadow hidden in a not-quite-real world of his own creation. But when he’s given a second chance at life—tied to a dark price—Nikolai must decide just how far he’s willing to go to return to the world.

With revolution on the rise, dangerous new magic rearing up, and a tsardom up for the taking, Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha must fight—or face the destruction of not only their world but also themselves.

The writing, as with the first book was truly lovely, Evelyn Skye certainly has a way with words, but even the prettiest writing can’t hide a lacklustre plot, so as much as I loved the way the book was written, I wasn’t in love with everything that was going on and as a reader, that means more to me. You can have the prettiest writing in the world, but if the plot isn’t strong then I won’t love the book.

Whilst I didn’t love the pacing, as I felt it was rather slow in places, I did appreciate the mix of longer and shorter chapters, it makes it a lot easier for me to read a book when the chapters aren’t all like twenty pages long! But the pacing really ruined it, the really intense climax was over within a few chapters, when we’d spent like seventy chapters getting there and the payoff just didn’t seem worth it. Chapters and chapters seemed to be spent on insignificant details, which I didn’t like.

I still loved the setting, especially given that the book was set around Christmas-time, I thought that was just perfect and it really added to the magical feel of the book.

I had mixed feelings about the characters. Vika, I still really liked, although her constant switching between Pasha and Nikolai for the first half of the book was really infuriating! Still, I did like Vika for the most part, she’s spunky, she’s determined to do things her way even within the constraints of being Imperial Enchanter which I appreciated, it was interesting to see her journey in this story. Pasha I could either take or leave, I thought he was cute in the first book, but I wasn’t a fan of his constant pining over Vika or the fact that he was a complete pushover. Nikolai, I really hated in this book, he was completely oblivious to what his mother was doing to him, everything he did was completely out of character, his jealousy over Pasha and Vika when there was nothing going on was just petty and his redemption arc was entirely rushed, there was nothing to endear me to Nikolai in this book at all. I felt bad for Renata, but I didn’t feel like she added anything at all to the book? She was kind of just there, pining over Nikolai and didn’t seem to have much use in the grand scheme of things. Yuliana, I reckon could have had potential, but was completely underutilised, so she just comes off as a selfish bitch trying to control her brother for the most part. It would have been really interesting to have chapters from Yuliana’s POV as she is clearly more suited to ruling than Pasha, but she never really gets a chance to shine and that was a real shame for me.

I wasn’t expecting Aizhana to have such a big role in this one and I didn’t really love that she did? Aizhana doesn’t really have much nuance to her, she’s just evil and that’s kind of that? Her role in the story didn’t really seem to add much either, it didn’t really develop Nikolai’s character, or their relationship so I wasn’t really sure what the point of her was. It also really frustrated me that Nikolai didn’t work out what she was doing for so long!

The magic was still pretty awesome, although a lot darker than in the first book, as the magic in the first book was used for whimsical enchantments, whereas in this book it is more like warfare. Still, it was awesome to get to see just how much Vika and Nikolai could do and the enchantments get even bigger in this one than they were in the last book, which was cool.

I felt like certain things were just a little too convenient, things were just too easy for either Vika/Nikolai throughout the book and it never felt like the stakes were particularly high even though Pasha was in danger of assassination!

I love Ludmila and Vika’s surrogate mother/daughter relationship and it was a shame we didn’t get to see more of it throughout the book.

There was still lots of tasty food mentioned through the book (though slightly less than the first) which I loved, I really want to try Oreshki cookies, they sound amazing!

I still wasn’t keen on the romance, for me, Nikolai and Vika’s romance has never felt very believable, it was total insta-love and it’s not any more developed in the second book than it was in the first, so there wasn’t anything there for me to root for. Though I did love the scene when they were dancing in the volcano, but I think that was more the setting than me believing in their romance!

The ending felt incredibly rushed. Nikolai had done far too much through the book to make everyone forgive him so fast and you could barely enjoy the magical conflict before it was over, there were far too many chapters devoted to planning the Decembrists uprising and far too few detailing it. I did think that the ending was sweet and I like a happy ending, but it just didn’t feel deserved after everything else that had happened in the book.

Overall, I liked certain aspects of this book, but Nikolai’s story arc, the slow pacing and the sheer number of conveniences that happened in order to get the characters to the end point Skye wanted them, meant that I didn’t enjoy the book as much as the first one, which was a real shame as I really liked the first one. I reckon had this been a middle book of a trilogy, I could have been more forgiving but as a series finale, it was underwhelming.

My Rating: 3/5

My final review of 2017, if I am able to finish the book and write the review in time, will be of the second book in The Lunar Chronicles, and the last book in my #RockMyTBR challenge, Marissa Meyer’s Scarlet.