Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) Review

23006119Book: Six of Crows

Author: Leigh Bardugo

This book was my #RockMyTBR read for August. It was one of the books I was most excited for on the list that Twitter chose for me at the end of last year and probably one of the most hyped books on the list. My friend absolutely loves this book as well, and we have very similar tastes in books, so usually if she loves a book, I will too. Still, it’s always a bit nerve wracking when you read a book that’s so well loved, as you always have it in the back of your mind that you might be the black sheep who doesn’t like the book as much as everyone else. Luckily this wasn’t the case with Six of Crows, I really enjoyed it! It did take a while to get into it, as a lot of the book is purely set up for the heist-which I suppose is to be expected in a heist book, but once the action started, it was very hard to put the book down. I also loved the cast of characters Leigh Bardugo put together and their development over the course of the book. Here is a short synopsis of it:

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first.

The opening was pretty engaging, but it did bother me that the opening chapter came from a character that you never hear from again in the rest of the book. I get that it sets up the whole thing with the Grisha, which is an important part of the rest of the book, but when the opening chapter feels completely separate from the rest of the story, that’s a bit of a problem for me. I mean, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story, but I feel like the opening would have made more sense if it had come from a member of Kaz’s crew rather than this weird outsider who we never hear from again.

This book is a spinoff from the author’s original Grisha series but I don’t think it’s necessary to have read them before you read this? I don’t know, for me personally, I found it easy enough to follow and the Grishas sufficiently explained that I could follow everything without having read the original trilogy, but I have heard that some people have found it confusing and it did seem as if the world building expected a certain level of prior knowledge about Grisha, so it’s up to you whether you want to read that first or this, it would probably give you a better understanding of the Grisha war (mentioned a few times) & why the Grisha are considered slaves, but I don’t think it’s necessary (although I did find that the difference between Heartrender and Healer wasn’t explained, is that something you know from the original Grisha books?).

I’d heard so much about Kaz before I read this and I was expecting to really like him, extremely clever anti-hero with a talent for thievery, he sounded a lot like an older version of Artemis Fowl, whom I loved. However I didn’t find myself loving Kaz quite as much as I hoped I would. I’m not really sure what it was, it’s not that he’s completely immoral or a bit of an ass, I’ve loved characters like that before, maybe it’s that he’s quite distant and that makes it hard to connect to him? I don’t know but I didn’t feel the same rush of love as everyone else. I did feel sorry for everything he went through and I really appreciated seeing his touch phobia represented as I can relate to that? I don’t have a phobia, but I do find close contact uncomfortable so it was nice to see that in a character.

I loved most of the rest of the characters though. Nina and Inej were without a doubt my favourites of the cast, Inej was so strong, both physically and emotionally and Nina was hilarious but also fierce (and she loved . I loved that they would put the boys in their places whenever they said or did something remotely assholey! I also loved their friendship, they’re so supportive of each other, there’s no jealousy there, no girl on girl fighting, just wonderful, supportive female friendship. We need more of this in books people! Inej is a former brothel worker but she’s never slut shamed for it. Nina is an unapologetic flirt but she’s also never shamed for it. I love this, women with agency people! This is how you do it!

Jesper was adorable, he’s kind of the comic relief of the group, and I do love the funny guy, so he had my heart instantly, but don’t let the comic facade fool you, he could kill you pretty quick with his sharpshooting skills. I loved his flirting/banter with Wylan and actually wished we could have seen more of the two of them, him and Wylan kind of get pushed to the side for Kaz/Inej and Nina/Matthias, which was a shame. Wylan was definitely my cinnamon roll for this book, he’s too precious for this world and must be protected.

I hated Matthias to begin with. He was all holier than thou and ooh I can’t love a Grisha and what you’re doing is totally wrong and was generally kind of an asshole but he undergoes some great character development through the book and by the end I actually quite liked him. Not as much as Inej or Nina but I didn’t want to hit him anymore, so I’m calling that progress!

All the characters are quite different which I loved (and the voices were distinct enough that you didn’t always have to look at the chapter heading to know who was talking), it made for a good group dynamic, although I will say that during the heist, the group is very much split into their respective pairs, so you don’t get to see them work together as much as I might have liked.

There’s great diversity in this book, you have two main POC characters (Inej and Jesper), a disabled character (Kaz), who also has PTSD, so there’s mental illness rep there too and a confirmed bisexual character (Jesper), Wylan who is strongly hinted to be gay but there’s no on page confirmation, so I’m not sure if that counts?  and a fat character (Nina). They were all treated well as well, no fat-phobia, racism, ableism or homophobia as far as I could tell, so that was great. I also liked that both Matthias and Inej are religious (though obviously their Gods are different to ours) as you don’t tend to see that very often.

I didn’t love that conveniently there were six main characters, who all got paired off with each other. Must we have romance in every YA book people? Can’t we have a group of six friends doing a heist without them all being paired? The romance wasn’t a huge part of the book which I felt glad of, as the only pairing I was really rooting for was Wylan and Jesper, they were so cute and their flirty banter so great. Nina/Matthias started as a captor/captive romance, which I didn’t love, although I did like how Nina made Matthias loosen up a bit more and I think this is a ship I could get on board with given more time. Kaz/Inej, I know I was supposed to love but I didn’t really see anything there? I don’t know maybe I will in the next book. It felt like I was constantly being told that Kaz and Inej felt things for each other, but I didn’t really see it. Nina and Matthias I saw it, I didn’t always love it, but I saw it (and I loved that there was a scene with them spending the night together but it was all about survival not sex! When you’re freezing to death, nah you will not be thinking about sex!). Jesper/Wylan aren’t even an official couple but I saw it. Kaz and Inej? I didn’t really see it. And it was kind of selfish of Inej to insist she must have Kaz “without armour” when she knows about his issues with physical contact? So that was a little offputting, much as I loved Inej.

There were some really great action sequences particularly in the latter half of the book, when the pace really picks up, somewhat making up for the lag at the beginning of the book where it is mostly set up. I mean I understand set up is necessary for heist stories, I just don’t necessarily want to read several hundred pages of it!

The characters all have quite complicated backstories, which I thought was good, as it fleshed them out, but I can understand that keeping track of all these characters and their backstories could be a problem for some people! I would have liked it if Wylan and Jesper had been a little more fleshed out, we tended to only get the flashbacks from Inej, Kaz, Nina or Matthias, which meant we didn’t really get to see Wylan or Jesper’s pasts, only hear snippets of it which was a shame. The lengthy flashbacks were interesting but they did also take you out of the main story and not always at the best times.

Some of the chapters were a little overlong at the start, which contributed to the pacing problems, but this got much better once we got into the heist proper.

I wasn’t expecting how much humour there was in this book, Leigh Bardugo writes great dialogue and some awesome witty banter and I found myself laughing out loud several times during the story.

There were a lot of twists throughout the book that I didn’t see coming, which made it more entertaining. Even though it’s a foregone conclusion that they will make it out of the Ice Court (there’s a sequel so you know things will go okay), there’s still a lot of obstacles on the way to achieving their goal. On occasion, I did feel like the story was trying to be a bit too clever though and I got a little confused? I don’t know, there are just some things that weren’t really explained as much as I would have liked. I also felt that there were times when everything was a little too neat? Saying exactly where would be a spoiler but there were definitely things that worked out just a little too well for the characters that it wasn’t quite believable.

The world building was pretty good, with the Grisha and the parem and all the different cultures of the world and everything, but I still felt like there could have been more? I don’t know, it’s probably just me, I love world building so I want to know everything! The setting was really cool, all dark and gritty, I hope we see more of Ketterdam in the next book.

Leigh Bardugo’s writing was really good, but I definitely preferred her dialogue to her description, I couldn’t really put a reason on it, I think it’s probably just my personal preference for dialogue.

The characters read as much older than they were, aside from Wylan and Jesper, I had trouble believing they were all teenagers, it felt like I was reading about a bunch of 20+ adults.

Van Eck was totally awful, I wanted to punch him!

The book tackles a lot of difficult issues, gambling problems, prostitution, death, drugs, PTSD etc and I thought Bardugo did this well and with sensitivity.

The end I had problems with. Not only was it anti-climactic, but the fact that it was only the girls in trouble at the end smacked of a little subtle sexism to me, which rubbed me the wrong way, the author had been doing so well for most of the book, so it made me a bit made that even a book that has really good rep and all of the sexism is countered, had some subtle sexism in it’s ending. I’m not sure if the author was meaning to, but it just rubbed me the wrong way.

I really enjoyed this book, it had it’s problems, but even with the pacing problems, it was an engaging read with a great cast of characters, good diversity, some awesome twists and turns and an interesting magical system, I look forward to seeing more of these characters in the next book!

My Rating: 4/5

My next review will be of the latest Skulduggery Pleasant book, Resurrection.

 

The Mime Order (The Bone Season #2) Review

17901125Book: The Mime Order (The Bone Season #2)

Author: Samantha Shannon

I wasn’t intending on picking up this one so soon after I read the last one, but when I was almost done with The Bone Season, I had a doctor’s appointment that I knew I would be waiting a while for and I didn’t have another book, so like a typical bookworm, I stopped by Waterstones en route to my appointment in order to make sure I had enough material for the long wait! I then put it down for a week whilst I read my July #RockMyTBR book, but luckily it wasn’t too difficult to get re-engrossed in the story and Shannon’s dystopic/fantasy world. I liked this one much better than it’s predecessor, it was easier to become immersed in the world as I understood more of the terms that had confused me in the first book, I wasn’t flipping back to the glossary the whole time (in fact I hardly used it, but it is there for anyone who is still confused about all the different clairvoyant terms), I found the Syndicate politics a lot more gripping than I’d found the penal colony of the Rephaim in the first book, the secondary characters were more fleshed out than they were in The Bone Season and the world building was definitely much improved from the first book. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Paige Mahoney has escaped the brutal prison camp of Sheol I, but her problems have only just begun: many of the survivors are missing and she is the most wanted person in London…

As Scion turns its all-seeing eye on the dreamwalker, the mime-lords and mime-queens of the city’s gangs are invited to a rare meeting of the Unnatural Assembly. Jaxon Hall and his Seven Seals prepare to take centre stage, but there are bitter fault lines running through the clairvoyant community and dark secrets around every corner.

Then the Rephaim begin crawling out from the shadows. Paige must keep moving, from Seven Dials to Grub Street to the secret catacombs of Camden, until the fate of the underworld can be decided.

The Mime Order picks up right where The Bone Season left off, we’re thrown straight back into the action after a short, sort of prologue I guess from Paige, it’s a good, gripping opening, but it might be worth reading a recap of the first book or doing a reread before reading this one as you are thrown straight back into the action.

It was good to see Paige being affected by what happened to her in Sheol I, it was a traumatic experience and it would have been unrealistic for her not to have been affected by it at all. I loved her development in this, she grows so much from the person she was in The Bone Season, her gift has grown considerably, she’s reckless and doesn’t always make the smartest decisions, but she’s a fierce friend and will do whatever she has to in order to change the syndicate and make sure that word about the Rephaim gets out. I liked that she didn’t feel like the super strong, super perfect heroine, she doesn’t get things right all the time and she’s kind of a reluctant heroine and this makes her all the more relatable and easy to root for.

I liked that we got to find out exactly how the others knew she was in Sheol I in the last book because that had been bugging me for a while!

The pacing was again quite slow, but I found that actually worked for this book. It was more of a mystery than the first one, so a fast paced action packed story wouldn’t really have worked (though there are definitely some great action sequences throughout), it was better to have the slow unfurling of the plot. At first I was worried as to how all the different pieces would fit together (the Rephaim, the challenge for Underlord/queen, the Rag and Bone Man etc) but it all slotted together very wonderfully in the end. The first part is definitely the slowest, things start to pick up in the second half and the third half moves at pretty breakneck speed.

I loved that this book focused more on the Syndicate, it was so great to get to see all of the dirty criminal goings on and the politics and different gangs and everything, I found that so much more interesting than the plot with the Rephaim from the last book. We finally got to see Paige properly interact with the Seals, and find out more about them so they feel like more fleshed out people in this book which was awesome. I loved seeing her friendship with Nick as well, it’s so nice to see platonic m/f friendships, although it would be nice if authors could recognise that you can have platonic m/f friendships between straight men and women, it doesn’t have to be that the only reason for the relationship being platonic is that one of them is gay, like can we have gay rep and platonic m/f friendships please? I found Nick’s new relationship with Zeke really cute and look forward to seeing where it goes in the next book particularly as the ending had some pretty big implications for them.

It was so interesting to finally see Paige interact with Jaxon properly, they have a kind of puppet/puppet master relationship, but they’re both kind of pulling each other’s strings if that makes sense? It’s quite complicated because Paige owes a lot to Jax and yet she knows how cruel he is and doesn’t want to be under his thumb anymore, and despite his flaws, it’s clear that Jax does in some way care for Paige, so it’s a very interesting dynamic that the two of them have and I look forward to seeing more of it in the next book.

I loved the setting, Shannon’s version of London is a grimy, gritty, dark criminal underworld and it’s an awesome backdrop for this tale. I love it when authors use settings that I am familiar with, because even though Shannon’s London is a future one, it still employs settings that I know, such as Camden where a lot of the book is based.

The mystery of who murdered the Underlord (not really a spoiler, it happens early in the book), was pretty gripping, but then it morphs into a load of other mysteries about the Syndicate and Scion and it was all so twisted and corrupt, it was awesome! The stakes definitely felt much higher in this one, what with the challenge for Underlord/queen and Paige being wanted by Scion, I really felt for Paige as she was constantly worried about getting caught and wanting to keep a low profile but also wanting to get the word about the Rephaim out there.

Total aside, but there was a bibliomancer in this, a voyant who uses spirits in order to find books to publish and I would totally love to be that voyant! The voyants and their powers are all so cool, it was great to see more than just Paige’s voyant powers in this book and to learn more about the different types of voyants in the syndicate. The world in general felt a lot more developed in this and I feel like I understand much better now how Paige’s London works and how it and clairvoyancy came to be, it was great to see Shannon stepping it up in that respect. There are quite a lot of different types of voyants, but it’s easy enough to keep track, with the orders of clairvoyants at the back of the book.

The chapters were still perhaps a little overlong, but in general, aside from a few typos, I felt like Shannon’s writing flowed a lot better in this book than it did in the previous one. I loved that the chapters were named, it’s an extra detail that I really appreciate!

I’m still not totally invested with Paige’s romance with Warden, I don’t know if it’s just that I can’t get on board with the whole slave/master romance thing (I know she’s free now, but she was for all intents and purposes his slave) or if it’s the fact that Warden doesn’t really have much of a personality to speak of, but they don’t make me swoon. Warden just doesn’t really do anything for me, he feels really blank and I know that’s part of the Rephaite character but I’d love it if he had a bit more of a character than just being morally dubious.

I loved the maps at the front, I think all fantasy books should have maps, it makes it so much easier to envisage the world!

There were several great twists throughout the book, most of which I didn’t see coming, which I loved!

The scrimmage was so exciting, it was basically two whole chapters of pure action and I loved it, it was all these voyants in the same ring, using their voyant powers which was really awesome! I don’t want to spoil the ending of the fight for you guys, so all I can say is that it’s really cool. It did feel like it took a long time to get there though, we found out about it pretty early on but it only happened in the last part.

THAT ENDING! I did not see it coming and I have so many questions! It’s set up for a very exciting book three and I can’t wait to see where Paige and the others go from here, as I still have a lot of questions from this book which I need answers to!

This was a great second book, the slower pace actually worked for it this time, the focus on the Syndicate rather than the Rephaim made it much more interesting, the slightly dodgy romance from the first book took a back seat, there were some awesome twists, the writing was more smooth, the world and characters were better developed, it was miles better than the first book. I was a little iffy going into this one but I’m now really excited for book three!

My rating: 4/5

My next review will be of my August #RockMyTBR read, Six of Crows.

 

 

 

 

 

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1) Review

13600168Book: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Author: Laini Taylor

This was the last book on my list for my YALC Reading Challenge, one that I bought last summer but like all of the books I bought last summer, had been left languishing on my shelf for a year. My friend has strongly recommended this book to me as she loves Laini Taylor’s writing and I have heard a thousand and one amazing things about this book and series from around the blogosphere. So did I enjoy it? Well sort of. It started off really promising, with an awesome heroine, an amazing setting and an interesting mystery with Brimstone and the teeth. However it went off track in the second half of the book and even more so in the third when the romance came in and took over what could have been a really great book, plummeting what could have been a new favourite, to merely okay. It so irks me when romance takes over what could have been an amazing book! Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Errand requiring immediate attention. Come.

The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. ‘He never says please’, she sighed, but she gathered up her things.

When Brimstone called, she always came.

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’, she has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole.

Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

The first half started off so promising! I loved Karou, she was smart, snarky, funny, slightly mysterious, everything I love in a protagonist. The Prague setting was incredible, especially Karou and her friend’s favourite restaurant Poison Kitchen, which I wish was a real place because it sounded so cool. There was humour, there was mystery with Brimstone and his chimaera and the whole teeth thing and getting to see Karou go to different places through the doors was pretty awesome. So all in all a great start. The writing was also really pretty without being overly purple. I was totally invested in this world of Prague and teeth and wishes (especially the whole wish thing that was really great), so even though the plot was moving slowly, I didn’t mind. There was also a whole mystery with black handprints on the doors being introduced which I was intrigued by. And we had Karou’s friend Zuzana who was just such a cute, small, snarky badass, and was a great friend to Karou despite her disappearing off all the time. All in all it was shaping up to be a great book.

Then came Akiva. And everything I loved about the book in the first half was gone. Instead of focusing on Karou and her Chimaera and Prague and Zuze, it became all about Akiva, who had as much personality as a damp squid and his lurrrrrrrrrrve for Karou, despite having only just met her! (Can we be done with the insta love already?) He was just such a cliche, perfectly handsome, mysterious but incredibly dull, like most YA love interests. We spent chapter after chapter with Akiva and Karou talking about how much they loved each other and all that fluffy stuff and I was like, where have my cool chimaera gone? Where are the doors and the teeth and the wishes and everything I loved about the first half? Suddenly the book had done a 180 and become another cliche YA romance.

The plot was also incredibly slow moving, when it was there at all. It felt like it couldn’t decide what it wanted to be, was it about Karou’s chimaera family and Brimstone and the teeth and wishes like in the first half? Or about Karou and Akiva’s love story? Or about the war between the angels and chimaera? It felt like the book kept chopping and changing and there was no real coherency between the three parts. I felt like Taylor maybe tried to put too much into this book and it didn’t really work, it would have worked better if she had stuck with perhaps one or two main plot threads, rather than over complicating it. The main mysteries seem to revolve around who Karou really is (it’s established early on that she’s not quite what she seems) and what Brimstone does with the teeth, both questions that aren’t answered until the last third, meanwhile you have to deal with Karou and Akiva being all moony with each other despite barely knowing each other.

I loved Brimstone and would have liked there to be a little more focus on him really as I found his teeth collecting and wishes far more interesting that Karou and Akiva’s “love story”.

I did like the world building and the mythology of the Chimaera/Seraph world, Eretz, but I think it suffered a little by essentially all being thrown into the third half, it would have been better if it had been spread out more throughout the story. Still it’s an interesting world that Taylor has created and I’d be intrigued to learn more in the next book.

I liked that the book had chapter titles, it’s such a small thing but it pleases me when authors do it, simply numbered chapters are kind of boring!

The part with Zuze’s marionette show was so cool, I wish people did things like that in real life, it would be awesome to see. I would have loved to have seen more of her and Mik, they seemed like they made a cute couple and I was actually more invested in their relationship than Karou and Akiva’s!

The whole flashback sequence in part three was very clunky. I understand why it was necessary in the overarching plot of the story, but I feel like the flashbacks could have been weaved into the story rather than having their own separate part, again it felt very disjointed. The writing also ended up becoming increasingly more and more purple as the book went on, at least for me. The only thing I liked about the third part was the masquerade bit as I am a sucker for a good masquerade!

The chapter lengths were mostly good, although they were sometimes a little long in the second half especially when there wasn’t much happening.

The end was incredibly anticlimactic, we had just been through this hundred page detour in order to find out who Karou was, we get this massive bit of information and then it just cuts off? I mean I get that you’ve got to get your readers interesting in reading a second book, but this felt like a lazy cliffhanger rather than a good one.

Overall, this book started decently enough, with an intriguing mystery but deteriorated in favour of a sub standard romance throughout the rest of the book. I’ll still read the second one as I’m interested in seeing what happened next and I did like the world that the author created, but I hope that romance is less of a focus in the next one!

My rating: 3.5/5

My next review will be of the second book in Samantha Shannon’s Bone Season series, The Mime Order.

 

 

 

Frozen Charlotte Review

23357071Book: Frozen Charlotte

Author: Alex Bell

I bought this book at YALC two years ago, yes that’s right, two years ago, but didn’t get around to it until this summer as part of my #RockMyTBR challenge. I originally picked it up because the whole doll aspect reminded me of PLL, and it does have some creepy PLL vibes, although thankfully the dolls are where the similarities end! I don’t tend to read too many horror books, because I’m not a big fan of gore, but luckily this story is more creepy than gory and kind of straddles the horror/psychological thriller genres, so for those who aren’t that keen on horror, that’s not all this story is, it’s a light horror with a lot of mystery vibes really. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

We’re waiting for you to come and play. Dunvegan School for Girls has been closed for many years. Converted into a family home, the teachers and students are long gone. But they left something behind…Sophie arrives at the old schoolhouse to spend the summer with her cousins. Brooding Cameron with his scarred hand, strange Lilias with a fear of bones and Piper, who seems just a bit too good to be true. And then there’s her other cousin. The girl with a room full of antique dolls. The girl that shouldn’t be there. The girl that died.

The prologue was incredibly gripping, but because it was set in the past, being thrown right into the present story after it was a little bit disconcerting. I would have liked it if the past storyline had woven into the present one a little more, I was expecting there to be more integration of the past and present and there just wasn’t.

I loved the setting, Scotland is a great setting for horror books, the dark and gloomy landscape works really well for a creepy and suspenseful atmosphere and I thought the isle of Skye was an especially great choice, the wild winds, the craggy cliffs, the old schoolhouse, all of it made for a very creepy setting, perfect for this book.

I loved that the author drew on real stuff for the book, the Frozen Charlotte dolls are real things (which I knew) and the Fair Charlotte ballad, which the author used at the start of each chapter (a very cool inclusion) is actually a real thing.

Some of the chapters were a little overly long for my taste, which meant the book was little slow to start off with but the pacing definitely got better in the latter half of the book.

The characters mostly felt a little flat to me? I mean I liked Sophie but there was nothing particularly special about her and aside from Piper none of her cousins seemed to be particularly fleshed up. I was also a little confused about Rebecca’s motives, because at first it seems like she’s malicious but then the author pulls a bit of a switch towards the end which didn’t really fit. I also didn’t really see how Jay (Sophie’s friend) was relevant to the story? I also felt like the author had a bit of a problem establishing the ages of the characters as they all felt either older or younger than they were, I spent most of the first half of the book thinking Sophie was 13!

Also Sophie’s cousin Lilias has such a weird name! Though it does kind of fit, she’s a rather strange little girl!

The author was definitely very good at creating a creepy atmosphere, I spent most of the book creeped out. This is definitely not one that you should read at night people! The mystery was also pretty engrossing, as I was wanting to find out what really happened to Rebecca the entire book. Ever since PLL, dolls have creeped me out, but now I hate them even more!

The writing was quite simplistic, so although the book is recommended for older readers, I reckon it would be fine for younger readers that can handle more mature content.

I thought the slight hints at romance between Sophie and Cameron were kind of weird, especially considering that they’re cousins, I mean they’re not blood related (Cameron is her mother’s stepbrother’s child) but it’s still kind of weird.

It did seem like some of the characters made questionable decisions, like why would Sophie’s Uncle stay in that house after all the bad things happened to his kids? Why wouldn’t someone have got rid of the Frozen Charlotte dolls sooner? Why wouldn’t Sophie just leave when all the creepy things started happening? Clearly people in horror books just do stupid things!

It wasn’t really explained exactly how or why the Frozen Charlotte dolls were evil? Or why they only affected girls? It would have been nice to get answers to those questions.

If you’re scared of needles, just a warning (as I am too) there are a few scenes involving needles in people’s eyes, so I’d just flick past those bits!

I thought the twist was decent, if predictable although there are some bits about it that didn’t particularly add up to me. It all just seemed a little bit too neatly plotted for me.

I didn’t think the epilogue was particularly needed, I think it would have been fine ending on the six months later bit and not establishing that the dolls were still out there being creepy.

Overall, this was a decent, engaging light horror, with a very creepy storyline and yes, although the characters were a bit flat, the creepy setting and dolls definitely make up for it. I liked that it was a quick read and easy to get into and it was great to see a book set in Scotland! If you like Pretty Little Liars, I would definitely recommend giving this book a try!

My rating: 3.5/5

My next review will be of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

The Bone Season (The Bone Season #1) Review

20590667Book: The Bone Season (The Bone Season #1)

Author: Samantha Shannon

I bought this book last summer, but of course, like all the books I buy, it has been languishing on my shelf for a year before I finally got around to it! I had heard some amazing things about this book from my friend so I was really excited for it. And it was good, it was, the world building was skilled (albeit I could have used a few more details), the writing was decent (though perhaps a little complex in places) and I loved the main character but it was a little confusing in places and it took a long time for me to warm up to the world and story. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

The year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.

It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, drugged and kidnapped, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

The Bone Season introduces a compelling heroine and also introduces an extraordinary young writer, with huge ambition and a teeming imagination. Samantha Shannon has created a bold new reality in this riveting debut.

The concept of the world is very unique, I’ve never read anything like it before, so props to the author for that! However, being so different, it does get a little confusing at times.

You’re hit with information right from the off, with a map and a list of the orders of clairvoyance right at the front of the book and whilst I appreciate that this was information we needed as readers, it’s a lot to take in right at the start of a book!

The opening was extremely engaging, unfortunately this doesn’t last through the whole book, whilst the opening chapters have a decent pace to them, the pace does lag a bit in the middle before picking up again at breakneck speed, I would have liked it if it had kept a more even pace throughout.

There are a lot of new terms thrown at you straight from the start, and whilst the author is helpful in providing a glossary for all of the clairvoyant terms, it is a little distracting having to flip back and forth all the time when you don’t understand something.

The chapters were also overly long, sometimes twenty or thirty pages, and this doesn’t really work for me, I feel like long chapters slow the pace of a book down considerably and I often have to leave off in the middle of chapters which I really hate!

The world building is decent for some things, you do learn about the different types of voyants and what they can all do, so the fantasy system is built up quite well and you learn quite a bit about the history of the Rephaim (this humanoid type race, that are immortal, it’s kind of vague on exactly what they are) but I didn’t feel like the history of Scion was explained very well. We don’t get to understand how this alternate UK came to be, and there’s a vague explanation as to why clairvoyants have become feared but it’s not fleshed out much. We also don’t know exactly how clairvoyancy became a thing. I’m hoping that we will get more development on some of these things in later books, because this world has so much potential if only it was fleshed out a bit more.

The action sequences were decent, but they are interspersed with a LOT of Paige’s inner monologues and lengthy descriptions that I possibly could have done without. The writing was occasionally a little complicated and I didn’t always understand exactly what was going on.

Paige really grew on me. At first she just seemed like every other dystopian heroine ever, but she grows a lot throughout the novel and by the end I found myself really rooting for her. Her ability was so awesome too, basically being able to walk into other people’s minds! She’s feisty yes, but she’s also intelligent and kind and felt like a realistically flawed person, so I really enjoyed her. Warden was mysterious, but really frustrating because you never really understand what his motives are or what exactly he’s doing. The rest of the characters never really felt fleshed out enough, we don’t really get to know any of Paige’s fellow prisoners in much depth. We get to see how Paige feels about the Seals, but we’re not really with them long enough to find out much about them and Paige’s relationship to them. The only ones I could really form any opinion on were Nick, who seemed lovely, but then we are seeing him through Paige’s biased eyes, and Jaxon, who seemed like a total ass. I’m hoping that in the next book we get to see more of the Seals and them, and their relationship with Paige will be developed more. Learning about her past through the flashbacks was interesting, although they were rather clumsily included and I think the transitions between the past and the present could have been smoother

I HATED the romance, it was totally unnecessary and exploited one of my least favourite tropes. CAN WE NOT WITH THE WHOLE MASTER/SLAVE ROMANCE THING? It’s not sexy, it’s not romantic, it’s disgusting! I don’t care if he’s “not like the others”, he still owns her, allows her to be branded, watch her friends die in front of her, be beaten, nearly starved etc. We really need to stop with this trope, because it’s not cool. Not to mention, he’s like 200 and she’s 19. What is with this? Authors, it’s not cool to have your teenage protagonist dating a hundreds of year old immortal. Period.

The climax felt a little rushed to me, the last few chapters went by very fast, too fast almost to take all of it in but I think this was again just another offshoot of the pacing being very off throughout the book.

Overall, this was a decent debut, with an interesting concept and a main character you can root for, but there is a lot to be improved on in future books, hopefully the rest of the series will be better edited so the writing is less clunky and there are less huge chunks of information and the pacing will be better. I think there is potential for the future books as the concept is great, perhaps the author was just overly ambitious for her debut and crammed too much in there. I don’t really see how this series is going to stretch out into seven books, but I look forward to seeing where it goes in the next book.

My rating: 3/5

My next review will be of my July #RockMyTBR read, Frozen Charlotte.

 

 

One Of Us Is Lying Review (e-ARC)

One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Book: One of Us Is Lying

Author: Karen M McManus

Published By: Penguin Random House

Expected Publication: 1st June

Format: e-book

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

As always, thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House for allowing me to read this book.

I was so excited when I read the description for this book, because it was pitched as The Breakfast Club meets PLL and I figured well how could that not be awesome? So I requested it from Netgalley and was very excited when I got approved. However, I think in hindsight, my expectations may have been a little too high? Don’t get me wrong, this was a decent mystery, with some good twists along the way, but it wasn’t anything mind blowing, at least not for me. I was dissatisfied with how the mystery turned out and I thought the climax was incredibly rushed. I also feel like the title is kind of a misnomer but saying why would probably constitute a really big spoiler! Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Yale hopeful Bronwyn has never publicly broken a rule.

Sports star Cooper only knows what he’s doing in the baseball diamond.

Bad body Nate is one misstep away from a life of crime.

Prom queen Addy is holding together the cracks in her perfect life.

And outsider Simon, creator of the notorious gossip app at Bayview High, won’t ever talk about any of them again.

He dies 24 hours before he could post their deepest secrets online. Investigators conclude it’s no accident. All of them are suspects.

Everyone has secrets, right?

What really matters is how far you’ll go to protect them.

One of my biggest bug bears with this was actually the multiple POV, which is strange for me because I usually love multiple POVs and I get why the author did a multiple POV for this book, but I didn’t feel like the voices felt distinct enough? I suppose it’s hard when you’re reading as opposed to listening to the audiobook to have distinct voices, but if an author is going to do multiple POVs then the voices should feel distinct. You should know without having to look at the chapter headings which character is speaking and I just didn’t.

The characters were decent, but they felt mostly flat to me. Nate, Bronwyn and Cooper all just felt like stereotypes and I didn’t really see all that much development from any of them. As far as the characters go Addy is the real superstar here. She develops from this kind of ditzy girl whose life is controlled by her peers, to this amazing young woman who takes charge and without whom solving the mystery would have been impossible, I really found myself rooting for Addy in a way I didn’t with the other characters. She actually grew and changed through the book in a way that the other three didn’t really seem to. The writing was fine but nothing memorable.

The romance was just so/so. Sure Bronwyn and Nate were kind of cute, but the smart girl and the jock? Hasn’t that romance been done to death already? And they both just felt so flat to me that I couldn’t really root for them together. It also felt like it took up way too much page time! Like we get it, you’re going out, can we get back to the mystery now please?

It might have been quite nice to actually get to know Simon a bit more before he died? I mean most of what we hear about him is through other people, so we never really know this character enough to care that he’s dead. I don’t know, perhaps flashbacks of him interacting with the other characters or something? It just felt like something was missing there. I got kind of a Gossip Girl vibe from this book a little because of the whole Simon running a Gossip blog thing, but unfortunately, this book had nowhere near the drama of that show!

The mystery was decent and I was kept on my toes trying to guess who the killer was (I did, only a few pages before the characters did) but I feel like it could have been better? I felt like the characters didn’t really get active fast enough, for the most part, up until the last third of the book, they seem to be pretty passive, yeah okay, Bronwyn does a bit but I felt like they could have done a lot more.

There were some decent twists throughout but nothing that was completely mind-blowing. I think my Dangerous Girls complex may have slightly come into play here because that’s what I’m expecting now. I want to be that level shocked every time I read a murder mystery and I just wasn’t. I think the killer reveal could have been so much more than it was. Personally I would have gone for someone different, I didn’t really feel the shock with the person that it was? I don’t know, I was just a little disappointed.

I also think some of the plot twists were problematic. Sorry for any spoilers here, but I don’t want anyone to be hurt by this, I won’t go into too many details, but basically sexuality and mental illness are used as plot twists and I don’t think that’s right. Mental illness and people’s sexualities are not plot twists people! It’s not okay to use them as such.

I liked that for the most part, the characters all had present families, the only real exception being Nate. The sisterly relationships between Addy and Ashton and Bronwyn and Maeve were honestly amongst my favourite parts of this book, I love seeing sisters supporting each other. Also whilst we’re on the topic of women supporting each other, yay for female friendship in this book! Instead of being made to be enemies Bronwyn and Addy work together and I just loved seeing that. There are far too many YA books that set girls against each other and whilst there was some of that in this book, the female friendships are overwhelmingly positive.

The whole climax was just rushed and unbelievable. I was waiting the entire book to find out exactly who was behind the murder and when we finally got to it, it was just disappointing. Plus it all went so fast, you barely had time to take anything in before you had moved on. The character motivations for what they did just didn’t feel serious enough to me? I don’t know, I can’t really say more without spoilers, so you’ll have to decide for yourself on that one!

I did like seeing all these different personalities come together as a group and by the end, they did make for a realistic and believable group of friends. I particularly loved Cooper and Addy’s friendship, it was lovely how protective he was of her (but not in a violent way, which was good).

It was also a very anticlimactic end. Like boom, the killer is revealed and everything just sort of fizzles out? I mean the case is concluded and the murder is solved, but then it continues onto the aftermath and ends at a point that doesn’t really make sense to me? I don’t know, I just didn’t find it satisfying.

Overall it was a decent mystery thriller, but the ending was rushed, the character voices weren’t distinctive enough and the characters themselves could have used a lot more fleshing out. It did keep me on my toes till the end, but I didn’t end it feeling thrilled? And is that not the point of a book like this? It was a great premise, but overall I ended up feeling a little lukewarm about it.

My rating: 3/5

My next review will be of Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season, which I’m hoping I’ll finish next week.

 

Under Rose Tainted Skies Review

29566743Book: Under Rose Tainted Skies

Author: Louise Gornall

I acquired this book at YALC last year, signed by the author (who was lovely by the way)  but for whatever reason, did not get around to it until now, for both the #RockMyTBRChallenge and the YALC Reading Challenge I am running. I have read quite a few books about mental illness that I have enjoyed, but this one definitely stands out for me, you can tell that the author is drawing on personal experience (this is an #ownvoices book, Louise Gornall suffers from the same conditions as Norah) because Norah’s voice just feels so authentic and real. This is not an easy book to read by any means, Norah’s thoughts are intense and scary but I think it is an important one, because those of us who do not suffer from mental illnesses cannot possibly hope to fully understand what it’s like, but we can be given small insights from books like these, and it’s even more important because the author has actually experienced the illness she is writing about. We need to give exposure for these kinds of invisible illnesses to people who have suffered from them, in order to get a true understanding of what it’s like. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Agoraphobia confines Norah to the house she shares with her mother.

For her, the outside is sky glimpsed through glass, or a gauntlet to run between home and car. But a chance encounter on the doorstep changes everything: Luke, her new neighbour. Norah is determined to be the girl she thinks Luke deserves: a ‘normal’ girl, her skies unfiltered by the lens of mental illness. Instead, her love and bravery opens a window to unexpected truths …

An important and uplifting debut from a British author, which tackles mental health issues such as agoraphobia and OCD.

I guess first of all I should probably say that I loved Norah, as she is the main character of the novel! She felt so authentic and relatable and although I’ve never suffered from agoraphobia or OCD or anxiety, I could definitely relate to certain aspects of her struggles, her awkwardness around people (boys in particular), her not liking being touched, her googling how to kiss, her fears of being judged, are all things that I have experienced at one point or another in my life. I liked how her mental illness wasn’t all she was, she had interests and dreams outside of that, but at the same time, the author showed how her mental illness put limitations on her life, I thought she got the balance perfect. Norah also had such a strong, distinctive voice, which I liked. I also appreciated Norah’s witty, self deprecating humour, she knows that aspects of her illness are irrational and she’s able to laugh about it, I really loved that.

The mother-daughter relationship was portrayed so well in this too! So often in YA books, mothers are absent so I appreciated seeing Norah’s mother not only present here, but actually taking an active role in her daughter’s life, it was refreshing to see.

Norah’s thought processes were incredibly intense, I appreciated the authenticity of this, but it did make me feel very uncomfortable (which I acknowledge was probably the point, you’re not meant to feel comfortable with a book like this) and I don’t suffer from the same illnesses as Norah, so I would say if you do suffer from anxiety, agoraphobia, OCD or depression, it could be potentially triggering, as her thoughts are so intense and the panic attacks are described quite vividly. There are also sections of self harm in the book as well, so that could also be potentially triggering.

I liked Luke, he was sweet and understanding and everything, but I did feel like his character was a little flat. He was just the cute, understanding, sweet boy next door and there didn’t feel like there was much more to him? I don’t know, maybe this was just me. I also felt the same for most of the other characters apart from Norah, they felt pretty one dimensional.

I appreciated the awkwardness between Luke and Norah, too often it feels like YA characters are way too good at flirting? Like I make a complete fool of myself around guys I like and you guys are just trading back and forth witty banter so easily? No. Just not realistic. So I appreciated that that wasn’t all smooth sailing for them, and that they found flirting awkward, because it is! I didn’t really feel a romantic spark between the two of them though? They felt more like friends to me than love interests, and no, that wasn’t just because Norah’s illness prevented them from touching, it was more than that. It’s hard to explain, but when two characters like each other in a book, I usually feel it and here I just didn’t. I also felt like the plot relied a little too much on the romance as aside from Norah meeting and falling for Luke, not much really happens.

I liked the tone of the writing, how it could go from intense one moment, to witty and self deprecating the next, I think Louise Gornall struck a great balance between the intensity of mental illness and at the same time kept up a great sense of hope and humour through the book. The actual writing itself was quite simple, and did occasionally lean towards overly descriptive, with a few too many similies and metaphors, but it was decent overall.

It was definitely a more character driven novel than a plot driven novel, which I didn’t mind so much as Norah’s voice was so strong, although there were times when I got a little bored because the plot was relatively thin.

The chapters were nice and short, which I liked because it meant the book was fast and easy to read, but it did cause a few problems when it came to the climax of the book, because it felt rather rushed because of this and the ending was kind of abrupt.

There were also certain parts of the plot that felt unrealistic. Like Norah’s mum leaving her alone for all that time? It seems to me like if your daughter was as mentally ill as Norah, you would have someone you trust at least coming in to check on her. It also seemed weird that she wouldn’t make sure her daughter had enough food before she left, rather than relying on strange food delivery people when she knows her daughter is terrified of strangers. It was just little things like that, which yes needed to be there to make the plot work but were also seemed unrealistic that kind of bugged me. There were certain characters, like Amy and Norah’s grandmother, who were brought up a lot and then didn’t really seem to have any impact on that plot.

I liked that Norah had a great support system with her mum and her therapist and Luke, that was nice to see and it was also nice to see therapy and medication for mental illnesses being portrayed in a positive way because that isn’t always the case.

It also impressed me that Louise Gornall managed to set this book all in one house and still have it be engaging and not feel monotonous as that could have quite easily happened.

I really wasn’t a fan of the ending, it felt like it kind of came out of left field and didn’t really fit with the rest of the book? Like you have this contemporary and then suddenly in the last thirty pages it almost becomes a thriller? And as I said earlier the end was kind of abrupt. I did like that Norah wasn’t “cured” of her mental illness by the end of the book (and that she wasn’t miraculously healed by falling in love with a boy) but it did leave off with a sense of hope that things could get better for her, even if it was a little abrupt.

Overall, this was a solid debut. The experiences that the author brought to the book from her own life definitely heightened the authenticity of the mental health aspect and the character voice was extremely strong. The plot was a little thin for my liking and the ending could have used a little more time and page space, but it was overall an enlightening book and I would definitely be willing to read more from this author!

My rating: 3.5/5

My next review will be of The Bone Season, by Samantha Shannon.