The Archived (The Archived #1)

10929432Book: The Archived (The Archived #1)

Author: Victoria Schwab

I’m sure my love of Victoria Schwab is no secret by now, over the last year, she’s become an instant new favourite author of mine and so naturally I’ve been wanting to gobble up her entire back catalogue of books! It’s quite interesting reading an author’s earlier work after having read their latest stuff first, because I felt like I could see how much Schwab has improved in her later work with her characters and world building and writing and everything, not that this book was in any way bad at all, but it certainly doesn’t reach the heights of the Shades of Magic books. I do love how unique every single one of the concepts for Victoria Schwab’s books are, I’ve read five of them now (granted three were from the same series) and each had such a unique world, characters, concept and voice. Sometimes you find that author’s work can get a bit samey (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, I mean if you find something that works go for it) but that is definitely not true here. I felt like the concept for this one, a library filled with the dead, was brilliant but perhaps the story didn’t live up to it? I don’t know, I think I was expecting something different to what I got, something a little more exciting as opposed to a rather slow paced mystery? There was definitely still a lot to like about this book, but I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was: a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost, Da’s death was hard enough, but now that her little brother is gone too, Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself may crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.

Probably the biggest issue for me with this book was the pacing. It was incredibly slow paced for most of the book, I’d say about 3/4 before the stakes got really high. I did find the mystery engaging, but not so much that I forgot about the slow pace! It’s strange because the opening was actually really intriguing and I thought that would keep up all the way through, however I found myself getting a little bored in places.

I thought the flashbacks were a great addition to the book and helped to flesh Mac out a little more as a character, which was good because she felt kind of flat to me aside from that? I don’t know, I just never really connected to her as a character. Sure she was smart and good at her job and grieving for her brother and everything but I don’t know, I just didn’t feel that spark? It’s really hard to explain, but basically when I connect to characters, I get that spark, where it’s just like “yeah I get you” and I never got that with Mac.

I really loved the Histories, I thought they were such a unique and cool creation, I’ve never seen anything like that in a book before. I think it’s a really cool idea, having your entire life catalogued in a form that is you, but at the same time isn’t.

The world building was decent but I still felt like the entire Archive system could have been more fleshed out. I got the basics of the system but I still felt like there was stuff that wasn’t quite explained or didn’t fully make sense, and the world was very restricted in terms of setting (the entire book is either in the Hotel or the Narrows (kind of purgatory). I didn’t really understand why The Archive existed at all? I don’t know, it just felt like Schwab only explained the very basics and didn’t go into the more complex stuff. Maybe that’s only a problem for me though because I love complicated fantasy world building!

I did love the creepy old hotel, that’s just the kind of setting that totally screams me!

I got quite confused early on because Schwab introduces Mac’s Da who she says is dead and then later on her Dad and I assumed they were the same person! I thought her Dad was a ghost for a while and it took a bit before I realised they were different people, her Dad and her Grandpa!

I liked the fight scenes, Victoria Schwab has a certain way of making any fight scene really engaging, but they did start getting a little repetitive after a while. In fact the entire plot up until the climax was kind of repetitive, Mac fights Histories, wins, returns them, goes back to her life before the whole thing starts over again. Sure there’s a little investigative work in between but for the most part the entire book was just Mac switching between the Coronado and The Archive.

I did like that there was a nice mix of longer and shorter chapters, it helped the slow pace from becoming more of a problem than it might have been otherwise.

I wasn’t overly keen on the love triangle, I felt like Mac’s relationship with Owen wasn’t really fleshed out enough and I only really got a friendship vibe between her and Wes, so it wasn’t really believable.

Speaking of which, I loved Wes, he was the one character that really felt alive in this book, who I felt the spark from. He was so cocky and sassy and cute and I loved him!

I did like that Mac had a present family, they might have been oblivious to what she was spending her days doing but it was clear that they cared for her and wanted to be involved in her life, a rarity in YA. I also loved how excited they were about Wes, it reminded me of my own parents whenever they heard even the hint of a boy from me (which has been an extreme rarity from me!).

I felt like the climax was kind of rushed, we got a lot of information all thrown at us in the last chapters! Still I did appreciate the twists and thought they were done well.

The writing was the same wonderful prose I’ve come to expect from Schwab although there was the occasional typo here and there!

Overall, the concept for this was amazing, but the execution didn’t quite measure up to it. The plot was uneven, the pacing was off and the world building not quite as high a standard as I’ve previously seen from Schwab. Still it was a unique and interesting world and the mystery was intriguing enough to keep on reading. I liked the concept and the world enough that I will read the second book, in the hopes that the plot is a little meatier!

My rating: 3/5

My next review will be of Under Rose Tainted Skies, but you probably won’t get it for a while as I’m going to be away for the next week in Greece!

Daughter of The Pirate King (Daughter of The Pirate King #1) Review

33643994Book: Daughter of The Pirate King (Daughter of The Pirate King #1)

Author: Tricia Levenseller

I’m pretty sure that I have mentioned my love of pirates on the blog before, I love swashbuckling pirate adventures, and it feels like we definitely don’t get enough of them so I was very excited when I saw this debut from Tricia Levenseller, because it looked like I was in for a fun, piratey romp and whilst I didn’t get absolutely everything that I wanted from this book, it was definitely a fun debut and quick read, which was exactly what I needed coming up to the end of May. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

There will be plenty of time for me to beat him soundly once I’ve gotten what I came for.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

I liked that we were thrown straight into the action at the start of the book, but the pace throughout was a little slower than I was expecting given that this is meant to be a pirate adventure. I was hoping for a little more pirating and a few more fight scenes than we actually got. Don’t get me wrong, the fight scenes when they happened, were great but I would have liked a few more. For the most part the plot revolved around Alosa trying to find the map and dealing with Riden which meant that it was a little lighter than I would have liked. Luckily I was captivated enough by the characters that it didn’t matter too much that I wasn’t entirely enthralled by the plot.

Alosa was very much what made this book for me. She’s sharp, witty, feisty, incredibly cunning, strong but also feminine (I love it when books show that you can still be strong and feminine), she was precisely the sort of heroine that I absolutely love and she really carried the story for me in the places were it felt like the plot was a little lagging. I loved her banter with Riden, they had such great back and forth and you could really root for their romance, although, even though Alosa wasn’t actually a real prisoner, the fact that it was kind of a captor/prisoner romance did bother me slightly. I would have appreciated if the book had focused less on their romance and more on the pirating though!

I liked Riden, he was complex and such a match for Alosa, I liked that they seemed like equals, the match for each other in every way. I did have my suspicions about his motives though, he seemed too squeaky clean right from the beginning of the book. I would actually have liked to see more of him interacting with his brother, because their relationship is talked about a lot (from Riden to Alosa) but not utilised as much as it perhaps could have been.

I did find that some of Levenseller’s writing was phrased a little strangely which did bother me a little, but she definitely had the humour down and for the most part, aside from the occasional odd phrasing, her writing was very engaging. The dialogue was definitely where she shone, which I appreciated as dialogue and character interaction is always one of my favourite parts of books.

It did feel like everything was a little too easy for Alosa, that she could just let herself out of her cell without being caught and search for the map and all of her plans just seemed to work out perfectly, it all just seemed too easy, but I did appreciate that in the end, this had a purpose.

Some of the chapters were occasionally a little overlong, perhaps it could have done with being split into more, shorter chapters, as that would definitely have helped with the pacing problems.

There were definitely some interesting twists throughout the book, a few of them predictable, but enough surprises to keep you on your toes.

The names were a little strange, but that’s par for the course in a fantasy book really!

The fantasy element took a while to be revealed, honestly I might have liked knowing it a little earlier, and I think it could have been weaved in a little less clumsily, but I really loved Alosa’s powers and I liked that she knew about them before the book, because characters in fantasy novels not knowing that they have powers is a little cliche at this point.

I would have liked more world building, but since the story takes place at sea, I suppose there’s not really much world to describe. I hope that perhaps we get to see a little more of the kingdom in the next book. It would have been nice to have a map, to get more of a visualisation of what this world was like. Still I think there’s the potential for more movement in the next book, with Alosa looking for the third part of the map.

Overall, this was a fun book, if a little simplistic, with a great main character, a healthy does of humour and a decent romance, but it definitely felt like it was setting up for a more exciting second book. Don’t be expecting anything mind blowing, but if you’re looking for a fun, short, adventure story, then this is definitely the book for you and I can see definite crossover appeal for MG readers. I look forward to seeing what misadventures Alosa gets up to next!

My rating: 3/5

My next review will be of Victoria Schwab’s The Archived.

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2) Review

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Book: A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2)

Author: Sarah J Maas

I honestly put off reading this book for the longest time, firstly because I wasn’t overly keen on ACOTAR, secondly because it got such insanely good reviews that I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the hype and thirdly because there has been so much controversy around the problematic elements of Sarah J Maas’ books that sharing my opinions on them makes me a little nervous! Still my friend Nicola absolutely loves this book and has been insisting that I should read it for months, and I really dislike leaving series unfinished, so I thought I’d give it a go and to my surprise, I actually genuinely enjoyed it, far more than ACOTAR. I did still have my problems with it, but overall, it was an enjoyable book to read and I’m looking forward to see how she wraps everything up in the last book. Here is a short synopsis of the book (though I’m sure most of you know what it’s about by now!):

Feyre is immortal.

After rescuing her lover Tamlin from a wicked Faerie Queen, she returns to the Spring Court possessing the powers of the High Fae. But Feyre cannot forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people – nor the bargain she made with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court.

As Feyre is drawn ever deeper into Rhysand’s dark web of politics and passion, war is looming and an evil far greater than any queen threatens to destroy everything Feyre has fought for. She must confront her past, embrace her gifts and decide her fate.

She must surrender her heart to heal a world torn in two.

I liked Feyre a lot better in this book than I did in the first one, she seemed to have more of her own agency in this book than she had in ACOTAR, and she grows in confidence and I just generally felt like I could connect to her more in this book than the last book, she felt very bland to me in ACOTAR, but in ACOMAF, she felt like a more well rounded character and I loved seeing her grow from the broken shell that she is in the start of the book, to the fierce female she comes to be by the end. I loved that Sarah J Maas did not shy away from showing the effects of what happened in the last book on Feyre and that we really got to see her go on an emotional journey in this book.

I liked the mix of longer and shorter chapters, in such a long book, it really helped in getting through it as I tend to get a little bogged down if I’m reading a long book that also has super long chapters!

I want to get the elephant in the room out of the way first, as this seems to be something a lot of people had a huge problem with in this book and that’s the character development of Tamlin. I saw a lot of reviews that said SJM pulled a total bait and switch with Tamlin in this book, but I really don’t see it that way. I said in my review of ACOTAR that Tamlin’s behaviour towards Feyre was abusive and that I didn’t like how possessive he was of her, so it didn’t surprise me at all the way he was with her in this book. I think Feyre was simply blinded towards Tamlin’s flaws because she was in love with him, and she merely saw in this book what I had already seen in the last one. It wasn’t just SJM making Tamlin possessive and abusive in order to have Feyre with Rhysand, he was already showing these traits.

Whilst we’re on the topic, I want to talk about Rhysand for a second. Yes he offers Feyre choices, and seems to care for her and helps to build her up after Tamlin, this is all well and good, but he is not solely the charming hero, he is incredibly possessive of Feyre, and he does several things which put her in danger in this book without telling her why, plus just because he treats her well in this book, doesn’t erase his behaviour from the last book. I didn’t like that SJM was trying to make him seem perfect, because quite honestly, he’s kind of an ass, but of course, he has to be the most powerful, attractive High Lord of ever. I think I put it best when I talked to my friend about him, I liked his arrogant, cheeky behaviour as a book character, but if he was real I would totally punch him. I just felt like SJM went a bit overboard on trying to make him seem perfect in this book, when honestly, his appeal in the first place was his imperfections! Basically I’m still not totally on board with Rhys yet, yes he does some good things in this book, but that doesn’t erase his previous bad behaviour. Faes generally just don’t seem to treat women particularly well!

I still wasn’t keen on the sex scenes in this book. Part of it is me, I’m not the most comfortable reading those kinds of scenes, but I also feel like SJM writes them really awkwardly? It just doesn’t feel natural to me at all. She’s perfectly fine when doing flirty banter, in fact I really enjoy that, but when things get more steamy, it just feels very awkward. Does anyone else feel like this? Or is it just me? It bugs me that this book is still labelled as YA because really, it’s not suitable for those at the younger end of the YA spectrum, it’s more NA.

I loved seeing Feyre’s new magical powers, we didn’t really get enough Fae magic in the first book, so I was glad to see much more of it in this one, and through that we also got a little bit more of an insight into the other courts which was good.

I felt like Lucien kind of got the short straw in this book? He’s been just as trapped by Tamlin as Feyre was and yet no one cares enough about him to rescue him. I don’t know, I just liked him a lot in the first book and wished we’d got to see him more!

Velaris as a setting was completely incredible and I loved it so much, it sounded so beautiful and was so vividly described by SJM that I felt like I was there!

I loved Rhys’ inner circle, they had such great chemistry as a group, their back and forth banter was awesome and I loved how they all felt like family. I particularly loved Mor, there was something about her that I instantly connected with. I liked that this book finally gave Feyre some more female friends as well, that was great. I also really liked Cassian, he was cute and cheeky and sort of reminded me of how Lucien was in the first book.

As with all of SJM’s books, it was pretty slow moving, it wasn’t until about halfway through or so that we got any decent action scenes. The action scenes when they happen are great, I really was on the edge of my seat, particularly when Amren and Feyre are retrieving the Book, but SJM could really use working on her pacing so it’s more even, at the moment she seems to always do first half slow, second half fast, which doesn’t really work in a 600+ page book. Honestly, it probably could have done with some cutting down, I really don’t think 600+ pages were needed, the important details could probably have been fitted in less.

It also bugs me that everyone has to be mated, even Feyre’s sisters! I get it, SJM likes romance, but I wish not every single character had to have a mate and she just focused on the one main pairing. That might just be me and my cynical heart, but I prefer to have one believable ship than have everyone paired up but not have it be believable. Also in a group of people, there’s bound to be at least one single one right? And no male has a male mate or female has a female mate? I mean I’m pretty sure it’s been established that Fae can have same sex mates, so why haven’t we had one yet?

The whole thing of Rhys (and Feyre) being able to go into other people’s minds made me incredibly uneasy, it just feels wrong to be able to go into people’s heads and manipulate their thoughts.

I liked that we got to see a few more of the different courts in this book, The Night Court and the Summer Court, it was nice to see more of Prythian beyond the Spring Court, though it is still a very white world, aside from Tarquin and the Summer Court, there aren’t any POC characters, which again, doesn’t come across as very believable. The worldbuilding in this book was so much better in the last book, we really get to learn more about Prythian and it’s history and the other courts and their powers and everything which was great and as always, I loved Sarah J Maas’ writing, especially in the Starfall scene, I thought that was particularly beautiful.

I really hate Hybern, I think he’s almost close to tying with Maeve as to my most hated SJM villain, though Jurian was pretty creepy too.

I also don’t love that everyone is made to seem lesser if they aren’t Fae, the humans are less beautiful, less strong etc and so must be worth less than the Fae and I hated that, particularly what happened to Feyre’s sisters, that really bugged me.

The ending! OMG that ending was mean! I need to see what happens in the next book now (although is it me or was the ending to this book and the ending to Empire of Storms kind of similar?). I did find the brief switch to Rhys POV at the end kind of jarring, but I understood why it was necessary.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, I loved the introduction of the new characters, I loved that we got new settings and new villains and the stakes have definitely been raised from ACOTAR. I’m still not entirely convinced of the romance between Feyre and Rhys but I’ve come to accept that I don’t love SJM’s romances and there was enough other good stuff in this, particularly with Feyre’s character development that I didn’t mind so much. I can’t wait to see what happens in the final instalment of the series!

My Rating: 4/5

My next review will be of the second Trials of Apollo book, The Dark Prophecy, by Rick Riordan.

 

 

 

Countless Review (e-ARC)

34299826

Book: Countless

Author: Karen Gregory

Published By: Bloomsbury

Expected Publication: 4th May

Format: e-book

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

As always, thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury UK for allowing me to read this book.

I requested this book after a #ukyachat that focused on it, because it sounded interesting and different and I can honestly say I’ve never read a book that focused on a teenager with anorexia before, so I thought I’d give it a try. However, I quickly found that it wasn’t really my cup of tea. Whilst I appreciated the raw and honest depiction of Hedda’s eating disorder, I can’t deny that it made for rather difficult reading, and I don’t have an eating disorder, so I can imagine it might be triggering for those who do? Potentially something to consider before picking up this book. The book definitely lagged for me, it just felt very repetitive, particularly over the first two parts, and it wasn’t actually until closer to the end that I felt myself becoming engaged with the story. I mean, potentially it could have just been me, I’m not a huge lover of contemporaries anyway and always find them a bit slower than I’d prefer, Here is a short synopsis of the book:

‘Is there anything that’s concerning you?’ Felicity says. ‘College, home, boyfriends?’ Though she’s more or less smiling at this last one.

I don’t smile. Instead, I feel my face go hot. Silence stretches as wide as an ocean.
When I look up, Felicity has this expression on her face like she’s just seen Elvis. Slowly, she leans forward and in a gentle voice I’ve never heard her use before she says, ‘Have you done a pregnancy test?’

When Hedda discovers she is pregnant, she doesn’t believe she could ever look after a baby. The numbers just don’t add up. She is young, and still in the grip of an eating disorder that controls every aspect of how she goes about her daily life. She’s even given her eating disorder a name – Nia. But as the days tick by, Hedda comes to a decision: she and Nia will call a truce, just until the baby is born. 17 weeks, 119 days, 357 meals. She can do it, if she takes it one day at a time …

Heartbreaking and hopeful by turns, Karen Gregory’s debut novel is a story of love, heartache and human resilience. And how the things that matter most can’t be counted. Perfect for fans of Lisa Williamson, Non Pratt and Sarah Crossan.

I personally found it hard to connect to Hedda which is probably why I put this book down and didn’t feel the need to pick it back up for a while. I think it’s imperative in enjoying this book that you need to connect to Hedda because so much of it is just her thoughts and feelings and I just couldn’t connect? I felt like I was more engaged in what happened to her by the end, but for most of the book, I couldn’t connect to her. I did appreciate that she was a flawed character, she was selfish, she didn’t always get things right, she struggled, so in that respect, she did feel like a three dimensional character, she just wasn’t one that I could connect to!

At first I felt like her parents were awful, but I think it was just because we were seeing them through Hedda’s eyes and actually as the book went on, I came to feel sorry for them, because it was clear that they had struggled just as much as she had, particularly her mother, and I did appreciate that her parents played a role in the story as so often in YA, parents are completely absent. I also liked that Gregory showed the impact Hedda’s eating disorder had had on her family.

I liked the realism in this story, problems are portrayed in a very realistic way, Gregory didn’t shy away from talking about Hedda’s eating disorder, her experiences of units, her social workers, money problems, death etc and she did it all in a very realistic way which I appreciated. Hedda really struggled both with her eating disorder and becoming a mother and I liked that because it would have been all to easy for Gregory to just brush these things under the rug and have Hedda be completely cured and the perfect mother by the end of the story.

I loved that this book was set in the UK as so much of what I read is US-centric, so every once in a while, it’s nice to read stuff that’s set in my home country!

This book is definitely more of a character driven story than a plot driven one, aside from some major events, not all that much happens, it’s just the repetitive day-to-day of Hedda’s daily life, which for me as a plot driven reader was a bit of a problem, as I did find myself getting bored.

There is a little romance in the book, I can’t say I particularly cared for it as I didn’t really feel the chemistry between Hedda and Robin and thought they were better as friends. I did however appreciate that Robin was there for Hedda when she didn’t really seem to have anyone else and I also appreciated that Robin didn’t miraculously cure her eating disorder as I hate it when that happens. I also totally predicted the twist with Robin which made me very happy as that almost never happens to me!

I liked all the little pop culture references scattered throughout the book, they were used sparingly, but really well I thought.

The ending was realistic (ie not a HEA) but I liked that Gregory still made it hopeful.

Overall, this was a decent enough read, but I just don’t think it was particularly for me, if you like character driven YA contemporary with a focus on realistic mental illness though, I would definitely recommend it for you.

My rating: 3/5

My next review will be of A Court of Mist and Fury which I just finished. Will hopefully be posting that very soon, so stay tuned!

The Pearl Thief (Code Name Verity #0.5) Review (e-ARC)

the pearl thiefBook: The Pearl Thief (Code Name Verity #0.5)

Author: Elizabeth Wein

Published By: Bloomsbury

Expected Publication: 4th May

Format: e-book

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

As always, thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury for allowing me to read this book.

I read Code Name Verity last year for my #RockMyTBR challenge, and fell in love with/was completely devastated by it, so naturally when I heard that Code Name Verity had a prequel coming out this year I was really excited. I requested it as soon as I saw it on Netgalley and was so happy when I got accepted.

Naturally my expectations for this book were very high, given how much I enjoyed Code Name Verity and I don’t know if my opinions of it suffered because of that. Before going into this all Code Name Verity fans should know that it is nothing like CNV. It’s more of a mystery novel and obviously does not have the same war setting. It got off to a pretty slow start, and the chapters were quite long, so it took a while for me to get into it, but I had the same problems with Code Name Verity initially so I wasn’t too worried about that.

I was thrown slightly off guard by how young Julie was in this, but then I think that’s just because I had assumed she was older than she was in CNV! Still, I loved Julie in this just as much as in CNV, her vibrant personality and chameleon tendencies means that she makes for a great narrator. She’s rebellious and impulsive and loves trying on different identities and it’s easy to see how the young Julie of this novel became the spy Queenie in Code Name Verity. The supporting characters were equally well drawn, flawed and interesting, but Julie is obviously the star of the show.

I really loved the addition of Scots in this, I thought it really added something to the setting to have the authentic Scots language in there. Plus I live in Scotland now so I love it when authors use it as a setting in their novels.

I loved that this book had chapter titles, it seems like such a little thing, but so few authors chapter their titles nowadays (myself included actually, my WIP doesn’t have chapter titles either!) that it makes me very happy when I see authors that do this.

The chapters were a little overly long which meant it took me a while to get into the book, it was about halfway through before I was actually genuinely invested.

I liked that the amnesia plot after Julie’s attack did not last too long, I hate it when authors let the “oh my character can’t remember what happened to them” run onto the end of the story because it gets boring and repetitive and this wasn’t the case here, Wein played Julie’s returning memory perfectly.

I loved that we got to see Julie and Jamie interacting in this, it’s clear from CNV that Jamie was incredibly close to his sister, but we don’t actually get to see them interacting, so it was really cool to actually get to see this relationship in The Pearl Thief.

Ellen and Julie’s relationship was wonderful, it’s pretty clear that Julie is bisexual, something which I feel was kind of hinted at in Code Name Verity but it was great to see it confirmed here. They have a very close, intimate friendship that has some romantic inklings, although nothing too serious. I loved seeing them interact, they come from two such different worlds and yet their personalities complement each other so well and it was great to see each one challenging the other’s world view.

I loved the diversity in this book as well, you have sexuality rep, you have class rep, you have disability rep and representation of travellers as well. I thought this was all done really well & I liked how so much of this book was based around challenging prejudice.

The mystery was okay, although I felt like there were certain plot twists that were just a little too convenient and it was a little slow. Still it was engaging enough, and I was definitely kept wanting to know what had happened to Julie and was pretty satisfied with the outcome. There were certain things that were introduced that I wasn’t certain what it had to do with the mystery but everything came together in the end which I liked.

WE GOT TO SEE WHERE JULIE GOT HER NICKNAME FROM AND IT WAS SO CUTE AND DAMN IT I LOVE JULIE AND ELLEN SO DAMN MUCH!

There was a bit at the end that I felt a little uncomfortable about, without meaning to spoil too much, where Julie is hit on by an older guy and he tries to push her further than she’d like to go, just a warning for those who could be triggered by attempted rape.

I loved the setting, it was great to see Julie in her element in her home setting and it was such a contrast having a beautiful setting like Scotland as compared to the war setting in CNV.

I would definitely recommend reading Code Name Verity first. There aren’t any spoilers for it in this book, so you are safe reading it first, but I think it’s better to read Code Name Verity first as in order to appreciate younger Julie, you have to see where she ends up. I feel like The Pearl Thief meant so much more to me having read Code Name Verity because you can see the seeds of older Julie being sown in this book, you get to see how she became the person she is in CNV and I feel like you have so much more appreciation for that if you’ve read CNV before this one.

The writing was pretty good and flowed nicely throughout the book.

Overall this was a decent mystery, but also a lovely coming of age story where we get to see at least the start of how this amazing character that we know from Code Name Verity became the person she was. It was a light story as opposed to the gut punch that was CNV, but I think that worked perfectly as the two stories kind of parallel each other. It was a little slow at times, but the wonderful cast of characters more than make up for the lack of pace & I think those who loved Code Name Verity will definitely enjoy this book.

My rating: 3.5/5

I’m not sure what my next review will be as this is a pre-scheduled review, but I’m sure you will find out soon!

 

Salt To The Sea Review

Book: Salt To The Sea

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Two years ago, I read Ruta Sepetys’ debut novel, Between Shades of Grey, which I completely fell in love with, it was one of my favourite books I read that year (which is saying something because I had a huge slump that year and found most of the things that I read pretty meh), so when I found about this book last year I was dying to read it. This of course meant that I bought it, it sat on my shelf for a year and then I finally got around to reading it this year for my #RockMyTBR challenge (#bookwormproblems). I love how Sepetys takes lesser known historical events and uses them in her books, as a history student, I love getting to learn about stuff that I haven’t heard of before. There were more people who died on the Wilhelm Gustloff than Titanic and yet we haven’t heard of it, it just blows my mind. It was a little slow to get to the actual shipwreck portion of the book, most of the book is buildup, but luckily the chapters are pretty short, so it was a relatively quick read. I wouldn’t say I loved it as much as Between Shades of Grey, I think Between Shades of Grey was a much more intimate story than Salt To The Sea, because it’s purely from Lina’s point of view and you really get to connect with her and her family, whereas Salt To The Sea has multiple narrators and the chapters are so short that you don’t quite get to connect to them in the same way. I felt kind of detached from the story, even during the sinking parts which should have been completely harrowing, there’s was a kind of disconnect. I still really enjoyed it, but it didn’t make me feel quite as much as Lina’s story did.

Here is a short synopsis of the book:

It’s early 1945 and a group of people trek across East Prussia, bound together by their desperation to reach the ship that can take them away from the war-ravaged land. Four young people, each haunted by their own dark secret, narrate their unforgettable stories. Fans of The Book Thief or Helen Dunmore’s The Siege will be totally absorbed.

This inspirational novel is based on a true story from the Second World War. When the German ship the Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk in port in early 1945 it had over 9000 civilian refugees, including children, on board. Nearly all were drowned. Ruta Sepetys, acclaimed author of Between Shades of Grey, brilliantly imagines their story.

As I said before, the chapters of this book are very short, which is both a help and a hindrance, a help because it’s an easy book to finish quickly and quite difficult to put down because you can justify, well the next chapter’s only a few pages, but it’s also kind of a hindrance, the chapters are so short that you don’t really get a chance to get to know the characters that well and like I said, there felt like there was kind of a disconnect between me and the characters.

I liked the continuity of having a similar first line introducing the POV of each of the characters during their first chapter, I thought that was very cool and I loved how she returned to that during the sinking, I liked the circular feel of it.

I liked that the characters were all very different, came from different places and had had different experiences during the war, you have Joana (Lina’s cousin from Between Shades of Grey), a Lithuanian nurse who has been working in German hospitals during the war, Florian, a mysterious boy from East Prussia who is running for an unknown reason, Emilia, a young Polish girl & Alfred, a German soldier. I did feel a kind of disconnect with them though, simply because of the short length of the chapters, I didn’t get to know them as much as I would have liked. Joana I think was my favourite, because of her connection to Lina, it was interesting to see how she was affected by the events of Between Shades of Grey. I also found Florian quite interesting as you could never completely peg down what he was hiding. Emilia was sweet and you felt so bad for her as she had clearly been very damaged by the war. Alfred was a typical German soldier, completely brainwashed by Hitler, so naturally was not very keen on him. I liked that as a group, they were all very different people, it meant their POVs were all very different and the narrators were easily distinguished, I hate it when authors use multiple first person narrators and their voices all sound the same. This was not a problem here though, Sepetys had clearly defined voices for all the characters which I liked.

Sepetys has a very simple writing style which I think worked quite well for this book, honestly, I prefer that kind of writing anyway, I can’t stand it when authors go over the top with the flowery prose and that wouldn’t have worked for this book. The simple, stark prose she uses, suited the tone and the setting of the book perfectly.

I did feel like it took a while to get to the shipwreck part of the book? I get that Sepetys wanted to show the journey of the refugees, but there’s only so long you can read about them venturing across the ice, before you’re like, “this is cool and all but when are we going to get to the main point of this book”. Because the shipwreck doesn’t happen until the end, it’s a little light on the plot side and unlike Between Shades of Grey where it didn’t bother me because I was so swept up in Lina’s story, it bothered me more here.

There was romance in this book, but it was a very small part of it and it was done well. Joana and Florian were both so stubborn, you couldn’t help but be infuriated by them not admitting how they felt to each other. I wasn’t entirely sure if Florian wasn’t just using Joana for most of the book, but by the end of it, he does seem to genuinely feel for her as Joana does for him.

Florian seemed kind of similar to Lina, they’re both quiet, artistic souls and I think that might have been why I liked him as he reminded me a lot of her (kind of similar to why Joana liked him I think!).

The supporting characters were drawn quite well, particularly the shoe poet, I loved him and was so sad by what happened to him.

I really liked the addition of the maps, the one from 1945 and the one from the present day, I thought that was quite cool, getting to see how things have changed from then to now.

The shipwreck itself was written well, you could feel the desperation of the characters and at that point, I felt like the short chapters worked better than they had for most of the book, as it helped convey the panic and distress of the characters. It’s devastating to think that this actually happened to thousands of real people, and that hardly anyone knows about it. Emilia’s last chapter with her imagining her family together again was particularly devastating.

It’s not really relevant to the story, but I love reading Ruta Sepetys’ author’s notes as she clearly does a lot of research for her books and really cares about the real life events that inspired the stories she tells.

Overall, whilst I did have some problems with this book, it tells a very important, untold story of the war that I feel like everyone should read. Over 9000 people died in the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, that’s more than both the Titanic and Lusitania together and yet we don’t know anything about it? These real people deserve to have their stories told and I’m glad that through Joana, Florian, Emilia and Alfred, I got to learn about this horrific part of history that I had not previously known about.

My rating: 3.5/5

The next book I will be reviewing is Paper and Fire, the second book in The Great Library Series by Rachel Caine (I know, I know, it has taken me forever to get to this book. I’ve had it since last summer). In the meantime, I will hopefully have a new discussion post for you guys very soon!

Happy Easter everyone!

The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1)

the invisible libraryBook: The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1)

Author: Genevieve Cogman

I came across this series actually via the third book in the series, which I thought sounded really interesting. It took me the longest time to find the first book, but naturally when I did, I was really excited because it sounded so good. I mean libraries, different realities, spies, I mean what about that does not sound awesome? Sadly the execution did not live up to the concept, I found myself bored, confused and wishing I hadn’t spent my money on it. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

The first installment of an adventure featuring stolen books, secret agents and forbidden societies – think Doctor Who with librarian spies!

Irene must be at the top of her game or she’ll be off the case – permanently…

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.

Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.

Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.

Sounds super cool right? Wrong. First of all, there are just way too many supernatural elements. I mean you had Fae, you had vampires, you had werewolves,  you had weird robotic creatures, you had dragons, it’s like the author took every supernatural element you could possibly have in a book and threw them all into this one. It would have been a lot simpler to follow if she had just stuck to one!

I loved the idea of the alternates, and the idea of the Library and that there were all these cool rare edition books out there that the Librarians needed to go and get, that was really cool. But the world building was all so complicated and confusing, that I just didn’t understand it at all. I still have no idea what Chaos is for example. I felt like Cogman was just introducing us to all these different things without ever actually explaining what any of them meant.

The characters are another area where this book fell flat. Irene was just completely bland, she seemed to have little to no personality, there was nothing about her that made me root for her, that made me interested in her. We have no indication of how old she’s supposed to be, so the little flirting that she does with her definitely teenage apprentice just seems weird. Speaking of said teenage apprentice, Kai had the potential to be an interesting character, he was cheeky and kind of mysterious and had an interesting backstory, I wished he had been allowed to shine more because he seemed like he would have been a much more interesting MC than the tepid Irene. All of the secondary characters fell kind of flat as well, there was little to no character development for any of them, they all just felt like bland stereotypes rather than real people, Bradamant was the classic mean girl, Vale was the detective & Kai was the usual brooding cute guy. If more time had been spent developing the characters and world then everything would have been so much better!

The Language (special language that only Librarians could use) sounded very cool, but again, it wasn’t explained very well.

There seemed to be indications of romance between Kai and Irene which is weird enough cause I’m pretty sure she was like hundreds of years old and he was a teenager, but these were dropped pretty fast in favour of a potential romance between Irene and Vale which is not developed well at all.

The chapters were way too long, and difficult to read as well because of the very stilted, confusingly phrased writing and so the story just felt like it was lagging to me, even when supposedly exciting things were happening in the story.

There were also way too many different enemies introduced, you have the Fae, the Iron Brotherhood, Wyndham, I didn’t even know who they were fighting against most of the time. And when Alberich, the main villain, was introduced, he fell kind of flat to me, he didn’t really seem like a terrifying villain at all.

I guess the book got kind of interesting at the end with the introduction of the story that was about Alberich and his possible sister and child but by that point it was too late, I was just relieved that the book was over (seriously, I’ve been reading this book off and on for three months. It took that long. It was only a 300+ page book).

Overall, this book had a good concept but it was poorly executed, lacking in basically everything, confusing plot, confusing world building and flat characters. I will definitely not be reading book two.

My Rating: 2/5

My next review will be of Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys.