Sunday, 30 October 2016

...And a Happy New Year? by Holly Bourne

...And a Happy New Year? is a novella in the Spinster Club series, set around a year after What's a Girl Gotta Do? It's a short but sweet update on what the girls got up to since they left sixth form, set at what should be a New Year's party to remember that Amber is hosting. However, each of the girls is keeping a secret from the other two, and as the Spinster Club slowly begins to fall apart, can the girls open up enough to save their friendship?

I was so excited for this book to be released; after the ending of What's a Girl Gotta Do? I just had to know what Evie, Lottie and Amber were up to now. By the end of the previous book, the girls all seemed to have grown and adapted a lot more - Evie was beginning to be in control of her OCD and anxiety, Amber had gotten more self confident as well as started to fix her family relationships, and Lottie was standing up for what she believed in, and was about to have an interview at Cambridge University - not to mention the fact that all three girls seemingly had found the perfect boyfriends. A year or so later though, there are new problems arising - Evie is dealing with her boyfriend Oli relapsing with his anxiety, Amber is keeping a huge secret from her best friends related to her and her boyfriend Kyle, and Lottie is struggling at Uni (although, I won't tell you which one she chose!). The girls' problems come to a head at Amber's New Years Eve party, where they must all reveal the secrets they've been keeping from each other. I was actually so glad that the girls' lives didn't just stay as perfect as they were at the end of book three - I met each of these girls at their lowest points and showing all of their flaws, and for them to now have perfect lives just wouldn't have fit with the rest of the series.

Although I did enjoy this novella, and think it was great that I could see where the girls I'd fell so hard for were at now, I had just one problem with this book. Although I knew this was going to be a short book, I needed more than the 199 pages that the story covered. I needed a full, 350+ page novel updating me on the Spinster Club girls. Really, it all just felt a bit too rushed for me. I also just didn't like Lottie as much as I did in the three novels of the series, for some reason. However, ignoring these slight problems, it really was great to have one last Spinster Club meeting, and I truly will miss this series and these girls! 


Have you read the final installment of The Spinster Club series?


Spooky Reads

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter
“She herself is a haunted house. She does not possess herself; her ancestors sometimes come and peer out of the windows of her eyes and that is very frightening.” 

Part horror, part fantasy, part feminism. This collection of short stories is perfect for Halloween if you aren't in the mood for tackling a huge novel. No two stories are alike so you can switch between them but love them all equally. Angela Carter twists and turns our much-loved fairytales and unveils the darkness within them such as Little Red Riding Hood and Bluebeard. Since its release, many horror stories have been inspired by this collection. 

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
“When the Fox hears the Rabbit scream he comes a-runnin', but not to help.” 

Yes, this is technically the second book in the Hannibal Lecter series but it's my favourite so I had to go for this one. I think every body and their brother knows the story of Hannibal, our friendly neighbourhood cannibal... kind of. This story, however, has one of my all time favourite female characters - Clarice Starling and she is taking zero shit from anyone, especially Hannibal. The two form an interesting alliance when a new murderer is unveiled so be prepared for a lot of blood but an amazing story.

The Shining by Stephen King
“Sometimes human places, create inhuman monsters.”

No Halloween recommended list is complete without some Stephen King, the master of horror. I could recommend majority of his books, such as Carrie or IT but I settled on this purely because I recently watched the movie and it is an all-time classic. It tells the story of five-year old Danny as him and his family go to stay/work at a hotel. However, this hotel has a bloody past and it seems an evil force is at large.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
“Because humans are complicated beasts, the monster said. How can a queen be both a good witch and a bad witch? How can a prince be a murderer and a saviour?"

The illustrated version of this novel just screams creepy even if the story itself doesn't. The story follows a young boy called Conor who is trying to come to terms with his terminally ill mother and the constant bullying he endures in school. His only way of escape is his dreams, that is until things from his dreams start worming their way into his real life. One night, Conor is visited by a monster who comes after midnight and he tells him three stories in exchange for one thing: Conor's truth. A sad and atmospheric novel but equally as creepy and perfect for Halloween.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 
“Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.” 

Do you honestly think I would put together this list and not include the very book that created sci-fi and horror. Nope. Even if it's not Halloween, read this book. Read it at Christmas, read it whenever, at least once in your life. For those who don't know, this is the story of Victor Frankenstein, a man who goes against all science and all religion and creates a human. However, frightened by his creation, Victor casts him out and the Creature, knowing no love or compassion, must learn his way in the world.

And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich
“Rotting in your skin
rotting in your mind
you are rotting in this house
in this house you'll die.”

This book is... unusual. It tells the story of Silla and Nori, two sisters who trudge through a mysterious wood to their auntie's hidden mansion. What unfolds there is part horror, part magic realism. Silla watches as her little sister talks to people who aren't there and as their auntie goes mad and as the trees get gradually closer. Written like one long stream of consciousness, this book isn't for everybody but it is definitely creepy and shouldn't be read at night. 

What are you reading this Halloween?

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

Vassa in the Night, a retelling of the Russian folklore tale Vasilisa the Beautiful, tells the story of Vassa, a young girl living in an alternate Brooklyn that is plagued by dark magic. Residents of Vassa's neighbourhood have noticed that, whilst the days last mere hours, the nights last for days - and this all started when the local convenience store,  BY's, was open by Babs Yagg - a shopkeeper who has a tendency to behead thieves. When Vassa heads out to BY's in need of lightbulbs, she finds herself tied up in a contract with Babs, and her life will be forfeit if she's unable to work at the store for three nights without making any mistakes. However, Vassa has help - a magical wooden doll by the name of Erg, made for Vassa by her mother before she passed away. With Erg's trickery, can Vassa survive three nights at BY's, and maybe even break the curse upon her neighbourhood?

Bookmark from Behind the Pages
I've always been a huge fan of Russian-inspired fiction, so when I received Vassa in the Night in September's Fairyloot box, I was over the moon! I had previously read the tale of Vasilisa the Beautiful, and I would recommend reading it if you're planning on looking into this novel - if anything, it'll help you understand what's going on when the magic gets too much!

Overall, Vassa in the Night is quite a quirky, nonsensical book - but this is often the case with folklore, and definitely isn't a negative. It reminded me a lot of one of my favourite books, Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente, but is written in a much more whimsical style to this. The book is very much written like a fairytale, what with the "things coming in threes" aspect, the overarching quest to save Brooklyn, the hero (Vassa) and the villain (Babs). There were also interludes which took place whilst Vassa was asleep, a little touch which I really liked - and these definitely complemented the plot. 

Vassa as a main character was interesting, but I didn't fully connect with her. I liked her attitude and sarcasm, but would've liked to have got to know her a little bit better. I do feel as though Erg got in the way of this at points, as she could be a very irritating character at times. I sometimes struggle with magic realism as a genre, but it managed to (mostly) make complete sense in this book - it worked well, in any case. It stuck to both the original story and to Russian folklore in general really well, and I appreciated this as the Russian aspects were basically what made me want to read it in the first place. 

The only negatives I had with this book was that it could be a bit slow at times - considering that the majority of it is set in one location, this is bound to happen. I also did get a bit confused at some points, such as some sort of crazy fight scene towards the end (which confused me so much that I genuinely am not quite sure what happened). There was also a bit of a love interest at one point, which I just didn't understand - it came from nowhere and had absolutely no build up or purpose.

I'm not entirely sure who to recommend this book to, just because it's written in such a niche style, but if you're interested in Russian mythology or magic realism, I would definitely recommend taking a look at it! 

Have you read Vassa in the Night? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments!


Sunday, 23 October 2016

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

Through my endless stream of tears shall I attempt to write a decent review. I have only recently heard of the Young Elites series and it was only last week that I bought the trilogy. I read them within three days - I have been obsessed. Although I was only in this world for a short amount of time, I will sincerely miss the characters, especially Adelina. I instantly fell in love with this world, the characters and the plots of all three books. It is unlike any YA series I've read before as it's narrated primarily by the antihero. It's marketed as a dark fantasy and it is exactly that and Adelina as a main character completely blew me away. I went into the first novel thinking she was just another YA character who finds out she's special and joins this group of people and they all become best friends and save the world. Nope. I was far from right. 
The Midnight Star takes place around a year after the previous book and Adelina has been a ruthless and cruel Queen, believing she must rule with fear and pain. Both Magiano and Sergio are by her side but her sister, Violetta has fled to join the daggers and beg them to help Adelina. Adelina and her Inquisitors have conquered countless cities, executed countless traitors and banned the term malfettos but countless attempts are made at Adelina's life. In this part of the book, you feel as though you should hate Adelina but despite everything, she still manages to inspire empathy in the reader. Her power is rapidly making her lose control of her thoughts and illusions and she is constantly tormented by voices in her head. However, her goal remains the same, to conquer and put fear in her enemies' hearts, including the Daggers - that is until Rafaelle contacts her. It seems the old friends must put aside their differences and help close the portal between their world and the Underworld before it destroys everything and the only way to do that is to sacrifice their powers.
My favourite thing in novels is when a bunch of the characters have to come together against a threat (Six of Crows etc.) I've always loved this over solo missions with the main character. Adelina joining with the Daggers, alongside her crew and Queen Maeve and even Teren. I was so here for it. Teren went from a character I despised to a character who had a whole new side - just a boy who was forced to think of himself as an abomination driven mad by the idea he had to destroy others like himself. I'm not excusing his previous acts but this book gives him a whole new side, a step towards a redemption arc. We saw more into the budding relationships between Adelina and Magiano, Sergio and Violetta and Maeve and Lucent. If I wasn't so scared of what was going to happen in this book, the lovey-dovey stuff would have melted me. 
In the space of this novel, Adelina goes through so much character development, she just tore my heart into pieces. If we take away the murderous tendencies, I see a lot of myself in Adelina. Half of the time you want to slap her and the other half you want to wrap her in blankets and reassure her. She spends the whole novel having intrusive thoughts, thinking everyone is against her and wants her dead and because of this, she tries keeping everyone at arm's length. However, the White Wolf's heart is ultimately good and just shrouded in darkness - she wants to be loved and accepted. She even becomes jealous when Queen Maeve's men salute her and won't leave without her. I feel proud of Adelina at the end of this series and happy that I got to meet her. 
That brings me to the ending - I didn't like it. I must admit, at first I was okay with it and then a day passed and I became angry. Angry that one of my favourite fictional characters ended up the way they did, that everything they went through came to nothing. Not just this character in particular, but I wanted to hear more about the other characters more than just how their appearances changed. I know that death in literature is the same as death in life - it's unfair, it doesn't have to have a meaning but I felt as though this was just rushed and it could have ended better if the book had been longer. It's rare that a YA series finishes the way I want it to and this is no exception but I still respect the author's decision and this was still a truly amazing trilogy that blows so many YA work out of the water. It is dark, gripping and exciting and I'd recommend it to anyone.


Thursday, 20 October 2016

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

*Angharad's thoughts* 
Recently, after many years of doing anything but, I finally got around to reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Why? Because after the announcement of Caraval, people instantly started comparing so I decided this was the best time to read them both and see for myself. I can easily say that for me, Caraval ticked all the boxes of magic, mystery and plot whereas (and I know I’m alone in this), The Night Circus just wasn’t for me. Both tell the story of a mysterious and magical circus/carnival but that’s where the similarities end. 

Caraval tells the story of Scarlett who has always lived on a tiny island with her sister, Tella and their ruthless father and became even worse after their mother’s disappearance. Scarlett’s life has already been planned for her, starting with an arranged marriage but from a young age, her wish has always been to see the legendary Caraval, an annual performance where the audience have the opportunity to participate. One night, just a few days before Scarlett’s wedding, an invitation to Caraval arrives and Tella manages to enlist the help of Julian, a mysterious sailor to take her and her sister to this magical event. Upon arrival, things turn sour as Caraval’s illustrious organiser, Legend, kidnaps Tella and thus begins Scarlett’s game with help of Julian, whether they wanted to play or not.

First and foremost, I’ll talk about the characters because for me, characters are the most important aspect of a story, even in one as elaborate at this. I did really enjoy Scarlett. I love how the story focused on her love for her story and her desperate need to rescue her. Although she started off being quite timid and apprehensive, it made sense because she feared her father and wanted to protect Tella. She grew a lot over the course of the book which takes place during five nights of the Caraval. Although there was a romance aspect, Scarlett never deviated away from finding her sister which can be the case in a lot of YA novels. Unfortunately for me, Julian (whose name I forgot an hour after finishing the book) didn’t stand out for me. He’s like a lot of YA love interests - seemingly arrogant but is actually really nice and has a lot of depth - and even with the mystery surrounding him during most of the book, he still didn’t manage to grab my attention. YET, their budding relationship did from the moment Julian first nicknamed Scarlett ‘Crimson.’ They got on and that’s something I always want in YA relationships. They laughed together and he he helped her even when he barely knew her. I’m excited to see where their relationship goes.

The plot is definitely the most exciting aspect of this book. Having it set over the course of five days made you anxious to find out what happened and if Scarlett would find her sister in time. There was a few twists and turns, a few moments that made you question the incentives of certain characters and also the added mystery as to Legend’s true identity. There were a lot of plot twists and even when you thought you had something figured out, something else would happen and I definitely think this was the strongest aspect of the book. Although it’s primarily a fantasy book, it has a lot of mystery weaved throughout it. I do wish we had seen more of Caraval, both the environment and maybe some other characters throughout. I think this could have happened as the trio arrive, rather than have Tella kidnapped straight away so nobody is thinking about the event itself. However, the epilogue gave us a very exciting cliffhanger which has made me extremely excited for the sequel. 

Overall, this book is a must-read. Although there are a few things I would have changed, this young-adult, fantasy novel still manages to grab your attention from the first page. Nothing is straightforward and this seemingly magical world is full of darkness. I hope we find out more about Caraval itself in the sequel, maybe its origins and past players. I’m excited for Scarlett after seeing her witness so much but also grow as a character throughout this novel and also her relationship with her younger sister. This is a solid foundation for the rest of the series and I can’t wait to see where it goes as Stephanie Garber definitely knows how to play with your mind as much as the game plays with the minds of the characters. 
*Becky's thoughts*
There has been so much hype about Caraval, despite it not even being released until next year - and the hype is definitely deserved. Although I haven't read The Night Circus, as Angharad said, this book has been compared to a more complex, magical version of it.

Caraval definitely is full of magic. Scarlett, the main character, has been entranced by Caraval all her life, and has been writing to Grand Master Legend of Caraval since she was a child. When we meet Scarlett, she's been betrothed to a man she's never met, and this is when she and her sister Tella receive their invitations to Caraval. 

I really liked Scarlett - she appears to be very timid and scared for a lot of the book, but with the way she was treated by her father and her determination to keep her younger sister safe from him, this is completely understandable, and I'm so glad that Stephanie Garber chose to portray her in an accurate way. I feel like if she'd immediately become more bold once leaving her home and escaping her father, this wouldn't have been a true to life depiction, so I really am glad that she stayed cautiously brave in her own way. Scarlett's personality at the beginning of the book also really helped to emphasise her growth throughout, which I loved following. I wasn't too bothered about the romance in this book, however I do think it'll be a more compelling one in the second book. 

Caraval was a very fast paced book, and I really didn't want to put it down. There are five days of the event of Caraval, and so the book is laid out to complement this - each section of the book is called "First Evening of Caraval", "Second Day of Caraval", etc. As Scarlett has a countdown to find Tella after she's been kidnapped, the book being laid out in this way really added to the suspense that's created throughout the entire book. 

What I liked most about Caraval is, although that I've finished the book, I still feel very much in the dark. I had a lot of questions towards the beginning of the book, and very few of them were answered, meaning that I probably have even more questions now. Although Caraval was a great book in it's own right, I do think that it'll end up being a strong start to a series that just gets stronger and more exciting as it goes along.

This book is released on January 31st, 2017

Monday, 17 October 2016

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers


I think I can sum up these two books by saying they just make me happy. I can also easily say that these books won’t be for everyone - there’s not a lot of action or plot, it is about the characters, their relationships and their struggles. The events of this book take place soon after the ending of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and although there are a few references to the previous book, I think this could be read as a standalone. We now follow the stories of Sidra, an AI previously known as Lovelace as she comes to terms living in a synthetic body, with no memories of her previous life. Our second character is Pepper as she tells the story of how she was made and titled Jayne 23, one of many little girls created purely to work in factories across the galaxy. Overall, Becky Chambers delves into the world of AIs and sentient vs non-sentient beings - Sidra/Lovelace being created as an AI and Pepper being raised by them. 

It is a book of character development - Pepper being brought up by ‘Mother’ AIs and then Owl, an AI that saves her life and essentially becomes the most important person in her life - the mother she never had. We follow Pepper from the age of 10 as she escapes her compound prison and out into a world she has never seen before. Not even knowing what a sun or sky is, unable to read and used to only liquid meals, a voice appears from nowhere and becomes her saviour. Owl, an AI, programmed into a near crashed ship takes Jayne 23 under her wing (har har) and the two form a bond that lasts over nine years until they finally leave the desolate planet. This relationship killed me, destroyed me. Owl is the only person Jayne has despite only being a face on a screen. She teaches her everything, looks after her and even temporarily installs herself into a virtual gaming body so she could sit by Jayne. So many of their moments made me want to cry - they essentially save each other.

We also follow the relationship of Pepper and Blue and find out its origin but a new relationship formed between Sidra and Tak, an Aeluon tattoo-artist who essentially helps her come to terms with her new, synthetic body that she feels she doesn't belong in. Becky Chambers writes these friendships that are so pure and full of understanding that you can't help but feel happy. It was one of the strongest points in the first book and it has continued in the sequel. We also fall back into this galaxy of many different species, cultures and laws but the one thing remains, this is a book that focuses on the importance of consent, gender pronouns and sexuality. Throughout the story, Tak, being an Aeluon, regularly switches between genders and it is just a normal thing. These primarily sci-fi novels are more informative on important issues than most contemporary books. 

Overall, although I didn't enjoy this book quite as much as the first one, it is still definitely a 5-star read for me. Everything Becky Chambers writes just blows my mind. She writes sci-fi without info-dumping, without epic space battles and yet still manages to construct these worlds and characters with so much depth that you can't help but become emotionally-attached to them. Pepper, Blue, Sidra, Owl and Tak - people so different and yet bound together by trust and love. I'm not sure what the author has planned next but whatever it is, I'll be first in line on release day. I want to thank her for allowing me to come back home amongst the pages of her story. 

This book will be released on October 20th

Friday, 14 October 2016

Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

In the conclusion to Wolf by Wolf, set in an alternate 1956 where Germany won WWII, Yael must deal with the consequences of her mission to assassinate the F├╝hrer, Adolf Hitler. After racing over 20,000 miles across Europe, Africa and Asia whilst wearing a face that isn't hers, she must return to Germania without being caught by the SS and discovered as the skinshifter they are searching for. With resistance groups starting revolutions across the continent and SS members determined to keep control of the Third Reich, Yael must fight to see her mission through to the end, at whatever cost.

Since finishing Wolf By Wolf with it's ever so slightly evil cliffhanger, I always knew Blood For Blood would be a heartbreaker. How right I was. 

Blood For Blood kicks off immediately where Wolf By Wolf left off, with Yael attempting to flee Japan and return to Germania (the Berlin of this alternate Europe). I fould Wolf By Wolf to be a very fast paced, plot based book, and Blood For Blood is quite the opposite - the plot is much slower for the majority of the book, and focuses a lot more on character and relationship building. However, this definitely isn't a bad thing! 

Yael has always been a mysterious character, and remained so throughout Blood For Blood - I do feel as though I got to know her a lot better than I did in Wolf By Wolf though, and learning more and more details about her backstory in the labour camp was just heartbreaking. Not only did you learn more about Yael in this book, but she matured so much and learned how to control her emotions more. I adored her rash braveness in Wolf By Wolf, but the way she behaved in this book seemed much more fitting with everything that she went through in it. Although Yael faced so many challenges in Wolf By Wolf, none of them were really her facing her true fears, and in Blood For Blood she is confronted with challenges that are so much closer to her heart. Yael opens up to people so much and slowly starts to learn how to trust and love again and hey, even though she's fictional, I am so proud of her.

There isn't all that much of an authentic romance in Wolf By Wolf (considering that Yael is impersonating someone else for the majority of it) but there is one in Blood For Blood, which after the events of Wolf By Wolf, does just seem to make sense. I'm so grateful that the romance was slow-burning, as well - it wasn't forced or rushed into, and it developed at the right pace considering the events going on around the characters. 

Some new alliances are made in Yael's quest to overthrow the Nazi's, and new characters are introduced. I won't say much about them so I don't slip into spoiler territory, but I love Comrade Mnogolikiy. You'll get to know them by other names once you read the book ;) 

As well as new characters, we've still got point of view chapters from characters from the previous book - Luka, everyone's favourite badboy, and Felix, the grumpy German teddy bear. Both are fighting their own moral battles throughout and I just love how each character's story played out and the way in which they all intertwined. 

I won't say much about the ending apart from this - it broke me in more than just a couple of ways. This book just wouldn't stop playing with my emotions, and I know that that ending will stick with me for a long time.

If you've read Wolf By Wolf, you need to go and read this sequel right this second - and if you haven't read Wolf By Wolf yet, what are you waiting for?


What do you think of the Wolf By Wolf series? Let us know in the comments!


Thursday, 13 October 2016

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

"But boys will be boys, our favourite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll." 

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis is a young-adult contemporary bordering on the mystery/thriller genre. It is told in three perspectives - Alex Craft, a girl remembered solely for the murder of her sister, Jack Fisher, star athlete, valedictorian and the person every guy wants to be and every girls wants to be with and finally Peekay, nicknamed for being the Preacher's Kid who is struggling to come to terms with heartbreak over her ex. Together, they tell the story of their senior year and how their lives come together and how it ultimately affects everyone.

I loved everything about this story. I read it in one day and I haven't been hooked to a book that much in a long time. The plot, the writing, the characters - everything was just addictive. It does not fall into your typical YA coming-of-age story. Yes, it tells the story of three characters in their final year of high school and yes, there is drinking and sex and relationships and rivalry but the one thing Mindy McGinnis does is include horror. There are mentions of animal abuse, sexual assault and murder. It also deals with rape culture, slut-shaming and gender discrimination. Despite it being about teenagers, the author does not shy away from the violence and acts of justice humans are capable of.
Alex Craft is our morally grey character who isn't afraid to punch somebody in the balls for touching her without permission, who attacks a man for drugging her friend and even kills her sister's murderer. Since a child she has embraced her violent nature and yet she meets Peekay volunteering at an animal shelter and ultimately, is just a girl that cares too much. She can't stand to live in a world where violent acts against women go unpunished. Jack is your typical valedictorian/star-athlete/popular guy who embodies boys will be boys and yet falls deeply and madly in love with Alex who will destroy anyone associated with that stereotype. This allows him to see typical male behaviour through new eyes. Peekay is the rebellious Preacher's Kid who isn't afraid to put the other girls down and feels like she needs to help people in the world. She misses her ex, has very supportive parents and is drawn to Alex and the way she sees the world. I love how complex she was and how much her character developed within the course of the story - she starts off hating Branley, the girl her ex left her for, even going as far as slut-shaming her and yet at the end, she is the one who helps and supports Branley when she needs support. Speaking of, Branley was such a refreshing character. She's your typical Queen Bee, beautiful, heavily made-up popular girl who gets all the guys, including Jack but she is so multi-layered. She is just a young girl that wants to be loved and accepted, not just for how she looks. During as assembly about rape culture, some guys even shout that it is her who is most likely to be raped. There were times I wanted to scream at her for her actions but if anything, she's the one character I was the most attached to emotionally.
Ultimately, this is a book about rape culture. When the justice system fails, can we step in? Can we take revenge into our own hands like Alex? One of the first conversations in this book explores the animal kingdom and how the female of the species are deadlier. Therefore, the story delves into animal vs human nature. How far can we go to protect those we love? Alex, who is capable of extreme violence in order to protect against Peekay who fantasises about violence and yet finds it doesn't come naturally to her. The girls volunteer at an animal shelter and yet Jack works with his father in a slaughterhouse. This book is filled with parallels between the characters, acts of kindness vs acts of good.

The ending blew my bloody socks off and obviously I won't go into details but let's just say that I did not expect it. I started off really disliking and questioning what the author chose to do and if it had been any other book, it would have probably ruined it for me but for this book and the message it's telling, it fits. Overall, I truly enjoyed this book and actually, I knew I would as soon as I read the synopsis. It is just my kind of story and it's already much-loved in the Goodreads community. The author was very brave to write this novel and her hard work paid off. The writing flowed perfectly and although it was split between three perspectives, each character had their own unique voice. This was definitely one of my favourite reads in 2016 and I'm looking forward to see what else Mindy McGinnis releases in the future.


Thursday, 6 October 2016

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

      “How many times have you told me you're a monster? 
     So be a monster. Be the thing they all fear when they close their eyes at night.” 

*Becky's thoughts*
The ending of Six of Crows guaranteed that Crooked Kingdom would be about one simple but necessary thing: revenge. And hey, the revenge in this book was sweet
Crooked Kingdom plays out in quite a different way from Six of Crows - where the first book shows the gang's planning and journey to pull of one main heist in the Ice Court, Crooked Kingdom is made up of many smaller heists, tricks, sabotages, escapes and bargains around Ketterdam, leading up to the final play in a long game. It is written in an even more complex style than the first book, with more point of view characters, more of Kaz's hidden tricks and plans, and in some ways, even higher stakes than in Six of Crows. In the first book, the dangers of Fjerda and the Ice Court added pressure to the gangs mission; in Crooked Kingdom, they are fighting for their lives in their own home, many of them fighting for a way out of the country without getting a bullet through their head due to the numerous wanted posters scattered around Ketterdam that feature their names and faces. 
Although a good chunk of Six of Crows was set in Ketterdam, and there was an incredible amount of world building of the city in that book, Leigh manages to expand it even more in Crooked Kingdom. I feel as though I know that city so well that I've visited it a few times, am planning my next trip, and considering buying a holiday home in West Stave. 
Now, onto the main focus of Crooked Kingdom: the characters. I absolutely adored all six members of the gang in Six of Crows, and after Crooked Kingdom, I just love them all even more. The character development in this book was out of this world, as well as the building of the friendships and relationships between them all. Characters that already had multi-layered stories are given even more complex pasts, and with those pasts come their weaknesses. On the topic of character development, I am so happy that Wylan had his own POV chapters in this book. I loved being able to finally see into his little innocent brain. 
All three ships that were established in Six of Crows, in my opinion, played out perfectly (for the most part). Nothing is rushed between any of the couples and it is just so realistic, something that you don't often see in relationships in young adult books.
By the end of Crooked Kingdom, I definitely wasn't ready to say goodbye to Kaz, Inej, Jesper, Wylan, Nina and Matthias. However, if I had to say goodbye to them, the ending of this book was definitely the best way to do so. I won't go into detail, but the second to last chapter left me with happy-tears pouring down my face in the middle of a packed train (a girl opposite me later asked if I was enjoying the book I was reading, and I think I sort of hiccuped in her direction. Hopefully that'll be a good enough recommendation and she'll be stuck into this series right now). I'm still kind of hoping that some sort of spin-off will be announced (Ms. Bardugo, I hope you're listening), but for now, I'm just going to go and cry in a corner again and fondly remember my favourite gang of misfits. 

*Angharad's thoughts*
Unfortunately for me, Crooked Kingdom was released during my biggest reading slump this year which meant it took me about twenty years to complete. I'm going to start off by saying I did not enjoy the plot itself as much as Six of Crows, however, the character development in this sequel was off the charts - both the characters as individuals and their friendships/romances. I thoroughly enjoyed the heist in Six of Crows as the whole book worked up to that one heist, whereas in Crooked Kingdom, it was about the gang dismantling various players in Ketterdam. There were a lot of twists and turns and a lot of things going on which is difficult to do as readers, such as myself, can enjoy some aspects more than others.
The characters of this duology are probably some of my all time favourite fictional characters. Kaz, my super intelligent, beautiful, damaged crow boy who secretly cares so much about his Dregs but can't show it. Inej, my darling Wraith with her beautiful Suli proverbs and incredible skill-set who is the kindest person ever. Nina, my curvy bisexual princess who is literally me when somebody takes away her chocolate biscuits. Jesper who will flirt with anyone with a pulse but is too in love with Wylan. Matthias, my blond wolf boy who spends majority of his time drooling over Nina (same) and finally Wylan, who is a golden retriever puppy in human form. Even Kuwei who the gang take under their wings. They make me so happy, they are all so damaged and broken and have had such hard lives but they come together and they understand each other, they work together to achieve the impossible and most importantly, they love each other. My little misfit children will always have a special place in my heart. I mean, Kaz is a morally-grey, disabled character, both Inej and Jesper are confirmed POC and Jesper and Nina are bisexual. The diversity in just two books is fantastic.
There are three main ships in this duology and although they were set up in Six of Crows, they developed beautifully in the sequel. None of them were rushed and no couple were the same. The relationships are built on trust and are slow-burning. Nina and Matthias have a beautiful domesticity amongst the gang, completely comfortable in their love for each other. Wylan and Jesper just constantly flirt and Wylan constantly blushes but it's the most innocent and lovely thing ever. Kaz and Inej are perfect for each other - two sides of the same coin and their slow-burning relationship (which made me happy cry in the end) has made them one of my all time favourite YA couples. I have to also mention the friendships in this group - Inej and Jesper having this beautiful understanding, Nina and Inej comforting each other like sisters and Matthias finding his home amongst people who he was taught to hate. Amongst the fast-paced plot was the Dregs and their trust in one another and to me, that was the heart of the duology.

Show Spoiler

Overall, I did enjoy this book but if I had to choose, I preferred the events of Six of Crows. However, Leigh Bardugo has once again put herself at the top of YA fiction - her writing is flawless and her characters are diverse. I have fallen in love with the universe she has created and just pray that she is planning on more novels set in the Grishaverse. For now, I'm going to go ahead and reread the Grisha trilogy whilst missing my Dregs terribly.

Have you read this duology? If so, what are your thoughts?

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Three Black Witches are born in a glen,
sweet little triplets 
will never be friends.

Three Black Witches, all fair to be seen
two to devour
and one to be queen.

Three Dark Crowns tells the story of three triplet Queens, each with their own type of magic. On the festival of Beltane once the queens are sixteen, their fight to the death begins, and only one queen can survive to become the Queen Crowned of Fennbirn.
This book is told from the points of view of all three sisters, which I enjoyed as it meant you got to know each sister individually, rather than from others thoughts. This writing style, however, did mean that the book took a while to get into, as you had to wait for each sisters chapter to roll around again to learn more of them. If you can be patient with the slow beginning though, this book is definitely worth it!
Each of the triplets has been trained since they were six by families who have powers that are the same as theirs. Once the Ascension year began (starting on their sixteenth birthday) preparations for Beltane began too, including suitors visiting the queens - the book itself isn't entirely clear on how a suitor is chosen, but presumably one will be chosen to marry whichever sister becomes the Queen Crowned.

Here's a little about each sister:

  • Mirabella is an elemental, able to control fire, water and wind. Her power is famed across the island of Fennbirn, to the point where even the priestesses of the island are openly backing her, an act which hasn't been done before. Although most expect Mirabella to easily kill her sisters and become the Queen Crowned, Mirabella still remembers her sisters as children and wants to protect them.
  • Katharine is a poisoner, with the ability to digest any poison and survive, and a skill mixing them too. However, Katharine grows sicker each time she is poisoned, to the point where she's incredibly thin and frail and is always covered in scabs, bruises and scars. The Queen Crowned has been the poisoner queen for the last hundred years, and the family training Katharine are keen to keep the poisoners on the throne.
  • Arsinoe is a naturalist, and should be able to make flowers bloom and crops grow, as well as having an animal familiar. Arsinoe's power, however, is the weakest of the sisters. She struggles to even make a flower look a bit more colourful, and has basically given up any hope of becoming Queen Crowned. She lives with Jules, a very skilled naturalist who has a large cat as a familiar.

Katharine's chapter is first, and she immediately became my favourite triplet - I found Mirabella hard to connect with and was bored by Arsinoe's chapters to begin with, as they seemed much more focused on her friend Jules than on Arsinoe herself. However, I grew fond of her as the book went on, and I'm not sure which queen I'd root for anymore (although I'm still not fond of Mirabella). 
I liked the writing style and the setting of this book, as well as the world it's set in (although I would like to know more about it) and the secondary characters were strong and well rounded. I didn't find Three Dark Crowns to be predictable at all, which it could easily have become. I did think that this book would be a lot darker than it was, but it ended up being very driven by character development rather than plot based, and I do think that this style worked very well. After that huge twist at the end, I'm expecting quite a plot based sequel, anyway!


There's just a few things that I didn't enjoy so much about this book:

  •  As previously mentioned, the beginning is quite slow - probably the first 50 pages at least. Although not much happens here, I would encourage you to stick it out and keep reading!
  • There is a love triangle, and in my opinion, it wasn't the best. I can't say much about it without including spoilers, but I'll just say that I really don't think that the male character involved in the love triangle has any excuse for what he does in the book, and unless he's been lying from the start, it's just a bit ridiculous of him.
  • I would have liked more world building - a lot of history was mentioned that hadn't been expanded upon much. Maybe this will happen in the sequel, though! 

Overall, I really enjoyed Three Dark Crowns and would recommend it to most fantasy lovers. However, if a fast paced plot is what you're after, this book probably isn't for you.


Have you read Three Dark Crowns yet? What did you think of it?


Saturday, 1 October 2016

September Fairyloot Unboxing

Another month, another Fairyloot unboxing! September’s Fairyloot theme was “Magic and Mayhem” and when I found out it’d be quite a Russian fantasy based box, I knew that I had to have it. As always, spoilers are below the following photo, so if you’re still waiting for your box and want it to stay a surprise, look no further!

+ + + 

So this month’s box had some absolutely amazing items! Obviously, with Russian fantasy, you’re going to expect the Grisha trilogy to make an appearance - and it did in a big way. 

+ First off, Castle of Fables created three different candles for this box, based on the Grisha orders - Materialki, Etherealki, and Corporealki. I got the purple Materialki candle, which smells amazing!

+ Another Grisha based item was a notebook from The Literary Emporium - it features the three Grisha orders on the front of it. 

+ The third item inspired by the Grisha Trilogy was a Second Army poster by GoodNightKittens!

+ The box included this gorgeous matryoshka doll necklace - it’s so cute and tiny, and fits really well with the book in this month’s box! The necklace was made by Pastel Clouds Jewellery.

+ Another exclusive item was this set of A Darker Shade of Magic badges by Book Otter. Also from Book Otter was a little Felix Felicis sticker!

Now, onto this month’s book - Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter! I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time so was pleasantly surprised to find it in my Fairyloot box! Alongside the book was a letter from the author, a signed bookplate, a postcard featuring some of BY’s merchandise from the book, and also a Vassa in the Night bookmark from Behind the Pages!


Did you get this month's Fairyloot box? What did you think of it?