Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy) #1 by Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Released: April 10th 2014
My Rating: 4 stars out if 5
Find it on Goodreads

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction.

Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world,
The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

The thing that made me want to read The Winner's Curse most was the title. Before reading the book, I didn't even know what it meant, but it drew me in all the same. After reading the book, I spent some more time Googling to find out more about it, and I just love how it ties in with everything and ugh. I love it when titles are perfect for the book. Now, irrelevant preamble aside, let me tell you what I thought of the book itself!

It was easy to get engrossed in The Winner's Curse; the beginning definitely grabbed my attention. Kestrel was quite an interesting character. I didn't really understand her motives at the beginning, but as we found out more about her, and she started to learn more about things, I began to like her more. I really liked that even though she wasn't actually that good a fighter, she was still a highly sought after soldier because she was a great strategist (I'd really like to see her show her skills at some point too). It made a change from the whole "female characters are only worth anything if they fight well and beat people up a lot" thing that seems to be going on a lot these days. Don't get me wrong, I love heroines that can fight and kill and stuff but just because a character can't do those things, doesn't make them weak either. Anna from Anna and the French Kiss is equally awesome to Tris from Divergent in my opinion. Anyway, I liked Kestrel and I think she made realistic choices toward the end, fit for her character, and it was interesting to see her weigh up the choices of becoming or soldier or marrying; she was stuck with all these things she didn't want to do and had to choose in a short period of time and I just liked her thought process and narrator style in general.

I was wary of the romance at first but it was written better than I expected it to be. I liked that Arin spoke his mind (well only in front of Kestrel really) and that he didn't trust her completely - he was feeling more comfortable around her each day but not enough to tell her his life story, you know, and I liked that - it would be weird if he felt that safe around her. I did feel there was a bit of a 180 turnaround with the romance - they went from hate to love quite suddenly (not in an insta-love way, just their opinions of each other suddenly seemed to change). But after that initial switch, you could see more development and how Arin's opinion of Kestrel was changing. The whole forbidden romance thing took a very interesting turn at the end, adding a new twist to the story that I really enjoyed. I was kinda surprised that Arin didn't see right through what happened at the end, but then again, maybe he was just shocked and needed time to think. All in all I am curious to see what he'll do next.

Plot-wise, I enjoyed the first half slightly more than the second half, mostly because a lot was happening and I think I maybe read it too fast and didn't really retain as much as I should have. The world-building was a bit shaky - I didn't really understand how society became the way it was and what happened between the people to make it that way, but maybe it will be elaborated upon in book two. Arin's character changed a bit as well and while it was interesting to read about him in that position, the transition was slightly abrupt.

Overall, The Winner's Curse was a good start to a new series - one that I am looking forward to continuing. I had a few issues here and there and I think it's always good to take the hype with a pinch of salt, but I would definitely recommend this book if you like forbidden romances and fantasy settings.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

Defy (Defy #1) by Sara B. Larson
Publisher: Scholastic
Released: January 7th 2014
My Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?
(from Goodreads)

Bah I'm so conflicted writing this review because I wanted to like Defy so much...but ahhh! It wasn't awful, but it could have been a lot better. I did enjoy it overall, perhaps more than I'd like to admit considering the problems I had with it, but I can't help thinking it the premise had so much potential that was just wasted.

Alexa started off as a pretty likeable character. She was the best of Prince Damian's guard, she seemed to have a good sense of humour and I loved her relationship with her brother Marcel. But then Marcel died (WHY did he have to die, I really liked him) and Alexa learnt that actually, even though she had been trying to hide the fact she was a girl for years, TWO people actually knew her secret. Coincidentally, these people were her friend Rylan, and the Prince himself. It was so obvious that Damian knew as well, I was just WAITING for him to tell her the whole time. And it was from then on that things changed. First of all, I hated that when Alexa realised they knew she was a girl, her whole personality seemed to change. She kept thinking she was worthless, she was constantly apologising for stuff she didn't need to apologise for and I just didn't like the way she thought being female was a weakness. NO IT BLOODY WASN'T. I get that she had to pretend to be a boy to survive, but that didn't mean women weren't good for anything except having children and looking pretty! Ah! It just annoyed me. I liked that she was a good fighter, but I didn't like how she thought the only reason she was valuable was because she could fight and that if she couldn't, she was "weak".

Next, the romance. There was a lot more than I was expecting, so if you're really not a fan of a focus on romance, that might put you off. Alexa's two love interests were Rylan and Damian. Rylan found out Alexa's secret from the start and so knew she was a girl all long, whereas Damian claimed he somehow worked out she was a girl very early on (HOW though, Damian? HOW). I wasn't a massive fan of either of these boys, though I probably marginally Damian. I didn't really get why either of them liked her so much (and vice versa) - we never saw what parts of her personality they liked, or what they were attracted to. It was all just, "Oh, Alex, I love you!" and it left me a bit confused. Damian at least got a bit of character development; he wasn't actually as spoilt and selfish as everyone thought he was, and though he found it really difficult to trust people, he had put his hope in Alexa. Rylan was sort of just left to be the jealous one who I thought didn't really have much chemistry with Alexa.  He was a nice guy, and very loyal...but I literally knew nothing about him except that he liked Alexa and he had a brother. He just needed more development. And while I did enjoy a few of the scenes with Damian and Alexa (they definitely did have chemistry), I was kind of put off by how much Damian lied to her. I know he felt he had to protect her, but come on. He was just lying! That being said, certain things were so obvious that Alexa really should have worked them out. She seemed so preoccupied by these two guys vying for her attention, she seemed to forget the situation she was in. I mean, they were captured by the enemy and she was mostly worrying about her love life. I must admit though, I could understand why she was conflicted - Damian was Prince Damian and she was supposedly a male guard, and even if they managed to survive and return home, he would be expected to marry for political reasons one day, and she would never have a place in that part of his life. I think what happened at the end made a lot of sense (though I was surprised Damian didn't see right though it) and I'm curious to find out what will happen in the next book.

Plot-wise, there wasn't as much going on as I thought there'd be. A lot of time was spent captured travelling through the jungle and I could have done with some more action - though when there was action, I do think it was done well, and I really enjoyed all of Alexa's fighting scenes. A lot of the twists weren't that difficult to guess but I didn't mind so much seeing as I liked where the story was going. The world-building could have been better, but to be honest, I'm not a massive fan of huge long descriptions of what stuff looks like, so as long as we find out in the future why certain things went on, I'll be okay. 

Overall, Defy was worth reading and entertaining, but could have been so much more. If Alexa's female side wasn't portrayed as a hindrance so much (though to be fair, she did become more accepting at the end) and the romance wasn't so back and forth and was a bit more developed (like WHY did they all like her so much? It was almost insta-lovey despite the fact they'd both apparently liked her for years), I think would have liked this book a lot more. As it is, I did enjoy it, and would recommend it if you don't mind a lot of romance - unfortunately, if you're looking for something more fantasy with less of a romance focus, then this book isn't for you.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Released: January 28th 2014
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.
(from Goodreads)

I am a massive fan of fairy-tale retellings, so when I heard about Cruel Beauty, I knew I had to read it. And honestly, it was probably one of the best retellings I've read in a while. Unpredictable and dark and mysterious, Cruel Beauty was exactly what I wanted it to be and more.

Nyx was a brilliant main character. She was the unloved child in her family - everybody preferred her twin sister, Astraia, and it was because of this that Nyx was the one who was chosen to marry the Gentle Lord. For her whole life, Nyx had been trained for her fate while her sister got all the love and attention, and her father never once seemed to regret the bargain he made with the Gentle Lord to sacrifice one of his daughters. Astraia had their mother's (who died during childbirth) face, while Nyx looked more like her father, and though Nyx did love her sister deep down, she couldn't help but resent her. In fact, she was full of resentment (as we all might be in such a situation) and hate bubbled inside her constantly. She hated her father most, even though all she ever wanted was to be acknowledged by him, but she also hated her aunt and the whole facade they both put up in front of Astraia to spare her feelings. She tried to be a good sister and most of the time managed to hide her true feelings and mask them with a smile. But on the day of her wedding, the day she had to be brave and put on a calm face to face her fate, it just got too much for Nyx, and she lashed out at Astraia, intentionally trying to hurt her. The funny thing about Nyx was that after everything, she still felt guilty for what she said, and both revelled in the pain she caused and wished she could take it back. This happened often - people would do horrible things she didn't agree with, she would say something awful to or about them, but then she would feel bad and try to justify their behaviour in some way.  She would even help her enemies because she couldn't stand the way the guilt was gnawing away at her. It was an endless cycle of loathing. I think she probably hated herself most of all; she thought she was a terrible person for constantly thinking such terrible and vicious things, and she knew she would be willing to do anything, even if that meant betraying a loved one, if she truly believed it had to be done. She was not "pure of heart" as many heroines in fairy tales are portrayed to be, and she knew it. She had a darker side and she was broken and that's why she was prepared to die for her mission - as she said one chapter, she did not go to the castle to be saved.

Ignifex was a very fascinating character, and at first, I had no idea what to make of him. At the start, he seemed to be a villain who thought other people's lives were just all fun and games and a source of his amusement. He had a shadow, Shade, who he had apparently trapped to become his slave, and all in all Ignifex seemed to be the very monster everyone thought he was, though one who laughed and enjoyed irony. Shade in contrast was the poor lost soul whose freedom was stolen from him, who showed kindness to Nyx and who wanted to get rid of Ignifex no matter the cost. However, what I loved about Cruel Beauty was there were no clear-cut "good or evil" characters. All of them were a mix of both and I could never work out who to trust. I kept asking myself "who is who here?" trying to figure out who were the good guys and who were the bad, but there were so many switches and confusing actions that I had to conclude that no-one was one set thing. People who would typically be called "bad" believed they were justified in their actions and those trying to do "good" did so many awful things for the cause. Ignifex seemed to be evil at first, but after learning his background, and his reasons for his actions, it was hard to hate him. He was not blameless of course, he could still be called a monster, but I could sympathise with him. I wasn't sure how I would feel about a romance between Nyx and Ignifex seeing as he was responsible for her mother's death and the entrapment of Arcadia, but it was actually one of the most intriguing romances I've read. While I thought the word "love" was thrown about a bit too quickly (especially in Shade's case - that was a total insta-love weird relationship that made little sense - I get he was nice to her, but whaaat? They barely knew each other!), it was interesting. Usually I wouldn't like a romance like this where one character was the reason the other character's life was so messed up because usually the messed up party would be like "I know they have done oh so many terrible things but I am so pure and good on the inside, I can definitely forgive them for what they've done lalala" and it would just be weird and unbalanced and creepy. But this time was different, because Nyx herself was terrible and willing to do terrible things, and she did NOT forgive Ignifex. The reason Nyx was able to fall in love with a monster was because she believed herself to be almost a monster herself, to be capable of doing such an awful thing, and of course, what are a few atrocities between monsters? The whole time, she continued wanting to stop Ignifex. Firstly out of hatred and revenge and to free the land, and then later on to free him from his own kind of prison. She acknowledged the bad things he had done and never forgot them, but continued to be with him nonetheless, because the only person who understood her, who knew her the most, was this monster of a man. So what did that make her? But even if we ignore all this profound stuff, Nyx and Ignifex had a lot of chemistry, and I loved their conversations which could be a mixture of hilarious and sweet and crazy all at the same time. Ignifex was arrogant and over-confident and very funny at times but he was able to make Nyx feel worth more than she'd ever felt back at home. He cared about her more than he ever expected to and vice versa, and they made the strangest and yet most captivating pair.

Plot-wise, so much went on that I would never have guessed. The meeting with Shade surprised me and it took a turn I didn't expect and so many things happened that made me keep asking "where is this going?", because I honestly couldn't work it out. I did guess the revelation about the prince pretty early on, but honestly, it didn't bother me, because there were so many other mysterious things going  on. I really loved the mythology aspects and the stories weaved in and how everything somehow connected to something else. My only complaints would be the insta-lovey parts (if "love" were replaced with "like" it would have been so much better) and the ending, because I would have liked things to have been explained more as it was a bit vague and I didn't really get how the things that happened, happened.

Overall, I really enjoyed Cruel Beauty and loved the way mythology and fairy-tale were brought together. Recommended to fans of retellings, mythology and forbidden romances.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

How to Make it Through a Law Degree

Are you a student at university? Do you study law? Do you regret all the life choices that led to that decision? Here's a guide to help you stay sane when all the cases about some guy getting pissy because he had a fight with his son and now he wants to renege on a deal where he said his son would inherit his farmland because he's petty like that and oh the daughter doesn't even come into it because why bother giving farmland to her when she'll just marry some guy who will make her farm HIS land if you get what I'm saying so there's this whole pointless expensive legal battle where no-one gets what they want and the law isn't even clarified so what I'm saying is just don't piss off your dad because he will mess up your shit make you contemplate throwing yourself out of a window.

1) Don't study law - if you are still young and considering all the options life has to give you - don't do law. You may think it's a really good idea, and oh yes, the salary is appealing, but no. Don't do it. It's not worth it. Nothing is worth it. And honestly, less than 20% of people who graduate with a law degree end up going into the legal field. Even fewer people actually qualify to become barristers or solicitors. The ones that do probably end up taking thirty years off their life due to the stress, and also dealing with insufferable people who ironically MAKE YOU WANT TO COMMIT CRIMES SO THEY WOULD SHUT THE HELL UP. And why do you want to study law anyway? Let me tell you, when you have to read cases about people who rip their own legs open, defecate on the wound and then stick TWO faucets up their anus and refuse to have them removed because they're afraid of needles, you really start getting tired of this shit. However, if you like so many before you, are in too deep and have already made the mistake of picking the damn subject as a degree, move on to step two.

2) Use your degree as an excuse for everything - so it's too late for you. You're already studying this godforsaken, good-for-nothing subject. But never fear. You may be stuck learning the difference between registered and unregistered land, but at least you don't have to do any of that other shit you don't want to do; your degree will come in handy in providing you with reasons to ignore people who for some reason want you in their life. Here are some examples:

Your friend: Hey, you wanna come watch my saxophone rehearsal?
You: Nah, sorry mate, gotta study for my law degree.

Your mum: Could you take out the bins? You haven't moved from that seat all day!
You: Nah, sorry Mum, need to work on this essay for my law degree.

Your boss: You can't just waltz in four hours later, what the hell have you been doing?
You: Sorry, sir, been doing stuff - for my law degree.

Bartender: I think you should slow down -
You: I'm doing a law degree.

Shopkeeper: Why are you paying in Monopoly money?
You: Law degree.

Landlord: You're not getting your deposit back.
You: Actually, I'm doing a law degree and -
Landord: Get off my property.

So I guess it doesn't work on everyone.

3) Don't do any work until the night before - "What?" I hear you ask. "Nonsense!" I hear you say. But realistically, if you're this far in the post and haven't clicked off to find some actual useful advice, then you probably don't give a shit anymore. And that, my friend, is the key to all of life's problems. Doing essays the night before they are due in is vital to surviving a law degree, because a) if you care so little about the work, you're less likely to be a ball of terrified screaming mess whose life will be over if they don't get a 2:1, b) yay more free time to spend eating snacks and watching TV, and c) every lawyer needs to be able to bullshit their way through a problem so if you do fail the essay, you can always practise your bullshitting skills by coming up with some sob story (feel free to consult any X Factor episode ever) to tell your tutor to convince them to give you a passing mark and/or a re-mark/second chance at the essay. If this doesn't work, resort to blackmail. You'll most likely have learnt how to get away with it in your criminal law module. Unless you spent your criminal law module studying necrophilia and bestiality which YES I DID ACTUALLY AND WHAT AN INSIGHT INTO HUMANITY THAT WAS.

4) Piss and moan endlessly about your degree to get people to feel sorry for you - this works a little like step two, except you might get sympathy and/or free stuff out of it, if used correctly. Examples:

Family at breakfast:
Dad: So, how's uni going?
You: Oh, God. It's so hard! I just don't know if I'm gonna make it and everyone is better than me and I NEVER understand the lectures and I just feel like crying and I'm not eating enough and I feel like I've made the worst mistake. If only something good would happen!
Dad: Er...do you want the last hash brown?
You: Yep.

Friends at the cinema:
Friend: So, what film do you want to watch?
You: Nothing with law in it. I feel like law is ruining my life! I'm so stupid and everyone knows all this legal jargon even though I'm in the library all day and I can't even enjoy a night out with friends without it coming back to haunt me.
Friend: Aw, it's okay! Do you want me to buy you popcorn?
You: Yep.

At the pool/beach:
Random guy/girl/manatee hitting on you: So, I hear you do a law degree?
You: (burst into hysterical tears)
Guy/girl/manatee: Er, er...ice-cream! Will ice-cream make you feel better?
You: Yep.

On a yellow line:
Warden: Ticket for you!
You: I was parked there for TWO minutes, I was literally across the street and I've had such a bad day, I'm failing my degree, I don't understand anything about EU law, can't you just let me off for today -
Warden: I spend my days ticketing cars dressed like a prick, does it look like I give a shit?
You: ...

So, like step two, it doesn't work on everyone.

5) Don't bother going to a single campus/careers organised event - seriously though. Your careers advisers will be like "they're SO useful" and "you just must go to the Law Fair!" and "you can put it on your CV!" but it's all lies. Try putting this crap on your CV and you'll struggle to describe it as anything other than "useless event that taught me nothing". University organised events are mostly just bullshit about "commercial awareness" that by this stage in your degree you will already have heard way too much about and the only thing they're good for is taking the free pens and sticky tabs that are occasionally laid out if someone has come to visit to give a talk. No joke. When you hear the exact same presentation THREE times at three "different" events, you know it's time to give this shit up, and walk out of there with your bag full of stolen stationery and your head held high.

6) Try and make your life resemble Elle's from Legally Blonde (but not Legally Blonde 2. Dear God, not Legally Blonde 2) - because this is the only way you might actually think your degree is worth anything. Search for guys named Warner and Emmett. Start calling your best friend Vivian if you have to. Go to a nail salon and teach people the "bend and snap". Help a friend regain custody of their dog from their douche ex-boyfriend. Better yet, make your life like Legally Blonde the Musical - because then you can burst into song. And if you haven't seen Legally Blonde, for God's sake, what are you doing with your life?

7) Never, and I mean never, talk to that kid who always wears suits - to every lecture and every tutorial and around campus buying bloody toilet paper from the student union shop. Don't trust that kid. For what reason does a student have to wear suits ALL THE TIME? I get at a job and interviews and the Law Fair but seriously. That kid probably sleeps in that suit. And takes it to the cinema and out to dinner. You just know that kid is obsessed with law. Posters of gravels likely hang in their room, with forty copies of The Lawyer being used as a coffee table. Unless you want to be bored to death by the implications of some law shit on some other law related shit, avoid this person at all costs.

8) Watch countless episodes of Suits and Law & Order - then laugh hysterically at the way the legal profession is portrayed and get off on the fact that hundreds more people will be fooled into doing law degrees so you won't be alone in your pain and suffering because TV shows like these make law seem so fun and interesting when really you're this close to grabbing your bag full of useless textbooks and magazines and burning it all in the middle of a lecture about negligence claims.

9) Make a back-up plan - obviously you're not getting into the legal field, so decide on what other career path you might take. Don't bother emailing tutors or lecturers because they will try to convince you to stay with the torturous subject that is ruining your life. Spend hours on the internet agonising over what to do before finally deciding that the job of chocolate tasting in a chocolate factory is for you.

10) Screw the legal system and become a vigilante - because we all know the law is as complicated as a Tim Burton movie and no-one really knows what they're doing anyway. Decide on a costume (no capes) and a name - the more cliché, the better - and go out into the night and take the law into your own hands. Those criminals will never see The Vengeful Night/Phoenix Rising/Knight of Justice/I Don't Know About You But I'm Feeling 22/insert other ridiculous name coming.

If all else fails, at least rejoice in the fact that thousands of people across the country are in the same position, and not a single one of them is enjoying this diabolical degree either.

(Except that kid in the suit.)

Friday, 17 January 2014

Review: Blindsided by Natalie Whipple

Blindsided (Transparent #2) by Natalie Whipple
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: January 2nd 2014
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Three months after Fiona escapes from her father's syndicate, all seems well in her tiny town of Madison, Arizona. She and Seth are happy together - apart from the teensy fact of Fiona being jealous that Seth can see through her invisibility - and her family and friends are safe. But when the local syndicate and even the Army show up, it's clear there's more going on in town than she could ever imagine. It seems like these huge powers are interested in the old Radiasure factory - could they be reproducing the infamous drug that caused mutations? - and everyone suspects Fiona of knowing more than she should. As Fiona and her friends try to cover their tracks, they discover that they do have some dangerous knowledge. Though at first determined to stop anyone from remaking Radiasure, Fiona learns a secret that could change everything, including her invisibility. Torn between her own desires and the greater good, Fiona might be too blindsided to see the real villain coming. (from Goodreads)

Blindsided was a great sequel to Transparent and I'm really hoping there's a third book, because I'd love to see more from this series.

Things started off about six months after the end of the last book, and Fiona's was enjoying a (semi)normal life that didn't involve running away from her crazy father. Unfortunately for her, however, there were new problems to consider - Juan's men were hanging around too often, and now the Army was sticking its nose into things. I felt so bad for Fiona - she just couldn't get to enjoy some peace and quiet! And on top of all that, she was having problems with her relationship with Seth. She constantly felt awkward about her invisibility and was jealous that Seth could see her when she couldn't even see herself. But he just didn't seem to understand what the problem was and was upset that she kept pushing him away. They were arguing a lot, but despite that were still determined to protect each other. I really liked seeing this side of them, and it was nice to have a balance of cool actiony stuff and normal teen worries - it made me really feel for the characters. I loved Fiona's realisation at the end and how she finally had begun to start accepting herself.

There was also the problem of trying to hide Seth's secret from The Pack. His ability was acting up and causing him a lot of pain. He had used it too much and now it seemed to be affecting him at random moments. Fiona and Brody was really worried but there was nothing they could do without exposing his true ability. I have to say, I did think the final reveal moment would be a bit more dramatic, but it was kind of anticlimactic. I did, however, love the addition of Spud the hacker, Mile's girlfriend. She was really different from the other characters - she was a bit boastful and very confident in her abilities, but she really loved Miles and treated Fiona like family from the start. At first it was a bit strange for Fiona to see her big brother with a girl he actually seemed to care about, but I liked that she and Spud became friends in the end.

Even Graham had started to turn a new leaf. Now he was away from his evil dad, he seemed to be trying to be nicer and wanted to earn everyone's trust. I didn't really forgive him for everything he'd done and still suspected him, to be honest, but I liked that he was trying to heal his relationship with Fiona. He had a new girlfriend as well, who seemed to be having a positive influence on him.

Plot-wise, I was intrigued by the Army's true intentions  and it all sounded a bit fishy to me. They were apparently looking for the "missing element" in Radiasure. The Phantom, one of Juan's men, was trying to interfere as well and was threatening Fiona and her family. He needed the element so he could replicate Radiasure, and his ability made him a man very difficult to stand against. Fiona also suspected her father may be involved too but couldn't work out how. There were quite a few twists and I was definitely surprised by something we found out about Seth's family.

Overall, I really enjoyed Blindsided and while I may have liked the first book slightly more, I would definitely be up for a third book! Recommended, and if you haven't started this series yet, pick up the first book now!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Review: Transparent by Natalie Whipple

Transparent (Transparent #1) by Natalie Whipple
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: May 16th 2013
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

High school is hard when you're invisible.

Fiona McClean hates her family, has had to move to a new school and seems to be completely invisible to the boy she likes. So far so normal, right? But Fiona really is invisible. She doesn't even know what colour her own hair is.

Born into a world where Cold War anti-radiation pills have caused genetic mutations, Fiona is forced to work for her mind-controlling mobster father as the world's most effective thief. When her father announces she must become a murdering assassin, Fiona and her telekinetic mother make a break for freedom. Running to a small Arizonian town, Fiona finds that playing at 'normal life' with a mother on the edge, a brother she can't trust, and a boy who drives her crazy is as impossible as escaping her father.
(from Goodreads)

Transparent was such an enjoyable read! I loved all the different elements to it - it was a great mix of everything and the idea was executed really well - with invisibility, there's a chance things can get really cheesy or cliché, but Transparent wasn't like that at all and I really liked it overall.

Fiona was a fab main character. She had basically been used as a tool by her (detestable) father her whole life, and yet no matter what she did, she never felt like she got his approval. He made her lie and steal and do awful things, and used her invisibility for his own means. He never saw her as a person - no-one did. People were either afraid of her or resented her. The poor girl didn't even know what she looked like and yet she had to deal with a messed up family on top of everything else. Fiona didn't trust anyone either and it was difficult for her to open up to people at the start. I liked watching her character develop and realise that not everyone was like her father, and that some people genuinely cared about her. It was nice to see people appreciate her for who she was - I think she really needed to know that.

I loved a lot of the characters in this book, but Miles, Bea and Seth were my favourites. Miles was one of Fiona's brothers and at the start seemed to be the only person in her family actually concerned about her welfare. Her mother tried too, but it was difficult to like her at the beginning. Miles was just likeable and lovely and genuine and was willing to do whatever he could to protect his sister. He hated their father and didn't want Fiona to continue having to live with him. And he just had a personality you couldn't help but warm to! Bea was Fiona's first real friend, I suppose, though things started off a bit shaky between them. I liked that Bea didn't give up on trying to be Fiona's friend and I really enjoyed reading about their friendship and how close they became later on. Bea was willing to do a lot to help Fiona, even though it was dangerous, and I just think she was a really good friend. I liked her own complicated relationship with Brady too (who was also a great character) and was glad she got her own story, even if it was small. Seth was a character I, much like Fiona, didn't really like much to begin with, but he really grew on me. I liked his passion for maths and his determination to help Fiona who struggled with it. He also kept her secrets and was generally there for her to talk to when she had a problem - they could sort of share their problems with each other, and it was nice to see they could comfort one another when things were tough. He could be a bit sappy at times, but it was forgivable since he was a good character the rest of the time!

Plot-wise, I really loved the whole escape-from-the-syndicate storyline. I really didn't know who to trust or what Fiona's dad might do if he found them, and there were a lot of surprises along the way. I was never bored and the book was just really easy to read and engage with - it was thoroughly entertaining. It was actually a bit darker than I expected, but had just the right amount of comedy to balance it out, and like I said before, it wasn't cliché like it could have been. It was just such an interesting story - I've read about invisibility powers before, but never about someone who was permanently invisible, so it was intriguing to see from that point of view. Looking forward to the next book.

Overall, I really liked Transparent and definitely recommend it to people who like books about superpowers with a side of romance and comedy.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Review: Pawn by Aimee Carter

Pawn (The Blackcoat Rebellion #1) by Aimee Carter
Publisher: Mira Ink
Released: January 3rd 2014
My Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Are you more than the number on the back of your neck?

For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country.

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister’s niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter.

There’s only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered. The same one that got her killed…and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that’s not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she’s only beginning to understand. (from Goodreads)

I enjoyed Pawn more than I thought I would. I never really got into Aimee Carter's Goddess Inheritance series, so didn't really know what to expect with this. However, I was pleasantly surprised and have to say I'm looking forward to reading the next book.

Kitty was a character faced with a lot of difficult choices, and was fairly likeable. While I can't say I've experienced the hardships she had, I felt like through her voice I could understand what she was going through and why she decided to do what she did. Waking up with a whole new identify couldn't have been easy, but she adapted a lot quicker than expected. It was so unfair that she was put in such a position, that the test didn't take into account her dyslexia. All she needed was extra time - she was clearly smart and the fact that one day and one test determined your whole future in this society was just horrible. But she really didn't have much of choice, and if she wanted Benjy - the only person left alive that she cared about - to survive, then she would have to take on the identity of Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece, who died in very suspicious circumstances. I liked that at the beginning, Kitty wanted nothing to do with a revolution and just wanted to keep herself alive - she had already suffered and watched enough people she loved die - but as time when on she realised how terrible things were and how wrong it was that one family ruled the whole country, who had no say in the matter, and decided to get involved, even if it meant risking everything.

Benjy was Kitty's boyfriend, best friend and the person she had grown up with. There was a possibility of a love triangle in this book, but surprisingly, Carter didn't go down that route, and I was actually impressed. While Benjy wasn't perhaps my favourite character, it was clear how much he and Kitty loved each other (even though they were together from the start, which meant we didn't get much relationship development). I was hoping to learn more about their past together, but there's always time for that in future books. And Benjy seemed willing to do anything for Kitty, and vice versa, and I liked how they were together - Benjy never treated Kitty differently because she couldn't read and was always willing to help her. While I think certain parts were a bit cheesy, I liked their relationship overall.

Knox was a very interesting character, and honestly, even if this book had gone down the love triangle route, I wouldn't have minded sooo much if Knox were the other guy, because he was actually worth reading about. He was a bit inscrutable at first and it was difficult to tell how he really felt about anything: whether he loved the real Lila who was his fiancée or whether it was all for show, how well he was coping with Kitty replacing her, what his real aims were. I always got the feeling he was just trying to do what he thought was right, even if he was a bit secretive about it. I liked that Kitty had a friend in him, that he respected her for who she was. I do think, however, that he was right about things being difficult in the future - it would be very awkward for Kitty to try and maintain her relationship with Benjy when she would eventually have to marry Knox. I felt so sorry for both of them - Kitty, because her whole life was turned upside down and she couldn't be with who she loved and Knox because he had to marry a fake, a copy of the real girl he used to know.

Other notable characters were Greyson, the son of the Prime Minister and who was probably one of the only innocent characters in the book and Celia, Lila's mother, who had to sit across the man involved in her daughter's death every day without saying a word. It was enough to stretch anyone to their limit. Augusta, the head of the Hart family, was another intriguing character because even though she was horrible and completely deluded, she really thought what she was doing was her responsibility and for the best. She didn't have that different an upbringing to Kitty and it was interesting to see how she had taken a path Kitty probably would not have considered.

Plot-wise, there were a few twists, but two in particular that surprised me; one that I seriously want to know the reasoning behind it and another that just surprised me! I think the book was well-paced and though I found the world a bit confusing (I would like to know more about what happened seventy-one years ago and why society became one where everyone was ranked [supposedly] by intelligence and why everyone decided to just randomly accept it and how things could deteriorate so much in such a short period of time...) I really enjoyed the setting because it was pretty different to anything I've read before, even if some elements were similar. I'm already excited for book two.

Overall, Pawn was an enjoyable read and I definitely recommend it to dystopian fans looking for something a bit different, or to people who really don't like love triangles (though I can't guarantee there won't be one in the future!).