Friday, 31 July 2015

Review: Conversion by Katherine Howe

Conversion by Katherine Howe
Publisher: Rock the Boat
Released: June 4th 2015
My Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

It’s senior year at St. Joan’s Academy, and school is a pressure cooker. College applications, the battle for valedictorian, deciphering boys’ texts: Through it all, Colleen Rowley and her friends are expected to keep it together. Until they can’t.

First it’s the school’s queen bee, Clara Rutherford, who suddenly falls into uncontrollable tics in the middle of class. Her mystery illness quickly spreads to her closest clique of friends, then more students and symptoms follow: seizures, hair loss, violent coughing fits. St. Joan’s buzzes with rumor; rumor blossoms into full-blown panic.

Soon the media descends on Danvers, Massachusetts, as everyone scrambles to find something, or someone, to blame. Pollution? Stress? Or are the girls faking? Only Colleen—who’s been reading The Crucible for extra credit—comes to realize what nobody else has: Danvers was once Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago . . .

Inspired by true events—from seventeenth-century colonial life to the halls of a modern-day high school—Conversion casts a spell. With her signature wit and passion, New York Times bestselling author Katherine Howe delivers an exciting and suspenseful novel, a chilling mystery that raises the question, what’s really happening to the girls at St. Joan’s?

Conversion, while definitely having an interesting premise, was unfortunately not for me and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

I’ve never read The Crucible, though I know vaguely what happens in it, so I can’t really comment on how much Conversion followed the book/was inspired by it. However, one thing I expect from most books - and any sort of retelling/book inspired by other source material especially - is to be able to understand what’s going on without having to consult some other material or person - here, that sadly wasn’t the case. To be honest, I had no idea what was going on at all throughout the whole book. Very little was explained (even at the end when everything was supposedly wrapped up, it was still left very unclear whether [spoiler, highlight to read]Emma really was the cause of everything, or whether it was conversion disorder. Conversion itself was not explained well, and the person texting Colleen was never revealed, so what was the whole point of that?[end of spoiler]).

I generally didn’t like the characters very much either. The school pupils were all just portrayed to be ridiculously over-the-top mean (like, how many people in real life would openly laugh at someone’s hair all falling out?) and it seemed odd that people would react to things in the way that they did in the book. Colleen - the main character - was just a bit bland. She was very closed off as a friend, and her weird barely there relationship with that guy from the other school seemed so out of place and unnecessary in the story. And she was trying to get to the bottom of the mysterious sickness these girls were suffering from, but she didn’t really do anything to try and find out what it was. It was all just sitting around, coming up with vague theories. And at the end, if she really did believe [spoiler]Emma was responsible, why was she not more freaked out? And why was she not asking more questions? To Emma’s mother, especially - I couldn’t let that go and continue to be friends with someone who might be able to kill me at any moment without even knowing it. Plus she was the only one who didn’t know about Emma’s affair with that teacher guy (which, by the way, was super creepy) so it’s not like she was the best/most observant friend. I’d be nervous to ever be around Emma again if I were Colleen, after what her mother said[end of spoiler].

Overall, I just think I was too confused by this book. I’m the kind of person who likes a solid explanation for things. I don’t like weird open/left to interpretation endings that make everything unclear and offer no real answer. That sort of ending just renders the whole book pointless to me. If you do, however, like that sort of thing, and like to leave things to your own interpretation, perhaps you will enjoy this book more than I did. The idea behind it all was definitely interesting, and I just wish I liked the characters more and had a better understanding of what happened.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Review: The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Invasion of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #2) by Erika Johansen
Publisher: Bantam Press
Released: July 16th 2015
My Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

With each passing day, Kelsea Glynn is growing into her new responsibilities as Queen of the Tearling. By stopping the shipments of slaves to the neighboring kingdom of Mortmesne, she crossed the Red Queen, a brutal ruler whose power derives from dark magic, who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what is hers. And nothing can stop the invasion.

But as the Mort army draws ever closer, Kelsea develops a mysterious connection to a time before the Crossing, and she finds herself relying on a strange and possibly dangerous ally: a woman named Lily, fighting for her life in a world where being female can feel like a crime. The fate of the Tearling —and that of Kelsea’s own soul—may rest with Lily and her story, but Kelsea may not have enough time to find out.
(from Goodreads)

The Invasion of the Tearling was not what I expected. It was a lot darker than the first book, and some weird and unexpected things happened.

Kelsea had changed in this book. The fact that she had to become pretty and thin kind of annoyed me - I liked the fact that she was plain before. It was so emphasised in the first book as well, so I didn’t understand the need for this whole transformation - other than the fact that now Emma Watson will be perfect for the part in the film. But anyway, that wasn’t the only part that changed. Kelsea had become more brutal, more ruthless. She wasn’t afraid to kill or cause pain. I don’t know whether the sapphires were affecting her mind and making her this way or something but I actually quite liked seeing this darker side to her, that refused to back down. I do think it was weird that she was suddenly becoming so powerful just on her own though. Where was this power coming from? The sapphires again? How was she controlling it? I would have liked to have known more, especially since she was basically now a match for the Red Queen who was supposed to be undefeatable. She was also less naive and though she was still weirdly fascinated with the Fetch (which still baffled me, seriously, WHAT did she see in him? She barely knew the guy and apparently had all these strong feelings for him - stronger than her feelings for Pen - WHY) she had also started up a relationship with Pen. It was purely a sexual relationship - at least in Kelsea’s eyes - but I get the feeling Pen liked her a lot more than she liked him. Which was a shame because I much preferred Pen to the Fetch. Though I swear I remember Kelsea saying in book one that she wasn’t attracted to any of her Guard because they were all too old? How old was Pen anyway? Because from book one I thought he was in his thirties but this book made him seem younger. I really hope he was younger because otherwise it’s kind of creepy. Especially since Kelsea was still pretty immature in this book (just because you can kill people with your weird magic powers, Kelsea, and know a few good strategies in war, doesn’t make up for your ridiculous bratty behaviour at other times).

Kelsea was also seeing strange visions from the past throughout the book, about a woman named Lily. Lily suffered horrific violent and sexual abuse at the hands of her husband Greg and was seemingly just a random woman in the first few flashbacks until she met another woman named Dorian, and it became obvious these were the events occurring right before the Crossing. While I initially didn’t enjoy these chapters much (I am not a huge fan of POV switches or flashbacks), it was definitely interesting to find out more about the pre-Crossing days and learn how the world Kelsea lived in came to be. Honestly, not that much was actually explained [spoiler, highlight to view](I am so confused by the whole time/portal thing)[end of spoiler] but we got to see William Tear and a bunch of other interesting characters, and learn how they were connected, so I was starting to understand this weird future setting we were in. Plus, it seemed [spoiler, highlight to view]Lily and Kelsea were somehow related so I am interested to find out what that will mean for Kelsea in the next book[end of spoiler].

Plot-wise, a lot of things I did not expect happened. Kelsea did not always make the best decisions though, especially concerning a certain Row Finn (she knew he was evil and multiple people had warned her about him and yet STILL ugh - it’s not like she even really needed his help or urgently had to know what he knew). However, I did like a lot of the things she did do, especially when she got Ayliss to draft the Bill and when she faced the Red Queen [spoiler, highlight to read](though the Red Queen didn’t really do anything? Isn’t she meant to be super powerful?)[end of spoiler]. I also loved the scene with the Holy Father because it was funny and Kelsea just wasn’t taking any of his crap. It was true that she didn’t really need the protection of her Guard anymore, and I sincerely hope we do get to learn more about her power in the next book and how she managed to become so strong. Also, who is her damn father?! I am dying to know! And I want to know more about Mace too, he seemed to have an interesting past. After the ending I am curious to see what happens in the next book. I honestly can’t guess so that intrigues me. The writing was okay but again, too many POV changes for me and I just couldn’t be interested in those side characters - I just wanted to get back to the main story and so it felt like a lot of things dragged on.

Overall, this was a solid sequel. I will never love this series, I have too many problems with the characters and the world-building (see my review for book one) but I’m invested enough to pick up the third book.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Waiting on Wednesday #69


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer
November 12th 2015
Find it on Goodreads

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend–the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?
(from Goodreads)

I'm surprised I haven't already featured this book. I am a huge fan of this series. I love all the characters (Cinder is still my favourite) and I honestly cannot wait to see how everything ends in this book. From what we saw of Winter in book three, she seems like a fascinating character and I really want to know more about her! Her POV sounds like it's going to be awesome (and I usually really don't like too many POV switches). I'm also hoping for Cinder and Kai to FINALLY be together (like, actually together together) because I have been shipping it since book one. Though I understand that taking down Levana is their priority (seriously. I am so intrigued to find out how the characters will defeat her - if they do!). Anyway I'm just excited to see all the characters again and this is one of my most anticipated books!

What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Review: Thirteen Days of Midnight by Leo Hunt

Thirteen Days of Midnight by Leo Hunt
Publisher: Orchard Books
Released: July 2nd 2015
My Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

When Luke Manchett's estranged father dies suddenly, he leaves his son a dark inheritance. Luke has been left in charge of his father's ghost collection: eight restless spirits. They want revenge for their long enslavement, and in the absence of the father, they're more than happy to take his son. It isn't fair, but you try and reason with the vengeful dead.

Halloween, the night when the ghosts reach the height of their power, is fast approaching. With the help of school witchlet Elza Moss, and his cowardly dog Ham, Luke has just thirteen days to uncover the closely guarded secrets of black magic, and send the unquiet spirits to their eternal rest. The alternative doesn't bear thinking about.
(from Goodreads)

Thirteen Days of Midnight was an enjoyable start to a series, and while it lacked depth at times, I was intrigued enough to want to continue and I’m looking forward to reading book two.

Luke was an interesting main character, though I do think he could have been developed just a little bit more. I liked that he didn’t adjust to these ghosts well and that he didn’t want this legacy his father had left him, but I did want to know a little more about his thoughts on the ghosts he had inherited and maybe just see more of his inner thoughts in general. He didn’t seem to want to know anything about necromancy or The Book of Eight - I would have been at least a little curious (though to be fair, if I were being attacked night and day by restless spirits, I probably would want nothing to do with any of it either). I think Luke handled the situation quite well. Even when things kept going wrong, and he was tricked and hurt and suffered through a bunch of horrible things, he was determined to find a way to free these ghosts from their ties to him so he could be left alone (and he managed to retain his sense of humour throughout). I am very curious to find out what Luke will do in the next book, considering the lengths he resorted to in this one. I also want to see how Luke explains away his behaviour to his friends, because they pretty much all thought he was crazy and dangerous by the end of this one. I know they weren’t the greatest of friends, but it would be nice to see him interact with other people besides Elza.

Not that I didn’t like Elza, because I did. The way people treated her was unfair and I felt for her. Plus, Luke would have been dead ten times over without her help. She knew a bit about spirits and the like (she was able to see them since birth) and so was the only person who could actually tell Luke what was going on, seeing as no-one else knew anything was out of the ordinary. The two grew closer as they tried to figure out what to do, and while the romance was very light (because a lot of romance would have seemed very out of place in this book), I did like seeing them get to know each other and like each other more. Elza and Luke sort of balanced each other out, and I hope things work out for them in the future.

Plot-wise, some things were a little confusing, especially the stuff about the roles of each spirit, why some of them hated Luke so much, and why having eight was the strongest combination. However, most likely a lot of this wasn’t explored due to Luke’s reluctance to learn necromancy, so I think we’ll get more explanation in the next book. The ghosts themselves all had very different personalities and I’ll be interested to see [minor spoiler, highlight to read] if any return and side with Luke in the future [end of spoiler]. I did guess that something shady was going on with Luke’s dad, but my God, that man! He was awful. AWFUL. I don’t think I would have [minor spoiler] been able to do what Luke did in the end, I think the dad deserved the punishment [end of spoiler] but I guess it made for a more exciting ending, so we’ll have to see what happens next!

Overall, Thirteen Days of Midnight was a good, solid read, and I recommend it to people who like books about ghosts and necromancy.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Review: The League of Regrettable Superheroes by Jon Morris

The League of Regrettable Superheroes by Jon Morris
Publisher: Quirk Books
Released: June 2nd 2015
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

You know about Batman, Superman, and Spiderman, but have you heard of Doll Man, Doctor Hormone, or Spider Queen? In The League of Regrettable Superheroes, you’ll meet one hundred of the strangest superheroes ever to see print, complete with backstories, vintage art, and colorful commentary. So prepare yourself for such not-ready-for-prime-time heroes as Bee Man (Batman, but with bees), the Clown (circus-themed crimebuster), the Eye (a giant, floating eyeball; just accept it), and many other oddballs and oddities. Drawing on the entire history of the medium, The League of Regrettable Superheroes will appeal to die-hard comics fans, casual comics readers, and anyone who enjoys peering into the stranger corners of pop culture. (from Goodreads)

If you have even the slightest interest in superheroes, and also possess a sense of humour, then you will probably enjoy this book. It’s not often I review non-fiction but I couldn’t miss the chance to read this! 

I will confess that I am not greatly knowledgeable when it comes to comics and superheroes (I know a little), so I actually learnt a lot from this book (like that a lot of the costumes in the 40s were fabulously awful and I think we should bring a few of those back). I also just really enjoyed reading about some of the crazy concepts people had come up with over the years. Some of these superheroes were truly odd (The Eye for one - there was just no explanation there!) while some were, in my opinion, terrifying (who thought a CLOWN would be a good idea? Clowns are creepy and frightening and okay maybe I was scared of them as a child but that’s not the point, clowns are just rubbish crime-fighters). Some had ridiculous names/powers (Dr Hormone and Ultra the Multi-Alien come to mind) whereas others weren’t actually too bad and seemed to have just unfortunately been cancelled before they could really take off. Wolf-Man though - that was just downright lazy. It’s like no thought went into that name at all.

I loved the artwork/images from the original comics that were included throughout as well. Certain characters had two extra pages that often contained panels from the actual work, and some were absolutely hilarious. I couldn’t imagine actually walking into a shop and buying these things! The author’s writing style was also very enjoyable, and I found myself laughing quite a bit. I definitely think that made a lot of difference, because if this had been a purely factual book with no (or unsuccessful) humour, I probably would have been bored. The inclusion of all the images really helped improve the reading experience as well, and the book would not be as fun without them.

In terms of how “regrettable” these superheroes were - some definitely were (seriously - CLOWNS) but I would definitely be intrigued to see if any of them are ever revived some day soon. We’re living in a time where superheroes are very popular and it’d be interesting to find out how successful some of these characters would be now if they ever made a come back (please no clown superhero movies though - I beg of you).

Overall, this was a really fun and somewhat educational read and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in superheroes or comics from the past!

Friday, 17 July 2015

My Little Box July 2015 Review

I decided to do a non-bookish related post today about a beauty box subscription service I've really been enjoying! I signed up for My Little Box in late April, so my first box was the May one. So far I've been liking everything, but not loving it - until now. July's box is the My Little Road Trip Box, and I've been really impressed with it, so I thought I'd show you the things I got, and my impressions of them!

(Note: I suck at taking photos. It is a curse. I have the least steady hand and no concept of good angles or lighting. I did attempt to take close ups of each product so you could see them in more detail, but the result was an atrocity, so you're better off with these blurry far away shots - trust me. I'm also using my phone camera which is rubbish as I don't actually own a proper camera because I am too useless to use one, so I do apologise. Just bear with it.)



Really like the design of this month's box, and the little card with the quote on it! I usually use the boxes to store miscellaneous items, and I use the cards to decorate the inside of my wardrobe (the illustrations are always really cute).




My thoughts on each individual product:

My Little Beauty Summer Sorbet After Sun Body Gelée: the My Little Beauty products always have the most adorable packaging! I love this after sun cream - it smells gorgeous and has a great texture. It's easy to apply and doesn't take ages to absorb into your skin (which is great for me as I'm kind of lazy and can't be bothered with creams that take ages to rub in).

Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water: I have very sensitive skin so I have to be careful with what I put on my face. I'm not wearing make up today so I haven't been able to test out this product fully, but I did a little patch test and I haven't broken out in some hideous rash yet, so fingers crossed this product really will be cleansing and soothing "even for sensitive skin" as the bottle claims.

Essie Nail Polish: mine is in the shade "DJ Play That Song". You can't really go wrong with Essie, to be honest. I really like Essie nail polishes, they have a great formula, and even I can go a day or two or even three without chipping (and I am the clumsiest person, so going more than two days without chipping is some kind of miracle). Not the biggest fan of this shade of purple, but it's a nice, bright, summery colour, so I'm sure I'll wear it at some point.

DCER Golden Temporary Tattoo Set: these are so cute! I love the arrows and the feather. Not sure exactly when I'd be wearing these but I am excited to try them! Maybe I'll put one around my ankle the next time I wear sandals, and see how it goes.

Bic x My Little Box Ready-to-Send Notebook and Crystal Stylus Pen: okay, so this really appeals to my stationery loving self. The notebook is in the shape of an envelope and I love it. I love notebooks. Shove any pretty notebook in my face and I'll be content for hours. Notebooks will always make me happy!

My Little Box Travel Organiser: this is probably my favourite thing in this month's box. I like to prepare extensively before I travel, so an organiser for me is essential. This one is really lovely with a fab design and pockets for your passport, your tickets and any other things you'd need with you. It's perhaps not the sturdiest travel organiser you could get, but it's pretty and I will definitely be making use of it.

That's my review of this month's box! What did you think? Did you prefer any other beauty boxes over this one for July? The only other beauty box I've tried so far is Glossybox and I wasn't really that impressed. I'm open to recommendations though!

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Review: Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen

Hidden Huntress (The Malediction Trilogy #2) by Danielle L. Jensen
Publisher: Angry Robot
Released: June 2nd 2015
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Sometimes, one must accomplish the impossible.

Beneath the mountain, the king’s reign of tyranny is absolute; the one troll with the capacity to challenge him is imprisoned for treason. Cécile has escaped the darkness of Trollus, but she learns all too quickly that she is not beyond the reach of the king’s power. Or his manipulation.

Recovered from her injuries, she now lives with her mother in Trianon and graces the opera stage every night. But by day she searches for the witch who has eluded the trolls for five hundred years. Whether she succeeds or fails, the costs to those she cares about will be high.

To find Anushka, she must delve into magic that is both dark and deadly. But the witch is a clever creature. And Cécile might not just be the hunter. She might also be the hunted…
(from Goodreads)

I enjoyed Hidden Huntress, and while it was not quite as good as Stolen Songbird, it was a quick and engrossing read, and after that ending, I am seriously dying to get my hands on the third book.

So I knew Cécile and Tristan would be separated for a while in this book. It’s pretty standard second book format. I wasn’t looking forward to it to be honest, but it was not as bad as it could have been. Okay, yes, I did want them to meet again, especially after that first part at the beginning of the book, and having them separated was a struggle. But we got to see from Tristan’s point of view, which I enjoyed, and it didn’t drag out as long as I thought it would. The way they managed to meet again was interesting and to be honest, I was not expecting that. I thought maybe Cécile would return to Trollus or something. But this proved to be more dramatic and set the story on a different path. The way everything ended up has definitely made me want to find out what happens next.

Again, I don’t think much would be able to beat book one, but I had this sort of fear that Cécile and Tristan’s relationship would become all sappy and annoying in the second book. Luckily, that did not happen. They loved each other, yeah, but it wasn’t all “let me plunge this dagger into my heart because I didn’t see you for two minutes, my love!”. There was still humour, still a flirty aspect to their relationship. The scenes where Tristan was pretending to be human were some of my favourites. And the chemistry was still there. I do have to admit though that I wasn’t quite as invested in their relationship as I was in book one. The humour wasn’t the same and everything just seemed a bit more serious - there was less time spent just being together, if you know what I mean. Cécile and Tristan both had some problems to work through, and it wasn’t all smooth sailing. But I did like how they actually talked to each other and tried to work things out. I’m hoping that they will be spending more time together in book three and we will be able to see some more humorous/fun conversations again.

Plot-wise, I did predict rather a lot of what happened, especially the things concerning Anushka and Cécile’s mother. It was still interesting to learn about their backstories though and I generally enjoyed seeing more of Cécile’s family. I must say, after a certain thing was revealed, I did feel really bad for Cécile’s brother (though he definitely was not my favourite character). He could have had a different life. Her father too. Listening to him explain his point of view…it was sad that things turned out the way they did. It was also interesting to find out more about witches and have Cécile explore her own power, as well as see Cécile in her element on stage. She was different when she was performing and it was nice seeing her enjoying something for her own sake (though I hated the way she let herself get pushed around by her mother so much, it was painful to read about at times). In regard to what was happening in Trollus - Tristan was going through a lot of things and bad stuff was happening all around him. But the weirdest thing was to do with the person impersonating Anais. Wow. That was…crazy. And messed up. But I did like her as a villain. She was doing something really wrong (like, really wrong) and yet was truly convinced that it was the best course of action. In terms of creepy villains though, Roland still won. He was super, super creepy. We also go to find out more about the history of Trollus, which I really loved and was one of the things I wanted to know more about in book one.

The ending was a cliffhanger, to say the least. How am I supposed to wait until the third book? I will be reading it, though I don’t think it will live up to book one (book one was just too good, honestly. It feels almost unfair to hold anything else up to that standard now, which is why I’m still giving this a 4 star rating despite my issues).

Overall, I enjoyed this book and while not as great as the first, it was a good sequel that has me excited for book three. Recommended, and if you haven’t read Stolen Songbird yet - go read it now!