Saturday, 28 June 2014

Review: Rules of Summer by Joanna Philbin

Rules of Summer (Rules of Summer #1) by Joanna Philbin
Publisher: Atom
Released: May 23rd 2013
My Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

There are two sides to every summer.

When seventeen-year-old Rory McShane steps off the bus in East Hampton, it's as if she's entered another universe, one populated by impossibly beautiful people wearing pressed khakis and driving expensive cars. She's signed on to be a summer errand girl for the Rules -- a wealthy family with an enormous beachfront mansion. Upon arrival, she's warned by other staff members to avoid socializing with the family, but Rory soon learns that may be easier said than done.

Stifled by her friends and her family's country club scene, seventeen-year-old Isabel Rule, the youngest of the family, embarks on a breathless romance with a guy whom her parents would never approve of. It's the summer for taking chances, and Isabel is bringing Rory along for the ride. But will Rory's own summer romance jeopardize her friendship with Isabel? And, after long-hidden family secrets surface, will the Rules' picture-perfect world ever be the same?
(from Goodreads)

This book can pretty much be described by the word “meh”. Everything was meh, the main characters, the love interests, the plot...I could get through it without wanting to hurl the book across the room, but I didn’t really enjoy it that much. It was just...meh.

Rory was the housekeeper’s niece, coming to stay with the rich Rule family for the summer as an errand girl. She was all right. She didn’t really stand out much or say much and she was a bit passive at times. She and Isabel, the youngest daughter of the Rule family, didn’t get along at first but after Rory covered for Isabel and got into trouble instead of her, Isabel did a 360 and decided Rory might actually be worth the time of the day. It was pretty predictable. They became friends (though it was kind of weird that Isabel suddenly had a massive change in attitude) and both began to confide in each other. Isabel was the rebellious rich girl type (at times, I couldn’t help but think “poor little rich girl” – I mean, really she had no problems until she met Mike) and was looking for something different this summer, Mike being that “different”. Rory wasn’t searching for a relationship, but oh noes, somehow managed to fall in love with Connor Rule, whom she was apparently not at all appropriate for because she was just the help. Total insta-love for both of these relationships and very cliché, and I didn’t like Mike or Connor because Mike was kind of douchey and Connor was just boring. And he was another one of those kids who thought he had so many problems – “Oh no I’m on the swim team, but I don’t want to be, whatever shall I do?” You know what you do? You quit the swim team and stop complaining. He was wealthy, went to a good school, was good looking, loved his family but had a few issues with them (don’t we all?) and he had nothing to be whining about! So his dad would be TEMPORARILY upset about it – who cares! Mountains out of molehills, I tell you. It was like Austin Ames from A Cinderella Story – I never got why he thought he had any problems. His dad got over him quitting football almost instantly. He got into EVERY college he applied to and was like “oh how do I tell my dad I don’t want to go to the one he wants me to go to!” -__-.

Not much else happened. Isabel and Rory had a temporary falling out and Mike turned out to have a “secret” but that was it. Rory didn’t seem to do many errands for an errand girl, and Connor seemed to like her for her appearance only (and vice versa) as it was so insta-lovey he apparently liked her the first time he met before they’d even had a proper conversation. Isabel’s old friends were, predictably, not very nice, and Isabel finally came to realise this. The ending was rushed. I don’t really know what else to say. This book wasn’t awful but it was just...bland.

Overally, if you like contemps and don’t mind clichés and insta-love, maybe give this a go. Otherwise, you might want to look elsewhere for your summer read. I also just found out it has a sequel, which I probably won't be reading because honestly I can't even imagine material interesting enough to form an entire second book.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Waiting on Wednesday #59

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

Unmade (The Lynburn Legacy #3) by Sarah Rees Brennan
September 23rd 2014
Find in on Goodreads

Who will be the sacrifice?

Kami has lost the boy she loves, is tied to a boy she does not, and faces an enemy more powerful than ever before. With Jared missing for months and presumed dead, Kami must rely on her new magical link with Ash for the strength to face the evil spreading through her town.

Rob Lynburn is now the master of Sorry-in-the-Vale, and he demands a death. Kami will use every tool at her disposal to stop him. Together with Rusty, Angela, and Holly, she uncovers a secret that might be the key to saving the town. But with knowledge comes responsibility—and a painful choice. A choice that will risk not only Kami’s life, but also the lives of those she loves most.

This final book in the Lynburn Legacy is a wild, entertaining ride from beginning to shocking end.
(from Goodreads)

First of all, I am very ill right now, so please ignore any spelling errors or whatnot. I was supposed to schedule this post but forgot because I have developed what is literally the worst cold I've ever had in my life. Anyway, so excited, but also terrified for this book. Anyone who has read an SRB book will know that she likes to make us suffer. I ship Kami & Jared and Angela & Holly but knowing Sarah, I am very reluctant to get my hopes up about either couple. They'll probably be brainwashed by aliens or something and end up fighting each other to the death for sport and only remember their connection right before the final fatal blow where it'll be too late or something equally as heartbreaking/depressing. I'm just hoping that not everyone dies...

What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, 23 June 2014

Review: Dissonance by Erica O'Rourke

Dissonance (Dissonance #1) by Erica O'Rourke
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Released: July 22nd 2014
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Delancey Sullivan has always known there’s more to reality than what people see. Every time someone makes a choice, a new, parallel world branches off from the existing one. Eating breakfast or skipping it, turning left instead of right, sneaking out instead of staying in bed ~ all of these choices create an alternate universe in which an echo self takes the road not travelled and makes the opposite decision. As a Walker, someone who can navigate between these worlds, Del’s job is to keep all of the dimensions in harmony.

Normally, Del can hear the dissonant frequency that each world emits as clear as a bell. But when a training session in an off-key world goes horribly wrong, she is forbidden from Walking by the Council. But Del’s not big on following the rules and she secretly starts to investigate these other worlds. Something strange is connecting them and it’s not just her random encounters with echo versions of the guy she likes, Simon Lane.

But Del’s decisions have unimaginable consequences and, as she begins to fall for the Echo Simons in each world, she draws closer to a truth that the Council of Walkers is trying to hide ~ a secret that threatens the fate of the entire multiverse.
(from Goodreads)

I have to admit, one of the reasons I really wanted to read Dissonance is because the description reminded me a lot of the anime Steins;Gate (if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it). The main theory of the multiverse was similar but Dissonance was an interesting take on the whole idea and as a whole I really enjoyed it.

Delancey was a Walker; she could travel between worlds. The only "real" and important world (according to the Consort) was the Key World, but every decision made in the Key World created alternate branch worlds, that contained copies of people in the Key World, referred to as "Echoes". A Walker's first priority was to protect the Key World. If any Echoes were causing problems, it was a Walker's duty to solve them, or to cleave the entire branch world if the damage was spreading and couldn't be fixed. Delancey was still in training, but was considered a bit of a troublemaker, especially when compared to her perfect sister, Addie. I didn't really know how to feel about Delancey. At times I did really like her and the way she loved Walking and exploring the branch worlds, but other times I felt she was a bit harsh and I really am tired of this whole "I'm not like most girls" crap, there's just no reason for it. She did grow on me later on though, especially once she started to get along better with Addie, and she was quite funny at times, so it wasn't so bad. She was going through a lot and wasn't exactly treated well by other people in school (Walking = having to skip class a lot) so I could understand why she was quite closed off. Plus, she was getting less judgmental towards the end which was good.

Simon was another character I had a bit of trouble with. I liked him at first, and the way he and all his Echoes acted and interacted with Delancey was very interesting. He did also seem to genuinely care about Delancey but then later on I think he did maybe use her and become a bit pushy about certain things, and while I could understand his desperation and what he did at the end kind of made up for it, it just didn't sit well with me. But he was going through a lot, and I did like his sense of humour and his chemistry with Delancey. Even though it was such a cliché that he was conveniently partnered with her in a class, I'm glad he was because they were able  to get to know each other better. I do think the word "love" was said a bit too quickly but I pretty much say that about every book, and at least their attraction was believable.

The side characters were all pretty intriguing. Monty, Delancey's grandfather, was probably the person who interested me most. I always got the feeling he didn't really didn't like the Consort because they'd abandoned the search for Delancey's grandmother when she got lost  travelling worlds, and was doing his own thing in secret, so after the ending I'm interested to see what'll happen in the next book. Eliot, who was Delancey's best friend, was a sort of genius when it came to the physics behind Walking. He was also very loyal and it was so obvious that he was in love with Delancey that I don't even consider it a spoiler. Addie didn't get along so well with her sister, especially at first. She hated breaking rules and was too unquestioning of the Consort, though I think she did get better later on. I'm actually really curious to find out more about her and what she'll do in book two.

Plot-wise, things could be confusing sometimes, but the story was pretty well thought out. Trying to imagine how threads worked and how they changed things and remember all the terminology was a bit difficult, especially since the descriptions were sometimes kind of vague. But I really liked seeing the branch worlds and Echoes, and how though some worlds were more unstable than others, they could be changed depending on certain actions. The whole concept of Walking was done quite well and I liked how there were also risks, like frequency poisoning. I really liked the idea of leaving a trail of "breadcrumbs" in each world to help navigate back as well and the way there was explanation about little things and gadgets and sciencey questions made a nice change from books where something is stated and you're just expected to believe it with no explanation at all. I obviously can't vouch for the validity of the science but it sounded believable enough and not too far-fetched. Each branch world was different, and the differences could be tiny or massive and I could understand why Delancey enjoyed Walking so much, because her life was just full of possibilities. [spoiler, highlight to read] I did find her willingness to tell Simon everything instead of coming up with a viable excuse and then her trying to take him on a Walk a bit unrealistic when secrecy had been drilled into her since she was a child and she was now risking it all for a boy she barely knew, but I guess he had started to suspect the Consort around that time so eh, I'll accept it.[end of spoiler] I'm definitely interested in seeing how she fares in the next book after her realisation at the end.

Overall, I had a few issues with Dissonance but I enjoyed it overall. I recommend it if you like not too heavy science-fiction with some romance or are looking to start out in the genre.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Two Mini Reviews

Touch of Frost (Mythos Academy #1) by Jennifer Estep
Publisher: Kensington Teen
Released: August 1st 2011
My Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

My name is Gwen Frost, and I go to Mythos Academy; a school of myths, magic and warrior whiz kids, where even the lowliest geek knows how to chop off somebody's head with a sword and Logan Quinn, the hottest Spartan guy in school, also happens to be the deadliest. But lately, things have been weird, even for Mythos. First, mean girl Jasmine Ashton was murdered in the Library of Antiquities. Then, someone stole the Bowl of Tears, a magical artifact that can be used to bring about the second Chaos War. You know, death, destruction and lots of other bad, bad things. Freaky stuff like this goes on all the time at Mythos, but I'm determined to find out who killed Jasmine and why; especially since I should have been the one who died... (from Goodreads)

Touch of Frost started off very slowly for me. I almost gave up. Everything was so, so repetitive – we were told the same things over and over again. It got to point where I just kept thinking, “Okay! I get it! I am capable of remembering things! STOP TELLING ME THIS!” But I’m glad I didn’t give up, because the book got really good further on and I really liked the ending! Gwen was a pretty cool character that was able to stand up for herself, and I liked her quite a lot. I also liked the take on mythology in this book with all the different gods and goddesses, and I think it was pretty different to any other mythology-based book out there. There was one part about a certain sword that I found really interesting – I liked how it was passed down to females in each generation and the story behind it all was fascinating. Another great thing about Touch of Frost was the romance. Logan was a likeable enough love interest, but the best part was actually that Gwen and Logan didn’t end up together. They had lots of moments, and sure, this is only the first book in the series, but there was no insta-love, no overdramatic declarations – just a slow, developing romance that was more realistic than a lot of other YA books I’ve read. I liked reading about these two, and it left me wanting more in the next book. So overall, Touch of Frost was a worthwhile read, just very slow to start. And I loved Vic – that’s all I’ll say.

Kiss of Frost (Mythos Acadamey #2) by Jennifer Estep
Publisher: Kensington Teen
Released: November 29th 2011
My Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

I’m Gwen Frost, a second-year warrior-in-training at Mythos Acad­emy, and I have no idea how I’m going to sur­vive the rest of the semes­ter. One day, I’m get­ting schooled in sword­play by the guy who broke my heart—the drop-dead gor­geous Logan who slays me every time. Then, an invis­i­ble archer in the Library of Antiq­ui­ties decides to use me for tar­get prac­tice. And now, I find out that some­one at the acad­emy is really a Reaper bad guy who wants me dead. I’m afraid if I don’t learn how to live by the sword—with Logan’s help—I just might die by the sword...(from Goodreads)

I enjoyed Kiss of Frost more than Touch of Frost, though I found it to be another slow starting book. We had more repetition (though not as much as in book 1) that made me sigh and then scream (in my head) “STOP EXPLAINING AND GET ON WITH IT”. But I got over it pretty quickly this time and became more absorbed in the story. I liked Logan a bit more in this one and I loved the way the romance between him and Gwen developed. He showed a more caring side to him while retaining the mysterious bad boy aspect as well, so I was really pleased with that. Though I did raise my eyebrows at how many times Gwen kept running into him. Really, how many bloody times can you literally run into someone? Another character I really liked in this book was Kenzie, who was pretty fun and good to read about. Vic was also back with some more hilarious comments, and we got a deeper look at Morgan; I definitely think there’s more to her than first meets the eye and I’m curious to see what part she’ll play in the next book. Overall, Kiss of Frost was enjoyable and I like the way the story is going and the task Gwen’s been set with. I'll probably pick up the next book in the series soon.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Waiting on Wednesday #58

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

The Perilous Sea (The Burning Sky #2) by Sherry Thomas
September 16th 2014
Find it on Goodreads

After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by a blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.

Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that makes him question everything he previously believed about their mission. Faced with this devastating realization, Iolanthe is forced to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother's prophecies—and forging a divergent path to an unknowable future.
(from Goodreads)

I am so excited for this book! I really loved The Burning Sky. Iolanthe and Titus are amazing characters and it was so funny to see Iolanthe trying to get by as Archer Fairfax in front of the other boys in book one. I'm curious to see whether anyone will find out her secret in this book! I want to see how her magic develops as well and how she'll prepare to face Bane. Of course, I can't deny that I'm also dying to read more about Iolanthe an Titus's relationship; how are they going to make that work? Ahh I need this book! I'm reminded of Veruca Salt's song in the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie: "Don't care how, I want it NOW."

What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Review: Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne

Midnight Thief (Midnight Thief #1) by Livia Blackburne
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Released: July 8th 2014
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs.

But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he’s persistent—and darkly attractive—and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull.

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.

When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival—and vengeance—might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra’s past that threatens to reshape both their lives.
(from Goodreads)

Midnight Thief was a very satisfying YA fantasy and one that's definitely worth the read. I think Livia Blackburne created a very interesting world along with some engaging characters and she managed to keep me entertained throughout.

Kyra, the main character, was a thief. She was very graceful and was excellent at climbing and getting into places without being seen; no-one else was as good as she was. When she was approached by the Assassins Guild, she had her reservations, but she needed the money and it didn't seem like such a bad deal - she was promised she'd never have to kill anyone, and would only serve as the Guild's thief. I could understand what motivated her to join, even if it wasn't the best decision in the word. She wanted to protect Idalee and Lettie, children from the streets that she really cared about. Lettie was sick and the money Kyra made from normal raids with her closest friend, Flick, wasn't enough to help her.  I do think she was a bit naive though; I mean, she was joining an Assassins Guild and she really thought she'd be doing nothing but moral work? When everything started to go wrong, it was interesting to see Kyra's fears, one of the biggest being that she would go down a path she couldn't return from. She was afraid of losing the people she loved as well - I think her relationship with Flick and the others was done well; there was an obvious familial bond between them and you could tell how much she cared for everyone and how loyal they all were to each other.

James, the Guild's leader, was an intriguing character. He had a lot of influence over Kyra at the start, and while I thought he was creepy from the outset, he wasn't JUST creepy. His character had a surprising amount of depth, and while I disliked him, he was interesting to read about. I'm sure he'll turn up again in the next book, and I'd be up for finding out more about him. I just want to know what in his past made him so ruthless.

Tristam was a character that had to grow on me. He was a bit clueless at first and just wanted revenge for his friend's death, and while he wasn't as bad as the other nobles, he was still judgmental. But as he got to know Kyra he seemed to become more accepting and I liked him more. The romance(?) between Kyra and Tristam was nothing spectacular, but they had their moments and both risked a lot for each other (and I'm just happy no grand declarations of love were thrown around because it would have been way too early), and I am interested in seeing where it will go, especially after the ending.

Plot-wise, I really liked how nothing was what Kyra expected, and that helped her grow as a character. There were a fair amount of twists as well (though some things were obvious, like that [spoiler, highlight to read] the Guild were in league with the Demon Riders [end of spoiler]) and it was the type of book that had enough going on that your interest never waned. I do think that certain things were a bit odd; I really don't think the Council in this particular land would be so accommodating of a prisoner, nor would they trust one so much. Certain things seemed a bit too convenient at times too but all in all, I didn't have many problems.

Overall, I enjoyed Midnight Thief and recommend it to fantasy fans. I expect I'll be picking up the next book in the series, and I'm looking forward to finding out what happens next.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Review: The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West
Publisher: HarperTeen
Released: July 2nd 2013
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.

So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she's beginning to enjoy his company.

She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.
 (from Goodreads)

The Distance Between Us was a really cute contemp read and was just what I needed after a stressful term of studying and horrible exams. It would definitely make a great summer read and I'm really looking forward to Kasie West's new book, On the Fence.

I really liked Caymen. She was a character I could relate to and she had a sort of dry sense of humour and was always making witty sarcastic remarks which were hilarious. She made me smile a lot and the best part was that she was a believable character. I could understand why she was hiding things from her mother, I could understand how she was scared that they would lose the shop and have nowhere to live, and I could understand that she wasn't sure whether or not she could fully trust Xander (though the TPing incident was a bit weird). Her relationship with her mum was very interesting and I was glad this was actually focussed on quite a bit; it wasn't just about the romance! (Though the romance was awesome too.)

I liked Xander a lot as well. He was rich, and he never denied that, but he wasn't judgmental or arrogant like Caymen thought he'd be, and he was good at listening to her problems and knowing how to make her feel comfortable. I also thought it was so cute that he loved Caymen's sense of humour and played along with her, and some of their conversations were just so funny! The career days were a nice idea too and made for some really lovely scene between the two. Xander and Caymen both had family issues and felt out of place in each other's different environments but by the end it seemed to matter less and I was happy with the way everything worked out. My only gripe was that he made the "You're not like other girls I've met" comment, which annoyed me, but at least he added the "I've met" part I guess.

Skye was Caymen's best friend, and while she wasn't as fleshed out as she could have been, I really liked her and thought she was a really good friend to Caymen. Her boyfriend Henry was an odd guy and made me laugh but the two of them worked well together and I was always pleased to read about them whenever they turned up.

Plot-wise, I really didn't see the end coming. I was so taken in by the cuteness of everything that I didn't pick up on the clues! I should have paid closer attention - if I had, I don't think I would have been as surprised, so I'm sure a lot of people found this book a bit more predictable than I did. I think the very end was a bit rushed; I would have liked to have seen what happened next and just spent a bit more time with all the characters. But it's not really a huge problem when my only complaint is that I wanted more. Oh, and that the book left me with a craving for hot chocolate!

Overall, I really enjoyed The Distance Between Us - a lot more than I thought I would! Kasie West took a familiar idea and made it her own, and it wasn't horrendously cheesy or cliché like I half-expected it to be. I highly recommend this book, especially if you like contemps. It's a very cute and fun read, perfect for taking your mind off things, or for relaxing with if you've had a hard day (or month in my case :P).

Friday, 13 June 2014

International Covers #5

International Covers in a kind of irregular feature on the blog where I take a look at some covers from around the world!

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Released in the UK: January 1st 2014
Find it on Goodreads

                         Original US                                         New US/UK

                          French                                               Portuguese

                         German                                                Bulgarian

I own the original US cover of this book in hardback and I was so annoyed at first when I found out the covers were changing, because now my series won't match! I do really like the new US/UK cover though, it is pretty. It's just a shame I'll have mismatched books on my shelves. I also really like the Bulgarian cover, it's very cool - I'm pretty much obsessed with any covers that have a starry night sky and this one just gives off a cute vibe.

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) by Leigh Bardugo
Released in the UK: June 7th 2012
Find it on Goodreads

                           Original UK                                       US/New UK

                            Italian                                                    Greek

                           Indonesian                                          French

                          Polish                                                     Romanian


There are some really good covers for this one, but also some really bad ones. The original UK cover (and title), what were we thinking? That's the one I own, unfortunately, and I think it's awful. So glad we switched to the US one, it's much nicer. I seriously might have to rebuy it in the new edition. I like the Italian cover a lot as well, I think it's one of my favourites, maybe followed by the Indonesian cover. I like how the German cover is very different to the rest of them, and while I don't love it, it is striking. My least favourite is probably the Greek cover because that is just bad photoshopping. 

Which covers are your favourites? Any you don't like?

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Review: The Shadow's Curse by Amy McCulloch

The Shadow's Curse (The Knots Sequence #2) by Amy McCulloch
Publisher: Corgi Childrens
Released: July 3rd 2014
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Raim is no closer to figuring out the meaning of the broken vow that sentenced him to exile for life. But with his former best friend now a tyrannical Khan who is holding the girl Raim loves captive, he finds it hard to care. Every day, he and Draikh learn more about their powers, but it quickly becomes clear that he will never be able to stop Khareh and free Wadi unless he can free himself from the ultimate taboo of his people. Reluctantly, Raim begins the long journey down to the dangerous South, to find the maker of his oath.

In Khareh's camp, Wadi is more than capable of devising her own escape plan, but she's gradually realizing she might not want to. The more she learns about Khareh, the more confused she becomes. He's done unquestionably bad things, horrific even, but he's got big dreams for Darhan that might improve their dire situation. What's more, rumours of a Southern king massing an army to invade Darhan are slowly gaining ground. Only if the Northern tribes can come together under a single ruler will they have the strength to fight the South - but what if that ruler is an impulsive (albeit brilliant) young man, barely able to control his ever-growing power, and missing the one part of him that might keep him sane? Whoever conquers the desert, wins the war. And the secret to desert survival lies in Lazar, which is set to become the heart of a great battle once again.
(from Goodreads)

The Shadow's Curse was an enjoyable sequel to The Oathbreaker's Shadow. A lot of things happened that I didn't expect and while this series is a duology (I think?), I think there's definitely room for another book should Amy McCulloch wish to return to this world and these characters.

In The Shadow's Curse, we finally found out what promise caused Rain to become an oathbreaker. I must admit, I was still confused over what happened and how exactly Raim broke this generational promise but I can't explain it without spoilers, so I'll leave it for now. I also didn't really understand why Khareh's spirit appeared to Raim when Raim never broke his oath to Khareh; the spirit Draikh said it was because Khareh broke his own promise, but that's not what usually happens when an oath is broken, and there was no further explanation. But I can't really complain that much because I really liked Draikh and he was probably one of my favourite characters. He was the only person who was truly loyal to Raim, and was constantly teaching him and healing him and making him laugh. Even though he was only a spirit, a shadow of Khareh, he was the best part of him. Khareh without Draikh was a tyrant, and a bad ruler who let the power get to him. Draikh was the opposite; a calm, clever, natural leader who knew what to do in bad situations, who was constantly pushing Raim to be the best he could be. I'm pretty sure Raim would have died several times over if it weren't for Draikh.

That being said, Raim did grow in this book, and was learning more about himself and the tasks he was best suited for, as well as expanding his sage powers. I liked his determination to find Wadi and also to save his brother, especially since it was Raim's fault he needed saving in the first place. Raim started off not the smartest person, nor the best judge of character, but he learnt from his mistakes and realised not to trust people so easily. He was the first person to admit his faults, and I liked that about him - he knew he wasn't perfect, but he tried his best anyway. I was surprised when he (spoiler ahead, highlight to read) forgave Khareh for what he did to Dharma - I don't think I could have, and Raim was so close to Dharma as well, it seemed a little unbelievable.(end spoiler) But it was the necessary action and I guess Raim did what he thought was best for everyone.

At first, when I learnt the POVs would be split between Wadi and Raim, I was a bit disappointed, but I shouldn't have been, because her perspective was equally interesting. We got to see a different side of Khareh through her eyes, and also saw the lengths she was willing to go through to help Raim. I do wish we had seen more of her thoughts or feelings, especially after she was forced to kill people (I kind of felt like we didn't get a proper reaction from her, especially from the second death), but I do like that she accepted what she had to do even though she really didn't want to do it; she had a strong resolve. Khareh, while I didn't like him, was an intriguing character, and seeing him from Wadi's POV where he would try to justify his terrible actions and yet still feel guilt over some of them made him more complex. I wasn't really too convinced by the Raim/Wadi romance, but I have to confess I couldn't remember much of what happened between them in the first book, so that could be why.

Plot-wise, there was a lot of focus on getting to the South, and we found out more about the differences between all the separate societies which was interesting to see. There were quite a few twists and a lot of things I wasn't expecting, though the ending wasn't too much of a surprise. I do think quite a few things were left open as well, particularly about Lady Chabi, so I would definitely read a third book if one were to be written. I also found it interesting that the South didn't knot their promises or have binding oaths, so I think that would be another thing to explore, especially after the way things ended.

Overall,  I liked The Shadow's Curse and would recommend this series to fantasy fans. I personally hope for another book, though I'm still happy enough for it to remain a duology.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Waiting on Wednesday #57

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

Snow Like Ashes (Snow Like Ashes #1) by Sara Raasch
October 14th 2014
Find it on Goodreads

A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.
(from Goodreads)

Magic, towers, and dangerous politics? Yep, this is my kind of book. I've been super into fantasy lately and this looks really, really good - Meira sounds like an cool character and I'm interested to find out more about her "destiny". Hopefully the romance will be good too (I'm hoping the fact that they're friends means no insta-love). 

What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Review: Box of Awesome/Box of OMG

Hi everyone! I was sent a Box of Awesome and a Box of OMG to review on the blog. Box of Awesome and Box of OMG are free bi-monthly boxes which are delivered straight to your door. They each contain stuff like toys, books and trading cards and the aim is to help brands connect with kids and teens. I was sent a MEGA box of each and my thoughts on the boxes are below. If you want to find out more about these boxes and how to receive them, visit the websites, and

First of all, though the Box of Awesome seems generally aimed at boys, and the Box of OMG generally aimed at girls, there is a lot of crossover, and the great thing is you can decide to have either box, no matter your gender, so you're not limited to just the box other people think you would like best - you get to choose. I think this is much better than just saying girls can only have this one and boys only that one, and I know I certainly liked the products in both. The websites for both boxes don't actually mention gender either, so while it may not be perfect, at least this is a step in the right direction in regard to advertising to kids and teens.

So starting with the MEGA Box of Awesome, here's what it looked like when it first arrived. On the left you can see it bundled with the MEGA Box of OMG (you can also see a white squiggle because I was stupid and forgot to take my address sticker off before taking a photo) and on the right you can see the front. The packaging is rather plain, but I'm not too fussed as it's what inside that counts!

Here is the inside of the box! There was actually quite a lot inside, which I wasn't expecting. The first thing I picked up was the sticker (right). I have to admit that as a kid, I was a sticker collecting fiend, and filled up over four sticker books. Truthfully, I still love stickers now, so you can't go wrong with stickers really. 

Next were these football trading cards. I must confess I am not a football fan, but my cousin is, so I'm sure he'll enjoy these. I opened one of the packs and there were several cards of different players, including a cool shiny one (right) which is probably one of the special cards to collect (anyone remember shiny Pokemon cards?). Though I don't like football, I do love trading cards, so I do think including them in the box is a good idea. I remember the days of swapping Pokemon and Digimon and Yu-Gi-Oh! cards!

These cards were also included in the box. On the left is a code for the website Swapit, where you can earn points to buy items. It's a clever idea really, especially for kids and younger teens, because you don't need money to buy things! On the right is a code for Awesome Points (there were two of these cards in the box, I just took a photo of one); the more points you have, the more likely you are to receive a box.

Here on the left we have a "Soccer Sucker". I opened it up, and inside was a little football player that had a sucker attached to it so you can stick it on to things, like a window, or wall. I thought this was really cool, and while this particular one will probably be going to the same football crazy cousin, I would love to see this kind of toy/product be expanded beyond football. On the right, there are two packs of Haribo. Which were very yummy. I don't know many people who don't like Haribo!

 Next up are probably my favourite things in the box. On the left is plasticine to make Raphael from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! I absolutely love this idea. First of all, plasticine is amazing. I used to be obsessed with it when I was younger. Second, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are awesome! And Raphael is actually my favourite, so I lucked out. I will be attempting to make him later (it'll probably be a disaster, but I'm looking forward to it). In the middle and on the right is a little leaflet about Scooby Doo live on stage. I am way more excited about this than I should be. I used to watch Scooby Doo religiously, I have both the terrible films on DVD and honestly, I think seeing it on stage would be so fun. In case anyone else is interested, I included the venue information (middle).

A few more leaflets which you can have a read of (click to enlarge).

More stickers (left)! I don't know too much about Skylanders, but I'm sure I'll look online to find out more once I open that sticker pack. On the right, on trend with the zombies, is a collectible "zomling". I opened the packet and inside is basically a rubber toy zombie (I got Roland Rock) which is actually rather cute, and there's a hole at the bottom so I think it can be used as a pencil topper too, which is very cool.

 Lastly, we have the books! Urban Outlaws is a sampler, not the whole book, but I've had a quick flick through and it sounds pretty good! I haven't heard of Hank Zipzer (book or TV show) but I am now intrigued to find out more. I think including books and samplers in the boxes is a really great way to get kids and teens reading more; first because there's an excitement that comes with waiting for you box to arrive and wondering what's in it, which will hopefully extend to an excitement about reading, but also because it gives them an idea about genres they could read and find out more about. Not only is there a full book right there to start reading right away, but there's also a sampler which can get them interested in another book, and another author - I know I will definitely be finding out more about Urban Outlaws. And it would be really nice to know, as a kid or teen, that you've got a lovely new book arriving every two months.

So that was the MEGA Box of Awesome! Now time to look at the MEGA Box of OMG.

The front of the box, and the inside! Once again, the packaging is a bit plain. The MEGA Box of OMG also didn't contain as much variety as the MEGA Box of Awesome, which was a shame, but everything that was inside was very cool.

First up, on the left there is some plasticine. Not quite as awesome as the Raphael one, but I still like it. On the right, a Despicable Me wristband which I ADORE. I absolutely love Despicable Me, the minions are so cute! This is actually a pretty nice wristband too because it features a lot of the minions on it and looks strong enough that it won't break five seconds after I put it on.

Next is a postcard for The Thirteen Secrets, a book I have been meaning to read for ages! I think this is the new cover look for the series, and it is very pretty, though I think I may have preferred the original. On the right we have a Box of OMG sticker - again, can't go wrong with stickers!

Here we have a Swapit code and an Awesome Points code, like the ones included in the Box of Awesome. I won't repeat myself too much, but I do like this idea and the fact that these cards with codes are included in each box.

Some yummy packs of Haribo! (Never actually tried this flavour before, but it was really nice.) Don't ask me why I took separate photos of each this time, I can't remember why :P.

Next, a leaflet about a competition (similar to the Box of Awesome one), and some more stickers, but I really like these ones because they relate to the sampler book in the box (which you will see later).

Hello Kitty stickers! I love Hello Kitty - I opened one of the packs (right), and just look how cute these are! My favourite is the glittery one with glasses, so adorable.

Finally, the sampler and the book. The sampler is of the book Flora & Ulysses which looks really good because it's about a cynical girl (something I can relate to!) but also because there are some really amazing illustrations, so I'm looking forward to reading that. The Case of the Exploding Loo is about a young girl with an amazingly high IQ, and is a bit of a detective story, so that sounds fun as well. As I said before, I really think this is a great way to get kids and teens reading and I wish such a things had existed when I was younger!

My overall thoughts on both the boxes: I am quite impressed by them because I think pretty much everyone, especially kids, likes collecting things and there are lots of things to collect in these boxes. They also expose kids and teens to new and interesting products they may never have heard of before, as well as (hopefully) get them more excited about reading and introduce them to new books and genres. I think if I were a little younger, I would definitely be collecting as many points as I could in order to win lots of boxes. I was really happy with most of the products inside and it seems like the people who make these boxes actually care about the contents and are putting in a lot of effort to make them appealing to kids and younger teens (I do think perhaps older teens wouldn't like the boxes so much, but it doesn't seem like older teens are the target audience anyway). I would recommend these boxes and will be letting the younger people in my family know about them. Many thanks to Sophie for sending these to me for review. 

I mentioned some of these websites already, but to find out more about these boxes and how to get them, visit the links below:

I hope this post has been helpful (sorry about the length!) and that everyone is having a great week so far :).