Saturday, 31 October 2015

Review: Spinning Starlight by R. C. Lewis

Spinning Starlight by R. C. Lewis
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Released: October 6th 2015
My Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Sixteen-year-old heiress and paparazzi darling Liddi Jantzen hates the spotlight. But as the only daughter in the most powerful tech family in the galaxy, it's hard to escape it. So when a group of men show up at her house uninvited, she assumes it's just the usual media-grubs. That is, until shots are fired.

Liddi escapes, only to be pulled into an interplanetary conspiracy more complex than she ever could have imagined. Her older brothers have been caught as well, trapped in the conduits between the planets. And when their captor implants a device in Liddi's vocal cords to monitor her speech, their lives are in her hands: One word and her brothers are dead.

Desperate to save her family from a desolate future, Liddi travels to another world, where she meets the one person who might have the skills to help her bring her eight brothers home-a handsome dignitary named Tiav. But without her voice, Liddi must use every bit of her strength and wit to convince Tiav that her mission is true. With the tenuous balance of the planets deeply intertwined with her brothers' survival, just how much is Liddi willing to sacrifice to bring them back?

Haunting and mesmerizing, this retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's
The Wild Swans strings the heart of the classic with a stunning, imaginative world as a star-crossed family fights for survival in this companion to Stitching Snow. (from Goodreads)

While I didn’t enjoy Spinning Starlight quite as much as Stitching Snow, I did like it and I’ve become a real fan of R. C. Lewis’s work. Looking forward to whatever she writes next!

I wasn’t very familiar with the fairytale this story was inspired by (The Wild Swans) but I really enjoyed the way it was retold in this sci-fi setting. Liddi was definitely an interesting character to follow. As an heiress with eight genius older brothers, she was under a lot of pressure to be just as smart and talented as them. Her entire life was in the public eye; she was constantly followed by cameras and reporters and rarely had a private moment to herself. You could understand how she felt and how frustrated she was when she was underestimated or told to sit by and wait for someone else to fix something for her. When her brothers lives were in danger though, she didn’t give up, even though she was told to several times. She wanted to save her brothers, and the other people involved in the situation. And after discovering what was really going on, there was no way she was going to sit back and do nothing. She listened to her instincts, came up with a plan, and executed it - all without her voice! It was pretty impressive, even if she did start off a bit all over the place. I liked the way she persevered with learning how to read and write even though she absolutely hated it - on her planet, there was no longer a written language because it just wasn’t seen as necessary, but in her new surroundings, it was the only way for her to communicate, and she knew she needed to get people on her side if she was going to succeed. I do think it would have been a lot easier for her to mouth words sometimes instead of trying to learn a new method of communication from scratch, but for some reason, that wasn’t really an option they considered, and she only mouthed words occasionally, even though it seemed an effective way of getting people to understand her. Never mind!

Tiav was one of the first people Liddi encountered when she left her planet and he was also one of the only people who decided to trust her and try to understand why she couldn’t speak and what her goals were. A lot of people were wary of Liddi and some downright hated her, but Tiav made an effort to figure out what was going on. He was the one who was teaching her to read and write and I liked the time they spent together! Even though the Liddi couldn’t speak with her own voice, you could see the other ways in which they became closer, and it was really sweet. It was nice to see Liddi expand her horizons and consider things in a way she never had before, and Tiav was partly responsible for that.

Plot-wise, I have to admit, a lot of the science/portals/conduit stuff was lost on me. I got the basics but I really didn’t understand how it all worked, how these portals existed, how they were sentient and all the technology etc. etc. It was just a bit confusing and perhaps could have been explained a little better. I did enjoy the main story though and I liked seeing the differences between the planets and the way people communicated with each other. I wasn’t a huge fan of the flashbacks of Liddi when she was younger, I felt there were a bit too many for the point they were trying to make, but I did enjoy getting to see Liddi interact with her brothers and understand how close they were as a family.

Overall, while some parts were a bit confusing, I did enjoy this book and would recommend it to fans of fairytale retellings and sci-fi, and especially if you liked Stitching Snow.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

My Little Box October 2015 Review

I wasn't too impressed by this month's box. First of all, my box was late. The boxes are supposed to arrive by the 20th of the month at the latest - mine just arrived today. Secondly, I wasn't a huge fan of the actual contents. For a box titled "My Little Creative Box", the products inside didn't really match the creative theme. I did like some things, but overall, I'm a bit disappointed by this month's box. I'm still continuing with my subscription as I have enjoyed the previous boxes - I just hope November's box will be better! Here are my thoughts (and once again, apologies for the photos. The lighting was really bad here...).

I don't really like the design of this month's box. I prefer the illustrations which we usually get - having a real photograph doesn't appeal to me as much. And it all looks a bit cluttered to be honest.

I do really like this card though. I have to agree with the quote! I always wish I could be a bit more creative. When I was younger, I always wanted to try out the crafts and things I'd seen on programmes like Art Attack - but it would always end up in a PVA glue disaster...

My thoughts on each individual product:

Nominoë Gentle Foam Face Cleanser - this cleanser is actually gentle as it claims, and didn't affect my ridiculously sensitive skin. It did make my skin feel quite clean and smooth too, so it definitely works as a cleanser, but it is quite drying, so you need to apply a good moisturiser after washing this off. However, it unfortunately has a very unpleasant smell. To the point where I really wouldn't enjoy using this product. I don't even know how to describe it - it's sort of earthy and chemical-smelling at the same time. I might use this if I'm really desperate for something when my current foam face wash runs out and I don't have a replacement on hand, but otherwise, it'll probably just collect dust on my dresser somewhere.

My Little Beauty Crème de Minuit - this is a night cream which is supposed "charge your skin while you sleep" and ease tension, tiredness and fatigue. I have yet to see if actually does any of those things (and to be honest, I'm not that hopeful. And I tend to just use a regular moisturiser at night anyway) but the formula is pretty nice, it's hydrating and has a nice, subtle smell. The packaging is also absolutely gorgeous. So pretty! I might test this out, and see if it's compatible with my skin - if it is, I'll use it for a while to see if does what it claims to do, but I doubt it will replace my regular moisturiser. If not, I'm happy to use it as hand cream.

Baïja Hydrating Cream - this is a body cream, and has a nice non-sticky texture. I tried it on the driest part of my arm (elbow) and it worked pretty well. My elbow definitely felt softer and smoother, and you could visibly see the difference. The packaging for this product is also very pretty, I love the floral design! However, the smell of this cream is very strong. It's not particularly bad, but it's just a bit too much, and I don't really like using creams which give off a very strong scent, so I don't know how often I'd use this product, despite how effective it is.

My Little Box Toe Bag - this has come just at the right time with the introduction of the 5p bag charge in the UK. I was hunting for tote bags the other day and could only find one! No idea where all my others went, so I'm very glad to have another for my collection. I do like the design too; the photo only shows one side which says "collect moments now things", but the other side is polka dots and a cute illustration. The bag itself is actually pretty sturdy too, so I'm very happy with it.

My Little Box Wire-Wrap Beads - okay, so this product is actually useless. Like, what even is this? Why would I need beads on my wires? The card description tells me these beads will bring "a little razzle-dazzle" to my "worn-out" wires. Err, no. First of all, as you can tell from the image on the side, these beads make wires look worse than if they were just plain. They don't clip on properly, they don't look nice together - it's just a mess. And why would I want to decorate my wires anyway? What's the point? I'm just not a fan - and this really doesn't live up to the creative theme of the box. Maybe I would like these beads if I were younger, but right now, I am unimpressed.

That's my review of this month's box! What did you think? Did you prefer any other beauty boxes over this one for October?

Monday, 26 October 2015

Review: These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: October 27th 2015
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Josephine Montfort is from one of New York's oldest, most respected, and wealthiest families. Like most well-off girls of the Gilded Age, her future looks set - after a finishing school education, she will be favourably married off to a handsome gentleman, after which she'll want for nothing. But Jo has other dreams and desires that make her long for a very different kind of future. She wants a more meaningful and exciting life: she wants to be an investigative journalist like her heroine Nellie Bly. But when Jo's father is found dead in his study after an alleged accident, her life becomes far more exciting than even Jo would wish. Unable to accept that her father could have been so careless, she begins to investigate his death with the help of a young reporter, Eddie Gallagher. It quickly becomes clear he was murdered, and in their race against time to discover the culprit and his motive, Jo and Eddie find themselves not only battling dark characters on the violent and gritty streets of New York, but also their growing feelings for each other. (from Goodreads)

I’m a bit conflicted about These Shallow Graves. Overall, I really enjoyed it and really liked the characters and overarching story. On the other hand, I found the identity of the murderer to be so obvious (literally, I figured it out from the first few chapters and I’m sure most people did too) that to not have the heroine discover it until the very end of the book (which is nearly 500 pages) took away from the story a bit. I understand that having the heroine figure out too soon would ruin the plot, but then it shouldn’t have been made so obvious to the reader! It was very frustrating to have the heroine ask all these questions and follow wrong leads when you KNEW who she should have been after. My theory as to who the murderer was never even wavered. I never ever suspected someone else, that’s how obvious it was. While I usually don’t mind a bit of predictability in books, this was just too much. I have still rated it a 4 though, because it really was good as whole.

I really enjoyed Jo as our main character. She was pretty damn cool at times, and I thought she did a lot of growing up in this book. She started off as very naive, and stuck in her own little bubble (through no fault of her own really, her parents sheltered her). It was actually quite funny at times, the way she didn’t understand certain things people were talking about and then asked them directly what they meant - she embarrassed herself a fair few times by doing that! As the book went on, she became more daring. She disobeyed her parents, met with people her family would never approve of and longed for a future where she was free to write the articles she wanted to write, instead of ones about cats and poetry. A future where she was free to marry who she wanted. I liked that she pointed out the unfairness in the way women were treated in comparison to men. She didn’t like that her choices were so limited when men could do whatever they wanted. You also can’t fault her determination, she would not rest until she found her father’s killer. She made a few mistakes along the way (and didn’t verify information - oh that scene before the funeral! It could have been anyone, why did she make that assumption, she had no idea what she was seeing - ahh! And then she decided to do the thing, whyyy. Her emotions were so changeable) and was dense at times (seriously), but she didn’t give up.

Eddy was a reporter at a newspaper, and was roped into helping Jo find out who murdered her father. He was reluctant to begin with, but at the same, discovering the truth would give him his first big scoop, so he agreed. Of course, the two grew closer and I found them very cute. I like the way they joked with each other, and argued over who should investigate what. Jo’s emotions, as I said before, were very changeable - probably due to the fact that she’d never spend so much time alone with a boy before. One minute she was thinking she “loved” him (do you hear me sighing? I’m sighing) one minute she was thinking she hated him - it was a confusing time for her, and she sometimes made some snap judgments (as did Eddy - man, if only mobile phones existed during this time. Or email. They could have communicated so much more effectively) that led to conflict between them. But I did really like their relationship overall. They both tried their best, and Eddie was sweet - even when he had fallen out with Jo and said he wouldn’t help her anymore, he still did. He was very likeable and I really enjoyed the romance between these two!

Another character I really loved was Fay. She had some amazing skills in thieving and fighting, and was a great person to have around if you were ever in trouble. She’d had a difficult life, and was forced to grow up very young. Despite this, she remained a good person, (though understandably, had a bit of difficulty trusting people) and helped out Jo and Eddy when she could. I really wanted a happy ending for her, she really deserved one.

Plot-wise, there was a lot I enjoyed about this novel and there were things I didn’t guess. The murderer though, the murderer! It was so obvious! I won’t keep ranting on about it though, so here are the things I liked instead. I enjoyed the parts where Jo was sneaking out to do some investigating, and I loved all the scenes between Jo and Eddy. I loved the way Jo was learning to use her innocent persona to her advantage and how she became more cunning towards the end! I was also really happy with the ending (and I wouldn’t say no to a sequel, either! Though I doubt that will happen since most things were wrapped up well).

All in all, These Shallow Graves was a very enjoyable read. I probably would have rated it higher if it weren’t for the obviousness of the murderer, but I think a 4 is still a very good rating. Recommended if you like historical fiction and mysteries (as long as you’re prepared for the fact that you will probably guess who the killer is very early on).

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Review - Secret Garden Artist's Edition: A Pull-Out and Frame Colouring Book by Johanna Basford

Secret Garden Artist's Edition: A Pull-Out and Frame Colouring Book by Johanna Basford
Publisher: Laurence King Publishing
Released: September 14th 2015
My Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

From the publisher that brought you the hugely successful Secret Garden andEnchanted Forest by illustrator Johanna Basford - this special artist's edition features 20 beautiful, pull-out art prints for colouring in. Colouring fans of all ages will enjoy immersing themselves in a selection of the most popular artworks from the original book, now presented in a new, large-scale format for maximum colouring enjoyment.

Each detailed illustration is printed on high-quality card and can be removed easily for framing or craft projects.
(from Laurence King website)

I was very excited to receive this for review! I, like many people, have developed a great fondness for colouring books lately. There are so many pretty ones out there! I actually have a copy of the original Secret Garden by Johanna Basford and I adore it (though I’ve got the really old one, before it was reprinted, so I have the paper that all pens seem to bleed through, which is a shame). The Artist’s Edition, though, is even better in my opinion. First, because you can easily pull out the pages to hang up or display the ones you really like (one day I will colour a picture to perfection, and I will display it proudly. It is not this day, but it will happen). Plus, even if you don't want to do this, or if you're like me and only want to pull out one you really think is perfect, this edition is great because each image is printed on to card. Card is more durable and better for hanging or displaying, but it also means your pens won’t bleed through the pages, even if you colour over the same part ten times. On top of that, each image is printed on one side of the card only, so there's even less chance of accidentally messing up another picture (I have had many pen smudging disasters in my days of colouring). Having this card is a huge benefit for me, because I love using fineliners and felt-tips to colour in. They make everything brighter, and when the images are as amazing as the ones in Secret Garden Artist’s Edition, I feel like only the brightest and most colourful pens will do (sometimes the pictures are so pretty I’m actually afraid of colouring them in and ruining them. I could just hang them up as is).

The images themselves, like in the original Secret Garden, are absolutely beautiful. And so detailed! How long must it have taken to produce some of these? They’re honestly amazing. Here’s one of my favourites, a peacock I have started colouring in.

I have yet to finish this one, but I really find colouring relaxing and a great way to pass the time. You get so absorbed in it - I started this peacock and didn’t realise that like, two hours had gone by until I looked at my laptop. 

I will definitely be getting myself some more of these colouring books to add to my collection (I’ve had my eye on Johanna Basford’s Enchanted Forest for a while, and her new book, Lost Ocean, looks amazing too!). Even though I am definitely not the best in the world at colouring, I really do enjoy doing it, and having books like these makes it all even more fun (even if I do sometimes get jealous of people with fab artistic talent who produce the most wonderful images ever). I highly recommend this particular version though if you want to display your pictures, or if you are like me and love using felt-tips or other sorts of pens to colour in, because I can guarantee they won’t bleed through the page and you won’t mess up any other images by accident.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Review: Until We Meet Again by Renee Collins

Until We Meet Again by Renee Collins
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Released: November 3rd 2015
My Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

They exist in two different centuries, but their love defies time

Cassandra craves drama and adventure, so the last thing she wants is to spend her summer marooned with her mother and stepfather in a snooty Massachusetts shore town. But when a dreamy stranger shows up on their private beach claiming it's his own—and that the year is 1925—she is swept into a mystery a hundred years in the making.

As she searches for answers in the present, Cassandra discovers a truth that puts their growing love—and Lawrence's life—into jeopardy. Desperate to save him, Cassandra must find a way to change history…or risk losing Lawrence forever.
(from Goodreads)

This book was not good. I’m sorry. It might just be me, but it was so cheesy I felt like I just spent the whole time rolling my eyes. Plus, the way the time travel/whatever stuff worked made no sense.

First of all, Cassandra. Ugh. All she did was complain and go on and on. And okay, we all complain, it’s human nature. But this was excessive. And there was no balance. This girl had no sense of humour, no good qualities to make up for the complaining - she just had a massive sense of entitlement and pissed me off throughout. And oh my God, her line about Lawrence being her “soulmate” after knowing him for about ten minutes made me actually put my Kindle down and sigh in disappointment. For God’s sake, she was so overdramatic. And this was so insta-lovey. They barely knew each other, the whole thing could have been some elaborate scheme - she didn’t know! Ugh. I just can’t get on board with romances like this. I don’t think it’s romantic to place all your hope and trust into some randomer from another decade who you’ve known less than a month.

And Lawrence really was no better. He fell for Cassandra seemingly because he thought clothes from the 21st century were sexy. And his dialogue! The sappiness! It was so cringey. Plus, he found out he was going to be murdered and his reaction was just to spend more time with Cassandra. WHAT. And Cassandra was like “maybe we shouldn’t see each other anymore” - well it’s too late now Cassandra! Get your act together and help the boy if you supposedly love him so much. And Lawrence (and Cassandra) were both SO dense. It was SO obvious to the reader who was responsible for Lawrence’s murder that having the characters not be able to figure it out was just annoying because we knew from the start what was going to happen and we just had to watch these guys faff about for ages before realising who the culprit was. Also Travis? Can we talk about Travis? He was wiped from existence and no-one seemed to care! He was Cassandra’s friend! And his ancestor who died in Lawrence’s time period was one of Lawrence’s closest friends, but he gave a crap for all of two pages before forgetting about him completely and just focussing on Cassandra, who was indirectly responsible for his death. Ugggh.

Plot-wise, the time travel explanation made no sense whatsoever. Something to do with the moon? What even? And the ending! I actually liked the ending, but the connotations it had in regard to the timelines made it all make even LESS sense. I don’t want to spoil too much, but in relation to the poet - how could both timelines exist simultaneously? Cassandra changed the past - so how could the poet have existed as one person before she did, and another person after? The poet DID exist before Cassandra changed the past. He existed ALONGSIDE newspaper articles about Lawrence’s death (spoiler, highlight to read) meaning at the start of the book, the poet could not have been Lawrence(end of spoiler). So how was that possible? Was the poet two different people, or the same guy? He couldn’t have been the same person before the timeline was changed, unless Cassandra’s changing the past was always accounted for in the timeline - which can’t be right, seeing as poor Travis vanished from existence, meaning the timeline was actively changing. Plus, if that were the case, why would the newspaper articles ever have existed? The poet guy at the beginning therefore was not the same guy at the end but somehow they had the same name and wrote the same poetry. Okay, sure. I’ll just stay confused. (Seriously, did I miss something? Was this explained and I somehow didn’t read it?)

Overall, I didn’t enjoy this book. It was a confusing, sappy, overdramatic festival of cheese and I’d only recommend it if you fancy having a real laugh at how bad it is. The only reason it has 1.5 stars and not 1 is because I did like the ending - though I would have liked it more if it made sense. Seeing as this has a pretty high rating on Goodreads though, I am in the minority, so maybe read some other people’s reviews if you still feel like giving it a go.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Review: A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston

A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston
Publisher: Macmillan
Released: October 22nd 2015
My Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

LO-MELKHIIN KILLED THREE HUNDRED GIRLS before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister’s place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin’s court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.
(from Goodreads)

While I liked this book overall, I do have some mixed feelings. I really enjoyed parts of it, especially in the first half, but I felt the end was a bit rushed and I would have liked a bit more character development.

The main character, who remained nameless throughout the book, was definitely interesting, and I really enjoyed reading her internal thoughts and observations. She obviously loved her sister a lot  since she was willing to risk her life by becoming Lo-Melkhiin’s wife, and I also really liked the way she talked to Lo-Melkhiin - she didn’t show fear and was bold with her words, even though she knew every night might be her last. I was a bit confused as to how her power worked and how she was managing to survive every day though and I really do wish we got a bit more explanation (not just for this but for other things too) instead of a lot of stuff having to be inferred or left to the imagination.

Lo-Melkhiin, was a character we didn’t get to know as well, though it was clear early on (minor spoiler, highlight to read) that something was possessing him (end of spoiler). The whole thing was slightly confusing for me, and I didn’t really understand how the events leading up to the ending happened (spoiler, highlight to read) how did the main character save him? I didn’t really get it? And why did she choose to stay married to the guy when she didn’t know him? (end of spoiler). I was definitely intrigued by Lo-Melkhiin, however, and I did enjoy reading the pages from his perspective, and his changing thoughts on the main character - I just wish there were more! And that we got to know more about his personality and background and likes and dislikes - especially after the event that happened towards the end. There wasn’t really very much romance in this book, but I was actually happy with that and really liked that the book concentrated on the relationship between the main character and her sister. I do think that’s perhaps why I wasn’t that fond of the ending, I found it a bit strange that this new element would suddenly be introduced. But I could understand it, though I wish we had maybe another chapter or two to become more adjusted.

The writing was probably the highlight of this book, and was kind of enchanting in a way. It flowed very well and I was engrossed from the first page. Some parts were quite descriptive, but apart from that (and the rushed ending), I really enjoyed it. The world-building was great and I could really imagine the setting and the society the characters lived in. The plot was weaker - it’s hard not to compare this book to The Wrath and the Dawn, which is another retelling of One Thousand and One Nights (and which I liked a lot). While this book may have had the edge on the writing, The Wrath and the Dawn had a stronger plot. Very little actually happened in A Thousand Nights, and the ending was probably the weakest part for me because I felt everything was rushed with very little explanation. I’m assuming there won’t be a sequel, which is a shame, because I think I could be more on board with the ending if we had a sequel (or at least a few more chapters) to get some more explanation and get to know the characters better. But I think a lot of people may actually like the ending, so do still give it a chance as this is definitely a book worth picking up.

I also can’t write this review without mentioning how beautiful the finished copy of this book is. I have the ARC which is very pretty, but the actual finished copy is AMAZING. It has a gorgeous cover, amazing patterned pages and ah! It’s so beautiful. I will probably buy myself a finished copy when I can.

Overall, this book was worth reading and had some great writing in places, but had a few problems in the plot department, as well in regard to some of the characters.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Waiting on Wednesday #74

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

Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan
January 19th 2016
Find it on Goodreads

Raisa was just a child when she was sold to work as a slave in the kingdom of Qilara. Despite her young age, her father was teaching her to read and write, grooming her to take his place as a Learned One. In Qilara, the Arnathim, like Raisa, are the lowest class, and literacy is a capital offense. What’s more, only the king, prince, tutor, and tutor-in-training are allowed to learn the very highest order language, the language of the gods. So when the tutor-in-training is executed for teaching slaves this sacred language, and Raisa is selected to replace her, Raisa knows any slipup on her part could mean death.

Keeping her secret is hard enough, but the romance that’s been growing between her and Prince Mati isn’t helping matters. Then Raisa is approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slave rebels—to help liberate Arnath slaves. She wants to free her people, but that would mean aiding a war against Mati. As Raisa struggles with what to do, she discovers a secret that the Qilarites have been hiding for centuries—one that, if uncovered, could bring the kingdom to its knees.
(from Goodreads)

Er, how amazing does this book sound? The very (very) lucky people who have managed to get early copies have all seemed to love it and honestly, I'm not surprised. It sounds so good! I can't wait to meet Raisa and read about her struggles (and romance!). Plus, this cover. I love it. I like swords a lot. And I really like that font. Ugh why are so many good books coming out in 2016? I can't wait that long!

What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, 12 October 2015

Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Rock the Boat
Published: October 22nd 2015
My Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—
Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes. (from Goodreads)

What the eff even was this book, like why am I feeling sorry for a murderous AI? What is it doing to me? I don’t understand? Stop it? Give me the sequel? Yes?

So I was worried about the format of this book before starting it. I didn’t know how to feel about a story told through reports, interviews, transcripts etc. and I was a bit scared I might not like it. But while it took a bit of getting used to, it really did tell the story well and I actually ended up really appreciating the format and the tremendous amount of effort that must have gone into it. Seriously, some of it was so detailed - like the Unipedia pages! I was amazed. 

As for the characters. Well. As I said, the authors got me to sympathise with a literal killing machine so I don’t know what messed up sorcery they were using when they wrote this, but there you have it. I really liked both Kady and Ezra, who were the two main characters. Kady was a hacking expert and used her skills to find out what was really happening, because she knew the officials were not giving everyone the whole story. She was determined to find the truth, and she was so…passionate about it? I don’t know, but I definitely felt for her. And she saved lives with what she did. She had to make some hard decisions, she had to experience some awful things, but she saved lives. I loved her scenes at the end, especially with AIDAN. Something about the way all of that was written…it got to me. I also liked that she wasn’t afraid to let people know that she wasn’t going to give up. Some of her dialogue was a bit much at times (by that I’m talking about the intimidation/trash talk, it was a bit funny when it wasn’t meant to be) but it got the message across and I am very much looking forward to book two.

Ezra was not as gifted as Kady in the technology department but was a good pilot among other things and was pretty funny - some of his conversations with his friend Jimmy really made me laugh. He also obviously cared about Kady (to the point where he was being cheesy at times) and honestly, I’m still not sure why they broke up at the beginning of the book? It was half-explained, but I would have liked more. To be honest, I wasn’t 100% invested in the romance because I think it was a tiny bit cheesy (the dialogue, mainly) and the two of them didn’t actually get to spend much time together in person. But I’m on board with it and think it could really be developed in book two (if book two even follows the same characters - I really, really hope it does!).

Plot-wise, whoa. Okay. Let’s try to be coherent here. Ermm well it wasn’t what I expected. This book was pretty dark (a LOT of people died - including characters you may get attached to). There was a list of all the names of people who died in a incident, and it included their pictures too, and it was kind of disturbing. But a good use of the format. Though, speaking of format, what are they going to do for book two? The same sort of thing? I’d be happy with that. Some crazy stuff I would never have guessed also happened in this book. That twist. That damn twist. I just didn’t see it coming! I should have, but I didn’t, and I loved it. And back to the format - it was really cool. It complemented the story very well - some of the reports were so engrossing! Sometimes there was a bit of info-dumping which was slightly dull, but rarely, and for the most part, I enjoyed it. And some things were surprisingly humorous (for a book like this, anyway - that drunk email!).

Overall, I really enjoyed Illuminae, more than I thought I would, and would definitely recommend it to sci-fi fans (especially if you liked the Skychaser series or These Broken Stars).

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Review: Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1) by Rick Riordan
Publisher: Puffin
Released: October 6th
My Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads/Amazon

Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother's mysterious death, he's lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

One day, he's tracked down by an uncle he's never met—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. His uncle tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.

The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.

When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision.

Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die...
(from Goodreads)

Unsurprisingly, I loved Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer. Rick Riordan’s writing…it wins me over every time. EVERY TIME.

So this booked was a bit different to Rick’s other series. Our main character, Magnus, was a homeless teen, and had been for two years. His mum had been murdered, he didn’t trust his own family members, and now, he had just gotten himself killed. All in all, it’s safe to say he did not have an easy life. Magnus was very easy to like, though. He was funny but realistic, he was kind-hearted and determined! You just had to like the guy. His sense of humour was sarcastic but a bit darker than say Percy or Leo’s - which was understandable. He was also less trusting and wary of people - but was also pretty caring and (dare I say it) heroic - even if he didn’t think so himself. I really, really, really enjoyed following him in this book. I am also very curious as to what the prediction thingy (prophecy?) at Valhalla meant and how Magnus ties into it all. I honestly can’t wait for book two, I can’t. What am I going to do with myself?

Samirah was another character I really loved! A daughter of Loki, it was difficult to know whether to trust her or not (I did) but regardless, she was an awesome character. She was a Valkyrie, and was the one who chose Magnus for Valhalla. She also seemed to have a lot of secrets, but at the same time, seemed very dedicated to Odin and helping people. Everyone distrusted her because of her father, and she had to deal with that on a daily basis at Valhalla. You had to admire her for not constantly cracking under the pressure and managing to get through everything, even when it seemed like it was all going wrong. It was also interesting how her family had had many previous dealings with the gods before - the al-Abbas family was connected to them going back generations, so Sam knew a lot about it all, and she struggled between wanting to have a normal life and wanting to be a Valkyrie. 

I also loved a lot of the other characters, including Blitz and Hearth, who were Magnus’s sort-of guardians/friends and looked out for him. Hearth was a very powerful rune magician and Blitz was a dwarf with a knack for fashion design and they were both awesome and loyal friends who stuck by Magnus. TJ, Mallory, Halfborn and X seemed like a nice bunch too and I really hope we get to see them interact with Magnus more in the next book! They seemed to all become friends with Magnus really quickly, and I do wish they had spent just a bit more time together so we could understand why they became close. We met a few gods in this book as well, but I’ll just talk about Loki for the time being, because he was (unsurprisingly) a very tricky character - the trickiest god we’ve met in all the series. It would be crazy to trust him from what we’ve seen of him so far, but he could also be very funny and somewhat charming at times, and could make you understand his point of view on certain matters - which was even more reason not to trust him.

I also have to mention the Sword of Summer (or Jack, as he liked to be called). I loved Jack. He was a sword to rival Pookie Bear from Penryn and the End of Days! He was just so funny and came up with the most hilarious stuff. Ahh, well I always love talking objects. I’m very glad Jack was in this book - and also, that joke about pen swords? I cracked up. I did.

Plot-wise, this is the type of book where you don’t even bother trying to predict what will happen because, a) you’re so engrossed, and b) literally anything could happen. I really enjoyed the plot and the obstacles Magnus face in his attempt to delay Ragnarok. I loved visiting some of the other worlds and meeting all the different people and different gods, plus I loved Magnus’s reaction to things (that scene where he asks about Loki and the horse, oh dear, I think I laughed for way too long). The thing that made me laugh the most though, was the title of chapter 48. I can’t even. It was so funny I just sat and laughed for a good five minutes before even reading the page. Also, ANNABETH! Annabeth was in this book! On three different occasions! Okay, not for long, but still. I missed her. And I can’t WAIT for Magnus to hear Annabeth’s story and vice versa. It’s going to be awesome (also if Percy makes a cameo in any future books, I may die. Just saying).

Overall, I loved this book, it was amazing, please read it. I mean, if you liked Percy Jackson, or if you like gods and mythology, you’re pretty much guaranteed to like this. And if you didn’t like Percy Jackson, I have no words for you. If you haven’t read Percy Jackson…get on that. Seriously. And then come back and read Magnus Chase.
Also, for those interested, here is the trailer!

I really like the visuals for this trailer, but have to admit I'm not the biggest fan of the voiceover. Gets you hyped for the book though! I mean I was already very, very excited to read this book as a huge Rick Riordan fan, but the trailer added to it.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Review - Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Demons of the Hellmouth, A Guide for Slayers by Nancy Holder

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Demons of the Hellmouth, A Guide for Slayers by Nancy Holder
Publisher: Titan Books
Released: September 4th 2015
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Demons of the Hellmouth is a fully licensed guide to the vampires and other demons that flocked to the Sunnydale Hellmouth in Joss Whedon’s cult TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This in-universe illustrated guide is written by Rupert Giles, and also contains handwritten notes from Buffy and Willow. This unique book promises a diabolical romp through the highlights of the beloved show. (from Goodreads)

As a Buffy fan, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to review this book. In the format of a guide for Slayers, this book takes you on a trip down memory lane (well - if you’re a seasoned fan whose seen the series multiple times, then maybe not, but it’s still a lot of fun), exploring all the vampires, demons and other forces of evil that Buffy and the Scooby Gang encountered in the TV series.

The book started with a foreword by Anthony Stewart Head (who played Giles), which I really enjoyed reading. It’s clear from the things he wrote that he and the other actors in the show must have really loved Buffy, and still look back on it with fondness. I actually rewatched the whole series (on Netflix) maybe a year and a half ago but reading through this book was really nostalgic and made me remember all the reasons why I love Buffy so much. It was great for reminding me of some of the weird characters I had forgotten too, and I think it’s just a great book to have on your bookshelf, whether for reference, nostalgia, or simply because it looks really cool (it does, I love the layout).

I really liked the format of the book, and the detailed info on each character. I loved reexperiencing some of the crazy vampire/demons the Scoobies came across, as well as refreshing my memory on the backstories of some of my favourites. It was quite funny too - Giles’s dry humour came across fairly well (though not exactly the same as Giles from the show, but maybe I’m being a perfectionist) and Buffy, Willow, Xander and Faith all had little scribblings in the margins which were also fun to read (though, again, were not entirely accurate portrayals of the characters - I know it would be difficult to get their personalities to really shine through in just a few words per page, but still. I can’t help but compare). The way they interacted with each other through the scribbles made me miss the show and all the relationships between the characters so much! Ahh. Maybe it’ll be time for another rewatch soon.

I loved all the photos/illustrations too, which really added to the nostalgia, and also made it seem like a more realistic guide. The advice to the Slayers coupled with the hints as to what they would be facing in the future were great too and I’ll always live in hope that one day there will be a Buffy reunion (it’s unlikely, but I won’t give up!).

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and if you’re a Buffy fan of any kind, even if you already know every detail of the show (and the comics and everything else), you’ll probably enjoy this too. There’s no real new information, but it’s a nice consolidation of everything and something cool to display on your shelf.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Review: Alistair Grim's Odditorium by Gregory Funaro

Alistair Grim's Odditorium by Gregory Funaro
Publisher: Alma Books
Released: September 15th 2015
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Twelve-year-old Grubb lives a hand-to-mouth existence in Victorian England, working as a chimney sweep under a cruel master. After an incident at an inn, he hides in the trunk of one of its guests, the enigmatic Alistair Grim, and is whisked away to his Odditorium, a wonderful flying house full of incredible mechanical features powered by an enigmatic substance called animus. Now apprenticed to Grim, Grubb begins to settle into his new life and find a new family in the eccentric crew of the Odditorium, when suddenly his new world comes under attack by the evil Prince Nightshade and he is propelled into a perilous quest. As he gets caught up in the struggle, Grubb will learn valuable lessons and discover remarkable secrets about himself and his new host. (from Goodreads)

Alistair Grim’s Odditorium was unexpectedly fun and different! It was definitely odd, but very enjoyable, and I think it’d appeal to children and adults alike.

Grubb was a very likeable main character, and I loved his voice as the older narrator looking back on his younger years. Older Grubb certainly seemed very different to younger Grubb in some aspects, so I was very intrigued as to what happened to him as he grew up! I’m already excited to find out, and am very much looking forward to the next book. I do wish we had seen a bit more of Grubb’s personality - it was obvious he was a good kid who’d had a tough childhood, but a lot of his dialogue was crying out after someone, or exclamation, which didn’t really enable as much conversation as I’d have liked. But apart from that, Grubb was a great character to follow!

Mr Grim was an oddball, to say the least. He seemed like a good person deep down but he definitely was not above using people for his own means. I did like him but not quite as much as I wanted to. He had an interesting backstory though. Very interesting. I guessed a few things, but much does still remain a mystery, which I suppose will be explored in book two. His search for odditoria had me intrigued and I was generally interested in how odditoria and animus worked (though the explanations weren’t as detailed or clear as they could have been - but then that would have made it a bit too complicated for a book aimed at a younger audience).

I really liked all the other characters as well, especially Nigel, who probably had one of the saddest histories. The Yellow Fairy and Cleona were other interesting characters too, and I hope we get to find out more about them in the second book! Mack, the talking pocketwatch, was nothing but trouble, but I ended up liking him anyway, because how could you not? And who on Earth was the Prince Nightshade? I had no guesses. He seemed to know a lot about everything though, which was rather scary.

Plot-wise, I really enjoyed the adventures of Grubb and the other residents of the Odditorium! Some things were a bit predictable but still good to read about and I think the ending was great because it opened up many possibilities! I have no idea what will happen in future books (apart from Mr Grim carrying out his original goal) but I look forward to finding out. I also loved the illustrations by Chris Mould, they really added to the quirky feel of the book!

Overall, Alistair Grim’s Odditorium was an enjoyable read that I think would really appeal to fans of maybe Artemis Fowl (though it’s quite different, I get a similar vibe), the Bartimaeus series or anyway who likes a good story about magic.