Tuesday, 31 January 2017

January Wrap Up

Books I Read This Month:

Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco*
The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles*
The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse*
The Bad Boy Bargain by Kendra C. Highley
The Lie Tree by Francis Hardinge
The Last Best Kiss by Claire LaZebnik

All links lead to Goodreads. Reviews coming soon for starred books! I managed to read ten books this month (not including rereads), which I think is pretty decent. I think my favourite was Gemina, shortly followed by The Hating Game! The Edge of Everything was truly awful, but I seem to be the minority in thinking that - my review will be up in Feb.

Blog Posts:

TV Shows I Watched/Started:

Sherlock season 4 (BBC)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine season 4 (currently airing on E4)
Shadowhunters season 2 (weekly on Netflix)
Teen Wolf season 5 (Netflix)
A Series of Unfortunate Events (Netflix)
Trollhunters (Netflix)
Voltron season 2 (Netflix)
Travelers (Netflix)
Frequency (Netflix)
Mr Student Body President (All4)
Yowamushi Pedal season 3 (first episode, Crunchyroll)
Riverdale (first episode, Netflix)
Marvel's Agents of SHIELD season 4 (first episode, E4)

So what we can take from this is that I watch way too much Netflix. Oh my God. I watched so many episodes of stuff. 

Personally, I thought this season of Sherlock was utter crap. Not impressed, and I hope there isn't a season 5. I was behind on Teen Wolf, so when I saw season 5 had been added to Netflix, I decided to watch it, and I actually enjoyed it! Here's to hoping we don't have to wait ten years for season 6 to become available (I'm still waiting for you to acquire Smallville, Netflix. Still waiting). I liked A Series of Unfortunate Events as well, but it did get annoying that all the adults were SO STUPID. Especially Mr Poe, ugh. I've only read the first book in the series, so I can't give too much input on how faithful an adaptation the show is, but I know a lot of readers have been happy with it. I would definitely like to see a second season!

I don't know why I'm still watching SHIELD as it's rubbish now, and I'm iffy about Riverdale but I'm gonna give it a chance. By far the best thing I watched was Mr Student Body President. It's this weird short form TV show (each episode is only about 15 mins long), but it was absolutely hilarious. Every single episode had me laughing, I highly recommend it. The main character is Jeremy Shada (who voices Finn in Adventure Time!) and there are a few YouTubers in it as well. It's really funny and well worth the watch!

Films I Watched:


Music I Listened to:

Basically everything Marceline has ever sung on Adventure Time, on repeat
Soundtrack to A Cinderella Story
Gotta Go My Own Way from HSM2 (don't ask)
Pulled from The Addams Family musical
Various TV show openings from my youth because I went on a massive nostalgia trip because it's my birthday soon and I feel so old (these include Kim Possible, Lizzie McGuire, W.I.T.C.H. and Braceface - is my age showing, yes I think it is, call me beep me if you wanna reach me)

Notable Events:

I got Hamilton tickets!!! (restricted view because I had such trouble with the website, but I don't even care because it's Hamilton! Only ten more months until December 2017!)

And that is my month in a nutshell! Not sure I'll be able to read as many books in Feb (and I definitely won't be able to watch as many programmes because I've basically watched the entirety of Netflix at this point) - but we'll see how it goes! What are your bookish (and non-bookish) goals for next month?

Friday, 27 January 2017

Review: Take the Key and Lock Her Up by Ally Carter *spoiler review*

Take the Key and Lock Her Up (Embassy Row #3) by Ally Carter
Publisher: Orchard Books
Released: January 26th 2017
My Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
Centuries ago, the royal family of Adria was killed…or so everyone thought.

Now Grace Blakely knows the truth: There was one survivor, and that survivor’s blood runs through her veins. This simple fact could cause a revolution—which is why some people will stop at nothing to keep it from coming to light.

There is only one way for Grace to save herself, save her family, and save the boy she loves. She must outmaneuver her foes, cut through the web of lies that has surrounded her for years, and go back to the source of all her troubles, despite the risk.

If she wins, she will inherit a throne.

And if she loses, she will inherit the fate of all the dead princesses who came before her.
(from Goodreads)

NOTE: this review contains spoilers for this book, and the ending of the series. If you do not wish to be spoiled, do not read this review.

It saddens me to say it, but I was disappointed with this book. I really enjoyed the previous instalments, and have always been a huge fan of Ally Carter, but I had a lot of problems with this book and unfortunately, there wasn’t enough good to outweigh the bad this time.

I’ll start with the things I did like; Grace’s friends, that wonderful bunch. They were so loyal to her, and so helpful. They were always willing to hear her out, to listen to her side of the story, no matter how crazy the situations got. Megan especially, and Rosie, I loved those two so much! I also really liked Grace’s grandfather and her brother, Jamie, and I was really glad they both managed to survive (it was shaky for a while there). I also really liked getting to find out more about Alexei’s mother, Karina, and what actually happened to her. It wasn’t what I was expecting, and I found her story very interesting.

Moving on to what I didn’t like, I think the biggest problem I had was the plot. I have to get into spoilers here, but I didn’t really understand why Grace and her brother couldn’t just renounce their rights to the throne publicly right at the start of the book, if that was what they wanted to do? They ended up doing that at the end anyway! The rest of it seemed so unnecessary and pointless. And I never understood how somehow, Grace always seemed more important than her brother (by the fact that there were always people chasing her and not him, despite the fact he was injured and an easy target!) when he was the heir to the throne, and she was only second in line? And don’t even get me started on this whole 63 heirs stuff that came up at the end – suddenly there were all these random descendants of Amelia? How on EARTH did they find them all, when there was supposed to be a secret society DEDICATED to concealing this information? Even the Society didn’t know where the other descendants were! Ann admitted it! And how did they find them all, contact them all and get them all to agree to renounce their rights to the throne so quickly? Plus, it’s so unlikely that they would ALL even want to – surely some person would be like, “Ooh I quite fancy being a royal!” And having all these heirs just diminished the entire story which was based on Grace being the heir of Amelia, and that’s why all these people were trying to kill her. Now it was just like, oh well, who cares, look how many people there are that could claim this title? Ugh.

Another thing that really bothered me was how Ann was dealt with. Why the hell did they think that was a good idea? Instead of prosecuting her through a democratic justice system (which Grace should have supported since she was giving up her right to the throne for these ideals), they made out she was Karina?! WTF? Karina had been wrongly imprisoned in a mental institution that wasn’t a mental institution but more of a torture facility for years. Instead of freeing her justly, letting her recover from her years of trauma, letting her live freely as her own person under her own identity, they instead forced Ann (who deserved to be in a real prison, because the people of Adria deserved to know their princess was a bloody murderer!) to take on Karina’s identity and be sent back to the facility. Well what the hell was going to happen to Karina then?! Did she have to live as someone else? How was that going to help her fragile state of mind? She was already suffering from what had happened, and now she had to pretend to be a different person? Who would actually buy the whole “Ann is Karina” story anyway, I mean, photographs exist, and they couldn’t possibly look that similar? One question and a DNA test is all it takes! And what did everyone think actually happened to Princess Ann? There’s only so long they could go with the “taken ill from grief” story. Would some eventually announce she had died? Or went missing? She would be remembered as a loving and caring princess instead of the murderer she actually was. I just didn’t agree with it at all.

Grace herself was also somehow even more dramatic than usual in this book, her narration just got on my nerves at times. And Alexei became a bit too controlling and annoying in this book, I lost any love I previously had for this romance, and that’s a damn shame because I really used to like these two.

Overall, I didn’t enjoy this book half as much as I wanted to. The endings to Ally Carter’s other series are far superior and I’m not quite sure why this book took this route.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Two Mini Reviews

Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2) by Robin LaFevers
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Released: April 2nd 2013
My Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
When Sybella arrived at the doorstep of St Mortain half mad with grief and despair the convent were only too happy to offer her refuge—but at a price. The sisters of this convent serve Death, and with Sybella naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, she could become one of their most dangerous weapons.

But her assassin's skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to the life that nearly drove her mad. Her father's rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother's love is equally monstrous. But when Sybella discovers an unexpected ally she discovers that a daughter of Death may find something other than vengeance to live for...
(from Goodreads)

This book was a lot darker than the first in this series, and I’m not sure I enjoyed it as much. Sybella was definitely an interesting character, who had been through some truly awful stuff in her life. She was less, I don’t know, righteous, than Ismae from Grave Mercy, which I liked, because not everyone can be so sure that what they are doing is right, all the time. She questioned Mortmain and whether what she was doing was really the best way to serve him, or to rid the world of evil. Having to go back to her family, after everything that happened, was so difficult, but she did it because that's what the Abbess asked of her, as a daughter of Mortmain. And her character developed so much over the book; she learnt more about herself, about Mortmain, about what needed to be done. And her relationship with Beast was one I really enjoyed reading about. I didn’t like Dark Triumph as much as book one because I think I just enjoyed the plot of the first book more. However, Sybella was a compelling character and it was a good sequel as whole, so I will be picking up the final book in the series at some point.

The Grift of the Magi (Heist Society #3.5) by Ally Carter
Publisher: Orchard Books
Released: November 15th 2016
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
Katarina Bishop is a thief. To many it wouldn't matter that she now uses her considerable skills to re-steal valuable works of art and return them to their rightful homes.

She's still a thief.

So that's why Kat's surprised when an Interpol agent comes to her one snowy evening, asking for her help.

The Magi Miracle Network was set to auction off a very rare, very valuable Faberge egg two days before Christmas, but the egg's been stolen and now the charity's reputation - and their future - is on the line.

This Christmas, Santa isn't the only person skulking in the darkness...
(from Goodreads)

This novella was everything I wanted it to be. I didn’t realise how much I had missed these characters, but oh my. The story was great, I got the exact same vibe I always get from the Heist Society books and it was it was so easy to jump back into Kat and Hale’s world. And it was so festive! And Christmassy and a perfect little winter read. The story was engaging; perhaps not the most complex or exciting Heist Society story, but it was a short novella and a lot of the time, I still couldn’t guess what was going to happen. And there were so many cute moments between Kat and Hale - I love these two so much. Please, please, please, with triple cherries on top, will someone publish a fourth Heist Society book?! I need more – this novella has proven how much! I mean, we still haven’t been told what Hale’s first name is. Wulfric? Wilfred? Warburton? I HAVE TO KNOW. Overall, I loved it – I only wish it were longer! And I am missing this series and these characters more than ever (seriously, if you’ve not started the Heist Society books yet, get on that, because you are missing out).

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Waiting on Wednesday #78

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

The Best Kind of Magic (Amber Sand #1) by Crystal Cestari
May 16th 2017
Find it on Goodreads
Amber Sand is not a witch. The Sand family Wicca gene somehow leapfrogged over her. But she did get one highly specific magical talent: she can see true love. As a matchmaker, Amber's pretty far down the sorcery food chain (even birthday party magicians rank higher), but after five seconds of eye contact, she can envision anyone's soul mate.

Amber works at her mother's magic shop--Windy City Magic--in downtown Chicago, and she's confident she's seen every kind of happy ending there is: except for one--her own. (The Fates are tricky jerks that way.) So when Charlie Blitzman, the mayor's son and most-desired boy in school, comes to her for help finding his father's missing girlfriend, she's distressed to find herself falling for him. Because while she can't see her own match, she can see his--and it's not Amber. How can she, an honest peddler of true love, pursue a boy she knows full well isn't her match?

The Best Kind of Magic is set in urban Chicago and will appeal to readers who long for magic in the real world. With a sharp-witted and sassy heroine, a quirky cast of mystical beings, and a heady dose of adventure, this novel will have you laughing out loud and questioning your belief in happy endings. (from Goodreads)

This sounds adorable. I haven't read anything with this kind of plot before! And it has everything I like in it - witches, magic, problems to overcome, wit, a sassy heroine - I mean, what's not to like? I can just imagine Amber's predicament and how she must be feeling - and I am extremely curious as to how things are going to turn out. I'm hoping this is going to be a really fun and cute book and I can't wait to read it! I can't decide whether I like the cover or not (kind of?) but I'll be reading it no matter what - now to wait for May!

What are you waiting on this week?

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Liz's Lists #4: Books on My Birthday Wishlist

Well I haven't done this feature in...over three years. (I forget that I have been blogging for a really long time.) Anyway, it's my birthday at the end of February (I feel so old), and as as result, I have been putting together a bookish wishlist for myself. That definitely counts as list-making, so please see below for all the books on my birthday wishlist!

[All images from Goodreads. Clicking on the image will take you to the book's Goodreads page]

There are more books, of course, but I've picked the ones I'd be most excited to read. So there you have it. Have you read any of these? Are there any books you recommend I add to my list?

Friday, 6 January 2017

Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Rock the Boat
Released: October 20th 2016
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy's most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station's wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the
Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They've totally got this. They hope.

Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics,
Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless. (from Goodreads)

I have a lot of thoughts about this book, and those thoughts are why do the authors hate us and when is the next book coming out???

I was initially reluctant to pick up Gemina when I realised that Kady and Ezra would no longer be the main characters. I loved Illuminae so much and thought that it just wouldn’t be the same with new characters taking the lead. Well, I was wrong. This book was excellent. Okay, I didn’t love it quite as much as Illuminae (but I always tend to favour the first books in series), but it was still a great sequel. My notes from reading this book are somewhat of an incoherent mess, with lots of “WHY”s and “WTF?!”s as well as expletives I probably shouldn’t type up in this review.

Our new leads in this book were Hanna and Nik. It did take a while for them to grow on me (especially Nik, I found him super cheesy to begin with). I didn’t take an immediate liking to them the way I did with Kady and Ezra. But by the end of the book, I was invested. It’s funny how attached you get to characters. You don’t realise it until something terrible happens and you think they might die and a big “NOOOOOO” goes through your head and you suddenly wonder why you’re so upset in the first place. There were a lot of those “NO” moments in this book. And I never knew what was going to happen. When this book started off, it was just following the daily lives of Hanna and Nik. I had no idea how they would be thrown into chaos, but thrown into chaos they were and it was awesome. I mean, terrible for them, but great for me to read about. Chronologically, this book took place both after the events of book one, and alongside them. It was so interesting to see how certain events from the first book had an impact in this one, and how a lot of things we didn’t understand to begin with were starting to make sense. I also really liked how, though there was an underlying romantic tension between the two main characters, it didn’t overtake the story. Both Hanna and Nik knew there were more important things to worry about than their relationships.

Ella was another fantastic character (I think she was my favourite). She was Nik’s cousin, and was absolutely hilarious, as well as ridiculously clever. Both Hanna and Nik would have died in the first few pages without her. Her role in the book was such an important one, and I really enjoyed every scene she was in. I also liked getting to see Kady’s dad in this book; he was desperate for news about his daughter, and it was just nice seeing all the connections between book one and two fall into place.

We also have to talk about the format of this book, because I loved it. I had no idea how Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff would pull it off again after Illuminae; surely, I thought, it would be boring the second time around? Nope, once more, I was wrong. The format is my favourite part of this series. So much effort must go into writing all these little extra bits; from linking to articles with funny titles in the Unipedia pages to coming up with usernames and blueprints and plans (not to mention the hilarious briefing notes, I honestly think those were my favourite). It makes each book all the more interesting and engaging, and I really appreciate the time that goes into that. It also lends itself so well to unravelling the story and revealing what has been going on; plot-wise, this book was so full of twists and more twists that were made even more unexpected because of the way the book was written and all the visuals that went along with it. It was also so funny (the lollipop song...I can't, it's making me want to laugh even now). And while perhaps this story was not quite as compelling as Illuminae, (because in my opinion, nothing compares to AIDAN), I enjoyed it and I’m already ridiculously excited for book three (and this time, I’m reading it as soon as its released – whoever the main characters are. The authors have earned my trust).

So overall, this book was great, this series is brilliant, and if you haven't already, you should pick it up.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1) by Vic James
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Released: 26th January 2017 (Kindle: December 1st 2016)
My Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England's grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England's most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family's secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi's brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

This book has received so much praise and is really highly rated on Goodreads, and I do not understand why. Maybe I’m missing something, but for me, a lot of stuff either didn’t make sense, or was completely unbelievable. So this may be an unpopular opinion, but I didn’t enjoy this book.

First off, let’s talk about the characters. I am a person who rarely enjoys narratives split between so many people (especially when POVs are split so unequally), so I may be unfairly biased on this point, but I feel like we got way too many chapters from Luke’s POV and hardly any chapters from our other supposed main character, Abi. I think this is why I didn't connect to her and found her just a bit dull – we never actually got to know her. Her brother, Luke was a more fleshed out character. At least I got a sense of who he was (and his reactions were the only one I believed, I swear he was the only person with a modicum of sense in this entire book). There was real potential with Abi, but in the end, I really struggled to care about what happened to her. She did start to get better towards the end, but until then, she lacked any drive to do anything. All she could think about was a doomed romance with Jenner Jardine, an Equal boy with less personality than a dishcloth, instead of focusing on getting her brother back (which she promised she would do). It was her ten-year-old sister who fixed the problem, and even then, Abi was too preoccupied with Jenner to even see how much her brother had changed, or why that may be. And to top it all off, she got a chance to learn something that could really help her, to ask questions about a history shrouded in secrets (I mean, wasn’t the whole point of her doing her slavedays before going to medical school because she wanted to find out about the Equals’ powers?), but instead of taking advantage of that opportunity, she spent the whole time obsessing over dishcloth boy. It was all too insta-lovey for me.

Jenner had very little personality so I don't really know what to say about him. Gavar, his brother, was an awful person, but he was more interesting to read about. He hated his father, but was powerless to do anything about it. He just had to do what he was told, and I liked seeing this because it added another dimension to his character. However, it didn't really go anywhere, and he was generally still a pretty terrible person (though who knows what will happen in the next book). He treated women like crap, he only cared about his daughter and viewed most other people as just dirt on his shoe. And did no-one else think it was insane that his baby was left in the care of a ten-year-old?! I did really like Renie, one of the people Luke met while he was at Millmoor, but I just couldn’t get into the whole storyline she was involved in. Silyen, the youngest of the Jardine brothers, was probably the most interesting character, but unfortunately we barely ever actually got to see him, and so little was explained that I never had any idea what he was doing.

Plot-wise, I really struggled to believe the world the characters lived in. First, I didn’t get why everyone didn’t just do their slavedays when they were really old and had already lived their lives. Was there some kind of punishment for their families for not finishing them? It wasn’t explained. Second, I was confused as to how slavedays were viewed globally? Other societies in the world were not even communicating with Britain because of them, so surely this meant countries with slavedays and countries without them were hostile towards each other? Were they at war/in conflict? How did trade work between them? How did such differences develop in the first place (I really, really wanted more backstory)? As some countries had no slavedays, were there any known rebel groups acting against the system in the countries that did? It didn’t seem like it, but then after abolition was proposed, people started taking action? There was no information on any of this, and in my opinion, the world-building was all a bit convoluted. Obviously as readers, we understood how horrific this society was, but the history of how it came to be was sort of brushed over in the book and I was left wondering how things were in the terrible state they were in (there was some brief explanation of a war and some historical figures that came up with these rules, but it wasn't enough). Another thing was that the Equals’ powers (or Skills) were not explored at all – after reading the book, I still don’t understand how they work. I suppose the next book could explain all of this in more detail, but I felt I was missing out by not understanding in this book. There were some parts I did enjoy (the story with the Dog Man, Luke trying to rally support for abolition). The ending was also surprising, and I have to admit, I was interested to find out what would happen to those characters involved. However, because the rest of the book was so difficult to get through, I can’t really see myself reading the sequel.

Overall, I didn’t like this book. I’d recommend borrowing it from the library first, or a friend, if you want to read it. Perhaps you will enjoy it more than I did - most other people have!