Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Blog Tour: Review of The Caged Queen by Kristen Ciccarelli

Hi everyone! Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Caged Queen, the second book in Kristin Ciccarelli's Iskari series. If you haven't started this series yet, I highly recommend it - it's got dragons, magic, sisters, fighting - all the things I love in one book! On to my review.


The Caged Queen (Iskari #2) by Kristin Ciccarelli
Publisher: Gollancz
Released: 27th September 2018
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
Once there were two sisters born with a bond so strong that it forged them together forever. When they were angry, mirrors shattered, and when they were happy, flowers bloomed. It was a magic they cherished - until the day a terrible accident took Essie's life and trapped her soul in this world.

Dax - the heir to Firgaard's throne - was responsible for the accident. Roa swore to hate him forever. But eight years later he returned, begging for her help. He was determined to dethrone his cruel father, under whose oppressive reign Roa's people had suffered. Roa made him a deal: she'd give him the army he needed if he made her queen.

Together with Dax and his sister, Asha, Roa and her people waged war and deposed a tyrant. But now Asha is on the run, hiding from the price on her head. And Roa is an outlander queen, far from home and married to her enemy. Worst of all: Dax's promises go unfulfilled. Roa's people continue to suffer.

Then a chance to right every wrong arises - an opportunity for Roa to rid herself of this enemy king and rescue her beloved sister. During the Relinquishing, when the spirits of the dead are said to return, Roa can reclaim her sister for good.

All she has to do is kill the king.
(from Goodreads)

I have to admit, upon finding out The Caged Queen was a companion novel, rather than a sequel, I was a bit concerned that I wouldn't enjoy it as much as book one - I really loved the characters from the first book, especially Asha. However, I was proven wrong because The Caged Queen is every bit as good as The Last Namsara, and a fantastic continuation of the series.

Roa was the highlight of this book for me. She had married Dax because they had made a deal, and in her eyes, he had not fulfilled his end of the bargain. He was flouncing around flirting with every woman he laid his eyes on, but he was doing nothing to help Roa's people. She was worried that he'd end up even worse than his father and, desperate as she was to bring her sister back to life, she face a lot of difficult ethical questions on what action she should take. I loved seeing Dax from Roa's point of view, how she blamed him for what happened to Essie, how she had no faith in his ability to lead, and the way he changed in her eyes as she learnt more about him and what was going on around her. Above all however, I loved Roa's relationship with her sister Essie. They had been incredibly close when Essie was still alive - and death had done nothing to sever that bond between them. It was so nice to see such a fleshed out sibling relationship, and I think the ending was all the more poignant because of the work that had gone into building the closeness between the characters.

Dax grew on me, just as I suppose was intended. I started off disliking him as much as Roa did, though I knew from book one he wasn't really all that bad. It was his flippant attitude that put me off - but as we learnt more about him, we started to understand why he chose to act that way. He still wasn't my favourite by the end, but I definitely came to respect him more, and again, I really liked his relationship with his sister too. Asha and Torwin did make brief appearances in this book and it was really nice to see them again! 

Plot-wise, this was a slower paced read than The Last Namsara - it was by no means boring, but there was less action, less suspense in every chapter. That being said there was a more subtle tension running throughout the book - what would Roa do? What would be the outcome of her decision? There were so many characters with ulterior motives - it always seems that the humans are more dangerous than the dragons in this world!

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and thought it was a great addition to the series. I shall eagerly await the next book Kristin Ciccarelli writes!


Kristen Ciccarelli hails from Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula where she grew up on her grandfather’s grape farm. She made her living as a baker, a bookseller, and a potter, but now writes books about bloodthirsty dragons, girls wielding really cool weapons, and the transformative power of stories.


Many thanks to Stevie and Gollancz for letting me take part in this blog tour! Make sure to visit the next stops at A Daydreamer's Thoughts, A Dream of Books and The Book Hour tomorrow.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

You gonna break my heart, Covey?

Oh hi there. It's me. Long time no see. Hope you're doing well.

So I've been away awhile, and while I could say I was just busy with work (which is absolutely true, I have been super busy with work), I've also been trying to figure out what to do with my life. There was a point where I was pretty much having an existential crisis every day, and it didn't really make for good blog material.

I've kind of come to a decision, and that decision is to go back to university to study a degree I am actually interested in.

You may remember me blogging through my first degree (you definitely won't remember) but pretty much from the first year of studying Law, I knew I didn't really want to be lawyer.

I think we pick the subjects which determine our entire future far too young. I picked my A-levels at age sixteen, and while I'm sure many sixteen year olds are motivated and have a good head on their shoulders, I was an idiot at sixteen. I had no idea what I wanted, I was basically told to do the subjects I was naturally good at, so that's what I did.

I have regretted it ever since. I have always regretted not pursuing Maths and Physics, and because I didn't have the A-levels, my entire future was restricted.

I have been thinking about this for years. I considered doing an Open University degree, I toyed with teaching myself Maths and Physics A-levels, I thought about doing an Access to Higher Education course.

Every time I chickened out, thinking that I've been out of education too long, I'm not good enough, I won't be able to cope etc. etc.

This year though, I just decided to take the plunge. I applied to a uni through Clearing as a mature student. I got in on a foundation year (which means you cover A-levels basically in year 0 before moving to year 1 which is the normal start of a BSc). My course starts tomorrow.

I am terrified. I am really terrified. As this is my second degree, I am self-funding, which means I am spending all my savings to do this. The consequences of failure are severe.

I also need to find a part-time job asap but it hasn't been easy since I'm still serving my notice period at my old job (if anyone is looking to hire a social media person who specialises in paid social but also has marketing, e-commerce and merchandising experience, hit me up). There's also the fact that I'll probably be the oldest person in my classes, I've been out of education for so long and I'm so rusty - what if I just can't do it? What if this was a terrible life choice?

I don't know what's going to happen. I know what I want, but whether I can achieve it is a whole other story. But that is the decision I've made, and while it's a bit of a crazy (and bloody expensive) one, I honestly think that if I don't even try, I'll always live in regret.

So this is my life now. I'm back to being a broke student again. Back to studying and timetables and exams, after years of being a working professional. It's going to be a big change, and I've basically been trying not to think about it, mostly by re-watching To All the Boys I've Loved Before on Netflix. I've seen it four times, I'm not even joking, it is a masterpiece. Peter Kavinsky? Peter Kavinsky. Plus the beautiful cinematography, Lara Jean's freaking bedroom, Lara Jean's freaking outfits, KITTY, the writing, the acting, the soundtrack - it's near perfect, I tell you, and I am really not the kind of person who says that often. If you haven't seen it (why haven't you seen it? Is it because once you watch it no other romantic comedy will ever again live up to the high expectations this film has created?), go watch it, because the only thing that will disappoint you is that true life is nowhere near as good as this film.

I don't know where my life will end up, whether this degree will be the best or worst decision I've ever made. Much like Lara Jean, I'm kind of just going for it and hoping for the best.

I'm sure I'll blog about it, I have plans (I always have plans). So for now, goodbye, and I'll see you soon. Maybe a year from now I'll be writing another blog post where I have my life figured out (but probably not).

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Three Mini Reviews

This Mortal Coil (This Mortal Coil #1) by Emily Suvada
Publisher: Penguin
Released: 2nd November 2017
My Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
When a lone soldier, Cole, arrives with news of Lachlan Agatta's death, all hope seems lost for Catarina. Her father was the world's leading geneticist, and humanity's best hope of beating a devastating virus. Then, hidden beneath Cole's genehacked enhancements she finds a message of hope: Lachlan created a vaccine.

Only she can find and decrypt it, if she can unravel the clues he left for her. The closer she gets, the more she finds herself at risk from Cartaxus, a shadowy organization with a stranglehold on the world's genetic tech. But it's too late to turn back.

There are three billion lives at stake, two people who can save them, and one final secret that Cat must unlock. A secret that will change everything.
(from Goodreads)

This Mortal Coil had a great premise but there were a few things throughout that stopped this from being more than a three-star book for me.

While I found the story really interesting and engaging (and unpredictable on top of that!), I was confused a lot of the time. That could have just been me reading too fast to really grasp what was going on, as is often the case, but even parts which I went back to reread were a bit unclear, and there was a lot that I felt was never explained.

I also wasn’t a huge fan of Cole and as I’m all about character-driven plots, it made it difficult for me to really care what was happening where he was involved.

I did really like Cat – it couldn’t have been easy for her to realise she’d been lied to over and over again. I was also really concerned this book was going to be standalone (so many things unresolved!) but thankfully, it’s going to be a trilogy, and I will be continuing on with it. Though hopefully in the next book, the phrase “my darling girl” won’t be dropped about a hundred times…

Overall, I did enjoy this book and would pick up the sequel.

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: 2nd January 2018
My Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
(from Goodreads)

The reason behind this rating is Cardan. I didn’t like him. I get what Holly Black was going for and I know he had a secret terrible life and all that, but trying to excuse his appalling behaviour in that way just didn’t cut it for me. It’s going to take a lot more than what we got in this book to change my mind about him, because at this point, I kind of sort of hate him.

Cardan aside, I did enjoy the rest of this book. It was very dark and unforgiving (how messed up is to live with the man who killed your biological father?!), which isn’t unusual for Holly Black, and you’ve got to give it to her for the world-building, which was great. I also really enjoyed the family dynamic between the sisters and while I often questioned Jude’s decisions (why Jude, why), I was always interested to see how she would deal with the situations she ended up in. While there were a few parts I saw coming, I am still very intrigued to see how things unravel after that ending.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read. I’m dithering a bit on whether to pick up the sequel, but I think my intrigue is outweighing my dislike of Cardan. I’m just really interested to see what Holly Black plans to do with his character, and of course, see where she will take the story next.

Royal Bastards (Royal Bastards #1) by Andrew Shvarts
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Released: May 30th 2017
My Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children.

At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children.

Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.

Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.

The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey...
(from Goodreads)

Most of my notes for this book consist of variations of the phrase “ugh, Miles” so from that, it’s probably pretty obvious that Miles was my least favourite character.

Moving swiftly on, I actually quite enjoyed this book. I do agree with others who have said that the modern language used was strange and jarring in this setting, but I kind of got used to it in the end, even if it didn’t make much sense.

I really liked Tilla and didn’t find it hard to sympathise with her situation. Her father was, err, not the best of men, but I could understand why she still felt this need to be loyal to him (even when he totally did not deserve it).

There were parts that were a bit too unbelievable to be anything other than an obvious way increase tension and drive the plot into a certain direction (cough Tilla you couldn’t have just gone to a less public place cough) but the overall storyline kept me engaged and I’ll be picking up the sequel to find out what’s in store for these characters.