Nemo @ The Moonlight Library

Nemo @ The Moonlight Library

I primarily read contemporary YA and spec fic with a love for those fantasy stories involving girls discovering their power.

Review
4 Stars
Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian
Ash Princess - Laura Sebastian-Coleman

Ash Princess is a story that I think was partly inspired by Sansa Stark in season 2-4 of Game of Thrones: our heroine, Theodosia, is the daughter of a murdered queen being raised in the court of her enemy. Like Sansa, she has red hair, the queen calls her ‘little (animal)’, she is beaten mercilessly and punished for the actions of her people, and her best friend wants to marry the prince. Like Sansa, Theodosia, renamed Thora by her cruel captor, knows that she has to placate the tyrant to survive, and that sometimes means doing nothing but smiling prettily and accepting the abuse.

 

 

I have been wanting to read, very specifically, a book about a princess being raised in her enemy’s court for some time now, and even though I built this book up in my head, I was not disappointed.

 

My favourite parts were when Theo was facing off against the Kaiser (king), and he was being creepy or cruel and she knew it, and she knew that she had to placate him by smiling and acting simple and grateful for every little thing, even though she was vastly more intelligent than she acted. She was manipulative with every character she met, and I loved that about her. I loved seeing her thought process and insight with her manipulation of the prinz (prince). She knew what he wanted, she knew what the Kaiser wanted, she even knew what her allies wanted, and she was able to provide that and play the part of a damsel, a plaything, or a queen, without losing herself or sight of her own goals. I loved the twist in the relationship with Theo’s best friend, and I don’t want to spoil what happens because it was really cool experiencing that myself.

 

 

Another thing I really loved was the depiction of the Kalovaxian’s cultural appropriation of Astrean culture. They use Astrean spirit gems not as revered magical devices, but as gaudy jewellery. They dress in Astrean fashion and eat Astrean food while the rest of Theo’s people are enslaved and murdered. Theo reflects on how they ‘enjoy’ Astrean things while Theo herself is not allowed to be any part Astrean, with her language, religion, and (the appearance of) her loyalty forcibly replaced by others.

 

Within YA fantasy, there is a lot of books now, in the last few years, and due to release in the next few years that are about young females, sometimes royalty, accessing their power and magic. It’ something that I really love reading about. In that way, Ash Princess is ‘just another’ one of these many books, where the young girl comes of age and discovers her own power along the way. Ash Princess differs from these other fantasy novels by giving us a heroine who is probably more insightful than a lot of others I’ve read. She doesn’t make a lot of stupid or rash decisions, and she’s adept at manipulating. There’s also vivid descriptions of what life is like for those enslaved by Theo’s captors, and a lot of violence.

 

However, there were a couple of things I wasn’t a big fan of. I felt that her relationship with the Prinz was organic, but I felt that the other corner of the supposed love triangle, with the character Blaise, was forced. I didn’t like Theo reflecting on her feelings for Blaise when he clearly didn’t have any for her but still acted like a jealous boyfriend when it suited the plot. I mean, just because you kiss someone doesn’t mean you’re in love, right? So it’s a love triangle without being a love triangle. Not that there’s anything wrong with love triangles!

 

I also felt like there was always a promise of Theo having fire magic, especially since she responded so vividly to the fire gems, but she never explored or even thought about exploring this, even when she was clearly the fourth piece in the little elemental-theme resistance. There was the tantalising promise and then nothing.

 

The other thing I didn’t like was the ending. I felt like there was a big showdown that I was excited for, but then after that the narrative fizzled like a balloon with a hole in it. While I didn’t necessarily need something as big as a battle, I did want more than what was provided. It was the definition of anti-climactic, and it felt like a letdown after all of the drama and violence. I felt like the revelation at the very end didn’t really make up for the lack of drama and conflict during what should have been the climax. I felt like the anti-climax was too busy setting up for the sequel than wrapping up its own ends and providing a complete and satisfying story. This left me unengaged enough to want to read more about Theo in her next novel.

 

I received this book for free from Pan MacMillan in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review
4 Stars
Quidditch Through The Ages by JK Rowling - Audiobook read by Andrew Lincoln
Quidditch Through the Ages - J.K. Rowling

Quidditch Through the Ages is isn’t exactly fiction in the sense of telling a story: it’s the fictional history of the very old, very traditional, and very popular magical sport on flying broomsticks conjured up for JK Rowling’s famous Harry Potter series. The sport itself consists of 7 wizards and witches per team, with your typical goalie/keeper, three chasers, two defenders/beaters, and one very special position called the Seeker which is basically Rowling’s way of making Harrry Potter the most interesting and special and remarkable of all wizards in his year, because although he’s basically a skinny runt orphan in glasses he is now also a jock.

 

Seriously the position of Seeker is purely to make Harry the most important member on the team, because they don’t do anything except catch the elusive Golden Snitch and win 150 points, ending the game, but can you even imagine having a basketball team or a football team where one player doesn’t actually play as part of the team, is responsible for ending the match, and gets all the glory? Not very sportsmanlike, but then again, the wizarding community is very strange.

 

It was interesting to hear about the very beginnings of the game and how it evolved, how the beaters and bludgers were introduced and then the utterly ridiculous position of Seeker. I was intrigued by the thorough history by the pseudo-author Kennilworthy Wisp and his great skill at research and ability to access rare information… in this imaginary world of Harry Potter, that is…

 

The audiobook itself was very good, with sound effects used to great effect to enhance the narrative. Andrew Lincoln did a fine job narrating, and even taking on different accents and voices for the different characters quoted.

 

Also added in was some bonus content for the 2014 Quidditch World Cup which I found very amusing, ‘written’ by Ginny Potter, with a commentary on the Final including Rita Skeeter. The whole thing ended up being very exciting and sounding like a real sporting match.

 

I really wish Rowling would write one for 2018, and if she has, can someone link it to me? All I can find when I google for it is the stupid sport muggles play running on the ground with broomsticks between their legs which Albus Dumbledore himself said was incredibly imbecilic and should not, under any circumstances, be played.

 

Stupid muggles.

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
5 Stars
The Scorpio Races galloped all over me and left me for dead
The Scorpio Races - Maggie Stiefvater, Fiona Hardingham, Steve West, Scholastic Audio

It’s not often I can say there isn’t a single thing I dislike about a book. Please note that I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham.

 

THINGS I LIKED:

 

The setting
Is it Scottish, is it Irish? Is it a little of both? I’m not sure.

 

The atmosphere
Very gloomy and oppressive. Reminded me of the north of England, where I lived for a couple of years. I also get the whole ‘living on an island lots of people want to leave’ thing.

 

The time period
Definitely set before contemporary times, due to the lack of modern technology like cell phones. I originally thought maybe it’s set in the 60s or 70s but it might have been as early as the 40s or 50s, when men still hated women doing anything they did.

 

The writing
Normally I’m not a big fan of present tense point of view, but for some reason, it worked really well in The Scorpio Races. Shorter chapters meant less exhaustion from reading (in my case, listening). Switching between Puck and Sean might have been harder while reading, because their narrative voices and actions (both preparing from this race) were basically the same, but in the audiobook form it worked.

 

Puck
Not the easiest character to like, but you have to admire her. She’s brash, snappy, and constantly irritated, all vinegar and no sugar, though she tries, and is determined and full of love and loyalty to her family and her island. Not someone I could be friends with, but someone I would admire from a distance.

 

Sean
Wonderful in the way only a book boyfriend can be without being a book boyfriend. His stillness, confidence, and sheer love for his flesh-eating water horse floored me.

 

The friendship
I wouldn’t call it a romance, though Maggie does, albeit a romance without much kissing. But I loved the slow burn, all the way through from the awkward fumblings of the early friendship to the heightened awareness of each other, to the fact that everyone else could see it but them. I think I may have liked it even better if nothing had happened and it had remained platonic, or left with a promise of something after the book ended, but this is YA and that would have caused a riot, so I understand why it had to be the way it was.

 

The bad guys
Everyone was out for themselves on this tiny island. It was believable.

 

The capaill uisce
They weren’t good or bad, they just were. They were a force of nature. A storm that brings down your house isn’t evil, it just is.

 

Dove
Just Dove.

 

THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE

 

The female narrator
Seemed to have taken lessons from William Shatner and paused in places where pausing was not necessary.

 

The male narrator
Sounded way too old to be nineteen year old Sean, but Maggie liked him, so what do I know?

 


Basically I think this book could have been perfect and man, I would love so much to see a TV miniseries adaptation. I’d love to see the horses leapt out of the water still as water and then kind of shimmer and shift into regular horse colours, or maybe non-regular horse colours, yeah that would be cool and whimsical.

Review
5 Stars
Ice Wolves by Amie Kaufman
Ice Wolves - Amie Kaufman

Ice Wolves is the story of 12-year-old orphaned homeless boy Anders who, upon finding he can transform into an ice wolf, is separated from his twin sister Rayna, who transforms into the ice wolves’ bitter enemy the scorch dragon.

 

I didn’t know what to expect going in to this. I’ve never read an Amie Kaufman book before, and this is middle-grade as well when I normally read YA, but I was immediately drawn to the use of elemental magic combined with shapeshifting. I thought we would see the story from both the twins’ points of view, as you probably would in a YA novel, but this stuck with Anders as the single protagonist and it worked really well.

 

Anders starts off as a shy beta twin, used to rambunctious, confident Rayna taking charge, but once she’s gone, kidnapped by dragons, he quickly plots to save her, and that involves enrolling at Ulfer Academy, the home/barracks of the ice wolves, and becoming part of their pack. This means that the plot, apart from Anders trying to figure out how to save Rayna, also consisted of boarding school-type tropes such as shared dorm rooms, combat and history classes, revered professors, and communal eating. I really enjoyed this aspect, and I loved seeing Anders growing as an individual as opposed to one half of a set of twins. He really came into his own, made his own choices and his own friends.

 

One thing I would like to mention is the casual approach to gender and sexuality. Kaufman mentions that one highly regarded female professor was married to a woman, and one of Anders’ fellow first years is gender neutral, using the term ‘they’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’, which I’ve never come across in a novel not trying to make a point about gender identity. It was cool to see that dropped casually into not only a fantasy novel but one aimed at a middle-grade audience. Anders also makes a strong friendship with a female student, with no hinting of romance, and the first years share mixed-gender dorm rooms.

 

I liked how Kaufman revealed the world lore, with the ice wolves and scorch dragons, and kids at the Academy travelling from all over the country to attend. There was even a character from the territory of the thunder lions who was a wolf instead, so I’m hoping to see more of the other elemental shapeshifters in future novels.

 

I’m not sure what the future holds for this series but I am definitely invested and I hope to see lots more books in this world.

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
3 Stars
This Little Mermaid Prequel is Delightfully Wicked-esque
Sea Witch - Sarah Henning

Sea Witch was marketed as a prequel to The Little Mermaid meets Wicked, and since I love both, I immediately requested to read and review this. It’s the story of Evie, a young Danish girl secretly a witch, and what she’ll do to save the people she loves. If you know either The Little Mermaid (both the Disney version, the original Hans Christian Anderson tale) or Wicked, you’ll recognise the tributes to both within the narrative, although it’s all weaved together by elements of originality. It’s also got a wicked twist that’s worth reading even if leading up to the twist is a little frustrating.

 

What I found frustrating is 

that Evie’s never really sure if her magic works or not. Her spells almost feel like ritual superstition. That is until all of a sudden yes, her magic works in spectacular ways, but only with an audience that will threaten her life. It was frustrating to read that Evie may or may not have been any good at magic except when she needed to be exceptional. She constantly regretted not training more but managed to cast powerful spells when needed. I found the lack of consistency frustrating. Where did her sudden confidence come from? Is she supremely gifted or just lucky?

(show spoiler)

 

 

I really liked the other characters in the novel, specifically Nik and the mysterious girl Evie vows to help. I appreciated how much effort the author put into developing Evie’s friendships with these two characters. It was nice to see a boy-girl friendship untainted by romance but with the interesting twist of them also increasingly aware of becoming grown up, and the added awkwardness between them as Nik was pressured into finding a bride that could in no way be Evie.

 

The worldbuilding was fine, if a big vague. I loved how everything revolved around the ocean and the Danes revered it as almost sentient. The setting, on the other hand, was extraordinarily vivid. I could almost smell the fish, feel the ocean, the storms, the rocking of the ships.

 

The best thing I can say about this book is that the payoff is worth it. It opens with a prologue that doesn’t really seem significant until quite far into the novel. I was constantly thinking to myself, How is this prologue relevant? In the end, it was very relevant, and also kind of awesome, but I had to read almost the whole novel to get to the pay off.

 

Which is, I know, often the point of most novels, but the point here that I want to reinforce is this: do not give up on this novel if you are feeling frustrated by the slow pace or a plot where you feel not much is happening. The focus to me felt much more on the friendship between the main characters, so sometimes it felt like there wasn’t a lot going on, especially in the middle part. But it’s worth it in the end.

Review
5 Stars
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Dread Nation - Justina Ireland

Dread Nation is an alternate history where in the immediate aftermath of Gettysburg, the dead rose and started eating the living. This threw the young United States into disarray, and in a panic the white folk forced Native Americans and African Americans to attend government-funded combat schools so that they would fight the shambling undead to protect the white folk. Jane is one such girl, a young lady on the verge of womanhood, daughter of the richest woman in Kentucky, but also half black.

 

The book is split into two parts: the first takes place at Miss Preston’s, a school of combat for ‘Negroes’. Jane McKeane is one of the best, a competent, intelligent fighter who wants to prove herself and return to her mother’s tobacco plantation. The world is overrun with shamblers and every residential habitat is behind some kind of protection: bobbed wire fences, walls that need guarding. But the shamblers are getting worse, and people are disappearing. This leads to the second half of the book where Jane and Katherine are taken against their will to a town called Summerland, a family-run town where the preacher and sheriff rule as religious zealots and dictators.

 

This isn’t the kind of book where Jane sucks at everything and needs to be trained: she’s just about to graduate and is a competent, experienced warrior. A ferocious fighter, with instinctive reactions and a sassy mouth, Jane McKeane is a wonderful heroine to spend time with. She’s caring, a natural leader, and self-aware enough to know that she’s incredibly jealous of the prettiest girl in school, a girl pale enough to pass for white named Katherine whose relationship with Jane, over the course of the books, evolves from rivals who can’t stand each other to something akin to friendship. It’s one of the best aspects of the book. Katherine is more concerned with fashion and finds her appearance a curse, whereas Jane recognises it as just another weapon.

 

Quite a lot of the book is dedicated to world building: reinforcing the status between white folk and people of colour, and learning about the shambler plague. What seems confronting to me, an atheist who believes in racial equality, is seeing the way Jane and her peers are regarded by the wider world. Jane often plays the role of a ‘dumb Negro servant’ to get what she wants: giving people what they think they want is a weapon of hers. She faces religious persecution and racial persecution and the whole thing is, to me, very confronting, Author Justina Ireland said she was inspired by the murder of an African American teen by white police officers, and even though I find a lot of the language and beliefs in the book confronting, I had to keep reminding myself that this is actually how people were treated and in some cases are still treated today, one hundred and fifty years after the alternate history begins.

 

Even after reading an entire book where most of the white people are racist, some of the people of colour prefer the subjugation, and almost everyone is called Negro and other confronting racial slurs, I’m still uncomfortable writing it myself, even in the context of this review.

 

Although this book is an alternate history, it has major crossover appeal for dystopian fans. I enjoyed Dread Nation a ridiculous amount, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoyed similar stories like Vampire Academy, where the dhampirs are second class citizens guarding the more valued Moroi, and any stories where women just plain kick butt, like The Hunger Games and Divergent.

 

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review
2.5 Stars
'In Her Skin' got under my skin - and not in a good way
In Her Skin - Kim Savage

In Her Skin is the third novel from YA author Kim Savage, and centres on the story of a young homeless girl who takes on the identity of a missing schoolgirl in order to live with ‘family friends’ and get off the street. But her new home life may be more complicated than she imagined.

 

At first I thought In Her Skin was going to be a magical realism book, because it opened with the suggestion that Jo, our homeless con, could ‘take on’ the persona and characteristics of those she was imitating. For example, when she played a blind girl it actually affected her vision. This suggestion seemed to have been abandoned pretty early on in the book as Jo wasn’t any better at pretending to be missing girl Vivi than anyone else would have been. Pretty early on there were hints dropped that maybe Vivi’s disappearance wasn’t the way it was sold to the authorities, comparing her with the real-life case of Madeleine McCann, who allegedly also disappeared from an unsupervised room while her parents dined at a nearby restaurant. This meant that not only was the major conflict the fact that Jo was conning everyone into believing she was Vivi, but the second major conflict was ‘what actually happened to Vivi?’

 

I wasn’t a huge fan of the characters in this book. Jo seemed really bland, almost lacking in personality. For someone who was living on the streets and stealing identities, she was the good girl foil to reckless, heartless, manipulative Temple, Jo’s now adopted sister. It was almost like it might have been hard enough to get the audience to like a homeless con pretending to be a missing girl with dead parents, so Savage made her a ‘good girl’ who was afraid to break the rules. Of course, Jo’s biggest fear was that she would be found out and made homeless again, so she left behind her prostitute boyfriend Wolf without even a goodbye. My biggest issue was the fact that Jo was still living in the same city where she had already established herself as Jo, so not only could Wolf identify her, but so could people like the cops or welfare workers, but that was never a real concern.

 

I sound like I didn’t enjoy this book, but that’s not true. In truth, the book was just kind of blah. I certainly didn’t hate it or find it frustrating like Beautiful Broken Girls, and Temple was a fun, unhinged character to read about, but I really couldn’t say that I liked the book, even though I did enjoy Jo’s realisation that maybe her life was in danger. I also really liked reading about Temple’s parents but I think it might even be more enjoyable to re-read once the plot twist is discovered.

 

I think part of my frustration largely stems from reading an ARC that was nowhere near ready to be released to a reviewing audience, because there were so many words that should have been deleted to help a basic understanding. I won’t take any direct quotes because I did read an ARC but they were, for example, along the lines of ‘I walked rain down the street’ or ‘The small room right was painted purple’ or weird stuff like that, just random words in the middle of sentences that left me struggling to find the meaning. The editing clearly still had a long way to go, including proper nouns in some cases. It wasn’t on every page, or even every chapter, but enough to notice and get frustrated at.

I really loved Savage’s After the Woods, I was disenchanted with Beautiful Broken Girls, and I haven’t been convinced by In Her Skin, although I do think there is an audience for this book that maybe I’m just not a part of.

 

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review
5 Stars
The Queen's Rising by Rebecca Ross
The Queen's Rising - Rebecca Ross

The Queen's Rising is a beautiful and imaginative story about Brienna, a young woman torn between identities, and the journey she takes to help reclaim her heritage.

The tale starts in a kind of quasi-French or other Western European Rennaissance-era kind of place where a very describable goal for children and young people is to 'passion' in a particular school: art, wit, dramatics, music, or knowledge. To do so, children must become 'ardens', attend Houses and train at an average of seven years with a Master or 'ariels'. Then they may graduate by receiving a cloak, find a patron, and continue to pursue their passion. I loved this worldbuilding, I just felt so at home with everything Brienna was learning. Brienna joins Magnolia House, but as she is unable to find a passion she can truly excel at she settles on knowledge, and when she is seventeen she finds it difficult to secure a patron until along comes someone who can help with the mysterious visions she has been experiencing. This patron leads her into a war for the throne of the neighbouring land, from which Brienna's absent father hails, and I think it's more based on the medieval Celts, with women warriors and woad and Irish-Gaelic inspired names.

I think the best thing about this book is the beautiful word choices Ross uses. Whenever there is a chance to use a bland description or a truly beautiful one, Ross manages to grab the beautiful description and wrangle it into her book. Brienna herself was a brave, resourceful character who worked hard to uncover the mysteries surrounding herself and help the plot move along. I loved the time spent in Magnolia House with her arden-sisters and the slow introduction made to the incredible worldbuilding in that respect. Magnolia House was almost like a boarding house crossed with a University and a distinct European feel to it. Think Girl with a Pearl Earring or The Merchant of Venice.  I really hope the next books in the series follow Brienna's arden-sisters and we get to see more of this kingdom.

The second half of the book takes place primarily in Maevana, a queen's realm currently being ruled by a cruel king, and Brienna is the answer the rebels have been looking for. Using a disguise, she infiltrates the king's court in an attempt to recover some lost property that will set the real queen back on the throne. This half of the book almost forgets about Brienna's time at Magnolia and turns into a very typical, predictable YA fantasy adventure. Not that there's anything wrong with that! I've simply read enough of these types of stories to know where it's going to go. I still enjoyed it, but I think since the Magnolia House half to me seemed more original and inventive, I liked the worldbuilding better in the first half. The second half, like I said, was more of an adventure that the first half was leading up to, even though they take place in two very different settings.

I do have two issues with the book. Brienna trains for a year with each ariel before she settles on knowledge as her passion, and she only has three years to master it. This means that she’s had some training in music, art, wit and dramatics, and I was really hoping that that training might come in handy during her subterfuge. Yet instead of any of her time at Magnolia being of use, the book is basically split into two parts: Magnolia and post-Magnolia, and it almost seems as if they have nothing in common. Brienna learns to swordfight post-Magnolia, and that comes in handy, but she doesn’t have to use her passion training at all. I think part of the reason why is because she kind of sucked at them, but she doesn’t even really use her expanded knowledge to help her succeed in her mission, so it feels a little disjointed.

The other issue I have with the book is that while there is conflict in that Brienna has a goal and she keeps getting hurdles put in the way, she clears these hurdles rather easily. She’s smart and can come up with solutions to her problems but I never really felt like Ross took the worst thing that could happen to her. It wasn’t exactly helicopter authoring in that Ross put Brienna in bad situations then lifted her out again, just that, for example, when Brienna was risking her life and doing things she shouldn’t be doing, she never got caught by the bad guys, even though I really hoped that was where it was leading.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed The Queen's Rising, with its gorgeous writing and creative and innovative worldbuilding. While I do think the entire story is self-contained and makes an excellent stand-alone, I would also like the next books in the series to focus on Brienna's arden-sisters and their adventures, rather than staying with Brienna and whatever she does next. I guess I'll have to wait and see!

 

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review
5 Stars
Goodbye Perfect by Sara Barnard Was Actually Perfect
Goodbye, Perfect - Sara Barnard

Goodbye, Perfect is the story of what happens to those left behind when an A grade ‘good’ schoolgirl runs off with her music teacher.

 

I completely adore Sara Barnard’s writing. I asked to be a part of the blog tour because I adored Beautiful Broken Things so much I sobbed into my pillow when I finished it. My copy of Goodbye, Perfect was sitting next to my computer as I was waiting for something to load, and I picked it up just to have a quick flick through, read the first page, and was instantly hooked. I devoured it over the next 24 hours. I haven’t been reading much lately, and I had honestly forgotten the joy that a damn good book can give.

 

It’s not just that Barnard has a wonderful grasp on how teenagers talk - to each other, to adults, to themselves - but her characters are so three dimensional and I recognise so much of my own life in them. I think that’s why they touch me so much. I could totally identify people from my teen years in the book, and I think Eden’s relationship with her boyfriend Connor was not exactly sweet, but certainly comforting and incredibly real, although Connor does seem particularly mature in response to his on personal circumstances, in comparison to teen boys I knew.

 

I really liked that the question in the book wasn’t really about Bonnie, the ‘good girl’, and whether or not she really was in love with a man almost twice her age, and whether or not he really was in love with her. The real point of the book was the impact Bonnie’s departure made on those left behind and the position it left Eden in. Eden had a very undeserved bad reputation courtesy of being adopted when she was nine years old, and Bonnie had a good one. Eden was the brash, nonacademic, reckless one and Bonnie was the polite, straight A, measured one. Their friendship cemented on the fact that Bonnie grounded Eden and Eden helped Bonnie loosen up. Bonnie's actions shook her world and Eden was there to witness it.

 

What really helped me fall even more deeply in love with this book is the layout. There’s not exactly chapters, but it’s divided into the days Bonnie is missing. At the end of these, Eden recaps conversations that took on another meaning after Bonnie left. Text messages and Whatsapp messages are formatted differently. Everything looked so great and I thought it was a really smart and charming way to lay out the contents of the book.

I can’t pinpoint a favourite part of the book because there were just too many, but I’ll mention some things I really loved: Eden’s exploration into what family means when you’re adopted; her relationship with Valerie, her adoptive big sister; the way she looked after both her own and Bonnie’s little sisters; the relationship with Connor; Eden’s mouthiness and how everyone was kind of exasperated with her swearing but she kept doing it; stereotypes of teen girls and reputations and broken homes and perfect lives. In fact, it was Eden who so rightfully pointed out that if Eden’s such a bad girl and if Bonnie’s so good, why was Bonnie the one that ran away, right before final exams?

 

When I read Beautiful Broken Girls I wondered if it was just going to be it for me, if Barnard was capable of writing another book so perfect and that touches me unlike any other I’ve read before. I did skip over A Quiet Kind of Thunder because I thought it was more about a hetero romance than strong (British) teenage female friendship, which I think Barnard tackles and showcases unlike anyone else. But since Barnard has now managed to hit the ball out of the park twice for me, I am going to read A Quiet Kind of Thunder, and I hope I adore it as much as I have fallen deeply in love with both Beautiful Broken Things and Goodbye, Perfect.

 

I received this book for free from Pan MacMillan in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review
4 Stars
Avenged by Amy Tintera
Avenged (Ruined) - Amy Tintera

I absolutely adored Ruined, the first book in this series, so when Avenged came up on Edelweiss to review, I jumped at the chance.

 

That was in 2016, ahead of the May 2017 release date.

 

That was before my life changed forever and I only read 12 books in 2017. Unfortunately Ruined was not one of them.

 

But with a fresh start in 2018, I picked Ruined up again and was ready to delve back into the world of violence, magic, royalty, legacy, swoony romance, and a strong bond between sisters.

 

 

I enjoyed Avenged while I was reading it, but it didn't have the desperate need to turn the page and find out what happened next that Ruined did. I enjoyed the new characters, the development of the old, and the never-ending violence that happened, especially when Olivia was nearby. I really loved how we got to see some points of view from Olivia and Aren. I loved watching Aren go from being the perfect Ruined warrior to something a little more, and questioning his loyalties. I really loved how everyone each had their own agendas which clashed and caused the plot to move forward in an organic way.

 

 

However there was something that was missing, and I'm not quite sure what. The plot, perhaps, was a little less exciting that Em's plan to infiltrate the enemy royal house by impersonating a foreign princess and marrying the prince as she did in Ruined. There seemed to be a lot of travel involved in this one, which on the one hand was great as we got to see other kingdoms, but on the other hand, it was travelling. The stakes didn't seem to be quite as high in this book. It seemed that Em was almost invincible: the Lerans won't hurt her, the Olsans wont hurt her, the Ruined won't hurt her... even though she did really risky things, it was more risking the chance for peace than her own life.

 

Maybe I just miss the Em who murdered a princess in cold blood on the opening pages of Ruined.

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There's an extension built for Chrome and coming soon to Firefox that every book blogger should know about.

 

It's called Library Extension.

 

What it does is add a little box when you're browsing book pages on Amazon or Goodreads and tells you whether or not your local library (whatever library you use) or has a copy of that book.

 

Then you can click on through straight to the library's book page.

 

On Amazon the box appears above the'add to cart' box.

 

On Goodreads it appears under the book description.

 

I've been using it for a couple of weeks now and it's really awesome. It saves time to manually look up the book on your library's page and it will no doubt save the moolah and shelf space.

 

It only works with a limited number of countries, but you have to select yours to make it work anyway. I live in the arse end of nowhere and it even works with my library.

 

Seriously people, get it now. It's totally awesome.

Review
4 Stars
Assassin's Gambit by Amy Raby
Assassin's Gambit - Amy Raby

This isn't my usual YA, but I did enter Goodreads First Reads competition to win it, and I did really want to read it. Oh my god, I took FOREVER to read this book but I swear it's not a reflection on the book's quality, believe me! I had a really good time when I was reading this book, I've just had THE WORST YEAR for reading. I started reading this is August 2016 after winning it on Goodreads in 2014 (BAD NEMO) and my other review books kept getting in the way, then this year happened and my life went to hell in a hand basket, but when I did have the energy to read this book I adored the chemistry between the PTSD-suffering sex assassin and the sexy, sensitive disabled ruler she's sent to murder. So let me tell you a bit about it.

 

Vitala is half Kjallan and half Riorcan, and her loyalties lie with Riorca, a country under the oppressive rule of the Kjallan emperor. Using her looks and skills at a chess-like game called Cataranga, Vitala infiltrates the emperor's inner circle and is about to use the only magic that can kill the magically-protected emperor when he is betrayed by an underling. Now Lucien is at her mercy, Vitala realises that it's in Riorca's best interest to get Lucien back on the throne, and through trials, politics, and acts of war with a sprinkling of romance, the two attempt to do just that.

 

Vitala was an interesting heroine. A lot of people complain about how she didn't kill her mark, but she was smart enough to questions her orders and not follow them blindly, finding another way to attempt peace and freedom for her people. Also, where is the conflict if you write "After years of training, she killed her target, and she was OK with that, the end"? She suffers from PTSD due to her training and starts the novel off thinking sex is just a tool to help her kill her marks. With Lucien's help, she comes to realise sex is so much more.

 

Lucien is a disabled man in an alpha male's role, and learning to come to terms with his  leadership in a society that celebrates physical prowess over intelligence, skill and cunning. Lucien is far more sensitive and gentle than the emperor whose throne he inherited, but still carries his authority, and as Vitala discovers this, she figures out he's not the tyrant she's been led to believe he is. Lucien has his own troubles to deal with and doesn't always treat Vitala with the patience and respect she deserves, but they tackle their conflicts in the best way they're equipped to.

 

I liked the writing. I didn't find it too flowery or sparse. I did have problems remembering all of the world building but I read this over the course of more than a year (which was entirely my own fault) and I think if someone read it faster they could probably do a better job of remembering ranks and countries and all that stuff. I found Vitala's PTSD very believable, and I know firsthand what PTSD is like. I also found Lucien's attitudes refreshing.

 

I don't know if the pacing was my problem because once I was reading it I didn't want to put it down, but equally I had little initiative to pick it back up again. I think since I knew it was always going to be there waiting for me and like most assassin romances the plot was pretty predictable, but I really did enjoy it while I was reading. Vitala and Lucien's chemistry was off the charts and I very nearly dog-eared some pages to re-read at some point (WHO DOG-EARS THEIR PAGES YOU MONSTER?).

 

Overall I think if you're open minded, give the book time to show you that Vitala has PTSD rather than losing patience with her struggle and coping mechanisms (I will mention that she is raped and she tries to dismiss it as a minor discomfort, this is so she can deal with the assault and concentrate on murdering her attacker, not to say that rape is actually a minor discomfort), and realise that it's an assassin romance and the romance is written right there in the blurb, you'll probably enjoy the book as much as I did.

Review
3 Stars
The Afterlife of Holly Chase
The Afterlife of Holly Chase - Cynthia Hand

I wanted to save this review for December but just for now I'll say that I was going to give up on this book at about 20% in because I just couldn't buy the premise, I couldn't suspend my disbelief because I really hate those concepts like Dead Like Me where the character is dead but they have to go on 'living' in the real world and have a shitty job and can't see anyone who might recognise them and I just really hate that concept, I didn't realise how much I hated until I was ready to give up a CYNTHIA HAND book. CYNTHIA HAND. She was on my auto-buy list.

I tried not to take it seriously because someone said this was supposed to be a light, fun book, so I deliberately spoiled the ending which was a twist I didn't see coming, and then I thought I could at least finish it, but even then there were some things that just didn't work even when I knew the ending. Mostly about a different particular character not being whom they seemed to be. And I couldn't buy that Holly was being underpaid in a job she hated but had no choice in doing where she was so important she led her own team but there were so many ways to fail if you didn't put in 100%.

Look, the concept of a company that spends all year investigating their 'Scrooge' so they can perform a personalised Christmas Carol didn't really work either because it tried to be set in the real world with real people using makeup and special effects to play the Ghosts, but there was also an element of magic using time travel and summoning the Marley characters, and I couldn't help but wonder, why isn't the entire thing just magical based? Why is so much of it set in reality? It's a real company with real university graduates doing real engineering and a HR and finance department (why finance? Where are they getting their money from?), and trying to marry the supernatural elements didn't work, because the original Scrooge wouldn't have had all that modern tech stuff, and I just had so many issues with the basic concept. How exactly does one go about getting a job at Project Scrooge? Why have no ex-employees ever spilled the beans about REAL GHOSTS AND TIME TRAVEL?

The best thing going for this book is Holly's narrative voice, littered with pop references and snark and just so spoilt-rich-girl it's wonderful.

Oh look I guess I kind of did review it.

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review
5 Stars
Shattered: The Glass Spare by Lauren DeStefano
The Glass Spare  (Seventh Spare Series, Book 1) - Lauren DeStefano

The Glass Spare tells the fascinating story of a young princess named Wil, the fourth child and only daughter of a powerful and ruthless king, who wants nothing more than to travel the world. When she is attacked she discovers she has the power to turn living things into crystals and gemstones, and she goes off on a journey to cure her curse, only to fall in with the banished prince of a rival kingdom who is determined to save his kingdom from ruin.

 

Wil was a really great character to follow around because she had an actual thought process. She thought about her situations and came up with answers to her obstacles. Although she was fierce and action-oriented, she had a clear and level head and made decisions based on observations and facts rather than simply reacting without thinking. I loved the way she responded to things, like leaping to rescue a damsel in distress, and the care and love she showed to her brothers and mother. Wil, despite being a good person who loves fiercely and genuinely cares for others, thinks she's a monster because of her curse... and then she actually meets one. I look forward to more of the monstrosity vs humanity debate being explored further in the sequel.

 

While I didn't feel distant from Wil and felt the suitable horror when the incident that banished her happened, I did feel a little distance with the supposed romance. I kind of felt like Wil wasn't really into it, and I'll go into that in just a moment. What I do want to mention is the third person narration, which is not my favourite type of narration, did lend itself to the occasional head hopping, and that's why it's not my favourite type of narration. Sometimes we were supposed to be seeing things from Wil's point of view yet we were told what Loom was thinking. That's just about my only negative criticism, though.

 

I want to address the 'romance'. Some have accused this book of being more romance than fantasy and some have accused Wil and Loom of 'insta-love'. I was 60% through when I made a status saying there was absolutely no romance so far. It's pretty much developed from about 70% onwards, so there is NO insta-love. Wil absolutely does NOT love the male character, Loom. It's explained that she is drawn to him, but she never even thinks she's in love, in fact she thinks the exact opposite, that she's NOT in love because she doesn't know what love feels like. SO THERE IS NO INSTA-LOVE. It's also NOT more romance than fantasy because although it was clear Wil and Loom would end up with some kind of feelings for each other (because that is how YA books work, nothing against the author, I think she did a really good job of it all), the book was well past the halfway mark before you even get the hint that Wil might be interested in Loom. Even then, right near the end it's explained why Wil is drawn to Loom and she acknowledges that she's not in love. You can't even tell she's developing an attraction until waaaaay in because she hates him at first: he's keeping her captive and she's literally escaping from him. It certainly isn't instant.

 

The worldbuilding has this fascinating mix of old-school fantasy and almost a steampunk-meets-digital advanced technology. There's dirigibles and solar power and data googles and it's a lovely mess of technologies: Wil's father the king is old school and archaic and won't build proper roads for electric carriages; the closed off Southern kingdom has more advanced technology yet that king's favourite method of execution is the guillotine. I don't think I've ever read a book with this kind of mix of technologies, magic and alchemy and digital and solar power and wind power and just wow, it was so interesting. I'd love to be able to go into this world and see the different technology the different islands have developed, and that obviously it's all come together because of trade and advancement.

 

I've had a really bad reading year due to personal issues and although this book was over 400 pages, when I did pick it up my reading seemed to go really quickly and I'd pass 5% of my ebook without even noticing. The pace wasn't neck-snappingly fast but it was brisk enough to keep me interested for longer periods of time including staying up til midnight to finish. It only took me a couple of weeks to read this and in comparison I've been reading another book for well over a year now. I loved it and I'm keen to receive the sequel. Thank you Lauren for writing a story about a magical princess.

 

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

How is everyone?

I miss you guys.

 

Life is still sucking.

 

Reading is still sucking.

 

But I'm positive about the future and I know I'll come back when all this shit has settled down. I'll be lucky if I even read 10 books this year.

 

On the positive side, if anyone remembers about a year ago I nearly killed myself and my husband in a car crash when I fell asleep at the wheel. Well, I have treatment for my sleep apnea now and I'm a lot better: no more falling asleep during the day, no more naps, I get decent rest, and I don't even need caffeine to try to help me focus anymore.

 

Tell me the most recent interesting thing about your life!

 

Review
4 Stars
Before She Ignites was a slow burn but worth it
Before She Ignites (Fallen Isles) - Jodi Meadows

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

A spoiled, privileged, none-too-smart girl with a mental illness is thrown into the most awful of jails and must content with a cruel prison guard who is determined to uncover the secrets that put her there.

 

Mira is the Hopebearer, nothing more than a pretty face and a voice for the Luminary Council to placate their citizens due to a treaty named after her. Mira holds no real power, and she discovers this when she uncovers something she shouldn’t have and tries to do the right thing, culminating with her being tossed into an underground jail known as the Pit. Mira suffers from anxiety and panic attacks which I think are written quite well. She is obsessed with numbers and continues to count throughout the novel, without her illness being magically cured by the end. She spends most of the novel in the jail, and we see the lead-up to her imprisonment through flashbacks as she slowly reveals her secrets to us and to a cruel guard determined to make her like even more miserable.

 

Meadows shows her skills as a writer by slowly uncovering the truth not only about why Mira was thrown in jail, but about the people who put her there. I don’t really want to say much else because it’s better to go into this novel unspoiled and reveal it for yourself. I really enjoyed all aspects, especially as Mira began to realise her world was not the way she thought it was. She goes from a soft-skinned pawn to a stronger young woman who figures out that although she has been in a gilded cage her entire life, her voice can be used as a weapon.

 

The use of short flashback scenes cut between the current timeline of Mira in prison helps to not only reveal what led to her demise, but also develop the characters of her best friends and to see more of the dragons that Mira loves so much. It creates a kind of cliffhanger at the end of every chapter: You want to know what’s going to happen next in the current timeline but you also want to see more of Mira’s life pre-prison. You really get the sense of Mira’s privileged lifestyle as she bemoans all of the luxuries she’s missing in prison and her obsession with food is completely understandable when she is starved and tortured.

 

I think my only problem with this novel is that Mira spends an awful lot of time in prison and stubbornly doesn’t spill her secret the first chance she is given. I don’t really understand why she keeps the secret for so long. I feel that if I were in her position I’d be telling everyone I could. The more people that know, the less the bad guys can get away with what they’re doing. However, it’s a very small issue and the rest of the novel is thoroughly enjoyable. I’m really looking forward to the sequels.

My name is Nemo.

By day I manage a Commonwealth office, by night I turn into a vigilante kitten snuggler.

 

"A good book resting unopened in its slot on a shelf, full of majestic potentiality, is the most comforting sort of intellectual wallpaper."

- David Quammen