"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies...The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R Martin

Sunday, 1 February 2015

January Wrap-Up: A Month in Books!

It's been a pretty slow month, for everything really. January just seemed to drag by and it was a slow month reading wise also. Towards the end of 2014 I seemed to lose my reading mojo and that has rolled over into 2015 by the looks of things. I only managed four books. C'mon, Bec you can do better than that! The books I did manage to read weren't too bad though. I started the year off by reading WILD and this book grew on me as I read on. I loved its sense of adventure and spontaneity; it's impulsive storyline was rather infectious to say the least. Then I dove into SHADOW STUDY one of my most anticipated reads of this year. It was amazing. Not much else to say really. AMAZING. Then I picked up the rather mind boggling THE GHOSTS OF HEAVEN. By golly was it complex and puzzling but intriguing all at the same time. Not quite sure what to make of it but it was good. Then onto another review book - TALON. Not my favourite take on dragons but I was well caught up in the story and kept on the edge of my seat throughout! My favourite read of the month by far was SHADOW STUDY. Thanks Snyder for deciding to continue with this series!

Talon - Julie Kagawa (4*)
Shadow Study - Maria V Snyder (4.5*)
Wild: A Journey From Lost to Found - Cheryl Strayed (4*)
The Ghosts of Heaven - Marcus Sedgwick (3.5*)


The Bone Season - Samantha Shannon

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Shadow Study - Maria V Snyder REVIEW

Published by Mira Ink/Harlequin

When I first heard that Maria V Snyder was releasing another Study series I squealed. I squealed high and loud full of excitement and anticipation, unashamed of my absolute love for her amazing fantasy stories (you should have heard me when I was accepted for this on Netgalley!). SHADOW STUDY was all that I hoped for and more. From the first page I comfortably immersed myself back into the magical world. It was as if I had never left. Yelaena and Valek felt like old friends and we were catching up after some time apart. And boy, what a catching up it was.

This book kicks off straight away and you're thrown into the thick of it from the word go. Yelaena is attacked whilst riding to meet with Valek for a romantic and well needed holiday together. An arrow shaft nicks her shoulder but all seems okay. Phew. But then Valek has to obey orders to return to the Commanders side (after a steamy night together!) and all hell breaks loose. Well, not as dramatic as that but Yelaena develops an extreme fever, changing from hot to cold and back again. Once she overcomes this fever, realisation hits her and smacks her full in the face; she has no magic. Her magic is GONE. She's left vulnerable and potentially weak without her magic, something she has depended on wholeheartedly over the years. And the story just flourishes from that point onward. Valek has to deal with assassination attempts, his job security and trust issues up in Ixia. He also has to deal with the Commanders orders to deal with a smuggling issue, enlisting Ari and Janco and two new characters, Onora and Gerick to sniff out the problem and unearth the smugglers. Meanwhile, Yelaena throws herself into finding answers for her blocked magic and it takes her on one hell of a journey where she meets old friends and comes face to face with old, revenge seeking foes.

I loved how easy it was to dive back in this world with this fantastic set of characters, its political intrigue and undertones of magic and danger. I devoured it in just a few days hungry for more Yelaena, Valek and their complicated but fascinating world. SHADOW STUDY was a fast paced, action packed extravaganza. A strong sense of adventure just permeated throughout. The complication - Yelaena losing her magic - was a genius idea that really added a layer of complexity and suspense to the story. The story flowed naturally and didn’t seem forced at all or as if Snyder was grasping at straws to create another story. No, it was an imaginative and compelling addition to the Study series that had a new, intriguing storyline with some magnificent character development and a spectacular world. Most importantly - SHADOW STUDY was FUN. It's full of humour. It doesn't forget to be light hearted and fun despite its dark and deadly tone.

I loved how the story kept me guessing. Seriously I'd be there making a cup of tea only to cry out "IT'S HER. SHE DID IT" or sit deep in thought trying to figure out the ins and outs of the story. SHADOW STUDY is all consuming, so entrancing and it had me hooked from the start. Now, lets talk about that ending. Talk about a cliffhanger. Those last few words just left me reeling. Having to wait until NEXT YEAR (!!!) for the second book is going to be agony. After finishing a thousand questions instantly popped into my mind; How will this effect things? What will Yelaena and Valek do? Will it have a good/bad impact on their relationship? So many questions and no answers for a year *SIGH*

I know they're fictional. I know they have magic. But the characters come across so REAL. Snyder is a pro when it comes to characerisation, creating realistic individuals that breathe life and soul into the story. They make it come alive with their fierce personalities and passionate natures. I'm so invested in their lives and stories, their problems and secrets. Every laugh, every cry I'm right there besides them experiencing it all. Yelaena and Valek are possibly my two favourite characters of hers (but then there's Avry and Kerrick from the Healer series - argh so hard to choose!) and to embark on another adventure with them was just amazing. The triple perspective was a great idea on Snyder's part. I LOVE Yelaena and her sassy voice, but to get inside Valek's head and bear witness to his thoughts and feelings was great AND then to also read from Janco's perceptive was an added treat.

Valek's chapters were so intriguing. We got to witness his past and how it's shaped and molded him into person that he is today. We get to see through his eyes the events that have made him the dangerous but fiercely loyal Valek, who killed the King and became the Commanders right hand man. We also get to witness the strong ties of his friendship with the Commander, held firm with loyalty and respect; a very, very important relationship in this book. Janco's chapters felt like the light relief of the story as his voice was undoubtedly cheery even in the deadliest of situations. I loved his strong relationship with Ari and their bickering just gave the story that comic relief it needed. Their scenes instantly dispersed any tension and instead filled the story with a light heartedness that was well appreciated. Also his interactions with Onora was hilarious as you see her struggle to contain her utter puzzlement and annoyance towards this sarcastic, cheeky guy. Onora herself was a complete mystery and a definite contender for the most fierce individual in the series (sorry Yelaena!) but I'm still unsure of where her loyalties lie. We got to see Yelaena more vulnerable in this book but it just made her even more determined to prove her worth and search even more fervently for answers. She's such a relatable protagonist and just like many of the characters, I've come to care for her dearly and I'm so excited for whatever is in store for her in the next book!

Ixia and Sitia feel like home. Diving back into this world was so easy and I instantly felt like I was there amongst the green leafy canopy of the forest, smelling the earthy scent of the trees and plants around me; feeling the warm glow of the fire whilst nestled in a chair, brandy in hand listening to the Commander and Valek talk politics; feeling a warm rush of air on horseback as the Avibian plains rushed by - everything was alive and tactile and magical. This world is so real and familiar to me despite being a fictional and fantastical place. That's how good Snyder's world-building and writing is. It's vivid and rich with detail allowing you to experience the world wholeheartedly for yourself. That's the magical part don't you think? Reading some words on pages and imagining such amazing worlds and places as if they were right in front of you. Maria V Snyder, I salute you.

So yeah this book is a strong 4.5* but there were one or two things that played on my mind. The story is engaging, full of intrigue and action but sometimes the fast paced narrative was just that - too fast paced. Don't get me wrong I love how the narrative sped along, taking me on this roller coaster ride but at times it felt like key points and revelations lacked some shock factor as they were thrown into the story without any real build up or suspense. Take the reveal of Yelaena's attacker. I nearly missed it. Seriously it was a real "SAY WHAT?" moment and I had to re-read the section to fully understand what was happening. I want an intense and suspense filled build up and a dramatic revelation that hits me out of nowhere. Although the revelation itself left me reeling. I didn't see that one coming I must say.

ANOTHER THING. Only after reading this did I realise that the Glass trilogy happened before this and it would have been a really good idea if I'd picked that up first. I didn't feel too lost and it isn't absolutely necessary to read it beforehand but I do think it would have helped me with some of the characters and situations to fully comprehend their stories and what was going on. Oh well, it's just an amazing excuse to read it from the beginning starting with the book that propelled me on this journey of magic and intrigue in the first place; Poison Study. A definite win on my part.

SHADOW STUDY was so much fun. Snyder has managed to create a satisfying addition to the previous series and I love the direction that this story has taken. I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book in the series although it seems like light-years away. This book had such an intoxicating and vivid world, a fantastic array of characters and a heart stopping plot. Just knowing that this book is the start of something new, a whole new series has me content for now. I'm so glad Snyder decided to continue on with these beloved characters and I can't wait to see what lies in wait for the characters in the next book. Definitely, definitely pick this book up. Fans of Throne of Glass and especially Poison Study will love this book and I 100% urge you all to give it a read. NOW. 

Saturday, 24 January 2015

I Was Here - Gayle Forman REVIEW

Cody and Meg were inseparable.
Two peas in a pod.
Until . . . they weren’t anymore.

When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.

My Review of I WAS HERE: 

Wow. What a powerful read. Seriously, I WAS HERE was such a thought-provoking, heartfelt read that was bursting with depth and emotion. It deals with such a hard-hitting, subject in a moving and poignant way that really tugs on the heartstrings and messes all your emotions up inside. Reading this book my emotions ranged from sadness to anger to sympathy and disgust. Gayle Forman is the queen of writing books that are roller coaster rides of emotion and I WAS HERE was no exception. Once I'd got on that roller coaster I just didn't want to get off no matter how sad or outraged it made me. I was glued to its pages, like Cody, hungry for answers, the not knowing what truly happened eating away at me.

Gayle Forman writes about tough and painful subject matters in such a sensitive and realistic way. This book discusses what happens to those left behind after such tragic and distressing events. It shows how everyone deals with grief in different ways; how traumatic events can break a person or spur them on looking for answers, or in Cody's instance; revenge. It really emphasises the importance of living life to the full, of seizing the day and making the most of the time that is given you. It also discusses some rather poisonous and sinister things that really did make my blood boil. Reading about such things is one thing but the thought of such disgusting things existing is enough to make you sick with anger and worry. It also delves into the suffering of those with mental illnesses, painting a clear and powerful picture. It really made me think as a reader about the subject matter that I was reading about. Forman's language is just so full of depth and feeling that it's easy to get caught up in the story, in the emotional turmoil of it all. There was so much more to this story than just suicide. It of course dealt with loss and grief but also love, friendship and family; the importance of being connected to others, of forgiveness and understanding. The ending, in my opinion, was perfect. It was a fitting end to the story, uplifting and sweet and it provided closure to such a heart wrenching and suspense filled story.

Forman is an expert when it comes to characterisation. The characters in I WAS HERE are flawed and realistic dealing with real life issues, feeling a depth of real emotions. The sympathy that you feel for Meg's parents and Cody, her best friend is immense. Their world as they know it has become fragmented, shattering all around them. Cody is determined to piece those fragments back together, to find out why her best friend - the one person that she thought she knew even better than herself - chose to end her life - and why she didn't confide in her. She begins a journey of discovery; of discovering the truth, finding answers to why this happened and also a journey of self-discovery, of discovering that she's her own person, free to live her own life. Her growth throughout this book is superb. Throughout the story you're given a very realistic view of Cody's character. Her emotions are so raw, so real that you feel every inch of her pain, her suffocating guilt and her raging anger. She discovers an entire world that she wasn't a part of, a world where Meg had forged her own way into, leaving Cody behind. It shows that you don't really know a person all that well no matter how close you are. She's losther best friend in the world, her anchor and is now drifting through life without her. You feel Cody's guilt as it seeped through the pages, guilt at not being there for her friend during such a difficult time of her life. She's also angry, angry with herself, angry with Meg and angry with the world for carrying on without her best friend. Her guilt and anger leads her in a search for answers, a search for vengeance. She becomes consumed with Megs suicide and the events leading up to it, refusing to just forget, refusing to put it behind her. She's fuelled by determination and a touch of obsession. She digs deeper and deeper unearthing sinister and twisted things. This element of the story was so shocking and really added a layer of suspense and tension to the story.
Now the romance subplot didn't seem to irk me as it did some readers. Yes, it was undoubtedly a bit of a cliché, bad boy rocker falls for the innocent, naïve girl. It's been done a thousand times before but despite this I really enjoyed it. I thought it added a layer of romance and realism to a strained and sad story. This is Cody's story, detailing her life and her attempts at moving on and finding closure. I thought Cody and ben's blossoming relationship reflected this moving forward aspect, perfectly. I liked Ben's character. He seemed genuine; a bit of a bad boy but helpful and compassionate too. He offered Cody the perfect shoulder to cry on, a strong person for her to lean on. And vice versa. Cody and Ben helped one another grieve and move forward as the story progressed. Another relationship that I also enjoyed reading about was the one between Cody and her mother. It just developed so naturally and realistically as the story progressed. Seeing them come to understand one another and grow closer was just moving to read about.

So yes, I WAS HERE concerns suicide and mental illness in a rather graphic and realistic way but ultimately I felt that this book is about forgiveness, friendship, hope, family and love. That even though it's about the end of a life it's no doubt a life affirming story. That no matter what there is hope in the darkness, a light at the end of all bad things. It makes you want to scream "I WAS HERE" out into the universe, to put your mark on the world like Meg. If you want a book that packs an emotional punch with an added air of mystery and suspense then this is the book for you.

Friday, 23 January 2015

The Winner's Crime - Marie Rutksoki REVIEW

 Book two of the dazzling Winner's Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement…if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

My Review of The Winner's Curse:
What an exquisite read. THE WINNER'S CRIME was everything I wanted and more. It was an absolutely stunning second instalment in this magnificent fantasy series that followed on from the THE WINNER'S CURSE. Rutkoski has definitely upped her game since the last book building on its fantastic foundations. The characters were superb, the world-building outstanding and the story fast paced and heart stopping. In this book Rutkoski has created an even more immersive world with dynamic characters and beautifully descriptive writing. From the first page I was engrossed back into the story, caught up in Kestrel's dilemmas, pining for Arin to make an appearance and eager to see what twists and turns awaited around each corner, on each page.

Rutkoski's writing is spellbinding. It had me transfixed. The writing blossomed from the first page, flowing effortlessly throughout, full of beautiful imaginative descriptions. It's a treat to read. Seriously, the writing is exquisite with the most intricately detailed narrative that is bursting with emotion and feeling. Mixed in with this beautiful narrative is also this immense tension. It was apparent from the start and just built and built in intensity as the story progressed to its dramatic climax. Reading it was such a nail biting experience as there's so much more at stake in this book; one wrong move, one bad thing said and all hell could break loose. The intensity is reflected in every little thing from the winding, narrow lanes of the city and the claustrophobic corridors of the palace. They hide secrets, danger, surprises and deception creating a story that really keeps you on the edge of your seat hungry for more. They also hold captive Kestrel, who is narrowed in, her wings clipped. Caged in by the palace walls, suffocated by the Emperor's grasp, she's a prisoner in all but name, with no room to fly free, no room for freedom. Throughout this book I was on tender hooks, sucked in by the suspense and intrigue. Every page was dripping in tension adding a layer of uncertainty and mystery. I flew through it turning each page in nervous anticipation of what dramatic thing would happen next. And that ending. Talk about a shocking and dramatic turn of events. It promises a new setting and exciting new story for the next book for sure.

I was drawn in by the books political intrigue, court politics and complex characters. The romance element seemed to take a back seat in this second installment; the narrative was sensual and rich with romance but other things came to the forefront and took centre stage. It was all about the politics, all about society, rebellion, unrest and tyranny. The social commentary in this book is simply outstanding. For a YA fantasy book the depth and complexity of the story is truly amazing as Rutkoski weaves important themes such as power, corruption, race, war and slavery with action, romance and drama. It makes for a captivating spectacle. THE WINNER'S CRIME raises important questions that although are set against the fantastical backdrop of this world, are still relevant today. Questions such as; Who decides that other races are inferior to others? Who decided that the rulers are in charge? What makes a good ruler, a good leader? It's deep and captivating and intriguing and it really creates this thought-provoking experience whilst reading.

THE WINNER'S CRIME has such a spectacular set of characters. In this book we find Kestrel engaged to the Emperor's son living her life amidst politics and drama in the city, away from her home, apart from Arin. She must make the best of a bad situation and is forced to make some pretty horrible decisions in order to survive in the court. Kestrel is portrayed as sometimes selfish, comfortable in her silks and rich plush surroundings but underneath all that she is also brave, intelligent and selfless. She does the very
thing she refuses to do in the first book. She wants to pave her own fate, neither marry nor be a soldier but confines herself to an unwanted engagement in order to save the lives of others - the life of Arin. It's so dramatic and romantic. Kestrel takes a stand for what she believes in and the beliefs of others, endangering her very life and freedom for the freedom of others. It's heroic really. She's so realistic and so believable and I love her for it. Yes, she's so crazily frustrating to read about at times especially when it came to Arin and her feelings for him. The total lack of communication between the two just made me want to bang their heads together and open their eyes wide to see what stands before them and admit their feelings for one other. Was it so much to ask?! Their relationship throughout this book just added to the tension filled narrative that emanated throughout. Every glance, every touch, every breath just made this book explode with sexual tension and sensuality, intense and captivating.

Now, Arin in this book is even more mysterious, even more dark and brooding than the last. Now the Governor of Herran, he must deal with the running of his homeland and the loss of Kestrel to the very empire that he hates. The seeds of discontent and discord are sown in this book and Arin is hellbent on revenge; freeing his country is simply not enough anymore. Herran is still ensnared in the Emperor's claws, suffering at his hands and bowing to his every demand, starving in their homeland while the Emperor lives in luxury. Arin is such an impassioned man, so strong in his beliefs that its hard not to get caught up in his rebellious and passionate cause. At the end I felt so much hatred towards the Emperor who is such an evil and calculated snake of a man that I was fully on Arin's side, ready to take up arms against him! The Emperor is so cold, so cruel, using others as playthings; he makes the perfect villain - someone that you love to hate. Rutkoski really has a talent for creating this diverse cast of characters that seem so familiar and realistic but also mysterious and foreign. Nobody in this book is fully good or bad (well perhaps the Emperor - he's one evil bastard) but 'grey' characters; they're all flawed but have good qualities too. They're all molded by their surroundings and their upbringing, forced to make harsh and difficult decisions in order to survive. It made the book an exciting and compelling read.

The worldbuilding is possibly my favourite thing about this book. Rutksoki has crafted such a spectacular world with a wide and varied cast of characters and settings depicting exotic, new places full of grandeur and opulence. It's rich with culture and history; it truly does paint a diverse and intriguing picture of this engrossing world and its inhabitants. The world is just so vivid and realistic but also so fantastical and tactile. It was if I could feel the soft fabric of Kestrel's silk dresses, the sharp agonising cut of a knife, smell the salty stormy seas and hear the faint tinkling tune of the piano keys. It was all so alive and intoxicating brought to life by Rutkoski's beautiful writing. This book promises exploration as we're introduced to new places; bustling, crowded cities and wild, untouched jungles. It sucked me in from the first page and the world was so engrossing, so fascinating that I didn't want to leave.

THE WINNER'S CRIME had me enchanted from the beginning. It's such a strong and breathtaking sequel and I can't wait to read what is in store for Kestrel and Arin in the next book. The stunning narrative, the tension, the strong characters and fascinating world makes this book an absolute delight to read. If you like complex characters, political intrigue and a strong protagonist you should definitely give this YA fantasy a chance. You definitely won't regret it. 

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Love Hurts - Malorie Blackman REVIEW

My Review of Love Hurts:

LOVE HURTS is the perfect little anthology to sink your teeth into when you're in the mood for a good tear jerker or something sweet to lift your heart. The stories and extracts in this book deal with love in all its forms; all consuming love, sweet blossoming new love, heartbreak, angst, obsession and loss. It contains a realistic mix of stories that depict love when it's sweet and caring but also shows that love isn't always easy going; it can be hardwork and sometimes destructive and upsetting. What I especially loved about this anthology is its diversity. Seriously this book is jam packed full of diverse characters, stories and authors. It really is a breath of fresh air to read such a mix of stories that discuss important issues such as race, gender identity and sexuality. It definitely broadened my horizons and allowed me to have a taster for a range of different stories that I usually don't pick up and read. I also loved how realistic and heartfelt some of the stories were. I didn't enjoy all of them but the ones I did (discussed below) I thoroughly enjoyed.

The first book HUMMING THROUGH MY FINGERS is a new short story written by Malorie Blackman herself. This instantly jumped out at me and had me captivated with its vivid descriptions and sweet story. It's beautifully written with sensual and tactile descriptions that really bring the story to life. I loved the little twist in it too that just added another layer of diversity and realism to the story.

FORBIDDEN had me reading in earnest, glued to the pages, shocked and intrigued. It was super intense and definitely had my interest. It's such an out there idea for a romance story as it deals with quite a taboo subject. This extract definitely piqued my interest. I NEED to know more; what the implications of such a thing happening is and if things go further between them. I will 100% pick this book up sometime in the future to ease my cravings for more!

YOU AGAINST ME was another super intense story that had me compelled in a "OMG what is going to happen next?" kind of way. It was shocking and I was so engrossed in its story of how relationships can be manipulative and poisonous and not always sweet and loving. It's definitely a book I'll add to my wish list after reading this juicy, provocative extract. I really want to know what happens next!

One story with such deep and interesting issues was GENTLEWOMAN. It dealt with gender issues and identity but also love, friendships, family and acceptance. The protagonist was so easy to sympathise with and the story itself was so full of heightened emotion and feeling. The ending was so sweet and it was bursting with hope.

One of my favourites was ENDLESS LOVE: THE VALENTINE OF DANIEL AND LUCINDA. This short story was so rich in history and magic and had an aura of romance and mystery surrounding it. The mention of a curse instantly piqued my interest even though it was an ambiguous part of the story. I loved the little historical details and the vivid descriptions - it really brought the world and story to life. I also loved the crossing of genres with the mix of time travel and historical fiction. It was such an interesting idea. After finishing, I was left wanting more and more. Seriously, I wish this short story was weaved into a novel. I'd definitely read it.

I was instantly entranced by THE LIAR'S GIRL. The use of the 2nd person narrative made the story so much more personal and direct, as if the narrator was talking directly to you, the reader. I was hooked with its hypnotic narrative and tension filled plot. At first, the story read as a love letter and slowly it turned into a confession, with its tone quickly turning sinister and sour, an unsettling feeling building and building as the story progressed. Yet again, this is another short story that I wish was an actual fully fleshed out, well developed novel. I'd love an ending to this story, to witness what happens after the dramatic events of story.

UNICORN is a story that combines a dramatic and tense time period with emotional issues. This story dealt with LGBT themes in such a touching way set against the backdrop of the war. It was told from the perspective of an old man, a soldier as he reflects on his time in the war aboard a warship and the strong bonds that he made. Especially one in particular. It discussed prejudice and hate, love and sexuality and was a sweet and relevant story despite it being set decades before. THE UNICORN was such a bittersweet story that really captured my attention and made me a bag of emotions. It was touching and highly emotional and achingly heart-breaking in parts.

One extract that stood out for me was definitely ECHO BOY. It was a lot less fluffy and contemporary than some of the stories in this anthology. It was futuristic, depicting a sinister dystopian society with an underlying tension. The extract was action packed and bloody, fast paced and dramatic. For all it's action and tension it also read like a Romeo and Juliet-esque love story, with a touching scene of sacrifice and love. This extract has definitely made me add ECHO BOY to my TBR list.

All in all, I really enjoyed LOVE HURTS. The original short stories were captivating and emotional - they really managed to whip up my emotions and struck a chord. What knocks a few stars off this anthology though is the fact it's filled with extracts from a number of books I've already read or books I plan to read, so I skipped them not to ruin anything for myself. But the extracts did also give me a flavour of a few different books that I now need to read to know what happens next. Some definitely had me hooked and piqued my interest enough to read on. Another thing that stopped me wholeheartedly loving this book was that I just didn't click with some of the stories - it was like I wasn't their intended audience - the Sherlock heavy one for example, I just didn't understand any of the references which isolated me as a reader from the story and its characters.

LOVE HURTS is worth reading for its original short stories alone. They're filled with powerful messages dealing with gender identity, belonging, friendships and love all wrapped up in a sweet, touching and captivating bow. It's also a great and intriguing way of experiencing new stories and discovering new authors. Definitely pick it up if you're unfamiliar with contemporary romance stories and want a little taster of what's out there!

Friday, 16 January 2015

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) - Sarah J Maas REVIEW

Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy.

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?

My Review of Heir of Fire:

The ending to CROWN OF MIDNIGHT destroyed me. Truly destroyed me. I was left distraught and in a frenzy of anticipation awaiting HEIR OF FIRE. Waiting for an entire year was pure torture. Then HEIR OF FIRE fell into my hands and I devoured it, hungry for more Celaena, Chaol, Dorian and the world of Erilea. It didn’t disappoint. Maas has done it again. Weaved an amazingly thrilling tale with the most complex set of characters, rich and mesmering world and compelling storyline full of shocks and surprises. Seriously this series is easily one of my favourite YA fantasy series ever and this third installment, although not as entrancing as the first - just deeply cemented my love for these books. If you haven't picked up this series yet - you need to - now.

HEIR OF FIRE definitely had a different feel to it than the other two previous books. In all honesty I feel a little conflicted about this one. It was extremely slow paced at times which made me feel a little disconnected from the storyline and the characters. The multiple POV's made the story drag a little too. Don't get me wrong I love multiple POV's (Game of Thrones anyone?) but it was such a big difference from the first two books I found it difficult to get to grip with all the changes quickly. Yes, I thought it dragged in places (lots and lots of training) but I understand that this book focused a lot more on character development, fleshing them out, preparing them for what lies ahead in future books. I also found it a little hard at first to get into the swing of things, finding my feet in new surroundings but when I did it, I admit it was wonderful and exciting. The last quarter of the book and its ending really bumped this book up from a 4* to a 4.5* for me. It really blew me away and in true Maas style left you wanting more. So much more. And now the dreaded wait for the fourth books begins... *sigh*

Now to the good stuff. Once the story got going it was good. More than good in places. A rollercoaster ride of emotions, full of twists and turns and shocks and surprises waiting around every corner. It was much darker, full of blood and gore and unbearable tension. The Manon chapters with the Ironteeth Clan really upped the gore in the book. Their ruthlessness and vicious nature just added a sense of suspense and a little terror to the book and their appearance in the next book surely doesn't bold well; a lot of blood and death awaits - but a lot of drama and excitement too. This book introduced many new things and not all good. Flying monsters and inhuman soldiers just a few of them. This book was bursting with secrets, all unravelling, bombarding you from all sides with shocking revelations and truths. Finally witnessing Celaena's past and the events that shaped her into Adarlan's Assassin was fascinating and made me love her even more.

The worldbuilding in this book is amazing. It's expertly crafted and so immersive. Maas has such a talent for creating such vivid worlds and I loved seeing more of this fantastical world unearthed as the story travels further afield introducing us to new, magical places. Most of the book was new and unfamiliar at first as the story introduced a host of new characters and ventured into foreign lands as we joined Celaena on a journey of discovery and truth. It was so much more indepth and I just loved the sense of adventure that permeated at times throughout the novel. Introducing the fae world really added an air of mystery and magic to the story and I enjoyed seeing this fantastical aspect. Adarlan is gritty and great, but magic is all but dead and I love me some magic in fantasy books!

The character development in this novel was absolutely phenomenal. Seriously the characters just grew and grew, making you empathise with them deeply and feel a real connection. Celaena herself went through one hell of a transformation. The gruesome and tragic events of CROWN OF MIDNIGHT have deeply affected her, causing deep wounds and we see a definite change in her character. We witness a broken woman, more foul tempered and quick to anger shaped by her difficult experiences. She's broken, fragmented by events and struggling to put the pieces back together. Her emotions are overflowing and we get to see a more vulnerable Celaena, easier to empathise with as she lets her guard down. Her character is a far cry from the feisty and cocky girl, so full of spirit that we have previously known and grown to love. The only thing is - she frustrated me at times. She's suffered more than anyone and I hated to see her so broken but I wanted to shake her at times and tell her to get it together - it was just so important that she got it together. I kept thinking "Will the real Celaena Sardothien please stand up?" Of course the trials and tribulations she has to endure all builds up to one thing. She comes back kicking, even stronger and even more feisty, ten times more determined than the Celaena we have met before. She finally starts to transform into a queen, accepting and realising her fate and responsibilities.

"She was Aelin Ashryver Galathynius - and she would not be afraid."

She couldn't have become this Celaena (or Aelin) without the help of one moody git; Rowan. Seriously, at first I thought he was an arrogant, cruel idiot with a chip on his shoulder and a serious grudge against Celaena. His actions were borderline cruel and he pushed and pushed Celaena, making me so angry at him. But without his prodding and pushing, Celaena would never have opened up and accepted who she really was. Yes, he was pushy and a complete idiot but he pushed her to get her out of her shell, her cacoon of suffering and guilt that she had wound herself up so tightly in. She comes back so much stronger, with fire in her belly and it's all because of him. 

What I really enjoyed in this book is how it focused on the power of friendships. I'm still rooting for Chaol and Celaena to get back together (please? pretty please?) but I loved the strong bond of loyalty and respect that developed between her and Rowan. A grudging friendship at first, they soon are bound to one another, fighting side by side. I really hope Maas doesn't take it any further, it's perfect how it is. Chaol and Dorian's friendship also took centre stage in this book. Leading practically separate lives and doing their own thing, the ending just cemented their strong bond of friendship. Chaol's loyalty really shone through at this point. Another strange friendship was Manon and Abraxos'. Yes, she's a witch and he's her monstrous steed but they shared a deep bond and Abraxos helped Manon show a little bit of humanity. I really believe she's not as bloodthirsty and vicious as she seems. She has a heart. I'm really looking forward to how Manon's storyline ties with Celaena's in future. I believe this silver fanged, red cloaked witch will somehow become an important part of Celaena's life, and hopefully on her side - but who knows!

So lets talk about that ending. How? What? Why? The King's evil nature strikes again. I really don't know how this will affect certain characters in the next book and I just hope that something is done to right this horrible thing. All I know is that reading that section killed me. There was a little voice screaming in my head "no, you can't do that - no!" Talk about shocks and surprises. Phew.

So there you have it. HEIR OF FIRE isn't my favourite of the three books and I did have some niggling issues with some parts. But overall, the good things by far outweighed the few little bad things. The character development in this book was its strongest point. It was amazing and witnessing Celaena's past really made this book for me. I seriously hate to wait a year for the next book. I want - no, I need to know what happens next. I feel like I know Celaena so well, but there's so much more about Aelin I want to unearth and learn about. I can't wait to see all the story lines merge together and come together in an explosive conclusion, but with three more books to go the series just promises more and more drama, intrigue and excitement. Three more books - the idea of more books, more Celaena and more of this world is just so exciting!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Showcase Sunday: Christmas Edition!

It's Sunday and that means one thing; Showcase Sunday a fun weekly meme hosted by Vicky over @Books, Biscuits and Tea. It's a great way of showing off what we've bought, borrowed and received this week.

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and a wonderful New Year! It seems so long ago now that I awoke all excited (yes I know I'm 23 but c'mon Christmas is Christmas!) rushed downstairs all eager to open all of my presents. And of course, being the bookish book lover that I am I was gifted quite a lot of books or bookish things (now I just need to find the time to read them all!). I'm so grateful for all of my lovely presents and I'm a very lucky girl, so I thought I'd share with all of you book lovers what I had (as I know you all appreciate some good books!)

Books Gifted: 
 Little Women - Louise May Alcott
A Little Princess - Frances Hodgson Burnett
Heidi - Johanna Spyri
Anne of Green Gables - L M Montgomery
The Ice Dragon - George RR Martin
Salvage - Alexandra Duncan
The Ghosts of Heaven - Marcus Sedgwick
Fables Vol 1: Legends in Exile - Bill Willingham
The Walking Dead: Compendium 2 - Robert Kirkman
The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm

 Travels with Charley - John Steinbeck
Down Under - Bill Bryson
One Summer: America 1927 - Bill Bryson
The Lost Continent - Bill Bryson
A Walk in the Woods - Bill Bryson
The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction - Philip Athans

 Beautiful Spines of my Puffin in Bloom Collection!

Review Books:

 Breaking the Rules - Katie McGarry 
Talon - Julie Kagawa

Big thanks to Mira Ink for these two beauties :)

 Shadow Study - Maria V Snyder

I actually squealed when I was accepted for this one! I absolutely love anything Snyder writes and I'm so excited for this!