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Monday, 14 April 2014

Crown of Midnight - Book Review

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Crown of Midnight – Book Review

Sara J Maas

YA Fantasy

Throne of Glass series Book #2

Synopsis:

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realises she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances – not the crown Prince Dorian, not Chaol, the captain of the guard, not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena’s world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie… and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.

Review:

            I absolutely adored this book! The second instalment of Sarah J Maas epic, Throne of Glass series, this was a story I found virtually impossible to put down. With just as much romance, magick and mystery as the first, Crown of Midnight was a tremendous read.

Beginning a few weeks after the end of the last book, the story picks up with Celaena in full assassin mode, reluctantly fulfilling her duties as the king’s champion. Yet even though she resents her new ‘boss’ she is determined to win back her freedom, but even he can’t snuff out her rebellious spark and I like how she continues to work on her own terms.

However when Celaena becomes aware of a new darkness lurking in the castle, try as she might to remain uninvolved, her curiosity inevitably gets the better of her. Yet as new secrets are revealed, Celaena chooses to flee rather than face her own past. But when tragedy strikes, she must make the choice, sacrifice those she loves, or reveal the truths she has kept hidden so long.

But with a new evil rising, and the king’s armies growing, Celaena must act quickly, and figure out just which side of the board she is on. But knowing everyone is looking to use her for their own agendas, she must work out who to trust, and who to love, before it’s too late.

A truly spectacular sequel, this book had it all. Action, drama, and plenty of suspense! Yet while I felt many of the new revelations had been foreshadowed, although I admit expertly so, there was still plenty of unexpected plot twists that completely threw me out of orbit.

Also while the pace never stopped, I felt it did lull in places – but more in a ‘catch your breath’ kind of way rather than a ‘put the book down and do something else’ way. But those things aside, my enjoyment of the story never once lagged.

As with the first book I found the characters completely riveting. Celaena for her feisty, kick ass girl attitude – but this time around I was also eager to see the undertones of her past finally brought to light.

However I felt we also grew closer to the secondary characters. Both the King and Duke up the stakes in their nefarious plans, Princess Nehemiah is always more than what she seems. But Even Chaol and Dorian branch out the story with woes and troubles of their own. And the new characters such as the Iron toothed witch, and Mort, the talking door knob, were certainly delightful additions to what is already a diverse and exemplary cast of characters.

So all in all, Crown of Midnight was a book I soon devoured – and one I will most certainly recommend to all. If you haven’t already picked up the first Throne of Glass Book, it’s a story I would urge all Fantasy lovers to read. You won’t be disappointed!

Overall a fantastic sequel! 5 Stars!


Friday, 11 April 2014

Gameboard of the Gods - Book Review

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Gameboard of the Gods – Book Review

Richelle Mead

Adult Urban Fantasy

Age of X Book #1

Synopsis:

In a futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists, Justin March lives in exile after failing in his job as an investigator of religious groups and supernatural claims. But Justin is given a second chance when Mae Koskinen comes to bring him back to the Republic of United North America (RUNA). Raised in an aristocratic caste, Mae is now a member of the military’s most elite and terrifying tier, a soldier with enhanced reflexes and skills.

When Justin and Mae are assigned to work together to solve a string of ritualistic murders, they soon realise that their discoveries have exposed them to terrible danger. As their investigation races forward, unknown enemies and powers greater than they can imagine are gathering in the shadows, ready to reclaim the world in which humans are merely game pieces on their board.

Review:

I’ve been a big of fan of Richelle Mead, both her adult and YA titles, for many years. Therefore I was intrigued by the concept of this futuristic fantasy and while I felt it got off to a slow and slightly confusing start, after a few chapters, I found myself hooked.

The story is written in third person, but follows the lives of two main characters. Mae, who is a praetorian - an elite, military solider with enhanced speed and strength gifted to her via a special implant. And Justin, a servitor charged with finding the truth behind fantastical and outlandish religious claims.

Both have their own pasts and histories – not to mention their own problems. Like the darkness that lives within Mae, urging her to kill and gain power. And Justin, who has two wise (and very chatty) ravens living inside his head. But when these two characters are brought together to help solve a series of mysterious murders, they soon learn that the Gods society has forgotten, may just be real after all. And they are picking their champions, but for what dark purpose… Mae and Justin have yet to discover…

This story crosses a lot of genres, a little dystopian, a little fantasy, with plenty of mythology and action thrown in. It makes for an intriguing read, and if you can persevere through the first hundred pages – it is a book many of you would ultimately enjoy.

My main issue with the opening chapters was all the new ideas and terms that were thrown about. As a reader you are suddenly thrust into this futuristic world with no explanation as to how and why it was formed. Of course this is all slowly revealed over time through dialogues and actions, but without the back story I was a little confused so it took awhile to ease into the flow of the story. However once I understood what was happening, I was captivated.

The plot is weaving, making it impossible to see which direction it’s taking you so there are plenty of twists and surprises.  Fast paced, the story itself is action packed and held my interest throughout – and I like the way the romance is slow burning and filled with complications that the reader (but not the characters) get to understand.

In regards to the characters, each one is individually unique. And as Richelle Mead is known for her strong female protagonists, it’s safe to say Mae certainly holds her own with the rest of them. I particularly liked how her past was revealed piece by piece, and she is a character I really came to care about.

As for Justin, he complimented Mae’s character well. He is strong where she is weak and vise-versa. This made their romance a delight to read and I couldn’t help but love the comedy Justin’s ravens add to the story – along with his sarcastic wit and humour. I look forward to seeing how things develop for them in the next book.

So overall a great, action packed story that is choc full mystery, romance and mayhem. Set in a post apocalyptic world, with a dash of fantasy and a little myth and legend, this is an intriguing book. A one of a kind read, I would recommend it to all Richelle Mead fans and for anyone who is looking across the genres for something just a little different. 4 stars!


Friday, 21 March 2014

The Assassin and the Desert - Book Review


The Assassin and the Desert

Sara J Maas

YA Fantasy

Synopsis:

The silent assassins of the red desert aren’t much for conversation, and Celaena Sardotheian wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s not there to chatter, she’s there to hone her craft as the world’s most feared killer for hire. When the quiet is shattered by the forces who want to destroy the silent assasins, Celaena must finds a way to stop them, or she’ll be lucky to leave the desert alive…

Review:

The second of the Throne of Glass Prequel novellas, The assassin and the Desert is yet another thrilling and action packed story that tells the tale of some of Celaena Sardotheian’s earlier adventures.

As punishment for her disobedience in allying with the pirate lord , Celaena is packed off to the dessert for intense training with the silent assassins. Yet when she arrives, she is shunned by the Master who refuses to share with her his tribes secret ways. If she is to gain the trust of the Master, Celaena must prove herself to be worthy in both heart, mind and spirit. But the end of silent assassins draws near, as deadly plots seek to see them crumble from within… and Celaena finds herself caught in the middle of an age long struggle for power…

This was an insightful novella as the trials Celaena faces here have a great impact upon her character. Each event helps push and mould her towards becoming the strong and independent woman we meet in Throne of Glass - and this is also the story where she picks up some of her more deadly assassin skills and weapons.

While I missed Sam, I thought the other characters we were introduced to were plenty enough interesting so I didn’t mind so much the lack of romance. Although I do hope we will see him again in the next novella! However the son of the Master was plenty handsome and roughish, and I would like to see him again in the next books.

Overall an engaging and fun read. 4 stars!


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Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Night Itself - Book Review


The Night Itself – Book Review

Zoe Marriott

YA Urban Fantasy

Book #1 in the Name of the Blade Series

Synopsis:

When Mio steals te family’s Katana – a priceless ancestral sword – from her parents attic, she just wants to spice up a fancy dress costume. But the Katana is much more than some  dusty antique and her actions unleash a terrible, ancient evil onto the streets of unsuspecting London.

Soon Shinobu, a fearless warrior boy, appears to protect Mio – and threatens to steal her heart. With the Gods and Monsters of Japanese myth stalking her and her friends, Mio realises that if she cannot keep the sword safe, and learn to control its legendary powers, she will lose not only her own life… but the love of a lifetime.

Review:

I am a big fan of Zoe Marriott’s and while I have enjoyed each and everyone one of her previous books, none of them wowed me in quite the same way the ‘The Night Itself’ has managed. This is a truly spectacular novel! Packed with action, intrigue and Japanese folklore, the story gripped me from beginning to end.

The story begins with fifteen year old Mio, a British born girl of Japanese heritage. Creeping into the attic, she steals her family’s ancestral sword from its dust covered case– telling herself it’s just the thing she needs to complete her Halloween costume. But the truth is, Mio’s been dreaming of the sword for years. Ever since the day her grandfather revealed it to her, with the promise that one day, it would belong to her.

Yet by taking the sword from its hiding place, Mio unknowingly unleashes a terrible creature upon the streets of London. Now with only her best friend Jack, a fox spirit and a seemingly immortal, 500 year old Japanese warrior – she must battle back the darkness and learn the secrets of her family’s sword before it’s too late. Otherwise should the Katana fall into the wrong hands, the world as Mio knows it, will be over… and the creatures of the underworld will overwhelm the earth.

The plot and pacing of this book are amazing. Not once did the story drag. What with the characters being thrown from one terrible thing to another, I felt like the action never stopped. With the backstory told through Mio’s memories with her grandfather, and the romance squeezed in between each (slightly less) life threatening scene, this was a book I found very hard to put down.

Each character is beautifully written and adds something special to the story. Mio is a particularly strong heroine and while she lacks confidence in both herself and  her abilities, I liked seeing the impact each new event had on her. You could literally see her growing both stronger and surer in herself as the story progressed.

Shinobu is also a very worthy love interest for her. With secrets and problems of his own, it was easy to fall in love with him. Both he and Mio make such as nice couple and despite the short time they've known each other, nothing about their romance feels forced. Instead it reads like two strangers, thrown into a war against evil and with each brush with death, find themselves more strongly bonded together. I’m looking forward to seeing how their relationship will develop in the next book.

Yet the secondary characters are also kick ass. I absolutely love Jack – Mio’s feisty, sarcastic and lesbian best friend. She brings a lot of humor to the story. However I can’t help but feel sorry for Hikaru – the gorgeous male fox spirit who is completely smitten with her. If only he could be a woman…

As for the Nekomata and dark Goddess, they are wonderful villains. The myth and legends based around the Goddess vengeful vendetta to kill humans makes the story read so well. And through using so much myth and mythology I feel like the story just flows seamlessly with no hiccups, no breaks, and no pauses while you try to wonder what if…

So overall, a five star read! And one I would recommend to anyone who is a fan of fantasy fiction and all things Japanese, especially as I think this story would make an excellent anime! Great stuff!


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Thursday, 2 January 2014

2014 - A New Year, A New Chapter, A New Adventure...


Dear Readers,

So 2013 was a crazy year for me. As many of you know, in January 2013 I took the plunge and moved to China, which - I can now say with certainly, remains the best decision I’ve ever made!

I’ve seen so many places, done and experienced so many strange and wonderful things. I’ve met amazing people from all over the world and made friends from all walks of life. I closed a lot of doors, but opened many new ones, said goodbye to a really bad relationship and came out so much stronger for it. 

I’ve always lacked confidence, but somehow last year, I lost the girl was too afraid to phone and order takeaway. I forgot that I can’t speak Chinese, and that mime and mimicking were anything other than normal. It stopped bothering me what people thought and for the first time in a long time – I got to just be me. And the woman I’m becoming, I like her very much J

My journey however – is not quite over. Next week I will have officially been in China one year. And in ten days, I’ll be flying back to England for the first time – for a three week holiday! That’s right, I’ve resigned my Chinese teaching contract for another few months and plan to spend all of next summer travelling around Asia. Japan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, Korea, Malaysia, you name it, I’m going there. And I can’t wait!

Will my books be coming with me? Yes, they will… somehow lol. Still working out the kinks in that plan but I plan to keep reviewing as I love my blog and I don’t want to give it up. I also want to start a new bi-weekly feature on my travels which I hope you will enjoy – That should take off sometime next week.

Otherwise I want to wish everybody all the best for the New Year! I hope 2014 will be a fantastic one for you! And to my fellow UK book bloggers, I’ll be hopefully making it to the Blogger Brunch at Random House so look forward to catching up with you all then.

Take care and (maybe) see you soon


Sarah
XxX

Monday, 9 December 2013

Sweet Venom - Book Review



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Sweet Venom – Book Review

Tera Lynn Childs

YA Fantasy/Mythological

Synopsis:

Grace just moved to San Francisco and is excited to start over at a new school. The change is full of fresh possibilities, but it’s also a tiny bit scary. It gets scarier when a minotaur walks in the door. And even more shocking when a girl who looks just like her shows up to fight the monster.

Gretchen is tired of monsters pulling her out into the wee hours, especially on a school night, but what can she do? Sending the minotaur back to his bleak home is just another notch on her combat belt. She never expected to run into this girl who could be her double, though.

Greer has her life pretty well put together, thank you very much. But that all tilts sideways when two girls who look eerily like her appear on her doorstep and claim they're triplets, supernatural descendants of some hideous creature from Greek myth, destined to spend their lives hunting monsters.

These three teenage descendants of Medusa, the once-beautiful gorgon maligned by myth, must reunite and embrace their fates in this unique paranormal world where monsters lurk in plain sight.

Review:

Tera Lynn Childs has written some brilliant YA books and Sweet Venom is yet another fantastic read to add to your bookshelves. Rich with mythology, it is a light hearted story with a fresh concept - and written with the usual wit and charm that I’ve come to expect from this author.

Written in a triple-narrative, Sweet Venom tells the story of three sisters. Separated at birth, Gretchen, Greer and Grace may be identical in looks but their personalities could not be more different. Now sixteen years later, the trio suddenly find themselves reunited through a mix of fate and destiny. But they are no ordinary girls – they are the descendants of Medusa, charged with the sacred duty of guarding the world from the demons and monsters that plague it.

But now something in the underworld is stirring, and the sisters must unite together in order to overcome the evil that is threatening their lives. Because if they don’t learn to trust each other soon, then the world as they know it will end…

I really enjoyed this book. The characters are well written and through them the story is brought bubbling to life. While the three sisters are identical in looks, their styles and personalities are so unique that there is no trouble telling them apart, and they each add their own contributions to the story.

The book begins with Gretchen. Tough and fierce, she grew up on the streets where she learned to fight and defend herself. Learning of her destiny at an early age, she has spent most of her teen years fighting demons, making her the most kick-ass of the three sisters.

Grace on the other hand is just your typical, high school girl. Raised within a normal family, she has a cute, overprotective brother and parents who generally care about her. Her sense of humour is quite quirky and although she is unwilling at first, she soon excepts her fate as a descendant of Medusa.

Greer however, I feel like we don’t know so much. She enters the book close to end and the reader doesn’t have a lot of time to understand her character. Coming from a very rich family, she is a bit of a spoiled snob. Yet she is intelligent, but also reluctant to have her life ruled by destiny. I’m looking forward to learning more about her as the series progresses.

Also as a sucker for romance, I’m pleased to say that this book had plenty. Each sister has a love interest that suits them, and Tera Lynn Childs does a fantastic job of drawing out the suspense of each romantic moment. Given all the trouble the girls seem to get into, I can’t wait to see how their relationships with the boys will develop.

Story wise, the author has put her own fresh spin onto the legends of Greek mythology. Medusa is portrayed as a good and very misunderstood character, and I like how believable the tale is. The plot is fast paced and keeps you turning pages which make this book a quick, but delicious read.

Suitable for girls 12 years + I would recommend this book to anyone who loves strong heroines, romance, action and a good laugh. This story has it all! A fabulous read, Sweet Vemon gets 4 stars!


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Monday, 2 December 2013

Stealing Phoenix - Book Review



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Stealing Phoenix– Book Review

Joss Stirling

Benedicts series book #2

YA Paranormal

Synopsis:

Phoenix belongs to the Community - a gang of thieves with paranormal powers. Yves Benedict - an American student visiting London - is her mark. But Yves turns out to be more than just a target. He is her destiny. Her soulmate. But the Community owns Phoenix's past and it wants her future too…

Review:

When I picked up this book, I didn’t realise it was part of a series. However despite it being the second book, Stealing Phoenix read very well as a standalone novel and I had no problem understanding the storyline. It was all in all, a very enjoyable read.

The story follows Phoenix, a light fingered thief with uncanny abilities. When she is assigned to target Yves Benedict, a rich American student, she expects it to be an easy job with a hefty payoff. Yet when her quick snatch does not go as planned, she soon discovers that Yves Benedict isn’t just your average tourist, but does in fact have unconventional abilities of his own.

Determined to procure the items her boss, ‘the Seer’ demanded, Phoenix follows Yves and to her dismay, ends up a reluctant guest in his house. Now her whole world is thrown into question when she discovers for the first time the warmth of a family, and the heart pounding rush of true love. But even if Yve’s is her soul mate Phoenix knows, ‘the Seer’ will never let her leave his community alive…

There were so many things about this book that I loved! Its biggest draw for me however, was that in takes place in modern day London England. I just think it’s so refreshing to read a story that weaves in places you know, where the surroundings are easy to picture and everything about the scene can come alive through your own senses :)

I also couldn’t help but fall in love with the characters. The romance between Yves and Phoenix is wonderful to watch blossom and I liked the enormous differences between them. For example Phoenix has never been to school, but she is independent and street savvy, tough and slow to trust. Alone in the world, it was interesting to read how she adapted to Yves family and their giving hearts.

Yves, on the other hand is very academic. Sheltered by the loving arms of his family, he has all the best things money can buy, comfort, luxury and total security. Yet he is a kind character and his patience with Phoenix is admirable. I liked watching him try to relate to her life, a life of which he could barely imagine.

Otherwise the plot was fast paced and full of drama and tension. It certainly kept me turning the pages and I’ll deffinetly be checking out the other books in the series. So overall, Stealing Phoenix is a brilliant read and one I would recommend. 4 stars!


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