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Wednesday, 6 May 2015

A Court of Thorns and Roses - Book Review


A Court of Thorns and Roses
Sarah J Maas
YA Fantasy
Book #1 in A Court of Thorns and Roses Series
UK Publisher: Bloomsbury

Synopsis:

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treaties magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin - one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it … or doom Tamlin - and his world - forever…

Review:

A twist on Beauty and the Beast - which just happens to be my favourite fairytale story - I have to say that A Court of Thorns and Roses was a magically gripping read and I loved, loved, loved it!

When nineteen-year-old Feyre kills a giant wolf in the depths of the dark forrest, she has no idea of the consequences. For the beast was actually a faerie in animal form, and based on a treaty laid down by the lords of old, Feyres life is now forfeit. A debt the faeries are quick to collect upon.

But as Feyre is soon to learn, a Faerie Tamlin may be, but a beast he is not. Rather than spill her blood, he offers her life, providing she is willing to live out the rest of her days in the faerie realm. Yet Feyre is wary. It is said humans can lose their mind to the power of fae  magic, she never considers that the danger could lie in losing her heart to fae charms. 

But darker forces are at work and beings even more powerful than Tamlin are waking from the shadows. Soon they will overrun the faerie realms and turn their gaze to human lands. And Feyre is caught in the cross hairs, a single light in a world of darkness, bound to an unknown curse that she alone can break. But time is running out and the question in everyones mind is what will break first? The curse . . . or Feyres will to live . . . 

This book was truly astounding! Sarah J Maas remains a first class storyteller and I am so happy to see her branching out from the Throne of Glass series, yet retaining her spellbinding talent to keep readers glued to each and every page.

Feyre is a remarkable heroin. She is strong, resilient and far maturer than her years. I also loved that unlike in the other traditional Beuaty and the Beast retellings - Feyre can barely read or write. Instead her secret passion lies in art and her dream to paint all the colours of the world. 

Her love interest, Tamlin, his face hidden behind a cursed mask of gold, is another interesting character. A master of half truths, he bares a noble heart behind an icy facade that slowly thaws as the story progresses. I also liked how he embraces the more animalistic side of his nature while keeping true to his more human sense of honour and justice - he is also pretty hunky to boot!

Other amazing characters that I believe worth a mention are Feyre’s elder sister who his great depths of emotion behind a haughty countenance. Then there is Lucien, Tamlins greatest friend and confidant who brings a lot of comic relief to the story, yet even he too has horror in his past. 

There is also Rhys who is another fantastic character. With his own agenda, he had elements of both good and evil and he added an under current of mayhem to the story. However he and Feyres interaction seemed to be heading to an almost Hades/Persephone style sort of storyline and I'm looking forward to seeing how their unique (dare I say friendship?) will progress in the next book.

The plot itself is also fast paced with several plotlessness that keep you guessing. The romance is pretty steamy too, pushing this book to the higher end of YA, yet as Feyre is nineteen and far from immature, I felt that the saucier elements only added to the story. Its also nice to see that sex is no longer quite the forbidden topic it used to be in YA, so applause to Sarah J Maas for spicing things up!

So overall I thought this book was simply superb! Much like the ‘Throne of Glass’ series, I now can’t wait for the next book! Truly spelling binding, 5 stars!

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Darkest Minds - Book Review


The Darkest Minds - Book Review
Alexandra Bracken
YA Dystopian
Book #1 of the Darkest Minds 
UK Publisher: Hyperion Books

Synopsis:

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something  about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Somethings that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease thats killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her - East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened with her parents.

When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.

Review:

I discovered this book while browsing through a small little book store during my holiday to Canada. All I can say is why did I never hear about this book sooner because I absolutely loved it! Even if the end did leave me heartbroken and itching for more.

The story begins with a ten year old Ruby watching the harsh treatment of the Thurmond camps children. All gifted with a unique ability, they are colour coded based on their powers, but when she witness the cruel conditions those in her class must face, she someone how convinces the scientist assigned to her that she is nothing more than a harmless green with a photographic memory.

But six years later, the government begin new tests, ones designed to catch those kids who slipped through the cracks. Now with her secret out Ruby must put her trust in others if she is too escape. But with everyone wanting to use her for her rare abilities, Ruby is torn over who to trust. Only when she teams up with others like her does she begin to feel safe, but the question is, are they safe from her? Unable to control her powers, she fears she is destined to spend the rest of her life ostracised from her friends but when news spreads that another with her abilities still lives, Ruby will risk all to seek them out. What she finds is more danger, more heartache and a betrayal that just might put an end to her and those like her completely.

I really enjoyed this book. With the exception of a couple of chapters that I felt dragged a little, the story pretty much kept me immersed all the way through with every other scene ending on a cliffhanger. I just couldn't stop turning the pages.

Ruby makes an interesting heroine as despite being one of the most powerful people in the whole story, she fears her abilities and is unable to control them. Also with so many years spent locked behind the walls of camp Thurmond she has the limited education of a ten year old and having been segregated from boys, I thought it was adorable how she had no idea how to interact with them. Watching her grow from the naive, weak willed girl into a decisive and powerful women was thrilling.

Other characters such as Liam, Zu and chubs all had their own unique, individual appeal and I loved them all. Particularly Liam as he plays a kind and devote love interest and I don’t know any girl who could resist falling for his shy flirting. Zu and Chubs also added intrigue to the story with their unknown pasts and distinct personalities. 

Plot wise the book is action based and generally moves at a pretty fast pace with back story unfolding as and when needed. The storyline often keeps you guessing and my only niggle with the book is the lack of adults in it. I know they exist within the world of the book but as the kids drive around from place to place, I couldn't help but wonder why there wasn't more of them. I was also curious to know what everyone else was doing during this out break of disease and why the kids became so feared.

Despite those passing thoughts, these problems did not take away my enjoyment of the story. Although I am hoping some of these issues will be addressed in the next book which honestly, I cannot wait to start. Especially as the ending of the book was so emotional and dramatic.

I give The Darkest Minds 4 Stars! Great Read for all those who enjoy dystopians! 

Saturday, 28 March 2015

A Little in Love - Book Review


A Little in Love - Book Review
Susan Fletcher
YA Historical 
UK Publisher: Chicken House

Synopsis:

As a young child Eponie never knew kindness, except once from her family’s kitchen slave, Cosette. When at sixteen the girl’s paths cross again and their circumstances are reversed, Eponine must decide what that friendship is worth, even though they’ve both fallen for the same boy. In the end, Eponine will sacrifice everything to keep true love alive.

Review:

I love the stage show Les Miserables and was excited to learn that a book had been written from Eponine’s point of view. And while there is no singing and dancing around in the book - which I’m kind of grateful for as I think that would be weird - I have to say that Susan Fletcher has done a fantastic job of capturing Eponine’s character.

The story begins with a young Eponine. Through her eyes we watch how her family teaches her to steal, cheat and lie - yet despite their attempts to blacken her heart and soul, Eponine tries her best to live an honest life where she can. While this makes her appear weak in the eyes of her family it warms others opinion of her.

But when sixteen years later she runs into a young girl who once lived as their slave - Eponine feels a shocked bitterness at the reversal in their fortunes. Even more so when she discovers the man she loves has already had his heart stolen by the lovely Cosette. And as Paris calls out for a revolution, war breaks out across the streets of Paris, breaking the two lovers apart. Will Eponine revert back to the fiendish ways of her childhood, or will she strive to salvage her soul by doing all she can to unite the man she loves with the woman she was brought up to hate…

While somewhat slow in action, I did enjoy this book. Reading much like a memoir it takes the reader on a journey that brings the world of Les Miserables (the book - not the movie) to life through the eyes of Eponine. Exploring her rich childhood years through the decline of her families fortunes to the streets of Paris. It was an intriguing read.

Depicting Eponines dreams and secret wishes, it is a sad but beautiful tale that will open your eyes to the poverty, hardships and sacrifices faced by those who lived through the french revolution. A truly woeful and poignant story, 3.5 stars!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Shadow Study Blog Tour - Interview with Maria. V. Snyder


To celebrate the release of her new book, Shadow Study, I'm lucky to welcome Maria. V. Snyder to the blog today. You can find my interview with her below.

You can also follow a link to my review of the book HERE.


Interview:


Hey there, I just want to say a huge huge thank you for appearing on my blog! I love the study series and am so glad you decided to continue it! I asked some of my blog followers if they had any questions for you and this is what they came up with!

MVS: Thanks for being a part of my blog tour!

1) What made you decide to continue the Study series, apart from the obvious fan induced pressure?
MVS: My readers were a major part of the decision, but I also wanted to explore Valek’s past and return to the world and characters.  I missed them and it was a blast to be with them again.

2) In the book which character is the most difficult to write? Or is there one person you just don't like in general?
MVS: I had the most trouble with Valek’s POV.  The male perspective is difficult for a woman to write and I also wanted to show his emotions without going over-board. My readers love that he’s so confident about his abilities, but a character who has no weaknesses or self-doubts is unrealistic. I hope I struck the right balance. 

3) If you could meet and spend a whole day with any Character from the book, which one would it be and what would you do? 
MVS: I’d spend the day with Janco!  He’s such fun.  I think I’d like to explore/go sightseeing with him.  We’d get into so much trouble and discover all kinds of cool stuff. 

4) What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing Shadow Study?
MVS: How much background to include in the story.  I wanted a brand new reader to be able to pick it up and not be lost or confused – so the story had to stand on its own.  However, I also didn’t want to bore my loyal readers with a ton of details they already know.  And some of my readers are hard core fans, they know more than I do!  While others will forget what happened.  So finding that balance was the biggest challenge to me.  I hope it worked out – I had a friend read the book who hadn’t read any of the other Study books and she pointed out all the problem spots for me.

5) What was the best piece of writing advice you were given, back when you were still an aspiring author?
MVS: Persistence was the best advice I’d received.  To keep sending my book out to agents and publishers until there was no place left to send it to.  Also persistence in writing.  Finishing a novel is difficult—that middle section is a cold hard slog and just getting the words out and finishing the book is a milestone!  I have a bunch of free writing advice articles and tips on my website.  Here’s a link if anyone is interested: http://www.mariavsnyder.com/advice.php

6) Who is your favourite childhood villain?
MVS: Catwoman!  My sister and I used to watch Batman on TV, with Adam West and I always loved the episodes with Catwoman.

7) If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be?
MVS: Donuts!  Love those and try not to eat too many!

Thanks very much :)
MVS: It was my pleasure!  If your readers would like more info about me and my books, I have the first chapter of all my books on my website as well as a number of free short stories (including ones with Yelena and Valek) they can read.  Here’s the link: http://www.mariavsnyder.com.  My Facebook page is where I’m the most active with updates and news.  Here’s the link: http://www.facebook.com/mvsfans 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Shadow Study - Book Review


Shadow Study - Book Review
Maria. V. Snyder
YA Fantasy
Book #1 in the Soulfinders Trilogy
UK Publisher: Mira Ink

Synopsis:

Once, only her own life hung in the balance…

When Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. She survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival counties Ixia and Sitia. Now she uses her magic to keep peace in both lands - and protect her relationship with Valek.

Suddenly, though, dissent is rising. And Valek’s job - and his life - are in danger. As Yelena tries to uncover her enemies, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked. And now she must find a way to keep not only herself but all that she holds dear alive.

Review:

I absolutely loved the Study series and can’t express how thrilled I was to learn that after all these years, Maria V Snyder finally decided to continue it. I’m also happy to say that this long awaited book was amazing!

When Yelena is attacked by an assassin, she awakes several days later to discover that her magical powers are gone. Now helpless against magical attack, word is fast spreading through the territories about her newfound vulnerability, and the only potential culprit is escaped prisoner, Ben Moon. 

But this time, Valek can’t help her investigate. When an assassin reaches his beloved Commander, Valek is forced into reassessing his security and is dumbfounded upon finding it lacking. Not only are smugglers moving freely between the kingdoms, but members of his trusted circle are also unaccounted for. 

Finding his loyalties torn between helping Yelena and following the Commanders orders, Valek realises he must choose between them. Does he protect his country, or protect his heart mate? And can he choose before he loses them both?

My favourite thing about this book was discovering Valek’s past. Reading about the events that led up to him becoming Ixia’s number one assassin was both interesting and insightful. Also as the story is split mostly into Yelena and Valeks Povs - with a little bit of Ari and Janco thrown in - I liked how Valek’s Pov provided the backstory while Yelena’s and other others were more focused on the present.

I also enjoyed the plot line of Yelena’s missing magic. The Study series was all about her learning to harness her powers and now several years later, magic has become second nature to her. With her magic gone, she must now re-learn how to connect with the world and survive without her magical abilities and I feel it makes her more relatable as a character.

This book also introduces several new characters. Their agendas are questionable and I can’t wait to see whether they turn out to be friend or foe. However I loved getting reacquainted with the old characters, and I particularly enjoyed discovering how their lives had changed over the past several years. But I was a little sad that some characters, such as the Master Magicians never managed to make an appearance in the book, although they were often referenced. 

My only criticism is that if you haven't read the Study or Glass series in long time, you may not remember all the characters well. While I very recently re-read the study series, its been a few years since I picked up the Glass books and I struggled to recall some of the characters who play a fairly vital role in this story. I would recommend refreshing your memories before picking up this book. However if your new to the story, I don't think you'll have any problem in understanding.

Other wise I loved, loved, loved this story. And with its huge cliffhanger of an ending I can’t help but want the next book, Night Study, immediately! I'll be counting down the days until its release! 4 stars!

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Fire Study - Book Review


Fire Study - Book Review
Maria. V. Snyder
YA Fantasy
Book #3 in the Study Series
UK Publisher: Mira Ink

Synopsis:

When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder - someone able to capture and release souls - spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. Already Yelena’s unusual abilities and past have set her apart. As the council debates Yelena’s fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising against her homeland, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before…

Honour sets Yelena on a path that will test the limits of her skills, and the hope of reuniting with her beloved spurs her onward. Her journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. Yelena will have but one chance to prove herself  - and save the land she holds dear.

Review:

A great conclusion to a fantastic trilogy. This final book in the Study series brings everything from the previous books together and wraps everything up in one neat, bow-tied conclusion. However I’m so glad that we can see these characters continue their journey in both the Glass and Soulfinder books, as I’m definitely not ready to say goodbye to them just yet.

When the murderous magician Yelena recently defeated escapes, chaos breaks lose within the Magicians Keep. For that magician knew too many dark secrets, and now they are spreading like poison through the magic world, creating warpers - dark magicians who use blood and torture to increase their own powers - and they are intent on overthrowing the Sitian councils decision for peace with Ixia. They want war!

But as Yelena learns more about her own unique powers, more and more people turn from her in fear of what she could become. Only with the aid of her Ixian friends can she hope to defeat the blood thirsty magicians, and only with Valek’s love can she prevent herself from becoming the monster everyone fears … but for all his special abilities, Valek is still just one man, and the Sitians are determined to see both Yelena and Valek dead. Just how far does their love stretch? And will they live long enough to see the sunrise?

These books have been a pleasure to read and Maria. V. Snyder remains one of my favourite YA fantasy authors. I love the magical world she has created, with Ixia’s strict rules and regimented structures, to Sitias vibrant towns and crazy clans people. These are books that I have revisited again and again through my teen years and ones I’m sure I will continue to do so throughout life. They are a must read for all fantasy fans.

I think one of the best elements of Maria. V. Snyder's writing is her ability to take her characters full circle. Always bringing them back to the place their journey began from, its forms a clear distinction for the reader as to how the characters have grown and changed throughout the pages. 

This is especially true of Yelena. She has overcome death many times, mastered her powers and taken control of her life, all while remaining loyal to her friends and beliefs. However while she may have hated Valek in the beginning, she accepts that things and people aren't always what they appear and now Valek holds the place closest to her heart. They make a perfect couple.

The plot also held some twists and bends along the way that took me by surprise. But as the book is pretty action based you will find you simply fly through the pages and all you can do is hold on for the ride.

A magical, spellbinding read, I would recommend Maria. V. Snyders books to all fans of Garth Nix, Tamora Pierce and Sarah-Beth Durst. 4 stars!


Friday, 20 March 2015

Magic Study - Book Review


Magic Study - Book Review
Maria. V. Snyder
YA Fantasy
Book #2 in the Study Trilogy
UK Publisher: Mira Ink

Synopsis:

With her greatest enemy dead, and on her way to be reunited with the family she’d been stolen from long ago, Yelena should be pleased. But though she has gained her freedom, she can’t help feeling isolated in Sitia. Her Ixian background has changed her in many ways - and her new found friends and relatives don’t think its for the better.

Despite the turmoil, she’s eager to start her magic training - especially as she’s been given one year to harness her power or be put to death. But her plans take a radical turn when she becomes involved with a plot to reclaim Ixia’s throne for a lost prince - and gets entangled in powerful rivalries with her fellow magicians. 

If that wasn't bad enough, it appears her brother would love to see her dead. Luckily, Yelena has some old friends to help her with her new enemies. 

Review:

A fantastic middle book to what I know to be a truly spectacular trilogy. With new challenges, old fears and a mix of divided loyalties, this book takes the reader on another adventure, only this time we get to see the other side of Maria V Snyders fantasy realm.  The place where magicians roam free, colour paints everything and the horses are occasionally smarter than the people who ride them. Picking up mere days where the previous novel ended, Magic Study follows Yelena on the next leg of her journey.

 After a short reunion with her long lost family, Yelena sets out to discover the true extent of her magical powers, all while doing her best to avoid the pointed stares and whispered gossip from her fellow students that she is an Ixian spy. But when she learns of a plot that could lead to an outbreak of war between Ixia and Sitia, she is torn over whom to trust … and is unsure of which side she is supposed to be aiding…

Another brilliant read, this book sees Yelena faced with more problems and even greater challenges. But it is clear to see that she has really grown as a character. Applying previous experience to new situations, she knows her limits and now sets about expanding them. While still quick to jump into trouble, she remains a kind, brave heroin and I loved each and every page of her story.

The new characters also contain a motley crew of friends, villains and in-betweens who each add something unique to the plot line. Yelena’s brother, Leif, is a particularly layered character who’s agenda remains difficult to figure out. Of course the old and well loved characters such as Ari, Janco and the elusive Valek, also make appearances in the book although they arrive quite late into the story. 

The plot moves at a fast pace and contains plenty of action. Although there is less backstory in this book, we still get to learn more about Yelena’s childhood and the events that led up to her previous abduction. 

However one of my favourite things within this story was the horses. I love their mind speak and the way they attach names to people based on their impressions. It adds some comedy to all the adventure and with their casual outlook on life, they occasionally offer insightful advice.

All in all yet another great read with just enough of a cliffhanger to ensure you pick up the next book. Fantastic! 4 Stars!