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Thursday, 22 May 2014

Vessel - Book Review

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Vessel – Book Review

Sarah Beth Durst

YA Fantasy

Synopsis:

Liyana has trained her entire life to be the vessel of a Goddess. She will dance and summon her tribes deity, who will inhabit Liyana’s body and use magic to bring rain to the desert. But when the dance ends, Liyana is still there. Her tribe is furious – and sure that it is Liyana’s fault. Abandoned by her tribe, Liyana expects to die in the desert. Until a boy walks out of the dust in search of her.

Korbyn is a God inside his vessel, and a trickster God at that. He tells Liyana that five other Gods are missing, and they set off across the desert in search of the other vessels. The desert tribes cannot survive without the magic of their Gods. But the journey is dangerous, even with a God’s help. And not everyone is willing to believe the trickster God’s tale.

The closer she grows to Korbyn, the less Liyana wants to disappear to make way for her Goddess. But she has no choice – she must die for her tribe to live. Unless a trickster God can help her to trick fate – or a human girl can muster some magic of her own…
Review:

I had never heard of Sarah Beth Durst before and knew nothing of her books. Yet when someone recommended this story to me, I knew instantly she was an author I needed to check out. Being a big fan of fantasy, I enjoyed all the magical elements hidden within the pages and found the story to be both different and ultimately gripping. A really, really great read.

When Liyana steps into the sacred circle, she knows she will not walk out of it alive. She has had sixteen years to come to terms with her fate, and although fear lurks in her heart she is determined to carry out her destiny. If it means the survival of her people, she will gladly give up her soul so that the Goddess may inhabit her body and bring life and prosperity to her village. Yet when the music stops, Liyana finds her destiny has changed. She is still alive. Her Goddess never came. And now her people will die.

In an angry mob her village turns on her, leaving her alone in the desert, to perish under the scorching sun. Accepting that perhaps death is, after all, to be her fate, Liyana is surprised when from the vast dunes of sand a boy emerges. Claiming to be Korbyn, the notorious trickster God, he explains how the Gods and Goddesses of the desert have been captured. Now together they must set out on a mission to free the trapped deities and rescue the other Vessels before its too late… but just how much can a trickster God be trusted…?

I really adored this book. I thought that the concept for the story was simply stunning and I love the world Sarah Beth Durst has created. A universe of sand and desolation, where life and death is ruled by the magic of the Gods, it is a place where no one can be trusted and each tribe is only looking out for themselves.
Furthermore the sand wolves and glass dragons particularly captured my imagination, yet despite the fantastical elements the magic came with rules and limitations, all of which combined together to make a very real and intriguing read.

 The story is told mostly through Liyana’s eyes, and she was a refreshingly strong character from the start. Smart and intuitive, she trusts her instincts and each new trial and danger only makes her stronger.
The one part of the book I disliked however was the romance that kindled between her and another character – for while I understood the reasoning behind it I thought it made Liyana seem very fickle in her feelings, for while I wouldn’t say there was a love triangle there was change of heart that I couldn’t relate to in anyway. And while it served to make the story unpredictable, I still couldn’t help but be disappointed when the two characters I wanted to be together parted ways.

Yet the romance aside, I really loved everything else about this book. The plot moved at a fast pace, each of the secondary characters was unique and charming – especially the other Gods who where rather selfish and childish in comparison to their human vessels. And to top it all off, I liked that it was hard to read peoples agendas which kept the plot a mystery and me turning the pages.

So overall, a four star read! VESSEL is great YA fantasy and one that I would recommend to any Tamora Pierce or Maria V Snyder fans, and I can’t wait to check out more books by Sarah Beth Durst. If anyone has any recommendations please let me know! This is definitely a book for the keep shelf J


Sunday, 18 May 2014

If I Should Die - Book Review

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If I should Die – Book Review

Amy Plum

YA Paranormal

Revenants Book #3

Synopsis:

I will not lose another person I love. I will not let history repeat itself.

Vincent waited lifetimes to find me, but in an instant out future together was shattered. He was betrayed by someone we both called a friend, and I lost him. Now our enemy is determined to rule over France’s immortals, and willing to wage a war to get what they want.
It shouldn’t be possible, none of it should be, but this is my reality. I know Vincent is somewhere out there, I know he’s not completely gone, and I will do anything to save him.

After what we’ve already fought to achieve, a life without Vincent is unimaginable. He once swore to avoid dying – to go against his nature and forsake sacrificing himself for others – so that we could be together. How can I not risk everything to bring my love back to me?

Review:

Both an enjoyable read and lovely end to what has been a great series, If I should Die was a book I thoroughly enjoyed. With romance, intrigue and an ultimate battle between good and evil, fans of the series will not be disappointed with this final instalment of Amy Plum’s marvellous revenants trilogy.

When Vincent’s body is destroyed, Katie is left alone and distraught. Now with her boyfriend stuck as a wandering spirit - both of them betrayed by someone they thought a friend - and an impending war arising between the immortals of Paris, Kate is more determined than ever to play her part in putting things back to rights. She will not lose any more people she cares about!

So setting out on the seemingly hopeless task of reanimating her boyfriend, Kate is willing to pay any price to bring Vincent back to her. Yet when her family are suddenly thrust into the thick of her problems with the immortals, Kate’s realises her future, and that on those she loves, hangs on a single decision. But just what will Kate be willing to sacrifice, her love, her family… or her life…

Amy Plum did an amazing job of bringing this trilogy to a stunning conclusion. Picking up exactly where the last book left off, the reader is instantly thrown back into the action. With Vincent lost and the Revenants on the brink of war, the story moved at a fast pace and I found it almost impossible to put this book down. A real page turner!

Yet while I did guess many of the plot points, there were a few surprises along the way. But ultimately, everything that I wanted to happen, happened, therefore leaving me a very happy reader.

Also in this book Kates growth as character is truly apparent. She is no longer drifting through life and instead knows exactly what she wants from it – and thanks to all the life and death situations she was thrust into, she now has both the strength and the determination to achieve her goals. Learning from her past mistakes, she no longer lets her fear and self doubt control her. She trusts her instincts and it was great to watch how she has developed into this woman who is, now, quite the force to be reckoned with.

Vincent, of course, remains the perfect love interest. Protecting Kate when he can, yet sullenly understanding when she strikes out on her own. He lets her grow and doesn’t try to make her into the damsel in distress, and through each new danger his love and devotion to her are clear to see. Together they make the cutest couple.

Of course the secondary characters are also pretty bad ass. Jules for one is worth mentioning, it was nice to see his own feelings finally voiced and I enjoyed the secrets that came out about Jean-Baptise, along with a few other revenants.

And while it was sad to see some characters die (it was a war after all), I felt each death was justified and that the author didn’t just go ‘killing happy’ as some seem prone to do.

Overall I just really loved this series. The idea of revenants is a unique paranormal aspect that has barely been done, and the explanations and histories offered up to the reader about their world bring in the elements of credibility that can help make you wonder, what if…

So to conclude I’m sad to see this series end yet have thoroughly enjoyed Kate and Vincent’s journey. Completely recommended, the revenants trilogy is one for all YA paranormal romance fans. I am also looking forward to seeing what Amy Plum will come up with next.

4 ½ stars! 




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!


Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

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