Thursday, 26 February 2015

Dream of Gods and Monsters - Book Review



Dreams of Gods and Monsters - Book Review

Laini Taylor

YA Fantasy

Book #3 in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy

UK Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton

Synopsis:

By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the Chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her, if there can be a future for the chimaera in war ravaged Eretz.

Common enemy, common cause.

When Jael’s brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people.

And perhaps, for themselves. Toward a new way of living and maybe even love.

But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and, in the skies of Eretz … something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from the horizon; the great winged storm hunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world.

What power can bruise the sky?

From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, Chimaera and seraphim will fight, strive, love and die in an epic theatre that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy. 

At the very barriers of space and time, what do Gods and monsters dream of? And does anything else matter…?

Review:

As a whole this trilogy has been magnificent. A real pleasure to read,  this final book takes the reader on a journey of war, peace, friendship and betrayal while every character walks the thin line of life and death. It was a fantastic conclusion to the series.

Beginning immediately where the last book left off, we find Akiva and Karou facing the ultimate challenge of uniting their people against the greater evil presented to them by the emperor. But after hundreds of years of war, can the angels and chimaera put their differences aside, or will their long bred hatred of one another be rooted too deep? But as destiny and prophecies are fulfilled what shape will the future take as lives are lost and the end of days draws nearer. Can Karou and Akiva win against the empire or will the world be changed forever…?

I finished the second book of this trilogy “dreams of blood and starlight’ well over a year ago so it took a couple of chapters for me to get back into the story, to remember the characters, their names and histories - and their past meetings and who had conflicted with who. Still it didn't take me too long to recall everything and I was quickly hooked back into the story.

I love Laini Taylor’s writing style. Her prose is magical and lyrical to the point it almost flows of the page. The descriptions are vivid and bring each scene to life with a breathtaking onslaught of sensory images which continued through all three books to astound and amaze me.

The old characters were all as loveable as I remembered and I liked the splash of drama and intrigue the new ones added to the story. The connections between each person (man/angel and beast) also read genuine and I was sad to say goodbye to these amazing characters when the book ended.

In terms of the story the plot was action packed and fast paced. There were many surprises, some ‘oh my god’ moments and ultimately, a very satisfying ending with a twist that I hope will one day lead to a further/spin off story.


Overall words cannot express how much I have enjoyed reading these books and they will forever have a prized place on my bookshelf. Liana Taylor is a first class storyteller and I look forward to reading her future books. I give a Dream of Gods and Monsters 5 stars!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Worry Magic - Book Review


Worry Magic - Book Review
Dawn McNiff
MG Contemporary
Synopsis:

Courtney is a worrier -she’s worried about EVERYTHING, from her mum and dad’s constant fights,to her gran being ill to the fact that her best friend Lois suddenly seems to be more interested in growing up and hanging out with the mean girl, Bex.

But then one day, during a particularly bad argument kicked off by her dads discovery of a pig in their lounge (don’t ask…) Courtney begins to feel a bit funny … a bit woozy … a bit like a dream is coming on - and then when she wakes up everything is better! Mum and Dad are being nice to each other, the pig is going back to the animal shelter (really, don't ask…) and even Kyle, her older brother seems to be making an effort.

Courtney becomes sure that each time she feels woozy and has her dreams, she’s magicking her problems and worries away. Her mum, dad and brother aren't so sure though. Can Courtney convince everybody that her worry magic dreams are the perfect way to solve her problems? Or should she learn to worry a little less and to ask for help in some non-magical places more?

Review:

This was a sweet and interesting read and I thought Dawn McNiff perfectly captured the voice of a twelve year old girl - especially one who is prone to worrying! 

The story follows Courtney and the mad-eccentrics of her family. Her mother in particular is a little crazy. Volunteering at the local animal shelter she is constantly bringing home abandoned and mistreated animals but the Pig is the final straw for Courtney’s dad who is already stretched thin over worry for his own mother, Courtney’s grandmother, who is sick in hospital.

But as her parents screaming matches become worse and worse, Courtney feels the world around her begin to spin. She dreams her parents happy and when she wakes up, she is surprised to find that everything has gone back to normal - better than normal as not only are her parents actually being nice to each other, but all her problems seem to have disappeared. What else could this be but worry magic!

Confident in her new found power, Courtney now plots a way to see her grandmother, who up until now has been deemed too sick for visitors, but Courtney knows she can use the worry magic to make her better. If only she can get to the hospital. But as the week goes on, Courtney finds the worry magic working less and less - she needs to see her grandmother now before the magic disappears forever. But is it really worry magic making everything better… or is it something else entirely…?

There were many things I enjoyed about this book. The first being Courtney’s many worries that related very well to things I myself often worried about as a pre-teen. Things like people trying to steal my best friend, or wondering if I was cool enough or too childish compared to my other mates. It made me laugh to read these simplistic things that, once upon a time, seemed like such huge and important fears. 

I also liked the variety of characters. Courtney’s brother Kyle, with his geeky habits yet caring heart really moved me with his clumsy attempts to protect his sister from their parents fights. And I liked how Lois, Courtney’s best friend, was a level headed and generally kind hearted person who didn't dwell on mistakes.

However what really grabbed me about this story was the underline that sometimes you forget to look at the world through a child's perspective. Parents often make the mistake  of forgetting that kids can be particularly astute at picking up on bad situations, despite their efforts to hide away all the bad things in the world - such was the case with Courtney’s parents. 

This book also teaches lessons in honesty and  highlights the merits that come with being open and sharing your fears and worries with another person. No one should suffer in silence and I loved how Courtney shared everything in letters to her grandmother.

The only thing that I didn't like about this story was the mothers character  - she just seemed very immature and caused so much conflict within the household. However I suppose from a younger persons perspective she would just appear like a really fun/cool mother but personally I couldn't help but find her annoying and selfish. Yet I could also see why Courtney turned into such a a worrier.

However overall I enjoyed this book and think it would be perfect for any girls who are prone to worries. Full of little ideas on how to deal with anxieties, it was a nice, reassuring sort of read that many pre-teens can easily relate too. Definitely a good book for those seeking some comfort or reassurance when the world feels unsteady beneath your feet. 3 stars!

Monday, 16 February 2015

Darkness Hidden - Book Review



Darkness Hidden - Book Review
Zoe Marriott
YA Urban Fantasy
The Name of the Blade #2
UK Publisher: Walker Books

If you haven't read the first book in the trilogy - The Night Itself - you can find my Review of it HERE!

Synopsis:

In the electrifying second volume of Zoe Marriott’s The Name of the Bade Trilogy, Mio, Jack and Shinobu have defeated the terrifying Nekomata against all odds, and brought Jack’s sister home alive.

But Mio is still compelled to protect the katana, her family’s ancestral sword, and now the underworld has spawned a worse monster - one carrying a devastating plague that sweeps through London like wildfire.

As Mio struggles to protect the city and control the swords deadly powers, she realises that this time there is no way she can keep everyone she loves alive … and she must make a terrible sacrifice to save the world…

Review:

I have read all of Zoe Marriotts books to date and I feel her writing only grows more and more amazing with every book she publishes. When I picked up Darkness Hidden, I was truly in awe because I simply loved each and every page of it! There were no niggles, no shadows of doubt over plot or characters, the story just  swept me up in its arms and carried me from beginning to end in that pleasurable haze that comes with all good storytelling. Its a magnificent read!

Picking up mere hours from where the first book left off, Mio and the gang immediately find themselves challenged by more monsters from the Japanese underworld of Yomi - and this time, they cannot rely on help from the Kitsune. But when Jack falls victim to the sickness spread by these new found fiends, Mio swears she will do everything in her power to save her best friend, no matter what the sacrifice.

But as London shuts down, the city becomes a prison of chaos and Mio realises that while the sword may be the only thing strong enough to defeat the minions sent by the dark goddess, the blade is also bit by bit, stealing away her humanity. Even now she can feel its inhuman voice calling out to her, poisoning her mind as it bids its time, waiting to take possession over her  once more. And she is afraid.

For control over the katakana comes at a terrible price. Yet with her friend on the verge of death, the Kitsune confined to the spirit realm and the world falling to pieces around her, Mio comes to understand that when it comes to the future of mankind there is no choice, and if there was, its not necessarily hers to make. Deep down, she knows she cannot protect everyone . . . surely soon, she knows someone she loves will die. But how much of Mio will they take with them…

This was a brilliant, page turning read that took the reader through a roller coaster of emotions. Rather than a story that lead up to one great, epic battle at the end, each scene threw more and more at the characters so that they barely had time to catch their breath between one catastrophe and the next. With the constant threat of danger, the action was never ending and spaced out with an occasional revelation or romantic moment that only made you love the characters more - and boy does Zoe marriott really put her characters through the wringer!

From the last book, its clear to see Mio has developed a tougher skin. Through her battle with the Nekomato she lost a lot of her earlier innocence and is now aware that through both her experiences, plus the swords gift of increased speed and strength, she has both the ability and capacity to kill - a rather frightening revelation for her.

Mio’s romance with Shinobu has also been kicked up a notch. With many more near death experiences the two have grown even closer, yet it is more than just love between them. They are friends and comrades who share a mutual respect and trust each other explicitly. One can be strong when the other is weak and they balance each other well. 

I was sad that - being sick and all - Jack played a lesser role yet even plagued by a supernatural illness her feisty spirit still shone through. However we did get to learn more about Jack’s sister, Rachel. In the last book she had a more damsel in distress part yet in  this book we see that she can be just as vocal as Jack with the same, no bull shit attitude. Dealing with the aftermath of being held hostage by the Nekomata she played an interesting part in the story. 

We also got to see different sides to other characters from the previous book, which really put a new spin on how we perceived them - however I won’t mention names as I don’t wish to give away spoilers. 

But all in all this was a simply superb read! It had none of the second book drag or wish-washy fillers that I feel many middle books have and I seriously can’t wait to get my hands on the next book! Utterly fantastical, this is a five star read!

Monday, 9 February 2015

The Queen of the Tearling - Book Review

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The Queen of the Tearling – Book Review
Erika Johansen
YA Fantasy
Queen of the Tearling Book #1
Synopsis:
On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile, sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa. But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenceless: Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power, and accompanying her is the Queens Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus. Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon – from crimson caped assassins to the darkest blood magic – to prevent her from wearing the crown.
Review:
Apart from having a completely gorgeous cover, ‘The Queen of the Tearling’ is an amazing read the gripped me from page one. Set in a fantasy world of a not so distant future, it takes the reader on a journey of trust, magic and self-discovery that explores both the corruption and responsibilities that come with power. It was a really great read and I’m counting down the months until the next book!
On the day of her nineteenth birthday, Kelsea becomes Queen of the Tearling, a small but vastly populated country that for too long has been ruled by Tyrants and suppressed by the woman known as ‘the red queen’ – a notorious witch who resides over the neighbouring kingdoms.
Yet Kelsea has lived her entire life in hiding.  Growing up in isolation, her adoptive parents saw her schooled in politics, history and social etiquette… but never was there a book labelled “How to rule a failing country”. But now Kelsea must find her voice or risk losing all. With an uncle plotting to overthrow her, the red queen threatening war and a damnable handsome thief, aka ‘The Fetch’ constantly in her thoughts, Kelsea must somehow win the love of her people, gain the loyalty of the queens guard and discover the secrets behind her twin sapphire necklaces, all before a knife can stab her in the dark.
Now involved in a deadly game of win all or die trying, Kelsea has assassin’s lining up to kill her and a traitor lurking somewhere behind the mask of a friend. With time working against her can she uncover the plots and schemes set to destroy her, or will her country crumbled before she even gets a chance to try to right the wrongs of her ancestors. The chess board is set, but the players remain a mystery and Kelsea must quickly learn who her opponents are if she is to have any hope of surviving the year...
I have seen many mixed reviews about this book, quite a few of them negative but I have to say, personally I really enjoyed it. It’s been a long time since I read a fantasy that truly captured my attention and I devoured this story within days. However the comparisons claiming this book to be a mix of hunger games and game of thrones, well… I don’t think this book is even remotely similar to either. ‘Queen of the Tearling’ is uniquely its own story and these comparisons do it no favours. So for anyone thinking of picking up this book, I can only ask that you approach it with no preconceptions.
The story itself is very action packed with a lot of mystery and intrigue. The history of the Tearling, particularly the events that happened during the reign of Kelsea’s mother, Elyssa, are shrouded in secrecy and Kelsea’s frustration in her lack of knowledge about such times are often echoed by the reader. However I think it is interesting how the author has made it so both the main character and the reader are alike in their curiosity to find out more backstory.
 
Also the setting of this book is rather unusual. In the beginning I thought that the Tearling was simply another fantasy realm, yet as the history of the world unfolds, you soon learn that the Tearling is in fact a futuristic echo of our own world, one that surfaced after a huge flood that set technology back hundreds of years and brought about the return of magic.   
As for the characters, Kelsea is a great heroine. Educated and brave, she shares her adoptive parent’s values of a modest and simple life. Accepting herself as plain, she is unable to acknowledge her own power and charms, yet despite her insecurities, she is ajust and strong leader and I look forward to seeing her grow, both as a woman and a Queen.
I also enjoyed the secondary characters immensely. The queen’s guard is built up of a plethora of personalities, each with their own dark past, while the villains themselves all have personal motives for wanting Kelsea dead. Furthermore the glimpses given of the red queen indicate that she has a greater agenda – and not necessarily a bad one – for the future of their world. She is however set on walking a dark path to achieve her goals. All of which add a layer of inquisitiveness to an already captivating story.
So overall a fantastic start to a promising new fantasy. Magical, unexpected and charmingly rich in plot, ‘The Queen of the Tearling’ is a brilliant read. 4 stars!