BOOK REVIEW | The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Fantasy, philosophy, politics, action, compelling characters. In my later days of teenhood, I realised that this was, for me, my holy formula. All the ingredients necessary to create the Perfect Book. I found this in the A Trial of Blood and Steel series by Joel Shepherd, and in George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, but never in my life has a book left me so viscerally and profoundly satisfied in the way (heh) that the Way of Kings has.

5 stars

I was first introduced to Brandon Sanderson through a friend who recommended me Warbreaker. I remember the first two things about his writing that I was deeply impressed with: his detailed world-building (including a unique magic system), and complex characters. I witnessed this once again in Steelheart (which I still haven’t finished, much to my own dismay), and now here, in the first book of the Stormlight Archives. They say that three time’s a charm, so I guess it would be appropriate for me to say that Brandon Sanderson is a master.

And he has now become one of my favourite authors.

No joke, kids. This book was so damn good it made me want to buy ALL THE THINGS related to Brandon Sanderson. All his books, all the merch. Merch. This, coming from one of the world’s most frugal twenty-something. I mean sure, I’ll overspend on books. But me wanting to buy merch just goes to show how much of an impression this has left on me.

Stormlight hoodie, anyone?

First, to get the negatives out of the way. Yes, there are negatives, but obviously not enough to dampen the five star rating.

  • Overwhelming introduction. There is a lot of noun usage throughout the book but it’s most confusing in the beginning when you’re just starting out. Desolations, Shardplates, Voidbringers … it’s enough to make your head spin. Granted, I haven’t read a high fantasy book of this magnitude (over 1,000 pages!) in a while. It was only until the very end of the book that I had a good grasp of most of the concepts, except maybe for Desolations. I’m still unsure what that is exactly…
  • Awkward wittiness. Some of the lines by Shallan and Wit come off awkwardly and almost a little forced. For Shallan this mostly happened in the beginning of the book but flows much better when she starts to use the logic that she’s learned in tandem with her wit. For Wit, the awkwardness happens in a feast scene, where he greets Brightlords and Brightladies with insults.

Now for the positives!

  • The characters. Boy oh boy, where do I even begin? The characters are definitely the highlight of this book. One could even argue that this first installment was less about plot and more about developing the characters that will be central to this saga. I mean, this is going to be a 10 book series. That requires commitment. Fortunately, Sanderson has given me a reason to care, a reason to stay. The two standouts for me would have to be Kaladin and Dalinar.

Kaladin, the surgeon’s son, spearmaster, slave, bridgeman … and maybe something more. What I love most is how Sanderson uses flashbacks to layer his story and shows us how he came to be the person that he is. Though often drenched in misery, Kaladin’s arc is perhaps the most satisfying as you witness him navigate both his internal and external conflicts towards a climax that is the most blood-pumping, triumphant, exhilarating moment of my reading life. It had me looking like an idiot, squirming in the bus on the way to work, looking outside at the life bustling around me, then back down at the page thinking, “my life will never be the same again.”

File:Dalinar Kholin.jpg

Dalinar Kholin, Highprince of Alethkar, ferocious warrior, bearer of visions. His most endearing traits are his introspection and steadfast conviction in the Alethi Codes of War. On many occasions, I found myself thinking, “this world doesn’t deserve him.” Because he is good. Just so good. Give this man a holiday. He bears the burden of guilt and visions with the kind of strength that could carry the world and I want to be like him!

The moments with him that were icing on the cake? His interactions with Sadeas. I’m a complete sucker for friends-turned-rivals-turned-frenemies storylines, especially as it was it an effective way of showing how the same goal can be achieved through two very different, and sometimes disastrous means.

life-before-death
A very quick, poorly made edit I did of the First Ideal.
  • Philosophy and ethics. I feel this is very much the backbone of the novel, the driving force behind the characters and their motives, and something that I soaked up with great relish. The Immortal Words, The Way of Kings, the Alethi Codes of War … they all serve to highlight the “ideal” of mankind. To embody the qualities of honour, service, and integrity in everything that you do. The book is pretty much an exploration of a world where those ideals are lost, and in the broader sense, the fight that is needed to regain those ideals.
  • World-building and unique magic. I love that the highstorms shape this world. How both flora and fauna have adapted to being ravaged by it’s brutality, how it’s used for power, and how it’s used to infuse currency. While I haven’t read a lot of high fantasy it really has the feel of being unique. Most have come off a little too Tolkien-y for my taste (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) so this definitely was a breath of fresh air. As a scientist (I can say that because my degree officially declares that I am *cough*) I also love that the Surges have foundations in science. Those two factors give the book a sense of realism. The interludes were so very welcome and refreshing as it added a layer of information on the world of Rokhar outside of the main conflict of the novel. It was kind of like a nice little breather in between all the intense parts.

  • The slow burn. I love me the slow burn. Give it to me bit by bit.  I know a lot of people may be put off by the pace, and in some cases I could also see where Sanderson could have cut things shorter or cut things out entirely, but please, I’m telling you: give this behemoth a chance because the slow burn pays off in a way so satisfying that it had me shaking and singing praises at three in the morning. At around the 80% mark, it becomes one helluva ride and culminates in an epilogue that made me feel with great certainty that I had just witnessed the beginning of a truly epic saga that will last the centuries.

Read it. Buy it. Give it to your bestfriend because your bestfriend deserves the best.

 

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BOOK REVIEW | Vision in Silver (The Others #3) by Anne Bishop

5 stars

I’m not even surprised. Anne Bishop is a master storyteller who’s written another amazing installment in The Others series.

Goodreads Summary: The Others freed the cassandra sangue  to protect the blood prophets from exploitation, not realizing their actions would have dire consequences. Now the fragile seers are in greater danger than ever before—both from their own weaknesses and from those who seek to control their divinations for wicked purposes. In desperate need of answers, Simon Wolfgard, a shape-shifter leader among the Others, has no choice but to enlist blood prophet Meg Corbyn’s help, regardless of the risks she faces by aiding him.

Meg is still deep in the throes of her addiction to the euphoria she feels when she cuts and speaks prophecy. She knows each slice of her blade tempts death. But Others and humans alike need answers, and her visions may be Simon’s only hope of ending the conflict.

For the shadows of war are deepening across the Atlantik, and the prejudice of a fanatic faction is threatening to bring the battle right to Meg and Simon’s doorstep…

I haven’t read a book in months, but Anne Bishop’s The Other’s series has proven to be my go-to books to kickstart my love for reading.

Honestly, a lot of the things I love about this new installment, I’ve written in my reviews for the the first two books. The most important being the characters. I could read a pile of books on them just doing everyday things because they are just that compelling and well-defined, and human. Despite a large portion of them being supernatural creatures, there are those underlying themes of understanding, connection, and friendship that knit them together, with the Humans First and Last movement representing the antithesis of that. They’re very interesting themes, really. And it’s a testament to Anne Bishop that she’s got me really thinking about the story and even empathasing with the humans who are against the terra idigine.

It’s the resulting fear from the refusal to understand and connect that drive the plot. And of course, that primal desire all animals have to survive and claim territory. I found myself thinking about what I would do if there were such things as terra indigine who controlled the land. Would I be swept up in the HFL, or try to help in forging peace with the earth natives? Which side would fear lead me to? The HFL, or the Others?

I like to make notes while I read, and here are some of the few I’ve written down that really stood out for me:

  • Merri Lee’s patience and empathy really shines in this book. Her role, of essentially being the ears and interpreter for Meg’s visions, expands a little in this novel as she helps Meg understand herself and what it means to be cassandra sangue apart from the cutting involved. When Meg does things that seem strange, Merri Lee never judges. Instead she asks her questions in order to understand why she’s acting the way she’s acting, and when she’s understood, provides anecdotes and facts from her own knowledge and experience to assure Meg that her behaviour isn’t all that strange.
  • The dash of humour! It’s always unexpected and it gets me literally laughing out loud. Like Simon knowing not to ask human women about periods and the song of the “Teakettle Woman and Broomstick Girl.”
  • The writing is simple, clean, and well-executed. Anne Bishop describes what only needs to be describes, allowing for a great and immersive read. She’s so good that she’s got me feeling things in my bones, especially at the mere mention of the more feared and powerful others, such as the Elementals.
  • The relationship between Meg and Simon continues to move slowly, but it’s a natural progression that helps the reader value the two parts as strong and complex individuals in their own right, who just so happen to be strong and complex and formidable together.

I enjoyed this book so much that after the first ten pages I decided to order the books from thebookdepository to have on my shelf, and they arrived a few days ago!

The Others Books
Mmmmm…. hardcover.

I’ve also preordered Marked In Flesh because HELL YESSSSSSSSSSS, give me more of that Anne Bishop lovin’.

BOOK REVIEW | Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop

Soooo… I was in a reading slump which is why there was no review yesterday but decided to follow my own advice and sought out a book I knew I would like. Yesterday, I had a quick library run and picked up Murder of Crows. THANK ALL THE DEITIES I LISTENED TO MYSELF. 5 stars Yeah, that’s another FIVE STARS for you, Ms. Anne Bishop. Congratulations on being amazing. You’re already on my list of favourite authors.

Goodreads Summary: After winning the trust of the terra indigene residing in the Lakeside Courtyard, Meg Corbyn has had trouble figuring out what it means to live among them. As a human, Meg should be barely tolerated prey, but her abilities as a cassandra sangue make her something more. The appearance of two addictive drugs has sparked violence between the humans and the Others, resulting in the murders of both species in nearby cities. So when Meg has a dream about blood and black feathers in the snow, Simon Wolfgard—Lakeside’s shape-shifting leader—wonders whether their blood prophet dreamed of a past attack or of a future threat. As the urge to speak prophecies strikes Meg more frequently, trouble finds its way inside the Courtyard. Now the Others and the handful of humans residing there must work together to stop the man bent on reclaiming their blood prophet—and stop the danger that threatens to destroy them all.
Anne Bishop
Behold, the woman rocking my world with her amazing books.

Opening the pages felt like coming home. I’d already decided by the end of the first book that Anne Bishop could do no wrong with these novels because the characters had already taken hold of my heart so it astounds me to no end that in this book, I’ve fallen in love with them even more.

Here are some of the things I loved:

  • An expanding world and new characters. A host of new characters are introduced with the same finesse found in the first book. I was particularly fun to read about the Intuits of Great Island. I could really feel the connection and sense of community between their inhabitants and am looking forward to seeing what role they’ll play in the events of the next book, especially with their new resident.
  • Slow-burn romance. Emphasis on the slow. A few glowing embers of a fire have appeared and I absolutely loved this. The relationship between Meg and Simon develops so organically — as it should — and it’s approached with care. The two of them are complicated in their own ways and it wouldn’t do their characters justice to have them jumping on each other for sexy times without developing anything between them. As with a lot of the things in this series so far, there is a very human story beneath all the supernatural elements and I really felt it in their relationship. This is because of how it emphasises the value of friendship. Meg and Simon acknowledge this on multiple occassions, both in thought and in words. You see it in how they, when faced with a misunderstanding that usually stems from the differences in their nature, talk things through with honesty. How they make efforts to understand the things about the other that confuse them. How they compromise. It is especially refreshing to see a male, Wolf character be honest with himself about such feelings, even though he doesn’t realise those feelings are much more than friendship.
  • Tension galore and Captain Burke. I loved how the tension was so palpable in this book, especially as Captain Burke played a more active role. That scene in the with him and the Hot Crust employees was one of my favourites because it felt like an assertion of how serious the tensions between the humans and the Others were. You can’t just simply put a “Humans Only” sign on your doors and refuse to send deliveries to the Courtyard and not get away with it. The humans live because the Others let them, a fact that seems to be forgotten by the humans as they become more arrogant (stupid). It’s amazing how, while I understand where the humans are coming from, I can side with the Others quite easily. Of course, this issue is very much a parallel to the history of the real world, with explorers claiming ownership to land and resources belonging to indigenous peoples.
  • The human pack. They played a bigger role in this book and it was great to see more scenes with them together. They go through the ringer a little in this, labeled as “Wolf lovers” and shunned by their friends and family as employees and frequent visitors to the Courtyard. But I loved how level-headed they remain compared to the rest of the humans. There’s a conversation they have in the sorting room where they come to the realisation that all of this fighting and tension between the humans and the Others merely comes down to misunderstanding. Both sides have never taken the effort to really get to know and understand each other, their interactions merely like a business deal. You give me that and I’ll give you this. That’s no way to co-exist. It was a really great moment because you could see, especially through Ruth, how much a little effort to understand can change things, and I hope we get to see more of that in the next book with the role that she’ll play in the Courtyard.
  • A different heroine. I’ve seen some reviews that have said Meg is boring and I am here to argue that she is not. She is simply different. Most female protagonists in urban fantasies are made from the same mould: they kick butt, are stubborn and tend to break the rules, and are probably proficient with a *insert weapons of choice here*, or become proficient later on. But Meg’s weapon is her kindness, which I touched on a little in my review of Written In Red. She is kind. That is who she is at her core and as a cassandra sangue and it’s not a weakness. In a world filled with so much tension and violence both on the human and Others side, she is a bright ray of hope and peace. She is strong in her own way. She is smart. She is a survivor. And she, armed only with a broom, will save a Wolf, much to approval of scary Others, thank you very much.

Overall, it was another great read. Though I’m kind of hesitant to start Vision in Silver because Marked in Flesh, the fourth book, comes out and in March 2016 and who can actually wait that long? Barbaric, I tell you. Barbaric.

BOOK REVIEW | Written In Red by Anne Bishop

I’m so happy I could cry. It’s been so long… too long since I’ve read a book that I’ve genuinely, thoroughly enjoyed. So much, that I was reading one night and suddenly it was three in the morning and I didn’t even care. That doesn’t happen often with me, Lover Of Sleep. And so I, with great excitement, am giving this book 5 STARS. ALL THE STARS!

5 stars

will be raving about this because I loved it, but before I officially start, I feel it’s only right to warn you that this book contains description of self-harm.

Goodreads Summary:

Meg Corbyn is on the run. Alone and desperate, she stumbles into the Lakeside Courtyard, where the Others reside. Meg knows entering a Courtyard is a dangerous risk – most people who tangle with the Others end up dead – but it’s the only place she’ll be safe from the people chasing her.

For Simon Wolfgard, leader of the Others residing in Lakeside, Meg is a puzzle and he has to decide if she is worth the fight to keep her in the Courtyard. It will be a fight not just with the humans hunting her down, but with some of the Others – as well as a fight with his own confusing feelings towards Meg.

For Police Officer Montgomery, Meg is the property he’s supposed to recover – and the spark that could start a confrontation with the Others that would wipe out the human city of Lakeside.

And for Meg, who has seen her own future, living in the Courtyard is a chance to have a life – for what little time she has left.

(Mini spoilers ahead).

I only have one dislike, but obviously, since I gave this book 5 stars, it’s more like a nitpick.

Dislikes

  • Some of the world-building. The setting was obviously some kind of parallel, modern-day earth, but made up name days like Sunsday, Earthsday, Thaisday, etc., got me confused. Those aren’t things I associate with urban fantasies, but with any other fantasy not in an urban setting. Maybe I just haven’t read enough books yet? It didn’t distract me too much anyway because there were a lot of other things to love about this book.

Likes

  • The greatest thing about this book are the characters. There are so many of them but they’re given distinct and lovable characteristics. In fact, my point of no return, the moment where I decided to sell my soul to this book, was on page 72, incited by a minor character who’d only appeared about twice or thrice thus far. I’d already been enjoying the book before this, but this character moment sealed the deal.

John was the first to reach the stockroom, but one look at Simon had him backing away. Tess came next, her hair streaked green and red.

“Simon?” Tess asked. “What’s wrong?”

Before he could answer, the back door opened again, almost smacking his hindquarters. He whirled and snapped at Jenni, who had shifted from Crow and was a naked, shivering human.

She ignored the cold and she ignored him, which was beyond insulting since he was the leader of this Courtyard. Instead, she focused on Tess.

“Simon was being mean. He made the Meg cry. I’m going over there to the store to see if I can find a sparkly that will make her smile again. The Meg smiles a lot–when the Wolf isn’t snarling at her.”

The buildup to that moment was just really sweet and got me smiling, internally sobbing, and thinking, “I’m done for.”

Alternate cover.

As for Meg, I admit to being lowkey bothered with her because she was coming off as one of those protagonists that seemed to be adored by everyone. I mean, her transition into the Courtyard was a little difficult at first, but once she gets the hang of things, even the species of Others that are considered the most dangerous felt the desire to protect her. And then I realised I was being ridiculous. Here we have a woman who, despite basically living in an abusive environment her whole life, is kind, empathetic and considerate. Even when the Others in the Courtyard find out she’s a blood prophet, which is more than enough reason to protect her, I never got the feeling that it was the only thing relied on. You get that all the time in fiction. Protect The Girl Because She’s Important. But in this book, it’s so much more than that. Yes, protect her because she’s important, but also protect her because she’s good.

  • Monsters are unapologetically monsters. This was such a breath of fresh air. Werewolves… vampires… in fiction they’re often given more human characteristics which makes it easy to forget that they’re monsters. But in this book, you never forget. This is because they aren’t humans turned into [insert animal/supernatural creature of choice here], but they’re creatures who saw the value of learning a human form. They possess the very same instincts of their ancestors for hunting and killing. Sure, humans know of their existence and they live among them, but this doesn’t mean their diet has completely changed. Humans are allowed in the Courtyard because the Others make their business through them, but human law doesn’t apply inside. Someone tries to steal a book from the bookstore? Your hand gets chomped off by the Wolf on guard. Do it again? The next day, “Special Meat” will be sold at the butcher’s. When humans enter the Courtyard, they must accept the risks. This point is driven early on in the book, on page 18, through a scene where humans trespassing at night are promptly attacked and eaten. No fuss. Just how it is.
  • Cooperation between different Others species. Another breath of fresh air. Werewolves and vampires are usually pitted against each other in fiction but in this novel, they cooperate. Not just them, but all the Others. Makes sense, seeing as humans are their only real enemy, and sticking together gives them a better chance at survival.
  • No romance. *Gasp*. I KNOW RIGHT?! Vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, a female protagonist…. that pretty much guarantees super sexy, angsty romance, right? Wrong! I was so happy. Obviously, in the blurb, it’s hinted that we may eventually get this in the next two books, but Written In Red was all about developing the characters, the setting, and the relationships between characters. Those relationships unfold so organically that I would be 100% down with any romantic fluff come book two.
No sparkly, “vegan” vampires here.
  • Fun abounds. Despite the dark tone of this novel, there are fun little moments that made me laugh out loud. Like a human employee trying to explain to a Crow working the register that yes, she knows the coins are shiny, but she must always give the human customers the right change. And a male vampire trying to figure out if it was appropriate to talk to a human woman about periods. And that gag with the Wolves’ chewy toy (read the book!). Also, there are wonderful, terrifying magical ponies.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. As I’ve mentioned before, it does have some dark aspects, but I felt that beneath it all, there was also something very human and encouraging about the story. If there’s anything else that I think people might not like, it’s that there’s a lot of description of Meg working as the Human Liaison. Some might find it tedious, but I think Anne used it well to develop her character.

Super excited to read the next book, Murder of Crows!

BOOK REVIEW | The Industry by Rose Foster

4 star rating

This was going to be three stars, but by the time I got to the end of the book, it was a four.

Goodreads Summary:

Kirra Hayward is an ordinary sixteen year old – smarter than most, but otherwise completely anonymous. When she stumbles across an unusual puzzle on the internet and manages to solve it, she has no idea of what she’s letting herself in for. Kidnapped by a shadowy organisation known only as The Industry, Kirra soon discovers how valuable her code-breaking skills are. And when she stubbornly refuses to help them, they decide to break her … by any means at their disposal. Kirra knows that to protect herself, she must trust no one, not even her fellow prisoner, Milo. But as time goes by she realises he might be the only person she can rely on …

Dislikes

  • This dislike is all my fault. I accidentally read a spoiler of a major plot twist. It made it hard for me to enjoy the book (mostly just the first half) because I knew where it was headed. Fortunately, the second half had a lot of exciting word building that kept me hooked until the last page.
  • No real explanation of how Kirra can crack the code. I mean, there sort of is one, but the explanation from Kirra is pretty much, “I don’t know, I just look at the string of numbers and letters and see it.” It made me wonder if there was going to be a fantasy element, but there wasn’t.
  • Not enough Lena. I wished we had gotten to know her more because she played such a huge role in Kirra’s character development.

Likes

  • Nice, touching moments. There were three things in this book that really touched me.
    1. It’s established early on that Kirra is a loner.  She doesn’t have any real friends. But then her younger brother finally starts high school. Kirra’s sitting on her own and he comes up to her and asks/offers if he can hang out with her but she says it’s alright, that she’s fine. She knows he’s got friends of his own, and she doesn’t want to take him away from them, so even if, deep down inside, she would’ve loved to hang out with him and not be lonely, she let him go. I’ve already mentioned before that I have a weakness for sibling relationships in books, so reading this sweet little moment warmed my heart.
    2. There’s this lovely moment with Milo and Kirra. They’ve been stuck in prison together for a while, going a little crazy from their situation, and Milo’s trying to get to know her. Rose Foster does a wonderful job setting up that moment, and then she does a wonderful job executing it: dialogue, with no dialogue tags. Just a simple exchange of questions and answers. It was a moment that made me genuinely smile.
    3. Kirra’s arc with Lena. It was just nice having a kind soul amidst the brutality of the world Kirra was thrown into. I love the connection she forms with Lena and how that keeps her strong throughout the book.
  • The Industry. The concept of criminal organisations isn’t a new one, but it was exciting nonetheless. I think this is mostly because we get to see it through the eyes of someone who is young and has no idea about this world that is so morally grey.

I’m kind of annoyed that the second book isn’t in any of my Council’s libraries because I really want to read it. Desmond, in particular, is a character shrouded in so much mystery despite being present for a good chunk of the book. The thing I look forward to the most is seeing how Kirra will navigate this new life of hers, especially after the big truth bomb that happened towards the end.

BOOK REVIEW | Talon by Julie Kagawa

3-STARS

After days of debating with myself, I’ve concluded that stars aren’t the best rating systems. This book could’ve easily been a four but today I’m giving it THREE STARS.

Goodreads Summary:
Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragon slayers. Hiding in human form and growing their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they’re positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser.

Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George.

Soldier Garret St. James has a mission to seek and destroy all dragons, and Talon’s newest recruits in particular. But he cannot kill unless he is certain he has found his prey — and nothing is certain about Ember Hill. Faced with Ember’s bravery, confidence and all-too-human desires, Garret begins to question everything that the Order has ingrained in him — and what he might be willing to give up to find the truth about dragons.

Firstly, how cool is the cover?! The gold text, the shimmering, crimson scales — I spent a few good minutes just staring at it. Secondly, I just wanted to mention that I’ve read the Firelight series by Sophie Jordan, so the premise wasn’t unique to me. I still decided to give it a shot because I’d heard good things about it. With that out of the way, let’s get crackin’!

Dislikes

  • Flat characters. Honestly, I didn’t care for any of the minor characters except maybe Lexi, but even then, like the rest, she felt a little bland. While I can appreciate her friendship with Ember, their conversations weren’t all that interesting. It was usually just her asking Ember about Garrett and how their relationship was progressing. The minor characters were kind of like background noise.
  • Riley’s attraction to Ember. I didn’t understand this one. It felt forced like it existed for the sake of a love triangle. Maybe it was because we don’t see much of him until the second half of the book where we have chapters written in his perspective, but there was just no gradual build up to that attraction. He showed up and then he liked her. Whenever I read his chapters and he’d say stuff like how she stirred his dragon and how he belonged to her, I grimaced. In my head, I was like, “shut up.” I think he would’ve become my favourite character if it weren’t for that, because his parts infused the book with a lot of life and direction that was kind of missing in the first half.
Ember Hill
  • The romance. I don’t know. At least from Ember’s perspective, I can understand that a feeling as strange and passionate as love is rare, new, and exciting; that it is something worth exploring. But I wish it was toned down a little. Just a little. There were so many interesting things in the story that I wanted brought to forefront (some of which I’ll put in the Likes section) and explored a little more, like her relationship with her brother, the Talon organisation, the history of St. George and her friendship with Lexi. Seriously, the latter was a disappointment I didn’t realise resonated so strongly with me until the morning after finishing the book. I love reading girl-girl friendships that are deep and complex. If the romance had been cut down a bit, we could’ve had some time to explore all these things, get to know Lexi a little more.
Dante Hill

Likes

  • Brother and sister relationship. I have a sibling, so I love stories that explore these kinds of relationships. I like how they look out for each other. Even when Ember kind of loses direction and slacks off in that department, her brother is never completely out of her mind when she’s making decisions or thinking things through. It was a shame this wasn’t explored more. I would’ve loved the story to be more centered on their relationship.
  • The action. The training sequences with Scary Talon Lady (*chuckles*) were so fun. Those were the scenes I enjoyed the most, the thing that kept me going during the slower moments in the first half of the book. The action, overall, was well-written. I thought I’d have a hard time visualising fights between dragons but Julie’s writing style helped me form a vivid image in my head.
  • The Talon. I’m sure we’ll get to see more of the Talon organisation in the following books, but either way, the little glimpse that I got in this book had me wanting more. It’d be cool to meet characters from the other branches in action, like the Gila and the Basilisk. But even more so, I’m interested in the dynamic between the humans and dragons in this world. There’s a few instances in the book where it shows how the humans in the organisation fear them, so it makes me wonder how they’ve come to work for Talon. Are there humans in high, important positions? How high can you go? How else do they serve the organisation, apart from being drivers, guardians, and techies?

A lot of questions, and a lot of hope for the next book!

(I feel like my reviews are getting progressively longer.)

BOOK REVIEW | Skulk by Rosie Best


4 star ratingI’m giving this novel a solid FOUR STARS.

Goodreads Summary:

When Meg witnesses the dying moments of a shapeshifting fox and is given a beautiful and powerful stone, her life changes forever. She is plunged into the dark world of the Skulk, a group of shapeshifting foxes.

As she learns about the other groups of shapeshifters that lurk around London – the Rabble, the Horde, the Cluster and the Conspiracy – she becomes aware of a deadly threat against all the shapeshifters. They must put aside all their enmity and hostility and fight together to defeat it.

(As you may notice, I’ve changed my review style. First I’ll write the things I didn’t like and then finish with the things I liked, just keep things neat and simple.)

Dislikes:

  • Meg’s parents, especially her mum. While I acknowledge that women like her must exist in the world, she felt too much like an exaggerated cartoon character. I think it also comes down to my preference with antagonists: I want them to have redeeming qualities, even a tiny sliver. I want them to feel real. Her dad on the other hand … every time he was in a scene, all I saw in my head was a cardboard cutout of a man in a business suit with an expressionless face. I get that part of his personality was his indifference, and that Meg literally calls him Invisible Man, but it would’ve been nice to see more interaction between the two of them as I felt they were an interesting pair. I don’t even think he had more than three or two lines in the whole novel.
  • Meg’s acceptance of her new-found shapesifting abilities. I feel like she should have questioned it more. She accepted it so easily. I suppose it can be explained by the hatred she has of her family life — that she embraced it as another (very cool) avenue of freedom — but I feel like if that had happened to me, no matter how I hated my life, it would be the subject of my thoughts 24/7. I’d be doing so much more than googling.

Likes:

  • The premise is unique. The book was a breath of fresh air I never knew I needed. These days, shapeshifting in both fiction and TV is all about wolves. But our heroine is a fox, collectively called the Skulk. There are also the Rabble (butterflies), the Horde (rats), the Conspiracy (ravens), and the Cluster (spiders). I like that they’re all urban animals which fit the setting. Also, how cool are the names?!
Cooler than you, obviously.
  • The relationship between Meg and Addie. This really warmed my heart. I loved how instinctively protective and trusting they were of each other. Every time they showed affection towards each other, I felt like there were golden orbs of sunlight in my eyes, in the best possible way.
  •  It was an exciting read. It started off slow and I admit to not wanting to go through with it, but I’m glad I did. I was so hooked, I almost missed my stop at the city because I didn’t want to put it down. On the train ride back home, I saw there was only about half a thumb-width left for a one hour ride that I ended up forcing myself to read slowly so it would last me the whole trip. Better that than sitting in agony, suppressing my emotions on a packed train.

I really enjoyed this book but it’s a shame I won’t be able to read the next one. Strange Chemistry, the publishing company responsible for Skulk books, have closed their doors, effectively cancelling all future publication projects. It’s sad, really. It would be nice to have some closure, to know where these characters are headed, what they will do, what they will lose, how they will change. Here’s hoping Ms. Best finds success in that venture!

BOOK REVIEW | Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

4 star rating

There are sooooooo many things running through my mind about this book. I don’t know if I can, or will, write it all down, but we’ll see how this goes. I’ll start off by saying I’m giving this 4 STARS.

Goodreads Summary

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

First, I want to say that I really enjoyed the book. I started late at night which was a huge mistake because I so desperately wanted to keep going. I was hooked but I was tired and drifting off to sleep. I woke up early the next morning and continued, finishing some time in the afternoon. It was a compelling and heart-pounding ride. I couldn’t put the book down. I got so emotionally invested that I was smiling in some parts, cheering, crying (yeah, that happened) and, whenever I could muster the strength to tear my gaze away from the page, sending a barrage of messages to the friend that had been pestering me for months to read it.

But I can’t give it 5 stars. I love the novel, but I just can’t. 4 stars isn’t so bad, right? I think if I had read this when I was younger, fifteen or sixteen, maybe, I would’ve soaked it all up and given it a 5. I’m a little older now (if you can call twenty as “a little older”) and a little less impressionable. It was a strange experience. Because while I was squirming with glee and excitement, part of me was also rolling my eyes. Some of the reasons I have listed below:

  • There were some moments that felt so cliche I cringed. Like that moment when person A is pulled out of harm’s way by person B, and then once the harm has passed, person B realises the intimacy of the gesture and quickly lets go, while person A is trying to keep cool and not blush.
  • I am not going to go into the use of Russian language and culture as I am not a native. I’m sure there are plenty of reviews about it.

THE THING I HATED THE MOST? Alina really annoyed me in the first half of the book. She’s just so … bitter. And I hate how she seemed to associate being pretty with being evil. The whole pretty female-hate in general left a sour taste in my mouth. There was a part in the book where Alina was thinking how Genya was quite nice for a pretty girl and just … sigh. As if being nice and pretty are mutually exclusive.

And then there was Zoya. I finished the book wondering what her purpose was. Alina only showed strength in combat training when Zoya — early established as some kind of nemesis because she was pretty and made eyes at Mal —  was paired up with her for sparring practice. Zoya, the Grisha regarded by her peers as a great fighter, taken down by Alina who hadn’t really shown any progress before. To what end? I hope that Zoya plays a larger role in the other books and that she wasn’t just there to be spited.

Cool map, though.

Despite all that negative talk, it really was an exciting read, in a formulaic young adult novel sort of way (maybe I really have read too much YA) which makes it the best kind of escapist fiction. Recommended for people who loved Graceling by Kristin Cashore, and The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson.

If you’re confused about the review, don’t worry. So am I.

So am I.

BOOK REVIEW | The Repossession by Sam Hawksmoor

4 star rating

It was a toss up between 3.5 or 4, but then I figured I should stop being so half-assed with ratings and choose whole numbers. So I decided to give it a 4.

Goodreads Summary

Thirty-four kids are missing, vanished without a trace. Meanwhile, Genie Magee, 15,  is imprisoned behind bars at home by her mother, who claims her soul is possessed by the Devil and is encouraged by the sinister Reverend Schneider. When Genie’s boyfriend Rian sets her free,  they end up at a remote farmhouse downriver, where all may not be as it seems. Then Genie meets Denis who has been missing two years now, but hasn’t grown an inch; while Rian is haunted by Renée, who insists she’s not actually dead. Soon they discover the terrible truth about Reverend Schneider—and worse, Genie is next.

The premise sounded interesting though I admit I was a little put off by the blurb on the back that said:

All Genie’s hopes, all her life and her soul, are pinned on beautiful Rian. Rian loves her. He’ll rescue her from this madness.

Another one those? I thought. I think one of the reasons I stopped reading young adult novels in the first place was because I’d been over-saturated with love triangles and mushy romantic fluff that made me feel sick (probably also because I had a non-existent love life myself and became a bitter woman). But I was pleasantly surprised. The relationship between Genie and Rian is one of the greatest things about this story. There’s no Other Guy she’s torn over — it’s just her and Rian. It is simple, organic young love that isn’t in your face but rather quite heart-warming. It isn’t one-sided and you don’t have to read through pages of angst.

Genie is a likable protagonist. I appreciated that despite how harshly she was treated by her mother, she never strayed far from the person she was. Throughout the whole novel, she remains kind, empathetic, selfless, but never a pushover. She is strong in her own way and can get herself out of tricky situations with determination and intelligence. It was great to see her really come into her own by the end of the novel.

Speaking of her mother, my main disappointment with novel the is how the “bad guys” are portrayed. When I finished the book and thought about it I realised how one-dimensional they felt. Sure, I definitely felt a strong sense of hatred towards their actions, but every time I pictured them in my head, they were people with glowing red eyes and horns sticking out of their heads. I’m hoping that in the next book, they become more fleshed out than that image.

Other points to mention:

  • I loved the little twists in the book that made me question everything.
  • Wasn’t a big fan of the long chunks of dialogue at first but I got used to it by the end of the book.
  • The writing style, in general, isn’t something I’m used to. The flow of the sentences were sometimes jarring and I felt like some of the paragraphs could’ve been broken up for smoother reading.
  • A few moments in the beginning of the novel felt too convenient.
  • Loved reading the science behind teleportation.
  • Fantasy element (Genie’s gift) wasn’t really explored.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel. It kind of bogged down a little in the middle but picked up the pace soon after. The end was particularly exciting which is why I’ll be raiding my local library for it’s sequel, The Hunting.

BOOK REVIEW | SYLO by D. J. MacHale

SYLO by D.J. MacHale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4 star rating

I picked up this book from one of the many shelves at my local library because the spine caught my eye and the cover looked sweet (don’t lie to me — you know you judge them too). The premise also sounded interesting so I decided to give it a shot. I haven’t read any of MacHale’s books so I went in with no expectations.

The book started off strong. The first few chapters were great at setting the tone of the story and painting a picture of the idyllic island that is Pemberwick. It sounds like the kind of place I’d want to go on vacation to, minus the military invasion. Not cool.

As I kept reading, there were many times where I wanted to give up. The place was much too slow for my liking and it only started to pick up half-way through the book. In fact, it took me four days to plough through the first half, as opposed to the one afternoon sitting I spent on the last half.

My other gripe with the book was with the supporting characters. While Tucker felt very fleshed out, I found that I had a lot of question marks in my head for his mum, dad, and Olivia. With the first two, I wished I could’ve learned more about them. Tucker obviously has a lot of respect for them but (view spoiler). As for Olivia, I felt that she was all over the place in the second half of the book. It was distracting reading her switch from being manipulative, to genuinely sweet and caring, to terrified as hell, to confident — usually within the span of a page.

Despite all those negatives, I’m glad I stuck with it. The last quarter of the book was a vast improvement, and lived up to James Dashner’s claim that the story is “relentlessly fast-paced … (and) leaves you breathless and satisfied.” My stomach was in knots because I was so hooked. My eyes did that thing where they’re looking at a sentence but end up drifting down without you realising it because you want to read faster but your brain isn’t catching up. You know the thing. You can actually see the point in my reading progress where I stop updating because I can’t put the book down.

I’ll be putting the sequel, “Storm”, on my reading list!

View all my reviews