The Cruel Prince, Holly Black

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Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans.Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.
In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
Someone please tell me why I’ve never picked up a Holly Black book before, what have I been doing. (okay I read the Spiderwick Chronicles when I was younger but none of her YA stuff) I mean, this book has everything I love in it? Morally grey faeries doing morally grey things. You know, like, murder. But also raising a kid and loving that kid.
Plots against other characters and characters trying to prove themselves as better.
Twists and turns.
Murder.
God, I’m such a sucker for faerie books done right. See like, in most books (especially YA) the fae are there for eye candy… the romantic partner… and they are always described before you meet them as ‘evil’ or whatever, but when you see them, they aren’t.At all. They just seem to be long lived humans with pointy ears, where there are a few baddies but most are to be Protected At All Cost (we know what series I’m talking about and I love the books, but really). Like, the reason the fae are seen as evil is because they aren’t human, they are meant to have different morals to us. Trickery is their language. And Holly is so good at writing it.
I loved following Jude – she was quite a refreshing main to read about, with her whole ‘lets dive in and do this thing even though I’m terrified’ attitude that got her into trouble more than once. She was wide eyed in the world of the fae – living there ten years meant she knew the good, bad an ugly and how to navigate as a human. And though she… wasn’t cruel, but certainly had a heart of steel, she cared as well.Enough to get into even more trouble when she thought it was the right thing to do.
Even the books…charming….cruel prince – Prince Cardan. It’s no great shock that I always love the characters you would really hate in real life. Thankfully, this is a readers flaw most of us deal with. Cardan is a dick. And to start with, you do gently hate him. But his storyline is revealed along with his personality in tiny ways, and you can’t help but grow a soft spot for him.
And like, their relationship with each other (both ‘romantic’ – you can’t really call it that – and general)is great to read – I just cannot wait to see what happens in the next book.
The characters weren’t the only great thing about the book. Holly has this beautiful way with both words and actual storytelling, building up to something almost seamlessly and making you wonder how it actually got to that point. The whole world she had created in this book was dark and compelling but beautiful – it horrifies you yet draws you in at the same time.
Ughh. I am totally going to hunt down some more of Holly’s books to read now.
five stars
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Warbringer, Leigh Bardugo

She will become one of the world’s greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning. . . .

Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world.

Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

I have a confession. Wonder Woman, the film that came out this year, was the first ever DC film I’ve watched. I had no idea who she actually was or what her story was, as I’m not a comic book lover (I think they are cool, but I find it impossible to read a story like that). However, the film is already a favourite of mine, and this book (kind of unsurprisingly) is one as well – and not just because it’s written by one of my all time greatest authors.

You jump straight into Diana’s story in this book, but you don’t feel like you miss anything, and from a relatively new fan’s point of view, you’re never confused about who the characters are, or the background of Diana and where she grew up. And, just like every superhero film, the book is full of action.

The main characters are all brilliant and well rounded – each one stands out on their own and is clearly well thought out. Their relationships with each other were well thought out, and one of my personal favourite things were that out of the five mains, three were female and had fantastic friendships with each other (wow that’s such a small thing to care about but it’s needed.) 

The writing itself, was, in true Bardugo style, full of warmth and humour and a hell of a lot of emotion, and some absolute gems of dialogue (which I can’t wait to talk about, but I’m writing this before the book has come out, so…)  and plot twists – one of which was so much of a twist that I wasn’t expecting it and actually had to stop reading to remember how to breathe. Which kinda sums up how brilliant the book is.

I just… I love this book. Really, with every book she writes, Bardugo doesn’t only get better but shows exactly why she’s one of my absolute favourite authors.

five stars

Strange the Dreamer, Laini Taylor

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The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.
What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?
The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Over two years ago, I wrote a review for Laini Taylor’s other series Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It was, actually, the first book review I ever did on this blog (wow, have I improved since then) and I stand by my thoughts back then; Laini Taylor is a stunning writer and her stories are always filled with magic and mystery and everything I love.

But the thing was… this book was dull. Not dull in a completely boring way, but dull enough that I couldn’t sit and read it all in only a few sittings. In fact, I read two chapters, then put it down for the day. And I don’t read well like that. If I have a book that I really like, I read it all in one day (or never!)

I was expecting it to be slow; after all, DoSaB isn’t exactly a fast read. Laini’s books have always been about the writing and watching the story uncurl along with the pages. But there is a leap. With her other series, there is always something happening. With this series… nothing happens for pages and pages, then it gets interesting, then it gets boring again.

I’m admitting this now – I am writing this review while just over half way through. Because its taken me over two weeks to get to this point, and I don’t know right now if I want to continue. Because I already know it turns into a romance and… I kinda don’t want it to?

Like, don’t get me wrong. I adore Lazlo, our adorable main character. I understand him more than I do with most other characters in books- like him, I spent my childhood stuck in the clouds (until I was told to grow up) and like him I ended up surrounded by books but mostly in love with fairytales. And like him, people laugh at me for it (no really, I was ordering a copy of Peter Pan for a customer at work and when I told them what edition I have – this stunning, like, pop up version for adults – they sneered at me and went ‘Well you’ve had that for years, I expect’ and I was like… no since last year at which point they went ‘You’re an adult so why are you buying childrens books like that’). I also love that its his love and knowledge of those tales that ‘save the day’ essentially.

I even like Sarai and her little gang of mini-gods. Their chapters were some of my favourites – I loved their interactions and seeing their powers, and I loved Sarai’s longing for the world below them.

However, once you got the hint that these two would end up as love interests… it kinda put me off slightly.

The writing, the backstory, the whole book (of what I’ve read) is stunning. It’s lyrical and beautiful and just like the title, it reads like a dream. I’ve never read anything as beautiful as Laini’s words.

So it is wonderful, it really is. But I just got bored. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t in the mood when I started it. Maybe I had been waiting for it so long that once I had it, it was always going to be ‘eh’. I don’t know. I just don’t really mind not finishing it – and thats kind of heartbreaking when I did love the characters and the idea behind it.

Who knows. Maybe I’ll try it again at some point.

THIS IS ACTUALLY 3.5 BUT LIKE, I CANT BE BOTHERED TO EDIT THE PICTURE.

three stars

Stealing Snow, Danielle Paige

 

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Seventeen-year-old Snow lives within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she doesn’t belong there, but she has no memory of life outside, except for the strangest dreams. And then a mysterious, handsome man, an orderly in the hospital, opens a door – and Snow knows that she has to leave …
She finds herself in icy Algid, her true home, with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she’s destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change everything. Heroine or villain, queen or broken girl, frozen heart or true love, Snow must choose her fate …

Oh my god, where do I begin.

This book takes the bad and makes it look medal worthy, takes the ridiculous and makes it look positively normal. It makes the character development in 50 Shades look (almost) brilliant.

Firstly, I feel I should mention that I actually DNFed this book on page 202, then went and looked up the spoilers from the rest of the book because I really really didn’t feel like wasting my life reading the rest of them (even with the entertainment of liveblogging my reading)

Okay, so we start off with Snow in an asylum. Which should really have alarm bells ringing at once because like… why? Apparently at the age of 6 she tried to walk through a mirror with her friend and both are covered in many many scars from it, and her friends family tried to sue hers for it?

Like… I’ve walked into plenty of glass doors in my life, and thanks to those weird fairground rides called maze of mirrors or whatever, have also walked into some of them. At speed. Yeah, it’s painful and annoying but walking into one doesn’t cause it to break, and even if it did shatter, theres no way the scars she’s talking about would happen (its right you know, turns out later on in the books the scars are actually a map of the world she comes from.) 

She’s also… not ill enough to be in an asylum? Her worst trait is biting people. That’s it. But apparently that means that you can be dumped in one for over 10 years, without any therapy or lessons by the looks of it, being dosed up on medication they don’t explain to you.

At first, I kinda assumed it was set sometime in the past- since way back when, girls could be sent to them for normal things like reading. Or studying. Or thinking. But nope, her mother has a phone, they drive. Its modern. which is even more stupid because we still may not be perfect, but mental illness and stuff and treating and learning about it has come on in leaps and bounds in even the last 20 years.

It’s just like… The author had a massive opportunity here, to give her Main Character a real mental illness (rather than the non-existent one that isnt even believable) and still have all the cliche YOU’RE A LOST PRINCESS YOU HAVE MAGIC moments, but made it different and better by having her struggle through her illness at the same time?

Plus if she’s been on meds for 10 years and suddenly stops taking them withdrawal would happen. she wouldn’t just wake up and be like YAY I’M FREE it would be hard.

(random sidenote, also, if you one day turn up in a land that doesnt exist being told magic is real and your dad is an evil king, would you really be like oh, cool let’s go?)

(I could go on about this bit – which is only like the first 80 pages – but I’ve already written nearly 500 words on it and I HAVE SO MUCH MORE TO SAY)

Next: We’ve all heard of Love Triangles. Now get ready  for The Love Square. (Or rather, if you want a handy diagram, get a piece of paper, write Female Main in the centre with a circle round it, then write Male 1 in one corner  with an arrow pointing to Female, then write Male 2 with an arrow towards her, then Male three with an arrow, then lots of side character males as well because basically, like every male character will probably end up loving her or her them in this book. As I said, I only made it half way.)

Why. Why. Why do authors do this. Espeically when Mainy spends the first 100 pages talking about how Male One is her One True Love and she even goes into this strange land to rescue him after he gets taken through a mirror (what). The first guy she meets is Mysterious and Handsome and the second one is Brooding and Grumpy and she ends up making out with both of them, wasting pages of her story (and minutes of my life) going over What If They Don’t Love Her Back or What Did That Kiss Mean.

Like I get it. Okay. I do- not everyone thinks that sex and making out and kissing is repulsive. I understand that. But she’s spent her whole entire memories worth of life in a corridor with only like 6 other teens, and only one other guy. Yet she falls in love with every guy she meets and cant chose between them, even though ALL OF THEM (and her) have the personality of a 2D drowned fish.

But… If you somehow ended up in a fantasy world, where your apparent best friend and Love Of Your Life had been kidnapped, would you really waste time flirting with other people rather than TRYING TO RESCUE HIM.

*breathes*

Added to that is the ‘friendships’ she gains? Like, the (very few) friends she makes (strangely she seems to hate almost very girl she comes across?) she just abandons without any other thought. She spends ten years in an asylum with a few other people and never gives them second thoughts, she gets to know a river witch who teaches her- and the two teenagers that stay with the witch. She seems to be friends with them then runs away and never cares again. I gave up reading just after she joins another ‘gang’ (all BEAUTIFUL FEMALES except Love Interest Number Three) but it really wouldn’t have surprised me if they abandoned them all without a care as well.

I mean, to be fair, none of the characters were memorable. I can’t even remember half their names and I put it down two days ago. So many Snow and her flatness just couldn’t help forgetting the flatness of everyone else? I’m not actually sure if all the characters were meant to be bad or if it was the authors lack of skill with 3D, realistic characters at this point. The more I think of it all, the more of a mess the book actually looks.

I could go on about the actual writing and the plot of the book forever as well, but it can all be summed up with just the word…disappointing. The writing in most places was stilted and almost painful, the descriptions non existent. Most speech was awkward and cringe-worthy to read and just… I expected far more from what I had heard about the authors other series.

Plotwise- I couldn’t actually tell if this was meant to be a retelling of Snow White or The Snow Queen. Major hint, guys, not the same story, despite both having the word Snow in the title. For the entire time Mainy was in the asylum, she refers to her meds asthe seven dwarfs which made me assume it was Snow White But then suddenly its a whole new tale? And then Alice in Wonderland type things kept appearing? It was just really confusing and annoying.

I like retellings. I like seeing what people can do to a story we all know, I like seeing which parts of the fairytale they think are the most important. But to do a retelling correctly, the fairytale has to be recognizable. You can’t just call a main character Snow and go of course its a Snow Queen retelling! Like, no. I didn’t get a single real hint at all. It was like she had muddled every fairytale up in her head and couldn’t decide which one to do.

So, all in all, a book that I question even giving one star to. If you want fairytale retellings with a twist and magic and lost princesses, please, please read The Lunar Chronicles instead of this. Hell, I don’t even know if I’m going to read Dorathy Must Die after reading this, and I own that already.

one star

PS- Snow’s magic power is to control snow. Right. But the River Witch, who controls water, can’t control snow. Maybe my whole life has been a lie, but isn’t snow just really cold water?

Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo

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Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…
A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

I’m writing this in the aftermath of reading Crooked Kingdom, having devoured both books in only a few days. And while this review is only on SoC, I would just like to say that the sequel is just as good… maybe better (I haven’t made up my mind, I’m still in shock and in the wants to hug the book and protect the characters stage)

There are so many things I love about Six of Crows.

It’s fantasy, which is always a huge plus, its huge which is an even better plus, and though there are small (tiny) romances throughout, the romance is only a bare fraction of what the book is about- which is the best plus (don’t get me wrong, I love romance- but there are some fantasy books that don’t need it- or don’t need it at the forefront.

Leigh is an incredible writer. She weaves her stories around so well that the reader is always one step behind- we think we know what will happen, and the the opposite does. Enemies are written as friends and betrayals are written as saves, and she teaches you to expect nothing less that the impossible and the unexpected.

And the characters- Oh my god each and every one of the  main six characters are flawed and funny and broken and brilliant. I think that is what makes you care about them so much- even Kaz, who is fairly ruthless and most of the time, seemingly heartless. Each of the six has their back story explored (some of them moreso in Crooked Kingdom) which, while not justifying actions, makes you understand them.

Their friendships and relationships are amazing as well. The girls do not fight each other over anything (no, not even boys), and actually help and support each other (The fact this seems to be such a rare thing in fiction makes me sad). And the romantic relationships are built on a foundation of the friendships and trust that is already there- and each romance is something that builds over both books, and each romance is not even about the kissing and making out- its about who the characters are to each other. Their actions and words and minds.

And then the storyline- this group of six teens who set out to break into a prison that is famous for not having escapees. Things go wrong, some of them get injured, some of them (surprisingly) manage not to kill the others. It’s funny and adventurous, insane and brilliant,

It’s funny and adventurous, insane and brilliant, and having now finished both Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, I can say it is one of the best series I have ever read.

five stars

On spoilers, reactions and Empire of Storms

The internet. It can be a wonderful place for bookish related things- from reviews to fan art to merchandise. But it can also be awful- when spoilers are leaked, or authors are attacked for writing their own book.

Sarah J Maas is one of my favourite writers. It’s not exactly hard to see that- I’m always trying to get people to read her books, always counting down til her next book, or writing about her characters. But the downside, I have found, to being a fan of Maas…is a lot of her other ‘fans.’

Before Queen of Shadows came out last year, someone leaked spoilers- and the last chapter- online, leading to outrage and complaints. People vowing to never read the books, people insulting others who were still reading the books, people telling people the end while they were still reading to get a reaction.

The book came out, and it was amazing. Because guess what? Spoilers tell you an outcome (sometimes not even that) not the lead up and the understanding.

I really really hoped that the fandom would have learnt from last year, but in the weeks leading up to Empire of Storms, the exact same thing happened. Spoilers were leaked, people started insulting the books- and the author. Whenever the series was mentioned, it was always with a cloud of anger or doubt or hate.

I’m not saying you can’t hate books or series, or authors. Hell, there are plenty of books in the world I have hated, and there are a few authors who I do not agree with. But there is a difference between hating something, and bullying.

Hate a series, yes. Do not spoil it for those that like it. Do not ruin it for those that are reading it, do not insult those that read it. Hate an author- but do not send them death threats!

Authors are human beings, just like you and me. They have feelings. The only difference is that they have put their imagination, some of their heart and soul into the book you hold. Treat them the way you want to be treated. Insulting them, sending them hate, its all out of order.

I never saw any spoilers of EoS. I managed to avoid them- by staying off websites like Goodreads in the run up to the book. So while I could see the backlash to what was happening- people getting upset and worried, people getting hate over defending Maas, I was cheerfully innocent to why people were so angry. Which is why, when the book arrived a few days early, I was still excited and dived into it at once.

Oh my god, it was amazing- just as I had expected.

Maas has a wonderful way of telling a story, and with every book, she just gets better. She draws you in, makes you fall in love then destroys your heart leaving you in a sobbing mess at the end.

I can understand why some people were a bit disappointed. (slight spoilers ahead?) After all, one of my favourite characters (and the one I want to steal and protect with my life) was not in this book. Darling Chaol was absent- and people were getting worked up about it.

However Take into account what Chaol’s storyline in this would have been like, and compare it to the giant arc that did happen, and even I can understand why he is missing. His chapters would have slowed things down, would not have been as important or interesting as what was in the book….and he is getting his own Novella, so…

And (personally) for me, there were a few to many make-out style scenes- but then I have always read this series for the fantasy, and the world, and the magic- and the individual characters- not for who gets with who.

And therein, I think, we find the problem.

Many readers- and mostly younger readers- read these books for the ‘ships’ more than the story. They want ‘this character’ to end with ‘that one’, they don’t like ‘this character’ and ‘that one’ together. There has always been a problem with the shippers- I remember, back with Heir of Fire, when I said that Chaol was my favourite, I was sent hate by many people because they assumed that by me liking him, I wanted him and Celaena to be together and according to them THIS WAS WRONG.

I was told that people who liked Chaol were ‘the problem’ and ‘children’ and ‘didn’t understand what a bad character was.’ I was told that ‘chaol lovers were the ones that kicked off and sent hate out’ (huh, funny that. Almost ironic)

But…a book is more than its relationship arcs. The relationships in the ToG books have been important- because they have shown how the characters have changed and grown throughout. But they are also not the end of everything. The ToG series is about a girl trying to find her place in a world that has been ruined, trying to get past what she has done to survive. It’s about a Prince trying to become a King, and a Captain learning where his loyalties should really lie.

Yes, some people do not like this series- and that is their right. But you should not hate a series based on spoilers, without reading the book yourself. And you should not ruin that book for others.

The series is incredibly well written. And even if it wasn’t- no author deserves to be sent hate for what they write, no reader should be sent hate for what they love. Every series ever written has had problems with them- because, like people, books are not perfect. But the lack of perfection- while should be noted- should not be throw in to the faces of the people that enjoy them.

Reading. Its meant to be fun, not stressful.

(and lastly, if you have’t read this series yet, please, please go and read it.)

 

Snow Like Ashes, Sara Raasch

 

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Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.
Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.
So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

 

There are two ways i get disappointed by books. One disappointment is that one of just awfulness, where the book is so terrible in the end you have to laugh.
The other is when it has potential and could be amazing….but just falls terribly terribly short.

This book was the second type of disappointment.

The Plot was interesting, and despite me guessing the plot twists and ‘shocks’ it was the one thing that made me gently want to carry on. Because the magic system sounded interesting, the history sounded interesting….but then it was never really talked about.
The world- I wanted to know more about that. Why were there four seasons and why were the others called Rhythms. How did it become that way?

And then the potential fails.

The plot twists were so easy to guess I was rolling my eyes by the time they were ‘revealed.’

The characters were two-dimensional, flat and mostly, annoying. More than once I wanted to scream and throw something at the main character because of how she was acting and her infernal internal monologue. She spends the first half of the book mooning over one boy, meets another- and while being furious than shes meant to marry him- and then spends a page talking about how wonderful Second Boy looks shirtless…She spends 90% of the time complaining about her life, and then to prove to everyone she can do things, she makes stupid decisions because she don’t think.

She was irritating to have as a narrator, and unbelievable as a character.

If it weren’t for my sheer stubbornness at wanting to finish the book, I would have given up well before half way, because I didn’t care about the characters or their problems, and didn’t care for what they were going to do to solve everything.

When writing a book were a group of people are trying to save their kingdom, it is vital that you need to care. you need to feel for them and hope they win, you want to be able to feel their longing to go back home and to be safe, and I felt nothing except the urge to throw the book at the characters and telling them all to grow up.

I looked so forward to reading this book, so many people told me I would love it, but in the end, it was dull and disappointing.