Book Review: Chimes at Midnight by Seanan McGuire

10184403Title: Chimes at Midnight

Author: Seanan McGuire

Series: October Daye #7

Rating: 5 stars

Review:

Toby knows first hand how hard life for changelings is, living under the rule of pure blooded faeries. Filled with contempt for the changelings, the rest of Faerie couldn’t care less about their welfare – not even when changelings start dying. A drug known as Goblin Fruit has flooded the streets of San Francisco, and is leaving a trail of bodies behind. Addictive from only one bite, Toby knows that if she doesn’t stop it, no-one will. So it looks like, once again, it’s all down to Toby. If it wasn’t for her friends, and boyfriend Tybalt, she’d probably go crazy.

But Toby needs the support of her friends more than ever when The Queen of the Mist suddenly banishes her from the kingdom, leaving Toby with only three days to arrange her affairs. But of course, for Toby things can always – and will always – get worse. In the middle of trying to save her skin, Toby is attacked and forced to ingest Goblin Fruit. Now she running out the clock from both the hatred of the Queen and her painful, and quite frankly, unfair addiction. And the more Toby and her friends uncover, the more it seems that the Queen is not actually legitimate after all.

The October Daye series is prime example of brilliant urban fantasy, and are some of my all time favourites. I’m a huge lover of faerie books, and truly believe that this series is has the best faeries, and some of the best characters in general. The level of research into folktales and legends is impressive and it really shows: there are many different types of fey featured in each book, each with their own unique origins, traditions, and quirks. In every book a new area of fey lore is introduced which is not only great for readers like me who already have an interest but it is written seamlessly into the narrative, avoiding info dumping or becoming boring.

The characters are one of the best part of this series, and they continue to go from strength to strength in each book. They each could stand on their own, and I would personally love to see spin off stories for all of them. My favourites are Toby, Tybalt, and the Luidaeg, but I love how all Toby’s friends band together to help her – they make an awesome team. It’s also refreshing to have a main character who’s not convince she must do it all alone, and is not afraid to ask for help. Toby’s romance with Tybalt is blossoming into something really moving. As an added bonus there is also a fair amount of humour and friendly banter, which has made me laugh several times.

Chimes at Midnight is a game changer in terms of plot, with secrets and relations reviled. I can’t imagine where the story will go next, but I can’t wait to find out.

5 stars.

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All Quiet on the Eastern Front (or ‘Great East Road, Where Have You Been?’)

All Quiet on the Eastern FrontSo. Needless to say it’s been a while since I’ve posted on here. I would just like to apologise for my absence, and give a brief explanation as to why I disappeared. Feel free to skip this, I want to keep this a review blog, sweet and simple. After all that’s why we’re all here. I can promise reviews will be back to normal. But for those who are interested here is my story:

The long and short of it is I’ve not been posting because, as we all know, real life gets in the way. I was in a job that pretty much consumed me and I was not happy. I’m hesitant to use the word ‘depression’, as during that time I felt guilty for thinking of myself as suffering from depression, but looking back at it now I can see that’s what was happening to me. I was caught in a vicious cycle of feeling sad, then feeling guilty for feeling sad, then talking it out with the people closest to me, then becoming terrified that all my crying and talking about the same problems repeatedly would scare those people away, thus becoming even more guilty and sad (lather, rinse, repeat). It was an odd time in my life, where I had to come to terms that my problems where not huge and that my life could be a lot worse, but that they were problems and they were making me ill. In a way, it was this blog that made me realise that something was wrong – I love reading and reviewing, but I was losing my passion for the blog and struggling to keep up with my schedule, to the point where I was just stuck and it felt like a chore. I began to realise that I wasn’t happy and I needed to know why.
To me it still sound like a bit of a cliche: graduating from university with a degree that ended up being all but useless, and having to settle for a barely more than minimum wage job. I was in a much better position than a lot of my university friends: I’d actually managed to get a job that was enough to stay living with my boyfriend in London, saving me from having to go back to my home town. Believe me, going back there would have pushed me over the edge long ago. My boyfriend and I were living together very happily, and though I didn’t have much money, all my rent and bills were comfortably covered by the both of us. My situation was stable. And it’s not like my as a whole job was even that bad. Yes, the hours were long and busy, and there seemed to be more and more miserable customers which, to be honest, just made me miserable (and I didn’t have the greatest tolerance of people to begin with). But there were several other people I worked with who made the job do much more enjoyable, and we could all make each other laugh.
The problems I had were few, but they were big. Firstly, the job made me feel stupid. I can see why now: it was never a hard job and as I began to progress into management I could see that there were strict way you had to do everything. Which is fine if you stick to those ways, but it also meant that if you ever tried to think outside the box you would be punished for doing it ‘wrong’. Secondly, for a long time we all worked under a woman who became, quite frankly, abusive. It’s wasn’t just me, she seemed to think everyone under her was a ‘f-ing lazy c-nt’ (actual quote, by the way) and had not problem with telling us all. She pretty much made every day hell, forcing some people to quit just to get away from her, ruined everyone’s Christmas and then was surprised when no-one supported her when the company finally discovered what she was doing. Through her, this idea that I was stupid became re-enforced, and I began to feel worthless. I like to think I’m not a melodramatic person (contrary to the impression you may be getting from reading this), but I remember a day when I just couldn’t get out of bed to face it all again. I panicked and just couldn’t move, couldn’t even breathe when I tried to get up. It gave my poor boyfriend a hell of a scare.
During this time, my boyfriend was my rock and I can never thank him enough. So many times he would hold me while I vented and cried about this, so many times he picked me up and helped me to keep going when I felt like never moving again. As I said before, I was terrified that one day he would turn around and say ‘are you still going on about this? Get over it!’, but he never faltered in his support. In fact it was through him I managed to find my new job. I began to spend all my free time job hunting, sending off CVs, filling out endless applications, and typing out the same information again and again. It was draining. (Makes me wish I hadn’t moved so many times during university. I mean really, why do so many companies need to know every address you’ve lived in over the last five years?) It was the boyfriend who found the listing for what became my new job – it just happened that when he was at work one day he discovered that a different department was hiring. He sat down with me, helped me write up all the answers to those annoyingly vague ‘character judging’ questions, did mock tests with me, and prepared me for the interview. The testing was fairly harsh, and I honestly don’t think I would have gotten in without his help.
This new job, however, is not easy. In fact, it seems to be the complete opposite of my old one: there is lots of training, everyone is supportive, and they always try to pick you up, but there are real risks. If I fuck up badly enough I could actually hurt someone. And they are honest about these risks: there was a point at the beginning where I wasn’t sure I was strong enough to do it and they had a serious talk with me, telling me that its not a job for everyone (they are not lying). But they gave me extra help and the confidence boost I needed, and now even I am stunned by the progress I’ve made. It’s refreshing to actually help people, to make a difference. And the best bit? I can finally start saving some real money to build my life properly.
I’m sure it has been said before (probably in a fair less cheesy way), but I feel this experience has made me stronger, and has made me appreciate my love ones so much more. And on the plus side, I was reading like crazy.
So yes: I am back, and I aim to keep reviewing consistently without losing my passion for this again. And man, do I have some great books to share with you all. Check back soon for reviews take two.

Book Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Ruin and Rising

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Series: The Grisha

Rating: 4 stars

Review:

(Some spoilers.)

It is a dark time for Rakva: the Royal family are all either missing or dead, the Darkling rules, and the Sun Summoner has fled with the Apparat and a small group of loyalists. Hiding in an almost lost network of caverns, weakened by the darkness surrounding her, Alina knows she is nothing but a puppet being pulled by the Apparat forced into the role of a Saint. She still struggles daily with the idea of people worshipping her, but to make matters worse the Apparat refuses to let her go.

Alina knows she must escape, working with Mal and a small group of people who still see her as an actual person to rebel against the Apparat’s influence and power. Once out, Alina’s mission is clear: she must hunt down the Firebird and use its bones for the third and final amplifier, and finally destroy the Darkling. But that won’t be enough, she’ll need an army to bring down the Darkling’s forces. The only person Alina knows who could help is Nikolai – if he managed to survive the destruction of the royal palace…

It’s always emotional when you come to the end of a trilogy, especially when it’s one as good at the Grisha series. There are always high hopes and expectations, the building of anticipation as you wait for the last book to be published. The more I read, the more I wonder if our expectations are ever completely met. On some levels I think the readers will always be disappointed. Luckily, Ruin and Rising is one of the better endings I have read, and although I had some hopes for the ending that didn’t work out, I knew that they didn’t really fit with the nature of the story, so I wasn’t really let down. It’s a great book, just what you would expect from Leigh Bardugo, pack with action and romance, and a twist I didn’t see coming. I loved the evolution of Genya and the strength she found after being ‘ruined’ at the end of the last book. There is also a special place in my heart for Nikolai, whose charm and wit is still intact despite all he goes through in this book. Leigh Bardugo shows she can be so cruel to our beloved characters (though I should have known after Genya’s fate). Be warned, she will wring out your heart.

(And here’s where the spoilers start:)

My personal reservations with Ruin and Rising were centred around Mal, and his relationship with Alina. I liked Mal in the first book, despite it literally taking Alina’s disappearance to realise that he was in love with her. In the second book, however, Mal becomes far too whiney and clinging, jealous of Alina while she’s trying to fight against the Darkling. He seems to calm down in the final book, deciding to be useful instead of annoying by using his tracking skills to find the Firebird. He throws himself into becoming her weapon, even to the point of getting a huge sun tattooed on his back. I’m personally getting sick of this trope in YA novels, the ‘why do you love me, I am not worthy’ cliche, that usually means one person just ignores the other’s wishes, then ends with one person selfishly leaving for ‘their own good’. I personally feel that these characters are so self deprecating that their ‘noble’ act of leaving is actually a way of saying that they know best. And I feel that this is what Mal became in book two, the self loathing, ‘I don’t even deserve you’ love interest, and though he was fair less annoying in this book his character has been tainted to me. I will say though that the last chapter, which showed Alina and Mal together in the future, was very sweet. Also, I’m still unsure about Mal being the third amplifier. I was surprised, I didn’t see the twist coming, but even after I finished the book I was still torn about it. It was clever, but I feel it wasn’t explained properly, and ended up just sitting wrong with the rest of the plot. And lastly, I felt the Darkling was killed off fair too easily, it was not the epic show down I was hoping for.

So, all in all, a good finish to a great series, but there were just a couple of things that didn’t feel completely right to me.

4 stars.