ARC Review: The Bone Flower Throne by T. L. Morganfield

18336300Title: The Bone Throne Flower

Author: T. L. Morganfield

Series: The Bone Flower Throne Trilogy #1

Rating: 2 stars

Review:

Princess Quetzalpetlatl knows that being part of the royal family of Culhuacan and honouring their god The Feathered Serpent requires sacrifice. At only seven years old she is made to marry her cousin Black Otter, who will become the next King as Quetzalpetlatl’s mother can no longer have children. It could be worse – Black Otter is a good friend, and soon she will live with the priests to learn how better to serve The Feathered Serpent, who she already loves fiercely. But her calm and content childhood is destroyed when her uncle Ihuitimal, Black Otter’s father, reveals that he is a worshiper of a the blood thirsty god known as The Smoking Mirror, sacrificing Quetzalpetlatl’s father and claiming his throne. Though Quetzalpetlatl and her mother escape to their neighbouring allies, the Queen dies in childbirth, leaving Quetzalpetlatl and her little brother, who is believed to be the son of The Feathered Serpent, orphaned.

Raised by their mother’s friend and High Priestess, Nimilitzli, Quetzalpetlatl learns she can communicate with The Feathered Serpent and that not only must her brother Topiltzin must reclaim his throne in the god’s name, but together they must put an end to the practice of human sacrifice. Dedicating her life to the god’s will, Quetzalpetlatl struggles with political turmoil, corruption within the priesthood, and her own growing feelings for Topiltzin. Will her love and desire outweigh her vows of sacrifice?

What first attracted me to The Bone Flower Throne was the fact that it was a fantasy set in tenth century Mexico, mixing politics, gods, and a woman’s quest to avenge her family. It sounded like a great book, especially as I’ve never read an Aztec based fantasy before. In a world where fantasy based on Greek mythology are a dime a dozen, this sounded like a refreshing change. Sadly, I was ultimately disappointed and bored by this book. It suffers heavily from the ‘great idea, poor execution’ problem. The little bit we are shown of Aztec life and customs are quiet interesting, especially the forms of worship, such as the priestess’ piercing their tongues with thorns to offer up their blood. However, the fantasy elements of this novel are limited to the few brief times Quetzalpetlatl contacts her god. The rest of the book is focused on the politics and Quetzalpetlatl’s life. The Bone Flower Throne is meant to be a trilogy, which I was aware of from the beginning, so I was surprised that it covers a lot of her life, starting from her childhood at the age of seven (in a fairly unconvincing first person narration) continuing into her late twenties. Despite spanning so many years not much happens in terms of plot, and the time skips (from between two and ten years) are a little off putting. I gather that these skips are meant to show that not much action took place in those years, but there wasn’t particularly much action in the rest of the book. It also didn’t feel authentically Aztec, with characters using fairly modern language like telling each other to ‘shut up’.

For a woman devout on her god, set on becoming a High Priestess, Quetzalpetlatl spends a little too much time worrying about how she can’t have sex and has to live with her desire. She also seems too willing to throw away her virginity, that she vowed to keep as a sacrifice to her god, much too quickly. This issue seems to come up again and again because all the men in this story are unable to keep their hands off her. This attraction seems unjustified, as Quetzalpetlatl is nothing special, and even boring at times. The romantic interest with her brother is also a bit disturbing, though isn’t odd in the context of this novel, where family members are often wed to each other to preserve the royal blood line. At one point Quetzalpetlatl makes a comment about a women not being able to be anything more than a mother or a priestess and how she needs to change that, but nothing ever comes of it. The worst part of the book though? It was pretty boring, with little action and repetitions about Quetzalpetlatl’s lust and her inability to do anything about it (though not through lack of trying).

Sadly this is another book with ideas that could have been great, but just didn’t live up to it’s potential.

2 stars.

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Book Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

12813630Title: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Author: Holly Black

Rating: 3.5 stars

Review:

When Tana wakes up in a bathtub the morning after a high school party, she thinks the most she’ll have to worry about is facing her ex-boyfriend, Aidan, sober and dealing with one hell of a hangover. Little does she know the party had some visitors during the night – and now all of her classmates are dead. All except Aidan, who has been bitten and tied to a bed, with a chained up vampire. Tana pities the vampire, named Gavriel, and makes a rash decision, bundling him and Aidan in the back of her car before more vampires bust into the house and catch them. Tana is nearly caught, escaping with a scrape from a vampire tooth. Now she may be infected with the vampire virus, and if so must resist human blood for 88 days, or she’ll lose her humanity forever.

So begins the road trip of a vampire, a newly infected, and possibly infected human to their only refuge: a Coldtown. Famed for being a harbour for vampires, and broadcast across the world as a never ending party, with humans enthralled and offering up their blood in hopes of being turned. There, Tana may be able to find salvation for them all. That is, if the vampires hunting Gavriel don’t catch them first.

I’ve been a long time fan of Holly Black’s work, ever since I first read Tithe as a teenager and feel in love with urban fantasy books, especially those featuring faeries, and I have avidly read all her work. But I must admit, to my disappointment this has to be her weakest book. Having said that, it is still a Holly Black book, which puts it leagues above many others out there. So, the good. The concept of Coldtowns is a very original one, and the mystery and allure surrounding them draws in the readers as well of the characters. The descriptions of the Coldtown parties, and vampire bounty hunters are pretty captivating. It adds to the casual horror of the novel, which has got to be the strongest part of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. The gore and monstrous nature of the vampires is very well done, making this not a book to be read by the squeamish. I like my vampires with a lot of bite, which made this almost perfect in that respect.

However, there were a few problems in this novel that I just couldn’t ignore. Whilst the action was fast paced and fairly intense, with chapters ending on cliffhangers, this effect was ruined by the alternating chapters which would provide background information or alternate points of view (still all in third person though). Don’t get me wrong, these chapters were interesting in their own right, but they seriously disrupted the flow of the story. Also, the characters didn’t feel very fleshed out, which I believe is caused by this book being based off a short story. I have read this short story, which also has the same name, and I believe it is much stronger than this book. In both, the characters aren’t developed much, but this is forgivable in a short story which has less space for said development. The novel, on the other hand, felt like an idea that was stretched too thin, causing the characters to suffer as we never really get to know them that well. This leads to a lot of telling rather than showing when it comes to their personalities. Aidan probably suffers the most from this: Tana thinks many times about how he’s an alright guy really, and how gentle he really is, etc,etc, but all of their relationship we see are through her flashbacks, overshadowed by how she realises now that it was never going to work, and him lying and manipulating her to make sure she comes back to save him. This also meant the romance between Tana and Gavriel was pretty lacklustre, with little attraction or reason behind it, causing it to be almost boring.

I had high hopes for this one, and I can’t say, when comparing to Holly Black’s other work, that I am impressed. Yet, it is still a good vampire book, and I recommend it to anyone looking for vampires and gore. Better yet, I recommend the original short story. I just can’t help but be disappointed, as I know Holly Black is capable of better.

3.5 stars.

Book Review: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

12930909Title: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Author: April Genevieve Tuchoke

Series: Between #1

Rating: 4 stars

Review:

(Contains some minor spoilers.)

Violet White spends her days in a dreamy, tranquil haze: reading books in the sun, relaxing on the beach by her home, or exploring the old mansion that has been left to her family since her grandmother died. Sure, her parents have used the last of their family fortune to run off to Europe to pursue their art, leaving her with a brother who can’t seem to stand her and a house that’s slowly falling apart. In fact, money is so tight she’s resorted to renting out the guest house in her back garden. Which leads River West to her door, and into her life. With his charming smile, easy nature, and striking good looks Violet is powerless to resist him.

But something strange is happening in the sleepy town of Echo. Children are in the graveyard at night, hunting the Devil with stakes, Violet’s friend Sunshine sees a monster eating human flesh in a cave in the woods, and the town drunk suddenly slits his throat in the town centre. This horror couldn’t possibly be linked with River, but as mystery surrounds him and his lies build up without him caring whether Violet knows or not, she finds herself doubting him. Is he evil? Does he care? And, to make maters worse, does she care? Violet’s grandmother used to warn her about the Devil, but she never thought she might be holding his hand, sleeping next to him, or kissing him. She knows she should listen to her grandmother’s teaching but she can’t help herself – because despite everything Violet is falling for River.

It’s clear that Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is going to be a book that you will either love or hate. It has elements that will seriously frustrate some readers, like the slower pace, the what some have called ‘insta-love’ romance, or the deceitfulness and arrogance of the character River. Other readers, however, will love it. I am one of the latter. With it’s gothic atmosphere and slower pace which added to the feel of the book, I thoroughly enjoyed it. But that’s not to say it’s without any problems.

What April Genevieve Tuchoke does best is the timeless feel to the town of Echo and Violet’s mansion. The novel uses almost lyrical descriptions and feels like it could be set in almost any decade from the 1930s onwards, with classic movies in the park and comments on art running throughout. This is also used with the character of Violet, who wears her dead grandmother’s clothes and love to read and paint. There is also a strong gothic tone, especially in the scene with the children in the graveyard armed with stakes to fight off the Devil, which was delightfully creepy. This book has also been accused of using the dreaded ‘insta-love’ trope, but I disagree –  there is no ‘insta-love’ in this book. What there is is the intense, unpredictable, and sometimes scary attraction or first love that teenagers often experience at least once. There is no declarations of love, no talk of fate, no promises of being together forever and ever. Violet falls for River, even as she knows it’s a bad idea, because people can’t help who they fall for, especially when you’re a teenager and not only are your hormones going crazy, but you have little to no experience about what love actually is. I believe everyone has fallen for someone who is bad for them at least once, and this book perfectly captures the feeling of fierce passion mixed with helplessness, fear, and slight self loathing.

I only have two reservations with Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Firstly, considering it mentions the Devil in the title, and the official blurb emphasises the idea that River may actually be the Devil, this book had very little religious overtones. The idea of the Devil was barely used at all, the only real mention is with the kids who freak out in the graveyard. I was hoping for a book that looked into the idea of religion and had an actual Christian devil, instead of an ambiguous paranormal creature who is still pretty much a mystery by the end of the book. The other problem was the portray and subtle slut shaming of Violet’s friend Sunshine. Sunshine is a character who embraces her sexuality – she loves flirting with boys, enjoys drawing attention to her body, and choices to act in a way she thinks boys will notice and enjoy. I personally have no problem with this. Women enjoy sex as much as men and should feel no shame in this, however they decide to show this sexuality, and had she been left alone, Sunshine would have been a perfectly fine character. However, compared to the virginal Violet, who’s narrative subtly condemns her attitude by comparing them both, and Sunshine association with Luke, Violet’s brother, who is sexist, messes around with several girls at once and treats Violet like crap, Sunshine is portrayed as a slut. This word is only ever uttered by the villain in this book, but his accusations are never challenged. What’s worse, after the trauma of having her parents being tricked into unknowingly nearly killing her, Sunshine changes – she stops flirting, becomes more serious and begins reading, like Violet. It’s often that people who have a near death experience decide to change their life for the better, but this is just another way of showing that Sunshine was in the wrong and needed to change. The slut shaming in this book is not obvious, and is similar to the problems that are common in real life, so it may have even been unintentional, but it is there and this is a problem.

These problems aside, I am very interested to see where the next book goes, and hope the sequel keeps the amazing writing and ambience.

4 stars.

On a slightly unrelated note, I keep thinking that the title of this book is Between the Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean, I song I really enjoy by a gothic metal band called Nightwish.

Book Review: Antigoddess by Kendare Blake

13246736Title: Antigoddess

Author: Kendare Blake

Series: Goddess War #1

Rating: 4 stars

Review:

Athena thought that being a god meant she couldn’t die, but choking on the owl feathers that cut through her lungs are proving her wrong. She’s not the only one: Hermes is wasting away slowly, Hera’s flesh is turning to stone, and Poseidon has become a mindless monster, eating his own creatures. What could be killing these gods? In their hunt for answers and a way to stop their slow destruction, Athena and Hermes are pointed towards a young woman called Cassandra – the reincarnation of the prophetess Cassandra of Troy, who was cursed by her lover Apollo so no-one would believe her visions. Somehow, they believe she will save them.

Cassandra knows nothing of the gods’ affairs. To her these names are nothing more than ancient legends, most of which she doesn’t even remember. All she worries about is her relationship with Aidan and her ability to see into the future – until what used to be a way to freak out her school mates by predicting the outcome of coin tosses shows her visions of people dying horribly. Aidan realises that she is being hunt by his family, for he is in fact Apollo and his beloved has no idea. But like it or not, Cassandra will soon find out the truth, for Hera is hunting down the other gods, in an effort to kill them and prolong her own life. And to her, Cassandra is nothing more than a weapon.

Antigoddess is a very enjoyable book, but with a couple of reservations. Whilst full of interesting characters, lots of action, and links to Greek mythology that was used very well, I feel that the book suffered somewhat from its modern setting. The few scenes of Athena reminiscing about her life as a full goddess were some of the most interesting, but the rest of it felt a little detached from the original mythology the book is based on. It would have been amazing if we had seen Mount Olympus, and met Zeus and Hades, and I can only hope these ideas are used in the next book. The character of Athena, who was pretty awesome anyway, also suffered from this modernisation. She spent a little too much time thinking along the lines of ‘once I would have turned a mortal to stone for less, but times have changed’, which felt like Kendare Blake was telling rather than showing how badass Athena is supposed to be. Despite this, Athena was a very likeable and interesting character, who is strong enough in her own right to face the threat of death by both Hera and the mysterious curse that has claimed all the gods, but also struggling with the self appointed role of battle leader.

Most of the other characters were also interesting, though not quite as much as Athena. Odyssey and Hermes were enjoyable and stood on their own fairly well, but I felt Cassandra could have been expanded more, and Aidan/Apollo seemed solely concerned with his relationship. It’s interesting having the male character preoccupied with his love life more than the female, but it still isn’t particularly interesting to read about. He is meant to be the God of the Sun but just seems two-dimensional and a bit boring. Also, he is never held to account for his original cursing of Cassandra – she gets mad at him, but the action never gives them a chance to actually talk about what happened, so he’s never really punished for it.

These few problems within Antigoddess are not enough, however, to deter from the pleasure of the book itself. The action and mythology are captivating, and I am definitely coming back for book two.

4 stars.

Kindle Daily Deal: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Do you like steampunk, Japanese fantasy, and griffins, with kicka-ss heroes and dystopic politics? Then you should buy today’s Kindle Daily Deal (Amazon UK) is the amazing Stormdancer – £1.39 today only! The first book in The Lotus War series, the sequel, Kinslayer, was released a coupel of weeks ago, so if you’ve had your eye on this series what better time to grab it than now? Violence, airships, and talking mythical creatures? What more could you want?

10852343Description:

Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shogun, they fear that their lives are over. Everyone knows what happens to those who fail him, no matter how hopeless the task.

But the mission proves far less impossible, and far more deadly, than anyone expects – and soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. But trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and Buruu soon discover a friendship that neither of them expected.

Meanwhile, the country around them verges on the brink of collapse. A toxic fuel is slowly choking the land; the omnipotent, machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure; and the Shogun cares about nothing but his own dominion. Yukiko has always been uneasy in the shadow of power, when she learns the awful truth of what the Shogun has done, both to her country and to her own family she’s determined to do something about it.

Returning to the city, Yukiko and Buruu plan to make the Shogun pay for his crimes – but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?

October New Releases

There is nothing more exciting than the release of an amazing sounding book. I for one love the whole process of book releases: the slow reveal of the title, the cover, the synopsis, extracts and teasers, and then, finally, the publication day. So here is my personal list of books I’m looking forward to this month with their UK release dates.

Books I can’t wait for:
The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst – 22nd October
17738211Description:

Lost your way? Your dreams?

Yourself?

Welcome to Lost.

It was supposed to be a small escape. A few hours driving before turning around and heading home. But once you arrive in Lost…well, it’s a place you really can’t leave. Not until you’re Found. Only the Missing Man can send you home. And he took one look at Lauren Chase and disappeared.

So Lauren is now trapped in the town where all lost things go-luggage, keys, dreams, lives-where nothing is permanent, where the locals go feral and where the only people who don’t want to kill her are a handsome wild man called the Finder and a knife-wielding six-year-old girl. The only road out of town is engulfed by an impassable dust storm, and escape is impossible….

Until Lauren decides nothing-and no one-is going to keep her here anymore.

Across A Star-Swept Sea (For Darkness Shows the Stars #2) by Diana Peterfreund
16102412Description:

Centuries after wars nearly destroyed civilization, the two islands of New Pacifica stand alone, a terraformed paradise where even the Reduction—the devastating brain disorder that sparked the wars—is a distant memory. Yet on the isle of Galatea, an uprising against the ruling aristocrats has turned deadly. The revolutionaries’ weapon is a drug that damages their enemies’ brains, and the only hope is rescue by a mysterious spy known as the Wild Poppy.

On the neighboring island of Albion, no one suspects that the Wild Poppy is actually famously frivolous aristocrat Persis Blake. The teenager uses her shallow, socialite trappings to hide her true purpose: her gossipy flutternotes are encrypted plans, her pampered sea mink is genetically engineered for spying, and her well-publicized new romance with handsome Galatean medic Justen Helo… is her most dangerous mission ever.

Though Persis is falling for Justen, she can’t risk showing him her true self, especially once she learns he’s hiding far more than simply his disenchantment with his country’s revolution and his undeniable attraction to the silly socialite he’s pretending to love. His darkest secret could plunge both islands into a new dark age, and Persis realizes that when it comes to Justen Helo, she’s not only risking her heart, she’s risking the world she’s sworn to protect.

In this thrilling adventure inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel, Diana Peterfreund creates an exquisitely rendered world where nothing is as it seems and two teens with very different pasts fight for a future only they dare to imagine.

The Broken Hearted by Amelia Kahaney – 8th October
14498145Description:
A teenage girl is transformed into a reluctant superhero and must balance her old life with the dark secret of who she has become.

Prima ballerina Anthem Fleet is closely guarded by her parents in their penthouse apartment. But when she meets the handsome Gavin at a party on the wrong side of town, she is immediately drawn into his dangerous world. Then, in a tragic accident, Anthem falls to her death. She awakes in an underground lab, with a bionic heart ticking in her chest. As she navigates her new life, she uncovers the sinister truth behind those she trusted the most, and the chilling secret of her family lineage…and her duty to uphold it.

The Dark Knight meets Cinder in this gripping and cinematic story of heartbreak and revenge. From Alloy Entertainment, this inventive new superhero story is sure to captivate any reader.

Tandem (Many-World Trilogy #1) by Anna Jarzab – 8th October
15829686Description:

Everything repeats.
You. Your best friend. Every person you know.
Many worlds. Many lives–infinite possibilities.
Welcome to the multiverse.

Sixteen-year-old Sasha Lawson has only ever known one small, ordinary life. When she was young, she loved her grandfather’s stories of parallel worlds inhabited by girls who looked like her but led totally different lives. Sasha never believed such worlds were real–until now, when she finds herself thrust into one against her will.

To prevent imminent war, Sasha must slip into the life of an alternate version of herself, a princess who has vanished on the eve of her arranged marriage. If Sasha succeeds in fooling everyone, she will be returned home; if she fails, she’ll be trapped in another girl’s life forever. As time runs out, Sasha finds herself torn between two worlds, two lives, and two young men vying for her love–one who knows her secret, and one who thinks she’s someone she’s not.

The first book in the Many-Worlds Trilogy, Tandem is a riveting saga of love and betrayal set in parallel universes in which nothing–and no one–is what it seems.

Books that have caught my eye:
Perfect Ruin (the Interment Chronicles #1)  by Lauren DeStefano – 1st October
17339241Description:

On Internment, the floating island in the clouds where 16-year-old Morgan Stockhour lives, getting too close to the edge can lead to madness. Even though Morgan’s older brother, Lex, was a Jumper, Morgan vows never to end up like him. She tries her best not to mind that her life is orderly and boring, and if she ever wonders about the ground, and why it is forbidden, she takes solace in best friend Pen and her betrothed, Basil.

Then a murder, the first in a generation, rocks the city. With whispers swirling and fear on the wind, Morgan can no longer stop herself from investigating, especially when she meets Judas. He is the boy being blamed for the murder — betrothed to the victim — but Morgan is convinced of his innocence. Secrets lay at the heart of Internment, but nothing can prepare Morgan for what she will find — or who she will lose.

Waterfell (The Aquarathi #1) by Amalie Howard – 29th October
17397760Description:

THE GIRL WHO WOULD BE QUEEN

Nerissa Marin hides among teens in her human form, waiting for the day she can claim her birthright—the undersea kingdom stolen from her the day her father was murdered. Blending in is her best weapon—until her father’s betrayer confronts Nerissa and challenges her to a battle to the death on Nerissa’s upcoming birthday—the day she comes of age.

Amid danger and the heartbreak of her missing mother, falling for a human boy is the last thing Nerissa should do. But Lo Seavon breaches her defenses and somehow becomes the only person she can count on to help her desperate search for her mother, a prisoner of Nerissa’s mortal enemy. Is Lo the linchpin that might win Nerissa back her crown? Or will this mortal boy become the weakness that destroys her?

Backward Glass by David Lomax – 8th October
17393012Description:

Crack your head, knock you dead, then Prince Harming’s hunger’s fed.

It’s 1977, and Kenny Maxwell is dreading the move away from his friends. But then, behind the walls of his family’s new falling-apart Victorian home, he finds something incredible–a mummified baby and a note: “Help me make it not happen, Kenny. Help me stop him.”

Shortly afterwards, a beautiful girl named Luka shows up. She introduces Kenny to the backward glass, a mirror that allows them to travel through time. Meeting other “mirror kids” in the past and future is exciting, but there’s also danger. The urban legend of Prince Harming, who kidnaps and kills children, is true–and he’s hunting them. When Kenny gets stranded in the past, he must find the courage to answer a call for help, change the fate of a baby–and confront his own destiny.

That’s my list for July, what about you? What books are you most looking forward to this month?

Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

13449693Title: The Raven Boys

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Series: The Raven Cycle #1

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review:

On a cold winter night, Blue stands with her mother and watches as the ghosts of the soon-to-be dead cross the graveyard. Not that she expects to see anything – unlike her mother, Blue is not a clairvoyant. But this year she sees a boy, which can only mean two things: “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.” 

His name is Gansey, and he and his friends have already gained a reputation in Aglionby, their private school. Known as The Raven Boys, Blue is sure they are nothing but trouble. Obsessed with finding the burial ground of the Welsh King Glendower, Gansey is following lay lines that could lead to his fortune and convinces Blue to help. As the daughter of a family of psychics, who is Blue to think him crazy? Despite herself Blue is drawn to the Raven Boys, even though she knows it can’t end well: all her life she has been told she will cause her true love to die.

Despite the synopsis, The Raven Boys is not the story of a romance between Blue and Gansey. Though romance is featured in this book, this arc seems to be for the whole series rather than just this story. What The Raven Boys actually is is so much bigger and better: this is no typical YA paranormal romance. It’s been called a cross between Edgar Allan Poe and The Dead Poet’s Society, and is in fact a tale of magic and quests, and the bonds of friendship between a group of young men. The Raven Boys themselves and their relationship plays a major role, and each of the boys work so great together, as well as standing on their own. Though each is noteworthy in their own right – Gansey with his passion for the supernatural, Ronan who hides behind his anger, and Noah who is more than meets the eye – the best character has to be Adam. The boy from a poor family who gained a scholarship to an expensive private school, Adam struggles with both feeling that he is not good enough and resentment towards his other friends who never have to worry about money. The flashback scene where he can’t afford to buy food is just heart-wrenching. Blue is also an awesome character, the only non-seer in a family of clairvoyants, she doesn’t let this bring her down and doesn’t hold this against her family. Her relationship with her mother was encouragingly positive, and her caution and tentative friendship with the boys is a refreshing change in YA books – she is so much more interesting than the stereotypical ‘too-stupid-to-live’ heroine, and her budding romance with Adam was charming. It’s just a disappointment that this romance can’t fully develop, as the synopsis clearly states that the romance will be between Blue and Gansey.

The magic featured in this book was just brilliant. A great mix of ghosts, psychics, tarot cards, lay lines, and more (there really is a bit of everything). The Welsh folktale this is loosely based on (Doomed to Die on St. Marks Eve) and the use of King Glendower is very original, a nice change from the over abundance of Greek and European folklore used in fantasy today. As a huge fan of magic, I found the ideas used to be fascinating and endlessly entertaining, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next. The writing itself was also beautiful, especially one description of an abandoned car in the middle of a woods, and it speaks to Maggie Stiefvater’s skill that she can make something so beautiful out of a simple image.

This was a truly great book, and I cannot to read the sequel.

4.5 stars.

Book Review: Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst

17286817Title: Conjured

Author: Sarah Beth Durst

Rating: 4 stars

Review:

Her name is Eve now – not that she knows what it used to be. In fact, all Eve really knows is what Agent Malcolm has told her: that she’s in a witness protection program and has undergone multiple surgeries to change her appearance, to hide her from a serial killer. She must pretend to be a normal teenager, living a normal life, and hope that her memories return so she can help catch the monster who’s after her.

But it’s hard to know what ‘normal’ is when you can do magic that causes you to black out and have visions of hauntingly creepy carnivals and people with antlers or snake scales. Between the agents of WitSec who keep relentlessly pushing her to remember more, a trio of non-human teens who can also do magic, and an alluring boy who works with her at the library, who can use her magic when they kiss, who can really be believed? Eve must learn who to trust when she can’t even trust herself.

I have only read one other book by Sarah Beth Durst (the beautifully written desert fantasy Vessel), but already she is fast becoming a favourite author. The imagery she uses and the amazing ideas are what has hooked me to these books, and I’m eagerly waiting for more of her work. Though Conjured is a stand alone novel, I would love to see more of this world – or more accurately, worlds – as the brief glimpses of the worlds Eve and Zach jump through towards the end of the book were fascinating, and would have made a great setting for another book. The carnival setting itself was also beautifully done, in a creepy but captivating way, and Eve’s visions of her time with the Magician were easily the best part.

Conjured is a book that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Between Eve having no memories of who she is and what has happened to her, not knowing who to trust with everyone telling her to trust them and not the others, and randomly losing weeks or even months of her life, neither Eve nor the reader has any idea what exactly will happen next. The only downside of this is that some of the best scenes, when the carnival is revealed and we finally meet the Magician himself, are left until right at the end. Also, I wasn’t completely sold on the character of Zach, and thus his romance with Eve. When he’s first introduced, he talks way too much about random knowledge he has, which seems a little to much like showing off, then without warning tells Eve there’s no way they can ever “just be friends” and that he wants to kiss her. Creepy, much? Yet, when Eve meets him again, after she has lost some weeks of her memory, he’s suddenly shy. Though his character improves and becomes more likeable, Zach is just too inconsistent in the beginning and not fully fleshed out, leaving the romance a little bit forced.

Despite this minor hiccup, Conjured is an awesome book that comes highly recommended, and I can only hope for more in this world.

4 stars.

September Classic Challenge: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

“Classic” – a book which people praise and don’t read. – Mark Twain

Welcome to a new monthly feature, where I challenge myself to read a ‘classic’ novel. This is because I, like so many others, haven’t actually read many of the amazing novels that are hailed by many as masterpieces or a defining work of a certain genre.

For September, I am reviewing Lord of the Flies, a novel about the line between man and animal. When a group of boys crash land on a deserted island they are torn between becoming a civilised society and a bunch of savages. It questions how far mankind’s nature is from that of animals.

526Title: Lord of the Flies

Author: William Golding

Publication Date: 1954

Rating: 2.5 stars

Review:

Stranded on a desert island, with no adults, a group of young boys must learn how to survive and function as a society. Ralph, a natural leader, gets nominated as chief and pushes all their efforts into keeping a signal fire lit. Not everyone thinks this is important; Jack believes that hunting is the key to survival, and he will do anything necessary to take power from Ralph. But there is something out there, hiding in the forest. The boys know it only as ‘the beast’ and laugh at the idea of a monster, but in the dark of the night they only know something is coming.

As a comment on the functions and breakdown of society, and how mankind is not much more than an animal if we allow ourselves to give in to our base urges, Lord of the Flies is an interesting yet extremely heavy handed book. It’s interesting that William Golding uses children to make his point, as it shows the gap between being a child and being an adult, but could also be seen as a comment on how children are more like animals – during our childhood we learn how to become more civilised, eventually becoming fully functioning members of society when we become adults. The fact that the stranded group were all young boys also makes a point. I believe this would have been a very different book if it had been only girls on the island – more discussion/arguing and less bloodshed, for a start. However, had it been a mix of both genders, I believe it would have been similar, only the competition between the boys would have been a lot more upfront and the attention from a girl would have indicated rank.

It is agreed that there is a lot of symbolism in this book, with the main characters representing Democracy, Dictatorship, Science, and Religion. Personally, I didn’t find this all to be very clear. Whilst I could see Ralph and Jack as Democracy and Dictatorship – with Ralph as the leader wanting to discuss issues, and Jack’s tactics of propaganda and scapegoating – the roles of Piggy and especially Simon weren’t as clear. To me, Piggy was just the voice of reason and I wasn’t sure what Simon was meant to represent. The scene with Simon and the pigs head seemed random and disconnected from the rest of the story.

As for reading and enjoying Lord of the Flies, for what is a very interesting plot the book itself is dull. I enjoy stories, and found this book to be too much about ‘The Message’.

2.5 stars

Book Review: Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton

15710557Title: Some Quiet Place

Author: Kelsey Sutton

Series: Some Quiet Place #1

Rating: 2.5 stars

Review:

People call Elizabeth Caldwell a freak, but they don’t know the half of it. Elizabeth feels nothing: no joy, no sorrow, no fear. Instead, she sees Emotions who are called to humans whenever they experience a feeling. Most Emotions have given up on trying to work out what she is. All except for Fear who loves to torment her, hoping for any sort reaction. Elizabeth is his obsession: what is she? What made her become so numb?

Elizabeth ignores his pestering, until he shows up one day with a newspaper article about an accident she suffered when she was four years old. Fear is convinced that this accident had something to do with her condition, and though Elizabeth would love to deny him she can’t help but wonder if Fear is right. Could the accident have caused this? And is it connected to the haunting dreams she’s been having, and the feeling that someone is following her?

The idea of Emotions being human-like beings is a very original, and was the thing that attracted me to this book in the first place. However, I think it’s an idea that wasn’t quite as fully fleshed out as it could have been. Not only are there Emotions, but also abstract concepts like Winter, and Moss. There doesn’t seem to be a clear rule with these, which seems a little lazy (though this may be fixed in the next book).  The Emotions seemed to just be people with power to influence feelings on people, invisible to all but Elizabeth, but surely they should be the embodiment of the emotion they represent? For instance, shouldn’t Fear be afraid all the time? Instead he’s confident almost to the point of being arrogant, which has become almost a stereotype in YA romance – the ‘bad boy’: good looking, arrogant, obsessive about the main character, and obnoxious. Luckily, Fear is a milder version of this cliche and doesn’t come across as a that much of a jerk after the beginning.

On the subject of characters, neither Elizabeth nor Fear felt particularly three-dimensional. Whilst they weren’t bad characters per say, they just felt a bit flat. Fear wasn’t featured enough to show more of his personality than his obsession for Elizabeth, and Elizabeth just seemed to repeat to herself how she felt nothing, but would then talk about how her ‘wall of nothingness’ would twinge. Surely this is an emotion, even if it is only a mild feeling? This is what I believe the fundamental problem of this book to be: how can anyone successfully write a character who feels no emotion, when all we ever experience is emotion? It’s pretty much impossible, and though some works have come close, this isn’t one of them. The only character I felt was close to being complete was Joshua, the other love interest, and in the end he just gets screwed over by Elizabeth.

On the whole, this book was mildly entertaining with a good premise (I was fairly entertained whilst reading, and only saw half these problems whilst writing this review), but ultimately it was forgettable.

2.5 stars.