Monday, 2 October 2017

Book Review: Undercover Princess

4 Stars
Verdict: A light and colourful read

Lottie is a hardworking student at Rosewood boarding school, who loves tiaras, the colour pink, and fairy tales. Ellie is the rebellious princess of Maradova, who joined the school to shirk her royal duties and listen to heavy metal. When a misunderstanding has all of Rosewood believing that Lottie is the princess of Maradova, the girls use this as an opportunity to swap lives, one gaining freedom, and the other gaining her fairy tale wish.

This was just what I needed after a dry spell of reading - something light and imaginative, with vivid descriptions and a fast moving plot.

It's a happy book about friendship, princesses, and protecting others, and the many references to fairy tales woven into the plot make it a very charming book. Even when the princess begins receiving anonymous threats, the events never feel too dark and serious. Instead they feel more like a mystery to solve.

The three main characters also work very well together. Lottie and Ellie are opposites: pink and black, studious and rebellious, day and night. Jamie is Ellie's brooding protector, but its great to see the girls are also able to hold their own when things get tough.

My main criticism is that it reads more like middle grade than young adult fiction. Even through the characters are fourteen, the themes, language, and style all point to a much younger audience. The voice is simple and clear, often telling rather than showing, and the emotions are stated very clearly so there's no room for interpretation. As a young adult book, it's much too overwritten, but as a middle grade book it's perfectly fine.

So if you're looking for a light read and are comfortable with a younger voice, then this could be the read for you.

Source: With thanks to the publisher, via

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Book Review: Poison Study

POISON STUDY by Maria V. Snyder
3 Stars
Verdict: An addictive first taste, didn't quite last to the end.

When the day comes for Yelana to meet the hangman's noose, she is offered a choice: face execution, or tempt death every day as the Commander's food taster.

It's a fantastic premise, with a pacy beginning. The pages hooked me fast, with Yelena dragged from her cell and offered a chance to live a dangerous life over death in chapter one. The poison lessons start immediately, and next follows whole host of characters with motives to kill Yelena. I worried about her a lot, at first. But she learned fast and adapted to the danger, which made her compelling to read about.

I liked how Yelena's past unravelled throughout the story. She's a survivor of impossible situations. In the world of Ixia, a crime is a crime, no matter the circumstances, and Yelana's story paints a moral grey over this system.

There was a good mix of characters to pick apart. Valek fascinated me. His mood's curiously shifted around, and he fought hard to protect Yelena against his better judgement. Ari and Janco brought a lot of charm to the story, too, and I can't wait to read more about them. Rand, the suspiciously friendly cook, also added another element to the story. I spent the novel trying to work out how much Yelena should trust him.

This book surprised me in many ways, and at first in a good way. Towards the end, I fell out of sync with it entirely. I hadn't expected the story to take certain turns and it left me with mixed feeling. I'm usually a huge fan of magic, but it seem to distract from the poisonous premise, adding in another layer in a busy plot. Now, I might be alone in my next thought, but the romance felt unnecessary to me. I enjoyed the story a lot more when I thought this was a book about friendship and allies.

A lot happened around the climax, and I stopped believing that Yelena's character would be able to accomplish so much so quickly. I felt sad for not liking this too much after adoring the dark start. I'd definitely give the sequel a go.

Source: Bought it.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Book Review: Fly on the Wall

FLY ON THE WALL by E. Lockhart
4 Stars
Verdict: A short tale of naked truths.

Contemporary usually isn’t my thing. I need life threatening stakes, magic, and twisted, villainous plans – but E. Lockhart’s books are a welcomed break from what I call ‘the norm’. They’re short, and packed full of emotion and meaning. FLY ON THE WALL in particular felt relatable, full of diversity, and got me thinking about life in the way a demon fight never could.

Gretchen sees herself as ordinary, which is why she loves drawing her larger-than-life comic book muses. Her drawing style isn’t appreciated by her art teacher, and she doesn’t really like the other students. In fact, she’s a bit judgemental – until she becomes a 'fly on the wall', and learns the naked truth about the people she had previously dismissed.

Just like Gretchen, the plot starts off a little ordinary, and the overall pace of the book is helped by the fact its so short. It sets the scene, twists, makes a point, and ends without room for much more. I personally wanted a quick read, so this was perfect for me at the time.

I think most people will be able to find a character they can relate to. Usually, with this many characters, the focus would be too diluted for me to connect to any of them, but I think the large cast was handled well. I thought the transformation would leave Gretchen a passive character, but somehow it worked.

The style, the plot, the characters, the length – it's all a little unconventional, but somehow Lockhart pulls off the unconventional.

Source: Bought it!

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Book Review: Skulduggery Pleasant

5 Stars
Verdict: Fun, weird, and magical - what's not to like?

In short, it’s a fun MG book. It has humour and a jovial spirit running through its pages, getting serious at times when it needs to, but never feeling like a heavy weight of despair and angst that comes with YA. A welcome change from my normal genre!

I love how there's a quirky spin on the story. A thirteen year old girl inherits her strange uncle's house, bumps into a walking talking skeleton with magical powers, and the two team up to beat the bad guys from acquiring ultimate power.

They both have a good sense of humour, which made it a fantastic read. Fun, weird, and magical sums it up the best.

At times I felt the high amounts of action would be better placed in a film than a book, and the description tended to be at a minimal, but I liked this book a lot. I like how it’s different, standing out from the large heap of books I’ve swept my eyes through lately.

It’s short too, with a good pace, so well worth a try if you're curious.

Source: Bought it.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Book Review: Gates of Thread and Stone

2 stars
Verdict: Not good.

I always feel bad for writing two star reviews. Most of the time it's just a book that could do with more work, not a bad author. But I'm going to be bluntly honest.  I felt the writing was dull, the world building was flat, and the pace was slow. I’ve read worse, but that doesn’t make this story better.

After Kia eats a sandwich, wanders around, eats another sandwich, visits the shops… eventually, her brother goes missing. He childhood crush insists on helping her, and together they leave everything behind to find him.

Kia is also able to control the threads of time, a gift she must keep hidden. I think Kia stuck to this a little too tightly though, because I completely forgot she had magic for most of the book.

The concepts puzzled me. There were too many ideas, but none of them were used to their best capacity. Is a sentinel the same as a hollow? What is a mahjo? How is that different from the Infinite? Let’s go back to the mahjo thing: is Kia a mahjo, or is Aven a mahjo? Is the ruler a mahjo? Wait a minute, is no one a mahjo?

Then what is a mahjo?

There were some gargoyles. Then the gargoyle bit was over.

Something happened with the sun at one point. I have no idea why but that also turned out to be nothing important.

I never quite understood what the famine place was, and I couldn’t help feel that that whole section could be skipped. 

Similar to the concepts, we meet a lot of characters, but we never learn what happens to them. Kia ditches them when they’re no longer of use, leaving their storylines incomplete. I think a bit of character recycling would have helped here. Other people were introduced too late so that the end of the book was top heavy on the info, whereas the adventure to get there felt irrelevant at times.

The book ends in a burst of exposition, a plethora of information thrown at the reader as if trying to smother you with it. A lengthy backstory introduces things that the story didn’t even touch on, and could be a book in itself. It seemed convoluted to me, and I can’t help but noticed Kia's journey could have been avoided if… well, no spoilers. I felt that the motives were a product of the actions rather than the other way around. When Kia asked why, I wanted one of the characters to turn around and say ‘Because otherwise it wouldn’t have been a very good story!’

So that's my opinion on this one. Strip the excess characters and plot down to size, and tone Kia’s gushing over Aven (and instead focus on the missing brother). There needs to be a few more magical moments, a lot more creative lines, and scenes which foreshadow that brain frazzling ending a bit better. There’s a five star book in this, I just don’t think it’s there yet.

Source: Kindle lending library. 

Monday, 13 March 2017

Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

4 stars
Verdict: Very 'readable'.

It's my favourite type of narrator, the naive in a broken world. Charlie (if that is in fact his real name) watches, listens, and both understands more than others as well as fails to comprehend what is obvious to the reader. He's very different from others his age, more honest, possibly slightly autistic, and broken. Definitely broken.

The book is written as a series of letters from our narrator Charlie to an unknown receiver, and trying to work out whom could drive you insane. It's a character we don't know, a character who could be us, unless of course you did sleep with that girl just because you could. That aside, it's left purposefully vague.

There's not too much plot, just things that happen, the story bumbling along, and then a moment at the end that reveals a little more about Charlie, and then that's it.

A lot of the characters were pretty nice in this, including Charlie. Not the usual cliche bunch. I liked that. It certainly makes a change from the usual manipulative or just plain evil characters I usually read about.

I don't think I understand this book as well as I could. There's a lot to pick apart, to wonder, to discuss, but the book itself doesn't drive me to do that. Maybe the issues were too vast to focus on - homophobia, drugs, molesting, rape, racism, etc. It makes it very difficult to pin down what this story is about. That might be the point, but as I said, the book itself doesn't drive me to wonder for too long.

So it's quite good. That's about it from me on this one.

Source: Bought it!

Monday, 6 March 2017

Book Review: Ruin and Rising

RUIN AND RISING by Leigh Bardugo
2 stars
Verdict: Didn't really enjoy it.
#1 Shadow and Bone
#3 Siege and Storm

The author has all the signs of an awesome writer, but I just didn't think it was an awesome book.

There’s a fantastic twist which links all three books together, and while it was amazing it doesn’t change the fact that I only enjoyed reading bits of this series. It didn’t seem so bad at the time, but I couldn’t read more than a couple of pages before deciding I needed yet another a break.

There wasn't enough to get excited about, and even though there are some great sequences, they were too short and far between. A good book makes those mundane linking scene, like travelling, seem interesting, but the amount of travelling in this book was a tall order, and it ended up feeling as if a lot of irrelevant buffer material was plumped into the book’s sparse feathers.

I realised at some point that I didn't really like or connect with any of the characters, either. Alina talks too much inside her own head. She reiterates what’s just happened in a beautiful, almost poetic language, but says little of substance, telling us bits of the story instead of showing it to us. Mal bugged me because he seemed to love the idea of Alina but not who she was, and while Nikolai was interesting, his part in the book felt like a second thought. I didn’t really care for the new book three characters either. Too many, too late - they were what I expected to be, darkling fodder, and I'll say no more.

Part of the problem could be me. I thought the book was heading in a different direction, and for that reason I feel the ending isn’t true to the nature of the story. Or maybe book two was too far misaligned for the series. The morals did seems a bit… skewed, and the overall message is murky.

I'm up for reading SIX OF CROWS, but this isn't a series I'll revisit.

Source: Bought it!