Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Book Review: Ensnared

Ensnared

Ensnared by A.G. Howard (Splintered #3) – Paperback, 416 pages – Published January 13th 2015 by Amulet books

I read the first novel of the Splintered series and immediately fell in love with it – purchasing the entire series as paperbacks. This is book #3 in the series by A.G. Howard.

If you haven’t read the first two novels then I don’t want to spoil anything for you. But I will say what I can about the plot and character development (of which there is plenty).

Alyssa takes us on another crazy journey, from the human realm through AnyElsewhere and, of course, Wonderland. Again, she finds herself stuck between her two halves – and between her two loves.

Along with her parents, Morpheus and Jeb, Alyssa must banish Red’s spirit forever, return Wonderland to its former glory, and find a way to balance the two halves of her heart. But the travel to this magical realm has changed Jeb, and he’s found something he’s not willing to leave behind anymore.

There’s a lot of madness and magic in this, which is my favourite part. The pure craziness and mystery of Carroll’s Wonderland is captured beautifully by Howard. There are weird and terrifying creatures – my favourite being the strange butterflies native to AnyElsewhere, even if they do endanger the life of one of our beloved characters – as well as beautiful landscapes and clever backstories. The whole origin of Carroll’s story is put into question, Alyssa slowly uncovering how he discovered the magical land all those years ago.

The main part of this is about Alyssa trying to placate the two halves of her heart. After her previous run-in with Queen Red, there’s something strange going on inside her heart – something that hurts when her human side and netherling side are fighting. What’s wrong with her? How can she live like this?

And Morpheus and Jeb still aren’t the best of friends, either. They’re almost constantly competing for her affections – despite being stuck alone together for who knows how long. I’m always routeing for Morpheus, even if he is a bit of a troublemaker.

The ending is quite a nice compromise, a clever and clean way to stitch everything together. And the epilogue is really good, in my opinion. I won’t tell you what happens. But it’s short and brief, leaving so many questions and opportunities at the end that makes me reeeally want to read the companion book.

It is sometimes a little too perfect, if you know what I mean, but it’s not sickeningly good or sweet. I think the solutions they conjure are really creative and clever, and when they’re in trouble I’m always wondering what they’ll come up with this time.

As for development, Jeb and Morpheus have a clear “epiphany” sort of moment toward the end. But I found that Alyssa also developed a lot, slowly – little realisations that shape her being over time, shape her as a queen.

I do love a good Wonderland story. This isn’t, in my personal opinion, quite as the first novels, but I still really enjoyed it. 4 stars for Ensnared.

Check this book out on Amazon here.

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Book Review: Nothing Tastes as Good

Nothing Tastes as Good

Nothing Tastes as Good by Claire Hennessy – Papberback, 336 pages – Published July 14th 2016 by Hot Key Books

I happened to see this book by chance, in my local library. I was drawn to it because of it’s cover, it’s title – I’m anorexic, and I happen to be drawn to things relating to mental health. It doesn’t expressly say on it that it’s about anorexia, but the cover made it pretty obvious to me. A warning to anyone that wants to read it: it’s hard. If you suffer from something like this, like me, then you will probably have difficulty reading something so close to home. Especially if you’re recovering. But it gets better. (I mean the book; I’m not using that “life gets better” crap.)

So Annabel is dead. I’m studying The Lovely Bones at school so the whole beyond-death narration isn’t that special to me now. But Hennessy does it pretty differently to Sebold.

We don’t know much about Annabel, not at first. But we begin to learn about her while she helps her assigned “soul-in-need” – The Boss (definitely not God) has promised her a final communication with her family if she helps Julia. And this looks easy, at first – Julia is from Annabel’s old school, with a loving family and good grades. Everything is fine, except she’s fat. Annabel thinks this should be easy – after all, she’s an expert in weight loss. She lost weight until she died.

But Annabel soon finds out that Julia’s issues are a whole lot more complex than her weight. At first, losing weight helps. But then her old scars come back to haunt her, and Annabel realises that maybe losing weight isn’t going to fix all her problems.

Aside from the obvious issue, this book does talk about a lot of important topics. It covers friendships and relationships, like most YA novels do, but it also combats ideas on feminism, affairs with older men, and people all having their own hidden demons.

At first, I wasn’t keen on Annabel. I wanted to like her – I felt I should, because I could relate to her story so much. But she was a bitch. She wanted other people to be like her, and rather than encouraging recovery and health and happiness, she shared tipped on weight loss. It really did hurt to read. Her ideas on “perfection” and being weak for eating just really hit a nerve for me. Not because it was wrong (though I’d never encourage an eating disorder in someone else), but because it’s exactly how I’d think about myself. Her behaviours, her worries, her anger – they were so real.

But Annabel, despite being dead, grows alongside Julia. Yes, she tells Julia to starve herself and run on an empty stomach and hate herself, but eventually she starts to feel for her. She wants Julia to combat her issues, to actually be happy. And she realises, despite having been so upset with her old friends for recovering, that maybe she wasted her life. Maybe she could have been something more, rather than striving to be less.

I found this really emotional. Annabel’s love for her sister, the sister she neglected for years while she was focused on her goals, and the future she cut short. The way Julia’s life changed when her passion for writing and journalism was overtaken by her obsession with food, calories, exercise. It’s so real and so sad. And the ending isn’t “happily ever after” – Annabel’s still dead, Julia’s in counselling – but it’s real. It gives hope that things can change, that Julia can really achieve happiness.

At first, I didn’t like this that much. I know Annabel is just a character, but I just didn’t like her. She was one of those girls that makes anorexia sound like a choice, a lifestyle, and I hated that. But later she realises she is sick, and I actually felt sorry for her. I was sorry that she had been brainwashed by her illness into believing she was doing what was right.

The only reason I’m giving just 4.5 stars to this book is because Annabel was a bitch. Yes, she is a character, and yes, she grows considerably throughout the novel, but her encouragement of EDs just drove me insane. Personal pet peeve, I guess.

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Book Review: Frankenstein

Frankenstein

Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley – eBook, 126 pages – Published May 17th 2012 (first published March 11th 1818)

This book has been reviewed and studied so many times over the years, so I’ll keep this simple.

It is a classic novel, originally published back in 1818. This does mean that the language is harder to read and understand for some people, and the general culture and ideas are all rather different to what you may be used to. That’s always the biggest problem with reading and appreciating older novels – sometimes we just can’t enjoy the fantastic writing or the unique characters like people would’ve back when it was released.

We are first introduced to Robert Walton on an expedition to the North Pole, writing letters back home. The whole story is, in fact, him recounting what he is told by the man he picks up in his boat – Frankenstein. Frankenstein’s story is a familiar one; he created a monster, who subsequently felt lonely amongst this world of humans. This creature wanted a partner, a mate, but Frankenstein was unwilling to create yet another daemon of this kind. So he took revenge, slowly removing all of the Frankenstein’s loved ones until he no longer held the will to live himself.

It is actually a lot sadder than I ever knew. I didn’t know much, just the generic “Frankenstein’s monster” creation story. But this novel is full of heartache and loss, regret and terror. It’s about a scientist crossing the line of creation, only to suffer drastically for his ambitions.

Yet we are also given the “monster’s” account – his terrifying, lonely entry to the world, his plea for company, even his regret for the lives he took. I never really thought much about the creation himself, didn’t consider his side all that much. But this novel makes you think about him, and even causes you to sympathise with him.

I liked this book, but I feel like it’s one of those books you’re supposed to like. I’m not a huge fan of classic novels, but I can see past the difference in language and lifestyle. I just really appreciated the amount of emotion in this, and also it’s not-so-perfect ending. It isn’t a favourite, and it wasn’t a casual, easy read, but I will give it 3.5 stars.

Check out this edition here.

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Book Review: The Outs

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Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

Well, this was… an interesting read…

Just gonna quickly put a little trigger warning in here, as there are graphic and emotional descriptions of depression and suicide. But the story isn’t about these things, and they aren’t properly talked about until far later in the novel.

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The Outs by E.S. Wesley – eBook, 365 pages – Published January 24th 2017 by Curiosity Quills Press

You’re thrown right into the deep end from page one, having to put the pieces together as the plot progresses. We meet one of our protagonists, Caleb, in an unfamiliar room with mysterious men and a random little girl. He ends up taking her with him as he runs, trying to figure out what he did during the Outs.

The Outs are kinda confusing. They’re moments in time where electrical appliances all fail, and anything that happens is forgotten as soon as the Outs end. Oh, and anyone killed during the Outs is resurrected from the dead.

I’m really not sure how to describe this book. The plot is super confusing – Caleb and his aphasic friend, Kitzi, take this weird little girl (Amanda) who somehow has powers over everyone and everything, in an attempt to stop Deeds and his army of Deadheaders. Caleb has a psychopathic voice in his head called Crimes, Amanda’s dreams come true, Kitzi’s suicide happens to have taken place at the same time the Outs started, she can smell the truth – and somehow they’re all connected to the Outs? These three individuals – and many others along the way – each have a big part in what is happening. But how?

Honestly, I cannot explain it. There are so many little ties and strings throughout this book that all add up, and I couldn’t possibly include them all.

It definitely is a unique book. The idea is pretty good, too – the whole “nightmares becoming real” and all. But I just didn’t connect; I don’t know if it was the pacing or what, but I just didn’t feel involved in it.

I feel like I should’ve been able to sympathise with the characters more – they had good backstories, emotional and family issues that different people should be able to relate to. And the narration following Kitzi often makes references to comic books which I personally really appreciated. But I just didn’t quite feel them. Maybe it’s just me – there’s nothing wrong with the writing in particular, so maybe it’s just personal preference. I don’t know.

I had a few typos in my copy but I received an ARC, not a final copy, so that shouldn’t affect anyone buying the book. I loved the cover, and the art at each chapter start was great. Also, the inclusion of “Notes From Last Night” (a site where people recorded notes during the outs for after they forget) was awesome, too. It added a whole other dimension to the world, an extra little bit of interest.

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I wanted to like this, I really did. And I didn’t dislike it – but it didn’t feel like anything special to me. 3 stars for The Outs.

If you’re interested, you can check it out on Amazon.

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Book Review: City of Heavenly Fire

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City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments #6) – Paperback, 638 pages – Published February 1st 2015 by Walker

Wow. I cannot believe the series is over.

I started this series thinking it was just another paranormal YA series, which it was in some ways, but I ended up falling in love with it as the series progressed. Now I’m gonna have to go and buy the gorgeous box set and read them a dozen times over.

If you’re not familiar with these books, you can check out my reviews of the first five books (starting with number one). I may actually be re-reviewing these in a while though, as I’ve come to appreciate them a whole lot more now.

So, where to start… The plot? Complicated but great. Action, tons of heartache, and a sprinkle of love. The ending is super sweet, too. Maybe a bit too neat and happy, but I’m a cynic. Honestly, it was nice to see them all find happiness at last.

The characters. Oh, the characters! I love them all. The use of the relationships in the plot is fantastic (and super sad), and the character development is pretty strong, too. The relationship between Clary and Jace becomes more *ahem* intimate, while Magnus and Alec finally get to talk about what happened between them. As for Isabelle and Simon… you’ll have to read it yourself to see what happens to them.

I find that Clare’s writing in these novels has a really distinct, iconic feel. From the first page, I was immersed in the Shadowhunting world, despite it having been a while since I read the previous novel. And although the book is long – over 600 pages – it didn’t feel tedious or boring. It took me a while to read it due to school work, but I did find myself having to force myself to put the book down and go to sleep.

Like I said, I have grown fonder of this series with each passing book. I’m going to start the series over again soon to see if I still feel the same way as before, but for now I’m going to give this finale a 4.5-star rating. Not quite in my favourites, but after a re-read it may be!

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Book Review: The Legacy

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The Legacy by Gemma Malley (The Declaration #3) – Paperback, 288 pages – Published November 8th 2012 by Bloomsbury Children’s

 

When I first read Malley’s The Declaration series this third novel hasn’t yet been released. And then I kind of forgot about the series until the end of last year.

Anna and Peter have found a safe residence in the countryside thanks to the Underground, the resistance movement against the use of Longevity. But their safety is being compromised as some unknown “illness” is spreading through the Legals – killing people who are supposed to live forever. People are pointing the finger at everyone around them, fear spreading even quicker than the virus.

Jude and Sheila are living in the main Underground facility, but are forced to move base when their leader, Pip, hands himself in and a brick comes flying in through their window. Meanwhile, Peter’s ring is of high importance to Richard Pincent, who has arranged with some unknown Underground member for it to be sent to him.

Without Pip, Jude has to take over. But he wasn’t expecting his half-brother to arrive, especially without the rest of his family. And now Sheila’s disappeared…

Why are people dying? Are the Underground really to blame?

And then, when he didn’t think things could any worse, Jude sees Pip talking to Richard Pincent’s closest friend and guard, as if they were friends.

Is this really the end of the Underground? Have they finally lost?

I noticed a lot of typos and punctuation mistakes, which gave the book a bit of an unprofessional, juvenile feel. But I’ve always loved this series and honestly I found the book so easy to read and enjoyable, despite the mistakes. There are some really interesting twists, and the story focuses a lot on characters other than Anna an d Peter which is nice.

4 stars for this book.

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Book Review: Red Queen

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Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – Paperback, 383 pages – Published July 2nd 2015 by Orion

This first appeared to be just another YA fantasy novel, with similarities to The Selection series. But I was pleasantly surprised by Aveyard’s  novel, and may actually have another favourite book.

Mare Barrow is a Red, a servant and a worker to the Silvers. She helps her family eat and survive, dreading the day of conscription. Her brothers already risk their lives in the war daily, and now her best friend is doomed to go to the front lines…

But then Mare meets someone different, someone with friends in high places. Soon, she finds herself working in a palace, a servant to the royal family. And then she’s serving at the Queenstrial, where young Silver girls compete to become the next heiress.

What nobody expects from this trial is for a Red-blooded girl to take the stage and survive the electric shield above the stadium. Mare definitely doesn’t expect to be thrown into the world of the Silvers – but that’s exactly what happens.

So Mare is betrothed to the younger prince, having to pretend she’s actually Silver. Meanwhile, a huge Red rebellion is developing and targeting different Silver areas – will the palace be next?

I must admit, the love triangle between Mare and the royal brothers was a bit of a typical YA romance plot, but the way it’s “resolved” is so exciting. I found myself sympathising with every character to some extent, which I greatly regretted regarding certain people…

This whole novel was full of action and surprises, and I really was gripped. The Red Guard situation was exciting from start to end, and the giant twist toward the end was totally unexpected. I can’t wait to read the next book!

While some parts are, in hindsight, a little predictable and typical for this genre, I did love this book. It was so enjoyable and clever, and I’m really excited about where the next book will go. There are many tragedies, romantic scenes, and some heart-warming family moments. And action! A great combination. 5 whole stars!

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Book Review: Fire Study

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Fire Study (Chronicles of Ixia #3) by Maria V. Snyder – Paperback, 441 pages – Published June 7th 2013 by Mira Ink

This is the third novel in the Chronicles of Ixia series by Maria V. Snyder. There are more books – I’m not quite sure how many – but I am definitely done with this series.

Again, we follow Yelena – our 20-something protagonist with magical powers. She’s discovered that her powers make her a Soulfinder, and people fear her because of it. But she uses her powers for good, even if the Fire Warper tries to get her on his side.

Even though Yelena is a bit older than the usual YA protagonist, the way this book is written just feels immature to me. It’s almost entirely composed of simple, declarative sentences with little emotion. I can’t connect with Yelena, even when she suffers the loss of a loved one or comes near to death herself.

I said this about the first book, and I’ll say it again; Snyder doesn’t seem to portray the passing of time. At all. There is a section of this book that was meant to have been over several weeks, but I just didn’t feel it. There’s no character development. Even the relationships don’t seem to have any feeling. Basically, I just can’t connect with anyone or anything in these books.

Though there is nothing bad about the writing, I just didn’t like this book. I found it hard to read and didn’t really enjoy it. The plot sounded decent – escorting souls to the sky, defeating evil magicians – but I was so disappointed. 2 stars.

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Book Review: The Lovely Bones

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The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – Paperback, 328 pages – Published 2002 by Little, Brown and Company

If my English Lang and Lit class hadn’t chosen to study this book this year, I probably never would have read it. At least, not yet. Not because I didn’t want to but simply because I may never have been motivated to do so. Honestly though, I’m very glad we chose this novel (even if I personally did not vote for it).

As I’m studying it for my exams, I really don’t want to spend too much time writing about it now. But I will do a quick review about the pros and cons of this novel.

So the book is about the death of a girl. Well, not about it, but it’s a very important aspect (obviously). The victim, Susie Salmon, narrates the story from beyond the grave in her “heaven”, recalling memories from her lifetime and also watching her family’s life unravel after her death.

There is an air of mystery to this, but not for the readers. We know from the start who murdered Susie, but her family do not. We follow them as they try to figure out what happened, getting closer and closer to the truth.

This book has an aspect of fantasy and supernatural to it, as well as mostly being a drama-based novel. We learn about Susie, and then we follow Ruth and Ray and her siblings, Buckley and Lindsey. We watch her parent’s marriage go through hell and back, and we even watch her murderer escape the town unpunished.

Everything about this is very interesting. The writing, simple but still detailed and descriptive; the characters, who grow and change as the book progresses; the plot, or multiple mini-plots, evolving around all the different characters.

I really liked this book, and at first I thought it might become a favourite. But it didn’t carry on quite as well as it started, and became more or more of a realistic, dramatic story about love and life. It’s so interesting to see how Sebold portrays heaven, and how the lives of her Susie’s friends and family are affected both directly and indirectly by her death. A good 4 stars for this book!

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Book Review: City of Lost Souls

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City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments #5) – Paperback, 544 pages – Published September 6th 2012 by Walker Books

I can’t believe I’ve nearly finished this series!

First of all, I would like to complain about the cover. If I hadn’t heard so many great things about this series then I probably would have avoided it, simply because it looks like a typical teen paranormal romance atrocity. The story is actually way more action-based with a sort of hint of romance, but I just don’t think the cover portrays that very accurately.

Moving on to the actual book, it follows on from the last novel where Sebastian is sort of reintroduced. He is a massive character in this, after disappearing – along with Jace. It turns out there’s some sort of bond between them thanks to Lilith, and the only things that can separate them are the weapons of either angels or demons. Which, unsurprisingly, results in some rather reckless acts on the part of Jace’s friends and family, including the summoning of an angel and a demon. Nice.

Alec and Magnus have some pretty serious difficulties in this book, which actually really upset me because they’re currently my favourite couple. There’s also romantic plots following Maia and Jordan and even Izzy and Simon, but nothing major.

In the end, the Institute receives a disturbing gift, Clary stabs Jace, and Magnus kicks Alec out of his apartment. Maureen is seen again, claiming to have killed the woman Alec was out to murder, and Luke’s sister is taken and turned dark by Sebastian. I think that’s everything?

As for the writing, I love it! The books are all quite long, but they don’t feel it when you read them. I don’t understand how the feel so timeless and exciting all the way through!

Of course, this is a YA paranormal novel with typical romance lines and so on, but it is as unique as a book in this category can be. It has a nice mix of surprise, suspense and plain old action, and the diversity of the characters is fantastic. I’m really looking forward to the next novel in the series, yet I don’t want it to be over!

Simply because it is a somewhat generic book (there are just so many angel/demon YA novels these days) I can’t put my rating any higher than 4 stars. But the writing is fab and the plot always interesting, so there really isn’t any true fault.

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