Ascension by Victor Dixen – Book Review

4-star book review of Ascension by Victor Dixen - the first in the martian, sci-fi series Phobos. Widely described as Love Island in space, this compelling, original first instalment with leave you wanting more.
Click the cover to read the book’s description.

Click the cover to read the book’s description.

I received this book from Hot Key Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Be prepared for the world’s weirdest yet strangely addictive dating show in the known universe.

I’ve said in previous posts about this book that it was like ‘Love Island in a spaceship, but with teenagers, segregated living quarters and much less sex’. This still feels like a good description, but I think only UK readers would necessarily get it. There is also a little bit of Take Me Out in there. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please, Google is your friend.

Cut down to its core, Ascension is essentially a book about a space dating show, but the author takes that seemingly inane concept adds in questionable moral compasses; intrigue and several closets full of skeletons and ends up with a really compelling sci-fi novel filled with characters and plot-lines you’re left wanting more of.

I ended up really enjoying this book despite the fact that when the concept was first introduced at the start, I thought it wasn’t going to be good, at all. I quickly realised, that though some of my first impression was right (the show’s format was a smidge convoluted, I didn’t really see why the two teams couldn’t mix more for good entertainment value, it seemed like an unnecessary barrier, also instant marriage after what could only ever be a maximum of what? 3 hours in each other’s company? … ick), as motives and schemes were revealed I realised that something like this absolutely 100% could happen.

Not so much the space of it all, but you know, never say never, but the carrying out of explicable deeds and exploitation of desperate and damaged young people for money? Yeah, I buy it.

I also like that the characters don’t seem to be fulfilling any racial stereotypes either, it was a refreshing change of pace to be able to get to know each character individually as opposed to painfully obvious archetypes of their country – the Brit wasn’t an etiquette obsessed prudish stickler or a cartoonishly evil villain, yay!

Despite my overall enjoyment, the narrative didn’t always sit well with me. I generally like alternating perspectives and I understand now that everything we saw will likely be a crucial bit of information but, with all the suspense and tension, there were times I really didn’t care for the ‘bad guy parts’. You know the ‘Mwahahahaha, we are the bad guys, let us discuss our evil plot at length in this shady-ass bunker in a dimmed room with a long table, mwahahahahah, go us.’ Yeah, that. Some parts were great but I think other parts were a little bit repetitive.

It’s hard to describe the frustration I felt as the plot reached its climax and my e-reader read ‘98%’ at the bottom and I knew I wasn’t going to find out the answers I so, so needed. Needless to say, already pre-ordered the sequel Distortion – also, can we get some appreciation for these awesome covers?!

How (Not) To Marry A Duke by Felicia Kingsley – Book Review

See my review of How (Not) To Marry A Duke by Felicia Kingsley, a hate-to-love romance set in modern day British aristocracy.
Click the cover to read the book’s description.

I received this book from Aria and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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A gentle reminder two stars still means ‘it was okay’ by the Goodreads standard.

The premise for this book was interesting and the majority of my issues with it congregate toward the very start and the very end of the book, because the in between was pretty good and would have easily received 3/3.5 stars from me but, I did have my problems.

Like I said, it was an interesting concept, it was light and quite funny at times and, well it must have been compelling since past the 30% point I couldn’t put it down. By the end, I really routed for Ashford and Jemma because opposites attract has never been truer than when applied to them and, they worked. Inexplicably, they worked.

My issues as I said, began at the start, the first one being Derek’s part to play; I may be naïve to think this but no solicitor, or legal professional, would risk their integrity and livelihood to play matchmaker and disclose confidential client information and advise his clients to commit fraud. I’m sorry but lawyers are smart people, and that is dumb as f***. I know many, many solicitors and they wouldn’t dream of giving such negligent advice, let alone to a friend of theirs. I would have bought the whole scheme more if they had dreamed it up themselves.

The second issue I had was the portrayal of almost every character as some daft, caricature of an outdated stereotype. Carly and Vance’s hippy lifestyle, which hey, could well be accurate but I felt it was overemphasized and overdone; Ashford’s arrogance and ignorance (‘“We’re talking about three million pounds!” I complain.’ I’m sorry but one does not simply complain about discovering they are in £3m worth of debt. No one does, I don’t care how rich you are); and Delphina. Delphina, in general, was the absolute worst example of a caricature but even worse was the injustice I felt was done to poor Jemma.

Never mind the fact she was repeatedly treated like crap, and never actually got her sweet revenge by rubbing her millions in their snobby faces and proving someone can be wealthy and not act like they were born to the celestials, but I felt an injustice was done to working-class women in her portrayal. I felt I understood Jemma’s character, her roots; I come from a Labour-supporting, working-class city with roots as deep in football support as they are in tradesmanship. I know and am related to people like Jemma, who like what she likes and have the same take-me-or-leave-me attitude and don’t pander to those who feel as though they are above them, so her continuous abuse at the hands of the upper class meant something to me and I rooted for her. However, her consistent portrayal (both in thought and in action) as a childish, ill-mannered bimbo was just plain insulting. Living in the working class parts of London (which isn’t cheap even then), of any city doesn’t automatically make you incapable of holding a civil conversation, eating anything other than fried chicken and ignorant of the value of newspapers, even if you don’t enjoy them yourself. It just doesn’t, and whenever she did succeed at something it was never treated as an accomplishment, just a fluke or a lucky break as if no one like her could ever do such a thing based on skill. Even Ashford’s recognition is plain patronising and condescending. I get that everyone is different but I stopped relating to her the second I realised that unlike I first thought, she wasn’t the only real person in the book, she was yet another caricature.

As I said, the story improves and even though the plot cycles through (and references) the timeless tropes and themes of Pride and Prejudice, Taming of the Shrew, Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries, I really did enjoy that part as we actually saw some great character development from our two main characters (even if Ashford never completely stops being an absolute asshole).

But the ending* spoiled it for me and took it down to a 2-star rating because it just made me angry. Not a bad book but for me, it was personally problematic.

*SPOILER ALERT

Read More »

The Last Romeo by Justin Myers – Book Review

Myers, J - The Last RomeoI received this book from NetGalley and Piatkus in exchange for an honest review.

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This was a really, fun and funny read about one man’s descent into the horror that is the internet, online dating and fame going to your head.

“No one cared who i was until I put on the mask.” – Bane, The Dark Knight Rises

When Myers started his book with the above quote, he pretty much had me sold as he was obviously a cool guy with great taste.

I really enjoyed James’ narrative and point of view. He is a very real and relatable character with flaws and insecurities. His endless dating disasters (and not so disasters) were both comical but entirely realistic and I always enjoy reading from the perspective of a character who is a writer.

The author did a  really brilliant job of drawing you into the story and actually getting you vested in James’ hunt for The Last Romeo, without you even realising. I didn’t realise how deep I was until James made the stupidest choice possibly in the history of love stories and I was sat in my living room, alone, shouting “But why? Why? What the hell do you think you’re doing?! Goddamnit James, why?“.

Deep breath.

Anyway, I’m sure you’re wondering why only the 3 stars then? Surely, from what you’ve said this is 4 or even 5 star worthy? Well, because my ship got sunk – that’s why. Yes, it was that good a ship, and yes I sure as hell do hold a grudge.

That and though James undergoes huge character development, and is surely on the path to self-actualisation by the end of the book, it’s just a smidge incomplete at the slightly dissatisfying ending. The ending is still hugely worth it though – and I really hope Myers releases a short story set say, 6 years in the future, to let us know how it all turns out.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon – Book Review

32934117I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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This is not my usual genre at all but I’d seen so much about this book on social media that I thought I’d give it a try and ended up enjoying it. Had I known it had a large focus on the culture side of Dimple (still not sure how I feel about the name) and Rishi’s relationship I’d likely have read it sooner. I found all of the parts concerning that really interesting and as individual characters apart from all that I related to both of them, mainly Rishi I think but Dimple’s feminism (in the actual definition, not the new warped perception some people who call themselves feminists have developed for themselves) and aversion to make-up just because she doesn’t want to wear it was also really relatable too.

It was a mixed bag really and I found myself wincing a little at the particularly cliche parts especially as those parts didn’t really ring true for D and R’s characters’ personalities. I wish there had been more focus on Insomnia Con itself and the work the pair actually put into their project because we heard a lot about it but didn’t see much and it really didn’t seem like they put that much effort in for something that supposedly was so very important to Dimple.

I disliked the ending and would have hoped – or would have found more realistic – an ending similar to Where Rainbows End by Cecelia Ahern except maybe not so many years down the line minus the teenage pregnancy.

Overall, I did enjoy it and though I wish there had been more character development for themselves rather than as a pair. I really liked the characters and think it’s awesome that other cultures are being represented and brought awareness to.

The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle – Book Review

The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly ringleI received this book from NetGalley and the publisher, Central Avenue Publishing, in exchange for an honest review. I’d like to apologise for my tardiness in giving them that review, sincerely.

🌟🌟🌟.5

This is a dark, paranormal romance with a fairy tale atmosphere and an actual non-pathetic heroine to boot.

The intertwining of the two worlds, both our real world and this dark magical one was well done and the ‘liaison’ role between the two forces was original and intriguing though I wished we’d got to see a little more of Kit as a character. The pacing was good and it was refreshing to have such a satisfying ending for a fantasy standalone.

The first scene with Grady and Skye actually really tugged at my heartstrings, something about the way he treated and communicated with her and her own, albeit limited, responses just gave me the feels in a big way. I mean, it got rapidly less cute and innocent as you’ll see but that scene stuck with me.

Oddly, what I took most from this book is a strange insight to mental illness and depression. Though Skye’s illness is really a magical spell/curse the frustration and depression she experiences, as a result, is most definitely less than magical and I thought it was eloquently expressed and I found it interesting to see through her eyes.

One of my peeves with all books of this genre is the tendency for the characters to substitute sex for dealing with their problems and there’s some of that here but it’s definitely not as problematic as other books I’ve read and certainly less vulgar.

Livy was a cool and I must say, unexpected female lead and as I said before, utterly non-pathetic which is great. She didn’t need anyone to come to save her, she just did what she had to and I respected her immensely for it. I did wish Kit had more of a role to play but he was still a good character.

This was a great read I demolished in one day but I’d have to emphasise it only stands this strongly alone – a sequel (unless it was mindblowing) would probably ruin it.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan – Book Review

Sullivan, M - Midnight at the Bright Ideas BookstoreI received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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I was having a hard time figuring out if I liked this book or not. The story was intriguing and definitely kept me hooked, I thought it was well written and the author painted the town so well, I could really picture and imagine the place. I just really hated the lead character.

I liked her to begin with but as I learnt more about her I just found her annoying. I understood she went through a terrible trauma. I understood these fears and trust issues she had. Like I got it, it was repeatedly fixated on by her. I just didn’t understand why. 

I mean so many people have been through similar and worse experiences than her and recovered, led full lives, yes there are some that can’t but considering she was presented as such a “strong” character – or perhaps I misinterpreted that – I feel like she was just holding onto the past and using it as an excuse to treat everyone around her like crap.

David deserved better, I genuinely don’t see how what he did was that wrong and she majorly over-reacted, her Dad maybe could have handled things better but really? Lydia didn’t even try. The more I learnt about Joey the sadder I felt that this awesome guy thought he only had self-pitying, mopey, grudging Lydia in his life. She didn’t really even do that much for the progression of the ‘investigation’, she was sort of being dragged forward through it by the other more interesting and less annoying characters.

Much of this is really my own opinion as I imagine to a different reader Lydia’s reactions to – well, everything might seem rational but I think her actions through the book really could have been rectified by a simple apology to the people she treated badly, but they didn’t even get that.

Despite all Lydia’s flaws, I liked the writing, the ending was nice and neat and didn’t leave me with a huge amount of unanswered questions – which for books in this sort of genre, is preferable to me and I really rather liked Lyle and the bookstore.

ARC August Read Sleep repeat

ARC August 2018 #2 – Update

Hello everyone! I mentioned last month that I was taking part in ARC August this year and I wanted to throw in a quick update as to how I’m doing. Now, I didn’t take part in the read-a-thon the other day because I was too busy (I mean I finished 1 ARC but I wasn’t actively taking […]

The Stereotypical Freaks by Howard Shapiro – Book Review

The Stereotypical Freaks by Howard ShapiroI received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The description given on NetGalley for this book, I found slightly misleading, simply because when the phrase ‘life-altering news’ is used I don’t automatically assume it’s a cancer diagnosis. Had I known that, I wouldn’t have requested the book because after A Monster Calls and (most of) A Fault in Our Stars (though both are good books) I had decided that novels centred around cancer just weren’t what I wanted to read. I read for fun, and it just kind of depresses me.

As the story progressed I noticed a lot of ‘life lessons’ being thrown about (all under the general umbrella of ‘make the most of life while you can’), it would have been hard not to notice them honestly, as they were all explicitly spelled out, sometimes more than once, leaving the reader nothing more to infer or figure out for themselves. This is something I’d expect for a graphic novel aimed at young readers but given the heavy subject matter, I don’t think I’d like the age group this level of reading was appropriate for reading this particular story. Especially since the only reason the band enters the competition is so, the lead singer can impress his one true love – the most popular girl in school with a ‘loser’ boyfriend – which is an odd cliche to include in a story about overcoming stereotypes?

This said I liked the music references in the story – even though I think I have a slightly different definition of ‘rock’ than the author.

State of the ARC #4

The State of the ARC meme was created by Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks. My fourth month, let’s look at the scores on the boards! Current Stats… Well, my feedback ratio and average days after/before release has gone up but that’s because I got some batch/late approvals and finally submitted some overdue reviews and that affected them. […]

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang – Book Review

Hoang, H - The Kiss QuotientI received a copy of this book from Corvus and Atlantic Books Ltd. Via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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OH MY WORD.

I just cannot get over how much I love this book. I started it yesterday morning on the train and I just couldn’t. Stop. Reading. It. I just couldn’t. And to be clear, not an appropriate book for the workplace. I got absolutely nothing done. But I just couldn’t stop reading and by last night I’d finished it. It was so good.

I think my love was mainly down to Stella (our leading lady), she’s autistic/Asperger’s (both are mentioned in the book but it’s not clearly explained which she is because though they are part of the same spectrum there is something of a difference between the two) and I just couldn’t believe how entirely I related to her[1]. Hers and Michael’s relationship was downright adorable from the start which I feel is a huge accomplishment given it starts through solicitation, for crying out loud.

I liked the alternating perspectives as they were well executed and, it was just too funny at parts, Stella’s mum’s obsession with recommending Tinder was priceless, both mothers, in fact, were fantastic. And Stella’s thought process made me laugh as much as it made absolute sense to me, my two favourite quotes of hers are:

“I like you better than calculus, and math is the only thing that unites the universe.”

(Actually the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard and I’m not even that beguiled by Maths.)

“If a woman purchased underclothes for a man, it meant she loved him.”

This is actually true^. 100% fact.

I’m struggling to find fault frankly. It was a fun, light and extremely funny book that has joined the ranks of my all-time favourites and I will most certainly read again. Thank you, Helen Hoang, truly.


[1] This is a quote in particular that stands out in my mind:

“For several stomach-twisting moments, she ran through her list of presocialization reminders: think before you talk (anything and everything can be an insult to someone; when in doubt, say nothing), be nice, sitting on your hands prevents fidgeting and feels good, make eye contact, smile (no teeth, that’s scary), don’t start thinking about work, don’t let yourself talk about work (no one wants to hear about it), please and thank you, apologise with feeling.”

I have a list of stuff I tell myself in my head (before social stuff I’m made to go to even though I hate it) so similar to this, it hurts a little to read.

In the back of the book, Hoang writes how writing Stella helped her discover herself and recommends a bunch of books about autism in women that I am absolutely going to read. It’s been a possibility that has niggled in the back of my mind since my earliest teen years that though it’s highly unlikely I have Asperger’s syndrome I am almost certainly on the autistic spectrum, but before now I never wanted to actually ask the question, I just decided I was me and I was weird but that’s okay because I was always told everyone is a bit weird. But oddly, no matter the outcome of that likely strange conversation with my GP, I feel good about this and I really can’t explain why.

ARC August Read Sleep repeat

ARC August 2018 #1 – Participation Announcement

Hello everyone!

So, as if I didn’t really have enough going on as it is I’ve also decided to take part in this year’s ARC August hosted by the lovely ladies over at Read. Sleep. Repeat. and I’m really looking forward to it!

I had the first week of August booked off as a reading holiday anyways so hopefully, I can get a strong start in. I’ve never taken part in this before but I’m quite excited, it will hold my first readathon and, what I’m most looking forward to, another bookish bingo card!

This will mean in addition to the challenges set for ARC August, I will also be taking part in that month’s Reading Rivalry challenges, the State of the ARC bingo card as well as my own personal goal to be Overdue ARC Free by 2019 (hey, I heard that sarcastic laugh, it’s possible). I know others have far more challenges going on but this is the most challenges I’ve taken on in one go, luckily they all coordinate quite well.

Since Reading Rivalry won’t announce their criteria for a couple of weeks yet, I’m just going to put a pretty wall of doom collage of the ARCs I have on my pile to be read and reviewed, both overdue and upcoming. When I know what they are I’ll try to fit them to as many criteria as possible.



Wish me luck! Are you participating in ARC August too? Let me know in the comments!

The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green – Book Review

Green, S - The Smoke ThievesI received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

🌟🌟🌟  – Minor spoilers but will not give away the plot.

Somewhere between Throne of Glass & A Song of Ice and Fire, The Smoke Thieves is Game of Thrones through a heavy YA-lense. It’s Game of Thrones-Lite, if you will.

Although I must admit the writing style and execution is not really anywhere near as flawless as George R. R. Martin’s, Green writes a brilliant, if archetypical, fantasy world and some really solid characters. I really, wholeheartedly enjoyed this book because it recalled to me the chaos and intrigue of Martin’s books only with fewer confusing complex layers. It has a similar format of varying perspectives and plot devices/points but with less* cursing and bloody gore and no explicit sexual content.

*I say less because there is some. F-bombs and heads in boxes and the like.

I found the demon hunting and smoke aspect really interesting (I actually wish it had been explored more/been a more central point of the story) and love Gravell and Tash’s relationship and banter. Edyon had some funny moments that had me laughing out loud too and generally I liked how all the characters wove together eventually. I also felt that all the characters at least had a purpose in the story even if they weren’t especially well fleshed out.

I think we may have been able to survive with one less perspective as the story was quite thinly spread but that wasn’t a big deal really. More obstacles on the character’s various journey would have gone a long way to achieving this. I was not a huge fan of either of the love interests – I mean Edyon & March had the edge over Ambrose & Catherine but both just kind of felt like it was happening simply because the other person was there. I’d have bought into two very strong platonic relationships more, or even a platonic one for Ambrose & Catherine that was misunderstood and a hate-love for Edyon and March that had the two of them bonding over never being good enough just because of the circumstances of their births, which is where I thought she was going with it but then she totally just kept saying how good looking they both were. I’m really shipping Catherine’s arranged marriage working out if I’m honest, Prince Tarzan (not his real name but that’s what I called him)  seemed like a cool guy.

I think what was really missing from this, that GoT and other great fantasy has, is doubt about the motivations of the “bad guys”. In GoT, it’s all grey areas and second-guessing and mistrust and tests of loyalty and wanting at least one person on every side to win, even if the others don’t – whereas this was very black and white, but I guess being YA that makes sense and fits the genre but is still a personal preference.

Overall, I liked it and will read the sequel but only because I’m holding out hope for some great character development from our two royals.

State of the ARC #3

The State of the ARC meme was created by Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks. My third month and we took another dip I’m afraid … Current Stats… I was so busy with work this month and then – boom! Reading slump. It sucked but it happens. I hate the hot weather! I changed up my tracking this month […]

The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross – Book Review

Shallcross, L - The Beast's HeartI received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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I really enjoyed this book, and I hadn’t expected to. Beauty and the Beast is one of my all-time favourite Disney movies (not exactly rare, I know but still Mulan and now Anastasia, since Disney bought Fox, are my ultimate favourites) and I have never read any of its retellings and thought this one was artfully done.

The setting and description are beautiful and I really liked how the prose was written like it really was the Beast’s inner monologue and not just the parts required from the movement of the story. We got self-reflection and memories and it was brilliant. And yet, it was all still important and it still felt as though we uncovered something relevant with each revelation. I would usually prefer dual or multiple perspectives but I think the single perspective works best for this as we really are getting the Beast’s entire and unabridged version of events.

This book also feels like its actually set in France which, with the exception of the odd ‘bonjour’ or mention of French food, most adaptions don’t feel that way. It felt authentic. The magic aspect I quite enjoyed also, as well as Isabeau’s family’s story arc – though I’m not sure how much of this derives from the original story having never read it.

This retelling also slightly redeems the previous issues this story has arising from terms like Stockholm Syndrome and what really qualifies as valid consent (ish, I’ll get more to that though I don’t dispute the validity in this case). I’m not certain how old Isabeau is meant to be in the story but she feels like a fully-fledged adult.

I had to knock a star off for a few minor points I wasn’t so hot on, but none of them were major issues.

Firstly, Isabeau. I think she benefits greatly from the preconceived idea of ‘Belle’ (AKA Beauty) being independent, intelligent, brave and well-read as she doesn’t exhibit a great many of these features and the ones she does, it’s not a lot and whilst I grant the main focus of the book is the Beast himself it would have been nice to see more layers of her personality.

Secondly, the proposals. It got a bit much over time and is what I’m referring to when I say about consent. It’s really more of an issue of how many times should a question be asked before the person being asked is simply worn into submission.

There are a lot of proposals in this book, too many to count and whilst the Beast understands why this is an issue:

“And my occasional proposals began to distress her once again.”

“Indeed, the only thing preventing us from being perfectly comfortable together was my obstinate insistence on proposing to her every few days.”

And, laments over it at length and grieves the upset it causes her, he doesn’t stop. Again, this could be taken from the original tale, and when they do eventually agree to marry it’s not to one of his incessant proposals and it’s doesn’t come across as pushy or forceful in the book … it’s still annoying to read, even if I get why he has to do it.

Overall, I think those who loved the live-action remake will love this as well and those who love the original tale and the Disney film (though you won’t find Cogsworth or Lumiere) will love this book too and I did really enjoy it overall.

Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody – Book Review

Foody, A - Ace of ShadesI received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

🌟🌟🌟 .5

Generally, I enjoyed Ace of Shades. My first encounter with Amanda Foody and a page-turner for sure, the world is brilliant and well-built from the start. I have a weakness for fictional grim, gritty cities full of brilliant con artists (I’m looking at you Scott Lynch, you and Locke Lamora). Of course, this is a purely fictional fascination as I am quite aware I’m too soft to survive such cities, in particular, the City of Sin …

I really liked the Las Vegas-inspired world with distinct dystopian overtones and the world building was truly brilliant. The tentative peace of a recently established republic leaps off the page and the blood and split talent aspect was original to me too. The use of the word ‘missy’ for some reason made me think all the characters spoke with Dickensian London accents (because I’m weird) but that added some entertainment value too. Levi felt very much like the Artful Dodger but with poorer decision-making skills.

I took issue with a few things in the book. Enne’s character development practically hits warp speed going from dainty-lady-like wallflower-ballerina to black-lipstick-wearing-card-playing femme fatale. I mean I’m two years older than Enne and am definitely stronger and more hardened than the little, sheltered girl that entered the book and I feel like my reactions to the events in this book would significantly more than they did her. It felt a tad unrealistic, but then books.

The other aspect was the love interest. On the one hand I kind of get it, because the two of them are trapped together in a way no one else can understand and it’s easier to grow close that way – I do get that. But at the same time, I wish this genre would just for once understand and appreciate the value of a deep and meaningful platonic relationship between two people of the opposite sex. I think that could have worked in this book. I just hope they don’t fall into the old cliche of their seconds getting together because ughhh.

I couldn’t put the book down though, so that says something and I would quite like to read the sequel – would recommend!

Trigger warning: <spoiler>there is no graphic scenes of sexual violence but one mildly disturbing scene with a character who is evidently a pedophile though nothing happens it’s creepy and may affect sensitive audience members.

From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon – Book Review

Menon, S - From Twinkle, With LoveI received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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So many good books recently! So I really enjoyed this too, it was a fun, light summer-y read like When Dimple Met Rishi and honestly, that says a lot because this is really not my genre but I’m trying to branch out.

If you liked WDMR you’ll probably like this too, but I actually preferred From Twinkle, With Love. I love me an adorkable romance, mainly because I relate to that. That’s me and my boyfriend really – we’re not gooey romantic, we’re nerds and we talk about superheroes and play video games and make fun of our friends who are gooey couples (not that there’s anything wrong with that, they usually don’t even notice us). I liked Twinkle and related to her feelings about not coming from a well-off family and the inadequacy teenage girl brains can’t fight off. I adored Sahil. I mean that guy is a legend.

I mean, is it kind of annoying that Twinkle can’t let go of Neil and can’t see what is right in front of her face? Of course, but it adds to the story and to be honest is a pretty accurate representation of a teenage girls transition to adult feelings. All of it was a pretty good representation in fact, and I always love the gentle but undeniable feminist undertones to Menon’s stories. They are great and should be heard by the audience these books are aimed at.

My only drawback is that the book is mostly presented through journal entries which I don’t like in general, though it is handled well in this case. I loved the text conversations between Sahil, Skid, and Aaron – they were freaking hilarious. Group chat goals.

10/10 would recommend.

State of the ARC #2

The State of the ARC meme was created by Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks. So, it’s my second month and last month I didn’t do so good so I really worked hard to try and turn it around so … how did I do? Current Stats… So this month has been so unbelievably busy … but I managed […]

Manga Classics: Romeo and Juliet by Crystal S. Chan – Book Review

Chan, C. S - Manga Classics Romeo and JulietI received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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So this is the fourth Manga Classic I’ve read and needless to say I’m officially a fan. My method with this series is to review the adaption more than the story because really you can’t review it as a story since its based off another book (that I’ve likely read and therefore reviewed).

Since I have not actually read Romeo and Juliet I can’t exactly do that but I happen to know this book is taken word for word from the OG so I don’t actually think it matters and – unpopular opinion coming your way – I genuinely think this could be a good alternative to reading the original. HEAR ME OUT.

Shakespeare never intended his plays to actually be read, he intended them to be seen and experienced. Reading Shakespeare is hard and sometimes dull for leisure purposes. I mean sure, you can get the gist of the language after some practice but I found this method of enjoying it so much better. I have read a few of the Bard’s plays and I honestly don’t find them even remotely fun to do so. I love watching the plays, every actor interprets and presents the character differently and it’s so good to watch and the acting and context makes understanding second nature. But, plays don’t come along that often, least of all really good ones, and manga is a perfect graphic substitute because the style is so expressive and hyperbolic – like good actors in a Shakespeare play should be.

really enjoyed this book, the art was beautiful. I mean, stunning really. Of course, I knew what was coming the whole time because it’s Romeo and Juliet but still loved it all the same. The only nitpick I’d have is maybe more clearly labeling characters as it can be tricky to keep track of them all.

If you enjoy Shakespeare anyway or want to get into it but are hesitant because of the language – read this, it’s great.

Phi Alpha Pi by Sara Marks – Book Review

Marks, S - Phi Alpha PiI received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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I did enjoy the book, I just felt like it could have been executed better.

The premise of this book is a Pride and Prejudice retelling in a modern American setting of sororities and fraternities. I adore Pride and Prejudice, it is one of my all-time favourite novels so when I first read the synopsis I was intrigued for several reasons. Firstly, P&P is very quintessentially British as are the characters, and thought seeing American interpretations would be interesting and (due to limited knowledge in the area and a few American movies) my idea of sororities centres a great deal around debutantes and socialites and I actually thought to apply the P&P story to that sounded all kinds of awesome and original.

Well, my idea was a little off but what I got was pretty awesome and original too! The bare bones of the original story are present and fleshed out with a great summer, feel-good romance that most P&P fans (with an open mind) can enjoy. I liked how Lizbeth was translated to modern day, complete with feminist bad-assery, and how other key characters from the original story do too – Wickham a fraudster and identity thief? Inspired! Darcy, explained as an introvert with social anxiety? So clever!

There is enough of the original in there to make it as un-put-downable as the original for me but, since it is a retelling I have to compare it to the original.

Whilst I have nothing against adaption for the purpose of modernisation there are almost always some aspects of classics that are important to maintain unless they’re changed in a specific way. I also have a thing about retellings containing the original material as a piece of media in the book, as in, in this book Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is a book that exists. This creates a weird irony from the outset of any novel as the events mirror the book which is either addressed by a) referring to it constantly which is annoying and strange or b) mentioning it once and then inexplicably never again. Phi Alpha Pi uses the latter which is the lesser of two evils but in all honestly I wish they just wouldn’t at all. And that’s not specific to this book, but for all classic retellings. Just leave it out. (admittedly, Austenland by Shannon Hale actually handles it surprisingly well but I’d say it’s an exception).

In Phi Alpha Pi the Bennett sisters aren’t really sisters (well, they’re sorority sisters) which would be fine except they all have their own additional families and siblings that I felt were unnecessary plot devices that could have been substituted by actual P&P characters. But I also felt that removing the blood bond also jeopardizes some of the actual plot points. Lydia’s life choices, for example, I don’t doubt sorority sisters are close but Lizbeth’s constant judgment and commentary of the other sisters’ actions especially Lydia’s just feels rude and like overstepping. Opinions like that are best asked for and when it’s your family those concerns are expected and you’re entitled to shove them in a person’s face. Just some gal you’ve known for a few years at school? Um, rude? What’s it to you? Imean, it wasn’t a huge deal but it’s similar with Dr Bennett (the Mr Bennett archetype). His advice and counsel means more as Lizzy’s father, not her teacher.

The second is Lizzy’s social standing. Lizzy’s stalwart and satirical resolve against a marriage based on financial advantage means that much more when she is set to inherit nothing because it means she is quite literally happy to choose to be placed at a disadvantage before she jeopardises her beliefs and marry for money. Making her wealthy takes something away from that, even if I suppose it accentuates she’s really choosing Darcy for love since she doesn’t need his money?

There’s the two pivotal scenes in Darcy and Lizzy’ relationship: the slight and the proposal. I found the flip in the severity of these two scenes very amusing – the slight is actually not very much of a slight at all. Barely even a passing comment – ‘Not my type’ and a general (and kind of accurate) comment on people who aren’t Lizzy is so not on par with ‘tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me’ and an unfounded assumption coupled with the belief his company is a gift. Where, by comparison, “You are an aggressive, unconnected nobody who holds everyone up to ridiculously high expectations and acts like you’re entitled to everyone’s respect.” – but please love me back, is pretty darn brutal. I actually found this quite funny – in fact, I may have said “Ooooooh, snap” out loud.

The writing style was actually pretty good but the one thing that really sticks out in my mind is Marks’ constant remarking on what people are wearing, to the point that I dedicated a highlighter colour to every time this happened in the exact same format/phrasing on my kindle. The grand total? 20 and it’s not a long book. Unless there was something symbolic about Darcy’s penchant for Chucks that I missed.

I liked it, it was a fun read but I’m not likely to read it again, to be honest. It was a fun way to relive P&P in a new way for a weekend but in terms of retellings/adaptions, it’s not the best but also not the worst.

Can anyone recommend a P&P retelling with the setting of debutantes by any chance? I need to read that book.

Smoke in the Sun by Renée Ahdieh – Book Review

Ahdieh, R - Smoke in the SunI received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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So, overall – it totally holds up.

I really enjoyed this as a sequel to Flame in the Mist, Ahdieh did a great job of picking up where she left off and I couldn’t put it down. The whole story was seamlessly delivered, with all the threads interweaving at just the right moments. If anything, I’d say it was almost too neat, there was suspense and highs and lows throughout but I wouldn’t say it was as … captivating as the first. Still brilliant, definitely still brilliant but I think I’m just a sucker for an origin story.

I loved Mariko’s personal journey the most I think, and Okami, Tsuneoki and Yumi had some really great beats as well – I only wish we’d gotten more. I think Yumi could have been used more, she’s an amazing character.

[Medium] Spoilers ahead.

Okay, so I’m going to admit I kind of shipped Raiden and Mariko. They could have worked so well. And honestly, I thought that’s where she might be going until I realise this was probably the last book in the series. What I was hoping for from Raiden’s introduction proper onwards was Okami to escape (maybe grow closer to Yumi, there’s something there) and Mariko to stay on as spy but then fall for Raiden, this may be an unpopular opinion but who cares – I’d ship it all the way.

Roku was a pretty awesomely written villain – I love when you see the development of a monster, it was also especially powerful through Raiden’s eyes. Kanako I didn’t get so much, I felt there was an easier way to achieve what she did without so much innocent blood shed but I guess that the plot invoked so many feelings from me is just a testament to how good it was.

I think the best part about the whole series – including the two ‘shorts’ (practically minis) Ahdieh published over the past week or two – is that all the characters have a flaw, a fundamental weakness that makes them imperfect and so, so relatable. I like there are no perfect specimens of protagonist – that the winners and the heroes do so through pretty questionable means because it feels more real that way. Perfect heroes and heroines are okay sure, but when they try to spin it that their flaw is they’re too loyal or care too much I just want to call bullshit and make them have a real flaw, something that brings some humanity, you know?

A great (what I think is the) end to a series I will happily include in my modern favourites – plus their covers are so pretty, I’m glad for the redesign!

Smoke in the Sun is due out on either the 5th or 7th June – my sources can’t agree! – so plenty of time for you to read Flame in the Mist if you haven’t already. This series is perfect for fans of Mulan (my favourite Disney animation!) as it is a sort of retelling but set in a Japan-inspired fictional world.

Until next time!

WWW Wednesday #1

This is a tag formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and now hosted by Sam at Taking On A World of Words. It answers three questions beginning with a letter I bet you won’t get with 25 guesses! I’m just joining this on a whim, but I’m hoping to stick with it since it’s a fun and relatively […]

Anna by Amanda Prowse – Book Review

Prowse, A - anna

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Just a gentle reminder that 2 stars on Goodreads mean ‘it was okay’.

Okay, I have mixed feelings about this book that left me feeling a bit …

I’ll start with the parts I liked. The cover is very pretty and I will go to my grave before admitting seeing a photo of how gorgeous the paperback edition is on Instagram was about 80% of the reason I requested it. I liked it was relatively easy to read and fairly well written, the characters were well-rounded and I could clearly see them and their mannerisms in my mind’s eye. I also loved the idea that there were two whole books told entirely from one half of the prospective couple’s perspective – something I feel should be done in more genres.

With a cover as pretty as that I had set myself up for a nice, easy, cheesy love story which was really what I needed at the time of this reading because I was ill and just wanted a fluffy, girly book. I didn’t get this and that’s not a bad thing, necessarily, but it did re-teach me the ‘don’t judge a book by its cover lesson’ once again – will I ever learn? Probably not.

Now I can and will never use subject matter as a reason to dislike a book of this genre because whilst I don’t enjoy reading about this kind of angst and all the horrible things that can happen to people in this world because I use reading as an escape from those things, I understand that some people do and that’s fine.

Things I can use as a reason include pacing and characters. This book covered a lot of time, and in order to do it had huge time leaps varying from months to years and it just made the whole book feel rushed and left me wanting more detail in places. I would have preferred for the book to start at say, when Anna starts working or leaves the home and then revisit the early parts in flashbacks or something similar. It just would have felt … neater, but that’s just me. I just felt like I was being ushered around a store, able to browse things but not really pick them up and examine them.

Anna was the main character I took issue with and that was a problem since it was all told from her POV. It wasn’t so much in the beginning when she didn’t speak as much but as time wore on she just got repetitive and annoying. When she was sad she whined and when she was happy she was really, really happy! So happy! So, so happy! That everything she said, ended in exclamation points! I’m being harsh and man, I felt bad for her at times I really did – I’d have actually stabbed Theo at points – but other times I wanted to slap her and tell her to get a grip.

Hers and Theo’s marital problems got real old, real fast and I found myself skimming most of their rows and not really missing anything new.

To sum up I get why this book literally has no bad reviews (as of the time of this writing) but it wasn’t for me. I’ll probably read Theo’s side just because there were a lot of blanks regarding him I’m assuming so the second book would sell but in all honesty, I just want a more satisfying ending than the one provided.

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo – Book Review

Christo, A - To Kill A Kingdom🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I had to take a few hours to collect myself after I finished this book, lest any thoughts I express be illegible. This is exactly the kind of book I needed right now, in the midst of an extended reading-slump (they tend to be an annual occurrence, around the transformation of Winter to Spring). Had I not been at work, I don’t think I’d have put it down once – sleep be damned – but alas, I love my job and would like to keep it.

Christo caught my attention immediately from the very first page, she definitely came in all guns blazing with action, world-building and intrigue. I liked the main characters, in particular, Lira, from the get-go and the descriptions of mermaids and sirens and all other aspects of their turmoiled kingdom were eerily beautiful and – for a mythology nerd like myself – thought-provoking.

There were aspects of the story I could predict purely due to the genre – the romance arc for example – but it in no way took away from my enjoyment of the book but as far as the development of the story was concerned there was a surprise around every corner and it was brilliantly well-paced and I truly loved the book.

The only faults I’d even be able to entertain would be the most inconsequential nitpicks like the romance arc but even then I thought it was well managed and transcended the cliche – and to be honest, I shipped them the whole time anyway. I was slightly dissatisfied with the ending but only because I wanted more detail and the book was so well paced the whole way through, that the ending felt a smidge rushed – but that may just be the book hangover talking. The characters stayed true to themselves in the ending though, which is great since it would have been so easy for them to fall into that huge, branch-covered-and-not-at-all-inconspicuous trap and conform to the romance arc cliche I previously mentioned, which would have made no sense. *sighs in relief*

I do wish there had been more crew members of the Saad mentioned than just the core group – as great as they are (and they really are), there were times I forgot there were 100 people on that ship but I understand that too many characters can cause a slew of writing issues so it’s more a preference than a criticism.

Despite these highly negligible issues, To Kill A Kingdom has joined my list of favourite novels and I’ve already ordered my physical copy. I can’t wait for more from this author – though not a sequel to this book, it would be The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea all over again. I have unanswered questions but not enough to warrant a whole book – it stands stronger as a standalone novel.

Overall, a stunning novel. Thank you for curing my slump, Ms. Christo.

Bookworm by Lucy Mangan – Book Review

Mangan, L - Bookworm🌟🌟🌟🌟

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This took slightly longer to finish than I thought it would but it was totally worth it. I’m not much of a non-fiction reader as I often find it does not interest me as much as fiction but the title – and gorgeous cover – drew me in immediately.

Though my childhood and upbringing was primarily during the noughties, and Lucy’s (I feel as though referring to her by her surname is too formal – I feel like I almost know her after this book, and I related to her in so many ways; being raised in the Northern fashion, being told off her hiding behind a book and causing no trouble at, etc) was in the seventies, this book still recalled on many of my childhood favourites – The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Spot the Dog, Elmer, Miffy, Meg and Mog – even if I can’t pinpoint where I remember them from as clearly as she can.

The whole book was not only a nostalgic, scenic train journey (not a roller coaster – far too disruptive) but a trove of interesting publication facts and witty commentary that had me laughing out loud on my commute – some favourites were:

“The Brontes owned a copy of A History of British Birds and by all accounts cherished it. Then again, so would you if it was the only thing available to take your mind off the TB-ridden siblings dropping all around you like flies.” 

“Even now, after 40 years in the same place, you would not be able to guess a single thing about the people who live there. Apart, possibly, from the fact that one at least must be a monomaniac who has forgotten more about decluttering than Marie Kondo will ever know.” 

“In love with a hundred-year-old vampire Bella may be, but Buffy, she ain’t.” 

It also helped me remember books I had forgotten I had ever read, Flat Stanley for example. I had completely forgotten about Flat Stanley Lambchop until I read this book! Stanley meet my Read shelf.

I think what resonated with me the most about this book, however, was just how much I related to some of the stories Lucy told. Like pretending to try and fit in with the other kids at school.

At one point she says ‘At five I was largely studying the difference between upper- and lower-case letters, but in my spare moments, I was already having to contemplate tearing down my entire personality and starting from scratch.’.

At 19 years old, this is a thought I can’t remember not having and do still and this is the first time I’ve read the feeling so aptly put into words. Whilst I don’t relish the fact that others share this insecurity, it’s almost comforting enough to begin to potentially overcome it. You know, maybe.

The feelings Lucy relates about her wishes for Alexander – her son’s – reading experiences also made me smile as they paralleled my own for my two-year-old baby brother, whom I recently bought The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Spot the Dog and The Tiger Who Came to Tea in addition to We’re Going On A Bear Hunt and The Gruffalo.

Admittedly there were parts I skipped over either because they gave away plot points in a book I intend to read or it was a large amount publication history or facts that didn’t interest me as much as I had not read/heard of the book itself but I still found it hugely enjoyable. I was slightly surprised that in all the little tidbits of obscure information regarding various authors personal lives that in the section on Alice in Wonderland none of Carroll’s more … unsavoury tastes were mentioned. This could, of course, be because they are essentially impossible to be reliably proven as fact and may well just be a poisonous rumour invented by English Literature teachers to ruin childhoods forever but it was surprising nonetheless.

I could probably write a review consisting of 90% awesome and witty quotes from this book but I’d much rather you just read it for yourself and take a quick stroll down your bookish memory lane and, like me, lament that your memories are not as distinct and detailed as Lucy’s or that you were not blessed with a bookish parent to help guide you.

Alas. But thank you, Lucy Mangan for sharing these stories, I enjoyed them immensely.

The Sherlock Effect by Raymond Kay Lyon – Book Review

Lyon, R. K - The Sherlock EffectI received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

🌟🌟 – but only because I DNFed at the third story – around 50% – and therefore don’t feel entitled to give 1 star.

I really wanted to stick with this until the end, it was 215 pages – I feel like a failure for not being able to. I wish I could say I will try to go back to it but I probably won’t. This book just wasn’t for me and I might be alone in this since generally the reviews seem good but no, just no.

My first impression was that Christopher Sherlock Webster is a spoiled, ungrateful brat that couldn’t just indulge his father for the sake of human decency. Your dad loved Sherlock, just read one of his stories with him won’t you? They aren’t long, and as you found out (a bit too late) they’re actually pretty good. My dad loves zombies, I personally think the concept is utterly stupid but I watched Shaun of the Dead and a few episodes of The Walking Dead and when his birthday came round I still bought him tickets for a zombie apocalypse experience. I’m sure Mr. Webster didn’t want to watch Barney or Teletubbies or whatever little Sherl watched in his childhood but he did. It’s just what you do for family.

Then, as the first story kicked in, I realised not only was he spoiled and ungrateful, he was also a pretentious prat that had achieved nothing of significance prior to having his rich friend drop a business into his lap that he does such a mediocre job of contributing to I think I’d have been able to do a comparable job. I knew exactly what the ending of the ‘The Fur Trade’ was going to be approximately 2 minutes into it and just to see if I was being overly analytical gave my partner the basics of the case since he’s a big Sherlock fan (listened to all the audiobooks as read by Stephen Fry) and see what he thought, this was our conversation:

‘I’m reading this modern-take Sherlock book, they’ve got this case: rich and famous singer’s boyfriend has been kidnapped for a second time by an animal rights group and they’ve asked for more money in exchange for his release again. What do you think is going on?’

*Not even really listening to me* ‘What? So her boyfriend faked his own kidnapping?’

Bingo! Got it in one, now my boyfriend is a clever sort so maybe it’s just us but I’m inclined to think this conclusion isn’t such a stretch for anyone. The second and third stories seemed weirder and more in the realm of Holmes but I still guessed the culprit in two and couldn’t get far enough into the third story to care to make a guess.

This book isn’t technically a modern adaption since the Sherlock Holmes books and canon exist as fiction in this world as they do in ours, so the Baskerville Agency is technically an overly zealous fan club with a gimmick to make money rather than an actual detective consultancy. Sherlock Holmes is not a PI he’s a consulting detective – which is explicitly stated in the original texts several times.

I’m by no means a veteran Holmes reader – full disclosure I’ve only read the first two books (I’m getting round to the rest) and watched the BBC adaption but what I specifically remember about those books was that the writing surprised me.

I had expected something more in the realm of Dickens or Dumas where you expect the writing to be overly flowery as standard, accept it as part of the story itself even, but actually found that Doyle had a very simple writing style, simple but effective. He didn’t need all the hyperbolic phrasing or unnecessarily long or archaic words to create the feel the books have. Now, to be fair this could be because Doyle writes his stories from the stoic and comparatively simple perspective of Dr. Watson as oppose to Holmes himself. Lyon writes this story from the Holmes archetype character so, you know, theoretically it could be argued that it is not the writing that’s pretentious is the character and had Doyle written his stories from the original Holmes’ point of view his writing would have resembled this. You could argue that, I wouldn’t but you could.

The benefit from telling the story from Watson’s perspective is that everything Holmes does is only shown from a third party and it’s easier to maintain the mystery and trickle feed the clues until the big reveal. The clues are still attempted to be revealed in this way in The Sherlock Effect but since you are reading from the perspective of the ‘Sherlock’ character you can’t really hear their thought process because it would give it away so what you end up with is quite a lot of dialogue.

The book was well-written despite this but these issues just meant I didn’t enjoy reading it. I’ll stick to the originals I think.

WaR: Wizards and Robots by Will.i.am and Brian David Johnson – Book Review

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I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Okay, so this book really surprised me. When I first saw the title in NetGalley my first reaction was:

‘Wizards and Robots? That sounds stupid.’ Stupid enough for me to want more information and request it just for the hell of it – figuring if they accepted it’d be an interesting experience and if they didn’t, no real loss.

I probably should have read the description since it explicitly states one of the co-authors is will.i.am – a fact that threw me a little since I knew he had recently branched into graphic novels as he appeared on Good Morning Britain with his book ‘Black Eyed Peas Presents: Masters Of The Sun – The Zombie Chronicles’ but didn’t know he’d gone into YA prose too. I’m kind of ashamed that I went into the book with low expectations because of this – I don’t really even know why I just did – because this is hands down one of the best written YA (though I feel like this could be shelved at a middle school level too) books I’ve read in a long time.

The writing itself was great, and not in an overly descriptive flowery way but just in the simplicity of the writing and the variety of vocabulary at this level of reading is just great and would appeal to young adults. The characters were all great and relatable in a big way and they all had their own arcs and development. I was also really impressed by the world-building mainly because I didn’t even know it was happening until I was in the world.

The story jumps around to 3 time periods in the first half of the chapters and usually this kind of storytelling confuses the heck out of me and I can only piece it together fully at the end (I’m looking at you The Night Circus ) but since the characters and settings in each one were so distinctly different from one another I didn’t have this issue.

Overall it was a really fun read, I liked all the characters and their personal development and the story was interesting and made me care about the outcome. The concept could have produced something silly and pointless but it worked in a weirdly wonderful way and most importantly this is the kind of book I can imagine encouraging primary/middle school kids to read more which is always a great thing in my opinion.

Manga Classics: The Count of Monte Cristo By Crystal S. Chan – Book Review

51fmzzsq8ql1334064964..jpgI received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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If you have read the Count of Monte Cristo, you obviously don’t need me to give an overview of the plot, if you haven’t then what the hell are you doing reading reviews on this book? Go and read the original. Now. It’s amazing and you will not appreciate this book or the story unless you have read it. And not the abridged version, the whole 1300 page monster.

The Count of Monte Cristo is easily my favourite classic novel – perhaps even favourite book in general – of all time. I read it for the first time at the end of last year and fell in love with it. I was just sad I was unlikely to have the time to read it again anytime soon because, as I’ve said it’s a monster of a book and really I think everything in it is important to the story – at least in prose form.

I have read a few other Manga Classics as a way to almost experience the classics in a consolidated way, and also out of curiosity as to how they will be depicted. Generally, I have liked them all and this was no exception as it allowed me to experience the story in only 400 beautifully illustrated pages. The way the characters were depicted was brilliant and I love how this team adapts classic stories to the manga style. That being said, being only 400 pages it does gloss over large portions of the book – Edmond’s time in prison for example and the majority of Heloise de Villefort’s whole scheming, treacherous arc. I understand why this is done but if you have not read the original, and don’t know how to fill in the blanks, it loses something.

Either way, it’s impressive how concisely they cut it down, and I also think it’s clever how they changed the perspective slightly so that some of the ‘insider info’ or dramatic irony that the reader experiences in the novel is removed and then revealed with more suspenseful way, like an unravelling mystery, in this adaption.

I will most definitely be adding this to my hard copy collection, along with Pride and Prejudice.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton – Book Review

23197837I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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At the start of the book as the concept was revealed the idea really struck something with me but I knew because it was such an important issue that if it wasn’t dealt with well in the book it could easily send a harmful message. Going in I was really hoping that the Belles – who bring beauty to the kingdom of Orléans with their magical arcana – would somehow convey a message about true beauty being within or something whilst also beating their villains and saving the day and so on. I really hoped this because the world, whilst a beautiful idea just seemed as though that was the message it was needing.

Maybe they’ll tackle that in the next one, who knows, but for the moment the books resounding message is: ‘Society is way too concerned with physical beauty and will go to deadly lengths for it.’

And?

I had really high hopes for this book since I first heard about it in a tweet by Rick Riordan (https://twitter.com/camphalfblood/sta…) and heard many good things. I don’t disagree with Rick, it is certainly a brand new idea and world that will definitely take off in the YA genre, but the whole book just felt like an orange: the last 100/150 pages were really great, but I wasn’t sure the hassle of getting into it had been gratified.

I did generally enjoy it, the world was a brilliant idea I personally have never come across. The heroine was relatable I’d say, as were her relationships with her sisters and the rivalry caused between them by the choice of the favourite. I especially loved the fall out afterward because it rang so true because that is just how 16-year-old girls react in competition and if it had gone any differently I’d have probably put the book down there and then.

[Minor spoilers ahead: but doesn’t really give away plot points, just hints at a few]

My only issues were that I saw the betrayal coming a mile away and it annoyed me the otherwise intelligent heroine didn’t: I can’t decide whether this showed poor character development or was just representing the love-triggered blindness. I got a strong Chaol/Dorian/Aelin vibe from the start and I was pretty much right I think though it is going to happen in the next one I’d assume.
I also struggled with the description at the start, the incessant food similes made me hungry and I was kind of sick of the word ‘Belle’ by the 200-page mark.

I will likely read the next installment as I loved Edel so much and want to see how it pans out because the cliff-hanger was pretty great, if cruel.