Distortion by Victor Dixen – Book Review & Giveaway

Check out my review of Phobos #2 Distortion by @VictorDixen - this suspense filled space opera is well on the way to becoming one of my favourite sci-fi series.
Click on cover for the book’s description.

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

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I was completely hooked on the Phobos series after reading Ascension earlier this year and falling headfirst into the space opera Dixen has created, described as Love Island in space for this new British audience, this series is fun, compelling and full of suspense.

Whilst the first book read more like a dystopian/YA novel, this sequel is more of a classic space adventure with the same YA drama thrown in for good measure and it totally lives up to its predecessor.

In this instalment we see the Mars Pioneers landing on their new home and the inevitable drama that was bound to ensue on their first meeting. Much like most reality shows, this allows us to get a much more in-depth look at the characters and reveals much about their past and personality in the way they interact with one another.

New layers are revealed as the book continues, especially in terms of the boys, who we didn’t get a lot of interaction within the first novel and it certainly keeps you on your toes, with unmasking around every corner.  Alexei, in my humble opinion, is revealed to be something of a chauvinist pig; Mozart is not as reformed as he might have you believe and Marcus hides a multitude of sins under all those beautiful tattoos – and those are just the start.

Andrew may well be my new favourite (and he forms an unlikely alliance, but I won’t spoil it) and Serena’s deception truly knows no bounds. The characters all feel so much more fleshed out (with the exception of a few but I’m hoping to see more of them as the series progresses).

My one complaint, however, would have to be Serena. I’m not sure if it is how I am reading it personally but she can sometimes come off as slightly caricature-ish. This isn’t necessarily a detrimental comment, as much of the series is somewhat melodramatic (there are a long of !’s that I feel come from the original French text), just an observation as though she continues to give reasons for her actions, I don’t quite believe her and can’t seem to understand what she is gaining from all this. Surely, surely, she would become richer, more powerful, in general, benefit more if the Pioneers continue to live long and happy lives? Why not just help them? She is quickly losing everything to this scheme and I can’t help but wonder if it’s worth it. I will say, despite her odd cartoon-y moments she isn’t half a clever villain. Of course, Leonor can see what she’s doing, being our heroine, but Serena’s general approach to this whole plot is a clever one – though I can’t help but be disappointed the bulk of the Pioneers don’t see through her too, they’re generally very clever.

Fair warning, this book ends on yet another blasted cliff-hanger, somewhat similar to the first, though I assimilate this to the ‘duff-duff’ at the end of Eastenders in this Space Opera.

I look forward to the next book – this is well on the way to becoming a favourite sci-fi series for me.


If you like the look of this you can win 1 Paperback copy of Distortion here:

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Check out my review of Phobos #2 Distortion by @VictorDixen - this suspense filled space opera is well on the way to becoming one of my favourite sci-fi series.Check out my review of Phobos #2 Distortion by @VictorDixen - this suspense filled space opera is well on the way to becoming one of my favourite sci-fi series.Check out my review of Phobos #2 Distortion by @VictorDixen - this suspense filled space opera is well on the way to becoming one of my favourite sci-fi series.

 

You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance – Book Review

Read my review of You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance, the first in a series that is perfect for fans of Geek Girl. Gracie Dart is a relatable and funny character and her journey of self-discovery and growing up is one I think young women need fresh out of the stress of exams.
Click the cover to read the book’s description

I received a copy of this book from Hot Key Books via Readers First in exchange for an honest review.

🌟 🌟 🌟.5

This is a book I want to give to 16-year-olds who have made themselves ill over stress and school work like it’s the end of their life and not just a stepping stone to the next stages. Gracie Dart is a relatable and funny character and her journey of self-discovery and growing up is one I think young women need.

Vallance perfectly captured the mindset of a post-GCSE student and the sense of earnest, determined independence, yet greatly undecided and vulnerable nature of a young adult realising the insignificance of these exams in hindsight. The feelings described in this book about how school life depicts your future in comparison to the reality is so accurate it’s staggering. That, and Grace’s witty narration is so candid and sincere, even in melodrama, I was laughing from the start.

Grace goes through a tremendous amount of personal development and self-discovery, not least of all acknowledging her own sexuality to herself and her family and friends and coming to terms with what it all means.

Til, Grace’s best friend, was my favourite character; she was so funny and direct and reminded me so much of my best friend toward the end of high school.

I feel this book may be better given to less impressionable readers who are well versed in the mantra of ‘stranger-danger’ just as, I don’t know what it’s like in Brighton, but I wouldn’t advise Grace’s method of friend-making where I live. Though I did like Spider, he was an interesting character, his and Vicky’s age isn’t really that well defined (that I remember) but I got the idea they were a bit older than Grace and it made their relationship somewhat strange. It also made me a little uncomfortable with the fact this girl (who certainly acts 20+ years old) repeatedly kissed Grace, a 16-year-old, without invitation and Grace repeatedly comments on how she’s not sure she liked it or wanted her to.

I wouldn’t say any of the above is problematic per se, I just found it uncomfortable and weirdly, though I know I felt very grown up at 16, the closer I get to 20, the younger and more childlike that age seems to me.

A little note from me: I’m trialling some new Pinterest Graphics for my book reviews, and they took a while to perfect. I’m pretty proud of them but didn’t want them clogging up my post so they’re hidden within the review – if you could take 1 minute to maybe pin one with the below button I would really appreciate it!

Read my review of You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance, the first in a series that is perfect for fans of Geek Girl. Gracie Dart is a relatable and funny character and her journey of self-discovery and growing up is one I think young women need fresh out of the stress of exams.
Read my review of You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance, the first in a series that is perfect for fans of Geek Girl. Gracie Dart is a relatable and funny character and her journey of self-discovery and growing up is one I think young women need fresh out of the stress of exams.
Read my review of You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance, the first in a series that is perfect for fans of Geek Girl. Gracie Dart is a relatable and funny character and her journey of self-discovery and growing up is one I think young women need fresh out of the stress of exams.
Book Reviews by Bloodthirsty Little Beasts

 

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.

🌟🌟🌟🌟

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?!

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.

Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking – Book Review

Hocking, A - Between the Blade and the HeartI received a copy of this book from the publisher, Pan Macmillan, and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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So while I was checking who the publisher was for the opening line of this review I saw NetGalley’s description of this book started with these words: ‘Game of Thrones meets Thor: Ragnarok’.

Um, no? I feel like this is a severely misleading description if anything this book is Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Shadowhunters and well, every mythological being out there, apparently. I found this book quite disappointing really. It wasn’t bad, it was actually alright but it lacks focus on its concept and if you’re going into this expecting a Norse-inspired YA fantasy you’re going to be disappointed.

So far as I can tell the Valkyries in this book resemble those from mythology only in name, fierceness and weaponry. Their purpose and values are completely unique to this world and that is perfectly fine, they just don’t line up with the mythology and I think it might have been better if they had had a different name all their own. The atmosphere and setting of the novel is a very grungey, steampunk, overcrowded city complete with hover crafts, dark, gritty alleyways and underground markets just ’cause. The scene setting is actually really good, and the world building as good as it could be with the complete overload of inspirations it had.

The Norse influence is very limited and this book includes all manner of immortal, mythology beings including angels, demons, vampires, werewolves, goblins, cyclopses, ghosts, witches, devas (whatever they are), demigods, real gods, giant spiders, shapeshifters, sorcerers and pretty much everything in between. It’s too much, and frankly, I just wish the bad guys had had one overarching theme. On top of this, while a lot of the names used were German-inspired we also had them side by side with things named in different Norse languages, Latin and probably many others I’m too uneducated to recognise. It was just too much.

It’s our main character, Malin’s (and her fellow elite warriors the Valkyries) job to kill these many, many, many immortal beings when their time is dictated by some other faceless, immortal beings for reasons unbeknownst to us and her and she is aided by her human-come-sorceress-in-training best friend, her knowledge father figure mentor and this other dude she just met – but wait! She has to do all this world-saving and keep up with school work and exes and mother issues like any other teenager?! However, will she cope at being so awesome? (Do you see where I am getting Buffy from?)

Much like Buffy, I found it hard to keep my attention with this book. I mean it was interesting but, as with Buffy (when my best friend made me watch it, appalled I had missed it in my childhood despite it predating us both) my mind would wander and I’d hit pause to go do something else pretty easily.

Overall the writing was good even if a few sentences kind of felt like a thesaurus had coughed them out:

“Many immortals took umbrage with the idea of being “returned”, which was teh vernacular the Riks used for killing.”

And I feel when you are going to reference literature or mythology as part of your world building it’s important to decide once and for all if it’s also canon in your world or not. For instance, there was a place called ‘the Ninth Ring’ and one of the characters then explains it refers to Dante’s Inferno. It’s a place name. Your readers can get that reference themselves and it’s clever. When your characters get that it’s cheesy. I also didn’t get how the characters could refer to anything as mythology when it all lived right next door to them, quite literally. Or question if the Vanir gods are real when according to their own job description, they work for them. It was confused as hell.

My final peeve, is that I saw yet another example of what I’m tentatively going to refer to as a trope, since I’m not sure it is and I have not heard it discussed before. In the last few YA books I’ve read with a bisexual main character, I’ve noticed a trend that every single one seemed compelled to include two romantic rivals, one female, and one male as if it was necessary to validate their characters bisexuality? Just gonna say now, it isn’t. It makes sense in some books but on most occasions, it feels like the author is just trying to prove their character is bi to the reader. When a character makes it clear they are straight or gay in a book I don’t go looking for proof, I accept it because it’s a book, why would it lie? So, why do I need proof for bisexual characters in the form of forced, and often utterly incompatible love rivalries that add naught to the story except annoying inner turmoil for the main character as they decide who they like better? Please just stop, it’s dumb and borderline offensive.

I think this book will really appeal to a lot of people, as many people do really like the meshing of different mythologies and legends and overall it isn’t horrible, I’m just not one of them and I won’t be reading the sequel.

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.

True Fire by Gary Meehan – Book Review

Meehan, G - True FireNote: This is all older review of mine (pre-blog) and reading it back I think I must have had a bad week or been really hyped up on sugar or something because I’m sure I don’t always sound this judgmental (I hope?).

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That took way longer than it should have.

My overall feeling on the book is meh although once I start getting into the good and bad points it will sound like I hated it, I didn’t hate it or even dislike it, it was just meh.

The book came to me with a sticker on it claiming ‘If you liked Throne of Glass you’ll love this’ or something to that effect. Throne of Glass is actually a series I really liked (mainly because of Rowan, no shame), though the first book Throne of Glass was not my favourite of the lot I thought hey, maybe this book will be pretty good if it has been likened to it, but then again how many books are ‘the next Harry Potter’. To sum up, the only way it’s like Throne of Glass is that the main character is female and shares some characteristics with Calaena depending where you’re at in the Throne of Glass series.

Queue biting sarcasm. The story starts with you (the reader) finding out that Megan (our fearless heroine) has gotten pregnant at 16 by her twin sisters boyfriend’s brother basically just because he was there plus mild (not that mild) peer pressure from her sister and that old nugget about ‘it can’t happen your first time’, before her village is promptly burned to the ground by soldiers who are men but also witches because reasons and her family slaughtered or missing.

She escapes due to her brilliant prowess and skill at hiding in wheat fields and finding underwater caves (which is an actual skill since she knew about it from a story her grandfather told her during childhood and not from anything like a map or history or a plausible story on how her grandfather supposedly found it originally and conveniently packed full treasure and money and a sword of unknown origin, waiting to be found by the first desperate, bereaved, pregnant child 16 year old brave enough to swim under a waterfall and find it). She then goes on a well thought out and completely realistic mission to save her sister from the witches with the help of a middle-aged exiled countess who shows up right after all the carnage with a bow which is not at all suspicious to Megan even though at this point, just a few chapters into the book, she has already come to the YA-trademark conclusion that all this is about her.

Things I didn’t like:

Essentially no world building, and what we do get comes in fits and starts and is jumpy, you’re really thrown in at the deep end of this not all that elegant world which is okay for some books if they’re well written enough to integrate it throughout the novel afterwards or one of the many other ways you can world build in a novel that don’t actually require amazing writing that YA novels use all the time because *begins to protect head from books being thrown* it’s not exactly a genre renowned for authors that are actually great writers. (I’ll add in here that I hate the idea behind the genre YA but it’s so mainstream at the moment there’s no way to avoid mentioning it as a group). However, one thing YA authors are great at (Maas and Cassandra Clare being key examples) is creating characters the reader loves so much they are blind to any poor writing until some cruel person points it out to them. Unfortunately, none of the characters did this for me they, like the book were all sort of meh, with the exception of one. We sort of find out why the ‘witches’ are just soldiers throwing their weight around but they insist on still referring to them as witches for no reason at all.

It bothers me that the writing level is aimed at a YA audience which is generally at 12-18 age range (depending who you talk to) and the main character is definitely kind of pressured into sex but little time is given to it and she doesn’t seem that bothered or affected by the fact except for her minor qualms about society’s view on her illegitimate child? It just seems like a bad message and easily led person shouldn’t hear.

Megan is a pathetic excuse for a heroine, she can’t do much at the beginning of the novel but she throws a lot of empty threats around like ‘God help anyone who stands against me’ and the like even though she’s a defenseless 16-year-old pregnant girl with one friend she’s known for five minutes. I’m also amazed she didn’t miscarry based on the events of the first 5 chapters alone let alone the rest of the book, can you even ride a horse whilst pregnant?

Though by far the best character in the book, I don’t think the author knew what to do with Damon. Clearly, a love interest is on the horizon because it’s on the YA non-negotiable checklist but I had no idea where that crazy train was going.

It’s a petty complaint but the cover looked cheap and that is a big-ish deal to me, I like my books to look pretty on my shelf after I finish them.

Totally saw the ‘big reveal’ coming, only pity was that there was no ‘I’m the bad guy and here’s my soliloquy on why I’m evil and what my master plan is’ moment and that’s the best part of that cliche plot line.

The things I liked list is much shorter. I liked that Megan was not given auto-super powers even though she is still a little dim, the book is thankfully quite short with a large font, the prophecy is nice and easy to interpret unlike others I’ve read and Damon. Though he was far from a perfect character he was the best one and he was quite funny, I don’t think he was given nearly enough credit and he as a character was wasted on his arc. I don’t get what Meehan’s trying to achieve with his cloak and dagger riddled love life.

Overall, meh. Probably won’t read the rest of the series.

Furyborn by Claire Legrand – Book Review

Legrand, C - FurybornI received this book from its publisher Sourcebooks Fire via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

🌟🌟🌟🌟.5

I absolutely loved this book! I had heard very mixed views previously but I absolutely adored it, the world building, the narrative, all of it. This is kind of like Throne of Glass meets The Fallen meets Song of Blood and Stone. You know what it means when you have to use three different series to try and cover everything in a book? It means it’s a new and original idea and you’re grasping at straws trying to adequately explain it.

The story is told from the varying perspectives of two awesome, powerful and strong heroines, each fully rounded with fears, flaws and wit and both were great. The varying perspectives also take place in different time periods that would ordinarily confuse me because YA Fantasy novels never seem to strike the balance right but this was more in the way of how Scott Lynch writes his Gentleman Bastard Sequence, each is relevant to the other but makes intriguing and exciting narratives alone too. At the end of every chapter I was itching to continue with that narrative and see what happened but just a few lines into the other and that had me hooked too, it was most conflicting – but in a good way.

I don’t think the two stories separately would have been as interesting but together they were spectacular.

As you probably know I try to be balanced in my reviews so in the spirit if being fair my only issues were Ludivine’s dialogue and the propensity of the majority of the lead characters to try and fix all their problems with sex. Like everything, trauma, adversity, war, depression, guilt – when confronted with anything it felt like Rielle and Eliana’s first port of call to fix it was to get their leg over with whoever they were with. Luckily the men and women in their lives knew them well enough to make them actually face their problems but this response doesn’t alter even at the end and I think it would have been good character development for it to have stopped at the 75% mark.

What was my problem with Ludivine’s dialogue? She’s a question-talker. What’s a question-talker? Well, it’s someone who makes every point by first posing a question to themselves and them answering themselves, often in trains of three. Do I have a problem with this? Yes, because it’s freaking annoying!

It’s something writers usually use to make you find a character annoying, but we were supposed to like Ludivine but every time she spoke I was just like please, shut up.

That aside, this was such a great read and I can’t wait for the rest of the series.

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.

Heavenward by Olga Gibbs – Book Review

Gibbs, O - HeavenwardI received a physical review copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Overall I really enjoyed this book – it’s choc-ful of potential to be something big, it just needs a teeny bit of a tweak.

I love anything to the backdrop of angels and a new perspective of celestial lore and stories so this was right up my street. It’s not like Clare’s Shadowhunters though, do not be fooled. Where her characters are descended from Angels, these are angels. It’s a little like Twilight but with angels and a less ridiculous adaption of the beings at that. Just to clarify – from me that is a compliment. I really liked the Twilight books, back in the day and much like with those books, I ship the other guy. This book I would say could entertain a slightly more mature audience than Twilight due to some of the subject matter. But enough about Twilight because aside from a paranormal love triangle, that is fairly where the similarities end.

Ariel, our fearless heroine, is just that. Whilst being both frank and honest with her situation she takes all in her stride and the more you learn about her past the more you have to admire her strength. She is not anyone’s fool and hates to play the damsel in distress. My kind of girl. I’ll admit she accepted the truth slightly faster than would have, but then I’ve never been confronted by a guy with wings sprouting out of his back, so yeah. I love the general message behind the story which I think should really be projected more in YA. My one issue with her is how easily she attaches to people, Tabby, Sam. It felt too … trusting, like she fell into love too easily and the rest of her character traits wouldn’t stand for it, you know?

did have a few nitpicks, it is true. But reflecting on them I feel most would be remedied by a professional editor. This is by no means a detrimental comment! I know from past reading that the first books in phenomenon series like Harry Potter and the aforementioned Twilight in their original incarnations were not what we all know and love today. Even in their published forms, the books in those series improve as time goes on. This would help with the main issue of spelling and grammatical errors but then again it is a review copy, so there are allowances to be made. It would also help with the cover which could be really very much a lot better and really does not do the book justice.

I think the real issue I had was that I wanted a lot more of it. The pacing was quick which is often good but at the same time, a 100 or so additional pages to expand and linger on certain parts would have really elevated it even more so.

My only problems that weren’t simply a matter of editing and are purely down to my personal preference were Sam and some the Americanisms that found their way in there every now and then. I really didn’t like Sam, I’m afraid. I just found him really cringey at points and a bit annoying and sometimes creepy. I really liked Rafe. So much. That’s my team right there. #TeamRafe all the way for sure. Sam? I did not get that, at all.

The Americanisms were infrequent, to be honest, and were only little things but little things like ‘feds’ and things I know Brtish teenagers wouldn’t really say (that I know of, I mean I am 19 and have lived in Northern/Midland England my whole life but I don’t pretend to be the authority on what the ‘kids’ say). Speaking of kids, I was a little ambiguous on how old the characters were meant to be, they acted very much like the age of American high school students but were evidently attending UK high school where they only go to age 16 and at the upper end of the school you take GCSEs for 2 years and they take up a pretty prominent part of your school life at that point but weren’t mentioned even in passing leading me to believe Ariel at least must be younger than 14/15 but she seemed a lot older? It’s not a massive issue of course as not many people would even notice that but just something I saw.

All that being said, and I did like the book, it kept me hooked on the plot and awoke the fan art girl inside of me all over again to the point I’m going to put my pen to paper once more (huzzah!). I shall most certainly read the next book.

Trigger warning: This book does contain some graphic scenes of violence and alludes to, with a brief flashback to, a time of sexual and emotional abuse that some readers may find upsetting.

Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody – Book Review

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

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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.

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!

Blog Tour: Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope – Book Review

Penelope, L - Song of Blood &amp; StoneI would first like to start with an incredibly grateful thank you to Brittani Hilles and St Martin’s Press for the opportunity to be part of the Song of Blood & Stone Blog Tour (my very first blog tour! I’m so excited!) and NetGalley for a sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Minor spoilers, you have been warned.

This book took me by surprise in a big way and a very good one at that. Jasminda makes a fierce heroine with an independent streak a mile wide that is hard not to admire. The ways she faces adversity, prejudice and danger throughout the book are amazing and so different from other female MCs in this genre. The world building is so immersive and elegantly done, and although the beginning parts in the town have something of a Western feel (not a bad thing), this is a fantasy novel through and through offering a unique history and a power-set I have not seen explored so well in this genre before.

The romance did have a touch of the insta-love, (well a lot of it), but I felt it was well earned throughout the book and loved that though there were parts when it slipped, the relationship’s dynamic did not falter as events unfurled. I was hooked from the word go and couldn’t put it down – even during the time at court which is almost always the most boring part of royalty-involved fantasy but was intriguing and cut right to the meat of the situation.

One of my favourite parts of the book’s layout was the little fable snippets at the start of each chapter, I found them so clever and gave me an interesting thought process when approaching the next chapter, one of my favourites was:

“Bobcat and Horse raced to the river to see who was fastest. Bobcat fell behind on a turn in the path, and Horse began to gloat. But when he approached the riverbank, he was shocked to find Bobcat leisurely bathing.

How did you beat me? Horse cried, angry.

Bobcat replied, When the path curved I stayed straight. A road is not enough to throw me off my path.”

Although, they are all brilliant and I would like mugs or coasters with them printed on with little characters – Etsy, take me money!

I loved Jack as a character even though I wish we had learned more of his history as opposed to the brief glimpses we get, but I should imagine that will come more into play in the sequel which I simply cannot wait for despite the fact I think this could easily stand alone as the ending was most satisfying. I always find that those kind of endings are worse than cliffhangers since you have no idea where they are going to go with it.

Trigger warning: there are attempted rapes of two characters in this novel, one male and one female, this being an area of upset for me personally I felt it important to include here and (slightly less minor spoilers) though both are unsuccessful (the method of which in both made me laugh with both nerves and relief at the absurdity of evasion).

There are also two consensual sex scenes that get somewhat graphic so I’d advise 16+ at the least.

It was released yesterday and you can buy it here. (P.S. I recently became an Amazon Affiliate so if you use this link to buy it a mini percentage will make it’s way back to me 🙂 )

I can’t wait to read more of L. Penelope! If you’d like some more views on this awesome book check out Marta @ The Cursed Books awesome post and Angela @ Pooled Ink Reviews equally awesome post (complete with excerpt and Q&A).

SONG OF BLOOD & STONE - OS_Whim 3_Root.png

Until next time!