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The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton | Book Review

29829194_1734968696569023_1874611559_oBook: The Belles
Author: Dhonielle Clayton
Series: The Belles, #1
Genre: High Fantasy
My Rating: 2.25/5 Stars

“No one is a prisoner. Even you have the power to make your own choices.”

*I was sent an e-ARC of The Belles by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

Taken aback by the rich and vivid writing that Dhonielle Clayton weaved together in order to produce this story about beauty and what it means to a society obsessed with it, I was slowed down in my progress as I was getting used to the intense descriptions and imagery that Orléans had to offer.

In a society where people are grey, The Belles are a blessing to all as they are able to physically alter that fate and make people beautiful. Camellia Beauregard, one of six Belles from her generation, is vying for the position of a lifetime; the opportunity to be chosen as the Queen’s favourite. When her expectations are shattered, her talents gone unnoticed by the people who matter, Camellia feels a lifetime of preparation for that one moment was taken from her. She deserves to be on top. But there’s an eerie secret that has been going on without Camellia’s knowledge. A chorus of crying through the night, a sadistic princess, a cursed heir to the throne. It all begins to unravel as time goes on.

This book is about beauty, but it turned into something darker than I expected. It was contrasted with the innocence of the Belles, who only wanted to spread beauty to the people. Camellia grew throughout this book from an innocent giggling girl who danced in circles with her sisters, to a Belle who constantly had to deal with and discover evil at court.

In terms of my thoughts on this book, I quickly realized how much I was not a fan of this concept and obsession of beauty. In the physical sense at least. I was horrified at the mention of infants changing their appearances, at a little girl forced to endure the pain of change because her mother was desperate for her to be the most beautiful. It was hard to read about what people went through in order to portray and live up to their standard of “beauty.”

There was a chock-full of characters that contributed so much to the build-up and pacing of the story. My favourite being Rémy. I was not expecting him to have such a significant role in this story, which I was pleasantly surprised with. As the story went on, that was more and more apparent.

Then there’s Sophia, who surprised me in an unpleasant way. She added that creepy tone to the story, the kind that was chilling, unsettling, and difficult to read about. Her actions were manipulating, abusive, and just outright terrifying. But I must admit, it actually gave the story some substance, something that motivated me to want to turn the pages in order to see what happened.

Camellia, as I’ve said before, was motivated to grow into a less childish character as a weight of responsibility was put on her. She discovered the darkness hiding behind the flowers, Belle products, hair textures, fancy dresses, and overall creation of beauty. She was forced to perform acts that were wrong, forced to see the impurity behind her passion, forced to endure questionable relationships. Her development allowed me to like her character more, but she was honestly not the best protagonist I’ve read from. I feel as though she lived in a bubble until it was too late. I needed more action from her, so did the characters who relied on her. 

Overall, this book was not for me, but at the same time I’m happy I read it because it still moved me. Beauty is not something that is significant in my life. I rarely wear makeup, I rarely style my hair, I rarely buy new clothes. That doesn’t mean I don’t have days where the way I look on the outside affects me. Beauty is valued in one form or another to each individual person, we define it differently. And it’s scary to think about the lengths these characters went through to transform into their perfect look and how without it they were nothing, they were not valued. Their desperation was absolutely chilling.

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Renegades by Marissa Meyer | Book Review

29133542_1714523955280164_3821196437195063296_n

Book: Renegades
Author: Marissa Meyer
Series: Renegades, #1
Genre: Sci-fi
My Rating: 3.25/5 Stars

“One cannot be brave who has no fear.”

Nova is an Anarchist. Adrian is a Renegade. A villain and a hero shouldn’t get along, but with the help of secret identities, such a thing is possible. Nova has spent the majority of her life as an Anarchist, seeking revenge on the heroes who failed to save her family. Adrian has dedicated his life to be a Renegade, a difficult title to avoid when his dads are part of the Renegade’s council, and he wants to be more than just a patrol. When Adrian adds Nova to his Renegades group he has no idea her true identity is the villain he desperately wants to find. This allows Nova to enter Renegade Headquarters, learn about their system, and plot their demise.

It’s difficult to go into a book by one of your favourite authors, anticipate the best, and come out feeling let down. The superhero trope is not something I enjoy to begin with, but of course I put that aside because of my love for Marissa Meyer books. It’s disappointing to realize that it’s not possible to love every book by your favourite author.

What threw me off was the amount of cheesy dialogue. That typical back and forth between a superhero and a villain.

“Your days of villainy are over, Nightmare.”

And their alias were on another level of cringe, to the point where I couldn’t take them seriously. It was hard to believe that they were set out to actually kill each other when all I was picturing were kids playing make-believe.

What I appreciated from the story though was how we got the perspective from both the heroes and the villains. This way it didn’t allow the readers to automatically pick the hero side. Going further than that, it also revealed how both sides were corrupt. I can say a lot about the Anarchists and their questionable morals, but somehow my heart was warmed when I learned about their family dynamic. Nova cared about her family, they raised her and took care of her when she had no one left. Even evil Winston gave me feels when he recalled the shows he would put on for Nova when she was little.

As for the Renegades, as a whole they weren’t the side I was rooting for or enjoyed reading about, what with the council never showing up when needed and being completely useless. Though I did adore both Adrian and Max. They were honestly adorable characters and I loved seeing how their relationships developed with Nova. I kept imagining what it would be like if we only read from Adrian’s perspective, not knowing Nova’s true identity, and how much of an intense plot twist that would create. Nova’s perspective held my interest more so I can’t imagine getting through the book without her. Though this would have significantly cut down the length of the book, which should have been considered when so many pages had nothing happening. 

Overall, I’m intrigued to continue this story in Archenemies and I hope my disappointment from Renegades does not make its way to the sequel.

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo | Book Review

28380993_1690784727654087_1052668646_nBook: Siege and Storm
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grishaverse, #2
Genre: High Fantasy
My Rating: 4.25/5 Stars

“Watch yourself, Nikolai,” Mal said softly. “Princes bleed just like other men.”
Nikolai plucked an invisible piece of dust from his sleeve. “Yes,” he said. “They just do it in better clothes.”

Going into Siege and Storm, the sequel in the Grishaverse trilogy, I had expectations that had me craving for every word, phrase, and chapter laid out on the pages. I was far from disappointed, in fact I was overjoyed to discover that Shadow and Bone wasn’t alone in making me fly through the book. It seems Leigh Bardugo has the talent to keep this characteristic consistent in her sequel as well. Of course it wasn’t entirely perfect, I had some problems with it that I will talk about below. Though I’m excited that I finally found a series I can obsess over, especially when it comes to the variety of characters who are both intriguing and complex.

Right at the beginning this book plunges into a new world for both Alina and Mal as they fight for as much normalcy as possible. They are eager to leave everything behind and begin anew, but that dream is short-lived when they find themselves in the hands of their enemy once again. Losing hope to ever be free, Alina and Mal are unexpectedly rescued by a privateer who leads them right back where everything began. Alina is left with a choice; run away to lead the normal life she fought so hard to maintain or fully embrace her role as the Sun Summoner and save the world.

This book was gripping from start to finish but I still had some problems with it throughout. Firstly, this happened in Shadow and Bone too, I’m growing tired of the slaughter of these beautiful, mythical creatures who don’t deserve to die so Alina can obtain more power. I imagine this will continue in Ruin and Rising with the Firebird, which I am already dreading. This leads me to another problem, Alina starving for more power. With the stag, I mean I can look past it because a lot of Grisha do get one amplifier. It makes sense that Alina would get one too. Then she claims the Sea Whip and continues to complain about the fact that she doesn’t have the Firebird. At this point I’m asking where is the limit here? When will it be enough? It made me nervous how power hungry she was and I was pleading with her not to turn into another Darkling, to not let this promise of unlimited power blind her. Then there’s Mal. Oh boy is he ever the definition of picking which parts of Alina to love and despising the rest. How is that healthy? How is their relationship going to last if this continues? I just need him to stop brooding, stop being selfish, accept, move on, and get a grip. Life is evolving, he needs to stop living in the past.

I know all that sounds like I’m giving this book a low rating, but that is far from the case. Moving past everything I just listed, I seriously enjoyed this book and I thought it was a great sequel to Shadow and Bone. It went beyond what the first book gave us in terms of world building and it introduced us to a new cast of characters that I’m so excited to talk about. The main ones being Nikolai, Tamar, and Tolya. Nikolai, the ever swoon-worthy privateer who had me laughing and hanging on to his extremely dramatic words and phrases but who also intrigued me because of the many layers to him that slowly were revealed throughout this book. As for Tamar and Tolya, they were just fun characters to get to know and I’m happy Alina and Mal have them as allies and friends now.

I have to say though, I wasn’t missing The Darkling’s absence one bit, which I imagine is an unpopular opinion. I guess I’m into the good guys in this case because once his sketchy motives were revealed my love for his character slowly ceased to exist. Though I am definitely anticipating the final book and how it will wrap up his and everyone else’s arcs.

 

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo | Book Review

27659049_1674034185995808_1552350821_nBook: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grishaverse, #1
Genre: High Fantasy
My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

“The Darkling slumped back in his chair.
“Fine,” he said with a weary shrug. “Make me your villain.”

After months of having trouble getting into Six of Crows, believing I could never get through a Leigh Bardugo book, an unexpected motivation inspired me to pick up Shadow and Bone. So here we are. I not only finished reading the first book in the Grishaverse trilogy, but I ended up absolutely loving it.

The task to cross the Shadow Fold, also known as the unsea, is not one for the faint of heart or for the one who wishes to see another day. Yet Alina Starkov, as well as the rest of the first army, which includes her best friend Mal, has no choice but to join in this impossible journey. Alina is just an orphan and a cartographer, nothing more. Then the volcra, the monstrosities that live in the Fold, attack and Alina finds herself protecting Mal with a power that nobody, not even herself, knew she possessed. Alina Starkov is a sun summoner, the only one of her kind and the answer The Darkling has been waiting for for years. After her reveal, Alina is whisked away to the world of Grisha where she will train to use her power and hopefully be the salvation that Ravka has waited too long for.

What threw me off at first was that the beginning of this book made me think I was reading a dystopian, for some unknown reason, which immediately turned me off from it. I knew this was a high fantasy, but I was uncertain whether or not the rest of the book was going to give me these same first impression vibes. It was soon after, to my relief, that such an impression no longer existed as I continued to read. Would I say this is the best YA fantasy book I’ve read in awhile? No. But did I love it? Yes. Honestly the Grisha were interesting to learn about, but there was nothing that blew me away when it came to the elements that made this a fantasy. The plot made me feel as if I read this book a hundred times before, but maybe that familiarity allowed me to enjoy this book more. I can’t give it credit for throwing me in a world I believed to be unique though.

I’m a sucker for romance, but not only that, I’m a sucker for handsome dark haired male characters that have questionable morals and a closet full of black clothes. So you can imagine what kind of affect someone named The Darkling had on me. The romance, for instance, was strange. A mild love triangle existed, and honestly, I may have been fanning myself when Alina and The Darkling had their moments. Though I found that whoever Alina was drawn to more was fine by me, especially after some revelations were revealed.

The events throughout this book were slow paced, yet the way I read it was anything but slowly. I actually flew through the book, which is one of the reasons why I appreciated the fact that I finally picked it up. The simple writing style allowed me to easily get invested. I’m excited to continue with the trilogy and I’m excited to find out more about The Darkling’s motives and ambitions.

 

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty | Book Review

27045366_1660962330636327_735198237_nBook: The City of Brass
Author: S.A. Chakraborty
Series: The Daevabad Trilogy, #1
Genre: Historical Adult Fantasy
My Rating: 4.25/5 Stars

“A warrior. Oh, by the Most High… He was looking for her. Nahri was the one who had called him.”

It’s books like this that remind me why I love fantasy so much…

The City of Brass takes us through a journey from the points of view of Nahri and Prince Alizayd al Qahtani. In eighteenth-century Cairo, Nahri struggles to survive. With no family and her desire to acquire enough money to move away and pursue ambitions to further develop her healing skills, her only source of income is obtained by the other skill she possesses, being a con artist. Her belief in magic is nonexistent, yet her whole life unexplainable abilities, such as the power of healing instantly and speaking a language that no one else knows, left Nahri constantly wanting answers regarding her origin. Though such a wish gets accidently granted when she unintentionally calls a mysterious djinn warrior named Dara who may know more about Nahri than she ever imagined. This begins their journey to Daevabad, also known as The City of Brass, where tribes of different magical abilities exist, where Alizayd is a prince, and where Nahri has the opportunity to learn more about where her life was supposed to be lived.

I have to say, I was absolutely in love with the Middle Eastern setting that this story took place in, especially since my background is from the Middle East. It’s sad to say that in the past I haven’t read a book with such a setting, and since finishing this book, I am definitely craving more. The experience of coming across Middle Eastern words that I recognized made reading the book so much more exciting.

With the story itself, I found a lack of balance between the first half and the second half. This means that, surprisingly, the first half held my interest more. It was a whirlwind of adventure, traveling, and encountering an endless cycle of trouble that had me invested in every aspect of the characters and the plot. Then Nahri and Dara arrive in The City of Brass and it really ends up being anticlimactic as Nahri begins an average day to day life in the palace. She learns her trade and Dara is nearly nonexistent, only showing up in Nahri’s life at random times. Though it did not entirely turn me off from finishing the rest of the book, it was still a little disappointing when the intensity and potential of the first half of the book ended up not being consistent.

It was definitely hard to read about certain aspects involved in this world. The discrimination against the shafit being one of them. I felt as helpless as Ali when such horrible actions and words were thrown towards these people. But it’s hard because no one is entirely good or entirely bad in this story. This is apparent with Ali, Nahri, and Dara. The main characters may have good intentions, may be fighting to survive, but I think it’s interesting that it does not necessarily mean they are solely pure and good. They have their flaws. Ali’s plea for no discrimination against the shafit was a mistake in the eyes of his family, but his intentions for equality are good, yet it pins him as breaking the law. Nahri’s need for survival caused her to become a con artist, to trick and steal. It was never really clear what Dara was and wasn’t. His past was barely revealed yet rumors of the horrible crimes he committed circled around. I honestly had a love hate relationship with Dara because his actions, words, and the claims of his past consistently had my feelings toward him all over the place.

As for the characters and their relationships, I adored the growing friendship between Nahri and Ali. It took me awhile to enjoy reading from Ali’s point of view, but I think once his friendship with Nahri took off I became more invested in his character. Romance in this book definitely existed though it wasn’t the focal point of the story and the characters. Even though romance is the main element of a story that I look for, I wasn’t disappointed with the amount this book had to offer.

Overall, I loved the setting and I cared about the characters, but it did not entirely meet my expectations. The ending left me more confused than reassured about certain aspects of the plot and I felt as if it was dancing around a huge reveal instead of giving it to us straight. Now I have to wait for the sequel to answer my questions.

Melody’s Key by Dallas Coryell | Book Review

25630326_1632040703528490_1299693702_nBook: Melody’s Key
Author: Dallas Coryell
Series: Standalone
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release date: June 24th 2016
Publisher: AsherRain Publications
Page count: 334
My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

*Melody’s Key was sent to me by the author for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

“You can make it stop. You literally tell yourself ‘it will be ok’, as many times as it takes throughout the day. You do your damnedest to put the stuff you can’t control out of your mind…and you hope. You refuse to let anything take that away from you.”

I was extremely ecstatic to receive a request to read and review Melody’s Key, my first ever request for review might I add. Due to the fact that it is a contemporary romance book, one of my favourite genres. I found myself having both positive and negative feelings towards aspects of the writing style and story that I will go into more detail below.

Tegan Lockwood has ambitions she forces herself to suppress because her need to assist her family is her top priority. Her family business, which involves an ancient home that once belonged to her ancestors, is what they rely on for their financial needs. Though times are difficult, and Tegan’s family barely gets by with paying the bills. So it’s no surprise that the Lockwood’s not only welcome groups of vacationers into their large home to entertain them with the stunning sights the place has to offer. But they also agree to host Mason Keane, a famous American pop star who needs a quiet retreat from his crazy life, to Tegan’s utter dismay. Tegan’s harsh judgment toward Mason slowly alters as she realizes that not all the rumors are true. The two begin to bond over their shared love of music and song writing as a trust develops between them. They confide in each other about their pasts, and as time goes on, their friendship becomes something more.

I want to start out by saying that the setting of this story completely enchanted me. The descriptions of this house, the dunes, the gardens, and the sea all surrounded me as I was happy to visit this unique setting through Tegan’s experience but also wished that I could escape there myself. There was a historical aspect to the story that was interesting, which also tied in with the ancient house. Tegan discovered love letters between her ancestors in the attic of her home, a secret possession that we were able to read to see the source of how Tegan was able to regain her hope for love. The letters contained the dramatic story of a romance separated by class and war. I found the wording of parts of the letters to be cheesy and over the top, but I assume that makes sense given the time they were supposed to be written. We only read from one side, the mysterious man that signed off every letter with Lost without you. The attic was a trove of history that I was begging Tegan to uncover. I was intrigued by this connection of history to the setting, which gave the story much more depth than I was expecting.34449524

As for the writing style in general, there were a lot of cliché phrases and descriptions that I had trouble taking seriously. I was even disappointed when I realized that Mason was a “troubled” pop star who needed an escape to re-evaluate his life. I would definitely say that this is a trope I am not extremely fond of, hence my reaction. Though I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Mason’s character as I got to know him better. Since he was in refuge, seeing him in action as a pop star wasn’t heavily highlighted. Certain parts of the story accentuated how much of a big deal he was, but his initial laid-back demeanor and casualness  around Tegan and her family allowed me to like him a lot.

Something specific that I didn’t understand was why Tegan was talented as an artist. Her specialty is song writing and music, but then her artistic skill got thrown into the mix. It didn’t seem to do anything for her as she developed throughout the story. It was mentioned in passing with not much to show for it.

As for the relationship development between Tegan and Mason, it was not instalove, which I really appreciated. Their back and forth was hilarious and adorable at times and I loved the backdrop of Teagan’s family being involved. Such as her sister’s enthusiasm at matching the two together.

With reading the book in general, the further progress I made, the more my enjoyment of the story grew. Especially the last forty pages where I couldn’t stop reading as I anticipated the results of Tegan’s ambition. There was even a point where I couldn’t stop grinning at the adorableness of what was going on. Another unique aspect of the story were the songs. The author wrote and sung the songs included in the story, which I enjoyed listening to when the songs came up in the book. As I flipped to the last page, I was so focused on the story that I didn’t realize I had reached the end. I would definitely say I’m interested in reading more about Tegan and Mason’s story in the future.

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas | Book Review

23201647_1584530964946131_1083387079_nBook: Tower of Dawn
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass, #6
Genre: High Fantasy
My Rating: 4.5

“I will cherish it always.
No matter what may befall the world.
No matter the oceans, or mountains, or forests in the way.”
  
 Tower of Dawn, the 6th installment in the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, turned out to have so much more depth and growth than I was expecting in terms of world building, character development, as well as one of the most interesting and well thought out Empires I have ever read about. It took me nearly two months to read it, which had nothing to do with the book itself. A busy schedule and the daunting length of the book really took a toll on my reading speed. Though, I enjoyed Tower of Dawn’s constant presence as I dragged it everywhere I went.

Tower of Dawn follows the events of Queen of Shadows and has a parallel timeline with Empire of Storms. Instead of seeing Aelin and her crew, we are sent to a journey to the Southern Continent with Chaol as he seeks out the best healers to cure him from an injury that has changed his life. We learn so much fascinating history about the Southern Continent, the Khagan’s family dynamic, as well as vital information that can change the course of the war. Nesryn accompanies Chaol on this journey to her homeland, and they both have set plans for themselves and each other. But the more they’re informed about the events taking place back in the Northern Continent, and as new and old characters get introduced into the narrative, such as Yrene Towers, they find that their paths don’t turn out the way they imagined.

In terms of the overall pacing of the book, I definitely found the beginning to be a bit slow as a lot of information about the Khagan’s Empire, his children, and the Southern Continent were thrown at us. As I mentioned before, though, I found all this world building that Maas thought out and executed to be so fascinating to learn about, that I truly just embraced the info dump.

*Spoilers Ahead*

Well am I ever overwhelmed at the prospect of the amount of point of views there will be in the final Throne of Glass book. Not to mention the amount of ships…

Having read the bonus scene with Nesryn and Chaol on the ship to the Southern Continent, as well as remembering the events that took place between them at the end of Queen of Shadows, you could imagine how ready I was to see this ship set sail in Tower of Dawn. While considering any previous Sarah J. Maas book, it’s not that surprising that the paths of romance consistently change. I have to say though, the main two ships in this book had me hooked to the story.

With Chaol being my favourite character from the beginning of this series, I was so excited that he was getting his own book, especially since I missed his presence in Empire of Storms. Chaol goes through an emotional journey throughout this book. His injury was a huge part of it, but he was also dealing with self hatred as his past actions were constantly haunting him. Yrene Towers is of course appointed to heal him. Though their relationship starts off bumpy, I found their banter to be hilarious. I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of Chaol’s healing process, and whether or not by the end he was going to fully recover. I didn’t know what I wanted the outcome to be. There were so many twists and turns, with him recovering fully and then getting injured again. By the end I think what was most important was Chaol healing emotionally and mentally and accepting his injury for what it is, not believing that he was any less because of it.

“Using the chair is not a punishment. It is not a prison,’ he said softly. ‘It never was. And I am as much of a man in that chair, or with that cane, as I am standing on my feet.”

I knew nothing about Yrene going into this book since I haven’t read The Assassin’s Blade yet. This resulted in not being too excited when I was introduced to Yrene, but that first impression was quickly forgotten as her character really made a huge impact to the depth of the story. There isn’t a shortage of badass women in any Sarah J. Maas book, and I found it heartwarming that Yrene Towers was a badass herself, but in a different way. She wasn’t skilled with swords and she didn’t partake in ending lives, but she was one of the most caring, nurturing, and selfless characters I had the pleasure of getting to know.

“He didn’t understand-how she could be so delicate, so small, when she had overturned his life entirely. Worked miracles with those hands and that soul, this woman who had crossed mountains and seas.”   

I knew where Chaol and Yrene’s relationship was headed early on because I got spoiled, but that didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy their development any less. In fact, knowing that they were going to get married made me curious, excited, and invested in every interaction they had together. Now that they’re married and now that they have a physical bond to each other, I’m eager to read more about them in the final book.

“Will you marry me, Yrene? Will you be my wife?”

We were introduced to so many new and intriguing characters throughout this book, but I would say Sartaq was by far my favourite. I knew from this moment:

“Nesryn dragged her attention away from the prince, even as she felt Sartaq’s keen stare lingering like some phantom touch.”

That something was going to happen between Nesryn and Sartaq, and I was ready for it. I absolutely loved reading about the ruks and Nesryn adapting to Sartaq’s true home; the environment that made him who he was.

In terms of their romance, can I just say that Sartaq is so smooth at flirting it’s not even funny. I mean:

“And I’m relieved to see that the reality lives up to the legend.”
“You had doubts?”
“The reports left out some key information. It made me doubt their accuracy.”
“What, exactly, did they fail to mention?”
“They didn’t mention that you’re beautiful.”  

One of my favourite scenes in general had to be Sartaq and Nesryn fighting the kharankui when they trapped them, even though those demon spiders gave me the creeps. It was horrifying and yet… we got a declaration of love out of it, and I’m a sucker for those in near death experiences.

“I loved you before I ever set eyes on you.”

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the dynamic between the royal siblings in the Southern Continent’s empire, yet some parts of it were confusing to me. Such as the siblings genuinely mourning their little sister’s death but also claiming they were willing to murder each other if one of them was pronounced heir and another tried to get between them and the throne. Of course by the end it’s resolved as Sartaq is named heir and a sort of peace falls over the siblings. This makes me wonder if it all was an act considering every generation before them practised in this tradition.

Tower of Dawn is definitely not a book to skip as so many shocking revelations about the war were revealed that will be important in the final book. This is yet another Sarah J. Maas book that has not disappointed me. I’m so grateful that I decided to pick up Throne of Glass a few years ago and I’m so excited to pick up any future book by this talented author.