Mini Series Review: All Souls Trilogy – Deborah Harkness

 

Synopses:

A Discovery Of Witches: Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell. 

Shadow Of Night: Seeking safety, Diana and Matthew travel back in time to London, 1590. But they soon realize that the past may not provide a haven. Reclaiming his former identity as poet and spy for Queen Elizabeth, the vampire falls back in with a group of radicals known as the School of Night. Many are unruly daemons, the creative minds of the age, including playwright Christopher Marlowe and mathematician Thomas Harriot.

The Book Of Life: After travelling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.


So I need to get back into the swing of things, and I thought that starting with a mini review would be best for that particular purpose – especially given that my thoughts on this series can be summarised quite easily. As this is my first mini review, I thought I’d try the: THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE VERDICT format – and see how that is received and if it actually works for both you and me. 

THE GOOD:

  • The story wasn’t quite your typical romance, it actually felt informative in terms of its content – I found the prominent historical aspects really enjoyable to read.
  • Book 1 and 3 moved at a comfortable pace, I felt like the storyline flowed nicely.
  • The characters were, for the most part, padded out – although I have to say that neither Diana nor Matthew were my favourites of the lot – I just found the rest so much more compelling.
  • scienceLike okay, if I looked more deeply into things, I’d probably find some problems with some of the concepts, but I think all in all these books were rather well researched.

    THE BAD:

  • THE SECOND BOOK….. Literally all my problems with this series lie within the second book. It was slow, there were too many bloody characters, it spent too much time in places which didn’t deserve it and just overall irked me.
  • (THE NOT SO BAD BUT STILL ANNOYING) Diana got on my nerves at some points, but then really – most of that occurred yet again during the second novel. Middle book syndrome anyone??

    THE VERDICT:

    Overall, I’d definitely say that this series is worth a read, books 1 and 3 make a compelling argument to oppose the crimes committed by the middle novel, so as long as you can actually get through Shadow Of Night – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars 

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Joining The Pre-Ordering Wagon

I have never been hyped about a book enough to warrant even thinking about preordering it…

 I know. I know. Awful, flawed human being that I am I have just never sat and thought “hmm, that book is going to be absolutely amazing, I can tell already let me just go on Amazon/TheBookDepository/Waterstones.com and….” yeah, no – that has never happened.

I mean, of course, I do read ARCs that are at times incredibly amusing and I can tell that the proper edition of the book will be amazing, and I can tell that it will eventually end up in my little collection (by little I mean spanning approximately half of my bedroom wall) and yet I was never tempted enough to pre-order it early, even when there were numerous mentions of SWAG and other benefits… Pre-ordering? Not for me.

Or so I thought…

Until this mother trucker came along:

strange the dreamer

Image credits to Hodder & Stoughton

 

Could I resist the blue sprayed edges? The gold foil? The premise of the book?

Absolutely not. I didn’t even try – I knew I had to have it the moment I first lay my eyes on it, and I was going to do anything to get it too (and I mean anything).

This sudden newfound resolve to acquire the book by any means necessary wasn’t helped by the fact that I found out I’d have the opportunity to meet the author on her UK tour, this just fueled my excitement even more, because I’d get to meet the creator of some kick-ass books. I’m currently on a re-read of The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and am planning to read the other two in the trilogy as well as Strange The Dreamer before seeing her – perhaps big goals for someone who barely reads anymore, but we can dream – eh?

So yes, I have finally gotten rid of my prejudice towards pre-ordering books AND I’m going to an author event (which is a rare occurrence, usually happening somewhat biannually?) both of which I’m really excited about, so that’s something I wanted to share.

Have you read any of Laini Taylor’s works?  Better yet, have you been one of the lucky few to read Strange the Dreamer early? Are you also going to meet her (I’ll be going to the London event if anyone is going too) or have met her in the past? Drop me a comment 🙂

Book Review: Carry On – Rainbow Rowell

Synopsis:carry-on-cover

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On – The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story – but far, far more monsters.


I receieved a free e-edition of this novel courtesy of Pan Macmillan via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I did NOT expect to love this as much as I did.

It was a perfect mixture of magic (and boy, was there a lot of magic, there were spells for anything and everything, some of which seemingly a lot more useful than others – there were definitely a few I wouldn’t mind having at my own disposal), humour, snark and Harry Potter vibes (which were admittedly fanfic level at the start of the novel, but it worked in favour of this particular novel)- oh, and THE OTP. I shipped the ship even before it sailed. So, so, so much. It is definitely now one of my favourites to ever set sail.

However, the beginning was a bit slow, and it was largely an info dump which made me enjoy the story a bit less than I would have. Oh… and Agatha… yeah – she posed a few problems as well, I outright despised her and groaned internally whenever she appeared throughout the story…

The book was narrated by so many characters, but somehow I managed to deal with that for the entirety of its length – and it was a lengthy length but after the beginning third or quarter or so whilst we were exposed to Simon’s relationships with everyone in the book, and the entire backstory, the pace picked up to a bearable speed and before long I was so absorbed in the story I didn’t really register the length of what I was reading at all!

The characters in this book… were goshdarn brilliant! Apart from the aforementioned Agatha. I honestly loved everyone else – and their interactions. I definitely thought friendship was a key theme of this book and played a huge part throughout. I really liked Penelope’s characters, she was like the Hermione of the group – but personally, better? I don’t know how that is possible, but I do know that I preferred her that way.

I loved the fact that the romance didn’t overpower the entire plot, it was also a very tasteful mix of teenage angst and tangible love. The balance was struck between the love and hate of Baz and Simon. Baz was also such an interesting character by himself, definitely complimenting Simon’s slightly more mopey and dependent side which really did balance out the story a lot more.

Rowell has a writing style that is incredibly hard to dislike, it is so easy to read and engages with you. More often than not I laughed throughout -there were so many deviations from the norm of fantasy novels, and from Harry Potter on which the book was based. It was truly an original take on fanfics.

I was sceptical of this book at first, but I am so glad that I have – and I can definitely say that I will be returning to it in the future.

My Rating: Solidest of 4/5 Stars

“You have to pretend you get an endgame. You have to carry on like you will; otherwise, you can’t carry on at all.”

ARC Review: Frostblood – Elly Blake

Synopsis:frostblood-cover

The frost king will burn.

Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.

Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating—yet irresistible—Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king’s tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her—and from the icy young man she has come to love.


I received a free proof copy of this book courtesy of Chapter 5 Books in exchange for an honest review.

If I’m to be honest, got slightly lost at the beginning of this book, it launches straight into some action and changes setting so much that it was quite hard to get a grip on things, but luckily that slight confusion only lasted for about 2 chapters and during, I wasn’t put off reading which is really commendable on Blake’s part. And I was definitely hooked after I managed to grasp what was going on fully and the story slowed down slightly.

Albeit in saying that, the story progressed at a comfortable pace for the majority of the novel. There was no dwindling upon things for unnecessary periods of time as per YA Fantasy tradition. There was always something happening, which was really pleasing to read.

I loved the characters, Ruby was definitely a great personification of fire – she could be brash and rather impulsive when it came to some decision making, and definitely argumentative. Which brought an entirely new dimension to the romance within the story.

Arcus and Ruby were a perfect forbidden couple, against all beliefs of the world around them (albeit very much predictably to me) they managed to get past their differences (and Arcus’ icy composure) and their arguments to form one of the most fun romances to watch unfold that I have read recently. There was just so much flirtatious (and otherwise) banter, and some of their later encounters really made my heart ache – but I will leave you to find out why. I can’t wait to see their relationship develop further, and can only hope that Blake won’t decide to throw in a love triangle in book two… Because this book was gloriously free of my biggest reading pet peeves, and I really hope that it continues.

And okay, maybe the plot itself was quite similar to many other fantasy novels around currently, but I think that Blake’s execution of the genre was particularly effective. Her writing carried the story and its tropes and really engaged me, which cannot be said for a lot of other titles, so surely that cannot be a totally bad thing?

I also quite liked Gladiator feel the plot adopted towards the end of the book, some scenes were brutal enough to be difficult to read, which was definitely a fresh idea in the YA Fantasy genre. Which personally, worked.

The world building was definitely a huge plus too, the world was wonderfully fleshed out and each setting was different – there was no inadvertent merging of settings based on their blandness. Each of the places explored in the novel was given at least a little backstory and of course, plenty of myths and legends surrounding some of the locations.

Overall,  I can quite safely say that I  enjoyed this book quite a lot and will definitely be reading book two as soon as it comes out. I’d say it’s a great read if you enjoy the familiarity of fantasy novels with some new ideas thrown into the mix.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

ARC Review: Caraval – Stephanie Garber

Synopsis: caraval cover.jpg

WELCOME TO CARAVAL, WHERE NOTHING IS QUITE WHAT IT SEEMS.
Scarlett and Tella have never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of a Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure.

When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is an elaborate performance. But she quickly becomes entangled in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak.

And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.


I received a free proof copy of this book courtesy of Chapter 5 Books in exchange for an honest review. 

THIS BOOK WAS JUST

mind blown2.gif

I mean, I knew I was holding something special in my hands even based on the red sprayed edges that the UK copy of the proof has – but I did not expect just how good the story within the pretty pages would be.

The tagline “Remember it’s only a game” plays such a huge part whilst reading – the strong minded and resilient protagonist turns out to be wonderfully unreliable as she’s enveloped in the mystical game of Caraval. At points,  I was really struggling to see what was truth and what was a concept created by Master Legend in order to engross his guests despite having that constant reminder branded on the covers of the book.

The reading experience was almost magical.

I absolutely loved the relationships in this story – both romantic and not. Sisterhood played such a vital role and truly drove the plot of the novel. Despite everything they had been through (please mind a mild trigger warning for parent-child abuse for those easily affected by such matters – albeit it is never very graphic just present within the novel), their bond was unmistakably strong and definitely only grew through the novel as Scarlett strived to find Tella.

When it comes to romance, this was a great example of how a fantasy romance should be written; none of this insta-love, love triangle malarkey that we so often see in YA Fiction. Just subtle, slow burn romance which added to the story without completely overpowering all the other concepts within it.

Also, may we just talk about the plot twists? Can we? Because there were SO MANY. All of which I really could not even begin to predict. Once I thought I could predict something…. it turned out I was grossly mistaken. This book was one huge enigma to me, and I absolutely loved that!

The plot itself was so wonderfully dark and disturbing at points, and also as previously mentioned – psychologically affecting. The settings of this novel were so well described I could picture everything with great clarity. I honestly commend  Garber for this, and can definitely say that she truly has a gift for creating a sense of mystery using her plot and setting, and building it right up until the end. And unlike some authors’ attempts, the ending actually delivered. Questions were answered, but enough were left to make me anticipate the next book with great excitement.

I will not say much more about this book, for I think that the effect of it is spoiled the more you know about it – it’s one of those books where the less you know the better the reading experience will be. One that leaves you wishing that there was a way to forget things about the books you had read just to be able to relive them anew.

I can just say that you should definitely read this masterpiece and get lost in the world of Caraval, and I can only hope that you will enjoy it as much as I did.

My Rating: 4.9 if not 5/5 Stars

Lucian Divine Tour + Review – Renée Carlino

luciandivine-fb-banner-now

luciandivine_03-1-1-1“My guardian angel is a drunk.”

Evelyn Casey’s life is at a standstill. She’s in her mid-twenties, struggling with the dating scene inSan Francisco. Nothing seems to be working out, and she’s starting to think that she’ll live out herdays in her crummy apartment with her overbearing roommate, Brooklyn. It’s absurd, but sometimesEvey longs for a guardian angel to show up and save the day. And then he does. Seriously. His name is Lucian and he’s a guardian angel, been on the job fortwo thousand years. His sudden presence in her life is both good—he’s brilliant, witty, andwarm—and bad—he’s brilliant, witty, warm, and hot as ****. But as perfect as Lucian seems, he’s gotproblems of his own. He’s taken up drinking and he’s brazenly inserted himself into Evey’s life, goingagainst the greatest cosmic law ever created.

For Evey, the rules are simple: You are not allowed to hook up with your guardian angel. Butsometimes fulfilling your destiny requires a leap of faith, a confrontation with God.

Yes, God as in God.


I  received an eARC edition of this novel courtesy of InkSlingerPR (and Danielle Sanchez) in exchange for an honest review. 

This book had me at “My guardian angel is a drunk.” I just found the ideology of the entire scenario incredibly amusing, but this intrigue developed into a keen interest into what was going to happen at some point during the book.  The book was somewhat as intoxicating as the drinks that Lucian was so fond of.

Now, I know some readers will have an issue with the way that angels and the whole God/Jesus business is dealt with in this book, but being an atheist, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed this fresh take – and I’m pretty sure anyone with an open heart and mind will be able to do the same, regardless of their religion. After all, it is a work of fiction and should therefore be regarded as such.

This was actually my first encounter with Renée’s work, and boy am I glad I signed up for this tour. I will definitely be looking to explore more of her work in the future.

It was a great love story, heartbreaking at points- yes. But also full of shameless hope which I really enjoyed, I liked the optimism and resilience exhibited by all of the characters within the novel.

But in saying that, it came with a slightly decelerated insta-love…. which I guess was explained by the whole guardian angel shabang. I mean – I guess it’s understandable how quickly everything proceeded due to how long Lucian knew Evey, the whole connection felt by a soul and their guardian angel (when they had the chance to meet which was a big no no). But hey, I’m still me, and it bothered me – although admittedly not as much as it would usually, so huge kudos to Renée for achieving the impossible.

I really enjoyed the alternating POVs, I thought that it added a lot of insight into the story – padding it out a little and making it all seem a little more real. It was a good execution of split POV, probably the best I have read in a while when it comes New Adult romance.

However, the pacing felt a bit off. Some bits were mentioned in passing and were gone so quickly my head was spinning which did leave me slightly annoyed at points. And while the ending was touching and I was glad at what happened… I could sort of predict it from around the 50% mark for some reason. I don’t think I should have been able to, but for some reason I did and that’s what made me lower my rating for this book

Albeit, overall – the book was definitely a memorable one, and in a good way at that!

My Rating: 3.75/5 Stars


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Renee-121Renée Carlino is a screenwriter and bestselling author of contemporary women’s novels and new adult fiction. Her books have been featured in nationalpublications, including USA TODAY, Huffington Post, Latina magazine, and Publisher’s Weekly. Shelives in Southern California with her husband, two sons, and their sweet dog June. When she’s not atthe beach with her boys or working on her next project, she likes to spend her time reading, going toconcerts, and eating dark chocolate. Learn more at  www.reneecarlino.com

ARC Review: Sanctuary Bay – Laura J. Burns, Melinda Metz

Synopsis:sanctuary bay cover.jpg

When Sarah Merson receives the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the most elite prep school in the country-Sanctuary Bay Academy-it seems almost too good to be true. But, after years of bouncing from foster home to foster home, escaping to its tranquil setting, nestled deep in Swans Island, couldn’t sound more appealing. Swiftly thrown into a world of privilege and secrets, Sarah quickly realizes finding herself noticed by class charmer, Nate, as well as her roommate’s dangerously attentive boyfriend, Ethan, are the least of her worries. When her roommate suddenly goes missing, she finds herself in a race against time, not only to find her, but to save herself and discover the dark truth behind Sanctuary Bay’s glossy reputation.


I received an eARC edition of this novel courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I – I need a sequel. That cliffhanger ending, well; that well-developed “cliffhanger” ending was just too much for my brain to handle. If this turns out to be a standalone novel I am going to be greatly disgruntled because I just need to know where the story went after the words ran out in a very Hazel Grace Lancasteresque way.

It took  me a while to warm up to the idea of the story however, I’m not particularly fond of the tropes which it held within itself . The whole poor girl in school full of rich people thing didn’t bode well with my dislike of similar stories and I found that the sliight love triangle sort of thing that I smelled very early on in the story didn’t help at all.

BUT, these rich kids weren’t the usual arseholes that we usually meet in these sorts of novels – they were actually quite nice to the MC which I found rather surprising.

I also really liked how dark the story got at times, it was captivating and mildly terrifying but the odd combination of feelings actually worked in favour of the book .

The mystery part of the novel actually worked; there were countless plot twists which managed to catch me off guard. And if that isn’t a sign of a successful book of this genre, I don’t know what is. The suspense definitely built up during the course

The suspense definitely built up during the course of the novels thanks to the MC’s unawareness to what was going on around her. I actually really liked her voice, Burns and Metz had a pleasant to read writing styles which weaved flawlessly together to make a story I enjoyed.

I’m not going to lie, this book was really trippy at times, it was largely a case of having to figure out things along with the protagonist, which was difficult as things weren’t always what they seemed and even when she was sure of something, something else proved to be true/ messed up what she thought and it was just so incredibly suspenseful in a really cleverly crafted way, the story was honestly full of so many dark and unexpected secrets!

I can safely say that I enjoyed this book and would definitely be willing to read its sequels if any were to arise (which would put my bookish needs to rest).

My Rating: 4/5 Stars