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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Discussion: Middle Book Syndrome – Real or Not Real

So I think (or at least hope), that I’m not the only person out there who sometimes gets to a middle book in a series, or more notably in trilogies and sort of just

boo sleepy

Because I’m just soooo bored, or infuriated, or have simply lost the will to live because the love story had turned triangular, or because I don’t remember the characters, and the author has simply basically nearly failed to keep my attention for more than a short period of time because they haven’t introduced anything new and/or exciting to the story (which sort of defies the point of the series being continued if I’m being quite honest).

A prime example of this was Insurgent by Veronica Roth; simply put – I do not remember a single detail about that book… Or anything beyond the gist of it being Tris being special and Four still being alive. Which is something I should be ashamed of really considering I loved Divergent and (ending excluded) Allegiant, but somehow I don’t think I’m the only one out there who feels that way.

However, there are also examples of series where this hasn’t happened and the second/middle book was a great addition to the story such as in the Red Rising series by Pierce Brown. Golden Son was as exciting and engrossing as Red Rising, which was partly what made it such a good read (along with the fact that Brown is an amazing author and only writes kick-ass books).

Which brings me to the question:

Is the Middle/Second Book Syndrome a real thing that affects us readers… or is it just a figment of my imagination, or the fault of the few second books that ruin the reputation for everyone else? And if you’re a writer, how do you make sure that the second book is just as good as the first?

Tell me in the comments below 🙂

ARC Series Review: Sky Ghosts Series – Alexandra Engellmann

sky ghosts all for one coversky ghosts marcoShortened Synopses:

Their lives depend on their swords.
Their battlefield is all around you.
They fight against the scariest monsters – their own kind.
How many of them are in your city?

All for one: They are bodyguards of the highest level and protectors of their cities at night, when they hunt those who chose the dark side, Sky Beasts.
In New York City, there are two fighters that Sky Beasts hate more than anyone – Jane and Pain, two sisters who don’t think twice about beheading a Beast or two. One night, they save two boys from their enemies’ blades, and since that moment, their lives are effectively ruined. The whole Sky Beasts gang is now after them, and not only the boys are in danger, but everybody the sisters love and care about.
As a war threatens to break out, the main mystery remains unsolved: why would the Beasts hunt two ordinary human boys?

Marco: It was hate at first sight. She broke chairs on his head, and in return he broke her bones.
When Marco joined the New York Sky Ghosts Headquarters, he expected trouble. What he didn’t expect was a girl half his size that would turn his life into hell. They spilled too much of each other’s blood for any hope for reconciliation. How did it happen that they ended up spilling blood for each other on a daily basis?

You can view the full synopses here.


I received ARCs of both books directly from the author in exchange for an honest review.

***SPOILER FREE***

Starting on a more positive note, I loved the idea of the story- flying, bad-ass assassins and loved the fact that Engellmann decided to include two sisters as the best fighters amongst them – I do love a good strong female character now and again (Read: You literally cannot go wrong if your female character is strong, either by physical or psychological power- you really can’t ) so both of these books were a complete delight when it came to the plot itself and its ideas.

However, several problems appeared when I was reading the first novel in particular, the plot stuck together and would have read well had it not been for constant POV switches which happened with no warning in the majority of cases. Also, whilst I’m aware that Engellmann’s first language is not English, the grammar and vocabulary choices bothered me as I was reading as the majority of it just didn’t sound natural, for example:

“And Marco, he doesn’t really have much respect for anybody who’s not formidable enough.”

I mean okay, technically it does make complete sense in terms of relaying the message but I could think of several more natural sounding ways in which that sentence could be written.

On the plus side, I liked the romance that developed through the course of the novel and thought that it gave room for some major character development when it came to Pain’s character – I liked seeing her gentle side now and again to prove that underneath the whole being a brilliant and heartless killer façade she was just a girl, or woman I should say. Needless to say, I thought that Chad was a great character too, and was actually pleasantly surprised with the plot twist regarding his role in the book.

Personally, I enjoyed Marco a lot more than it’s predecessor as I found that it moved at a much quicker pace (maybe due to it being a novella), with less annoying mistakes when it came to the writing, and of course – I had already met the characters before and so I knew what to expect of them. But it was a good prequel to the first book and thought that it linked in very well.

I would recommend these books to fans of fantasy novels full of action and angel-like creatures.

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

“I’m not mean to everybody. I’m only mean to people whose intellectual level is awfully lower than mine.”

-Pain

Series Review: The Ruby Red Trilogy – Kerstin Gier

ruby redsapphire blue coveremerald green cover

Short Synopses:

Ruby Red: Gwyneth Shepherd’s sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!

Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon–the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.

Sapphire Blue: Gwen’s life has been a rollercoaster since she discovered she was the Ruby, the final member of the secret time-traveling Circle of Twelve. In between searching through history for the other time-travelers and asking for a bit of their blood (gross!), she’s been trying to figure out what all the mysteries and prophecies surrounding the Circle really mean.

Emerald Green: Gwen has a destiny to fulfill, but no one will tell her what it is. She’s only recently learned that she is the Ruby, the final member of the time-traveling Circle of Twelve, and since then nothing has been going right. She suspects the founder of the Circle, Count Saint-German, is up to something nefarious, but nobody will believe her. And she’s just learned that her charming time-traveling partner, Gideon, has probably been using her all along. Emerald Green is the stunning conclusion to Kerstin Gier’s Ruby Red Trilogy, picking up where Sapphire Blue left off, reaching new heights of intrigue and romance as Gwen finally uncovers the secrets of the time-traveling society and learns her fate

You can find the full synopses here.


***SPOILER FREE***

So can we just talk about the pretty covers??? I mean, covers nowadays don’t really give a lot of information about the books they cover, but the filigree design  certainly gives these an old-timey vibe that fits in brilliantly with the plot and looks gorgeous, and I have to say it was one of the things that drew me to read them

i gladly admit that

*receives glares for judging books by their covers* No? Okay…I’m going to go stand in a corner now…

Anyhow, the books were brilliantly written, full of excitement – there wasn’t a part where I could sit and watch on without being at least 95% emotionally involved in whatever was happening, and that percentage only rose as the trilogy progressed. There was so much going on and not a single boring moment – that and the fact that it was generally a light read really helped me recover from a rather large reading slump I went through after encountering several books which I struggled to finish so they were a nice change.

I would say that they were aimed at a slightly younger audience than my usual reading material, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying them in the slightest as the story flowed considerably better than in some other Young Adult books I’ve read targeted at a similar age group.

The second book was much better than the first, mainly because the character of Xemerius was introduced, (yes, I  love the animal/supernatural sidekicks in stories more than the main characters in some cases, and this is definitely one of them) I just found him funny, and possibly the most wise in some situations as sometimes Gwen struck me as slightly silly and naive, especially when she made the possibly world-changing decision at one of the parties she had attended in the past (but the details of that situation I will leave out for the future readers of the trilogy). There was a few times when Xemerius’ lines made me burst out laughing, or smile with several confused onlookers staring at me in during my more serious classes…

i regret nothing

However, there was a few times I was mad at the characters, certainly at Gideon, and Gwenny because of Gideon (especially in the third novel of which she spent a good part whinging) at several points along the way, and now having read the blurbs (because I don’t really tend to unless browsing for new books and then promptly forget them even if I do) I should have probably expected it… but I didn’t… and it was irritating to say the least.

I also think that Gier left a few mysteries which I would have loved to have known the answers to unresolved, one to do with Dr. White in particular, I guess I will just have to live with the contents of my imagination to solve these plot holes. Needless to say, I would certainly love for there to be whole entire new book in the series as per usual when reading an otherwise good story which I did not want to end.

I would definitely recommend this trilogy to fans of science-fictiony romance  novels based on time-travel and adventure, with an air of mystery about them.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

“Hearts can’t be broken because they’re made of marzipan”

-“from the Wit and Wisdom of Lesley Hay”

Series Review: The Chemical Garden Series – Lauren DeStefano

wither cover   fever cover   sever coverShort Synopses:

Wither: By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children. Together with one of Linden’s servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?

Fever: Rhine and Gabriel have escaped the mansion, but danger is never far behind. In the sequel to Lauren DeStefano’s harrowing Wither, Rhine must decide if freedom is worth the price – now that she has more to lose than ever.

Sever: In this breathtaking conclusion to Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, everything Rhine knows to be true will be irrevocably shattered.


***SOME SPOILERS AHEAD***

—Disclamer, the post below is very much my own and personal opinion, I am in no way trying to discourage people from reading the books—

So this trilogy left me with VERY conflicted thoughts, a bit more than half of me is still pretty much sitting here like:

irritated

Because in all honesty, the “science” part of the books (the word science being used very lightly in this particular case) was not thought out very well – let’s just face it: there is no way in all the nine circles of hell that people just start dropping dead THE MOMENT they reach a certain age because neither biology, nor disease works like that.

Another thing that really bothered me was the fact that America seemed practically unscathed by the ‘oh so terrible war and conflict’ that apparently went on previously. I mean apart from a few places being submerged in water (those being the areas which were actually quite high above sea level go figure) and ending up in poverty (which was actually rather believable so big thumbs up on that) there was absolutely nothing wrong with the place! (I guess it is explained in the end, but it still bugged me)

The main character also very much irked me to the point where I felt like tearing through the pages to take her by the shoulders in order to shake her – I mean yes, she was captured and unwillingly taken to an unfamiliar place – but holy mother of babies everywhere IT WAS A FREAKING MANSION. With people waiting on each and every of her needs, not only that but two lovely girls who she found a very hard time in trusting (of course, she turned out to be partially right, but that is all to be blamed on Cecily’s innocence which she was very quickly stripped of – thanks Vaughn). Of course, the natural reaction to being given a home within a beautiful house would be to seek freedom at every cost – but that quite frankly may just be my opinion. Throw in the good ol’ love triangle (or pentagon as it seemed) and we’re set for a disaster.

Fever managed to suffer from the weirdest case of  the infamous middle book syndrome, whilst it wasn’t a slow-paced read (DeStefano’s writing style kept it from completely falling into a ten foot deep hole) the plot didn’t really go any further than Rhine being her usual inept self. It did nothing to appease my growing annoyance with the story. Within Fever, DeStefano almost normalizes the concept of rape by her use of the brothel run by a very pretentious lady who goes by the name of “Madam”. Whilst I respect that it is DeStefano’s world, and given the circumstances many people would not care about rape or prostitution, the idea more than bugged me….

By pure luck and the help of a little disabled child and her mother, along with a bodyguard who coincidently warms up to them – Rhine manages to escape the camp a whole three quarters of the book later but doesn’t realise that her actions can be and were tracked by none other but Vaughn himself

sarcastic approval

Great job Genius!

I mean in a world where technology is advanced enough to make people who live and prosper for insanely long periods of time, and given the fact that she was knocked out cold for days having arrived at the mansion, I would’ve thought that maybe, just maybe Rhine may have considered the possibility of the potential that there may just be a tracking device within her body… Especially with her father-in-law being a scientist and her tendency to annoy him by trying to run away.

So by Sever, I was really wondering whether the book was worth reading which is not something I usually do – and quite honestly having read it, I am not sure if it was worth the effort. While the protagonist had clearly wanted to find her brother since the beginning of the first book, she does nothing in order to actually accomplish that, instead she decides to hide and engage in activities such as cleaning, gardening and relaxing – because whyever not. Linden’s uncle and his odd sense of humour was probably the only thing that made the book bearable.

HOWEVER, the third book did evoke some positive feelings in me, I think that throughout it, I managed to understand Cecily a lot more, and thought that the eventual addition of Rowan (who A- wasn’t very considerate and B – seemed to stop caring that his sister was actually alive a chapter after having met her, but I am completely willing to look past that) did make it a whole lot more interesting. Within Sever, Vaughn’s character gets some pretty BIG  development. The devil-incarnated, pure evil of a monster that we were presented with for more than two books is somewhat forgiven his wrongdoings at least partially without question, which in turn made me very confused.

Apart from DeStefano’s original and very effective writing style, another thing I actually enjoyed was the ending of the trilogy, which really gave the books some closure and for that I was grateful as from experience, some authors are just incapable of giving their stories the conclusion they deserve.

All in all, the trilogy did result in a bit of a downfall and disaster for me, however I will be looking to read DeStefano’s other series to see whether it was just these particular subjects which deserved a bit more research on the author’s part. I would recommend these books to any avid readers of dystopian fiction who are looking for an original read.

My Rating: 1.5/5  Stars (and only because it evoked really really strong emotions as you can probably tell by the length of this post)

“Because even if the lie is beautiful, the truth is what you face in the end”

Rhine

Series Review: The Blemished Series – Sarah Dalton

the blemished cover the vanished cover the unleashed cover

Short Synopsis: In a world filled with stunning clones Mina Hart is Blemished. Her genes are worthless and that takes away her rights: her right to an Education, her right to a normal life and her right to have a child.

The Vanished are the forgotten: those who live beyond law or society. Mina fought for freedom. She fought for a better life – a future. But even a free world can decay.

Mina’s world is turned upside down as an important person from her past materialises to take her away from the Compound. She finds herself separated from her friends and facing life-changing decisions on her own.


Yet again, apologies for my disappearance – I have been quite unwell in the past few weeks but all should return to normal now and reviews should be posted weekly/fortnightly.

**ACTUALLY NO REAL SPOILERS :)**

Unfortunately – this series was a let down, quite a big one at that – I chose to read the book after the concept of it intrigued me – a country ruled by ‘designer babies’ with people who couldn’t afford the price cast off into the ghettos, living as second class citizens- what’s not to like?

Whilst the first book was okay , it was nothing more than that. The characters and their stories were rather two-dimensional, and Mina was sliiiightly irresponsible in my opinion – telling someone you only just met your possibly life-threatening secret which ruined the life you had in another part of  the country isn’t exactly the brightest thing to do and usually doesn’t end well. What more, I actually expected the romance part of the story to play out a lot better than Dalton handled it. The boys weren’t exactly ‘wow’ inducing – whilst Daniel was okay most of the time, Sebastian began to annoy me by mid first book – especially after one of his encounters with Mina. The love square really slowed down the pace of the story as well as just plainly bugged me most of the time seeing as it came complete with the insta-love I usually despise in 95% of the cases. I have to say that the ending surprised me, despite the ever so slight tragedy, it was probably the only part of the book where I felt that it was a page-turner.

However… any hope created by the ending of the first book was let down by the second which suffered from one of the worst cases of the Second Book Syndrome that I have encountered lately which was a shame seeing as most of the time I actually wanted to stop reading and just sat there like

rapunzel facepalm

Whyyyyyyyyyy????

Despite that, I really enjoyed meeting the other Freaks, I loved Hiro – the contrast between his age and his mentality was really well executed and I felt that he was a great addition to the story.

The third book immediately had me suspicious with the multiple POV writing ( I stared at the page warily thinking who was going to die). Out of the three of them, it was the most intense, with a major character being reintroduced into the story. Whilst it was better written than the previous two, there were points where I could easily predict what was going to happen next and I was practically yelling dont!

yet of course, they all did it and just ended up getting into more trouble which in turn lead me to points where I just felt like ripping my hair out, or ripping them to shreds for being so stupid, or both because ya know, multitasking. One situation in particular was not only not believable in the slightest ( I mean, what looked like a resolute authority figure got tricked by a plan which wasn’t exactly the world’s most complex evil ) but also seriously annoying. Despite that,  I quite enjoyed meeting Mina’s frenemy Elena, in slightly different circumstances, I thought that her character really developed within the trilogy – despite not having much page-time.

All in all, I had higher hopes for books of this genre, and the last book in my eyes diverted the trilogy from the tragic destination I had believed it would go in. I don’t believe I will be returning to these books anytime soon, but would recommend to fans of vaguely dystopian novels who are not annoyed by love squares and silly decisions.

My rating: 2.5/5 stars

“Because your little inspirational speech was about as uplifting as a kitten funeral.”

-Sebastian