‘Ruin and Rising’ Review

‘Ruin and Rising’ Review

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What a brilliant ending to a brilliant series! After having started this series back last January, I finally got around to finishing it. The previous novel, ‘Siege and Storm‘ left us wondering if Alina would be able to overthrow the Darkling once and for all. Leigh Bardugo started this section of Alina’s story in the perfect place, with Alina having to break free from the Apparat’s prison.

The plot was spot on – I was so happy to see Nikolai and his wonderful dialogue again, and left gaping at the page at plot twist after plot twist as Bardugo fleshed out Alina’s story to build towards that thunderous conclusion. After having left it a while before writing this review and having read the second and third novels back to back, they are starting to blend all into one in some respects.

I think Bardugo’s characters really shine throughout this story. I love Alina, and can really identify with her as a protagonist. I love how her and Mal are intertwined, and I really love how their romance wasn’t in your face all the time. It gave a more sweet aspect to their love story, because it wasn’t irritating that Bardugo was making the whole story about that. Plus I thought Bardugo was going to break my heart when it came to this at one point, and I was sobbing as I read the latter half of the book. Aargh, the feeeeels! I loved reading about Baghra, and all of the Grisha characters… Bardugo just makes them all so likeable and you want a happy ending for all of them!

God, that ending though… It was so heartbreaking, but I was happy that Bardugo included it. Not like Maggie Stiefvater’s incredibly disappointing conclusion to the Raven Boys with that massive cop out of “nope no one dies here!” That wonderful epilogue had such a sense of nostalgia to it, and was definitely the perfect way to end the series. You even couldn’t help feeling sorry for the Darkling and his need to not feel alone any more. It was so well done! I can’t wait to start Bardugo’s other series at some point, as I’ve also heard good things about that, too.

Overall, I would ‘Ruin and Rising’ a 4/5 because it was so damn good!

 

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2017 Round Up

2017 Round Up

I can’t believe another year has come and gone! To tail off the year, I thought I’d do a little blog post about my five favourite books/series that I’ve read this year, and which book disappointed me the most.

It only feels like yesterday I was stood in the square with my friends, looking up at the fireworks and promising myself that this was the year I got published (HA!). Instead, I’ve moved from Pembrokeshire to Birmingham, then back to Pembrokeshire again before finally finding my current and awesome job in Brecon, and moving to my own flat in Talgarth. I’ve written a single novel for NaNoWriMo, as opposed to the two or three I thought I could get down on paper throughout the year. I managed to read 39 books, rather than the 59 I read last year, which was a little disappointing – though there were some months when I only read one or two books. A lot has happened this year, good and bad, but I reckon 2017 was a good year all in all.

So, which books and or series were my favourites this year? In no particular order:

Gilded Cage‘ and ‘Tarnished City‘: The Dark Gifts trilogy, Vic James

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I bloody loved this series. I liked the concept, and loved it even more when I started reading both books. I am thoroughly excited for the last book in the trilogy! I was pleasantly surprised with ‘Tarnished City’ – normally, sequels struggle to live up to the first book’s name. This series was phenomenal, and I’m sure that the third book is going to be equally explosive. Vic James never seems to do what you expect, and that makes her narrative shine all the more because of it.

The Diabolic‘ and ‘The Empress‘: The Diabolic triolgy, S J Kincaid

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I was blown away by both of these novels. I’d picked the first novel up and absolutely loved the world that S J Kincaid had created – it was so vivid, and her characters were so well written. Nemesis is by far one of my all time favourite protagonists. Plus you cannot imagine my excitement when I found out this is actually a trilogy! The third book is going to be beautifully vengeful, and I can’t wait to see Nemesis go all bad ass. Though I’ll have to wait a whole year or so for the last book to come out, I’m guessing!

Blind Tiger‘: Wild Cats series, Rachel Vincent

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This book really did wow me, because I hadn’t been too fussed on the first novel in the series when that came out. Vincent is one of my all time favourite authors though, so of course I was going to give it a go. I was blown away by how polished the prose was considering this is one of her self published novels, and how water right her plot was. It was just so well done, and I was so glad I gave this series another chance. I can’t wait for her next book in this series, ‘Wild Card’, to come out! Though I’ll probably wait until she sells some signed hard copies so I can add that to my collection.

It Only Happens In The Movies‘, Holly Bourne

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Bourne is one of my all time favourite authors that I discovered last year. The way she incorporates humour into all of her novels is brilliantly done, and makes sure she hits you right in the feels when the character/plot related stuff happens. This was a beautiful standalone novel that tackled tough subjects in regards to love and relationships. I found it so easy to identify with Audrey as a character, and her story really hit me in the feels as a former child of divorce. Plus her own personal experiences with love were so relatable, it was easy to fall in love with this book.

Throne of Glass‘ series, Sarah J Maas

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I discovered this series towards the end of last year, and read a majority of it this year. It’s had its ups and downs in my estimations, but the last two novels rescued it for me (‘Heir of Fire‘ and ‘Queen of Shadows‘) – I love Maas’ other series, and am determined to stick with Celaena even though she can irritate me sometimes because I love the rest of Maas’ characters. Plus I really want to see how this is all going to end, because I really didn’t see the ending of ‘Queen of Shadows’ coming! I’ve still got two books to go, but they’re next on my ‘to be read’ list.

To be honest there are loads of books and series that I could include here which were pretty awesome this year. These are the ones that most stick in my mind that I’ve read this year, though. Plus the Skulguggery Pleasant series making a comeback has to be given a shout out! Though I think the most disappointing book I’ve read this year has got to be Maggie Steifvater’s ‘All The Crooked Saints‘. Normally, her books are bloody brilliant – brilliant characters, brilliant plot… Her books really come alive in your mind. So when I found out about this novel, I forked out £40 for a specially doodled copy from America. You cannot imagine my disappointment when I read it, and found the nonsensical setting to be lacking her usual lustre, and her characters to be these horrible paper imitations of her usual standard. So disappointing!

Hopefully I can crack on with more writing next year, and actually write something BEFORE the next NaNoWriMo. Hopefully I can read a hell of a lot more books as well! Now that I’ve got all my books with me in my new flat, I’ve got no excuse (especially as I still don’t have internet yet there because of some fault on the line). So here’s to an awesome 2018!

‘Siege and Storm’ Review

‘Siege and Storm’ Review

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After loving the first book so much, I’m quite surprised at myself for waiting the whole rest of the year to sit down and finish this trilogy. Finally I picked up the second novel, ‘Siege and Storm‘, after having finished the first book way back in January.

I love this series. The setting is so well done, and Leigh Bardugo‘s description makes everything so vivid. You get such a good feel for Alina’s world, and the magic that surrounds it – it’s so hard not to love it. I really like Alina as a protagonist too, because she feels so likeable and relatable.

Bardugo plunges you straight back into the action within the first few pages, which I really loved. Even though I hadn’t read the first book since January, I fell right back into Alina’s world and her surroundings. You got an immediate sense of danger when the Darkling was introduced virtually straight away, as well as drenched in Alina’s hopelessness when she realises how much more powerful he is than her. You really want her to triumph as the underdog, but Bardugo does a fantastic job of showing how hopeless this is.

I bloody loved Nikolai’s character! His humour was just what this novel needed to give it a lighter lift away from the more serious aspects. His dialogue was so funny! He was such a brilliant character, and really made certain parts of the novel for me. It was so painful reading Alina and Mal’s storyline! You really wanted them to come back together in their new surroundings. If there’s one thing that Bardugo excels it, it’s definitely her characterisation!

The ending was good, but in a way a little samey to the ending of the first novel. It brought us nicely towards the inevitable climax of the final novel in the trilogy, and in its own way was really heartbreaking. The pacing was so well done, too – everything had been ticking over nicely, and then suddenly we’re hurtling towards that explosive conclusion.

Overall I would give this novel a 4/5 because it was really good, and setup the final novel brilliantly.

‘The Empress’ Review

‘The Empress’ Review

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I was so damn excited to read this novel after I finished ‘The Diabolic‘, and S J Kincaid didn’t disappoint. Plus it’s part of a trilogy, so I’ve got a third novel to look forward to! It was a little slow to get started, and took me a few pages to get immersed back in Nemesis’ world, but once I got into the novel it was bloody phenomenal.

Kincaid’s plot was very similar in structure to the first novel, as the plot twists kept coming one after another. At first it was a little confusing as to what was going on for the first few chapters, but once I got into the novel it wasn’t that hard to keep up. The pacing was bloody brilliant – there wasn’t a single part where I was left bored. Especially after the first third, I was absolutely hooked to find out what would happen next to Nemesis and Tyrus. One minute Kincaid would dangle a nugget of hope, and then in the next few pages she’d taken it all away. It was so well done!

This novel was absolutely heartbreaking! I bloody loved it, even though it had me sobbing my eyes out towards the end. What I thought was really beautiful, was it was almost like Nemisis and Tyrus switched roles from how they were when they first met. It was really subtly done, and worked so well to create that absolutely heart wrenching conclusion! I really can’t wait for the final instalment in this series, let’s just put it like that! I loved everything about the plot.

Nemesis’ character development was a pleasure to read. She’d already changed so much in the first novel, but she grew even more in this one too. She became such a likeable character, and I couldn’t help but love everything about her. I did like Tyrus’ characterisation too, as it was interesting to read how his honest character changed so much due to the circumstances he was exposed to as Emperor. Though as much as I loved reading what happened to Nemesis, I really, REALLY can’t wait to read the inevitable vengeful representation to her character in the next novel. I just know she is going to be super bad ass and I can’t wait to see what she’ll do next!

There were a few typos scattered through out – mainly random mixes of spellings for some of Kincaid’s world related terms, where she’d swap an ‘i’ for an ‘e’ in some places. It was a little frustrating, but it wasn’t enough to detract from the plot.

This was such a brilliant novel! I really bloody loved it. It was heartbreaking what happened to Nemesis and Tyrus at the end, and I AM NOT OKAY. I would give ‘The Empress’ a 5/5 because it was just brilliant!

‘All The Crooked Saints’ Review

‘All The Crooked Saints’ Review

 

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I was so looking forward to this novel. Maggie Stiefvater does this thing each time she releases a book with one of her local bookstores, where she doodles in each hardcover. I paid £40 so I could have one shipped over here. I was so excited for this book, so was so damn disappointed when I got it through the post and read it.

What really upset me most about this book is I know Steifvater can do so, so much better. If I’d read it before I’d read any other novel by Stiefvater, I would have written it off as gibberish and been astounded as to how she’d done so well for herself. This novel, in a word, was absolute crap. There were so many things wrong with it, I could probably write an entire essay about it.

Steifvater’s writing is normally so beautifully written, with wonderful imagery and metaphors woven in throughout such a lyrical narrative. This was complete and utter rubbish. Steifvater was trying too hard to be clever, and trying too hard to be literary fiction. ‘All The Crooked Saints‘ was a mismatch of complete and utter nonsensical prose which fell flat on its face. You would be sat reading, and then realise halfway through the page that you hadn’t actually taken in any of what you’d just read, and it didn’t really matter anyway because absolutely nothing was connected. There was a really naff ‘Alice In Wonderland’ feel to it which I absolutely hated, because it just didn’t work.

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There was a milder version of this nonsensical prose to ‘The Raven Boys‘ quadrilogy, but it worked there because it wasn’t in your face all the time as it was in this novel. Plus it was much more toned down! As such there wasn’t really much plot to it, and the minimal plot that was there, was dressed up in all this frilly nonsense which detracted from anything Stiefvater was trying to achieve. A lot of the useless description was really random and just way too weird, but most importantly served no purpose whatsoever. There would be a paragraph with some weird analogy describing why something in a single sentence in the next few paragraphs’ time was supposedly important, such as where a barn was built or something – but the things that Stiefvater wasted words explaining in great detail had absolutely nothing to do with the plot.

One thing Stiefvater normally excels at is her characterisation. However these characters were really two dimensional, and weren’t interesting in the least – basically, they were really lazy versions of what her normal standard produces. As my friend Reviews Between The Lines pointed out, everything was just really under developed. It’s a real shame because I know Steifvater is capable of so much more, and you can see from the original idea the novel that this could have become, but it was just absolutely dire. It makes me so sad to see such talent wasted!

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I get this was meant to be a palate cleanser for Steifvater after ‘The Raven Cycle‘, but it was something I think she should have just kept for her eyes only because it was awful compared to what she normally produces as a novel. I’m really struggling for what to give it, because I normally love Steifvater’s writing, but this doesn’t deserve the same rating that I would give other novels that I would just describe as ‘an alright read’. As much as it pains me to say it, I’m going to have to give it a 2/5!

NaNoWriMo 2017: Week 4

NaNoWriMo 2017: Week 4

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At the start of this week, I was feeling rather panicked. I had set myself the impossible task of writing 22,000 words in a week, because I’d been so damn busy organising stuff that I needed to organise so that I could move into my flat on the 25th. As frustrating as this was, it technically wasn’t my fault. Plus I had the unfortunate bonus of the fact I wouldn’t have internet to distract me (AND STILL DON’T – I’m having to sponge off my wifi at work to post this). So I felt confident that if I sat down to write every day after I moved in, I’d be able to pull it back. I’d come over half way, and really didn’t want to throw in the towel just because I’d missed ten days worth of writing.

So I completely threw myself into my writing. The first day in my new flat I was sat in my chair at my stunning new writing desk (courtesy of my amazing Mum) for at least 5 hours, until I’d clocked in just over 6,000 words. Thankfully that gave me the confidence I needed to sit down every day and just write. That I could accomplish this impossible task. Ironically, these last few days have been the most productive out of my whole NaNo experience. Which was lucky for me, because I don’t think I would have made it otherwise. Then Thursday evening, I finally managed to round it off, and got whatever minute cellular signal my phone could find to work just enough so that I could validate my win on NaNo’s site. I did it! Once again I have proven to myself that I can do this, and that last year wasn’t a fluke.

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Some of my friends tried to attempt NaNo this year too, and while we all fell victim to procrastination, we all agreed on one thing. NaNo taught us that it doesn’t matter how much you write in a day, or a week, or a month – as long as you sit down and write, you’ve got more words coming out of the month than you had to begin with. It makes me feel more than a little foolish that this is the first proper time I’ve actually sat down to write something since December last year. After all, I love writing – this is what I want to do. So why haven’t I done more of it?

I think that despite how panicked it made me that I might not hit my word count like I so desperately wanted to, the unintentional writing break actually really helped my plot. I had hit a writing wall the week before last, and didn’t know where to go with it. Though it suddenly became abundantly clear how my novel needed to end. What my characters had to go through to get them to that end point. What I find quite strange is this novel is intended to be a sequel of sorts to my first novel which sprung from my dissertation. This concept has been in my head since I was 14 or so, and Richard’s (the protagonist in this novel, Dream Weaver) story actually came into my head before Anna’s (the protagonist in my dissertation). I really wanted to tell Richard’s story, but couldn’t because the story world wasn’t as developed in my head as it needed to be. I knew that Anna’s story came first, but had no idea what that was. I managed to stumble through it after my dissertation, and in June last year managed to cobble something that resembled a novel together. I need to go back and edit it, but that was the necessary building block that Richard needed to get his story started. And thankfully, I’ve done it!

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So that’s NaNo over for another year. I went into this so determined to prove to myself that I could do this again, and that I could also do it tackling a full time job. Though the thing that I hope I can take away from NaNo is that I need to stop procrastinating, and just sit down and write. Though I make no promises for when I finally get internet.

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‘Turtles All The Way Down’ Review

‘Turtles All The Way Down’ Review

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I love John Green‘s books. ‘The Fault In Our Stars‘ is hands down one of my absolute favourite novels of all time – when I got it back in uni, I stayed up until 6am the next morning to finish it. I haven’t read all of his novels, but got REALLY REALLY EXCITED when I found out about ‘Turtles All The Way Down‘ coming out this year. Talk about a novel that hits you in the feels!

When I first started reading it, I could really feel the overwhelming despair that Aza was shrouded in constantly. At first it was quite depressing, but I really warmed up to her and the events that happened around her. Some of the things that happened to her were absolutely heartbreaking, but Green described these in such a beautiful way that you really can’t fault his skill. This novel wasn’t what I’d expected at all, but I’m so glad I read it. Everything Green describes feels so painfully real, that you really can’t help but empathise with how Aza is feeling. One part in particular I really loved was where Aza is trying to fight her dark thoughts, and Green uses a mixture of plain text and interspersed italics to show her warring with herself. It was painful to read, but in a way that hit close to home for how I’ve argued with myself over certain things.

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I loved Aza’s narrative arc. At first you think there’s going to be this big happily ever after where Aza finds Davis’ dad and her and Daisy share the reward and Aza and Davis ride off into the sunset and blah blah blah… Green wonderfully shoots down this cliche within the first few chapters, which leaves you guessing as to where Aza’s story is going to lead us. It became more about Aza’s battle with OCD, rather than her OCD becoming a quirky character flaw. Aza’s spiral was painfully honest, and you kept wanting her to get better – what I really, really loved was Green’s more realistic approach of her learning to live with it (kind of… I don’t want to give any spoilers!). The direction Green took the narrative in really fitted with the natural progression of the plot, and I’m glad he did it this way.

The friendship between Aza and Daisy was really lovely – the realistic way that Green portrayed this towards the end was really wonderful to read. You got the feel that these were actual people rather than characters on paper – the way they bared their hearts to one another in the car towards the end was heartbreaking, and I was really struggling not to sob at that point! The relationship between Aza and Davis was cute, but wonderfully realistic. What I really bloody love is Green didn’t make it all about the romance! Plus the mystery of Davis’ missing father was tied up all neatly in the end, which again I loved because it showed more of Davis’ character.

When I first started reading this novel, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it all that much. Though the more engrossed I became in Aza’s narrative, the more I grew to love it. There were parts of her thought spirals that hit a little close to home, but I adored the overall message – life goes on! You may be suffering in the moment, but it’s not the end – and there’s nothing wrong with reaching out for help. I’d give this novel a 5/5, because it was brilliant. I know that Green really struggled to write another novel following the massive success of ‘The Fault In Our Stars’, but he has really done himself justice in ‘Turtles All The Way Down’.

Also look at how awesome that dust jacket is! And the cute tuatara embossed on the cover! I absolutely loved the quotes on the inside of the dust jacket; though I didn’t realise until one of my uni lecturers pointed it out in third year that all the quotes you see at the start of a book, have to be paid for to appear there. Just a random useless piece of knowledge for you!

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If you liked ‘Turtles All The Way Down’, you’d really like Holly Bourne’s ‘Am I Normal Yet?‘, which is about a similar subject of OCD, but told in just as real terms and with quite a bit of humour thrown in for good measure too.