Friday, 19 August 2016

Mini review: Yesternight by Cat Winters

Summary: In 1925, Alice Lind steps off a train in the rain-soaked coastal hamlet of Gordon Bay, Oregon. There, she expects to do nothing more difficult than administer IQ tests to a group of rural schoolchildren. A trained psychologist, Alice believes mysteries of the mind can be unlocked scientifically, but now her views are about to be challenged by one curious child.

Seven-year-old Janie O’Daire is a mathematical genius, which is surprising. But what is disturbing are the stories she tells: that her name was once Violet, she grew up in Kansas decades earlier, and she drowned at age nineteen. Alice delves into these stories, at first believing they’re no more than the product of the girl’s vast imagination. But, slowly, Alice comes to the realization that Janie might indeed be telling a strange truth.

Alice knows the investigation may endanger her already shaky professional reputation, and as a woman in a field dominated by men she has no room for mistakes. But she is unprepared for the ways it will illuminate terrifying mysteries within her own past, and in the process, irrevocably change her life.

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Publication date: 04/10/16 

Yesternight is the fourth book I've read by Cat Winters, and I have to say that it's quite a bit different from her previous titles. The story follows Alice Lind, a trained psychologist, as she arrives at Golden Bay to administer IQ tests to the local school children. Alice believes there's a psychological explanation for most things, but when she meets Janie, a little girl who claims she once lived as Violet Day -a girl who drowned at the age of 19- her world is turned upside down...

Alice is in some way like Winters' other female leads: ahead of her time, intelligent, head strong. She is a woman in a career dominated by men. She desperately wishes to go uni, but has been rejected because of her gender so instead is forced to go from school to school administrating IQ tests. In other ways she is not like Winters' other female leads, but I can't go into detail as to why because spoilers.

Another similarity between this book and her others: it's really atmospheric. Winters does a fantastic job of bringing the story to life with her vivid descriptions. There's a creepy undercurrent throughout the book and as the investigation into Janie's 'past lfe' as Violet Day unfurls Alice even begins to question her own troubled past. Eventually as things started to come to light I still wasn't sure where the story was going, and I kind of liked that, it was refreshing. 

The ending was unexpected and left me chilled. If I’m honest it took me a little while to process how I felt about Yesternight when I finished it. In the end, though, I decided I liked it. It's a unique read and although not my favourite book by Winters I still found it to be thoroughly engaging.


Friday, 8 July 2016

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Summary: A Torch Against the Night takes readers into the heart of the Empire as Laia and Elias fight their way north to liberate Laia’s brother from the horrors of Kauf Prison. Hunted by Empire soldiers, manipulated by the Commandant, and haunted by their pasts, Laia and Elias must outfox their enemies and confront the treacherousness of their own hearts.

In the city of Serra, Helene Aquilla finds herself bound to the will of the Empire’s twisted new leader, Marcus. When her loyalty is questioned, Helene finds herself taking on a mission to prove herself—a mission that might destroy her, instead.

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Publication date: 08/09/16 (UK)

An Ember in the Ashes was one of my favourite books of 2015 - it absolutely blew me away with its complex characters, sizzling romance, and world building. I have been eagerly anticipating the sequel ever since, so I was beyond excited when I was kindly sent a copy for review from the publisher. Having read it I can say without a doubt that it is a brilliant follow up that does not suffer from middle book syndrome!

I have to admit that I wasn't the biggest fan of Helene in An Ember in the Ashes. She did, however, win me over in A Touch Against the Night. I think that getting her POV helped a lot. It made me understand and sympathise with her more. Being Emperor Marcus's Blood Shrike meant she had to make some tough decisions and I really felt for her. A new character, Harper, a member of the Black Guard, was introduced and man was I intrigued by him. We learn little titbits about him, but not much so he's still a bit of a mystery. I especially enjoyed his interactions with Helene, and I'm not going to lie, I was shipping them.

Elias and Laia are also tested in A Torch Against the Night. Their journey to Kauf is not an easy one, and they go through a lot physically and emotionally. The character development is really well done; I like them both even more than I did in the first book if that's possible. Although Laia is not able to fight in the same way as Helene, she still manages to hold her own. She has a quiet strength and determination which I find really admirable. Elias is faced with dark times in ATaTN, but his strength and unwillingness to give up never wavers. Elias and Laia made quite the duo; I appreciated the fact that they told each other the whole truth, and didn't keep anything back. It can be annoying when two characters, who are in a sticky situation, could have avoided the whole thing had they communicated better.

I was majorly shipping Elias and Laia in An Ember in the Ashes, but I did have one problem with the romance in the first book: the love triangles. I really dislike them, so the Helene/Elias/Laia and Elias/Laia Keenan triangle frustrated me to no end. I felt like with Helene and Elias there was a missed opportunity to create this amazing platonic relationship between a female and male character. As for Laia, her feelings for Keenan seemed to come out of nowhere; it just didn't make any sense to me. Suffice to say that the love triangle had me worried what direction the romance would take in the sequel. Having read A Torch Against the Night I am *highlight to read spoiler* happy that the Keenan/Elias/Laia triangle was resolved, and only hope now that the Elias/Laia/Helene triangle won't appear in the third book, because it wasn't really present in this one. There were a few swoony Elias/Laia moments in ATaTN that I absolutely loved. The tension and chemistry between the two was just perfect.

A Torch Against the Night offers more everything: violence, action, plot twists, and deaths. Oh my gosh, the deaths! *cries* The ending left me feeling ALL THE FEELS and begging for book three. The wait is definitely going to be excruciating!


Monday, 13 June 2016

Hope and Red by Jon Skovron

Summary: In a fracturing empire spread across savage seas, two young people from different cultures find common purpose. A nameless girl is the lone survivor when her village is massacred by biomancers, mystical servants of the emperor. Named after her lost village, Bleak Hope is secretly trained by a master Vinchen warrior as an instrument of vengeance. A boy becomes an orphan on the squalid streets of New Laven and is adopted by one of the most notorious women of the criminal underworld, given the name Red, and trained as a thief and con artist. When a ganglord named Deadface Drem strikes a bargain with the biomancers to consolidate and rule all the slums of New Laven, the worlds of Hope and Red come crashing together, and their unlikely alliance takes them further than either could have dreamed possible.

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Publication date: 30/06/16

Hope and Red is an adult high fantasy with cross over appeal. It features pirates, thieves, and the beginnings of an awesome romance. It wasn't on my radar until Erin from WrathsQueen's Books mentioned it in one of her wrap up videos. After hearing how much she loved it I looked it up on GoodReads and immediately added it to my to-read shelf. I then went onto NetGalley in the hopes of finding it up for review, which luckily it was!

POV's. The book alternates between Hope and Red's POV, starting with when they were younger and moving onto the present. Usually this doesn't work for me, because it either feels jumpy or rushed, Skovron, however did an excellent job with the time lapse. It made me get to know the characters and understand their motives and why they were the way they were in the present. Ultimately Skovrons decision to show and not tell worked, it made me feel more connected to the characters. 

Main characters: Hope and Red. The two main characters are kind of opposites, Red is like fire whereas Hope is like ice. Hope has been trained secretly trained to be a warrior and she has this quiet strength and determination which I really admire. I also like that she is honourable and doesn't have blood-lust or kill just because she can as I'm not really a fan of violence just for the sake of violence. And Red is a thief and con artist, who is charming and just down right lovable. Although opposites Hope and Red complement each other perfectly, and when about half way into the book they cross paths and team up on a mutual goal of vengeance things get even more exciting.

Secondary characters. Sometimes I feel like secondary characters are kind of just there to propel the main characters forward, but that wasn't the case here. The secondary characters in Hope and Red are all fleshed out with interesting back stories; it's hard not to like them. My faves in particular were Nettle, a bodyguard of sorts for a brothel (whose blooming friendship with Hope I adored) and Filler, Red's loyal best friend.

Romance. There is hints of what could potentially be an amazing romance in Hope and Red, and I am so shipping it and looking forward to seeing where it goes in the next book.

On his Twitter bio the author, Jon Skovron, describes Hope and Red as the "1st book in [his] swashbuckling kung fu gangster pirate romance trilogy" and I think it's the perfect description.


Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Tides by Alex Lidell - Nominate for a chance to get a free e-copy!

Hey, guys!

Alex Lidell, author of The Cadet of Tildor -one of my favourite books of 2013- has a book up on Kindle Scout called Tides. It's a YA fantasy, described as "Tamora Pierce meets the Age of Sail". If that seems like your thing you could get a free e-copy if you nominate it and it gets selected for publication! So, click here if you'd like to do that. The link also includes an excerpt from the book.

Nile, Princess of Ashing, was groomed to command her kingdom’s fleet—until she lost the key to the enemy’s cipher. Expelled from the navy and facing forced marriage, Nile disguises herself as a lowly sailor and enlists to a ship patrolling a distant outpost. With a cowardly captain, lazy crew, and a cruel, too-handsome, first officer, the ship falls gravely short of Nile's standards. But when the outpost turns vital to Ashing's survival, this ship and crew are all Nile has to save her kingdom. 
- Renu

Thursday, 26 May 2016

The Last Star by Rick Yancey

Summary: We’re here, then we’re gone, and that was true before they came. That’s always been true. The Others didn’t invent death; they just perfected it. Gave death a face to put back in our face, because they knew that was the only way to crush us. It won’t end on any continent or ocean, no mountain or plain, jungle or desert. It will end where it began, where it had been from the beginning, on the battlefield of the last beating human heart.

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When I first read The 5th Wave in 2013 I was blown away. I read it during a time where I was craving a good YA sci-fi book that could potentially match my love for Partials by Dan wells -one of my favourite books of 2012- and the 5th Wave was exactly that. I gave it 4 hearts and the sequel, The Infinite Sea, I gave 3.5 hearts, because although I liked it I didn't quite enjoy it as much.

I loved Cassie's snarky, sarcastic, and at times philosophical personality in the first book. However, in The Infinite Sea I found it hard to get on with her, because I felt as though she spent most of the book moping over Evan. A boy and romance I couldn't care less about (honestly if Evan wasn't in this book it still would have been the same. His character was so pointless, the little page time he did have was so Cassie could say things like "His face lit up when he saw me...his eyes drank me in. Oh, the Evanness of it all, how he gulps down my presence like a guy stumbling upon an oasis in the desert." *gags* I also found it strange that after Ringer revealed *highlight to read spoiler* he and all the Silencers weren't actually Others, but humans, we didn't get to read  how he felt about that). It was Ringer who stole the show in TIS, she was amazing and I remember rooting for her through out. In the Last Star, however, I'm happy to report that Cassie is back to usual sassy, brave, and deeply caring self.

After the events of the previous book you can clearly see a change in the characters - from Ringer and Zombie, to Cassie and Sam. Doing what's right and wrong is no longer easy to differentiate. When do you cross a line? And what would you do to save humanity and the ones you care about?

Sam has had to grow up fast and see things no one should have to see at his age. His relationship with Cassie in this book is strained, and I really felt for her as she tried to re-connect with her brother. Zombie totally won me over in The Last Star, you can really see how much he's developed and grown as a character. He held the group together, imo, and his determination to keep everyone safe was admirable.

I have to admit I had a feeling what happened in the end would happen, and I think it was a good ending. I don't think it could have ended any other way without it feeling unnatural and forced.

Overall, I've decided to give The Last Star 3 hearts, because it was a solid conclusion to the trilogy. Also, because I've come to the realisation that I'm kind of over post-apocalyptic books, they just don't hold the same excitement as they once did.


Sunday, 1 May 2016

Mini review: Bluescreen by Dan Wells

Summary: Los Angeles in 2050 is a city of open doors, as long as you have the right connections. One of those connections is a djinni—a smart device implanted right in a person’s head. In a world where virtually everyone is online twenty-four hours a day, this connection is like oxygen—and a world like that presents plenty of opportunities for someone who knows how to manipulate it.

Marisa Carneseca is one of those people. She might spend her days in Mirador, the small, vibrant LA neighborhood where her family owns a restaurant, but she lives on the net—going to school, playing games, hanging out, or doing things of more questionable legality with her friends Sahara and Anja. And it’s Anja who first gets her hands on Bluescreen—a virtual drug that plugs right into a person’s djinni and delivers a massive, non-chemical, completely safe high. But in this city, when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is, and Mari and her friends soon find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy that is much bigger than they ever suspected.

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I love Dan Wells' Partials trilogy, so I was really looking forward to Bluescreen.

As with his other YA trilogy the characters in Bluescreen were ethnically diverse, which I liked. When POC aren't present in books, it just seems ridiculous to me since, hey, we live in a diverse world! It upsets me to say then that I didn't actually like any of the characters including the mc, Marisa. They frustrated me for different reasons which I won't go into, because I'll end up going on a bit of a rant.

The pacing of the book was quite slow, it took a while for it to finally take off. The constant info dumping didn't do much to help, either. The explanations and unnecessary details every other page took me out of the story, and therefore made me uninterested in what was going on.

Despite not enjoying Bluescreen I'm still anticipating Dan Wells' standalone novel which comes out later this year. Hopefully I'll be able to get on with it a lot better than I got on with this book!


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