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review 2018-12-16 12:37
Review: Legendary
Legendary - Stephanie Garber

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I had also pre ordered a hard cover copy after finishing the first book last year. I had to reread Caraval before starting this one to refamiliarise myself with the world and the storyline. I think I actually liked Caraval more after a reread.

 

However, I was very disappointed in this lacklustre sequel.  It took me forever to get through and was frankly, boring.

 

Spoilers for the first book.

 

The sequel takes place just after the first book finishes, the night Caraval ends. The sequel is told from Donatella’s POV. After her sister Scarlett spent the first book trying desperately to save her sister, I was curious to know more about Tella’s character. While Scarlett was quite sensible and almost timid during Caraval Tella seemed to be the more lively sister. Scarlett’s character grew tremendously throughout her story.

 

I didn’t like Tella at all during her book. I found her vapid and irritating. She’s headstrong and acts without thinking, she lies, she manipulates and finds herself in trouble a lot. She’s supposed to be stronger sister, yet I found she whined and pined far more than Scarlett ever did. She makes stupid decisions and doesn’t seem to know how to deal with the consequences of her actions.

 

We find out a little more in this book about the disappearance of the girls’ mother – Tella knows a few things Scarlett never did. She’s kept the secret and makes a bargain with a mysterious stranger to help her find some answers. In the sequel, the stranger wants to collect his payment – Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

 

As it’s the Empress’s 75th birthday, there is a special Caraval game to celebrate, so Tella figures this is the opportunity to get what she needs. The only clue she has to her mother is a special deck of cards – a Deck of Destiny.

 

The story revolves around something to do with Fates who are trapped in the cards and a fiendish plot to release them and wreak havoc. Tella tells a lie to get into an exclusive party and her lie causes her to become involved in a very dangerous plot with a scary evil Prince, with a deadly and dark secret.

 

The writing is beautiful and lyrical just like the first book, the descriptions are vivid and so clear and there were some truly amazing passages. There were moments when Tella’s inner strength shines through but then she’ll go and do something stupid and make her irritating all over again. The romance in this one revolves around Dante (we met him briefly in Caraval) and he seems like the male version of Tella.

 

They flirt, they kiss, Dante appears throughout the book helping Tella out. He can be hot one minute – seem like there’s something more to him than a handsome flirt – then he acts like a total jerk. He has secrets of his own. (Of course) Tella spends a great deal of the book pining over him. She can’t decide how she feels about him and it gets very tiresome.

 

The other problem I had with this story was while the mystery with Tella’s mother and the Fates story was interesting enough, it takes place during a Caraval game. There’s more mysteries to solve, but it felt no different from the first book. It had all been done before and without the magic. It felt boring and long winded.

 

It did have its moments, some of it was pretty good, but there was just too much I found irritating. And it took a long time to get through as well.

 

Though despite the fact that I didn’t like this one much, I will be reading the finale to find out how it all ends.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for approving my request to view the title.  

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review 2018-12-16 01:10
Hogfather by Terry Pratchett (audiobook)
Hogfather - Terry Pratchett,Nigel Planer

Series: Discworld #20

 

A seasonal read that is just as fun as always, pretty much. There's lots of snarky commentary and adventures with the wizards, Susan, and the Death of Rats. I'm not sure what else to say, so I'll point you to my previous updates and a previous review.

 

Previous updates:

65 % (stuff to give the troops)

39 % (we have a fake imposter)

 

Previous review

 

 

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review 2018-12-05 19:27
Review: Girls of Paper and Fire
Girls of Paper and Fire - Natasha Ngan

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I went into reading this one with minimal expectations, sounded good but wasn’t really expecting much as I have read so much fantasy this year, and most of it has been a mixed bag. The premise was interesting enough as was the Malaysian inspired premise – but reading in the blurb protagonist chosen to be part of a king’s harem and does the unthinkable – falls in love with someone else.

 

Initially there was a bit of eye rolling on my part and a guess – oh she’s going to fall for some guard or male servant or a prince who’s going to wind up helping her some way. Did I ever get a surprise on that department!

 

I found myself absolutely loving this book. I had started reading by ebook review galley, to find this was the book of the month in my Fairyloot subscription box and got a signed edition with the prettiest cover and pink sprayed edges. This is one of my top ten books of this year.

 

Trigger warnings – sexual assault. There is actually a warning for this on the inside cover of the hardback.

 

The world building is rich and well developed, in this fantasy there are three castes – Paper, the lowest caste, the humans, Steele – half human, half demons  - the middle cast – these people have demoneseque features and powers. Moon caste are the highest – complete demons form. The demon form is usually some sort of animal basis.

 

The heroine Lei lives a hard but happy life in her village with her father in his shop, they are both Paper, they live with her father’s assistant, a Steele class lady who has worked there as long as Lei can remember and is like family to them. Lei’s mother disappeared 10 years ago, taken by a demon army.

 

Every year a number of girls are chosen (read taken) by the Demon King’s army to be Paper Girls – the King’s Concubines – it’s not a request if you’re chosen. Lei finds herself taken by the army, she has unusual gold eyes – goddess touched – which earns her the army chief’s attention and he takes her thinking he can gain favour with the king.

 

Lei’s world is shattered. Lei has a strong voice and is fiery and determined. She was a brilliant lead, full of personality and promise, without being overly head strong or making stupid decisions and rash actions. She’s naturally completely against being a Paper Girl but figures once she’s at the Imperial Palace she might be able to find out what happened to her missing mother.

 

Paper Girls for this year’s crop have already been chosen so Lei’s addition is unusual. Her goddess touched gold eyes make her a viable option. Some of the girls there have been training for this for years and are from high class families, and your typical mean girls. Others are colder and more remote, and one girl is nice and friendly, if very naïve.

 

Lei reluctantly starts to settle into life at the Palace – an elevated life of culture and learning. The girls have a maid who helps them, and lessons, it’s very exclusive and luxurious – but there’s something quite oppressive about it as well. As there is always the threat of the reason why they are there – to serve as concubines to a demon king who doesn’t care if this is something the girls want or not.

 

The girls have to attend various Court events after they are presented to the King. The King makes his choices and one by one the girls are called on to perform their duties. The reactions they have after their night with the King is different for each girl. It’s very uncomfortable to read about.

 

The King is a young man, very handsome, but brutal, a bully, he has moments where you think there might be more to him than a cold ruler who has very little thought for anyone else other than what he wants. But just as quickly as you get that glimpse – something happens and he’s horrible again. And gets worse and worse throughout the novel.

 

While regular Paper Girl life is going on Lei finds herself becoming enamoured with one of the other Paper Girls. This is one the best slow burn romances I’ve come across in a long time. It’s so so slow but the build of anticipation is brilliant as Lei gets to know the girl, Wren. Wren was one of the ones who was cold and dismissive at first, but Wren is as mysterious as she is beautiful. Lei’s yearning comes through so vividly, as she tries to figure out her ceilings, worrying about waiting for her own turn with the king.

 

As the romance slowly blossoms, Lei starts learning some of Wren’s secrets. The plot starts picking upwards the end. There’s a few mysteries and some plot twists and a good burst of action towards the end. And a really WTF cliffhanger at the end. Just when you think everything might actually be okay… of course it’s not!

 

I can’t find enough words for how much I loved this book. There’s not much more I can say without being overly spoilerly about the overall plot. It’s hard to read in some places and deals with some serious issues. It gets uncomfortable. Other places it’s beautifully written with a moving romance, and some lovely female friendships.

 

I can’t wait for more of this series.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2018-12-04 22:32
The Water Rat of Wanchai
The Water Rat of Wanchai - Ian Hamilton

They had been profitable years, with Ava earning enough money for the condo and the car and an impressive investment portfolio. But the best thing about the jobs she and Uncle did was the ride getting to the money - it was never the same twice, and though it taxed her emotionally, it also forced her to expand her senses and her thought processes. Then there were the clients. Although she complained about them sometimes, especially those who in utter desperation were far too clinging and demanding, she also accepted Uncle's conviction that they were simply lost souls looking for redemption. "When we get them their money back, what we are really doing is saving their lives," he would say. Ava believed that, too.

Ava Lee is a forensic accountant, but we learn very little about what forensic accountants do in this book, because right from the get-go, Ava Lee turns into this shady figure tracking down people and information by using any means necessary - deception, coercion, chloral hydrate, but very little accounting.

 

Oh, I am so conflicted about this book. I really wanted to like this a lot. I was really hoping to find a new series that would fill that silly void left by other series about action-packed espionage. And this one looked good because the idea of a Bond-like figure written as a woman sounded too good to pass by.

 

However, the execution of the book didn't live up to my expectations at all. There are silly plot elements that required me to suspend disbelief just a little too much, like when Ava calls up a shipping company out of the cold and they remember every single detail about a one-off, very ordinary, transaction from 8 weeks earlier, and they didn't even have to consult their files? I found that hardly credible.  

 

There were other elements of the writing that also grated on me: the use of brand names instead of descriptions, was a major annoyance. I find this so lazy. Even if we get to learn that someone wore Adidas pants, it still doesn't tell me what colour or style or whether they were tracksuit bottoms or the more fashion-conscious kind. All I know is that they may have stripes down the sides (tho not all of them do...). 

So lazy. Yet, this book is full of this. Brand names appear so often that I once even laughed at how the multitude of product placement compared to a James Bond film, which is famously full of the same advertising. 

 

There was one particular scene where the author has Ava decide between two hotels in Hong Kong (or was it Macao), and I literally had to skip the page because I was not going to put up with reading an advertising leaflet for the Mandarin Oriental. Still, as we can see, the advert worked as I will forever remember the name of the hotel. Gaaaahhh...

I'm so annoyed about this. And I haven't even mentioned Ava's addition to a particular kind of Starbucks coffee sachet...

 

In all of this, what I can only describe as an exercise to replace descriptive writing with consumerist imagery, the plot and character development gets left behind. 

In the first half of the book, Ava does little else than answer phone calls and jump on planes to exotic locations. 

In the second half of the book, the plot thickens. Or rather, Ava breaks out her martial art skills to kidnap someone...

Ironically, this is where I should have really gotten into the book and just didn't. It took me a lot longer to finish the book than I thought, because I just could not face the tedium of reading about Ava's attempts to restore money to a company account. I think I'd have been more interested in it if the underlying purpose had not been quite so ... transactional, and if there had been more emphasis on the characters involved.  

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text 2018-12-02 14:17
Reading progress update: I've read 64 out of 412 pages.
The Water Rat of Wanchai - Ian Hamilton

I should be able to finish this book today, as I am having up to 2 hours of uninterrupted reading time while my car is getting new winter tyres put on.

The gent at the garage told me I could wait or I could leave and he'd give me a call when they have finished. Even he smiled when I pulled out my book asking him to point me to their waiting room.

 

So, reading the heck out of this book while fuelled by garage coffee. :)

 

As for the book, I'm still interested but there are elements that really annoy me.

 

For example,  I find it a stretch to believe that a shipping company would remember the details of a one-off job from 8 weeks ago, that was a normal job, without consulting its files.

That does not happen, and yet, this happened twice already.

 

Anyway, onwards...

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