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review 2019-03-20 14:00
Review: The Hunger
The Hunger - Alma Katsu

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I’ve been morbidly curious about The Donner party ever since I read Stephen King’s The Shining where The Donners are referenced. I looked it up – it was a true story, a disturbing one, but a true one. So I was really looking forward to this book as soon as I heard about it.

 

I was really excited when I got my review request approved, and when I started reading, I liked it so much I bought a finished copy after a few chapters and read that. This one took a while to get used to the style of the writing. There were an awful lot of characters to keep track off, some got more detailed back stories than others. It was hard to keep track of who everyone was.

 

But the more I read the more fascinated I became with it. There’s a real sense of history and how hard it was for the people making the trek to California. The hardships they went through. The relationships between the people is well written. It’s brutal as well – not everyone is going to get along, obviously, so many people have so many different thoughts, feelings, opinion, violence will breed, love, lust, obsession, hatred…

Thea

The author does a brilliant job of capturing a storm of emotions. As well as putting a spooky twist on the story.

 

It did drag a bit in the middle, but as conditions slowly started getting worse and seeds of mistrust and doubt deepened amongst the people, the story picked up again and was unputdownable towards the end, and quite frightening as the winter hit really bad.

 

A hard book to read in parts, but so, so worth it. I loved it. And would definitely read it again.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House UK, Transworld Publishers.

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review 2019-03-19 19:55
Review: While You Sleep
While You Sleep - Stephanie Merritt

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

This one came to me in one of those “read it now for the first 200 members” emails. I love gothic thrillers when they’re movies, particularly ones with a Scottish setting. So why not give it a go? I really liked what I read enough to buy a finished hardback.

 

Not my usual type of read, but this one caught my interest right away. I was intrigued with the mystery surrounding the main character, Zoe. She seemed quite cold and standoffish. She comes to a remote Scottish island to rent a manor with a foreboding location and gloomy history looking to get away from a tragedy and a failing marriage. The writing is delicious and the whole thing has a delightfully creepy and murky atmosphere to it.

 

Like with any small town, I would imagine, a community where people have known each other forever, Zoe is an anomaly and the subject of curiosity. The locals obviously know a lot more about the manor she is renting than they do. A strange history and the sight of recent traumatic event as well. Nosy neighbours galore, and unwanted attention from creepy men, Zoe does her best to keep to herself and deal with her own drama.

 

Doesn’t happen, of course. She finds herself drawn into the mysteries of the manor, the history and starts to get to know some of the locals pretty well. There was a surprising and well written erotic element to the mystery side of things as well. The characters were well fleshed out and believable,  even the unlikeable ones.

 

There were quite a few surprising twists, one or two of them I worked out, but some of them managed to surprise me. The tension was exceptionally well built throughout. The imagery was really vivid and the writing made it very easy to picture what was going on. I would love to see this book made into a movie.

 

Highly recommended and really, really good.

 

Definitely an author I will read again.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction for the review copy.

 

 

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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 2018-12-05 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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text 2018-11-12 20:28
Reading progress update: I've read 480 out of 480 pages.
Heart of Iron - Ashley Poston

Possibly one of the best most exciting books I have ever read.

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