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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 2018-11-13 18:34
Review: A List of Cages
A List of Cages - Robin Roe

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

Not something I would probably have picked myself, I got one of those pre approval emails from Netgalley for this one. Since I never get approved for anything by Disney Hyperion I jumped at the chance to try something they were offering.

 

Unfortunately, I didn’t like this book much.

 

Trigger warnings for extreme abuse – both physical and mental.

 

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, I did skim a few reviews on Goodreads before-hand so I was aware of the subject matter. The novel deals with two different boys who were once friends, despite a few years age difference. Quiet and reserved Julian the younger boy, and off the wall Adam. Adam is bright, friendly handsome and very chatty. He has ADHD. Something that’s referenced throughout the novel.

 

Julian lives with his uncle and suffering terrible abuse he keeps hidden. He’s miserable at school, not doing well in his classes, and doesn’t talk to anyone. Adam is popular with lots of friends, not the best student, maybe. He finds himself reconnecting with Julian when he gets a job as an assistant to the school psychologist and has to collect students to go to their appointments – Julian is one of those students.

 

We learn that they spent some time living together some years ago after the sudden and unexpected deaths of Julian’s parents. Adam and his mom became Julian’s foster family. Until Julian’s uncle showed up.

 

The uncle is a monster. I can’t even go into the level of manipulative torture he inflicts. It’s gut wrenching and horrible to read. I just wanted to hug Julian and keep him safe. He finds solace in Adam and his friends, who include him as one of their own. And they all get involved and help when things start going south and they discover what’s going on at Julian’s home and try and remove him from it. Uncle is slipping and becoming more off balance and cruel.

 

One thing I really liked was the sense of friendship and togetherness of Adam and Julian and how Adam’s friends helped Julian fit in and open up again.

 

There was just something about this book that wasn’t working for me. And I think it mostly had to do with the fact that every adult in this book was a villain of some sort. The teachers were mean, Julian’s teachers seemed to single him out, the psychologist wouldn’t listen, the police when they were involved were bullies who wouldn’t help. Adam’s mom was portrayed as the only competent adult. She had some odd ideas about how to handle Adam’s ADHD – herbal remedies instead of proper medication?!? I know nothing about ADHD so I shouldn’t judge but that doesn’t sound right.

 

The novel had its moments, but I didn’t really enjoy it all that much.  The writing had some potential, so I would definitely read this author again.

 

Thank you Netgalley and Disney Hyperion for the pre-approval email.

 

 

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review 2018-11-07 21:36
Review: The Belles
The Belles - Dhonielle Clayton

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I read this book twice in a relatively short few months space of time and even after two reads I’m still unsure how I feel about it. This is one of those uber hyped books that I saw all over my Twitter feed and Goodreads. Needless to say it very high up on my highly anticipated reads.

 

So I was very excited when my review request was approved. Only to find that…I wasn’t blown away by it as I had hoped. There was something about the world building that made me very uncomfortable, and I didn’t particularly like the main character much. I found her annoying and childish, the villain cartoony and the barely there romance was completely unnecessary in my opinion.

 

I didn’t feel comfortable reviewing after the first time I read it since I couldn’t put enough thoughts together on whether or not I really liked the book or not. I did wind up buying a finished copy (cover love among reasons) and reading it again a few months later.  It’s still taken me months later to finally put a review together.

 

The novel is set in a fictional kingdom where above all else beauty is the most prized thing in the world. There’s a really interesting origins story at the start of the novel explaining about the Goddess of Beauty and her spurned jealous husband and how the people of the kingdom came to be, and how they were all born grey and ugly. As a gift to the people the Goddess created Belles, who have the power to make people beautiful. Belles are born into each generation. They are revered and worshipped, when the Belles reach sixteen they are presented to society, and Royal Court. In each generation of Belles one is announced as a Favourite and she works at the Palace for the Royals.

 

In this generation, there are 6 Belles we meet on the eve of their presentation into Society. The heroine, Camellia yearns to be chosen as Favourite. It’s all very opulent and glamorous. The excitement is evident in the writing. One thing I really liked was how close all the Belle girls were, they were sisters who adored and loved each other – no obvious dislike or rivalry. They’ve grown up together, learned their gifts together, and support each other. There’s arguments of course, it’s not all harmonious, but the camaraderie between the girls was lovely.

 

Once the Belles make their debut, votes are cast and the Favourite is announced. Not the result anyone expected, the girls are sent to different Tea Houses where they will perform their services. Belle services are highly prized, and the girls live in extravagant luxury.  However, there are very strict rules they must live by – one is they are not to be alone with a male outside of beauty appointments. They cannot fall in love. Yet in a brief moment of weakness when Camellia is caught alone – she finds herself talking to a handsome young man. Someone she finds herself meeting again and again at odd moments. Feelings start to develop.

 

I think it’s supposed to hint at Camellia’s curiosity – she’s never been alone with a boy before, there’s new emotions to explore. The banter between them is amusing, the boy, Auguste, is quick witted, handsome and appears intelligent. He’s bringing out new ideas in Camellia she’s never thought about. To this reader, it was eye rolling, annoying and unnecessary. She finds herself rather lose lipped about him as well. Things she’s not supposed to tell anyone have a strange habit of spilling past her lips before she can stop herself.

 

While the world building is certainly glamorous, rich and elegant, and with hints of some fancy technology mixing in with the fantasy setting there was something very uncomfortable about it, at least in my opinion. I just couldn’t get on board with a society that is just obsessed with looks. People go to Belles to get themselves beautified anyway they want – though there are trends and rules and endless amounts of Belle products to make the client’s beauty dream come true. Though it appears Belle treatments are not without pain. People don’t seem to care. Though I must admit – if I had the option of a Belle – hell, I would probably take it.

 

Camellia settles into her own new routine, she’s worked very hard. Though she learns things in the new tea house she’s assigned to. There’s secrets about the Belles from the generations before her, she hears strange crying in the night and no one will answer her questions. One thing I liked about Camellia was she didn’t take things at face value – she asks questions, she investigates when things are off and she doesn’t let things drop. She’s definitely strong willed and inquisitive. On the other hand though, she’s very rash and impulsive, also bull headed and stubborn. Normally impulsive and stubborn is a trait I admire in my heroines, but there were some of Camellia’s actions that just irritated the hell out of me and came across as childish more than anything. After all, she has lived a very sheltered life and probably doesn’t know how to control herself in certain situations.

 

Something else about the Belles also bothered me – even though they have the most sort after gifts in the kingdom, their power is beholden by everyone – even Royalty doesn’t have the magic the bells do. Yet the Belles are not…free. They live their lives according to the strict rules set out by others – they are not allowed to use their magic as they see fit. They are worked until they are exhausted. They don’t get to make their own choices in a lot of things. Services are bought and paid for. They may live in the lap of luxury but it seems to come at a price. And as the plot progresses, some of this seems to sink into Camellia. Is being a Belle really all it’s cracked up to be?

 

Things for Camellia change and she finds herself voted the new Favourite and shipped off to the palace to work for the Royal family – the Queen and her daughter, Princess Sophia.  The Queen is getting ready to announce her Royal Heir – the oldest daughter – Princess Charlotte has been in a coma for several years. No one knows why and no one knows what causes it.  Torn between the desire to be the best Favourite she can be and the burning questions about what happened to the previous Favourite, Camellia finds herself getting to grips with the pressures of living in the Palace. Princess Sophia appears to be rebellious and rule breaking – she can be very very generous – but she can be a viper.

 

There are more mysteries and the Queen has a special mission for Camellia regarding saving Princess Charlotte. Princess Sophia is to be announced as Heir if Charlotte can’t be woken, and no one wants Sophia as Queen – she’s manipulative and cruel to an almost cartoon villain level of giddy evilness, and her crowd of Ladies in Waiting and court friends are forced to go along with her, no matter how mean or awful. They are punished terribly if not.

 

Nothing is simple and there’s more mysteries to solve. And it doesn’t help matters when the truth about who Auguste really is comes to light as well. The more Camellia learns about Sophia the more horrified she becomes. The mystery of Princess Charlotte is begging to be solved as well – I certainly have my theories about that one! More questions, hardly any answered. And Camellia is not the only Belle who has been digging into things.

 

Things take a bad turn before the end. The plot is a little slow in the middle but picks up towards the end.

 

There’s also a really interesting author’s note about the end which explains a little bit about the inspiration behind the story and helped tremendously in making sense of the fact that the world building made me so uncomfortable. I understand a lot more now about the overall message behind the book.

 

I can’t say even after two reads I particularly liked this book, but I am very interested to see where this is going to go story wise. Camellia irritated me a lot throughout the book but she did show enough growth over all that I want to know what happens next.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Orion Publishing Group for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2018-10-31 20:10
Review: The Dazzling Heights
The Dazzling Heights - Katharine McGee

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

Yes, I know I’m shamefully behind in finally getting around to reading this. I’ve had a review copy since forever, and it was something I had immediately preordered after reading the first one. Though I needed a refresher and reread the first book, before finally getting around to the second book.  The UK covers are just so sparkly and pretty.

 

A fun follow up to The Thousandth Floor – pretty much high school soap opera, all taking place around a thousand floor  tower mega structure in 2118. The glitz and glamour is awesome, and the technology is fascinating and I want it!!!!

 

Following on shortly from the shock death at the end of book one, everyone who played a part is struggling to come to terms with the events, not helping that most of them are under the threat of blackmail, apart from Mariel who wants the truth about what happened to come out and those responsible to be punished.

 

In the meantime Avery continues her forbidden romance, Leda is as bitchy as ever, Watt is digging up dirt with the help of supercomputer implant Nadia. Yet can’t help fight is ever growing attraction to Leda, they don’t seem to like each other, but can’t keep their hands off each other.  Rylin finds herself with a scholarship to the exclusive school Avery and her buddies attend, along with Cord as well. Rylin and Cord are still at odds with each other. While attending the school Rylin discovers a gift for editing holovids.

 

This instalment introduces slippery new character Calliope, a girl with an attitude and a secret agenda of her own.

 

In a nutshell this world doesn’t require any thinking or particular deep plotting. It’s just plain fun. There’s lots of characters, multiple POV chapters. Once you get started it’s hard to put down, it’s additive, full of love, hate, drama, plot twists. Characters to love, characters to hate. Great writing. Great plotting. And not at all predicable. There’s such a way with the story telling that you just have to know what happens, even with the characters who aren’t likeable (*cough*Leda*cough*).

 

Currently reading the final instalment and really looking forward to see how things wrap up for everyone involved.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins UK, Children’s for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2018-08-09 20:18
Review: Give The Dark My Love
Give the Dark My Love - Beth Revis

Review - Give The Dark My Love

 

I received a copy from Penguin's First to Read.

 

Initially I had mixed feelings about this book, mainly as the beginning was rather boring and seemed to have some fantasy tropes that are starting to seem rather overdone.  However the latter half of the book took a darker turn and the end was pretty damn good and unexpected. 

 

It starts off with the story's heroine Nedra is leaving her twin sister and her parents to head off to a posh academy she has earned a scholarship to to study alchemy. She comes from a poor village, and despite her reservations about leaving her family they all tell her it's the right thing to do and of course she's destined for greatness. 

 

We learn there is a terrible plague sickness sweeping through the lands and there appears to be no cure, once the symptoms are spotted the sufferer is doomed. There are quarantine hospitals for the sick, the disease spreading mostly through the poor people. 

 

Nedra didn't seem to have much of a personality at all really. She was nice enough, ready and willing to learn, and of course all the fancy rich students who attend the school look down their noses at her. Right away she manages to make a friend with a very rich handsome boy, Greggori And gains the attention of one of the most difficult professors to please. 

 

It's just a tad bit eye rolling. And of course before long it's abundantly clear Nedra is far more talented than anyone initially thought she would. Much to the chagrin of some of the students. The plot is interesting enough as Nedra learns more about the plague and how alchemy can help the victims. The way the alchemy works a little stomach churning. But it seems to be the only thing doing some good. 

 

There's a subplot going on along the lines of some of the wealthy rich men (including Greggori's father and his best friend and their family) don't like the fact that the island they live on is under rule by one Emperor who governs countless lands and empires. They want the island to be free so they can make their own laws. Doesn't help that the emperor is only a teenager. Nor do they like the new governor he has appointed to rule their island is a woman. (This comes into play much more later on the novel).

 

Nedra finds herself caught up in a search to find the cause of the plague which is becoming worse by the moment, and not just affecting poor people throwing everyone's theories on the origin out the window. This is becoming the sole focus of the plot. Along with Nedra's relationship with Greggori is of course growing into something more than friendship. Greggori is slowly starting to realise there's more to Nedra. And his own views on the side plot are changing. 

 

The Governor makes a few appearances in the novel helping the sick at the hospital Nedra is working in and appears to be nowhere near as bad as the press and everyone else is making her out to be. 

 

Biggest problem for me was Nedra is just so dull as a main character. Both she and Greggori are so wooden and uninteresting. I had no interest in their barely there slow burn romance (which is usually one of my favourite romance tropes) Nedra becomes almost dangerously obsessed with stopping the plague. 

 

She finds herself using darker and more forbidden forms of alchemy - necromancy. This was where the plot really started picking up and I just didn't want to put the book down. I needed to know. Nedra becomes much more interesting and so meticulous and careful about her planning. Faced with a personal tragedy  that seems to define a turning point for her. 

 

I can't say I particularly liked her any more as a character but I could certainly empathise with her and completely understood her determination to find a cure, no matter where it took her. Though there is a fine line between using alchemy to help a greater cause but then finding something darker that works to a personal gain. There's definitely an interesting grey area that all logic seems to vanish over once things become more dangerous and intense. 

 

There were some pretty epic twists towards the end that I did not see coming at all. And left at one hell of a cliffhanger. At one point I wasn't even sure I was going to bother finishing this book, but now I have to know what happens next!

 

A bit of a slow start but definitely worth sticking with. 

 

 

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