Wednesday, 27 April 2016

"A Thousand Nights" by E.K. Johnston

A Thousand NightsA Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Thousand Nights was an enrapturing and gorgeously written story. It was very different to a lot of books in the YA genre, and even to One Thousand and One Nights, on which it was based. The differences are what made it stand out in my mind as being an engaging and enjoyable story.

These days, with the YA genre being so popular, it can be hard to find a book that is truly original - especially if you are an avid reader. So many books are pumped out with the same, tired story lines, and this is why A Thousand Nights was so refreshing. Even though this book centres around a marriage, it is not an instalove romance. Even though this book features a protagonist with unique powers, it is not about a Really Special Person™. Even though this book features a female friendship/sisterhood, it is not promoting jealousy and competition between women. So basically, I loved this book because it took some major YA tropes and flipped them on their head.

The writing in this novel had a lyrical quality to it that was absolutely enthralling. I felt transported into the world because of Johnston's brilliant writing. I would say that Johnston's writing is what kept me interested for so long - this is not an action-packed novel, but the quality of the prose meant that I did not view this as a negative. I felt our MC's urge to survive without the need for constant fear and fight scenes.

Normally my reviews are a lot longer than this, but A Thousand Nights is hard to describe without giving away the central plot points - so I will just leave it here. Johnston's high quality writing speaks for itself and this story just needs to be read and experienced to be understood. I would especially recommend this novel to veteran YA readers who feel as though they have read it all.

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Tuesday, 26 April 2016

"The Glittering Court" (The Glittering Court #1) by Richelle Mead

The Glittering Court (The Glittering Court, #1)The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What did I just read? ‘The Glittering Court’ is one of the strangest books I have read in a long while. If you asked me to summarise the plot, or even put this book into an appropriate genre, I am not sure I could. It’s taken me a while to write my review for just this reason.

A lot of stuff happens in this novel, stuff that is not necessarily very well connected. It’s almost like three or four stories crammed into one. The setting changes extremely quickly, and so this book really tested my memory – especially considering how many cultures, countries and religions there are that are directly relevant to the plot (but with no map – how frustrating).
Adelaide’s personality and priorities seem to change just as quickly as the setting, and I did not always understand how or why. This novel just left me with so many questions. And not in that good “I can’t wait to see what happens next in this story” way - more in a “wait, what just happened and why?” kind of way. Indeed, our MC herself attests to this: her most overused line (repeated every time she jumps from one lifestyle to the next) is ”…it felt like a lifetime ago.” Yeah, it felt like a lifetime for all of us…

As a side note, I read the first three Vampire Academy novels, which were sinfully addictive like a fattening piece of chocolate cake or a terrible soap opera. One thing she did amazingly well in that series was create palpable chemistry between her characters. I remember almost melting at the idea of Rose and Dimitri getting together. I had hoped that, even if the rest of the novel failed, I would have some more of that delicious Mead-brand chemistry. That’s why Adelaide and Cedric were so disappointing – because I expected better. They were an okay couple, with some cute scenes, but they were certainly nothing special. They go from casual flirting to undying love way too quickly, which is one of the biggest sins of romance writing. And Mead should know better!

‘The Glittering Court’ was not all bad though. I think it made some good points about racism, classism and sexism. The discussion surrounding Mira’s ‘value’ as a woman being tied to her race was thought provoking, and the multiple mentions of misogynistic attitudes amongst the Osfridian people were relatable. Mead touched on the incredibly important issues of rape culture and slut shaming, albeit in a very light way. I hope that these issues will be fleshed out more in the coming novels. Also, the writing was good enough that I kept reading even after the plot became a bit too convoluted. Mead has a nice, easy to read style that I genuinely enjoy, especially after a long day at work.

Overall, this was an okay novel, but it was far too long with a weak romance plot and hard to follow politics. I would recommend it to someone who enjoys interclass relationships.

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Tuesday, 19 April 2016

"Lady Midnight" (The Dark Artifices #1) by Cassandra Clare

Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices, #1)Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, that's it guys - Cassandra Clare has officially destroyed my life. I am obsessed with this series. Obsessed. I need "Lord of Shadows" immediately. How do they expect me to wait?!

I know there are a lot of anti-Shadowhunter people out there that think it's time Clare moved on, that there's nothing else to say about this world - but they are so wrong. So. Wrong. If anything, Clare's series have improved every time - I was a much bigger fan of TID than TMI. But, anyway - "Lady Midnight" is brilliant.

I will admit, I had my doubts - what if this book was just a rehashing of Clary's story? What if there was nothing new or exciting? This book took me completely by surprise, and I am sorry that I ever doubted you Cassandra Clare. "Lady Midnight" had all the components we have come to expect from a Shadowhunters series - fast action, fierce women, angsty romance, interesting characters, and actual diversity.

On that note, something I love about Clare - she has always included LGBT+ characters in her series, and TDA is no exception. This time, she also had Mexican characters, a character with autism and another with a mental illness. None of this representation felt forced, or tokenistic. All the characters were three-dimensional and were never just portrayed as That Character With A Disability™ or That Character Who Isn't White™. Actual diversity that shows minority groups as human beings is (unfortunately) hard to come by, so I adored this.

The plot was definitely a classic Clare "on the edge of your seat" one. It was hard to decide what I loved more - the fighting action or the romantic action. The main mystery in this story definitely did not resolve the way I thought it would and I love a story that takes me by surprise. Though, perhaps one thing that detracted from this novel was it's length - the action would have felt a lot more pressing if it was not disseminated by so much text. But, honestly, the length was not such a detractor that I stopped reading it, or that I felt this novel deserved less than 5 stars.

Do I love Emma and Julian together? Damn right. Do I also love Emma and Mark? You know it. What about Mark and Cristina? You better believe it. I pretty much loved any couple that was even hinted at - except Diego and Cristina. I think maybe because he was not as well fleshed out as the other characters. Either way, this book has so much angst in its romance subplots, I think I could die a happy woman.

Overall, this was another brilliant story by Clare, filled with action, intrigue and romance that was portrayed by diverse, three-dimensional characters. Even though I also recommend her previous books, don't shy away from "Lady Midnight" just because you have not read the previous Shadowhunters books - you can easily follow this book without them as a point of reference. Though, I must say, I would especially recommend this book to people who have already fallen in love with characters in TMI and TID, as some of our favourite characters have cameos in "Lady Midnight".

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Saturday, 16 April 2016

"The Blood of the Hydra" (Elementals #2) by Michelle Madow

The Blood of the Hydra (Elementals, #2)The Blood of the Hydra by Michelle Madow
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

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3.5 stars
Thanks to Madow and Dreamscape Publishing for the ARC!

I had some definite problems with the first novel in this series (you can check out my review here!) - but 'The Blood of the Hydra' was a definite step up from the 'The Prophecy of Shadows.' Probably the best summary I can give you is: fast-paced fantasy quest.

The elements (geddit?) I loved in the first novel were still here: the fast pacing, the interesting witch premise, and the aspects of Greek mythology. I must put particular emphasis on the fast pace of this novel, because that was really what kept me hooked. Reading 'The Blood of the Hydra' was like watching an action movie that jumps from fight scene to fight scene, with some personal drama sprinkled throughout to keep it interesting.

I particularly enjoyed the lotus fruit chapters - they were carefree and fun, which I did not see much of earlier in this story. Lotus!Nicole is my favourite Nicole, and I felt I understood our MC a lot better after seeing how she acted in this particular scenario. I did not really connect with her in 'The Prophecy of Shadows', so this was a nice surprise. I also thought the concept of the Lotus Eaters was intriguing, and definitely my favourite of all the quests the Elementals have been on so far.

'The Blood of the Hydra' had some interesting moral dilemmas which I appreciated. Often, fast paced novels sacrifice moral complexity for speed, which did not happen in this book. I don't want to specify exactly what - because spoilers - but the very nature of their quests in this novel allowed for much more exciting dilemmas, and Madow considered all angles and wrote them beautifully.

It was also nice to get some fresh blood in this novel. I always enjoy the introduction of new characters when they add something to the plot. Ethan especially left an impression on me - I have a feeling we will be seeing a lot more of him as the Elementals' story progresses. I hope so, anyway!

Now for the downside - the romance. I still just don't feel it. If you have read my reviews before, you know that I am extremely picky when it comes to romance subplots, so maybe I am just being too precious. But I felt nothing between Nicole and Blake other than a mutual appreciation for how pretty the other one is. Maybe this is just a sacrifice that had to be made in order to keep up the epic speed of the novel.

Overall, this was an action-packed quest novel with some interesting moral and magical aspects. I would recommend this novel to anyone who wants a quick fantasy read, but not if you are mainly after a heart-wrenching romance.

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