Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

I love fantasy fiction and when I heard that this is a brand new series coming out, I really wanted to get in on the action. It took me a while to get my hands on this book what with all the demand. But I finally did so here is my review:

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy, young girls are trained to be deadly killers. In some, there are signs of the old blood, giving these girls talents rarely seen since the tribes made their mark on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones the skills of novices to deadly effect – it takes them 10 years to train a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist. But no one truly understands what they are dealing with when 8-year-old Nona Grey is brought to their convent, bloodstained and accused of murder. While Nona has escaped from the noose, she has made powerful enemies. Despite the security of the convent, her secret and violent past will come back for her. Beneath a dying sun and a crumbling empire, Nona must come to terms with her demons and become a deadly assassin if she is to survive.

The very first page starts off with a bang, and it got me super excited. The next chapter came along and it was just as cool. The author really knows how to capture the reader’s attention! The author also invests a lot of energy and time into world-building, which is greatly appreciated. Every time something new was described, it made me excited to see how the author would use that to develop the story. And then we got to the middle of the book. And I didn’t like it. While I’m a HUGE fan of Harry Potter, I don’t always like Harry Potter-like fiction. And this story started to show signs of becoming that way. For 75% of the novel, we watch Nona and her friends go to classes and train and learn things…. just like in Harry Potter. Granted there are episodes of action that are awesome, and Nona is a very interesting main character that is not at all like Harry Potter …. but the similarities were just too much. It kind of felt like a mash up between Harry Potter and Queen of Blood, both which I loved – as separate entities. In fact, I think I liked Queen of Bloods more than I liked this one. However, the story picked up near the end and the intrigue was back. I think what really made me like this book and stick through the boring bits was the fact that there were moments where I was on the edge of my seat and the amazing writing skills of the author. While this was not my favorite fantasy novel, I definitely liked it enough to keep an eye out for the sequel when it gets released.

Happy reading ~

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Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff – Nevernight Chronicles #2

I loved Nevernight so much so that I bought it. I have been eagerly anticipating the release of this novel and I had to wait FOREVER to get my hands on it. But I did. And I kid you not, I put every other book aside so that I could devote all of my time to this novel. I even skipped out on doing work (sorry not sorry) to finish it and savour this amazing sequel. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here is my review:

Assassin Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church don’t think she’s earned it just yet. As she successfully completes one mission after the other, she finds herself no closer in her quest to kill Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo. And after a deadly confrontation with an enemy, Mia starts to suspect the allegiance of the Red Church itself.  When she finds out that Scaeva and Duomo will be making an appearance in the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia hatches a plan. She defies the Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium in the hopes of reaching the conclusion level of the games and finally getting the chance to seek her revenge. But as conspiracies unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced to choose between loyalty and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change the very face of her world.

This was one of the best sequels I’ve ever read. Usually, I find that in a trilogy, the second book is just filler. NOT THE CASE WITH THIS GEM! The darkness, brutality, and violence that made this story so believable in the first book carried over here. If anything, it was more intense than before! Mia is an amazing character and I love how sneaky and cunning she can be with her friends – and the reader. I love how she grows and changes, and I love that this novel showed a different side to her world than what we had seen in Nevernight. The gladiator battles were amazing, and I liked the new characters that were introduced. The writing style was just the same (meaning BRILLIANT) and it was great to see how the author flitted between past and present in the first part of the story. I think what really makes this story work for me is that the author doesn’t cheat the reader out of the experience. This book promises gore and then it delivers it. It promises an evolving and fast-paced story and that’s exactly what the reader gets. And there are so many surprising events that occur, which the reader could never have guessed and they just add to the intrigue and make you want to know more! Suffice to say, it was worth making all of the sacrifices that I did (like skipping work, and not studying or reading anything else). Now, I just have to wait in agony for the next book to be released!

Happy reading ~

 

Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love

What drew me to this novel was its interesting premise and the idea of a female gang leader. I love seeing powerful female protagonists in a novel so I was looking forward to this novel. Here is my review:

The Crenshaw Six may be small but they are making it up in the gang world in South Central LA. To outsiders, the Crenshaw Six may appear to be led by a man named Garcia … but what no one has realized is that the gang’s real leader is Garcia’s girlfriend, Lola. Lola has mastered the part of submissive girlfriend, which allows her to be constantly underestimated. But in truth she is much, much smarter–and in many ways tougher and more ruthless–than any of the men around her. As the gang gets drawn into the high-stakes drug world, the gang will have to depend on Lola to survive.

After all the excitement surrounding this novel, it ended up being a bit of a let-down. I was expecting some crazy mind games, with Lola showing off her brilliance and ruthlessness. But Lola really didn’t seem that smart or tough. To be honest, she didn’t have much of a personality and so, I really didn’t root for her or care about anything she had to say. There was this young girl introduced to the story and that intrigued me but I didn’t like how Lola didn’t take the child’s abilities into account. The story itself dragged a lot and it was hard for me to focus. Overall, this novel just didn’t make me go wow. The story was alright with brief intriguing moments, and the awesome female protagonist really didn’t show up. I would give this a 1.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

I have been very excited to read this poetry collection. I rarely, if ever, read poetry; I think the last poetry collection I ever read was by Shel Silverstein – and it was when I was in grade 3! Needless to say, my forays into the poetic scene have been long overdue and I decided to get into it with this book by Rupi Kaur, as it has been receiving so much praise… so here is my review:

milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose that speaks about surviving. It is about surviving violence, abuse, love, and loss. It is about femininity and the ways one can be ashamed of it – and be proud of it. The collection is split into 4 chatpers, with each serving a different purpose, exploring a different pain. As we journey through the most bitter moments in life, the author shows us how we can still find sweetness hidden … if you are just willing to look.

My first thought was: this is a very short collection. Seriously, I read through it all in half an hour, and that is not a testament to my reading speed. I don’t know how long poetry collections usually are but this seemed unusually small in length. But as we all know, length doesn’t matter; it’s the content that counts! What I liked was that the author was unafraid to tackle difficult material like rape and abuse. There is a strong feminist voice in these poems, one that makes you proud to be a woman. I liked that the author talked about being comfortable in one’s own skin, because it is rare to find people who are. I also liked the hand-drawn pictures in the book. However, I don’t think that there was anything really special about this collection. Of course, the more voices that preach about loving-yourself-the-way-you-are, the better. But with all the raving reviews, I expected there to be something unique about Rupi Kaur’s interpretation and message. And there really wasn’t. There was nothing that made me connect with the poems, and while I could appreciate the sentiment, it just became too repetitive. I understand: love yourself. But how many times are you going to tell me that?! Out of all of the poems, only a handful really hit hard; the others were just underwhelming. In general, I just felt disappointed, which is really a shame because I hate being mean about someone’s art. Maybe I’m just too simple for poetry? Oh well, better luck next time!

Happy reading ~

The Nightwalker by Sebastian Fitzek

It’s purely coincidental that I read this book right after reading The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian. I had had both books on my TBR list for a while and it just so happened that I was able to get my hands on them both at the same time. I’m glad I did because it’s allowed me to see two different approaches to the same concept of sleepwalking.

Leon Nader used to have a problem with sleepwalking so severe that he would even turn to violence. After a great deal of psychiatric treatment for his condition, he was convinced that he was cured. However, one day, years later, Leon’s wife disappears mysteriously. Could it be that his illness is back? In order to find out how he acts in his sleep, Leon puts on a movement activated camera. When he wakes up the next morning and looks at the video, he is shocked by what he sees: his nocturnal self goes through a hidden door and descends into the darkness ….

This novel was definitely more consistent with the idea of a thriller. This whole novel is told from Leon’s perspective and it opens up with him waking up and seeing his wife, Natalie, whimpering and packing her bags. When he wakes up next, she is gone and he is convinced that he has done something to her. Right away, the author caught my attention. This novel can be quite confusing at times because it shifts between different points in time and you get a whole host of information and both the reader and Leon are trying to piece together what is real and what is a dream. This was definitely a very ingenious way of portraying this story; however, it sometimes made the story feel muddled and confusing. I still enjoyed the experience and the mystery behind it all, and the thrill factor was always present! One thing that I really liked that the author did was that he gave an explanation for everything in the end. Without spoiling anything, I will say that the last few chapters before the end explain quite a few misnomers that were present in the story to throw you off. This doesn’t mean that I liked the explanation per se but I appreciated the author’s effort to make the story make sense to the readers. Overall, I found this to be an interesting novel that kept the thrills high and the mystery engaging. I would give this a 3.5/5 stars because while I liked the ambitiousness of this novel, I didn’t really enjoy the conclusion or the confusing aspects as much as I would have liked.

Happy reading ~

Under The Harrow by Flynn Berry

I was promised a thriller. This novel did not deliver.

When Nora decides to visit her sister in the countryside, she is looking forward to a nice relaxing weekend. Instead, she walks into a murder scene – with her sister as the victim. Stunned by this shocking discovery, Nora cannot move on. She takes it upon herself to find her sister’s killer, especially since her faith in the police has been shaken because of past events. Haunted by the murder and the secrets surrounding it, Nora begins to show sings of obsession…. until she becomes just as unrecognizable as her sister.

When I first started reading this novel, I was intrigued by the writing style. It seemed a bit dark and poetic, with many intricate details added in here and there. I found it charming at first. But it soon got old. After a certain point, I realized that the writing style did nothing to enhance the plot and the little details were a bit pointless. As for Nora, our protagonist, I strongly disliked her. She had no real personality and was severely underdeveloped and lacked a voice. I couldn’t care less about her and her memories of the past or her obsession. She had no real reason for going about things the way that she did, and while at first I wanted to figure it out, by the time I got to the middle of the story, all I really wanted was for the story to end. The plot moves so slowly that it put me to sleep; literally nothing happens. And the ending, while not what I expected, was not at all a good twist. Just because you explain why someone is the killer doesn’t mean it works! Overall, this is one of the most disappointing books I have ever read and I would not recommend this to anyone interested in thrillers or mysteries. At least it was short!

Happy reading ~

Sunrise by Mike Mullin – Ashfall #3

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

As soon as I finished the second novel in this series, I immediately began reading the final installment in this series. I just wanted to know how everything would end, because this is a really addictive book series. It also helps that all of the books are out and I know I don’t have to wait to read the next one.

The Yellowstone supervolcano had devastating effects on people everywhere. Now, after a year, the survivors are barely able to live. Communities are waging wars against each other, there are gangs of cannibals, and every force of authority has collapsed.  Only sickness, cold, and starvation remain. When it becomes clear that home is no longer safe and the adults are not coping with the harsh reality of this new world, Alex and Darla must forge a new community that can survive this disaster. If they fail, it could spell the end for the remaining survivors, their loved ones – and themselves.

This last novel redeemed the previous book and made me love the series all over again. It was well-written, well-paced, and well thought out. It was just done so well! Everything that I consider as marks of a good book were in this novel: there was great character development, a good writing style, a perfect balance of adventure and romance and suspense, and just an overall strong plot. I loved how kickass Darla was, I loved that Alex became a strong leader and developed skills of his own, I loved the various characters that were introduced and developed in this story. Every conflict that was introduced was an interesting one that raised a powerful issue, and it was dealt with effectively by the characters. While this novel may not have been as action-packed as its predecessors, it was still interesting and riveting. All in all, this was a series well worth reading, and I’m glad that this last book did not disappoint! If you are looking for a unique dystopian novel, then definitely consider giving this one a shot!

Happy reading ~

Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin – Ashfall #2

After reading Ashfall, the first book in this unique dystopian series, I found myself eager to discover what would happen next in the lives of Darla and Alex. It took me some time to get to this next book, but once I got into the story, I finished the book in mere hours. So here is my review:

6 months after the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano, Alex and Darla are staying with Alex’s relatives on the farm. It’s also been 6 months of waiting for Alex’s parents to return from Iowa. Enough time has gone by that Alex and Darla decide to venture on their own to find Alex’s parents and bring them to safety. But the landscape has changed since their last foray; things are more vicious, and settlements are more prone to violence as food becomes scarce.  As Alex and Darla try to survive, they begin to wonder if they will ever make it back at all.

Just like Ashfall, this novel is packed with adventure. There is not a boring minute in this story and I was racing through the pages as Alex and Darla find themselves in one dangerous situation after another. Like seriously. They go through a lot. To the point where I found myself overwhelmed by how terrible their journey was. While having a lot of action can be a good thing, it served to make me feel exhausted in this case. There was just a bit too much of it. I don’t need to have my main characters constantly getting in terrible situations; it’s okay for them to get a break or have some luck!

I also found that each chapter ended in a cliffhanger. I found that to be a bit irritating after a while. The story itself has so much going on for it, and I just want to get to the parts, without having this cliffhanger effect on every single chapter.

The last thing that I didn’t really like was Alex’s character. He is just a bit too good. He doesn’t want to do anything that is violent or terrible, and he has this righteous judgemental vibe going on that really bothers me. He just doesn’t seem to have adapted to the situation. It made me really not like him. Another thing I found weird was the steadiness and maturity of the relationship between Darla and Alex. And when I say weird, I don’t mean it as a bad thing, just as an unusual thing. Darla and Alex are both teenagers but their love for each other is portrayed as being very deep and very romantic and meaningful. I don’t know any teenagers who are capable of having such a strong and mature relationship with someone, but I’m going to chalk it up to the fact that they have just gone through a disaster.

While this novel had its high points, I didn’t like it as much as its predecessor. There was an overwhelming amount of action, and not enough character development for my taste. The story itself and the writing was still very good, so I am definitely looking forward to the next book in the series!

Happy reading ~

Gone Without A Trace by Mary Torjussen

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

On the cusp of a pending promotion, Hannah Monroe eagerly rushes home to tell her boyfriend, Matt, the good news – only to discover that he is gone. Every item of his, every call she ever made to him, every text message she ever sent to him, every photo has vanished. It’s as though their last four years together never happened. As Hannah struggles to get through the next few days, she knows that she has to find him. But as soon as she begins to search for him, she realizes that someone else is watching her.

Alright … where do I start with this novel? Let me begin by saying that I did not enjoy this thriller for various different reasons:

  1. The first half of the story was boring. Hannah keeps crying and calling and making stupid mistakes. She is also fixated on Matt to the point where I felt embarrassed of her and for her. Her work starts to suffer, her friends become impatient with her, and she just can’t seem to do anything but mope around and call the same number over and over again in the hopes that things are going to change.
  2. Weird things begin to happen to her and she does nothing at all about it. She just assumes it is Matt. Okay, fine, keep that assumption, but why don’t you get some video cameras placed so you can find out if it really is him? Why do you do nothing to find out how someone is getting in and out of your house and spying on you? Her lack of thinking just made me shake my head.
  3. The twist … it was awkward. What does that mean? It means that it took my by surprise but it was not done well. It was a sloppy twist that came out of nowhere and made no sense. Nothing from the first half of the story was indicative of this twist, and the rest of the story seemed to try to explain the twist ….  which was also done unsuccessfully. It could have been done better.
  4. The random stuff with her parents. I get that the author was trying to explain some of the psychological impact that they may have had on Hannah but it didn’t work because it seemed to have just been thrown in there and not been fully developed.
  5. The characters sucked. I hated all of them. They were not believable and they were just so unlikeable.

Overall, this novel failed for me on a lot of levels. It had bad character development, a sloppy explanation for the events, sloppy events in general, and a very awkwardly-placed, underdeveloped twist. I read it because I felt I had to but not because I enjoyed it.

Bad Little Girl by Frances Vick

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

After a stressful week at university, all I really wanted to do was curl up with a nice thriller. I had already read something that was light-hearted so I felt ready for some of the darker stuff. This novel, which was already on my TBR list, seemed like the perfect place to start!

Lorna Bell is just a little girl but she is already considered a nasty piece of work at school. It doesn’t help that she comes from a low-income family and is always looking dirty. She has no friends at school, and is given little attention at home. All of this makes school teacher Claire Penny want to reach out and help Lorna, offer her a little more support and love. As the bond between Lorna and Miss Penny grows, it becomes obvious to Claire that Lorna is not living in safe conditions. As the bruises grow, Claire digs and uncovers a disturbing story behind them. When everyone refuses to believe her, Claire takes it upon herself to ensure that Lorna is safe. But just when Claire thinks everything will be alright, a chance encounter brings a stranger named Marianne Cairns into their lives. Marianne is energetic, sweet, and kind, but there is something about her that just doesn’t add up. Claire has risked everything to save Lorna. But what will save Claire from the truth?

I’ll be honest, there is no real twist or mystery. The plot is quite clear from the get-go and only becomes more obvious as the story progresses. Still, this was an interesting story. The first half of the novel focuses on Claire and Lorna, and how victimized Lorna is at her house. In this section, the author really focused on a key issue of society: how to protect children. The author took the time to show how hard it is to get authorities to verify concerns about child abuse, and how reluctant people are when it comes to whistle-blowing. It struck a chord with me because I’ve heard numerous cases where people noticed something amiss but did nothing until too late; it made me sympathize and understand the desperation that Claire felt during this point in the novel. I won’t lie, it dragged on a bit and the author was quite heavy-handed with some of the hints, but the plot was still interesting enough for me to want to continue. In the second half of the novel, we delve deeper into the relationship between Claire and Lorna, and see how the entrance of Marianne disrupts it. This is when things really start to heat up, and I found myself eagerly flipping through the pages. I mean, I knew the general flow that the story was going to take but it was still compelling to read! The final chapters showed that the main characters got what they deserved … but compared to the rush that preceded it, the finale was a bit lackluster. The author also leaves the ending open, and I really didn’t like the implications of it. It made me stop liking Claire’s character, who I had sympathized and pitied for the most part. My final thoughts on this novel is that the author wrote an interesting thriller that deals with protecting a child but there wasn’t really a twist involved in this novel. It was not the best in the genre but it was certainly not the worst.

Happy reading ~