Death, princesses, assassins | Short Reviews

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

I really don’t see the so many impressed (4.36 average on goodsreads) reviewers side on this, because there’s an interesting premise behind this dystopian world, where Scythe’s have to choose who dies because everyone’s immortal. But it’s nothing … new? at the same time?
The ending was great and clever, I guess.
Everything up ’til that point were pretty expected, it all written with a certain coldness that fit the systematic view of death of the story, but also made it somewhat boring to read. And if you want to go philosophical – why not go deeply philosophical instead of just sometimes dropping questions on how this view of death changes this society? and then not going into any real debate?
Overall I’m not that impressed and found it quite boring, while certainly it being a well-composed book. Is this a side-effect of growing up reading Jostein Gaarder’s books? I’m truly curious about the fascination with this book.

The Selection (#1-3) by Kiera Cass

This YA royal series always sounded like something I didn’t want to read, from what I heard of a whiny main character in the competition to become the new princess. But then I was in the mood for something light-hearted and gave it a try. It’s so much more cut-throat than I expected. So fast-paced, but also well written and more and more feminist as it progresses, with the girls finally bonding together. I truly enjoyed seeing this actual reality TV series, much the Hunger Games vibes here, with its cute dresses turn into assassins attacking regularly and then our dear red-haired main character America getting her claws into power and turning the whole thing upside down. It’s any other revolution YA series packaged nicely so that younger girls would pick it up. It’s not perfect, this somewhat luke-warm romance is a huge part of it, but I enjoyed it.

Deadly Class Comics by Rick Remender vol. 1-9

I talked briefly about the TV series adaptation of Deadly Class in this post, and how it looks like dark academia teenage series with its boarding school, found-family trope and ‘assassins training’, then turns into an epic blood bath. Well, let me tell you – this comic series is so filled with blood and horror as it gets so much worse after where the one-season TV series cuts off. Definitely search up trigger warnings before getting into it. But it’s also so awesome. My thought-process reading this was something like;

Oh shit it’s so good!!! How the fuck do you kill people in that many different ways? Is it okay to like this? AHh I quickly sped through that part, I really don’t like seeing eye-balls outside of the body. I have to stop posting on tumblr about this now, people will think I’m crazy. Ok, I like it again now. You can’t really kill of all the characters and then expect us to care about the new ones you introduce with a brief backstory now, can you? Even if they’re interesting enough, fool me once, twice – you know how it goes.

Truly it became really boring around issue six, picked up again for a while and was truly boring when I came to the latest issue nine. But all credit to the creators, it was truly amazing work. Would suggest people to read the first few issues and then try the TV series, but you’re warned.

Bad bad-boy romance & good queer fantasy | Short Reviews

The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski

It’s a young adult fantasy about an orphan Nirrim that has magical abilities (takes a while to realize), something that belongs to the upper classes in the society she lives in. Going through constant discrimination and trying to help those around her makes it important for her to keep her head down. But it also keeps her from developing or learning about the world around her, making it easy to be taken advantage of. Her fierce spirit lands her in prison, where she meets a stranger that transforms her life, and also starts a slow-burn of a queer romance. It’s a very character-driven novel and I really enjoyed it, while it was far from perfect. The magic system reminded me of a much less complex version of Warbreaker by Sanderson. A dubious 4/5 stars, for the f/f romance.

Vicious by L. J. Shen

You ever just pick up a book because it promises enemies to lovers romance and that’s what you’re craving. But while the writing isn’t bad, the dialogue is so cringy and you hope it gets better, but it doesn’t, but you’re too far in to quit, but it never ever gets better. Yeah, this is one of those types of books. I regretted even picking it up. It just has every element of a “rich bad boy poor good girl” thing, but never puts them together in a fresh or interesting way. The murders from the backstory that are never discussed much was the most interesting part, huh. I still give it 2/5 stars, for the good parts in between. I did like Emilia and her sister. The romance is not worth it, neither is the cringe. It’s almost my fault for starting to read it, almost.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Far far back I wrote a five star predictions post. It’s a lot of fun until you have one book left that you never get to reading. This was that book and I bought it, I tried to read it once. Gave up because I wasn’t in the mood. Tried to give it a real try the second time, but the writing just didn’t click with me, and that’s the one thing that makes it nearly impossible for me to care about a book. There was nothing luring me in. So I’m considering this a DNF, even though it has such good ratings and I can remember nothing from it already.

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson | Book Review

Pages: 391

Genre: young adult, mental illness – ptsd

Synopsis

For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.

Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: two stars

It’s very possible to put down this book. The number of pages should be half of what it is. It had enough interesting moments for me to see if the ending would be as bad, only to find it was the worst part.

This book is aimed at middle graders, even though it’s marketed as young adult. It gives an insight to a girl – seventeen year old Hayley – dealing with her dad’s PTSD from being a war veteran. She never has a normal A4 life and only is to attend school the year before being supposed to go to college. Hayley lacks in maturity, something that gives for a very annoying inner voice narrating the story, while she’s always acting like the adult in her house and good at crises management. Like extremely good, she saves her father again and again, in gradually less realistic ways, until the book loses its suspense of belief on my part. I truly hated the wrapped-up ‘happily ever after’ ending as well, just because it didn’t match anything happening in the story and felt so very unrealistic.

There’s so many ways this book could’ve been better, because it tries to bring awareness to a very bad living situation with a girl under a lot of pressure, and a dad suffering with ptsd, not getting the help he needs. Still, I wouldn’t recommend this book, there has to be better ones out there with similiar topics.

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson | Book Review

Genre: YA fantasy romance, fae creatures

Pages: 300

Synopsis

A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: two stars

I’ve got mixed feelings on this book, but mostly it felt like fanfiction or a draft nowhere near ready for publishing. I continued reading it to the end because I was waiting for some twist or new creative direction of the book and plot without that ever happening. My biggest problem was bad writing. The last sentence sums it up, because it could’ve been funny, I guess, if it wasn’t how the whole book was written:

And we wouldn’t live happily ever after, because I don’t believe in such nonsense, but we both had a long, bold adventure ahead of us, and a great deal to look forward to at last.

Isobel is interesting as a character that has value to the fae because she’s a great painter, and able to do something they can not, so it starts from a great concept. Especially when she so clearly from the beginning has her boundraries set and keeps a certain distance to her intriguing and dangerous clients. Not that that lasts long. It would’ve been fair to take inspiration from A Court of Mist and Fury, but this book is just nowhere near as good in its execution. Unfortunately, as lovely as the cover is, the story itself became unoriginal and uninteresting pretty quickly.

Once A Witch | Book Review

Genre: YA Paranormal with witches

Pages: 290

Synopsis

“Your daughter will be one of the most powerful we have ever seen in this family. She will be a beacon for us all.”

Tamsin Greene comes from a long line of witches, and on the day she was born, her grandmother proclaimed she would be one of the most Talented among them. But Tamsin’s magic never showed up. Now, seventeen years later, she spends most of her time at boarding school in Manhattan, where she can at least pretend to be normal. But during the summers, she’s forced to return home and work at her family’s bookstore/magic shop.

One night a handsome young professor from New York University arrives in the shop and mistakes Tamsin for her extremely Talented older sister. For once, it’s Tamsin who’s being looked at with awe and admiration, and before she can stop herself, she agrees to find a family heirloom for him that was lost more than a century ago. But the search – and the stranger – prove to be more sinister than they first appeared, ultimately sending Tamsin on a treasure hunt through time that will unlock the secret of her true identity, unearth the past sins of her family, and unleash a power so strong and so vengeful that it could destroy them all.

My thoughts

My rating: two out of five stars

All you expect to happen in this book – it does happen. That’s it. The villain is obvious from the start, and then makes his plans clear and that’s the plot. I kept reading this book waiting for a surprising twist that I felt never came. The world and magic, with each family member having their own power, was cool, but never really used to its full potential. I didn’t expect the time travel, but even that wasn’t exciting as a part of this story.

As for the main character, Tamsin, she made the book start out great with a real insight in how much she hates being the only one without powers in her family and being treated as an outsider because of it. But that whole problem quickly disappears along with Tamsin’s uniqueness.

“We were playing a game,” he mutters. This used to be one of Gwyneth’s favorite defense lines whenever the adults found any of us coated in ice, our lips blue with frost. “You were playing,” I snap. “She wasn’t.” I present the bear to the tear-stained child, who regards me doubtfully with big brown eyes. “You’re just jealous,” he mutters. “Because you can’t do anything.” Before I can stop myself, I whip the toy back from the toddler’s hesitant fingers and mash it over the boy’s head a few more times. 

Once a witch (p. 33)

Also the guys are written strangely? I wouldn’t recommend this book. The first 50 pages was quite promising, and then it just went so far downhill.

Legion Series by Bradon Sanderson | Book Review

The book Legion is the first of three in a series by the same name, which has also been collected and sold as one bigger book, which is makes it a bit awkward to search for. Here is it all collected in one book.

Genre: Sci-fi

Pages: 350 in total

Synopsis

Stephen Leeds is perfectly sane. It’s his hallucinations who are mad.

A genius of unrivaled aptitude, Stephen can learn any new skill, vocation, or art in a matter of hours. However, to contain all of this, his mind creates hallucinatory people—Stephen calls them aspects—to hold and manifest the information. Wherever he goes, he is joined by a team of imaginary experts to give advice, interpretation, and explanation. He uses them to solve problems. . .for a price.

His brain is getting a little crowded and the aspects have a tendency of taking on lives of their own. When a company hires him to recover stolen property—a camera that can allegedly take pictures of the past—Stephen finds himself in an adventure crossing oceans and fighting terrorists. What he discovers may upend the foundation of three major world religions—and, perhaps, give him a vital clue into the true nature of his aspects.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: Book One – 5 stars. Book Two – 4 stars. Book Three – 2 stars.

Brandon Sanderson is one of my favourite authors, which is what made me pick up this series. It started out with a great concept, a genius who has split himself into aspects, creating side-kicks with specialization in different skills, different personalities and made up backstories. For example can there be one expert in language, fighting, deciphering code or computers. With Sanderson funny dialogues, and an imaginative plot with a camera that can take pictures of the past, the first book comes together into one perfectly entertaining story.

In the second book it starts to get a bit repetitive. The plot is still exciting, the interaction between the different hallucinations/characters still entertaining to follow. But it also brings with it the beginning of what becomes my big problem with book three, where Stephen Leeds becomes even more overwhelmed with the aspects he’s created, and Sanderson repeating how they’re made up way too often. It feels clunky in the story, which is weird since the fact that they’re in Stephen’s mind doesn’t really matter to it. He’s created them in a way where Stephen does everything he imagines the aspect characters doing.

In book three Sanderson doesn’t succeed in portraying how Stephen is suddenly losing his mind completely, and still finish the plot he’s built up. It doesn’t feel as fast-paced, entertaining or exciting anymore. My thoughts through the whole third book was “let’s get to the end and see if the aspects are still there or if he’s gotten rid of them somehow”. To me it feels rushed and much less clever than the first book, somehow. It was the execution I disliked more than the concept of the ending, I think.

I would definitely recommend this book, especially to anyone wanting to read some sci-fi, have a quick refreshing read between larger books or want a book that include some questions of psychology.

Favourite quotes

“My name is Stephen Leeds, and I am perfectly sane. My hallucinations, however, are all quite mad.”


Short reviews: poetry

Monument by Natasha Trethewey: a poetry collection consisting of serious stories of a mixed-race prostitute, historical struggles of people of colour, about hurricane Katrina, the poet’s own family stories of loss. Still, the writing doesn’t pull me in as a reader, there’s not a lot of emotion here. It doesn’t seem like a purposefully lack of emotion either, and it got better towards the end. She describes scenes, but doesn’t add much to most of them, the way I see it. 2/5 stars. I received this copy through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Bright Dead Things by Ada Limon: now, this one is harder to give a review of because it’s really well-written the way I see it, but it didn’t grab my interest. There were a couple poems that I really liked, but overall it didn’t work for me. Won’t give it a rating because it’s confusing. It might be worth a try, if you’re looking for poetry collections.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik | Book Review

Pages: 480

Genre: fantasy

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Synopsis

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders… but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed–and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth–especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: two stars

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The official synopsis doesn’t do the plot justice in its variety. It’s not only a story about Miryem and the cold magical Staryk king, it has multiple pov’s where Wanda – a girl the same age that Miryem she takes on as employee – and Wanda’s brothers Sergey and Stepon are all big parts of the plot. Also there’s the king of the human lands and his bride by arranged marriage who has borrowed some magical powers to escape. It seemed like a weird choice of storytelling until the characters interacted and then the end of the plot seemed very obvious all of a sudden.

The ideas in this book were good, the focus on family made it even better. But often I found myself not knowing which pov the book had switched to, especially as the characters finds themselves travelling to each other places, making it impossible to keep them straight. I did not care for the “human” king and his bride, her name Irina wasn’t even given before an unnaturally long time had passed. There were certainly elements I liked, enough not to put the book down, but it felt so badly executed. The trap with having serious and calculative characters are that they cannot all be like that, or the magic of even a fantasy book will disappear. There were no lightness, except for when mother-figures trying to give comfort, and no humour. The first hundred pages are all Miryem showing how she built up a little empire of money-loaning after her father didn’t have the cold heart needed for it. And that’s somewhat interesting, but wasn’t done very well. I might as well go pick up economy textbooks, and get something actually useful out of reading about it.

For being a fantasy book there were little magic and a lot of corrupted people and demons/creatures, who seemed to have no desires or joys in their lives. The motivation and message are hiding from me here. The self-important seriousness of it all, from the characters to the writing, brought this book down. Miryem might always have an answer to every challenge, but it gave another level of unconcern to even to her sacrifices. I loved Uprooted, but would recommend “Deathless” by Catherynne Valente instead of this book.

The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton | Review

Pages: 270

Genre: young adult fantasy, witch

Synopsis

A century ago, Rona Blackburn made Anathema Island her home. She was a witch and her neighbors didn’t want help from her skills. Fear led the original eight settlers to turn against her, which led Rona to curse them. A century later Nor Blackburn is still living with the remnats of that curse, she doesn’t want to be a witch and her mother is horrible. Or was, before she disappeared. Her mother has a special control of people, that Nor doesn’t want to have inherited. As her powers seem to grow and signs of her disappeared mother is everywhere again, Nor tries to be a normal teenager, as long as it will last.

 

The Audiobook

The narrator Whitney Dykhouse did a great job, and her voice is very calming, but also brings out tension and perfect for the varying tone of this book, which switched quickly betwen light to dark and calm to trouble. 

 

My thoughts

Rating out of five: two

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I started this book wanting to like it. The plot sounded a bit average, but I liked the originality brought in Leslye Walton’s other book “The strange and beautiful sorrows of ava lavender”. “The price guide to the occult” is a fantastic name and the book is full of witches, living on an island and their magical abilities starting to fade with each generation. I should love this book. I didn’t, for a series of reasons.

the writing and plot

The book started out great, with vivid descriptions of the inhabitants of the island, mainly the history of Nor’s family of witches. The writing changed as more “action”, mainly Nor being a teenager and noticing a few a bit out of the place things, were happening. It was obvious in what direction the plot was going, but I was waiting for a surprise, some kind of twist or creative addition. It didn’t come. There were a few bright moments, where I really felt Nor’s and her friend’s emotion was conveyed well. I almost felt that near the end, where Nor is taken in for questioning, was the highlight. It was funny, which would’ve been a nice twist on a much used story of powerful witch trying to take over the world.

the setting

Aside from the introduction that is basically separate from the whole rest of the book, I got to know barely anything about this island the whole plot was bound to. Things like the forest coming alive could’ve been done better.

the characters

I couldn’t buy into the characters either, the main character Nor has some fears that make her more real, but she over-justifies even those. The first time I heard she was afraid of becoming like her mother, especially with her similiar powers, I found it interesting and wondered how it would play out. But you get constant reminders, to justify why she isn’t using or practicing her powers, instead of showing her really being afraid. The other characters mostly lack depth. On a smaller island like this, or in any smaller community, you should play more on the together-ness or icecold enemies living together. Everything that was promised from the start was sacrificed for the sake of having a story of a more “normal” teenager, dreaming about the cute guy, having fights with her friend and very understandably fearing her mother.

 

 

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas | Review

Pages: 229

Genre: new adult, fantasy

Synopsis

Feyre, Rhys, and their close-knit circle of friends are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly-changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it, a hard-earned reprieve.

Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated–scars that will have far-reaching impact on the future of their Court.

Honest summary? Friends giving each other gifts, celebrating Christmas – no wait Winter Solice – and talking about a war somewhere, but Tamlin being unhappy is the only piece of action as everyone (Feyre) is fucking or going to the store or painting.   

My thoughts

Rating out of five:

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I’ve read a lot of reviews of this book, before actually reading I saw a lot of varied ratings given and afterwards to get the answers to “why are people liking this?”.

Here’s a rapid fire round of things I disliked: males and gentlemales everywhere, smutty sex scenes from a bad fanfic, all for girlpower in theory but not in action? even Amren isn’t seen fighting here. More is coming, just wait.

Let’s get my favourite moments over with, to balance it out a bit: Feyre interacting with Ressina and other artist or people who also have been affected by the war, Cassian & Feyre decorating for Solstice (basically Christmas), they all getting drunk, Amren moments in general.

I don’t care for the sex scenes. When I read them in earlier books I wondered why I hated them so much, and they’re just bad and cringy. Also I hate it if I have to pause the action of a book to read detailed cringy description of how sex works and the word “thrust” over and over. In this book there were no action that needed to be paused, like the last one, but I felt like I needed to read this book to not miss out on the bigger storyline. There’s a lot of rebuilding of Velaris in this book along with healing for all the people there, including all the characters we know and love. I didn’t want to miss that.

I’ve never read so many pages about friends giving each other gifts. It was cute, the first two, but IT NEVER ENDS. I feel like this about many of the fluffier moments of the book. That along with the sex is why people are comparing it to fanfiction I think, the book is written with the focus to include the characters in different settings and scenes to get these heartwarming moments. I definitely appreciated reading them, but they were very transparent and felt artificial or false, which is a weird thought to have about something that’s in a book, but I couldn’t help but notice it. Perhaps it’s made worse by how the rest of the series doesn’t really match the tone of this novella.

In case someone hasn’t realized it (I didn’t when I first heard about this book): IT’S A NOVELLA. But it doesn’t feel detached from the rest of the series? It’s a bridge between what happened in book three and four, and that’s why it’s difficult to advice if people need to read this. At the high price I first saw of this book (it’s become some lower since I think), I wondered if the publisher agreed to sell anything Maas was willing to write, and after reading this I still feel the same way. Maybe it’s something a part of the fans wanted, but my opinion is that that’s a slippery slope down to making a worse book and product in general. This novella reads like fanfic. Unfortunately it made me more nervous and less excited for the next full book in the series, and the series overall as I have loved it until now.