Tuesday, 27 December 2016

TTT: The Best Books That I Read in 2016



I actually don't even know how the end of the year is upon us so quickly. I mean, next week will be 2017 already!? How did that even happen?

Even though I'm in disbelief, it's still that time of year where we can think back on what we have read and recap in our minds the good and the bad. Fortunately I've had far more good than bad this year and Goodreads tells me that my average rating has been 3.8 stars! That's pretty amazing.

I'm linking up with The Broke and The Bookish for their Top Ten Tuesday Prompt : Top Ten Best Books Of 2016 and I'm listing my top ten reads of this year (regardless of when the book was published).




A Court of Mist and FuryUprootedA Promise of FireEmpire of StormsThree Dark Crowns


So anyone who knows me even a little bit has probably heard me fangirl over Sarah J Maas - she's my favourite author right now and A Court of Mist and Fury was my absolute favourite read of 2016 and I read it back in the first half of the year. It was THAT good.

"He thinks he'll be remembered as the villain in the story. But I forgot to tell him that the villain is usually the person who locks up the maiden and throws away the key. He was the one who let me out." - Sarah J Maas, A Court of Mist and Fury

Uprooted was the type of book that I couldn't help but throw it in everyone's faces. It was my first Novik read and I was hooked from the get go. It has the most awesome creepy wood and was completely unpredictable with a grand, flowing storyline. Highly recommended!

Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.” - Naomi Novik, Uprooted

A Promise Of Fire is a really stunning debut Adult Fantasy. Greek mythology, strong female characters, magic and fantasy - I can't wait for the next instalment coming out in January!

Happiness is a strange, frightening, fragile feeling when you're not used to it.” - Amanda Bouchet, A Promise of Fire

Empire of Storms was another 5 star S.J. Maas book for me. Epic book. Just EPIC.

"Fight her. I am coming for you. Even if it takes me a thousand years. I will find you, I will find you, I will find you." - Sarah J Maas, Empire of Storms

Three Dark Crowns surprised me - after seeing some bad reviews I was ready for a fairly middle of the run book - but this one was GOOD. I really enjoyed the complex and intricate plot and the deliciously dark premise.

Three dark queens
Are born in a glen,
Sweet little triplets
Will never be friends

Three dark sisters
All fair to be seen,
Two to devour
And one to be Queen” - Kendare Blake, Three Dark Crowns

AbhorsenHeartlessLady MidnightFireboltCaraval

Abhorsen was a really great conclusion to the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix. I have been saying I will pick up the other books in this series since I closed it and I just haven't got to them yet but I'm determined to do it soon. A really great world with a fantastic magical system I loved this series about necromancers far more than I ever thought I would!

For everyone and everything, there is a time to die. Some do not know it, or would delay it, but its truth cannot be denied. Not when you look into the stars of the ninth gate.” - Garth Nix, Abhorsen
Heartless is a really great imagining of the life of The Queen of Hearts before she became the terror of Wonderland. It was my first Marissa Meyer book and I've just picked up my third recently. I really loved this book and hope everyone gives it a try, even if you aren't a fan of the original.

But hoping," he said, "is how the impossible can be possible after all.” - Marissa Meyer, Heartless

I'm a huge fan of the Shadowhunter universe and Lady Midnight was a really great addition. I can't wait for the next in this series coming out in the first half of 2017 although I'm scared for my poor heart!

There is nothing more important than love. And no law higher.” - Cassandra Clare, Lady Midnight

I picked up the Dragonian series simply because I got it off NetGalley and because I liked the cover (Dragons! Of course I'll love it, right?). Well, Firebolt surprised me and despite some editing issues I actually thoroughly enjoyed this and the rest of the series. There was something addictive about it and I think I devoured all of the books in a couple of short weeks!

If your mind and heart are in the same place, you can do whatever you want.” - Adrienne Woods, Firebolt
And finally, another fantastic book that I've fairly recently read and can't wait for it to release so you can all enjoy it as much as I did! Caraval is really well worth the read and is a truly enchanting story with great characters.

"Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world." - Stephanie Garber, Caraval


What are your top books that you read in 2016? Have you read any of the same books I did? Did you like them? Are you looking forward to any of these?
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Saturday, 24 December 2016

Review: Cinder - Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
My rating: {★★★★☆}

Young Adult Fantasy Fairy Tale Retelling
Published January 3rd 2012

Source : Borrowed
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

I buddy read Cinder with a close friend and although a little slower than my usual style of reading I did find that it was definitely enjoyable and we were able to analyse and dissect stuff together while we were reading.

Di's rating: {★★★★☆} 3.5 stars rounded up
Alissa's Rating: {★★★☆☆}

This was a book that I/we really wanted to love - there's just so much HYPE surrounding this series and yet it was easy to tell that Cinder was Meyer's debut. That being said there was still a lot to enjoy about this book.

There's something to be said for fairy tale re-tellings. I love them, and there's a reason that these fairy tales have stood the test of time and are being retold and fractured and re-imagined by so many authors - there's just something about them that works. In saying this there's obviously going to be an air of predictability surrounding the story. You have DEFINITELY seen this one before. HOWEVER, Meyer managed to come up with something that not only works - it's also entertaining. It's not mind blowing, but it's entertaining.

Meyer has created a world here that's not only sci-fi but also dystopian and it's set post fourth world war. Unfortunately the world building was seriously lacking here and is the one thing that was really off putting about the whole book.

(note from Di) I didn't even realise that we were in an Asian setting until what, halfway through the book??? Maybe the allusion to Chinese names and you know, New BEIJING should have clued me in, however I'm going to blame the world building!

There's a few serious transgressions when it comes to world building and in our eyes, Meyer committed a lot of them.

1. Not explaining WHY things are happening.
Why are cyborgs considered as less and discriminated against so harshly? Who are these Lunar people? How did they end up on the moon? We don't know!

2. Creating a version of a real life ethnic group that doesn't go beyond one dimension
If you're going to base your story on a culture as rich as China's, I'd expect it to be done sooooo much better. A few mentions of Chinese food and a nod to Asian sounding names does NOT give you a multi faceted culture. What is their history? What is their culture? We don't even know! It is a world entirely unexplored.

3. Not giving a strong sense of place
Not only was the history missing, but the entire book I never once felt like I was 'there'. I don't know what it looked like, felt like, sounded like. You could have at least given me that.

Unfortunately our lead romantic character was also poorly developed and a lot relied heavily upon his being perceived as 'Prince Charming'. His character was flat and fairly unbelievable (he's next in line for Emperor and yet seems to not know how to run his country?). We do however have high hopes for his development in future books!

The problems sound big, but in actual fact they are pretty typical debut author problems and this series holds so much potential. The book is fast paced and engaging with a strong willed and passionate main character and some really great antagonists here (the step-mother Adri was handled really well and the evil Queen Levana is showing fantastic evil promise). It's a fun re-telling and overall we are both looking forward to the second book.

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Spoilers Ahead! Proceed at your own Risk!
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What parallels did we draw between Cinder and Cinderella?

A: The pumpkin/orange car was a key parallel between the fairy tale and the retelling because it was right at the beginning and set the reader up to expect plenty of throw backs to the story we grew up with. That one mention of the orange car hooked me in to invest myself in the story.

D: The step mother and the step sisters rang true to Cinderella as well.

A: The step mother's obsession with money ( or lack thereof) and blaming it on Cinder was so true to the original and one of the truest parallels between the 2 stories. I can just see Angelica Houston (from Ever After) in a little apartment in New Beijing forcing Cinder to hand over her new foot. Even though she was a pretty minor character in Cinder I thought that Adri was one of the best developed characters.

Every Cinderella story also has one sister more sympathetic to the heroine than the other and Marissa Meyer carried that forward with perfection.

D: That's very true. I really enjoyed how horrible Adri (the step-mother) was and how Meyer built and developed her character. P.S. Ever After is one of my favourite movies of all time!

While the step-sisters were great and really close to the original we did both complain about the lack of development or explanation of the relationship that we saw on page between Peony and Cinder. Peony was more sympathetic and she was the 'nice' sister however I unfortunately wasn't attached to her at all and didn't feel any real emotion when she died.

A: True. The relationship development was nonexistent and Meyer relied on our ability to imagine a history between those two characters but given the book was as short as it I'm willing to overlook that.

D: I'm not so sure that I am... So what did you think of The Queen. Is she a villain worthy of Cinderella? In fact, of the entire series?

A: I want to read more about the Queen before I pass judgement. I feel like up to this point she is too much of a mystery to know what to think but I am getting a vibe of the Queen from Snow White and if Meyer continues down that track I think she will be the perfect villain.

D: I agree. What I do enjoy and what I'm really looking forward to with the rest of the series is that I can see Meyer's foreshadowing - but only because I know about the rest of the series and the fairy tale re-tellings to expect. There's Rapunzel, Snow White and obviously Little Red Riding Hood (coming up next!).

A: Yes! I'm looking forward to seeing how she incorporates all those characters into one story and whether she can do it in a way that makes sense to the story - not just milking the fairy tale premise.

D: Considering what I've heard about the series by all rights it should get better from here on in! Sooooo.... Is there a Scarlet buddy read in our future?

A: I'm ready when you are! I've been saving it for you
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Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Review: Poison Study - Maria V. Snyder


Poison Study

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
My Rating : {★★★★☆}

Young Adult Fantasy
(first published October 1st 2005)

Source: Borrowed
Choose: A quick death or slow poison…

On the eve of her execution for murder, Yelena Zaltana is offered an incredible reprieve - on the condition that she becomes the food taster for the military leader of Ixia, Commander Ambrose.

Avoiding poison is the least of her troubles, however… General Brazell, father of the man she killed, has vowed bloody revenge; she’s beginning to have feelings for her captor, Valek; and someone is plotting the downfall of the current regime.

In a desperate race against time, Yelena must learn to control the growing magical talent within her and master the demons of her past. The Commander’s life, the future of Ixia and all those she loves depend on it…

“To Yelena, our newest food taster. May you last longer than your predecessor.”


4.5 stars - I really, really, really enjoyed this book. It had been sitting on the TBR shelf for quite some time and I really don't know why I didn't pick up this series sooner. Although being able to binge read them all now has it's considerable perks.

I guess on the surface, Poison Study really looks like a lot of other YA fantasy books, HOWEVER, this one really does have it all. There's mystery and intrigue, spies and assassins; a wonderfully bright, determined and believable kick-ass heroine; politics, conspiracies and tactics; a great cast of characters (including a vengeful ghost!); a plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat and a wonderfully slow-burning romance that you will fall for, root for and believe in. That sort of chemistry does not come so easily!

"You've slipped under my skin, invaded my blood and seized my heart. You have poisoned me"


Valek is probably one of the best characters I've read lately and I just loved how Snyder developed him. He's calculating, cold and even selfish and yet there's so many amazing redeemable qualities to love too including his humour, resourcefulness and shrewdness. He's multifaceted and completely plausible as both an assassin and as the head of security for Ixia. His sense of loyalty is also unparalleled and unwavering and I love how that stays true throughout.

Besides, thinking kind thoughts about Valek could be extremely dangerous. I could admire his skills, and be relieved when he was on my side in a fight. But for a rat to like the cat? That scenario ended only one way. With one dead rat.


The writing is skillful - so deceptively simple that it draws you in without flowery descriptions and yet the world building is vivid and the characters pop off the page. There's a lot going on here and Snyder manages to keep it all together and keep the action flowing without too much happening at once. Yelena's voice was a pleasure to read and not ONCE was I told as a reader how amazing, how bad-ass or how fantastic she is. I got to discern all of that for myself.

The entire book is just so readable and so damn entertaining. It's artfully addictive!

“Poisoned, pursued and living with a psychopath. Not what I would consider the good life. Death has its perks.”


Magic Study (Study #2)→
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Book Blitz: Ground Zero - Alecia Stone



Ground Zero
T.O.E Trilogy, Book 3
Author: Alecia Stone
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: February 17th, 2016

Book Description:
It happens every 26,000 years.

Only a few ever survive.

This time ...

No one will.

That is unless Charlie Blake can locate all four diamonds to restore the Talisman of El and receive his calling from the remaining three elements before the Annus Magnus strikes. With both Arcadia and the mortal world in a state of unrest, his life quickly spirals out of control as it seems everyone has put a bounty on his head. Maybe even his closest allies.

Not knowing who to trust, Charlie starts to dig up the past. When new revelations arise, he begins to question whether the Legion of Light really is what it claims to be and whether he's been fighting for the wrong side all along. The line between good and evil is no longer as clear-cut as it used to be, especially when it appears Charlie's destiny could very well be to destroy everything he loves.

Hero or villain? Charlie isn't so sure anymore.

Buy Links:
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Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Review: The Edge of Everything - Jeff Giles

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The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles
My Rating : {★★★★☆}

Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy
Expected publication: January 31st 2017 by Bloomsbury 

Source: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc via NetGalley
It's been a shattering year for seventeen-year-old Zoe, who's still reeling from her father's shockingly sudden death in a caving accident and her neighbors' mysterious disappearance from their own home. Then on a terrifying sub-zero, blizzardy night in Montana, she and her brother are brutally attacked in a cabin in the woods--only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X.

X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He is from a hell called the Lowlands, sent to claim the soul of Zoe's evil attacker and others like him. Forbidden to reveal himself to anyone other than his victims, X casts aside the Lowlands' rules for Zoe. As X and Zoe learn more about their different worlds, they begin to question the past, their fate, and their future. But escaping the Lowlands and the ties that bind X might mean the ultimate sacrifice for both of them.
I'm not sure what I was expecting when I sat down with this book, but it definitely exceeded whatever expectations I had. I blame the cover - it's pretty misleading!

This book is unique with both accessible, contemporary writing and beautiful imagery. The plot is well layered and although there are some definite YA tropes they are played off very well and integrated with a wonderfully refreshing premise.

Jeff Giles has an absolutely wonderful way of building relationships between the characters. The relationship between Zoe and her mom was wonderful to see and really lay a strong foundation for the beginning of the book. My favourite character by far though was Zoe's younger brother and his interactions and relationships throughout the book were both believable and wondrous. I loved every scene with him and his character, although secondary was incredibly complex.

The insta-love aspect was a little annoying although I was totally expecting an explanation to come forth. I'm sure that there was more there than met the eye and either I didn't pick up on the reason OR it's coming in a sequel? It's hard to say as the book could actually stand on it's own and yet I'm dying to know and read more so I hope that there's another one coming.

It's a wonderful story of the choices that we make in life and how we are all flawed and selfish. It's about how you don't need to be what you are brought up to be and the fact that even your parents are human and can make mistakes. It's about chasing after what you love. It's about redemption.

There's a lot of great dialogue, witty and sharp humour and a story and characters that you can root for all intertwined with suspense, mystery and dark fantasy. I highly recommend this book!
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Sunday, 18 December 2016

Weekly Round Up #13



Here's my weekly roundup. I'm linking to The Sunday Post hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer and #IMWAYR hosted by Kathryn at the Book Date.


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Well that was a rather interesting week! I was supposed to have a nice quiet week leading up to Christmas and I ended up having to take an emergency international flight (with the two year old daughter in tow) to join my DH when he had a bit of a scare while away on business. It ended up being nothing serious (thank goodness!) but in short he has a massive issue with needles and a real phobia of rabies and he needed to go for a tetanus shot and was waiting for results to see if he needed rabies vaccinations and so he needed a lot of moral support from us.

It did however mean that I am once again behind on blogging and reviewing and reading! Ah, life!

What I read last week:

Fire Study

I've really, really been enjoying the Study series by Snyder and I think once I'm done with that I will try the Glass series at some stage! I can't wait to share my reviews with you all (eventually!)

What I am currently reading:

WinterSongShadow Study

Not very far into either of these yet I'm afraid but I'm going to try get some reading catch up done this week. :)

Up Next:

Night Study


New Arrivals:

Black SnowThe Kingmaker

OKay - so I've got incoming books for review but I didn't actually hit that button! These were from people contacting me and since the authors aren't hugely fussed about a review timeline (since I'm kind of booked up for the next couple of months!) I have accepted them.

Black Snow (Adult Fantasy MM Romance) is actually one that I saw over at Kristen Burns and I just loved her review of it and resolved to keep an eye open for it should the opportunity present and funnily enough I was contacted by the author to review. It's going to be an interesting read I think and I'm looking forward to it some time in the new year.

The Kingmaker also looks like something I will enjoy and again, I'm looking forward to it sometime in the new year (which is just around the corner!).


And that's my week! How did yours go?
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Tuesday, 13 December 2016

TTT: Books Releasing in the 1st Half of 2017 That I Just Can't Wait For


Well, the end of the year is nearly upon us (already!!!!) and it's time to start thinking about all the books we are excited for in 2017. I know I already have sooo many good books on my TBR that have already been released but I can't help looking forward to the new releases too.

I'm linking up with The Broke and The Bookish for their Top Ten Tuesday Prompt : Top Ten Books I'm Looking Forward To For The First Half Of 2017



ACOWAR
Expected publication: May 2nd 2017
This one is only releasing in May, but is my absolute TOP release of next year. The second in this series, A Court of Mist and Fury remains my favourite book of 2016 and has just recently won the Goodreads Choice Award for 2016 YA Fantasy. This will be on pre-order and I will obviously be re-reading the first two in the series before May and I cannot WAIT!


Breath of Fire
Expected publication: January 3rd 2017
I absolutely LOVED the first of this series A Promise of Fire and I cannot wait to dive into this release as soon as possible (hopefully around the 3rd of Jan!). I've seen some great reviews already from ARC readers and it's making me more and more excited.


Wayfarer
Expected publication: January 3rd 2017
It's been a long time since I read Passenger, and I didn't manage to review it after the first read. I do recall it being a slow starter but in the end I thought it was well worth it. I'm going to have to re-read and then get into Wayfarer but this has been one that has been solidly on my Upcoming TBR since I closed the cover on the first book. It's one that I don't want to miss!



Caraval
Expected publication: January 31st 2017
I'm shamelessly plugging this one that I've already read an ARC of because I loved it. It's a hyped book but deservedly so and if you're even remotely interested in this one you should check it out.


Dawn Study
Expected publication: January 25th 2017
Yes, I do also have an ARC of this but at the time of posting I am currently reading the Study series in preparation of starting the Soulfinders series of which this is the 3rd book. I am almost guaranteed to love it going off what I have read so far and I'm in disbelief that I waited so long to read Snyder's books!

Anyone who is a fan of Tamora Pierce or just plain old YA Fantasy should give her work a try.


Wintersong
Expected publication: February 7th 2017
Wintersong is another one I have an ARC of and I'm currently reading but it's shaping up so well and I can't NOT include it on my list of 2017 books. It's a Goblin King story inspired by Labyrinth with an absolutely GORGEOUS cover.


King's Cage
Expected publication: February 7th 2017
King's Cage I'm very apprehensive about. I loved Red Queen and it was a 4 star read for me but Glass Sword really threw me. For the first 75% of the book I wondered what I really saw in the series. The last quarter re-hooked me and has kept me in the game but I really hope that King's Cage is a better book.

I'm also nervous about how Aveyard is going to draw this out into a four book series when it's so far read more like a trilogy to me? I guess we'll see in February!



Long May She Reign
Expected publication: February 21st 2017
Long May She Reign is another YA Fantasy with a beautiful cover that I can't wait for. It's touted as The Girl of Fire and Thorns meets The Queen of the Tearling and I have to say I can't wait to get my hands on it.


The Dragon's Price
Expected publication: February 21st 2017
What's with all the YA having gorgeous covers next year? The Dragon's Price has a very interesting premise for me and I'm a sucker for dragons so... I'm in!


Hunted
Expected publication: March 14th 2017
Hunted is a Beauty and the Beast retelling with Beauty (Yeva) being a huntress hunting the Beast. I do love fairy tale retellings and Beauty and the Beast has to be one of my favourite fairy tales of all time (who else is excited for the movie coming out next year?). This book could go wrong in so many ways and yet I'm so excited for this one in March!


Well, there's my ten although it seems I couldn't get past March! Obviously there's a lot to be excited about next year.

What books can't you wait for in 2017?
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