Friday, 30 September 2016

Flashback Friday - The Awakening - L.J. Smith



Flashback Friday celebrates books from our past - anything published more than 5 years ago counts!
It is hosted by Swoony Boys Podcast & Fiction Fare and I love it because it's not only the new releases that deserve our attention. 



It's been a while since I did a Flashback Friday but this week I've once more been thinking about the books that actually made me adore YA Fiction and once again I'm thinking of L.J. Smith.

The first book of her series 'The Vampire Diaries' was first published in 1991 and was probably one of my very first YA Paranormal books. Needless to say, I was hooked. I breezed through all available in the series at the time (it was originally four books) although I have to admit that I haven't continued with the series since Smith returned from her writing hiatus.


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The Awakening (The Vampire Diaries #1)

A Love Triangle of Unspeakable Horror...

Elena
Searching for the ultimate thrill, she vowed to have Stefan.

Stefan
Haunted by his tragic past, he struggled to resist her passion.

Damon
Driven by revenge, he hunted the brother who betrayed him.

The terrifying story of two vampire brothers and the beautiful girl torn between them.


Have you read The Vampire Diaries? What did you think? Have you read any of LJ Smith's more recent works? What did you think?
Read more »

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Review: Stealing Snow - Danielle Paige


30309128Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige
My Rating : {★★☆☆☆}

Young Adult Fantasy
Fairy-tale Retelling

Expected publication: October 6th 2016 by Bloomsbury Childrens
(first published September 20th 2016)

Source: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc via NetGalley

Seventeen-year-old Snow lives within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she doesn't belong there, but she has no memory of life outside, except for the strangest dreams. And then a mysterious, handsome man, an orderly in the hospital, opens a door – and Snow knows that she has to leave …

She finds herself in icy Algid, her true home, with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she's destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change everything. Heroine or villain, queen or broken girl, frozen heart or true love, Snow must choose her fate …

A wonderfully icy fantastical romance, with a strong heroine choosing her own destiny, Danielle Paige's irresistibly page-turning Snow Queen is like Maleficent and Frozen all grown up.

These reviews are from Bloomsbury's page for Stealing Snow.



I'm sorry, I wanted to love this one but the best I can rate this book is two grudging stars - It was Okay - but I feel like I am clearly in the minority here. I mean, these are some great reviews and I feel like I didn't even read the same book.

For me this was an obscurely written mash-up of a few different fairy tales. It was supposed to be a Snow Queen retelling and I'm sure it will appeal to some readers but for me I struggled to make sense of what was happening.

I read a review today by Greg over at Greg's Book Haven and he mentions not being able to suspend his disbelief - and this happened to me here. To really read and enjoy a Fantasy novel you have to be able to put aside your knowledge and your doubts and be completely willing to believe in this world that the author builds around you and unfortunately Danielle Paige just didn't achieve that for me.

The writing felt abrupt, underdeveloped and quite frankly, juvenile. The characters were all one dimensional cookie cut outs of generic 'things' - crazy people; YA antagonists/protagonists; even the betrayal felt like an overused trope and I really struggled to find anything to connect to.

Our main character is sixteen year old Snow and she was supposedly committed to a mental institution for walking through a mirror as a child. I don't think that's a very viable reason to justify a diagnosis of mental illness. She bites people now, and that's probably sufficient to keep her in treatment, right?

This was just my first problem at the beginning of a long list of problems.

Snow is just the specialist little 'Snow'flake ever to walk the face of the Earth, or Algid. Whatever. She was trained for what, two sessions(?) with the River Witch and suddenly she had enough of a handle on her snow powers to be able to become the most powerful, most awesome most bad-ass snow princess EVER. And not only does she have the bestest powers out there, she has not one, not two but three love interests. It's like she kisses every boy she meets??? And of course every boy she meets wants to kiss her - because she's awesome and we have the constant reminders in her inner dialogue of her bad-assery.

I also knew that if he didn’t leave, I would tear the whole room, maybe the whole castle, apart.

But don't worry, it's not only her own magical amazingness she manages to try hammer into the reader - there's plenty of repetition of many things - just in case you forgot what you just read on the page before.

And then there was the world building - I couldn't understand the world building, such as it was. The MC had a map of the world scarred(?) onto her arm, and yet I failed to get a picture in my mind's eye of what this place felt like and looked like and where we were.

There's the mental institute, the icy snowscapes of Algid, Snow Beasts (there are Snow Lions, Tigers, and Bears - Oh my!) the Robbers with their robber Queen and their magically cloaked castles, balls and Duchesses and magical mirrors and prophecies and of course, the Big Bad - the evil Snow King who has placed all of Algid under an eternal winter. There's just so much going on and it's all squished into this one book and I wanted to love it, but I just couldn't.

There's some plot twists, but unfortunately by this stage of the story I didn't care anymore.

I'm not even sure if I can recommend this book to anyone. Perhaps some die-hard fairy tale retelling lovers? If you look at the reviews I first mentioned maybe I just missed the entire point of this book. Who knows? If you do pick this one up I hope you enjoy it a whole lot more than I did.
Read more »

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Timekeeper - Tara Sim

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.


I haven't done a #WoW in a while but this week I really wanted to feature an upcoming book that I have a lot of excitement for. I actually first saw it around this meme and it went straight on my TBR - the synopsis had me at "alternative Victorian world" and "the very fabric of time".

Tara Sim is a debut author and I cannot wait to dive into this world she has created.


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Expected publication: November 1st 2016
by Sky Pony Press

Timekeeper (Timekeeper #1)

by 

Young Adult Fantasy
Steampunk
GLBT


From Goodreads:

Two o’clock was missing.

In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.

But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever.

The stunning first novel in a new trilogy by debut author Tara Sim, Timekeeper is perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare and Victoria Schwab.
Timekeeper (Timekeeper, #1)
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Monday, 26 September 2016

Review: Assassin's Heart - Sarah Ahiers


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Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers
My Rating : {★★★☆☆}

Young Adult Fantasy Romance
Published February 2nd 2016 by HarperTeen
Published August 22nd 2016 by Harlequin Mira

Source: Harlequin Australia via NetGalley

In the kingdom of Lovero, nine rival Families of assassins lawfully kill people for a price. As a highly skilled member of one of these powerful clans, seventeen-year-old Lea Saldana has always trusted in the strength of her Family. Until she awakens to find them murdered and her home in flames. The Da Vias, the Saldanas’ biggest enemy, must be responsible—and Lea should have seen it coming. But her secret relationship with the Da Vias’ son, Val, has clouded her otherwise killer instinct—and given the Da Vias more reason than ever to take her Family down.

Racked with guilt and shattered over Val’s probable betrayal, Lea sets out to even the score, with her heart set on retaliation and only one thought clear in her mind: make the Da Vias pay.

I actually struggled with this one a lot until about 150 or 200 pages in, so that's why it's getting the three star rating. I did enjoy this and the world that Ahiers has created is a very interesting concept.

It is a fantasy Kingdom and our main character is a clipper: a member of one of the 9 Families that kill people in the name of the Goddess Safrella who then grants Resurrection into the next life. If this does not happen the person becomes a ghost and is left wandering the earth desperate to try find a body to inhabit (even though this won't work).

So there's legal assassinations, and that alone can spark a huge philosophical debate. If you don't mind this, or can get around this in your head then this book could be for you.

Then there's the concept of multiple gods and he followers and priests of these gods have actual power in this world. That's pretty cool.

The biggest problem that I had is that the beginning of this book was a huge info dump and the writing contained very little emotion that could connect me to the story. There were a lot of moments throughout that I actually stopped reading and thought to myself 'I really should have been more effected by that.' The world building itself isn't bad, but it just wasn't done in a way that allows it to unfold slowly and steadily to the reader. It's more of a - here you go! And yet sometimes I was still confused until things were better explained towards the third quarter of the book. So while I enjoyed the concept I feel it could have been executed differently.

I'm sorry this review isn't as coherent as I'd like but it's reflecting my feelings over this book. I'm a little unsatisfied, a little torn, a little disappointed.

It's a debut novel, and I feel as though this is a little too evident in the finished product. Will I carry on with the series? Yes, because it is unique and this book was promising. It had it's moments, good and bad.

Would I recommend it? It really depends on you and what you like. I'm not going to be shoving this one down your throat but I won't steer you away from it either.
Read more »

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Weekly Round Up #1

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This week I'm trying something new and linking both to The Sunday Post hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer and #IMWAYR hosted by Kathryn at the Book Date

What I read last week:

Throne of GlassAssassin's Heart - Goodreads
I managed to finish up a re-read of Throne of Glass early in the week and get my revised review out. It's amazing how my opinion had changed (for the better) after having read more of the series and then going back to the beginning and seeing just how clever it all was. 

Assassin's Heart was a NetGalley read and I have some mixed opinions about it. Review to follow soon.

What I am currently reading:


Crown of Midnight - GoodreadsStealing Snow - Goodreads
Book 2 of Throne of Glass is where I originally fell in love with this series and this is a re-read I've been looking forward to ever since I first closed the cover on this one.

Stealing Snow is my next ARC to open and I'm a little apprehensive about as it doesn't have great ratings on Goodreads at the moment. It's a fairy tale retelling based on a girl who has escaped a mental institution. It sounds like it should be good? 

Up next:

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I definitely have to complete this one soon as there's a Book Blog tour coming for this book in October and I'm one of the first stops! I love the cover and for me it's coming off as a younger version of Charmed. I'm really not sure how it will read, but it looks like a lot of fun. 

New Arrivals:




I'm so excited to receive an ARC of Caraval as I've been hearing great things about it and it's been on my TBR for a good portion of this year. It's only due to publish at the end of January next year but I won't be able to wait until closer to the time! 



Random News:

A little while ago I had a lot of fun doing an interview with Krystianna over at Downright Dystopian and she's featuring that interview today!

Check it out if you have a chance!


Downright Dystopian : Meet Diana! | Blogger Interviews


Hope everyone else is having a great week!
Read more »

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Blogger Babble: The Absolute Best Places to Read

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person 
in possession of a good book must be in want of a good place to read."

I can't remember where I heard that once, so I can't credit that quote but hopefully anyone reading it knows what book it is alluding to.

We all have our favourite places to read and these may suit you more than they may suit others. I for example, hate reading at the beach. There's too much sand, too much sun and too much water for my liking! In fact, I generally just prefer reading inside but I will venture outside with my book occasionally - you know, just to shake things up or when I feel like I might be getting too translucent.

So here's my top 5 favourite places to read. Do we have any in common?

1. In Bed




There's no better place for me to read than lying snuggled up under my covers. Of course, there's the inherent danger of falling asleep and dropping the book on your face but every book addict knows that there is always some form of potential hazard awaiting us. This is just one of the consequences of the book life.


2. In Front of a Fire



It's a cold winter's night, there's a fire crackling beside you and you can snuggle down with a blanket on your favourite chair and a good book. Hot beverage optional. 

3. In a Library




In a library, surrounded by books and the general smell of words printed on paper. As a kid I can vividly remember devouring entire books while in a library. Also - bonus points here - people are expected to stay QUIET and therefore can't bug you as much!

4. At the Breakfast Table




Because let's face it - if you didn't finish that unputdownable book the night before you are going to want to get straight back into it. And what better time than at breakfast? The kids are busy with their own food and you get a few more precious minutes with your fictional friends.

5. On a Plane/Public Transport




Not only does reading help pass the time of the journey, but you might also come across someone else who is reading what you are reading and strike up an interesting conversation. Or you might find someone who is reading your favourite book and hey, that's almost like the book is recommending that person!

Do you like reading in any of my top 5 places? Do you hate reading in any of my top 5 places? What's your favourite place to read?

Read more »

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Review: Throne of Glass - Sarah J. Maas


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Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

My Rating : {★★★★☆}

Young Adult Fantasy

Published August 7th 2012 by Bloomsbury USA Children's

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her ... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead ... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

I first picked up this series late last year and originally I rated this book quite low with a noncommittal 3 stars - I thought it was a weak start and I found I couldn't understand some of the character motivations and reactions. Since then I have read up to Queen of Shadows including all the novellas and I have to admit: I am head over heels completely in love with this series and Sarah J. Maas has been cemented as one of my new favourite authors of all time. When I finally finished reading all the material available to me I had the biggest book hangover I have had in a very long time. And now the 5th book in this series is out and I'm on a mission to re-read everything so that I can give Empire of Storms the devotion it deserves.

Having reread this book I've decided to completely revise my rating and my review because actually this book is amazing. Yes, it's still the weakest in the series but when you go back to this book knowing how things develop and what Sarah J. Maas has in mind for the plot you realise that there is just so much meticulous planning and foreshadowing and that this book is incredibly clever.

It is far from perfect but keep in mind that Sarah J. Maas first published this when she was sixteen and after many revisions we have this shining gem that we get to read today.

I love Celaena - she is narcissistic and rash, overconfident and arrogant but she is also resilient, brave, loyal, witty and charming. We aren't spending a good portion of this book with our MC being damaged or pitying her about being captured and forced to work as a slave in hell Endovier or waking up between her murdered parents at the age of 8. The reader just gets to get on with it because Celaena is an incredibly strong woman. I appreciate that.

You could rattle the stars," she whispered. "You could do anything, if only you dared. And deep down, you know it, too. That’s what scares you most.


The fantasy world is well developed and filled with evil, magic, mystery and action and let me promise you - it only gets better and better. There are handsome princes, big bads and exotic princesses and an overall feeling that there is something brewing that is far bigger than any of us may realise (there is!).

This book is fast paced and compelling and just so readable that you won't even realise how quickly you are flying through all 400+ pages.

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2)→
Read more »

Monday, 19 September 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Monday 19th September



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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. It's a weekly meme hosted by Kathryn at the Book Date and is a great chance to interact and of course to add to your TBR list (because it's never long enough!). 







I don't even know what happened to my week. Nope - no idea.

What I read:

**crickets**

What I am currently reading:

I've had to put Falling Kingdoms on hold until I catch up on my ARCs so this week I am concentrating on:

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Reading two books both with female assassin leads is a bit hectic, but I'm behind so I have to just carry on with them both at the same time!

Up next:


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2993370425500656


How does your round-up look this week? What are you reading?
Read more »

Friday, 16 September 2016

Blogger Babble: Reading Pet Peeves

Gosh it's Friday and I have barely posted any content on the blog this week. I've also barely had any reading time so that's also making life difficult. I hope to finish a book tonight and then get a lot of reading done over the weekend too so hopefully next week will be a better week for posts.

What I wanted to chat about today is something that every reader of books will connect with : Reading Pet Peeves.

Now, I think that I'm the type of reader that writers actually write for - the type that gets so immersed into the world and becomes so involved with it that everything matters. If a good writer is up to the task, I love to just disappear into the pages and not come up for air. I even manage to forget that I'm reading a book sometimes and just get carried away on the sea of words.

I have some serious issues with things that can disturb my reading experience. They are both external problems (like someone asking me what's so funny when I'm laughing out load at a scene in my current read and there is absolutely no way to explain the situation without going through the entire plot) or internal problem (something the author has done to jar me out of my reading experience) but I definitely have a long list of pet peeves. I'm going to list five of them for you today.

1. People assuming because you are reading you aren't actually doing anything


People! I'm READING! I'm actually INVOLVED in this book! I am NOT just sitting here doing nothing. Please refrain from talking to me, needing me for anything and commenting on my reactions!

2. Being on the Holds list at the Library



Yes, as a biliophile libraries are indeed one of my favourite places. But being on the holds list is definitely one of my pet peeves about reading. Waiting for someone to return a physical book can be excruciating as there is absolutely no guarantee that the list of people before you will even return the book on time - at least with eBooks this risk is mitigated. But the wait is still tormenting. 

3. Movies that don't play out like the book



Very, very rarely a change to the plot can actually benefit the movie (I'm looking at you - Horse Whisperer!), but really - if you're going to take too many liberties with these things you are NOT going to have the book fans on your side.

4. When you can predict the big twist



I am not very good at seeing what is coming - but when I can predict it before it happens, I really hate it. I don't want predictability in my books - I want the big revelations and all the gasps and sounds of surprise that come with them.

5. Poor editing


 

There's nothing that throws me out of a reading reverie faster - spelling and grammar issues that should have been edited out before publication. There's NO EXCUSE!

What are your reading pet peeves? Let me know in the comments below!
Read more »

Monday, 12 September 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Monday 12th September



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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. It's a weekly meme hosted by Kathryn at the Book Date and is a great chance to interact and of course to add to your TBR list (because it's never long enough!). 







Okay - So I failed to do one weekly round-up last week but I'm home now and in a much better place blogging-wise!

This has been a really strange reading week for me - I've just been struggling to get into anything and having received Empire of Storms on pre-order I really thought I would just dive into that and only come up for air at the end! I've actually kind of put that one on hold pending a re-read of the entire series because I think that's just what I need to enjoy it as much as I possibly can, so Throne of Glass here I come!

This week has mainly consisted of me getting a few snatches of reading time where I read Outlander and spending a LOT of time watching the US Open. It also hasn't helped that whatever spare time I've had in the daylight hours has been devoted to my daughter's new pony and horse riding.


What I read:

Here's my "read" shelf for the past two weeks:

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All of these reviews are done and posted so at least I managed to stay up to date somewhat! Even if the reading has been slow.

My favourite by far was the Amanda Bouchet - I loved this new Epic Fantasy world and even though this was categorised as an Adult Fantasy I think it would easily suit a New Adult or mature Young Adult reader. A really good read.

The Glittering Court was a bit of a disappointment after seeing Mead and Fantasy on the same novel I expected something completely different.

What I am currently reading:

My current reads shelf looks like this:

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But Empire of Storms is being placed on hold while I first get through:

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Up next:

In the midst of this I also need to get through some more ARCs that I have committed to for September!

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Thank goodness the US Open is finished now and I'll hopefully have some more time to bury my nose in a book!

How does your round-up look this week? What are you reading?
Read more »

Friday, 9 September 2016

Review: The Glittering Court - Richelle Mead


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The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead
My Rating : {★★★☆☆}

Young Adult Fantasy(?) Romance

Published April 5th 2016 by Razorbill
Source - Borrowed
Big and sweeping, spanning from the refined palaces of Osfrid to the gold dust and untamed forests of Adoria, The Glittering Court tells the story of Adelaide, an Osfridian countess who poses as her servant to escape an arranged marriage and start a new life in Adoria, the New World. But to do that, she must join the Glittering Court.

Both a school and a business venture, the Glittering Court is designed to transform impoverished girls into upper-class ladies who appear destined for powerful and wealthy marriages in the New World. Adelaide naturally excels in her training, and even makes a few friends: the fiery former laundress Tamsin and the beautiful Sirminican refugee Mira. She manages to keep her true identity hidden from all but one: the intriguing Cedric Thorn, son of the wealthy proprietor of the Glittering Court.

When Adelaide discovers that Cedric is hiding a dangerous secret of his own, together they hatch a scheme to make the best of Adelaide’s deception. Complications soon arise—first as they cross the treacherous seas from Osfrid to Adoria, and then when Adelaide catches the attention of a powerful governor.

But no complication will prove quite as daunting as the potent attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric. An attraction that, if acted on, would scandalize the Glittering Court and make them both outcasts in wild, vastly uncharted lands…

Well, I'm not even sure what to rate this. It's been 4 days since I closed this one and I've thought about it a few times and I think I just have to stay with the noncommittal 3 star rating....


Firstly, this book is by one of my favourite authors. Richelle Mead made it onto my favourite author's list since reading Vampire Academy and I have devoured a lot of her books since then, but then came Soundless... And that was a bit of a flop for me. It wasn't terrible, but it definitely wasn't up to my expectations of Mead and I think this book is suffering from the very same issues. When I think of Richelle Mead I think of well developed, total kick-ass heroines; amazing world building where the reader is enveloped in a richly crafted world; conflict and tension that makes the book unputdownable. Unfortunately this book didn't have any of that for me.

I specifically remember at one point about 40% through the book where a tragedy hit and I really wasn't as upset about it as I should have been. I actually sat up and wondered - Did Richelle Mead actually write this? I can clearly remember her books both making me laugh out loud and moving me to tears. Where is that author I know and love?

Secondly, this book is classified as a fantasy. Soundless was also classified as a fantasy and almost had nothing to see it classified as such, but in the final few pages actually did end up being a fantasy novel (sort of). This book however had zero fantasy elements. It had a lot of deus ex machina, but that doesn't make it a fantasy novel.

What disappointed me the most was that Mead started to touch on some really important topics and then.... just went nowhere with them.

Religious Persecution
Colonisation
Feminism
Racial Discrimination

But regardless of the above points, there was something about this book - something so readable and compelling that made me want to read more. It was a long book, but a lot happened in the 400+ pages. The mix of Elizabethan London and the American Frontier really worked for me and I enjoyed those elements but found that the world building just fell short. The attempt at creating tension using politics was a bit of a fail, but maybe this will work out in the companion books? I'm not sure.

I'm hoping that the next book will be about Mira - she was probably my favourite character of this entire book.
Read more »