Tag Archives: Book Review

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland #1)

Finished on 10th April, 2017 (Re-Read)

Author: Catherynne M. Valente

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5 Stars

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Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

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Anyone who knows me well will likely be aware that Fairyland is my favourite series of all time; period. Which is saying something because I’ve read and loved a heck of a lot of books. Those who know me well will also likely have had me shove this book in their face – multiple times.

Fairyland is the childhood series I wish I had. I pitch it as Fairy Realm (by Emily Rodda) cross Narnia – the issue is, not many people have read the Fairy Realm series.

The story is universal; it is something that most people can enjoy, even if they don’t usually read middle grade.

Fairyland features fantastic friendships, complex characters, a morally ambiguous villain (who owns a very fine hat), adventure, adroableness, a Wyverary – that is, a wyvern (essentially a dragon) cross Library – and many other whimsical, magical, amazing things and people. (Look out for the key and the green smoking jacket; though inanimate, they are characters in their own right).

The story is so imaginative and vibrant, the writing is beautiful (not at all juvenile) and the characters are well-developed and loveable. The author takes a lot of stereotypes and spins them on their head. There is also a lot of book lover appreciation.

Even though it’s the first of a five book series, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making has a complete arc in itself and could be read as a standalone (but please don’t as the rest of the series is just as wonderful, if not more).

If you like audio books or are thinking of getting into audio books, I 100% recommend Fairyland as I actually prefer the audio format. Not only are the audios themselves amazing but the style of the books are such that there is a narrator telling you the story, which makes for a perfect audiobook. Additionally, the author narrates 3/5 of the series, which is amazing.

Overall, Fairyland is a fun read, though it does get slightly dark. For me, it was even more fantastic the second time round.

If you need further persuasion, it is blurbed by both Neil Gaiman and Holly Black.

 

Let’s Discuss!

Have you read any of the Fairyland series?

Are you planning to? Have I convinced you?

If so, please let me know! Thoughts, feelings, rants, raves…

I would love to discuss with you 😉

Caraval (Caraval #1)

Read on 20th February, 2017

Author: Stephanie Garber

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3.75 Stars

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Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems.

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.

When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.

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Having heard really mixed reviews (mostly of the “meh” connotation) I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this one.

The writing was great, the world was interesting and overall it was fairly entertaining. I read it in one sitting.

That said, I did have some issues.

I really wasn’t a fan of the characters.

Scarlet grew on me and I actually ended up liking her, Julian was kind of “meh” but I liked him well enough and the little we knew about Legend interested me.

As for everyone else… not really a fan. I understand that dislike for the Governor and the Count is expected but I really disliked Tella; I found her to be selfish and not at all a good sister. I felt that, even though she was the younger sibling, she patronised Scarlet and looked down upon her because she was cautious. I took issue with a lot of her actions and something about her just rubbed me the wrong way.

The plot was interesting and had several unexpected twists. That said, I felt like it romanticised death and suicide, using it as a plot device, which is not cool. There were several instances where it felt unnecessary and I just feel like it wasn’t dealt with well or in a sensitive way at all.

Here’s a link to a good thread on the topic: https://twitter.com/piratesnpixdust/s… However, she does go into spoilers.

Trigger warnings for suicide and parental abuse.

While it was an okay read and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone, I am intrigued enough to continue with the series.

Let’s Discuss!

Have you read Caraval? If so, what were your thoughts? There seems to be a lot of mixed opinions around this one.

I read Caraval for The Ya Room‘s February book of the month. Are any other fellow Melbournians coming to the discussion next week?

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5)

Read from 3-14th January, 2017

Author: J. K. Rowling

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5 Stars

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Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His best friends Ron and Hermione have been very secretive all summer and he is desperate to get back to school and find out what has been going on. However, what Harry discovers is far more devastating than he could ever have expected…

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I’ve been rereading the Harry Potter books for some time now, but this is the first instalment where my thoughts are extensive enough to warrant a review. That said, please forgive the fact that there are no prior reviews on these books and that I am instead jumping in at number five.

Many people say that this instalment is their least favourite of the series, but I didn’t find that at all – perhaps because I listened to the audiobook rather than reading a physical copy. At any rate, I loved this book.

Professor McGonagall and Ginny Weasley completely stole the show with their vibrant personalities and high levels of sass. Luna, Hermione, Neville, the twins and Tonks were also fantastic.

Umbridge has always been a fantastic love-to-hate villain and she certainly did not disappoint. There was also an interesting detail about her that I had forgotten until rereading which I quite liked. She was completely horrible and cruel, and it was a delight seeing her in disarray when the Weasley twins were up to mischief.

Harry really frustrated me, but I actually think that this was a good thing. Harry’s temper was quick and destructive (his friends were even scared of him at times), he didn’t appreciate the people around him, he was selfish, and he was rash. However, some of those qualities (such as the temper) I believe may have been (at least to some degree) appropriated from Voldemort. It also made him flawed and somewhat more relatable. It will be interesting to see his character development through the next few novels – you can already start to see it at the end of Order of the Pheonix in his interaction with Luna.

I really didn’t like Cho but I understand that she was needed to help Harry grow as a character. Personally, I found her to be selfish, extremely shallow and rather superficial.

Dumbledore was interesting. For the majority of the novel, I, like Harry, was frustrated at and disappointed in Dumbledore, who had been like a father figure to Harry in his time at Hogwarts to date. It had been such a long time since I’d read “Order of the Phoenix” that I’d entirely forgotten his motivations – but Rowling did a fantastic job at portraying them in the reveal at the end, painting Dumbledore as flawed, vulnerable and… old. That conversation was perhaps one of my favourite scenes in the novel.

Overall, it was a fantastic read with brilliant characters, mixing entertaining times with frustrating ones.

If you are struggling to get through, I do thoroughly recommend listening to the audiobook as I feel it would help out significantly. However, that is coming from someone who loves audiobooks and what works for me may not work for you.

Let’s Discuss!

Have you read Harry Potter? Are you one of the few who haven’t?

What’s your favourite instalment? Least favourite?

Favourite character?

Any unpopular opinions?

Come chat with me! I love to discussions.

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2)

Note: Though I have done my best to keep it spoiler-free, this review may contain mild spoilers for A Court of Thorns and Roses (Book 1; sometimes referred to as ACOTAR). See my ACOTAR review here.

Read on 1st June, 2016

Author: Sarah J. Maas

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5 Stars

Quite possibly the best of Sarah’s novels so far (equal to if not slightly exceeding Queen of Shadows),  A Court of Mist and Fury (sometimes referred to as ACOMAF) is an absolutely fantastic, page-turning read with intriguing, complex characters and brilliant writing.

Note: I would like to mention that this book isn’t necessarily for a younger audience as it contains a substantial amount of sex scenes. They’re not that explicit, but enough that it’s quite obvious as to what’s going on.

If you’re comfortable with that and this book sounds interesting to you (read: fae, magic, fight scenes, hot guys and major character development), I sincerely suggest that you check it out. If not, that’s fine too.

A Court of Mist and Fury is a very character-driven narrative. Yes, there is an interesting plot and the novel is jam-packed with journeys, adventures and all that awesome stuff, but at the end of the day I feel like it is about personal growth, friendships and the impact of people on our lives as we ourselves grow and change.

A Court of Mist and Fury is a celebration of life, a recognition of the heavy toll sacrifice often leaves on our hearts and minds (subtly discussing post-traumatic stress disorders and depression), and also plays with the idea of  what it means to have true freedom.

It is a commentary on love and relationships (both platonic and romantic) – highlighting unhealthy relationships by juxtaposing them with ones based on mutual trust and respect, while realistically displaying how one can be trapped and not even realise that they are in an unhealthy relationship due to not knowing anything else. Emotional manipulation, control issues and possibly even domestic violence are all issues which are hinted at. Corruption, dreams, prejudice and mistreatment are all prominent themes in the novel.

Feyre undergoes massive character development throughout this story. She grows into herself as she is forced to adapt to new situations and her priorities change. Feyre forms unlikely friendships as we are introduced to a whole new cast of rich, vibrant, haunted characters and it is with their help that she is able to begin healing from the traumatic experiences she’s been through. Feyre’s journey from an empty husk who can barely function to acceptance, confidence and assurance within herself and those around her is a very well-crafted and believable depiction.

Although we barely get a glimpse into Rhysand’s character in A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury features him heavily – and I enjoyed every second of it. A lot of his background is revealed, allowing readers to see past his masks and understand his actions and motivations. Be warned: your heart will bleed (and swoon). Rhys is a great big ball of contradictions, raw vulnerabilities and darkness. To say the least, he quickly became my favourite character. Also, while I love Tamilin and Feyre’s relationship in the first book and appreciate how he helped shape her character, I now wholeheartedly ship her with Rhys (a seemingly common theme within Sarah’s books). Quite a few key scenes in A Court of Thorns and Roses are shed new light as we get to see his perspective on them.

Feyre and Rhysand’s relationship – their is full of banter, tension, friendship, respect and trust. They heal each other. Their “note passing” was adorable, made me grin every time.

Without saying too much in fear of spoilers, Rhysand’s Inner Circle – Mor, Cassian, Azriel and Amren – are all absolutely fantastic, amazing, wonderful, complicated characters which I love with a passion. Their friendship and loyalty to each other is amazing, and they are each such unique and distinct characters. I love how Sarah has reflected their unity and cohesion, their interactions and comradely – it is apparent how much they care for each other. I especially love Mor and Azriel’s relationship and would love to see them come together – they would make an adorable couple.

Honourable mentions to Nesta, Elain and Lucien, whom I love dearly.

At around 630 pages and approximately a third larger than the first book, A Court of Mist and Fury is a decently long book – though I would gladly soak up another 600 pages (I’m at the point where I would greedily read anything Sarah puts out) – but it doesn’t drag at all. Character development aside, so much happens in this book – adventures, world building, tension, fight scenes, dancing… Every moment I was entranced; I had no wish to put it down (which resulted in essentially no homework completed, lack of sleep and a highly unproductive school day, despite the fact that I had no less than four tests coming up within the next week).

If you want to get into Sarah’s writing, but Throne of Glass seems too daunting (those books are massive) and you don’t mind a bit of mature content then I would definitely suggest starting with these books.

Essentially, this book is absolutely fantastic and if you’re even slightly inclined to pick it up, please do. A Court of Mist and Fury is quite possibly the best book I’ve read so far this year and I highly recommend it.

Let’s Discuss!

Please come chat with me if you’ve read this as I have a ton of spoiler-y thoughts to discuss and would love to hear your thoughts. What was your favourite part? Who do you ship? Have you read any of Sarah’s Throne of Glass books? Thoughts?

The Assassin’s Curse (The Assassin’s Curse #1)

Read from 22-24th June, 2015

Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke

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5 Stars

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Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to another pirate clan. But that only prompts the scorned clan to send an assassin after her. When Ananna faces him down one night, armed with magic she doesn’t really know how to use, she accidentally activates a curse binding them together.

To break the spell, Ananna and the assassin must complete three impossible tasks–all while grappling with evil wizards, floating islands, haughty manticores, runaway nobility, strange magic…and the growing romantic tension between them.

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A fun, easy read filled with magic, adventure, pirates, assassins and a whole lot of sass, The Assassin’s Curse is a fantastic story and exactly what I was looking for. I went in with pretty high expectations, which (thankfully) were met.

The characters in this story are absolutely brilliant.

Ananna (whose name I have no idea how to say, because I’m pretty sure that it is not supposed to rhyme with “banana”), our protagonist, is strong, capable, relatable and does not take any nonsense from anyone.

The Assassin (whose name I won’t reveal due to minor spoilers) is really cool. He is flawed and not, in fact, all-powerful –there are several times in which he is the one who has to be saved. He’s stubborn and kind of thick-headed, but we learn to love him nonetheless. His sweet side (yes, he has one!) is revealed in his own gruff manner and some of the things he says are guaranteed to make you go “aww” (while others will make you want to bash your head into a wall, but I digress).

Although a minor character, Marjani is super awesome. A pirate queen, she is intelligent, confident and commandeers respect.

The magic of this world is really interesting as it is based on the elements, with the addition of blood magic. Only “touched” people can use magic, but to varying degrees and often specializing in a specific element. However, there are also wizards, instances of mixed elements and curses, which add a further later into the system. Although magic is rather prominent in The Assassin’s Curse, the mechanics of it are rather vague so I am hopeful that we are able to learn a whole lot more in The Pirate’s Wish (the second and final installment).

My one criticism of The Assassin’s Curse would have to be that the synopsis is somewhat misleading; The three impossible tasks are revealed at the tail end of the novel, and none of them completed by the conclusion (which is perfectly understandable, but should not be included in the synopsis).

Unfortunately, the publishing company behind this duology has shut down, so physical copies are practically impossible to find. However, the ebooks are still available, which is something at least.

I highly recommend The Assassin’s Curse as it is a light hearted, brilliant read that will appeal to fans of Tamora Pierce (that woman is queen), fantasy, magic, pirates and strong female characters.

The Evil We Love (Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy #5)

Read on 16th June, 2015

Authors: Cassandra Clare & Robin Wasserman

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4.5 Stars

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All evil starts somewhere, and Simon Lewis learns how the Circle—led by Valentine Morgenstern—began.

The Shadowhunter Academy has only just reopened following the disastrous rise of the Circle. Now the faculty can finally admit to what happened when Valentine was a student.

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I wouldn’t say that The Evil We Love is my favourite installment of the series, but I did still really enjoy it.

Up until now, we have never really meet Michael Wayland, and I absolutely love him!

We also got to understand more about Robert Lightwood, and I now despise him with all my being as opposed to merely hating his guts.
It was interesting to learn some of the dynamics of the Circle and I especially enjoyed the relationship between Valentine and Jocelyn. Side Note: I really hope that the graphic novels are still coming but I haven’t heard anything so I’m not sure what’s going on there.

Once again, I found myself highlighting and bookmarking multiple passages in this book. While there were some frustrating elements and scenes, they were deliberate and I commend Cassie for doing such a good job of it. The Evil We Love is another great read for fans of the Shadowhunter chronicles.

P. S: I really like Julie.

All The Bright Places

Read from 13-14th June, 2015

Author: Jennifer Niven

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5 Stars

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The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning!
 
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

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I am so emotionally drained right now it’s not even funny…

All The Bright Places had me tearing up, laughing and full-out crying. I don’t usually dog-ear pages, but…

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… See that? Those document all the times where I laughed, cried, or just read something that I really, really liked.

At first, I wasn’t sure that I would be able to connect with the characters – but that fear was thankfully squashed reasonably early on in the story.

I loved how unique both Finch and Violet were and that their voices were distinct from one another as the story was told from a dual point of view. I also appreciated how their characters had such depth to them – going beyond the surface level and how everyone else might see them or expect them to be. Also, Violet loves to read.

Most of all, I loved (I really need to stop repeating that word… oh well) how Violet and Finch challenged each other to be better versions of themselves. From strangers to friends to something more, it was apparent that their relationship helped both characters grow in themselves and in each other. It was believable and heartwarming and heartbreaking.

Aside from a rare few, (I’m looking at you Roamer, Mr. Finch) I either loved or somewhat liked all of the characters.

There was a strong family aspect to this book, which I really appreciated and – I’m sure many others would agree – is something that is extremely lacking in YA.

I adored the wanderings! They were so fun and awesome and unique. I loved how both Finch and Violet went about it and it was just so fun! (One of the first dog ears is a shout out to book fans everywhere). Even better, these are all actual places that exist in the world (i.e. Indiana).

Reading the acknowledgements, I found out that All The Bright Places is actually a rather personal story and it comes from some of Jennifer’s own experiences, which definitely shows.

“I wanted to write something edgy.
I wanted to write something contemporary.
I wanted to write something though, hard, sad, but fun.”

Congratulations Jennifer, you did just that.

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All The Bright Places is June’s book pick for The Book Club of the Opinionated Hufflepuffs.