Sunday, 30 November 2014

Review || Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

Born Wicked (The Cahill Witch Chronicles #1) by Jessica Spotswood ★★☆☆☆
Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word... especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.

I kept setting this book down because it just wasn't really holding my interest. When I thought to pick it up again, I usually breezed through 100 pages or so before setting it down again. 

Not that it was a bad book, but it just wasn't anything super exciting. The premise is really interesting and the world becomes more complex as things get going, but overall things faltered because of mediocre execution.

Cate is an interesting narrator, but she holds up the progression of the story for chapters at a time because of her stubbornness and unwillingness to yield to change. It becomes exhausting at times. And there's a little too much, "everyone knows something you don't know" going on here for my tastes. I don't mind a good mystery, teasing out the unknown from the narrative. But Cate throws up roadblock after roadblock that it's almost impossible to get at those hidden details until they're basically right on top of you.

There are some interesting plot threads that have yet to be tied up, but I'm not sure if I actually want to go through the trouble of reading the next two books in the trilogy or if I'd rather just seek out spoilers on the internet.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Review || Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey

Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey ★★★☆☆
Lenzi hears voices and has visions - gravestones, floods, a boy with steel gray eyes. Her boyfriend, Zak, can't help, and everything keeps getting louder and more intense. Then Lenzi meets Alden, the boy from her dreams, who reveals that she's a reincarnated Speaker - someone who can talk to and help lost souls - and that he has been her Protector for centuries.

Now Lenzi must choose between her life with Zak and the life she is destined to lead with Alden. But time is running out: a malevolent spirit is out to destroy Lenzi, and he will kill her if she doesn't make a decision soon.

3 stars is absolutely too generous for this book, objectively.

The writing, plot and characters are nothing special or memorable. It does not do anything unexpected. It has a huge number of extremely problematic moments.


Subjectively, I gobbled this book up. Light, fluffy and mostly mindless, it was not only exactly what I was in the mood for at the time, but features one of my favourite tropes of all time.

If your blurb goes anything like this, "Character A sworn to protect Character B, but Character B can't remember their past lives together." I am 110% down for your book.

It's an affliction.

I'm trash.

And this book is kind of trashy too. But whatever. I'm under no illusions about it. It's ridiculous, I'm ridiculous, and I had a good few hours reading it.

The end!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Review || The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan ★☆☆☆☆
Jake Marlowe is the last werewolf. Now just over 200 years old, Jake has an insatiable appreciation for good scotch, books, and the pleasures of the flesh, with a voracious libido and a hunger for meat that drives him crazy each full moon. Although he is physically healthy, Jake has slipped into a deep existential crisis, considering taking his own life and ending a legend that has lived for thousands of years. But there are two dangerous groups--one new, one ancient--with reasons of their own for wanting Jake very much alive.

1.5 stars?

Basically, my reaction to the whole thing can be summed up with this gif:

Because really. Now, I get that Jake not being a likeable narrator is 100% the point. And that's not even what I minded about him. It was more that I don't think Jake's a relateable narrator if you're not male.

A lot of people slag off on this book because it's "literary fiction about werewolves". And by that, they take issue with the pretentious writing. Which, I'll give them, because at first I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to get past it. I did, though, because you adapt to it.

But if you're going to criticize this book for being "literary", let's do it because it falls down all the same trappings: horrible representation and characterization of women, tortured male angsting--oh sorry, brooding, sex and drink and drugs just don't do it for me, recycled familial drama. And most bizarrely, insta-love. Which, I'll be honest, I expect to some degree in YA, so it seemed jarringly out of place here.

I'll admit, my interest was peaked with the addition of Tallula, but I mostly spent the next few chapters wishing we were telling her story instead of Jake's. But the way the book ended doesn't make me want to read on despite this. Mostly because I'd want her story, but as told by someone else.

But whatever. I read it. I didn't particularly enjoy it for any considerable stretch. And now it'll go in the 'to donate' pile. There it is. (I'll admit, this was a cover buy anyway and I mostly picked it up to read to see if it was worth keeping around. And it wasn't. So.)

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Review || To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han ★★★☆☆
Lara Jean keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her.

They aren't love letters that anyone else wrote for her, these are ones she's written. One for every boy she's ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she can pour out her heart and soul and say all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly Lara Jean's love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

This book is pretty much what it says on the tin: a cute contemporary read.

It doesn't do anything unexpected and it isn't really a novel with much depth. The romantic angle the book takes isn't exactly what you're anticipating at the start, but from there it becomes fairly conventional.

One of the highlights is Lara Jean's relationship with her family members. There's a strong bond of sisterhood--and the novel spends time looking at how distance changes that relationship. Lara Jean's father is also fairly present and involved in the goings on of his daughters, which is nice to see.

I also appreciated Han's intentional choice to make Lara Jean Korean American. I'm a huge supporter of more diversity in books.

I didn't mind the "open" ending here as I know some people did. Though, I've heard this is going to be a duology and I'm not sure how I feel about that. While the ending here didn't necessarily offer any definite conclusions, I liked how things were sort of left up to the reader. We'll see how book 2 goes, I suppose.

That said, I would've liked to have had more complexity overall in the book. I expected Lara Jean's letters to be longer, and for more time to be devoted to reading them and understanding why she'd written them. There were also a number of common high school drama themes the story touched on, but never really did much about in the end.

Still. If you need a feel good book that doesn't require effort to read, I'd pick this up. It was cute, fluffy and perfect for my mood at the time.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Review || Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown ★★★★☆
The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity's last hope.

Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it's all a lie. That Mars has been habitable - and inhabited - for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.

Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield - and Darrow isn't the only student with an agenda.

The first thing that comes to mind when I reflect upon this book is: ambitious.

This book (and from how things are shaping up--the entire series) is incredibly ambitious. This is Brown's debut novel as well, which sort of adds to my awe of the whole thing.

Though things sort of start off in the predictable "society is keeping secrets from you to keep you under control" vein, Brown brings his own twists on the trope and the result is a rollercoaster of a tale.

The set up of the society isn't particularly unique--ruling class superiority and then others divided by profession through to the bottom of the caste system. But this book is only marginally about that side of things. And I will say that I'm looking forward to seeing it get fleshed out in future instalments.

Darrow, on the surface, seems to be an unremarkable character. But as he undergoes change throughout the course of the book--well, I wouldn't exactly say that I ever fully identified with him. But I understood him. And I sure as hell was rooting for him.

I've seen this book classified as YA--which I understand given the ages of the characters. But I mostly disagree with that classification. Brown does not pull his punches here and the story does not hold anything back. Darrow gets thrown into a war (albeit, not a "real" one as it's pitched as "on-the-job training" for the school) and war is a brutal, savage thing.

Brown also does an exceptional job of keeping the stakes high. No one is safe, not truly, and there were a number of surprising character deaths. There was at least one character that made me think, "Did they really have to die?" And then I realized the answer was, "Yes." Not just because of the consequences for the story (and character relationships) but because really, why should I have expected them to be safe and exempt from death? Just because they were a named character who I had time to get a bit attached to... it made their death that much harder.

The whole book felt like that. Rough. Brown puts his characters through hell and back. And it's remarkable to see how they respond.

Now, a good portion of this book relies on military style strategics. There is a lot of time devoted to this. Keeping track of all the players, weighing the options, battles and retreats. So if that isn't your style, you might have a hard time with this book.

That said, it's all written in such a way that is very comprehensible. While Brown doesn't skimp on the details, he also doesn't bog you down in unnecessary technical minutiae. And the strategies his characters use are fascinatingly desperate at times.

Overall, this book far exceeded my expectations and I enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than I thought I was going to. I cannot wait for the sequel in January!