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September 19, 2016

Review: The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

Title: The Unexpected Everything
Author: Morgan Matson 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 3rd, 2016
Genre(s): Young Adult 
Source: Borrowed
Pages: 519
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Andie had it all planned out. 
When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future.

Important internship? Check.

Amazing friends? Check.

Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks).
But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life.

Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected. 
And where’s the fun in that?

Having previously read most of (truth be told, all except for one) Morgan Matson book, I knew I had to pick this one up when I saw it laying on my sister's table. I can happily say I'm a big fan of Matson's books, and they have successfully never failed to disappoint me. Its summer, and I think it was perfect for me to pick a book for this season. Andie, the main character of this book, was an interesting character who we could inevitably see grow and develop from the start to the end of the story. To start with, her summer was going to be a great experience for her as she got the chance to intern at the place she's always wanted. She has a group of friends that any person could wish for, and her love relationship seems to be relaxed with no strings attached. Everything is exactly as how Andie wants it to be, and she's happy with the direction her life is taking. 

Here's the twist, something happens that results in Andie's so called perfect plans to be changed. The story grows from here on. Andie has to adjust to the current situation, and tries to make the best of it. Personally for me, the story was interesting, chill, but not so much a page turner. At some point I felt like a few parts were prolonged unnecessarily, and it would have been better off reduced. The middle of the book was the slowest for me, but I was glad it started to pick up its pace again with more drama and unexpected events towards the end of the book. 

Overall, I wouldn't say this was my favourite Morgan Matson book by far. I don't think it was very memorable. Just a book that was enjoyable during the time, and then to be forgotten later on. If you're looking for a chill book to read on a summer day, I would recommend The Unexpected Everything.

September 16, 2016

Review: Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas

Title: Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: September 6th, 2016
Genre(s): High fantasy, Young Adult
Source: Bought
Pages: 693

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The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don't.

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.
Aelin's journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down? 

It's been nine days since Empire of Storms came out and eight days since I tore through that 700 page monstrosity and finished it in one sitting. My instinct was to rate this book five stars. When I finished, my heart was so, so full. Full of love for these characters and where this story has taken them. But I've more or less calmed down now to be a little more objective than I was then.

There are many more POVs in Empire of Storms (though one is quite notably absent), and I think at this point of the war against Perrington, it's incredibly important. Early on, in EoS, it is established that Aelin cannot do this on her own, that she needs allies. EoS is all about securing those allies, moving them into place like pieces on a chessboard, for the final showdown.

I love how Sarah's books have a wealth of female characters, all strong in their diverse way. Lysandra, Elide and Manon, in particular, were three characters that got a lot more page time than in previous book and I loved every last second of it.

Hands down, my favourite part of the book was Manon and her development. In Heir of Fire, she was someone who gave zero shits about anyone but her Thirteen. Watching her retain her integrity and ferocity, while still change and set herself apart from the witches in EoS was amazing. I need more Celaena and Manon scenes now until the end of time. There were scenes between Manon and Aelin that I had been waiting for ever since I knew Manon and I am SO glad Sarah delivered.

Lysandraaaaaaaa. My heart hurt for her so much. All her love for her squad shows in the way she is the first to fight for them, never questioning, never asking for praise.  It's so hard for her to say the words, to openly express affection for her friends or a certain Fae who MAY OR MAY NOT be in stupid love with her, but her actions scream her feelings out loud. There is a scene involving a sea dragon that had me D E A D. There is no one more loyal to Aelin (except possibly Rowan) than Lysandra and I love her heart, her soul, her fire for how unequivocal her love is.

Elide played a more central role this book. Elide is set apart from the other books in that she is very....human, and doesn't have the physical strength that the others do? Aelin is Fae, Manon is a witch, Lysandra is a shapeshifter. But Elide comes from a history of being caged and crippled, and her strength is very much self-driven. And without spoiling anything CAN I JUST SAY SHE HAS A SHIP THAT IS QUITE POSSIBLY MY FAVOURITE SHIP OF THE SERIES. Just. Omg. I am a sucker for hate-to-love, but I also have an incredibly high bar for it; it's really hard to do well in my opinion, but this ship hit all the right buttons and checked all the boxes off when it comes to a hate-to-love that you can't help but desperately root for with all your rutting heart.

Need. Fanart. Now. Please. I am not the artistic one in the fandom I just read the books and scream over ~scenes~.


This book had an abundance of the Fae males: Lorcan, Rowan, and a couple of others whose names I will not reveal because spoilers. Rowan, in particular came into his own. I liked that he had more of his own role in the book. I don't particularly think he's a stunning character, sorry. I enjoyed the inclusion of the new Fae in the plot. Like I said, this book is very much about characters figuring out allegiances, and there were defnitely some warm squad moments. Don't you love it when a group of people with different agendas are THROWN together and along the way and over journeys they fight for each other and become a FAMILY and SQUAD and

I need a moment.

But this is sort of where my objective book-blogger-reviewing brain will talk about things I didn't like.  I'm reaaaaal sick of the hot-muscular-testosterone-fuelled-possessive-territorial Fae trope. It is not appealing, especially when Fae after Fae is like that. It is antiquated and yuck and pls no. Yeah, there were some personality differences between the Fae characters, but they were definitely the least fleshed out characters of the book. In this vein, I am slowly beginning to get a little queasy when it comes to SJM romance. She does the build up very well (see: Elide x Lorcan), but when it comes down to it, the sex is all fire and ash and magic and what not, and just....happening and I don't get why because um, why are they so horny when they're fighting for their lives?? There was also a Manon romance that I seriously questioned. Wtf you do not have to pair each and every main character in a book with someone. There were definitely parts of the book had that me rolling my eyes. I've noticed this shift in SJM's romance writing style post-Heir of Fire (around when she published ACOTAR).

I also think the complete exclusion of Chaol from the book was a mistake. I'm sure he'll return in the final installment, but the absence of his story was very glaring, and probably my biggest problem with the book. He isn't my favourite character by a long shot, but phasing him out was not natural and I'm sort of baffled at how he's barely mentioned in the book.

And finally, the ending of the book was one complete cliché. Yes, Aelin was the "lock", WHAT a surprise. Actually, it was a surprise, because I can't believe that this stereotype is being milked even now. Ruin and Rising, anyone? I am so over this unoriginal shit. -1 star for you.

My love for this book was very character based. The actions that they took, their motivations, the way the book ended had me on the edge of my seat because I was terrified for these people that had come together in the strangest of ways, that were willing to do whatever it took to make it out alive. But there were some pretty questionable plot decisions being made and I cannot believe that I am saying this, but the romance was my least favourite part of the book, overall. Le sigh.

Still. I cannot believe I have to wait a whole year for the next book.

September 03, 2016

Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Title: The Raven Boys
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: September 18th, 2012
Genre(s): Paranormal
Source: Bought
Pages: 408
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Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them--until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can't entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn't believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.

The Raven Boys brought with it a ton of hype, and many, many expectations. I bought my copy several years ago and have made more many attempts to start and finish it than I care to admit. I’ve seen so many people love it, analyze it, re-read it and wait for its sequels that many years ago, I made up my mind to also do that and join the movement.

I have never wanted to love a book as much as I have wanted to love The Raven Boys.

Reviews of the book warned me that this book would be slow and dreamy. I think I have never been ready for a book that was slow and dreamy. If I wanted slow, I'd go for a fantasy. If I wanted dreamy, I'd go for a contemporary. The Raven Boys is something else altogether, something I have quite yet not been able to identify with or understand, and recognize and get used to the flow of, hence all my failed attempts at finishing the book. If I had to pick a genre, it veered a little too close to magical realism for me, a genre I intensely dislike.

But here we are. I have completed the book, and it only took me a couple of days. Admittedly, not a one-sit read, but this is someone who thought she’d never get past chapter five.

Stiefvater’s prose is stunning. She is cemented up there with Zusak, with Austen and Montgomery and Orwell as one of my favourite writers. I had an inkling of this, since I follow her on Tumblr, and even the answers to the questions she gets are a delight to read. She has a way with words, a way of spinning up a careful, gentle, atmosphere where you just know that you are on the brink of something wonderful and beautiful. That’s how I felt the whole time I read the book. That’s what kept me going. The dialogue got very frustrating at points though, when I felt like characters were being deliberately mysterious for plot reasons. I dearly hope this won’t continue.

Henrietta, where our characters live, doesn’t seem to exist in our time, or anytime. It is home to Blue, the protagonist, and the titular Raven Boys. Gansey. Ronan. Adam. Noah. I fell in love with the boys almost immediately--Ronan and Adam especially. I wish Ronan had been explored in greater detail (though I am told that the sequel does precisely this which makes me happy). Adam’s and Gansey’s dynamic is, I suppose the main relationship that is focussed on. Gansey’s hero complex sort of annoyed me occasionally, as did Noah’s weirdness (though that is explained later). My largest struggle was understanding why Gansey wanted to find Glendower. We are given a weak explanation eventually, but that did not satisfy me. This was problematic, because, well, that’s largely what the book is about. I did not get why he was no invested in Glendower, nor why all the other boys were okay with putting their lives on hold for this quest.

Blue is deliberately quirky and refreshingly honest. I enjoyed how sensible and indignant she was and her dynamic with Adam and Gansey was very interesting. I vaguely know where this is headed because furtive Tumblr spoilers but I’m definitely looking forward to watching them continue to interact in the sequel. She has spiky hair and a spiky personality and I simply want to follow her into any book.

The Raven Boys is very much a character driven novel. There is a slow, sluggish plot and beautiful, atmospheric writing . But undoubtedly the focus of this novel, the characters are complex and layered and wondrous and you just know, by reading this book, that there is so much left to explore in every relationship. That we are just getting started.

August 31, 2016

Review: These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas

Title: These Vicious Masks
Author: Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: February 9th, 2016
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Paranormal
Source: Library
Pages: 298
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England, 1882. Evelyn is bored with society and its expectations. So when her beloved sister, Rose, mysteriously vanishes, she ignores her parents and travels to London to find her, accompanied by the dashing Mr. Kent. But they’re not the only ones looking for Rose. The reclusive, young gentleman Sebastian Braddock is also searching for her, claiming that both sisters have special healing powers. Evelyn is convinced that Sebastian must be mad, until she discovers that his strange tales of extraordinary people are true—and that her sister is in graver danger than she feared.

I enjoyed this book very much. Evelyn's voice instantly won me over. She was quick, witty and had zero patience for the frivolities of the society her mother relentlessly forced on to her--which, yeah isn't the most indicative of the time period but who even cares, sign me up for fearless ladies in 19th century.

What I liked about These Vicious Masks was more the genre and general plot of the book than what actually happened. Paranormal historical fiction is a trend I definitely want more from. I didn't care enough for Rose. I couldn't connect to her enough at the start of the book, and then she's whisked away and I spent the better part of the book really struggling to feel anything more than bored, forced concern for her. I'm getting super tired of the angelic can-do-no-wrong sister who is set out to be rescued. Bleh.

(I've only just realized that even when I actually enjoy a book, any review I write inevitably starts off with me griping about all the things I disliked. Oh well.)

Evelyn was my favourite character of the book, closely followed by Camille (can we PLEASE have more of her in Book #2?). It's not just that she was witty, snappy and paid no heed to the dreadfully leery Mrs. Kent, but was incredibly kind and compassionate and never lost sight of what she set out to do. AND the way she banters around with Nicholas omg. This book is banter done quick, witty, and full of infuriatingly perfect sexual tension. Banter done right, in other ways. There is a love triangle, a very obvious one, and I actually didn't mind one bit. I didn't quite take to Kent as much as I did Nicholas, but I'm SO glad there's no obvious winner where one of the love interests is a boring flake. I'm team Sebastian all the way though because THAT ALCOVE KISS AND THAT FOREHEAD KISS ASDF

The weakest part of the book for me were the dreams Evelyn just happened to have so that the plot can move forward. Cheap plot devices feel pretty insulting to me because I feel like I'm supposed to go with it, when actually um NO? I will not roll with this dream that Evelyn had from some governess that we didn't even know existed until now. This is cheating. I want complexity and intricacy and more of a STORY than oh hello reader meet my governess who *info dump*

The plot moves along quickly and wonderfully, and I was pleased to see how action packed it was. I was actually so invested in the action that I didn't get annoyed by the stuff I talked about until I actually thought about it right now. The ending was SO good--I never thought the authors would go there but holy shit.

Definitely looking forward to book two, but the plot wasn't memorable enough (until the end), so whether I read it depends on what I remember.

August 28, 2016

Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Six of Crows
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Publication Date: September 29th, 2015
Genre(s): Fantasy, Young Adult
Source: bought
Pages: 465
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Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...
A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Kaz's crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.

When I think of how long I waited to read the absolute gem that was Six of Crows, I want to go back
in time and rattle my poor, misguided self.

I had major reservations for the first leg of this duology. Although I loved Shadow and Bone and
Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising left me frustrated and disappointed that a trilogy with so much
potential had an anticlimactic and poor ending. In Six of Crows, Bardugo has outdone herself in every way possible. This book blows Siege and Storm (my favourite book of the Grisha trilogy) of the water. It ups the game in every way--its prose, worldbuilding, plot and the characters. I finished the book exhilarated, excited and wanting more. I cannot wait to follow these characters into Crooked Kingdom.

I’m glad Bardugo reached beyond Ravka and delved into Fjerda and Kersch. I simply loved how the
cultural differences between the Ravkans, Fjerdans, Kerch and Shu were explored. These, along with
the corruption that Ketterdam thrives on, the social and racial injustices that pervade the societies that the characters live in are what drove the plot forward. The book is written in third person with alternating POVs, which is my favourite but also incredibly hard to get right, especially if you have six main POVs and a couple of other ones.

The beginning of the book was a little slow and felt jarring. I actually tried to read the book and gave up around five times over the past year because I couldn’t get past the first chapter. Bardugo’s books don’t start easy and gently, the reader is pretty much dumped into the thick of things and the details are quietly, gently explained or left up for us to infer, and as much as I struggle with it, I came to love it. Once the whole cast was introduced though, I couldn’t. stop. reading.

The book features a crew of six--a raggedy, desperate, worn out, reckless, BEAUTIFUL crew of six, each with their own motives and agenda, each with their own wealth of a backstory that I couldn’t help but root for with all my pounding heart. They’re spies and thieves, sharp shooters and hunters, people that like to see things go boom, apologize for nothing, and willing to do what it takes to survive. I love how their history affected their arc and how eventually I could learn to find shreds of humanity in them. The centre of the book was HEIST a la Ocean’s Eleven jam packed with action, suspense, thrill, TWISTS AND TURNS and surprise revelations and delightful BANTER that made my heart jump to my throat and sink to my stomach and pound and perform all sorts of acrobatics as I watched and prayed and hoped that they’d make it out alive.

Six of Crows would be nothing without the writing and style of storytelling. Every other chapter, something goes wrong, a hidden secret is revealed and there I was left gasping and reeling and actually walking around my apartment trying to gather the nerve to just read ahead. The writing was so, so beautiful. I distinctly remember some scenes when everything was happening so fast, yet Bardugo slowed everything down to a point when I was just staring wide eyed, wondering at what just happened and what would happen next.

ON TO THE SHIPS. THE SHIPS. THERE ARE SO MANY SHIPS. It is such shippy shippy delight, this whole book it. There are THREE ships (and then a couple of actual ships) and each one was sheer perfection. I loved how realistic and honest they were. I often feel like shippy events occur at the cost of plot action, or worse, to drive the plot forward and that leaves me with a bad aftertaste. It is hard to balance an action packed plot such as this one with moments that flesh out the feelings that characters have for each other, but it was done very masterfully and naturally.

Brb watching Ocean’s Eleven and preordering Crooked Kingdom and marvelling over the gritty, dark, intricate, beautiful mess that Six of Crows was.