Book Review: Defy the Worlds by Claudia Gray

Defy the Worlds by Claudia Gray

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction           

Publishing Info: March 2018 by Hot Key Books

Pages: 394

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Noemi Vidal has returned to her planet, Genesis, as an outsider – ostracised for refusing to end the Liberty War by sacrificing Abel, the most advanced mechanical man ever made. She dreams of travelling through the stars again, and when a deadly plague arrives on Genesis, Noemi gets her chance. The only soldier to have ever left her planet, it will be up to her to save its people. If only she wasn’t flying right into a trap.

Abel, now fully aware of his soul and captaining his own Vagabond ship, never dreamed he’d see Noemi again, not when the entire universe stands between them. But when his creator Burton Mansfield delivers news of Noemi’s entrapment, Abel knows he must save her, even if it means risking his own life.

Danger lurks in the dark corners of the galaxy, and Abel and Noemi will discover a secret that could save Genesis and Earth… or destroy them all.

In this thrilling and romantic sequel to Defy the Stars, bestselling author Claudia Gray asks us all to consider what drives us, and where we truly belong.

The first book in this trilogy, Defy the Stars, was absolutely gripping and thrilling to read. I liked that it also explored complex issues and topics such as what it means to be human. Defy the Worlds continues to do that. While it was a little slow at the start, the stakes are quickly ramped up. Claudia Gray is great at getting her characters in difficult situations and forcing them to think of ways to get out of them.

I love Noemi and Abel as characters, and their relationship with each other. Noemi is so headstrong and determined to defend her planet. Meanwhile Abel, as a mech, is still trying to work out his human side in many ways. They have a few differences in opinion, but there actually isn’t much character development for either of them in this book. In Defy the Stars, Noemi has to overcome her preconceived notions of mechs, and Abel has to fight an internal battle against Directive One (his programming). There seemed to be a lot more character development in the first book. However, saying that, the events of this book seem to lend themselves to greater character development in the final installment.

I like how this series questions what it means to be human. Despite how Noemi has come to see Abel as having a ‘soul’ despite being a mech, some other humans still treat him differently and as lesser. This is a really interesting concept to see played out. Even as the books progress, Abel’s own understanding of what and who he is changes as he learns more about his unique life state through his experiences. The book also explores elitism, poverty and biological warfare, so there is some pretty deep subject matter amongst the action.

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Book Discussion: The Rise of the Exclusive Edition

Has anyone noticed that exclusive editions, particularly in YA, have suddenly become a massive thing? I’m not even sure when exactly this happened. It seems to have grown slowly. Book subscription boxes have exclusive editions, usually signed, but also with alternative covers, sprayed edges or different end pages. Bookshops like Waterstones also sell exclusive editions. They are very enticing. The book industry seems to have caught on to the fact that people not only like books, they like pretty books, and I guess they also like the idea of having something that’s exclusive or limited edition.

I have only two of these editions. The first is the Illumicrate edition of Once and Future. I haven’t read it yet, when I bought it I didn’t know for sure if I would like it, but it was high up on my TBR list and it was so beautiful I couldn’t help but fork my money out for it. I also bought the Fairyloot October box which included The Beautiful by Reneé Ahdieh with sprayed edges and artwork on the dust jacket. I doubt they will be the last I am tempted into buying.  

One thing I’m not usually persuaded to buy is Collector’s Editions. I never buy more than one copy of a book. I know others do but it’s just not something I usually do. I often go into bookshops and pick up collector’s editions of my favourite books that have bonus content, but there never seems to be enough new content to persuade me I need another copy. There’s something special about the copy of the book I first read, that makes that edition the special one to me. Plus there are so many different editions of books that it could get expensive getting all those fancy hardbacks! I’m sure I’ll cave though and buy a collector’s edition at some point! I am tempted to get the Throne of Glass collector’s edition as I only have it as an ebook.  

To return to exclusive editions of new books, I see photos of them flying around Twitter and Instagram and am sucked in. They have definitely caught onto something with this. I’m not complaining. I like the idea of having something special. But it makes me so tempted to buy more books when I already have so many unread on my shelves! Also if there are so many exclusive and special editions out there, are they that limited or special anymore?  

What do you think about special/exclusive/limited/collector’s editions? Do you love collecting copies of your favourite books, or are you not all that bothered by special editions?

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Publishing Info: September 2013 by Macmillan Children’s Books

Pages: 481

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan.

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

I feel kind of mean giving this book 2 stars. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t good. It started out well and had me engaged at the beginning, but I just didn’t enjoy it that much the further it went along. It just ended up being kind of, well, boring.

To begin with, I was excited to read a book set in college rather than high school. It made a refreshing change to read about characters embarking on a different part of their educational and life journey. Although I can’t imagine sharing a dorm with someone. We don’t really have shared rooms in accommodation much in the UK. I liked having my own private space to retreat to – it would have been weird to have a roommate! Reagan – Cath’s roommate – was a great character and really different to Cath. At first they don’t really get along and mostly ignore each other, but eventually they become friends in a way that seemed genuine and not forced by the author.

One thing positive I do have to say is that I really related to Cath. She’s anxious about being in a new environment she isn’t familiar with, and Rainbow Rowell managed to describe those feelings really well. I liked how Cath and Wren’s relationship evolves over the course of the book. As twins, they’ve done everything together. Then suddenly Wren wants more independence, but Cath is so used to having Wren around, she feels lost without her. There are lots of ups and downs in their friendship over the course of the book.

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Fairyloot October 2019 Unboxing

This is my first unboxing post as I finally decided to order a subscription box, having been eyeing them up for ages! There are various book subscription boxes you can get, which usually include a book and a selection of goodies. Plus, it’s a surprise, as you don’t know what the book or items will be.

Fairyloot is a UK-based YA fantasy subscription box. If you subscribe, you get a box a month which includes a hardback book and 5-6 exclusive goodies around a theme. You can subscribe monthly, or there are 3 month and 6 month pre-paid options. The monthly cost is £26. Or you can get a single purchase and just buy a one-off box, which is what I decided to do. It’s pretty expensive to get monthly, so I just decided I would by a box occasionally as a single purchase when a theme catches my eye.

Be warned there will be spoilers for the contents of the October box in this post!

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October 2019 Wrap Up

This month seems to have been really busy. I went on my first trip abroad with friends which was great. We went to Amsterdam, which is a really beautiful and interesting city. I also ordered my first Fairyloot box – the October ‘Love at First Bite’ box. More on that to come in my unboxing post soon.

Reading

This month I read The Beautiful by Reneé Ahdieh (an eARC received through NetGalley) and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Both are authors I have read and enjoyed before. I loved both books and gave them solid 4 stars, although I’d say Six of Crows is stronger in terms of the writing quality. The Beautiful is an alluring and mysterious historical novel set in 1800s New Orleans with vampires! Meanwhile Six of Crows is a heist novel set in Bardugo’s Grishaverse. I’m super excited to see her characters brought to life on TV (Netflix are adapting her books!). I’ve also started reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell which I’m about halfway through so far.

Book Haul

I bought four books this month, all from Sarah J Maas’s Throne of Glass series. I read the first two on Kindle but I loved them so much I really wanted to read the rest as physical copies. When I love a book, I like to be able to see it on my shelf!

Writing

I’ve continued working on my current WIP which is a YA fantasy. I’m now about halfway through the book and enjoying immersing myself in this new world. As it’s a first draft I’m trying not to dwell too much on getting in perfect and just get some words down on paper. I can always go back and edit it later.

This month has been pretty busy but I still managed to get some reading and writing done so I can be pretty happy with that.

Book Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy  

Publishing Info: June 2016 by Orion Children’s Books (first published 2015)

Pages: 494

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

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.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

When I started reading this book, I wasn’t into it at all. It took me quite a few chapters to start enjoying it. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood at the start, and perhaps I had ridiculously high expectations because of the insane amount of hype around Six of Crows. Also I loved Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone from the first chapter, which kind of added to the pressure on this book to be brilliant. Despite my reservations at the start, it is a brilliant book.

Each of the central characters are well developed with back stories that are slowly revealed over the course of the book. I got more into it as I gained more understanding of each character’s backgrounds and motivations. The characters are also neither ‘good’ nor ‘evil’ and I liked that they have different views on the world (for example attitudes towards the Grisha) depending on their backgrounds. The interactions and relationships between the characters is one of the strongest parts of the book. They drive the narrative and make it the great book it is.

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Book Review: The Beautiful by Reneé Ahdieh (eARC)

The Beautiful by Reneé Ahdieh

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Historical Fiction

Publishing Info: October 2019 by Hodder & Stoughton  

Pages: 448

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as Le Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sèbastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of Le Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sèbastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

Thank you so much to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for the eARC of this book.

I’m a tad late with this review. I did start reading it before it was released, but didn’t end up having much time to read on my holiday to Amsterdam. But better late than never!

The premise for this book instantly got my attention. Vampires. Murder mystery. In New Orleans. In the 1800s. Count me in. I’m quite hard to please when it comes to vampire novels. I think because I have been disappointed by so many. The historical New Orleans setting was certainly a great attraction, as it made a change from all the modern day vampire novels. In fact, it didn’t feel necessarily like a vampire novel, which is a good thing, as it felt like its own rather than trying too hard to fit a mould.

There is a mysterious, sumptuous atmosphere in much of the book, which Reneé Ahdieh does an excellent job at capturing. Alluring is a good word to describe this book. I also can’t help but love a good murder mystery! However I did feel by the end still quite in the dark about all the mysterious people, and whether they are all vampires or something else. That air of mystery is very effective for most of the book, but it would have been more satisfying to get more answers and a clearer picture of this shadowy paranormal world by the end.

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