Book Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Mass

18005628Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Mass  

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: Kindle edition 2013 by Bloomsbury

Pages: 432

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

She is the greatest assassin her world has ever known. But does she have the heart of a killer?

After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king’s contest to become the new royal assassin. But Calaena is far from loyal to the crown. Keeping up the charade – while pretending to do the king’s bidding – will test her skills in an entirely new way. And it certainly isn’t the only point of confusion for the young girl. Because though she’s made her choice between Dorian and Chaol, the ways of the heart are never simple…

The final book in this series, Kingdom of Ash, was recently released, and here I am still on book two, Crown of Midnight! I have some catching up to do. Having loved the first book, I was excited to read the sequel. I was wondering where the plot would go, as Throne of Glass was focused on the competition, which finished at the end. For once, the sequel is most definitely a step up from the first book.

Crown of Midnight was slow to start. It didn’t have much direction to begin with, as the tournament from the first book was over, and there wasn’t much suggestion of where the plot would go next. However, the pace picked up as it went along. While Throne of Glass is very much focused on the competition and character relationships, this book widens the picture and focuses more on the bigger plot. There is a big turning point about half way through that I did not see coming. It turned the plot in a new direction for the rest of the book, and by the end there were even more surprises.

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Book Review: Specials by Scott Westerfeld

81vov3tq3hlSpecials by Scott Westerfeld

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Science-Fiction

Publishing Info: May 2011 Simon Pulse (first published 2006)

Pages: 350

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Tally thought they were a rumor, but now she’s one of them. A Special. A super-amped fighting machine, engineered to keep the uglies down and the pretties stupid.

But maybe being perfectly programmed with strength and focus isn’t better than anything she’s ever known. Tally still has memories of something else.

Still, it’s easy to tune that out—until she’s offered a chance to stamp out the rebels of the New Smoke permanently. It all comes down to one last choice: listen to that tiny, faint heartbeat, or carry out the mission she’s programmed to complete. Either way, Tally’s world will never be the same.

 

Specials is the third book in the Uglies series, and the final book in the main trilogy. There is a ‘companion’ novel, Extras, and Westerfeld recently released Imposters, which is set in the same universe. While I enjoyed this book to a small degree, it didn’t blow me away. It didn’t leave me with any significant lasting impression.

The book opens with brilliant writing. Some amazing descriptions really make you feel like you’re seeing the world through Tally’s special super sense eyes. However, this isn’t carried through the rest of the book. That level of description all the way through would be too much, but I’d have expected more. If you introduce the idea that a character has these extra senses, you have to carry that through and show how they see the world with their super senses in the rest of the book too, not just at the opening to get the reader’s attention.

They’re supposed to be specials, superior to everyone else. They might be in terms of their super reflexes and senses, but they still go around doing tricks and acting not much different from how they did before in some ways.

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Top 10 Tuesday: Books By My Favourite Authors That I Still Haven’t Read

There are so many books I have enjoyed, but haven’t read any more works by the author. I really should read the books on this list.

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but as of January has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

1) Leigh Bardugo, Six of Crows – I finished the Grisha trilogy this year and now I’m looking forward to diving into another of Bardugo’s series.

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2) Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Prince and others – I feel very behind on Clare’s books. I still haven’t finished the Infernal Devices series and she keeps bringing out more and more novels.

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Mid-year Reading Round Up 2018

33154647We’re already halfway through 2018! So today I’m looking back at what my best books have been so far this year and looking ahead at what novels I want to sink my teeth into in the second half of 2018. According to Goodreads I’m on track to reach my 2018 Reading Challenge goal of 25 books, having read 12 so far this year.

Two books that I loved were Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray and The Young Elites by Marie Lu. Defy the Stars had me hooked all the way through and I loved the darkness of The Young Elites. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass was also a highlight.

I finished Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy but unfortunately was disappointed by the final book, Ruin and Rising. The series is still a favourite of mine though. Other books that didn’t live up to my hopes were The Girl King by Meg Clothier and S.T.A.G.S. by M. A. Bennett – both had great concepts and potential, but could have been much better.

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Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass

Throne-of-Glass-book-coverThrone of Glass by Sarah J. Mass  

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: Kindle edition 2012 by Bloomsbury Children’s

Pages: 433

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Meet Celaena Sardothien.
Beautiful. Deadly. Destined for greatness.

In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake: she got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?

This novel is the first in a series, one which I look forward to continuing reading. Throne of Glass really held my attention. I felt engaged and invested in the fates of the characters.

Mass does a really great job at character development. There was a lot more focus on the characters than I was expecting. This isn’t a fast-paced fantasy. Although I really liked that Mass spent time properly developing her characters (something many YA books fall short on), I would have liked to have seen more of the competition. There are many Tests but we only see a couple of them. Including one or two of the others would have heightened the tension for me and made the tournament feel less sidelined. I did begin to lose interest part way through, with the emphasis on character relationships meaning the central plot was secondary at times, but the book always managed to pull me back in before I got too detached. There is a mystery element running through the story which helped keep the pages turning.

I also took issue with the premise of the tournament itself. The idea is brilliant and a great premise for a book. However, I never really understood why the king would want to choose between assassins, murderers and thieves to be his ‘Champion’. The whole idea of the competition seemed a bit contrived. A little more reasoning to this would have made it seem less forced.

Celaena was a great character, though I would have liked to see more of her flaws and more character development for her. She is the kingdom’s best assassin, she plays the piano, is well read and speaks more than one language. While the piano playing scene was a great opportunity to see a different side of her character, I’m pretty sure she only plays the piano that once. That made it seem a bit pushed in there for that purpose. Too much emphasis is placed on how good she is at everything. More exploration of her flaws and weaknesses would make her a much more rounded character. I have read a lot of reviews where people find Calaena annoying, but I liked reading about a main character who is self-assured and vain, rather than meek as seems to be a YA trend. There are a lot of allusions to Calaene’s past and what has made her the person she is now, but I wanted to see more development of her current character. I hope this will happen more across the series.

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Book Review: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

y648A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin  

Genre: Fantasy

Publishing Info: 2011 by HarperVoyager (first published 1996)

Pages: 806

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Kings and queens, Knights and renegades, liars, lords and honest men. All will play the Game of Thrones.

Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun. It will stretch from the south, where heat breeds plot, lusts and intrigues; to the vast and savage eastern lands; all the way to the frozen north, where an 800-foot wall of ice protects the kingdom from the dark forces that lie beyond.

The Game of Thrones. You win, or you die.

Book one of A Song of Ice and Fire begins the greatest fantasy epic of the modern age.

This book has been sat on my shelf for many years, and finally I’ve read it. It was probably the great length that put me off before now. I stopped reading humungous fantasy novels, but I’m back into them now. For contextualisation, this is my first time reading the book and I haven’t watched any of the TV series either.

I don’t know what it was about this book, but I just wanted to keep reading. That’s something hard to achieve for a book so long. It really held my attention and I didn’t want to put it down. That’s something I’d expect from a fast-paced novel, not an almighty tome. I often feel bogged down in long books, even the best ones. I get restless and distracted. I didn’t get that feeling with A Game of Thrones.

The novel is told from many characters’ perspectives and alternates between them. This is partly what helped keep the book moving. Some people wouldn’t like the constant switching between characters and locations, but I think it worked for this book. It meant the momentum kept going. All of the perspectives were important as well. I didn’t feel like any of them were a waste of time as each one provided a different insight into the story. It was interesting to see how different characters’ viewed events, and how all those plot threads fit together.

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Book Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

20821111The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: 2014 by Penguin (first published 2014)

Pages: 335

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

The Young Elites is the first novel by Marie Lu I have read. I’d heard a lot of good things about her books so I had high hopes. What I loved about it is that it’s much darker than other YA fantasy I have read, and it isn’t about black and white good versus evil. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure who to root for because there didn’t seem to be ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’, there were positives and negatives about both ‘sides’. This made the story so much more interesting. I do like a good vs. evil story, but it was nice to read something that blurred the lines for a change. The actions and ideals of many characters was questionable, so none of them really seemed ‘good’, which was far more realistic than having two opposing ends of the spectrum in conflict.

The main character, Adelina, is by no means a ‘hero’. She has a troubled past and is filled with darkness. She feeds off fear and is driven by power and ambition. The novel follows her perspective closely, so I felt I really understood all her feelings and motivations. She’s a really interesting main character and her internal conflict is written very well.

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Books I Want to Read in 2018

I don’t usually plan what I’m going to read. I like to see what takes my fancy. But these are some of the books I am desperate to read in 2018.

Series I want to continue

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Ringer by Lauren Oliver: The concept of this series – having the two stories in one – really caught my attention, but it’s also the story and characters that make me want to read the next book.

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare: After finally getting round to reading the first book in Clare’s Infernal Devices series at the end of 2017, I am excited to read the second in the series!

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo: I enjoyed the first and second books in this trilogy, so am eager to read the final instalment. I hope it makes a good ending.

 

Series I want to start

collageread 2018

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin: As soon as I read the blurb for this book, I wanted to read it. It’s been sat on my kindle for a few months but I just haven’t got round to it yet. I will definitely be reading it in 2018 though!

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Mass: Another one that has been sat on my kindle for a while. I’ve heard so much about this series and there are quite a few books in it now. I really should get around to reading it.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer: I have wanted to read this book since it first came out, and have finally got a copy. I haven’t read many fairy tale retellings, but this one caught my eye. Combining a fairy tale retelling with sci-fi just sounds like something I would love. I hope it doesn’t disappoint.

 

Classics I want to read

After reading so many classics during my degree, I had really had enough of them by the time I’d finished. Now I have reached the point where I feel ready to get back into reading some classics in 2018.

collageclassics2018

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins: Having enjoyed the TV adaptation of The Moonstone, I am interested in reading one of Wilkie Collins’ works.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen: Eventually I will read all of Austen’s novels. So far, I have ticked off Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility. I’m planning to read Mansfield Park next.

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy: I read Tess of the D’Urbervilles a few years ago and loved it. I was totally enchanted by Hardy’s style of writing.

 

What are you looking forward to reading in 2018?

Book Review: The Kill Order by James Dashner

9781909489431The Kill Order by James Dashner

Genre: Young Adult, Post-Apocalyptic

Publishing Info: 2013 by Chicken House (first published 2012)

Pages: 331

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

Sun flares have unleashed devastation on the earth. Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and against the odds they survived.

But now a violent and high contagious disease is spreading like wildfire. Worse still, it’s mutating, and people are going crazy. Mark and Trina will do anything to save their friends – if only they can avoid madness and stay alive…

The opening few chapters got my interest, and I wanted to know more. I wanted to keep reading to find out why the virus was happening. The opening action sequence was exciting and gave me high hopes for the rest of the book. Unfortunately, it didn’t continue as well as it started.

The plot is vague. It just didn’t really go anywhere. Despite the constant action, I lost interest because there wasn’t anything else to keep me engaged. There was a lot of action, maybe too much. The action scenes become quite repetitive. Some of them were hard to follow. There was a scene at some kind of base, where I just couldn’t visualise the awkward attempts at describing the characters’ surroundings and spent a few chapters feeling confused because I couldn’t visualise what the characters were doing. In a couple of places, Dashner made the odds the characters had to face (e.g. the number of enemies in a fight) so difficult that it seemed unrealistic for them to get out of those situations.

The fast pace also meant there was little time to develop characters. As with the Maze Runner trilogy, most of the characters were bland, and the book lacked any kind of character arcs. Only Alec’s personality came through, but only through repetitive emphasis on his characteristics.

I wasn’t keen on the flashbacks, but that may have been to do with the way they are written. The narrative switches to present tense for the flashbacks. Dashner’s writing seems to read even worse in present tense than it does in past tense. His writing is simple, which I didn’t have too much issue with in the other books, but for some reason in this one it’s very clunky. I also felt the dream flashbacks didn’t add anything that couldn’t have been conveyed in other ways, such as through Mark’s thoughts.

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I’m Finally Reading Twilight

twilight-meyer

From reading Dracula last week, I’m going the complete reversal on vampire books by reading Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. It’s not something I would choose to read, but I have been curious to read it for a long time to see what it’s really like. Since it’s on the reading list for the Children’s Literature module I’m taking for my degree, I now get the pleasure of finally finding out.

My knowledge of this book is based solely on the various claims from both sides of the argument – Twilight fans and Twilight haters – and the films. Having heard that the books are better than the films, I’ve tried not to let my dislike of the films cloud my judgement over the first book in the series. This is easier said than done though, as I’ve found it difficult to separate myself from all the things I’ve heard about it and form my own opinion through reading it. It seems to be impossible to be unbiased because it’s just such a famous book and people have said a lot of negative things about it. I can’t help but wonder whether I would like or dislike it if there wasn’t all that surrounding it, if it were just a book I’d picked up off the shelf that I hadn’t really heard of and didn’t have any preconceptions about. That’s something we’ll never know so I’ll just have to attempt to be as objective as possible and take it at face value as well as I can.

I’m about halfway through currently, and although it started out fine, things have gone dramatically downhill in the last few chapters. Full review to come when I’ve finished reading it!