Book Review: Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer

Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction  

Publishing Info: September 2020 by Harper Teen   

Pages: 375

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

A deadly competition for the throne will determine more than just the fate of the empire in this duology opener.

Alyssa Farshot has spent her whole life trying to outrun her family legacy. Her mother sacrificed everything to bring peace to the quadrant, and her uncle has successfully ruled as emperor for decades. But the last thing Alyssa wants is to follow in their footsteps as the next in line for the throne. Why would she choose to be trapped in a palace when she could be having wild adventures exploring a thousand-and-one planets in her own ship?

But when Alyssa’s uncle becomes gravely ill, his dying wish surprises the entire galaxy. Instead of naming her as his successor, he calls for a crownchase, the first in seven centuries. Representatives from each of the empire’s prime families—including Alyssa—are thrown into a race to find the royal seal, which has been hidden somewhere in the empire. The first to find the seal wins the throne.

Alyssa’s experience as an explorer makes her the favorite to win the crown she never wanted. And though she doesn’t want to be empress, her duty to her uncle compels her to participate in this one last epic adventure. But when the chase turns deadly, it’s clear that more than just the fate of the empire is at stake. Alyssa is on her most important quest yet—and only time will tell if she’ll survive it.

This book reminded me why I’m such a sucker for space opera, and why I want to see more of it in YA. Crownchasers is a planet-hopping adventure and I had so much fun reading it. At just 375 pages, it was a pretty quick read, and I was on my edge of my seat for every single one of those pages.

The plot revolves around the crownchase, a competition between the prime families of the empire to determine who will be the next emperor. This involves a lot of space travel, discovering new planets, and working out mysterious clues. There is also a media element as well, as the whole galaxy seems to be watching the crownchase to see who will be victorious, which reminded me of The Hunger Games.

Alyssa Farshot is a reluctant participant in the crownchase. She loves exploring, and has never had any desire to sit on the empire’s throne. Alyssa brings a whole lot of snarky humour to this book and I loved how daring and reckless she is. Her voice is one of the best parts of this book, I felt like I was on this wild ride right along with her, and it was great to see how her character developed over the course of the story. As well as the pressures of the crownchase, she also has to deal with her grief over the loss of her uncle, and I thought Coffindaffer did an excellent job of weaving Alyssa’s character growth into such a fast-paced and action-packed book.

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Fairyloot January 2021 Unboxing

After the August box I decided to unsubscribe, but trust Fairyloot to pull me back in. The January theme was just perfect for me so I couldn’t pass on it. Although I decided I didn’t like getting a box every month, I will still get the occasional one when the theme and book is right up my street.

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.

The theme for January was ‘Greek Mythology’! Let’s see what was inside…

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Book Review: The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni (eARC)

The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: eARC from Hodder & Stoughton

Pages: 416

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan is a survivor. For ten years, she has worked as the healer in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, making herself indispensable. Kept afloat by messages of hope from her family, Kiva has one goal and one goal only: stay alive.

Then one day the infamous Rebel Queen arrives at the prison on death’s door and Kiva receives a new message: Don’t let her die. We are coming.

The queen is sentenced to the Trial by Ordeal: a series of elemental challenges against the torments of air, fire, water, and earth, assigned to only the most dangerous of criminals. Aware the sickly queen has little chance of making it through the Trials alive, Kiva volunteers to take her place. If she succeeds, both she and the queen will be granted their freedom.

But no one has ever survived.

And with an incurable plague sweeping Zalindov, a mysterious new inmate fighting for Kiva’s heart, and a prison rebellion brewing, Kiva can’t escape the terrible feeling that her trials have only just begun.

Thank you so much to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Prison Healer is the first book by Lynette Noni I’ve read and I was excited to dive into this intriguing sounding novel. The description and concept of a story set entirely in a prison caught my attention, so I was very happy to be approved for an eARC and get the opportunity to read The Prison Healer early. Unfortunately, the opening chapters didn’t capture my attention and I almost DNFed quite early on. I kept on reading and the last quarter or so of the book had me much more riveted, so I was glad I didn’t give up on it. Until that twist on the final page, which left me feeling incredibly exasperated. More on that later.

The beginning of this review will be spoiler-free, with a section at the end containing major spoilers so I can properly explain why this twist ending was so frustrating. I’ll clearly signpost when the spoilers start so you can avoid them if you wish to.

The idea of a book set entirely in a deadly prison is very intriguing. Setting is really important in books located in entirely one location like this, the setting has to be considered as another character. Unfortunately, the setting didn’t have any personality. I wanted to be completely immersed in this dark and dangerous place, but I didn’t feel anything. There was no atmosphere or tension. We’re told people hardly ever leave this prison alive, that Kiva is unique for having managed to survive ten years. Almost everything we know about the prison we’re told, not shown. Because there was no atmosphere, it felt flat. In the latter half we did get to see the darker side to the prison, but for most of the book I didn’t feel afraid for the main character, I didn’t feel the tension that should come from a deadly prison setting.

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Let’s Talk Bookish: Predicting Trends

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week we’re talking about trends! This is a topic I suggested and now I have to come up with something to say about it I’ve realised it’s quite a hard topic! Though I do find looking at trends quite interesting. I’ll mostly be talking about YA since that’s what I have most knowledge about.

There are some genres that always seem to be popular, like fantasy and retellings, but there can be trends within them. Some genres are really popular for a time, and then fade away as the market becomes oversaturated and readers’ attention move on to something else.

Over the past years, I can think of two particularly big trends. After Twilight came out, there were so many vampire and werewolf books in the YA section. Everywhere you looked, there was paranormal romance. I read a lot of these books because they dominated the shelves when I was growing up, but I wasn’t a fan of a lot of them. Then there was the dystopia faze, with books like The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, Delirium and many, many more. This was more my thing as I love science fiction. But I found a lot of the books in the paranormal romance and dystopia fazes were dominated by the same kinds of tropes and got quite repetitive.

With both of those trends, I think the issue was that a lot of those books were just a bit too similar. And because there were so many of them, eventually people moved on to something else and those genres kind of fizzled out. Dystopian books just don’t seem to get published as much in YA these days, which is a shame because I think it’s a really interesting genre. YA books have changed a lot since the dystopia boom, and I’d love to see what new and diverse authors might do with the genre.

As for future trends, dark academia seems to be coming up big. It’s not a genre I really read, but I keep seeing it popping up on Twitter, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a lot of these. Also, with The Great Gatsby coming out of copyright this year, I expect there’ll be an influx of retellings.

I’d love to see a boom in YA science fiction. Not dystopia, but space operas and other subgenres of science fiction. At the moment, there aren’t loads of YA sci-fi books out there, and it’s hard to get YA sci-fi published. I’ve loved the YA sci-fi I’ve read, like Illuminae, Aurora Rising and Defy the Stars, and would love to see more of it out there.

With the pandemic putting a bit of a spanner in the works for the entire world, it will also be interesting to see how that effects trends. Will we see an influx of pandemic/zombie/apocalypse books? Or do we want escapism? Do we want something fun like rom coms?

Trends can be a great thing, as they can really uplift certain books and put them in the spotlight, but that also means that other books don’t get as much attention. And it can be tempting to read whatever is trending, but I think it’s important we read what we enjoy, not just what’s popular! But if what you love is popular, then I guess it means you have a lot of books to choose from…

What trends have you noticed? Do you think trends are a good thing or a bad thing or neither? Chat with me in the comments!  

Book Review: Gut Feelings by C. G. Moore

Gut Feelings by C. G. Moore

Genre: Young Adult

Publishing Info: January 2021 by UCLan Publishing

Pages: 400

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

At school, I learned that words,

More than weapons,

Could destroy bodies,

Could break hearts

More than fists or fury.

This is the story of Chris, what happened to him at age eleven and how that would change the rest of his life. A life-affirming and powerful coming of age verse novel that shines a light on chronic illness, who we are and how we live.

Gut Feelings is an own voices novel in verse based on the author’s own experiences of living with Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). FAP is an inherited disorder characterised by the rapid growth of small, pre-cancerous polyps in the large intestines.

I found reading this novel incredibly moving and cathartic as I recognised some of my own experiences of chronic illness reflected in the pages. Similarly to the narrator of the novel, Chris, I was diagnosed as chronically ill at a young age, when I was ten years old. There are so many parts of this book I could quote, but I chose just a few to include in this review that really resonated with me.

“This room is no place 
 For a child
 That wants to run and swim, 
 Bike his way 
 To the top of the hill. 
 I listen and obey
 As curtains close 
 Around me –
 Around my future.” 

While the condition I have – Crohn’s disease – is a different condition to FAP, there is some overlap in symptoms and treatments as both affect the intestines. I could relate to the blood tests, the colonoscopies, the hospital visits, the surgery, the anxiety around having to rush to the toilet, of praying to make it through an exam, and issues of body image and scars. I could relate to the confusion and the fear of being faced with a diagnosis at such a young age.

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Book Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Book cover of Queen of Shadows

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Mass  

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy    

Publishing Info: September 2015 by Bloomsbury

Pages: 648

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Celaena Sardothien is cloaked in her assassin’s hood once more. She is back in Rifthold, but this time she is no one’s slave. She must delve into her most painful memories and fight for her survival, while resisting a smouldering passion that might very well consume her heart. And she will face her former master, the King of Assassins, again – to wreak revenge for a decade of pain…

*This review will be spoiler-free for Queen of Shadows but may include spoilers for the previous books in the series*  

Queen of Shadows is the fourth book in the Throne of Glass series and the best instalment I’ve read so far. It brought together all the threads that Maas has been weaving for the previous three books and, well, it was pretty epic.

In Heir of Fire, Celaena was away in Wenlyn learning to use her magic. While I enjoyed the training sequences, I so loved seeing her in Rifthold in Queen of Shadows, back where everything started. This book brings the story full circle, as she finally confronts her past with Arobynn. Our protagonist grew a lot in Heir of Fire, and now she finally seems to have transformed into Aelin. Her character hasn’t changed completely, but I could see she was a different person to the Celaena we saw in Throne of Glass, and we get to see her become the queen she is.

Manon was introduced as a new character in Heir of Fire. I loved her story in the third book, but her storyline didn’t intersect with any of the other characters’ stories, so I was wondering where Maas was going with this one. In Queen of Shadows, however, we get to see more clearly how her storyline relates to the wider plot. This is another character who we see slowly shift over the course of the series. I really appreciate how Maas slowly develops her characters.

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Graphic showing Shadow Kiss book cover and a 3 star rating

Book Review: Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead

Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead   

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal     

Publishing Info: Kindle edition 2008 by e-Penguin

Pages: 448

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth’s magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires – the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa’s best friend, makes her a Dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them.

Rose knows it is forbidden to love another guardian. Her best friend, Lissa – the last Dragomir princess – must always come first. Unfortunately, when it comes to gorgeous Dimitri Belikov, some rules are meant to be broken…

Then a strange darkness begins to grow in Rose’s mind, and ghostly shadows warn of a terrible evil drawing nearer to the Academy’s iron gates. The immortal undead are closing in, and they want vengeance for the lives Rose has stolen. In a heart-stopping battle to rival her worst nightmares, Rose will have to choose between life, love, and the two people who matter most… but will her choice mean that only one can survive?

Shadow Kiss is the third book in Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series. Even though I didn’t love the first two books, I enjoyed them enough to carry on reading. Unfortunately, I found Shadow Kiss quite slow and somehow seemed to be lacking in direction.

After the events of Frostbite, Rose and the other students have returned to school and the dhampirs are undergoing the field experience part of their training. Lissa and Adrian are learning to use spirit. But it didn’t feel like a whole lot was going on. A trip to the royal court could have proved an interesting diversion, but that section fell a bit flat for me, as not much happened to create any kind of tension or suspense. There just wasn’t enough to hold my attention and keep me engaged.

The pacing picks up massively towards the end, but there was once again something missing from the action scenes for me. The style in which they’re written made me feel really disconnected from the action, so I didn’t feel any of the suspense I should have done in those sequences. I love reading action scenes, so this is a big downside of this series for me. There is a lot of potential for suspenseful and exciting sequences, but the writing is just really missing something in this area.    

The ending should have been emotional and impactful, but I didn’t really feel all that much, which is what made me realise I hadn’t really connected with this story and the characters as much as I have for other books I’ve read. I like reading Rose, Lissa and Dimitri’s story, but I’ve never really felt a strong connection to them.

I don’t know if I’ll continue with this series or not. Although I didn’t feel the emotional impact of Shadow Kiss’s ending, it has sent the series in a direction I hadn’t anticipated, which might make for an intriguing storyline going forward.

Book Review: The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: October 2016, Penguin

Pages: 319

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Adelina Amouteru is done suffering. She’s turned her back on those who have betrayed her and achieved the ultimate revenge: victory. Her reign as the White Wolf has been a triumphant one, but the darkness within her has begun to spiral out of control, threatening to destroy everything.

When a new danger appears, Adelina must join the Daggers on a perilous quest in order to save herself and preserve her empire. But this uneasy alliance may prove to be the real danger . . .

The Midnight Star absolutely destroyed me. The first two books in the Young Elites trilogy were dark and suspenseful, so the concluding chapter had a lot to live up to. And it was even better than its predecessors.

What I love about this series is how we see the darker side of our protagonist – Adelina. We see through the eyes of a character who has suffered a lot, been shunned by society, and who wants to make things better for people like her. Seeing her darkness grow over the course of the series was a refreshing change from the typical hero arc. Many of the other characters are also complex. There aren’t many straightforward heroes here, and I loved that. Despite their flaws, Marie Lu made me really care about these characters, and I didn’t realise quite how much until this final instalment of the series.

The last few chapters were so beautifully and heartbreakingly painted by Marie Lu. I can’t say too much without giving any spoilers, but the setting of the conclusion was so ethereal and I could visualise it so clearly. I very rarely cry at books, but the final chapters of The Midnight Star had me properly crying. How could I not give a book that made me feel so many emotions five stars?

This is a brief review because I don’t want to give away spoilers for the first two books, and I don’t really have any criticisms for The Midnight Star because it was just so good. The only thing I could say is that it was very short, and I kind of wished it had been longer, but I am also glad it wasn’t overly dragged out.

The Midnight Star is a superb conclusion to a brilliant trilogy. It follows a character down a path of darkness, a character who isn’t a typical hero, and I found that so refreshing. I cannot recommend this series enough.

Book Review: Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin

Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance  

Publishing Info: September 2020, Harper Teen

Pages: 528

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

After narrowly escaping death at the hands of the Dames Blanches, Lou, Reid, Coco, and Ansel are on the run from coven, kingdom, and church—fugitives with nowhere to hide.

To elude the scores of witches and throngs of chasseurs at their heels, Lou and Reid need allies. Strong ones. But protection comes at a price, and the group is forced to embark on separate quests to build their forces. As Lou and Reid try to close the widening rift between them, the dastardly Morgane baits them in a lethal game of cat and mouse that threatens to destroy something worth more than any coven.

Serpent & Dove was a surprise read for me last year. There was so much hype around it that I was curious to read it and ended up loving it more than I expected. The sequel, Blood & Honey, has not been received quite so well, so I was a little cautious going into reading it as I didn’t want to set my expectations too high and be disappointed. 

It took me a while to orientate myself at the beginning of the book, and I had to search for a recap online in the end because there were some important points from the end of Serpent & Dove which I just couldn’t remember. So I would definitely recommend rereading Serpent & Dove or looking for a recap if it’s been a while since you read the first book.

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Book Review: A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth (eARC)

A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth   

Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy

Publishing Info: eARC from Hodder & Stoughton

Pages: 512

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

The Cruel Prince meets City of Bones in this thrilling urban fantasy set in the magical underworld of Toronto that follows a queer cast of characters racing to stop a serial killer whose crimes could expose the hidden world of faeries to humans.

Choose your player.

The “ironborn” half-fae outcast of her royal fae family.

A tempestuous Fury, exiled to earth from the Immortal Realm and hellbent on revenge.

A dutiful fae prince, determined to earn his place on the throne.

The prince’s brooding guardian, burdened with a terrible secret.

For centuries, the Eight Courts of Folk have lived among us, concealed by magic and bound by law to do no harm to humans. This arrangement has long kept peace in the Courts—until a series of gruesome and ritualistic murders rocks the city of Toronto and threatens to expose faeries to the human world.

Four queer teens, each who hold a key piece of the truth behind these murders, must form a tenuous alliance in their effort to track down the mysterious killer behind these crimes. If they fail, they risk the destruction of the faerie and human worlds alike. If that’s not bad enough, there’s a war brewing between the Mortal and Immortal Realms, and one of these teens is destined to tip the scales. The only question is: which way?

Wish them luck. They’re going to need it.

Thank you so much to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A Dark and Hollow Star is a fun urban fantasy novel with stunning world building and brilliant characters. I had high expectations for this book since the blurb sounded amazing. Although I found it slow to start, by the end I realised I really loved it.

The world building in A Dark and Hollow Star is very well done. The level of detail is incredible. It’s clear the author spent a considerable amount of time working on the world building and it pays off. I felt completely immersed in a world which is familiar yet unfamiliar – our world but with faeries roaming the streets. The different types of faerie, the Courts, and immortals, the way it’s all hidden alongside our world, was depicted so vividly. I loved the mix of fantasy and modern-day technology and pop culture references.

However, as much as I loved learning about the world, it felt very overwhelming. There is so much information crammed into the first few chapters that my brain felt like it was going to explode from trying to absorb everything. The focus on world building also meant I felt more distanced from the characters at the start, who were well-written, but felt side-lined by the world building at times in the first half. It also meant the book had a slow pace in the early parts.  

The way the world building interrupted conversations for several paragraphs made it feel disjointed and I found it hard to get into many of the early scenes as they didn’t flow. The world building is so very good, but needed to be better woven into the narrative. However, I enjoyed the second half a lot more. It wasn’t as bogged down by long descriptions and explanations, and I was able to really get into the story and enjoy the ride.

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