Thursday, 27 October 2016

#41 Six Of Crows

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

This is the first part of a duology which takes place in Bardugo's Grisha universe. It is told in 6 points of view chapter by chapter. It is following their journey as they embark on an impossible quest. It is a fantasy book with criminal aspects, each character is very bad with few redeeming qualities. Basically they are all thugs and thieves. There will be a few minor spoilers in this review so read on with caution.

First off let me start by saying i really struggle with fantasy books! I just cant seem to get on with them with a few exceptions of books i read when i was younger its pretty safe to say that fantasy is my least read genre in more recent years.Having said that ive heard so many good things about this book and thought id check it out.

The main characters this book follows are Kaz, Nina, Inej, Matthias, Jesper and Wylan. All the characters are introduced with a past and are all very complex with many many issues. Kaz is the leader and possibly the most flawed character, he was very smart and orchestrated the heist very well. Nina is very sassy and is a very loyal Grisha, she was an amazing character and possibly my favourite. Matthias is also very complex, he had the most development, he changed his view point from the beginning to the end. Jesper who i love is from a race that was never mentioned before, he is a gambler and a loose cannon, hes multi talented and has so much more to come in the next book. He is also a gay character and you dont see that an awful lot in fantasy books. Wylan is always in the back ground, you dont get much of his back story or his point of view. I cant wait to see what happens in the next book in terms of growth for his character.

Ketterdam as a city is actually pretty well described and i imagined it really well in my head. I love when an author can set the scene perfectly and credit where credits due it is one of Bardugo's strengths. 

The ending is very very VERY open ended, the next book is highly anticipated. They left a few stories on a cliff hanger especially Inej. I wasnt overly fussed on the story until the last 60 pages, they really made me want to find out what will happen next. 

I did like this but i thought The Grisha Trilogy was better (sorry). If anthing this just made me want to re-read Shadow and Bone. 3 out of 5 stars. 

Monday, 26 September 2016

#40 In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

This is a non fiction book published in 1966 that follows the murders of The Clutter family in a small town in Kansas. This tells the story of true events but is written in the style of a novel. The murders were researched heavily by Capote but the use of dialogue to tell the story is mostly fictional. Although this is written as a novel it is packed with information that you would expect from a non fiction book. I struggled somewhat with it as i believe that non fiction should be written as true accounts and at times when reading this i had to remind myself that it was based on true events. This gives point of views from the victims, the suspects, the investigators and the people living in the town, which in turn gives a very holistic view of the story.

Capote takes his time with telling this story and its written very precisely, parts of it read as unnecessary filler to me. The lead detective is written rather unrealistically and his part in the investigation and the trial is often romantisised and exaggerated, it made for some cringe worthy reading.

Mr Clutter and his family are written as an all American, normal and happy family. Its easy for the reader to like them and sympathize with them in the fictional style they are written as you gain a sense of who they are as people. This makes the trial so much more hard hitting as you will as if you know the Clutter family and not like you are just going through the motions like you would with a non fiction book or a documentary.

I love true crime novels and documentaries but what made me most uncomfortable with this was the humanizing of the murderers. Just because they are written as sensitive people that couldnt make sense of what they had done doesnt mean they are less worthy of serving time for committing a horrible crime. Its easy to see that Capote spent a lot of time with these people and had a lot of bias towards them but for me he should of just wrote it like it was, a heinous crime.

There are many book to movie adaptations of this book that i think would be worth checking out and also a movie starring Philip Seymour Hoffman entitled 'Capote' which follows the writing of this book. This may offer a different interpretation of this story and may change my mind on a few things, either way i think ill check both out as this was most enjoyable and really quite gripping especially the final 100 pages.

Recommended for anyone who loved the podcast Serial or the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer.

Monday, 4 July 2016

#39 Dark Places

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

This book follows the story of the Day family. The mum Patty, her daughters Michelle, Debby and Libby and her eldest child and only son Ben. They live on a farm in the small town of Kansas City, Missouri. When half of the family (Patty, Michelle and Debby) are murdered Ben is immediately arrested and charged with their murders. 25 years later Libby the only surviving daughter embarks on trying to find the truth if her big brother did indeed kill her family.

The story is told in character chapters, mainly Libby, Ben and Patty and flits between past and present day. What i really enjoy is that you are given a clear image of each character and they all have individual personalities and quirks. Ben is a typical emo angsty teen that has 3 annoying little sisters, a dead beat dad and an overbearing yet clueless mother. Michelle and Debby are whiney and annoying,  stereo typical little girls really. Libby, our protagonist has lived as a surviving victim of this tragedy her entire life, she was shipped between relatives until she finally ended up in care. She has never worked a day in her life as after the murders the local people of Kansas City and further afield set up a fund for her and she lives off that right up until the beginning of the story.

When the fund runs out and Libby has very little money to pay rent and survive on she goes to speak at 'The Kill Club' a group of like minded people that are obsessed with serial killers and the cases. She is offered some money to look into the case and speak to the other people involved such as Runner Day, Diondra who was Bens girlfriend and Diane who was Pattys sister and Libbys aunt. She is paid to speak to them and to try and prove that Ben is innocent. With help from The Kill Clubs founder Lyle, Libby embarks on a journey to find out what really happened on the night of the murders.

In true Gillian Flynn style the story is full of suspense and you really have no clue what happens until the last few chapters, its almost fed to you in drips and drabs but not fully summarized until the last chapter. 

I really enjoyed this book, not more than Gone Girl but on a par with Sharp Objects. This writing style is flawless and you are sucked in from the first page. I worked out the ending of Gone Girl but this book had me stumped as to who really did it. I had a clear idea of who i thought did it but i was miles off! 

4 out of 5 stars from me. 

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

#38 Signal to Noise

Signal to Noise By Silvia Morena-Garcia

Signal to Noise was recommended to me by a Goodreads friend as being similar to 'The magicians', alas it was not but still good. The story follows three teenagers growing up in the 80's in Mexico City. Meche (short for Mercedes) is the leader of the group, a feisty young woman with a passion for music. Daniela who comes across as the quiet side kick with little to no say in the group dynamic but tags along as shes thankful to have friends and lastly Sebastian, a strong willed and temperamental young teenager.

The story begins with Meche realizing that when she plays a song on her vinyl player and wishing for something it comes true as if by magic. She quickly enlists both Daniela and Sebastian and between the 3 of them they form a coven of sorts. They experiment with different music and different spells, usually the spells are to try and evoke what every teenager desires, to have their crush fall in love with them, an infinity pot of money and to be free from acne.

The story has a lot of ups and downs as certain members of the 'coven' develop their magic skills faster than others leading to jealousy and them trying to hex each other with powerful black magic. 

The main things i enjoyed about this was the setting, ive never read anything set in Mexico before and it was an interesting twist to the story and a different interpretation of not only typical family life but also the schooling system. I also really enjoyed the magical elements of the story, i found the concept to be so unique and i really liked how the record was hot to touch when it was 'full of magic'. The side characters such as Isadora and Constantino were down very well they werent over done or annoying and there was a perfect amount of them in the story without them taking over the main plot. I very much enjoyed Sebastian as a character, he is interesting and unique and i would have preferred if it was told in his point of view.

I didnt care much for Meche as a protagonist, she is temperamental and whiney at best. She complains throughout about her parents splitting up and how much it affects her... so what? a lot of peoples persons split up (mine included) you just have to get on with things, I found her temper to be very accurate of a teenage girl battling with puberty but her mood swings and the way she treats her friends and family was a little bit too much for my reading tastes. 

The overall story was very good and i loved how it was told on flashbacks with a few chapters being present day. This book isnt well heard of and doesnt have many ratings on Goodreads, it deserves a lot more acclaim really. I highly recommend. 

Saturday, 14 May 2016

#37 Seconds

Seconds By Bryan Lee O'Malley

I have wanted to pick this up since it came out, i was a massive fan of the Scott Pilgrim series so i was interested to see what Bryan Lee O'Malley came up with next and this certainly did not disappoint. From the first page of the first volume of Scott Pilgrim, the books are a gleefully energetic mash-up of manga, early twenty-something references,

Seconds follows the story of Katie who strikes up an unlikely connection to a house spirit who gives her mushrooms in order to change mistakes and right the wrongs she has made in a similar fashion to that of the butterfly effect. Katie only has a limited supply of mushrooms and is told by the house spirit Les not to neglect the, each change she makes has an astounding effect and although some changes are good there will be one significant change that is not good leaving Katie in a downward spiral of trying to gain the perfect life.

the crushing regret and occasional triumph of growing up, and video games. They are smart and simple in all the right ways, and taken together the six volumes are just about as perfect an argument as you'll find for how to tell stories about life in comic book form.

Ultimately Katie dreams of having her own restaurant, being friends with Hazel and having a good relationship with her boyfriend Max.  

The other characters Les, Max, Andrew and Hazel all play minor roles in the overall story but each mushroom she eats changes her relationship with one of the characters. All the characters are very diverse in both skin colour and body shapes and as a reader and lover of graphic novels this is very unusual and refreshing. 

The artwork is very similar to Scott Pilgrim which i love, its similar to manga as the characters all have big eyes. The only difference is the subject matter is of a more mature nature and it gets quite creepy in sections. The plot progession worked very well and although this is a large graphic novel of just over 300 pages it was never boring and it didnt feel too long either. 

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

#36 Hidden Bodies

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

The much anticipated sequel to You. I read You last year and it was a breath of fresh air, a psychological thriller about a stalker told from the stalkers point of view. It was hard hitting and action packed, i flew threw it and couldnt wait to pick up this sequel.

Hidden Bodies once again follows Joe Goldberg, who by all definitions is a bit of a psycho. After brutally murdering his ex girlfriend Beck he has moved onto greener pastures and picks up his life in New York to move to LA where he finds new love with Amy Adam who appears to be care free and also off the grid which is very important to Joe as he cannot stalk her constantly online, the way he did with Beck. She is the polar opposite of Beck and their relationship is going well until she disappears....

With You and carried on within Hidden Bodies the main common theme is how much of an ass the protagonist is but he is intentionally written this way. He has no redeeming qualities what so ever, so much so that it makes you feel sorry for him almost.

The new characters were very mismatched, firstly you have Amy, whos quite likeable but quirky for the sake of quirky, she actually gets super annoying after a while. Then theres Love (stupid character name) and her twin brother Forty (another stupid name) they are much of a muchness, quite bland, superficial characters. Love being slightly better than Forty. There was several other characters essential to sub plots but none overly relevant to mention. The introduction of so many new characters made the overall story very disjointed. I didnt find any of them interesting, at all.

There was too much change in this book, it was too full on. He read as a different character, in LA he is written as a sex magnet whereas he was written as creepy when in New York. He was still witty and charismatic but i wasnt sure if the new side of him was written as character development. It was very different from the first book but much more light hearted but unfortunately i didnt enjoy it as much.

This was a slow read for me, it took me over a week to plough through it. it wasnt as captivating as the first book and it felt about 100 pages too long, a lot of chapters read as fillers and were unnecessary to the overall plot. The ending was wonderfully done, the last 50 pages kept me guessing constantly and it really pulled its rating up for me and lessened the disappointment. I really hope this will be a trilogy as the ending didnt feel like a conclusion and i really want to see what happens.

Monday, 28 March 2016

#36 Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

The Man in the High Castle is a story of  a historical alternative reality in which Germany won World War II, it also has slight sci-fi themes embedded. It follows several different characters and their lives after the war. This is set in the USA fifteen years after the end of the war with both Germany and Japan now occupying the country. The west coast is occupied by Japan, the east coast is occupied by Germany and there is a strip not controlled by either nation referred to as the neutral zone. This causes a lot of racial and political tension throughout the book. One element that was particularly interesting to read was that Germany still controlled concentration camps and had moved them into America. 

The three main characters in this book are white Americans who lived in America before the war. The main protagonist is Frank Frink, a man on the brink of being fired. He works for a company that puts together collectible artifacts tying into that is Robert Childan who owns the collectibles shop, he sells to Japanese buyers who are only interested in artifacts directly related to the USA, Then there is Juliana, she lives in the neutral zone or free states as its also known as, as a character she constantly battles with her moral opinion on how the country is run and who and what to believe. 

When Juliana comes into contact with the book 'The Grasshopper Lies Heavy' a controversial story about the alternative history to the alternate history that we are already reading about which details how America won the war. Whats interesting is that each character comes into contact with this book at certain points but the stance and how they intrepid it is completely different. 

I really enjoyed the alternate reality elements of this story and felt that overall the plot and premise was very strong and compelling. The conspiracy and mystery aspect is executed perfectly, extremely detailed and constantly keeps the reader guessing as well as coming up with their own theories. 

The writing style is a bit bizarre, the sentences read very choppy and sometimes this massively interrupts the flow. It made me put the book down on several occasions and i feel if it was a bit more fluid i could have finished it in fewer sittings.

Throughout the story some of the characters become aware that there is two realities one in which Germany won and the other in which America won. This was a very strange thing to read about and felt at times disjointed from the main story. The ending felt incomplete to me, the last 20 or so pages just fell flat for me, i was considering giving it 5 stars before then but leaving the reader without an answer or closure is a huge no no for me so i had to downgrade its star rating. I gave it 4 as credit where its due it was one hell of a read! 

All in all i believe this will be adapted much better to screen than it comes across in literary form. I became very emotionally involved with the story but my main criticism is that it really lacked any kind of character development and the ending was practically non existent. 

Thursday, 24 March 2016

#34 The Magicians

The Magicians by Lev Grossman 

The Magicians is a story about Quentin Coldwater, a young man from Brooklyn who has dreams of attending an Ivy League college but when an opportunity arises to attend Brakebills, an elite school for magic then Quentin embarks on 4 years of study to learn magic. He is obsessed with a series he read as a child about a fantasy world (not unlike Narnia) called Fillory, this makes up a large part of the story. The book spans quite a few years (the pacing is done amazingly well) so you get to see Quentin learn magic over a few years an ultimately you get to see what he uses his magic for upon graduating.

Quentin and his friends at Brakebills who are referred to as 'The Physical Kids', they comprise of Alice, Eliot, Josh, Janet and Penny. I really enjoyed these characters but particularly Alice and especially her relationship with Quentin. At times this was so intense it felt like they were real and you knew them, they experience so many highs and lows and every step of the way was wonderfully written. 

Quentin as a protagonist is selfish, self centered and carries a huge sense of self entitlement, he doesnt even have that many redeeming qualities but this is what makes him such a great and controversial character. You see him change from a boy to a man (he Neville Longbottoms hard during the years). I also thought Eliot and Josh were great side line characters although you dont get too much in this book about them, its all about Alice and Quentin. I really hope that the next book has more about them in it. 

Where do i even begin with this? The premise of this book is everything i typically dont like yet i loved it. The world building is second to none. The characters are diverse and relateable. The book is so action packed even for 550 pages, it keeps you guessing and drives you to carry on with the trilogy. It reads like Harry Potter condensed into one book with a little bit of Narnia thrown in to shake things up. You really get to see what the students endure each year, not dissimilar to HP. 

The most intense part of the story for me is when Q plays a practical joke on one of his professors and the shit really hits the fan. I dont want to say too much in the hopes of keeping this as spoiler free as possible but its possibly the best part of the book for me. 

People who enjoyed HP but who are looking for a more mature version with adult content such as strong language, violence and sex then this is definitely the story for you. I gave it 4 stars based on the world building and plot. 

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

#33 An Ember in the Ashes

 An Ember in the Ashes By Sabaa Tahir

Original read: March 2016 (2 stars)
Reread: September 2019 (4 stars)

An Ember in the Ashes is a debut novel within the fantasy genre. It follows 2 protagonists Elias and Laia (pretentious character names that have too many vowels!) they are from opposite ends of the spectrum, Elias is a trained fighter and Laia is a scholar, the lowest class with society. When Laia's brother Darin (another stupid name) is taken and arrested for treason Laia embarks on a journey to find 'The Resistance' in order to break her brother out of jail, ultimately she must spy in order to build trust within The Resistance. Elais' story was slightly more interesting, in the beginning he is days away from graduation after years and years of training and he wishes to sneak away and leave the academy that hes part of, the penalty for abandoning if caught is death. 

This story is said to be inspired by ancient Rome which in theory i was really excited about and i did enjoy the world building but it didn't encompass anything Roman really. Upon rereading i did enjoy it a lot more and found the audiobook much more engaging than reading it physically. The beginning was a bit slow and it did take a while to get into but the tension was built slowly and by halfway through i was pretty obsessed and finished it within 2 and a bit days. 

Laia is tiny bit bland in the beginning, her decision making is very questionable but her character growth is well done and she does redeem herself by the end. Elais was the main thing that kept me reading, his back story was interesting and i enjoyed how conflicted he was throughout. When i first read this in 2016 i wasnt really into fantasy and read a lot of contemporary at that point but 3 years later and i pretty much exclusively read fantasy with a few thrillers thrown in the mix. I reread this as its my friend Kirstys fav so shout out to Kirsty for getting me to give this one another go! I now fully get the hype!

For me Helene was a stand out character, she was strong, independent and bad ass. She was everything a leading lady should be and in comparison Laia really fell down. Laia's role as a rebel was probably my least favorite aspect of the novel. Not only was she absolutely dreadful at it, but the rebels seemed shocked to find Laia hurt on a number of occasions. Things like this was worthy of an eyebrow raise because Laia was attempting to spy on the most dangerous person in the story, The Commandant, knowing that their previous spies were tortured and killed. So why are Laia's bruises a surprise?

All in all Sabaa's writing was indeed phenomenal, really well done for a debut and the ending has left me wanting more. World building is a really important fact for me, but there is another one that is more important in my opinion: Characters. I’ve said many times now that the characters can be the most influential factor on my enjoyment for a book. I’ve fallen in love with some books because of this, and the same applies to some books I’ve hated. The characters were well written even if Laia was a bit annoying Elias really made up for it! 

“Life is made of so many moments that mean nothing. Then one day, a single moment comes along to define every second that comes after. Such moments are tests of courage, of strength."

Thursday, 25 February 2016

#32 Winter

Winter by Marissa Meyer
(The Lunar Chronicles #4)

i read the first 3 books in this series Cinder, Scarlet and Cress in early 2014 so i have been waiting a long time for this finale! Initial thoughts were holy shit 824 pages, what a beast. About half way through i was glad that it was so long as i was not ready to be done with it.

This story follows Princess Winter who is our villain Queen Levana's step daughter. Winter is a young girl (age not disclosed) id guess around 16 or 17. When her father died Levana swears to him that she will look after and protect Winter. As Winter becomes a young woman Levana feels threatened by her beauty, so much so that she glamours her into cutting her own face. Winter refuses to use her Lunar gift of manipulating people and she doesnt use her glamour to hide her scars as a direct result of this she has lunar sickness which causes hallucinations and general madness.

In this final installment the gang (Cinder, Kai, Iko, Scarlet, Wolf, Cress and Thorne) decide to fight back and dethrone Levana to ensure Selene (Cinder) gains her rightful throne. As Kai is set to marry Levana in order to sign a peace treaty between Earth and Luna and secure the antidote to cure Letumosis, an earthen disease created by Levana. Cinder forms a plan to rage a war from the outer sectors of Luna and to ultimately overthrow Levana.

After reading Fairest, a novella that details why Levana turned into the evil dictator we know and love, i couldnt help but feel sorry for her. All she ever wanted was to be regarded as beautiful and to be queen. Her older sister Channery (Cinders mum) manipulates Levana into putting her hand in the fire resulting in her having quite severe burns in which she uses her glamour to constantly hide. Levana becomes bitter and sets out to become queen no matter what, when she kills Selene in order to eliminate a heir to the throne she becomes queen by default. Chaos and rebellion ensues.

I am very fond of the friendships and romantic relationships between each of the characters, particularly Cress and Carswell Thorne which i have enjoyed from the previous book. The introduction of Winter was masterfully crafted and her romantic interest Jacin was perfect, i loved the dynamic between them. I usually detest books with too much romance but these books are so subtle with it, its really well done.

The ending felt a little rushed and i was left with a gaping hole in my heart knowing that this was the final book and id never know what became of the characters or the relationship between Earth and Luna!

I gave this book 4 stars based on the abrupt ending but ultimately it was rather faultless! 

Saturday, 23 January 2016

#31 Dangerous Girls

Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

This book is a YA thriller centering around an intricate friendship group that go to Aruba over spring break. The story mainly follows Elise, Anna and Tate. Elise and Anna are best friends and Tate is Annas boyfriend. When Elise is brutally murdered towards the end of the holiday Anna and Tate are immediately in the firing line as the main suspects in her murder,

I really enjoyed the layout of this book as the chapters are split into before the holiday, during the holiday and the trial. It ever so slowly reveals more information allowing the reader to bring about their own conclusions of what happened. It goes into detail about Anna and Elise's friendship as well as the jealousy of the others in the friendship group and how this would play into the overall plot.

The main things i liked about this was how gripping and fast paced it is, i couldnt put it down and felt that although it was YA it lived up to some of the other adult thrillers ive read such as Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. The writing wasnt overly descriptive which is one of my pet hates in YA and it was a good length (388 pages), it flowed really nicely but the ending seemed a little rushed and i would have liked more detail of what actually happened in the end, it was glossed over intentionally which i did not appreciate. From looking online this book isnt that well known which is surprising as it was extremely well written and deserves more popularity.

A few things i disliked, the ending. Without going into too much detail to avoid spoilers, id heard that there was a big twist, i waited in anticipation and not only did i not like it but it brought this book from a solid 4 star rating to a 3. Also a few of the characters are pointless page fillers, the friendship group was rather small but to only focus on 3 characters in a mystery thriller seems silly, surely if you want the reader to guess who killed her you would provide background and potential motive for each character which this really lacked.

I saw on Goodreads that there is a sequel to this and as much as i didnt like the ending, i really need a sequel to this! from what ive read it doesnt follow the same characters but the plots are similar with the possibility of a few linked characters from the first book? Im not sure as the synopsis is raher vague.

Overall this was utterly gripping and the time jumps worked really well, each section was interesting and really developed the overall story, there was times when i had to stop myself from glancing down the page to read it faster and find out what was going to happen,
although i didnt care for the twist i still really enjoyed this.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

#30 Night Film

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

This book is a mystery/psychological thriller set in New York that follows washed up investigative journalist Scott McGrath as he looks into the mysterious death of 24 year old Ashley Cordova. Ashley was the daughter of reclusive horror movie director Stanislas Cordova who has been off the grid since 1977. Scott has been in trouble in the past for writing slanderous stories about Stanislas and the dark and disturbing films he makes.These slanderous stories tainted Scotts reputation and he was no longer as highly regarded within the media profession.

When Ashleys death is ruled as a suicide Scott decides to look into it, not only because he deems it suspicious but because of his aberrant fascination with the Cordova family and the redemption he seeks after his career was ruined by them. Scott then begins an investigation in order to find out what happened to her. Scott teams up with Nora and Hopper and the three of them try to uncover who Stanislas is. Nora is a 19 year old aspiring actress who basically forces Scott into allowing her to be his side kick after promising him information on Ashley. Hopper is a drug addict/alcoholic with a difficult past whose intentions on finding out what happened to Ashley arent really discussed.

Scott was by and large a decent protagonist,his character was quite flawed yet realistic. Nora, i found to be really irritating but i think she was written this way purposely, she was a bit of a stereotype and didnt grow on me at all.

This book is just over 600 pages and is filled with news and web articles, police files along with clues that they find on the way. The visual aid really adds to the story and keeps the reader guessing. I think without these snippets i may have gotten a little bored and it is a little tedious in parts. 600 pages is a lot and the story remained gripping throughout. One of my favorite elements was the mystique surrounding Stanislas and the underground cult following he gained, that alone made for some interesting reading.

This book was marketed as a horror story and i really failed to see any element of horror incorporated, it was rather disappointing. The characters also lacked a little for me, i enjoyed the story surrounding the Cordova's but Nora and Hopper really bored me. There was many times where i found the dialogue when they were questioning people to be dull and unnecessary and it really dragged out the chapters.

The ending was a pleasant surprise, it was satisfying which you dont normally get with a thriller/mystery story. It wasnt rushed and flowed really well and seems to fit in well with the rest of the story.