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Aug 11, 2018 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: WE RIDE THE STORM by Devin Madson

War built the Kisian Empire and war will tear it down. And as an empire falls, three warriors rise.

Caught in a foreign war, Captain Rah e’Torin and his exiled warriors will have to fight or die. Their honour code is all they have left until orders from within stress them to breaking point, and the very bonds that hold them together will be ripped apart.

Cassandra wants the voice in her head to go away. Willing to do anything for peace, the ageing whore takes an assassination contract that promises answers, only the true price may be everyone and everything she knows.

A prisoner in her own castle, Princess Miko doesn’t dream of freedom but of the power to fight for her empire. As the daughter of a traitor the path to redemption could as easily tear it, and her family, asunder.

As an empire dies they will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood.

This book was a bloody revelation, and I do mean that in several senses of “bloody”. Devin Madson has created a world that keeps you hooked from beginning to end, not just to find out who actually survives, but because it’s just so interesting.

Each of the three main characters were a delight to read, and all had unique perspectives on the world and their place in it. I particularly enjoyed seeing Rah put in increasingly difficult positions and struggling to reconcile it with his moral compass, and watching Miko’s determination to thrive in a world that dismisses women. Having three first person POV throws you right in the middle of everything, and I really enjoyed that. Word of warning to those who are, like me, easily confused – use the symbols at the beginning of each chapter to keep track of characters.

The writing and world building were immersive, and I found it very easy to lose track of time while reading. Madson has a wonderful turn of phrase that conveys so much detail without any waste at all, and it really keeps the story moving along without losing any depth.

A lot of people have said this book is really dark and grim, and I didn’t it particularly so, but it definitely doesn’t shy away from the darker side of things. I cannot wait to see what happens in book two, and the rest of the series!

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Nov 9, 2017 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Mini Review Round Up!

Life has been a little crazy over the last few months, and while I’ve been reading ALL of the books, I haven’t had a chance to write about any of them. That makes me sad. So, below are some of the YA books I’ve read and enjoyed recently.

Among the Red Stars by Gwen C. Katz

World War Two has shattered Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She knows her skills as a pilot rival the best of the men, so when an all-female aviation group forms, Valka is the first to sign up.

I really loved how the story was told from Valka’s POV, mixed in with letters to and from her best friend Pasha, also off fighting in the war. The character development of both was done really well, and I really enjoyed the depth given to secondary characters in Valka’s squadron. I especially enjoyed the portrayal of all the female relationships throughout the book. Not everyone got along all the time, but there was a strength and unity to their relationships that I don’t often see in books.

This was also a great way to learn more about the real-life squadron the book is based on – The Night Witches – without getting bogged down in “boring” facts (although I am now going to find some time to read more about those badass ladies).

Goodreads | Book Depository


The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

I was pleasantly surprised by The Last Namsara. It moved past the “all dragons are evil beasts” trope nicely, and while I don’t want to spoil anything, I thought the way they gain their power was intriguing.

I would like to see more development of secondary characters – there are a few that serve more as convenient ways to shift the plot along than actual people, but it’s a solid start to the series and I’m looking forward to reading the next book.

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Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks – and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday. But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. 

There has been a lot of hype about Nevermoor, and mostly it lives up to it. I don’t read a huge amount of middle grade-type books, but this one was a delight. The world building is really interesting, and I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to experience Hotel Deucalion first hand. I really enjoyed the characters, especially Hawthorne and Cadence. I do hope they’ll continue to play a large part in the rest of the series.

In all, it’s a delightful read, one that I did have trouble putting down, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the rest of the series develops from here.

Goodreads | Book Depository

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Here is a thing everyone wants: a miracle.
Here is a thing everyone fears: what it takes to get one.

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

I have to admit, I felt a bit let down by this one, especially as I’ve really enjoyed Maggie Stiefvater’s previous books. It has such an interesting premise, and I love the way she weaves fantasy elements through reality, but I just couldn’t connect with any of the characters, so the whole thing fell flat for me. That said, the world building and sense of place throughout the story was very well done and worked really well to ground the characters.

If you’re a Stiefvater fan, maybe give it a go, but really I’d recommend skipping this one.

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Invictus by Ryan Graudin

Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-travelling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-travelling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past. 

Things I am 100% here for: heists and time-travelling shenanigans.

This was a really fun book. I loved all the different time periods visited and I really loved the character’s interpersonal relationships. It was just such a delight to see them all interacting, and watching them grow throughout the story. I confess I would have liked to see more of the heist shenanigans, but the main plot was just so interesting that I’m not terribly disappointed with how the story went – it just makes way for a prequel or twelve, right? (Hint, hint, please Ryan).

It’s well worth your time to pick this up, if only so you can help me plot how to get a pet red panda.

Goodreads | Book Depository

Jun 15, 2017 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: DOWN AMONG THE STICKS AND BONES by Seanan McGuire

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

I ate this book in a little over an hour and I’m not even sorry. For something so short – not even 200 pages – it sure does pack a hell of a punch.

I loved … all of it. I loved how the twins’ lives before going through their door wasn’t glossed over, especially as it informs so many of their choices later on. I loved the exploration of gender and sexuality, and how neither of those things were danced around. I loved the exploration of the relationships between each of the characters, and how the expectations placed on family members can affect who they become.

Just as in Every Heart A Doorway, the writing is beautifully written and pulls you in right from the very first line and flows perfectly from beginning to end. Considering the range of events throughout the book, this is no small feat.

Jack’s story was probably my favourite, and I enjoyed her personal growth very much. I find Jill to be a bit of a spoiled snot, but a believable one, and heartbreaking in her own way. That said, if I could have a book that was just Jack and her master, I would be very, very happy indeed.

Overall, a very worthy successor to Every Heart A Doorway, and if you haven’t read either yet, I highly recommend doing so.

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Jun 8, 2017 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: RED SISTER by Mark Lawrence

I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin.

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…

Red Sister is a slow burn. You’re there, learning about the world and the bundle of murderous delight that is Nona, and the rest of the nuns and then all of a sudden everything is happening! Some people may find it difficult to stick with because of that, but I really liked the sense of false security – you know bad things will happen, they aren’t hidden as the book progresses, but when they finally happen in their most stabby glory, it’s almost a surprise. Kind of like being on a rollercoaster – one minute you’re slowly creeping up the first incline, and the next you’re hurtling towards death.

The characters were all fantastic as well. The competition between the girls as they grow and learn was fantastically portrayed. I haven’t seen many books that capture the spirit of loyalty and determination and competition so often found in teenage girl relationships as well as Mark Lawrence manages, and I found it to be a very positive portrayal of how complex relationships can be. It was also great to see that secondary characters – primarily the adult nuns – weren’t neglected with their personal stories and relationships. There’s a great sense of who they are as people, not just as the girls’ teachers and role models.

The worldbuilding is also a huge standout. I didn’t feel like I was getting bogged down in details, but I still had a very good understanding of the world these nuns live in, and that’s a very good indication of the writing skill throughout the book. Mark Lawrence has a great way with words, and while Red Sister is quite different to his previous two trilogies, it has the same high quality throughout.

There is very little that I didn’t love about this book. It’s full of women going out there and Getting Stuff Done, pretty much regardless of the consequences, and that really warms the cockles of my heart.

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Jun 1, 2017 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE SECRET SCIENCE OF MAGIC by Melissa Keil

A captivating novel about two extraordinary teens, and the unsolvable problem of life after high school.

Sophia is smart, like genius-calculator-brain smart. But there are some things no amount of genius can prepare you for, and the messiness of real life is one of them. When everything she knows is falling apart, how can she crack the puzzle of what to do with her life?

Joshua spends his time honing magic tricks and planning how to win Sophia’s heart. But when your best trick is making schoolwork disappear, how do you possibly romance a genius?

In life and love, timing is everything.

While I’m not a super huge fan of YA contemporary, Melissa Keil is a HUGE exception because I adore her and I adore her writing, and with this book she doesn’t let me down at all.

It would be very easy to go “oh no not another coming of age novel” but Melissa Keil is so good at capturing the myriad of thoughts and fears and emotions of teenagers at that stage that it instantly takes me back to how I felt going through the same things. I especially related to Sophia and her social anxiety, which manifests in a way that makes me think she might be on the autism spectrum, but this is unfortunately never addressed in the book. What is addressed though, is how terrifying both Joshua and Sophia are finding the next stage of their lives, in their own individual ways.

I also enjoyed the slow build of their relationship as it moved from tentative friendship into something more. It was gentle and sweet and lovely. A huge highlight was a cameo appearance from characters in another of Keil’s books, and now I just really want a crossover novel. Please and thank you.

This is definitely a book that will be making it onto my reread shelf, and I’d recommend it to anyone about to tackle changes in their lives, regardless of their age.

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May 24, 2017 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: WHO’S AFRAID TOO? by Maria Lewis

Tommi Grayson: all bark, all bite . . . and now she’s BACK!

After the worst family reunion in history, Tommi needed some space. She’s spent the last few weeks trying to understand her heritage – the one that comes with a side order of fur – as well as learning about her Maori ancestry and how she can connect to it. But she can only escape for so long.

When an unspeakable evil returns, Tommi will need every piece of knowledge and all the skills she has. With the help of allies old and new, frenemies both helpful and super-annoying, she’s going to take the fight to the enemy . . .


The follow up to last year’s Who’s Afraid? was a really nice continuation of the series. I actually enjoyed this one a lot more than the first book, although there were a couple of things that niggled at me.

In a lot of ways, it really feels like Tommi has hit her stride with who she is, and that comes across as the book progresses. There’s less introspective infodumps, and we get more of a chance to see Tommi as herself. I would have preferred it if Tommi wasn’t automatically awesome at just about everything, even with her pedigree it should still take some time to learn new skills.

The other thing that bothered me I have mixed feelings about, and that was the limited time spent on exploring Tommi’s Maori heritage. On one hand, I was looking forward to learning more about Maori culture after the large focus in book one, especially as despite being so close to New Zealand, it’s not really a culture I know much about. BUT I also really like that there’s so much more to her than just being POC – it’s who she is, and is of course important, but it’s not ALL she is, and that’s something that is sometimes lacking in other culturally diverse books.

I loved the supporting cast, both old and new. I continue to have a love/hate relationship with Lorcan, Joss is a delight, and all the new characters are fun in their own ways. The writing continues to be snappy and sassy, and the story moves along at just the right pace.

In all, it was well worth sticking with the series, and I’m quite looking forward to seeing how book three plays out.

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Mar 23, 2017 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: CROOKED KINGDOM by Leigh Bardugo

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.

Oh boy. What an amazing conclusion to the story.

Crooked Kingdom picks up right where Six of Crows leaves off, and I think it’s great that there was no “six months later” nonsense, that would have really destroyed the momentum gained in the first book. The plot in this book is a little more complex, and a lot more politically motivated, but no less intriguing. It was a lot of fun seeing everyone turn their skills to a very different type of thievery to what we see in Six of Crows. I also really appreciated the finale, as heartbreaking as it was. I won’t ruin it of course, but to have it end any other way would have been very dissatisfying. I’m still stamping my foot over it though.

“Isn’t that how things are done around here?” asked Wylan. “We all tell Kaz we’re fine and then do something stupid?”
“Are we that predictable?” said Inej.
Wylan and Matthias said in unison. “Yes.”

The character development was also brilliant, for the most part. I would have liked to see Inej grow a lot more than she did, but it’s a minor quibble really. Adding Waylan as a POV character was absolutely brilliant, I really enjoyed getting to know him more directly than in the previous book. I had hoped to see Kuwei play a larger part as a character, rather than a plot device … but then it might have been 800 pages long and honestly, I’m also not sure he could have done more than he did. Just feels a bit like a waste of a character.

Ultimately though, this book was amazing from beginning to end. I laughed, I cried, I wanted to throw it across the room several times. It was just about perfect.

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Six of Crows review

Mar 14, 2017 - Book Reviews    No Comments


Imagine a world filled with fierce, fiery beings, hiding in our shadows, in our dreams, under our skins. Eavesdropping and exploring; savaging our bodies, saving our souls. They are monsters, saviours, victims, childhood friends.

Some have called them genies: these are the Djinn. And they are everywhere. On street corners, behind the wheel of a taxi, in the chorus, between the pages of books. Every language has a word for them. Every culture knows their traditions. Every religion, every history has them hiding in their dark places. There is no part of the world that does not know them.

They are the Djinn. They are among us.

This was such an interesting collection of stories. I hadn’t heard of many of the authors before and that always makes an anthology more interesting to me – who doesn’t want new people to add to an unstable TBR pile?

Growing up with Aladdin, I really enjoyed that very few of the stories were in a similar vein – the variety of depictions of djinn nature and setting were fantastic. This variety made it a far more compelling collection of stories than if they had been the same old Middle Eastern trope, especially when several of the stories ventured into the future.

Standouts for me were:

The Congregation by Kamila Shamsie – This was such a beautiful beginning to the anthology, full of love and loss and longing, and had such a sweet and lovely ending. Would that we all find the contentment that Qasim eventually does.

Majnun by Helene Wecker – I really enjoyed the exploration of belief in this one. It was very well handled, and made for a compelling story. I also really enjoyed how the details were slowly teased out without needing to rush everything at the end – no small feat considering the average length of a short story.

A Tale of Ash in Seven Birds by Amal El-Mohtar – This is perhaps the shortest story in the book, and possibly the most heartbreaking. I could say more about this one, maybe even write a whole review just on it, but I don’t want to take anything away from it at all. Just go read it.

Reap by Sami Shah – This one was the creepiest in the book, and I loved it. The remoteness of the POV characters from where the actual story is taking place gives an otherworldly feel to the main narrative, while keeping you engrossed as you learn with those characters. I would absolutely love to see this turned into a considerably longer story – who can I harass for that??

Bring Your Own Spoon by Saad Z. Hossain – This one jumps into a post-apocalyptic setting, where the planet is pretty well ruined. Unlike the horror aspect of Reap, this one was terrifying in its realism, but despite that, our main characters find something good to pursue, and I think that’s something we could all do with these days.

History by Nnedi Okorafor – I really enjoyed this one, and it was a very strong end to the anthology. A bit like A Tale of Ash in Seven Birds, this one is hard to talk about without giving away the things that make it so wonderful. I will say though, the final line is pure brilliance, and I did chuckle when I read it.

As for the rest of the stories, I enjoyed them all to varying degrees and would definitely recommend them. There were a few, like The Sand in the Glass is Right by James Smythe or Message in a Bottle by K.J. Parker, that I loved the concept of but the formatting made it a less enjoyable read. Ultimately, it is a very strong anthology though, and I would definitely recommend anyone with a passing interest in all forms of djinn pick themselves up a copy.
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Feb 7, 2017 - Book Reviews    1 Comment

Book Review: SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager
A runaway with a privileged past
A spy known as the Wraith
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes

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

All of my super-favourite books lately have involved Bad People doing Bad Things for Good Reasons. Of course I was very excited to read a book about a criminal prodigy out to save the world.

Having previously read the first Grisha book, I had some idea what to expect from the worldbuilding and Bardugo’s writing, but I don’t think anything could have really prepared me for just how much I loved this book. It’s easy to see how Bardugo has grown as a writer since Shadow and Bone, running a much tighter ship throughout.

And the characters. Oh my the characters. It’s very hard to pick a favourite, I do adore them all. They come from such a range of backgrounds, and have such a variety of personalities, but it’s very easy to find something with each to identify with. I did particularly like Nina’s sass, she was quite delightful, especially when needling Matthias. I especially loved how they came together with their disparate skills and various preconceived notions, and found a way to work together.

In all, it was a fantastic beginning to the adventure, and kept me hooked right from the first page. I may have even sniffled a few times throughout. Highly recommended for anyone who likes to see realistic characters facing impossible challenges – both internal and external.

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Sep 15, 2016 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: TIME SIEGE by Wesley Chu

26028483Having been haunted by the past and enslaved by the present, James Griffin-Mars is taking control of the future.
Earth is a toxic, sparsely inhabited wasteland­­the perfect hiding place for a fugitive ex­chronman to hide from the authorities.
James has allies, scientists he rescued from previous centuries: Elise Kim, who believes she can renew Earth, given time; Grace Priestly, the venerated inventor of time travel herself; Levin, James’s mentor and former pursuer, now disgraced; and the Elfreth, a population of downtrodden humans who want desperately to believe that James and his friends will heal their ailing home world.
James also has enemies. They include the full military might of benighted solar system ruled by corporate greed and a desperate fear of what James will do next. At the forefront of their efforts to stop him is Kuo, the ruthless security head, who wants James’s head on a pike and will stop at nothing to obtain it.

The second book in a series can be a bit rough. A lot of the set up has already been done in book 1, it’s too early for the big finale, and you have a few hundred pages of Interesting Stuff to get through. Not every second book survives that, but luckily for me, this one does a fantastic job.

Unlike Time Salvager, which spent a lot of time in the past, Time Siege is almost exclusively set in the present, and everyone spends a lot of time dealing with the consequences of their actions. I really enjoyed the time jumping in the first book, so I was a little disappointed to begin with when I realised there would be less of it, but the shenanigans throughout the book more than make up for it.

James was considerably less exasperating, but he also lost some of his spark. Kuo was very interesting, kind of like the snarling dog you don’t want to walk away from, and would maybe like to try patting. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there were a couple of characters reintroduced brilliantly, and I really liked the effect this had on the plot.

The writing style was just as good as in the first book, and while there’s less time jumping, the action is just as intense and well-paced throughout the book. It’s definitely a strong continuance of the series, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how it all ends.

Publisher: Tor
Release Date: 12th July 2016
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I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.