Review: Queen Heir by Jaymin Eve and Leia Stone

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Queen Heir by Jaymin Eve and Leia Stone

or:…. girls why?

Goodreads  ||   Kindle    ||  The Book Depository

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Summary: Arianna is a queen heir and at 20 years old she’s now eligible for the crown of wolf shifters. Heirs are trained and groomed so that they’re ready, should the queen perish during their time of eligibility. Of course, there’s little chance of that happening. The Red Queen has stood for a century, and her power is beyond reckoning. Or so Arianna believes, right up until the final tolling of the bells. The queen has fallen. Four heirs will now fight it out for the crown. Let the summit begin.

This book so wasn’t what I thought it was.

I don’t really know what I expected. I don’t even remember where I heard of this book. It must have been in a book haul on youtube.

This was a total, unequivable dud

Which is a big disappointment, because the premise and the world that the two ladies built was interesting. They spent little- to- no time fleshing anything out; characters, plot lines, abilities, the world as a whole and it’s history, NOTHING WAS COOKED!

It was what I imagined a cake made by a 3 year old with no supervision and infinite resources, tastes like.

Someone desperately needs to send these ladies writing help.

The main character was one of the most annoying characters I’ve ever read, and the supporting characters were appallingly 2-D. The limited characters of merit and promise had one line to say before they faded into oblivion. Everyone was there to serve as a bad plot devise.

Eve and Stone mashed this together with little regard for any introspection or genuine story telling. This reeks of a money deal gone wrong. They’ve tried to cash in on the “strong female” character, and failed so miserably that reading this character’s point of view is like getting a bad wax from some shady back alley ‘salon’.

What makes me mad is how much potential was wasted. This could have been a fantastic story; the world was interesting and fresh (rare in YA), and they had an interesting complication developing. BUT MY GOD. This was a second-hand Audi in a car wreck.

I nearly stopped reading so many times. But as is often the case with these sort of hot mess books, you cant look away, because you want to see how much worse this tom muckery gets. I wanted to see how far it could slide down into awfulness, and I was curious to see how desperate they would get to make it all tie in and make sense.

They got pretty damn desperate.

This whole story was likely written in half an hour, while these two ladies were under the influence. Or one gave it to a 12 year old girl during a creative writing exam.

They could have fleshed this out and spent so much time and effort, but they rushed and hacked at so many scenes which could have been fantastic.

AUGH! WHERE IS THE JUSTICE IN THE FICTION WORLD?!

I’m calling it, this is definitely making onto my worst list of this year (its only March but it’s safe to put this one on there!)

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My top 5 and 5 least favourite books of 2016

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Ok, so who’s ready for one of the most controversial posts in the book review community? The silence is overwhelming. I’m a bit late here, but to coincide with my last post, here are my top 5 and top 5 of 2016.

I’m going to be doing this slightly differently.

For my top 5 I wont be giving a small review on why I liked them; I want others- if they are inspired to- to read them for themselves and come up with their own opinions. Or if you, dear reader, have read one, please give me your review in the comments. That will certainly mix these things up. I will however include some links to the good reads page and if I managed to review it last year, there will be a link to my review. (Don’t worry my reviews tend to be spoiler free)

For my least favourite books, I will write only one line. In that one line I will say in summary, why I didn’t like it.

Cool? Cool.

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Why: Story with good idea executed very poorly with weak characters.
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Review: Da Vinci’s Tiger by L.M Elliott

Why: Bad history re-tellings and teenage angst don’t make good bedfellows.
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Why: A bad case of second book syndrome and a book that was nothing like the first.
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Why: It made me saliva vomit constantly.
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Why: It was ok… but just ok…and a bit of a pipe dream.

January 2017 Wrap Up

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So January kicked off a bit sluggishly for me this year and I made a very impressive dent in my 2017 Goodreads Challenge (Which is 50 again this year. I couldn’t quite get there last year but I’m determined to this time). I read 7 books in January. And boy did I read some crackers.

I’ve not done a monthly wrap up before but I think it might be a nice change this year.

  1. Drums of Autumn – Diana Gabaldon 

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… Ok, so I technically read 70% of this book in December 2016, but I finished it in the new year so i’m counting it. Man oh man was this book good. Without giving too much away of the previous three books, the fourth book shifts location and offers Gabaldon’s unique view of history for a totally different country. Gabaldon has such a fantastic way with words and her characters are so real and human, its hard to reconcile that they’re fictional. While two of the rising stars- Briana and Roger have been known to us previously, Gabaldon ensures we’ve fallen totally in love with both of them. A stellar fourth book; so good in fact, that I actually would have been satisfied if the series had ended here…. BUT I’M SO DESPERATE FOR BOOK 5 IT’S INSANE.

2. An Ember in the Ashes-  Sabaa Tahir

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So I waited to read this book for a very long time. I found out about it when the advanced readers were singing it’s praises and eagerly awaited it’s release. I was unable though to get my hands on it after it came out so I was left waiting listlessly for it. OMG this book is SO worth the hype. This book was not what I expected at all but I bloody love it. The summary is so misleading but in a good way; the characters are strong, determined and each powerful in their own rights. A corrupt government, a filthy, irredeemable villain and notorious rebels, make for a complex and rich plot. It’s a diverse novel that just works. I was on the edge of my seat the entire book.

3. A Thousand Nights – E. K. Johnston

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I was really worried this book would be too much like ‘The Wrath and the Dawn’ which I read last year and adored. I need not have feared though, this book was SO different. Worlds apart. With a fresh style that’s unlike any I’ve read, Johnston weaves a lush story. Johnston’s story is pretty faithful to the original folk tale, but diverges about half way through. Lo-Melkhiin is hideous and i’m glad Johnston didn’t try to romantasize him. I loved that the main character was left really ambiguous; with a nice trick at the end I didn’t see coming. You can tell Johnston knows her stuff; the way she described the land was so authentic and genuine- it was obvious she drew inspiration from real life. A fantastic interpretation of a classic.

4. Divergent- Veronica Roth

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I’m sure you’ve noticed a trend;- I tend to be super late to the party for most over-hyped teen franchises. When Divergent came out, I religiously avoided it; some part of me shied away from what I thought would be a dull and under-cooked book. I’d seen the movie but hadn’t felt a great tug towards it. I listened to this as an audiobook; summer radio in Australia is impossibly dull, and a 30 minute commute each way needed some filling. I got so into it, I used to listen to it in the afternoons when I got home from work. I was so pleasantly surprised by this book. I got so sucked up in the story, I forgot I was listening to a story. Is it worth all the hype, nah probably not. But I still quite enjoyed it. It’s an awfully dark tale for a teen audience, but I think it holds an extremely relevant commentary for current world affairs.

5. Passenger- Alexandra Bracken

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This was another one of those books that I’d meant to read for a very long time. I loved Alexandra Bracken’s work on the Darkest Minds series and I’ll honestly go for anything she publishes, she’s got that much skill and command. But time travel? Sign me the heck up! This book delivers. It’s certainly not what I thought it was- I was definitely lead down the wrong tunnel when listening to people’s book reviews. While the romance in there was cheesy at times and a little bit cringy, the time travel aspects were very well done. The sense of urgency is really well conveyed without rushing the plot. The side characters were well thought out, and Bracken spends the time to remind the reader how dangerous time travel is. Definitely for the Doctor Who fans- this book is original and fresh.

6. Illuminae – Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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Sci-fi -especially Sci-fi aimed at Young adults- always tends to be under-baked and totally unrealistic. This was one of the most god-damn interesting books I’ve read in a really long time. Holy Shmooze balls is this book GOOD. This has to be one of the most original ways to tell a story that I’ve come across; told via case-files, audio transcripts and instant message logs, this is fantastic. Kaufman and Kristoff have poured so much hard work to create texture and life into each and every page. Each page is an image- scribbles, black sections from sensors, memo style backgrounds, logos the works. No expense has been spared. The story is fantastic- it’s gritty, it’s complex, thought provoking and dynamic. The scary thing is, it’s really not that hard to put aside your disbelief; this honestly feels like it could happen. The book cleverly taps into everyone’s deep dark fears; Multi-national corporations, Artificial Intelligence, the deep- unexplored dark nothingness of space and war. It’s bloody brilliant and everyone needs to read it. Also can we please just appreciate some Aussie excellence (YEAH KAUFMAN AND KRISTOFF!!! REPRESENT!!)

7. Adulthood is a Myth- Sarah Anderson

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Funny story; I pre-ordered this book on the Book Depository 3 months before it came out last year and they cancelled my pre-order without notice or warning a few weeks out from publication… yeah it’s not actually that funny… I was pretty devastated to be honest. This book was so worth the wait though. I found Sarah and her work in 2015 and absolutely fell in love with her. Like literally, her comics are so real and so cute I just cant even. Anyway, I eventually got my hands on this book (it was a case of post-Christmas “treat yo self”) and I savoured every last page. Its only a relatively small book of comics, but I treated every last page like royalty. Anderson is a genius- her work is funny, well executed and so god-damn relatable. This is literally the perfect pick me up; after a long day of pretending to be an adult, the comics go down as nice as a cold glass of Chardonnay on a Friday arvo. 10/10 would recommend.

 

 

So there you have it… what a month. Can honestly say I didn’t read a bad/meh book in January. This is surely a good sign for the reading year ahead. Leave a comment below with any recommendations for me this year and if you have a reading challenge. I’d love to see what everyone’s goals are for the year.

 

Stay golden!

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Review: City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

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City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

or: Third time lucky

Goodreads   ||   The Book Depository

Synopsis: To save her mother’s life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters – never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight. As Clary uncovers more about her family’s past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadowhunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadowhunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he’s willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her newfound powers to help save the Glass City – whatever the cost?

If you remember last year, I became a late fan of the Mortal Instruments series. I was strongly of the opinion when I read the second book- The City of Ashes– that Clare’s writing had, and would, get better over the course of the series. But I wasn’t expecting the dramatic leap of skill that occurred between The City of Ashes and this book; the City of Glass. Clare brought her best work to the table, and really stunned me with her clever one liners, and her greatly improved character development and plot twists.

So much happened in this book that I really don’t know where to begin talking about it. This book is immensely dense, with important character development or plot devices occurring every few pages. Clare managed to jam three books of content into this one book alone. At times it was slightly overwhelming, but someone has taken the time- either Clare or a SWAT team of copy editors (I’m inclined to believe the latter)- to really put in some elbow grease and polish this book up. It didn’t feel like the frenetic froth of the similar situation in Fire Study by Maria V Snyder, rather it felt a lot more restrained and mindful, as if Clare deliberately and sat down with a thick compendium of a plan and placed everything carefully.

That being said, the one character who should have developed the most, didn’t. At all. Clary- ever infuriating Clary- seemed to be left behind by Clare’s intense character development work. Jace was lovingly fleshed out, as was Simon and Isabelle. Alec shocked me with the almost 360 flip around his character did. We met and saw the development of several key, important, new characters, and we bloody finally got to meet Jocelyn Fray. Thank Christ, I thought she’d never wake up.

Oh whoops I’ve just divulged a mammoth spoiler. SORRY

And while yes, some of the plot twists did feel kind of like they were pushing the realms of believable story telling, they were all so gripping I really struggled to care much. This book had me ensnared from about 2 quarter, and I furiously read the last half of the book over a few days. The end half of the book takes place within 4 Alacante (That’s totally not a spoiler it’s in the title of the book and in the blurb) days and nights and feels like a bit of a pipe dream. Clare successfully executes enough character development in the first 5 chapters for all major characters that you are truly desperate to find out what happens to them through the rest of the book.

Thankfully, Clare finally drops the noxious and utterly shudder inducing ‘incest’ troupe by the end of the book. But you still need to grimace through 80% of this book before your theories from the last two books are proven correct. It’s a slug but the breath of fresh air at the end is a welcome relief from something that may have made me abandon the series. That being said, I’m very interested to see what troupes Clare will apply to Jace and Clary in the next books of the series.

Clare manages to slip in an incredible amount of world building around the main plot line and takes the time in this book to explain the world as she goes- something she tended to forget to do for her readers in the first two books. This third book makes a lot of earlier pieces of information and plot points in the first two books make sense, something which is somewhat of a disappointment as Clare shouldn’t make her audience wait that long for explanation. As I did touch on earlier, it seems as if she has learned from this mistake in this book however, which makes me hope future books may be as forthcoming as this one.

Without spoiling this book, i’m reluctant to go into any further detail as this book needs to be read as spoiler free as possible.

When the opportunity next arises, I’m looking forward into diving into book number four but Clare wrapped up the end of this book so nicely i’m not in much of a hurry to pick up the illusive book 4 (I honestly haven’t seen it anywhere online or in bookstores! Where the devil is it?). Books have and will have preference over this series, because, as good as this book was, it didn’t knock my socks off.  Or should I say, It didn’t knock my punk rock stilettos off (sorry Isabelle but heals and long dresses are not practical for fighting no matter how bad ass you are. Own up to it girl. We can see through this smoke screen)

Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

or: Ten Year Old Ashleigh Would Have Loved this Book

Goodreads    ||   The Book Depository

Synopsis: It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die. At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them. Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

When I was 10 years old, I went through a horse phase. Saddle Club was love, Saddle Club was life. I think most little girls went through a horse phase back in the early noughties.

Anyway, the point is- there is one I swear- that horse stories held my attention for a while from the ages of about 8-11. I love all animals, and think horses are great, but the frenetic energy of that time has been dead and gone for about 12 years… which makes me feel incredibly old when I think about it in that time framework.

But when I read the summary for this book back in early 2015, I knew I was going to end up reading it; it was only a matter of time. My inner 10 year old was rather insistent, and so, as a grown ass woman, I bought my first horse book in over 12 years. February 2016 was the time it seemed, as I needed something small to read while I waited on another book order, and this book had been sitting in my TBR pile for a few months.

This is not a childish story. At all. In fact, this story is definitely marketed at the age of 16 and older- not through adult themes, but more through the rich complexity of the writing. While the water horses are a chilling creation, courtesy of Stiefvater, they’re the sort of monster you find in a PG 13 film. But with Stiefvater’s well crafted plot and beautiful prose, these beasts definitely jump right off the page.

Do you know what I love about Stiefvater? She creates such human and believable characters, it’s really hard not to love them. Her characters are overwhelmingly human with real flaws, complexes and habits that are incredibly developed and real. It’s hard to not see them as people that you know in real life; the characters could honestly jump off the page and walk down the main street of town and no one would be any wiser.

That’s also the reason that I loved the romance between Sean and Puck. It’s not the knee -weakening, stars aligned, destined to be together shit. This is so real that you cant help but admire their honesty with each other. The slow burn creates so much empathy, and reader connection that it almost surprises you how much you end up caring about these characters.

While a short book overall, this wasn’t a fast moving plot. But it didn’t matter. It was slow and measured, yes, but I’m glad it was. It added to the authenticity of the story. And while yes, the ending and race itself was so damn predictable I could guess what was going to happen from chapter two, and while it played to those assumptions to a T, I’m glad it went that way. I would have been disappointed if it didn’t.

Stiefvater takes her time to comment on small towns and really develops the world Puck lives in, creating a complex mythology in a short period of time. And it must be an effective one, because this book sits at a solid 4.08 stars on Goodreads; people, it seems, agree with me.

At the end of the day, if you’re looking for an intense mystery, this isn’t the book to pick up. I would instead direct you to Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series. This book feels like the plot bunny that got away from Stiefvater and was definitely her book to play and create experience on settings, mythology and characters. But this book doesn’t read like a development piece and it’s not obvious at all when you’re reading it.

In summary; 10 year old Ashleigh would have loved this book. And 22 year old Ashleigh did as well.

Review: Heir of Fire by Sarah J Maas (Throne of Glass #3)

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Heir of Fire by Sarah J Maas

or: OMG THIS IS PERFECT AND I CANT EVEN

Goodreads     ||   The Book Depository

Synopsis: She was the heir of ash and fire, and she would bow to no oneCelaena Sardothien has survived deadly contests and shattering heartbreak—but at an unspeakable cost. Now she must travel to a new land to confront her darkest truth…a truth about her heritage that could change her life—and her future—forever. Meanwhile, brutal and monstrous forces are gathering on the horizon, intent on enslaving her world. To defeat them, Celaena must find the strength to not only fight her inner demons but to battle the evil that is about to be unleashed. The king’s assassin takes on an even greater destiny and burns brighter than ever before in this follow-up to the New York Timesbestselling Crown of Midnight.

I don’t know what’s better, the fact that Celaena starts this book off being as drunk as a skunk, or the fact that this book was utterly perfect.

This story takes the other two and absolutely SLAYS them. Maas brought the game to a whole new level. I liked the other two a lot, but this one was just Nirvana. Sometimes, series tend to slow down or falter on the third book of a series, as the author tries to bring in the major story line and add in new characters, new problems and question things. Maas doesn’t. Maas is the text book perfect example that all authors should follow.

As if Celaena could get any more badass. She does. What I loved most was the training sequences; watching her grow and her set back. Watching Maas prove, time and time again why  Celaena earned her spot as one of the most popular literary YA heroines in current circulation. There is no wisp of a hint of Mary Sue-ness; Celaena is a god damn miracle princess.

Literally.

This book introduced a swath of new characters, both friend and foe. Perhaps my two favourite new additions were Rowan and Manon. Rowan is perfect for Celaena’s character development, acting as the testy zen warrior master, impatiently pushing her- kicking and screaming- towards her end goal. Rowan is just bloody amazing, lets be real. I’ve got a thing for sullen older male characters, and Rowan is masterfully created and just ticks all the boxes. I’m so glad Maas didn’t force a romance in this book; their relationship developed naturally and painfully. They brought out the worst in each other before they brought out the best.

I loved Maas switching to Manon’s point of view; I loved the jumps to Manon’s story as it added another increasingly complex layer to an already thick, swelling plot. This other dimension just works, and it almost broke my mind trying to figure out what the clans were up to and what the king needed them for. I loved Manon. I loved how I wasn’t supposed to like Manon. I loved how bloody nasty she was. I loved her cheek and I loved her spirit. I truly think we need more characters like Manon. I loved how Maas explored the dynamics of the thirteen and the complexities of the clan ranking system. I loved the Wyrverns.

A lot of people grumble that this book relies to heavily on character building . A lot of people have a lot of problems with this book. Was there immense levels of character building? Yes, a heck tonne. Was it necessary for the series. YES. It explained so much, and I would argue, moved what could have been a series that eventually ran flat, into something much more complex and special.

I was willing to slog through the sometimes excessively slow parts because it was obvious the whole time that something BIG was coming. Maas rewards those who wait, and Maas dropped a stunning finale right in our laps. The end of this book certainly out-weighed the means to get there.

I always struggle reviewing books in a series, as it’s literally impossible to review them without seriously spoiling the first couple of books for people looking to read them. And I struggled with this book in particular because I wasn’t entirely sure what to say, and how to put my thoughts into words. This isn’t an easy book by any means; it’s not a book or series where you can simply switch your mind off and easily read. Each book, and line, and word requires concentration. Maas has given the readers a gift in this respect.

And I think, no matter how long I took to review this book, I’d never be able to do it true justice. This series is utterly fantastic and it’s mind boggling that I’ve only been reading it for a few months.

I cannot wait until book five which,- slated at the time of this review- to be released in September this year (2016). I read book 4 not long after this one, but you’ll have to stay tuned for that review.

I’ll end this review, with perhaps one of my favourite quotes from this book;

“And then I am going to rattle the stars.”
Sarah J. Maas, Heir of Fire

 

Read: English Paperback Edition

Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

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The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh 

or: THIS IS FANTASTIC AND SO WORTH THE WAIT

Goodreads   ||     The Book Depository

Synopsis: One Life to One Dawn. In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all. Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

It feels like I waited a 1000 years to get my hands on this book (Ha see what I did there?). Needless to say, when I opened this book as a present on Christmas Day, I was more than a little excited. I knew this book was going to be good; I could feel it in my bones. This book did not disappoint me.

Sumptuous writing, tantalizing character development, and a spellbinding plot, this book just simply has it all. A retelling of ‘A Thousand and One Nights‘, this book swirls in the old tale like cream in a luxe coffee. The characters are vivid and fascinating and I was honestly hard pressed to hate any character in the book; even the villains and the characters with questionable motives were excellent.

However, this a hard book to review. One of the reasons I put this review off for so long, is because it’s hard to work out what to say without spoiling some part of the complex plot. This book needs to be read with no expectations or knowledge of the plot. Trust me, I think the book summary is spoilery enough.

That being said, I’d like to talk in this review about the legitimacy and the strength of the POC narrator/main character. While no real heritage is given to the characters, it is assumed that the reader will equate them with an Arab or Turkish Lineage. And that’s certainly how I cast the characters. Not once does this proposed heritage feel forced or white washed; this was an authentic and true rendition and the biggest kudos needs to go  to Ahdieh for her work here.

It’s not the first time I’ve talked about the need for more diverse fiction, or my desire to read more of it. But as has been the case recently in the Young Adult fiction world, there becomes times where the readers will turn against a writer if the POC characters or story feels disingenuous. All it takes is a brief look at the reviews on good reads to see that this is not the case for this story.

This story hits home on more that one aspect, and it’s definitely a book that captures your whole mind. This shows a flawless level of audience/author understanding and an admirable amount of skill on Ahdieh’s part.

The next book in this series is coming out later this month, and I am like an enegizer bunny desperately waiting to find out what happens next. Regardless of if you choose to read this book or not (you totally should- 100 billion out of 10 recommend), Ahdieh is definitely one too watch. If her debut is this good, heaven help us all when she reaches her peak.

I am not worthy. I am not ready.

Read: International Paperback Edition 

Review: Da Vinci’s Tiger by L.M Elliott

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Da Vinci’s Tiger by L. M. Elliott

or: Seriously?

Goodreads  ||   The Book Depository

Synopsis: The young and beautiful daughter of a wealthy family, Ginevra longs to share her poetry and participate in the artistic ferment of Renaissance Florence but is trapped in an arranged marriage in a society dictated by men. The arrival of the charismatic Venetian ambassador, Bernardo Bembo, introduces Ginevra to a dazzling circle of patrons, artists, and philosophers. Bembo chooses Ginevra as his Platonic muse and commissions a portrait of her by a young Leonardo da Vinci. Posing for the brilliant painter inspires an intimate connection between them, one Ginevra only begins to understand. In a rich and vivid world of exquisite art with a dangerous underbelly of deadly political feuds, Ginevra faces many challenges to discover her voice and artistic companionship—and to find love.

I don’t know what bugged me more about this book, the main character or the “history” they used to tell a modern teen angst story.

Let me be fair, I got this book as a part of a YA subscription box a while ago. You don’t choose the books, and they come to you relatively fresh off the press to go with the theme of that month’s box. This book came with a cool set of magnets which I employ on a regular basis, but that’s really one of the few benefits that I got from this book.

Before we go any further, I need to point out that I’m a bit of a history snob. History is my thing;- I did my Bachelors degree with a History major and I have always had a strong appreciation for times gone past. Generally, Renaissance history isn’t my thing. I don’t see the romance in it and the great men of that era bore me to tears. But, like all human beings who can appreciate culture, I do admire the art that came out of the Renaissance.

I approached this book with a fair amount of skepticism. Marketed as a feminist leaning book – IT WAS NOT, DON’T LIE TO US- this book contradicts itself more than it has any right to do so. The most powerful line in the book was the opening line, hijacked from a pre-existing poem. It’s almost impossible to believe that the main character- the teeth grinding Ginevra- is the poet behind it.

Elliott seemed to change her mind about where this book was going about 10 times during the course of the novel. I was promised a complex and rich historical novel. That is not what I got.

Elliott has researched her subject matter… mostly. She gives us a watery and very simple story that she expects us to easily follow. This history isn’t ground breaking. This is the sort of ‘Reign’ history we are starting to see on mainstream historical dramas. I wanted a ‘Outlander’ style of history; with questions asked and things rigorously looked into. A western owned Italian chain restaurant has more connections to Italian history than this does.

It’s a damn shame because Elliott had the potential to achieve so much. Cutting away all the love-triangles, cliches, false Italiano and teen drama, there was a good solid base of a story. I wanted to know more about the Convent she grew up in. I wanted to know about her husband, when they met, what he was like actually. I wanted to see the gradual bloom of a relationship. I wanted to see a strong, time accurate woman who pushed limits.

Do not be fooled, dear reader by the blurb;- the blurb writer didn’t read the story at all and painted this book in a far fairer picture than they should have. This is pre-teen mass market angst masquerading as historical fiction. There are far better books on this era with much more grit and substance.

Don’t waste your money folks.

Read: American Hardcover edition.

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

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Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

or: !!!!!!!!!!!!

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Summary: Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee. Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

I loved this book. I didn’t think I would. But the story had me from the moment I opened the first page. I finished it in a matter of hours. But I did still have problems with this book, as much as I liked it.

Annoyingly, Bardugo tends to rely on cliche’s probably more than she should. She doesn’t need to, she’s a brilliant writer with a lot to offer and a lot of skill. Yet, like many writers in the young adult scene, she’s caught by many cliches. Whether it’s to make her writing well loved by her audience or simply bowing to peer pressure, i’m not sure.

Perhaps the most annoying cliche she uses in this book, is the age old love-triangle trope. I’m so sick of love triangles. They stopped being entertaining after the age of 17. Unfortunately, a lot of Bardugo’s audience obviously still fall within that age bracket, or haven’t yet come to hate it, because she panders to them beyond belief. The story didn’t need a love triangle. It would have been much better if certain characters stayed a platonic relationship; the love of a friend is just as motivating as romantic love.

Other than my few issues, I really enjoyed this book. Loosely inspired by Russian Folklore, it was refreshing to have a different flavour than usual to a book that falls under the fantasy/Young Adult bracket. The story also follows the traditional Cinderella story line. I don’t mind this if it’s used well- it is by Bardugo- and a lot of current Young Adults feel like they are falling back on this narrative style (Red Queen, the Selection, and countless more. You only need to read the blurbs of most Young Adult new releases or Popular books).

It’s an easy book to read and loose yourself in; I was so caught up in Ravka that the book flew by before my eyes. The world is rich and quite complex and one that feels like it could have existed- if magic and monsters did. As far as most books go, Ravka had an intriguing government system with interesting social dynamics.

Alina, however, was a fairly bland character, but benefited from some excellent character building scenes. I’m very interested to see where Bardugo takes Alina and how she develops her in the rest of the series.

This book has a heck tonne of hype surrounding it, and rightly so. This book works hard to earn your attention in a flooded market. Most times, I have problems with hyped up books, but this one feels like that it is worth all the attention it has gotten over the last year or so. From what I’ve heard, the best book in this series is the spin off set in the same world; Six of Crows. I’m definitely keen to read that one.

It’s one of those books that is hard to talk about without spoiling key plot points and it’s probably the reason I’ve taken so long to review it.

Read: International Paperback

Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagwa

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The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagwa

or: WHERE THE HELL IS MY GARLIC AND STAKE??!

Goodreads  ||   The Book Depository

Synopsis: Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a walled-in city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten. Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them—the vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself dies and becomes one of the monsters. Forced to flee her city, Allie must pass for human as she joins a ragged group of pilgrims seeking a legend—a place that might have a cure for the disease that killed off most of civilization and created the rabids, the bloodthirsty creatures who threaten human and vampire alike. And soon Allie will have to decide what and who is worth dying for… again.

It took me a while to get into this book, and it took a while for it to warm up, but once things got going, they certainly got interesting too. The final third of this book was excellent plot wise; gripping and plot twists galore.

There was a large problem for me however. I’ve read so many vampire books, it takes a lot these days to grab my attention. This book struggled to. This book sat on my shelf collecting dust for a good half a year or more before I convinced myself to pick it up and give it ago. I read it fitfully for the first half, struggling immensely with the character of Allison.

And here’s the point where I should probably be brutally honest; I don’t like Allison Sekemoto.

Quite plainly, I think she’s a Mary Sue. She barely improved, and her best moments were when she was helping the group at the end. This is extremely disappointing because there were other characters – very minor characters- who put Allison to shame. On the whole however, I didn’t agree with most of Kagawa’s characterization. I don’t know why, but something felt off but it did and it jarred me for the whole book.

The plot dragged in places, but had the right tempo in others. It was almost bizarre. If I wanted to- which I don’t- I recon I could easily pull out a stick and point to places she went back and re-wrote at a later date. Her skill improvement in these places was obvious.

On the whole it wasn’t a bad book. I think it’s just because I’ve read so many excellent books over the last year I’ve become slightly spoiled.

I also think my patience for the Vampire trope is waning. Once upon a time, Ashleigh loved vampire books. In fact, once upon a time, they were the only books Ashleigh read for a solid 2-3 years. Because of the sheer volume of the books I have read, I’ve become rather critical of them. Now don’t get me wrong, I still love a good vampire book, but they’ve got to be pretty impressive these days to make a dent in the market and in my mind.

Kagawa, while presenting an innovative story line, has unfortunately targeted the two areas in young adult fiction that have been totally bashed to death over recent years; Dystopian and Vampire. Like I said earlier, the story isn’t bad, it’s just a solid ok. I wouldn’t recommend it to my friends, but I wouldn’t forget about it either.

Will I read the other books in the series? No, probably not. I’ve got so many other series I’m halfway through or just starting that this one doesn’t really make my list for series to follow. But does this mean this is the last of Kagawa’s books I’ll read? No. I’ll certainly give her other works a try somewhere down the track.

My last words on this book will be this; it could have sucked more. (HA… Sorry that was a really bad pun)