Book Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

Synopsis

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs. 

The trick with found things, though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

My thoughts..

DISCLAIMER: Spoilers for Blue Lily, Lily Blue below.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue put the Raven Cycle series back up to a four star read for me.  I think I loved this book more than The Dream Thieves as it focused less on the magic and the mystery and more on the development of relationships. Character relationships have always been the main draw of reading for me, I just usually prefer a fantasy setting and some sort of mystery to keep me intrigued.

This leads me to reason why I had to put a spoiler warning on this review and why I loved this book so much which was of course Ronan and Adam. This was hinted at in the second book, but it finally started to develop in this book and I am loving it. I have to admit when reading about Ronan’s feelings in The Dream Thieves it seemed like an impossible dream of his, but Blue Lily, Lily Blue has started to make it a reality. I love everything about these two together, I loved the looks and the unspoken quality of what was maybe developing. I have no idea of Adam’s sexuality but him calling Blue the female Ronan gives me hope for these two in the future.

Now I do love how Maggie doesn’t feel the need to explain every little plot point and detail, it gives her books a dream like quality and as a reader you have to just accept that things are the way they are because that’s how it is. I love this about these books, I love how they are written. However I still struggled with certain parts of the story when they didn’t feel part of the story but more plot twists for plot twists sake. Maura randomly disappearing with no explanation how she knew where she was going, why she decided to go or how she was suddenly able to do what she did was one of these parts. I love Maura as a mother and a character but when she does things I don’t understand like dating violent killers and disappearing off to find Artemis I can’t help but roll my eyes a bit.

I have no idea how this series is going to end, and whilst I am curious I am not overly concerned. That is not to say that the plot isn’t interesting, I love the elements of magics so perfectly immersed in a realistic setting. I am immensely curious about how the Raven boys journey will end, but I think the main draw for me (apart from Maggie Stiefvater’s dreamy writing) has always been the developing relationships within these books.

“Blue was perfectly aware that it was possible to have a friendship that wasn’t all-encompassing, that wasn’t blinding, deafening, maddening, quickening. It was just that now that she’d had this kind, she didn’t want the other.”

This quote I believe perfectly encompasses why people love this series and these characters so much. The messy and realistic dynamics of the group, despite one of them being dead, is what sets this series apart from your typical ya fantasy and I think why people love these books so much.

Rating: 4/5 stars

My thoughts on the Shadow and Bone Trilogy ending..

DISCLAIMER: Spoilers for the Shadow and Bone Trilogy are below. Do not read if you have not read these books.

I should start by saying that I was intending to write full book reviews for Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising. What happened was I binged read both books in one night and I felt I couldn’t do a review justice as I didn’t really give myself time to reflect on the second book before I launched into the third.

One of the first things I wondered about when starting the series was why the romance hadn’t been spoilt for me yet. Bookstagram being Bookstagram all the major romantic relationships usually get spoilt by one way or another, but this didn’t happen with this trilogy and I was suspicious as to why. Obviously this could have just meant that there was no main ship or that it ended badly for the couple, but I didn’t think so. For whatever reason I got the impression people weren’t that invested in the relationship in this book and now I know why.

Malina.

This trilogy set up three possible and completely different endings for Alina.

  1. Alina could have ended up co-ruling with the Darkling, trying to bring the Grisha back into Ravka society whilst working together to not be consumed by the power they wielded.
  2. Alina could have ended up Queen of Ravka, married to Nikolai in an effective political alliance that may or may not turned to actual love later.
  3. Alina goes with what she thought her heart always wanted and ends up with her childhood bestfriend Mal.

For me the most interesting direction was for Alina to end up with the Darkling. They had more chemistry, and I felt more in common. Just to be clear I don’t want Alina and The Darkling together so Alina could fix him and redeem him, I just felt like they two sides of the same coin. Alina would have balanced The Darkling and reading this story line for me would have been far more interesting.

The main problem I have with Malina is that Alina had to become less of herself in order for it to succeed. I think ending up with Mal the book tried to send the message that Alina was always a strong individual and she didn’t need her power to make her strong or to define her. This would be great except for the writer often described how sickly, weak and basically ugly Alina was when she wasn’t using her power and being true to herself.

That power is part of Alina and removing it at the end I think was a disservice. Particularly when you consider that Mal couldn’t stand Alina being more powerful and useful than him, several times he said he wanted the old Alina back. Which was infuriating given that before her power Mal didn’t appear to look twice at Alina and was quite happy being the popular soldier and ladies man.

The book ending with Mal and Alina reverting right back to who they where before, all the development and characterisation was lost. As a reader it was definitely frustrating to see more interesting avenues go unexplored and completely abandoned in favour of a more simple yet sweet ending.

 

 

Book Review: Shadow and Bone By Leigh Bardugo

Synopsis

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite – the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

My thoughts..

This book for me was an exceptionally easy to read – I ploughed through the entire thing in about 4 hours. I did not want to put it down. It has all the typical elements of a ya fantasy but there’s enough depth and world building to make this book a little something more. However I felt like the book was TOO stereotypical in some aspects and the plot didn’t really surprise me, particularly the ending which I felt was a bit obvious. I didn’t hate this book but I didn’t love it either.

The main character is Alina who grew up an orphan and at the start of this book has joined the Army with her best friend from the orphanage Mal. Alina is described as being spotty, too skinny with mousy brown hair. She does not think of herself as pretty. Apart from her slight obsession with her looks and other people’s, and that she has feelings for Mal but is attracted to the Darkling there’s not much else you get to know. Mal was also an orphan who grew up to be really handsome and kind of a ladies man. Mal is popular while Alina was not and in the Army he is a tracker, one of the best if not THE best and again that’s all I really know. See a pattern? Mal and Alina’s main personality traits seem to be their feelings for one another.

The Darkling on the other hand was by FAR the most interesting character. It’s such a cliche to be into the whole dark and deadly thing but I don’t care. The Darkling has his own plans and motivations but I think the most interesting thing for me was he falls into a morally grey area. He’s bad but with good intentions. He was the only character for me with any real complexity and his characterisation makes the book more than just another ya fantasy.

One of the main things I didn’t understand was why this book bothered to take inspiration from Russian culture at all? Apart from the occasional word I couldn’t pronounce I felt like this book had very little to do with Russia. I think this book should have committed properly to the influences of Russian Culture or abandoned the theme entirely. Sprinkling the book with occasional Russian words felt like a bit of a lame attempt to make the book stand out.

That said Leigh Bardugo’s writing style was engaging and I think for a ya fantasy it’s not bad. Hopefully in the next books Alina and Mal grow more as characters and I get to see a whole lot more of the Darkling.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the strange bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate – the Hazel Wood – Alice learns how bad her luck can really get. Her mother is stolen away – by a figure who claims to come from the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began . . .

My thoughts..

I have always wondered at how books can be scary? How can reading words on a page in the comfort of your own home give you a sense of horror or dread? How is it that books can have such power that, that the horrors they describe can effect us in such a way as to make us fearful when there is nothing to fear? I didn’t understand these feelings until I read The Hazel Wood.

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert was a dark and intriguing story that has all the magic and mystery of the fairy tales we know so well. This book however goes one step further, it describes a world in which fairy tales could be real, a world where there is truth to the stories that we heard growing up. I think the elements of realism is what made this book so damn creepy, the elements of truth within the story and the possibility that somewhere the stories are real, that someone did live this life.

“I told you, she was like a war reporter. She didn’t write this stuff into creation-she wrote about something that was already out there.”

This quote I think is a good description of how this story is told from the point of view of Alice Crewe. Alice grew up on the road with her mother and bad luck following her wherever they went. She has a cold anger that sometimes gives her a more dispassionate point of view to the events that unfold in the book, but somehow still full of feeling and emotion. This anger is her armour and I found Alice to be a realistic and flawed character who would do anything for the people she cared about.

The characters in this book are believable, the stories woven into the story are fascinating and the whole mystery of The Hazel wood had me intrigued from the first page. The depth this author managed to achieve was so good that the fairy tales in this book could themselves be published. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves the original fairy tales, the ones where every step The Little Mermaid takes is like knives in her feet and the evil stepsister cuts off her toes to fit into the glass slipper.

*I received a digital review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own*

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Synopsis

Blue has spent the majority of her sixteen years being told that if she kisses her true love, he will die. When Blue meets Gansey’s spirit on the corpse road she knows there is only one reason why – either he is her true love or she has killed him.

Determined to find out the truth, Blue becomes involved with the Raven Boys, four boys from the local private school (lead by Gansey) who are on a quest to discover Glendower – a lost ancient Welsh King who is buried somewhere along the Virginia ley line. Whoever finds him will be granted a supernatural favour.

Never before has Blue felt such magic around her. But is Gansey her true love? She can’t imagine a time she would feel like that, and she is adamant not to be the reason for his death. Where will fate lead them?

My thoughts..

This book took me a little while to get into, the way the author described things and revealed things was a bit jarring at first but soon after I was hooked. This book for me had all the nostalgia of the school summer holidays but with a darker edge. I loved how the elements of magic and witchcraft are grounded in a realistic narrative of the characters personal lives and relationships. Reading this book felt exactly like when I played make-believe when I was little. When trees became houses and I brewed potions out of plants and leaves.

Blue is the main protagonist, I loved Blue and her house crammed full of her psychic mother’s family and friends. Blue has no psychic ability, her ability is that she makes magic and psychic power stronger for those who have it. Blue is kind of an outsider, even in her own home, she is sensible but stubborn and has a great relationship with her mother. Blue eventually meets The Raven Boys, who are made up of Gansey who is very rich and old before his time, he likes to help people even when they don’t want his help and is a kind of modern day treasure hunter. Ronan who uses his words like weapons, he’s the darker moody character with a tragic past he is still dealing with. There’s Adam who feels like he doesn’t fit in due to him being a lot poorer than the other two and he wants to make his own way in the world. Then finally we have Noah who is the most mysterious. He likes to pats Blue’s hair and doesn’t eat much.

I loved reading the characters interactions both between Blue and her family and The Raven Boys (Ronan in particular is very funny). I liked how the characters were dealing with real problems and issues and not just on a family friendly magical quest. I loved even more how even though there was a sense of a love story and brewing love triangle this was not the focus of the book. The only thing I can think of as a negative would be the power that Gansey had. It seems fruitless to complain about a lack of realism in a fantasy but it was slightly annoying what Gansey and his family money could do. I felt like at times his age could have got in the way when dealing with adults but that wasn’t the case.

Overall this for me was more what a young adult fantasy is supposed to be. The world of The Raven Cycle series is beautifully written, it is eccentric and unique and I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed this book.

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

 

 

Book Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Synopsis

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose . . . it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown.

My thoughts..

I think the world of Three Dark Crowns has a lot of potential, I absolutely love the concept and I loved the different types of powers. I did initially struggle with the different POVS at first, I thought each chapter was going to focus on each Queen, but then the side characters came into play. The problem is this didn’t leave much for character development. I kind of like Katharine and Mirabella and Jose was promising until the boy drama. In the end the only thing I can say with real certainty is that I absolutely hate Joseph.

The pacing of this book was also a little slow for me, I felt like there was not much going on until the end and then things happened too quickly. I think this may be down to personal taste but I hate it when I’m waiting for things to happen and then when they do its feels rushed and falls flat.

I think this book would have benefited from less character POVS so I could have got a deeper sense of the characters of the three queens. This would have made me care more about their friendships and their love lives. I also think the book would have benefited from more in-depth world building, there was a lot that wasn’t explained which strayed from intriguing into confusing. Why the world is the way it is in the first place isn’t really explained. I was left with a lot of questions. How do they know each new Queen will have triplets? I mean this isn’t exactly a normal pregnancy right? Why are they on a shrouded island all by themselves? Where did the old Queen go? Why does she have to leave the babies? Why do the other two Queens have to die for one to rule? Why do they have to be 16 to do it?

I think at times this book fell into a trap of young adult fantasy cliches. I don’t need love triangles and BFF relationships and insta-love with strangers who look weirdly like my girlfriend’s best friend. I felt like none of the males added anything to the story and the most interesting relationships for me was between the sisters which is barely shown.

This book definitely has an element of mystery that suggested that all was not as it seemed which tentatively hooked me in. I thought I knew what was going to happen but this book didn’t end how I expected. I am definitely intrigued enough to continue on with the series.

 

Book Review – Ten Thousand Skies Above You By Claudia Gray

Synopsis

“Ever since she used the Firebird, her parents’ invention, to cross through to alternate dimensions, Marguerite has caught the attention of enemies who will do anything to force her into helping them dominate the multiverse—even hurt the people she loves. She resists until her boyfriend, Paul, is attacked, and his consciousness is scattered across multiple dimensions.

The hunt for each splinter of Paul’s soul sends Marguerite racing through a war-torn San Francisco, the criminal underworld of New York City, and a glittering Paris, where another Marguerite hides a shocking secret. Each dimension brings Marguerite one step closer to rescuing Paul. But with every trial she faces, she begins to question the one constant she’s found between the worlds: their love for each other”

Book Review

This book was better than the first one for me as Marguerite and Co are finally beginning to think about the ethical implications of what they are doing with the Firebird technology. The far-reaching and wider implications of their actions which I felt weren’t addressed in the first book were finally discussed. Although I still think these amazing scientists should have considered what was glaringly obvious before, I’m glad they are finally realising that what they are doing is pretty messed up.

I would have enjoyed this book more if the plot hadn’t still tried to cling to a non-existent love triangle that has clearly already been resolved. As Paul is pretty absence throughout most of the book it is Theo that Marguerite is spending her time with, cue declarations of unrequited love and weird scenes of them entering an alternative dimension where their alternate selves had just had sex. On the plus side I was getting a bit sick of Marguerite thinking in every universe everywhere her and Paul would always end up together so I think she needed a little dose of reality.

One thing I did love about this book is that Marguerite spends a lot of her time judging other people for the actions of their alternate selves. I thought this is massively hypocritical considering what she got up to in the first book and also pretty dumb to think every version of you is gonna be a decent person. It was nice when she finally learned that with an infinite number of universes and infinite possibilities there are worlds where she herself isn’t such a good person.

I think this book did a nice job of bring a little dose of reality to a young adult fantasy romance. It was an entertaining read and there was a few good twists and turns along the way to that cliffhanger ending.

Book Review – The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

Synopsis 

” Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.”

Book Review

If you want a young adult fantasy that is light and fluffy with lots of beautiful descriptions of food and clothes and 19th century Russia then look no further. The Crown’s Game has royalty and magic and masked balls and beautiful dresses and love triangles. Which would be perfect except it completely lacks any of the tension, drama and intrigue that the synopsis promises.

Any slight mystery or intrigue or question the reader would wonder about or ask was resolved within a few paragraphs of the issue being raised. I always knew what was happening next – nothing was left to be resolved later. This made the book at times boring and much of the drama was forced unnecessarily. There was NO REASON at all for Sergei to do what he did. Nikolai even after having it CLEARLY explained to him that one of them will die at the end of the game, no matter what happens, still takes it upon himself to try and murder his opponent from the beginning. Pasha’s only reason for existing seem to be so he can see Vika ONE TIME, fall in love and create the not even remotely needed love triangle. The love at first sight thing to me is tired, but The Crown’s Game takes it to extremes to force a love triangle that has no reason to exist. Who would choose Pasha over Nikolai anyway?! It’s not even a difficult choice and like everything in The Crown’s Game this issue is neatly resolved.

Also side note but was still annoying. The book focuses on magic and says that the enchanters are able to draw on only Russian magic. Each country has it’s own “well” let’s say, so you can’t steal it from other countries cos it wouldn’t answer to you. There’s a limited amount of magic in the “well” and so there can’t be two enchanters using it up, hence why the The Crown’s Game exists. Okay makes sense. However throughout the book they mention that the magic only exists when people believe it does. So when the game commences why does NO ONE believe in magic? Everything that is done throughout the Game the general public are confused by and dismiss as trickery etc. How can magic even exist in Russia if no-one believes in it? I know its a minor detail but the public’s reactions to the game is mentioned a lot, so its one of those plot holes you are reminded of over and over.

That said I did like the twist at the end, I did like the beautiful descriptions of the city and the magic and lord I would sit on them benches all damn day. I think this book however is too light and fluffy and lacking in the conflict, tension and threat of death that was promised.

 

 

Book Review – A Thousand Pieces of You By Claudia Gray

Synopsis

“A thousand lives. A thousand possibilities. One fate.

Marguerite Caine grew up surrounded by cutting-edge scientific theories, thanks to her brilliant physicist parents. Yet nothing is more astounding than her mother’s latest invention, a device called the Firebird that allows people to leap into alternate dimensions.

When Marguerite’s father is murdered, all the evidence points to one person—Paul, her parents’ enigmatic star student. Before the law can touch him, Paul slips into another dimension, having committed what seems like the perfect crime. But he didn’t count on Marguerite.

With the help of another physics student, Theo, Marguerite chases Paul through various dimensions. In each new world Marguerite leaps into, she meets another version of Paul that has her doubting his guilt and questioning her heart. Soon, she is swept into an epic love affair as dangerous as it is irresistible”

Book Review

This book is in essence a love story with an intriguing concept that allows for many different worlds to be built and explored. This book combines science fiction with historical fiction and fantasy but it is at its heart a young adult romance. I think the interesting premise that Claudia Gray is exploring alone makes the book worth reading but you may struggle if you don’t like romances or love triangles.

Marguerite and I immediately got off on the wrong foot as I struggled to understand the decision she had made to start the story off. The synopsis says she is hunting down her father’s killer – makes sense to want some justice. What it left out is that she is going to kill him when she finds him. Now for a teenager I thought this was a bit of an extreme reaction when she didn’t even know for certain if Paul was the one who killed her father or not. I felt like Marguerite missed a lot of the ethical implications to her decisions and actions and this was a theme throughout the book. It felt like she understood on a surface level that she shouldn’t do things, but didn’t really understand or consider the wider implications of her behaviour.

The concept of leaping into different dimensions and assuming the lives of their occupants is a new one to me. This book for me balances a fine line of being too technical and too simplistic. The scientific elements of the book have been well thought out up to a point, but even I could tell there was holes. It felt like the story at times swung between offering simple and convenient explanations and putting too much emphasis on scientific details. It was in essence a balancing act from the first page and I think the author did a good job as she could with what she was working with.