November 27, 2019

Short & Sweet: Bright Ruin & A Curse So Dark and Lonely

Bright Ruin by Vic James

Okay, that ending leaves me with so many questions! Spoilers, highlight to read: so it really wasn't spelled out, but Silyen awoke again and broke out of the tomb, right? And came back for Luke? And then they both went back to Far Carr, through a doorway Silyen created? Also, whatever happens with Coira???

Anyway, I feel like this book's plot moved slower than the first two in the series. There was a lot of information-gathering (that deepened our knowledge of the world and characters), but there wasn't much exciting action until the last quarter. Then towards the end all of a sudden everything was happening! There also weren't as many unpredictable twists and turns as previous books have had, but everything was plotted very smartly. I liked the introduction of a new character, that connected to the backstory of another. 

I also grew fonder of Luke in this book, as I really enjoyed seeing his relationship with Silyen grow as they spent time together. Silyen's character, too, becomes a lot clearer in this final book. 

Overall, a very solid conclusion to the series!

4 shooting stars.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

I enjoyed this take on the Beauty & the Beast fairy tale -- I wasn't sure going into it if I would like the combination of modern and fantasy settings, but Brigid Kemmerer makes it work. Harper is a scrappy heroine who doesn't let anything get in the way of doing what she thinks is right, and Rhen, while at first coming off as a typically arrogant royal used to getting his own way, gradually allows himself to become more vulnerable with Harper as the story progresses. 

I also enjoyed seeing how elements of the original fairy tale were presented in this version. The enchantress who curses the prince plays a much more active role throughout, and the curse itself works differently (and I thought was quite clever). While the plot was fairly predictable (spoilers, highlight to read: I totally guessed that Grey was likely the mysterious "halfling" heir), and the writing itself was rather bland (I would have liked more description of the settings, to really feel like I was there with Harper), I'm interested to see where Kemmerer takes the story in the next book.

4 shooting stars.



Allegiant: A Rambling Review

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Okay, I finally read it. I don't even know how I managed to go this long without getting totally spoiled for the ending (spoilers, highlight to read: although the way people talked about it, I was pretty sure one of the two main characters was going to die... I kinda suspected it would be Four, though!

Anyway, my thoughts: for a final book in a trilogy, I found this strangely boring and uneventful. Like, it's 526 pages, and for about 400 of those, nothing much happens...? It was also less epic than I was expecting, like it felt surprisingly small-scale to me. Usually in the final book of a dystopian series everything gets dealt with on a larger-scale (I mean, look at the Hunger Games series). 

I was kind of annoyed about the Tris/Tobias drama that crops up in here (didn't we deal with that enough in book 2?), although it did provide some interesting glimpses into the psychology of their characters and relationship. But the tension between them felt rather manufactured, as though it was a substitute for the lack of tension in the rest of the story. I didn't feel like there was really a "big bad guy" in this book, an enemy to root against. The Bureau, I guess? But they just seemed sort of lacklustre and bland. 

And don't get me started on some of the plotholes here. I mean, for starters, the explanation for how the world became this way doesn't seem scientifically feasible in the slightest. Spoilers: genetic manipulation of huge numbers of adults? And then correcting them all? But not really correcting them, I guess, and then relying on behavioural modification to address this? Like...what??? How would that even work? It really didn't make sense. But even putting that aside, there are still basic plot points that seem very weak. More spoilers: like, um, if David is clever enough to figure out that Tris and the others are planning something, wouldn't he be clever enough to inoculate himself with the antidote to the memory serum ahead of time? Also, what is the expiry date on that stuff? Because it sounds like it wears off fairly quickly...? And also, why would the Bureau store the memory serum in such a way that a simple password and the press of a button would release it INTO THE BUREAU???? Like why is that even a possibility??? They would, one imagines, never want that to happen. Yet it sounded like it was built right into how the stuff was stored. I mean, the Bureau was seriously really bad at its job, because it was way too easy for Tris' group to rebel.

I liked some of the realizations that various characters in this book came to about life, as there were some kernels in there that felt authentic and true. But most of this book just ended up seeming pretty pointless. I know a lot of readers were upset by this final book (even more spoilers: I'm assuming because Tris dies? Honestly, I felt like that ending that was very true to Tris' character -- the sacrifice for her brother, anyway. The part about being shot to death by David, a man we barely got to know during this third book, did not lend it particular significance), but overall I just felt irritated by the execution of the majority of the storyline, especially given that it's the final book in the series. It feels like it went out not with a bang, but a whimper.

2.5 shooting stars.



The Flatshare: A Rambling Review (Adult)

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary

This was a really cute read. The premise was fun (sharing a flat/bed while never meeting, and connecting through series of Post-It Notes? It screams 'adorable'!), and the execution provided the "warm fuzzies" you want in a rom-com. There was a heavier layer, though, in the storyline surrounding Tiffy's ex-boyfriend (spoilers, highlight to read: Total. Creep.).

I liked that it flipped back and forth between the girl's and guy's POV, and their voices were quite distinct. Beth O'Leary does well at portraying their personalities through the writing styles of each of their POVs -- Tiffy is quite detailed and bubbly, while Leon is succinct, as though he doesn't want to use any words unnecessarily. Despite the fact that I'm not remotely talented at crafts, and I don't have Tiffy's daring fashion sense, I connected with her. Leon's a little harder to get to know (as he doesn't share the same way that Tiffy does), but it's clear what a calm and grounded presence he is in Tiffy's life. 

And the Post-Its are seriously the most adorable thing ever. I really enjoyed reading that build-up to the moment they actually meet (which is, of course, a "meet-cute" situation). 

Basically, The Flatshare reads as if Meg Cabot's Boy series and Rainbow Rowell's Attachments had a baby. If you're a fan of either of those authors, you'll enjoy The Flatshare.

4 shooting stars.  


November 26, 2019

The Kiss of Deception: A Rambling Review

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

This definitely fell prey to a lot of YA fantasy tropes, but hey, I don't mind a lot of tropes of the genre. I did like the clever device of concealing which man was the prince and which the assassin; I knew from reviews that this device was used, but nevertheless, it kept me guessing (and second-guessing) about their identities. 

However, I can't say I got totally sucked into this world or these characters; something about the writing felt flat, and the whole thing felt very "typical YA fantasy" to me. Lia was what you'd probably expect from a YA fantasy heroine -- gutsy, a tad impetuous at times, compassionate, independent... and dancing on the edge of being a "Mary Sue". Of course, both of the male leads fell for her (who didn't see that coming?) and a sort-of (but was it really?) love triangle ensued. The romance didn't do much for me, although this could be partly because of the whole uncertain-identities issue that kept me from really rooting for Lia to get together with either of the guys. 

I also wanted a lot more from the world building and mythology; it's doled out in dribs and drabs that didn't coalesce as a coherent whole for me. I'm still puzzled over what the "Remnant" are (and that word is in the name of the series, so...) Everything about the mythology was kept quite vague, and I do hope more specifics are provided in the sequel.

Points for including a map, though! That was actually helpful for me to refer to in following Lia's journey.

3.5 shooting stars. 


November 25, 2019

All I Want for Christmas 2019 Is... (2)

'Tis the season... for making book wish lists! And that means my "All I Want for Christmas" feature is going to get dusted off and used again. For any new followers to my blog, this is when I share the books that have made it onto my Christmas wishlist. I'll probably share one or two a week until Christmas. Feel free to link up your own book picks in the comments!

My pick for this post:

The Lady and the Highwayman by Sarah M. Eden

"Elizabeth Black is the headmistress of a girls’ school and a well-respected author of “silver-fork” novels, stories written both for and about the upper-class ladies of Victorian society. But by night, she writes very different kinds of stories—the Penny Dreadfuls that are all the rage among the working-class men. Under the pseudonym Mr. King, Elizabeth has written about dashing heroes fighting supernatural threats and dangerous outlaws romancing helpless women. They contain all the adventure and mystery that her real life lacks.
Fletcher Walker began life as a street urchin, but is now the most successful author in the Penny Dreadful market, that is until Mr. King started taking all of his readers--and his profits. No one knows who King is, including Fletcher’s fellow members of the Dread Penny Society, a fraternity of authors dedicated to secretly fighting for the rights of the less-fortunate.
Determined to find the elusive Mr. King, Fletcher approaches Miss Black. As a fellow-author, she is well-known among the high-class writers; perhaps she could be persuaded to make some inquiries as to Mr. King’s whereabouts? Elizabeth agrees to help Fletcher, if only to insure her secret identity is never discovered. 
For the first time, Elizabeth experiences the thrill of a cat-and-mouse adventure reminiscent of one of her own novels as she tries to throw Fletcher off her scent. But the more time they spend together, the more she loses her heart. Its upper-class against working-class, author against author where readers, reputations, and romance are all on the line."

This book just sounds like so much fun! I do enjoy a good hidden-identity story, especially when there's a romance involved too. And of course, the Victorian society setting just makes it even better. 

What books are you hoping to find under the tree?

November 18, 2019

All I Want for Christmas 2019 Is... (1)

'Tis the season... for making book wish lists! And that means my "All I Want for Christmas" feature is going to get dusted off and used again. For any new followers to my blog, this is when I share the books that have made it onto my Christmas wishlist. I'll probably share one or two a week until Christmas. Feel free to link up your own book picks in the comments!

The first pick for this year is:

Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf

"Zera is a Heartless – the immortal, unageing soldier of a witch. Bound to the witch Nightsinger ever since she saved her from the bandits who murdered her family, Zera longs for freedom from the woods they hide in. With her heart in a jar under Nightsinger’s control, she serves the witch unquestioningly.

Until Nightsinger asks Zera for a Prince’s heart in exchange for her own, with one addendum; if she’s discovered infiltrating the court, Nightsinger will destroy her heart rather than see her tortured by the witch-hating nobles.

Crown Prince Lucien d’Malvane hates the royal court as much as it loves him – every tutor too afraid to correct him and every girl jockeying for a place at his darkly handsome side. No one can challenge him – until the arrival of Lady Zera. She’s inelegant, smart-mouthed, carefree, and out for his blood. The Prince’s honor has him quickly aiming for her throat.

So begins a game of cat and mouse between a girl with nothing to lose and a boy who has it all.

Winner takes the loser’s heart.


This is one of my most anticipated YA fantasy reads! I know it's gotten a lot of positive reviews -- I remember seeing Misty at The Book Rat rave about it -- and the premise sounds right up my alley. What with the whole secret-mission-to-steal-his-heart going on, and I'm guessing they eventually fall for each other...

What books are on your Christmas wishlist?

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