Monday, 30 September 2013

FIRE WITH FIRE

Fire with Fire by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

Lillia, Kat and Mary had the perfect plan. Take down the people who had wronged them and leave no trace of their involvement. But everything blew up in their faces and the Homecoming Dance.

Now Lillia and Kat are starting to second-guess their plotting, but Mary is insistent that she finally gets the revenge she deserves - destroy Reeve like he destroyed her.

But as more secrets threaten to reveal themselves, the girls' pact becomes harder to maintain. Emotions are spiralling out of control, and there's too much at stake. Because once a fire is lit, sometimes the only thing you can do is let it burn.
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I loved the first instalment in this series which I didn't realise was a series until I finished the first book, Burn for Burn, and this one is an interesting follow-up. There are elements that are better than the first one, and there are places where it doesn't work quite as well. Immediately after reading, I thought I liked it better than the first, but after some thought, I'm not sure. I think if I re-read the first one now, I would enjoy it a lot more than I did at the time.

The problem for me initially was the unexpected paranormal element. Looking at the cover and all the descriptions of the book I'd read, I was expecting contemporary YA. Three high school girls trying to get revenge on the people who had wronged them. Fairly standard. But then weird stuff started happening and there was a bit of a bomb-drop at the end. I hadn't set out to read a supernatural book - in fact, at the time, I was really off them - and so I was annoyed and unimpressed when it suddenly became one. Really annoyed. With this second book, the paranormal stuff still feels a little off to me, but it didn't bother me anywhere near as much because I was expecting it. I think if I re-read the first one, knowing what it was I was embarking on, I would be able to really enjoy it now.

This second instalment is a little long, though. I wanted to crawl into the first book and live in its pages - that sounded less weird in my head - but here there were places that I started to skim. It takes a long time to get going. Everything seems to be crammed into the final third, after 350 or so pages of filler material. I particularly disliked the Mary chapters. In fact, I found myself flicking ahead quite often to see how long I'd have to wait before the next Lillia chapter, since her storyline was the only one where anything really seemed to be happening.

All in all, this book was a little bit of a let-down. It would have been a lot better if it had even been just a bit shorter. Still, I'm excited to get my hands on the next instalment, given the ending to this one, and just hope that it'll hold up!



Friday, 27 September 2013

ETERNALLY YOURS

Eternally Yours by Cate Tiernan

Nastasya has invested huge amounts of effort into forgetting her identity. And has fought back against the dark immortals of her past. But can she fight against true love? In the exhilarating finale to the Immortal Beloved trilogy, Nastasya ends a 450-year-old feud and learns what 'eternally yours' really means.

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So, anyone who's stopped by this blog before probably knows just how eager I was to get my hands on this book. Despite that, I'm over a year late to join the party, because I'm petty and childish and stubborn about stupid things. You can read more about that here. So, essentially, I waited for the paperback, a decision I went back and forth on about a thousand times. I'm not sure if the decision to wait was a good one or not.

The thing is, while waiting for the book, my mind started to hype it up. I remembered just how much I'd enjoyed the first two and thought about how because this was the finale, it was bound to be even better. My expectations just got bigger and bigger and bigger, and honestly, they weren't really met. It took me a very long time to get into this one. The first instalment, if I remember correctly, was a slow-starter as well. It's very much a character-driven trilogy, and that doesn't work if you're not emotionally invested or at least interested in the characters, and you can't have that from page one. It takes time to build and become engrossing, so it didn't bother me at all that the first book was a slow starter. This one, however, should not have been. We've been with Nastasya for hundreds of pages and I love her. But I read through maybe the first hundred pages of this book trying to remember what it was I liked about this series so much.

Then it got awesome. Nastasya was being snarky and difficult and funny. She and Reyn were being...well, they were being Nastasya and Reyn and I loved it. They have one of my favourite romantic relationships of any books, I just love it. Love it. And beyond that, looking at the wider focus of all the immortals at River's Edge, there's stuff happening. Something dark and sinister is happening, not everyone is going to survive this book. Something terrible is going to happen and you can just feel it building and building and then suddenly....

There's a massive anti-climax. The last third of the book was a real disappointment to me. It's revealed what that dark and sinister thing is and I wasn't impressed. I should be racing through the pages, desperate to know everything but at the same time kind of fearing the book being over, but I was thinking so what? I just wasn't impressed. And then there's the last chapter, which really should have had the heading epilogue. I hate epilogues. Almost as much as I hate flashbacks (and my God there were a lot of flashbacks in this book). It basically just ruined it for me. Didn't need it, didn't want it, didn't like it.

But the middle bit, the couple of hundred pages between the slow start and the unimpressive ending...well, I read every word with a big, goofy grin on my face. I loved it. Loved it. I love Nastasya and want there to be seven more books in her voice. I want more Reyn. I want more snark and self-loathing and bickering and just all of it. I loved the middle. So, overall, though this book could have been much better, I loved the middle enough that I can't write it off completely.



Wednesday, 25 September 2013

THRONE OF GLASS / CROWN OF MIDNIGHT

Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake: she got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?

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These books came highly recommended to me. I hadn't heard of the first one until the sequel came out and I started seeing reviews for it, but my interest was caught. I'm not sure why, exactly, other than the glowing reviews, because fantasy is something I've been straying away from. 

If I'm honest, neither book was as good as I was anticipating. Taking the first one first, I found that the story got a bit lost in favour of introducing the characters and the world and setting everything up. I think this is intended to be a series of six books, and so naturally there's a lot to tell the reader about in the first instalment, but I would have liked a lot less information and a good deal more plot. Celaena is taking part in a tournament to become the king's champion, a tournament I was pretty sure she'd win since the other competitors were to be killed and she was probably going to survive long enough to make an appearance in book two. Perhaps this isn't something that bothered anyone who read the book closer to its release - they didn't necessarily know there was going to be a second book, and so were therefore caught up in the tension of the story. 

The other issue I had with the first book is the world-building itself. It seems to take up a huge chunk of the narrative, but I struggled to visualise much of what was going on. For some reason, in the opening chapter as Celaena is being led through hundreds of corridors as the guards try to disorientate her, I kept picturing her being led through a mostly empty office block. I don't know why I had that particular image, but there wasn't much there to change it. There were many occasions throughout the book when I had no idea where something was happening or what it looked like. I just couldn't quite get my head around it.

So, I was expecting the second book to be a lot better. I didn't dislike the first book, although the last few paragraphs probably make it sound like I did, I was just disappointed. I was expecting better and I was sure the second book would deliver. It did and it didn't. There was more story, sure, and the characters getting bumped off this time were ones that I cared a lot more about than nameless competitors in the king's tournament. I loved the development of the relationship between Celaena and Chaol and wanted to cry when...stuff happened. 

I did enjoy the second book more, I thought it was a lot better in terms of story and character and even writing, but there's still something lacking for me. There's something just not quite there for me. I think part of the problem is my mind makes an inevitable comparison to Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone series, the last high fantasy books I read and which I utterly, utterly adored. They're both high fantasy with strong female characters at their centre, written by female authors, and so my mind has linked them up and I can't help making comparisons. And I enjoyed Bardugo's series a hell of a lot more. That being said, I will read the third instalment of this series when it's released, but I think it will be a turning point for me - unless there's something in it that really resonates with me, I probably won't bother with the rest of the series. Okay, that's a lie. I have to have books. All the books. And even if this series starts to go downhill, I'll almost certainly keep reading it.



Monday, 23 September 2013

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

Yesterday Marina was safe, privileged, wealthy. She was falling for James - the super-brainy youngest son of a very powerful family. Yesterday ended badly.

Today Em is in a cell she may never get out of alive. There's a flicker of hope when she talks to the boy in the cell next to hers - and when she remembers who she used to be...yesterday.

Tomorrow Em has a mission. She must escape and travel back in time. She must kill the boy Marina loved - to save her future.

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I'd been hearing quite a lot of buzz about this book online before I ever saw it in a bookshop (that may not be true, because it's got about eight different covers and I may have walked past it dozens of times before I recognised it as something I was interested in. Incidentally the cover above, with that lame heart? Not the best), but I was still initially reluctant. It's a time travel book, and I have a love-hate relationship with time-travel. Now, you'll have to forgive me because I read this book many weeks ago (I've been in the writing cave, so I haven't been reading much or blogging at all) but as far as I remember, I actually didn't mind how the time travel was presented.

You see, my theory is that you can't have an interesting story about time-travel without there being paradoxes. And I hate paradoxes. I loathe them. I will sit there and look for flaws in the science, despite the fact that I know nothing about science (except for what sublimation is, and I don't know why or how I know that) and the fact that actually, nobody really knows how time travel would work because it doesn't actually exist. So, despite going out of my way to look for flaws here, I got along with it fine. The issue of paradoxes is addressed and, even though the explanation is kind of a cop-out, I appreciated there being an explanation. It allowed me to suspend my disbelief and just enjoy the story.

Which I did, for the most part. There was a revelation that had been blindingly obvious for several chapters, there was a point where I started to get a bit bored and then a bit confused because I'd started to skim, but overall I did enjoy the book. I didn't really like any of the characters or connect with them, but I felt the story was enough to carry it. My only real issue with this book is I've been hearing murmurs that it's the first in the series and I can't get my head around that. This is quite clearly a stand-alone book. I won't read a second one unless it gets some amazing reviews from sources I trust, because I think a second instalment would probably just ruin it.