Review: Flame In The Mist

October 26, 2017 in Book Reviews, YA Fantasy

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Flame In The MistFlame In The Mist by Renee Ahdieh
Series: Flame In The Mist #1
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on 16th May 2017
Genres: YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known.

Flame In The Mist is a book I’ve been looking forward to reading for so long but inexplicably hadn’t picked up until now. So I was kind of nervous that I might have built it up too much in my head, but actually I really enjoyed this novel.

Mariko is of the Hattori family, the only daughter of a prominent Samurai. Her twin brother Kenshin is a renowned warrior known as the Dragon of Kai. Unlike her brother, Mariko has no control over her life. A girl in her position must do as her father wishes and her father has lofty ideas for her, securing a betrothal to the Emperor’s son, Raiden.

While travelling from her home to meet Raiden in the imperial city, her party is attacked within the Junkai forest – she is the intended target. Escaping with her life as the sole survivor, Mariko suspects the outlaw Black Clan at being behind her attack. Wandering alone through the dangerous Jukai forest Mariko hatches a plan to take control of her own life and dress as a peasant boy in order to infiltrate the Clan to try and uncover who exactly wants her dead and why. Meanwhile, her twin is convinced that Mariko has survived the attack and is doing all he can to find and rescue his sister.

I really did enjoy this book. Ahdieh’s descriptions make for great scene-setting, helping to sweep the reader up in the story.

Mariko is smart and strong-willed. She’s the type of female protagonist I tend to like, one who taps into her previously unknown depth of strength. Her interactions with the Black Clan, a group of men, thieves, who live together in the woods, are interesting. Led by Ranmanu, supported by his best friend Okami, I quickly came to like this group that Mariko suspects of her attempted murder. I really like the relationship between Ranmanu and Okami, but it was the ongoing war of words between Okami and Mariko that I really enjoyed. Somewhat predictably, the mysterious character of Okami was my favourite person in this tale.

As an aside – I received a candle from In The Wick of Time that was based upon this book (in the Fairyloot box that also contained this book). Even before reading the book the “wood smoke and warm stone” scented candle became an absolute favourite of mine. Now, knowing that it is based on my favourite character Okami, I think I’m going to need to buy a new one – mine’s all burnt out! (find it here)

I’ve seen people talk about how “predictable” this book is and I guess in a way they are right, but that didn’t impact on my enjoyment of this book at all.

Two things did bother me though. They are spoilery though so I’ll hide them below.

View Spoiler »

All in all though, I really enjoyed this book. I did however find the end was a bit rushed. I felt that it didn’t have the same flow as the rest of the book. That said, maybe I just didn’t want it to end? Bring on book two!

four-stars

Review: Strange The Dreamer

March 26, 2017 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Strange The DreamerStrange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor
Series: Strange The Dreamer #1
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on 28th March 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-half-stars

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around— and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he's been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo's dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? and if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

I actually squealed when my NetGalley wish for Strange The Dreamer was granted (thanks, Hodder!). I accidentally read a sampler to begin with (long story) and was so gutted when I realised as this book caught me up from the very beginning. Thankfully the sampler situation was resolved as I genuinely couldn’t contemplate reading anything else! I had been swept up in Lazlo’s world and Taylor’s writing and didn’t want to leave. I tell you this so you can the see the impact that this book had on me from the outset – I needed the rest!

As ever I’m torn between gushing about this book and avoiding spoilers. So, as I went into this book with only the synopsis, I think that’s all I’m going to leave you. No further plot details, this book is a journey and I don’t want to reveal any of the stops along the way!

However, I am going to allow myself to mention a few non-spoilery details.

First of all, the writing. It is stunning! It’s lyrical, consuming and awe-inspiring. Maraia described it to me as “hauntingly beautiful” and I think that sums it up. I’ve rarely read a book with such a clear picture in my mind of the story – Laini Taylor’s descriptions are incredible!

This book is so imaginative. The world created by Taylor is fascinating. I love the intertwining of history and legend, fact and fable. It’s mysterious and Taylor slowly reveals the secrets of the world.

I loved Taylor’s characters – Lazlo, in particular, being my favourite. My one complaint is that I’d have liked more of some characters, but perhaps we will get this in book two?

While there were parts that I found predictable, this was made up for by the parts that shook me to the core.

I’m completely in awe of Laini Taylor’s writing, her storytelling and her imagination. Strange The Dreamer isn’t a fast-paced book but it’s a book that I absolutely did not want to end. In fact, I’m resisting the temptation to go back and experience it all again right now!

four-half-stars

Review: The Roanoke Girls

March 8, 2017 in Book Reviews, Mystery

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Roanoke GirlsThe Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on 9th March 2017
Genres: Mystery
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

Everyone wants to be a Roanoke girl. But you won't when you know the truth. Lane Roanoke is fifteen when she comes to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin at the Roanoke family's rural estate following the suicide of her mother. Over one long, hot summer, Lane experiences the benefits of being one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But what she doesn't know is being a Roanoke girl carries a terrible legacy: either the girls run, or they die. For there is darkness at the heart of Roanoke, and when Lane discovers its insidious pull, she must make her choice...

When teenage Lane Roanoke’s mother commits suicide in their New York home, she has no idea what will happen to her. But it turns out that her mother’s parents, Lane’s grandparents, want her to live with them in Kansas.

She’s never met them, but they are rich, with a big house and her cousin Allegra lives with them too. So she moves to her mother’s childhood home, to embark on the next chapter of her life.

The story is told in alternating chapters of past and present. The past being Lane’s move to Kansas, and the present being her returns there after ten years because Allegra has gone missing.

The Roanoke family are no stranger to missing girls, up till now they’ve all either died or fled. So who really are the Roanoke girls and what, exactly, is happening to them?

I really enjoyed the storytelling style of this novel. I always like a book that runs a past and present narrative successfully as I feel it helps us to learn more about our characters.

I suspect that this is a book that will divide opinion. While I won’t be divulging spoilers, I will say that the content won’t be for everyone. It’s uncomfortable reading at times, and yet so well written that it’s a very hard book to put down.

Engel’s writing is very impressive. I was completely engrossed in this book, despite being appalled by much of the detail. Her characters are flawed, yet often strangely likeable – which only made me feel all the more disturbed at times!

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like this and I can’t imagine it’s one that I will be forgetting any time soon.

four-stars

Review: The Memory Book

February 13, 2017 in Book Reviews, YA

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Memory BookThe Memory Book by Lara Avery
on 26th January 2017
Genres: YA
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

Samantha McCoy has it all mapped out. First she's going to win the national debating championship, then she's going to move to New York and become a human rights lawyer. But when Sammie discovers that a rare disease is going to take away her memory, the future she'd planned so perfectly is derailed before it’s started. What she needs is a new plan.

So the Memory Book is born: Sammie’s notes to her future self, a document of moments great and small. Realising that her life won't wait to be lived, she sets out on a summer of firsts: The first party; The first rebellion; The first friendship; The last love.

Through a mix of heartfelt journal entries, mementos, and guest posts from friends and family, readers will fall in love with Sammie, a brave and remarkable girl who learns to live and love life fully, even though it's not the life she planned.

Sammie is an intelligent teenage girl who lives with her family in a small town, excels in debating and has secured herself a spot at NYU. Sadly, she has also recently been diagnosed with Niemenn-Pick Type C. It’s like dementia, so she will lose memories and her body will shut down. NPC is always fatal.

In a bid to keep a hold of herself for as long as possible, Sammie starts writing a memory book, and this is exactly what we are reading.

Oh, this book! I’m not ashamed to say I had tears rolling down my cheeks as I closed the back cover. While, yes, the subject matter is serious and at times my heart just ached, this is (perhaps somewhat surprisingly) not a depressing read. Avery has struck an excellent balance in this novel. It’s not just about NPC, it’s about teenage life, facing the future and how to cope when that future isn’t what you’d hoped it would be.

I really liked Sammie. Reading her ‘memory book’ means we see inside her mind – on good days and bad. We are taken along with Sammie on her journey. I loved Sammie’s book-loving nature, her references to Middle Earth and generally her love of knowledge.

I truly felt that I learned a lot from this novel, not only in terms of NPC (which I had never heard of before) but also in Sammie’s handling of her disease.

Then, of course, there are boys, parties, national debates, exams, and all of those other things that happen during life at High School. Oh and a love of chocolate milkshakes!

This is a very well-written, thought-provoking read. Its structure makes it hard to put down – just one more chapter!

four-stars

Review: Morning Star

February 22, 2016 in Book Reviews, Fiction, Sci-Fi

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Morning StarMorning Star by Pierce Brown
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on 11th February 2016
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
five-stars

Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society's mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.

Finally, the time has come.

But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied - and too glorious to surrender.

I can’t quite believe this series is over. That said, what a stunning conclusion to the trilogy! Also, I just read the other day that Pierce Brown will be writing a new series set in the same ‘world’ so that’s hugely exciting.

As always, as this is the final book in the series I want to try and avoid spoilers. If you want actual plot details then this isn’t the post for you, but there are plenty of other plot-related reviews out there.

Maraia and I were talking about the ups and downs in Brown’s work the other day. Throughout Red Rising and Golden Son, Brown took us on an emotional rollercoaster. Morning Star is no different. You put your heart in Brown’s hands from the moment you open this book, and he squashes, squeezes and razors it!

It’s just as full of action, strategy, war and blood as you would expect. Combine that with the fact that you know this series must end within the pages of this book and it makes for a tense, nerve-wracking read.

In all honesty, I took my time reading this. I truly didn’t want it to end. I savored Brown’s carefully crafted writing, I just love the way he tells a story. His characters in this book are as incredible as ever, with new characters becoming just as ‘real’ as old. There’s also that humour he sprinkles throughout his character interactions that I really like.

I can find no fault with this book, other than the fact it had to end.

If you haven’t started the series but ‘sci-fi’ isn’t normally your thing I say just take the plunge. Honestly, I didn’t think it would be my thing when I picked up Red Rising (see my review of it here) but I wanted to see what the fuss was about. As you can tell I ended up loving it. It’s absolutely, completely worth the read, even if my wee heart has been left feeling rather battered and bruised.

It’s quite simply bloodydamn brilliant!

 

five-stars