Mini Review: Ruined

April 29, 2017 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, YA Fantasy

Mini Review: RuinedRuined by Amy Tintera
Series: Ruined #1
Published by HarperTeen on 3rd May 2016
Genres: YA Fantasy, Fantasy
Format: Hardback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
four-half-stars

A revenge that will consume her. A love that will ruin her.

Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped.

But because Em has nothing, she has nothing to lose. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. Somewhere within Lera’s borders, Em hopes to find Olivia. But in order to find her, Em must infiltrate the royal family.

In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. If anyone in Lera discovers Em is not Casimir’s true betrothed, Em will be executed on the spot. But it’s the only way to salvage Em’s kingdom and what is left of her family.

Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.

 

Sometimes I go through phases where I’m enjoying what I’m reading but I’m not consumed by it. It seems I’ve had a run of those recently – until now. I picked up Ruined and from the outset, I was swept up in the story. It was just what I needed – action, intrigue and a pace that kept me reading.

 

Tintera has created some fantastic characters in this world, a world where the Runed are feared and slaughtered for their magical abilities. It’s a world where Em has seen her parents murdered, her sister kidnapped and she has set out for vengeance. Except it turns out that not all of her enemies are easy to hate.

 

If you enjoy YA fantasy, banterful characters, strong heroines, action, friendship, loveable Princes, well, this is one for you. Thankfully book two, Avenged, is out next week so you won’t have too long to wait after THAT ending!

four-half-stars

Mini Review: Our Endless Numbered Days

October 21, 2016 in Book Reviews, General fiction

Mini Review: Our Endless Numbered DaysOur Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
three-stars

1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother's grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change.

Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared.

Her life is reduced to a piano which makes music but no sound, a forest where all that grows is a means of survival. And a tiny wooden hut that is Everything.

I picked up this book having heard various people rave about it, so I guess I probably had fairly high hopes when I started it. I enjoyed it, just didn’t love it. So, Peggy is 8 when her father takes her away to live in a cabin in the woods. He tells her that they are the only two people still living in the world, and together they live in the small wooden cabin, die Hutte, living off the resources in the forest. She lives there for 9 years. We flit back and forth between Peggy’s time in the forest from 1976 and her return to civilisation in 1985. We slowly uncover her story and fill in the gaps.

Honestly, I didn’t enjoy the first half of this book much. It dragged somewhat and I just couldn’t get into the story. I definitely preferred the second half of the book, or perhaps even the final third. I felt that’s when things started to happen and I finally became absorbed in the story.

The writing in this book is undoubtedly beautiful, but for me beautiful writing doesn’t capture and hold my attention, it’s the storyline that does and I just wasn’t that invested in this. All-in-all, this book didn’t live up to my expectations. I’m glad I finished it and I enjoyed it in the end, but it isn’t a book I would thrust into a fellow bookworm’s hands.

 

three-stars

Mini Review: Crooked Kingdom

October 17, 2016 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, YA Fantasy

Mini Review: Crooked KingdomCrooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Series: Six of Crows #2
Published by Orion on 27th September 2016
Genres: Fantasy, YA Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
five-stars

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off the most daring heist imaginable.
But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they're fighting for their lives.
Double-crossed and badly weakened, they're low on resources, allies and hope.
While a war rages on the city's streets, the team's fragile loyalties are stretched to breaking point.
Kaz and his crew will have to make sure they're on the winning side... no matter what the cost.

Crooked Kingdom was one of my most-anticipated releases of the year. I adored Six of Crows and couldn’t wait for the second book in this duology. I’ve long been a fan of Bardugo; her Grisha trilogy was outstanding and I find myself frequently recommending it to readers young and old alike. So would Crooked Kingdom live up to my high expectations?

The simple answer is YES. A slightly longer answer is that it’s absolute perfection! No, seriously, it’s bloody brilliant.

If you haven’t read Six of Crows then you should really stop reading here and go pick up a copy (or check out my review from last year). Although I won’t be posting any Crooked Kingdom spoilers, there will be Six of Crows spoilers, so, fair warning!

At the end of Six of Crows, we left our favourite gang missing one key, kidnapped member of the troop. Having been played by Van Eck, they were a team member down and 30 million kruge light. In Crooked Kingdom, we see the crew fighting for their lives, seeking revenge and scheming like there’s no tomorrow!

So what can I say about this book?

The writing? Beautiful.

The characters? Better than ever.

The plot? Fast paced, twisty and action packed.

The conclusion to this duology? EPIC!

Need I say more?

I’ve genuinely no idea what I’m going to read next. How on earth am I going to find a book to follow this? If you have Crooked Kingdom sitting in your TBR pile, drop whatever you’re reading and pick it up. You won’t be disappointed!

What’s next Leigh Bardugo? I can’t wait to find out!

five-stars

Review: Salt To The Sea

April 28, 2016 in Book Reviews, Historical Fiction, YA

Review: Salt To The SeaSalt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Published by Puffin on 4th February 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction, YA
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
five-stars

It's early 1945 and a group of people trek across Germany, bound together by their desperation to reach the ship that can take them away from the war-ravaged land. Four young people, each haunted by their own dark secret, narrate their unforgettable stories.

The wartime sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff is the worst disaster in maritime history, and yet its story is largely overlooked. It was a German ship packed with refugees which was torpedoed by a Russian submarine during World War 2, resulting in the loss of over 9000 lives, of which an estimated 5000 were children. Ruta Sepetys has thoroughly researched the tragedy, and combines fact with fiction in this stunning, heartbreaking novel.

Salt To The Sea is told from  the perspectives of four young people, each with their own story, secrets and hopes of freedom. Through these short chapters a larger story is told – the story of refugees flocking to the coast of Prussia, fleeing the advancing Red Army, hoping to eventually find passage across the Baltic Sea to relative safety.

The paths of our four young people slowly converge. A Prussian whose backpack could seal his fate. A Polish girl trying to make her way undetected between the German and Russian armies. A Lithuanian nurse whose medical training proves vital. A German assigned to the Wilhelm Gustloff who dreams of being a Nazi hero.

There are other key characters in this book: an orphan boy, an elderly shoemaker and a blind lady who must hide her disability.

I honestly don’t know how to describe the impact of this book. I’m generally not one for crying while I read but this novel reduced me to tears. Knowing that this work of fiction is based around fact, that this overcrowded ship filled with refugees sank, that thousands of lives were lost and no-one talks about it. That alone is heartbreaking.

In her author’s note Sepetys writes “As I wrote this novel, I was haunted by thoughts of the helpless children and teenagers – innocent victims of border shifts, ethnic cleansings, and vengeful regimes.” So in writing this novel she is giving a voice to these young people and to those vulnerable people, the aged and disabled, who were caught up in a war that wasn’t their doing.

The four characters that Sepetys tells this story through are quite simply brilliant. She tells their stories and uncovers their secrets while capturing the fear, distrust, hopelessness and loneliness that their situations create. She also captures the mindset of a young, frightened boy, brainwashed into believing Hitler’s propaganda and desperately craving approval.

Sepetys paints honest, often distressing scenes within this novel. She does not shy away from the facts, or the realities of war. She truly captures the desperation of humans fighting for their lives.

However, she balances this with glimpses into normal life, scenes of compassion and love. You’ll smile and you’ll cry, and that’s one of the things that makes this book so special.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. They story of the ten thousand refugees aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff is one that everyone should know. Sepetys makes this historical details accessible to a wide range of readers through her effortless combination of fact.

You need to read this book, but be sure you have a handkerchief to hand.

five-stars

Review: The Winner’s Crime

March 22, 2016 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, YA Fantasy

Review: The Winner’s CrimeThe Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #2
Published by Bloomsbury on March 2015
Genres: YA Fantasy, Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
four-stars

Lady Kestrel's engagement to Valoria's crown prince calls for great celebration: balls and performances, fireworks and revelry. But to Kestrel it means a cage of her own making. Embedded in the imperial court as a spy, she lives and breathes deceit and cannot confide in the one person she really longs to trust ...

While Arin fights to keep his country's freedom from the hands of his enemy, he suspects that Kestrel knows more than she shows. As Kestrel comes closer to uncovering a shocking secret, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth.

Lies will come undone, and Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

Do you ever shout at the tv? You’re watching a film or a tv series and shouting almost pantomime-style “he’s behind you” or “no, don’t go in there”, “just tell him”, “kiss him you idiot”? (Hopefully that’s not just a Rhoda-thing.) Well I found myself doing that a lot with this book. A LOT!

Obviously if you haven’t read the first book (you can find my review here) then don’t keep reading this post. Maybe hop over and enter my wee giveaway instead? You could pick The Winner’s Curse as your prize?

Ok so, this book is largely set in the Valorian Capital. Having agreed to marry Prince Verex in order to save the lives of Arin and his people, Kestrel is living in the Palace. She is under the watchful eye of Emporer, whose evil character continues to develop throughout this book. As for Arin, per the terms of the treaty, he is now Governer of Herran. He is unaware of Kestrel’s sacrifice though, the reason she is engaged to the Valorian Prince, and in this book we soon see that Kestrel has no intention of telling him.

There are various events happening at the Palace to mark the engagement of Lady Kestrel and Prince Verex. Respresentatives from far and wide are expected to attend, which inevitably includes Arin. It’s Kestrel’s belief that acting coldly toward Arin, hiding her true feelings is for the best. Yet she makes a secret agreement with Arin’s advisor Tensen to spy for him, to help Arin and Herran from inside the Palace… on the condition that Arin knows nothing about it.

My internal shouting at the book was a result of the ongoing situation with Kestrel and Arin – Kestrel’s seeming rejection of Arin, Arin’s belief that Kestrel is hiding something, the fact that they’d meet and I just wanted Kestrel to tell the truth! I think reading from the perspectives of both characters intentisies this feeling for the reader, well it certainly did for me. While I may have found this somewhat frustrating, I simultaneously found it utterly addictive – I couldn’t stop reading.

It was interesting to see an expansion of the world that Rutkoski created in the first book. I discussed in my review of The Winner’s Curse my interest in the world, its cultures and customs. Book two expands upon this somewhat as well as introducing us to the people and cultures of Dacra.

I also found the further exploration of Kestrel’s relationship with her father to be interesting. You’ll recall Kestrel’s desperate need to please her father in the first book, I enjoyed the development of that relationship in this book.

There are both old and new characters in this book. There’s cruelty, torture, hatred but there’s also friendship, new alliances, love and a tiger (I just thought I’d throw that in there).

In all honesty, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the first. I kind of felt like this book is bridging the gap, setting things up for book three. Maybe I’m totally wrong in saying that, but that’s just the feeling I had. I’ve already started The Winner’s Kiss which is out in the UK later this week. I’m hoping for more action, less internal shouting on my part and an epic ending to the series. I’ll let you know my thoughts soon!

What were your thoughts on The Winner’s Crime?

Did you enjoy it as much as the first book? 

four-stars