Wrap Up | April: Quick fire Reviews!

Only three books this month, but they were some good ones!

24909347

Obsidio by Amie Kaufmann and Jay Kristoff

Rating: 4.5 stars

An Illuminae Files book is always a good book option! Despite there being less tension and suspense for me in this than in the previous two books, it still holds up and is an emotional and satisfying ending to an amazing trilogy. Space battles, drama, mystery, and artificial intelligence! What more could you want from a book?

19547856

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Rating: 5 stars

If I could give more than five stars for any book, it would be this one! Simon is the most relatable character and his experiences are ones that many people have gone through and still struggle through now. It’s a heartwarming, amazing book that I’m sure will not only help a lot of people, but be an awesome read while doing so. A good book stays with you long after you’ve finished reading – I’m sure I could quote someone with that – and this book will probably stay with me for a freaking long time, I’m sure.

34928122

Artemis by Andy Weir

Rating: 4.5 stars

April seems to be the month of Space books (she says, having read two… but it’s a third of my April reads so still counts!) and both were pretty damn good reads.

Artemis is the Ocean’s Eleven/spy/murder mystery book in space that I never knew was the absolute perfect book for me! The pacing was awesome, the main character was sarcastic in the best way, and it left me with the best feeling: like I could take on the world.

A pretty good April if I do say so myself.

Review | The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black

“Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.”

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

 

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

 

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

[Disclaimer] I received a free copy via a Giveaway on Goodreads, but this has not affected my review in any way.

I heard quite a few mixed reviews about this book before I picked it up myself, and quite a few outright bad ones, which made me wary.

I love Holly Black and have pretty much solidly liked everything she’s written so far, but that doesn’t stop any author from writing new books that I might not like. They could be trying out a new style, or just write a character I don’t connect with, anything could mean that my streak ends.

But I really shouldn’t have worried.

It. Was. Amazing.

The detail in such a small world, only a fraction of Faerie itself, and already she’s managed to cram in Goblins, Selkies, and so much more. I even noticed the characters from Tithe which was a lovely touch. (You don’t need to have read the Tithe series to understand their significance, they work just as well as new characters too.)

The main character is also so lovely. She’s brave, a little headstrong, stubborn, a strategiser, and determined as hell to find her own place and purpose in Faerie.

I loved reading about a flawed main character who had flaws that weren’t just ‘my parents/sibling/loved one died so I’m getting revenge’, even though that was also a part of it in a way. She was able to make mistakes and pull herself back up without seeming weak or stupid.

She uses strategics as her main weapon in this world, realising that she might be weaker in other aspects and so cultivating this as a necessary skill to survive. It was very refreshing to see a character use something other than brawn or skill with a weapon, something that is saturating the YA badass-female-character market nowadays.

And her having an identical twin absolutely helped with my love of her character because I’m an identical twin myself! Their close but tense relationship has definitely been us at times and I loved how they were similar but had started to differ purely because their main goals had diverged, but that their stubbornness with which to achieve that goal was the same.

She was very easy to identify with, even if my goals, if I was in her world, would have aligned more with her older sister Vivi. I worried for her and I rooted for her, so this book definitely connects you with the characters, no doubt.

To be honest, I thought this book could have been a standalone, but finding out that it was part of a trilogy instead was very exciting! Holly Black could have so easily ended the book as it was, and left you wanting more of the world and wanting to know more of the future of the characters, but instead – we get to read about this ourselves!

More time in a world I love can never be a bad thing in my books.

Another interesting thing about this book was how the overall themes are very violent and cruel, like a lot of faerie-based books it seems, but throughout the book you start to get used to this almost like Jude has herself I suppose. In any flash of the human world we get, the stark contrast almost makes our world seem less real, and Faerie more so. It flipped my perspective on its head, which I enjoyed a lot.

The ending wraps things up very nicely, while also leaving it wide open for sequels. A lot happens in the run up to the end, but it doesn’t feel rushed, only as if everything was leading up to it. (Even if a lot of what happened was unexpected). I closed it feeling happy and satisfied, like you should after reading a good book.

Summary:

Strong, but well-flawed main character who uses strategy as her main weapon.

Compelling writing that makes you feel as though you’re in the world and everything is normal (though it’s actually far from it!)

Nice nods to other books by Holly Black, which loyal readers will enjoy.

A satisfying ending, and also two more books to enjoy!

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Invictus by Ryan Graudin Review or I completely lost track of the time!

Time flies when you’re plundering history.

Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past.

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.

[Disclaimer] This review is of an Advanced Readers Copy so some things may have changed in the final version.

This book made me realise an important thing: I’ve missed books about time travel!

Ever since the Time Riders series by Alex Scarrow, I’ve been waiting for something to fill that void. This book is that book.

Just to start with something that I really loved about it (not time travel related) was the fact that there are multiple female main characters in this book, and they’re all such distinctive independent characters without falling into that ‘tough as nails’ basically having no personality apart from badass trope.

One girl chalks her hair every colour under the sun and fancies the mathematician/programmer type guy on the ship while also adoring her pet red panda. One is a mysterious loner who tags along on their missions and who seems to know far more than she’s letting on. One is a quiet medic who is in a relationship with the main character but doesn’t let that define her and who is inquisitive as hell.

Basically, it wins hands down on female character representation for me. I love them all!

At first glance also, the plot doesn’t seem too complicated, but when you break it down it actually has a lot crammed into it without feeling too bulky or info-dumpy. Things that happen are explained nicely so you don’t need to know quantum physics to get it, but you also don’t feel talked down to. Overall, a nice balance.

One thing I did find though: This book was a little too easy to put down.

Now, I’m not sure if that was just me at the time, or if the book didn’t pull me in enough to leave me wanting to find out what happens next enough. I mean, I put this book down at around 80 pages for months before picking it up again, that doesn’t lend itself to the label of ‘page-turner’.

However, this got better throughout the book, and though it didn’t ever get quite as magnetic as a lot of other books have been with me, it was still hard enough to put it down that I finished it easily within a week once I got going. This only knocks off one star for me from the rating, not too bad.

I really enjoyed this book: the evil characters were understandable and bad enough to be a threat but not cartoonish, female diversity, racial diversity (to a certain extent), a likeable but flawed main character, drama, and time travel thievery! There’s a lot to like about this book.

It left me happy and wanting to read more from Ryan Graudin, which is all I can ask of a book really!

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Ember Burning by Jennifer Alsever Review or Cabin in The Woods really took a different turn

Senior year was supposed to be great–that’s what Ember’s friend Maddie promised at the beginning of the year. Instead, Ember TrouvE spends the year drifting in and out of life like a ghost, haunted by her parents’ recent, tragic death.

At home, she pores over her secret obsession: pictures of missing kids– from newspaper articles, from grocery store flyers– that she’s glued inside a spiral notebook. Like her, the people are lost. Like her, she discovers, they had been looking for a way to numb their pain when they disappeared.

When Ember finds herself in Trinity Forest one day, a place locals stay away from at all costs, she befriends a group of teenagers who are out camping. Hanging out with them in the forest tainted with urban legends of witchcraft and strange disappearances, she has more fun than she can remember having. But something isn’t right.

The candy-covered wickedness she finds in Trinity proves to be a great escape, until she discovers she can never go home. Will Ember confront the truth behind her parents’ death, or stay blissfully numb and lose herself to the forest forever?

[DISCLAIMER] I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

This was a fairly tricky review to write; I loved this book, or at least the feeling it gave me, but it also had some issues.

I’ll start with the good stuff since I don’t often do that on here apparently!

The plot reminded me of those standard books you used to read as a kid/tween. Very much a loner girl finding a magical land and some new friends (one cute but brooding boy omg!!) and who is the only person who can solve the mystery lurking beneath it all. That part was warm and fuzzy and let me just sink into the book like an old friend.

It was also quite quick and easy to read, a good palate cleanser between books that strain your mind and make you think (I love those, but sometimes my tired brain just can’t take it!) and Ember was quite a relatable character for the most part, her background was dark enough to explain how much she had gone off the rails, but with that spark of interest in her old things still. I loved a scene where her and another main guy just bounce science facts off each other for a page or two, it made me smile.

But there were parts to it that made me leave the story for a little while, like I was pushed out of the film running in my head. It made it a little jarring to stay in.

For one, the speech was a bit stilted and unrealistic. One minute a character will be calmly talking down another, and the next they’re flying off the handle in a rage out of nowhere. I thought I knew one guy’s personality a lot, then he’d go and do something completely out of character.

A fair bit of the plot is left to the background for a while too, like we don’t know a huge amount about Ember’s family or life and we don’t get to see much before she’s thrown into the mystery of Trinity. I’d have liked to see some more of her daily life, a little more school and interactions before Trinity happened. Also, this would have made the changes after her visit much more obvious and make her leaving mean more to me at the beginning.

I also quite disliked the magic plot device of the notebook Ember had been carrying around with her for almost the whole book. It felt like the information in that book would have made sense a lot earlier to her and helped her solve a few of the mysteries much earlier in the book too. But instead the dramatic reveal and piecing together of information later on just felt a bit frustrating to me.

However, the creepiness of the mystery really kept me hooked! It wasn’t obvious, or easily guessed (for me at least), and gave the book a good dark feel to it which paired well with the backstories of the poor main characters.

The ending was just creepy enough for me to be excited about the next book too. Not every book has to be amazing or super complex for me to enjoy reading it, and this book was overall quite an interesting and unique idea. Also I’m a sucker for creepy books every now and again!

That’s why I’ve ended up giving this book 3 stars, and might even be picking up the sequel soon.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Daughter of the Burning City Review or A Serious Problem with Second Hand Smoke

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

I genuinely enjoyed this book, it was one of those ‘ooh I can’t wait to get back to reading that!’ ones, but not because it was the Best Book Ever, more because it was cosy and warm. And when there’s snow everywhere right now in the UK, you need some cosiness and warmth if you can get it.

To be honest though, the first half of the book was a bit slow going. There wasn’t a huge amount of drama or gore in the murders that are the focal point of the book, and just a lot of wandering around Gommorah.

I felt like Sorina was easily convinced; her opinions seemed to flip to match whoever she was talking to at the time which made her seem a little like a pushover, but then when she gains some confidence and attacks out of nowhere this then just makes her seem a bit unstable.

It was also ‘LGBT’. I put those in quotes because it felt more like LGBT-lite than actual LGBT+ representation. People who were gay or Bi (like the main character) just kind of had it mentioned a few times and brushed over like it was no big deal and didn’t affect anything.

Now, I know that it’s almost the goal to have this be the case, that someone shouldn’t have to ‘come out’ and everyone should just be able to like anyone no matter who they are, but it felt a bit like a checklist of representation than actually meaning it. Also, with the universe in the novel being so strongly ‘religious’ in the book’s own way, with the up-mountainers so strongly against Gomorrah and the ‘sins’ within, I wondered why this never came up as an issue and could have added more to the depth of the book if it had.

I mean, I did love how one of the main characters was strongly Demi-sexual and this was done quite nicely for the most part. Though it was seen as almost a ‘freak’ attribute at times, at least this LGBT+ representation was given some adversity and so got the chance to defend itself a little.

Also, one thing that bugged me: how Sorina doesn’t know the names of anyone in Gomorra.

I mean, I understand not knowing people personally or having many friends, but even at school when I stuck to my small group religiously, I still knew the names of pretty much everyone in my class and maybe a fact about them. You spend enough time near anyone and you pick up the details.

However, one thing that made me want to keep reading and ultimately made me love it enough to give it 4 stars was the mystery.

The murders and who is doing them, in some other similarly-themed books, can be done very quickly and mostly relying on the main character being super slow and ignoring BIG clues so that the reader has almost guessed it by the end of the book.

This book doesn’t do that, at all. The characters talk through their problems and mysteries a lot, so much that I completely followed it all and knew all the clues they knew and still had no idea what was going to happen at the end.

The big twist was a surprise and the whole solution was only remotely guessable towards the very end of the book. And I love when that happens! I get to run through all of my own theories with the characters doing the same as I go, and still get the satisfaction of the answer without the frustration of waiting for the characters to get where I had already been chapters before.

The romance was a nice slow burn too, ignoring the quick physical attraction Sorina is too prone to having, it didn’t feel rushed or unrealistic. And the ending felt well wrapped up and complete, with me putting the book down at the end with a smile.

Overall it was a lovely read, with a few thorns, but hopefully Amanda Foody’s next book ‘Ace of Shades’ is just as good, with even fewer thorns for me to be picky about! Would absolutely recommend for a fun read.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) Review or That is an excessive amount of stabbing.

“A line that should never be crossed is about to be breached.

It puts this entire castle in jeopardy—and the life of your friend.”

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena’s world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie… and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.

I recently finished this book and gave it five stars. But now, after giving it a few days, I think it actually deserves four stars.

The main reason being: not a huge amount happens in most of the book. There’s some relationship drama (romantic and friendship), a little bit of mystery, learning a new language, a murder, and some rush at the end to finish the book with a bang.

Now don’t get me wrong, I loved what happened in the book, but the pace made it a bit too easy to put the book down and not need to get back to it in a hurry. There’s a lot of exposition and a bit more figured out about the King and the drama surrounding him, but nothing really gets resolved, and I felt like the riddles that Celaena solves only took so long in order to drag out the plot the book actually had in order to fill out a novel.

The book itself kind of gives off vibes of a sequel film – not quite as good as the first, less character building, and just feels like a filler till the next film comes along.

I don’t know if that’s partly because I’m a big fan of the structure of a competition in a book and how that forces the pacing and keeps me interested, and this book moved outside of that structure into a free-er style, but it just felt like it was meandering a bit.

Now that I’ve stomped on this book enough for one review, and of course – given the four star rating – you still know I really liked the book, I’ll move on to the positives!

Celaena is still one of my favourite characters in fantasy novels recently. She’s hot-headed and stubborn but also very confident and driven. She’s a three-dimensional character with even more hidden depths that get revealed in this book, and it’s nice to see more of those for women to look up to. (Yes, even with the whole ‘assassin’ thing!)

Also, the fight scenes are written really well in these books – which you’d hope given the main character does it for a living – they’re not easily rushed, they’re full of details but not boringly so, they’re dramatic and well-described. I know exactly who is stabbing who and where without reading it through 50 times to check.

Overall, I would absolutely recommend this book, and will be getting the sequels myself to continue the series, but make sure you push yourself through the slow bits, it’ll be worth it in the end!

(On a side note, I’m still waiting for more of the advertised characters to arrive like Manon and Rowan, but I’m told these only happen in Empire of Storms?? This feels like so far in the future, and I don’t know how they get into the books and are well-rounded enough given the speed of these books so far… maybe they speed up? Anywhoo, I’ll keep not-so-patiently waiting.)

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Hero at the Fall (Rebel of the Sands #3) Review or sand, sand everywhere, but not a drop to- yuck.

When gunslinging Amani Al’Hiza escaped her dead-end town, she never imagined she’d join a revolution, let alone lead one. But after the bloodthirsty Sultan of Miraji imprisoned the Rebel Prince Ahmed in the mythical city of Eremot, she doesn’t have a choice. Armed with only her revolver, her wits, and her untameable Demdji powers, Amani must rally her skeleton crew of rebels for a rescue mission through the unforgiving desert to a place that, according to maps, doesn’t exist. As she watches those she loves most lay their lives on the line against ghouls and enemy soldiers, Amani questions whether she can be the leader they need or if she is leading them all to their deaths.

[SPOILERS] potentially if you haven’t read the first two in the Rebel of the Sands series.

I usually find that the final book in a series is a risk. What if they don’t end like you want them to? What if they leave you wanting too much more that you just end up resenting the series for being over rather than enjoying it?

So when I started Hero I was both excited to finally read more about Armani’s universe and life, but also nervous that I’d built it up too much in my head and it wouldn’t live up to that.

But really, there was only one thing that I didn’t like about it, and so that’s why I’m dropping off half a star in my rating to 4.5 stars: the beginning was a tiny bit too slow for me.

And that’s it. That’s all I could find to dislike about Hero.

The rest was fast-paced and interesting and heartbreaking and all the feelings you’re supposed to feel when you read a good book.

People died, and others survived, and plenty of people were different at the end. And that was so good to read.

I also think the storytelling feel of these stories really adds so much to them and gives them a whole new level. You get to step back from the plot for a second and unravel a character and how they got to that point, then jump right back in. You get to read about how everything turns out in a fast pace but while also feeling like you’re still there with the characters.

It gives it a homeliness that I don’t usually get with the books I read. Like someone is reading it to me instead of me reading it in my own head.

Though I do remember struggling with Traitor to the Throne to get back into the characters and remember who was who, I can’t really say if this book would have had that issue too because I read it so much sooner after finishing the previous one. However, I think the characters were all so individual and clear that I don’t think I’d have struggled for long.

It was also nice to have a change of pace and scenery. From Traitor where Amani spends most of the book in one location to Hero where she roams almost the entire way across the desert again, it was an extreme shift that I loved. Both got to show a different side to Amani and the map in the front of the book helped so much in keeping track of her and the other members of the rebellion.

Overall, I loved this story and the characters, and I’ll miss them all so much. This book made me actually cry at points, which takes a lot for me, and at other times I found myself smiling just because of one particular paragraph.

It was a rollercoaster of emotions and a lovely read. I’ve never been more satisfied at the end of a trilogy before. Alwyn Hamilton has an amazing and unique voice and I hope to read a lot more from her in the future.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫