Bad Boy by Elliot Wake | Spoiler Free Review

‘You’re so lovely, I thought, when you’re lying to my face.’

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What I got from Bad Boy was not at all what I anticipated. And by that I mean I didn’t anticipate reading (what essentially felt like) a sequel to Wake’s 2015 release Black Iris.

Perhaps the reason I didn’t enjoy this as much is because I wasn’t a huge fan of Black Iris (as I was with Wake’s other books such as Cam Girl and Unteachable). If you enjoyed the Black Iris story more, my guess is you’d enjoy revisiting these characters. If you were content with the ending of Black Iris, I would tell you that this story is  about Ren – a trans male sharing his experiences via Youtube, living a double life working for justice vigilante group – you guessed it – Black Iris.

As I’m familiar with Wake’s work, his style of writing and characters, I was surprised I disliked parts of the narrative. Personally some of the dialogue felt a little unnatural. There are times when Ren is breaking the fourth wall and communicating information directly to the reader. I don’t really like this ever in fiction, even in small doses. However it would be beneficial for those who haven’t read Black Iris and maybe wouldn’t understand some of the content otherwise.

I can’t say I enjoyed revisiting Black Iris characters, Laney and Blythe. I’m not entirely sure why, but they felt less like themselves and more like caricatures of themselves. It usually felt as though everything Laney said, she made a drama of it or it was highly exaggerated. Therefore she really lacked authenticity to me, which is a huge problem as I’m a reader who typically prefers character driven stories over plot driven.

Something that I think Wake excels at is mystery and sucking the reader into the story. He’s smart in how he chooses when and what information the reader gets. As the narrator gradually learns what’s going on in their surroundings, so does the reader and ultimately a healthy interest in the story is maintained. There is also a really good balance between the romance and the mystery elements, and didn’t feel as though either were overshadowed by each other.

Interestingly, the vibe I get from Skins is similar to the one I got whilst reading Bad Boy. The crudeness and vulgarity, accompanied with fantastic social commentary makes for a really interesting story. (Side not: Wouldn’t Kaya Scodelario be perfectly cast as Laney in an adaptation?)

 

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Review: NERVE by Jeanne Ryan

SERIES: Standalone
GENRE: Young Adult, Thriller and Mystery
PUBLISHER: Dial Books
PAGES: 304 pages (Hardcover edition)
RATING: ★☆☆☆☆

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Vee doesn’t know if she has the guts to play NERVE, an anonymous online game of dares. But whoever’s behind the game knows exactly what she wants, enticing her with lustworthy prizes and a sizzling-hot partner. With Ian on her team, it’s easy to agree to another dare. And another. And another. At first it’s thrilling as the Watchers cheer them on to more dangerous challenges. But suddenly the game turns deadly. Will Vee and Ian risk their lives for the Grand Prize dare, or will they lose NERVE?

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Late last year I came across a trailer for a film called NERVE. I was quickly enamoured by the vibrancy and manic energy this film presented. Soon after when I found out it had been adapted from a book, I didn’t hesitate to pick it up from my library. However despite it’s promising plot, I was less than impressed with the execution of this story and calling this book mediocre would be a compliment.

My first problem with Nerve was it’s woefully average characters. It’s evident the author was heavily relying on tropes. Our main character, Vee, is a depicted as the cliche shy teenager who lives in the shadow of her very outgoing best friend, Sydney. Alongside this, the side characters are also very cliche, such as the male sidekick that is secretly lusting over Vee whilst she lusts over the popular douchebag.

This book also has a really ambitious plot. Consequently, I felt that the introduction to the characters and who they are was a little lazy in order to move forward with the plot. I felt this way because I noticed how much time was spent telling the reader what the characters are like, as opposed to showing the reader through better dialogue and actions. For example:

“How could I be so stupid? Recklessness is not part of my personality. Shy, hard-working, loyal, all those boring Capricorn traits, that’s me.”

I’m as big of a believer in horoscopes as the next girl is, but this statement felt ridiculous. Who is possibly under the impression that they are limited by what they’re horoscope says? The fact that she’s a capricorn is mentioned multiple times in order describe Vee’s personality or actions and it really shouldn’t have been.

More over, these characters felt really un-organic. Along with my former complaint, I felt as if the author was trying too hard to make her characters sound like teenagers and for me their characterisation really suffered. A lot of dialogue employed was quite cliché, and I’d rather the characters say and act in accordance with personal character traits as opposed to what someone thinks teenagers say.

Some of the reasoning behind the dares was a little inconsistent. At first, it was obvious Vee was motivated to complete the dares because she wanted to shock people. As the dares become increasingly risky, her friends try to talk her out of it, but she remains quite naïve thinking that the game isn’t meant to ‘risk your life. Just make it seriously uncomfortable.’ But also, those things in some instances can be quite similar.

Therefore the justification of doing the dares becomes about the prizes, and as discussed by our protagonists ‘someone with a trust fund’ wouldn’t understand that motivation. However, when the rewards are initially phones, camping gear and pretty shoes…. I fail to see how someone’s reasoning for putting themselves in danger is by being ‘underprivileged’. The rewards do become worth their while as the dares become riskier, but there is no way they could’ve predicted this as Vee knew barely anything about NERVE prior to joining (even though it was a social phenomenon.)

I was also angered by some of the descriptions. They were nonsensical and/or unnecessary:

“A pink-cheeked girl and her boyfriend stroll past us on their way inside. They giggle and hold hands, their shy glances suggesting they haven’t had their first kiss yet, which makes me feel worldly in comparison, although I haven’t gone much beyond the kissing stage myself.”

Why was this even brought up? This is the most redundant think I’ve ever read.

“Daniella, freshly iced with thick lipstick that would give ancient prostitutes some serious competition…”

 

…okay, and?

I briefly touched upon the fact that a lot of lines were cliché, but that extends further than the dialogue. The relationships the character has and the characters, were very typical as well. Vee is always depicted as second best to her best friend Sydney, because Sydney is a blonde and her presence just ‘demands’ the spotlight. But Vee isn’t anything special because she has brown hair and blue eyes!? (Ahem, Megan Fox has brown and blue eyes.)

There was also a really weird prologue at the beginning of the story. I waited for this prologue to make sense but it never really did and I’m left with so many questions. (It is totally possible I missed something, but I can’t make a connection on how it fitted within the timeline of the story or what was even happening.)

Ultimately, I felt this was just a poor execution of a really good idea. The movie adaptation was definitely better and had an energy to it that was really enticing, with charming leads. I would highly recommend the movie over the book.

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Thank you for reading, and if you’ve made it here, thanks for managing to get through this long-winded rant review! Carly

Review: The Chronicles of Alice by Christina Henry

SERIES: THE CHRONICLES OF ALICE
GENRE: FANTASY, HORROR, RETELLINGS AND ADULT
PUBLISHER: ACE
PAGES: Alice and Red Queen: 291 pages (Paperback edition)
RATING: ★★★☆☆

‘Alice knew well, better than anyone, the dangers of curiosity.’

The two books in The Chronicles of Alice series are Alice and Red Queen. In the beginning of book one, we meet Alice as she resides in a mental asylum (‘the hospital’) in the Old City. Alongside Alice is her friend Hatcher whom is in the adjacent cell to hers at the hospital. The two have communicated only through a small mouse hole on the wall that connects their cell for ten years. Despite this barrier, the two have formed an uncanny and somewhat romantic relationship.

If you weren’t able to gather from the titles, Alice and Red Queen are retellings of Alice in Wonderland. Although the characters from the original tale are recognisable, if you aren’t fond of retellings that stray fat from the source material, then this isn’t the series for you.

‘The world gobbles us and chews and swallows us, I think happy endings must be accidents.’

23398606Christina Henry’s world is much darker than the Wonderland we are familiar with. In this series, Alice’s world is segregated into the pristine and fair New City, and the more bleak and dangerous Old City. Magic also is considered non-existent, as the Magician’s living in the Old City were hunted out years ago.

Upon escaping from the hospital, Hatcher (whom carries Seer blood), can sense the dangerous Jabberwocky, whom also escaped from the hospital the night it went ablaze. Despite Alice’s disbelief in the Jabberwocky, Hatcher’s fearlessness and drive for blood lead them on a quest to conquer the Jabberwocky.

‘You do not wish for a quiet respectable life. You had one of those and you ran from it, ran to a life of blood and death.’

Alice Henry’s writing style has a very readable quality to it. The beautiful simplicity of it made her Wonderland incredibly easy to absorb. I also loved how these books were relatively short for fantasy books, as each book is just under 300 pages. I appreciate how the author didn’t unnecessarily drag the book on any longer for the sake of things, as I liked how concise this story was. I was actually able to read both books in a week back to back, which is not usual for me!

Unfortunately the ‘horror’ aspect felt really lacklustre, which was kind of my main motivation for reading these books. Although, this could be dependent on what your idea of horror is. Personally, I anticipate to be made fearful or or frightened. I’m not someone who’s very easily scared from books and I felt very little suspense or tension throughout. However, Christina Henry’s world consisted of a lot of vivid and graphic descriptions of horrible things that although didn’t shock me, it may shock other readers.

To anyone considering going into these books, I must give a huge trigger warning for sexual violence of any sort. These book’s are pretty rife with it.

Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Series: The Witchlands, Book One
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult and Romance
Publisher: Tor Teen
Pages: 416 (Kindle Edition)
Rating: ★★★★☆

I found that I had a really interesting and unexpected experience whilst listening to Truthwitch via Audiobook. At first, I was a little less than impressed. A lot of the criticisms that I’d heard about this book following its release rang true. However upon finishing this book, I was in disbelief I contemplated DNF’ing it earlier on, because by the end I was absolutely enthralled with the story and the characters. 

There is so much to grasp in this book, such as a plethora of new characters, terminology, empires and their respective political systems and the magic system. Trying to absorb all this new information can really take you out of the story. Therefore I can understand how this would affect someones reading experience or perhaps why some people even DNF’d this book. The reader is really expected to just go with the information given without a ton of explanation. Which can either be a good or bad thing depending on how much exposition you enjoy.

Eventually a lot of the information pieces itself together along the way, you just have to hang in there to see the potential this book has! Ultimately, I think Susan Dennard did her absolute best to disseminate information to the reader and I really appreciate how she’s created such a vast world for readers to enjoy.

The two central characters Safiya and Iseult where fantastic leads. It’s so refreshing to read a young adult novel where the two main female characters don’t secretly hate one another. They have very different personalities that work extremely well together. The theme of friendship was a prevalent underlying theme 21414439throughout this book and I loved the emphasis on it.

Aeduan, a blond monk, is also a fascinating character. I personally wasn’t as attached to him, but I can’t wait to spend more time with this character in Windwitch. I also really adored Merik, he makes me reminiscent of characters such Chaol from Throne of Glass Sarah J. Maas and Finn from The Star Thief by Jamie Grey. As with Aeduan, I’d like to spend more time with him.

Another aspect I loved was the romance. It was a focal point of the story, yet didn’t overshadow the plot or friendships, which was fantastic. I was absolutely living for Merik and Safi’s relationship. It simultaneously felt like a good slow-burn romance, but there was also some parts that implied it was a little insta-lovey. For example, when they’re dancing together and their connection is described as ‘something as powerful as the wind.’ I think this could’ve been handled better so that it wouldn’t negate the slow-burn aspect of their relationship.

Lastly, I’d like to talk about my listening experience with this book via audiobook. I thought Cassandra Campbell was an excellent narrator and was well suited for this speaking role. Her speaking voice reminded me a little of Sarah Koenig (from Serial), like I experience the same experience whilst listening to Campbell and Koenig and that is I was engaged throughout the entirety of the story. I enjoyed how she used her American accent for the narration, and then employed an accent during the characters dialogue. She was, for the most part, fantastic at them. My only criticism is that I thought Safi and Iseult’s voices were very similar… initially I struggled to distinguish the two and they were probably a little too high pitched for my personal liking.

Alongside this (not a criticism of the audiobook), I think it’d be beneficial to have read this book.  I think I would’ve better absorbed the world if I had visually seen how the characters names were spelt, how places were spelt etc. for some reason. Alongside this, I predominantly listen to audiobooks whilst I drive (like 99% of the time) and so natural I’m not always mentally processing want I’m listening to if I’m concentrating on driving. In the future I’m probably less inclined to listen to fantasy books via audio.

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As always, thank you for reading, Carly,

Warbreaker by Brandon Sander

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Spoiler Free Review

High Fantasy 

Warbreaker #1.0

My Rating: ★★★★☆

This book has truly left an impression on me. I know I didn’t give this book a perfect rating (which I will discuss further on) but rating aside, I believe this is such a sensational fantasy book for many reasons. It has definitely made an impact on my reading and has set the bar pretty high for future fantasy books.

Warbreaker tells the story of two Idrian Princesses, Vivenna and Siri. Vivenna is in an arranged marriage via a treaty to the powerful God King who resides in Hallandren – a kingdom that couldn’t be any more different to Idris. When it comes time for Vivenna to be married, the King of Idris has a change of heart and decides Vivenna is too valuable for Idris’ future and sends his youngest and somewhat rebellious daughter Siri in Vivenna’s place.

The world of Warbreaker is narrated primarily through three perspectives, with additional chapters (but nowhere near as prominent) from secondary characters. I couldn’t imagine a better way to tell the story. Having these three particular characters narrate most of Warbreaker was fantastic as they are each essentially thrown into new situations, scenarios and surroundings. Therefore as the character learns about the world around them, the reader can come to understand the world better too.

Our first narrator is Siri, the King of Idris’ youngest child, and arguably the most mischievous one. As the youngest of four, Siri is often without responsibilities and pressure her elder siblings have. That is until she is unexpectedly sent to marry the God King in Hallandren. Secondly there is Vivenna, the eldest chid of the Idrian King. Upon finding out that she will no longer be married to the God King, Vivenna experiences a brief moment of relief, before finding out her sister Siri has been sent in her place. Vivenna feels robbed by this action, as she has spent her entire life preparing to be the perfect bride. Consequently, she secretly leaves Idris for Hallandren with plans to save her younger, more naive, sister. But her path takes a turn when she befriends a group of mercenaries. Lastly, there is the returned God, Lightsong, who simply wants leave a simple life in the palace amongst the gods. But with his kingdom potentially on the brink of war, he finds himself unwillingly drawn into the politics at court.

There is – what I consider to be very interesting – a fantastic magic system that exists within this world known as ‘Awakening.’ Just a forewarning, don’t let my explanation of this system deter you from reading, Sanderson explains it much more thoroughly (and better) than I will. Essentially every character contains a ‘BioChromatic Breath’ which draws upon colour for power. This Breath is what enables practicing mages to awaken objects. Once an object is awoken, a mage can use the object to assist them as they wish. This Breath is also transferable between people and the more Breath someone has, the powerful they are.

Warbreaker has some of the best world building in a book I have ever witnessed. Granted, the book I reader prior to this had some of the worst and perhaps I noticed this aspect more than I usually do. As someone who is easily irritated by over exposition, I was truly impressed. Sanderson executes this very cleverly. He makes it interesting for the reading, as if we’re stepping right into the protagonist’s shoes.

Unfortunately I didn’t rate this book perfectly because it did take me a while to read. It is admittedly one of the longest books I’ve read. I will contradict myself with this statement: although I loved the depth of this world, at times it did drag a little. I will say that despite it’s density it was still incredibly readable. For example, if I were to read a George R.R. Martin book, I could not pay attention if I was tired in the slightest. But despite the intricacy of the world in Warbreaker, I was still able to push through tiredness to read it.

Although I recently found out there will be a sequel to Warbreaker, this book works excellently as a standalone. I highly recommend this book to any reader who likes a slow paced high fantasy book. I would also personally say its a good entry point into Sanderson’s books

The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas

 

the-assassins-bladeSpoiler Free Review

Romance | Fantasy | Young Adult

Throne of Glass Series #0.1 – #0.5

My Rating: ★★★★

The Assassin’s Blade was not high on my to-read list once it was released. This is largely because on the rare occasion I read a novella, I don’t tend to enjoy them very much. However as the release of Queen of Shadow’s neared, I heard there were several things within this book that connected to Maas’ 2015 release Queen of Shadows which had me intrigued.

Without a doubt, I was clearly missing out. This was more than a mere compilation of superficial short stories. The quality of the stories and their respective plots were amazing. Each novella continues on from where the previous left off, and so it really feels like a complete novel.

If I’m being truthful this book may be my favourite in the series thus far. Sarah J Maas really illustrated just how fantastic she is at story telling and the stories within this book give her world incredible depth. She has an qual talent for drawing out moments and making them extremely suspenseful.

We’re introduced to such a variety of characters, some who play a vital part in the series main story and some who attribute to Celaena’s development as a character. Having read Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight and Heir of Fire prior to reading this – I was immensely excited to be introduced to some of these characters that are mentioned throughout the series. Such as the King of Assassin’s himself Arobynn Hammel and Celaena’s sweetheart Sam Cortland.

I would recommend any fan of the Throne of Glass series pick this up immediately. Each novella was equally fantastic, thrilling and action packed. If you’re new to the series, my best advice would be to read each book in publication order.