Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Review | A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab

What You Need To Know:
Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Number of Pages: 386
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Magic, Fiction
Standalone/Series: First Book in the Shades of Magic Series
Publisher: 27th February, 2015
Publication Date: Titan Books

The Plot:
Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit. 

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped.

My Thoughts:

For months I had only heard good things about this book. So many different Booktubers had been raving about it and I knew that I wanted to read it at some point. I'd never read a V.E. Schwab book before and everyone and their mother always says that she is an amazing author so I was extremely excited to pick it up. Sadly I was extremely disappointed.

"I'd rather die on an adventure than live standing still."

There were few things about this book that I truly liked. The main being the fact that it felt like a Lord of the Rings knock off. Now I know that there are plenty of books that use ideas from other works of fiction but everything about this book felt like the Lord of the Rings. For example there was an evil power who craved one thing that would make them extremely powerful and that one thing could only be destroyed in the place it was created. Sound familiar. Now usually I could look past that, if it was told to be a retelling of sorts. Like the Lunar Chronicles or The Legend series. But no, it says that A Darker Shade of Magic is an original tale and it just pushes my buttons to know that it really isn't.

 "Hesitation is the death of advantage."

Maybe I could have gotten over the fact that it was a bad retelling if the characters were believable. Alas they were not. We have two protagonists. The first being Kell, he is able to travel between the different Londons; a dying art. He sounds like an interesting character but he's completely conflicting. One moment he is naive and innocent; saying something that a person who has seen all different styles of life in different worlds shouldn't do. Then the next moment he is arrogant and condescending; ordering people about and all but expressing that they are nothing compared to him. Not to mention the fact that one moment he is acting as if he loves his adopted family, the Royals of Red London, then the next he hates them. Yes, they do own him in a way but they treat him as a son so why should he hate them the way he does? Truthfully, he's just a selfish character who only wants to please himself, not those around him. Hence why he brings things into the different realms which starts the whole mess of the book.

"Battles may be fought from the outside in, but wars are won from the inside out."

And then there's Lila. Initially she seems more likable and believable because of how she is initially described. She's a thief who lives in hard conditions; a seemingly rough character with big dreams of escaping the life she is living. The type that people usually think is adorable and should be loved. But I actually thought that she was worse than Kell. At least he had some personality, even if it did annoy me. For the most part Lila was dull and annoying and though she said somethings about wanting to change her life; really they were just words that meant nothing at all.

 "Lila Bard lived by a simple rule: if a thing was worth having, it was worth taking."

But that wasn't the main thing that made these characters unbelievable. For me it had to be the backstories; or lack of them should I say. As a reader, I knew nothing about either of their lives and though somethings were hinted at (like their lack of parentage) there were literally no answers. No I know that this was probably done so that the reader would want to continue the series. But to me, that's poor craftsmanship. If you want someone to pick up the next book then don't end the only possible why that that story could be going in one book. Yes, there should be space to know more about the characters and to allow them to develop but that should not be the only way that the series could go. A reader will not remember how the book ended in a year or so when the next book comes out if there is not some pinnacle moment like a cliff hanger. And truthfully it wasn't even that good an ending; it was simple and .... meh.

"Magic made things simple. Somethings, thought Kell, it made things too simple."

Although I don't think that this book was as good as everyone said, I can tell you that there were a handful of things that I liked. Mainly the villains .... ish. They were good villains; dark, sadistic, everything that a person wants when reading a good book. And they certainly did the unexpected but when it said at the start that they would do anything for power, well it just became predictable and dull. Yes they were interesting characters but there was no power behind them and they were far too easy to beat when I think about it. It would have been so much more enjoyable for there to be a bit more conflict between the heroes and villains; something that could have made the ending a little less predictable.

"The bodies in my floor all trusted someone. Now I walk on them to tea."

Ultimately, I feel that there was so much potential behind this book that really it could have been amazing. Yet it was just poorly executed; jumping on the bandwagon of a well loved classic. Truly it just disappointed me. Hence why I have given it *

Book Total of 2016 - 40

Friday, 27 May 2016

Review | Passanger, by Alexandra Bracken

What You Need To Know:
Title: Passanger
Author: Alexandra Bracken
Number of Pages: 464
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Time Travel, Historical Fiction
Standalone/Series: First Book in the Passanger Series
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication: 5th January, 2016

The Plot:
Passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them—whether she wants to or not.
Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home... forever.

My Thoughts:
I really didn't know how I was going to feel about this book when I picked it up. I haven't read anything by her before (I know sacrilege) but I wanted to give it ago. I knew nothing about this expect for it being about time travel and it was rather exciting to discover what could happen.

"It's our choices that matter in the end. Not wishes, not words, not promises."

Passenger is a historical time travelling adventure that revolves around 17 year old Etta Spencer who is completely unaware that her family are time travellers. Etta has to learn about how to survive as a traveller - from fitting in with new time periods to discovering and navigating various passages - all the while answering to the tyrant Cyrus Ironwood; Grand Master of travellers.

"In the whole course of history, war had always fallen on the shoulders of the young."

For the most part, I enjoyed Etta as a heroine. She was strong willed and had a large personality. Yes her constant talking did get a little bit annoying at times, especially when she likened everything to concerts and sympathises. But I loved the fact that she was discovering at the same time as us because her reactions were the same as ours (for somethings) and that just really made me happy! Overall I do think she was a rather enjoyable character. Yes she did have some annoying qualities but for me that made her realistic. No one is perfect in real life. Everyone has that one little quality that annoys the hell out of you. So, yeah, it made her realistic.

"There are rules, but rules may be rewritten if only one hand holds the ink."

And of course there has got to be a romance, it wouldn't be a young adult novel without a romance. May I introduce Nicholas Carter, a freed slave turned privateer from the late 1700s. It is he who is sent to protect Etta (and ensure that she doesn't go back on her deal) and immediately I knew that I would like his character. The prologue of the novel is set in his point of view and it instantly hooked my attention. He was interesting and I could relate to him. Not to mention that I had this sudden joy of reading a diverse main cast of characters since this is something that is barely viewed in Young Adult and Bracken acknowledged what life would have been like for him in during the different times! I praise you for that, Ms Bracken.

"What a privilege it was to never feel like you have to take stock of your surroundings, or gauge everyone's reactions to the colour of your skin."

The development of Etta and Nick's relationship was beautiful. They learnt about each other and then they began to fall in love; a slow-burn (realistic) love. The honesty that the two have with each other and the courage that they have to speak their minds was magnificent. They grew together and Etta was a better person with him (a lot less annoying and more inquisitive).  Etta and Nick faced a relationship that panned the through several different times, including the different stereotypes that could affect them negatively, whilst discovering each other. It was perfectly done.

 "She didn't need a protector or a rescuer. But she did need him."

Time travel is something that any author can really mess up. It's fine if it is set in the future or a world with a history different but when it is set in our own world, the author needs to do a lot of research or else things will get a confusing and unbelievable. Thankfully, this was not the case with this book. Alexandra Bracken obviously did her research before starting to write this book because every aspect felt realistic. I found every single chapter believable and the scenes were breathtaking. Really it's something that I could worship it's that well written.

"This was the danger, the seduction of time travel, she realised - it was the opportunity, the freedom of a thousand possibilities of where to live and how to start over. It was the beauty open to you in your life if you only stopped for a moment to look."

Although this was a story about adventure, I found that there was very little action involved. Sure there was some but really there was very little involved. Mainly it included a lot of vocal drama with quite a lot of internal monologues as well as rhetorical questions. Now I get that Etta was learning everything at the same time as us but I felt that this was fairly excessive at times. Maybe Bracken should have written the novel in first person so that it wouldn't seem as if she was dumbing everything down. But hey, that might just be me looking too deep into something.

Even though I have been a harsh critic of this book, I did enjoy it. It was an incredibly good book, unlike anything I've ever read, but it wasn't flawless. But I sort of but those flaws to the side for the moment and gave it

Book Total of 2016 - 39

Friday, 13 May 2016

A Theatre Geek's Book Tag (Original)

Not too long ago I came across a tag called The Musical Theatre Book Tag and I was really excited because I was going to be able to do something that expresses my two favourite things: musical theatre and books. Sadly I was disappointed because it expressed fairly obvious musicals through with titles that I personally didn't think worked. So I decided to create my own. In no way do I want it to seem that I am stealing anyone's thunder or anything and I mean no offence to Somethinglikelydia for changing it round. Also I mean no offence to anyone about any of the titles that I have given to certain musicals and books. This is just my personal opinion. So let's get started.

1. Carrie: Best Horror 
Horror is a genre that I rarely read so I have to say that there are very few books that genuinely scare me. But one book that terrified me when I read it a few years ago was It by Stephen King.
No wonder I'm scared of Clowns! 

2. West Side Story: Best Classic 
There are so many that could slip easily in to this category but there is one that I know will have a place in my heart above all others and if I'm honest, it's a rather strange one. For me, the best classic that I've read has to be Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I read it almost five years ago for school and I feel completely in love. It was a masterpiece and I need to read it again soon just so that I can feel it's joy once more.

3. The Book of Mormon: Best Comedy 
Another genre that I won't search out for. I prefer books that have comedy as an undertone rather than being completely comedic throughout. But I had to settle with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams.
This book has such a perfect blend of comedy and science fiction. I loved it and it still makes me chuckle thinking about it now. 

4. Hamilton: Best Historical 
A genre that I used to read so much when I was younger but I have to admit I've dwindled out of it. Probably because I read it so much. But my favourite has got to be The Minaturist by Jessie Burton. 
I know it gets mixed reviews but I felt that it perfectly discussed topics such as homosexuality and how they were addressed in previous cultures and centuries. It was really enlightening if I'm honest. 

5. Kinky Boots: A Guilty Pleasure
There are so many books that could fit into this category but I have to admit that there is one book that immediately springs to mind. That book has got to be The Selection, by Kiera Cass. This is the type of book that I would normally never read. It isn't quite fantasy or dystopian but I adored that series (well the first three books). It really is a guilty pleasure. 

6. Little Shop of Horrors: A Childhood Favourite 
Oh childhood. How I miss thee! The innocents of life back then was breathe taking and one of my favourite books that I was obsessed with when I was younger has to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll.
Need I explain anymore. A beautifully crafted story that I still hold in my heart now. Surely I can't be the only one who loves it. 

7. The Colour Purple: Best Book to Film Adaptation 
I'm probably not the only person who feels that so many book to film adaptations are poor. Why can't directors stick to the plot of the book? I except you are going to miss some stuff out but please don't change everything! But one book that I feel fits this category has got to be The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak. Yes, it isn't perfect but at least it sticks to the plot line!

8. Miss Siagon: A Book That Makes You Cry 
Me Before You, by Jojo Moyles. Need I explain anymore. I'm not usually a person who cries at books but I was blubbering mess after this book. And really that's all that I have to say about this book. 

9. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: A Feel Good Book 
This is the type of book that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside; something that can just cheer you up and make you feel good. For me this has got to be Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins. It just made me feel happy and I loved it so much and I know that I'm not the only one who feels lies that! I was stressed about life and I read this in one sitting to just get my mind off of life! It really did make me feel good!

10. Wicked: An Overrated Book
I hate to say this (and I know some people will probably kill me for this) but it has got to be The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. Any of John Green's books would fit into this category really and it isn't a secret how much I disliked this book is it. It's so overrated and there are plenty of other books that people should check out instead! 

11. Heathers: An Underrated Book 
There are so many books that fit into this category but the one that pops into my head first is Fire City by Bali Rai. Demons and romance and badass characters; a perfect plot line, I do believe. Bali is a beautiful writer and he deserves more reads!

12. Into the Woods: A Book with Extraordinary Characters
I know that there is one book that people will think I'm about to say but I am going to say to throw a curve ball into the mix. The Colour of Magic, by Terry Pratchett or the Discworld in general. The characters in this world are just outstanding!

13. The Wizard of Oz: A Book That's Out of This World
This has got to be my favourite book of 2015: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. It is unlike anything else and people need to check it out! I can't say too much because it will spoil it for people but please please please go and check it out. It really is out of this world (in both settings and the book itself).

14. Ghost: Best Fictional Relationship
Levi and Cathy from Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell. They are normal people and I do think that they are my OTP and I don't even really like contemporary work! They are normal humans and they just seem realistic. A couple that I can believe in and could actually be a part of my everyday life.

15. Newsies: A Book That Everyone Should Read
I know that everyone is going to have guessed what I'm about to say. My favourite book that's out there. The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien. So many people have not read this and it deserves to be read considering that it all but started fantasy. Yes the language is different because it was written at the start of the 20th century but people really need to give it ago. It is so beautiful and really is a masterpiece of literature.

And here we go. That was A Theatre Geek's Book Tag. What did you think? If you want to do this then please feel free. TAG YOU'RE IT! (Just let me know that you've done it please)

Book Total of 2016 - 39