Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

maze-runner-classic-redesignThe Maze Runner by James Dashner

Genre: Young Adult / Sci-Fi / Dystopian / Apocalyptic

Publisher: Chicken House

My Rating: 5_star_rating_system_4_stars

Synopsis: When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

Remember. Survive. Run.

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My Review

I decided to pick up The Maze Runner series after watching the first two film adaptations. I was pleasantly surprised by the first film and, whilst the second wasn’t as good, I still enjoyed it. So, I thought it was finally time I picked up the books.

The Maze Runner tells the story of a group of boys, known as Gladers, who are trapped at the centre of a seemingly unsolvable maze for some inconceivable reason. They have no real, concrete memories, except their names, and must carry on with life with no proper answers. Each month, one new boy is sent to the centre of the maze, known as the Glade, in a lift. They must learn the one rule of the Glade: no one, except the Runners, goes into the maze, especially after dark. At night, the doors to the maze close and the Grievers come out.

Yet, when Thomas turns up, the sense of order within the Glade begins to unravel. I thought the opening was done well; we’re just as confused as Thomas as he travels in the lift, before reaching the Glade and being greeted by a group of unsympathetic boys who won’t really tell him what’s going on, mainly because they don’t know themselves.

The characters were clear-cut from the beginning: curious Thomas, short-tempered Alby, intelligent Newt, innocent Chuck, distrustful Gally, confident Minho. I also realised that the films had been very true to the characters in the books, which was great. There was no worry here of the characters bleeding into one another, where the reader is unable to tell who’s who and who’s talking.

The suspense and mystery is also palpable from the outset. We learn everything as Thomas does, and I thought hints and revelations were dropped just at the right moments to keep you intrigued. I’ve seen some people complain that the beginning lagged, and yes whilst it did take a little while to get to the action, I was enjoying myself just learning about the characters, the dynamics of the Glade, and the mystery of the maze.

In fact, I think seeing the films first enhanced my enjoyment of the book. Like I said, I can see why some people would say the beginning wasn’t pacey enough, but having seen the film adaptation, I knew generally what was coming and was excited to see how scenes from the film panned out in the book, and what differences there were between the film and novel. Also, because I already liked these characters from the films, I didn’t need to learn to like them whilst reading the book.

However, one way in which the novel really fell short was the writing. It was pretty average. There was a fair bit of telling, not showing, and it was just quite clunky; that was obvious from the start. I felt at times the awkward writing bogged down the pace as sentences often didn’t flow well, but a lot of the time I managed to overlook it because of the plot points, which kept me reading.

Also, Thomas was definitely a bit more of a Gary Stu in the novel than in the film. Dylan O’Brien gave Thomas a lot of depth in the film, creating a character that was both confident and unsure. Whilst novel-Thomas was suitably flawed, the way he was a Gary Stu was that he seemed to have all the answers. Boys who had spent years in the Glade would not have thought of the same things as Thomas. In actuality, the author spent a lot of time having Thomas list things and other characters going “tried that”. However, whilst the characters would have “tried that”, they would not have been able to join the dots like Thomas, which felt a little unbelievable at times. Are you telling me no one else had really given that much thought to the WICKED acronym?

In addition, Thomas could also be quite passive. Things would happen to him, rather than him outright causing them. I felt that Thomas was much more active in the films, rather than someone who has things happen to them because they’re special in some way. This was also heightened when Teresa turned up, for reasons I won’t divulge as it’s spoilery, but I’m glad the films left out one particular plot point involving Thomas and Teresa.

However, back to some positives. I did really like the characters. I think Teresa is actually more interesting in the books than she is in the films, although I think Kaya Scodelario is a good actress. In a total contrast to Thomas, novel-Teresa was much more active than film-Teresa. I think Newt is also more passive in the films than he is in the books. In addition, the characterisation of Minho was executed a little better in the books. The same goes for Alby and Newt, and Frypan as well. Gally, however, was a better antagonist in the film adaptation than in the book.

Lastly, I didn’t mind the slang, such as “shuck” and “klunk”. I thought it would annoy me, as I presumed it would be used more in the book than in the film, but it was fine. It was a good way for characters to get their emotions across sometimes as the slang was clearly used in place of swearing, which is often taboo in YA that is marketable to younger teens.

So, overall, I think this was a solid start to the series in terms of plot and characterisation. However, it was definitely let down by average writing, so that knocked a star off the rating. But yes, whilst it was clunky, and some things were just a bit too convenient, I still enjoyed it. I honestly do recommend that maybe you watch the films before you try the books. The first two films are available on DVD, and the third is due out next year. I found, for once, that seeing the films enhanced my enjoyment of the novels.

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Have you read The Maze Runner? What did you think of it? Have you seen the film adaptations? Let me know in the comments below!

caitlin

 

ARC Review: Ariadnis by Josh Martin

51a2b9y2f2hlAriadnis by Josh Martin

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Publisher: Hachette, Feb 2017

My Rating: 5_star_rating_system_3_stars

Synopsis: Joomia and Aula are Chosen. They will never be normal. They can never be free.

On the last island on Erthe, Chosen Ones are destined to enter Ariadnis on the day they turn eighteen. There, they must undertake a mysterious and deadly challenge. For Joomia and Aula, this means competing against each other, to end the war that has seethed between their cities for nine generations.

As the day draws nearer, all thoughts are on the trial ahead. There’s no space for friendship. No time for love. However much the girls might crave them.

But how you prepare for a task you know nothing certain about? Nothing, except that you must win, at whatever cost, or lose everything.

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This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinion of the book in any way.

So, Ariadnis. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of this book from the lovely Books With Bite once again, and I was really excited to read it; the book even came with little cards depicting the characters.

However, Ariadnis fell short of expectations for me. Let me just say, this book mainly got three stars because the imagination behind it was excellent. The story and setting were fresh, and there was a lot of diversity too. I really applaud the author for not regurgitating the same old YA Fantasy story.

Yet, for me, it fell short in other areas. Mainly: writing, pacing, world-building and characterisation. And yes, I am contradicting myself by saying it fell short in world-building. So, let’s start there.

The story is set on a magical island where huge trees grow beneath a cliff face, housing the city of Metis, and huge trees also grow atop the cliff, home to the city of Athenas. The setting was really imaginative, but I just could not get my head round the concept; I really struggled to picture this cliff face and the trees so massive they could hold up cities. And I’m not talking about a big forest, I mean nine trees per city. And you can also travel down or up through the cliff to get to each city. And in the cliff is a magical place called Ariadnis. And the city on top of the cliff, Athenas, has hollowed out its trees, filled them with machines, encased the trunks in metal, and built their city atop huge dinner plates on the trees. My brain just could not wrap itself around the entire concept; it was almost too imaginative.

So, not only was I totally mind-boggled from the get go, the characters then start mentioning a place called ‘Erthe’ that was destroyed by big waves and a comet. ‘Okay cool,’ I thought, ‘so it’s like a different world just named similarly to ours.’ But then one of the characters mentions Hindi and India and suddenly I’m confused all over again. It’s our Earth, but there’s magic. Normally, this is a pretty normal concept  in Fantasy, mainly magical realism, but where did the magic come from? It hadn’t been there before, so why does suddenly everyone on this island have the ability to wield magic when no one alive in modern times could?

I was entirely confused, once again. I’m not a huge Fantasy reader; I like it, but I’m quite picky about what Fantasy I read. So, maybe a big Fantasy lover would be able to wrap their head around this world-building better. After all, I seem to be in the minority with these opinions compared to other reviewers.

Now, onto the writing and pacing. The writing was okay at the beginning – nothing special, but also nothing awful. However, I felt it began to unravel as the book progressed. The story is told in alternating POVs between the main characters Aula and Joomia in their respective cities. At first, their voices and story lines were easy to differentiate. However, when they eventually met up, I began to feel lost, especially because the POV would switch multiple times in a chapter. I would think I’m reading from Joomia’s perspective and then confuse myself, backtrack, and see actually it was Aula talking. I thought it would be easy to differentiate them as Aula is headstrong and uses ‘en’t’ all the time instead of ‘isn’t’, and Joomia is quiet and can only communicate via telepathy, shown in bold lettering, but I did end up becoming confused (again).

Really, what I think this book was lacking was precision. The ideas were great, but they needed a lot of skill to be pulled off correctly, and I felt that skill was lacking. It is a debut, so the second book may vastly improve, but it just felt too big and in need of more control.

The same goes for the pacing. The entire middle portion of the book sagged, which can often happen after the excitement of the inciting incident dies down and the climax is currently out of sight. Yet, oddly, things were happening, but it just didn’t feel like it. There were twists and a bit of action, but it all lacked a punch. I think this was also down to the writing; it wasn’t exciting enough. I don’t think it fell prey to telling instead of showing, but rather it just skipped over the action. Fight scenes were cut down to a couple of short paragraphs. Emotional scenes only took up half a page. I think it focused on the wrong details, and as such there was no suspense or tension.

In addition, as I didn’t really connect with the characters, any attempts at tension didn’t make me that nervous. The characters were clear-cut – I knew who was who – but for some reason they just didn’t excite me.

Also, one thing that did annoy me a bit was that everyone was horny all the time. Like all the time, at totally inappropriate moments. Someone would die and Aula or Joomia would be sad for five seconds before lusting over another character. It was like instalove but instead it was instahorny.

So, that concludes my main comments. I think Ariadnis was a great idea, but it lacked finesse and just wasn’t for me. Others might enjoy it, and certainly on Goodreads and Amazon there are a lot of glowing reviews, but if you’re not a big Fantasy fan, it may not be for you.

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Have you read Ariadnis? Did you enjoy it? Do you want to read it? Let me know in the comments below!

caitlin

Stacking the Shelves | Sci-Fi with a Sprinkle of Fantasy

STACKING THE SHELVES

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme from Tynga’s Reviews where you showcase the books you’ve received or purchased.

I’ve been on a bit of a book-buying ban since Christmas, mainly because I’m struggling to find the time to read since I started full-time work. However, now that I’m settling into the world of work a bit better, I’ve treated myself to a few more books.

So, first up, we have the much-talked about Caraval, that my friend Vicky @ Hung Up On Books kindly gave to me as she had two copies.

Caraval edit.jpg

I’m really excited to read Caraval. A small part of me is worried it may be over-hyped, yet I’ve seen nothing but good reviews.

Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

Goodreads

Maze Runner edit.jpg

Next up, I’ve finally caved and bought The Maze Runner series. I really enjoyed the first film adaptation; it had great acting (Dylan O’Brien is A+++) and pretty good cinematography. The second film wasn’t quite as good but still entertaining, and I heard it deviated a lot from the book, so I’m keen to find out what really happened. Also, these books get quite mixed reviews. I think the premise is so interesting, but whether the writing and characterisation lives up to it, I’ll just have to wait and see. (Please excuse the blurry photo, it didn’t look blurry on my camera screen).

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

Remember. Survive. Run.

Goodreads

Sign edit

Lastly, I got The Sign of One by Eugene Lambert. I’ve heard good things about this dystopian series and have been wanting to get my hands on a copy for a while.

ONE FOR SORROW, TWO MEANS DEATH.

In the Barrenlands of Wrath, no one dies of old age. Kyle is used to its harsh laws, but the cold-blooded separation of identical twins and execution of the ‘evil twists’ at the Annual Peace Fair shocks him.

When Kyle himself is betrayed, he flees for his life with the reluctant help of Sky, a rebel pilot with a hidden agenda. As the hunt intensifies, Kyle soon realises that he is no ordinary runaway, although he has no idea why. Fighting to learn the hideous truth, their reluctant, conflicted partnership will either save them – or kill them.

Goodreads

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Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Do you want to read them? Let me know in the comments below!

caitlin

 

ARC Review: The Memory Book by Lara Avery

30965236The Memory Book by Lara Avery

Genre: YA Contemporary

Publisher: Hachette

My Rating: 5_star_rating_system_4_stars

Synopsis: 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.

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This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinion of the book in any way.

Let me just start this review by saying that I took just over a month to finish this book. However, that is not a reflection on my enjoyment of the book, but rather my apparent inability to work full-time and read (I’m working on it).

But anyway, let’s get on with the actual review.

I had seen a lot of people raving about The Memory Book on Twitter. I was eventually lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of the ARC, and I’m glad I did. This is a well-written and emotional novel, without being OTT cutesy and quirky like other YA Contemporaries with similar themes (I’m looking at you, The Fault In Our Stars). 

It follows the story of Samantha (Sammie, or Sam, and for the purposes of this review I’ll go with Sammie) McCoy and her diagnosis of Niemann-Pick Type C (NPC). It’s a degenerative disease with symptoms similar to dementia, caused by a build-up of cholesterol in the liver and spleen, eventually causing a blockage in the brain. It usually affects young children, but can sometimes be seen in teenagers and adults. It isn’t curable, and results in the loss of motor and cognitive functions, before eventually resulting in death.

Sammie struggles with her diagnosis at first, convinced that she won’t die and will fulfill her dreams of making it to New York for university and becoming a human rights lawyer. Sammie is willful, headstrong, confident in her intelligence, but not so socially confident. However, thankfully, she isn’t that typical YA Contemporary protagonist who moans all the time about being ugly when really she’s secretly beautiful.

The book is written from Sammie’s POV as she describes her day-to-day life for ‘Future Sam’. It’s a diary intended for the Future Sam who will be experiencing the main symptoms of NPC (ie, loss of memory) and so is an aid to help Future Sam remember what her goals are and what’s recently been happening in her life. This mode of story-telling was definitely unique. It’s a POV that could have bombed, but Avery crafted a strong and recognisable voice for Sammie, and I really got to know who Sammie was. Sometimes she annoyed me, and other times I really liked her, but that’s because she was a well-rounded and flawed protagonist. She also learnt from her mistakes, and so by the end of the book anything that had slightly grated on me about Sammie’s personality had been worked on, and I really loved her as a character in the final third.

The plot itself was interesting too. It wasn’t the most exciting in terms of drama for a Contemporary, but I was never bored and still enjoyed seeing the story meander along. In all honesty, I think any major plot drama would have overshadowed the quiet, honest and lyrical nature of the story, and would have turned it into some soap opera. So, for that, I’m glad that there was only really one scene of proper ‘drama’, and that towards the end of the book. Everything else was just the usual workings of life, but seen through the eyes of a girl succumbing to a genetic disease.

I thought the portrayal of the disease was handled sensitively. I can’t attest for how accurately it was handled, as I have no real experience of NPC and neither does the author, but it didn’t feel exaggerated to me or used solely as a plot device. As I said, this book is more about how Sammie discovers who she truly is, rather than being only about the disease. It was quite hard-hitting to read the occasional chapters where Sammie would have what she describes as an ‘episode’. This would be where her cognitive functions aren’t working normally, and so Sammie would be trying to type about her day but would just sound very confused and child-like.

As for the other characters, I wasn’t totally enamoured with them, but they didn’t feel flat. There is a romance in this book. I wasn’t all for it, but it’s what’s important to Sammie at the time, which is understandable, and it doesn’t dominate the whole book. The love interest is Stuart Shah, who’s a little older than Sammie and who she’s had a crush on for a long time. I didn’t think he was all that Sammie cracked him up to be, but I soon realised that was the whole point. I won’t give away any more, as it’d spoil the plot.

There’s also Sammie’s friends Maddie and Cooper. Maddie featured heavily at the beginning and middle of the book, but she just drifts off towards the end for no real reason. As for Cooper, Sammie and Cooper had been best friends as children, but went their separate ways in high school. However, their friendship soon begins to return, and I enjoyed the chapters with Cooper. He was funny and thoughtful and just who Sammie needed.

But what about the ending? Well, I sobbed. It’s very emotional and creeps up on you, even though really you see it coming from the beginning of the book. The ending definitely made me feel a sense of appreciation for where my life is right now, and thankful for what I have. That sounds really soppy but it’s true, and that’s what the book was aiming for; Avery definitely pulled that off well.

Also, I’d just like to add that the book is quite inclusive in terms of diversity. Stuart Shah is an Indian-American, Maddie is a lesbian and Sammie is a strong feminist who doesn’t make assumptions about people’s sexuality. So, those were definitely plus points.

Overall, The Memory Book was a solid 4/5. There was room for a few improvements, such as the pacing and tenses were a little off for the first third of the book, and I mentioned how the character of Maddie just faded into the background for no obvious reason towards the end. But, I really enjoyed it, and it was an emotional and bittersweet read. Sammie was a great protagonist and I loved her POV, and I thought the writing was fresh and raw. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for more of Lara Avery’s books in future.

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Have you read The Memory Book? What did you think? Or do you want to read it? Let me know in the comments below!

caitlin

 

Hello Again!

So, as some of you may have noticed (or rather, probably not noticed), I’ve been absent for a couple of months now. I mentioned before that I managed to bag my first graduate job after I graduated university last summer, and that’s what has led to my disappearance. Basically, I’ve just been way too busy settling into working life.

As a result, I’ve only just finished reading The Memory Book by Lara Avery. Yep, it took me over a month to finish this book. That’s inconceivable for me. A book will usually take me two weeks tops, and that’s for a big hefty book. I’ve been struggling to find the work-life balance, or rather, the work-read balance.

But, I finished it, and I hope to keep updating this blog with my reviews as I get through my TBR. I don’t entirely foresee myself finding the time soon to write any other kind of bookish posts, so I’ll be sticking to sporadic reviews. I’ll also probably still be pretty absent in the community, but I will try and like and comment on posts when I can.

Thanks for sticking around (if you have) and thank you to my new followers! I missed my 1 year blog anniversary recently, but I’d still like to say thank you to everyone who kept up with my blog last year!

Now, onto writing my next review…

caitlin

Review: Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown


51nnve8he2l-_sy445_ql70_Morning Star 
by Pierce Brown

Genre: Sci-Fi / Young Adult / Dystopian

Publisher: Hodder

My Rating: 5_star_rating_system_5_stars

Synopsis: Darrow is the Reaper of Mars. Born to toil, carved to fight, destined to lead. But he is a broken man. Exposed as a Red in world ruled by Golds, he has been captured and tormented until he is something less than human. And yet, he is humanity’s last chance.

In facing a godlike, ruthless enemy, he must call on every last ounce of strength to prove that loyalty, friendship and love are more powerful than any cold-hearted machine of war.

He has been first Red, then Gold. Now, he must transcend them all. He must become the hero his people believe he is.

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My Review

Find my reviews of the first two books, Red Rising and Golden Son, here and here.

After a few very hectic weeks, I have finally managed to finish Morning Star, the final book in the Red Rising trilogy, and I’m pretty much lost for words. Be prepared for a long and rambly review of starstruck nonsense, because this is one of the best YA series out there.

This series has been pretty much faultless throughout. I like to think of this as Game of Thrones in space. It’s packed full of plot twists you will not see coming, like that one at the end of Golden Son, as well as an intricate cast of characters and a heart-stopping plot.

So, after that Golden Son ending, you’d be forgiven in thinking that it’s pretty much all over for Darrow and the Rising. But think again. Darrow has continued to grow throughout this series and he reaches his peak here in Morning Star. He’s still very much the Darrow we know and love, but he’s matured and gained even more knowledge and understanding of the world around him. If you want a good example of a character arc, look no further than Darrow. He is entirely fleshed-out and totally believable as a real person. He’s complex, nuanced, troubled and makes a ton of mistakes, not to mention he can be arrogant and hot-headed, but he grows and learns, humbled by the ending of Golden Son. In Morning Star, he has grown into a man worthy of the position that has been forced upon him.

Morning Star throws you right back into the story. I had so many questions I desperately needed answering, but this is a series that will leave you guessing and waiting in agony. It’s also a series that isn’t afraid to shock you and kill off your favourite characters (much like Game of Thrones), so I was constantly on edge reading this novel, but in a good way. If you know the characters are somehow going to get themselves out of every horrible situation, then the story loses its momentum and you cease to care. Brown, on the other hand, knows exactly how to keep the reader on their toes, and the plot-twists, whilst shocking, are always logical.

(Also, as a bit of an aside, I don’t usually like it when the second and/or third book in a series changes setting from the first. I grow attached to the setting in the first book, and a change of scenery in the sequels normally throws me and lessens my enjoyment. However, leaving the Institute in Red Rising and venturing out into the society proper was the next clear step. It wasn’t just a change for the sake of it, it worked, and it allowed the plot and characters to really grow. By Morning Star, the Institute seems like a nostalgic memory, rather than a time I really wished we would return to).

The reader has watched the setting and characters flourish, and finishing Morning Star made me feel like I’d been on a journey with these characters. The plot never falls stagnant but instead reaches new heights. Everything Darrow and the Sons of Ares have been working towards are now in sight, but we worry that things might not turn out right. This is probably one of the first series where I’ve genuinely feared for the protagonist’s life and wasn’t sure he’d survive the finale. The same goes for the other main characters. Mustang, Sevro, Ragnar, and the others are truly in danger of losing their lives for a vast majority of the book, and maybe some of them even do…

But there are no spoilers here. I don’t want to ruin the excitement and worry.

In terms of structure, I thought Morning Star had the best pacing of the three books. Whilst they’ve all been pretty full speed ahead, Morning Star was definitely the one that just kept pushing and pushing. There wasn’t much respite, and it was a little exhausting, but it never made the plot feel dull because there was just so much going on.

Honestly, I don’t really know what to say. I haven’t even written anything in my reading diary for Morning Star because all I could think of to write was ‘FLAWLESS’. This series is just too good. If you want to know how to write an epic Sci-Fi, then pick this up. Even if you’re not a Sci-Fi fan, I highly recommend it. I love Sci-Fi, but usually the sub-genres like post-apocalyptic etc. I like space sagas as long as they’re not too OTT, and whilst there can be jargon in this series, it never makes you feel out of your depth.

And neither does the world-building. It’s very intricate and complex, and whilst there are a few moments of info-dumping, it’s not widespread and boring like can often be the case in fantasy and sci-fi series. You really get a sense of what the setting and society is like without feeling like the author is boring you with unnecessary details.

I perhaps do have a couple of small criticisms for the series and this final installment, but they’re pretty minor. After all, no book is perfect. One thing was that the humour could be a bit hit and miss for me. Sometimes it would make me laugh out loud, other times I wouldn’t crack a smile. But humour is very subjective, so what would make me laugh might not make someone else laugh. The other thing was that whilst the climax was brilliant and everything I wanted, I felt the events after the climax, when the loose ends are tied up, was a bit rushed. I didn’t find out what had happened to a few characters and would have liked to see what they were up to following the climactic events, but then I suppose this will probably be addressed in the new sequel series.

Overall, this series and its final installment were pretty much faultless. It has an amazing cast of characters I’ve really grown to love and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed their changes and growth. Even when they’ve really pissed me off, I’ve still loved them because they’re flawed, including the characters that can’t quite decide if they’re friend or enemy (I’m looking at you, Cassius. So well-written!). The world-building is complex and interesting and wholly unique. And the plot, whilst it’s a rebellion plot that’s quite familiar in YA, it’s totally its own beast and doesn’t follow the same structures as other rebellion novels.

I am super excited for Iron Gold and the film adaptations, and I swear to god if they screw this series up on the big screen I am going to go wild. But yes, I am so sad this original trilogy is over, but so excited for the sequel trilogy to begin. This was a brilliant ending to a whirlwind series. If you love complex and flawed characters, rebellion and huge plot-twists you’ll never see coming, then this is the series for you. 

page-break Have you read this series? Did you enjoy it? Are you excited for the films and sequel trilogy? Let me know in the comments below!

caitlin

Stacking the Shelves | Amazing ARCs

STACKING THE SHELVES

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme from Tynga’s Reviews where you showcase the books you’ve received or purchased.

I’m back!

So, a couple of weeks ago I went on hiatus because I was starting my new job. Well, so far I’m reeeeeally enjoying it. I’m the Communications Officer for Leukaemia CARE, a British charity that supports people suffering from blood cancer. It’s my first full-time grad job and I’m able to make use of my English degree and love for writing. Plus, everyone in the office is really friendly and chill.

After the excitement of starting my job and trying to get my life together, I’ve finally found the time to sit down and write a quick post. My blog-hopping has been pretty much nonexistent for a while now so I’m really going to try and make the effort to catch up on people’s blogs. I’ve definitely missed reading everyone’s reviews and discussions!

Anyway, I suppose I should get started on this Stacking the Shelves post, and please excuse these pretty mediocre photos…

I’ve been lucky enough recently to receive two ARCs from the wonderful team at Books with Bite, as well as win another Maximum Pop! Books competition.

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So, from Maximum Pop! Books, I won a signed copy of The Girl With All the Gifts, as well as the blu-ray of the film. I was extremely excited that I won because The Girl With All the Gifts is one of my favourite books, so to get my hands on a signed copy is amazing. I also saw the film at the cinema and it was very true to the book. You can read my review of the film adaptation here.

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From Books with Bite, I received ARCs of two very different books that sound equally amazing.

I feel exceedingly lucky to grab a couple of ARCs as I’m not a huge blog, and I never request ARCs on NetGalley as I don’t read e-books. Physical ARCs (the more coveted kind of ARCs) are my only option and I feel really privileged whenever I manage to get one.

The two ARCs I received are The Memory Book by Lara Avery and Ariadnis by Josh Martin. One is YA contemporary, the other YA fantasy, and I’m unbelievably excited to start them.

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I’ve heard a lot of good things about The Memory Book and I’m expecting it to make me sob like a baby.

Sammie was always a girl with a plan: graduate at the top of her class and get out of her small town as soon as humanly possible. Nothing will stand in her way–not even a rare genetic disorder the doctors say will slowly start to steal her memories and then her health. 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. It’s where she’ll record every perfect detail of her first date with longtime crush, Stuart–a brilliant young writer who is home for the summer. And where she’ll admit how much she’s missed her childhood best friend, Cooper, and even take some of the blame for the fight that ended their friendship.

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.

Goodreads

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Ariadnis is a YA Fantasy that sounds amazing. By the looks of it, it has a diverse cast too. I can’t wait to get lost in this one and I really hope it lives up to my expectations.

Joomia and Aula are Chosen. They will never be normal. They can never be free.

On the last island on Erthe, Chosen Ones are destined to enter Ariadnis on the day they turn eighteen. There, they must undertake a mysterious and deadly challenge. For Joomia and Aula, this means competing against each other, to end the war that has seethed between their cities for nine generations.

As the day draws nearer, all thoughts are on the trial ahead. There’s no space for friendship. No time for love. However much the girls might crave them.

But how you prepare for a task you know nothing certain about? Nothing, except that you must win, at whatever cost, or lose everything.

Goodreads

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And there you have it! Have you read any of these books? Did you love them? Hate them? Do you want to read them? Let me know in the comments below!

caitlin

The Sunday Post #21

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The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted at The Caffeinated Book Reviewer in which book bloggers recap their week and look at what’s to come.

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I’m currently on a mini hiatus, as I mentioned before, so this is a scheduled post! I start my new job tomorrow, on Monday, and it’s my first full time job after graduating uni last summer. So, I’m going to be quite busy. But fear not, I should be back in a week or two, hopefully with my review of Morning Star.

Now, here are the posts from this week and the week before, as I haven’t done a Sunday Post in a while:

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On Monday I finished An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, and you can find my review above. I really did enjoy it and I loved Elias and also Helene’s complexity. However, there were a few standout flaws, and whilst my enjoyment won out overall, I couldn’t ignore the problems. Still, I really look forward to getting my hands on the sequel.

Now, I’m onto Morning Star, the final book in the Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown. I loved the first two books and they were pretty much faultless. Thankfully, Morning Star is turning out to be the same. Whilst I struggled to remember all the characters and everything that had happened at first, I’m now back into the flow of the story and I’m loving it. Seriously, this is one of the best mature YA series out there. Even if you’re not into Sci-Fi, I highly recommend you give this series a go as it’s so complex and really character driven, with an amazing plot to boot.

After that, I’m thinking of reading YA Contemporary How Not To Disappear. After the brutality of both An Ember in the Ashes and Morning Star, I think I’ll be needing something a little more lighthearted.

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The last few months I’ve been listening to a lot of Novo Amor. It’s the moniker of a Welsh singer-songwriter and his music sounds quite similar to Bon Iver. So if you like slightly melancholic but melodic indie folk rock, then you’ll like this song: 

caitlin

Another Little Update (But a Happy One This Time)

Whilst the last update I did back in November was a sad one, this one is much happier!

But you’re probably thinking, who’s this person? I’ve been behind on my blogging and I’ve really struggled to find time to blog-hop, and that’s likely to continue for a little while.

However, there’s a good reason why… I have a job! And not just any job, but my first proper full time job after graduating from university last summer.

It feels so good to have my foot in the door now and I really wanted this position. As a result, from Monday I’m probably going to be absent for a week or so, although I’ll try and comment on posts when I can. So if you don’t hear from me, I haven’t given up blogging or fallen into the abyss, I’m just immersed in my new job and trying to find that work/life balance. Oh, and car hunting.

I’ll see you all in a week or two, hopefully with my review of Morning Star!

caitlin

Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

61yu0nwigblAn Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Genre: Fantasy / Young Adult

Publisher: Harper Voyager, 2016

My Rating: 5_star_rating_system_4_stars

Synopsis: Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death.

When Laia’s grandparents are brutally murdered and her brother arrested for treason by the empire, the only people she has left to turn to are the rebels.

But in exchange for their help in saving her brother, they demand that Laia spy on the ruthless Commandant of Blackcliff, the Empire’s greatest military academy. Should she fail it’s more than her brother’s freedom at risk . . . Laia’s very life is at stake.

There, she meets Elias, the academy’s finest soldier. But Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined – and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

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I had heard so many good things about An Ember in the Ashes, and seen so much hype for A Torch Against the Night, that I couldn’t resist getting my hands on a copy. Fortunately, I wasn’t disappointed, however, there were a few flaws I’d like to address in this review. So buckle up, as I have a lot to discuss.

But let’s start with the good. Mainly, what I loved about it was how entertaining it was. The blurb doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the number of sub-plots that are weaved within the main arc of the story. The plot was complex and fleshed-out well and, whilst there were some things that grated on me, I was never not entertained or invested.

This especially includes the beginning. It was a fast-paced, action-packed opening that set up the story well. Whilst the action meant there was a fair bit of telling not showing when it came to the world-building and characters, I was still hooked.

Almost immediately, I found myself drawn to Elias’ chapters first. The story is told in alternating points of view from Laia, a Scholar hoping to free her captured brother, and Elias, a Martial trained to be a deadly fighter who wants nothing more than to abandon his post. I preferred Elias’ chapters to Laia’s and found him to be more engaging both in his personality and his situation. He was confident and passionate, but also struggling with his morality. As a result, he was much more enjoyable to learn about and had a stronger voice than Laia. I think I can definitely add him to my list of favourite characters.

However, Laia did display some good character development. When we first meet her, she is a meek and fearful girl. As the story progresses, she begins to find the strength she needs, although slowly. And whilst I really did enjoy having a heroine who wasn’t all badass and could kill a man with one well-time punch, Laia’s constant reminders to the reader of how weak she is did start to grate. Okay Laia, we know you’re a bit of a wet fish, we don’t need reminding; just get on with it.

Nevertheless, whilst Laia wasn’t your generic badass YA heroine, she did fall prey to another trope: the heroine who doesn’t notice just how beautiful she is and how all the men want her despite a number of blokes vying for her affections and everyone constantly telling her how pretty she is. I think I actually prefer the tough girl heroine to the ‘beautiful but doesn’t know it’ heroine.

And this leads on to probably my main issue. Rape is mentioned a lot in the book. Now, I wouldn’t usually mind that, except for the fact that rape was talked about constantly in a casual manner. This is partly where the book falls prey to telling not showing again, as we are often told of how the Martials rape Scholar slaves but never actually see anything. I know that this is a YA book and so scenes of rape may be deemed too distressing, but there are a few almost-rape scenes. However, they only really involve Laia. She is constantly threatened with rape because she’s just so beautiful and the Martial men will simply have to have her. Yet nothing truly happens. Except for the one time where it is about to be attempted by one of the antagonists, only for the hero to swoop in and save her and not actually add anything to the plot. And then when the suggestion of rape is used to stop an antagonist discovering Laia’s real whereabouts. It just felt like a plot device really and it was only ever an excuse for the hero to save the damsel in distress, or as a scapegoat, or to emphasise Laia’s beauty. I know that this is a brutal world, but I believe the display of brutality could have been handled better.

So yes, my main problems really lay around Laia’s characterisation and the flippancy with which rape was threatened. I’ve seen this mentioned in a few other reviews, but mainly it hasn’t been picked up on.

Nevertheless, like I said, I still really enjoyed the story. I loved Elias and greatly enjoyed many of the other characters.

Helene is a character who seems to either be loved or hated by readers. Personally, I neither loved nor hated her. I really liked her, but it was more her complexities that interested me. She really was the most complex character in the book and I applaud Tahir for her excellent writing of Helene. I never quite knew what Helene was going to do in any given situation (but not in a bad way) and, as a result, I looked forward to any scene she would be in. Her relationship with Elias was gripping and there was one scene in particular that I thought was really well written:

*SPOILER ALERT* 

 

 

When she confesses her love to Elias. That was a great scene and had me on the edge of my seat.

 

 

*SPOILER OVER*

I thought the romances (yes, plural) were kind of up and down in how I favoured them. There were a couple that didn’t interest me, including the main one that we’re obviously supposed to be rooting for, and then there’s one I definitely root for, but I won’t say which as I don’t want to spoil it. However, none of them were instalove! 

As for the antagonists, whilst I could take or leave Marcus, I thought the Commandant, Keris, was brutal. Cold, calculating, sadistic, she was an excellent villain, but she still had the complexity that the villain needs, the idea that there was once some good in her but circumstances snuffed it out. Whenever she was around, I worried for the safety of the characters.

Keenan was a secondary character that I thought was fine. Interesting enough and I felt a little sorry for him towards the end. Izzy I also liked, for the sense of purpose she found and her determination.

The writing was also fine. It wasn’t the best I’ve ever read and I didn’t really read any lines thinking ‘wow’, but it kept the pace moving well and did its job. However, one small problem I had was that the language sometimes sounded much too modern and American. When I first read the word ‘jackass’, it really threw me as I wasn’t expecting such an Americanism in a Fantasy setting. And yes, whilst it is Fantasy and not a real world, ‘jackass’ is such an American word and not really used anywhere else in the world that it felt quite jarring.

Which I suppose leads me onto the world-building. I really liked the setting overall and thought it was unique, especially with the Roman inspirations. However, I think it did need more fleshing-out. I’m still unsure as to what the Scholar race are really like. At first I was imagining them as being inspired by a South Asian or Middle Eastern setting, due to Laia’s dark hair and golden eyes, but then the constant references to the Scholar’s thirst for knowledge and philosophy made me think that maybe there were Ancient Greek influences, which would go along with the Roman theme. I was just really quite unsure as to what the Scholars were like and right now I can’t think of any way to describe their culture except for their desire to read and write and learn. I’m hoping that the world-building around the Scholars will be improved upon in the sequel.

So after nit-picking a lot of things, you’d probably think I’d give less than 4 stars. But all in all, I really did enjoy it. I loved Elias, really liked Helene, and I was totally caught up in the story itself. So, whilst there were a few faults, the fact that I enjoyed it so much is why I’ve given it 4 stars.

Overall, Tahir has crafted a good, complex story with a few standout characters, and I look forward to getting my hands on the sequel.

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Have you read An Ember in the Ashes? Did you enjoy it? Or do you want to read it? Let me know in the comments below!

caitlin