Reviewed: I'll Be Home For Christmas

Thursday, 25 August 2016

I'll Be Home for Christmas | Various Authors | Published September 22nd, 2016
Rating:
I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Goodreads | Book Depository


I'll Be Home for Christmas is a collection of stories by top YA authors each exploring the theme of "home" at Christmas and what that means for different people. For some people it's being with family at a special time of year but many others aren't as lucky as to have that stability and feeling of comfort. This is particularly the case for those who are homeless and Stripes have teamed up with the charity Crisis in this collaboration to raise awareness of the hardships young people are facing.

I thought this was a really strong collection of stories and I thoroughly enjoyed the different representations of "home". I like that each author has interpreted the theme in a different way resulting in a really varied and diverse set of stories and characters.

The exploration of the different kinds of family from divorced parents to being in foster care, relationships and "coming out", being a refugee in a new country, friendships and homelessness were all treated with equal care and sensitivity by the authors. There are some lighter moments among the darker ones and a range of genres which really help make this a wonderful mix of stories with something for everyone.

I'll Be Home For Christmas boasts a top list of authors with some truly stand-out stories, and for a lovely festive feel alongside helping a great cause, I highly recommend adding this to your Christmas reading list. I can't wait to buy my own physical copy (it has red sprayed edges, people!)

£1 from the sale of every book will be donated to Crisis. For more information on Crisis visit www.crisis.org.uk



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4 Reasons I Loved A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Monday, 22 August 2016

 
A Torch Against the Night | Sabaa Tahir | Published August 30, 2016
Rating:
I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Goodreads | Book Depository

This was so good! I loved An Ember in the Ashes and was hoping for so much from this sequel and it didn't disappoint. A Torch Against the Night is a dark and intense rollercoaster with a lot of twists and turns to keep you guessing throughout. I found the pace to be even better than its predecessor and I couldn't get through the chapters quick enough.

4 main reasons I loved this sequel:

Elias
Oh how I love Elias. I love his desire to fight for his freedom and how unwavering he is in that. He knows that there is a better life for him away from the brutality of the empire and he's determined to get there. He and Laia are finally on their journey to rescue Laia's brother from Kauf Prison and it's not an easy ride for Elias. Things happen that make this a complicated and really difficult journey for him in particular but he doesn't give up and does his best not to break his promise to Laia. It was interesting to see their relationship grow with all of the hardships that they are facing and I think there's still a lot more to develop there too. Elias has an admirable strength and I think his development in this book is very much in character with what we saw of him in the first book. I admire his strength when put in impossible situations and I think he might just be one of my favourite male characters.

Helene
Helene's point of view is added into the mix this time which I was really thrilled about. I thought she was an intriguing character in Ember and seeing things from her point of view this time around was really great. Whilst Laia and Elias are on the run, Helene's view gives us an insight into what is happening in the empire through her new role as Blood Shrike. She's having to battle her new role and getting the men to respect her with the sickening Marcus watching her every move, whilst trying to fight her feelings for Elias who she has been ordered to hunt down. We also see more of her family and what her role as Blood Shrike means for them. Whilst Helene might not be the "main girl" of the story, she's by far my favourite. There's nothing particularly unlikable about Laia but she's very "clean" whilst Helene has an edge that I love to read in female characters. She has to make decisions that result in bad consequences for the people she cares for whatever way she chooses and I found her complexity much more interesting to read about.

Expansion of the world
Elias and Laia's journey allows for more of the world to be explored. One of the most fascinating aspects of this was learning more of the tribes where Elias grew up. I really enjoyed learning about their culture and way of life. The supernatural side of the world is also expanded on a lot. We find out more about the Nightbringer and his motivations as well as wraiths and jinn. The Soul-Catcher also plays a large role in this book. I'll admit the supernatural side isn't my favourite compared to the brutality of the empire but the characters interacting with this supernatural side was intriguing. The further exploration of the gens through Helene's point of view and the intricacies of how they operate was also compelling.

Villains and their complexity
One of the best things about this series, for me, is the complexity of the villains. Not only do we not know who we can trust (and so new villains can present themselves at any time) but they are all developed in a way that gives them a story. They are not bland or cut-out caricatures of what a villain is but each have a complexity that just makes them all that more evil. Marcus and the Commandant in particular reach new levels of brutality and violence and it makes for real intense reading. I love villains that aren't afraid to carry out their threats and that is very much the case here. If there's one thing you shouldn't do it's underestimate just how vile and harsh these villains can be.

I loved the continuation of the dark brutality coupled with the great plot and character development. The romance isn't as much of a focus this time around; there is still a love triangle and some poor choices that had me internally screaming at a certain character but I like where it is at now. There are still some questions and possibilities (including potential new romances) to be explored so it'll be interesting to see where that leads next.

The ending is satisfying although there are still some questions and plenty of areas left to explore. With the news that there are going to be two more books in the series, I can't wait to revisit this world and get some answers to my burning questions.



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Reviewed: Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter

Monday, 15 August 2016


Ghostly Echoes | William Ritter | August 23rd, 2016
Rating:
I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Goodreads | Book Depository


I really enjoy these Jackaby novels and I think the third installment, Ghostly Echoes, is my favourite of the series so far.

This time around we are finally focusing on ghost Jenny's death and why her fiance disappeared just before she was murdered. It's a mystery that has been ongoing since book one and it was exciting to be getting some answers at last.

Abigail is as wonderful as ever and it was interesting to see her left to her own devices for part of the story away from Jackaby. The only drawback to that being that there is slightly less of Jackaby than normal and I did miss his quirkiness at times. With that being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the direction that the story took this time around and appreciated the time taken to further explore the characters we've been following. Jenny's death is satisfactorily resolved, we learn more about Jackaby's history (which I really loved finding out about!) and there are still enough side characters to keep the story as entertaining as ever.

There is a really touching moment in the book with Jackaby and a transgender character and his unquestioning acceptance was a really beautiful touch: "I have great respect for the medical profession, Miss Rook,” he said soberly, “but it is not for doctors to tell us who we are."

Ghostly Echoes is a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining sequel with a good mystery, great development of plots and leaves us with a brilliant set-up for book four which I can't wait to read.



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Reviewed: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

Friday, 12 August 2016


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne | July 2016
Rating:
Goodreads | Book Depository


As a massive Harry Potter fan, I am always excited at the prospect of new stories from this world. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is no exception and I was SO excited at the idea of meeting these characters again later in their lives.

 

I think it's important to remember that this is a play. It is designed to be acted out and so it is mostly dialogue with some stage directions thrown into the mix. I'm not particularly a huge fan of reading plays but this read really well. Maybe it's because I already know some of the characters or maybe it's because you can feel Rowling in the dialogue and so it still feels like Harry Potter.

Some of the things I loved: the little throwbacks to previous Harry Potter books (particularly the first scene in King's Cross), meeting old characters, revisiting previous events from the series, the relationship between Albus and Scorpius and the father-son relationship between Harry and Albus.

 

The Not-So-Perfect: I want to avoid spoilers but the major "twist" in the story felt a bit odd to me. It didn't quite add up with what we already know about a certain character and I didn't love the idea. The villain of the story felt a bit stereotypical and lacking in depth but, again, this is just a script and I can appreciate that the person acting out the scenes would bring more to the role. I also felt that the friendship between Albus and Scorpius was heading in a certain direction and was very surprised that it didn't. It felt like it was being seriously hinted at and I think it would have brought a whole new dynamic to the story if it were to happen.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I absolutely love these characters and returning to this universe. It's not perfect but I think it probably has to be seen to be fully appreciated. 

Have you read the play? What are you thoughts? I'd love to know!


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Reviewed: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Monday, 8 August 2016


Nevernight | Jay Kristoff | Published August 11, 2016
Rating:
I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Goodreads | Book Depository

Dark, graphic, brutal, gory, vulgar. What's not to love?!

Mia is determined to get her revenge for the killing of her family when she was a child and in order to do so is training to be a brutal assassin. There's something about assassin books that I really like and this one was a lot darker and a lot less afraid to actually commit murder. If there's one thing Jay Kristoff isn't afraid to do in Nevernight, it's have their characters commit murder or be murdered!

The setting is mostly in a brutal boarding school where a group of students are competing through a series of trials and competitions to become top assassins. I love boarding school settings and, again, this one being so dark and brutal (the teachers aren't afraid to nonchalantly murder you) was just so exciting.

One of my favourite aspects of Nevernight was the humour. There are little comments here and there that had me laughing out loud ("Hmm. I appear to have misplaced the fuck I was about to give for what you think."). I loved this side by side with the more darker moments. One of the absolute best things? Mr Kindly the sassy not-cat who I would pretty much love to have in my life.

So why only 4 stars? Two reasons.

The footnotes, whilst providing more insight into the world and delivered by a pretty funny narrator who had some great snide comments, did become tiresome quite fast. I appreciate the idea of them but I was glad when they decreased in frequency as the book went on.

The writing style took some getting used to. I'm really not the biggest fan of flowery prose. I'm all about the plot and as long as the writing is decent then I'm happy. The writing in Nevernight is of the flowery kind and this was a struggle for me at first. I'm so glad that I persevered though and I would recommend doing so if you're in the same boat as me as once you're used to it, and things start moving along, you discover the epicness that is Nevernight.

If you're looking for a dark and brutal fantasy with a touch of humour thrown in then this is the book for you.



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