Review: Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

Broken Things

It’s been five years since Summer Marks was brutally murdered in the woods. 

Everyone thinks Mia and Brynn killed their best friend. That driven by their obsession with a novel called The Way into Lovelorn the three girls had imagined themselves into the magical world where their fantasies became twisted, even deadly.

The only thing is: they didn’t do it. 

On the anniversary of Summer’s death, a seemingly insignificant discovery resurrects the mystery and pulls Mia and Brynn back together once again. But as the lines begin to blur between past and present and fiction and reality, the girls must confront what really happened in the woods all those years ago—no matter how monstrous.

Lauren Oliver has written some brilliant books - I really enjoyed Delirium, though the rest of the series wasn't great. Panic was really enjoyable as well - I think standalones are Oliver's strong point. Broken Things cemented that for me.

I wasn't sure what to expect from that blurb - I didn't know if this was a thriller or a mystery or a fantasy what, I didn't really know what was going to happen at all. I really enjoyed the direction that this book took. 

The strength of this book was the characterisation. We start off with this 2D idea of who Brynn, Mia and Summer were - of who Mia and Brynn now are, and over the course of the 'then' and 'now' part of the books we realise that Summer wasn't the pretty perfect princess, and was actually troubled and very toxic. We realise how she hurt Mia in their own ways, and we come to terms with what happened to her and by the end I didn't even mourn for her any more.

The main issue that I had with this book was that the snippets of the source material - The Way Into Lovelorn, and the fanfiction written by the girls, Return to Lovelorn got very samey. For material that inspired madness, it wasn't particularly inspiring. It felt like a plot hole, in a way.

Everything also tied up very nicely, like wrapped in a little ribbon as well. It was all a little too neat and convenient - the plot was great, just a little... too neat.

Overall, I did enjoy Broken Things - it was enjoyable. I did feel at times a little underwhelmed by the material and some of the snippets in the book but in the end I was hooked into it.

Book released 2nd October 2018 by HarperCollins
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review
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Review: Damsel by Elena K. Arnold

The rite has existed for as long as anyone can remember: when the prince-who-will-be-king comes of age, he must venture out into the gray lands, slay a fierce dragon, and rescue a damsel to be his bride. This is the way things have always been.

When Ama wakes in the arms of Prince Emory, however, she knows none of this. She has no memory of what came before she was captured by the dragon, or what horrors she has faced in its lair. She knows only this handsome prince, the story he tells of her rescue, and her destiny to sit on the throne beside him. Ama comes with Emory back to the kingdom of Harding, hailed as the new princess, welcomed to the court.

However, as soon as her first night falls, she begins to realize that not all is as it seems, that there is more to the legends of the dragons and the damsels than anyone knows–and that the greatest threats to her life may not be behind her, but here, in front of her.

This is not the book I wanted to read, but it was a book that was important to read. 

Damsel is not the strongest book plotwise, the plot itself is very simple. Girl wakes up, she's been rescued by a prince and is not his betrothed, girl learns secrets about herself, the end.

But not quite.

The strongest point of this book is not the plot, it's the things that happen between the lines. It's the character development that Ama goes through. At the start of this book she is a blank slate, and it's hard to watch her slowly go from this strong optimistic person to this beaten down, fearful person. It's dark and deep and painful and in this #MeToo world that we live in, it's also way too real. Ama is abused, mentally and physically and sexually. Arnold does not write these things lightly, she doesn't cower from the details. This whole book is sexual and dark in a way that to more conservative readers may seem... tactless. To me, it seemed important.

There's very little that I can say on this book other than the above. It's not a love story, it's not a fairytale, but it has a very heavy meaning. The ending was as satisfying as I could have hoped, and yet the whole thing left a bitter taste in my mouth. 

It's hard to rate this book. As a fiction novel, I would call it underwhelming. As a cautionary, important social commentary, I cannot rate it highly enough.

Book released 2nd October 2018 by Balzer+ Bray
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Everless by Sara Holland

Everless (Everless, #1)

In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.

No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.

But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself.

I hadn't realised that this was a fantasy - I thought it was a sci-fi like the movie In Time. Thankfully, this is a real life fantasy book - evil queens and lore and intrigue and mystery with a little bit of time magic thrown in.

Holland created this rich, deep world without a single infodump which is hard enough with a simple fantasy world, let alone one with this really in-depth blood currency system. I applaud her for that. That being said, when the big reveal happens towards the end of this book, there were soooo many questions left unanswered and rather than them being left open for the sequel I think they are more just... plot holes.

Like don't get me wrong, I loved the turn the plot took and hadn't even expected it - especially what it meant for the romance the book had been working towards - but some bits of it didn't make sense to me, and that sort of took away from a book which had otherwise been pretty close to perfect for me. The only other thing which detracted from the utter greatness of this book was the way that Jules didn't really seem to grieve when she lost someone very close to her in the middle of this book. She just carried on being strong and daring. I didn't feel like the grief shone through at all.

Let's step away from that, and lets talk about the things in this book that had been perfect. Friendship done right - check. Ina and Jules were great characters and I was not expecting to like Ina but I did love her. Brooding but protective prince - check. Handsome and smiley price - check. Lack of an obvious love triangle - check. Amazing writing that draws you in and makes you imagine the world in such depth that you can feel it in your bones. One massive check. Yes, this book had so much going for it.

In fact, if it hadn't been for the few drawbacks above, this would get an A+ without a second thought, but there were some things that pulled me away from that, but this still get's a pretty respectable rating:

Book released 2nd January 2018 by Harperteen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig

For a Muse of Fire (For a Muse of Fire, #1)

Jetta’s family is famed as the most talented troupe of shadow players in the land. With Jetta behind the scrim, their puppets seem to move without string or stick—a trade secret, they say. In truth, Jetta can see the souls of the recently departed and bind them to the puppets with her blood. But the old ways are forbidden ever since the colonial army conquered their country, so Jetta must never show, never tell. Her skill and fame are her family’s way to earn a spot aboard the royal ship to Aquitan, where shadow plays are the latest rage, and where rumor has it the Mad King has a spring that cures his ills. Because seeing spirits is not the only thing that plagues Jetta. But as rebellion seethes and as Jetta meets a young smuggler, she will face truths and decisions that she never imagined—and safety will never seem so far away.

If For a Muse of Fire had been 60 or so pages shorter it would have been the perfect book for me. heck, even at a whopping length of over 500 pages it was still immensely good, I just felt like this book felt a little longwinded and the pacing was a little... awkward.

What makes this book so good is the fact that there was no infodump, the world building was so natural. I was a little frustrated sometimes that the answers to my questions never came fast enough but they did come. The world was so interesting, a mixture of far eastern and french colonialism, magic and necromancy mixed in with war and racial tension. It was pulled off so well as well.

There were so many things that made this book special, but without a doubt Jetta's magic and powers and the shadow puppetry was a highlight for me.

I'm not really going to cover a whole lot on the mental illness side of things. All I will say is that it was very subtle, and it was never explicitly stated only implied. I found that so well done, I don't feel qualified to say much more about how authentically it was portrayed.

Overall, For a Muse of Fire was a well written, well developed novel that really gripped me. I do feel like it was too slow in places and definitely too long and it won't be many people's cup of tea, but I really enjoyed it.
Book released 25th September 2018 by Greenwillow Books
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Can't Wait Wednesday - Once & Future by Cori McCarthy and Amy Rose Capetta

Can't-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted here, at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we're excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they're books that have yet to be released. It's based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine. If you're continuing with WOW, feel free to link those up as well! Find out more here.

Once & Future (Once & Future, #1)
Once & Future by Cori McCarthy and Amy Rose Capetta - March 5th 2019 by little, Brown and Company
When Ari crash lands on Old Earth, and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she becomes the forty-second reincarnation of King Arthur. Merlin awakes to find that having aged backward over the last forty-one Arthurs, he is now-wretchedly-a teenager. Ari may be Merlin's final chance to complete the steps of the cycle: 1) Train Arthur 2) Defeat the greatest evil in the universe. 3) Unite all of mankind. No pressure. 

I don't know about prophecies or kings, but I do know this: Mercer is evil. They've imprisoned my parents, enslaved worlds, and now they're after my friends. I'm done hiding. 

My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.

 My thoughts:
I cannot put into words how excited I am over a Sci-fi version of the King Arthur

Review: Looking for Group by Rory Harrison

Looking for Group
Dylan doesn’t have a lot of experience with comfort. His room in the falling-down Village Estates can generously be categorized as “squalid,” and he sure as hell isn’t getting any love from his mother, who seemed to—no, definitely did—enjoy the perks that went along with being the parent of a “cancer kid.”

Now that Dylan’s suddenly in remission, all he’s left with is a lingering OxyContin addiction and a hunger for something—anything—but the life he’s known.

His only escape has been in the form of his favorite video game—World of Warcraft—and the one true friend who makes him feel understood, even if it’s just online. Dylan met Arden playing Warcraft, and now he wants to take her on a real mission, one he never thought he’d live to set out on: a journey to a mysterious ship in the middle of the Salton Sea.

But Arden is fighting her own battles, ones that Dylan can’t always help her win. As they navigate their way west, they grapple with Arden’s father (who refuses to recognize his daughter’s true gender), Dylan’s addiction, and the messy, complicated romance fighting so hard to blossom through the cracks of their battle-hardened hearts.

Pre-warning: This may be a short review. It may also be ranty.

I am an MMORPG player, and for quite a while I was a World of Warcraft player so I love seeing books set in online games. Stupidly, I thought that may be a main point of this book. It wasn't.

As an online relationship/road trip book, this may have worked.

I just really struggled with the way Dylan and Arden were portrayed, and I really hated the way Dylan described Arden. For a book which is meant to be true and meaningful and educational about trans teens, it felt immensely offensive and misinformed. The was a big put off for me. I persevered, hoping the plot would make up for it. I think that Harrison wrote about Arden's struggles with her family poorly, and Dylan's addiction as well but the plot and the issue with the LGBT+ part of the book was just immensley poorly done. 

Book released 25th April 2017 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review