Tag Archives: 3.5/5

A Conjuring of Light by Victoria Schwab

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by Victoria Schwab
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Links:

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: historical fantasy.

My rating:

I’ve asked my husband to simplify my review form a little. The book cover link still goes to Goodreads and you can figure most of the metadata from there, you’re bookish people after all and don’t need me for this. :)

This review was hard to write. It’s nearly impossible for me to say anything bad about Victoria Schwab’s books because I’m a huge fan, but I just didn’t enjoy A Conjuring of Light like I did her previous work. This post contains serious spoilers for the entire series, so if you haven’t read the books (all of them) yet, I suggest you go and remedy that situation before coming back to chat with me. You’ve been warned. Also, if you’re a die-hard fan of the series and can’t hear anything bad said about it, please stop reading. This review isn’t nasty or snarky, but it isn’t as awed as I hoped it would be, either.

I had some issues with A Gathering of Shadows already, namely that the big magical tournament took over the entire book and didn’t really move the plot along until the last couple of chapters. I also didn’t like the way Lila seemed determined to keep herself distanced from everyone (to her own detriment).

In ACOL, the first problem grew worse (I’ll talk about it in a moment), but Lila was much more approachable. I know many people probably disliked the fact that she and Kell hooked up but I’ve been rooting for them from the beginning and was very happy when they (and by they I mean one Delilah Bard) managed to get their shit sorted out and realized they actually belong together. *happy sigh*

But most of the plot consists of defeating Osaron, aka The Evil Entity of Doom (or EED for short). He/It wants to take over the entire world, possibly two, and everyone needs to unite in order to vanquish him/it. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, but the whole “let’s do this together” thing wasn’t really to my taste.

First of all, EED was such a poor villain. Oh, he was uber powerful and very evil, but also completely black. I like my antagonists a bit grayer – there wasn’t a single moment when I thought “huh, he might win,” because he was one-dimensional and just had to be defeated. So the entire plot of the story wasn’t “will they defeat the EED” but merely “how will they defeat the EED”, which is a bit more predictable. I know, I know, I’m being super harsh… :(

Schwab also decided to redeem Holland. I know he was just a pawn for the Dane twins but he did some really atrocious things and was nasty in the process. So I couldn’t get behind his change – especially not as the justification came in large amounts of backstory that seemed entirely unnecessary. Some readers were probably happy, I know people loved Holland, but I just didn’t.

Then there were the multitudes of POVs. Starting from AGOS, more and more characters got their turn at being heard. This is absolutely a pet peeve (I had the same difficulty with Strange the Dreamer and The Gray Wolf Throne) but head-hopping really bugs me. It takes valuable page time away from my beloved main characters and it never gives enough attention to side characters who remain undeveloped and therefore interchangeable. Here, it felt like the queen, the king, the guard, and the sailor all got their bits of the story so we’d feel bad when Schwab eventually killed them. This sounds way harsh but I just didn’t feel anything when they died!

To be honest, I worried about who she’ll kill by the end of the book. Why is it that we can’t have a HEA for everyone in fantasy books? There are other ways of punching me in the gut without murdering characters. (Okay, this mini rant is closely connected to my feelings about Crooked Kingdom, but we’ll discuss that at some other time.) I’m really glad Schwab didn’t murder any of the main characters – I really feared for Rhy and Alucard for a while, but I think she must have known she’d start a riot if she killed them off. :)

I did like the book, mostly. As I said, I loved Kell and Lila’s dynamic, I enjoyed Rhy’s development so much, I liked how Alucard made amends. They were a good crew and the series as a whole is still very much a favorite.

But I wish it could have been done without the flashbacks and backstory, which made the story stutter and stumble, especially when they interrupted the main action. (This is also a problem I had with Traitor to the Throne. Fantasy sequels haven’t been kind to me lately.)

Anyway, I enjoyed A Conjuring of Light, it was a fast and ultimately satisfying read, but I wish the execution was more to my taste (HA, I wish ALL the books I read were more to my taste. But weirdly enough, writers don’t write books for me exclusively.). I’ll probably even re-read it at some point, I just need some distance from it first. I usually don’t feel the need to apologize for my unpopular opinions, but here I feel like I’m being a huge asshole. I can safely say I know Schwab can write better books because I read most of her work and loved it. So I’m hoping Our Dark Duet, the next sequel of hers I’m waiting for, will be…better. Stronger.

Have you read A Conjuring of Light? Did you like it as a series ending?

Do you ever feel personally attacked when someone disagrees with you on your favorite books?

I’d love to hear from you! :) 

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The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr
Published in January 2017 by Penguin.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you Penguin for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA contemporary.

My rating:

Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

The One Memory of Flora Banks is a strange, claustrophobic story. Flora has a medical condition that prevents her new memories from sticking, so she forgets everything that happens to her almost instantly. Her overprotective parents understandably hover over her every move and her friends (especially her best friend Paige) help her by explaining things to her when she gets confused.

Flora writes everything in her journals, takes photos with her phone, and writes messages for herself on her arms so that when she finds herself lost and blank, she can read everything she’s written and find her way again. When you think about it, it’s a horrifying condition that makes me anxious just by thinking about it. I had a brief moment of unease when I was reading it because I imagined not remembering my kids – my mind is the most valuable thing I have and not being able to rely on it is deeply scary for me.

Flora’s last memories before the illness that caused her condition were of her being ten years old, so she’s basically a child in a young woman’s body. But she has wishes and thoughts of a teenager, too, and ends up kissing her friend’s ex-boyfriend on the night of his departure for Svalbard (he’s going to study there). The next morning, she wakes up and, inexplicably, remembers the kiss.

Convinced the boy will help her fix her memory and left alone in the house because her parents left to visit her older brother, whom she barely remembers, she packs up her things, buys a plane ticket, and travels right to Svalbard, though she has to keep checking her journal because she keeps forgetting what she’s doing. It’s a mad plan concocted by someone who is not thinking very clearly, but it’s also the bravest thing she could do, because she’s so very alone.

This is all I’m saying about the plot. I liked the story, I liked the plot twist, and even though the thought of being/becoming like Flora made my stomach clench painfully, I enjoyed reading about Flora’s thought processes. I’ve never read a story with a similar mental problem before – sure, you get amnesia, which is also scary AF, but is usually not permanent in the way Flora’s condition seems to be. Flora is also a cool young lady, though it was difficult to really get to know her, especially since she’s both a child and a young adult, and has very little sense of self apart from the journals she keeps.

The mystery surrounding Flora’s condition, her brother’s messages, hidden and confusing, the bright light of summertime Svalbard – all the elements are geared towards creating a slightly paranoid, claustrophobic environment that complements Flora’s sense of disorientation quite perfectly. I think Barr did very well with writing the right atmosphere for Flora’s story.

What bothered me is actually an inherent part of the story: the constant repetition of known facts. Every time Flora’s memory is lost, she goes over the basics – how old she is, what she’s doing, who she’s with, etc. As this happens multiple times a day, reading about it can become slightly tedious, though I then felt like an asshole for begrudging Flora her repetitions. I don’t know if the author could have done things differently without hammering home the effect of Flora’s memory loss, but I thought the constant litany of basic facts became too stretched out.

It’s also hard to imagine how this story would actually go down in real life. This is a contemporary story, which usually means: “Hey, this could happen any day, right around the corner.” I’m exaggerating, but you know what I mean. I just think that overprotective parents would not leave such a confused child on her own (even if her best friend promised she’d check on her). She was still a minor and prone to wandering off. Also, how did nobody at the airport(s) notice her strange behaviour? How did she get all the way to Svalbard without attracting the attention of officials? Eh, I don’t know. I just had trouble believing everything.

All in all (wow, this review is longer than I thought, thanks for sticking with me!), this was a good contemporary story about disability, friendship, and bravery, with a twist of mystery thrown in. I’d recommend it if you’re intrigued by her condition, which was superbly rendered, and like a bit of ominous anticipation in your contemporaries.

Have you read The One Memory of Flora Banks? What did you think?

Can you recommend any books with similarly intriguing mental problems (OK I know that sounds horrible when I put it like that but you know what I mean)?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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A Crop of Mini Reviews

My posting schedule doesn’t allow me to review all the books I’ve read, and I like it that way. Not all books are meant to be talked about at length, so I skip them and only mention those that are either very good, ARCs, or very bad. Sometimes, though, these mini reviews really come in handy. These are all YA and MG reads from November and December.

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Blankets by Craig Thompson
Published in 2003 by Top Shelf Productions.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: borrowed from my brother (paperback).

Genre: YA contemporary graphic novel.

My rating:

I read Blankets back in high school when my mom and dad gave my brother this copy as a present. It’s a beautiful story of a boy growing up in a highly religious environment, his experiences with faith, first love, friendship, and family. I didn’t remember the story well, so I picked it up when I saw it at my parents’ apartment – my brother didn’t take it with him when he moved out (dun dun dun! This only makes sense if you’ve read the story and maybe not even then, sorry.) It also seems to be largely autobiographical?

I really liked the artwork – it’s all done in black and white, so it’s really powerful. Thompson’s style is beautiful and clean, though he sometimes veers into fantastic shapes and creatures that break up the harsh reality Craig (yeah, the MC’s name is the same as the author’s) has to face every day. If you get a chance, definitely give this one a try, it really packs a punch.

zmaj-desno

Paper Towns/Lažna mesta by John Green
Published in 2014 by Mladinska knjiga .

Links: Goodreads.

Source: borrowed from my mom (paperback).

Genre: YA contemporary.

My rating:

I did not enjoy this John Green novel. *le gasp*

I read The Fault in Our Stars a couple of years ago, before I started blogging, and really, really liked it (like most everyone I know). Then I read Looking for Alaska and reviewed it here. It was good, I liked it, but I definitely wasn’t as star-struck as I was before.

And now my faith in John Green’s writing is failing, because Paper Towns were a disappointment. I read the Slovenian translation (by Neža Božič), which is actually really good, so it didn’t play a role in my lower rating. I know Green has a really loyal following so if you find it unbearable to hear his books insulted, please exit through the side door. Thanks.

My main problem was with Margo. Without going into spoilers, she’s a spoiled (ha!) little brat and I disliked her immensely. Quentin was cool but the entire story was actually very similar to Looking for Alaska when you think about it! I wanted to slap some sense into all of them but couldn’t, because they’re fictional.

And then there was the pretentiousness. I’m sorry but do you know many 18-year-olds who quote Whitman but are also very cool and hip and generally the most intelligent beings around? I’ve read enough to know when an author did not kill his darlings (and he really should have). Parts of the story were horribly long-winded and really dragged along. Look, I had my fair share of stoned conversations about existential questions when I was that age but nobody ever said those conversations were meant to be written down, let alone read my millions of random people. Ugh.

zmaj-levo

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
by Lion UK.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: MG historical fantasy.

My rating:

The Little White Horse is one of my childhood favorites. I think I must have read it at least five times when I was younger – in Slovenian translation, of course (it is very good). But I wanted to read the original, so I bought myself the English version a couple of years ago and the book has been sitting on my shelf until now. I’m really happy I re-read it! I see it with completely different eyes now but the nostalgia is strong, so I can’t help but love it still.

Of course there are some problematic elements to the story of the orphaned Maria who comes to live at Moonacre Manor. There’s the notion that ladies don’t get angry, or loud, and that women are represented by the Moon while men belong to the Sun; there’s the overwhelming religious element and a number of other details that I could name. But they didn’t bother me in the least when I was little and it’s also wrong to judge the works from the past with today’s criteria.

So I’d still recommend this as a classic work of English children’s literature, and I’ll be reading it to my kids when the time comes, because it’s a pretty fairy tale and I want to share it with them. But if you’re looking for a modern, enlightened fantasy, this most certainly isn’t it.

zmaj-desno

Have you read any of these? 

What did you think?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

My Romance Binge Continues

I started this post by writing that I’d been reading lots of romances lately when I realized I ALWAYS read lots of romances, so there’s no point in making an issue out of this. I’m writing mini reviews again so the entire blog doesn’t become one big romance fest, because I am also reading other genres in between. But romance will always be one of my favourite genres!

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Wound Tight (Made in Jersey #4) by Tessa Bailey
Published on December 5th, 2016 by Entangled.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you Entangled for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: contemporary m/m romance.

My rating:

I have a funny relationship with Tessa Bailey’s books. I really liked some of them, and then I read the third book in this series, Worked Up, and ended up giving it one star, which almost never happens, because the hero was an asshole and a brute (which had nothing to do with his enormous stature but everything to do with the fact that he disrespected the heroine).

However, I’m glad I requested Wound Tight, which is the story of Milo and Renner, because it’s much nicer than the previous one. I enjoyed reading about how these two guys got together, even though they were so completely different and each had his own troubles. I’m also glad there was, for once, no coming-out drama in a gay romance. It’s good to have both kinds of books but most of m/m romance I’ve read has been New Adult, where such topics make more sense than in adult romance.

I think I’ll be reading whatever Bailey comes up next, she’s redeemed herself in my eyes!

zmaj-desno

The Trouble With Mistletoe (Heartbreaker Bay #2) by Jill Shalvis
Published in September 2016 by Avon.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: contemporary romance .

My rating:

If you’re a fellow romance fan, you’ve probably noticed by now that Jill Shalvis is one of my auto-buy authors and that I usually love everything she writes. Somehow, her Heartbreaker Bay series isn’t working that well for me. Sweet Little Lies, the first of the series, had the problem of the heroine keeping a secret she really should have shared with the hero, but in Trouble, I just didn’t connect with the characters.

There was this artificial barrier between Willa and Keane (they went to high school together), which I thought was blown out of proportion. I mean, everyone does stupid things in high school, so not remembering someone shouldn’t be enough to hold a grudge a decade later, no?

I then also read One Snowy Night, the novella that comes after this one, and I didn’t like it at all. So I’m afraid of what’s happening with my favourite romance books – and hoping that Accidentally on Purpose will fix all that because I’m excited to hear the story of Elle and Archer, who are my favourite characters so far. *crosses fingers*

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Do You Want to Start a Scandal (Spindle Cove #5) by Tessa Dare
by Avon.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: historical romance.

My rating:

Tessa Dare is another favourite author of mine. The Spindle Cove series is wonderful – I particularly liked A Week to be Wicked, which remains one of the best historical romances I’ve ever read.

Do You Want to Start a Scandal brings back some of the characters we’ve seen in previous books, and I enjoyed reading about them. It’s a typical Dare book with lots of good banter, great gut-punches, and a perfect comfort read.

I enjoyed Charlotte as a heroine – even though she’s quite young, she’s intelligent and observant, as well as easy to relate to. Piers, however, is sometimes a bit of an ass, especially with his high-handed way of manipulating everyone into doing what he wants them to do. I understood the impulse behind his actions but didn’t necessarily agree with the execution.

All in all, I’ll most definitely be reading whatever Dare writes next, she’s a fantastic romance author.

zmaj-desno

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Which romance author should I look into next?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1) by Deborah Harkness
Published in 2011 by Headline.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: paranormal fantasy.

My rating:

When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it’s an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft.

Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she’s kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires. Sensing the significance of Diana’s discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire genticist.

Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels…

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I first read A Discovery of Witches several years ago – probably when the paperback was first published. And I liked it a lot! I bought the second book of the trilogy and then got stuck about a quarter way in and never finished reading it. Since I’m making an effort to finish more series, and since I already own 2 out of 3 books, I decided to give it another go.

First of all, I have to say I loved the worldbuilding in this one. The magical creatures (witches, vampires, and daemons) have very interesting histories and they seemed very well thought out. The historical aspect of the novel is also stunning, which isn’t surprising given that Harkness teaches history. I’m totally helpless when it comes to history (I blame bad school teachers), so I have no idea if the history stuff is factual, but it sure as hell sounds impressive.

I took a half star/heart from my rating this time around *le gasp*. Maybe it was because I already knew the story but I kept noticing things that didn’t bother me as much when I first read it. Mostly, I’m talking about Matthew and his antiquated views of what women should or should not be doing with their lives. His overbearing attitude to Diana (both before and after they become a couple) was horrible and I hated that it was explained away with “oh, he’s like that because he’s a vampire and also 1500 years old, so don’t bother trying to change him.”

To her credit, Diana does try to change him – she just has little to no success with it. Her initial reaction to meeting a vampire was also refreshingly normal (she kind of freaks out and tries to escape) compared to most other vampire novels.

I liked Diana a lot, despite her questionable taste in men. She’s very good at controlling every aspect of her life – until she isn’t. But she doesn’t crumble and cry when things go to shit but makes the best of her situation. She’s fiercely loyal and quick to love, which are both traits I admire in characters.

The plot is also sufficiently intriguing that I got sucked into the story again and managed to finish this 700-page beast in a matter of days. I’ll try not to wait too long before I tackle the sequel this time so I don’t forget what’s happened in this book.

srcek

Have you read A Discovery of Witches? What did you think?

Do you have any favourite books that feature history this strongly?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

Burning Bright by Melissa McShane

Burning Bright (The Extraordinaries #1) by Melissa McShane
Published in August 2016 by Curiosity Quills Press.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you Curiosity Quills Press for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: historical fantasy romance.

My rating:

In 1812, Elinor Pembroke wakes to find her bedchamber in flames—and extinguishes them with a thought. At 21, she is old to manifest magical talent, but the evidence is unmistakable: she not only has the ability to start fires but the far more powerful ability to control and extinguish them. She is an Extraordinary and the only one in England in over one hundred years. 

As an Extraordinary, she is respected and feared, but to her father, she represents power and prestige for himself. Mr. Pembroke is determined to control Elinor and her talent by forcing her to marry where he chooses, a marriage that will produce even more powerful offspring. Trapped between the choices of a loveless marriage or living penniless and dependent on her parents, Elinor takes a third path: she joins the Royal Navy.

Assigned to serve under Captain Miles Ramsay, she turns her fiery talent on England’s enemies in the Caribbean. At first feared by her shipmates, a growing number of victories make her truly part of the crew and bring her joy in her fire. But as her power grows and changes in unexpected ways, Elinor’s ability to control it is challenged. She may have the power to destroy her enemies utterly—but could it be at the cost of her own life?

srcek

Burning Bright is a curious book. It’s a historical romance with fantasy elements yet it’s actually very slow and light on romance – so maybe it’s a historical fantasy with romance elements? You know I’m rubbish at classifying books.

I liked the story a lot, actually. Elinor makes an important decision and joins the royal navy instead of being bartered off to the highest bidder like a prize mare when her talent manifests. She can manipulate fire – and what makes her Extraordinary is the fact that she can put fires out as well as light them. Her father, a renowned scholar of people with magical talent, is a cruel, ambitious man, and I really respected Elinor from the start because she made the best decision she could in such a situation.

There is the fact that Elinor is a bit of a special snowflake. Not only is her talent incredibly rare, she’s also the first woman to join the navy. And she remains the only female character in the story (well, there’s her sister but she’s barely there and has no real function in the story). I’d hoped we would meet more kickass ladies with awesome talents but nope, nothing so far. I’m really hoping this will change as the series progresses!

Other than that, I liked the worldbuilding (the magical system) and the setting – a large part of the story takes place on a ship, there are pirates, and we sail the clear waters of the Carribean, so this was pretty unusual. I haven’t read many books with such a setting, so I enjoyed it a lot.

I did wish the romance wasn’t quite so slow at times. I guess it’s more realistic from a historical point of view but I kind of wanted Captain Ramsay to make his move (or for Elinor to finally tackle the man) sooner. I dislike insta-love but a healthy dose of insta-lust wouldn’t hurt here because the entire romance is pretty clean. I know, I’m probably too used to traditional historical romances where the characters are tearing at each other’s clothes by Chapter Two, but romance was really, really slow here.

There are also some interesting thoughts on war and killing in this book, which isn’t something you’d typically expect from a romance, so this makes it lean further towards the fantasy genre, I think. Elinor thinks a lot about the lives she takes in the naval battles she participates in – it’s rare to get such an in-depth exploration. I don’t really understand people who choose to be soldiers (like picking this as a profession – that’s just beyond me), but I do understand duty and the wish to protect people. So yeah, this was a welcome addition to a story that could have veered into fluff pretty easily.

I’m curious to see how the story will continue. This one had a pretty decent ending (meaning that it could have functioned as a standalone) so I wonder whether we’ll get a new set of characters. I’ll be on the lookout for it for sure.

srcek

Have you read Burning Bright? What did you think?

Historical fantasy romance is an interesting mashup of genres – do you know any similar books?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.