Tag Archives: review

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert
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Links:

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: contemporary romance.

My rating:

Ohh, this is another one of those books. It has a great premise, some fantastic elements, I loved the heroine so much, and it made me hungry because the food descriptions are marvelous, but the whole just didn’t do it for me. This will contain spoilers because I want to talk about it some more, so if you want to read it, please stop reading now. You’ve been warned.

Lou is a small restaurant owner who gets a horrible review after she has a really bad day in life/her kitchen. The person responsible for the bad review – Al – is a nasty food critic who enjoys skewering restaurants and chefs, and takes perverse pleasure in seeing the effect of his words.

Now, Lou is fantastic. She’s warm and hardworking and trusting and a great friend. She’s also a fantastic chef, and I enjoyed her parts of the story so much. But Al…He was just such an asshole. He vents his own frustrations on unsuspecting people, and when he finds out he’s the reason for Lou’s misfortune, he hides behind his pseudonym like the coward that he is. When he didn’t come clean to Lou, I lost all interest in the story. The moment when he stated calculating how he could save his stupid ass and still stay with the woman whose life he ruined, I just sort of skim-read his parts because he annoyed me so much.

And the fact that she forgave him? Nope, sorry. He was so self-assured, so convinced that he was doing the world a favor by being nasty, I couldn’t empathize with him at all. Which is a pity, because I loved so many other things about this story.

The setting, the details of Lou’s life in the restaurant, Lou’s relationships with virtually everyone else…were great, really well-done. This reads more like chick-lit than romance, that’s worth mentioning. The story also dragged a little – I read it on my Kindle, so I don’t have a good sense of how long it was, but it definitely could have been shorter. So yeah. I might look up Reichert’s other books (are there any?) because I liked so much about this one, but I can’t whole-heartedly recommend The Coincidence of Coconut Cake because of the issues I mentioned.

Have you read The Coincidence? What did you think?

Would you forgive the person who ruined your life and lied about it?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Published in January 2017 by Del Rey.

Links: Goodreads. Amazon.

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

Genre: historical fantasy.

My rating:

‘Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, they only come for the wild maiden.’

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…

It’s been three weeks since my last post and I kind of wanted to do the whole Adele routine by giving you all sorts of reasons for my absence, but I’ll do that in the February recap post. Today, I just want to talk to you about The Bear and the Nightingale.

The Bear and the Nightingale is Arden’s debut and it’s a rich, powerful story. It’s heavily based on Russian folklore and I liked it a lot. To be honest, the only two things that bothered me were the relatively slow beginning (it takes the story a while to get going, but once it does, it really pulls you in) and the fact that it is not a standalone, which is what I thought it was when I started reading it.

Now, I’ve been known to start series left and right and I have about 40 going right at this moment (it’s a problem, I’m working on it), but Goodreads didn’t list it as a series when I started it and it wasn’t until after I’d finished it and was completely satisfied with the ending that I learned Arden was writing books 2 and 3. And while I loved the setting and would love to read more stories in that same world, I’m not sure how Vasya’s story will continue. Anyway, I’ll let the author surprise me.

But let’s talk about the good stuff instead. As I said, the worldbuilding was great. I’m always up for a fantasy story with a non-Western setting and Russian folklore is somewhat familiar to me (not in the sense that Slovenian folklore is similar but I’ve read a lot of Russian folk and fairy tales and I loved them), so I had a fun time recognizing the creatures and features of the world.

Arden’s writing is also rich and powerful, she paints the scenery with great attention to detail but I didn’t feel it bogged down the narrative, which was great. She’s a master at writing atmosphere, I think The Bear and the Nightingale should really be read in wintertime. It’s the perfect book for when it’s cold outside and you’re somewhere warm.

I liked Vasya, the girl protagonist, a lot. She’s a wild child with one foot firmly in the fairy world, misunderstood by her relatives and restricted by tradition. While she’s a young child, this wild streak is tolerable, but as she becomes a young woman, the society starts boxing her in. Her character development was great and it’s one of the reasons I’ll be continuing with the series – I’m curious to know more about the adult Vasya. I’m hoping she’ll be more proactive about her fate – it was hard for her to do anything drastic while she was a very young child but I sometimes felt she was a pawn on the chessboard of other, bigger forces, pushed around as they saw fit.

But Arden really writes great villains. Her antagonists (and yes, there’s more than one) are well-rounded personalities with motives that are never purely black, so it’s hard to hate them, even when they are absolutely loathsome. I’m not going to go into details and names here because it’s sort of spoilery, but let’s say I enjoyed them very much.

All in all, The Bear and the Nightingale was a very good historical fantasy, so if that’s your cup of tea, go for it. I’m hoping the sequel(s) will do it justice and I’m looking forward to exploring the world some more.

Have you read The Bear and the Nightingale? What did you think?

What’s your favourite historical fantasy?

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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The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastard #3) by Scott Lynch
Published in 2013 by Del Rey.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (hardback).

Genre: Adult high fantasy.

My rating:

With what should have been the greatest heist of their career gone spectacularly sour, Locke and his trusted partner, Jean, have barely escaped with their lives. Or at least Jean has. But Locke is slowly succumbing to a deadly poison that no alchemist or physiker can cure. Yet just as the end is near, a mysterious Bondsmage offers Locke an opportunity that will either save him or finish him off once and for all.

Magi political elections are imminent, and the factions are in need of a pawn. If Locke agrees to play the role, sorcery will be used to purge the venom from his body – though the process will be so excruciating he may well wish for death. Locke is opposed, but two factors cause his will to crumble: Jean’s imploring – and the Bondsmage’s mention of a woman from Locke’s past: Sabetha. She is the love of his life, his equal in skill and wit, and now, his greatest rival.

Locke was smitten with Sabetha from his first glimpse of her as a young fellow orphan and thief-in-training. But after a tumultuous courtship, Sabetha broke away. Now they will reunite in yet another clash of wills. For faced with his one and only match in both love and trickery, Locke must choose whether to fight Sabetha – or to woo her. It is a decision on which both their lives may depend.

zmaj-desno

This is the review for the third part of the series, so it will definitely contain some spoilers for the previous two books. You can read my reviews of The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies – and then we’ll chat! :) This isn’t a simple review, either, but a delayed sort of read-along I’m doing with DJ from MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape – we’re calling it The Bastard Read-along. So if you’re reading this as well (either for the first time or re-reading in preparation of the forthcoming publication of The Thorn of Emberlain), leave the link to your review in the comments and I’ll make sure to link it somewhere in this post and in the master post of the read-along as well. If nothing else, be sure to check out DJ’s review – he’s reading the books for the first time so his perspective is different from mine!

Now, I am definitely sure I only read The Republic of Thieves once before – I wasn’t exactly sure if I’d read Red Seas Under Red Skies once or twice, and I’ve now read The Lies of Locke Lamora at least five times (which makes sense since I’m translating it into Slovenian). My memory of this book was therefore much more sketchy than with the previous two books, which isn’t that bad, actually.

The Republic of Thieves brings back an element I missed with Red Seas Under Red Skies: the flashbacks to the time when Gentleman Bastards were still a young gang of thieves, going through a rigorous education. Here, though, we have an actual parallel story line, unlike with Lies of Locke Lamora, where the flashbacks serve mostly to illustrate the characters’ backstory and the setting.

The switching of timelines – the past one where the young Gentleman Bastards depart for a foreign city to put on a stage production of a famous play, The Republic of Thieves, and the present one where Jean and Locke are competing with Sabetha to win the election in Karthain – make for a fast-paced story, much like in the first book. None of the parts dragged like they did with the second book, and I was once again immersed in both stories, cheering on Locke and his crew.

But the tone of this third book is different from the first one. Here, Locke is no longer the cocksure, brilliant thief convinced he’s the smartest of all – he’s lost friends and made mistakes, so while his schemes are still brilliant, his thoughts are tinged with regret and even self-doubt. Jean is grieving but still his loyal self, ready to prove that his friendship with Locke will always stand the test of time.

The most significant addition to the story, however, is Sabetha. I know many fans disliked her – she is proud, distrustful, and even a little traitorous, but I thought she was great. We’ve been listening to Locke pine away for her for two books, and now that she’s finally here, she’s human. Yes, she’s brilliantly educated and beautiful – Locke’s obsession with her has not diminished – but she’s also wary and prickly and careful, worried she’ll make the same mistakes that made her run from the Gentleman Bastards in the first place. I loved her relationship with Jean, the fact that they managed to talk despite the huge obstacle that is Locke Lamora’s ego.

I also need to mention the Bondsmagi – the scary order of magicians we’ve met before in the form of the Falconer who aided the Grey King slaughter half of Camorri criminals in the first book. Here, the Bondsmagi are the silent force that toys with the people of Karthain, steering the election like it’s some sort of a puppet show. I liked the insight we got into their world, I admired (and loathed) Patience and was horrified by what remained of the Falconer.

The hints about the Eldren were also interesting; this ancient, mysterious civilization that left behind magnificent ruins and vanished without a trace. I really, really hope we’ll get to discover more about them in the rest of the series.

And now all there’s left to do is wait for The Thorn of Emberlain to be published. We know the unrest in the Kingdom of the Seven Marrows is reaching boiling point and our favorite thieves will probably try to make the most of it. I hope we’ll get to see more Sabetha as well, but I’ll let Lynch surprise me. This is definitely one of my most anticipated releases and I hope it’ll happen in 2017.

zmaj-levo

Have you read The Republic of Thieves? What did you think?

Are you as eager as I am to read The Thorn of Emberlain?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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How Not To Fall by Emily Foster (Series Review)

How Not To Fall and How Not To Let Go by Emily Foster
Published in 2016 by Kensington.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased for Kindle / ARC via NetGalley. Thank you Kensington for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: contemporary romance.

My rating:

Data, research, scientific formulae–Annabelle Coffey is completely at ease with all of them. Men, not so much. But that’s all going to change after she asks Dr. Charles Douglas, the postdoctoral fellow in her lab, to have sex with her. Charles is not only beautiful, he is also adorably awkward, British, brilliant, and nice. What are the odds he’d turn her down?

Very high, as it happens. Something to do with that whole student/teacher/ethics thing. But in a few weeks, Annie will graduate. As soon as she does, the unlikely friendship that’s developing between them can turn physical–just until Annie leaves for graduate school. Yet nothing could have prepared either Annie or Charles for chemistry like this, or for what happens when a simple exercise in mutual pleasure turns into something as exhilarating and infernally complicated as love.

PEOPLE, listen up. I’ve found a romance so good, I gave it five stars! And the sequel is great, too, so sit back and let me gush, okay?

I saw How Not To Fall on the Smart Bitches newsletter (it’s funny, really, how many of my romance reviews should start this way), checked Goodreads, and saw Becky gave it a very good rating. I proceeded to one-click buy it and emerged several hours later, teary-eyed and heartbroken, to DM Becky about how good it was and how I wanted to read the sequel immediately. As luck would have it, the sequel, How Not To Let Go, was available on NetGalley, and I immediately plunged back in, with very satisfying results. I rated the first book with 5 stars and the second with 4, which is why we have that 4.5 rating up there.

It’s difficult to review just the first book, How Not To Fall, because it doesn’t have an HEA  and ends on a cliffhanger. I’m putting this out there even though I dislike spoilers, because when reading contemporary romances, happy endings are expected and you might feel hoodwinked if you get to the end of book one and the couple aren’t where you wanted them to be. So if you want to get the whole beautiful story of Annie and Charles, you’ll have to commit to both books (like that’s a bad thing).

Let’s start with the characters, though, shall we? Both Annie and Charles are scientists. They’re both very smart (like genius-smart), which makes for some really interesting conversations. However, I never felt like the scientific parts were too much, I liked how the subject of Annie’s studies pertains to the story itself.

The first thing I noticed about this book (reading the preview on Amazon), was how strong Annie’s voice was – the story is narrated by her and she’s funny and honest and awkward. I wish I could write voice like that. It also made me root for her from the beginning. Annie is wonderful because she’s got this great self-esteem, she knows she’s smart and young and pretty, and there’s very little hesitation on her part. (The second book has both characters’ POVs, which was a nice addition.)

Charles is a very interesting romance hero. His traumatic past makes him sound like another Christian Grey, and while there certainly are similarities between that stupid series and this one, Charles’ troubles are addressed in a much more sensitive, realistic manner. The first book focuses more on Annie, while the second explores Charles’ past in more detail. He’s got some serious commitment issues, so their involvement begins with an expiration date: Annie is leaving for grad school and they only have a month to enjoy each other’s company. Naturally, things don’t go as planned.

If you’re thinking that you’ve read this kind of story a hundred times before, just trust me: you haven’t. It’s a smart romance and I liked it, even if it’s not perfect (*spoiler in white* Like the fact that Annie is a virgin at 23 and Christian needs to, erm, show her the ropes. *snort-laugh* *end spoiler*). The author is a sex educator by profession, so you can bet that sex is medically accurate and also very hot. No “fade to black” scenes here.

If you’ve read the entire review and I haven’t convinced you to read these two books, I’m sorry. I also hope I didn’t create too much hype and that you’ll give them a try, be amazed, and report back to me. I’ll just be sitting here, waiting for Foster to write another book.

Have you read How Not to Let Go? How can I convince you to give it a try?

Do you like angsty books when they’re good?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
Published in 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: won in a giveaway (paperback).

Genre: YA paranormal/horror.

My rating:

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

Coldest Girl in Coldtown has been on my TBR list for two years, I think. I won it in a Halloween giveaway during my first year of blogging, and I’ve been putting off reading it because I was scared it would be too scary for me (you know I’m a chicken when it comes to horror, right?). But then I put it on my winter tbr list – and managed to read it because I love crossing items off lists. Whatever works, right?

I really liked this book, which… is both a surprise and pretty predictable, depending on how you look at it. It’s a horror story alright, nothing light about it, but it’s also a book about vampires and it has a romance in it.

Tana is a great, smart heroine who kicks some ass but isn’t perfect at the same time. Her gut reaction to vampires is horror, which is good, but there’s also attraction, which is understandable. She’s not one of those swoony heroines who fall for the vampire boys – okay, so she does fall for the vampire boy, but her feelings are lust mixed with curiosity and a hefty amount of shame. Her childhood was really colourful (her mom bit her when she was infected) and she still carries the consequences of that. Her love for her sister, Pearl, is also great, she’d do anything for her. I liked her a lot because she was such a complex character.

The romance was slow enough for me to really get behind it. First of all, it’s not love at first sight at all – we don’t know what the guy is thinking, anyway, because he’s half crazy, and Tana is afraid of him as much as she wants to kiss him. I liked how they shared their history with each other and how Tana began to trust him, even if he’s a predator who’s likely to drink all her blood. It’s a twisted attraction – and I was glad it was presented as such, not overly romanticised, as is often the case with vampire romances.

I also liked the fact that there are no vegetarian vampires in this story. By this I mean to say that vampires are, for once, crazy, blood-thirsty monsters. Are they insanely beautiful? Sure. Do they have luscious hair and gorgeous lips? Yep. But there’s no sugar-coating the fact that they need to drink blood to survive and that they often kill while feeding because biting a human makes him or her go Cold, which is the stage before vampirism, and making more vampires will mean more strain on the blood supply.

My only real complaint would be the amount of backstory – the switching chapters made me feel like the story wasn’t as tense as it could have been. I mean, yeah, the “past” segments add color and information (mostly on Tana’s character), but they were sometimes too long and I felt like skipping them to get to the good parts again.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a good story, made even better by the fact that it’s a standalone and not a part of a stretched-out series. It’s a horror story but mild enough even for me (so all you fellow chickens out there can be sure it isn’t very horrible after all). I’m really glad I gave it a try, not only because it was collecting dust on my bookshelf, but because I’m starting to really like Holly Black (I’d previously read and reviewed her novel White Cat, which IS part of a series I really need to continue). I’ll be reading more of her work for sure.

Have you read The Coldest Girl in Coldtown? What did you think?

Have you read any more of Black’s novels? How about other vampire stories? 

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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