WWW Wednesday – Cliffhangers!

It’s the peak of the week, as my manager at work likes to call it. It’s been a great week so far, not that anything incredible has happened, I’m just very happy. It helps that there are only two days left of work and then I have a weekend of reading and writing ahead of me.

Speaking of my writing, I hit 8,000 words of my dragon WIP today after writing 1.5K at lunch and I am loving it! The characters are perfect to me and they seem so real when I’m writing them, which makes me realise I’m doing something right. I might even do a bit more tonight if I have time before Love Island (which I shouldn’t be watching but I can’t help it – it’s addictive).

What Are You Currently Reading?

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I know I said in my last weekly wrap up that I would read Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman next, but with a cliffhanger like the one Frozen tides gave me, how could I not pick up Crystal Storm? Already I am a third of the way through and I am loving it. More characters are being added into the fray and it seems like everyone’s paths are about to cross once more. I am so glad with the way Magnus is acting in this book, it makes my heart happy. Fingers crossed I can finish this before the week is up!

What Did You Recently Finish Reading?

frozen tides

That ending! This book! There was so much treachery, I loved it. I swear this series just gets better and better, with so much political manoeuvring that it’s hard to keep up. There were some unlikely alliances, and romances that I was happy to finally see come to life. I am pretty sure that Falling Kingdoms has solidified itself as one of my favourite series ever at this point! Keep an eye out for the review, which I will probably be writing tomorrow.

What Do You Think You’ll Read Next?

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I think I am going to be spending my weekend dedicated to this book. Thunderhead has me so excited, especially with the way that Scythe ended. I won’t lie, my expectations are high for this, just because of how much I loved the first one. I highly doubt that it will disappoint. Not to mention, the covers for these books are so pleasing. I just love the design and the colours…Amazing! I can’t wait to see what colour the third will be. I’m kind of hoping it’s either dark blue or purple.

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There we have it! My plans for the rest of the week are pretty much sorted at this point.

What book are you currently reading?

Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

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Title: Ruin and Rising (Grishaverse #3)

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

Date: 17th June 2014

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I had been waiting to finish this trilogy off since I read Siege and storm a little while ago and it was great to finally do so. Ruin and Rising was everything I wanted it to be, and the ending was perfect for me. It’s always bittersweet to say goodbye to characters, but at least I can carry on reading about the world in Six of Crows and find out more about Nikolai when King of Scars comes out next year (which I am super excited for).  As this is the third in the series there will be spoilers, as I reference events that happened previously.

After the attack in Siege and Storm, Alina and her followers have been pushed underground while the Darkling rules over Ravka. Hiding within a network of tunnels, the Sun Summoner is under the protection of the Apparat and those who worship her, but they do not know that she is broken. Unable to conjure the light, she must wait until her plan to escape takes place. She has to find the firebird, the third and final amplifier, so that she can rise against the Darkling and save Ravka. There is also the matter of finding the outlaw prince, who is said to be causing havoc above ground. A desperate race begins as they all put old rivalries aside to find the one thing that can save them all, but it will come at a cost.

After the second book, which was a little slow in places, I felt that Ruin and Rising set a great pace from the beginning, building with each chapter as we anticipate the final battle between Alina and the Darkling. You could feel the desperation of Alina and her friends, as well as the torment that they endure at the hands of the Darkling. So many lives have been lost throughout the series, and we can see how broken the world is. I’ve always loved the way Bardugo makes the world so vivid, and I think that she is a great writer. Not the best where this series is concerned (I read her collection of tales first) but I have really enjoyed the trilogy, and how each book focuses on finding one of the amplifiers.

There were definitely some unexpected events, mainly to do with Nikolai and the search for the firebird. I love that I never really knew what was going to happen and during the last 50 or so pages, when the battle was taking place, I found myself reading even quicker to find out what would happen. It didn’t disappoint in the slightest and the characters got the ending that they deserved. I also liked the way the Darkling was portrayed in this final instalment and the way we got to see another side of him (but I won’t spoil that for you).

Alina has had quite a bit of development from when we first met her in Shadow and Bone, where she was a lot weaker and didn’t always speak her mind. Now she can’t seem to stop, and while she was harsh in places it was interesting to see how she handled the power that she had. With the fate of Ravka resting on her shoulders, she became obsessed with finding the third amplifier, as anyone would in her position. She has lost a lot during the course of the series and the third book isn’t any different, with a final sacrifice that I wasn’t expecting.

Then we have Mal, a character I grew to dislike very much in the second book, but seemed to do a massive turn around in this book. While he used to be selfish and a bit of an ass, it was great to see him become more caring. It was also interesting to see Mal and Alina trying to mend their strained and slightly broken relationship. Of course, I absolutely love Nikolai, although I didn’t love some of the things that happened to him. The fact that he is getting his own series is the best news ever because I need more of his sass and charm.

The dialogue between the characters is amazing and I feel that is where Bardugo really shines. I always find myself smiling and laughing at the banter between the characters, and Zoya really surprised me as I found myself beginning to like her. And of course, we have Baghra making her appearance with her snarky comments which never fail to make me chuckle. I wished I could’ve gotten to know the other characters more throughout the series, and seen more of their interactions.

Overall, I felt that Ruin and Rising was a great way to end the trilogy, and it has made me so excited to move onto Six of Crows next. I can’t get enough of this world that Leigh Bardugo has created! This is a five star read for me!

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Review: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

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Title: Nevernight

Author: Jay Kristoff

Publisher: Harper Collins

Date: 29th June 2017

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It isn’t very often that I read a book that is written by a male author, or even an adult fantasy for that matter. I’m not sure why, maybe I relate more to female authors or I just prefer the kind of stories they write. I hadn’t read a good novel by a male author…until I read Nevernight. I had heard people speak of Jay Kristoff’s writing, mainly Illuminae, but that is a sci-fi book (and I don’t like sci-fi) so I thought it best to give his fantasy series ago. I am so glad I did. This book sucked me in and although I had to stop reading about a third of the way through (had two ARCs to read) I found it so easy to pick back up again.

Death has followed Mia Corvere around since she was ten years old, when she saw her father die and her family be taken away from her. She made a promise to avenge them and destroy the lives of the men who killed her family. Everything she has done in her life has been to work towards a goal. To train among the best assassins in the Red Church of Itreya. There she will learn how to survive, to battle and outwit her classmates, and earn a place among the chosen ones. But she finds that it isn’t as easy as she had hoped and along the way she yearns to know more about her own dark powers.

Nevernight is a truly unique book, with a world that is unlike any other. It is dark, dangerous, full of intrigue and I keep wanting to know more. Kristoff writes very well, although I know it may not be for everyone (if you don’t like metaphors and similes, stay away) but I for one really enjoyed his style of flowery writing. Just because I say flowery, it doesn’t mean this book is like that. It is brutal, with lots of killing and blood, but what else can you expect from a book about bad ass assassins?

Something that I thought was unique was the use of footnotes from the narrator. Mia’s story is being told from the future, as we are notified at the beginning that she is dead and that this is her story (so I’m not spoiling it for you). Throughout the book there are little stars that indicate there is more to know about a certain place or person and it can be found at the bottom. While this sometimes interrupted the flow of the story in places, I enjoyed most of the information I was told, especially the witty comments.

Mia Corvere is one hell of a protagonist. You never know what she’ll do next and I love that about her. She is frank, to the point, likes to swear a lot (like…a lot…and with words my mother always said were the worst). She is so intriguing and the fact that she can control shadows and has a shadow cat as her friend is amazing. Mister Kindly (the shadow cat) is always by her side, ever since her family was taken away, and their friendship is a unique one. I often found myself smiling as I read their interactions.

Of course, there is also the other assassins at the school. Some were awful (because we always need a villain) and others were sweet and kind. But looks can be deceiving, as we often find out in this novel. Tric is a character that Mia encounters early on in the novel and someone I grew to love. They understood each other and while things weren’t always good between them, they cared for one another in their own way.

Nevernight has an amazing plot twist that I didn’t see coming, at all. When this happens it often makes a book that much better for me. I love the unexpected and this novel definitely gave me that. There is still so much more to find out about in Godsgrave, which I need to get my hands on immediately. I was thinking about Nevernight for days after I finished reading it and that is how I know when a book has stolen my heart.

Overall, I thought that Nevernight was a brilliant read and I think that Jay Kristoff is one of my favourite authors now (I may even have to check out his other books, whatever the genre may be). This book is for you if you love darkness, action, politics, killing, sex and a whole lot of swearing. While I know it may not be for everyone, this will probably become one of my favourite trilogies. A solid 4.5 stars from me.

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ARC Review: The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green

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Title: The Smoke Thieves

Author: Sally Green

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Date: 3rd May 2018

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I was lucky enough to be given a chance to review this book early from Penguin Random House on NetGalley. I am all about YA Fantasy at the moment and when I heard of The Smoke Thieves, a story told from different perspectives, I knew I had to find out more. This is the first in a trilogy and I feel that it set the tone really well. I had expected there to me a bit more action and for the most part it was very story driven. Some characters were more memorable than others, but overall I enjoyed this book.

Spread across the three nations of Calidor, Pitoria and Brigant, there is a princess, a traitor, a soldier, a hunter and a thief. Due to changing circumstances among the kingdoms, their lives are about to become entangled in ways they never thought possible. Princess Catherine is in Brigant, preparing to enter into an arranged marriage with the Prince of Pitoria, but her heart belongs to Ambrose, her faithful bodyguard. During an unfortunate situation, Ambrose is deemed a traitor of Brigant and has to flee to save his life. March is a servant who has been pushed around for too long by the Prince of Calidor and he vows to have his revenge, whatever the cost. In Pitoria, a young man called Edyon gets his kicks from stealing, a hobby which is bound to get him into trouble and in the northern territory there is Tash. There she works with the demon hunter Gravell to take the smoke from their bodies and sell it on their travels. Danger is on the horizon, the kind that they will have to work together to defeat.

In terms of world building I felt that this was more basic that the other stories I have been reading lately. Not to say that it wasn’t good, I managed to get a great feel for the land and the people in them. Brigant was a hard country, with a ruthless ruler, and I often felt sorry for Catherine. A large part of this book is spent travelling in Pitoria and the characters begin to cross paths a little ways in. We get to see a travelling market, where some of my favourite scenes take place, and the way the demon world was described was quite unique as it often incorporated the senses.

Nearly every chapter is from a different perspective, but as some of them were set within the same scene I found that they flowed quite easily. Some of my favourite chapters to read were that of Tash. She was hilarious and I loved her banter and interactions with Gravell, the demon hunter. Edyon was also an interesting character who stood out among the others. I’ve read about a lot of Princesses and unfortunately, Catherine didn’t strike me as anything special, but I did like her.

I love a bit of romance in fantasy novels, but I didn’t feel that The Smoke Thieves had a lot of it, when it should have. The relationship between Catherine and Ambrose was my least favourite and didn’t leave a very lasting impression. The slow burner between March and Edyon was interesting, but again, not a lot happened when I expected a lot more to.

While this book had a few bad points, it was mainly good and I felt I grasped a good feel for the story. I am hoping that the second one will have a lot more action and politics, especially after the last quarter of the book where there were a few revelations. This has often been compared to Game of Thrones (something I haven’t read but have watched) and the same was said about Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes, but I think they are two completely different novels. Overall, I feel that The Smoke Thieves was an enjoyable read and one that I would give 3.5 stars to.

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Review: Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

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Title: Sky in the Deep

Author: Adrienne Young

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Date: 24th April 2018

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When I first heard of this Viking inspired standalone novel, I got really excited. I headed straight to Amazon and pre-ordered it, only for Amazon to later cancel the order and say they would no longer be stocking it. Imagine my disappointment. But then, one day, I was scrolling through NetGalley and saw that Sky in the Deep was available to request and of course I did. I waited weeks without hearing anything and with the release date less than a week away I had given up hope. Then I got the email saying that I was approved and I have never been happier. I read this book within two days, which is very quick considering I have work in the week. It was incredible and so moving, one of my favourites of the year so far.

For centuries the Aska and Riki clans have been battling every five years, fighting for their deities and honour. Eelyn is a seventeen year old Aska warrior who prides herself on her fighting skills and has a strong will to survive. As she is battling against the Riki clan once more on the battlefield, she sees something that stops her in her tracks. Before her eyes is her brother Iri, the same one that she watched die five years beforehand. A brother that is fighting with the Riki, not against them. Following him to discover the truth, she is captured by Fiske, the one who is with her brother, and is taken back to one of the Riki villages where she is surrounded by her enemies. All she wants is to understand what happened to her brother and to eventually return home, something that is easier said that done when you are stuck on a mountain in the dead of winter. But when a dangerous force attacks the village, Eelyn has no choice but to trust Fiske and the other Riki, and to help bring the clans together before their enemies destroy them once and for all.

I have so many wonderful thoughts about this book that it is hard to know where to begin. I’m going to start by saying that, at its core, this is a book about family and loyalty, as well as overcoming prejudice. It shows us that sometimes we need to look past the thoughts and feelings that have been instilled after centuries of thinking a certain way and that we should open our hearts to others. The emotions in this book are raw and you feel everything that Eelyn is going through. When she is angry you feel it burning your skin, and when she is sad and at a loss you can feel your heart breaking with her. The writing style flowed perfectly and kept me turning the pages, always wanting to find out what happened next.

I really liked the mythical lore of the clans and their Gods/Goddesses. The Aska worship Sigr, the God of Water and the sea, where their home lies, whilst the Riki worship Thora, Goddess of Fire and the mountains. The origin of the hatred that runs between these two clans is explained early on and is something that is referenced throughout. Both clans fight for honour and to earn a place in the afterlife with their family, they just have different ways of worshipping their deities.

There are some incredible action sequences throughout, with axes swinging, blood covering clothes and blades being drawn across skin. In fact, the first chapter jumps straight into the action of the battlefield and it set me up for the rest of the book. Not exactly for the faint of heart, but there are also parts that are heart warming and touching. Sky in the Deep stirred so many emotions in me and it is something that doesn’t always happen. I felt like I was right there by Eelyn’s side as she went through everything, some of which wasn’t always pleasant. I will mention that there are mentions of rape at times, so that is something to bear in mind.

Our main character, Eelyn is feisty, strong and a true warrior. She is protective of the ones she loves and won’t take any crap from anyone. So, when she is captured it really hits her hard and she has to adjust, but at the same time the survivor in her is always looking for a way out. She has great character development, shown through her emotions and actions as she begins to learn why her brother stayed with the Riki and didn’t return home to the Aska.

While at the Riki village, Eelyn sees that they aren’t so different from the Aska, and slowly but surely we get to find out more about Fiske’s family, the people who took Iri in after the accident. There are some very sweet and tender moments between them all, often reminding me of my own family. Then there is the slow burning relationship between Eelyn and Fiske, which was just incredible. I haven’t enjoyed a romance like this in a while and it was extremely refreshing for it not to be instant-love, or a love triangle.

I could probably go on and on about how much I adored this book. Everything was perfect. We have fully fleshed out characters, incredible relationships, great action, a quick pace and some of the best world building I’ve read in a while. There wasn’t too much of any one thing, and I loved it that much I may have to just buy my own copy. One of the easiest five star ratings I’ve given out this year.

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Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

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Title: Siege and Storm

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

Date: 4th June 2013

I started Siege and Storm as soon as I finished Shadow and Bone, because how could I not? I wanted to find out what would happen to the characters and I have to say that the second book didn’t disappoint at all. It was full of action from the get go and I felt this book was a great follow up. I cannot wait to see how it will all pan out for the characters that I have grown to love (some of them at least).

Running from the Darkling, Alina and Mal sail across the seas to make a new life for themselves, but it isn’t easy. While they had hoped the Darkling died on the Fold, they soon realise he is closing in on them and his plans have only grown more dangerous. To beat him she has to return to Ravka, with the help of a mysterious privateer who isn’t what he seems, and search for the power that can stop the Darkling once and for all…but at what cost?

As with the first, I loved the writing style that was fast paced and full of great descriptions that helped me to vividly picture the world around the characters. The story itself has been progressing nicely and the character development is there for a couple (not all) of the characters. Bardugo knows how to make you feel emotion, whether it is good or bad, and that is always a great thing. Sometimes you need to dislike characters, to roll your eyes at what they say and be annoyed by their actions (which I was when it concerns a certain love interest).

It was great to see Alina taking charge of the situation more in the second book, whereas in the first she was a little weak and moaned a lot. While there were some things I didn’t agree with, it was clear to see that she has had a lot of character growth and has become more sure of herself in her role as the Sun Summoner. The way she interacts with the other characters and Grisha was very interesting, especially the latter. She went from being the girl no one wanted to be around, to the one that would lead them.

From the end of the first book the relationship between Alina and Mal grew, but their ‘honeymoon period’ was bound to end soon. This is my least favourite romance I have read and it has to do with Mal. He wasn’t very likeable and honestly, he annoyed the hell out of me with some of the things he did that ended up hurting Alina. It will be intriguing to see what happens to them during the final book.

However, there was the introduction of a new character that I ended up really liking, and that is Nikolai. He is hilarious, a little arrogant (you find out why), but he does have good intentions. I loved the banter between him and Alina, which left me smiling and feeling warm inside. I hope we get to see a lot more of him in the final book. I can’t forget about the Darkling and his evil ways. It’s funny how I was beginning to like him in the first one and then everything just went south. I want him to be redeemable but I just don’t think it will happen. Saying that, I can’t wait to see what will happen to him, especially after that ending!

Overall, I really enjoyed Siege and Storm, and I am so excited to read Ruin and Rising, where I hope we can have a great ending to the story. I am going to give this four stars, just like the first one.

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I Finished My Book!

That was something I wasn’t expecting to write yet, but I have finally completed my first draft of my novel. I even got a bottle of Moet to celebrate with.

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More than a year ago I started the first few chapters, without having any idea of where I wanted to go with it. I didn’t even know what kind of genre it would be. I forgot about it, left on my documents with the name “New Book”, until the end of September, 2017. I had just gotten back into reading again and I was loving the Young Adult Fantasy books I was catching up on. Then the idea hit me. That was exactly what I wanted to write and so I opened up that untitled document and started writing. I created a world with a unique magic system, a dark cult that was threatening the existence of the Kingdoms and a girl who was so much more than she thought she could be.

It hasn’t been easy and there’s been times where I was unmotivated, hit writers block and genuinely had no idea what I was doing. But I made it through the tough times and with a target of writing 1,000 words every day, I made progress. Finally, I have finished the first draft and I am over the moon. Standing at 100,405 words and 36 chapters so far, it is complete. I am still unsure of the name yet, however, I have a few ideas of what will fit.

My little book about self-discovery, romance, magic, danger and darkness may be finished, but I am far from being done with it. There is a lot of polishing to do, some plot holes to fill and changes to be made, but I am ready for it all. Here’s to all the editing that’s about to take place.

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Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

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Title: The Hazel Wood

Author: Melissa Albert

Date: 8th February 2018

Publisher: Penguin

I was one of the lucky people that got accepted to read this on Netgalley before the release date, and I was really excited because I had heard so much. The Hazel Wood was one of the strangest books I have read in a long time and while I was intrigued by the idea, I felt that it could have been a lot darker. I was expecting creepier tales and settings to dominate the book and I was a little disappointed that they didn’t. You can definitely see the inspiration from Alice in Wonderland and while I enjoyed this book, I wish we got to see more of the Fantasy setting.

For her whole life, Alice and her mother, Ella, have constantly moved from place to place, bad luck following them wherever they go. Until one day they hear that Alice’s grandmother, Althea, an author of a book filled with dark fairy tales, dies in the Hazel Wood, they finally settle down. They were wrong to feel safe and one day Ella mysteriously disappears, leaving behind nothing but a message telling Alice to stay away from the Hazel Wood. Unable to do that, she embarks on a quest to rescue her mother from the people that have supposedly come from the world of fairy tales.

I will say that I prefer the second half of the book to the first, because at the beginning it felt very Contemporary with not a lot of Fantasy elements. I understand why, but it would have been nice for our characters to get to Hinterland, the place where the fairy tales reside, instead of milling about in the city and travelling by car. However, I really enjoyed the dark and strange world of Hinterland and the Hazel Wood. Some things might not have made sense (do fairy tales ever make sense with their rhymes and what not), but I thought that the descriptions of the world were great and intriguing. I loved the idea of the ‘story’ characters and how they acted. Not to mention, there were a couple plot twists that I didn’t see coming, which is always a nice surprise.

Alice is the kind of character who doesn’t care much about anything, except for her mother that she will do anything for, even if it means travelling to a far off place they have no idea if it even exists. I wanted to like Alice, and I did in parts, but she isn’t the most likeable character, often being rude and ignorant (which is understandable later on when we learn of her background). However, I enjoyed reading about Finch, the rich boy who helps Alice with her mission. He was so lovely and tried to help, even when he probably shouldn’t have because Alice was awful to him at times. Because of that it was a little awkward reading some interactions, especially when it came to mentioning his race (as he’s dark skinned) and Alice always seemed to bring up how entitled he was because he had money.

I wish we had a chance to meet more of the fairy tale characters from Hinterland and I would have loved to know more of the tales, instead of the few that are mentioned. The book definitely would have seemed more interesting if there were more fantastical elements to it. The pacing of the book was mainly good, with only a few slow parts, but I think most books have them in places.

Overall, while there were things I would have improved on and parts I didn’t connect with, I enjoyed the idea of the story and the majority of The Hazel Wood. Was it the most amazing book I’ve ever read? No, and I think that’s because I was expecting it to be something it wasn’t. I am intrigued to know more about the world, just not so much about how it works alongside the ‘normal’ world. After a long time thinking about this book, I think that a 3 star rating is what I will give it.

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Review: Keeper of the Watch by Kristen L. Jackson

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Title: Keeper of the Watch

Author: Kristen L. Jackson

Date: 1st February 2018

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

I would like to say thank you to the publishers for approving me to read this book on NetGalley. One of my resolutions for 2018 was to read more Young Adult Sci-Fi books and Keeper of the Watch was just that. Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to enjoy this book and love it, it fell a little flat for me. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m not completely into Sci-Fi books or it was the writing style, but there was something that didn’t click for me. However, I did enjoy the action sequences, the original ideas and some of the banter between the characters.

Chase Walker is plagued by a strange feeling that someone is watching him and although he tries to play it off, it never leaves. Ever since his uncle died, he has been drawn to an old watch that was left for him and the feeling scares him. Things take a drastic turn when he realises that there are people after him and the mysterious Alyx saves his life, claiming to know what has been happening to him. Chase just has to figure out whether he can trust her and what he will do with the information he discovers.

I will start off by saying that I liked the fast pace of this book, especially when it got towards the halfway point and the story really kicked into high gear with the action. Keeper of the Watch is such a unique story and very different from what I’ve read before. I was left wanting to know more and to see where the characters would go, what risks they would take (turns out things were pretty smooth sailing…a little too smooth for me).

While the characters were a little stereotypical at times (looking at you Chase) they were enjoyable and often had me chuckling, especially Alyx with her snarky comments and chastising of Chase. There were a few times where I cringed at the motivational speeches and, at times, predictable nature of the characters, I did enjoy reading about them. However, I wasn’t a big fan of the romance and at times I felt like it was being forced. Now that I’m older the whole falling-in-love-straight-away thing is a bit overdone and creepy in a way. I feel that it would have been better had things developed more slowly.

As I have read a lot of Fantasy I am used to books with plenty of descriptions and intricate story lines, something that Keeper of the Watch didn’t have and I wished there had been a little more world building involved. Saying that, the dimensions seem realistic and totally possible. I would say that this book is aimed at a much younger audience on the YA spectrum, with the style of writing that is more basic than I am used to.

Overall, Keeper of the Watch was an okay read for me. It didn’t stand out and if I’m honest I wasn’t expecting it to because of the genre it is. However, if you love Sci-Fi and don’t mind something that is more light hearted and easy to read, you should check it out. I am giving this 3 stars.

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ARC Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

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Title: The Belles

Author: Dhonielle Clayton

Date: 6th February 2018

Publisher: Orion Publishing Group

This book blew me away. From the incredible writing and mesmerising descriptions, to the detailed characters and plot twists. I loved everything about this book. I can’t even think of something bad to say. I feel so lucky to have been approved on NetGalley to read The Belles before it comes out in February. At first I didn’t know what to expect from this book and I think that is why the story has completely captivated me and the ending has left me wanting more. As any good book should.

In Orléans beauty is everything and without it you are nothing. The Belles were created to gift the people, known as the Gris, with beauty after they were cursed with grey skin, red eyes and straw like hair, cursed for life. The Belles can use their talents to transform how people look and because of that they are precious to the people of Orléans, most of all to the Queen and the Princesses. Camellia is a Belle, but it isn’t enough. She wants to be the favourite, the one the Queen picks to live in the palace and tend to the royal family. It is all she has ever wanted, but not everything is as it seems. Camellia soon learns that there are secrets lurking within the castle and that her powers could put her in grave danger. The Queen has asked her to do something that seems impossible and it could mean risking her life to help the princess who hasn’t woken from her coma. Camellia has to make a choice and either one could have grave consequences.

The first thing I noticed about this book was how Clayton brought everything to life. As I was reading the descriptions of Orléans and the way of the Belles, I could see the vivid colours, taste the delicious delicacies and smell the flowers blooming. Everything was so clear and it felt as though I was right there, that I was Camellia. I haven’t felt that strongly for a book in a while and I found myself wanting to read more and more. As the story progresses and we learn more about the world of Orléans, their customs and the history of the Belles, the secrets unravel in such an intriguing way. Not everything is as it seems and there is always a hint of something darker lurking.

I was so interested in how Clayton came up with the idea of this novel and how she exposed the darkness that comes with wanting to be beautiful and what people would be willing to risk to achieve it. Her note at the end of the book put it all into perspective. How much would we change about ourselves if we could? It’s a dangerous question to ask and shows our obsession with waning to be perfect, something that is mirrored perfectly in The Belles.

All of the characters in this book were amazing, each with their own voice and they were so well developed, which is something that can be difficult to do when there are a lot of characters. Camellia is kind, strong, so sure of herself and inspiring. She wants to do so much good for the people of Orleans, but at the same time she yearns for the times with her sisters and before she became the favourite. She has a strong voice that wants to be heard and eventually is, proving that staying quiet never helps a situation.

The Belles had me gasping in shock and my blood boiling, cursing the spoilt Princess Sophia who is never satisfied with her looks and is, in fact, monstrous. She elicited such a strong reaction in me and that is when you know a character has really come to life, even if they are cruel and vindictive.

The last quarter of the book had me flipping through the pages faster and faster, needing to reach the end. There was twist after twist, as horrifying details emerged and the lives of the characters were at risk. The Belles has left me wishing I had the next book in my hands because I need to know how it will all end.

Overall, this book has become one of my favourites very quickly. Definitely in the top ten and it is one that I could read again, which isn’t something I say often. It challenges our ideas of what is beautiful and shows us how far some people will go to reach those standards, even if it destroys who they are inside. This book deserves all the love it is receiving and more. A five star read for me!

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