Thursday, 29 June 2017

Bookish Perfection (Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo)

'"Crows remember human faces. They remember the people who feed them, who are kind to them. And the people who wrong them too"' - Leigh Bardugo, Crooked Kingdom, page 528

Bookish perfection has been reached. I repeat, bookish perfection has been reached. Everyone else can pack up and go home, guys. I can die happy. 

Seriously, this book has no flaws. No flaws at all. The characters? Perfect. Fictionally speaking, that is. Let's not all go out and try to emulate Kaz Brekker. That could feasibly bring about the end of the world. The plot? Perfect. It. Kept. Twisting. The romance? Perfect. And I rarely think that about romance plotlines. If I pick up a book, I want violent action scenes, characters descending into the depths of despair, and death. So much death. I don't want them snogging for three pages straight. 

Six of Crows was no slouch in the character development department, but it's Crooked Kingdom where they really get their chances to shine. This is the book that deals with Jesper's gambling problems and his powers. This is the book that digs deep into the broken relationship between Wylan and his father. This is the book where Inej finally goes toe to toe with someone who can match her. This is the book where Nina overcomes parem, Matthias battles with his beliefs, and Kaz struggles with his PTSD.

Plot-wise, this is a story of revenge. We've all seen revenge plots a million times in books and TV shows, and they always go the same way. The hero wants revenge, but later comes to the realisation that no, his dead mother/brother/friend would not want him to do this. Revenge would make him just as bad as the villain. He must overcome the resentment in his own heart.

This is not that story.

This is a real revenge story. One that doesn't shy away from being as spiteful and petty as possible. As Kaz says himself, "I wasn't made to be a hero." It took me until most of the way through the book to realise that Kaz isn't dangerous because he doesn't care about most people. He's dangerous because he loves the people he's close to so fiercely that he would call down a plague upon the world for them. And I like that. Love being used as a motive for bad rather than good. We don't see that often enough in fiction.

The only problem with this book is that it's over.

Should I read the Grisha trilogy?

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

The Five Best Books I've Read So Far This Year
Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week's topic is excellently convenient. Mainly because I was planning to do it anyway. We're roughly halfway through 2017, so here's a breakdown of the best books I've read so far. It's a short list because I haven't read many good books so far this year.

1. Six of Crows Duology by Leigh Bardugo

Okay, so if we're going to be technical, I haven't quite finished Crooked Kingdom yet, but I'm far enough through it to know that my review will be pretty much incoherent. This is honestly one of the best series that I have ever read. I love all of the characters. Every. Single. One.

My review for Six of Crows is here.

2. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Spooky Gothic goodness starring two sisters in a creepy house.

My review for We Have Always Lived in the Castle is here.

3. The Shaman King series by Hiroyuki Takei

Fairly typical shonen manga with a tournament as the central plot point. It draws inspiration from every culture under the sun for the shamans' powers. What really makes this one stand out are the character dynamics and the fact that the hero's power stays on the same level as that of his friends.

4. Instructions for Flight by Kate I. Foley

Poetry collection featuring a variety of topics and forms. If you like dramatic metaphors, beautiful imagery, and good pacing, you should give this a shot.

My review for Instructions for Flight is here.

5. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I usually hate dystopia, but this one was stomachable. Although I still don't understand why Thomas (or anyone) likes Minho.

My review for The Maze Runner is here.

So I think we can all agree that this has been an utterly terrible reading year so far. I mean, I only gave one of the books on here three stars. That's a perfectly good rating normally, but on a top ten five list, I expect the ratings to be higher than that. Here's hoping it improves as the summer wears on. 

What's the best book you've read so far this year?

Thursday, 22 June 2017

"L" is for Legend

Legends (also known as myths, sagas, folk tales, etc.) are stories of old that have been passed down through the ages from generation to generation. Most of them started out as word of mouth tales before eventually being written down and, as a result, there are many different variations of the same legends. One example would be the myth of Orion. Did Apollo trick his sister into shooting him, or was he killed by a scorpion after boasting that he could kill anything? It is also common to find similar legends in different cultures. For example, you'd be hard-pressed to find a culture that didn't have a flood story. 

Most stories have a shred a truth of in them and many legends, such as those of King Arthur, are believed by some to have a historical basis. As far as we know, the closest England has come to having a King Arthur is Henry VIII's older brother, who died before he could ascend to the throne.

 Do you have a favourite legend?

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Start with a Bang, End with a Stutter (Take the Key and Lock Her up by Ally Carter)
2/5 Stars

"Hush, little princess, dead and gone,
No one's gonna know you're coming home.
Hush, little princess, wait and see,
No one's gonna know that you are me..." - Ally Carter, Take the Key and Lock Her up, page 290

I doubt anyone was expecting me to give this a two star rating after I gave the first two books five stars, but here we are. 

I'm disappointed. The plot basically consisted of Grace not listening to people, trying to run off on her own, and having long internal monologues about what a bad idea something was before going off and doing it. Thinking about it now, my main problem with it was that Grace spent a good amount of the novel alone and she's just not interesting enough to sustain it by herself. I wasn't interested in the resolution of the secret princess plotline because, to me, it seemed like a none issue. Without the bodies, there's no real way to prove that Grace is a princess, so why does the society feel the need to fuss?

I did like the villain. I thought she had a believable motivation. After all she gave up her life to try and set things right, so why shouldn't Grace do the same? I also felt like she came out of nowhere though. Perhaps I need to re-read book two and see if I can spot any foreshadowing. Her ultimate fate seems in bad taste when you consider Grace and Karina's backstories.

It feels a little late in the game to be introducing a love triangle, but I guess it wouldn't really be an Ally Carter novel without one. There is nothing wrong with Thomas. In fact, I rather liked him. I certainly liked him more than I liked Alexei who went back to being controlling. Grace and Alexei's relationship has never really rang true for me. 

Overall, I do think that my own problems with Grace as a character and the romance are what ruined this series for me. It's not a bad book by any means. I just didn't enjoy it.

Have you ever felt let down by the final book in a series?

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Reading Challenges and Writing Updates (Sunday Post #10)

Hosted by Kimberley @ The Caffeinated Book Reviewer
I'm writing this from my uni room, but, if you're reading it, it means that I'm home for summer. Second year is over. I do not want to be a third year.

(Nobody does.)

News from the Reading Front

I'm in a slump.

(Are you laughing or crying?)

I'm not enjoying The Ice Cream Girls and the third Embassy Row book is disappointing so far. On the bright side, I finished the Shaman King series a couple of days ago.

I need to start reading my coursebooks for next year within a couple of weeks.

In an attempt to break out of my slump, I've joined the summer reading challenge over at Pretty Deadly Reviews.

News from the Writing Front

I'm 11,113 words into my summer project. Impressed, Ivy?

(...A little.)

I'm going to do Camp NaNo in July - who knows, maybe I can finish my first draft a little quicker - but I haven't decided on my word count yet.

News from the Blogging Front

I was surprised earlier this week to notice that my most read post of all time is not a weekly meme or a tag. It's Writers Don't Owe Us Anything, also known as that rant I wrote back in March.

What are you reading at the moment?