Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Review: Verity by Colleen Hoover

Published December 7th 2018 by Hoover Ink, Inc.

Goodreads Synopsis

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity's notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn't expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity's recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen's feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife's words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

A standalone romantic thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover, releasing December 18th.

My Review

“...the things lurking around inside the mind can be just as dangerous as tangible threats.”

I had forgotten how much I like Hoover's writing sometimes. It isn't that her books have some mind boggling plot lines or because they have something new to offer. It's just the way she writes her characters. She makes her characters seem so real and her books read so easily that it's impossible to put them down. It's very easy to connect to her characters because Hoover knows how to get inside her readers' minds and manipulate their emotions. I've always thought that she is one of those authors who writes angst very well. After reading Verity I realized that she can write creepy even better.

Throughout Verity, she creates an eerie atmosphere of foreboding and doubt. I couldn't help but turn page after page, coming up with my own theories as to what might happen next. It was interesting to read about a character who's an author from an author's point of view. 

“A writer should never have the audacity to write about themselves unless they’re willing to separate every layer of protection between the author’s soul and their book. The words should come directly from the center of the gut, tearing through flesh and bone as they break free. Ugly and honest and bloody and a little bit terrifying, but completely exposed.” 

It was also easy to imagine how writing about fucked up characters might fuck up the author's mind in the process. Because, aren't all fictional characters a piece of the author's soul, however small that piece maybe? Don't the events of a book sometimes have an element of wish fulfillment attached to them?

The only issue I had with the book was that even though the plot escalated quickly, the actual climax was a bit meh. The ending felt kind of rushed, almost as if it were an afterthought. It left me feeling dissatisfied and I didn't find it worthy of the buildup.

But overall, it's definitely a great quick one time read that is bound to give you the creeps. Rating: 3/5 stars!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Toni Adeyemi

Published March 6th 2018 by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Synopsis

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.

They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

My Review

“I teach you to be warriors in the garden so you will never be gardeners in the war.” 

What?! What does that even meanThis was such a disappointing read. I'd been steering clear of YA fantasy for a while because I was fed up with the excessively tropey, unoriginal books masquerading as the next best thing in YA. So, I picked up Children of Blood and Bone with no small amount of trepidation, even after all the glowing reviews that it got from trusted reviewers. 

However, it turned out to be an incredibly cliched, surprisingly slow paced, dud of a book. Evil prince who switches sides after falling for the oddball destined to save the world? Check. Meek little best friend who eventually transforms into a badass? Check. Insta-love that blossomed in a span of hours and came in the way of the greater good? Check. Gaahh.. the only thing missing was an unnecessary love triangle and this would've been every other YA fantasy in a 500 page nutshell!

The book started out slow and just got slower. I determinedly slogged through the first 200 pages, thinking that maybe it's just a slow burn that would eventually build up into something interesting, but boy was it a downer! I couldn't care about any of the characters either. The book is told from the perspective of Zélie (the dull-as-a-Fourier-Transform protagonist), Amari (the scaredy little rogue princess) and Inan (the incredibly annoying crown prince). None of these characters managed to capture my interest or made me feel anything except scorn at the way they acted throughout the book. Some of the things that they did made zilch sense (hint: partying out in the open without cause for celebration with the enemy at their heels? Ugh. Dumb). The only person who actually had a stable head on his shoulders was Zélie's brother Tzain, and even he was as uninteresting as a sack of hay.

The world building was shoddy at best and there was no proper explanation as to how magic or the Gods' will worked. The racial discrimination and violence at the hands of a cruel, tyrannical King may have been intended to throw some light on racial discrimination in Nigeria, but it fell flat and evoked no real sympathy or dread from me. The book was peppered with random events that made little to no sense and just made me more aggravated at the book's length. 

Overall, a highly disappointing way to kick off the new year. This makes me so much warier of the entire YA fantasy genre now. It'll be a while before I'll be able to trust the hype again.

Rating: 2/5 stars!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Review: And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga #1) by Kiersten White

Published June 28th 2016 by Delacorte Press

“A dragon did not crawl on its belly in front of its enemies, begging for their help. A dragon did not vow to rid the world of infidels, and then invite them into its home. A dragon did not flee its land in the middle of the night like a criminal.

A dragon burned everything around herself until it was purified in ash.”

Goodreads Synopsis

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

My Review

“If we were not pushing, fighting, claiming what is ours and challenging what is not yet ours, others would be doing it to us. It is the way of the world. You can be the aggressor, you can fight against crusaders on their own land, or you can stay at home and wait for them to come to you. And they would come. They would come with fire, with disease, with swords and blood and death. Weakness is an irresistible lure.”

This was one book that made me feel ecstatic and ashamed in equal measure- ecstatic because it was enchanting in plot, characterisation, emotion and substance, and ashamed because it made me aware of my ignorance of Eastern European history. I actually mistook Wallachia to be a fictional place initially and only after a sound googling session was I made aware of my folly. The googling session acquainted me with the fascinating history of the Ottoman empire and mde me realise how cleverly Ms White has twisted a few facts and manipulated history to potray Vlad The Impaler as a girl.

Which brings me to the best part of the book- Lada!

“On our wedding night," she said, "I will cut out your tongue and swallow it. Then both tongues that spoke our marriage vows will belong to me, and I will be wed only to myself. You will most likely choke to death on your own blood, which will be unfortunate, but I will be both husband and wife and therefore not a widow to be pitied.” 

Even though I'm straight as a ruler, I'd be lying if I denied that I was totally crushing on Lada. I'd expected her to be a badass, but she was in a different class entirely. She was ruthless and efficient (almost to the point of being cruel and callous), independent and brave and fiercely protective of those she cared about at the same time. She was a chaotic mess of emotions and it was sooooo much fun to see her struggle to choose between love and duty, herself and her country. 

Radu, her brother, was another very interesting character. He was her stark opposite in almost every way- soft to her innate hardness, kind to her callousness, scared to her brash bravery. But his character development came as a complete surprise. It's commendable how flawlessly Ms. White melded his mouse of a character to be a smart, strategic, almost cunning man, while retaining all the essential qualities that made Radu Radu.  I can't wait to see how his character shapes up in the later books. 

Mehmed's character was also very captivating. It was entertaining to see his transformation from a nobody to an able emperor. The world building was perfect. Nowhere in the 400+ page journey was I bored. There was a subtle build up before any major plot twist, enough to make me squirm with excitement in my seat. Ms. White paints a very vivid picture of the dreary lands of Wallachia, of the opulent wealth of Edierne, of bloody battles and of sexy romantic scenes. It was a delicious mix of characters and emotions and I adored every bit of it. 

The ending was perfect and painful in equal measure. It was kind of meant to be, and at the same time I couldn't help hoping for an alternate one. 

I'm eagerly awaiting to get my hands on the sequel and read more of these characters to see them get the ending they deserve. 

Highly recommended: 5/5 stars!