Monday, 19 October 2020

Review: Spoiler Alert

 

Spoiler Alert 

Rating: 4/5 

Buy or Borrow: Buy! 

Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

Marcus Caster-Rupp has a secret. While the world knows him as Aeneas, the star of the biggest show on TV, he's known to fanfiction readers as Book!AeneasWouldNever, an anonymous and popular poster. Through his stories, Marcus is able to get out his own frustrations with his character, especially the ones that feature the internet's favourite couple to ship, Aeneas and Lavinia. But if anyone ever found out about his online persona, he'd be fired. Immediately.

April Whittier has secrets of her own. A hardcore Lavinia fan, she's hidden her fanfiction and cosplay hobby from her 'real life' for years - but not anymore. When she decides to post her latest Lavinia creation on Twitter, her photo goes viral. Trolls and supporters alike are commenting on her plus-size take, but when Marcus sees her pic and asks her out on a date to spite her critics, she realises life is really stranger than fanfiction.

Even though their first date is a disaster, Marcus quickly realises that he wants much more from April than a one-time publicity stunt. And when he discovers she's actually Unapologetic Lavinia Stan, his closest fandom friend, he has one more huge secret to hide from her.

With love and Marcus's career on the line, can the two of them stop hiding once and for all, or will a match made in fandom end up prematurely cancelled?

Ah, that opening scene had me flashing back to the days I spent filming a certain movie and all of the blood, sweat and tears that I poured into it. Vividly. It was certainly an opening that hooked my attention and pulled me in and I genuinely think I'd probably watch that show if it existed! Or at least read the books! 

I knew I was going to love this book based on the opening alone. The narrative caught my attention and had me giggling within a couple of pages, and it made my geeky self happy because I was 100% sure that Dade was having a little bit of a GoT reference. All I'm saying is...it reeked of GoT and a certain pair of showrunners that we all love to hate for a certain season finale. I couldn't help but wonder if the actors in real life felt the same way as the actors in the book. 

I lived for all the mentions of the other movies and shows that Marcus has starred in, along with their descriptions AND the script extracts. I was howling at some of them, they were so brilliantly cringey I can't believe Dade came up with them! I can't begin to imagine how much fun Dade had coming up with all of these and then writing little extracts for them, I was snickering to myself so much while I was reading them! I also loved the fan fiction extracts, complete with AO3 tags! My nerdy self was so, incredibly happy reading this and I could more than relate to the fan fiction and fix it fics and so on. It kind of reminded me why I love fan fiction so much and how much fix it fic I read for a certain show at one point when it took an annoying turn! 

Spoiler Alert is a fluffy romance, it was cute and sweet and funny...but it also had a depth to it and the characters that I hadn't entirely been expecting. April and Marcus both had things to overcome and work through, and while the romance was brilliant and I thoroughly enjoyed it, the emotional depth to the story really made it for me! Marcus puts up this false image to hide himself away so everyone thinks he's stupid but he actually has Dyslexia and his parents weren't too kind to him about it. They're super smart and they got very frustrated and lately they've been belittling his choice of roles and don't seem to realise what they're doing or that it's wrong. April has a mother that loves her dearly, and truly is just trying to look out for her...but is hurting April in the process because of her unhealthy views on weight and food that have been drilled into her. In short, they're both dealing with emotional abuse from their parents and I thought it was tackled really well. 

The way April went to  her mother and the conversation they had about it really hit me, and I thought it was a fantastically written scene. Not to mention the fact that there was no insistence that parents have to be forgiven and you have to remain in contact with family members that hurt you. I really loved how the entire situation was handled, and I loved watching April and Marcus have real conversations about this. I also liked that any misunderstanding was talked out pretty quickly and there's lots of admission of fault that I really respected from the characters. 

April I utterly loved! She's so confident and such a strong character throughout and she never doubts her self worth and never loses her self respect throughout the book. I rooted for her 100% and I completely got where Marcus was coming from too. I really enjoyed watching them come together and overcome things together, but I also loved the way they loved themselves and Marcus especially came to have and believe in his own self-worth. 

And finally...our support characters. I LOVED all the fights amongst the cast members in the group chat that they had! I had a note written to myself that I'd love a spin off book about Alex because I think he might be my favourite but then when I got to the end of the book and the note that was there...my wish was granted and I already can't wait for that! 

I had a really good time reading Spoiler Alert, I laughed, I got emotional and I looked forward to picking the book up every single time I had to put it down. I love a good dose of the nerdy and the inclusion of the fan fiction element had me feeling right at home and nodding along with certain aspects to it that were described! I also pretty much equated the show to GoT and it brought back a rush of feels along the lines of...'I dedicated how many hours of my life for THAT ending?! You've got to be kidding me'. But the thing that stays with me the most about this book are the characters and the struggles that they overcome throughout the book. 

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Review: Set Fire To The Gods

 

Set Fire to the Gods

Rating: 3/5

Buy or Borrow: Buy

Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

Ash is descended from a long line of gladiators, and she knows the brutal nature of war firsthand. But after her mother dies in an arena, she vows to avenge her by overthrowing her fire god, whose temper has stripped her country of its resources.

Madoc grew up fighting on the streets to pay his family's taxes. But he hides a dangerous secret: he doesn't have the earth god’s powers like his opponents. His elemental gift is something else—something that hasn't been seen in centuries.

When an attempted revenge plot goes dangerously wrong, Ash inadvertently throws the fire and earth gods into a conflict that can only be settled by deadly, lavish gladiator games. The fights put Madoc in Ash's path, and she realizes that his powers are the weapon her rebellion needs—but Madoc won’t jeopardize his family, regardless of how intrigued he is by the beautiful warrior. 

But when the gods force Madoc’s hand, he and Ash uncover an ancient war that will threaten more than one immortal—it will unravel the world. 

If you've been following my blog for a while, you'll know that I LOVE Sara Raasch's books. There's not been a book of hers that I haven't 100% loved and completely fallen into! As such, I was incredibly excited for this book. Brand New Raasch, plus Gods, plus a Gladiator aspect!? I NEEDED it, more than I needed anything else. However, my excitement dimmed a little as I started to read and this book ended up being a little bit of a mix for me and kind of hard for me to give a rating. 

I was immediately intrigued by the world of the book, how it worked and the magic aspect as well as the Gods and their history. The main characters were intriguing as they're both on opposite sides of this war and seemingly heading towards a big, final showdown despite their developing feelings for each other and I couldn't wait to see it play out! 

Ash is such a badass and I always love to see a female character that's more than capable of holding her own and is no damsel in distress. Ash ticked every box for me in that regard. Madoc I liked well enough, perhaps slightly less than Ash...sorry. The most interesting aspect to him was his magic and what exactly it was and how it worked. The two of them share a mutual hatred towards the Gods...or well, Madoc hates Ash's God but loves his own while Ash hates her God completely. The thing I found most interesting was Madoc's journey with his God and how he felt about him, he'd always prayed to him for everything and then he discovers he might not be as fantastic as he thought. For Ash, hers was kind of the opposite journey, she's come to hate her God but slowly discovers that maybe Ignitus isn't all bad and I actually kind of felt for him and would have liked to see more of him! 

The setting was created well enough although I'd have loved to delve into a bit more. I think we're getting to see more of Ash's land and the rest of the world in the next book which I'm excited for! There are a lot of twists and turns throughout, but I will admit that I did find myself not entirely riveted to the story and that makes me so incredibly sad. I'd been so excited for this book, but I didn't feel that burning need to pick it up and keep reading. I'd put it down, wake up the next day and I wouldn't be thinking about it and rushing to get back to reading it. In all honesty, I did briefly contemplate DNF-ing but because I love Raasch's books so much and her writing, I pushed on. 

Things do pick up towards the latter half of the book and I did find myself once again curious about what would happen next, and I am curious to see how things are going to play out in the next book! But I'm also on the fence about actually picking it up as I found it kind of hard to connect to Madoc and Ash and the plot was a little bland for a good chunk of this book. 

I think I might give the sequel a try to see if starts off stronger and is more consistent with the plot but I might be stricter at DNF-ing this time around. 

Monday, 12 October 2020

Review: Beast Boy

 

Teen Titans: Beast Boy 

Rating: 4/5

Buy or Borrow: Buy! 

Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

Garfield Logan has spent his entire life being overlooked. Even in a small town like Eden, Georgia, the 17-year-old with green streaks in his hair can’t find a way to stand out–and the clock is ticking. Senior year is almost over. If Gar doesn’t find a way to impress the Chosen Ones–the social elite at Bull Creek High School–he will never know what it’s like to matter. Gar’s best friends, Stella and Tank, don’t understand why he cares what other people think. They miss their funny, pizza-loving, video game-obsessed best friend.

Then Gar accepts a wild dare out of the blue. It impresses the Chosen Ones and his social status soars. But other things are changing, too. Gar grows six inches overnight. His voice drops and, suddenly, he’s stronger and faster. He’s finally getting everything he wanted, but his newfound popularity comes at a price. Gar has to work harder to impress his new friends. The dares keep getting bigger and the stakes keep getting higher.

When Gar realizes the extent of his physical changes, he has to dig deep and face the truth about himself–and the people who truly matter–before his life spirals out of control. 

So, Beast Boy is my absolute favourite in Teen Titans so I've been practically vibrating in excitement waiting for this to come out! I really enjoyed Garcia and Picolo's work on Raven and I couldn't wait to see what they'd do with Beast Boy! 

Once again, I loved how the colour scheme for the volume's art was all shades of green or cool tones to match Beast Boy much like for Raven's volume it was all purple and blue! I also liked the art once again, particularly how the scientific aspects/DNA/body diagram's were all drawn and time passing and so on.  

I feel like Gar is quite relatable with the whole 'everyone has a thing, you just haven't found yours yet' thing, I know I felt that deeply anyway! I also feel like he's incredibly relatable with his desire to fit in and be popular if only to see what it's like. He doesn't go too crazy with it or let it get to him that much though it does push him at one point. Overall Gar is basically just really relatable in this volume and there's some teen angst because of everything he's going through with being small and kind of weedy, I guess? There's an additional, subtle thread of something strange going on with him woven throughout that builds up and comes to a nice climax towards the end of the volume! 

I loved Gar's friends and how Stella and Tank always had his back! I'm sad that he had to leave them behind for the next phase of the story! Beast Boy is a nicely paced origin story showing how Gar comes into his power and where it came from. It builds throughout the volume until he finally realises something's wrong and what that is and has to go to Slade for help! He's not entirely in control of his power and we don't see too much of it, I'm sure we will in the next volume though! Slade is such an ominous presence, I can't lie! 

I liked how the story flowed up until the end and set things up for the next volume and the next phase as Beast Boy and Raven will no doubt meet! Gar still has a way to go with controlling and understanding his power, but he's well on his way! 

Friday, 9 October 2020

Manga: Wandering Witch

 

Wandering Witch Vol 1 

Rating: 3/5

Buy or borrow: Buy

Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

Ever since she was a little girl reading books of magic and adventure, Elaina has dreamed of following in the footsteps of her childhood idol, the witch Nique, and living a life of travel. Now a full-fledged witch herself, Elaina sets off on a journey without a destination, wandering far and wide to see the world. With each new place she sees and person she meets, Elaina's world grows a little bit richer. 

I haven't read the light novel that this manga is adapted from, so I can't speak to how well it is or isn't adapted. I did think that the art was cute, there was a fairy tale/storybook feel to it and a nice amount of detail to the characters and background. 

I did think that it was very nicely paced and moved smoothly from one adventure to the other and encounter to encounter. Things are solved quickly and neatly in each case and there's no wasted time throughout the volume. It's very....episodic? In its structure! 

However, I wasn't particularly grabbed by this volume, I found it hard to connect with Elaina and I wasn't very invested in it either. I felt like there was no depth to her character which is always a problem for me. While I did enjoy the volume well enough, I doubt I'll be continuing the series, it wasn't really what I was expecting and it's not really my kind of vibe! 

Friday, 11 September 2020

Review: Queen of Coin and Whispers


Queen of Coin and Whispers 

Rating: 2.5/5

Buy or Borrow: Borrow 

Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review 

When teenage queen Lia inherits her corrupt uncle’s bankrupt kingdom, she brings a new spymaster into the fold ... Xania, who takes the job to avenge her murdered father.

Faced with dangerous plots and hidden enemies, can Lia and Xania learn to rely on each another, as they discover that all is not fair in love and treason?

In a world where the throne means both power and duty, they must decide what to sacrifice for their country – and for each other … 

I really wanted to rate this higher because I was so here for the f/f romance and all the LGBTQ+ representation the book provides but while I did enjoy myself somewhat reading this, it ultimately fell a little flat for me. 

It does jump straight in with the plot and things move forward quickly, the book is fast paced which I appreciated and there was a huge amount of political intrigue and plotting and so on. There are really smooth and seamless transitions through time throughout and as for our main character Lia, she was very determined. She has a lot to contend with and there's a lot of political treachery that she has to find a way around and she wants to be better than her Uncle and make things better but as she discovers it's not too easy to do so. 

Our other POV is Xania, she's quite the badass and she becomes more and more adept at her job as Whispers over time throughout the book. She and Lia are quite ruthless, or at least they're supposed to be which was quite refreshing I just didn't particularly feel any true danger or high stakes throughout the book. I also appreciate side character Matthias. I loved his entire attitude and I spent a good chunk of the book really hoping he wasn't going to turn out to be shady. 

Unfortunately, I can't do a review anywhere near the length that I usually would as that's really all the positives I can say about this book. It was just...okay. I read this book in two sittings although it took me a little while to work up to reading the other half, I put the book down and I didn't feel that burning need to pick it back up and finish it I'm afraid. 

On the negative side of things, I feel like while the pace is fast and we move through time quickly, it's at the cost of developing the characters. I don't feel like they were fleshed out enough and that also affects the romance as well. I personally felt the romance to be quite sudden, I was looking forward to watching it develop and having some slow burn to squeal over but it was just suddenly there. I feel like some time could have been taken to fully develop the characters and the romance, and it was a little unconvincing how adept Xania became at being Whispers with no previous training doing such things. You do see her get more adept at it over the course of the book but the time skips do allow for it to be glossed over. There were just a lot of things about Xania that didn't really make much sense, she could just suddenly do this, or she'd learned this and so on. 

The world building was okay, it could have had more depth to it and I didn't really have a true image in my mind of the setting. I found it difficult to be bothered about the characters when they weren't that fleshed out so while there's plenty of blood and action and politics I was kind of breezing through the book without feeling too invested. The writing style was also a bit bland and there wasn't really that much of a difference between Lia's narrative and Xania's. The writing didn't draw me in at all and I felt like when it came to Xania the author was trying too hard to make her seem dangerous and edgy with her inner monologue and some of the imagery used. 

Overall, Queen of Coin and Whispers is a quick, fast read and it's an okay book. It's not truly bad, but it could have been improved a little, like it could quite easily have been a duology and more time could have been taken to develop the characters, the romance and the world. There were too many things about this that were a little hard to believe, and Xania wasn't entirely convincing a lot of the time. The romance lacked chemistry and development, and the characters weren't fleshed out enough for me to truly care about them and what happened to them. The setting could have been any generic fantasy setting with one little original twist and the writing didn't work to draw you into the story. I found myself making myself finish this once I'd put it down and I was overall very disappointed because I'd been so excited for the f/f romance that's in this!

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Review: The Obsidian Tower

 


The Obsidian Tower

Rating: 4/5

Buy or Borrow: Buy

Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

The mage-marked granddaughter of a ruler of Vaskandar, Ryx was destined for power and prestige at the top of Vaskandran society. But her magic is broken; all she can do is uncontrollably drain the life from everything she touches, and Vaskandar has no place for a mage with unusable powers.

Then, one night, two terrible accidents befall her: Ryx accidentally kills a visiting dignitary in self-defense, activating a mysterious magical artifact sealed in an ancient tower in the heart of her family’s castle.

Ryx flees, seeking a solution to her deadly magic. She falls in with a group of unlikely magical experts investigating the disturbance in Vaskandar—and Ryx realizes that her family is in danger and her domain is at stake. She and her new colleagues must return to the family stronghold to take control of the artifact that everyone wants to claim—before it destroys the world. 

I'm going to be honest, The Obsidian Tower has been an anticipated read of mine for a little while now! I read and completely loved Caruso's Swords and Fire trilogy and I was really excited to see what she would come up with next. As it turns out, that would be a bisexual mage with magic that doesn't work quite right and prevents her from getting close to people in case she kills them...and then there's a minor incident with a shady door that may or may not lead to ruin for their entire Kingdom. No biggie. 

There's tension from the start with peace talks about to be underway between two neighbouring Kingdoms, and that's before someone goes snooping where they shouldn't and unleashes all manner of chaos into the world. The Obsidian Tower is set in the same world as her debut trilogy, though a different area of it and one that deals with magic quite differently. I was excited to see more of the magic system that Caruso established in her previous trilogy, as well as see an interesting perspective on certain magical technology that's used! That being said, if you haven't read the previous trilogy it's not a problem! You can quite easily read this without having read it, all it adds a little bit of extra understanding when it comes to the relationship between Vaskandar and the Serene Empire! 

I actually really liked Ryxander as a main character, I thought she was interesting. Her power is dangerous and she's constantly having to keep herself under control to ensure she doesn't hurt anyone and she can't touch any living thing without consequences. I felt so much empathy for her and I was right there with her when she got to relax when it came to controlling her power and she got to hug her friends....and actually have friends! I was so happy for her, and then equally as heartbroken as she was when that was all potentially taken away. I feel like we see her very isolated and closed off, and then slowly bloom as the book goes on and she finds her people. 

As for the other characters I loved every single member of the Rookery and I can't wait to get to see more of them! Particularly Ashe....just let her stab something Foxglove, one little thing! Ashe made me laugh so many times throughout this book and I loved the banter between all of them. Whisper was an intriguing addition, he's the castle's resident chimera but there's clearly more to him than meets the eye! Ardith was a fantastic addition and so relatable, they kept saying 'I just wanted to drink your beer and eat your food' or words to that effect and I was reading like...understandable. I was waiting to see whether there was going to be more to their relationship with Ryx, and I'm quite hoping we get to see more of them in the future! They were just such a great comic addition to proceedings and kept the mood up! Then there's Severin. As soon as he was introduced I was like 'hello, you're going to be added to my collection of favourites aren't you?' and then it turned out he was the love interest. I thought he might be, but the way he was introduced and who he was had me thinking otherwise and a little sad about that fact only to be surprised again later. He also wasn't at all what I was expecting, I was expecting him to take charge more but he's very much under the control of his brother and struggles to go against him. I'm hoping he'll come in to his own more in the next book although I'm very much here for their relationship!  

The thing I loved the most about this book was all of the representation! Our main character is bisexual, we've got a non-binary side character and two other side character's are lesbian's so we get a nice f/f romance that had me cheerfully wanting to bang their oblivious heads together at one point! 

The thing I love the most about Caruso's writing is that she weaves these intricate, rich worlds with plots involving magic and politics and explains it all without dumping a lot of information on you or making the book dry in the process. Her writing is riveting and has you eager to know more and keep on reading to see what happens next. I particularly liked the inclusion of a good old murder mystery element this time around and had quite a lot of fun lining up my suspects and trying to figure out who it was! There's also some original twists on some other things too! 

The Obsidian Tower is wonderfully paced and weaves in brilliantly crafted characters some of which you love and some of which you can hate, with political intrigue, impending potential war, a murder mystery, a mysterious and definitely shady door leading to who knows what and uh...I don't think anyone really wants to find out, and a fun magic system! I quite easily binge read this in two sittings and I'm already impatient for the sequel to get back to the characters and see what fresh hell will be unleashed next! 

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