Thursday, 19 September 2019

Review: Tunnel of Bones

Tunnel of Bones 
Rating: 5/5 
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

Trouble is haunting Cassidy Blake . . . even more than usual.

She (plus her ghost best friend, Jacob, of course) are in Paris, where Cass's parents are filming their TV show about the world's most haunted cities. Sure, it's fun eating croissants and seeing the Eiffel Tower, but there's true ghostly danger lurking beneath Paris, in the creepy underground Catacombs.

When Cass accidentally awakens a frighteningly strong spirit, she must rely on her still-growing skills as a ghosthunter -- and turn to friends both old and new to help her unravel a mystery. But time is running out, and the spirit is only growing stronger.

And if Cass fails, the force she's unleashed could haunt the city forever.

I'm not going to lie to you all, I enjoyed this one even more than City of Ghosts. As much as I enjoyed City of Ghost's the long explanation about chips annoyed me and I was disappointed to see so few Scottish characters as well as so little of Lara, along with the other things Victoria was quite vague about, and while I enjoyed the book it had a few...niggles. 

When it comes to Tunnel of Bones, I was extra excited to read it after my visit to Paris last year and get to see Cass journey to places I'd seen and been and she even used the Metro which brought the whole experience flooding back to me! Of course, I didn't get to go in to the Catacombs so I enjoyed reading about them, and the urge to go back and visit what I didn't get to is even stronger than before.  

Unlike City of Ghosts, we actually had French characters in the form of Pauline, the camera crew and Adele who was a lot of fun as well, and there wasn't quite the faff with wording. The settings are once again vividly written, and like I said, it brought my whole trip flooding back and I enjoyed getting some historical tidbits and ghost stories to go with the locations. But we have such a different vibe and atmosphere than we did in the previous book set in Edinburgh, giving the two different cities very different feels which is obviously true to real life. Of course we dip in and out of history a time or two in equally as vivid and atmospheric moments as Cass delves in to the Veil, bringing that particular moment in time to life brilliantly. 

There's a nice pace as we're immediately in Paris from the start, then we get straight down to things with a trip in to the Veil before filming starts and we're exploring the well known spots of Paris...and being presented with this books mystery. This book is definitely a lot creepier than the first book, it's chilling and somewhat menacing, and the mystery we have in this one is a different breed than the previous book. We have to dig for information on the star ghost of this book, using what few clues we have which I really enjoyed, as sad as it was. 

While Cassidy has become a little stronger so has Jacob and he has...bursts that aren't quite like him. Lara's words are clearly weighing on him and perhaps hinting at the direction his character is going to take, it all felt a little foreboding. I think it's clear he's going to have an inner battle not to turn into the thing we see in this book, perhaps? But what I love about Jacob is that Cassidy has a tendency to just jump in and do things, and Jacob reigns her in whenever she wants to do something foolish, they make a good team. 

We get to expand and develop the ghost lore a bit more as we see a new type which I loved because I was so fascinated by it in the first book, we also get to delve into the characters a little bit more. I feel like Jacob has become more of a fleshed out character this book, and Cassidy has become a bit more sensible with her power, although I was disappointed that we didn't see more of Lara. 

Tunnel of Bones was nice and creepy at points, always atmospheric and slightly sad too in this case. Exploring a new city and seeing a new type of ghost to add to the ghost lore was interesting and it all wrapped up nicely with a little thread of mystery to presumably carry us over to the next book, where we're heading to New Orleans! 

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Review: Sanctuary

Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 
The small Connecticut town of Sanctuary is rocked by the death of its star quarterback. 
Daniel's death looked like an accident, but everyone knows his ex-girlfriend Harper is the daughter of a witch - and she was there when he died. 
Then the rumours start. When Harper insists Dan was guilty of a terrible act, the town turns on her. So was his death an accident, revenge - or something even darker? 
As accusations fly and secrets are revealed, paranoia grips the town, culminating in a trial that the whole world is watching . . .
You all are well aware of how much I love Vic's books so I've been anticipating Sanctuary a lot, stalking the GoodReads page for any information about it and then practically going feral at the Gollancz Blogger Evening whenVic told us all about the book, her inspirations for it and so on. I was ready for this...but still not entirely sure what to expect, and I was surprised multiple times throughout the book. 
With an opening chapter that grabs your attention, you'll soon find yourself hooked in to this as the plot builds up alongside things within the town building up and coming to a boiling point. It's easy to find yourself lost in this book as you visit the town of Sanctuary and become hooked on the lives of the townspeople, let alone the murder mystery itself. There's never a dull moment, things never slow down and even in the quieter moments of the book there's something...insidious creeping in to the narratives, something dark starting to stir. 
The POV's for this book surprised me, as we didn't get Harper's which made things all the more intriguing, and meant that I wasn't entirely sure how I felt about her for a part of the book. You're left to wonder...did she really do it? And if so..why? With a few things mentioned about her that definitely leave you unsure as to her guilt, until of course a certain reveal. My heart broke for her, to be honest, even more so as she's being vilified for what happened. 
Sarah is one of our main POV's, she's Harper's mother and the magic she uses is certainly interesting. She knows a lot about the people of the town because they're all more than happy to go to her for help with their problems and she's very serious about not using her power to hurt people, even if she does seem to stray in to a grey area a time or two when it comes to helping people. 
Maggie was my favourite character, she's our investigator. Something was so clearly up with her from the start and I had money on the fact she'd been made to forget something...but what. Which was another little mystery alongside the main one. What I appreciated, was that she was willing to listen to what everyone had to say...but not necessarily take it face value, and she was so compassionate when it came to Harper and wanting to help her. She did her utmost to help Harper and Sarah, and to fight in their corner and I loved her character. I also kinda loved Remy too who was absolutely hilarious and had me snorting with laughter! 
Our final POV is Abigail, Daniel's mother. Don't get me wrong, I really felt for her. She's left her career behind, her husband is more interested in his work than anything else and now she's just lost her child. Her grief about his death was so raw and vivid, but while I understood her and the way her mind was working, she eventually lost my support when she started her witch hunt against Harper and started her little campaign. She truly believed she was the hero, and ignored the fact that Sarah has done nothing but help her whenever she needed it. I could understand her...but she still frustrated me. 
As is usual when it comes to Vic's books, the writing is so very clever. We get Harper's POV in the beginning...and then not again until the end. Then for the entirety of the book we get the adults POV's, and they're three very different ones at that. You have the cool, level headed detective who's impartial although you could say she's a little bit biased towards Harper at one point, then you have two different ends of the scale. Sarah who's trying to defend and protect her child and prove her innocence, and the rage and grief of Abigail and her vendetta, and of course the characters are so wonderfully written that even if you don't agree with the characters and their can understand where it's coming from. I also enjoyed the police interviews, news articles and so on that were also included as part of the storytelling. 
There's also a lot of diversity seamlessly included throughout this book, with a non-binary character (something I very rarely see and there was a nicely handled conversation on pronouns included), f/f and m/m couples, and black and POC couples and I enjoyed getting to see such a nice range of diversity included, especially as some of them were in powerful positions. 
The world of the book had me in mind of Pretty Little Liars, it's a nice town, everyone knows each other, everyone's friendly and it seems all quaint and cheerful on the outside...but once you scratch the surface you start to see the darkness within, along with all the drama and scandals, some of which are brought to light thanks to the murder mystery. I feel like the town becomes more and more tainted as the book goes on and the insidious hate created by Abigail starts to take over, thoroughly destroying its image as a 'sanctuary'. 
The world has been subtly twisted to allow for magic to exist, being written in to laws and so on and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the magic in this book. There's no hand waving, magic powers kind of thing, it's a lot more natural and earth based with the rituals and the ingredients used and it was interesting to read about, along with its limitations and various rules. 
Vic mentioned at the Blogger evening that some of her inspirations for this was the Women's March as well as the Brett Kavanaugh Case, and she talked about the Me Too movement along with the question is an accusation enough? I feel like Vic did an excellent job of bringing this real world issue to the world of her book and examining it. I felt so incredibly sad reading this, that Harper had suffered so much yet people turned on her for being brave enough to speak out about it, and found it easier to do so than believe her. Also it was actually quite scary to see how easy it was for the entire town to just turn on she and Sarah because of their fear of magic. It was easy to see how such things came about in the Dark Ages, but to see how swiftly it happened in the book, with just a few words here and there and a heavy dose of was terrifying. 
Everything unfolds nicely, and it draws you in with high levels of intrigue and the everyday drama and gossip of the town. There's the mystery of the murder, and the mystery of what happened that night a few years ago...not to mention some mentioned activities of Daniel that already had me side eyeing him and feeling somewhat...queasy when it came to him because I knew. Things step up even more when Harper makes her accusation and things really spark off in a dangerous way. I have to be honest, I got pretty mad on her behalf as I was reading, I was on her side, I believed her and I know that no-one wants to get a hard, nasty truth about their kid but it was just...frustrating to see her trauma brushed to the side. 
Sanctuary was so very easy for me to binge read, it reaches a particular point when you just can't put it down and it's one hell of a powerful read that leaves you thinking even once you've put it down. The writing lures you in, as does the subtly twisted history and world, but the issues we see in this book are very, uncomfortably real. There might be magic thrown in but it's still problems and issues from the real world that are present and Vic shines a light on them in this book with her excellent writing, along with well crafted characters that you can understand even if you don't agree with them or like them. 
The themes are dark, with rape, sexual assault of a minor, substance abuse and more, there are a lot of hard issues tackled in this book and we get a hard look at what happens when herd mentality takes over in this book...and it's horrifying to watch. This is by no means a YA book, it is an adult book, and while it is dark in it's themes, it's also very powerful and I feel like there's plenty of much needed conversations to be started because of this book and the issues that are highlighted.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Manga: Bungo Stray Dogs 11

Bungo Stray Dogs Vol 11
Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

The Armed Detective Agency receives an anonymous request-and it's asking for Kyouka's help by name. But during her investigation with Atsushi, ex-Guild member Montgomery keeps mysteriously getting in their way! And as another old foe defies death while seeking a triumphant return, a newer enemy-the sinister Dostoyevsky-bares his fangs against both the Armed Detective Agency and the Port Mafia. Threatening to slowly but surely swallow the dark underbelly of Yokohama, how will this devil of a man alter the playing field...? 

Kyouka's permit has finally come in which means it's time for her to officially start work, luckily a job comes in that's just for her. I liked getting to focus on her a little more for part of this volume, and along with getting to see more of Montgomery which was fun, we got to learn a lot about Kyouka and her past, as well as her parents...along with the surprising truth about what happened to them and about Demon Snow. So right away from the start of this volume we had some interesting reveals to deal with! 

Things take an even more shocking turn when Fitzgerald makes a comeback, and we actually spend quite a lot of this volume with him as he picks himself up out of the gutter, which is admirable don't get me wrong...but I still don't like him, and starts scheming with the help of Alcott. Interestingly, he does lead us in to a murder mystery, and obviously opens the door for bigger things and plenty more intrigue when it comes to he and his ultimate plan. 

This volume is largely setting the players up for the hunt for this specific book, as well as finally telling us what the book is and setting up the Mafia and the Agency for some kind of mutual destruction thing courtesy of one particular player in the game! Volume 11 is nicely paced, provides plenty of intrigue and tension and sets up for some big things to come! 

Monday, 26 August 2019

Manga: Kaiju Girl Caramelise

Kaiju Girl Caramelise Vol 1
Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

Suffering from a rare, incurable illness that causes frightening changes to her body, loner Kuroe Akaishi spends her high school days avoiding her classmates--especially class idol Arata Minami and his groupies. But when Arata starts making her heart skip a beat with irritating regularity, Kuroe discovers that her illness actually has a big--make that MONSTER--secret: Romance turns her into Love-zilla...literally! 

I've been super intrigued by this ever since I spotted it...and after reading this first volume I think it might end up being one of my favourite new manga of the year! The colour pages are all pink, purple, girly kind of colours and I loved it, and then when she monsters out for the first time we get another colour page but the colour palette is less pinky pastel and more vibrant, bold colours. I really enjoyed the art, the character designs are cute which contrasts with the more realistic/kinda scary monster parts of her...and you know when she goes full monster. I also really loved how her eyes are drawn, as well as the monster version of her! 

I was drawn in from the first page of this volume with the kids reaction to her, and then we had the reveal right on the next page and I was like 'woah okay this is gonna be awesome'. Our main character Kuroe is so cute, even if she can be quite grumpy and serious with Arata at least, and she shows an adorable side of herself when it comes to sweets like pancakes and stuff. She was amusing, but you could also feel sorry for her and empathise with her and her situation. 

Arata surprised me because I was expecting him to be a bit of an arrogant a** that she has a crush on kind of thing? I wasn't expecting him to attach himself to her, and be so sweet. I could even relate to him a little bit as well! I just wasn't expecting him to be so earnest and genuine when it comes to hanging out with her, wanting to spend time with her and pursuing her, so I actually quite liked him! 

I am so intrigued to see how this romance is going to play out because things were all cute, and it was such a sweet start to a romance...and then it turned in to an actual scene out of Godzilla and she's determined not to repeat that for obvious reasons! So things aren't going to be easy and of course her monster identity is going to be a secret...I'm actually quite excited for it all! 

I also really enjoyed Manatsu, one of the other characters, she's hilarious with the butterfly costume and her love for Harugon, but I appreciated her being a much needed friend for Kuroe. Although I do feel like she's quite genuine, I am worried she's only using Kuroe but I guess we'll see. 

Honestly, I loved this. It's different, it's a lot of fun, and it's definitely going to prove to be interesting. This initial volume is fast moving, introducing us to Kuroe and her little problem, as well as Arata and sparking off the romance a little bit too! It does an excellent job at piquing your interest and leaving you wanting more, and I personally can't wait to see what's going to happen next and how Kuroe is going to handle this! 

Friday, 23 August 2019

Manga: A Terrified Teacher at Ghoul School 7

Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

Haruaki's summer has only just begun, and it's turning out to be anything but a vacation! Hospitalized after getting injured in a building fire, he'll be on a bumpy road to recovery as late-night medical horrors, an investigation into the mystery of how youkai are born, and a supernatural incident at Sano's part-time job won't give him a moment to relax! 

It's the start of summer break as we embark on this volume, and Haruaki obviously kicks the break off at the hospital courtesy of the last volume! We get to spend some time with the creepy doctor in this volume, as he takes quite an interest in Haruaki and his visitors Amaki and Izuna. I really did enjoy getting to see some more of Izuna, and the doctor was a fun addition to things...but don't worry the creepiness is offset by the humour! 

We got a hilarious look at each of the students summer vacations, along with Miki and the Principle and I also enjoyed how those little snippets were done. Of course we get a longer look at Haruaki's summer break as he volunteered to let Sano stay with him. There's a nice, creepy change of pace thanks to the cursed book which was enjoyable, before it descended in to hilarity pulling in some familiar faces we haven't seen a lot of, or at least in a while! 

Of course, I love mythology, legends and lore so I loved getting a lot more of the youkai mythology in this volume, particularly looking at the origins and birth of the various different types of youkai and it lead to an interesting reveal! 

However, I think my favourite part of this volume aside from the horror movie style cursed book chapters...were the chapters with Beniko at her family's B&B. Not only was it fun to spend time with Beniko and her three dads, one of whom (Kotake) cracked me up, but it was nice to get a bit of good old spooking too, reminiscent of the start of the series when they tried to get rid of Haruaki. I just love that we get to see more of some youkai than others for a volume and then for the next volume switch to a different one! I feel like the series is letting us get a good look at each of the youkai characters by doing things this way! 

Focusing back on youkai mythology and letting us get a good look at the students powers again, this volume was a slight return to the earlier volumes I feel, and we're presented with another fun and entertaining volume with hints of creepiness offset by the humour! 

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Review: The Demon World

The Demon World 
Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

After narrowly escaping the fall of Rossarb, Princess Catherine leads a rag-tag group of survivors into the barren wasteland of the Northern Plateau.

With the Brigantine army snapping at their heels, Edyon and Ambrose become separated from the group, while demon hunter Tash leads Catherine and March to an unlikely refuge - the hidden tunnels of the demon world itself. They soon find that the tunnels hold their own dangers and, while Tash travels deeper, hoping to learn more about their mysterious inhabitants, Catherine and March must return to the surface to resume the war.

But the world above is in turmoil. King Aloysius's army has captured the Pitorian prince, Tzsayn, and is poised to overrun the whole country. To have any hope of challenging her father's tyranny, Catherine needs to form her own army, but when danger lurks at every turn, how can she tell an ally from an enemy? What Tash discovers in the demon tunnels could change everything, but if the message doesn't reach Catherine in time, the war might already be lost . . .

When I read The Smoke Thieves last year I completely loved it, and The Demon World has been one of my most anticipated sequels of the year so I can finally see what happens next! While I did enjoy this every bit as much as the first book, I couldn't help but be a little bit disappointed simply because we spent the last book watching everyone come together so I was excited to see them all teaming up again in this book...but it's not long before they all end up separated again and I couldn't help but be disappointed by that. Especially as they were all in the same groups/pairs as before. Then there's the fact I was looking forward to seeing more of Tzsayn and getting to know him better but we barely catch a glimpse of him in this book. 

I also have to say, that while I liked Catherine in the previous book, in this one she went down a little in my opinion. The thing is, she's being looked down upon for being a woman and trying to do 'men things' like leading an army and I appreciated seeing her fighting against that prejudice, and having to battle against the snakey Farrow who'd I'd love to punch, but she was getting a bit too friendly with that demon smoke. She's intelligent and she's focused and the demon smoke ruins that but she does overcome it and come back to herself and I liked seeing her take control of her life. However I think my biggest problem is Ambrose. I don' him? I don't like his attitude, and I don't like him with Catherine because I think he's a negative influence on her as this book showed me. Whenever she was with him she seemed to just...not be quite herself, her judgement was off and yeah. 

Aside from those few gripes, we did pick up immediately where we left off, so we're back in the midst of the battle for Rossarb, leading in to a tense chase..and it's from there that things take an even more interesting turn than I had expected. We get to spend some time in the demon world, an interesting move to make and it led to some interesting discoveries and twists! I found Tash's POV particularly interesting as we got to explore the demon world a little more with her, than with all of the others, and discover how it works and how the demons it were. Just when I thought the demon lore couldn't get any more interesting...I was proven wrong and I really do live for it! 

I really do love Edyon, this book hammered that home for me, he provides so much humour, although he does make things politically tricky for Catherine. She did kind of have me on edge when it came to things with Edyon because of the demon smoke issue, I didn't entirely trust that she'd sort it all out.  March continues to hit me in the feels with the secret he's keeping and how he's unused to the love and affection...and general caring that Edyon shows him and there's some angst at the end of the book courtesy of them! Their relationship, and romance is my favourite of this series, I have to say. 

The writing and world building continue to be rich, painting vivid scenes with the world continuing to be built up and expanded upon. The POV switches are smooth although I did partially wonder if Ambrose's was really necessary at one point. I feel like Tash remains as a strong character along with Edyon and March, although while I understand Catherine and Ambrose are both going through a lot...I find Ambrose to be quite annoying, whereas with Catherine...I still like her but I don't necessarily like everything about her and that she does. 

We've got action, tension, and the plot continues to move forward with our characters moving about and winding up in various different places. One allowing us to have a lot of huge reveals, another finally ending up in the place they're supposed to be, and we have a nice angsty, cliffhanger ending after a book filled with some excellent twists and reveals to keep us on our toes! 

Manga: Hatsu Haru 7

Hatsu Haru Vol 7 
Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

After an uneasy start to their relationship, Kai and Riko are officially dating! But now Kai has a new ocean of relationship questions to cross -- first up: what kind of lunch do you bring your girlfriend?! 

The second term begins, and obviously Riko and Kai start the new term as a couple. Of course it can't be all smooth sailing just yet, and our couple runs in to a couple of problems/new situations to navigate. They aren't entirely comfortable with each other just yet, although Kai is still quite sweet! Everything was all nice and cute, until Kai ended up spending his time moping around, soon joined by Miki who had his own dose of relationship troubles. 

I did like getting to see more of Miki's relationship and the troubles he was facing, and I liked that it showed some drama between them instead of just focusing on Kai and Riko. I feel like the troubles they're facing are very realistic, and therefore easy to empathise with and relate to. But we also get some realistic friendship drama too! Again, I liked getting to see more of Riko and Kiyo and their friendship, along with how they became friends in the first place. It all adds a lot more depth to the story and makes it easier to relate to the characters and root for them. 

I just have to say...I really do love Kai's sister, she's hilarious and never fails to make me chuckle. I so want to see more of her! I also feel like a couple of the other relationships are stepping up a little bit too and i'm hoping we'll get to see more of them and some more things happening with them! 

Volume 7 is an amusing instalment with a nice pace to it, and showcasing some realistic issues that the characters face! 

Monday, 19 August 2019

Manga: Dead Mount Death Play 2

Dead Mount Death Play Vol 2
Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

Disaster personified has arrived, but his purpose is unknown. One thing is certain-Polka and company are in the presence of raw power. With death upon them, Shinjuku is in frenzy...The true Death Play has begun. 
I've been looking forward to this volume to see what would happen next after a very enjoyable first volume, and volume 2 doesn't disappoint. Picking up right where we left off there's a showdown with Lemmings but no-one seems able to stop him. Arase the shady policeman is powerless and Polka fears revealing his powers in front of the police, he does however, make some interesting observations about Lemmings and the plot thickens when it comes to that character. 
Polka, in a show of character development already, puts his neck out for Misaki who I really thought he was going to abandon and to be fair..he did want to, and I loved the reluctant allies thing they had going on when she returned the favour. This volume also provides a little more background on the Corpse God, how he got in to necromancy and so on, we also get some interesting information on what his power can do. Of course the poor guy realises he knows nothing of our world, and he needs to you can imagine the hilarity that brought to this volume!  
Just when you thought things couldn't get more interesting...we get to meet Polka's family and are presented with an interesting mystery when it comes to the spirit that's attached itself to two of his family members. I thought it was particularly interesting to see what Polka's family was like, and where he came from and it did provide plenty of intrigue and a sense of distrust when it came to a couple of characters...which I haven't decided on whether it's justified yet or not in one case. 
Volume 2 gives us some nice reveals and twists, as well as some interesting connections as we find out who most likely put the hit on Polka and why, and there's an interesting connection between one of Polka's relations and Lemmings. We get to know Polka's family, who's related to who and how, who's in charge of what and so on...they're definitely interesting, and a little bit creepy at times. We also get a new character in the form of Hosorogi...a spirit inhabiting a pen. 
I do really enjoy the art for this, not just the character designs but the level of detail and the creepier scenes like for instance, when you see Polka hug his niece and nephew and then see it from another angle and it goes from heartwarming to creepy. I enjoy the little clever tricks used, and the creepier drawings mixing with the cute character designs, and the art has stayed strong so far. 
Volume 2 provides us with information, tension and danger, as well as some action and some puzzle pieces falling in to place...along with a new puzzle forming, one that we already thought we'd solved at one point in this volume! 
The final plot twist is one that comes when you think everything's all over, and it's all good, and it throws us in to a rather chilling ending. We still have a lot of questions despite the connections we've managed to make in this volume, and the reveals we've had, maintaining a nice balance between keeping us guessing while feeding us some answers so we don't get too frustrated! The pacing remains good with plenty of action and intrigue to keep you hooked alongside creepy, chilling elements! 

Friday, 16 August 2019

Manga: Kakegurui Twin 2

Kakegurui Twin Vol 2 
Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

After losing her hard-earned profits to student council member Aoi Mibuomi, a penniless Mary is given a chance to take it all back on just one condition: she must team up with Aoi to oust the student council president! But in order to do so, she needs to first prove her skills in one of the academy's most popular annual events-the Coupling Party! Will Mary be able to use her gambling prowess to survive this dirty game of cupid? 

I've probably already said this but I want to reiterate...I love this spin off, it's such a strong spin off and is consistently strong each volume much like the main series! As we all know from the previous volume, Mary has no choice but to team up with Aoi if she wants to avoid becoming a house pet, and this volume reveals his plan to take down the Student Council President...of course we know certain things from the main series so I'm curious to see this play out. 

This volume sees Mary get roped in to a Coupling Party to prove her gambling skills and I have to say it's an interesting game and we haven't seen one quite like it just yet in the main series, so it made a nice and exciting change from the card and dice games as you wondered how Mary was going to come out on top and how this game could be cheated when it relied on people. Of course as always...there's never any guarantees with this series that our protagonists are going to win! 

I felt a lot of empathy for Mary who's struggling in this volume with being constantly deceived and is struggling to trust people, it's a realistic reaction for her circumstances and seeing her pull herself out of it was admirable. I'm always amazed that the creator for this series can take characters that you might not like...and have you sympathising with them. 

This volume makes for tense reading (which volume of this and the main series doesn't?!) as it was unclear who the mole was. Then there's the fact that if the person who is the mole, really is the mole...then how did they do it? And if they weren't the mole, who was? And did they do it? Along with all of that tension we also get a shock twist and betrayal that I didn't quite see coming and I was left screaming after that chapter! 

This volume really had me going at one point, and it's as twisty and tense as ever! I may or may not have cheered in relief once I'd gotten past the tension, but then...Mary has only succeeded in attracting more attention to herself, which leaves me with a little bit of foreboding! Now that this little interlude is over, and Mary has proved what a badass, scheming genius she is I'm excited to move on to seeing her participate in the scheme against the Student Council President in the coming volumes! 

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow

Gods of Jade and Shadow
Rating: DNF 
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own. 

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucat√°n to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld. 

Okay, so you guys may or may not know that I really struggle with DNF-ing books but last month I decided that enough is enough and if I'm not enjoying a book...I'm going to have to DNF it because I don't have the time to force myself to finish books that I'm not loving anymore. Especially as the other month I forced myself through quite a few reads that I ended up giving less than 3 stars. So here we are. I don't think you guys understand just how much I wanted to love this book. It's set in the Jazz Age, it's got Mexican Folklore and a Mayan God of Death...I wanted to love this book, and binge read it and just scream about it. 

Unfortunately, while intrigued, I found my attention wandering as I was reading and ultimately put the book down...and never really picked it back up. I tried, I'd pick it a sentence and then end up putting it back down again. Much like I did with King of Ruin, I wanted to finish this and I tried to make myself but it just wasn't for me, it seems. 

What I did like, from the first 100 pages that I read, was the way the writing painted a vivid picture of Mexico right from the start. There's a lot of historical detail that was quite interesting and of course...we've got the mythology and the tales of the Gods which I can't get enough of. I admired the spark Cassiopeia had despite how she was treated by her family, I thought she was quite brave and refused to let them break her and that's all I really have to say, I'm afraid. 

This book is very simple in its storytelling, there wasn't as much depth as I'd have liked when it came to certain things, particularly the mythology, and sometimes the descriptions were a little sparse. Which is strange, considering the authors tendency to info dump quite easily at the beginning of the chapters when it came to each new city, which was what made it quite hard for me to pick this back up once I'd put it down. I happened to put it down when they'd just arrived in a new city and every time I picked it up and tried to carry on...I just couldn't get interested or invested because of the info dumping. I feel like there was a lot of telling when it came to this book, and not so much showing and I found it quite hard to get attached or invested in the characters which didn't help me when it came to reading this. 

While the premise was fantastic, the execution didn't quite live up to it, at least for me. This wasn't my style of book, and once I'd put it down I just couldn't get back in to it and I have to admit...I did start skimming after about 50 pages because of a lot of unnecessary writing. 

Manga: Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online 3

SAO Alternative Gun Gale Online Vol 3 
Rating: 3/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

A surprise attack leaves Llenn and M fleeing to the wasteland, where they devise a strategy to eliminate their trigger-happy pursuers and seize the Squad Jam victory. 

The opening of this volume is fairly tense as we pick up where we left off at the end of the last volume and our cornered heroes attempt to make an escape, of course the Squad Jam isn't over yet and we're down to the final two teams. 

Moving forward a little bit more, we have quite an interesting change in character from M, it made for a good twist and provided some interesting information on Pitohui as well as a slight sense of foreboding. 

This volume is action packed as we have a couple of little showdowns before tailing off as we prepare for the final showdown in the next volume. I think I struggle with this series a little bit because it takes so long for the volumes to come out, and they're quite short so we've had three volumes but we still haven't finished with the Squad Jam yet, and I feel like any progress we make is very small and it kind of inches forward, rather than anything else. 

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

New Releases: August!

This is a bit later than it was supposed to be so apologies for that, but I've had a lot going on and my brain hasn't been 100% with it lately. There's a lot of exciting new releases to finish off your summer, and I've gathered a selection that I think you guys will also appreciate, and that I'm looking forward to myself! 

Reticence by Gail Carriger
6th August

Percival Tunstell loves that his sister and her best friend are building themselves a family of misfits aboard their airship, the Spotted Custard. Of course, he'd never admit that he belongs among them. He's always been on the outside - dispassionate, aloof, and hatless. But accidental spies, a trip to Japan, and one smart and beautiful doctor may have him renegotiating his whole philosophy on life.

Except hats. He's done with hats. Thank you very much. 

This is the fourth, and I believe the final, book in The Custard Protocol series and this time it looks like we'll be focusing on Percy and I'm so excited to head to Japan in this instalment! 

In case you don't know, this is set after the Parasol Protectorate so it'll spoil that series if you haven't read it already! 

Vow of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson
6th August

Kazi and Jase have survived, stronger and more in love than ever. Their new life now lies before them―the Ballengers will be outlaws no longer, Tor's Watch will be a kingdom, and the two of them will meet all challenges side by side, together at last.

But an ominous warning mars their journey back, and in their rush to return to Tor's Watch, just outside the fortress walls, they are violently attacked and torn apart―and each is thrust into their own new hell.

Unsure whether the other is alive or dead, Kazi and Jase must keep their wits among their greatest enemies and unlikeliest allies. And all the while, Death watches and waits. 

The sequel to Dance of Thieves! This is set in the world of The Remnant Chronicles but you don't have to have read it to read these two! 

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
6th August

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls' lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn't sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh's involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it's a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next. 

This is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses and it sounds so deliciously gothic! 

The Dragon Republic by R.F Kuang
8th August

In the aftermath of the Third Poppy War, shaman and warrior Rin is on the run: haunted by the atrocity she committed to end the war, addicted to opium, and hiding from the murderous commands of her vengeful god, the fiery Phoenix. Her only reason for living is to get revenge on the traitorous Empress who sold out Nikan to their enemies.

With no other options, Rin joins forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who has a plan to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress, and create a new Republic. Rin throws herself into his war. After all, making war is all she knows how to do.

But the Empress is a more powerful foe than she appears, and the Dragon Warlord’s motivations are not as democratic as they seem. The more Rin learns, the more she fears her love for Nikan will drive her away from every ally and lead her to rely more and more on the Phoenix’s deadly power. Because there is nothing she won’t sacrifice for her country and her vengeance.

This is the sequel to The Poppy War which left me screeching, I've been super pumped for it but I'm kinda poor right now and I have to wait for the paperback so everyone pray for me! 

Sanctuary by V.V. James
8th August
The small Connecticut town of Sanctuary is rocked by the death of its star quarterback. 
Daniel's death looked like an accident, but everyone knows his ex-girlfriend Harper is the daughter of a witch - and she was there when he died. 
Then the rumours start. When Harper insists Dan was guilty of a terrible act, the town turns on her. So was his death an accident, revenge - or something even darker? 
As accusations fly and secrets are revealed, paranoia grips the town, culminating in a trial that the whole world is watching . . .
I've been excited for this book ever since I saw Vic tweeting about it, and I only got more excited the more that I learned about it...then finally got all the details at Gollancz's blogger event...and I've just been itching to get my hands on this! It's going to be such an excellent read! 
Seafire by Natalie C. Parker
8th August

High seas, high stakes… and high time for revenge

Caledonia Styx let down her guard once - and her family were murdered by ruthless warlord Aric Athair and his blood-thirsty Bullets. Now captain of a crew of girls who have lost everything to the Bullets, she has sworn never to show mercy again.

But when a rogue Bullet saves the life of Caledonia's best friend, she faces an impossible choice. If she lets the boy live, could he help them bring down Athair - or will he destroy them all?
This has been one of my anticipated reads of the year because hello crew of badass female pirates! 

We Hunt The Flame by Hafsah Faizal
8th August

People lived because she killed. People died because he lived.

Nobody knows that Zafira is the Hunter. Forced to disguise herself as a man, she braves the cursed forest to feed her people. If she is exposed as a girl, all of her achievements will be rejected.

Nasir is the infamous Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the sultan. If he refuses he will be punished in the most brutal of ways.

Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya – but neither wants to be. And when Zafira embarks on a quest to restore magic to her suffering world, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve magic and kill the hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds, and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine . . .

Another of my anticipated reads and I think a lot of you guys have been excited for it too! The world's inspired by Ancient Arabia, and I can't wait to dive in to this!

Into The Hourglass by Emily King
20th August

Everley Donovan’s mission: retrieve the hallowed sword of Avelyn stolen by the wicked Prince Killian, who slayed her family and left her for dead. Should she fail, the seven worlds will come to an end, as could time itself. And no one treasures time more than Everley, whose lifesaving clock heart cannot beat forever. She has set sail with a rogue crew for the otherworlds, where the key to dethroning the prince lies deep within the Land Under the Wave.

But passage through these unknown seas—where horrors lurk and pirates rove—proves a treacherous gamble. The Land Under the Wave was not made for humans, particularly one with a fragile clock heart. Here, Everley’s tragic past resurfaces unsolved questions. Here, too, the prince has hidden secrets more precious than pearls, secrets that could fracture the future forevermore. Everley must take back her sword and break free from this watery world before her time runs out…or so will everyone else’s. 

This is the sequel to Before The Broken Star, and I mean...I think the synopsis of these two books speak for themselves? The covers are gorgeous, the hardbacks are gorgeous and it's wonderfully original and fun! 

Unleashed by Amy McCulloch
22nd August

When Lacey Chu wakes up in a hospital room with no recollection of how she got there, she knows something is up. But with her customizable smart pet, Jinx, missing in action and Moncha, the company behind the invention of the robot pet, up to something seriously sinister, she’s got a lot of figuring out to do. Lacey must use all her engineering skills if she has a chance of stopping Moncha from carrying out their plans. But can she take on the biggest tech company in North America armed with only a level 1 robot beetle ... ? 

I love Amy's books, I love how fun they are and I loved that this series has retained the fun, original element of Potion Diaries while having a different vibe to it! This is the sequel to Jinxed, and I've been so excited to see what's going to happen next with this! 

These Divided Shores by Sara Raasch
27th August

As a child, she committed unforgivable acts to free Grace Loray from King Elazar of Argrid. Now Elazar’s plan to retake the island has surpassed Lu’s darkest fears: he’s holding her and his son, Ben, captive in an endlessly shifting prison, forcing them to make a weapon that will guarantee Elazar’s success. Escape is impossible—unless Lu becomes the ruthless soldier she hoped never to be again.

Vex failed to save Lu and Ben—and that torments him as much as his Shaking Sickness. With the disease worsening, Vex throws himself into the rebellion against Argrid. The remaining free armies are allied with the stream raider syndicates—and getting them to cooperate will take a strength Vex thought burned on a pyre six years ago.

Imprisoned, betrayed, and heartbroken, Ben is determined to end his father’s rampage. Watching Elazar sway the minds of Grace Loray as he did those of Argrid, Ben knows he has to play his father’s game of devotion to win this war. But how can a heretic prince defeat the Pious God?

As armies clash and magic rises, Lu, Vex, and Ben will confront their pasts . . . or lose their futures forever.

I devoured the arc for These Rebel Waves in I don't even know how fast, I loved it. The end left me screeching, and then I had to wait even longer for the sequel because arc...but it's finally here! This is one of the sequels that I'm the most excited for, I can't lie, and I feel like I need to have a weekend to re-read These Rebel Waves and then crack on with this! 

The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen
27th August

Lara has only one thought for her husband on their wedding day: I will bring your kingdom to its knees. A princess trained from childhood to be a lethal spy, Lara knows that the Bridge Kingdom represents both legendary evil - and legendary promise. The only route through a storm-ravaged world, the Bridge Kingdom controls all trade and travel between lands, allowing its ruler to enrich himself and deprive his enemies, including Lara's homeland. So when she is sent as a bride under the guise of fulfilling a treaty of peace, Lara is prepared to do whatever it takes to fracture the defenses of the impenetrable Bridge Kingdom. 

But as she infiltrates her new home - a lush paradise surrounded by tempest seas - and comes to know her new husband, Aren, Lara begins to question where the true evil resides. Around her, she sees a kingdom fighting for survival, and in Aren, a man fiercely protective of his people. As her mission drives her to deeper understanding of the fight to possess the bridge, Lara finds the simmering attraction between her and Aren impossible to ignore. 

Her goal nearly within reach, Lara will have to decide her own fate: Will she be the destroyer of a king or the savior of her people?

I love Danielle's books, I'm sure I've said this before? They're always fantastically imaginative reads so I'm sure you can imagine how much I've been looking forward to this book and I kind of feel quite spoiled by Danielle this year as Dark Shores also came out not long ago! 

Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford
27th August

For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful maidens from the ocean village of Varenia. But though every girl longs to be chosen as the next princess, the cost of becoming royalty is higher than any of them could ever imagine…

Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that’s ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince—while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land.

Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home—a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen… and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.

In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie.

The cover for this is so beautiful and the synopsis has me intrigued, so I can't wait to check this one out! 
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