Black-Eyed Susans

Title: Black-Eyed Susans
Author: Julia Heaberlin
Publisher: Penguin Group
Publication Year: 2015
Genre: Crime | Mystery | Thriller
Rating: 3

That was my grandfather’s one survival tip if I ever found myself trapped in a fairy tale. Keep your promises. Bad things happen if you don’t.

I read the blurb for this on Amazon and I instantly fell in love with the plot. There was just something about Tessa thinking that she was safe, but then the murderer starts leaving her flowers and that really intrigued me. I wanted to see how she reacted and where the murderer was going to attack again. However, when I started reading the book was not what I expected at all. For starters the plot wasn’t about the murderer returning in modern time, as I was expecting, but was more about the trial resolving around the man who was originally convicted as the Black-Eyed Susans’ murderer. At first I was a little disappointed but I quickly became invested in the plot when everything began to unfold.

Another thing that I wasn’t a fan of was the alternating point of views. Heaberlin worked it really well to introduce shocking things in one point of view that quickly produced a parallel in the other. They worked really well and it was a great technique by Heaberlin but personally I still didn’t like it. It was irritating and quickly became annoying as the book developed. Young Tessa’s point of view quickly became uninteresting and her character was too stuck up for my liking. All she seemed to want to do was disrupt the trial and she didn’t seem that impacted by her situation, which seems pretty improbable.

Some of the characters were really interesting. Older Tessa was such a great character for me. It was easy to see how much she worried about her little girl and the lengths she went through to defend her girl were admirable. Effie was such a great character as well, although I felt like she was a bit useless. She didn’t have a huge role in the novel other than as a supporting character. In young Tessie’s life, I was really intrigued by Lydia’s character. She was so dynamic and different and she was so loyal to Tessa! Although the ending ruined that a little.

Speaking of the ending, I don’t know about anyone else but the ending/cliffhangers were really predictable as far as I was concerned. I felt that young Tessa’s twist was much more interesting and definitely the most predictable of the two, however there were a lot of hints dropped throughout the novel.

In my opinion this book is quite good. It’s not as bad as I make out, I assure you of that! I just had quite a few faults with it. I would definitely suggest giving it a read!

Ruin & Rising

Title: Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Indigo
Publication Year: 2014
Genre: Fantasy | YA | Romance
Rating: 2.5

Yuyeh sesh. Despise your heart. Ni weh sesh. I have no heart.

I don’t know how I feel about this.

Personally I liked it. But also I didn’t like it at the same time.

I just- I can’t decide how I felt on a whole (and it was so hard to come up with a rating) so I’m just going to spew a few opinions and hope it all makes sense at the end.

So first up is Mal. Glorious Mal who I loved in the first book, hated in the second and just sort of tolerated in this one. I wanted to love him again in the last book. I didn’t want to close the novel despising him, but I just couldn’t help myself because he really was nothing but a pesky bug. I think what frustrated me the most about Mal was the fact that I knew exactly where the book was going to go right from the beginning. He was the ideal warrior, a solid best friend and I still couldn’t find it in my heart to like him. His only use was to play yet another love interest for Alina, or at least that’s how he felt for me, because any of the others probably could have taken up his role. Especially in the second book. Also, maybe it was because I’d read them all in such a short time, but I had pretty much guessed that there had to be something more to Mal. So when things came out I wasn’t surprised in the slightest. I could also tell exactly how Bardugo wanted her novel to end and it was not the ending that I would have chosen.

Which brings us to the Darkling. Who is this impostor or what exactly did Bardugo do to the Darkling? In the first book I loved his character. He was so, well, dark, then in the second book he disappeared for a while (a long while) and every time we saw him was pretty moot. I wanted to see more of him, I wanted to see more happen for him! I had hopes, high hopes, for his return in the last book. He would wreak havoc and live up to his name (and history) and everything would be gloomy and spectacular. But it wasn’t. He didn’t. Not really anyway. There was one scene really where he was terribly bad but other than that it was just more flirting and the development of his new power that I still don’t entirely understand. How did Alina ‘give him’ this power? I understand what it is and everything but how did Alina suddenly unlock it for him?

Speaking of powers, I love how Alina manipulated hers towards the end of this. Finally some development that I wanted to see! The etherealki were pretty great too when they started to create new uses for their abilities, and David (*sighs*). David is one of my favourite, underappreciated characters. He was just so smart and it was always so much fun reading about his various inventions! Especially when you added it to his doziness and utter lack of communication!

Nickolai was also one of my favourites and this book was so heartbreaking for me just because of his plot. I think I may have driven Charlie mental with all of my Nickolai messages. I just have a serious attachment to this sassy fox and his lines are without a doubt the best in the entire series. He has so many awesome one-liners and you just can’t help but love him for them!

And Alina. Well, yet again, Alina fell flat for me. I mean, seriously, how many times can the girl contemplate the colour of her kefta. She decided way back in book one that she would wear blue but still she keeps talking about gold and black keftas as if choosing the colour is the most important thing. She also has an obsession with comparing herself to other girls. I understand that it’s a natural thing to do for most girls, but seriously there should be more important things on her plate than worrying that the pretty brunette is talking to Mal again. What I wanted was for her to set Mal aside, to stop worrying about her pretty boy and start worrying about the more serous things but she just doesn’t seem able to.

I just felt like plot-wise, this failed for me. Ending-wise, this was also a fail for me. Characters, well there were some good characters. But I don’t think they were enough to save this series from it’s downward spiral. I’m just going to crawl back into my bed and reread Six of Crows.

So I wasn’t a fan unfortunately (sorry Charlie!). I would love to hear everyone else’s opinions though.

Siege & Storm

Title: Siege & Storm (The Grisha #2)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Indigo
Publication Year: 2013
Genre: Fantasy | YA | Romance
Rating: 3

You are right about one thing, Summoner. The Darkling is a powerul enemy. You might want to think about making some powerful friends.

I don’t. Like. Mal. Any more?

Well, I don’t like the Mal only seems to care about Alina and nothing but Alina. What happened to Mal from the first book who loved his friends and had a passion for tracking and defending Ravka? All he seems to focus on now is being jealous of anyone who even lays eyes on Alina, fighting to get over Alina and doing whatever he can to make himself look better to Alina. It irked me so much and I found him so annoying! In the first book I was seriously enjoying him and his relationship with Alina and in this one they just need to sit down and work things out. But instead all they appear to be doing is butting heads and arguing and not doing anything remotely helpful!  I can only hope that they fix it so that Mal can crawl back into my good favour in the next book because I found him seriously annoying in this one.

In fact, I might go as far as to say that I didn’t really enjoy this book? Okay, that’s a lie. At the beginning I adored the book. It had a serious Six of Crows vibe and while I adored that book, this one quickly fell from the high level that I had placed SoC on. When the Darkling was involved, everything was dangerous and exciting. Then came the vagabond Sturmhond and I adored him. I couldn’t help it! I have a thing for swaggering pirates with an abundance of charm and a smirk to boot. He caught me in seconds and I was in love with him long before I found out who he really was. My only issue was that, after that, Siege & Storm really started to seriously lack any sort of interesting plot. The novel spirals back into that of the first, leaving us in the mind-numbingly boring world of the social elites. Once again Alina’s thoughts turn to beauty and her romance rather than the real impending situation that she should be dealing with.Basically, it felt like it was dragging it’s feet for the majority of the middle of the novel before finally escalating into something interesting in the final quarter.

AND THOSE FINAL FEW CHAPTERS. AAAH.

But moving swiftly on, the one big issue for me in this was the Darkling was MIA for most of it. After the first part, he disappears only to reappear briefly now and then. I found the way that Bardugo did this incredible and I can’t wait to read the explanation for his random appearances in the final instalment! There’s so much about the Darkling’s newfound abilities that I don’t understand and I can’t wait to discover just what has happened to him! Especially considering he’s so much stronger than Alina when she’s got her amplifier. It’s so intriguing and I can’t wait to see how it all develops and if Alina will ever really be strong enough to defeat him!

Hopefully with the aid of our Steampunk!Pirate Privateer Alina will be able to do some damage to his ego! I need to read book 3 like now, to see how this all works out!

Shadow and Bone

Title: Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Indigo
Publication Year: 2014
Genre: Fantasy | YA | Romance
Rating: 3.5

You’re the first glimmer of hope I’ve had for a long time.

Oh gosh I blame Charlie for this. Yet anther series that I’ve fallen in love with because Charlie recommended it to me. I have to stop reading series and start reading more stand-alone novels. Or maybe just stop reading series that Inkwellsandbooksmells recommends because I read the first book and then end up buying the entirety of the rest of the series because I can’t cope waiting. I don’t have the money for this Charlie! I don’t! But the books are so good and I can never wait to get started on the rest of the series.

Now this review is going to go back and forth a lot because there were a bunch of things I liked and didn’t like about this book starting with the love triangle. Does every YA novel have to have a love triangle now? Is this some sort of YA formula? One female lead + one best friend + one mystery, dark broody type = THE BEST LOVE STORY OF ALL TIME. Because I hate them but every time I open a YA novel I seem to stumble across yet another love triangle and it’s starting to get a little repetitive. Although I admit that this one did have a pretty good twist as things moved further along. I for one was not expecting it in the slightest and I think Bardugo did a great job at catching us off guard. But I do think that the relationships definitely could have been developed a little more before the big changes came into play. Then maybe it would have had a greater effect. Having said that I adored the relationship between Mal and Alina. I love best friend relationships and it was great reading about the two best friends growing up together. It really made me happy to see a bit of a background there.

However, while there’s a background for some of the characters, I couldn’t really see a decent world background. In my opinion this entire world wasn’t really built that well. I really wanted to love it because there were so many things that I adored like the creation of Grisha’s and all of their abilities. I thought the Fold was genius and how Alina’s power worked into that was pretty neat. But I felt like it was rather lacking other than that. There was no explanation of where the Grisha powers came from, nor how someone could develop them. I was also a little confused as to how there could be so many Corporalki, Etheralki and Materialki but there’s only one Darkling and only one Alina. But then I guess without that there wouldn’t be a plot. There’s a little bit of information about the different groups that live in this world but there is little/no description of the world. I can only hope this is fixed in the next one!

There are seriously strong chosen one vibes in this though and another timid MC who thinks that she’s unattractive and boring before she manages to enter a love triangle and become one of the most important people in the world. I don’t know but like with love triangles this plot point is incredibly overused. Having said that, I liked that Lina wasn’t a headstrong bad-ass like most MCs. I liked that she was nervous and timid but I found that it was great that as the story developed so did she. She grew as a person (although I thought that she took a huge step forwards at one point, just to take about 3 back later on) and it was amazing seeing that. I also did not see the point in the bitchy character. She literally was not needed at all, other than to give the MC a jealous opponent in order to feel even better about herself.

Then, finally there was the writing. The writing that was so flowing and beautiful and mesmerising. I loved it. Bardugo just has ways of describing scenes that has me hooked and I can’t wait to see where it goes in the next book. Now just to put this review to bed and start reading!

The Sky is Everywhere

Title: The Sky is Everywhere
Author: Jandy Nelson
Publisher: Walkers Books
Publication Year: 2013
Genre: YA | Romance
Rating: 3

“Doesn’t matter what anyone else would call it, Len,” he says. “This is our story to tell.”

What I would give to be able to remove a few parts of this story and tweak it ever so slightly to be able to make it better. The best thing about reading Jandy Nelson book sis that Nelso has a way with words that I’ve always admired. She writes and it’s raw feelings that get printed onto the page, I’m sure of it! Then every feeling that you read gets soaked up inside of you and you’re suddenly experiencing them yourself. Every quiver of excitement or drag of doubt. Every burst of love and even the harsh waves of inner turmoil. Nelson just has a way of inspiring emotions. It makes sense that her writing is so beautiful when you realise that Nelson is a published poet!

But once I got over Nelson’s beautiful beautiful writing and this gorgeous book (I’m not kidding, this book is seriously gorgeous! Before every chapter they have a lovely quote photograph and it just looks so good), I just couldn’t get into the story. One of the issues is that it has a lot of instalove. The moment that Lennie meets Joe she finds him hot and from there it’s just a straight leap to love. There’s no inbetween reall. But the one thing I couldn’t stand was that she didn’t just love Joe, she also had a thing with her sister’s boyfriend. That’s the thing irked me the most. Nelson tried to explain it but I just couldn’t see it as anything but wrong. It was so wrong. Especially as the novel developed and more things happened; I just couldn’t stand it. Perhaps it was okay at first but when her relationship with Joe began to develop I assumed it would stop. There were so many times when I was mentally-screaming “Lennie no!” only for things to get worse.

Despite that, there were moments of this book that had me laughing out loud. Gram was definitely one of the best characters. She brought so much comic relief to the story, sending me into the loudest laughs after everything had just been sad. Her family is just a ton of crazy weirdos and I loved everything single one of them. From her green-thumb Gram with aphrodisiac roses to her love drunk Uncle, who is believed to benefit from these magic roses (in the sense that he has had a lot of relationships!). This loveable family makes light of a terrible situation in their own way, fighting back against the sadness of losing someone close to them.

Then there’s the way death was handled. Those final chapters were so emotional! I swear it went from a regular story to just suddenly ripping at your heart-string and leaving you sobbing. It was terribly emotional and this is why it’s gotten as many stars as it did. 1 for the writing, 1 for the characters and 1 for the way that Nelson closed it all. It was so good.

I wasn’t a huge fan of this one but I know that a lot of people love it. I would definitely suggest giving it a go. I would love to hear what you all think of it~

A Study in Charlotte

Title: A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes #1)
Author: Brittany Cavallaro
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Year: 2016
Genre: Mystery | YA | Romance
Rating: 3.5

“Like you said, you can take care of yourself,” I told her, finally. “If you murdered hm, I bet there would be twenty witnesses who saw him put the gun to his own head.”

I adore Sherlock Holmes novels. I think I’ve read all of them as well as the many spin offs that have come as a results. As far as I’m considered, nothing can beat the BBC show – I can’t get enough of that awesomeness – but I am constantly searching for something just as good for these long seasons breaks, which brought me to rewrites. Some of them are brilliant and funny while some are like this and sort of a flop. Don’t get me wrong this was a fun read, I just found it a bit lacking at times and it didn’t really cover some serious subjects properly, or at least as far as I’m concerned it didn’t.

So first things first, the use a murder from a book to frame a real life murder is getting a little overused for me. I’ve seen it done quite a few times in literature and while it’s cool it’s getting a little repetitive. Having said that, one of the things I liked about the way Cavallaro has done it here, is reading about James’ reaction to it. James Watson is the voice of A Study in Charlotte and I found it rather humorous reading the scenes shortly following the murder when he commented on the original Watson’s writing of it. It just made me laugh. Especially the one where he talks about how he really doesn’t understand what was going through Watson’s mind when he wrote that scene.

Admittedly James’ narration of the novel is very funny at times. It was well-written and he is really witty and funny, which makes the whole thing very entertaining. However at points I was a little disappointed at the YA route the novel took. I love a bit of Johnlock but in this book it just felt forced to me from the very beginning. He was obsessed with Holmes at first, always talking about her and the way he flew to her defence in the beginning was something straight out of a twilight novel. As the book developed and we got to know more characters, I found his obsession with Moriarty (or Moriarty and Holmes’ relationship) a little annoying. I get that it would be a popular ship, but part of me wanted this just to be a best friend relationship. However they appeared to be destined from the very beginning.

I also want to point out that while this is a retelling (of sorts) the characters don’t have to be identical to their predecessors. I feel like this is always an issue that comes up in adaptions and I definitely felt it here. Just because Charlotte is Sherlock’s great grand-daughter doesn’t mean that she also has to be stellar at deductions, a violin player, an ass, and a hardcore drug addict on top of everything. She just felt too much like carbon copy at times.

Which brings me to the issues that I felt weren’t handled properly. For starters her drug addiction: Charlotte is addicted to oxy but no one seems to do anything about it. She also smokes and again receives no comment or aid with this as far as I can tell. I just feel like this in a teenager would have been reacted on a lot more than in the adult Sherlock. Not to mention the scene with Dobson is completely glossed over and James seem to be the only person angry about this! This would have had a much bigger reaction in modern day but people are more obsessed with the murder and Holmes and Watson rather than that. I just found it a bit unrealistic, especially the way it all happened.

The last thing that bugged me was the ending. For the entire novel we were fed little bits of information and then right at the end the murderer was revealed and suddenly we get all of the information, at once. It was wildly confusing, only made more so by James’ writing. I just think that this could have been handled a lot better, especially when the facts about the first murder came out. I feel like Holmes’ would have had more of a reaction to that, but she didn’t.

Altogether I did like this book, don’t get me wrong it was funny at times and had a decent plot. But I just felt like it was trying to hard to be the original duo in modern times, with a twist. And it also badly advertises drugs and smoking. As well as uses an incredibly traumatic experience as a minor plot point. 

Throne of Glass

Title: Throne of Glass
Author: Sarah J Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Year:2012
Genre: Fantasy | Romance | YA
Rating: 3

Still the image haunted his dreams throughout the night: a lonely girl gazing at the stars, and the stars who gazed back.

I feel like I always read books in the wrong order. I’ll finish one book and I’ll be gushing about it to someone and they’ll just go “yeah but have you read their other series?” and I just sort of blanch. Most of the time I end up reading other series before an author’s most famous and this happened to me again with Throne of Glass. I fell in love with the ACOTAR series and then discovered that Maas had an entirely different series, with a badass assassin as a main character and I was over the moon. Naturally I ordered them all instantly. Now I’m not so sure I should have rushed into things as quickly as I did. It’s not that I hated this book, I just think I expected more than it gave me.

Going into this book I was ensured that she was as epic as Frodo and that the book was reminiscent of Game of Thrones and those are some big names to live up to. Needless to say I was prepared for awesomeness and at the start I got it. It was hard not to like Celeana at the start. She was smart and bitchy and acted exactly like I would have expected an A grade assassin to act after being stuck in the prison. She bigged herself up and given her attitude, I could totally believe the reputation. Perhaps, if she’d stayed that way for the entire novel I would have enjoyed Throne of Glass a lot more. As it happens, she began to slip for me for countless reasons.

One the attitude stayed. There were many times when we were heard about how amazing Celeana was but it wasn’t showcased until towards the end of the trials. Furthermore she’s obsessed with books! I’ve got nothing against books, I love books and bookworm characters. But when a tough hard-ass assassin who is training for a life or death competition the next day chooses to stay up all night reading instead, I can’t help but feel a little disbelief. Not to mention the fact that she appears to sleep through almost every time someone enters her bedroom. She even slept through the Crown Prince (who I imagine can’t be the quietest) sneaking into her room to leave a pile of chocolate and sweets on her bed. What sort of assassin wouldn’t wake up to that? Surely the greatest assassin in the world wouldn’t sleep through what could have been a potential murder attempt, especially with everything that was going on. There’s also the fact that most of the time she is complaining about her clothes, about the fact that she wasn’t invited to balls and, most importantly, the fact that the guy didn’t joke with her like someone else, so he must find her unattractive. After spending a year trapped in a salt mine, I assumed she would have had more important things to worry about like the impending competition and trials that she had to complete to in order to ensure she didn’t get sent back there?

Then there was a love triangle. Love triangles are the bane of my existence, and it was just my luck that there was one in Throne of Glass as well. Personally, I wasn’t a huge fan of this one either. Chaol I don’t mind. Chaol was calm, respectable and their relationship seemed a lot more realistic. From the get go he was suspicious and careful around her as one should be with the most feared assassin the Crown Prince takes an entirely different route. Chaol and Celeana’s relationship is a slow build but for me Dorian and Celeana’s seemed to much like instalove. From the get go they are flirting and she’s batting her eyelashes and getting things out of him. Not to mention all of the eye glances. And don’t mention the ending of all this to me because we all know what’s going to happen next.

Also what the hell is up with the glass castle? It was barely touched upon at all, it was just a random castle made out of glass thrown in there. Not to mention that the book is named Throne of Glass but even at this point I have no idea why? I’m assuming it has something to do with the glass castle but I’m not sure.

My main issue was that this book seemed more romance and playing princess that it actually did fantasy. When we got to the actual plot though (Maas glosses over a fair bit of the competition in my opinion) I really enjoyed it. The bits of the competition I read were entertaining (although perhaps a little benign considering who was competing and what they were competing for) and the fantasy parts may be the reason that I actually continue reading this! I liked reading about the Wyrdmarks and Wyrdgates and I was intrigued by the dark creatures.

Nehemia was also a shining star for me in this one. As a POC character in what I assume was a world of white characters aside from her guards, I was already rooting for her. I love POC characters and while I would prefer more than one as an MC I could handle it. Nehemia was a curious characters. She arrives randomly, without a proper explanation, and instantly befriends Celeana over the assassin’s knowledge of her native language. After that a friendship blooms and it’s one that I enjoyed reading about. The scenes with Nehemia may be some of my favourite and I can’t wait to see what happens with her in later novels.

All in all I’m a bit sceptical about continuing to the rest of the series but I’ve heard those books are better. But I might take a break before I do it. Also, by any chance, (potential spoiler but I don’t know because it’s a guess)

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