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Review: The Living by Isaac Marion

Review: The Living by Isaac Marion

This review will contain some spoilers so please consider avoiding reading it until after you’ve finished The Living!

Some of the scenes are pure magic.

The moment when Nora finds out M’s secret, the whole episode in the church with R on stage, the big showdown regarding BABL and the very last scene of all were stunning. It’s very difficult to talk about them all in detail, without giving some massive spoilers, but they made for a great read. In a way I wish there had been more scenes like the final one, as it’s circularity was really something special.

For me, the amount of chapters devoted to ‘We’ was a little frustrating at first. The characters I cared for most were all with Julie and R, so seeing the journey of other individuals mattered a little less to me. However, by the end of the novel, I found that the ‘We’ chapters were complementing the journeys of our main protagonists. The level of care and thought that was put into shaping the structure of this novel was impressive. I will be re-reading The Living in the future because of Isaac Marion’s lyrical writing style. The prose sang and there were some really thoughtful comments on the nature of our lives and how tragedy shapes us. Learning more about ‘The Library’ was fascinating, especially in the latter half of the book.

In The Living some of the hard and fast rules established earlier in the series seemed to have been bent a little bit. Avoiding spoilers on this is tricky, so I’ll just say that I’m referring to something that happens in the second half of the book which has a major impact on one of our characters. By the end of the novel I had a better sense of how this change in ‘rules’ came about, but perhaps the unpredictability of what happened is also a reminder of how things in life rarely follow a set path.

The world of Warm Bodies has expanded a lot since the first book and The Living shows this perfectly. I know this is the final book in the series but I do wonder whether there is room for more novellas like New Hunger expanding on the lives of some of the secondary characters. The author of the almanac is the person I’m thinking about most. The snippets we heard of Huntress’ life were enough to make me want to read a lot more about her.

The Living is not only the conclusion of R’s story but also a novel with lots of inbuilt commentary on our own changing world. A fascinating read and one I would recommend to all fans of Warm Bodies.

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to read this final instalment in the Warm Bodies series through NetGalley — thank you to NetGalley, Isaac Marion and Zola Books for the chance to read. The Living is published November 13th and is available online, as both a hardcover book and an e-book.

 

 

 

 

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Review: Empress of All Seasons

Review: Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

I’m loving the move to more diverse worlds in YA fiction recently. This is the second Japanese inspired novel I’ve read this summer and I’ve loved both of them.

The Concept

The premise is very high-concept. What would happen if a magical woman whose very freedom is banned tries to win the hand of the emperor’s son in a high-stakes contest? Mari is a yokai. She is an Animal Wife whose people seek wealthy husbands in order to take their wealth for themselves. Mari sets out to do her duty and try and win the hand of the emperor.

YA novels involving competitions are usually very predictable and what I loved about this story was that the contest didn’t occupy every moment of the novel.

The Characters

Mari wasn’t preoccupied with the idea of finding love through a game, like so many of the heroines of past stories. Instead, she was going to find herself and do her duty by her people. And that is exactly what she did. She is fierce!

The other characters are also fascinating. The emperor’s son Taro loves to make mechanical creatures. Seeing the journey of his clockwork bird high into the sky as it crashed, trapped just as much as he was, was one of my favourite scenes in the first part of the novel.

Mari and Taro are the first two point of view characters. The third is Akira, Mari’s friend and another yokai. He is known as the Son of Nightmares. The details about his origins felt real, adding depth to the world Emiko Jean has created. Even though I liked Akira, I didn’t enjoy the chapters from his perspective quite as much. I wasn’t entirely sure why. The other side characters, including Mari’s maid Sei, were much more interesting to me.

The World

The world building in this novel was incredible. Japanese influences were blended with the existence of fantasy monsters to create a world that felt so real. The idea of priests who could hold back monsters through curses written on their skin felt so real, as did the mountaintop village Mari came from.

My favourite aspect of the world in this novel, however, was the rooms of the four seasons. Our first insight into the power of the rooms is early on, through Taro’s eyes, when we see how one poor captured yakoi will be tortured on the orders of the emperor in one of the rooms. During the competition the competing girls have to make their way through the four themed rooms. In the Summer Room they will face punishing heat, with fires burning in the trees. In the Winter Room there will be snow and punishing cold. In short, the weather will be turned against them. It is described how nature will reward the competitors for their positive actions and turn against them for their mistakes. Some will kill for the chance to become empress, as Mari will find out…

The Message

I wasn’t so keen on the lack of happy interludes that might have added a bit of lightness to the story. I know this novel was focused on the feminist message that Mari could gain happiness without seeking to please a man, which I really enjoyed, but I liked Taro’s character too. I would have liked more scenes where they were together and perhaps a slightly less bittersweet ending for him.

Overall thoughts

The Empress of All Seasons was an exciting journey through an original world with characters that grew on me with each page.

I’m going to give it an overall 4.5 stars, rounded up to five for Goodreads, as on the whole I loved the adventure Mari had. I hope Emiko Jean considers writing more novels set in this world as the worldbuilding was phenomenal and the experiences of the yokai were so engaging. I’m looking forward to seeing what she writes next!

 

Thank you to Orion Publishing Group, Gollancz, Emiko Jean and NetGalley for the opportunity to read in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

Review: A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

A Spark of Light starts at the end: the end of a hostage negotiation at the Center. It is the place where so many fetus’ existences end and now potentially the site of the end of a young girl called Wren’s life. The novel follows the experience of the people who are at The Center, the only place licensed in the state to offer abortions, when a pro-life gunman enters the building. The the highly sensitive issue of abortion is dealt with extremely well. The perspectives of the different characters were fully fleshed out and explored.

What makes this novel unlike any other is that instead of moving forward, time moves back. Victims of the gunman who once were lying dead on the ground come back to life, bad news is ungiven, the hostage negotiator’s birthday cake uneaten. This led to some heart wrenching revelations, with more and more depth about the characters coming to life with every page. The lives of characters such as Olive and Bex, who at the start of the novel are for various reasons more distant, take on a new significance. As with all of Picoult’s wonderful novels, at the end (or the beginning?) there are her signature twists and turns.

This is such a poignant read, with the author’s note at the end providing information on the reality of the situations depicted. Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton, Jodi Picoult and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this thought-provoking gem of a novel!

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Review: I Never Lie by Jody Sabral

Review: I Never Lie

This review contains some spoilers for the ending of I Never Lie, so please read with caution!

The world of a journalist trying to make her way despite personal struggle was really exciting to read about. Having in the past toyed with the idea myself of trying to become a journalist, the world of the TV studio was my favourite part of this novel. Audrey, Alex’s long suffering producer, was one of my favourite characters. I also loved hearing about Greg, her ex who she left following a miscarriage. I would have enjoyed hearing more about the lives of both Audrey and Alex, as I felt they were some of the most interesting people in I Never Lie’s London.

Sadly, while I loved the first third of this book, I found the pace started to become tiresome. The murders didn’t seem to have the urgency that I was expecting. Although Nigel, Alex’s internet date, at first seemed a suspect I veered away from that pretty quickly. I didn’t really have the sense that Alex was at risk, even though that eventually was revealed to have been a major part of the killer’s plans. The repeated reference to both Sarah and Alex’s drinking became very tiresome in the final half of the novel. While the exploration of alcoholism was an interesting tool for developing the characters, it did seem to take up a little too much room. By the end of the novel, I was a little tired of hearing so much about alcoholism rather than the crime! I did find the twist with Sarah as the killer interesting, but wish that it could have been revealed through a flashback rather than exposition — hearing about what happened in a short retelling from a character who did not actually remember those events was a shame.

Nonetheless, I did enjoy reading I Never Lie and was excited to find out who the killer was, so have given it a strong *** rating. Thank you to NetGalley, Canelo and Jody Sabral for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Review: Forget My Name by J.S. Monroe

Review: Forget My Name by J.S. Monroe

Imagine you lose your memory and the one of the few things you have left is the knowledge of where you live. You head home and arrive to find strangers living in your house. Sleeping in your bedroom, all traces of you gone. It’d be a bit strange, wouldn’t it?

That’s exactly the problem facing our mystery protagonist in Forget my Name. She’s unnamed, possessing neither past nor future, only the present. We soon take a detour from the route that I presumed the story was going down, which would have been very predictable, through a rabbit warren of twists and turns, to find the truth of “Jemma”‘s origins.

Monroe’s characters were the best part of this novel. Tony was very interesting. He starts off seeming like an innocent homeowner, willing simply to help a lost woman. It will probably be of no surprise to frequent readers of thriller novels that things weren’t exactly as they seem — both on Jemma’s side and from the perspective of those that she encounters. I loved the depth given to the stories for secondary characters, for example through the suggestion that ‘Jemma’ might be the long lost daughter of one of them. This didn’t feel forced at all.

I really enjoyed Forget my Name, especially towards the end. In the final third the action ramps up and every bit of mystery and misdirection pays off. Kudos to J.S. Monroe for a gripping read, I look forward to reading their next book.

Thank you to NetGalley, Head of Zeus and J.S. Monroe for the opportunity to read this book.

 

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Review: Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Review: Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Kagawa’s ability to create such likeable characters and believable worlds are her greatest assets. Throughout each of her book series, you will root for her characters to succeed against all odds.
 I loved Yumeko. Her kitsune nature was fascinating and the warring influence of her human and supernatural sides was amazing. Tatsumi’s coldness made him quite unlikeable for me at first. He did grow on me over the course of the book, but seeing him through Yumeko’s eyes was much more enjoyable than his own perspective.
Shadow of The Fox also boasted some great side characters. The monks who featured at the beginning of the novel were very well developed, especially considering how short their page-time was. Funny and charismatic Okame added some humour to the later part of the book, reminding me of the effect of Jackal in Blood of Eden. The villains were also great.
One thing I found a little frustrating, though, was the shift from the first chapter to the main section of the book. In the space of only a few pages I managed to get oddly attached to a young maid character. She was soon killed off, with the story shifting to Yumeko. While a resolution to that strange opening character does come later in the novel, I did find that it made for a slightly disjointed beginning.

Once I’d got past that initial uncertainty, I fell in love with this novel. The world-building was incredible and I loved the use of Japanese culture. I felt completely absorbed in the group’s journey. Towards the end all of the tension ramps up and I flew through the final pages, waiting to see what will happen next.  I’m already looking forward to the sequel!

Thank you to Netgalley, Harlequin TEEN and Julie Kagawa for the opportunity to read SHADOW OF THE FOX.
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Review: Lies by T.M. Logan

Review: Lies by T.M. Logan

When Joe’s son spots his mother’s car on the way home and they make the decision to follow her, what happens next tears their lives apart. One thing I would say though, is that for me the blurb gives a little too much away. For part of the novel I was beginning to think that Joe might actually be the killer. He could have forgotten what he’d done out of the trauma of the situation. If I’d remembered what the blurb said before I started reading, then I would have lost that dynamic.

Logan has an impressive ability to create believable characters. Lies made a great change from the recent trend of novels with unreliable often substance abusing female narrators. Having a male protagonist felt like a breath of fresh air. The relationship between Joe and his son William was lovely and added a touch of realism to a genre that features characters often lacking in meaningful connections.

Lies was a joy to read. Fast paced, with twists and turns I wouldn’t have expected at the start. The conclusion was very unexpected, but all the clues are laid down in time that you might be able to spot the track the story is heading down (if you’re more perceptive than I am!). I guessed only part of the solution to the ‘what happened to Ben’ mystery and I had the motives completely wrong.

The integration of social media into the story was a great touch, making the world of Lies feel like real life. After all, everyone knows people who’ve been caught out by social media.

For me the only real negative about the story was something relatively small. I’m from relatively close to where the character Ben is from and there were a few geographical details that struck me as a little off and pulled me out of the story slightly. For people not from the area though, those would have been completely unnoticeable. Overall, the settings felt very believable too.

I was really rooting for Joe throughout Lies and I’d really recommend giving it a read to find out whether he manages to clear his name!

Thank you to Netgalley and St Martin’s Press for the opportunity to read this book.

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Waiting on Wednesday: Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

Waiting on Wednesday: Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

I’ve just had the pleasure of reading this amazing book through NetGalley and want to give a shoutout to my readers about it.

Here’s a quick snippet of what it is about, taken from my review:

What would happen if a magical woman whose very freedom is banned tries to win the hand of the emperor’s son in a high-stakes contest? Mari is a yokai. She is an Animal Wife whose people seek wealthy husbands in order to take their wealth for themselves. Mari sets out to do her duty and try to win the hand of the emperor. 

My full review will be live on my blog closer to release day but in the meantime I just wanted to let you know it might be something you want to add to your TBR.

It’s a rollercoaster ride of emotions!

Empress of All Seasons will be published on 8th November 2018.

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Review: Your Closest Friend by Karen Perry

To start with, I don’t think I’ve ever read a thriller novel that starts in the way Your Closest Friend does before. It was a dark change from the usual cliched story starters. Finding themselves trapped together in a life and death situation, Cara and Amy have little choice but to trust each other. It’s only when this trust is taken outside of the confines of the store room that things start to go wrong…

Cara’s choice to have a complete stranger look after her young child would usually seem completely mad. But the set-up makes Amy seem like an ideal candidate. Apparently she has qualifications, apparently she has experience, apparently she is safe….

The dual narrative really adds something special. Seeing the unravelling of Cara’s life from Amy’s perspective too made everything seem much more sinister. Amy starts off as a really sympathetic character but of course things don’t always stay the same. I will say that Cara’s mistakes did make her seem a little unlikeable at times, as did aspects of Amy’s personality, but the writing style was very compelling.

I like that all characters in this novel are flawed, like real people. The mistakes they make largely seem real. Sure, at times you need to suspend your disbelief (and Cara’s husband Jeff doesn’t seem to have much of a personality at times), but that’s all part of the fun.

I flew through Your Closest Friend and would recommend it to anyone looking for a fast paced thriller to enjoy. Thank you to NetGalley, Penguin UK and Karen Perry for the opportunity to read.

Your Closest Friend is out now!

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