Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Six Reasons to Read Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I recently finished Crooked Kingdom, the sequel and last book to Six of Crows and I LOVED IT SO MUCH. Hands down one of the best books I’ve read this year or ever to be honest. I read Six of Crows earlier this year and I’ll be honest, I liked it but I didn’t love it the way I loved Shadow and Bone. The plot dragged for me a little but I did for the characters (still a solid 4/5 stars mind you). Crooked Kingdom blew me away.

If you haven’t been convinced to pick up these books yet here’s six (heeeh see what I did there?) reasons why:

  1. Perfectly flawed characters - who wants to read about perfect characters anyway? Is there even such a thing? What would be the point if they’re not interesting? Every single one of these characters has so many layers to them. They make the choices that the privileged don’t have to make. They make the hard choices that should make us hate them but we love them instead. Leigh Bardugo writes such depth to these characters (Kaz, Inej, Nina, Matthias, Jesper, Wylan), the more you read on the more you understand the things they do. 
  2. Tackling tough issues - sex trafficking/forced prostitution, what refugees have to face, addictions (drugs/gambling), racism, phobias this series has it all. Leigh Bardugo takes issues that are present in our current day and tackles them head on. She takes it seriously, she treads carefully but persistently to put it into perspective. It’s still YA but it brings to light all these issues for the reader and makes us SEE. It was horrifying and at times uncomfortable but this is necessary. 
  3. It’s a freaking heist - I mean how much more exciting can it get? All the planning and strategising and layers upon layers of scheming! And in the end will they pull through? ONLY YOU WILL KNOW IF YOU READ IT. Leigh Bardugo is an absolute fracking genius to come up with everything. There’s scheming then there’s one upping the schemers and then some. How to even? 
  4. Inej Ghafa - my leading lady. She is amazing. After everything she’s been through she still holds so much hope and love inside her. How she can see the light after everything is beyond me. She’s a symbol to not give up. When things are at their worst she still stands strong. I admired her so much and my heart broke at her pain. 
  5. Diversity - all the characters are different nationalities. I love fantasy books because authors make up different nations and races and they tackle racism in this way. But not just diversity of race and colour, but diversity of sexuality, diversity of religion. The characters have different values and there’s clashing, especially in the first book but it’s amazing to see them work through these or agree to disagree and just get along with their lives and not let them affect the mission at hand. Acceptance requires understanding and the books are a journey to this. 
  6. The writing and world building are stunning - Leigh Bardugo has a way with words. If you’ve read the Grisha trilogy, Leigh Bardugo expands so much on her Grishaverse outside of Ravka. If you haven’t read the Grisha trilogy you should totally read that too! Anyway, we’re pulled in the Barrel - the slums of Ketterdam and its corrupt world. Leigh’s introduced whole languages to add to the world as well as Barrel slang to really make the reader feel like they’re part of the gangs. It’s a gritty and dark world enhanced by decadent language that flows. 

HAVE I CONVINCED YOU YET? Well here’s bonus reasons:
  1. The books are visually stunning - I felt like showing them off while walking down the streets, with the gorgeous covers and black/red sprayed edges. And inside there’s MAPS. YES MAPS *squeals with glee* what’s a better fantasy than a book with maps??? Also gorgeous chapter headings 
  2. There’s only 2 books - YAY AND NOOO because it’s over but you can read it all in 1 hit! And then suffer the intense withdrawal with the rest of us.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Review: Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

Firstly, thanks to the author for this review copy <3 (This in no way influenced my opinion of the book.)

Date Read: September 14 - 18 2016
Date Released: October 4 2016
Publisher: Putnam (Penguin) US / Penguin Australia
Source: Review copy via author
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:

"Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can't-eat-can't-sleep kind of love that he's been hoping for just hasn't been in the cards for him—at least not yet. Instead, he's been happy to focus on his grades, on getting into a semi-decent college and finally becoming editor of his school newspaper. Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and he knows everything's about to change.

Grace isn't who Henry pictured as his dream girl—she walks with a cane, wears oversized boys' clothes, and rarely seems to shower. But when Grace and Henry are both chosen to edit the school paper, he quickly finds himself falling for her. It's obvious there's something broken about Grace, but it seems to make her even more beautiful to Henry, and he wants nothing more than to help her put the pieces back together again. And yet, this isn't your average story of boy meets girl. Krystal Sutherland's brilliant debut is equal parts wit and heartbreak, a potent reminder of the bittersweet bliss that is first love."


It’s always a tough job reviewing books for an author I know personally. It’s even tougher when they’re a friend. I was all kinds of excited when Krystal sent me a copy of her book but I was also practically shaking with nervousness when I started because WHAT IF I DIDN’T LIKE IT? I’d have to go hide in a corner for the rest of my life is what. Well silly me there was nothing to fear because Krystal’s book is as fabulous as her person - that is say, extremely fabulous.

Our Chemical Hearts is a romcom about first love, written with a witty voice and poignant touch. The characters and story drew me in, made me laugh and cry and then spat me back out leaving me reeling from the experience (a good one mind you).

Told from the first person POV of Henry Page, the ‘hero’ of our story is drawn to new girl Grace Town from the first moment she steps into class with her shaggy unwashed hair, boyish clothing and limp. He’s intrigued by her, at times infuriated by her, then falling head over heels for her. I loved Henry’s perspective; his voice was snarky and he had occasional cynical views of the world while also being a big romantic and dreamer. I relate to this boy. His burgeoning obsession with Grace drives much of the novel and it was so interesting to see his emotions as the book progressed and his growth by the end. His realisations about life and love aren’t profound in the way that he’s suddenly discovered the meaning of life, but it’s a coming of age for sure.

Grace Town was an enigma that I was completely drawn to. She’s far from perfect and while she seemed like a Manic Pixie Dream Girl at first (and this is acknowledged in the book), by the end I could see she wasn’t put there just for Henry to have his epiphany of first love. Grace was by no means selfless - she had her own agenda. She was selfish and she used people and she was dealing with her own issues which we discovered. Her relationship with Henry was growth for her as well, helping her come to terms with something she didn’t want to face. There was a lot of depth to her character and THINGS that triggered certain actions which made her story mysterious.

Kaz (in the tradition of Aussies butchering people’s names and chucking a ‘z’ on I am henceforth referring to Krystal as Kaz or Kazza) made this a multi-dimensional story with her wonderful cast of supporting characters. Henry’s family was lovely. I adored his sister Sadie (Suds, I LOVE THE NAME SUDS) who was a terror in high school but also a genius. She’s got dreadlocks but is an acclaimed surgeon. Suds has such wit and sarcasm (more intense than Henry) but also words of wisdom too. Their parents are also hella cool. Then there’s Henry’s besties Lola and Muz - firstly, diversity done right. I loved that Kazza put Lola in as a diverse character but didn’t make it a thing - I can’t bloody deal with racial tropes. Lola’s a great artist with a love of music and is the down to earth one in their group. Then there’s Muz the Crocodile Hunter wannabe who was my comedic relief, he made me laugh so hard. Each character has their own sort of romantic storyline going on in the book which I really enjoyed.

These cool kids and their love lives are set against the backdrop of the encroaching deadline for putting together the school paper, of which Henry and Grace are chief co-editors. The progress of the paper rivals with Henry’s romance and Grace’s increasingly erratic behaviour. Just what on earth is Grace Town hiding? I’m not gonna lie I knew immediately what the deal was but it was still interesting to see it unfold. I laughed a lot but my heart also fractured bit by bit with each turning page. And will they ever get the paper’s theme and finish it in time? You’ll have to read to find out.

Kaz’s writing is sophisticated without being overdone. Her style is entertaining; a little tongue in cheek, a lot of philosophical musings that, given any other context, would seem try-hardy, but given the story, balances the humour with the serious touch that’s required. She gives Henry a voice that leaps off the page and made me feel for the guy.

And in the end? Well in the end many lessons are learnt. I freaking adored the ending. It was so realistic and believable and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a satisfaction of sorts because had it ended differently, the integrity of the novel would have been compromised and wouldn’t have the effect Kaz had built up throughout. YOU GUYS READ THIS BOOK.

Sutherland (Suz?) apparently has another book coming out SO KAZ I NEED IT YESTERDAY.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Firstly, thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for this review copy <3

Date Read: August 21 - September 6 2016
Date Released: October 1 2016
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating:

"Three sisters. One crown. A fight to the death.
In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn't solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it's not just a game of win or lose . . . it's life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown."


I can’t even begin to describe how sad I am that I didn’t like this. When I think of TDC and how it just went downhill, I’m filled with such disappointment.

The premise sounded amazing - three sisters who are equal heirs to the crown and who have to fight to be queen on their sixteenth birthday. Each has their own distinctive ability: elements, poisons, nature. There was the implied promise of strategy, action, manipulation and wonderful magic.

Three Dark Crowns started off strong - I was immersed in Katharine’s training of poisons and the way she’d been brought up in the family of poisoners. Blake keeps true to her word that it’s about three sisters with equal rights to the crown because she writes all three perspectives of each sister. I can’t say I cared much for Arsinoe and her supposedly naturalist gift. Mirabella was quite interesting with her elemental abilities and to be honest she seemed to be the only one who had any sort of personality. By the end I didn’t see how Katharine had grown as a person. I had no idea of her hopes and dreams, what she wanted for herself. Arsinoe too seemed to not really give a shit about anything and I was extremely bored with her. There were some things to do with her ‘abilities' that led her in a particular direction but her drive for that was very lacklustre. I found the sisters to be quite flat overall. Can you tell I don’t even care?

I think the secondary characters, especially the heads of each family that were training each sister, really drove the direction of the novel, and the sisters themselves. There was definitely manipulation here and the sisters felt like puppets. As such it didn’t feel like the story was about the sisters but more about these families at each other’s throats trying to put the sister they were looking after onto the throne for their own goals. Was I interested in their motives? Somewhat but not really. There wasn’t enough there to make it anymore than a power play and be a famous family.

What I really wanted more of was the history of the queens. There seemed a lot of promise behind the idea of the triplets and I’m really hoping that Blake explores this because it has so much potential to drive the direction of the sisters going forward. As it stands, there wasn’t enough of this history to hint at what Blake plans for the future and I can’t even tell if this history will be opened up in the sequels. This is possibly wishful thinking of my part.

The plot… was not really a plot at all for me. Maybe because it took me so damn long to read this book because I got so damn bored because it dragged on forever and nothing seemed to happen. Everything was meant to lead to this festival but honestly I was so fed up at this point that any plot twists/revelations and the like didn’t wow me or reduce my boredom at all. Stuff happened and I guess I was like wtf but then I was like ok *turns the page* let’s get this over and done with.

It felt like the story lost its direction. I couldn’t tell where Blake was going with this. By the time this ended I felt lost. I didn’t feel like I’d finished a story. I felt like I’d drifted in the middle of the sea and was floating aimlessly. There’s potential but I can’t anticipate what happens in the sequel because not enough happened in Three Dark Crowns. I wanted more from the sisters; I expected more from their abilities and I wanted them to use their brains.

I see the potential in Three Dark Crowns, I really do. However, book 1 failed to hit the mark to establish itself for a strong series. I’m hoping the sequel will be better.