Top 10 Tuesday: Series I Haven’t Started Yet

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This week’s topic is a freebie so I’m throwing back to an old topic that I missed. There are so many series I want to read but haven’t started yet.

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but as of January has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

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The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer – The first book in this series, Cinder, has been on my TBR list so long its criminal.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – I already own the first two books, I just need to finish some other fantasy series before I make a start on this one.

Legend by Marie Lu – Earlier this year I read The Young Elites, the first book in one of Marie Lu’s other series. So I’m looking forward to starting Legend.

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An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – I really liked that this series is inspired by ancient Rome, as that’s not a setting often explored in YA fantasy.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – Having finished the Shadow and Bone trilogy, I can’t wait to dive back into Bardugo’s Grishaverse.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – The description for the first book instantly caught my attention, so I hope it lives up to expectations when I finally read it.

Riddle-Master by Patricia A McKillip – As the author of one of my favourite novels, I’m keen to read more of her works. Many are stand-alone novels, which is quite rare for fantasy, but I have her Riddle-Master trilogy waiting on my shelf.

Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness – Having so much about this series, I decided to buy the whole trilogy when it was on offer, but I still haven’t started reading it yet.

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The Conqueror’s Saga by Kiersten White – I don’t own the first book yet, but the description really intrigued me so this is one I want to read at some point.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Mass – This year I read, and loved, the first two books in Mass’s Throne of Glass series. So I’m excited to read her other series too.

 

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Film Review: Fantastic Beasts – The Crimes of Grindelwald

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HO00005124-lgFilm Review: Fantastic Beasts – The Crimes of Grindelwald

Release date: 16th November 2018

Director: David Yates

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterson, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Jude Law, Johnny Depp, Zoë Kravitz

Runtime: 134 minutes

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the anticipated sequel 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Following the events of the first film, Credence is looking for his birth family in Paris, and Albus Dumbledore sends Newt Scamander to find him. Meanwhile, dark wizard Grindelwald is also seeking Credence.

Having loved the first film in this spin-off series, I couldn’t wait to see The Crimes of Grindelwald. While I absolutely loved the film and was not disappointed, I can’t help but feel it could have been even better.

This film takes places primarily in Paris, and falls short on the high standard set by the setting of New York in the first film. 20s New York really came to life in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but the sequel took surprisingly little advantage of the potential Paris had to be an equally dynamic setting. There were a couple of moments where I got a sense the characters were in France, but for much of it they could have been just about anywhere. Since the first film set such a high standard, I couldn’t help but be disappointed that the filmmakers didn’t utilise the Parisian setting more.

There are a lot of plot strands in this film, and I feel like I need to watch it again to completely grasp everything that happened. There are many new characters, a lot of new backstory to get your head around, and some surprising twists that throw up more questions than answers. At times the plot felt a little meandering, without an obvious end goal beyond finding Credence. This film, which we must remember is part of a whole being only the second in the series, seemed to set up a lot for the future films.

Newt is a brilliant character and I love that he’s not your typical hero. Though I still haven’t got a grasp on why Dumbledore chooses him to carry out the task of finding Credence. Is it because Newt met him in New York so is familiar to him? The reason is never explained, and I’m hoping it becomes clearer in the rest of the films, otherwise Newt’s involvement is a little tenuous.

As there were so many characters, many of them suffered from a lack of screen time. There was no sign of affection between Leta and Theseus, who are engaged. Perhaps it was a marriage of convenience, rather than one based on love? I certainly saw no sign that they cared for each other at all, until very near the end of the film. Zoë Kravitz played Leta excellently and Jude Law made for a great young Dumbledore. McGonagoll’s brief appearance was a little confusing, as she shouldn’t even be born yet. But I have faith Rowling wouldn’t make such a big slip up, and have assumed that this is perhaps a relative of the Minerva McGonagoll we know.

While I have said a lot of negative things above, I still loved the film. There were far more nods to the Harry Potter books than the first Fantastic Beasts film, which will satisfy fans of the series. The wizarding world remains as enchanting as ever.

Book Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Mass

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18005628Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Mass  

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: Kindle edition 2013 by Bloomsbury

Pages: 432

Star Rating: 4/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

She is the greatest assassin her world has ever known. But does she have the heart of a killer?

After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king’s contest to become the new royal assassin. But Calaena is far from loyal to the crown. Keeping up the charade – while pretending to do the king’s bidding – will test her skills in an entirely new way. And it certainly isn’t the only point of confusion for the young girl. Because though she’s made her choice between Dorian and Chaol, the ways of the heart are never simple…

 

The final book in this series, Kingdom of Ash, was recently released, and here I am still on book two, Crown of Midnight! I have some catching up to do. Having loved the first book, I was excited to read the sequel. I was wondering where the plot would go, as Throne of Glass was focused on the competition, which finished at the end. For once, the sequel is most definitely a step up from the first book.

Crown of Midnight was slow to start. It didn’t have much direction to begin with, as the tournament from the first book was over, and there wasn’t much suggestion of where the plot would go next. However, the pace picked up as it went along. While Throne of Glass is very much focused on the competition and character relationships, this book widens the picture and focuses more on the bigger plot. There is a big turning point about half way through that I did not see coming. It turned the plot in a new direction for the rest of the book, and by the end there were even more surprises.

There were a lot of revelations in this book which seem to be setting the main plot for the series in motion. In some ways, it was information overload, as there was so much new stuff to take in. With all the revelations also came a lot of fast-paced action. I was totally gripped, especially in the second half. I had no idea how it was going to end, which made it more suspenseful than Throne of Glass, which was in some ways predictable.

In Throne of Glass, I thought Celaena didn’t come across as the deadly assassin her reputation describes. However, this book changed my view for various reasons. The deadly assassin described emerged in this novel, which made me feel better about the whole concept. In book one she had seemed too soft. After reading Crown of Midnight, the layers of her character make a lot more sense.

The development of the relationships between the characters in this book, especially between Celaena, Chaol and Dorian, made for interesting dynamics. I like that their friendships aren’t just stationary, they evolve with the plot. The individual inner conflicts for each character are also well written.

Despite a slow start, this book was full of action and plot twists that kept me gripped. My emotions were dragged one way, then another way, in the way only a really good book can do.

Top 5 Wednesday: Largest Books on TBR

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This week’s topic is all about the biggest books we’ve yet to read. I have a lot of them! T5W is a group hosted on Goodreads, if you’d like to participate check it out here.

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1) A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin – I read the first book, A Game of Thrones, earlier this year and got the second book almost straight away. However, I wanted a break to read some other books, and still haven’t got around to picking this one up.

2) The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan – I made it one of my ambitions to read the whole of Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. So far I’ve only read the first two books.

3) Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare – This will have to stay on my TBR for a little longer as I still need to finish the Infernal Devices before I can make a start on this series.

4) Ringer by Lauren Oliver – After reading the first book in this series last year, I was keen to read the next book. It’s still on my TBR though! I’m hoping to read it soon.

5) Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi – Having heard so many good things about this book, I went out and bought it. I hope it lives up to expectations!

 

Top 10 Tuesday: Creepy Books, Characters and Creatures

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For this month’s Halloween freebie, this list contains scary books and creepy characters or creatures. I haven’t read enough horror books to make a list of spine-tingling novels, so I’ve gone for a mixed list of generally creepy things.

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but as of January has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

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1) The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding – I first read this book years ago and remember finding the Wych-kin scary. There’s something really spooky about this book, maybe it’s also the underlying Jack the Ripper vibes in one of the subplots, but it’s definitely a creepy book.

2) Jonathan in the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare – I always found Jonathan to be a creepier and more interesting villain than Valentine.

3) Joe Goldberg in You by Caroline Kepnes – If any character falls into the creepy category, Joe Goldberg does. He’s the main character but most definitely an antagonist. The use of second person narration probably adds to the creepiness of this book.

81apkuk0bpl4) The Gone series by Michael Grant – I think something unnerving happens in just about every book in this series (I have only read the first four books so far). Plague was particularly creepy, with the bugs eating people alive and other disturbing things happening.

5) Mutts in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – Here I’m referring to a specific scene. In the first novel, when the mutts come to end the games at the end of the book and they bear resemblance to the fallen tributes, I found that really creepy.

6) The Grievers in The Maze Runner series by James Dashner – These creatures really creeped me out when I read the first book in the series.

7) The Cranks in The Maze Runner series by James Dashner – I liked that the Cranks in the books aren’t zombies, they are not undead, they’re still alive, which somehow makes them even more horrifying.

61xbw12b-fyl-_sx324_bo1204203200_8) The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks – This is one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read. It’s a strange book, and also very creepy and weird.

9) The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe – This short story succeeded in creeping me out when I read it. It’s an interesting story about a murderer’s guilt and is worth a read.

10) The Shadow Fold in Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – Although not a character, the Fold in the Grisha series is a frightening entity. The idea of impenetrable darkness that contains flesh-eating monsters is a scary thought.

What are the scariest books you’ve read? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: Specials by Scott Westerfeld

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81vov3tq3hlSpecials by Scott Westerfeld

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Science-Fiction

Publishing Info: May 2011 Simon Pulse (first published 2006)

Pages: 350

Star Rating: 3/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

Tally thought they were a rumor, but now she’s one of them. A Special. A super-amped fighting machine, engineered to keep the uglies down and the pretties stupid.

But maybe being perfectly programmed with strength and focus isn’t better than anything she’s ever known. Tally still has memories of something else.

Still, it’s easy to tune that out—until she’s offered a chance to stamp out the rebels of the New Smoke permanently. It all comes down to one last choice: listen to that tiny, faint heartbeat, or carry out the mission she’s programmed to complete. Either way, Tally’s world will never be the same.

 

Specials is the third book in the Uglies series, and the final book in the main trilogy. There is a ‘companion’ novel, Extras, and Westerfeld recently released Imposters, which is set in the same universe. While I enjoyed this book to a small degree, it didn’t blow me away. It didn’t leave me with any significant lasting impression.

The book opens with brilliant writing. Some amazing descriptions really make you feel like you’re seeing the world through Tally’s special super sense eyes. However, this isn’t carried through the rest of the book. That level of description all the way through would be too much, but I’d have expected more. If you introduce the idea that a character has these extra senses, you have to carry that through and show how they see the world with their super senses in the rest of the book too, not just at the opening to get the reader’s attention.

They’re supposed to be specials, superior to everyone else. They might be in terms of their super reflexes and senses, but they still go around doing tricks and acting not much different from how they did before in some ways.

I never really understood why Dr Cable let Tally and the others be ‘Cutters’, separate from the other Specials. It was supposed to be some kind of special experiment, but there was never really any explanation so I never understood Dr Cable’s purpose in letting the Cutters become some kind of special clique. The presentation of cutting to become ‘icy’ is also problematic, and could have been dealt with in a better way, especially considering this is aimed at a teenage audience.

One of the biggest weaknesses of this book, and the series in general, was the main villain/antagonist, Dr Cable. While I do think the main conflict explored in the series is an internal one – Tally’s fight to overcome her tampered brain – if you’re going to include an antagonist, they can’t just be a vague figure. They have to be at least a bit fleshed out, even if they don’t physically feature in that many scenes. Dr Cable had no character, I had no idea why she was doing what she was doing, what her motivations were, what had made her into that ‘antagonist’. We don’t need a whole back story, especially when she doesn’t have a physical presence in many chapters, but they need to have some character and personality.

Dr Cable seemed to have no character at all. She was a very unconvincing villain, just because I didn’t know anything about her. It’s like she was a token baddy. Just there because a story needs a villain. There wasn’t as much suspense in the last section of Specials because Dr Cable wasn’t very intimidating, she wasn’t a good villain. She was bland and uninteresting, and that just sucked the tension out of the ending. Without any spoilers, the ending of Dr Cable’s story fell flat because I didn’t have any interest in her character to begin with. There’s a great twist towards the end, but it just falls flat.

Overall I enjoyed parts of the series, but it didn’t wow me. The concept was great. I loved the idea of what the world would be like if people were made to look the same through an operation, and how controlling people through messing with their brains as a way to stop them fighting each other and destroying the planet. However, each book felt a bit repetitive. Somehow, this final book just wasn’t a satisfying enough conclusion to the series.

Read my reviews of Uglies and Pretties to see what I thought of the first two books in the series.

Top 10 Tuesday: Longest Books I’ve Ever Read

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This week’s Top 10 Tuesday caught my attention as I know I’ve read a lot of long books, but I wasn’t sure which was the longest.

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but as of January has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

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I’ve sorted this list by order of pages according to Goodreads for ease (where possible for the edition I read), or I could spend ages deciding what is ‘longest’. The Lord of the Rings is listed as one book partly because the edition I own has it in one volume, but largely because this is how J. R. R. Tolkien intended it.

It’s no surprise to find most on this list are high fantasy, nor that a long classic made it into the top ten. There is also more than one book from some series – Paolini’s Eragon series clocks in three books, while Jordan’s Wheel of Time series has two in this list.

  1. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien – 1,178 pages
  2. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini – 849 pages
  3. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin – 806 pages
  4. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan – 800 pages
  5. Brisingr by Christopher Paolini – 764 pages
  6. The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan – 705 pages
  7. Eldest by Christopher Paolini – 682 pages
  8. City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare – 638 pages
  9. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling – 617 pages
  10. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens – 608 pages

What are the longest books you’ve read? Share in the comments!

TV Review: Bodyguard

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Aired: 26 August – 23 September 2018 on BBC

Created by: Jed Mercurio

Written by: Jed Mercurio

Starring: Richard Madden, Keeley Hawes, Sophie Rundle

Genre: Drama, thriller

Rating: 4.5/5

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Image: BBC

It’s the show everyone seems to be talking about, and the most-watched, as it had the biggest BBC drama overnight viewing figures since the Doctor Who Christmas episode of 2008. The big question is – is it worth the hype? The answer to that question is simply yes. This review will be relatively spoiler free, so don’t worry about seeing any in this post. If, however, you decide not to read on for fear of spoilers, take one thing away: go and watch this show.

Bodyguard follows the story of David Budd, who is assigned to protect the Home Secretary, played by Keeley Hawes. The story is set in London in a time when the terrorist threat to the UK is very high. The plot unfurls across six episodes, and maintains high tension and mystery throughout. Tension and suspense drives the thrill of this series, and boy does it have bucketfuls of suspense. There are lots of twists and turns with conspiracies, and I found it totally unpredictable in the most exciting way.

I liked that it wasn’t too violent. So many TV shows these days have unnecessary violence. There was one scene where rather a lot of blood got splattered about, and David Budd does seem to regularly walk about with injuries and blood on his face. But the suspense is built from tense scenes, rather than violence, which I really liked. Nothing felt rushed. The slow build of scenes meant that suspense took the forefront in this series.

I’ve talked a lot about the suspense, but another thing that makes the show great is the characters. The main character, David Budd, is an Afghanistan war veteran suffering from PTSD now working as a protection officer. Richard Madden did a great job at portraying his character, and aside from the main conflicts, another part of the story was seeing David’s developing relationship with his wife (whom he is separated from) and children.

It’s great to see the number of female characters in important positions. Not only is there the Home Secretary, but there are three key female characters within the police force, including the Head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command.

I haven’t quite given Bodyguard five stars, instead leaning to a 4.5 rating. Why? When I have heaped praise upon it? There was one scene in the last episode that seemed a little unrealistic to me. There were a couple of others things that were maybe little plot holes. But other than that, I can find little criticism for this show.

It was unpredictable, thrilling and totally worth watching. Although the main plot was resolved, there were a couple of loose ends that weren’t tied off, potentially leaving it open for another series. As it has proven so popular, I wouldn’t be surprised if we haven’t seen the last of Bodyguard.

Top 10 Tuesday: Books By My Favourite Authors That I Still Haven’t Read

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There are so many books I have enjoyed, but haven’t read any more works by the author. I really should read the books on this list.

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but as of January has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

1) Leigh Bardugo, Six of Crows – I finished the Grisha trilogy this year and now I’m looking forward to diving into another of Bardugo’s series.

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2) Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Prince and others – I feel very behind on Clare’s books. I still haven’t finished the Infernal Devices series and she keeps bringing out more and more novels.

3) Patricia McKillip, many, many books – one of my favourite novels is Ombria in Shadow. I’ve read a few of McKillip’s other books but there are still many on my shelf I have yet to read.

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4) Chris Wooding, Silver – The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray is one of my favourites. I also enjoyed Poison and Storm Thief, but have yet to read Silver.

5) Jay Asher, The Future of Us – Thirteen Reasons Why is another favourite of mine, but I’ve never read any of Asher’s other books.

6) J. R. R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion – I’ve heard this is a little more heavy-going than The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, so I haven’t got round to reading it yet.

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7) Lauren Oliver, Ringer – I’m hoping the sequel to Replica will be as good as the first in the series.

8) Gayle Forman, Where She Went – Having only read one of Gayle Forman’s books – If I Stay – which I absolutely loved, I really should have read more books by her. Top of my list would be the sequel to If I Stay, but I’d like to read other books by her too.

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9) Ashley Maker, Seer – Under the Trees is a great book and I’ve had Seer on my Kindle for a little while now. I really need to get round to reading it!

10) Thomas Hardy – Tess of the D’Urbervilles is one of my favourite classics but I have yet to read any of his other novels.

Book Review: The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

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9780147513861The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Retellings

Publishing Info: April 2017 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons (first published April 2016)

Pages: 422

Star Rating: 3/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.

The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.

 

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that this book didn’t blow me away, considering my fairly neutral reaction to the first book. But I felt invested enough to read the sequel.

It was very slow at first. A quarter of the way in very little had happened. I’m not talking about a lack of action. Action scenes aren’t required to move the story. The problem was that nothing happened to move the plot forward. About a third of the way through it started moving a bit but was still plodding. Perhaps some of the problem was Shazi and Khalid being apart, the spark their relationship created in the first book was missing as a result of them being apart for the first third of the novel.

After a slow start, it picked up half way as more magical elements were introduced to the story and Shazi and Khalid find out how they are going to break the curse on him. This gives them a more defined goal to drive their next actions which made me more engaged in the book.

While the first half was too slow, it picked up from the midpoint and I really enjoyed the second half. There were many twists which kept me glued to the pages. A character death made me shed a tear so I must have felt invested enough in the characters to care about their fates!

The first book explored one set of characters at the palace, then this second novel focused more on Shahzad’s friends and family, but that meant some of the characters from the first book felt left behind. They were there, but there wasn’t enough development of their characters, and since I had been invested in them in the first book, that was disappointing. A friendship between two of the characters that had been rocky during this book wasn’t really resolved which was also disappointing.

Overall, while I feared I wouldn’t enjoy it at first, the second half was much better, and if not for the slow first half and some things being left unresolved, I would have given it four stars. Too many threads were introduced and then left behind as the plot moved along. An important thread seemed to be introduced with Artan and his family but that subplot was abandoned in the second half and I was left with too many unanswered questions. Despite this, I’m glad I read the duology, and I would read more from Renee Ahdieh in future.

You can read my review of book one, The Wrath and the Dawn, here.