Book Review: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

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Rating: ★★★★★
RRP: $32.99 AUD

A huge thank you to Penguin Publishing Australia for gifting me a copy of this incredible book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues–a bee, a key, and a sword–that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library, hidden far below the surface of the earth.

What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians–it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also those who are intent on its destruction.

Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose–in both the mysterious book and in his own life. 

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“Are you lost or are you exploring?”

I have no words.

This was beautiful.

It was poetic and magical.

It was everything I could ever want in a book.

And it’s easily my favourite book of the year!

The Starless Sea takes you on an incredible, vivid adventure. Like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, this book thoroughly immerses you in magic and wonder. I have already set a goal to read it again before the year is out so I can further understand all the small intricacies!

After Zachary Ezra Rawlins stumbles across a mysterious book in his university library, he is whisked off on an adventure that leads him through a magical painted door to a mysterious underground labyrinth filled with stories.

This book was gorgeous! It made me remember why I loved The Night Circus so much. Erin Morgenstern has a way with words. She is a poet. Honestly, my heart is so incredibly full after reading this book. The characters were beautifully written and complex, we got a perfect slow burn (and wonderfully queer) romance and the plot was layer upon layer of intricate detail that came together so beautifully in the end. It’s the kind of book that has you intrigued the whole way through and as you read the last page it’s as if all these pieces fall into place and you look up from your book and just stare in utter reverence at how incredible some story tellers are.

Now I understand that this book may not be for everyone. It can be a little “heavy”and as I’ve stated, there is a lot of intricate detail that some people may find a bit much. But for me, it was absolute wonder. This is a world I would very much like to be a part of!

Over all, I cannot fault this glorious book. It has everything I love in a story and I will read it over and over and over for the rest of my days. Go ahead, leap down the rabbit hole, step through the back of your cupboard, walk through that painted door. You won’t regret it. All the stars in the night sky for this one. Utter perfection.

 

Book Review: The Rift By Rachael Craw

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Rating: ★★★★★
RRP: $19.99 AUD
Find it on Book Depository

A huge thank you to Walker Books for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

For generations, the Rangers of Black Water Island have guarded the Old Herd against horrors released by the Rift. Cal West, an apprentice Ranger with a rare scar and even rarer gifts, fights daily to prove he belongs within their ranks. After nine years away, Meg Archer returns to her childhood home only to find the Island is facing a new threat that not even the Rangers are prepared for. Meg and Cal can’t ignore their attraction, but can they face their darkest fears to save the Island from disaster?

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I need more! This book was incredible and I need more!

I honestly wasn’t expecting to love this as much as I did! I don’t really know what I was excepting, but this book took me back to the feeling of reading The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater for the first time and it was amazing! I knew it was going to be one of my new favourite books when I got about 3/4 of the way through and was frantically googling if there was a sequel in the works! Please, please, please let there be a sequel in the works!

The Rift by Rachael Craw is told from two different points of view. That of Cal West, an apprentice Ranger with rare abilities living on Blackwater Island and responsible for the safety of an ancient herd of deer, coveted for their antlers magical healing properties. And Meg Archer, the daughter of the Master Ranger swept away to the mainland by her mother to live a “normal life” after a terrible childhood accident. Upon Megs return to the island the pair must navigate their way through their growing attraction for one another all while facing their greatest fears to save the island and the Old Herd from disaster.

This book took the term “magical realism” and ran like hell with it! It felt incredibly magical and rich. The world building was so atmospheric and engaging, I could have looked up from my book and been on Black Water Island, surrounded by thrumming lay lines, hell hounds and ancient mythical deer, and I wouldn’t have been surprised. The pacing of the plot was brilliant, I was never once bored with the story and ended up burning through this book in a matter of hours.

The characters were really likeable and despite possessing rare, magical abilities, they still felt completely authentic and real. The slow burn romance was perfection and the interactions between Cal, Meg and other minor characters was really fun and enjoyable.

Overall, The Rift was incredibly whimsical and original. It felt a little murky and confusing to start with, but the more I read, the more clear everything became, and I was able to understand the dynamics of the world and how the characters fit into it. Despite this, I couldn’t bring myself to deduct any stars from this review. I really, truly, LOVED this book and I will definitely be reading any future sequels. Now, excuse me while I go to the store and purchase every other book Rachael Craw has ever written.

Book Review: A Curse So Dark And Lonely By Brigid Kemmerer

we are okayRating: ★★★★
Title: A Curse so Dark and Lonely
Author: Brigid Kremmerer
Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

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This was great! I enjoyed it. I would say it has a very similar feel to the ACOTAR series while reading, but probably aimed more at a slightly younger audience. Nevertheless, I liked it a lot and will definitely continue the series!

A Curse So Dark And Lonely follows Harper, a teenage girl, swept away from her home in Washington DC by Grey, the Commander of the Royal Guard, to Emberfall, a fairytale-esque Kingdom, currently cursed by a powerful enchantress. The only way to break the curse is for Harper to fall for Prince Rhen. But with very little time before the prince is doomed to live as a beast forever and his people are left without a ruler, Harper struggles to know her true feelings. With Emberfall slowly going to ruin, Harper must navigate her way through love, loss, war and heartache.

I actually really enjoyed this Beauty and the Beast retelling. It felt fresh and different, while not straying too far from the original source material  for the reader to know it’s a retelling of a classic fairytale. The novel was right up my alley in terms of genre, and the romance was very sweet. However, I do get the feeling that a love triangle will be a predominant part of the next instalment as there were quite a few moments that it was hinted at and slowly built upon. The love triangle troupe is something I really dislike, so I hope that the author chooses to go a different route or does it in a way I am able to enjoy.

I loved the rich world building! I felt like I was right there in Emberfall with Harper, Rhen and Grey. Speaking of which, the characters were fantastic! I loved that we were given a really strong, female main character with cerebral palsy. It’s not something I have ever seen represented in a YA book before, so it was really great seeing it represented so respectfully. Despite the hints of an impending love triangle, I actually really liked both the male leads and found them both equally as interesting and charismatic. Although, personally, I wouldn’t go past a Commander of the Royal Guard! Ha!

Overall, the story was great! There were a couple of things I didn’t overly enjoy, but it wasn’t enough to stop me from wanting to pick the book up and devour it in a matter of hours. I really liked this retelling, and with the way it ended, I look forward to reading the next instalment!

Book Review: The Graces By Laure Eve

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Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

Everyone said the Graces were witches.

They moved through the corridors like sleek fish, ripples in their wake. Stares followed their backs and their hair.

They had friends, but they were just distractions. They were waiting for someone different.

All I had to do was show them that person was me.

Like everyone else in her town, River is obsessed with the Graces, attracted by their glamour and apparent ability to weave magic. But are they really what they seem? And are they more dangerous than they let on?

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What the heck did I just read?!

Ok, so I don’t really want to just throw the words “this was just like Twilight” around, but.. This was just like Twilight in so many respects.

The Graces follows the new girl in school, River (Bella), who is, along with everyone else at school, infatuated with the Graces (Cullens). The Graces are a threesome of super attractive teen siblings, that are supposedly witches (vampires). For one reason or another they choose River to be their new best friend and together they navigate love, loss, magic and betrayal.

Unfortunately I felt like this book completely lacked atmosphere, and although I believe it was the authors intent to create deep, dark and emotional characters, they mostly just came across as down right pretentious. The pacing was completely off! Nothing happened plot wise for the first 300 pages, by which time, it felt like a dam burst and we were flooded with a lot of information and a really obvious plot twist.

River as a character was horrible! I am really over reading stories about young, hateful girls who rip other girls to shreds because they differ from them. Not to mention her complete and utter adoration of the Graces was cringe worthy! The Graces themselves felt very one dimensional and, for lack of a better word, completely unbelievable and uninteresting. I had absolutely no strong feelings for any of the characters, they all felt completing lacking in substance.

The unoriginal characters are accompanied by unoriginal dialogue. The supposedly “deep” conversations just come across as weird and unbelievable and having to read about River fawning over Edward Cullen’s, oops, I mean, Fenrin Grace’s “crooked smile” and how he smelt “like a thicker, manlier kind of vanilla, was down right nauseating.

I really don’t know how else to describe how I feel about this book. The ending felt really unsatisfying, which I assume is because it’s meant to lead you into reading the squeal. However, due to the first half of this book being totally boring and the last half feeling like it was just too little, too late, I won’t be reading any further. It felt like the author was trying too hard to push the dark and moody vibes of the story that, in the end, it didn’t quite hit the mark. Because of this, I am giving The Graces 1 star.

5 Popular YA Books That Were Given Really Terrible Covers In The Beginning

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“Don’t judge a book by its cover” your mother would say. Which, when it comes to people, is great advice! But when it comes to books, is easier said than done.

Below I have complied a list of really popular YA books/series that were given terrible covers in the beginning! Thankfully a lot of these books ended up getting new covers over time, but how anyone (myself included) picked them up to start with I have no idea!

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Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

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So it might just be me, but I absolutely hate when books have realistic looking character  portraits, or worse, an actual photograph of a person on the cover. I don’t need you filling my head with ideas of what these characters look like, I want to read the story and do all that for myself! The Throne of Glass series is one of my most highly recommended reads. Thank goodness it was given top notch covers after this debacle!

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

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So the original covers for this whole series where pretty terrible, but this one takes the cake for me! I remember I fell in love with this series despite its covers being horrible (and despite a certain weird plot twist at the end of book one! KEEP READING IT’S NOT TRUE!) These books were given a revamp fairly recently and are now much easier on the eye! Unfortunately I have the whole 6 book series in the above cover style though and I can’t bring myself to spend the money to get the new covers for books I already own.

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

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Eeeeek… I hate these covers. I hate everything about them, there really isn’t much I can say I like! I guess the font is ok and of course I didn’t mind the story! Well, It was ok, I read the first couple of books years ago and I didn’t mind them. Sadly, even the new covers for the Vampire Academy series are pretty average, but thank goodness they decided to ditch the models!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

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The Hunger Games series had the biggest ‘glow-up’ I have ever seen when it comes to book covers! Once the movies came out the covers were changed, but not in that horrible “movie cover” way, where they chuck pictures of the actors on the front and call it a day. These books got some really beautiful editions! I’ve had my set with the original covers (above) on my bookcase for years! Until recently when I found the trilogy, second hand, in the most beautiful editions I have ever seen for just $3 each! I couldn’t resist and snapped them up right away! If I have successfully peaked your interest, you can find a picture of these editions on my instagram, here.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

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So I read the first book in this series on a plane from New York City to Los Angeles and I loved it. I then promptly left it in the back of a taxi, along with a number of my other belongings, never to be seen again. But I can tell you now, I would not have picked this book up if it had had this cover. Once you start putting people on the covers of books, I lose interest really quick! Not to mention, this cover has very little relevance to the book in my opinion. I’m not sure what they were thinking here! This series did end up getting some really lovely covers though, which is probably what got me to buy the book in the first place!

So I know in the end it doesn’t really matter what the cover of your book looks like, it’s the story that matters! But I’m sure most book lovers would agree, a pretty cover sure does help!

Book Review: The Hearts We Sold By Emily Lloyd-Jones

Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

When Dee Moreno makes a deal with a demon—her heart in exchange for an escape from a disastrous home life—she finds the trade may have been more than she bargained for. And becoming “heartless” is only the beginning. What lies ahead is a nightmare far bigger, far more monstrous than anything she could have ever imagined.

With reality turned on its head, Dee has only a group of other deal-making teens to keep her grounded, including the charming but secretive James Lancer. And as something grows between them amid an otherworldy ordeal, Dee begins to wonder: Can she give someone her heart when it’s no longer hers to give?

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I very nearly didn’t finish this book. It was a huge disappointment for me which I found to be a little surprising as most of the reviews I have seen for it are fairly good. There wasn’t really anything I liked about this book, except maybe the fact that they had some diverse character representation and that it finally did end. It’s such a shame to say, but I really, really, really, didn’t like this book.

Demons have come to Earth and they are making deals! They don’t want money as payment though, they want human limbs. The Hearts We Sold follows Dee Moreno, who is looking to make a deal to escape her less than ideal home life. The demon doesn’t want just any body part though, it wants her heart. Dee is thrust into a two year contract working for the demon where she, and her fellow heartless, get far more than they bargained for.

The premise itself is original and fantastic, but the execution was sloppy and underdeveloped. I had very little attachment to any of the characters and found myself unmoved by even the more drastic plot points. The story felt sluggish until the very end, where it felt like the author decided to drop everything on us at once and rush to a conclusion, leaving several questions unanswered. The ending however, was probably the only part of the book that I felt even a little bit for the characters. But unfortunately, an ‘alright’ ending doesn’t negate the fact that the rest of the book was slow, boring and a little repetitive.

The characters themselves were very bland. Even our main character, who’s back story was fairly interesting felt like cardboard. The character interactions felt forced and there seemed to be a severe lack of chemistry between the romantic pairing. So much so, that when they finally kissed, it felt weird and out of place for me. The story felt like there was just a whole lot of nothing happening at all times. It’s sad to say, but it was a down right chore to continue reading this book.

Over all, I wouldn’t recommend The Hearts We Sold. There was very little character or plot evolution which made the whole story feel stagnant and underdeveloped. The whole story felt very flat and one dimensional and quite honestly, it felt like a huge waste of time. Because the ending didn’t totally suck, this book has gained an extra half star from me, giving it a rating of 1.5 stars.

Book Review: Truthwitch By Susan Dennard

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Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads synopsis:

In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden – lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls’ heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

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Have you ever had a book sitting on your shelves for years, maybe you’ve tried picking it up before but it didn’t quite capture you at that time so you put it back on your shelf for another day? That was my life with Truthwitch! Although I am glad I gave this novel another chance, I am finding it hard to review due to it feeling like the first section of one very long book with no satisfying conclusions to any of the characters storylines. Due to the length of this series, it feels as if I have barely touched the surface of what this series is truly about.

Truthwitch was definitely more “adult fantasy” than my usual YA reads. However I found that the world building usually found in adult fantasy was lacking. It wasn’t a huge deal for me due to the fact that I am not a huge high fantasy fan and often find dense world building tedious. However if you enjoy high fantasy you may find this novels world building murky and unsubstantial. There were also several characters that had names I couldn’t, for the life of me, pronounce! I found myself either skimming over them or creating completely new pronunciations in my head.

The story itself was great, maybe a little slow to start with, but it picked up after a while and I started to really enjoy the character interactions. The two main characters Safiya and Iseult (this is one of the names I made up a pronunciation for) have an incredible friendship, which I loved reading. They would follow each other everywhere, trust each other completely and die for one another. It was also really refreshing to see that when a romance was introduced, it did not affect their friendship in anyway. Speaking of which, the romance was alright, I do love a good snarky, “at each others throats” romance. However it did feel a little bit like “love at first sight.” I get the feeling this could be explained further down the track as having more to do with their magic causing an irrational instant bond (hopefully ha!) I am a total sucker for a romance though, so although it felt “insta lovey,” I still enjoyed it!

Overall, I really did enjoy this book. I loved the politics of the Witchlands and I am interested to see what happens next. I am hoping that the next book will flesh out the storyline a little more and hopefully it feels less like everything and nothing is happening all at once. Because of the time it took for me to really start enjoying this book, I am giving it 3.5 stars. I will continue the series, but for those of you who enjoy more in-depth fantasy, I’d give it a miss!