Book Review: The Price Guide To The Occult By Leslye Walton

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Rating: ★★★
RRP: $16.99 AUD
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A huge thank you to Walker Books for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

The Blackburn women are cursed. Ever since the extraordinary witch Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island centuries ago and was shunned by the eight “original” settlers, Blackburn witches have been doomed to carry out a brief whirlwind affair with a descendant of the Original Eight. The vengeful curse, however, had unintended side effects: it diluted the Blackburns’ supernatural powers. That’s perfectly all right with seventeen-year-old Nor Blackburn. All she wants is a quiet, unremarkable life—her powers are blissfully unexceptional, her love life pretty much nonexistent. Nor hopes the curse has played itself out through enough generations that she’ll finally be spared the drama. But when a mysterious book comes out promising to cast any spell for the right price, Nor senses a dark storm headed straight for Anathema—and straight for her. 

In her second novel, Leslye Walton spins a dark, mesmerizing tale of a girl stumbling along the path toward self-acceptance and first love, even as the Price Guide’s malevolent author—Nor’s own mother—looms and threatens to strangle any hope for happiness.

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So I really wanted to love this book. That cover, that synopsis! It all looked and sounded like something I would thoroughly enjoy. It started out really promising and the author has an incredible knack for creating atmospheric worlds. I honestly felt like I could smell the fog and feel those cobblestone streets beneath my feet. But when it came to the characters, something was really lacking for me. I would also like to point out that there is also a fair amount of self harm either happening or being talked about in this book. If this is a trigger for you, I would recommend steering clear of this one.

The Price Guide To The Occult follows Nor Blackburn, the latest witch in a line of cursed witches, and her fight to keep the ones she loves most, safe from none other than her own mother. Nor’s mother is hell bent on getting exactly what she wants and she doesn’t care who she has to kill, or how much black magic she has to use to get it. Nor finds herself with more power than she should rightfully have which is both terrifying and may be the only way of destroying her mother for good.

As I said, I couldn’t fault the world in which this is set, it is beautifully written. I loved it. It had this fantastic witchy, dark, mysterious vibe that I could definitely get into and enjoy. However, when it came to the characters, this was when it went down hill for me. It was such a shame that the author was able to create such a rich world, but filled it with cardboard, one dimensional, cliched characters. I found that some, if not all the supporting characters felt completely unnecessary and were there purely to guide the main character from one plot point to the next. The romantic sub plot felt just as unnecessary and bland. Some of the characters were so glossed over that it almost felt intentional, like I was supposed to be waiting for a plot twist that may have involved them. It didn’t come though, they were just bland characters with very little backstory.

The plot itself was interesting, if not a little rushed. I found that I didn’t find the antagonist all that foreboding, despite all the horrendous things she does throughout the book! Again, this could be because I lacked a connection to any of the characters and wasn’t really that concerned that they may not survive the whole book. Due to the story feeling rushed, it felt as though there was no real struggle for the main character. As if this was mostly just a way to start the story and bridge it over to what this series will really be about.

Overall I didn’t hate this book, but I didn’t love it either. Parts of it where interesting, original and fun and other parts where unoriginal and felt rushed. The part I most enjoyed was actually the prologue more than the story itself, I wouldn’t mind reading more about the formidable Blackburn matriarch, Rona Blackburn. Despite this, I probably will continue the story and read future sequels.

Once again, a huge thank you to Walker Books for the opportunity to review this book.

Book Review: The Graces By Laure Eve

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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

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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.