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Daphne (Winged Reviews) (London, UK)

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Death & Co.
Death & Co.

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't meet expectations. Loved one half, disliked the other., 20 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Death & Co. (Kindle Edition)
I was pretty much sold when I heard about the book at the Hot Key Books event that I attended--a book about a family of grim reapers? Hell yes! Unfortunately, it just really didn't meet my expectations. It's such a huge shame that I wanted to love it, but so much of it didn't work for me.

The book follows Adam, a Luman, part of a family that have acted as grim reapers guiding the newly departed into the `light' for generations. Unlike his brothers though, he hates his heritage and gets a bit ill when having to travel to the other side. He longs to have a normal life as a teenager, doing normal things like playing pranks and crushing on girls. As luck would have it though, he actually has a rare Luman ability and he needs to decide whether to break the law and use his powers for good.

The narration was really jarring, as the third-person style didn't let get me invested in Adam. I was told things in dribs and drabs and it was hard to really connect with Adam as a main character. I also thought it made the book feel more juvenile that it was given some of the themes it explores.

The story itself was a strange mix of contemporary high school hijinks and cool, paranormal adventure. And while I really liked one part of it, I felt let down by the other half.

I mean, it's been a long time since I've been a teenager, but were teenage boys really this immature? The majority of the story revolved around them playing a drawn-out practical joke on a mean teacher. There was a little bit of trying to date, friend jealousy and bullying as well, but mainly just practical jokes which were mean and not really that funny. I also thought that Adam generally made some pretty dumb choices throughout and he kind of deserved all of his misfortune. I struggled to sympathise with him.

On the other hand, the Lumen part of the book was great. I was fascinated by the Lumen's role in guiding spirits into the afterlife. I was really intrigued by the unique political structure their society has. There was also one stand out reaping scene that was very harrowing. If only more of the book was about this part of Adam's life! Seriously Adam, why do you have this fascination for being normal? Being a Luman is so much cooler.

All in all, it was right down the middle for me. It just started to get interesting at the end and then it stopped. I would probably read the sequel if it focused more on the part of the book I enjoyed, so I think I'll wait and see what other reviews have to say before picking it up.

All Our Yesterdays
All Our Yesterdays
by Cristin Terrill
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Heart-pounding, fast-paced dystopian adventure. You won't be disappointed!, 20 Aug. 2013
This review is from: All Our Yesterdays (Paperback)
When time travel is done right, it is phenomenal and Cristin Terrill got it absolutely spot on with her sci-fi, time bending debut! All Our Yesterdays had me hooked from the start and took me on a heart-pounding, fast-paced dystopian adventure. I haven't cared for characters' survival this much since The Hunger Games--Em and Finn completely won me over and the ending absolutely blew my mind!

Em finds herself locked in a cell alone and next door to Finn, both of them being tortured for information. After finding a mysterious note hidden in her cell's drain, Em decides there's no other option but to break out, go back in time and do the unthinkable. The story took me on a rollercoaster of emotions! I want to heap more praise about the wonderful plot, but I think its best read not really knowing what's going on and experiencing the wonder when it all falls into place.

The quality of the writing was superb, even more so if you consider that this is Terrill's debut. Not only was it non-stop excitement (I had real trouble putting the book down once I got started), but the characters were all so incredibly likable. She managed to create someone real in Em, who I came to know and love within a very short space of time. I loved her tenacity, strength, and her ability to grow up and make near impossible decisions so quickly. I also loved sweet, kind Finn, who is just as brave, funny and most importantly, a good friend as well as a boyfriend. I loved seeing how their relationship grew `backwards'--knowing how they ended up and seeing their relationship dynamic change and grow. And their banter was glorious.

There were so many incredibly cool scenes in this book as a result of the way the plot was set up and it's taking all my willpower not to hit you with CAPSLOCK giddiness, but in addition to that, it also had all the FEELS (ok, I hit you with one caps). I even cared about the supposed villain, but mostly I cared about Em and Finn throughout, future to past, even when they were essentially different people. This is what made it a winning combination for me. Also, Terrill really couldn't have wrapped the story up any better. I was satisfied and a little hopeful, which is just how I love to be after reading a great book.

I highly recommend this book to anyone! You won't be disappointed.

Prep School Confidential (A Prep School Confidential Novel)
Prep School Confidential (A Prep School Confidential Novel)
Price: £5.80

3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining mystery, perfect for fans of Gossip Girl and Night School, 20 Aug. 2013
I was immediately drawn to the premise of Prep School Confidential. I love `boarding school' books and mysteries, so it seemed like a great fit! I'm pleased to say that this book is an entertaining mystery read, perfect for fans of Gossip Girl and Night School.

Anne Dowling, a true blue Upper East Sider, is banished to a prestigious boarding school near Boston after she accidentally sets her school on fire. At first determined to get through the year with her head down and be back in Manhattan as soon as possible, everything is turned upside down when her new roommate was murdered. The rest of the school is eerily quiet about the matter, so it's up to Anne to investigate and find out the truth behind Isabella's death.

Anne was an extremely charming narrator. It would be easy to peg her as a spoiled brat given her privileged background, but I thought she was really down to earth and funny. Her popularity stems from her being naturally charismatic, not because of any `Mean Girls' tendencies. She is also probably the only character in the book that really cared about justice for Isabella, which means her moral compass was pointing in the right direction. Sure, she's impulsive and she got herself into a lot of threatening situations by not thinking things through, but I liked her spunk. I also was a fan of her decision in the obligatory love triangle stakes.

The mood of the story transitioned from cheery boarding school contemporary to sombre murder mystery once Isabella died. That said, the book flowed really well and I wasn't bored at any point. It was a fun, fast read--I finished it in a couple of days. I found myself invested in solving the crime and finding out who Isabella's killer was. I also loved all the secrets about the boarding school that started unravelling further into Anne's investigation. Mystery wise, I think the author did a great job with presenting so many possible suspects as I was kept guessing until the very end.

While Anne was extremely well developed, I thought there could've been more characterisation of the supporting characters. I was confused as there were far too many students mentioned and they all started to get muddled up in my head, especially as the majority of them had fairly nondescript personalities.

That said, if you are a fan of boarding school books or YA murder mysteries, then this isn't one to miss. I'll definitely be picking up the sequel to read more as I hope the conspiracy theories keep flowing!

Siege and Storm: The Grisha #2
Siege and Storm: The Grisha #2
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Truly epic, fantastic sequel!, 6 Jun. 2013
Siege and Storm is a fantastic sequel to last year's debut Shadow and Bone. In fact, it was even better. It had everything I loved about the first book--the world-building, the incredible characters, the immersive writing--and more. My heart! This book is truly epic, filled with oodles of imagination and entertainment.

At the end of Shadow and Bone, Alina and Mal had barely escaped the Shadow Fold and ran away across the True Sea to live a simpler, peaceful life. Naturally this didn't last as they are soon tracked down by The Darkling and forced to board a whaler back to Ravka. Story-wise, it was fast-paced and gripping--I couldn't put it down. I loved the mythology of Morozova's amplifiers and the history of Grisha science. This book definitely has something for everyone: fantasy, romance, humour, action and mythology, just to name a few.

Leigh Bardugo has seemingly done the impossible and given us not one, not two, but three amazing men to swoon about. What a fantastic cast of characters this book has.

Alina has made her transition from scared orphan to powerful Saint, and I liked it. She showed more backbone, more sarcasm, and a little more darkness as she finally embraced her true potential. I liked seeing other characters like Genya, Zoya and David playing bigger roles in the book as well, although without giving too many spoilers away, their stories broke my heart. I also really enjoyed the new characters, twins Tolya and Tamar who were kick ass Grisha fighters and become part of Alina's elite guard.

The Darkling really amped up his evil, his presence lingering throughout the book. I was both fascinated and scared by him in this, especially when he developed his frightening new ability and during his `moments' with Alina. But Mal. Can I just say that I loved him so much more? He had the best quotes and that's saying something from a book with incredible dialogue. He really came alive in this book. His love for Alina was so clear in everything he did, and I wanted to give him a big hug every time a new situation tore them apart.

My personal favourite is the infamous Sturmhond, captain of the seas and free-spirited privateer was so much more (and what a brilliant twist this was). He's charming with that well-placed arrogance and swagger that I instantly loved. He's got the best attributes of Puck from The Iron Fey, Prince Arthur from Merlin, Peeta from The Hunger Games all rolled into one, which is just irresistible. Sturmhond is the best thing about Siege and Storm, hands down. Really, because of him, the book overall was funnier, sweeter and more engaging.

Throughout the book, I couldn't predict where the story would go next, and I was not disappointed by the absolute killer of an ending! Bardugo once again proves she's a master storyteller. It's going to be a tough wait for Ruin and Rising.

Shadow and Bone: The Grisha #1
Shadow and Bone: The Grisha #1
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Epic fantasy debut!, 6 Jun. 2013
I originally read this book when it debuted last year and loved it. Shadow and Bone had everything I wanted in a fantasy--a uniquely imagined world, fantastic characters, and great writing. After having the pleasure of re-reading the book recently (thanks to the lovely team at Indigo's 2-in-1 mega ARC), I need to caps, bold and add an exclamation mark to my original assessment: I LOVED IT! I know it's hard to imagine, but it was even better the second time around.

Shadow and Bone is the story of Alina Starkov, an orphan girl who finds out she's so much more. She is Grisha, a master of the Small Science and a very special one at that--someone gifted with the unique ability to stop the Shadow Fold, a dark wasteland that blocks the country's only access to the True Sea.

I found the world of Ravka genuinely fascinating. It's been said countless times but it is extremely rare to find a fantasy book set in a place that isn't reminiscent of medieval England. This book brought tsar-punk into our lexicon, which is a magical mix of military fur, snow-covered forests, mysterious regal animals and smouldering men in black. Plus I really want one of those Grisha kefta robes to lounge around in.

Also, I can't remember the last time I read a book with such a charming cast of characters. Alina's self-doubt combined with her low threshold for taking crap from others makes a really entertaining combination. I instantly rooted for her and her self-deprecating humour. The book also brought us The Darkling, the perfect anti-villain who oozed charisma and power. I don't know anyone who wasn't seduced by his dark charm. I also held a soft spot for Mal, Alina's childhood best friend, whose friendliness and easy-going way made him instantly likable. And even with them all, my favourite character was gorgeous, confident Genya. I wanted to be her AND be her best friend. She's like a silk dress boned with a corset of steel--beautiful and fierce. I really loved her friendship with Alina and her unique position in the palace.

The writing is wonderfully rich. Bardugo has a knack for immersing you completely in her world within seconds and keeping you glued to the page with her compelling story. The dialogue was simply delightful--from the sarcastic snark, to the declarations of love, to the world-changing proclamations--all infused with that twinkle of humour and passion that Bardugo has in spades. The book is so damn quotable that it is impossible for me to pick my favourite.

If you haven't read Shadow and Bone yet, I hope this review has given you enough reasons to do so. If you still aren't convinced, let me take you out for some kvas and let's talk.

If You Find Me
If You Find Me
by Emily Murdoch
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully sad and uplifting tale, 10 May 2013
This review is from: If You Find Me (Hardcover)
Simply, this was a beautifully sad but uplifting tale. When I began reading, my heart ached with that familiar feeling when I know I'm reading something special. If You Find Me had me loving, laughing, crying and hoping nothing but the best for the girls. Big hugs to them both.

The book starts at what Carey considers `The End'. Home for Carey and her sister Jenessa is with their drug-addicted mother in a beat down camper van hidden away in a Tennessee national forest. One day, after her mother has been gone for over a month, her father and a social worker come to see the girls to introduce them back into `normal' life. Carey has terrible memories of her mother taking them away from her father, and Jenessa has been mute for a year, ever since a faithful incident that haunts Carey's conscience.

Seeing Carey and Nessa's struggles with readapting back into society was beautiful. I was so touched every time they found joy in such mundane things, like taking a shower, or having food that wasn't beans. I began to appreciate everything more, and realised how lucky we are to have all the comforts we take for granted like food, shelter and clean clothes. It was incredibly moving when Carey started to miss things from her life in the woods, like the wood smoke from their campfire and the sound of the trees, and this book is littered with so many other little glimpses of humanity.

I attribute this to Murdoch's evocative writing. Carey is a wonderful narrator--her complexity of feelings and point of view is fascinating. Murdoch uses Carey's unconventional upbringing to bring a beautiful lyricism to the writing and the quirks like Carey's tendency not to pronounce `g's or call everyone `Sir' added a touch of realism. Apart from her unique voice, I just really admired Carey. She's one of the bravest characters I've read in YA fiction, not because she's jumping on trains or great with a bow and arrow, but for her sheer tenacity and ability to act and accept like she does, despite her horrible luck in life. She's truly exceptional. I was so pleased for her when she made friends with Pixie and Ryan, who I thought was incredibly sweet.

I walked the line between happiness and heartbreak throughout the whole book. I wanted so much good to happen for the girls that I was on my toes the entire time, praying that nothing will go horribly wrong. I loved all the goodness that the girls experienced and how they were treated by their new family, but queasy with dread whenever I read about their life in the woods. My only qualm is that I didn't feel the flashbacks were integrated smoothly into the story, and broke the flow.

Safe to say I cried at lot at the end. It was an incredibly moving book and one that will stay with me for a long time. A real must read!

Requiem (Delirium Trilogy 3)
Requiem (Delirium Trilogy 3)
by Lauren Oliver
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Left wanting more, 10 May 2013
I fear the end of an incredible journey with a series. Partly because I don't want the world to be closed forever, sometimes it's because I don't want the fandom to end, but mostly it's because I don't want to be let down. I want it to end WELL. So as much as I was looking forward to Requiem after the fantastic Pandemonium, my fears were realised. It didn't quite live up to my expectations.

Requiem takes place after the shocking end of Pandemonium. It alternates between Lena's point of view and Hana's. Lena is back in the Wilds, and struggling with her personal demons (boys, naturally) while the Invalids plan a big stand against the government. On the other hand, Hana's wedding to Fred, the new mayor of Portland, is fast approaching. While her life seems perfect, she's starting to question whether her cure is working and discovering things about her future husband-to-be that make her very afraid.

I didn't dislike the book, quite the contrary. The same things I loved in the first two books were present in spades, like Oliver's beautiful prose and how she tugs on my heartstrings. Lena's sorrow and pain are beautifully described and my emotions switched between heartbreak and anger at the Lena, Alex and Julian situation (mainly because I thought it should've clearly been Julian). I also thoroughly enjoyed Hana's return, and I found her life and the mysteries in it very compelling. It was interesting to read from the point of view of someone who is essentially supposed to be devoid of emotions, but struggles how to deal with these feelings bubbling to the surface.

The book definitely suffered from the `Deathly Hallows' syndrome, where too much of the story was unnecessary wandering around the Wilds. I felt awful for the situation that they faced, but raced through these frankly boring parts. The Invalids seemed aimless for most of it, and despite the brief little glimpses where Oliver explores the pain of having loved and lost, it should've just fast-forwarded to the story's culmination in Portland.

I was so annoyed about these slow sections because about 80% through the book, I found myself thinking and writing `holy snapple', a phrase I have never once uttered. The book got GOOD. The rebellion was in full force, everyone had a plan, the tense excitement I felt for much of Pandemonium was back--this was what I was waiting for. Then I started to panic as I realised I only had a measly 50 pages left of the book and so much I still want to see happen and resolve...that never did. There were some fantastic scenes towards the end, my favourite being the one where Lena and Hana finally meet, but what about everything else? What about the characters I have come to know and love? What about the state of the world?

So there you have it, a disappointing ending to what I still feel is a great series--not because of the quality of the book, but because I wanted more. And I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling like this.

Delirium (Delirium Trilogy 1): 1/3
Delirium (Delirium Trilogy 1): 1/3
by Lauren Oliver
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written dystopia, 22 April 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Love--in all its forms, it's considered a disease in Delirium's dystopian society. When citizens come of age, they undergo an operation that cures them of it. Lena is a 15 year old girl several months away from her cure, and wouldn't you know it, she falls in love.

I've read similar books I didn't enjoy, so I was a bit late getting to this. Luckily the lovely people at Hodder sent me Requiem and I was piqued by all the hype. Although I found Delirium somewhat slow, Lauren Oliver's beautiful prose absolutely won me over, and in the end I found it to be an exciting, beautiful read. Amor deliria nervosa, you may have just got me with this one.

Most dystopian main characters are so ready to break free from their conventional lives, that I found Lena's tentativeness refreshing. Initially, it wasn't her, but her best friend Hana who rebels against society. Lena is resistant, and because her mother was taken away for contracting the disease, she prefers to live her life on the straight and narrow to avoid any further humiliation to her family.

As chance would have it, she meets Alex, who appears cured. After cautiously spending some time with him, she eventually realises she may have contracted this disease she has tried so hard to avoid. He shows her that the `Invalids' who live outside the walls of society are real and reveals this whole world outside of her own.

When they fell in love, Lena's reflections and feelings unfolded so beautifully I found myself clinging to every word. She had a genuine struggle over her new feelings and what she had always believed was right. She wanted to be brave, but she was scared. I absolutely loved her for that. Her characterisation was realistic and heart-breaking.

I was, however, let down by Alex. He was lovely, but altogether almost too perfect. He lacked personality and that spark, that flaw, which makes someone attractive. To me, he was an ideal instead of a love interest. I liked how his presence affected Lena, but I wasn't sold on their chemistry. I did however, love Hana. She was fun and fierce and I loved their friendship throughout the book.

Where the book also fell flat for me was the pace. While I could sit all day and read Oliver's lyrical writing, I wanted--no needed--more plot. I loved Hana, Lena and Alex's camaraderie, but it wasn't until the last quarter of the book where events ramped up, my heart was racing and I got really caught up in the excitement. I was impressed by Oliver's ability to write heart-pounding action scenes just as well as the beautiful flowery ones. I found myself fearful and anxious right along with Lena.

I couldn't wait to pick up the next in the series. Delirium slowly spun a web around me and now I'm officially caught in its world.

Pandemonium (Delirium Trilogy 2) (Delirium Series)
Pandemonium (Delirium Trilogy 2) (Delirium Series)
Price: £4.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Delirium!, 22 April 2013
Even after the intense ending of Delirium, Lauren Oliver exceeded my expectations with this book and more. Word circulated that Pandemonium was a lot better than Delirium and I agree wholeheartedly. Not only is it filled with gritty action and true emotion, it also introduced a boy that I love a whole lot better.

Pandemonium starts a while after Delirium, but also immediately after. It's told from Lena's `Now' and `Then' point of views, the `Now' being the current timeline and the `Then' flashing right back to the events after Delirium and Lena's start in the Wilds. Lena is now part of the resistance in New York City, with a fake identity as an active member of Deliria-Free America (DFA) in order to bring the organisation down from the inside and to keep an eye on its poster boy, Julian Fineman.

I fell in love with Oliver's writing once again, especially when she describes Lena's sorrow. The `Then' point of view was so heart-breaking. Lena struggled with survival, fitting in, adjusting to life now that her whole world and beliefs had been cast aside. She was also wracked with guilt, believing that she was responsible for Alex's death.

As much as I enjoyed the beauty in her sorrow though, it was the `Now' timeline that I raced through the book for. From Lena attending her first DFA meeting and throughout Lena and Alex's imprisonment and escape, everything that happened was heart-poundingly exciting. When the book built up to the amazing climax, it really was impossible to put down. My heartbeat was racing, my palms were sweaty and I certainly felt like I was up against my own clock. My mind was screaming at Lena, as I wanted her to pull of her greatest feat yet.

I really admired Lena throughout Pandemonium, as she really came full-circle. From someone who was shown and taught throughout the majority of the story thus far, she has turned from being saved to becoming a saviour. I love the parallels between what Alex did for Lena in Delirium and what Lena did for Julian. I respected her so much for sticking to her conviction, for pulling off some amazing escapes, and also (in the immortal words of Demi Lovato) for giving her heart a break. Her emotions were killing her and I was so glad to see her slowly forgiving herself.

My absolute favourite thing about the book though was Lena and Julian's chemistry and slow acceptance of each other. Julian really surprised me a lot as a character. I genuinely thought that his imprisonment with Lena was some sort of ruse by the DFA to get one up on the resistance (boy was I wrong about whose ruse it turned out to be). His quiet determination and innocence was very attractive. It was great to see his character develop as everything he knew to be true fell apart. He struggled a lot with the idea of Lena, and I thought he showed great bravery accepting everything that was thrown his way. I was really happy when Lena finally gave in to Julian's love.

Best of all, WHAT AN ENDING. Oliver is again the master of the cliffhanger and has killed me dead. All in all, I loved this book so much for two reasons: a more kick-ass Lena and a much better male protagonist in Julian. Bring on Requiem!

Beautiful Creatures (Book 1)
Beautiful Creatures (Book 1)
Price: £4.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Great idea, disappointing characters, 8 Mar. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Broadly, I enjoyed it. For anyone who hasn't yet read it, the story is told from the point of view of Ethan Wade, who has lived in Gatlin, a small town in Southern USA (where everybody knows your name), his entire life. His life gets a shake-up, however, when new girl Lena Duchannes moves into town. She is instantly a pariah because she lives with her uncle Macon Ravenwood, the town recluse, in the creepy Ravenwood manor.

It comes to light after some bizarre dreams, strange telepathy and a shattered classroom window that Lena isn't a normal girl from a normal family. She's a Caster, a member of a family who have varying supernatural abilities. Unfortunately in her family, when a Caster turns 16 they get allocated to either the `Light' or the `Dark'. So she and Ethan spend the months leading up to her 16th birthday trying to uncover the reasons behind this and what can be done to prevent Lena going to the `Dark' side (insert obvious Star Wars joke here).

I actually liked the way the authors classified the different Casters and found the powers varied and interesting. My favourite part of the book though, was the underlying historical mystery. An enigmatic locket with initials, flashbacks and a sordid American Civil war romance doomed to repeat itself centuries later--I was officially hooked.

As far as the characters go, while I enjoyed Ethan's point of view as a narrator (a refreshing twist on the standard paranormal formula), I wasn't wholly invested in Ethan and Lena individually and in their relationship. I felt sympathetic towards them, but at the same time I didn't really care too much if they managed to stay together or not. I found a lot of the other characters, particularly Ridley's blend of evil nature and good intentions and Amma's fierce authority more interesting.

I was also somewhat disappointed by the ending. It was very big in scale, but lost a lot of the heart of the book, the individual struggles each character has as they get caught between the Light and Dark. It also felt a bit like a cop-out, a way to prolong the story of Lena being in between for another year (and another book). In short, it was interesting an enjoyable first book, but I'm not racing to read the next instalment. I will probably go see the film though.

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