Monday, July 16, 2018

Review: Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

Crave the Mark

Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: HarperCollins
Series: (Carve the Mark #1)
Pages: Paperback, 468 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: January 18th 2017


In a galaxy powered by the current, everyone has a gift.

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power — something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.

Akos is the son of a farmer and an oracle from the frozen nation-planet of Thuvhe. Protected by his unusual currentgift, Akos is generous in spirit, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get this brother out alive — no matter what the cost.
The Akos is thrust into Cyra's world, and the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. Will they help each other to survive, or will they destroy one another?

Carve the Mark is Veronica Roth's stunning portrayal of the power of friendship — and love — in a galaxy filled with unexpected gifts.


When I was initially excited about reading this book, it was because I had confused Veronica Roth with Victoria Schwab in my head. Stupid, I know. But by the time that I actually came around to reading this, I didn't really care about who the author was. I didn't even read the blurb to refresh my memory and just went straight in. I think the element of surprise really worked well for me this time.

This book has a nice mixture of fantasy and sci-fi elements that kinda blend well together in some places but lack the finesse I'm used to in my fantasy and sci-fi novels at others. I'll start with the things that I like and then talk more about some things that could have been handled better.

So. Things I liked:

  • The characters
It's no surprise that I'm a sucker for good characterization. It's one of those factors that can make or break a book for me. Fortunately, Carve the Mark, got that right. I liked how every character was portrayed in this novel and I liked all their quirky characteristics that made them who they were. Cyra steals the show for me though. She hates herself for a lot of things and considers herself a monster but the way she handles herself and tries to be a better person even when doing the wrong thing would be somewhat easier for her, just makes her character such an intriguing one. As a reader, I understood her choices, I sympathized with her situation but I also remarked at her strength, willpower and sensibility throughout the book. She might have made some stupid decisions and she might not have a diplomatic bone in her body but she feels real. Her emotions are sometimes too much and she tries to deal with them on her own cause that's all she's know but you see her inhibitions fall away slowly and see her unfurl into this beautiful, strong woman by the end of the book. It's great! She's just a really good character, okay? As for Akos, he is a likable enough guy but he's mostly in the background for me. He is dedicated, humble, sensitive, brilliant with his potions and kind of a prejudiced fellow but overall, a good fit for Cyra. I would have loved to get more insight on Vas' character and I'm sure there will be more on Isae in the future books but I really appreciated every character's presence in the book. Although, Ryzek could be made a better villain..but that's not a complaint. I'm hoping to see more depth to his character in the sequels.

  • The romance
It's always such a breath of fresh air when there isn't instant attraction or feelings of lust (confused with lurvvv) in YA these days. Cyra and Akos were perfect together! I loved the budding romance. If the MC wasn't Cyra, I would have thought that the girl needed to calm down and not give away her life for the first guy she could literally touch, but it was her and the reasons she decided to do the things she did for Akos just made her so much more special for me. It took a while for Akos to really appreciate how amazing Cyra was, but he got around to it. I was pretty happy with the slow pacing of their romance and their eventual confession of feelings. Akos understood when Cyra needed space and Cyra knew just the right to do or not say when Akos needed his space. It was a lovely dynamic to read about and I loved it.

So. Things I didn't like/think could have been done better:

  • The world building 
Even though I understand that the story is set up in another solar system, where intergalactic? interplanetary? travel is possible, where the politics encompasses all the planets that an Assembly approves? adds? to the list of "valid" nations/planets, I can't quite picture the constitution of it all? I mean, I get that the Shotet are pissed at the Assembly for not considering them as "nationals" so to speak. But why? Because their people don't get the "government" benefits? Because they don't get recognition and get treated as pirates? I'm speculating because at this point, even after recently finishing the book, I don't get it. Maybe I'm just daft or maybe Ms. Roth needs to work a little better on her world building.
    I do like the idea of the current that flows through their world and its symbolic, physical and spiritual impact on different people. It's an interesting concept but the notion of it is still pretty vague to me. What I understand is that it affects everyone in a certain way but the engrossing why or how questions are never touched upon. If this was supposed to be a romance novel, it wouldn't have mattered. But it's not and the world building is a crucial step. There is always a balance an author needs to find but I think Ms. Roth skipped it all together.
    • The beginning 
    I'm all for changing POVs and alternating timelines if they are executed seamlessly and are necessary to the plot machinations but somehow the introductory choppy, rushed events of Akos and Cyra's childhood didn't really feel seamless or well executed to me. I feel like the extra page time that was devoted separately for their childhood could have been covered as flashback scenes and would have made the story feel more present.
    • The pacing 
    This is starting to look like a theme and I feel like I'm complaining a lot but believe you me, I did enjoy the story! The pacing though..

      The book is slow. Most of it is. I didn't mind reading about Cyra and Akos so it didn't botch the story for me but if someone can't get into the characters, I'm sorry but this book might be a drag for you. Pacing and plot-wise, the book does need refinement.

      However, that being said, I still enjoyed reading the book quite a lot. I would definitely come back for more. Mostly because all the flaws I mentioned didn't bother me too much. It's the characters, I tell ya.

      Anyway, a solid 3.5 stars from me!


      Friday, July 13, 2018

      Review: The Cruel Prince

      The Cruel Prince

      Author: Holly Black
      Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
      Series: The Folk of the Air #1
      Pages: Hardcover, 370 pages
      Genre: Fantasy
      Release Date: January 2nd 2018


      Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

      And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

      Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

      To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

      As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.


      I seem to have this issue with Holly Black's books where I just can not for the life of me connect with the characters. This book, as its rating suggests, has all the winning ingredients. Everything from great characters/growth, world building, awesome creatures, good plot, good pacing, awesome action and badassery, and yet...I couldn't care one bit. I almost DNF'd this, but I was already more than halfway through and said what the hell, might as well finish at this point. I'm glad I did cause that last 100 pages was where it made me truly interested in what was going on.

      Here is the kicker though. I still don't really care about our main character. I feel more for Cardan, which we know much less about, but I still got hooked enough to want to find out how this series is going to play out.


      Review: Ella

      Thursday, July 12, 2018

      Review: The Difference Between Us by Rachel Higginson

      The Difference Between Us

      Author: Rachel Higginson
      Publisher: Reckless Siren Publishing
      Series: Opposites Attract #2
      Pages: Kindle Edition, 284 pages
      Genre: Romance
      Release Date: July 17th 2017


      I'm cursed.

      At least when it comes to finding Mr. Right.

      I'm tired of men that only want one night stands or blind dates that are nothing but awkward and uncomfortable. I'm tired of avoiding inappropriate text messages and the constant disappointment of always meeting Mr. Wrong.

      After all these years of dates that lead nowhere, I can admit that it's me. I'm the problem. I'm shy and picky and cursed. Definitely cursed.

      So I've decided two things.

      The first? I'm giving up dating and relationships and men in general. Maybe, possibly, forever.

      The second? I'm going to have to try harder to avoid Ezra Baptiste.

      If I couldn't hack it in the kiddy pool of dating, I certainly can't swim in his deep end. He's too successful. Too intense. He's all man when I'm used to nothing but boys pretending to be grownups. He's everything I'm afraid to want and so far out of my league we might as well be different species entirely.

      So he'll need to find a different artist to paint his mural. And a different graphic designer to help him with his website. He'll need to find someone else to glare at and flirt with and kiss.

      It can't be me.

      We're too different.


      So I like some parts of this, and others... well not so much

      But lets cut to the core: my biggest issue, just like in the first installment, with this, is inconsistency.
      And we talking in every aspect.

      I like certain descriptions for example. They are beautiful and feel authentic. Others feel run of the mill, very cliche and unreal.
      Some moments are poignant they feel real, go straight to the heart. And others... well they felt formulaic and extremely planned.

      The character building is the same. There are things I adored about the characters. Others felt too shallow and also very inconsistent.
      In both books, there is a kinda back and forth between the MCs. The men are clearly into this idea and are pursuing the gals. I quite enjoyed it, but at times I felt the women were a bit obtrusive. It did feel out of character.
      Then there is the Molly in this book and the Molly in the previous book. I don't think the two pictures align. I got the impression that Molly was loyal, sassy and confident in book one. In this installment, however, she stresses how shy she is, all the time. I mean I got she was intimidated by Ezra. But... she didn't come across as shy.
      Then there is Ezra. I loved Ezra in the first installment. And I like him in here, but- and there is a but, somehow I didn't get enough depth from him. I mean Higginson scratched at some of the surfaces. And that was awesome, but most of the time it was just not enough. We didn't get any insight into his relationship with his sister for example. We got more in book one, considering this is his book, I felt unsatisfied. I had questions about his father, his previous relationships - but basically got no answers. I mean they were hinted at, but that's that.
      There were a few moments where one got a feel for what lurks behind Ezra's intensity and his drive. But not enough
      This being written from Molly's POV one could kinda say I am nitpicking about Ezra. But I was left with a lot of questions. Hinting at stuff made Ezra feel a tad too planned and at the same time not thought through enough to make him tangible and real.
      I had moments where I could relate to Molly. Others where I should have been able to relate, but simply couldn't.
      Like I totally got her problems with Henry. I have never been in a situation like it, I got her. Her reluctance at first, her assumptions all of it felt real. Higginson did a really good job at that.
      But then there are Molly's issues with cooking. I mean really?! I could so not relate. I honestly couldn't. It felt like Higginson just needed to add another element of them being opposites. But it made Molly look ditzy. Which is totally out of character. The entire scene felt wrong to me
      Then there is Molly's are and her work. Her assessment of Graphic Design was rather annoying since I am in that field I strongly disagree with her. Also, Molly was complaining about it, but in the end, she didn't choose to become an artist. Again, it felt inconsistent.
      Then there is the subject of being creative. I don't think Higginson and I see eye to eye on that. So I won't bore you with that bone I want to pick with her. But, while on some occasions, I could feel Molly's love and her losing herself in her art, most of the time it felt like how one should feel about art. Or at least how the run of the mill describes it.

      There are zero surprises in here. But I was okay with it. It is what I expected in many ways. It's cute and fluffy set around chefs and all that.
      But while Higginson does touch on some heavy subjects. And she does a really good job at it if you ask me. Every time it comes to its peak- it's kinda swept aside. Done. Solved. It felt like not enough.

      I did enjoy it. But I also felt like there are plenty of inconsistencies, enough to make me think - here we go again, this was different a few pages ago...
      Alas, I am going to read the next installment next. Because while I feel this needs some more work it also is actually not bad. In fact, I think it could be quite a great book if one would iron out those inconsistencies and add more depth to subjects that have already been touched.
      So a generous 3 Stars it is.


      Review: by Deniz

      Tuesday, July 10, 2018

      Review: Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima


      Author: Cinda Williams Chima
      Publisher: HarperCollins
      Series: Shattered Realms #1
      Pages: Hardcover, 535 pages
      Genre: Fantasy
      Release Date: April 5th 2016


      A burning vengeance.

      Adrian sul’Han, known as Ash, is a trained healer with a powerful gift of magic—and a thirst for revenge. The son of the queen of the Fells, Ash is forced into hiding after a series of murders throws the queendom into chaos. Now Ash is closer than he’s ever been to killing the man responsible, the cruel king of Arden. As a healer, can Ash use his powers not to save a life but to take it?

      A blood-based curse.

      Abandoned at birth, Jenna Bandelow was told the mysterious magemark on the back of her neck would make her a target. But when the King’s Guard launches a relentless search for a girl with a mark like hers, Jenna assumes that it has more to do with her role as a saboteur than any birth-based curse. Though Jenna doesn’t know why she’s being hunted, she knows that she can’t get caught.

      Destiny’s fiery hand.

      Eventually, Ash’s and Jenna’s paths will collide in Arden. Thrown together by chance and joined by their hatred of the king, they will come to rescue each other in ways they cannot yet imagine.

      Set in the world of the acclaimed Seven Realms series a generation later, this is a thrilling story of dark magic, chilling threats, and two unforgettable characters walking a knife-sharp line between life and death.


      Hmm... I don't know how to put into words (or rating) my thoughts about this book. I was kinda sad with how the book started but I guess it was important to get the plot moving? That being said, it didn't take me long to get invested into the story but at the same time, the crux of the story wasn't that appealing to me. I mean, I remember that the King of Arden was an ass but for him to hold a grudge for that long? And then the ending? I don't know could have been spun out a lot better IMO.

      As for the characters, I think they were alright. Not great enough to leave a remarkable impression but interesting enough to stand out. Speaking of, what's up with Jenna and her secret powers? I really really wanna know but after reading the blurb of the sequel, I'm kinda bummed that the next book isn't going to focus on Ash and Jenna and also confused about how the author plans to progress with all these secrets.

      Anyhoo, I liked the book but it did fall short on leaving a lasting impression. It wasn't bad but it wasn't memorable either. Meh 3 stars.


      Review by Navs


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