Review: The Starlight Watchmaker by Lauren James

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Wealthy students from across the galaxy come to learn at the prestigious academy where Hugo toils as a watchmaker. But he is one of the lucky ones. Many androids like him are jobless and homeless. Someone like Dorian could never understand their struggle – or so Hugo thinks when the pompous duke comes banging at his door. But when Dorian’s broken time-travel watch leads them to discover a sinister scheme, the pair must reconcile their differences if they are to find the culprit in time.

What an absolutely charming novella. Lauren James is one of my favourite authors and an auto-buy for me. I picked this book up at YALC alongside a free necklace which is very cute (and I’m actually wearing right now)! I remember seeing the cover reveal of this and knowing immediately I wanted it on my shelves, and it didn’t disappoint.

Considering this book is only just over 100 pages, James manages to create a quietly vivid world with a great atmosphere. I honestly marvelled at some of the things she had dreamed up and described in ways I could picture so easily. The Starlight Watchmaker is set on a college campus, but is also in a very futuristic, sci fi world with different planets, androids and species. The college campus setting was recognisable enough and easy enough to picture for me as the reader to be able to comprehend the rest of this wonderful world.

Hugo as a character was brilliant. Lonely and trying to find a place in the world, hiding himself away and not realising how dire his need for friendship was until he meets Dorian. Both characters were cleverly written and I quickly sympathised with them in such a short amount of time.

Overall, this was such an enjoyable read as usual. The only reason I’m knocking off a star is purely because the language was a little young for me and felt very simplistic compared to her other novels. Obviously this is a very personal reason as I’m sure young teens would absolutely adore this!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Bone Season (#1) by Samantha Shannon

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The year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant – and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.
It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, drugged and kidnapped, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

I left The Bone Season with such mixed feelings about it. It took me a while to get through but I found the ending much more compelling and enjoyable. So even though it was a slow read, I would like to continue with the series in the future!

Paige was such a great female lead. She was headstrong and independent but not immune to her own personal struggles. Paige was definitely one of my favourite things about this book, and I really liked reading about her personal journey.

“There was no normal. There never had been.”

However, many other parts of this book let it down. Coming from a reader who enjoys a lot of YA and hasn’t read much fantasy until the past few years, I found this book incredibly daunting and somewhat annoyingly intricate. Shannon has created a very unique and impressive world by inventing so much, but unfortunately this included so many people and so much slang that it was confusing at the best of times. Hence, I definitely began to enjoy this read a lot further into the book as I finally understood more about what was going on. Luckily, there is a glossary to help put the pieces together!

I’ve seen a lot of reviews describing this book as dense, and I can definitely agree. The pacing is slow, but somewhat addictive, especially towards the end. Just expect to put some effort in if you do pick this up!

I can safely say the worldbuilding and all around confusing aspects were definitely the worst part for me. Despite it, there were many times I sat there thinking ‘god, this book is good’. I found myself so invested in those amazing, passionate action scenes.

“”Normal” and “natural” were the biggest lies we’d ever created.”

From what I understand, this book was Samantha Shannon’s debut. Going off that, I’m intrigued to see how much her writing has developed, and I’m super excited to read The Priory of the Orange Tree. If it wasn’t for the intense worldbuilding and issues surrounding the confusing aspects, I would definitely be giving this a much higher rating!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Blog Tour & Review: The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson

Hello readers! I was lucky enough to be selected by Source Books Fire through Midas Public Relations to take part in this blog tour. It was such an exciting tour to be a part of and I’m really grateful for the ARC copy they sent me in exchange for this honest review. Thank you again, Source Books Fire!

I’m finishing up this tour alongside DMCI Reads and The Library Looter. Go check them out!

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In the tropical kingdom of Rhodaire, magical, elemental Crows are part of every aspect of life…until the Illucian empire invades, destroying everything.
That terrible night has thrown Princess Anthia into a deep depression. Her sister Caliza is busy running the kingdom after their mother’s death, but all Thia can do is think of all she has lost.
But when Caliza is forced to agree to a marriage between Thia and the crown prince of Illucia, Thia is finally spurred into action. And after stumbling upon a hidden Crow egg in the rubble of a rookery, she and her sister devise a dangerous plan to hatch the egg in secret and get back what was taken from them.

I fell in love with this book the moment I saw it. I mean, the beautiful cover is a pretty good start, right? As soon as I started reading, I felt somehow comforted, in the sense I just knew I was going to enjoy this one.

It felt so lovely to read a good fantasy. I recently read The Last Namsara, and even though I liked it, The Storm Crow just seemed to add the things I missed in that one. For a start, the world was beautiful and so well described – I felt enveloped in the rich, lush description of the lands and kingdoms. The writing was poetic and lovely.

One of my favourite parts of this book was the first chapter. It was full of action and intrigue, and kept me intrigued for the lulls and slower parts. And unfortunately, the only downside for me was that this book did lull. Although the writing was great, the pacing unfortunately wasn’t. The action was very sporadic and I felt left for the majority of the book without any. Part of me understands due to Thia’s mental health, and the slow plot did make me sympathise with her personal struggles.

But that’s where my complaints end – I adored everything else about The Storm Crow. Thia resonated deeply with me in a way characters in fantasy don’t usually. I find with fantasy there can be some disconnect if the characters seem unattainable or unrealistic. With Thia, things are different. She struggles openly with grief and depression, and the way this was discussed felt so important. She was still a badass, passionate and heroic woman, but she was also struggling and surviving day by day. It made her so much more real.

My love for the characters doesn’t end there. This book had a great cast of side characters too, and I loved them all for their own roles. Thia’s relationship with her sister felt well written, and so did her friendship with Kiva, who I loved. Her friendship with Caylus and difficult friendship with her husband-to-be also offered interesting, dynamic relationships I became quickly invested in. And I can’t write this review without giving a shoutout to a villain I absolutely loved to hate, Razal.

The whole crow element to this book is something I’ve not really seen before in YA, and I loved it. Having such a strong connection to the magic and animals gave the story a whole different dynamic and focus, rather than just the politics. Instead, the story flickered between politics and magic and Thia’s passionate love for the crows, which kept me on my toes and interested.

Overall, this book encompassed me in such a love for a rich world, diverse (in all ways), lovable characters, magic and passionate writing. All in all, the only reason this didn’t quite get 5 full stars from me is unfortunately the pacing – everything else was there and I loved it.

★★★★★ 
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Last Namsara (#1) by Kristen Ciccarelli

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In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be dark—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death bringer. 
These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up hearing in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.
Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her. 

I saw that this author is going to be at YALC 2019 and decided to give it a go! Unfortunately, it was a super slow burner for me and I’m left with very mixed feelings. I always find reading fantasy for me can go two ways – either I love it straight away or it takes me a long time to completely understand the story and eventually might enjoy it. This was the latter!

For a start, I couldn’t, even at the end, picture the characters very well at all. It just seemed to lack basic imagery, and I would have loved more detail about the characters appearances and the land itself. I find that some authors, especially for debuts, will be able to picture a world in their head so well that they struggle to include the smallest details on paper, because for them, they aren’t needed. But for us as readers, we need even the smallest detail to build up a picture of the world.

‘Then may Death send his worst. Cold to freeze the love in my heart. Fire to burn my memories to ash.’

Unfortunately because of this, it took me almost a week to finally finish this book. I just wasn’t drawn to it for the majority, and I didn’t particularly mind what happened to the characters. However I pushed through and got to the last 150 pages, where I felt the book really picked up!

For a start, I loved Asha as a main character. She was strong, brave, and a brilliant woman. After reading the acknowledgements at the back of the book, I found an even deeper respect for Asha as a female main character. I love the strength she had and I love that she challenged what is expected from her as a woman. We definitely need more girls like her in literature!

‘Wind to force me through the gates. Time to wear my loyalty away. I’ll wait for you at Death’s gate.’

I could definitely see the writing improve greatly by the end of the book, and had a clearer picture of the world in my mind. I was more invested in the characters and loved Safire (Asha’s cousin), Dax (Asha’s brother) and Torwin.

Even though this wasn’t my favourite, it slowly grew on me and I’ve decided to continue with the series eventually! Considering this was a debut, I saw the improvement throughout the first book and I’m sure the writing improves with the others.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.

I have a confession to make…I tried with this book before and stopped reading after the first chapter. And I’m not going to ignore this because I loved the book so much the second time round, I think it’s important you guys know. I’m going to be completely and utterly honest about this, and just say I struggled with reading someone from such a different background. I struggled with the language, and that’s why I couldn’t get into this book the first time.

But I knew I had to carry on again at some point, and now I’m meeting Angie Thomas in a couple of weeks time, I couldn’t put it off any longer. Luckily, I can’t even describe how happy and glad I am that I finally continued with this book. My second experience was so different, and made me realise that this book is just incredible.

“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong.” 

This book just screams at you about how important it is. I cannot even describe the weight this book carries, the way it makes you sit back and realise that holy crap, this stuff still happens. And I know this, I’ve seen the horrific stories in the news etc etc, but experiencing it first-hard from Starr’s perspective brings everything to the forefront of your mind.

And not only is this book important, relevant and honestly refreshing, it’s also enjoyable in many aspects. We have a relatable teen, fighting for what she believes in with her strongest weapon – her voice. It’s also a great coming of age novel, in which Starr is struggling with relationships and friendships, all normal teenage girl things. The focus on family is so strong and beautiful. I valued the love between the family so much, and seeing them work so fiercely together meant the world.

“The key is to never stop doing right.”

I wish I could explain how important this book is, and how glad I am to have come across it and finally read it. I understand I’m not the only person who struggled with getting into this book, and if I have any advice to new readers it would be to push past the initial 100 pages, because it gets so much better.

★★★★★ 
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Lady Midnight (#1) by Cassandra Clare

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It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.
Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…
Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark—who was captured by the faeries five years ago—has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind—and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it?

Clare never fails to astound me, and I honestly think she may have nabbed my top spot on my favourite authors list! To prove a point, I started this book on Friday and finished it on Tuesday. And I know there are many fans who would have been able to read much quicker than I did, but for me, 5 days is pretty damn quick.

There’s something so special about The Dark Artifices, and it makes me constantly realise how incredible Clare is to write numerous Shadowhunter series with different characters and yet have them stand so far apart from one another. The Infernal Devices, The Mortal Instruments and The Dark Artifices all have very special places in my heart, and for different reasons.

“These pictures are my heart.”

I loved The Mortal Instruments so much, but I could very clearly see that Clare was developing her writing. Now on the third series, her writing is better than ever and it made Lady Midnight amazing for me. I could love no one as much as Tessa, Will and Jem, but I became so attached to Emma, Julian and his family throughout this book. The children are so diverse and vibrant and I love them all for it.

This book was full of twists and turns, especially after the initial couple hundred pages. I do think this book took a while to adjust to because it’s quite far removed from the other series, but as soon as it got going, I loved the differences. I literally couldn’t put this book down!

Also I would definitely like to point out that you really need to read Clare’s other books before this series! Not only would this spoil a lot for you, the cameos of other characters mean everything to me. I loved them.

“And if my heart was a canvas, every square inch of it would be painted over with you.”

I cannot even explain how much I adore the cast of this series. Each character was so great in there own ways and I admire Clare endlessly for creating such a vast range of characters. I can’t finish this review without a quick mention of the diversity in this book. Not only do we have gay faeries (and my favourite warlock you know who I mean), and a new Latinx Mexican friend who I adored, but also A CHILD WITH AUTISM. Ahh I could scream with how much I just appreciate this? Ty is so well represented, so well described and I’m so overly happy he is part of this world.

And I didn’t mean to descend into full on fangirling, but I think I managed to explain how much I love this book.

★★★★★ 
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare

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Simon Lewis has been a human and a vampire, and now he is becoming a Shadowhunter. But the events of City of Heavenly Fireleft him stripped of his memories, and Simon isn’t sure who he is anymore. He knows he was friends with Clary, and that he convinced the total goddess Isabelle Lightwood to go out with him…but he doesn’t know how. And when Clary and Isabelle look at him, expecting him to be a man he doesn’t remember…Simon can’t take it. So when the Shadowhunter Academy reopens, Simon throws himself into this new world of demon-hunting, determined to find himself again. His new self. Whomever this new Simon might be. But the Academy is a Shadowhunter institution, which means it has some problems. Like the fact that non-Shadowhunter students have to live in the basement. And that differences—like being a former vampire—are greatly looked down upon. At least Simon is trained in weaponry—even if it’s only from hours of playing D&D.

This was one of those books I didn’t know I needed. I loved it, and I can’t imagine the Shadowhunter world without it now. First of all, I love that this was based on Simon, but included a wide arc of characters. I actually liked Simon throughout The Mortal Instruments, but actually being with him through a book really helped me relate to him.

The set of the Shadowhunter Academy was awesome to! It gave a link to each of these stories, and offered up something new to the Shadowhunter world.

“I think sometimes it’s too hard to believe in yourself. You just do the things you’re not sure you can do.”

I also have to tell you guys that it only took me like four days to read this 650 page book?! I think this is due to the clever layout of the book, being cut into short stories of 50-100 pages each. Every day I would aim to read at least 2 stories, and it just flew by. Honestly, the short story concept was so well done in every way. Interlinking the characters by having them come into the Academy was such a clever way to read about side characters, and not stray too far from Simon’s story!

“You just act, in spite of not being certain. I don’t believe I can change the world–it sounds stupid to even talk about it–but I’m going to try.”

Overall, this book is a must for Shadowhunter fans! It’s such a great bridge between The Mortal Instruments and The Dark Artifices, and I feel ready to continue with the next daunting series!

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽


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