Spectacle ARC Review

Spectacle.jpg

Number of pages: 368

Number of times read (including the time before this review): 1

Rating (out of five stars): 2

Release Date: February 12th, 2019

*Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing a copy in exchange for a review. My opinions are honest and my own.

This book broke the streak of good luck I’ve been having with ARCs lately, and I’m so sad. I’ve been trying to read more historical fiction because while historical fiction is probably my second favorite genre, I don’t tend to reach for it. I’ve had a lot of luck with historical murder mystery type books in the past, but there were a couple things that made Spectacle just not work for me.

I do this weird thing where I write my review in my head as I read, so I can tell you that Spectacle was originally going to get 3 stars, as I was just feeling very ‘meh’ about it for the majority of the book. So what changed?

First we have the characters. This was actually a good change, as my complaint in the beginning was that I felt like I didn’t know Nathalie. She wasn’t exactly the most well-written character ever, but I could at least describe her by the end of the book. My issue with the characters stems from the fact that the other characters aren’t very well-developed. I can’t describe them nearly as well as I can describe Nathalie, and even describing her would take a few minutes of thinking.

There’s also the issue of this book being far too long. The book should have been over at about 74%, but instead it continues to meander around and set up a sequel it really didn’t need. I’ve never written a murder mystery, but typically the story ends when you catch the killer, not after you create a few more subplots, set up the romance that shouldn’t exist, and try to end on a cliff-hanger. There isn’t even much too the mystery aspect. It feels like the mystery is background to watching Nathalie live her life.

Speaking of the book being far too long, the pacing of this is bad. Reading it is like watching someone who doesn’t have anywhere to be putter around with something. It takes far too long to get to the point of everything, and so much of it is dedicated to Nathalie doing normal everyday tasks.

On the romance, Nathalie has a crush on someone, he says he’s engaged to someone else, and that should have been the end of it. But it wasn’t. Instead, the guy goes out his way to tell her that if they had met any other way, they would have had a chance together. The villain also tells Nathalie that the guy is very fond of her (which she knows because mind-reading powers). Like the book tries very hard to set up something that should not exist. He proposed to another girl before Nathalie even spoke to him. Why is book trying so hard to make this romance happen (or at least lay the groundwork  for it to happen in the sequel)?

I was in French Immersion for 10 years, and I started mispronouncing “tante” in my head while reading because I’m found it weird that the book called her “aunt” for 20%, and then suddenly switched to using “aunt” and “tante” interchangeably. One of my pet peeves is when books don’t smoothly incorporate non-English languages they’re using. When it isn’t smooth enough, it ends up looking more like a “Look at me. I know so much about X language” instead of it actually needing to be a part of the story. It is assumed by the reader that the characters you have in France are speaking French, but the words have been “translated” for the English-speaking audience to be able to read the book. You don’t need to throw in every French word you know to solidify that the characters are in a French-speaking country. Your book should have enough clues to set it in that place without the inclusion of the language and the mention of said country by name. Otherwise, your writing maybe needs to be re-evaluated.

It would be different if the book were in first person, the French character were relatively fluent in English, and they were mainly communicating with English-speakers in the text. Then, if the French speaking character were flustered or didn’t know the word they wanted to use in English, the inclusion of French would be justified and smoother. However, this excuse cannot be used for French characters speaking to French characters in France.

Last but not least, the magic system technically makes sense. I say technically because even though I’ve thought it through and there doesn’t appear to be any plot holes, it still feels like it doesn’t make sense. Like the book answered all of my questions, but I still feel like it shouldn’t make as much sense as I does.

Overall, Spectacle didn’t work for me, earning it 2 out of 5 stars.

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein Book Review + Giveaway

ELIZABETH FRANKENSTEIN

Look at me posting on my blog and stuff! I’ve been unhealthy levels of busy lately, but I wish I were here more often. Hence why I joined this blog tour for the latest book from one of my favourite authors. Keep reading for more about the book, my review, and a US only giveaway (sorry fellow international readers. It’s out of my control).

DARK DESCENT jacket

About The Book:

Title: THE DARK DESCENT OF ELIZABETH FRANKENSTEIN

Author: Kiersten White

Pub. Date: September 25, 2018

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Formats: Hardcover, paperback, eBook, audiobook

Pages: 304

Find it: GoodreadsAmazonAudible,  B&NiBooksTBD

 

Elizabeth Lavenza hasn’t had a proper meal in weeks. Her thin arms are covered with bruises from her “caregiver,” and she is on the verge of being thrown into the streets . . . until she is brought to the home of Victor Frankenstein, an unsmiling, solitary boy who has everything–except a friend.
Victor is her escape from misery. Elizabeth does everything she can to make herself indispensable–and it works. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family and rewarded with a warm bed, delicious food, and dresses of the finest silk. Soon she and Victor are inseparable.
But her new life comes at a price. As the years pass, Elizabeth’s survival depends on managing Victor’s dangerous temper and entertaining his every whim, no matter how depraved. Behind her blue eyes and sweet smile lies the calculating heart of a girl determined to stay alive no matter the cost . . . as the world she knows is consumed by darkness.


Review

Number of times read: 1

Rating (out of five stars): 5

Kiersten White is one of my auto-buy authors, so despite having never read Frankenstein and having no interest in reading Frankenstein, I pre-ordered this book. Luckily, I was not disappointed.

Kiersten White’s writing is perfection. It felt like I was reading a classic the entire time (one of the better ones if you aren’t a huge classic person like me). I can totally picture a girl in the 1800s writing diary entries like this.

Elizabeth stole my heart, and she’s a hard girl to like. Her ambition causes her to do a lot of questionable things. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but sympathize with her. She spends so much of the book in fear, not knowing who she is because she’s been pretending to be someone else for so long. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for her.

The other characters were also complex and well done. I could see where Victor was coming from, even if I didn’t support him, and Justine and Henry were so precious. Justine and Henry definitely brought some much needed light to the story.

Speaking of much needed light, this book is dark. The book doesn’t exactly give you a false sense of security either. That bird’s nest scene in the first chapter had me desperately wanting to look away (for those who have read it, turns out what happened was so much worse than I imagined) By the way, huge content warning for animal torture. I mentioned it on Goodreads when I was on page 85 apparently, but there are a couple scenes where some not great stuff happens to animals.

This book had me stressed the entire time I was reading it. My heart was pounding. Every chapter ended with me feeling a pang of dread. It had me so sucked in, and it was perfection.

I may not have read Frankenstein, but I do know a little bit about it, and I sort of loved how Kiersten White included the cousin/ adopted sister thing from the original Frankenstein. I’m sure there are a ton of other fun twists in here for those who have read the original, but let me be proof that you don’t need to have read the original to fall in love with this retelling.

*Mild and vague spoilers ahead*

I’ve seen a few people who weren’t the biggest fans of the ending, but I really liked it. I think it raises some ethical questions if what I think happened actually happened. Assuming what I think happened actually happened, is it okay that her friends did that when she expressly did not that to happen? If it is, why would it not have been okay for Victor to do the same? I think I like that I have so many questions after finishing it. This isn’t really the kind of book that can end with everything wrapped up neatly.

*End of mild spoilers*

Overall, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein was incredibly well done on all fronts, earning it 5 out of 5 stars.


About Kiersten:

Kiersten White
KIERSTEN WHITE is the New York Times bestselling author of The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, the And I Darken series, comprised of And I Darken, Now I Rise, and Bright We Burn; the Paranormalcy series; Slayer, and many more novels. She lives with her family near the ocean in San Diego, which, in spite of its perfection, spurs her to dream of faraway places and even further-away times. Visit her at http://www.kierstenwhite.com.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads


Giveaway Details:

3 Winners will receive a finished copy of THE DARK DESCENT OF ELIZABETH FRANKENSTEIN, US Only.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e2389ba2816/


Tour Schedule:

Week One:

10/15/2018- Under the Book Cover– Review

10/16/2018- Simply Daniel Radcliffe– Review

10/17/2018- Novel Novice– Review

10/18/2018- My Fangirl Chronicles– Review

10/19/2018- Pandora’s Books– Review

 

Week Two:

10/22/2018- Jessica Writes– Review

10/23/2018- Tween 2 Teen Book Reviews– Review

10/24/2018- Here’s to Happy Endings– Review

10/25/2018- Savings in Seconds– Review

10/26/2018- Vicky Who Reads– Review

 

Week Three:

10/29/2018- Smada’s Book Smack– Review

10/30/2018- YA Books Central– Interview

10/31/2018- For the Lover of Books– Review

11/1/2018- Malanie Loves Fiction– Review

11/2/2018- Oh Hey! Books.– Review

 

Week Four:

11/5/2018- The Hermit Librarian– Review

11/6/2018- Tales of the Ravenous Reader– Interview

11/7/2018- BookHounds YA– Review

11/8/2018- Eli to the nth– Review

11/9/2018- Portrait of a Book– Review

Bright We Burn Book Review

Bright We Burn

Number of pages: 416

Number of times read (including the time before this review): 1

Rating (out of five stars): 5

As a kind of disclaimer before this review, I recently learned that Romanian readers are very unhappy with this series and how it presents their history, and I seriously think that needs to be talked about more. I love this series, and Kiersten White has been a favourite author of mine for a very long time, but the concerns of Romanian readers should be taken into consideration when talking about this series. I highly recommend you take a look at the 1 star reviews of And I Darken on Goodreads and see what Romanian readers have to say about it.

Also, this is a review of the final book in the trilogy. I am going to make it as vague and spoiler free as possible, but just know that this is going to be less of a review and more of a mess of fangirling. Anyway, onto the actual “review”.

I read this during a really weird mental health time. If that hadn’t been the case, I would probably still be a complete emotional mess over this book. Still, I’m super heartbroken over some of the character deaths, and I don’t see that heartbreak going away anytime soon. I mean, Kiersten White killed one of my favourite characters roughly 130 pages into the book. There was also another death earlier on that I was sitting there praying Lada wouldn’t go through with. Said character and their family deserved so much better.

Speaking of Lada, I kind of love that she’s a character that exists. Like she’s so well done. You can tell from book one that she is not the hero, but you can’t help but sympathise with her because it’s obvious how much she loves her country and her people. Every horrible thing she does is done for what she thinks is the good of her country. Nothing can excuse her actions, but you can see where she’s coming from.

I have more trouble sympathising with Radu. He doesn’t have that sense of agency Lada does. I found his chapters far more enjoyable and his story easier to sympathise with in Bright We Burn, but he will never be my favourite of the siblings.

Another fantastic character related thing in both this book and this series as a whole is that the side characters are as equally well done as the main characters. My favourite characters are some of the side characters, though I won’t name them here for fear of spoiling who lives and who dies.

I’m also so happy my ship from Now I Rise sailed. The characters get to be happy together instead of angsty, and it helped make a very dark book a little easier to swallow.

That’s another thing that’s fantastic about this book; it balances the light and dark perfectly. There is so much death and sadness in this book, but there were also so many moments that made me laugh out loud (even without [redacted]).

I’ve said this about previous books in the trilogy, but Kiersten White somehow wrote a historical fiction that reads like a fantasy. I love historical fiction books, but I always find them a little dry, so this series is really refreshing.

Overall, I loved Bright We Burn, earning it 5 out of 5 stars. This probably isn’t all I wanted to say, but I highly recommend this trilogy.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue Mini Review

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue.jpg

Number of pages: 513

Number of times read (including the time before this review): 1

Rating (out of five stars): 3

I wish I had listened to the audiobook. I’ve never actually listened to an audiobook, but based on the preview for this one, I think I would have given this a higher rating if I had listened to it instead of read it.

This is a really solid read. The characters are well done and the setting seems well-researched (especially after reading the authors note). I’m not denying that. However, my main issue with this book is that I went into it looking for a fun book filled with shenanigans, and I finished it feeling sad. I read this in the middle of exams. It should have been very hard to get me to feel worse than I already did. Yet somehow this book managed to do it. I mainly ended up feeling sorry for Monty instead of laughing at his jokes, and that isn’t really what I read this for.

Let me preface my next point with this: I am normally not a fan of female MCs in YA historical fiction because they always feel like the embodiment of the author’s 2017 views, which is just not realistic. I did however love Felicity. She felt true to her time, while still being an interesting character. When Monty comes out to her she doesn’t automatically accept him and tell him everything will be fine. Instead, she talks about sin for a while and says doesn’t really understand it, because that’s the reaction she would have generally grow up surrounded by. They didn’t have Pride back then as we have it now. Instead they had a very powerful church telling them people like Monty and Percy are evil. She’s also strong willed and generally brilliant, and I can’t wait to read from her perspective in The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy.

Overall, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was a solid read, but it wasn’t as fun and light-hearted as I wanted it to be. It has therefore earned 3 stars out of 5.

Fawkes ARC Review

Fawkes.jpg

Number of pages: 448

Number of times read (including the time before this review): 1

Rating (out of five stars): 1

Release Date: July 10th, 2018

*Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing a copy in exchange for a review. My opinions are honest and my own.

I really wasn’t familiar with the history this was based on going into this book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Still, I didn’t expect what I got.

First, I have so many unanswered questions concerning the colour powers. What are the colour power options? Why do we hear about people aligning with brown and grey, but not purple or orange? Why does red control fire but not yellow? What exactly can certain colours do? Why do you need a mask made by your parents to continue your studies? (there is an attempt made to answer this one) Is your colour alignment hereditary? If so, why does Thomas hope to align with grey if his father’s mask is black. Also, do the parents make the masks a certain colour in the hopes their child aligns with that colour? If so, what happens if the child doesn’t align with that colour? If not, how do the masks come to reflect the colour alignment of the wearer? Why do white and black count as colours? There is so much that isn’t explained. The concept of everyone having colour powers was an interesting one, but it was poorly executed if I have this many questions.

I found Thomas to be really annoying and quite dense. He was really whinny and impatient and constantly complaining about his situation. And the random arguments he had with his father over his mask awkwardly inserted into sentences did not help endear him to me. They would be talking about food, and then Thomas would bring up that he still doesn’t have his mask. His dad would also promise him he would get him his mask, and then Thomas would complain to his dad about not having a mask the next day.

The writing just tried too hard in the beginning. There was a sentence like 2 chapters in that was along the lines of “the clouds cried their tears of misery upon me, further adding to my despair” (not an actual quote). Just say it was raining. The thing is that the writing seemed to have given up by the end. It was like the overwritten sentences suddenly disappeared. I’m not really complaining about the disappearance of the overwritten sentences. I’m complaining about the lack of consistency.

The best character by far was White Light, and it was barely in the book. It actually had a sense of humour, and it kept being ignored despite it being the only thing that actually knew how to solve the problems the characters faced. 90% of the problems in this book could have been easily solved if Thomas had listened to White Light.

Overall, I really wasn’t a fan of Fawkes, earning it 1 star out of 5.

Blood and Sand ARC Review

Blood and Sand.jpg

Number of pages: 320

Number of times read (including the time before this review): 1

Rating (out of five stars): 4

Release Date: January 16th, 2018

*Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing a copy in exchange for a review. My opinions are honest and my own.

This is another long overdue review. I’m trying my best to catch up, and there are a million reasons for why my reviews are all being written so late, but that doesn’t make me feel any less guilty.

Blood and Sand was a very enjoyable read. There was plenty of action to spare, and the characters were well done. Little Rory was precious, Rory’s brother (whose name I forget because I read this in February) was such an interesting character to watch, and his story was kind of heartbreaking, and Xanthus and Attia were fantastic. Be warned however, that there are a lot of characters with similar names. It got hard to follow sometimes. I would say it’s pretty authentic to have so many people would have similar names (thanks Romans… you made it so easy to study your history (sarcasm)), but I thought I’d leave a warning regardless.

Speaking of the historical aspects, this book came to me at the perfect time. I was in the second half of my classics class, which was conveniently on the Romans. It was so interesting to see what the author chose to include, especially which Spartacus rumor she chose to follow (the one that he was Thracian). The historical aspects make me even more excited for book 2, because I hope it has to do with Spartacus’ slave revolt.

There was an added element of surprise for me with this book, because I missed the whole thing where the concept of this was “what if Spartacus was a girl” (since we know next to nothing about “him”), so I had no idea which of our main characters was going to turn out to be Spartacus.

A few things were moved around and changed history wise (such as the creation of a Princeps that didn’t exist), but the decisions behind those changes were explained in the author’s note. All in all, despite a few things that were moved around and changed to fit the narrative, Blood and Sand appeared to be fairly well researched.

Actually, the other thing I’m a bit iffy on is the gladiator bit, since I’ve learned a few things on gladiators since finishing Blood and Sand that basically ruins every gladiator-centric Hollywood movie you’ve watched. Gladiators really weren’t killed in the ring that often.

However, one thing I didn’t like about Blood and Sand was the sudden POV changes mid-chapter. It made the story hard to follow. Like we would be with Attia and Rory, and then it would suddenly cut to Xanthus practicing. The problem was the story was told in first person POV, so it was disorienting to suddenly be in someone else’s head. I kept thinking I’d missed a whole paragraph. The ARC didn’t have page breaks, so maybe it has some in the finished copy. (I just checked my finished copy, and there are page breaks)

The story also never really gripped me. I enjoyed Blood and Sand, but it never sucked me in. That is, until the end. I am still in denial about something that happened at the end months later.

Overall, Blood and Sand was an enjoyable and well-researched read, earning it 4 stars out of 5.

Out of the Easy Book Review

Out of the Easy.jpg

Number of pages: 346

Number of times read (including the time before this review): 1

Rating (out of five stars): 3.75

For the most part, I really enjoyed Out of the Easy. If I were to rank Ruta Sepety’s books, Out of the Easy would be between Between Shades of Gray and Salt to the Sea, with Salt to the Sea being my favourite so far.

The most important ingredient in a good historical fiction book is the characters, so it’s a good thing the characters in Out of the Easy are so well done. Josie’s voice practically jumps of the page off the page, and the side characters all have distinct voices as well. But the best part is the fact that the prostitutes are treated like human beings. I never thought I would see the day where YA, a genre where the popular girls who oppose the beautiful-but-don’t-know-it protagonists are often called whores for no reason, would treat prostitutes like human beings.

I think the reason Out of the Easy is so compelling is that Jo is easy to relate to. At one point in our lives, most of us have wanted “out” of something, just as Jo desperately wants to escape life in “the Big Easy”.

Out of the Easy is also a much lighter book than Sepety’s other two novels. Yes it features murder and all that fun stuff, but it isn’t like Jo is stuck in a labour camp or in the middle of a naval disaster. She’s simply stuck in a less than ideal situation.

While Out of the Easy was emotionally compelling for the majority of the novel, with roughly 100 pages remaining it starts to lose steam. We know who the killer is (in fact we’ve know it all along and it’s not that important to the story), and we know if Josie got into Smith. The story loses the small amount of tension it had and never really gets it back. Without that tension, the emotional scenes aren’t as powerful, and there’s no clear reason as to why you should continue reading.

I also found the story to be missing an indescribable “something”. I was laughing and tearing up, but there was just something missing that was stopping me from loving it.

Overall, Out of the Easy was an enjoyable and relatable novel, despite it losing steam near the end, earning it 3.75 out of 5 stars.