Review of ‘Illuminae’ by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff


Title: Illuminae

Authors: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Publisher: Knopf Books For Young Readers

Publication Date: 20th October, 2015

Pages: 602

Blurb via Goodreads:

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

A book I initially picked out due to the rave reviews and it’s vibrant and intriguing colour, ‘Illuminae’, co-authored by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, has fought itself into my top reads of all time. Continue reading “Review of ‘Illuminae’ by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff”

Review of ‘The Girl of Ink and Stars’ by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

girlofinkandstarsTitle: The Girl of Ink and Stars

Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Publisher: Chicken House Ltd.

Publication Date: May 5, 2016

Pages: 228

Blurb via Amazon: Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella dreams of the faraway lands her cartographer father once mapped. When her friend disappears, she volunteers to guide the search. The world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.

‘The Girl of Ink and Stars’ is Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s debut novel and what a debut it is. Hargrave paints a beautiful picture of a made up land and as I always do in made up lands within books, I want to explore them. But like the main character, thirteen year old Isabella, I was forbidden to explore at the start of the book, so I genuinely empathised with her frustration and longing.

Continue reading “Review of ‘The Girl of Ink and Stars’ by Kiran Millwood Hargrave”

Review of ‘Lady Midnight’ by Cassandra Clare

Lady MidnightTitle: Lady Midnight

Author: Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

Publication Date: March 8, 2016

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 720

Blurb via Amazon: The Shadowhunters of Los Angeles star in the first novel in Cassandra Clare’s newest series, The Dark Artifices, a sequel to the internationally bestselling Mortal Instruments series. Lady Midnight is a Shadowhunters novel.

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?
Glitz, glamours, and Shadowhunters abound in this heartrending opening to Cassandra Clare’s Dark Artifices series. Continue reading “Review of ‘Lady Midnight’ by Cassandra Clare”

Review of ‘Hold Still’ by Tim Adler

holdstillTitle: Hold Still

Author: Tim Adler

Publisher: Urbane Publications

Publication Date: 17 March, 2016

Pages: 384

Blurb via Goodreads: ‘I photographed the moment of my husband’s death…’ So begins HOLD STILL, a nerve-twisting thriller from bestselling author Tim Adler. How much do we really know about those we love? Kate is visiting Albania with her husband Paul, a much needed break from Paul’s stressful website business. ‘Hold still,’ says Kate, taking a picture as Paul steps onto the hotel room balcony. ‘We’ll always be together,’ Paul responds. Suddenly there is screaming below and a blaring car horn. Kate stares down from the balcony at the broken body of her husband lying lifeless in the street. Overcome with grief, Kate can’t accept the truth of Paul’s tragic death, and replays the incident over and over again, searching her pictures for a vital clue to what really happened. When she meets the enigmatic Priest at a grief support group, they journey together into a dangerous world of violence and secrets as Kate realises what Paul really meant when he said he would never leave her…

I received a free review copy of this book from Urbane Publications in exchange for an honest review. I had never read a Tim Adler novel before this one and have never really dabbled in the genre of thriller, except reading books such as ‘Along Came A Spider’ by James Patterson. Although this was a generally new reading experience for me I enjoyed it nonetheless.

I found that it was a very slick read and I was able to get through thick chunks of the book in one sitting, mainly due to the fact that I was never bored. I felt that the start was a bit slow, but I think that was a purposeful move so that the story built up, which it did very successfully. Like Kate, I found myself questioning everyone and everything. I also found the end chapter cliff-hangers, which were constant throughout the book, extremely gripping and shocking. There were definitely a few sharp intakes of breath while I was reading this.

However, I found that the sex scenes in the book were not only unnecessary at times, but a little crass and unpleasant. I know this book, being a crime thriller, was meant to be a bit gritty in tone and description, but the descriptions were a little too blunt and juvenile at times.

There was also the inclusion of a homosexual Muslim. I have never read a book with this specific twist in it, or even the inclusion of the religion/homosexuality clash. At first I liked how Tim had put it in there. However, it eventually became clear that it wasn’t going anywhere and I was left wondering why he had included it in the first place. Originally, Tim went with alternating points of view for the first few chapters and I feel as if he should have continued with it to maintain a more refreshing pace throughout.

It also seemed to me that there were two different halves in the book, even though there was no legitimate partition. The first half was the build up and looking for clues to the mystery and then the second half was the climax and all the action. I must say that I much preferred the first half, because I enjoy watching the story weave together. The second half was by no means an unpleasant read, especially with all the plot twists and heart-pounding action that occurs, but was not as good as the first. Normally in a book I can tell whether the characters are going to make it out alive, but in this I was seriously concerned for Kate and Priest and basically everyone. I would seriously consider picking this book up when it comes out if I were you. I think Tim has turned me over to the thriller genre and I will definitely endeavour to read his other works.

4/5 stars for ‘Hold Still’ by Tim Adler.

❤ DW


Review of ‘Only Ever Yours’ by Louise O’Neill

only-ever-yoursTitle: Only Ever Yours

Author: Louise O’Neill

Publisher: Quercus

Publication Date: 3 July, 2014

Pages: 400

Blurb via Amazon: freida and isabel have been best friends their whole lives. Now, aged sixteen and in their final year at the School, they expect to be selected as companions – wives to wealthy and powerful men. The alternative – life as a concubine – is too horrible to contemplate. But as the intensity of the final year takes hold, the pressure to be perfect mounts. isabel starts to self-destruct, putting her beauty – her only asset – in peril. And then into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride. freida must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known…

My friend recommended this to me about a year ago and I just never got around to reading it. Then I began to read it earlier this week and to begin with I was intrigued. I was intrigued, but I was slightly confused as to what all the fuss was about. And then about sixty pages in I found myself crying in the middle of my English lesson. My friend who recommended the book to me happened to be sitting next to me  at the time. She saw me crying and literally gave me an ‘I told you so’ look. I guess I asked for that. The fact that this was one of the best books I’ve ever read hit me like a ton of bricks. I was wrong to ever doubt you O’Neill.

I think that one of the best things about this book has to be the level of detail included. For example, all the names of the eves are the names of models, like cara and naomi (Cara Delevigne and Naomi Campbell) and the names of the Inheritants are the names of academics, like Darwin and Albert (Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein). Just this in itself says something about the society we live in. Right from the start, Louise is making us think about the world we live in. Another detail is the non-capitalisation of the eves names. This is obviously a statement of how they are not viewed as having value in the society they live in. I just eat this level of world-building and detail up in books.

The story had a good pace to it, the constant element of competition always keeping my interest and making me want to get to the end. The end, by the way is soul destroying and I literally stared at the last word of the book for ten minutes before going to sleep feeling like I was empty. This book deals with so many issues: drug abuse, domestic violence, discrimination of women, social stimulus. The idea of social stimulus has to be one of the most poignant things about this book, mainly because it is just an extreme version of what we are subjected to in our everyday lives now. I think the success of a dystopian novel is mostly valued on how scarily close it is to our own society. Multiple times throughout the book I actually had to put it down and assess the meaning of life and how terrible things are. It made me want to stop pretending that everything was okay, because newsflash: IT ISN’T. The societal pressures that the eves feel in their society are not that different to the ones people, particularly women feel in our society. This is so, so scary to me.

Most of the characters in this book I could not stand, but I think this was purposeful. Everyone seemed fake, especially megan (barf). I took this to be another statement from Louise about the materialism of our world. freida herself made me want to smash my head into a wall multiple times while reading. Her decisions were completely irrational to me and different to the ones I would have made. I had to keep reminding myself that she was probably only acting like this, because she did not know any different. She was manufactured to believe that women had to be a certain way. The fact that she was brainwashed is not her fault. I did not trust Darwin or any of the Inheritants from the start. The whole time I thought that he was too Prince Charming for the setting of the book and I was right. Just like the eves, Darwin was just out for the gratification of someone else, his father.

‘Only Ever Yours’ by Louise O’Neill is a poignant and harrowing story that will chew you up, spit you out and make you see the world in a different way (I mean that in the most positive way possible). This story will stay with me forever and probably influence the decisions I make for the rest of my life. Of course I am awarding this book 5/5 stars.

❤ DW

Review of ‘Opal’ by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Topalitle: Opal

Author: Jennifer L Armentrout

Publisher: Entangled

Publication Date: 11 December, 2012

Pages: 452

Blurb via Amazon: The Lux series continues with the third installment of this riveting paranormal YA series. No one is like Daemon Black. When he set out to prove his feelings for me, he wasn’t fooling around. Doubting him isn’t something I’ll do again, and now that we’ve made it through the rough patches, well…There’s a lot of spontaneous combustion going on. But even he can’t protect his family from the danger of trying to free those they love. After everything, I’m no longer the same Katy. I’m different…And I’m not sure what that will mean in the end. When each step we take in discovering the truth puts us in the path of the secret organization responsible for torturing and testing hybrids, the more I realize there is no end to what I’m capable. The death of someone close still lingers, help comes from the most unlikely source, and friends will become the deadliest of enemies, but we won’t turn back. Even if the outcome will shatter our worlds forever. Together we’re stronger…and they know it.

I did enjoy this book just as much as the other two, but I would have definitely liked more progression when it came to the plot. In terms of character development there was a lot. Actually, I would go as far to say that there was more character development in this book than in any others I have read in a while if I’m honest.

This is the third book in a five book series and usually at this point there tends to be a dip in quality. This is a shame but it is a truth that needs to be realized. However, I feel as if Jennifer L Armentrout has skipped the trend and managed to produce a series at a constant quality at all times. But like I said, I would have much preffered if there was at least a little exceeding of quality.

In terms of major plot events there was not a lot, unless you think about the events in the last quarter of the book, where things really spiced up a bit. For basically the whole book they were just trying to get Dawson’s girlfriend back.

My favourite aspect of this book has once again been Katy and Daemon. There relationship is primed and ready with that sense of passion all the time. There is so much sexual tension in this book and at times it was embarrassing to read in public. And then there was that creepy bit with Blake that made me cringe and feel sick. That was a really good plot twist Jenmjfer.

I am going to award 4/5 stars to ‘Opal’ by Jennifer L Armentrout. I am excited to read the next book, because I feel ,Ike this book was building up to something in the future.

❤ DW

Review of ‘The Big Lie’ by Julie Mayhew

big-lieTitle: ‘The Big Lie’

Author: Julie Mayhew

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Publication Date: August 27, 2015

Pages: 323

Blurb via Amazon: A shocking story of rebellion and revelation set in a contemporary Nazi England.

Jessika Keller is a good girl: she obeys her father, does her best to impress Herr Fisher at the Bund Deutscher Mädel meetings and is set to be a world champion ice skater. Her neighbour Clementine is not so submissive.

Outspoken and radical, Clem is delectably dangerous and rebellious. And the regime has noticed. Jess cannot keep both her perfect life and her dearest friend. But which can she live without?

THE BIG LIE is a thought-provoking and beautifully told story that explores ideas of loyalty, sexuality and protest.

I’m going to be honest with you guys and admit that I did not like this book at all when I started it. The tone and pace was unusual and I was left completely confused. I really did not want to continue with this. But then I kept seeing reviews on line that said this book deserved an award. So I stuck with it. And I was so, so glad that I did.

After I had got used to the pace of Jessika’s voice, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found it incredibly hard hitting, tackling issues such as terrorism, oppression and sexuality. Although I am an advocate for LGBT+ within the world of YA, I have never really read a book focused around lesbians. I don’t know if that was a coincidence or if it is a subject that doesn’t feature prominently in YA literature.

One of the most poignant aspects to this book is the idea of loyalty and how it feels when a thing like that is broken. Within this story, this is true about Jessika’s loyalty to the Greater German Reich, as well as her family. Her family was the hard part for me. Jessika’s father came across as a huge douche to me. I know that is not an official term or anything, but that truly is my opinion. There was a part when Jessika was being taken away and, even though her family did nothing to stop it, she said that she couldn’t deny that she loved them. This really hit me in the heart with a sledgehammer.

If I had to pick one word to describe this book, I would choose harrowing. Although there was a shaky start, I can definitely say that this story will stay with me for a long time and I will probably end up picking it up again somewhere down the line. There are so many unanswered questions, but yet I do not want a sequel. I don’t think I could cope with putting myself through that.

Sorry this is such a short review, but hey, it’s Monday! I give 4/5 stars to ‘The Big Lie’ by Julie Mayhew.

❤ DW


Review of ‘Cleo’ by Lucy Coats + Exclusive Interview with Lucy Coats!


Title: Cleo

Author: Lucy Coats

Publisher: Orchard Books

Publication Date: May 7, 2015


Blurb via Amazon: Her precious mother is dead – and it isn’t an accident! The young Cleopatra – Pharaoh’s illegitimate daughter – must flee the royal palace at Alexandria or die too. As her evil half-sisters usurp the throne, Cleo finds sanctuary at the sacred temple of Isis, where years later she becomes initiated into the secret Sisters of the Living Knot. But now Isis’s power is failing, Egypt is in danger, and Cleo must prove her loyalty to her goddess by returning to the Alexandria she hates. She must seek out the hidden map which is the key to returning Isis’s power – on pain of death. But will she be able to evade her horrible sisters? And will she find dreamy Khai, the über-hot Librarian boy she met as she fled Alexandria years before? Cleo’s powerful destiny is about to unfold…

Gorgeous and evocative, this captivating new YA novel imagines the life of the teenage Cleopatra before she became the icon we think we know.


Review of ‘Cleo’

Firstly, the cover of ‘Cleo’, immediately strikes me with a sense of glamour, the read popping out against the black, white and gold. It speaks to me of Egypt and makes me automatically excited to read it.

The setting of Ancient Egypt is one of my favourites whether it be in terms of the history, culture or the mythology. Lucy Coats managed to teach me new things about all of these while I was reading Cleo, so my reading experience was not only brilliant, but educational too. It is clear to me that Lucy knows her stuff. What I love most about this setting is the clashing of brutal history and ornate glamour. The incorporation of magic, although there is not a structured system, is a nice subtle touch that helps to beautifully combine history and mythology together. Lucy really does tell the story of Cleopatra like we’ve never heard it before.

The plot is very fast paced in my opinion and we are thrown in at the deep end. It didn’t take me long to find my feet and soon I was away on the adventure with Cleo and Charm. This high octane tempo is pretty much maintained the whole way through and I never felt tired of it! I was happy with the way the plot developed, intricately weaved with the mythological side of things. However, I would have loved to have seen a few more twists and turns. There was quite a lot left unanswered at the end and this only makes me more excited to read ‘Chosen’ (review coming soon). I especially enjoyed the ‘four years earlier’ section, mainly due to the fact that I didn’t have to wait until a novella was released to read Cleo’s origin story. Thanks Lucy!

All the characters in the book were unique in their own way and they came together to create a great dynamic within the book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Sometimes with characters, they just don’t click and then you end up with a book full of strained dialogue. This was not the case in ‘Cleo’. I especially thought that the relationship between Charm and Cleo was good and a key element to the story. Although Cleo could be a bit whiny at times, I genuinely liked her and how she seemed to be realistically human. The romance between Khai and Cleo started out as an ‘eye roll couple’, but later I changed my mind and grew to like them. I feel as if emotions were meant to play a bigger role in the book than they did and that the sense of adventure got in the way at times.

If you haven’t already , you should definitely read ‘Cleo’ and I look forward to reading the sequel ‘Chosen’ very soon. Without further ado, I award 4 out of 5 stars to ‘Cleo’ by Lucy Coats.

Read on for an exclusive How To Read Books interview with Lucy Coats herself!

About Lucy Coats


Lucy Coats writes for children of all ages. Her first picture book was published in 1991, and in 2004 she was shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Prize for ‘Atticus the Storyteller’s 100 Greek Myths’. Lucy read her first book of Greek myths at the age of seven, and has been hooked on stories of all kinds ever since.

Lucy lives in rural Northamptonshire and writes looking out over green fields full of sheep. She has a deskdog called Hero who generally lies between her screen and keyboard and is very good at encouraging Lucy when the writing is going slowly. Lucy has a website at She also has a Facebook Author page at and a Twitter page at which she visits strictly during coffee breaks, as well as being on Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram.

Lucy also teaches regular Masterclasses on How to Write for Children at The Guardian and writes for Publishing Talk and Mslexia magazine.

[Adapted from Amazon]

Exclusive Interview With Lucy Coats, Author of Cleo

As well as having the pleasure of reading ‘Cleo’, Lucy Coats was nice enough to grace us with her presence here on the How To Read Books blog. Thanks so much to Lucy for taking part in my first author interview!

Dan: Lucy, you are a fan of mythology, something we can tell from Cleo. Why do you like mythology so much?

Lucy: I’ve been obsessed with mythology since I was about 7 and my granny gave me 2 books of Greek myths. I loved the idea of a world where the gods interact with humans directly (as they do so much in the Iliad and Odyssey), and I guess that eventually fed directly into the idea of the Egyptian gods being involved in Cleo’s life. I think all those mythological stories are like the roots of a culture. Only by understanding them can you begin to understand the top growth of the culture itself.

D: Another thing we can tell from reading Cleo is that you really know your stuff, whether it be in terms of the history or the mythology. How much research did you do when writing the book?

L: Oh, the research! I LOVE research, and can get lost for hours following interesting (and sometimes irrelevant) clues which ‘might just help the book’ *ahem*. I did a mass of research for these two books, because, although there is a strong fantasy element, I wanted the actual history to be as correct as I could make it. I went back to original sources in translation where I could (and there aren’t that many) – all the descriptions of things like feasts and decor are taken from actual reports of Egypt from around that time. For the second book it was much the same (though I had that original bank of knowledge to call on). What I’m proudest of, though, is my Roman detective work. I needed to find where the house of Pompeius Magnus was (because Cleo’s dad lived next door to him), and by piecing together information from various sources, I actually managed it!

D: Something we see a lot of in YA novels is something called ‘instantaneous love’ or ‘insta-love’. In your opinion, would you consider Khai and Cleo’s love to be ‘insta-love’?

L: The knotty question of insta-love is something which has come up a lot. The thing is, I don’t actually think Cleo and Khai qualify. She meets him when she’s 10 in the library – he’s kind to this lonely, geeky princess, and then she bumps into him when she’s running away from her sisters. At a time in her life which is pretty terrible, he reminds her of a place where she was happy. Of course she’s going to remember him (and fantasise over him)! And then, over the next four years, Isis makes them walk in each other’s dreams. Although it’s not gone into in great detail, those four years of true dreams are very intense(!). So although they’re not physically together, they are pretty set up for romance when they actually do meet. Perhaps I didn’t make that clear enough, and if so, that’s my fault. Or, possibly, we can blame it all on a scheming goddess…as you’ll see in CHOSEN, the course of true love doesn’t exactly run smooth!

D: The setting of Cleo, ancient Egypt, is one of my personal favourites. As an author, what is your favourite time period and location to write about?

L: Well, I love Ancient Egypt too. It’s been a joy to explore it in my writing and I still feel very close to it. I think it’s probably fair to say that I feel most comfortable writing about the far distant past – Ancient Greece is another place I love. But I also like the fantasy territory of what Diana Wynne Jones might have called ‘the world next door but one’. That’s essentially our world, but with magic. I’m probably never going to write straight, gritty realism, that’s for sure!

D: This question might be a bit cruel, but which character is your favourite and which did you most enjoy writing?

L: Oh you ARE cruel! By the end of the two books, my favourite character in both senses was still Cleo. She was always a strong voice in my head, she often didn’t do what I wanted her to – and writing and tracking her growth as a person was something I loved doing (though she caused me a lot of headaches). I know I took a risk writing her with such a modern voice – but I wanted her to be accessible to readers.

D: Destiny and kismet play a big role in Cleo, so do you believe in these things personally?

L: I do believe in fate – but in the sense that our fate is in our own hands. We make choices for ourselves and write our own destinies by doing so. But I do think that occasionally a lucky and unexpected chance comes along. If we seize it and make the most of it, it can change our lives. Where that comes from I can’t say – but I can never shake the superstitious feeling in my Celtic blood that something inexplicable and strange is at work when that happens. Mostly though, it’s down to hard work, and hoping you’re in the right place at the right time.

D: Personality wise, which character in Cleo would you say you were most like?

L: Ooh! Nobody has ever asked me this before. I find it quite easy to answer, though. Charm is the one I’m most like, though she’s definitely only a part of me and not in any way a carbon copy. I tend to take care of people a lot, and I am the Queen of Nicknames. There’s a lot more than that to Charm, though, and what happens to her definitely casts a shadow on her sunny character. There are some more interesting developments for her in CHOSEN, so you may be surprised.

D: To any aspiring writers out there could you spread some writing wisdom?

L: What I always say is this: apply bum to seat and get the words down on paper. That’s the only way you’ll finish a book. And also: read widely – anything and everything – but read with a critical eye. Train yourself to notice what works and what doesn’t and ask yourself why that is. It will feed back into your own writing and improve it.

D: We are all excited to read the upcoming sequel to Cleo, Chosen, and see how the story continues. Was delving back into Cleo’s world a difficult process, or did you find it easy?

L: I am mega-excited that CHOSEN is out next month too. Writing a second book always has its problems, but I welcomed the chance to go into Cleo’s world again and introduce new characters and places. Of course, that meant taking me out of the comfort zone of Alexandria (which I knew so well by then) and haring off down the Nile to places like Crocodilopolis (such a great name – how could I resist?) and then into the desert proper and across the Mediterranean. Once I got going and had done all my research, I did find it quite easy. I have a permanent, film-like landscape playing in my head when I write, and I could actually see everything that was going on.

D: Finally, what can readers expect to read in Chosen? Any juicy exclusives welcome!

L: Well, no spoilers, but… There will be a new love-interest (not saying who for). There will be another famous character from history appearing – but the reaction to him won’t be what you think it might. I’ve indulged my love of murder and the undead, and of writing blood splatter and guts. My favourite new character literally somersaults onto the pages of the book. That’s all I’m saying and I hope you’re intrigued!

D: Thank you so much for doing this interview Lucy, it’s an honour.

L: Thanks so much for having me on the blog – great questions, and such fun to answer!





Review of ‘Shadow and Bone’ by Leigh Bardugo



Title: Shadow and Bone

Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Pages: 416
Blurb via Amazon: Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life―a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy.

This is a book that I have heard a lot about either on BookTube or other books blogs, since its release in 2013. Then books two and three were released and there was more and more buzz about the trilogy. However, I still did not read any of them! I was not reluctant in anyway to read these books. In fact, from what I knew about them, they were right up my alley. I just never got round to reading them, probably due to my already suffocating TBR list (now I just read whatever I like).

I was immediately struck by the wonderful setting in which the book takes place. It is not secret that Leigh based Ravka off of Tsarist Russia. I liked this, especially after reading an interview she did about the book. In the interview, she said that she was inspired by the contrast of Russia’s beauty and its brutal history. I loved this. As well as a reader, I am some what a history buff. Nothing extreme, I just find it interesting. Having read the book, I would say that she captured this not only accurately, but perfectly and beautifully. Leigh also mentioned how she wanted to stray away from the conventional medieval fantasy setting, which I think she did in creating Ravka. You really get the sense of a divided country in Shadow and Bone. For example, when Alina is being transported to the Little Palace, she passes through a run down courtyard and then is suddenly thrown into a world of gold and well made keftas.

Anyway, enough about the setting. Now on to the main character, Alina Starkov. Going against unpopular opinion (emphasis on opinion, guys), I half expect the main female character of a YA fantasy or dystopian novel to be really annoying. And when I say annoying I mean like whining a lot or making awful decisions, like Clary Fray. Don’t get me wrong, I am the biggest fan of TMI, but come on Clary! Anyway, I’m now going of on a tangent; back to Shadow and Bone. Alina was not annoying in anyway. She wasn’t vain, indignant or any of that bad stuff. She was probably one of the most natural and human character I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Take a leaf out of Alina’s book. Alina’s book would be called ‘How To Be The Chosen One and Not Screw Everything Up All The Time’.

One of the things I didn’t like was the sudden ease in which Alina gained control of her powers. I felt as if the process she went through should have been more of a struggle, because, as a character, she would have been all the better for it.

The Darkling is genuinely one of the most despicable villains I have ever encountered while reading YA, or in general to be honest. He is the horrible mix of charming and evil to the core. Also, the plot twists that surround him in this book are almost jaw dropping. The only thing that got me is that when watching BookTube videos on this book, I encountered comments saying that at first people trusted the Darkling. Firstly, his name literally has the word dark in it. They is a pretty big clue he is bad news. And he dresses in black. Usually when a character dresses in black, they are either a badass warrior or they’re evil. I guess Leigh’s writing is just so good that it managed to fool them.

Lastly, the romance between Mal and Alina towards the end of the book gave me life. This was especially after they had their argument back at the Little Palace. I was left shouting “No!” at the pages, begging him myself to come back to her and embrace her or whatever. Thankfully, we got that in the end. After finishing the book, I felt that I would be perfectly happy if it was a stand alone. Everything was relatively okay and there were very few unanswered questions that really caught my attention. Unfortunately, I have to read the next books, where I have no doubt the sense of uncertainty will return. Fortunately, I get to delve back into Leigh Bardugo’s brilliant writing.

4.5/5 stars for ‘Shadow and Bone’ by Leigh Bardugo.

Review of ‘Carry On’ by Rainbow Rowell


Title: Carry On

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Publisher: Macmillan

Date: 8 October, 2015

Pages: 528

Blurb via Amazon:

Simon Snow just wants to relax and savour his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his room-mate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savour anything.

Based on the characters Simon and Baz who featured in Rainbow Rowell’s bestselling novel Fangirl,Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story – but far, far more monsters.


I’m going to go straight into this and say that this is my favourite books of all time. And trust me, I do not say that lightly at all.

I enjoyed the little excerpts we got of Baz and Simon in Rainbow Rowell’s other novel ‘Fangirl‘, but did not automatically feel the need for more of them. So, when I heard we were getting a whole book of them, I was not excited. At first glance, it is just a rehash of Harry Potter and I genuinely did not think that Rainbow could make a whole novel out of it. Boy was I wrong…

If you say that ‘Carry On‘ is just Harry Potter, it is not. I used to be naive like you, but I have seen the light. So, for those who do not know, here is a comparison between the two:


  • The main character is a boy who goes to a school for wizards.
  • A clever female main.


  • Simon was the problem, Harry was the solution.
  • Open homosexuality.
  • Hero/nemesis relationship.
  • More than one point of view.
  • Flashbacks.
  • Dumbledore figure = Simon’s father.
  • Voldemort was an actual person, the Humdrum was not.
  • Harry Potter does not have wings and a tail.
  • Harry Potter could actually do magic properly.
  • The magic systems were completely different.
  • The list goes on…

Okay, now that is the way and you are all educated let’s move on. My favourite character has to be Baz. I know that is the general view, but you can’t resist his charming aura and witty one liners! Resistance is futile! I love Baz and Simon together. They are my new book OTP. At first I was kind of ticked off that it took half the book for them to happen. I was like “maybe the next page…” Again, I was being naive to the fact that Rainbow was focusing on character development. And it was worth it. When I reached the scene in the forest with the burning trees and they get so close. It all feels really romantic and I’m rocking back and forth with excitement for what is to come and then Baz is just like “mouth breather.” I loved that. Classic Baz. But after that came the kissing and the hotness and oh my Jesus. I loved it.

The magic system in this book was magical in itself. I found it really beautiful that the magic focused on the power of words. And when Simon was using his sword, but wishing he could use magic, I was like “the pen is literally mightier than the sword.” You never really think about how often you use certain words and phrases, but I started to when reading this book. Rainbow Rowell you are a clever lady.

So, everyone who has not read this book, go do it now. DO IT!

5/5 stars for ‘Carry On‘ by Rainbow Rowell.

DW ❤