Monday, 22 May 2017

ICE KISSED (Kanin Chronicles #2) - by Amanda Hocking

ICE KISSED - Amanda Hocking.
Year Published: 2015 - by St. Martin's Press.
Genre: Young adult / urban fantasy / romance
Pages: 309.
Source: Thank you to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
Bryn Aven refuses to give up on her dream of serving the kingdom she loves. It’s a dream that brings her to a whole new realm…and the glittering palace of the Skojare. The Skojare people need protection from the same brutal enemy that’s been threatening the Kanin, and Bryn is there to help. Being half Skojare herself, it’s also a chance for her to learn more about her lost heritage. Her boss, Ridley Dresden, is overseeing her mission, but as their undeniable attraction heats up, their relationship is about to reach a whole new level—one neither of them is prepared for. As they delve deeper into the Skojare world, they begin to unravel a long-hidden secret. The dark truth about her own beloved Kanin kingdom is about to come to light, and it will change her place in it forever…and threaten everyone she loves.

I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Frostfire. Since it ended with a lot of unanswered questions, I was eager to know what happened and looked forward to the second book.
But unfortunately, Ice Kissed just felt like a halfhearted filler to get the characters where they needed to be for the final book.
I was so disappointed.

The story is marginally fun, and it easily sweeps you along. It's relaxing, easy-to-read, and I loved the ice/snow aspects - I'm such a sucker for snow scenes; they're fascinating and leave so much potential for tantalising writing.
I loved the setting and atmosphere. The world building is also very strong.

The writing isn't brilliant. The sentences are too long, there's a lot more telling than showing, and there's explanation after explanation; "because" is used too often, and it's just plain patronising. I have a brain and imagination, and I don't need to have everything explained to me when it's actually glaringly obvious in the scene.
It's very boring. As I said further up, this instalment just felt like it was there to get the characters in place for the next book. Not much happened, although I was relieved to have a lot of the main questions answered; the mystery part of the series that had gone unexplained and unresolved in Frostfire, is explained in this book.

The secondary characters easily blur into the background with weak personalities. Bryn is still a terrific heroine, Ridley's still swoony, I loved Linnea and Ember, but characters like Kasper and Kennet are extremely dull. No one left a great impression on me.

The romance goes downhill. I ship Bryn and Ridley like crazy and I love them together, but in this book their relationship felt rushed, random, and pushed to the side. Ridley is such a strong character, but in Ice Kissed he's reduced to a rather dull, stereotypical hero. He's still lovable and I still want him and Bryn to get together, but his character development is skimped and dry and basically nonexistent. I feel like Hocking's shoved Ridley to the side so as to nudge Bryn and Konstantin together. And my shipper heart boils with rage and screams no.
Ridley's page time is also extremely minimal. I hated how he hardly features during the whole book, especially during the climatic ending.  His character now feels like "just another love interest".
I don't like what Hocking's done to him.

Then there's the sex scene. Just to put it out there, I hate the way Hocking writes sex scenes: they're so cringy and awkward.
Anyway. Ridley and Bryn's sleeping together felt completely forced and out of character. Not to mention how Ridley has the disgusting audacity to add afterwards: "And there's Juni... She's not my girlfriend, but she deserves better than this."
Okay. This annoys the heck out of me because Bryn and Ridley slept together knowing it wouldn't mean anything and knowing that Ridley's with someone else ("not my girlfriend" my $&#@%; Ridley and Juni are definitely together, I'm sorry).
In the space of this scene, my opinion of both Bryn and Ridley dropped drastically. My darling characters deserve to be written better than this.

After enjoying the entertaining, romantic adventure that was Frostfire, I sadly found Ice Kissed dull, boring, and rushed. I hope the third book will redeem Bryn's story. 

← Frostfire

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Weekly Round-Up: Reading and holiday

I'm away on holiday at the moment (Friday to late Sunday), so apologies for not visiting your blogs this weekend! I'll be catching up on posts and comments tomorrow :) 

Posts of the week: 

Book Review: THE HATE U GIVE

I've not completely won over by The Diabolic yet, but it is mystifying :) 

I finished two books this week (reviews to come): 

I've heard mixed things about both these books, but they do look interesting. The Cruelty, especially, sounds very thrilling! 

Caitlin encourages Young Writers: Don't Give Up

Alyssa reviews Roar

How was your week? What are you currently reading? 

Friday, 19 May 2017

The Blog Squad: What We've Done So Far

We hope you’ve enjoyed our Blog Squad posts so far! We’ve really enjoyed answering the questions and reading your responses in the comments - it’s so awesome to hear everyone’s different experiences.

We aren’t finished with The Blog Squad posts, but we thought we’d do a wrap-up just to show you what we’ve done so far and let you read posts you might have missed.   

The Blog Squad: Part I - Friday 10 February

  • What made you start your book blog?
  • Have you received any books to review from publishers or authors?
  • If an author has taken the time to research your blog and is asking you to review a book in your scope, should you say yes?

The Blog Squad: Part II - Friday 17 February

  • Do you have to get ARCs to be a "proper" Book Blogger?
  • What's your ‘review process’?
  • Do you write a review of every book read (including negative reviews?)

The Blog Squad: Part III - Friday 24 February

  • What is more important? A high number of followers OR a smaller number but more interactive followers?
  • Do you expect a comment back on your blog when you go comment on someone else’s blog?
  • Do you think bloggers should always reply to comments on their blog?

The Blog Squad Special: Friday 3 March

The Blog Squad: Part IV - Friday 10 March

  • Do you need a Twitter and/or Facebook and/or Instagram account if you have a blog?
  • Which blogging platform do you think is the best/ Why do you use Blogger?
  • What comment system do you prefer to use?

The Blog Squad: Part V - Friday 17 March

  • What makes you follow a blog?
  • Where do you find the blogs that you are currently following?
  • What makes you comment on a blog post?

The Blog Squad: Part VI - Friday 24 March

  • Blog scheduling - Do you do it?
  • Is there an acceptable number of posts per week for a book blog?
  • Book Blitzes and Blog Tours - Your take

The Blog Squad: Part VII - Friday 7 April

  • Book Ratings - what’s your system?
  • What things make you lower your rating for a book?
  • Have you ever looked back on ratings and reviews and needed to change them?

The Blog Squad: Part VIII - Friday 14 April

  • Should reviews have spoiler alerts? Or be spoiler free?
  • Do the endings of books affect your rating or overall opinion?
  • How long should a review be?

The Blog Squad: Part IX - Friday 21 April

  • What do you think is important about blog layout? How did you decide on your particular one?
  • Is there one thing you wish you’d done differently to your blog from the start? One thing you regret?
  • What is the next item on your blogging ‘To Do’ list?

The Blog Squad: Part X -  Friday 28 April May

  • What is your reading schedule like?
  • How much pressure do you put on yourself to meet your bookish goals?
  • How has blogging changed your reading habits?

The Blog Squad Special: A Tag -  Friday 5 May

  • Is there a particular blogger that inspires you?
  • What is your blog’s niche?
  • What is your top bookish confession?
  • What are your top 3 bookish pet peeves?
  • Name 3 books you would recommend to anyone.

Check out Di and Uma's posts!:

We hope this wrap-up has helped you catch-up on some of our topics! Please share your answers to any of the question above in the comments, and let us know if there’re any other questions you’d like us to feature.  

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for Part 11 next week!  

Thursday, 18 May 2017

LETTERS TO THE LOST - by Brigid Kemmerer

LETTERS TO THE LOST - Brigid Kemmerer
Published: 2017 - by Bloomsbury Children's.
Pages: 393.
Genres: Young adult / contemporary / romance /
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball Publishers SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!

Juliet Young has always written letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope. Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past. When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither of them knows that they're not actually strangers. When real life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

 OH. MY. HEART. This book is everything I never knew I needed. It broke my heart and healed it. I cried. I laughed. I was one minute giddy with warmth and delight, then suddenly breathless with shock and heartache. So, so good.

The writing is excellent, and I mean that in every single sense of the word. The story's gripping, un-put-downable, irresistibly compelling, and the writing - vivid, and as far from flowery as you can get - is extremely powerful. It's intoxicating in its brilliance.
The story's unique and refreshing, and the twists and turns left me breathless. My heart was pounding for most of the novel. I wish my words could do justice to this gorgeous emotion-swept bittersweet gem of a book, but the best I can do is beg you to please, please read it.

The characters are AMAZING. No one is flat, no one is a small character, no one is boring or unrealistic, and every single person comes across three-dimensional and real.
It's not just Juliet and Declan who undergo incredible character development: the secondary characters have brilliant arcs, and their rich development - particularly that of Rev and Alan - is excellent. The relationships in this novel are complicated, but they're so perfectly written.

Juliet and Declan are two of the most brilliant protagonists I've ever read about: strong motivations, strong histories, strong character traits, and with the perfect balance of flaws and redeemable qualities. They are masterfully written, and their development is mind-blowing. My heart broke for them, but I also rejoiced when they found their happy ending.

This isn't a book about romance (although the romance is there and it's BEAUTIFUL and slow-burning). It's a book about friendships and character development, learning from mistakes, seeing the people in front of us for who they really are - for better and for worse - and healing the brokenness inside of us. These topics are so thoughtfully addressed, and I absolutely respect and admire the way Kemmerer handled them. And in case you're wondering, this book never once makes love out to be the cure of all. THANKFULLY.

The friendships. OH MY WORD. I believe this book is about relationships most of all, and the epic friendships completely enveloped my heart and soul. Rowan and Juliet are the epitome of a realistic and healthy female friendship, and Rev and Declan are the male equivalent. The friendships are probably the best thing about this novel, and they grow, develop, and the characters stand by each other just like friends should. SO PERFECT.

Letters to the Lost is a vivid, emotional, utterly beautiful and compelling novel about internal journeys, healing, friendships, and the conflict that is our fallible human nature.  One of the best books I've read this year, 

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Waiting on Wednesday #33: WONDER WOMAN: WARBRINGER - by Leigh Bardugo, & WONDER WOMAN (film)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme originally hosted by Breaking the Spine and now taken over by Wishful Endings that highlights upcoming book releases we're excited to read. On my blog, I include movies as well.
I have two picks today because I think they belong together and I am equally excited for both of them :)

Cast: Gal Gabot / Chris Pine / Robin Wright / 

Release Date: 2 June 2017. 
Before she was Wonder Woman she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained warrior. When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, she leaves home to fight a war to end all wars, discovering her full powers and true destiny.


Anyone else excited for Wonder Woman?!

Publication Date: 29th August 2017. 
She will become one of the world’s greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning. . . . Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world. Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery. Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.


Anyone else excited for WONDER WOMAN: WARBRINGER?!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

THE HATE U GIVE - by Angie Thomas

THE HATE U GIVE - Angie Thomas
Published: 2017 - by Walker Books.  
Pages: 438.
Genres: Young adult / contemporary / realistic fiction
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!

"What's the point of having a voice if you're gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn't be?" 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.

Oh the pressure of reading and reviewing a hyped book! THUG has got to be one of the most talked about, blogged about, tweeted about books of 2017. So yes, I was obviously ECSTATIC to read it, but also VERY nervous as well.
But wow. I loved it.

THUG reminds me so much of The Help, and I believe its messages are just as flawlessly conveyed and the writing just as superb. This is an incredibly important book, and I think we should all read it.

The writing is magnificent. It's so tight, so perfect, so brilliantly paced and The prose is electrifying, and Thomas's skill is insane.
It's not for one second boring. It's a gripping story, constantly entertaining, and as beautiful as it is gut-wrenching.
The dialogue is genius. It's so witty, realistic, and just so skillfully written. There are so many profound sentences, quotes seem inadequate when I just want to scream at you to read the whole book. (Screaming nicely, of course).
And the humour! Oh my gosh some parts are just hilarious. I loved the wit and the laugh-out-loud moments.

“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”

The racism and prejudice in this book is raw, real, and expertly tackled. Thomas never once shies away from the core of Starr's struggles, and her hurt, dilemma, and the injustices she and her family and friends face are blunt and realistic. It's one thing for Thomas to write about the abominable cruelty and injustices faced by the blacks, but it's another for her to write it well. And she does.
But it's not black and white (pun unintended). It's a story about the marginalised everywhere, the people who are discriminated against, abused, and put down because of their colour, race or gender. And it's not a "black versus white" story; there are good and bad people on both sides, and I loved how Thomas made that clear. That's the way it should be. That's the way life is.
While THUG reminded me a lot of my own country's shameful history regarding colour discrimination, it was also an eye-opener for what is happening in the rest of the world. I learnt a lot about the #BlackLivesMatter movement, police brutality, and saw vividly the way people are denied human rights and justice because of the colour they are. Thomas doesn't pretty anything up: it's real and it's here, and she tells it like it is.
My words cannot do justice to how important this book's message is. So, in Thomas's words from the Acknowledgements: "And to every kid in Georgetown and in all " the Gardens" of the world: your voices matter, your dreams matter, your lives matter. Be roses that grow in concrete."

“What's the point of having a voice if you're gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn't be?”
“Brave doesn't mean you're not scared. It means you go on even though you're scared.”

The characters are awesome. Every person leaps off the page multidimensional and bursting with personality and individuality. Starr is an amazing heroine with all the best qualities and yet not without flaws. She's an average teenager who's realistic and relatable, and her voice shines through in first person. I loved the strong emphasis on family, and I loved Starr's relationships with her brothers and parents. I loved Seven, Momma, Daddy, Sekani,  Maya, Uncle Carlos, and all the strong relationships between Starr and these incredible people. They're all so dynamic and real.
I especially loved the relationship between Starr and her parents. It's so healthy, realistic, loving, and respectful. I miss good parent-child relationships in books, and this one is awesome. I just adored it. Not to mention Starr's frequently adorable comments about her parents: like "He grins and feeds her a grape, and I just can't. The cuteness is too much. Yeah, they're my parents, but they're my OTP. Seriously."
*squeals in puddle of giddy adorable overload* HOW SWEET IS THAT?

“I can't change where I come from or what I've been through, so why should I be ashamed of what makes me, me?”

I wasn't a big fan of the romance. As much as I loved how - through Chris and Starr - Thomas tackled the interracial relationship "issue" and how it's perceived on both sides, etc, I personally wasn't mad about Chris and Starr. I don't think they have much chemistry, and their relationship - although frequently adorable and cute - wasn't my favourite thing about the book. I much preferred Starr's interactions with her family, for example.

There's another thing that left me a bit unsatisfied: the ending. I thought it was rushed, and I wasn't completely satisfied with how things turned out. Don't get me wrong, I didn't not like the ending; I just wasn't totally satisfied with it.

The Hate U Give is a masterpiece of strong characters, superb writing, and issues that are tackled head-on. Light and dark are perfectly balanced, and I loved the emphasis on family. 
It's not just an important book, it's a beautiful and gripping one.  

Monday, 15 May 2017

My Dream Author Panel

Eventbrite has this really cool programme where you can plan all kinds of events and find events specially in your area that you can go to. I love the idea of planning and dreaming about my own bookish panel, so this post has been really fun to do! Even if it's only a dream :(   

This is also the kind of thing that changes constantly. So I'm sure that in a few months, I'll have a whole other string of new favourite authors to add to the list. But for now, here's my dream panel...

My list is comprised of a vast variety of authors who all write different genres and in different styles and would probably never been seen together in a panel. But hey: This is hypothetical, so what's wrong with dreaming? And this would be a dream come true for me... *sighs* 

(I have only included authors who are still living.)  

Cecelia Ahern - author of P.S. I Love You 

Emma Donoghue - author of Room

Michelle Gagnon - author of the Don't Turn Around trilogy

Leigh Bardugo - author of the Six of Crows duology

A.G. Howard - author of the Splintered series  

Paula Hawkins - author of The Girl on the Train

Brigid Kemmerer - author of Letters to the Lost

Angie Thomas - author of The Hate U Give

Jonathan Stroud - author of the Lockwood & Co. series

These are the questions I would LOVE to know their answers to! 

1: Is there one book someone else has written that you wish you'd written? 

2: If you could be one of your own book characters for a day, who would it be and why? 

3: What's your favourite classic film and novel?

4: Are there any themes you always seem to have running through your novels? A "brand", so to speak. 

5: What's your best advice for an aspiring author? 

6: Who is one of your ultimate role models? 

7: Sum up your writing style in one sentence. (Example: "writer of dark fairy tales, brooding heroes, and fearless damsels"). 

8: Name one thing you think we need more of in today's novels. 

I love the idea of the panel being held in a cafรจ; a sort of coffee-shop atmosphere. We'd order coffee or hot chocolate, and cake or pastries, etc, and listen to the authors talk. HEAVEN.  

Who would you have on your dream author panel?! What questions would you ask them? Where would it be held? Do you like my list? 
Chat with me!