Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha – book 2)

Siege and Storm, by Leigh Bardugo

Pages: 435

Published: 4th June 2013

⭐️ 3.5 / 5

This book (and the entire series actually) has been on my shelf and my TBR for a long time. I bought all 3 books in the series several years ago and they’ve been sat on my bookshelf ever since. Towards the end of 2019 I finally got around to them, after uni destroyed my love of reading almost irreparably, and I am so glad I am now on this bandwagon.

Whilst I really enjoyed book 1, Siege and Storm actually had me rolling my eyes quite a lot. Here’s what I thought.

Plot

Just when you think Mal and Alina might have it a bit easier, at least for a little while, they get caught again. Guess who? Shock horror, yes that’s right, The Darkling is back – and only a handful of pages after they shook him off. That’s a theme of this book to be honest, escaping and then being caught again almost immediately by someone or another. The Darkling initially drags Alina with him whilst looking for the sea whip, AKA yet another Grisha amplifier, which he can use to further control her. Naturally they succeed because tracker extraordinaire Mal is on the case. He and Alina kill the sea whip themselves and then escape…

I couldn’t resist 😂 – I apologise to the non-Brits who probably won’t catch this reference.

The new band of escapees drop themselves straight into more trouble in the last place that Mal and Alina want to be in. It is capture disguised as freedom as they can’t really freely leave. Alina essentially doesn’t escape for the whole novel as The Darkling keeps appearing to her and causing problems. It’s exhausting and doesn’t seem to serve a purpose except to irritate the reader. Yes it causes conflict between certain characters but I don’t think it actually adds anything of value to the novel.

There’s lots more questing, when Alina discovers there is actually a third amplifier, which allows for a fair amount of world building. I loved that we were able to learn more about Mal and Alina’s childhood which gave us some adorable fluffy moments (yes I ship it please don’t judge). However the similarities in embarking on a quest where so strong for me that it made this feel like a carbon copy of Shadow and Bone, and makes it difficult to judge this book on its own. For me, the characters really made this novel as there were some excellent additions to the series.

Characters

I love lots of the new cast of this book. One is notorious privateer, Sturmhond. What a sassy, wonderful, pain in the ass he is. I adored him, his particular brand of humour, and his cutting remarks. His interactions with the characters we already love are brilliant.

Twins Tolya and Tamar are also standout characters of this book who should be protected at all costs.

Unfortunately, Mal becomes even more whiney in this book. I mean honestly, he needs to get a grip. He starts fighting Grisha and just generally being an angsty, miserable, moaning idiot who puts other people in danger as a result of his actions.

To top it all off The Darkling gains some interesting and horrific new powers that just keep growing and developing into greater horrors…

Lots of the newer cast are from other regions in the world this series is set. As such we are able to learn more about nations such as Shu Han. This is definitely a strength of this book and I loved how this added depths to certain characters’ actions.

Final Thoughts

I did enjoy this book for the most part however I did find the repetitious plot frustrating. I also feel like the conclusion of the novel was such a horrific low that I can’t see how this is going to be resolved in the final book. It left me very despondent and seemed like a ridiculous conclusion after everything that Mal and Alina had worked for. I can understand the final fight, a common fantasy trope but there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to go from here…

I guess I’ll have to work that out in Ruin and Rising.

Blurb:

Soldier, Summoner, Saint. Alina Starkov’s power has grown, but not without a price. She is the Sun Summoner – hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Shadow Fold. But she and Mal can’t outrun their enemies for long. The Darkling is more determined than ever to claim Alina’s magic and use it to take the Ravkan throne. With nowhere else to turn, Alina enlists the help of an infamous privateer and sets out to lead the Grisha army. But as the truth of Alina’s destiny unfolds, she slips deeper into the Darkling’s deadly game of forbidden magic, and further away from her humanity. To save her country, Alina will have to choose between her power and the love she thought would always be her shelter. No victory can come without sacrifice – and only she can face the oncoming storm.

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop.

The Hate U Give Chapters 19 – end. Beauteaful Stagey Read-Along.

As you may be aware my friend Kerrie, at Wheelie Stagey, and myself are doing some buddy reads through isolation. Our first choice is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. On Monday we posted our first thoughts on chapters 1 – 9. The second instalment came on Wednesday, and this is our final post for this novel.

For each section Kerrie and I have come up with some questions to discuss. You can find the full list by clicking here. Please have a look at my previous posts and go to Kerrie’s blog too for her instalments. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #BeauteafulStageyReadAlong to tag us both if you’re joining in!

Chapters 19 – the end of the book is where the action really ramps up. Riots, protests, social movement all accelerate. Starr is waiting to hear the outcome of her interview with the Grand Jury, and the social pressures in her neighbourhood are reaching fever pitch. There’s a lot to reflect on in this last section including our overall ideas of the book. So let’s get into it.

Was it important that the book didn’t have a typical ‘happily ever after?’

Yes. I think this makes the story real and conveys the point the rest of the book had been putting across. The narrative would not have held as much weight if we got the desired outcome of the officer being prosecuted. The reality is, the officer was not prosecuted because this is what usually happens ‘in real life’. It’s important to that I read this as a white reader knowing that the risk of police brutality to myself is basically non-existent. It’s important for me to read these narratives and learn about the struggles outside my own so I can use my voice to be an ally.

Do we think our reactions were affected as we are British readers and there are cultural differences between our own experiences and, for example, the school systems and legal systems we have read about in this book?

I’d like to think my emotional reactions to this book were that of a rational human being. Anyone with a reaction other than shock, horror, or anger to the main issues in this book should take a look at themselves. However, I think there certainly was an added shock factor that comes from the cultural differences between British and American cultures. As a British reader it is still madness to me that people can simply be running around neighbourhoods with guns. The idea that Starr was very aware she could have been shot by a police officer for essentially no reason at all is insanity to me as our regular police aren’t just wondering around with guns. When I first moved to London I was shocked to see police officers carrying guns because that is not a standard feature of police uniform here. The idea that students could simply stage a mass walkout at school is also massively different to the way our secondary schools are run. Riots are not a common feature of UK society. In fact they make national news on the rare occasion that they do happen. However this book has helped me to understand why riots happen and are the way people raise their voices. This has also made me think a lot about how racism punctuates British society too and I really need to work on learning more about the systemic problems present in my own country.

This book gives a very strong message to use our voice. Do we use our own voices enough to contribute to society?

This book has made me think about what I actually do to use my voice. I do voluntary work with Girl Guiding UK so I guess I use my voice to empower and lead young girls. However this left me thinking, is that enough? We should be aware of the power of our voice and not choose to refrain from using it.

As a white woman, my voice automatically carries more weight that some of my peers. Which is wrong. I need to ensure I am using my voice to amplify others who are less heard.

I think there is always a way to do more and it’s good that I am more aware of this now.

After reading The Hate U Give, what part of the book resonated with you most? What insight will you carry with you?

For me it was definitely the learning curve that this book gave me. It allowed me to check my own privilege, and learn about different American societies and cultural experiences to the ones I ordinarily see on television and in films. The insight I will carry will be most is a renewed sense of self-awareness and that I really need to work on learning more about experiences outside of my own. This book has been a very valuable read for me.

Thank you for reading along with us! We’ve really enjoyed this read-along and will definitely be doing some more soon. Keep an eye out on my blog next week for my full review of The Hate U Give.

The Hate U Give Chapters 10 – 18. Beauteaful Stagey Read-Along.

As you may be aware my friend Kerrie, at Wheelie Stagey, and myself are doing some buddy reads through isolation. Our first choice is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. On Monday we posted our first thoughts on chapters 1 – 9.

For each section Kerrie and I have come up with some questions to discuss. You can find the full list by clicking here. Please have a look at my previous post and go to Kerrie’s blog too for her instalments. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #BeauteafulStageyReadAlong to tag us both if you’re joining in!

Chapters 10 – 18 are where Starr settles into her new normal. With the help of her parents she is processing her grief and dealing with the backlash that is beginning as a result of Khalil’s death. Starr must deal with police and press interviews and the injustice of the police officer murderer remaining free and simply on reduced duties. We learn further details about the night of the murder, and the tension in Starr’s family and community really begin to spiral. Starr also starts to realise who she can trust and who is not a genuine friend, which I think is a really difficult part of growing up. Here are my thoughts.

Starr and Hailey have a very turbulent relationship that changes throughout the novel. What are your thoughts on friendships changing as we grow?

I think this is a really important character arc for Angie Thomas to tackle. I’m not sure that I’ve read any books dealing with this before. The long and short of it is that Starr and Hailey have been friends since middle school (from what I understand of the US school system I’m estimating that’s early secondary school for us Brits – maybe aged 11 or 12). As the girls have grown into themselves, into young women, Starr is realising that Hailey has started to become a person she doesn’t like. Somewhere along the line their moral compasses diverged and it became an incompatible relationship. Starr doesn’t want to put up with Hailey’s selfish and prejudiced behaviours any more. Hailey cannot see that her words are racist. She’s not a nice person and it takes the trauma of Khalil’s murder for Starr to be jolted towards that realisation.

As I said in the last read-along piece, I can relate to Starr in the way that I very much remember what it was like to be a teenage girl, and therefore this subplot hit home for me. I have had personal experience of being frozen out of my friendship group and realising that the people who were supposed to be my friends were anything but. Angie Thomas approach to this with racism as the cause of the broken friendship was heartbreaking. Starr’s strength to accept that her friend was simply a vile person, that there was nothing wrong with herself, and that she could move on to a better situation with healthier friendships, was a huge part of the character arc. It also highlighted to me that this is something I have never had to experience. Being a teenager is hard enough without having to deal with this BS and I don’t think I previously realised that this was something my Black peers are having to face.

We’ve both (Kerrie and I) decided Starr’s parents are excellent characters. Is this something we usually see in the YA books we read? Why do we love them as much as we do?   

Honestly Kerrie and I had a little fangirl about Starr’s parents when we Skyped to speak about this book. Lisa, Starr’s mother, is a fierce woman. She’s excellent. Fiercely protective, she knows exactly what to do to help Starr through the aftermath of witnessing Khalil’s murder. She’s got everyone checked in their place, which led to some amusing scenes giving some excellently placed comic relief to the story. Her capacity to love is immense. She can forgive her husband for his mistakes, she loves him unconditionally as she does with their kids. She loves Starr’s older brother Seven as though he’s her own. Honestly she is a FORCE of a woman and she’s absolutely one of my favourite characters in the book. Starr’s father Maverick is also an absolute gem. He always puts his family first whilst having to wrestle with right and wrong, his past life and his current life. He is flawed but the more we learn about him as the story progresses, the more we learn of his heart. He really is just trying to do his best with the circumstances society has constructed around him. I love the scenes where Lisa and Maverick interact. They are funny, totally in love, a little bit messy (which makes them so real), an excellent support system, they’re so much of the heart of this book. I also appreciate that Lisa and Maverick are another cultural example that I need to learn from. They are the adults that characters like Starr will grow into. What the novel teaches us of them is how society shapes these communities and it is a starting place for my understanding.

It’s really refreshing to see a relationship like Lisa and Maverick’s in a young adult novel. I often find the trend in these novels is that there’s usually an absent parent or some sort of ‘broken home’ as the family background. So it’s really nice that Starr comes from a place of relative stability. I’d love to see more of this is ya. Maybe I’m just not reading enough of the correct books?

Family is very important to Starr. How do you think this is handled in the book? What jumped out at you particularly?

Family is portrayed in so many different levels and it really made me consider what makes a family. Starr has a blended family. Her older brother, Seven, is her father’s child and therefore her half sibling. Seven’s siblings are like family extensions through loyalty to their mutual brother. Her uncle is like a second father to her, which causes conflict between some of the adults in her family. Outside of biological family, Starr also has her Garden Heights family, because her community is very much a family. I think Angie Thomas shows more than anything that love and loyalty make families of all different shapes and sizes. I think that was the really important takeaway from this element of the novel.

The way Starr handles what is happening throughout the novel is powerful. What struck you the most?

What struck me most was that this story really deals with exactly what teenagers can do. It shows us that teenagers have strength beyond their years, they can use their brains, they’re principled, and they’re brilliant. It also shows that despite this, and despite the way society may view them, they are just kids. Kids trying to make it through and work life out. One of my favourite scenes of the book is when Starr does the television interview. The answers she gave were just mic drops all over the place. I really appreciate that she was shown with this level of strength in the face of extreme injustice. It’s also clear that she is being strong when that is not easy for her. She doesn’t see her actions as strong, rather what she has to do for Khalil and for her community. She is strong despite being terrified, which is what real strength is. Angie Thomas has created a character who is strong, real, and raw and she is absolutely great. I am also coming to understand that this kind of strength is a necessity, rather than a choice, from Starr and real life Black teens. This is a check on my own privilege in the fact that I would never have to protest to ensure the police murderer of a white friend would be brought to justice, it would simply be an expected result if that kind of thing had happened. What is also becoming clear is that I still have a hell of a lot to learn.

The final instalment of The Hate U Give read-along will go live on Friday, followed by a full book review. Make sure you’re checking back here and over at Wheelie Stagey for full bookish content!

The Hate U Give Chapters 1 – 9. Beauteaful Stagey Read-Along.

As you may be aware my friend Kerrie, at Wheelie Stagey, and myself are doing some buddy reads through isolation. Our first choice is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

Our first section, chapters 1 – 9, follow Starr after she has witnessed her best friend Khalil shot dead by a police officer. Star and Khalil were on their way home from a party when they were pulled over. Khalil was eventually dragged from the car by the officer and shot, despite being unarmed and posing no threat. In fact, he was checking to see if Starr was okay during the ordeal. Starr attempts to continue as normal, hiding this traumatic experience from her school friends who live in a completely different world to the one she is from. She also has to hide this from her community as it quickly becomes clear that local loyalties and gangs come into play in this situation. Starr is terrified and struggling to cope with what has happened to her friend, and witnessing a death for the second time in her life.

For each section Kerrie and I have come up with some questions to discuss. You can find the full list by clicking here. Read on to find out my thoughts on the first third of the book. Please go to Kerrie’s blog too and don’t forget to use the hashtag #BeauteafulStageyReadAlong to tag us both if you’re joining in.

At the beginning of the book Starr flashes back to her parents having two talks with her as a child. One is about the birds and the bees. The second is about what precautions to take when encountering a police officer. Reflect on that. How is that different from your own childhood experiences?

This part of the book really struck me. It was very upsetting. For a start being cautious around the police is not something I have ever considered or needed to consider. Growing up, I was always told by my parents that if I was in any trouble (i.e. was in any danger), the police were people I could go to for help. Even during my driving lessons no one ever mentioned what it looks like when a police car signals for you to pull over. I have never been pulled over or witnessed anyone else be pulled over. It’s an upsetting realisation that this is not true for everyone, and this is definitely a privilege check for me. This is just one example of many that I learnt something new about cultures other than my own when reading this book. I’ve been left wondering if parents in some communities in the UK are having these sorts of conversations with their children as are undoubtedly happening in the States. It’s completely different from my childhood experiences.

Starr describes the idea that there are two versions of herself. How do her different experiences enhance the story? Can you relate to something similar?

I think all of us can relate to something similar, especially growing up. I certainly know I had a hard time adjusting to fit in to the different circles I found myself in. For me I had a ‘secret’ internet life where I could fangirl in peace away from school bullies. Of course this is different to what Starr is going through, feeling the need to adjust herself because of society’s impressions of her background. I can definitely relate to being a teenage girl and trying to fit in with people I thought were my friends, but I can’t relate to adding cultural differences on top of all that. Starr goes through an impressive transformation in the way she views her own identity. Angie Thomas is able to show this from so many different perspectives due to Starr’s unique position. She goes to a predominantly white private school, and she grows up in a different neighbourhood that is seen by those people as ‘rough’. She is the daughter of a medical professional and an ex-gang member, and she is the niece of a police officer. This allows Starr to provide social commentary on both sides of the debate she finds herself at the centre of; relating to police brutality and race relations. This really helps in teaching me plenty about my own culture too as well as Starr’s situation and navigating her teen years in America.

The success and pitfalls of media and social media is an underlying theme of the book. Baring this in mind, how do you think hashtag culture and internet activism has played a role in our understanding of topics such as police brutality and racism? Is this always helpful?

This is a kind of double edged sword. On the one hand, hashtag culture is the primary method I had of hearing about these sorts of topics growing up. I’m from a small town in the south west of the UK so until I moved to London I had a very limited knowledge of cultures beyond my own with only the media and internet portrayals as exposure. Hashtag culture can be great in raising awareness and spreading a message. With things such as the Me Too movement it’s clear that momentum can be built by a hashtag spreading around the various social media channels. It’s an interesting new age we’re living in when social media can have that kind of influence.

However the other side to that is people simply jumping on a bandwagon, which I think is handled really well in The Hate U Give. Some of the kids at Starr’s school use Khalil’s murder as a reason to skip class. Their reasons for protesting what happened to him are not genuine. This is the danger with internet activism where people are happy to jump on board with the issue for a short amount of time without doing anything productive in real time. Change can’t be made by people with the wrong intentions adding noise from behind a keyboard. Whilst social media is a platform to use your voice, it’s also a way to spread misinformation and hatred.

Starr is deeply affected by this as people who didn’t know Khalil, or know what happened that night, felt able to spread their vicious opinions based on lies and assumptions. Angie Thomas created a very important dialogue about this within her story of deep injustices in society.

What did you learn from the portrayal of societal pressures such as poverty and communities?

Angie Thomas’s Garden Heights Community was so well established and fleshed out with very real and whole secondary characters. I think this is especially important for readers such as myself to learn the stories of these communities that are sometimes governed by gangs. Issues of addiction, domestic violence, gang culture, and community rules are all covered in this story. These issues are often connected and create a vicious cycle that leads into further involvement and often spirals through generations. This book has taught me that it’s not as cut and dry to simply make a choice. Sometimes our decisions are controlled by the situation we find ourselves in and, for the most part, people are just trying to do the best they can for themselves and their families. I also loved how this book showed the beauty of communities outside my very limited white experience. Starr’s family are wonderful. They truly look out for each other and have each others backs. They go to the ends of the earth for each other. They give the kind of support to their immediate family and the family that is their community in ways that I could only hope to experience. These stories are able to be told through the extensive cast of important secondary characters, all of whom are somehow completely fully fleshed out. As I’ve already said this novel is an important learning curve for me.

Let me know your thoughts about this first section of The Hate U Give and come back on Wednesday to read the second part.

Review: One Of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManus

One Of Us Is Next, by Karen M. McManus

Pages: 382

Published: 9 January 2020

⭐️ 5 / 5

YEESSSS. I’ve been waiting (very impatiently) for this book ever since it was announced. This is the sequel to Karen M. McManus’s debut novel, One Of Us Is Lying. This, as McManus writes in her acknowledgements, is the ‘Maeve book’, and I adored it! This is definitely my favourite out of the two One Of Us novels and I devoured it in 2 days. Here is my non-spoilery review – and I apologise in advance for the amount of shouty capitals I’m probably going to use. Grab a cup of tea and read on.

Plot

I was mildly concerned about how this book was going to pan out, mainly I didn’t think there was anything left to say after the conclusion to the first book. How on earth is a book like that supposed to be followed. I didn’t want a rehash with new characters – like the nightmare that is Grease 2…I had absolutely nothing to worry about! The mix of new characters is balanced perfectly with checking in on the Bayview Four and co. This allows us to catch up with our favourites to see how their life has moved on after the Simon drama, whilst also allowing One Of Us Is Next to stand on its own. This also builds Bayview more as we move away from the high school and further into the society and local community, which was really great.

We follow 3 point of view characters who start off as friends and/or loose acquaintances, and steadily become a firm friendship group with all the peaks and pitfalls that come with that. Maeve (Rojas! Yes, Bronwyn’s little sis), Phoebe, and Knox feel different to the Bayview Four as these 3 consciously choose to be friends whereas the Bayview Four were total strangers simply thrown together. (I promise I’ll try to stop the comparisons soon but it’s so difficult when the story doesn’t follow straight on). Their friendships really are at the heart of the plot as there’s a lot more ‘downtime’ for the characters in this sequel. Another thing that shines through and really sculpts the plot is sibling relationships in all of their forms. We see every spectrum of what that looks like from joined at the hip, to suffocated, overwhelmed, intimidated and feeling like you’ve got a tough act to follow, and siblings who cannot stand to be in the same room with one another. This book also radiates love. Sibling and family love, platonic friend love, and of course the mushy kind of love which made me CATCH ALL THE FEELINGS.

I really liked the premise of the school-wide truth and dare game, although I do question how on earth everyone’s phone numbers were retrieved and compiled – unless we assume everyone is able to access the school register as was used in One Of Us Is Lying. American readers, tell me: is this a normal thing?? In UK schools there’s no way anyone could gain access to student phone numbers except the school office and data prevention stops that kind of information from being shared. Honestly this is my one niggle with One Of Us Is Next because this isn’t answered even when we eventually find out the culprit. The truth or dare game builds suspense well in the first quarter of the novel, then the pace and tension fizzles out until all of a sudden it rears its ugly head and bites back. The London commuters who witnessed me finishing this book on the bus can attest to that following my very audible reactions…

The plot is very cleverly done and I don’t think I fully appreciated it until all the threads suddenly started dropping into place. At the end of chapter 28 I had it all figured out (still squealed my way through it despite heavily suspecting what was going on. Holy sh*t it was TENSE). And I almost got it completely right. Until one final twist. Damn Karen M. McManus and her genius. SO GOOD. Honestly this book is a masterclass in YA thriller/mystery and I NEED ANOTHER BOOK RIGHT NOW PLEASE.

Characters

I really enjoyed our trio of POVs equally. They all had such different lives, personalities, and personal struggles and I loved exploring all of it. Maeve was a stand out favourite for me, but there was a reappearance from a minor One Of Us Is Lying character who steps up to not only become an almost key player but he’s shot straight up my list of fictional boyfriends 😂. It never fails to impress me how many of the side characters are complete, tangible, 3-dimensional characters. Even the parents of the new characters, who may only get a couple of scenes. We have a very good idea of their lives and what sort of people they are. The only exception would be one boy’s father who drops off the page for no apparent reason after stirring a hint of trouble, but I’m probably just being picky now.

I’ll also say it again: SIBLING RELATIONSHIPS. Love, love, love all of it. It’s wholesome and emotional and raw and it’s glorious.

Final Thoughts

PLEASE. READ. THIS. BOOK.

That is all.

Back to your cup of tea. ❤️

Blurb:

Welcome back to Bayview High… It’s been a year since the events of One Of Us Is Lying.But nothing has settled for the residents of Bayview. Not now someone has started playing a sinister game of Truth or Dare. Choose truth? You must reveal your darkest secret. Choose dare? Well, that could be even more dangerous. Even deadly. When the game takes an even darker turn, suddenly no one at Bayview High knows who to trust. But they need to find out who is behind the game, before it’s too late.

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop

The ‘Maeve book’, the sibling book, the ‘YOU MUST READ THIS’ book! #OneOfUsIsNext

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha – book 1)

Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo

Pages: 352

Published: 5 June 2012

⭐️ 4 / 5

This book (and the entire series actually) has been on my shelf and my TBR for a long time. I bought all 3 books in the series several years ago and they’ve been sat on my bookshelf ever since. Towards the end of 2019 I finally got around to them, after uni destroyed my love of reading almost irreparably, and I am so glad I am now on this bandwagon.

Warning: technically there is a small plot spoiler below in the form of a relationship but honestly if you don’t see it coming from the first page, I don’t know what to tell you…

Plot

This is a novel about discovering yourself and carving your own path. When Alina discovers a magic (and by extension, a strength) she didn’t know she had, she’s whisked away with people she doesn’t know to a place she doesn’t know where she doesn’t fit in and is not accepted. She is forced to leave behind the only person she knows, her best friend Mal, and it’s like she’s orphaned all over again. The fact that Alina has to learn about herself as one of the Grisha is really effective in terms of worldbuilding. The reader is able to learn as Alina is forced to learn. This is the first book I’ve read in a while that has a magic system, which I really enjoyed. It’s been very well constructed considering in theory the Grisha can only control one of 3 different things but their own grasp of their power dictates just how much they can do. Another thing I really enjoyed about the worldbuilding is that there was mention of other countries meaning the world extends beyond Alina’s immediate environment. It feels like we are going to explore some of this later in the series, which I really hope is the case.

The description of the Fold is really striking and I love that the metaphorical darkness seen in most fantasies is a literal threat in this series. It’s interesting to explore this concept and the reason the Fold exists. I think it gives the opportunity to remind ourselves of the child-like vulnerability that comes with being afraid of the dark, only this time there really are monsters lurking beyond your vision.

We do get to see a fair amount of Ravka in Shadow and Bone as Alina (and eventually Mal) head out on a nation-wide quest. One strength of this being done is that the reader was able to see ‘normal’ life in this world as opposed to the military or magic lives we’d experienced before. This also meant the reader was able to get to know these characters fairly well as, for the most part, they were alone. I did feel that some of the difficulties they faced on this journey were unnecessary though. Each of them should have been for a specific character-building or story arc purpose however a couple of instances felt like they were just included to give them something to do and to distract them from the slow-burn realisation of their feelings towards each other.

Characters

I found Alina, our protagonist, to be very relatable. She really struggles with wanting to fit in despite being literally born to stand out. She desperately wants to cling on to anything familiar and can’t handle how much her life is changing. She feels crushed by the pressure of failure and letting others down, which is mostly her own exacerbated impression of what her role in Ravka’s future could be. Mal flits between irritating me and being the character I enjoy most on the page. He’s a moody sod and an utter gem. Part of me thinks he is unfair to Alina, part of me understands because she is not exactly the model character in her behaviour either. I love that they’re both so messy and both trying so hard. Bardugo writes them both beautifully and I love that she has created two characters that I can absolutely root for.

I really enjoyed The Darkling as a character. He is so complex and layered. I loved to love him and I loved to hate him too. He has far more potential than we saw in this book so I am really excited to see where he goes in the rest of the series.

I also have to give a special mention to Baghra. What a babe. She has so much more depth to her that just the grumpy old woman she is on the surface. Her wisdom runs deep and I have to say she really surprised me. I hope we see more of her as the series progresses.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed this book and thought it was a great start to a series. The ending left me desperate to read the sequel straight away which leaves me thankful that I waited so long to start this series. There’s nothing better than a book binge if you have the patience to wait years for a series to end before you start.

Let me know what you thought of this book/series below! Keep an eye out for my review of Siege and Storm soon.

Blurb:

Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Orphaned and expendable, Alina Starkov is a soldier who knows she may not survive her first trek across the Shadow Fold – a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. But when her regiment is attacked, Alina unleashes dormant magic not even she knew she possessed. Now Alina will enter a lavish world of royalty and intrigue as she trains with the Grisha, her country’s magical military elite – and falls under the spell of their notorious leader, the Darkling. He believes Alina can summon a force capable of destroying the Shadow Fold and reuniting their war-ravaged country, but only if she can master her untamed gift. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and Alina unlocks the secrets of her past, she will make a dangerous discovery that could threaten all she loves and the very future of a nation. Welcome to Ravka . . . a world of science and superstition where nothing is what it seems.

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop.

12 Reads of Christmas 2019: Day 12

Winnie the Pooh, A.A Milne

“But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.”

– A.A Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
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Review: Legendary by Stephanie Garber

Legendary, by Stephanie Garber

Pages: 432

Published: 29th May 2018

⭐️ 3 / 5

Welcome, welcome! To the second installment of Caraval (if you know, you know). Those of you who read my last review will know I was left very underwhelmed and hoping that the series greatly improved. My main gripe was that the writing didn’t live up to the potential of the plot or world that Garber has created. Luckily book two has picked up slightly but I’m by no means anywhere near as impressed as I expected to be.

Plot

This was certainly a marked improvement on Caraval but still far below any hype that this series has been afforded. The plot this time centres around finding Scarlett and Tella’s mum, which honestly by the half way point I was starting to reach How I Met Your Mother levels of frustration. We still followed the same sort of layout of the Caraval game which yet again made the plot incredibly repetitive, and not in any way I could see was remotely useful for the story. The one thing that kept me interested was the threat of the Fates reappearing and, annoyingly, the constant will-they-won’t-they of Tella and Dante. I really ship them and I’m a little bit disappointed in myself for it.

Characters

Tella and Dante are honestly the saving graces of this entire series. They are layered and somewhat fleshed-out to the bare minimum I would like to see in any novel I read. They are at least a much better pair than Scarlett and Julian. Tella is feisty, determined and sassy and the only character that stirs any interest beyond the basic plot. Otherwise, I actually prefer the ensemble characters. They’re about as 2 dimensional as Scarlett and Julian so really its a contest of the least irritating, which falls to the likes of Aiko, Jovan, and Jacks. Legendary introduced a few new characters who I ended up enjoying and Jacks was definitely one of them. He became a big player in this book and I’m sure will be in the final instalment too.

Final Thoughts

Caraval‘s sequel is a definite improvement but the series is still sitting in the overall category of disappointment, I’m afraid to say. I will be reading the concluding part of the series however as unfortunately I’m completely unable to DNF a series I’ve fought this far through… Never mind.

Let me know in the comments what you thought of this series or if you’ve ever been disappointed by a book(s).

Blurb:

A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win. After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name. The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more – and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets… including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about – maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop.

2019 Wrap-Up

This year has been an odd one. The final weeks of university caused me to have another improptu hiatus from my book blogging/bookstagram life. Summer came and went in a blur of exam re-sit stress.  I quit a job I hated. I somehow succeeded in getting a full time job and my feet firmly in the door of my dream career, despite not having a degree classification or a graduation date in the near future.

Yet, despite achieving so much on a personal level in terms of setting myself up for the future, I still feel like I didn’t DO anything. No abroad holidays like I did in 2018. In fact, I barely left London except to visit my family in the South West and a week on the Isle of Wight. I still haven’t written my book or improved my French and Italian like I wanted to. Still can’t play the piano. I feel like all I’ve done is work and study, and some of that I didn’t do very well…

This year has also seen yet another huge reading slump as uni has ruined reading for pleasure for me (don’t panic, it looks like I’m finally on my way out of it though).

So, out with the old, and in with the new. Good riddance 2019. Please let 2020 be the beginning of my roaring 20s decade of dreams and make the decade which will see me turn 30 (EWW NO I’M A 90s BABY AND I REFUSE TO GROW UP) so much better than the decade of my teenage and very early 20s.


What I’ve Been Reading in 2019

I didn’t manage to meet my Goodreads goal of 50 books for this year which I’m really disappointed about…

I re-read lots of things I enjoyed and started 2019 off with one of the biggest books I’ve ever read – Samantha Shannon’s The Priory of the Orange Tree. Nearly 900 pages of dragons and badass women which I read in one crazy caffeine-fuelled 18 hour sitting the night before the book launch. (A book I still haven’t had time to write a review for).

However, here’s some highlights and lowlights of what I did manage to read this year:

(One of my) Favourite Reads: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

I LOVED THIS BOOK. Jackson has written a very strong debut. The plot had so many different threads woven through it and it was seriously impressive. Pip is absolutely my favourite protagonist in a very long time, I wish I had a friend like her. This book made me laugh and cry. I am over the moon to hear that this book is getting a sequel and I can’t wait to see what Pip gets up to next.

Most Pleasant Surprise: The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie

Book blogger, YouTuber and creative Lucy Powrie has just released her debut novel into the world. At only 18 years old she has managed to write the book I desperately needed as a 15 year old. TP&HS touches on many themes including not fitting in, divorce, and bullying but has a core of friendship and the love of books. I thought it was very well written and Lucy provides a refreshing new YA voice, standing far apart from the other books born out of YouTube fame. I am very exited to read the rest of this series when the time comes.

Most Anticipated: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Nearly 35 years after the publication of The Handmaid’s Tale, the most anticipated sequel of the decade (or the last century even) was published. I really, really enjoyed it. It was terrifying and relevant and a real philosophical and literary masterpiece. Do I think it deserved The Booker Prize? No, probably not. I think this was a reparation for The Handmaid’s Tale not winning it when it was nominated back in ’86 (a book that thoroughly does deserve that award IMHO). Either way, this was the best book launch I’ve ever attended and I feel lucky to have been alive, and front and centre, for this monumental moment in literary history.

Biggest Disappointment: Finale by Stephanie Garber

The third and final instalment of the Caraval Series was finally published at the beginning of May. I have been desperate for this release all year! I thought this was an appropriate end to the series however I did find it slightly predictable and the book fell a bit flat for me, as did the entire series. Keep an eye out for my full review coming soon.


My Pick of What I’ve Been Watching in 2019

Jane the Virgin. Murder Mystery. Designated Survivor.
NB. I do not own these images. Image rights belong to Netflix.

The final season of Jane the Virgin was everything I needed and more. The whole series has been beautiful, wholesome, and hilarious. I highly recommend it for some lighthearted dram-edy (and a glorious Telenovela education!).

The new comedy from Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler, Murder Mystery, is absolutely brilliant. This married couple from New York, a hairdresser and a NYPD cop, finally go on their long-awaited European vacation/honeymoon. They end up on a yacht with Luke Evans, David Walliams, Gemma Arterton, and a host of other great acting talent, and become embroiled in a murder investigation. Hilarious fun and a nice quick 1hr 40min watch.

Designated Survivor season three finally streamed on Netflix after inexplicably being cancelled (I MEAN?!!) by ABC at the conclusion of season two. Netflix saved the day and I binged the new season in an afternoon. DRAMA, DRAMA, DRAMA. This series is a must-see!


Next Year…

At the moment I’m enjoying reading murder mysteries, both classic Agatha Christie and books that fall into the Young Adult Genre. I will be reading more of these in 2020. PLEASE LEAVE RECOMMENDATIONS IN THE COMMENTS – I’m looking for books similar to One of Us is Lying and Two Can Keep a Secret.

I also aim to finish/re-do my Jane Austen Reading Challenge this year which you can keep up to date with on my Instagram Highlights at @beauteaful.reads

As if we’re entering the year 2020?!

Happy New Year, Readers 😘

Quick-fire reviews

As some of you may have noticed, my project for this month has been a brand new Instagram account! I’ve set up this bookstagram purely to share beautiful images of my books and connect with more people who enjoy reading and may benefit from my reviews.

If you’re interested, please do check it out. You’ll find me at: @beauteaful.reads on Instagram or via the links on my homepage and in the side bar.

With that in mind, here’s my first collaboration post to bring my blog and bookstagrams together!

Today’s bookstack features a selection of the white/cream/beige books that I own. As Britian is currently enjoying (or suffering) a heatwave I thought these crisp, clean covers could make some good summer reads. Here’s some quick-fire reviews and thoughts on those I have included!

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