BOOK REVIEW: Crooked Kingdom – by Leigh Bardugo

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Title: Crooked Kingdom
(Six Of Crows #2)
Author: Leigh Bardugo

Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: September 27th 2016
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
Finished reading: November 29th 2016
Pages: 536
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“Fear is a phoenix. You can watch it burn a thousand times and still it will return.”

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Six Of  Crows was by far one of my favorite reads last year, and I have been highly anticipating the sequel ever since. But somehow, when Crooked Kingdom was finally published in September, I held back. I was expecting the world of this book, and I started to wonder: what if it isn’t as good as the first book? What if it suffers from the so-called ‘weak-sequel-syndrome’? What if I’m not ready to say goodbye to the characters? I posponed and posponed and it soon became embarrasing. I needed to read this book I was so looking forward to! And I’m glad I did. I don’t think it actually lives up to the excellence of Six Of Crows, but it is kind of hard to beat that quality in the first place. There is no doubt I thoroughly enjoyed this sequel and Leigh Bardugo‘s writing is just as brilliant as ever. It was so good reading about my favorite characters again ans the plot twists are again excellent. I did feel the ending was a bit rushed though… And why did she have to go George R.R. Martin on me?! I still have a small book hangover from Crooked Kingdom and it was sad to say goodbye to the characters. That said, I did feel it missed the spark of Six Of Crows.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first book yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just done the unthinkable and pulled of a heist so dangerous they didn’t think they would survive. But when they arrive home things didn’t go as planned, and instead of enjoying their reward they end up right where they started and fighting for their lives. The crew has been double-crossed and after the kidnapping of a valuable member, they will have to find a way to strike back and pull off a rescue as well. That’s not their only problem, as leaders around the world travel to Ketterdam to find out more about the dangerous drug known as jurda parem… Will they be able to do the impossible once more?

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Leigh Bardugo is without doubt one of my favorite authors. Brilliant prose, excellent worldbuilding and character development, a lot of action, not too many romance scenes… It’s basically what I’m always looking for in a good story. Six Of Crows is without doubt my absolute favorite of her work, and its characters are on my all time favorite list as well. And while Crooked Kingdom wasn’t as good as the first book, I loved every single minute of it anyway. Well, except for the rushed ending and a plot twist I couldn’t understand in the end. I can’t go into details, but those who read it will understand. My heart literally almost stopped when I read those pages… If you haven’t read this duology yet, I can definitely recommend it! You won’t regret it.

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WWW Wednesdays #113 – November 30th

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WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

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I’m currently trying to finish Another Day Gone by Eliza Graham before the end of today, although I’m not sure if I will actually be able to since it’s still early days when it comes to my progress. I guess part of the problem is that I’m not sure if I’m actually in the mood for historical fiction right now… That and my Crooked Kingdom book hangover.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

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* I first reread Six Of Crows by Leigh Bardugo in anticipation of the second book in this duology. I loved it just as much the second time around! This one is without doubt my all time favorite Bardugo and among my favorite YA fantasy books as well.
* I then finished reading While You Were Sleeping by Kathryn Croft, which turned out to be a good enough read. I admit it wasn’t as good as I was expecting and part of the plot and plot twists were either farfetched or even a bit predictable. The ending was a surprise, although I’m not sure I actually liked it. Also, the characters were not exactly likeable.
* Next up is my very first audiobook experience with Secondhand Smoke by M. Louis. I’ve tried my hands at audiobooks in the past, but could never actually get into the voices that told the stories. I was offered a copy of this one, and I ended up enjoying the whole experience a lot better than I thought I would. The story is full of action and plot twists, and the characters are without doubt interesting. Could have done without the romance and wasn’t sure about the ending, but overall it is without doubt a very entertaining story. It also worked perfectly as an audiobook and I was able to multitask while listening to it. I’m not sure I will switch to audiobooks any time soon, but one or two every once in a while have become way more tempting.
* Next up was one of the Goodreads Choice Awards finalists: The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison. And boy I definitely got more than what I had expected! This book is mentioned in the horror genre for a good reason, because this is without doubt one sick and messed up story. I will never look at my butterfly tattoo in the same way again… The story is well written, although the beginning and ending are a lot stronger than the middle part. In fact, the pace slowed down considerably and it took me longer than imagined to finish it. I’m not sure all of it is believable (for example: why don’t those girls ever fight back??!!), but it is without doubt one hell of a horror story. And it definitely isn’t one for the weakhearted…
* I also read His Kidnapper’s Shoes by Maggie James, which turned out to be another interesting psychological thriller with an interesting twist. The character development is probably the most interesting part of this story, as we see how both the kidnapper and her ‘son’ evolve over time and deal with their lives. The story switches between past and present and touches some very sensitive topics; you’ve been warned.
* And the last book I finished since last week is Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. I’m not sure if it was just because my expectations were set too high, but while I thoroughly enjoyed reading this sequel I don’t think it’s actually as good as the first book. Sure, I loved the characters and the twists and I no doubt have a small book hangover after finishing it. But it missed the spark of Six Of Crows. That doesn’t take away I’m sad to say goodbye to these characters…

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

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I  want to try and read my very first Reading Alley ARC next: Tipping Point by Tomas Byrne. I also have another Netgalley ARC pending (sooo close to the 80% now!) The Killing Game by J.S. Carol. I’ve heard great things about it, so I’m looking forward to finally picking it up. I also want to finally dive into This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab. I have loved everything written by this woman so far this year, so I honestly don’t understand what’s taking me so long. Lastly, my newest TBR jar pick is still Little Women by Louise May Alcott.

WWW Wednesdays #112 – November 23rd

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WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

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I’m currently almost finished rereading Six Of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and of course I’m loving this story as much as I did the first time around. As soon as I do end the final page, I’m picking up the sequel Crooked Kingdom! I’m also reading the Netgalley ARC While You Were Sleeping by Kathryn Croft, although I’m only a few pages into that one so far. And I’m quite far into my very first audiobook experience with Secondhand Smoke by M. Louis. I have to admit it takes some time getting used to the whole audiobook thing, but this action-packed story does make it a lot easier for me to enjoy the process.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

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* I first finished reading Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi, which I had picked up on a whim after being in the mood for a fantasy read. (The fact that it’s a Goodreads Choice Nominee is a bonus of course). I loved the worldbuilding and the prose is great, but I wasn’t too convinced by the characters or the ending. It’s a middle grade read though, and I have a feeling the target group will probably love this story.
* I then finished reading The Girls Next Door by Mel Sherratt, which turned out to be quite a refreshing new detective series in the way that the detective the series is named after doesn’t play that big of a role nor does she have a messed up private life. It’s also quite a fast-paced read, although I have to admit the sheer amount of characters that is introduced can get quite confusing at times. I had a hard time identifying where each character stood in the story, and it made it more difficult to actually just enjoy the story. I also had problems with the credibility?
* Afterwards I decided to read When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, and it turns out it is nominated for Best Memoir for a good reason. This memoir is powerful, raw, emotional and simply heartbreaking… The story of a young neurosurgeon who lost the battle against cancer, a man who tried to write down the story of his life during a race against the clock. The rush especially shows in the last part he wrote himself, but that only makes this memoir more authentic. The final part written by his wife was especially moving.
* Afterwards I decided to continue with Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. It’s a truly interesting historical fiction novel set in both Africa and the US and follows different generations of two initial characters. The story was a bit confusing in the beginning, mostly due to the sheer amount of characters that are introduced over time. The pace was a tad slow at times as well, but overall Homegoing is without doubt a very powerful and well researched historical fiction novel.
* The last book I read is A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, which was my last TBR jar pick. And boy do I regret not having picked this one up earlier! This originally Swedish book was in one word BRILLIANT. I fell in love with the prose and main character from the very first page and it’s been a while since a book has been able to make me laugh and cry at the same time. Ove has managed to win over my heart, grumpiness and all, and he is hands down one of my new favorite characters. Fredrik Backman is able to combine heartbreaking and sensitive topics with a humor that is right up my alley; I can’t wait to read more of his work soon. (By the way, am I the only one who thinks Ove sounds a bit like the old grumpy man in the movie Up?)

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

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I’m still trying to read more Goodreads Choice Awards nominees, so I have The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner and Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly on my list. I also want to try and read my very first Reading Alley ARC: Tipping Point by Tomas Byrne. Lastly, I have a new TBR jar pick: Little Women by Louise May Alcott. I have to admit I have never read this classic before nor am I that excited about it, but hopefully I will turn out to be wrong about this one. At least it’s a great excuse to squeeze in another classic before the end of this year. 😉

WWW Wednesdays #111 – November 16th

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WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

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I’m currently reading two of the Goodreads Choice Awards finalists: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi. I’m not that far into the stories yet, but both look quite promising. I’ve also started my very first audiobook Secondhand Smoke by M. Louis (narrated by Colin Iago McCarthy), which was sent to me by Mindbuck Media Book Publicity in exchange for an honest review. It still takes time to get used to the whole audiobook idea, but there are definitely advantages to it.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

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*The first book I have managed to finish is Before You Leap by Keith Houghton, which turned out to be a really interesting psychological thriller. The prose was great and even though the story was a bit confusing in the beginning, I ended up really enjoying this read. I’m not too sure about the ending though.
* I then read It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover, and boy, she has done it again. Those who know me are already aware of my not-so-good relation with the romance genre, but this one is an exception to the rule. This title just became the second 5 star CoHo book on my list. Why is it so brilliant? With a well written story, intriguing plot, strong characters and a very important theme, there isn’t much that can go wrong.
* The last book I finished this week is The Power by Naomi Alderman, a title I requested based on Claire‘s review and turned out to be just as good as she had promised me. It’s without doubt a very powerful read indeed and one that will stay with me for a while. Read this one if you have the chance!

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I should really pick up another pending Netgalley ARC; most likely The Girls Next Door by Mel Sherratt. I also want to read both When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo since they are finalists in the Goodreads Choice Awards. I might read my latest TBR jar pick is still A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman first though.

WWW Wednesdays #109 – November 2nd

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WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

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I’m finally continuing with my last TBR jar pick The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson, and I’m definitely enjoying it a lot better than the first time I tried to start reading it. I’ve also picked up my Netgalley copy of No Excuses Detox by Megan Gilmore, which is turning out to be a really interesting read so far and I can’t wait to start trying out the recipes.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

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* I first finished The Good Sisters by Helen Phifer, which turned out to be such a great and creepy read! Definitely on the top of this year’s Halloween list; if you like a well written story with great descriptions and the right creepy atmosphere (complete with haunted convent), defiintely give this one a go. It’s brilliant!
* I then read The Scholl Case by Anja Reich-Osang, which is a true crime read about the Scholl Case where a former German mayor killed his wife. It wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be, as it focused more on the history of both the mayor and his wife and the murder case was forced into the background. The whole thing read more like a historical fiction story, and I’m not sure to what level this story can actually be called ‘non fiction’. The pace was pretty slow as well…
* I then picked up Bad Girls Don’t Die by Katie Alender, mostly because I wanted to read more Halloween related books. And I really enjoyed this one! Fast-paced and just the right dose of creepy; the perfect and entertaining read for the October month. I will definitely be continuing this series soon.
* I also decided to read Sanctum by Madeleine Roux for the same reason. I had completely forgotten how good this series was! Almost no romance, a fast pace, lots of creepy scenes and the photos are a nice touch. I really enjoyed this one and I’ve moved the third book right to the top of my TBR pile as well.
* The last book I finished was Love You To Death by Caroline Mitchell, a Netgalley read that didn’t turn out to be as good as I hoped it would be. I had a hard time getting a proper feel for the story and I wasn’t really convinced by the characters in general… Lucy (killer) had a lot of potential, but Ruby (detective) felt weak as a main character and I didn’t appreciate the romance or love triangle either.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

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Next up are two of my pending Netgalley ARCs: The Power by Naomi Alderman and Anything For Her by Jack Jordan. I’m especially excited about the first title after I read Claire‘s review not that long ago and I can’t wait to start reading it. I also want to read Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, but I need to reread Six Of Crows first so I might wait a little while longer. And my next TBR jar pick is still A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. I’ve heard so many great things about this novel that I can’t wait to finally pick it up!