BOOK REVIEW: Rebel Of The Sands – by Alwyn Hamilton

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Title: Rebel Of The Sands
(Rebel Of The Sands #1)
Author: Alwyn Hamilton

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: March 8th 2016
Publisher: Viking Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: February 13th 2017
Pages: 320
Rating 4,5qqq

“The world makes things for each place. Fish for the sea, Rocs for the mountain skies, and girls with sun in their skin and perfect aim for a desert that doesn’t let weakness live.”

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Dear Rebel Of The Sands, why have I managed to ignore you for nearly a year?! I’m still kicking myself for not picking up this first book of a fantastic new YA fantasy series… But I guess it does mean I can read the sequel straight away! I admit I have heard mixed things about this story in the past, and that might just be why I was so hesitant to pick it up in the first place. I normally tend to have bad luck with popular books, but I’m glad that Rebel Of The Sands has proven to be an exception. I’m glad I finally gave this story a chance and I loved even better than expected! I’ve basically fallen in love with the worldbuilding, characters and writing style from the beginning… Alwyn Hamilton writes in a way that draws you right in and even though the whole strong-female-character thing in YA fantasy isn’t all that original, I was thoroughly charmed by Amani anyway. Together with Jin, Shazad and many other characters she managed to win over my heart and I had a blast following them on their journey through the desert. The worldbuilding is so interesting! I’ve heard complains about the ‘mythical’ being lost by the ‘western’ feel of the descriptions and some of the scenes, but I personally really liked the mix of two different elements. Great prose and characters, interesting plot and worldbuilding, lots of action, a healthy dose of action and magic: Rebel Of The Sands has all the ingredients to enchant you.

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Amani Al’Hiza lives in the small desert town of Dustwalk and basically learned to shoot like an expert when she was only a little girl. There is not much to do in Dustwalk and Amani has become a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim… But that won’t help her escape before she either loses her freedom or her life. When another bad decision brings her to a shooting contest, she meets the mysterious foreigner Jin. Amani sees him as the perfect escape route, although it won’t be easy to escape with both their lives… And she definitely didn’t imagine escaping riding a mythical horse she didn’t know still existed. And she will soon learn a whole lot more about her country as they try to find their way to safety.

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Thank you Traitor To The Throne for finally making me read the first book! I’m so glad I was approved for an ARC of the sequel, because I still feel I have been missing out by not reading Rebel Of The Sands sooner. I know this story has a lot of mixed reviews, but if you ask me it’s definitely worth the try. This series has the perfect combination of interesting worldbuilding, great characters and well written prose; the magic and mythical elements make Rebel Of The Sands into something special. I will be looking forward to read more about Amani and Jin’s adventures for sure!


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BOOK REVIEW: Furthermore – by Tahereh Mafi

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Title: Furthermore
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Magic
First published: August 30th 2016
Publisher: Dutton Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: November 16th 2016
Pages: 416
Rating 3,5qqq

“Why must you look like the rest of us? Why do you have to be the one to change? Change the way we see. Don’t change the way you are.”

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I have been wanting to read Furthermore ever since I first heard about it. I admit I haven’t read Tahereh Mafi‘s popular Shatter Me series yet (mostly because of the mixed reviews I’ve seen out there), but this new story seems to be totally unrelated to it. Furthermore is a typical middle grade story that reads like a fairy tale and is full of adventures and a worldbuilding that is both creative and well executed. In fact, both the new world Tahereh Mafi created where color is currency and the plot itself are probably the strongest features of this book. The main characters are ok, although they did feel a bit underdeveloped at points. I loved the symbolism behind Alice though. As for the pace of the story: the beginning was quite slow and didn’t grab my attention right away, while the ending felt quite rushed. In other words, Furthermore lacked the right balance in pace and I would have liked to see a better ending. The story is well written though and I can see why middle graders would enjoy reading this story full of magical adventures. The chapters are not too long either, which makes it a great read to read out loud as well.

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Ferenwood is a world where color is currency and the sign of magic as well. The more colorful the inhabitants are, the more powerful they seem to be… And that’s why Alice Alexis Queensmeadow doesn’t seem to be popular at all. She was born all white from top to bottom, and even though she desperately wants to fit in, everybody seems to treat her indifferently. Well, everyone except for Father, but he disappeared three years ago and nobody knows where he went. Alice is determined to find Father, and one day she gets help from an unexpected source. It turns out she will have to travel through the mythical and dangerous Furthermore to find him, and it will take all her wits to fulfill her quest.

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Maybe my expectations were set too high, but while Furthermore was a very entertaining read I did have some minor problems with it. The biggest flaw might be the pace, which was too slow in the beginning and felt way too rushed in the end. The adventures itself were cute enough and I simply loved the worldbuilding and the idea of color as magic. I would have liked to see a bit more character development, but I liked Alice and I have no doubt it would be a big success in the target group.

BOOK REVIEW: Empire Of Storms – by Sarah J. Maas

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Title: Empire Of Storms
(Throne Of Glass #5)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: September 6th 2016
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Finished reading: October 7th 2016
Pages: 704
Rating 3qqq

“The fear of loss . . . it can destroy you as much as the loss itself.”

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WARNING: unpopular opinion ahead. Those who follow my blog will probably already know that I really enjoyed the first four books of the Throne Of Glass series in the past. The first book had it flaws, but the other three definitely made up for those little things that bothered me. And then I read Empire Of Storms, and I’m not sure what to think about this series anymore. I kept asking myself what on earth happened to the awesomeness I had grown used to… Because this fifth book has turned out to be a mayor disappointment. The story is overlong and most characters are basically a bunch of horny teenagers that want to sleep with each other all the time. What’s with all the romance?!?! It’s almost like Empire Of Storms is written by a different person, because the change is pretty drastic. I used to love Aelin and Manon as a character, but especially Aelin has lost my respect with all the blah romance scenes and Manon was absent for way too long. Sure, there are some pretty mindblowing action scenes and the general plot is interesting enough, but I felt like it missed the spark of the previous books. I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that book 6 will be a huge improvement and that it will make up for Empire Of Storms; less romance and more epic battles and magic please! It’s going to be a long wait though, especially after that cliffhanger ending… Sigh.

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

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius… The kingdoms of Erilea are fracturing around her and enemies will have to become allies if Aelin is to protect those she loves from the dark forces that want to claim her world. War is looming everywhere and the only chance for survival lies in a desperate quest that might just destory it all. Will Aelin and her friends be able to find a way to stop the dark power on time?

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I’m not lying: I was expecting another mindblowing sequel when I picked up my copy of Empire Of Storms. Instead, I was faced with an overlong and romance-infested story that just didn’t meet the high standard of the previous sequels. The many many cliche romance scenes made me want to vomit and were basically a huge distraction from the otherwise quite interesting plot. I don’t mind long descriptions (especially since Sarah J. Maas always has excellent prose), but I kept having the feeling the story could have been a lot shorter. I will definitely still read the book 6 when it comes out next year, but I will be keeping my expectations low just to be safe…

BOOK REVIEW: Harry Potter And The Cursed Child – by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany

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Title: Harry Potter And The Cursed Child
(Harry Potter #8)
Authors: J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany
Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: July 31st 2016
Publisher: Pottermore
Finished reading: August 4th 2016
Pages: 320

Rating 3,5qqq

“Those we love never truly leave us, Harry. There are things that death cannot touch.”

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I was lucky enough to be growing up along with the main characters as the books were first published, and it’s easy to say the Harry Potter series is one of my childhood favorites. I’m still a fan, so of course I was thrilled when I first heard about Harry Potter And The Cursed Child. But then I started thinking. The original series played such an important role in my life when I was younger; how will this new title ever live up to that? And I normally don’t like reading hyped books either… Plus, this eighth book is actually the script of a play I will probably never actually see. To be honest, I was going to resist temptation and not read Harry Potter And The Cursed Child for the time being. But then the publish date arrived and reviews started popping up everywhere. And as you might have guessed, I couldn’t resist temptation. I gave myself the excuse that I didn’t want to run into any spoilers, but to be honest I just wanted to revisit their world one last time and see what the future had in store for my favorite trio. And it sure was a journey full of nostalgic feelings! I can’t say this new story actually lives up to the original series and I can understand why so many people seem disappointed by it, but Harry Potter And The Cursed  Child scored bonus points simply for the nostalgia. I won’t go into details to avoid spoilers, but I can say this: I liked the time travel and alternative past, but I wasn’t convinced by all the characters and final acts. And the fact that it’s a script does make it less pleasant to read even though it’s a superfast read. I wish I could actually watch the play! Still, if you are a Harry Potter fan it will be hard to resist this new story. I know I couldn’t…

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WARNING: SPOILERS!! DON’T READ THE SUMMARY IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE FIRST SEVEN BOOKS.

It still isn’t easy being Harry Potter even nineteen years after the final battle. It’s a different kind of difficult though as he is now the overworked employee of the Ministry Of Magic, a husband and father of three children. He still struggles with the past and memories still haunt him. And not all his children are happy with their famous dad… His youngest son Albus feels like he isn’t living up to the family legacy and hates being a Potter and above all resents feeling likea disappointment. He doesn’t really fit in at Hogwarts and has only one friend: Draco Malfoy’s son Scorpius and another misfit. Then one day the two take a decision that will threaten to change the past and present forever…

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I can’t say this new story lives up to the first seven books, but I still really enjoyed reading Harry Potter And The Cursed  Child for nostalgic reasons. It’s a script which makes it less comfortable to read, but it is a fast read and there are many references to the past. I didn’t love it, but I think it’s still worth reading if you are a Potter fan. I hope they will make a movie version one day though! Either that or a rewrite of the script to a novel.

BOOK REVIEW: The Neverland Wars – by Audrey Greathouse

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Title: The Neverland Wars
Author: Audrey Greathouse
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Retelling
First published: May 9th 2016
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Finished reading: July 20th 2016
Pages: 302
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“People think that only the serious is important. They forget how essential it is to remain whimsical.”

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I have to confess I’m confused. Did I miss something and The Neverland Wars is actually the first book of a series? Because I really had the feeling the actual story was still missing after I reached the final page. I mean, for a book that is called the Neverland WARS, there isn’t much explained about this supposed war between the children and adults… And the story kind of ended right when it was starting to become interesting. I have to be honest and say I wasn’t really impressed by this book, and even thought of DNFing it once or twice. The first part had quite a slow pace and the prose/tone really bothered me. For a teenager not wanting to grow up, Gwen sounds awfully dull and ‘adult’. Just to give an example:

“Absorbed in their own antics, the young children did not much care as Gwen slunk away from the table. They continued boisterously, but she crept through the forest, stepping softly with her bare feet.”

Tell me I’m wrong when I say this doesn’t sound like YA appropriate prose. And definitely when it’s supposed to be about a teenager that doesn’t want to grow up… The tone just feels all wrong and the prose is ‘distant’ and doesn’t seem age-appropriate.  I agree things become better once they are in Neverland, but it didn’t stop bothering me. I wasn’t really a fan of Gwen in general, although I liked the general idea behind The Neverland Wars of an older Peter Pan and a teenager being torn between average teenage life and Neverland. I just wish the plot itself would have made more sense; less cliche teenage life and more Neverland magic, and of course more focus on the war itself. I kind of hope there will be a sequel focusing on the war… Because that truly was the most interesting part of this retelling.

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Gwen is just like any normal sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a crush on the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn’t really want to grow up, but doesn’t really believe in magic either… And she definitely didn’t know her little sister Rosemary could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that magic does really exist. Because that is exactly what  did end up happening, and Gwen soon finds herself chasing after her little sister so she can bring her home safe. But Neverland is without doubt a magical place, and Gwen is starting to like it there even though she feels out of place as a teenager. And her sister doesn’t seem to want to leave either. Gwen will have to make the difficult choice whether to stay in Neverland or return to reality, and the war isn’t making things easier.

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I was really looking forward to this Peter Pan retelling, but unfortunately The Neverland Wars didn’t live up to expectations. I enjoyed the part that was set in Neverland and the descriptions of the fictional place, but I wasn’t too convinced by the plot itself. I wish there would have been more about the war and less about Gwen and her cliche teenage life… Because that is what would have made this read truly interesting. And I think I have already made it clear I wasn’t convinced by the prose/tone either.

BOOK REVIEW: Stars Above – by Marissa Meyer

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Title: Stars Above
(The Lunar Chronicles #4.5)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Retelling
First published: February 2nd 2016
Finished reading: May 13th 2016
Pages: 369
Rating 4qqq

“The first time, he had wondered why she liked books so much, and if it had anything to do with why he liked spaceships. Because they could take you somewhere far, far away.”

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As I’ve done with previous short story collections, I will write a short summary with my opinion on each of these nine stories rather than write a conventional review. The Lunar Chronicles has been one of my favorite series I’ve read last year and it is always great to revisit this world. Marissa Meyer is probably one of my favorite authors, although I did enjoy the actual series better than most of these short stories. Two of these are an exception though: The Princess And The Guard and Something Old, Something New. I loved these two, especially the epilogue! If you have enjoyed reading the series, I would definitely recommend Stars Above, although some stories are better than others.

WARNING: SPOILERS! Make sure to only continue reading if you have already read the series… I’ve tried to keep it spoiler free, but it’s kind of hard with some of the stories.

The Keeper (4/5)  This story is a prequel to the series and shows how Princess Selene first arrived at the house of Michelle Benoit and Scarlet. A really enjoyable story and I loved little Scarlet!

Glitches (4/5) REVIEW I actually read this one last year; feel free to read the full review. The story is a prequel to Cinder and tells us about how the results of the plague start to take a toll on Cinder.

The Queen’s Army (3/5) REVIEW I read this story last year as well; feel free to read the full review. This is a prequel to Scarlet and tells us more about the army Queen Levana is creating.

Carswell’s Guide To Being Lucky (3/5)  Thorne is probably one of my favorites, but I didn’t really like the arrogant thirteen-year-old version of him. Sure, it shows how determined he is to get his own ship, but I prefer the adult Thorne of the main series.

After Sunshine Passes By (4/5) This story is a prequel to Cress and tells us more about Cress ended up on a satellite in the first place. Poor Cress! A very interesting story.

The Princess And The Guard (4,5/5) This is one of the stories I have been looking forward most, because of the characters. It’s a prequel to Winter and I really loved this story. Winter and Jacin are simply made for each other.

The Little Android (3,5/5) REVIEW I already read this one last year; feel free to read the full review. It’s a retelling of The Little Mermaid, but set in the world of this series.

The Mechanic (3/5) This is another prequel to Cinder and tells us about Kai and Cinder’s first meeting from Kai’s POV. It was nice to read it from Kai’s perspective, but it didn’t add anything new to the story..

Something Old, Something New (5/5) This is by far the best story of the bunch and the one I was looking forward most. It’s an epilogue to Winter and tells us more about what happens to the main characters after the facts. It’s basically everything I wanted and more to end this excellent series!

BOOK REVIEW: Daughter Of Smoke & Bone – by Laini Taylor

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Title: Daughter Of Smoke & Bone
(Daughter Of Smoke & Bone #1)
Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: September 27th 2011
Finished reading: May 8th 2016
Pages: 418
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“Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”

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Warning: unpopular opinion ahead. I think I have lost count of the times this series has been recommended to me ever since I first started my blog. I’ve had a copy of Daughter Of Smoke & Bone on my TBR pile for a long time, and the main reason I finally decided to pick it up was that it came out as the winner of the which series should I read next? poll. One of the things of starting such a popular series is that it can both ways; and I kind of have an ‘unpopular opinion’ reputation when it comes to hyped books in the first place. And guess what? Daughter Of Smoke & Bone turned out to be one of them. And trust me, I feel I have been nice with the rating, because I had a STRONG dislike for the second half of this book and even thought about just DNFing it. Why? First of all, let me make it clear that I loved the first part of the story. The worldbuilding is great and I simply loved Laini Taylor‘s prose and descriptions of both the different cities and the magical elements. Karou starts out like such an interesting character as well; it’s so easy to connect to her and really made the first part into something special. But then Akiva showed up… And just as I already was afraid of, he turned out to be one of those typical pretty boy male love interests. Insta-love, forbidden love similar to Romeo & Juliet, sappy romance scenes and dialogue, a strong female character falling in love with the pretty boy and completely loses her original charm… What a way to ruin a story with so much potential! I already have a copy of the sequel, but I’m really worried about actually reading it now… Because (the second part of) Daughter Of Smoke & Bone definitely wasn’t for me.

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Karou seems to be just another young art student living in Prague, but there is more to her than what meets the eye. People believe the monsters in her sketchbooks are a figment of her imagination, but is that really true? And what about the fact that she is able to speak multiple languages perfectly, disappears often on mysterous errands and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that way? Karou has seen things most humans haven’t, growing up in a hidden shop where the chimaera Brimstone collects teeth of all sizes he uses for who knows what afterwards. He never seems to want to answer questions about her past, but it seems like she won’t be waiting much longer before she finds out the truth… Mysterious winged strangers mark the different doorways to Brimstone’s world with black hand prints; marking the beginning of the end… And Karou soon has to fight to stay alife. She crosses paths with the beautiful haunted Akiva, who seems to be just as curious to find out what Karou really is. He should and could have killed her, but something makes him decide otherwise… What will happen to them?

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Like I said, I loved the first part of Daughter Of Smoke & Bone and the story was well on its way to being added to my list of all time favorites. Then Akiva appeared and the story was turned into a Romeo and Juliet spin off… And I lost my interest completely. I know it’s almost impossible to avoid romance in a YA fantasy series nowadays, but after such a promising start I was really REALLY disappointed with the road this story took. I was browsing my kindle quotes for this review, and the sheer amount of sappy love quotes made me want to vomit… I know just about everybody seems to love this series and I’m glad, but unfortunately I’m not one of them.