BOOK REVIEW: The Darkest Minds – by Alexandra Bracken

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Title: The Darkest Minds
(The Darkest Minds #1)
Author: Alexandra Bracken

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
First published: December 18th 2012
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Finished reading: January 21st 2017
Pages: 499
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“The darkest minds tend to hide behind the most unlikely faces.”

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I still can’t believe it took me more than TWO years to finally pick up my copy of The Darkest Minds. I’ve been wanting to start this series for ages, but somehow I always ended up picking up a different title instead. But no longer. Now I’ve finally read the first book of this series Alexandra Bracken has me hooked. No more escape for the sequels, because I will be reading them VERY soon for another dose of my favorite Psi characters. I can definitely undestand what all the hype is about now… Sure, the plot isn’t all that original with its dystopian world where kids and teenagers develop a ‘superbrain’ and special powers. But it WAS written back in 2012 so I definitely kept that in mind. And more importantly, this story was just way too entertaining to worry about  the originality in the first place. I liked the main characters and their development, although little Zu is probably my absolute favorite. Ruby on the other hand can come over as a bit whiney at points, but I guess she did have some complicated memories to deal with… Another great feature of The Darkest Minds is without doubt the writing style and pace. The prose was so enjoyable to read and the story itself reads like a train. All in all a promising start of what has all the signs of being a great series!

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When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed even though she didn’t realize it at first. She found out soon enough when her parents locked her up in the garage and called the police instead of celebrating Ruby’s birthday with her. Instead, she was sent to the Thurmond camp along with all the other children who survived the mysterious disease and showed signs of having the new frightening abilities they could not control… And life at Thurmond is tough. Ruby is now sixteen and one of the dangerous ones. They put her in the wrong group when she arrived, saving her life at first but putting her in danger if the truth comes out. She has to escape, but that will only be possible with help from the inside…

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Like I said before, I feel really bad about not picking up this series earlier. As I already suspected, I really enjoyed reading The Darkest Minds and I will be reading the sequels (or at least the second book) next month without fail. Both the writing style and character are easy to like and even though the plot might not be all that original, I enjoyed diving into this dystopian world anyway. Recommended for YA dystopian fans!


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BOOK REVIEW: This Savage Song – by V.E. Schwab

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Title: This Savage Song
(Monsters Of Verity #1)
Author: Victoria (V.E.) Schwab

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
First published: June 7th 2016
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: December 5th 2016
Pages: 464
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“I mean, most people want to escape. Get out of their heads. Out of their lives. Stories are the easiest way to do that.”

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I think I have mentioned my love for Victoria (V.E.) Schwab‘s books once or twice already this year, and I still don’t know what took me so long to finally pick up this copy of her newest novel and first book of a new series This Savage Song. People kept telling me I should just read this one and that I would love it as much as the other books I had already read, and they were totally right. A Darker Shade Of Magic is still my absolute Schwab favorite, but this one came in a close second! Brilliant, just brilliant. The prose is just excellent and I love LOVE the worldbuilding. Like in Shades Of Magic, the worldbuilding isn’t all that complicated, but this simplicity just WORKS. The idea of Verity with its three types of monsters is intriguing, and I LOVED the main characters August and Kate. Both the dynamics between the characters and their development is very well done and I can’t wait to read the sequel next year. It’s going to be a long wait for sure… V.E. Schwab has definitely proven to be worthy to be in my TOP 10 of all time favorite authors!

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The world has become a dangerous place and the the violence in the city of Verity has begun to breed actual monsters. Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to this divided city… And they are both in danger. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who has made a deal with the monsters and makes the humans pay for his protection. And all August wants is to be human and play a bigger role in protecting the innocent, but he is actually one of the monsters. The two finally meet as August is giving the task to keep an eye on Kate, who has just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned to the city. Nobody can know about his secret, but it’s a hard one to keep…

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I have to admit I’m having a hard time writing something coherent about this book. I feel like a fangirl blabbering all over the place, but This Savage Song is just THAT good. The worldbuilding is quite simply, but excellently done and it makes it really easy to just dive into this story and relate to the main characters. Both Kate and August are well developed and I loved their characters, although August is my absolute favorite. I love the idea of the different monsters and the plot is excellent as well… The story doesn’t end with that big of a cliffhanger either, but I will definitely be waiting impatiently for the second book. It looks like it will be a duology, so I will be rereading this little masterpiece before the sequel next year. And in case you haven’t guessed it yet, I can more than recommend this book!

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.

BOOK REVIEW: The Name Of The Star – by Maureen Johnson

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Title: The Name Of The Star
(Shades Of London #1)
Author: Maureen Johnson
Genre: YA, Thriller, Paranormal
First published: September 1st 2011
Finished reading: May 2nd 2016
Pages: 372
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“Fear can’t hurt you,” she said. “When it washes over you, give it no power. It’s a snake with no venom. Remember that. That knowledge can save you.”

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This series has actually been recommended to me various times in the past, but somehow I never actually managed to actually pick it up… Until my TBR jar thought it was about time I started reading it. And I’m glad I did, because I ended up really enjoying The Name Of The Star even though I wasn’t expecting the whole paranormal/ghost angle. Maureen Johnson sure knows how to write a story and create an atmosphere! It shows that this first book of the Shades Of London series is inspired by the original Jack The Ripper murders back in the 19th century, but this is by no means a historical fiction novel. The Name Of The Star only ‘borrows’ the facts of the original murders and is actually set in present day London… The historical references made when a series of brutal murders in the city mimick the original Jack The Ripper murders right to the date and time. The story has a fast pace and I really enjoyed the prose. Rory Deveaux is an interesting character and her experiences as an American teenager staying at an English boarding school are entertaining to read about and even hilarious at points. Those ‘light’ moments form the perfect contrast to the thriller and paranormal elements and made me really enjoy this read. To be honest, the whole paranormal/ghost twist kind of came as a surprise, but it did make the story a lot more original. And the ending… I will definitely try to read the sequel soon to find out what happens next. Recommended!

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Rory Deveaux grew up in Louisiana, but her parents gave her the choice where to spend her senior year. Rory decides to try her luck at an English boarding school in London while her parents work and live up north. Her new life at the boarding school is nothing like anything she experienced before, and she struggles to fit in and keep up with her school work… But luckily at least she really seems to get along with her roommate. School is not the only thing Rory has to worry about though. A series of brutal murders mimicking the horrible Jack The Ripper murders more than a century ago seem to have been taken place ever since she arrived in the city. The police doesn’t have any solid leads and no witnesses, and meanwhile the bodies seem to be piling up… And then somehow Rory turns out to be the first and only person to spot the man that is believed to be the prime suspect. The problem? Her roommate was right there and didn’t even see him… The police doesn’t know if they can believe Rory, but the fact that she seems to be the next target feels all too real.

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The Name Of The Star is without doubt an interesting read and has quite a few Jack The Ripper references for those who are interested in the famous 19th century murderer. The best part about this story is probably that Maureen Johnson actually made what could have been a simple historical fiction novel into an entertaining and fast-paced YA paranormal thriller. It might not have been exactly what I was expecting, but that doesn’t take away that I really enjoyed it and I will be trying to continue this series soon.

BOOK REVIEW: Ice Like Fire – by Sara Raasch

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Title: Ice Like Fire
(Snow Like Ashes #2)
Author: Sara Raasch
Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: October 13th 2015
Finished reading: April 4th 2016
Pages: 479
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“Magic is all about choice. Choosing to use it, choosing to surrender to it, choosing to take it from the chasm – choosing to let it break in defense of a kingdom. The most powerful magic of all is choice, and of that power, the strongest choice anyone can make is an act of sacrifice.”

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I remember feeling a bit hesitant to pick up Snow Like Ashes earlier this year, but I ended up really enjoying it despite the love triangle. The worldbuilding of this series is more than excellent and I have been wanting to read the sequel ever since to find out what happens next. Did I have too high expectations of Ice Like Fire? Maybe. But what I can honestly say is that the sequel isn’t nearly as good as Snow Like Ashes. This seems to be yet another series suffering uffering from the weak-second-book syndrom… It has a slow pace, a love triangle and main character (Meira) that are both terribly annoying and I don’t really like the new plot either… It all feels a bit chaotic, unnatural and not really believable. While I liked Meira in the first book, in Ice Like Fire she seems to have lost her charm and she really started to bother me. I don’t particularly like her new ‘mission’ either and the many plot twists didn’t make a lot of sense other than being able to confuse you even further. Sure, the worldbuilding is interesting and probably still the best part of this sequel, but I’m not sure what to make of the rest of the story. Do I still want to read the third book? Probably yes, but I do hope things will improve drastically in Frost Like Night.

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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 short but it’s almost impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Meira had to ask for the help of Cordell in order to free her Winterians and she is about to realize the full extent of this decision. Sure, it has been three months since the Spring’s king, Angra, disappeared, but she is not sure Winter is actually safer for it… She just wants her people to be safe, but it looks like Cordell isn’t going to ease its pressure until her debt is fully paid for. The still weak Winterians are forced to dig their mines for payment, but that is not the only thing they are looking for… As Cordell wants them to try to find Primoria’s lost chasm of magic as well. Theron sees the chasm as an opportunity to finally stand against threats like Angra, but Meira fears this much power would be dangerous. The last time the world has access to that much magic, it spawned the Decay… And while Theron wants to find a way to open the chasm, Meira secretly wants to gather support to keep the chasm shut. They all seem to be fighting for different reasons; what consequences will their actions have?

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In a way I wish Snow Like Ashes would have been a stand-alone and I would never read the sequel, because it kind of spoiled the series for me. While I really enjoyed the first book and even tolerated the love triangle (which is a miracle on its own), I can’t say I particularly liked Ice Like Fire. The ‘new’ plot is mostly chaotic and doesn’t make a lot of sense after one too many plot twist, the love triangle becomes more important than ever (and thus annoying) and I didn’t like how the main characters behaved either. The worldbuilding is still good and I liked the descriptions of the different Primoria kingdoms, but unfortunately the rest of it just didn’t convince me.

BOOK REVIEW: Famous Last Words – by Katie Alender

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Title: Famous Last Words
Author: Katie Alender
Genre: YA, Thriller, Paranormal
First published: September 30th 2014
Finished reading: April 2nd 2016
Pages: 320
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“Maybe it’s human nature to be drawn to the things that have hurt us the most.”

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 I’ve had quite a few of Katie Alender‘s books on my TBR for a long time, but somehow I never actually read any of them so far. I decided to pick up Famous Last Words on whim since I was in the mood for a good thriller/horror read, and it sure didn’t disappoint! I really enjoyed this horror/ghost story and would have given it an even higher rating if it weren’t for the annoying love triangle. Yes, while the story started out delightfully creepy and had a lot of potential, it was slightly ruined by the existence of an annoying love triangle… Why o why does every YA novel seem to have one?! Because otherwise Famous Last Words was pretty much a perfect read. Fast-paced, an intriguing plot with just the right amount of creepiness, interesting Hollywood and movie references… This novel has it all and more. I liked Willa’s character even though she has her issues and her paranormal ‘gift’ makes this book into an entertaining read with some spine-chilling moments. Without doubt recommended if you like the genre and I will be looking forward to read more of Katie Alender‘s work soon!

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After her father died mysteriously Willa has been looking for a way to find answers. It turns out she has been opening doors that she shouldn’t have, because strange things have been happening ever since… And her moving into her stepfather’s mansion in LA doesn’t seem to solve the problem. It seems like Willa is seeing things. A dead body in her swimming pool, frantic messages on her walls… It’s almost as if someone is trying to send her a message. Willa is afraid to tell anyone since they will most likely think she is is crazy… But with a killer on the loose in LA, she is not so sure what to think of it anymore. Could Willa’s strange visions have anything to do with the unsolved murders? And who can she confide in in the first place? Willa will have to be careful, because she might lose her mind as she is trying to figure everything out… or even her life.

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Famous Last Words was everything that the blurb promised and more. I needed a proper thriller to change around genres a little and this book is without doubt almost perfect. The story has a fast pace, a prose that is easy to read and the plot is really intriguing and has just the right dose of creepiness. The only minor setback was the love triangle and it was also the only reason I didn’t give Famous Last Words the highest rating. If you are looking for a good paranormal thriller/horror story, make sure to try this one!

BOOK REVIEW: Beautiful Darkness – by Kami Garcia

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Title: Beautiful Darkness
(Caster Chronicles #2)
Author: Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: October 12th 2010
Finished reading: March 29th 2016
Pages: 503
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“There’s something about sitting alone in the dark that reminds you how big the world really is, and how far apart we all are. The stars look like they’re so close, you could reach out and touch them. But you can’t. Sometimes things look a lot closer than they are.”

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I read Beautiful Creatures, the first book of this series, over a year ago before I had a lot of experience reading YA fantasy and I gave it one of the highest ratings. I’m not sure why I never picked up the sequel before my TBR jar decided it was time for me to read it, but I’m now left wondering if I actually enjoyed it that much back then. Why? First of all, I wasn’t really impressed by Beautiful Darkness. I’m not saying it’s a bad read; it’s without doubt entertaining and easy to read with its fast pace, but I’m missing the spark that would turn it into a 5 star read. It might just be that the sequel isn’t as good as the first book (which isn’t such a strange thing since a lot of YA fantasy series seem to suffer from the exact same syndrom), but I found the main characters and some of their actions actually quite annoying. That and the love triangle definitely were the cause for quite a few raised eyebrows. Both the plot and the whole strong female character idea aren’t exactly original, but if you are looking for some good magical action and an easy read, I guess this series would still be worth reading.

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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 short but it’s almost impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Ethan Wate used to think Gatlin was just another small sleepy Southern town where things never changed, until he met Lena Duchannes. She was the girl of his dreams, literally… A whole secret world is being revealed to Ethan, one that had always been hidding in plain sight, and even her deceased mother seemed to have been keeping secrets from him. Gatlin has been marked by a curse that affects both Ethan’s and Lena’s family… And impossible, magical events have been happening ever since. Ethan and Lena have been fighting those problems ever since they met , but after what happened recently Lena starts pulling away… And Ethan doesn’t know how to save her or change her mind.

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After I reread my review of Beautiful Creatures before starting Beautiful Darkness, I had really high hopes for the sequel. I think part of the fact why I didn’t enjoy the sequel that much is that I’ve read a lot of YA fantasy series since and the plot and characters don’t sound that original or exciting anymore. Sure, there is a lot of action and I like the worldbuilding of the Caster world, but I can’t say it’s one of my favorite series either. I will probably read the last two books at some point though, just to see if things improve later on. I’m already keeping my fingers crossed the love triangle won’t be playing a big role in Beautiful Chaos