Category: eBook reviews

The Darkest Minds: Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken – Review

The Darkest Minds: Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken – ReviewThe Darkest Minds: Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken
Series: The Darkest Minds #2
Also in this series: The Darkest Minds
Format: eBook
Pages: 513 pages
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

The Darkest Minds: Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken is the followup to The Darkest Minds.  This series tells the story of Ruby, a young girl living in a world where most of the children have been killed by a virus but the survivors have been left with supernatural powers.  Ruby is one such survivor with the power to control other people’s minds.  The country has been left devastated by the loss of the children and fear of those who remain.  Ruby and her friends are running from place to place trying to find safety.

I adored both The Darkest Minds and the novella In Time so it was a little surprising that I was somewhat disappointed by Never Fade.  It actually took me several attempts to sit down and read it.  This is the second book in an expected trilogy, perhaps it was a little of middle book syndrome. This also appears to be at the lowest point of our protagonist’s arc, and as such I found it a little depressing.  Ruby is dealing with a lot of guilt, doubt and self loathing in this book which makes it rather a dark read.  I also missed the camaraderie between Ruby, Liam, Chubbs and Zu that was a cornerstone of the first book.

What I liked

The concept.  I continue to love the concept behind the series of the IAAN plague and the survivors’ psychic powers.  Bracken’s worldbuilding is excellent with various groups trying to deal with the fallout of IAAN but not necessarily having the best interests of the survivors at heart.  

The characters.  All of the main characters are engaging and draw you into their story.  Perhaps that’s why I didn’t enjoy Never Fade as much as the other books; I care about Ruby and found it hard to read about her being in such a low place, especially without her friends around emotionally to help her through it.  The same is true of the other main characters.  Liam and Chubbs too are dealing with some issues which means they are not there for Ruby to the extent they were in the first book.  I also loved the new characters we meet – Jude and Vida.  

Brisk pacing.  The action never lets up really; Ruby and team seem to lurch from one crisis to another.

Hooks for the final book.  There is some really interesting setup for the final volume.  I’m really looking forward to reading it!

What I didn’t like

Weakened relationships.  The bond between Ruby, Liam, Chubbs and Zu was one of the cornerstones of the first book and I really missed that from Never Fade.  So much has happened to them and they have done such things since they were last together that their bond is very much strained.  I hope they get their act together for the final book.

Unrealistic recoveries.  At various points in the book certain characters are gravely ill or seriously wounded.  Yet it seems that a day or two later they are up and fighting fit again.  That did jolt me out of the story on several occasions.

All in all, although I didn’t enjoy Never Fade as much as the earlier book and novella, I felt it gave a solid foundation for the final book.  I gave The Darkest Minds: Never Fade three and a half stars out of five.

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three-half-stars

Bloodlines by Richelle Mead – Review

Bloodlines by Richelle Mead is the first in the Bloodlines series, the spinoff from Vampire Academy.  It follows the story of young Alchemist Sydney Sage whom we met in the Vampire Academy series.  In it, Sydney is tasked with protecting Jill Mastrano in Palm Springs and in order to do so attends an elite boarding school with her.  We learn more about the Alchemists and also some secrets about Vampire Academy characters are revealed.

To be honest, Bloodlines didn’t grab me nearly as much as Vampire Academy did.  With VA we were introduced to interesting characters and they drew us into their fascinating world.  While reading VA I had been interested to learn more about the Alchemists, but other than Sydney the Alchemists we meet in Bloodlines are very unsympathetic characters which killed any interest I had in learning about their organisation.

What I liked

Sydney.  I did like Sydney in Bloodlines, and I feel her character has great scope for development.  I would love to see her develop from a competent if anxious and insecure operative to the kick ass Alchemist we know she can be.  I would also enjoy seeing her deal with the prejudices she’s carrying around from her upbringing.  However, I’m not sure that that is enough to make me want to continue with this series.

The magic.  There were some new forms of magic hinted at in this book and I was intrigued by these.  What is the story with Sydney’s blood and what’s up with Ms Terwilliger?  These are intriguing hooks for the rest of the series.

Pacing.  Once again Mead kept the story moving along.  There were no points at which it dragged for me.

What I didn’t like

Unsympathetic characters.  Poor Sydney does seem to be involved with some unsavoury characters within the Alchemists.  While I can empathise with her, I really don’t feel like learning more about this narrow-minded, cruel group.

While I enjoyed Bloodlines to some extent and it contained some intriguing hooks for the rest of the series, for me personally at this point I probably won’t be continuing with it.  That could change; initially I didn’t warm to Vampire Academy.

I gave Bloodlines three stars out of five.

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Bloodlines by Richelle Mead – Review

Bloodlines by Richelle Mead – ReviewBloodlines by Richelle Mead
Series: Bloodlines #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 448 pages
Genres: Supernatural
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Evelynne's rating: three-stars

Bloodlines by Richelle Mead is the first in the Bloodlines series, the spinoff from Vampire Academy.  It follows the story of young Alchemist Sydney Sage whom we met in the Vampire Academy series.  In it, Sydney is tasked with protecting Jill Mastrano in Palm Springs and in order to do so attends an elite boarding school with her.  We learn more about the Alchemists and also some secrets about Vampire Academy characters are revealed.

To be honest, Bloodlines didn’t grab me nearly as much as Vampire Academy did.  With VA we were introduced to interesting characters and they drew us into their fascinating world.  While reading VA I had been interested to learn more about the Alchemists, but other than Sydney the Alchemists we meet in Bloodlines are very unsympathetic characters which killed any interest I had in learning about their organisation.

What I liked

Sydney.  I did like Sydney in Bloodlines, and I feel her character has great scope for development.  I would love to see her develop from a competent if anxious and insecure operative to the kick ass Alchemist we know she can be.  I would also enjoy seeing her deal with the prejudices she’s carrying around from her upbringing.  However, I’m not sure that that is enough to make me want to continue with this series.

The magic.  There were some new forms of magic hinted at in this book and I was intrigued by these.  What is the story with Sydney’s blood and what’s up with Ms Terwilliger?  These are intriguing hooks for the rest of the series.

Pacing.  Once again Mead kept the story moving along.  There were no points at which it dragged for me.

What I didn’t like

Unsympathetic characters.  Poor Sydney does seem to be involved with some unsavoury characters within the Alchemists.  While I can empathise with her, I really don’t feel like learning more about this narrow-minded, cruel group.

While I enjoyed Bloodlines to some extent and it contained some intriguing hooks for the rest of the series, for me personally at this point I probably won’t be continuing with it.  That could change; initially I didn’t warm to Vampire Academy.

I gave Bloodlines three stars out of five.

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three-stars

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Review

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is whimsical tale of a magical competition by proxy between two conjurers which takes place through the medium of a fantastical circus which “opens at nightfall, closes at dawn.”  The challenge is further complicated by the fact that the two chosen proxies fall in love. I read recently that the novel in its original form was little more than a series of vignettes with little in the way of plot or cohesion to pull them together.  While in the published form it’s true that visual images are more important than plot, it still flows very well.

I found that The Night Circus sneaked up on me.  It didn’t immediately draw me in, but the more I read the more I fell in love with Morgenstern’s circus and the people who live and work in it.

What I liked

Visual imagery.  One of the real treats of The Night Circus is the beautiful images conjured up by Morgenstern’s writing.  Her descriptions of, say, the Ice Garden or the Cloud Maze are breathtakingly evocative and stunning.  It really made me wish I could visit them in person.

Larger than life but relatable characters.  All of the characters in The Night Circus are wonderfully written, each with his or her own quirks and motivations.  They added real life to the story.  The romance between Celia and Marco was slowly and realistically built up and I felt invested in their relationship.  Even the rêveurs – the circus devotees – brought something to the story.

The magic.  Clearly Morgenstern has gone for what Brandon Sanderson would describe as a “soft” magic system.  This means that if it has any internal logic or rules, this is not explained to the reader – it’s a case of just accept it and move on.  That works very well for this particular story.  In many aspects it’s very subtle, such that the circus patron could accept it as sleight of hand, but taken in the bigger picture it is quite fantastical.  

What I didn’t like

The pacing.  As I mentioned, the book was very slow to draw me in.  It is worth sticking with it – it is a truly magical story.

I gave The Night Circus four stars out of five.

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Review

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – ReviewThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Format: eBook
Pages: 400 pages
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is whimsical tale of a magical competition by proxy between two conjurers which takes place through the medium of a fantastical circus which “opens at nightfall, closes at dawn.”  The challenge is further complicated by the fact that the two chosen proxies fall in love. I read recently that the novel in its original form was little more than a series of vignettes with little in the way of plot or cohesion to pull them together.  While in the published form it’s true that visual images are more important than plot, it still flows very well.

I found that The Night Circus sneaked up on me.  It didn’t immediately draw me in, but the more I read the more I fell in love with Morgenstern’s circus and the people who live and work in it.

What I liked

Visual imagery.  One of the real treats of The Night Circus is the beautiful images conjured up by Morgenstern’s writing.  Her descriptions of, say, the Ice Garden or the Cloud Maze are breathtakingly evocative and stunning.  It really made me wish I could visit them in person.

Larger than life but relatable characters.  All of the characters in The Night Circus are wonderfully written, each with his or her own quirks and motivations.  They added real life to the story.  The romance between Celia and Marco was slowly and realistically built up and I felt invested in their relationship.  Even the rêveurs – the circus devotees – brought something to the story.

The magic.  Clearly Morgenstern has gone for what Brandon Sanderson would describe as a “soft” magic system.  This means that if it has any internal logic or rules, this is not explained to the reader – it’s a case of just accept it and move on.  That works very well for this particular story.  In many aspects it’s very subtle, such that the circus patron could accept it as sleight of hand, but taken in the bigger picture it is quite fantastical.  

What I didn’t like

The pacing.  As I mentioned, the book was very slow to draw me in.  It is worth sticking with it – it is a truly magical story.

I gave The Night Circus four stars out of five.

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four-stars

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani is the fairytalesque story of Sophie and Agatha who attend the School for Good and Evil.  The twist is that Sophie, who s is beautiful and thinks of herself as a princess and is expecting to go to the School for Good, ends up being placed in the School for Evil whereas reclusive, less traditionally attractive Agatha is placed in the School for Good.  Much of the book revolves around the girls’ struggle to adapt to an environment and course of study which feels alien to them.

What I liked

The Sophie Agatha friendship.  This relationship is really at the core of the book.  Although the girls are very different, they do share a close bond even if they don’t always recognise or acknowledge it.  I loved the way their friendship was developed – and tested throughout the book.

The nature of good and evil.  Of course, it’s implied that, since the girls were sent to the schools they were, there was obviously some implication of what made Agatha “good” and Sophie “evil.”  From various incidents it appears that evil is equated with selfishness and good with consideration for others.  I’m not 100% certain that this is the case in real life, but it works consistently and well within the framework of the story.  The reader has to ask if Sophie’s character arc is caused by her being in the School for Evil and if under different circumstances she could have become the good, kind person she always believed herself to be.

The love triangle.  Normally I become easily bored with love triangles in YA fiction, but the Sophie/Tedros/Agatha one worked very well. Of course by the end you’re not entirely certain which the pairing is.  There is even a strong hint that the true love pairing may be Sophie and Agatha themselves, especially as book two is titled “A World Without Princes.”

The balance.  It was well done how well Agatha and Sophie’s storylines were balanced.  When Sophie is making progress in her aims, Agatha is struggling and vice versa.  It is also reflected in the girls’ physical appearances.  As Agatha begins to accept her own beauty, Sophie’s physical appearance suffers.

What I didn’t like

There was little I disliked about the School for Good and Evil and will certainly read book two when it comes out this April.

I gave The School for Good and Evil four stars out of five.

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The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

The School for Good and Evil by Soman ChainaniThe School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
Series: The School for Good and Evil #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Polly Lee
Length: 13 hrs and 46 mins
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, Young Adult
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The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani is the fairytalesque story of Sophie and Agatha who attend the School for Good and Evil.  The twist is that Sophie, who s is beautiful and thinks of herself as a princess and is expecting to go to the School for Good, ends up being placed in the School for Evil whereas reclusive, less traditionally attractive Agatha is placed in the School for Good.  Much of the book revolves around the girls’ struggle to adapt to an environment and course of study which feels alien to them.

What I liked

The Sophie Agatha friendship.  This relationship is really at the core of the book.  Although the girls are very different, they do share a close bond even if they don’t always recognise or acknowledge it.  I loved the way their friendship was developed – and tested throughout the book.

The nature of good and evil.  Of course, it’s implied that, since the girls were sent to the schools they were, there was obviously some implication of what made Agatha “good” and Sophie “evil.”  From various incidents it appears that evil is equated with selfishness and good with consideration for others.  I’m not 100% certain that this is the case in real life, but it works consistently and well within the framework of the story.  The reader has to ask if Sophie’s character arc is caused by her being in the School for Evil and if under different circumstances she could have become the good, kind person she always believed herself to be.

The love triangle.  Normally I become easily bored with love triangles in YA fiction, but the Sophie/Tedros/Agatha one worked very well. Of course by the end you’re not entirely certain which the pairing is.  There is even a strong hint that the true love pairing may be Sophie and Agatha themselves, especially as book two is titled “A World Without Princes.”

The balance.  It was well done how well Agatha and Sophie’s storylines were balanced.  When Sophie is making progress in her aims, Agatha is struggling and vice versa.  It is also reflected in the girls’ physical appearances.  As Agatha begins to accept her own beauty, Sophie’s physical appearance suffers.

What I didn’t like

There was little I disliked about the School for Good and Evil and will certainly read book two when it comes out this April.

I gave The School for Good and Evil four stars out of five.

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Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising by Pierce Brown is the first in a trilogy of YA dystopian novels.  It tells the story of Darrow who, after his wife’s martyrdom, is given the opportunity to escape his lower class existence in order to infiltrate his society’s elite.  The idea behind this is that he will give the rebels opposing the current regime a man on the inside to help bring down the current system.  When he learns that his class has been lied to for many years, he doesn’t hesitate to take this opportunity.

I received a copy free to review from Netgalley.  Del Rey is promoting Red Rising quite heavily at the moment, and it’s always quite fun to see books I’ve read free on huge piles in bookstores or in internet advertisements.  Feedback has been generally excellent – Red Rising has an average rating of 4.35 on GoodReads.

What I liked

Good worldbuilding.  Brown does an excellent job of setting up the world in which Darrow lives originally, his challenges, and despair at his wife’s death.  He then follows it up with a good description of the world of the Golds – the elite – the world Darrow must infiltrate.  While survival of the fittest to be accepted into a program is hardly unusual it was well written and enjoyable.

Pacing.  The pacing throughout the novel was brisk and kept the story moving along.  There was never a point where I was waiting for the next thing to happen.

Characters.  The central character dilemma – how to remain true to your values while acting and living as one of the people you despise – was well explored and very interesting.  It was clear many times that Darrow was struggling to do what was required of a Gold in terms of ruthlessness.  However, it did leave the reader with the definite concern that he might “turn native” so to speak and adapt too well to his Golden status.

What I didn’t like

Just didn’t grab me.  There is nothing wrong with this book.  It is an interesting premise well executed.  For some reason though I just couldn’t connect with the main character.  I sympathised with him, but I found I didn’t really care about him.  I don’t believe this was any fault of the author, more just personal preference.  I’m not certain I will read the second book, Golden Son, when it comes out.

I gave Red Rising three and a half stars out of five.

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Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising by Pierce BrownRed Rising by Pierce Brown
Format: ARC
Pages: 401 pages
Genres: Dystopian
Buy from AmazonKoboAudible
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Red Rising by Pierce Brown is the first in a trilogy of YA dystopian novels.  It tells the story of Darrow who, after his wife’s martyrdom, is given the opportunity to escape his lower class existence in order to infiltrate his society’s elite.  The idea behind this is that he will give the rebels opposing the current regime a man on the inside to help bring down the current system.  When he learns that his class has been lied to for many years, he doesn’t hesitate to take this opportunity.

I received a copy free to review from Netgalley.  Del Rey is promoting Red Rising quite heavily at the moment, and it’s always quite fun to see books I’ve read free on huge piles in bookstores or in internet advertisements.  Feedback has been generally excellent – Red Rising has an average rating of 4.35 on GoodReads.

What I liked

Good worldbuilding.  Brown does an excellent job of setting up the world in which Darrow lives originally, his challenges, and despair at his wife’s death.  He then follows it up with a good description of the world of the Golds – the elite – the world Darrow must infiltrate.  While survival of the fittest to be accepted into a program is hardly unusual it was well written and enjoyable.

Pacing.  The pacing throughout the novel was brisk and kept the story moving along.  There was never a point where I was waiting for the next thing to happen.

Characters.  The central character dilemma – how to remain true to your values while acting and living as one of the people you despise – was well explored and very interesting.  It was clear many times that Darrow was struggling to do what was required of a Gold in terms of ruthlessness.  However, it did leave the reader with the definite concern that he might “turn native” so to speak and adapt too well to his Golden status.

What I didn’t like

Just didn’t grab me.  There is nothing wrong with this book.  It is an interesting premise well executed.  For some reason though I just couldn’t connect with the main character.  I sympathised with him, but I found I didn’t really care about him.  I don’t believe this was any fault of the author, more just personal preference.  I’m not certain I will read the second book, Golden Son, when it comes out.

I gave Red Rising three and a half stars out of five.

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four-stars

Last Sacrifice (Vampire Academy #6) by Richelle Mead

Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead is the sixth and final book in the Vampire Academy series.  It is an excellent end to the series, and ties up a lot of loose ends.  In it Rose must go on the run to avoid execution on false charges.  Meanwhile Lissa must navigate the murky waters of Moroi politics.  

What I liked

Culmination of foreshadowing.  As the final chapter of the story unfolds, it’s clear Mead had everything well planned out from the beginning.  Throwaway lines from earlier books take on major significance.  We also get to meet characters who have only been mentioned in passing.

Lissa’s character development.  By this book Rose’s character has already matured significantly, and in terms of character the spotlight is more on Lissa in this book as she navigates Moroi politics.  She learns a good deal about herself and her future role in society.  Of course it doesn’t quite mitigate my personal gripe of teenage characters being given real power despite their limited life experience.

The Alchemists.  I loved what we learned about the Alchemists and I look forward to reading the spinoff series, Bloodlines.

What I didn’t like

The Rose/Lissa bond development.  I really didn’t like how that was ended.  I suspect Mead was trying to show that both characters have developed sufficiently to adjust to the change, but I don’t quite buy that.  St Vladimir, a saint, was unable to manage; I really have concerns for Lissa’s future.

All in all, I gave Last Sacrifice five stars out of five. 

Incidentally, the entire series is currently on special offer over at Amazon Kindle – they’re $3 each! 

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