The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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Rating: 5/5 

Series: #1 The Bear and the Nightingale

(According to Good Reads, the sequel is called ‘The Girl in the Tower’ and is scheduled to come out at the end of this year)

Publication Date: January 2017

Publisher: Del Ray

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ has a stunning cover that immediately catches the eye, and its interior is just as beautifully crafted and captivating. Inspired by Russian folktales, this wonderful novel tells the story of the family of Pyotr Vladimirovich and focuses in particular on his spirited daughter Vasya, who, as she grows up, must battle both with the dark forces in the mysterious, threatening wood that borders her home and with the expectations in her time of young women.

I first read this novel when it came out in January. As I was reading it I had loveliest feeling of contentment: that feeling you get when you are reading a book you know will be an absolute favourite and you are utterly immersed in the story. In the time since, I have reread ‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ multiple times and each time I reread it I find more things to treasure in it.

Vasya is a brilliant heroine: strong-willed, brave and compassionate, she’s someone to whom you immediately grow attached. There’s something wonderfully liberated about her: she’s independent and determined. You cannot help but root for and admire her.

She’s joined by a cast of unique, complex and fascinating characters, including Anna, her severe and haunted stepmother, and Konstantin, who urges the people in Vasya’s community to abandon their traditional household spirits, unknowingly placing them in grave danger.

Each scene in ‘The Bear in the Nightingale’ is atmospheric and engaging. The novel is full of tension, intrigue and magic, making it impossible to put down. Overall, this is an enchanting and enveloping book – one of the best I have ever read.

 

 

 

 

 

The Young Elites Series by Marie Lu

I absolutely loved Marie Lu’s first series, the Legend series (Legend, Prodigy, Champion), and I am thrilled to say that I adored this second series just as much. The two series are very different – set in completely different worlds, with very different protagonists and tones – but are equally compelling, unpredictable and powerful.

If you haven’t read one or both of these series yet, you definitely should! Marie has a wonderful imagination and addictive writing-style. Her books are consistently amazing: I have thoroughly enjoyed all six of them. I cannot wait for her new novel Warcross to come out in October of this year!

This post contains a short review for each book in The Young Elites series, but I’ve avoided spoilers and given an overall flavour of each book in the series and what I loved so much about them. The order of the series is: The Young Elites –> The Rose Society –> The Midnight Star. I would rate these books 4.5 stars, 5 stars, and 4 stars respectively.

 

The Young Elites 

Here’s the Goodreads synopsis for the first book in the series:

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 I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

The Young Elites is a strong and engaging opening to the series. It introduces us to our protagonist and anti-heroine Adelina, a girl who is both endangered and dangerous, who has been wronged and is ready to wrong others. She’s trying to fight the darkness within her but it threatens to overwhelm her. Adelina has suffered the blood fever disease, like many others, and it has not only marked her physically but has given her a great and dark power to work illusions. Sufferers or ‘malfettos’ like her are known as Young Elites and are in constant danger. They are pursued by the deadly Inquisition, which is led by the ruthless and righteous Teren. However, they are also sought by their fellow Elites, who have started to build up societies in which those with powers and markings can train, strengthen their talents and resist the Inquisition.

Adelina is an unusual main character, one who blurs the lines between heroine and villain, between right and wrong, between justice and vengeance. She’s sometimes dark and unnerving – increasingly so as the series continues –  but there is enough light and goodness in her and reason for her actions to make her likeable. We can empathize with her because of her back-story, and we witness all her emotions and experiences first-hand. She’s a unique character, one who is full of surprises, full of strength, and who has a great capacity both to love and to hate.

Adelina is joined by a wonderful cast of characters. There’s Raffaele, the beautiful and gentle courtesan; Enzo, the fierce, valiant and alluring leader of the Daggers; Violetta, Adelina’s sweet sister; Teren, the determined, obsessive and unrelenting Inquisition leader; Dante, a lurking and suspicious presence within the Daggers, and Gemma, kind, friendly and welcoming. Each character is original, complex and vividly portrayed. I loved the friendships between Gemma and Adelina and between Adelina and Raffaele. I also loved the romance that took place in the novel – I thought there was the perfect amount of romance for the story-line and the characters had excellent chemistry.

The Young Elites has brilliant world-building. It’s fascinating to learn about the society’s customs and deities. The plot is great, too. The novel is fast-paced, thrilling, and full of twists and turns. It’s the kind of book you race through. There’s constant tension and threat throughout. You can never guess what is going to happen next. Everything comes to a heart-pounding, emotional and breath-taking crescendo at the end: it’s wonderfully executed and will have you desperate for the next book: luckily, as of October 2016, all the books in the series are already out so there is no wait in between!

 

The Rose Society 

 

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The Rose Society is a phenomenal sequel – I enjoyed it even more than I did the first novel in the series (in fact, it’s probably my favourite book of the three). It’s epic and enthralling and unputdownable from the first page to the last. I loved the opening:

“Once upon a time, a girl had a father, a prince, a society of friends. Then they betrayed her, so she destroyed them all.” 

This sequel introduces one of my all-time favourite characters, Magiano. Legendary and revered among the Elites, his power is the ability to imitate others’ powers. Cheerful (most of the time), charming and confident, this thief brings a lot of light and humour to the novel to balance Adelina’s increasing vengefulness, darkness and inability to control her visions. He bursts to life from his first scene and I loved his distinctive qualities: calling everyone ‘my love’, gathering ornate items, and strumming musical notes.

The introduction of Magiano was one of my favourite things about the novel. My other favourite things were, firstly, Adelina’s unpredictable, unstable nature, which made for constant surprises, and, secondly, the massive twist that came right at the novel’s end. I don’t want to give any details or spoilers, but I will say that I absolutely did not see it coming. It’s a jaw-dropping revelation and one that changes everything. The very last lines of the novel, too, are beautifully and breath-takingly poignant.

 

The Midnight Star

‘There was once a time when darkness shrouded the world, and the darkness had a queen.’

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Marie Lu writes the best finales. The ending of Champion gave me a very lengthy book hangover. I sob whenever I reread it, and I know it’s an ending I will never forget. I feel the same way about the ending and Epilogue of The Midnight Star. It’s satisfying, epic and extremely emotionally powerful – heart-aching, in fact. It’s written absolutely beautifully and I loved the way it linked to the novel’s title.

This is a fitting ending to a fantastic series. It keeps you right on the edge of your toes throughout because Adelina’s life is constantly endangered. Everything comes together in this novel – the plot and the characters’ quest links right back to the very beginning and the test Adelina faced when joining the Daggers. I always love it when series do that – when they have been all planned out in advance. The only thing I would say, and I’ve seen other reviews stating the same thing, is that I would have liked it to have been longer – not just because I never want good series to end, but because I just felt things could have been stretched out more and that there was room for more scenes and more dialogue towards the end. The plot was actually slightly too fast-paced for me this time. However, I still really enjoyed it.

 

If you have not read this series, please do give it a go! I would definitely recommend it!

 

 

Mafiosa by Catherine Doyle

  • Mafiosa by Catherine Doyle

Rating: * * * * *

Series: #3 Blood For Blood Trilogy

Publisher: Chicken House

Publication Date: 5th Jan 2017

Please note this review contains spoilers for the previous book in the series, Inferno. 

Goodreads Synopsis:

A blood war rages on the streets of Chicago.

Protected by an infamous mafia family, Sophie is living a dangerous lie, pretending to lead a normal life. But the deceit can’t last for ever. Her heart belongs to a killer and Sophie’s the prime target of a rival clan. She’s determined to seek revenge on her mother’s murderers, but can she pay the price – can she be a mafiosa?

The third and final instalment in the explosive YA Blood for Blood series which started with Vendetta and Inferno.

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I’ve always thought that the novels in this series are like action films, with their high stakes, fast pace, snappy dialogue and vivid descriptions. Mafiosa makes for a truly blockbuster finale. It was everything I wanted and more! The best series get better and better with each book, and this trilogy has certainly done that. Mafiosa is Catherine Doyle’s best book yet.

One of the best aspects of the novel is its unpredictability. There’s constant, palpable tension between the two rival mafia clans – the Marinos and the Falcones – and their hatred and vengeance know no bounds. You can never guess what is going to happen next: there are countless surprises, twists and turns, especially the one at the end of Part III. This meant I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and I read the book in one sitting. From the minute it arrived in the post, I was glued to the pages (and before that I was eagerly waiting by the front door for it to come!).

I loved, as always, the scenes between Millie and Sophie. They have such a wonderful, warm, loyal and equal friendship, and the dialogue between them is both hilarious and heart-warming. I particularly liked their brainstorming and banter about high school dance themes.

As well as Millie and Sophie, the novel is full of other fantastic characters and awesome character development. I really liked witnessing a more light-hearted side to Valentino, seeing more of Gino, learning more of Elena and Donata’s story, and hearing more about Luca’s hopes and dreams.

Mafiosa is a real emotional rollercoaster, as all the best books are. I grieved with Sophie for her mother. I laughed with her at Millie’s jokes. I feared for her whenever she was in imminent danger (which was most of the book). I swooned with her whenever Luca was around! I also felt emotional throughout the whole book as it’s the last in the trilogy, and this is the kind of series that you wish would never end!

What a riveting, unpredictable and satisfying end to a truly original and thrilling series. I cannot wait to read whatever Catherine Doyle writes next.

Reading and Writing Resolutions for 2017!

Happy New Year!

The year has only just begun but I have already read a few amazing books – Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier, Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier, and Mafiosa by Catherine Doyle (review of the latter will be posted very soon!) – and I am looking forward to reading many more!

 

Some of the books I am most excited about in the next few months are:

  • Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken, Windwitch by Susan Dennard, and A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard. These three all publish on January 12th, which is less than a week away now!

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  • The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman and Margot and Me by Juno Dawson, both published on the 26th of January

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  • Caraval by Stephanie Garber and Long Way Home by Katie McGarry, both published towards the end of January.

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  • In February, I’m really excited about the publication of the sequels to some of my favourite books of last year: Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton, Dawn Study by Maria V. Snyder, and A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab.

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  • The March books I cannot wait for are: A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi, The Scarecrow Queen by Melinda Salisbury and Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor.

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I’m also very keen to read as many classic novels as I can this year, starting with finishing reading the novels of the Brontë sisters: I’ve read four already, so I just have The Professor, Shirley + Villette left. I’m very much looking forward to reading them! Then I’d like to read The Mill on the Floss, The Picture of Dorian Grey and Mrs Dalloway. 

I would also really like to read some Agatha Christie novels this year, as I enjoyed the recent adaptations of And Then There Were None and The Witness For the Prosecution. I’ve been looking at the blurbs for her books and I think Five Little Pigs sounds particularly intriguing:

Beautiful Caroline Crale was convicted of poisoning her husband, yet there were five other suspects: Philip Blake (the stockbroker) who went to market; Meredith Blake (the amateur herbalist) who stayed at home; Elsa Greer (the three-time divorcee) who had roast beef; Cecilia Williams (the devoted governess) who had none; and Angela Warren (the disfigured sister) who cried ‘wee wee wee’ all the way home.

It is sixteen years later, but Hercule Poirot just can’t get that nursery rhyme out of his mind…

 

Most of all, I would really love to finish the first draft of my novel! Today I hit 15,000 words and I’ve written 3.5 chapters so far. Sometimes I get really into writing projects and then abandon them at this point, but this one I am determined to finish! It’s based on Greek mythology, which is something I absolutely love, and the characters are always filling my head.

My Top Ten YA Books of 2016

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My Top Ten Books of 2016

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas!

This post lists my favourite Young Adult books of this past year.

All the books I have chosen were published in 2016. I haven’t included any ARCs of books coming out next year, or any books published before this year.

Several of my favourite authors, such as Holly Bourne, V. E. Schwab, Sarah J. Maas and Rachel Caine, have written more than one fantastic book this year. However, I’ve only allowed one book per author into this Top Ten post.

This list is in no specific order. I loved all of these books for very different reasons so it is impossible for me to choose between them!

I’m so grateful to each of the authors featured in this post for writing such enchanting and engaging novels. Reading them over the course of this past year has brought me great joy. I know that I will reread each of the novels in this Top Ten time and time again and get more out of them every time.

  • Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

Empire of Storms completely blew me away. Fast-paced, filled with heart-pounding action, tension and adventure and with a host of vivid and well-developed characters, it has to be my favourite book of the Throne of Glass series so far. It gave me a new favourite character: I loved Elide’s bravery, determination and spirit.

In my opinion, the best thing about Empire of Storms was the mind-blowing and thrilling finale. The final hundred pages were filled with many revelations and twists which linked back all the way to the beginning of the series. I always love it when an author has planned a series in advance so that they can reveal something late on which has been hinted at since the beginning. The explosive, jaw-dropping ending has me desperate for the next book and it also made me very emotional.

Full review:

https://librietlibertas.wordpress.com/2016/09/08/empire-of-storms-by-sarah-j-maas/

  • The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury

The Sleeping Prince was a spectacular sequel – it was even better than its predecessor! Melinda Salisbury has the best imagination. There were so many unique, inspired and fascinating ideas in the novel, such as the roles of vita and philtresmiths and the conditions that they can suffer, and I loved the incorporation of fairytales.

I also really enjoyed the fact that the book had a stunning and hugely dramatic opening, and that it was totally unpredictable; it had twists and turns throughout. It also had a wonderful cast of characters, from the dangerous, resentful yet charismatic Sleeping Prince to Unwin, the creepy Justice of Errin’s town. Errin herself was an instantly likeable and admirable heroine – always determined and selfless – but my favourite character has to be the mysterious Silas.

I am so excited for the finale to this series and luckily there is only a short wait left!

Full review: https://librietlibertas.wordpress.com/2016/04/17/the-sleeping-prince-by-melinda-salisbury/

  • Inferno by Catherine Doyle

‘Inferno’ was also a brilliant sequel. Thrilling and addictive, full of betrayal, passion, heartache and vengeance, I read it in one sitting as I absolutely could not put it down. I loved the fast pace, the punchy dialogue, the high stakes, and the fact that I could never guess what was going to happen next. The whole novel felt like an action movie.

I also loved the fact that we got to see a lot more of two of my favourite characters from the series in this sequel.

The first of these characters is Luca: I adored the dialogue between him and Sophie in the novel, particularly in the donut scene. This scene had me beaming at the book so widely that my face ached!

The second of these characters is Millie. She had some great moments in ‘Inferno’, including her dolphin-themed pep talk, her stealth driving when she and Sophie sensed that they were being followed, and her insults to the Falcone brothers. She’s a faithful and hilarious best friend to Sophie and I really enjoyed how she provided humour between the darker sections of the novel.

Full review:

https://librietlibertas.wordpress.com/2016/01/17/inferno-by-catherine-doyle/

  • Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Truthwitch was my most anticipated novel of 2016. I’d heard amazing things about it, so I had high expectations. Truthwitch fulfilled them all and more. It contained everything I love to see in fantasy novels: an original, well-developed, magical and enveloping world, a memorable and engaging cast of characters, epic romance and electric chemistry, a fast pace, bucket-loads of action, and heart-stopping tension.

My favourite thing about Truthwitch was the friendship between Safi and Iseult. In some books it is the romance that takes centre-stage, but here it is friendship. Safi and Iseult were fiercely loyal to each other. They knew each other back to front and always had each other’s back. Each of them was a strong and determined heroine. Throughout the book I was right on the edge of my seat, cheering both of them on and smiling all the way. I cannot wait to read more of their story next month in Windwitch. 

Full review:

https://librietlibertas.wordpress.com/2016/01/15/truthwitch-by-susan-dennard/

  • The Deviants by C. J. Skuse 

I found C. J. Skuse’s The Deviants absolutely thrilling. It was a real page-turner; it hooked me right from the opening, when a dead body was found on a beach, and I could not put it down until I’d finished the story. There were constant surprises in the novel so I could never guess what was going to happen next, and I loved that feeling.

I also loved the characters in the novel. Each of them felt gritty and 3D, with flaws as well as positive attributes. I really enjoyed the friendships between the members of the Fearless Five and found some scenes between them very moving. The part where Fallon tells Ella, to Ella’s extreme disbelief but pride, that Ella has inspired her and the part where Ella and Zane go to the island especially touched me. The characters now feel like old friends. Not only were the characters extremely vivid, but each scene was, too: whether Max and Ella were on a date in the garden centre, or Ella was boxing and running with her coach Pete, or the gang were in Fallon’s kitchenette, I was picturing every section as I read. The novel truly captured my imagination.

The Deviants kept me right on the edge of my seat. Mysterious, dark and unsettling, it’s the kind of novel you wish you could wipe from your memory just so you could have the pleasure of reading it again for the first time. I’d highly recommend it, especially for fans of We Were Liars. 

Full review:

https://librietlibertas.wordpress.com/2016/09/02/the-deviants-by-c-j-skuse/

  • The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury 

The Forbidden Wish was an innovated and inspired reimagining of Aladdin. It managed to be original and authentic, but also satisfyingly true to the original story. I loved the way that Jessica Khoury developed the both characters of original legend (giving backstories to Aladdin and the genie, toughening Caspida (princess Jasmine), and giving an explanation for the king’s weakness and the ease with which the vizier could take advantage of him) and the story-world.

When reading the novel I was swept away and totally enveloped in the world of the story. Each scene in the novel was vividly imagined and beautifully written: Jessica Khoury’s prose had a beautiful, dream-like quality to it and her words were as charming and hypnotic as Nessa’s flute.

Exciting and enchanting, full of wondrous adventure, swoon-worthy romance, true friendships and tension that has you right at the edge of your seat, The Forbidden Wish is one of the best retellings I have ever read and a must-read for fans of The Lunar Chronicles and The Wrath and the Dawn. 

Full review:

https://librietlibertas.wordpress.com/2016/12/14/the-forbidden-wish-by-jessica-khoury/

  • This Savage Song by V. E. Schwab

I found everything about This Savage Song was brilliant and epic, whether it was the world-building, the characters or the plot itself.

The characters were striking and memorable, especially Kate and August, the two protagonists. Kate was strong and fierce, but she had a softer, more vulnerable side. This was brought out by the game she kept playing with herself – she kept asking herself ‘Where is Kate?’ and picturing alternative and happier versions of herself. She was very likeable in the way that she treated August. August himself was very easy to like. He was  trapped as someone he didn’t want to be and terrified about going dark again. I loved his friendship with his sister most of all.

I thought that it was very clever and neat that August and Kate essentially contrasted with each other – the humane monster and the monstrous human – but that they shared and were united by both an inner sensitivity and a need to be strong and monstrous when it counted.

The world of the novel was fascinating and immersive. I liked that it was complex enough to be enveloping, developed and to capture the reader’s imagination, but that at the same time it was simple enough, with having just three types of monster and two ruling families, that it could be easily grasped and very memorable. The premise of having violence breed violence was very logical.

‘This Savage Song’ was gripping, gritty and utterly un-put-down-able. The ending was also unpredictable, rich in twists, turns and revelations. It left me desperate for the next book, but at the same time feeling satisfied and blown away by just how amazing and imaginative this first installment was.

 Full review:
  • How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne

‘How Hard Can Love Be?’ was definitely one of the best books I read this past year, and indeed one of the best and most relatable books I’ve ever read. Heartfelt and honest, it had some very funny scenes that put a huge smile on my face– like the scene where Amber has to try to row a kayak and Amber’s reaction to her mother’s boyfriend’s summer camp’s replacement of Slytherin with Dumbledore’s army – but also some very moving and powerful scenes between Amber and her estranged mother, who started a new life in America and left her daughter behind. Holly Bourne always gets the balance exactly right between humour and seriousness.

I loved the fact that while I had initially assumed the title (‘How Hard Can Love Be?’) referred to romantic love, actually the book explored other types of love, such as love for parents and for friends, with equal focus. I also loved how relatable Amber was: the use of first person made her feelings and disappointment very palpable and made me empathise greatly with her. However, most of all I loved the Spinster Club meetings featured in the novel and the chats about feminism, because these scenes left me feeling both inspired and empowered.

If I had to choose one series to recommend to all other teenagers, it would be Holly Bourne’s Spinster Club series.

Full review:

https://librietlibertas.wordpress.com/2016/06/23/how-hard-can-love-be-by-holly-bourne/

  • Midnight Bites by Rachel Caine 
The ‘Morganville Vampires’ series means a lot to me, as I have been reading (and rereading!) these books for the past eight years, and they have taken me from the start of my teenage years to nearly the end of them. The characters are all very dear to me, and so reading ‘Midnight Bites’, a collection of new and old short stories, felt like a reunion with old friends. It was fantastic to see them all again!

I loved so many aspects of this short story collection. Firstly, I really liked the fact that this was a diverse collection of stories. There were many different points of view, including Hannah Moses’, Myrnin’s and Sam’s, as well as the four main characters, Eve, Shane, Claire, and Michael’s. Each character voice was unique, but they were all engaging. Additionally, the stories each had a different feel to them. Some of the stories were very emotional, such as ‘Grudge’, the story of the day that Shane angered Monica Morrell and his family was changed forever; some stories were creepy and mysterious, including ‘And One for the Devil’ in which Room 13 disappears and takes someone with it; other stories were more light-hearted and are romantic, such as ‘Lunch Date’. Each story was superb.

I really enjoyed seeing younger versions of Eve, Shane and Michael. It was very sweet to see Eve’s initial feelings for Michael. It was also fascinating in these stories to see more of Eve and Shane’s relationships with their family members, particularly their siblings. However, seeing Shane and Alyssa’s relationship, and his reaction to the fire, was heartbreaking. I also loved seeing more of Eve’s psychic friend Miranda in this collection, as well as more of Myrnin. He’s a unique and fascinating character, one of my favourite characters in YA. The stories provided information about his origins. It was enlightening to see him in multiple centuries, with his past and present selves meeting in some tales. I found this quote from his narration captivating and moving:

‘Lady Grey walked him into dark hallways, and for some ill reason Myrnin felt safer in the gloom than he had in the light. He’d adapted to the shadows, he thought. So many years in the dark, it had seeped into him and stained him.’

Morganville really is a place you never want to leave and I’m so glad Rachel Caine gave us the chance to return to it with this wonderful short story collection. Here’s hoping there might be another novel one day!

Full review:

https://librietlibertas.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/midnight-bites-by-rachel-caine/

  • Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Crooked Kingdom was absolutely phenomenal. I loved it so much that I wrote an alphabet of reasons why everybody should read it! Here are the first few reasons from my post(there rest can be found at the link below).

ACTION

‘Crooked Kingdom’ is action-packed. It’s ceaselessly exciting and a complete thrill ride from start to finish.

BACKSTORIES

In ‘Crooked Kingdom’ we learn more about each of the six main characters and we see their backstories, particularly Inej’s, Wylan’s and Jesper’s. These develop the characters further and make them even more 3D.

CLIFF-HANGERS

The novel is divided into numerous sections with different titles and between these sections, and between many of the chapters, there are tense cliff-hangers. These make the book impossible to put down as you are desperately eager and impatient to find out what will happen next.

DIALOGUE

The dialogue in ‘Crooked Kingdom’ is snappy and realistic – it never feels staged. Leigh Bardugo is a master at showing us what characters are doing through dialogue as well as through narration – for example, when Kaz tells Matthias to ‘stop gawking’. She gets the perfect balance between dialogue and narration through the novel. I also love the fact that each character has a distinctive personality and voice, to the extent that if the ‘said ….’ bits that inform you who is speaking were taken out, I would still know who was talking.

EMOTIONAL

Several sections of the novel are very moving – particularly chapters 14 and 39. I cried a couple of times while reading. I always think it’s amazing when a book makes you cry because it shows just how powerful the writing is. In fact, I felt very emotional when reading the whole book because it is the final novel in the duology and I did not want to have to say goodbye to the characters.

Full review:

https://librietlibertas.wordpress.com/2016/09/27/crooked-kingdom-by-leigh-bardugo/

Wing Jones by Katherine Webber

  • Wing Jones by Katherine Webber

Rating: * * * * *

Publisher: Walker Books

Publication Date: January 5th, 2017

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Jandy Nelson meets Friday Night Lights: a sweeping story about love and family from an exceptional new voice in YA. With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing’s speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants.

Katherine Webber’s ‘Wing Jones’ was one of my most anticipated reads and I am delighted to say that it did not disappoint me in any way. In fact, it exceeded all my expectations. I raced through it (rather appropriately, given the protagonist’s talent for running!) in one sitting and I loved every page.

The most wonderful thing about ‘Wing Jones’ is that it manages to be both moving and uplifting simultaneously. At times it is breathtakingly sad and poignant, but it’s a novel full of hope, too. It’s about overcoming prejudice, grief and hatred, about proving bullies wrong, about building self-belief, and about finding something when it seems like everything is lost. It left me feeling very inspired.

‘Wing Jones’ has a brilliant cast of characters. Wing, the eponymous character, is a heroine to whom you are immediately attached. It is heart-warming and fulfilling to see her grow over the course of the novel. She’s brave, determined, hard-working and selfless. Over the novel she learns to become more confident and to believe in herself. She develops a sense of purpose and a resistance to those who would drag her down and mock her. I felt so proud of her for this. Now that I’ve finished the novel, Wing feels like an old friend. She’s one of the most accessible, relatable and likeable heroines I’ve ever read about. It was a delight to read her story.

One of my other favourite characters from the novel is Eliza. She’s so bubbly and energetic, and it warmed my heart to see how welcoming and loyal she was to Wing. She was never jealous but purely supportive and pleased for her successes. I also loved Wing’s two grandmas, Lao Lao and Granny Dee. They were hilarious together. I particularly liked their argument over the shrunk jumper.

All the characters in the novel feel authentic, unique, memorable, and, above all, realistic. None of them is perfect. I had a vivid picture of each of them – the secondary characters were just as whole and striking as the main ones. However, my absolute favourite character has to be Aaron because he was gentle, kind, supportive and generous.

I love Katherine Webber’s writing style. Her prose is beautiful and she uses brilliant and imaginative similes and metaphors. There is a wonderful warmth and emotion in her prose – every word comes from the heart. The chapters are quite short, too, which means you get that ‘just one more’ urge and then end up devouring the whole book because you can’t stop reading. It’s a real page-turner.

‘Wing Jones’ is a novel I would recommend to anyone and everyone. Unique and unforgettable, it will capture both your imagination and your heart.

I can’t wait to buy a finished copy!

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

  • The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

Rating: * * * * *

Series: This is a standalone (much to my disappointment!)

Publisher: Razorbill

Publication Date: Feb 2016

Goodreads Synopsis:

She is the most powerful Jinni of all. He is a boy from the streets. Their love will shake the world… 

When Aladdin discovers Zahra’s jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn’t seen in hundreds of years—a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra’s very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes. 

But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity—only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?

As time unravels and her enemies close in, Zahra finds herself suspended between danger and desire in this dazzling retelling of Aladdin from acclaimed author Jessica Khoury.Screen Shot 2016-12-14 at 14.28.04.png

 

The Forbidden Wish is the first YA book I’ve read in weeks because I’ve been so busy working recently. It was the perfect book to get me back into reading. I found it beautifully written, enchanting and impossible to put down. It was as full of delights and charms as Aladdin’s legendary magic cave.

For me, the authors of the best retellings of myths, fairytales or legends manage to get the balance right between being creative, using ingenuity and putting their own unique and wonderful spin on things, and being faithful enough to the original story to make the new story recognisable as a reimagining. Jessica Khoury does this superbly. Her retelling of Aladdin is original and authentic, but at the same time remains satisfyingly true to the original story. I loved the way that Khoury developed both the characters from the original legend – giving both Aladdin and his genie (or jinni) backstories, toughening Caspida, giving an explanation for the king’s weakness and the ease with which the vizier can take advantage of him. I also loved the way that she developed the world that the story takes place in, introducing a rising rebellion, developing different kinds of jinn and rules that they must all follow, and building tension and animosity both between humans and the jinn and between different members of the jinn. I really enjoyed the idea of the ‘Forbidden Wish’ from which the title comes.

Each part of the novel is vividly imagined and I had a clear picture in my mind of each of the different settings and scenes, whether it was Roshana’s resplendent jewelled garden, the Fahradan dances with the twists of the wrists, or the formation of Aladdin’s stunning ship and his transformation into a prince. Jessica Khoury’s prose has a beautiful, dream-like quality to it. Her words are as charming and hypnotic as Nessa’s flute. When reading you are swept away and totally enveloped and immersed in the story world.

The characters are just as brilliant as the settings. Aladdin is humorous, confident, but also sensitive. He bursts onto the scene and is immediately fun and likeable. The protagonist, Zahra, is also someone you cannot help but grow very attached to. She’s sincere, brave, loyal and for centuries has been accused of being something she is not. I really liked the fact that her full backstory unravelled only gradually and for most of the novel she remained a mystery to both Aladdin and to us – it kept me very intrigued and meant I was glued to the pages. I also loved the development of Caspida (the Princess Jasmine of the film version of Aladdin) into a fierce warrior-like princess, determined to save her people at whatever cost. The novel is full of brave and clever female characters who are shown to be perfectly able to stand up for themselves.

I thought the structure of the novel was fantastic. I loved the way that it’s written as Zahra  addressing her Habiba – I haven’t read many YA novels written in this way and it made for a narrative that was both interesting and at times very moving as we felt Zahra’s pain and regret. I also really liked the three sections of narrative from Zahra’s past and her relationship with Queen Roshana (and I have included a quote from one of these parts below). The novel retains unpredictability and a fast pace, rendering it both exciting and enchanting. It’s full of wondrous adventure, swoon-worthy romance, true friendships, and tension that has you right at the edge of your seat. It builds to a heart-pounding crescendo at the end.

‘The Forbidden Wish’ was a joy to read. It’s made me very keen to read more of Jessica Khoury’s work. Innovative and inspired, this fantastic reimagining of Aladdin is certainly one of my favourite books of this year. It’s perfect for fans of other retellings, such as Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn, Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest and Zoe Marriott’s Barefoot on the Wind. 

 

“Give me thy hand,” said the Queen, “and let her us be friends. For does not the poet say, one true-hearted friend is worth ten thousand camels laden with gold?”

This the Jinni pondered, before replying, “The poet also says, woe to the man who befriends the jinn, for he shakes hands with death.”