Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh

23308087The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

(via Goodreads)

Despite its size, Flame in the Mist was a quick read. Mariko was an interesting character, but I found her to be quite naïve – to the point of distraction on some occasions. She is described in the book as being a careful study and knowledgeable, but I didn’t really see this play out in the novel. I felt Mariko to be a slightly ‘feminazi’ character in places, especially when she’s punching the soldier. It was just a little too much rage against men in general, rather than directing it to where it’s called for.

It was never really clear why they wanted her dead (to me). No spoilers, but there is an attack on her convoy and she is forced to go into hiding, to hunt for those that tried to kill her. But even when the perpetrators are revealed, there is no clear reason why. I wonder if book two will be a little clearer. There was some great supporting characters that live in the background, Prince Wu and the consort were a couple that I wanted to know more about. I hope they expand these characters in the next book.

SPOILERS BELOW

I had two problems with the book. The first, when Okami realises Mariko is a girl, why did he not wonder where she came from and put two and two together, and realise she was the princess that was attacked? It takes him ages! Also, when she falls out with the Black Clan and returns to the forest to find them, they just accept her without question. There was no bridge. She wasn’t there, and then she was. And it was just accepted.

END SPOILERS

Mariko’s brother was a little misguided. I felt like his chapters slowed the book down. He seemed to intend to find her, go out, not find her and then come home. I would have believed it more if he had gone on without the soldiers to find her. That would be a more believable character action of a brother. And as an aside, funny that Prince Raiden was this strong cute guy until the very end and then all of a sudden he’s a jerk?

Overall, it was a good read, and I am hopeful that book two will answer questions and bring these smaller characters into play.

3/5

The Girl From The Well by Rin Chupeco

18509623You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gentle, as your poet encourages, into that good night.

A dead girl walks the streets.

She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.

And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.

Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out.

The Girl from the Well is A YA Horror novel pitched as “Dexter” meets “The Grudge”, based on a well-loved Japanese ghost story.

(via Goodreads)

Rin Chupeco’s Girl From The Well is a much better read than I expected. Based on the original myth that inspired The Ring, GFTW meshes well with the contemporary story line, without becoming another sequel.

Having said that, it wasn’t as scary as I wanted it to be. I wanted to be completely creeped out at the very least, but it didn’t happen. I ended up being more interested in the old Japanese legend the Bancho Sarayashiki.

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One thing that really bugged me about this book was the lack of proofreading – the author said Narrabeen was in Sydney, and Sydney was in Queensland. We’re talking 850km from Queensland to Narrabeen and another 50km-ish from Narrabeen to Sydney. How is that not picked up by the editor? Really frustrating for us down under!

I really enjoyed the way the narrative dropped in and out of lines on the page when Okiku was speaking. And the recollection of falling down the well found the words dropping. That was very cool.

3.5/5

The Crown’s Game (The Crown’s Game #1) by Evelyn Skye

Vika 26156203Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

(via Goodreads)

A re-imagined Russian history, Skye’s Crown’s Game takes place during the Romanov dynasty. Our two main characters Nikolai and Vika are enchanters, able to conjur power the likes few have witnessed.

However, there is only ever one enchanter alive at the same time, so the Russian royal family begin the ‘Crown’s Game’ – a duel between the two enchanters. Only one will survive.

I found it difficult, on occasion, to engage with this book. I put it down and picked it up a few times. And it wasn’t the lack of good writing. It was a well crafted story and the historical elements lifted from the page effortlessly.

It was the characters. I found them two dimensional. Boring, sometimes. I didn’t experience that overwhelming concern as to which one of them would die. I found Pasha’s actions derivative. We’ve seen the royal-who-doesn’t-want-to-be-royal character a million times. I would have preferred his sister Yuliana to be a main character. She was interesting.

And what was the point of Aizhana? There was absolutely no overall point to her character. Nikolai could have learned about her from another character. Galina, maybe?

This book has received so much hype. I was left wanting more. I will probably read book two to see if it picks up, but overall I’m left disappointed.

3/5

Twelve Minutes to Midnight by Christopher Edge

Penelope Tredwell is 12903354the feisty 13-year-old orphan heiress of the bestselling magazine, ‘The Penny Dreadful’. Her masterly tales of the macabre are gripping Victorian Britain, even if no one knows she’s the author.

(via Goodreads)

’12 Minutes to Midnight’ is the story of Penelope Treadwell, a 13 year old orphan and author/owner of the bestselling magazine, ‘The Penny Dreadful’. She writes under a pseudonym and considers herself a Holmes-ian sleuth.

When the patients of Bedlam start scribing shocking visions of the future, Penny decides to investigate.

This book is a great read. Penny is a feisty character and she takes risks.  The story is tight, and though a little predictable (it is so hard to find a surprising book when you read all the time) it was a lot fun. The supporting characters are imagined and I enjoyed their nuances and the comic timing between Penny and the actor she hires to play Montgomery Flinch, her pseudonym.

I enjoyed the mystery surrounding the future visions and the outcome was a nice change from the normal supernatural creatures. I would highly recommend this to anyone wanting a break from your run of the mill YA novels.

4.5/5

The Glittering Court (TGC #1) by Richelle Mead

Big and sweeping, spanning from the refined palaces of Osfrid to the gold dust and untamed forests of Adoria, The Glittering Court tells the story of Adelaide, an Osfridian countess who poses as her servant to escape an arranged marriage and start a new life in Adoria, the New World. But to do that, she must join the Glittering Court.

Both a school and a business venture, the Glittering Court is designed to transform impoverished girls into upper-class ladies who appear destined for powerful and wealthy marriages in the New World. Adelaide naturally excels in her training, and even makes a few friends: the fiery former laundress Tamsin and the beautiful Sirminican refugee Mira. She manages to keep her true identity hidden from all but one: the intriguing Cedric Thorn, son of the wealthy proprietor of the Glittering Court.

When Adelaide discovers that Cedric is hiding a dangerous secret of his own, together they hatch a scheme to make the best of Adelaide’s deception. Complications soon arise—first as they cross the treacherous seas from Osfrid to Adoria, and then when Adelaide catches the attention of a powerful governor.

But no complication will prove quite as daunting as the potent attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric. An attraction that, if acted on, would scandalize the Glittering Court and make them both outcasts in wild, vastly uncharted lands…

(via Goodreads)

The first thing I wanted know with this book was if I was reading a parallel world. It is heavily ingrained in Victorian and Colonial history, yet there seemed to be an otherworldly aspect. Have the names been changed to protect the less-than-innocent?

Adelaide is a Countess from an increasingly poor family. Ingrained in the Old World society, she has her parties, social responsibilities, and is on the market (for a husband). She is unhappy with her choice of marriage and decides to disguise herself as a handmaiden and run away to the New World with The Glittering Court.

I will not call to attention the fact that she ran from one meat market to an arguably worse one…

On the way, she encounters a dangerous new world, one where she is forced to work for what she wants and fight to be the best of The Glittering Court (and thereby secure the highest offers of marriage and money).

CUE LOVE TRIANGLE!

Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it’s the way I live my life. But the amount of YA love triangles has to stop. It is not acceptable to string two people along at once. It is not acceptable to have one on standby for if you decide the one you chose is boring. It is not acceptable to cheat and run around behind someone else’s back because you’re secretly in love but for whatever lame reason you can’t be together.

It’s not the real world. And it’s not acceptable to treat people like they’re your drama toys.

Had the love triangle not occurred, this book would have been fabulous. The secondary characters Mira and Tamsin are wonderful and juxtapose strongly against Adelaide. By the end of the novel I wanted to know more about the other two than I did Adelaide. I hear Mead is writing the other two from the other girl’s POVs. I hope so. I will definitely read the others if that’s the case.

But I fell out of love with Adelaide on the boat. After that, I wouldn’t read another book where she was the main character.

3/5

May Wrap Up & June TBR

I read more than I thought I did in May, especially with a death in the family and a mini-reading slump. My ratings below:

  1. The Girl in 6E by A R Torre star_PNG1592star_PNG1592star_PNG1592
  2. Dark Moon by C W Holcomb star_PNG1592star_PNG1592
  3. The Masterpiecers by Olivia Wildenstein star_PNG1592star_PNG1592star_PNG1592
  4. Rogue Planet by Steven M Moore star_PNG1592star_PNG1592
  5. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas star_PNG1592star_PNG1592star_PNG1592star_PNG1592
  6. For Fallon by Soraya Naomi star_PNG1592star_PNG1592
  7. Half Bad by Sally Green star_PNG1592star_PNG1592star_PNG1592star_PNG1592
  8. The Yearbook Committe by Sarah Ayoub star_PNG1592star_PNG1592star_PNG1592
  9. Hidden Monster by Amanda Strong star_PNG1592star_PNG1592star_PNG1592
  10. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo star_PNG1592star_PNG1592star_PNG1592star_PNG1592
  11. Walking Dead vols 17 – 18 by Robert Kirkman star_PNG1592star_PNG1592star_PNG1592star_PNG1592star_PNG1592
  12. Cold Stone and Ivy by Leighton H Dickson star_PNG1592star_PNG1592star_PNG1592
  13. Flawed by Cecelia Ahern star_PNG1592star_PNG1592star_PNG1592
  14. Red Rising by Pierce Brown star_PNG1592star_PNG1592star_PNG1592star_PNG1592star_PNG1592

My June TBR is heavy on! So much to get through this month but I am looking forward to it.

The Madman’s Daughter (The Madman’s Daughter #1) by Megan Shepherd

17565924Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

(via Goodreads)

An atmospheric and, at times creepy, this story is a retelling of HG Wells’ Island of Doctor Moreau. Set in 1894, Juliet Moreau is destitute and working as a cleaner in the Kings College, where her father had been ostracised for experimenting on animals. A chance meeting with a childhood friend brings the knowledge that her father is alive and working on a desolate island in the South Pacific.

This novel is equal parts gothic and historical fiction. It straddles mystery, science fiction, and horror. The island scenes are well described and tense. Our heroine is strong and smart, and despite a few choices that can be put down to age, is very likeable.

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What I had issue with (and what I always have issue with) is the love triangle. I understand it is a very popular trope, but I wonder if it’s done it’s time.

I didn’t realise until the end that it was the beginning of a series, but I am glad because they finished this story a little abruptly. I will definitely be picking up the other two books to read.

4/5