Monthly Archives: March 2017

March Round-Up

I can’t believe it’s the last day of March already. The Easter holidays start for schools here today! My birthday is only two weeks away! I can’t deal with the year going by this quickly!

This month was great – I left a job I really liked, started a new one that I think I’m going to love, went home for a few days, had a fab time at a wedding, and bought my first car! Plus I read some fun books, although not as many as other months, since my commuting routine has changed. Even still though – thumbs up for March.

Books

  1. Craving for Love – Violet Vaughn
  2. Courted – Jennifer Chance
  3. The House of Mountfathom – Nigel McDowell
  4. Touch of Power – Maria V Snyder
  5. The Unpredictable Consequences of Love – Jill Mansell
  6. Lioness Rampant – Tamora Pierce
  7. Miss Mary’s Book of Dreams – Sophie Nicholls
  8. The Ship Beyond Time – Heidi Heilig
  9. The Problem with Forever – Jennifer L Armentrout

Cover Art

Favourite Book This Month

Heidi Heilig’s followup to her time-travelling piracy swashbuckling epic of last year was definitely my favourite this month – I loved returning to the crew of the ship, Nix and her fractured relationship with her father, the development of her feelings for Kash and the frustrating inevitability of trying to change the past with time travel. Big thumbs up for this one!

Least Favourite Book This Month

This was an easy one – after three other books, I really didn’t know why I was finishing the Alanna quarter – maybe hoping for something amazing, but that’s certainly not what I got. Easily my least favourite book this month.

Favourite Cover This Month

Some very lovely covers this month – I mentioned in my post about Touch of Power how much I like the international covers for Maria V Snyder’s books, and if that had been the edition that I had, it would have been the clear winner, but having assembled all of this month’s covers, my winner is The Problem With Forever – those splashes of paint across the art are so evocative, and the white text over it starkly indicative of what’s missing for these teens. Wonderful work!

Other Thoughts

Even though it felt like I read a lot this month, in terms of actual books finished, this was the lowest so far in 2017. I think that’s because I’m currently winding my way through A Dance With Dragons, a real behemoth of a book, which I’ve been reading (and very much enjoying) for more than a week now. It’s such a chunkster, it’s pushed down my count for this month, and doesn’t even make it onto March’s list! Ridiculous.

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The Ship Beyond Time

Hot Key Books sent me this book in exchange for an honest review, and I’m glad they did, because it was another breathtaking adventure on the high seas!

The Ship Beyond Time – Heidi Heilig

33195435._UY200_The breathtaking sequel to the acclaimed The Girl from Everywhere. Nix has escaped her past, but when the person she loves most is at risk, even the daughter of a time traveler may not be able to outrun her fate—no matter where she goes. Fans of Rae Carson, Alexandra Bracken, and Outlander will fall hard for Heidi Heilig’s sweeping fantasy.

Nix has spent her whole life journeying to places both real and imagined aboard her time-traveling father’s ship. And now it’s finally time for her to take the helm. Her father has given up his obsession to save her mother—and possibly erase Nix’s existence—and Nix’s future lies bright before her. Until she learns that she is destined to lose the one she loves. But her relationship with Kash—best friend, thief, charmer extraordinaire—is only just beginning. How can she bear to lose him? How can she bear to become as adrift and alone as her father?

Desperate to change her fate, Nix takes her crew to a mythical utopia to meet another Navigator who promises to teach her how to manipulate time. But everything in this utopia is constantly changing, and nothing is what it seems—not even her relationship with Kash. Nix must grapple with whether anyone can escape her destiny, her history, her choices. Heidi Heilig weaves fantasy, history, and romance together to tackle questions of free will, fate, and what it means to love another person. But at the center of this adventure are the extraordinary, multifaceted, and multicultural characters that leap off the page, and an intricate, recognizable world that has no bounds. The sequel—and conclusion—to the indie darling The Girl from Everywhere will be devoured by fans of Rachel Hartman and Maggie Stiefvater. Includes black-and-white maps.

I was very much looking forward to the release of this book basically from as soon as I realised it existed. The girl from everywhere was one of my top books of 2016, and I was so on board with heading back to see Nix and her crew as she finally takes the wheel as a Navigator.

In the time between my posting this and the actual publication of the book, it underwent a total image change. Together with the girl from everywhere, the new cover art was designed to give a more cohesive feel to the international editions of the book, which it definitely does. I’m gutted that my editions no longer match, but having actually gotten my hands on the physical edition, it still looks pretty striking, and I’m coming around to it.

Lots of the very fun stuff from the first book was in this sequel to it. Nix and her fractured relationship with her father, the crew, including Bee and her wife, Kash and Nix’s gorgeous interactions, traveling to mythical and historical destinations, and a whole heap of development of the time travel system, the characters, and their relationships.

We also got a new perspective character and new dilemmas to consider about the reality of mythical characters. I’m looking forward to more of that!

This book was almost – almost! – as good as The Girl From Everywhere. It was focused more on human dilemmas and time travel intricacies, though, than piracy. Although I really enjoyed this book, by comparison to the intricate, many-stepped piracy plot that underpinned the first book, it fell slightly short. But it was a really excellent book, and I’m now gutted that I have to wait all over again for the threequel.

Four stars ****

 

 

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Miss Mary’s Book of Dreams

Bonnier publishing sent me this short, sweet novel in exchange for an honest review.

Miss Mary’s Book of Dreams – Sophie Nicholls

515gnCqP2fL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Dreams, books and vintage fashion – the second book in the bestselling ebook series by Sophie Nicholls, author of The Dress.

In historic York, Ella seems to have the perfect life. She’s a published author, her bookshop is thriving, she’s married to the man of her dreams and they’ve started a family of their own.

But Ella is struggling. Motherhood isn’t quite everything she imagined it to be, and she’s worried that there may be cracks in her marriage.

On the other side of the Atlantic, despite endless blue skies and a stream of eager customers in her vintage dress shop, Ella’s mother Fabia finds that life in San Diego is not enough for her. She misses York, and can sense that Ella needs her, so she flies home.

And this is when they meet Bryony. With a complicated life and secrets of her own, Bryony may have some of the answers they’re looking for.

Can Ella and Fabia help her find her way, whilst also working out how to find their own happily ever after?

‘A delightful, uplifting novel that, while unashamedly romantic and feel-good, nevertheless ponders some deeper questions.’ Yorkshire Post on The Dress.

I didn’t realise until I got the actual copy of this book that it was a sequel. Not having read the first really affected my enjoyment of it as while the main characters of Ella and her husband were fleshed out, a lot of Ella’s mother Fabia’s tale seemed to have taken place in The Dress and so was only briefly alluded to in this follow-up. There also was something of a lack of explanation of the more fantastical elements of the story, but again, probably my own fault for not reading the prequel.

Despite my picking fault with this from the beginning, this was actually a sweet and sometimes insightful tale set in a beautifully depicted York. I realised after finishing the book that the author lives in York and you can really tell that she loves it there – it comes right through the page.

Most of the adult fiction I read is women’s lit or crime/thrillers. It’s rare that I read a magical realism like this, but the more fantastical elements were nicely woven throughout the story although, as I mentioned, I did feel like it lacked a little exposition.

The main characters, Ella and Bryony, both felt very real to me. I empathised with their struggles, Ella’s with motherhood and feeling stuck, while Bryony needed to learn to stand up for herself. I had every sympathy for both of them.

The wider cast, though, felt a bit thin. Perhaps they were developed in the first book, so I was missing that foundation. Bryony’s sister, however, whose name I’ve forgotten already, was a paper thin villain, with nothing substantial behind her at all. I couldn’t even bring myself to hate her – she was just too forgettable.

Overall, this was a relatively solid story of York women finding their way, and the strength or weakness of family ties. Some weak spots, which may have been my own fault for not reading the first book first, so I wouldn’t hesitate to read another Sophie Nicholls book.

Three Stars ***

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Touch of Power – Maria V Snyder

Despite my disappointment with the ending of the Chronicles of Ixia, in the form of Dawn Study, I was still willing to give Maria V Snyder’s other books a go. She has the Avry of Kazan trilogy, which seems like a similar type of fantasy, and then also the Inside Out/Outside In duology, which is a dystopia. I decided to go for Avry of Kazan first, as I was in a high fantasy mood, and started with the first instalment, Touch of Power.

Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan assumes their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honoured for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Territories, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince, the leader of a campaign against her people.

As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for.

First things first, this book has incredible cover art. All three versions are stupendous. I dunno how Snyder manages it, but her cover art designers are inspired, and the interaction between these covers and her Ixia covers is also beautiful – similar feels, but different enough to distinguish them. Spot on. Thumbs up all around here.

As for the story itself? Well I had no major problems with it. There was nothing spectacular about it – only a few weeks after I finished reading it, I’ve already forgotten a lot of the details, but there was nothing particularly offensive either. In a typical case of Stockholm Syndrome, Avry grows to love her captors, seeing that they are actually on the side of what is right and just, and forgiving them for chaining her to a tree. Not unexpected, to be honest. This was a pretty enjoyable, but also quite forgettable first instalment in a trilogy that I will finish, because I’m interested to see how it will pan out, but I don’t think I would be falling over myself to recommend. The Chronicles of Ixia are more interesting, partially because of their stronger leading character in Yelena, but also because the worldbuilding feels stronger. With fifteen realms in the Avry of Kazan novels, it all feels like they’re a bit underdeveloped, and I really have no idea how any of them differ. Similarly, with a whole host of different types of magics broken into categories, it doesn’t feel like I understand any of them particularly well, other than healing, since that’s our MC.

Perhaps these issues will be solved in the later instalments, since there are two more books in this trilogy, and I certainly will be picking them up at some point to see what happens to Avry and her fifteen realms, but I’m not exactly rushing out to the bookshop to pick them up immediately.

Three Stars
***

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Lioness Rampant

13837.jpg It is only my intense stubbornness and insistence on finishing a series that I started which pushed me through the Song of the Lioness quartet from start to finish.

I can’t really put my finger on why, but I just did not like these books. Despite glowing recommendations from people who like the kinds of books I like, I just did not enjoy this series. Lioness Rampant, the fourth instalment of Alanna’s epic adventures, was something of an improvement on the disappointment of the first three books, but I still had no real love for it.

Lioness Rampant – Tamora Pierce

“I’m not sure I want to be a hero anymore.”

Having achieved her dream of becoming the first female knight errant, Alanna of Trebond is not sure what to do next. Perhaps being a knight errant is not all that Alanna needs….But Alanna must push her uncertainty aside when a new challenge arises. She must recover the Dominion Jewel, a legendary gem with enormous power for good — but only in the right hands. And she must work quickly. Tortall is in great danger, and Alanna’s archenemy, Duke Roger, is back — and more powerful than ever. In this final book of the Song of the Lioness quartet, Alanna discovers that she indeed has a future worthy of her mythic past — both as a warrior and as a woman.

There were lots of great things in this book. Alanna has come to accept her Gift, and who she is as a person, and she’s well able to defend herself both as a knight and as a woman. She forges new relationships and finds a place for herself in the world which allows her to be the best person she can be. There’s lots of girl power in this book, and criticism of male-centric and male primogeniture inheritance lines, as well as an acknowledgement that Tortall – Alanna’s home country – is not perfect either. As well as that, there’s a whole load of adventure, different kinds of magic, new warriors, and a dark and mysterious plot against prince Jonathan…

All of these things are good, and I liked them all, but … I still didn’t like the book. Not only were all of the earlier issues still present – Alanna being a special snowflake, that every man is attracted to, the plot being too jerky, the main conflict arising too late in the book – there were new ones in this book related to those issues. The most emotional scene in the book centred not around any of the characters that we’ve seen growing up over the last ten years, but Liam, a character only introduced in this last book. I felt like it was a poor stylistic choice, and not enough weight was given to other, more central, emotional scenes.

Perhaps, having come in with a dislike of the first three books, I didn’t give Lioness Rampant enough of a chance. I did try, though, honestly. I tried to keep an open mind and to like this book, but I just couldn’t.

I feel like the Song of the Lioness quartet could have been cut down into a duology which would’ve packed the emotional, plot-related punch and would’ve sorted out the pacing issues which I hated. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m just cranky and don’t have room in my heart for another butt-kicking, magic-wielding, sexism-defying heroine. But I don’t think that’s the case. I’m open to loving new books, it’s just that Tamora Pierce and I clearly don’t gel.

A pity, but I will continue searching for heroines to add to my favourite characters repertoire, and Alanna can stay as a brief sideline. I certainly didn’t hate her. I just… really didn’t love her as much as I thought I would.

Three Stars
***

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The Unpredictable Consequences of Love

20090575This is the third Jill Mansell book I’ve read in the last year or two, and like the others, it was a real feel-good cheery book with some thoughtful musings on the nature of love and damaged hearts. Looking for something light and summery to get me through the darkness and disappointment of The House of Mountfathom, this was exactly what I needed. And, even better, it was only 99p on Kindle!

Jill Mansell’s bestseller THE UNPREDICTABLE CONSEQUENCES OF LOVE is an unforgettable tale of sunny days on the beach, Cornwall in the summer and secrets about to be revealed. Perfect for readers of Lucy Diamond and Veronica Henry.

In the idyllic seaside town of St Carys, Sophie is putting the past firmly behind her.

When Josh arrives in St Carys to run the family hotel, he can’t understand why Sophie has zero interest in letting any man into her life. He also can’t understand how he’s been duped into employing Sophie’s impulsive friend Tula, whose crush on him is decidedly unrequited.

St Carys has more than its fair share of characters, including the charming but utterly feckless surfer Riley Bryant, who has a massive crush on Tula. Riley’s aunt is superstar author Marguerite Marshall. And Marguerite has designs on Josh’s grandfather…who in turn still adores his glamorous ex-wife, Dot…

Just how many secrets can one seaside town keep?

There’s something very enjoyable about Jill Mansell books. They follow a formula, certainly – group of people all interlinked in some way, lots of unrequited crushes, and unexpected pairings, but they stumble through life together and end up living happily ever after. This was no different. In an idyllic seaside town in Cornwall, an interlinked group of endearing characters work their way through a summer of romances and missed connections, heartbreaks, breakups, makeups, and personal growth. With a few touching moments, this book was the perfect kind of pick-me-up I needed.

There’s probably a lot that could be criticised about Jill Mansell’s books – they’re not exactly diverse, with a cast of uniformly straight, white characters, and they’re not exactly realistic, as everyone ends up with their happily ever after. But they are fun, and very enjoyable, and good at what they set out to do, which is provide a lovely story in which everyone overcomes the obstacles which sit in their path to happiness. So that was exactly what I wanted, and it was exactly what I got. And for only 99p! Bargain!

Four Stars
****

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Who’s That Girl? – Mhairi McFarlane

Sometimes Amazon sends me emails of books it thinks I might like. This was one of those, and at only 99p, I had no reason not to give this a try. The synopsis sounded fun, the cover art was cute, and the subtitle on Amazon (a laugh-out-loud sparky rom-com) were all enough to get me to hit buy and then read it a few weeks later.

Who’s that Girl? – Mhairi McFarlane

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She kissed the groom. She’s not the bride…

Edie thought she’d found The One…until he told her he was marrying someone else. And on the day of his wedding, when he kisses her, life really does go pear-shaped…

Labelled as a home-wrecker and office outcast, when her boss offers her the chance to get out of town Edie jumps at it, even though moving back in with her eccentric father and prickly sister isn’t exactly the escape she needs.

When her work throws her into the path of rising star and heartthrob Elliot, Edie is expecting a highly strung diva. But as their unexpected friendship develops, Elliot isn’t the only one in the spotlight…

This isn’t all that different to a lot of romcoms I’ve read – fluffy chick lit where the heroine is thrust back into circumstances that they thought they had escaped (usually their miserable home town) due to some misjudgement on their part. In this situation, Edie is nursing a wounded heart as the guy she thought was something to her has her painted as a homewrecker after he lunged to kiss her on his wedding day. And naturally, they were caught by the bride. Ostracised from her workplace (both bride and groom are colleagues), Edie is sent on a ghostwriting assignment back to her home town of (gasp!) Nottingham. While there, she ends up working with megastar Elliot, who fired his previous ghostwriter on a whim, and seems like the kind of stroppy, egotistical diva that Edie just doesn’t need to deal with.

Throw in a truculent sister and barely-keeping-it-together Dad, some dark secrets in the past of many of the characters and the love/hate relationship of being back in your home town, and you have a recipe for a highly enjoyable, if somewhat predictable, Brit-lit romcom.

There was a lot to like in this book – the family relationships, the realisation of being in your thirties and living a shallow life, the lasting power of solid, real friendships, the social media whims that can overtake a crowd and have them baying for blood, and a few romantic moments as well. Edie’s sister and next-door neighbour add some comic relief, and the premise of the book as a whole is solid.

This hate-turns-to-love story of a budding romance between our heroine and her leading man is both helped and hampered by his superstardom, and in the typical style of misunderstandings and lack of communication, the couple end up at cross purposes more often than facing the same way.

Finishing up in a way that I actually quite liked, it was all kind of undone by a last line which was a massive cliffhanger and tease that I’m sure has to be followed up in some way. Until that point I was totally behind this book, but I wasn’t so sure about the ending.

Nonetheless, though, I read this book in a single day, and will definitely be looking at other McFarlane offerings in the near future.

Four Stars
****

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The House of Mountfathom

I’m a big fan of Hot Key’s YA list (not least because they have me approved on NetGalley) and it’s rare that I read a Hot Key fantasy that I don’t like. It’s also rare that I’ll read a book set in Ireland where the Irish-ness of it doesn’t enhance the book in some way. That’s why I found it so surprising that I actually really strongly disliked this book, in almost every way. It seemed like it would be a really perfect book for me – dark in tone, magic, mogrifying, smoke-summoning, Driochta (although where did the a and the fada go? It’s Draíochta?) and a magical, bizarre, unfathomably personified house. And yet, I actually almost hated this book. I found myself resenting going back to it, and grumbling to myself when I wanted to read something, but realised that I should finish the book I was already on. I ended up reading two other books while gazing resentfully at the kindle sitting malevolently on my desk.

The House of Mountfathom – Nigel McDowell

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Luke Mountfathom knows he is special and odd. He is told so by everyone he knows. His parents are special and odd too – they are the keepers of the House of Mountfathom, a magnificent stately home where the wrong door could take you to a far away land, and strange animals appear to stalk the grounds at midnight. The house is his home – but it is also the headquarters of the Driochta, a magic-weaving group of poets, artists, politicians and activists charged with keeping the peace in Ireland. They have many powers – have mastered Mirror-Predicting and Smoke-Summoning and Storm-Breaching – and a final ability: that of Mogrifying; taking on a unique animal form.

But Luke’s idyllic existence at Mountfathom cannot last. Word reaches the House of protests across Ireland. There is a wish for independence, a rising discontent and scenes of violence that even the Driochta cannot control. In Dublin, death and disease is running rife in the tenements; a darkness is clogging the air, and is intent on staying. And when things quickly spin out of control for the Driochta, it is up to Luke, his cat Morrigan and his best friend Killian to worm out the heart of the evil in their land.

‘THE HOUSE OF MOUNTFATHOM is the kind of book that turned me into a reader in the first place. It has the same clever interweaving of history and fantasy that I so admired in Nigel McDowell’s previous books but is also filled with an utterly infectious kind of delight. The characters are so vivid and the world brims with the most gorgeous detail. And if this wasn’t enough, the language itself is a pure joy. Nigel McDowell has left an extraordinary legacy behind, something of the imagination and something of the soul.’
– Eimear McBride, multi-award-winning author of A GIRL IS A HALF-FORMED THING

‘Lyrical, ominous and utterly original, with a passionate sense of place and history, THE HOUSE OF MOUNTFATHOM is one of those books that pushes strange roots down into your mind.’
– Frances Hardinge, Costa Award-winning author of THE LIE TREE

Usually when I really hate a book, I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that I hated, or else there’s just a whole list of little things that irked me until I ended up having bad feelings toward the book.

However, in this case, I know exactly what it was that turned me off The House of Mountfathom. It was the writing style. Its choppy and truncated sentences never gave me a chance to get into the flow of the story, as I was always wondering what word was missing from the sentence to give it that incredibly staccato feel.

For some, it might have added to the looming sense of tension and doom in the book, but for me it really was just a constant frustration as I ground my teeth at every sentence. McDowell misses out non-crucial words in almost every sentence, both descriptive and dialogue, meaning that the book is still perfectly understandable, but really intensely frustrating.

This meant that essentially from the first page I was predisposed towards disliking the book, and any weaknesses in it I picked up on and resented even more. So when the main character, Luke, was paper-thin and showed no personality other than an aptitude for magic, that was frustrating. When Killian, presented in the blurb as his best friend, doesn’t so much as make an appearance until the second half of the book, I was frustrated again. When huge aspects of the book were left unexplained and impenetrable, I was actually quite upset.

There was so much potential in this book – a pair of young boys, saving a country gripped not only in the midst of political upheaval (the book covers the period of the Rising, the Free State, etc) but also in magical upheaval, as old races are dying out and new types of magic are being brought to the fore, and trying to forge a new way between the ancient order of the driochta and the necessity of adapting to their modern world. Plus faeries! Ash-dragons! Gyants! Boreen men!

Only… what is an ashdragon? Why are they so bad? It’s never explained in the book, and google says that an ashdragon is a scoop for clearing out fireplaces.

What’s a boreen man? I know what a boreen is. And what a man is. But together, they definitely don’t seem to describe the almost… naiad/dryad-like characters in the book.

Basically, this book left me with a whole lot of feelings of WTF and irritation, rather than the dark and entrancing fantasy I was expecting.

Two stars
**

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The Wrath and the Dawn – Renee Ahdieh

There are lots of books which I don’t really know how they ended up on my TBR, they just did – someone recommended it, someone blogged about it, someone instagrammed a great photo of it – or some combination of all three – and I’m left thinking ‘I must read that’.

The Wrath and the Dawn was one of those books. It might’ve popped up on a diverse books you should read list, it might’ve been ‘if you liked Rebel of the Sands, try this’, it could’ve been anything, I don’t know, but I picked it up, and I made my way into this sweeping romance set in a desert nation with a heartless Caliph who kills his wife every night. Shazi, the heroine, volunteers to be his wife, in order to give her a chance to get revenge for the death of her best friend, one of his previous wives.

The Wrath and the Dawn – Renee Ahdieh

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A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

This dreamy new reinterpretation of 1,001 nights has all the hallmarks of the original – murderous leader, kills a wife every night, volunteer, tells a story and leaves him hanging to get him to spare her for another day. But obviously it needs more than that, it needs something new and fresh to keep it exciting. So what it introduces is… a love triangle.

Shazi, the heroine, has volunteered to be the Caliph’s new wife, in order to exact revenge for her best friend’s murder. So far, so logical. But the thing is, she doesn’t really have uh, a plan to do this. It all seems a bit haphazard, that she just volunteers, and it’s only by chance that the Caliph comes to visit her that night. But okay, I’ll let her away with that on the basis that it’s kind of how the whole story starts, so the illogical premises are given a pass.

Khalid, of course, in order to be a sympathetic love interest, has to be something more than a crazed woman-killer (unlike in the original 1,001 nights, where the killing was because his first wife cheated on him, so he took to marrying virgins and then killing them the next morning… logical.), so the prologue introduces us to a curse that has been placed on Khalid, forcing him to do terrible things, in order to avoid more terrible things. Okay, so far, so sympathetic. Terrible choices must be made, and Khalid is suffering too.

But even still, although reading this book the first time I was on board with Shazi and Khalid falling in love, gently getting to know each other and the fiery depths of hatred turning to passionate love, having thought about it for a while after finishing the book, I’m not entirely sure I can get on board with this love story.

For starters, Khalid murdered Shahrzad’s best friend, and that’s the reason for her hatred, but he also raped her the first night they were together. And she just kind of goes along with this as if it’s no big deal. Nothing mentioned of it later on in the book, it’s just seen as his right as her husband. I definitely can’t get on board with that kind of attitude, not the way it was presented in the book. If the over-arching narrative had been more critical of this, I would’ve agreed, but it was just presented as an indisputable fact.

There are a variety of characters outside of the palace, including Shazi’s father, and her first love, who are doing… I’m not sure, strange and possibly evil things, in order to rescue Shazi from her fate. How, exactly, they embarked on this plan, though, is beyond me, as Shazi wasn’t expected to survive past the next morning, but she did, and so the rebellion is in force.

Khalid’s jealousy and possessiveness (and secrecy) are all things that Shazi tries to work though, because for some inexplicable reason she falls in love with this monster, and sees the tender heart underneath, and they begin to forge a new life together, find a way to overthrow Khalid’s curse, stave off the rebellion that Shazi has accidentally inspired, and … make amends for the 72 women Khalid killed before Shazi? Well, that’s not really mentioned yet.

And then the book just – ends. Big things happen, and that’s the end of the book, and we’re left to wait for the sequel, The Rose and the Dagger.

Okay, I’ve decided, if I were Khalid, and Shazi was my wife, and she left me with this big a cliffhanger? That’s it, she’s dead. I don’t care about the story, that was just mean.

Although everything I’ve said here seems very critical, I did actually like this book. It was very easy to read, the description was lovely, and when reading, I was totally on the Shazi/Khalid ship. It’s only with a few days’ reflection that I’ve suddenly gone ‘wait, what? This doesn’t make sense!’ and I’ve already gotten The Rose and the Dagger, and it’s high on my to-read list. Shazi is skilled and clever, and Khalid is mysterious and gorgeous. Shazi’s dad is doing something clearly terrible, killing animals for magic, and Shazi is on her way to discovering great things about herself (I hope!)

Despite its problems, I still actually quite enjoyed this book, and am looking forward to reading the sequel, too.

Three Stars
***

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The Longest Holiday – Paige Toon

This was the second Paige Toon book I’ve read, and after quite vehemently disliking the first one, I wasn’t going in with massively high hopes about this. Why read it, I hear you ask? Well it was free on iBooks and it looked like the kind of light and fluffy read that I needed that week.

The Longest Holiday – Paige Toon

16000770He’s smiling down at me with tears in his eyes as I say my solemn vow:
‘I, Laura, take thee, Matthew, to be my lawful wedded husband…’ I thought I would never feel like this about anyone ever again. Not after my first love… Not after the heartbreak and the loss and the trying to pick myself back up again… Then I met Matthew, and I know that he has my heart forever: my perfect, gorgeous, adoring Matthew. And then I wake up. And I remember that he’s not perfect. He’s so far from perfect that my heart could surely collapse from the pain that instantly engulfs me…
To say Laura is unlucky in love is an understatement. Her first boyfriend died in a horrific accident, and now she’s just discovered that her husband of six months has been hiding a terrible secret. Devastated and unwilling to face reality, she escapes on a girls’ holiday to Key West with her best friend Marty. But a deep and instant attraction to a sexy Cuban scuba diver takes her completely by surprise. When her two weeks in the sun come to an end, Laura doesn’t want to go home again. But she can’t run from real life forever. Can she?

The Longest Holiday was exactly the kind of light and fluffy read I was looking for. Summery and mostly light-hearted, with a bevvy of sexy guys all clamouring to pay attention to our heroine and her friends on their holiday in Key West, this was the kind of escapism I needed.

There’s nothing terribly deep in this book, but there are a few nice moments which give pause for thought. Laura’s something of a blank canvas, if I’m honest – she feels like the kind of character designed to let the reader project themselves onto her, but in this book she doesn’t actually do that too badly. She’s trying to pick up the pieces of her marriage and decide if she can move on from Matthew’s betrayal, and wondering if the sexy Cuban scuba diver is the way to move forwards. Her friends don’t understand what she’s doing when Matthew is clearly repentant and feel like she should go home to save her marriage, but Laura has her own ideas.

While obviously a bit over the top and exaggerated, not only in how Laura reacts to her marriage crumbling, but also in the deep and instant attraction between Laura and Leo, as well as the twist in the final quarter of the book which tears them apart.

But actually, I wasn’t all that put off by the unrealism of it, because I was looking for escapism, and this is what I got.

Light, fluffy, a tiny bit of a bite, and a hefty dose of sun, sea, and sand (plus some scuba diving, which I’m predisposed to dislike for … reasons), this was the kind of book that I was looking for at the time, and I had none of the major objections that I had to the last Paige Toon I read.

From reading reviews of this and other Toon books, it seems like sometimes her characters cross over between books, and Laura is one of these. It’s nice to learn more about characters that you’ve only seen in passing before, so I might pick up some more books and see if I can trace the crossovers between them at some point in the future.

Three Stars
***

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