Tower Of Dawn – Sarah J Maas LTTP

LTTP - Tower Of Dawn by Sarah J Maas
LTTP – Tower Of Dawn by Sarah J Maas

I did not want to read this. Full disclosure, I was never a fan of Chaol which is probably putting it lightly. I didn’t enjoy his romance with Celaena. I didn’t enjoy his P.O.V’s and in the books leading up to Tower of Dawn I was disliking him more and more. Yet for some maddening reason this was not set as a side story novella type, this was considered part of the main series for Throne of Glass. So, begrudgingly, the completionist in me was obligated to read it before I started Kingdom of Ash. And the thought of reading about a Chaol centered story sounded so painfully uninteresting to me that I avoided it for months – simultaneously putting off reading the series finale, which I had been looking forward to, in the process. To only add to my procrastination was the fact that the second P.O.V character was Nesryn who at that point I felt equally uninterested in.

So, I finally got around to it and then I finally got to that series finale (review later). Did I end up enjoying it? Yes. Did I enjoy having the knowledge from TOD while reading KOA? Yes. Did I find Chaol a redeemed and less dislikable character in the end? Surprisingly, yes. Was TOD necessary for the series reading itself? Not really. It really should have been a novella rather than part of the series.

But here’s what made the read worth it in the end for me:

Yrene Towers. A new culture and parts of the world of Throne of Glass which filled in a lot of gaps and made, in my opinion, a good addition to enrich the world and history. Yrene Towers and Chaol as a couple and the building of their relationship. And the way everything was tied together in the end and with the series story at large.

I thought reading this would be a chore that would add little to the series but I was gladly proven wrong. Sarah J Maas seems to have this uncanny ability to weave some magically addictive stories that apparently I can’t get enough of.

(I won’t get into everything people find offensive about Maas’s writing as I often find these opinions overly sensitive or the importance of which I feel is overly exaggerated. It’s a YA fantasy that is going to focus heavily on lusty, angsty, romance. So, forewarning, in case 5 books in you hadn’t picked up on these things; if certain representations, characterisations or descriptive sex scenes that focus heavily on “manhood” offend you to the point of rage – this is probably not your cup of tea.)

Highlights:

  • I miraculously stopped disliking Chaol’s character. A great showcase towards Maas’s character building ability. I even have a bit of a soft spot for him after this book.
  • Yrene and Chaol’s relationship and romance building was so good for me. I definitely got Celaena and Rowan vibes. The slow, hard building of a relationship and all the tension and the dynamics that make the characters likable together.
  • The new culture, new part of the world and the new revelations were the main things driving me to push through the boring (other than the romance between Yrene and Chaol).
  • Yrene Towers whose perspective and backstory I really enjoyed.

Lowlights:

  • Some characters were just not interesting for me (Nesryn) so I found myself annoyed at the sight of a chapter with those P.O.V’s. There were some exceptions toward the end where that P.O.V story line goes into finding out some very interesting details about the series plot – but did I care about her family and romantic life and very slow but extremely obvious dwindle of her romantic relationship with Chaol? No. In short – A lot of boring chapters that were ineffective at making me care.
  • Overwhelming amount of information dump at first.
  • The length of Chaol’s healing process and the length of the entire story when the main goals are to heal Chaol and get the Khagan and 6 heirs to lend their armies to war against Erawan.
  • I am so charactered out by this point in the series that I really don’t care about the Khagan and the 6 heirs, whose names I can no longer recall. Honestly a lot of the characters in TOG as a whole can feel a bit interchangeable once those characters start dropping onto the page from all directions.

3/5 – A totally unnecessary “part of the series” that was surprisingly good at redeeming Chaol and making me fall in love with another character but so, so long.

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How It Feels To Float – Helena Fox Quick Review

How It Feels To Float - Helena Fox Quick Review How It Feels To Float – Helena Fox Quick Review

How It Feels To Float – Helena Fox Quick Review

How it feels to float is an emotionally tense, intimate and poetically vivid experience of a teenage girl dealing with friendships, sexuality, loss, grief and hereditary mental illness. At its core it’s a heartbreakingly relatable journey that touches on the growing pains of teenage-hood and trauma, and displays the downward spiral and coming to terms with mental health. Written with grace and believability, Biz is a complicated character with complicated yet wonderful relationships. The chapters are short and quick. The read throughout is a mix of touching groundedness and somewhat disorienting surrealism. I was reminded throughout of the feelings evoked during reads of some of Kathleen Glasgow’s books with similar themes, and like Kathleen, Fox has a stunning way with words and conveying pain.

The downside is that books like these can be emotionally draining investments of time. Some relationships at the end were left “messy” in some sense – not outright resolved and the first couple of chapters felt a little odd to get into. Beyond those first chapters though the capturing writing style Fox uses and the slow unwinding of Biz makes it difficult not to see the story to its end.

4/5 – A book to experience for its poetic yet nuanced and raw depiction of mental illness and grief.

Buy it – How It Feels To Float

I Know You – Annabel Kantaria Full Review

I Know You - Annabel Kantaria
I Know You – Annabel Kantaria

Author – Annabel Kantaria

Publisher – Crooked Lane Books

Publish date – 11th June 2019

Genre – Psychological/Domestic Thriller

POV – First person, Past tense

Rating – 3/5

Summary

You trust me. 

You shouldn’t. 

That picture you just posted on Instagram? I’ve seen it.
The location you tagged? I’ve been there.

You haven’t been careful enough, have you?
Because I know all about you.

But when I meet you, I won’t tell you that.
I’ll pretend. Just like you do.

You’ll like me though. You’ll trust me enough to let me into your life.

And then I’ll destroy it.

I Know You – Annabel Kantaria Full Review

(Spoilers – I did try to keep as much of the details out as possible to avoid giving away too much but if you want to avoid spoilers read the Quick Review)

Taylor is pregnant and mostly alone in London due to her husbands work schedule. They moved for a fresh start. But the past isn’t quite finished with them yet. And Taylor is more vulnerable than she knows.

Told in tense, first person, I Know You was a fast yet somehow simultaneously meandering story that combined psychological and domestic thriller elements. Friendship, marriage, betrayal and a character driven plot, the book immediately felt like the makings of something I could easily love.

To its credit, it did a lot right. The chapters were short and flew by. The mysteries (who was the stalker, the stalked, who could and could not be trusted) had me realigning my theories again and again. The illustration of our complacency in our use of social media and how easily those private bits of detail could slip into the wrong hands and be used for ill intent had me majorly intrigued. The eerie stalker P.O.V Chapters hinting at the potential victim and at their potential identity so deliciously drawn out. And the tension built up and up and up, with little release.

But then… it goes on for too long without much actually happening, and once the ball really gets rolling it seems to veer onto an extremely sharp cliff that surprisingly, disappointingly, is a very short drop. The end is abrupt. The reveal feels a bit like cheating. The side characters all end up seeming like red herrings, only in the story for the purpose of throwing off the reader which doesn’t matter anyway because following any of the threads in the story wouldn’t have brought you to the true identity of the villain. Because other than the fact that we know Taylor’s husband is a cheating, lying, untrustworthy asshole there was nothing that really hinted at the conclusion other than the information placed in our laps at the last minute to tie it all together. It remained in the realm of possibility that in hind sight seems like a perfectly reasonable conclusion but really there was nothing of it in the book until it needed to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book. But it wasn’t the kind of pay off I had hoped for. Not to mention that for a character driven book, this particular cast was, to me, mostly unlikable, untrustworthy or I found difficult to understand. Caroline was basically a rich bitch who happened to have lost a child. Sarah had absolutely no boundaries and flirted excessively with Taylor’s husband. Anna was aloof, unreliable and consistently hot and cold. Simon was lonely and kind of creepy with the lines he kept crossing with Taylor. And Taylor was constantly desperate, annoyingly passive and kind of weirdly stalkerish herself.

And the villains motivations… ugh. The story really boiled down to loneliness, jealousy, shitty relationships, betrayals and babies. And the fact that everyone wants Taylor’s husband was so incredibly frustrating.

It sounds like I hated it but for the most part I really think I enjoyed it. It was just the wrapping up of it all that left me feeling disappointed. I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting – Perhaps more interesting play between the dynamics of characters, characters who played a role that did more than provide spaces for readers to place their suspicions. a more embedded and more thoroughly interesting and satisfying answer to all the mystery. A villain that was just a bit more than a jealous, hysterical person, something perhaps a little more different to what I seem to find over and over again in domestic/psychological thrillers involving two leading women.

What I keep getting are premises that seem promising and end up with big reveals that come out of no where purely to catch people entirely off guard, characters that are terribly unlikable or worse uninteresting and mostly there to just antagonize the main character and women fighting over men.

For all the ranting though the book has its moments. I really liked seeing Taylor’s husband drop all the pretenses and finally reveal his real ugly side when shit hit the fan. I loved some moments when the stalker called Taylor out on all her shit. Though I didn’t like the characters I could eventually empathize with a couple. Taylor’s isolation and desperation for friends was at times relatable. It certainly highlighted her vulnerability. I did feel for her feeling betrayed, and I still, despite all the negatives, finished the book in one sitting (for whatever that says).

*I have received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

3/5 – An intriguing, easy to consume, standard domestic thriller.

 

Again, But Better – Christine Riccio Full Review

Again, but better cover
Again, but Better – Christine Riccio Full Review

Author – Christine Riccio

Publisher – Wednesday Books

Publish date – 7th May 2019

Genre – YA

POV – First person, Present tense

Rating – 3/5

Summary

From one of the most followed booktubers today, comes Again, but Better, a story about second chances, discovering yourself, and being brave enough to try again.

Shane has been doing college all wrong. Pre-med, stellar grades, and happy parents…sounds ideal — but Shane’s made zero friends, goes home every weekend, and romance…what’s that? 

Her life has been dorm, dining hall, class, repeat. Time’s a ticking, and she needs a change — there’s nothing like moving to a new country to really mix things up. Shane signs up for a semester abroad in London. She’s going to right all her college mistakes: make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure! 

Easier said than done. She is soon faced with the complicated realities of living outside her bubble, and when self-doubt sneaks in, her new life starts to fall apart. 

Shane comes to find that, with the right amount of courage and determination one can conquer anything. Throw in some fate and a touch of magic – the possibilities are endless.”

Full Review

(Avoid spoilers – read the Quick Review)

 

A semester abroad in London is 20 year old Shane’s chance to fix her college mistakes. Binging Netflix, remaining friendless and unkissed, Shane is unsatisfied with her choices in life. London is her chance to push herself out of her bubble. A redo. But the reality of turning around her life is a difficult and complicated journey. One that will take all her will, some personal growth and a dash of magic.

Again, but Better is Christine all over from the moment it begins. Told in very personal first person, present tense, the plot follows Shane in 2011 as she goes to London on a semester abroad and spans through years of her life journey. All of it giving a sense of nostalgia and reminding me of myself in my teenage years.

The book is told in a slice of life style following Shane day to day through school, work etc on a loop and it could be a little mundane at times. Some parts of the book I really just wanted to flip past until something new happened, though, I think, Christine did well spicing things up and keeping things relatively tight. Another minor downside I saw with the plot was its sometimes obviously formulaic nature. There were times where it was blatant that something was being set up and I found myself guessing the why’s and resulting events before it was played out in the book.

Just when you start to feel deflated in the plot Christine utilizes a well used time skip. Things are fresh as we catch up with Shane again, and though she’s still thinking about Pilot in 2017 and still not following her dreams of writing, she has evolved somewhat from the 20 year old we first met at the beginning of the book. And then the time travel. God was it cathartic to see Shane regain that lost time and opportunity, that chance at her lost love and lost dreams.

The magic/fantastical element felt a bit, you know, so this is here and works, whatever, onto the romance! But its not really about the magic,so I sort of forgive the lack of details there.

The themes of self discovery, first love and self love were discussed with an authentic quality and progressed through the growth of characters. I could really feel for Shane through her struggle of figuring out what she could do with her life and struggling to give her passion of writing any legitimacy in the eyes of her parents who expect her to have a stable career and future. Her social anxiety and self doubt a running theme for most people. I appreciated that despite the magical redo, there was no quick fix. Everything she wanted to accomplish took work and continuing to push herself out there, and we see that, even if it didn’t all result in immediate success.

Shane (and I almost wrote Christine) is funny, insecure, naive, a little dramatic and a dash clumsy though in a way that resonated as endearing and relatable. Pilot is charming though he has some legitimate faults. The romance is sweet, warm, a little goofy (in a good way). I was quite convinced and taken with their chemistry.

I had no major qualms with the slight/but not really/but definite emotional cheating. Relationships and people are complicated, these things happen and I am the last person that’s going to berate an author for not creating picture perfect characters who either only make palatable mistakes or are made to be positive role models and influences rather than just fictional characters who in ways reflect us and the sometimes shitty choices we make.

Besides which I found Shane to be a positive influence anyway, if that’s what you’re looking for in a book. I was surprised by her growth and her ability to think of herself and her own life, needs, aspirations and relationships outside of her romance with Pilot. That feels sad to say but YA characters can be a little overly involved in their romances. It was a wonderfully surprising growth in the character that emphasized living life first for yourself.

I will say though that personally I found Pilot a little difficult to like at points. Some of his actions toward Shane and his girlfriend felt cold, a little cowardly and a little indecisive. Still, 16 year old me would be into Pilot. 28 year old me was put off.

The rest of the characters were interesting and a diverse group (perhaps for the sake of being diverse) but since so much of the plot does end up being romance and Shane’s issues with herself and her parents, we don’t see them develop or too much of them at all.

For a debut I felt like the book was decently written. I was prepared for and dreading disappointment but I, well, wasn’t. There was an authenticity and bright, engaging feel to the whole book that screamed Christine, and if you’re a fan of Christine that’s a plus. The ending is positive and fluffy and feel-good. Everything wraps up nicely, and I was left contented and entertained. While there were some minor hindrances for me on the way to that end, ( I have to mention the over-stuffing of pop culture references that felt a little ‘how many of Christine’s favorite books, shows, musicians and authors can we mention in every chapter?’) I have to hand it to her, the girl can write a decent book. I am already anticipating her future works and improvements.

I have received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

– 3/5 A charming slice of life with a dash of magic.

Buy it – Again, but better

The Hunting Party – Lucy Foley Review

the hunting party
The Hunting Party – Lucy Foley

Author – Lucy Foley

Publisher – William Morrow

Publish date – 12th February 2019

Genre – Mystery / Psychological Suspense

POV – First person, Present tense

Rating – 3/5

Summary

ALL OF THEM ARE FRIENDS. ONE OF THEM IS A KILLER.

“A ripping, riveting murder mystery — wily as Agatha Christie, charged with real menace, real depth. Perfect for fans of Ruth Ware.” – A.J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window

During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

DON’T BE LEFT OUT. JOIN THE PARTY NOW.

Full Review

(Avoid spoilers – read the Quick Review)

Nine, dysfunctional, thirty-something old college friends go on vacation together to an isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands. One of them is murdered.

This story, like One Little Secret, was a fun, gossipy, whodunit type psychological suspense. The dynamics of a group of dysfunctional friends with a long intertwined and messy history was utilized to build tension. Their slow but inevitable unraveling held interest in a kind of “crash you can’t look away from” style.

Foley was effective in hooking me in from the beginning. We are told someone is missing and later found dead. We alternate between past and present, playing catch up and trying to piece together the central mysteries; who, among these, at first, nostalgic old friends, was the victim, who the murderer and how it could all have happened. Starting at the present then returning to three days prior the incident, then two, then one, like a murder countdown.

Seeing how it all comes apart was entertaining enough to hold my interest, but it was never really something that had me on edge or creeped out further than a small scene or two. Most of the suspense and creep factor relying heavily on the backdrop of the story and the dangling of the major event and present P.O.V. dealings, with details handed out sparingly over time.

I had hoped there would be a little more than friendship/relationship/personal drama, one murder and one attempted murder. With the surroundings and poachers mentioned so frequently, I kept envisioning some sort of calculated hunting down of the rest of the guests. It turned out to be a murder created by a set of unfortunate circumstances at the wrong place and time, out of passion. It was really more character involved and the surroundings provided a sense of unease, making it feel creepier than it was in reality.

At first, there was a bit of confusion for me, trying to remember who was who and linkedimg_3811 to who. You’re sprung in the middle of all these names and histories and dynamics that can be a bit much at once, but I did get my head around it after a few chapters (and also a map of characters).

The P.O.V’s were well distinguished. Voice and characterization a strong point of the story and individualized to the point where I could recognize the person talking without having to see the name.

However, I didn’t find myself caring for any of the characters, either because there was not enough of them directly involved for so long that I couldn’t invest or they were just, well… unlikable. They were all a little irritating and shady and I found the way the friend group needed to pretend around each other and resume their college roles again unbearably immature.

I particularly hated Miranda but appreciated how Foley handled her, and the rest of the characters, with a quality of roundedness. We were given a fuller picture of the main characters than even the friends themselves saw at times. I hated Miranda but I saw her vulnerability. Her worse qualities rounded off and filled in with more detail which didn’t make her likable necessarily but real and occasionally someone you could relate to or sympathize with.

That was my favorite aspect of the story, characters rather than the major plot events. It was so interesting to see how they all saw each other. How much they thought they knew each other and about each other’s lives and at the same time to see the reality of it.

The things that sounded wonderful from one friend’s perspective, in reality, is not all it seems. Everything has its downsides. The real reasons we behave a certain way toward someone not necessarily as clear as it seems from the outside. The people we envy and think we know so much about, we don’t truly. Because we can’t know everything or because we aren’t allowed to see beyond that wall. And because life is complicated, and perspective limited.

In the end some aspects of the mysteries were kind of predictable. It was no surprise that what was happening at the Loch and the extra couple guest was a distraction from the main killer. It was no surprise to me that the killer was not Doug. It was no surprise when Katie and Julien’s affair was revealed. But some of it did surprise me.

I was a little surprised by all that was revealed to be going on at once. I was surprised by the revelation of the murderer and the history there. There was a lot of appreciated character drama and complication but not as much suspense as I was hoping for. Miranda ended up pushing the wrong person a little too far and there was a little poetic justice in that. I was surprised by how long it had all really been building up for and I enjoyed that it was all tied together quite neatly when unveiled.

-3/5 A dysfunctional friendship drama turned murder mystery.

Buy it – The Hunting Party