Just Finished…The All Souls Trilogy…

A Discovery of WitchesIt’s taken a while to get to reviewing this series, as once I’d started the trilogy with A Discovery of Witches back in September 2015, I then bought the other two books and thought I would do a review for the trilogy as a whole.

In fact, this first book had been on my kindle since March 2012 waiting for me to get around to reading it! There’s nothing like trawling your old purchases to find something new to read, when you’re looking for inspiration – I think this may be the theme for most of my reading this year, as I started off in January reading the first in Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones series and am currently partway through the first Beautiful Creatures book by Garcia and Stohl. I’m only about six years behind the reading curve on those then! 🙂 I added a lot of books in 2012 and as quite a few of them are still there, bouncing around in digi-book purgatory in my kindle, I began to feel bad getting anything new before I released them.

Anyway, back to the book…

A Discovery of Witches lands you right in the middle of academic and book lover nirvana: it’s set in the beautiful libraries and colleges of Oxford, as American Professor Diana Bishop attempts to ignore the fact that she’s a witch to get on with her research without magic. When a strange book lands on her desk during her work, one filled with magic and questions, she deliberately dismisses it – sending it back to the archives, so that she can continue to ignore her magical abilities.

What I loved about this first book, which I would rate 4*, was the world-building and background premise to the magical world of ‘creatures’ that Harkness describes. The first few hundred pages flew by as I learned about daemons, vampires and witches in this world – what made them different, their characteristics and behaviours, and how all this came together in a meeting between genetic science and mythology. It was great. The characters introduced were also intriguing and drew me in to the story and mystery that was obviously being laid out.

There was a lull in the middle of the book for me – something that I found in each of the books in the series if I’m honest – where I was reading and reading and it didn’t really feel like there was much happening, significant character development or action. There was quite a lot of tea making, wandering around buildings described in lots of detail, and day-to-day happenings I wasn’t too fussed to be reading about. I love a good cup of tea, but when your protagonist is making them every few pages in considerable detail, you’re really not that bothered. All three of the books are long-ish (579 pages for this one) and I would have said a good 100 pages or so of exposition could have been lost without detriment to the overall story. After the lull in the middle, it finished with a bang – which had me heading to Amazon to grab the next two books, so that I could find out more about the characters and world I’d invested in.

Shadow of Night So, book two lands: Shadow of Night. Funnily enough, the lull for me in this one came at the very beginning – perhaps because I’d closed one book and opened the other immediately. Here the main characters have used Diana’s powers to ‘time-walk’ into the past to Elizabethan England, to the home – and former life – of her vampire partner Matthew. After a slightly slow start, the world-building picks up, as does the action and Diana – a historian – throws herself into this interesting world. Sixteenth century London is described in fantastic detail, with historical features mingling with the world of creatures set up in book one. We learn more about magic and the issues of the present, as we journey with Diana in the past. Spellbound as a child, to protect herself from her powers, she has always thought she was a poor excuse for a witch and thus focused on academia as her strength and not witchcraft. Now that she has found what was done to her as a child, she has to learn about herself and witches from the beginning, in an unfamiliar world. This was my favourite book in the series – the mixture of worlds and travels through history, living and breathing the places Diana and Matthew pass through, as they continue to unravel the mystery started in A Discovery of Witches. After the initial lull, the rest of the book flew by and I read it in a few days.

The Book of LifeThe Book of Life, brings us back to the present and the huge cast of characters assembled during the first two books now converge in the present day as Diana and Matthew continue their search for answers.

The book started well, but maybe 200 pages in it began to drag. I know loose ends had to be tied up, but just as in book one, there were long chapters of exposition that weren’t adding to the story for me. Also, after the majority of the first two books being written from Diana’s POV (first person) this book moved around a lot more – jumping into other characters heads, re-telling scenes in the third person. I didn’t find the jumps confusing, but just felt that if first person was good enough for the majority of the book, surely there were ways of conveying what was done here, without a quick and easy 3-4 paragraph jump out, to jump back. It felt lazy somehow, and with the detail and story-telling of this series, Harkness is not a lazy writer.

Anyway, there was a long lull and so I found it hard to keep reading in the sporadic moments I’d get. It felt like something I had to get through in order to finish the story and get my answers. In the end, you do get the answers – some are quite satisfying and delivered well; others, particularly action elements, could have been much more exciting. I started the book in September and have just finished it this morning.

So, overall – I’d probably be around 3.5* for this series. There are some great elements to the story and the complexity of the ‘creature’ world-building is excellent. There are characters that you buy into and want to know how their stories develop. But, the pace in several areas is just too slow – you shouldn’t be feeling that you need to ‘power through’ to the good bits. I’ve read several reviews for the books that compare them to Twilight – an adults version, if you like – and I can appreciate that. If Bella had gone off to uni and met her vampire around the age of 34, instead of 17, it probably would have been a very similar tale. My feelings about the drag in the books are very similar to the drag I experienced reading Breaking Dawn, with random characters appearing in an endless stream, leading up to the most anti-climatic battle ever. Action scenes and pace are not Harkness’s strong points either, but she can write depth and history and weave a huge tapestry of a new world that you can absolutely believe is realistic. Maybe just a bit less tea making, wandering in gardens and being coddled by other creatures in rooms described in minute detail; and when you get the violent climax of a three book series, don’t skip over it in a page or two. It was all a bit Finnick: *reading, reading, reading – turn page* “Wait a second!” *turns back a page* “Did Finnick just die?”

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Just Finished…Insurgent by Veronica Roth

InsurgentHmmm…

I’ve just finished Insurgent and ‘Hmmmm…’ is the overwhelming thought in my head. There is something with this series I just don’t feel, and I think it’s because I find Tris difficult. There’s also the ‘faction thing’ for the people within the system: I find it hard to believe that they do not question a system that would seem to want you to be a particular way, but then encourages divergence by allowing the movement of people between the factions (nature / nurture…If they want pure, faction-matched people, why would the system allow movement…?) The conclusion of the book did go some way towards alleviating my issues there, in that it gives you an answer to the ‘why’; but it doesn’t explain why people inside the system should not see it as a flaw in their faction system to allow movement from one to another.

I’m not a Tris fan – I find her reactions to things too variable; she veers from being ultra-logical and self-aware to being obtuse and reactionary. Even with her ‘divergent’ brain I find it difficult to believe in someone so wildly erratic. It’s almost as though she switches from one faction stereotype to another, without a natural blending of the various faction natures coming together. Maybe I’m wrong and she’s like this exactly because of how she’s been raised and so she cannot blend the various elements together, just use one at a time…if that’s the case, there’s some logic to that, but I find it difficult to believe as a true reflection of human nature.

There are characters I like in this series: I like the Dauntless banter and passion (with people like Uriah) and I’m OK with Four; Christina I also like, just as I did in Divergent. And the books are well-written, so that you get a feel for the environment…but I find I’m just mildly ambivalent with the book as a whole.

Overall 3.5* – I found this book more interesting that the first – although it is reasonably long and I could walk away from reading it, so I know I wasn’t gripped. Seeing more of the other factions was good – Divergent was too much Dauntless training for me, with not much of interest until the end of the book. But Tris is not my cup of tea and I find that because I don’t relate to her, I empathise less.

Am I missing something with this series??

Emily Read…Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick

 Emily is our Goodreads pal and all-round lovely lady! 🙂 And, as you’ll know from our side-bar, her blog Confessions of a Bookaholic is one of our favourites. Throughout August and September, we will be featuring some of her book reviews on Aside from Writing so you can get to know her too!

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Cover Rating: 2.5/5 Stars
Overall Rating: 3.5/5 Stars


SynopsisNora Grey can’t remember the past five month of her life. After the initial shock of waking up in a cemetery and being told that she has been missing for weeks – with no one knowing where she was or who she was with – she tried to get her life back on track. Go to school, hang out with her best friend, Vee, and dodge mom’s creepy new boyfriend.But there is this voice in the back of her head, an idea that she can almost reach out and touch. Visions of angel wings and unearthly creatures that have nothing to do with the life she knows.And this unshakable feeling that a part of her is missing.Then Nora crosses paths with a sexy stranger, whom she feels a mesmerizing connection to. He seems to hold all the answers…and her heart. Every minute she spends with him grows more and more intense until she realizes she could be falling in love. Again.

I have really enjoyed the Hush Hush series so far and I think this one was just as good as the rest. Silence is set five months after Crescendo. Nora was kidnapped and she doesn’t remember a thing. She doesn’t remember a month before she went missing either. Everyone is giving her the version of the past that they want her to believe. Then Nora meets a gorgeous ‘stranger’ who of course is not a stranger but Nora doesn’t know that. At times I got annoyed at the amount Nora didn’t remember. She didn’t know who kidnapped her – we did – she didn’t know who Jev was – we did. It just got very frustrating.

I found Nora annoying, as always. The way she act’s is just so… ugh. I don’t know how everyone puts up with her. She is even more irritating without memory. Patch wasn’t as awesome as I remember him and he had times when I was just wanting him to tell her everything but aparently he wanted to keep her in the dark ‘for her own good’. I hear those words in litrally every book I read and it annoys me every time. Why did you lie to me? For your own good. Why wont you let me go? For your own good! Ugh. It really gets on my nerves. I liked Scott a lot more than in the other book and he was the only one who would actually be honest with Nora so for that he gets a big thumbs up!

Overall the book was okay. Not one of my favorites but at the same time I did enjoy it. The pace was slower than I would have liked but it wasn’t too bad. I would recomend this book to people who have enjoyed the rest and like a good angel book. To be fair this series was my first GOOD angel book with the others failing miserably beside it. A good read.

My Favorite Quote: 
“He inclined his head at my dress. “What’s the occasion?”
“Homecoming,” I said, twirling. “Like?”
“Last I heard, Homecoming requires a date.”
“About that,” I hedged. “I’m sort of…going with Scott. We both figure a high-school dance is the last place Hank will be patrolling.”
Patch smiled, but it was tight. “I take that back. If Hank wants to shoot Scott, he has my blessing.”

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Want to know more? Check out the links!

Read Emily’s interview with us here!

Goodread Group: Books, Blogs, Authors and More

 http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/62777.Books_Blogs_Authors_and_More

My blog: http://emily-confessionsofabookaholic.blogspot.com/

Emily Read…The Fairytale Keeper by Andrea Cefalo

 Emily is our Goodreads pal and all-round lovely lady! 🙂 And, as you’ll know from our side-bar, her blog Confessions of a Bookaholic is one of our favourites. Throughout August and September, we will be featuring some of her book reviews on Aside from Writing so you can get to know her too!

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Cover Rating: 3.5/5   Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis: Snow White was a pet name her mother had given her, but her mother’s dead now. Adelaide hates that name anyway. A rampant fever claimed Adelaide’s mother just like a thousand others in Cologne where the people die without Last Rites and the dead are dumped in a large pit outside of the city walls. Adelaide’s father is determined to obtain a funeral for his wife, but that requires bribing the parish priest, Father Soren. When Soren commits an unforgivable atrocity, he pushes Adelaide to her breaking point, but if she seeks justice against the cruel priest, she risks sacrificing everything: her father, her friends, her first love, and maybe even her life.

I was kindly sent a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. To be fair I was slightly hesitant about starting this book because I’ve never read a fairy tale retelling before but I was pleasantly surprised. The book centers on Adelaide aka Snow White after her mothers death. She is refused a funeral for her mother and after that they begin to see all of the flaws that the church has. And there are many. Back when this is set the church was a big part of life so you can see how this would be a problem. Throughout the book there was sections from well know fairy tales and then the chapter afterwards would have some kind of connection to that story. This aspect I found especially interesting. The writing in this book was old fashioned but it was meant to be so it suited perfectly.

The main character Adelaide, I found to be quite annoying at times but in no way as annoying as a lot of other heroines. She won’t be on my top ten anytime soon. I did like some things about her though. She was brave and didn’t need a guy there to hold her hand all the time. I loved her best friend Ivo. He was really sweet! I loved how Adelaide and him made such a great team and he tried to look after her. One person I didn’t like was her father. He just seemed to hopeless to me.

I really did enjoy this book even though apart from her appearance I don’t know what the connection to Snow White was. Maybe we will find out in later books. As a whole this book was a good, quick read that I finished in one sitting. I would recommend this book to fairytale and historical fiction lovers. I would give this book 3.5/5 Stars and look forward to the second one in the series. Thanks to the author for letting me read it before it’s release.

My Favorite Quote
“Snow White is a name I do not enjoy.  It is a term of endearment from my mother, but a phrase of torment used by the artisan and merchant children who mock me for my fair skin and black hair.  I would never tell mother for it would hurt her to know, and while I have no love for the name, Snow White, I do have love for the way she speaks it.”

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Want to know more? Check out the links!

Read Emily’s interview with us here!

Goodread Group: Books, Blogs, Authors and More

 http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/62777.Books_Blogs_Authors_and_More

My blog: http://emily-confessionsofabookaholic.blogspot.com/

Just Finished…Fall for You

Fall for You is a younger adult book, aimed at early teenage girls (I imagine). It is loosely based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and you know what? I liked it! After reading plenty of ‘heavier’ books recently, I was in the mood for something quick, easy and light – and that’s exactly what I got.
The story is set predominantly in the grounds of the Jane Austen Academy, a prestigious boarding school, which up until recently had been solely for girls. In this it reminded me of a modernised version of the Mallory Towers or St Clares books by Enid Blyton, which I loved as a child: who didn’t want to play lacrosse and have jolly tea parties on the pavilion with the other gutsy girls who filled the dormitories of those books? Maybe just me then. But Lizzie – our leading lady surprisingly enough – certainly had shades of this about her.
As a character I found Lizzie irked me a little in the first couple of chapters – she was a tad on the bitchy side and I just thought she was mean with Anne and Emma particularly. However, I also get that this was part of her character establishment – after all she needed to be a little snooty and judgemental didn’t she. Thankfully, she mellows out pretty quickly and in with some slightly Louis Lane style tendencies sets off to investigate the mystery surrounding the new owners who are making so many changes to her beloved Academy.
This was a little jaunt down memory lane for me in terms of reading as I don’t tend to do ‘girlie’ romance stuff very often. But the younger girl inside me who devoured Sweet Valley High books (please don’t judge me too harshly!) in her early teens and wanted to go to boarding school, really enjoyed this lightly fluffy, fun take on Austen’s book. It is well-written, with good dialogue and enough variety in the supporting characters that they have depth and interest. The main characters are only ‘lite’ versions of the originals – Georgiana, Dante and Lizzie being the most like their counterparts – and the events of Fall for You only pick up some key scenes from Pride and Prejudice rather than being a complete re-telling, which I think worked well for the story. Nice reflections of the original book, without trying too hard to replicate and mimic, which I think would have felt very contrived.
Overall thoughts: if you like a little romance, fluff and fun, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this! 3.5*