Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

This book is set in the same universe as Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy, which I haven’t read yet because I’ve heard from friends that it isn’t as good as Six of Crows—I was a bit apprehensive about reading this before reading the Grisha Trilogy for fear of getting confused, but I was fine.

This book is amazing, and I’m incredibly excited about the sequel, Crooked Kingdom, which is due for release this September: it’s about Kaz Brekker, criminal prodigy, and his crew, who are offered millions if they manage to pull off a near-impossible heist. They have to break into the Ice Court, which is supposed to be impossible to breach, and rescue a prisoner who
holds the secret to “jurda parem”, a dangerous drug, to stop it getting into the wrong hands—and the job’s been given to this group of teenage criminals. It’s told through the third perspective point-of-view of each of the characters, and usually this kind of switching gets irritating but it was brilliantly done—each character had their own backstory and you grow to love all of them. There’s Kaz, the sort-of leader, whose backstory is heartbreaking—he’s snarky and closed off and awful and a brilliant thief; Inej, his thief of secrets, the level-headed fighter; Jesper, the sharpshooter; Wylan, the runaway; Nina, the Heartrender, sassy and brilliant; and Matthias, the ex-soldier, straight from prison. The way the characters develop and grow together is brilliant. They’re pretty diverse, which is another plus point, and they all mesh together really well; the
writing is really good, too. The first chapter is a little slow, but after that it goes straight into one of the best scenes in the book.

The one thing that annoyed me about Six of Crows is how the author tried to pair off all the characters into couples: what romance there was felt really forced and unnecessary, and the way the book ended has me kind of worried that the next book will focus too much on the characters’ relationships rather than the actual plot, which is what made this book shine. Apart from that, though, it was incredible!

 

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A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

This book is one of my new favourites—I love it, I love the concept and it’s executed beautifully.

It’s about an alternate universe where there are four parallel Londons and the protagonist, Kell, is one of the last two remaining magicians who can travel between them. He’s officially the ambassador of Red London, carrying correspondence between worlds, but unofficially he also smuggles items between worlds, and while in Grey London he ends up being given a stone that came from Black London: the dead world, the only world Kell’s never visited. He also encounters a girl, Lila, who is stubborn and amazing and one of my favorite characters ever—and Kell ends up bringing both the stone and Lila back to Red London. Chaos ensues and Kell and Lila travel across worlds, are nearly killed on several occasions, and somehow have to save the world (and themselves).

It sounds ridiculously cheesy but it’s so well written and by the end you’re incredibly invested in all the characters—even the antagonists are really well rounded as characters and the different Londons are so clearly differentiated between that it’s not confusing at all. I’ve reread this book countless times since I first read it and I would definitely recommend it to everyone! 

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The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

This book is really long but also really good.

It’s about Theo Decker, who loses his mom in a museum explosion when he’s thirteen: it’s about him after this happens, and a painting called the goldfinch (that actually exists in real life), and you’ll be hooked from the first few pages. You’d expect it to get boring quite quickly after what you’d assume to be the most climatic event in the book happens so soon, but the 800 pages are filled with very, very gripping writing.

It takes a while to read: there are lots of characters and lots of different sections and a fair amount of tragedy. Well, a more-than-fair amount of tragedy: Decker goes through a lot. You end up quite attached to him and all the supporting characters as well, because in a book that long you sort of get to know and love them…some of it is a little bit draggy but it’s minimal. Generally the whole thing was just wonderful, I loved it. Donna Tartt has really addictive writing and the book looks a bit daunting at first, but you just sort of fly through it once you get started.

It’s aimed at older readers, but I loved it – I’ve recommended it to basically everyone. This has definitely earned a spot on my favourites list!

 

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The Martian by Andy Weir

So, you probably know the movie for this book came out recently, and I’ve been meaning to go see it – I figured I’d buy and read the book first. It wasn’t really what I was expecting, but I enjoyed it anyway. (Most of the time.) (Some of the time?)

The plot, basically, revolves around how main character, astronaut Mark Watney gets left behind on Mars after being presumed dead because of a freak storm – he’s left alone and the book is about him trying to get home. It’s very science-y at times and some bits just went straight over my head but generally I liked the idea of it.

It could have been great, but the writing let it down…the premise is decent and it should have made for a fun read, but Watney is quite possibly the most horribly characterised fictional character I’ve ever come across. He’s totally one-dimensional and has the vocabulary of a thirteen-year-old boy, with a sense of humor to match. You’d think, being stuck on Mars, you’d end up having at least one moment of depression or just the slightest moment of unhappiness, but he’s so, so cheerful, and eventually all the “yay!”-ing got to me — since most of the book is written in the form of log entries, in first person, I ended up skipping several pages at a time to get to the good bits. Also, the final solution required a fair bit of imagination-stretching; still, that’s forgivable, it’s fiction. The writing was my main problem, but otherwise, it was mostly decent. I’m hoping the movie will be better, since we won’t have to deal with the awful first-person writing – reviews I’ve read say it’s good, so fingers crossed!

 

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The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

I’ve been told to read this by a number of people but I’ve been putting it off for ages, mostly because I read Stiefvater’s Shiver and absolutely loathed it. This, on the other hand, was fab, I adored it. I devoured it in a day or two and I”m now onto the sequel—it’s a series of four—which is, so far, just as wonderful as the first.

It’s about a girl called Blue Sargent and it’s set in a small town…Blue’s family are all psychics, with Blue herself as the only exception: instead, she sort of amplifies their powers. She’s fairly likeable, as main characters go, even though her name is a little weird. She’s been told that if she kisses her true love, he’ll die—so as a result, she’s decided she won’t kiss anyone, just in case. (To make things a little more interesting, she’s also told that this will be the year she meets said true love.) I loved the writing—it was almost lyrical, the flow was gorgeous. I also adored the characters—I know a bunch of people thought they were too weird etc., but I loved them.
The plot, sadly, unfolded at a snail’s pace. The book and the sheer sort of magic of the prose were enough to keep me reading quite happily, but it sort of felt like it was all setting the scene up for the next books in the series—there wasn’t actually much going on, just lots of character development and tons of filler. I still adored the book, though, and would definitely recommend it.

 

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Half Bad by Sally Green

I’m in two minds about this one.

On the one hand, the book was good enough to keep me reading until the end and it made me want to go out and buy the sequel, and it’s been a while since that happened. On the other hand…it’s been called the next Harry Potter, and I’ve got to say I disagree. Strongly.

It was compelling but not quite that good.

It’s about a sixteen-year-old boy called Nathan, and it’s a modern-witch story, and it was actually fairly interesting. I was cautious after hearing my friend say, “It’s not Half Bad, it’s all bad,” but it turned out to be okay.

Bad jokes aside…Nathan is basically half-white witch, half-black witch in a story world where white witches are good and black witches are evil. Nathan’s dad is basically the black witch, like, a crazy mass-murderer who incidentally went on to become my favorite character in the story, and Nathan’s being raised by his grandmother and living with his half-siblings. The first two-thirds of the book are quite boring: Nathan being a kid, Nathan being in a cage, Nathan with Annalise, his bland, goody-white-witch, intelligent-and-blonde love interest. Oh, how I loathed her and her lack of actual personality.

The last third was a lot better. There was Gabriel, my second favorite character – he’s literally just the greatest, I loved him. The whole Mercury plot line could have been a little stronger, since I felt Nathan had to chase about a billion more people than necessary to find her and her actual character turned out to be flat and anticlimactic.

It was in the present tense, mostly first person: I liked that about it, though I know lots of people don’t. A little bit was in second person…this has the potential to be a disaster if it’s not written properly, but I think it was done okay. Not spectacularly but not a train wreck.

I think that actually sums up the whole book, honestly: not spectacular, not a train wreck. Could be better, could be worse. It seemed to be aimed at like 12/13-year-olds – my mom actually bought it for my little brother to read – but I was fine reading it; and it was overall a pretty okay read. I read the sequel and I think the slight dull tone to this book is worth it, since the sequel is a dramatic improvement!

 

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Solitaire by Alice Oseman

My name is Tori Spring. I like to sleep and I like to blog. Last year – before all that stuff with Charlie and before I had to face the harsh realities of A-Levels and university applications and the fact that one day I really will have to start talking to people – I had friends. Things were very different, I guess, but that’s all over now.

Now there’s Solitaire. And Michael Holden.

I don’t know what Solitaire are trying to do, and I don’t care about Michael Holden. I really don’t.

This was quite irritating. The plot revolves around a cynical, somewhat annoying girl named Tori who seems to have a thing for complaining about every. single. thing.

It drove me mad, and I’m also an annoying teenager with a thing for complaining. (Just ask my parents.) She was whiny and pessimistic and it made me want to throw the book (or possibly Tori herself) across the room, ruining any potential it might have had plot-wise.

Speaking of the plot…it was a little all-over-the-place. The whole idea of Solitaire could have been quite interesting, but it wasn’t. It was dull. The book’s saving grace was Michael Holden – I loved him, he was fab – but the rest of it was quite sad: it could have been pretty good, actually, but it was   spoilt by irritating writing and killing plot points before they got interesting. I kept reading until the end, which I guess is positive, mostly because I was hoping that something interesting would happen; it didn’t. I quite liked the ending, though, it was wrapped up quite nicely.

Overall –  not my favorite book in the world, though it could have been a lot worse. If you’re hopelessly bored, go on and read it. It was very clearly aimed at teenagers, though for me, at least, it was very annoying to read.

 

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