Sunday, 25 November 2018

Blog Tour: Shadow of the Fox - Julie Kagawa

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa, published by HarperCollins on 1st November 2018

Goodreads synopsis:
A single wish will spark a new dawn. Every millennium, one age ends and another age dawns...and whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers holds the power to call the great Kami Dragon from the sea and ask for any one wish. The time is near and the missing pieces of the scroll will be sought throughout the land of Iwagoto. The holder of the first piece is a humble, unknown peasant girl with a dangerous secret. Demons have burned the temple Yumeko was raised in to the ground, killing everyone within, including the master who trained her to both use and hide her kitsune powers. Yumeko escapes with the temple's greatest treasure - one part of the ancient scroll. Fate thrusts her into the path of a mysterious samurai, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan. Yumeko knows he seeks what she has and is under orders to kill anything and anyone who stands between him and the scroll.

Julie Kagawa is one of my favourite YA authors of paranormal/fantasy. She's someone whose books I always look forward to reading and she's a familiar name on my auto-buy list. Although I find her a phenomenal writer, just occasionally I've been a bit love/hate with her. I absolutely adored the Talon and Blood of Eden series but I wasn't such a fan of the Iron Fey books, which is a shame because I know a lot of people love them. I was unbelievably excited about reading 'Shadow of the Fox' but I could tell after the first few chapters that this wasn't going to be a hit with me. It's hard to put my finger on exactly why but I think I found the Japanese mythology too overwhelming and complicated. The world building was so hard to follow that it meant I lost my connection to the characters and their destinies. I had to keep going back to read parts again because I couldn't always work out what was happening or how everything linked together. For instance, the first chapter threw me completely because it didn't seem to have any relation to the story that followed. I found it bewildering and an odd opening to the story, although later on in the book, it did admittedly slot into place.

The characters are extremely unusual. Yumeko is a kitsue - part human and part fox. Kage Tatsumi is a samurai, deadly and dangerous. The two are brought together when their paths cross, involving the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers - an ancient artefact which is being hunted by many of the people in the book. The big problem I had was that I didn't particularly care for either Yumeko or Tatsumi. Yumeko was intriguing in the beginning but then she became a bit one-dimensional and was far too quick to fall under the spell of Tatsumi, rather than standing on her own two feet. I wanted to see her be more independent and develop over the course of the novel, which just didn't happen.

The pace of the novel was very slow and I found the plot oddly disjointed. I ended up putting the book down for several days, before starting it again, which isn't normally my style of reading. If I'm enjoying a book then I like to devour it in one sitting. I'm afraid 'Shadow of the Fox' just didn't excite me or keep me hooked in the way that some of Julie Kagawa's other series have. I desperately wanted to love it but found little to entice me into wanting to continue with the rest of the series.

Check out the rest of the blog tour stops for 'Shadow of the Fox'.


Saturday, 17 November 2018

Review: Genuine Fraud - E. Lockhart

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart, published by Hot Key Books on 31st May 2018

Goodreads synopsis:
Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.  

Deceptive and deliciously dark and twisty, this is a fiendishly good YA psychological thriller.

The story focuses on two friends - Julie and Imogen.  Imogen is an adopted child and an heiress. She's gifted with everything she could ever want. Used to having everyone fall at her feet and fawn over her, she has never had to struggle for anything. Julie is her opposite. She's had to become tough. She's survived on her own and is a fighter but after so long trying to become something more, she finally sees another way forward.

The timeline for this book is so clever. It skips around a lot between 2016 and 2017 and the story almost unfolds backwards. My advice to you is don't trust everything you read because appearances can be deceptive and E. Lockhart has thrown in so many brilliant twists that you are constantly kept on your toes. The locations change too, with the story moving from Mexico, to New York, to San Francisco. It's important to try to keep track of the place and time because this helps when all the puzzle pieces begin to fall into place.

This was a blisteringly good read. I definitely loved it more than 'We Were Liars' and I've been recommending it to everyone ever since. I'm almost jealous of anyone getting to read this for the first time because it's so clever and unique that reading it is such an immensely enjoyable experience.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Review: Glass Town Wars - Celia Rees

Glass Town Wars by Celia Rees, published by Pushkin Press on 1st November 2018

Goodreads synopsis:
Tom and Augusta are from different places and different times, but they meet in the virtual world to combine forces in battle, to save a kingdom, escape a web of deceit and to find love. In a place where fictions can be truths and truths fictions, learning who to trust is more than friendship, it is about about survival.

'Glass Town Wars' is Celia Rees first YA novel for over 6 years. She returns with an imaginative and inventive tale which is inspired by the early writings of the Bronte siblings.

The plot focuses on a boy called Tom who is in hospital in a coma. Cut off from the real world, Tom's friend Milo makes him a test guinea pig for a new virtual reality gaming device that draws him into a dizzying world, far from the one he lives in. Tom meets Augusta who is fighting to save her kingdom and becomes part of the on-going battle. The story switches between this world and that of London in the present time, where his family and friends are desperately trying to bring him back, meshing together imagination and reality.

I enjoyed parts of this book but I found other bits confusing and I wasn't entirely sure I understood everything that happened or the meaning behind certain events in the story. It was incredibly unique and had such an interesting concept but some of it didn't make any sense to me. It's definitely an ingenious idea to take the fictitious world written about by Emily Bronte and co and bring it alive on the page. Rees embellishes it with her own flourishes and gives it a beating heart which draws the reader in. However, although I find the Bronte juvenilia fascinating, I'm not entirely sure the novel as a whole worked.

At times it was very slow and it also took me quite a while to get into the story. I kept having to go back to read sections again and even then I felt like I was missing something that would have helped everything click into place. I actually enjoyed more, the parts of the book that were set in the hospital, rather than in the virtual world, where Tom is being read 'Wuthering Heights' by another character called Lucy, who is trying to bring him out of his coma.

The book itself felt very experimental and although I wanted to love it because it combines Celia Rees and the Brontes, it ended up falling short of my expectations.         

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Review: Girls of Paper and Fire - Natasha Ngan

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan, published by Hodder and Stoughton on 6th November 2018

Goodreads synopsis:
Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it's Lei they're after--the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king's interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king's consort. But Lei isn't content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable--she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she's willing to go for justice and revenge.

I went into this book not knowing what to expect at all. I loved Natasha Ngan's previous book 'The Elites', so that was my main reason for picking this one up. I was absolutely blown away by it. It was a sensational read that I couldn't be prised away from. It was original, unique, enchanting and one of the best books that I've read this year.

It's described as having similarities to 'Memoirs of a Geisha' which is a book that I love. I can see why comparisons have been drawn, as both stories focus on the lives of concubines. However, 'Girls of Paper and Fire' veers away from historical fiction and instead goes down the path of being an exquisite fantasy. It's beautifully written and was such a joy to read that I now want to press a copy into the hands of everyone I know.

The main character Lei is a member of the Paper caste. At the beginning of the story, she is taken to the Demon King to become one of his concubines, along with eight other girls. Along with Paper, there is also Steel and Moon. These two castes are different because Steel is a mixture of human and demon with animal characteristics and Moon is demon animals. Each are afforded differing statuses in the Kingdom with Paper being considered the lowliest. It took a while to get used to people being half-animal but after a while, I adjusted to this and found the unusual mixture of characters fascinating.

Lei was a wonderful character who is devoted to her family and believes that she is protecting them by being in the King's possession. She bonds with the other girls and they almost become a second family of sorts. However, although they are all in the same situation, they react differently to their roles and some see it almost as a rivalry. I enjoyed getting to know all of the girls and seeing how Lei's relationship with them evolves throughout the course of the book. Ngan also does a brilliant job of creating a female romance which I truly believed in. It develops gradually and is wonderfully real in its depiction of a love which burns slowly but brightly.  

There are some truly shocking moments in the book and it does touch on powerful themes, such as female oppression, rape and assault. However, these are sensitively written about and aren't just there to be sensationalist. It's a brutal world but one in which true love can still flourish.

Definitely a five star read and one for which I will be eagerly awaiting the follow-up.
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