In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying Halliday’s past to unlock the puzzles and win the ultimate prize. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

Ready Player One

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Ready Player One
Ernest Cline

Ready Player One was a welcome surprise after hearing so much hype about it. Between the world building and the mass of interesting characters I agree that it’s a fantastic read although it does have some issues. I’m usually hesitant about hyped books because what if I don’t like it? but Ready Player One is the kind of book you don’t have to think too much about if you don’t want to and it’s enjoyable to read.

For the first chapter, we’re introduced to Halliday’s Easter Egg Hunt. I especially loved the footnotes here explaining how the gunters were finding hints in each section of the video. The annotations immediately showed me that this quest has been really thought out by Halliday, the gunters and of course Cline himself. The whole set up was extremely detailed and I enjoyed how in depth it went.

All of the references to the 80’s obviously set up this book full of nostalgia. But it did feel slightly overwhelming at times. I was only born in the 90’s so a lot of the references I didn’t understand fully, although some are very prevalent and so I do know. This means that this book is going to age like crazy. It’s already slightly outdated now for the YA audience it’s supposed to be targeting. Ehich is why the film has less references than the book (please correct me if I’m wrong, I haven’t seen the film yet).

The world building is impressive. We have the real world but also a thorough understanding of the OASIS which is a digital world. The OASIS is made up of multiple places from multiple other video games, books, shows etc. So the world building sometimes isn’t Cline, but the way he stitches them all together to create the digital universe for players is brilliant.

The characters are okay. I found that the main focus was the world and quest, so the characters to me weren’t that memorable. I didn’t like the romance at all because Wade seems to be chasing the girl too much even when she tells him no. This is just too reminiscent of guys who often harass and follow you online and you can’t fully get rid of them. Which made the whole thing a little bit darker than what it was meant to be like.

POSITIVES

+ World Building

+ Nostalgia

NEGATIVES

– Overwhelming references

– Romantic plot felt creepy

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Javan has been at school for 10 years and is only just returning to his kingdom and father. Before he has the chance however, he miraculously survives assassination attempts only to find that an impostor is posing as him. When he tries to let the palace guards know, his uncle betrays him and he’s sent to Maqbara, the kingdom’s most dangerous prison. He must find a way out to save his father, out the impostor and save Akram from his uncles rule.

The Traitor Prince (Ravenspire, #3)

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The Traitor Prince
C. J. Redwine

The Traitor Prince read like a romance placed into a fantasy world. The main plot was so entwined with the romance plot that I am really surprised that it isn’t a main genre on goodreads for this book. I was disappointed. This is also the third book in a series that can be read as standalones. I have actually heard so many good things about the first two books, but if they are anything like this one, I probably wouldn’t be interested.

There were many magical creatures and fantasy elements within the book, but I felt like it didn’t merge with the plot as well as it could. This could have been a gladiator style arena with real world animals, and all humans and it would have read the exact same. There’s plenty of magical creatures but they’re literally fodder to be killed off after a paragraph. There’s mention of dark elves and fae, but we only meet one elf. And we rarely see actual magic happening. For a fantasy book this is so completely disappointing.

One of the good things is that the characters each have very individual motivations and reasons for what they do. Even the antagonist Rahim thinks through his plans in depth, and has a clear motivation to being the bad guy. There were however some secondary characters who were placed in the book purely to be part of our main characters motivations. There were a few deaths throughout, and I think too much emphasis was put on one death to push the story forward when it wasn’t necessary. I also think the main character, Javan, was a little bit too naive to not understand that something was wrong with his father. But that could also be because as a reader we are told he’s being poisoned and manipulated.

As a whole I found the book really dragged on. We spend approximately 80% off this book stuck in a prison. It’s not that interesting and that’s where all the romance stuff comes into play to make it interesting. We do see Javan ride across the dessert from his school at the beginning, and I was really disappointed that we didn’t get any adventure style road trip time. We literally got a ‘few weeks later he arrives’ and then he’s stuck. There’s clearly a lot of world building in the series of books, which was just hidden so much behind the dull and boring walls of the prison.

Overall the book just didn’t sit right for me, although I know it’s anticipated by a lot of people. Maybe the previous two books were a lot better settings and characters, but I did not enjoy this story for multiple reasons.

POSITIVES

+ Character motivations

+ Clear world building

NEGATIVES

– Naive MC

– Dragged on a bit

– Romance too much of a focus

– Lack of actual magic

I received The Traitor Prince by C. J. Redwine from the publisher via Edelweiss. This is an unbiased and honest review

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Petty criminal Zara Cole has a painful past that’s made her stronger than most, which is why she chose life in New Detroit instead moving with her family to Mars. In her eyes, living inside a dome isn’t much better than a prison cell. Still, when Zara commits a crime that has her running scared, jail might be exactly where she’s headed. Instead Zara is recruited into the Honors, an elite team of humans selected by the Leviathan—a race of sentient alien ships—to explore the outer reaches of the universe as their passengers. Zara seizes the chance to flee Earth’s dangers, but when she meets Nadim, the alien ship she’s assigned, Zara starts to feel at home for the first time. But nothing could have prepared her for the dark, ominous truths that lurk behind the alluring glitter of starlight.

Honor Among Thieves (The Honors, #1)

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Honor Among Thieves
Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre

This was a great re-introduction to Rachel Caine as I read the Morganville series when I was younger. Honor of Thieves has a really interesting and unique premise of there being living and sentient beings that can be used as spaceships. The world building was fantastic, we find out all about how Earth is looking in the future, there’s also a dome on Mars. My favourite part was when we went to a different planet and the foliage and ruins were just beautifully described.

We get two point of views, one is Zara, our main character and the other is Nadim, the Leviathan. We also get some reports and flashback style parts in between these POV’s which I personally didn’t like. They we scripts, or news articles and in my eArc copy, it didn’t work. But I am sure it will look a lot better on the actual books page, and would probably be easier to read.

Zara is you fairly typical tough girl main character, but where the characters really shine is when interacting with others. I loved the female frriendshi between Zara and Beatriz. They were two females stuck together on this ship and they really supported one another, and got everything they needed done. On the other hand, I disliked the relationship between Zara and Nadim. The way it was set up was that they have a bond, and this all felt very much like a romantic sub plot. This just felt really problematic for me because Nadim is the sole thing that is keeping Zara alive when in space. She’s completely dependent on him for every single human need, including water, food, and oxygen. There’s just a very unequal standing between them, and it felt really eerie when I was reading it.

Within the actual plot there are multiple ‘bad guys’ and you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen with them. This was really intriguing and was what kept me reading. Because the actually pacing wasn’t great. About 50% into the book, I still had no idea where we were heading. There wasn’t really a mission or objective for our characters, it was basically a tour of the galaxy kind of storyline. Which isn’t interesting unless something happens.  This book is clearly written as an introductory book to a series, it’s main focus is characters, world building and relationships. I think it has set up the series arc well, but it did fall a little bit flat on it’s own.

Overall I really enjoyed this sci-fi book and will happily be picking up the next book to see what happens.

POSITIVES

+ World building

+ Multiple villains

+ Female friendships

NEGATIVES

– Bond between Zara and Nadim

– An introductory book

I received Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre from the publisher via Edelweiss. This is an unbiased and honest review

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Determined to escape her old life,  Hallie packs up her life in England and heads to Paris. She falls in with the eclectic expat community as a bartender at the notorious Millie’s, located next to the Moulin Rouge. Here she meets Gabriela, a bartender who guides her through this strange nocturnal world, and begins to find a new family. But Millie’s is not all that it seems: a bird warns Hallie to get her feathers in order, a mysterious woman shows up claiming to be a chronometrist, and Gabriela is inexplicably unable to leave Paris. Then Hallie discovers a time portal located in the keg room. Over the next nine months, irate customers will be the least of her concerns, as she navigates time-faring through the city’s turbulent past and future, falling in love, and coming to terms with her own precarious sense of self.

Paris Adrift

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Paris Adrift
E.J. Swift

At first Paris Adrift is extremely difficult to understand. We are thrown straight into the time travel element as Leon is sent back in time to fix the timeline so there’s no war. There’s a lot of terminology which I eventually got my head around, but it was quite disorientating as you’re trying to figure everything out. For example time portals are called anomalies.

This books feels like a Parisian romance novel, and then a time travel plot has been shoe horned into it to make it a more marketable book. I personally felt that if the romance was removed or it was a purely platonic relationship, this book would have read a lot better. The romance aspects often slowed the pace right down as we’re shown Hallie being a girlfriend rather than working out what’s happening with the time portal. The actual time travel to the past wasn’t that interesting either. In 2017, it could have been a great coming of age style read as Hallie navigates Paris. But then she goes back in time and it falls apart. The problem with time travel as well is that at one point this book just mentions that Hallie goes to all these different times, and meets the same friend over and over again but we don’t actually see this. I’m at a loss as to why the author would spend time in a time travel book adding a unnecessary romance when she could be time travelling.

The places around France are ‘name-dropped’ a lot, which may be helpful for world building if you’re in Paris, but for someone who’s has limited knowledge, that world building needs to be done through the books text. I also thought that the characters took on the very stereotypical french smoker persona, which I found frustrating. It makes me wonder whether the author has extensive knowledge or limited stereotypical knowledge of the city. The  characters do seem to be one dimensional, so it could just be poor character writing as to why this stereotype is used.

By 70% into the book, I was really hoping it would just end. I was bored, I’m the kind of reader who will just finish a book because I’ve already spent X amount of time on it. Luckily it did pick up in the last 10% but by this point, people who DNF would have dropped it and it just showed the promise that this book had. This then highlighted even more how dull the rest of the book was. As beautiful as the cover is, and I’m sure so many people will cover buy this – it just wasn’t as good as it could have been, which left me feeling disappointed.

POSITIVES

+ Picks up in the last 10%

NEGATIVES

– Stereotypes

– Romance wasn’t needed

– One dimensional characters

I received Paris Adrift by E.J. Swift from the publisher via Netgalley. This is an unbiased and honest review

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Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the bad luck at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.” Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1)
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The Hazel Wood
Melissa Albert

In The Hazel Wood I absolutely loved the Hinterland. The idea of it, the characters that come from it, and the world building once we reach it. Everything about just kept me completely enthralled which was why I was happy I read through the first part of the book. Alice’s mother Ella has ensured she has no knowledge of the Hinterland or her grandmother, which means we spend a lot of time following Alice as she has to learn about them before she tracks The Hazel Wood down.

The Hazel Wood also made me extremely nostalgic for the fairy tales I grew up reading. The characters were quite dark and not the Disney versions of a tale at all, so getting out Grimm’s book may be my next step. I also thought it was a very different approach to including fairy stories into the real world. This isn’t some Once Upon a Time book and you don’t always get the perfect rounded happy ending at the end of a story.

We’re introduced to the Hinterland through Ellery Finch, a classic bookworm character. He’s wonderful, and helps Alice get to the Hazel Wood to find her mother. He uses his usefully unlimited bank account to fund the adventure as well. The best thing about Ellery Finch is that he’s completely set up as a love interest, but there’s no romance at all. They share hotel rooms, have car trips and go through hell together, but for once the two characters keep a platonic and wonderful friendship.

One of the main plot twists was pretty predictable and heavily hinted at throughout the book, so I don’t think it could really be called a plot twist? But it did make me want to continue reading it because of the consequences of the actions taken. The book was also written so well that it pulled you into the story. It was creepy and magical but also funny at times. One of my favourite descriptions by Alice was ‘They looked like Etsy jewelry on steroids’ which comes at a time of crisis for her. She just made the book seem so real.

Overall, I definitely think everyone should pick up this book and hopefully Melissa Albert will be writing some more novels soon.

POSITIVES

+ Hinterland world building

+ Nostalgic for childhood fairy tales

+ No romance

NEGATIVES

– A tad predictable

– Wish it had more set in the Hinterland

I received The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert from the publisher via Netgalley. This is an unbiased and honest review

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