Month of Reads… MAY

This is a new idea I’m trying out for my blog, which I’ve called, Month of Reads.  I thought I’d give you short and sweet reviews of books I’ve read over the last month and hopefully, I’ll remember to update it around the same time next month.

WARNING – you may see a lot of  Fantasy, YA and Sci-Fi in the list!

Image   Smuggler’s KissMarie-Louise Jenson.

Genre – YA, historic

Plot: It’s not a crime to steal a heart

Smugglers are cut-throat rascals. At least that’s what Isabelle’s always been told. But when she’s rescued from drowning at sea by the crew of a notorious smuggling ship, her principles are thrown into confusion. Outwitting the king’s men fills her with excitement, especially when she’s with one mysterious smuggler in particular . . .

Review: I found this book quite by accident after buying another book.  After reading this and a couple other of Jenson’s books, I admit to becoming a fan.  Jenson’s easy style translates well and it’s easy to see she’s done a lot of research into her characters, place, time and period detail.  The development of the main protagonist comes about as one would hope reading a historical coming-of-age book – Isabelle is spoiled, hot-headed, but completely likeable, despite her general ignorance.  But her development to being more understanding, braver and less whingey, comes about through strife, misunderstandings as well as hints of romance.  There’s plenty of adventure and like all excellent books, you’re a little sad to part from it.

Rating – An easy 5 out of 5

Image   Grave MercyR.L LaFevers

Genre: Historic, Fantasy, YA

Plot: Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

Review: As soon as I read the plot summary, I was like, ‘sounds like my kind of book’ and my gut-feeling was correct!  It is the first book in the His Fair Assassin ­series and since I’ve read this, I have gone on to read its terrific sequel, Dark Triumph.

Although LaFevers’ MC, Ismae is initially a distraught character, she is also very strong.  This is seen in her acceptance of the Order and the will of St Mortain.  However, what I loved about the book is the de-construction of everything is knows as she begins to follow her heart and not just what she is told to accept and do.  Great characters and loads of intrigue.  Only minor hiccup in the beginning was the startling resemblance to the start of Jacqueline Carey’s novel, Cushiel’s Dart, but I soon realised the books are different.  A thoroughly enjoyable read, especially if you like intrigues, twists and turns and hints of romance.

Rating:  A strong 5 out of 5

Image  Fire and ThornsRae Carson (known also as, The Girl of Fire and Thorns)

Genre – Fantasy

Plot: Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.
And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.
Most of the chosen do.

Review: This was another book I found by accident.  I liked the look of it and the blurb was intriguing enough.  In fairness, it took me a little time to warm to the MC, Elisa, who was crippled with self-doubt, a voracious appetite and a lazy attitude.  But as the plot thickens and Elisa begins to discover some self-worth, you warm to her.  A lot happens in this book, intrigues, adventure and of course, what book can go wrong with sprinklings of romance?  It’s a well written fare, with a mixture of irritating and endearing characters.  Also a lot of world building – and unique settings, running from desert, to jungle, to a land that felt slightly as though it was set in Death Valley (or maybe that was just how I imagined it!) Parts of the novel were quite sad too.  Overall a good, entertaining read and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Rating:  A solid 4 out of 5

Image    After the Ending Lindsey Fairleigh & Lindsey Pogue

Genre: Post Apocalyptic

Plot:  When people started getting sick, “they” thought it was just the flu. My roommate, my boyfriend, my family…they’re all gone now. I got sick too. I should have died with them—with the rest of the world—but I didn’t. I thought witnessing the human population almost disappear off the face of the earth was the craziest thing I’d ever experience. I was so wrong. My name is Dani O’Connor, I’m twenty-six-years-old, and I survived The Ending.

The Virus changed everything. The world I knew is gone, and life is backwards. We’ve all had to start over. I’ve been stripped of my home, my dreams…all that is me. I’m someone else now—broken and changed. Other survivors’ memories and emotions haunt me. They invade my mind until I can no longer separate them from my own. I won’t let them consume me. I can’t. My name is Zoe Cartwright, I’m twenty-six-years-old, and I survived The Ending.

We’ve been inseparable for most of our lives, and now our friendship is all we have left. The aftermath of the Virus has stranded us on opposite sides of the United States. Trusting strangers, making sacrifices, killing—we’ll do anything to reach one another. Fear and pain may be unavoidable, but we’re strong…we’re survivors. But to continue surviving in this unfamiliar world plagued by Crazies and strange new abilities, we have to adapt. We have to evolve.

And more than anything, we have to find each other.

Review:  Yes, the plot is long, however, it had me intrigued and I do admit to being a bit of a sucker when it comes to post-apocalyptic works.  The first few pages weren’t all that bad either, but as I read on, I became more and more disillusioned with this disappointing book.  Part of me feels the best part of the book was written in the plot.  The book doesn’t hold any true horror of what one might imagine if a Virus has decimated most of the world’s population.  It’s written in a passing thought kind of way.  I feel the book is truly a chick-lit novel, thinly disguised beneath the sci-fi, post-apocalyptic tag.  I found the characters vapid and shallow and I’m generally fairly easy to please.  It is written from the POV of two women that go on more about their desire for the man next to them than the horror of their situation, whilst keeping in contact via e-mail.   SO disappointed this unrealistic book didn’t live up to my expectations.

A very sad 1 out of 5 (And I feel bad writing this review…)

Image  The 5th WaveRick Yancy

Genre: Sci-Fi, Post Apocalyptic, YA

Plot: The Passage meets Ender’s Game in an epic new series from award-winning author Rick Yancey.

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

Review:  This is more like it!  This post-apocalyptic book from Yancey is what I imagine a good, clever and twisty ‘end-of-worlder’ to be.  It is written from the POV’s of a few of the characters, but mainly through the resourceful and brave Cassie, who is trying to save her younger brother, and the determined and disillusioned Zombie (Ben).  It’s clever, action packed and full of flawed, but progressive characters.  There’s plenty of twists and chapter cliff hangers and I enjoyed the way the characters became entwined as the book ventures on.  There are some fairly dark questions and at times it’s hard to tell the bad-invading aliens from the humans.  Far more clever, realistic and entertaining than the previous review.

Rating: A very happy 4 out of 5


2 responses to “Month of Reads… MAY

  1. I love your reviewing style, Gillian. Short and sweet, as you say, and honest. You write better reviews than a lot of full-time reviewers who write two line gushers. I look forward to reading more. May’s not over yet!

    • Thanks Jane. Have to be honest (again) and say I hate giving bad reviews, but not all books are to our taste or what we expected them to be. I guess I should put a disclaimer there to say that all reviews are my own opinion too…

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