Book review: “City of Ghosts” by Victoria Schwab

City of Ghosts

One of my main goals for BookCon 2018 was to meet one of my all-time favourite authors, Victoria Schwab. Sadly, I missed out on the opportunity to get my copy of new US Vicious signed by Victoria, but after standing in the line for an hour on the second day of the convention - I got an advanced reader’s copy of “City of Ghosts”. I was over the moon!

As a matter of fact, I have several vlogs on my YT channel from the BookCon this year.

I wanted to start “City of Ghosts” as soon as possible but didn’t want to rush into it either. So, I decided to pick City of Ghosts” for #ARCAugust challenge.

Synopsis

Cassidy Blake's parents are The Inspectres, a (somewhat inept) ghost-hunting team. But Cass herself can REALLY see ghosts. In fact, her best friend, Jacob, just happens to be one.

When The Inspectres head to ultra-haunted Edinburgh, Scotland, for their new TV show, Cass—and Jacob—come along. In Scotland, Cass is surrounded by ghosts, not all of them friendly. Then she meets Lara, a girl who can also see the dead. But Lara tells Cassidy that as an In-betweener, their job is to send ghosts permanently beyond the Veil. Cass isn't sure about her new mission, but she does know the sinister Red Raven haunting the city doesn't belong in her world. Cassidy's powers will draw her into an epic fight that stretches through the worlds of the living and the dead, in order to save herself.

Review

I could not wait to read “City of Ghosts”! I was very excited! I was, however, trying to be very mindful of the fact that not only I am reading an ARC, but it is also middle grade, so I can’t expect the same depth of world building and character development from “City of Ghost” as from some other Victoria’s books.

I was right. “City of Ghosts” is precisely what Victoria multiple times said, it was. It is the book that she wrote for her 12-year-old self. It is spooky and wonderful, and I kept thinking of Cassidy as Victoria in that age. It is a lovingly crafted narration set in Edinburgh, which is a special city for Victoria, and her current place of residence.

“City of Ghosts” is a fun read full of adorable characters and unexpected adventures. I adored this book. However, no matter how much it pains me to say this about Victoria’s work - this is not the best story she has written.

In her Instagram Stories, Victoria said that she saw some early readers complain that “City of Ghosts” is too simple or the plot is not layered enough, and she explained saying that middle-grade books do not have the same complexity as young adult or adult books because they simply can’t be. That is the whole point of the genre. I wholeheartedly agree.

I felt that “City of Ghosts” was written perfectly aligned with the target audience. It has just the right combination of fun and thrill that is so attractive to the younger audience. I did, however, expect more originality of the plot than there was. Even the title surprised me, as there are dozens of novels with the same title out there.

“City of Ghosts” has haunted places, travelling beyond the Veil and ghost friends. While reading this novel, I kept having a deja vu feeling. Some of the elements reminded me of Fantastic Five by Enid Blyton, some of Susan Cooper’s books (perhaps, due to the setting). Which resulted in me lowering the overall rating of the book.

The writing in the novel is excellent and very typical of Victoria’s style, even though the ARC I got started “uncorrected proof” on the cover. I was impressed by the lack of obvious mistakes. I did pre-order the final copy and received it the day after I finished the book. I am tempted to re-read it again. “City of Ghosts” is supposed to be a duology, so I can not wait to see what other adventure Cassidy and Jacob would get sucked into next.

Rating: 3.5

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Blog: ARC August TBR

ARC August Guess what I am doing in August? ?

A book blogger friend at Read.Sleep.Repeat is hosting an annual ARC August challenge, and I decided to participate! This means that in the month of August I have to try and read as many ARCs as I can. It is a great way to tackle some of those books that have been sitting on my shelf.

There will be a readathon on August 4-5, which I doubt I would be able to participate in since I will be in NYC, but I will try. There is also going to be a bookish bingo, that I am very excited about! And the best part - you can potentially win some bookish prizes!! ?

Use hashtag #ARCAugust on social media to track your progress and see how others are doing. (You can follow me @foxcloudsblog on Twitter and Instagram.)

Now, onto my ARC August TBR.

My main goal is to read a bunch of eARCs that I have sitting on my Kindle - and I have a lot of them. Some of them have been waiting to be read for months. (It is making me rather anxious.) But of course, I have physical ARCs on my TBR too.

My top priorities are "City of Ghosts" by Victoria Schwab, "The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein" by Kiersten White, and "Seafire" by Natalie C. Parker. The rest I will read if I have time. (I hope I will as I am very excited about all of these!)

*"The Unbinding of Mary Reade" is actually not an ARC. This is the final copy from the library, but I was sent an eARC of this book, I just didn't read it on time in June. ?

ARC August TBR

Aren't they all wonderful books? ?? Can't wait to start ARC August!

I will have an ARC August TBR video on my channel next week.

Cheers!

N.

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Book review: Everless (Everless #1) by Sara Holland

Everless  

This year has been rather generous on new young adult fantasy series. One of the early 2018 debut novels is Everless by Sara Holland. I saw this book pop up a lot on BookTube, which, naturally, attracted me to it. Everless came out in January, but I only finished it in summer, even though it was readily available at my library.

 

Synopsis

 

In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.

No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.

But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself.

 

Review

 

I read the first hundred pages or so of Everless almost in one go and then got stuck. The beginning was engaging and well written, however very quickly the book fell into the pit of tropes and cliches.

We have a female protagonist, Jules, who is repeatedly told not to go to the Gerlings’ estate by her father, but, naturally, it is the only way to help her father, and Jules goes against his wishes. Of course, there is more to the story: half-forgotten memories and old friendships. There is a crush that happens unexpectedly for Jules - but can be seen a mile away by the reader. There is an obvious love triangle, which includes a naive but well-wishing girl, a good boy, and an archetypical bad boy.

For some reason, the very beginning of Everless reminded me Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. Perhaps, it was the idea of a girl with unknown powers going to the very place she should avoid at all costs and working as a servant. Even a love triangle was similar. But, naturally, the plot was different.

You can imagine that with that type of a setting, I was rolling my eyes a lot. But I have little patience for cliches. I must say, however, that for a debut novel Sara Holland did an excellent job with creating the world and her writing style is light enough that the book flows well. It is an easy read which helped me finish it eventually.

The magic system of this world, which is connected directly to the society and economic structure, is what makes Everless stand out from other young adult fantasy novels. I liked the idea of blood being tied directly to years of life that could be turned into a coin and used to pay for things. It is a fascinating concept. Unfortunately, everything else in Everless was cliched.

I guess about the betrayal long before it happened. I knew who would turn out to be a villain. I did enjoy the experience of reading this book, though, so I plan on continuing with the series. My favourite part was when Jules explored an abandoned town and the scene with the Queen.

I think that overall for me Everless was more about the world building than characters or plot. I want to see more of that world developed and explored. I feel that the author has the potential of making this story much better. Everless may not be the book I would want to own, but I am looking forward to the sequel.

 

Rating: 3 stars

 

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Book review: Life Debt (Star Wars: Aftermath #2) by Chuck Wendig

Life Debt  

After finishing "Aftermath", I was very hooked with this trilogy and couldn’t wait to continue with "Life Debt". I did, however, take my time to listen to it as I had other books on the go.

 

Please, beware of spoilers below as it is book two in the trilogy.

Synopsis

 

The Emperor is dead, and the remnants of his former Empire are in retreat. As the New Republic fights to restore a lasting peace to the galaxy, some dare to imagine new beginnings and new destinies. For Han Solo, that means settling his last outstanding debt, by helping Chewbacca liberate the Wookiee's homeworld of Kashyyyk.

 

Meanwhile, Norra Wexley and her band of Imperial hunters pursue Grand Admiral Rae Sloane and the Empire's remaining leadership across the galaxy. Even as more and more officers are brought to justice, Sloane continues to elude the New Republic, and Norra fears Sloane may be searching for a means to save the crumbling Empire from oblivion. But the hunt for Sloane is cut short when Norra receives an urgent request from Princess Leia Organa. The attempt to liberate Kashyyyk has carried Han Solo, Chewbacca, and a band of smugglers into an ambush resulting in Chewie's capture and Han's disappearance.

 

Breaking away from their official mission and racing toward the Millennium Falcon's last known location, Norra and her crew prepare for any challenge that stands between them and their missing comrades. But they can't anticipate the true depth of the danger that awaits them or the ruthlessness of the enemy drawing them into his crosshairs.

 

Review

 

If you read my review of "Aftermath", you probably know how much I love Marc Thompson’s narration of this trilogy. He does a superb job of giving each character their voice. Even the secondary characters who appear in the intermissions. So, obviously, "Life Debt" was no exception.

 

Obviously, Sinjir is still my favourite. I was hoping for a solid love arc for him since Jas got a relationship with Jom (both of whom seem to deny it). Sinjir did get a “boyfriend”, Conder Kyl, but we had maybe one scene with the two of them (and he was never mentioned before that), and then he was mentioned maybe once more - and that was it. Nevertheless, Sinjir is the first gay character in Star Wars franchise, which is both very cool and disappointing (because seriously? No more queer characters? Seriously? None?).

 

***There was a moment in which Sloan was changing and her assistant Adea was there, and Adea blushed, which made me hope for some feelings between two women, but alas I was disappointed.***

 

I like Jas. She went through a lot of character development. Which is why I am very sad that I accidentally spoiled myself regarding something that happens in the final book and which would affect her. This is why you do not check Wikipedia for the series you have not finished!

 

Even Nora got an expected bit of romance. I liked the fact that her relationship with Temmin began to mend, even though I still don’t like Temmin much. He is really both hot-headed and naive. I may not be very fond of Nora, but the things Temmin does and says to her are mean.

 

Han Solo and Chewbacca’s friendship is the best portrayed in this book. I loved all the action on Kashyyyk - I think that was the strongest part of Life Debt as it both showed Solo’s and Chewie’s characters. And let me tell you - Marc Thompson does a great impersonation of Harrison Ford.

 

Part of the "Life Debt" plot revolves around Imperial Admiral Rae Sloane, and I found myself liking her more and more. She is strong-willed, focused, and tough, not to mention incredibly smart. I enjoy parts of the story with her, even though I do not understand her loyalty to the Empire.

 

I enjoyed "Life Debt" audiobook overall, but I still had the same issue with Life Debt as I had with Aftermath: some parts of the plot (like a fake betrayal by Jas) were way too flashy and not thoroughly thought through. We get thrust into a scene right in the middle of the action and have to scramble to understand what is going on and why this is important. And then we are fed information through exposition - telling us what had happened before this scene, instead of showing us. And I did not like that.

 

There were also two instances of audio editing mistakes. In one part of the book, Sloane was told to be alone in the street, but we could hear the voices in the background. And those noises did not change from when she was in the crowd and when she was alone in the street. Another instance was when there was an opera music play, and we are told specifically that it is the music and there are no words. But in the background, we can hear a singer singing, although the words are not distinguishable.

 

It may sound as if I am nitpicking, but considering how big Star Wars franchise is and how popular it is, they could have done a better job at editing.

 

Nevertheless, "Life Debt" was a lot of fun, and even though some of the plot twists were predictable, the narration and the joy of being in the world of Star Wars again made up for it.

 

Rating: 4 stars

 

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Book review: The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

The Wicker King  

I came across The Wicker King on Indigo website. I think it was among the new teen releases or something similar. I knew it was tagged as LGBTQ+ on GoodReads, and that is more than enough for me.

 

I got this book from the library, and I kept it on my shelf for awhile before I picked it up.

 

And oh my god.

Summary

 

The Wicker King is a psychological young adult thriller that follows two friends struggling as one spirals into madness.

 

When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.

 

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.

 

Review

 

I read The Wicker King in less than two days. I would have finished it in one go, if I had time. I picked it up because I was not feeling like reading anything and The Wicker King had such an appealing cover. Besides, I knew nobody else who read this book, and I was very intrigued.

 

Ten pages in, I was so hooked that I couldn’t put the book down.

 

The Wicker King is a hard book to describe as it should be approached more like an experience than the story. It is about two best friends, friendships and loves, relationships, and other worlds. It is a lot about trust, and faith, and abandonment.

 

The chapters in The Wicker King are short. Sometimes just a couple of pages. Sometimes - a paragraph. As the story progresses, the edges of the book get darker and darker - a visual representation of the darkness that is slowly swallowing August and Jack.

 

The synopsis calls The Wicker King a thriller, which is true in the sense that it does create the atmosphere of suspense and tension. However, I would call the novel a mix of contemporary and magical realism. The things that Jack sees and the things that both characters experience at times feel more real than the real world itself. I loved the writing and the characters in the book. You need to pay attention to chapter titles and the small bits here and there, that make the story so compelling, and a bit weird (but in a good way).

 

At times poetic and symbolic, at times outright scary - The Wicker King is a vortex that pulls readers into its depths, spinning heads and breaking hearts. I cried halfway into the book. I cried at the end. I cried because it was over and I was not ready to let August and Jack go.

 

I read the library book and then went and purchased my own copy. The Wicker King is undoubtedly going to be my favourite read of 2018.

 

The Wicker King novella

 

There is a novella set in the same world. It is titled The Legend of the Golden Raven, and it is free on Kindle. You have to read it after reading The Wicker King though, as it won’t make much sense otherwise, and you will get so much more emotions if you read the novella afterwards. I gave the novella the same rating as The Wicker King.

 

I refuse to believe that this is the only book and there is no sequel.

 

Kayla Ancrum has instantly become my auto-buy author. Her next novel, The Weight of the Stars, is coming out in March 2019 (although initially it was listed as October 2018).

 

I can not wait to see what this author comes up with next.

 

Rating: 5 stars

 

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#SHReads18 - In Which Order to Read Sherlock Holmes Stories?

When I started thinking of writing this post, I didn’t even suspect that there might be different ways of reading Sherlock Holmes stories. Naturally, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was rather prolific, in spite of his developed frustration with the character that brought him fame, but it never occured to me that somebody could read the stores not in the publicated order - because it was the way I read them as a child.

I don’t remember how I was introduced to Sherlock Holmes stories. They seem, just like The Three Musketeers (although with that book I do remember the first time I read it), to always have been in my life. I think that it might have been my grandfather who introduced me to Sherlock Holmes. Or perhaps, I watched the tv show first. I honestly can not recall.

However, I do remember always reading the stories by starting with A Study in Scarlet.

Here is the list of all stories in chronological order by the publication date (taken from Baker Street Wiki):

  • 1887: A Study in Scarlet
  • 1890: The Sign of the Four
  • July 1891 to December 1892: Stories that would make up The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes published in The Strand magazine
  • December 1892 to November 1893: Stories that would make up The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes published in The Strand
  • 1901-2 (serial): The Hound of the Baskervilles
  • October 1903 to January 1905: Stories that would make up The Return of Sherlock Holmes published in The Strand
  • 1908–1913, 1917: Stories that would make up His Last Bow (short stories) published.
  • 1914-15: The Valley of Fear
  • 1921–1927: Stories that would become The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes published.

After looking into some forums and discussions and thinking about it, I was surprised to see that many people suggest skipping A Study in Scarlet, as it is the first story written by Doyle and therefore not as polished and a bit too long, and just dive into The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and then The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

Well, personally, I would not skip A Study in Scarlet, no matter how boring it is, as it introduces the main characters to us and just like the first episode of many Sherlock Holmes adaptations - you don’t want to miss that.

So, in honour of January being a Sherlock Holmes reading month and the read-a-long #SHReads18, I decided to introduce you to my favourite reading order of all Sherlock Holmes stories. I am participating in this January event, however, I have a bigger goal in mind. One of my reading challenges for 2018 is to re-read all of Sherlock Holmes stories and for that I am listening to them as audiobooks - the complete collection of stories read by Stephen Fry (one of my most favourite narrators)! The complete collection is an exclusive production by Audible and was released last year.

As I am writing this, I have already listened to A Study in Scarlet and started on The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Follow me on GoodReads, if you want to follow me on my epic re-read :)

There is no right or wrong way to read the stories - besides Doyle himself sometimes messed up facts and dates. However, The Final Problem and The Empty House have to be read together as they are tied in plot. Save The Hound of the Baskervilles for the last, as it is pretty good.

Here is my reading order, in which I will be doing this:

I. A Study in Scarlet (novel, 1887)
II. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
  • The Red-headed League, 1891
  • A Case of Identity, 1891
  • The Boscombe Valley Mystery, 1891
  • The Five Orange Pips, 1891
  • The Man with the Twisted Lip, 1891
  • The Blue Carbuncle, 1892
  • The Speckled Band, 1892
  • The Engineer's Thumb, 1892
  • The Noble Bachelor, 1892
  • The Beryl Coronet, 1892
  • The Copper Beeches, 1892
  • A Scandal in Bohemia, 1891 (I plan to read this story the last in the book)
III. The Sign of the Four (novel, 1890)

IV. The Valley of Fear (novel, 1914-15)

(or read this novel between the stories from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, but before The Final Problem)

V. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
  • Silver Blaze, 1892
  • The Yellow Face, 1893
  • The Stock-broker's Clerk, 1893
  • The 'Gloria Scott', 1893
  • The Musgrave Ritual, 1893
  • The Reigate Squires, 1893
  • The Crooked Man, 1893
  • The Resident Patient, 1893
  • The Greek Interpreter, 1893
  • The Naval Treaty, 1893
  • The Final Problem, 1893
VI. The Return of Sherlock Holmes
  • The Empty House, 1903
  • The Norwood Builder, 1903
  • The Dancing Men, 1903
  • The Solitary Cyclist, 1903
  • The Priory School, 1904
  • Black Peter, 1904
  • Charles Augustus Milverton, 1904
  • The Six Napoleons, 1904
  • The Three Students, 1904
  • The Golden Pince-Nez, 1904
  • The Missing Three-Quarter, 1904
  • The Abbey Grange, 1904
  • The Second Stain, 1904
VII. The Hound of the Baskervilles (novel, 1901-02)
VIII. The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
  • The Illustrious Client, 1924
  • The Blanched Soldier, 1926
  • The Mazarin Stone, 1921
  • The Three Gables, 1926
  • The Sussex Vampire, 1924
  • The Three Garridebs, 1924
  • Thor Bridge, 1922
  • The Creeping Man, 1923
  • The Lion's Mane, 1926
  • The Veiled Lodger, 1927
  • Shoscombe Old Place, 1927
  • The Retired Colourman, 1926
 IX. His Last Bow
  • Wisteria Lodge, 1908
  • The Cardboard Box, 1893
  • The Red Circle, 1911
  • The Bruce-Partington Plans, 1908
  • The Dying Detective, 1913
  • Lady Frances Carfax, 1911
  • The Devil's Foot, 1910
  • His Last Bow, 1917

It is not, by any means, a strict reading order. I might mix things as I go, but if you are new to Sherlock Holmes stories or haven’t had a chance to read them all - I hope you find my little guide handy.

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My 2018 Reading & Blogging Goals

Book Shelf  

December came and went in such a quick flash that it took me by surprise. I, unsurprisingly, failed at Blogmas. But now I am ready to revive my blog once again. And what can be better but reading & blogging goals?

 

In 2017, my reading/theatre goals were simple:

 

  • read 100 books (GoodReads challenge) - which I did
  • watch 10 theatre plays - I watched 24 and will talk about them later
  • listen to 20 audiobooks - I came close but didn’t hit 20

 

I also wanted to read one book in French and one book in German, and I didn’t even come close to doing that. So, I am going to try again in 2018.

I am mostly satisfied with 2017 as my reading year, although I read a lot of short fiction but not enough solid novels, and most of them were Young Adult. Plus, I purchased way more books than I read, so in 2018 I decided to additionally challenge myself.

 

My reading goals:

 

  • read 100 books (GoodReads challenge)
  • listen to 20 audiobooks
  • read 20 plays/scripts
  • read 1 book in German
  • read 1 book in French
  • read 30 adult books
  • participate in 1 read-a-thon

 

I set additional reading challenges for myself as my goal this year to seriously dig into the books I own and either read them and unhaul them or donate them.

 

Reading challenges:

 

  • Read 5 books owned for 1 new book purchased
  • Read 1 Kindle book for 1 Kindle book purchased
  • Read all plays owned
  • Listen to 10 audiobooks in my Audible library
  • Reduce “to be read” on GR
  • Reduce “on hold” on GR
  • Reduce holds at the library
  • Unhaul minimum 50 books
  • Read 10 book released in 2017
  • Read 10 books released in 2018
  • Finish 5 trilogies/series
  • Read all manga/graphic novels owned
  • Re-read all of Sherlock Holmes stories
  • Re-read The Three Musketeers
  • Re-read Katherine Kurtz books (at least the first trilogy)
  • Re-read Lynn Flewelling books (at least the first duology)

 

Additionally, I aim to:

  • watch 20 plays
  • watch movies at TIFF 2018

 

Blogging goals:

 

  • review every book I read (blog and/or GR)
  • review all plays I watch on my blog
  • review all movies I watch at TIFF
  • post on my blog every Tuesday & Friday
  • post videos every Wednesday & Sunday on my YT
  • reach 500 subscribers on YT
  • participate in 1 vlog-a-thon (like Vlogmas)
  • post more art journal and planner related post on my blog

 

I am very satisfied with my goals. I feel that they all I fairly achievable. I struggle the most with maintaining my schedule as my work and life sometimes get in the way of blogging, but I am willing to make a conscientious effort to get better at it. I am making this post for the record and to keep myself accountable ?

 

Cheers!

 

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BLOGMAS 2017 ANNOUNCEMENT

Blogmas 2017 While filming NaNoWriMo vlogs (and failing at it), I had an idea to do Vlogmas. But then I realized that I simply had no time to accomplish something like that. While googling vlogmas ideas, I came across the term blogmas. Which essentially means the same thing but posting on a text blog, not YouTube channel.

Bingo!

Writing and scheduling blogs ahead is way easier and more doable with my fulltime job than vlogging every single day. Plus, this will give me an opportunity to catch up with some of my long overdue reviews and do wrap-ups for this year and recommendations.

I have already written down approximately 25 topic ideas. My Blogmas will be mostly book related, but I will also do some theatre and stationery posts.

I am excited, are you? Anyone else doing it?

(The image was doodled by me in Procreate app on iPad using Apple Pencil. I can't draw.)

Book review: Blood of Wonderland (Queen of Hearts Saga, #2) by Colleen Oakes

Fairy tales retellings seem to still be on the rise these days. Initially, I was excited when I picked up “Queen of Hearts”, book one, last year. I saw it in a bookstore and it seemed fairly short, so I got a copy from the library.

This trilogy is a YA fantasy story about Dinah, the princess of Wonderland and the future Queen of Hearts. Everything that happens to her due to the cruelty of her father, King of Hearts, and other circumstances leads to her becoming the Queen of Hearts that we know from Alice in Wonderland. I was excited about the idea of the plot, but, unfortunately, I was left being hugely disappointed by the writing and narrative. The only saving grace of book one was that it was an incredibly easy read. So easy that, in fact, I kept thinking that it should have been made into a middle grade novel.

I was rather critical of book one in my video review. I gave the book only 2 stars on GoodReads, and even that was probably too generous. I, honestly, had no interest in continuing the series. But I still ended up picking book two from the library as it became available, because I wanted to see if I was right about Cheshire or not.

And I was right. Which both delighted and disappointed me - delighted because I was right and disappointed because I expected more complexity from the plot.

Overall, I think that book two is slightly better than book one. Perhaps, because the beginning of book one, in which we were basically explained nothing about King of Hearts or why he treated Dinah the way he did, had a very jerky narrative. Book two does give us more backstory for Dinah and her parents, but it was still weakly written and even big revelations miss the grandeur or plausibility. I think the weak plot and lack of character development is what really putting me off this series. Besides the author tends to jump forward in time only to recapture the past events through characters’ musings or thoughts a lot. I am sorry, but it is just pure laziness. Sometimes it can work pretty well as a stylistic device, but when one third of the book is devoted to meaningless wandering through woods and descriptions of flora and fauna, while the meaningful chunk of politics is dropped - that is just a bit not good.

After finishing book two, I think I would still be interested in reading the final novel, which is coming out later this year (the release dates of the novels got me thinking that the books were rushed and not edited properly, as book three is coming out the same year as book two), only to see if my ideas about the plot would be proven. Even the romance between Dinah and Wardley is pathetic. Moreso, the reason for their separation. I personally think that the only logical explanation (and I am sorry if it is a spoiler) of Wardley’s (choice of) words is that he is gay, and in this case Dinah is coming off as a slightly homophobic. Am I reading too much into it? Perhaps. But else am I left to do when the characters behave illogically, the author fails to show us things and the plot itself has more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese!

My overall rating for book two is 2.5 stars. Giving the author half a star for at least trying to fix some gaps created by book one. Not surprised but still disappointed. I really wanted a good retelling set in Wonderland.

Personal rating: 2.5 stars