Monday, 31 August 2015

'Lumiere' by Jacqueline Garlick

Book details

Series: The Illumination Paradox, #1
Genre: YA Steampunk
Publisher: Amazemo Books


One determined girl. One resourceful boy. One miracle machine that could destroy everything.

After an unexplained flash shatters her world, seventeen-year-old Eyelet Elsworth sets out to find the Illuminator, her father’s prized invention. With it, she hopes to cure herself of her debilitating seizures before Professor Smrt—her father’s arch nemesis—discovers her secret and locks her away in an asylum.

Pursued by Smrt, Eyelet locates the Illuminator only to see it whisked away. She follows the thief into the world of the unknown, compelled not only by her quest but by the allure of the stranger—Urlick Babbit—who harbors secrets of his own.

Together, they endure deadly Vapours and criminal-infested woods in pursuit of the same prize, only to discover the miracle machine they hoped would solve their problems may in fact be their biggest problem of all.


I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way influenced my opinion on the novel or its author.

I’ve never really dared to delve into the steampunk genre before. Honestly, the idea of a world partially submerged in history but containing futuristic elements made me feel a little uncomfortable at first. I imagined authors approaching historical fiction with a dystopian attitude and clumsily altering the past until it became a huge mess of puzzle pieces that didn’t fit together.

After finishing Lumiere, I want to read nothing but YA steampunk.

I don’t know if it was Garlick’s hardcore characters or her attention to detail in plotting one of the most intricate stories I’ve ever come across that made my heart seize up at several points in her novel. She doesn’t waste time with convention – her story is unique and confident in its approach, and executed with style and poise.

A particularly powerful aspect of Garlick's novel is the nonchalance with which she allowed her misfit characters to shine. Each person is marked by some or other imperfection that forces them onto the outskirts of society, and yet not once do any of them become slaves to their hardships. Eyelet and Urlick are two of the most powerful protagonists I’ve ever come across: they are highly intelligent, independent, determined and downright brilliant. Nothing can hold them back – not even Eyelet’s seizures or Urlick’s insecurity about his appearance. Furthermore, Garlick’s secondary characters were just as moving as her two protagonists. Iris, especially, dodged every stereotype assigned to a character in her role – she was selfless and loyal, but also stubborn and fierce.

Although the romantic feature of Lumiere wasn’t heart stopping, I found that it neither detracted from nor added much to the novel, which was actually a nice change. Too often, an author will fixate on a romantic relationship, and the story will revolve around the couple’s love for each other. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there’s a point where one has to wonder how much more meaningful the story would be if the fate of a dystopian world didn’t rely on the destiny of two people. It gets tiresome. Whilst understated, Garlick’s romance was far more realistic. The couple worked together to save the world, but the fate of the world didn’t depend on their love for each other (if that makes any sense at all).

Lumiere is an enthralling novel, and I can’t wait to read Garlick’s next installment.

Rating: 4/5
Recommended to: Lovers of kickass heroines and beautiful storylines.

The Last Word

I fell in love with the cover of this novel, and the storyline lived up to my skyscraper expectations. I’m holding back the last star because I feel that the pacing of the novel wasn’t fantastic – lightning-fast scenes made me dizzy with excitement (in a good way), but then they were interspersed with passages that moved soooo slllooowwwlllyyy that I had to consciously force myself not to fall into the habit of skimming. That was a minor thing, though, and maybe it was just because I was so addicted to the rush I got in Garlick’s climactic scenes that the calmer scenes seemed slower than they actually were.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

'A Court of Thorns and Roses' by Sarah J. Maas

Book details

Genre: YA Fantasy (with a few New Adult elements)
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 9781408857861


A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it... or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!


I’m struggling to find words that will accurately describe the sheer extent to which this novel destroyed me. I'm broken inside. But I loved it. I love Sarah J. Maas, and I love everything about her writing – her characters, her fantasy worlds, her enthralling stories. Honestly, although I’ve read a few negative reviews, I cannot find a single fault with A Court of Thorns and Roses.

Perhaps this is because I didn’t enter Maas’s world expecting to read the perfect retelling of Beauty and the Beast – in fact, I almost forgot that it was supposed to be a retelling until I was about a third of the way through. Maas loosely winds some elements of the classic tale into her own storyline, but she’s warped and altered it so much that it is now entirely her own. Strangely enough, that makes her novel even more appealing to me – I have more interest in reading a unique tale with subtle recognizable elements than a book relying on the exact framework of the classic story.

One thing I do have to shine the spotlight on is Maas’s characterization. Sometimes I wonder if the reason that her novels seem to surpass all other fantasy works is because her heroines are not only kickass, but entirely human in their flaws and emotions. It’s magical how characters like Celaena and Fayre will stay in my mind for ages after I’ve finished reading their stories. I want these women in real life, and I kinda want to be them, too. (Also, hello Tamlin. Please magically materialise into my life right now.)

A Court of Thorns and Roses is one of the best fantasy novels I’ve ever read. It ruined me. I fell in love with its smooth, lyrical words and the way it moved. Then it ripped a hole in my chest and tore out my heart, lighting it on fire and grinding it to dust before grinning sheepishly and running away. 

Rating: 5/5
Recommended to: Fans of Throne of Glass and George R. R. Martin.

The Last Word

These are my reactions throughout the novel, expressed in gifs, because nothing else will accurately portray my emotions.

Buying the book:

Reading the first page:





Towards the end:

The actual end:

Realising the sequel comes out in MAY:

Monday, 24 August 2015

'The Illusionists' by Rosie Thomas

Book details

Genre: Fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins
ISBN: 9780007512041


From the bestselling author of the phenomenally successful The Kashmir Shawl

London, 1885
As a turbulent and change-filled century draws to a close, there has never been a better time to alter your fortune. But for a beautiful young woman of limited means, Eliza’s choices appear to lie between the stifling domesticity of marriage or a downwards spiral to the streets – no matter how determined she is to forge her own path.

One night at a run-down theatre, she meets the charismatic Devil Wix – showman, master of illusion, fickle friend. Drawn into his circle, Eliza becomes the catalyst of change for his colleagues – a dwarf, an eccentric engineer, and an artist – as well as Devil himself. And as Eliza embarks on a dangerous adventure, she must decide which path to choose, and how far she should go when she holds all their lives in her hands.

[From Goodreads.]


It’s quite fitting that The Illusionists, just like an actual illusion, is entirely not what it seems.

Unfortunately, while illusions and magic acts are generally enjoyable in their unpredictability and twisting of reality, Rosie Thomas’s novel is not.

I picked up The Illusionists expecting to read a thrilling and eccentric novel surrounding a modern woman’s intrigue with the London’s theatrical world in the late 1800s. “A dangerous adventure” of a young woman’s journey towards emancipation through art. That’s what the novel’s synopsis implied, after all. Instead, I got two emotionally distraught male performers, a wax-modeler (also male), a psychotic engineer (guess what? Male) and a run-down theatre. Oh, and featuring as the love interest of every single one of the afore-mentioned characters is Eliza – a middle-class woman who poses as a life model on Tuesdays, and considers herself “forward-thinking” (she’s not).

Eliza was infuriating – and even more infuriating was the author’s evident conviction that Eliza was a woman of her own means. Sure, Eliza did things that were not technically societally acceptable for her class, but let’s have a little more girl power! If you’re going to have a strong female protagonist and write about her journey towards emancipation, then don’t only introduce her on page 66! Don’t let her slip backwards into conformity just as she’s finally getting somewhere! Don’t let the men always overshadow her! Don’t let her become a damsel in distress just to showcase the courageous virtues of your male characters!

(And yes, I am putting Eliza’s actions into the context that she was a woman in London in 1885. Come on. Loosen your corset a little, at least, Miss Eliza.)

On top of all of this, I was also astounded to note that Thomas switched perceptions between her characters as if even she didn’t know who she was supposed to be writing about. One moment I would be in Eliza’s head, but then the next moment Devil’s outlook would take over without warning. That’s the danger with writing in third-person perspective – you have to be so careful about switching between characters and throwing the reader all over the place. And Thomas fell right into that trap.

Around two-thirds of the way through, I couldn’t take it any more.

But I persevered, because I’d already struggled through 380 pages. I could handle two hundred more. (I’d just like to point out that a novel this long-winded could definitely have been cut down by at least two hundred pages.)

Then I got to page 454, and my face did this:

At which point I decided Eliza was not worth my efforts (I’d screamed at her for just about the entire novel), and that my hope for humanity had diminished by a further eighty percent or so.

What a waste of good ideas. The Illusionists had so much potential, and it really was quite upsetting to see it spiral towards inadequacy, then below that to distastefulness. Additionally, Thomas has a truly beautiful style. It’s a pity she threw it away.

Rating: A very generous 2/5 because it started off relatively well.
Recommended to: Real illusionists who want spare paper to use as kindling in their arson tricks.

The Last Word

I’m putting the spoiler in this section, because I have to acknowledge the event that takes place on page 454. If you’re going to read the novel (although, why?) don’t read on.

Okay. From around page 300, there are zero climactic points in the novel apart from the event that occurs in the very last pages, which might have been tragic had I not lost the ability to care by then. The only time I had a change in emotion large enough to constitute a reaction was from pages 454 to 459, and that reaction was to throw the stupid book at the wall.

In this period, Eliza finds out that her husband, Devil, has been sleeping with another performer because he feels like she’s pushing him away (she is – but only because she’s just given birth to his baby). She threatens to cut off a key part of his anatomy (at which point I got excited because she was finally showing some initiative). But then they have furious animal sex and she forgives him.

How is this a portrait of a self-governing intellectual, who aims to forge her own path? To me, it seems like a fragile collection of dangerous emotions desperate for male attention – entirely not the image of a modern woman, even for Eliza’s time. Come on, Thomas. Step up your game.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

My August TBR Shelf

Holidays are finally here! Well, kind of. Final exams are just around the corner, but I’ve deduced that studying and completing projects must be interspersed with loads of reading if I’m to keep a tight, albeit clammy and desperate, grip on my sanity until the end of the year.

Also, school has deprived me of the chance to read as much as I would have liked this year, so I’m having severe withdrawal symptoms.

My steadily-growing To Be Read shelf is a constant source of anxiety and anticipation for me – I love compiling it, but I struggle to stick to it. I’m constantly buying books and leaving them in piles around my bedroom in the hopes that tripping over them will inspire me to read what I already have instead of running off to the library. Then there’s my Goodreads TBR shelf, with about 50 books (after I cut it down from 278) of which I own none… yet. It gets worse. I’ve started taking pictures of books I plan on buying when I’m no longer broke from buying other books, which sit in a pile on my bedroom floor. Do you see the vicious cycle here?

Yes, I plan on reading them all. Before you lecture me on unrealistic expectations, I will remind you of the power of sheer determination that triggered my 25 books in 25 days challenge at the end of last year to meet my reading goal. Which was extremely successful, even if I did almost die from forgetting to tend to secondary needs, like food and sleep.

But I’ve limited my August TBR list to nine books, seeing as we're already halfway through the month and anything more might drive me crazy. Hopefully by posting it here I might have the slightest incentive to stick to it this time.

#1: The Illusionists by Rosie Thomas

Magicians, illusions, art, adventures and a headstrong female protagonist? Sign me up. 

I may or may not have bought this book solely because I read the sentence, "But for a beautiful young woman of limited means, Eliza's choices appear to lie between the stifling domesticity of marriage or a downwards spiral to the streets - no matter how determined she is to forge her own path," and was immediately hopeful that Thomas might explore gender roles in the late 1800s just a little bit. I can't wait to see how Eliza's story unfolds.

#2: Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2) by Sarah J. Maas

I banned myself from reading the rest of the Throne of Glass series during the term because I know I simply do not have the willpower to do homework when there's a Sarah J. Maas book sitting on my Kindle. But now it's time. *Cackles*

If you haven't read Throne of Glass, do it now. It will ruin your life, but it's totally worth it.

#3: The Dust That Falls From Dreams by Louis de Bernieres

Louis de Bernieres is possibly one of my favourite authors of all time. He's just one of those phenomenal, witty, downright odd but strangely endearing writers that you'll stumble upon totally by accident, and immediately fall in love with. Although experience has told me to expect equal parts beauty, laughter and tears, I'm a little worried - World War One love story doesn't exactly promise happy endings. I'd better stock up on tissues.

#4: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1) by Catherynne M. Valente

I can only assume that this is a YA novel from the reviews I've read on Goodreads, but apart from that all I know is that it looks wonderfully weird. Like the book love child of Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. Plus, fairies. (AND there's a DRAGON on the cover?? Yes, please.)

To put it mildly, I have high expectations.

#5: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This novel has so many awards it's a little intimidating, so naturally I'm itching to see what all the fuss is about. But then again, I'm a little weary of books that seem heartbreaking from the very outset (even the title is melancholy). I'm an emotional wreck as it is - I don't need to be crying over even more fictional characters.

I keep trying to make up excuses, but I'm actually desperate to read All The Light We Cannot See.

#6: The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy, #1) by Marie Rutkoski

"The gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart." Intriguing... 

Also, do I detect feminist undertones in the stereotypical YA role reversal with the woman in a more powerful position than her male counterpart? (Please say yes. You know I love it when you undermine traditional gender roles and power play.)

#7: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

I have only heard good things about this book. If it's as dark, enticing and infuriating as it seems, I might need a therapist after reading it. 

#8: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

"Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist." Every time I read the blurb of this novel, I want to jump up and down and squeal because it makes me so excited. And the cover is so beautiful (as shallow as that sounds, it'll look so good on my bookshelf once I'm finished reading it, provided I can get my hands on a physical copy before I cave in to the anticipation and buy it on Kindle).

#9: The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson

"The Secret of Magic brilliantly explores the power of stories and those who tell them." This novel looks absolutely phenomenal, and its setting (Mississippi right at the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement) is already sending shivers down my spine. I've had the book for a while now, and every time I glance at it on my nightstand it seems to taunt me, so hopefully it's as well-written as some Goodreads reviews promise.

Okay. I should probably actually go read now. Here's to hoping I'm still vaguely sane and emotionally stable by the time I've worked my way through this list.