Mini Reviews (June 2017)

I’ve been struggling with writing reviews lately. Although I can have a lot of thoughts about a book, sometimes I find it difficult to express them all in review form. Sometimes I feel as though I don’t have anything exciting to say but still want you guys to hear my opinions. So I’ve come up with a new idea of creating posts that feature my latest reads, including some mini reviews. The good, the bad and the overall rather than including the synopsis, background, etc. So without further ado, here are my latest four reads and what I thought about them in a few sentences.
Goodreads | Book Depository

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

This may be weird to admit, but the first book genre I fell in love with as a child was crime thrillers purely because that is what my mother read so the house was full of them! I picked this book up on a whim in Brighton train station and completed it during the journey. Although it was addictive (as most crime-thrillers are) and I did read it in one sitting, the big reveal/ending/plot-twist kind of fell flat for me and it’s something I called from the beginning. However, considering this is a debut novel, I think there is definitely potential for the author’s future works.
Goodreads | Book Depository
One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

So this book is marketed as being like The Breakfast Club but with murder and for those who may not know, that is one of my favourite movies and I love a good murder mystery. This book had huge pros such as the relationship that forms between the members of the ‘Murder Squad,’ especially between ‘Queen Bee’ Addy and the ‘Brains,’ Bronwyn. However, I didn’t like the addition of somebody’s sexuality being a spoiler and once again, the big reveal just made me feel unsatisfied and felt very rushed. I wanted a huge twist. However, loved the Breakfast Club vibes and the characters themselves. Overall, a three star read for me.
Goodreads
The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera


To say I loved this book is an understatement. After being accepted for it on Netgalley (god bless) and finishing it within a day with tears in my eyes, I’ve since been trying my hardest to get a physical ARC copy just so I can hold it. No lies. Beautiful, atmospheric, full of magic and mythology but the standout is the relationship between Shefali and Shizuka, the two girls who were destined to spend their lives together. I felt as though I went on the journey with the two girls, their love came bounding off the pages to the point that I could feel like I was intruding. This book comes out on October 3rd and I would encourage you all to preorder because it is worth it.

The Suffragettes 

This book is not only about the amazing Suffragettes, our ancestors who fought for women to have a voice but it was also a £1 and it’s so cute, it’s literally pocket size. This book is filled (I say filled, it’s around 40 pages long) with news articles, speech transcripts, propaganda and memorabilia from the years of the Suffragettes. It isn’t anything special and probably doesn’t tell you anything you don’t already know but it is still an informative read, especially for those who want a basic understanding of what these women faced. 


What have you guys read lately and what has been your favourite?
Love from Angharad @

A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab

 

The final instalment in the Shades of Magic series follows our favourite Antari, Kell who is a magician with the ability to travel between alternate Londons. Teaming up with fellow magician, Delilah Bard – cutthroat pirate and thief and his brother, Rhy, heir to the throne, they must put a stop to a murderous force that threatens to take over everything and put everyone under their spell.
(Trigger Warning – The Magicians in this series use blood magic so there are some detailed descriptions of cutting in this series.)

 

 

* Angharad’s Thoughts *

If I could just insert an audio clip of me screaming for my review, then that will probably sum up my experience with this trilogy. Usually with trilogies, the first book is amazing and then the second book is okay and then the third is either a hit or miss but this entire trilogy managed to be A+++ all the way through and nobody could have done it quite like Victoria Schwab. Just a quick summary because if you’re reading this review, then you’ve probably read the previous books. The Shades of Magic trilogy follows Kell who is an Antari, a magician able to travel between worlds, or in this particular case, various Londons.
This series introduced me to one of my all time favourite characters – Delilah Bard. Thief/pickpocket and wannabe pirate, whose goal in life is to just live it. She is gender-fluid, has a disability, carries a load of knives around with her and is confident and sassy without being cocky. She starts off as something of a side character when she teams up with Kell but by the end of the series, she is the shining star. She goes through so much character development in just three books and grows so much as a person. She was a girl used to running, used to having nothing, used to sleeping with her back against the wall but now she is pure magic (literally and figuratively.)
Another character with huge development is Rhy, heir to the Arnesian throne and Kell’s brother (also a queer PoC.) He has no magic and always felt as though he was less because of it but he proves that you don’t need magic in order to be a true and just king. I was so so proud of him after reading this book, he’s just my royal son. His relationship with Alucard progressed more and we hear more about their backstory – they are just the cutest. Speaking of Alucard, he continued to be a badass in this book, whilst also breaking my heart into a thousand pieces and constantly bickering with Kell.
Want to know what broke my heart the most? Other than pretty much everything. The award goes to Holland. We get chapters from his POV as he also tells us about his past, from the beginning. Without excusing some of his actions, he has been through so so much, his life has literally been hell on earth and we hear more about his life and the people who have been in it. Holland, Kell, Lila and Alucard even team up in the second half of the book and I enjoyed every second of these people working together. Teamwork (especially between former enemies) is my soft spot in fiction. Also, without giving away spoilers, Kell and Holland go through quite a bit in this conclusion.
Overall, this book was huge (the paperback being 666 pages, har har, Victoria) but every second was packed with action, emotion and excitement. I read this book in a day and every time I had to put it down, I felt as though I had been pulled from the world. We get POVs from Kell, Lila, Holland – even characters such as Queen Emira & King Maxim which was really interesting. I usually hate secondary characters suddenly having a voice in the final book but this is Victoria Schwab we’re talking about so she nailed it. The beginning, middle and end captured my attention and I’ll miss this world more than you can imagine. It is rich, diverse and just magical and it will forever be a series I recommend.
* Becky’s Thoughts *

It’s been a few days since I finished this book and I still can’t put my feelings into words. The one thing I can confidently say right now, to sum everything up, is this – although I’ve loved this series from the start, it was A Conjuring of Light that truly made it one of my favourite series’s of all time.

We are thrown straight into the action with this book kicking off exactly where A Gathering of Shadows left off, and this fast-pacing carries on throughout, because for Kell, Lila, Alucard, Rhy and Holland, it’s no longer just a magical power play – it’s about saving their world(s). I’m not always a fan of books that are full of action all the way through, but ACOL did this perfectly – yes, the action, tension and plotting never stopped, but it wasn’t all action and nothing else. Each of the characters grow and develop more in this book than in either of the previous books, and we get more of a look into their pasts as well – Holland’s back story, most of all, destroyed me. I’ve always loved him (sorry, I just have a thing for antiheroes/villains) and his story arc in this book couldn’t have been more perfect. Lila was, as always, amazing, and she definitely grew and matured in this book in my opinion.

I feel like there isn’t much that I can say that Angharad hasn’t already said or that wouldn’t absolutely spoil this book for anyone else, so I’ll just say this – go and read it. If you’ve already read the first two books in the series, I don’t think you need me to convince you to pick this up, and if you haven’t started this series yet, take our gushing as encouragement to go and do so. If you want a fantasy series full of complex, well developed and diverse characters, three different worlds with the most perfect atmospheric world building, a fast-paced, emotional plot, and enough twists and cliffhangers to make you dizzy, this is the series for you.

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love,

 

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli


The Upside of Unrequited follows the story of seventeen-year-old, Molly Peskin-Suso who knows all about the world of unrequited love after having a string of crushes but nothing in return. Her twin, Cassie, is her complete opposite and everything changes, including their close relationship, when Cassie meets and falls in love with Mina, a girl Molly meets in a girl’s bathroom (yay for female friendships formed in the toilets!!) Faced with being alonie, Cassie tries setting her up with Mina’s best friend, Will and he’s everything Molly would usually go for. That is until she gets a new job and meets the Tolkien/Game of Thrones fan (who wears seriously white trainers,) Reid. What follows is a journey of self-acceptance, love in all its forms and a story full of diverse and fantastically written characters.

Angharad’s Thoughts:

 * My highlights *

 

MOLLY PESKIN-SUSO! Now on my list of my all-time favourite fictional characters. Molly is Jewish, fat and a surrogate child of her and Cassie’s parents, Nadine and Patty. In other words, we have nothing in common but she is just so relatable. She’s funny, has mental health issues (and medication is actually mentioned!!) and is the nicest person you’ll ever meet. You root for her from the very first page. She’s an avid fan of Pinterest and can make anything look good and she can bake the best cookie dough. I just want her to be my friend. Her weight is never an issue to her, she worries more that other people will judge her and that fat girls never seem to ‘get the guy’, or have sex or fall in love. I can’t wait for the world to meet her.
FEMALE CHARACTERS! Other than Reid, Will and baby Xavier, this book is packed full with amazing and diverse female characters. We have the main family consisting of Molly, Cassie, Nadine, and Patty (and little Xavier.) Cassie’s pansexual girlfriend, Mina. Olivia and Abby (close friends of the twins) and even their grandmother who makes a very controversial introduction but ultimately has good intentions despite saying hurtful things. They are all amazing, they all interact with each other, there is no rivalry (other than silly arguments), there’s trust and they all have their own voices.
NADINE & PATTY! Not only are they an interracial f/f couple (one being bisexual) whose cuteness destroyed me but they are parents that are PRESENT IN A YA NOVEL YES YOU READ THAT CORRECTLY! They are involved in Molly and Cassie’s lives without interfering, they have grown-up conversations with them   (safe sex!!) and they have their own lives outside our protagonist’s storyline to the point that we even learn about their pasts and how they met. I can’t even express how important this is in a YA novel so I am incredibly grateful to Becky Albertalli.
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Overall, this book is just so positive. It deals with coming-of-age, body image and our insecurities. It is a book full of LGBTQIA characters, amazing representation and genuine conversations. There are mentions of medication, masturbation (I should have another ‘M’ here right?) and (safe) sex. It is a funny, upbeat and sweet novel. It is has something for everyone – friendships, family and relationships. Molly and her relationship with Reid is slow-burning but realistic and when they finally got together, they were just SO cute. I do believe there are little cameos from Becky’s previous book Simon vs but I haven’t read that book so I can’t confirm this. Definitely put this book on your TBRs for 2017, share it with your friends and show your support because this book is important.

Becky’s Thoughts:

I feel as though, if you read a basic plot synopsis for The Upside of Unrequited without any context or background information on the characters, it could seem like your typical girl-meets-boy YA contemporary. The thing is, it couldn’t be further from typical.

Our main character Molly is a fat, Jewish girl with mental health issues and a wonderfully quirky sense of humour; she’s a girl with an lgbt+ twin, two mums, and her and both of her siblings are surrogates. I didn’t realise how much I needed a book with Molly Peskin-Suso as the main character until I read this. I absolutely devoured the entire book within a couple of hours, it was that enthralling, funny, and at times painfully true to life. Molly is a character you will connect with straight away – she’s so likeable and easy to relate to, and I genuinely felt her anger on the rare occasions that she got mad.

As a girl who would be called overweight by a BMI calculator, Molly was a breath of fresh air for me. Finding a book with an overweight main character, especially a YA book, is such a rare occurrence – I actually can’t think of any others that have one. Although Molly’s life doesn’t revolve around her weight (which was such a positive thing to reinforce!!!) she mentions issues that all of us slightly larger girls deal with – the chub-rub, the “you’re pretty – for a fat girl” comments, the constant mental comparisons to skinnier girls – it’s all dealt with in this book. I was immediately hooked when I read this extract, literally on the first page:

‘I suck in my cheeks so it looks like I have cheekbones. And it’s quite a transformation. Sometimes I have the idea that I could maintain this. I could spend the rest of my life gently biting the inside of my cheeks. Except for the fact that it makes my lips look weird. Also, biting your cheeks definitely gets in the way of talking, and that’s a little hardcore, even for me. Even for cheekbones.’ 

Honestly, I cannot even count the amount of times I’ve stood in front of a mirror and done similar things. I knew as soon as I read this that I’d instantly connect with Molly, and my love grew for her throughout the entire book.

Anyway, although I really loved Molly (if you can’t tell that already from my insane amount of gushing) I did also love other things in this book! Cassie perhaps wasn’t the best sister at times, but I loved how she always called out things that were wrong, and she was always prepared to stand up for Molly, even to her Grandma. I loved her personality and I adored her and Mina. I wish we could have seen more of Mina though – I have to admit that I fell in love with her just a little bit. Nadine and Patty, Molly and Cassie’s parents, were absolutely perfect, and as Angharad said – it’s a YA novel and they were actually present in their kids lives! They were such a down to earth couple and definitely family goals. Reid and Molly were also so cute together, and again, it was a breath of fresh air to read a YA contemporary that didn’t resort to instalove. I loved watching their friendship grow and the way that they bonded over a love of mini eggs and cookie dough – food based friendships are the best kind, and everyone knows it.

One of my pet peeves with many YA contemporaries is the attempt to include social media without actually naming any modern day companies or websites. I find that often authors will say the main character “logged into a chatroom” etc, and you just feel instantly disconnected and transported back to the 90’s. I really appreciated that the characters in this used up to date websites and apps that we all actually use – they’re always checking Facebook and Instagram, and Molly is a complete Pinterest addict. Although this is just a small thing, I do really think it helps a modern day audience to connect to the characters (I mean, who even uses chatrooms anymore? Do they still even exist?!)

Overall, The Upside of Unrequited is such a diverse, modern, and generally relatable book. I love a good contemporary, but I am so tired of reading something that tries to portray the real world, but it couldn’t be further from it. Becky Albertalli’s world in Upside – with a range of diverse characters, strong but complicated family ties, different religions, and hey, characters who aren’t all a perfect size eight with a flat stomach – this is the real world, and it was absolutely perfect.

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This book is released on April 11th, 2017.
Love from

Dreadnought by April Daniels


Dreadnought is the first book in the Nemesis series by April Daniels. We follow the story of Danielle, a superhero who just happens to be transgender. This is a world where superheroes are a part of everyday life and when Danny is confronted by a dying Dreadnought, one of the world’s best superheroes, it isn’t long until her life is completely changed when with his dying breath, he gives her his powers and changes her from the boy she was born into the girl she has always been. Faced with her new appearance and blossoming superpowers, Danielle is drawn into the world of heroes and villains alongside her fellow class-member/masked vigilante, Sarah/Calamity as they work together to stop Utopia, a super-villain hell bent on controlling the world.

Thank you to Netgalley for sending me this.
Goodreads | Book Depository
Fifteen-year-old Danny will take your heart and then proceed to jump all over it. She broke my heart, she made me smile, she made me feel strong just by how positive she could be even when so many bad things were happening. Her dad is unable to accept her transition, immediately finding ways to ‘fix’ her whilst shouting abuse at her and every slur under the sun so I must point out trigger warnings for transphobia. Her mum stands on the sidelines, too frightened to intervene and even fellow superhero, Graywytch constantly misgenders and dead-names her. The one thing that remains positive is Danny. She takes every situation and tries to make the most out of it, even when she wants to give up, she finds the strength to keep on going and not because she’s a superhero, but because that’s the type of girl she is.
The entire cast of characters are diverse – Danny being trans and a lesbian, one character being an sentient android and Calamity being Latina. This, primarily, is the story of the strength behind women and it is their story and although there is no romance, there is a hell of a lot of female friendships. Although this is a story about superheroes, Danny is still an average teenager. She goes to school, she worries about homework and friendships, all whilst saving the world. She experiences what it is like to be a girl on more than just the inside when she experiences blatant sexism from her ex-best friend who assumed because she now ‘looked’ like a girl, they should probably start dating. However, Danny just spends this book shutting everyone down and I had to stop myself from cheering each time.
If I had one problem, it was that the author tended to info-dump a lot of the ‘science’ parts to the point where I had no idea what was going on and found myself skipping through it, whilst still being able to follow the story. Maybe it is because I’m not the most scientific of people, but for me it just seemed like too much thrown at you all at once. The ending of the book is truly like a movie, the action was fast-paced and had me sitting on the edge of my seat.
The best thing about this book is that I wouldn’t just recommend it to people who are fans of superheroes but also to people interested in the trans community or just want to read a coming-of-age story as I truly believe Danny grows so much throughout the course of this relatively short novel. She faces everything head-on and makes light of every situation with a joke – even to the point of asking for food after an epic battle which is what I would probably do. Her relationship with Calamity and Doctor Impossible was a highlight for me – they are three very difficult people but come together again and again and portraying the strength in female friendships. There are so many questions I have and backstory I’d love so I cannot wait for the next book. Read this book, guys. It is fun, important and revolutionary.
Love, Angharad @

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

(Huge thanks to Netgalley for sending me an eArc of this book.)

Jordan Sun is starting her junior year at performing arts school, but being an Alto 2, she’s always struggled to get a role in the school musical. When the school get a mass email informing them that the Sharpshooters, the school’s revered all-male a cappella group, Jordan is determined to make this year different. She cross-dresses as a guy, Julian, and discovers that, as a Tenor 1, she’s just what the Sharpshooters need.
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+ Our main character represents a lot of things. Jordan is a bisexual (which she discovers throughout the course of the novel), Chinese-American girl coming from a poor family. She’s tall and has a low voice, making her easily pass as a guy. All of these things have stopped her from achieving her goals in Kensington, but as a guy, she finds her place. During the beginning of her transformation into Julian, she Googles ways to flatten her chest and comes across a website for trans people. What follows is an important narrative as Jordan compares her cross-dressing as a disguise and lie whereas for trans, it’s a very different and important matter. The book also touches upon sexuality and gender stereotypes as Jordan regularly calls out acts of sexism in her role as Julian.

+ Upon hearing that Jordan would be the only main female character in this book, amongst a group of all males, I was hesitant but this is a very interesting and diverse group of boys. Isaac who is Japanese, Trav who is black, Jon Cox who has a learning disability and Nihal, a Sikh guy who reveals that he is gay. Jordan develops a friendship with each of them and I especially loved her friendship with Nihal who becomes something of a confidante. I just loved the bond between them and their domesticity during rehearsal. I’m a sucker for domesticity!
+ The prose was beautiful, flowing like music itself and despite the book focusing on a subject I’m not clued up on (music, singing, a cappella), the author manages to let it flow naturally, never info-dumping any of the technical terms. The book is split into four parts but it is a novel you can definitely read in one sitting. It manages to touch upon important subjects and represent them without preaching or making the narrative too difficult. It is a style of contemporary that we need more of.

+ Overall, I liked being inside Jordan’s head. I liked her transformation into Julian and how it changed her and also the high expectations she puts on herself to please her parents. Jordan is also dealing with an emotional breakup throughout the course of the novel and it was so refreshing to see her journey through accepting its end. This book just manages to deal with so many topics and issues and yet never rushes over the main story. Riley Redgate just proves that you can still deal with important issues in a YA contemporary novel without it being the main focus. Jordan destroys gender norms one page at a time and it was truly an honour to have met her and the Sharpshooters.



Love from Angharad,

The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid

Nemesis is a Diabolic – a humanoid creature created to protect one individual, and destroy anything that threatens them. Nemesis is bonded to Sidonia, daughter of galactic Senator von Impyrian, whom the Emperor considers a threat and a heretic. When the Emperor summons Sidonia to the galactic court, Nemesis knows this could be a death sentence, and finds only one way to protect her – she must become Sidonia, and visit the court in her place.
Amongst the Grandiloquy, Nemesis discovers the true intentions of the Emperor, as well as of his heir Tyrus, said by all to be a madman. Whilst learning to navigate court intrigue, attempting to hide her true nature, and being away from Sidonia for the first time since their bond was created, Nemesis begins to discover the one thing that she believed Diabolics didn’t have – her humanity. 

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When I first started The Diabolic, I described it to my husband as being “like Ancient Rome but in space”. I’m sticking by this description, as simple as it is. This was a very odd mash-up of worlds – the political and court intrigue in the style of the Roman Empire, with Roman titles and Latin-esque names, but in a futuristic world where Earth has become unsustainable, those living planet-side are viewed as commoners, Senators live on their own huge ships and rule over small sections of the galaxy, and the Emperor’s court is made up of numerous spaceships all docked together. Although I’ve read many Roman/Grecian style novels, I’ve never read any Sci-Fi ones, and I did really enjoy this aspect of The Diabolic and the world-building in it. 

In terms of characters, I loved Nemesis. She went through so much character development, and although “unhuman creature finding their humanity” may sound like a bit of a trope or a stereotype, it really wasn’t in this book! Nemesis’s thought processes and inner conflicts with herself, her feelings and her behaviour played out really well. Because of this, despite her supposedly being unhuman and without emotion (which definitely wasn’t true), she was actually a really easy character to relate to. I loved how protective she was over Sidonia, and how Donia always saw her as an equal and saw her humanity, even if everyone else in the Impyrian household and in the Emperor’s court believed her and other Diabolics to be nothing more than servants without feelings. 
There is a romance in this book, but I didn’t think it was a bad one. It wasn’t rushed into and the way that it was built up, it just seemed to make sense, especially with the events going on around the characters, and with the characters own developments and storylines.

A lot of reviews that I’ve read for this book seemed to think that it was too violent. Perhaps it’s my dark British mindset and sense of humour, but I just didn’t agree with this. Yes, it was violent, it was bloody, and it was packed full of nasty plots and backstabbing, but I just didn’t think it was too much? I’ve definitely read more violent books – the ASOIAF series is darker and bloodier than this book by far. Obviously this is just my personal opinion, as it’s others that it’s too violent, but I just wanted to say don’t let the violence put you off! Chances are you’ll be like me and not see it as being too far. 

Although I was happy with how the book ended and I wasn’t expecting the very final plot twist, I didn’t like what happened to lead to the conclusion, if that makes sense. I won’t say anything else about this as it’s a big spoiler! 

Overall, I enjoyed The Diabolic; it would have been almost perfect if the last few chapters had been slightly different and if they’d maybe been a bit less rushed. I think that this book could have easily had another hundred pages or so and benefited from it, and I definitely would have liked to know some more about certain characters, as well as the world it’s set in in general.

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love,

Nemesis by Anna Banks

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Princess Sepora of Serubel is the last known Forger of spectorium, a living element which provides her land with energy – and that’s why she’s a danger to her country. Sepora flees Serubel, heading to the neighbouring kingdom of Theoria, where she plans to blend in with the Serubelan freed slaves. However, she is captured during her journey and ends up in servitude to King Tarik of Theoria. Tarik and Sepora soon form a complicated bond, made all the more confusing by the fact that the one thing Tarik needs to stop the plague sweeping his nation is spectorium – and although Sepora is the only one who can provide him with the element, she must keep her gift a secret at all costs.


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Nemesis & extras from November’s Fairyloot box

Nemesis just happened to be one of those books that I couldn’t get excited about, but didn’t exactly dislike either. There were definitely high points and low points throughout, but it seemed that the majority of it was just sort of middle points? Anyway. I figured the best way to sum this book up was to do my favourite thing, and make a list!
Likes:

+ The Egyptian inspired setting. Theoria is very much Egyptian, from the pyramids (although Theorian pyramids are made from spectorium) to the clothing style, to the eye makeup. I haven’t read many Egyptian inspired fantasy worlds before, so this was interesting and I think it really worked!
+ The Serpens. Serubelans have these lizard-like things that seem to look like giant snakes but with wings. Legless dragons? I think so. I imagined them as legless dragons. They also have massive needle-like teeth, so maybe they’re more like flying basilisks? I don’t know. Anyway. Most Serubelans seem to see their Serpens as tools, but Sepora really cares for her Serpen, Nuna. There are also different types of Serpens – Defender Serpens, Seer Serpens, etc. More Serpen-lore in the sequel, please. 
+ The changing of the grammatical persons. Both Sepora and Tarik are POV characters, but Sepora’s chapters are written in first person, and Tarik’s in third person. I thought this was really interesting and I haven’t seen it done before – if nothing else, it helped to differentiate between the two character’s chapters!

+ The romance. This isn’t something I often say about this type of book, but I actually liked the romance portrayed in Nemesis! It wasn’t too rushed and I actually liked the idea of the two characters together.

+ The ending. I definitely didn’t expect the plot twist, and because of this I’ll definitely consider reading the sequel once it’s out.

Dislikes:

+ Sepora’s voice. It’s probably an odd thing to say, but I really struggled to connect with Sepora mostly because of the way she spoke. She’s very formal, and yeah, I know she’s a royal, but do royal’s always think in such a formal manner? I doubt it, but if there are any royals reading, do feel free to prove me wrong. 
+ The lack of action. I felt as though Sepora’s journey to Theoria at the beginning of the book could definitely have been shorter – it didn’t seem to develop her character or the plot in any way, and once it was over I felt as though the book picked up a lot. 
+ Lack of character development. Sepora is often referred to by others as being really smart etc, but there isn’t much to show this. I also felt that, as I mentioned, the way that she spoke and acted in her POV chapters didn’t help her character development.

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love,