REVIEW: Rebel of the Sands

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Title: Rebel of the Sands

Author: Alwyn Hamilton

Length: 314

Source: Received a review copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

Everyone who follows book releases or is even remotely in touch with the online book community will have heard of Rebel of the Sands. I mean this was released the beginning of last year and there’s STILL talk about it. With the sequel just recently released (okay maybe not recently, but March is recent enough for me!) Rebel of the Sands was available to request on Netgalley and I just couldn’t help it!

I’ll just start by saying it’s probably not my favourite YA release and I’m deffo not reading the sequel. To keep my frustrated thoughts as coherent as possible I’ll just bullet point why:

  • I tried to go into this story knowing as least as possible, all I knew was that it had a middle-eastern setting (the cover kind of hints at that!) and there was magic involved. SO I wasn’t really prepared for the western concept, and I don’t think I could’ve. I don’t personally think the Western thing worked, being Moroccan means I am VERY familiar with middle-eastern culture and a lot of the aspects for me, just clashed. I tried to read it objectively, but the saloon style setting and the first scene including a shoot out , it just didn’t feel right to me.

Actually, now thinking about it, that was my main problem with this book. Everything else was just a vague blur, the main character didn’t really stand out to me, neither did the world building. It was all just a bit bland.

This is exactly why I steer away from hyped YA books. Obviously not all of them disappoint but it’s becoming hard to manage expectations when reading them. I just didn’t think that this book stood out, it went for typical YA tropes and just didn’t give me enough to have me interested in the sequel.

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REVIEW: The Crown’s Game

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Title: The Crown’s Game

Author: Evelyn Skye

Length: 399

Source: Received a review copy from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.

 

This book was probably the first hyped YA fantasy book I had read in a WHILE, it was published I around May last year and I avoided it for the longest time. I’ve had some experience being disappointed with over-hyped YA fantasy books, so I tend to come back to them when they’re almost forgotten about.

The synopsis included magic, historical fiction set in Russia and a duel to find the Russia’s next Imperial Enchanter so… I’m in!  So basically there are two competitors Vika and Nikolai (hint: some obvious YA romance transpires between these two) who have been training their whole lives to become the Imperial Enchanter and work alongside the Tsar. They each get a turn to pretty much woo the Tsar with their magic, the winner becomes a valued adviser to him, the loser is sentenced to death.

Being completely honest I wish there was a little more focus on the magical aspect of this story. As mentioned before there’s romance involved between the two competitors, and for the most part that’s what I felt like the focus was on. It was also another case of instalove, and the relationship development between these two characters was not the best, so I couldn’t even follow that aspect. BUT the writing style is something that stood out to me, the writer set a tone from the beginning that was consistent throughout. The story is set in Russia and to celebrate the Prince’s birthday  the two enchanters perform tricks that transform the city, and the imagery really helped to make all the scenes so clear and vivid. And I don’t have the most creative imagination so she’s THAT good.

I was a little disappointed with this book, especially because I didn’t see how the magic performed by the two enchanters would be useful to the Tsar in the future. So I didn’t really see the practical side of this whole competition. At the same time, I’m invested enough to read the sequel and I want to see where the story goes from here, because the ending was a little… interesting.

REVIEW: Glitter

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Title: Glitter

Author: Aprilynne Pike

Length: 384

Source: Received a review copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

In all honesty this was a book that I requested 90% because of the cover… but the synopsis was not bad either. Basically this was set in France, where Versailles still lived in the 18th century whereas everywhere else was modern day. The problem with this society was that once you were a part of it, it became very difficult to escape. ESPECIALLY if you were to wed the king of this castle. So our main protagonist comes up with this ingenious plan to sell cosmetics, that had drugs incorporated in them, in the castle, to raise enough funds to aid her escape.

At this point in time I was really looking for a book that wasn’t too dense but also was interesting enough for me to immerse myself. This was a perfect LIGHT read, I read it in about a day or two (which is fast for me!) aspects like the world building were actually really good, considering the setting I didn’t really have high expectations! The characters were well developed, the main character wasn’t the most complex, but also wasn’t the most typical YA female protagonist.

Just reading the synopsis you could tell this wasn’t going to be the most complex story you’ll read but I also found that it tried to do too many genres and so couldn’t actually fulfill even one of them . Although it had aspects that could’ve been developed into much more it limited itself to being a simple story. That’s why I would recommend this as a light read, something to read if you’re probably in a reading slump and looking for a way out!

Review: Stealing Snow

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Title: Stealing Snow

Author: Danielle Paige

Length: 375

Source: Received a review copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

This was a book that I couldn’t miss during it’s release, there was soooo much hype built around it. I haven’t read the Dorothy Must Die series, but I heard amazing things about that series so when I found this on Netgalley I couldn’t help but request it. I think this is a retelling but honestly I’m not sure whether this really was supposed to be a retelling of Snow White or The Snow Queen. The only Snow White element it had was that whilst Snow was in the mental facility she called the seven pills she had to take dwarves, other than that it leaned MUCH more towards TSQ.

I had two issues with this, the abundance of YA tropes and how distant the world and characters felt. It followed the story of a girl who everyone thinks is crazy, but is just misunderstood and actually destined to rule a kingdom. WHICH I guess would’ve been FINE, if the characters and the world were complex and developed. But this story lacked both of these things. For the most part I felt like even the main character couldn’t care less about what happened to her in this story. Even the ending, had I been more invested I MIGHT’VE felt something for Snow, but even she felt like an outsider in her own story so it left me feeling a bit…meh. The aspect that got me through this book was the writing style, it made going through this book a little easier (it took me around a month to finish this book :/)

I feel like this was a book I could’ve done without, it didn’t really leave me feeling any type of way at all. I just felt so indifferent the entire time I was reading, which is probably why it took me so long to get through it!

Heartborn by Terry Maggert: Review

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Title: Heartborn

Author: Terry Maggert

Published: September 1st 2016

Length: 238

Source: I got this copy from The Audiobookworm in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

 

This was an audiobook, which made getting through it a hell of a lot easier! It’s been a WHILE since I’ve listened to an audiobook and I really don’t know why!

Let me start by saying that I LOVED the narrator for this! It really helped me concentrate on the story instead of getting distracted by my surroundings. Here’s the synopsis: (taken from Goodreads)

‘Keiron was never meant to be anything other than a hero. Born high above in a place of war and deception, he is Heartborn, a being of purity and goodness in a place where violence and deceit are just around every corner.

His disappearance will spark a war he cannot see, for Keiron has pierced the light of days to save a girl he has never met, for reasons he cannot understand. Livvy Foster is seventeen, brave, and broken. With half a heart, she bears the scars of a lifetime of pain and little hope of survival.

Until Keiron arrives.

In the middle of a brewing war and Livvy’s failing heart, Keiron will risk everything for Livvy, because a Heartborn’s life can only end in one way: Sacrifice.

Fall with Livvy and Keiron as they seek the truth about her heart, and his power, and what it means to love someone who will give their very life to save you.’

For me the most interesting thing is that the author decided to spin something that would be seen as a disability into a powerful quality! Although it is a YA fantasy I found that it wasn’t jam packed with cliches and tropes. It was a unique concept and the book was filled with witty characters and I LOVE that! There was no love triangle business that seems to crop up quite a lot in YA, it felt like genuine story told from the heart as cheesy as that sounds…

There were two storylines involved, the story of Kieron and Livvy meeting and how they impacted each others’ lives. But also the tensions building among the angels in another dimension! That aspect kept the story interesting, as one story had a slow pace we would change chapters and something major would be happening in the other world! The one thing I would say is that it had a bit of a slow start, as the world building was taking place it got a little confusing to keep up with all these new characters.

I would highly recommend this if you enjoy YA fantasy! It was such an enjoyable read (listen :’D) and I’m already looking into other books by Terry Maggert!

Assassin’s Heart

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Title: Assassin’s Heart

Author: Sarah Ahiers

Published: February 2nd 2016

Length:  420 pages

Source: Received for review from Netgalley

 

First of all, the cover for this book is just STUNNING, I mean just look at it! I haven’t read a lot of books that have their main female protagonist as an assassin. I read the synopsis for this one and thought I’d give it a try…

Synopsis: (taken from goodreads)

‘In the kingdom of Lovero, nine rival Families of assassins lawfully kill people for a price. As a highly skilled member of one of these powerful clans, seventeen-year-old Lea Saldana has always trusted in the strength of her Family. Until she awakens to find them murdered and her home in flames. The Da Vias, the Saldanas’ biggest enemy, must be responsible—and Lea should have seen it coming. But her secret relationship with the Da Vias’ son, Val, has clouded her otherwise killer instinct—and given the Da Vias more reason than ever to take her Family down.

Racked with guilt and shattered over Val’s probable betrayal, Lea sets out to even the score, with her heart set on retaliation and only one thought clear in her mind: make the Da Vias pay.’

There were a few things that I liked about this book, but a few things that were a bit… This story had a few strong characters, I would say the main character Oleander (Lea) was one of them. She managed to come across as a ruthless assassin yet somehow the reader found her relatable. I LOVED Alessio (Les) , I really thought that him and  Lea had chemistry and there interactions were really enjoyable to read. BUT I felt like the pace of the story was weirdly inconsistent. I mean I know the pace is supposed to change as the story occurs, but it was just offff. I didn’t feel the story was unfolding naturally, I don’t know if what I’m saying is making sense but for anyone who’s read it I think you’ll understand what I mean.

World Building: This was a high fantasy and I think if the world building wasn’t as great as it is I wouldn’t have been able to finish it. This story came across as a being fairly religious which was a bit unexpected, each region of this world tend to follow a God, where Lea is from they follow Safraella. The highest order of worship to this goddess is being an assassin or a ‘clipper’ as its referred to in the book! The one consistency I found in this story was the depth of the world building, whether it’s the beginning where we’re still getting to know the Saldana family or the end where I’m not going to spoil anything… My point is that the world building was probably the strength of Assassin’s Heart.

Characters: So this story had some strong characters,it also had great character development.  Although it’s a repeated sort of idea, an individual has something horrific happen to them and they’re blinded by vengeance, only to realise that may not be the answer… Because Lea was relatable, as a reader I could understand why her perspective would change! Les was my favourite character BY FAR, I didn’t know a fictional character could be so charming, I literally felt like I was the one being wooed! I feel like less of a weirdo actually typing this on a book blog, imagine telling someone you felt like a fictional character was courting you, hermahgerd…

Plot: The development of Lea changed the direction of the story, so I was really interested to see what she would end up doing. I feel like I say this a lot of but again the last 30 pages felt a little rushed, that particular point in the story could’ve been stretched out a bit. Let me try and make sense of this, at around 60%, the story felt like it kind of stalled a bit, I feel like that kind of lasted until about 90%. Then BAM, everything happened at once and I was like wait, what, hold up!

APPARENTLY there’s a sequel for this, I felt like the ending didn’t leave much room for a sequel. I would really recommend this to anyone but especially if you like high fantasy, and having the basis of the story be so bizarre!

 

 

Divergent: Review

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Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Published: February 2012
Length:  487 pages
Source: Received for review from the publisher through Netgalley
I should probably preface this review by saying I haven’t read The Hunger Games trilogy. I mention this because I’ve heard time and time again that Divergent is a little too similar to The Hunger Games. Now in terms of Divergent, I have mixed feelings… So the premise of this book is that basically a war broke out, and to restore peace factions were created. These are basically groups each based on a virtue:
⦁ Candor is based on honesty
⦁ Dauntless on bravery
⦁ Amity on peacefulness
⦁ Abnegation on selflessness
⦁ Erudite on intelligence
The reason for these factions are that if everyone belongs to a particular group, chaos is prevented and there would be a lot more order! The story follows our main character Beatrice Prior who like all 16 year olds has to choose a faction they will become permanent members of. We follow her after she’s made this decision and as she uncovers a secret about herself that is pretty much a threat to her existance if anyone finds out!
As someone who hasn’t read a lot of ‘popular’ YA books this premise to me seemed unique, HOWEVER having said that I found that this book was quite predictable… I generally enjoyed reading the book and got through it quite quickly, however there were some events that really made me step back a bit. Lets get on with the review:
World Building: This was actually done quite well, I really got a sense of this dystopian world and a feel for the faction Beatrice was in and also ones she’s just knows of. What I would’ve liked a little more was for someone to fill us in on what happened that lead to their current situation. Anything would’ve helped really justify this new system to me and also help me understand why anyone saw this as a viable solution. I’m finding it quite difficult to actually review this without accidently spoiling anything. The synopsis/blurb for the book doesn’t actually give that much away and I really appreciated that!
Characters: I actually didn’t mind Beatrice Prior I completely understood her character and her struggle to fit in her parents faction. Tris however got a little annoying at times, and did some things I really couldn’t reason with. Again I’m not going to spoil anything but towards the end she did something very stupid, who knows maybe in the next book they justify this? I also found Beatrice a little more believable than I found Tris. However I really liked Tris’ group of friends, their friendship felt really genuine and when there were betrayals it made sense. There’s also some romance which I really appreciated. When the initiates are going through the grueling physical and emotional stages a little romance story is a welcome distraction!
Plot: Again this is difficult to talk about with no spoilers! I enjoyed the pace of Divergent, I didn’t at any point feel bored or that it slowed down which kept me reading to the end! However the main plot is something I’ve read multiples times before and I think because of that I found the ending a little bit predictable. Having said that, I didn’t find that it took away from the enjoyment, I literally breezed through the last 50 or so pages because as I reader I was engaged in the story! Throughout the book Tris always asks about what the outside world is like, and I’m thinking that may be hinting at what will happen in the next book so I’m very excited to read it!
Is it the best YA book I’ve read this year so far, probably not. BUT I do understand the hype and I see why this is a popular YA trilogy. I know for the most part my review is critiquing the book but I actually really had fun reading it. Its written from the perspective of a 16 year old and the writing style does reflect that. If you enjoy reading YA dystopian I definitely think you should give this a try!

Wolf by Wolf: Review

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Title: Wolf by Wolf

Author: Ryan Grauding

Published: October 20th 2015

Length:  388 pages

Source: Received for review through Netgalley

 

 

Why is it that the books I always delay reading end up being the ones I enjoy the most? Wolf by Wolf is definitely not a light read which is why I think I kept pushing back reading it. It was so well written and managed to captivate my attention, I literally stayed up ‘til 4am reading it!

Here’s the synopsis: (taken from Goodreads)

‘Her story begins on a train.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move.

But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

From the author of The Walled City comes a fast-paced and innovative novel that will leave you breathless.’

World Building: This book is set in a time where mankind arguably carried out one of the most horrific acts ever and I think that’s why I was intimated a bit by reading it. The world building in the novel is just fantastic. Our main character Yael takes part in the Axis tour where she travels across the world from ‘Germania’ to Tokyo and the way Ryan Graudin was able to portray these different regions, from Cairo to India was great! The way the book was structured was that it kept changing from a chapter from Yaels past to a chapter in her present. Her past was her growing up in a death camp and going through some things that no one should ever endure, these chapters really tore my soul out! At the same time I really appreciated that the author didn’t decide to base her novel on a ‘milder’ version of what happened but actually went into the details creating an atmosphere that genuinely made me shudder. Personally I think that the chapters interchanging between the two times worked really well, just when things got really dark for Yael we are sent back to the race. For me that made this book a little easier to read. When I read about fictional occurrences no matter how horrific they are at the end of the day I know they’re fake. However when reading about something where millions of innocent people were actually wiped out, it can get a little intense.

Characters: I don’t know if it’s just me but this character really resembled Arya Stark from GoT. She literally says ‘A girl without a face’ ‘The girl who was no one’, and she could also have many faces… just like Arya Stark. I don’t know that’s just something that stood out for me. I really loved Yael and the way she was portrayed . As someone with a purpose, but also at the end of the day human. Overestimating just how heartless she could be, and realising that things weren’t always black and white. She knew this better than most because she had to cross these boundaries many times… Sometimes I feel like the author tries to make a point of how ruthless and tough their protagonists are that sometimes it becomes unrealistic. This was definitely not the case with Yael, sometimes even she’s surprised for harbouring guilt for certain things she does (trying really hard to restrain myself from spoiling the book!) and it makes me as a reader able to connect with her. Another thing I notice in a lot of novels YA or others, is that they neglect to portray their characters as real human beings. Let me explain, when was the last time you read that a character needed the toilet, or needed tissue or something really mundane that would make them that much more realistic? Throughout this book Yael says things in brackets that make her that much more believable, even if it’s just talking about the road rash she got from her motorcycle.

Plot:

The main thing that motivates me as a reader to carry on is the plot, eventually we all want to know where this ends. What’s going to happen? Who ends up getting their way? The plot line developed at a steady pace in this novel that kept me both interested and intrigued to know what happened in Yaels past. I didn’t feel like at any point the race dragged on and the plot delayed because actually a lot of important things happen during it! There were a few plot twists that I genuinely didn’t see coming and by the end I was itching for the next book!

Overall a great book that I feel like not enough people have read. A great insight into what it would’ve been like to be a part of that time and really causes you to reflect on how privileged you are today. With some complex relatable characters and a plot line that kept me completely engaged the whole time. It also had a really interesting twist on how Hitler’s reign would end, I would definitely recommended this book!

 

 

Steel Victory: Review

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Title: Steel Victory

Author: J.LGribble

Published: July 2nd 2015

Length:  215 pages

Source: Received for review

 

It’s been a WHILE since I’ve done a review! There are many things that initially spark my interest in reading a book, and the promise of a strong female kick-ass protagonist is one of them.

The synopsis: (taken from Goodreads)

One hundred years ago, the vampire Victory retired from a centuries-long mercenary career. She settled in Limani, the independent city-state acting as a neutral zone between the British and Roman colonies on the New Continent.

Twenty years ago, Victory adopted a human baby girl, who soon showed signs of magical ability.

Today, Victory is a city councilwoman, balancing the human and supernatural populations within Limani. Her daughter Toria is a warrior-mage, balancing life as an apprentice mercenary with college chemistry courses.

Tomorrow, the Roman Empire invades.’

As someone who enjoys reading historical fiction and fantasy this seemed like the perfect match! This book has a fantastically diverse set of characters from wereleopards and weresnakes to vampires… However whenever I read a blurb like this and notice it’s a fantasy alarm bells ring. In my opinion fantasy relies heavily on the execution of many aspects (e.g. world building) to bring this fictional world to life, and I feel like to balance that with the development of an interesting and captivating plot line and to do it all in 215 pages… I have a few points I’d like to mention so, on with the review:

World Building: I generally enjoyed the premise of this book and the idea that we have a free city were different creatures are able to coexist sounded interesting. Now, the word building was there… but it came in chunks and got a bit difficult to get through at times. I also feel like we were given a lot of unnecessary information that didn’t deepen our understanding of the characters nor did it help understand the city’s current situation. Having said that I can’t deny that there was some form of world building, it did help to create a general picture and keep me somewhat interested.

Characters: There were some characters in this book that I appreciated whilst others that I thought were maybe a little irrelevant. Again I think that when writing a short story it’s difficult to include a lot of characters and allow each character to develop throughout the story. At some points I really couldn’t keep up with who is who. Maybe if there was less focus on some of the extra characters to provide development of Victory and most importantly Toria I would’ve been able to connect with these characters a little more.

Plot: I enjoyed that we had two different plot lines, we have the whole Humanists situation and we also have the impending Roman invasion. I also liked that the author linked these two towards the end of the book, the link made sense and felt realistic. I personally enjoy reading more about the military sort of battle aspects ( wow my English skills) that’s one of the reasons why I enjoyed reading historical fiction. The author was able to create tension and suspense in these scenes and actually, managed to fit in quite a bit of content into this story without making the reader feel like their lost.

Maybe one of my biggest problems with this book was that it didn’t really know what it was. Sometimes it read like a really dense historical fiction others it was an action packed fantasy and sometimes it slowed down to a contemporary feel. I’m not saying these genres do not belong together in a book but when it leaves me a little confused as to what tone the author wanted to set at that that particular scene the books’ not really coming together for me as a reader. It weren’t a particularly bad book but it also didn’t blow my mind…

In other news I wanted to post more of a discussion blog post and the topic is ‘rating reviews’. I initially started rating the books but recently decided against it and I wanted to elaborate on that in a little more detail. Let me know in the comments below what you think of a rating system!

Passenger: Review

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Title: Passenger

Published by : Hachette Children’s Group

Publication date: March 31st 2015

Author: Alexandra Bracken

Source: Received copy from Hachette Children’s Group through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

 

 

Did I enjoy reading this book? YES! Did I think it what somewhat over-hyped? YES….

Let me just get on with this review because I have a LOT to say! If you enjoy reading time travel but you do not really want a theory or premise that is overly complicated ora book that incorporates a lot of info-dumps I definitely think you should read this. IF you enjoy world building and aren’t annoyed when an author goes into extensive descriptions about seemingly unimportant things EVEN though it makes for great world building, this is something for you… For me personally I found that world building and relationships took centre stage in this novel and they were the two aspects I loved.

This is a book that has a beautiful blend between cultural diversity and intense world building that I really enjoyed. It’s sad that a book with an African American as a love interest and a co-protagonist (yes I will refer to him as such throughout this review) is so rare that when it is present it makes you respect the author. But that is truth, out of all the YA books I’ve read in the last couple of months or maybe year I have RARELY come across a diverse set of characters.

What I also loved about Alexandra Bracken is that she found a way to incorporate a hundred different cultures yet not offending one. In a world where literally anything will offend someone somewhere it was great to read to the end of the book and think well done Ms Bracken… As a Muslim I was slightly hesitant when I read they had to transport to Syria, I thought oh God no, something somewhere is not going to sit well with me, BUT I DIDN’T! First of all I liked the fact that for once Muslims are portrayed as compassionate people, even if their beliefs may seem bizarre to an observer she portrayed them as HUMAN BEINGS. I find that a lot of times (sadly) when Muslims are in a book/film it’s because they’re terrorists, are somehow linked to a terrorist plot or you’ll just find them frantically yelling in Arabic and being judgemental. When we come across Hassan I’m so relieved that this is not one of those moments again….

World building: Honestly this has to be the best world building I’ve read in a while. When I’m reading I find that the smallest of details help form the scene for me and this did just that! You’ll read a paragraph describing a violin and it’d just help you understand the character and the intensity of the atmosphere more! I also liked how she managed to space out the travel to different regions so that it weren’t overwhelming at all. Each region was captured in the pages allocated to it!

Characters: I loved our main characters, I loved that we had an interracial relationship and the development we see in their relationship. One thing I will say is that I found it somewhat lacked chemistry, it always seemed to be about lust and how his muscles popped and her hair sparkled but I don’t think we got to discover the depth of their feelings as much as I would’ve liked.

Plot: THE CLIFF HANGERRRRRRRRR. Do I really have to wait until July 2017????? There weren’t any mind blowing plot twists but I did like the action being evenly spaced out throughout the book. The build-up to the plot at times slowed down and there may have been a bit too much concentration on the world building causing the development of the story line to suffer at times.

I didn’t think Passenger needed to be 486 pages long, there were some cuts that I think should’ve been done in order to maintain the engagement of the reader. Admittedly I lost interest a few times because the world building got a bit much but I still enjoyed reading this novel. For me the time-travel could’ve been a bit more developed, I was really interested to see how Alexandra Bracken would go about this concept that has failed so often in the books I’ve read. I hope that maybe in Wayfarer we delve into this concept a little deeper!