Mini reviews: Unpopular opinions

So far this year I’ve read 70 books – and written reviews for only a fraction of these. The chances are that I’m never going to get around to writing full reviews for every book I’ve ever read, so I thought I’d group together a few recent reads from the YA fantasy genre and do a post of mini-reviews!

The reason why these ones haven’t yet made it into full reviews is that I didn’t enjoy them enough to recommend them, and I generally don’t like writing full length negative reviews unless I feel really strongly about them.

Judging from reviews of these books I’ve seen on the blogosphere, I get the feeling that my opinions on most of these are going to be unpopular. I know others loved them, but for the most part, these ones just weren’t for me.

I know that some people might ask why I’m writing reviews that are mainly negative. Well, the reviews and the opinions of other bloggers have a big impact on the books I pick up, and there are plenty of books in this genre that I’ve really enjoyed recently because of blogger recommendations.

But I think it’s really helpful to read a range of reviews with different opinions. I mainly saw positive reviews of these books on the blogosphere, but I think if I’d read reviews that were more varied I could have been a bit pickier and chosen books that I personally would have enjoyed more.

Let me know what you think! Did you enjoy/not enjoy any of the books below?
Do you write reviews for every books you read even if you weren’t a fan?How do you feel about writing negative reviews? 

  • Frostblood, Elly Blake

FrostbloodRuby is one of the only Firebloods left in a world of Frostbloods. She’s all alone and bitter and hating because the Frostbloods have ruined her life. She’s also prophesised to be the only one that can save the world from the cruel and wicked king (obviously). The only one who can teach her to use her powers is a Frostblood and her sworn enemy, but despite all the hate and oh so snarky comments they fall in love (obviously). There is of course an arena battle. The love interest also has a secret that is glaringly obvious to anyone who has ever read a YA fantasy book. All in all quite predictable, and I felt like I’d read this book before in different forms – several times. It’s not a bad read, but I didn’t feel it was anything special either.

  • The Hundredth Queen, Emily R. King

The Hundredth QueenAn orphan girl with secret hidden powers is plucked from a crowd and chosen to become the Rajah’s final wife. When she reaches the palace, she has to literally fight in an arena for her right to stay there. She falls in love with a handsome guard but can’t be with him because it’s against the rules, and if you can think of another cliché that I haven’t already listed, it’s probably in there. This book did nothing new in my opinion. It took every YA trope there has ever been and threw them all together in one big boiling pot. It would have been OK if these had been done well, but I didn’t think they were. It just felt like a mash up of other, better stories. I got this one as a free download on Amazon and I can’t help feeling glad I didn’t spend any of my own money on it!

  • The Shadow Queen, C. J. Redwine

The Shadow QueenThe Shadow Queen is a retelling of Snow White, with our heroine Lorelai on a mission to defeat the wicked queen who killed her father and stole her kingdom. To manage this, she needs to learn magic and beat the queen at her own game. I have very little to say about this book. It was OK. It was a good way to kill an afternoon, but I also thought it was a bit predictable. None of the supporting characters or the love interest had anything particularly interesting or different about them, and I can’t actually remember any of their names. I’ve read other retellings that I’ve enjoyed more. It did have a fantastic map at the beginning though that was great for bookstagram. For me, that was probably the highlight.

  • The Star Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi

Star Touched QueenMaya is cursed with a terrible horoscope and as a result is treated terribly by everyone in her father’s court. At 17 she’s married off for political convenience and becomes queen of a very different court, full of hidden secrets and locked doors. Soon she uncovers a secret ancient mystery in which she has a central role to play. While I liked the setting, the style of this book was a bit too whimsical and all over the place for me. It got too caught up in long descriptive passages and I didn’t think the world building was up to scratch. I also found it hard to follow exactly what was going on. The main characters were forgettable and they constantly made stupid decisions that inevitably led to predictable consequences. While the writing was pretty, I thought it was a bit style over substance.

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Three Days and a Life – Pierre Lemaitre

Three Days and a LifeThe story: Aged just twelve, Antoine acts out of in a fit of anger, with horrific consequences. From that day, he lives his life in the constant shadow of shame and doubt, driven by an overwhelming desire to escape from the consequences of his actions. As an adult, he’s determined to get away from the small town where he grew up and make a different life for himself. But when unforeseen circumstances draw him back home and into the orbit of old friends and acquaintances, events transpire to bring old truths to the surface, no matter how hard Antoine tries to keep them buried forever.

 

My thoughts: Pierre Lemaitre is a French crime writer that I’ve been following for a while, and I think I’ve read all of the books he’s written that have been translated into English. His previous novels have been much more intense and focus on a series of grisly murders and psychological abuse. In contrast, Three Days and a Life was a bit of a departure from what I was used to reading from this author.

  Continue reading

American War – Omar El Akkad

The story…

Set in the near future, America as we know it has been irrevocably changed by war, natural disasters and a devastating man-made virus. Old tensions between the north and the south, reignited over the issue of fossil fuels, lead to a war that spans decades. Sarat Chesnut is just six years old when the Second American War breaks out, but she and her family are changed forever by the horrors that it unleashes. As she grows up, Sarat is drawn deeper and deeper into the shadowy world of the militant resistance and splinter groups that are determined to do whatever is required to achieve their goals.

My thoughts…

Omar El Akkad describes an America that has been torn apart by civil war. In the south, refugee camps become permanent homes for those displaced by bombs, violence and the changing, inhospitable landscape. Efforts on both sides to reduce tension generally end in failure. Young people grow up and are recruited into increasingly radical militant groups, determined to defend their home against all the odds.

Sarat is one of those young people. Faced with poverty, displacement and loss from an early age, she is drawn into playing an important role in the resistance. As readers, we’re powerless to do anything but watch as she is shaped by the world around her into an instrument of war. As she becomes more and more immersed in this world, the consequences have a huge impact on her personally. Continue reading

August wrap up

Books read: 5
This month I read fewer books than usual, but those that I did read were longer and quite intense (4 3 2 1 was just under 900 pages while The Ministry of Utmost Happiness tackled some really complex social and political issues and was definitely not a quick book to read). I really enjoyed The Word is Murder – which was a really unique take on the classic detective novel.

  • The Good Daughter, Karin Slaughter
  • The Word is Murder, Anthony Horowitz
  • The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy
  • The Readymade Thief, Augustus Rose
  • 4 3 2 1, Paul Auster


Books acquired: 7
I was much more reserved this month than I was last month – acquiring just 7 books compared to last month’s 24. I’m really looking forward to reading City of Circles and American War, both of which have been on my wishlist for a while. Continue reading

The Word is Murder – Anthony Horowitz

The Word is MurderThe story…

Renowned fiction author Anthony Horowitz is approached by an old acquaintance, a jaded and disagreeable investigator, with an idea of a new, true crime novel. A particularly perplexing murder has just been committed, and Hawthorne is convinced the story could be a big hit, providing they can solve the case.

My thoughts…

This book has one of the most unique concepts of all the books I’ve ever read. Even now I’m still slightly baffled by it. Leaving aside the story for the moment, the idea of having Horowitz write himself as a character in his own novel is very odd. There are so many personal details in the book that must be autobiographical – for example, detailed descriptions about his own past as a scriptwriter for TV programme Foyles War. In addition to this, the fictional murder storyline is entwined into these real life details. At least, I assume that this storyline is fictional – even now I’m not quite sure. Continue reading

Writing book reviews: how to get started

As book bloggers, writing book reviews is a core part of what we do. However, I’ve heard from lots of people who say that review writing is the most challenging or least fun part of blogging.

I’ve written posts in the past that set out some of the reasons that I personally find writing reviews difficult. There are a lot of times where I’ve gone to write a review but put it off – sometimes I can’t seem to get the thoughts in my head down on the page in a way that makes sense or think of the right phrasing, or sometimes just I draw a blank and can’t think of anything interesting to say.

Assuming that at least some other people out there also suffer from the same issues – I thought I’d share some of my experiences, processes and tips for writing book reviews.

I know that everyone writes their reviews differently and I’m by no means an expert! If you’ve been blogging for a while and already have your own style for review writing, this post might not be so useful for you!

However, if you are at all interested in hearing my thoughts and top tips for writing book reviews, please read on! Continue reading

The White Road – Sarah Lotz

The White RoadThe story:

Simon Newman maintains a website for thrill seekers, posting videos of extreme or ghoulish situations online. When a caving expedition goes horribly wrong, Simon’s video of his near death experience goes viral. Chasing something big to follow up on this success, Simon finds himself attempting to scale Everest. But the more time passes, the more Simon is haunted by past events. As his present collides with the past, Simon begins to lose his grip on reality in while attempting to stay grounded in some of the most dangerous and inhospitable places on earth.

My thoughts:

Throughout the book, Simon struggles to deal with what happened in the caves and the morality of using the internet to gain fame and success at the expense of others. He has to deal with feelings of grief and guilt, but his reluctance to do so means that his feelings manifest into a self-destructive, wild obsession. He’s not a particularly likable character, but to me this made him feel more real. Continue reading