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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The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley – Hannah Tinti

The Twelve Lives of Samuel HawleyThe story: Loo has spent her life travelling the country with her father, never staying in one place for too long and always ready to pack up and go at a moment’s notice. Samuel Hawley, her father, has a dangerous past – one that’s written across his body in scars. When they attempt to settle down in the hometown of Loo’s mother, resistance from the local community causes problems for them both. As Loo grows up and struggles to fit in and become her own person, she also has to reconcile her idealistic childhood views of her father with the man that he used to be, and the man that he’s become.

My views: I really enjoyed this book. The format – which is made up of stories of Samuel’s past and how he came to get each of his twelve bullet scars, interspersed with the story of Loo’s present as she attempts to deal with bullying, boys and an absent mother – worked really well and kept me gripped.

Samuel is unapologetic about his past. He knows that he’s made some bad decisions and chosen a dubious path on numerous occasions, with repercussions that have affected not just himself but also his daughter. He may not have been the model father, but he’s fiercely protective of Loo, and has turned his life around to raise her as best he can. As she grows up and starts to question him, he’s forced to deal with the fact that she’s no longer a child but a young woman capable of making her own decisions and her own mistakes. Continue reading

The Hangman’s Daughter – Gavin G Smith

The hangman's daughterThe story:
Miska and her father have commandeered a prison ship, The Hangman’s Daughter, and forcibly recruited the inmates into their own private army of mercenaries. As their first job, Miska and her unwilling legion of convicts are hired to put down a rebellion on a mining planet, but things don’t go as planned.

My thoughts:
I’m torn with this book. There were lots of aspects that I really enjoyed, but some that I struggled with. On the plus side, the majority of the characters are really well developed and the author does a great job of building up an entirely believable and complex world in a short period of time.

The prisoners Miska forces into her employ are not are soldiers, they are dangerous criminals with their own agendas, and they hate her for making them risk their lives on seemingly pointless missions. She’s well aware that she has to be feared to stay in control. The result is that Miska is a fascinating character to read about – at times she comes across as almost as deranged as the criminals in her employ. She’s ruthless, cunning and not scared to make tough decisions.

However, we don’t find out anything about Miska’s true motivations behind taking over The Hangman’s Daughter, or why she makes certain decisions, until about halfway through the book, which is when it starts to get interesting. For me, if this had come a bit earlier in the book it would have kept me more engaged. As it was, I struggled through the first 25% of the book. It does pick up after that though.

I enjoy some aspects of science fiction, however, for me there was just too much science in this book. The descriptions of advanced technology, types of guns and spaceship parts were too lengthy for me and I had to force myself to keep reading on several occasions. I really enjoyed the scenes with character interaction, but felt like there was too much time spent in Miska’s head or bogged down in minute details.

As I said, I’m on the fence with this one. If you’re into science fiction though, this would probably be a great book for you.

Red Rising – Pierce Brown

Red RisingThe story:
Set in the distant future, where the human race is divided by a rigid class system of colours, colonies of Red miners toil under the surface of Mars, harvesting natural elements that will terraform its surface and make it an inhabitable environment in the future. Sixteen year old Darrow is one of these Reds, born underground and raised to risk his life on a daily basis. Food is scarce and life expectancy is short. The rules are enforced by a strict hierarchical class system that’s preceded over by the Gold’s – supposedly superior to all other colours both physically and mentally. When Darrow discovers that his life is built on a lie, he’s given a dangerous mission to integrate himself into the very heart of Gold society.

My thoughts:
Darrow is sent to the Institute, where young Gold’s play deadly games to win power. It’s a trial by fire that is designed to push them to the limits and teach them how to wage war and become the leaders of tomorrow. Weakness isn’t tolerated and not everyone will make it through. Parallels could be drawn to the Hunger Games, but it’s a very different type of competition. The aim here is for power and ultimate victory – achieved through intellect and strategy and the ability to command their peers.

Darrow is a great character. He’s definitely not perfect – he’s reckless, angry and overly bold. He’s smart but he also shows that he can be ruthless and brutal. This means that he’s not always a particularly likeable character, but you still end up rooting for him all the same. Throughout the book he goes through some intense challenges, questioning his own identity, who to trust and what actions can be justified for the greater good. Continue reading

Discussing Antonia Honeywell’s ‘The Ship’

The ShipI was lucky enough to be selected as a member of the Curtis Brown Book Group, and Antonia Honeywell’s debut novel ‘The Ship’ was the first book up for discussion. It was a great pick, and there are so many points for discussion that it’s hard to know where to start!

Sixteen year-old Lalla has been raised in a world that is slowly disintegrating before her eyes. Floods, banking crashes, food shortages and disease have destroyed parts of the world and driven the survivors into small, isolated pockets. Every citizen is required to keep themselves registered. Without their cards, they are no longer considered to be the responsibility of the government and are liable to be shot on sight. The homeless and the unregistered are forced to seek shelter wherever they can – from a tent city in Regents Park to the British Museum or St Paul’s Cathedral.

For as long as she can remember, Lalla’s parents have been talking about the Ship – the vessel that will lead them to a better place along with five hundred carefully selected ‘worthy’ souls. But when Lalla finally makes it onto the promised Ship, she can’t shake the feeling that there’s something deeply wrong. She’s plagued with questions that no one is willing to answer – where are they going, who are they leaving behind, and ultimately, what are they living for? Continue reading

Roopa Farooki’s ‘The Good Children’

the good childrenRoopa Farooki’s ‘The Good Children’ focuses on the lives of the Suddeq family in Lahore, the Punjab.

From birth, the Suddeq children – Sully, Jakie, Mae and Lana – are pushed into set roles determined by their gender and by social expectations. The boys will study, go abroad for education and return as successful doctors. The girls will be dutiful daughters, marry well and help to keep the family in the highest social standing.

But their mother’s determination to force them into these ideals of ‘good children’ forces a wedge between her and her children. All four grow up to rebel and push the boundaries in their own way – Sully marries outside of his religion and Jakie falls in love with a white Irishman, while the girls leave their husbands and raise their children with Western values.

Despite scattering to all corners of the globe to escape their mother’s grasp over their lives, their childhood in the Punjab profoundly affects all four of the children. As they build their lives in new surroundings and carve their own path away from family and cultural expectations, they all struggle to some extent with feelings of enduring guilt or resentment. Many years later, they are drawn back to their childhood home and forced to come to terms with their upbringing and the choices they’ve made since. Continue reading

David Hofmeyr’s ‘Stone Rider’

Stone RiderLife on Earth is tough and fraught with violence. Pollution has destroyed the quality of the air people breathe and there’s an ever-present threat of radiation. For those on the ground, the only options are to live their life working in the mines or to become a rider, risking their lives as they take to their bykes and compete, racing to win a one way ticket to the mysterious Sky Base.

When fifteen year old Adam enters the Blackwater Trail, he knows that the majority of the riders won’t return. The landscape is unforgiving, the obstacle courses are booby-trapped and people will do absolutely anything to win, including taking out their fellow competitors. Soon enough, he’s teamed up with the dark, enigmatic outsider Kane and Sadie Blood, daughter of one of the most powerful families in town. Together, the three of them take on the course and battle every impediment hurled in their way, hoping to escape their lives for something better. Continue reading