Monday 30 January 2017

Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare book cover Journey Through Fiction

Title: Clockwork Angel
Author: Cassandra Clare
Series: The Infernal Devices, #1
Format: Paperback, bought
My rating: 3.5 / 5

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In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments series.

The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them...

-- As seen on Goodreads

My Thoughts

I have a mixed relationship at best with Cassandra Clare’s writing style, so I’m pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed Clockwork Angel as much as I did. Comparing it to my feelings after reading City of Bones a few years ago, I greatly prefer the beginnings of this trilogy. The book is set in Victorian London, and while I do think it got the broad picture of the era across well, it wasn’t as immersive or engaging as I was expecting. I have a mixed relationship with Steampunk books in general – give me subtlety over being smothered in steampunk any day, please and thanks – so I’m really glad it was more on the subtle side here.

Moving onto the characters: Tessa Gray seems like an interesting main character – she seems to have a spine, so that’s an improvement over Clary. I preferred her at the beginning of the book, but by the end she seemed to weaken a bit, and I hope this isn’t a downward trend that’ll show up in the next book. When two potential love interests show up in a story I usually prefer one over the other and never doubt my decision ever again, so it’s a nice change to genuinely like both Will and Jem here. I’ve seen LOTS of love and swooning over William Herondale over the years so I kind of knew what to expect – a concentrated version of Jace Wayland. James Carstairs, on the other hand, I didn’t know anything about, and I’ve got to admit, as intriguing as Will is, Jem is just a complete sweetheart and I have a big weakness for kind-hearted characters. I’m really looking forward to seeing how all their characters develop over the rest of the trilogy.

While I did enjoy the story overall, I did have a few issues. The beginning was really good, but things started to slip after a bit and the story started to dawdle along without anything of relevance happening. I wish the pacing was a bit snappier, and I’ve notice I had a similar complaint in the last book of Cassandra Clare’s that I read. I hope it’s not going to become a trend! As for the story overall, well, I feel like I’ve read it before. I can’t help feeling like it’s a rehashing of City of Bones set a few hundred years in the past. I really hope my opinion changes when I read the second book, so I’m willing to reserve judgement for the time being, anyway!

3.5 Stars I Liked It

Thursday 5 January 2017

Blog Tour: Freeks by Amanda Hocking

Blog Tour: Freeks by Amanda Hocking St. Martin's Press Journey Through Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the Freeks blog tour! Freeks was released Tuesday past (January 3rd, 2017), and it's a standalone novel set in 1987, and follows Mara and her family and friends as they take their Carnival act to a new town where things might not be quite what they seem. I have lots of information to share about the book today along with an excerpt, and further on down the post I have some of my thought on Freeks. Hope you enjoy!

Freeks by Amanda Hocking book cover

Title: Freeks
Author: Amanda Hocking
Series: Standalone
Format: eARC, kindly provided
by St. Martin's Griffin for the blog
tour. (Thank you!!)
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

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Buy from Macmillan
Buy from Books-A-Million
Buy from Barns & Noble
Buy from Amazon

Welcome to Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow, where necromancy, magical visions, and pyrokinesis are more than just part of the act…

Mara has always longed for a normal life in a normal town where no one has the ability to levitate or predict the future. Instead, she roams from place to place, cleaning the tiger cage while her friends perform supernatural feats every night.

When the struggling sideshow is miraculously offered the money they need if they set up camp in Caudry, Louisiana, Mara meets local-boy Gabe…and a normal life has never been more appealing.

But before long, performers begin disappearing and bodes are found mauled by an invisible beast. Mara realizes that there’s a sinister presence lurking in the town with its sights set on getting rid of the sideshow freeks. In order to unravel the truth before the attacker kills everyone Mara holds dear, she has seven days to take control of a power she didn’t know she was capable of—one that could change her future forever.

Bestselling author Amanda Hocking draws readers inside the dark and mysterious world of Freeks.

Excerpt from Freeks

1. premonitions

My feet rested against the dashboard of the Winnebago as we lumbered down the road, the second vehicle in a small caravan of beat-up trailers and motorhomes.

The sun hadn’t completely risen yet, but it was light enough that I could see outside. Not that there was much to see. The bridge stretched on for miles across Lake Tristeaux, and I could see nothing but the water around us, looking gray in the early morning light.

The AC had gone out sometime in Texas, and we wouldn’t have the money to fix it until after this stint in Caudry, if we were lucky. I’d cracked the window, and despite the chill, the air felt thick with humidity. That’s why I never liked traveling to the southeastern part of the country—too humid and too many bugs.

But we took the work that we got, and after a long dry spell waiting in Oklahoma for something to come up, I was grateful for this. We all were. If we hadn’t gotten the recommendation to Caudry, I’m not sure what we would’ve done, but we were spending our last dimes and nickels just to make it down here.

I stared ahead at Gideon’s motorhome in front of us. The whole thing had been painted black with brightly colored designs swirling around it, meant to invoke images of mystery and magic. The name “Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow” was painted across the back and both the sides. Once sparkles had outlined it, but they’d long since worn off.

My eyelids began to feel heavy, but I tried to ward off sleep. The radio in the car was playing old Pink Floyd songs that my mom hummed along to, and that wasn’t helping anything.

“You can go lay down in the back,” Mom suggested.

She did look awake, her dark gray eyes wide and a little frantic, and both her hands gripped the wheel. Rings made of painted gold and cheap stones adorned her fingers, glinting as the sun began to rise over the lake, and black vine tattoos wrapped around her hands and down her arms.

For a while, people had mistaken us for sisters since we looked so much alike. The rich caramel skin we both shared helped keep her looking young, but the strain of recent years had begun to wear on her, causing crow’s feet to sprout around her eyes and worried creases to deepen in her brow.

I’d been slouching low in the seat but I sat up straighter. “No, I’m okay.”

“We’re almost there. I’ll be fine,” she insisted.

“You say we’re almost there, but it feels like we’re driving across the Gulf of Mexico,” I said, and she laughed. “We’ve probably reached the Atlantic by now.”

She’d been driving the night shift, which was why I was hesitant to leave her. We normally would’ve switched spots about an hour or two ago, with me driving while she lay down. But since we were so close to our destination, she didn’t see the point in it.

On the worn padded bench beside the dining table, Blossom Mandelbaum snored loudly, as if to remind us we both should be sleeping. I glanced back at her. Her head lay at a weird angle, propped up on a cushion, and her brown curls fell around her face.

Ordinarily, Blossom would be in the Airstream she shared with Carrie Lu, but since Carrie and the Strongman had started dating (and he had begun staying over in their trailer), Blossom had taken to crashing in our trailer sometimes to give them privacy.

It wasn’t much of a bother when she slept here, and in fact, my mom kind of liked it. As one of the oldest members of the carnival—both in age and the length of time she’d been working here—my mom had become a surrogate mother to many of the runaways and lost souls that found us.

Blossom was two years younger than me, on the run from a group home that didn’t understand her or what she could do, and my mom had been more than happy to take her under her wing. The only downside was her snoring.

Well, that and the telekinesis.

“Mara,” Mom said, her eyes on the rearview mirror. “She’s doing it again.”

“What?” I asked, but I’d already turned around to look back over the seat.

At first, I didn’t know what had caught my mom’s eye, but then I saw it—the old toaster we’d left out on the counter was now floating in the air, hovering precariously above Blossom’s head.

The ability to move things with her mind served Blossom well when she worked as the Magician’s Assistant in Gideon’s act, but it could be real problematic sometimes. She had this awful habit of unintentionally pulling things toward her when she was dreaming. At least a dozen times, she’d woken up to books and tapes dropping on her. Once my mom’s favorite coffee mug had smacked her right in the head.

“Got it,” I told my mom, and I unbuckled my seat belt and went over to get it.

The toaster floated in front of me, as if suspended by a string, and when I grabbed it, Blossom made a snorting sound and shifted in her sleep. I turned around with the toaster under my arm, and I looked in front of us just in time to see Gideon’s trailer skid to the side of the road and nearly smash into the guardrail.

“Mom! Look out!” I shouted.

Mom slammed on the brakes, causing most of our possessions in the trailer to go hurtling toward the floor, and I slammed into the seat in front of me before falling to the ground. The toaster had slipped free from my grasp and clattered into the dashboard.

Fortunately, there was no oncoming traffic, but I could hear the sound of squealing tires and honking behind us as the rest of the caravan came to an abrupt stop.

“What happened?” Blossom asked, waking up in a daze from where she’d landed on the floor beneath the dining table.

“Mara!” Mom had already leapt from her seat and crouched in front of where I still lay on the worn carpet. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I assured her.

“What about you?” Mom reached out, brushing back Blossom’s frizzy curls from her face. “Are you all right?”

Blossom nodded. “I think so.”

“Good.” That was all the reassurance my mom needed, and then she was on her feet and jumping out of the Winnebago. “Gideon!”

“What happened?” Blossom asked again, blinking the sleep out of her dark brown eyes.

“I don’t know. Gideon slammed on his brakes for some reason.” I stood up, moving much slower than my mother.

We had very narrowly avoided crashing into Gideon. He’d overcorrected and jerked to the other side of the road, so his motorhome was parked at an angle across both lanes of the highway.

“Is everyone okay?” Blossom had sat up, rubbing her head, and a dark splotch of a bruise was already forming on her forehead. That explained why she seemed even foggier than normal—she’d hit her head pretty good.

“I hope so. I’ll go check it out,” I said. “Stay here.”

By the time I’d gotten out, Seth Holden had already gotten out of the motorhome behind us. Since he was the Strongman, he was usually the first to rush into an accident. He wanted to help if he could, and he usually could.

“Lyanka, I’m fine,” Gideon was saying to my mother, his British accent sounding firm and annoyed.

“You are not fine, albi,” Mom said, using a term of affection despite the irritation in her voice.

I rounded the back of his motorhome to find Gideon leaning against it with my mom hovering at his side. Seth reached them first, his t-shirt pulled taut against his muscular torso.

“What’s going on? What happened?” Seth asked.

“Nothing. I just dozed off for a second.” Gideon waved it off. “Go tell everyone I’m fine. I just need a second, and we’ll be on our way again.”

“Do you want me to drive for you?” Seth asked. “Carrie can handle the Airstream.”

Gideon shook his head and stood up straighter. “I’ve got it. We’re almost there.”

“All right.” Seth looked uncertainly at my mom, and she nodded at him. “I’ll leave you in Lyanka’s care and get everyone settled down.”

As soon as Seth disappeared back around the motorhome, loudly announcing that everything was fine to everyone else, Gideon slumped against the trailer. His black hair had fallen over his forehead. The sleeves of his shirt were rolled up, revealing the thick black tattoos that covered both his arms.

“Gideon, what’s really going on?” Mom demanded with a worried tremor.

He swallowed and rubbed his forehead. “I don’t know.”

Even though the sun was up now, the air seemed to have gotten chillier. I pulled my sweater tighter around me and walked closer to them. Gideon leaned forward, his head bowed down, and Mom rubbed his back.

“You didn’t fall asleep, did you?” I asked.

Gideon lifted his eyes, looking as though he didn’t know I was there. And guessing by how pained he was allowing himself to look, he probably hadn’t. Gideon was only in his early thirties, but right now, he appeared much older than that.

That wasn’t what scared me, though. It was how dark his blue eyes were. Normally, they were light, almost like the sky. But whenever he’d had a vision or some kind of premonition, his eyes turned so dark they were nearly black.

“It was a headache,” Gideon said finally.

“There’s something off here,” Mom said. “I felt it as soon as we got on the bridge. I knew we should turn back, but I hoped that maybe I was imagining things. Now that I look at you, I know.”

That explained that frantic look in her eyes I’d seen earlier in the Winnebago, and how alert she’d been even though she’d been awake and driving for nearly twenty hours straight. Mom didn’t see things in the way Gideon did, but she had her own senses.

“It’s fine, Lyanka,” Gideon insisted. He straightened up again, and his eyes had begun to lighten. “It was only a migraine, but it passed. I am capable of having pain without supernatural reasons, too.”

Mom crossed her arms over her chest, and her lips were pressed into a thin line. “We should go back.”

“We’re almost there.” Gideon gestured to the end of the road, and I looked ahead for the first time and realized that we could see land. The town was nestled right up to the lake, and we couldn’t be more than ten minutes outside the city limits.

“We could still turn around,” Mom suggested.

“We can’t.” He put his hands on her arms to ease her worries. “We don’t have any money, love. The only way we can go is forward.”

“Gideon.” She sighed and stared up at the sky, the violet fabric of her dress billowing out around her as the wind blew over us, then she looked back at him. “Are you sure you’re okay to drive?”

“Yes, I’m sure. Whatever pain I had, it’s passed.” He smiled to reassure her. “We should go before the others get restless.” She lowered her eyes, but when he leaned in to kiss her, she let him. She turned to go back to our motorhome, and as she walked past me, she muttered, “I knew we should never travel on Friday the thirteenth. No good ever comes of it.”

I’d waited until she’d gone around the corner to turn back to Gideon, who attempted to give me the same reassuring smile he’d given my mom.

“We could go back,” I said. “There’s always a way. We’ve made it on less before.”

“Not this time, darling.” He shook his head. “And there’s no reason to. Leonid assured me there’d be a big payday here, and I’ve got no reason to doubt him. We can make a go of it here.”

“As long as you’re sure we’ll be okay.”

“I haven’t steered you all wrong yet.” Gideon winked at me then, but he was telling the truth. In the ten years that my mom and I had been following him around the country, he’d always done the best he could by us.

I went back and got into the Winnebago with my mom and Blossom. Within a couple minutes, Gideon had straightened his motorhome out, and the caravan was heading back down the road. At the end of the bridge was a large sign that read WELCOME TO CAUDRY, POPULATION 13,665.

As soon as we crossed the line into town, the air seemed even colder than before. That’s when I realized the chill wasn’t coming from outside—it was coming from within me.

Copyright © 2016 by Amanda Hocking and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin.

Meet Amanda Hocking

 Amanda Hocking

Amanda Hocking is a lifelong Minnesotan obsessed with Batman and Jim Henson. In between watching cooking shows, taking care of her menagerie of pets, and drinking too much Red Bull Zero, she writes young adult urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

Several of her books have made the New York Times Bestsellers list, including the Trylle trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her zombie series, The Hollows, has been adapted into a graphic novel by Dynamite. She has published over fifteen novels, including the Watersong quartet and My Blood Approves series. Frostfire, Ice Kissed, and Crystal Kingdom - all three books in her latest trilogy, The Kanin Chronicles - are out now.

Amanda's Website || Twitter || Facebook || Amanda's Blog || Pinterest || GoodReads

My Thoughts

*I received an eARC from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This didn't influence my opinion in any way.*

FREEKS caught my interest straight away when I saw the absolutely gorgeous cover, and once I read the synopsis I was intrigued even more. Necromancy, visions, and lots of other supernatural happenings set in a carnival?! Yes, please! The story is set in 1987, and Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow has been struggling financially for quite a while. A potentially lucrative job opens up in Louisiana, and the carnival sets out to Caudry where the main story is set. Mara, our main character, and her mother live and travel with the carnival, and since Mara doesn’t have any supernatural abilities of her own to have her own act, she helps out everyone else wherever she can. Shortly after arriving in Caudry one of their group goes missing, followed by attacks on other members of the carnival, and slowly they realise that Caudry might not be the sleepy Southern town they initially thought it was.

I really enjoyed the carnival aspect of the story and with the supernatural elements mixed in. I love when books grab your attention right from the first few pages and don’t let go, and I found that here. Despite a few repetitive explanations here and there, I really liked the writing style. It reminded me little of C.C. Hunter, so if you’ve read the Shadow Falls books and enjoyed her writing style and are looking for something similar, then I’d definitely recommend checking out FREEKS.

There’s quite a large cast of characters, and I really liked the diverse representation right across the board. In general, I liked all the characters, but I particularly liked the friendship between Mara and Roxie. FREEKS is a standalone novel, and I think this could be where my preference for series will show through: I feel like I didn’t get to know any of the characters well enough and I would have loved to get to know some of the secondary characters better. With so many people living in such close quarters with each other, I half-expected their relationship dynamics – whether functional or dysfunctional – to leap off the pages.

There is one huge elephant in the room I need to talk about, and that’s the romance between Mara and Gabe. When the smooching begins at 9%, I start to worry! Joking aside, I want to stress I have no problem with Mara and Gabe individually or as a couple, but, it was the speed of their romance and the supposed depths of their feelings that develop over the course of mere days rather than months which left me with a sense of disbelief and an unwillingness to get behind and support their romance. I’m sorry, but I can’t describe it as anything other than an insta-love. Honestly, with a longer time-line they could be pretty cute together, and I kind of wish they’d gotten that chance.

I’m a bit torn on how to sum up my feelings about FREEKS. I did enjoy the story and found it engaging and entertaining, however the romance that tended to take over the story at times has overshadowed my feelings a bit. This is the first book I’ve read by Amanda Hocking and despite some of the reservations I had with the romance here, I’m curious to try some of her other books in the future.

Tuesday 3 January 2017

2016 Annual End of Year Survey

Happy New Year!! I can't believe it's 2017 already, the years really seem to be flying by so quickly lately. I'm going to start the New Year off with a look back at 2016. This post is inspired by Jamie from The Perpetual Page Turner's Annual End of the Year Survey. I've answered quite a few of her questions, and added in a few of my own, too. Let's start with a few stats.

2016 Reading Stats:

Number of Books I Read: 68

Number of Re-Reads: 9

Number of Series I Completed: 7

Number of Series I Won't Continue: 5

Number of New-to-Me Authors: 28

Number of 2016 New Releases: 22

Most Read Genre: Fantasy

2016 was a weird year, what else can I say?! I didn't read as much as I had hoped to. I set my Goodreads goal to 50 books, but I had secretly hoped to beat it by a lot more than 18 books. I had an unofficial total of 75 for the year in mind, but that didn't work out too well! Maybe it'll happen this year. Also, blogging took a back-seat. I had little desire to write posts or take part in challenge, and I lost a lot of bookish motivation for five or six months of the year. Also, I haven't been as involved in the bookish community in general, and I do miss it. (But one thing I definitely didn't miss was drama and general hostility for daring to express an opinion, but that's a discussion for another day!)

Best In Books:

My Favourite Book of 2016:

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo - I absolutely adored Six of Crows, and the only down side to loving it so much was the reading slump it triggered for most of the summer until I managed to get my hands on Crooked Kingdom in September. The lack of reading was worth it in the end, though!

Favourite 2016 Debut:

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

My Biggest Disappointment of 2016:

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff - I know this one will be on quite a few favourite lists this year, but unfortunately the writing style wasn't for me and I couldn’t get into the story.

My Favourite Series Conclusion:

The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski - If only every series ended as perfect and satisfying as this trilogy, I'd be one happy reader!

Best Series I Started in 2016:

The Queen of the Tearling Finnikin of the Rock

I can't choose between two series, so I have to include both! The Queen of the Tearling trilogy by Erika Johansen and The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta

Favourite New-to-Me Author I Read in 2016:

Erika Johansen

Erika Johansen, author of The Queen of the Tearling trilogy.

Most Addictive Book of the Year:

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows. I read it in two sittings, which is a pretty rare thing for me these days!

Favourite Cover:

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton. Crooked Kingdom's cover would be a VERY close second, though.

Favourite World-Building/Setting:

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury And I Darken by Kiersten White

It's a tie between The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury and And I Darken by Kiersten White.

Most Memorable Character of 2016:

Kaz Brekker. Love him or hate him, he's VERY memorable! (I fall into the love him half, by the way!)

My OTP of the Year:

Choosing my favourite OTP is like asking me which lung I prefer. *panics* It's an impossible choice! Okay, okay! So, if I have to choose, I'll say Kaz and Inej from the Six of Crows duology. (I'm sensing a theme here…)

Shortest and Longest Book I Read in 2016:

Book that Made me Cry:

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. - I could see what happened coming for quite a while, but it still hurt. *wipes away tears*

Hidden Gem of the Year:

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine. - It's a Phantom of the Opera retelling set in a slaughter house. How could I not love it?!

Looking Ahead to 2017:

A 2016 Release I WILL Read in 2017:

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Most Anticipated 2017 Release:

The Fallen Kingdom by Elizabeth May

The Fallen Kingdom by Elizabeth May

Most Anticipated 2017 Debut:

Gilded Cage by Vic James

Most Anticipated 2017 Series Continuation:

Now I Rise by Kiersten White Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

I have two, (shocking, I know!), and they're Now I Rise by Kiersten White and Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

Most Anticipated 2017 Series Conclusion:

It doesn't have a title yet (or a cover), but I can't wait to see how the Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff ends!

Thanks for stopping by, and Happy Reading!


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