Cat Among the Pigeons, Agatha Christie

A 3*

“No sign, so far, of anything sinister—but I live in hope.”

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

This is not one of the best works of Agatha Christie. It might not even be one of the good ones. I certainly felt disappointed and bored.

Yes, there were spies. Yes, there were international interests and conflicts. But all in all, it was a tedious and long read. The setting for the story took more than 100 pages. And after one big event, there was still nothing of interest happening.

A lot of murders occur in the Meadowbank prestigious school, but the story is not moving along.

And much to my disappointment, Hercule Poirot doesn’t appear until the end of the book. He comes on the last pages and solves a case in a moment.

Even though, the intrigue and the suspense are kept till the end. But the real killer is the one you suspect from the beginning. At least, one of the two. But that is an interesting trick in itself.

The epilogue of the book gives one final touch to the mystery full of espionage and international affairs.

It is a book that you will pass an enjoyable evening with, but it is not a remarkably good story.

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The Gift-Knight Quest, Dylan Madeley

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“Chandra had yet to fathom why Jonnecht could not have lived and ruled for many long years, or why it was so urgent that she ascend immediately.”

I bought this book from a fellow writer on twitter. The name was interesting and the description, intriguing. I wanted to love this book so much, but I was mildly disappointed.

D.Madeley immerses us in a well-developed world, but it takes too much of a time. I think it was around 25% of the book when I was still wondering when will the fun begin. The introduction was slow-paced and far too long.

But I get that to build a complex world, such as the one in The Gift-Knight Quest there is need of a lot of description, legends and myths. I just only wish that D.Madeley wouldn’t take an omnipresent point of view, and a confusing one at that, to tell the tale.

The switch between characters happens so often and without any warning throwing you from one scene to the next and then back to the starting point. And amidst all of this are flashbacks that pop out of nowhere and you need to take a while to figure out what is happening and since when there is a war in the Empire.

Even though, it is a well-developed world with different political systems, cultures, and traditions. We get to see and meet all of them, through a little bit too-detailed descriptions.

We get to meet a lot of characters throughout the book, and they are all complex and well-developed, even if we can see only a glimpse of them in The Gift-Knight Quest. They all take their part in the interesting court intrigues, even if confusing at times, as we get to see what each of the characters wants and thinks.

I must say that some turns of events were unexpected, even if the hints were dropped all along the way. It makes us turn the pages and want to know what will happen next.

All in all, this was a catchy story, with some polishing left to do, which has an ending that will make you ask for more.

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Playing with Monsters, Amelia Hutchins

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“I’m here to get fucked, shake shit up a little bit. Get my powers, and take my place. I’m not naïve, I just know what I want, and that’s not children. I have no intention of having pretty babies, or a happy ever after. Love’s destructive and nothing more than a lie to make people think there’s some great force out there waiting for them. So here’s a thought: Why don’t you go home, settle down, have some pretty little heartbreaker babies, and get lost.”

This book was a good, light read, but it wasn’t great.

This wasn’t just ‘I will fuck you here, I will fuck you there, then you will get hurt and after that, I will show you how much I love you’ type of erotica. Well, except for the first part when it is ‘I will kiss you out of nowhere and then I will almost fuck you here, I will almost fuck you there and then we will finally fuck and you will get hurt’ type of erotica.

But besides all that, it had a well-thought story, even though it dragged for far too long. It was slow and sometimes confusing. Too little explanation was given about the curse that Katarina put on Lucian, about Katarina herself and Lucian’s obsession with Magdalena.

There is too much focus in the books of our age to keep it part of a series and drag the story that could fit in one book through a tedious series. But Playing with Monsters does have its own mystery and A.Hutchins manages to keep it till the end of the book.

But I have a problem with this author. This is the second book I am reading. The first one was Fighting Destiny, I abandoned it and now trying to give it another chance. A.Hutchins writes about rape as something normal, but it is not. It does happen and to too many women. But the characters that experience it in A.Hutchins’ books find it either sexy or easy to get over it. Lena wants to have sex with Lucian days after she was raped by her ex-fiance and that is not normal. Her world crumbled and she doesn’t care about it. She only wants to satisfy her hormones.

The buzzing hormones between Lena and Lucian do not allow for a real relationship to strike between them and do not get me hooked on the story or interested in the characters. Even though the characters are deep and well constructed, they do not seem superficial and shallow but with their own story.

But I think I saw almost all of it before and with the same names and everything. Doppelgangers, the past one is evil, the present one is good; love story between Lena and the bad guy… The only thing missing is for Lucian to have a good brother and then we have The Vampire Diaries all over again but with more sex in them.

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Dawn of Dreams, Bronwyn Leroux

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“Jaden stumbled, dimly aware that although he had never heard the sound before, it was as if he had spent his entire life waiting to hear it. Fear snaked down his spine.”

I got a copy of this book from in exchange for an honest review.

Dawn of Dreams is the book that hits you on the first page and takes you on an adventure until the last page is turned. Except for the fact that you need to survive entire paragraphs of needless actions and descriptions.

Yes, the opening was exciting. But when I was at around 1/3rd of the book, there was still nothing new that happened, except for an apparition of a strange monster and a medallion, which I must say was a wrapped in a tedious description itself. But it was only half of the book when the first really intriguing thing happens. There is just too much description in this book and a useless one at that.

We get to know what the protagonists do at all the times and with too much unnecessary detail, we get to see characters that appear for a chapter and we never see them again. It might be needed to construct a world, but it is tiresome if it lasts for the whole book.

The same goes for the protagonists themselves. They are deep, well-developed characters, but with too much detail given about them, their each and every thought, each and every action. And at the same time, they are too perfect. Kind, pretty and popular, with no defect to them that would make us easy to associate with them.

All in all, underneath this too detailed world, there is an outstanding plot, with a unique adventure and, of course, a unique monster. One that is scary and awful and makes for a perfect antagonist, even though it might not be the evilest creature in the series. A few hints are dropped but only the next books will tell.

This book could be shorter, by half, but, even though, it ends with a cliff-hanger with enough of intrigue to start the next one as soon as finishing the previous one.

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Thunderlight, Adrienne Woods

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“‘Hope doesn’t exist.’
‘It does. It comes to us in all sorts of forms. You just have to keep your eyes open to it.’”

I jumped from Firebolt to Thunderlight in less than a few hours, jumping from one book to the next one.

I am still not a huge fan of this type of 1st person type of narration. All that you must know, could think by yourselves and should imagine in your head is laid down on the page in a very detailed description. Nothing is left to your imagination but laid out in front of you on a silver platter.

It is, by far, not the only problem. The repetition looms over and creeps on the pages of this book. Elena’s feelings or same dialogs appear several times in different chapters, described in the same way, making you ask yourself if maybe you opened the book on the wrong page.

Elena’s and Lucian’s couple looks too cheesy and her relationship with his parents, that changes after they saw her, is far from believable. As well as the way Becky’s and Sammy’s parents seem to treat Elena. The characters are not developed and have no chemistry to them and it gets boring to hear them worry about the same things they did in the last book.

Elena seems to be the most lovable person of all Paegeia and the most important people are interested in her, from Blake to Lucian and Paul, the wyvern. She must be the center of it all.

The only exception to this routine seems to be Paul… This character was incredible. He changes from page to page, enveloped in mystery. Throughout the whole book, you don’t know what would you find in the end, him being good or him being bad. And A.Woods manages to surprise with this far from a happy ending in this new book.

Blake… We all know that by the end he will be good and he will be with Elena so no matter how dark, bad and wicked A.Woods is trying to make him, it is obvious that by the end of Starlight they will be together and deeply in love.

The world is richer and deeper and this installment, adding layers to the world we already know. It is one of the only things that makes these books so good and easy to read from cover to cover in one day.

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Firebolt, Adrienne Woods

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“You make your own future.”

I have mixed feelings about this one and here is why.

Adrienne Woods takes us deep into a well thought fantasy world from the first pages of the book. The immersion comes fast and hits hard. We don’t know who Elena is before we are thrown into a magical world of dragons and their riders. The book is set somewhere in between the medieval fantasy (dragons and magic) and urban fantasy (Paegeia is even more advanced than the world outside its borders).

The change comes fast and maybe too fast. I would’ve liked to see for myself how Elena suffered her father’s constant paranoia rather than being told about it. I think this was the problem throughout all book. Most of the time Woods told what happened and how Elena felt afterward instead of showing through the actions of the protagonists and their friends.

The characters don’t develop throughout the book, they rest as shallow as they were in the beginning. Craving for the most fashionable outfits and the perfect boyfriends and then jumping on an incredible adventure when a real threat arises even though they all might die.

I understand that as a character Woods wanted to show overwhelmed Elena when she arrived at Paegeia but even though her reaction to the death of her father seems dull. She is over it in about one chapter and is deep in a relationship with a prince of Paegeia by the next one.

The romance and all the relationships are far too easy and far from normal. The first girls Elena meets are instantly her friends and the first boy she sees is her perfect boyfriend. Well, technically the second one, but I have no doubt the first one will be hers too. Take that for a fairy tale.

The book is just too predictable about it. And not only the relationships, the adventures too. I didn’t feel surprised at any turn in the story and wasn’t relieved when the perfect happy ending arrived (almost perfect).

All in all, for a fantasy, even though it is a YA one, the world was well thought and well structured. The school for dragons reminded me of Harry Potter, but there is no way to escape it. After the success of the Harry Potter series, anyone confronted with the words magical and school will think about Hogwarts. But the first book in the Dragonian series stood apart and had its own background and conflicts.

But before I put this book to rest on one of my shelves, I want to take a moment and talk about editing. There were far too many grammatical errors and adverbs for a novel that is published, even if independently. “Show, don’t tell”, a lesson that was missed by Adrienne Woods.

This was a good enough read that I am already busy reading the next one.

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How Best to Stage a Breakdown, H.M.Reynolds

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“Save that space because
I need the time to disperse my rain. The day ahead is
Still long yet, longer than the days behind and
Weeks lost between, that we used to use to have discipline.”

I got this chapbook for free after meeting H.M.Reynold on twitter. I knew from the start that this isn’t the kind of poetry I love, which is basically, the one that has rhyme and rhythm. But as I will read almost anything that is put in front of me, I wanted to give this collection of poems a chance.

Putting it in a simple way, I might not be the perfect person to bestow my judgment on this collection, but as a reader, I have a few things to say.

I find it hard to read poems without any rhyme or rhythm and in these poems both were not present. I did like some of them, but each one I liked there was another one I didn’t. The figures of speech were elaborated, but sometimes too much.

The poems explore subjects such as depression, anorexia, manipulation and dysfunction, but they didn’t invoke any particular feeling in me, and most of the time, I just struggled to understand what the author meant in her poems.

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Flamecaster, Cinda Williams Chima

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“We don’t protect them because they’re weak. We protect them because they are strong, and strong people make enemies.”

This was one of the books that I got to pass the time while I was on my 20-day trip. I rarely read so many books, so fast and one after another. I read fast, but normally I don’t have enough time for it.

I have not read Seven Realm series and maybe I missed something, I think all the fans of C. W. Chima will tell me that of course, I did. But I came in green and I found it as a good start for the YA series Shattered Realms, even though it is clearly meant to be a part of a larger story.

Flamecaster… I still don’t understand why this was the name of this book… Well, technically one of the main characters was called this way and C. W. Chima tells us why, but I didn’t feel like it was enough. The explanation certainly didn’t satisfy me.

There is a lot of work done on character development. They all have their problems, their stakes in the conflict and its resolution. They all have a different point of view which is understandable since they all have a different background. We can easily relate to all of the characters in the book.

I liked the writing, it was sharp, concise, showing enough of the world to leave the rest to my imagination. The characters were attractive, keeping me turning the pages to figure out what is going to happen to them, to discover who they are.

But what I don’t like about some books is when there is a need to show a scene or a few from the point of view of a secondary character to avoid any future plot-holes. Such is the case for the part of the book narrated from Destin and Lila. I think the author easily switched from one character to another, showing the world through their eyes, each with his or her own view. But the constant change in the narrator kept me wondering who were the real protagonists of the book.

And the same went for the story arc. I understand that this is a part of a series, but even though I had trouble figuring out the conflict for a long time. I mean, yes, it is kind of obvious, but with so many different protagonists I had too many doubts. I still don’t understand the reason for the presence of the St Malthus Priests in the book, except to cause tension in the moments when it is much needed. I guess the explanation will follow in the next books in the series, but for me, it will rest a mystery.

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The Master Magician, Charlie N. Holmberg

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“Decide where you want your life to go before you set it rolling.”

As with The Glass Magician, I didn’t even have half-a-day between finishing one book and starting the other. And I was disappointed.

From the first pages I felt less enthralled. The story was not as attractive to me. From the synopsis I had read before starting it, I hoped for me. Ceony seemed rather stupid in this book and Emery mostly absent.

I would rather understand a bad second book and a good third one. That’s usually the case when there is a trilogy. The transition tends to worsen in the middle of the series and pick up again in the ending. This series did the opposite.

That is not to say I didn’t like the ending. One of the things that is most important to me in a series is how the author will finish it. I love open endings, even though they leave me with an aching heart and I love the happy endings, even though not everyone gets one. And Charlie N. Holmberg found that perfect balance for a good one.

I just hoped for more of Ceony and Emery during the book and I found their relationship absent during all of it. The romance that made me smile and hope during The Glass Magician, was no longer there.

New characters appeared. The encounter with Pritt, the boy and now the man who hated Emery for his bullying and I guess other differences, was welcome. I absolutely loved that he was there because I wondered about his life as a magician from the moment he was mentioned in the first book, but he wasn’t developed until the last book. Bannet, another student from her past also was there to make for a richer world. But the characters were shallow and with no backstory.

The tension I felt during the first two installments were absent from this book. Ceony did things not to protect someone or in a sense of urgency, but because… Well, I don’t think I can answer that. I found her boring, annoying and not easy to relate to.

Even though that the enemy is even more evil than Grath, the antagonist from the second installment of the series, the only conflict that seemed to flow through the book was ‘Will Ceony and Emery finally be together or not?’

The book was addictive, showing excellent writing that Charlie N. Holmberg is good at, but at the same time frustrating as nothing of interest was happening and no tension was present. This was a good read for the most part of it. It gave a nice final touch to the series even if not the best one.

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