Review: Rook

Rook
Rook by Sharon Cameron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Alrighty guys, brace yourself: fangirl overload is coming.

But first, a brief history.

When I was 13, I was presented with my first ever book report project. My 8th grade English teacher laid out a line of books on a table and told us to go and pick one. Being the sensible bibliophile that I was, I took my time with each book; I read the first few pages or so of each.

There was one book — one out of the twenty or so that sat upon that table — for which I didn’t need to read the first few pages. I only needed to read the first line:

A surging, seething, murmuring crowd of beings that are human only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage creatures, animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and of hate.

I still love that line, love reading it aloud and tasting the words on my tongue. The sharp cracking of the consonants and the mellifluous quality of the cadence of Baroness Orczy’s use of language. Yes, friends, that is the opening line to The Scarlet Pimpernel. It’s not only one of my favourite classics of all time, it’s one of my favourite books of all time.

Fast forward to last month when I stumble across a book called Rook by Sharon Cameron here on Goodreads. I know nothing about it, but the very synopsis calls to me: it sounds an awful lot like a book I know and love.

That was not a coincidence.

Rook is not a retelling nor a re-spinning so much as an homage to Orczy’s classic swashbuckling tale of intrigue, romance, and derring-do. From foxes named St. Just and devilishly clever men with notably blue eyes, references to the Pimpernel are everywhere. The best part is that it’s also a little meta in that aspect: the character of the Red Rook became such because of having read parts of Pimpernel. Be still my heart, it is too much!

As much as these things alone make my Pimpernel-loving heart beat a little faster, it’s the fact that they are done so well that makes me smile. Throw in a story with a little more steam, high-octane adventure, and just as much nail-biting tension in a turbulent Paris…and you have the glorious fun that is Rook.

I adored this book. I adored it as an homage, and I adored it as a story in its own right. It holds a place next to my special hardback of The Scarlet Pimpernel on my bookshelf, and it deserves its place there.

The Scarlet Pimpernel lives…and so does the Red Rook.

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Review: Making Your Mind Up

Making Your Mind Up
Making Your Mind Up by Jill Mansell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*Thank you to Sourcebooks Landmark via NetGalley for providing me with a digital ARC of this novel for review*

MAKING YOUR MIND UP makes the fifth of Ms. Mansell’s novels that I’ve read and beautifully re-emphasized why I have so much fun with her stories.

All of the familiar aspects of a Jill Mansell novel are here: adults with real-world problems; dialogue that is both delightful and, for lack of a better word, ‘sparkling’ with characters’ personalities; and a tight-knit community of supporting characters.

The novel also benefits from the inclusion of a children. I find they can either make or break contemporary novels — it’s the former, in this case. Lottie’s children are mischievous little devils that I couldn’t help but love because, well, I felt like I had definitely met these children before.

Therefore, as always, Ms. Mansell delivers a light, breezy romance with a good deal of heart.

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Review: Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska
Looking for Alaska by John Green
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m sure this will upset a bunch of people: this was not my favourite John Green book. I know that for many it is, but I just had a hard time connecting with it.

Perhaps it was that I figured out the “Before” and “After” gimmick almost immediately; I thought Alaska was effectually a ‘manic pixie dream girl’; and that the obsession with people’s last words was the only part of the novel I really enjoyed — it was an odd ‘quirk’ and could have easily felt forced, but I liked it.

I don’t know. It just wasn’t for me. I can sit here objectively and call it a good book — basically a case of “It’s not you, book…it’s me.”

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Review: The Emperor’s Blades

The Emperor's Blades
The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alright, let’s talk about this book — I read it as part of an online/digital book club I’m in that focuses on Fantasy/SciFi, and this was our April book of the month! I was super stoked about this because I’ve been eyeing this book for some time, especially whenever it popped up on Book Outlet 😉

But, alas, I’d never bought it because I not only didn’t know anything about it, but I didn’t know anyone who’d read it — plus I had tons of other books to read — but it was always lurking in the back of my mind.

All in all, I liked it — I didn’t LOVE it, but I did like it. I thought the female characters were a little weak and sometimes the viewpoint character voices were too similar for me to distinguish between them. But the religion-based worldbuilding was very interesting. I look forward to reading the next installment.

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Review: Endsinger

Endsinger
Endsinger by Jay Kristoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I do wish we could give half-stars, because this is definitely a 4.5/5* book.

Alright, let’s do this.

I am emotionally WRECKED by the ending of this series. Mr. Kristoff set up, executed, and finished a tale that was so grand in scope that even trying to describe it would take a book — hey, it could even take three! 😉

In all seriousness, though, this series is one of the most unique, complex, and creative worlds I have ever read. I know I’ll likely never find another series like this one and, oddly enough, I’m glad of that. The ending is bittersweet, as it was meant to be, but again, I’m glad of that. There was no way this story would end on an entirely happy or entirely sad note. It’s too complex, too well written for that.

Read and see. Pack some tissues. A bar of chocolate — or even some Japanese sweets! And brace yourself. It’s a thrilling conclusion to a thrilling ride.

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Review: Kinslayer

Kinslayer
Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Picking up right where STORMDANCER left off, KINSLAYER continues Mr. Kristoff’s Japanese fantasy-stempunk epic by upping the emotional stakes. The world doesn’t necessarily expand, though it kind of does, so much as entrench itself deeper into emotional and inter-personal turmoil.

It’s slower than its predecessor, and that can be frustrating at times. But sticking with this book is worth it, as Mr. Kristoff really uses this book to explore some large questions and issues: loyalty, trust, what does it mean to be human, and just how far will a person go for answers. And that’s just to name a few.

Kin, a second-tier main character of the first novel really takes centre stage, as he is the one who struggles with the aforementioned questions most of all. For those of us who just want a book of Yukiko & Buruu action, this book might seem like a chore to slug through — but I really enjoyed reading Kin’s struggles. Granted, I figured out what was going on very early on, but watching it all play out was just as enjoyable.

The cliffhanger ending of this novel will leave you swearing — or maybe that’s just me. I have a habit of doing that at (a) cliffhanger endings and (b) cliffhanger endings that leave me wanting more.

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Review: Stormdancer

Stormdancer
Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FINALLY! I know, I know — this book has sat on my TBR shelf for almost an entire year. I tried and tried again to start this book but, honestly, I just wasn’t in the mood for it. And this is a book you totally need to be in the mood for – if you’re not, the initial pacing might drive you a little mad.

It is a wee bit slow to start, but that’s because Mr. Kristoff has to set up one HELL of a world. I mean…how many books have you read that are a fantasy-steampunk set in a warring Japanese shogunate empire? I can’t think of any. And, yes, the world is rich, well thought out, and cohesive. But what really makes this book work — what’s really the true glue that holds this novel together: the characters.

Yukiko is one HELL of a strong protagonist. Tough as hell, but still vulnerable; brave as all get out, but still cautious and wary; and so desperate in her determination to live that it’s sheer will that is beyond admirable…it’s fucking awe-inspiring. And then we have Buruu, the arashitora whom Yukiko captures, saves, and then befriends. Their relationship is the very best part of this series. ALSO Buruu is literally the only thing I would want more than a dragon…and we know how much I love dragons. I’m just sayin’…

By the time you think you’re ready to put this book down, you’re suddenly not able to. Also, I highly recommend listening to the GHOST IN THE SHELL film soundtracks by Kenji Kawai while reading. It’s astonishingly good mood music.

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