Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Quick Picks ~ This Week's Top 3 Reads

This past week I've indulged in some great reads. 

Today I'm bringing three of these to your attention: Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton, Frogkisser! by Garth Nix, and Vigilante by Kady Cross.

Each of these reads had something in common.

All three novels had strong, memorable heroines who were brought to life on the page. I hope they will intrigue you, entertain you, and above all have you falling in love with them just as much as I did.

Let's get listing!


#1: Traitor to the Throne

Traitor to the Throne (Rebel of the Sands #2)
By Alwyn Hamilton

Genre(s): YA, fantasy
Pub Date: January 2017
Page(s): 592
Price: $16.99 (AUD)

Rating4 out of 5 stars

One sentence summary: A young female gunslinger fights to liberate a desert nation, despite being a prisoner of the enemy.

Best part(s): Alwyn Hamilton's world building never fails to leave me awestruck. The physical and environmental imagery is only the tip of the iceberg - Alwyn's world is rich in culture and a webbed network of politics and half truths. Traitor to the Throne expands on Rebel of the Sands' vivid setting and plunges readers into the Sultan's palace, a place filled with intrigue and deadly secrets.

I like how, in a Sarah J. Maas-esque way, this series expands its world from book to book - focusing on certain elements of the map, or social sphere, and giving each section its own spotlight. The opulent feel of the Sultan's palace contrasts nicely with the wild desert of Rebel of the Sands. The change in setting gives the sequel a fresh vibe.

Amani is as badass as ever and the magical elements of the series are just as spectacular. Wit still flows freely, so there are plenty of fangirl-worthy quotes for you to bookmark! Overall, it was a great follow up to Rebel of the Sands and kept things new without sacrificing plot integrity or concept continuity.

Least favourite part(s): This is purely personal taste, but I tend to disconnect slightly with sequels (or any book(s) after the first one) that focus on only a tenth, or a third, of the original crew of characters introduced in the original.

Unfortunately with the awesome change of main setting in Traitor to the Throne, came an inundation of new faces, new names, and few mentions of the original characters we met and loved (shout out to Jin!!).

I do understand that as a plot evolves, the main characters may have to drift away from other characters at times. New places, and new people, are apart of the score. But I think that due to the major gap in time between the end of Rebel of the Sands and Traitor to the Throne, this 'character isolation' so to speak was made even more abrupt.

Find out more about the book & add it your Goodreads bookshelf today! 

'There was nothing of the desert girl left. I looked more beautiful than I had ever seen myself, but unnatural, like a stranger.

But I knew who I was. I was still a rebel.'


#2: Frogkisser!

By Garth Nix

GenreYA, fantasy, fairytales, middle grade

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Pub Date: March 2017
Page(s): 384
Price: $19.99 (AUD)

Rating5 out of 5 stars

One sentence summaryA young princess goes on a brave (and hilarious) quest filled with frogs who are actually princes, wizards, talking dogs, and a smidgen of magic lip balm.

Best part(s): I could honestly read Garth Nix's writing all day, every day!

There's something so effortless about it. It flows across the page like it wasn't written by an author - it lacks that manufactured sense and that typical 'YA' or 'middle grade' feel. Reminiscent of The Princess Bride, Stardust, and Howl's Moving Castle, the characters in this story are quirky and a delight to meet.

Let's start with Princess Anya (a.k.a my new favourite fictional person!). A winning combination of whimsy, raw emotion, and a brave heart, Anya isn't the kind of self-assured heroine you're used to reading about.

She's not the kind of princess who needs to be saved, or the kind that's waiting around for a broody male side character to sweep her off her feet. She's the kind you always wanted to read about as a child - the kind that goes places, that does things. Who shapes her own destiny.

I could write an essay about all the other loveable characters in this book! Their quick humour, big hearts, and eccentric adventures make for a story that never gets dull.

And no spoilers...but that endings was perfection. Not overdone, not cliche, and not a quick and easy addition to appease the masses. It fit perfectly in with the feel of the story and its characters - the perfect final piece to the brilliant puzzle that is Frogkisser!

Least favourite part(s): The book has an end! I had to put it down! Which is a total crime by the way hahaha. A book like this one is the kind you read...and re-read...and re-re-re-read to your children and grandchildren. A modern fairytale classic.

Find out more about the book & add it to your Goodreads bookshelf today!

"What kind of princess are you?" asked Smoothie.
"Not the kind that needs rescuing," said Anya firmly.


#3: Vigilante

By Kady Cross

Genre(s): YA, contemporary, mystery, thriller
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pub Date: March 28th 2017
Page(s): 352
Price: $15.99 (AUD)

Rating: 3.9 out of 5 stars

Note: **Book contains references to themes of a violent and mature nature (e.g. sexual assault, suicide, etc.) that could trigger some readers. Review also mentions these themes so proceed with caution.**

One sentence summary: A young girl takes justice into her own hands, to get revenge on those who were responsible for the assault and suicide of her best friend.

Best part(s): I think that topics like sexual assault need to be talked about more often. The topic should be treated with the gravity and scope it deserves, in order to give real life victims a voice and to bring about change.

Vigilante makes an admiral effort to put together a raw picture of emotional turmoil - the vortex of guilt, pain, anger, and deep sorrow that accompanies the topic. It highlights how society seems to be willing to overlook basic human rights and to judge or blame the victim for the actions of the attacker.

The main protagonist Hadley is a complex character. I like that I don't ever fully know what to expect from her, as a reader. The rollercoaster of emotions she's on adds this sense of realism to the story - no real person is predictable, or without fault. And whilst her vigilante activities are well meant, you can't help feel like the path of revenge she's on is one that will lead to nothing but more heartache.

And last but least, my other favourite part has to be the #womanpower. Nothing beats seeing women come together to support one another and fight for justice, equal rights, and a voice.

Least favourite part(s): I feel as though the story wasn't always sure what it wanted to be. As much as I enjoyed reading it, at time it felt more like a YA romance mystery - at others it felt like a deep look into a very real issue.

I'm not saying it can't be both! But I think it needed a little more reworking to make the various genres and themes meld together better.

Also (this is just a personal opinion) but I also felt like the message of empowerment of women and of being anti-sexual assault often conflicted with the characters and their thoughts and actions. Lines become blurry on topics such as victim blaming, mental health, and the treatment of women by men.

Maybe this was an intentional move on the author's part - a way of emphasising how our society has become so used to a certain way of thinking and viewing a topic. That despite their good intentions, people often fall back into that way of thinking.

If so, this would definitely add a whole other layer of depth to Vigilante. However, I do think a cohesive set of ethics and values (e.g. regarding victim blaming) would help keep up the book's message overall.

Find out more about the book & add it to your Goodreads bookshelf today!

'His fists clenched at his sides. "I. Am. Not. A. Monster."

I tilted my head as I looked at him. "Are you trying to convince me of that?" I asked. "Or yourself?"


Which book will you be adding to your TBR? Have you read any standout books this week?

Let me know in the comments below!

Although I was provided with a review copy by the author and/or publisher, all opinions expressed in the this post are purely my own. To find out more, please visit my disclaimer page.

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