(Spoiler) Review: Quests for Glory by Soman Chainani

Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Warning: This is a SPOILER review. If you have not read QFG, or the rest of the SFGAE books for that matter, you may not want to read.

The School for Good and Evil is one of my favourite series of all time. When I found out a fourth book was coming, I was beyond excited for it. Writing another series within the same world has become so common nowadays, that maybe I shouldn’t have been as surprised. So, Quests for Glory kicks off with a 100 pages ‘where are they now?’ section. If you’ve read the Handbook of Good and Evil, you already have a good idea of it. Sophie is the Dean of Evil, Agatha and Tedros are getting married but their relationship is on the rocks – when is it not, let’s be honest? – Hort is a teacher for Evil, and the Coven have been given the task of finding a new school master. Phew, we’re all up to speed!

Because Hort and the Coven are given sections, this first part is quite lengthy. It’s very expositional but familiarises the reader with the characters again, so I’ll cut it some slack. But, along with the main characters, every other student in Agatha and Sophie’s year gets name dropped, telling you what quests they’re on too…

The plot finally gets rolling when Tedros can’t pull Excalibur out of the stone and a new enemy turns up: the Snake. There’s this pretty long winded explanation about The Lion and the Snake, another fairy tale that’s going to frame the book. When we meet the Snake, there’s the suggestion that he’s Rafal from the first trilogy but one thing is for sure: he’s evil.

We also get to meet Rhian, who shares a name with Rafal’s twin, the Good school master so that can’t be a coincidence. He’s all handsome and generally a better version of Tedros that Sophie can fall for. He actually has King Arthur’s blood. It felt like wish fulfilment. Sophie didn’t get the guy in the first trilogy, so we’ll just make her a new and improved version of the guy she wanted all along. But, with the foreshadowing of the evil connection, it’s not a surprise when Rhian’s too good to be true and turns out to be the villain. We’re also heavy-handedly told that Sophie ‘isn’t good at choosing guys’, so does it come as a shock? No. It’s exactly what we saw in The Last Ever After. I would have much preferred if Sophie didn’t fall for another cute evil guy because what does it say about the most powerful witch in the world if she needs a guy to goggle at?

Tedros, by the way, is a complete whiny child. He’s always moaning ‘this is my sword, my kingdom, I’m the king, blah, blah,’ that he comes off as so immature and not kingly at all! Agatha is downgraded to Tedros’ assistant and never really given her own moment to shine until the end when she works out who Rhian really is. They don’t work together as a couple – they don’t even feel like a couple, although we’re tricked into thinking they genuinely care about each other with a few small kiss scenes. I just don’t see them working and I need their relationship to have more depth. Show me they’re in love, don’t just tell me.

We also get introduced to some new characters – as promised – but they’re nothing more than names on a page for me. Nicola, the new Gavaldon girl, was the most fleshed out and introduced seemingly just as a love interest for Hort. She’s smart and captains the ship for their quest, but I don’t really know why Agatha or Sophie couldn’t have done that. They’re both equally capable. There was also Willam, Bogden, Kei and…maybe someone else, but like I said, I know so little about them that they seemed irrelevant when we were just focusing on the characters we knew. Nicola seemed to vanish once she’d served her purpose. I hope they all have a stronger presence as the series go on, and we don’t have to rely so much on Agatha and the gang to draw in readers…but then again, the new characters didn’t get enough screen time to be established, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re destined to the background forever.

At least there are some deaths in Quests for Glory. Chaddick, Tedros’ best friend who I’d completely forgotten about, was the first to be killed of on his mission. It came a bit too early for me to care, especially because there was no scene between him and Tedros beforehand to really assert their brotherhood. It was really relying on you knowing Chaddick from the first trilogy. Second to die was Lancelot, who, again, was a secondary, maybe even tertiary character and the least important adult. I’ll need at least one big main character death in this series for it to have some sense of believability. (My guess is Hester so that Sophie’ll take her place in the coven, especially if we’ve established that Anadil and Dot are besties within the trio, so Hester’s more isolated.)

We’re also introduced to this HUGE bit of lore about the school that would have probably been important to know in the first trilogy, and that is that there’s a house in the school specifically for kids that are being raised by evil parents but who are actually good, or vice versa. We learn that Rhian, Kei and Aric are all from this house. To have a grey area is a really good idea, but if that’s the case, shouldn’t that have been where Sophie and Agatha went? Sophie was raised good but she was evil, and Agatha was the opposite, so to add this convenient but important nuance to the school is too little too late.

There were some scenes I really enjoyed, though. The more action-adventure scenes were the group was fighting the Snake – particularly in that trap-door room – was very cinematic and even though the ending felt a little rushed, the pacing meant I didn’t want to blink because that would mean taking my eyes off the page. It ended on a massive cliffhanger, if you think that Rhian pulling Excalibur from the stone, Tedros failing and the world being plunged into chaos was a surprise.

Overall, this book did a lot of setting the scene for the next two books in the trilogy. A World Without Princes is such a great sequel, and probably my favourite book from the first series, so my expectations are definitely high for the next book. I’ll be reading it, for sure, and just hoping that my Agatha is given some more of the limelight! Quests for Glory, as a first book, was promising and ambitious and did great things to already be establishing a threat as big (or bigger?) than Rafal. I just can’t believe I have to wait another year to read what happens next…

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Review: Far From The Tree by Robin Benway

Note: We were sent this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

First can we take a second to appreciate this breath-taking cover. Okay, now that that’s done. Far From The Tree is the story of three half-siblings who were all put up for adoption and have only just been made aware of each other’s existence. Grace recently had to give her own daughter, Peach, up for adoption as she was only 16, Maya’s family have a lot of problems under the surface, and Joaquin has through a lot of foster families and the couple he’s living in now want to adopt him. Together, they want to try and find their birth mother.

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Review: Out Of The Blue by Sophie Cameron

Note: We were sent this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Sophie Cameron’s debut really is something special! I’m calling Carnegie and Waterstones Book Prize nominations for next year! It’s about Jaya, whose father is a Wingding, someone who is obsessed with the angels falling to their deaths all over the world, and as such has hauled their family to Edinburgh in search of the next angel. Jaya then, in secret, comes across a rose gold and pink angel who unlike all the other has survived the fall, and with the help of two new friends tried to help her get back home.

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Review: More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer

Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

More Than We Can Tell is a companion novel to Letters to the Lost, following the main secondary character, Rev and a new character, Emma. It’s not necessary to read Letters to the Lost, but it does add to the charm of this book that you get to find out how Juliet and Declan are getting on now. I wish all books by the same author happened in the same universe, it’s such a sweet idea!

Rev was severely abused when he was a kid. His father contacts him for the first time in a decade and it brings back all of his traumatic feelings. It’s pretty descriptive and will almost definitely be triggering. He’s also dealing with his parents taking on a new foster kid and feeling helpless to stop aggressive reactions.

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Winter Kindle Book Haul!

Because most of the books I read on my Kindle are ARCs and I’m getting them from the Document tab, I forget that I’ve got some other great already-published books sitting on my digital shelves. These are all books that I’ve bought in the last couple of months and really want to be reminded of so, and hopefully make up a Kindle TBR for 2018.

Replica by Lauren Oliver

We received a copy of Ringer from Hodder and Staughton, which was extremely generous, but it made me want to kick myself for always choosing something else over Replica when I came across it in a Waterstone’s Buy-One-Get-One-Half-Price deal. (Isn’t that always the way, the moment you decide to buy something, it’s full price?) After giving up on a bargain physical copy, I finally spotted this for 99p (!!) and although I’d love to add the pink-and-orange cover to our shelves, a digital copy will have to do. It’s a book from two different perspectives that you read one after the other, and after reading Truth or Dare by Non Pratt, I’m really interested to see how that narrative style will work out in this more paranormal genre. I’ve also heard people compare it to Stranger Things, which I love, so we’ll see!

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

After reading Love, Hate and Other Filters, I’ve really wanted to find more books with Muslim protagonists, and since hearing Ayisha Malik talk about the relationship between  the Islamic faith and dating at YALC, I’ve been super curious to pick up her book that’s described as a muslim Bridget Jones. I’m hoping that this one will be a lot of fun and introduce me to some perspectives I haven’t read from enough.

It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne 

I read a sampler of this that I got at YALC and have been really intrigued to continue. When I saw this come up for 99p during it’s release week, I couldn’t resist, and seeing as I’ve got the rest of Holly’s stand alones of my Kindle, it only made sense to add this yellow beauty to my e-editions. It’s about a girl called Audrey who analyses the behaviour of guys in relationships on screen and it sounds wonderful, if a little didactic. I loved the Spinster Club series, so fingers crossed this one is also a hit.

History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Any #OwnVoices story, I want to jump on top of right this second. Although I normally go for any other letter in LGBTQIA+ than ‘G’ – because it’s the most represented of these underrepresented groups and I want to show the others more love – Adam Silvera is one of these authors I’ve only heard good things about and I feel like the last person to jump on the Silvera band wagon. This is going to make me cry, I’m sure of it, since it’s about Griffin grieving the loss of his boyfriend, Theo, but sometimes I like to punish my heart.

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Corodova

Speaking of LGBT+, this one has a bisexual main character, I’m pretty sure. It’s witchy and spooky and Latinx, all the things I need more of on my TBR (although I’m thinking this one is a book that would fit way better with Bee’s reading aesthetic!) I’ve found a lot of Alice and Wonderland comparisons, which isn’t a story I’m fond of, but it has some great ratings on Goodreads, so hopefully, I’ll be one of them.

 

Review: Bad Girls With Perfect Faces by Lynn Weingarten

Note: We received this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. 

I read this is practically one sitting, and it’s been so long time since I did that! It’s also been ages since I’ve read a YA thriller, so it’s been a books of ‘the first time in forever’s. Bad Girls With Perfect Faces was unexpected, with its lyrical writing style and detailed characters. Unfortunately, I felt like it took way too long to get started – the thriller element didn’t start until roughly 60% through the book!

This is the story of Sasha and Xavier, who are best friends, and on Xavier’s birthday they go to a club and run into Ivy, Xavier’s toxic ex-girlfriend. Sasha’s in love with Xavier, so obviously she’s not best pleased, and tries to catch Ivy in the act of cheating.

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Bee’s Star Rating Statistics 2017

I’m writing this on December 9th. This year, I’ve been keeping track of my reading on a spreadsheet, because I wanted more details than what Goodreads would provide. So far this year I’ve read 211 books, and I can’t see myself reading too much more. I’m not going to take out books re-reads like Maddie did, because that would take way too long! But the numbers won’t add up precisely because I didn’t rate things I read for university or that I DNF’d.

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Review: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Letters to the Lost is all about Juliet, who leaves letters on her mother’s gravestone as a way to process her grief. Declan is the boy who’s doing community service and stumbles across her letter. He reads it and decides to write back. The pair then communicate through letters and emails, without ever telling each other who the other person is. What’s tricky is that they go to the same school, and while Declan figures out Juliet’s identity, she’s still in the dark.

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Review: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

This book had been on my wishlist for a long time before I bought it, and I’ve owned it for six months without picking it up. I’ve been hyping it in my head as a book I was going to fall in love with, and the sad reality is, I didn’t.

I wasn’t what I thought it was going to be mostly. I thought I’d signed up for a mystery in an unsettled, backwards little town, but the girl who goes missing gets focalised chapters too. So you know where she is/what’s happening to her and that complicated things. So the whole mystery element was void!

I liked some elements. Like the budding relationship between Petey and Finn, for example, but it wasn’t enough to drive me through the story. There were some passages that were beautifully written but I found a lot of the descriptions sounded like something I’d heard before. Considering how many great things I’d heard about the writing, I have to admit I was surprised by how purple it…wasn’t.

‘Bone Gap’ couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be magical realism or not, so in the end you get this odd fairytale vibe that’s doesn’t feel modern but isn’t working through tropes either. It was a strange story, and one I’ll probably re-read in 10 years time and like a lot more, but reading it now and comparing it to my expectations was really not a good idea.

Review: Truly Wildly Deeply by Jenny McLachlan

Note: We received this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

I was really excited to read this after loving Stargazing For Beginners, earlier this year. I literally jumped when I saw this come up on NetGalley, because no way was I getting to read two new Jenny McLachlan books in a year. This definitely followed in the same style, and there’s so much to love about it.

First of all, Annie, the main character, has cerebral palsy and uses both a wheelchair and crutches in the book. I haven’t read about that many visibly disabled characters, and this is something I hope to change in the coming year. The discussion of Annie’s disability and her mentality surrounded it was really well handled, and although I can’t speak on behalf of those with CP, I felt it was respectful and insightful without trying to tell someone else’s story.

Second, it’s set at a sixth form and the representation of that environment is absolutely spot on. For the classes and cafeteria dynamic, to the desperate need to reinvent yourself and find new friends, I absolutely loved the setting. It took me right back to my sixth form years which were a delight.

Of course, it can’t be set in a school and not have English classes as a prominent feature. Throughout the novel, Annie and the boy she sits next to, Fab, are constantly arguing about Wuthering Heights. It felt like a copy and paste of my own A level lit lessons, as that was one of the texts we studied and I hated it. Jane Eyre, now that’s a book I can get behind. But, it was great to see how the book reflected Annie and Fab’s relationship and how it inspired the final 20% of the book in a very Sara Barnard style way. (Also, the style of the moors makes the cover beautiful!)

Annie and Fab are an interesting couple, mostly because they’re not a couple for most of the book. It’s obvious that Fab likes Annie, but Annie is apprehensive to be in a relationship. There’s a back-and-forth between them about this, and some classic miscommunication that could have been resolved quicker, in my opinion, and maybe I would have liked more reasoning for Annie’s disinterest in romance. She was showing a lot of demiromantic and asexual tendencies, and I got too excited about those possibilities when they weren’t canon.

I loved the scenarios that Annie and Fab were put in, like a costume party, a Polish wedding and a date involving berry-picking. It was all cute and lovely, exactly what I want in a contemporary romance.

Annie’s  mum was something special too. Close mother-daughter relationships are my favourite thing (see Radio Silence by Alice Oseman).  She was someone that Annie actually talked to about her problems and I loved her parental prominence.

Overall, I really liked Truly Wildly Deeply, if you couldn’t tell already, and give it 4 stars. There were a few things that I didn’t gel with, and there were a few pacing issues but they didn’t take away from how just lovely this book was. If you’re looking for disability rep, a love-tolerate romance and quirky plot points, I’d totally recommend this book.