ARC Mail: The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig from Waterstones

Thursday, 26 February 2015 0 comments
So for this instalment of ARC Mail I have a finished bound copy of The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig. This was sent to me by Waterstones as part of their Read and Review scheme for cardholders! I didn't even know I was being sent this so it was a lovely surprise when it arrived late last night! The Fire Sermon is a debut novel by Francesca Haig and it is a solid dystopian novel that will thrill fans of the genre! Can we also just take a minute to admire the promotional posters put up by Harper Voyager UK on Twitter? They're absolutely stunning! So beautiful intact that I had to print them out and display them with the book for the world to see! If you haven't read The Fire Sermon yet then I definitely recommend it as a book to pick up, it's definitely a series to look out for in the future! 

You can read my review of the book here, but be warned that I do go into some spoilers about the book so if you're just looking for a synopsis, don't scroll below the warnings! At this minute it's publication day for Francesca so if you have a Twitter account, give her a follow and go and give her some book birthday love. You can find her here at @FrancescaHaig

Book Review #26: Marly's Ghost by David Levithan

Monday, 16 February 2015 0 comments
Please note before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Electric Monkey, an imprint of Egmont UK. I received a digital advanced readers copy of this title from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion of this title influenced by the fact that I received this publication free of charge. Now on with the review!

Product details:
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Format: eBook
Length: 184 pages
Published: January 2015
Rating: ☆☆☆
Source: Digital ARC from NetGalley

A remix of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with a Valentine’s twist
When Ben’s girlfriend, Marly, dies, he feels his life is over and the prospect of Valentine’s day without her fills him with bitterness. But then Marly arrives – or at least, her ghost does – along with three other spirits. Now Ben must take a journey through Valentines past, present and future – and what he learns will change him forever.

Initially I haven't actually read anything solo by David Levithan. I have however read some of his joint works, including Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by himself and Rachel Cohn as well as the partnership of Will Grayson, Will Grayson written with John Green. So when I saw this on NetGalley I jumped at the chance, especially as it's a modern day retelling of an old classic, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Obviously though there are some differences and most of them lie in the time period, instead of Victorian London at Christmas time, Marly's Ghost takes place around Valentines Day in the modern day. But does it match up as a worthy tribute to a timeless classic? Let us see. So what did I think of it?

Cover - Obviously as this book has been a re-release since it's original release back in 2005, the cover has varied. I do really enjoy this cover, it's not so much dynamic but rememberable. It fits in with all of David Levithan's covers at the minute where the words of the story make up the images. In this case we have what looks to be two sides of a broken heart pendant? It could be in relation to Marly's charm bracelet but I like the way it reflects the rosy and romantic left side and the depressingly dark black side. This links into the overall theme of the story about redemption and acceptance of love really well and I appreciate it a lot.

Plot - Realistically when discussing the plot of this novel I have to bear in mind that in the authors notes Levithan acknowledged using the original text and adapting it slightly to suit his story, so in reality I feel partial to reviewing Dickens' classic text. Perhaps that will be a future review. So in comparison to the original, this story focuses around the character development of Ben Scrooge after the loss of his girlfriend of many years, Marly. This novel takes place four months after her death and explores themes of loss, recovery, illness and hope. Now very similarly to the original text, after giving up on love, Ben is visited by the ghost of his dead girlfriend, who is weighed down by chains and objects that Ben is still holding onto. I just want to express the focus on that this only takes place four months after her death. For a character to simply get over and move on with life, it is my personal opinion that if the person who died was a significant other then I would not be expecting anyone to get over it that soon. Heck, it's been over six months after my dog died and I'm still not over it. The story goes on to Ben being visited by three ghosts linking to his love past, present and future. Now going into this book I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but what I found was for me quite difficult to process. The pace of this book is spot on, it flows quite gradually and gets more intense as the story reaches it's peaks but I found the writing to be a slight issue. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't that the writing felt bad in any way, it just sort of jumbled around at times and felt slightly out of place. For example; there are many scenes that were extremely well written and did feel like it matched up with Levithan's description of A Christmas Carol remix, however the dialogue in this felt very out of place. I understand that Leviathan critically analysed the text and wanted to make sure all of the themes were in place, but this story just seemed to be a sentence for sentence translation of the original text. The character's dialogue is very reminiscent of Victorian England and for a modern day adaptation this felt lost with the rest of the story.

Characters - In this book we are introduced to a short cast of characters, I mean it is a short book at being under 200 pages, we can't expect a huge range but there was a broad mix in terms of how realistic they felt to me. Ben's character I thought was superb, except for his dialogue, and I did manage to feel a lot of sympathy for his character, especially on how everyone expected him to just get up and move on. With his development throughout this short story, Ben's character produces some very powerful and thought provoking sentences and this really promoted the realism of his character - providing him with a great deal of sympathy that I feel you never really feel for the original Ebenezer. The ghosts were all very individual and I got a great mental image in terms of what each of them looked like and the messages that each of them possessed (especially the ghost of love present) were very powerful and realistic. Ben's friends to me felt very underdeveloped, I didn't really feel anything for them, especially Fred who seemed extremely lacking for a best friend character. In reality I didn't really feel anything sympathy for any of the friend characters, bar two, but it was simply down to the fact that they were in a sense forcing Ben to attend to Valentines' party and to move on. The only other people that I felt anything for really were Tiny and Tim, and no I'm not kidding, that are their names. Now Tiny and Tim are the token gay couple in this novel, I mean after all it is a Levithan novel I wouldn't expect anything less, but there story throughout was quite meaningful and I liked how they had a major impact on Ben's encounters with the final two ghosts. My final note on the characters would be that considering Marly was the underlying focus and impact on this story I would have liked to see her character develop in relation to Ben's memories. There is the scene where he discusses with her about shaving his head to make her feel more included and I thought this was a sweet scene that I wished there were more of.

So overall this was a cute and powerful adaptation shall we say? It resonated very powerful themes and lessons learned as the story progressed and I did really enjoy it. It was just a shame that the dialogue for me was still stuck in the Victorian era for such a modern retelling. I enjoyed the focus on Valentines' day and the thoughts in regards to love. It definitely targets those who question whether being in love is worth all the hassle and whether Valentines' day is a marketing ploy or could it mean more than you once thought? I give Marly's Ghost a 3 out of 5 star rating and I look forward to reading another book by this author.

Book Review #25: The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

Please note before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster and Waterstones Read and Review Scheme. I received a digital advanced readers copy of this title from NetGalley and a physical bound copy from Waterstones in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion of this title influenced by the fact that I received this publication free of charge. Now on with the review!

Product details:
Publisher: Gallery Books/Waterstones
Format: eBook/Hardback
Length: 384 pages
Published: February 2015
Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Source: Digital ARC from NetGalley/ Waterstones

When Zach and I were born our parents must have counted and recounted: limbs, fingers, toes. We were perfect. They would have been disbelieving: nobody dodged the split between Alpha and Omega. Nobody.They were born together and they will die together. One strong Alpha twin and one mutated Omega; the only thing they share is the moment of their death. The Omegas live in segregation, cast out by their families as soon as their mutation becomes clear. Forced to live apart, they are ruthlessly oppressed by their Alpha counterparts.The Alphas are the elite. Once their weaker twin has been cast aside, they're free to live in privilege and safety, their Omega twin far from their thoughts.
Cass and Zach are both perfect on the outside: no missing limbs, no visible Omega mutation. But Cass has a secret: one that Zach will stop at nothing to expose.The potential to change the world lies in both their hands. One will have to defeat the other to see their vision of the future come to pass, but if they're not careful both will die in the struggle for power.

The Fire Sermon is an upcoming release here in the UK, one that has been talked about and highly praised as being a book to look out for in 2015. Many have claimed that this is going to be the next big series, just as The Hunger Games and Divergent trilogy were. But does it really live up to all of it's praise and expectation? In many ways I would say that there are definately features of this book that do live up to that hype and I have to admit that I did thoroughly enjoy this book. There were times that I questioned whether I wanted to continue and my goodness was I glad that I did. Before I go into my in depth review I just want to say that if you are struggling with this book and this world and are considering giving up on it. Please don't, trust me it may seem a bit slow at times but the pace picks up and soon you're on an adventure you won't soon forget. So what did I think about it?

Cover- This cover is one that is extremely striking and very in your face. Right in the centre of the cover is the symbol which unifies this book. The Alpha and the Omega as one. It also serves as a striking image because of it's symbolism for the book. With the hot coals in the background, this symbol strikes as a branding iron, which for when you read it you realise plays as very important role in the story as the Omega's are all branded with that sign. The colour scheme is very dramatic, the burning orange metal against the dark black coals with that slither of heat working it's way between each one. The font on the cover is also very striking but I am not quite sure whether I like the way the word 'the' has been portrayed. That handwriting style font to me doesn't quite go and I would have liked to see some consistency throughout. It is just my personal opinion but I think if they had capitalisd the word and stuck to the same font then this would have been more appealing. I also want to mention the covers of the advanced readers copies that were sent out to reviewers in the UK. This doesn't apply I don't think to the US copies of this book but I could be wrong. Anyway, each copy was part of a set, you either received an Alpha copy or an Omega copy. See the image linked (here) to see the covers. However, each copy was also branded with a number and you had to go onto twitter and use the hashtag associated with your specific copy to find your twin. This is definitely a very clever use of marketing for this book and it worked really well in their favour as it has generated a lot of hype around the book reviewing community. However, as my copy was a digital ARC from the american publisher, this didn't apply to me but I thought it was important to note.

Plot - Right from the first couple of chapters I knew I was going to really enjoy this book. We kick off our story with our main narrator, Cass. It's told from present tense and she introduces herself to the reader and explains a bit about the world they live in. Futuristic, a major blast that wiped out half of the population, mutations over a series of decades and finally the world that she lives in today, where everyone is born one of a set of twins. These twins however aren't quite normal, they share a bond much like their appearance but this one could cost them their lives should one slip up. You see, if one of the twins sustains an injury or dies, so does the other twin. Killing two birds with one stone so to speak. However there is also something special about these twins, one is born an Alpha and one an Omega. The Alpha's are the leaders of society, embodiments of the perfect person, but an Omega will have some sort of deformity. Born with only one arm, missing an eye, or even something as subtle as being a seer and being able to foresee the future. Our main narrator Cass is a seer. After the brief description of this complex and wonderful world she goes on to explain her childhood with her twin Zack, and how she came to be where she is today, his prisoner. So the beginning of this book for me was very intense. Right from the start there is lots of crucial information regarding the development of our characters. Although the plot is wonderful in book, it is the character development that I really enjoyed. Although not all of it, but to that later. The backstory of the alpha/ omega separation and that of Zach and Cass' history is extremely well written and very informative. It has lots of realistic writing and vivid description within the first 5 chapters or so. However the pace starts to dip ever so slightly as one of our characters escapes her situation with another. For me the writing while characters were travelling during the first half of the novel was slightly sloppy and disjoined. It was strange and seemed a tad out of place considering up until this point the writing had been very fluid and concise. During what I call the travelling scenes it felt very long winded and at times I did find myself struggling to pace through it. However as we were introduced to a new setting and a set of realistic characters, it picked back up. Within this novel there is a romance that blossoms between Cass and Kip's characters and I have to admit in the first half of this book I was not a fan of it in the slightest. It seemed very rushed and forced on us as readers far to early in the story considering this is meant to be a trilogy. I would like some subtleness in the development of the characters relationships. Once again the pace and my interest dips during another 'travelling' scene. I did not find the fire scene appealing or necessary, it didn't add anything major to the story and to me just seemed sloppily written. Once again we're introduced to a new setting and new characters and as you can imagine the plot began to pick up again. There was some great development and introductions to characters, especially Piper which was nice to see. However, I unlike most people am not seeing this 'love triangle' that everyone goes on about between Cass, Kip and Piper. There just didn't seem to be enough evidence to bring Piper into the mix thank goodness. I am sick of love triangle by now. We are introduced to some big action scenes and great pacing. The writing was fantastic during these scenes and held my attention the entire of the way through. I was even feeling slightly suspenseful at times. Now this is for me where the plot really kicked off in terms of pacing. From this point on there are quite a few exploring/travelling scenes, but these scenes seemed to be on point in terms of writing and pace. I found that there wasn't as much description in these sections in comparison to the overkill on the description in previous travelling scenes. For me this meant it was a lot easier to get through and I appreciated it more. From this point onwards I have to admit I could start to see how a romance could blossom between Cass and Kip's characters. In my opinion, this is where the whole relationship should have built from, because they were sharing moments where up until this point they hadn't really touched on, there just seemed to be an abundance of unnecessary snogging. Around 90% of the way through this book I decided that the book should have ended, well actually a bit before that. After the invasion of the island, Cass and Kip sail off to escape. I felt that this would have been a perfect place to end the book and begin it up in the sequel as they try to find the other survivors. However I'm so glad it didn't. The ending was so intense and dramatic and although I kind of logically guessed that the Confessor would be Kip's twin, but I did not expect that Kip would commit suicide and therefore kill his twin. This was a large self sacrifice on his character's part and I think I would have liked to see that at perhaps the end of book 2, or 3. It was definitely not expected at the end of the first book. I'm just hoping that his death isn't permanent, that hopefully there is some sort of flaw in the system, some sort of loophole that will allow him to be alive. Hopefully something to do with how they kept him in the tanks because I don't think this story would do as well without him there. Otherwise it seems like the love has been built up all of this time for nothing, and I swear to the almighty if Haig decides to ship Cass and Piper together I will cry. Although I wasn't a huge fan of the romance at first, now I'm kind of shipping Cass and Kip majorly. Dating a dead dude will become a thing. I am sure.

So I've talked a lot about the plot, quite a bit more than I usually do, so what about the characters?

Characters - This novel introduced us to a vast range of characters, each quite distinguishable thanks to the amazingly developed writing of Francesca Haig. Although there are many I am going to talk mainly about Cass, and Kip with perhaps some brief mention of the other characters. One thing I just want to mention before hand is that because I read this over a longer period than I'm used too, I find my memory of character descriptions quite lacking and I'm not sure whether this is down to me and my memory or simply that I feel Haig didn't include a lot, especially for Cass' character. I just feel that I couldn't tell you exactly what each of them looked like in vivid detail. Cass' character is introduced to us through her narration right as the novel begins. I found her narration to be extremely realistic and made her character quite relatable. Being inside her head we got to see how her process of thinking worked in relation to her logical decisions as well as her gift of being a seer. Now although I found in the first half of this book that these seer abilities weren't really touched on, it was nice to see how they affected her. Overall she seemed quite a loveable character and I really admired her compassion about no matter who you killed, you were always killing double your intention. In this novel there is focus particularly on valuing life and thinking over your decisions and this was brought out wonderfully through Cass' character in her thinking. The one thing that did gripe me about her character was her thoughts and values when it came to romance. Everything in the first half or so as mentioned earlier kind of seemed a bit instal-love for me. Like it was only there to fill a gap and I feel it could have been developed a lot later considering it's a trilogy. Kip's character for me was probably my favourite in terms of the way he was written - being a walk around amnesiac a lot of his decisions and emotions were new and quite raw and I really liked that about him. Obviously due to his lack of memories he was in my mind quite a relatable character in terms of his choices and it was nice to see that his disability wasn't holding him back at all. I just hope that his character makes a return in the following books because I don't think I'll enjoy them as much. Zach's character for me was the typical villainous character but I liked how there was the constant reminder of family values and even though he was considered evil, he was still family in regards to the consequences. I felt however that I wasn't a fan of his change of heart at the end of the novel by letting Cass go. Yes I understand his desire to not make himself look bad, but you've been trying to catch Cass the entire novel, why not take her into custody and lie about how you found her? Piper's character was an average character and I am eager to see how his development grows in following instalments. I absolutely loved Zoe's character, she was so badass and just generally embodied everything I love in kick ass female's. She even had that dry subtle humour to her which in my mind just made her perfect, I am definitely looking forward to more of her in the next instalment, definitely my favourite all-rounder.

So overall The Fire Sermon is one long roller-coaster ride from beginning to end. The story entices and captivates the readers attention and simply begs for a sequel, especially after the significant twist that concludes the first book in a series. In agreement with the earlier statement, The Fire Sermon is definitely a debut novel to watch out for in 2015. Haig has written a solid dystopian novel that will thrill fans of the genre and I'm not surprised Dreamworks has optioned for the movie rights to this novel because it is truly stunning and will make a fantastic adaptation to the big screen. I award The Fire Sermon a 4 out of 5 stars!

ARC Mail: I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson from Walker Books

Friday, 13 February 2015 0 comments
So I thought that I would start this new series on my blog where I let you guys know the advanced readers copies I have received from publishers either via post/through NetGalley/Edelweiss. So the first I have to present to you is I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson. This book was sent to me along with a lovely fold out poster that has awesome illustrations on the back of it! I received this from Walker Books UK in affiliation with Maximum Pop! I am now one of 10 members in their MP Book Club and this is the first book we have to review. I am deeply looking forward to reading it after hearing amazing things about it so far!


Book Review #24: Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Friday, 6 February 2015 0 comments
Product details:
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Format: Hardcover
Length: 222 pages
Published: 2015
Rating: ☆☆☆

Source: Purchased
Queen Levana’s story is finally told.
Mirror, mirror on the wall,Who is the fairest of them all?
Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

Finally! I have my hands on a finished copy of Fairest and I could not wait to dive straight into it and devour it in one sitting, which I did. Since the publication date for Winter, the final book in The Lunar Chronicles series kept getting pushed back and now is set for Winter 2015, I was so overjoyed to hear we would be getting a short book that details the life of the antagonist Queen Levana before the series began. I literally squealed. The Lunar Chronicles is so far my favourite series to date and I'm definitely not going to turn down a new book from Marissa Meyer, even if Winter has been pushed back multiple times. We'll let her off. So what did I think of this prequel to The Lunar Chronicles after all of my hype?

Cover -  Okay the publishing company has done it again. Whoever designed this magnificent cover from Feiwel and Friends publishing house deserves so much credit because this cover is absolutely stunning. Similarly to the other covers of the series, the central image really captures the whole focus of the character in these novels. For Cinder it was the shoe, Scarlet the red cape, Cress the hair and now for Queen Levana we have the famous 'magic' mirror. "Mirror,Mirror on the Wall, who's the fairest of them all?" In the reflection we see the the glamorous image of Queen Levana, covered in her white veil. Okay, when I imagined Levana I never quite imagined her as creepy as in this photo, but it does the job well and definitely matches her mysterious demeanour. Can we talk about the mirror itself as well? Marissa even stated that she loved the design of the mirror so much that she went back and rewrote the scene with it in so that it would match the image on the cover. Surely that shows just how amazing the design of this cover is???

Plot - Ahhhh I loved the plot of this book. I was expecting possibly just a small glimpse into why Levana wanted to marry Prince Kai, but never did I expect to receive what we get in this novel. We see Levana right before she became queen, back after her parents died and Channery took the throne. We get an insight into her relationships with Princess Selene and Winter as well as seeing how she became the spiteful and demented Queen Levana we all see throughout the Lunar Chronicles. I really loved the pacing of this book as well. Nothing ever felt rushed as I was reading it and Marissa Meyer did a fantastic job of building up the pace as the novel progressed which replicated well the emotions of Levana's character. Even though this book was ultimately a character study of Levana, we also get to see the plot take root in the series. We get insight into the virus sent to earth and her plans with what to do with the shells. It gives the whole series a wonderful layer of foundation. Just while I remind myself, who could say no to the first three chapters of Winter? They were beautiful. I am definitely looking forward to see how the relationship between Winter and Jacin progresses from those beautiful and touching scenes. Obviously we were introduced to their relationships as children a bit in Fairest but I am looking forward to seeing how this develops.

Characters -  Obviously in this novel we get a better insight to Levana's character which I really appreciate. In my opinion whilst reading the Lunar Chronicles so far I really despised Levana, being the evil antagonist that she is portrayed as. However, after reading Fairest I have to admit although I see why she is the antagonist, I had moments during her past where I felt genuinely sorry for her. Especially how she was being treated by her older sister Channary.  Levana grew up with Channary constantly teasing her for her looks, and saying things that would affect Levana long after her childhood… probably not the best upbringing for such a power hungry, egotistical soon-to-be queen. The tragedy that brought about her scars was truly horrific and having this low self-image cost Levana a lot. She even becomes so deeply lost inside her own delusions that she misses out on so much. Her craving of what she thinks is love only makes her more blind to what she's actually denying herself and that she's lost in a vicious cycle of her own doings. What really got to me as well was just how creepy Levana could be.

"Levana had not seen the bodies, but she had seen the bedrooms the next morning, and her first thought was that all that blood would make a very pretty rouge on her lips."

Those bodies? Yeah, they were her PARENTS. Her parents who had been MURDERED. What on earth?! THAT IS CREEPY AS HELL. WHO DOES THAT?! I also appreciated how this novel progressed and tackled Levana's slow descent into a form of mental illness and when it came to the final scene I was reminded for my utter hatred of the woman. So what about Channary's character? Levana's sister. Oh my goodness when I thought a person couldn't get worse than Levana. I was so wrong. Besides her maternal instinct for her daughter, I felt no sort of remorse for her when she died. I'm sorry but what she did to Levana when she was younger? That was horrendous and really painful to read about. To think of sisterly love turned wrong. Evret's character however I had to feel some sympathy for. Throughout the novel is gradually is being forced into Levana's life and after the death of his wife, Levana alters her glamour to look like her. I'm sorry but if my stalker decided to dress up in the skin of my dead wife I would be freaking out beyond compare. I think I would have liked to have seen a bit more on Evret's part in terms of defending himself against Levana. I mean I understand his determination not to go against the crown but still I felt that he could have been developed a bit more to show the development of his anger and misery. After all it's a form of torture. 

Cons -  Now this really isn't so much of a con section more than a sense of false advertising for the novel. Some people said that they expected a full length novel, but come on I think 200 odd pages isn't a bad size, it's longer than the average novella and I can't really see how much more the story could have developed. One thing however that I felt was seen as a bit of a marketing ploy was the promise of full colour illustrations. Illustrations plural. Now don't get me wrong I think the illustration we were given (seen here, all credit goes to the uploader) were absolutely stunning but these were the endpapers. I was expecting illustrations throughout the novel so I was a tad disappointed on that behalf. Besides that though it wasn't a huge con for me.

So overall I thought this was a wonderful instalment in the Lunar Chronicles series and I feel is a necessary read before going into Winter so that you can fully understand the relationships behind the new character's introduced in the final book as well as understanding Levana's motives behind everything. I award Fairest the full 5/5 stars!

Book Review #22: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Monday, 2 February 2015 0 comments
Product details:
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: eBook
Length: 331 pages
Published: 2015
Rating: ☆☆☆
Source: Purchased
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.
Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.
At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.
Until one day, he does…
As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

So Holly Black is not an author that I haven't come across before, but I have to admit this is her first solo work that I've read even though I own The Coldest Girl in Coldtown on my shelves and have done for some time now. However when I head about her new standalone 'The Darkest Part of the Forest' I admit the concept did initially intrigue me. An elven prince sleeping in a glass coffin in the woods? Did anyone else not immediately think of Snow White? Now as I mentioned I've read other works of Holly Blacks but only when she's shared the narration with another author. I've read The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare and I've also read the first volume of The Spiderwick Chronicles. Both to which I enjoyed but I wanted more, so thought I would see if Holly's writing compares in a solo work. So what did I think?

Cover - Guys can we just talk a minute about the cover because holy moly it is so beautiful. If anyone tells me that this cover doesn't project the themes from the book then I'm sorry but you're wrong, it definitely has that creepy factor and this is reflected throughout the entire book. I definitely think however that the US cover is better than the UK cover. The green on the white works so much better than the green on the yellow. To check out the UK cover click here.

Plot -  Right when talking about the plot of the novel I think it's only fair first to discuss the pacing of the novel. At the beginning of the novel and I'm talking about the first two chapters or so, you get thrown a lot of information that you will need as the novel progresses. If you don't understand who half of these teenage characters are now then you will probably get quite confused as the novel goes along, or at least I did when I read it. However once these two chapters or so are over then the novels plot and general pace really pick up and you get pulled into this mysterious adventure of fairies and princes and monsters. It's all very exciting and makes for an exhilarating read - I literally could not put it down once it got going. There is an over-arching plot that runs throughout this novel and it one that is straight forward and easy to understand, but there are also so many subplots that run aside this novel that all get woven together so nicely as the novel progresses. The ending for me was probably one of the best parts, simply because of the way it was all tied off in the end. Going into this novel knowing it was a stand alone, I knew the ending had to be done correctly or it would make me warrant a sequel if it felt incomplete. Did it? Not at all, the story was tied off so perfectly and in a way that really adds to that creepy Grimm's Brother fairytale, possibly with a happier ending than most. 

Characters -  Right, where do we start in terms of characters. Let's start at the beginning with Hazel. Hazel's character is a well developed female protagonist and our narrator through this novel. As a narrator she is reasonably unreliable because we find out crucial information just as soon as Hazel does. Never once in the novel does she with-hold information because half of the time during this novel, all of the crucial information is held with 'night Hazel', a character you will understand if you read the book. At the beginning Hazel is kind of portrayed as a bit of a promiscuous character by the way she goes around flirting but all of this is part of her personality which you do come to love and understand as the novel progresses.  Ben, her brother I thought was a brilliant character. When first hearing about this novel there was mention of a gay character and originally I wondered how Black was going to deliver this to us. I have to say, I haven't read much better of a character. Black wrote this character as a normal person, having normal flaws which I was so appreciative of. It's nice to see a gay character who isn't solely identified under the gay stereotype. This is the way gay characters should be written and it was refreshing to read about one. Another character was our elven prince and he was a wonderful mix of charm and mystery. I really enjoyed his character and the whole back story between him and his sister. Now this novel obviously takes place in a world where fairies exist and if I'm completely honest I haven't really read many fairy books. I know Holly Black has another fairy series and having read this one I might check it out but this one is definitely a good one to start with if you don't think you'd be into the genre. Black portrays her fairy characters as dark and very nature based, as they should be. You can definitely tell that she has done her research with this one.

Writing - I feel that this is definitely a topic to be discussed because Holly Black's writing style was absolutely phenomenal. She has a wonderfully lyrical way with her descriptive language that really draws you into the book. With every scene I could literally picture myself looking around and being able to identify every feature of the characters and the world. Those images have stuck with me even after the book has ended, so much so I could probably draw out a map of the town of Fairfold and the forest. Very vidid imagery really is what makes this book and it's all down to the fantastic writing of Holly Black. 

So what did I think of it overall? The Darkest Part of the Forest is a fantastic stand alone from an amazing author. Holly Black presents the reader with a concise mystic fairytale like story with superb atmosphere build up. Definitely one for a recommendation. I give it a 4 out of 5 stars. I think the only few things that would have pushed this novel to a full 5 stars for me would be that the beginning could have had a little more plot development - I mean don't get me wrong I loved Black's fantastic atmospheric build up but at times the novel just seemed to drag a little bit. I would have also liked a bit more depth to the elven prince's character, he seemed to have so much potential but at times just seemed a bit banal and obscure. I think I would have liked a bit more depth to the monster as well. Yes we got a back story but I think we could have had a little bit more in terms of solving her mystery. Other than that this was a brilliant read for anyone who is looking for that little something different. 

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