End of July Round-Up ~ #JNGReads

Happy almost-Friday everyone!

A long weekend is coming up here in Toronto, which means lots of time to spend outside, hopefully blazing through a few books I have on loan from the library.

I was originally holding onto the following reviews to post when I had a few more ready because I’ve actually finished another two books in the days since reading these ones. However, those two books are both part of the Beautiful series, and when I saw that I could borrow all but one of the remaining books in the series that I haven’t yet read from my library last night, I decided it would be a better idea to post all of my short reviews of the Beautiful books in one mega-post.

So, for that reason, I’m offering two reviews here of books that I finished at the end of July and enjoyed well enough. If you’re looking for a relatively entertaining chick lit. to take to the beach with you or a fantasy novel to distract you on these hot days, these just might be the ticket!

Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke

I don’t quite know how to feel about Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke. I was originally very intrigued by the novel when I came across it at my local bookstore, and I instantly requested an e-book version of it from my library. The synopsis seemed perfectly sweet and romantic, the ideal summer read, and I felt that I would surely enjoy it because of its allusions to Shakespeare and one of my favourite concepts, Fate. I also am a fan of reading my horoscope, although I don’t do so religiously, and I thought the plot of someone altering horoscopes to send a particular message sounded fun and unique.

However, the novel turned out not to be what I was expecting whatsoever. For one thing, it was written in a much more lofty style than is customary for romance novels of this variety, and while I think that can sometimes be a very good thing and there is no reason why a novel has to bend to the clichés of a specific genre, Darke’s writing was a bit too flowery for my liking (this coming from someone who is notoriously verbose) and the whole book read, in many ways, like a horoscope entry with its mystical language. I also found myself thinking, only about 200 pages into the novel, that it was altogether too long. It lacked a bit of direction in my opinion because, rather than focusing exclusively on the main characters Nick and Justine and building chemistry between them, it flitted around to different minor characters and examined how they were affected by the horoscopes Justine constructed. This, again, was a good idea in theory, but in execution I found it made the story harder to follow, as it seemed to jump around a bit haphazardly and was then wrapped up too quickly and neatly. I do have to say that I thought it was cute how Darke chose to write some sections from the perspective of a dog named Brown Houdini-Malarky, but then, at the same time, I also found this incredibly strange and a bit out of place. I felt the same way about one section written from Heaven, which again seemed to bring in the concept of religion in a way that was unnecessary and didn’t fully align with the focus on astrology.

More than anything, I found it hard to like Star-Crossed because I really didn’t like Justine or Nick. Nick, I was totally indifferent towards because he’s an utterly bland character who doesn’t really have much of a personality at all and seems not to have any agency over his life or any decision-making power. Justine was, however, extremely annoying to me because she did make many decisions throughout the novel, but she always seemed to be making the stupidest ones imaginable. And I don’t just mean altering the horoscopes of the magazine she works for, which is obviously unethical; I mean all of the other decisions she makes, even after she is caught and given another chance not to do anything unprofessional again. She is also a bit full of herself, if you ask me, because she goes around correcting signs and menus that have spelling errors, and she comes across as very pretentious. I just found it really difficult to relate to her and I almost didn’t want her to come out on top at the end of the novel because I didn’t feel she deserved it. She sort of bothered me as a character and is not someone I would ever root for romantically, which is a major problem in this sort of novel, if you ask me.

Overall, I wanted more from Star-Crossed and I found myself slogging through it toward the end, just wanting to be done. It wasn’t terrible, but it isn’t the first book I would recommend if a friend asked me for an entertaining read to take with her to the beach, as there are many other books of this genre that I feel are executed much better.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

I really enjoyed An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, and will absolutely be reading the next installments in this fantasy series!

This is a fast-paced, engaging and thoroughly entertaining read, that doesn’t feel heavy in any parts. When I had the chance to pick it up, I felt like I raced through the pages rapidly, and the alternating perspective (from Laia’s narrative to Elias’) was very easy and exciting to read. There weren’t any real lulls in the story, and I turned the pages a lot faster than I have when reading other novels in the last little while. That being said, when I was away from the book, I found myself thinking about what had happened in the plot and realizing that not very much had actually occurred. It was almost as if, every time I sat down to read, I got no further into the plot even if I was pages and pages ahead of the last time I read. This could be down to the fact that the plot is quite contained, focusing mainly on the Four Trials to determine the new Emperor and Laia’s spy work and pursuit to set her brother free from prison. Although the text is over 400 pages long, the focus is not very vast, and so it feels like not a lot of progress or movement forward is being made. However, as I said, my reading experience was very enjoyable and I got swept up in the story really easily, so I wasn’t too bothered by the fact that there wasn’t much momentum. What it made me think, ultimately, is that this is a very good first book in a larger series, but wouldn’t work as a standalone because it is mostly concerned with setting the stage for events and intrigues to come.

Overall, I was impressed by An Ember in the Ashes and, like I said, I got through it quickly when I was able to find the time to sit down with it. I was fascinated by pretty much all of the characters, from Izzi to Cook to Helene to the Commandant, and I am very interested to see how the rest of the story unfolds over the course of the additional novels.

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

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