Friday, October 14, 2016

Banquo's Son

Posted by A Drop of Romeo at 2:00 PM 0 comments
Banquo's Son by T.K. Roxborough

Age: Adult
Category: Historical
Rating: 4 stars

Helen Thinks: Ten years have passed since Macbeth’s bloody reign over Scotland. For those ten years, Fleance - Banquo’s son - has been hiding away with a new family in the woods of Northern England. Denying his noble bloodline, Fleance has managed to stay hidden away from those that murdered his father and has fallen in love with a sweet maid named Rosie. However, he’s haunted by images of his dead father both when sleeping and awake as his Father wants justice - as well as the greatness for his son that was prophesied by the three sisters. Neither Scotland nor Fleance will rest until this day so he sacrifices his life with Rosie to travel back to Scotland where he encounters many people including young Prince Duncan, murdered king Duncan’s grandchild and third in line for the Scottish throne. Once encountering the young prince, Fleance’s life changes and the decisions he makes not only change his future but the one that he has with Rosie too...

This book popped up as an advert on my kindle and I accidentally clicked it unlocking said kindle. However, at high school, Macbeth was one of my favourite Shakespeare plays so I was intrigued and found myself adding it to my library. I’m going to be completely honest with you and admit that it was a slow read to begin with. The first couple of chapters focused on Fleance’s life in England with his new family where they live simply and his love interest, Rosie, that travels around England with her family so he rarely sees her. However, Rosie’s father demands to know what Fleance’s intentions towards Rosie are and he finally admits the truth that he can’t stay with Rosie until he has travelled back to Scotland where he can learn what truly happened to his Father all them years ago. Rosie and her family are obviously devastated by his decision causing her Father to say that his chances are over but thankfully Rosie understands and says she’ll wait for him. So off Fleance goes on his travels back to Scotland. While this is happening, we also see Prince Duncan dealing with his unstable father, Prince Donalbain, and the news that his uncle - King Malcolm - is on his deathbed without any children to inherit the Scottish crown as well as taking care of his sisters, Rachel and Bree. Upon receiving news that King Malcolm is definitely close to the end, Duncan sets out to journey to his Uncle’s castle so that Malcolm can be amongst family. On his journey, he is attacked by a pack of wolves where our titular hero comes into save the day and a friendship is born. Duncan can sense there is more to this “Flea” than his companion is letting on but he doesn’t push and together they make it to the Royal castle in time for Duncan to see his uncle before he passes. The death of King Malcolm and the coronation of King Donalbain starts to make people uneasy and eventually there’s whisperings of rebel forces allying with England to take control of Scotland.

Banquo's Son is 402 pages long and Roxborogh ensures that every page is crammed with excitement and action like you would imagine a film depicting this era would be. Deaths, coronations, rivalries and of course - love interests. Our hero, Fleance, finds himself torn between his old simple life where he’s in love with Rosie and his new life of nobility where he’s got the admiration of Princess Rachel. By the end of the book, circumstances that I won’t detail because it screams spoiler alert have to sway Fleance towards one of the women but I can’t wait to continue the journey in book two and see what decisions are made.

This book swims with characters from Fleance, the royals, thanes of different cities, the people we meet on their travels, Fleance’s family as well as Rosie’s. It’s one of them books where you could possibly do with a character list at the beginning to ensure you’re aware of who is who. However, Roxborogh never loses track of who is who and where they’re supposed to be. I always applaud any author that can have a huge cache of characters and write smoothly. Roxborogh definitely achieved this.

It is my first venture into historical fiction - the author does disclaim at the beginning that not all events are accurate as it is based of a fictional piece of work in itself - that is not solely romance, and I can definitely guarantee that it won’t be my last.

Friday, October 7, 2016

An Ember in Ashes

Posted by A Drop of Romeo at 2:00 PM 0 comments

Age: Young Adult, Adult
Category: Fantasy, romance
Rating: 4.5 stars

Rosie Thinks: Laia's life is thrown into disarray when the Empire's ruthless elite warriors kill her grandparents and arrest her brother for treason, leaving her to flee. With nowhere else to go, she makes a deal with the rebels working to free their people from the Empire's violent grip: she will spy on the commander of their greatest military school in exchange for the rebels freeing her brother. The story is told in Laia's perspective, but alternates with Elias, the school's best soldier who will do anything to get away from his brutal and cold life there.

I had big expectations for this book. It caught my eye a few months ago, before it was published - an incredible blurb, plus an Ancient Rome inspired world?! Um, yes please. For the first time in a while, this book lived up to my expectations! What really caught me at the beginning was the characterisation of Laia. We are presented with this girl who is ruled by her fear, yet possesses a determination she doesn't even realise. Her weakness at the beginning cut at me and, yes, made me a bit frustrated, but I couldn't wait to see how she would grow. Everywhere in YA books, there are kickass heroines who can master their fear and refuse to run from any situation (Katniss from Hunger Games, Celaena from Throne of Glass, Katsa from Graceling, I could go on for a while). These are all fine and good, but you rarely see a character like Laia who is so strangled by her fear at the beginning. Honestly, she acted in a way I could see myself acting like in that situation, and that made me empathise with her all the more. Elias's character development wasn't as obvious as Laia's, but he still made for a good person to read about. The insights he gives into his world were breathtaking and showed the creative world Tahir created. Elias is the best warrior the school has seen in two decades, yet he has plans to desert the day after graduation - this situation also seriously intrigued me.

The whole storyline was fast-paced and gripping and, at times, downright evil. The villains are numerous and realistic, and even the Elias's sociopathic mother is made out to be human, not some kind of caricature. One of my pet hates is when a villain is just evil for the sake of being evil, with no real substance behind him/her. A book becomes immeasurably better, in my opinion, when the villain becomes human, with motivations and fears and goals that you can understand. This is what the truly frightening villains have. Marcus, Elias's schoolmate nemesis, was a bit of a Draco Malfoy-style bully at the beginning, but even he began to get a bit fleshed out towards the end. Speaking of, all the supporting characters were just incredible. Each of them played important roles and kept the plot rolling forward at a breakneck pace.

The only problem I had with this book were the unfortunate hints of a love triangle in the middle, for both main characters. I will first say this, though: this novel is fantasy first, and romance more as a side-note. There is a romantic underlying to it, but the plot is moved forward by the action and characters, rather than revolving around the romance. However, I found Laia's 'heart wanting one guy and body the other' (not actual quote) to be unnecessary and annoying. However, I'm just being picky. If you're like me and hate love triangles, don't be put off - this is only annoying in a handful of scenes.

But otherwise, this novel is flawless. It is dark and enthralling, and made me blow off all plans so I could finish it within a day. It captures a true journey of human spirit, and I can't wait for the sequel next year. I can see this becoming one of the must-read YA novels of the year. Definitely recommend!

Friday, September 30, 2016

milk and honey

Posted by A Drop of Romeo at 2:00 PM 0 comments
milk and honey by Rupi Kaur

Age: Adult
Category: Poetry
Rating: 5 stars

Juliet Thinks: This book of poems is one that I had high expectations for because I had seen many people post about snippets of it on social media. There was something enticing about the simple drawings coupled with a short poem, so I decided to order it.

The book certainly deserves the accolade it has received from the public. Kaur's poems are harrowing and deeply relatable. Some of her writing in this book breaks conventions of poetry, such as a poem that is one very long paragraph. With no punctuation and sharp words, Kaur paints a jarring image of what it is like to feel unloved, enamored, fundamentally disappointed, and human.

Friday, September 23, 2016

This Raging Light

Posted by A Drop of Romeo at 2:00 PM 0 comments

Age: Young Adult
Category: Contemporary, romance
Rating: 4 stars

Brittany Thinks: I love reading realistic YA fiction - perhaps because I discovered YA in a time before Twilight and magic and Dystopia shaped the books that lined shelves. When YA, like a true young adult, was really trying to find its place in the literary world and in the general societal subconscious. I love a good Fantasy YA read, but every once in a while I totally dig losing myself in a world where human beings have human problems and they make a bigger mess of things on the way to the truth. This Raging Light by Estelle Laure felt like the YA books that made me fall in love with the genre and I really want all of you to have the chance to love it, too.

The title attracted me first, because I assumed (correctly, fortunately) that it was a reference to my favorite Dylan Thomas quote, “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light”. That’s exactly what Lucille has to do when she wakes up to find her parents have both left town and she has a 10 year old sister to care for and a mountain of bills to pay. I know that people have an amazing capacity to keep it together through unimaginable things, but I was so enthralled by her character. She was strong without being dramatically closed off and vulnerable without being obnoxious - and either of those alternatives would have been entirely understandable in her situation, too. I also really liked Eden, Lucille’s best friend, and Digby, Eden’s brother. They were so kind, so supportive, and so great at times that I envied their relationships.

I think my favorite part of this book is that it’s so dark, but also so filled with goodness. There is another trend in YA that leans more towards the sad of late. Some of my favorite reads of the last 5 years in this genre have been soul crushing. And this book could have taken that path, but it reminded me of another quote from a dude I love, Mr. Rogers: “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping”. I think everyone could use a reminder of that sometimes and this book is filled with people caring about people when they don’t really have to.

Definitely check out This Raging Light. The writing was beautiful, I bought it six hours ago. It’s absolutely worth your time.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Executioner [Robert Hunter #2]

Posted by A Drop of Romeo at 2:00 PM 0 comments

Age: Adult
Category: Crime & Mystery
Rating: 4 stars

Helen Thinks: When the remains of a decapitated priest are found on the altar steps of a church in Los Angeles with the head replaced by that of a canine there’s only one duo they’re going to call - the team that managed to catch the horrifying Crucifix Killer. When the forensic team find a bloody number three written on the priest’s chest. Due to the religious elements and the different components of the crime scene, Hunter believes that Garcia and he are on the tail of a ritualistic killer. However, the bodies start to mount up and Hunter has to reevaluate his original hypothesis as this killer isn’t sticking to the same MO. No, he seems to be killing the victims in the way that they fear the most. Their deaths are literally their worst nightmares. But how could the killer possibly know such personal information about each of his victims that for as far as he can see have no possible link?

After such an amazing debut in “The Crucifix Killer”, I was more than happy to take the leap of faith with Carter into the second novel following Garcia and Hunter’s investigation. Just as the first one, the crimes committed are shockingly grisly that keep you up late at night hooked to every last word written on the pages in front of you. My favourite part of Carter’s writing is that even though he does use a crime novelists favourite trick of a the red herring, they’re not just carelessly thrown in like some novels. They’re all cleverly thought out and leave you thinking that this whole thing could be over (slightly before you want it too!) but then when the twists are revealed at the end... gobsmacked is literally the only word I can use to describe the feeling I got when I learnt who the killer was in this novel.

So settle down, get yourself a nice hot cup of tea and follow Hunter and Garcia as they chase down a killer who literally scares his victims to death...

Friday, September 9, 2016

The False Prince

Posted by A Drop of Romeo at 2:00 PM 0 comments
The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy #1) by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Age: Young Adult, Middle Grade
Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars

Rosie Thinks: Although this book has been out since 2012, for some reason this is the first time I'd ever seen it on Goodreads. I knew this for a fact, since the summary hooked me in straightaway and made me ditch the other book I was reading halfway through. And this book certainly delivered!

To save a kingdom on the brink of civil war, Conner, a nobleman, recruits four orphans to compete to become the lost prince. It starts off quite Anastasia-like, but the characters and the plot soon move well beyond that. It is told in the perspective of Sage, one of the orphans competing. Unlike the others, he struggles to be free of Conner's not-so-altruistic machinations. He's rude, poor-mannered, a thief, incredibly intelligent and I loved him so much as an MC! With the twists and setting, telling this story in first person POV could've killed it easily for me, but somehow it worked. Sage's voice was always quick, witty and hilarious, but it didn't detract from the sometimes sombre tone of the novel.

I was a bit wary when I saw this novel marked on Goodreads as not only YA, but also Middle Grade. I am happy reading YA, but Middle Grade would be getting a bit too young for me! Thankfully, it didn't come across as a book written for children, even though it still would probably be suited for Middle Grade, despite the dark themes sometimes.

The fantasy side of this story isn't so pronounced - the world-building wasn't very detailed, beyond what was needed for the storytelling. Instead, Nielsen focused more on the characters and weaving a fairly intricate web of lies. Sage is a perfect liar, but this becomes more of an endearing quality than a fault, if that is even possible! The other characters are all well characterised, with very few of them falling into stereotypical roles. I really enjoyed reading this and am so happy the summary didn't let me down!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Carry On

Posted by A Drop of Romeo at 1:05 AM 0 comments

Age: Young Adult
Category: Historical
Rating: 5 stars

Brittany Thinks: Rainbow Rowell is one of my favorite authors writing today. From her first adult novel Attachments to her smash hit YA novel Eleanor & Park, I have devoured every one of her novels in one sitting every time. Carry On just might be my favorite. I’ve already read it twice since picking up a copy in February and I’m sure I’ll read it a few more times before the year is through.

Now this might get a little bit meta and confusing so hang in there, but Carry On is kind of a novel from within a novel and you may want to read Fangirl before digging into it. Fangirl is a novel about a girl who adores a set of fictional characters to the point where it distracts her from really living. She writes a web-hit fan fiction about these characters and fans fell in love with them. So did Rainbow. Carry On is Rowell’s version of what happens to those characters. Still with me? Good. I read Fangirl first, but it definitely isn’t necessary. I’d suggest it only because it’ll make you love these characters before even cracking the spine of Carry On.

Rowell herself has said that Carry On is her take on some of the best series of the last 20 years - namely Harry Potter and Lev Grossman’s The Magicians. It follows Simon Snow through the course of his last year at Watford School of Magicks as he tries to make sense of why every one thinks he’s “The Chosen One” and why his roommate Baz hates him so much. This is a fun, exciting read and, like all of Rowell’s books, it’s absolutely hilarious. She has such a wit and clever tone to her novels that I always find myself snickering or all out laughing. Simon and Baz have a great love/ hate chemistry going on and I lived for the scenes that featured both of them.

As a real fan girl of Harry Potter and anything a bit magical, I loved this. As a lover of character development and coming of age novels, I was even more satisfied. Seriously, writing this review makes me want to read it again. And then reread everything by Rainbow Rowell, because I just love her so much. Definitely pick this one up. It was perfect.

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