Book Review: "Six of Crows"

    I`m finally doing it guys, I`m sharing my thoughts on "Six of Crows". I was reluctant about posting a review because it`s such a hyped book, but at the end of the day, we all love it for different reasons. Truth be told, I was a big fan of Leigh Bardugo`s writing since the Grisha trilogy, but this book exceeded all of my expectations. I loved the world, the plot, and especially the characters. When The Independent described this novel as "Ocean`s Eleven meets Game of Thrones", they were not joking. It has the epicness of those stories, combined into one kick-ass literary masterpiece.

Despite this long eulogy, I had my doubts at the beginning. For the first fifty pages, I missed Ravka and its supernatural setting. Don`t get me wrong, we still have Grisha in this book. But magic doesn`t play a big part this time. The action takes place shortly after the end of the civil war in Ravka, and those with powers have to hide. Although you don`t have to read the first trilogy, they give you a better understanding of the events that are happening right now.

As usual, Leigh Bardugo is a queen when it comes to world building. The action takes place in Ketterdam, a city strongly inspired by Amsterdam. Whilst we still have that decadence, everything is more dangerous. In Kerch, trade is sacred, and people are used to a lush lifestyle. And in the middle of everything, we have our group of misfits. We have Kaz, the criminal prodigy, and leader of the gang. Then we have his right hand, Inej, a master at spying people. Jesper, the sharpshooter. Nina and Matthias, a Grisha soldier and a Grisha hunter. And lastly, Wylan, the prodigal son of a wealthy mercer. And in all honesty, it`s the interactions between this diverse group of characters that make this book so loved by millions.

“Kaz leaned back. "What's the easiest way to steal a man's wallet?"
"Knife to the throat?" asked Inej.
"Gun to the back?" said Jesper.
"Poison in his cup?" suggested Nina.
"You're all horrible," said Matthias.”

I`m not going to give you a run of the plot, cause ain`t nobody got time for that. I`m also sure that 90% of you have already read this duology. The gang is hired to pull an impossible heist, and from then on miracles happen. One thing that took me by surprise is how much I enjoyed the ships. Although romance is minor, all of the couples are so well suited for each other. We have Kaz and Inej, broken people that try to make peace with their past. There`s the comical and easy-going relationship between Jesper and Wylan. And of course, the love and hate between Nina and Matthias. Like I said, I loved all of the couples, but Nina and Matthias hold a special place in my heart. That`s because despite their beliefs, they challenge each other and they`re better people when they`re together. They`re both loyal to their duty but somehow manage to see the flaws in the system.

“He buried his face in her hair. She felt his lips move against her ear when he said, “I never want to see you like this again.” “Do you mean the dress or the cell?” A laugh shook him. “Definitely the cell.” Then he cupped her face in his hands. “Jer molle pe oonet. Enel mörd je nej afva trohem verretn.” Nina swallowed hard. She remembered those words and what they truly meant. I have been made to protect you. Only in death will I be kept from this oath. It was the vow of the drüskelle to Fjerda. And now it was Matthias’ promise to her. She knew she should say something profound, something beautiful in response. Instead, she spoke the truth. “If we make it out of here alive, I’m going to kiss you unconscious.” 

The book does an excellent job of switching between non-stop action and character building. There are some amazing flashbacks when you get the motivation for their action. Although none of the characters are saints, their hearts were in the right place. And I`d take a flawed, multi-dimensional anti-hero over a stupid hero every day. Plus, the banter is so good, I could probably read 10.000 pages of dialogue and not get bored at all.

Obviously, I`ve already read the sequel, and know what to expect. I really hope you enjoyed this mini review, and I can`t wait to share my thoughts on the sequel. I`m not going to lie, it destroyed me, but more on that later.

Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag 2018

Do you ever start too many tasks at once, only to end up overwhelmed a few weeks later? The story of my life. I know I should prioritize, but I always think I can manage everything at once. Though in reality, I barely finish anything due to exhaustion. Guess I should learn my lesson at one point. Anyway, enough about my lack of time management skills. Today I`m back with a new edition of the "Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag". I did a similar post last year, and I must say, I liked my stats better back then. This year I`ve managed to read only 14 books. Cue the sad music. However, I`m not going to wallow in self-pity, cause I know I`ll read more when I`ll be on holiday. Although I`ve set my Goodreads target at 24, I`m confident I can get to 35-40.

1. Best book you`ve read so far
So in the last post, I`ve mentioned my Grishaverse obsession, but it only got worse. This year I`ve finally read "Six of Crows", and I am happy to say that the hype is real. That book is the perfect mix of loveable characters, action and magical settings. I do love a good anti-hero, and this book offers us 6 amazing, well-rounded characters, each with a fascinating story arc.

2. Best sequel you`ve read so far
The fantasy queen did it again, giving us the flawless book that is "Crooked Kingdom". I`m not going to lie, the ending killed me. But it made sense. There were moments when I cried and moments when I laughed like an idiot. But overall, reading "Crooked Kingdom" was a bittersweet journey, and it might be the best sequel I`ve read in my life.

3. New releases you haven`t read yet but want to
There are a couple of new releases I want to get to, but my main priority is "Children of Blood and Bone". It`s the most talked about book of 2018, and I want to see if the hype is real. 

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year
When I found out that two of my favourite YA contemporary authors were collaborating, I was over the moon. Obviously, I`m talking about Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli, and my crazy excitement for "What If It`s Us". Adam`s stories are always heartbreaking, whilst Becky`s are more sweet and heartwarming. I`m definitely curious to see what they`ll come up with.

5. Biggest disappointment
This year I finally DNF`ed my first book. Which is a bit sad cause I invested in a beautiful hardback copy. The book in question is "Everless", which funny enough, was one of my most anticipated releases of 2018. But I couldn`t connect to any of the characters, and I struggled too much to get invested in the story.

6. Biggest surprise
This one has to go to "The Poet X" by Elizabeth Acevedo. Although I loved the synopsis, I wasn`t sure how I`ll fell about a book written through verse. Luckily, I ended up loving it. The book is about 15-year-old Xiomara, who uses slam poetry to navigate her feelings towards religion, her abusive mother, love and body acceptance.

7. Favourite new author (debut or new to you)
I`ve only read one book by her, but I was so impressed with Mackenzi Lee`s writing. "The Gentleman`s Guide to Vice and Virtue" was a solid 5-star read, and I can`t wait to read the companion novel, from Felicity`s POV.

8. Newest fictional crush
Ideal guy: has Matthias looks, Wylan`s sweetness, Jesper`s sense of humour and Kaz`s intelligence. OK, although I loved the guys from SoC, I can`t say I have a full-on crush like I have with the Darkling. They were all amazing, but I`d want them to be my friends, not my lovers. Then again, I`m a 28-year-old happily married woman, with a charming and very-real man. Quick question: are imaginary book boyfriends considered cheating? Nevermind, my fictional BAE is still deceased.

9. Newest favourite character
We should probably change this post`s title to "I luv Leigh Bardugo`s books". You`ve guessed it, I`m going to pick another Dreggs member. I`m not going to lie, it`s hard to pick just one. But I decided to go with the character I related to the most, the flamboyant Nina Zenik. She`s sweet, brave, loyal and loves to eat. My type of girl.

10. Book that made you cry
Definitely changing the name of this post. Like I mentioned earlier, the ending of "Crooked Kingdom" made sense. But that character deserved better, cause in the end, he had the biggest transformation. But I am a sucker for true love, so I do hope he`ll be reunited with his beloved in the afterlife. 

I`m curious to see what some of your answers would be, feel free to leave some in the comments section. Also, looking at this post, I`m more and more inclined to review "Six of Crows" and "Crooked Kingdom". I know everyone talked about these books already, but let me know if you`de be interested in seeing my thoughts in-depth. 

TTT: The Pros and Cons of living in a fantasy world

Hello, everyone! It`s my first day off in quite a while, so I`m trying to get to all of your messages. Sorry for the late replies, I`m doing my best. Anyway, today`s TTT is about bookish worlds you`d love to live in. Or the opposite: worlds that are more terrifying than all of Stephen King`s books combined. I wanted to put my own spin on today`s topic, and talk about the pros and cons of living in a fantasy world. Because if you think about it, nothing is black or white (except zebras, old movies, mime makeup, etc). Even though everyone wanted to attend Hogwarts, it did have its fair share of dodgy stuff. And the list could go on an on, but I`m going to give 5 examples.

Ketterdam (Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom - Leigh Bardugo)
I was debating whether to pick Ketterdam or Ravka. Ravka has the incredible king Nikolai, but it is a depressing setting for #teamDarkling ("Ruin and Rising" should be just Ruin). And as much as I adore anything Russian inspired, I can`t deny the similarities between Ketterdam and Amsterdam, which is one of my favourite European cities. So Ketterdam it is. With its canals and old buildings, one might confuse the Barrel with the Red Light District. I`m not quite sure you can get jurda brownies, but I`m confident it will happen at one point.

Pros: An exciting and effervescent city. Perfect for coffee lovers. Waffles.
Cons: Might lose your soul gambling. Not that ideal for women or Grisha.

The Shire (Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien)
I`ve always felt that the Shire was the place for me. At 1.55cm/ 5.2 feet, I`d fit right in. I also have tiny, but wide fit, and love the moments when I don`t have to wear shoes. And yes, I do enjoy a second breakfast every now and then. Let`s be honest, the Shire is the place to be for everyone that likes to have a good time.

Pros: Literally everything about that place.
Cons: Every now and then, a crazy wizard might take you on a deadly adventure. An evil force wants to take over, so there`s the occasional war.

The Capitol (The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins)
I know that this is a controversial pick because almost everyone in the Capitol is a self-absorbed prick (and I`m cheating by squeezing a dystopian world). But I just love their crazy fashion, sophisticated food and decadent parties. Think of it as "The Great Gatsby" on steroids. Or like a permanent Met Gala. Definitely one or the other.

Pros: Ravishing clothes, amazing food, outstanding technology. Good music?
Cons: Your crazy aesthetic operations might turn you into a shallow individual. 

The Reach/Highgarden (Game of Thrones - George R.R.Martin)
Out of all the places you could visit in the Seven Kingdoms, nothing beats the land of the Tyrells (may they ALL rest in peace, especially lady Olenna). The Reach is Westeros` most fertile zone, filled with vast fields of crop and flowers. Despite rumours, it`s still the richest land.

Pros: Good food and climate. Perfect for a vacation around harvest season, when there are a few masquerades going around.
Cons: Anarchy since the ruling house was decimated. Big dragons since you have to do the Crown`s bidding now.

Hogwarts (Harry Potter - J.K.Rowling)
Alas, we are back where we started. The place of our childhood dreams, the school every kid wanted to attend. Hogwarts. A place filled with magic, friendly ghosts and an endless supply of food.

Pros: The food. Exciting classes. A gym class you might actually like.
Cons: Not great if you`re a muggle, and the Dark Lord is trying to take over the world. Also, not that great if you`re pureblood either, because there`s a lot of parental pressure to be evil (especially for poor house Slytherin). The caretaker is a lot like the Janitor in "Scrubs". Also, your Potions teacher is not a fan of kids. Wrong career, maybe? Joking, I actually dig Snape.

Looking back at this list, I realise that most of my reasons for wanting to be part of a fantasy world involve food. So yeah, probably not the most compelling argument. But then again, if you`re about to face your impending doom, you might as well do it on a full stomach. 

Why I rarely re-read books

I`m not much of a re-reader, truth be told. I like to go back to Harry Potter every now and then, cause that`s comfort for the soul. When everything goes wrong in your life, it`s easier to blame it on the postman who lost your Hogwarts letter. Another book that I like to pick up often is "To Kill a Mockingbird". And no masterpiece messes with me more than "The Idiot" by Dostoyevsky. Every time I re-read, I notice something new. But other than that, it`s all quiet on the re-reading front. Not because I`m lazy, I actually have some decent excuses.

1. So many books out thereeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
I get a panic attack every time I look at the fantasy section in Waterstones, let alone think of all the books in the world. Ancient literature, classics, modern classics, contemporary. Fantasy, Biography, Non- Fiction, Poetry, Sci-fi, etc. English or translated fiction. All these books are out to get you and prove you`re a dilettante. 

For instance, I adore Russian literature. And yet I`ve not read "War and Peace" or "Anna Karenina". I`m such a fraud. I`m sure I`ll pick them up at one point, but it will be a struggle to finish them, let alone re-read them. 

2. New Releases
On top of all the books that already exist, authors are out to get us too, with all those magical new releases. And again, think of the genre. Let`s say there are 30-50 YA releases monthly. You might be interested in 10. But then there`s non-fiction or literary fiction. Everything adds up, and you don`t have a social life anymore.

3. I read it to sound smart
This is the moment when classics make a grand entrance. Along with some scientific books that I probably did not understand, but I did not want to be the Penny of the bookish community. There are some classic authors that I adore, like Charles Dickens. He knows how to create drama, and make me feel bad for the privilege of eating Ferrero Rocher, whilst those orphans are struggling. On the other hand, I find Jane Austen`s novels so boring! I`m not denying their value, but there`s more to life than a good marriage. And yes, I know those were the times - but give me some real, emotional conflict. Chances are I`ll never re-read anything by Jane Austen, and I`m fine with that.

4. It hurts too much
Most of the books I read tend to be heartbreaking and soul-searching. First example: I cried like a baby after finishing "A Monster Calls". The same thing happened with "History is All You Left Me" or "The Fault In Our Stars". Those are three of my favourite books, but chances are I won`t pick them up again. As I`m starting to see my first wrinkles, I can't afford puffy and red eyes on top of that.

5. I forget?
I have terrible time management skills and a bad memory. Sometimes I say I`ll re-read a book, and then I completely forget about it. I don`t know if it`s because the book is hiding behind other books, or I`m just getting older, but it happens.

Do you like to re-read books? If not, what are your excuses?

TTT: New Book Releases and Impossible to get ARCs

I`m probably misleading you with this title, as some of you are lucky enough to have the ARCs for these books. And believe it or not, I`m happy for you. Sadly, I`m a small blogger and I`m not that lucky (yet). I know there`s the option of NetGalley, but I always forget to review the books there...
and I have a low rating. Hey ho, that`s life. Here are my most exciting 2018 mid-year releases:

1. "King of Scars" by Leigh Bardugo
If anyone has an ARC, I`ll hunt you down and rob you. I`ll be quick, and I`ll probably leave chocolates on your pillows, but I`ll steal this precious baby. Because I adore Nikolai and I need his witty remarks like I need air or coffee.

2. "What If It`s Us" by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
A collab between two of my favourite YA contemporary authors, this book will take the world by storm. Will it be hilarious (Becky) or will it be heartbreaking (Adam)? Who knows? I just need it in my life!

3. "My Plain Jane" (The Lady Janies)
I recently read "My Lady Jane", and it was so much fun! "My Plain Jane" is a Jane Eyre retelling, and although I haven`t read the classics yet (shameeeeeeeee), I`m positive I`ll love the quirky story. The Goodreads synopsis is hilarious, so I`m pretty pumped for this novel.

4. "The Winds of Winter" by George R.R. Martin
At this rate, I`ll probably die before I can read this book. Sorry for the morbid joke, but enough is enough.

5. "Semper Augustus" by Mackenzi Lee
A historical fiction featuring queer female characters, written by the brilliant Mackenzi Lee? Which is also set in 1637 Holland? Count me in! I expect sarcastic characters, crazy scenarios and a swoon-worthy romance.

6. "Kingdom of Back" by Marie Lu
A historical fiction novel based on the childhood of Mozart and his sister? What is this sorcery? I have only read "Batman: Nightwalker" by Marie Lu, which is not her best work, but I am willing to give this author another chance.

7. "The Blood of Stars" by Elizabeth Lim
This book is pitched as Project Runaway meets "The Wrath and the Dawn", and I`m intrigued. It might be trashy or incredibly good, who knows? The Goodreads synopsis sounds good, but I have not read that many reviews so far.

8. "Sea Witch" by Sarah Henning
This is retelling that centres on the Sea Witch from "The Little Mermaids", and the events that made her into a villain. I love retellings, especially the ones that focus on villains, so I`m very excited to read this book.

9. "The Supervillain and Me" by Danielle Banas
As I just mentioned, I prefer a complex villain over a plain hero. Though, I`ll admit that the Goodreads blurb confused me a bit. Does it focus on the villain or the hero? I guess I`ll have to wait and see.

P.S. Whoever has an ARC please let me know

10. "A Thousand Beginnings and Endings" edited by Ellen Oh
Anthologies are a bit of a hit and miss; I might love a couple stories and hate the others, so I`m always confused when it comes to rating the book. But these anthology features stories by Renee Ahdieh, Cindy Pon and Melissa de la Cruz amongst others, so I have high hopes for it.

Let me know in the comments what ARCs you`d love to receive. And whoever has that Leigh Bardugo ARC, don`t forget to leave me your address. So I can bring you the chocolates, obviously.

* TTT is a weekly meme/ feature hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

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