Moving House!

Wow, I move to wordpress.org for a few days and the whole layout for wordpress.com changes!!

But just here to do a quick update regarding the change in web addresses! I’ve finally taken the step to host this blog and get a domain. (WOOO!) Not many changes to the address besides the removal of the free wordpress part.

So I’m now officially at:

http://thoughtsbyj.com

YAY! *throws confetti* Come join me at my new place for celebratory drinks (virtual) and discussions about books. I’ve just read some amazing books recently, and I need people to discuss it with!

J. x

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Book Review: Gossip Girl (Gossip Girl #1) by Cecily von Ziegesar

Title: Gossip Girl (Gossip Girl #1)

Author: Cecily von Ziegesar

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Genre: Young Adult, Drama, High School

Published: 12 September 2007 by Bloomsbury Australia

Format: Paperback, 208 pages

Synopsis: “Welcome to New York City’s Upper East Side, where my friends and I live, go to school, play, and sleep–sometimes with each other.

S is back from boarding school, and if we aren’t careful, she’s going to win over our teachers, wear that dress we couldn’t fit into, steal our boyfriends’ hearts, and basically ruin our lives in a major way. I’ll be watching closely…

You know you love me,
gossip girl” 

(Taken from Goodreads)

– – – –

So I basically needed a quick and dare I say  – trashy – book to get me through this assignment period. Something that didn’t require thinking and I could go through in a day. As I went through my bookshelf looking for just that, I came across my paperback copy of Gossip Girl, bought in store years ago. I don’t really remember having read it before (but at the back of my mind I felt like I have as well), shrugged my shoulders and started reading.

Let me just say, I’ve seen every season of the tv show, loved how glamourous upper east side life is portrayed, but trying to get through this book was like poking myself in the brain repeatedly. It felt a lot like trying to get through the last few seasons of the tv show – you knew it was trashy and not very well written, but you just had to know what happens!

I guess a lot of my dislike for this novel can be attributed to the my age. While I still read children’s fiction and coming-of-age stories, Gossip Girl portrayed characters that felt flat. I could not relate to them at all – not even little J. I understand von Ziegesar is attempting to portray the life of the rich within New York City, but her style of writing was choppy and her characters were so dull. I don’t recall anyone from high school being this bitchy, annoying or sex-driven at all. Perhaps it’s the different cultures (between Australia and America), but I just don’t understand their motivations.

I found the story flowed really weirdly as well. A lot of the time I found ‘Gossip Girl’ narrating a sentence or two here and there during each character’s perspectives. There was no plot at all either.

If you have been keeping up with my recent reviews, such as the one on The 5th WaveI have explained what I think makes up a good story. 1. Plot line. 2. Characters. This novel lacked both. I understand it is the first in the series, and both the plot and the characters will probably be more rounded out by the end of the series. But just like the tv show, this book needed a lot of tightening up.

It was a very quick read, and I’m glad to have ticked it off my TBR pile, but I probably won’t pick up the rest of this series.

Review Policies

Hi there, thank you so much for checking out my policies page. I really appreciate your time!

Book Reviews

I love requests from authors, publishers and publicists and am open to reading most genres. However, I do prefer Young Adult, Science-Fiction & Fantasy, Contemporary and Romance. Please keep this in mind before you contact me!

I also accept requests from self-published authors, but reviews may take a little longer to do. I apologise in advance, but I will always get around to it eventually, never fear!

Please let me know if you have a specific time frame you’d like me to review a book by (eg. 2 weeks prior to publication). It’ll make it much easier to keep track of everything.

Other Features

This includes book tours, author interviews, giveaways etc.

I am more than happy to do any of these, but once again, please give me specific dates so I can get them organised in time.

Other Information

I usually leave reviews on my blog (thoughtsbyj.) and Goodreads but I’m also open to other platforms such as Amazon. Just let me know.

Disclaimer

All my reviews will be written honestly in order to maintain integrity and openness among my readers. I do not accept money in exchange for reviews purposes. Images and book synopsises have been borrowed for marketing purposes and remain copyright to its rightful owners.

Please do not redistribute any of my work. 

– – – –

I must stress that I am currently a full-time student at university with a part-time job on the side. I try to read and review as much as I can but there can often be a delay due to all my commitments. I will always let you know if I am unable to make a dead-line, but just keep in mind that sometimes life outside of the Internet may get in the way. 😛

– – – –

Book Review: Other Systems by Elizabeth Guizzetti

Title: Other Systems

Author: Elizabeth Guizzetti

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Genre: Science-Fiction

Published: 1 April 2012 by 48Fourteen

Synopsis: “Without an influx of human DNA, the utopian colony on Kipos has eleven generations before it reaches failure. With Earth over ninety light-years away. Time is short.

On the over-crowded Earth, many see opportunity in Kipos’s need. After medical, intelligence, and physiological testing, Abby and her younger siblings, Jin and Orchid, are offered transportation. Along with 750,000 other strong young immigrants, they leave the safety of their family with the expectation of good jobs and the opportunity for higher education.

While these second-generation colonists travel to the new planet in stasis, the Kiposi, terrified that Earthlings will taint their paradise, pass a series of indenture and adoption laws in order to assimilate the savages.

When Abby wakes up on Kipos, Jin cannot be found. Orchid is ripped from her arms as Abby is sold to a dull-eyed man with a sterilized wife. Indentured to breed, she is drugged and systematically coerced. To survive, Abby learns the differences in culture and language using the only thing that is truly hers on this new world: her analytical mind. To escape, she joins a planetary survey team where she will discover yet another way of life. (Taken from Goodreads)

– – – –

The premise of this book is truly exciting, I took one look at it was immediately hooked! I haven’t read a lot of science-fiction novels before, but it’s a genre that continues to intrigue me. I was excited to dive straight into Abby’s story, which is why I was a little confused to be reading about someone named Cole, and his children. Although Cole’s story was fascinating, I did not really like the jumps between his perspective and Abby’s. I honestly found that while it was good background information, Cole’s chapters added nothing to the story once I look back at it. It could very easily have been incorporated later on.

A few chapters in, we finally get to the nut and ball of what was described in the synopsis. We are introduced to Abigail Boyd Lei, a mixed girl living on an overpopulated Earth with her family. We are shown what life is like on this futurist Earth, and it certainly doesn’t sound inviting. When Abby and her siblings are offered the chance to visit a colonised planet called Kipos, they jump straight at the opportunity. I mean, who wouldn’t when your life is so monotonous and dull on Earth? Of her three siblings, only the two youngest follow Abby and the Kiposi to a new life, leaving everyone else behind. I felt that while the farewells with her family was moving, it could have been a lot more emotional than it was. For people that Abby would never, ever see again, I had hoped that she would express a deeper understanding of loss, yet we never get to see that. All we were given were a prompt goodbye and then off the siblings go to the awaiting spaceship. I kept wondering why the rest of the family couldn’t follow them and farewell them from there.

As Abby and her siblings traverse through deep space, we are once again back with Cole and his kids. We get some more background information until we’re back again with Abby as she wakes up. It has been a hundred years since they left Earth, so everyone they have ever known is gone. I quite liked the fact that Abby was able to keep her composure in front of Orchid, in order to not scare her. I saw the inspiring older sister qualities in her character at that point. As we progress along, we learn that the Kiposi is extremely worried that the Earthlings would taint their paradise (even though they are Earthlings technically), so they introduced a set of indenture and adoption laws. Abby is ripped away from Orchid, and her younger brother is no where to be seen at all.

Abby is taken to a place where horrible things are done to her. She is alone, scared and have no idea what’s going on. As part of the indenture laws, she has to provide the Kiposi family who bought her ‘bond’ with three children or serve them for seven years. This part of the story is where things get a little confusing for me. Perhaps this was due to my erratic reading patterns for this novel, but I was continuously wondering how Cole’s story even fit in with Abby’s. We were given so much background information, but then we jump to Abby and it’s like he didn’t even exist. In fact, this part of the novel was probably the hardest to get through because I failed to see the link between the two characters and I was frustrated with Abby’s silly personality. She was continuously moaning about loving this person, or that person. I saw her as such a weak ‘Earthling’, which reflectively I now believe was the author’s intention in the first place. But honestly, I could not stand her at all during this section.

However, she does grow and becomes stronger as a person. Abby manages to escape from her bonded buyers and finds her way to a spacecraft docking area (FINALLY), where she happens upon the Alekos crew (Cole’s children). They generously take her on as an intern even with all the risks of losing their licences. I guess this is where the background information finally fits in – although I still think it was unnecessary. While I enjoyed this part of the novel a lot more – seeing Abby grow stronger, more independent and smarter – I felt it was quite lacking of a plot. I kept wondering if Abby would leave and embark on a journey to free all her indentured Earthlings but no such thing happened. We hear a little about the Earthlings back on Kipos revolting, but that’s as far as it goes. In Abby’s case however, she remains on the spaceship and explores new planets. I have to admit that that was pretty boring. I hoped she would at least lead a rebellion, fight to get her sister back, or take revenge on the people that killed her brother … but unfortunately, none of that happened. We see a lot of Abby adjusting to her new life, which is great and all, but not all that exciting.

I think I must commend Ms Guizzetti on creating some very believable and three dimensional characters. However, a novel that is 460 pages long needs to have a discernable and exciting plot. I found myself wondering more than once about where the story was heading, and kept waiting for that one scene where Abby turns into a hero and frees her fellow Earthlings.

Overall, a well written novel with some very interesting explanations of other systems in the universe.

THANKS TO: Elizabeth Guizzetti for providing an e-copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Cover Reveal and Giveaway: The Dragon Carnivale (The Queen of the Realm of Faerie #3) by Heidi Garrett

TheDragonCarnivaleCoverFinalWhy Do I Write Fantasy? or You Never Know Who Might Show Up at Your Front Door

By Heidi Garrett

__________

As long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with the truths that my physical senses cannot explain: the mystical things occurring on this planet. Writing fantastical stories is my testament to these other layers of reality.

There are many ways of looking at our world. Imagine sitting at home, perhaps in your living room. There’s a knock on the door. When you open it, a funny little woman is standing there. She is about half your height, and a plaid crimson kerchief—knotted under her hooked chin—covers her head. Her dress is sack-like over her square body. She’s wearing an apron that could use a good ironing and she’s carrying a battered brown suitcase that’s almost as big as she is.

“As long as you’re staring, a glass of water would be nice,” she says.

Despite her gruff manner, you sense something mysterious about this stranger, and to be honest, you’re dying to know more about her. When she crosses the threshold of your home, a strong wind slams the door behind her. You both jump. There hasn’t been a breeze all day. In fact, it’s sweltering and heat waves have been rising from the melting pavement for weeks.

When you offer it, she almost grabs the glass from your hand, and you can’t stop your staring—even though you know it’s rude—as she drinks in noisy gulps.

“What? You’ve never seen a spring faerie before?” she asks.

Before you can answer, she wipes her mouth with the back of her hand. “Guess not, there aren’t many of us left. And I haven’t been to the Mortal World, since…”

She stops. Her deeply etched face softens. Something like sorrow pools in her dark brown eyes. She waves her hand. “That’s not what I’m here to talk about.”

Your heart tugs. You want to pull her from that sad place. “What’s in your suitcase?”

She points to the table. “I’ll show you.”

The suitcase is filled with eyeglasses. There are so many. Some have square black frames, others have round wire frames; there are a few speckled frames with octagonal lenses. You spy a pair of purple ones.

She shoves a pair of thick black glasses into your hand. “Put these on. Tell me what you see.”

With the eyeglasses settled on the bridge of your nose, you can’t see anything but yourself. You blink. You can see your hands and feet, your legs and toes. But the spring faerie—if that’s really what she is—is just a blur. You pull them off. She trades them for a pair of wire rims. With these glasses you can see her and your home.

“What’s your name?” you ask.

“Flora.”

“Like flowers blooming.”

She nods and looks away with that whiff of sadness.

Again, there is something about her that pulls at your heart. You think of the miracle of spring after a long hard winter, and that she shouldn’t be sad—if she really is a spring faerie.

“But…you don’t have any wings,” you say.

She smoothes the wrinkles in her apron. “Not all faeries do.”

“But—”

She almost jerks the wire-rim spectacles from your nose. You reach for that purple pair. She doesn’t stop you. Now, you can see down the street; your eyes travel the highway. Your view elevates, as if you are a bird. Soon you see the entire city you live in. With each pair of glasses, you see the bigger world.

When Flora tucks the temple arms of a pair of red frames behind your ears, perspective zooms around you. It’s like the lens pulls you into outer space, and you can see the entire world and all the billions of people who live on Earth.

Your heart flutters in your chest; it’s a lot to take in.

“Now—” Flora hands you a pair of fuchsia glasses with tiny rhinestones embedded in the frames. “Try on these.”

When you put them on, you’re able to see beyond the physical entirety of the world into the things that you’ve always known exist, but since you can’t see, touch, smell, or hear them, sometimes you’ve doubted. But you’ll never doubt again, because now—with these special glasses—you can actually see the bonds of love that death can never sever, the strings of fate that wrap the brown paper package of all our lives with twine, the tide of time that alters us, even as we never change…

But most importantly, you’ve seen that you belong here, on this planet. And you know—without a shadow of a doubt—that everything fits. Including you.

“I don’t ever want to take these glasses off,” you say.

Flora is already cramming the rest of them back into her bag. “Then don’t.”

__________

The Queen of the Realm of Faerie is a fairy tale fantasy series that bridges the Mortal and Enchanted worlds. The main character, Melia, is an eighteen-year-old half-faerie, half-mortal. She lives in Illialei, a country in the Enchanted World, with her two sisters and their mother. Melia’s father has been exiled to the Mortal World, and her best friend is a pixie.

When the story opens in the first book, Melia is troubled by her dark moon visions, gossip she overhears about her parents at the local market, and the trauma of living among full-blooded faeries with wings—she doesn’t have any.

As the series unfolds, the historic and mystical forces that shape Melia’s life are revealed. Each step of her journey—to find the place where she belongs—alters her perceptions about herself, deepens her relationships with others, and enlarges her world view.

In The Dragon Carnivale, book 3 of The Queen of the Realm of Faerie, energies in the Enchanted World are shifting and new alliances are forming; the Battle of Dark and Light has begun. Melia is desperate to make things right with Ryder, the young priest from Idonne, but first she must warn the half-bloods in the Mortal World that Umbra is coming for them, and face the powerful Dragonwitch and her spectacular Dragon Carnivale.

The first two books in the series: Nandana’s Mark and The Flower of Isbelline are currently available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, and Smashwords. Nandana’s Mark is free.

The Dragon Carnivale is scheduled for a June 18, 2013, release.

Sign-up for Heidi Garrett’s new release email List and receive a lavender and gold Half-Faerie bracelet while supplies last…because you’re half faerie, too, right?

Half-FaerieBracelet

__________

Author Bio

Heidi Garrett is the author of The Queen of the Realm of Faerie series. Her personal message to all her readers is:

Once upon a time, you lived in an enchanted world, too…

There is magic in all our lives; sometimes we need to look through different eyes to see it.

The Queen of the Realm of Faerie includes many strong female characters within an intricate fantasy land. It is also a fairy tale fantasy.

The first book, Nandana’s Mark, is one of those free ebooks; the second book, The Flower of Isbelline, is now available; and the third book, The Dragon Carnivale, will be released in June 2013.

The series was inspired by the 15th century French fairy tale, Melusine.

Heidi’s hope is that when you read her books, you will rediscover the enchantment in your own life.

She currently resides in eastern Washington with her husband and their two cats. So far, she loves the snow. Being from the South, she finds it magical.

Learn more about Heidi and enjoy her stream-of-consciousness reading journal, Eating Magic, at: www.heidigwrites.blogspot.com.

If you want to say hello, give her a shout out on Twitter at @heidigwrites or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/heidigwrites.

Book Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Heidi-Garrett/e/B008Y61UYM/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/nandanas-mark-heidi-garrett/1112474235?ean=2940014866026

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/heidi-garrett/id554801992?mt=11

Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=%22Heidi+Garrett%22&t=none&f=author&p=1&s=none&g=both

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/HeidiG

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For your chance to win a $25 Amazon Express Giftcard, just follow the link below. Good luck! 

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/8f3d921/

Book Review: CyberStorm by Matthew Mather

Title: CyberStorm

Author: Matthew Mather

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Genre: Techno-Thriller, Science-Fiction

Publication Date: 15 March 2013

Synopsis: “Sometimes the worst storms aren’t caused by Mother Nature, and sometimes the worst nightmares aren’t in the ones in our heads…” (Taken from Goodreads)

– – – –

I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting into when I started reading CyberStorm — but it honestly blew my mind away. It is a story about survival, relationships and most of all, a terrifyingly real depiction of an event that may be plausible enough to actually occur in our present world.

Set in present-day New York City during a whole city snow-storm that has seemingly wiped out all forms of technological connectivity, CyberStorm presents to its readers a realistic account of one man’s perseverance through what was thought to be a foreign attack on a country governed by technology. When you are so incompletely connected via these networks, it is definitely viable that cyber attacks on those systems would eventually occur. While the loss of such connectivity was a tremendous blow, when partnered with a snow-storm only Mother Nature could conjure up, CyberStorm truly shows its readers a masterfully crafted tale of survival at the most detrimental of times.

I cannot praise this book as well as its author enough. Having had a little taste of Mathers’ work (read my review on Atopia Skies here) already, I knew this was a must-read as soon as I heard about it. Mather has a way of writing that pulls you completely into the story. His characters, environment and plots are so well drawn out that you feel completely immersed in the story as if you were right beside the characters. If you are looking for good books under the science-fiction category, then you can’t do wrong with picking up one of Mathers’ works!

Book Review: The Darkest Minds (#1) by Alexandra Bracken

Title: The Darkest Minds

Author: Alexandra Bracken

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Shelf: Read-in-2013, Young-Adult, Science-Fiction, Adventure, 3-out-of-5, NetGalley-Read, Kindle-eBook, HarperCollins Australia

Publish Date: 11 December 2012 by HarperCollins Australia

Synopsis: “When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.

When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.” (Taken from Goodreads)

– – – –

The Darkest Minds is about the outbreak of a mysterious disease called IAAN that killed a majority of America’s children whilst leaving the remainder with abilities that scared the government enough to put them in ‘rehabilitation’ camps, which are really nothing more than concentration camps. At the start, we are introduced to Ruby, a 16-year-old who’ve been sent to the camp, Thurmond, by her parents on her 10th birthday. While I found Ruby’s backstory of how she arrived at the camp intriguing, the storytelling was a little choppy as we were suddenly thrust into Ruby’s past without warning. Also, how exactly did this disease come about?

These camps classify their occupants by colour according to their special abilities. I found myself quite lost throughout the majority of the book as I don’t think the abilities of each group were explained properly, you just had to read to understand what they did. I guess Bracken took a ‘show-don’t-tell’ approach, but this got confusing because there was so much being thrown at you at once. (But maybe it was just me, and she did explain it but it completely went over my head? In that case, then it’s my fault for being completely confused.)

Ruby kept her head down throughout her time at Thurmond by pretending to be a Green (someone with intelligent mental capabilities) – but in fact, she is really an Orange (someone with the ability to control minds). While I found the pacing of the beginning to be quite slow, I enjoyed it because it was really fascinating learning about Thurmond and Ruby’s time there. The camp was horrifying. Adults (known as psi officers) walked around with rifles and abused children left and right. It was just horrible to read about Ruby’s time there, so props to Bracken for creating such a creepy environment encased in this horrendous atmosphere.

I think what made up the majority of the book was the world-building and character development. Liam, Chubs and Suzume became characters that I loved, and even Ruby grew as a character. Seen as weak and vulnerable to everything at the start of the book, she became stronger and made hard decisions for the benefit of others by the conclusion.

However, I found that the plot was sacrificed for world-building and character development. The beginning and ending was strong and exciting as things actually happened quickly. There was action, there was suspense and I went through those chapters so quick! But the middle fell so flat for me. Aside from a few chases/escapes from the the psi officers and skiptracers (bounty hunters), all that really happens is the characters getting to know each other. I found myself saying that certain scenes could definitely have been cut out/molded together with others to make the journey more exciting. At more than one point, I kept wondering where Bracken was actually taking this story. While I wanted to put the book down halfway through, I gave the story the benefit of the doubt as I saw so much potential in it. It was just not executed as flawlessly as I’d have liked.

One advantage for this slow story building is that the romance didn’t feel forced. I love, love, LOVED it. You could obviously tell from the beginning who that love interest to Ruby would be, but the slow plot made the ‘getting-to-know-you’ phase all the much sweeter. I was definitely rooting for them – which is why the ending REALLY floored me. SO MUCH SO that I cried.

I think what really killed me was finding the playlist Miss. Bracken has made for the book right after I finished reading and was still feeling so vulnerable and emotional. Because of this, the first song on the playlist almost put a dagger through my heart because it was just so perfect and fit the ending so brilliantly.

I think it’s really a song that you need to have read the book to feel extremely emotional about. The rest of the playlist is just brilliant also, it just captures the essence of the novel completely. CLICK HERE FOR ‘THE DARKEST MINDS’ PLAYLIST.

I really thought this book would be a standalone, I think it works well as one for such a thick book – so much so that I was really disappointed to find out that it’s meant to be a trilogy. As the majority of this book was spent on character development, it’s almost as if Bracken held back the plot developments in order to stretch out the story. While I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing as there are still so much left to be resolved, but it almost feels like I can pinpoint what would happen in the next two books.

  1. Ruby goes around doing things for the Children’s League … she either becomes corrupted or is a double agent.
  2. Clancy Gray becomes more reformed (less evil with using his mind powers) and works with Ruby secretly to take down his dad’s government regime, and actually cares about breaking the kids out of the rehabilitation camps.
  3. Chubs does not die, he joins the League and probably works with Ruby as a double agent or watches as Ruby becomes corrupted in the second book, only to realise what she is becoming and reforms in the third book as Liam reappears.
  4. Suzume is found by the League.
  5. Ruby keeps close tabs on Liam and they cross paths somehow. I have a feeling he may reconsider joining the League again, convinced they’re not so bad after letting him go. Ruby facepalms. They spend more time together, relationship rekindles.
  6. Ruby becomes stronger and stronger. Perhaps she’ll learn how to place memories back in someone’s head.
  7. Rehabilitation camps will be shut down, Clancy will be so reformed and good that he becomes the President after killing his dad.

There was also a lot of inconsistencies in the editing of the book. For example, ‘Rob’s’ name was used before he was even introduced. I think I really noticed that because it was just so abrupt. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m reading an electronic ARC, but I found myself stopped abruptly in the middle of sentences throughout the whole book because words were either missing or misused. This became a really frustrating because it felt so jarring to the overall reading experience.

While I found many problems with this book, I did like it overall. I think Bracken has come up with a very interesting story that could perhaps have worked better as a standalone. The ending was heartbreaking as the characters were developed so well, but I wish it could have just been left off like that – almost as if to say life’s not perfect, deal with it. I will definitely be picking up the next book in the series as I’ve really become invested in these characters, I just hope there is more action now that the world is built and the characters are well-formed!

An electronic ARC was provided to me by HarperCollins Australia for an honest review.