The Best & Worst Books of 2017

2017 is coming to an end, and while I’ve had a fantastic year filled with fantastic books, there’s always that select few that let the whole class down. These are the best and most disappointing books I’ve read in 2017.

Best

Godsgrave (The Nevernight Chronicles) by Jay Kristoff

I’ve been excited for Godsgrave since I finished Nevernight, sat on a balcony in Bavaria Germany, back in June 2016. I couldn’t wait for it to actually be released, and entered every competition, giveaway, and even emailed the publisher to get my hands on it early. But to no avail. Thankfully, the Netgalley gods blessed me and finally provided a UK e-arc online and when I received that email saying I was approved to read it, I dropped everything to start it. Of course, it was fantastic, and I loved every minute. I then bought a signed hardback and am now sat here waiting for the third book. As you do. My review is here.

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The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes

This one did not exist in my life until I saw it as an ARC while perusing through stalls at YALC. There was no queue, no competition, there was just a pile sat there which you could take if you just provided your email address. It was a floppy paperback, which instantly made me want to own it, and I’m so glad I read it. It’s such an epic story that spans generations that no one seems to be talking about. I love it when a book that I knew nothing about surprises me. My review is here.

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

Of course a V.E. Schwab book is going in here. For every year I’ve been blogging, I’ve had a V.E. Schwab book wriggle it’s way into a favourites. I adore her writing, her characters, her magic systems. It’s all so elegant. So, you bet your ass I cried when the finale to The Shades of Magic came out. I bought it at Waterstones, just a few doors down from my then-work, on my break, and snapped a picture of it to mark the occasion. My review is here.

Now I Rise by Kirsten White

I think I gave And I Darken, the first in this series, four stars, which is a bit strange because I absolutely adored Now I Rise. I don’t think I knew what to expect when it came to this series and grabbed And I Darken at YALC last year and have become hooked. It’s a retelling of the story of Vlad the Impaler as a young girl named Lada and her childhood and how she becomes a bloodthirsty ruler, along with her soft boy brother, Radu. My review is here.

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

I mean, is it really an Adam Silvera story if it doesn’t make you cry? History Is All You Left Me is by far my favourite Silvera novel; I cried on the first page. Every line, every part of this book is so beautiful and emotional and so real, I think that’s why I cried a lot. I couldn’t read this in public out of fear of bursting into tears. I don’t know if this will persuade you to read it but hopefully my review will.

Worst

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

This book was such a shame. The hype and marketing for this book was incredible. I saw it everywhere; in ads, in interviews, in people’s tweets just going crazy for it. The amount of people who had already added it to their TBR was incredible. Proofs had been sent out and people were glowing about it. So, I asked for it for my birthday, and read it, and gave it two stars immediately. This book was TERRIBLE. It was boring, poorly developed, and annoying. My review is here.

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Love and Gelato by Jena Evans Welch

Love and Gelato was just a flop. It definitely has the appeal; about a girl who, after her mother dies, goes to live with her estranged father in an Italian countryside villa and learns about the past of her mother. It gave me The Arsonist vibes, but a cutesy summer version rather than a harrowing war-torn country version (like The Arsonist was). But actually, it was just a lot of blah. It was luke-warm porridge left out too long. However, I feel like others would enjoy it, but not for me. And it’s in this list because I was stuck in Italy with it. That’s right, I bought set in Italy while in Italy because I thought I would be all cute but instead it did this to me.

All The Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

This book was also a shame, but I’m not surprised. I love The Raven Cycle so much. I love how, you may think this an urban fantasy that’s plot heavy, I found it to be an in-depth character study that kind of allowed me to ignore the plot if I so wished. I think that’s what All The Crooked Saints was trying to be too and of course; this is Maggie Stiefvater’s writing style. But it was her writing style x100. It was super confusing. There was so much purple prose and going off on tangents that I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t even review it because what would I review? They were just a bunch of words strung together that I didn’t understand.

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

Now if we’re gonna talk about shame, then this book takes the cake. Oh my God what a SHAME. Most of the time, if a book has LGBT focus, I’ll pick it up. I gotta rep my community and honestly? They just make for better reading, in my opinion. I got super excited about The Love Interest because it was a twist on the spy genre. You know, the spy genre? Coated in misogyny and heteronormativity. But this book was going to be different; about two boys tasked with seducing the same woman only to fall in love with each other. DOESN’T THAT SOUND AMAZING?

Thing is, I read the first page and knew this wasn’t going to be as fun as I thought. I explain why extensively in my review but to sum up my feelings: very, very bad writing.

If you’re looking for more books I’ve adored throughout the years, I have a category on Goodreads called ‘faves’ which you should definitely check out! As for my most hated books? Here’s the category ‘just awful’.

Happy reading!

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HOW TO: Taking Pictures Of Books For The Internet (Bookstagram)

So here we are, I’m writing a post about Instagram.

Instagram is one of my all time favourite social media sites. I haven’t been on it for very long, even less so with my bookstagram, but these last few weeks I reached 1k followers and I’ve never felt so grateful and proud of myself for picking up something so quickly.

I wouldn’t say I’m a master, let’s not forget, bookstagram is this massive community with thousands of talented people behind their feeds. However, I’ve seen some posts before on how some folks work their Instagram and how it’s all done.

I wanted to do a similar thing, but we’re going to keep it casual and fun! This isn’t about steering your feed into a place where you can get followers and likes (though totally a normal thing to do and also fine!), this is about matching up your visual mind and your love for books, like me!

STEP ONE – GET A PICTURE CAPTURING DEVICE

I started my journey with a shitty Samsung Galaxy S2; a phone with terrible quality that refused to update apps and constantly crashed. It would constantly blur photos right before I hit upload, and just refused to cooperate.

Quality is important when it comes to bookstagram. Other users do love a crisp, sharp photo, as it looks like you’ve taken more care. But come on, we can’t all afford fancy SLRs or wide angle lenses. It’s not like you’re getting paid to do this, so please don’t feel like you need to spend your rent money on big cameras that focus on your flatlay perfectly. I was recently due a phone upgrade, and so my photos upgraded in quality with a Samsung Galaxy S5, and then the downright impossible happened; my dad let me use his SLR. Money spent? big fat fucking 0.

STEP TWO – FIND YOUR STYLE + APPS

Like with any form of art (yes, bookstagram is art), an artist will consume themselves in their craft until they find their own, unique style. People like to think that means you need to do something completely different and never seen before, but in my opinion, as long as you like the look of it and want to keep doing it that way, then that’s your style. Your style is what you make of it and hey, if you get bored, feel free to change it up!

I started off with doing whatever. My feed was a mash of different filters and layouts and despite people yelling at me to “PICK A THEME”, I just enjoyed the surprise of each picture. I slowly got into the routine of taking photos from certain angles, and started to enjoy certain colour schemes. I went on holiday, and my photos took on a green theme, and at the moment, the photos are fairly minimalist and clean. If you take a look at other bookstagrams, you’ll find that most of their photos are fairly similar because of this; it’s what they become known for.

For editing, many use the filters and editing tools provided on Instagram. I take it one step further because I’m like that and use a free app called VSCO. You can purchase different filters that reflect your style, but if you’re a cheap-ass like I am, multiple new filters are already on the app. You can tweak the filter and edit the photo to get that finish, and upload it straight to Instagram! There are other apps that you can pay for too such as Afterlight, but I have no experience with them (also spending money???).

STEP THREE – USE HASHTAGS

The world has gone hashtag crazy, and it doesn’t stop with Instagram. Hashtags are a great way for people to find your feed and your photos. It’s also great to go into the hashtags and find feeds that you’d love to follow yourself. Hashtags are not so necessary if you have a very large following, but honestly, they’re great for connecting. Which leads me to…

STEP FOUR – COMMUNITY

Follow people, like and comment on their photos, take part in fun tags. There are so many ways that can help you better connect with other book lovers. It’s not about gaining likes or doing S4S’s to grow your following, it’s about being part of a community that shares the same ethos as you; promoting and recommending great books. You’ll almost definitely find your favourite book of the year through Bookstagram, I guarantee it.

Just remember these points:

  • Give yourself time to perfect the look you want to get. You’ll find one day your photos are doing exactly what you want, and then the next day you’re scratching your head. Gettin’ into the groove takes time!
  • Don’t worry too much about likes and follows. Instagram is all about interaction, but just because another account has more followers than you, doesn’t mean they’re any better. It’s not a competition, it’s about connecting.
  • Don’t beat yourself up about not having a professional setup. Most bookstagrammers are teens with only pocket money to help them out. None of us are really professional photographers, though I’m sure some are. We’ll be able to see the amount of passion and dedication you have about books through your photos, even if it was taken with a Samsung Galaxy S2!
  • It’s all about books and promoting a love of reading. Bookstagram is just a part of that!
  • If you find yourself not enjoying it; STOP. You don’t need to have a bookstagram to be a true ~book blogger~, you don’t have to champion every social media to be taken seriously. I don’t touch Facebook, while others use it as much as they use Twitter. You can pick and choose your social medias; if Instagram isn’t one of them, that’s OK!

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#PrideMonth: My Fave LGBTQ+ Books

So in case you didn’t know, LGBTQ+ representation in fiction is very slim. Genres upon themes upon age demographic, and only a small percentage of fiction has a gay character. It’s tragic, for a world that becomes more and more tolerant every day (or, at least we’d like to think so), the majority of fiction busies itself with the same old plots involving straight people.

And don’t get me wrong; some of those stories are still fantastic. But, instead of asking why a book should include an LGBT character, you should be asking; why not? I have become a reader who thrives on such characters. If, on Goodreads, a book is tagged with the ‘Glbt’ category, I instantly become more inclined to read it. There’s just an exciting, fresh story there that explores new plots and themes and personality, that I just want to read them all.

In celebration of Pride Month this June, here are my favourite books with LGBTQ+ characters I’ve read so far, and some that I plan to read very soon.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

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I remember reading the majority of this book on the train. A train is a public place, and I am terrible at reading about boys being cute and not making stupid faces at words on a page. This book was so heart-wrenchingly good. Mixed with themes you know and love from that well known series, but with an added contemporary feel, Carry On has LGBT youth in a fantasy setting, which is always so desperately needed. What, you’re gunna make up a whole new world with an imaginative society that plays by different rules but everyone’s still straight? I don’t think so. Carry On is the fanfiction previously told in Fangirl, where Simon Snow, the ‘chosen one’ deals with growing up, defeating villains, and falling in love with his worst enemy/roommate.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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This is the book that stayed with me. I picked it up on a whim, only because I’d seen it on Goodreads marked as LGBT (see how much that tag draws me in??). I rarely readyhistorical fiction, unless it’s mixed in with fantasy, it’s just a genre I’m not too bothered with. So when I started reading Song of Achilles, with absolutely no previous knowledge of The Iliad, I’d really chucked myself head first into becoming a masochist. This story is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever read, and it hurts. so. much. The Song of Achilles tells the story of Patroclus, a banished Prince who becomes the best friend and lover Achilles, a demi-God who is destined for greatness.

I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

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This was the book that made me Jandy Nelson trash. It also made me fall in love with LGBT+ contemporary just that little bit more (not that I needed that much convincing). The writing is just fantastic; it’s imaginative and fits so well with the narrative. I’ll Give You The Sun is about twins Noah and Jude, both creative in their own way. But after tragedy strikes, their relationship is ruined, and it’s only them who can salvage what’s left.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

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Now, you’re probably thinking this is a bit of a curve ball, because Landline is about a straight couple mending their relationship. However, I felt the need to include this because I very rarely read books about women falling in love. But hey, it’s not out of a diversion of it; I’d LOVE to read more about the ‘L’ in LGBT+, but it seems more scarce than gay romance is. So when I picked up Landline, I was pleasantly surprised that one of the side plots was a teen girl/girl romance. The book was already fantastic, but it just made it that much more exciting and lovely and different to all those other straight romance books!

More Than This by Patrick Ness

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This was my second dive into a Patrick Ness book and I’m still in awe. Ness’ characters are so real and vibrant I almost feel like I know them. I mean, I do, in a sense. After the popularity of The Rest Of Us Just Live Here, I knew I had to get my hands on More Than This, an apocalyptic, sci-fi, contemporary melting pot of diverse and deep characters. One day, Seth dies, and then he wakes up. It’s not possible, but then, what is? (You’re not supposed to know that much going in, so I’ll leave it there!).

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

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Oh man, I feel like while I recommend this book loads, I don’t actually recommend it enough. Radio Silence was a completely new thing for me. I’d heard of Alice Oseman before through her Tumblr and Twitter and of course Solitaire. This book had been rec’d by bloggers on all the book chats on Twitter, and I had no idea that it was LGBT+. It’s my favourite thing, not knowing about that element and then getting excited when it just happens. Can I also mention that this is another book with actual gay women, and even BISEXUAL WOMEN, ASEXUAL MEN, it’s just….it’s incredible that books just do not represent enough of us, and I’m so glad I was told told, nay, ordered, to read Radio Silence. Radio Silence is about the pressures of school and the future when you’re a teenager, how flawed the school system is, all seen through the eyes of social media.

Here are some that I plan to read that are either solely LGBT+ or at least have LGBT+ themes:

Are there any LGBT+ books you’ve enjoyed recently? Recommend some and I’ll most likely give it a read. Happy Pride!

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One by Sarah Crossan

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: June 2nd 2016
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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Plot: Grace and Tippi are twins – conjoined twins.

And their lives are about to change.

No longer able to afford homeschooling, they must venture into the world – a world of stares, sneers and cruelty. Will they find more than that at school? Can they find real friends? And what about love?

But what neither Grace or Tippi realises is that a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead. A decision that could tear them apart. One that will change their lives even more than they ever imagined.

I received this book, through work, by Bloomsbury Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

So I read this book in a little over a day. Along with Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, it’s one of the fastest reads of my life, and this is all down to it being written in verse.one

Why is it written in verse? I’ve no idea. But it helped with the speedyness.

I had no intention of picking this book before it was given to me at work. Hell, I didn’t know it even existed! But I’m so glad it does. I have never read a story about conjoined twins before, never watched a show, never watched a film. I understand nothing about the psychological mind of conjoined twins, and how a bond so strong living a life so different can leave lasting effects once separation surgery is thrown into the mix.

I mean, yeah, being different in any sense is tough, but as something that’s considered ‘freaky’ when you’re just two teenage sisters, must be a whole other ball park.

One was a very sweet and truthful read, one which will stay with me for a very long time. It got to the point and laid out everything in front of you. Grace and Tippi are both normal teenagers with normal wants and desires, but essentially, what is normal? Who decides what’s ‘weird’ and what’s fine?

The whole story is told through the eyes of Grace who, though was an interesting and sweet character, I was a little surprised that we don’t hear the POV of Tippi. They are, after all, conjoined, you’d think one twin would not be more important than the other. I also found the story to just sort of end; a lot of things were left unsaid, unfinished. At first I thought maybe this was part of the storytelling; not many people get their happy ending, but plot points and side characters just did not get anything out of that, and was surprised when they weren’t mentioned again and the book ended.

However, this book clearly pushed boundaries in terms of isolation, family friendship, and the cost of healthcare in the United States. And I really, really think you should read it.

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Simon vs The Homosapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: April 2015
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ .5
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Plot: Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

After the life ruining story that was Valentina, I decided I needed some cute contemporary. I’d already sunk my teeth into the final chapter in Stephanie Perkins’ teen romance, but I realised I needed something quite different from the norm.

I love LGBT novels or, any novels with actual LGBT characters in them. I get extremely excited when said character is the main character, and so picture my face when I got my hands on Simon vs The Homosapiens Agenda.

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All I knew about this book before going in was cute and funny, and it didn’t live down that reputation. Along with a diverse cast of characters and bittersweet romances, Simon as a main character was very self aware and hilarious. I loved the back and forth he had with his friends, and I especially loved the emails between him and love interest Blue, a boy from his school with an identity unknown.

The only reason I took away half a star from the rating was because of the plot. While everything was cute and fun, it was all a bit…mild. I really don’t like that word, because apart from a chicken korma, what can you name that is mild but also great? Things happen in this book, of course, but a lot of it seemed to be perfectly pleasant and OK. I feel that, if this story was even a little bit milder, there’d be no story at all. People were too lovely and didn’t leave much of an impression, and the dog was the most excitable of the bunch.

LGBT books are still scarce. I often struggle with finding one’s to read, especially since I have a growing boredom of straight romances. But I’m definitely glad I read this book; not every LGBT story has to be about awfulness, about homophobia and bullying and hiding that part of yourself away. Gay kids fall in love and have cute romance stories just like those sickeningly sweet ones written by so many in the market today. It was lovely to see that played out here.

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Isla & The Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Publisher: Speak
Release Date: August 2014
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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Plot: From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever. Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

I read Anna and the French Kiss a few years back now. And while I read it because I felt a little pressured by the online book community to read it, I fell in love with it. I had devoured it in one or two sittings, and I still stand by my five star rating.

When it comes to cute stories, I really like the idea of them. Curled up in a book nook while it’s raining outside, drinking my hot chocolate, or even out on on the grass, sipping a smoothie with my sunnies on; there’s nothing like a cute contemporary romance to make you feel light and fluffy.

But usually, whilst reading them, I’m disappointed.

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Aside from the fact that I’m easily and understandably getting bored of heterosexual romance, there’s odd and twisted messages about love, about how dependant you are and how emotional you feel as a teenager. Call me an old, cold bitch, but I often find romances between teenagers wildly unrealistic. Of course you fall in love, but it does not have to be a serious as it’s made out to be. Have fun! And don’t sweat the small stuff.

So when I finally got round to reading Isla and the Happily Ever After, I was convinced that I wasn’t going to like it, that it would be the same as how I feel about other books along the same vein. And I wasn’t wrong; this books has ridiculousness written all over it. Two teenagers fall madly in love and frighten the shit out of everyone. It’s fairly selfishness and erratic behaviour, but hey, they’re teenagers! Come on Hollie, thaw that heart!

However, I didn’t expect to see how relatable it was. I was in a long term relationship as a teenager. In fact, it’s been my only relationship and so I don’t have a chance on basing my experiences on anything else but this relationship. But there is a large part of the story where Isla feels very inadequate as a person to be admired. She finds reasons and excuses for her boyfriend to not like her, and that maybe he doesn’t at all. It’s a very relatable feeling, and it hit me hard. Having feelings like that can often cause arguments, and eventually push people away. And while Isla was feeling insecure about herself and her relationship, the selfish acts she committed in order to save herself from hurt felt all too real for me, and I had stop reading for a second.

It was at these points that I decided to give it five stars. You can’t have a teen novel without teen insecurities, and I’m so glad that Stephanie Perkins included them. Plus, having your romance set in Paris doubles the chance of me giving it five stars.

I would tell you that you don’t have to read these in order, but in all honesty, I think you should. There’s great easter eggs and shout out passages that you’ll actually understand if you read this one last. Now fly off to Paris and fall in love.

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Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: January 2016
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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Plot: In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them—whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home… forever.

So, until recently, Alexandra Bracken was one of my favourite authors. It’s a sad sentence, and I hate to demote authors from ‘faves’ to ‘really like’, but after reading In The Afterlight and now Passenger, I feel like I can’t call Bracken a fave when I’ve started to give her books four stars instead of five.passenger

I love stories about time travel, particularly stories that visit multiple eras, rather than just going back to one time, like Outlander. So when I saw Passenger just sat on the shelf at work, I thought I just had to. I loved The Darkest Minds and Never Fade. And, while I didn’t enjoy the third book so much, I can still safely say that the series is one I will cherish forever.

But Passenger falls under that awful umbrella term of average.

Etta and Nicholas are very interesting characters with stark different upbringings and personality, and are thrust together on an adventure that spans time. But while exploring that further, instead of understanding how these individuals can actually time travel, we’re given, yep, you guessed, it a romance plot line.

I don’t know whether that’s a spoiler or not, since there’s no romance tag for it on Goodreads (oh no wait, yes there is), but honestly, what did you expect? I was not at all surprised, but I was disappointed. We have this fantastic aspect of time travel, of portals and pieces of technology that can bend and create tears in time, but instead we go on a wild goose chase which in the end, is pointless, and watch two people who don’t know each other and are from different times and cultures automatically fall in love.

But I gave it four stars, because I still loved the idea. I still loved the delicacy of time travel and changing the course of history by one single act, and that was clearly shown. And I mean, while the story was bogged down by insta-love, I can’t say I didn’t ‘Aww’ a few times.

I’m hoping for much more action and peril in Wayfarer, which is set to be released in January 2017, and hopefully more well-rounded side characters too.

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