Best Historical Fiction YA Books

I grew up reading historical fiction so I have an insurmountable love for it. It always brings back memories, you know?! Glorious memories of a childhood spent between book pages…and in tears because, let’s face it: WWII books are ALWAYS devastating. Actually history in general can be altogether nasty. But it makes such good stories.

And today’s list is about my top YA historical fiction picks. They’ll probably all make you cry. I’m not even sorry for recommending them.

 

H I S T O R I C A L   F I C T I O N

 

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  • CODE NAME VERITY: This book had me absolutely sobbing. It is such a powerful story of two girls blazing paths of feministic glory in WWII. One is a pilot. The other is a spy. It will probably break your heart. (Just warning you.) But must be, without a doubt, one of the best books I’ve ever read.
  • ROSE UNDER FIRE: This is a companion novel to the above, but can be read alone! It’s a little quicker in pacing and focuses on Rose, a WWII pilot, who gets caught by the Germans and put in a concentration camp. Again: tears. It’s so beautifully and emotionally written.
  • I AM DAVID: This is a bit of an old book, but still a story that absolutely sticks to my soul. David was born in a concentration camp, so when he escapes he has basically ZERO social skills or understanding of the world. It is so sad/sweet to see him struggling to fit into society and also find a home. BREAK MY HEART WHY DON’T YOU, WWII STORIES.

 

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  • PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG: Another WWII story, but this one is by the point of view of a German girl who knows Hitler. It’s extremely interesting to read the story from this angle and see how a teenage girl reacts. Plus it shows a more human side to Hitler which is chilling.
  • UNDER A PAINTED SKY: Now let’s zoom backwards to the Gold Rush era! This book just wins for diversity because it features a Chinese protagonist (who’s also a violinist) who is on the run to the gold fields with an escaped slave. Another female friendship that is totally awesome!
  • WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER: Another goldrush book! But this one has a hint of magical fantasy in it too, since Lee can magically “detect gold”. Talk about handy right? Until it gets your family killed. Ahem. This is more about the journey towards California, but the writing is just ridiculously beautiful.

 

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  • A MAD AND WICKED FOLLY: Time for Women’s Rights! HUZZAH! This is about the suffragette movement…and Victoria’s quest to be a painter and artist and not just get shuffled off to be married to some guy.
  • LIES WE TELL OURSELVES: This is set in 1959, where a group of black students are attending an all-white highschool. It talks honestly and brutally about the racism of that time…and oh gosh, people’s actions just made me so sick. It’s definitely a very important story to be told.
  • THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH: This is a slightly paranormal twist on the early 1900s, where Love and Death are personified people and have this “game” where they see if two unlikely people will get together. (Death trying to break them up; Love getting them together.) It’s a romance between an African-American musician and a white orphan boy…and in that era the odds are pretty much not in their favour. And oh is this book incredible!

 

 

Review: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

9781481401272The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler was a) my first read by this author, b) one of my new favourite contemporaries of 2016, and c) an entirely adorable sea cucumber of goodness. I so thoroughly approve of this book! It had everything a summery contemporary needs: excellent characters; lots of boating and beachy scenes; teenagers eating half a universe worth of seafood; and people standing up for what they believe in and using their voice.

I absolutely loved the theme of “use your voice”. Especially since the narrator, Elyse, was mute after an accident. But the book just went onto to underline and prove that there are SO MANY WAYS of speaking up for yourself. And no one ever deserves to be voiceless.

Also this is a modernised retelling of The Little Mermaid! HOW COOL IS THAT, RIGHT?! I’m such a huge fan of retellings and I particularly love this kind — it can stand on its own, or you can look for the little nods to the original. (Like Elyse’s aunt was named Ursula and the love-interest’s little brother was Sebastian. I love it!)

It absolutely wins for the diversity representation too!! Elyse is from Trinidad & Tobago and mute. Also her cousin is half T&T. It’s so refreshing to have characters of colour and books that discuss physical disabilities. HUZZAH. MORE OF IT.

There’s a definite air of mystery about the “accident” too. Since Elyse WILL NOT GIVE DETAILS. I busted half and eyebrow wondering. All we get to know is that a) Elyse nearly drowned, b) she lost her voice forever, and c) it involves her sister which is why Elyse has left T&T and is living with her aunt in the USA. I want aaaaanswers. (Also the reveal was pretty devastating and gloriously written.)

Plus the book discussed equality. Which fills me with GREAT JOY because equality is a big deal and I loved the theme of “speaking up for yourself and others who can’t”. Like Elyse faced prejudice for wanting to sail in the “boys’ pirate regatta”. Sebastian (the love interest’s little 6-year-old brother) wanted to march in the “girls’ mermaid parade”. And the adults were so condescending about refuting them. AGH. It made me so proud to see the teens of the story just PUNCH those rules and keep speaking up for equality. Even if they couldn’t actually speak.

I also really adored Elyse as a character. There’s still plenty of dialogue, of course, and she communicates through writing — but mostly we have her interior thoughts and monologues. And…I just feel like I really know Elyse. She is definitely the kind of person you’d want to be friends with. Elyse was complicated and suffering and trying to piece herself back together after the accident and AHHH I JUST ADMIRE HER BRAVERY SO SO MUCH. Also her relationship with Christian was adorable and so shippable.

Plus the book has just a gorgeous setting. Mostly beachy and slightly witchy (because Elyse’s aunt is all into herbs and tarot cards and organic tea or whatnot). Also excellent writing. Excellent! I just want to go find more by this author and devour it.

Obviously I am a rather rabid fan of this story! I awed at how many characters there were and how they were ALL so dimensional and well-written. But I also crave fish and chips, so thanks for nothing, book. I totally think this book is underrated and deserves more love! It’s empowering and special and full of seaweed. Definitely recommend!

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

9780062380753The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig was a delicious book of ships and time travel and I THINK I AM IN LOVE. This is my first ever time travel book, and it was hugely successful.

But why did I adore this book so much? Oh oh, I’m glad you asked. I have a list of reasons.

All The Things You Need Know About This Book:

  • It is about time travel and pirate ships. According to the author’s note, the story was inspired by a pirate heist in the 1800s in Hawaii. The characters are somewhat modern, but the book is mostly set in the 1800s. (Although they do pop into modern New York at the beginning.) It’s basically about Captain Slate who is a time-travel-dude, and his daughter Nix, and their search to find the “right map” to take them back in time to save his wife from dying.
  • The maps are basically AMAZING. And since this book is built on maps (you have to have the “right map” to get you to a certain place)…I was destined to adore it.
  • Diversity. I love diversity and not only was Nix, the protagonist, half-Chinese…her best friend Kashmir was Persian, one of the crew members was African and lesbian, and there is an incredible variety of ethnic culture squished in here.
  • And let’s talk about the writing: Because it was decidedly delicious. Although I will confess it bordered on “saying too much” at times. I could tell the book was really enthusiastic about history. OF COURSE! It’s a time travel book! But sometimes with the pages of explaining a myth that didn’t really matter…I was a little bored.
  • Then there was Kash. Ahhhh, Kash. He is a little slippery fingered, silver tongued thief and basically my favourite character. So much sass. So much banter.

“You’re blocking the view.”
“I am the view, amira,” he said, framing himself with his hands.9781471405105

  • Which leads me to talk about the protagonist, Nix. I wasn’t enamoured with her because she didn’t have a lot of personality compared to the stunning secondary characters…but she was still strong and independent and keen to prove herself a capable time-traveller.
  • Which leads to the romance… You know what? This is NOT a very romantic book. It’s more about friendship, which I really loved! And although I rooted for Kash and Nix to get together, I more enjoyed their sassy and witty banter of friendship.
  • Overall? My expectations were more than met! For an intro into time-travelling, I’d say I’m officially hooked. (All the maps and ships helped, of course. Because MAPS.) It is definitely a highlight of the year so far and so exciting that it’s only a debut! I can’t wait for more by this author. If you want a story that involves ships and thieves and obsessions and diversity, then this is for you.

 

“The last thing we need is for you to go to jail.”
“For treason?” he said, running a comb through his touseled hair. “We wouldn’t go to jail.”
“Really?”
“We’d be shot.”
“You always know just what to say.”

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

YA Books With Royal Titles

I have a decided weakness for books with royalty in the titles. There is just something about picking up a Young Adult book that shouts “QUEEN!” that fills me with immense joy. (Probably because I want to be queen of all when I grow up?) And, as YA title trends go, this is quite a popular one.

Today I have a list of royalishly (that’s totally a word, shhh) books for any majestic reading cravings you might have.

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9781481441902The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine is probably one of my most favourite books of the year. Seriously, I could shriek about it forever! I9780062360243t has a Slavic feel to the setting, plus much fire and ice magic, and a decidedly tortured queen who ends up on the run due to not having the powers she “should have”.

Shadow Queen by CJ Redwine is a fairytale retelling about dragons and princesses and wicked queens. What could possibly go wrong with this fabulous combination?

9781783443819The Serpent King by Zentner is set in a small gothic town and is about crime and cults. I haven’t read this one yet, but have heard marvellous things about it. It possibly doesn’t have actual royalty in it? But eh. The title is still amazing.9781408858615

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas is fourth in the Throne of Glass series. (Apparently mixing “shadows” and “queens” is quite popular. Who knew?) It definitely is about the missing heir to the throne finally owning up to her heritage and beginning the war for her kingdom back.

9781423121367The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima starts off an intensely AMAZING epic fantasy series about thieves and magicians, and it actually has a queendom. I KNOW! Praise the world for a matriarchy in YA fantasy for once! It also has the kind of hilarious banter that you need in your life. I promise. You just do.9781409150725

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard is probably one of the most hyped books in the dystopian YA circles at the moment. It’s has a definite Xmen vibe to it, with people sprouting superpowers all over the place. The different classes have different coloured blood and rebellion is in the air. (As usual, with dystopians. The peasants are never satisfied, are they?)

9781741168693Iron King by Julie Kagawa starts off an intense series about faeries and magic and probably mayhem. I mean, have you ever read a book about faeries were everyone played nice? I don’t think so. The series also continues with the royalty theme with other books being called The Lost Prince and Iron Queen.9781406330366

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare is the second in the Infernal Devices series…and while it doesn’t so much feature royalty, the book is a whirlwind if maniac demon and shapeshifter adventures. Plus it’s set in the p9780545284134eriod times. Imagine clonking a demon while wearing a corset, okay?! These people deserve our respect for sure.

The False Prince by Jennifer A Neilson is a hysterical book. Honestly. You need this one just for the pure amounts of sass that runaway thief, Sage, manages to throw at people. This is all about impersonating princes and very high stakes (aka death) if he fails.

Why You Need To Read Yellow by Megan Jacobson

I was ridiculously excited to read Yellow by Megan Jacobson.  Because a) ghosts, b) beachy Aussie setting, and c) the promise of a 14-year-old having a mid-life crisis. Sounds like my kind of book completely. And it was BRILLIANT. Which brings me to list some important reasons you need this book in your life.

Before we jump to it, here is a brief glimpse of what the story is about!

 

9780143573333If fourteen-year-old Kirra is having a mid-life crisis now, then it doesn’t bode well for her life expectancy. Her so-called friends bully her, whatever semblance of a mother she had has been drowned at the bottom of a gin bottle ever since her dad left them for another woman, and a teenage ghost is speaking to her through a broken phone booth. Kirra and the ghost make a pact. She’ll prove who murdered him almost twenty years ago if he makes her popular, gets her parents back together, and promises not to haunt her. But things aren’t so simple, and Kirra realises that people can be haunted in more ways than one.

 

1. Kirra is a fantastically relatable protagonist.

Kirra is definitely the kind of protagonist you can easily root for! She’s 14 and small and spindly and struggles to fit in with her “friends” at school. Plus, on top of that, she has an alcoholic mother and an oblivious father. Nobody cares about Kirra. IT’S HEARTBREAKING. And her character development?! It is phenomenal. I love how she matured over the story.

 

“I’m still shy,” I admit, pulling the sleeves over my hands, “and I might always be, I don’t know, but I think you can be shy and still feel okay about yourself at the same time.”

 

2. It excellently blends realistic contemporary with a smidge of paranormal.

Kirra “meets” this ghost (Boogie) in a phonebox (that shouldn’t be working). He is a big part of the story because Kirra is running around trying to solve the mystery of his murder. BUT! It’s not heavily paranormal. She’s struggling with school and bullies and just life in general. So if you’re not a huge paranormal fan, this book is still for you! It honestly reads like a contemporary, but I thought the ghost-aspect made it just that little bit more special.

 

 

3. It’s brutally honest at times.

Kirra is poor. Her parents are on welfare, her dad’s run off with another woman but is still living in town, her mother never. stops. drinking. It’s really SAD. I absolutely ached for Kirra. The book doesn’t shy away from saying that life is not all sunshine and rainbows for some kids.

 

4. The writing is gloriousness.

It’s very visual and punchy and cleverly written. Plus it easily put me in the shoes of a fourteen year old. (Aka: NO ONE LIKES BEING 14.) As an older reader, sometimes I find younger YA irritating? Definitely not so here. Plus there was one instance, towards the beginning, that had me SHRIEKING with pain. How dare you be so mean to me, book, agh. And the ending is solidly well done. LOVE IT!

 

5. Plus the Australianness was entirely refreshing.

loved the surfing and beachy vibes and the nod towards how multicultural Australia is! Everyone talked so naturally and easily that it honestly felt like a REAL story with REAL people. And this is only the author’s debut?! Sign me up for everything she writes ever.

 

Do not define me by my gender or my socio-economic status, Noah Willis. Do not tell me who I am and do not tell me who society thinks I am and then put me in that box and expect me to stay there. Because, I swear to God, I will climb the hell out of that box and I will take that box you’ve just put me in and I will use that box to smash your face in until you’re nothing more than a freckly, bloodied pulp.”

 

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

[PURCHASE HERE]

 

Review: Damage Done by Amanda Panitch

Okay WOW. Damage Done by Amanda Panitch was simultaneously glorious and terrifying. It’s a thriller about a school-shooting and the plot twists had me absolutely enthralled. I’m actually very hard to surprise…having read, like, a million and two books. (That’s a very accurate statistic of course.) But this one definitely hooked my attention and had me shrieking at the end.

 

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What Is The Story About?

22 minutes separate Julia Vann’s before and after. Before: Julia had a twin brother, a boyfriend, and a best friend. After: She has a new identity, a new hometown, and a memory of those twenty-two minutes that refuses to come into focus. At least, that’s what she tells the police. Now that she’s Lucy Black, her fresh start has attracted the attention of one of the hottest guys in school. And someone much more dangerous. She thought her brother’s crimes were behind her. But now she’s being forced to confront the dark secrets she thought were safely left behind. How far will Julia go to keep her slate clean? One thing is clear: The damage done can never be erased. It’s only just beginning…

PURCHASE HERE

The story takes off when Julia and her parents are moving to a new town for a fresh start after her twin, Ryan, shot 11 people at their old school. So we basically get Julia’s feelings of fear of the future, denial of the past, missing-her-brother-even-though-he’s-a-monster, and trying to stay undercover. Which, totally doesn’t work out. Since it’s from the persepctive of the shooter’s sister, it reminded me of Hate List by Jennifer Brown (which I also highly recommend if you like a feelsy punch in the guts). Julia was surprisingly held together though and managed to keep up some wit and the semblance of trying to have a life despite all of these. Go Julia.

There were a few times where I had to “suspend disbelief” though. That’s literally my only negative. There are a lot of convenient plot developments and police fumbles that really wouldn’t happen in real life.

But other than that? The rest of the story was perfect and engaging and TERRIFYING. I loved the writing style! I adored Julia’s voice. She has this mixture of slightly self-deprecating humour meshed with intense traumatised meltdowns. She felt venerable but coping at the beginning. I also loved her obsession with hot chocolate. I MEAN WHO DOESN’T LIKE HOT CHOCOLATE?!?

Also I’ll take a moment to say Michael was the perfect love interest. He was adorable. He cooked for her (!!) and any guy who makes a girl an omelette or from-scratch lasagna is a winner. Also, Julia’s best friend, Alane, was pretty epic too. I was really impressed at how fleshed-out, dimensional and interesting all the secondary characters were. It made the world feel very real.

The plot twist will absolutely KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF. Obviously I can say no more because of spoilers but woah. I was sucked in. It was perfectly revealed (although there were a few info dumps at the end) and I was glued to the page.

This is a thriller that’s not to be missed! It totally twists your brain and it’s addictive to read. Don’t let the calm contemporary-feeling beginning lull you. At the beginning it’s a school story with a cute boy and cafes and a little bit of trauma — and then the ending just GETS YOU. This is positively wonderful.

Review: Thicker Than Water by Brigid Kemmerer

9781743318638I had zero idea of what to expect from Thicker Than Water by Brigid Kemmerer. And what did this glorious conglomeration of paper give me? AN INCREDIBLE, MIND BLOWING STORY. I am such a fan. I’m absolutely going to dig out Brigid Kemmerer’s other series (The Elementals) to and devour it immediately because this author is marvellous.

Thicker Than Water is basically the story of Thomas Bellweather, who moved to a small, backwoods sort of town with his mother after she re-married a cop. THEN SHE IS MURDERED. Thomas looks very guilty. He’s totally friendless in this town and everyone thinks he did it. But he befriends Charlotte and they try to solve the mystery.

Although the thing to note is this is a paranormal murder-mystery thriller. I didn’t know that when I started, so I confess: I was thrown. But it’s still set in an “normal” sort of town and the story is like 80% reality and 20% paranormal.

Thomas and Charlotte’s relationship is basically a “forbidden romance”. Everyone thinks Thomas is a killer and Charlotte has an entire family (!!) in the police force; father plus three brothers. They do NOT want her anywhere near a potential killer. But I loved how low burning their relationship was though! They’re attracted at first, but neither really acts upon it. And it’s entirely adorable how they learn to trust each other.

 

A Small List Of Other Things I Loved About This Book:

  • I was absolutely rooted to my chair. I could not stop reading. It’s been aaages since a book has gripped me this much!
  • The characters were all fantastic. It’s dual narrated by both Thomas and Charlotte. And even though it’s in 1st person for both (which I usually find confusing) they both had very distinct voices. Plus I loved them both so there was no sighing at the alternating POVs.
  • Thomas was an incredible creature. He was really angry and bitter, particularly since everyone was condemning him for this murder he didn’t do. He was frustrated and lashed out a lot…but I really understood him. And there was so much emotion! When he’d struggle not to cry….oops. THERE GO MY EMOTIONS TOO.
  • Charlotte made some pretty dumb decisions when chasing after him (and was constantly being hurt…okay, she was slightly a bit of a damsel) but I can’t blame her because Thomas was intensely interesting.
  • I do have much love for Charlotte too! She has Type 1 Diabetes and she has a huge family (lots of cops) and they’re all very traditional and want her to be a “lady”. She’s often left with the dishes and treated as a child, despite being nearly 18. So she quietly struggles with the sexism of her family life, too, but she still adores her family and they’re all so loving. I adore reading about big families!
  • Plus Charlotte really loved to cook. There is so much FOOD in this book. Please bring a snack when you start to read it.
  • It’s set in a sleepy small summery town and I felt so sucked into the atmosphere. Excellent writing!
  • The murder mystery aspect kept me on my toes, too! I was REALLY curious how it’d play out in the end, especially when the paranormal aspects came out.
  • The twists will probably leave you shrieking.
  • Just sayin’.

 

Thicker Than Water was definitely a solid win for me! I loved the writing and the characters (I mean, aren’t characters the best part of a book anyway?!) and the fact that my eyeballs were glued to the page. And maybe the paranormal aspects did take the realism out of it, but it still made the book so thrilling and addictive and exciting. The ending was left WIDE open, though, and I’m clamouring for a sequel!

[Purchase Here]

Recently Released 2016 Aussie Books You Need To Read

So far, 2016 has already been an incredible year for new releases! And huzzah for Australian authors adding some fabulous titles for us to devour. I basically can’t read fast enough to keep up with all this genius, oh gosh.

Don’t know where to start? LUCKY FOR YOU — I AM HERE. I’m listing some recently published 2016 Australian home-grown YA novels that you need to get your clammy paws on. Like right now.

 

2 0 1 6     Y A   A U S S I E    R E L E A S E S   


 

my sister rosaMy Sister Rosa by Justine Larbelestier ~ purchase

This is a psychological thriller about Che who believes his 10-year-old sister, Rosa, is a psychopath. It’s absolutely brilliant. Like I-can’t-stop-reading-this-book-everyone-go-away-and-leave-me-to-shriek sort of brilliant.

It’s mostly set in New York, but Che and his family ARE Australian. Che is also a boxer, although he spends like 90% of his time freaking out over what evil Rosa is going to commit next. And the ending? OH YOU WON’T SEE IT COMING. But it will hurt.

 

9781743315897The Stars At Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard ~ purchase

Although this book wasn’t my favourite, I am definitely going to sit here and shriek “THIS BOOK IS BEAUTIFUL.” It’s partially written in verse, so if you’re a poetry lover? This book calls to you.

It’s basically about Alice, who’s suffered a brain injury and is trying to express herself through writing/poetry because her words don’t come out so well. It’s a very different book because we are seeing the world through an entirely new perspective. I can imagine it’d be absolutely gorgeous read out loud, too, by the way.

 

28798707The Family With Two Front Doors by Anna Ciddor ~ purchase

Okay so this isn’t set in Australia, but it’s by an Aussie author who’s recounting stories inspired by her Jewish grandmother in the 1940s! It’s all about this huge Jewish family and their culture and lives and it’s absolutely endearing and adorable.

It’s best for a middle-grade audience, by the way. And it’s also best on a full stomach because you’re basically guaranteed to be hungry after reading pages of food-prep for the Sabbath.

 

25535What I Saw by Beck Nicholas ~ purchase

This is a slightly thriller-y contemporary about a girl who witnesses a Fatal Punch and has to decide whether she’s going to confess who did it.

It features an unlikely romance between straight-A-in-school-perfect-girl, Callie, and the bad-boy Rhett (who is actually just a big ol’ burnt marshmallow who loves puppies and his family and only acts like a tough dude).

 

 

9781925240795Iris And the Tiger by Leanne Hall ~ purchase

This is, again, more of a middle-grade story, but so adorable and full of magical whimsy that totally reminded me of Alice in Wonderland! It was fantastic! It’s also all about paintings and art and magical feet-shoes…oh and it’s set in Spain. Did I mention that? Add in a zany great-aunt and a very serious 12-year-old girl (Iris, obviously) who’s determined to solve mysteries and figure out WHAT IS GOING ON in this crazy house.

 

 

R E L E A S E S   O N   M Y   T O – B E – R E A D   P I L E


 

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  • Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar ~ purchase ~ I haven’t read this one yet, but I super luckily won a copy and all I hear is good things! I AM EXCITED. Apparently this is on the upper side of YA, heading into New Adult territory.
  • Yellow by Megan Jacobson ~ purchase ~ This is about a 14-year-old girl who gets a ghost to promise to make her popular if she finds his killer. IT SOUNDS AMAZING AND I NEED IT IMMEDIATELY.

 

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

 

Review: Ophelia And the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

9781471403361Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee was an entirely marvellous book. YES. Pun intended. (I couldn’t resist, okay?!) It was magical and adorable and I ate it as fast as I possibly could and enjoyed every second of this incredibly written tale.

It’s basically the story of 12-year-old Ophelia who moves with her family to a gothic museum and there she finds magical (and dangerous) things. Aka — a boy locked in a room for 300+ years by an evil queen. Ergo Ophelia must rescue the boy and defeat the queen! All the while trying to get her family to believe that weird things are going on in the museum. It has a bit of a Snow Queen fairy tale feel to it, which is amazing. I love retellings!

I was also very excited going into reading this because a) I love Karen Foxlee (Aussie authors FTW!) and b) like I said, I’m a sucker for retellings, and c) the cover is just beautifully magical. Also Karen Foxlee sort of broke my heart in The Midnight Dress…so I wanted to see what her Middle Grade/Junior Fiction style was.

I announce that it is FABULOUS. I finished this book as a rather happy snowman. (Not that I’ve seen snow?? But there is snow in this book and that calls for Frozen references, okay?! Okay.)

The writing style is very simple and clear. Perfect for youngish bookworms, but still wonderful enough that I (as an adult reading it) adored it to pieces. Also the book is tiny (just over 200-pages) so I finished it in a few hours.

I also appreciated how the writing was interesting and quirky! And I loved the story and the plot! It deals with a few sad and heavy issues (such as Ophelia’s mother is dead when the book starts and she’s reeling from that) and the grief and being alone and feeling ignored and forgotten. It’s handled beautifully.

It’s definitely not a horror story…but it does have creepy parts! It reminded me slightly of Coraline? Minus the intense Tim Burton-esque freaktastic fest.

Ophelia narrates (in 3rd person) and she is basically a tiny world-saving mite who needs no hugs and can handle this. I loved her! She’s not confident, she has asthma, and her glasses are always smudgy. She constantly thinks, “What would Mum say?” which was so bittersweet considering she’s just lost her mother but is still trying to live by what she’d like. Ophelia wasn’t brave, she was curious. It’s nice having slightly unconfident characters — it gives us weakling smudgy-glasses nerds the belief we can face enchanted statues and wield swords and help magical boys someday. This book is immensely relatable.

Definitely a solidly wonderful read that I can’t recommend enough! If you like magical adventures, curious characters, swords, evil queens, and the word “marvellous” (which is such a stupendous word I might add) then Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is FOR YOU. It also might tug at your heart strings. Just warning you.

 

[PURCHASE NOW]

Review: Walk On Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

9780062242914I was so freakishly excited for Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson for several reasons, like a) Rae Carson is a suffocatingly good writer, b) I absolutely adore Westerns, c) that cover is too divine for words, and d) this book is mixing magic and historical fiction and THAT IS GLORIOUS.

And the book didn’t let me down at all. It was beyond perfect! The writing is gorgeous and visual and eloquent and drew me right in.

It basically is the story of Lee who has the magical ability to sense gold (handy, if one live sin the gold rush era)…but after her uncle murders (!!) her parents (!!!) she’s forced to run away to the goldfields ALONE. Well. With her half-Native-American-best-friend, Jefferson. It’s all guns and wagons and pioneers and the hunger for gold.

It did use the ancient trope of a girl disguising as a boy, which I honestly struggle to accept. I mean, I know it’s historical and women have done it forever. But women have different features??? And generally aren’t as big? And the shape is different? AHEM. But whatever.

But let’s talk about the incredible characters! I absolutely couldn’t get enough of their sheer awesome! It’s narrated in 1st person by Leah Westfall. I loved how capable and independent and smart Lee was. She could handle herself and she wanted to be in charge of her own life. But at the same time, she wasn’t running around punching people. She was just quietly and firmly resilient. I adore her basically.

The book, though, is more about the JOURNEY to the Gold Fields and California, than actually digging for gold. But it is a trilogy! (Which I’m a million percent thankful for because the ending was begging for more!) So hopefully we’ll get more goldy stuff soon. But Walk On Earth A Stranger is about the hard, perilous journey. All that stuff those people had to go through?! I’m amazed.

All the secondary characters are all really interesting too! There are a lot of them though, and at times I was blinking stupidly trying to remember the difference between Jefferson, Japser, and Joyner. (HELP ME.) So for a speed reader like me, that was a problem. But moving forward! The character development was amazingWell. If you were a character lucky enough TO LIVE. The death toll is high, folks. Crossing America is not kind on humans.

I absolutely adored the epic beauty that is this book! I would’ve preferred it to have more gold-digging (Lee has this awesome power but isn’t using it?!?) so I’m hanging out for the sequel. I loved the friendship between Jefferson and Lee and totally am rooting for them to get together. Ahem. I also have always had a huge infatuation with the Oregon Trail, so this just fuelled my nerdy heart. I am definitely rooting for Lee and I can’t wait to read more from Rae Carson!

THIS BOOK IS GOLDEN. (Did you see what I did there?)

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: Untamed (Splintered #3.5) by AG Howard

I am an extremely huge fan of AG Howard’s Splintered series! It all wrapped up last year with Ensnared and left me to wilt quietly and sadly with nooooo more delicious Wonderland retellings in my life. UNTIL UNTAMED WAS ANNOUNCED! HURRAH! Untamed is a companion book: basically short stories about Wonderland. It’s only a small book (200-pages) but it was perfectly delicious to return to Wonderland and catch up with Morpheus, Alyssa, and Jeb. I am a wild wonderlandish fan.

 

25105196Alyssa Gardner went down the rabbit hole and took control of her destiny. She survived the battle for Wonderland and the battle for her heart. In this collection of three novellas, join Alyssa and her family as they look back at their favourite memories of Wonderland. In Untamed, Alyssa recalls the most precious moments of her human life with Jeb and her immortal life with Morpheus. Alyssa’s mother reminisces about her own time in Wonderland and how she gave up the crown to rescue the man who would become her husband in The Boy in the Web. And Morpheus delves into Jeb’s memories of the events of Splintered in The Moth in the Mirror, available in print for the first time.

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I’ll go through each story although: WARNING! They may contain slight spoilers from previous books in the series! Obviously no spoilers about Untamed itself though!

Morpheus takes the jacket…”I’m going to miss your bumbling attempts at wordplay.”
Jeb forces a smile. “Not as much as I’ll miss your pompous-ass condescension.”
“You two want to be alone?” I ask.

 

THE BOY IN THE WEB:
This one is Alyssa’s mother’s story. It’s from her POV and it gives backstory on how she went “crazy” and when she rescued Thomas from the spider’s lair and her first forays into Wonderland. It was intensely interesting to see Morpheus teasing her and luring her deeper into magical worlds and I loved the backstory!

THE MOTH IN THE MIRROR:
Although this, like all of AG Howard’s works, was perfectly written — I’m kind of disappointed it’s not about Morpheus!! I mean, he is the moth right?! But it’s actually Morpheus looking through some memories of Jeb. It fills in questions I had from Splintered (!! yay !!) but I was marginally put out that it wasn’t 100% about my dear precious Morph the Moth. And, I admit, I’m #TeamMorpheus all the way…but I still enjoyed knowing more about Jeb’s motivations behind his sacrifices and seeing him floundering alone in Wonderland.

SIX IMPOSSIBLE THINGS:
Okay this is the story I was waiting for. Basically desperately longing for. WEDDINGS TIME. The ending(s) I wanted in Ensnared are shared right here! Although Jeb’s story was longer than Morpheus’? I feel like the author has a preference here…(I joke! I joke!) But I couldn’t ask for a more perfect ending. The last 100 pages were my absolute favourite. The glorious beauty and rabidness of Wonderland was out in FULL FORCE and basically all the happy feels and dreams coming true. The scenery and vivid description were breath taking as always. The best conclusion ever.

 

“You’re exquisite. You’re transcendent. And you are mine.”

Overall it was a solidly good set of novellas. It could’ve been a bit more? I would’ve loved more backstory on Morpheus, actually, instead of Alyssa’s mother…but we can’t have everything I suppose. I’m going to miss Wonderland, but thank goodness AG Howard is writing more books (Phantom of the Opera retelling, apparently!) because her writing is divinely delicious. Also Untamed is rather sexy and steamy (while still keeping to YA of course) so all the romantics-at-heart will be pleased.

 

Note: You need to read the trilogy BEFORE these novellas!

YA Book List ~ Heists, Spies and Con Artists

There is something dramatically wonderful about reading spy or heist books. Possibly because it’s bad to steal (tut, tut, don’t do it) and but the thrill of the chase lures us into wanting the adventure stories anyway. Dashing criminals. Masterminds. Near misses. Oh do I have the list for you.

Here are some Young Adult books that deal with heists, spies and con artists. Read them immediately. But don’t steal them, okay? Okay.

 

 

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  • GALLAGHER GIRLS: This is a series about a boarding school for spies — awesome clever genius girl spies, to be exact. And it’s hilarious and awesome. It is aimed at lower YA audiences, so go in expecting a lighter reader but with plenty of awesome spy gadgets and action scenes.
  • HEIST SOCIETY: This is by the same author as Gallagher Girls but while they bring crime to justice, Heist Society is about committing the crime. It’s FANTASTIC. (Ahem.) The plot is clever and twisty and it features a huge cast of quirky, clever characters. It’s like the YA version of Ocean’s Eleven.
  • SPY SOCIETY: This is, oddly, not any relation to Heist Society — but still good! Again, it’s for lower YA, so expect a funny, light-hearted spy adventure. It’s about highschool and first love…and stealing things on the side, and there is so much coffee. Like, this book literally drowns in coffee.

 

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  • WHITE CAT: This is a fantasy about a family of con artists who have epic powers. Mainly it features Cassel, who is probably a murderer, and almost definitely the most endearing anti-hero you’ll ever meet. The plot is so clever and trust me when I recommend you buy the entire trilogy and just binge read it. You don’t want these cliffhangers, TRUST ME NOW.
  • SIX OF CROWS: Ready for some dark fantasy? (Of course you are, oh my gosh.) This is set in a fantasy world inspired by Russia where a group of uncanny criminals band together to pull off the heist of a lifetime. It’s gritty and dark and tears might be shed (by you) and magic will be used (by them) and awesome will be felt all around.
  • HOW TO LEAD A LIFE OF CRIME: Again, another dark one, where there’s a school for psychopaths and sociopaths, who go to learn how to be the ultimate criminal masterminds. The plot is intense and it’ll keep you on your toes. Much things are stolen. Much agonies are shrieked.

 

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  • TRUST ME I’M LYING: Don’t trust this book. IT’S LYING. But it has con artists, scams, disguises, and masterminded evillry.
  • THE RECRUIT: Technically this is middle-grade? But it’s also epic. Think of a school for orphan teenage spies called “CHERUBS”. They’re special agents and sent on all sorts of missions. The books get darker and more intense as they go on, too.
  • THE NATURALS: Hello to the teenage special agents (with supernatural powers) who double as spies and detectives. This is about serial killing and it seriously gave me the shivers. I’m not easily scared, either! But when they got close to that serial killer I may or may not have squeaked. A must-read if you want a thrilling chase.

 

Best YA Romances For Valentine’s Day

Considering it’s nearly Valentine’s Day, I decided it’s entirely appropriate to list some of my favourite Young Adult romances. I’m not the biggest romance fan? But it is a squishy moment of intense happiness when a couple defies the odds and gets together. Wild applause from me!

 

C O N T E M P O R A R Y

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  • ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES: This is definitely a tragic sort of romance, but so addictive and beautiful and heart-lifting. I mean, it lifts your spirits and then makes you cry. But all the good books do that, don’t doubt me. Violet and Finch are definitely adorable and the way they help piece each other’s broken lives back together is incredible.
  • THE INCREDIBLE ADVENTURES OF CINNAMON GIRL: Speaking of incredible….THIS BOOK. It has a “best friend” romance, where Alba and Grady have to figure out if they love each other more than friends or not. The story is entirely adorably gorgeous.
  • SIMON VS THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA: This is another intense cute-fest (that is totally a word, don’t doubt me) where not-so-openly-gay Simon is falling in love with his email-pal, Blue. Except he doesn’t know WHO Blue is. The banter is witty and quick and the romance is slow burning and excellently written. I was squeaking at the end. SQUEAKING.

 

F A N T A S Y

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  • THE PERCY JACKSON SERIES: Can this post even exist without mentioning Percy and Annabeth?! (Or #Percabeth as is their ship name.) I will happily shriek my love for these two. She’s sensible and he’s a dork. Can they be more perfect?!
  • THE WRATH AND THE DAWN: This is a retelling of the 1001 Arabian Nights, where Khalid kills his wives after being married to them for one day. THEN COMES SHAHRZAD. I was worried I would never root for these two because...what kind of guy kills all his wives?!? But trust me: there are secrets. Plot twists. And swoon-worthy scenes. (Also really delicious food, just putting it out there.)
  • CARRY ON: I think Rainbow Rowell is basically queen of cute kissing scenes, and she outdoes herself in her latest book. Simon and Baz are enemies. Hahah ha ha ha…no. Their relationship is full of friction and banter, but ultimately I found myself rooting for these two. ROOTING HARD.

 

S C I  –  F I 

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  • THESE BROKEN STARS: This is definitely one of the most gorgeous books (and covers!) of ever. But Lilac and Tarver?! Ohhhh, they are opposite personalities. She’s a “princess”. He’s a military brat. And their relationship is slow-burning and entirely romantic.
  • BLOOD RED ROAD: Jack and Saba have an “I hate you, I hate you, but kinda maybe I love you” thing going on…which has a tendency to be annoying? BUT NOT HERE. They keep saving each other’s lives and being there for each other in such a tough universe.
  • DISRUPTION: Okay, another “I-hate-you-I-love-you” romance (apparently they’re my favourite?!) but I have to admit Maggie and Quentin are monstrously adorable. Maggie starts off by “using” Quentin in a Grand Scheme to free her father from an evil incorporation. BUT DUM DUM DAAAA of course she develops feelings. I develop feelings. So. many. feelings.

Let me know your favourite YA romances in the comments below!

Review: Bro by Helen Chebatte

I picked up Bro by Helen Chebatte particularly because it promised a) diversity, b) a fight club (!!) and c) an Australian setting. And I love Aussie books, I truly do! And I particularly love ones that acknowledge what a diverse and multi-cultural country we are. And Bro totally rules this.

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About The Book:

What happens when you mix teenage boys, a fight club and ethnic rivalries? You get war. Romeo Makhlouf knows the rules. Stick with your own kind. Don’t dob on your mates or even on your enemies. Respect the family. But even unwritten rules are made for breaking. Fight clubs, first loves and family ties are pushed to the limit in Helen Chebatte’s explosive debut novel.

 

But despite Bro ticking a lot of “this book should be awesome” boxes…it ultimately wasn’t my kind of book. (Teenage boys, peoples, they’re just…such stinky, alien creatures.) But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good book! And I think it will definitely appeal to teens, particularly boys, and it definitely was a fast and interesting read.

Basically Romeo (yes that’s his name!) is Lebanese and falls into a lot of default rivalries at school. When the book starts, he walks you through all the “cliques”, from the Asians to the Lebanese to the Aussies to the Islanders. It’s all pretty “stick-with-the-bros-of-your-own-culture”, which I found pretty sad. But I guess not unrealistic. And the boys’ cliques were definitely like family! All the Lebanese boys absolutely stood up for each other and took exactly no hasselling from anyone else before they were out for revenge. So obviously you know where this is heading right?

Someone gets offended. FIGHTS START.

I was a bit annoyed that the big “offence” was basically over a girl. Again, realistic….But it seemed shallow to read about.

Oh and yes, and it’s very Australia. It’s absolutely stuffed with Aussie slang. I actually struggled with some of it, despite being an Aussie myself, because I’d never heard some of the phrases. But I was quite surprised it had next to no swearing in it. I felt that was the only unrealistic liberty it took…but it does make the book appropriate for any age audience, so kudos to it there.

I found the ethnic rivalries very interesting…because they seemed in place BEFORE the boys even had issues with each other. Like it’s Romeo vs Palmer. Lebanese vs Australian. The book also really talks about what it’s like to be from a different ethnicity but raised in Australia. Like are you an Aussie if you’re born in Australia, but live entirely with Lebanese culture?

Bro is definite grimy, punchy, Australian contemporary that younger teens will totally enjoy! The characters aren’t the most dimensional things I’ve ever encountered, but they do ask some BIG questions and get you thinking. Also you get to know THE BRO CODE, which — if you’re a completely deluded person like I who lives in a fantasy book — is really interesting. Also there’s Lebanese food involved. And brawls. Punchy, punchy, bro.

[purchase here]

Review: Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil

9781742973951Oh where do I even start to sum up my love for Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil?! The awesomeness of this book is mind-blowing. I’m shouting its praises far and wide and adding it to my “favourite of ever” shelf. It ticks all the boxes: good writing, excellent characters, adorable romance. OH and did I mention this is an Australian book?! Let us just skyrocket to the moon in the awesomeness category.

Contrary to suspicions aroused by the title, this is not a sci-fi novel. It’s an adorably realistic Aussie contemporary. The narrator is 16-year-old Sam (not Sammy, don’t even think about it), who goes to a dodgy high school and wishes he could fast-forward his life…about 20 years, or so. He’s obsessed with films (old horrors particularly) and he writes screenplays. His current project is Killer Cats from the Third Moon of Jupiter (it’s a working title). Sam thinks it sucks, like every other part of his life.

I really like Sam. He felt very realistic (down to the “grunting over holding a conversation”…and anyone with a brother will know what that’s like) and I honestly feel like he’s a character you could meet in real life.

The secondary characters are equally marvellous and well written. Everyone just leaped off the page and they were all dimensional an complex. Firstly there’s Mike, Sam’s best friend — he’s gay and quiet and has “one expression” and only Sam can tell he has other emotions. They’re like DUDE BEST BUDS. And I love a book about friendship like this. Then there’s Adrian…who feels like “that friend you have” but sometimes wish you didn’t? He’s described as a troll. How nice. Then there’s Allison, who is, unfortunately, the weakest part of the team because I honestly forget what even her point is since it’s been a while since I read the book.

And Camilla…ah, Camilla. She’s the “love interest” and I ADORED HER FROM DAY DOT. She’s an epic combination of geek, smartness, music and mischievous. Camilla is perfect, but yet not stuck up or snobbish. JUST PERFECT FOR READING ABOUT.

As for the actual story? Well obviously I’m an enormously enthuastic fan. I MEAN COME ON. You saw that coming! It didn’t drag, although it’s not speedy-paced story. And the writing is utterly fantastic. It’s witty and awkward, and wins for the dialogue. Absolutely wins.

As for the romance? Okay, Sam is like 90% clueless. SO. That’s a little annoying to read, but I won’t say it’s not realistic. Ahem. And I think Sam and Camilla’s relationship is slow building and sweet and AWKWARD. But sweet.

And endless shrieking happiness that the book is Australian! I read a lot of American literature? So this is like a refreshing returning-home…with all the slang and the culture and mannerisms. I understood these references!

This book made my day.

“I think, because…well, I like the idea of coming up with a story that never existed before, but I don’t really want to be in charge. I don’t want to be famous. I guess I like the idea of sitting in the dark and knowing that I created the thing on screen, that it’s my story, but, like, no-one else has to know it was me. Does that make sense?”

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

9780316213073Oh sweet fairy bread and sprinkles…this book was beyond fantastic. The Darkest Part of the Forest is probably my favourite Holly Black book. And I’ve read quite a few!! The Tithe series being my least favourite, but The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and the Curseworker Trilogy coming in a tight second. I think Holly Black is a genius wizard. Her skills are basically AHHHH!

The Darkest Part of the Forest is beautiful and powerful and darkly fantastical and bloody — and basically completely perfect.

It’s a magical story about Hazel and her brother, Ben, and their love for a horned boy cursed to sleep in a glass coffin. Words do not convey how awesome this is. They live in Fairfold, which is absolutely embroiled in fairies. It’s a tourist attraction but the locals know the fairies are real. There’s mischief. There’s unexplainable phenomenons (like the horned boy). People die. Kids are kidnapped by the supernatural. Just your average day in Fairfold.

“So, just another dull night in Fairfold, where everyone’s a lunatic or an elf.”

I absolutely adored Hazel. She’s brave and has zero concept of defeat. She seemed like Peter Pan at times…growing up, but still clinging to her magical childhood. She slew monsters with her brother (who has a magical curse/gift for music) and was a warrior. Ben was equally wonderful and shared the narration. He was older, quiet, always trodden on. He and Hazel used to be thick as thieves but…bad stuff goes down. I shall not say. READ THE BOOK.

I also have to mention Jack and Carter. Jack is a changeling. Because every family, when their child gets kidnapped by fairies, will demand their real child back AND keep the changeling. They are a fantastic “brother” duo and I loved them!
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The mystery of the horned boy in his glass coffin in the forest is just DELICIOUS. I have to admit, though, I liked him better when he was unconscious. When he woke, I thought he’d have a stronger personality? But that’s literally my only complaint.

He was every bit as monstrously beautiful as he’d been. You could drown in beauty like that.

If the characters aren’t entrancing enough…the writing is beautiful. I loved reading those adorable little letters on the page SO MUCH I couldn’t put the book down. I was absolutely caught up in the magic and creamy description and murderous plot twists.

It has a bit of a bittersweet ending and I’m sorry it’s a standalone. I wanted more and more of this world and these characters! I shall have to just reread it a million and a half times while I want for Holly Black’s 2017 series to come out. But Fairfold and Hazel, Ben and Jack made the book a magical, unforgettable adventure. I can’t recommend this one enough!

There’s a monster in our wood
She’ll get you if you’re not good
Drag you under leaves and sticks
Punish you for all your tricks
A nest of hair and gnawed bone
You are never, ever coming…home.

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Zombie Books For The Deadly YA Reader

There is something decidedly fantastically creeptastic about zombie books. I’m basically the lone zombie enthusiast in my family, but they’re all missing out — and you might be too. Which is why I’ve graciously collected a list of zombie novels you should definitely try. Maybe with the lights on, though.

Caution: Brains and dead things ahead.

 

Y A     Z O M B I E     N O V E L S 

 

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  • THE END GAMES: Not only is this one of my all time favourite books, it is an incredible zombie apocalypse tale. It’s about two brothers who are trying to survive (obviously) while dead things want to eat them (obviously). The special twist is the older brother has convinced his 5 year old brother that it’s just a “video game”. It’s mildly heartbreaking and extremely well written.
  • REBOOT: What if being a zombie was a semi-regular occurrence? This one is set in a world were zombies are soldiers and the longer you “were dead” before “rebooting”…the more not-human you are. And besides breaking bones and guns and screaming — there is quite a cute romance between a very emotionally dead zombie girl and a barely zombie adorable boy. This book calls to you, I just know it.
  • SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY: But how about a zombie tale set in the 1800s? Eleanor Fitt is a Proper Lady, and also investigating her brother’s disappearance. She’s cautiously worried about the dead rising and necromancers too — AS IS LOGICAL. It’s a very proper book with tea and scones and the undead.

 

(Apparently zombie covers are either black and red or yellow and black? I’m not complaining! It’s awesome.)

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  • EAT BRAINS LOVE: The title is a parody off “Eat, Pray, Love” and the book is just as ridiculous as the title promises. It’s funny and lighthearted and seriously gross. Basically there’s a zombie outbreak in the high school cafeteria. Jake and an unattainable-beautiful-wonderful-girl are stuck on the run together. It’s hilarious and mildly silly!
  • CONTAMINATED: It is always awkward if your mother is a zombie. This one is set in a world were the zombie outbreak has been “stabilised” and zombies are being returned home to their families. Their brains have basically been zapped and they’re little more than vegetables…leaving devastated families trying to patch their lives back together and look after disabled loved ones. It takes a more serious look at the moral side of being a zombie. And it’s VERY family focused, which is an insta-win for me!
  • THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS: Okay, this is cheating. This is an adult book, not a YA one, but it’s partially narrated by a 10-year-old zombie, so I’m sneaking it onto this list anyway. This is one of my top zombie reads. It’s all about the apocalypse and the fighting — so cue guns blazing and zombies screaming. It’s also very science-y (I confess to getting lost there) and the author does not spare the characters. It’s basically the most EPIC book of them all and then ending had me howling. Go read it.

 

Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

9781447299318Carry On by Rainbow Rowell is definitely one of my new favourite bookish creations. I was mildly nervous because I’d heard it had a very strong Harry Potter influence and I’m loyal to the original Potter stories. But, after an initial Harry Potter-ish bginning…Carry On stood on it’s own so easily as an original and equisitely written magical book!

It’s basically about Simon Snow (the Chosen One) and his “evil” roommate, Baz, and how they put aside their lifelong hatred of each other to defeat evil…and perhaps accidentally fall in love in the process.

It’s also a sort of “companion novel” to Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. In Fangirl, the protagonist (Cath) writes fanfiction of Simon Snow. And in Carry On, Rowell actually writes the Simon Snow book! So it’s like a book within a book. COOL, RIGHT?! You don’t need to have read Fangirl first, however. Carry On stands fine on its own!

I was also very impressed at how well and easily Rainbow Rowell made this book sound British! I just read another book by an American author trying to incorporate British culture and — ugh. It failed. But Carry On?! It had slang and culture down pat and felt QUITE British please and thank you.

The characters are definitely the heartbeat of the story though. I. have. so. many. feels. They were original and unique and totally dimensional in just a few chapters. I fell entirely in love with Simon’s gaunt stammers and quiet mannerisms — and also Baz’s suave, snappy, fiery temper and hidden feelings about Simon. The characters leapt off the page with their realness and relatabilty.

Plus Baz’s real name is Tyrannus Basilton Grimm-Pitch and that is about the best thing I’ve ever heard.

And I definitely rooted for Simon and Baz to get together! Their relationship is slow and adorable and fiery and complex. They hate each other sure, but that’s just to cover up that they love each other. I didn’t find it too angsty or irritating at all. Bonus!

The writing was really addictive and just gorgeous. The first 30% mark felt a bit thick and had a lot of info-dumps…but after that I did not want to ever stop read it. 

“You have to pretend you get an endgame. You have to carry on like you will; otherwise, you can’t carry on at all.”

After all my initial hesitations and grumpiness, I have to admit I’m surprised at how much I adored it. BUT NO REGRETS. I could hug this book forever, basically. It’s original (!!) and clever and complex and had just the right amount of terror and happiness to make it a satisfying but engaging read. I want to just fall into the pages and become friends with these amazing characters on their magical adventures. Also there were so many food descriptions. The scones and butter and jam and cream were basically leaping off the page. (Warning: prepare snacks before reading this book.)

 

“You were the sun, and I was crashing into you. I’d wake up every morning and think, ‘This will end in flames.”

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: The Minnow by Diana Sweeney

9781922182012There is no question about the fact that The Minnow by Diana Sweeney is a GORGEOUS book. For starters, just look at that cover. Behold the intricately designed glory. Ahhh! I admit that’s the first thing that lured me in, closely followed by the facts of A) it’s written by an Australian author, and, B) it has an intriguing blurb, and C) it won the 2013 Text Publishing prize. I basically knew I was in for a delicious treat.

So what’s it about? Basically a girl, Tom, who’s survived a massive flood and lost everything she loves and is pregnant and doesn’t know what she’s doing. It’s written in this entirely whimsical way that blurs lines of reality and greatly features gorgeous writing. It’s like a literary masterpiece. And, how cute is this: Tom refers to her unborn baby as “The Minnow”. SO CUTE.

And in case we haven’t covered this already: the writing is incredible. It can be bewildering at first, so you really have to just get into the hang of the style. It’s artistic and soft and dreamy and whimsical. This is not a black-and-white story with lots of action. It’s about growing up and tragedy. The pace also doesn’t rocket forward, so it’s not a stressful read.

I’m also glad the story smashed cliches! It seemed big on diverting from the “typical” story path. Like, for instance, it features grandparents and strong friendships and natural disasters. That’s not a combination I’ve read…like ever.

Tom is only 14 when she gets pregnant with Bill’s baby. She is like a baby herself oh my gosh…and it’s really scary and emotional and Tom acts so realistically. I’m not exactly sure how old Bill is, but at one point I think the book indicated that he was fairly old. Freaky. Also the police are after Bill. I still don’t understand exactly what for. Go away, Bill.

There are lots of “dead” people in this book. I got confused at first, but once I understood what the writing was doing…I loved it. It’s not a “ghost story”, per se, it’s just that Tom is surrounded by ghosts of her past and she talks and chats and looks to them for guidance. It’s really beautiful, because she still has her “family” it’s just….they’re dead. I think the book touches on PTSD and mental illness too.

I have to admit there were a few things I wasn’t such a fan of though. There’s not a lot of dialogue! Which saddens me because I’m a big dialogue fan. But if you just love beautiful writing, then it shouldn’t be a problem for you. I also got confused a lot trying to figure out what was real and what wasn’t. In retrospect: THAT’S THE POINT. But not knowing that’s how the story would be told, it initially sent me into a flap of “Huh? Wut? HUHHHH?”

The ending is very open! It doesn’t close off and woah, I have some theories. I cannot share (spoilers!) but I love how the book allows you to basically “finish it yourself”. Needless to say I AM A FAN OF THIS INCREDIBLE BOOK. And I’m impatiently waiting for the author to write more.

[PURCHASE HERE]

Christmas Books For The YA Reader

I’m utterly horrible at reading books in the right season (how do I manage to read beachy books in winter and frigid books in summer? Who can know. It just happens) but I do make an effort around Christmas to swallow a few festive reads! Although most come with a sprinkling of snow, thanks to the bulk of YA authors coming from America — but you can’t have everything.

If you’re in the mood for some Christmasy stories — LOOK NO FURTHER! I have a list for you.

 

 YA   C H R I S T M A S   B O O K S

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  • LET IT SNOW: This naturally rises to the top of YA Christmasy reads because — JOHN GREEN. He’s basically a YA superstar author, and rightly deserved. His quirky characters are always a highlight. In Let it Snow, there are 3 short stories that all tie together. Each is written by a different author. They’re a bit zany and involve a whole heap of snow and copious waffles and — of course — CHRISTMAS.
  • DASH AND LILY’S BOOK OF DARES: This is also co-written! By David Leviathan and Rachel Cohn, no less, and this one definitely fits the “quirky” category too. Lily and Dash haven’t even ever met. They just keep passing back and forth this book of “dares” and writing letters to each other. It’s pretty zany and involves Dash (the grinch) and Lily (the Christmas partier) which makes for a hilarious contrast.
  • MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME: I actually haven’t read this one yet, so I’m mildly cheating on my own list (#rebelbookworm)…but it’s still a Christmas story! By a TON of authors, no less. Including: Stephanie Perkins, Laini Taylor, and Rainbow Rowell. So basically I need this book in my life ASAP. I have on good authority that there’s a crazy mixture of stories, from contemporary squishy adorable ones to dark fantasy.

 

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  • A CHRISTMAS CAROL: “Well, duh and obviously,” you say…but have you actually read this book in a while?! Because it’s worth the reread! (Plus this cover is just about my favourite thing ever, despite not having snow at Christmas in Australia…it’s just pretty.) And I always enjoy the opening sentence of “Marley was dead, to begin with.” That has to be one of the best openings in literature. (Yes, I like creepy! Don’t judge!)
  • THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER: This is barely 100-pages, so perfect for a Christmas Eve snack. It’s so incredibly adorable. It’s about the evil Herdman family who plague the lives of the “good” children…particularly when the Herdmans invade the local church’s Christmas play. It’s hilarious! And seriously heartwarming at the end. When I was a small bookworm, I actually read this twice while curled up under the Christmas tree. Yes, TWICE. I finished it and started again directly. It’s just that good!
  • THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE: And of course we can’t forget the classic masterpiece that involves a fantasy world were Christmas is banned. The HORROR. (Some authors are truly cruel.) Granted this book is about more than Christmas, but it does feature a jolly Claus and presents and fighting and talking lions and Turkish Delight. Ergo it makes the perfect Christmas feast. I mean, read. (But feast…read….same thing)

 

What are you reading this Christmas?

2015 YA Debuts You Should Catch Up On

It’s nearly 2016 (sheesh, how did that happen?!?) and, if you’re anything like me, there’s no WAY you’ve read all the 2015 releases that you wanted to. And pretty soon there’ll be an onslaught of NEW books that will demand your attention and your soul and other minor things.

But there are several Young Adult debut authors you really cannot miss. Especially when most of them have new books coming out in 2016! Debut books can be tricky beasts, because often you can tell the author isn’t a pro yet. But this list? Ohhhh, my friends, these authors are already so stunningly talented, I can barely WAIT to see what their next novels will hold!

 

2 0 1 5     Y A    D E B U T S

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  • MADE YOU UP: This is such an important book because it’s about a girl with schizophrenia, but it’s not about her schizophrenia. Her illness doesn’t solely define her, and I think that’s a really important message. Plus it’s gorgeously written.
  • THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY: Okay but WOW, this book is creepy! It’s about cults and murders and juvie — and the protagonist has no hands.
  • SIMON VS THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA: This is probably the most adorable LGBT book of the year. All the characters are entirely relatable and realistic. Don’t get me wrong — I do love a contemporary where the characters wax poetic with soliloquies of love and meaning. But I also love books that are awkward and realistic. Plus there are Oreos in here. So. many. Oreos.

 

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  • THE WRATH AND THE DAWN: Definitely one of my all time favourite fantasies!! And it’s only a debut?! So I can only imagine the talent this author is going to bring to the table over the years! It’s a Persian folklore retelling of A Thousand and One Nights and has a good dash of magic with a mountain of delicious food descriptions.
  • DENTON’S LITTLE DEATHDATE: This book is hilarious. It makes fun of death rather ridiculously…so make sure you’re okay with gallows humour before devouring this!
  • BECAUSE YOU’LL NEVER MET ME: This one is told in letters between two boys with unusual disabilities. One is allergic to electricity. One was born with no eyeballs and has a pacemaker. Ergo — they can never meet or they’d kill each other! But the character development is phenomenal and you’ll never guess the ending….

 

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  • FANS OF THE IMPOSSIBLE LIFE: Another super realistically cute contemporary. Why is this one special?! It’s narrated by 3 characters in 1st, 3rd, and 2nd person! The characters basically burst off the page and one character has chronic-fatigue, which I hadn’t read in YA until now!
  • THE ACCIDENT SEASON: It’s beautiful. Absolutely mind-stunningly beautiful. It’s kind of an eerie book, set in October, so it’s all pumpkins and autumn and Halloween. And it’s magical and mysterious and — did I mention — the writing is gorgeous?!?!?
  • FALLING INTO PLACE: This is written by a 16 year old author. TALENT ALERT. It’s not the average contemporary either, because it’s narrated by a childhood imaginary friend. Unique, right?! It’s written in tiny chapters and it’s barely 300 pages so you can eat it in two bites, basically. The author has two books coming out in 2016, so her debut is a MUST read before they arrive!

 

Best YA Covers of 2015

I get sucked in by amazing covers all the time. And I’m not even sad about it! I think an extraordinary cover is a must for a book considering you spend more time with it on your shelf than you do reading the insides. (Although, one mustn’t judge a book solely by the cover…but it is hard, right?!)

And is it just me or are Young Adult covers just getting more gorgeous every year?! 2015 showed some absolutely GORGEOUS designs. I’ll be listing my favourites below and be sure to tell me of your favourites in the comments and what you think of my picks!

Note: All book covers link to purchase pages on this website! Click away!

 

F A N T A S Y

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I quite adore the variety of these fantasies covers…from city illustrations, to old book vibe to crow feathers! And just look at that typography. A book that makes letters look delicious enough to eat definitely wins favour with me.

 

W I L D    W E S T

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Apparently stories of the Wild West were quite popular in 2015. HUZZAH. (Yes, I am Australian, but I grew up with a slight fascination of the Oregon trail.) I adore Walk on Earth a Stranger for using the magic of gold dust on the cover. And Vengeance Road makes use of those famous wild west skulls. While Under a Painted Sky looks…painted?! The colours! The silhouettes! Help. I fell in love with a book cover.

 

D Y S T O P I A N

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It might be just my picks of the year but…the dystopian covers seem dark this year! And they totally make use of stunning pinpoints of colour. I adore how 5 to 1 has made use of Indian henna patterns to reflect the country the book is set in. Forget Tomorrow just zings with that perfect shade of blue-green. It’s like the ocean. It’s delectable. Zeroboxer just looks like it’s going to thump you in the face at any moment — and that’s what a good dystopian cover should probably do.

 

M E N T A L    I L L N E S S

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Apparently BLUE IS IN for books that deal with mental illness and disorders! Which makes sense since blue is often a colour that signifies pain and sadness. I also really like how simplistic the covers are.

P R E T T Y    D R E S S E S

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I will forever be addicted to covers that are just astounding gorgeous in the dress department. Plus it proves that you can be awesome and rule the world (as each of these girls are doing!) and were fabulous gowns. Blues and purples are obviously fashionable too in the fantasy rulership world. I shall keep that in mind in case I want to take over a fantastical country some time…

 

S C I E N C E    F I C T I O N

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Basically: STARS. If a book has a sci-fi label, it is largely missing out if it doesn’t make use of stars and galaxies. I haven’t met a sci-fi cover I didn’t love!

 

H I S T O R I C A L    F I C T I O N

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Historical Fiction seems very varied this year. Of course these are only 3 of the many YA books published, but I do like how hands are prominently featured in the first covers. Velvet Undercover falls prey to putting faces on covers….which usually is a no-no for me. But I love the colours so much. And the typography! So it still wins!

YA Books For Blisteringly Hot Summer Reading

Since summer in the fabulous land of Oz can be so incredibly hot, sometimes it’s excellent to just curl up in the air-conditioning and read. And if you’re fond of reading books to match the sweltering weather you’re experiencing…I CAN HELP. I’ve compiled a list of YA summery and burningly hot books.

S U M M E R   R E A D S

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  • I KILL THE MOCKINGBIRD: This is about 3 kids on the brink of high school who decide to make Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” book…wanted. With reverse psychology. GENIUS, NO? They hide it! And create a huge demand for copies! It’s really funny and endearing and it’s barely over 100-pages, so perfect for a summery snack.
  • MY LIFE NEXT DOOR: This is about Sam’s summer where she kinda accidentally falls in love with the next door neighbour…who has a HUGE chaotic family that are utterly endearing and hilarious to read about. It also has a surprisingly intense ending for an other wise “light, fluffy” contemporary. Seriously. Pull out the moral dilemmas and nervous finger-nail chewing.
  • SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE: This one features Emily who’s best friend, Sloane, just suddenly…vanished. But Sloane left her a list of summery things to do, so Emily is completing it. It’s like a summer “bucket list” sort of book, with crazy stuff like “Hug someone named Jamie” and “go skinny dipping”. Emily collects a bundle of odd friends and they try to complete the list to find the missing Sloane. LISTS, FOLKS. I do so love lists.

 

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  • THE SCORCH TRIALS: Technically this is the sequel to The Maze Runner, which you do need to read first. So go do that. Off you pop. But then come back and read the blisteringly hot Scorch Trials because hooooly desert. It’s hot. This has action and mystery and…zombies. I’m pretty sure this book is perfect.
  • BLOOD RED ROAD: This is one of my favourite reads of 2015! It’s totally underrated in it’s intense awesomeness, trust me. It features Saba who’s brother is kidnapped and she must travel the dusty, dangerous universe to get him back. It’s set in a sort of apocalyptic world and it’s written in slang. Saba is AMAZING. She’s tough and gritty. This book has guns and cage fights and siblings willing to die for each other. Be still my beating heart.
  • STONE RIDER: How about a motorbike ride across the desert!? This, again, is an apocalyptic (possibly dystopic?) universe where they have motorbikes with feelings. It’s pitched as the YA version of Mad Max Fury Road!

 

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  • INK AND BONE: While it starts off in England, the story is mainly set in…EGYPT! How awesome is that?! And why? Well, this story is about “what-if-the-Alexandria-Library-had-never-been-destroyed?” which is a grand question and makes for a magical world…where libraries can be evil and control reading. Basically, all bookworms need this.
  • THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS: This is an epic fantasy but set in a Middle Eastern type landscape with deserts and silks and sweltering sun. It’s basically one of my favourite fantasies of ever because it’s so diverse!
  • THE WRATH AND THE DAWN: And I’ll finish up with my favourite retelling of 2015. Have you ever heard of the Arabian Night stories and Shahrazad who told 1,000 stories to a Sultan so he wouldn’t kill her? WELL. This is the retelling! It features Shazi in a Persian fantasy world with magic and evil and intrigue. Plus there are so much delicious Persian food descriptions in here, I nearly ate the book.

 

Review: Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman

9781743693544Legacy of Kings is basically a historical-fiction-fantasy with Alexander the Great’s childhood reimagined. Does that not scream marvellous and great (har har I couldn’t resist) things to you? IT DOES TO ME. It’s quite a dark gritty book. There is battle and blood everywhere and evil magic and snakes. Ugh to snakes. I’m a big fan of gritty fantasy, though, so I loved the darker tone and how it kept up the exciting fast pace.

Oh, did I mention it has seven narrating characters? I KNOW. SEVEN. I hesitantly say it’s “too much”, although I did like most of the characters. But a few seemed superficial to the story line…but I assume they’ll become important in later books.

A quick over view of these little narrators!

  • ALEX: Obviously. I mean, he’s THE DUDE, right?! But he has an unfortunately small story line. I loved his character and would’ve liked more from him.
  • HEPH: He was really easy to manipulate. Poor Heph. He’s Alex’s best friend…but their friendship really goes under fire.
  • OLYMPIA: This is Alex’s mother, and I appreciate that we do get a peek at her POV. She is a subtle “villain”. She got up to some seriously freaky stuff…like, terrifying. Snakes. SNAKES IN HER HAIR. I am terrified of snakes.
  • KAT: I wasn’t Kat’s biggest fan because she was super self-involved, never communicated properly, and was NOT loyal in the romance department. But she definitely had complex intentions and was interesting to read about!
  • JACOB: He is Kat’s little childhood sweetheart. Aww. Except, Kat rejects him right at the start so I felt rather bad for him the entire book.
  • CYN: She. was. AWESOME. I’m 99% sure she was a sociopath, and her manipulative and smooth talking skills were so captivating to read.
  • ZO: What is the point of Zo? It is a myth to me. She’s supposedly Alex’s “betrothed”, but she runs away, gets caught by slavers, is a general naive munchkin. I will be curious about where here story goes in the sequels!

I’m a huge fantasy nut, though, so despite the millions of narrators, I still couldn’t help but love the story! I adore grisly fantasy. And the story kept me captivated the entire time, I did not want to put it down. Plus fantasies are usually tiring to read…but I just found myself whipping through it easily! HUZZAH. The world building gets a big thumbs up too. It was interesting and lavish and I felt immersed, even though the book is only 430-pages long. The writing was just fantastic. There is also a gorgeously glorious map. To be honest, I think all books should have maps.

If you’re a fantasy fiend: Legacy of Kings is for you. It is! I had a few quibbles about the characters, but as I sit and stare at the book (as one does when finishing a novel) all I can focus on is what I adored. I wish I had book 2 right now. Hopefully it’ll have more of Alex’s story in there…because I want to see how this battle and strategy genius grows up. It’s such a unique premise, right?! Yay for historical-fiction fantasies!

[PURCHASE HERE]

What’s On Your Christmas Wishlist This Year?

We bookworms have a wonderful advantage when it comes to Christmas time. When humans say, “Soooo, what do you want for Christmas?” the only answer to screech at them is “BOOKS! BOOKS!” The only real agony comes when writing the perfect Bookish Christmas List. Because you don’t want to forget any excellent ones, right?!

Today I have a list of YA books that should probably definitely be on your list too. Feel free to leave a comment and tell me what you’re most excited about, too!

 

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1. HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE (ILLUSTRATED EDITION)

Because how really can one exist without this glorious novel in their hands?!? Illustrations, peoples! Don’t ever think you’re too old. I dearly wish this edition had been around when I first read Harry Potter.

2. SOUNDLESS (Released Nov 2015)

A new book by Richelle Mead! OH HUZZAH! And this one is set in a Chinese-esque fantasy world were everyone is deaf. Intrigued? I think yes.

3. ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND (Released Oct 2015)

This is the most beautiful version of Lewis Carroll’s famous Wonderland ever. I’m entirely sure it is. I believe it even has a few illustrations inside (!!) which I am so up for.

 

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4. WRITTEN IN THE STARS (Released Mar 2015)

Cover love aside (but not too far aside because let’s face it, this book is gorgeous) I really want to read this one because its about a Pakastani girl who is being forced into an arranged marriage. It’s about destiny and it sounds like an incredible story.

5. THE NEST (Released Oct 2015)

All I heard was “for fans of Coraline” and then it was on my list immediately. Although I did deign to go back and read the blurb later. The back cover promises wasp queens and brothers saving brothers and explores disabilities and dreams and fears. Does that not sound entirely compelling to you? Me = need this book.

6. UNDER A PAINTED SKY (Released Mar 2015)

I was mildly obsessed with the Gold Rush era when I was a small human…and I haven’t quite left the infatuation behind. So naturally I’m dying for this book set in 1849 about a Chinese girl who wants to be a musician, but ends up on the Oregon Trail bound for gold. Plus runaway slaves and cowboys. Say no more. This book needs me.

 

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7. LOCK & MORI (Released Nov 2015)

Sherlock Holmes is one of my favourite things of ever and I’ve read countless retellings! So naturally I want to read more. Plus this version is by the point of “Mori” (Moriarty!) who is also genderbent and a girl! IS THIS REAL LIFE!? I’m so keen for this book!

8. IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH (Released Oct 2015)

An absent minded Grim Reaper? An overzealous angel? DEATH PERSONIFIED?!? This book has my name written all over it basically. After the marvellousness that is The Book Thief and The Game of Love and Death, I’m all for games where supernatural eternities are personified.

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9. CARRY ON (Released Oct 2015)

And of course I’m eager to read Rainbow Rowell’s latest book! Remember the fabulousness that is Fangirl?! Well, the fanfic that the protagonist of Fangirl wrote…is now its own book! So it’s like a book from inside a book?!

10.  5 TO 1 (Released June, 2015)

I love fantasy and dystopian…but have I ever read one set in India? Negatory. So! I’m absolutely dying for this beautiful looking book!

 

 

For more Bookish Christmas Wishlist inspiration, head over to Boomerang Book’s Christmas guides!

Review: The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

9781406362992The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B is basically described in one word: INCREDIBLE.

Just seriously, wow. This book takes a really honest and relatable look at mental illness (specifically OCD). I got totally sucked in and emotionally tangled within mere pages. It’s only 270-pages and WOAH does it pack a punch.

Basically it’s about Adam who meets Robyn at an anxiety support group and — boom — insta connection. He is dazzled by her and, sure, she’s a year older, but he can work with that. (He is 14. He is a little bit of a silly goose, but endearing.) It deals with the complications of divorced parents, mental illness, family, and first loves and, of course, growing up.

It’s written in 3rd point-of-vew, which sometimes can make a reader feel disjoined and detached? BUT NOPE. I felt entirely in Adam’s thought process. He had a bit of a “bounce” in his step, which was so refreshing to read! Particularly when you know he’s suffering from crippling anxiety. And the book really address it, too! Anxiety affects 1 in 4 people in Australia. Adam is actually trying to get better, too, so the book is uplifting in that he’s going to a support group and working towards managing. It ain’t simple though, folks. COMPLICATIONS ABOUND.

There is also an adorable relationship between Adam and his little 5-year-old half-brother, “Sweetie” (Wendell) who also shows signs of severe-anxiety/OCD. And the kid is only five. Adam is always THERE for his brother.

So let’s talk about Robyn: the love interest! Of course there’s romance, because this is YA, and there’s a good smattering of “insta-love” from page 1. Adam sees Robyn. Adam falls in love with Robyn. I was thinking, “Dude, chiiiill.” But he IS only 14 and he’s so endearing as he goes about trying to be her friend.

Also there’s a superhero vibe. YES PLEASE AND THANK YOU! I am a huge superhero fan, so I loved the little twist of all the kids in the support group taking on “superhero names”. Obviously Adam chose “Batman” to compliment Robyn’s “Robin”. (SO ADORABLE.)

 

OTHER THINGS TO LOVE:

  • That the characters were getting HELP. Often I feel like YA books delve into mental illness, but it’s the path down. What about how-to-start-managing-your-illness?! That’s good info to read about too!! So therapy is painted in a positive light.
  • Did I mention comics?! I love this.
  • The huge focus on friendship. It was PERFECT. Adam was friends to everyone in the support group, despite being worried and anxious and having zero self-worth. So much win in friendship stories!
  • Also the huge emphasis on family. This really is all about family. OH MY FAVOURITE. It was perfectly written and aahhhhh I had all the feels of ever.

 

 

Basically The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B is one you need in your life. ASAP. If you want to know what it’s like to live with anxiety (OCD in particular, but anxiety is the root of OCD) then read this book because it’s an A+ representation.

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: The Wrath and the Dawn

9780399176654The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh is now solidly one of my all-time favourites. Wow…just…how do I even sum up my love for it?! It’s beautiful and visually delicious and the characters were absolute perfection.

BLURB

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch…she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

Okay, but let’s pause a moment and let me tell you the story of how I have history with this particularly tale. When I was 12 I was obsessed with Shadow Spinner. I reread it copiously. So when I saw the Wrath and the Dawn existed, I knew I had to have it. But expectations were high! I’m so grateful The Wrath and the Dawn really stuck to the original story, but embellished it so beautifully. My high expectations did not come crashing down.

It’s a fantasy, but with a pinch of magic and a lot of Persian culture. I love this. There are also hints of magic, which I’m sure will come out more in the sequel. And there was such delicious description of the Persian dishes. I nearly died of starvation just reading it.

…setting plates of food in front of each guest — aromatic rice with fresh dill and split fava beans, lamb simmered in sauce of turmeric and caramelized onions, skewers of chicken and roasted tomatoes, fresh vegetables garnished with mint and chopped parsley, olives marinated in fine oil, lavash bread with rounds of goat cheese and seemingly endless sweet preserves…(pg 252)

Excuse me while I eat this book.

All of the writing was witty and fast-paced. Every word MATTERED and the sentences were short and biting. It’s also narrated by a lot of people. I think this totally expanded the view of the world. Shahrzad was the main protagonist. She was so small and sassy and had a big mouth and a sharp wit. Shahrzad could be sweet…if she wanted to. But her spunk and snark totally hooked me in. Then there’s Khalid, the “monster” boy king. Since he kills a girl every night, he’s got to be EVIL, right?!! I figured there’d be more to that story than meets the eye. I was so curious to know what it would be.

And the romance between Khalid and Shahrzad was absolutely swoon-worthy. It was so adorable and perfect and I have zero complaints (lets face it, I have no complaints about anything in this gorgeous book). I ship it! It was a slow attraction and it so sweet. Khalid busted out with these incredible soliloquies at the end. And, omg, there goes my heart.

Basically it is the most perfect book in the universe. It was everything I wanted in this favourite tale of mine. The writing was delicious and the characters all stole my heart. So if you’re still unsure whether to read this or not, let me give it to you straight: this book is absolutely incredible and you need to try it! GO! GO!

[PURCHASE HERE]

6 Young Adult Books That Use Illustrations

Is it possible to grow out of picture books? Because I HAVEN’T YET. The highlight of my week is taking my pre-schooling niece and nephew to the library and getting to reread all my favourite childhood picture books. Young Adult books are totally missing out. Seriously.

But there are some YA books that make use of art and illustrations to help tell the story. And I praise the bookish universe for their existence. There should be more of this! Huzzah!

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  • ILLUMINAE: This book is brand new (released just a few weeks back!) and it. is. amazing. It’s a sci-fi but it’s told purely in transcripts, instant messaging, emails, and diagrams. Yup, that’s right folks. SOLELY. So there are pictures of space ships in here. Space ships I tell you. It’s glorious! Plus the book felt like reading Star Trek but with sassy teens and zombie-viruses.

 

  • INK: I raved and hugged this book in a review a few weeks back, and I pointed out (um, basically I screamed about it) the fact it had illustrations! Not many! But every few pages we got an inky, calligraphy sketch that just added to the story so, so much. Particularly since Ink is focused on Japanese culture and art — it just worked SO WELL.

 

  • A MONSTER CALLS: Oh this book has some of the most beautiful illustrations of ever. The artist is Jim Kay, who also does copious illustrations for Harry Potter (!!). I just love his depiction of the dark tree monster. Also, fair warning, but this book will probably make you cry.

 

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  • THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET: This book is a great big blob of WOW. I’m particularly fond of that reaction to books, I might add. And you might have heard of it from the movie?!? The movie is only called “Hugo” (and stars Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Mortez) but it’s exceptionally beautiful and I recommend you go swallow it immediately. Go! Go! NO WAIT…finish this post first because I have more picture-y goodness to show you. But The Invention of Hugo Cabret is set in Paris and is about clockworks and orphans. Quite a huge hunk of the book is told solely in black-and-white pencil drawings!
  • THE MARVELS: Speaking of HugoThe Marvels is by the same author. But this time it’s not just a smattering of pictures…HALF THE BOOK is done in pictures!! The first 400 pages are drawings! It flows so seamlessly and for a while I forgot I wasn’t even reading because the pictures told the story so strongly and well. Also you might want to take a moment to admire the cover. Pet it a little even. Don’t worry, I won’t judge. It’s gorgeous.

 

  • MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN: This is kind of cheating because the illustrations are photos instead of drawings. But just pause with me for a second — PHOTOS. The photos play a huge part in the story and they’re absolutely…weird. They’re really old vintage photos of “freaks” and human oddities. Like just check out the girl on the front cover who is levitating…okay. YAY. And freaky. Definitely an illustrated book to snabble up!

 

The Best YA First Lines

Deciding which book to read next can be a minor nightmare. (There are so many! They must all be read! How do we make the decision! Help!) But my mind can quickly be made up if the book has an epic first line. That first mouthful of words is so important. It sets the tone of the book and gives you the voice of the character and an inkling as to the topic. And best of all?! They hopefully leave you shrieking, “More! More!”

Here are some of my favourite YA first lines!

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9780545424936Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love. ~ The Raven Boys

There’s something entirely captivating about this opening sentence. I get an entire range of emotions from, “WHAT” and “WHY” to “THAT’S AWESOME” (because I’m a romantic at heart, clearly). Also this line sets up the clear indication that Blue’s love life is doomed and how will that work out?

 

9780606148832There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.” ~ The Graveyard Book

Neil Gaiman is basically the master of quirky and scary, but for this book we’re definitely leaning on the scary side. Forget that. We FACEPLANTED on the scary side. Who is holding a knife in this darkness?? What evil is going to ensue???

 

9780552566001I remember being born. In fact, I remember a time before that. There was no light, but there was music: joints creaking, blood rushing, the heart’s staccato lullaby, a rich sympony of indigestion. ~ Seraphina

This intrigues me an extraordinary amount because I’m left gawping and thinking, “But how does anyone remember being born?!” When a first sentence makes you ask a question, you know it’s on the right track!

 

9780147514356Looking back, none of this would have happened if I’d brought lip gloss the night of the Homecoming Dance. ~ Rebel Belle

Let me just roll out a list of 2 dozen questions. And I also love how quirky this is! I can immediately tell that the narrator is going to have a fabulously spunky and realistic voice.

 

9780007115600There was once a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb and he almost deserved it. ~ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

This was one of my favourite books growing up and this first line was by far the best. There’s always something evilly intriguing about reading books of disagreeable children. And I immediately wanted to know WHY Eustace a) had such a pompous name, and b) why he deserved it.

 

9781406350487Here is the boy, drowning. ~ More Than This

Something about this utterly captivates me. I think it’s the simplicity of these 5 words…but the impact they punch. Also I have many “BUT WHAT IS HAPPENING” sort of shrieks going on in my head. Excellent. Also, for some reason, the tone fells really sad. Not anxious or panicky…just sad. And I really want to know why.

 

9781419704284I’ve been collecting bugs since I was ten. It’s the only way I can stop their whispers. ~ Splintered

Because that’s…creepy. Bugs whispering?! I’m immediately intrigued by this narrator and her life which is no doubt going to be slightly creepy.

 

 

Review: Ink by Amanda Sun

9781848452312I had no idea what to expect from Ink (Paper Gods #1) by Amanda Sun apart from the fact that it was set in Japan. And since I have a love of travelling vicariously through books, I knew I needed it. I completely fell in love with the story and the detailed writing style and the CREEPY INK MONSTERS. I’m now convinced that every book needs creepy ink monsters.

Here is a very quick overview on what goes down in this book:

  • An American, Katie, goes to live with her aunt in Japan because her mum died.
  • Plenty of Japanese culture and food. Which is delicious I might add.
  • There is a dude who draws stuff and it accidentally comes to life in vicious inky monsters.
  • There are gods and paper dragons.
  • The book has artwork inside!! In the same style as the cover (but black and white) and it’s beautiful!

I was tooootally in love with the premise of “drawings coming to life”. Plus they were nasty!? I am so onboard with this. (It reminded me of Inkheart in a way!) The writing was gorgeously descriptive and I could basically see the ink oozing off the pages.

Shall we take a moment to talk about the characters?! I confess, at first I was unconvinced. Katie is nearly a Plain-Jane. She has a few bouts of witty retorts, but otherwise she seemed kind of swept along by the story instead of taking charge. Then of course we meet Tomohiro Yuu who is the resident “bad boy”. He has secrets and scars and can be really rude. Ridiculuosly, Katie is attracted. But. Tomohiro has a smushy little marshmallow heart of gold and I totally found myself falling for the romance despite initially being skeptical. Tomohiro’s character is deeply and excellently written. Katie also has two best friends: Yuki and Tanashi. They were hilarious and I loved every opportunity we got to enjoy their banter. I loved Yuki’s energy and giggling!

9780373210718Also I adored the fact that I had a brief visit to Japan. This is the only Japanese-flavoured book I’ve read, so I enjoyed the quick immersion into that country. There’s plenty of Japanese words and it goes into detail about some festivals and customs and what kind of food they devour (which I appreciated a million percent). They talk about tea ceremonies and calligraphy. They mention bento boxes and futons and go through a temple and talk about Japanese mythology. Basically yes please and thank you to all of that.

 
The plot is intense! But not staggeringly speedy. There are total awesome action scenes and blood goes everywhere and there are sword fights and kidnappings and all that awesome stuff. But, mostly, the pace wasn’t fast. Most of the action happens near the end.

Overall it’s a GORGEOUS book. I am a sucker for a bad boy meets quiet girl romance, and I loved the Japanese flavours and the magical reaslim. And I adored that there was a paper dragon, even if it was only briefly. Plus isn’t the cover for this book stunning?! Consider me stunned. I plan to get my clammy paws on the sequel, Rain, as soon as I can!

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

9780142426043My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick absolutely wrapped around my heart and turned me into a snowcone of happiness and sprinkles. It successfully kidnapped my attention and held it! And I am so impressed right now, because usually I’m a contemporary snob, but My Life Next Door ticked all the boxes of awesome.

It had a checklist of my favourite things in YA Contemporaries!!

  • Huge emphasis on large family (which you don’t see much in books!)
  • A slow burn romance that started off as a friendship.
  • All the secondary characters had personalities and lives, and no one felt like a cardboard cutout.
  • IT HAD FUNNY MOMENTS.
  • Plenty of food.

What I was most impressed about is how the book did big families RIGHT. Being part of a large family is like its own culture, truly. And yet this book got all the details right. Even to the point of going to the shop and having comments on “why do you have so many kids” and the prejudice towards big families. The Garrett’s have 8 kids. It perfectly captures the calamity of babies ditching clothes, toys everywhere, the sibling fights and love, and the chaos.
The story is about Samantha, who lives (OBVIOUSLY!!) next door to the Garrett’s. She’s spent most of her childhood “spying” on them. Her life is totally pristine, but miserable. They seem really happy, but such a mess. I loved the contrast! Sam wasn’t my favourite character though, because she seemed a bit bland. Calm, quiet, rich, capable…blah, blah. Even after the book I still don’t know much about Sam herself.

Jase Garrett was the 8th wonder of the universe.  He fixed things. He took care of the babies. He was sweet and yet tough and loved cars and pulled off the “bad boy” leather jackets while simultaneously cuddling little siblings and putting them to bed. He was so sweet to Sam! I shipped it! I loved their banter and yet their sensibleness when it came to relationships.

“It is as if everything else in the world stops as we lie here in the summer night.”

The plot took me on a whirlwind of emotions! The writing was quite detailed, so I had to go slow to get all the details…but it made me feel really inside the story. I also appreciated that there weren’t any wild drunk parties in this book. They seem the contemporary “norm” and I almost always zone out — but My Life Next Door focused on  studying, and work, and friendship. It also has a huge focus on politics, which wasn’t for me, but it didn’t overtake the story. And that finale?! Ohhh, wow. I flipped pages frantically and WAILED. It presents a massive moral dilemma and it was gut-wrenching.

Basically this is an astoundingly adorable and heart-warming contemporary. You need it in your life, okay? I’m entirely impressed that it delved into what it was like to have a big family and how the characters were responsible as well as fun and entertaining. I laughed, I squawked, I sniffled. It moved me.

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa

Fans of the Impossible Life is an exceptionally magnificent YA contemporary and I AM SO HAPPY! I felt totally caught up in this book. I wanted to laugh and cry and maybe howl (because heartbreak) and I definitely ended up craving pizza. I am a fan of this book. (Get it?! Fan…because…okay, never mind.)

 

ABOUT THE BOOK:

9781509805143Fans of the Impossible Life is the story of love, loss, growing up and the magic – and terror – of finding friends who truly see the person you are and the person you’re trying to become. It’s a story about rituals and love, and of those transformative friendships that burn hot and change you, but might not last. Sebby and his best friend Mira together craft a world of magic rituals and impromptu road trips designed to fix the broken parts of their lives. Jeremy is the painfully shy art nerd who’s been in self-imposed isolation after an incident that ruined his last year of school. When he sees Sebby for the first time across the school lawn, it’s as if he’s been expecting him.

 

I really adored how it was written 3 styles! There are three narrators — Jeremy, Mira, and Sebby. And each one uses 1st, 3rd, or 2nd person! I’ve never read a book that used all 3 before and it worked so well.

The best part of contemporaries, for me, is how character driven they are. I loved all three of our messed up, emotional narrators. But let’s have a quick run-down on each, okay? Okay.

  • MIRA: She’s a completely relatable character and I adored her! She wasn’t skinny and struggled with her self-image, and she loved thrift shopping and she had chronic fatigue and depression. I wailed as people just dismissed her depression as “nothing” and left her to struggle alone. I feel like this book represented depression honestly and realistically.
  • SEBBY: He’s a broken, messed-up and completely sassy dude. I basically felt he was an adorable little…fool. He makes such bad decisions! I loved his sass and his quips and how he was an explosion of life and colour and glitter. He’s gay and a foster kid and has had a tortured past.
  • JEREMY: He’s the quiet one, who lives in his protective shell after Something Bad Happened. He did come out of his shell a bit, but he stayed quiet. Proof that you can have friends and a life and still be reserved! Yay for quiet people! Also he’s an artist and questioning his sexuality and basically just trying to survive highschool.

These three definitely go down as one of my favourite literary friendships.

Except, there was one thing that bothered me: Mira’s “chronic fatigued” just vanished from the storyline. NOT OKAY. Just because your life is going well doesn’t mean your illnesses will vanish. I felt it wasn’t a fair representation to those with chronic fatigue.

But that aside this was simply a magical book. It’s about growing up and sadness and struggling with figuring out who you are. It’s about love. It’s about confusion. It’s about FRIENDSHIP (which I think is incredibly important and always fabulous to read about).  This was everything I wanted in a YA contemporary — sassy, relatable, funny and occasionally heart-wrenching.

I AM A FAN.

(….I had to say it. I just did.)

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Whodunnit?! A List of YA Murder Mysteries

There’s nothing like a good, solid murder mystery to curl up with in the evening. After — you know — you’ve double checked all your doors are locked and armed yourself with with a deathly looking lampshade and a fearsome whisk for protection. (Sometimes books feel real, okay?!) And if you like the Young Adult variety, oh oh, have I got a list for you.

 

YA Murder Mysteries You Need To Consume

 

9781743316429EVERY BREATH by Ellie Marney

Not only is this by a homegrown Aussie author, it’s also a Sherlock Holmes retelling. (Can it seriously get anymore awesome than that?!) It’s set in Melbourne and follows Rachel Watts and her best friend James Mycroft as they solve a murder the police don’t seem to care about. It’s absolutely stuffed with Australian slang (!!) and humour and gallons of tea.

Best of all…it’s a trilogy! Don’t forget to check out Every Word and Every Move (the last one I haven’t read yet, but I am impatiently awaiting its arrival in the mail because I’m 90000% sure this series can do no wrong).

 

9781471119149DANGEROUS GIRLS by Abigail Haas

This is the kind of book that will leave you spinning. It was my first taste of a REAL murder mystery, where the protagonist is the “accused” and we watch her go through courts and trials to see if she’s guilty or not. The backstory unravels as you read. A couple of teens…off on a beach holiday…what could go wrong?! (Um, everything.)

I’m still in shock over the ending. It absolutely took my breath away and it’s masterfully written!

 

9781471402463

AS RED AS BLOOD by Salla Simukka

It’s about Lumikki who lives in Finland (!!) and becomes tangled up in a cacophony of blood soaked money. She’s like the Finnish Nancy Drew, basically. And she’s awesome. She loves liquorice and black coffee and comics, so basically she won my heart right then and there — and then she went on to be awesome at solving mysteries too.

Also this book is TINY. It’s like 240-pages and you won’t be able to put it down.

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THE NATURALS by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I was so so chilled while reading this. It’s about kids with supernatural abilities who track down murderers. And the narrator, Cassie, has the ability to “read” people (nearly in a Sherlock Holmes way, too…except hers is supernatural). It’s pretty gruesome and gritty and wow.

It also has a sequel: Killer Instinct.

 

9780755348817I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER by Dan Wells

So the title sounds pretty incriminating, right? Um, yes. BUT ANYWAY! It is about John Wayne Cleaver, who is not a serial killer but is definitely a sociopath. His family business is a morgue (how fitting) and he gets caught up trying to solve a supernatural murder mystery. So think demons and monsters for this one, folks. And possibly you will find yourself hiding under the covers and suppressing a need to scream. I understand, I do.

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THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME by Mark Haddon

Okay, it’s only a dog that’s murdered…but it’s still a big deal for the narrator, okay?! Christopher is Autistic and super smart and determined to find the killer of his neighbour’s dog. This one is more about tugging at the heart strings, but it still involves mystery and family secrets and timeless coming-of-age story line.

 

 

Review: This Shattered World (Starbound #2) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

9781743319703Since I recently reviewed These Broken Stars in all its incredible starry glory, I feel like we need a follow-up review of the sequel: This Shattered World! Because these books are EXCELLENT. And the third book (Their Fractured Light) comes out in December! SO SOON. I am anticipating it greatly by flailing and also planning to be an astronaut. But anyway. Onto the review!

This Shattered World is about Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac. Jubilee is in the army and crushing rebellions and, um, Flynn is the rebellion. They make an unlikely duo and get caught by people who want to kill them and they’re sassy and the plot is exciting and — it’s basically all-round interesting. No dull moments! And you never quite feel safe reading it, with this military people with their trigger-fingers and the rebels who will do anything to get their freedom back. I loved that it kept me glued to the page!

I loved This Shattered World, but I loved These Broken Stars (#1) a little bit more. The first book set such a high standard and I connected to the characters so much. But that doesn’t mean the sequel wasn’t incredibly exciting and intense. This Shattered World had a strong military vibe, conspiracy theories, and dug into politics. I did miss all the banter that book #1 had though. Although Jubilee is utterly kick-butt and you would not want to mess with her. Not ever. It’s also diverse! Which is so glorious. Jubilee is half Chinese. Flynn is Irish.

Oh, and remember the dastardly “whispers” from book #1? How everyone was going crazy because of them? WELL. HERE THEY ARE AGAIN. There’s more explanations this time and the sickness was referred to as “the fury”. Which is nefarious and evil.

Everyone also acted very mature. It’s still YA and the characters are around 18, but gwash, I guess the army living in outer-space ages you? I loved their kick-butt attitudes and confidence and maturity, but they felt very too old.

The romance between Jubilee and Flynn was definitely adorable and didn’t take over the plot. It’s more about war.  Jubilee and Flynn have similar personalities and their relationship basically started out as, “HEY I HATE YOU, YOU LITTLE REBEL.” Then guns firing. Glares flying. All the good romantic stuff. I loved their character development and how their relationship changed.

“Letting yourself get hurt isn’t brave, love. Brave is protecting others from hurt.”

I loved this book and it’s one I definitely have plans to reread. It was so rich in detail and so packed with conspiracy and secrets and broken hearts. I loved the characters and I was engrossed with the ending. There are some serious twists that will leave you gasping for breath. (I’m beginning to rely on Kaufman and Spooner to deliver mind blowing twists! They haven’t let me down yet!) This series has definitely sold me on sci-fi and I’m absolutely dying for the next book’s release.

 

PURCHASE:

Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

9781423171027I had no idea what to expect when I read These Broken Stars (co-authored by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner) because I don’t read a lot of sci-fi. But WOW OH WOW. It was just incredible. It was exciting and sassy and flawless. I constantly hear it pitched as “The Titanic In Space” and basically – yes. It’s about space-ship crashes and survival and a hate-turn-love romance that makes me squeak with intense feelings. And have you seen that cover?! THAT DRESS!? Easily one of my most favourite covers of ever. I would recommend this book to every human, alien, and stray cat.

So go read it.

NO WAIT! Finish my review first, because I have more things to rave and flail about.

It’s set in space, so we get all the epic futuristic technology and starry descriptions. I love the thought of massive spaceships with their laser guns and soldiers and technology. What I didn’t know, when I picked it up, was how heavily it featured survival. It’s only partially about space things — but mostly, our two protagonists are fighting through an uninhabited planet jungle, trying to survive and be rescued. Since I’ve grew up devouring Gary Paulson’s Hatchet trilogy, this was so my thing.

Let’s discuss the characters! I loved them. It’s dual narrated by Lilac and Tarver.

  • Lilac LaRoux: she’s a “princess” — rich and snobbish, but such a sweetie underneath. Her father basically controls the galaxy (money, peoples, money is everything) and he dotes on her. Usually I find the “snob” character unlikeable and I don’t care about them. But not Lilac! She was interesting and relatable and I found it so easy to feel for her.
  • Major Tarver Merendsen: He’s the epic, young, and war-hero. Except that he’s extremely sarcastic. His humour was awesome! I loved how he was frustrated out of his mind with Lilac’s princess ways, but he was never cruel to her. I love how he kept being a gentleman – no matter what the circumstances. His voice is very different to Lilac’s too, which is super important in dual-narrated books. I loved BOTH their chapters and can’t even pick a favourite!

What I loved most about Tarver and Lilac is – they hated each other! It’s hilarious. Of course, they don’t stay that way, but they’re so snarky at the beginning.

“Where will I sit?”
Sit? Why, on this comfortable chaise lounge I’ve carried here for you in my pocket, Your Highness, so glad you asked. I clamp my mouth shut, struggling not to say it aloud.

 

Between each chapter is a snippet of Tarver being interrogated. I loved these! My only criticism is: some of them sounded the same. But Tarver really gives his interrogators a hard time and it’s hilarious.

“Major, to what extent did you act upon your feelings for Miss LaRoux?”
“Medium.”
“Excuse me?”
“How am I supposed to answer that question?”

 

The ending will blow your mind! It has a plot twist that basically knocked me over — and I loved it so so much. The writing is amazing and flows perfectly and, basically, I can say no evil about this delicious book.

[PURCHASE HERE]

A Glorious List of YA Apocalypse Books

I have a deep love for all books about the end of the world and the apocalypse. It’s exciting! I love the speculation of what could happen. Because zombies could totally happen. Or angels. Or destruction by walking trees. WHO KNOWS.

Today I have a list of Young Adult books about the apocalypse and the end of the world. Some are entertainingly far-fetched but others could totally happen. I love books like these because they make you think and speculate and be grateful for that survivalist horde of peanut butter hidden in your pantry.

~

THE AGE OF MIRACLES [PURCHASE]9781471124853

While I didn’t find this the most fast paced book of ever, it really intrigued me because it could totally happen. It’s more about the psychology of human reactions during the End of the World. The earth is slowing down, days and nights are all messed up, and people are getting sick. Oh, and it’s a coming-of-age story about Julia becoming a teen. She has a crush. The world is ending. Her mother is hoarding peanut butter (not a bad plan). People are dying. It felt so realistic.

 

9780062198518

NOT A DROP TO DRINK [PURCHASE]

This is probably my all-time favourite apocalypse story! It focuses on “what if water was precious?” which is an excellent point because humans just don’t do well without water. It’s about Lynne, who has a pond, which is like gold, and she has to protect it or lose it. I adored the blunt, crisp writing style too, and Lynne was tough as anything.

 

9780702249761

THE SKY SO HEAVY [PURCHASE]

This is an excellent Australian end of the world story and, like The Age of Miracles, it’s so realistic! I could totally imagine things going down like this if nuclear warfare started. It’s really gritty and oh it’ll pull at your heart strings. Also it’s about two brothers trying to find their parents and survive and stick together. I’m such a sucker for sibling stories so this is an insta-win for me.

 

9780062201812THE END GAMES [PURCHASE]

But we totally need a moment for zombies…oh don’t look at me like that. It could totally happen! And how better to speculate than to read a zombified book about a teen pretending the entire apocalypse is just a computer game — to get his little brother through it without panicking. (See?! I told you I love sibling stories!) It has a computer game vibe and it’s very emotional and the characters are so intensely amazing.

 

9780761463276ANGELFALL [PURCHASE]

Angels and demons ruling the earth is also totally plausible. (Do not doubt this.) I particularly love this trilogy because it’s really dark and gritty and doesn’t shy away from how the depraved the world could become with no rules. It features a meltable romance between a tough, sensible protagonist (Penryn) and a wingless angel (Raffe) and it’s full of snark and sass.

9780439829106

 

TOMORROW WHEN THE WAR BEGAN [PURCHASE]

And of course I need to finish up with this iconic apocalypse novel set in rural Australia. It’s about a group of teens who go camping in the bush…only to come home and find their hometown has been taken over by foreign soldiers. It’s about guerrilla warfare and how war changes you.

 

Review: Vicious by VE Schwab

9781783290215In light of VE Schawb recently announcing on twitter that Vicious is getting a sequel (!!), I decided I needed to review this book here. ASAP. Because it is glorious. It’s about super villains! It’s dark and scary and evil and full of anti-heroes with complex backstories and warped thinking to justify their evil intentions. Also there’s chocolate milk. This book has everything.

The story follows Victor and Eli, two college dudes who are proving a theory about superpowers. As a mostly YA reader, I was a bit worried I wouldn’t like this adult book. But, pfft, I shouldn’t have been. The writing is golden. It’s like a teeny tiny step away from YA, since it features college age-characters half the time. There’s also a 12-year-old girl who shares some of the narrating.

Can we talk about the villainousness?! I read so many books that claim to be about “villains”. BAH. They always couch evil in holy intentions. In Vicious, it explores EVERYTHING. Like what it means to be the bad guy. It explores the DARK side. Basically, Eli and Victor are two french fries short of a happy meal. They are twisted. They didn’t always start that way, though, and I love how the book is about them “before” they turned dark and “after”.

QUICK LIST OF THE CHARACTERS:

  • Victor: He’s the protagonist of the story. Ahhh! How do I even describe him? He’s very calm and confident and has a sharky smile and will risk everything and yet has a soft spot for lost people. He kind of picks up strays, which is entirely adorable. But at the same time, he’ll kill a guy point blank and not even blink. SO YEAH THERE’S THAT.
  • Eli: Okay, he is just a screw loose. Even before their experiments started going crazy, Victor always described him as having a monster under his skin that sometimes peeked out. Eli’s also a religious nut. (Why are the religious ones always crazy?!) So Eli wants to kill everyone with superpowers because he believes he’s ordained by God to do so. Victor probably wouldn’t have cared less, except that he and Eli are enemies and he’s gotta be on the opposite side of Eli…just because.
  • Mitch: I loved Mitch! He’s like this huge hulk of a guy that works with Victor…and he looks like he’d smash your brain in his fist, but he’s actually a computer genius. He also loves chocolate milk.
  • Sydney: She’s adorable! She’s the 12 year old and her character development is insanely fantastic.
  • Serena: She’s Sydney’s older sister. And while Sydney ends up with Victor, Serena ends up with Eli….and Serena is a bad nut. She controls people with her voice. Which is kind of a scary power…But when Eli wanted to kill Sydney and Serena went along with it? I HAD NO RESPECT FOR SERENA.

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Basically it’s like Charles Xavier and Magneto’s from X-Men’s origin story. But mix that in with The Prestige movie, where there are two guys doing mostly bad things and how-do-you-root-for-either…but then one guy has a soft spot for kids, and the other guy isn’t meaning to be so evil and — UGH — so many emotions! VE Schawb is a master of crafting words.

It’s told in the present and past. I didn’t find this confusing at all, in fact, I loved it! One minute we’d be in the college, watching Eli and Victor spiral into their evil intentions. The next, we’d be in the future, with Sydney and Victor trying to stop the mad Eli from killing all the ExtraOrdinaries.

I also found it really addictive. Time escaped me! When I finished I felt like dashing to the library and getting every Schawb book I can find because — WOW, JUST WOW. It’s incredible and perfect and totally my kind of story. It’s violent and vicious (duh) and I can’t wait for the promised sequel.

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Review: The Lost Hero (Heroes of Olympus #1) by Rick Riordan

9780141325491I absolutely adored The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan! It’s the first book in his secondary series about Percy Jackson. The first series and I had a mildly rocky start. Oh don’t get me wrong! I love Percy Jackson and the middle-grade series was cute and quirky and fun. But it lacked punch. And, for me The Lost Hero was just EVERYTHING. It’s also more Young Adult, compared to the first series Middle Grade feel, which makes me chortle like a gleeful penguin because I LOVE YA.

I’ve been converted into a Riordan fangirl. #notevensad

We have 3 POVs: Jason, Piper, and Leo. They are so fabulous and interesting! And diverse! And there was so much mystery surrounding these three. So much backstory. I just kept gobbling pages wanting answers.

So a quick look at the characters individually!?

  • JASON: I have to admit that he’s my least favourite. He’s typical “mysterious hero” material anad  a little cliche with his fabulous looks, tattoos, and amnesia. Where is Jason from? Who is he? Why does he randomly speak Latin? But he still felt…flat? He’s the kind of kid that does no wrong except is perfect.
  • PIPER: I loved her! She’s got a real soft side and yet is a bit of a kleptomaniac. She’s also half Cherokee, which is nice and refreshing to have diversity!
  • LEO: Easily my most FAVOURITE CHARACTER EVER. He’s funny! His hands can spontaneously bust into fire. He’s a whiz at making things and is usually covered in grease. He’s also Latino. He’s so fuuuuuny. (Just in case I haven’t mentioned it enough.) He’s the side-kick, the comic relief, and everyone totally takes him for granted. I love you, Leo. You are easily the best character in the book.

The plot followed the typical Send-Kids-On-Potentially-Lethal-Quest format that all Riordan’s books have. I mean, technically this is the sixth book of his I’ve read with this layout. And while it’d be nice to have a new plot structure once in a while…in a way it’s comforting to know how the book is going to be laid out. The story has plot twists and weird prophecies and gnarly action scenes.

 

“What about a compromise? I’ll kill them first, and if it turns out they were friendly, I’ll apologize.”

 

Although, I do have to admit….The book is way too long. It’s like nearly 600-pages. There were too many detours that didn’t do anything for the plot.

I’m not a Greek myth buff, but I love how the mythology is woven in flawlessly and I accidentally learn a lot while enjoying a delicious and hilarious story.

I basically enjoyed it a lot and loved the cliffhanger. One needs to have The Son Of Neptune on hand to devour straight away, is all I can say. I enjoyed the deeper plot and the maturity of the characters and I loved being able to laugh my head off at this hilarious quips.

 

“If possible, try to avoid pushing each other over the edge, as that would cause me extra paperwork.”

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A Glorious List of YA Books Narrated By Boys

I occasionally hear murmurs in the back row that most Young Adult books are narrated by only girls. This is totally untrue, of course. But I DO SEE why you’d think that! All the “famous” books, like The Fault in Our Stars and Divergent and The Hunger Games all have female protagonists who kick butt or fight for scrambled eggs rights (a noble cause). So! I shall bring you a list of books narrated by the dudes, today. You are so welcome.

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CONTEMPORARY

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  • ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL: This is such a snortingly (that totally is a word, don’t doubt me here) good book! It’s narrated by Greg, who is has a very self-deprecating sense of humour and is very down-to-earth.
  • WINGER: It’s about boarding school and this little squid of a kid called Ryan Dean who is very stupid and funny and gets into all sorts of sticky pickles.
  • ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE: Once you get past how exhausting the title is…this is an excellent book. It’s set in Mexico and narrated by Ari and it’s very dialogue heavy (which I love!) and has an LGBT romance.

FANTASY

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  • INK AND BONE: It’s narrated by Jess, who is the BEST dude of ever because he loves books. Like really loves them. It’s a reimagined future where the Alexandria library still existed! And said library is…kind of psychotic.
  • THE FALSE PRINCE: This is more lower YA, but it’s epic fantasy and wonderfully funny with some HUGE plot twists you won’t see coming. Orphan boys pretending to be princes? What could go wrong?
  • FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK: Ahhh, I love this book! This is a spectacular high fantasy adventure with a super detailed fantasy world of corruption and murder and bad guys. Finnikin is the narrator. I’m hoping your super sleuth skills already guessed that, though.

 

MENTAL ILLNESS

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  • CHARM AND STRANGE: This one will probably break you. It’s endlessly emotional. It’s about Drew who has delusions and PTSD and — wait…you want to know why? WELL READ THE BOOK.
  • IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY: is not actually a funny story at all. It’s about Craig who has depression and his journey through a mental health hospital.
  • FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK: Ahhh this book is incredible. Seriously, INCREDIBLE. It’s about depression and possibly Autism (though it’s not stated directly) and it’s about Leonard the day he took a gun to school. It takes place over one day!

 

SPECULATIVE FICTION

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  • BECAUSE YOU’LL NEVER MEET ME: This is super interesting because it’s narrated by two boys who have disabilities that will let them never meet! Moritz is blind and has a pacemaker, and Olly is allergic to electricity. It goes all X-Men at the end. Super cool.
  • NOGGIN: This dude, Travis, is dying of cancer, so he elects to have his head CUT OFF AND FROZEN, and then they “bring him back to life” 5 years later. Is that not interesting?!? IS THAT NOT COOL?!
  • PLAYING TYLER: It’s about Tyler (duh) who has ADHD and ends up testing out some video games for a dubious company…but the games aren’t always what they seem.

 

DYSTOPIAN

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  • THE GIVER: This is like the forefront of YA dystopian and is so a must read. It’s about Jonas who’s in this “perfect” society that (of course) isn’t what it seems. It’s told so simply but GAH. It’s powerful.
  • UNWIND: It’s set in a society where if you don’t want your kids, you can totally just use them for spare parts. I’M NOT EVEN KIDDING. It’s entirely chilling. Conner is going to be “unwound” because no one wants him, so he’s on the run.
  • STONE RIDER: It’s a futuristic motorbike race! Woot! Lots of action and adventure and dead people everywhere. Adam is signing up to the race, despite facing certain possible death, for the chance to win money and get a better life.

 

Review: Rogue (Talon #2) by Julie Kagawa

9781848453821I absolutely fell in love with Talon by Julie Kagawa, as you might recall from this gushing review of mine last month. What’s not to love?! Dragons! Guns! Missions! The occasional delicious summery smoothie? Consider me 100% hooked. So of course I had to get my hands on the sequel: Rogue. And of course I must gush about it too. Because: REASONS.

Ha, I’m kidding. I’ll give you actual reasons, copious reasons, of why you should read this book.

I really absolutely seriously love dragons. And while I think the first book, Talon, was better than the sequel, I was pretty much set to devour this delicious dragonish adventure and be monstrously happy. There’s so much action! The character’s have attitudes and personalities that leap off the page, and there’s sly wit and banter…and did I mention dragons?

As a little refresher: The series is about a dragon organisation (Talon) which plans to take over the human world, or something equally nefarious. They plant their “in training” dragons into society and get them assimilated before turning them into high profile spies. In book 1, we meet Ember and Dante, who are teen dragons pretending to be human while being trained. Except Ember meets a renegade dragon and dreams of freedom, but her twin, Dante, is all set to follow the rules.
Rogue literally takes off where Talon ended. Garett is about to be executed. Riley/Cobalt is being tough and grumpy (he probably needs a snack…low blood pressure or something? Seriously, that dude is always in a mood). Ember is flipping her hair and sassing. And Dante is getting swallowed by the Talon organisation and being preened for a position of great power. We get 4 POVs, which isn’t my favourite, because while I cared a lot about Ember and Garret and Dante, I cared exactly 2% about moody Riley. He narrates a huge hunk of the book and I’d have much preferre9781848453371d more from Dante’s perspective. In fact, I would’ve been okay if Riley got caught and turned into a scaly dragon handbag.

Being a sequel, Rogue also ups the romance stakes…by unfortunately bringing in a love-triangle. I’m a little tired of triangles myself, to be honest, BUT. It did create a lot of tension which is always delicious to read about. Ember is torn between Riley, the rebel dragon, and Garrett, a military teen who used to hunt and kill dragons. Obviously, after Ember risked her life to get Garrett out of prison, I kind of lean towards him instead of Riley.

I do so love the writing and the characters (!!) and the series in general! Goodreads assures me there’ll be at least 5 books, which I’m dragonishly excited about. I always get caught up when I read a Julie Kagawa book! I totally forget time! There’s military action and shapeshifting and bullets flying. And the whole idea of super slick secret-agent dragon organisations is totally unique to me. And the covers?! They’re so pretty I want to hug them.

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