Review: Roseblood by AG Howard

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I grew up absolutely in love with the Phantom of the Opera musical, so you can imagine my extreme excitement at finding out Roseblood by AG Howard would be a YA modernised retelling! And it was absolutely beautifully written, with a good dash of creepy and disturbing. A glorious tribute to the original! Except far less singing. And more cats. But I’m not arguing. I’m a big fan of this author and her Splintered series is one of my top favourites of all time, so I’m so glad her new book didn’t disappoint at all!

Roseblood basically follows the tale of Rune, who is possessed with an amazing operatic voice…that she can’t control. It literally forces her to sing and is more than a little disturbing. She’s shipped off to a musical boarding school in Paris (that just so happens to be inside an old abandoned Opera House) where she meets a ghostlike boy in the garden who plays a violin and coaches her singing. But the boy is also the adopted son of the original Phantom…who just happens to want Rune for something decidedly sinister and deadly. It’s absolutely stuffed with aesthetically pleasing scenes and it rekindles theories about the original story and also adds in new and exciting twists! It reads a bit like a “sequel” and a “but what happened next”, which I absolutely loved.

Plus who doesn’t want to go to boarding school in an old opera house, right?!

It’s told in dual point-of-view, with both Rune and Thorn narrating. I loved Rune as she learns to accept her magical abilities, but Thorn absolutely stole my heart. He’s a tortured and haunted sort of boy, hiding in shadows with his brilliant violin playing. He wears a mask as legacy of the Phantom, his adopted father, too. And the two of them together were just the cutest thing of ever.

I’m pleased there was so much music too. As it should be. I’m a complete music fiend and used to play violin myself, so I adored Thorn’s capabilities (lowkey jealous of his Stradivarius) and I love how Rune was a singer.

It also has delightfully creepy elements. There are bleeding roses and ghosts staring at you behind mirrors and weird dreams and dangerous magical powers that may or may not suck all the energy out of those around you when you use it. Rune was very self aware of how creepy the opera house was, too, and I like how she punched typical horror-story cliches by knowing what she was getting into when she walked into abandoned buildings. Very meta. Very nice.

The writing is absolutely lush and detailed and beautiful. Although sometimes the description did get a bit over-the-top and took away from the action of the story. Overall, though, I loved getting swallowed into the vivid and gorgeous scenery. The plot itself wasn’t so face paced, but it kept my attention on every page. I wanted to know about Thorn’s tragic past and I needed more details about the morally grey Phantom’s plans.

Roseblood is a beautifully written retelling that does the original justice! It lacked in the action department, but made up for it with the lush writing and the winning characters and the lovely creepy factor, like roses that bleed all over you and ghostly cats. It may or may not, however, inspire you to run around your house belting out the Phantom of the Opera theme songs. You’ve been warned.

5 Types of YA Romances

As it draws closer to Valentine’s Day, some of us will be inevitably feel like reading an adorable, feelsy YA romance. Love is in the air, and all that, after all! And lucky for us, books offer many types of romantic books, from those who fall in love at first sight, to those that try to, well, stab each other first and then fall in love. Whatever works for you, friend! Love comes in all shapes and sizes!

Today I’m listing 5 types of romance tropes I see in YA books and I’ll add in some books that fit those categories so you can devour them at dawn.


LOVE-TO-HATE ROMANCE

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This is definitely my favourite romance trope because it starts with sass and action and usually fight scenes! There’s nothing like two characters battling wits and cunning only to realise they work better as a team than stabbing each other. How do I always end up shipping the enemies the most?? Who would know. But there we have it. It also puts forth great chances for complex character development, which is a beautiful thing. Sobbing over character development? How dare you accuse me of such.

 

FRIENDS TO LOVERS

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This romance trope is so so super cute because nothing makes me happier than two good friends deciding they need to be more than friends. Plus I feel confident  that their relationship is deep and not superficial and my bookworm heart is comfortable shipping them without thinking they’re going to break up 2 chapters later. Angsty and insecure romances = no go for me, Joe. But best friends who know each like the back of their hands already? BLESS THEM. Plus what you need in life is someone who already knows your favourite food. Saves so much fuss later.

 

FORBIDDEN LOVE BIRDS

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This kind of relationship is usually fraught with danger and risk, which makes it all the more exciting to read about. It can have a Romeo-and-Juliet vibe happening. Lots of stealth. Lots of guilt. And it’s always great when love smashes boundaries of hate or distance or really really tall walls. Let no one say love can’t climb.

 

THE LOVE TRIANGLE

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 This trope has been overdone in YA which leads a lot of readers to cringing and backing away slowly when they see it. But! It can still be done well! There’s a lot of emotional tension when a girl or boy has to choose between two potential lovers. Especially if it’s heart vs duty. And it leads to some fantastically anxious moments of vigorous shipping and picking one’s team and arguing with your neighbour or your neighbour’s cat about if the protagonist made the right choice.

 

LOVERS IN DENIAL

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Even though it can be a bit frustrating seeing two people who should definitely be together but are absolutely both denying it…it can still be super cute to read about! You spend the whole book wondering who’s going to slap them to their senses so they declare undying affection for each other instead of tiptoeing around the matter.

 

Review: The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore is a beautiful example of why Magical Realism is the best. It took me a few pages to get into the swing of this magical world where people can grow feathers and curses are very real, but after that? I was hopelessly hooked. The writing was flawlessly gorgeous. It was the kind of writing that absolutely devoured your attention so it was just you + book = everything there is. (Which is a little unfortunate if one has to, like, stop reading and go to work or whatever. Note To Self: read this book when you have a free weekend and can devour it all at once!)9781250058652

This year has only just begun and already I’ve found a few favourite!

The story is basically of two warring performer families: the Spanish Palomas family who wear mermaid tails and put on whimsical shows, and the French Corbeaus family who grow feathers and wear wings and dance in the tree tops. Their rivalry dates back generations and they believe even touching each other will cause death and curses. It has a Romeo & Juliet feel! And of course two teens from each side accidentally end up falling for each other, in a slowburn and entirely magical romance. Lace gets thrown out of the Paloma family and ends up masquerading as a nobody in the Corbeaus family in an effort to get a burned curse lifted off her arm. She doesn’t mean to fall in love with Cluck, the outsider with damaged hands and red feathers in his hair. But bring on performances, burns, terrible storms, and hopeless accidents and here is The Weight of Feathers.

This is magical realism at its finest. It mixes real world settings with dashes of magic and comes across so well written I felt like I got sucked into another land. The story is also mostly set in a small town, and I loved the aching summery vibe of stillness and loneliness. When the setting just leaps off the page, you know you’re in for a good read.

The diversity is also amazing and exceptional. Not only do we have French and Spanish protagonists (dual narrating) who are also people of colour, it also touches on disability representation. Cluck has damaged fingers which complicates his job of making wings for his family’s shows. Lace sustains massive scarring on her face and has to learn to accept herself and not view herself as damaged. It’s really beautiful how all the themes are woven together. I also loved the amount of French and Spanish words! I did have to resort to Google Translate a few times, but mostly you can tell what they’re saying by context. And it gives the cultures a deeper feel to see them using their own tongue.

I absolutely loved the protagonists too. Usually dual point-of-view and I don’t get on well. But both Lace and Cluck’s perspectives were brilliant. Lace is more logical and down-to-earth and will not be pushed around by anyone. Cluck is dreamy and an outsider even with his own family. He’s constantly abused and pushed aside by them and he wears strange clothes and is unknowable — until Lace chooses to know him. The way they ended up relying and being strengthened by each other was so encouraging to read.

I also appreciated that the romance was very slow. No instalove or falling into each other’s arms on page 5 and professing eternal love. It felt realistic! And it was more a journey of trust = friendship = love.

This is definitely a book I’ll come back to for copious re-reads. It was unique and beautifully written, with a storyline that wasn’t particularly new, but was written in such a fresh way that I was addicted to every page. Lace and Cluck are the most adorable and winning couple I’ve read about in a long time. And I rooted for their lives to get better! It features family, magic, and quite a bucketful of suffering. I only wish there were more books.

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Review: Reckless by Cornelia Funke

With the new edition of Reckless by Cornelia Funke just having hit the shelves, I decided I had to try this dark fairy tale retelling! I had no idea what to expect since I read Inkheart when I was only a small bookworm and it’d been so long I’d forgotten most of it anyway. But I was intrigued by the idea of a book being edited and rewritten again before being released with a new cover. And, in the author’s note, Cornelia Funke seemed very pleased that she had the opportunity to make a beloved story even better. So I was excited! I dived right in!9781782691242

Reckless was stuffed with dark, twisted fairy tale-seque stories. We have monsters and mayhem and murder and evil fairies and tricks and prisons and animated dark woods. My kind of story basically!

The story follows Jacob Reckless, who discovered a world behind his mirror. He’s spent most of his life in the Mirrorworld, being a treasure hunter and getting tangled up in monsters and faeries and unicorns. He’s made enemies and friends and it’s more home to him than the human realm. Then his little brother crawls into Mirrorworld, survives a vicious attack by monsters, but ends up with his flesh being petrified to jade. Jacob has to reverse it or lose his brother forever. This will require a quest. Probably a deadly quest. Probably everyone will betray them and the cure will be the least easiest thing to achieve.

The best part of this book is obviously the magical world! I had in the back of my mind it would be a whimsical and gentle middle-grade story. BUT NO. It’s very dark, although not graphically written, so it just leaves the mayhem up to your imagination. I also appreciated all the fairy tale references! I adore fairy tales, especially from a more sinister angle where nothing is as it seems in the originals. I particularly like how the whole of Reckless had a Sleeping Beauty theme happening, but instead it was a sleeping/petrified boy who’d need to be woken by the girl’s magical kiss. Genderbent retellings give me life.

Also sibling stories are easily the best thing. I love it when brothers have to risk everything to save each other! It’s always a refreshing change from books focused solely on romance too. And even though Jacob is a rather severe, closed off, and serious type of fellow, there’s absolutely nothing that’d stop him from rescuing his brother in time. But it also has an amazing secondary cast that includes: a shapeshifting fox girl who may or may not be in love with Jacob and he in love with her though they both won’t admit it; a sassy backstabbing dwarf who would sell you for a tube of toothpaste probably; a sweet and loving girl who will give Jacob’s brother the kiss of life if only she doesn’t die before they get there in time.

Basically Reckless is an amazing story and not to be missed! It left me feeling rather inspired and excited and wanting to read more (thank you dear universe that it’s a trilogy) which is exactly the kind of feelings I want to finish a book with. I’m so glad this series got a revamp and I can’t wait to see how Jacob tackles the next volume. Full of adventure, torture, and monsters, this is a tale the Grimm brothers would be proud of.

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Review: Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven

9780385755924I was so incredibly excited to read Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven! One of my most favourite books in the world is her YA Debut, All The Bright Places, which managed to reduce me to a howling mess of adoration, feels, and awareness about mental health matters. I was a bit nervous that Holding Up The Universe would destroy me or not live up to All The Bright Places. And you know what? It was different. And that’s okay! There was still feels, epic dialogue, and some sweet moments that absolutely melted my heart. It featured two teens who were struggling with life, who weren’t perfect, who had a lot to learn, and yet were so relatable I just wanted to squish them with hugs. I am 100% of the opinion that a good book makes you feel things. All stars of approval for Holding Up the Universe!

I feel like a big message of the book was about “being seen”. It’s equal parts about Libby (who was once known as the “fattest teen in America”) and Jack (who has prosopagnosia which is a disability that renders you unable to recognise facial features). I loved the storyline! It was so poignant and beautifully written. Here’s these two teens who have a very rocky meeting (aka they nearly get each other expelled) but slowly learn to stop making assumptions about people and listen. And give second chances. It impressed me so much honestly! I also adored all the messages of self worth and love and acceptance that were woven through the book!

Brief List Of Other Things I Loved:

  • There are so many references to the TV show of Supernatural! Of which I am a ginormous fan so thank you for all that nerdom!
  • There is a lot of dancing. Dancing everywhere! Dancing whether people think you’re good at it or not! Dancing because it makes you happy!
  • There is diverse representation of size and skin colour and disabilities.
  • Jack has a gorgeous afro and has an epic love for it that made my day.
  • There is self-love for one’s body, no matter what the size.

 

And the characters?! I loved them! Jack was my absolutely favourite, but it took me longer to warm up to Libby, as she speaks and thinks all the right things, but when it comes down to it…she body shames herself. She’s still overweight but not dangerously so like she was when they had to lift her out of her house in a crane. She also has a bit of a self-righteous attitude. But you know what?? She’s been through a lot! She lost her mother, she nearly died, and now she’s doing her best to show the world you should love yourself. THE END. No exceptions.

I just felt Jack was a pure and precious cinnamon roll. And yes his decisions in the book often absolutely sucked. He hadn’t been diagnosed with prosopagnosia so he basically felt he was falling apart, that he was crazy or broken. Since he’s “face blind” it really freaks him out that he can’t tell people apart. In a room full of kids, he can’t even pick out his own brother. I could feel his fright and anxiety on every page and I just rooted for him to discover having a disability is not shameful and doesn’t make him broken. The book handled it all so well! I can only applaud!

This is definitely a powerful story with really important themes and messages. I also couldn’t stop reading! The chapters are short and punchy and the characters are relatable and precious. What more can one want?!

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Review: Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman was just an incredibly book that I fell absolutely in love with! But the entire story was so so relatable with its themes of teens not knowing what to do with their life, struggling with anxiety, being super stressed over school, and being total geeks and nerds of the internet. This book knows what it is to be a teen! And it sums everything up so beautiful and amazingly I can only clutch the novel and feel so very happy.

9780007559244The story is about Frances who has two interests: (1) be the best of her school and get into Cambridge University, and (2) be absolutely obsessed with a youtube podcast, called Radio Silence, and accidentally met and befriend its secretive creator: Aled. Frances and Aled used to know each other as kids but they drifted apart…and now Frances discovers she’s her ex-friend’s biggest fan?! The world is small. Teeny tiny, basically. The two have an amazing summer of creativity and the best friendship I’ve ever read. But obviously happiness can’t last and this book would rather have your heart broken. There is betrayal, emotional manipulation, missing people, accidents that ruin everything, and teens falling apart as the stresses of pre-uni-entrance mount up.

The characters were definitely a highlight for me. Everything from France’s dorkiness to Aled’s love of the internet. And plus they all wear the most fabulous clothes you have ever heard of. We’re talking about Monsters Inc leggings and unicorn shirts here. And the way the fandom life sneaked into all the pages just made my own fangirl heart continue the rabid flailing it’s been doing since the dawn of time. Plus I found all the characters so relatable and unique and complex!

I’m also a big fan of how the story focused on friendship first and foremost. A non-romantic relationship between a boy and a girl? YES PLEASE.

I’m also so pleased with the amount of diversity diversity representation here. Frances is biracial Ethiopian/caucasian. Aled has anxiety (probably also depression). And most of the characters are queer with bisexual, gay, and asexual characters featuring.

And shout out to Frances’ mum who was actually an awesome parent. Finding epic parents in YA books isn’t like…easy. So it was absolutely lovely to have France’s mum be (A) supporting, (B) geeky too, (C) wear a unicorn onesie, and (D) help out with the kids’ schemes when they needed it.

30628062The whole book was just so realistic. They stopped being characters and just became amazing people you could imagine meeting on the street.

At 500-pages I thought it might not have enough plot to keep me glued to the page. But I was wrong! (Obviously. Everything about this book is perfect.) It’s about being yourself and also discovering what it means to be yourself. It’s also about creating art and being an unapologetic fangirl. There’s also a mystery behind Aled’s disappearing sister (who used to be the crush of Frances’ life) and a subplot of Aled’s emotionally abusive mother. Then there’s like random sleepovers and discussions and midnight math sessions and SNACK BREAKS and everything an epic and beautiful friendship should include. I didn’t want the story to end.

This is a definitely the kind of book anyone facing highschool will relate to. And anyone who likes tumblr and fandom life. And anyone who’s ever felt alone and alienated. Basically: everyone should read it. Probably yesterday.

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Review: A List of Cages by Robin Roe

A List of Cages by Robin Roe is an incredibly heartfelt and raw story. The writing was beautiful and emotional, and the characters just sneaked off the page until they became incredibly real and relatable people. I was so invested!

I’m also endlessly impressed at how this is a debut book! This author is already on my auto-buy list and I can’t wait for whatever she writes next. A List of Cages was my first five-star read of the year!

Basically this is a story about friendship and abuse. I will warn you: it’s not easy to read. It heavily features child abuse and emotional and mental manipulation. It was thoroughly heartbreaking, also for the fact that these things happen when they shouldn’t. It had me near to tears several times.9781484763803

The story is dual narrated by Adam, a highschool senior with ADHD, and 14 year old Julian, who is a foster kid living with an abusive uncle. Back when Julian first lost his parents, he lived with Adam’s family for a while and they become like brothers. Then Julian vanished when his abusive uncle got custody of him and no one knows what’s going on. As the two attend the same school again, Adam tries to rekindle friendship with Julian and figure out what happened to the bright bubbly kid he once knew.

I loved the emphasis on friendship! Also how it was “unconventional” friendship because the boys aren’t the same age. And I think this is really important to represent in fiction. Not only does it show us that (A) it is awesome and great to be friends with people who aren’t necessarily your same age, and (B) Adam and Julian had an “adopted big brother / little brother” relationship which was absolutely adorable and precious. I love how Adam just stepped up to protect Julian and look out for him.

Even though it was dual narrated it was so easy to tell between the boys’ chapters because they had such different voices! This is just such excellent writing. Adam’s chapters were bouncy and bright and energetic, while Julian’s were reserved and laced with fear.

I also appreciated the representation of disability here! Although it is hard to read at times, because both boys face hurtful treatment due to people dismissing their disabilities. This is actually a sad and realistic truth about “invisible disabilities” like ADHD and Dyslexia. They both got into a lot of trouble at school and it’s heartbreaking. But what I loved was the support network amongst their family and friends and how the boys weren’t portrayed as broken or in need of curing. So encouraging! So wonderful!

The book is actually quite small, so I flew through it in just a few hours! Although sometimes the shortness did work against the novel, in that a few things were glossed over or rushed. Adam’s romance with Emerald didn’t feel nearly explored enough, nor Emerald really fleshed out. And I would’ve liked to know more about Adam’s personal life and have some other facts cleared up that I can’t talk about because of spoilers. But I still appreciated that the book was to the point and absolutely addictive. I just wanted to know if everyone would be okay!

I definitely recommend this book! It gave me so many emotions and absolutely caught me in the feels (a term here which basically says I’m mildly HEARTBROKEN but also filled with hope at the ending). I think it was realistic, relatable, and poignant. The power of friendship is important and knows no bounds!

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Review: Spark by Rachael Craw

9781922179623Spark by Rachael Craw is an amazing superpowers origin story that focuses on friendship and punching things. Two fantastic things to read about honestly. Sure it fell into a few typical superpower themed cliches, but it still managed to be exciting and engaging! It featured a simple magnificent plot twist that is guaranteed to blow your mind and knock your socks off simultaneously.

Evie is basically an average girl, living with her single aunt after her mother died. But turns out she’s actually a Shield — an experiment gone wrong leaving her with DNA that means she’s programmed to protect her best friend from any killers. Her body starts changing until she looks like a superpowered warrior and she starts training for the oncoming surprise threats. Except she gets a little distracted by her best friend’s brother — Jamie. Who, being a Shield too, is out of bounds. Ha.

This concept of DNA modified humans who have compulsively programmed to protect people was extremely awesome. It made them into almost “default heroes” but just to their one charge. There were plenty of sci-fi themed DNA discussions which kind of befuddled me, but a more science-attuned reader would probably adore.

Evie is also a fantastic narrator! She’s deep in grief when the book starts and not sure what her life is going to look like now that she’s without her mother. But as her Shield tendencies start activating and she finds a whole secret organisation is waiting for her — things take on a very different and exciting turn. I only got annoyed at the emphasis on physical beauty. With only a few weeks of combat training, she’s suddenly fit and athletic and super-model level gorgeous. All the superpowered people in this book are very carefully emphasised to be gorgeous and I thought it was a little shallow. But if that was the only drawback in pages of action, great dialogue, and superpowers — then I think we’re still doing well!

The romance was also slow-burn and intriguing. Especially since it’s “forbidden”. And I love how friendship still was a major focus! Evie is destined to protect Kitty and they have a very close bond. Although Evie does gravitate towards Jamie. Of course. Evie and Jamie had a “thing” when they were younger, but it rekindles in the book. I liked Evie and Jamie’s relationship and it was well balanced with training and action scenes, school and family dynamics.

The ending features incredible plot twists of awesome. Intense awesome. I didn’t see any of the twists coming and it opened up so many questions to be explored in the next novel, Stray. I’m desperate for answers and therefore needed the sequel ASAP. Because sure we have people bound by DNA to protect others…but there are also those bound by DNA to kill certain people. The plot just kept getting more interesting and mysterious which is a definite win for me.

Definitely try Spark if you’re looking for… superpowers, fight scenes, friendship, and an awkward heroine who finds out she has Mr. Incredible level strength and isn’t quite sure what to do with it.

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Review: Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

Tiny Pretty Things by Charaipotra and Clayton was an amazingly and addictive story set in a cutthroat ballet school. There’s nothing like a school of backstabbing ballerinas to make me very grateful I’m an un-athletic potato. I was absolutely glued to the page, however, desperately wondering who was going to survive to the end while my nerves shattered.9780062342393

The story centres around three ballerinas all competing for top of a prestigious ballet school. There can only be one “star” of the show, of course. And they all want it. Gigi is a black dancer and has left everything she’s ever loved and known to attend this dance school. June is a Korean dancer with an eating disorder and a mother who doesn’t believe ballet is worthwhile since June can never land the leading roll. And Bette is living in her older sister’s shadow while trying to dance to the top even though she’s not like her sister. There’s bullying and mental health discussions and the whispered danger of someone taking a prank too far and ballerinas potentially losing the chance to dance. Forever.

loved the writing. The story line was so captivating! It also had a huge cast and yet still managed to flesh everyone out. That is amazing. Most of the characters were completely awful to some degree. But I liked them despite also hating them. I cared about them and I wanted them to succeed even though they were really…horrible to each other.

I loved the three narrators and how their stories were so different yet interwove throughout the plot perfectly.

  • GIGI: She is the best. She’s the “new girl” to the school and an absolutely flawless ballerina. She’s black and the only black ballerina in the older classes, so she often feels ostracized. All the girls are really horrible to her because she’s very very good at dancing and is instantly the teacher’s favourite. She’s also really sweet and nice and kind.
  • BETTE: She’s basically the mean girl. She’s absolutely nasty and vicious and gorgeous and she hates Gigi and woah: please no one leave these girls in a room with a knife, okay? I really didn’t like Bette, but she had such a bad home life I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her.
  • JUNE: Her point-of-view wasn’t so important to the plot, but I still enjoyed it! She’s half Korean and her father was a mystery dancer, and her mother doesn’t want June to dance because of this. She really struggles with her anorexia and wants to be more than an understudy.

I also have much love for the secondary characters! I suspect Henri is a total psychopath. I loved Alec (Gigi’s boyfriend and Bette’s ex) and he was so sweet but yet oblivious to the damage the girls are causing each other. Will is sweet and gay and never gets lead roles and I feel bad for him. Although I’m furious at about 98% of all the kids’ parents. They pushed their children terribly and no wonder everyone was having a breakdown (me included).

The romance is very complicated and never healthy. Gigi is a better dancer than Bette and then Bette’s boyfriend dumped her and went with Gigi. Cue drama and angst and a lot of girl-on-girl hate. There’s lots of “stealing boyfriends” and cheating amongst the other characters and also emotional manipulation and it’s basically a trainwreck and hard to look away from.

BRIEF LIST OF THINGS I LOVED:

  • set entirely in a ballet boarding school
  • it actually talks about the technical parts of ballet and, as someone who knows naught, I thought it was really interesting to learn
  • there’s so much diversity representation!
  • it addresses mental health issues, particularly eating disorders, and disabilities
  • it’s really suspenseful and darkly addictive
  • it leaves you with so many questions and a huge need for the sequel

 

Tiny Pretty Things is definitely the kind of enthralling story you want in your life! It has a huge mystery element of “who is behind the malicious bullying” and it’ll keep you guessing the whole time. The characters were complex, the writing amazing, and I am in such awe of the amazing ability and dedication it’d take to be a ballerina!

 

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List of YA Alice in Wonderland Retellings

If there’s one thing I absolutely adore it’s: fairy tale retellings. And what could be better than an entire list of Alice in Wonderland retellings?! Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland is such a classic and it’s inspired so many writers to work madly at their own versions, from prequels to sequels to reinventions of the original tale completely. I love it! I can’t get enough! And just in case you can’t get enough either, I have compiled a list for you.

May we all think of six impossible things before breakfast and fight our daily Jabberwockies.

(Also see my list of Peter Pan retellings!)

 

ALICE IN WONDERLAND RETELLINGS


9781925479478HEARTLESS

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Written by the NYT bestselling author of the Lunar Chronicles — this is a prequel story from the point of view of the Queen of Hearts! You know that lovely lady who says “OFF WITH THEIR HEADS” frequently throughout the Alice tales? Yup. Here she is. But before she was a head chopping queen, she was called Cath and loved to bake. This is one of the most delicious books in existence basically since it’s loaded with delicious foodie descriptions. Expect desserts, mad tea parties, and a Victorian setting with balls and talking cats and a swoon-worthy Joker that might just steal a girl’s heart.


9781419706271SPLINTERED

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This is an “after Alice” sort of story and centres around one of Alice’s descendants, a girl named Alyssa who is visited each night by a wickedly charming moth named Morpheus who means to lure her into Wonderland to fight evil and return Wonderland to its former glory. Except her magical moth boy guide isn’t being honest and Wonderland is out to, well, kill all the things. This is a retelling worthy of Tim Burton’s dark and twisted Alice movies. It’s beyond brilliant and the descriptions are so lush and entrancing!


9780008175399QUEEN OF HEARTS

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Another tale that starts with the origin story of the Queen of Hearts before she was into lopping off heads. (This is a popular point of view it seems.) It follows the story of Dinah, an unloved and neglected princess who must suffer with her royal father’s maliciousness and try to stay ahead of enemies that want to kill her, all the while vying for the throne. Life ain’t easy when your royalty apparently.


25926238MAD ABOUT THE HATTER

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This one takes a sequel sort of approach and follows the brother of the original Alice as he too loses his way into Wonderland. Henry isn’t exactly fond of nonsense and magical worlds, but he accidentally gets caught up in Wonderland and ends up being taken to the Red Queen by none other than the Mad Hatter. The two hate each other as they journey through Wonderland until they gradually find hate turning to love. It features a lovely whimsical Wonderland and grand character development and a romance to fall for.


9780142409411THE LOOKING GLASS WARS

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What if Alice wasn’t really a girl falling through a rabbit hole into Wonderland? What if she was a princess and on the run from her evil aunt (the Red Queen) before she’s murdered for her crown?! This is a very imaginative approach to the original tale and completely changes everything. It features wars and conspiracies and Alice trying to convince a writer of her tale and reclaim her kingdom.

The Best Aussie YA of 2016

2016 has been an excellent year for books! A few weeks ago, I cheered about the best YA fantasy that has graced our shelves, but now it’s time to talk about a very important topic: Aussie YA! Our homegrown authors have been hard at work giving us delicious books to devour at dawn (or at any time, really, they’re not picky) and I today have an exciting list of excellent 2016 Aussie books.

You should probably read them all. Just saying.


9781742612386WORDS IN DEEP BLUE

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Cath Crowley is an amazingly profilic author and her books never disappoint! I was so excited for Words In Deep Blue because it’s about (A) bookstores, and (B) people who love books, and (C) people writing love letters to strangers and leaving them folded between pages of books. Isn’t that amazing?! Well guess what: THE BOOK WAS AMAZING TOO. It was exquisitely written with complex and relatable characters, who were a little bit self-depreciating and a little bit tragic and entirely winning.


9780143573630THE THINGS I DIDN’T SAY

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This is about a girl named Piper with selective mutism who’s trying to make a fresh start in a new school. She has severe social anxiety, which results in her not always being able to talk. Although Piper’s plan is just to improve her photography and finish out her last year of highschool…she just happens to meet an amazing boy (who is coincidentally an amazing cook and I don’t know about you, but I fell in love with him right then) who really likes her. But Piper’s worried he won’t stick around if she never talks. It’s such a moving and incredible story about the power of words, with a great representation of anxiety. There is no “romance cures all” themes, which is bliss. And the characters are so entirely adorable I couldn’t help but root for them!


9780702253942ONE WOULD THINK THE DEEP

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This is about Sam who’s just lost his mother to an aneurysm and is forced to live with his relatives…who may or may not kind of subtly hate him. Sam’s life is falling to pieces. He’s so angry at being abandoned and he’s neglected and unloved, and your heart will probably bleed for this poor kid. He takes up surfing and tries to make a new life for himself. This is my 3rd read by Claire Zorn and perhaps my favourite?! I can’t get enough of her incredible characters and the way her books always rip at my heartstrings.


9781760112226MY SISTER ROSA

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This is about Che, whose sister is probably a psychopath. The book is mostly set in the USA, but Che and his family are Australian, and Che is not really happy to have left his life in Oz to come here. He’s a boxer but he suddenly has no friends and he’s the “new” weird kid. Plus there’s his 10 year old sister, Rosa, to worry about with her vaguely psychopathic tendencies. Che has no idea what she’ll do next. Right now it’s callous pranks and manipulation of everyone around her — but what if it ends up with murder? This story will keep you 100% glued to the page, wondering what is going to happen next. It’s part coming-of-age story of Che and his boxing and first serious romance. And it’s part thriller as you watch a young psychopath at work. It’s entirely one of the best books in the universe!

Review: Whisper To Me by Nick Lake

Whisper to Me by Nick Lake is an incredibly story about mental health, love and family. I CONFESS: I went into it with very low expectations because the cover didn’t grab me and I was left rather befuddled by the author’s previous book There Will Be Lies. But Whisper To Me was amazing and it’s totally underrated! I think it’s one of the best mental illness books I’ve ever read in a long time.

9781408853863The story is by Cass, who is a quiet reserved girl who’s reeling after losing her mother in an accident. She’s writing this book as a letter to a boy she hurt to try and explain what happened and why she broke his heart. The truth is she is hearing voices and is trying to cope and handle it, along with the anxiety, depression, and PTSD of witnessing her mother’s death. Not only that, but there’s a serial killer in town and Cass gets slightly caught up in finding out who it is.

Cass’ exact diagnosis isn’t given. It’s eluded that it could be bipolar or schizophrenia. But it felt so well written and so real. The author’s note says he briefly actually experienced hearing voices…and I think that really added a lot of relatability to the story because it felt honest, raw, and real.

Cass is also an incredible protagonist to read about. She’s quiet. She thinks a lot and says the wrong things. She’s really self-depreciating which I loved reading. Honestly, it’s quite hard to write about such heavy topics and still perfectly incorporate humour, but this book pulls it off with an A+. Cass does a lot of ridiculous things and you will probably get very frustrated with her at several points. But that made her realistic. The book was so brilliantly written that I felt like I understood Cass’ decisions, because we are so deep in her thought process, that even when I know they’re dumb things to do, I also understood why she made them. Cass was relatable and I so rooted for her.

It has an epic focus on relationships. Cass and her kinda-scary-ex-Navy-dad (who honestly has untreated PTSD) have to do a lot of work on their relationship. And later on Cass makes friends with Paris, a girl she met in hospital who has bipolar disorder. Paris was incredible. The book continually described her was “weird”, but she owned it and was kind and wasn’t afraid to be her wild self. I loved Cass and Paris’ friendship and how they were there for each other.

The romance is a bit of cuteness. There’s a boy (who actually is never named, because the book is written in the “to you” format)  renting the spare flat attached to Cass’ house and he was adorable. This is probably the most awkward romance ever. And to be honest it doesn’t have much chemistry. But I really wanted it to work out for them.

The letter format worked really well. It is quite the long email, honestly. This book is 500+ pages and written as an email to this boy Cass loves. It made me quite desperate to find out why she keeps saying she broke his heart. We know WHAT happened but we don’t know WHY it happened.

The ending isn’t “tidy.” I give this book all the points for being realistic. The ending is very open, be ye warned, but I felt like the story doesn’t end when the pages do and I like that!  Life is not a neat little box. Plus the writing is just a pleasure to devour. And even though the book was a small brick to read, I enjoyed every page.

It is a story that balances darkness and light. The things the Voice tells Cass to do can be brutal and horrifying and I wanted to cry with her several times. I love the character development and the message and the way it all felt so real. Definitely an excellent book about mental health.

 

[BUY HERE]

The Best YA Fantasy of 2016

If I could only choose one genre to devour forever, it would definitely be fantasy. I adore the possibilities! And the action, adventure, magic, and probability of talking dragons. So today I’m going to list my favourite 2016 fantastical Young Adult releases. Since it’s nearly Christmas time, you can gift one or two or all of them to yourself. Isn’t that a great idea? It’s a great idea.

There were so many amazing sequels and finales come out this year! It’s so hard to only pick a few, but I’ll be brave and do my best. Here are my top 5 favourites!


9781780622309CROOKED KINGDOM

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This is the sequel (and finale) to the Six of Crows duology and … can I just say right now that it was pure perfection?! It’s a story about a heist crew out for revenge on a nobleman who cheated them. (Ah, irony.) And the complexity of the heists they pull and the mind games they weave are just incredible and will keep you glued to the page. But make sure you put aside a free weekend to begin devouring this because you will not want to put it down. Ever.


9781407136646THE RAVEN KING

[buy]

Another series finale! This is the 4th and final book to The Raven Cycle collection and it, arguably, has the most beautiful cover of them all. Also the words inside are good. In fact, they’re amazing. This finale will take you on a whirlwind of emotions and make your heart pound as the time towards Gansey’s foretold death draws ever nearer. The demon awoken in the last book is also wreaking havoc and draining the magic of Henrietta and it looks like everyone is going to die. A delightful nail-biter. Also leave the weekend free for this one too? Basically just cancel life and read.


9781481441902THE IMPOSTOR QUEEN

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This is like a very dark version of Disney’s Frozen! Meet Elli who is supposed to be the next queen who will wield fierce and amazing powers to protect her people — except her powers haven’t shown up yet. People are getting worried. And violent. It’s filled with snow and magic and betrayal and harsh terrain and is absolutely magical to read. Also it has a gorgeous map. Which is a priority for all fantasy books honestly.


9780062380852THIS SAVAGE SONG

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This is set in a dark, Gotham-like city where monsters roam the streets and the humans rage a constant turf war with them. People look to mafia lords for safety. And caught up in the middle is the vicious and slightly stabby daughter of a Mafia lord, Kate, and a violin-playing-kind-monster boy, August. They get throw together and end up running for their lives. It’s possible, perhaps, that not all monsters are as bad as they seem.


9780008179991NEVERNIGHT

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And lastly we have a book by Aussie author, Jay Kristoff, who has written an amazingly complex and darkly vicious fantasy starring Mia, a prospective assassin. It’s full of tests and trials and torture and bleeding and you probably won’t be able to look away from the page because you’ll be so worried about who will live and die. The world building is intensely detailed. And it features a talking cat made of shadows. What more convincing do you need?

YA Books Christmas Books To Get You into the Festive Spirit

As December sneaks into view, many of us start thinking about Christmas. And what better way to get you int the Christmas spirit than to read some books with delightful scenes of holly jolly festivities?! Well an alternative way to get into the Christmas spirit would be to eat lots of festive food and sit on your Christmas tree…but I think books are a nice secondary option if you’ve exhausted those first two.

So let’s list some delightful Christmas-themed books to compliment your holiday reading!


9781442426719TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE

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This book isn’t strictly all about Christmas, but it does have several chapters that focus on it! And better yet: they focus on the food part of Christmas. We all know that’s the reason for the season. I particularly adore how Lara Jean and her sisters had an annual Christmas Cookie Bonanza, where they’d bake so many cookies of all different flavours. Warning: this book will make you  hungry. It’s also incredibly cute and heartwarming and has an adorable romance! It’s perfect light reading for the holiday season.


9781408845653HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS

[buy]

Well of course I have to Harry Potter on the list, since almost all the books feature Christmas quite spectacularly! Who hasn’t quietly dreamed of a Christmas spent at Hogwarts in an ugly-Weasley sweater and eating all the delicious food the great hall has to offer?! Hush. I know you have. And don’t forget about the new illustrated Harry Potter books that have been recently released. Because you can never have too many editions.


9781760293826THE TWELVE DAYS OF DASH AND LILY

[buy]

It’s been 4 years since Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares came out, a Christmassy story which involved two teens falling in love while writing each other letters and dares and leaving them anonymously in a bookstore. Now they’re back! Although they’re not…as happy. Lily’s had a rough year and has lost her happiness for Christmas (which used to be her favourite time of year). Time to throw some shiny baubles in the air and find a way to make Lily smile again.


9781509840762WHAT LIGHT

[buy]

This is set on a Christmas Tree farm! It’s about Sierra who’s life is split in half since her family must leave their home and life each year to set up their Christmas Tree shop in another state. But this Christmas she meets a boy with a dubious past. The blurb promises “disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions” which is always fun and very promising for an exciting story.


9780062342409TINY PRETTY THINGS

[buy]

Again this book isn’t centred on Christmas things, but it is about ballet! And one of the important ballets they put on is the Nutcracker! That part of the book is set around the holiday season. Except don’t dive into here expecting mistletoe and candy canes. Ha, no. This is a cutthroat ballet school where three girls, Bette, Gigi and June, will do anything to rise to the top of their class. And I mean anything. It’s beautifully written and contains a complex and diverse cast of characters.

Review: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

I had no idea what to expect with The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis…but it was absolutely amazing. Although I’m a teeny tiny bit ruined afterwards. But that’s totally okay because everyone likes to finish a book and feel like their feels just got wrung and battered. That aside…this book was all kinds of excellent! I adored the author’s previous book, Not a Drop To Drink, so I should’ve known this would carry similar awesome.9780062320896

It’s one of the best contemporaries I’ve read in 2016! It effortlessly balances (A) complicated moral questions, (B) commentates on rape-culture and how disgusting the act of being apathetic towards it is, (C) it’s completely morally-grey, (D) there is stabbing, and (E) it has some of the most complex and amazing characters I’ve ever read. This book blew me away.

It’s narrated by 3 people — Alex, Jack, and Peekay. I’m not usually a fan of multiple narration, but this book pulled it off perfectly. All three protagonists were amazing, complex, and interesting.

  • ALEX: Her sister was raped and murdered a few years before the story begins, and she’s withdrawn from society. She’s a very intense person. She’s very logical and factual and willing to do wrong to do right. She could be downright cold, and yet she still loved puppies and was fiercely protective of her friends. And if a boy tried to pull any sexist nonsense around her? She would smack them down. She was the Vigilante Batman of Feminism. And completely morally grey with how she took justice into her own hands.
  • PEEKAY: She’s the preacher’s kid (ergo “PK”) and she’s suffering from a bad breakup. She’s also trying to distance herself from her father’s church and legacy. By drinking. I wish the story had explained WHY she wanted to get away from her family’s past, even though she happily goes by the title “Peekay”?? Hmm. But despite that, I loved her complex character and her development! She drew Alex out of her shell too and taught her what friendship truly is.
  • JACK: Admittedly he was completely idiot. He drank a lot and didn’t think logically very much. But he was still well written and his character development was A+. I didn’t like everything he did, or what he thought, or his decision making — but I think that was the point. His romance with Alex was also slow burn and adorable.

“Define success,” I say almost to myself.
“I didn’t kill anyone today,” Alex says.

I’m immensely impressed with the secondary characters too! They were all dimensional and intriguing. I particularly liked Branely, the cliche “mean girl” who for all the world seemed shallow and fake…but she wasn’t. I’m just awed with how the author managed to remind us that everyone is a person with a story even if you don’t get to see the whole thing.

The romance is beautiful. Although it’ll also punch your feels, so you’ve been warned. But I don’t really think the book is focused on romance. It does talk a lot and very openly about sex. It just smacks down the “boys will be boys” mantra and it discusses alcohol addictions and rape culture. It’s very gritty and realistic.

SMALL LIST OF OTHER THINGS I LOVED:

  • It’s set around a vet and animal shelter! Puppy appreciation!
  • The writing is so effortlessly beautiful, with poignant sentences and lyrical prose. It just knocked me flat continually.
  • The story is 100% captivating. Usually I get bored in contemporaries — but not this time. I couldn’t put it down!
  • There is blood.
  • And murder.
  • And situations that will make your brain start screaming.
  • It’s feministic.
  • It makes you think.

All I want to do is say “please read this book”! It’s poignant, it’s beautifully written, the characters are amazing, the writing will melt you. It commentates on society’s warped standards and it’s realistic and brutal and bloody. And there’s puppies, which is the real deal clincher right there.

[purchase here]

Review: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner is equal parts beautiful, emotionally damaging, and incredible. I absolutely adored it. Because who doesn’t like a book that will nearly make you cry?? Obviously everyone loves that kind of thing. For sure. This story is gut-wrenching and precious and inspiring and hopeful and balances darkness and hope using some of the best storytelling I’ve experienced in a long time. 9781783443819

The story is about three protagonists: Dill, Lydia, and Travis. They all live in a tiny gossiping town that is smothering and suffocating them. Dill’s father was a preacher but is now in jail for being a peadophile. So basically everyone hates and distrusts him and he’s severely depressed. Lydia has a loving family but is about to leave town after highschool to pursue further education. Aka she’s leaving all her friends behind. Aka her friends that are not doing very well at all. Travis has an abusive family but he’s the sweetest most loving boy who is obsessed with a fantasy series and uses it as an escape. They all need each other. But everything is falling apart.

It’s a story of survival and friendship. Normally I don’t even like books narrated by three protagonists, because it’s confusing. But Dill, Lydia, and Travis were all so different and complex and relatable and heartbreaking that I loved them all. I can’t even choose a favourite!

 

Brief Overview Of The Characters:

  • DILL: He’s the son of a preacher who’s just been imprisoned for sexual charges and EVERYBODY knows Dill and is disgusted by him. Tiny backwards town, remember? Not very forgiving. His mother hates him, school is hell, he’s got NO FUTURE because he’s stuck in this town and his best friend Lydia is leaving for college and basically he was tragic and adorable and quiet and nearly broken and I couldn’t love him more. He does lash out irrationally with passive-aggressive arguments with Lydia. But I get it?!? When you face losing someone, sometimes you push them away first to help dull the pain.
  • LYDIA: she’s a super famous fashion blogger and only 17 #NoImNotJealousHaHaHa. She’s fashionable, super sassy, epically fabulous, definitely not skinny, and has a future of success paved out before her. I adored her relationship with her parents, too! The banter is hilarious and perfect. I love how she as flawed and flawless.
  • TRAVIS: He was the most adorable dork to ever dork in the universe. He’s obsessed with fantasy, specifically this trilogy which he can’t stop talking about. He’s big and kind and unassuming and just downright lovely. Books about lovely boys need to be more of a thing. I adore how his love of fantasy started turning him towards writing, as an escape from his abusive household, and that was beautiful written.

The writing is also absolutely fantastic. It was heavily dialogue centred and balanced hilarious humour with poignant scenes. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I even laughed out loud several times actually! (My dog looked mildly displeased at the noise.) And I loved the contrast of their lives: Dill slowly fading to nothing, Lydia being rich and full of purpose, Travis finding escape in writing.

“And anyway, how is a coffee shop Christian?”
“It implies that normal coffee shops are satanic.”
“Which they totally are. It’s like, can I please just get a cup of coffee without having to kneel before Lucifer and pledge my eternal soul?”
“Here’s your latte. Will that be cash, credit, or the blood of a virgin?”

It really tackles mental illness and it does so perfectly. Depression is not an easy topic and yet The Serpent King really captures the complexity of it.

The Serpent King is definitely an extraordinary book. I am of the loud opinion that everyone should read it. Immediately. It’s definitely a coming of age story about friendship and trying to figure out your future and what you want. It has romance, but it’s not overly romantic. The writing will sweep you along and it will, almost definitely, stab you in the chest one or nine times. It was brutal and hopeful which is a perfect combination.

 

[BUY NOW]

Review: Timekeeper by Tara Sim

9781510706187Timekeeper by Tara Sim was an absolutely magical and adorable steampunk fantasy! And I most empthatically loved it. I’m quite excited over that too, becasue I’ve not found a good steampunk I loved until now. Timekeeper goes firmly on the “favourites” list for including all the glorious things a book should have: great plot, relatable and sympathetic characters, tea and scones, very adorable clocks, and explosions. There is literally so much win here.

Timekeeper is set in an alternate Victorian London, where Danny Hart is a clock mechanic who’s survived a tragic accident and is now reeling from PTSD and severe anxiety. In his world, clocks control lives. And if one Stops? People will be forever trapped inside a minute. Mechanics must maintain clocks and keep the world together. And they must not fall in love with the clock spirits who reside in the towers. Cue Danny meeting the adorable, naive, and winning clock spirit named Colton. And if that doesn’t complicate his life (he doesn’t want to get fired?!) there’s also someone sabotaging all the clocks in England which could permenently kill everyone. Nice.

I loved how the book heavily featured clocks! I’m actually a complete clock nerd and am obsessed with time so (yes I’m the person who knows when it’s 2:32 because that is a huge difference to 2:30, of course) and the fact that there were clock spirits (aka time was personified!) absolutely intrigued me. I wanted to know more immediately! I love books centring around anything that vaguely resembles ghosts or spirits who are nice and just want to live a happy life. Precious darlings.

The charactesr were amazingly complex. Danny was an entirely winning protagonist. I thought his portrayal of anxiety and PTSD was amazingly done, and I really appreciated reading a book that dealt accurately with mental illness — while still having an exploding, mystery, stabby, exciting plot line. Danny is very driven and persistent and yet every time he crumbled, I kind of wanted to scoop him off the floor and feed him a cookie. I also adored his relationship with his best friend, Cassie, who’s a kickass car-mechanic. #SquadGoals

The romance was absolutely delightful too. I loved Colton, the clock spirit! Their relationship is slowburn and very complicated…considering, well, Colton isn’t really human. I love how they related through fairy tale stories and Greek mythology. They both were tragic in their own ways (Danny suffering from his accident and Colton being forever trapped in his clock tower) and it was an all round well written romance that you can’t help but root for.

Plus the plot was exciting and full-on. Between Danny’s baggage and his budding romance with Colton — we also have that little teeny tiny problem of someone trying to destroy the world. Danny has lots of competition as a mechanic and people who’ll make life hard for him because he’s the youngest Mechanic ever. There’s a good dose of Greek Mythology going on too, with gods I hadn’t heard of before so that was interesting.

Timekeeper was a thorough win for me. Good plot. Good characters. Good romance. Cute clocks. What more could you want? The representation of mental illness was spot on. And I loved the engaging high-stake story, the family elements, and the aesthetics of a London run on clocks and steam.

[purchase here]

Best YA Classic Retellings

Retellings might just be my favourite genre of them all. And we all know how popular it is to write retellings on Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Little Red Riding Hood. Been there. Read that a million times. So what about retellings based of classic novels?!? It’s so exciting! And it’s a rising trend which is pleasant to behold (especially if you are me and adore classical retellings). It’s like reliving an old favourite in a new way!

So let’s get to my list of some of the best YA retellings of Classic novels!


9781627792356FIRST & THEN

[buy]

This is a retelling on Pride and Prejudice…except it involves footballs and college applications. But the romance between socially awkward teens is perfection. Tennyson basically doesn’t know what she wants with her life, but her Plans didn’t involve her parents semi-adopting her cousin Foster (who is a surprise football protegee) and definitely didn’t involve getting involved with the snobby school jock. Cute hate-to-love romance with beautiful writing and winning characters.


9781743316429Every Breath

[buy]

Hello Sherlock Holmes retelling! And to make matters even more awesome, this is set in Australia with a gender-swapped Watson! Rachel Watts and the boy next door, Mycroft Holmes, end up embroiled in a local murder case. The twists are amazing, and the Australian culture is so refreshing and perfect. Plus this kicks off a brilliant trilogy. So if you get addicted, good job. There is more.


9780062280688Dorothy Must Die

[buy]

How about a retelling of The Wizard of Oz? And instead of the perky colourful world in the originals…welcome to this new Oz, where everything is twisted and creepy and Dorothy might just be the most evil of them all. We get to travel with Amy on an accidental adventure through a tornado and into Oz where she must learn to be a witch and defeat Dorothy and, you know, not die in the process.


9781442465985Winterspell

[buy]

This is a retelling of the Nutcracker ballet! And I do wish there were more ballet retellings out there, because it’s such a stunning idea set in a vividly snow landscape of the world of Cane. Here we meet Clara who ends up on a rescue mission to find her father before it’s too late, with the help of a cursed boy. The writing is very dark and a bit on the steamier side for romance.


9781743315132Man Made Boy

[buy]

Or how about Frankenstein retelling? Better yet, let’s talk about Frankenstein’s monster’s son…because that’s a story you definitely want to hear. This is a quirky book, full of wry humour and ridiculously impossible scenarios that will make you laugh. It has an amazing cast of characters that even include some from other classics like Jekyll and Hyde! It’s about roadtrips and friendship and what it means to be considered a “monster”.


9781471116612Lady Midnight

[buy]

This might seem a strange one to linclude…but it’s actually a retelling of the poem Annabel Lee by Edgar Allen Poe! It’s part of the Shadowhunter world, but also can stand on it’s own as a new adventure involving Emma Carstairs’ quest to find the culprits behind her parents murder. It’s a magical-focused murder mystery that is seriously creepy in some places and twirls in references to the poem so amazingly. This book is totally addictive. You want to read it, trust me.

Review: In the Dark In the Woods by Eliza Wass

In the Dark, In the Woods by Eliza Wass is an utterly addictive and seriously messed up story. So I loved it. Of course. It also goes by the title “The Cresswell Plot” (which I admit I am a little more fond of). It’s a YA contemporary that is about a cultish family with a terrifying controlling father and rather feral kids who want something more from their lives. And what they’ll do to get out.9781784299910

The story is from the perspective of Castley who lives in a decrepit house in the woods with her large family and her father who believes they are the perfect chosen ones destined for great things from God. He doesn’t let the kids have friends, they spend hours listening to him read from his cultish book, and they’re only allowed to wear basically sack-cloth. The kids have to go to school, but they’re under strict orders to interact as little as possible. Their father even has them paired off to marry eventually. Yep. Never complain about your family again.

It’s chilling and addictive and you sit there biting your nails and wondering if the father is going to do something really bad at any second.

It also basically has a checklist of things I enjoy reading about:

  • big family (6 siblings) ✓
  • complicated sibling relationships ✓
  • heartbreaking tragic boys ✓
  • minimal romance ✓
  • super freaky moments because you never know if the father might snap and murder the kids or not
  • incredible names (Castley, Mortimer, Hannan, Caspar, Jerusalem and Delvive) ✓
  • excellent writing ✓

 

It’s quite the cult story. Castley’s father has basically written his own “bible” and he abuses the children when they step out of line. The mother is disabled and depressed and can get no help from the outside world because the father thinks anything too modern is evil. I thought the book really captured the confusion of how it’d be to live like this as well. Castley knows her father is wrong, but at the same time this is her family and she loves them. I wanted her to get out of the situation so badly, but at the same time, I didn’t want her to lose her siblings. And she loved her siblings so much, but some of them were brainwashed into thinking their father was right. Stories about abused children are very emotional and I think the book captured this perfectly, while adding in lighter moments and some bantering dialogue, so the overall tone was “terrifying” instead of “utterly depressing”.9781484730430

There cast of characters is huge, but everyone was so complex and interesting! I loved Castley’s narration voice, and she was winning and captivating. Her brothers Mortimer and Casper were also my favourites. Precious darlings. They waxed and waned between rebelling and following in line with the cult father. Jerusalem didn’t speak. Hannan, the oldest, was a bit aloof and somehow bypassed the brunt of all abuse, but he didn’t try to help the others. Ergo I didn’t like him much. Del made herself very timid and nondescript to avoid attention. But the kids totally stole my heart.

The book is rather small so the plot is fast. There are plenty of school scenes, where Castley does drama and finds a “friend” that she develops quite a crush on. She starts to try and find out what it’d be like to live as a “normal” person, while her family situation is escalating as their father runs out of money and goes even more insane. I whipped through it in just a few hours!

In The Dark, In The Woods is a solidly enthralling story with excellent writing and amazing characters. It’s very character focused and I loved how real everyone felt. It was written with visual gorgeousness and I couldn’t stop reading. Like, please, someone duct tape this book to my soul. I love it. Definitely recommend to fans who like cult books, lowkey thrillers, and stories about sibling bonds.

[purchase now]

 

Review: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

9780765380548Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter is a completely magical and bizarre retelling of Russian folklore. Seriously, it was just about the weirdest thing ever. But in a good way! Just toss out your black-and-white-logical-brain because when it comes to fairy tales you need to be prepared for the weird and wacky. Especially for Russian folklore! We have houses on chicken legs and talking dolls and body-less-hands gallivanting around. It’s magical realism at its finest!

I’m a big fan of Russian folklore and I recently read Deathless which definitely prepared me for what Vassa in the Night would be like. Although this book isn’t actually set in Russia. It’s set in Brooklyn, USA, which was a teeny bit disappointing because I love being transported overseas. But the amazingness of the story definitely made up for this failed expectation.

Basically it’s the story of Vassa who is living with her step-sisters and feels very alone in the world. She lives in a city where people know there’s magic, but don’t always acknowledge it. The nights are getting longer (which means a minute might actually be…a day) and there is an insanely creepy stare run by Babs who beheads shoplifters. Vassa accidentally ends up being hired by the witchy Babs and must survive the next 3 days working in the store where body-less hands patrol and the money tries to run away — or else DEATH.

I quite enjoyed reading about Vassa! She was pretty snarky but still kind of adorable and venerable which is a winning combination and made it easy to root for her. Most of the time she just rolled with it when the world was going insane. She also has a magical talking doll that was gifted to her by her mother right before she died. The talking doll, Erg, eats and eats and eats and is also a kleptomaniac. But she’s the only true friend Vassa has.

The magical realism element is definitely my favourite. I love magic and I loved how it fit seamlessly into this world. I mean we have a shop that beheads shoplifters and people turning into swans and, oh, don’t let me forget that the Night got trapped inside a motorcyclist. And the crazy elements of the magic totally made my day. Particularly the stretching of time! And how people could appear covered in scales and everyone just went with it.

Chelsea snorts with disbelief, clamps an arm around my shoulders, and starts hustling me towards the street. “Tomorrow you can send the owner a note explaining everything. Say that you’re terribly sorry but your family refuses to let you work for a serial killer. Blame me if you want. Oh, my sister’s so overprotective! She just wouldn’t listen when I told her dismembering people doesn’t bother me!”

The Russian retelling element is definitely a big reason why I wanted to read it. It’s specifically a retelling of Vasilisa the Beautiful who, in the original, gets stuck in the witch Baba Yaga’s home and must complete three impossible tasks (with the help of her magic doll) before she’s allowed to go free. I loved seeing how the original elements were woven into this. So clever! And so unique!

Plus the story also has some severely creeptastic moments, which should make your skin crawl. Truly delightful.

This is definitely an ethereal, bizarre specimen of a fairy tale retelling and I totally recommend it! I half wish had been a little darker all the way through, instead of piling the creepy moments up at the end. But it was beautifully written, exciting, and totally unique. Also you can take away the very important message that: SHOPPING KILLS. We should all just stay home and order things online, honestly. Less risk of being beheaded by a witch or turned into a swan.

 

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Review: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley is one of the most beautiful books I’ve had the pleasure of devouring at dawn. Actually I devoured it at midday but, please, let’s not get caught up on the details. The fact is: this is an amazingly gorgeous book of romance and writing and bookshops a9781742612386nd I can’t love it enough! Can Cath Crowley do no wrong?! I’ve adored her books A Little Wanting Song and Graffiti Moon and I’m so glad I tried her latest book too. It’s beautiful. I’ll just continue saying that…forever, basically.

The best thing about this book is: IT’S ABOUT BOOKS. I think books about books are (A) the best kind of bookish inception, and (B) doomed to capture readers’ hearts because we all relate! It’s partially set in a failing bookstore that’s facing being sold. It’s stuffed with references to other books, discussions on the importance of words, and letter writing. And being set in a second-hand-book-store just makes the entire thing so very aesthetically pleasing. Hush. That’s a thing.

It does reference newer books amongst the classics too! Although the focus definitely is on the older books (I assume because more people will recognise them).  But it references The Fault in Our Stars and other newer, Aussie books like Summer Skin!

The characters and dialogue were beyond amazing! It’s dual narrated by Henry and Rachel who are ex-best friends and in the process of becoming friends again. (Or more…) Henry is suffering a break up with the girl of his dreams and Rachel is recovering from the death of her younger brother. Both have their issues. And their secrets. And both need to be smacked with a large book occasionally for their selfish and deluded reasonings. But ultimately I loved them! Henry had an amazing sense of humour and was a huge bookworm. Rachel had snappy comebacks and was learning how to live through her depression. Plus their banter is amazingness.

“What?” she asks.
“Your head,” I tell her, “is a very pleasing shape.”
“Likewise,” she says, and smiles.

I also adored the secondary characters! They were all complex and amazing, with their own character arcs, trials, and focuses.

It does sort of contain a love-triangle, but it is a perfectly written one. Usually I’m very anti-triangles, but this was such an intriguing one because, for starters, it was 1 boy = 2 girls. And secondly, it’s very shippable. Henry was pretty deluded about his ex and Rachel was deluded about her feelings for Henry. You can’t help rooting for them to work out their differences and get together!

The book has a very comfortable, calming vibe. This in no way means the book is dull! It is the opposite to dull. But since it was set in a cosy bookshop with lots of food and banter and contained teenagers with excellent vocabularies who love of dusty old books…it just felt so comfortable to read! It was equally sad, moving, and beautiful. I’d call it a “quiet book” and mean that in the best possible way.

Basically I love this book an exuberant amount. Obviously. I can’t get over how beautifully Cath Crowely stitches words together and how easy it was to get sucked into this marvellous story and end up nearly crying over a gorgeous bookstore being sold. (Please! No!) I loved the letter writing, the plot twists, and the intense love of second-hand books. My bookworm soul is thoroughly won over.

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YA Books About Superheroes

If there’s one topic that never gets old, it’s certainly superheroes. Everyone loves a good superpower book, with good vs evil and a good dash of explosions. Marvel and DC movies are always smash (har har, pun intended) hits in the cinemas and comics have been popular for decades.

But what about novels about superheroes? If you’re craving more heroes (or villains!) in your life: I have some Young Adult books that you most certainly need to try. It’ll tie you over between waiting for the next Marvel movie to be spat out. And these books will also give you tips in case, you know, you get bitten by a spider and greatness descends upon you. Must be prepared!


9781423157496V IS FOR VILLAIN

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As you can see this doesn’t just feature superheroes — it focuses on the VILLAINS. WHich means the book is automatically 10005% cooler than anything else. So bring on a plot of criminals and a teenage highschool misfit who turns to the dark side. Where there are cookies, or so I’ve heard.


9780062085504SHATTER ME

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This is the beginning of an amazing trilogy about a girl who touches people and…they die. Which is definitely not the kind of power you save the world with, but whatever. Look at this girl go! Juliette has to piece herself back together after years of being locked in a dark prison and then figure out how to use her powers for good…or evil.


9780062120168TRANSPARENT

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This one is about a girl called Fiona who is invisible. Not just sometimes. All the time. She doesn’t even know what she looks like! She’s basically enslaved by her crime-boss dad until she and her mother run away to a little desert time and Fiona tries to fit into a “normal” life. Except her crime origins don’t exactly go away…


9781922179623SPARK

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This is by a New Zealand author, so yay for (semi)local writers! Meet Evie: who is pretty normal until suddenly her body explodes into super-powered, amazing solider material. Turns out she’s born to protect her best friend from being murdered. Say bye-bye to the good ol’ life and hello to conspiracies, dark government agencies, and a superpowered boy she’s so totally not supposed to be in love with.


9780385743563STEELHEART

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This is, without doubt, one of the best superhero books I’ve ever read! It’s set in a dystopic universe where those with powers are called “Epics” and they like to…kill everyone. And everything. And it’s very unfortunate. David’s father was murdered so his #1 goal in life is to take down the immortal, invisible Steelheart. It features terrible puns and even worse metaphors (which somehow makes them glorious?!) and a team of highly trained superhero assassins.


9781406367478THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE

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This one is a little different to the others because it actually features the people around the superheroes. So while those superheroes are smashing evil and destroying cities on accident…what are the average people doing? So meet Mikey: an anxious teenager just trying to survive while the world blows up around him. It’s such a beautifully written and winning coming-of-age story and since it’s by the master, Patrick Ness, you do not want to miss this gloriousness.

Review: Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan

9780062324610Being an avid bookworm myself (I know, I know, obvious statement) I’m always attracted to books about words. And Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan hugely features words, scrolls, writing, and libraries! I mean, what is not to love here?! Plus it’s a YA epic fantasy with exquisite world building and a cover that is just edible. You know it is. Just look at that majesty.

The story follows Raisa who is a slave in the palace and in training to become a Tutor. In this world, writing and reading are absolutely sacred. So only the royalty, high class, and priests are really allowed to do it. And the only reason Raisa learns is so one day she’ll become teacher to future kings. But since she currently is learning the thousands and thousands of symbols with the crown princes….well. Things don’t stay platonic between them for long. It’s an adorable and winning “forbidden romance” with tons of risks and sacrifice. Add in some rebels, grim punishments, and stolen kisses in a library and you have this marvellous novel.

It is very heavily centred on romance. Normally I wince at this because I prefer more action to a story. But the romance was not only gorgeously done, but I felt myself rooting for Raisa and Prince Mati the whole time! Every feeling they had for each other was a huge risk. And not only that, Raisa was pressured by the rebels, technically her people, to help them. So betray her people vs betray the boy she loves. It really won me over and made my usually unromantic heart beat a little faster. Bless it

I also loved the world building! It features gods and temples and slaves and masters. The entire world is built around writing being so scared. And the actual aesthetics of the world felt dusty and maybe Roman (or Grecian?) influenced. The king’s people were pretty horrendous masters to their slaves and the book talks very severely about oppression and brutality. Although it doesn’t get graphic. The violence mostly happens off-page. I prefer dark fantasy so this did annoy me a little, but it’d be perfect for people who don’t like violent books.

As for the characters? I thoroughly enjoyed them! I’m just going to pretend Raisa wasn’t an entirely whining, naive popsicle…because that was the only downside of the story for me! I can’t understand how she could be a slave most of her life and yet be so incredibly naive and blind? She’s having a passionate fling with the prince. And yet gets shocked when things go wrong. Come now, woman. But that aside, I entirely loved how Raisa doesn’t fall into any Special Snowflake Tropes and she’s also very kindhearted, which is nice.

I also loved the secondary characters. Including Mati, the future-king, who is really tender hearted and anti-violence but also has little power against his horrible father. And I adored Jonis, who’s one of the rebels, and is a sneering scarred precious little cinnamon roll. And don’t worry: no love triangle here. I’m so happy this book proved that a protagonist can exist and not fall in love with every male in the room. WOOO! I also adored 5-year-old Jera, who’s the next Tutor-in-training and was just so adorable.

The plot doesn’t roar along with tons of excitement, but it is intriguing. I felt totally engaged! Despite it being mostly…kissing. There is also stabbing and explosions and plots and spying. Not to mention libraries where you could be killed for entering. Good times.

I had a lot of fun diving into the world of Sword and Verse! The romance was adorable, the world-building amazing, and it wrapped up quite satisfyingly so that it could almost be a standalone! (Apparently there is a sequel coming in 2018 though.) I’m impressed and my little book loving heart beats very fiercely with affection for this novel.

 

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YA Books About Musicians

Music is one of humanity’s favourite things, so what could be better than books about music?! I am here today to list some amazing YA books that involve characters who play musical instruments. There are plenty of guitar and band themed books out there, but I’ll be zeroing in more on classical instruments. Because I’m a classical musician myself so excuse me while I’m entirely biased that the cello is better than the guitar. (Not even sorry. That opinion is just truth.)

And while I did find a fair few music-orientated books, I’d love to see more on the shelves. Music is such an important part of culture and it’s so exciting to find books dedicated to it.

 

YA Books About Musicians


9781909531239IF I STAY – CELLO

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This is definitely one of the most famous musician-orientated YA books out there! It’s about Mia, an aspiring Julliard cellist, who gets into a terrible accident and ends up in an out-of-body experience wondering if life is worth continuing after this tragedy. It flips to flashbacks to show us how she grows up with the cello and falls in love with a rock band guitarist. Basically the story is amazing. Read it.


9781481461153TELL ME SOMETHING REAL – PIANIST

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This is about a talented pianist whose mother gets diagnosed with leukemia. While Vanessa really wants to move cities and go to a prestigious conservatorium, she feels she can’t do that to her family and risk missing time with her mother or leaving her two sisters behind. The book is totally family orientated and set in the 90s. It has a lazy summery vibe with a good dose of sadness and grief and it’s just purely amazing.


9781407120317LAMENT – HARPIST

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This is a paranormal faerie story that centres around Dee, who is a harpist. And also she can see faeries, and we’re not talking nice sparkly faeries…we’re talking about the ones that want to eat your soul. It involves (A) a mysterious boy who is possibly in love with her, possibly wants to kill her, (B) a hilarious best friend who is a bag piper, and (C) a dark magical adventure.


9780062380852THIS SAVAGE SONG – VIOLINIST

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This one is all about dark cities overrun with monsters — and one particular monster who plays the violin. Okay, so August’s violin playing also sucks out people’s souls so he can eat them. But you do what you must for music, right?! This story is dark and addictive and talks a lot about what makes a monster. It’s basically one of the best books I’ve ever read! And that’s despite me (as a past violinist) being totally biased. Hey it’s a cool instrument, okay?!


9780732299507YOU’RE THE KIND OF GIRL I WRITE SONGS ABOUT – GUITARIST

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I have to have at least one guitarist here…and plus this is an Aussie novel! So hurrah for homegrown literature! It’s partially narrated by Tim, who’s an indie guitarist, and trying to make his break into the music world. There is plenty of old-style music appreciation here, as well as good ol’ coming of age themes as Mandy and Tim try to figure out what to do with their lives after highschool.

Review: Outrun The Moon by Stacey Lee

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee is totally going onto my list of “most amazing YA historical fiction novels I’ve ever devoured at dawn”. It was just that good! It’s set in 1906 and centres around the San Fransisco earthquake tragedy. That’s a period of history I’d never really read about, so it was super informative as well as downright entertaining to read. Basically it cements Stacey Lee as a phe9780399175411monomal historical fiction writer and I would like to read all of her books forever, yes please and thank you.

The story is focused on Mercy Wong who is Chinese and an aspiring entrepreneur. She doesn’t want to spend her life doing laundry in China Town. She wants to run her own business, get rich, be respected, and do it all no matter what people say! Being Chinese and a woman in the 20th century, she faces a lot of setbacks. But her sheer determination was so admirable and winning! Plus when she blackmails her way into a highly prestigious school…I just knew I was going to love her.

I totally appreciated the setting. Historical Fiction is rarely my favourite, but this worked so well for me! The writing was lively and exciting and the period of history was intriguing and somewhat obscure compared to most HF settings.

I also was endlessly impressed with the lowkey romance. There was pretty much just one kiss, and yet the romance between Mercy and Tom was so powerful I couldn’t stop rooting for them! They are both pretty much in denial over their feelings and this is adorable. It also goes to show a powerful romance can be written in just a few pages! I also love how Mercy’s focus in life was becoming a successful business woman!

And because I’m addicted to lists, here is a brief list of things I loved about this book!

  • Mercy has an adorable 6 year old brother, Jack, who she loves and their relationship is so cute.
  • The secondary characters are actually complex and interesting. I particularly loved the Italian friend Mercy made at the school. (Plus Francesca was a huge lover of food and so am I so…we’re connected.)
  • Basically there is a lot of food appreciation in this book! From delicious Chinese dishes, to Italian, to American. I was so hungry reading this. SO HUNGRY.
  • Plus it heavily involves a chocolate shop. What is not to love about a book that includes a chocolate shop!?
  • There is plenty of quirky and witty dialogue that had me chuckling.
  • Mercy is Chinese, yes, but she’s been raised entirely American. So when she’s at school and pretending to be a Chinese heiress — she runs into a lot of problems. She ends up explaining away her lack of Chinese knowledge in the most ridiculous and hilarious ways!
  • There is a “mean girl” character, Elodie, but I loved her character development and backstory. Despite the potentially for Elodie to be an annoying cliche, she was great and I ended up quite liking her.
  • Oh and there is plenty of pain. Plenty. It’ll make you laugh one minute and clutch the pages and sob the next.

Basically Outrun The Moon is amazing and you should definitely try it. I highly recommend it. It’s fun and easy to devour in a couple of sittings, despite being 400-pages. Mercy is clever and humorous and also a complete dork at times, plus very bossy. She will get things done. I totally adored her! Also I loved how when everyone listed her bossiness as her “fault”, she refuted that and listed it as her strength. So true! The world needs people like Mercy to get things done, pull people together, and forge paths. I’m so glad this books sends such positive and empowering messages.

 

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Review: Riders by Veronica Rossi

Riders by Veronica Rossi is truly a stupendous read! I was very excited to try this because it has a huge conglomeration of things that I love to read about, including (A) the apocalypse, and (B) Biblical mythology retelling. You know the four horseman of the apocalypse as told about in Revelation? Well here they are! But they’re teenagers and they’ve all “died” and come back and now they’re here to fight demons. Unless they kill each other first or, well, get killed first. Life as a horseman is not easy, let me tell you.

9780765382542The story starts off following Gideon, who is a fiercely angry little firecracker who joined the army as soon as he was out of highschool. But an accident leaves him “dead” for several minutes, and when he comes back he has a strange metal cuff on. His injuries heal super fast and he meets a girl called Daryn, who’s here to unite the 4 horseman for a mysterious quest that she can’t yet disclose. Because demons are out to reader minds and smash heads, so, let’s all be cautious, shall we? It turns out Gideon is the embodiment of War, and now they need to connect Famine, Conquest, and Death.

This is probably my favourite end times novel since I read Good Omens! It’s like the TV show, Supernatural, in YA book form. And if that doesn’t excite your little heart, what will? Oh wait. Let’s throw in some: fighting, military, sass, an evil dragon, fiery horses, and incredibly tall stacks of pancakes.

And while it was the premise that won me over, it kept me hooked with the glorious writing. It’s narrated in 1st person by Gideon Blake, and his a true Sass Master. He has the best internal monologue and his dialogue was equal parts realistic and funny. The whole book felt like a conversation and was so easy to get lost in.

Obviously, I loved Gideon. But I felt all the characters were downright epic. I just wish we’d gotten to know them a bit better, because I felt we didn’t have enough time with the last two Horseman (Conquest and Death) as they were found because the book was keying up for the climax.

But a quick rundown of the characters!

  • GIDEON: He’s war, and an army dude, and has such anger issues, but is also kind of charming.
  • SEBASTIAN: He’s Famine, Latino, and an actor and super sweet and nice and basically the best of them all. He can make people really hungry for stuff, being Famine and all.
  • MARCUS: He’s Death. I wanted to love Death, but we really didn’t get to know him very well. He’s African American and very angry and withdrawn and he and Gideon just punch each other all the time for no reason. I still can’t figure that out.
  • JODE: He’s Conquest and British and super rich and has literally no other personality because he only appears about 70% through the book and then we go into battle mode. He seems nice?
  • DARYN: She’s the “Seeker” who puts all the horsemen together to go on this Grand Mission. As a character, I liked her toughness and capability! She also adores pancakes and I can get behind this.

The plot is mostly just a journey to find everyone. So it’s like 80% “where are you, mate” and 20% “let’s fight demons, mate”. I actually really enjoyed the finding part, and found the battles slightly confusing in their whirlwind of activity. Also the travel across the world, so yay for stopovers in Italy and Norway!

Riders was an action-packed pocket of firey fun. It was non-stop sass, adventure, mythology, and fighting. The story was easy to get sucked in to and I loved the apocalypse elements. Not to mention the epic magical weapons and equally epic magical horses. The sequel can’t come out fast enough!

 

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YA Books With Ships And Sea Settings

There comes a time in most everyone’s lives when they have a small desire to be a pirate. Usually it happens when you’re 5 years old. But never mind that. If you never grew out of that desire and ever dreamed of taking to the high seas to sail the ocean blue, then I have a list of Young Adult books that will help you live vicariously through fictional characters. They’re not all strictly “pirate” stories, but they involve ships and crews and a bit of ocean. You will definitely want to get on board with these ship and sea stories!


9781481432696BLACKHEARTS

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Ever heard the name “Blackbeard”? Well this is his origin story! While the book reads more like a historical romance and is actually devoid of pirates in the first volume (the sequel promises more!) it is all about the boy who’ll become the infamous Blackbeard and the girl he names his ship after (Queen Anne’s Revenge)! It’s marvelously written and there is sass and arguing with Teach and Anne having, well, sort of a pepper and vinegar relationship at first. They both dream of running away to sea, but they’re both rather stuck. Except ships, a few fist fights, complicated relationships, manors and lords and ladies, and grand ships of the ocean!


9781471405105THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE

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What if you could sail on any ocean in any year? Welcome to this incredible book! Which is all about a time-travelling ship where you need specific maps to go to specific times in history. Nix is a fabulous narrator and, along with her father, they’re travelling through time to try and save her mother from dying. This requires a specific map however, and they can’t find it. The best part of this book is definitely how we flit from era to era! But let’s not forget that there are also sassy thieves, a pocket-sized dragons, so many gorgeous map illustrations, and plenty of sailing.


9781460752043PASSENGER

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Another time travelling story! And while this one doesn’t centre on using a ship to time travel, it definitely plays a part in the first half of the book. Etta is a violinist but during a fated recital, she accidentally gets thrown back in time to a dubious ship in the 1700s. A dashing young man, Nicholas, has been charged with bringing Etta to his very powerful time-travelling-controlling family. There is a lost magical item to be found. Etta wants to go home. And don’t forget a whirlwind of eras to travel through!


9780061134111CHALLENGER DEEP

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This is definitely a very different book compared to the first three, because it’s about a boy with schizophrenia, but he believes that he’s occasionally trapped on a ship. It’s a strange ship with a bizarre crew and it takes a little getting used to as you figure out how Connor’s mind works. But then it’s incredible. The writing sucks you in and the story is poignant and heart-wrenching and full of symbolism for life with mental illness and what it means to fall deep and then look for recovery.

Review: Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman

Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman took me completely by surprise! I was a bit dubious going in because while it looks like a dark hearted pirate book, I’d been warned it was more of a historical romance. That’s true! While this is the infamous Blackbeard’s origin story, it’s about before he turned to the sea. And yet, despite the lack of pirate action, I was completely in love with the story. I adored it! It had complex and winning characters, excellent writing, a dash of sass, and the promise of pirates in the sequel. So really — I am hooked.9781481432696

The story basically follows two very different people: Anne and Teach. Anne is a maid and because she’s half black, half white, she’s ostracised by everyone around her and she doesn’t feel like she belongs. All she wants to do is take a ship over to the West Indies to find her deceased mother’s people. So she’s kind of stealing from the manor lord to do so. Um, very bad idea. And on the other hand, we have Teach, who dreams of the sea but his father has him set up to marry an insufferable duchess and stay safely behind closed doors all his life. To which Teach says: no. Anne and Teach’s lives get caught up wonderfully because they both want to defy society’s expectations and follow their true dreams.

Hopefully Teach’s true dream involves pirating in the future, because I have expectations.

I loved how complex and interesting both Anne and Teach were! Teach loves books and while he can be an insufferable jerk, he’s really sweet too. Anne is very epically strong and will boss you around and woe to anyone who tries to take advantage or swindle her. She will, literally, thwack them with a bucket. They were both pretty strong-willed characters and yet still complimented each other marvellously.

I was totally onboard with this romance. Okay, but Teach did annoyed me with his supremacy attitude. But I wasn’t a fan of how he wanted to “protect” Anne, which basically entailed controlling her. That was the thinking of the era. Basically “Oh I like this woman, I must make sure she never gets hurt ergo I must make sure she never does anything without my permission first so I can check it’s safe.”  HOW ABOUT NO. Sit down, Teach. But, he did get better as the story went on. And I did adore how they argued so much! It just made me like them so much together. They are pepper and fire.

Yes it’s also the “origin” story of Blackbeard. Which is awesome. I did wish Teach had indicated more piratey tendencies. He honestly was a bit too much of an upstanding citizen, so I do wonder how he’s going to end up joining the dark side. I will find out once the sequel is released!

The writing was very marvellous too. I have a wariness of historical fiction and its usual tendency to be hard to read with stilted language style. But this? It was great! There are plenty of lords and ladies primly shouting, “I SHALL NOT, GOOD SIR!” but otherwise, there was banter and it was easy to devour. I didn’t want to put it down! Plus several scenes had me laughing out loud.

Blackhearts is definitely a book not to be missed! Sure it had cliche moments and I felt any complications towards the characters’ goals always got resolved a bit too fast. But there is a massively exciting cliffhanger finale, and Teach and Anne are amazing and I’m completely hooked on the storyline. Bring on the pirates!

 

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Review: The Beauty is in the Walking by James Moloney

The Beauty is in the Walking by James Moloney is an incredible tale that is part coming-of-age story and part murder-mystery. Except the one in question who is murdered is only a horse. So don’t panic too much. (This book doesn’t tangle very deeply in the dark side.) It is narrated by Jacob who also has Cerebral Palsy. And it’s an Australian homegrown book! So much to love here!9780732299941

What’s it About?

Everyone thinks they know what Jacob O’Leary can and can’t do – and they’re not shy about telling him either. But no one – not even Jacob – knows what he’s truly capable of. And he’s desperate for the chance to work it out for himself. When a shocking and mystifying crime sends his small country town reeling, and fingers start pointing at the newcomer, Jacob grabs the chance to get out in front of the pack and keep mob rule at bay. He’s convinced that the police have accused the wrong guy; that the real villain is still out there. And he’s determined to prove it – and himself – to everyone.

 

When I heard about this book, I leap towards it for several reasons. (1) The Aussie factor always wins me over because I don’t read nearly enough books from my own country. (2) Jacob is in his finale year of highschool and facing Big Life Decisions, which is always relatable, and he also has cerebral palsy, which is something I’ve only read about in one other book! (That book is Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern.) (3) THERE IS A MURDER MYSTERY. And it was a good story! I read it in just a few hours because it’s super short, but it was definitely satisfying and wonderful.

Jacob is a pretty awesome protagonist. He didn’t let anything hold him back. Plus he was sassy and capable and just downright cool. He stood up for himself to bullies, but he still was venerable and suffered a lot with his condition. He felt frustrated when people judged him unfairly because of it. And, well, I was so frustrated with how other people would judge him. There is cruelty and discrimination in this book, some of it accidental, and some of it intentional.

The plot is 80% school and 20% “oh things are dead”. But, like I said: animal deaths. So a horse and a pig have been murdered and the town is blaming the local Muslim family for it. Jacob wisely says, “hey where’s your proof!” and therefore he kind of gets caught up in debunking this unfair blame game.

I loved the amount of diversity in this book! Such a good representation of Australia, too, since we’re quite the multicultural nation. Not only does it feature disabilities — it also touches on racism and cultural differences.

The Beauty Is In The Walking is a quick and fun and engaging. I definitely learned more about CP, which is grand. And I think Jacob was a winning dude and I seeing the world from his perspective. Also the Aussie slang and culture just made the book feel endlessly homey. Plus someone gets called a “dingbat”, which just goes to show how awesome we Australians are at insults. I loved the relationship between Jacob and his older brother, and I loved the emphasis on finals and “what do you want to do with your life”, which is a question I think all teens relate to. It’s a solidly good book and definitely recommended!

 

[purchase here]

Middle Eastern Inspired YA Fantasy Books

As a rabid devourer of fantasy, I’m always on the look out for exceptionally brilliant books! And I’ve absolutely fallen in love with epic YA fantasy books set in the Middle East, Persia, and India! I can’t get enough of the gorgeous settings, the complex culture, and the mythology. Plus diversity is always a win and I get very excited when I find diverse fantasy.

Today I’ll be listing some Middle Eastern inspired fantasy books. Beware: they are gorgeous. You’ll want them all. Don’t even deny yourself, my friend, just buy and read them.


9780451477538REBEL OF THE SANDS

[purchase]

How about some Persian fantasy mixed with the Wild West?! Yes, I thought it was a weird combination too at first, but I have been emphatically converted. This book is full of action, shooting, and sass! They’re shooting bottles off each other’s heads from the first chapter, and it just gets more intense as it goes on. Plus magic. What is life without a bit o’ magic, amirite?

The story follows Amani, who lives with an unloving family who are very keen to marry her off to some smelly old guy. But she’s also an epic sharpshooter and dreams of an adventurous life in the city. She ends up in the company of a dashing foreigner and they get accidentally caught in a whirlwind adventure with bullets flying.


9781250085474THE STAR TOUCHED QUEEN

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This one is set in India and, along with gorgeous Indian culture an mythology, it combines this with a retelling of Persephone and Hades! HOW COOL IS THAT?! I mean, marriage is no picnic, but at least you’re not likely to elope with Death.

Maya has got a terrible horoscope and has been foretold that Death is her bridegroom. When her father tries to set her up for a political marriage (while encouraging her to poison herself to prevent it) Maya ends up marrying Amar and travelling to his magical city. She has about 2% of an idea what’s going on at first, but the mystery unwinds as she explores the palace. Also included in the story: tree spirits, a sassy talking demon horse, delicious Indian food, a magical Night Bazar, and a whole string of terrible mistakes.


9780399171611THE WRATH AND THE DAWN

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This is a retelling of the 1001 Arabian nights, originally told by Shahrazad to the evil Sultan killing all his wives. (Yes, we’re noticing a pattern that marriage is a bit iffy in these stories. #SingleLifeFTW) The Wrath and the Dawn features Shazi, who has set out on a mission to kill the Sultan before he murders every girl in the realm. Except the Sultan is a tortured and handsome boy and things are not as they seem.

The food descriptions in this book are guaranteed to make your mouth water. And the mythology coupled with beautiful storytelling and gorgeous settings just make this book divine. Also there is sass. As all good books should have.


9781447290377A THOUSAND NIGHTS

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Another Shahrazad retelling! But this one is told by an unnamed protagonist and focuses on beautiful, ethereal writing that will make you think you’ve fallen right into a fairy tale. Again it has the Sultan who is murdering people, but what’s the reason? Why would he do this?? SO MANY QUESTIONS.

It does take on a slower pace though, with 90% focus on the writing instead of on the characters. But no denying it is gorgeous!

5 Books for LEGO Lovers

Are you an Adult Fan of Lego (AFOL)? I recently finished reading Brick History – Amazing Historical Scenes to Build from Lego by Warren Elsmore and thought I’d put together a short list of books for LEGO lovers, or AFOL (Adult Fans of LEGO) as I now know them.Brick History Lego Warren Elsmore

  1. Brick History – Amazing Historical Scenes to Build from Lego by Warren Elsmore
    Brick History contains detailed scenes from history made entirely from LEGO bricks. Beginning with the birth of civilisation itself in the Big Bang, Brick History takes us through the ages to the year 2011 with the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. There is a short description of each historical scene, which is accompanied by photographs and a scattering of model projects to try.
  2. Brick Flicks – 60 Cult Movie Scenes & Posters Made from Lego by Warren ElsmoreBrick Flicks Warren Elsmore
    Brick Flicks is a collection of iconic film moments and movie characters of all time, all built from LEGO.
    It includes a variety of movies, including Ghost Busters and The Godfather and contains more than 60 recreations of favourite movie scenes and classic poster designs. There are also instructions on how to replicate many of the scenes at home from your own LEGO collection.
  3. The LEGO Ideas Book by Daniel LipkowitzLego Ideas Book
    If you have a pile of LEGO and you want to make something, then The LEGO Ideas Book is for you.
    Written by Daniel Lipkowitz, this book is broken down into six themed chapters – transport, buildings, space, kingdoms, adventure and useful makes and contains more than 500 models and ideas so there’s bound to be something in here for every AFOL.
  4. Beautiful LEGO & 5. Beautiful Lego 2: Dark by Mike DoyleBeautiful LEGO Mike Doyle
    Beautiful LEGO is the stunning result of talented artists using their creativity and letting their imaginations run wild with thousands of LEGO bricks to create something truly special. This is a compendium of LEGO artwork showcasing an impressive array of pieces including lifelike replicas of everyday objects, famous monuments and more. The author has included interviews with the artists to give the reader an insight into the creative process behind the work.Beautiful Lego DarkFans of gothic fantasy and sci-fi should check out Beautiful Lego 2: Dark by Mike Doyle. It’s full of dark and mysterious creations and shadowy nightmares. Perhaps not one for the kids.

    I hope you’ve been inspired by this collection of 5 LEGO books for AFOL. Winter is the perfect time of year to sit inside and create a masterpiece or two, or just play with your kids, cousins, nieces and nephews. Just remember to pick up all the pieces up off the floor when you’ve finished.

Review: The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick

After absolutely adoring My Life Next Door, I was super excited to pick up Huntley Fitzpatrick’s companion novel: The Boy Most Likely To. Was it good? OH YES VERY MUCH SO. But before we dive into my (ah…flailing) review — I do think it’s important to read My Life Next Door first! While the companion novel is by the point of view of a different character, the first book does provide needful backstory.9781405280396

But onwards!

The Boy Most Likely To is about Tim who is, basically, a drop-kick. He’s been kicked out of school, he’s got severe addiction habits, and his own family doesn’t really want anything to do with him. But he’s cleaning himself up! He’s going to AA meetings and he’s living above the garage of his best friend’s house: Jace Garrett. The Garrett family has, um, a gazillion kids and they are just downright awesome. And Tim has a ginormous crush on the oldest daughter, Alice — although Alice is about as warm and cuddly as an iced over cacti. Good times! And just when things are looking up, Tim gets a HUGE BOMB DROPPED ON HIM that changes everything. Still more good times!

It’s such an adorably tragic story at time that my heart hurts. I was a fan of Tim already from My Life Next Door, but this just cemented my love for him. (Plus anyone who’s name is “Tim” automatically reminds me of Tim Tams and that’s just beautiful.) I loved how sassy and witty Tim’s comebacks were! Plus his character development is just amazing throughout the story. I loved being in his perspective! Although it was super sad at times…because even though he’s trying to kick his addictions, he still has so much baggage from them. Plus his family is 0% supportive. It would be so hard to be strong and stay on track with s little support.

Plus I really like how this book talks openly about addictions and recovery. Tim is a recovering alcoholic. I do see many YA books talking about falling into the addiction route, but rarely do I find one that is about getting out of it. So this is such a super important story! Seeing the fall is needful: seeing the recovery is twice as important.

But let’s talk about Alice! The book is actually dual-narrated by both Alice and Tim and I’m immensely pleased about that. Because while they like each other, they’re not entirely honest. Tim covers up his attraction to Alice with sassy jokes, and Alice is too sharp to admit she has intense feelings for Tim. Please, children. TALK TO EACH OTHER. Alice is also under a lot of pressure to look after her million-and-two-siblings after her father’s accident and her mother being pregnant again. Plus she’s had to divert her nursing course. Poor Alice. I get why she’s so sharp! But it was agony waiting for her and Tim to move past that and admit feelings for each other!

Also, of course, we must mention how awesome the Garrett family is! I love reading about big families! And the representation here is on point. Just the kids’ banter and the messes and dynamics…ahhhh! It was honestly perfect (and this is coming from someone who has first hand experience with large families: ahem, that would be me).

Of course there are plenty of plot twists that will keep you glued to the page. And there are a lot of pages actually. I thought, at 500-pages, it could’ve sped things up a little and not dragged so much in the middle. But considering these characters are adorable, I didn’t mind too much. Plus the plot twists were just WOAH and equal parts adorable and daunting. The story will definite have you feeling aaaall of the things.

Basically, The Boy Most Likely To is a new favourite contemporary of mine! It had feels! It had big families! It had tragic but adorable protagonists! Tim and Alice were far from perfect and their relationship was rocky to say the least, but it was so so excellently written.

 

[purchase here]

Review: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

I had a very severe suspicion that I would absolutely adore The Crown’s Game by Evelyn SkyeNow why is that? Well, it contains all the greatest things in life including (A) beginning in a bakery, (B) Russian fantasy! and (C) magician duels! What could be better?!? And thankfully the book did not disappoint at all!

WHAT’S IT ABOUT:

9780062560605Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air.They are enchanters the only two in Russia and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side. And so he initiates the Crown s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with beautiful, whip smart, imaginative and he can t stop thinking about her.And when Pasha, Nikolai s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love . . . or be killed himself.As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear . . . the Crown s Game is not one to lose.

 
The story is a nice blend of fantasy and historical fiction. The author’s note says she did a ton of research and studied Russia in college and you can absolutely tell! The details are incredible and I honestly felt like the book had swallowed me whole. There are so many Russian words and descriptions of places and the culture was brilliantly woven in. I’m so so impressed! The attention to detail made it seem so very real.

“Imagine, and it shall be.
There are no limits.⁠⁠⁠⁠”

The characters were grand little bundles of magical joy! I was very impressed with the lot of them, although I confess I didn’t really emotionally connect to anyone. Probably because I am a stern melon at times. But the main trio was epic and fabulous, if not the most complex characters I’ve ever encountered.

  • VIKA: She’s an enchanter, a fiery red-haired totally spunky girl. VERY powerful. VERY fierce.
  • NIKOLAI: He’s the other enchanter, more like the quiet nerd? But he’s very intelligent, as opposed to Vika’s punch-them-in-the-face thing going on.
  • PASHA: He’s the Tsar’s heir, and he kinda doesn’t want to be. He sneaks out, gets grubby with the commoners and is fun and quirky and generally nice. I think he was my favourite, honestly! (FYI his real name is Pavel and not Passionfruit as I deludedly assumed at first. Ahem.)

 

Now for the actual “game” part of the plot! But first, full disclosure: it wasn’t the kind of “game” I thought it’d be! If you say “game” I start thinking of violent things like The Hunger Games. Ah, no. It was more like “impress the Tsar with your magic skills” not actually “blast each other’s heads off.” I expected the book to be a high-staked blazing game of glory, whereas in reality it was a slower moving and more about magical creation than murderous duels. Despite that it was still so fun! So magical! The things the magicians created were magnificent and so visual!

There is a love triangle, but I didn’t find it irritating for once. The romance is on the quieter side, with the focus being on the magic.

I’m so glad I devoured The Crown’s Game! I think the stakes could’ve been higher and the characters more complex, but apart from that it was magical and exciting and beautifully written. The world building was exquisite and the cliffhanger was pure torture. I can’t wait for the next instalment!

 

[purchase here]

YA Books About The Afterlife

Death and the afterlife are huge questions most humans ponder upon. So naturally there are YA books that ask the same questions! Which leads these books to be about (excuse me while I aptly quote The Princess Bride) characters who seem only mostly dead. Life ain’t over for these folks! And the afterlife speculations vary from Egyptian folklore to comedy to second-chance situations.

So let’s have a “mostly dead” list of YA books about the afterlife.

 


9780141334479The Catastrophic History of You and Me

[Purchase]

Brie is 16 and very decidedly dead. But she’s also still watching her world play out in the aftermath of her departure. Brie has to pass through the stages of grief before she can move on — with help from Patrick (ooooh, cue romance!). The book balances humour and pizza and dark themes super well and is written in an addictive quirky way. Totally recommend if you like death and pizza.


9781634501736It’s a Wonderful Death

[purchase]

This is about RJ who is…kind of horrible? And also dead. But she swears it was a mistake and is petitioning angels to review her case and send her back. It’s full of comedy and gallows humour as RJ navigates the many “waiting areas” of heaven and hangs out with the Saints and angels and meets Death who wears a Hawaiian shirt. AS YOU DO. She also has  gooey moment of learning to be a better person…because, well, the heat downstairs is a bit real now.


9781760373580Firstlife

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It’s set in a paranormal world where your life (as we know it) is only the “first” part. When you die, you choose between two warring afterlife cities and start your second life which is infinitely more amazing apparently. But Ten, the protagonist, doesn’t want to make the decision and ends up in an asylum to be tortured into a choice. Everyone wants to recruit Ten (because of SECRET SPECIAL REASONS) and she doesn’t want anything to do with it. But she has to choose eventually…OR ELSE.


9781743315101Afterworld

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This one is written by an Aussie author (cue cheering!) and takes a look at the more mythological side of potential afterlives. It’s heavily based on Egyptian mythology which is super interesting! The plot follows Dom who is dead (surprise) and in a waiting area. This place is full of super creepy Nephilim who force people to play in gladiator style games. So basically Dom has to complete trials and then a maze in order to get to the next level of death…but the universe is against him and apparently there are worse things than dying.


9781406350487More Than This

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This is a super hard book to summarise because it’s incredibly unique! AND GLORIOUS. (Of course it is…it’s by the literary YA genius author, Patrick Ness!) It’s about Seth who drowns himself…and comes-to in a strange world. Was everything in his previous life a stimulation? His neighbourhood looks the same except it’s entirely apocalyptically empty and dusty. He needs answers. He teams up with two unlikely companions and purses the truth of his life, or afterlife.

Review: Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke was delightfully messed up. It’s a whimsical YA contemporary with a fairy tale vibe that nearly makes it seem magical realism. And it’s basically populated by slightly psychotic characters. But don’t fret! They’re adorable psychos. (Ahem.) After finishing my brain basically just spun with emotions and I feel like I did paddle in a bucket full of crazy. With no regrets.23203106

What To Expect In This Story:

  • Magical, fairy-tale whimsical writing
  • A love triangle
  • But the most messed-up triangle you have ever seen
  • Mind games
  • Characters who mess with each other because what the heck; they’re teens; it’s summer; lets read your tarot cards and predict DEATH MWAHAHHAHA
  • Minor magical realism
  • Plot twists that will leave you splattered upon the ground
  • So many strawberries
  • Toxic friendships
  • Feelings of strangulation towards the characters; but also sadness and the need to possibly cuddle or protect them all.

 

I definitely did enjoy this one! It’s told by 3 point-of-views, which usually is not my favourite, but I quite enjoyed how the author pulled it off. Plus everyone had very different voices! Wink’s chapters always read like a fairy tale, while Poppy’s were feisty and Midnight’s morose. The combination just made me feel like I fell into a magical fairy tale summer.

  • MIDNIGHT: He’s like this very sad lonely pancake that everybody adores and wants to maliciously devour. I felt rather sorry for him. He’s trying to get away from the toxic relationship he had with Poppy but she acts like she owns him. Midnight was super cute! I do think he was emotionally/sexually abused by Poppy which made me so sad for him.
  • POPPY: She’s a psychopath. Like, the end. SHE IS ONE. She plays mind games, hates everyone, has no feelings, and ruins lives for the “lolz”. She’s a manic pixie dream mean girl.
  • WINK: She’s Midnight’s new next-door-neighbour…the feral wild child who’s grown up with a tarot-reading mother and 5 siblings and they all just tumble around in permanent fairy tales. She believes in supernatural mystical things. She’s just not really into reality, okay? Which is fair, reality sucks. But she’s so very calm and unemotional the whole book, which makes me suspect she has psychopathic tendencies.

 

Wink kissed deep. Deep as a dark, misty, forest path. One that lead to blood and love and death and monsters.

It’s basically a revenge/mystery/discovery plot. Midnight wants to get away from Poppy; Midnight falls for Wink; Poppy tries to break them up; but Poppy has a thing for Wink’s brother. It’s like a love triangle, but it’s much more complicated. And even though I’m an avid triangle hater, I enjoyed the twisty-ness of this one.

It is very vivid with the description! (Although at times it got rather repetitive.) But it drew you in with vibrant colours and sensory details so I felt like I was experiencing the summer with the characters.

“You just have to eat a strawberry and then wait for tomorrow.”

 

I also listened to the audio book which I can’t recommend enough! It has 3 audio narrators too to differentiate between the characters. It also flowed so nicely and musically that I’m super glad I chose this way to devour the story, although I did feel the narrators read a little slowly. So be prepared for that.

I definitely enjoyed Wink Poppy Midnight. It was such a different story and all the mind twisting had me wondering who was telling the truth. I honestly had no idea what exact crazy twist would happen or whether ghosts and murderers would pop out of the woodwork.

 

[buy it here]

Review: Starflight by Melissa Sanders

Starflight by Melissa Sanders was an incredibly fun surprise! I didn’t have very high expectations because the author’s previous book, Alienated, was cute but a bit unimpressive for me. Yet Starflight?!? IT WAS AMAZING. It was like Cinder meets Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and it was stuffed with action and hilarious dialogue. This is the kind of quality intergalactic space shippy books I want to board immediately.9781484723241

I haven’t read a lot of sci-fi (space opera?) before this. So I literally have nothing to compare it to. But Starflight is basically about Solara who is a criminal and Doran who is son of rich galaxy company dude and how they end up working for each other — and hating each other. Solara is a mechanic. And Doran is an entitled selfish grape who gradually shows he is a small gooey chocolate pudding whom I adored. They get caught up in space-chases, get into trouble with pirates, and end up with assassins hunting them down. As you do.

The hate-relationship between Solara and Doran was definitely my favourite. I love this romance trope! It starts off as aggressive arguments and the small wish to boot each other off the galaxy….and then warms to an adorable romance I can’t help but root for. Plus there’s plenty of excitement around them. Doran treats Solara like a peasant to begin with, and then she stun-guns him and cons him into working for her. They fight endlessly and it’s hilarious.

“Scoot over,” she whispered.
The mattress shook with his movement.
“A little more,” she said.
“If I get any closer to the wall,” he hissed, “I’ll have to buy it dinner.”

The plot is monstrously action filled too. There’s definitely no chances to be bored because you’re too busy wondering what calamities these two are going to accidentally throw themselves into next. They’re either zooming through space, running from assassins, getting conned into pirate marriages, getting drunk tattoos, stealing things, or complaining about the lack of bed space on board the ship. And the writing was just downright pleasant to devour. It made 3rd person so personal and I really connected to both Solara and Doran. I can’t even choose a favourite.

Also it has amazing witty banter! I laughed out loud. (Which doesn’t happen very often for me.) The sarcastic quips were amazing and clever and definitely had me wishing I could think up such snarky comebacks.

“Demarkus invites you to join his table.”
Solara’s prideful grin faltered. She wanted nothing to do with Demarkus. Besides, nobody had told her about pirate dinner protocol. She might use the wrong fork and start a war.

 

I’ve definitely found a new favourite sci-fi book that I’ll basically recommend to everyone of ever. It’s such a fabulous feeling to finish a book and just feel so happy about how awesome it was. It was fun and exciting and hilarious and I loved the complex characters and their amazing development. The writing was perfection. My only sadness is that this is a standalone! I could’ve read a ton more books about these characters!

 

[Purchase Here]

YA, NA and MG Fiction Defined With Recommendations

Most readers will be familiar with the genre of books referred to as YA, but what about NA and MG?

Young Adult (YA)Eleanor & Park
YA fiction generally contains novels written for readers aged in their teens, or more specifically between the ages of 13 and 20. The stories feature teenage protagonists and often explore themes of identity and coming-of-age. Having said that, YA novels can be from any genre, science fiction, contemporary, fantasy, romance, paranormal etc. Some popular YA novels include the Harry Potter series, Hunger Games series, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Middle Grade (MG)
MG novels are generally written for readers aged between 8-12 years, with main characters less than 13 years of age. Themes can include: school, parents, relationship with siblings and friends, being good or misbehaving. Just like every genre, some MG books can have an underlying message (e.g. be kind to animals).

Some examples of popular MG novels include: Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney, Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.

New Adult (NA)A Court of Thorns and Roses
NA fiction is a relatively new genre in publishing, and in my opinion grew from the popularity of adult audiences reading and enjoying YA novels (Twilight and The Fault in Our Stars). The genre is situated between YA and adult fiction and protagonists are generally between 18-30 years of age. Themes include leaving home, starting university, choosing a career, sex and sexuality.

Some popular NA novels include: Slammed by Colleen Hoover (called CoHo by her fans), The Night Circus by Erin MorgensternA Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas and The Elephant Tree by R.D. Ronald.

On my TBR ListInheritance
I have a number of books on my to-be-read pile from the genres mentioned above, including: Inheritance by Christopher Paolini, Matilda by Roald Dahl, Reasons She Goes to the Woods by Deborah Kay Davies, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition by Jacob Grimm, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes and 100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson. What’s on your list?

Whether you enjoy MG, YA or NA fiction, the most important thing is that you don’t allow yourself to become pigeon-holed. Enjoy your reading, keep an open mind and explore new authors. You never know where your next favourite book might come from.

Review: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman definitely goes down as my favourite YA Western read of…EVER. Yes, just excuse me while I get a little overexcited. Ahem. I was worried, going into it, because I didn’t love the author’s previous dystopian series. But this?! This was wildly different and entirely spectacular. It also reminded me heavily of Blood Red Road (which I am a ginormous fan of) so that only added to the 9780544466388amazing reading experience!

WHAT’S THE STORY ABOUT? It features Kate, whose father is murdered by rogue gold-hungry cowboys, so she takes off after them for vengeance or bust. So much vengeance, peoples. On the way she collects two brothers, Jesse and Will, to join in the quest. Do they get along? NOPE. Do they make a fabulous team? YEP. There are tons of shoot-outs and wild horse chases and gold searching and plot twists that will possibly destroy you. It’s wonderful.

I’ve always been seriously obsessed with the Wild West. Why? Pfft, I don’t know. But some of my other favourite YA westerns are Under A Painted Sky and Walk On Earth a Stranger (I highly recommend both!) and Vengeance Road just tops them all. Westerns scream grittiness and dust and cowboy adventures and it’s so exciting.

The action is also intense! The book spares nothing! If it says “I’m gonna shoot the thing”…the thing will definitely be shot. There are morally grey characters and even Kate herself makes dubious decisions at times in her quest to avenge her father.

Let’s talk about Kate though, because WOW, she’s an amazing protagonist! She was basically gunpowder and cacti and I adored her. So much snark and bitter snapping. She’s not cuddly and she’s not a pushover. But at the same time, she does have a softer venerable side. I think the writer handled her characterisation so well. Plus Kate got things done. She never sat down in the dust and whinged. She was a woman of action.

Plus Kate’s fabulousness just made the romance even more enjoyable. Although the romance doesn’t actually take the spotlight in the story. It’s definitely a subplot. Which just made it all the more enjoyable to me. FIRSTLY: we get guns and gold. SECONDLY: we get Kate and Jesse’s snarky hate/love relationship. Jesse was a complex and interesting character, and quite the “nice guy” and I really wanted him and Kate to have a happily-ever-after.

 

“People don’t gotta like the same stuff. If they did, life would be pretty boring.”

 

The story will also not hesitate to slightly ruin you. OH. I mean this in the best possible way, my friends. It just gets into your heart and gives you all the feels. The relationship between Jesse, looking after his brother Will, is adorable. And the witty, easy banter is divine. Not to mention that these characters go through a myriad of awful things and don’t come out unscathed. You will most likely be gripping the pages and howling. It’s great.

OH! But be prepared: the writing is done in slang. There’s still punctuation, but everyone talks sans grammar. I found the flow of the story was still fine and it only enhanced my enjoyment.

Vengeance Road is amazingly glorious and full of gunpowder. I’m endlessly pleased with how complex the characters were. They could’ve easily fallen into pancake-flat-tropes (especially considering the “don’t need no man” tough female heroine) but they didn’t. I loved everyone! The story was full of action and intense scenes and witty dialogue and I read the whole thing in one day.

“I don’t think I could finish something that think without dying of boredom.”
“Then you ain’t found the right book yet,” I says. “There’s something for everyone.”

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton is a debut YA novel — and wow is it an incredible first book from this author! I anticipated it so very extraordinarily highly that I was slightly nervous going in. Did it live up to my expectations? DEFINITELY YES. It was a glorious conglomeration of Persian fantasy, magic horses, sass, and guns…and I absolutely loved it.9780571325252

The story is about Amani, who is a sharpshooter living with extended family who despise her. She dreams of an adventurous life. So when a strange foreigner comes into town (and they companionably shoot each other and all that) she ends up joining in his adventure. Also there’s magic and guns and a volley of plot twists. Glorious plot twists.

It’s basically set in a dusty fantasy world with Middle Eastern influences. I was actually surprised because I rarely find modern fantasy. (It reminded me a bit of Blood Red Road actually, which I also abso-freaking-lutely love.) There are weapons factories and guns and shoot-outs — but there are also spirits and ghouls and terrible things lurking in the desert that like to rip your face off. Also sand. MUCH SAND. It actually had a cowboy western feel to it!

Amani is downright awesome. She’s the “tough heroine” who is a wicked good shot and dreams of running away from her abusive relatives to FIND HER DESTINY OF AWESOME. She’s really sassy. And she makes mistakes. Oh so. many. mistakes. But she had amazing character development too.

And of course there’s the love interest: Jin. Whom I adored. It could be because of the sass. Or that he slinks into a shooting game in the local tavern and competes against Amani and they’re so stinkin’ cute together. Or, it could be because he gets shot right at the beginning of the story and I do love a good book where everyone is bleeding. Ahem.

 

Jin was at my side…”Did you just shoot someone?”
“I got us hired, if that’s what you’re asking. And I only shot his glass.”
Jin hooked one arm around my shoulder, leaning on me. “I knew I liked you, Bandit.”

Also the actual storyline did not disappoint at all! It’s fast paced, too, and the fact that it fits an entire complex world into 330-pages is immensely pleasing to me. I love small fantasy worlds that pack a punch of awesome and don’t waffle on. This has epic world building. Epic mythology. Epic settings. (Although it did have a tendency to info-dump in the form of folklore tales occasionally.)

The plot twists are intense and exciting! Although I did predict the biggest one. Not sure if I’m a genius or it was too obvious (let’s assume the first one, right?!) And at times I did get a bit lost with all the characters and why they were killing each other. I hope more is explained about the wars in the next book!

All in all: This book was AMAZING and I cannot recommend it enough. I’m really thrilled about the Persian culture influences, too, because there aren’t enough books out like this! Plus magic and shooting cowboy-esque characters and intense action scenes?! What could be better!?

 

“You’re going to get us both killed if you go off looking for this on your own, you know. And if I was going to die on account of you, I’d rather have done it weeks ago before I had to do all this walking.”

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is so good that I’ve read it TWICE. (And I’m notorious for not being a rereader because of all the new books clamouring for my attention.) And my star-rating went up on the second read, because I appreciated the writing style and the psychological angle on battle tactics so very much. It’s an epic fantasy, yes, but it focuses on mind games and cunning plots and ploys.9781408858202

Basically, it is everything. (You’re going to need it, I basically promise.)

Kestrel is the daughter of a Valorian general and she has a choice: get married, or go to war. She doesn’t want either. She wants to play piano. But she’s also insanely smart, quick-witted and often gives amazing battle tactics to her father. Then — enter ARIN. The slave she bought on impulse, but who’s actually a rebel plant, and plans to take down everything Kestrel loves. Cue forbidden, possible romance. It’s dual narrated by them both.

Kestrel is one of my all-time favourite heroines because she is smart and quiet and small and kind of weak on the battle field but oh so intelligent. She blackmails. She deduces. She has a snippy answer for you if you’re stupid. She is kind…but she will stab you if forced. She is a complex creature. I also love how she does anything to keep her piano playing fingers safe. That’s why weapons are her nemesis. What if she breaks her hand and can’t play?! #priorities

Arin is definitely a hothead and rash and quite a few times I wanted to strangle him because he rebuffs all attempts at friendship with Kestrel and he does BAD REBEL THINGS. But he really cares about his people. And the way he grows over the course of the book?! Spectacular. I love Arin.

I also adore how short and concise the story was. It never rambled. The writing is snappy and punchy and it has the most refreshing voice in the unvierse. Plus world building? YOU GOT IT. I adore how the world is based on Grecian-Roman times, with a few twists and how it has so much culture and history. Plus the plot wasn’t super fast, but it was definitely always moving forward and weaving in plots and blackmail. Kestrel is forever scheming. And there’s rebellion from the slave in the wind. Also throw in a bit of torture and bleeding and copious strategy games — which Kestrel always wins, because she’s clever and rather a gambler.

And have you seen that cover?! It’s so gorgeous I mostly want to hug it. The series’ covers just get better as they go on, too.

I am a hugely enthusiastic fan of this series. It has action, but yet it focuses on strategy and the psychology of battle and emotion. It has stabby moments and let’s-wear-pretty-dresses moments and betrayals and alliances and murder. Plus it’s epic and concise. I really cannot ask for more in this incredible fantasy series.

[PURCHASE HERE]