5 YA Books On My To-Be-Read Pile (And Why You Want Them Too!)

Buying new shiny books is obviously one of the greatest delights a bookworm can have. Because first of all, we bookworms have voracious appetites and need to be fed regularly. And who doesn’t like receiving parcels in the mail!? Particularly when it’s books?! I highly suggest skipping a few coffees and putting aside some money to buy yourself a delightful new Young Adult book. But what should you get? Ah, the golden question. Here, sit tight, get some popcorn, and I’ll list 5 books I’ve bought this year that should definitely be on your To-Be-Read Pile too.


CARAVAL BY STEPHANIE GRABER

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This book is not only absolutely gorgeous, but it also comes in two editions that are nearly impossible to choose between. I ended up with the one on the left, but I tell you: it was a hard choice.

The story is about a magical circus and stars Scarlett who wants to see the circus preform before she’s forced into an unwanted arranged marriage. She gets caught up in the mystery and intrigue when her friend gets kidnapped, only be assured it’s all a performance and a game. Or is it? (Cue ominous music.)

It sounds lush and fantastical and definitely the kind of story I need in my life.

 

CARVE THE MARK BY VERONICA ROTH

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Finally we have a new book from the NYT bestselling author of the Divergent trilogy! I am definitely keen to see her take on a new genre of hardcore sci-fi and build a new world with this gorgeous looking novel.

It’s set in a galaxy where people have gifts and powers that dictate how they’re treated and who they can control. Two teens have to reset the power balance in the world which sounds just about as easy as using froot loops as a hat. So GOOD LUCK TO THEM. And I’m really excited by the idea of superpowers and other galaxies and a sharp, stabby girl, and a peaceful, quiet boy duo.

 

A QUIET KIND OF THUNDER BY SARA BARNARD

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This is a change from my usual hardcore fantasy tastes, but I’m a huge lover of diverse fiction and couldn’t wait to get my hands on this new book that features a girl with Selective Mutism and a Deaf boy! I’ve heard many people say it’s super sweet and informative and tells a story that’s going to wrap around your heart until you fall in love with it. Here, here! I’m ready for that! Plus it’s always nice to have a chance from all these stabby fantasy novels, right?

 

ALLEGEDLY BY TIFFANY D. JACKSON

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This is another contemporary (mixed with crime thriller) about a 9-year-old girl who allegedly murdered a baby. What happened to her after she got out of jail? That’s where the story picks up and it promises a mind twisting and gut wrenching story of a girl who says she’s been falsely accused.

Mary is also pregnant from a boy she loves but has to keep a secret because she’s under strict surveillance at her foster home. but she’s terrified she wont’ be able to keep her own baby, with what she went to prison for and all. So the book is about her trying to clear her name!

 

HEARTSTONE BY ELLE KATHARINE WHITE

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All we need to know about this one is: DRAGONS. Who doesn’t love dragons?!? And I’m always excited to see an epic looking edition coming out! This one is also rumoured to be a Pride and Prejudice retelling in a world of magical creatures like gryphons, direwolves, banshees and…of course, dragons.

When the blurb says “They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay-and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters” I know I am going to need this kind of novel in my life. Battles! Action! Intrigue! Quests! Swords! And a handsome and sassy dragonrider love interest to top it all off? I’m sure this is going to be a dragonishly good time. I can’t wait to get started!

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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YA Books About Amnesia

In my enthusiastic career as a devourer of all things YA, I’ve discovered amnesia is a very popular theme in a lot of books! It can add so many elements of mystery to a novel, since you can’t tell if what the unreliable narrator is thinking is true or false. It also gets one’s heart beating tenderly to think of these people who have huge holes in their lives due to memory loss. Will they get their memories back? Will there be epic plot twists? What is it like to live with this disability?

Today I have a list of YA books that feature characters with anmesia!


9781760111069WE WERE LIARS

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This is definitely one of the most small but brilliant books I’ve ever read. It’s the kind you go into with the “knowing less is best” motto. The plot twist at the end is the most devastating and yet brilliant thing ever and I think I sat like a shocked turtle for 9 years after I finished reading it.

It also features rich kids on an island and a disturbing summer and secrets that you’ll never possibly guess the answers to.


9781908435132THE MAZE RUNNER

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This is of course an exceptionally famous series! It features Thomas, who has been forced into a dystopian maze for…well, who knows? He has no memories except this metal box he arrives in the maze in. It’s a confusing story, full of plot twists and intrigue. It also features a group of boys fighting for their lives in a monstrous maze that sends monsters and other horrors out at them. Chances of everyone surviving? BASICALLY NO.


9780141368511THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS

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This book has only just been released so it is still a small baby book just out in the world! It’s about Flora who has short-term-memory problems (basically like being a teen with dementia) after an operation to remove a tumour from her brain. She remembers nothing consistently until she’s kissed by a boy…and then begins her journey to find him again when he disappears into the Arctic. The prose sometimes goes in circles to represent Flora’s confused thinking patterns and I thought it was a realistic and excellent way to represent what Flora was going through.


9781408877807THE LEAVING

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This one is about a group of teens who were kidnapped when they were small children. Years later they’ve returned, now as teens but with no memory of where they went or what happened to them. At first it’s joy that people get to put their families back together…and then it’s mistrust because who knows if these kids are telling the truth? It’s a rather heartbreaking book as kids have to learn who they were again and solve the mystery of their amnesia.


9780062231185THE HALF LIFE OF MOLLY PIERCE

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This is by an extremely excellent and talented and underrated author, and I suggest checking out all her books ASAP. This book features Molly Pierce (surprise!) who keeps blacking out and waking up in places she has no idea how she got there. She feels like her life is unravelling and she’s freaking out over how and why she has these random bursts of amnesia. Then a boy appears and claims they know each other and Molly discovers her life is absolutely not what it seems.

The Best YA Fictional Families

There comes a time in every bookworm’s life where they secretly would like to be adopted by an amazing fictional family. No shame! Sometimes we just want to dissolve into a book with a quirky or magical or epic family whose lives are 78% more exciting than our own.

Today I’m listing some of my top favourite fictional families that appear in Young Adult books across a variety of genres. And hopefully I’ll find a wish-granting factory to let me turn into a book for day and visit them. Because that would be awesome, yes please and thank you.


9780575096721WHITE CAT

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This is one of my all-time favourite fictional families because they’re like the magical Mafia! This is set in a world were you can curse someone with a simple touch. And obviously not everyone is using this talent for good. Cassel’s family is a bunch of con-artists who definitely make use of their skills — with crime. It’s exciting, sassy, and devious and there are plot twists that will fairly knock you over. Plus who doesn’t want to read about a family of conartists and sociopaths?!


9780525428688ROCKS FALL, EVERYONE DIES

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Aspen’s family are also most definitely magical. They have to constantly preform rituals to keep the cliff above the town from breaking apart and falling and crushing everyone flat. How do they do this? They have this magical ability to “pull” things out of people. Like your over-achieving tendencies. Or your hope. Or your pain. Or your ability to see. Things are a little morally grey around here. This is a perfectly amazing magical realism story and you’ll be wondering just how far Aspen’s family will go.


9781408845646HARRY POTTER

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Of course I can’t help but mention the Weasley family! They basically act as Harry’s adopted family during the holidays and I adore how supportive and kind and loving the parents are. (An actual rare thing in books it seems…) Also the big family dynamics are hilarious and perfect, because when there’s a dozen kids running around, things are going to get hectic. Whenever Harry spent Christmas or his holidays with Ron’s family, I always got all the warm squishy feelings. The Weasleys are perfection.


9780142426043MY LIFE NEXT DOOR

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Just in case you didn’t want a magical family  (pfft, what’s wrong with you though?!) here is one of my favourite big-families in a contemporary novel! The Garretts have half a dozen kids in all ages and their life is happy, warm chaos. The book is about Sam who, in contrast, lives in a rather cold and very particular house with her politician mother who really has nothing to do with her daughter. The story is heartwarming with the cutest romance and some seriously tragic moments to make you sniffle into your popcorn as you read.


9781408870082WHEN WE COLLIDED

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This is Emery Lord’s latest book and it’s half narrated by Viv, who has bipolar, and half by Jonah, who is doing his best to keep his family together after their father died. Jonah has several little siblings he looks after and he’s also an insanely talented cook. So not only will you melt at the severe adorableness of a big brother babysitting, you’ll also get so hungry you’ll feel like devouring the book at dawn. Perhaps eat before you read. That should help.

Review: The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

9780143309031After reading Will Kostakis’ book The First Third and being a gargantuan fan, I knew I had to try his latest novel, The Sidekicks. And it was brilliant! (Although I confess to loving The First Third more.) This is mostly because the format in The Sidekicks threw me off a bit, but if I’d known to start with it was going to be from three points-of-view, I would’ve been a lot more prepared. As is, I was so emotional by the end I could feel my glacial heart melting. And that’s the kind of reaction I want in a book!

The story is basically about the death of Isaac and how it leaves his three friends (Ryan, Harley and Miles) all to piece together their lives without him. The twist? Ryan, Harley and Miles aren’t friends. They barely even know each other. Isaac was their link. The death affects them all very differently and they have to (A) own up to knowing darker things about Isaac’s past, and (B) accidentally start working together, and (C) learn to let go.

At first I was dubious that I might not care enough because I didn’t “know” Isaac…but I definitely did end up caring! You get to know Isaac a bit more through some flashbacks. And I loved how the three boys started to depend on each other and help each other out…like they were filling the holes Isaac left. The #SquadGoals were immensely awesome.

Like I said, there’s 3 POVs, one from each of the boys. It’s a short book (under 300-pages) so it doesn’t leave us a lot of room to get to know each boy, but I think the story still did an admirable job of pulling us into Ryan, Harley, and Miles’ worlds.

So a brief run down on the three parts of the story:

  • It starts off with Ryan who is a dedicated swimmer and is also gay but so deep in the closet he’s having tea with Mr. Tumnus. Ryan’s mum is a teacher, so he’s pretty much the goody-goody of the squad. But he also harbours a lot of fears and anxieties about who he is and what it would mean to come out.
  • Then we have Harley. The writing changes styles drastically here and goes rather stilted and jagged to represent how Harley is not very studious at all…and is known to drink and perhaps pass along drugs. But he still has one of those “mildly bad boy golden hearts” which was winning! He had such a good soul.
  • Lastly there’s Miles. I really loved Miles who is a socially-inept nerd and incredibly smart and also runs some black-market operations. He is the one who doubts if he even meant anything to Isaac, who was his only friend…until Miles gets caught up with Ryan and Harley. Miles was really blunt, but still a squishable gem who I really felt for! His ache over losing Isaac was the most palpable.

 

I think the strengths of the story definitley lie in the character development! If only it had been a bit longer, because I would’ve loved to get to know each boy just a bit more deeper than the short chapters allowed. But the plot was amazing, with a little bit of mystery, and a whole lot of heartache, and a good dash of hope. I’m endlessly in love with how these characters’ stories unravelled and I loved the diversity representation and how it wasn’t cliche or stereotyped! The book was, naturally, amazing.

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Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

If you’re looking for a deadly brutal YA historical fiction retelling…And I Darken by Kiersten White is calling your name. Practically screaming it in a bloodthirsty way, let’s be honest. This book is incredible. It’s dark and accurately portrays how vicious the world was back in the 1400s. It’s also a9780552573740 gender-bent retelling of Vlad the Impaler! So instead of “Vlad” we have “Lada” (which is actually the feminine equivalent) who is terrifying and admirable. This book is totally the definition of EPIC.

The story follows the life of Lada. It starts off, literally, with her birth and then follows her briefly through childhood to the viciously terrifying teenager she becomes. She’s a wild girl who desperately wants the approval of her terrible father, Prince of Wallachia. Except her father ends up abandoning her to the Ottomans, as hostages basically, and she grows up estranged from her homeland and lost and alone. Except, of course, for her little brother: Radu. Radu is as thoughtful and kind and soft as Lada is tough and violent and raging. They clash like nothing else. Except they also care fiercely for each other. #siblings And they both perhaps fall in love with the young Sultan, Mehmed. Which is awkward considering Mehmed is Lada and Radu’s sworn enemy.

The story has a lot of political elements. It almost reminded me of Game of Thrones in that respect. Basically it is 90% about who is at war with who and who wants to stab and impale who (spoiler: EVERYONE WANTS TO STAB EVERYONE) and alliances and broken alliances and who gets the throne and etc. It was very interesting, although boarded on info-dumping several times. But it made me care about the characters at first, so the political and historical aspects (while a bit dry) didn’t get overly tedious.

It definitely features historical elements! Although, since it is historical fiction, some timelines have been moved and rearranged to create a faster-moving story. But I loved learning about the Ottoman culture and I didn’t know much about Vlad the Impaler before….and now I do! Huzzah!9780553522310

The characters were definitely the highlight. Often I read books where the book promises dark/vicious characters…but then all the character does is sneezes on a puppy and doesn’t apologise and it’s all very anti-climatic. Not so here! Lada is downright cruel. She stabs and bites and she’s feral and wild and basically amazing. Nothing gets her down. Although as the book goes on she does mature and develop as a character. Sometimes she even talks to people before immediately smacking them in the head. #progress Radu dual-narrates and he’s equally amazing to read about. Despite being labelled the “weak” one and constantly underestimated, he’s very clever and intelligent and collects information and uses it for blackmail. These two siblings were just so contrasted and intriguing that I couldn’t put the book down!

There is a love triangle, although it’s a muted one. Considering Radu refuses to admit his feelings for Mehmed and Lada would rather stab puppies than admit her feelings for Mehmed. The romance definitely features in the plot, but it doesn’t overwhelm things.

It is quite a long book, at 500-pages. I felt it could’ve been shorter and condensed some of the intense load of politics and focused more on the characters than the world. My favourite scenes were all the conversations between the trio: Lada, Radu, and Mehmed. They were all three so awesome and complex!

And though the book is quite dark, it’s not super graphic. So if you’re squeamish, you’ll be fine! (Mostly.) Of course there is impaling and stabbing and assassination attempts and Lada kindly (not) tortures the kids she grows up with all through her childhood…oh and there’s plenty of WAR and BATTLES.

ALL IN ALL: I have such fond feelings for this book! It was intense and exciting and intriguing. The writing was engaging, although a little dry at times, and the characters were winning despite being entirely horrible to each other. I am desperate for the next instillment!

 

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Review: The Things I Didn’t Say by Kylie Fornasier

I was excited and nervous to dive into The Things I Didn’t Say by Kylie FornaiserHer debut novel, Masquerade (an Italian-based historical fiction!) was absolutely stupendous. And I was entirely curious to see how she’d go writing a contemporary dealing with social anxiety disorders. But this book is practically flawless. Honestly I’m so pleased with it! It features the cutest characters of ever, incredible writing, and a careful and honouring portrayal of Social Anxiety and Selective Mutism. All I can do is applaud!9780143573630

Actually, I can totally do more than applaud. TIME FOR AN ENTHUSIASTIC REVIEW AS WELL.

The story is about Piper who has Selective Mutism. Before reading this book I knew basically 2% about Selective Mutism and I’d never read a book on it. Piper hasn’t stopped speaking because of a traumatic event — she has Social Anxiety and she’s had it most of her life. She can talk. And she does around her family and with any friends she’s super close to. But she never talks in public due to her astronomically high levels of anxiety. And you know what?!? It was just so well written. I appreciated the accurate and thoughtful representation and the detailed though process of Piper’s reactions to stressful situations.

The story follows Piper as she’s starting a new school. Which is always hard because she can’t talk and people rarely understand and force her into situations that make it worse. She left her old school because of a Big Bad Thing that we readers are basically desperate to find out whyyyyy. I could basically feel the tension and anxiety and hopelessness leaking off the pages as Piper navigates the world. But yet she still keeps up a fairly good humour despite it! Plus she does make some friends. It’s so adorably encouraging to see some of the school kids taking her under their wing.

The romance is entirely adorable! Although I’m not the biggest romantic of ever….oh gosh, I was definitely shipping this. There’s a slow-burn and super sweet relationship between Piper and a boy she meets at school: West. They start off passing notes and then merging to tutoring and it’s just downright adorable. West does push at at Piper several times, questioning why she won’t speak to him when she clearly likes him. It’s complicated, okay?!? But whenever he does something sucky he actually apologies. Like, dude. This is unbelievably good. Plus on top of West’s manners and charm, his passion is cooking! He gets excited about the thought of truffles and opening a restaurant (!!) and what is not to like about this boy?!

I immensely enjoyed reading about Piper’s epic family too. She has 3 siblings and 2 fantastically loving, joking, supportive parents! Sometimes they don’t truly understand her mutism, but they try. Her parents will put her into expensive therapies if it’ll help, and they are there for her, and they don’t force her into doing anything that will freak her out. Plus they have family game nights and excuse me but I love them all.

Of course there’s plenty of DRAMA, too. The ending was nearly cheesy with plenty of feel-good moments and a few convenient plot twists, but it was still done super sweetly. The story just has so many fabulous elements! Cooking! Emailing trees! Mutism! Glorious happy family dynamics! Disney’s Frozen references! Photography! I can overlook the drama llama tendencies.

All in all: The Things I Didn’t Say was beautifully written and incredible to read. It had frank and meaningful and accurate discussions and portrayals about anxiety disorders. Plus it had a bit of fluff, some quirky moments, jokes, and several people singing Let It Go when the need arose. Piper is definitely a protagonist you get attached to and become very proud of. I’m so super pleased this book exists!

 

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Review: The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows

If you’re looking for an incredible YA fantasy that features delicious things like spooky destroyed countries, medieval vigilantes, princesses-in-disguise, and various sharp knives — then The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows is calling to you. Practically screaming your name. You want it, just trust me on this, yes?

 

WHAT’S IT ABOUT:

18081228An epic fantasy filled with adventure, intrigue, and romance from Incarnate series author Jodi Meadows. This duology is perfect for fans of Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, and Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. When Princess Wilhelmina was a child, the Indigo Kingdom invaded her homeland. Ten years later, Wil and the other noble children who escaped are ready to fight back and reclaim Wil’s throne. To do so, Wil and her best friend, Melanie, infiltrate the Indigo Kingdom palace with hopes of gathering information that will help them succeed. But Wil has a secret-one that could change everything. Although magic has been illegal for a century, she knows her ability could help her save her kingdom. But magic creates wraith, and the deadly stuff is moving closer and destroying the land. And if the vigilante Black Knife catches her using magic, she may disappear like all the others…

 

I will warn you that it ends with a dreadfully glorious cliffhanger! So do the smart thing and order both The Orphan Queen and the sequel, The Mirror King, simultaneously. You’ll thank me, I swear. Also it’s simply a duo! So no need to freak out waiting for a third book!

As a huge fan of YA fantasy, I’m really glad this lived up to my expectations! I wouldn’t say it’s the most original book out there, but it was well told and had unique elements. AKA = it basically had a medieval vigilante Batman. I cannot even contain my excitement over that! It felt really new and different to me.

Plus add in destroyed kingdoms, spies expeditions, and the occasional murder…what is not to love here?

The plot chuffs along on a fairly steady pace. Probably more on the slow side. Wil, the lost princess of a destroyed kingdom, is going undercover in the enemy’s castle. So while she spends the evenings jumping around with knives and disguises, the days are filled with polite small talk and pretty ballgowns. At least it’s a nice mix! Wil was seriously badass. It was endlessly amusing reading her acting the part of an air-headed Duchess and then turn around and be plotting cunningly.

Wil was a really awesome protagonist. She didn’t seem particularly different to Every Other Hidden Princess Ever. But the trope is one of my favourites, so I don’t mind! She has a slow-burn romance with the vigilante, Black Knife. Basically that was my favourite thing of ever. Plus Wil has a really epic best-friend and their relationship is goals.

Plus there is magic! Magic is illegal in this world (fun stuff always is, dangit). Wil’s power is to animate things. She says “wake up” to a wall and it’ll eat a person. (Why can’t I have this superpower??? I could make the sink do the dishes for me and life would be perfect.) I thought this was a really clever and unusual twist on magical abilities!

The world building = very very good. It actually felt like a fully complex and rounded world.

And then we have that freakishly awesomely horrible cliffhanger. AH! If you want a book that will literally have you shrieking and clawing for the sequel: this is it. The finale was so exciting and action-packed and emotional.

Obviously, I’m a fan of this story! This is also my first Jodi Meadows books and clearly I need to read her other series. I’m very invested and want to see Wil get her throne back!

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: This Savage Song by VE Schwab

This Savage Song by VE Schwab was a monstrously pleasing read. I’m beginning to think VE Schwab can do no wrong with her other incredible books like A Darker Shade of Magic, A Gathering of Shadows, and Vicious. This was my first try of a YA book by her and it was absolute perfection! Dark and deadly and stabby and filled with emotion.

What’s It About?9781785652745

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city, a grisly metropolis where the violence has begun to create real and deadly monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the inhabitants pay for his protection. August just wants to be human, as good-hearted as his own father-but his curse is to be what the humans fear. The thin truce that keeps the Harker and Flynn families at peace is crumbling, and an assassination attempt forces Kate and August into a tenuous alliance. But how long will they survive in a city where no one is safe and monsters are real.

I love that it’s about monsters! It’s set in this sort of Gotham inspired world, where two forces are waring against each other, and monsters are eating everyone in between. It’s mostly human vs monster, but also a fair bit of human vs human. And, naturally, I loved the comparison of the humans being more monstrous than the actual monsters. It make syou think.

I do confess to finding the first 20% rather confusing. I felt rather dumped into the world and had to re-read the blurb to figure out where it was heading. But after that? It made perfect sense.

The writing was entirely amazingly phenomenonal. It’s just addictive and divine! VE Schwab has this intensely flawless way of sucking me into the story. I can honestly lose time reading her stories. The characters leap off the page, so complex and dimensional and tragic.

The characters were perfect little beasts. I say that with much love, of course. We have two alternate narrators: Kate (a nasty girl who is daughter of a crime-lord and a human) and August (who is a soul-eating monster and adopted-son of the rebels). August ends up sort of “spying” on Kate at her school and then they get thrown into a run-for-your-life adventure.

  • KATE: She was so snarky and bitter and cruel…but you could tell it was a persona she was trying to wear, to impress her cutthroat father. It wasn’t really her but she was determined to make it be her. I felt so sad for her and really rooted for her as she grew and developed over the course of the story.
  • AUGUST: He was definitley my favourite of the two, though, because of his intense levels of adorableness. Sure he’s a soul-eating monster, but he wishes he wasn’t. He was so polite! And nice! And he plays violin! (Which coincidentally is how he eats souls, but never mind that.) He was tragically beautiful and marvellous.

There is…surprisingly…no romance between them. August and Kate end up depending on each other but romantic thoughts? Nope. That might come in sequels, but so far it’s just a forbidden friendship. I found that very refreshing!

This Savage Song is an amazing book! It was violent and gritty and full of blood. I’m slightly disappointed in the simplicity of the plot but the complex and heart-winning characters made up for that. oh and the ending of this book? It will leave you desperate for the sequel. I’m so curious as to what’ll happen next!

Monsters, monsters, big and small,
they’re gonna come and eat you all…

[purchase here]

YA 2016 June And July Releases To Watch Out For

Keeping on top of the new releases is always hard when it comes to Young Adult books. Why? Because there are so many! And they all seem so epic! How does one even know what to choose?! Luckily for you, I am here to point you in the direction of upcoming epicness and keep your to-be-read piles taller than the Eiffel Tower. I know you’re so relieved. You are most welcome, my bookworm friends.

 

J U NE   &   J U L Y    2 0 1  6    R E L E A S E S


9781785652745This Savage Song

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This story is set in a dark Gothom-style city were monsters rule the world. You can pay the mafia to keep you safe — or you can get your soul eaten. Good times. It’s dual narrated by Kate, who’s the stabby daughter of one of the crime lords, and by August, who is a very sweet kind…monster. I love how it contrasts humans vs monsters and asks what truly makes you a monster. It also has a Romeo and Juliet style story line but with actually no romance! It’s stunningly written. Definite must-read!


9780702253942 (1)One Would Think The Deep

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This is by the wonderful Australian author, Claire Zorn, who writes astoundingly gorgeous novels like The Protected and The Sky So Heavy. This time, the novel is set in 1997 and features Sam who’s suffering from the grief of losing his mother. It also promises surfing (I mean look at that fantastically trippy cover) and strange relatives and a boy learning to live again.


29753111When Michael Met Mina

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This is another glorious Aussie author creation! It’s about refugees and the “boat people”, which is a very apt topic for today and I can’t wait to read this book and see how the author handles things! It features two kids from opposite sides: Mina, who came from Afghanistan on a boat, and Michael, whose parents adamantly protest the refugees. It promises love and injustice!


9780544805095With Malice

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This is a YA thriller pitched as for fans of We Were Liars and The Girl On the Train. So, woah, you know you’re in for a wild time! It features Jill who was supposed to have a nice holiday in Italy…but she wakes up in a hospital with her body damaged and a 6 week memory gap. What happened? What was the accident? Was it even an accident?


Forgetting Foster | REVISED FINAL COVER x 2 (18 April 2016)Forgetting Foster

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I was absolutely captivated by Aussie author, Diane Touchell’s first book A Small Madness, so I’m super excited to try Forgetting Foster! It sounds like it’ll be another heartbreaking tale, this time about a little boy who’s father is forgetting things…more and more things until eventually Foster is the one being neglected and overlooked. I have so many questions! I can’t wait to read this!


9780552573740And I Darken

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This is an epic fantasy that features a dark and brutal princess. She is a pawn in a power game for empires and thrones and she’s planning revenge on the people who stole her birthright. The blurb promises battles and wits and a toxic and deadly love triangle. Which all sounds very exciting and dramatic. I can’t wait!

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

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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

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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.

YA Books With Super Long Titles

Giving books titles is really hard. We can’t all have short punchy ones like “Power” and “Blood”, I suppose, so it makes sense that some titles get…lengthy. Super lengthy. Some titles end up as entire sentences, honestly. And while it takes us half an hour to recall and spit out the book’s title, at least we know it’s original and unique!

So here is a list of YA books with seriously incredibly ridiculously long titles.

 


9781782953463The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

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This is about an Autistic boy who discovers his neighbours dog murdered and embarks on a mission to find out who. And why. It’s an excellent story, honestly, and gives you a great inside look at what it’s like to live with Autism.

 


9781408309513I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You

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This is about a school for girl spies, masquerading as just an average boarding school — because OF COURSE. It features Cammie and the calamities she gets into. Because hey it’s hard falling in love for the first time when your boyfriend can’t know anything about you.

 


 

9781780339818The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

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Yes you will need about half an hour to say this title, but at least it’s beautiful?! I haven’t read this one yet, but it apparently features a girl named September and her journey through fairy land. Also there are keys and dragons, so what more could you want really?


9781471124594Me Being Me Is Exactly As insane As You Being You

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This story is told entirely in lists. Yes. LISTS. It might be 600+ pages, but it actually goes by very fast because of the list-factor. It’s about Darren’s painful life, where his parents are divorced, he doesn’t have a girlfriend, he doesn’t have a life basically, and growing up is just all round difficult.


9781442408937Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of the Universe

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This is the kind of book where you just want to devour the beautiful lyrical writing. It’s incredible! It’s a coming-of-age story about Ari, a Mexican boy, who’s trying to figure out who he is and what he wants in life and if he’s in love with his best friend, Dante.


9780553497786The Smell of Other People’s Houses

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This is a story of 4 teenagers in the 1970s and what it was like to grow up in Alaska. The writing is absolutely gorgeous and sensory, so you really feel like you’re in the story. There are runaways, a teenage pregnancy, a ballerina trapped in the fishing life, and an abused girl who just won a lot of money. There is also delicious pie, so clearly this book is a winner.


9781406331165The Rest of Us Just Live Here

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This is a story about the superhero kids that save the world…no wait, it’s actually about the OTHER kids who no one talks about while those superhero kids are saving the world. It’s such a unique story! It features Mikey (who has an anxiety disorder) and his coming-of-age story while the world is being smashed about by those powerful kids. And the writing is just phenomenal. Highly recommend!

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: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo promises thieves, assassins, heists, and antiheroes. And I am such a fan! Move over heroes…this story is about the dubiously motivated villains who are on a quest for money. And Six of Crows is actually quite dark! I love it when books promise to be dark and actually follow through.9781780622286

Now this is set in the same universe as Leigh Bardugo’s original Grisha trilogy. Can you read Six of Crows without reading Shadow and Bone? YES YOU CAN. The world will make more sense and be deeper, more rich, if you read the other trilogy first. But it won’t affect your enjoyment of Six of Crows!

Six of Crows puts the EPIC in epic fantasy. It’s about a group of thieves off to get the “Big Impossible Haul of Their Life”. They’re all misfits and tortured souls and they spill blood but also have consciences. They pretend not to care about each other, but they so totally do. There are six of them and we read from at least five point-of-views.

 

“I worry about everything, merchling. That’s why I’m still alive.”

 

A Brief Look At The Characters:

  • Kaz: He’s the cold hearted mastermind genius who has a plan for everything…he also has a tortured past which makes it very easy to feel for him.
  • Inej: She’s the “spider”, acrobat, and hears and sees everything.
  • Nina: She’s a Grisha, which is another word for a magician. She’s also a bit saucy and definitely sassy and EPIC.
  • Matthias: He is like a bulldozer and hates everything.
  • Jesper: He is dorky comic relief and likes to shoot stuff.
  • Waylan: He’s that secondary character you mostly forget is there, but I’m sure there’s a point to him.

I loved how complex and interesting all the characters were. They all had huge backstories and venerabilities and yet they were icy and coldblooded at times. They worked together and betrayed and they were dorky sometimes. I particularly loved Kaz because of his genius tendencies (because who doesn’t like the mastermind?!) Also Kaz walks with a cane! I read  in the author’s note in the back of the book that this is a reflection of her…because Leigh Bardugo has osteonecrosis. So I felt that was really special that she was sharing her experiences with a) we readers, and b) her main character.

The book is very long, and nearly enters into tedious territory. While I thoroughly enjoyed it, I felt if it could’ve been more concise. Particularly with how much information we’re given on all the characters. It made them all super complex and fleshed-out…but also slowed the plot pace.

I’m in awe of the heist though! I do have a mild weakness for books that involve clever planning and stealing impossible things. There’s a lot of travelling and roadtripping in this book, too, to get to the destination. But plenty of action scenes and gun fire and evil magic. The characters go through a lot and there’s blood and disaster and betrayal. And of course it ends with a cliffhanger. OF COURSE. Authors do like to torture us. We shall wait impatiently for the sequel (also finale) that will be Crooked Kingdom.

All in all, I loved it this epic action adventure! Even though it lacked tightness in the plot (which I crave) I still enjoyed the storyline and the Russian influenced culture. It also had guns and explosions, something that’s not as usual in epic fantasy! I loved the witty banter and the nail biting finale. If you’re a fan of fantasy, this is definitely for you.

 

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YA Roadtrip Books

There’s nothing like reading Young Adult books about roadtrips to remind you of good ol’ adventurous times. Or remind you why you don’t take roadtrips? Because everything honestly seems to go wrong and sometimes monsters try to eat your face. So that’s also a downside.

In case you want the roadtrip experience, sans squashing yourself in a car for days, I have a list of glorious YA roadtrip books you should try immediately. And bonus points if you read them while on a roadtrip.


9780008141233DEMON ROAD BY DEREK LANDY ~ PURCHASE HERE

This is one of my most favourite roadtrip stories because it’s also a paranormal adventure. Amber is on the run from her demon-parents who also want to eat her. (Stop complaining about your parents.) She teams up with an old dude who has a man-eating car and they drive across the good old US of A.

There are plenty of creeptastic moments. And creeptastic monsters. Vampires. Demons. Ghouls. Serial killers. Creepy trees. It’s glorious. Also deadly.


9780732289003PAPER TOWNS BY JOHN GREEN

If you’re looking for a roadtrip that isn’t quite so demonic as the one above….then Paper Towns might suit you better! It’s a contemporary about Q who is quietly in love with a girl who then disappears. So, logically, he has to find her — which ends up in an interstate roadtrip in a minivan with a bunch of rowdy teenagers. I think they nearly hit a cow at one point.

This one definitely features hilarious conversations and poignant messages about not putting people on pedestals because that’s unhealthy for everyone involved.


9780571308293DEAD ENDS BY ERIN LANGE ~ PURCHASE HERE

Another excellent contemporary roadtrip! Although this one is about 50% school life and 50% spontaneous roadtrip at the end between Dane, who is a bully, and Billy, who has Downs Syndrome. It’s a really heartwarming story, especially since Dane (who’s known for being awful) is really protective of Billy. They take to the road and the car to find Billy’s estranged father.

It’s also a really fast read and definitely entertaining.


9781442429987BLOOD RED ROAD BY MOIRA YOUNG ~ PURCHASE HERE

I’m going to call this a “roadtrip book” even though there are no cars…because there’s a road. A dusty one. And as the title suggests, fraught with peril and blood, basically. This is a dystopian story about Saba who’s off to find her kidnapped brother. Unfortunately her universe is basically dust and evil people who want to stab you, so this does complicate the mission.

It features horse riding, cage fights, unlikely friendships forged, and a good dose of sass. It’s also written phonetically and in slang, which takes some getting used to, but also just makes the whole experience fantastic.


9780857984739ARE YOU SEEING ME BY DARREN GROTH ~ PURCHASE HERE

This is one of my favourite Australian books! Despite the fact that it’s actually set in…Canada. But whatever. 18-year-old twins, Justine and Perry, are on the Last Holiday of Ever before Justine goes to university and Perry goes to a home that will cater to his needs as a person with Autism. It’s a really sweet holiday and I loved that we also got chapters by Perry’s point-of-view.

While there is car-tripping about, it’s also just a travelling adventure. It features the twins looking for their estranged mother, too, and that hugely stressful part of a teen’s life when they have to decide what their future will hold. Much fun. This is an undoubtedly excellent book!

Review: Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson is the second book in the Reckoners trilogy — and even better than the first. Which doesn’t often happen right?! But no sequel-blues here, folks. This book was just an explosion of PURE AWESOME. It was so exciting and fantastic I couldn’t help but flail and get thoroughly emotionally invested. I am so ridiculously addicted to this series. Steelheart w9780575104495as amazing; but Firefight just took it up to the next level. I suspect this is because it’s about superheroes and has excellent writing and the best protagonist of ever.

“My name is David Charleston. I kill people with super powers.”

So where do I start?!? The plot was perfect. It’s set in a different city, Babylon Restored, which is all water and apartment buildings filled with trees and jungles. There’s glowing spraypaint and magical fruit and it was all written so visually I could basically see the city. I’m in awe of the aesthetics here!

We also have a new set of villains with different, complex powers to fight and destroy. There is not even a second of rest here.

The characters are permanently spectacular. OF COURSE. Although I did mess Cody and Abraham. Only Tia, Proff, and David go on this little escapade. And, unfortunately, Proff is still my least favourite character. He’s complex, alright, and after the staggering reveal of his secrets at the end of book 1, I do understand why he’s so gruff and cold at times. But he definitely abused his position of authority and it got me so riled up and angry. ARGH.

9780385743587I still adore David — and he’s possible he’s gotten even more awesome. He’s one of my new favourite protagonists! He’s funny and brave and flawed and stupid and he’s SUCH A DORK. His metaphors are worse. (He romantically yells “YOU’RE LIKE A POTATO” and that made me laugh for only 9 hours.)

And let’s not forget how INTENSE the plot is. There’s a lot of mystery elements since the supervillain in control — Regalia — has basically lured Proff and his small team of Reckoners to the city. Is she looking for a fight or is there a deeper plot at hand? The story keeps you guessing the entire time and I loved this! I couldn’t put it down!

Plus it barely lets the action rest — and when it does we get treated to pages of hilarious banter and David’s self-depreciating commentary on the world.

There is much shooting, but also a lot of stretching people to their limits. And pain. And death. And explosions. I love how David is continually pushing the boundaries and getting everyone to think and plan. He’s underestimated so much, but basically nothing stops him. Plus the plot twists in this one live up to the amazing ones we got in the first book.

I cannot get enough of this series! And I’m eternally grateful that the final book, Calamity, is already out and I’ll be able to devour it soon. Because — hello — cliffhanger? I’m in mild pain needing answers here.

 

[purchase here]

Review: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart (Reckoners #1) by Brandon Sanderson basically flawed me with its intense, indiluted awesome. Until now I hadn’t read a superhero book that lived up to the films. But this?!? This is everything. If you’re a superhero geek, TRUST ME — you need this book in your life. The plot twists! The adorkable narrator! The guns! The action! The car chases! The explosions! It had everything.9780385743563

The story is about David, whose father was killed by the infamous super-villain Steelheart, and David’s life is basically: revenge revenge revenge. He joins up with a small rebel force, called the Reckoners, and they make a plot to take down Steelheart.

It’s about superheroes and villains. In fact, super “hero” doesn’t so much enter the story, because the premise is those with powers are all EVIL.  It’s like “what if Superman appeared and was a jerk and liked to kill people and be terrifying?” But it turns tropes on its head and impressed me a million percent.

I absolutely adored the protagonist: David. He’s such a DORK. And a NERD. He is absolutely the worst at metaphors and he has the BIGGEST dorky crush on one of his team mates. He tries so hard. He’s a shaker and a stirrer — a visionary. And while he’s totally hellbent on revenge on Steelheart, it doesn’t turn him into a bitter mushroom. Which was a pleasant surprise to read!

A quick run down on the Reckoner team?! (They go from city to city in the destroyed American states and kill supervillains).

  • Proff: He’s the “leader” so the gruff, commanding, type who is full of secrets and probably a tragic mysterious backstory. He honestly was not my favourite, but he did lead his team well.
  • Tia: She’s the hacker and the behind-the-scenes intelligence.
  • Abraham: He’s French/Canadian and seriously AWESOME. He’s like soft spoken but carries this HUGE MACHINE GUN and I believes in the Faith.
  • Cody: He’s the comic relief and is like American, but also Scottish. Um, it works. Somehow. He’s always talking about devils and pixies and cracking everyone (aka me) up.
  • Megan: She’s the seriously coldhearted, better-than-thou girl on the team (that of course David crushes on) who is just AMAZING at everything she does but really hard to make friends with.

9780575104044I thought all the characters were really well written and complex. Which is amazing considering it was quite a large cast!

Also the superheroes were admirable because they had unique powers. It wasn’t all just “he can fly and is invisible” blah blah. They had ones who could turn the sky dark, or controlled with shadows, or made illusions, or could predict attacks or could regenerate or etc etc. It was so interesting and I loved that.

Also another thing that stood out to me was that: I appreciated how the adults were running the show. I mean, David might’ve been a bit of a suppressed genius there, with his plans on how to take down Steelheart, but the ADULTS were the ones with the big weapons and getting things done. And it felt super realistic. It’s still YA and David was still doing so much cool stuff. But I appreciated the realism.

Also the whole mystery aspect of “what is Steelheart’s weakness??!” drove me CRAZY wanting answers. And you don’t get to know until the end!

Also I cannot recommend the audiobook enough. (Which you can purchase here!) The narrator captures David’s personality perfectly and is just extremely pleasant to listen to! He also captures the accents of the rest of the team and makes the whole experience like a movie in your head.

If you’re looking for a superhero/villain book that’s unique and exciting and complex — this is for you. It’s realistic and talks science and gun mechanisms and sets up clever masterminded traps. It’ll make you laugh! And then have you clutching the pages hyperventilating over the plot twists. Oh and the cliffhanger? Let’s just say you’ll want Firefight on hand.

[PURCHASE HERE]

YA Books About Schizophrenia

Lately there’s been a rise of books that deal with important topics: such as mental health. I’m so in favour of this because it a) breaks down stigmas that we might have from not understanding the mental illness, and b) shows us that people are never just “labels” and c) helps us to walk in these characters’ shoes and learn more about how they live.

I’ve read several books recently that deal with Schizophrenia, which is definitely something I didn’t know much about before reading these books. And they are such endlessly good books that I MUST SHARE. I also highly recommend them, of course.


 

22864841Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

This book is absolutely entirely fantastic. It is about Alex who is a highschool senior and struggles to tell the difference between real vs made up. She’s solving a mystery at her school and also has met a very confusing and intense boy, Miles, whom she doesn’t quite know what to do with. I particularly adored this book because it presented Alex as a pretty normal person. YES, she has delusions. But she also has hobbies and dreams and habits. There’s witty banter and relatable high school experiences. It’ll definitely break your heart just a little though at the end there.

 

9781444799514Alice and the Fly by James Rice

This one definitely gave me the shivers. It introduces us to Greg who is a very unreliable narrator and suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. It really affects his life and he’s basically undiagnosed and has zero support from his family. They ignore anything “weird” he does. There’s lots of stalking in this one, but we’re so deep in Greg’s thought-process that it’s easy to understand why he does what he does. Honestly it’s a chilling book and it keeps you gripping and flipping pages. Also amazingly writing. Also slightly traumatising.

 

9780061134111Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

So clearly, after reading this, I am of the opinion that Neal Shusterman is a word GENIUS. I cannot believe how creatively and artistically he wrote this story! Apparently it’s also based upon his own son, who suffers from similar symptoms to the schizophrenic protagonist: Caden. Half of the book is real-life-narrative about Caden. And half the book is his delusions about being on a ship and the weird and nonsensical things that happen. Honestly? It takes a bit of getting used to. But once you’ve conquered those initial confusing first chapters, the book just opens up into this amazingly poignant story about failure and recovery.


OTHER SCHIZOPHRENIC BOOKS

I haven’t read these ones (that to-be-read pile truly is endless) but they look incredibly interesting and I’m keen to try them someday!

9780385738286 9780147508850 9780738719269

I Will Save You follows the story of a boy with no family who works at a beach and is haunted by a best-friend/worst-enemy. Schizo is about a boy’s downward spiral into mental illness and an obsession with his brother and a girlfriend who might not exist. A Blue So Dark is about a girl who’s keeping her artistic mother’s schizophrenia a secret and therefore is her sole carer, all the while denying her own artistic urges because she believes it’ll make her end up like her mother.

YA Serious Finales I’m Looking Forward To In 2016

Apparently 2016 is the year of all the YA finales. It’s so exciting! And terrifying, honestly, because while I adore knowing how my favourite series ends….I also get thumped with nerves that it won’t be a satisfactory ending. Series finales need closure and tragedy and triumph. It’s such a hard blend!

But I shall be brave (huzzah!) and slowly devour these YA series that are finishing up in 2016.

(Also, helpfully, it’s a grand time to start these series if you haven’t already; since you won’t have to wait years for their completion!)


9781408858745The Winner’s Kiss ~ book 3 of the Winner’s Curse trilogy (March)

I’ve read this one already and am enormously pleased at how satisfying the ending was. The first two books were so full of emotional tension and angst as Kestrel and Arin played mind games and war against two countries bent on destroying each other. And ya know, wanting to kiss each other — but absolutely not doing it because forbidden love and all that. Perfect conclusion is PERFECT.

 

9780670017140Half Lost ~ book 3 of the Half Bad trilogy (March)

I full admit this book made me cry, and yet was still absolutely brilliant. The war between Black and White witches absolutely comes to a crashing climax. And it ain’t sweet tea parties and sugar cookies, let me tell you. Which surprises exactly no one after how brutal and violent the first two books were.

 

9781444759051Morning Star ~ book 3 of the Red Rising trilogy

This is technically a YA-Adult cross over series, because while Darrow was 16 in the first boo, he’s now 23 and leading a rebellion against the tyrannical upper-class: the Golds. This book is brilliant. It perfectly blends the high stakes with an enormous amount of humour. And the plot twists will blow your mind. And blow up planets. Basically everything explodes here and it’s glorious.

 

9781250091840Stars Above ~ book 4.5 of the Lunar Chronicles (February)

While the series technically finished with Winter, Marissa Meyer released a collection of novellas to help us say goodbye to this fantastical series. THANK YOU, DEAR AUTHOR. I haven’t read them yet, but it’s high on my to-do list. Apparently some are prequel tales (there’s a Thorn as a child story?!) and others are more epilogue tales. There have been teasers that someone has a wedding. Be still my shipping soul.

 

9780545424981The Raven King ~ book 4 of The Raven Cycle (July)

This is definitely my most highly anticipated book of, um, EVER. I’m so ridiculously excited! It concludes my most favourite series in the world and we get the reveal if the main character truly does die, as has been foretold on the very first page of book 1. Yes. That’s 3 books we’ve read in nervous anticipation. Maggie Stiefvater is a genius of words and reader torture. I cannot WAIT.

 

9780575104839Calamity ~ book 3 of The Reckoners Trilogy (February)

While I’m still only on book 2, I’m still monstrously excited for the finale! Evil superheroes and assassins out to bring them down? How is this all going to end?! I’m kind of hoping for a happy ending, but, ha. I doubt it.

 

9780062458421The Yellow Brick War ~ book 3 of Dorothy Must Die series (April)

This is the last book in the retelling of The Wizard of Oz, which is such a fabulous idea for a retelling by the way. I mean, imagine Oz…and now think of it super creepy. It’s deliciously wonderful! I want to know if sassy Amy takes down the evil Dorothy and whether she gets a happily-ever-after…or NOT. Mwhahaah. (I honestly have no idea how this is going to end. Do I have time for a re-read?!? Time to plot out some theories while I wait for the release!)

 

Review: The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

I’m following up my recent review of The Winner’s Curse, with a review of the sequel: The Winner’s Crime. And trust me, peoples, you are going to need to devour this WHOLE trilogy. Preferably one book after another. But if you’re still dubious and need convincing: I am here. 9781408858691

Again I re-read this book just recently, and it just gets better the more you read it. The foreshadowing is impeccable! And genius! I just admire this author so much. (When I’m not gnashing my teeth at the torturous cliffhangers that is.)

The Winner’s Crime (book #2) takes off when Kestrel is in her home-country of Valoria, now betrothed to marry the Emperor’s son. She’s being groomed for rule but — she’s unhappy. She’s telling herself she doesn’t love Arin, but…um, #lies. Meanwhile Arin is furious at Kestrel’s continual rejection of him and he doesn’t understand she’s playing a precarious political game of life and death. He seeks dangerous allies. He makes terrible decisions. The romantic angst reaches Level Infinity. And it has a wicked cliffhanger ending. (Ergo, have book 3 on hand!)

Again, I was also super impressed at the amount of deducing going down. I didn’t notice it so much the first time? But Kestrel could look at someone and figure things out. (She is like the fantasy-Roman-Grecian Sherlock.) I loved how much political intrigue and conspiraces were happening. Plots unwound. Nasty backstabbing happened. Spies were bought. Lies everywhere.

I admit to really wishing Kestrel and Arin would work it out. They have problems, oh gosh, do they. But their chemistry is palpable and they spend all their alone time thinking about not thinking about each other. And then when they see each other? Kestrel is trying to make Arin hate her so she doesn’t get murdered for loving him. Her betrothed, the Emperor’s son Verox, is a soft, shy quiet boy and Kestrel definitely doesn’t love him. (I do, though, because he loves puppies!) I felt really bad for Verox, since even his own father doesn’t love him and fully intends for Kestrel to rule.

9781250073563Kestrel is still the intelligent heroine I came to love in the first book. I adore how she’s still firmly feminine, with pretty dresses and delicate piano pieces, but she is plotting the whole time. I also loved seeing some of Kestrel’s military strategies in play. Arin, on the other hand, is quite the knuckle head. Like I literally wanted to brain him with a teapot several times because he gets very blinded by his righteous love for his people and confusion that Kestrel would “betray” him and he doesn’t stop to get the whole picture. He makes stupid decisions, he’s rash, he doesn’t listen. Which honestly just makes me adore him…especially the torture he goes through in this book. Arin and Kestrel seriously need to sit down, with no one listening in, and TALK. But like that’s going to happen. (Ha ha, nope.)

Also the author doesn’t spare her characters. There’s torture and bleeding and stabbing and Arin gets fairly mangled and many of the favoured secondary characters are unfortunately caught up in it. There’s a torture scene at the beginning that had my skin crawling. I do applaud the author for getting all the characters dirty and bloody and being so very realistic.

The cliff hanger is a thing of torture. But also brilliant. I was on the edge of my seat in the last chapters! The build up is so well written and the way the plots came together (and fell apart) had me gasping and desperate for more. (I am mildly emotionally invested in this series…it’s so hard to tell.)

Basically I loved this book. It was everything a sequel should be and leaves me hungry for the next book and desperate to see how this will all end.

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

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

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

All The Things You Need Know About This Book:

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

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

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

 

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

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: Damage Done by Amanda Panitch

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

 

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What Is The Story About?

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

PURCHASE HERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recently Released 2016 Aussie Books You Need To Read

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

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

 

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


 

my sister rosaMy Sister Rosa by Justine Larbelestier ~ purchase

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

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

 

9781743315897The Stars At Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard ~ purchase

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

25535What I Saw by Beck Nicholas ~ purchase

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

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

 

 

9781925240795Iris And the Tiger by Leanne Hall ~ purchase

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

 

 

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


 

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

 

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

 

Review: Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This book made my day.

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

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Zombie Books For The Deadly YA Reader

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

Caution: Brains and dead things ahead.

 

Y A     Z O M B I E     N O V E L S 

 

9780062201812 9780062217080 9780062083272

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

 

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

9780062200341 9781606845424 9780316334754

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

 

Review: The Minnow by Diana Sweeney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

9780141356099Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli is basically the definition of endless cuteness, teenage angst, growing up, and finding love. Did I mention cute? THIS BOOK = CUTE. By the end I was basically grinning like a deluded mushroom while I read! I was recommended this book copiously and I can 100% assure it it’s worth it. It’s perfect.

It’s basically about Simon who is not-so-openly-gay and his internet friendship with the anonymous “Blue”. It’s about Simon’s life, his drama class, his best friends, and it’s about growing up — changing. It’s written SO realistically and beautifully.

 

Let’s just have a list of all the reasons this book is so good:

  • First of all Simon is awesome. He has a more jovial, joking, lighter personality. He hugs people and jokes and is easy to get along with and very, very relatable. He overthinks and he’s angsty — but he’s not suffocatingly intense. I felt he was refreshing and enjoyable to read!

 

  • This book has food. Don’t underestimate the power of writing about good food and luring in readers that way! Although, I confess: Simon has an intense love of Oreos and I have never eaten one. But after this book — I want to.

 

  • The romance is so squishily adorable. Simon’s slow building friendship, and then romance, with “Blue” is just glorious to read. It’s cute and fun and I loved the mystery of “who IS Blue”. Their friendship is exclusively emails. Blue doesn’t want to meet up in real life. I absolutely related to the ease of online friendships (though of course these two didn’t stay friends…eeep. So adorable!) I did get frustrated at Blue at times for some of his more selfish actions, but humans can be selfish. So he’s flawed! That’s a good thing!

 

  • Which leads me to say: I love how the characters were flawed but likeable. They felt like “real” people!

 

  • Trying to figure out who “Blue” was (since Blue goes to Simon’s school) was one of my favourite parts! IT WAS SO FRUSTRATING. (Obviously that’s a good thing.) I didn’t once guess right either, so the mystery, clues, and reveal are all impeccably done.

 

  • The book also focuses very heavily on friendships. Simon has a tight-knit group of friends: Nick, Abby, and Leah. I really loved Abby (she was just so bubbly and fresh and compassionate) and I thought Nick was about as interesting as a paper fork. I did struggle with Leah’s character, but again…even if she was insufferable, she was still realistic.

 

  • The writing was really crisp and to the point. Even if sometimes the scenes did cut off a little too abruptly? Knowing this is a debut, though, makes me 10000% sure that this author’s next book will be FLAWLESS.

 

-~-

I can’t sing my praises for this book loud enough! It was part mystery, part coming-of-age, and part love story. And it flowed so seamlessly and definitely will be a book I want to revisit. Plus it was funny and managed to be lighthearted AND balance the darker topics. This book is an oreo of perfection dunked in addictiveness with a good helping of hilarity and perfectly wonderful characters on top.

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

YA Books For Blisteringly Hot Summer Reading

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

S U M M E R   R E A D S

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

 

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

 

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

 

What’s On Your Christmas Wishlist This Year?

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

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

 

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

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

2. SOUNDLESS (Released Nov 2015)

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

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

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

 

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4. WRITTEN IN THE STARS (Released Mar 2015)

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

5. THE NEST (Released Oct 2015)

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

6. UNDER A PAINTED SKY (Released Mar 2015)

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

 

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7. LOCK & MORI (Released Nov 2015)

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

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

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

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9. CARRY ON (Released Oct 2015)

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

10.  5 TO 1 (Released June, 2015)

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

 

 

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

Review: The Wrath and the Dawn

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

BLURB

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

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

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

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

Excuse me while I eat this book.

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

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

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

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Review: Ink by Amanda Sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: Rogue (Talon #2) by Julie Kagawa

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

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

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

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

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

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

PURCHASE TALON AND ROGUE

Review: Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth

9780857984739Oh this book is utterly glorious! I picked up Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth on impulse and am totally glad I gave it a chance. This book is so special and I’m squawking with the effort of writing a review to give it justice!

It’s about Australian twins, Justine and Perry (who has autism), who go for a holiday in Canada. I adore books about Australians, especially since I read 80% USA and UK fiction, so I especially appreciated all the words like “sticky-beak” and references to “Possum Magic”. It’s all so very AUSSIE, MATE. The humour is very Australian too. Lots of sarcasm. Lots of dry wit.

I do squint distrustfully at the blurb though, because technically it’s a “holiday” not a “roadtrip”. They go in an airplane across the ocean to Canada. Yes, there is a bit of driving. But one does not call a flight to Canada a “roadtrip”. Sheesh.

But we need to talk about these exceptionally perfectly written characters! I absolutely adored both Justine and Perry! It’s dual narrated, and I think that helped me really get to know BOTH sides of the story — what it’s like to live with a disability, and what it’s like to care for someone with one.

The twins’ father just died, so the holiday is a little respite before Big Life Changes happen. Perry isn’t specifically labelled with Autism (it’s referred to as a “brain condition”) but he has all the traits and I feel this was possibly the author’s way of avoiding labels? I adored how different the two teens’ narrative was! Justine was really down to earth, but Perry had long complex sentences and imagined wild things and had a very literal view of the world. Justine was all types of awesome. She was caring. She was stressed. She was capable. She struggles with a lot of things (potentially moving away from Perry to begin her own life) and wondering if she was doing the right or wrong thing.

Also, like the stalker I am, I snuck to the author’s blog and read about how he wrote this book for his own children! His own son has autism and a twin sister. It made me really trust the book, because I feel like the author knows what he’s talking about! And also, n’awwww. Isn’t it sweet?! I love it when books have a personal flair like this.

And it’s also super funny and dryly witty. Did I mention that already?!?

Yes, go straight through. No need for passports. We love Australians here in Canada…We know you’ve had a rough flight. We know you’ve had a rough LIFE. All those sharks and snakes and rugby players trying to kill you every moment of the day. Far be it from us to make things more difficult. And, here, have this leftover gold medal from the Vancouver Winter Olympics. You’ve earned it.

I definitely loved this book and appreciated how it was an honest and detailed view of autism as well as an incredible story about friendship, siblings, and growing up.

 

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Review: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

9780803740709Well, just WOW. I did not expect to be terrified absolutely witless while reading this. BUT I WAS. This book is wonderful and addictive and…frightening.  If you need me, I shall be the one rocking in the corner giving random pterodactyl screeches from the trauma. True story.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes is about cults, juvie, a handless girl, and learning to think for yourself. I love anyone or anything that promotes thinking for yourself. So this book automatically climbed to epic proportions for me.

Also it’s a retelling of The Girl Without Hands by the Brothers Grimm! Now. I am a nerd and, because I didn’t know the original fairy tale very well, I researched and wow, just wow. There are SO many references to the original! It’s really quite clever. The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly did tiny things like referencing a pear orchard, to adding an “angel” (well, that’s someone’s name), to WHO does the cutting of Minnow’s hands. BUT! The book also stands completely on it’s own if you don’t know the original tale.

Basically Minnow Bly escapes her cult after her hands are cut off and then ends up kicking someone half to death and is sent to Juvie. We meet her roommate, Angel, who is sassy and incredible and so well written. Minnow learns how to read and sheds her naivety. There is so much character development a9781460750780nd change — and not just for Minnow but for the secondary characters too! There’s emphasis on family (good and negative) on consequences and actions, on murder vs revenge vs self-defence. It critiques the justice system. It asks really hard questions (like can self-defence be an okay reason for murder?) and it explores friendship between unlikely people. It melted my heart several hundred times.  I was in awe of Minnow and I adored her. She’d been through psychological and physical torture (HER HANDS GOT CUT OFF OMG) and yet she could still stand and fight at the end?!? She still had hopes and dreams and wanted things.

Also it’s quite creepy and bloody and gory. The cult has a TON of horrific punishments. After the first 100-pages I was very creeped out….aaaand I couldn’t stop reading.

It did have a lagging, slow spot about 3/4 in though, but mostly the action was go! go! go! It’s written with a “thriller” vibe, so you know the end result (Minnow is in jail, handless) but WHY and what happened with the cult? And who burned things? AND WHO IS DEAD? And who’s the killer?! And you just keep flipping pages to find out!

But basically this was a solidly fabulous debut! It was a glorious retelling, yet a fabulous story on it’s own. It was freaky and terrifying and addictive. This author has shot onto my I-will-read-anything-she-writes list.

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: Talon by Julie Kagawa

9781743566619I am so dragonishly pleased with Talon by Julie Kagawa. It was just so excitingly good! I do love me some dragons, though. I absolutely adore them, so I had a feeling this book would be “my thing”. It isn’t flooded with dragonishness (that is a word, don’t doubt me now), but it has loveable characters and sparky humour and an exciting plot of questionable loyalties and betrayal and lies.

Huzzah!

The basic gist of the story is: Ember and her twin, Dante, are dragon hatchlings who are doing a stint of “assimilation” into humankind. They’ll act like average teens on a summer break and basically learn to blend. But they’re dragon shapeshifters. And they like shiny things. And also smoothies. And the Big Bad Organisation that controls all the dragons is called “Talon” and is DUBIOUS. Oh and Dante and Ember are being hunted. Fun times.

So let’s talk about the characters, shall we?!

  • Ember: is really spunky and awesome. Refreshing! She has a razor sharp tongue and is reckless. I totally loved her relationship with her twin. Plus she was all “grin and bear it” when life was sucky, and then “live it up” when it was time to party. I just liked her a lot, okay?! Although her name was nearly a touch too cliche?? I mean, her name is Ember. EMBER. And she’s a dragon! Ah-huh.
  • Dante: is Ember’s twin brother and mildly adorable. He’s the Follow-The-Rules dude, but he’s still a sweetie. Although, it did sadden me that Ember and Dante seemed to be growing apart…but I still love their relationship.
  • Garrett: I was not expecting to like Garrett. He’s a military boy, member of Saint George, who…erm…like to kill dragons. He never has fun. And he’s supposed to be hunting Ember so OF COURSE HE FALLS MADLY IN LOVE WITH HER. He can’t figure out if she’s a dragon or not though, so it’s painful watching him double-guessing himself all the time. I totally shipped him and Ember.
  • Riley: Oh dear. This is where my extraordinary love falls apart a little. I really couldn’t care less about Riley, the rogue dragon. He was boring compared to the others, and I felt his relationship with Ember was rushed. It develops into a bit of an awkward triangle. I wish I’d known what Riley’s purpose is though…he is a rogue, fighting against Talon. BUT WHY.

Watching the dragonlings fit into human society was hilarious and endearing. The twins learn to mingle (hehe) and they shop and drink smoothies which they surprisingly become addicted to. The book is like a paranormal-action-adventure mashed up with a summery-chick-flick. And between walking on the beach, there’s guns and training and murder. (Mwahhahha.) Ember and Dante don’t spend much time being dragons though.

I also 100% appreciate that the dudes hunting the dragons were of the Order of St. George. Like the story of George and the Dragon! SO CLEVER. I see what you did there, Julie Kagawa!

This is definitely a series I foresee myself getting addicted to. From the forbidden love to the training, to the siblings, to the surfing (!!), to the pop culture references, to my feels getting tangled in a knot at everyone’s existential crises — I AM HOOKED. I was absolutely dying for book 2, Rogue, and (I’ve read it now) it was beyond perfect. So BE THEE AWARE. Talon ends in a cliffhanger! So you will need Rogue ASAP.

I’m so glad I read this incredible and scaly story. I basically need more.

[PURCHASE]

Review: Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

9781784294007You know those books that make you sit back and go, “Um, woah” and then are super hard to talk about because they’ve messed with your brain so much? WELL. Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill definitely fits in that category. It’s the kind of book that makes you think. It took me ages to formulate thoughts. WHAT DO I THINK ABOUT THIS BOOK? Is it a masterpiece or a terror? Or both?

Both. Both, for sure.

It’s set in a futuristic world were women are treated as…objects. They exist for men’s pleasure. They are nothing. An insult is, “Don’t be academic.” It’s the most sickening society I’ve ever read and I found it quite tough to read about. It’s narrated by a school of 16-year-old girls where their entire LIFE’s PURPOSE is to make a man happy at some point. To be chosen and married and used. They’ll only have sons because women are “made” in this society. And if there’s a glitch? They just terminate the girl. LET ME JUST SCREAM. I hated the society with a fiery passion — but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad book. Contrary. It set up the world-building so thoroughly I was totally invested in the story and couldn’t put it down. But it’s pretty much not for the faint of heart. And if you, like me, are really passionate about feminism, then it’ll rile you badly.

It also prodded today’s society’s view of things. Like the definition of beauty and how people treat those with mental illnesses. It exaggerated them. But the nugget of realism drove the book home hard.
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These girls must be “perfect”. They can’t be fat. They constantly chant how evil and horrible “fat girls” are. It’s sickening. It basically just shredded me…the way they had bulimia and anorexia and how this impacted their psychological health too. The girls don’t even have capitals for their names. Because they’re not worth it. Omg.

The writing is utterly addictive. I think the entire book was a tad too long. Like it made a point — YES FOR SURE — but sometimes it felt like it was just repeating the same horror story again and again and again and…nunngh. I get twitchy when a book’s pacing is off.
It doesn’t have a conclusive ending. The moment I closed the book, I wanted to how, “BUT WHAT WAS THE POINT???” It does have a point — it’s a story with a point but no conclusion. I did struggle with that, but at the same time, I think it made the book stick in my head longer because I couldn’t stop mulling over it’s themes. This was a good but sickening book. I felt uncomfortable the entire time. It is 100% depressing. It is 1000% well-written and thought provoking and feels stabbing and….basically you need to read it.

If you are tired of the average YA “dystopian trends” — try this. It is unique and psychological and intense and woah.

“She’s beautiful, but it’s a faded beauty now, as if she’s been washed too many times.”

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

10429092I am absolutely in love with Girl Of Fire And Thorns by Rae Carson. I’ve been gnawing at fantasies like a fiend lately and finally found this one which is a) unique, and b) feministic, and c) incredibly adorable and charming and heart warming. WELL. Apart from the moments when my heart was breaking. This author does NOT spare her characters.

It’s an incredible rich fantasy world, which was gorgeous to experience. My single complaint was that it was a bit hard to keep up with the multitude of countries and who-was-at-war-with-who. Seriously, the world is BIG. And I think it was Italian-inspired?! Whatever it was it wasn’t Britain so that twist was refreshing too.

But we have to talk about characters. Basically the protagonist: Elisa. If nothing else, read this book for the incredibleness that is Elisa. Her character development is marvellous. I’m reeling! I am! She starts as an unconfident child and develops into this clever queen. She also has an eating disorder, which you don’t often come across in epic-fantasy. Her struggles were so relatable and sensitively written. I really admired Elisa. She definitely goes down as one of the BEST characters I’ve ever read.

Other Characters Include:

  • Alejandro: Totally a weak sap head. I mean, who marries a girl and then proceeds to pretend you didn’t?!! WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIM.
  • Xemina: Freaky, but awesome. She killed a dude with a hairpin. Also a bodyguard/nurse.
  • Cosme: She was a pleasant surprise! I thought she was just going to be a snooty maid, but noooo she turned out incredibly multi-layered. I was rooting for Cosme!
  • Rosario: He’s the little 6-year-old prince and an absolute brat but yet adorable.
  • Hector: OH HECTOR. He didn’t have a massive role, but I think he would’ve been a good match with Elisa.
  • Humberto: He was a hesitant love interest, but more importantly part of the rebel army.

Basically I LOVED the incredible writing of these characters. (Although their names? Um, confusing much?!)

The writing? 9780575099159It’s wonderful. Maybe it’s on the wordy side and the beginning isn’t fast  (actually, the whole book isn’t astronomically fast), but Elisa has such a winning voice.

I was a little puzzled about Elisa’s “godstone”, though. It’s this magical stone in her stomach, put there by the gods. And while it made her uber special, it didn’t actually do much (it got hot and cold depending on when trouble was hear, but that’s about it) and I wished more about the godstone had been revealed. Maybe that comes in later books?

And whatever you do, MAKE SURE YOU READ THE AUTHOR’S NOTE! Oh wow. It’s definitely one of the highlights of the novel for me. It was about sexism in the workplace and what inspired the author to delve into eating disorders in her epic fantasy. She talked about her fears that her intentions with Elisa’s weight gain/loss could be misconstrued. It was a really honest and open note and I’m pretty sure this author has a heart of gold. Also, I’m very passionate about feminism and I loved that this book tackled it head on. Elisa learnt about confidence and self-image AND fought a war and got married off against her will and was immersed in a world of magic — the combination was poignant and fresh.

This is a book where I definitely need the sequel. ASAP.

 

PURCHASE THE BOOK HERE

Grave Mercy

Grave MercyYou know those days/weeks/months that are so bad you just want to go to bed, read a book, and block the world out? I’ve had one/all of those. So, despite having more deadlines than I can actually keep in my head and the reminders of which fair nearly inspire a full-blown panic attack, I took to bed for a day to, well, block out the world.

Choosing a 566-page book for said retiring to bed to sulk is admittedly irresponsible. It’s one thing to bunk off on work and study. It’s another to do it with a massively long book.

Still, I don’t overly regret my decision. I’d say I didn’t regret it at all, except my barely suppressed panic at the amount of work and study I’m hugely behind on prevents me from doing so. But in terms of the book’s content, I don’t regret my decision at all.

Grave Mercy is the first in Robin LaFever‘s the His Fair Assassin young adult series, a series (I’m hesitant to say trilogy because although there are currently only three books, I hope there will be more) that essentially features assassin nuns slash handmaidens of death.

Grave Mercy’s opening pars are rich with detail, giving us backstory and historical setting and context all in one. From these pars we gather that Ismae, the protagonist, is alive but for her mother’s abortion attempt. The attempt has left Ismae’s body with physical scars and her life with emotional ones. That she survived, we’re told, is a sign she’s both a miracle and the daughter of death itself.

We’re in medieval times, if you hadn’t already guessed, with women subjugated and difference regarded with stigma and superstition. Ismae, for instance, endured a beatings and exclusion as a result of being deemed an evil miracle before being sold off into forced marriage to a violent pig farmer. It’s in escaping from said husband in the opening pages that Ismae’s story—and the book itself—is kickstarted.

Mortal HeartSpirited to a convent for girls such as her (each of the novitiates has had personal poor experience with men prior to joining the convent), Ismae both makes friends and learns to mix poisons, perform combat moves, and (sort of) master the art of seduction as tools to draw on to ferry people to the afterlife once they’re marked by death.

‘Girls! Enough chatter, unless your plan is to talk your victims to death!’ she and friend Annith are castigated as they are caught whispering when they’re supposing to be practising their hand-to-hand combat slash grip escapes. But the nuns aren’t all that stern, and the convent and convent life is captivating.

One of this book’s many strengths is that almost all of the characters are richly envisaged. None more so than arch nemesis slash love interest Gavriel Duval, with whom Ismae finds she must work as well as spy upon. So noble, intelligent, and witty, he has firmly shunted Edward (Twilight) and Dimitri (Vampire Academy) aside as my new favourite fictional male character.

Duval (as we come to refer to him) and Ismae have plenty of banter. When she asks if he found out any information from spies who’d tried to kill them but that they’d in turn killed, for instance, he drawls: ‘No, they had no standard or signed note of instruction stuffed neatly in their purses.’ ‘Have you received no orders from the convent?’ he later asks, to which she replies no. ‘Perhaps your crow is not working properly,’ he mutters.

But there are many other impressively wrought characters. Duval’s unhandsome friend ‘Beast’, for example, refers to her as a lady when they meet. ‘I am not noble born,’ she says, embarrassed, to which Duval answers: ‘Every maid Beast meets is a lady as far as he is concerned.’ ‘Only those who do not run away from me in terror,’ Beast quips. ‘I like that he does not apologize for his looks,’ Ismae notes, ‘that he throws them down like a gauntlet.’

There are also many more tender moments throughout the book that catch your emotions (and your throat) unawares: ‘I hear there are many carrots where you are going,’ Ismae softly tells her horse as she’s forced to help it leave this world.

Dark TriumphGrave Mercy is based on true historical events (something that’s revealed in an author’s note at the end of the book rather than at its beginning—possibly to enhance curiosity and suspense). Its plot pivots on a 12-year-old girl inheriting the duchy of Brittany and being stalked and betrothed to at least a half dozen of potential suitors.

It’s a gripping tale told grippingly well, hence my immediate jumping online to order the next two books in the series (gah, somebody please tell me it’s a series and not a too-short trilogy). I’ve since commenced the impatient wait for said books to be shipped to me. And yes, thanks for asking, even these few short days feel like an eternity. But it’s my own silly fault. I should have trusted my instincts when I ordered the first book and just ordered them all at once.

I’ve no idea how I’ll manage to read books two and three among my overdue deadlines and study without some catastrophic (lack of) results. What I do know is that when it comes to deadlines/study versus these books, the books will win hands down.

Competition Winner Is Announced

The competition to WIN a copy of Betrothed and Allegiance by Wanda Wiltshire as well as a handmade bookmark made by the author recently closed.  Fans and would be fans of the Betrothed series had some moving entries and pledges to very worthy causes.

Wanda and I discussed each of the entries before declaring Ashlee Taylor as the winner!

Congratulations Ashlee!!

Here’s Ashlee’s pledge of allegiance:

I pledge my Allegiance to the children all around the world without families, children that starve everyday, children that are hurt during a war they have nothing to do with. I pledge my Allegiance to them because no one else does, someone needs to stand up and help them through the pain the are feeling, show them the light in life that they don’t see. Show them that there are people that care about all of them, every single tiny soul deserves a chance in life.

The prize pack includes these two books from Australian author Wanda Wiltshire
The prize pack includes these two books from Australian author Wanda Wiltshire

Ashlee, please email Jon Page ([email protected]) with your postal address and your prize will be on its way to you soon.

Thanks to all those who entered and of course to Pantera Press.

You can read a FREE extract of Betrothedhere.
You can read a FREE extract of Allegiance here.