Zombie Books For The Deadly YA Reader

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

Caution: Brains and dead things ahead.

 

Y A     Z O M B I E     N O V E L S 

 

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

 

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

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

 

Review: 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.

 

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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!

[PURCHASE HERE]

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.

 

[PURCHASE]

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.
9781848664159
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.

Hong Kong for beginners

From the outside Hong Kong is a shimmering enclave of mirrored high-rise towers, a former British outpost and a gateway to China – the ultimate fusion of East and West. But beyond the swanky shopping malls and five-star hotels, the city is a heady mix of contradictions – of urban cacophony and tranquil country parks, of staggering wealth and grinding poverty, a city that worships money but still respects tradition, an exotic place that has been inspiring writers for decades.

Countefeit Love by Julie FisonAmong the many books to put Hong Kong at centre stage are James Clavell’s Asian sagas: Tai-Pan and Noble House and John le Carré’s thriller The Honourable Schoolboy. Travel writer Jan Morris explored the city’s complex past and future in Hong Kong, a manual for Hong Kong newbies. Other celebrated novels set in the city include Han Suyin’s post-war love story – A Many-Splendoured Thing, John Lancaster’s epic, Fragrant Harbour, and Janice Y K Lee’s sumptuous historical novel, The Piano Teacher.

My new title for young adults is one of the latest novels to use Hong Kong’s vibrant skyline as its backdrop. Counterfeit Love is a thoroughly contemporary tale of a young television reporter who is trying to make a name for herself in Hong Kong. Lucy Yang’s skills and character are tested as she tries to get to the bottom of a big story. And when the gorgeous, but mysterious, Byron Lloyd starts turning up in unexpected places, she wonders if her perfect man is a sinister part of the story she’s chasing.

Counterfeit Love is a cocktail of ambition, intrigue and romance, and was inspired by my years as a news reporter with a Hong Kong television station. The story is definitely not autobiographical, but in writing it, I drew on my knowledge of Hong Kong, my experience in a newsroom and my memories of starting out in a city that was totally alien to me.

Noble HouseI spent five crazy years in Hong Kong and still vividly recall so much about it – the chaotic newsroom, the crowded MTR, the smell of frying garlic and the pong of fermented bean curd, the white-knuckle ride into the old Kai Tak airport, junk trips to the outlying islands and the sampan ride home at the end of a long night in the office. In my neighbourhood, old Hakka ladies shelled prawns in the sun, while young professionals belted out love songs on their karaoke machines. I had a colleague who often rode home from a night club on the roof of a taxi, just because he could, and a British friend who circled the Hongkong Bank anti clockwise twice every morning before going to work – on the advice of a feng shui master. He still endured his share of bad luck, but was never game to change the habit in case his fortune worsened.

Hong Kong was many things to me, but it was never boring!

Thanks for joining me for my first Boomerang Books Blog post. I will be returning regularly with more bookish news. In the meantime you can visit my website here or you can follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Happy reading,

Julie.