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review 2016-09-28 11:28
Review: Our Chemical Hearts
Our Chemical Hearts - Krystal Sutherland

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

This was one of those delightful books that I loved almost as soon as I started reading. A bit of cover lust as well (I loved the big fish on the front) I’ve not come across a lot of YA romantic/drama types from a male point of view before.

 

I was captivated immediately by Henry’s tone of voice and personality. I liked all of the characters in this one, except for Grace Town. I didn’t really like her much at all. But I really enjoyed the narrative and the build of the relationship and how she came into Henry’s world. Henry also had a great support system, some wonderful friends and some likeable parents, an older sister with a bit of a reputation as a troublemaker from when she was at school which had some lingering effects on Henry’s teachers (even though Henry and his sister are nothing alike, and the sister was kind of awesome too).

 

Grace Town comes in dressed in weird boys’ clothes looking very dull and while everyone stares she immediately gets Henry’s attention. They both end up working on the school newspaper with one of Henry’s other friends and develop a sort of tentative friendship, despite the fact that their personalities are very different. Henry is quippy and quirky while Grace is sullen and quiet and seems very brash. Yet Henry’s head over heels for her very quickly.

 

There’s one brilliant scene where Henry and his friend are asking the school gossip queen to dig up some information for them on Grace, and Henry’s friend Murray is looking for gossip on his ex who he’s trying to win back. And Murray actually uses The Simpsons quote “Everything’s coming up Millhouse” quote in the right context and it’s absolutely hilarious. The use of that quote alone was worth five stars.

 

As things progress and Henry learns more about Grace and gets to know her better, there’s parties, drinking, misinterpretation of feelings - do they love me do they not -– the usual things you find in teen romantic drama. A bit of sex as well which was handled very well. Nicely thought out and dealt with from both people involved considerate of each other and where they want to be.

 

It’s exceptionally well written and manages to go from being romantic and sweet to angsty and dramatic without being over the top. When you think things are going smoothly, it twists and becomes deeply emotional and made me sniffle a few times towards the end. It’s got a great cast of diverse characters, each character is fully developed with their own distinct personalities and storylines, interactive parents and family members. And manages to be both funny and hearbreaking and wraps up with a believable conclusion.

 

I loved this so much I purchased a finished copy before I was even half way through. Definitely something I can see myself reading again.

 

Thank you Netgalley and Bonnier Publishing for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2016-08-25 11:53
Review: The Reader
The Reader - Traci Chee

I received a copy from Penguin First To Read.

 

This particular fantasy wasn’t on my immediate must have radar, I must admit. I knew of it, I was waiting for some reviews from blogs I followed before looking for closely at it. I took a chance at requesting when I saw it in Penguin’s First to Read list. It got off to a bit of a rocky start, I found it rather clunky and boring. Turns out by the end I absolutely loved this fantasy. I loved this fantasy so much I pre ordered a finished hard cover from the Book Depository.

 

I very nearly DNFed several times in the first 100 pages or so. The world building was interested enough. The bulk of the population of this world is illiterate, except a few chosen who belong to some sort of society that is very powerful (and possibly dangerous). History and stories and such are passed down through word of mouth. At first it almost seems like there’s no magic even, which is surprising in a YA fantasy. Turns out though magic does have a pretty big part to play by the end of the novel.

 

The novel starts by introducing the main character Sefia and her aunt leaving a busy town, the aunt has some sort of mysterious path and we learn right off she’s a brilliant thief. Shortly afterwards the aunt, Sefia’s only living family, is kidnapped by a group of masked people, men and women. Leaving Sefia alone with a strange object that she’s to protect at all costs. The object turns out to be a book. Sefia is left alone to reminisce about the deaths of her parents – both murdered – and how she escaped and came to her aunt. She has to figure out the purpose of the book and teach herself how to read it.

 

The world building was interesting enough, though I did find those first hundred pages very very slow. The story does jump in time to a year later after the kidnapping of Sefia’s aunt. I think it’s after that when most of the other characters are introduced.

 

Aside from Sefia, we are introduced a number of other different characters in different locations. The scene setting is quite visually striking and one thing I really loved about this fantasy was how the women were just as strong (in many occasions stronger) than the men. There was no shove the women to the background. The women in this novel pretty much kicked ass and were awesome.

 

After other characters are introduced – a young man with a gift for words is given the chance to join the society of Readers and become part of a mysterious Library to learn the words and the magic that comes with the knowledge of books. In training the guy’s magical abilities increase. He strikes up a friendship with a nameless Assassin in training. Which becomes one of the most incredibly moving, slow burning romances I’ve come across in a long time. This seems to have absolutely nothing to do with Sefia and her own book.

 

There’s another plot of a crew of pirates striking a deal to sail to the edge of the world, a mismatch of different characters with interesting histories. I was a little apprehensive when the pirate plot was introduced as the last few books I’ve read with this sort of thing I’ve not liked much at all. Turned out the story for these guys was one of my favourite parts of this book.

 

Sefia herself has become a Reader and is determined to rescue her aunt. In tracking her down, she comes across a group of mercenaries who seem to be abducting young boys and sending them off to some sort of fighting ring. Sefia inadvertently finds herself rescuing one of these boys she names Archer due to his proficieny with a bow and arrow. Archer appears to be unable to talk. I was worried when this happened that here comes the inevitable romance (it’s a YA fantasy after all). However, again I was quite pleased with how things progressed between Archer and Sefia, trust developed over time turning into friendship turning into more, the possibility of another incredibly slow burn romance.

 

While all of this is going on, the novel’s very unique take on magic begins to develop as the story progresses. It’s not obvious magic, flashy spells and such. Everything is more intricate, there’s magic in the young man’s studies, Sefia discovers a very powerful vision type magic when she kills someone for the first time, the Assassin has some pretty nifty and scary magic of her own. The more the novel progresses, the more the magic builds. Becoming pretty damn huge in Sefia’s part by the end.

 

Even though all the different characters were interesting enough and as neat as the storylines were, it’s like – where is all this going? It does all come together – but not in the way I would have ever guessed. The twist with the young scholar and the Assassin in training was pretty jaw droppingly awesome.

 

All in all by the end of this novel I was absolutely hooked and I cannot wait for the next book. I need it! Now!

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review 2015-11-02 11:37
Review: Weird Girl and What's His Name
Weird Girl and What's His Name - Meagan Brothers

I received a copy from Edelweiss.

 

This book pretty much had me at two besties who binge watch old X Files reruns. As I am a massive X Files addict. And still binge-watch the series myself. The in-depth X Files references that are a huge bulk of the plot are worth five stars alone. 

 

However, there are many other reasons for why this is one the best books I have read this year. The basic theme of the novel is there is no such thing as "normal" when you are 17/18 and just starting out in life. Its a journey of self discovery for two very different characters who in spite of being best friends and sharing a love of sci-fi stuff, realise they need to find their own paths in life. 

 

Told in first person, first from Rory's point of view. He's the weird fat kid, lives with a difficult home life - alcoholic mom, and mom's stream of unsteady boyfriends. He's also gay and seems to be afraid to tell anyone. He's also at the start of the novel in a relationship which his much older boss, a divorced father of two who runs the small town's book shop/coffee shop. They sneak around a lot for obvious reasons. Rory's best friend is Lula, who shares his obsessive love of the X Files, they watch and talk about the episodes, their thoughts on plots, conspiracy theories and chat and stuff on the fan forums. The novel is set several years in the past, just before the second X Files movie comes out. 

 

Rory has a delightfully snarky tone, he's enigmatic and charming (even though he doesn't seem to think so) and he's very worried about being caught with his boss, Andy. He wants more out of the relationship, but he doesn't seem to be getting it. He's afraid of telling Lula, even though she tells him everything.  He also randomly starts being friendly with the school quarterback, Seth. Who convinces him with his stocky build he'd be great for the team. Which for some reason Lula seems to think is absurd. She comes off in Rory's view points as kind of judgemental. 

 

When Lula catches him with Andy and gives him a piece of her mind for not trusting her enough with the truth, things rapidly fall apart. Lula disappears and Rory starts to fall apart without her. No one knows if she has run away or been kidnapped. But as Rory struggles to understand what happened with Lula and why she ran off and won't answer his emails or anything, he does start to realise that he can have his own life without needing to run everything by her. He learns there's plenty of stuff she has never told him either. 

 

The second half off the novel tells the story from Lula's view point. Which I was quite pleased about. As interesting as Rory's point of view was, when the novel turned to Lula's unexpected disappearance I kept thinking it would be nice to see it from Lula's point of view, or at least get some chapters from her explaining why she did what she did.

 

Initially I liked Lula's brassiness, her tone of voice (sci-fi and Lord of the Rings obsessions which I totally understand) but in the second half of the novel I absolutely fell in love with her. Lula had plenty of reason it turns out, to run away. She has her own drama at home. She lives with her somewhat strict grandparents, raised by them as her mother left when she was very young and had has no idea who her father is. She has a backpack of stuff left by her mother, some books and stuff she reads over and over. All she knows about her mother is mom wanted to be an actress and left for New York. Lula seems to have no idea what she wants to do with her life. She's never dated, though she thinks she might be interested in Rory, and pretty much freaks when she catches him with Andy. Its not the fact Rory's gay, its that Andy is so much older. And he didn't trust her enough to tell her about him. At some point she thought he might like her. Her thoughts on the subject are disjointed. She does some pretty stupid things when she finds out. 

 

All which coalesce into her running away. Lula wants to find some sort of direction in her life but has no idea how. Her struggles as she finds her answers, are deeply moving. And Lula is a much more likeable character when the story is told from her point of view and things are explained. When Lula comes home, there are massive consequences for her actions. The friendship with Rory takes an unexpected turn.

 

Lula is forced to deal with her mistakes. All the while still trying to figure out among other things, her sexuality. She just doesn't know. Is she straight, gay or bisexual? She finally comes to the conclusion that it doesn't matter if she doesn't know right now. She's 18, she's got her whole life ahead of her.

 

There are some wonderful side characters who help her figure this out. A cool teacher, her mother's husband Walter, (Lula's mom turns out to be kind of a bitch but at least there is some sort of closure there, the man she marries though was a brilliant character) and Seth the quarterback who started off being Rory's friend turns up again and turns out to be pretty awesome and nothing like the jock quarterback you wouldm expect in a YA novel.

 

While nothing turned out the way you would maybe expect it to, even though things between Rory and Lula have their ups and down, they always manage to reconnect over their love of the X Files. This was something that was really fun and nice to see they still had something in common.

 

 

I need a sequel set in modern day times where Lula and Rory run into each other and connect again over the new upcoming X Files revival series. 

 

It was an emotional roller coaster with deeply fleshed out characters a brilliant storyline. I loved this one from start to finish.

 

Thank you to Edelweiss and Three Rooms Press for approving my request to view the title. 

 

 

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review 2015-07-18 11:34
Review: The Kiss of Deception
The Kiss of Deception - Mary E. Pearson

I tried reading this book at some point last year, but didn't get more than five or six chapters in. It wasn't necessarily a bad book or anything, I just wasn't in the mood for it. So when I picked it up again, I started from the beginning, rather than picking up from where i left off. The second time I read much more and absolutely fell in love with the book. 

This fantasy novel has some of the most beautiful and vivid landscaping I have seen in a long time. The world building was incredible and I loved the characters. The characters are each distinct in their own personalities whether they are likeable or not, each one is full of life and captivating in their own unique ways. The writing goes through ups and downs, bringing out different emotions from the vivid descriptions of the landscape to the inner turmoil of its love triangle. 

The love triangle did get rather annoying as the main character, Lia was constantly unable to decide between the two boys, the price or the assassin, of course she has no idea which is which. (Though I will admit I did cheat on this one and read the last few pages so I knew which was which). There were parts of the plot that did drag and become a little tedious towards the middle. Despite the things I found annoying about the love triangle, the characters are so well constructed it was easy to over look and want to know what's going to happen (even if it was slow and dragging in the plot).

The world building is richly developed, its own mythology and languages and religion are so clearly defined its easy to loose yourself in. Lia herself is one of the most memorable heroines I have come across in a long time. Starting off as a spoiled princess selfishly running away from her wedding day (a political match made by her father) she has tremendous character growth as she sheds her princess identify and finds life and work in a small sleepy seaside village with the help of her best friend Pauline. She really was pretty amazing in how she handles everything that's thrown at her. Even if she does get annoying in regards to the love triangle. Her strength and loyalty to Pauline and her the people who help her on her journey made her even more endearing. 

While the plot certainly had its problems, and it did take a long time to get through, i still really loved it. 


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review 2015-05-23 14:17
Review: Everything Everything
Everything, Everything - Nicola Yoon

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

There are certain books that you know you are going to fall in love with before you've finished the first chapter. For me, this was one of those books. 

 

Maddy is a unique character, a girl who's been inside her whole life due to a very rare disease which makes her basically allergic to the outside world. She's home schooled through on line courses, the only contact she has with people is her Mom and her nurse, Carla. She reads books, does her school work, watches movies, plays games with her mom. She seems pretty content under the circumstances. Until a new family moves in next door, including good looking Oliver, who is Maddy's age. 

 

This story was just wonderful. The characters all feel very real, the dialogue is a joy, and feels very authentic and believable. Oliver and Maddy's relationship is a very slow development but its just brilliant to read. This book has pretty much everything I look for in a contemporary romance. Great chemistry between the characters, a romance that is worked for and enjoyable. Twisty drama, without being over the top. There were parts of it that did get a bit silly and a tad bit unbelievable, but its pretty easy to overlook if you're enjoying the story.  

 

Its very emotional, it made me grin, it made me squee, it made me cry my eyes out. It was very predictable in the plot, I figured out the twist at the end well before the half way point, but that didn't matter because it was such a beautifully written book. Wonderful book. Highly recommended. 

 

Huge thanks to Netgalley and Penguin Random House Children's Publishers.

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