Review: The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin

the-year-we-fell-apart

Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: January 26, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 320
Goodreads || Book Depository

Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year, she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hookup, and officially became the black sheep of the family. But the worst mistake was her first one: destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan.

Now, after two semesters of silence between Harper and Declan, Declan is home from boarding school for summer break. Everything about him is different – he’s taller, stronger… handsomer. But Harper has changed too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis.

While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on with her. But after she betrayed his trust, he’s also the one person she’s lost all right to seek comfort from.

As shared friends and shared histories draw them together, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still possible to fix and which parts they’ll have to live with forever.

MY THOUGHTS

3 stars

The Year We Fell Apart is Emily Martin’s debut novel and I dove straight into this one as soon as my copy arrived in the mail because it reminded me of Second Chance Summer (which I loved), with the second chance romance and the parent struggling with cancer. Unfortunately, I didn’t love this one as much as Second Chance Summer because of a few problems I had with the characters and plot.

For a debut novel, I was quite impressed with the writing in this book. I noticed from the first page how beautiful the prose was but, most importantly, it was easy to read. The words flowed very well and I flew through this book in just one sitting.

What I really struggled with was Harper’s character. She was very frustrating and I didn’t really understand her behaviour and her reasoning behind most of the things she did. I feel like this book had the potential to be a great coming of age story, but Harper really didn’t develop very much and continued to make the same mistakes over and over. She really reminded me of Molly from 99 Days, another character that just continued to make the same mistakes and never grew or learnt anything from her mistakes. Perhaps my biggest problem with Harper was that she was very mopey and her attitude just made her a little bit hard to like. She kept putting herself into situations where she would make the same mistakes she had in the past, but in the aftermath, she would act like it wasn’t her fault at all. I just could not bring myself to feel sorry for her. Having said that, it wasn’t all bad when it came to Harper. She had a few great moments and she was far less annoying than Molly from 99 Days.

“People change. And sometimes that means drifting apart. But other times it just means working harder to find some common ground.”

I thought the events that led to Molly and Declan breaking up a year ago were a little bit overdramatic and weak. I don’t even fully understand why they broke up. And for those events to have caused such a huge change in Harper, it was slightly unrealistic to me. And despite the two of them being together in the same place again, they never really communicated with each other. There were just so many misunderstandings and I just wished they would talk to each other. There were even instances where one character was given the opportunity to explain their actions, and the other just said “nope, you don’t have to explain”. I reached the end of the book feeling very unsatisfied with how everything played out and I don’t think their issues were resolved at all.

The romance between Harper and Declan is definitely at the forefront of the book, but there is a secondary story arc that involves Harper’s mother and her struggles with cancer. In my opinion, this was dealt with so poorly that I have no idea why it was even included in the book. I suppose watching her mother become ill was supposed to snap Harper out of her recklessness, but there was so little development in Harper’s character! In fact, for most of the book, Harper just avoids the issue by lying to her parents and going out and being reckless. There also aren’t very many mentions of Harper’s mother in the whole book so I just thought that story arc was a bit weak. It also felt kind of convenient at times and it seemed like her illness was only mentioned when the plot needed to move forward. There were also a couple of other things that felt convenient, such as the photography summer class Harper attended. It was only brought up a handful of times when the plot needed to develop.

I did like some of the side characters in the book. I appreciated how supportive some of Harper’s friends were and wished that they could have featured a bit more in the book. However, there were also other friends that I was absolutely disgusted by and thought were terrible people. I was a little bit disappointed by how Harper handled these friendships. I just wanted to see her cut ties with them completely but that didn’t really happen. I liked Declan as a love interest but he did some really stupid things that just didn’t make sense to me, so overall I was a little bit underwhelmed by the two leads.

This was a little bit of an underwhelming read for me. I didn’t love Harper as a main character and thought that there were a lot of loose ends that weren’t tied up. The plot felt a bit shaky at times and I just needed it to be better resolved. It had great drama but I thought it was a bit overdramatic, especially since the catalyst was so… not worthy of drama.

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Review: Chewy Noh and the March of Death by Tim Learn

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Publisher: Self-published
Release date: January 29, 2016
Format: ebook
Source: Author
Pages: 311
Goodreads || Amazon

Chewy Noh should be happy. He has a best friend like no other and by using his secret abilities, has found a way to connect Korea and America forever to keep him.

Unfortunately, none of this matters after Death’s messenger comes to tell him that he has one week left to live!

Knowing his death is coming soon, Chewy scrambles to figure out a way to avoid it, but every direction he turns seems to lead him further and further away from his goal—a dead body, a missing person, and at the heart of it, the secret that started that it all.

In the end, if Chewy doesn’t learn how to change, Death might just come out on top.

MY THOUGHTS

25 stars

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Chewy Noh and the March of Death is the third book in Tim Learn‘s middle grade series. I have reviews for the first two books, Chewy Noh and the Fall of the Mu-Dang and Chewy Noh and the Phantasm of Winter.

While it is possible to read the second book without reading the first, I don’t think it’s possible to read The March of Death without reading book 2, The Phantasm of Winter. It’s been a couple of months since I read the first two books and I couldn’t remember all of the details, which was one reason why I struggled a little with this third book. I’m usually a series marathoner but on occasions when I do read instalments as they come out, I rely on the short recaps and reminders that are weaved into the story, in order to remind myself of things that had happened in previous books. I thought The March of Death was slightly lacking in that aspect and it took me a while to get into the story and remember who some of the characters were, especially because they had foreign names. Of course, this wouldn’t be an issue if you read the books back-to-back, but I think a good sequel should sprinkle in enough information about the previous book (but not too much that it’s repetitive) that readers aren’t lost if they haven’t read it recently.

I really enjoyed the plot of this book and it was a lot of fun to read. I think younger readers would definitely enjoy the adventure and thrill of everything that happened in this book. In The March of Death, we follow Chewy as he tries to escape death, which involves outsmarting Death and his servants. We also get a story arc about Chewy’s grandfather and his time as a soldier in the Korean war. This side story is linked to what is happening to Chewy in the present and I liked how they were connected and how everything was revealed. As with the previous books, this instalment incorporated some Korean mythology. While I cannot attest to the accuracy of what was written, I really enjoyed learning about things like the So-chon garden where flowers that possess different abilities and effects grow.

What I had issues with in terms of the plot was the flow of the book. The first third of the book, for me, seemed to lack clear direction and I just felt a bit lost and had no idea where the story was going. This was definitely the kind of book that presented lots of little puzzle pieces and connected them at the end, but the reading experience wasn’t very enjoyable for me because I felt like I was being pushed and pulled in different directions. I also felt like there was too much happening but not enough description and explanation of each scene to fill the gaps. It just lacked a bit of clarity and there were times when I wasn’t sure what was actually happening. There were some things that weren’t really resolved before we had moved on, and I was left wondering what the point of it actually was. I enjoyed Chewy’s grandfather’s storyline a lot more than what was happening to Chewy in the present because his story flowed well and made more sense to me.

In addition to the issues of flow that I had, I thought there were far too many perspectives, which made the book even more busy and choppy. I’m not sure that all of the perspectives were necessary in this book because some added very little to the story. I also had a minor problem with the narration changing from third person in present chapters to first person in the grandfather’s chapters. I can see why the author decided to do that but it was a little bit jarring for me.

What I probably struggled with the most was how unrealistic some of the events were, which made me think that I was probably a little bit too old for this. I definitely had to suspend my disbelief while reading The March of Death. The casualness of death (a phrase that I picked up from Jeann @ Happy Indulgence’s recent discussion about character deaths) was a bit of a problem for me. There were multiple instances of characters dying out of the blue and being brought back to life, and it was honestly a bit hard for me to digest because it was so unrealistic even for a mythological fantasy read. Maybe I just haven’t read enough of these types of books… Because of this, I had to just go along with what was happening, without being fully immersed in the story. I also wasn’t a fan of the absence of parents and the role that the grandmother played in the book. She’s very much the only adult figure in Chewy’s life throughout the whole book and she came across as very irresponsible and flighty. She did things without any clear explanations, and the characters, as well as myself as the reader, were just left guessing a lot of the time.

This was by no means a terrible read. I really enjoyed a lot of the plot and how everything came together in the end, as well as all the Korean culture and mythology. I loved the little bit of historical fiction that we got and reading about the Korean War was super interesting to me. However, I thought the book needed a bit more development and better flow. I struggled a little while reading it and thought it needed a bit more polish.

Review: Max by Sarah Cohen-Scali

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Publisher: Text Publishing
Release date: January 27, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 464
Goodreads || Book Depository || Booktopia

Meet Max. Indoctrinated in Nazi ideology, he is about to tell you his story. In 1936, he is a baby inside his blonde, blue-eyed mother. His destiny is to become an exceptional being in the ‘Lebensborn’ (Fountain of Life) program, designed to produce perfect specimens of the Aryan race. But when Max meets Lukas, a Polish boy who rebels against the Nazi system, cracks start to appear in Max’s convictions…

Like The Book Thief and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Max is a compelling historical fable. It is the story of an orphan boy who personifies the evil that people can inflict on children in times of war.

Max was awarded twelve French literary prizes, including the prestigious Prix Sorcières for Young Adult Literature.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

I received a review copy of Max from Text Publishing. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Max is a historical fiction novel with a twist. This novel by Sarah Cohen-Scali (translated by Penny Hueston of Text Publishing) chronicles Max’s life from a fetus to 10 years of age. I should point out here that while we follow the story of a child in this book, Max is marketed as young adult (14+). It contains some very mature content including violence, rape and other sexual themes.

Everything about Max, including his conception and upbringing was carefully controlled by the ‘Lebensborn’ program and his purpose in life was to become an exceptional Hitler youth. Max has known this since he was an unborn child in his mother’s belly and he’s devoted his whole life to becoming the perfect little soldier under strict and regimented instruction. However, when he meets Lukas, a Polish boy who was snatched from his home to become Germanised, he starts to question some of the ideals that have been instilled into him from birth.

I should have been born yesterday, but that’s not what I wanted. The date didn’t suit me. So I’ve stayed put.

This entire book is written from the first person perspective of Max and I loved his character and voice from the very first page. His personality and sass comes through straight away and you just want to get to know him better. And you get a lot of Max in this book… including his perspective as a foetus still in his mother’s belly. You get all of his pride at being the first baby and star born into the Lebensborn program, his superiority at sharing the Führer’s birthday, his coldness and cruelty when it came to the weak and also his tender moments as an innocent child. Despite his being a child of evil, it is so easy to understand him and fall in love with him. He’s definitely a product of his upbringing and I couldn’t fault him for thinking and behaving the way he did. I loved his childish arrogance and the changes in his way of thinking as he grew up. The writing in this book was so insightful and Max’s voice seemed so realistic that I never found it unbelievable that a foetus and child knew so much about the world and the mature things he was discussing (even though it totally is).

This novel is confronting from the very first couple of pages. The author definitely doesn’t go easy on her audience or sugar coat anything. We get to see all of the atrocities that were committed against children and Jews during WWII and the Holocaust. The book was incredibly well-researched and if you’ve ever wanted to know more about what occurred in Germany during WWII, this book provides a lot of great information, weaved into a captivating story. It was confronting and extremely heartbreaking to see what had occurred and it was very interesting to read about it from a rarely seen perspective. My only other experience of reading from the perspective of a Hitler youth was Werner from All the Light We Cannot See, but to read about it from the point of view of a young innocent mind who didn’t know any differently, really affected me deeply. I enjoyed the honesty and insight that the author brought to the story and I really appreciated that she didn’t hold back and spare our feelings by keeping characters alive when it was unrealistic to do so.

This was one of the most unique and impactful books that I’ve read for a long time. Even though Max is a child of evil, it’s tough not to love him and care for him. The relationships he forges with those around him will tug at your heart strings and I challenge you all to not fall in love with Max and his story. Because it’s impossible.

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Villains / Morally Ambiguous Characters

favourite-villains

Welcome back to another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the team at The Broke and the Bookish. This week is a freebie week, so I’ve chosen to feature some of my favourite villains and morally ambiguous characters. These are in no particular order.


1. Queen Levana (The Lunar Chronicles – Marissa Meyer)

The Lunar Chronicles is my favourite series and one of the reasons why I love it so much is because of the villain in the series. Queen Levana is so evil and complex and I just loved her and thought she was a great villain.

2. Mayor Prentiss (Chaos Walking – Patrick Ness)

Mayor Prentiss is terrifying! He was so evil in the first book of the series and I loved that about him. But then I read the second book, and his motives and intentions were so morally ambiguous that I had no idea what to think of him… which made him even more terrifying.

3. Manon Blackbeak (Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas)

I loved Manon from the first time I met her in Heir of Fire. She’s fierce, fearless and just cutthroat. But she also has a soft side and I can’t wait for Sarah to explore that side of her a little bit more in the remaining books.

4. King Angra (Snow Like Ashes – Sara Raasch)

This guy is just pure evil. Totally terrifying and I’m kinda scared for the last book of the trilogy, Frost Like Night.

5. Max (Max – Sarah Cohen-Scali)

Max is not a villain. But he’s a child born into the ‘Lebensborn’ program, groomed to become a Hitler youth and fight for Germany during WWII. This whole book was about Max’s childhood, from his birth in 1936 until he’s found by the UNRRA after Germany’s defeat.

6. Bellatrix Lestrange (Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling)

I love Bellatrix. She’s absolutely batshit crazy and scary. I especially love Helena Bonham-Carter as Bellatrix in the movies!

7. Arobynn (Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas)

Arobynn is just the biggest asshole and I still haven’t forgiven him for what happened in The Assassin’s Blade. But he’s such a confusing and complex character that I couldn’t help but be intrigued.

8. Aeduan (Truthwitch – Susan Dennard)

Aeduan is arguably my favourite character in Truthwitch. He’s so mysterious and interesting, and I can’t wait to find out more about him and his connection to some characters that are mentioned.

9. Mr Gray (The Raven Cycle – Maggie Stiefvater)

Mr Gray appeared to be the villain of The Dream Thieves but Maggie Stiefvater never ceases to surprise her readers with how complex her characters are. We not only got to see his villainous side, but also his fear and the more human side of him that just wants to belong. I loved his character.

10. Draco Malfoy (Harry Potter – J. K. Rowling)

Draco is my favourite character of the series and I had to include him in this list.


I know, I know. I didn’t include The Darkling on this list… but that’s because I don’t really like him that much. Sorry! Who are your favourite villains?

 

Review: Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom

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Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Release date: January 1, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 400
Goodreads || Book Depository

Parker Grant doesn’t need perfect vision to see right through you.

That’s why she created the Rules: don’t treat her any differently just because she’s blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances.

When Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart, suddenly reappears at school, Parker knows there’s only one way to react – shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough to deal with already, like trying out for the track team, handing out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn’t cried since her dad’s death.

But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened – both with Scott, and her dad – the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem.

Combining a fiercely engaging voice with true heart, Not If I See You First is a deeply moving story which illuminates those blind spots that we all have in life, whether visually impaired or not.

MY THOUGHTS

35 stars

I received a copy of Not If I See You First from HarperCollins Australia for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Not If I See You First is about Parker Grant, a girl who became blind at the age of 7 after getting into an accident that killed her mother. This book begins during Parker’s junior year of high school, 3 months after she found her father dead in his bed. Her aunt’s family has moved into Parker’s house to take care of her, and Parker’s just having a hard time adjusting to the new routines in her life and missing her old routines with her father. On top of that, her school has merged with another in the local area and there are a lot more people around who don’t know her Rules. Among the new students at her school is her former best friend and first boyfriend, Scott Kilpatrick, who did something terrible 2 weeks into their relationship 2 years ago.

While this sounds like a pretty dark book with lots of serious issues, it was actually quite a light-hearted book. There isn’t much of an exploration of the issues of being blind and for the most part Parker seems to just blend in with those around her. There is a lot of focus on how Parker is able to do the things that those with normal vision can, such as joining the track team and running sprints. She can be handy in the kitchen and she can find her own way around the mall and go on dates just like everybody else. I enjoyed how Parker never really felt burdened by her disability and her determination at finding ways around the obstacles.

But at the same time, the novel also shows the difficulties in Parker’s life and how she has to find ways to do the things that others who aren’t visually impaired can do. She has to have a buddy at school who will tell her exactly what is written on a whiteboard, which can get pretty tricky during Trigonometry. She needs a running guide when she’s doing sprints so that she doesn’t go off course. I thought the portrayal of how a blind person lives was very realistic and I could see exactly how Parker deals with not being able to see in everyday life. It was also very interesting to see how many of the social cues Parker misses as a result of not being able to see how others react. Overall, even though this wasn’t a deep and dark contemporary about a girl struggling with her disability, I thought the element of blindness was explored very well.

“You really are blind! You can’t see you’re not the center of the universe! That other people have lives and things happen to them all the time and you know nothing about it!”

What I had a problem with was Parker’s character. She starts off pretty dislikable. She was brash, judgmental and unapologetically honest. I just found her very hard to like. She had a hard time understanding that there was more to what she knew and that there were lots of little non-verbal things that she had missed because she couldn’t see. She does go through some character development and learn that people have their secrets and things to hide and that she doesn’t always know everything there is to know about something. But even after her character growth, I still found that her to be a little bit hard to like. She continues to be unapologetically honest and I thought she lacked a bit of tact. But overall, I had a great time learning about Parker and reading from her point of view.

I enjoyed all of the friendships in this book and it was great to see how supportive Parker’s friends all were. The friends that she’s had since childhood and the new friends that she made were all wonderful and there isn’t really much I can complain about in terms of the side characters. I also absolutely loved the romance! I know that some reviewers weren’t that thrilled with the romance, but I thought it was resolved very sensibly. There were times when I thought Parker changed her mind too quickly or was a bit hot or cold, but it wasn’t a huge issue for me and I really liked how the romance played out.

This was definitely more of a character-driven story. There’s actually very little that happens in this book, particularly in the first 150 or so pages. I wished that there was a little bit more action. Besides seeing how Parker lived her daily life and her romance with Scott… there wasn’t really anything happening in this book. There wasn’t a clear climax and it just all felt one dimensional when it came to the plot. The one thing that this book had going for it was that it was incredibly fast-paced! If you’re feeling hesitant about picking this one up, I highly recommend that you do because it’s possible to fly through it in one or two sittings. This was a book that had me engaged from the beginning and I flew through it in just a few hours.

Review: Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

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Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release date: April 7, 2015
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 303
Goodreads || Book Depository

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

I recently reread this novel and this post combines my original review that was posted on Goodreads and some of my updated thoughts after my reread.

This book is EVERYTHING. Heartwarming and adorable, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is about love, friendship, being yourself, accepting others, eating oreos for every meal of the day, perfect grammar, and flirting with cute guys through email.

This is a novel about Simon Spier’s journey through his junior year of high school as he transforms from Simon the straight guy who’s had 3 girlfriends, to the Simon who thinks boys are cute and is falling in love with Blue, another junior at his school who he exchanges emails with. Neither knows the other’s identity, but through their emails, they are able to find the courage to embrace who they are even when things go wrong. This was a lighthearted book that tackles the issues of being gay, and also to some extent issues of race and colour. I think this book is masterful in the way that it was able to shine a light on the issues without being an angst-filled and heavy novel. It has lots of wonderful messages about being true to yourself and being the person you want to be, while still staying light and fun.

It was nicely paced and kept me so intrigued that I read it in one sitting both times. This book is just so easy to get into and I flew through the first few chapters in no time. I liked the format of the book a lot. Every second chapter was an email exchange between Simon and Blue that would allow us to take a peek inside Blue’s head. Their conversations were the best part of the book in my opinion because we got to see them getting to know each other. They were just so cute together!! I also really liked the mystery aspect of the book and trying to figure out who Blue was, though I did guess who he was quite early on in the book. Knowing who Blue was during my reread of the novel, added to the experience and every mention of him had me squealing and flailing around. Needless to say, I absolutely loved the romance.

“I’m not going to pretend I know how this ends, and I don’t have a freaking clue if it’s possible to fall in love over email. But I would really like to meet you, Blue. I want to try this. And I can’t imagine a scenario where I don’t want to kiss your face off as soon as I see you.”

I loved the characters that Becky Albertalli created. I thought Simon and Blue were so normal but unique at the same time. I liked that Simon was just an ordinary boy who isn’t popular but isn’t an outcast. He’s just your average kid who’s struggling with revealing his true identity to others in his life, which I think so many people can relate to. His narrative voice was so strong and relatable that you can’t help but root for him and want everything to work out. His personality really comes through in his voice and he was just very easy to connect with. Simon’s story and his character is inspiring and definitely encouraged me to reflect on what I truly want in life and speak up about it too.

I thoroughly loved Simon’s family and the fact that they watch and have discussions about reality TV shows, and that they have Facebook scavenger hunts. Their family dynamic was wonderful and I loved how involved his parents and siblings were in his life. They got along wonderfully and it was beautiful to be able to see such a supportive family. I also liked the side characters because they each had their own quirks, though it did take me a while to warm to Abby. She’s the character who everybody loves and I just had a hard time seeing why she was so special. Having said that, there wasn’t a single character that I disliked in this book because they all brought something special to the story.

Overall this was an amazing debut novel and I cannot wait to read the companion novel that Becky is working on!

Review: Yuki Chan in Bronte Country by Mick Jackson

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Publisher: Faber & Faber
Release date: January 21, 2016
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 272
Goodreads || Book Depository

The new novel from Mick Jackson, Booker Prize-shortlisted author of The Underground Man and Ten Sorry Tales.

‘They both stop and stare for a moment. Yuki feels she’s spent about half her adult life thinking about snow, but when it starts, even now, it’s always arresting, bewildering. Each snowflake skating along some invisible plane. Always circuitous, as if looking for the best place to land…’

Yukiko tragically lost her mother ten years ago. After visiting her sister in London, she goes on the run, and heads for Haworth, West Yorkshire, the last place her mother visited before her death.

Against a cold, winter, Yorkshire landscape, Yuki has to tackle the mystery of her mother’s death, her burgeoning friendship with a local girl, the allure of the Brontes and her own sister’s wrath.

Both a pilgrimage and an investigation into family secrets, Yuki’s journey is the one she always knew she’d have to make, and one of the most charming and haunting in recent fiction.

MY THOUGHTS

35 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are mine.

Yuki Chan in Brontë Country was a little bit of a strange read for me. I had no idea what to expect going into this book but it surprised me and disappointed me at the same time. It was an incredibly insightful book with a lot of wonderful elements but it wasn’t as emotional as I would’ve liked it to be.

This book starts off with our main character Yukiko travelling to Haworth, which is a place that’s associated with the Brontë sisters. The story is ostensibly about a young Japanese tourist visiting notable Brontë landmarks, but we soon realise that Yuki is no avid Brontë fan. She quickly escapes from the tour she’s joined and sets off on her own journey around Haworth. We get to see Yuki’s true agenda as she walks around searching for places that her mother visited a decade ago, hoping for some clue or insight into her mother’s mysterious death. Along the way she meets some interesting characters, forms a new friendship and uncovers what really happened to her mother 10 years ago.

My favourite aspect of this book were definitely the characters. I can count the number of characters in this book on one hand, but I really appreciated that we got to see so much of Yuki. I could feel the loneliness yet wonder of travelling alone in a foreign country and I thought this book really captured the tone beautifully. Yuki is a very intelligent and independent character and I thoroughly enjoyed following her around on her quest to uncover the secrets of her mothers death. I liked her focus and her tenacity, and the fact that she wasn’t afraid to find ways to get what she wanted. Her character was complex and completely relatable, and I just wanted to be her friend because she was so smart and funny. She’s a character that is likeable from the very first chapter and I couldn’t help but be sucked into her story.

The pace of this book was slow for the most part, but I enjoyed how much the pace and the writing of the book added to the atmosphere of the story. The slow pace really complemented the mysterious and the slightly eerie paranormal elements in the book. The writing was extremely calming and soothing and had wonderful flow throughout the book. The mix of humour with melancholy worked beautifully in this book, and I felt like I was there with Yuki as she navigated the snowy winter days and nights in Haworth.

I have to admit that I didn’t always know what was going on in the book, but it almost didn’t matter because everything was wrapped up so nicely at the end of the book. The building sense of discomfort and melancholy ended with such a cathartic release that I felt very satisfied with what I read. Of course, I wished that the book could have been a little bit longer and more fleshed out, in order for me to connect even more with Yuki’s story and the emotion behind her loss, but overall I thought this was a wonderful and charming story.

Top Ten Tuesday: Last Ten Books I Added To My Wishlist

ten-books-i-recently-added-to-my-wishlist

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by the group at The Broke and the Bookish. This week I am featuring the ten books I have most recently added to my Book Depository wishlist. I don’t always add every book that I’m interested in to my wishlist, so these are the ones I actually plan to buy or pre-order soon.


1. The Winner’s Kiss – Marie Rutkoski

If you have seen my recent reviews of The Winner’s Curse and The Winner’s Crime, you will know that this is currently my most anticipated release. I need to know what happens next and I will probably die if I don’t get my hands on it as soon as possible. This one is out on March 29 in the US, but March 23 in Australia?!!!

2. The Raven King – Maggie Stiefvater

This is another series finale that I am highly anticipating after reading The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves and Blue Lily, Lily Blue in December. I wanted to pre-order this one as soon as I had finished the first three books, but I might wait a bit closer to release date before placing an order. This one will hopefully be released on April 26.

3. Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour – Morgan Matson

This is actually one that I’ve wanted to buy for ages but it never made it on to my Book Depository wishlist. After reading Second Chance Summer last week, I now need to get my hands on everything else by Morgan Matson that I haven’t read yet ASAP, because Since You’ve Been Gone was also a hit with me.

4. Broken Hearts, Fences and Other Things to Mend – Katie Finn

Like I said above… MUST. READ. EVERYTHING. BY. MORGAN. MATSON. Also, this one sounds like it’ll be hilarious.

5. The Hidden Oracle – Rick Riordan

I am slowly making my way through everything Rick Riordan has written and I absolutely need The Hidden Oracle! Apollo is probably my favourite of all of the gods so reading about him as a regular teenage boy would make my year. This book comes out on May 3.

6. Anna and the Swallow Man – Gavriel Savit

This book is right up my alley. World War II historical fiction is something that I cannot pass up. I won a proof copy of this book from Dymocks in exchange for a review on their website so I might not have to buy this one… Anna and the Swallow Man is released on January 26.

7. All the Birds in the Sky – Charlie Jane Anders

This book mixes magic and science and that’s all I need to know, really. This one is also out on January 26.

8. Love, Lies and Spies – Cindy Anstey

This book sounds so intriguing! It’s set in the 19th century and features two main characters who are so much more than they seem. Juliana is secretly a scientist and researcher, and there’s really nothing I like more than women in STEM in the 19th century. Spencer is not your average 19th century gentleman either. He’s an undercover spy and omg, I need this book. This one comes out on April 19.

9. Forever, Interrupted – Taylor Jenkins Reid

I saw CW @ Read Think Ponder’s review of this book and I must have it right now! It sounds heartbreaking and emotional, and there’s honestly not much I love more than a good ugly-cry.

10. My Lady Jane – Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton & Jodi Meadows

This one is marketed as perfect for fans of The Princess Bride and I LOVE The Princess Bride!! I love historical fiction novels and I love them even more when they’re funny. My Lady Jane is released on June 7.

Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

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Publisher: Tor Teen
Release date: January 5, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 416
Goodreads || Book Depository

On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery,” a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

Truthwitch was an action-packed and entertaining series starter that leaves you wanting more at the end. This high fantasy series is set in the Witchlands where some are born with some form of elemental magic. The Twenty Year Truce in the Witchlands is about to come to an end and everybody is preparing for the descent into war. Our two protagonists, Safiya and Iseult, are thrown into the middle of all the plotting because of their highly coveted abilities and the story begins from there.

Basically, this book was a long survival and escape story. We see Safi and Iseult escape from their home in Dalmotti, where they are being hunted by a Bloodwitch and the Emperor, to the country of Nubrevna, aboard Prince Merik’s ship. Along the way, they encounter trouble and must use their training and rely on others to get out of sticky situations. This book was so action-packed and exciting. There are lots of things going on at the same time and there’s a sense of urgency and frenzy. But despite all the fast-paced action, the plot moves at a pretty slow pace. There isn’t actually very much going on in the book besides Safi and Iseult escaping from those who hunt them. There were quite a few plot twists in the book that kept me engaged but I didn’t find them to be particularly shocking. There were lots of things that I had predicted from the very beginning of the book. But having said that, the last third of the book was fantastic and I enjoyed every aspect of the plot during that last section.

The magic system in this book is very complex and I found it to be quite confusing at the beginning. You’re just thrown into the world with no clue as to what’s going on and there’s very little help from the author. I had to work pretty hard to figure everything out because it wasn’t very well-described or explained. I felt quite overwhelmed for the first 100 pages because a lot of terms were dropped and we were introduced to about 15 different kinds of witches. It was just overwhelming and confusing. However, it all slowly starts to make sense as you progress through the book. In terms of the actual world building, I had some of the same problems. There’s not very much information given about each of the empires or any of the conflict that they might have had. Despite the very elaborate map included in the book, I found the world building to be quite lacking. There was nothing that distinguished one empire from another and I didn’t have a clear sense of what each empire stood for. There was nothing about the history or culture of each empire.

“Because ‘just me’ isn’t who we are,” Iseult hollered back. “I’ll always follow you, Safi, and you’ll always follow me. Threadsisters to the end.”

The characters were probably the standout aspect of the book for me. Safi and Iseult were both very fierce and independent characters and I enjoyed the close friendship they had. They were very loyal to each other and I loved how well they worked as a team and the dynamic between them. I liked Iseult a little bit better than Safi, because I found Safi to be a bit too impulsive and reckless. She didn’t seem to really care about the position that other people were in and how she could screw things up for them. But I did really appreciate her growth and the way she gradually started to recognise that her actions had consequences. Like I said, the whole friendship between the Threadsisters was really enjoyable, but I found that I didn’t completely understand what being Threadsisters meant. I mean, is it supposed to be an official bond like the parabatai in the Shadowhunter world? There wasn’t very much information given about Safi and Iseult’s pasts and I wished that we had gotten a little bit more. I also wanted to know more about their abilities. I couldn’t really see what was so special about Safi’s Truthwitch powers. I can understand why people want her abilities, but just because she can discern truth from lies, doesn’t mean she has to actually help them…

I really enjoyed a lot of the side characters too. Merik was a wonderful character who just came across as very noble and responsible. He knows what’s most important to him and he doesn’t stop working towards getting what he wants. I liked the slow burning romance that he had with Safi and that it didn’t overpower Safi’s friendship with Iseult or the plot of the book. Another character that I really liked was Aeduan. He’s a bit of an ambiguous character and is morally grey, but he has a lot of great moments in the book and I enjoyed the dynamics between him and Iseult a lot. Like I hardcore ship this. I’m not sure where his character is going in the next book, but I can’t wait to find out.

For me, this book does suffer a little from the Chosen One Syndrome, where Safi and Iseult are the special Chosen Pair, and everybody else has to sacrifice their lives to save them. Considering how great the secondary characters were, I didn’t think they needed to be pushed into the role having to risk their lives at every turn. It also doesn’t help that some of the characters are monks who have sworn an oath to protect the lives of the cahr awen, and have kind of made it their life’s mission to do so… But that’s a minor criticism.

Overall, this was a great book. I’m not sure that it lives up to all of the hype but I enjoyed it anyway. Hopefully the sequel will be a little bit stronger.

Review: The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

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Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Release date: March 12, 2015
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 400
Goodreads || Book Depository

The Winner’s Crime is the second book in Marie Rutkoski’s Winner Trilogy, which means that this review will contain spoilers for Book 1, The Winner’s Curse. Please leave now because you will be spoiled and you really don’t want to be!! Just know that I give this sequel 5 stars and that you should read this trilogy!

THE WINNER’S CRIME SYNOPSIS

Lady Kestrel’s engagement to Valoria’s crown prince calls for great celebration: balls and performances, fireworks and revelry. But to Kestrel it means a cage of her own making. Embedded in the imperial court as a spy, she lives and breathes deceit and cannot confide in the one person she really longs to trust …

While Arin fights to keep his country’s freedom from the hands of his enemy, he suspects that Kestrel knows more than she shows. As Kestrel comes closer to uncovering a shocking secret, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth.

Lies will come undone, and Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them in this second book in the breathtaking Winner’s trilogy.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

How do I even begin to tell you how much I loved this book?! It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that’s made me have to keep putting it down because of all the feels and the unbearable tension. It’s been a whole day since I finished the book and I’m still trying to recover. The ending had me curled up on my bed, dying from the feels. I thought The Winner’s Curse was amazing but this book just blew my mind with its brilliance.

This sequel was set almost entirely in the capital of Valoria, where Kestrel is staying with the Emperor and Prince Verex, the man she is to marry. It’s obvious from the very beginning that she is a prisoner in the palace and is being manipulated and watched by the Emperor. When court members and other high ranking members of society are invited to a really, really, really long engagement and wedding celebration, Kestrel finds herself face-to-face with the new Herrani Governor, Arin… which inevitably leads to trouble.

“I don’t mind being a moth. I would probably start eating silk if it meant that I could fly.”

The tension and the yearning was present from the very beginning of the book. I could feel Kestrel yearning for Arin and for freedom away from the stifling environment of the Emperor’s home. The atmosphere and the suspense in this book was built so well. There are a lot of mentions in this book – this trilogy – of games, and this whole book felt like one big game. It was very interesting to see the role that each character played in the game, especially because it was never obvious who was in control. We see the Emperor manipulating the game and the characters, but Kestrel was also doing her fair share of manoeuvring and strategising. There is lying, spying, secrecy and LOTS of political intrigue. The whole book was just very anxiety-provoking and I was so stressed out about everything that was going on. Yet, the plot was so intriguing and exciting that I couldn’t help but keep reading.

What I thought was the highlight of this book was the characterisation. I loved the characters in The Winner’s Curse but everything is taken up a notch in this second book. The characters are even more complex and layered and I really connected with all of them. I empathised with them and felt everything they were feeling and gosh, my heart hurt so much. There were characters that I wasn’t expecting to like, such as Verex and the Eastern princess, Risha, but they turned out to be really wonderful additions to the series and I can’t wait to see the role that they play in the final book because they were pretty enigmatic in this book.

Kestrel remains my favourite character and it hurt me how much she was suffering alone. I felt her loneliness from being trapped in the Capital but also her loneliness from being misunderstood and not being able to reveal her true feelings. I wanted to shake all of the characters and make them understand. Her internal struggle was just unreal and my heart ached for her. We also get Arin’s perspective in this book and my love for him grew as well. But he does some rash and stupid things, and I just wanted to yell at him through the pages and make him see what was in front of him. I really enjoyed his story arc and it took us to very interesting places plot-wise and setting-wise.

While this book takes place mostly in the Capital, the world continues to build and expand. The book takes us east, to Dacra, through lots of political plotting and I loved having the East involved. I can’t wait to see the role they play in the next book. We also get small glimpses of how Herran has developed since the ending of The Winner’s Curse and I thought it was interesting how that played into the overall plot. I also appreciated the map that was included in the book!

I have so much more I could say about this book but I have no idea where to start because I’m still full of so many feels. It’s probably better if I don’t say anything more about the book because the experience of reading the book and figuring everything out for myself was a spectacular one for me.