Review: Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten

Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release date: February 27, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 352
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Kate O’Brien has always been known as the scholarship kid, running away from a terrible past and overcoming obstacles, some more sinister than others. She’s determined to make a better life for herself. She deserves it. And at the elite Waverly school, Kate is willing to do whatever it takes to climb the social ladder and land her spot at Yale.

There’s one girl in particular that catches Kate’s eye. Olivia Michelle Sumner, all born blonde and rich and just messed up enough for Kate to latch on to. As for Olivia, she’s a damaged girl, looking to be mended. She finds something promising in Kate. A study buddy. A best friend. A sister she never had. But even a vulnerable girl like Olivia has her own dark past to contend with.

When the handsome and whip-smart Mark Redkin joins the Waverly administration, he manages to woo the whole student body, paying particular attention to Olivia – an affair she very much wants to keep to herself, especially from Kate. And as a man who knows just how to get what he wants, Kate realises that Mark poses a huge threat, in more ways than she is willing to admit.

MY THOUGHTS

Thanks to Allen & Unwin for providing a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Teresa Toten’s The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B is one of my all-time favourite books and I was extremely excited to check out Beware That Girl, even though it falls in a genre that I don’t typically gravitate towards. I have to say that I was a bit disappointed with Beware That Girl. I found it to be a bit confusing and wasn’t really what I expected.

The book starts off with two girls in hospital – one as patient and one as a visitor- and it’s unclear who is who or what happened. If it wasn’t for this mystery aspect of the book, I’m not sure that I would’ve stuck with it until the end. But it kept me intrigued as I pushed through the novel and I’m glad that I finished it but I do have to say that the ending felt a little bit unresolved for my liking. Beware That Girl is about Kate, a scholarship kid, social climber and master manipulator, who has zeroed in on Oliver Sumner as her new target to take her to the top of the social ladder and to her end goal of attending Yale. Olivia, who has battled with some demons and secrets in the past year, is happy to rely on Kate for friendship and company. But when an older man comes between them and becomes involved with Olivia, things turn dark and the two have to rely on their friendship and honesty to get out of trouble.

My main problem with the book was that for the majority of it, I didn’t really know where it was going. It wasn’t until I got past the 200 page mark that I was able to get into the book and stick with it until the end. The first two-thirds of the novel was a little bit boring and I felt like nothing was really happening. I expected a little bit more build up and suspense to keep me intrigued and invested in the story and it was kind of lacking for me. The plot itself was slightly predictable, in my opinion, and some of the things that happened in the novel made me feel quite uncomfortable. I did like that there was a focus on psychopathy, which is something that I personally don’t see a lot of in YA, and I found it to be quite accurately represented in the book. But as a whole, the narrative left me uncomfortable and disappointed.

The novel jumps between Kate and Olivia’s perspectives and I can’t say that I really enjoyed either of them at the start. I found Kate to be very manipulative and dislikable at the start of the novel and it took quite a while to get used to her character. I did start to enjoy her a little bit more as the book progressed and we got to learn about her past and who she is as a person. Olivia was a bit of an enigma throughout the novel and I felt like I still didn’t really know her by the time I reached the end. This might have been because her chapters were written in third person narration, instead of first person like Kate’s. It was just a bit hard to relate to her and understand where she was coming from. Overall, I felt like the characters in the novel were kind of stereotypical rich girls and I would’ve liked a bit more depth in their characters.

Beware That Girl wasn’t the thrilling and engaging story that I expected but there were some great mental health elements in the book. I just found the plot to be slightly confusing and uncomfortable to read and I couldn’t really latch on to the story or the characters.

Beware that Girl was released on 27th February, 2017 and is available at all Australian retailers for $19.99.

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Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

cruel-beautyPublisher: Balzer + Bray
Release date: April 7, 2015 (originally January 28, 2014)
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 368
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The romance of Beauty and the Beast meets the adventure of Graceling in a dazzling fantasy novel about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

For fans of bestselling An Ember in the Ashes and A Court of Thorns and Roses, this gorgeously written debut infuses the classic fairy tale with glittering magic, a feisty heroine, and a romance sure to take your breath away.

Betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom, Nyx has always known that her fate was to marry him, kill him, and free her people from his tyranny. But on her seventeenth birthday when she moves into his castle high on the kingdom’s mountaintop, nothing is what she expected—particularly her charming and beguiling new husband. Nyx knows she must save her homeland at all costs, yet she can’t resist the pull of her sworn enemy—who’s gotten in her way by stealing her heart.

MY THOUGHTS

3 stars

Cruel Beauty started off on a really high note but started going downhill pretty quickly for me, unfortunately. I found a lot of the book to be confusing and I wasn’t into the plot or some of the romance elements too much either.

I really loved the concept of the book but like some other reviewers, I thought the execution could have been better. I really liked the first 75 pages of the book and was really keen to see where the story was going to go but it quickly started to become kind of disappointing. There’s actually not a lot that happens in this book and I felt like I was just waiting and waiting for something to happen. There was a bit too much explanation about not much at all and I just wanted more plot. I also felt like there were some things that were kind of repetitive and I was just disappointed with how slow-moving the book was. I wasn’t a big fan of the ending and I was confused about some of the explanations, so I finished the book without really feeling like I fully understood everything. I did like that the story incorporated Greek mythology and magic into it and it was nice to be able to recognise and understand some of the references. However, I felt like there was a bit too much of it and it started to get confusing because of how much information was being thrown at me.

However, I did like the characters for the most part. I enjoyed Nyx as the main character and thought she was really interesting. I loved that she had a darker side to her and wasn’t the typical pure and kindhearted heroine, especially given that this is a Beauty and the Beast retelling. I liked her bitterness at her situation that her family have put her in and that she wasn’t afraid to show her feistiness. And I really enjoyed her relationship with Ignifex. I found myself shipping them for most of the book and I really liked the scenes that they had together. However, I can’t say that I was a big fan of how the romance played out. I didn’t like the weird love triangle situation and there was also insta-love that I didn’t really appreciate.

As a whole, the book wasn’t very enjoyable to read. It was very wordy and long-winded for what actually happened and I was disappointed with the lack of plot and the execution of what I thought was a great concept. There were too many elements that I didn’t really like and it ruined the reading experience for me even though I did power through the novel.

Review: Children of Eden by Joey Graceffa & Laura L. Sullivan

children-of-eden Publisher: Keywords Press
Release date: October 4, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 278
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Rowan is a Second Child in a world where population control measures make her an outlaw, marked for death. She can never go to school, make friends, or get the eye implants that will mark her as a true member of Eden. Her kaleidoscope eyes will give her away to the ruthless Center government.

Outside of Eden, Earth is poisoned and dead. All animals and most plants have been destroyed by a man-made catastrophe. Long ago, the brilliant scientist Aaron al Baz saved a pocket of civilization by designing the EcoPanopticon, a massive computer program that hijacked all global technology and put it to use preserving the last vestiges of mankind. Humans will wait for thousands of years in Eden until the EcoPan heals the world.

As an illegal Second Child, Rowan has been hidden away in her family’s compound for sixteen years. Now, restless and desperate to see the world, she recklessly escapes for what she swears will be only one night of adventure. Though she finds an exotic world, and even a friend, the night leads to tragedy. Soon Rowan becomes a renegade on the run – unleashing a chain of events that could change the world of Eden forever.

MY THOUGHTS

3 stars

I had been seeing Children of Eden around for a while and the synopsis sounded interesting enough that I eventually picked it up. There are two things that you should note about this book before picking it up. The first is that this book isn’t written solely by Joey Graceffa. Despite there being no indication on the cover, it clearly states on the title page that it was written with Laura L. Sullivan. The second thing is that, while this book is ostensibly a standalone, it really is not. The story does not end with any kind of resolution and actually leaves more questions than have been answered. There is definitely a sequel planned for this book.

Children of Eden is a dystopian novel, set in a post-apocalyptic world where the sole survivors of Earth now live in Eden, where everything is regulated, including the human population. Each family is only allowed to have one child, in order to preserve the little amounts of food that exists in Eden. Second Children are illegal and are usually killed before they are even born. Those who have been hidden away in secret by their families, usually live a life of imprisonment and are not able to live a normal life, unless they are able to obtain black market lenses that are used for identification, and assume a new identity. Rowan is a Second Child and comes from a well-respected family who have the means to buy her a pair of lenses and a new identity. However, having this new identity and freedom means that she can never see her family again. When Rowan learns about this, she has her first act of rebellion and escapes from her house for a night. There she meets a friend but this taste of freedom leads to dangerous and tragic consequences. Soon, she finds herself on the run from the Greenshirts and meets other Second Children along the way.

I liked the world in this book a lot. It was well conceptualised and nicely described. It wasn’t the most original of worlds and it’s definitely similar to other worlds that I’ve read about before. But I thought it included some interesting elements and I liked that there was a pretty big focus on it in the novel. Having said that, I do think that too much of the book was dedicated to the world building and there wasn’t a lot of anything else in the novel.

I thought the book was well written for the most part. The writing was much better than I had expected going into the book. My criticism with the writing was that there was a bit too much telling and not enough showing. Rowan asks all the questions for the reader, which is not a style that I typically enjoy. Being told exactly what questions to ask about the story makes the reading experience less enjoyable for me and I was a bit bored with the book about 40% of the way in. There needed to be a lot more subtlety and a lot less telling. There was also some made up curses and swear words in the book, and I found them to be incredibly distracting and honestly, kind of stupid? It was something that I couldn’t really get over.

The plot itself was fun and adventurous but I thought there needed to be better transitions and development. There isn’t a lot of action in the book, which is fine, but what was going on in the story gave me whiplash at times. For example, Rowan goes from hating someone to not wanting to be away from them within the span of a few pages. There just needed to be a bit more gradual development for my liking. There were also some things that I found to be unrealistic or hard to believe and I checked out of the story about halfway through. I did not understand the last 20 pages of the book at all and I disliked the way that it ended. I also found Rowan to be extremely annoying throughout the novel and I didn’t like her as a main character. I thought some of her decisions were very illogical and didn’t make sense to me. I just never managed to connect with her.

My biggest issue with the book was the romance. There is love triangle in the book and they were both cases of instalove. My overall impression of the romance in the book was that it felt extremely forced and I was just disinterested in the romance. The only thing that I did like about it was that it was a bisexual love triangle but other than that, I was not on board with the romance. Needless to say, I probably won’t be picking up the sequel.

Review: Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini

trial-by-fire

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Release date: November 10, 2015 (originally September 2014)
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 373
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Love burns. Worlds collide. Magic reigns.

This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying many of the experiences that other teenagers take for granted … which is why she is determined to enjoy her first (and perhaps only) high-school party. But Lily’s life never goes according to plan, and after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class Lily wishes she could just disappear.

Suddenly Lily is in a different Salem – one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruellest of all the Crucibles is Lillian … Lily’s identical other self in this alternate universe. This new version of her world is terrifyingly sensual, and Lily is soon overwhelmed by new experiences. Lily realizes that what makes her weak at home is exactly what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. It also puts her life in danger.

Thrown into a world she doesn’t understand, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can’t hope to shoulder alone, and a love she never expected. But how can Lily be the saviour of this world when she is literally her own worst enemy?

MY THOUGHTS

3 stars

Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for providing a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Trial by Fire was an interesting read for me. I love books and stories about science and magic, whether it’s about an integration of them or the tension between the two camps, and that’s exactly what this book had. However, I didn’t really enjoy the reading experience and, while I think many fans of fantasy or paranormal books would like it a lot, Trial by Fire just wasn’t for me.

This novel is about Lily, a sickly girl from Salem, Massachusetts who suffers from lots of allergies and is prone to having seizures. Professionals have no idea what is wrong with her and her condition has just been something that Lily has had to deal with her whole life. Until she is transported to another Salem – a parallel universe – that is simultaneously medieval and advanced at the same time. This world has magic and witches and for the first time, Lily is able to understand why her body and health is the way it is. What she wasn’t prepared to find out was that this world’s version of Lily is the Lady of Salem and the most powerful witch in the world. And in this world, the Lady of Salem is responsible for the abolition of science and the murder and unjust treatment of many people.

I had a couple of issues with the plot of this book. I found it to be really draggy and dull. For most of the book, I didn’t have a clear idea of where the story was going and it also didn’t help that the chapters were really long and added to the feeling of sluggishness. I had a hard time understanding the logic of some of the things that were happening and was quite confused about a lot of the plot and why things were happening. There were some great plot points but I felt that the novel lacked a story arc or clear transitions, which made the reading experience a little bit unpleasant.

However, I did love the magic vs science aspect of the novel. I especially enjoyed that the magic system in the book had a scientific aspect to it, despite the witches and magic wielders insisting that it wasn’t really science. I thought the parallel worlds were interesting and I liked that the magical Salem had both a medieval and futuristic feel to it. Having said that, I didn’t really get a good sense of how the magic system worked. There weren’t clear rules set out and I found it to be really confusing to grasp. Lily was a little bit of a special snowflake and she seemed to be able to learn and perform new abilities almost instantaneously so there wasn’t a lot of time spent explaining how everything worked. I love when we get to learn about a world or a magic system as a naive character learns about it in the story, and this was lacking in Trial by Fire because Lily barely had to learn anything.

The characters in the novel were good but not exceptional or particularly interesting. I liked Lily as a main character but she did get on my nerves at times because of her stubbornness and her tendency to think that she knows best. She did grow on me slightly throughout the novel but I wouldn’t consider her to be one of my favourite fantasy heroines. I, however, really disliked her doppelganger, Lillian. She was villainous and did a lot of despicable things. But my biggest problem with her character was that I didn’t understand her motives. She was neither a complex character nor a simple villain who’s just evil. She just came across as extremely confusing. My favourite character in the novel was probably Rowan, the main love interest in the novel. There isn’t really any romance in the book but it’s definitely developing and I can see it becoming a more prominent theme in the rest of the trilogy. I liked Rowan because he was not only a noble and strong character, but he was also sensitive and caring. I liked him a lot in this book.

Overall, I wasn’t enamoured by Trial by Fire. I don’t think my kind of book and I just didn’t really enjoy reading it. It wasn’t a book that captivated me and made me want to continue the trilogy, but I can see lots of readers liking it a lot.

Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

shatter-me

Publisher: HarperCollins
Release date: October 2, 2012 (originally November 2011)
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 338
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Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

MY THOUGHTS

3 stars

I’m not really sure what to say about Shatter Me. I’ve been looking forward to reading it because I’m probably the only person at this point who hasn’t picked up this trilogy… and the male love interests sounded really interesting. But after reading this first installment, I’m feeling a little bit let down.

My main issue with Shatter Me is that I felt like there was no plot. The story for me didn’t begin until 30 pages from the end of the book and I felt like the first 300 pages were just 300 pages of nothing. I couldn’t even tell you what happened because I feel like nothing did. This book follows Juliette, a girl who has a fatal touch. She’s been imprisoned for over 250 days in a dark cell but one day she’s brought out of her cell in order to aid The Reestablishment in their mission… something which Juliette doesn’t want to do. But even though the novel had a really great concept, I don’t think it was executed to its full potential. Juliette spends most of the book either locked up in different locations like a prisoner or on the run from different people who are after her. The plot doesn’t really progress and by the end of the book I felt like I was still kind of at the beginning.

What this book does focus on are the relationships between the characters and the romance. But I wasn’t a fan of the romance in this book, nor the developing love triangle. Even though Adam seems like a great guy, I never really warmed to him and was always suspicious of him. I felt like the romance developed slightly too quickly and it was just a bit uncomfortable for me to read. Warner was an intriguing character to me but I also felt like he was a bit of a creep. Overall, none of the characters really did it for me.

I did like the world in the book. The novel has an apocalyptic setting that I found really interesting. It was interesting to read about how the weather and ecosystems are failing due to human activities, and how the people live with barely any food and are concentrated in small communities that are governed by soldiers and The Reestablishment. What I was a little bit underwhelmed by was The Reestablishment itself. I thought the book lacked description and I didn’t think The Reestablishment was very well conceptualised. I had a rough idea of who they were and what they did but I thought the world building in this respect was weak.

Having said that, I enjoyed the writing style. It was easy to read and I sped through the book in two sittings. It made me want to keep reading and I’ll definitely be picking up the rest of the trilogy. Hopefully the next two books address some of the plot and world building issues that I had.

Review: Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg

Magic-Bitter-Magic-Sweet

Publisher: 47North
Release date: June 28, 2016
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 306
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Maire is a baker with an extraordinary gift: she can infuse her treats with emotions and abilities, which are then passed on to those who eat them. She doesn’t know why she can do this and remembers nothing of who she is or where she came from.

When marauders raid her town, Maire is captured and sold to the eccentric Allemas, who enslaves her and demands that she produce sinister confections, including a witch’s gingerbread cottage, a living cookie boy, and size-altering cakes.

During her captivity, Maire is visited by Fyel, a ghostly being who is reluctant to reveal his connection to her. The more often they meet, the more her memories return, and she begins to piece together who and what she really is—as well as past mistakes that yield cosmic consequences.

From the author of The Paper Magician series comes a haunting and otherworldly tale of folly and consequence, forgiveness and redemption.

MY THOUGHTS

3 stars

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

Where do I even begin with this review? I can’t really find the words to describe what this book was about. It was just so strange and bizarre and I liked it while not liking it at the same time. There’s magic, baking and Hansel and Gretel elements, which made it a very interesting and unique read but there were also many things that I really did not enjoy. This is technically an adult fantasy novel but it reads like young adult and would appeal to a lot of younger readers.

This book is about Maire, a talented baker who is able to infuse certain qualities into her baked goods by imagining events that inspire those emotions/qualities as she’s baking them. However, she wasn’t always a baker. In fact, Maire has no recollection of who she was before she woke up in her small town four years ago. When her town is invaded and she’s taken as a slave and used for her magical baking abilities, she starts to get closer to remembering who or what she was. On top of being worked to death by her mysterious master, Maire keeps running into a ghost/otherworldly being who seems to know who she is but isn’t very forthcoming with his knowledge.

My struggle with this book was that there was a little bit too much going on. For 75% of the book, I had no idea what the story was about or where the book was going. It had a really great beginning that hooked me with the unique ‘magical baking’ (as Cait from Paper Fury originally called it) and I felt a little bit cheated when I realised, after pushing and pushing through the book, that it wasn’t going to be about Maire’s magical abilities (well not really). Her magical abilities weren’t really explored or developed and I didn’t get a good sense of how it worked or why she had those abilities. These questions were cleared up to some extent at the end of the novel but it ultimately felt very unsatisfying because I expected a lot more from this magical baking concept. All that really happened was that Maire made a whole heap of cakes that were apparently different from each other but seemed completely the same to me. It just felt kind of flat. I also didn’t get a good sense of the world and felt that the world building was sorely lacking. There were some settings that were magical and some that weren’t and I had a hard time putting it all together and imagining what the world looked like.

I also really struggled with the pace of the book and the plot. There really isn’t a lot that happens in Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet. There’s action in the first 30% of the book but then it drags and drags until the 75% mark when the explanations start coming. The only reason why I pushed through and didn’t give up on the story was because I really wanted to know what was happening and my questions really weren’t answered until the last part of the book. It was just a really confusing reading experience that had me a bit bored for most of the middle section. The writing was simplistic and easy to read but it wasn’t a writing style that I connected with, so overall the reading experience wasn’t that great…

It also didn’t really help that the characters lost their initial appeal throughout the book. There was very little character development and I wasn’t a big fan of the characterisation. I didn’t get a good sense of who any of the characters were and I felt that the characterisation wasn’t always consistent. Maire’s captor and master is violent and aggressive until he’s not. He’s then passive and meek until he’s violent and volatile again. I just had no idea who he was as a character and it bothered me a lot. I also didn’t really know who Maire was and I felt like there were times when she did things that were a little bit out of character. She’s portrayed as a caring and loving, innocent young woman who loves to bake but when she was first captured she wanted to “scale the side [of a two storey building] and reach the roof” to escape. She’s not really a Celaena Sardothien, is she? And then we have Fyel, the ghostly visitor, who’s the typical useless ghost who knows everything but isn’t able to help and gives mixed messages throughout the novel. It was just incredibly frustrating and I couldn’t connect with any of the characters at all.

I do have to applaud the author on coming up with a really unique concept but I thought the execution was kind of subpar. The plot just wasn’t very engaging and I didn’t think the world building or the characters were very strong. I did like the concept of magical baking and I loved that there were elements of Hansel and Gretel incorporated into the story. There were also parts that reminded me of The Gingerbread Man, which I thought was pretty cool. All in all, it was a little bit of an average read but I recommend checking it out if you’re intrigued by the idea of magical baking or just want to read a book with lots of baked goodies in it.

Review: The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight

the-outliers

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Release date: May 1, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages; 468
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Imagine if you could see inside the minds of everyone around you – your best friend, your boyfriend, your enemies…?
Imagine how valuable you’d be…
Imagine how much danger you’d be in…
Imagine being an Outlier.

Wylie hasn’t heard from her best friend, Cassie, since their fight. That doesn’t matter when she gets a text from her, asking for help. But as Cassie’s messages become increasingly strange, Wylie has a growing sense that something is REALLY wrong. What isn’t Cassie telling her? And could finding her be just the beginning?

MY THOUGHTS

3 stars

Thank you to HarperCollins Australia for sending me a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Outliers is a new mystery/thriller series by Kimberly McCreight. In this first book, we follow Wylie, who receives some strange text messages from her missing friend, Cassie, asking for help. For the majority of the book, we follow Wylie and Cassie’s boyfriend, Jasper, as they go on a crazy and thrilling road trip in the middle of the night, in search for Cassie.

I don’t usually read thrillers but I decided to give this one a go because I read a sampler and was really interested in Wylie’s character and her anxiety problems in the aftermath of her mother’s car accident. Agoraphobia is something that I’m super interested in and I wanted to see how it was handled in this kind of a book. Sadly, the agoraphobia lasted for about 3 chapters before Wylie magically decided to leave the house and suddenly everything was okay again. I was pretty disappointed with how it was handled and how it was thrown to the side in favour of moving the plot forward. This is something that I see way too often in YA and I’m often left wondering why it’s even necessary for authors to incorporate mental illness into their books if it’s not going to be explored.

I also had a problem with the whole concept of the Outliers in this novel. They’re supposed to be a group of people who have heightened sensitivity to other people’s emotions – so much so that they’re able to read others’ emotions with blindfolds and headphones on. Despite the whole book centreing on this idea, it was hardly explained at all. I didn’t get the sense that the author had done a lot of research on the topic and it just didn’t seem like she had a good idea of where she wanted to go with this. Being that psychological research is my full-time job, I had lots of issues with the research that was mentioned in the book. There were lots and lots of holes and I couldn’t help but critique every aspect of the research design and cringe at how invalid some of it was. There were terms that have a very specific meaning in psychology that were misused and I had to try to ignore the whole concept of the Outliers to even enjoy the book.

As for the plot, I did find it to be exciting and thrilling but there were things that happened that were a little bit predictable. The blurb on the back of the book gives some things away and it’s definitely better to go into it not knowing anything at all. I also thought that there were some things that were kind of unrealistic and I kept finding myself being jerked out of the book because it was so hard to believe that these things were happening. Overall, even though the plot was exciting and kept me reading (in fact, I read this in two sittings), I didn’t think that it was the most amazing and exciting plot. It was honestly a little sub par. There isn’t a lot that actually happens, and a huge chunk of the book is just about Wylie and Jasper driving on the highway.

There isn’t a lot that I have to say about the characters. I disliked almost every single one of them because I didn’t know if I could trust them. I didn’t feel a connection to any of them because as soon as I felt like I knew them, there would be some sort of twist or change in attitude that would make me feel as though I never knew them in the first place. I did think Wylie was a good protagonist that I could get behind as the series progresses but I’m not sure that I’ll be continuing on with the series after this. I have no idea where the sequel is going to go but I think this book could have easily been a standalone novel if it had been better conceptualised and developed.

Review: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

a-court-of-mist-and-fury

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release date: May 3, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 624
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A Court of Mist and Fury is the sequel to A Court of Thorns and Roses, which means that this review will contain some major spoilers. If you haven’t read ACOTAR, please leave and read my review for that book instead!

Also, there are spoilers for the romance/ship in this book, so if you haven’t been spoiled already, please continue no further.

Continue reading

Review: This is Where the World Ends by Amy Zhang

this-is-where-the-world-ends

Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release date: March 21, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 304
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Janie and Micah. Micah and Janie. That’s how it’s been since they were children, when Janie Vivian moved next door. Janie says Micah is everything she is not. Where Micah is shy, Janie is outgoing. Where Micah loves music, Janie loves art. It’s the perfect friendship – as long as no one finds out about it.

MY THOUGHTS

3 stars

Thank you to HarperCollins Australia for providing a review copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I first heard about this book last year at HarperCollin’s BTCYA event and I fell in love with it after hearing the pitch that was given. It was one of my most anticipated books of the first half of 2016, so I was a little bit scared and hesitant after hearing some mixed things about it from other bloggers. However, I found the story and plot to be wonderful and insightful, and I highly enjoyed it. What I wasn’t as big of a fan of were the characters, but I’ll go into that a little bit more later in my review.

This book is written in dual perspectives and from two different timelines that alternate with each chapter. I highly enjoyed this non-linear format and thought it was very reminiscent of I’ll Give You the Sun, which is my favourite YA novel of all time. From Micah’s perspective, we learn about the present (or the ‘after’) and what happens when he wakes up with no memory of something big that happened in his small town. From Janie’s perspective, we learn about the ‘before’ and the events that occurred in the months leading up to the big incident in town. Through the alternating chapters of past and present, we’re able to put together the pieces of the puzzle and figure out what happened. I really enjoyed this process and thought the format of the book was very successful in creating an atmospheric and suspenseful story. There were a couple of things that I thought were a bit predictable but they didn’t impact too much on my enjoyment of the book and its plot. I have to admit that for the first half of the novel, I wasn’t sure where the book was going and felt slightly apathetic about it, but something happened near the halfway point of the book, which pulled me into the story and gave me a better sense of what the book was trying to explore. I definitely enjoyed the second half of the book much more.

The writing in this book was wonderful and I was amazed by how well Amy Zhang can write. She uses some interesting syntax that added to the impact of the story. The writing was lyrical but easy to read, and I just loved how she was able to make me feel so many emotions with the way she put sentences together. The book also had some fairytale influences, which gave it a slightly magical quality. These were accompanied by beautiful illustrations/doodles, which brought the story to life. I thought it was highly creative and imaginative (and I recently found out from Aentee @ Read at Midnight that Amy Zhang did the illustrations in the book herself, which makes me admire her even more).

My problem with this book was that I couldn’t connect with and didn’t particularly like the two main characters. Janie is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl to the core and I couldn’t really handle her. She’s definitely put on a pedestal by Micah and I just couldn’t see what was so special about her. She was the larger-than-life and interesting character who we were all supposed to admire, but I thought she was quite dislikeable. She was manipulative and a terrible friend to Micah. She forced him into doing things and constantly told him how great they were as friends, but then ignored him when other people were around. And what really bothered me was that he kept coming back for more of this terrible treatment. The characterisation in this book just reminded me of everything that I didn’t like about Paper Towns by John Green.

I actually didn’t mind Micah’s character. For most of the book, he suffered from amnesia and couldn’t remember anything that had happened recently or retain new memories. I liked that he was an unreliable narrator because it added to the story and made me work hard at figuring out what had happened. However, I thought that he was far too passive at times and allowed Janie to push him around again and again. He just seemed like a lost puppy for most of the book and I wished that his character was stronger.

But despite the issues I had with the characterisation, I enjoyed the plot and thought the book explored a lot of issues that are relevant to today’s society, including mental health and sexual orientation. I definitely still do recommend this book even though the characters weren’t to my liking.

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.