Review: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

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Publisher: Titan Books
Release date: January 26, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 432
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Patricia is a witch who can communicate with animals. Laurence is a mad scientist and inventor of the two-second time machine. As teenagers they gravitate towards one another, sharing in the horrors of growing up weird, but their lives take different paths.

When they meet again as adults, Laurence is an engineering genius trying to save the world – and live up to his reputation – in near-future San Francisco. Meanwhile, Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the magically gifted, working hard to prove herself to her fellow magicians and secretly repairing the earth’s ever growing ailments.

As they attempt to save our future, Laurence and Patricia’s shared past pulls them back together. And though they come from different worlds, when they collide, the witch and the scientist will discover that maybe they understand each other better than anyone.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

I don’t really know where to start with All the Birds in the Sky. It was strange and unique and I can’t neatly fit it into any one particular genre. But that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t good because I thought it was incredibly quirky and unlike anything I’d read before.

This story is about magic and science and what happens when they interact. It’s set in the near future, in an apocalyptic setting where the world is about to self-destruct and our two main characters are on separate missions to save the future. But they have two very distinct ways of going about it. Laurence, a scientist and engineer is working to create a machine that will allow people to be transported to a different planet. His philosophy – and the philosophy of his fellow scientists – is that humanity doesn’t have to be tied to this particular rock in the universe. However, Patricia, a witch with a magical tie to nature, is determined to save the future by saving planet Earth and curing it of its ailments. As magic and science go to war, what will happen to the future?

But the story doesn’t begin there. The story begins more than a decade ago when Patricia was just a young girl discovering her magical abilities for the first time, and Laurence is a young boy who is obsessed with science and spaceships, and the inventor of a time machine that can propel him two seconds forward into the future. As they make their way through middle school as the misfits and are bullied by those who despise any kind of weirdness and unconformity, they gravitate towards each other and become the other’s only friend. The first half of All the Birds in the Sky is actually about Laurence and Patricia’s past. We spend a good amount of the book learning about their friendship as teenagers and how their connection and their story would later affect the future. This section of the book was probably my favourite (and this may partly be due to the fact that I read a lot of YA) because we really got to know the characters and what they represented… as well as what they meant to each other.

But that’s not to say that I didn’t love the rest of the book too. The second half of the book is about Laurence and Patricia reconnecting as adults, after having spent high school apart. In the first section of the book about their adulthood, we get to learn more about the upcoming apocalypse as well as who Laurence and Patricia are now as adults. I thought it set up the climax really well and I enjoyed the romance that was brewing between them. However, I did feel that there was a strange transition in the book where the romance and the plot of the book just kicked off without warning. I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it because even though it felt really sudden, the whole book up until that point had been setting up for that moment. My main criticism of the plot would have to be that the last 50-70 pages of the book felt a little rushed and the ending slightly unresolved. But overall, I really enjoyed the entire story.

What I loved most about All the Birds in the Sky was the writing and the pacing of the book. I loved the third person omniscient narration in this book and I found the writing to be lyrical and beautiful. The book was quite slow-paced, especially in the first 3 parts of the book, and I thought that this added to the slightly magical feel of the story. I thought the format of the book worked really well and I enjoyed following Laurence and Patricia’s story from childhood into adulthood.

The writing and narration style also made it easy to connect with the characters. I absolutely loved Patricia and Laurence separately and together. They were both strange children who stood out too much for society’s liking. They’re bullied at school and are treated with almost no affection from their parents. But they were some of the most interesting and unique characters that I’ve read about and I really appreciated their quirkiness. Together, Patricia and Laurence were amazing. They became each other’s one and only friend in childhood and also had a wonderful connection in adulthood. ‘Friendship goals’ is all I can say.

This novel isn’t going to be for everyone. But I definitely enjoyed it. If you like slow-paced fantasy stories or magical realism stories, I think you might enjoy All the Birds in the Sky. I think it’s an adult fiction novel that would appeal to YA readers too.

Review: London Belongs to Us by Sarra Manning

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Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release date: July 27, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 272
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One girl, 2 boys and a whole lot of hipsters in one crazy 12 hour adventure through the streets of London. Twelve hours, two boys, one girl… and a whole lot of hairspray.

Seventeen-year-old Sunny’s always been a little bit of a pushover. But when she’s sent a picture of her boyfriend kissing another girl, she knows she’s got to act. What follows is a mad, twelve-hour dash around London – starting at 8pm in Crystal Palace (so far away from civilisation you can’t even get the Tube there) then sweeping through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho, Kensington, Notting Hill… and ending up at 8am in Alexandra Palace.

Along the way Sunny meets a whole host of characters she never dreamed she’d have anything in common with – least of all the devilishly handsome (and somewhat vain) French ‘twins’ (they’re really cousins) Jean Luc and Vic. But as this love-letter to London shows, a city is only a sum of its parts, and really it’s the people living there who make up its life and soul. And, as Sunny discovers, everyone – from friends, apparent-enemies, famous bands and even rickshaw drivers – is willing to help a girl on a mission to get her romantic retribution.

A fast-paced, darkly funny love letter to London, boys with big hair and the joys of staying up all night.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

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

I have been a fan of Sarra Manning’s since I was 12 or 13 years old. Her Diary of a Crush trilogy were probably the first YA books that I read as a pre-teen/early teen and I’ve been following her career ever since I discovered those books. I borrowed, renewed, re-borrowed and renewed that trilogy from my local library over and over until I had enough money to buy my own copies! Let’s Get Lost was one of my favourite books of all time up until I was about 16 or 17, and it still holds a precious place in my heart and my reading history. And Unsticky, her first adult novel, was released around the time when I was transitioning into reading adult fiction and I reread that book countless times too. Needless to say, I was super excited when I heard about her new YA release, London Belongs to Us, which is essentially a love letter to London.

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London Belongs to Us takes place in London within a 12 hour period. We start at 8pm at Crystal Palace and travel all around London with the main character, Sunny, until we reach Alexandra Palace at 8am the next morning. (Disclaimer: I’ve never been to London and I have no idea where all these places are.) The story begins with Sunny making plans to meet up with and have sex with her boyfriend, Mark. But soon after, she receives some very incriminating photos of Mark kissing another girl in a different part of London. Sunny then spends the whole night travelling around London trying to track down a very elusive Mark. Along the way, she meets some crazy characters and new friends, and discovers a whole new side of herself that she’s never been able to let out.

This was such a fun novel and I finished it in one sitting. It was a crazy and exciting adventure around London and Sunny gets up to all sorts of crazy antics, like dancing the Charleston on top of a freezer unit in a convenience store, doing illegal u-turns in a rickshaw pulled by an Australian, and carrying a broom around for the whole night. She went to so many different places around London and I enjoyed going along with her. What I really loved about London Belongs to Us is that each chapter is set in a different place in London and there were a couple of paragraphs about the history of each location and also what is distinctive about each location now. Even though I didn’t really know much about the city, I discovered so much as I read the novel and it was a really great learning experience. For readers who are familiar with London, I think this would be a very relatable book and you’d probably find yourself laughing out loud or agreeing with how these places are portrayed.

But then I think about riding pillion on scooters and seeing off rude boys and dancing the Charleston and I think that Mark has never seen the best of me.

Despite being a short novel, Sarra Manning packs quite a bit of character development into it. Sunny starts off with being a bit of a pushover. She’s afraid to say and do what she wants, and she allows Mark to charm her and walk all over her. She follows her mother’s rules to a tee and always aims to please. But throughout this book, she learns to speak her mind and be herself, while going on a wild adventure that she’d never dream of going on. Sunny is biracial and the book explores what this means for Sunny as well as other people of colour in London. I really loved that this was an issue that was explored in the book and I highly enjoyed the diversity. There were also  LGBTQIA+ side characters and I just loved how this book celebrated diversity. There wasn’t a single side character in the novel that I didn’t like, but of course I especially loved the two cute French boys that accompany Sunny on her all-night adventure around London. I loved the banter and all the bickering between the French boys, as well as the fact that the first thing they do after taking off their scooter helmets is to drown their hair in hairspray to poof it up. It was just all so much fun!

Sarra Manning has never disappointed me and I absolutely loved London Belongs to Us. It was crazy and energetic and just a really great feel-good read that made me laugh a lot.

London Belongs to Us was published by Hot Key Books on July 27, 2016. It is available at Australian retailers for $16.99.

Review: Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

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Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Release date: May, 2011
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 228
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In the remarkable, bizarre, and heart-wrenching summer before Cullen Witter’s senior year of high school, everything he thinks he understands about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town vanishes. His cousin overdoses; his town becomes absurdly obsessed with the alleged reappearance of an extinct woodpecker; and, most troubling of all, his sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother, Gabriel, suddenly and inexplicably disappears.

As Cullen navigates a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young, disillusioned missionary in Africa searches for meaning wherever he can find it. And when those two stories collide, a surprising and harrowing climax emerges that is tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, and above all, hope.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

I’m having a hard time putting to words what this book was about. On the surface, When Things Come Back is an emotional mystery about a boy dealing with grief and the strange disappearance of his brother but the novel is about so much more than that. It explores religion and the meaning of life in an intricate and complex way.

When Things Come Back was beautifully written. It has wonderfully constructed prose that draws you into the story and the refuses to let you go. It was philosophical, emotional and, strangely, it also felt like magical realism even though this book is definitely realistic fiction. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the book and how writing set up the melancholy and stuffiness of this small, sleepy town in Arkansas. I also really loved the occasional third person omniscient narration, which is probably my favourite kind of narration in fiction. I really connected with it and highly enjoyed it. This book is however, mostly written in first person, from Cullen’s point of view. I loved his voice in the book and thought he was very honest and real. However, he did refer to himself in third person a lot and it really threw me off and made the book a little bit confusing. Other than that, I thought the writing was wonderful.

While the book is beautifully written and emotionally impactful, it’s really the last section of the novel that makes this book brilliant. The entire novel is written in alternating chapters, following Cullen and a young missionary called Benton Sage who is sent to Ethiopia at the beginning of the book. I have to admit that I was quite confused for a good 5 chapters of the book because Benton’s story was quite distinct from Cullen’s and I had no idea how they were connected. For a while, I thought Benton’s story was a story that Cullen was writing (because I obviously don’t read blurbs carefully enough) and I just had a hard time seeing how they were connected. However, these stories are connected and they are connected brilliantly. It doesn’t become clear what the connection is until the last 25% of the book, but I thought it was very well done and I definitely didn’t see any of it coming.

This book is definitely unexpected. It is extremely unique and doesn’t go in a direction that is obvious. But having said that, I did find that I couldn’t connect to a large part of the story. There’s a very strong religious component and being not religious at all, I couldn’t really get a grasp on some of the messages in the book. Or put more honestly, I couldn’t really bring myself to care enough about those religious aspects to try to put it all together. However, even with this gap in my knowledge, I still really enjoyed the story. It’s a great exploration of grief and second chances, and it also has some really great friendships and relationships in the book. I loved the friendship between Cullen and his best friend, and I especially loved the relationship between Cullen and his brother, Gabriel.

“To lose a sibling is to lose the one person with whom one shares a lifelong bond that is meant to continue on into the future.”

While this isn’t my favourite John Corey Whaley book that I’ve read (I’ve only read two and Highly Illogical Behaviour is my favourite of the two), I think it brings a very unique and intricately woven story that is full of honesty and emotion. I think this is more appropriate for a more mature YA audience but would definitely recommend it.

Review: Disruption and Corruption by Jessica Shirvington

disruption-duology

The Disruption duology by Jessica Shirvington was recently rereleased with new covers. Aren’t they just beautiful? I think they’re more representative of the story than the previous covers, even though they were extremely beautiful too! Let’s get into my thoughts on the two books.

Thank you to HarperCollins Australia for sending me review copies of the books. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

DISRUPTION

disruptionPublisher: HarperCollins Australia
Release date: June 20, 2016 (originally April 2014)
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 416
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What if a microchip could identify your perfect match? What if it could be used against you and the ones you love?

Eight years ago, Mercer Corporation’s M-Bands became mandatory. An evolution of the smartphone, the bracelets promised an easier life. Instead, they have come to control it.

Two years ago, Maggie Stevens watched helplessly as one of the people she loved most was taken from her, shattering her world as she knew it.

Now, Maggie is ready. And Quentin Mercer – heir to the M-Corp empire – has become key to Maggie’s plan. But as the pieces of her dangerous design fall into place, could Quentin’s involvement destroy everything she’s fought for?

In a world full of broken promises, the ones Maggie must keep could be the most heartbreaking.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

Disruption was a fantastic start to Jessica Shirvington’s dystopian duology. It was fast-paced and engaging, and has characters that you can’t help but root for.

The story begins 9 years after the US government made M-bands mandatory for all of its citizens. M-bands are a magnificent piece of technology that allows you to keep track of all things in life, including your heartbeat and other vitals, your medical history, your car keys (so to speak) and your money. Most importantly, M-bands allow you to find your true romantic match. As soon as you turn 18, your M-band is installed with Phera-Tech, which calculates a rating based on pheromones with everyone who has Phera-Tech activated within a certain distance. While you can have Phera-Tech turned off, each person must log at least four ratings each month and if four or more ratings are negative, you are taken to a rehabilitation camp because you are a ‘Neg’ and a danger to society. Or at least that’s what the public think.

Our main  character, Maggie’s father became a Neg overnight and was taken away two years ago. Since then, Maggie has been trying to locate her father by searching Neg camps and blackmailing people to help her. What Maggie’s discovered is that the rehabilitation camps are fake and the Negs are locked up in underground prisons and recruited into being soldiers and slaves… all controlled by the Mercer Corporation. In order to rescue her father, she must use Quentin Mercer and get him to empathise and open his eyes to the atrocities that his family is responsible for.

I absolutely loved the plot of this book. It was a really well thought out world and I highly enjoyed how the story unfolded. It was filled with twists that I never saw coming and I was really invested in everything that was going on. My criticism of the plot was that it dragged a bit in the middle section of the book. There wasn’t much happening for a large portion and it definitely felt like we had jumped from doing not much at all to the climax where everything was happening all at once. It was just missing a little bit of plot development for me. Having said that, it didn’t bother me too much because there was a lot of wonderful character development going on during this middle section of the novel.

I loved the characters in Disruption. Maggie starts off as a bit of a dislikeable and manipulative character who doesn’t care who she steps on in order to achieve her main purpose of rescuing her father. She blackmails those around her into doing her bidding and doesn’t care that she’s ruining other people’s lives in the process. However, Maggie’s growth throughout this novel was one of the highlights of Disruption for me. She develops lots of wonderful relationships with the people around her and it was wonderful to see her trust in them and confide in them. Her relationship with Gus, the black market computer genius and hacker, was so funny and they fought constantly like siblings. Gus was so snarky and had a great sense of humour. I loved his role in the book and how he became such a big presence in Maggie’s life.

And of course I loved Quentin, the love interest in the novel. He was just perfection – handsome, smart and most importantly, not evil. He brought out so many great qualities in Maggie and taught her to love and care about others. Even though their relationship started off a bit rocky, with Maggie manipulating him, I really enjoyed how their romance developed and I ship these two soooo much! It was a romance that had my heart racing and breaking throughout the book and I wanted to read more and more about them! And luckily, I could because there’s a sequel!

I’M NOW GOING TO GO INTO MY THOUGHTS ON CORRUPTION. THERE NO SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST BOOK, EXCEPT FOR THE SYNOPSIS THAT I’VE INCLUDED WITH THE BOOK INFORMATION.

Continue reading

Review: Sophie Someone by Hayley Long

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Publisher: Bonnier
Release date: May 25, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 272
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“Some stories are hard to tell. Even to your very best friend. And some words are hard to get out of your mouth. Because they spell out secrets that are too huge to be spoken out loud. But if you bottle them up, you might burst. So here’s my story. Told the only way I dare tell it.”

Sophie Nieuwenleven is sort of English and sort of Belgian. Sophie and her family came to live in Belgium when she was only four or five years old, but she’s fourteen now and has never been quite sure why they left England in the first place. Then, one day, Sophie makes a startling discovery. Finally Sophie can unlock the mystery of who she really is. This is a story about identity and confusion – and feeling so utterly freaked out that you just can’t put it into words. But it’s also about hope. And the belief that, somehow, everything will work out OK.

Sophie Someone is a tale of well-intentioned but stupid parenting, shock, acceptance and, ultimately, forgiveness, written in a brave, memorable and unique language all of its own.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

I received a copy of this book from Allen & Unwin for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Sophie Someone is a very interesting story about identity and figuring out who you are and where you belong. It’s written in a very unique way and is a powerful story, despite being quite a short book.

The first thing you’ll notice about Sophie Someone is that it’s written in its own unique language. There are words that are replaced by other words throughout the entire book, like ‘noodle’ instead of name and ‘freckle’ instead of friend. For the first half of the book, I thought that this was because Sophie was dyslexic but as the book progressed, it didn’t seem like this was the case, which had me very confused. However, the reason why this strange language was used is explained at the end of the book so you’re not left in the dark after the story is over. I’m not really sure how I feel about this kind of writing. It made the writing really hard to read at the beginning because it was like a code that you had to crack. But the reading experience did become much smoother once I had decoded the words and what they were supposed to be. While I did find some of the language to be really funny, I’m just not sure that it was completely necessary and I think the story was strong enough to stand on its own without this quirky writing style.

I really loved Sophie’s story in this book. She’s a teenage girl who is confused about her origins and where she came from. Her family lives in Belgium but are English and can only speak in English. Sophie’s unsure of why her last name is foreign or why they moved to Belgium in the first place. Throughout this book, Sophie recounts her memories of her childhood, putting together pieces of the puzzle and trying to form an idea of who she really is and why her parents have been lying to her about everything. It’s a very heartwarming story about family, the secrets that people keep hidden inside and what you would do for the people you love. I absolutely loved the story and fell in love with Sophie and her family. I enjoyed the mystery surrounding Sophie’s past and piecing together everything as Sophie was at the same time. But what I enjoyed the most was Sophie discovering it all and her journey towards finding out the truth about who she is.

I’m not a nobody. And I will never be while I’m Comet Kayembe’s best freckle.

I loved Sophie in this book. Her voice was so strong and unique and I felt very connected to her. She’s a very strong character who stands up for what she believes in and will do anything to find out the truth. She’s kind and caring when it comes to her friends and her younger brother but she isn’t afraid to express her feelings on her mother being an agoraphobic and a terrible mother. The characters in this book are definitely flawed. Sophie’s parents definitely have something to hide but they try to be there for their kids and to give them everything that they need.

I highly enjoyed this story and Sophie’s journey of self-discovery. I thought it was an extremely emotional and heartwarming story with some very relatable  characters. I liked Sophie’s special language that was used in the book but I’m not sure that it was completely necessary because it made the book a little bit hard to get into. But I really enjoyed the novel as a whole and would highly recommend it.

Sophie Someone was published on May 25th 2016 by Bonnier and is now available at Australian retailers for $16.99AU.

Review: How it Feels to Fly by Kathryn Holmes

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Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: June 14, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 368
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A struggle with body dysmorphia forces one girl to decide if letting go of her insecurity also means turning her back on her dreams.

Sam has always known she’d be a professional dancer—but that was before her body betrayed her, developing unmanageable curves in all the wrong places. Lately, the girl staring back at Sam in the mirror is unrecognizable. Dieting doesn’t work, ignoring the whispers is pointless, and her overbearing mother just makes it worse.

Following a series of crippling anxiety attacks, Sam is sent to a treatment camp for teens struggling with mental and emotional obstacles. Forced to open up to complete strangers, Sam must get through the program if she wants to attend a crucial ballet intensive later in the summer. It seems hopeless until she starts confiding in a camp counselor who sparks a confidence she was sure she’d never feel again. But when she’s faced with disappointing setbacks, will Sam succumb to the insecurity that imprisons her?

This compelling story from Kathryn Holmes examines one girl’s efforts to overcome her worst enemy: herself.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

How it Feels to Fly is a beautiful coming-of-age, mental health story about overcoming anxiety and other barriers to become the person you want to be. It deals with body image, self-confidence and other anxieties that performers may suffer from.

This was such a relatable story. Our main character, Sam, is a ballerina and wants nothing more than to be a professional dancer. However, in recent years, she’s developed curves and her body is no longer the ideal body of a ballet dancer. This has led her to develop body dysmorphia and she’s unable to stop her inner voice that’s telling her she’s fat and unworthy. She finds herself at a summer therapy camp for performers, where she meets 5 other teens dealing with various anxiety issues. What I enjoyed most about this book was that it wasn’t only about Sam’s problems. The book also dealt with the issues that the other campers had and focused on their treatment and development throughout the book too. And because of the variety of anxiety issues that were explored, it’s impossible not to relate or feel connected to the book because we would have all experienced some of the same uncertainties or anxieties at some point in our lives. I also really liked that the book wasn’t about ballet. It was about Sam’s insecurities and the mental struggles she was having, rather than about ballet or the ballet world itself. The book was set almost entirely at the therapy camp and I loved that about it.

I thought the way Sam’s anxiety and body image issues were represented was very realistic. I felt extremely uneasy at times because her negative thoughts and the way she saw herself was very relatable and believable. Body dissatisfaction is probably something that everybody has dealt with at some point, including me, and it was so upsetting to see Sam taking it so hard and working so hard to get the perfect body. I thought her character development was wonderful and the progress she made was so heartwarming and inspiring. I didn’t always love her as a character but I really enjoyed and appreciated the journey that she took. The author has done a magnificent job at thoroughly addressing all of the issues and factors involved in Sam’s anxiety. I did, however, think that the problems she had with her mother were resolved a little bit too quickly at the end and I wanted it to be a bigger focus of the book.

There were a lot of great side characters in How it Feels to Fly. Even though I didn’t always like Sam’s character, there was always somebody else to latch on to and that made it a very enjoyable reading experience. The relationships between them were also great and there was just such a wonderful group dynamic. The only relationship that I didn’t like was the romance (if you can call it that) in the book between Sam and Andrew. The relationship between them made me feel uncomfortable from the very beginning and it started to go in a slightly “love cures all” direction. I really did not like the idea that you need a guy to tell you that you’re beautiful in order to believe it, and I felt that the book started to go in that direction a little bit. But I really appreciated that the author actually addressed this later in the book and made Sam’s development and progress about herself, rather than Andrew or any other guy.

Overall, I think this was a really emotional and powerful read that a lot of young adults would get a lot out of. There were a couple of things that I thought could have been delved into a little bit further and developed more. But as a whole, I thought it was a wonderful story with lots of relatable characters and issues.

Review: Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

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Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: May 17, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 382
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Maguire is bad luck.

No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when Maguire is around. Like that time the roller coaster jumped off its tracks. Or the time the house next door caught on fire. Or that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch.

It’s safest for Maguire to hide out in her room, where she can cause less damage and avoid new people who she could hurt. But then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star. Jordy is confident, talented, and lucky, and he’s convinced he can help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away. But it turns out staying away may be harder than she thought.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

I enjoyed this contemporary novel so, so much! It was a really fun and uplifting read that’s also kind of perfect for summer. I thoroughly enjoyed the friendships, romance and character development in this story.

Girl Against the Universe follows Maguire, a girl who may be cursed. Bad things tend to happen to people when Maguire is around. As a result of a few too many incidents, including one that killed her father, uncle and older brother, Maguire has distanced herself from the world and developed OCD. She’s unable to take public transport or be in public/crowded areas without feeling anxious and typically avoids being around people by staying in her own room. However, when her grandmother decides to hold an event to commemorate the 5 year anniversary of the death of Maguire’s family members, she decides to take treatment seriously in order to overcome her fears. She ends up joining the school tennis club, which opens up a lot of opportunities for Maguire, including forging new friendships and a relationship with cute tennis star, Jordy.

What I really liked about this novel was that it wasn’t a ‘love cures mental illness’ kind of story. Sure, Jordy plays a huge part in bringing Maguire out of her shell, but its through her own efforts and determination that she was able to overcome her anxiety. I liked how supportive Jordy was and how supportive all of Maguire’s new friends were, but she really made the effort and had the intention to get better. I loved the mental health aspects of the book and thought that it was nicely incorporated and well-researched. I did have a few problems with the therapy sessions because the way that Maguire’s therapist went about it goes against the most popular and effective method of treatment for anxiety, but Paula Stokes did acknowledge in the author’s note that she took some liberties with it. Overall, I thought anxiety was really well represented in this novel.

What I liked most about this book were the relationships between the characters. There were so many different relationships explored in this book and they were all wonderfully developed. I enjoyed her friendships with the girls from the tennis club and how they supported her through all of her therapy challenges and never judged her for her fears. I also really loved Maguire’s relationship with her mum and stepfather. It was really nice to see her open up to them and express how she was feeling. And I also really loved seeing them open up to her about their own fears and how the accident has affected them. And of course, I really loved Maguire’s relationship with Jordy. It felt very honest and realistic and I loved the way that she supported him during his struggles as well. Nothing feels better than reading about a relationship that goes both ways. I thought their romance developed at the perfect pace and while it did feel slightly insta-lovey at the beginning, there was a strong focus on the friendship between them that wasn’t eclipsed by the romance.

In terms of the characters, Maguire was a character who was extremely easy to like. I was rooting for her from the very beginning because she was so likeable. It was a little bit painful to read about her constantly second-guessing herself and everyone around her but that made it even sweeter when she was able to overcome her anxiety. Her character definitely developed a lot throughout the book and I appreciated how realistic her character growth was. There were definitely setbacks but her strength was definitely evident throughout the story. As for the side characters, there honestly wasn’t anyone who I didn’t like. They were all wonderful and unique from each other and I loved all of them.

This book was uplifting, funny, and adorable. If you’re looking for a pick-me-up or something that will bring you out of a reading slump, this one would be perfect!

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Reasons Why You Should Read A Tyranny of Petticoats

a-tyranny-of-petticoats

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is to talk about something we love. So I thought I’d use the opportunity to do a condensed review of A Tyranny of Petticoats, which I finished a couple of days ago.

A Tyranny of Petticoats is a young adult anthology of short stories, edited by Jessica Spotswood. And here are some reasons why you should pick it up!

1. Historical fiction

This anthology is made up of 15 short stories that are all historical and set in the United States. If you love historical fiction, I can guarantee that you will love A Tyranny of Petticoats. As someone who doesn’t know much about US history, I learnt a lot of about it as I was reading the short stories. I also really loved that the stories were in chronological order and featured lots of different time periods.

2. Badass ladies

Every single short story is about a female protagonist. I loved how strong, fierce and badass they all were and how they took their own destinies into their own hands. We read about pirates, thieves, teachers and just normal girls who refuse to submit to their ‘superiors’ who try to bully them.

3. Diversity

I loved the diversity in this book. There is diversity in sexual orientation, as well as diversity in colour. I really enjoyed how these aspects were explored in all of the stories.

4. Social issues

This point ties into the first point I made. I highly enjoyed how the social issues of each time period were given a lot of focus. I feel like I learnt a lot and I loved how these issues were explored in the stories.

5. Author notes

Each short story was followed by an author note, detailing the inspiration behind the story. In a lot of cases, the stories were based on a true event or real people in history, and I liked that we were given some information about these in the author notes.

6. New to me/you authors

I hadn’t heard of some of the authors who contributed stories to the anthology and I enjoyed being able to get a little sample of their writing. I ended up looking up some of these authors’ other works and I’ll be checking them out soon.

7. Short stories

All of the short stories in this anthology are about 20-25 pages long, which I really, really liked. I don’t really like it when short stories are 50+ pages because that’s not ‘short’. These are a really great length in my opinion and it was easy to read a couple of stories in a sitting.

8. Romance and no romance

What I enjoyed about this anthology was that there was a good mixture of stories with and without romance. In fact, I think there were more stories that didn’t have a romance element and I loved that.

9. Mix of genres

There was also a really good mix of genres. They were all historical stories but there were some with fantasy elements and some with mythological aspects and I liked how different each of the stories were.

10. Beautiful hardcover

I have the hardcover version of the book and I think it’s a super high quality book. It’s got a beautiful jacket and the naked hardcover is also really lovely. The pages in the book are also thick and great quality.

Goodreads || Book Depository

Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

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Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin
Release date: April 26, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Aila @ One Way or An Author
Pages: 342
Goodreads || Book Depository

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

I went into The Star-Touched Queen knowing nothing except that all of my friends have loved it. And they were right – I loved it too. This was a really unique, fantastical and magical story with a captivating setting and beautiful writing. It combines elements of Indian mythology with a rich and magical world, creating an intriguing and beautiful story that you will just devour.

I think the standout of this book was the writing. It was so wonderfully descriptive, lyrical and just a feast for the imagination. The imagery that Roshani Chokshi created was out of this world (literally) and I had no difficulty seeing the setting and the world in my mind. She makes use of her beautiful writing to build the world, and I found it to be magnificently done and flew through the book because my eyeballs couldn’t stop devouring the writing. However, there were times when I felt that there was too much description and that the book had too much world building and not enough plot to keep me satisfied. I found myself reading pages of beautiful writing and description, with nothing much going on in the plot. The book never felt like it dragged but I was very aware that there wasn’t very much going on in the story. I do have to say, however, that what we got of the plot was really exciting and intense. There were a lot of things that I didn’t see coming and had me completely shocked.

I also really enjoyed the characters in this book. Maya was a wonderful main character. I loved her backstory and how she tries so hard to be seen as her own person, rather than as part of a larger crowd of women who are only there to look pretty and bear children. She wants to be seen as an equal and becoming Amar’s wife allows her to do that. I loved her strength and determination, though some of her choices seemed very impulsive and frustrated me to no end. But I really admired the way that she went about fixing her mistakes and thought she was a really caring and kind character. I also really liked Amar and wish there had been a little more of him in the book. He seemed like a really complex character but ultimately, his character fell a little bit flat to me because it wasn’t developed as much as I would have liked. Still, if you enjoy a dark and mysterious love interest, you will probably end up falling in love with Amar.

“I want your perspective and honesty,” he said, before adding in a softer voice, “I want to be humbled by you.”

I thought the romance between them was really great as well. It was super swoon-worthy and there are endless quotes that will melt your heart. The romance contains a trope that I actually really, really love so Maya and Amar are definitely a couple that I can ship from the bottom of my heart.

Overall, I thought this was a good start to the series. There were some things that I thought lacked a bit of development but hopefully those things will be ironed out in subsequent books.

Review: The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

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Publisher: HarperCollins
Release date: March 21, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 336
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Dolssa is a young gentlewoman with uncanny gifts, on the run from an obsessed friar determined to burn her as a heretic for the passion she refuses to tame.

Botille is a wily and charismatic peasant, a matchmaker running a tavern with her two sisters in a tiny seaside town.

The year is 1241; the place, Provensa, which we now call Provence, is a land still reeling from the bloody crusades waged there by the Catholic Church and its northern French armies.

When the matchmaker finds the mystic near death by a riverside, Botille takes Dolssa in and discovers the girl’s extraordinary healing power. But as the vengeful Friar Lucien hunts down his heretic, the two girls find themselves putting an entire village at the mercy of murderers.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

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

I didn’t know much about this book going into it, even though I’ve been highly anticipating it since I heard about it at the HarperCollins BTCYA event in November last year. And I definitely was not disappointed. I did have a really hard time with the first 50 pages of the book. The writing was very hard to get into and I wanted to DNF the book so many times. But I pushed through and it just kept getting better and better.

Despite the title of the book, The Passion of Dolssa is not really about Dolssa. It’s definitely a book about Botille and how her life is impacted by the presence of and her friendship with Dolssa. Botille is a girl who lives a pretty ordinary life in a small seaside town. But one day, she finds a malnourished Dolssa who is on the run for being a heretic and her life changes dramatically. Now, her life revolves around Dolssa and keeping her a secret from the village and from those who seek her, and that’s definitely easier said than done…

I absolutely loved Botille in this book and wasn’t too sad that there wasn’t more of Dolssa. Botille was strong, passionate and stood up for the things that she believed in, no matter the consequences. She was a fantastic character who was easy to love and empathise with and I was just so invested in her story. And this was the case with many of the other characters too. Initially, I had lots of doubts about the book but as I read more and more of it, I realised how connected to all of the characters I felt and I wasn’t able to put down the book because I needed to know what was going to happen to them next. The Passion of Dolssa is definitely a very character-driven story and I thought all of the characters were amazingly developed and written. I enjoyed all of the relationships between the characters and how they looked out for and supported each other. I also really enjoyed the little bits of romance that we got in the book and they were definitely some of my favourite moments in the book.

This book focuses on religion, which is something that I almost never read about. I’m not a religious person and I don’t read very many books about religion because I find it difficult to connect with and comprehend the ideas. But I felt like this book had just the right amount of religion and was done in a way that wasn’t preachy and was easy for me to understand and connect with. And because it’s based on real events in history, it made it even more interesting and relevant to me. I really enjoyed that the book showed the positives and negatives to religion – how religion can save people but also how those who are religious can abuse their power and use it to oppress others. It was an eye-opening read, especially because it’s not something that I’ve ever thought about in much detail.

What I had a little bit of a problem with was the writing, especially at the beginning of the book. It took me a good 50 pages to really get into it, and it’s definitely a style that you need to get used to. There are a lot of different perspectives and the chapters are quite short, so I felt like I was being pulled all over the place at the beginning. However, once I started getting into the story and the plot, this became less of an issue. The writing also switches constantly between first and third person narration, which was very confusing at first because it seemed like there was no pattern to it, but I quickly realised that Botille and Dolssa’s chapters were written in first person, while the other perspectives were in third person narration. The writing style and format of the book just takes a little bit of getting used to, so I’d recommend just pushing through if you’re thinking of DNFing the book.

The Passion of Dolssa was quite heavy and sad but I think it’s definitely worth the read. It’s a very interesting glimpse at a part of history that isn’t explored very much (or at least I haven’t read very much about it). It’s impossible not to fall in love with the characters in this book and become invested in their story.