Review: We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan & Brian Conaghan

we-come-apartPublisher: Bloomsbury Childrens
Release date: March 1, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 320
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Nicu has emigrated from Romania and is struggling to find his place in his new home. Meanwhile, Jess’s home life is overshadowed by violence. When Nicu and Jess meet, what starts out as friendship grows into romance as the two bond over their painful pasts and hopeful futures. But will they be able to save each other, let alone themselves?

For fans of Una LaMarche’s Like No Other, this illuminating story told in dual points of view through vibrant verse will stay with readers long after they’ve turned the last page.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

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

I have no words for how much I love this book. It was raw and honest and I could not have asked for anything more from it. I loved the themes of racism, immigration and love in the novel and it was just one of the most poignant stories I’ve read in a while.

We Come Apart is a story that is written in verse and from dual perspectives. If you’ve never read anything by Sarah Crossan, you must because her ability to tell stories in verse is out of this world. I’ve previously read One and The Weight of Water and they were both amazing. I haven’t read anything by Brian Conaghan but this book made me really excited to check out his solo work. I really loved the two perspectives in this book and I thought they worked wonderfully together. The book alternates perspectives every few pages and I really enjoyed this because it gave me a really good idea of what they were both thinking about a certain situation or event. The book doesn’t have headers telling us whose perspective we’re reading from but it’s completely clear who is speaking because the voices were so different.

Nicu, our male lead, is an immigrant from Romania and speaks in very disjointed English. I particularly loved his voice and never found it to be difficult to understand. The reason why I loved his voice so much was because he expressed every thought and feeling in a pure and honest manner because of his inability to speak English fluently. The way that he tried to describe his thoughts was just so unflinching and relatable that it was impossible not to love his voice and his character. I also highly enjoyed Jess. Her voice wasn’t as ‘meaningful’ to me as Nicu’s but I thought she was still a very relatable character and even though, she’s very different to who I am as a person, I still connected with her story and empathised deeply.

i was extremely taken by the story of We Come Apart. Jess and Nicu meet at a Reparation Scheme for juvenile offenders. They are both having trouble with their families and this draws the two of them together. Nicu’s family is staying temporarily in North London so that they can earn enough money to pay for teenage Nicu to take a wife back in his village in Romania. Despite his repeated protests, Nicu’s family has no interest in what Nicu wants and are determined for him to return to Romania and get married as soon as possible. Nicu wants badly to stay in London and get an education, but at school, he is severely bullied by his classmates and teachers for being different and a person of colour. Jess lives with her mother and abusive stepfather, who regularly forces Jess to video record while he beats up her mother. Jess’s mum doesn’t seem to have any intention of leaving and Jess isn’t strong enough to do anything about it either. She spends her days lashing out by stealing and engaging in behaviours that would be frowned upon. But when she meets Nicu, the two of them open up to each other and are there for each other. What I appreciated about this friendship and relationship was that there was a very natural and gradual development. The two don’t start off as fast friends but gradually develop into two people who understand each other. I loved the development in their characters and Jess’s change from being a prejudiced teen like her schoolmates to being a more tender and empathetic person.

If I had one small criticism, it would be that the ending of the book was a little bit rushed and not very resolved. I finished the book feeling like the authors left me hanging a little and would’ve liked more resolution. However, I was still extremely satisfied with how the book played out and how relevant the issues it explores are to society today. It’s an important story that needs to be read!

We Come Apart is released on March 1st, 2017 by Bloomsbury Australia. It is available at Australian retailers for $17.99.

Review: Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

wayfarerPublisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release date: January 3, 2017
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 532
Goodreads || Book Depository

All Etta Spencer wanted was to make her violin debut when she was thrust into a treacherous world where the struggle for power could alter history. After losing the one thing that would have allowed her to protect the Timeline, and the one person worth fighting for, Etta awakens alone in an unknown place and time, exposed to the threat of the two groups who would rather see her dead than succeed. When help arrives, it comes from the last person Etta ever expected—Julian Ironwood, the Grand Master’s heir who has long been presumed dead, and whose dangerous alliance with a man from Etta’s past could put them both at risk.

Meanwhile, Nicholas and Sophia are racing through time in order to locate Etta and the missing astrolabe with Ironwood travelers hot on their trail. They cross paths with a mercenary-for-hire, a cheeky girl named Li Min who quickly develops a flirtation with Sophia. But as the three of them attempt to evade their pursuers, Nicholas soon realizes that one of his companions may have ulterior motives.

As Etta and Nicholas fight to make their way back to one another, from Imperial Russia to the Vatican catacombs, time is rapidly shifting and changing into something unrecognizable… and might just run out on both of them.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

Wayfarer is the sequel to Passenger, which means that this review may contain spoilers for the first book. Check out my review for Passenger instead, if you haven’t read it yet.

I really enjoyed Passenger when I read it last year and was really looking forward to Wayfarer. It wasn’t really what I expected but I definitely wasn’t disappointed by it either. I did have some issues with the book but those were probably issues that I had because it had been a whole year since I had read Passenger and it took me a while to get used to the world again.

My main issue with the book was that I found the plot to be confusing. I don’t know if it’s because I’d forgotten a lot about the world and the time travel rules, but I had a hard time following what was going on, especially in the first 50 pages. I reread the ending of Passenger to familiarise myself with what had gone down in the first book and that helped a little bit but I still found it difficult to understand some of the time travel logic and the world at the start of the book. This book talks about many different timelines and I found myself really confused for the first 20% of the novel and couldn’t really follow along. It did get better as I progressed through the book though.

The other problem that I had with the plot was that I had no idea where the book was going for the majority of it. We follow Etta and Nicholas through two separate story arcs and I didn’t quite know what to believe because we were being led to believe two different things. The motives of the side characters and key players of the book were unclear and we were deliberately made to be suspicious of everything, which just added to my confusion as to what was happening. It also didn’t help that there were a lot of different parties with vastly different motives and goals. I couldn’t really keep track of who wanted to do what and I just felt a bit overwhelmed and found it to be too much at times. Ultimately, I just went with the flow and decided not to think about it too much and I ended up really enjoying everything that happened and how the story played out anyway.

We are, all of us, on our own journeys…

I loved all of the characters in this book. The characters were all very complex and multidimensional and I really enjoyed that there wasn’t a single one who was purely evil or purely good. I enjoyed reading about each character’s motivations as well as about some of their origins. I loved the new characters that we got to meet in this book, like Julian Ironwood and Henry Hemlock, as well as the old characters that we got to revisit. The character development in this book was also great and I learnt so much about some of the characters that I didn’t really like in Passenger. The character relationships in this book were spectacular and I loved the friendships that were forged in this book as well as the reunion of family. As a huge Etta and Nicholas shipper, I was a bit disappointed that the two characters spent so much of the book apart, but I was pretty happy with how their reunion played out.

I really enjoyed this duology. I’d love to reread the books again because I think it’ll help me understand Wayfarer a little bit better. Despite the confusion and how overwhelmed I felt while reading this book, I highly enjoyed it. It was action-packed and I loved all of the places that the characters time travelled to. It was so much fun and I loved the characters so, so much!

Blog Tour & Aus Giveaway: A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

a-quiet-kind-of-thunderPublisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Release date: January 10, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 320
Goodreads || Book Depository || Booktopia

Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen.
Their love isn’t a lightning strike, it’s the rumbling roll of thunder.

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life – she’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it.

From the bestselling author of Beautiful Broken Things comes a love story about the times when a whisper is as good as a shout.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

Welcome to my stop on the A Quiet Kind of Thunder blog tour! I’ll be doing a short review of the book and including some questions that Sara Barnard was kind enough to answer, before ending with a giveaway for a finished copy of the book.

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

I have to admit that I wasn’t a fan of Sara Barnard’s debut novel, Beautiful Broken Things. But I felt the exact opposite about A Quiet Kind of Thunder. It was a beautifully diverse novel that explored selective mutism and deafness really well.

The novel follows Steffi who suffers from severe anxiety that causes her to be selectively mute. She has a hard time making friends at school and it’s been especially tough now that her best friend has left to go to college. But she’s introduced to Rhys, who is deaf and new to the school and the two form a strong friendship that later blossoms into a romantic relationship. I’ve only read one other book about selective mutism, which was The Things I Didn’t Say by Kylie Fornasier, but this one takes it to the next level with a non-hearing male protagonist. It was interesting seeing the two main characters interact with each other in their own special mix of British Sign Language, lip reading and instant messaging. I thought the book gave me really good insight into what selective mutism was through plot points and Steffi’s explanations to Rhys. I did feel that there were some sections that were a bit info-dumpy and I would’ve liked it to have been incorporated in a more sophisticated way. Having said that, I thought it was done well and I got a good sense of the difficulties that come with being selectively mute. My only other slight bit of criticism was that we were told what the difficulties were and we didn’t really get to see them in the story. It was like seeing her struggle without really seeing her struggle.

I also enjoyed Rhys in the novel a lot and got a really great sense of the difficulties that he faces everyday. It was extremely interesting to see what he goes through and to see his insecurities even though he’s such a confident and easy-going character. The novel included a lot of great information about being deaf and special education and I felt that my awareness definitely increased after reading this novel.

I really loved the themes in this book. It had strong friendship and family elements, as well as a fantastic relationship between Steffi and Rhys. I really enjoyed the slow development of Steffi and Rhys’s relationship and how they were able to find support from each other. It was really great to see how comfortable Steffi felt around Rhys and how she found her own special language and way of communication that worked for her. I thought the family dynamics in the book were really interesting and I appreciated that there were differences between the families and how they handled Steffi and Rhys’s conditions.

Overall, I thought A Quiet Kind of Thunder beautifully explores selective mutism and deafness and does a great job of increasing awareness and knowledge of these conditions.


Q&A with Sara Barnard

Do you have any rituals or requirements that you need to do/have before writing?

To be honest, no – I just have to sit down and do it. That’s hard enough without adding rituals!

What do you believe were the most important moments in A Quiet Kind of Thunder?

I think Steffi meeting Rhys’s family was a turning point for her and their relationship, and also when she goes to the Halloween party with Tem and actually manages to enjoy herself. And of course the Thing That Happens near the end is very important!

About the author

sara-barnard

Sara Barnard lives in Brighton and does all her best writing on trains. She loves books, book people and book things. She has been writing ever since she was too small to reach the ‘on’ switch on the family Amstrad computer. She gets her love of words from her dad, who made sure she always had books to read and introduced her to the wonders of second-hand book shops at a young age.

Sara is trying to visit every country in Europe, and has managed to reach thirteen with her best friend. She has also lived in Canada and worked in India.

Website || Goodreads || Twitter || Instagram


GIVEAWAY!

Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia, I am giving away a copy of A Quiet Kind of Thunder. The giveaway is open to Australians only.

Rules:
  • This giveaway is only open to Australian residents
  • Giveaway will end on Sunday 22nd January 2017 at 11:59pm. One winner will be randomly drawn and contacted through email. If I don’t receive a reply within 48 hours, I will choose a new winner.
  • You will be required to provide me with a shipping address. If you are under 18, please make sure you have parental permission to share your address.
  • I will be checking all entries so no cheating please.
To enter, click here or the image below to enter through Rafflecopter! 

a-quiet-kind-of-thunder-giveaway

Review: Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

blood-for-blood Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
Release date: October 6, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 496
Goodreads || Book Depository

There would be blood.
Blood for blood.
Blood to pay.
An entire world of it.

For the resistance in 1950s Germany, the war may be over, but the fight has just begun.

Death camp survivor Yael, who has the power to skinshift, is on the run: the world has just seen her shoot and kill Hitler. But the truth of what happened is far more complicated, and its consequences are deadly. Yael and her unlikely comrades dive into enemy territory to try to turn the tide against the New Order, and there is no alternative but to see their mission through to the end, whatever the cost.

But dark secrets reveal dark truths, and one question hangs over them all: how far can you go for the ones you love?

This gripping, thought-provoking sequel to Wolf by Wolf will grab readers by the throat with its cinematic writing, fast-paced action, and relentless twists.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

Blood for Blood is the sequel of Wolf by Wolf, which means that this review may contain spoilers for the first book.

Wolf by Wolf was one of my favourite releases of last year and I’ve been highly anticipating Blood for Blood since last year. And it definitely did not disappoint. Wolf by Wolf ended on a bit of a cliffhanger and I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this sequel other than more fantastic storytelling and lots of intense action. Ryan Graudin definitely delivered both of those things and I can say that this was one of my favourite releases of this year.

Blood for Blood picks up exactly where Wolf by Wolf ended, with Yael running away from the ball. It’s a little bit hard to describe exactly what this book is about because there are so many things going on, but throughout the novel, Yael and her comrades escape from various foes and work with the Resistance to bring down the Third Reich and the Fuhrer. I absolutely loved the plot of this book. There were countless unexpected twists that kept me on my toes, and it’s definitely a book where nobody is safe from death. There was never a sense that our beloved characters were untouchable and I really enjoyed that about the book (even though I will protect my babies until the end of time). This book was extremely action-packed even though it wasn’t as fast-paced as Wolf by Wolf. I thought the pacing was perfect for the story and I loved the intensity of everything that was going on. Some of the events in this sequel had me visibly shaking and it’ll take me a little while to get over all the feels. The last 100 pages of the book absolutely blew my mind and I really loved how everything was revealed and tied together neatly at the end. There was definitely a lot of internal screeching as I was reading Blood for Blood, but it was completely worth all of the pain and fear I felt.

Was it really so surprising that Yael was nothing like the slurs Luka’s father/teacher/Fuhrer spewed? That out of all the souls Luka had ever come across, hers was one of the brightest? It held the bravery of one hundred Iron Crosses, melted down and forged into something purer – a courage not corroded by cruelty.

I absolutely loved the characters in this book, even though we have a potential traitor in our midst. I appreciated Yael so much more in this book because she was completely herself and not a fake Adele Wolfe. I loved her compassion, her strength and her convictions and she’s definitely one of my favourite fictional heroines because of these qualities. Her resilience was astounding and I enjoyed everything about her character. I also continued to love Luka in this book, which is probably a surprise to no-one because I loved him immensely in the first book. We got to see so much more of his character and I really connected with him and his story. I love every side of his character – his cockiness, his ability to find humour in every situation and his love for doing what he thinks is right. As for some of the other characters, I really did not like Felix in this book. He really grated on my nerves but I did like the way that his character was developed. I also really enjoyed seeing some of the characters that were mentioned in Wolf by Wolf. It was nice to see them make an appearance here in the book and to see the relationship that they had with Yael.

There wasn’t a lot that I didn’t like about this book. While it didn’t have the excitement of a fast-paced motocross race, it did have war, strategy, survival, family and love all wrapped up nicely into one book. My only criticism would probably be that there isn’t another installment.

Review: When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

when-the-moon-was-ours Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release date: October 4, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 288
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To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.

But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

When the Moon was Ours is the epitome of everything that I love in a story. It had beautiful writing, a romance and friendship that gave me hope, and magical realism elements that left me in wonder. This book isn’t for everyone, but if you love all of the things that I mentioned above, I think you will absolutely fall in love with this story.

I read Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Weight of Feathers at the beginning of this year and fell in love. That novel is still my favourite of her books but When the Moon was Ours explores other things that are near and dear to my heart. The diversity in this novel is absolutely amazing and I loved the exploration of and focus on identity and having the courage to be the person we want to be. This novel follows two LGBTQ+ characters: Sam, a transgender boy, and his queer best friend, Miel. And what I appreciated about this LGBTQ+ representation was that it didn’t feel forced. McLemore incorporates the exploration of gender identity so well into her plot, her characters and her magical realism elements, and everything just worked seamlessly and effortlessly. While I do read a lot of LGBTQ+ fiction, I’ve read very few books that feature transgender main characters and When the Moon was Ours is by far the best. It thoroughly examines the struggle that transgender people go through, including the fear of rejection by the community and the fear of nonacceptance by family and friends. It explores the courage that it takes to tell others and to own your identity. It was evident that these issues mean a lot to the author and it’s particularly special knowing that her own personal story is reflected in this novel.

This book not only has diversity of sexual orientation, it also includes lots of culturally diverse characters. Sam is Pakistani and there’s a lot of Pakistani food and culture mentioned in the book. McLemore uses a Pakistani cultural practice called bacha posh quite heavily in her book and I really enjoyed how much of the plot and Sam’s identity was tied to this. Bacha posh is a practice where families without boys will choose one of their daughters to dress and live as a boy until they are old enough to get married. In the novel, Sam hides behind the practice of bacha posh and uses it as an excuse to keep living as a boy, without hurting or disappointing his mother. I just really appreciated how these cultural elements were incorporated into the story and that the author wasn’t scared to include a lot of diversity in her novel. Cultural identity is important and McLemore highlights this importance brilliantly in her book.

She was a place whose darkness held not fear, but the promise of stars.

My favourite thing about this book is definitely the relationships. The romance between Sam and Miel was first and foremost a friendship and I loved how much they supported each other through the good times and the bad. Their connection was great and the way that they kept each others secrets and protected each other was really beautiful. But it wasn’t just the relationship between Sam and Miel that warmed my heart. I absolutely adored Sam’s relationship with his mother, as well as Miel’s relationship with Aracely, the lady who takes in Miel at a young age. The family and friendship elements were exquisite and made the book extremely touching and enjoyable to read.

All of the beautiful elements that I’ve discussed above make it unnecessary to even talk about the plot because at this point you’ve probably already run away to order the book. But I also absolutely loved the plot. I thought it was extremely clever and the way that the magical realism elements tied into the themes of the book as well as the plot was really masterful. I loved all the magic and the quirkiness of the story and its setting, even though it was surprisingly creepy and thrilling. There were some amazing plot twists that I didn’t see coming and I highly enjoyed every last word of this novel.

Review: Swarm by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan & Deborah Biancotti

swarm

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Release date: September 28, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 400
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EVERY POWER HAS A DARK SIDE

Keep the secret.
Use your power for good.
Keep out of trouble.
Stick together.
Or things will fall apart.

It’s the holiday season, but the celebration at the Zeroes’s underground nightclub is blown apart when two strangers with new powers take to the dance floor. The Zeroes pursue them, only to discover that they’re fleeing an even more sinister power-wielder, Swarm. The Zeroes must learn all they can about this dangerous new player if they are to stay safe.

Meanwhile each of the Zeroes also has their own issues to deal with. Bellwether’s confidence is challenged, and Mob questions the nature of her power. Crash’s conscience gets a workout, and Anon and Scam face harsh truths about belonging. And it’s up to Flicker to pick up the reins and lead the Zeroes into a terrifying showdown.

A terrific sequel with a cracking pace that raises the stakes in this brilliant and unique superheroes series.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

Swarm is the second book in the Zeroes trilogy, which means that this review may contain minor spoilers for the first book.

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

All I can say right now is whoa. And I need the next book ASAP! Swarm ends on an incredibly painful cliffhanger and I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself for the next 12 months while I wait for the next book to be released…

This trilogy is getting better and better. I enjoyed Zeroes immensely but wasn’t completely sold on all the characters and the plot of the book. Swarm takes it to a completely different level. It was engaging, fast-paced and action-packed. The whole novel takes place over just a few days and there’s so much that happens in the book that it’s hard not to get swept up in everything that’s going on. It also struck me again how unique and interesting the superpowers in this series are. This book picks up 6 months after the events in Zeroes and is about what happens when our group of Zeroes meet a pair of other Zeroes that don’t have good intentions. As they try to stop this couple from causing mass destruction, it turns out that there’s a bigger enemy called Swarm who has a mission that puts all Zeroes in danger. I really, really loved the plot of this book. I enjoyed it more than the events in Zeroes because, to me, it seemed a bit more logical and clear. I connected with it much more and was really invested in what was going on in the story. This might have been because I was more familiar with the characters at this point and could focus on the plot – who knows? I just thought that the plot explored a lot of really interesting questions about superheroes and superpowers, and whether having a superpower means that you’re automatically doing good. And what happens when your powers unknowingly destroy things and cause harm instead?

The other thing that I really loved about this book were the characters. When I read Zeroes, the only two characters that I really liked were Flicker and Anonymous. The others I either disliked or didn’t really care for. However, the character development in this book was fantastic. In the previous book, I felt like I didn’t have a good idea of who some of the characters were but Swarm definitely rectified that. We got to know more about Crash and she became a character that I came to like a lot more. We also get to see a different side to Bellwether and that was really refreshing. I also started to like Mob a little bit more. She was a character that I didn’t really understand or connect with in Zeroes but her character really morphed into somebody who was really interesting. Finally, there’s Scam… I’m still not completely sold on Scam. While the Ethan side of him is kind of endearing because he’s so awkward, I find it really hard to connect with his character. He also didn’t have a lot of page time in this book and I don’t feel any closer to him than before.

I really loved the character relationships in this book. I will adore Flickonymous forever and ever, and I’m really keen to see how their storyline plays out in the final book of the trilogy because this book killed me with all the feels. What I really enjoyed about Swarm was that the other romances in this book weren’t obvious. There were ships in the previous book that I was sure were going to sail in Swarm but the authors definitely turned some things on their heads. It was really refreshing and enjoyable to see. The group as a whole is more tight-knit and I’m interested to see where the next book takes them.

Swarm was published by Allen & Unwin on September 28, 2016. It is available at all Australian retailers for $19.99.

Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

crooked-kingdom

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Release date: September 27, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 546
Goodreads || Book Depository

When you can’t beat the odds, change the game.

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

As Crooked Kingdom is a sequel, this review may contain spoilers for Six of Crows.

Crooked Kingdom is my favourite book of this year. I’ve read close to 150 books so far this year so it’s a big call but I can so confidently put this novel on my list of all-time favourites, right next to Six of Crows. I loved everything about this sequel and there’s absolutely nothing that I would change… except maybe that one tiny plot point at the end of the book that made me cry like a baby.

This book had everything that a great book should have. It had captivating characters whose stories draw you in and make you want to learn more. There’s thrilling action and intrigue that keeps you on your toes. And there’s fabulous writing that just sings and makes you never want to let go of the book. I honestly don’t even know where to start with this review. Let’s start with the plot. I absolutely loved how this book moved and flowed and how everything was planned to perfection by Leigh Bardugo. I thought the plot of this book was so perfectly constructed, with each character playing a crucial role in the ‘job’ and in the novel. There was nothing predictable about the plot at all and I was constantly worrying about my babies because I had no idea what was going to happen. There were also about a million plot twists in Crooked Kingdom and I loved every single one of them. Everything worked out so well and it all made sense together, which made the story a pleasure to read. Also, because the book has multiple perspectives, there was a lot of suspense and mystery in every chapter and this added to the sense of excitement that I felt as I was reading the book. The pacing of the story and the writing was so perfect that I raced through this 500+ page book in a few short sittings.

“This is the city that I bled for. And if Ketterdam has taught me anything, it’s that a guy can always bleed a little more.”

What I love most about this duology is that the characters are absolutely ruthless and it’s just so much fun to read. I will never tire of Kaz’s cruel but seamless plans and his hard exterior. He’s a perfect main character because of his complexity and his soft, gooey, marshmallowy centre. And that’s what I love about all of the characters in this novel. They’re all extremely complex and I’ll never stop discovering new sides to them no matter how many books Leigh Bardugo gives us (I’m devastated that this is only a duology!). I love that the book is peppered with little flashbacks so that we get to see the characters’ backstories and further understand where they came from. While a lot of Six of Crows was about the pasts of Kaz, Inej, Nina and Matthias, Crooked Kingdom places greater emphasis on Jesper and Wylan’s stories. I loved learning more about them because I didn’t really care for them as much as I did the other four characters in Six of Crows. I started to care more about them and see them as more than just side characters, which they were to me in the first book of the duology. And of course, I continued to love the rest of the characters and even developed a bit of a soft spot for Kuwei, who’s a bit of a troublemaker!

“I would come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together – knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.”

The relationships and the dynamics between the characters were what made this book for me. I, of course, loved the three couples. I loved how Jesper and Wylan were there for each other and supported each other throughout their family issues and devastating pasts. I loved Nina and Matthias’s relationship and how he was so awkward at expressing his feelings. I love that Matthias is strong and tough but is secretly a romantic, and I love how Nina balances him out by being her shameless, indulgent self. And I love Kaz and Inej, and how they’re both broken but they fit so well together. I love all the things that Kaz does for Inej and how her happiness comes first. But I also really love how all these characters interact with the other characters who aren’t their romantic partners/love interests. I really enjoyed Jesper’s banter with everyone around him, especially Kaz and Kuwei. I loved how Inej brings out the protective older brother in Jesper and Matthias. And, of course, Kaz and Nina hold a special place in my heart that I reserve for great fictional friendships.

But they were his first friends, his only friends, and Wylan knew that even if he’d had his pick of a thousand companions, these would have been the people he chose.

I could go on for another ten days about all the things I love about Crooked Kingdom and the duology in general. There’s really nothing that I didn’t like about the book and I could go on reading about the mischief that these characters get up to for another 100 books (pleeeeasseeeee!). I absolutely love this series and this world and I’m so sad to be saying goodbye.

Review: The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

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Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: August 30, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 448
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A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose.

Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.

Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.

Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one?

Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.

And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

Amid breathtaking advancement and high-tech luxury, five teenagers struggle to find their place at the top of the world. But when you’re this high up, there’s nowhere to go but down…

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

I don’t know where to start with this review. I loved this book so much more than I expected to! I have to admit that this was first and foremost a cover-buy (I could go on a 10 minute ramble about why this cover is the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen, so don’t get me started) but I enjoyed the writing, the world and the story in The Thousandth Floor so much!

The standout aspect of this novel is definitely the world that Katharine McGee has created. The novel is set in the near future in the 22nd century. There’s a lot of really advanced technology but it wasn’t so farfetched that I couldn’t imagine everything actually existing. There were so many wonderful inventions that I wanted to have or try out, and I’m so sad that I won’t be able to in my foreseeable future. There was an incredible communication system where people wear a digital display as contacts… if they can afford it. There’s also a really advanced transportation system of hovers, autocars and trains that can travel from Manhattan to Paris in 3 hours, under the Atlantic. But most exciting of all, Manhattan is literally inside a Tower with 1000 floors. There are streets and different landmarks on different floors, with transportation running up and down the Tower as well as on each floor. For example, Central Park is on the 307th floor of the Tower. I thought this was such an interesting concept and the world was built so nicely in the book. I was just really enamoured by the world and it kept me immersed and interested in the story throughout the entire novel.

The plot of the book was also captivating. The story starts with a prologue that describes a girl falling to her death from the very top of the tower. We don’t know who she is, why she was there or what caused her to fall from the tower, but we slowly find out as the story progresses. I loved the mystery in this book but I tended to forget about it because there were so many other things going on. It wasn’t until the last 100 pages that I remembered that it was supposed to be a mystery. But I didn’t really mind that because I was so intrigued by all of the characters and what was happening in their lives. The Thousandth Floor definitely has a Gossip Girl vibe to it. There are lots of first world problems and dramas but I found them to be kind of relatable in a weird way. I found myself really caring about what happened to these characters and what they would do next, and this really kept me invested in the story. I was a fan of Gossip Girl though, so I guess it was no surprise that I’d love the drama and the multiple POVs in this novel.

The characters themselves were also interesting. I didn’t really feel a close connection with any of them but I understood and empathised with most of them. They weren’t particularly likeable characters but I still found myself caring. If I had one criticism, it would be that I thought some of the characters could have been a little bit more complex and developed. They were at times a little bit too typical or one-dimensional and I would’ve liked to have seen a little bit more out of them. My favourite character in the book was Cord, who isn’t a main character in this book but I’m really interested to see more of him in the upcoming books. I liked Rylin, Avery and Eris quite a bit in this novel. I thought they were the most relatable to me and I was most interested in their stories. Leda and Watt were a little bit too creepy for my liking but I still appreciated what they brought to the novel and the roles that they played.

There were a lot of romantic relationships in this book and I can’t say that I was a huge fan of any of them. Having said that, I didn’t dislike any of them either. I was just ambivalent and I’m hoping that we’ll get much more development in the sequel and that there will be a romance that I can latch on to and champion. I did really like that there was a F/F relationship that didn’t just last a couple of pages and I’m happy that there’s some diversity of sexual orientation and race in this book. However, there is a bit of cheating in this story and a relationship that could be considered taboo, so if either of these things are a dealbreaker for you, you may want to avoid this novel. I should say, however, that these were two very minor aspects of the novel and the rest of it was incredibly well done.

I’m super excited for the sequel of this book. The Thousandth Floor does end in a slightly unresolved way (though I wouldn’t call it a cliffhanger) so I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book to see how the story continues. I enjoyed the writing immensely and I absolutely loved the world and the idea of Manhattan being literally inside a tower.

Review: The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

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Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release date: April 21, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 288
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Quinn Roberts is a sixteen-year-old smart aleck and Hollywood hopeful whose only worry “used “to be writing convincing dialogue for the movies he made with his sister Annabeth. Of course, that was all before before Quinn stopped going to school, before his mom started sleeping on the sofa and before Annabeth was killed in a car accident.

Enter Geoff, Quinn s best friend who insists it s time that Quinn came out at least from hibernation. One haircut later, Geoff drags Quinn to his first college party, where instead of nursing his pain, he meets a guy a hot one and falls hard. What follows is an upside-down week in which Quinn begins imagining his future as a screenplay that might actually have a happily-ever-after ending if, that is, he can finally step back into the starring role of his own life story.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

On paper, The Great American Whatever is exactly my kind of book. Grief, LGBTQIA+ elements and a coming of age story is exactly what I like in a contemporary novel. And while I did enjoy it, I didn’t really connect with it as much as I thought I would.

This novel is about Quinn, who’s been struggling for the last six month since the death of his sister and the abandonment by his father. When his best friend tries to pull him out of his funk, he finds romance and discovers things about himself and his sister that he never knew before. As a coming of age story, it was enjoyable and contained lots of great character growth. The development of Quinn’s character throughout the novel was nicely paced and done quite seamlessly. However, I have to say that I felt a little bit bored at times. I thoroughly enjoyed the first 75 pages and the last 100 or so pages but the middle section felt like a bit of a drag. There wasn’t really much happening and I just didn’t really connect with the book for quite a bit of the middle section.

This was probably in part due to the romance. I wasn’t a huge fan of it but didn’t hate it either. It was just a little bit average and I suppose that was exactly the point of it… so maybe this isn’t really a criticism but more of a pat on the back for Tim Federle? I just didn’t really feel anything from the romance and I think that was what made the book seem a bit boring and draggy for me in the middle. Having said that, I did like the role that the romance played in the book and appreciated how it played out.

Even though I didn’t connect with the romance, I did really like Quinn as a main character. I connected with his sense of humour and loved his snarky tone. His voice and his personality were fantastic and I just really enjoyed how realistic he came across as a character. He just seemed like a really normal boy (who’s obviously been through some rough times) and I could see him being someone from my everyday life. His reactions were genuine and I never felt like he was just a fictional character.

Overall, I did enjoy The Great American Whatever. I had a little bit of trouble connecting with the story, especially in the middle section of the book, but I thought the beginning and end were really strong. It’s a quick read and I thought it was a successful YA debut for Tim Federle.

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.