Review: Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Release date: April 26, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 320
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Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes.

At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall.

As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.

MY THOUGHTS

I received a review copy from the publisher. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I have read and loved all of Jennifer E. Smith’s novels and Windfall was definitely no exception. It was beautifully written and had such a captivating story that I sprinted through the book. I thought it was cute and uplifting and definitely one of my favourite contemporaries that I’ve read so far this year.

The book starts with Alice buying a lottery ticket for her best friend, Teddy’s, 18th birthday. They’ve been best friends for 9 years and Alice has been secretly in love with Teddy for almost the entire time. They’ve bonded over their bad luck for years and years but things change when the lottery ticket turns out to be the winning ticket. Teddy’s life changes in the blink of an eye and Alice finds herself slowly losing Teddy and the friendship that they used to have. What I loved most about this novel was that it wasn’t just about the romance. At the forefront of the novel is a coming of age story and I highly enjoyed it. We got to learn a lot about Alice’s past and what happened to her parents 9 years ago that left her an orphan. We got to see Alice embrace who she is and who she wants to become and step out from her parents’ shadows. At the same time, we also get to see Teddy become a more responsible person as his life rapidly changes.

I adored the characters in this novel. I connected with Alice almost instantly and was really able to understand all of her fears and concerns, not only about her future but about her deteriorating relationship with Teddy. I really enjoyed her character growth throughout the novel and admired her strength at the end of the book. I also really loved Leo, Alice’s cousin, and the way that he was there for her and has been there for her the entire time that she’s lived with his family. I love seeing close relationships between siblings/family in YA novels and I found their relationship and bond to be really heartwarming. I also loved Leo’s personal story and his romantic with his boyfriend, Max. Teddy was a character that took me a little while to like but he grew on me throughout the story when he started to grow as a person.

The romance was probably my least favourite part of this novel, not because it wasn’t adorable, but because I couldn’t really connect with it. I felt that it needed a little bit more development and that everything progressed really quickly, which is probably understandable considering Alice and Teddy have been friends and probably harbouring feelings for each other for years. It just wasn’t really my favourite of all the friends to lovers romance that I’ve read. I felt like their friendship together was a much stronger bond and I enjoyed reading about that aspect a little bit more.

Overall, there wasn’t really much that I didn’t love about Windfall. Jennifer E. Smith never ceases to wow me with her contemporary novels and I loved all of the different themes that were explored in this book, especially the coming-of-age elements.

Review: Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten

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

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

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

MY THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release date: January 26, 2017
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 373
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Love chose me, and I tried, but I couldn’t stop the arrow in its flight.

As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, fifteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of using her extraordinary sense of smell to mix base notes, top notes, and heart notes into elixirs that help others fall in love.

All while remaining incurably alone.

For Mim, the rules are clear—falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school existence—taking up a sport and limping away flush from victory, joining the debate club and saying things like “That’s a logical fallacy!” Having a boyfriend.

When she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the school soccer star to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that when it comes to falling in love, the choice isn’t always hers to make.

MY THOUGHTS

I have a few Stacey Lee books at home on my shelf but The Secret of a Heart Note is the first one that I’ve picked up, and it absolutely blew me away. I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately and this was just what I needed. It was not only cute and a feel-good read, but also a really refreshing contemporary story with a sprinkle of magical realism.

This book follows Mimosa, who is one of two aromateurs left on the planet. Her role as an aromateur involves making love elixirs and playing matchmakers for the clients who visit her and her mother for help. These elixirs are based on the scents or notes of her clients and there are lots of intricacies involved. Mim has a superior sense of smell because of her being an aromateur, which brings a lot of pros but a few cons as well. There are lots of rules involved and not all of the rules are agreeable to Mim, especially the one dictating that she must never find love in her own life, or she’ll cease to be an aromateur due to her superior olfactory senses fading away. Having just recently gotten her reluctant mother to allow her to attend high school, rather than continuing to be home-schooled, Mim finds her time as a student in jeopardy when she accidentally gives the wrong target a love elixir. In order to fix this problem, she requires the help of Court, the rich boy and school soccer star, but quickly finds herself falling for him.

I thought this story was so adorable. It was whimsical and fun and I have to say that the magical realism really added to the story here. It made it a really unique and refreshing read and I fell in love with it from page one. But that wasn’t the only thing that I loved about the story. I really enjoyed all of the relationships that were explored in this book and I loved that it wasn’t only about romance but was also about familial love and the relationship between Mim and her mother. With the weight of the world and the family aromateur legacy on her shoulders, Mim has always felt that she needed to be exceptional in order to not disappoint her mother and to uphold the legacy of her family, even though she longs to just be an ordinary girl. It was really great to see Stacey Lee explore that in detail and to focus on those family elements in the novel. But that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the romance between Court and Mim. I found it to be really endearing and sweet, and I looked forward to every scene with the two of them. I liked the dynamics of the relationship, especially the forbidden love aspects, and it’s one of my favourite romance stories that I’ve read so far this year.

I also loved almost every single character in the book but Mim was definitely my favourite. She was an extremely relatable character because, while she had an extraordinary gift, her wants, desires and though processes were really ordinary and relatable. I admired her tenacity and her wanting to set things right whenever she made mistakes and I loved following her on her journey. I also absolutely loved Court, even though sometimes he made rash decisions that frustrated me. The other side characters in the book were all a lot of fun to read about and I really loved the reading experience because of how much fun I had reading about the characters and their antics.

Overall, I absolutely loved The Secret of a Heart Note. It was an extremely unique read and I finished it in two sittings because I was so captivated by the story. It’s one of my favourite books that I’ve read so far this year and I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for a light read that will leave you with all the warm and fuzzies.

Review: Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Release date: January 1, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 464
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After the scandalous events at her presentation ball in London, Lady Helen has taken refuge at the fashionable seaside resort of Brighton, where she is training to be a Reclaimer with the covert Dark Days Club.

As she struggles to put aside her genteel upbringing and take up the weapons of a warrior, Helen realizes that her mentor, Lord Carlston, is fighting his own inner battle. Has the foul Deceiver energy poisoned his soul, or is something else driving him towards violent bouts of madness? Either way, Helen is desperate to help the man with whom she shares a deep but forbidden connection.

When Mr Pike, the hard bureaucratic heart of the Dark Days Club, arrives in Brighton, no one is prepared for the ordinary evil he brings in his wake. He has a secret task for Helen and Mr Hammond, and the authority of the Prince Regent. They have no choice but to do as he orders, knowing that the mission will betray everyone around them and possibly bring about Lord Carlston’s annihilation.

MY THOUGHTS

This is the sequel to Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club, which means that this review may contain spoilers for the first book.

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

I read and really enjoyed Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club last year and was extremely excited for the release of its sequel this year. I loved Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact even more than the first book and it’s made me even more excited for the last book in the trilogy.

Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact picks up a few weeks after the end of the first book and we follow Lady Helen as she starts her training. Meanwhile, Lord Carlston is acting increasingly strange and Lady Helen, as well as the members of the Dark Days Club, are concerned about Lord Carlson’s motives and his future. When Lady Helen is approached with a dangerous task that will betray the people she has grown to love, especially Lord Carlston, she struggles with what the right decision is. I really loved the entire plot of this book. I thought it was exciting and I didn’t find any of it to be predictable. I was kept on my toes for a lot of the book and I found the last third of the novel to be really exciting. The pace of the novel was quite slow for the first two-thirds but I didn’t mind it too much because I thought it set up the climax brilliantly. The ending of this novel really left me wanting more and I’m highly anticipating the third book in this trilogy.

I really, really enjoyed all of the characters in this installment and I really liked learning more about each of the characters and their backstories. I loved Lady Helen’s strength and intelligence. I loved reading about her journey and the way she approached the troubles she was facing. I also really liked some of the side characters and the role that they played in the novel. I’m not entirely sure how I felt about Lord Carlston in this book because he was kind of moody and wasn’t really himself. I’m looking forward to learning more about him in the next book. The only character who I wasn’t a big fan of in this book was Duke Selburn. I absolutely loved him in the first book but I found him to be extremely annoying and clingy in this novel. I honestly cannot wait to see how the trilogy is going to end.

As a whole, I was extremely happy with Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact. I thought it was a wonderful continuation to the story and I can already see a really exciting finale in store for us. I’m looking forward to learning more about the characters and the world, and I can’t wait to see how the story wraps up.

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: Wires and Nerve, Vol. 1 by Marissa Meyer & Douglas Holgate

wires-and-nervePublisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release date: January 31, 2017
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 240
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In her first graphic novel, #1 New York Times and USA Today bestseller Marissa Meyer follows Iko, the beloved android from the Lunar Chronicles, on a dangerous and romantic new adventure — with a little help from Cinder and the Lunar team.

In her first graphic novel, bestselling author Marissa Meyer extends the world of the Lunar Chronicles with a brand-new, action-packed story about Iko, the android with a heart of (mechanized) gold. When rogue packs of wolf-hybrid soldiers threaten the tenuous peace alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko takes it upon herself to hunt down the soldiers’ leader. She is soon working with a handsome royal guard who forces her to question everything she knows about love, loyalty, and her own humanity. With appearances by Cinder and the rest of the Rampion crew, this is a must-have for fans of the bestselling series.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

This review may contain spoilers for The Lunar Chronicles.

I have no words for how much I’ve missed the world of The Lunar Chronicles and how much I loved Wires and Nerve. This graphic novel follows Iko, an android and Cinder’s best friend, as she tries to rid Earth of rogue wolf-hybrid soldiers that were created by Queen Levana. Along the way we get to check in with the rest of the crew, especially Cinder, Cress and Thorne.

What I loved most about this graphic novel was that it was a continuation of The Lunar Chronicles rather than a rerelease of the original story in graphic novel format. It was really nice to be able to see Earth and Luna, post-Levana, and see how the world is developing. It was also fantastic to be able to reconnect with all of the characters again and see where they are now, especially because the small glimpses that we got in Stars Above was just not enough for me. It was so wonderful to see the couples and there was some serious flailing going on while I read it.

I finished the graphic novel pretty quickly and my biggest complaint is that I have to wait another year for the next volume to come out. However, what happened in this first volume of Wires and Nerve has made me extremely excited to see what happens next. Marissa Meyer has teased us with a few moments of romantic tension between Iko and Kinney here and there and I can’t wait to see what will happen next. I’m anticipating lots of great interactions between the two. There also seems to be a great Wolf storyline coming up in the next volume that I cannot wait to explore further. Wolf and Scarlet is a couple that I really liked in the series and I was a little bit disappointed that we didn’t see more of them in this first volume. However, there were lots of Cress and Thorne moments, which made me extremely happy because they are my favourite of the four couples that we saw in The Lunar Chronicles. I loved the involvement of all of the characters in the plot and that the story wasn’t just about Iko.

I also really loved how this graphic novel explored attitudes towards androids and cyborgs, and how Iko never felt like she fit in with other androids, and at times with her group of friends. Iko is so sassy and confident in the series that it was nice to read from her perspective and see her vulnerabilities and how out of place she feels. I’m keen to see how that’s going to be explored further in the next volume.

I’m so excited to have another Lunar Chronicles book in my hands and it definitely did not disappoint. I cannot wait to get the next volume and see where Marissa Meyer takes the story.

Blog Tour: Freeks by Amanda Hocking

freeksPublisher: Pan Australia
Release date: January 31, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 336
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The Carnival is all she’s ever known – but an old terror could tear it down.

In the spring of 1982, the carnival comes to small-town Cauldry, Louisiana. Then events take a dangerous turn. For Mara Besnick, the carnival is home. It’s also a place of secrets, hidden powers and a buried past – making it hard to connect with outsiders. However, sparks fly when she meets local boy Gabe Alvarado. As they become inseparable, Mara realises Gabe is hiding his own secrets. And his family legacy could destroy Mara’s world.

They find the word ‘freeks’ sprayed on trailers, as carnival employees start disappearing. Then workers wind up dead, killed in disturbing ways by someone or something. Mara is determined to unlock the mystery, with Gabe’s help. But can they really halt this campaign of fear?

MY THOUGHTS

35 stars

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour! Let’s start with my thoughts on the novel before jumping into a brief Q&A with the author!

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

I’m not the biggest reader of the paranormal fantasy genre but I really enjoyed reading Freeks by Amanda Hocking. It was a fast-paced and slightly eerie standalone novel and I especially loved the carnival setting

The novel begins with Mara and the carnival travelling to a small town in Louisiana. They are desperately low on money and were offered a large sum of money to set up in Cauldry. However, as soon as they set up camp, strange things begin to happen. Carnival employees are attacked every night by a mysterious creature and there’s a sinister energy in the area that’s causing their supernatural abilities to be weakened. As it gets more and more dangerous and carnival members begin to gradually leave, it’s up to Mara to try to figure out what’s happening. I really liked the concept of the book and thought that it had a really great build up to the climax. However, I was a bit disappointed with the last section of the book. I felt that everything happened very quickly and was revealed very quickly. There was a lot of build up and it all ended a bit too quickly for my liking. I also found that it was slightly predictable and the ending was just a bit lacklustre for me. However, I really liked the first three-quarters of the book and enjoyed how fast-paced it was.

I also enjoyed most of the characters, though I did find Mara to be a bit frustrating at times. She ignored or dismissed her instincts about a hundred times throughout the book and I wanted to yell at her from annoyance because it was so blatantly clear what was going on. Other than that, I thought she was a good main character. I didn’t find her to be extremely interesting but she wasn’t too frustrating to read about and I enjoyed her moments of courage and bravery. I also enjoyed some of the other characters from the carnival, especially Roxie, who I found to be sassy and snarky but also had a softer side to her. I loved Gideon, who was the head of the carnival and I also really loved Luka because of his self-healing powers. I also liked Gabe, the love interest, but I didn’t find him to be a standout character. There is a bit of diversity in this book – Mara has Egyptian ancestry but I can’t comment on the accuracy of the representation. There was also an LGBTQ+ relationship in the book.

When it came to the romance between Mara and Gabe, I wasn’t a huge fan. There was a little bit of insta-love and the relationship definitely moved very quickly. At times, I felt like the romance overtook the whole plot of the book and I wished there was less focus on it and more time spent developing the plot. I liked Mara and Gabe together but their romance definitely felt a bit tropey and generic at times.

Overall, I enjoyed the reading experience and thought that Freeks was a really easy read. It was fast-paced and engaging but I wished the ending hadn’t been so rushed. The romance was nice but overshadowed the story and the plot a little so ultimately, Freeks left me feeling like it hadn’t reached its full potential.


Q&A with Amanda Hocking

How did you decide on the travelling carnival premise? Are you a fan of carnivals?

I was actually watching an old X-Files episode where Mulder and Scully investigate a carnival, which features real life sideshow performers from the Jim Rose Circus. I thought it seemed really cool and interesting, and I did some research about Jim Rose and his performers, and that’s where the idea for the carnival started.

What do you love most about being a writer?

Escaping into a new world. The freedom to just go and hide away with made up friends on exciting adventures is definitely the best part.

Can you give us a glimpse into what we can expect from you next?

I have a duology coming out sometime next year, I believe. I’m still working on the second book, and I haven’t come up with a good description for it yet. It’s YA and paranormal and gritty, and I’m very excited about it.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

amanda-hockingAmanda Hocking is twenty-six years old, lives in Minnesota and had never sold a single book before 15 April 2010. She will shortly sell her millionth. Her books have been a self-publishing phenomenon – according to the Observer, Amanda is “the most spectacular example of an author striking gold through ebooks”. In her own words, Amanda is an Obsessive Tweeter. John Hughes mourner. Unicorn enthusiast. Red Bull addict. Muppets activist. Fraggin Aardvarks guitarist. Author of the USA Today bestselling books the Trylle Trilogy.

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Review: Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

crimson-boundPublisher: Balzer + Bray
Release date: May 5, 2015
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 464
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When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village. But she was also reckless—straying from the forest path in pursuit of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in a vain effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her hunt for the legendary sword that might save their world. Together, they navigate the opulent world of the courtly elite, where beauty and power reign and no one can be trusted. And as they become unexpected allies, they discover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. Within a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?

MY THOUGHTS

35 stars

If you read my Cruel Beauty review, you’ll know that I wasn’t very impressed with Rosamund Hodge’s debut novel. I have to say that I felt similarly about Crimson Bound, though I did think that it was significantly better executed than Cruel Beauty.

Crimson Bound is a very loose Little Red Riding Hood retelling. The Little Red Riding Hood elements are present in the novel but Rosamund Hodge takes it to a new level and makes the story original and her own. As far as taking someone else’s story and making it her own goes, Hodge gets top marks for her efforts. However, I was not really a fan of the plot or the story. As intriguing and intense as the synopsis sounds, I found the novel to be only a fraction as exciting as what was advertised. I couldn’t connect with what was happening and found the plot to be too slow in pacing. Much like Cruel Beauty, there wasn’t a lot that happened in the book and I felt that it dragged on and on. I couldn’t really get into the book until well past the halfway mark and even then, I was a bit apathetic about everything. There were some twists and turns in the book that I appreciated and I also thought that the novel had a much clearer story/plot progression than Cruel Beauty did. However, the pacing of it and some of the confusion that I felt made for a subpar reading experience.

I also was not a fan of the romance in the book. There is a strange love triangle that I was not a fan of, especially considering there was a weird love triangle in Cruel Beauty as well. But love triangle aside, I didn’t really feel any chemistry between the main character and her love interests. It all felt extremely clinical to me and came across as forced. I was looking forward to the enemies to lovers aspect of it because that’s one of my favourite romance tropes and the novel didn’t really deliver on that front. One of my biggest criticisms when it came to the romance was that the romance seemed to come out of nowhere. One minute the characters were trotting along like normal, and then the next they were realizing and proclaiming their love for each other? Not a fan.

However, Rachelle’s character saved the book for me. I loved the complexities of her character and that she wasn’t really like any other character that I had read before. I liked her good and her evil sides and her strength was really appealing to me. I loved learning about her backstory and it made me appreciate her even more.

Overall, while I did end up liking the book, I haven’t been too impressed with the two Rosamund Hodge books that I’ve read. Needless to say, I won’t be trying out any of her other releases.

Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

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

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

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

MY THOUGHTS

3 stars

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

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

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

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

Review: Windwitch by Susan Dennard

windwitchPublisher: Tor UK
Release date: January 10, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 382
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Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies…

After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.

When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?

After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

Windwitch is the sequel to Truthwitch, which means that this review may contain spoilers for the first book.

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

Windwitch was a fantastic sequel to Truthwitch. There was a lot of character development and I really enjoyed how much more we got to learn about the characters and the world. In this second installment, we follow the four main characters on their separate journeys. We have Safi who is now travelling with the Empress of Marstok, Vaness. Their ship is attacked and during their escape, they are captured by the scary Hell-bards. Prince Merik has also found himself the victim of an attack and after losing his ship and most of his crew, he roams his lands searching for the one who’s responsible for his disfigured face. Along the way he discovers a dark secret that could change everything. Iseult is on a mission to find her Threadsister, Safi, but runs into Aeduan, who has been tasked with the job of capturing Iseult. The two strike up a deal and end up travelling together but they both find out more about themselves and each other during their journey.

I loved everything that went down in this book but I did feel that it was a bit of a filler book. I didn’t really have a good idea of where the book was going and how everything fit together until close to the end of the novel. There isn’t a lot that actually happens besides a lot of walking around, escape and survival. It was definitely more of a character-driven book than a plot-driven book, and because of this, it took me a while to get through it because I was unsure of what was happening and where the series was going. The last 100 pages of the book, however, makes things a lot more clear and by the end of the novel, I could see a clear direction of where the series was going. I also didn’t really mind that it was a character-driven book because the characters were extremely interesting to me.

I highly enjoyed how much the characters developed in this book, and I loved seeing the relationships between them deepen. The dynamic between Safi and Vaness was a really interesting one and I enjoyed seeing the respect that grew between them. I also really enjoyed Safi’s interactions with the Hell-bards and how the group dynamic changed throughout the book. I enjoyed seeing the complexities of Merik and his sister, Vivia’s relationship. I really appreciated being able to follow Vivia’s perspective throughout Windwitch too because I thought she was a fantastic character and I’m glad that we got to see so much of her. But most of all, I enjoyed Aeduan and Iseult’s budding relationship that evolved from animosity to respect to companionship. I just ship them so hard! I can’t wait to see how all these relationships unfold in Bloodwitch.

Overall, I thought this was a really strong sequel, despite not being able to latch on to the plot. I highly enjoyed all of the characters and I’m really excited to see how everything plays out in the next installment.