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: Starflight by Melissa Landers

starflight Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release date: February 2, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 369
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Life in the outer realm is a lawless, dirty, hard existence, and Solara Brooks is hungry for it. Just out of the orphanage, she needs a fresh start in a place where nobody cares about the engine grease beneath her fingernails or the felony tattoos across her knuckles. She’s so desperate to reach the realm that she’s willing to indenture herself to Doran Spaulding, the rich and popular quarterback who made her life miserable all through high school, in exchange for passage aboard the spaceliner Zenith.

When a twist of fate lands them instead on the Banshee, a vessel of dubious repute, Doran learns he’s been framed on Earth for conspiracy. As he pursues a set of mysterious coordinates rumored to hold the key to clearing his name, he and Solara must get past their enmity to work together and evade those out for their arrest. Life on the Banshee may be tumultuous, but as Solara and Doran are forced to question everything they once believed about their world—and each other—the ship becomes home, and the eccentric crew family. But what Solara and Doran discover on the mysterious Planet X has the power to not only alter their lives, but the existence of everyone in the universe…

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

Starflight is a fast-paced and addictive YA sci-fi novel. I was hooked from the very beginning and devoured the book in two short sittings because there was so much action and hilarity. I highly enjoyed the plot and the characters, but the standout for me was definitely the romance!

In this story, we follow Solara, who’s a criminal desperate for a new start in the Outer Fringes of the universe. But in order to get there, she needs passage on a ship and her only option is to indenture herself to her high school enemy, Doran Spaulding, heir to the biggest fuel company in the universe. But things quickly go wrong and the two of them find themselves on board the Banshee, which is home to a crew of misfits with their own secrets. What I loved most about the plot of this book was that it was nothing like what I expected going into the book. I started the story with an idea of what was going to happen but it deviated pretty quickly from what I expected. I enjoyed all of the action in the book and it kind of had everything: from space pirates to accidental marriages to betrayals to unexpected surprises at the end. I loved it all. I also really loved that the book was really funny. There was a lot of banter between the characters and some of the things that happened were hilarious.

The characters themselves were great and while I wasn’t sure about some of them at the start, I grew to love all of them really quickly. The crew were a family and it was hard not to fall in love with all of them. My favourite character was definitely Doran. He was super cute and I loved his learning curve in the novel. He really developed from a bratty rich kid into a wonderful and loyal man. I also really enjoyed Solara throughout the book. She did annoy me a little at the start but it was impossible not to relate to her and fall in love with her character and personality. I also loved the crew members, especially the first mate, Renny. He’s a kleptomaniac and steals the most random things because he can’t help it. I thought he was so funny and I loved him to bits. And of course, I really enjoyed the Captain, who has a pet sugar bear that he pretends not to love but secretly does. I just loved them all.

She’d learned that home was a fluid thing, and whether on a planet, on a satellite, or on a rusted bucket of a ship, this crew was her home.

The romance in the book definitely had my attention from the start. One of my favourite romantic tropes is hate to love and this book executed it perfectly. The development from enemies to friends to lovers was perfect and I shipped Solara and Doran sooooo hard. I cannot wait for the sequel, Starfall, to come out so that I can see my two babies together again.

If you’re looking for an addictive space opera, look no further. Starflight is absolutely amazing and it’s honestly embarrassing that I’ve had it for so long and only just picked it up now. It’s a fast-paced and light read and perfect for anyone who just wants a bit of action and fun.

Review: This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills

this-adventure-ends Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Release date: October 4, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 320
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Sloane isn’t expecting to fall in with a group of friends when she moves from New York to Florida—especially not a group of friends so intense, so in love, so all-consuming. Yet that’s exactly what happens.

Sloane becomes closest to Vera, a social-media star who lights up any room, and Gabe, Vera’s twin brother and the most serious person Sloane’s ever met. When a beloved painting by the twins’ late mother goes missing, Sloane takes on the responsibility of tracking it down, a journey that takes her across state lines—and ever deeper into the twins’ lives.

Filled with intense and important friendships, a wonderful warts-and-all family, shiveringly good romantic developments, and sharp, witty dialogue, this story is about finding the people you never knew you needed.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

Oh my gosh, I loved this book. I really enjoyed Emma Mills’ debut novel, First and Then, but this one blew me away. It was more polished and sophisticated and I really enjoyed the story and its themes. It’s a great coming of age story and I loved the friendships in the book.

This is a story about different relationships and I loved the way that they were explored. At the forefront of the book is a story about friendship but romantic relationships and familial relationships are also interwoven into the narrative. Not only were these different relationships explored wonderfully, they were also extremely relatable and resonated with me throughout the reading experience. The story begins when our main character, Sloane, who has recently moved from New York to Florida, meets some new people at a party. She’s used to being alone and not having close friends but she quickly develops close bonds with these new friends and learns what it’s like to be dependable to them and depend on them too. I loved these coming of age aspects of the book and I connected with them because I’ve always been the same introverted and independent person trying to find the people who I belong with.

I absolutely loved ALL of the characters in this book. There wasn’t a single one that I didn’t like and I especially loved Sloane. She was funny and sarcastic and I highly enjoyed her voice. I related to her story and I appreciated her coming of age journey. I also loved her group of friends, Vera, Gabe, Aubrey and Remy. I thought they were all extremely realistic characters and their stories were also relatable and believable. The characters are also likeable from the  very first moment that you meet them, which is sometimes rare in YA, and I really appreciated that. I also absolutely fell in love with Sloane’s family. Her dad is a pretty major side character in the book and he was so funny and adorable, and I also really loved Sloane’s 9 year old sister, Laney. She was the sweetest! I also highly enjoyed the romance in this book. It was very low key and I appreciated that it didn’t take over the whole story.

“We should all find something to be weirdly passionate about, don’t you think?”

What I also loved in this book were the different arty hobbies. Sloane’s father is a writer who’s going through writer’s block and he’s rediscovering his love for writing through his obsession with fanfiction. There are a lot of fandom things in the book that readers can definitely identify with and I loved all the shipping that the characters were doing. I also enjoyed the art aspect of the story that ties in with the cover of the novel and I really loved the search that Sloane did for her friends’ painting, and how that brought her closer to some of the other characters.

There’s not a lot  that I didn’t love about This Adventure Ends. I loved the writing, the characters and the themes of the book. It’s a slow-paced book but the messages and the coming of age story is extremely beautiful.

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

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

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

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

MY THOUGHTS

3 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

heartless Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release date: November 8, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Aila @ One Way or an Author
Pages: 464
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Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

MY THOUGHTS

35 stars

The Lunar Chronicles is one of my favourite series of all time and I was extremely excited to read another retelling by Marissa Meyer. Sadly, Heartless fell way short of my expectations and I hate to say this… but I’m glad that it’s a standalone and that we can move on to bigger and better things.

Heartless is a villain origin story. It’s an Alice in Wonderland reimagining and we follow the Queen of Hearts from my childhood (or young adulthood) into her descent into evilness. Prior to being the Queen of Hearts, Cath was a girl who was not interested in being a society girl and marrying into a wealthy family. All she wanted to do was to open a bakery with her maid and best friend. However, without the approval from her parents and the resources to do so, she’s left with no choice but to enter into a courtship with the King of Hearts. But when she meets the court jester, Jest, they fall in love and begin a secret relationship…

My biggest problem with Heartless was the romance. I didn’t think that Cath and Jest had any chemistry together. I didn’t feel any passion or love between the two of them, which was a really big surprise to me because of how much I love all of the ships in The Lunar Chronicles. It didn’t feel like Marissa Meyer had taken the time to develop the relationship between Cath and Jest, and it just felt extremely forced. In terms of the characters themselves, I didn’t feel like Cath or Jest were particularly interesting characters. Besides Cath being a talented baker, there was nothing about her that stood our and her characterisation just fell flat. I felt similarly about Jest. I was expecting him to be quirky and interesting because he was the court jester but he came across to me as another typical male love interest. There just wasn’t much to the characters in this novel.

I didn’t think that the world building was strong. The world just felt like every other Alice in Wonderland-inspired novel that I’ve ever read. It wasn’t particularly original and there wasn’t a lot of time dedicated to developing it. I was honestly a bit underwhelmed by it. However, I did enjoy the plot of the book and how it fit into the world. I was a bit disappointed with the first half of the book because there was absolutely nothing happening and I found it extremely hard to get into the novel. But I did start to enjoy it more towards the middle of the story when there was a little bit more action. I loved the story of the Jabberwock and the role that it played in the book. That was perhaps my favourite aspect of the novel. The last section of the novel was interesting but I wasn’t the biggest fan of it. Knowing that Heartless was a villain origin story ruined the ending for me a little. I knew that Cath would start becoming evil and when she did, I found it to be a bit underwhelming. I thought that it happened too abruptly because one moment she was not evil, and the next she was. I also found the catalyst of the whole thing to be kind of predictable.

Overall, Heartless was not the book that I wanted it to be. It wasn’t exciting enough for me and I thought the characters, the romance and part of the plot were boring and disappointing. However, Marissa Meyer’s writing never disappoints so I still managed to enjoy it.

Blog Tour: Moon Chosen by P.C. Cast

moon-chosen Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Release date: October 25, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 600
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Mari is an Earth Walker, heir to the unique healing powers of her Clan; but she has cast her duties aside, until she is chosen by a special animal ally, altering her destiny forever. When a deadly attack tears her world apart, Mari reveals the strength of her powers and the forbidden secret of her dual nature as she embarks on a mission to save her people. It is not until Nik, the son of the leader from a rival, dominating clan strays across her path, that Mari experiences something she has never felt before…

Now, darkness is coming, and with it, a force, more terrible and destructive than the world has ever seen, leaving Mari to cast the shadows from the earth. By forming a tumultuous alliance with Nik, she must make herself ready. Ready to save her people. Ready to save herself and Nik. Ready to embrace her true destiny…and obliterate the forces that threaten to destroy them all.

MY THOUGHTS

35 stars

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

Welcome to my stop on the Moon Chosen blog tour! I will be sharing my thoughts and opinions on this first book in P.C. Cast’s new series. Moon Chosen isn’t really my typical read but I found it quite enjoyable to read. Even though it was a giant book with 600 pages, I read it all in just two days!

Moon Chosen follows our heroine, Mari. She belongs to a clan of Earth Walkers, where her mother is a Moon Woman, who is the most important person of the clan because of her healing abilities. Mari has inherited these abilities but has spent most of her life hiding in secrecy because her father belonged to a rival group. Unsure of what her identity means for her existence in her Earth Walker clan, she has never shown her true self. However, when her clan is attacked by the rival group and things start getting out of control, Mari learns the extent of her powers and begin to embrace who she is.

It’s a little bit difficult explaining the plot of this book because the novel is quite slow-paced and there isn’t really a lot of action. Most of the book is spent setting up the world and getting the reader comfortable with all of the different clans and customs of each clan. I did find the world to be very confusing at the start of the book. It took me over 100 pages to have everything sorted in my mind. There were a lot of characters introduced and I had a hard time putting everything together and figuring out how they all fit into the story. However, I got used to it pretty quickly after that and had no trouble following the story. I found the world to be quite interesting and not like many other worlds that I’ve read before (though admittedly, I am no expert in fantasy worlds). The world felt like a early history kind of world, with clans and tribes and lots of nature and biology. But what I found most interesting was that this was a post-apocalyptic world where all things man-made and technological had been wiped out. Whether it’s post-apocalyptic or not doesn’t really factor into the story but I just thought that that was unexpected and interesting.

While the plot and the story was slow-paced and dragged out, it didn’t bother me too much because the  characters were engaging and I couldn’t help but care about them. I was right with them throughout the book and I loved watching the friendships form and seeing how they interacted with each other. Mari was a character who I wasn’t a big fan of at the start but she grew on me throughout the book and I enjoyed her development into a slightly whiny girl into a caring and independent woman. I loved her kind personality and the lengths she goes to to help others who are not probably not so deserving of her help. I also loved her friendship with Sora, who also grew on me extremely quickly in the novel. I also really liked Nik, the male from Mari’s rival tribe. I wasn’t sure of his intentions at the start and was highly suspicious of him, but he proved to be a character who was also quite easy to love. But of course, one of my favourite characters was Jenna. Yes, simply because she shares my name.

Perhaps my favourite aspect of this novel was the concept of the Companions. Certain tribes in this book have animal allies that are bonded with tribe members. This bond is extremely strong and those who are bonded are tied together for life. If you love reading about animal companions, like Manchee in The Knife of Never Letting Go, you will love Moon Chosen because this series takes it to a whole new level.

Despite really enjoying most aspects of the book, there were a few things that I didn’t like so much. I was not a big fan of the dialogue in this book. At times, it felt very forced and I couldn’t really imagine people talking that way. There were also a lot of instances where characters spoke aloud to themselves and that just seemed a bit strange to me. I also had a bit of a problem with the pacing. While I didn’t mind that the book was very long, I did think that there wasn’t really a climax to this book, so it never really got intense and exciting for me. It just wasn’t as epic as I wanted it to be and I just wanted it to be paced a little bit better. But overall, I enjoyed the book and thought that it was a great read despite some of my problems with it.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

pccast PC was born in the Midwest, and grew up being shuttled back-and-forth between Illinois and Oklahoma, which is where she fell in love with Quarter Horses and mythology (at about the same time). After high school, she joined the United States Air Force and began public speaking and writing. After her tour in the USAF, she taught high school for 15 years before retiring to write full time. PC is a New York Times Best-Selling author and a member of the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame. Her novels have been awarded the prestigious: Oklahoma Book Award, YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Prism, Holt Medallion, Daphne du Maurier, Booksellers’ Best, and the Laurel Wreath. PC is an experienced teacher and talented speaker. Ms. Cast lives in Oregon near her fabulous daughter, her adorable pack of dogs, her crazy Maine Coon, and a bunch of horses.

Website || Goodreads || Twitter

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: Replica by Lauren Oliver

replica Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release date: October 6, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 520
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Lyra’s story begins in the Haven Institute, a building tucked away on a private island off the coast of Florida that from a distance looks serene and even beautiful. But up close the locked doors, military guards, and biohazard suits tell a different story. In truth, Haven is a clandestine research facility where thousands of replicas, or human models, are born, raised, and observed. When a surprise attack is launched on Haven, two of its young experimental subjects – Lyra, aka number 24, and the boy known only as 72 – manage to escape.

Gemma has been in and out of hospitals for as long as she can remember. A lonely teen, her life is circumscribed by home, school, and her best friend, April. But after she is nearly abducted by a stranger claiming to know her, Gemma starts to investigate her family’s past and discovers her father’s mysterious connection to the secretive Haven Institute. Hungry for answers, she travels to Florida, only to stumble upon two replicas and a completely new set of questions.

replica_covers

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

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

Replica is a sci-fi novel with a very interesting format. It is written from the perspectives of two different girls, Lyra and Gemma. You can read Lyra’s story first and then flip the book over and read Gemma’s story. You can do the opposite and read Gemma’s story first. You also have the option of reading alternating chapters of Lyra and Gemma’s story until their stories meet in the middle.

I personally read Replica in alternating chapters, starting with Lyra’s story and then ending with Gemma’s. I decided against reading one perspective after the other because I thought it would take away some of the suspense of the story because I’d already know important plot points from reading the first perspective in its entirety. Having now read the entire book, I would still choose to read it by alternating perspectives every chapter, but if you were to read one perspective at a time, I don’t think that there is too much overlap. One thing to note is that there is one extra chapter in Gemma’s perspective, so if you decided to read Replica in alternating chapters starting with Lyra’s perspective like I did, you’ll find yourself left with two Gemma chapters after Lyra’s story is over.

I really, really loved the concept of this story. I don’t read a whole lot of sci-fi but Replica falls into my favourite type of sci-fi. I enjoyed the concept of the Haven Institute, which is home to thousands of replicas or clones that are experimented with and observed. These replicas have extremely weak bodies and have never been outside of the Haven Institute. They’re born and bred at the Institute and spend their days undergoing cognitive testing and physical exams. They are completely uneducated and are unable to read. The only people they come in contact with are the doctors and nurses who work at the Institute, who constantly remind them that they’re different and are lesser than human beings. I loved the Haven Institute and all of the mystery surrounding it. Lyra’s perspective gave us some really good insight into the Institute and how the system of the replicas worked. I initially went into the book expecting the replicas to be like robots or androids but they were no different from humans. They displayed the same kinds of physical and mental illnesses and humans, including eating disorders and suicide ideation, which I found really intriguing and interesting. My only criticism of the Haven Institute is that I felt like the world needed a bit more development and that there were some things missing from the book. The novel spends a lot of time focusing on the origins and the purpose of the Haven Institute and I would have liked a bit more focus on the operations within the Institute. Having said that, Replica is the first novel in what I believe is a duology so I’m hoping these things will be addressed further in the sequel.

I loved both of the main characters in this novel but my personal favourite was Lyra. I thought her story was so interesting and unique and I really loved her voice. I enjoyed how Lyra had never really experienced the real world and how she handled learning about new things. I did however think that Gemma’s story was fleshed out a little bit more than Lyra’s (possibly because Gemma lives in our contemporary world that doesn’t need much development) and I would’ve liked to have seen a little bit more from Lyra’s perspective. I thought Lyra was sensitive, kind and intelligent and I connected with her character from the very beginning. I wasn’t enamoured by Gemma from the very start but she quickly grew on me. Her character and her worries were extremely relatable and I ended up loving her and wanting to read more about her story by the time I reached the end of the novel. Her perspective worked extremely well with Lyra’s and I thought together, the two stories came together in a very exhilarating manner.

What I really enjoyed about the plot and the two different perspectives was that they worked together seamlessly. There was a tiny bit of overlap in plot and dialogue but the two characters do spend a large amount of time apart, leading to separate and unique stories. There were an endless number of plot twists, some predictable and some not, and I was so captivated by the story and how everything fitted together that I didn’t want to put the book down. Another thing that kept me invested in the book were the romances, even though I did have some issues with them. I thought there was a lot of insta-love and every boy that appeared in the book seemed to be a potential love interest. Having said that, I thought they were super sweet and I enjoyed the roles that the boys played in the story.

Overall, I thought this was a very interesting read and the ending definitely left me wanting more. The writing was easy to read and I sped through the book. I’m excited to see what the sequel will bring and whether it will be in the same format as Replica.

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.