Review: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

the-hating-game

Publisher: Piatkus
Release date: August 9, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 363
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NEMESIS (n)

1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome
2) A person’s undoing
3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She prides herself on being loved by everyone at work – except for imposing, impeccably attired Joshua Templeman.

Trapped in a shared office, they’ve become entrenched in an addictive, never-ending game of one-upmanship. There’s the Staring Game, The Mirror Game, The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything – especially when a huge promotion is on offer.

If Lucy wins, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign. So why is she questioning herself? Maybe she doesn’t hate him. And just maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game . . .

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

I have no words for how incredibly adorable and sweet this book was. It was exactly the kind of story that I needed to read after having a rough time these past few days. It definitely brightened up my day, put a huge smile on my face and melted my heart.

The Hating Game is an office romance with two of the most endearing characters. Ever since Lucy and Joshua’s respective publishing houses merged, they have shared an office working as executive assistants for the two co-CEOs. And they absolutely hate each other. They love engaging in different ‘games’ and trying to beat out the other person. When the position of chief operating officer is up for grabs, Lucy is determined not to let Joshua beat her. If she loses, she’ll resign and she makes Joshua promise the same thing. But in the days leading up to the interview and promotion decision, she finds that she doesn’t really hate Joshua as much as she thought she did. And he doesn’t seem to hate her as much as she thought either.

One of my favourite romance tropes in fiction is the hate-to-love trope and The Hating Game executes it perfectly. I could feel the tension between the two characters throughout the book, including a whole heap of unresolved sexual tension (HAHAHA). Their banter was fantastic and the way that they tried to one-up each other was absolutely perfect. The way that their romance unfolded was very realistic to me and I really enjoyed the way that it was developed very gradually. I thought the slow-burning romance suited the characters and the story brilliantly and added to the ‘will they or won’t they?’ aspect of the book. It kept me interested and I devoured this novel!

Lucy was a fantastic narrator. I loved her voice so much and I could never be tired of reading about her. She’s such a relatable character and I found myself connecting to her from the very first page. She’s quirky, she’s fun and she’s bite-sized, which makes for some wonderful banter between her and Josh about her height. Josh was also an amazing character. He was grumpy and broody and exactly the kind of guy I like to read about. Even though he was a bit prickly, he was also sensitive and romantic and I swooned hard, guys. I swooned hard.

This is a feel-good book that I can see myself rereading over and over when I need a pick-me-up. It’s a fantastic debut novel and I’m definitely looking forward to reading more by Sally Thorne.

Review: The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

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Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens
Release date: September 6, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 704
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The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius as war looms on the horizon. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t.

With her heart sworn to the warrior-prince by her side, and her fealty pledged to the people she is determined to save, Aelin will delve into the depths of her power to protect those she loves. But as monsters emerge from the horrors of the past, and dark forces become poised to claim her world, the only chance for salvation will lie in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

In this breathtaking fifth installment of the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series, Aelin will have to choose what – and who – to sacrifice if she’s to keep the world of Erilea from breaking apart.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

Empire of Storms is the fifth book in the Throne of Glass series, which means that this review may contain spoilers for the first four books.

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

I loooooved this fifth installment of this series but I didn’t love it more than Queen of Shadows and Heir of Fire. While there were lots and lots of elements and plot points that I highly enjoyed, I had a few minor issues. But they were so minor that I could probably overlook them.

The plot of this book was great and I thought it followed on nicely from the ending of Queen of Shadows. However, at times, I felt that the plot lacked logical flow and transitions. There were things that kind of happened out of the blue and I think that’s a little bit inexcusable for a book that’s 700 pages. Having said that, while it did make me slightly confused at times, it didn’t really bother me and I loved where we went in this story and how the book ended as well. It fit in really well with the overarching story arc of the series and I’m super excited to see where the finale takes us and how it’ll end.

This book follows a couple of different perspectives and character journeys and I enjoyed all of them. We follow the stories of not only Aelin and her court but also Manon’s story, Elide’s journey to finding Aelin and Lorcan’s own personal quest to find the Wyrdkeys. I loved finding out more about Elide and Lorcan because they were intriguing characters that we didn’t really get to see a lot of in previous installments. Those two characters really, really grew on me throughout the novel and I love them so much! I also highly enjoyed Manon’s story arc. I loved her in previous books but now I think she might be my favourite character of the series. Her journey throughout the book was heartwrenching but worked so perfectly with plot of the series. What I think was slightly missing in this book was Chaol’s story. I’m not the biggest Chaol fan but he wasn’t in this novel at all and I did find myself wondering what he was up to. I can understand why his story wasn’t included in this book since it was already filled with lots of juicy action but I think fans of Chaol will really be disappointed by the lack of Chaol in Empire of Storms.

All of the characters were fantastic in this novel. I had problems with the characters in A Court of Mist and Fury but I was definitely not disappointed by Empire of Storms. I do have to say though that some of the side characters overtook Aelin as my favourite. I thought the complexity of Manon and Elide’s characters in this fifth book were much more appealing and interesting to me than Aelin. She just felt a little bit less feisty and funny than in previous books. We saw a much more serious and responsible side of her in this novel, which worked well with the plot and makes complete sense. I just found her to be slightly less interesting to me than some of the other females in this book. In terms of the other characters, I continued to love Rowan in this novel. But I felt that his character was also slightly different to who he had been in the past. He was also a bit more subdued and at times came across as a bit weak and needy, as opposed to the big, bad Fae warrior he was in Heir of Fire. These are all very minor criticisms though because I love the cast of characters in this series and the things they make me feel.

All you really need to know about Empire of Storms is that it is absolutely amazing. Fans of Chaol might have a bit of a problem with the lack of Chaol in the novel but you definitely cannot deny that this is a wonderful installment with a clear story arc. I can’t wait to find out how it all ends and I’m so sad that it’ll be another year before I find out.

Empire of Storms was published by Bloomsbury on September 6, 2016 and is now available at Australian retailers for $17.99.

Review: Saving Jazz by Kate McCaffrey

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Publisher: Fremantle Press
Release date: August, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 297
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Jasmine Lovely has it all – the looks, the grades, the friends. But when a house party spins out of control, Jazz discovers what can happen when your mistakes go viral …

We know our kids are at risk of becoming victims of cyberbullying. But do we know how at risk they are of becoming perpetrators? This controversial new novel tackles cyberbullying from a whole new perspective.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

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

Saving Jazz is a new Aussie YA novel that tackles some of the most prevalent issues in modern day society. It explores cyberbullying, rape culture, victim blaming and the way people treat each other, especially through social media. This is a really important read, especially with the ever increasing cases of sexual assault in society today, as well as objectification of women on the internet. I was reminded of the disgusting piece of news that broke a few weeks ago in Australia about a website that men and high school boys use to exchange inappropriate pictures of high school girls that they’ve stalked and taken photos of without consent. I’m glad that this book tackles issues like these and makes it relevant to the technologically advanced society today.

The book begins with the scheme of a mother trying to rescue her daughter who has just attempted suicide. The rest of the novel is then written as a series of blog posts by Jazz, the protagonist of the book. She introduces her blog and herself by describing herself as a rapist and soon it becomes clear that she’s had something to do with the attempted suicide of the girl from the first chapter. The first half of the book has a wonderfully intriguing plot, as we try to find out what happened during the night that has since been called Greenheadgate. I enjoyed this mystery aspect of the book and found myself really immersed in the story as I tried to discover what Jazz meant by ‘rape’ and how it occurred. This first half of the book was simultaneously intriguing and disturbing at the same time. The way that these teenagers treated each other and treated themselves was quite upsetting for me. The boys in the book didn’t really see girls as anything except something that was there for their enjoyment. And the girls were equally horrible to each other. They said very vicious things about each other and didn’t really consider that these were people they were talking about. It was quite distressing to read about.

However, as important as I think this book and its message is, I had a couple of things that I didn’t really like. I found it to be a little bit problematic that the girls and victims in this novel saw cyberbullying as something that will just blow over and doesn’t need to be addressed. And in a lot of cases this might be true, but this book has a focus on cyberbullying through the posting and sharing of and commenting on nude/inappropriate pictures. I thought it was slightly problematic that these girls were not concerned about their privacy being violated as much as they were angry about being talked about. This was particularly true of the events that occurred during the night of Greenheadgate. The victim was raped and had her body violated while she was unconscious and she didn’t really seem to care about that. She doesn’t report it and seems to think that all is fine if other people don’t know about it.  I just had a bit of a problem with this aspect of the book.

I really enjoyed the blog post format of the book because it gave Jazz a very distinct voice but I felt like there wasn’t a clear timeline. There were no dates or time stamps included and it was sometimes hard for me to grasp when things had taken place. It wasn’t too much of a problem but there were parts that felt draggy and parts that just skipped over things quickly. It just made the transitions a bit awkward. I also thought that the last 100 pages of the novel dragged on and on forever. The mystery of what occurred on the night of the rape was revealed in the first half of the book and the rest is about how Jazz deals with the aftermath. Because of this, it felt like the climax and resolution of the story was towards the middle of the novel and the remainder of it just seemed unnecessarily long. There were one too many issues explored towards the end of the book and it just felt never-ending.

This was due in part to the fact that I don’t think Jazz’s character really developed all that much. While we do see her guilt and her remorse, and how the events of that one night has changed her life, I thought overall her character development was pretty stagnant. She’s given the easy way out, in my opinion. She’s sent away by her parents as part of her punishment but things start going uphill for her as a result of not being in that high school environment. She finds romantic love and familial love from her aunt and uncle who she’s staying with. She studies through distance education at home and gets a job that she likes. It all came across to me as Jazz getting her happily ever after as a result of her punishment, and not really because she grew a lot as a person.

I definitely enjoyed the first half of the novel a lot more than the second half but overall, despite some problems that I had with the plot, I thought this was a book with really important messages that are very relevant to the world today.

Review: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

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Publisher: Titan Books
Release date: February 23, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 508
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Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.

In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

This is the second book in Shades of Magic trilogy, which means that this review contains spoilers for the first book. Proceed with caution. I also received a sampler of A Gathering of Shadows from NetGalley.

A Gathering of Shadows is the sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic, and being a chronic non-blurb-reader, I was kind of surprised by the direction that this sequel took. I thought that I had an idea of where the series was going to go after the first book and, while I do feel that this was a good continuation from ADSOM, it felt like this book was taking a bit of a detour. It felt very much like a filler book and I’m not sure that it added all that much to the trilogy. Having said that, I did really like what I read and enjoyed the plot of the story very much.

A Gathering of Shadows is very much about the aftermath of A Darker Shade of Magic and how Kell and Lila are living their separate lives. It’s also about their reunion and about a competition between magicians. Meanwhile, in the background, something dark and sinister is happening, which could cause the collapse of Red London. I loved the pacing of this book. It was extremely slow-paced but I thought that the pacing really suited the atmosphere of the book and what the plot was trying to achieve. There wasn’t really much happening in the first 300 pages of the book but I enjoyed slowly seeing how Kell and Lila are coping with what happened during A Darker Shade of Magic. There was a lot of character development built into this book and I thought it was done very successfully.

I enjoyed every single character in this book. They all served a purpose and I thought that they were all extremely complex and well-developed characters. They were multifaceted and I really enjoyed not knowing exactly what to expect from them. One of my favourite characters of this book was Alucard Emery. His character just gave me so much joy because he reminded me of beloved characters from other books. I also loved the old characters who we’d met in the first book. Kell was a magnificent character as always and I enjoyed Lila as well. I still haven’t managed to warm fully to Lila and I’m still having a hard time seeing why people love her so much but she’s definitely growing on me.

Overall, this was a great sequel, even though it felt a bit like a filler book in the story arc. I can’t wait to revisit these characters in A Conjuring of Light!

Review: The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

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

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

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog Tour & Mini Review: The Boundless Sublime by Lili Wilkinson

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Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Release date: July 27, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 352
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Ruby Jane Galbraith is empty. Her family has been torn apart and it’s all her fault.

The only thing that makes sense to her is Fox – a gentle new friend who is wise, soulful and clever, yet oddly naive about the ways of the world. He understands what she’s going through and he offers her a chance to feel peace. Fox belongs to a group called the Institute of the Boundless Sublime – and Ruby can’t stay away from him. So she is also drawn in to what she too late discovers is a terrifying secretive community that is far from the ideal world she expected.

Can Ruby find the courage to escape? Is there any way she can save Fox too? And is there ever really an escape from the far-reaching influence of the Institute of the Sublime?

A gripping YA novel about an ordinary girl who is unsuspectingly inducted into a secretive modern-day cult.

Welcome to my stop on The Boundless Sublime blog tour! I’ll be giving some brief thoughts on the book before letting the author of The Boundless Sublime, Lili Wilkinson, talk about her struggles with coming up with title names and how The Boundless Sublime got its title.

REVIEW

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

The Boundless Sublime is a thrilling and dark exploration of modern day cults and what it means to be part of one.

Ruby has had a rough 6 months. Her younger brother was killed in a car accident and she feels like it’s all her fault. Her family has been torn apart and Ruby and her mother are tiptoeing around each other and pretending that everything is okay, even though her mother is too depressed to get out of bed and Ruby has been partying every night in order to forget. But when she meets the mysterious and alluring Fox one day, she becomes enamoured and falls quickly in love with him and his ideologies. When he takes her home to meet his ‘family’, she’s intrigued by their lifestyle and decides to join them. And that’s when things get a bit dark and dangerous.

I’ve always been intrigued by cults but have always been kind of too terrified of them to find out more. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t do well with thrillers and mystery novels so you can imagine what I’d be like if I ever did research on cults. But I felt like The Boundless Sublime gave some really good insight on how all-consuming it can be and how wonderful it would feel to be around people who believe in the same things that you do. Also, what this novel does really well is convey the feelings of belonging that might not be possible in the ‘real world’, outside of a cult. I could understand Ruby’s wanting to be part of The Institute of the Boundless Sublime because she feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere else in the world. But it was quite scary how quickly things escalated and how quickly a person can become drawn into all the dark and scary things that are going on without knowing it.

I did have a little bit of a rough time with the characters though. I didn’t find them to be realistic and I had to really suspend my disbelief a lot of the time. It got better in the second half of the book but I definitely found it hard to connect with Ruby and with most of the characters in the book. I did like Fox a lot but he was a bit of a Manic Pixie Dream Boy and that was a little bit off-putting to me. Ruby falls in love with him at first sight and this insta-love made it hard for me to enjoy Fox as a character. Having said that, there was much less focus on the romance and on Fox in the second half of the book and I enjoyed it a lot more at that point.

LILI WILKINSON ON WRITING CHALLENGES AND BOOK TITLES

The Boundless Sublime is much, much darker than the books I’ve written before. I expected that would be a challenge, but actually I loved writing dark. I’d just had a baby when I was writing the first draft, and days with babies are so full of forced cheer – you’re trying to be upbeat and positive when you are often exhausted and overwhelmed. It was such a relief for me, when Banjo went down for a nap, to pull out my laptop and pour all my withheld darkness out into the story.

The biggest challenge for me in writing The Boundless Sublime, was getting the title right. Titles are THE ACTUAL WORST and I don’t think I’ve ever written a book where the title came easily – usually the title changes three or four times, and I often have to change the content of the book itself to fit the final title.

I knew the title of the book would be the name of the cult, and I nearly went crazy trying to find the right one. Here are a few that I tried on for size and then rejected:

Panacea
The Divine Quintessence
The Flowers of Antimony
The True Family
Sanctify
The Ministry of Truth
The Atomic Family
The Children of Zosimon
The Congregation
The Conjunction
Eternal Prime
ALUM

After much discussion with my wonderfully patient editors, we settled on The Institute of the Boundless Sublime for the cult name. The characters in the book refer to it as “The Institute”, which I really like because it reflects the kind of pseudoscience often found in cults and new religious movements.

The title really needs the cover to work – on its own it could sound like a romance, or a dreamy coming-of-age story. But the contrast between the positivity of “The Boundless Sublime” and the darkness of the cover really works magic – warns the reader that something that seems perfect and beautiful on the outside can often be rotten to the core on the inside. Big props to Astred Hicks at Design Cherry for her fabulous cover design.

Let’s Talk About Sects webseries about Lili’s cult research: http://www.liliwilkinson.com.au/lets-talk-about-sects/

More information about The Boundless Sublime: https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/childrens/young-adult-fiction/The-Boundless-Sublime-Lili-Wilkinson-9781760113360

The Boundless Sublime by Lili Wilkinson is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $19.99, available now at all Australian retailers.

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Review: London Belongs to Us by Sarra Manning

london-belongs-to-us

Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release date: July 27, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 272
Goodreads || Book Depository || Booktopia

One girl, 2 boys and a whole lot of hipsters in one crazy 12 hour adventure through the streets of London. Twelve hours, two boys, one girl… and a whole lot of hairspray.

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

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

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

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

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

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

sarra-manning

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

nevernight

Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release date: July 25, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 496
Goodreads || Book Depository

Destined to destroy empires Mia Covere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.

Six years later, the child raised in the shadows takes her first steps towards keeping the promise she made on the day that she lost everything.

But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, so if she is to have her revenge, Mia must become a weapon without equal. She must prove herself against the deadliest of friends and enemies, and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and demons at the heart of a murder cult.

The Red Church is no Hogwarts, but Mia is no ordinary student. The shadows loves her. And they drink her fear.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

I attended the launch of Nevernight in Sydney last week, where we were able to get finished copies of the book two weeks before release and have them signed by Jay Kristoff himself. It was a super fun event and I had loads of fun with other Sydney bloggers and fans.

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Nevernight is a dark fantasy about an assassin who attends The Red Church, a school that breeds assassins, in order to become skilled enough to take down the men who ruined her family six years ago. Along the way, she meets friends and foes and the path to revenge isn’t as easy as Mia thought.

I absolutely loved this book and it exceeded all of my expectations! I had heard so much pre-release hype and I was a little wary going into it since I’m more of a contemporary fan but I adored it and devoured it in a few sittings. It was dark and gruesome but so completely engaging and exciting and I couldn’t put it down. I did have some problems getting into the book at the start. The narration took me a few chapters to get used to and I found myself constantly having to reread sentences in the first few chapters. But once I got used to it, it was wonderful. The narrator has a very distinct voice and really enjoyed reading from his perspective (I’m assuming it’s a ‘he’). The other thing that made it hard for me to get into the book were the footnotes. There were lots and lots of footnotes for the first quarter of the book and they really took me out of the story and I felt like there wasn’t much flow to the book because of that. I tried ignoring the footnotes and read the story as it was but the footnotes contained some crucial information that I didn’t feel comfortable missing. Thankfully, there were far fewer footnotes in the second half of the novel and I was really able to just enjoy the story and the characters.

I was a big fan of the world in this book. It had an Ancient Rome-inspired fantasy setting and I thought the world building was brilliantly done. My only negative is that some of the world building is achieved through the footnotes and, like I mentioned above, they didn’t really work for me. Having said that, I got a really good sense of the culture, customs and religions of the world and thought it was nicely conceptualised. I also loved The Red Church and thought it was such a fun (errrrr… well brutally fun?) and interesting place. It had a really magical feel to it and the library in the school was magnificent!

“Your mind will serve you better than any trinket under the suns,” she’d said. “It is a weapon, Mia. And like any weapon, you need to practice to be any good at wielding it.”

Mia is one of my new favourite YA characters. She’s not afraid to do what it takes to get what she wants but she also displays a softer and more sensitive side. Even though she’s ruthless and has murder on her mind, she cares deeply for those around her and has a good sense of morality. Her decisions and thought processes were logical and I never once felt that she was overly dramatic or did things that were unrealistic. I absolutely loved her and I really cannot wait to read more about her and see her grow further. I also highly enjoyed some of the side characters, particularly Tric, who becomes somewhat of a love interest. I fell in love with Tric from the very beginning and my love for him only grew as the book progressed *clutches chest*. There were also other great characters at The Red Church but I won’t mention them by name because this post would last forever if I did. Just know that all of the characters were complex and multifaceted and I didn’t find any of them to be boring.

Overall, I loved Nevernight and thought it was a wonderful start to a new trilogy. The book isn’t even technically out yet but I cannot wait to get my hands on book 2!!!