Sunday, November 27, 2016

Review: Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Firstly, thanks to Penguin Teen Australia for this review copy <3

Date Read: October 29 - 31 2016
Date Released: October 4 2016
Publisher: Penguin Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:

"Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed 'America's Fattest Teen'. But no one's taken the time to look past her weight to get to see who she really is. Since her mum's death, she's been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby's ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin too. Yes, he's got swagger, but he's also mastered the art of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a secret: he can't recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He's the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can't understand what's going on with the inner workings of his own brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don't get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game which lands them in group counseling, Libby and Jack are both angry, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world - theirs and yours."


Jennifer Niven has such a knack for writing engaging contemporaries. All the Bright Places is one of the most memorable books I’ve ever read - it’s so impactful and really stuck with me. Niven’s HUtU also struck a chord in me.

I really loved Libby’s character. Previously known as “American’s fattest teen” she returns to high school in a much better mental and physical state than she was previously in. I really admired Libby’s strength - she tries not to let people get to her and puts on a good front. Like any human being, some of the hurtful comments get through and affect her but she retaliates with brave acts to promote body image. I loved how opinionated she was and she wasn’t afraid to voice those opinions. She’s smart, resilient and overall just a character I really enjoyed reading.

I’m not sure how I feel about Jack. I thought it was interesting how his prosopagnosia was portrayed. I didn’t always feel like he didn’t recognise the person, but as someone who has no idea how the condition works I can’t vouch for the accuracy of its portrayal. His character lacked a bit of dimension in my opinion. While he was always trying to please people or giving off a eat-shit-I-don’t-care attitude - which is understandable given his need to cover up his inability to recognise people - he came off as not really having an opinion or unwilling to defend his beliefs. To me that’s a weakness of character which meant I didn’t warm to Jack as much as I would have liked to.

The plot was kind of a typical contemporary where our two characters navigate their way through high school with challenges from each other and those around them. There’s cute dancing, family troubles, high school bullying (why do people need to be so horrible to others just so they can make themselves feel better? Ugh) and of course romance.

The romance was cute but I do not believe love is a cure for diseases. Love is a wonderful thing, it can make people happy, it can chemically release hormones to make one feel things. But I don’t think it’s a cure. And that’s where Holding Up the Universe fell flat for me. High school love was used as a cure and it made what could have been a lovely book about appreciating one’s self, into a story I scoffed at.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book. Niven is a skilled writer; her style is engaging and I flew through the past-faced story. I liked the diversity and Libby’s strength in standing up to horrible people who have nothing better to do than pick on others to make themselves feel better.

I think books like this drive home how society degrades women and we can never just BE. We’re either too fat or too skinny or too tall or too short or too something (I think Niven mentions this through Libby in the book, I can’t remember). Believe it or not, I was bullied in high school for being too skinny. I was constantly being asked if I was bulimic or anorexic or just blatantly called “ano”. I’d have my mum write notes to excuse me from swimming carnivals because of the horrible stares and comments I’d get whenever I wore a swimming costume. Anyway, this isn’t about me looking for pity/sympathy. It’s my way of telling you that you’re perfect the way you are and screw society. I’ve learnt to accept myself.

Despite the books use of romance to make everything seem better (which it doesn’t), Holding Up the Universe is an important read reminding ourselves that no matter what society says, you are wanted and loved. You be you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Blog Tour Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Firstly, thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for this blog tour opportunity and this review copy <3

Date Read: September 21 - October 9 2016
Date Released: November 8 2016
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Fantasy/Re-telling
My Rating:
Buy Links: Booktopia | A&R Bookworld

"Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, the infamous Queen of Hearts, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favourite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King's marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness and monsters, fate has other plans."


While I enjoyed The Lunar Chronicles I thought the series faltered at times, especially with regards to the world building. Heartless though? Wow, what an original and gorgeous re-telling. With all the Alice in Wonderland re-tellings out there, I thought Meyer took an original angle with a re-telling of the Queen of Hearts and how she became the way she is (in the Alice in Wonderland stories).

I immediately warmed to our protagonist, Cath (Catherine), who, as the daughter of a Marquis, just wanted to bake. I could definitely tell she was a sheltered, aristocratic teen though with her wishful thinking and naiveté. I think Meyer kept her true to character but at times this also really frustrated me. Cath thought she wanted something so badly, but the thought of disappointing her parents or giving up her title would have her shrinking back in fear. Like girl make up your damn mind, do you want this or not? Her indecisive goes on for much of the book and at times I liked her, at times I wanted to shake some sense into her. But the ending? Oh holy wow. Her descent into madness is fascinating, heartbreaking and written so well. I could understand perfectly how she ended up practically mad!

I freaking adored Jest. He was mysterious, charming, handsome, funny and such a gentleman at the same time. I loved his wit and the way he challenged everything. Everything about him was perfect for me and the fact that he was such a gentleman, not pushing Cash when he was so obviously into her, it made me swoon!

One of my favourite parts about Heartless was the romance. Made my heart speed up y’all. It was slow burn, although I do admit a little too slow and I wished things progressed faster, BUT the feels my gosh the feels were so intense. The heart wants what it wants and when these two were together I could feel the chemistry coming off the pages. The way Jest challenged Cath, the attraction, the way neither of them would openly reveal their feelings. ANGSTY.

In terms of the plot though, it definitely moved too slowly for me. This was my gripe with the book. It took me ages to read because nothing seemed to happen or if it had, the progress was a slow crawl. There was a sort of mystery involved which drove the plot but at times I didn’t care for it. While I believe the inclusion of a lot of mundane things were to help build the world that was Wonderland and that a lot of unnecessary things happened in this ‘mad’ world, it didn’t help the story for me.

On the note of world-building though, it was definitely fantastic. Such detail and descriptions! My gustatory and olfactory senses were through the roof as a result of the intense imagery. Cath’s baking creations were described in epic detail to the point where I was practically drooling all over my pages (this was especially prominent at 3am when I was mega hungry). Tarts, pies, cakes, macarons, wow the girl is a born pastry chef. Then the descriptions of Wonderland – literally anything could happen I didn’t know which way was right or up or down and when magic came into play. Meyer made the possibilities endless and there seemed to be no boundaries to the world which was fitting in this context. It is definitely similar (and at times the same) to the original Alice in Wonderland with respects to the creatures but I felt there was that original Meyer touch too.

Heartless is a wonderful take on the Alice in Wonderland re-telling with a twist. A swoony, angsty romance with lots of delicious baked goods and a witty, handsome love interest made Heartless a lovely read. Meyer’s writing is gorgeous and how pray tell, does Cath become the Queen of Hearts? Well you must read and find out!


Check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour