Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Reading Quest Sign-Up and TBR


I haven't posted in a loooooong time as I've sort of quit blogging but in a rush decision today I've decicided to participate in #TheReadingQuest hosted by Read at Midnight.

Hopefully, this read-a-thon will motivate me to read more as I want to complete the minimum 5 books for my character class!


I've decided to take the path of the Mage~



Main Questline:
  • A Book With a One Word Title: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
  • A Book That Contains Magic: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows
  • A Book Based on Mythology: The Savage Dawn (The Girl at Midnight #3) by Melissa Grey
  • A Book Set in a Different World: Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird #2) by Claudia Gray
  • The First Book of a Series: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares (Dash & Lily #1) by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan



Side Quests:

  • Expansion: Daimon by Jennifer L. Armentrout
  • Mini-Game: Paper Girls volume 3
  • Potions: You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan


  

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Review: If Birds Fly Back by Carlie Sorosiak

Firstly, thanks to Pan Macmillan for this review copy <3



Date Read: July 15 - 19 2017
Date Released: July 1st 2017
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:

Synopsis:
"Linny has been living life in black and white since her sister Grace ran away, and she's scared that Grace might never come back. When Linny witnesses the return to Miami of a cult movie star long presumed dead, she is certain it's a sign. Surely Álvaro Herrera, of all people, can tell her why people come back - and how to bring her sister home?

Sebastian has come to Miami seeking his father, a man whose name he's only just learned. An aspiring astrophysicist, he can tell Linny how many galaxies there are, how much plutonium weighs and how likely she is to be struck by a meteorite. But none of the theories he knows are enough to answer his own questions about why his father abandoned him, and why it left him in pieces.

As Sebastian and Linny converge around the mystery of Álvaro's disappearance - and return - their planets start to collide. Linny's life is about to become technicolor, but finding the answers to her questions might mean losing everything that matters."

---

If Birds Fly Back is one of those lovely contemporaries that warm your heart and move you with its deeper meaning.

Linny is still grieving over her sister leaving 5 months prior. With nothing but a note, her sister disappeared into the night leaving Linny behind. She feels completely lost without her sister as she believes she lived in her sister’s shadow. When a missing author/movie star suddenly reappears, she thinks that by spending time with him she can understand the reasons why he left and came back, and that this can in turn lead her to Grace. She thinks she’s wandering along listlessly through the book but she’s actually learning to be herself and realising what she wants. I liked her strength of character, the way she spoke her mind even though she considered herself shy. Sorosiak showed Linny’s love for film and photography through the way she perceived the world and noticed the small details in her surroundings.

Sebastian on the otherhand has been wondering his whole life where his father is. When he suddenly finds out said father is alive he literally jumps at the chance to meet him and ask him why he abandoned Sebastian and his mum. But his dad isn’t what Sebastian hoped for and the more time he spends with him, the more confused he is and more questions are raised. I guess Sebastian’s growth was his aim for his closure but I feel he didn’t grow as much as Linny. I wasn’t really sure about his love for astrophysics, other than being told this fact and he was going to Cal Tech to study it. He had more of an obsession with a particular book rather than astrophysics overall in my opinion.

I really liked the different secondary characters. Cass especially interested me. At first I thought she was the beautiful but mean girl who was using Linny to make herself look better. As I kept reading though I understood there was so much more to her. Then there’s Alvaro whose cryptic phrases added to Linny and Sebastian’s already many questions. I also really enjoyed Linny’s interactions with her parents, who she forgets are also victims in the whole Grace missing situation.

The romance is cute and the attraction is definitely there. I felt like Sebastian was attracted more to Linny especially in the beginning. Honestly though I can’t say I cared too much about romance as I was there more for their individual journeys.

The plot is quite interesting as they try to figure out where Alvaro’s been for the past 3 years. But it was quite obvious to me after a few chapters in what had happened to him. I can’t say it was anything profound for me but for the characters I guess it was a shock. While the plot was different, I didn’t feel like If Birds Fly Back astounded me as a lot of contemporaries out these days have deeper meaning plots too. I would have liked Linny’s chapter heading bits to actually relate to the chapter. The writing is well developed though and I couldn’t tell this was Sorosiak’s YA debut.

I think I might sound harsher than I intended in this review. I want to point out that I actually really enjoyed If Birds Fly Back, but I’ve been in a massive reading slump and almost nothing has impressed me lately haha. Great writing and interesting characters made for a lovely summer read about understanding why people leave.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Firstly, thanks to Date a Book (Hachette Australia) for this review copy <3



Date Read: June 8 - 24 2017
Date Released: May 30th 2017
Publisher: Hodder
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:

Side note: This review has been a long time coming but I’ve been in a massive reading slump and by proxy, reviewing slump since coming back from Europe. I got really sick – I haven’t had such a debilitating cold in 10 years – and then work/life got in the way. BUT HERE IT IS.

Synopsis:
"The arranged-marriage YA romcom you didn't know you wanted or needed...

Meet Dimple.
Her main aim in life is to escape her traditional parents, get to university and begin her plan for tech world domination.

Meet Rishi.
He's rich, good-looking and a hopeless romantic. His parents think Dimple is the perfect match for him, but she's got other plans...

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways."

---

When Dimple Met Rishi was so adorable I was fully set on recreating the cover for an Instagram post - me holding my Starbucks Green Tea Frappuccino (because I don’t drink coffee), biting my straw and grinning… but then Starbucks stuffed up my order (why does it always happen at this one Starbucks? Why do I never learn?) and I gave up. Anyway my point is, I loved this book so much I thought it was worth the effort had Starbucks not gotten my order wrong.

I was showing one of my Indian colleagues WDMR to help me translate some of the phrases and she said all the Dimples she knew had very happy/bubbly personalities. I can’t say that’s the same for this particular Dimple though. If I had one word to describe her, it would be FIERCE. I could relate to this girl so much – she’s a feminist but at the same time she cannot deny her culture which has conservative traditions. I loved how she felt conflicted because she wanted to uphold those values and make her parents happy, while still putting her ambitions and career first. She is driven, dedicated but also a great friend. During her 6 weeks at Insomnia Con, she’s on a journey to self-actualisation with the people around her and it was so endearing to watch her grow.

Rishi couldn’t be more of an opposite to Dimple if he tried. And yet they were also very similar. While Dimple tried to put her career progression over her parents’ traditional wants for her, Rishi embraced everything culturally. But they are both wonderful friends who stick up for others, loving children who want to please their parents, and all round great people who I honestly wish I knew in real life. Rishi, the hopeless romantic that he is, warmed my heart. I wanted to give him a big hug and tell him to step back and slow down. He seems to have everything sorted out, or does he? I loved that Rishi wasn’t there as just the love interest, he’s got his own story and things to figure out himself. Can I just say I would LOVE to see his art work?

The romance ermagherd. So so SO cute. I loved the way it started, with Dimple throwing her coffee at Rishi. I adore romances that start off with either party (or both) hating the other. Then watching them get to know each other, grow accustomed to one another, find out that hey, they actually like some of their qualities. The outings they planned with each other were so thoughtful (RISHI U R TRU MVP), like let me find a guy like that in real life. Not gonna lie, the romance was quite full on I was like HEY FRIENDS MAYBE HIT PAUSE YOU’RE- ok well if you must, carry on LMAO because I shipped it so hard. But y’all know it’s never quite that simple and remember they’re both only at this con for 6 weeks so…???

The plot doesn’t lose focus which I think Menon deserves extra brownie points for. There’s a lot going on with the romance, the side stories with friendships and family. I loved Celia and Ashish, and the way they juxtaposed Dimple and Rishi. At the heart of it all is Dimple’s purpose at Insomnia Con: to develop an app that will win the con and allow her to meet her programming idol. Dimple will do anything to win, and Menon has her step out of her comfort zone which really added to my belief in Dimple’s dedication. I want to add that I’m so appreciative of Menon for making the ‘bitchy/bad person’ the guys. In so many books I feel like women are demonised, labelled the ‘bitch’ but here the females all kind of stick up for each other. In my own personal experience, when guys want to be horrible/gossipy they’re a million times worse than girls – the stuff they say is more malicious and hurtful. So yeah, GIRL POWER.

Menon’s writing is fun and engaging, her characters multifaceted and the kind of real people you know in real life. She gives the whole San Francisco setting a little extra oomph by introducing us non-SF noobs to Karl. YES, APPARENTLY SAN FRANCISO PEOPLE HAVE NAMED THEIR FOG. I can vouch for this because I asked my SF friend and he said it’s an attraction. He then proceeded to show me a time lapse and Karl looks like this sea and it’s cool and also kind of creepy. This really gives the whole book the tech-vibe because ya know SF, Silicon Valley?



I hear Menon’s next book is called From Twinkle, With Love? Gimme!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3) by Sarah J. Maas

Firstly, thanks to Bloomsbury Australia for this review copy <3

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Date Read: May 1 - 8 2017
Date Released: May 2nd 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: High Fantasy
My Rating:

Warning: this review contains spoilers for the first 2 books (but NOT ACOWAR)


Synopsis:
"Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin's maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places."

---

It’s no secret I’m SJM trash and waiting for the finale of the ACOTAR trilogy has been one of the most torturous waits of book releases for me. While I didn’t love ACOWAR as much as my all time fav, ACOMAF, I still loved ACOWAR’s story so much and thought it a fitting end to this arc.

Feyre has gone through so much and she’s got one last hurdle to get over with her return to the Spring Court. I really liked her strategizing and manipulation to get her revenge in the court. I would have liked her exercising her High Lady status and powers a bit more rather than hiding them or seeking other people’s approval. I mean yes I understand she’s fresh but by the end she should have been telling people what her decisions were and trusting that they’d support her in them rather than being secretive about her actions. This happened a lot. I also had issues with her decisions too. There was this one point in the book where I knew Maas was trying to make Feyre seem humane but it was the wrong bloody situation. I was like NO. LEAVE THEM. But nope, overly kind Feyre has to do this and NEARLY GETS ONE OF MY FAV PEOPLE KILLED. NO THAT IS NOT OKAY. It’s not worth it. Choose your battles lady. Your goal is to win the war.

I didn’t think it was possible to fall in love with the Inner Circle anymore. But I did. MY PRECIOUS SMOL CHILDREN. Especially Azriel and Cassian. They are so compassionate and strong and I want to give them all hugs. I loved Cassian’s humour and the little moments when we’d catch Azriel making a joke or slightly smiling at something. I can see them as two besties – the mischief maker and the quiet broody one – in real life who I could be friends with. Cranky Amren was as hilarious as always. I mean she’s meant to come off as scary but I can’t take her seriously when’s snapping at people. I love these guys so much. As for Feyre’s sisters, I still don’t get Nesta’s hate for Feyre. Like why? It pissed me off to no end how Feyre just gives and gives and Nesta takes it all but not for one moment does she seem grateful. Nesta’s great as a character – she’s strong and unflinching but the familial stuff was terrible.

Rhysand. *Sparkly eyes* Such perfection. I love this guy. I’m in love with this man. I’ll admit Rhys didn’t wow me the way he did in ACOMAF when we first found out about him, but he’s still awesome here. Lovely, charming, let’s Feyre do her own thing, funny, ruthless when he needs to be. I could properly see how he chose his battles, fitting for a 500 year old High Lord. He’s good at what he does and he knows it. Makes me weak at the knees hurhur.

I loved the exploration of the other courts. In typical SJM fashion, she paints her world vividly, with gorgeous colours and descriptions. The red and golden toned hues of the Autumn Court with its seemingly sentient forest. The chilling Winter Court, forever frozen in a white glaze. And then there’s the Dawn Court *sighs in wonder* I’m a sucker for the concept of castles in the sky. The fantasy element, the way it’s ethereal, majestic and so Final Fantasy-esque really draws me in. The palette of the Dawn Court, the food, the plush décor and silks makes me so darn happy. I was honoured to be welcomed into Thesan’s home.

Now let’s talk about the problematic aspects of this book. I felt like diversity was being forced down my throat for the sake of quelling the cries of the community. I’m fine with the High Lords of each court being coloured as SJM did mention their colouring in ACOTAR. But then there’s the LGBTQI+ representation that I thought wasn’t done right. So many LGB couples suddenly popping up? At one point it’s mentioned that the mating bond is whatever higher power determining that a male and a female would breed strong children but then at another point there’s same sex couples apparently having the mating bond? Is that a plot hole or did I miss something I don’t know. (It’s not even about the passing of the High Lord title since we see the Summer title being passed to other family members.) She tried but eehhh…

Nevertheless, the story is engaging and the brewing war instills a fear wrought from knowing the terrors that Hybern can inflict. The battle tactics are cleverly thought out and Hybern is really a force to be reckoned with, not just their numbers and the dark lengths they’ll go to, but for their millennia of existence and experience. War is painted in a realistically haunting and exhausting light. There is no glory in it and I’m grateful that it’s not romanticized for a fantasy.

A Court of Wings and Ruin is a fitting end to Feyre’s arc of the story. Maas has taken us across Prythian and beyond, and introduced us to many characters that I can’t wait to meet in the future.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Blog Tour Review: Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Firstly, thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for this review copy <3

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Date Read: April 17 - 21 2017
Date Released: May 1st 2017
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:

Synopsis:
"When BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know it’s going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever.
Charlie likes to stand out. SupaCon is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star, Reese Ryan. When Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

While Charlie dodges questions about her personal life, Taylor starts asking questions about her own.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe."

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With a diverse cast and great representation, Queens of Geek is a heartwarming Aussie YA that speaks to the fangirl/boy in all of us.

I found it so refreshing the way Wilde told the story through two different perspectives – Charlie and Taylor who are best friends but have basically opposite personality traits. Charlie presents the con from a celebrity POV. A famous YouTuber turned movie star she’s quite outgoing and very sure of herself. I like that she didn’t let the fame get to her and she was so nice to all her fans. On the inside though, Charlie’s still struggling through a breakup that really tore her up. Her feelings are a mess and it’s clear her ex was manipulating her. I liked her journey to self-actualisation throughout the book, coming to terms with who she is, accepting herself after her messed up relationship made her doubt herself and really understanding what she wants. In the other perspective we have introvert Taylor who suffers from anxiety. Through Taylor we can relate to the long lines and waiting to meet our idols. Her apprehension at being in such a large crowd, the thrill and adrenaline of being with likeminded people – I lived it. Then there was her anxiety which Wilde wrote so well – the sudden overwhelming emotions, the panic out of nowhere. For Taylor, the con was about stepping out of her comfort zone to go for what she really wanted.

The two main secondary characters – Jamie and Alyssa – were great. Jamie’s a bit of a geek and I liked that he didn’t trying his suppress his fanboying. Bonding with Taylor over a favourite book series, he’s a genuinely nice guy but not perfect. Then there’s Alyssa, a really famous YouTuber who is honestly such a sweetheart. I adored her kind and cheerful demeanour. Just like Charlie, she didn’t let the fame get to her and she was so appreciative of her fans, knowing she wouldn’t be where she is without them.

I guess the romance is where this book faltered slightly for me. There’s two love stories going on at the same time here. One is really slow burn which I love; there’s lots of flirting disguised as friendly banter. The tension is cute and I just wanted them to get together. On the other hand, the other romance was insta-love to me. I loved each person individually, and I definitely wanted them to get together but it was just a bit too quick for my liking. Everything was happening in leaps and bounds, from the first meeting to flirting and touching and feelings and I was like wow ok slow down it’s been 3 days.

Plot wise, the story is set in the con and centres around Charlie and Taylor making their way through the weekend at SupaCon (San Diego Comic Con anybody?) discovering themselves. Wilde’s writing is fresh and easy to read, I was drawn into the story immediately. My favourite aspect of this book is that it’s not only Aussie YA, but it’s so diverse. Taylor has anxiety, Charlie is Australian Chinese and bisexual. Like omg can it get any more perfect? For ONCE a Chinese MC that’s ‘normal’. She doesn’t have a Chinese name as her English name, she’s not going to uni to be an accountant or doctor or lawyer – none of the stereotypical Chinese stuff I’m so sick of when authors attempt diversity. If Wilde didn’t mention Charlie’s Chinese I wouldn’t have known and I could relate because I’m Australian born Chinese. I have an Anglicised name, I like Chinese food but that’s not all I eat, I really suck at maths. To be properly represented is an amazing feeling. I’m not bi so I can’t speak for the rep but it felt real reading it, and I’ve heard this was done right from various bi friends. From what I read, Jamie and Alyssa aren’t white either – based on Jamie’s last name he sounds Latino/Filo and Alyssa is black? It’s just wonderful having a non- full white cast but everybody bonds over their fandom.

Queens of Geek is a fun, refreshing read filled with all things geeky that you’d find at a convention. The diversity representation is wonderful and heartwarming.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Review: Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Firstly, thanks to Quirk Books for this review copy <3

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Date Read: March 23 - 30 2017
Date Released: April 4th 2017
Publisher: Quirk Books
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:

Synopsis:
"Cinderella goes to the con in this fandom-fueled twist on the classic fairy tale.
Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom. Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise."

---

When I heard about Geekerella I knew it was the book for me. Fandoms? Conventions? Cosplays? Oh my god this was my high school and uni years.

Our modern Cinderella is Danielle (Elle), a regular high school teen who seems odd to outsiders but seems familiar to those of us who are dedicated fans of anything. Elle is an extremely passionate Starfield fan, having grown up with the intergalactic TV series and it’s what connected her parents. She knows every episode off by heart and is faithful to the show’s original cast and story. Elle also writes fanfic and keeps a dedicated blog of her thoughts on the show, this is a true fan girl right here (doesn’t that sound familiar?). Can someone be annoyingly selfless? Because I found Elle to be selfless to the point of spineless and never sticking up for herself. Whatever people wanted, she did their bidding no complaints. I was screaming GIRL SAY NO COME ON but nope she let people walk over her, bully her, taking it all in stride. Just once I wanted her to be like the Princess Amara or Prince Carmindor she adored, the way they took the initiative to act rather than sit back and let their enemies defeat them. There’s a lot of development required for Elle, she’s got to learn to go for things.

Prince Charming comes in the form of hottie teen heartthrob Darien Freeman who’s been cast in the role of Prince Carmindor and I loved his character so much. There’s the juxtaposition of what he does from his point of view, such as requesting someone to take him off a signing schedule, to how the act is actually perceived – he comes off as pretentious and self-entitled. The poor guy only wants a break from the media and paparazzi, to take a breather, but everybody is breathing down his neck. I thought Poston did a great job of portraying how difficult it must be to be a teen celebrity, especially one controlled by others and trying to please everyone. It’s a different side to the glamorous lifestyle, lacking freedom and making things like going to the vending machine to buy something, an extremely hard thing to achieve. I liked his own journey of trying his best to do the role of Carmindor justice because for him it’s personal – he’s a Starfield fan too. Along the way he learns what he really wants out of life.

I found the modern twist Poston put on the characters to be really fun and creative. There’s the typical evil stepmother and stepsisters but the stepsisters are YouTube beauty vloggers who are materialistic. I also liked that there’s more to the stepsisters than meets the eye. Then we’ve got the ‘fairy godmother’ who is just so fitting… and the very literal pumpkin. I had a right laugh when I got to that part. The characters represented their original fairy tale monikers but held their own as Poston’s creation. Also props to Poston to the natural way diversity was incorporated.

The romance is sweet and develops in the back-and-forth of text messages which I found really cute. I thought it was fitting given how the story has social media/technology driven vibes. The conversation has this prince and princess theme in the form of Carmindor and Amara. It’s here the two are able to voice their truths and find a reprieve from their everyday problems. At the same time, the method of communication presents the issue of safety because two strangers texting each other never having met… it’s almost like online dating? You really don’t know who’s on the other end. Both Elle and Darien voice this concern which is good and they don’t ever really talk about meeting – which is like BUT YOU MUST from the perspective of the reader. There are swoony moments, angsty moments and just how does a text message manage to slay me? Don’t you feel it’s easier to talk to someone and say what you really want to say via text/IM?

The plot being centred around a fandom and cosplay is just ughh *hugs this book* it gave me all the fuzzy feelings. It took me back to a time when I used to write (horrible) fanfiction, and spend my nights reading HP fanfic. I was transported to the world of cons and cosplay (I actually went back to my photos of Animania, ah the nostalgia). This was a world that spoke to me and I got it. I got the difficulty of Elle getting her Starfield cosplay correct, to the buttons and crown (there was this one time I wanted to cosplay Organization XIII from Kingdom Hearts and making the robe is HARD, I didn’t go through with it). There’s the whole online community, everybody different in real life but united by their fandom, it’s so supportive and fun. Watching Elle navigate her fandom world as she raced against the clock to get her costume together was so exhilarating.

Basically, I adored Geekerella and I thought Poston did an amazing job turning a much loved classic into a relatable modern fairy tale of fandoms, love and friendship. Never underestimate the power of a fandom y’all.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Review: Waking Gods (Themis Files #2) by Sylvain Neuvel

Firstly, thanks to Random House for this review copy <3

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Date Read: March 16 - 20 2017
Date Released: April 4th 2017
Publisher: Del Rey
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating:

Warning: this reviews contains major spoilers for book 1 Sleeping Giants


Synopsis:
"As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.

Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars."

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Last chance - if you haven't read Sleeping Giants DO NOT PROCEED.

Sleeping Giants was one of my favourite books of 2016, it absolutely blew my mind with the concept and Neuvel’s immersive writing style. I’d never read such wonderful plot twists… until Waking Gods that is. Waking Gods surprised me at every turn and was even more impactful than book 1.

The book opens 9 years after the events of Sleeping Giants, with a new robot having appeared out of thin air in the middle of London. Everybody is in a tizzie because what could this mean and what do they do, when do they bring Themis in?

Since coming back to life at the end of Sleeping Giants, Rose has been struggling with who she is for the past 9 years. The 4 years she spent working on discovering Themis are not a part of her, and while she’s still a brilliant scientist she questions the ‘Rose’ during those 4 years which she can’t remember. I can’t blame her for continuing to question her existence – I mean who wouldn’t be if they were brought back to life? Sleeping Giants Rose approached the discovery of Themis with a positive energy and fervour that made Themis her life. The Rose after is much more hesitant. She is no less brilliant but she’s now seeing things in a much more cautious and negative light. Everybody basically tells her to harden the eff up but it takes her the course of the book to develop and come to terms with who she is.

Kara and Vincent have gotten a lot closer since book 1 and I love their dynamic. I never would have pictured them becoming a couple when they were first introduced but oh how far things have come. Kara is still kind of reckless but hilarious with her witty comebacks, and Vincent is still a genius but I could totally see that they’re in love. Vincent especially has a smaller ego and is always considerate of Kara and it’s so damn sweet. Their life as a couple is also their work and I admired their ability to maintain such a strong relationship despite their differences. Their banter was fun and delightful as always and showed how well they got along.

The unnamed man who I think of as the mastermind behind all of this is still pulling strings and manipulating people throughout the story, however I feel like he’s grown softer. I really admired the way Neuvel did this character’s voice. He elicits such reactions from people with his calm and blunt comments and I could always ALWAYS tell when it was him speaking. There’s something so penetrating about the structure of his words and sentences that cannot be misinterpreted. It’s jarring to the receiver, and to those who aren’t used to him it’s kind of hilarious the way they get angry. Then you’ve got Rose and Vincent who answer normally while Kara responds with her usual wit because they’re so used to him. Neuvel has really done a fantastic job with this unique and recognisable voice through both books. He’s managed to give the character growth in his subtle and infrequent shows of emotion with the way he protects those he’s come to care about.

As with the first book there’s a lot of science and I’m no scientist but I could tell Neuvel had really done his research. The science is in-depth yet Neuvel is also able to explain it in layman terms, presenting these in interview style as a scientist talking to a pleb like me, ahem, I mean non-scientist. There’s more maths, more chemistry and metallurgy, and heaps of biology with talk of DNA and evolution. It was fascinating and planted a lot of seeds in my brain with the direction this story was going. Neuvel’s writing style is easy-going, flowing well and immersive – I couldn’t stop turning the pages!

The plot though, my goodness! Alien robots that are posing to be a threat to mankind seems standard but there’s so many plot twists and mind-fuck moments. There’s punch you in the feels moments too that left me in denial (I’m STILL in denial damn it) and an ending to end all endings with a whopping cliffhanger.

To say Waking Gods is one of the most breathtaking and thought provoking books I’ve ever read in my lifetime is an understatement. It messed with my brain and my heart. Thank goodness there’s a book 3 – I made sure to check with Neuvel and he’s confirmed it’s in the works!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Review: Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1) by Laini Taylor

Firstly, thanks to Hachette Australia for this review copy <3

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Date Read: February 11 - 26 2017
Date Released: March 28th 2017
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating:

Synopsis:
"The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around - and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he's been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries - including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo's dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

In this sweeping and breathtaking new novel by National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor, author of the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, the shadow of the past is as real as the ghosts who haunt the citadel of murdered gods. Fall into a mythical world of dread and wonder, moths and nightmares, love and carnage."

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In typical Laini fashion, Strange the Dreamer made my heart ache with its lyrical writing and phenomenal plot.

The story is told in third person from two main perspectives, our dreamer Lazlo Strange and our girl Sarai. Though they may seem different on the outside, on the inside they’re both idealists.

I really loved Lazlo’s gentle and dreamy perspective. There aren’t many guys like that in the books I’ve read so I appreciate a genuinely nice guy who’s shy, kind and thoughtful. He’s always got his head stuck in a book, and fairytales and fantasies at that. I found him perceptive in his own way, noticing the little things that only someone who stands on the sidelines can see. All his hours reading books pay off though and his knowledge may not be in alchemy, but myths and fairytales stem from some truth. People underestimate him because he’s kind, considerate and quiet. But screw them because this is a guy who sees beyond and thinks outside the box – here’s a dreamer that’s the hope for a lost city. Lazlo is just the sweetest guy and you can’t help but immediately root for him.

The story then breaks to the perspective of a girl in a citadel and I was sort of like nooooo I want more Lazlo. Of course, then I instantly fell in love with Sarai and her life up there. Her character and person is so beautiful. She’s so conflicted because while she is meant to hate her supposed enemies, her gift has allowed her to see what her people have done to them and she can’t help but understand their hate. She can’t help but feel compassion towards them as she battles her need to hate what they did to her people. Sarai is so kind and sweet with a strong moral compass – I really want to be her friend!

Each of the secondary characters have their own story and I was especially fascinated by the few others in the citadel with Sarai, and the citizens of Weep who Lazlo became familiar with. The Godslayer and Azareen have their own back story which I can’t wait to see more of. There’s also Minya who creeps the hell out of me, she’s this little girl but she’s not and I’m like omg this one is scary.

When Lazlo and Sarai meet there’s this lovely purity to it. Here are two people who have suffered in their own ways but are filled with light. It’s the stuff of dreams (literally), with endless possibilities and anything can happen. Including the growing hope of a possible harmony between two races that have caused carnage and done unspeakable things to each other. There’s something so epic about these two and every moment they have together is hard won and precious. I loved the innocence to the way these two interacted. They’re both kind of naïve in the way of romance but there’s no denying their connection – they share the same ideals, always giving others the benefit of the doubt and treating them with kindness. Lazlo and Sarai shone so brightly for me and yet I felt like they were standing on a precipice and everything could fall.

The mystery of Weep immediately drew me in and I can tell Taylor barely scraped off the top layer in terms of revelations in this book. There’s so much going on what with supposed gods (Godslayer had to slay something godly right?), floating citadels, metals with unknown composition and lost memories. While it’s a completely different world, I couldn’t help but draw similarities with the DoSaB trilogy in terms of themes and characterization. For fear of spoilers I won’t say anymore about the plot, only that it twists and turns and punches you in the feels. Not once but multiple times. I came out of this with a bruised yet hopeful heart.

While I found Strange the Dreamer to be slow in pace, I can’t deny Laini’s writing is as gorgeous as always. Her style just keeps you wanting more. Her way with words is stunning. Everything is altogether more bright and glowing, the world around us vivid and vibrant. Everything is also more devastating, the bloodshed more tragic, the strength of each emotion multiplied tenfold. Your eyes take in the writing, your brain processes the words and it’s a jolt to each neuron as your heart feels like it’s exploding.

Laini Taylor has cemented as a master of fantasy, a queen with words and uniquely epic tales filled with hope and lovely characters. I can’t wait for Muse of Nightmares!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Review: The Song Rising (The Bone Season #3) by Samantha Shannon

Firstly, thanks to Bloomsbury Australia for this review copy <3

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Date Read: March 4 - March 15 2017
Date Released: March 7th 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating:

Synopsis:
"Following a bloody battle against foes on every side, Paige Mahoney has risen to the dangerous position of Underqueen, ruling over London's criminal population.

But, having turned her back on Jaxon Hall and with vengeful enemies still at large, the task of stabilising the fractured underworld has never seemed so challenging.

Little does Paige know that her reign may be cut short by the introduction of Senshield, a deadly technology that spells doom for the clairvoyant community and the world as they know it…"

---

With each book in The Bone Season series, the world somehow keeps on expanding and I have to remind myself there’s seven books in all. Let’s be honest, I’ve fallen so far into Scion I’m probably never going to make it back out of this intricate and devastating world.

The Song Rising opens with Paige hitting the ground running as Underqueen and it’s daunting how much discord her reign starts with. Everybody is divided on her right to rule and her betrayal of Jaxon in the Rose Ring. If The Song Rising had an alternative title it would be Everybody is Out to Get Paige! They either hate her and want her dethroned, or they’re afraid of her and want to kill her for her powers. Or all of the above, take your pick! Paige faces a massive challenge with the need to prove she’s ruthless enough to be Underqueen, while balancing her internal desire to be considerate and kind. As someone accustomed to being in the thick of things and doing the dirty work, it’s a real lesson for Paige in learning to pick her battles. Her journey and growth isn’t easy and I have to keep reminding myself Shannon has to pace the growth across the books. I think Shannon did a good job of giving Paige just the right amount to develop and leaving lots of room for improvement in character.

There are so many great secondary characters in this series but the real standouts were of course Nick and Eliza, Paige’s mollishers. These two have stuck with her through thick and thin and I loved the unquestionable trust they have. Shannon peels back the layers of these characters and we get a glimpse of what betraying Jaxon meant to them. We see the consequences of this – their sacrifices and their wants, overridden by their need for the greater good. We finally see glimpses of the human villains and masterminds behind Scion; it’s hard to picture these people as human because they cause such tragedy on a large scale but at the end of the day they are definitely mortal. And then you got to wonder how such evil and callousness exists in the world… oh wait *looks at reality* nevermind.

In typical Bone Season fashion, the romance continues to be slow burn and the tension is wonderful and UGHHHHHH it also makes me want to rip my hair out ‘cause JUST GET TOGETHER ALREADY. On the other hand, it makes the stolen moments all the more precious and the angst and feels are delicious.

The plot though. Wow the plot. The world keeps expanding and the web reaches farther than I thought possible. Scion’s corruption is deep and I think the Rephaite have their own hidden agenda (what’s with their world?!) that Shannon’s going to slowly reveal throughout the series and it’s going to be mind-blowing. In The Song Rising we see life outside of Scion London and the effect Scion has had on the rest of the UK. It’s a sorry sight, everything leeched of life, perpetual poverty everywhere people turn. The streets seem layered with scum and nobody walks around carefree. Shannon really has a way with words and her imagery is always on point, to the point where you read about filth and you sort of spew a little in your mouth. Oops sorry TMI? She’s that good!

What a ride guys, what a ride. I get the chills thinking of what book 4 will bring because it’s like a whole new world of unknowns, but excited for all the possibilities and the havoc Paige will wreak. I get a little more scared for Paige with each book as her powers become more coveted and Scion is increasingly more far reaching and dangerous. It’s a thrilling and fast-paced world, there’s no safe place, no surrender.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Review: This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills

Firstly, thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for this review copy <3

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Date Read: February 26 - March 4 2017
Date Released: March 1st 2017
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:
Synopsis:
"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."

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That feel when you find a gem of a contemporary. With a gorgeous cover (dust jacket AND naked cover), This Adventure Ends is beautiful inside and out. Emma Mills was already on my radar since I adored her debut First & Then, so when I heard she was releasing another contemporary (blessed with gorgeous covers Mills is) I was so excited. Safe to say this is one of my favourite contemporaries of all time and Mills is now auto-buy.

One of the first things Sloane does upon her arrival in Florida is to stick up for a guy (Gabe) at a party. As a result, she befriends said guy’s twin sister and is immediately part of their friendship group. Said twin sister Vera is actually a social media sensation no big deal, Sloane doesn’t lose her head over it (she doesn’t use even use social media). That’s the way things are with Sloane – she’s mega chill, casual and extremely witty. I loved her comebacks, her wisdom and her independence. She’s immensely loyal despite giving off the vibe she doesn’t need friends. That’s one of her many flaws and I really liked the way she got hurt and contemplative when people called her out on her shit – because nobody had done that before. Sloane’s growth throughout the book via her interactions with these friends is touching and wonderful.

Vera really stood out to me in this book. She’s a gorgeous social media sensation, posting selfies on Instagram and similar platforms but she doesn’t let it get to her head. She’s this humble ball of energy that makes everybody around her feel like they have all her attention (they do). She’s sweet, sensitive and a great friend overall. The other relationship that resonated with me was between Sloane and her dad. Everett Finch is kind of like Nicholas Sparks in that he writes tragic yet hopeful romances. Her dad’s in a writing slump but holy crap he is HILARIOUS. When he finds out about fandoms online he gets totally obsessed with this teen werewolf show (basically Teen Wolf), bingeing the series, reading all the fanfic… and starts writing fanfic of his own. He gets totally immersed in the world, learning terms like ‘canon’ and ‘AU’ (I mean I never even knew what this meant but thanks to Sloane’s dad I do now) as well as ‘ship’. His obsession with the world draws in Sloane, Vera, Gabe and their friends Randy and Aubrey. It was so interesting seeing a TV show connect different generations. The book also explores Sloane’s bilateral interactions with the other characters and their own problems, giving each character dimension and making them unique and memorable. Because while Sloane imparts wisdom, her friends also give a lot back that make her think twice about who she is.

Romance is slow burn and cute and kind of not really there. If you want to talk ship it’s kind of still docked at the harbour, bobbing in its spot, but waiting to set sail if you ask me! Sorry was that lame? Sorry not sorry. Gabe is this broody, quiet guy who’s more aware of things going on around him than he lets on. He’s the total opposite of his sister and I really think he just needed a hug most of the time.
Underpinning the progression of the book and Sloane’s developing relationship with the characters, is her quest to find a priceless painting left by Vera and Gabe’s mum before she died. It was accidentally sold and Sloane has made it her personal mission to try and get it back for the twins. It was a real rollercoaster ride every time it looked like Sloane had a lead only to get to a dead end. While I didn’t find the quest to really expand on her relationship too much with the other characters, I believe it was part of her personal growth in understanding her drive towards why she wanted to get this painting back so badly.


Mills’ writing is engaging, fun and her dialogue gives unique voices to each character. I laughed a LOT and I also got teary a couple of times throughout the book. The characters were all wonderful, the plot seemingly light, yet layered in a way that I could gently peel them back and find the deeper meaning at its core. This Adventure Ends is honestly one of the loveliest, most thought provoking books I’ve read in a while and I can’t wait to see where Mills will take me next. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Review: Traitor to the Throne (Rebel of the Sands #2) by Alwyn Hamilton

Firstly, thanks to Faber & Faber for this review copy <3

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Date Read: February 1 - 11 2017
Date Released: February 2nd 2017
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating:

Synopsis:
"This is not about blood or love. This is about treason.

Nearly a year has passed since Amani and the rebels won their epic battle at Fahali. Amani has come into both her powers and her reputation as the Blue-Eyed Bandit, and the Rebel Prince's message has spread across the desert - and some might say out of control. But when a surprise encounter turns into a brutal kidnapping, Amani finds herself betrayed in the cruellest manner possible.

Stripped of her powers and her identity, and torn from the man she loves, Amani must return to her desert-girl's instinct for survival. For the Sultan's palace is a dangerous one, and the harem is a viper's nest of suspicion, fear and intrigue. Just the right place for a spy to thrive... But spying is a dangerous game, and when ghosts from Amani's past emerge to haunt her, she begins to wonder if she can trust her own treacherous heart."

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While I enjoyed Rebel of the Sands last year, I wouldn’t say I loved it and I had my problems with it. That being said, I was still eager to see where Amani’s journey, and that of the rebellion, would go to next. I’m happy to say I really enjoyed Traitor to the Throne and found it fun and thrilling.

Amani is a character whose perspective I’ve always enjoyed reading from. She’s able to think quickly on her feet – at times too quickly, acting before she thinks but that’s what makes her such a fun character. Nobody is without their flaws though and I’d rather someone who acts than stands still. Amani’s wit is also something I adored. She’s snarky and her comebacks are blunt and accurate. I could relate to this so much because this is the type of person I am. I really admired her capacity to care. She was constantly thinking of everyone, giving everybody the benefit of the doubt, thinking of ways to help others while she herself was in peril. That’s one amazing strength of character right there. Oh don’t get me wrong she used people to her advantage but to me, her overarching kindness outweighed that. Amani is definitely somebody you want as a friend.

This series has a lot of secondary characters but my favourite was the Sultan. The infamous Sultan, so hated and talked about in the previous book, the whole point of the rebellion. He was not what I (or Amani) expected. Kidnapped into the harem, Amani meets the Sultan and it turns out he’s not crazy and pure cruelty. You know what makes scary tyrants? Not the unreasonable ones, but the ones who are able to take your argument and your beliefs and spin them with their reason so you end up seeing their point of view. You almost believe that what they’ve done is justifiable because of their rationale. That’s what makes a leader to be concerned about – their cunning and smarts. The Sultan is definitely a clever man and I loved the way Hamilton crafted his character. Another character I adored was Shazad, daughter of the general and she is so freaking brilliant. She’s just so supportive and smart and the strength of her friendship is goals.

Romance isn’t everything; I mean heck I liked that this book concentrated on Amani’s ability to be independent as she survives in the harem but Jin’s absent for the majority of the book and I felt it. I’m kind of disappointed because I lived for this ship in Rebel and I wanted moar MOAR MOOOARRRRRR. I was a bit mad at Jin for his constant disappearing acts too, like boy, get your act together and be more responsible. I know it’s a lot to ask for but I’m praying for a happily ever after.

Hamilton’s style is easy to read and I could tell she’s definitely improved since Rebel. She’s more detailed and there’s more imagery in Traitor however I still felt the lack of world-building which was my issue with book 1. It’s definitely a lighter touch than what I’d expect from a high fantasy.

The plot is very twisty and had me gasping and I loved the politics and games in the harem. There were a lot of secrets and conspiracies which were all slowly revealed. I did have issues with the pacing though. This book is over 500 pages and this probably won’t make sense but while I turned the pages quickly and got through this quite quickly, I felt the story itself was slow? I felt the pacing was off and everything happened in the last 70 or so pages. But those fast few chapters, they were like BAM BAM BAM and the ending had me shook. For ages I thought this was a duology so when I got to the end my feelings nearly died because I was like no way is that the end. THANK GOODNESS THERE’S ANOTHER BOOK. That’s all I have to say.

Overall I found Traitor to the Throne to be an enjoyable and relatively fast read. A witty MC who is fast on her feet, Amani takes the rebellion to the next stage with action and politics and I can’t wait to see the final showdown.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Review: This Beats Perfect by Rebecca Denton

Firstly, thanks to Hachette Australia for this review copy <3

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Date Read: January 29 - February 1 2017
Date Released: February 2nd 2017
Publisher: Atom Books
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:

Synopsis:
"Amelie Ayres has impeccable taste in music. Bowie. Bush. Bob. So when she finds herself backstage at The Keep’s only UK gig she expects to hate it; after all they are world’s most tragic band. In fact she feels a grudging respect – not (obviously) for their music, but for the work that goes in to making them megastars. And when lead singer, ‘Maxx’, is not dressed up as a cross between Elvis and a My Little Pony, he is actually rather normal, talented and has creative struggles not too dissimilar to her own.

But the next morning she wakes up rolls over and discovers a million new @’s on social media. Overnight a photo of her backstage has made her a subject of global speculation. Suddenly the world needs to know #Who’sThatGirl? – but for all the wrong reasons.

All Amelie wants is to play her music. She’s got the guitar, the songs, the soul and, in the safety of her bedroom, she’s got the voice. But when it comes to getting up on stage, she struggles with self-doubt.

Immaculate’s a concept. Flawless is fake. But just sometimes music – and hearts – can rock a perfect beat."

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It’s been a while since I’ve read such a fun book but This Beats Perfect is up there with some of my favourite contemporaries. Swoony, light hearted and sweet, Denton has put together the perfect contemporary.

It all starts when Amelie goes backstage to see her dad who’s the sound engineer for a boyband concert that Amelie actually has no interest in. Nek minnit she’s Twitter famous because one of the boyband members has @’d her.

I love a relatable MC and Amelie is one flawed, yet real teenager. She felt like a 17 year old girl to me, not too immature but not wise beyond her years. Her worries are those of the present, of making it through high school – oh the innocence of teenage years haha. She’s sweet but also fiery, I liked the way she got slightly intimidated in front of famous people (I mean who doesn’t?!) but at the same time she could still hold her own. The poor girl has really bad stage fright (not uncommon I mean I liken performance stage fright to lpublic speaking, which is the 2nd biggest fear in the world) and she’s trying to get over it so she can finally perform her music. I admired her persistence because she tries and fails and fails again and it’s a long and slow journey to the end where I swear I was praying she could do it. She doesn’t exactly have the best support – her dad is busy in the music industry but doesn’t always make time for her, I found her mum selfish, and while her best friend is wonderful, I got the feeling she didn’t get Amelie. But the growth is slow and real - I grew to really love Amelie and cheer her on.

The range of secondary characters were all interesting and I liked that they were relevant to the story and Amelie’s journey. Her parents love her and have a good relationship but they’re both lost in their own worlds, in their dreams and she sort of gets left behind. It was interesting to see a dynamic where the parent doesn’t always put their child first. Don’t get me wrong, I could see them try, but their lives would always get in the way and Amelie would sort of stand back and let it happen. There are the friends she meets working with her dad who give her tips and support her who I found really nice and fun. Her best friend though I thought was the typical best friend trope – gorgeous and doesn’t know it, outgoing, is kind of perfect – and it kind of annoyed me. On the bright side said best friend is a great person so that’s a plus.

In comes Maxx from The Keep whose broody on stage demeanour actually goes deeper. He’s struggling with his place in the band, with what he really wants and questioning how he even got there and what he’s doing with his life. I like the tentative initial connection Max and Amelie have that slowly grows as they see more of each other. I found that Amelie was able to impart more advice on Max than vice versa, but Max helped boost Amelie’s confidence. The romance is slow burn and sweet but totally swoony. Not gonna lie, if a hot guy from a boyband took an interest in me I’d be swooning too, especially when he’s being legit! Buuuuut of course it’s not that easy (when is it ever?) and there’s misunderstandings and obstacles along the way. A girl can dream though right?

As contemporaries go, the plot is Amelie’s journey from the moment she’s in the spotlight, dealing with fame she doesn’t want (I liked seeing that aspect - the scary fangirls who result to bullying, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns) and trying to get over her stage fright to get the fame she does want. It’s a journey of self-discovery for both her and Max – wow do I ever sound clichéd. Can’t stop won’t stop LOL.

I really liked the way Denton injects the story with her musical expertise, it shows through in the politics of the musical industry woven throughout, in the bits and pieces like the way Amelie records her music and her studio setup. I would have liked even more of this detail because all we ever see elsewhere is the glitz and glamour; to see the nitty gritty would have been different and given the story an even more genuine feel. Denton’s style is easy to follow and immersive – I fell right in to Amelie’s world.

If you’re looking for a sweet and heart-warming contemporary, then you’ve got to pick up This Beats Perfect.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Review: Valentine by Jodi McAlister

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

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Date Read: January 19 - 26 2017
Date Released: January 30th 2017
Publisher: Penguin Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Paranormal
My Rating:

Synopsis:
"Four teenagers – all born on the same Valentine’s Day – begin to disappear. As the bodies mount up, Pearl Linford has to work out what in the supernatural hell is going on, before it happens to her. 

Finn Blacklin is the boy with whom Pearl shares a birthday, the boy she has known all her life and disliked every second of it, the boy her subconscious has a totally annoying crush on. Finn is also the Valentine: a Seelie fairy changeling swapped for a human boy at birth. The Unseelie have come to kill the Valentine – except they don’t know who it is. And now both the Seelie and the Unseelie think Pearl is the Valentine, and if they find out she isn’t, she’ll disappear too.

Pearl must use all her wits to protect herself. Finn must come to terms with his newfound heritage. And then there’s the explosive chemistry between them that neither of them know quite what to do about..."

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Contrary to its seemingly romantic name, Valentine is a fun yet increasingly dark tale.

The story is told from the first person perspective of Pearl, one of the four teenagers born on Valentine’s Day. I really liked Pearl. She’s got a very strong personality and is opinionated which I respect. She’s the type of person that has really close friends that like her but also people that she hates (and hate her back) but gives no fucks. She values the relationships she has with people and it really came through in the way she keeps talking about the people around her – her best friend Phil who is logical and practical, her crush Cardy who she admires for his academics and all-roundedness. I enjoyed reading her funny and sarcastic voice so much, she made the story seem authentic.

There’s a lot of secondary characters and friendships explored but my favourite was Pearl’s relationship with her brother and sister. Shad and Dise are twins seventeen years older than Pearl and they basically raised her. I freaking adored the dynamics these three had. Shad the computer genius is laid back but loves his little sister (well both sisters) so much while Dise is more opinionated and kind of like an aunt to Pearl. They’re both more laid back than parents and yet manage to do the parenting thing perfectly. Pearl obviously respects them in the way she talks to them, in the way her siblings share their opinions with her but still joke about their youth days. Best. Sibling. Relationship. Ever.

The romance was an interesting one. She’s got this crush on Cardy but her hate towards Finn is also some like unresolved sexual tension me thinks. She also has weird fantasies about him and for a moment I was scared it was going to an Alice in Zombieland moment (in that one, the girl has hot daydreams about the guy and this is their excuse to get together WTF) but thankfully it’s not! The romance is slowburn and Pearl respects herself so much I was like YES YOU GO GIRL. She’s rational (ok at times angry) and isn’t lovesick or mopey. She knows there’s more important things than romance when you’re a teen!

Okay so the plot wow. Teenagers start disappearing guys. Friends and classmates. There are black cats everywhere and black birds attacking people. Everybody seems to find it odd but Pearl seems to be the only that notices. When one of her best friends goes missing she’s the only know who takes a step back to check up on her and things really start to get freaky from there. The blurb clearly says this is a story of Seelie/Unseelie but how this unfolds is fantastic. McAlister has done it in such a believable way – the way a normal human being might go down a detective path when things around them start getting weird. The level of disbelief, scepticism and research required is perfectly balanced with the way things happen. It’s slow, but to me that’s how to make it seem real.

McAlister’s writing style is casual yet descriptive. She has Pearl talk with abbreviations “TBH”, “FA” which I think enhanced Pearl’s voice as this is the lingo of the generation. There’s Pearl thinking in all caps which really helps with seeing her freak out or get excited about something. There’s also the one word sentences on each line and this makes it really seem like I’m experiencing things from Pearl’s POV – her drowning and blacking out at the right moment as her thoughts and consciousness dwindled. It’s superb. Then there’s the freaky scenes that had me texting my friends at like 12am and going on full freak out mode because I WAS FREAKING SCARED. I nearly started crying not even lying I had to go watch some K-pop to calm down. McAlister is really good at creating atmosphere.

My only gripe with the book was that at times it was a tad too slow and the ending really left me wanting. It wasn’t as fey as I wanted and the conclusion felt rushed. However, I hear this is a series and Ironheart already has a cover – PLEASE BE A SEQUEL.

McAlister’s debut has established her as a strong writer in Aussie YA. I enjoyed Valentine so much with its strong protagonist, dark plot and engaging writing style.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Review: Caraval (Caraval #1) by Stephanie Garber

Firstly, thanks to Hachette Australia for this review copy <3



Date Read: January 1 - 2 2017
Date Released: January 30th 2017
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating:

Warning: this review contains mild spoilers for the plot of the book.

Synopsis:
"Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems.

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.

When the sisters' long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show's mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever."

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Again, warning, this review contains mild spoilers. Stop here if you haven't read the book.

Caraval has got to be one of the most hyped YA releases of 2017. Pitched as having Night Circus vibes (which I haven’t read) I wasn’t sure what I was expecting going into Caraval. I can say it definitely wasn’t what I expected and I don’t think it’s really what I wanted either.

Firstly, I’d like to say that I expected Caraval to be circus-y. A week long performance where participants are a part of the magical show - this is what the blurb tells me. Not sure what those performances would be but like I said I thought it’d be like a circus cross carnival with acts. Instead, Caraval is more like a game of Cluedo. The story is literally a search for Scarlett’s missing sister Tella. It’s a thriller more than anything.

I’m just going to be blunt and say Scarlett was not a character I liked. She was not a character I could relate to and this greatly affected how much I enjoyed Caraval. As frustrating and annoying protagonists go, she’s up there. Scarlett thinks she’s all that, being the bigger sister she’s soooo selfless and sacrificed soooo much for her selfish and immature sister who doesn’t love Scarlett as much as Scarlett loves Tella. I mean yes I could tell that Scarlett loved her sister and I admired how she was willing to die for Tella with the dangerous goings on of Caraval but really, every other page was her going on about how Tella didn’t care for anybody but herself and that Scarlett was the considerate one. This grated on my nerves so much. Then there’s the way Scarlett thinks she’s always right and because she’s braved her father’s abuse all these years, she’s such a great judge of bad character and getting out of trouble. Um no. Repeatedly throughout the book she’s proven to be wrong and gets herself into so much shit. I’m fine with that, if the character grows and learns from their mistakes. BUT SHE DOESN’T. LIKE OMFG SDJHFNSFJDS. My rage at this girl. She even acknowledges that she’s wrong but she doesn’t change. She’s so stubborn, constantly wallowing in self-pity that by the end I swear she had no character growth.

Hands down Tella stole the show for me and I loved this girl so much. While absent through the majority of the book, her presence resonates through snippets of memories and clues left throughout Caraval. She’s fiery, passionate, lives life on the edge. At first, seemingly selfish but bits and pieces slowly reveal just which sister is the more considerate and loving one. By the end I was kind of in awe of this girl and what she was capable of. My kind of girl.

How do I feel about the romance? I don’t know. Y’all know I’m a hopeless romantic but in this case I could have gone without the romance. Like either or it didn’t really matter. The romance didn’t give me lots of feels but I did kind of like the love interest. To me the romance was a plot device for Scarlett to grow and change and listen to her sister’s advice to take risks. I liked that but at the same time it kind of killed me that Scarlett needed a guy for her to change instead of her own personal journey to finding her sister, does that make sense? I don’t know haha.

The plot… like I said it’s literally Scarlett finding clues through Caraval to find her sister. That IS Caraval. It’s not a circus or a carnival of any sort. The show is a lost girl and the quest to finding her. The magic is vague and it’s all kind of like mind games. Honestly felt like real-life Cluedo. Where were the mazes or the trapeze artists, the fantastical elements of intrigue? I wanted chases through labyrinths of mirrors, being tricked into shooting water in a clown’s mouth for a clue, running through flaming rings OR SOMETHING. I felt let down in that regard. Someone tell me my perception of a circus/carnival is wrong because that’s what I expected.

The build up to the ending was mind blowing though. It felt like inception, games within games within games. The plot twisted round and over and I was left questioning every single one of the characters and their motives. Through it all, the illustrious Legend, creator of Caraval, oversees everything that’s going on but we never see him (or do we?). How much of it is orchestrated by Legend, is he truly evil? Or are those the actions of the players and their desire to win. It was chilling, thrilling and a real page-turner! I lived for that ending.

There is no denying that Garber is a talented writer though. I sped through Caraval, finishing it in 1 day. I didn’t want to put it down and I desperately needed to know what happened to Tella and how much of Caraval Scarlett had taken too seriously despite the warnings. Garber’s descriptions are lush and detailed and the story is grand in that regard. She really sets the atmosphere, creating an exotic and mystical nighttime when the game is alive versus a washed-out and empty daytime.

With gorgeous writing and an intriguing plot, Caraval is a real page turner! I guess I was left wanting a bit more though. I can say that I’m the black sheep with regards to this book though because looking at the Goodreads ratings, EVERYBODY loves Caraval, so I would say check it out!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom on Fire #1) by Jessica Cluess

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


Date Read: January 10 - 19 2017
Date Released: January 3rd 2017
Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy
My Rating:

Synopsis:
"Henrietta Howel can burst into flames.
Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she's shocked when instead of being executed, she's invited to train as one of Her Majesty's royal sorcerers.

Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the chosen one, the girl who will defeat the Ancients, bloodthirsty demons terrorizing humanity. She also meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, handsome young men eager to test her power and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her.

But Henrietta Howel is not the chosen one.
As she plays a dangerous game of deception, she discovers that the sorcerers have their own secrets to protect. With battle looming, what does it mean to not be the one? And how much will she risk to save the city--and the one she loves?"

---

A Shadow Bright and Burning had so much potential but it fell short of being a great alternate Victorian paranormal in many regards. The whole premise of the chosen one not really being the chosen one was promising but the execution really could have been done better.

Reading from our protagonist Henrietta Howel, the supposed chosen one, was not something I enjoyed. I had a lot of issues with her character, especially with her consistency. While an orphan, she claims to be a proper lady and upholds the customs of Victorian England such as wanting a suitable marriage and not ruining her reputation by being seen with young men while unchaperoned. And yet she’ll happily walk around London on her own without a thought (I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt here because she’s a Sorcerer), flirt with one of the other apprentices… but the worst part was the swearing. SHE SWEARS. A LOT. “Bloody”, “damn” and “bastard” are common words that fall out of her mouth. Like what kind of lady in Victorian England says these words on a daily basis as casual expressions? Hell even I don’t use bastard freely. This really ruined the atmosphere for me. Also, for someone who is so stubborn, she’s pretty damn gullible in believing other people’s claims. Some guy mentions her father’s name and she’s all into believing every single word that falls out of their mouth. She wasn’t a relatable MC for me.

I did enjoy the harem style with the one female among six male apprentices thing. The guys were all different and memorable. Flirty Magnus, sullen Blackwood (MY FAV), dreamy Wolff, shy Dee, quiet Lambe and funny Cellini. But my god Magnus was a flirt, it was funny at times and a bit much at others. Wolff and Lambe are adorable and I ship them for reasons. Then there’s the sullen and broody Blackwood. Lord Blackwood. Lord is right oh Lordy *fans self* I have a thing for the broody ones hehe. I mean there wasn’t even that much about him but I loved him nonetheless.

Romance you say? I had no feels for the love interest to be honest. I mean maybe it’s because I was watching Reply 1997 at the same time, a K-drama which portrayed its romance perfectly and had me feeling all the feels, but I didn’t see the chemistry between Henrietta and her supposed love interest. She’s kind of all over him but doesn’t admit it. Based on the above paragraph I’m sure you know who I ship her with.

The plot left a lot to be desired. The blurb promises lots of Sorcerer secrets and dark reveals with many twists but I didn’t find them to be that explosive or mind blowing. The end had a big build up and lots of action but I’m not entirely sure if there was meant to be a single big revelation because I didn’t see it. I enjoyed the fight but I wish it was more drawn out with more details (I’m fantasy trash ok so I’m used to fights that last whole chapters). I did like the whole premise of the Ancients though. I’m hoping this gets explored a lot more in the sequels - where they came from, R’hlem’s agenda and how the whole thing connects. This aspect definitely had me intrigued.

For a paranormal alternate Victorian England, the world-building was done poorly. The magic came too easily, there didn’t seem to be a proper magic system between the different types of magic-wielders and it really felt like a hodge podge of staff spinning, supposed concentration and ‘channeling’ the elements whatever that means. I also felt the descriptions of this Victorian England were lacking. It required more detail for me to feel how this was the same/different to reality Victorian England in our history. For the record, for 90% of the book I thought they were in Elizabethan England because they mentioned Elizabeth, the ‘queen’ and it wasn’t until the end when they mention Victoria that I realised the blurb was right. You might say 200 years should be easy to determine based on customs/the world, but that’s the thing - the speaking style, customs and glossed over London made it hard to determine which monarch we’re under.

Overall, I felt something was missing from A Shadow Bright and Burning. Hopefully, this gets resolved in the sequels as the story’s pace has been set and we gain some traction.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Review: Windwitch (Witchlands #2) by Susan Dennard

Firstly, thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for this review copy <3



Date Read: January 7 - 9 2017
Date Released: January 10th 2017
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating:

Synopsis:
"Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies…

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

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

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

---

The more I think about Windwitch, and the Witchlands books in general, the more I fall in love with the series. I loved Truthwitch and the way it introduced us to the four main characters of the series, showing the bonds between the characters and our main ladies Safi and Iseult. In Windwitch though, each character is explored even more and the world expanded.

By the title and prologue, this is Merik’s book. However, Dennard switches between our four MCs which makes me feel like this is a book for all our characters and each of their journeys. This series to me is one that's more character driven than plot driven, and that suits me just fine!

Our main man Merik trudged through Truthwitch with the belief that his family hated him and thought him ill-deserving of the Nubrevnan crown. As a result of various circumstances the Prince is deemed dead and he’s now on a quest to prove that his sister Vivia is the one that destroyed him. This dangerous investigative work drives his story through Windwitch and despite everything, I admired his never dying love for his people and his need to protect those he loves. His desire to prove his sister’s guilt becomes an obsession for him but his eventual growth towards the end warms me. His is a journey of tolerance, acceptance, and a sharp dose of opening one’s eyes to the world around them for the sake of a kingdom.

My heart bled for Safi and everything she went through in Windwitch. Like omg is her life just basically going to be her on the run from everyone? All the kingdoms want her, to use her power or to barter her; the poor girl is being used left, right and centre. And she knows it. Her growth by the end of Truthwitch and her sort of ‘theme’ throughout Windwitch is her selflessness. It’s a real change from the girl I met on the first page of Truthwitch. Safi’s growth to thinking like a Domna, to trying to leverage her worth to help others really shines through in Windwitch but it also lands her in a lot of unfavourable situations. It’s like she can’t help but attract bad luck? It makes me love her more though, her compassion and drive to be better.

Iseult. My girl. My person. Hands down my favourite character. Maybe it’s because she’s got Asian in her blood and I relate to her more? I love her logic and calm. I love that, while it always seems like Safi is the main person because she shines so brightly, Safi needs Iseult too and actually, one isn’t complete without the other. Iseult never for a single moment holds a grudge or ill feelings towards Safi. I mean Safi lands them in a lot of shit but Iseult is just that selfless. She has a lot of inner demons to battle as well as coming to terms with her powers which aren’t what they seem. When I look at Iseult, I see solidarity. I actually love that Safi and Iseult were separated in Windwitch so that the reader could see each be their own person and be independent. Their bond and friendship was established in Truthwitch and Windwitch is about the strength of their connection while apart.

Then there’s Aeduan. Mysterious Aeduan who I started shipping before I even knew his name in Truthwitch. Dennard calls him Baeduan for good reason. This guy is shrouded in mystery and is a walking conflict to be honest. Like I just didn’t know what he’d choose most of the time and I loved that Dennard kept me second guessing myself. Just how morally sound is he? What is his past and connection to the other characters. This guy is mega chill and his vibe is “I’m bored, you don’t matter and I give no fucks” and then he’ll just whip out his sword and start doing his blood magic and I’m like LOOOOOOOL. I love him and I can’t wait for his book (SOOOON. Next year *sobs*).

We’re introduced to other characters as well that really stand out on their own - we finally meet Vivia who is So. Much. More than what Merik thinks. There’s the Empress of Marstok, Vaness who is the strongest Ironwitch EVER. I freaking loved the juxtaposition of these two monarchs. One is fighting for her rightful crown in a council that thinks she’s unworthy, while the other yields so much power it’s like the crown was just given to her. But both are powerful in their own right as we see in the way they can think and act quickly, and most importantly, in their love for their people. I mean they have questionable methods but yaaaas I cannot wait for more of these two.

Plot wise, there’s a lot of politics going on and it’s the intrigue that surrounds this Twenty Year Truce - why, if all the kingdoms don’t want to go to war, do they all start preparing for war. Everything is precarious and there’s STUFF going on in the background that’s pulling strings and I felt like a pawn being placed just so on the chessboard. All the characters have a part to play BUT WHO WILL BE THE ONE THAT CALLS CHECKMATE?

Something that I wished was delved upon more was the way the magic system works. The main elements make sense to me but Iseult’s power I still can’t grasp or picture. I wanted to know exactly how she sees these Threads - is it literally like a person is made of coloured yarn or where do these Threads stretch? If they’re not connection Threads to others but ‘feelings’ then what do they look like? Still hoping this gets explained in later books.

I loved the diversity that came so naturally in this series. It’s a multicultural fantasy which is what one expects in a high-fantasy world - Dennard draws on various ethnicities and features to create races within Witchlands. There’s also diversity of sexuality expressed by a number of characters, and a gender fluid character that plays an important part in the book who warms my heart.

I basically can’t stop gushing about Windwitch and if you haven’t started the series then do it. I breezed through Windwitch (hehe see what I did there) in like 2 days and I couldn’t put it down. Action packed, fast-paced, yet leaving so much room for character growth and exploration while furthering an intriguing plot, I was hooked. I kind of really need Bloodwitch now.