Young Adult

Manga/Graphic Novel Review: Natsume’s Book of Friends

Several of my friends are into manga and so I have an extensive to-read list compiled, yet I found this on a whim instead. As Midorikawa mentions in the little asides throughout this book, it is an episodic manga. This made it a nice quick read to pick up on impulse, and not too much of an investment.

As it is episodic, there is no singe plot to really summarise. The main gist is Takashi Natsume seeing strange creatures – yokai – that nobody else can. After inheriting his deceased grandmother’s strange notebook, he discovers that she had the same ability. Due to being such an outcast amidst her village, though, she takes her frustrations out on the yokai. Natsume’s Book of Friends – the book Takashi inherited – is basically a collection of contracts signed by various yokai pledging their ‘devotion’ to her. Owning this book gives Takashi complete power over them, and naturally many of the yokai are eager to take it. Instead, Takashi sets out to return the names of all the yokai. He is accompanied by one yokai who he accidentally freed from a shrine, Nyanko Sensei – who, after being trapped inside a ceramic cat, usually takes the form of a cat. Takashi likes to remind him of this frequently (and Sensei is definitely not amused).

The episodes can each be read as a standalone, though they do connect in some ways. Takashi slowly begins to understand what he’s doing, and the relationship between him and Nyanko Sensei develops somewhat. While most of Takashi’s interactions are with yokai, there is one particular chapter in this novel where he meets another human who he can relate to. There is also a touching chapter – the final in the novel – where Takashi helps a yokai to meet the human that saved her in her past life.

The art is lovely and the relationship between Sensei and Takashi is really amusing. There isn’t a huge amount of character development or depth due to the episodic nature of the novel, but Takashi is likeable and kind. I would definitely recommend it for a quick/light read, and I may have a look for the rest of the series. 3.5 out of 5 stars.


Book Review: The Returners

I have a vague recollection of reading this some time in the past which is kind of ironic considering the topic of the book itself. While I felt a repeated deja vu throughout this book, I can’t seem to remember when I actually would have read it before. I also couldn’t remember much of the main plot, which is pretty weird.

Anyway, the review.

It’s a good book. honestly, the opening paragraph of this review sums the book up quite well – it’s good, but not overly memorable. When you read it, you often think, “this is good” or “cool” or whatever, but a few months later you’ll forget all about it. At least, that’s how I felt.

Gemma Malley is an author I used to love when I was in my preteens, and I’m not sure if that’s why her books feel very adolescent to me, or if it’s because they actually are. Basically, I feel too old for them now. The protagonists are usually “cool” mid-teens, who the reader is supposed to look up to in some way. But I’m older than most characters and actually find their attitudes a bit pathetic and petty.

The story was good but I felt like there were a few loopholes, honestly. The idea of the “Returners” is interesting but not developed enough – who actually ‘controls’ them? Where did they come from? What is their real purpose? I felt like their purpose was a bit wishy-washy. Douglas’s refusal to change his attitude because it “isn’t their role” or whatever just sounded a bit… lame. Like a cop-out, I guess. I really would’ve liked to know more about the Returners and why they actually exist.

It’s only short and this may contribute to it feeling quite young, but it is well written and really enjoyable to read. Will is almost an anti-hero, and as the reader I both loved and hated him. His thoughts and attitudes were quite sporadic and it was sometimes hard to keep up, but that may have been the intention. I did like how we learned things at the same time as Will – we followed him through his own story. It was also really interesting how Will decided to handle the life he’d been forced into.

4 stars.

Book Review: Eden Summer

I keep falling behind on writing my reviews, sorry! I really need to get back on track. I finished this on Tuesday I think? I really enjoyed it, although it isn’t quite worthy of five stars.

I’m going to put in a trigger warning as there are mentions of substance abuse, physical abuse, death, adoption and suicide.

Jess’s best friend has gone missing. Through interviews with the police and Jess’s personal recollections, we begin to build up a picture of Eden’s life before her disappearance. Her sister had recently been killed in a car accident, and her seemingly perfect relationship with Liam was more complicated than anyone realised. Bit by bit, Jess – and we – begin to piece things together and discover where Eden has gone.

The girls are only young – 15 I think? – and very much have the all-consuming passion that young teens feel. As in, every little issue feels huge, and things feel far more serious than they might to an older person. I remember feeling this way. I think it was portrayed so accurately, the way fighting with your best friend feels like the end of the world and a family argument overwhelms you with guilt. It was a bit annoying in some ways, though; no fault of the author, of course, I just get a bit annoyed at kids taking things too seriously. I look back at myself and think how stupid it was to get so caught up in such little issues. So the things that Jess gets so worked up over just seemed a bit trivial to me, like she was exaggerating too much. But as I said, this creates the teenage voice really well in my opinion.

The things that both these girls have gone through are massive, though – Jess was attacked and Eden’s sister killed. That’s pretty hard for a young girl to deal with, and these are not the problems I’m saying are trivial. These are hugely important and emotional issues and I think it’s great to talk about. I love books with these real, albeit sad, events. I think it is so good to discuss all the feelings and situations that follow, and also emphasise how it is not the end of the world if something bad happens. life will continue. Eden says how she feels her sister’s death becoming more distant, more bearable, and how she doesn’t want that to happen. She feels guilty, as if she’s forgetting her and moving on. This is so important. She also thinks about killing herself due to guilt – which I won’t ruin too much – but then realises how she shouldn’t take life for granted. Her sister would’ve given anything to be alive still, and she shouldn’t be throwing that away.

It was a really good read and I found myself wondering what was going to be revealed next. It was well written and perfectly captured the young voice of Jess. If I read this when I was younger, I think I would’ve adored it. I would’ve understood it and connected to Jess more than I did now I’m older. 4 stars, definitely worth a read.

Book Review: History Is All You Left Me

Wow. Just… wow.

Okay so the main/underlying theme in this is the death of Griffin’s closest friend and first love, Theo. We’re given alternating excerpts from different moments in the past (such as when Theo and Griffin first got together, fun memories they made, sad moments etc) and excerpts from “now” (after Theo’s death). While this alone is a huge topic that is so important to address, this book manages to discuss several other issues at the same time.

The most important part of this book (to me) was Griffin learning how to move on without feeling guilty for betraying Theo. My boyfriend lost someone a few years ago and sometime’s I get scared I’m “competing with a ghost” (which is a fantastic quote from in this book, but I won’t tell you who said it because that’s a pretty big spoiler). I can only imagine how awful it must feel to lose someone you love, and how crap you’d feel for ‘forgetting’ them. But Griffin tackles this, not quickly or easily, but through mistakes and heartache and small realisations. It’s a very realistic portrayal of the journey, I think, and offers hope at the same time.

Other themes include homozexuality – which is explored through four different characters, as opposed to just one or two – and even OCD. Griffin’s OCD isn’t by any means the “main” plot, but it impacts everything in his life – which is, of course, very true for anyone with a mental illness like that. It reveals itself in tiny ways throughout his life, and is even seen as a sort of “quirk” by Theo. I especiay liked how Griffin’s new love interest at the end of the book tackles his compulsions so differently to Theo – he encourages him to move on and fight them, rather than just accepting them and letting them rule both Griffin’s and his behaviour.

I’m not sure if this counts as a theme, but there’s also the big issue of Griffin actually meeting the boy Theo was dating when he died. (Theo moved away to go to college, and his relationship with Griffin came to a weird end-but-not-quite. Theo found a new boyfriend, Jackson.) Jackson and Griffin had spent months hating each other, and refusing to even try to get on. But after Theo’s death, Griffin realises that this is the only other person who understands exactly what he’s going through. Although he hates that they had their own history together he knows that it means Jackson is grieving in the same way as Griffin. They eventually decide to help each other through the first month following his death, but when Jackson reveals how Theo told him some very personal information from Griffin’s childhood, Griffin begins to see Jackson as a weapon. Since his death, Griffin has been talking to Theo in his head. Now he wants him to watch as he has sex with his boyfriend.

Like I said, Griffin makes a lot of mistakes. He knows that. He made mistakes while Theo was alive, too – there are references to the “taboo” issue between him and Theo and the betrayal Griffin felt he committed that we are later informed about. But Wade, their closest friend since childhood, becomes the rock that Griffin had never expected. He helps Griffin see that Theo is in the wrong by asking him to wait for them to get back together when he has clearly moved on himself. Wade later helps Griffin see that Theo would be happy to see him move on, too, and that despite being his first love, Theo doesn’t have to be his only love.

So yeah, a pretty emotional book with a hell of a lot of twists. I loved it. I have another book by Adam Silvera on my shelf to read (I bought it back before I’d found this) and I am seriously looking forward to it now. Amazing book: 5 stars.

Book Review: Adamant

I can’t remember how I came across this book but I read it on the mobile Kindle app.

It alternates between two narrative voices: Ada and Kay. At first, their two narratives seem completely disconnected but they soon merge together in one single plot.

In this multiverse, there is a sort of political agreement amongst the dozens of different worlds. Ada helps smuggle runaways from other planets onto Earth, while Kay has only just graduated from the Academy and got himself a job at the Alliance. When Ada and her friends break in to the Alliance to steal some bloodrock – an important ingredient for their magic disguise formula – Kay happens to be on duty. He arrests Ada while the others escape. But there are murders happening within the Alliance, and Kay and Ada both realise that they don’t know their friends as well as they thought.

I wasn’t all that keen on Ada as a character, personally, but Kay was okay. (Haha.) Their “budding romance” was a bit strained, I think, and forced into the story too much. The sort of negative connotations around magic was quite interesting, though.

It was quite a good book, with a ton of plot twists and deception. Ada’s trust issues are really not going to be any better after all this! 3 stars.

Book Review: A Note of Madness

Tabitha Suzuma is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors.

I didn’t realise this was the first of two books, but it reads fine as a standalone novel anyway. I hadn’t intended to read on, but I just love Suzuma’s writing too much. I’ve reserved the next novel at the library.

I found this quite similar to Hurt in a couple of ways; firstly, the protagonist is a young male who is experiencing something very unpleasant but important to talk about. Instead of rape, as in Hurt, this time the topic is mental health. Flynn’s got the whole world at his feet, but suddenly he’s up all night composing or drowning himself in alcohol and aspirin. Everything feels wrong and he doesn’t know why. His flatmate, Harry, calls Flynn’s brother in to help. He’s a doctor and soon realises Flynn needs proper help. After one incorrect diagnosis and several relapses, Flynn finally feels the world go back to normal.

Although the ending is typically “hopeful” (which you can only expect, really – it’s not gonna be very helpful for kids to read stories where you never recover from your mental illness) it still manages to be realistic rather than overly positive and optimistic. For example, Flynn is offered a couple of amazing experiences in this book, the first of which he is determined to take. But he doesn’t, because his health declines so much. I can tell you how horrible it is when you have your heart set on something but your mental health holds you back… Sometimes you just can’t do it. Flynn’s health gets so bad that his brother takes him away on the eve of his big concert (he’s a music uni student).

There’s also a romance line through this, which I gather will be furthered in the next book. Flynn doesn’t pay much attention to it – doesn’t even notice it – due to his condition, until it’s too late and he’s messed it up. Jennah is an old crush of his, recently parted from her boyfriend for a mysterious “other guy”. Flynn just doesn’t put 2 and 2 together, though, and assumes she could never love him because he’s so hopeless and talentless and depressed. Things really get bad when they argue about it during one of Flynn’s relapses, and she goes missing for the night. I must admit that I immediately feared the worst after what happened in Hurt, but it was eventually resolved. I am very interested in reading how Flynn’s mental illness impacts his relationship in the future.

This is a great topic to address, especially in males. The episodes may be a little exaggerated but then I suppose that is how some people experience it. It’s different for everyone. I really appreciate the age chosen, too, because people often forget that mental illnesses don’t only develop when you’re twelve or thirteen. 5 stars; a fantastic book and a fantastic author.

Book Review: Hurt

I am going to try to avoid spoilers as much as I can in this book, but I’m afraid there will be some. I’d also like to say that this book includes a lot of graphic details and references to rape and suicide.

At first I felt that Mathéo was a bit too in love with Lola – he’s only seventeen, and his adoration for her was bordering on sickly. But then I suppose young love does feel as all-consuming and important as Mathéo made it out to be. Lola, his girlfriend, was a beautiful young lady who moved into Mathéo’s rich town. Unlike him, her house is small and cluttered and comfy – very different to his strict and orderly lifestyle.

First, Mathéo’s rich-boy lifestyle is too much for him; he’s not happy. But then his memory of the most awful night returns, and things get a whole lot worse. After a diving accident (Mathéo is expected to win an Olympic gold medal in a year’s time) and a couple of near-death experiences while on holiday, I really thought Mathéo’s life couldn’t get any worse. But it did. Oh god, it did.

I will not give away the ending, but it honestly made me cry. Maybe it just hit a little too close to home, or maybe the contrast of such a lively, bright character with such a dark event was just too much for me. Either way, the ending was so unexpected and so, so sad. But I liked how the epilogue sort of tied things up, without being too sappy or “feel-good”. I felt like this was a brutally honest story. Not to mention that the events/themes in this book are incredibly important to talk about – I really appreciated that this focused on a male rape victim.

Although I kind of felt like Suzuma had written the openening this book with a theosaurus on hand, seeing how many new words she could include, I got sucked in really quick. I really wanted to know more about what had happened, what was going to happen, and I really got emotional for Mathéo. His relationship with his little brother, and the development of their relationship, was really nice. And the epilogue… God, it’s sad, but it’s honest. Most people don’t stay in touch after school. Most people do move on and forget each other.

The ending was fantastic, so I’m going to have to give this 5 starsBookmarked Signature Logo

Book Review: Wintergirls

22310019Another book based on eating disorders, which I’d definitely not recommend for anyone recovering or struggling with these issues. It also includes a lot of self harm and suicidal references, so just be warned.

This was another amazing book. I personally suffer with both anorexia and self harm, so this was so incredibly relatable to me. One major difference is Lia’s relationship with Cassie – her best friend who suffers with bulimia. The two of them encourage each other through their weight loss journeys, giving tips and even challenging each other to become the thinnest. I could not imagine having a relationship like this. I know several other eating disordered people, one of whom is a good friend, and we would never dream of acting like this. It was quite sick, honestly – I hate all the pro-ana stuff. But I suppose some people do it.

A quick observation: they never actually use the terms “anorexia” or “bulimia” which is interesting. There’s often a sort of rivalry portrayed between the two disorders, and the diagnosis of anorexia is held as some sort of accomplishment. It was refreshing to read a book that doesn’t mention that, and even sees them ‘working together’.

At the very start of the book, Cassie dies. Lia eventually learns how exactly that happens, but refuses to let it affect her because her and Cassie had fallen out a while ago. Lia’s eating habits seem to be getting worse (again) and her family think it’s Cassie’s death that’s triggered her, but Lia denies it. But when Cassie’s ghost starts haunting her and begging her to join her, Lia realises how out of hand it’s become.

The little details of the eating disorder were fantastic. The way Lia always quotes calories whenever talking/thinking of food, her estimating every other woman’s BMI against her own, even her initial “I want/need food” that she denies. It all felt so much like my own experience.

The ending was definitely one of those “inspiring” types; who ever would’ve thought Lia would actually work with the unit she’d been admitted to so many times and actually try to recover? I liked how honest this was, though. It wasn’t just a simple, clean recovery. There were fears and bad days and also the realisation that she had been avoiding real life, afraid of it. It’s hard to confront the underlying issues of a disorder like this.

I really loved this. It was just so accurate and inspiring and actually made me cry a bit. It did trigger me at times, but that’s probably just because I’m in a bit of a wobbly place right now. The ending has definitely provided me with hope, though. (Usually these books are focused on younger girls, but Lia is my age. It makes me feel like maybe I still have time to find my motive to recover.) 5 stars.Bookmarked Signature Logo

Book Review: The Bane Chronicles

9781406360585-usThere are a few companion novels to Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices, but as this one is centred around my favourite character, I just had to read it.

The first thing I noticed was how well the changing time periods were reflected in the language and writing. As a warlock, Magnus has lived through hundreds of years and in dozens of different countries. I felt like, as the reader, I was really transported to all those different eras and places along with Magnus. But he still had that charm and humour that I adore so much about him, and the eccentricity we all love.

Most of this book is filled with tales from before the characters of The Mortal Instruments are even alive. If you’ve read the series you’ll notice how the events tie into references from those books. I really enjoyed reading more details on things that are casually mentioned in the main series, especially as Magnus is such an interesting character with so many stories to tell. Some of the main events include his relationship with Camille, his helping Raphael when turned into a vampire, and (of course) his relationship with Alec. We also hear a lot about what really happened in Peru…

This is definitely one of my favourite companion books – a lot of authors seem to go too far with their franchise and try too hard to write extra books. This felt more natural and was thoroughly enjoyable. 5 stars!


Book Review: Inkdeath

12516763This is the final book in Cornelia Funke ‘s Inkworld trilogy, and the longest of them all. I have to admit that this one did get a bit tedious at times, despite being well written. It was just too long.

Meggie has read Farid and herself into Inkworld, and Resa and Mo soon followed. They get into quite a lot of trouble, especially when Fenoglio – the author of ‘Inkheart’ – uses Mo as the template for a famous character in his songs.

The plot is very intricate. Motorola returns a few times, the Black Prince and all the robbers take in Meggie, Dustfinger meets Death on more than one occasion, Mo binds the Adderhead a book of immortality – the list goes on. But Death is quite a big character here, and there are a lot of dramatic scenes. I don’t want to spend too long summarising the novel, but I can say that it’s full of action and interesting twists. While this series still has a sort of innocent, fairy-tale feel to it, it is definitely a lot darker than any children’s story.

I liked how Mo, who had been so angry at Inkworld, becomes entranced by its beauty. When things start to get rough and Meggie and Resa want to return home, Mo is the one who pleads to stay. His second identity as the Bluejay – the infamous robber created by Fenoglio – is taking over, and even he finds himself in the company of Death.

The writing is great, and the ending really made me pity Farid. I think this was a bit too long, and I did get pretty disinterested at times in the middle. It’s a shame, because I know it was probably really interesting stuff, but I just didn’t have the capacity to stay interested for so long. Maybe that’s just me, but I’m sure I’ve had no trouble reading other long books.

Maybe I’ll reread this trilogy some other time when I have no other distractions and can appreciate it more. For now, I’ll give Inkdeath 3.5 stars.Bookmarked Signature Logo