Young Adult

Book Review: Glass Sword

Glass Sword (Red Queen #2)

Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) by Victoria Aveyard – Paperback, 464 pages – Published February 11th 2016 by Orion (first published February 9th 2016)

When I read the first novel in this series, Red Queen, I was absolutely hooked on Aveyard’s writing. So I found the second book, Glass Sword, eager to follow Mare’s story as she fought alongside the Scarlet Guard and bring the newbloods to safety. Although the book is good, it was not as amazing as I had first hoped. Still, I’m really looking forward to reading the next one.

After the battle in the Bowl of Bones, Cal and Mare are on the run. Everyone knows their faces, their stories – the stories Maven and Elara are telling, anyway. Cal, the fallen prince, the murderer of the king and his own father. And Mare, the Lightning Girl, to one who corrupted the prince. And of course, the Scarlet Guard are being hunted.

Farley, Kilorn, Cal, Mare, and Shade steal a jet from the Scarlet Guard’s hidden island, and set out to collect as many people from Julian’s list before Maven finds them. Sadly, they are not always the first ones there. Eventually, they have a small army ready, just in time for meeting Jon – a newblood with vision that stretches farther than any Silver eye’s. He hints at their fate, the action they should take. In three days, they will free both Reds and Silvers from Corros prison.

As always, this war brings death. One death is particularly important, but I won’t ruin it. And one death honestly broke my heart. (I was kinda hoping they would come back throughout the whole of the rest of the book, even though I knew they were dead.) I was so not expecting that death.

The not-relationship between Mare and Cal is continued, and sort of developed. They clearly still care for each other, but try not to let their affections get in their way.

Honestly, I didn’t like Mare that much in this book. She came across as kind of stuck up, often pointing out how she was so “valuable” and “special”. She also became colder and more comfortable with murder, but that would happen to most people in a violent environment like hers. Still, I felt like she lost some of her original charm and personality, and became too harsh and, well, bitchy.

Also, Mare misses Maven (or the person she thought he was, anyway) which is natural. She tries to remind herself that he was never truly like that, and that he was always a monster. But I actually found myself still rooting for him, hoping for him to come out innocent. I just don’t seem to hate him as much as intended.

Despite Mare’s character flaws, the story was still great. The ending has definitely left me wanting more. What will happen now that the truth is out? Now that the imprisoned Silvers are free to tell their stories? I can’t wait to find out. 4 stars.

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Graphic Novel/Comic Book Review: Batman Beyond Volume #1: Escaping the Grave

Batman Beyond (DC Universe Rebirth) Volume #1: Escaping the Grave

Batman Beyond (DC Universe Rebirth) Volume #1: Escaping the Grave by Dan Jurgens – eBook, 146 pages – Published June 11th 2017 by DC Entertainment

Another story from DC’s Rebirth universe, set several decades from now in Neo-Gotham – or Jokerz Town as it’s been dubbed. There’s a new Batman on the streets and a whole gang of Jokerz. Terry, having been trained by the late Bruce Wayne, is wearing the cape and cowl now. The new clown-crazed criminals need to be dealt with – especially when they kidnap Terry’s old girlfriend, Dana.

Terminal, an old school friend of Dana and now the leader of the Jokerz, has a mad plan in action. It involves the original Joker, who everyone believed to be dead.

There are several big surprises in this novel. It’s a really interesting volume, definitely enticing you to read on. The readers aren’t the only one being surprised, though – every character is dealt their fair share of shock in this story!

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Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

I like what I’ve seen of Terry so far, and his relationship with his little brother. I look forward to learning more about them. And I’m super interested to see what happens after the final plot twist was revealed. This seems like a really interesting comic, and I’m giving this issue 4 stars.

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Book Review: Kahayatle

Kahayatle

Kahayatle (Apocalypsis #1) by Elle Casey – eBook, 385 pages – Published June 22nd 2012 by Elle Casey

I can’t actually remember where I got this – probably Instafreebie or from the author’s newsletter – but I know I got my copy for free.

The book’s about a couple of kids coming together after the death of every adult and young child. It’s hard to survive, with everyone fighting over any supplies, but things are getting really bad – as in, cannibalism bad.

Bryn partners herself with the skinny, gay kid hiding next door, despite knowing he’s not gonna be much help in the defense department. He tells her about the death of his little sister – eaten by other kids. They decide it’s no longer safe to stay where they are, and are proven right when attacked inside their home. They plan to retreat to the everglades, where the swamps should be inhospitable enough for others to avoid them, but still safe enough to survive in. On their way, they find Bodo, a German exchange student.

Eventually, they do end up at their destination. But the everglades – or Kahayatle, as the indians call it – hold many new problems.

I did notice a fair few grammar mistakes, and just generally found this book a little unprofessional at times. Often, I find unprofessional books really hard to read – but I actually enjoyed this. I’m even considering buying (or borrowing) the rest of the series.

The tiny bits of romance did seem a little out-of-place, not integrated particularly well sometimes. But I suppose it’ll be developed later in the series, and I didn’t find it too lovey or anything, which is definitely good.

With a bit more polishing, I think this could easily be a 4 star book. But for now, I’m going to give it 3.5. It was a good read, but there are some improvements that could be made.

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Book Review: The Monstrous Child

The Monstrous Child

The Monstrous Child (Mortal Gods #3) by Francesca Simon – Paperback, 320 pages – Published December 1st 2016 by Faber Faber

I finished this on Tuesday but have had some technical problems, which is why I’m posting it now. (Sorry.)

Apparently this is book #3 in the Mortal Gods series – but I read it believing it to be a standalone novel and really enjoyed it like that. It’s another short, new YA book, which a pretty large font to fill up more space. I never used to like short books, but I’ve found some I’ve really enjoyed recently, including this one.

One of Loki’s (monstrous) children is Hel, a girl with a perfectly normal human body… except her legs are deadLike, full-on decaying dead. Still, she’s a goddess, even if she’s never treated as one.

Hel has learned to just deal with what she’s got in life and carry on. But when she’s kidnapped and taken to Asgard – the home of the gods – she finds an unexpected light of hope. His name is Baldr, and he’s the only one who’s ever treated her like she’s normal. The only problem is that he’s married.

And then, just to make matters worse, Hel is literally thrown into the underworld, sentenced to be the queen of Nifelheim for all of eternity. It’s cold, smelly, and soon enough, full of dead people. She’s alone, plotting her revenge on the gods, with no chance of escape – but at least it’s hers. She can build her own fortress without anyone guiding her; she can order the dead around however she pleases. And she can have a high seat ready, beside hers, for when Baldr inevitably comes for her.

What she wasn’t planning was a third seat…

Anyway, Hel has created Hel for the dead, the End of Days is drawing nearer, and dear old Dad has dropped by for a favour. All very… fun. 

I thought this was a really different kind of book. The narrative voice is really sarcastic and youthful, pretty funny too, as well as still sounding like a Norse goddess. She also sounded somewhat modern, too – which I suppose would be the case if you were immortal. Sometimes I found her to find a little too sarcastic and bitter, a little too chatty and “different”. I don’t know, it just didn’t sound all that natural sometimes.

The whole Norse theme was refreshing – not some paranormal YA romance that you see everywhere – and really well told. Hel was a really interesting character, too; modern enough to relate to yet still believably a Norse goddess.

As I said, I read this without realising there were other books before it in the series. I didn’t realise that at all while reading – I didn’t feel like I was missing anything and still enjoyed it plenty. I’m going to say 3.5 to 4 stars for The Monstrous Child. I’ll have to look out for the other books.

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Book Review: Highly Illogical Behaviour

Highly Illogical Behaviour

Highly Illogical Behaviour by John Corey Whaley – Paperback, 249 pages – Published May 26th 2016 by Faber and Faber (first published May 10th 2016)

This is only a short book, but there is a huge story between these pages. I personally found this book amazing because I related so much to one character, Solomon, due to my own personal experiences with mental illness. (Hah! You’ll get that reference if you read the book.) But I still think that anyone will enjoy this book, and gain a deeper understanding of the mental health issues that are discussed.

Lisa seeks out Solomon, the “crazy” kid who jumped into a fountain three years ago, in hopes of writing a scholarship-winning essay on him. Solomon hasn’t left the house in three years. Not even to go in his own back garden. Every time he tries to, or even thinks about it, he has severe panic attacks. So instead of trying anymore, he gave up and made peace with a life inside four walls.

As an aspiring psychologist, Solomon’s case is perfect. But they become close friends, and eventually, Lisa even brings her boyfriend, Clark, to meet Sol. One thing they never expected was Sol falling in love… with Clark.

I have had times where I have been unable to leave my house. I used to have my school work sent home, and would avoid seeing anyone for as long as I could. It never got as bad as Sol’s case, but I would happily stay inside my house 24/7. (My mum won’t let me, though.) So I really did relate to Solomon. The descriptions of his behaviours and thoughts were really accurate in my opinion. It was quite inspiring to watch him slowly emerge from his shell and start living again.

Of course, there’s also the topic of homosexuality in this. I love how Clark remained so friendly even when he knew Sol was gay – not doing the whole “ew he might fancy me” thing that a lot of guys tend to. They were best friends. But Lisa was fed ideas by her friend, Janis, that made her worry Clark was cheating on her with Sol. Yeah. Awkward.

Overall, I just thought this was fantastically written. There are aspects for everyone to relate to, I think. And hopefully, it will help people understand why some of us may seem so “crazy”.

I can easily give this book 4.5 stars. I really enjoyed it, and loved the characters and their relationships. Even when Lisa was using Sol, I could see how she had good intentions. It was so well written.

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Book Review: Dead to You

Dead to You

Dead to You by Lisa McMann – Paperback, 288 pages – Published May 2nd 2013 by Scholastic (first published February 7th 2010)

This is just a short YA book, but it was really interesting. It’s about Ethan, a teenager who was abducted 9 years ago and lived alone on the streets after being abandoned, who has returned to his family at last.

Obviously, it isn’t going to be easy for anyone. But Ethan doesn’t remember a single detail from his life before the abduction, and his brother, Blake, is adamant that he’s an imposter. The family goes through therapy together, and Ethan builds a loving relationship with his young new sister. But even with his new girlfriend, Ethan finds his new life awkward and difficult. The tension in his house is unbearable, and his own anger issues aren’t making things any easier.

I personally found Ethan’s edgy, youthful narration a bit fabricated. Almost like McMann was trying too hard to make him come across a certain way. But it wasn’t a major problem, and I still enjoyed the book.

And the ending was so unexpected, and not in the typical, predictable way. I won’t ruin it for anyone who wants to read it, but the ending raised this book from 3.5 stars to 4.

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Book Review: Evil Rises

Evil Rises

Evil Rises (Noah Reid #0.5) by Wesley Robert Lowe – eBook, 42 pages – First published June 10th 2014

This is just a short prequel to Lowe’s Noah Reid series, with a little extract from the first book included at the end. The story itself is only about 35 pages long.

There’s a little intro to the culture and the origin of Shaolin Martial Arts, which is an important theme in this story. It helped to understand the story, so I appreciated that detail.

The beginning of this story is almost a prequel to the prequel; the childhood experience of Wudan, who would later become Master Wu. Why he chose to take up Shaolin training, and then why he decided to leave “Heaven” to teach the art to others.

The protagonist of the series, Noah, is introduced in this story. He’s not a big character here, though – we’re simply given a taste of what he’ll be like and what purpose he will serve. Instead, this story focuses on some of Master Wu’s students: Tommy, Garret, and (presumably) the antagonist of the series, Chin. We see how Chin went from a young student to a criminal businessman, and are even given some of his motives. And then, after a tragic “accident”, we see his former friends and colleagues planning to defeat him when the time comes.

I like the idea of this, and having all this backstory is really interesting. But this was one of those books that just didn’t stand put to me. The writing seemed mediocre, the characters average at best. I didn’t dislike it, exactly, but it didn’t really excite or interest me. 2.5 stars, as it wasn’t awful but it just wasn’t my kind of thing.

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Book Review: My Heart and Other Black Holes

My Heart and Other Black Holes

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga – Paperback, 309 pages – Published February 12th 2015 by Hodder & Stoughton

I’d heard a few things about this book around the internet and stuff, but didn’t actually read the blurb until the day I started the book. I guessed it was my kind of book from the title, but yeah I had no idea what it was about until I actually started it.

In case you’re wondering, it’s about a suicidal teen and her Suicide Partner, who meet through an online suicide forum. Bit messed up but yeah. Depression is like that.

Obviously, it may not be suitable if you’re going to get triggered by the frequent mentions of suicide and depression, but on the other hand I’d say this is actually aimed at people who are struggling – despite Aysel’s decision to kill herself, this book is actually about overcoming your sadness and fears and issues. It’s about living, not dying.

Aysel’s reason for wanting to die is because she’s scared she’s like her father – her father, who’s locked up for murder. And her partner feels responsible for the death of his little sister, and believes he doesn’t deserve to live when she isn’t living anymore. Obviously, these sorts of triggers are not the only reasons people kill themselves – you don’t have to have some big issue like this to want to die, believe me – but I think these particular situations are quite good. Not the ordinary kind of trigger you read about, but also pretty real.

Aysel is, for most of the book, kind of a bitch. She’s pretty sure she’s gonna be dead in a month, so she doesn’t care too much about anyone else anymore. But all of a sudden, “love” changes her – her relationship with Roman, her Suicide Partner, helps her see herself differently. Even if he’s still depressed as hell and set on killing himself.

The ending, to me, was maybe a little too cheesy. A little too perfect and happy. Yeah, I definitely didn’t want either of them to actually kill themselves, but this change of heart happened so quick and Roman, who was so against “flaking out” just changed his mind along with Aysel so easily. I feel like it should have taken more fight. It made it out to be too easy, too simple to just “change your mind”. It doesn’t really happen like that in real life, not in my experience.

But at the same time, Aysel’s “black slug” of depression is pretty accurate. Eating her happiness and sadness and just all her emotions, for the most part. Taking away everything.

So I have mixed feelings about this book. It was a really good read, overall. My only issues are with the accuracy of the topic, because it’s something quite important to me. I hate when mental health is portrayed wrong. Like I said, it wasn’t too far off, though. So about 3.5 stars, I think. A good read, just not quite how I would’ve written the ending.

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Book Review: Whisper to Me

Whisper to Me

Whisper to Me by Nick Lake – Paperback, 530 pages – Published May 5th 2016 by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

This book is fantastic. I know it sounds cheesy, but I literally could not put it down.

The plot isn’t just one simple story line; it’s twists and turns and ups and downs all over the place. Cass is writing to someone – who is never named, actually – recapping events. The style means that she can switch from talking about the past to describing her current situation and feelings, in the present. She’s able to reflect on the past, add a whole new level to the story. I loved it. And when “you” are in the story, she describes you but also skips the mundane details that you would already know, keeping the story really interesting. It really sounded like she was writing to someone.

Cass’s letter/email is an apology, an explanation, for hurting someone. She acknowledges this right from the start, but it takes a long, long time to get into what really happened. Not in a boring, dragged-out way, but in a suspenseful way. Constantly, I wanted to know what she was referring to, what had happened to require the writing of this email.

So the plot is, as I said, not a straight line at all. But some important things are:

  1. Cass starts to hear a voice. A voice that’s not there, not really.
  2. Cass meets “you” and the voice is quiet and everything is great. But things go wrong. Things go so, so wrong.
  3. Cass’s dad has issues – untreated PTSD from serving as a MARINE.
  4. Cass has some, uh, unacknowledged issues caused by the death of her mother.
  5. Cass meets Paris. Paris is sunshine and love and happiness.
  6. There’s a serial killer on the loose.

As you can see, there is a lot going on in this book. I won’t tell you how all the things link together, but it’s so clever. And oh, so heartbreaking.

Let’s just say that you know it’s coming – you can tell by Cass’s choice of language that something is going to happen – but you still hope for some miracle.

Leading on from that last point, the characters are fantastic. Paris is honestly just amazing; I really fell in love with her. Probably more than Cass’s actual love interest. Oops. And Cass’s dad is so complex, clearly struggling with some stuff, and although he does wrong and he gets angry and he scares Cass sometimes you don’t hate him, not really, and neither does Cass. He’s her dad and she loves him, and he’s trying his best and I could really feel that.

Some books really do just click with you, and this was one of those for me. I made excuses to read for longer than planned, stayed up later. It was lovely to have that excitement back when reading, even if I do feel kind of sad and empty now it’s finished.

Part of me wants some kind of follow-up, but I also know that that would kind of ruin the whole mysterious, imaginative element that the ending leaves. I don’t know.

I would completely definitely certainly recommend it. It covers so much – mental illnesses and single parents and love and death and sex workers and just so many different aspects of life that you maybe wouldn’t expect to find thrown together into one book. But Cass doesn’t seem crazy, isn’t made out to be some kind of mental patient. And no single theme dominates the story – this isn’t just about love, or just about murder. It’s about life.

Definitely 5 stars. I adored this book.

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Book Review: Ensnared

Ensnared

Ensnared by A.G. Howard (Splintered #3) – Paperback, 416 pages – Published January 13th 2015 by Amulet books

I read the first novel of the Splintered series and immediately fell in love with it – purchasing the entire series as paperbacks. This is book #3 in the series by A.G. Howard.

If you haven’t read the first two novels then I don’t want to spoil anything for you. But I will say what I can about the plot and character development (of which there is plenty).

Alyssa takes us on another crazy journey, from the human realm through AnyElsewhere and, of course, Wonderland. Again, she finds herself stuck between her two halves – and between her two loves.

Along with her parents, Morpheus and Jeb, Alyssa must banish Red’s spirit forever, return Wonderland to its former glory, and find a way to balance the two halves of her heart. But the travel to this magical realm has changed Jeb, and he’s found something he’s not willing to leave behind anymore.

There’s a lot of madness and magic in this, which is my favourite part. The pure craziness and mystery of Carroll’s Wonderland is captured beautifully by Howard. There are weird and terrifying creatures – my favourite being the strange butterflies native to AnyElsewhere, even if they do endanger the life of one of our beloved characters – as well as beautiful landscapes and clever backstories. The whole origin of Carroll’s story is put into question, Alyssa slowly uncovering how he discovered the magical land all those years ago.

The main part of this is about Alyssa trying to placate the two halves of her heart. After her previous run-in with Queen Red, there’s something strange going on inside her heart – something that hurts when her human side and netherling side are fighting. What’s wrong with her? How can she live like this?

And Morpheus and Jeb still aren’t the best of friends, either. They’re almost constantly competing for her affections – despite being stuck alone together for who knows how long. I’m always routeing for Morpheus, even if he is a bit of a troublemaker.

The ending is quite a nice compromise, a clever and clean way to stitch everything together. And the epilogue is really good, in my opinion. I won’t tell you what happens. But it’s short and brief, leaving so many questions and opportunities at the end that makes me reeeally want to read the companion book.

It is sometimes a little too perfect, if you know what I mean, but it’s not sickeningly good or sweet. I think the solutions they conjure are really creative and clever, and when they’re in trouble I’m always wondering what they’ll come up with this time.

As for development, Jeb and Morpheus have a clear “epiphany” sort of moment toward the end. But I found that Alyssa also developed a lot, slowly – little realisations that shape her being over time, shape her as a queen.

I do love a good Wonderland story. This isn’t, in my personal opinion, quite as the first novels, but I still really enjoyed it. 4 stars for Ensnared.

Check this book out on Amazon here.

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