Young Adult

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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Graphic Novel/Comic Book Review: Adventure Time Volume #6

Adventure Time Volume 6

Adventure Time Vol. #6 by Ryan North – Paperback, 128 pages – Published April 3rd 2015 by Titan Comics

Another fun little read from Titan Comics. There’s not much that’s new to talk about here – Finn, Jake and their friends are off on more colourful adventures, this time involving ghosts. The characters will mostly all be familiar from the show and previous comics, except for a new foe here and there.

The art is as bold and wonderful as always, and the stories are all just as fun as usual. There’s even the theme of mistakenly generalising negative beliefs across a whole community, which is such a relevant lesson for people to learn in this world.

There isn’t much else to say about this, but I definitely recommend these comics for a nice, light read sometimes. I’m revising for exams currently and have loved relaxing with this. They’re appropriate to every age group – kids will love it, and the YA community are crazy about this franchise. Just because it may be a “kid’s” story, I think anyone can appreciate them.

4 stars! A bit of fun, with important lessons intertwined. I love these.

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Book Review: Nothing Tastes as Good

Nothing Tastes as Good

Nothing Tastes as Good by Claire Hennessy – Papberback, 336 pages – Published July 14th 2016 by Hot Key Books

I happened to see this book by chance, in my local library. I was drawn to it because of it’s cover, it’s title – I’m anorexic, and I happen to be drawn to things relating to mental health. It doesn’t expressly say on it that it’s about anorexia, but the cover made it pretty obvious to me. A warning to anyone that wants to read it: it’s hard. If you suffer from something like this, like me, then you will probably have difficulty reading something so close to home. Especially if you’re recovering. But it gets better. (I mean the book; I’m not using that “life gets better” crap.)

So Annabel is dead. I’m studying The Lovely Bones at school so the whole beyond-death narration isn’t that special to me now. But Hennessy does it pretty differently to Sebold.

We don’t know much about Annabel, not at first. But we begin to learn about her while she helps her assigned “soul-in-need” – The Boss (definitely not God) has promised her a final communication with her family if she helps Julia. And this looks easy, at first – Julia is from Annabel’s old school, with a loving family and good grades. Everything is fine, except she’s fat. Annabel thinks this should be easy – after all, she’s an expert in weight loss. She lost weight until she died.

But Annabel soon finds out that Julia’s issues are a whole lot more complex than her weight. At first, losing weight helps. But then her old scars come back to haunt her, and Annabel realises that maybe losing weight isn’t going to fix all her problems.

Aside from the obvious issue, this book does talk about a lot of important topics. It covers friendships and relationships, like most YA novels do, but it also combats ideas on feminism, affairs with older men, and people all having their own hidden demons.

At first, I wasn’t keen on Annabel. I wanted to like her – I felt I should, because I could relate to her story so much. But she was a bitch. She wanted other people to be like her, and rather than encouraging recovery and health and happiness, she shared tipped on weight loss. It really did hurt to read. Her ideas on “perfection” and being weak for eating just really hit a nerve for me. Not because it was wrong (though I’d never encourage an eating disorder in someone else), but because it’s exactly how I’d think about myself. Her behaviours, her worries, her anger – they were so real.

But Annabel, despite being dead, grows alongside Julia. Yes, she tells Julia to starve herself and run on an empty stomach and hate herself, but eventually she starts to feel for her. She wants Julia to combat her issues, to actually be happy. And she realises, despite having been so upset with her old friends for recovering, that maybe she wasted her life. Maybe she could have been something more, rather than striving to be less.

I found this really emotional. Annabel’s love for her sister, the sister she neglected for years while she was focused on her goals, and the future she cut short. The way Julia’s life changed when her passion for writing and journalism was overtaken by her obsession with food, calories, exercise. It’s so real and so sad. And the ending isn’t “happily ever after” – Annabel’s still dead, Julia’s in counselling – but it’s real. It gives hope that things can change, that Julia can really achieve happiness.

At first, I didn’t like this that much. I know Annabel is just a character, but I just didn’t like her. She was one of those girls that makes anorexia sound like a choice, a lifestyle, and I hated that. But later she realises she is sick, and I actually felt sorry for her. I was sorry that she had been brainwashed by her illness into believing she was doing what was right.

The only reason I’m giving just 4.5 stars to this book is because Annabel was a bitch. Yes, she is a character, and yes, she grows considerably throughout the novel, but her encouragement of EDs just drove me insane. Personal pet peeve, I guess.

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Graphic Novel/Comic Book Review: Batman: Night of the Monster Men

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

I should really try and read comics in order a bit more…

I believe this is the first crossover of DC Universe: Rebirth? It’s also Batman Vol. III #1.5.

Batman: Night of the Monster Men

Batman: Night of the Monster Men (DC Universe Rebirth, Batman Vol. III #1.5) – eBook (Review Copy), 153 pages – Published March 21st 2017 by DC Entertainment

There are tons of great characters in this, mostly featuring Batman (duh), Batwoman, Nightwing, Orphan, Spoiler, Clayface, Gotham Girl and even Dr. Strange. Pretty great line-up, I think!

So the plot of this volume is monsters, as you may have guessed from the title. Genetically engineered monsters, developed from human corpses. But the dead aren’t the only ones affected by the creation; an algae-like substance is sending civilians insane with rage. And the costumed heroes aren’t immune to it, either…

The crew have to protect the citizens of Gotham, and Gotham Girl is intent on helping – even if she isn’t quite well enough yet. But why has Dr. Strange picked these particular people to turn into monsters? And why is he aiming them at Batman?…

I absolutely loved how it turned out to be “Batman’s monsters” (I won’t spoil it for anyone who wants to read it, but it’s really clever I think). The characters are as good as always, but there isn’t much personal life included in this (but it is a superhero story, I guess.) There’s a lot of action, as you’d expect, as well as some careful calculations, biology and physics. A really good volume! 4 stars out of 5.

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Book Review: The Outs

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

Well, this was… an interesting read…

Just gonna quickly put a little trigger warning in here, as there are graphic and emotional descriptions of depression and suicide. But the story isn’t about these things, and they aren’t properly talked about until far later in the novel.

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The Outs by E.S. Wesley – eBook, 365 pages – Published January 24th 2017 by Curiosity Quills Press

You’re thrown right into the deep end from page one, having to put the pieces together as the plot progresses. We meet one of our protagonists, Caleb, in an unfamiliar room with mysterious men and a random little girl. He ends up taking her with him as he runs, trying to figure out what he did during the Outs.

The Outs are kinda confusing. They’re moments in time where electrical appliances all fail, and anything that happens is forgotten as soon as the Outs end. Oh, and anyone killed during the Outs is resurrected from the dead.

I’m really not sure how to describe this book. The plot is super confusing – Caleb and his aphasic friend, Kitzi, take this weird little girl (Amanda) who somehow has powers over everyone and everything, in an attempt to stop Deeds and his army of Deadheaders. Caleb has a psychopathic voice in his head called Crimes, Amanda’s dreams come true, Kitzi’s suicide happens to have taken place at the same time the Outs started, she can smell the truth – and somehow they’re all connected to the Outs? These three individuals – and many others along the way – each have a big part in what is happening. But how?

Honestly, I cannot explain it. There are so many little ties and strings throughout this book that all add up, and I couldn’t possibly include them all.

It definitely is a unique book. The idea is pretty good, too – the whole “nightmares becoming real” and all. But I just didn’t connect; I don’t know if it was the pacing or what, but I just didn’t feel involved in it.

I feel like I should’ve been able to sympathise with the characters more – they had good backstories, emotional and family issues that different people should be able to relate to. And the narration following Kitzi often makes references to comic books which I personally really appreciated. But I just didn’t quite feel them. Maybe it’s just me – there’s nothing wrong with the writing in particular, so maybe it’s just personal preference. I don’t know.

I had a few typos in my copy but I received an ARC, not a final copy, so that shouldn’t affect anyone buying the book. I loved the cover, and the art at each chapter start was great. Also, the inclusion of “Notes From Last Night” (a site where people recorded notes during the outs for after they forget) was awesome, too. It added a whole other dimension to the world, an extra little bit of interest.

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I wanted to like this, I really did. And I didn’t dislike it – but it didn’t feel like anything special to me. 3 stars for The Outs.

If you’re interested, you can check it out on Amazon.

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Book Review: City of Heavenly Fire

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City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments #6) – Paperback, 638 pages – Published February 1st 2015 by Walker

Wow. I cannot believe the series is over.

I started this series thinking it was just another paranormal YA series, which it was in some ways, but I ended up falling in love with it as the series progressed. Now I’m gonna have to go and buy the gorgeous box set and read them a dozen times over.

If you’re not familiar with these books, you can check out my reviews of the first five books (starting with number one). I may actually be re-reviewing these in a while though, as I’ve come to appreciate them a whole lot more now.

So, where to start… The plot? Complicated but great. Action, tons of heartache, and a sprinkle of love. The ending is super sweet, too. Maybe a bit too neat and happy, but I’m a cynic. Honestly, it was nice to see them all find happiness at last.

The characters. Oh, the characters! I love them all. The use of the relationships in the plot is fantastic (and super sad), and the character development is pretty strong, too. The relationship between Clary and Jace becomes more *ahem* intimate, while Magnus and Alec finally get to talk about what happened between them. As for Isabelle and Simon… you’ll have to read it yourself to see what happens to them.

I find that Clare’s writing in these novels has a really distinct, iconic feel. From the first page, I was immersed in the Shadowhunting world, despite it having been a while since I read the previous novel. And although the book is long – over 600 pages – it didn’t feel tedious or boring. It took me a while to read it due to school work, but I did find myself having to force myself to put the book down and go to sleep.

Like I said, I have grown fonder of this series with each passing book. I’m going to start the series over again soon to see if I still feel the same way as before, but for now I’m going to give this finale a 4.5-star rating. Not quite in my favourites, but after a re-read it may be!

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Graphic Novel/Comic Book Review: Superman, Action Comics Volume 1: The Path of Doom

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

I’ve not read that much about Superman, but my boyfriend has kept me updated on the plot. That background knowledge really helped when reading this volume, as it was pretty confusing.

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Superman Action Comics Volume 1: Path of Doom (Action Comics Vol. III, #1) – 128 pages – Published February 17th 2017 by DC Comics

The start took me by surprise; Lex Luthor as Superman, following the death of Clark. What’s he doing as Superman, though? What are his true motives?

One thing to remember with this is that DC have several universes, meaning there are different Clarks/Supermans on different worlds. And this issue involves a Superman who is not on his home planet, and an extra Clark that nobody was expecting…

I love Clark’s little family, and the way it’s affected by his being Superman and everything. There wasn’t much in this volume of the family together, though, as it is mainly based on the fight between Superman, Lex, Wonder Woman and Doomsday.

I would’ve liked more explanation in here on the whole situation with all the different Supermans, but I haven’t read any previous issues so I suppose they might explain it. (Maybe I’ll ask my boyfriend about it.)

One thing I haven’t yet mentioned is the mysterious figure commentating on the battle, even intervening and stealing Doomsday away. I’m really interested to see where that’s going.

As usual, the art is awesome. It’s not my favourite comic, but I still enjoyed it. 3.5 stars.

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