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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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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: 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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Book Review: Frankenstein

Frankenstein

Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley – eBook, 126 pages – Published May 17th 2012 (first published March 11th 1818)

This book has been reviewed and studied so many times over the years, so I’ll keep this simple.

It is a classic novel, originally published back in 1818. This does mean that the language is harder to read and understand for some people, and the general culture and ideas are all rather different to what you may be used to. That’s always the biggest problem with reading and appreciating older novels – sometimes we just can’t enjoy the fantastic writing or the unique characters like people would’ve back when it was released.

We are first introduced to Robert Walton on an expedition to the North Pole, writing letters back home. The whole story is, in fact, him recounting what he is told by the man he picks up in his boat – Frankenstein. Frankenstein’s story is a familiar one; he created a monster, who subsequently felt lonely amongst this world of humans. This creature wanted a partner, a mate, but Frankenstein was unwilling to create yet another daemon of this kind. So he took revenge, slowly removing all of the Frankenstein’s loved ones until he no longer held the will to live himself.

It is actually a lot sadder than I ever knew. I didn’t know much, just the generic “Frankenstein’s monster” creation story. But this novel is full of heartache and loss, regret and terror. It’s about a scientist crossing the line of creation, only to suffer drastically for his ambitions.

Yet we are also given the “monster’s” account – his terrifying, lonely entry to the world, his plea for company, even his regret for the lives he took. I never really thought much about the creation himself, didn’t consider his side all that much. But this novel makes you think about him, and even causes you to sympathise with him.

I liked this book, but I feel like it’s one of those books you’re supposed to like. I’m not a huge fan of classic novels, but I can see past the difference in language and lifestyle. I just really appreciated the amount of emotion in this, and also it’s not-so-perfect ending. It isn’t a favourite, and it wasn’t a casual, easy read, but I will give it 3.5 stars.

Check out this edition here.

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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: The Stereotypical Freaks

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

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The Stereotypical Freaks by Howard Shapiro – eBook (Review Copy), 154 pages – Published November 14th 2012 by Animal Media Group

This is a relatively short book, though it’s long for a single comic/graphic novel. It’s pretty different to the other comics I’ve read – there is no epic fight scene, no caped vigilante. But there is a hero, and there is one epic battle.

The general plot involves four teenagers coming together to compete in a “Battle of the Bands” competition. Danny and Tom are good friends already, often jamming out together in Tom’s garage. But they can’t win a competition as just a duo – it’s time to recruit new musicians.

The kids they find end up being Tom’s childhood friend, Mark, and the strange new kid, Jacoby. They start forming a strong bond, until Danny voices his concerns about Mark and his different crew of friends.

Jacoby eventually opens up to the band about his personal problems, too. They never would have guessed what incredible war he’s been fighting in secret. But he’s their friend, and they’re more motivated than ever to practice hard and win the competition.

The art is pretty simplistic, without any colour. Each chapter features “Recommended Listening” which is a great touch for music fans. And I really like both the conflict between Mark’s new ‘popular’ friends and the band, and the huge weight that Jacoby is carrying. The ending is bittersweet, realistic. But I did notice that the issue with Mark and his mates is not resolved, which is kind of annoying.

This is a really refreshing story, confronting an issue that is all too real for many young people. It doesn’t sugarcoat it, but it doesn’t make it sound like hell, either. It’s just honest, and I think that’s really good.

It does provoke some emotion which is fantastic, but I didn’t feel much connection with the individual characters on the whole. And the plot is… meh. I like that it’s about Jacoby’s illness and him wanting to carry on despite it, but I also feel like it dominates the story a bit too much. Like, the illness has become his identity, taken over the whole story. It’s good to focus on it, of course, but I’m not sure it should’ve been the only plot.

I think about 3.5 stars is appropriate for this. It’s different, honest, and great for any music fans.

If you wanna check it out, it’s available on Amazon here.

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Book Review: Lost Girls

pro_readerThis was my first experience of Marsons’ D.I. Kim Stone series, even though it is the third instalment. I love thrillers and crime/detective novels, so I’m incredibly grateful to the author/publishers for allowing me a copy of this book via NetGalley.

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Lost Girls (D.I. Kim Stone #3) by Angela Marsons – eBook, 442 pages – Published November 6th 2015 by Bookouture

A year ago, two young girls were kidnapped. Only one came home.

Two more girls have gone.
There are several obstacles for the team to overcome: Is it the same persecutor as last time? Will they be using the same location? What do they want? Are the girls even alive still?
Stone knows one of the mothers from her younger years spent in care. They never got on, yet she still requests Kim to lead the investigation.
Marsons gives an in-depth insight to the workings of the case, including the emotional effect on the workers. The use of a “profiler” was a nice touch, even if she was constantly hated and insulted at the start. (I’m looking into some kind of psychological side of crime for a uni course, so it was interesting to see what role she played. My psychology course at A Level also means I understand some of the references mentioned, which made me rather happy.)
With the help of a negotiator, a crazy psychic and the survivor of the last case, Kim manages to narrow down the search location. But the clock is ticking.
Throughout the course of this investigation, Kim is hung up on a previous failure. She’d always blamed a reporter for the death of a young man, but what if it wasn’t her fault? What if someone else was really to blame?
We also see into Kim’s past through small instalments of memories. Bit by bit, we conjure an image of her character, her experiences and feelings. She comes across as bit of a bitch, but shows her tenderness when trying to save the girls. Her relationships with different characters in the novel also reveal different strengths and weaknesses.
While the investigation is going on, the couples go through several different domestic issues. Leads are being found and extinguished all around, and the previous case notes provide little help. The tension builds as they struggle to keep hope alive.
The end includes a few somewhat predictable twists, but isn’t bad. Some non-crime-related developments are quite unexpected, though, proving that this is more than a simple detective novel.
An interesting read, but not particularly outstanding. 3.5 stars out of 5.

Buy it now!

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Book Review: Beautiful Broken Things

pro_readerI would like to give a massive thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this novel. In return, I am writing a review with my honest opinions on the book.

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Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard – eBook, 337 pages – Published February 11th 2016 by Macmillan Children’s Books

Wow. The title was perfect to me – I personally suffer from mental health issues and have known lots of other people who do, too. There are loads of books about this issue now, but I like how this isn’t about her suffering, but instead her friend.

If you’re struggling with any mental illness, you’ll understand how “broken” is such a perfect word for describing your state. Using “beautiful” alongside this is nice, making you feel that maybe being broken isn’t always such a bad thing.

Caddy is ordinary, boring, plain – until her best friend introduces her to Suzanne. At first, she just seems like a fun, reckless kind of girl. But it soon becomes apparent that she has some serious issues beneath the surface.

Barnard creates Suzanne as a character before introducing her issues. She does hint at something going on, but she doesn’t make it her only identity. This is so important in books. We are not just our mental illnesses! I wish more people could see that.

The relationships are very realistic, too. I can’t say I know much about abuse, but I can say that the friendship issues caused by Suzanne’s depression are portrayed very realistically. And when she is admitted to treatment, she realises that maybe she has dragged her friends down without intending to do so – something that is incredibly common.

Suzanne is very relatable, but that may just be personal. The way she talks about her issues and emotions, and the way she copes with things, are very similar to my own. And again, her being a “bad influence” is something I have experienced to some extent. But even if you don’t personally fit in her shoes by any measure, I think anyone can appreciate Suzanne’s struggles and her relationship and impact on Caddy.

As for Caddy, who is the protagonist of the novel, I think she is a greatly accurate representation of many teenage girls. She wants something impressive to happen – she’s never had a boyfriend, she still has her virginity, she’s never even been in any serious situations. Everyone has that phase of wanting something that sets them apart, that makes them unique and interesting. Of course, Caddy never could have anticipated what would happen when she befriended Suzanne…

And Rosie, Caddy’s original bestie, is sort of the other kind of typical teen. She has more of a social life but is still loyal to her old friend, and although she may not be entirely “boring” she also isn’t incredibly special, either.

This may possibly be a slightly romanticised portrayal of depression and suicide, but not like many others. Honestly, the reckless and thrilling adventures Suzanne takes Caddy on aren’t all that out-there. When you’re in that dark place, you do crazy things sometimes. And although Caddy had fun and loved Suzanne, it was still part of the issue. Caddy’s parents take the events as Suzanne being a bad influence, though, which (as I said before) is something I have experienced. Caddy doesn’t see it that way, and although Suzanne isn’t intending to influence Caddy in any way, she isn’t a great help either. What’s that phrase about cutting yourself when trying to fix someone who’s broken?

I do admit that I’m maybe emotionally attached to this for personal reasons, but I can honestly say that this is a fantastic book anyway. The character development is superb, the writing is easy to follow and the plot is realistic yet interesting. I can’t say I’d change it at all. 5 stars.

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Book Review: Fire Study

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Fire Study (Chronicles of Ixia #3) by Maria V. Snyder – Paperback, 441 pages – Published June 7th 2013 by Mira Ink

This is the third novel in the Chronicles of Ixia series by Maria V. Snyder. There are more books – I’m not quite sure how many – but I am definitely done with this series.

Again, we follow Yelena – our 20-something protagonist with magical powers. She’s discovered that her powers make her a Soulfinder, and people fear her because of it. But she uses her powers for good, even if the Fire Warper tries to get her on his side.

Even though Yelena is a bit older than the usual YA protagonist, the way this book is written just feels immature to me. It’s almost entirely composed of simple, declarative sentences with little emotion. I can’t connect with Yelena, even when she suffers the loss of a loved one or comes near to death herself.

I said this about the first book, and I’ll say it again; Snyder doesn’t seem to portray the passing of time. At all. There is a section of this book that was meant to have been over several weeks, but I just didn’t feel it. There’s no character development. Even the relationships don’t seem to have any feeling. Basically, I just can’t connect with anyone or anything in these books.

Though there is nothing bad about the writing, I just didn’t like this book. I found it hard to read and didn’t really enjoy it. The plot sounded decent – escorting souls to the sky, defeating evil magicians – but I was so disappointed. 2 stars.

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