ya

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.

866A98B32CBD639D32E20CEBF70E4491

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.

DSCN9574.JPG

866A98B32CBD639D32E20CEBF70E4491

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.

866A98B32CBD639D32E20CEBF70E4491

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.

866A98B32CBD639D32E20CEBF70E4491

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.

866A98B32CBD639D32E20CEBF70E4491

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.

866A98B32CBD639D32E20CEBF70E4491

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.

866A98B32CBD639D32E20CEBF70E4491

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.

866A98B32CBD639D32E20CEBF70E4491

Book Review: The Outs

pro_reader

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.

31426570

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.

DSCN8762.JPG

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.

866A98B32CBD639D32E20CEBF70E4491

Book Review: City of Heavenly Fire

8755785

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!

866A98B32CBD639D32E20CEBF70E4491