Aurora Rising by Jay Kristoff & Amy Kaufman Review

“The only places I fit are the places inside my head,” she continues. “It is as you said, sir. I do not understand people.” She looks around the bridge. “But I believe of all the places I have not fit, I fit here a little better.” – Aurora Rising | Jay Kristoff & Amy Kaufman

Synopsis from Allen & Unwin

If I were to describe this book in one word, it would be entertaining. From the very beginning, I was hooked. Aurora Rising opens with a scene in which our brave hero, Tyler Jones, is attempting a daring solo rescue mission. From the first page, Aurora Rising is action packed and fast paced. It’s a story full of action, drama, comedy and even a little romance. It’s an exciting read that I don’t think anyone could describe as dull. There’s a lot of hype surrounding this release, and for me at least, Aurora Rising more than met my expectations.

Since Aurora Rising is Kristoff and Kaufman’s first book together since Obsidio, I think it’s only natural that people are going to make comparisons between this series and The Illuminae Files. In a lot of ways, the two series are similar, both are set in space, feature a band of misfits and are overflowing with Kristoff and Kaufman’s trademark blend of sarcasm and sass. The most obvious difference though, is that Aurora Rising doesn’t have the visual elements that were included in Illuminae. The Illuminae Files featured maps, sketches and all kinds of imagery like the following:

I think that Illuminae’s unique format was something that a lot of fans loved about the book, but personally I just found it distracting. Yes, the visuals were gorgeous and fun to flip through, but I felt like they broke up the pace of the story too much. Thus, I actually found it a lot easier to get into, and enjoy Aurora Rising, though I do suspect others will be disappointed by the lack of images.

Now that I’ve written a little about Illuminae, I think it’s time to move on and focus on all the things I loved about Aurora Rising! Firstly, the book is actually hilarious. There are seven point of view characters, and of those seven, I’d say serious Kal was the only one who didn’t make me laugh at some point. Finian, who was easily my favourite character, had me in stitches for what felt like half the book. I also adored the bond between Squad 312 and Auri. Aurora Rising is essentially a book about friendship, and finding a place in which you belong. The passage I quoted at the beginning of this review really epitomises this theme, and it resonated with me a lot. Aurora Rising is a story that will resonate with misfits, loners and those still searching for their squad.

While I loved this book, and the friendships between the main characters, I will say that the romance felt a little forced at times. I’m not into the whole love at first sight trope, whether you call it “imprinting”, a “mating bond”, or in this case, “the pull”. I’d rather see a romance that grows slowly as the characters get to know one another, and while we do have a bit of that, we also have another case in which a character instantly recognises that he has found his soul mate upon seeing her for the first time. However, there was also a much more low key potential romance brewing, that I’m very excited about.

Ultimately, I think fans of Kristoff and Kaufman will be very happy with Aurora Rising. It’s fun, exciting and addictive. Yet, there’s still some drama and heartbreak! I can’t wait for all of you to read this book and fall in love with Squad 312, like I have.

4.5 stars

Thank you to Allen & Unwin for providing me with a review copy!

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The Nowhere by Chris Gill review

“In that moment, the aching longing to be somewhere else was finally gone. Somewhere that wasn’t The Nowhere. Somewhere that wasn’t my own skin. In the darkness, I was sure I could hear the night whispering to me. Telling me it secrets, now it knew mine.”
– The Nowhere, Chris Gill

When Seb’s mother died, his life changed dramatically. His father, Stuart, dragged Seb and his younger brother away from Perth city to move to the country and fulfil his dream of becoming a cattle farmer. Far from civilisation, or teenagers his own age, Seb has become desperately lonely, dreaming of escaping the farm, or as he calls it, “The Nowhere”. Then, when a new family and their rebellious son Jake move in next door, everything starts to change. 

Fast forward twenty years, Seb is now a nurse and it’s been decades since he last saw Jake. Thus when Jake calls out of the blue, suggesting the pair meet up for coffee, Seb is startled and hesitant. Will this blast from the past force Seb to confront the truth about what really happened on the farm, all those years ago? 

First of all I’d like to say a huge thank you to Chris Gill and PRNTD Publishing for providing me with a copy of this gorgeous book to review! 

I went into The Nowhere with few expectations, I was attracted to the book because of it’s beautiful cover (for some reason, I just love minimalist covers) and because it was set in Western Australia, the city I’ve lived in for my entire life. Though in the past, I haven’t come across many books with Perth settings that I’ve actually enjoyed. I didn’t know an awful lot about the plot, except that the story takes place in a rural area and potentially involved a m/m romance. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised when I loved this book from the very beginning.

As I said, one of the elements I most enjoyed about the book is its Australian setting. I felt Gill described the dusty outback perfectly, and though the ocean was only briefly mentioned, he somehow also captured the Australian love of the beach really well. I also liked Gill’s use of Australian slang! It wasn’t too over the top, but it was fun reading about characters who used words like “bogan” and “pashing”. Plus, Jake’s tendency to tack the word “mate” onto the end of half his sentences reminded me of several people I know. 

Another thing I loved about The Nowhere was the relationship between Seb and Jake. This isn’t the kind of cutesy romance you see in books like Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (though I did love that one too), it’s angsty, raw and full of longing. Seb and Jake are two characters drawn together by loneliness, and both are confused by the complex and intense bond they share. Something about the way Seb obsessed over Jake, and Jake’s looming sense of emotional instability gave the book kind of a psychological thriller feel, at times, though as a whole it would more likely to be described as a coming of age story or general fiction. Their relationship is very central to the plot of the book, and it was both very realistic and well written.

Overall, The Nowhere is a wonderful book and I would recommend it to anyone who loves mystery and raw, human drama. Or anyone looking for an LGBT+ read! I’d also say that I think it’s probably best going into this book without knowing too much about it, it’s a very character driven story and mystery is at the heart of it’s plot, so I think it’s best to just keep an open mind and let the book surprise you

We Are Okay Review

Welcome to my stop on the We Are Okay blog tour, brought to you by the lovely people of #AusYABloggers, University of Queensland Press and of course, the amazing Nina LaCour. I’m so grateful to be a part of the tour as I’m a huge fan of LaCour’s writing and I love that I’ve got an opportunity to share my enthusiasm for her work! Here’s the We Are Okay official synopsis:

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even far away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.  
An intimate whisper that packs an indelible punch, We Are Okay is Nina LaCour at her finest. This gorgeously crafted and achingly honest portrayal of grief will leave you urgent to reach across any distance to reconnect with the people you love.

Firstly, I’d like to clarify that this is actually my second time reading We Are Okay, I initially read the book when it was released in the US in 2017. After a two year wait, the book has finally been released in paperback format in Australia, so I thought 2019 was the perfect time for a reread. Having now read the book twice, I think I’m even more in love with it than I was after the first time. Marin’s story is a deeply character driven one, it’s a subtle book that whispers, rather than roars. It’s a story about grief, and finding hope again after enduring a great personal loss. As such, I can see why it wouldn’t appeal to everyone – it’s definitely not an action packed book, nor is the plot particularly fast paced. Personally, I love this kind of book, it’s somehow deeply emotional without being melodramatic, and I feel like the soft, gentle, pacing gives the book a more realistic feel.

The main focus of the book is Marin and the relationships she has with the two most important people in her life; her grandfather and her best friend Mabel. Having lost her mother at a very young age, Marin has spent most of her life being raised by her Gramps. The two have what first appears like a great relationship. There’s a sense of easy companionship between the pair and their life together seems simple and free of drama. However, though Gramps clearly loves Marin, he still keeps her at a distance, hiding the pain of his past and maintaining a sense of mystery around his life. Marin and Mabel’s relationship is also more complicated than it first appears. The two started out as best friends, but in senior year, their relationship started to evolve into something more romantic. But when Marin escaped to New York, she left everything behind, including Mabel. Can the pair reconnect after being apart for months? Or will Mabel be unable to forgive Marin for shutting her out?

We Are Okay is told through two alternating timelines. In the present day, Marin is alone in her college dorm, experiencing the harsh New York winter for the first time. The flashbacks are set in the North Carolina summer, in the weeks leading up to Marin and Mabel’s high school graduation. The pair are happy and in love, spending their nights sharing whisky stolen from Gramps and kissing on the beach. Both settings are gorgeous and they act as sort of an emotional backdrop to the story. The summer chapters are beachy, fun and full of the happiness of first love. Whereas the winter chapters are melancholy, the stormy weather heightening Marin’s sense of loneliness. While there is a lot of sadness in the present day chapters, there’s also a spark of hope. Marin may be broken, but she’s healing. Through out the novel, we see her coming to terms with what happened at the end of last summer and slowly opening herself back up to the world around her.  

Ultimately, We Are Okay is a beautifully written book and a very raw, and honest portrayal of loss. It’s a book that will pull at your heart strings, and probably stay with you for a long time. I honestly don’t think I’m a skilled enough writer to convey just how gorgeous this story is. It’s sad, poetic, and something about it just felt so achingly real. To put things simply, We Are Okay is amazing, and you should go read it. After a long, hot summer the Australian weather is finally starting to cool down and I feel this book would make for the perfect comforting and cozy winter read.

I rate this book 5/5!

The We Are Okay tour is almost over, but make sure you keep an eye out for the final reviews from Reading Sumpton, Jamishelves and Elysian Words! Thank you again to #AusYABloggers for allowing me to be a part of his tour.

City of Ghosts Review

“Every time I get nervous or scared, I remind myself that every good story needs twists and turns. Every heroine needs an adventure.” 
― Victoria Schwab, City of Ghosts

Cassidy Blake doesn’t have what you’d call an ordinary life. Her parents are paranormal investigators who write books about ghosts, though Cassidy wasn’t much of a believer until a near death experience involving a bridge and a river left her with the ability to see “beyond the veil.” Now, Cassidy can not only see ghosts, but she also has a ghost named Jacob as a best friend. When Cassidy’s parents accept an offer to turn their books into a television series, she finds herself on a plane to Scotland with Jacob in tow. Much to Cassidy’s surprise, she soon meets Lara, a girl with abilities similar to her own. Will Lara be able to help keep Cassidy safe from The Raven in Red, a malicious ghost haunting Scottish graveyards? Or will The Raven succeed in her quest to steal enough lives for her to become strong enough to return to the world of the living?

City of Ghosts is quite possibly the first middle grade book that I’ve read as an adult. I’ve always been quite sceptical about whether I could enjoy middle grade, however, I love Schwab enough that I knew I had to give this one a try. Much to my surprise, I really enjoyed it! Like Scwab’s adult and young adult novels, it has a dark, creepy, vibe. However, there’s a lot less violence and swearing than her previous releases, and that didn’t bother me at all. The writing is absolutely gorgeous, as is the friendship between Cassidy and Jacob. And of course, I adored all the Harry Potter references sprinkled through out the novel. Cassidy is a hardcore HP fan, and Jacob likes to think he knows a lot more about the series than he actually does. I laughed out loud when Cassidy and Jacob visit a haunted castle and Jacob exclaims, “Pigworts! Broom ball! Crowpuff! . . . It’s like that scene with Tumbledore and the Magic Hat!”

I would recommend this book to Schwab fans, and anyone who loves stories that are a little bit spooky!

My rating: 5/5

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein Review

“I would lie silent and still, like a corpse, as he studied me. His careful, delicate hands explored all the bones and tendons, the muscles and tracings of veins that make up a person. “But where is Elizabeth?” he would ask, his ear against my heart. “Which part makes you?” I had no answer, and neither did he.” 
― Kiersten White, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

It’s been 200 years since Mary Shelley penned Frankenstein, and since then there have been countless homages to her work. The latest of these is a young adult retelling by Kiertsen White titled, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein. Much like the source material, it’s a dark and creepy tale that makes us wonder what it means to be truly monstrous. Here’s a quick synopsis . . .

Elizabeth Lavenza is a beautiful orphan, living in squalor and suffering at the hands of an abusive caretaker. When Elizabeth is introduced to Victor Frankenstein, a wealthy, but deeply unusual boy, it seems her luck is set to change. Though Victor is undoubtedly brilliant, the Frankensteins worry about his dark temperament, thus they decide to take Elizabeth in as a ward, hoping that her influence will help to “soften” their son. Elizabeth knows her position in the Frankenstein home is precarious, so she does all she can to win Victor’s love. Even if that means keeping his secrets and hiding the evidence of some of his less savoury scientific experiments.

As a massive fan of both Mary Shelley and Kiersten White, I was very excited for this book, and I am pleased to say that it did not disappoint. There are so many things that I love about The Dark Descent that I don’t even know where to begin writing this review. However, I think what appeals to me most about the book is how true it feels to the spirit of the original Frankenstein. Both books are dark, haunting and at times, disturbing. Though White has taken many liberties with the plot of Frankenstein, particularly towards the end of the book, her creation seems to me like something Shelley would be proud of.

While White has maintained the atmosphere of Frankenstein, she has also brought a sense of modernity to her work. Much like White’s The Conqueror’s Saga, this novel has a distinctly feminist vibe. White has taken Elizabeth, who was very much a side character in the original, and placed her front and centre. In Frankenstein, we didn’t learn an awful lot about Elizabeth, she is described as sweet and docile, dedicated to “the happiness of others, entirely forgetful of herself.” Ultimately, she was a simple character whose one purpose in life was to make Victor happy. White has taken this idea and ran with it, exploring Elizabeth’s backstory and providing her with a cunning mind, well hidden beneath her placid demeanour. As such, the version of Elizabeth we see in The Dark Descent is a far more well rounded and interesting character than she was in the original.

I don’t know that I’d necessarily recommend this book to those who haven’t read Frankenstein, though of course it will still make perfect sense to anyone who isn’t familiar with the source material. It’s just that so much of what I, personally, loved about the book is how White has taken a seemingly one dimensional character and given her a story of her own. I feel like readers will appreciate what White has done with the character so much more if they’re familiar with the original Elizabeth. However, if you haven’t read Frankenstein, but you do love creepy stories, historical settings, and a fiercely intelligent heroine, you’re still likely to enjoy this gorgeous book. I absolutely adored it, so I’m giving The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein 5/5 stars.

February Wrap Up

Hi everyone!

How was your reading month? Did you discover any new favourites in February? I sure did! Here’s a brief synopsis and my thoughts on each of the books I read this month.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Two college students discover the formula for giving themselves super powers. Fast forward ten years and one of them is in prison while the other has become a murderous vigilante.

This book…

How do I even begin to describe how much I loved it?! The writing, the characters, the story… all were just flawless. Vicious just blew me away with it’s perfection. It was dark, yet funny and the characters were so morally grey, yet so completely loveable. As far as I’m concerned, Schwab can do no wrong.

Rating: it’s an easy 5/5 from me.

Vengeful by V.E. Schwab

Eli and Victor are back at it again, but this time there’s a new player in town and she’s got a terrifying ability that may bring the city to its knees.

Not quite as good as Vicious, but still a new favourite, for me. The first book ended so perfectly that I don’t think a sequel was truly necessary, yet I couldn’t resist getting my hands on Vengeful so that I could read more about Victor and Eli. However, I would have liked for Victor to get more page time. The new characters were great, but he was the reason I wanted to read the book.

Rating: 5/5

After by Anna Todd

Innocent college girl falls for bad boy with charming British accent. Girl subsequently spends the rest of the book crying. It’s kinda like 50 Shades of Grey, but with slightly less sex, and the guy is even more emotionally abusive.

I’m gonna be honest here… this is quite possibly the worst book I’ve ever read. It’s top five (or should I say bottom five?) at the very least. Almost every character in the book is a terrible person, but the most heinous of them all is our romantic lead, Hardin. *INCOMING SPOILER* He literally keeps the condom AND the dirty sheets from the first time he has sex with the protagonist, Tessa, so that he can show them to his friends to prove that he slept with her. *END SPOILER* Yet he has such a legion of fans that the book is being made into a movie?! I could write an entire blog post on why Tessa and Hardin are literature’s worst couple… in fact, that’s something I may do, it sounds kind of fun.

HOWEVER, I will say one positive thing about After. It was extremely addictive, I couldn’t stop reading. Yes, it was kind of like staring at a train wreck, but wow, I could not put the book down.

Rating: 2/5

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Girl wakes up hungover in a bathtub to find that all her friends have been murdered by vampires, except her ex-boyfriend, who has been infected with the virus. The pair go on a road trip and pick up a few friends along the way.

Since reading The Folk of the Air, I’ve been determined to read my way through Holly Black’s back catalogue. I started with White Cat, which I did enjoy, but I didn’t love it like I did The Cruel Prince, or The Wicked King. Thankfully, I did love The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. I feel like it really captured the emo vibe of the mid 2000’s (all the guys were sporting floppy fringes and lip rings, while the girls were all black hair and combat boots) and it had a unique and fun take on vampirism. No, there weren’t any characters that I adored the way I do Cardan and Jude, but it did give me something to read while I continue the long wait for Queen of Nothing.

Rating: 4/5

Most Anticipated 2019 Releases

We may be a couple of months into the year already, but there are still a heap of 2019 releases I’m excited for! Tell me what you’re hoping to read this year?

Shades of Magic Vol. 1: The Steel Prince by V.E. Schwab

Release date: March 6th

Now I’m not generally into comic books, though I do appreciate the artwork, but I absolutely adore V.E. Schwab. After reading her Villains series, she instantly became one of my favourite authors, and at this point I’m willing to read anything she’s written. This release is set in the world of A Darker Shade of Magic (though it’s a prequel, so I’m guessing you don’t have to have read the series to understand it? Let me know if I’m wrong about this!) and focuses on Rhy Maresh’s father, Maxim. Now, Maxim didn’t get terribly much page time in ADSOM, but from what we did seem of him, I was intrigued. He always seemed like much more of a warrior type that sweet cinnamon roll Rhy, and I can’t wait to read about his adventures!

Sherwood by Megan Spooner

Release date: March 19th

A Robin Hood retelling in which Maid Marion is a badass vigilante? Count me in! Fairy tales and girl power are two of my favourite things, so I found myself instantly drawn to Sherwood. Plus I loved Hunted, Spooner’s Beauty and the Beast retelling.

The Red Scrolls of Magic (The Eldest Curses #1) by Cassandra Clare

Release date: April 9th

Some may say that Clare has drawn out the Shadowhunters saga for far too long . . . but I’ve read 13 books set in the universe so far, and I still can’t get enough. This new series focuses on one of the most loved couples from The Mortal Instruments; Magnus and Alec, AKA Malec, AKA the most adorable ship to ever grace our television screens and pages. To be honest, I know literally nothing about the plot of this series. I think it’s set before The Dark Artifices, but I’m not even 100% sure about that. All I needed to hear before hitting that pre-order button was the phrase “Malec novel”.

DEV1AT3 (Lifelike #2) by Jay Kristoff

Release date: May (exact date unknown)

DEV1AT3 is the sequel to 2018’s LIFEL1K3, a dystopian fantasy about misfits and androids. The first book finished with a whole heap of plot twists and surprises, so naturally, I can’t wait to find out what happens to Eve, Lemon Fresh and the rest of the gang.

Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle #1) by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman 

Release date: May 7th

A gorgeous cover, the promise of anti-heroes, and two insanely talented Aussie authors? How could I resist?! Like a lot of YA fans, I loved The Illuminae Files, so I’m keen so see what magic Kristoff and Kaufman can create in their second series together.

These Witches Don’t Burn (These Witches Don’t Burn #1) by Isabel Stirling

Release date: May 28th

This is another book that I don’t really know a lot about. But to be honest, I’ll read anything about witches, whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, poetry, etc. . . I’m not sure why, exactly, I’ve just always been fascinated with them. From what I can gather, this book is the first in a new series about a teen witch who’s out to protect her coven while keeping her magic a secret. It also seems to be pretty LGBTI+ friendly and features a f/f relationship.

Darkdawn (The Nevernight Chronicle #3) by Jay Kristoff

Release date: September 3rd

Oh, Mister Kristoff, you sure are having a busy year. In case y’all can’t tell from the fact that this is the THIRD Jay Kristoff release I’ve included on this list, I am indeed, a huge fan of the author. I love his penchant for writing morally grey characters, badass women and dark plots. He’s also Perth born, like me! Up until reading Nevernight, there weren’t any Perth authors I genuinely loved, so discovering a local (well, kinda local, I believe he lives in Melbourne now) legend like Kristoff was a great find. I’ve read quite a few of his books now, and though I loved them all, Nevernight is still the one I enjoyed the most. The heroine of The Nevernight Chronicle, Mia Corvere, is one of my absolute favourite characters. She’s beautiful, fierce, intelligent, and above all, dangerous. I can’t wait to see what she gets up to in this final instalment of the series!

Wayward Son (Simon Snow #2) by Rainbow Rowell

Release date: September 24th

Have you guys read Fangirl and Carry On by Rainbow Rowell? If not, you need to get on that ASAP, those books are both brilliant, adorable and hilarious. Once you read them, you will meet, and become infatuated with Simon and Baz. They’re kind of like Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, except they’re madly in love and one of them is a vampire. Wayward Son continues their story.

Chain of Gold (The Last Hours #1) by Cassandra Clare

Release date: November 19th

Yep, another Shadowhunters novel! This one is set in Edwardian London and focuses on James and Lucie Herondale, children of Tessa and Will, the heroes from The Infernal Devices. I really loved the London Institute as a setting and I’m excited to read more about the Carstairs, Blackthorns, and of course, Herondales.

Are you planning to read any of these books in 2019? And are there any other releases you’re looking forward to? Let me know!

Top 5 Quotes from An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

Last night I finished reading Hank Green’s debut novel, and I have to say, it is quite possibly the weirdest book I’ve read since a few years back when I first discovered Haruki Murakami. It’s wacky, zany, hilarious and I absolutely loved it. The plot centres around a 23 year old graphic designer who becomes a viral sensation after she releases a YouTube video of herself discovering “New York Carl”; a ten foot tall metal sculpture wearing a plate of armour that randomly appeared on a sidewalk. Our heroine, April May (BTW, how ridiculously adorable is her name?!) initially believes New York Carl to be some sort of art installation. However, the more April May (and the world) learns about New York Carl, the more it becomes obvious that Carl, and the sixty or so identical sculptures that have appeared around the world, are not of this earth. Thus April May, as the first to make contact with an alien life form, goes from being a viral hit to an international celebrity of historic importance. Though the book definitely has a sci-fi efeel to it, the story is more about fame in the age of social media.

Honestly though, it wasn’t the plot that drew me to An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. In fact, I doubt I would have even read the book had it not been written by Hank Green. As I’ve probably mentioned before, Hank’s brother John is one of my all time favourite authors. I even named my two pet rabbits (Pudge and Alaska) after characters from his debut novel, Looking for Alaska. I also knew a fair bit about Hank because of his various YouTube projects, including the VlogBrothers videos he makes with John. So naturally, I was curious to read Hank’s writing. Like John, I found Hank to be extremely witty and intelligent (seriously, is Hank some kind of genius?? How does he know so much about all these different subjects?!). However, Hank’s humour is a tad darker and more sarcastic, which makes sense as the book as a whole is more adult than anything John’s written. I also found April May to be more complex than any of the narrators from John’s books, I think I was half in love with her by the end of the first chapter. She’s narcissistic, ambitious, fiercely intelligent, and she’s quite possibly the most self aware character that I’ve ever come across.

If I were to write a full review of this book, I’d end up rating it about a 4.5/5. However, the main thing I loved about this book was how much it made me laugh, and instead of just telling you about that, I thought I’d show you by sharing some of my favourite quotes from the book. Some are more just insightful than funny, but they’re all quotes I loved, so here they are, in the order in which they appear in the book . . .

1.

“Y’know, you don’t have to hate everything, April.”

“Have you ever seen the way I look at cheesecake?”

“You know what I mean. Like, this is the only time in our lives anything this cool is ever going to happen, and you mostly look like you need to poop.”

“Stop thinking about my poop.”

2.

Any chimes in here. “April is new to the institution of television. She’s spent her entire life being entertained by novels from the 1860s.”

Chuckles from the audience.
“Not true, my friend! I have spent a fair amount of my life being entertained by cheesecake.”

3.

Most power just looks like an easier-than-average life. It’s so built-in that people mostly don’t realise how powerful they are. Like, the average middle-class person in the US is one of the 3 percent richest people in the world. Thus, they’re probably one of the most powerful people in the world. But, to them, they feel completely average.

4.

Just because someone has power over you doesn’t mean they’re going to use it to hurt you. People who believe that tend to be either:

  1. People who have been victims of that sort of behaviour, or . . .

  2. People who, if given power, will use it to hurt you.

5.

@TheCADDY95: April May is pretty cute, but she ruins it by being completely full of herself.

@AprilMaybeNot: I mean, definitionally though, what else am I supposed to be full of? It’s just me in here. Well, me and an embarrassing number of Doritos.

And as a bonus, here’s a quote I liked from Hank’s acknowledgements . . . “I also want to thank every single person who ever says ‘You have to read this book!’ to a friend. I don’t care if it’s this book; I just want people to remind each other how wonderful books are.”

Thanks for reading, everyone! If you have an thoughts on this book, or are planning to read it, let me know in the comments.

Two Dark Reigns Review

For those who haven’t read the first two books in the Three Dark Crowns series (or the two companion novellas), the premise of the novels is pretty simple; on the island of Fennbirn, the queen of each generation gives birth to a set of female triplets. Each triplet has a unique magical gift; they may be a poisoner, an elemental, a naturalist, an oracle, or a warrior. Once the triplets pass through infancy, each is sent to live with others who share their magical talents. When they reach age sixteen, the triplets must fight to the death, for there can be only one queen. The winner is crowned, and goes on to rule Fennbirn until they become pregnant with a new set of triplets . . . thus the cycle continues. The Three Dark Crowns series is about one particular generation of triplets – Arsinoe, Mirabella and Katharine. I won’t go into what makes their generation unique, as I don’t want to give away any major spoilers, but I will say that three sisters face a whole different set of circumstances than those who came before them. 

Two Dark Reigns is the third book of the series and much has happened since the triplets began their brutal battle; Katharine has found power, but at a great cost to herself, Arsinoe has uncovered an ancient secret, and Mirabella has grown to become the strongest elemental the island has seen in generations . . . yet, this far from guarantees her safety. 

If I were to describe the Three Dark Crowns series in one word, I would say it’s addictive. When I began reading the first book, I didn’t even like it that much. I thought the plot was a hot mess and I was irritated that the story involved one of my least favourite tropes; the dreaded love triangle. Yet, I still found myself unable to put down the book. I was desperate to know which queen would come out on top and with each cliffhanger and plot twist, I became more curious. Thus, the series has since become one of my favourites (though I’d still argue it had a bit of a shaky start). Two Dark Reigns is arguably the strongest book of the series so far; it’s well paced, full of character development (except when it comes to Mirabella, she gets a bit neglected in this instalment) and  it’s got some truly wicked cliffhangers. Like it’s predecessors, Two Dark Reigns is highly addictive, and at times brutal, yet it contains enough romance and humour for it to not be depressingly dark.

Map-of-Fennbrin

(Image source)

On a personal note, there’s so much about this series that I love as a fantasy fan. Firstly, the Map of Fennbirn (pictured above) is gorgeous. It’s easily my favourite book map; I’m even considering getting a tattoo inspired by it! Secondly, I love the magic system – yes I wish I was a powerful naturalist with a cougar for a familiar, like Jules. But there are also many layers to the magic of Three Dark Crowns – there’s the high magic the queens use, which stems from innate ability, but the books also feature what’s described as “low magic.” This is more like traditional witchcraft; spells created with a combination of natural ingredients and a touch of blood magic. And of course, I also adore the large number of strong, complex and varied female characters in the book. Fennbirn society seems to be fairly matriarchal, and most of the power player characters are female. Yes, the whole forcing sisters to fight to the death thing seems decidedly anti-feminist, but I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that the sisters find a way to work together and overthrow this barbaric tradition.

As I’ve said before, I’m a massive fan of this series. Thus, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to see that I’m rating it 5/5, purely because of how much joy I got out of reading Two Dark Reigns.

Sadie Review

Synopsis from Courtney Summers’ website:

“Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water. But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him. When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.”

When I first finished this book some time last week, I didn’t plan to write a review. Why? Simply because I literally have nothing negative to say about Sadie. This is the sixth book by Summers that I’ve read, and for me, each of her books has been very close to perfect. Summers is like no other writer in YA; her voice is raw and authentic, and she pulls no punches. Each of her books is dark, full of twists and turns, and above all, heart breaking in its’ realism. What perhaps makes Summers most unique, however, is her penchant for open endings. If you need your novels to end with a happily-ever-after, then I’d recommend staying well away from Summers’ books. However, if you like a realistic ending that feels true to the story, then Summers is your girl. Personally, I’m quite bored with happy endings; they’re predictable and in series’, often feel like fan service. For example, as much as I love Sarah J Maas, she’s saved too many characters from the brink of death that I don’t feel like there’s much suspense in her books anymore; the main characters may often be in mortal peril, but Maas is too gentle with her fans to actually kill them off. Summers avoids the safe route entirely and is quite happy to end a stand alone novel with a cliff hanger. I say this not to spoil the endings of Sadie and Summers’ other novels, but to explain why the sense of suspense is so much greater in her novels than that of other authors.

Anyway, as I said initially, I didn’t plan to review Sadie. Surely my 5 star rating speaks for itself? Clearly, this is a book I thought to be perfect. And would anyone really want to read a 500 word rant made up entirely of me fangirling over Summers and her flawless writing? Maybe not. But ultimately, I really wanted to share my love for Sadie and encourage others to pick up a copy of this stunning book. Like if this review prompted even one person to mark Sadie as “want to read” on Goodreads, I’d be happy. As I’ve already mentioned, my first reason for adoring Summers is that I feel her voice is one of the most unique in YA. Unlike many other authors, Summers doesn’t limit herself by strictly adhering to any particular genre. While Sadie could be described as a contemporary, it’s quite different to most contemporary YA. It’s completely devoid of romance for one thing, and for another it’s far darker than most other books of the genre. Sadie could also be described as a crime novel / thriller, but it doesn’t quite fit there either. Yes, the West McCray chapters of the book focus largely on solving Mattie’s murder and finding Sadie, but Sadie’s chapters are different. They’re more personal somehow; focusing on themes of familial love, redemption, and revenge.

Another of Summers’ unique qualities is that she’s able to create well rounded characters who are both admirable and deeply flawed. Take for instance our heroine, Sadie. We empathise with her immediately as she’s such an underdog; she was abandoned by her mother at a young age, had to drop out of high school to provide for her younger sister, and she also has a severe stutter that makes it difficult for her to form relationships with others. However, Sadie literally spends the entire book plotting a to murder a guy with his own switchblade. She’s a heroine we can root for, yet she’s full of so much darkness and guilt. And it’s not only the primary characters who are complex, even minor characters who only feature in a few chapters show both good and bad sides. Even the book’s villain, Keith, who is an undoubtedly terrible human being, engages in multiple good deeds; saving a man’s life and helping a gamer friend to find a job. Ultimately, Summers writes great characters, none are simplistic or reduced to a stereotype. Each is capable of both great and terrible things. This multifaceted nature of her characters is another element that makes the book so unpredictable. Whilst reading, we must wonder, will Sadie, who has dedicated her entire life to helping others actually be able to give into her darkness and commit murder?

While I adored Sadie, I must also warn that it may not be for everyone. It’s marketed as YA, but it’s heroine is 19, and I feel it may not be appropriate for some younger readers. Paedophilia is quite a central theme of the book, and it also contains swearing and a scene involving an attempted sexual assault. Basically, Sadie is quite a dark book and it may be triggering to some readers. However, if these aren’t topics you’re particularly sensitive too, I would definitely recommend Sadie… and all of Summers’ other stunning novels. It’s a tragic and emotional read which may quite possibly lead to tears and gasps of surprise (at least it did for me) and it will definitely make you think. Ultimately, I consider Summers to be one of the most exciting and unique writers in YA and I can’t wait to read whatever she comes up with next.

five stars

Huntress and the Nightingale Review

Goodreads synopsis

Once upon a time there was a noble huntress who fell for an evil queen…

For fans of Hunted by Meagan Spooner and Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao comes a gender-bent fantasy tale inspired by Snow White and the Huntsman…

Once a huntress blessed by the gods, Zahria has since become a murderer without honor. She loses herself in wineskins, paying a private penance for the sins she’s committed in her royal lover’s name. But the kingdom she can’t escape has no use for drunken cowards.

When the queen’s secret menagerie of exotic birds breaks free from the palace, revealing themselves as the reclusive shape-shifting clansmen who dwell within the Unforeseen Forest, the queen demands Zahria do the unthinkable:

Kill the forest-made beasts plaguing the realm, then destroy the cursed forest itself.

A sin, in the eyes of Zahria’s gods, for which there would be no redemption.

But Zahria is weary and has lost too much. All she wants is to return to her homeland after a century of secrets and lies. With a heart long past the point of breaking, fulfilling the queen’s task could mean her freedom at last.

How can Zahria resist such a bargain?

My review

Huntress and the Nightingale is a gorgeous and deliciously dark retelling of the classic fairytale, Snow White. Like all retellings though, it has a few twists. The hunter for instance, is now a huntress named Zahira who is locked in a century long toxic love affair with evil Queen Liana. Our story begins when Zahira encounters a mysterious stranger, and embarks on a quest that leads her to discover exactly how far she’ll go to sever ties with her Queen and find redemption.

Though the whole novella was gorgeously written, my favourite element has to be the role and importance of the forest. I love books with nature themes, and Huntress certainly delivered on that front! It’s also extremely impressive that Luciano was able to put so much world building into less than 120 pages. The author doesn’t just give us a standard fairytale environment, she pulls a whole new one from her imagination.

If I were to criticise the novella, I would say that it can be slightly confusing at times. Like I said, Luciano creates a complex world and a variety of characters in a very small number of pages. There were a couple of moments when I found myself struggling to keep track of the characters and plot.

That being said, I definitely enjoyed this novella! Especially the romance storyline. I’d recommend it to fans of darker style fairytale inspired YA like Wintersong or Uprooted.

My rating

five stars

World Mental Health Day Recommendations

Hi fellow book lovers,

In lieu of my usual review posts, today I wanted to write about something a little different, in honour of World Mental Health Day. Mental health is an issue I’ve dealt with personally for many years, after being diagnosed with depression and social anxiety disorder in my late teens. It’s also something I’ve seen effect many of the people around me. Statistics suggest that 1 in 5 Australians experience mental health issues and over 3 million of us suffer from anxiety or depression. So today I thought I’d discuss some books which helped me deal with my own mental illness. These aren’t necessarily books that taught me something, they’re just books that I thought portrayed accurate depictions of anxiety and depression, and therefore helped me feel less alone.

Under Rose Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

Goodreads synopsis:

At seventeen, Norah has accepted that the four walls of her house delineate her life. She knows that fearing everything from inland tsunamis to odd numbers is irrational, but her mind insists the world outside is too big, too dangerous. So she stays safe inside, watching others’ lives through her windows and social media feed.

But when Luke arrives on her doorstep, he doesn’t see a girl defined by medical terms and mental health. Instead, he sees a girl who is funny, smart, and brave. And Norah likes what he sees.

Their friendship turns deeper, but Norah knows Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can walk beneath the open sky. One who is unafraid of kissing. One who isn’t so screwed up. Can she let him go for his own good—or can Norah learn to see herself through Luke’s eyes?

Why I loved it:

I feel like it’s quite uncommon to find a mental health themed book that is both hopeful and realistic. Usually, we either have a main character whose problems are magically solved when they meet a cute boy / girl (e.g. Finding Audrey), or a bleak and depressing story that warns us about the heartbreak that suicide can cause (e.g. Thirteen Reasons Why). Under Rose Tainted Skies is one of the few books I’ve read that manages to strike a balance between realism and hopefulness. While Norah does find love, it doesn’t necessarily make her life better. She still has plenty of issues, but her newfound romance helps to motivate her towards reaching her goals in getting better. I also loved the positive relationship between Norah and her mother. Norah’s mother was supportive, caring and yet, not overprotective. She was there when Norah needed her, but she also gave her daughter enough room to spread her wings and explore.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Goodreads synopsis: 

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis. Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

Why I loved it:

I don’t think I’ve ever in my life felt so understood as when I did when I read this book. John Green has always been open about his own struggles with OCD and mental illness, and I feel that his personal experiences enrich the book with an immense sense of realism and depth. It’s pretty clear that a character like Aza wasn’t written by someone with just second hand knowledge of anxiety. Aza could only be created by an author who understands what it’s like to find that their greatest obstacle in life isn’t something that’s happening to or around them; it’s the thoughts that spiral out of control in their own head that are most difficult challenge to face. Turtles All the Way Down can be quite a dark book, and there are definitely scenes that readers may find upsetting. However, for me, Aza is undoubtedly the most accurately written depiction of what it’s like to struggle with mental health issues, and it’s definitely a book I found comfort in.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Goodreads synopsis:

From the author of the New York Times bestseller Eleanor & Park. A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love. 

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Why I loved it:

Fangirl is a bit different to the first two books I listed in that it doesn’t discuss mental health in a particularly explicit way. It’s clear from quiet early in the book that Cath and Wren’s father struggles with his mental health, though his condition is never labelled. And though it’s not clearly stated, I’d argue that neither Cath or Wren are particularly mentally healthy. There are scenes in which Cath lives off muesli bars because she doesn’t understand how her college’s dining hall system works, and each night she literally runs home from the library because she’s scared of walking alone. Honestly, both of these actions strike me as something I’d do because of my social anxiety. What I most loved about this book though, is that Cath deals with her issues by turning to literature and fandom, much as I do myself. Thus I found Cath to be an extremely easy character to relate to. However, I do wish Rowell had discussed Cath’s obvious anxiety in a more open way. I would have liked to have seen her acknowledge her issues and get help, rather than simply continuing to live her life in spite of them.

Though none of these books are “perfect”, they’re all books that mean a lot to me. And I’ve found each of them to be a great source of comfort. But don’t forget, if you’re concerned that you, or someone close to you is experiencing difficulties with their mental health, there are plenty of real life places you can turn to for help. If you need more information, I’d recommend checking out a website like BeyondBlue, and most importantly, talking to your GP.