Posted in Uncategorized

Maya and the Rising Dark – Rena Barron (Maya and the Rising Dark #1)

Twelve-year-old Maya’s search for her missing father puts her at the center of a battle between our world, the Orishas, and the mysterious and sinister Dark world.

Twelve-year-old Maya is the only one in her South Side Chicago neighborhood who witnesses weird occurrences like werehyenas stalking the streets at night and a scary man made of shadows plaguing her dreams. Her friends try to find an explanation—perhaps a ghost uprising or a lunchroom experiment gone awry. But to Maya, it sounds like something from one of Papa’s stories or her favorite comics.

When Papa goes missing, Maya is thrust into a world both strange and familiar as she uncovers the truth. Her father is the guardian of the veil between our world and the Dark—where an army led by the Lord of Shadows, the man from Maya’s nightmares, awaits. Maya herself is a godling, half orisha and half human, and her neighborhood is a safe haven. But now that the veil is failing, the Lord of Shadows is determined to destroy the human world and it’s up to Maya to stop him. She just hopes she can do it in time to attend Comic-Con before summer’s over.

Rena Barron’s MAYA AND THE RISING DARK is an excitable and enjoyable read, featuring West African Mythology and a cast of wonderful characters.

The novel follows the titular character Maya, and her best friends Frankie and Eli as they venture in to the Dark to face the villainous Lord of Shadows and to save her Papa. The friendship between Maya, Frankie and Eli was the best part of the novel for me. I loved each of their characters individually, and the dynamic between them. I loved that each of them had their own striking personality. They had some delightfully hilarious scenes, and I really enjoyed the unconditional support that they had for each other.

Another highlight of the novel for me – bouncing off of the last one – was the feeling of community in the novel. I loved how the neighbourhood felt like a family. I do wish that we got to see more of the people in the neighbourhood and the relationships between them (I would’ve liked more than just them arguing). I hope this is something we see more in the sequel.

I enjoyed the aspects of West African Mythology, learning about Orisha’s and the other creatures. Again, I do hope we get more of them in the sequel.

I enjoyed the quest aspect of this novel, as Maya and her friends were faced with Darkbringers who are determined to stop Maya from rescuing her Papa and securing the Veil between their two worlds. While the quests were interesting, something was missing for me. The novel just jumped from quest-to-quest, and then it ended, and I was like hm. Wish there was a bit more too it than jumping from action-to-action. While Maya – and her friends – did go on a character ARC of learning more about themselves, and the world around them, ultimately I felt like the overall ARC was lackluster. I don’t want to say too much because I do not want to spoil, but I feel like there could have been more development to Maya’s realisation of her powers & more exploration of the past etc. I feel like Barron may be saving a lot of the information/reveals for further novels in the series.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read and I am looking forward to seeing where the series goes.

3/5 stars!

Thank you Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group for giving me access to this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Posted in book reviews

Court of Lions – Somaiya Daud (Mirage, #2)

Two identical girls, one a princess, the other a rebel. Who will rule the empire?

After being swept up into the brutal Vathek court, Amani, the ordinary girl forced to serve as the half-Vathek princess’s body double, has been forced into complete isolation. The cruel but complex princess, Maram, with whom Amani had cultivated a tenuous friendship, discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion and has forced her into silence, and if Amani crosses Maram once more, her identity – and her betrayal – will be revealed to everyone in the court.

Amani is desperate to continue helping the rebellion, to fight for her people’s freedom. But she must make a devastating decision: will she step aside, and watch her people suffer, or continue to aid them, and put herself and her family in mortal danger? And whatever she chooses, can she bear to remain separated, forever, from Maram’s fiancé, Idris? 

Court of Lions is the exciting and incredibly well written sequel and finale to the Mirage duology.

I really enjoyed reading Mirage and the ending of the novel had me on the edge of my seat, yelling because I desperately wanted to read the sequel and find out what was going to happen next with Amani. What followed was a breathtaking and tense story about fighting for justice, family and friends.

My favourite thing about both Mirage and Court of Lions has to be Amani & Maram, and how both of them are equally as important to the telling of the story. I am a sucker for the chosen one trope, and I really liked how Daud made all of her female characters ‘chosen ones’.

I also enjoyed getting to see more of the various places, and meeting people from different courts! The only thing I think I would have to *complain* about is that we didn’t get more!

Overall, I would highly recommend this trilogy if you’re looking for a thrilling fantasy and sci-fi novel filled with political intrigue, an interesting setting, and brilliantly written characters and relationships.

4/5 stars!

Posted in book reviews

10 Things I Hate About Pinky – Sandhya Menon (Dimple and Rishi #3)

The delightful follow-up to When Dimple Met Rishi and There’s Something about Sweetie, which follows Ashish’s friends Pinky and Samir as they pretend to date in order to achieve their individual goals, to disastrous and hilarious results.

Pinky Kumar wears the social justice warrior badge with pride. From raccoon hospitals to persecuted rock stars, no cause is too esoteric for her to champion. But a teeny tiny part of her also really enjoys making her conservative, buttoned-up corporate lawyer parents cringe.

Samir Jha might have a few…quirks remaining from the time he had to take care of his sick mother, like the endless lists he makes in his planner and the way he schedules every minute of every day, but those are good things. They make life predictable and steady.

Pinky loves lazy summers at her parents’ Cape Cod lake house, but after listening to them harangue her about the poor decisions she’s made (a.k.a. boyfriends she’s had), she hatches a plan. Get her sorta-friend-sorta-enemy—who is a total Harvard-bound Mama’s boy—to pose as her perfect boyfriend for the summer.

When Samir’s internship falls through, leaving him with an unplanned summer, he gets a text from Pinky asking if he’ll be her fake boyfriend in exchange for a new internship. He jumps at the opportunity; Pinky’s a weirdo, but he can survive a summer with her if there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

As they bicker their way through lighthouses and butterfly habitats, sparks fly, and they both realize this will be a summer they’ll never forget.

10 Things I Hate About Pinky is the third novel in the Dimple and Rishi universe, following on from When Dimple Met Rishi There’s Something About Sweetie. I liked When Dimple Met Rishi, really enjoyed There’s Something About Sweetie . . . and I loved this one.

10 Things I Hate About Pinky is told from the dual perspective of Pinky and Samir, as they both combat personal struggles over the course of a summer holiday. Pinky has a tense relationship with her mother, she feels as if she is never good enough for her parents, a constant disappointment . . . So she lives to that role, until she gets blamed for something she did not do one too many times . . .

This leads Pinky to inviting Samir to her holiday home, to pretend to be her fake boyfriend, to show her parents that she is not as much of a failure or disappointing as they think they are. (AHHH! Fake-dating trope!!!! Yes!!!!) Samir agrees to help Pinky. His internship in a prestigious law firm fell through, and its his hope, that by helping Pinky, he will gain an internship with her mother, who is known as ‘The Shark’. But like Pinky, he also has to confront his own behaviour, and the relationship with his mother…

These two characters were brilliant together! There was so much chemistry in their relationship – in the way they bantered with each other, with how they confront, challenge and support each other. Absolutely brilliant. They are very much opposites that attract – who compliment each other wonderfully – and the Menon has the characters confront whether or not a real relationship between them can withstand their differences . . .

Pinky and Samir learn so much about each other, but also learn so much about themselves. Some scenes incredibly frustrated me – I found I wanted to yell at the characters for how mean they were to each other, or out of order. But I held it in, and continued reading, and these moments were explored and developed upon in a way that I felt satisfied with.

I really enjoyed the supporting characters, as well. It would have been nice to have more time spent with them. For example, a large part of Pinky’s characterisation and struggle was to do with her relationship with her mother. Most of the novel concerned Pinky’s feelings of distance, anger, and upset with her mother, yet there was not much time spent on the resolution. I was not unhappy with how the novel resolved their relationship, but I do wish we could have seen more of that. Similar with Samir. We saw him make a decision about how he wants to move forward, yet we never got to see that dynamic with his mother play out. I understand, because the novel was set in a singular place and his mother was in another, but I do wish there was more of his relationships explored.

Overall, I loved this book! I was in the midst of writing my final university assignments at this point, and it provided much needed escapism. And when I put it down to continue on, it provided motivation to hurry up and finish so I could get back to reading it.

For that, I give this 5 stars.

Thank you Netgalley for providing me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in book reviews

Serious Moonlight – Jenn Bennett


After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

SOMEBODY PINCH ME, IS THIS BOOK REAL? I’ll count my fingers to make sure this wasn’t some dream…

I loved this. Before I would’ve said oh thats unsurprising, as I loved both [book:Night Owls|25327818] and [book:Alex, Approximately|34927042]. But after reading [book:Starry Eyes|35297469] with my book group, A Book Nirvana a few months ago, I had apprehensions about this. (I’ve also been debating if I’d have liked Starry Eyes if I wasn’t fast to a) lead a discussion and b) avoid awkward spoilers!! Sometimes people make mistakes. It happens).

Ultimately, everything Starry Eyes got wrong, Serious Moonlight got right. The parents in this aren’t always present – there’s a mixture of different family structures. Single parents, to being raised by grandparents and ‘aunt’s’. And it was beautiful. Where as in Starry Eyes it all felt very cheap and eh, in this it felt real. Authentic. Seeing that people aren’t always there but forming new connections with others and learn working to build bonds. Honestly, I cried.

THIS BOOK MADE ME CRY A LOT.
(Also I’m reviewing this as an ARC so I can’t use quotations BUT WOOW!).
So yes. The parental/family aspect was great. It showed blended families and how people work to build their bonds and dealing with guilt and grief and anxiety and it was wonderful and felt real and JUST GREAT.

Also the mental health aspect was very well done. I cried (again). The way they made it clear that this was a process, and that they don’t believe in the ‘love heals all’ mantra, but that it certainly can’t hurt, I liked it. I did. It was just two people coming to terms and understanding themselves. They were getting better for them. And they encouraged and supported each other and it was honestly beautiful.

THEY WERE JUST GREAT COMPLEX CHARACTERS. With Daniel’s partial deafness and other life issues, and Birdies sleep issues and life issues, there was some greatly done representation. The characters weren’t always PC in their thoughts but it was done in an inoffensive way that just showed an ingrained bias that people have and how to healthily challenge those thoughts and overcome a prejudice in a calm, respectable manner. I loved it.

As always, this is something Bennett seems to always do well in her books, is the positive representation of sex.

Anyways this book is great for so many reasons and I really liked it. It was cute, while a bit out there, but it managed to stay grounded in an authentic representation of reality – not just for those who are teens, but for everyone. While it embarked on ‘heavy’ subject manner, it did not patronise the reader or feel like it was pushing an agenda on you, but it was able to communicate the importance of listening and it demythologised the stigma and addressed many modern day fears we have surrounding public image/mental health/invisible diseases. These kids weren’t made out to be special snowflakes because of their illnesses, but at the same time it didn’t dismiss them in the fact that the way they experience some things in life are different from the ‘normal’ person & how they work around these obstacles.

The plot was well done. Usually in YA’S I can predict the plot twists etc but I DID NOT. I audibly gasped and was like NO. And then I immediately messaged Emer whose also read this, and promptly was like !!!! SHOOK. (She was too)

Also. WE NEED TO FREE OCTAVIA AND THE GOLDFISH.

I am just very happy with this book.
It doesn’t quite reach the four stars because sometimes I got fed up with the stalker-y aspects of it, and sometimes it felt a bit disjoined on where exactly this book was aiming to go and the point of it.

Anyways this is not an eloquent review at all but basically I have the FEEEEEELS for this and therefore !!!!! READ IT. It’s great.

Thank you Netgalley and the Publisher for this arc in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in book reviews

Light Years – Kass Morgan

Light Years is the first book in a thrilling new sci-fi series from the bestselling author of The 100.
Reeling from the latest attack by a mysterious enemy, the Quatra Fleet Academy is finally admitting students from every planet in the solar system after centuries of exclusivity.
Hotshot pilot Vesper, an ambitious Tridian citizen, dreams of becoming a captain – but when she loses her spot to a brilliant, wisecracking boy from the wrong side of the asteroid belt, it makes her question everything she thought she knew. Growing up on the toxic planet Deva, Cormak will take any chance he can get to escape his dead-end life and join the Academy – even if he has to steal someone’s identity to do it. Arran was always considered an outsider on icy Chetire, always dreaming of something more than a life working in the mines. Now an incoming cadet, Arran is looking for a place to belong – he just never thought that place would be in the arms of a Tridian boy. And Orelia is hiding a dark secret – she’s infiltrated the Academy to complete a mission, one that threatens the security of everyone there. But if anyone finds out who she really is, it’ll be her life on the line.
These cadets will have to put their differences aside and become a team to defend their world from a cunning enemy – but the danger might be lurking closer to home than they think…

OOOO I really liked this.

At first, I thought the multiple POV’s would get annoying and too much for me, but I enjoyed each and every one of them. I think they were all nicely paced, but my favourites probably have to be Cormack/Arran. Followed then by Orelia and Vesper. I liked the cast of all the characters – the mix of different planets and social classes they came from made it very interesting to see them interact, connect, and grow with each other.

The world building was pretty decent in this too. Usually I find in Sci-Fi’s that they info-dump and I find it hard to keep track, but this one was fairly easy to understand. I might not remember all the names of the planets etc . . . or if Earth was ever a thing in this one . . . but I appreciated that it wasn’t that complicated. People settled on different planets: the rich rip off and use the poor. There’s discrimination between the social classes, etc, etc.

I loved the whole crew dynamic with their banter and encouragement with each other, but also the conflict and the weariness. It was just really nice to read and watch them develop.

OH MY GOD THE ENDING!! I was for sure the ending was going to go a certain way and I was like 85% right. But I am H Y P E D. I’d very much appreciate having a book two to read right about now.

So yes, I did really enjoy this one. I read it all in one day because I liked the characters, the plot, and the writing. It was just very quick and easy to flick through – before I knew it I was 63% in and it felt like I’d only just started reading. I appreciated that. I can imagine that if I wasn’t in the mood for something like this then I might find it a bit more slower-paced, not a lot happening in plot wise for a while, but eh.

I just found it enjoyable.

CW, particularly Jason Rothenberg, keep your hands off this. I will not allow you to screw up another one of my ships.

I am expecting a lot from book two!!

3 (or maybe 4) stars!

Posted in book reviews

A Bad Boy Stole My Bra – Lauren Price

Imagine waking up in the dead of night to find your hot new neighbour dangling out of your window. What’s more, he’s clutching your tattiest bra in his hand.

What. The. Actual. Fudge.

When bad boy Alec Wilde moves in next door to Riley, sparks fly. After their ‘unconventional’ introduction, Riley is determined to get her own back. A nemesis is just the distraction she needs: inside, she’s barely holding it together. It’s game on.

But behind the banter, there’s a side to Alec that Riley actually likes. How can she get through to the real him when she can’t even take herself seriously?

I’m 99% sure I read this on Wattpad, but I honestly didn’t remember much from the book so it didn’t really make any sort of difference in how I read this book (in terms of comparing it to the online, amateur, drafted version to this edited and professionally published one). However, knowing it came from Wattpad was always in the back of my mind, and I think even if you didn’t know, you could tell.

This book was very . . . typical teen-ish, I’m not sure how else to explain it. It had that typical high school setting with the jocks, the mean popular girl, and the main character who had to be awkward and sees herself as an outcast/loner (when she clearly wasn’t). I hate it when books do this. Riley kept repeating how she was an outcast, a loser, a loner, but the book never portrayed her that way. So why do it? It’s perfectly acceptable to write about a MC who just fits in. Is neither above the radar or on it. IT HAPPENS. (of course there’s nothing wrong with being above or under, but don’t say she is one of those things but then portray her as another. Where is the consistency?).

That grated on me slightly. As well with Alec, and how he’s a ‘bad boy’ but nothing about him is bad? People just make up rumours?? And she’s like wow what a bad boy?? Like once?? But he’s not?? I just.

This is where the whole ‘wattpad’ element comes in. For someone whose been on that site for seven years now, this is typical. You have these bad boy – loner female characters, who aren’t really either of those things, but the book ‘markets’ them in order to gain interest. However, the characters are neither of these things, and readers like them anyway.

I mentioned how this is typical teen-y, which I’m using as an umbrella term to also cover ‘cliché’. Hello, typical mean girl character. We have Tiana, whose reason for hating Riley we later find out (it’s ludicrous and pathetic, a bit of a stretch) and it’s just . . . ugh. She’s the typical mean girl, with the parents on the school board, who blackmails, wants the new hot boy, puts other girls down, etc. And she has no character whatsoever. She’s a very one dimensional ‘villain’ and it was boring. If her character was more developed and nuanced, it would’ve worked better. I didn’t care about her and ultimately knew what she was going to do to Riley (it was obvious, not much about the plot was). That took away from the excitement of the book.

I am truly just fed up of seeing these one dimensional female characters in YA. Stop making them just so tropey! This isn’t to say mean girls don’t exist but having them just one-dimensional and as bland as a piece of cardboard isn’t good writing.

Ah, the writing . . . it felt so childish, and amateur-ish at times. I’ve mentioned the lack on good characterisation, and that is down to poor writing. The writer relied to much on Riley telling the reader things, and not actually using her words to convey to the readers what she wanted to get across.

It was also typical cliché writing. It wasn’t terrible, but for a published book I think I expected better.

Just want to go back to the plot: ALSO SO PREDICTABLE. Of course (especially since this was a Wattpad book) you have the typical ‘gets too drunk and wakes up in his bed not knowing what happened’. Honestly. That needs to die. Just pretty much every *dramatic* thing that happened you could see coming a mile away . . .

I’ll move on to positives, because there are some of those:

NO SLUT SHAMING. YAY. I hate it when you have the females slut shaming each other, calling each other whores etc. There was none of that. There’s an incident with Tiana and Chelsea, but that’s about it. Yay. Congrats book.

The characters did have some development! Riley and Alec both learnt how to break down their walls. Riley gained confidence in herself.

(Just another negative now – I feel like there were too many side characters for them all to be developed. We also had her mum, her brother, his mum and sister, Violet, Chase, Joe and Dylan and too often they just blended in to one and had no real development of their own. I think if there were lesser characters then the author could’ve focused on developing these side stories (except they didn’t actually have much plots outside of Riley and Alec…but there you go)).

It was witty and funny. There were some moments that made me laugh and grin like a fool. Ultimately books, at least for me, are there to entertain and this certainly did that. I liked Alec (he wasn’t a douche YAY) and Riley, and the ‘slowburn’ of their romance.

Sometimes though the jokes got too dominating, and that’s where the amateurish writing came in. It focused too much on just having humorous scenes between the characters that didn’t really mean anything in the long run.

So yeah. The writing, plot, characters, could often be too cheesey and cliché that it became a little bit too like . . . ugh, but ultimately it wasn’t that bad. This is definitely one of the better books I have seen come from Wattpad (see my Bad Boy’s Girl review for reference on what a bad published Wattpad book looks like).

I think this is a 2.5. Maybe a 3. I need to think on it!

Posted in book reviews

Chasing Red – Isabelle Ronin (Red, #1)

They said she was going to be my ruin…
Then let her ruin me.

Caleb Lockhart has everything—wealth, adoration, a brilliant future. Until a chance encounter with a siren in a red dress changes everything. Until he meets the woman he dubs Red.

Veronica Strafford’s past makes it hard for her to trust anyone. Now, kicked out of her apartment, she reluctantly accepts Caleb’s offer for a place to stay.

Caleb feels intensely drawn to Veronica. And, for the first time in his life, he really wants something—someone. Too bad Veronica’s heart might just be the one thing Caleb can’t win.

Thank you Netgalley/Sourcebooks for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

I do like Chasing Red, don’t get me wrong. I first red it on Wattpad, and this published version has changes/differences to do with Veronica’s past – I do like these changes, as in the Wattpad version they were just – far fetched? Yeah. A bit out there and confusing.

Anyways, the writing is good but the problems lie more within the plot line. There isn’t really much plot or action at all? And I in no way mean that as a sort of pun towards Caleb/Veronica but really?? Most of the book just revolved around them trying to resist sleeping with each other and their other various relationship issues. I mean…it was okay, but wasn’t really entertaining enough. And then, about 83% of the way into the book the drama and plot begins to unfold with the “fork in the road” conflict with Beatrice-Rose and Veronica realising it’s time for her to stop running and fight.

This no doubt leads into the sequel. However, I feel like a lot of this book could have been cut down and Chasing Red/Always Red could’ve remained together as one book. This one really just felt like a really looooooooong lead up to the sequel.

Caleb was probably the most developed character. Where as with Veronica, it really took until about the 98% mark for her to have some sort of development. I just feel like throughout this all there was too much back and fourth on the personality. Yes, this goes with Veronica and her uncertainty, but as a reader it can get boring reading about someone for like 300 pages going “should I? Shouldn’t I?” Then the whole *drama* happened and this all worsened and ugh!

I did also quite like the female friendships. They were there for each other and didn’t put each other down and that was cool. But their friendship just mainly seemed to revolve around the men in their lives and not about them??? I think every conversation they had was about Cameron / Theo / Caleb or being interrupted by a man. So yeah. It’s nice to see friends being supportive, but maybe show that women can talk about other things apart from clothes and boys??? For example – Kara is a boss. And that’s kick ass. She came into this book as a fiery business woman but that quickly went downhill, soon enough she was just another girl with *boy drama* and it was sad to see her reduced to ONLY that. So yeah. These girls and their friendship had their strengths but I’m only hoping this can also be developed in the second novel.

So I overall give this 2 stars. I’m tempted by 3, but I can’t really see enough reasons for that much of a high rating.

Posted in book reviews

A Semi-Definite List of Worst Nightmares – Krystal Sutherland

Ever since Esther Solar’s grandfather was cursed by Death, everyone in her family has been doomed to suffer one great fear in their lifetime. Esther’s father is agoraphobic and hasn’t left the basement in six years, her twin brother can t be in the dark without a light on, and her mother is terrified of bad luck.

The Solars are consumed by their fears and, according to the legend of the curse, destined to die from them.

Esther doesn’t know what her great fear is yet (nor does she want to), a feat achieved by avoiding pretty much everything. Elevators, small spaces, and crowds are all off-limits. So are haircuts, spiders, dolls, mirrors and three dozen other phobias she keeps a record of in her semi-definitive list of worst nightmares.

Then Esther is pickpocketed by Jonah Smallwood, an old elementary school classmate. Along with her phone, money and a fruit roll-up she d been saving, Jonah also steals her list of fears. Despite the theft, Esther and Jonah become friends, and he sets a challenge for them: in an effort to break the curse that has crippled her family, they will meet every Sunday of senior year to work their way through the list, facing one terrifying fear at a time, including one that Esther hadn’t counted on: love.

 

Thank you to Netgalley & the publisher for this in exchange for an honest opinion!

I was considering putting a quotation at the beginning of this review but I highlighted so, so, so much while reading this novel that I wouldn’t know what one to pick. I love Krystal Sutherland’s writing style. Her dialogue is witty and painfully honest. The characters feel honest and it’s easy to connect – for example, Esther’s casual inner commentary like “well, this isn’t going to go great,” just felt so honest, and real. I don’t really know how to explain – but it gave Esther such a strong voice. Sometimes it almost read like reading a recap of an event from a friend.

Once again, much like with Our Chemical Hearts, I like the way mental health is discussed. It isn’t romanticised at all, but rather shown to be a real and painful thing that effects everyone in different ways, but all of it horrible. It shows that you shouldn’t be afraid to speak about it but this novel deals with the fears of coming out with it.

I do think sometimes though it felt a bit dismissive – it was constant questioning of “do they have mental health issues? Is this a magic realist world? Should I be concerned she believes in this stuff?”

So yeah. I don’t think the line between it was always clear. Turns out, this does have some paranormal elements?? I think?? Like I said – I’m still not really sure and I’m not sure how to feel about that. I’m one of those people with books like these that I want it to be defined – is this actually elements of the paranormal or just straight contemporary with a “wacky” character?

That’s also what’s great about this – the book kind of makes fun of itself. Several times Esther is called out because of how she is a “special snowflake” and she admits she wants to be one. While this is only a small dig at itself, because in the end it becomes to have a much greater relevance and heavier meaning towards plot/character development towards the end of the novel.

“You being scared of cornfields and alines doesn’t make you some special snowflake.
Everyone’s fear sounds the same in their head.”

“How dare you, I am a special snowflake.”

Everything did tie in nicely. I don’t feel like anything was added as a “filler” and that in the end everything made sense. You could see the links connecting things together.

On the other hand, I think more of these “links” should have been explored further. I.e the absentee parents and domestic abuse. Yes, this was semi-resolved towards the end and the realisation that “parents are human too” I feel like it should’ve had more to it.

There’s a lot of interesting discussions in this novel. There’s the obvious ones about mental health and how it can take over your life, and how people just want to fix it for you, but it’s not always that easy etc. But it also takes on interesting discussions about fear and what it means to live.

“It’s like a broken bone, you know? You can’t keep walking on it and expect it to heal.”

“Is this the surreptitious Esther Solar acknowledging the existence of mental illness and not just behaving like I’m cursed?”

That’s also what I love about this: the views uttered by the characters on mental health and how to deal aren’t always perfect. They can say harmful things and their outlook can sometimes be negative and wrong, but the great thing about this is the character development. These then negative opinions have been challenged / developed and I think that’s a beautiful thing. It’s showing that even if you’ve got it wrong before you have the chance to listen and to learn and to grow. The novel does this without ever feeling preachy.

Overall, I really liked it and I’m a definite fan of Krystal Sutherland.

Posted in book reviews

The Dazzling Heights – Katharine McGee (The Thousandth Floor, #2)

Thank you to Netgalley / HarperCollins / Edleweiss for this book in an exchange for an honest opinion!

New York City, 2118. A glittering vision of the future, where anything is possible – if you want it enough.

Manhattan is home to a thousand-story supertower, a beacon of futuristic glamour and high-tech luxury… and to millions of people living scandalous, secretive lives.

Leda is haunted by nightmares of what happened on the worst night of her life. She’s afraid the truth will get out – which is why she hires Watt, her very own hacker, to keep an eye on all of the witnesses for her. But what happens when their business relationship turns personal?

When Rylin receives a scholarship to an elite upper-floor school, her life transforms overnight. But being here also means seeing the boy she loves: the one whose heart she broke, and who broke hers in return.

Avery is grappling with the reality of her forbidden romance – is there anywhere in the world that’s safe for them to be together?

And then there’s Calliope, the mysterious, bohemian beauty who’s arrived in New York with a devious goal in mind – and too many secrets to count.

Here in the Tower, no one is safe – because someone is watching their every move, someone with revenge in mind. After all, in a world of such dazzling heights, you’re always only one step away from a devastating fall….

 

What is it with this series that keeps drawing me in???

It’s several things really – I love the mashup of genres this has. It has elements of a mystery/thriller, combined with that classic teen drama, filled with those archetypal characters you’d see on shows such as Gossip Girl. On the surface, it probably sounds a bit of a mess – but somehow it all comes together in a combination that works? Not to sound like a broken record, but yes, like beloved show Gossip Girl.

The Dazzling Heights is a fantastic sequel. It continues on the story of the Thousandth Floor not to long after it left, and we’re thrown back into the mess of things. We are dumped in the middle of the drama and the characters – some new – and how they’re coping and using what happened at the end of the first novel in living their lives.

The characters develop – like Leda – and you get to see a more humane side of them. You see others being given opportunities they’ve never had before and it’s interesting in seeing them cope. Others cross dangerous boundaries and it’s so dramatic waiting for them to be caught.

This novel started off with a very strong sense of direction and plot that then unfortunately died out after that first chapter. It’s hinted at about three more times all the way through, before it’s dramatic climax at about 87% into the book. This was disappointing and I feel like we should have had more of this throughout the whole novel, and not just towards the end. It was too quick to end when it had only just started and that was disappointing. And although this quick ending will no doubt have consequences in the third novel, I feel like it was wasted and this books sense of purpose was ultimately lost.

Having said that – this book did deal with the aftermath of events in book one. While, like I said, the overarching plot wasn’t well-developed and ended before it even began, each character had their own subplot. This was good – it was nice seeing how everyone dealt and the actions of each character, and seeing how they now interacted after everything had passed. It made it tense – with all these deep dark secrets between them – and who would snap first. But some relationships took a turn for the unexpected.

I wish other characters – such as Cord – had larger parts in this book and were developed more. Cord, even though he’s not a main character, is my favourite. I love him and Avery’s relationship, and I liked having more of that. Others like Leda and Watt . . . so much dodgy history between them, but seeing their relationship come to develop was interesting.

So yes, I did really enjoy this one – it was a good sequel. I think it’s up to par with the first one, which in a way, disappoints me because I was hoping for this one to blow me away. But still – with the quality matching the first, which was very good, I can’t complain too much because at least it’s consistent.

My only other problem with this is adding in another point of view character whose only objective, for the subplot of another character, was to come between them. I didn’t care for this new character. They were just there to stir the pot, and while, with how this book ended I have no doubt they’ll be stirring up trouble in the third book this still didn’t make me care about this person. Their point of view should’ve been given to a character already established. Also – while the first had problematic elements of characters being drugged and taking advantage of, this one dealt with a student/teacher thing. While it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been, I was still unhappy with the way it was ultimately dealt with. I’m just happy all the characters weren’t happy with this relationship and that it was condemned – just not enough.

So while there was a lot explored in this – there is still a lot more to come out and be explored that I can only hope will happen in the third. For example, all the drama between Brice, Rylin and Cord to come to light. But overall, this was very pleasing second novel, and if anything it seems to have paved the way for a really exciting third, and what I can only hope will be the novel that will ultimately blow me away with the shock / wow / drama factor.

Three very good stars

Posted in book reviews

Paris for One and Other Short Stories – JoJo Moyes

From the #1 “New York Times” bestselling author of “Me Before You” and “After You,” a sensational collection featuring the title novella and eight other stories. Quintessential Jojo Moyes, “Paris for One and Other Stories” is an irresistibly romantic collection filled with humor and heart.

This ARC was sent to me by Penguin UK via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to both publisher/netgalley for sending me this 🙂
Usually I leave my DNF without star ratings, since I feel like because I haven’t read it all I shouldn’t be marking it. But I feel strongly with this one and my low rating at this moment in time. I am in no way closing my mind to this book, I might come back to it later, but right now. . . no.

I don’t think short stories are for me. I feel like within this collection the stories weren’t fleshed out enough, they all began to blur together and feel the same, and I never really noticed a difference in the characters. Overall, I found the stories I did read to mostly be boring. It could be down to that this isn’t my usual genre (and when I do read it, I’m quite selective and picky about what works) and that the situations these characters were in are things that I myself do not relate to. Example, several of this were about married couples which I am not, so I found it hard to connect/empathise with that. Maybe I was just in a sour mood trying to read this, who knows, but right now I know this isn’t for me. Maybe one day!