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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. 

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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.

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My TBR for this week! (27/01/2020)

Hi everyone! I have currently got quite a few books on the go, and I lot I want to start and finish this week. I love a list, and I love crossing things off of it, so I thought hey…why not make a TBR list? Might give me some more motivation! Then again, tbr’s usually don’t work for me because I’m a giant mood reader (who is also addicted to watching tv and taking naps) so the mood I’m in always dictates what I read. However, I usually have a list of what I want to read, but whether my mood lets me get to it is a different story…

Anyways!

The first book on my tbr is

Frankissstein: A Love Story by Jeanette Winterson

frankissstein

I need to finish this book next week, as we will be discussing it in my Contemporary fiction class at uni. This novel follows two timelines: Mary Shelley’s timeline, as she writes Frankenstein; and the timeline/perspective of Ry, in Brexit Britain. I’m not very far in to this, each time I pick it up I only manage a few pages, and then I get distracted and ultimately put it down. The writing style was fine, even fun, at first. But now I’m finding myself increasingly irritated with it (such as the classic speech marks, when a character talks). I am debating not finishing it.

The second book on my tbr for this week is

Bright Air Black by David Vann

bright air black

I’m writing my dissertation on modern retellings of Greek myths. I have two texts that I am solid on, but have been debating my third, and potential fourth text. So, I decided to pick this one up. Much like Frankissstein, this is not written in the ‘normal’ form of narration you’d find in a novel, but instead is styled in poetic prose. I am really enjoying it – again, I’m finding it hard to sit down and concentrate for long periods of time, as while I like the style sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming. I’m hoping to finish it this week, as I am aiming to write a chapter on this.

My third book on my tbr is a book I picked up to read last night

One Of Us Is Next – Karen M. McManus

One of Us is Next FINAL cover.indd

I’ve read both of McManus’s previous releases, One Of Us Is Lying and Two Can Keep A Secret. I was not a big fan of either novel, I gave One Of Us Is Lying 3 stars, and Two Can Keep A Secret 2 stars. They were not dreadful novels, but I ultimately found them underwhelming. So why am I reading this?? I don’t know. I think it’s because I do get some entertainment value out of them – mostly because I push on reading to prove that I am right in my ridiculous theories…

Finally, by the end of the week I am hoping to start

A Heart So Fierce and Broken – Brigid Kemmerer

a heart so fierce and broken

I’m planning on reading this the first week of February with my friends in my Goodreads book group, A Book Nirvana. We read the first one together last year, so have planned a buddy read! I would say I’m excited to read this one, but I’ve seen some spoilers and I’m not liking the direction this novel seemed to go in. But I haven’t read it yet, so we shall see!

Conclusion 

That is my tbr for this week, starting 27th of January! What are your current reads? Books on your tbr? 🙂

Posted in book reviews

The Last Wish (The Witcher #0.5) – Andrzej Sapkowski

Lord help me, this is one of the worst books I have ever read.

This review is going to go places, so I’ve created a quick bullet pointed summary for what you can expect:
• I don’t think there will be any spoilers, because I honestly do not understand enough of what happened and why to be able to tell you.
• Outdated fantasy tropes.
• The male gaze and women existing to appease the macho-male fantasy.
• Women are clearly there to be controlled and if they can’t be then, VILLAINY! Because men can’t have women with power. THE FEAR!
• Problematic and offensive terms to refer to women who are unable to have children, i.e. ‘handicapped’.
• Shitty writing.
• Fairy-tale retellings??

I paid for this book, people. Spent actual money on it. It is a regret. I would love my money back. But this has taught me the lesson (one you would’ve thought I’d have learned before) that HYPE AIN’T SHIT. These books have been around a long time, so they’re something I’ve seen repeatedly across my GR timeline, and of course, all over the internet now, with the new Netflix adaptation. (I play like 3 video games, none of them The Witcher, so that has no say in this). Anyways, the adaptation looked good, some book reviewers I follow were hyped for it, so I thought okay, I’ll read at least the first 2 books and then have a binge watch…

Lol. I’m not reading anymore (I probably will. Can’t help myself) and I’m not excited to continue the show. I watched Episode 1, halfway through reading this drivel of a novel – to see if it was any better, and if it would somehow make me more friendly towards the novel. Spoiler alert: it did not.

I know we all have different reading tastes, but wow. I did not find anything redeemable in this. I found it gross, sexist, misogynistic, problematic in various ways, and did I mention, overall gross? It’s very much a book written from the male gaze to fulfil a male fantasy of heroism and getting the hot, sexy girl. It leans into the outdated tropes that fantasy has too often been filled with, where women are reduced to nothing but overtly sexualised objects (whether they’re being rescued, or just existing in some other manner). It also likes to show how women can be consolation prizes to men, and must fulfil wifely, womanly duties and nothing else…because that’s one of the main purposes of a woman’s existence! And if not, you’re either a) a villain b) somewhere in between being a villain but c) definitely sexualised, never mind which category you fall in to. Because hello, if you’ve got breasts, the author is going to draw extreme attention to them.

Sapkowski also reinforces harmful and problematic ideologies surrounding sex. I.e. making the division between women being whores, or virgins, and neither women winning because they’re both shamed in one way or another. Just maybe . . . shut up? Stop making the female characters sexual histories / futures be based solely on the needs of your male characters. Even when Sapkowski tries (might be giving him too much credit here. I’m not sure he put much in to it) to create his *special* female character, that’s *not like the other girls* but stronger and smarter he still has to focus on her shapely breasts and writes about her strictly through the male gaze to complete the male fantasy. Like look, I’ve got no issue with women embracing their sexuality, enjoying their sex live, having that with power, etc. But Sapkowski writes it conditionally. These women – like Yennefer – can be *not like the other girls* (harmful ideology anyway) but only up to a certain point: he still has to remind you that she has SHAPELY BREASTS and is a SEXUAL OBJECT. Don’t worry about her kicking ass! Let’s just look at her through Geralt, the macho-mans POV, and reduce her to nothing more than his love interest, even though they’ve got no character, and she barely has a personality outside check box tropes! Such poor writing. No fleshing out (ha. Unless it’s showing boobies) of characters – particularly female – it’s just look at this archetypal female character and now watch Geralt have his way with her, essentially.

“Yennefer, also having gained practices, landed him a blow with her elbow. The sudden move split her dress at the armpit, revealing a shapely breast. An oyster flew from her torn dress.”

Her SHAPELY BREAST PEOPLE. What a weird emphasis, in the middle of a fight scene!! I have never, ever, read a fight scene in a fantasy novel written by a female author, where the female MC has stopped, and gone “Oh! His trousers have ripped! LOOK AT THAT MAN’S PENIS POKING OUT OF HIS TROUSERS, as he kicks sharply!” I mean?? Ridiculous, right? Maybe I don’t read a lot, but I haven’t seen anything of the sort. Maybe the “OH! LOOK AT HIS MUSCLES!” but never an intent focus on his genitals.

It is just so f-r-e-a-k-i-n-g unnecessary. Especially with the following line, explaining that an oyster fell from her dress. (Don’t ask me. Half the book doesn’t make sense). But he literally could’ve just said “The sudden move split her dress at the armpit, an oyster spilling from the folds of the ripped fabric.” It just shows, once again, how Sapkowski is using the female character to satiate the male gaze. Goddamned with her as an actual female character. She’s got breasts! Who cares about the rest!

There was an article / trend going around on Twitter a few years ago where women (mostly) shared passages of novels, written by men, that had women overtly sexualised through doing the simplest of things. Like a woman walking down the stairs, is so conscious of her nipples brushing against the fabric of her shirt…Check out://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/06/cleavage-male-authors-women-writerthe article! Like I’m not saying men can’t write women, but a lot of the time – in fantasy, in particular – men overtly and gratuitously sexualise women (with gratuitous violence too, aka, Game of Thrones) and this article sheds a light on how common it is.

This whole book could practically be featured in the article. The opening chapter starts with

“The girl flitted closer, threw off her mantle and slowly, hesitantly, rested her knee on the edge of the large bed. He observed her through lowered lashes, still not betraying his wakefulness. The girl carefully climbed onto the bedclothes, ad onto him, wrapping her thighs around him. Leaning forward on straining arms, she brushed his face with hair which smelt of chamomile. Determined, and as if impatient, she leant over and touches his eyelids, cheeks, lips with the tips of her breasts.”

Ya’ll. She’s literally rubbing her nipple over his face. And we won’t even get started on him pretending to be asleep and her just mounting him and doing that. Next.
As mentioned above, women are placed in to a few archetypal roles. Sapkowski also likes to endorse the idea that women are only good for reproducing. This is shown in multiple ways throughout the book, with comments that enforce the idea of gender roles, and derogatory comments and characterisations of those who cannot fulfil them. In no way shape or form did I see any of the characters – Geralt, in particular – turn around and dispute these ideologies in a clear manner, therefore I am calling this book problematic because ultimately I feel as if it got off on gratuitously expressing these ideas and believed in them.

“Melitele’s cult, he deduced, was a typical woman’s cult. Melitele was, after all, the patroness of fertility and birth; she was the guardian of midwives. And a woman in labour has to scream. Apart from the usual cries – usually promising never to give herself to any bloody man ever again in her life – a woman in labour has to call upon some godhead for help, and Melitele was perfect. And since women gave birth, give birth and will continue to give birth, the goddess Melitele, the poet proved, did not have to fear for her popularity.”

Look, there’s nothing wrong with women sharing a space with other women to bond and support each other over childbirth. Like, that’s great. But this phrases it in such a demeaning, patronising manner, that seems to reduce women to nothing but means of reproduction. The word ‘typical’ really does it for me. I imagine it being said with an eye roll. Oh, those typical women. So typical of them to be dealing with childbirth, out of all things! Ugh, women. It’s like Sapkowski can you feck off for once and stop judging everything women do????

And so, while women here are shown to exist to just keep giving birth, over and over and over and over again, Sapkowski describes Yennefer, the powerful sorceress who gratuitously has her breast exposed for the male audience, as ‘handicapped.’ (I think it was Geralt that said such thing, and not Nenneke – who he was talking to. It’s hard to keep up. Poor writing structure and dialogue)

The context/exchange in full:

“’I do happen to know. And that she earns even more for curing infertility. It’s a shame she can’t help herself more in that respect. That’s why she’s seeking help from others – like you.’
‘No one can help her, it’s impossible. She’s a sorceress. Like most female magicians, her ovaries are atrophied and it’s irreversible. She’ll never be able to have children.’
‘Not all sorceress are handicapped in this respect. I know something about that, and you do, too.’”

I really don’t like this. Infertility is legally defined as a disability, but the way Sapkowski wrote this, by inferring that women who are infertile are handicapped, just reinforces the narrative of women being reduced to their uterus and their ability to procreate and nothing else. It places the character as something other, especially in tangent with the extract before this one, as it almost connotes that she is not as much of a woman as the others because she can’t procreate. And that is not right and not fair at all. Women are more than their ability to reproduce and implying that they merely exist for the continuation of a species and their other capabilities are not as important or valuable to society as a whole is harmful and wrong. This could have been powerful, exploring Yennefer’s point of view on this, but of course it’s from Geralt’s perspective, and it’s all about his horniness for her, ultimately.

Yennefer is referred to as ‘handicapped’ multiple times.

“But Yennefer . . . Well, unfortunately, she isn’t an exception. At least not as regards the handicap we’re talking about. In other respect it’s hard to find a greater exception for her.”

Don’t you just love how it’s like yeah Yennefer is great except for her not being able to have kids…

I also hated this part and thought it was very telling and have come to the conclusion that the author fears women, especially women with too much power, which is why he’s had to write Geralt as the ultimate macho man and continually demean women as nothing more than sexual objects/failing to write them as multi-faceted:

“’Their outright insane tendency to cruelty, aggression, sudden bursts of anger and an unbridled temperament, were noted.’
‘You can say that about any women,’ sneered Geralt. ‘What are you drivelling on about?’”

I think Geralt is somehow trying to defend women and in some ways the girls the whatever-his-name-is Wizard is saying about the ‘evil girls’ but it’s so poorly written it’s like please, just stop. I feel offended.

I was not expecting this book to be adapting classic fairy-tale stories. I think we had retellings of Rumpelstiltskin, Beauty and the Beast, Little Red Riding Hood . . . and it just felt so . . . odd? Mostly, I think because they were nearly *exact* replicas to the stories we are familiar with – like you’re not sitting there guessing if this could be an allusion, it’s obvious it is. It changed some names to obviously try and get it to fit in to this new fantasy setting / land (which the worldbuilding was lacklustre and confusing anyways, with how jumpy it was. I guess that’s the issue with short stories that don’t follow a cohesive, linear pattern). Yet in some of the stories it kept some of the names near identical and I was like what???? I was just really confused on what it was supposed to be. A somewhat fantasy adaptation based on fairy tales? Is this just a one-off thing in this novel, or is it a continuous thing throughout the whole series? Why?

I feel as if I have picked out most of the glaring issues that I found while reading the book. Of course, there are so many other passages I could have chosen to support the points I have made (that’s sad really). And I’m sure if I go through my screenshots (I was sending the moments that most annoyed me to Emer) and my notes that I’d find a lot more to show you for how awful this book is, but I think I’ve demonstrated my point.
10/10 would not recommend this dreadful book to anyone. Can’t think of a redeeming factor. (I knew I should have put the book down when it talked about murdering innocent puppies. I knew then that this book was trying to be like oooo look how dark and violent I am. I am eye rolling and crying.)

I feel like I could get some comments to this review going “But it’s fantasy! It’s a made-up world! Women are like this! Men are like this!” and I just want to say that:

a) Yes, it is a fantasy world, made up. Therefore, you can do w-h-a-t-e-v-e-r you want. Why go with unnecessary sexualisation (and in some cases, gratuitous violence) against women?

b) Do not use the argument that “But it’s based loosely on a medieval history or whatever!!” because see point above, it’s fantasy. AND, you can write about sexual violence and have women be sexy etc, without being completely problematic and offensive!!!! Maybe don’t write about subjects / topics / introduce themes if you aren’t able to write about them informatively and sensitively!!!!

c) Yes, women can be mean!! Women can have lots of sex that they enjoy! Some women don’t! It’s a choice! Stop!! Shaming!!!! Make your women multi-faceted!! Don’t just *tell me* they are this fantastical strong sexy character but fail to characterise/write them in that manner!

d) If your idea of a fantasy world is like this then please…go think about that in depth.

I don’t want to give this any stars.

Posted in book reviews

It Won’t be Christmas Without You – Beth Reekles

From the author of the smash hit Netflix romcom The Kissing Booth!

Eloise, a self-confessed Christmas obsessive, can’t wait for the big day. Devoted to her Michael Bublé playlist, she’s organising the school nativity play and even her gorgeous Grinch of a neighbour, James, can’t get her down.

Her workaholic twin sister, Cara, on the other hand, plans to work over the holiday – and figure out what secrets her seemingly-perfect boyfriend George might be keeping from her.

The sisters used to be close but since Cara moved to London, everything’s been different. Only, Eloise isn’t giving up just yet, and with a white Christmas on the cards, Cara can’t fail to be moved by the magic of the season … can she?

I’m not usually one for Christmas themed books even during the season, but here I am at the end of August having just finished one . . .

And this was cute. I don’t think the fact that it’s not Christmas impacted my reading at all, because it set the scene well – the Christmas clothing, decorations, crazy weather and the manic of public transport!

The dual perspectives worked really well. At the start, I was a bit confused on whose point of view it was (it seemed like a third person strict narrator…for both of them at once??) but a few chapters in and I settled in to the flow of things.

I liked both Cara and Eloise, and that they each had their own individual storylines that eventually came together. However, I felt sometimes it lacked any true depth – it just felt so fast paced and quick that I don’t think there was time to explore deep in to these characters.

And that’s fine, I guess, because this was just a light-hearted Christmas read but I still think it’s sad that it missed out on fleshing out and layering the characters and their storylines – unfulfilled potential!

This is author Beth Reekles first adult novel, and I have to say, having read one of her early YA’s (The Kissing Booth, as it was publishing on Wattpad and then after) and Rolling Dice (I couldn’t finish it), that her writing has improved and I think she does much better working on adult novels than young adults. I’m expecting good things in the future.

3/5 stars.

Posted in general posts, other bookish posts

February 2019: Reading Wrap Up!

Wow. Didn’t February just fly by? I feel like the first few days of February dragged, and then hitting the second week in, the days went past like nobody’s business and now I’m sitting here and it’s the 3rd of March! I seriously cannot believe we are already in the third month of the year.

Anyways – this is my reading wrap up for February, and it’s a short one! I didn’t read a lot in February – not full books anyways – between returning to uni and doing assignments and getting back in to that routine I found myself not reading much of what I wanted to.

  1. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein  – Kiersten White (Feb 2nd – 14th, 1/5 stars)

I picked up The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein because it was my book groups – A Book Nirvana on Goodreads – readalong for the month. I had this on my shelf since it’s release date, so I was looking forward to reading it and comparing it to the original Frankenstein. I thought it would be interesting to see the story through a woman’s point of view, and to an outsider of the creation, but ultimately I was awfully disappointed. The pace was slow and uninspiring, the characters were dull and felt like they could belong in a pantomime (hello Victor), and ultimately White just very much insulted Shelley’s Frankenstein.  I just don’t think the way she approached ‘criticising’ Shelley’s work was done in the right way, especially not when she could barely write in half of the depth that the original had. It was a cheap knock off. Sorry, Kiersten White.

2. The Sorrows of Young Werther – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Feb 16th – 17th, 2/5 stars)

I read this for one of my classes at university. It wasn’t a god awful book, I just found the epistolary form quite draining. It felt more intense than your normal first person narrator. I just didn’t find this an interesting novel, but appreciated some of it’s literary merit.

3. The Lonely Londoners – Sam Selvon (Feb 20th, 3/5 stars)

I also read this for another one of my university classes, and quite enjoyed reading this. Except for the section that had no grammar for an entirety of about 10 pages. That just gave me a headache. But this was a decent book. It was interesting to see the perspective of the people from the Windrush generation and their experiences living in London & it’s take on colonisation etc. A very thoughtful book.

That’s all I read in February! 3 books. I started and ultimately did not finish many more (for uni) and read a bunch of random chapters and excerpts from other books as wider reading, but I can’t remember them all – and I like to keep this list to books I’ve finished. Let’s hope March is a better reading month for me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in book reviews

Dumplin’ – Julie Murphy


Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin'” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body.

With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . . until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant–along with several other unlikely candidates–to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any girl does.

Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City–and maybe herself most of all.

I am so incredibly underwhelmed by this. I remember the hype surrounding this book when it first came out: all I heard was incredible 5 stars reviews, THIS was the book to read. And I wanted too. BUT IT WAS SO EXPENSIVE! And eventually, as the hype died down and the price lowered, I was so apprehensive to read it and my hype for it faded…

And then the film came out and THAT LOOKS SO GOOD AND I STILL WANT TO WATCH IT, so I decided to FINALLY read this.

And yeah…Underwhelmed af. It’s not that this book isn’t good. It is. It’s just not GREAT!!!! capital letters, exclamation marks. Where was the plot, really? I’m a person that quite likes a good plot but this just meandered through her everyday small-town life and that’s not something I’m really interested in, especially when I’m not that in love with any of the characters.

And the pageant was so hyped up???? And then it happened in like 50 pages and just ended? DID IT EVEN SAY WHO WON? I remember it saying who came in second place, but not who won (I read this book today. . . I can’t remember things. . . does that say something about me or the book?)

And then the BOOK ENDED. I literally turned the page, ready to start the next chapter, excited because oooo the pageant is over and what’s going to happen now with Bo, etc, but no. . . I came face to face with ‘Acknowledgments’ and I was like. . . wait, what? That’s it???? You built the book up to this AND THIS IS ALL THAT YOU GIVE ME? WHAT?

Also. I feel like this book was a love story between Willowdean and Ellen. Their relationship was the greatest. Seeing them grow up and grow apart and then try and find ways back to each other I LIKED IT. I WISH I HAD MORE OF THIS. The friendships between the girls was good.

Then we have the romance element…and let me tell you, I am a SHIPPER. But WHERE WAS THE CHEMISTRY? I swear Mitch and Bo could’ve been interchangeable. I’m not MAAAAAAD about it but it was such a let down…pretty much the whole book was a let down…

So 3 stars. Wasn’t terrible and had a lot of bits I did like but I don’t like it enough to give it any higher.

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

Crushed: A Hockey Love Story – Brit DeMille (Vegas Crush #1)

“No-fraternization policies were made to be broken.” Evan Kazmeirowicz, VEGAS CRUSH

This may sound reasonable coming from the star winger for the VEGAS CRUSH the day he lays eyes on the new social media manager for the team, but for Holly Laurent it’s a whole different story. Dating a “player” is a risky business, especially if she wants to keep the job she just landed with the hottest team in the NHL.

Holly loves her independence and her career. She’s doing just fine on her own, thank you very much. Allowing her head to be turned by a hot hockey player and putting her job at risk?

Not. Happening. Ever.

Not even if he looks like a god. Not even if he possesses enough charm to tempt the panties from a nun. Not even if she has to cross her fingers behind her back every time she tells him she’s not interested.

Policies exist for a reason. Rules are not meant to be broken and sexy players are not to be trusted. Right?

*CRUSHED is a full-length stand-alone novel of 60,000 plus words.
You’ll also receive the first chapters of SIN SHOT, another book in the VEGAS CRUSH HOCKEY SERIES.

‘She looks back at me as she leaves and I legit want to jump the barrier, skate to the glass, and beg her to let me sink my biscuit into her net.’

Like…page 4.

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I bought this. I ACTUALLY SPENT MONEY ON THIS AND I WOULD LIKE A REFUND.

I’m finding it hard to rate this any more than one star. It feels harsh in one way, because I’ve definitely read texts that were more offensive and badly written then this . . . but wow.

I mean, where was the editor for this? At one point the MC remarks that ‘he kissed from my belly to by public bone.’ Her PUBLIC bone???? P U B L I C BONE? Do not get me started on the amount of issues with the speech marks. How did they manage to miss it like FOURTEEN TIMES???? So, a character would start talking, “Hi my name is Gabby,” she said, I think this is a badly edited book,” she finished. DO YOU SEE WHAT IS WRONG WITH THAT SENTENCE? I am no grammatical wizard but when this is meant to a published book (that I spent money on!!!!) it’s unacceptable for this ‘mistake’ to happen SO FREAKING OFTEN.

Sometimes insta-love stories can work out but this one was a right lol.
The characters were just . . . wow. They were alright I guess, but where was the character development? Evan stopped sleeping with multiple girls and Holly slept with one? Cool cool cool cool.

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Not every character has to be likeable/perfectly/politically correct, but I did not like the discourse surrounding womanly bodies. I’m not sure if the author was trying to do some sort of subverting to the typical norms of what we as a society deem attractive, but the phrase “skinny bitches” is used, and later on Holly (the mc) remarks that she isn’t as “womanly as her” friend because she is too skinny and athletic (where her friend is curvy) Just . . . next.

Not to mention the usual slut thing (oh haha you slut, the character will exclaim. It’s meant to be in a joking way but you can tell the standards for the female characters and the male characters on sex are different.)

(Also this book would not past the Bechdel test AT ALL).

What also annoyed me – in relation to the woman/slut thing – is that men are being presented and promoted as sex craved monsters that are starved without it???? Evans (the MC) manager suggests he sleeps with the reporter to give her what she wants and implies that because he is a man he should just do it . . . and that’s so wrong. Like what the heck. We shame women for having ‘too much sex’ and then we shame men for ‘not having enough sex’ and we value people based on their sexual experience and ???? NO.

(Evan expresses how he feels ‘personally victimised by this statement’ but haha yeah let’s just laugh it off…UGH. DEMILLE I AM FRUSTRATED WITH YOU.)

I think this could’ve been very sexually liberating for Holly (personal pleasure, sexual experiences) and for Evan, challenging the tropes surrounding sex and the stigma…but no. It went one step forward, and then just jumped ten steps backwards. AND FOR WHAT?

Like look, I shamelessly love my steamy NA hockey player romances . . .
But not like this.

Not when it is just shady all the way through, lacks any sort of plot (will they ‘bone’ or won’t they?!?! Will the married female boss lady to Holly fire her for her relationship with Evan???? Because she’s jealous as her ‘hard nipples’ in a convo with Evan indicate!!!! Wait no???? It’s because her husband and her are having issues and a bunch of other thrown in backstory which is all to influence and inspire Holly to GO AND GET HER MAN!!!!)

I think the decent relationship in this is probably Holly and her Uncle Troy.

But yeah, this book was badly edited, not greatly written, shaming to multiple different groups of people (like, it didn’t even have a point to work on body image – beautiful comes in all shapes and sizes, or to talk about the double standards of sex, etc. It was just like hah I think I’m doing something clever but really I’m kind of an arsehole).

ONE LAST POINT!!!! Could the author make up what type of character they wanted Evan to be???? Sure characters are multi-faceted and come from diverse backgrounds but WOW. Here he is, showing off his fancy sport car (I think he even says how much it is lmao) but then oh no he lives in a humble apartment…and guess what. He’s Russian, but he’s American, BUT HE HAS A BRITISH ACCENT? WAIT – EUROPEAN. WAIT – SLIGHTLY RUSSIAN. I don’t know. I’m confused. His mums from Boston I think, his dad from Russia, and his mum wanted him to go to school in Britain. I don’t know. There wasn’t much about his family but a couple of throw away comments to layer his character but they were so brief in passing that it did jackshit but make me like ????

Yeah…I think the one star suits this and I want my money back.

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!