Posted in book reviews

The Truth Project – Dante Medema

Seventeen-year-old Cordelia Koenig was sure of many things going into her last year of high school. For one, she wasn’t going to stress over the senior project all her peers were dreading—she’d just use the same find-your-roots genealogy idea that her older sister used for hers. Secondly, she’d put all that time spent not worrying about the project toward getting reacquainted with former best friend and longtime crush Kodiak Jones who, conveniently, gets assigned as Cordelia’s partner.

All she has to do is mail in her DNA sample, write about her ancestry results and breeze through the rest of senior year. Done, done and done.

But when Cordelia’s GeneQuest results reveal that her father is not the man she thought he was but a stranger who lives thousands of miles away, Cordelia realizes she isn’t sure of anything anymore—not the mother who lied, the life she was born into or the girl staring back at her in the mirror.

If your life began with a lie, how can you ever be sure of what’s true?

Trigger / Content Warnings: abortion (alluded to & briefly discussed), abandonment (parental – feels abandoned by them), alcohol consumption (underage), drunk driving (resulting in an accident, briefly mentioned)

Written in stunning verse, Dante Medema examines the relationship between children and their parents, and what shapes a persons identity – is it nature, is it nurture, or is it a mix of both? The protagonist, Cordelia, has always felt like she didn’t fit in to her family, that she was the odd one out. So, when it is her turn to do her senior project, she – like her elder sister before her – decides to do it based on DNA. Except where her sister wrote about the famous people she was related to, Cordelia finds out a truth she has been suspecting all along . . .


When you looked into my eyes
and told me I wasn’t his.
I cried.

Not because you took away the only
father
I’ve ever known.

But because I was relieved.

I always knew there was something different about me



But with that feeling of vindication, also comes the confusion, the hurt, the pain, and the questions. How does this change who she is? How did this happen? Who is she related to? What does this mean for the father who raised her? Cordelia begins to spiral, feeling her sense of who she is begin to unravel from her.


When you looked into my eyes
and told me not to tell him
I cried.

Not because you wanted me to lie.

But because you deepened the gap between me
and the only
father
I’ve ever known.

It will never be okay

.

Cordelia’s journey to learn more about her biological father, herself, and her mother while dealing with lying to her father, and her sisters, is extremely emotional and heartbreaking. Medema’s verse is vivid, you feel all of Cordelia’s pain, angst, confusion, and anger. You also feel her hope, and ache with her when it’s diminished. Truly an emotional read.

I enjoyed Cordelia’s relationship with Kodiak, but I do wish that we got to see more of his character. His troubles were always mentioned, and how he was attempting to overcome them, but often times he never felt as real as Cordelia did. And yes, this is Cordelia’s story but I do feel as if it would have been beneficial to explore Kodiak’s depth more considering his role in the story.

I also really liked Cordelia’s relationship with her best friend. I am sad that when they have conflict it was overshadowed and almost instantly forgotten about. Again, it felt those characters could not have their own depth/storylines (or at least follow through with them) because it all had to be about Cordelia. Which, again, understandable, she is going through an ordeal but I do wish more time was spent on her other relationships as they too were important to her identity.

While I do wish we could’ve had more exploration of Cordelia’s family, I really enjoyed the conclusion. The conversation she had with her father made me cry, and overall it ended on a really hopeful note.

Overall, I really enjoyed this and thought the verse was fantastic. A quick & emotional read.
 

4/5 stars!

Posted in book reviews

Kingdom of the Wicked – Kerri Maniscalco (Kingdom of the Wicked, #1)

Two sisters.

One brutal murder.

A quest for vengeance that will unleash Hell itself…

And an intoxicating romance.

Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost-even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked-princes of Hell she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems…

Kingdom of the Wicked is the new historical-fiction / fantasy about witches and demons (the Wicked) by the author of the Stalking Jack the Ripper series.

I entered in to this novel only having read Stalking Jack the Ripper, a novel which I absolutely detested. I put it down for around a year before I picked it back up, having finally found the willpower, to power through into the ending. After that, despite owning the sequel (I was so sure I was going to be a fan) I did not continue on with that series.

So, when this was announced I went ‘hmmm’ because it sounded amazing but so did SJTR, and look where that got me. But the pretty cover and the premise hooked me in, and I decided to give the author another shot.

And for most of the book, I was glad I did. The novel opened with a whooping heap of pathetic fallacy, with the raging storm, wind beating on the windows, loud, angry, scared . . . reflecting part of the mood in the cabin, signaling the lurking danger that the twins are unaware of, as their Nonna begins to tell them a story about the evil Wicked . . . It was incredibly atmospheric, and I was immediately pleased that the prologue was drawing me in further, and hadn’t turned me away.

And so the book continued, showing Vittoria and Emilia ten years later, working in their family restaurant. Their Nonna is still overly superstitious and protective, warning the girls of danger that they refuse to take as seriously as her. And then the worst happens, Vittoria is murdered, found by Emilia herself – who instantly regrets not listening to her Nonna’s warnings, and for not paying closer attention to her sister, and for not believing her when she said she summoned the devil . . .

So, Emilia goes on a mission to avenge her sister – was it the man she found above her sisters body, who fled in to the night? – which leads to her unravelling secrets about her family lineage, her sisters secret and the identity she kept hidden, and the Wicked Prince Wrath.

And my goodness. Wrath was an excellent character. I thought he was hilarious! His dry humour and no nonsense attitude gave me a good giggle. Emilia and him had such good chemistry, and I loved all of their scenes together and was continually yelling at the page whenever they had an angsty interaction that was filled with subtle (not) yearning.

And it was all well and good.

But then it just got messy. I don’t think it’s me, I was reading this book pretty closely, but the ending suddenly appeared and all these answers came tumbling out and I sat there like

Wait, what?

Because it just did not make sense! After the entirety of the book – and this is not a short book by any means – that’s how it ends? And I’m not saying this because I’m bitter it didn’t end in a romantic declaration of love. It just seemed the author forgot to actual show & tell the reader that was going on, but instead sped through it, without realising the audience isn’t in her head and doesn’t have the knowledge of the story as she does. It seemed contradictory, rushed, and just not very cohesive. Like I get it, but I also don’t get it? I don’t want to give spoilers – but AHHH. It is SO frustrating. Seemed like Maniscalco went for the shock factor, leave it on a cliffhanger, we will work through the facts and make it clearer in the sequel ending . . .

And I’m not a fan.

I didn’t expect an entire resolution in this, knowing that it will have a sequel. But I did expect an ending that would draw the threads together, to show a well developed character and plot arc, and this just did not have it. Which is such a shame, because most of this book was brilliant and had the potential to be wholly incredible.

Alas, it was not. 3 stars.

Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for providing this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in book reviews

Sawkill Girls – Claire Legrand

Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep.

He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.


Who are the Sawkill Girls?

Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.

Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.

Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.

Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.

Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.

Trigger / Content Warnings: animal death, (physical) assault, acephobia (challenged), blood, dismemberment/disembowelment (mentioned, seen briefly on page), emotionally and physically abusive parent (on-page violence), grief, mention of flaying, murder (sometimes described in graphic detail, bloody), shooting (shot in leg), spiders, sick

Sawkill Girls creeped me out so much that I had to fall asleep with the light on, too scared that I might conjure up images of The Collector in the dark. Yes, I am a giant wimp, but also the description was that vivid, the atmosphere so tangible, that it shook me (repeat, I am also just a giant wimp).

description

I really quite enjoyed Sawkill Girls, which says a lot, since I typically stay very far away from anything horror, since, as I mentioned once or twice already, I am a giant wimp… But Legrand was able to keep my eyes trained on the page, invested in the mythology of this monster, captivated by the narrative voice of the Rock, and just wondering what the heck is going on?!

I enjoyed that this had multiple POV’s, however Zoey’s felt the strongest to me – narrative voice, and personality. I feel like her character was more vivid, and her actions and motivations were much clearer than either Val’s or Marion’s. Which, to begin with, I understood that their pov’s might be more unreliable/unclear because they were. For example, Val – she is morally grey, and her pov often reflected that as it was not always clear where she stood. With Marion, her grief, and the supernatural, often confused her and her pov’s were filled with that chaos, with the reader having to sort through the noise with her. But this grew tiresome after the while, and it just begin to feel like it was poorer writing, as Legrand struggled to define who these characters exactly were and show their character ARC – it often just happened quite suddenly (despite the long page count!)

Additionally, I did find myself getting lost in the POV’s as I would lose track of whose chapter it was. I’d be like wait, this is Zoey’s perspective, no Val’s, and then the text would remind me who. It was only for a few seconds, but it was jarring and often took me out of the story, feeling frustrated.

But overall, I rate this novel four stars because it did create a fantastic atmosphere, having the Rock as a personified presence was interesting and well done, and I did genuinely enjoy the message about female empowerment, grief, forgiveness, and anger.

Posted in book reviews

These Violent Delights – Chloe Gong (These Violent Delights, #1)

Tricia Lin at Simon Pulse has acquired, at auction, Chloe Gong’s debut YA fantasy These Violent Delights, pitched as a Romeo and Juliet retelling by way of The Godfather.

A monster has awakened in 1920s Shanghai, killing off citizens and stirring trouble between two feuding gangs. The rival heirs, Roma Montagov and Juliette Cai, must work together before the monster destroys all they hold dear, even while the Chinese Civil War breaks out around them.

Publication is planned for fall 2020; Laura Crockett at TriadaUS Literary Agency did the two-book deal for North American rights.

This review discusses the story and plot, but does not reveal any major plot reveals. However, I do make wishes about what I would like to see in the next novel, thus that may hint/spoil at some events in this novel.

Trigger Warnings: (Taken from the authors review) This book contains mentions and descriptions of blood, violence, gore, character deaths, explicit description of gouging self (not of their own volition), murder, weapon use, insects, alcohol consumption, parental abuse.

Chloe Gong’s These Violent Delights pitched as a Romeo and Juliet retelling by way of The Godfather, is absolutely phenomenal. Gong adopted elements from both Shakespeare’s tragedy and Puzo’s novel and created something unique, and hers. While some of the elements of the story may seem familiar because of the intertextuality, Gong adapts them into nail-biting reveals, twists, and turns. I particularly loved how Gong used the ‘this will make you appear dead for a time, but you are not’ in to the plot in an unexpected, but no less heartbreaking, manner. I was on the edge of my seat the entire novel to see if she would include that, and if the end of the novel would be similar to that of Shakespeare’s tragedy…

Speaking of the ending – as the title suggests, These Violent Delightsdo have violent ends. I could not believe it when I read the last page, as Juliette read that later, and then chaos was unleashed…and then it was DONE! Over! And I’m left sitting here, yelling, because WHAT? I was already heartbroken and desperate for more over previous events a chapter or two earlier, and I was like “no! Not this too!” But WOW, am I excited for the sequel.

On the topic of heartbreak, oh, the angst and the yearning and the hate and the love between Roma and Juliette had be so emotional. The tension between them with all the hurt, the unspoken words, the hidden – but also obvious – love they still had for each other . . . it was killing me. I love them. The misunderstanding. The way they should just talk. The way they protect each other even if it means heartbreak. The people and politics standing in between them. AHHH. ALL I WANT IS FOR THEM TO BE HAPPY.

Aside from their relationship, I really liked both Roma and Juliette as individuals. I feel like Gong explored their motivations well, and gave a convincing backstory to why both of them are the way they are, and what shaped them. This happened through some analepsis, and anecdotal stories, which made the story feel fleshed out and well rounded despite many of the years that had a big impact on their characters not being shown fully on page (i.e., the relationship between Roma and Juliette before the betrayal and her departure for New York).

I enjoyed the relationships we saw between Juliette and her family, particularly that with Kathleen, who I thought was a wonderful character. I have my suspicions about Rosalind…and I absolutely do not like Tyler (he is a well written antagonist for Juliette). I do wish we got to see more of Juliette and her family, but it’s not something that impacted my enjoyment of the novel. I also loved if when we got to see Juliette interact with Marshall! Can they please be best friends?

I loved the relationship Roma had with his sister, and do wish we got more of that! His relationship with Benedikt and Marshall was also brilliant, and I enjoyed their scenes together. I am really glad we had the dual POV to be able to see both Roma’s and Juliette’s lives and the personal stakes each of them have, and the pressures on them – especially since both of them are not aware of some of the problems they have (Roma/his dad, Juliette/Tyler).

They were not the only characters I found myself invested in, but also Marshall and Benedikt. Oh, the quiet, soft, budding yearning between them . . . please. I love them. Their dynamic was soft and hilarious. And they are both such brilliant characters individually, too.

This novel is filled with political turmoil, with foreign powers trying to assert their influence and control, which unsettles the pre-existing domestic turmoil between the gangs. This impacts the way the characters move through the world, and their identity – particularly Juliette, who finds herself heavily impacted by her life, education and experiences in the West. Thus, opening up a wider discourse on imperalism, white supremacy & racism and not only how it impacts the individual, but the entire country.

Despite loving this book so much, I did have my issues with it. At times I found it to be particularly slower paced, not really moving anywhere which was disappointing. Because when it did pick up with the action, it was brilliant. However, for long build ups, it did seem sometimes as if the reveals just decided to jump up out of no where (because the book was finally coming to a close). Also, I feel like a lot was saved for the next novel, for example, what is going on with Rosalind (I have my suspicions), and Tyler etc… which, you know, is fine because this is a duology but it is disappointing that so much of the book spent time on things just to be like nope, wait for the next! I just wish there was a little more reveal/resolution to it, for the sequel to deal with the fallout (there’s a lot that book is going to have to do, and I just know when reading it I will be full of tension).

So overall, this is a 4/4.5 star read for me! And I am excited for the sequel.

Posted in book reviews

Star Daughter – Shveta Thakrar

The daughter of a star and a mortal, Sheetal is used to keeping secrets. Pretending to be “normal.” But when an accidental flare of her starfire puts her human father in the hospital, Sheetal needs a full star’s help to heal him. A star like her mother, who returned to the sky long ago.

Sheetal’s quest to save her father will take her to a celestial court of shining wonders and dark shadows, where she must take the stage as her family’s champion in a competition to decide the next ruling house of the heavens–and win, or risk never returning to Earth at all.

This gorgeously imagined YA debut blends shades of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and a breathtaking landscape of Hindu mythology into a radiant contemporary fantasy.

Trigger Warnings: imprisonment, physical assault (character beaten, not extremely graphic but there are details), ‘self-flagellation’ (term used in-text to describe character anxiously picking skin to the point of drawing blood), panic attacks, consuming blood, murder (method mentioned, not vivid, in-depth description)

Shveta Thakrar’s Star Daughter is a worthwhile, well-written, wonderfully magical debut novel. Star Daughter narrates the story Sheetal, the daughter of a star and a mortal, as she goes on a quest to save her father from the injury she accidentally inflicted on to him, which leads her to the Celestial Court where she reunites with the mother who left her . . .

What follows is a story of self-discovery as Sheetal is confronted with the knowledge of everything that had been kept from her, and all that they keep from her still. She goes on a journey to find out more about herself, her family, and their mysterious, murky past to find out who she is and where she should fit in to this world, while combatting with the strong wills of everyone else in the Star court who all have their own opinions & ideas of what they want her to do.

The best written part of this novel is Sheetal’s emotional turmoil as she tries to come to terms with who she is, after years of being told to hide parts of herself, and never being able to express herself in the way she wants to because she’s in the mortal world and it’s dangerous for a Star. You can also feel Sheetal’s anxiety and terror at the unknown world and situation she has been thrown in to, and the upset she feels about her mother seemingly abandoning her and her father when she was a child. With the latter, I did expect more from when they finally reunited in the Celestial court. It wasn’t awful, and the story ARC was satisfactory, but I often felt that they never could quite connect because Sheetal’s mother, even with better intentions, also had a scheme she couldn’t see past in order to just be there for Sheetal. The ending did touch more on her mother and her mending more of their dynamic, and we did get explanations, but I hoped for more emotion and more scenes of them talking/figuring it out.

I also felt disappointed by the competition aspect, which was a big aspect of the main plot. The whole reason Sheetal participated was to win, and most of the novel took span over the two days she had leading up to it, with all the training she had to do. I am not sure what I quite expected, I’m not sure Thakrar had a character paint it as anything else but a talent competition, but yet when it was revealed to be that I was like ?? This is it ?? And then the competition was over before we knew it, and it got all sorts of messy in between with peoples schemes, revelations, and grasps for power and then it came to a close and it was like . . . oh. Okay. That was that, then. That whole part of the novel I honestly failed to keep up, because one second everyone was on so-and-so’s-side, and then they weren’t, and then someone tried to kill/assault someone else, and then it seemed like the clothes were also healed with the magic, and then things continued, someone else was condemned, and then it continued – and it was ultimately just a long conversation (like this sentence) that I felt like I needed to make a flow chart for.

I do hope this novel gets a sequel, though, or at least a companion novel! It ended well, but I am curious about what is going to happen because there’s still a lot of turmoil, with sort of a half-resolution that was Sheetal being like ‘I’ll deal with that later’ and I wasn’t entirely satisfied I would also like to see more of the Celestial court, because what we did get to see was magnificent! I liked the incorporation of Hindu mythology, and I kept hoping we’d see more of the Gods/Deities and magical creatures show up.

I recommend Star Daughter to you if you’re looking for a book about a talent competition set amongst the stars, a character that goes on a journey to discover who she is, and a whole lot of family and political drama. I will be reading Thakrar’s next release (whatever it may be!) because despite my few issues with this one, I think she is a decent writer and good storyteller and am excited to see what she comes up with next! 

3/5 stars!

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

It Came From the Sky – Chelsea Sedoti

From the author of The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett and As You Wish comes the unforgettable story of the one small town’s biggest hoax and the two brothers who started it all.

This is the absolutely true account of how Lansburg, Pennsylvania was invaded by aliens and the weeks of chaos that followed. There were sightings of UFOs, close encounters, and even abductions. There were believers, Truth Seekers, and, above all, people who looked to the sky and hoped for more.

Only…there were no aliens.

Gideon Hofstadt knows what really happened. When one of his science experiments went wrong, he and his older brother blamed the resulting explosion on extraterrestrial activity. And their lie was not only believed by their town―it was embraced. As the brothers go to increasingly greater lengths to keep up the ruse and avoid getting caught, the hoax flourishes. But Gideon’s obsession with their tale threatened his whole world. Can he find a way to banish the aliens before Lansburg, and his life, are changed forever?

Told in a report format and comprised of interviews, blog posts, text conversations, found documents, and so much more, It Came from the Sky is a hysterical and resonant novel about what it means to be human in the face of the unknown.

Trigger Warnings: on-page branding and discussion of cow mutilation, pedophilia/underage relationship/statutory rape (no graphic scenes).

I discuss these tw’s in this review.

This review contains spoilers.

It Came From the Sky follows the story of Gideon, an aspiring MIT student and NASA engineer, who conspires with his prankster brother, Ishmael, to invent and carry out a hoax that aliens have visited their small town . . .

And it all started with what was meant to be a small explosion, to test out the ability of the seismograph. Except Ishmael does not listen to his brother, and was curious to see how much more of a big bang they could create . . . and bam. A crater is formed & the lie begins.

Throughout the novel – and especially in the beginning – I found it hard to connect with Gideon. While I related to his awkwardness, introverted nature, and his curiosity about space, I often struggled with the way he talked. While part of his characterisation was being closed of to those around him for fear of rejection, failure and humiliation, it extended from the page and to the reader. I don’t feel like I ever truly connected to Gideon. While he went on a character arc and journey, I think a lot of the emotional weight was missed by not letting the reader in to his thoughts more & allowing us to connect with him & his struggle to connect with people on a social and intimate level. The scenes where he did finally open up to Ishmael, Owen, Cass, Arden and his dad were good (I shed a tear with the latter), I feel they missed the emotional weight. Especially since once it was shared, it was like ‘right! On to the next!’

Sedoti combines ‘normal’ narrative prose with various mixed media formats such as interview transcripts (Gideon’s interviews he conducted, and the police), newspaper articles, and posters (some of these were incredibly pretty and felt very authentic with the horrible, but common, comic sans type).

(I think the only thing I did not enjoy was the footnotes, and that’s because I have not long finished writing my dissertation and degree, so I am feeling sensitive to them lmao. Stop haunting me).

My favourite element of this novel though was the relationship between Gideon and Ishmael. I really enjoyed seeing them become closer and more understanding of each other, and the support they provided the other. They had an enjoyable dynamic.

Again, I liked the relationship between Gideon and Owen, but the novel failed to invest time in to developing them and exploring that dynamic that it felt lackluster. As stated, Gideon has his reservations about everyone, and this leads him to making some really!! silly!! decisions!! that have not only an impact on him, but Owen. While the author gave this a resolution in the end, I felt incredibly frustrated that the entire novel spent time showing Gideon treating Owen badly for it to end in a conversation. I really liked that Owen did not just immediately accept or forgave Gideon, and was like this is something we need to work on. Before that, it was just text messages of leave me alone, Gideon moping before he finally realises that, despite his feelings, he was a massive jerk and needs to make things better. I don’t know. I think I would have liked a few more conversations and investment in the relationship other than Gideon being rude and Owen just sighing at him, for it to then end like this.

As for the hoax, it was incredibly wild – and fun – to see how one small lie about the crater being formed by a meteorite then snowballed in to seeing lights, shapes . . . and then seeing how it got picked up on by conspiracy theorists, and how others then began saying they had ‘close encounters’ as well. I think the only thing I didn’t like about this whole hoax storyline is that in the end, they essentially just got away with all the destruction that they caused?? And there was no concern for their mental state (I mean Ismael literally had Gideon BRAND him with a crop circle design to sell the story. Gideon states at the end that he is going in to theory, but that’s more to work on his social skills and those feelings, which is GREAT, but also what about Ishmael?!).

Another thing I did not like was the relationship between Oz and Arden & how the author handled it. It was thrown in for shock factor – and another reason to show how much Oz is the absolute worst – and to push Gideon/Arden closer together, and that was . . . it. The whole thing was mostly brushed over, everyone being more concerned with the fact that Oz is a scam artist as opposed to the fact that he is a pedophile. In the end, he is arrested as Gideon asks Arden to come forward, seeming as the police/FBI do not think they have sufficient evidence to arrest him for scamming (Gideon compares this to Al Capone being arrested for tax evasion). So, while it was good that Oz got arrested for that & will hopefully face the consequences . . . I do not feel it was handled well at all. It was thrown in for the shock, and then dismissed, and then in the end it only became relevant again for Gideon to use to get himself out of trouble.

Overall, It Came From the Sky is not an awful book, but it misses many of it’s emotional punches and fails to treat topics with the seriousness and care that they deserve. It would have benefitted from cutting down on these storylines/characters, to give more focus and attention to the main dynamics and topics.

Thank you to Netgalley and SOURCEBOOKS Fire for providing me with this e-Arc in exchange for an honest review.

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

The Love Hypothesis – Laura Steven

An LGBT romantic comedy with a twist from the Comedy Women in Print prize winner Laura Steven, author of The Exact Opposite of Okay. A hilarious love story with bite, for fans of Sex Education, Booksmart, Becky Albertalli’s Love, Simon and Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.

Physics genius Caro Kerber-Murphy knows she’s smart. With straight As and a college scholarship already in the bag, she’s meeting her two dads’ colossal expectations and then some. But there’s one test she’s never quite been able to ace: love. And when, in a particularly desperate moment, Caro discovers a (definitely questionable) scientific breakthrough that promises to make you irresistible to everyone around you, she wonders if this could be the key.

What happens next will change everything Caro thought she knew about chemistry – in the lab and in love. Is hot guy Haruki with her of his own free will? Are her feelings for her best friend some sort of side-effect? Will her dog, Sirius, ever stop humping her leg?

The Love Hypothesis by Laura Steven is a heartfelt, funny, and entertaining read. I really, really enjoyed reading this one, and I’m glad I decided to pick it up, after having Laura Steven on my radar for a while now. After reading this, I am definitely interested in reading more of her work.

I loved the parental relationship in this! The relationship Caro had with her two dads was beautiful, and they both had outstanding, quirky, personalities. (Dad reminded me so much of Captain Holt from Brooklyn Nine-Nine).

I really enjoyed the friendships Caro had. I don’t want to go in to too much detail with them, since I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but it felt like a very real, and honest portrayal of friendship. Their relationship was good. And then it was rocky. And then it was somewhere in between. Ultimately, this was a story of how friendships (and relationships) change – and that’s okay. People can grow apart, other people can grow closer, and that is fine.

It was a story about self-acceptance, in all walks off life: friendships, romantic relationships, familial. And it was really good to read. Caro went on an amazing journey of self-realisation. Again, it’s hard to say much without spoiling but I loved how she was able to self-reflect on her own behaviour. The journey she want on made her more mindful, more accepting, more empathetic, and more honest. I love her. She had such a fantastic narrative voice, and I was invested in her story.

Also, this story was incredibly funny. I have a bunch of favourite LOL moments highlighted. And a bunch that made me cry, too.

What a great book.

4 Shining Stars!

Posted in book reviews

Let It Snow – John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle

Let It Snow is a collection of three moving holiday romances by John Green, Lauren Myracle and Maureen Johnson.
An ill-timed storm on Christmas Eve buries the residents of Gracetown under multiple feet of snow and causes quite a bit of chaos. One brave soul ventures out into the storm from her stranded train and sets off a chain of events that will change quite a few lives. Over the next three days one girl takes a risky shortcut with an adorable stranger, three friends set out to win a race to the Waffle House (and the hash brown spoils), and the fate of a teacup pig falls into the hands of a lovesick barista.
A trio of today’s bestselling authors – John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle – brings all the magic of holidays to life in three hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and kisses that will steal your breath away.

What a pile of drivel.

Before I begin this review, I’d like to thank (and apologise) to Hayley and Emer for putting up with my rants about this for the last couple of days.

This book is so offensive. I genuinely could not believe some of the stuff I read.

Slut Shaming! Yay! Because why mind your own business when you can constantly shame others??

This book shamed women in pretty much every way imaginable, one way in which is that it engaged in slut shaming. Whether it was engaging in stereotypes such as: hot cheerleaders are just there to serve your sexual fantasies, as they are nothing more than a dumb, walking sexual object to be admired and then participating in creating those “you’re not like other girls” characters. Ugh.

There were many instances that really, really irked me and I found so incredibly offensive. Here’s an example:

“I forgot that Waffle Houses are like Lindsay Lohan’s legs: always open.”

I just . . . what in the heck? For one, this is a disgusting comment anyways. Like???? Legs: always open???? What sort of slut shaming shit is this?? Like this was not meant as a compliment in any sort of way. It was a snide comment made at the expense of Lindsay Lohan (I genuinely can’t believe the book named her) who the media has branded as this party animal, wild child, promiscuous woman…
This just adds to that narrative.
It adds to the narrative that women confident in their bodies are slutty.
It contributes to the discourse that women lose value when they’ve enjoyed sex.
It tells girls that their bodies are not their own and they are something to be gawked at, judged.
It’s a lie.

And it’s gross.

You’re not like those other girls. You’re an actual HUMAN BEING.

Oh, hello misogyny. Hello John Green.

Let’s meet Duke. She is our special, not-like-other-girls type of girl. Do you know how I know this? Because not only is it in her characterisation (tomboy, but just the right amount of girly and pretty, but also not enough to be seen as a weak girl, because you know, she is one of the lads really) but JP HAS TO REMIND US EVERY TWO SECONDS THAT DUKE IS NOT LIKE OTHER GIRLS.

I shit you not, an actual line from this novel (drivel) is:

“She was much more like a person than other girls were.”

WELL WHAT ARE THE REST OF US, JP? JOHN GREEN, YOU MASTER OF WRITINGS FEMALES, PLEASE TELL ME?

Such lazy, lazy writing. Duke does not feel like a complex character. She doesn’t feel well written. If you’re having to use one of your other characters to convince us, the audience, of how amazing, how special, how unique she is, then, and stay with me for this one, maybe you should invest more time on developing said character.

Maybe it’s not just lazy writing though. Maybe it is just misogyny. Maybe just a bit of both. Either way, thanks for insulting my gender, John Green. Really appreciate it.

Here is just one example of Duke not being like other girls:

“If by that you mean that I dislike celebrity magazines, prefer food to anorexia, refuse to watch TV shows about models, and hate the color pink, then yes. I am proud to be not really a girl.”

There is so much wrong with this. Time for a list.

– Let’s not joke about anorexia. ‘Prefer food to anorexia’. Yes, and I’m sure people who have anorexia would probably prefer not to have it, so let’s not frame it as a) a joke b) like it’s not a serious eating and mental health disorder.

– Referring to the point above, it’s genuinely so sad and disgusting how normalised anorexia, dieting culture, etc has become in our society. And it is comments like this that add to the normalisation of it. This is <i>serious</i> and joking about how the majority of all these other girls who aren’t the completely unique Duke have it is so harmful.

– There’s a lot wrong with the construction of celebrity magazines but thats a larger, wider issue of gossip magazines etc. But in this case, maybe not shame girls for enjoying reading magazines???? Can we not like anything?

– As the point above, WATCH WHAT TV YOU WANT TO WATCH. I do not understand???? Why is it only girls associated with these things and why is it bad? Stop feeding the negative connotations of these things being shallow. THEY ARE ENTERTAINMENT.

– Oh yes. The I hate pink comment. I guess this one is personal to me (although, as a woman, all of these are) because I always hated pink as a kid. I used to not want to like it, wear it, be seen as loving it because it was *girly* and *girly* meant being *weak* and I had to be a *tomboy*. When you know what?? I can like pink, like action movies, enjoy watching my *girly* tv shows and WHO GIVES A SHIT? I can’t. Moving on.

Duke’s characterisation is just so, so harmful in so many ways.

– It tells all the girls who aren’t like her, that they suck – and are they really a person? Or just a dumb girl? This is telling them that they shouldn’t be like other girls. Because other girls are awful. Instead of praising them for being great just how they are

– There’s nothing wrong with the things Duke likes. Action movies? Cool? Not dressing in what would be considered feminine clothing? Cool. I don’t disagree that girls can’t like the same things as Duke. I just don’t think Duke’s character does her, or the things she likes justice, or the people who like different things any favours either.

– It just ultimately feels like one big giant tear down of everything women like. And I don’t want to tear down the things Duke is said to have liked, say, action films, because yes, girls do like them. But it feels like if they do, they can’t be a female, and if they don’t, well then they’re dumb girl…
And that’s what’s not okay.

ME, MACHO CAVEMAN. Ah!! Rape culture

“It’s like lions hunting gazelles,” I said as we watched the gaggle intently. “You just find a straggler, and-” a tiny blonde girl turned away from the pack-“pounce,” I said, as I jumped up off the stool.”

LOOK AT ALL THAT PROBLEMATIC LANGUAGE.
Ah yes, let’s equate women to being your prey.
Yes, let’s sit and watch one.
Yes, let’s wait for her to break off from the rest off the “pack”.
Ah yes, she’s away from her friends at the moment, so this is when she’s at her weakest, most vulnerable…
So let’s go approach her.
After watching her.
Waiting for her.
Then approach her.
Because that’s not creepy at all, is it?
The power dynamics in play here. He references himself with all the power, he’s the mighty lion, with a cunning strategy, waiting for her, the softer gazelle, to leave the safety of her pack to pounce…to attack.
It’s horrifying.
And this is just…accepted?
This is not OKAY.
This is NOT ROMANTIC.
THIS IS CREEPY AND RAPEY AND LEAVE GIRLS ALONE.

Why only be sexist & creepy, when you can be even more of an ignorant wanker??

Oh yes, let’s use slurs. There’s a broad conversation to be had about slurs in fiction, and whether they belong there. Are they unnecessary? Is it okay when they fit in to the storyline and a narrative in a way that’s not exploitative or doing it gratuitously?

It’s safe to say that Let It Snow a novel about teenagers, Christmas, and love, for young adult audiences, has no place for such slurs.

Guess what? Go on. Have a go. Do you think this book has slurs?
If you said yes, pat yourself on the back.

I will strike through the slur.
“Oh, Christ, forget it. Just come help me save these retarded misogynists.”

Sure, this book is a few years old now, but the slur has been dated and used as an insult for many, many years. I’m disgusted this even made it in to the novel and it hasn’t been removed since.

This is not the only time (surprise surprise) that someone’s mental state and ability has been made fun of. As above, we had the anorexia comment. There is a character in the novel called “tin foil guy” who is often made fun of, for you know, wearing tin foil. The characters are often making fun of him, demonising him, or being utter arseholes about him when he’s been nothing but nice. For example

“Right. I felt awful for the lady behind the counter, being stuck with him.”

Ah yes, let’s continue to ostracise everyone who doesn’t fit your perfect little mould of normality…
Sorry, I mean uniqueness. Can’t keep track here.

Because of course, it’s racist

I am white, therefore, I know it is not my place to always be deciding on what constitutes as racist and what does not. However, I would like to bring these moments to the forefront because they seem to engage in racism.

“I’d heard that the two of them had moved to Gracetown from the Cherokee Reservation, which was about a hundred miles from here. I thought that was cool. He seemed so exotic.”

Does the word exotic not have racial connotations? I’ve read multiple own voice journalism pieces and novels that have explored the word “exotic” and how instead of it being a compliment, the word often functions as a way of describing a fruit, or a bird. Additionally, is this not a backhanded compliment implying that people of colour do not meet the typical ‘normal’ Western looks, and are therefore this *exotic* ideal – i.e. something other?

As I say, I am not the authority on this. But this moment from the text seemed. . . peculiar. What was the need in referring to him as *exotic* because he lived on a reservation? It seemed to be linked to the point as I said above, it was a way of singling him out as being *different*?

Another term used was

“Jew afro.”

I believe the character this was said by was white. I could very much be wrong. It describes her as having “curly” hair, which was her “Jew fro.” Is this not an appropriation? Another careless without considering the implications – that many black people are discriminated against for their hairstyles, yet she can joke? It feels like an utter lack of self-awareness as she’s blinded by her own privilege.

To go or not to go on? That is thy question.

I could continue on with telling you all about each and every problematic, offensive moment in this book. This was just a snippet of some of the gross comments.

This should not come as a surprise, but I will give this one star.

Across all three stories, the first one was my favourite. Although, she did go to a random strangers house, and then the characters mother practically tried to force them together, and I genuinely thought she was going to get murdered . . .

The writing was poor all around.
Characters were weak and underdeveloped.
Not well plotted.
Offensive.

One star. And even that feels too much.