Wednesday, 30 December 2015

My 2015 in Books

As 2015 comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on all the books I've read this year. It's almost like reading them again! Since I didn't read only 2015 releases, I've included some older books in my round-up, but I think they deserve the titles they are given.

They say you should always start with the bad news, so without further ado:

My Biggest Disappointments

The White Rose by Amy Ewing (Review) 
I read The Jewel and thought it was incredibly average, but something made me read book two, The White Rose. This novel mainly consisted of a completely forced romance with a guy who has no purpose to the plot outside making lovey eyes at the protagonist, and Violet running away for half the book with no actual plot progression.

Evertrue by Brodi Ashton (Review)
This book absolutely killed me. I read the first two in the series, Everneath and Everbound, and absolutely adored them. So, naturally, I was very excited for the final novel. Man, was I disappointed. The ending is obvious, the villain is completely undefined and under-utilised, and the romance fell completely flat. Blah.

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter (Review)
I had high expectations for this novel, and I think that may have worked against me. There was nothing unique about the mythology used in this book. The protagonist felt really unrealistic, like she is far too quick to believe that there is a god requesting something from her. I've heard the series gets better over time, and I truly hope so.

The Elite by Kiera Cass (Review)
I really enjoyed The Selection, as cheesy and fluffy as it was. However, The Elite and The One were both so... boring. Nothing really happened, and these two could easily have been made into one book. Really, the whole series could have resolved in one book. I don't have unrealistic expectations, I went in knowing this book would be fluffy, and that's fine - I just hate fluff that takes forever.

The Girl with the Windup Heart by Kady Cross (Review)
This one was perhaps the most disappointing of all. I have stuck with this series since it started, and it was one of those series I attribute my love of reading to. The three books before this one were all action-packed and exciting, but this one just fell flat. There was nothing unique about it and it just felt like a way to get all the main characters paired off and give them their happy endings.

My Absolute Favourites

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (Review)
As you know, I am a huge fan of the Throne of Glass series, which is what motivated me to pick this book up. I read it with my book club (feel free to join us here), and though I did not love it initially, about 70 pages in I was absolutely hooked. I was interstate on holiday, and kept making excuses to go back to the hotel so I could read more. The romance was intense and beautiful, the girl saves the guy, and the world-building is exquisite. Another truly amazing book by Queen Maas.

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge (Review)
Apparently this year is the year of Beauty and the Beast for me, since this and A Court of Thorns and Roses are two of my top books for the year. Hodge's writing completely enraptured me, and the mythology aspects of this novel are unique and thoughtful. I have never read another book like this, which is uncommon these days. It's a short read and not a series, so I recommend it to anyone looking for something quick and easy (but still beautiful).

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh (Review)
My, my, I'm starting to look like a hopeless romantic, aren't I? Ahdieh's book stood out for me because, like Cruel Beauty, I had never read a book quite like this before. Which is saying something, since it is a retelling. I love diverse books (especially books not based in the US) and this novel is set in a truly under-utilised historical period. The romance makes you want to cry and laugh, and things are never quite what you think they are...

The Rose Society by Marie Lu (Review)
Marie "Soul Crusher" Lu is back with a vengeance in this series, and I love it even more than I loved Legend. Adelina is a truly interesting protagonist, and I loved hearing the story from her perspective. All great novels are character driven in my humble opinion, and Adelina is that great combination of sympathetic and evil that makes me feel alright about loving her, despite her bad actions. I was hooked from the moment I picked it up, and I cannot wait until the third book is out!

The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski (Review)
Now this book was a real surprise. As you may remember, I was not that impressed with Rutkoski's first book in this series, but I had already bought the sequel so I figured I should give it a shot. I am so glad I did, because this novel was nothing like the first. The Winner's Curse read mostly like a romance novel, with very little else. The Winner's Crime had elements of romance (which were beautifully written), but also had politics, fantasy, and intrigue. The ending almost killed me (in the best way), and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.

Most Anticipated for 2016

I am not going to comment on these since I know nothing beyond their blurbs, but I am super excited for these 2016 releases. Frankie by Shivaun Plozza gets a special mention, since I love a contemporary book based outside of America (we Aussies do everything better)!

The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
Heartless by Marissa Meyer
The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
Young Elites #3 by Marie Lu
A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Throne of Glass #5 by Sarah J. Maas
The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead
Frankie by Shivaun Plozza
Riders by Veronica Rossi
The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

And with that, the year is over. Happy new year, and I look forward to debating seemingly irrelevant plot points for hours with you all next year!

-Grace Lucy

Saturday, 26 December 2015

"The Wrath and The Dawn" (The Wrath and The Dawn #1) by Renee Ahdieh

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn, #1)The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely devoured this novel. My family and friends tried to pull me away from my reading with promises of food and socialising, but nothing was more tempting than staying put and reading this beautiful book. It's been a long time since a book enraptured me like this, and I won't soon forget it.

Ahdieh writes with a gorgeous, lyrical quality that suits her story very well. Although this is based on a classic tale, it still feels fresh and new because of both Ahdieh's beautiful prose and the new plot twists she has added in. It's been a day, and I can't bring myself to pick up another book because her writing has taken up permanent space in my brain. It's a blessing and a curse. It would also be remiss of me not to mention diversity in reference to this novel. I adored learning about the culture of Khorasan, which was a stunning backdrop to this story. Anything to get a YA book that is not set in America!

The romance between Shahrzad and Khalid is raw, painful, real, beautiful and heart-wrenching. I really, truly thought I would hate this couple. Khalid is a monster, and how can he possibly make up for his past? I was expecting Shahrzad to be beguiled by his pretty face and that was it. How wrong I was! These two characters fell in that hopeless "meant-to-be" kind of love that makes your heart melt. Ahdieh allowed their love to rise and fall with the various trials that came their way, and yet I believed in their relationship all the same. Ugh. This book is turning me into a big ol' sappy mess.

The multiple POVs kept me in touch with what was happening outside the palace, and so the events of the ending did not come completely by surprise. While I was reading, I adamantly did not want to read anything that was not Shahrzad and Khalid making eyes at each other (I really am turning into a sap), but in hindsight these ancillary characters really enriched the plot. It's a cardinal sin for authors to forget that a world exists outside their main character's view, and Ahdieh reminded me of why.

Overall, this was an exquisitely written novel, with an intriguing plot and a raw, beautiful romance. I would recommend this book to anyone who will listen, but especially if you want a novel in a different setting to the usual white kids in America, or if you want an angsty romance to dream about.

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Thursday, 24 December 2015

"The Goddess Test" (Goddess Test #1) by Aimee Carter

The Goddess Test (Goddess Test, #1)The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Honestly, this novel was a little disappointing. I have been on a bit of a YA mythology binge lately, and I have been astonished again and again by the original and beautiful stories I have been reading. The Goddess Test was a cute enough story, but there was nothing unique about it.

Books based on mythology are hard to get right - you need the perfect balance of traditional mythology aspects and new, modern twists. This novel, for me, felt like a lukewarm version of the original mythology, just set in modern times and without the really hardcore parts (like, you know, the ancient Greeks penchant for murder and deception). Even putting aside the mythology relation, I felt like I had read this story before in other YA novels. It had some pretty obvious tropes and all the 'twists' were predictable. Only one really shocked me, and that was who killed the previous girls.

I found parts of this novel very unrealistic. Like how easily Kate accepted that Henry's offer was genuine when he first made it. What 18-year-old reads the tale of Persephone after a strange man asks her to, brings it up with her high school friends, and then proceeds to believes it's real? I needed a little less credulity from Kate to make her more realistic.

I think that Carter has treated this novel as a prologue of sorts to the rest of series. Some of the characters felt unnecessary to the plot, and I hope she has just introduced them now for them to become more relevant later on. Characters like Ella, Irene, Walter, and Dylan seemed to have no purpose other than to fill out the mythology aspect of the plot (which is disappointing, as Ella and Irene are based on my favourite Greek goddesses). There were enough twists and turns in this novel to keep me reading, but if the second novel continues to feel like a prologue, I will be very disappointed.

Henry and Kate's romance was well done, as Carter did not try to force them into deep love moments after meeting. They started as friends, and despite eventually making their relationship romantic (not a spoiler, if you didn't see that coming you didn't read the blurb), she never makes them confess their undying love for each other. I particularly enjoyed the ending of this novel for that reason. While we are on it, I will be reading the second novel almost entirely because of the ending.

Overall, this was an average rendition of the traditional Greek tales, with interesting characters and a cute romance. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants a quick and easy read with a fantasy bent, but definitely not to die-hard Greek mythology fans.

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Sunday, 20 December 2015

"Cruel Beauty" by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty (Cruel Beauty Universe #1)Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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I adored this book. It was a really quick read, partly because it was quite short and partly because I devoured it with an unmatched ferocity. Part Greek mythology, part Beauty and the Beast, this book was the perfect blend of traditional tales and new stories.

Nyx is definitely up there on my list of favourite YA heroines. I like that she is aware of the cruelty and selfishness in her heart, and although she tries to apologise for it, she eventually accepts that is a part of who she is. I prefer realistic heroines even in unrealistic worlds, and I think that Nyx's willingness to do things that are less than moral to satisfy both her selfish desires and her sense of duty was just about as real as you can get. Nyx is cruel and twisted, and why wouldn't she be? She's basically a lamb raised for slaughter, with nobody to mourn her. Having said this, she was still witty and sincere enough for me to love her. Nyx was the perfect anti-heroine to Ignifex's perfect anti-hero.

Speaking of Ignifex - I loved him. He was one part evil, one part good and all parts hilarious. I liked that he never really apologised for his cruel actions - he was the bad guy, and not worth saving (in his own words). But as he and Nyx grew to love one another, they both softened their hard edges and showed each other true kindness in their own way. Learning the truth behind Ignifex's character is bittersweet to say the least.

Perhaps my favourite part of this novel was that it wasn't obvious. I find myself guessing the endings of a lot of novels quite easily, and Cruel Beauty's story line and ending was so far from what I expected. If I could say anything about this novel, it would be that it is entirely and utterly unique - which is hard to do when you are writing a retelling. Hodge made me love her characters, her world and her story - I was enthralled from start to finish, and I'm not sure that I'll ever read a book quite like this one ever again.

Overall, I think Cruel Beauty used the best of traditional stories while adding its own unique twist, with its best quality being its three-dimensional characters, who you both love and hate. I would recommend this book to anyone who longs for something a little different after reading a tide of YA novels that are one in the same. The only thing that upsets me is that there won't be a sequel!

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Thursday, 17 December 2015

"Winter" (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4)Winter by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Ahh, I have that strange feeling that happens when you reach the end of a good series. I powered through this book because I wanted to find out what happened, but at the same time I read slower than I could have because I did not want it to end. I'm happy I read it now, though. Winter was a great ending to such an interesting series.

I will preface this review by saying that Cinder still remains my favourite novel in this series. This is quite unusual for me, I can't think of a single other series where I have liked the first book the most. I think that this is the case in The Lunar Chronicles because the story was a lot more fluid in Cinder, owing to the fact that there was only one main character to follow. As much as I loved Winter, there are now four main characters, and four more almost main characters, all of whom have their own plots. A lot of things happened in this novel and it became a little confusing following who was currently teamed up with who, where they were etc. Having said that, I still enjoyed the overall plot, even if it was a little overwhelming at times.

Winter, as a character, was very interesting and enjoyable to read about. I enjoyed her parts of the novel the most, due to Meyer's unique portrayal of mental illness. Jacin telling her that having a mental illness did not mean she was broken was an especially beautiful moment. I wish Winter could have been involved in the story more in this novel, or even in earlier novels (I know that defeats the purpose of introducing her as a title character, but a girl can dream).

The ending of this novel wrapped everything up nicely, which is the best you can hope for in a much loved series like this. It left things open enough that it wasn't boring, though. It was a unique take on the perfect fairy tale ending - and, really, what could possibly suit this series any more?

Overall, this was a beautiful ending to a beloved series, with a brilliant and different portrayal of mental illness as its best feature. It's definitely worth savouring this one - which won't be hard considering it's a huge 823 pages long.

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Saturday, 12 December 2015

"All The Bright Places" by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright PlacesAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I actually finished this book yesterday, but I needed some time to let myself recover. It was a very affecting and realistic portrayal of mental illness from two entirely different perspectives. I fell in love with this book, and it proceeded to break my heart into a thousand pieces - I spent at least half of it in tears (both happy and sad ones).

Niven created two complex and interesting characters who I wanted to read about. I did not necessarily like them both throughout the whole book, but I certainly wanted to know what happened next in their story. I appreciated Niven's respectful portrayal of both Finch and Violet's mental illnesses. Having known a few people in my life with bipolar disorder, I think the way Finch communicates is very realistic. And the way Violet describes going through the motions to satisfy people when she feels numb inside was very true to the experience of depression.

I loved the romantic aspects of this novel. It is so hard to find romance in YA novels that does not feel forced and fake these days. All the Bright Places really reminded me that when YA authors get romance right, they really get it right. We saw Violet and Finch in the early stages of their friendship, then as their feelings developed and eventually in their committed relationship - but Niven did not skip over any of these stages for convenience, she displayed them in all their raw glory. I truly felt that these two characters were in love. For this reason especially, the ending of this novel absolutely destroyed me.

The next two paragraphs contain SPOILERS - you have been warned!
Perhaps what I loved most about this novel is how it portrayed the two possible extremes of mental illness - death and recovery. Finch was clearly quite ill by the time we hear his story, and has an extremely damaging home life - and for this reason (as much is it hurt) I felt that committing suicide was true to his character. Violet, on the other hand, has only recently gotten a mental illness and has very supportive parents and (some) friends. For me, this really shows how our family and environment can facilitate or impair our recovery from mental illness.

The one thing that stopped me from giving this book 5 stars, however, was the nature of Violet's recovery. Although I think her eventual recovery is true to her character, I don't like that it portrays Finch as having 'cured' Violet of depression. I had this problem with My Heart and Other Black Holes as well. A supportive and loving partner can certainly help someone recover from mental illness, but they absolutely cannot cure depression.

Overall, this was a beautiful and poignant portrayal of mental illness. I wouldn't recommend this book to people who want novels that are all smiles and laughter, but I would recommend it to anyone who wants a novel about two genuinely interesting characters and how they overcome their struggles.

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Thursday, 10 December 2015

"The Iron Daughter" (The Iron Fey #2) by Julie Kagawa

The Iron Daughter (The Iron Fey, #2)The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was about 3.5 stars for me. I had a lot of problems with it, but overall I was interested enough in the story to keep reading. It's hard for me to put into words how I felt about The Iron Daughter, but seeing as this is a review, I should probably try...

Probably the biggest thing that holds me back from loving this series is its lukewarm protagonist. Meghan is just so... beige. She basically has no direct involvement in the plot for a majority of the story. Sure, she gets that degree of 'special' from being Oberon's daughter - but when it comes down to actually doing things, Meghan always falls short. From fighting, to sneaking around, to finding what they need and where they need to go - it's always someone else (usually Puck or Ash) who does it, but rarely is it Meghan. It's hard to love a story when its protagonist is so passive.

The romance between Meghan and Ash continues to feel forced and unrealistic in The Iron Daughter. I'm sorry, I know there are legions of people who ship them hard, but I just don't feel it. Meghan's relationship with Puck seems much more legitimate, considering they have known each other for a while and thus understand each other better. Surely Ash is more mature (given that he is meant to be hundreds or even thousands of years old) than to confess his undying love after knowing Meghan for such a short time? Apparently not - the endings of both The Iron King and The Iron Daughter prove this. The ending of this novel, though exciting and wholly unexpected, made no sense when you consider the characters involved. I won't reveal what happened because spoilers, but let's just say I don't think it fits into who Ash is as a character.

Having said this, there were elements of this story that I enjoyed. Kagawa introduced some intriguing new characters into the mix, as well as giving more book space to smaller characters from The Iron King - Ironhorse, Virus and Leanansidhe come to mind. I really liked the introduction of Leanansidhe in this novel. She was an interesting character, who's backstory and intentions I would like to learn more about in future novels. I would especially love to see her face off with Titania - that would be the fight of the century. Ironhorse was my favourite character overall, though - he had a lot of passion and power in this book.

I also really like Kagawa's writing style. There were parts of this novel in which the story itself was not gripping me, but Kagawa's 'epic storyteller' tone kept me reading. This tone makes everything sound like an epic adventure - even if it really wasn't. It's also clear that world-building is a true strength of Kagawa's - I never found myself questioning whether the Nevernever or the Iron Fey were real. I really hope this continues through to the next novel. This world-building and her storyteller tone were ultimately what saved The Iron Daughter for me.

Overall, this was a fair sequel to The Iron King, with an unique take on fey mythology and an interesting story overall.

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Monday, 7 December 2015

"Shadow Kiss" (Vampire Academy #3) by Richelle Mead

Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy, #3)Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Shadow Kiss was a deliciously addictive novel that I could not put down. I have devoured the first three books of this series in a kind of manic fervor because they are so damn addictive. This book was so, so close to getting 5 stars from me, but I held back for reasons I will elaborate on later in this review.

Okay, if Rose Hathaway didn't already make my list of favourite YA heroines in Frostbite, she firmly cemented her spot in this novel. Rose is Badass with a capital B. Seeing her struggle with supernatural style mental illness and romantic woes broke my heart, and it's been a long time since I cared so much about a protagonist. I also loved that Rose took a stand for herself in this book - none of this "Moroi come first" business. Rose needs to take some time for herself and address the things that are important to her. Lissa is important, but so is Rose!

One of my favourite things about Shadow Kiss was how Mead changed the way she discussed the idea of "blood whores". I remember being taken aback in Vampire Academy by how derogatory this term seemed, and how Rose just agreed with it. Then I realised, that's how we are raised to think of real-life women in similar scenarios - and we see Rose change the thought process she has always used with this issue as she grows, which is admirable. Through the past three books, Mead has shown Rose's maturity develop as she lets go (somewhat) of these old prejudices. Ambrose and Dimitri's family make Rose think twice about what it means to be a dhampir - and that maybe raising kids or having kinky sex is not really that bad.

As I said in my review of Vampire Academy, I felt like this series was going to be a non-stop soap opera. Whilst this was definitely true of the first book, I think Shadow Kiss had more political and social justice aspects. Seeing the court in action, and seeing the divide between dhampirs and Moroi, provided much-appreciated insight into Moroi society. Having said this, it never lost the gripping personal drama and action that made it so intriguing to start with. It is hard to strike such a balance, so kudos to Mead for keeping me sated on both fronts.

The ending of this novel was really what stopped me giving it 5 stars. Whilst I can understand why Mead chose this ending, (view spoiler) The only time this really works is when romance is not the central theme in a book - and let's face it, romance is a pretty big part of this series.

Overall, this was the best book in the Vampire Academy series thus far. It had a kickass protagonist, thrilling action and beautiful romance - all with vampires! What more could you want?
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Sunday, 6 December 2015

"Frostbite" (Vampire Academy #2) by Richelle Mead

Frostbite (Vampire Academy, #2)Frostbite by Richelle Mead
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Why did I wait so long to read this series? I am officially hooked - about halfway through this novel, I ran to the shops to buy the next three. It's one of those series.

Although I would argue that most parts of this book were amazing, my favourite part of Frostbite was easily the Rose's character development. She was tough as nails and hilarious in Vampire Academy, but in Frostbite she gains some much needed maturity. Rose really takes charge and shows what a genuinely good guardian she is going to make, and she did that all without Lissa being in danger. It's one thing to protect Lissa because she's both Rose's best friend and bonded Moroi, but to take charge like she did when Lissa was not around was truly amazing. I am in awe of her, and Rose is now firmly added to my list of favourite YA heroines.

Vampire Academy definitely had a soap opera-esque feel to it, which was lost in Frostbite. Whilst I did love this feel in the first novel, I think moving away from it definitely benefited Rose and the other characters overall. Frostbite had much more action, and since it was no longer set in a high school, the characters seemed much more mature. Leaving the school also had the added benefit of allowing a greater understanding of the Moroi/Dhampir/Strogoi world and culture.

There were some intriguing new characters in Frostbite: Adrian, Tasha and Janine to name a few. Seeing how they melded into Rose's world in their own unique ways was beautiful (did anyone else get teary over Rose and her mother near the end of the novel?) Adrian and Mason both provided a flirty distraction from the ever-present and ever-gorgeous Dimitri - something I both appreciated and hated. I definitely understand why this happened - it was necessary to let Rose spread her wings without Dimitri, but damn did I miss his beautiful face throughout this novel.

Speaking of things I missed in this novel, where was Lissa? She was barely in this novel at all, and I think that is what stopped me giving it 5 stars. Whilst I loved and enjoyed Rose developing on her own, one of my favourite parts of Vampire Academy was Lissa's experience with magic and also depression. In Frostbite she is really only a cursory character. I hope she will appear more in Shadow Kiss.

Overall, this was a strong second installment in an insanely addictive series. Definitely worth the read if you were a fan of Vampire Academy, or just of vampire fiction in general.

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Friday, 4 December 2015

"A Court of Thorns and Roses" (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1) by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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I love Sarah J. Maas, and for that reason I was a little tentative going into this novel, because I thought it may be too similar to the Throne of Glass series - but I could not have been further from the truth. Maas, you can do no wrong. I was so obsessed with this novel, I found it hard to concentrate on my holiday, because I just wanted to keep reading. It's one of those stories that gets you so invested you just have to know what is going to happen next.

I know that edge-of-your-seat page-turner books don't just happen by chance - they happen through great writing. Maas really built a believable and intricate world, a world that I genuinely felt like I was living in when I read A Court of Thorns and Roses. I definitely believe that epic fantasy novels need a believable world to work at all, and this one absolutely had that. I got lost in Feyre's human life, as well as her life among the fae - beautiful descriptions of both the places and their customs ensured this. I am a huge fan of Maas' previous series, but this novel went above and beyond even that series in world-building terms.

The characters in this novel were all complex and multi-layered. A lot of books based in fae mythology tend to get bogged down with excessive details and ridiculous amounts of fairy species. Luckily, this was avoided by A Court of Thorns and Roses completely. I was also a tad worried to start with that Tamlin would be too similar to Rowan from Heir of Fire, and although there were definitely parallels, the two characters stand on their own. No character felt external or superfluous to the story line, and even the morally questionable characters were somewhat sympathetic and extremely interesting (is Rhysand anyone else's favourite character?) Feyre was equal parts likable and realistic - a good combination for a protagonist. I did not love her as much as Celaena from the Throne of Glass series, but she was a strong and interesting character nonetheless.

A Court of Thorns and Roses was the perfect balance of action, mythology and romance. Speaking of which, I adored the main romance plot of this novel. As you know, it is based on Beauty and the Beast, which is a story I have long adored. The romance in this novel strongly resembles its fairy tale predecessor; there are very few surprises where the relationship is concerned (at least, early on). One thing I feel I must mention is how sex positive this novel is. I am a strong proponent of sex in YA novels (think tasteful scenes, not erotica), because it is realistic. Not every girl is a virgin, and not every couple holds hands for five years before taking things further. I love that Maas included a more sexual component to her novel, whilst keeping it limited enough so that it did not seem central to the plot.

Overall, this was a gripping and unique story with an interesting take on fae mythology. It is distinct from Maas' previous series, but with her customary beautiful writing style and kickass characters. I would recommend this book to practically anyone who could get their hands on it!

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"Vampire Academy" (Vampire Academy #1) by Richelle Mead

Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy, #1)Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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The title of this book is so misleading. I have stumbled past this book so many times in the past because I kept thinking “wow, what a tacky title”… that may partially explain why I am so late to the party with this series. Anyway, ignore the title, this is easy YA vampire fiction at its best. Now, I am not saying that this is the next Austen or Bronte novel – but it is one of those addictive page turners that you will not be able to put down! I think I read the entire book in four hours.

Rose Hathaway is a great protagonist – sassy, hilarious and fiercely loyal. She was likeable enough to evoke sympathy, and badass enough for me not to find her boring. Her friendship with Lissa is interesting (how much is their friendship based on the bond, and how much is genuine?), and I especially enjoyed that we could see things from Lissa’s perspective without changing narrator.

I have found a YA novel that has believable romance in it! Hurrah! I was starting to think they were extinct. I loved both the main couples in Vampire Academy. I love star-crossed lovers (I know, it’s such an overused trope, sue me), and so Rose and Dimitri really hit me hard. There’s one scene near the end of the book that almost killed me, so fellow shippers can look forward to that. I also spent the entire novel hoping that Lissa and Christian would get together – two great romances for the price of one! I love it.

Vampire Academy definitely felt like a soap opera at times, but in the best possible ways. There was drama around every corner, but unlike a soap opera I never found myself saying “OH COME ON, LIKE THAT WOULD ACTUALLY HAPPEN!” It’s action-packed, fast-paced and really indulgent, which makes it especially frustrating that the ratings go down as the series progresses. It’s like the chocolate mudcake of YA fiction – you know it’s bad for you, you know you’ll probably regret it, but gees it feels so good while you’re eating it.

The only thing that stopped this novel from reaching five stars for me, was that it felt like it was a "set-up" novel for the rest of the series. I hope that just means I will enjoy the rest of the books even more!

Overall, Vampire Academy was a wonderful example of genuine YA romance and a unique twist on traditional vampire mythology. I would recommend it to anyone who wants a quick read with interesting characters and a different take on vampire lore.

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Sunday, 29 November 2015

"Champion" (Legend #3) by Marie Lu

Champion (Legend, #3)Champion by Marie Lu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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I actually sat in bed staring at the cover of Champion for a solid thirty minutes after I finished reading it. This book was amazing. I was not that impressed with Legend, and although I liked Prodigy a lot more, Champion blew them both out of the water. Wow. Just wow.

This book was bursting with action from cover to cover. And not that mindless action you find in some dystopian novels, that is overly detailed and serves no true purpose, but the kind of action that makes it impossible to look away because you just have to know how it plays out. These sequences tied in with the political aspects of this novel, which were gripping and realistic. Lu describes at least three separate societies in depth and I believed them all - a lot of dystopian authors can barely manage to describe one well, so I was truly impressed.

June and Day's relationship in this novel was the perfect mix of angsty and satisfying... Originally, I was not barracking for them at all - the relationship seemed forced in Legend. In this novel, I was desperately hoping for them to live happily ever after. I followed their relationship and found myself caring as much about them as I did about the political issues in this book. Sigh. You won me over, Lu. You won me over so badly!

The ending of this book will be felt in my soul forever. It was a great ending, though - I was worried it might end predictably, and I could not have been more wrong. I don't want to spoil the ending, but you won't be disappointed.

Overall, this was an insanely satisfying and action-packed ending to a beautiful and truly unique series. I would recommend this series to anyone who wants a solid dystopian story line with two likeable main characters.

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Saturday, 28 November 2015

"Prodigy" (Legend #2) by Marie Lu

Prodigy (Legend, #2)Prodigy by Marie Lu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ah, this is the kind of writing I came to (masochistically) love and expect from Lu in The Young Elites series. I could see a great difference in the overall angst and pain (to the reader, as well as June and Day) between Legend and Prodigy, which greatly added to the depth and individuality of this series.

The best thing about Prodigy, without a doubt, was its world building. The best dystopian novels are those that create a world that makes sense both within itself, and as a logical extension of today's world. Both The Republic and The Colonies were described in a way that never made me question their reality, without bogging me down with extraneous details. The concept behind The Colonies was especially intriguing (rampant consumerism gone mad), and that is something I look forward to learning more about in Champion.

The political aspects of this book were intense. I have no idea who I actually want to win ultimately out of the major political groups! The incorporation of back-stabbing and double agents were very true to the often cutthroat nature of the political world (albeit in an exaggerated way). I also appreciated the descriptions of the rest of the world's politics. So many dystopian novels talk in great depth about their own society, and forget that others probably exist too. Oh, and Africa is not presented as destitute and hopeless for once - hurrah!

One of my major problems with Legend was that I felt that June and Day's relationship was rushed. Lu definitely remedied this in Prodigy. Seeing the relationship between these two develop throughout the book, their love no longer felt forced. It was one of those perfect, angsty relationships where one of them was always upset with or separated from the other for varying reasons. This made their love a lot more realistic (and therefore heartbreaking) this time around.

Be prepared for the ending of this novel to destroy your soul a hundred times more than Legend. I will say no more.

Overall, this novel had superb world building, with brilliant political aspects and a believable romance. Even if you did not love Legend, I urge you to read this novel anyway!

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Thursday, 26 November 2015

"Siege and Storm" (Grisha Trilogy #2) by Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(mild spoilers)

Siege and Storm was a brilliant second novel in The Grisha Trilogy. I enjoyed it slightly less than the first, but not enough to drop it to three stars... Especially since most series fall prey to "middle book syndrome", and this one did not.

I loved that Alina and Mal were not separated from other characters for very long. I was really worried that Bardugo would leave them out of Ravka and we would hear about The Darkling's escapades through rumours and gossip, rather than through our hero's actions. When we got onboard Sturmhund's ship, I was a little too excited. Partly because The Darkling is my favourite character, and partly because Sturmhund/Prince Nikolai was a great addition to the series! I hope that Ruin and Rising delves more into his story, even though Alina and Nikolai were separated at the end of the book.

I continued to feel no emotional connection to Mal. Like at all. His character seemed to just be in the way most of the time! I also did not feel a deep emotional connection between him and Alina. Sure, Bardugo writes about how much they love each other, but I never feel that between them. Alina seems to have a stronger connection with The Darkling, which is really saying something...

Alina is an amazing character. I loved seeing her come into her own during Siege and Storm, both as a Grisha and as a leader. When she first arrives in Os Alta, her leadership is shaky at best, but as time progresses she really shows her true colours. She is by no means lovable at all times, but she is always relatable and interesting.

The ending of this book was, to put it simply, brilliant. That's all I'm going to say here, so read the book!

Overall, this book was a great adventure with an amazing and inspiring heroine and secondary characters (mostly). A great second novel!

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Wednesday, 25 November 2015

"Frankie" by Shivaun Plozza

FrankieFrankie by Shivaun Plozza
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Penguin Teen Australia for the ARC!

Anyone who has heard me talk about books (so basically everyone who has ever met me), knows that I am not a huge contemporary fan. Why would I want to read about real life? I already have one of those. Every so often, however, I read a YA contemporary novel that makes me eat my words - and Frankie is one of them. Maybe because it's an Australian novel and I could actually relate to the characters; maybe just because Plozza writes really well.

One of my major problems with the contemporary genre is that it seems to exist in a frustrating dichotomy - its stories are either fluffy or preachy. Frankie is a novel that strikes the perfect balance between these two. It posed a lot of questions about our society - why are the rich, white kids the only ones who seem to matter? Why do people commit crimes, anyway? These are important issues that need to be addressed, but nobody wants to hear a sermon. Characters like Frankie demonstrate the truth of low socio-economic living, sans condescension - the issues just come up when we talk about her life.

Frankie Vega is a unique and entertaining protagonist. She makes some pretty dodgy decisions (don't we all?), but you never really stop cheering for her. I felt like I was Aunt Vinnie throughout the entire novel, because I really wanted Frankie to succeed, but sometimes I wanted to yell at her as well. I think this was largely down to Plozza's writing - because above everything else, Frankie was hilarious. I actually laughed out loud at a lot of her comments, making her a much more sympathetic and relatable character.

The characterisation in this novel was its true strength (I swear I actually knew Cara in school). The romance never felt forced because I got to know the characters separately first, and saw them gradually develop feelings for each other (no insta-love, hurrah). Perhaps the only thing I did not love about this novel was its pacing. Frankie is attempting to solve a mystery of sorts throughout the novel, and we do not reach a resolution until right at the end. I would have liked to explore the aftermath of this discovery for just a little longer.

Overall, this is a stunning standalone novel with an interesting protagonist and brilliant characterisation. I would recommend this novel to anyone who wants a story about realistic Australian characters, or just feels like reading something honest and raw. I look forward to reading many more novels from Plozza!

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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

"The Rose Society" (The Young Elites #2) by Marie Lu

The Rose Society (The Young Elites, #2)The Rose Society by Marie Lu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been staring at the screen for about five minutes trying to think of how to word this review. I was completely awestruck by The Rose Society.

To say The Rose Society was dark would be an understatement of ridiculous proportions. This goes beyond the usual mild-moderate level of angst you found in the average YA novel - and I loved every minute of it. Have you ever been reading a book and thought, "Hey, the villain in this story must have an interesting story, I'd love to hear it from their perspective"? Maybe I'm the only one. But if you have as well, then The Rose Society is the book for you.

Adelina is the best kind of evil - the kind that I could still empathise with. I am a huge fan of morally ambiguous characters, because nothing in the real world is as "black and white" as how a lot of novels portray good and evil. In The Young Elites, Adelina is more of a sympathetic character; one that makes some bad choices, but not because she is a bad person. In, The Rose Society, Adelina becomes truly morally ambiguous, by deliberately making choices in the sole interest of increasing her own power - and somehow, I still empathised with her.

Lu's addition of Adelina's "whispers" really made me ponder about power dynamics. At what point does our power start to control us? Throughout the novel, Adelina's mental state deteriorates steadily. She has hallucinations, and little ghosts whisper to her and tell her to kill things, seize power, and generally wreak havoc. Adelina gradually loses control over her power, but the idea of not having it is too terrible to bear. Adelina is a wonderfully complex and interesting, if not exactly likable protagonist. An Erin Morgenstern quote kept popping into my head while reading - "Is not the dragon the hero of his own story?"

Besides Adelina, there were several characters I thoroughly enjoyed reading about. Magiano's alignment to joy makes me hopeful for Adelina's redemption (although, in many ways, I would love for her to go out guns blazing)! Magiano was a light, fluffy character in the midst of a lot of dark, heavy characters, so I thoroughly enjoyed his scenes. Despite his role as The Big Bad, Teren was self-hating and deluded to the point of sympathy. Reading the story from his perspective was jarring to say the least. Raffaelle continued to draw me in - the idea that in a world of elites with power over fire and death, that playing with someone's emotions could be just as deadly was intriguing. Though he definitely was not in the story enough.

Overall, The Rose Society was a haunting depiction of power and its ability to warp us, with an intriguing protagonist and an interesting premise. It was even better than the first novel in the series, I cannot wait to see how Adelina's story ends.

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Monday, 23 November 2015

New Book Spotlight!

Frankie by Shivaun Plozza

Last night I attended Penguin Teen Australia Live to hear all about Penguin's upcoming YA releases. Needless to say, I fangirled extremely hard. Besides hearing about all the amazing books coming in the next year, I also got my hands on Champion by Marie Lu (which I've been hunting for months) and an ARC of Frankie by Shivaun Plozza. I am unreasonably excited to read Frankie, check it out:

"Frankie Vega is angry. Just ask the guy whose nose she broke. Or the cop investigating the burglary she witnessed, or her cheating ex-boyfriend or her aunt who's tired of giving second chances...

When a kid shows up claiming to be Frankie's half brother, it opens the door to a past she doesn't want to remember. And when that kid goes missing, the only person willing to help is a boy with stupidly blue eyes … and secrets of his own.Frankie's search for the truth might change her life, or cost her everything."

Frankie is written by an Australian author, which is all kinds of exciting for me as an Australian reader. YA is definitely dominated by the Americans, which is fine, but sometimes it's nice to read a contemporary novel set in a town you have actually visited (or even heard of!) 

I'll share my review as soon as I've finished it, but if you like the look of Frankie, it hits shelves 23 March 2016 (also, Melina Marchetta recommends it on the cover - what else do you need to hear?!)

-Grace Lucy

"Fairest" (The Lunar Chronicles #3.5) by Marissa Meyer

Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles, #3.5)Fairest by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I will admit it - I am a huge fan of Queen Levana. In the way one is a huge fan of Lord Voldemort or Scar because they just make for such entertaining fiction. Levana was a fascinating character in the first three books of this series, and that was before we knew too much about her. Reading her backstory is truly illuminating.

Fairest reveals a lot about Levana to us: why she hates mirrors so much, how Queen Channary was not the beloved monarch we were led to believe, and why she keeps Winter around even though she clearly dislikes her. We begin to understand her history, her motivations and her desires.

In fact... part of me feels bad for the evil Queen. She did a lot of terrible things, don't get me wrong, but those terrible things almost come from a good place... in a roundabout way.

Overall, this book is a brilliant bridge to Winter. It teaches us more about the villain of The Lunar Chronicles, making us uniquely equipped to understand the possible direction and end of the series... Though part of me still wishes Levana was redeemable!

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Sunday, 22 November 2015

"The Iron King" (The Iron Fey #1) by Julie Kagawa

The Iron King (The Iron Fey, #1)The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Iron King was more of a 3.5 star rating. It was a solid read, but not one of my favourites and it certainly had some flaws.

Kagawa had some exceptional world building in this novel. She clearly put a lot of research into the fey mythology, to the book's benefit. As a huge fan of A Midsummer Night's Dream, I really loved that Oberon, Titania, and particularly Puck were featured. The writing was sometimes a little slow, but not so much that I lost interest.

A downside to this world building, however, was that there were almost too many different species of fey. It was hard to keep track of them all! And I don't mind a lot of species and characters, as long as they all have a clear purpose - but a lot of them didn't. A lot of them were thrown in to make Meghan's day more difficult and nothing else (think the goblins, redcaps, and gremlins).

Having said this, I think the concept of iron fey was truly unique. The existence of these iron fey really got me thinking about technology, and how we sometimes advance it at the expense of nature. I loved that it was thought-provoking and touched on these larger issues without being preachy.

The romance aspect of this book was, unsurprisingly, very disappointing. Ash did nothing to make me like him besides being attractive. He's a fairly typical brooding bad guy - very cookie cutter, with no unique twist. Puck, on the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed! He was true to his Shakespearean inspiration - the ultimate trickster - but was intensely loyal to Meghan throughout the novel. I personally hope Meghan will end up with him, but I am almost positive she will choose Ash (because, don't they always?)

Ash and Puck weren't even my favourite characters - I am obsessed with Grimalkin. Maybe I'm just a crazy cat lady, but the idea of a talking cat is heavenly - and Grimalkin was thoroughly entertaining. Whenever I found myself losing interest in this book, it was because Grimalkin wasn't around! Grimalkin for President (and the packrats for senate).

Overall, this was an entertaining read, with great world-building and some interesting characters (though the romance was flat). I would especially recommend this novel to anyone who loves fey mythology or A Midsummer Night's Dream, because Kagawa is very true to the lore.

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Saturday, 21 November 2015

"Everbound" (Everneath #2) by Brodi Ashton

Everbound (Everneath, #2)Everbound by Brodi Ashton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(I've left the major spoilers out of this one - follow this link if you want to read the full review, spoilers and all!)

Brodi Ashton, you have done it again! Everbound was just as addictive and hard to put down as Everneath, but the ending was a million times more satisfying!

A short synopsis, to get you in the mood: The Tunnels, a pretty scary place that is somewhat analogous to hell, has taken Jack after he sacrificed himself to save Nikki. Nikki cannot forgive herself for letting Jack take her place, and so she turns to Cole in her efforts to save him. They trek through the Everneath to find him, facing various obstacles along the way.

Ashton's writing continued to grip me in Everbound. The prose flowed so well I barely noticed I was reading. You know how some books require a concerted effort to keep reading? And you are super aware that you are reading? Everbound was definitely not one of them. However, the writing was not simplistic to the point of boredom. It struck a perfect balance between simplicity and complexity - something that very few authors get that right.

I enjoyed Everbound's central story line a lot more than Everneath's. I have a mild (okay, strong) feeling that it was mostly because Jack was barely in this novel. Cole, for all his flaws, is just the more interesting and entertaining character to read about. Jack is one of those dull-as-dishwater lover-boys that is meant to look amazing compared to the evil guy. I barrack for the good guy in a lot of romances, but only if his character is three dimensional (spoiler alert: Jack is not). Besides the Jack factor, I thought the Everneath was a wonderfully constructed world. I did not question its 'realness' for even a second.

Even the secondary characters in this novel were better than those in Everneath! I was crushed (view spoiler). Regardless, I cannot wait to learn more about Ashe, Adonia and even Max going forward. I am especially excited to understand the Queen and her motives in Evertrue!

The ending to Everbound was equal parts soul crushing and extremely satisfying! In those last few pages, right before the true ending is revealed, I started thinking that everything was a little too happy. I prayed that something more dramatic would happen - and Ashton answered my prayers, hallelujah! And, even after all of that, I could forgive Cole all his evils, if only he hadn't (view spoiler)

Overall, this was a gripping read from start to finish, with a well-imagined world and interesting characters (besides Jack). Even better than Everneath!

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Friday, 20 November 2015

"Legend" (Legend #1) by Marie Lu

Legend (Legend, #1)Legend by Marie Lu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've listed this as 3 stars, but I would say it is actually closer to 3.5 stars. Legend was a really quick read (even by my own speedy standards), and had some really good points. I just found it was lacking that je ne sais quoi that makes a book amazing.

Synopsis: Day is a criminal who lives on the streets. June is a military student who gets perfect scores in every test she takes. When June's brother dies, she is sure that Day is responsible, and dedicates her life to hunting him down.

Okay, so I should say that I read The Young Elites before this, so I had already fallen in love with Lu's writing style. Having said that, I definitely think the writing in Legend is nowhere near as beautiful. It's a smooth read but it lacks the lyrical quality I loved in The Young Elites.

I thought that having the Les Misérables homage would be enough to sell me on the story line, but it really was not. I found a lot of what happened really obvious. I hate books where I can tell what's coming from a mile away. I really would have preferred if Day had killed Metias, because at least that would have been interesting. It's a good overall story line, with some great bits thrown in (the truth about June's parents; that Day got a perfect trial score), but there is nothing unique about it. I am sorely hoping this changes as the series progresses.

I did enjoy the political aspects of this book. YA books usually present their corrupt governments as universally hated (even if nobody can do anything about it). But most of the time, corruption is a lot more subtle than that. I think Lu portrayed this well - June spends a majority of this book believing in the righteousness of the Republic, and as a hard time believing they did anything wrong at first. This makes so much more sense, because June grew up being told the government was great - she would not have realistically abandoned them over one rumour. Lu also left me wanting to know more about the government - why are they making the plagues? What's with the new mutation? What's with the Elector Primo? - which always keeps me hooked in a series.

Another series with a lackluster romance. If you have read any of my reviews before, you will know that one of my biggest pet peeves is forced romance. Day and June knew each other for about 3 days and I am supposed to believe they are in love? I was almost okay with the romance until the last few pages. They share a kiss early in the book and clearly like each other from a friendly perspective - this was more of a flirtation than an oh-my-god-I'm-in-love-with-you kind of thing. But at the end of the book, they are together romantically? Can YA authors please give some time for love to develop instead of forcing it?!

Overall, this was an easy read and worthwhile for fans of the dystopian genre. A solid world and standard plot, but the romance is a little forced.

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Thursday, 19 November 2015

"The Winner's Curse" (The Winner's Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy, #1)The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Mild Spoilers)


This book is a headscratcher - and not in a "trying to solve a mystery" way - in a "I can't tell if I liked it or not" way.

"The Winner's Curse" was incredibly easy to read - it flowed well and the language was simple (but pretty). So, I managed to finish this book in less than two days. If you are looking for something short and sweet to read, I recommend this book!

The start of this novel troubled me. I felt that there was absolutely no introduction into Kestrel's world. We have only a few pages until the love interest is introduced and I felt that the author forced the romance way too early in the novel. I understand that whole "instant connection" thing, but surely Arin should have been a little less inclined to break bread with his enemy?

Near the end of the book however, once you suspend your disbelief about the circumstances surrounding their introduction/blossoming relationship, Kestrel and Arin grew on me. Though this brings me to another problem (and one that a lot of novels with romance as a main theme have)... Don't get the couple together, only to break them up and then physically separate them. If "The Winner's Crime" has Kestrel and Arin separated (geographically, I mean), I am going to find it very hard to cheer for them. In order for me to want them to get back together, I have to have enjoyed their relationship when they were together...

The political undertones of this book were it's saving grace. I enjoyed the reversal of power between the Valorian and Herrani people; it definitely allowed for commentary on revolutions and imperialism. I loved that women were encouraged to join the military as much as they were encouraged to marry! And Arin's leadership skills were pretty great (even if his leadership was obtained in a somewhat implausible fashion).

Overall, I think this novel had strong themes and characters, but that Rutkoski forced relationships and situations. She wanted a situation to occur so she just kind of made it happen... Without a second thought to the plausibility of such an event (think Kestrel and Arin's romance, Kestrel's engagement, Arin becoming the Herrani leader). The second novel will ultimately determine how I judge this series.

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Wednesday, 18 November 2015

"My Heart and Other Black Holes" by Jasmine Warga

My Heart and Other Black HolesMy Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


My Heart and Other Black Holes was a well-written book with an important message. I would not say that I enjoyed this book per se, but I am glad I read it - it was a delicate portrayal of the pain that is depression.

Our book starts with Aysel explaining that she is going to kill herself. She even goes online and finds herself a suicide partner to help her through. Enter Roman - a teenager around her age that seems to have it all: popularity, money, and a supportive family. But, underneath all that, Roman has depression stemming from a traumatic event in his past.

Aysel was an engaging protagonist because she was so different to others in the young adult genre. There is a big focus on the "strong female" protagonist in YA - which I love, most of the time. Those females who take their harrowing life experiences and become hardened warriors in one way or another... Aysel felt more real to me. Depression is an incredibly common condition in our world, and yet so few of our YA protagonists suffer from it.

I also loved that Aysel was a scientist, like myself. Again, it seems exceptionally common that YA ladies are artistic in some way, so it was great to see a scientist as a main character.

I loved the juxtaposition of Aysel and Roman. Aysel was a loner, outcast and nerd - she came from a broken home and felt like an imposition on her Mum and her new family. Roman was a popular kid, jock and all-around loved guy - his parents are invested in him getting better and their love is evident throughout the novel. I thought this was especially important considering the stigma surrounding depression. So many people think that depression is only "real" if it affects people with lives they perceive as "bad". Showing both Aysel and Roman's stories showed that anyone can be affected by this mental illness.

So, you're probably reading this review and thinking - "why didn't she give the book 5 stars, since everything she's written sounds so positive?" Well, I'd have to say, the ending ruined this book for me. Aysel acts as though loving Roman has cured her or something - how ridculous! Sure, having loved ones is helpful to people with depression, but it is definitely not a cure. I had hoped that this book would avoid Aysel and Roman falling in love altogether - the whole "insta-love" and "love conquers all" angle is a bit overdone.

Overall though, I highly recommend this book. Be warned - there is not much happiness in this novel (though, it may be slightly triggering if you have depression yourself.)

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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

"Poison Study" (Study #1) by Maria V. Snyder

Poison Study (Study, #1)Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Poison Study was one of those rare books that perfectly combined fantasy, adventure, mystery, action and romance. Not once did I groan at how predictable the plot was, or at how unbelievable the relationships were - two things I am finding far too common in YA these days. I'm still in (an elated) shock!

Synopsis: Yelena has been imprisoned for over a year, and on the day of her execution she is offered an opportunity - become the Commander's food taster, or accept her death. She chooses to become the food taster, of course, and thus begins her new life studying poisons. But Yelena has enemies, and in her new environment, she must always be on her guard...

Poison Study drew me into a well-written, well-imagined world. Snyder included just the right amount of information on Ixia and Sitia - I did not once question the reality of this world. This is hard to find in fantasy novels, which sometimes expect us to suspend a little too much disbelief. The characters were all well-rounded and purposeful; none of them felt like obvious plot devices.

The central story line of Poison Study was complex enough to be creative and unique, without becoming bogged down in unnecessary detail. The Commander's story was especially intriguing and unexpected - though the ending to his aspect of the story enraged me, to say the least. Snyder also perfectly set up the important characters for the next novel. Even though each character has a different and divergent path, I am excited to learn what will happen to them next (am I the only one shipping Janco and Ari?!)

The level of romance in this novel was perfect. YA novels these days seem to force romantic relationships where they are not necessarily warranted. Even worse is when two characters are introduced to each other in one chapter, and are declaring their undying love for one another in the next chapter! Yelena and Valek began their relationship with a mutual respect, followed by begrudging friendship, and finally, after pages and pages of beautiful character development, things turn romantic. Yes! Finally, a romance that does not feel forced, or unrealistic!

Overall, this book was a well-written and imaginative story, with compelling characters and a believable world. I especially recommend this book to people who are looking for a YA fantasy novel with a believable romance subplot!

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Monday, 16 November 2015

"Everneath" (Everneath #1) by Brodi Ashton

Everneath (Everneath, #1)Everneath by Brodi Ashton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Mild Spoilers)

Everneath was one of those beautifully addictive books that you just cannot put down! I had a lot of homework I was supposed to be finishing when I started reading this... I definitely do not recommend reading this book if you have general life commitments. Even stopping to get a glass of water seemed difficult!

Brief synopsis: Nikki Beckett returns to her home in Park City, Utah, after spending a century (six months in Earth time) in the Everneath - an underworld-like place where immortals feed on the emotions of humans. She has only six months on Earth to spend with her family, friends and ex-boyfriend before the Everneath sucks her back under. Oh, and she is most definitely still pining after her ex...

This book was a beautiful modern day retelling of different myths. Hades/Persephone and Orpheus/Eurydice are the two major ones. I personally love anything with a mythology layer, say that was what convinced me to read this novel. I think Ashton perfectly weaved aspects of the mythology with unique elements. As much as we love those mythology stories, if the modern day retelling has nothing unique about it, it feels pointless. This definitely had a good combination of both.

Ashton's writing style was immediately appealing. It had that wonderfully "easy" quality to it - I never had to reread portions because I had lost attention midway through a sentence. The supporting characters were intriguing enough to keep me interested even when I got a little blase about the main story line (Mary and Will were probably my two favourites)!

I am still not sure whether this book was necessarily a love triangle. I thought it would be, but there was almost never any true interest in Cole from Nikki's perspective. This was refreshing, considering the love triangle is such an obvious staple in the YA genre. Having said this, I do have a feeling that the next novel will heavily center on Nikki and Cole's relationship (whether romantic or not).

So, what stopped me from giving this 5 stars? The love story between Nikki and Jack just did not work for me. I cannot even pinpoint exactly what about them I did not fall in love with! It seemed that from the first page we knew that Nikki and Jack were desperately in love and being kept apart by some sense of betrayal on both sides. For me, the only time a love triangle really works is when we genuinely cannot tell who the protagonist is going to choose. In this novel, it was blatantly obvious the whole time that Jack would win out against Cole.

Overall, I found this book to be a beautiful combination of traditional and fresh mythology ideas. It was insanely addictive, and well-written! Not recommended for those of you who don't love romance to be center stage in a novel.

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Sunday, 15 November 2015

"The Jewel" (The Lone City #1) by Amy Ewing

The Jewel (The Lone City, #1)The Jewel by Amy Ewing
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was a real letdown. It's really 2.5 stars, but I've given it 3 stars because I am feeling generous.

So, Violet has special skills (read: magic) that make her the ideal surrogate for rich women, who for some reason cannot have children of their own.

Firstly, The Jewel was incredibly slow moving (and I mean incredibly). I feel like nothing even happened for the first two thirds of this book. Like, nothing. Sure, we get the cursory description of the world, the social structure and the surrogacy system... but I feel like the information we are given about the world is unfinished, that I ended up with more questions by the time Ewing was done explaining things. Like why can't the royalty have babies? Also, how do they implant their eggs into surrogates if all the royalty are sterilised? And why/how do the Auguries exist? And those are just the unanswered questions I remembered while writing this review.

The romance was pitched as one of the central "points" of this book, and yet we do not meet Ash until ~200 pages into the book. They fall in love ridiculously quickly, which felt forced and unrealistic. I really liked the character Ash, seeing as the idea of the companions was an interesting side to this book. I enjoy novels that approach the idea of sex work in a semi-positive fashion, since it's such a stigmatised topic in real life.

So why did I give it 3 stars if I saw all these negatives? One thing that redeemed this novel for me was Ewing's writing style. I enjoyed her prose, and reading The Jewel was relatively easy because of this. I do not think I could have sat through the earlier parts of the novel if the writing was sub-par. Kudos, Ewing! I also liked some of the secondary characters, as they seemed to have a little more personality than Violet - Annabelle, Raven, Lucien and Garnet come to mind. The ending kept me intrigued enough to read the next book as well - I rate a good ending highly, especially in the first novel of a series.

Overall, this book was slow-moving with a romance that felt forced, and a bunch of unanswered questions (and not the good cliffhanger-y kind). Ewing's quality writing style and some of the secondary characters made the novel worth a read.

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