Book Review: Defy the Worlds by Claudia Gray

Defy the Worlds by Claudia Gray

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction           

Publishing Info: March 2018 by Hot Key Books

Pages: 394

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Noemi Vidal has returned to her planet, Genesis, as an outsider – ostracised for refusing to end the Liberty War by sacrificing Abel, the most advanced mechanical man ever made. She dreams of travelling through the stars again, and when a deadly plague arrives on Genesis, Noemi gets her chance. The only soldier to have ever left her planet, it will be up to her to save its people. If only she wasn’t flying right into a trap.

Abel, now fully aware of his soul and captaining his own Vagabond ship, never dreamed he’d see Noemi again, not when the entire universe stands between them. But when his creator Burton Mansfield delivers news of Noemi’s entrapment, Abel knows he must save her, even if it means risking his own life.

Danger lurks in the dark corners of the galaxy, and Abel and Noemi will discover a secret that could save Genesis and Earth… or destroy them all.

In this thrilling and romantic sequel to Defy the Stars, bestselling author Claudia Gray asks us all to consider what drives us, and where we truly belong.

The first book in this trilogy, Defy the Stars, was absolutely gripping and thrilling to read. I liked that it also explored complex issues and topics such as what it means to be human. Defy the Worlds continues to do that. While it was a little slow at the start, the stakes are quickly ramped up. Claudia Gray is great at getting her characters in difficult situations and forcing them to think of ways to get out of them.

I love Noemi and Abel as characters, and their relationship with each other. Noemi is so headstrong and determined to defend her planet. Meanwhile Abel, as a mech, is still trying to work out his human side in many ways. They have a few differences in opinion, but there actually isn’t much character development for either of them in this book. In Defy the Stars, Noemi has to overcome her preconceived notions of mechs, and Abel has to fight an internal battle against Directive One (his programming). There seemed to be a lot more character development in the first book. However, saying that, the events of this book seem to lend themselves to greater character development in the final installment.

I like how this series questions what it means to be human. Despite how Noemi has come to see Abel as having a ‘soul’ despite being a mech, some other humans still treat him differently and as lesser. This is a really interesting concept to see played out. Even as the books progress, Abel’s own understanding of what and who he is changes as he learns more about his unique life state through his experiences. The book also explores elitism, poverty and biological warfare, so there is some pretty deep subject matter amongst the action.

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Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Publishing Info: September 2013 by Macmillan Children’s Books

Pages: 481

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan.

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

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

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

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

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

I feel kind of mean giving this book 2 stars. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t good. It started out well and had me engaged at the beginning, but I just didn’t enjoy it that much the further it went along. It just ended up being kind of, well, boring.

To begin with, I was excited to read a book set in college rather than high school. It made a refreshing change to read about characters embarking on a different part of their educational and life journey. Although I can’t imagine sharing a dorm with someone. We don’t really have shared rooms in accommodation much in the UK. I liked having my own private space to retreat to – it would have been weird to have a roommate! Reagan – Cath’s roommate – was a great character and really different to Cath. At first they don’t really get along and mostly ignore each other, but eventually they become friends in a way that seemed genuine and not forced by the author.

One thing positive I do have to say is that I really related to Cath. She’s anxious about being in a new environment she isn’t familiar with, and Rainbow Rowell managed to describe those feelings really well. I liked how Cath and Wren’s relationship evolves over the course of the book. As twins, they’ve done everything together. Then suddenly Wren wants more independence, but Cath is so used to having Wren around, she feels lost without her. There are lots of ups and downs in their friendship over the course of the book.

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Book Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy  

Publishing Info: June 2016 by Orion Children’s Books (first published 2015)

Pages: 494

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price–and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

When I started reading this book, I wasn’t into it at all. It took me quite a few chapters to start enjoying it. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood at the start, and perhaps I had ridiculously high expectations because of the insane amount of hype around Six of Crows. Also I loved Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone from the first chapter, which kind of added to the pressure on this book to be brilliant. Despite my reservations at the start, it is a brilliant book.

Each of the central characters are well developed with back stories that are slowly revealed over the course of the book. I got more into it as I gained more understanding of each character’s backgrounds and motivations. The characters are also neither ‘good’ nor ‘evil’ and I liked that they have different views on the world (for example attitudes towards the Grisha) depending on their backgrounds. The interactions and relationships between the characters is one of the strongest parts of the book. They drive the narrative and make it the great book it is.

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Book Review: The Beautiful by Reneé Ahdieh (eARC)

The Beautiful by Reneé Ahdieh

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Historical Fiction

Publishing Info: October 2019 by Hodder & Stoughton  

Pages: 448

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as Le Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sèbastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of Le Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sèbastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

Thank you so much to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for the eARC of this book.

I’m a tad late with this review. I did start reading it before it was released, but didn’t end up having much time to read on my holiday to Amsterdam. But better late than never!

The premise for this book instantly got my attention. Vampires. Murder mystery. In New Orleans. In the 1800s. Count me in. I’m quite hard to please when it comes to vampire novels. I think because I have been disappointed by so many. The historical New Orleans setting was certainly a great attraction, as it made a change from all the modern day vampire novels. In fact, it didn’t feel necessarily like a vampire novel, which is a good thing, as it felt like its own rather than trying too hard to fit a mould.

There is a mysterious, sumptuous atmosphere in much of the book, which Reneé Ahdieh does an excellent job at capturing. Alluring is a good word to describe this book. I also can’t help but love a good murder mystery! However I did feel by the end still quite in the dark about all the mysterious people, and whether they are all vampires or something else. That air of mystery is very effective for most of the book, but it would have been more satisfying to get more answers and a clearer picture of this shadowy paranormal world by the end.

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Book Review: Aphrodite Made Me Do It by Trista Mateer (eARC)

Aphrodite Made Me Do It by Trista Mateer

Genre: Poetry, Mythology

Publishing Info: October 2019 by Central Avenue Publishing

Pages: 224

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Bestselling and award-winning author Trista Mateer takes an imaginative approach to self-care in this new poetry and prose collection,
Aphrodite Made Me Do It. In this empowering retelling, she uses the mythology of the goddess to weave a common thread through the past and present. By the end of this book, Aphrodite make you believe in the possibility of your own healing.

Thank you so much to Central Avenue Publishing and NetGalley for the eARC of this book.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, or how much I would enjoy it, as I don’t often read poetry. In fact, I didn’t enjoy much poetry when I did my English Literature degree, but I’ve come to realise that I don’t hate poetry, it’s just a matter of finding the words that sing to you.

This book has a varied style, with some written in more poetic form and other sections written in more of a prose style. The mixture makes it more accessible, and although I personally would have enjoyed more of the fragmented poetry sections, I think this does give it appeal to a wider audience. You don’t have to like poetry to like this book.

The topics covered are very relatable, put in simple terms that everyone can understand, but those words are put together in a beautifully lyrical way. Subject matter such as body image, assault, love, coming out, abuse and family are all explored in a very honest way. Using mythology as a way to tell the story and explore the themes of the book was an interesting and effective choice. It does help that I’ve always had an interest in mythology. Aphrodite is given a voice and the book gives an interesting perspective on how the love goddess is represented in literature and culture.

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Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

9781408857861

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas  

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: May 2015 by Bloomsbury Children’s

Pages: 419

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Feyre is a huntress.

She thinks nothing of slaughtering a wolf to capture its prey. But, like all mortals, she fears what lingers mercilessly beyond the forest. And she will learn that taking the life of a magical creature comes at a high price…

Imprisoned in an enchanted court in her enemy’s kingdom, Feyre is free to roam but forbidden to escape. Her captor’s body bears the scars of fighting, and his face is always masked – but his piercing stare draws her ever closer. As Feyre’s feeling for Tamlin begin to burn through every warning she’s been told about his kind, an ancient, wicked shadow grows.

Feyre must find a way to break a spell, or lose her heart forever.

Having loved the first two books in Maas’s Throne of Glass series, I was eager to dive into the first book in her other series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, and I wasn’t disappointed. The book is quite slow to start but everything comes together brilliantly in the second half. The slower pacing earlier on meant I had time to get to know the characters and become invested in their fates. It didn’t drag or get boring, so if you start reading it and find it a tad slow, please persevere because, well, it gets so good.

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Book Review: Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

aminormal

Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne  

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Publishing Info: August 2015 by Usbourne Publishing

Pages: 434

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…

But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love?

I met Holly Bourne a couple of years ago at a talk and got this book signed. She wrote ‘Normal = overrated’ and I am so thankful to her for that message. I have only just got round to reading this book. I’ve been catching up on all the books I didn’t have time to read during my degree, and I wish I’d read this one sooner. A few times I picked it up, read the first page, and put it back on the shelf because I wasn’t sure it would be for me. I don’t very often read contemporary books, I’m more of a fantasy person, and I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy the writing style. But here we are, and I finally read it, and I’m so so glad I did.

The writing style is quite conversational, which is what put me off reading it, as I’m not always a fan of this style. However, I ended up very much enjoying the style of writing. Holly Bourne captures the voice of the main character brilliantly and the style works well for the book. At time the writing got a bit rambling but I didn’t mind too much.

What Bourne did so well is show Evie’s thought processes. Evie has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) which has sadly been very stereotyped in our society and a lot of people have misconceptions about this condition. Bourne didn’t fall into clichés and it was clear she had done a lot of research. It was eye opening to see the thoughts that might go through the mind of someone with OCD, and also how that can spiral into relapse.

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