Book Review: “Mother Tongue” by Julie Mayhew

Title: Mother Tongue
Author: Julie Mayhew
Genre: Historical fiction
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 29/06/19 – 01/08/19
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I was unfamiliar with the Beslan school massacre of 2004 until I read the summary of this book. I requested a copy because I wanted to know more, and I also thought this might be a book to really move me.

In the end, I was a bit disappointed. The writing style made me feel very disconnected from the main character, Darya, and what was going on in her life. I think this was probably a deliberate stylistic choice. For one, the idea of it is that the story has been translated from Darya’s Russian recount of the story. And secondly, she is heavily broken by the events that take place. But ultimately it meant I didn’t feel truly connected and when I wasn’t reading, I didn’t feel the need to pick up the book again (hence taking so long to finish).

Having said that, the writing is consistent and tight. It probably would appeal to other readers. The story doesn’t… really go anywhere? It is really about Darya as a character, rather than any plot, which is not my favourite style. The Beslan siege didn’t actually play that big a part in the story, either. I think the story could have progressed from any number of personal tragedies.

The story comes full circle in the end, which I think some readers will find satisfying, but I found it a bit pointless. Actually, “pointless” sounds a bit harsh, but I did sort of feel that I was back where I started.


(Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)

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Book Review: “Cupid’s Match” by Lauren Palphreyman

Title: Cupid’s Match
Author: Lauren Palphreyman
Genre: Urban fantasy/romance
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 07/07/19 – 15/07/19
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I am a fan of ancient-gods-in-modern-times type stories, so I was definitely interested when I saw this one available on Netgalley. Is one of those books where I really enjoyed parts of it, but there were other aspects I had qualms about, enough to affect my enjoyment.

The romance is where I felt the book’s main strength lay. While I did actually spend a fair chunk thinking/hoping it was going to take a different direction, it built the relationship between Lila and Cupid quite well. They had a decent amount of chemistry and there was certainly some entertaining banter between them.

I did feel some of the plotting was a bit weak. For example, after a character jumps off a building in the height of passion (don’t worry, he survives), rather than being completely horrified and upset, his classmates all decide they should still go to a house party that night as planned, because… it’s whathe would have wanted or something? (Or, because the author needed the characters to be at that party, because it was plot relevant, regardless of whether it made sense.)

The policy documents for the Cupid Matchmaking Agency, supposedly written two or three millenia ago, were written in modern-day corporate speak, which was amusing, but didn’t make much sense. And in her nightmare world, Pandora faces off with physical manifestations of the Seven Deadly Sins, a Christian construct.

The book does rely on the main character being kept in the dark about certain things until the other characters are ready for her to know and that got a bit tedious at times. Once that reveal came about, did enjoy the build up to the climax, even if the day seemed a little too easily won in the end.

Look, basically, this is one of those books that’s fine and entertaining for a while but ultimately not that memorable.


(Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)

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“If you were lucky in love, you sure as hell were lucky in life.” // Review of “Beau and Bett” by Kathryn Berla

Title: Beau and Bett
Author: Kathryn Berla
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 27/06/19 – 29/06/19
Rating:
★★☆

Review:

This was a really hard book to rate and review. I found it readable enough. I liked some of the characters. But I just couldn’t work out what the book was trying to do. I had no particular investment in any of the characters and I wasn’t particularly concerned about the outcome.

Now that I’ve lambasted the book with that opening paragraph, I should say that there were certain things I liked. I liked Beau’s part-Cajun family and their dynamics. I liked that Beau was kind of the oddball in the family. I really liked the descriptions of the Diaz ranch. That is something I haven’t really come across in a YA book before, and i liked that Bettina wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. She wasn’t going to leave the ranch either – she saw herself staying there and running it eventually. But all the characters ever did was build a fence. Like, every time Beau went over there. Sometimes Bettina would make them a beautiful lunch in the middle of the day, then they’d go back to the fence.

I guess part of my issue was that the links to Beauty and the Beast were pretty tenuous.. I didn’t really buy the romance at all. I think part of the reason for that is that Beau is interested in another girl for at least the first half. And the lie that Beau catches Bett in, according to the blurb… I mean, I got why it bothered him. But I was expecting something a bit bigger.

Additionally, the reasons for Bett being called Bett the Beast at school were kind of flat, and everything around that suddenly seemed resolved at the end. It felt like perhaps the author was trying to do something with the whole #metoo movement and make a comment on rape culture, but it just wasn’t explored enough.

It’s possible that without the claim that it was a retelling, I could have enjoyed this a bit more. As it was, I really looking for parallels with the fairytale, and not really finding them, so ultimately I was disappointed.


(Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for a free copy of this book  in exchange for an honest review)

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“I am brave. I am strong. And I am not afraid.” // Review of “The Red Labyrinth” by Meredith Tate

Title: The Red Labyrinth
Author: Meredith tate
Genre:  Dystopian/fantasy
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 25/05/19 – 28/05/19
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

I really enjoyed this! I wasn’t sure if I’d be in the mood for it, since I’d been reading a lot of MG and YA, and I felt like maybe I needed to go and read some adult fiction for a while. But this was really engaging… and that ending! Can only hope there will be a book two!

I really felt for the main character, Zadie. She’s had a lot of trauma, and while it was hard to read, it never felt gratuitous. It made a lot of sense within the world that Tate has set up. There were a few occasions where she made (or almost made) some stupid decisions – I could forgive it the first couple of times, but once she knew the labyrinth was out to get her, I expected her to be a bit more sensible. And a lot of the time, she was rather reactionary, and someone else needed to save her. At times this was frustrating, but it was actually part of her character development as well. As she grew into herself and realised there were parts of her that no one could take away, she took charge of her destiny.

I suspected that the there would be more to the character of Dex than initially met the eye and I was right. I really liked learning more about him as the book went on.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with Landon… it seemed that he was going to be a rather tropey YA love interest but… then he wasn’t. I don’t want to give much away but just know that Part Three was something I didn’t see coming, but it was really there all along. I came to a dozen realisations along with Zadie (and seeing her character growth in this section was really satisfying).

It does end on a cliffhanger so I will definitely be looking out for book two! The developments in the final act of this book leave room for so much to go down and I really want to see it play out!


(Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review)

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#LoveOzYA #cbca2019 Book Review: “The Things That Will Not Stand” by Michael Gerard Bauer

Title: The Things That Will Not Stand
Author:
Michael Gerard Bauer
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 02/05/2019
Rating:
★★

Review:

This book was kind of unexpected. I wasn’t expecting the humour and banter and pathos. I knew it was short but I wasn’t expecting to fly through it in one day. But here we are. 

From the opening chapter, Seb has a really distinct narrative voice. The book is written in first person present tense, which I think really emphasises the immediacy of the action taking place over a single day.

I really enjoyed the banter between Seb and Frida, and how it became more obvious as the book went on that something about Frida didn’t add up. I do have to admit, though, that apart from the three main characters of Seb, Frida and Seb’s best friend, Tolly, the remainder of the characters seemed a little 2D… particularly the burly university security guard who kept seeming to pop up. He seemed a bit of a stereotype.

While I was really struck by the puns and the humour at the start of the book, the continued use of them did start to wear a bit thin as we moved towards the end. I did appreciate the book’s overall message of letting someone know when you think they’re worth it, and that anyone is deserving of that, no matter what they might think of themselves. figured out Frida’s riddle at the end a lot faster than Seb did, though, so I did want him to get a wriggle on with figuring that out. That was probably a little drawn out for my tastes but maybe it was because I did already know what she meant.


I am trying to read as many of the books as possible on the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia Notables List. Click here to see the titles.

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#LoveOzYA #aww2019 Book Review: “Lucid” by Kristy Fairlamb

Title: Lucid (Lucid #1)
Author:
Kristy Fairlamb
Genre: Paranormal/contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 27/04/19 – 05/05/19
Rating:
★★

Review:

I was intrigued by the premise of Lucid, but I have to admit it started off quite slowly for me.

While the blurb is all about how main character, Lucy, experiences real people’s deaths in her dreams, the first half of the book is focused more on the burgeoning romance she has with new boy, Tyler. Yes, Tyler was featured in her dreams about a year ago, and yes, they share a connection through their dreams, but to be honest, it felt like I was reading a straight contemporary. There’s nothing wrong with contemporary, of course, but I was expecting something else.

Fortunately, this does pick up at about the 60% mark. This is where Lucy’s begins to recognise the extent of her powers, and that they’re not simply bad dreams. I think the series has been set up in such a way that some of the repercussions of this power will be explored in the second book, but this one is mostly about Lucy’s relationship with Tyler and how that changes her.

I still enjoyed reading it, but I suppose I was hoping for some more exploration of the implications of Lucy’s dreams and the power they come with, and where that power comes from.


Thank you to NetGalley and Lakewater Press for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#LoveOzYA #aww2019 “The tide was moving in as I ran along the shoreline. Always crashing, always unsettled…” // Review of “P Is For Pearl” by Eliza Henry Jones

Title: P is for Pearl
Author:
Eliza Henry Jones
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 23/04/19 – 27/04/19
Rating:
★★★

Review:

It’s been a while since I read something small town-y and character-driven. At first, I thought the story was taking a while to get going. But then I realised the characters are the story in this one. And I really loved them. This is a coming of age story about grief and loss and growing up and it explores its themes really well. 

Eliza Henry Jones really captured the small town vibe in this. Little details like everyone calling each other in a storm to check if they’ve still got power or if they need anything really made me feel like everyone knew each other and like I could walk from one end of town to another in an hour. 

Gwen and her two besties made such a great friendship group. I enjoyed their banter a lot. And Ben, who was just the most adorkable love interest. He kept doing such awkward things and he got all stammery and I loved it. I also liked how Gwen helped him help his sister, and how Amber hadn’t been terribly nice to Gwen, she was still willing to help when someone needed it. 

I did think Gwen’s dad was… not terrible, and probably also dealing with grief in his own way. But he was really inattentive to her and I wanted to shake him a lot. Biddy, Gwen’s stepmother, is in a difficult position that I thought she juggled really well, trying to help Gwen through her grief but also sometimes just not knowing how to help. 

This was one of those books where you’re not quite ready to say goodbye to the characters when you reach the end. Even though they were moving on with the next stages of their lives, I wanted to hang out with them in their small town with the beach and the mermaids for longer. 


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

I am trying to read as many of the books as possible on the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia Notables List. Click here to see the titles.

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“I have a story I was meant to live. And not even you can unwrite it.” // Review of “Romanov” by Nadine Brandes

Title: Romanov
Author: Nadine Brandes
Genre:
Historical fantasy
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 17/04/2019 – 19/04/2019
Rating: ★★★

Review:

Ah man. I was approved for this ARC back in November 2018 and I’d been really looking forward to it. I’d hyped it up a lot in my head. So imagine my disappointment when I re-read the blurb when I was about 20% into the book and realised that I had totally misread it the first time, and the reason it wasn’t quite meeting my expectations was beceause I was stupidly expecting something that was never promised to me.

For some reason I got into my head that the execution of the Romanov family would happen fairly early on, and that the book would be about Anastasia being on the run through the Russian wilderness.

There is far less adventuring than that. A good half of the book takes place before the execution, and depicts the exile of the Romanov family in Impatiev House. Apart from the occasional mention of spells, this first half felt like it was straight historical fiction. The fantasy is barely there. Then in the second half, the pacing speeds up the nth degree and everything is about spells and spellwork. It is almost two different books, and it was a little jarring.

In terms of characters, I really enjoyed the close-knit family dynamic of the Romanovs. I enjoyed the cheeky Alexei, and I actually was pretty into the forbidden romance between Grand Duchess Maria and Bolshevick soldier Ivan, which I learned after reading is actually historically accurate.

But apart from that, the characters all felt.. superficial, I guess. A bit shallow. I didn’t really buy the romance between Anastasia and Zash at all, except for one or two moments. And even I with my limited knowledge know that Tsar Nikolai II was not the loving, kind, beneficient ruler devoted to the Russian people that he is presented as here. I want to give benefit of the doubt, because it is from Anastasia’s first person perspective and she may well have viewed her father that way, but it would have been good to see her delve into the whys and wherefores of the revolution a bit more.

Still, I read the vast majority of it in one day, so take from that what you will. I have a copy of Fawkes, Nadine Brandes’ other historical fantasy, which I still intend to check out.


Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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“Fate doesn’t guarantee us a happy ending … but fate gives a chance.” // Review of “A Million Worlds With You” by Claudia Gray

Title: A Million  Worlds With You (Firebird #3)
Author:
 Claudia Gray
Genre: Sci-fi/romance
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 08/03/2019 – 14/03/2019
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Please note: as this review is for a third book in a series, there may be mild spoilers for the first, A Thousand Pieces of You, and second, Ten Thousand Skies Above You.

I honestly wasn’t sure how Claudia Gray was going to tie everything up in this last book of the series. There seemed to be so much goinig on and so many variables. But she managed it and she  managed it well.

What I’ve really admired about this series is the way in which little hints dropped early on become so much more important later on. This continued in this book, right down to things that were mentioned as a possibility in the second book becoming important here. It’s clear that Gray had this whole series set out before she delved into writing it.

In this book, several of the universes where Firebird technology has developed are in communication with each other, and sometimes it got a bit confusing trying to remember who was who. Especially in one pivotal scene that I don’t want to spoil, but you’ll definitely know it when you get to it. Once again, some of the sciencey stuff did seem to be resolved a little too easily, but the woorld-building remained internally consistent so I didn’t mind too much.

As I’ve said in my previous reviews of this series, the romance is just as important, if not more important, than the science. THis one is no different. I understand that the splintering in book two is what has affected Paul, but I did just find him a bit mopey at times… and Marguerite thus had to spend a lot of time trying to convince him that their relationship was still something worth pursuing. I don’t know, this just got a bit old after a while. But there was a really lovely moment between Paul and one of the other Marguerites that made me grin stupidly. Again, you’ll know it when you get to it.

Theo was still Theo and I think overall, he actually turned out to be my favourite of the two guys. He just didn’t have as much to do in Book 1, which is why I didn’t realise earlier. 😂 I also want to note how much I loved the different versions of Henry and Sophia, Marguerite’s parents. they are delightful. It has been nice to read a YA series where the protagonist’s parents are not only both alive but actively involved in the events of the story.

I’m really glad I picked up the first book of this series on a whim. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know these characters and I’m definitely going to keep an eye on Claudia Gray’s other series.


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“Ten thousand skies, and a million worlds, and it still wouldn’t be enough for me to share with you” // Review of “Ten Thousand Skies Above You” by Claudia Gray

Title: Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird #2)
Author:
 Claudia Gray
Audio book narrator: Tavia Gilbert
Genre: Sci-fi/romance
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 31/03/2019 – 08/03/2019
Rating: ★★★☆

Review:

Please note: as this review is for a second book in a series, there may be mild spoilers for the first, A Thousand Pieces of You.

This book was not as good as the first one in the series, and I got frustrated quite a bit! However, it did address some things that had bothered me in the first book, and some of the things that bothered me early in this book were actually addressed and questioned later on, so that was good. 

In the aftermath of the events in the first book, Paul and Marguerite are convinced that destiny brings them together in every universe, which is a bit… *gag*. But as she travels to various universes, this is actually questioned. Theo plays a much larger role in this book than Paul, who is often barely there at all. And after Paul being all Book Boyfriend Material-like in the first book, I have to say, Theo stepped up to the plate here. XD

On that subject, I want to make two notes about the love triangle in this series. The first is that this when you’re dealing with multiple universes and infinitie possibilities, it actually makes sense that a person would have more than one love interest. So I didn’t mind the love triangle aspect so much.

And second, I love the way Theo’s feelings for Marguerite don’t come between their friendship, that he respects that she didn’t choose him in their universe (even if he is jealous of his counterparts where she did), and it also doesn’t come between Theo’s friendship with Paul. Direct quote: “I love Paul just as much as you do. Anything you want to do to get your boyfriend back, I want to do to get my best friend back.” So often the love triangle comes at the expense of everything else and that didn’t happen here.

The plot did get a bit predictable at times. I called three major revelations well before they happened. But I didn’t expect the major twist towards the end, which sets things up for book three.

Once again, the pacing was sometimes strange. I’ve realised that this is a quirk of these books: start by throwing the reader into an exciting scene. Then have a series of flashbacks to explain how Marguerite reached this moment. Most of the time in each world was focused on Paul and Marguerite’s feelings, and often the science-y bit was wrapped up quite easily in a chapter before they left for the next world. The really important information all came in the final quarter.

One of my frustrations with these books is never knowing how the characters’ other-world counterparts feel about having their bodies taken over for a period. To that end, I did appreciate the return to the Russiaverse of the first book, even if most of the chapters spent there seemed a bit… useless. Again, it was mostly just a way for Marguerite to figure out her feelings, rather than there being much in the way of the plot moving forward. But revisiting a past ‘verse did mean that Marguerite had to recognise that her actions have consequences for her counterparts, and that was important.

In terms of the audio book, Tavia Gilbert is once again a really great narrator. I was a bit disappointed that there were fewer accents, though. In the first book, all the Russian characters had Russian accents. Here, they were American, as though we were hearing their conversation through a Babel Fish (google it if you don’t understand that reference). This one does say that Theo has a slightly Dutch accent in the Russiaverse, so I can understand not using the heavy French accent from the first book, but the Marguerite and Vladimir have grown up in Russia, so there’s no reason for them to have anything else.

… sorry, that last paragraph got a bit long-winded.

The book ends on a cliffhanger, and I was glad I had a copy of the third book to move straight onto. Despite these frustrations, I think it is mostly a case of middle-book-syndrome, and i absolutely want to see how everything pans out.


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