“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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“Magic was not something apart from her, something she could give up. It was the power of her deepest feeling, the power of who she was.” // Review of “Enchantée” by Gita Trelease

Title: Enchantée
Author: Gita Trelease
Audio book narrator:
Justine Eyre
Genre:
  Historical fantasy
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 14/04/19 – 11/05/19
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I was super excited about a historical fantasy set at the outset of the French Revolution. This turned out to be a bit more character-driven than I was expecting, but I did like a lot of those characters, so I enjoyed it enough.

It does get a big samey at times. There is a lot of back-and-forthing from Paris to Versailles, and the main character, Camille’s, thoughts often get go around in circles.

I felt there were only three characters that were really fleshed out: Camille, her sister, Sophie and their friend, Lesar, an young engineer who is involved with building a hot air balloon to fly across the Alps.

There are a number of aristocrat characters that Camilile befriends, and I have to admit, that I couldn’t really tell them apart. When the eventual villain was revealed, I had trouble remembering if we’d met him before.

The descriptions are probably this book’s strongest point. Whether Trelease is describing the opulence of Versailles or the dirt and grime of the poorest parts of Paris, she immerses the reader there.

I don’t know whether it was actually that the book got more interesting, or that I simply got out of a slump/not being in the mood for audio books, but I did feel things picked up in the second half of the book. There is a definite shift in atmosphere after the storming of the Bastille; you could feel the unease rippling through the characters.  While this might not have been my favourite, I recommend it for historical fantasy fans.


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“When it comes down to it, the only question that matters is this: If nothing in the world ever changes, what type of man are you gonna be?” // Review of “Dear Martin” by Nic Stone

Title: Dear Martin
Author: Nic Stone
Genre:
Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 15/09/2018
Rating:
★★

Review:

This book appeared on my phone unexpectedly. I actually thought I had put a hold on the audio book; it wasn’t until I went to download it I realised otherwise. I began reading it on my phone and was instantly engaged. I downloaded it on my tablet soon after and had finished reading by the end of the day.

Like Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, this book was partially inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. It gives another insight into growing up black in America and the everyday prejudices African Americans have to deal with. There were times in this book where I had to check my privilege, tell myself “No, this actually isn’t far-fetched, that’s the point, Emily” and try to listen to what the book was trying to tell me.

The book is short and I felt that it could have done with some fleshing out in parts. I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about the format at first. There are sections where class discussions are shown in script format rather than prose, but there was really no reason why the conversations couldn’t have been described. I suppose having a chapter full of dialogue with little description  in the middle is also clunky, but at least it would have been consistent.

#aww2018 #LoveOzYA “I’m improvising, but I’ve been doing that my whole life.” // Review of “Unearthed” by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Title: Unearthed (Unearthed #1)
Author: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Genre: Sci-fi
Target Age Group: YA
Dates read: 20/06/2018 – 26/06/2018
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This book was marketed as “Indiana Jones in space” and while I can see that somewhat… I feel like that ended up giving me expectations for something this book wasn’t. So while I enjoyed it for what it was, I was disappointed it wasn’t what I was expecting.

So what was I expecting? Okay, so I love doing escape rooms, right? My partner finds them a little stressful but he humours me because in return I go to karaoke with him on wekeends. I was expecting this book to be some kind of epic scale escape room in book form, lots of solving puzzles and boobie-trapped rooms and such. And there was a bit of that. But there was really only one interesting puzzle (a musical one which was quite clever). The characters are out of the temple by about halfway to two-thirds of the way through the book and it becomes something completely different.

I liked Jules and Amelia, though I don’t think first person narration works when you have two POV characters. They sound much the same. Yes, they have different personalities and quirks, but I feel like probably everyone sounds fairly similar inside their head. It is different when you can hear different voices, but on the page, there’s not much to differentiate. I couldn’t get too engaged in the romance, as the action takes place over only a few days, maybe a week. I am more of a fan of a slow-burn over “we’re high on adrenaline and running for our lives and I’m gonig to kiss you now”.

Still, the action in the last quarter ramped right up, and the cliffhanger at the end was intriguing enough that I kind want to check out the next book when it’s released just to see where they go with that.


This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#aww2018 #LoveOzYA “The house was always empty. Even when it wasn’t.” // Review of “I Had Such Friends” by Meg Gatland-Veness

Title: I Had Such Friends
Author: Meg Gatland-Veness
Genre: Contemporary
Target age group: YA
Dates read: 29/06/2018 – 30/06/2018
Rating: ★★

Review:

I feel like this book could have been good but it tried to tackle too many big issues in a short amount of space and ended up not doing them the justice they deserved.

There was also the issue that for probably 75-80% of the book, I just couldn’t stand the main character. He had basically no redeemable qualities, though he did finally get his act together towards the end. He is awful to his so-called best friend (and for someone who calls himself a nerd, he sure was judgey about cosplay and video games and anime). He’s pretty sexist, judging all the girls at school except the one he’s friends with because of course, she’s not like those other girls. And he’s so terrified of sounding like a girl or coming across as sissy, like that’s the worst thing you could possibly be perceived as.

One could argue that this is a fairly typical representation of a lot of country boys, and you’d probably be right… but I can’t stand when this stuff is unchallenged within a text. And highlighting it with the occasional “I know it made me a bad person to think that” doesn’t really make him any better. ve

Oof. That was a bit of a rant. Sorry. Hamish just really bugged me.

The story tries to tackle sexuality, grief, domestic violence, and coming of age issues, and sometimes it nearly hits the mark. But I just never felt any kind of emotional pull while reading, and I predicted the outcome, too. It just never really felt true enough. A lot of this is probably because I didn’t like Hamish enough to care, but I think also the writing style was a bit detached and disjointed, making it hard to really get drawn in.

I do think Gatland-Veness shows promise as a writer. This one just didn’t work for me.


This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

Thank you to Pantera Press and NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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“Monsters are in the eye of the beholder.” // Review of “Shine” by Candy Gourlay

Title: Shine
Author: Candy Gourlay
Genre:
YA contemporary
Date Read: 10/06/18
Rating:
 ★★★★☆

Review:

This was a chance find at the library. I sat down with the intention of reading it all in one sitting because it’s a long weekend and I wanted to catch up on some reading. I ended up reading it one sitting because it got to the point where I couldn’t have put it down if I tried.

This book has so much going for it. A main character of colour, who also has a disability (she has  a condition colloquially known as the  Calm, which prevents her from speaking, so she communicates in sign language). There’s an examination of how children cope when it feels like a disable sibling gets more parental love and attention. There’s mental illness rep.  There’s mythology and writing that feels like a modern folk tale.

The book is split into two parts: the present-day narration from Rosa, and letter-style segments from Rosa’s mother Kara to her twin sister, Kat. These two stories seem separate at first, but weave together nicely by the end. The way the story unrolled really gripped me.  I wasn’t sure if there were ghosts or monsters or whether someone was out to get Rosa and I really wanted to know. I was able to guess a few things, but having an inkling of what was coming didn’t impact on my enjoyment in any way.

I did wish there was a bit more about the setting, Mirasol. At first, I thought that it was somewhere to the north of Scotland because part of the mythology is that it rains all the time. But then it seemed to be more of an African nation, perhaps? But then, there was reference to pesos being the currency, which made me think South America at first, but on discovering that the author was born in the Phillipines, I wondered if it was supposed to be there. A bit more clarity on the real-world stuff to go with the mythology would have been good.

I mentioned mental illness rep above. It’s good that it’s there, but at the same time, I was in two minds about it and the way that particular storyline was resolved. There was a scene where a character referred to the mentally ill character as a monster and Rosa stepped in and said “She’s not a monster, she’s ILL.” Which is great. But she never receives any help and the conlusion of her story is less than desirable (I won’t say anything further  because I’m trying not to spoil anything).

While my library categorises this book as junior fiction (effectively, middle-grade), and Rosa is thirteen, I would probably put this book on the younger side of young adult. Some of it was quite dark, and I wonder whether younger readers would be able to pick up on all the clues throughout the book the way I did.


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#WWW Wednesday – February 28, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

I didn’t post here last Wednesday as I have decided to alternate Wednesday posts between this blog and my writing blog. That way I might actually find time to visit fellow participants in each blop hop! So this post covers my last two weeks of reading.

What have you recently finished reading?

First up, I finished The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. While I had a couple of issues with the pacing and being able to keep track of a fairly large cast of characters, I thought this was a great insight into the life of a Black teenager in present-day America. I reviewed it in more detail here.

I also read Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen. This is the book form of the webcomic Sarah’s Scribbles. It is cute, though I think I like it better as an isolated comic I sometimes see on the Internet, rather than all of them packed in together.

Because of the amount of walking and hiking (and driving to the mountains) I’m doing to train for my trek in Nepal in April, I’ve finished many audio books! Though I haven’t necessarily loved many of them, they have been a good distraction when I have been walking uphill for four hours (I am not even kidding).

First I finished Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley, which was fine, I guess. I felt the balance between the sci-fi elements and the fantasy wasn’t quite achieved, and most of the characters annoyed me, but I did like most of the world-building and the mythology. You can read my full review here.

Then I finished the audio book of Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn. This was another 3-star book, as I felt it read more like a MG book, except it had more mature content in it. While it is the first in a series, it concluded enough that I’m not going to keep going.

After that was The Matchmakers by Jennifer Colgan. This was a cute fantasy romance about a cupid-type Fey who has to team up with a human to help three couples fall in love or they both lose their ability to love forever. I did enjoy this one.

And then there was Bootleg by Alex Shearer, which was a fairly short kids’ book about a Britain under control of the Good For You Party, which bans chocolate and all other sweets. This one was a bit silly but in the way you let slide when reading children’s books.

I’ve still got to get reviews written for most of these!

What are you currently reading?

I’ve had barely any time to read, what with hiking and actually finding inspiration for my own writing again, so I’m still reading the same ebook I started after The Hate U Give. It’s called Deadly Sweet and is by Lola Dodge, and even if I end up hating it (I am enjoying it so far), that cover is going to be one of my favourites of the year.

I am also reading Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. I am sure many of you remember the blog of the same title, which gave us such gems as The Alot and This is Why I’ll Never Be an Adult (where “Clean all the things!” originated). The book is a mixture of some of the blog posts and some new content.

What do you think you’ll read next?

That’s a great question, I’m glad you asked it! I’m actually working on my March/April TBR right now! Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie and The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon are the two left over from my January-February TBR but knowing me I’ll probably get distracted by something else 😛

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.” // Review of “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas

Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Genre:
YA Contemporary
Date Read: 10/02/2018 – 14/02/2018
Rating:
 ★★★★

Review:

This book had been sitting on my Kindle for months, and while I kept i ntending to read it, I kept putting it off because I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be an easy read. There were definitely times when I got angry or frustrated, but for the most part, this was a really accessible account of what it can be like being black in America today.

This book was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, and I don’t think I have ever read a book that felt quite so contemporary. Not just the issues presented, but in other ways. This one refers to things like Tumblr and how Black Twitter mobilises in the face of another shooting; this actually made me realise how little social media is utilised in so-called contemporary books (or at least the ones that I’ve read, which admittedly, isn’t a huge number).

The book is written in first person, so the narration, as well as the dialogue, is written in a style appropriate to that of a black American teenage girl. I’ve seen some reviews say the writing is terrible, but I think there’s a difference between “this is terrible writing” and “the author’s deliberate stylistic choice did not work for me”.  I appreciated hearing a different voice in the narration; one YA contemporary does sound very much like another lately, especially those written in first person.

I did like the way the black community was depicted; it was a warts ‘n’ all representation, though to be honest, I did sometimes lose track of who was related to whom and how, and who was working for whom. I also thought the way Starr’s conflict between the different selves she created for herself, depending on whether she was with her black family and friends or her white friends at school was well-depicted. After reading the author’s notes, I realise there is a lot of Angie Thomas in there. The attitudes of the white people around Starr at her school were well-done without being heavy-handed. I expect some white readers may get defensive over the portrayal, but honestly, it was quite realistic.

I did sometimes feel that the pacing was a bit off. Sometimes, something would feel repetitive or like it was being padded out, but then we got barely a glimpse of Starr’s testimony at the Grand Jury later on in the book. This was really the only thing that knocked a star off my rating.

I’ve seen some people say “Should I read this book or Dear Martin?” (another book about contemporary black teens) and even without having read the latter is, “Read both.” This is an important book, but it is only one author’s experience. I hope that the popularity of this particular story will mean that we get to hear of more black authors’ experiences in the near future.


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#WWW Wednesday – February 14, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading?

Only one finish this week: Keep Her Safe by Richard Parker. I know many people really loved it but I wasn’t a fan. I just couldn’t make sense of a lot of it. You can read my review here. Sorry it’s a bit ranty.

I actually DNFed Hellhole by Gina Damico, as the humour wore off after a while and I wasn’t really into the story. And given that I had completely forgotten about it until I looked at last week’s post to start this one, I guess that shows how much I was into it.

I also posted my review of Hunted by Meagan Spooner this week. You can find that one here.

What are you currently reading?

I am finally reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. For those unaware, this book came out of the Black Lives Matter movement and is about a black teenager whose best friend is shot by a white police officer while unarmed. I have put it off for a long time because I was worried about how I would find it. And it isn’t an easy read and is making me frustrated and angry a lot of the time, but in a good, this-book-is-challenging-me way.

On audio, I am still listening to Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley, though I’ll probably finish it today or tomorrow. I like many of the ideas, but I’m not so sold on the plot itself. The MC is surrounded by characters who refuse to explain what is going on, mostly for the sake of padding out the plot, which is annoying. And I don’t care about her best friend who is trying to find her back on earth. I’ll finish this but unless the ending is really impressive, I don’t think I’ll read the sequel.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m going to try to knock a couple more books off my February TBR. Possibly Dollhouse by Anya Allyn will be next. Or The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon if I feel like a physical book instead of an ebook.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily