“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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“Every story has four parts – the beginning, the middle, the almost ending, and the true ending.” // Review of “Legendary” by Stephanie Garber

Title: Legendary (Caraval #2)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: 
Fantasy
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 22/10/18 – 2910/18
Rating: 
★★

Review: 

I honestly thought this would be a 4 star read at least, and for the most part it was. It was really only the last few chapters that disappointed me but they left me feeling unsatisfied enough that it brought me overall rating down.

This book picks up pretty much exactly where Caraval leaves off, and follows Tella, who is drawn into a second round of Caraval in order to uphold her end of a deal to find her missing mother. 

I really enjoyed the expansion of this world. We got to see the capital of the country the story takes place in, and I could really picture it. There was also an expansion of the mythology and history, and I really loved how this was woven into the plot, and some of the characters we got to meet as a result. 

Like in the first book, I actually found the game itself a bit dull. The suggestion is that Caraval is usually much more general and it is only the two games described in the book that are tailored to individuals (Scarlett and Tella respectively). Still, it feels a bit of a stretch that so many people would play when there can really only be one winner, since the clues won’t make sense to anyone else. 

I don’t want to give anything away so I’m going to be rather vague about what happened in the end that left me disappointed. It was mostly the revelation of Legend’s identity. It just… didn’t seem epic enough after all the build-up. Some readers will probably find the whole scenario quite romantic, but I just rolled my eyes. 

The very ending was still compelling enough that I want to see the series through, but I can’t say that it is an all-time favourite. 

“I love you, Tella.” “I know. I wouldn’t be here if you didn’t.” // Review of “Caraval” by Stephanie Garber

Title: Caraval (Caraval #1)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: Young adult
Date Read: 17/09/18 – 21/09/18
Rating: 
★★

Review:

I decided to pick up this book because I was in a circus mood for quite a while and this seemed an obvious choice. It wasn’t terrible, and I liked a lot of the ideas, but I ultimately felt everything was just a bit underdeveloped.

I’m going to start with the romance because that was probably the thing that stood out the most to me and not in a great way. Mostly because it only took place over five days, and I’m sorry, it’s not true love after a week. I’m not saying you can’t be attracted to someone in that time, but from Julien’s perspective, particularly, it wasn’t enugh time for such strong feelings to develop. And from Scarlett’s perspective, I didn’t buy that he was as important to her as her beloved sister after only a few nights.

Speaking of the characters in more general terms, I didn’t feel like they had a whole lot of personality. I will say I did like Scarlett’s development from doormat to… well, I won’t say she became badass, but she definitely became less doormat-y and grew into her own.

The plot and world-building had similar issues. I just wished everything was a bit… more. A bit more magic, a bit more exploration of the island, a bit more explanation of who Legend was and how and why Caraval was the way it was… There was a line in the last third that said something along the lines of “Scarlett had been collecting buttons since she’d been here” and my first response was “… had she?” Because nothing was memorable.

I also had some issues with the reveals in the final chapter. I know we were supposed to think the character orchestrating everything was terribly clever, but… it seemed far-fetched, and honestly made this character seem like a bit of a psycopath to put Scarlett through it all?

Having said all of that! I actually am still intrigued enough by this world that I am interested in reading the sequel. So make of that what you will.


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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.

July-August 2018 TBR

Read my June reading wrap-up here!

I can’t believe it’s already July! Half the year gone!

I’ve written myself a completely new TBR for the next couple of months. Previously, I was carrying over any unread books from the last list, but I’m just not in the mood for those at the moment so they’ve gone back into my TBR Jar for later. I’ve been a bit reading slumpy for the last few months (work and other life things have contributed to that), so I haven’t left it up to the chance of the TBR Jar this time. I’ve deliberately selected books I think I’ll enjoy.

Blackwing by Ed McDonald

The Dry by Jane Harper

The Finisher by David Baldacci

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot #17)

The Olmec Obituary by L. J. M Owen

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

Where Shadows Rise by Amy Laurens (Sanctuary #1)

Through Roads Between by Amy Laurens (Sanctuary #2)

With the exception of I Had Such Friends, which is an ARC from NetGalley, the rest of these are books I own. I am a little behind on my Australian Women Writers Challenge and will need to also get a few books from the library to make a move on that.

What are you planning to read this month?

#WWW Wednesday – April 18, 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 am back from Nepal! I had a great time, though the trek itself was quite challenging, physically and emotionally. But I had a fantastic group of people supporting me. Those 12 days went way too fast, but I am glad to be home.

What have you recently finished reading? 

I finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline before I went away.  I… look, there’s an okay YA dystopia in there somewhere, but I couldn’t find much of it. It was my first ever one star review! (Said review is full of spoilers, read at your own risk).

I also read The Sherlockian by Graham Moore prior to that. It was fine, but nothing special. I definitely enjoyed Graham Moore’s other novel more. I reviewed it here.

Remember how I was all  “I’m going to read so many books on the plane and have a super long post for you when I get home!”? Yeah, I read two. And one of them was super-short.

The first was Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. I had never read it before and I’m not sure if perhaps I missed the boat with it? I mean, I enjoyed it, but I think a lot of people probably have a certain amount of nostalgic love for it that comes from reading it when one is the same age as Anne Shirley.

I also picked up and read Folk Tales from Nepal by Kesar Lall at Pokhara airport. The English translation wasn’t brilliant but it was fun reading these stories while I was travelling around the locations where they took place.

What are you currently reading? 

At time of writing, I haven’t actually picked up The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon since the day before I left for Nepal. I wasn’t entirely into it. Coincidentally, one of the women in my group was reading it on the plane and she wasn’t that into it either, but we did both say we would see it through. .

What do you think you will read next?

I want to try and read something else off my March-April TBR before the end of the month. I am leaning towards Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie because I didn’t read that on my Jan-Feb TBR either… but I also have an ARC of Bookworm by Lucy Mangan, so I should probably read that soon… I don’t know. I’ll see what I’m in the mood for.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

March-April 2018 TBR

Read my February reading wrap-up here!

I made it through six of the eight titles on my Jan-Feb TBR list, which is not too bad in my book! (Haha, book pun, geddit?) I’ve carried the remaining two over for the next two months, and have finally had an opportunity to use my TBR Jar to pick out my next few reads! Plus I have one ARC that I know of and a couple of others pending at the time of this writing. It’s really great to be putting a hole in both my physical and virtual TBRs!

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Scapegallows by Carol Birch

Treason! Treason! by Josh Langston

Call Me Sasha by Genna Leigh

Daddy Darkest by Ellery Kane

Anne of Green Gables by E. M. Montgomery

A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald by Natasha Lester

What are you reading this month?

 

“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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“It feels like music, like a heartbeat, like magic… Like Beauty.” // Review of “Hunted” by Meagan Spooner

Title: Hunted
Author:  Meagan Spooner
Audio book narrator: Will Damron, Saskia Maarleveld
Genre:
  historical fantasy/fairytale retelling
Dates read: 28/01/18 – 03/02/18
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows that I am a fan of fairytale retellings. This book has been on my TBR ever since it was released, so when I saw the audio book available through my library’s digital borrowing app, I snapped it up.

With her father’s fortune in ruin, Yeva and her family return to the forest where her father used to hunt. When her father claims a beast is tracking him through the wood and then goes missing, Yeva sets out to find him. When she discovers he is dead, she tries to kill the beast she believes is responsible, but ends up a prisoner in his castle instead, told only that he needs a hunter to kill a quarry for him and break his curse.

The thing I loved about this book was the writing, and I think it was enhanced by two narrators with very soothing voices to carry the rhythm. For a while it bothered me that I wasn’t excited or invested about the characters, but after a while, I sunk into the story itself despite that. The characters are well-written, but not in such a way to get really invested in.

will admit I’m not an expert on Medieval Russia but the historical setting seemed very well formed to me. I loved the wintery atmosphere – all that snow! The descriptions are beautiful. I also really enjoyed the way this was not only a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but also drew on the Russian story The Firebird. I spotted a few indications of the ties between the two stories early on in the book and was rewarded with the pay-off at the end.

If you like fairytale retellings, or atmospheric, character-driven fantasies, I definitely recommend checking this one out.


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“We may have created them, but like all children, they grow up and make their own lives.” // Review of “Your One and Only” by Adrianne Finlay

Title: Your One and Only
Author: Adrianne Finlay
Genre:
YA/sci-fi/romance
Date Read: 29/01/2018 – 02/01/2018
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I was approved for this on NetGalley months and months ago, and for some reason kept putting it off. With the publication date looming, I thought I’d better get onto it, and when I did, it turned out to be a compelling read.

Jack is a human in a world of clones. The clones are suspicious of him because his behaviour doesn’t fall in line with theirs, and he doesn’t understand their ceremonies. Althea-310 can’t help feeling different from her sisters and drawn to Jack. As their world starts to fall apart, they find hope in each other.

This is definite soft sci-fi, and while some of the “science” did make me raise my eyebrows a little, I found the story was engaging enough that I was willing to handwave the world-building that didn’t seem exactly right. It did take me a few chapters to get my head around exactly how the communities of clones had come to be and how they lived and reproduced, but I did get there in the end.

I felt for Jack, who was raised in virtual isolation and disliked by the closest things he had to peers. But I was more interested in Althea. I liked seeing her progression from one of the clones to individual and how she questioned what was happening to her.

It did bother me that the clones isolated Jack in part because he had a tendency towards violence, but they couldn’t recognise that many of their own also had these same tendencies. The clones were supposed to be perfect, and Jack was different. I couldn’t work out whether that was supposed to be their cognitive dissonance, or a case of the world-building/story not quite working the way the author wanted it to.

I wouldn’t say the romance is gradual, but it did feel like it unfolded at a good pace. In terms of content, apart from some kissing, there is the clones’ monthly Pairing Ceremony. Though Pairings are never really described explicitly, the clones do discuss how they are taught what each of the other clones likes, and how to pleasure them. I did like this exploration of a completely new culture’s attitude towards sex.

There were a few occasions where the pacing felt a bit off, including at the end (during and after the climax). There were also a couple of scenes where dialogue went around in circles a bit.

I can’t say sci-fi romance is a sub-genre I’ve read much of, but if this is an example of it, then I feel like I should broaden my horizons.


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

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