Monday, 25 January 2016

Review: The Book of Shade

The Book of Shade The Book of Shade by K.C. Finn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finn has achieved that rare thing - an original and unique YA paranormal romance. Lily's story is one of the best I've read for a long time, and I'm delighted that it comes from a Brit author. It's been a while since I read a decent book based in the UK, and I tend to forget how enjoyable it is to read in my native language without being peppered with americanisms. Lily is delightfully British, feisty and level-headed in the presense of so much weirdness.

However wonderful The Book of Shade is, it's not easy to review without giving much away. Let's just Finn has put together a world of intriguing magic and mysterious characters. The romance is deliciously slow-burning, with a host of far more practical things to be taken care of first. Such as why Lemarick Novel is covered in lightning flowers, how he performs such incredible feats on stage, why his arctic blue eyes keep locking with hers, and why he never, ever smiles.

Finn has that perfect combination of characters that will hold your interest completely, a story that will grab hold of you and won't let go, and a world so curious that you won't be able to leave it alone once you get a glimpse. She isn't afraid of doing things differently, such as introducing a male MC who is nothing like any I've ever encountered, but somehow in his ennigmatic, stoic character is utterly divine. Lily starts out as a completely normal girl - a freshman at uni who does all the normal things like going out drinking with her friends and joining an intriguing society just because a cute guy asks her. Even when things turn distinctly un-normal, Lily maintains her down-to-earth tendencies, and isn't afraid to face things head-on.

I want to leave as much as possible a mystery for new readers, so that they can enjoy the full effect of the book, so I'll stop here. I'll just add that I can't wait to read more from K.C. Finn, and the Shadeborn series.

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Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Review: This Raging Light

This Raging Light This Raging Light by Estelle Laure
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This Raging Light is a strange animal. It's one of those books that isn't about the ending, but about the journey. It's not so much a story, as an episode, and what's important is the people. Most definitely character-led, something that doesn't always appeal to me, but when it's done in such a splendid way as this, I absolutely approve. It reminds me a little of Maggie Stiefvater's writing (high praise indeed if you know me) - there's something there in the poetry of the words, in their realness and the way they worm inside you. It's a tricky creature to review though. Lucille has been dealt a hard hand, and This Raging Light is about how she learns to deal with it. It's about family and friends and love and neighbours and finding out you're not alone as you thought you were, and learning to lean on people, and raging and crying and getting back up again to rage some more. It's a slice of life, a piece of strength, the clarity of a ringing bell, a jumble of words and feels.

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Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Review: The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After spending a while floundering in a sea of New Adult angst, this whimsical, feel-good YA was exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. Also, another brilliant Aussie writer! Either I'm only getting the very best of what Australia produces, or we must be missing out on some amazing fiction over here on the opposite side of the world.

Alba was all kinds of brilliant. It was refreshing to find a girl character who isn't obsessed with body image, is reassuringly quirky, but also has no idea what she wants. She know what she's supposed to want, what everyone assumes she wants, but deep down she's just so confused. We tag along as Alba finds her own mind, in the midst of a possible apocalypse. Just a normal day in small-town Australia, obviously.

Keil's festival-like take-over of Alba's little town provided a great deal of entertainment, and the perfect backdrop for Alba's troubles. It made what could have been boring and ordinary, diverting and extraordinary. Super-high points for location and minor characters there, Ms Kiel. It's like a literary comic book, full of outlandish scenes which Kiel paints with words that worm their way into your head and disperse to create a scene so complete it's like you're there, sitting with Alba and her friends, puzzling over the riotous and ridiculous events of the summer.

I can't say enough good things about this book. It really lifted me up and reminded me why I love reading so much. Five joyful stars and an urge to read it again.

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Thursday, 14 January 2016

Review: When We Collided

When We Collided When We Collided by Emery Lord
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gosh, where to start? First up, get the tissues ready. I cried at the end. Not just shedding a tear or a tingle in the nose or a lump in the throat, but full-on messy crying. And it's not because it's sad exactly, certainly Lord doesn't leave us with a great tragedy or anything heinous like that. It was more of a bittersweet happiness that reduced me to snot and tears. A fullness, a wholesomeness and a burstfulness.
This is not an easy, quick read. I don't mean because it's hard to connect with the characters, or that it's too complex or annoying, because none of those things are true. In fact it's almost because of the opposite, because it's so big and true, that you need to just pause and savour it sometimes, to let it sink in. It's a bit John Green-esque in style - teens that sound and act like adults, big themes, a life of moments both good and bad. It's lyrical and expressive, full of so much life that it's hard to look at straight-on at times. It's even making me write in a similar vein, but this is only me so it's a bunch of vague metaphors being stuffed in your face.
Lord writes about depression with a truth born of experience, and I read about it with a knowing nod, a tear because it's a hardship I wouldn't wish on anyone, and a smile that said 'exactly!'. When We Collided is not a true story, but it might as well be, because it's full of so many truths that the fiction doesn't make any difference. It's the type of book that i recommend EVERYONE reads. Not just those who are affected by depression or know someone who is, because you don't always know. But if you read this, you might just have an inkling.

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Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Review: Firsts

Firsts Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't generally pay much attention when books are compared to other books or films - half the time I can't see the connection at all, and the other half it just seems like a cheap marketing ploy. But Firsts was touted as being perfect for fans of Easy A, which intrigued me as I love that film without quite knowing why. So I read the synopsis, and was drawn in even more. In went my request on Netgalley, and I was rewarded with a completely enjoyable, insightful and interesting read. And you know what? It is perfect for those of you who loved Easy A. There's just something about it, a feeling you get while reading it, which meshes with the film perfectly.

Mercedes is a girl looking for love and affection, but refusing to admit to herself that's what she needs. Her mother encourages all the things a normal mother would forbid, and her friends are a confusing mix of religious virgin and sex-buddy. There are a lot of conflicting messages in her life, and it's easy to see why she's confused, even if she thinks she's got it all worked out.

This is a read-between-the-lines kind of story, and Flynn gently leads us in the direction we need to be thinking, letting us in on Mercy's deepest darkest thoughts as well as the front she puts on for everyone else.

Firsts is an easy book to love. Flynn's characters are solid and loveable, with a full supporting cast to back up the brilliant Mercedes. Her writing is just the right mix of wit, emotion and description, bringing her world to live in technicolour and giving us all the feels. This is a book that I will read over and over again, just because.

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Friday, 8 January 2016

Review: Learning to Live

Learning to Live Learning to Live by Kira Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you loved The Fault in Our Stars, it's a pretty good bet that you'll love Learning to Live. It has a similar feel to it - beautiful and inspiring and heartbreaking all at the same time. Warning: have a box of tissues on hand when reading this book, because you'll need it.
At first I thought it was going to be a pretty standard story, where the shy, unpopular girl catches the eye of the dickhead jock and changes him. But it didn't take long for me to realise that Learning to Live is so much more than that. I really don't want to say too much because, major spoilers! But let's just say that this is one of those books that could change your life. I would urge every teen girl who's lacking in self-confidence to read this book, and to learn from it. Sure, there are elements that are a little bit cliched, but it's the message that you need to take from it, not the literal image.
Adams has tackled a huge and difficult issue here, and she's done it with grace. Her writing is bold and her characters even more so. I can't wait to see what else she gives us in this new series.

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Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Review: Soar

Soar Soar by Alyssa Rose Ivy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book not realising that there was a previous series that this is a spin-off from, so I was left feeling like there was a lot of information I was missing at times, but I definitely still enjoyed it, and I'll now be looking out for the Crescent Chronicles now. Ivy's characters are big and bold, and her world-building is complex and intriguing, which is hardly surprisng since she's already had a whole series to build it in.

Casey was a great character who I was able to get fully beind, and the chemistry she shared with Toby and Jared made for a real page turner, although I'm not generally a fan of love triangles. This one felt like there was something else going on behind it though, however I'll have to keep reading the series to get any answers in that respect. It's not all about the romance though - the Pterons are an interesting twist on the shifter theme, and their world drew me right in straight away. Soar made for an addictive read, and I definitely want to read more about this world.

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