Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

 

This, for me, is a hard review to write. Which is why I need to write it.

What Thomas has created with this book is talking point, a highlight to the divide in society and the racism that still exists. This is what ‘own voices’ books are all about.

Starr is a brilliant character who accurately portrays the struggle to find your place in the world. She’s an easy character to relate to and to cheer on. I loved her voice, I loved watching her grow, and I loved seeing how she faced up to the challenges in her life.

In case you have somehow missed hearing about this book, THUG is about a girl of colour who is raised in the ‘ghetto’ yet attends school with a predominately white population and tries to hide her ‘blackness’ in order to fit in. This book was written by a woman of colour, about a woman of colour, and there is no whitewashing to the story.

Because of this, the book is confronting to someone who usually reads stories through a white lens.

The quiet thought-provoking narrative really makes you question your own bias. It shows how racism isn’t just the intent behind your words, but also how society has conditioned you to subconsciously think. Thomas did such a great job introducing us to Khalil that when he is shot and killed by a police officer you feel it. It’s horrible.

And then the news reports start. Reports we’ve all seen following the shooting of a person of colour. Maybe they were a drug dealer, or had a concealed weapon. Maybe they were portrayed as being a threat. THUG then goes on to show the other side. The caring person who was doing whatever he could to support his family, who was sorely missed by the people left behind.

This mix of real world events and relatable characters force you to question which reaction you would have had under the circumstances.

As amazing as I found THUG, I did feel the beginning ran a little slow. It felt like a long book (I’m used to quick reads I think) up until the grand jury’s decision, but from there I couldn’t put the book down. The ending was so beautifully written I needed a moment to check out of real life once it was finished.

If you haven’t read THUG yet, I suggest getting it on your TBR pile. It’s no surprise it debuted on the NYT Bestseller List.

AOaR_4star (3)

(and a half)

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary and is on a mad dash to edit the crap out of MS 2

Review: Acne, Asthma, and Other Signs You Might Be Half Dragon by Rena Rocford

26829865 (2)From Goodreads:
Allyson fights acne, not trolls. As an inhaler-carrying member of the asthma society, she just wants to meet the father who turned her mother into a paranoid, move-across-the-nation freak. Now she’s trying to fit in at yet another school, but for the first time in her life, she has a best friend, Beth. When Allyson accidentally spits fire at kidnappers in the mall, she realizes why her father isn’t in the picture: she’s half dragon. Her acne? Emerging scales. Her asthma? The side effects of her dragon’s fire breath. Instead of freaking out, unflappable Beth reveals her own troll heritage and explains how things work with the supernatural creatures hiding within the modern world of smartphones and skyscrapers.

When trolls kidnap a unicorn, Beth gets blamed. Allyson is determined to prove Beth’s innocence and keep her friend off the unicorn chopping block. When they start looking for the kidnappers, they get a call from the last person they expect: Allyson’s father. He tries to warn them off, but he’s been put under a spell by the kidnappers to keep the victims from escaping. Nothing short of death can stop him. Now Allyson must choose between killing the father she’s always dreamed of, or letting her best friend die for a crime she didn’t commit.

My Thoughts:
I first saw this in our Pitcharama contest. It intrigued me back then, and so I waited for this release eagerly.
This story didn’t disappoint! Action packed, full of adventure, friendship, and a sassy heroine, this novel with an extremely long title that really grabs your attention, has the makings of a fun read for anyone seeking something for pure pleasure.
Allyson was an absolute delight to follow as she rushed through a steep learning curve. She reacted naturally, and often humorously to the situations thrust upon her, and with a heart full of fierce loyalty.
A clean read I’d definitely recommend!

Katie Teller

Katie Teller is a writer of NA fiction. Her debut, Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh, has sold more than 50,000 copies. You can find out more about Katie, the Kiya trilogy, and her other books on twitterfacebook or at her own blog.

Review: I Knew You Were Trouble by Paige Toon

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Life as the undercover daughter of a rock god isn’t going to be easy. How will Jessie adjust to her old boring life again after spending her summer living it up with her dad in LA? With tough decisions ahead (and not just choosing between two hot boys), can she cope juggling her two very different lives?
Summer may be over, but Jessie’s story is just beginning…

So, with my writing I’m a pretty structured person, which is something I’m going to bring to these reviews. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I’m tossing up whether to buy a book or not, there’s generally three key things I want to know.

Heat/swoon levels:

Plot pacing and resolution:

Characters relatability:

So let’s break it down. Also gifs! (Because who doesn’t like gifs?)

First up, this is the second book in a spin-off series. It’s probably a good idea to start right at the beginning, but if you just go with the one before this you shouldn’t have any issues.

Heat/swoon levels:

This is an area Paige Toon always nails. Stuck in a love-triangle between her high school sweetheart, Tom, and LA rocker, Jack, Jessie has to make–in my eyes– a pretty big choice. Both guys have their pros and cons (though so far I think I’m a tom girl). Toon does a great job of making both relationship interesting and dynamic.

Plot pacing and resolution:

This is a really fun book. As the illegitimate child of a rock legend, Jessie tries to keep her life relatively normal. Until people find out who she really is. And let’s face it, it’s what we were all waiting for. When the media found out who she was I was expecting a bit more, actually. It was initially intense, as expected, but once she fleed to Johnny’s mansion the paps became little more than an annoyance. Things progressed quickly and once she headed to LA, book two became a load more reminiscent of book one. It events were a little predictable but I wouldn’t have wanted things to unfold any differently. Being the second book in a series, there’s no definite ending though, so heads up!

Characters:

I LOVE JESSIE JEFFERSON! Just putting it out there. She’s a fun character who is obviously destined for some pretty big things but at the same time she’s incredibly flawed and vulnerable. I also love how the key relationship in this book isn’t between Jessie and either of the boys, but between her and Johnny. The moments between them, and the moments where she is remembering her mum, were standouts in the book in really sweet and emotional ways.

The downer:

There was one part of this book that really bummed me out.

For some reason in YA it seems to be a common theme that when the MC cheats on their significant other, it is explained away and rationalised. Why does this happen? I get the cheating thing–to be clear, I don’t like it–but if it’s true to your character then go for it. But please, please don’t justify it as being okay.

For that reason, and that reason alone, the book gets a four from me.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read. Toon writes complexities into all her characters that makes you fall in love with them. Definitely great if you’re after something fun, sweet, and that will remind you those dreams of stardom you once had, are better kept as dreams!

AOaR_4star (3)

I have nothing to say. So feel free to follow me here.

I have nothing to say.
So feel free to follow me here.

Review: The Heir by Kiera Cass

The Heir

Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon – and they lived happily ever after.

Eadlyn doesn’t expect her own story to end in romance – she has no interest in repeating the fairy tale. But a princess’s life is never entirely her own – and Eadlyn cannot escape her very own Selection, and one particular entry who may just capture her heart …

Confession: I actually quite enjoyed The Selection series. I know there are a few people out there who had issues with it, but it was a light and fun, so when I saw The Heir was coming up, I knew I’d give it a read.

Like The Selection, The Heir was easy to get through and delivered pretty much all the blurb promises. Similar to trashy reality TV IRL, Eadlyn’s quest for her Prince Charming is broadcast a’la The Bachelorette to the whole country.

Now, I’d be lying if I didn’t say this book was pretty much The Selection in reverse. It has some very similar themes and events BUT the big thing for me is how Eadlyn is written. It’s actually something I loved about the book. Eadlyn’s perception of herself vs. how she is perceived are two very different things. Each and every decision she makes to showcase her power is completely misconstrued. She thinks people will respect her, instead they find her cold and heartless. This small touch on gender-stereotyping had me firmly on Eadlyn’s side from the beginning.

Now, it wouldn’t be another Selection without the, this time, hunky candidates. There’s thirty-five in total, and while we do get to see a fair few of them there are three I believe are in the running.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the contestants: *drum roll, please*

Henry. I love Henry. He barely speaks English but he’s an absolute sweetheart. Unfortunately, I don’t see this going anywhere.

Erik. I’m not behind this one, but I can totally see him sneaking in. As Henry’s translator, he’s not technically a part of the Selection, but that hasn’t stopped him and Eadlyn from getting close.

And lastly, Kile. He’s my pick. I love their banter in the beginning and the fact they seem to ‘get’ each other. That said, I was going for Aspen last time so I clearly have no clue.

Now, like every book in this series, it’s a light read. I finished it about a week ago, and while I enjoyed it and will be reading the sequels, there’s not a whole lot about the plot I remember. Quite a few of the candidates are caricatures and not well fleshed out, and Eadlyn and Kile do go from hate to friends pretty quickly. The main characters were great, and a brief skim reminds me of things all over again, but it’s not a book to read if you are after some intense romance/angst/feely-times.

That said, I am about to go all caps for a sec, HOW IS THAT ENDING LEGAL?! I totally expected one bad thing to happen but instead ANOTHER BAD THING HAPPENED THAT I WAS TOTALLY UNPREPARED FOR!

*sigh*

Not happy. (But really, it was a great way to end).

I’d classify this one as a ‘guilty pleasure’ read.

AOaR_4star (3)

I have nothing to say.  So feel free to follow me here.

I have nothing to say.
So feel free to follow me here.

Review: You’re the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About by Daniel Herborn

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Tim’s a young singer-songwriter with a guitar case full of songs and dreams of finding an audience to embrace his tunes.

Mandy’s obsessed with music and a compulsive dreamer. She’s longing for something more fulfilling than daytime TV and cups of tea with best friend Alice, something like the excitement and passion of rock ’n’ roll.

When their eyes meet at a gig, sparks fly across a crowded room and hope burns in their hearts.

But in a city of millions and a scene overrun with wannabes, can they ever get it together? Will Mandy’s nerves doom their romance before it even starts? And where does the darkness in Tim’s songs come from?

This is a story of Sydney’s Inner West, of first love, crush bands and mix tapes; of the thrill of the night and what happens when the music stops.

Set in the cafes pubs and dives of Sydney’s Inner West YOU’RE THE KIND OF GIRL I WRITE SONGS ABOUT is a ballad to that time of your life when you are trying to work out who you are, what it is you want and what will it take to get you there.

Almost as soon as I read this title I knew I needed to read this book. The blurb promised so many great things – a Sydney setting, the music scene, contemporary romance, and an Aussie author – I couldn’t wait to get started!

I wish my enthusiasm had been rewarded.

To be fair, there was a lot of high points to this book. Mandy and Tim were both relatable and likeable characters. I loved the glimpses of Sydney, and seeing some of the places I knew and had been in a novel. The whole music scene was a great feel and some of the secondary characters (Alice and Justin, mainly) were just gorgeous.

I think the main reason I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I wanted to, was because of the writing. There was a lot of tell and filter words which isn’t good for a present tense book. It stopped me from feeling involved and invested in the characters, which in turn made me feel like I was missing out. There was so much going on and I wanted to be a part of it.

The second issue I have is with Tim’s past. This is an area that I feel pretty strongly about and I couldn’t believe how misrepresented it was. An abusive family history is not something you give a character just to add depth, and the way it was glossed over was insulting. That said, Mandy’s reaction to the revelations were pretty spot on with how a teenager would react.

There were also story lines that just didn’t seem to go anywhere. Mandy applies for a job with a music company and it’s never heard from again, Kiera hits on Tim but she’s already hooking up with his mate and everyone’s okay with that, Mandy’s dad and Tim know each other and it’s not A THING, and both Tim’s parents and Mandy’s Mum could have been taken out of the book and not made a difference.

I really do hope others can connect with this book more than I have because there really are some great points but unfortunately, for me, there were too many missed opportunities.

AOaR_3star (3)

Heather is beta reading two different MSs, slush-diving for #Nestpitch, and editing and planning her own WIPs, but she is still contemplating a reread. And she's twittering over here.

Heather is shopping one MS, editing another, and has just started on lucky number three. She’s also huddled in front of the heater because it’s cold.
T-weets are here.

Review: ‘Half-Blood’ by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Half-blood

The Hematoi descend from the unions of gods and mortals, and the children of two Hematoi—pure-bloods—have godlike powers. Children of Hematoi and mortals—well, not so much. Half-bloods only have two options: become trained Sentinels who hunt and kill daimons or become servants in the homes of the pures.

Seventeen-year-old Alexandria would rather risk her life fighting than waste it scrubbing toilets, but she may end up slumming it anyway. There are several rules that students at the Covenant must follow. Alex has problems with them all, but especially rule #1:

Relationships between pures and halfs are forbidden.

Unfortunately, she’s crushing hard on the totally hot pure-blood Aiden. But falling for Aiden isn’t her biggest problem—staying alive long enough to graduate the Covenant and become a Sentinel is. If she fails in her duty, she faces a future worse than death or slavery: being turned into a daimon, and being hunted by Aiden. And that would kind of suck.

Half-Blood is the first in Jennifer Armentrout’s Covenant series, and it was also the first book I’ve ready by this author. I should note that I actually listened to it on audiobook, and the narrator had this weird kind of quaver to her voice that made her sound like she was about to cry through half the book, and about to have sex through the other half. (Awkward.)

It was quite distracting!

Anyway, I liked Half-Blood, which made me a bit sad. I really wanted to love it. It’s urban fantasy where the supernatural critters are descended from the Greek gods — a topic close to my own heart, and one I’ve not seen done before. The Pures are a bit like elemental mages, but the Halfs are more like regular humans with supercharged reflexes (think Buffy). The Daimons confused me a bit, because they are more like vampires than anything else — they drink Pure blood to get at the ether (think magical god juice — ew) within. They are created like vampires too, made from Pures who then lose their soul.

My favourite thing about Half-Blood was the voice. The blurb above gives you a taste, so you can see what I mean. The book is told in the first person, and the main character, Alex, has all kinds of sass. If you look up sass in the dictionary, there’s probably a picture of her, flipping the bird or something. The way she tells her story is funny, and I really liked the fact she wasn’t afraid to stand up to people who tried to push her around. She’s no wallflower, that’s for sure.

The flipside of that is that she makes being reckless an artform. I’ve read books with reckless characters before, and been able to get onboard with their behaviour because it made sense in context. (An example would be Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson.) Maybe I was distracted by the narrator’s wobbly voice, but there’s one point in Half-Blood — I won’t give away details, because spoilers — where she does something so incredibly stupid that I actually swore at my iPhone. (Audiobook, remember?)

Another thing that bugged me — and I admit this is petty — is that I found some of the quirks in the writing grated a little. For example, Aiden, the swoonworthy Senitinel who agrees to help get Alex up to speed so she isn’t booted out of the Covenant, says “Alex” in every other line of his dialogue. I ended up thinking he was concerned she might forget her name! :p I didn’t notice the other characters doing it quite as much, so maybe it was a quirk of his character rather than of Armentrout’s writing overall.

The story is fast-paced without leaving you breathless, which was great. I personally found I was able to guess every plot twist, but that might have just been luck (I’m not always that good a guesser!).

It was also refreshing to see a young adult urban fantasy where there wasn’t an in-your-face love triangle. Alex’s best friend is male, but there’s never even a hint of tension between the two of them — and I found I actually liked his character more for it. That being said, I suspect that there might be a future triangle later in the series, given the way events unfold relating to a certain Apollyon (think super-charged half-blood).

(One last note for those of you that have read the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead: I gather from reviews on Goodreads that there are some startling similarities between the plot, premise and characters of Half-Blood and those of VA. I haven’t read the latter, so I don’t have an opinion on that, but it’s worth a mention in case it sways you one way or the other.)

Like I said at the beginning, I liked Half-Blood even though I didn’t love it, and I may go back to find out what happens next in the series. Probably not in audiobook format, though. 😉

AOaR_3star (3)

Cassandra Page is an urban fantasy writer who may have been guilty of introducing a sorta kinda love triangle in one of her books, so she probably shouldn’t be pointing fingers…

Cassandra Page

Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

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This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.

Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.

That is, until a twist of fate brings her before the Silver court. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly ability of her own.

Fearful of Mare’s potential, the king hides in plain view: betrothed to his youngest son. Trapped, Mare decides to use her new position to bring down the regime – from the inside.

But this is a game of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart.

I’m sure you’ve probably heard of this book considering it has been EVERYWHERE. I grabbed it because I recognised the title and actually thought it was some kind of Wonderland retelling (only slightly disappointed that wasn’t the case). The thing is, with the title, and the amount of hype surrounding this book, I read it with a lot more scepticism than most.

I’m pretty happy it (mostly) lived up to the hype. The blurb gives probably the most accurate break down I’ve seen in a long time. There’s the poor, and there’s the wealthy. The wealthy have powers, the poor don’t. But of course one little poor girl (Mare) is an anomaly who actually does have awesome powers. There’s a love triangle (really more of a square but I didn’t believe one of those corners for a second), and off the pages of the book there’s some kind of war going on.

One of the many great things about Red Queen is how alive the characters are. They all have their own little quirks and habits and identities that go way beyond, “my MC is a loveable klutz”. Mare is set up from the first chapter as being quick and sneaky (she’s a pick pocket) and I would have liked to see these skills being put to better use as the book went on.

Cal, Maven, Evangeline, Gisa and Kilorn are all secondary characters who were great to read. They did a lot of things you wouldn’t expect rather than the cardboard cut-out types, and they were consistent to the end.

And what an ending! It was a lot of fun to read. High action and emotion which happen to be the most perfect combo (to me).

Now, there was a lot of awesome, but there were a few things I wasn’t totally on board with. Firstly, the whole Spiral Garden thing, I couldn’t see it. I still have no idea what that place is meant to look like, no matter how many times I reread that part. From there until just past mid-way in the book, Mare’s spunk kind of disappears for a bit. It does come back which was a relief but I would have liked to see more, especially when it came to her hatred for the Silvers because I didn’t buy it. Lastly, I wish the massive twist everyone was going on about had surprised me. I guess this isn’t so much Aveyard’s writing as me being able to pick up on these stupid things. I know the exact line that made me realise what was coming, too. To be fair, as the book went on I was very nearly convinced I was wrong, but nope. There was a lot about the ending that I found predictable but I loved reading it all the same.

The movie rights to Red Queen have been sold too, and I really think it will make a great adaptation.

I’ll definitely pick up the sequel when it comes along. I’m just praying that it doesn’t follow the typical trope of MC having to choose between poor, motivated childhood friend, or the powerful, but kind royal. (Because the royal ALWAYS wins, *sigh*)

Worth a read.

AOaR_4star (3)

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Heather has had to forgo coffee as it keeps bub awake. This has resulted in her friends cynicism and snark escaping their cage far more frequently. TWITTER!