book review · books · bookshelf · fiction · literacy · tag · ya · young adult

These Shallow Graves

Warnings: descriptions of dead bodies, death, mild swearing.
Author: Jennifer Donnelly

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A wealthy family. A deadly secret. A girl with more to lose than she knows.

NEW YORK, 1890
Josephine Montfort is from one of New York’s most respected and wealthiest families. Like most affluent girls, Jo’s future is set: a comfortable life in a suitable marriage – but her heart can’t help yearning for more.
And then her father is found dead. It was supposedly a tragic accident, although some details don’t seem to quite add up. Was it really an accident… or worse, murder?
With the help of a young reporter, Eddie Gallagher, Jo is in a race against time to find the culprit. Escaping her gilded cage could be dangerous and Jo will have to face some dark characters on the gritty streets of New York. But some secrets can’t stay hidden forever, no matter how deep you bury them.’

YAY VICTORIAN NOVELS NOT SET IN LONDON!!!!!!

This was an impulse buy after reading Paper Fury’s review, but I’ve only just got to it now because of the pile of books that is my TBR.  Honestly, I loved this book. Especially the characters. Jo is a sassy, new-world feminist and don’t even get me STARTED on Fay. I adore her so much and I want to steal her and protect her from the world.

I have been known to be partial to a murder mystery, but I find it quite difficult to get into them sometimes if they’re not well written or don’t have a good premise. But this book interested me from the start (I also love crime shows, so anything like Criminal Minds is a yes from me). The involvement of early forensics was also really cool, and gave reasons for their conclusions, instead of just guesswork.

The characters were so diverse, I think just because of the class difference between a lot of the major characters. Especially the younger children living on the streets, because of their individuals stories you feel connected to them even through they have no dialogue. I felt like a lot of the upper-class characters like Bram and Jo’s mother felt quite bland because of their sheltered lifestyle, which made me connect with Jo more as I wanted to get out to the more interesting people.

10/10
-abnormalbookgeek

book review · books · fiction · ya · young adult

The Sky Is Everywhere

Warnings: very mild mentions of sex, death, mild swearing.
Author: Jandy Nelson

9781406354386

‘Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to centre stage of her own life – and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two.
Toby was Bailey’s boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie’s own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched by his musical talent. For Lennie, they’re the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can’t collide without the whole wide world exploding.’

Someone needs to stop me from reading Jandy Nelson books because I end up a crying blob on the floor by the end of them.

This book was PERFECTION. I’m not a fan of romance generally, but when she does it, I’m so ready. I adored the characters – Lennie was a character I thought I would be friends with (obsessed with books, bank geek) and I want to steal all of Joe’s family because they sound gorgeous. Family members are sometimes skipped over in YA books, but you really connect with Uncle Big and Gram. You even get to know Bailey really well, even though she’s dead throughout the whole book. I did think Toby was skipped over a bit for him to be mentioned in the blurb. You don’t see much of his character but the person he’s become, devastated by Bailey’s death.

The general storyline was enthralling the whole way through. I never felt bored or disengaged with Lennie – any empty space was broken by her grief, which I thought was extremely well written. It didn’t seem like the ‘oh, woe is me’, feeling sorry for yourself kind of sadness. It was primal and raw , causing you to feel her sadness with her instead of watching it from the outside.

Like I said, I’m not a fan of romance that’s the generic cheesy, cringey, forced kind. Lennie and Joe actually seemed like they had chemistry and there wasn’t the all-encapsulating love at first sight moment that magically pulled her out of her sadness. It felt like a real-life relationship. (I cried for the last few chapters because of all my feels about them)

The poems scattered through the book were really beautiful and allowed you to get a closer look into Lennie and Bailey’s relationship, as well as Lennie’s thoughts in general.

Alternately, one of my good bookish friends, abookandbeyond, didn’t adore this book as much as I did. You can find her review here.

9/10
-abnormalbookgeek

 

book review · books · children's fiction · fiction · nonfiction

The Thing About Jellyfish

Warnings: none.
Author: Ali Benjamin

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Suzy doesn’t speak anymore. Not since her best friend, Franny, drowned. Suzy couldn’t believe it – Franny was an excellent swimmer. She must have been stung by a deadly jellyfish. It’s the only explanation. And Suzy is going to prove it.
So she retreats into silence, researching the jellyfish and formulating a plan that will take her across the world to discover the truth about the creature that she’s certain took her best friend away from her.’

I picked this up during a particularly empty shift at the library. It was in the children’s section, so I wasn’t expecting too much. It has a lot of 5 star reviews on Goodreads, but I agree more with the people who gave it lower reviews.

In the author’s note at the end of the book, they state that this book started as a nonfiction essay about jellyfish which cleared a lot up for me. There are a lot of jellyfish facts in this book. As someone who enjoys documentaries and information, I found this quite interesting, but someone who came for the story may have found it less absorbing.

The original nonfiction nature of the book meant that the chapters showing the friendship between Suzy and Franny felt a bit lacking in emotion to me. Sure, I empathised with Suzy for losing her friend, but the slightly detached way these chapters were written made me put more blame on Suzy than I wanted to. As the book went on, however, I became more interested in this sub-plot, so I ended up enjoying it more than I did at the start.

As a lover of a variety of characters, I was excited when Suzy’s brother and his boyfriend came in – but then there was no development. In fact, the only character really focussed on was Suzy, with a few mentions of Franny in between. This worked well for the solitary nature that I think Suzy was giving off, but I still felt that more could’ve been put into the other characters.

The grief represented in the book seemed very real to me – the confusion and loss that Suzy was feeling fuelled her to draw hasty conclusions, and I thought that would be how a young person would deal with a sudden, unexplained loss, especially if she hadn’t had anyone close to her die before (this wasn’t specified in the book, but I felt that it was hinted at).

5/10
-abnormalbookgeek

book review · books · ya · young adult

Wolf by Wolf

Warnings: violence, death, mild swearing
Author: Ryan Graudin
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Once upon a different time, there was a girl who lived in a kingdom of death. Wolves howled up her arm. A whole pack of them – made of tattoo and pain, memory and loss. It was the only thing about her that ever stayed the same.

Germany, 1956. Over ten years since the Nazis won the war.
Seventeen year old Yael is part of the resistance, and she has just one mission: to kill Hitler.
But first, she’s got to get close enough to do it.’

I need the rest of this series in my hands right now.

I loved Yael as a character, not only was she confident, capable and everything I wish I could be, she wasn’t whiny like she had the potential to be. You also get to know the characters that Yael’s wolves represent, even though they aren’t in the story in the present. Luka, one of the opponents you get to know the most, was very attractive a very interesting character with lots of different layers to him, and I’m looking forward to seeing him the most in the next book.

Speaking of the wolves, you get to know the stories of Yael’s past through semi-flashbacks, instead of the cold main character spilling her guts and then inevitably having that information used against her later in the book, leading to the collapse of her carefully constructed plan and destroying her emotionally.

The storyline was unlike anything I’d read before and kept me captivated throughout the whole book because of the constant threat of Yael being discovered or falling victim to one of the many threats of the race described in the book. The main idea (Germany winning World War 2) was something that I now I’ve wondered about, and my mum has brought up many times in the past.

The use of a race to move the story along was something I thought was very creative and exciting – there was so much danger involved that I had no time to calm down, it was just constantly tense and perfect.

Unfortunately, I found that as the main setting of the book is during a motorcycle race, there was a lot of description of driving motorcycles that dragged a bit too long in some sections. Most of the time, however, the amazing writing made up for this.

I also thought that Yael seemed a bit too emotionless at some points. She seemed to be too capable of hurting the people she had become close to, using the same ‘hit-on-the-head-and-run’ technique quite a few times.

8.5/10
-abnormalbookgeek

 

 

book review · books · bookshelf · fiction · literacy · ya · young adult

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Warnings: none
Author: J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne

harry_potter_and_the_cursed_child_special_rehearsal_edition_book_cover

The eighth story. Nineteen years later…

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.’

I have one question after reading the Cursed Child: WHERE IS GEORGE?!

I never expected to have any more Harry Potter on my book shelf, so after the initial rush I went and bought myself a copy. I don’t want to give away too much and ruin the story for anyone else, so this may be quite a brief review.

First of all, I liked the story. Nothing was given away easily, and the notes for the actors were extremely detailed and allowed the reader to see how the play would work onstage. I liked that it took into account the other characters and showed how the  events in the play would affect the whole wizarding world.

I thought Albus was a bit too teenager-y, but because his reasons were explained I overlooked that a bit. He was definitely a Potter – oblivious, jumps into things without thinking, needs quite a bit of help from his friends. That underlying Potter-ness is probably what endeared him to me. I was a bit put off by the lack of stage-time for his siblings though – I would’ve liked to see more of James and Lily than just in the first scene.

The only major criticism I have is the lack of characters. I was excited to see how all the (living) characters from the original books were getting on. I assume there’s not enough room for as many characters than in the films/books, but I wanted to check in with the Weasleys, see how George is coping, see Teddy (who’s Harry’s godson! Why isn’t he mentioned at all?) but the majority of onstage original characters are Harry, Ginny, Hermione, Ron, Draco and Professor McGonagall. Most of the story was centred around Albus, but it would still be nice to get some time with other characters.

7/10 for nostalgia
9/10 for story
-abnormalbookgeek

 

book review · books · fiction · literacy · ya · young adult

The Dreamer

Warnings: swearing, mild sexual scenes.
Author: E. J. Mellow
Series: Dreamland

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It’s night. Always night. Dreams guard against the evil forged by nightmares. Infinite shooting stars illuminate a moonless sky. A city stands alone, surrounded by a darkened field. On its fringes, a man watches one star separate from the masses and fall. What survives the crash will unveil a secret centuries long hidden.
Molly hasn’t slept well since the night of her twenty-fourth birthday. Being struck by lightning might have something to do with it, but then again, her chicken did look a little undercooked at dinner. Whatever the culprit, her life suddenly catapults from the mundane to insane as, night after night, Molly is transported through her once dreamless sleep to a mysterious land illuminated by shooting stars.
But Molly must ask herself – does something truly exist if you only see it when you close your eyes?
Faced with the threat of losing everything – her job, her best friend, boyfriend, and most importantly, that little thing called her sanity – Molly will learn just how far she’ll go to uncover what is real and what is merely a figment of her imagination.’

I’ve taken out a bit of the blurb because I thought it spoiled what I found one of the most exciting points of the book. If you want to read the whole blurb, go to the Goodreads page.

I only got this book because it was free on Amazon, so I didn’t read anything about it or know what I was getting into. I thought that made my enjoyment of the book heightened, because I knew as much as Molly, but I understand that people might have to read blurbs if they’re spending actual money on books.

This was a really interesting plotline and set-up for the rest of the series. It was a good story in itself and wasn’t completely devoted to preparing for the rest of the series, as some books do, but did set the stage nicely for the next book.

I liked Molly as a character, which was nice because some female leads are whiney and irritating. She was quirky, brave, but relatively normal, making me relate to her more. I also was in love with found Dev a really interesting, multi-layered character. Because of the questions Molly asks Dev about whats going on (and his lack of answers), those same questions are raised in the reader’s head as well.

The Dreamland is described in detail, allowing the reader to understand what Molly is seeing and how the people there may live.

9/10

book review · books · fiction · literacy · ya · young adult

Asking For It

Warnings: rape, swearing, drinking, drug abuse
Author: Louise O’Neill

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‘In a small town, where everyone knows everyone, Emma O’Donovan is different.  She is the special one – beautiful, popular, powerful. And she works hard to keep it that way.
Until that night…
Now, she’s an embarrassment. Now, she’s a slut. Now, she is nothing.
And those pictures – those pictures that everyone has seen – mean she can never forget.’

This was a very good book in terms of informing people about victim blaming and rape culture, as well as being very well written. I was so fascinated by the book just from the blurb – I hadn’t read any reviews or any more of Louise O’Neill’s writing.

I found Emma a unique main character simply because she was so dislikeable. She was like Regina George but Irish. And meaner, if that’s possible. There were some moments when she would say one thing and then express what she really though in brackets, showing the two faced nature of the character. Even so, however much you disliked her during the start of the book, I found it impossible to not empathise with her.

This is the kind of book where nothing really happens, but you can’t help but read on. One of the few huge events in the book was the trigger for everything else, and the writing allowed you to feel as Emma would – it gave off a feeling of emptiness, not having a sense of self.

Asking For It also brought up incredibly important social issues – young women AND men are never asking for sexual harassment, however they are dressed, how much they’ve drunk or any other factor. This book shows the harm that this can do to a survivor of sexual harassment, and how the people around them cope. Victim blaming is a massive controversy that shouldn’t have to be controversial.

10/10
-abnormalbookgeek

book review · books · fiction · literacy · ya · young adult

One

Warnings: swearing, drinking, smoking, mild ableism?
Author: Sarah Crossan

One Sarah Crossan.jpg

‘Grace and Tippi are twins – conjoined twins. And their lives are about to change.
No longer able to be homeschooled, they must venture into the world – a world of stares, sneers and cruelty. Will they find more than that at school? Can they find real friends? And what about love?
But what neither Grace nor Tippi realises is that a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead. A decision that could tear them apart. One that will change their lives  even more than they ever imagined…

I found that this was a really quick read that took me less than an afternoon to finish. That was mainly due to the fact that this entire book is told using verse, which made it very rhythmic and flowing. The quotes are gorgeous as well – my favourite being the one on the back cover:
Here we are.
And we are living.
Isn’t that amazing?
How we manage
To be
At all.

This is an absolutely gorgeously written book that had me so enthralled that I almost missed my bus. Grace had a very distinct voice in my head, and the prose had such a beautiful lilt to it that I was really emotional almost the whole way through. Grace, Tippi, their family and friends were very in focus during the book, but the minor characters felt blurred out – normally I wouldn’t like this, but I read into the symbolism here and felt like it was showing how Grace has learned to block out the people who would judge or mock her.

I don’t really know what to say – this hit me hard and there’s no words that I feel do it justice. I’m so impressed by the conjoined twins that have managed to make it as far as Grace and Tippi without showing that the constant stares are hurting them or making them feel in any way lesser to anyone else. It shows the importance of family, and how a boy can never overthrow a sister. It shows that no matter what decision you make, someone will be there to support you.

10/10
-abnormalbookgeek

 

book review · books · fiction · Uncategorized

Knights of the Borrowed Dark

Warnings: brief mentions of death, losing parents, mild violence.
Author: Dave Rudden
Series: Knights of the Borrowed Dark

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‘Grey placed his finger in the middle of the shadow. ‘What’s this?’ he asked. Denizen frowned. ‘It’s a shadow.’ ‘No, it isn’t,’ Grey said. ‘It’s a door.’
Denizen Hardwick doesn’t believe in magic – until he’s ambushed by a monster created from shadows and sees it destroyed by a word made of sunlight. That kind of thing can really change your perspective. Now Denizen is about to discover that there’s a world beyond the one he knows. A world of living darkness where an unseen enemy awaits. Fortunately for humanity, between us and the shadows stand the Knights of the Borrowed Dark. Unfortunately for Denizen, he’s one of them . . .’

(I got this book through NetGalley a few weeks, but it had already been released.)

I LOVE (love) adventure fantasy books like this one. It gave me a kind of Rick Riordan vibe, and because I love Uncle Rick, I was very open to this book. And now I want to do some super intense fan-art for it as well

This book seemed like a set up for the rest of the series – but it was really well written so it was a set up I could really get into. It felt like the reader and Denizen were going through a journey together, as you don’t ever know more than he does, and unless you’re some sort of super-soldier, you probably have as much weapons knowledge as Denizen does. You learn things about the Order, the shadow-monsters, the powers that the Knights have – it’s all very surreal and makes you wish that you had the same powers they did.

I found Denizen relatable, because I too have a frown for every occasion. His emotions are displayed relatively easily, so there’s no  guess work to do with the character – there’s just a lot of action. There also weren’t too many unnecessary background characters so each of the important ones had a lot of detail that may have been lost with the addition of minor characters. That also helps me make a connection to each of the characters and feel more involved in the story.

I’d say this book is perfect for tweens/childish teens like me. There’s not a lot of super-heavy stuff, so although there are mild mentions of death, it’s not as soul-destroying as in many YA novels (I’m looking at you, John Green). The ending felt like it wrapped everything up quite nicely, so I’m looking forward to seeing how Rudden carries on the series. All in all, I enjoyed this book extremely and I’m super excited to read the next book in the series.

9.5/10
-abnormalbookgeek

 

book review · books · fiction · ya · young adult

The Square Root of Summer

Warnings: sexual references, swearing, death.
Author: Harriet Reuter Hapgood

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This is what it means to love someone.
This is what it means to grieve someone.
It’s a little bit like a black  hole.
It’s a little bit like infinity.
When the fabric of the universe surrounding Gottie’s sleepy seaside town begins to fray, she is hurtled through wormholes to her past:
To last summer, when her grandfather, Grey, died.
To the afternoon she fell in love with Jason, who wouldn’t even hold her hand at Grey’s funeral.
To the day her childhood best friend, Thomas, moved away, leaving her with a scar on her hand and a gap in her memory.
This summer, although Grey is still gone, Jason and Thomas are back, and Gottie’s past, present and future are about to collide – and be changed forever.’

This was a good book with an interesting story, but I wouldn’t exactly say it was life-changing. It’s the third book that I’ve read from my summer TBR list, and the other two overshadowed it completely.

Gottie (or ‘Grottie’, according to her brother. What kind of name is Grottie?) seemed too archetypal for me to really like the character. Sometimes she was tolerable (slightly vanilla if you ask me), at others almost robotic and occasionally just annoyingly melodramatic. Thomas was an okay character – he was the perfect love interest and it was glaringly obvious to me, even when Gottie was ignoring him, what was going to happen. He’s her childhood best friend, he’s attractive, he bakes – wow look at him challenging gender norms. And the addition of Jason, in what I assume was an attempt at a love triangle, was unnecessary. Gottie never appeared really interested in him except for in the flashbacks. I found Grey the most interesting character, and he’s dead.

I found the use of wormholes really interesting, even if I didn’t really understand why they were there or what caused them, even though I felt like there was supposed to be an explanation. They helped me to understand the reasoning behind a lot of the things in the book and also keeps the reader in suspense before they find out what happened when Gottie and Thomas were younger.

6/10
-abnormalbookgeek