The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Balzer & Bray/Harperteen
Publication Date: February 28th 2017

5 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”

Starr lives in the impoverished neighbourhood of Garden Heights but goes to a fancy prep school. She walks the line to avoid seeming “ghetto” or sassy with her white friends while keeping her school and home life separate. When Starr witnesses her friend Khalil’s death at the hands of a police officer she has to make a choice. Will she speak out and risk ruining the image she’s cultivated? Or will she let injustice go unchallenged?

You need to read this book.

Upfront, there are a few moments that seem a tiny bit out of place and preachy but the story and every message taught are incredibly important. Impressively poignant and extremely relevant for current society. Starr’s story is exciting, tragic and impossible to put down.

For many readers, this story will be all too familiar. We have seen the news. We have see the court proceedings, we have seen them over and over again. For white readers, this book is an incredibly valuable insight into the emotions and lives behind the news and perhaps the closest we can hope to get to trying to understand.

There are a few jokes at the expense of white people, which seems to bother several reviewers. I personally thought they were just sort of silly harmless stereotypes (like white people loving their dogs too much) and I can’t really see how anyone was offended. Do I think you should read this book at the risk of being uncomfortable? Yes, but ultimately that is your call and I’m all for full disclosure.

Messages and importance aside, Thomas is a brilliant writer. All of her characters feel like reflections of the real world. She knows how to make people feel like people, even if they do a few bad things. The emotions this book evokes are incredible. I still shudder when I think of the scene Starr witnessed and how well it was written.

There are plenty of books that have important messages, but when you find one that’s exciting and well written it’s like winning the lottery. The Hate U Give is an important book before anything else, but it’s a great read too.

I try to avoid tired old review clichés but The Hate U Give is a must read.

For Fans Of: What We Saw

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The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

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Genres: Fantasy
Publisher: DAW Books
Publication Date: March 1st 2011

5 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.”

Rothfuss has written few books for someone who has essentially mastered a genre. Kvothe continues telling his story picking up just where he left off. We see more of his time in the university as well as a delve into faerie land and an adventure to the far corners of the globe. Slowly Kvothe starts shaping more into the legend we’ve been told he is.

In the second instalment, Rothfuss takes the reader further afield. We get to see the different cultures of the world and it’s extremely well done. Languages are explored and not all of them are entirely verbal and written. Different areas have different speech, morals and legends. Even in his first book, it was incredibly clear what a skilled world builder Rothfuss is. That he understands how to create several real and different cultures and not just the same culture but this time in a desert.

More characters are introduced, each as complex and rich as readers have come to expect. Old characters continue to develop and none more than Kvothe. It’s, at the moment, shocking to think that Kvothe will become Kote but in this book, we finally at least see how his legend truly began.

This book does have a bit of a slower build. There are still thrilling fights, and nothing Rothfuss writes is boring, but Kvothe’s daily life has settled down quite a bit. The final book is going to have a lot of loose ends to tie up, as the second book only gives us more questions than the first.

I cannot, and don’t believe I will ever be able to, articulate why I love this book properly. The fact is simply this: Rothfuss writes in a way that keeps me reading. I cannot put his book down. Kvothe could decide to spend the rest of his days watching grass grow and I would read it with great joy. No matter how much or how little happens in a hundred pages it feels like an adventure when Rothfuss writes it. I need to know what happens next. I need to keep reading these books.

I have read a lot of fantasy, but never anything as beautifully crafted as the Kingkiller Chronicles. It physically pains me that there is no release date for the third instalment, but greatness takes time.

For Fans Of: Six of Crows

The Agony of Bun O’Keefe by Heather Smith

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Genres: Childrens
Publisher: Razorbill Canada
Publication Date: September 5th 2017

5 OUT OF 5 STARS

Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was received through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

It’s 1986, Bun is fourteen and has lived almost her entire life in a house filled with junk. When her hoarder mother tells her to “Go on, get out,” she does. With no money and nowhere to go Bun is taken in by a ragtag group of twenty-somethings. Maybe she can finally learn how to be a real person.

As a Canadian blogger I cherish any book set in Canada, and I have plenty of trouble finding ones I enjoy. The Agony of Bun O’Keefe is brilliant. Smith has a unique style, Bun is quirky, interesting and real. The character cast has depth and, despite several not having real names, are incredibly easy to connect with.Smith has an uncanny ability to write the world through an underdeveloped child’s eyes.

Although it’s a short read, and I would have loved to read it much longer, the plot is fascinating. Bun deals with love, loss, numbness all while finding herself. Her coping methods of spouting off interesting facts and quoting a specific documentary about drunks in Montreal are weird but also charming.

Smith deals with heavy subject matter like abuse, AIDs, and prostitution in a clear and clean way. It never delves into anything that would be too inappropriate for younger children. Smith explains the topics but never glamorizes them. Perhaps most importantly the author briefly touches on the epidemic of missing native women in Canada. The ultimate message is about real family and choosing your family. It’s sad and heartwarming all at once.

This is a book that will fascinate teens, and still hold interest for adult readers. Smith has written her young adults like young adults and her children like children, something that many authors don’t quite manage. I wanted more of Bun, Big Eyes, Chris and Cher, and Busker Boy. The relationships between the characters felt real. I miss them already.

The Agony of Bun O’Keefe is a fresh and fascinating story, and I highly recommend it.

For Fans Of: Eleanor & Park

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

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Genres: Fantasy
Publisher: Penguin Group DAW Hardcover
Publication Date: March 27th 2007

5 OUT OF 5 STARS

“You have to be a bit of a liar to tell a story the right way.”

Told from two different perspectives, Kote a down on his luck innkeeper tells the story of his childhood when he was Kvothe. When he was beginning to become a hero.

Rothfuss has set up a story more masterfully than I have ever seen done, or can hope to see again. The tale begins with an old, rather boring, innkeeper but quickly switches to a story of his youth told in-universe in his own voice. He weaves a thrilling tale of magic, dragons, death and romance covering a span of several years.

The world of The Kingkiller Chronicles is complex, but Rothfuss manages to set it up throughout the story. Never drowning the reader with information but giving them just enough to keep thirst at bay. The series itself is split into three books, each representing a day on which Kvothe shares his story. The set-up for the narrative is beyond brilliant.

The story itself is not fast, but the steady pace is supremely satisfying. Despite being only the first of three days Kvothe experiences many mishaps and adventures. He is not altogether a noble hero, but he’s a good person and it’s easy to connect with him. His pain and joys will become the reader’s as soon as they delve into his story.

The cast is wide, so many characters are left without development but Rothfuss has made sure that every character is exactly developed enough to serve their purpose. Kvothe and several others are deliciously complex while side character’s feel alive without being overly complicated.

This is the work of a master. Unlike much high fantasy it does not waste a single page of some seven hundred. There is no padding here, Kvothe is telling his story in exactly the way that it must be told. It mixes brilliantly adventure, fantasy and memoir. Rothfuss makes even the mundane enjoyable.

Not a dull page. A breathtaking world with a relatable protagonist. And, though I hate to use these words, a must-read for all fantasy fans. A true epic.

For Fans Of: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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Genres: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy
Publisher: by Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: November 8th 2016

5 OUT OF 5 STARS

“One to be a murderer. One to be a Martyr. One to be a Monarch. One to go Mad”

Catherine Pinkerton dreams of becoming a baker, but as a noblewoman in the kingdom of Hearts much more is expected of her. In fact, it seems like the King wants to ask for her hand in marriage! Catherine has no desire to be royalty, even less when she starts falling for the handsome court joker. Cath is determined to follow her dreams and find happiness, no matter what society or her parents want.

Some of the best stories are the ones where we already know the ending. I knew Meyer had set out to write an origin story for the Queen of Hearts and yet I was still so twisted up in the book that I began to believe in impossible endings just as much as every character did.

Unlike some retellings or in this case a pretelling, Heartless perfectly captures the whimsical world Caroll originally wrote. There is such care put into developing all the characters who would chronologically later be involved in Alice’s story from the mock turtle to the duchess. Meyer also manages to incorporate another famous rhyme fitting it in nearly seamlessly.

The world and characters are so masterfully crafted that it is easy to forget the inevitable end. Although there were a few loose strings, none of them were enough to really affect the pleasant reading experience. It’s also true that the romance is a little fast and the plot a little meandering at points. No book is truly perfect but I have fallen in love faster than the main characters.

Meyer’s choice to make a standalone bittersweet tragedy is wonderful. This could have definitely been a successful series should she have chosen to pursue it – but it’s more poignant when it comes to the end we are all waiting for. Meyer is unmatched when it comes to retelling fairytales, and though she chose to stay closer to the original source material with this particular book it was still incredibly successful.

A perfect prequel to a well-loved classic. This is not a book that will win every reader’s heart, but it’s quite possible you’ll be absolutely mad for it.

For Fans Of: The Looking Glass Wars

Blood of the Delphi by M.E. Vaughan

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Genres: New Adult, Fantasy, LGBT+
Publisher: Mag Mell Publishing
Publication Date: December 20th 2016

5 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Praise Harmatia, it is a city of gold and light. Praise it until it crumbles to dust.”

Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was received through the author in exchange for an honest review.

Twelve years have passed since Prince Jionathan traded his life for Sverrin’s. Rufus is on the run, protecting Prince Joshua, the last Delphi prince. They are forced the live their life on the run. In the capital, others question their king. Arlen Zachary has seen things going downhill – Harmatia is not what it once was but there might be time to save it yet.

It was a bit difficult to get back into the series, I had forgotten a bit – but as soon as I was sucked in I was in love all over again. It is so rare that a sequel equals or surpasses the original but for Blood of the Delphi this is certainly the case. Vaughan’s world is more detailed and vivid than ever before and the plot is just as fast-paced and thrilling.

of course, it’s the characters and dialogue where Vaughan really shines. Every character is well thought through, even the villains have a rich character full of motives and for that reason it’s possible to feel their pain. My heart is rarely torn apart but it bleeds for these characters. They are so real and lovable and Vaughan is not afraid to rip them from her readers without mercy.

Touching on characters, no one does representation like Vaughan does. Her characters offer a wide range of diverse sexuality well represented. The characters are explicit about their sexuality and gender – there is not questioning what they are, no headcanons needed but it is not all they are. In a wonderful way, Vaughan has represented an array of sexualities without creating characters that are stereotypes or entirely governed by their sexual preferences. Vaughan includes representation with elegant skill making identities clear without smashing readers in the face with them.

Blood of the Delphi is an epic new adult fantasy that can be enjoyed by readers young and old alike. Vaughan has crafted a complex political world, multiple characters with varied motivations which we see through different POVs and an epic adventure that you’ll be desperate to keep reading. An expertly written high fantasy that I highly recommend. Fantasy is rarely done this well.

For Fans Of: Uprooted

Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 18th 2016

5 OUT OF 5 STARS

“It may comfort you to know that your death, while astonishingly violent, will likely be mercifully swift.”

Hanna is the, somewhat spoiled, daughter of the station captain. Nik is the son of a criminal and is currently providing Hanna with dust. Aside from drug dealing their relationship is minimal – until BeiTech attacks their station – Heimdall. Hanna and Nik are forced together to try and survive and save Heimdall from being destroyed.

Like Illuminae, Gemina is a one of a kind masterpiece. Set up as files presented to a court there are video transcriptions, documents, journal pages and pictures combined into a beautiful multimedia book that’s fun and easy to read. Although there are a few sections that go on too long it’s almost impossible to be bored when Gemina is constantly changing its format.

The typography is just as beautiful as before, and the addition of journal pages gives the book an opportunity to have some really lovely art. A clever reader might be able to find some easter eggs in some of the more abstract pages. There are a few more video transcriptions than Illuminae had and this proves to be a double-edged sword. It makes the plot very easy to follow but it makes much of the book more traditional instead of focusing on text chats and documents.

This is a fast paced high-risk plot that focuses on three new but extremely lovable characters (particularly Ella). Readers can also expect the return of their beloved protagonists from the first novel. Gemina picks up where Illuminae left off. It showcases the present day court case while giving the reader glimpses into Kady and Ezra’s fate after boarding the Hypatia. It is full of plot twists, some more surprising than other. Romance just as fluffy and fun as it’s predecessor and most importantly it is full of badass action and violence.

Aside from the parasite plotline which I think felt a bit tacked on and dropped off this book was perfect.

This series is absolutely unparalleled. There are no other books like Illuminae and Gemina. They are pieces of art with stories to tell. Pictures and text twined together in a way I had not seen before and have yet to see outside the series. In case I haven’t said it enough this book is stunning. If you aren’t reading The Illuminae Files then what are you doing? Read it!

For Fans Of: Cinder

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: January 5th 2016

5 OUT OF 5 STARS

“What is it I plan to do with my one wild and precious life?”

Rachel has always known what God’s plan for her future was. Soon she would be getting married, having children and raising them to honour the Lord. She spends most of her days practising domestic life and being a good helpmeet. When Lauren, a girl who abandoned Rachel’s church, comes back from the city Rachel is curious. Despite being warned she begins to communicate with Lauren and she realizes that maybe she could have her own future.

Devoted is an excellent read about a girl finding herself after leaving a negative situation. Rachel’s life is never made dramatically terrible. There is no obvious abuse within her family, just a quiet tradition of oppression that everyone has grown to accept. The lack of tragedy in Rachel’s past makes the book more powerful because while abuse is very real more often than not these sorts of churches just foster a lifestyle where women are oppressed without realizing it.

Matthieu examines the lifestyle Rachel leads critically, but never dismisses Christianity as a whole. Devoted shows some of the uglier (though not ugliest) sides of almost cult-like Christianity – but it also offers up other interpretations of the religion. Interpretations that allow freedom, love and inclusion while still keeping your beliefs. It carefully balances good people who believe and who don’t as well as bad people who believe and who don’t. Matthieu has written such a respectful and honest representation of religion when it would have been easy to sensationalise and exaggerate and that takes a lot of integrity.

There are hints of flirtation but there is no real romance plot that would threaten to burden or overshadow the focus on Rachel finding herself.Instead, much of the book focuses on platonic love between family and friends. Rachel loves her family despite being unhappy with life at home, she makes friends who she grows to love and shares her true self with.

Devoted is a powerful portrayal of a girl questioning her beliefs and ultimately finding her own way to believe. It is a refreshing young adult read and doesn’t fall into any obvious tropes or clichés. A fantastic feminist read that will leave readers thinking. Perfect for anyone fascinated by the Duggar family or the Quiverfull movement in general.

For Fans Of: Only Ever Yours

the princess saves herself in this one by Amanda Lovelace

Genres: Poetry
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: April 23rd 2016

5 OUT OF 5 STARS

“who knew such a young heart could shatter?”

A collection of poems divided into four parts. The first three read like a diary exploring the life of the author while the fourth is an inspirational note to the reader.

It’s sometimes difficult to review short novels, and this one can be read in under and hour. It’s particularly difficult when you have barely any criticisms to make. I was worried going into this that the hype was exaggerated and that writing an honest review would be painful as I respected the author so much. However, the collection is so deeply beautiful that my worries were pointless. Every hint of praise is deserved.

Lovelace has crafted a beautiful poetry collection that can be appreciated even by those who don’t consider themselves poetry readers. Not only are the poems exquisite but they feel powerful and incredibly personal. It’s a collection that can bring tears to your eyes. There will be poems that will stay with you, lines you will want to quote because you relate to them so deeply.

The first three parts of the novel connect together fantastically. It is personal, but it isn’t difficult to review. The way Lovelace stitches together her poetry is astounding. Anyone who have loved books, loved the wrong boy or desperately wanted to be loved will find pieces of themselves. Even if there is nothing of yourself in Lovelace’s writings it’s impossible not to connect with her. The fourth part is a little more abstract, they are poems to the reader. Poems about self-love and survival. The book would have been just as strong without this section but I think including it lets the reader feel more involved.

There are those who argue that the book is too personal, or that it doesn’t fit into any classic poetry genre. They aren’t wrong, but I personally feel Lovelace’s freeform writing style and deeply personal subject matter make the collection more powerful.

Perhaps this will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I believe that young women struggling to find love and themselves will find Lovelace’s work compelling, passionate and most of all beautiful.

BUY THE BOOK

Read this if you’re a fan of: Salt.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Genres: New Adult, Thriller, Mystery
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication Date: January 13th 2015

5 OUT OF 5 STARS

“There’s nothing so painful, so corrosive, as suspicion.”

Rachel has an unshakeable routine. She rides the same train every morning, stops at the same light, stares at the same house. She’s gotten used to admiring “Jess” and “Jason”’s lives from afar. Until one day changes everything. Rachel knows something, and now she can finally become part of the lives she’s known for so long.

A thrilling mystery, a cast of unlikable characters topped off with a perfect unreliable narrator. What more could a reader want? It’s true that the start of the book is rather slow, but the second half will more than make up for any boredom near the beginning.

Rachel is a fantastic narrator; she’s a drunk and barely remembers plenty of events. This means that the reader gets to stay in the dark as Rachel herself struggles to remember. The writing style was sort of diary-esque and it worked well. Rachel was the main narrator, with several chapters by both the missing girl (pre-missing) and Rachel’s ex-husband’s new missus.

Even in their own chapters none of the women are likeable, and the men even less so. Usually this is a detriment to a novel but Hawkins makes it work. When every character is awful it’s impossible to guess who might be legitimately evil. Fans of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl will absolutely love this read.

As with any popular book, there have been mixed opinions, but I found it far more enjoyable than not. Perhaps I enjoyed it because I am easily ensnared by mysteries and not very good at figuring out whodunnits. Indeed if the twist hadn’t shocked me at least a little it wouldn’t have received five stars.

There’s not a lot to dislike about this novel for me. There are a few very convenient occurrences but it’s such a fast and fun read that I can barely be bothered to note them.

BUY THE BOOK

Read this if you’re a fan of: Gone Girl