Book Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Summary: Safi, a witch with the ability to tell truths from lies is hunted by nations on the brink of war. Her best-friend, Iseult, is on the run with her, but a dark shadow that turns people’s blood to acid haunts Iseult’s dreams that could mean the end of the world.

Thoughts
: Why do I have so many mixed feelings about books that I love lately!? I loved this book!! That’s for sure even though there were things that could have been improved. We will get to that. My favourite thing about Truthwitch was the world building because it was unlike anything I’ve read before. It reminded me a little of the Legend of Korra in the best way possible. This story is told from the perspective of four people. Safi is a Truthwitch. Iseult is a Threadwitch. Merrick is a Windwitch tasked with getting Safi to safety from the Emperor who wants to marry her and use her for her powers. And Aeduan is a Bloodwitch hired by the Emperor but who also has his own agenda and is on the hunt for Safi. Even though I hated Aeduan at the start because he read very scary, I ended up loving him the most by the end and I feel like there is still so much I want to know about him. I think out of all the four characters, his character development was the best because there was a very stark change from the Bloodwitch first introduced to the one that I got to know by the end. First and foremost this is a story about friendship and I haven’t read a lot of (or any) fantasy books that revolve around female friendships. I loved Safi and Iseult’s relationship and how they kept finding each other after getting separated and how they tried to help each other at the cost of their own lives. I really wanted to know more about them in this book but the plot was very fast paced and it didn’t really settle down long enough for me to get to know the characters as much as I would have wanted to. The ending was very dramatic but it also felt a bit rushed. So many things were happening and I just kept feeling like I forgot to read a few chapters leading up to the showdown. Not that it wasn’t clear because it was but I would have liked a chapter or two that would have prepared me for what was to come. For a fantasy this was a very fast read and a very enjoyable one and I will be picking up Windwitch when it comes out!

Stars
: 4/5

Book Review: Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Emily likes her life but she’s curious about her biological father—the one who chose life in a motorcycle club, the Reign of Terror, over being a parent. But when a reluctant visit turns to an extended summer vacation among relatives she never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understand them both. Oz wants one thing: to join the Reign of Terror. And while Emily—the gorgeous and sheltered daughter of the club’s most respected member—is in town, he’s going to prove it to her. So when her father asks him to keep her safe from a rival club with a score to settle, Oz knows it’s his shot at his dream. What he doesn’t count on is that Emily just might turn that dream upside down.

Thoughts: I would never have bought this book if it wasn’t given to me. That’s how big of an idiot I am! I got it for free as I was leaving Dymocks in Sydney two years ago, because they were just giving out free books. Just. Giving. Out. Free. Books! And it’s been sitting on my bookshelf gathering dust all that time until I recently picked it up and ended up finishing it in one day. I would have finished it in one sitting if I could’ve. The book was very fast paced for a romance novel, which is one of the things I loved about it. Emily is a good girl from out of town who falls in love with Oz, who is a bad boy, but also isn’t because he’s a softie at heart. I loved all the family secrets and how they all came to be revealed. I wasn’t expecting the secrets to be what they were, but they didn’t come as a big surprise either. There were some cliches and a few scenes that made me roll my eyes but still, I enjoyed reading this book and I am officially committed to the Thunder Road series. I feel like there’s lots of potential for further character development and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Stars: 4/5

Book Review: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Summary: Disguised as a boy, Amani escapes her oppressive desert town on the back of a mythical horse and accompanied by a foreign stranger called Jin. Her plans of reaching the capital of the Empire to strike out on her own are thwarted when she gets pulled into Jin’s world of espionage and rebellion.

Thoughts: I have so many mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I loved the mythology and the mythical creatures introduced in this book. I loved the slightly steampunk take on a Middle Eastern fantasy, which is very rare to see. But, it read so much like a western forced into a Middle Eastern setting. And that’s not the part that knocks off a few stars. What I didn’t like was the most likely unconscious stereotyping of oppressed females and sexist patriarchal figures. Amani was supposed to counteract that as this strong-willed, stubborn and very kickass main character. And that she was, but Amani had very little flaws to sympathize with. She wasn’t as complex as I was hoping she would be. While I read, there were parts that were so fast paced I wouldn’t be able to put the book down for eighty pages or so, and then the pacing slowed down and I didn’t pick the book up for a day. I think the first eighty pages of the book and the last eighty pages were my favorite. And now moving back to the good stuff… One of the things I did enjoy was Amani’s constant banter with Jin. I loved their chemistry, even if it wasn’t very showy. Alwyn Hamilton’s writing was beautiful, and there were times where I read and re-read her sentences just to let the pretty wording and sentence structure sink in. I think with more research, better characterization and a faster paced plot, this book would have been almost flawless.

Stars: 3/5

My Most Anticipated Books of 2017

One of my new year resolutions is that 2017 is going to be the year where I read harder and hopefully surpass my Goodreads challenge. Things are looking very hopeful right now with all the awesome books that are going to be published this year! And so here are 19 of my most anticipated reads for 2017…

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1- City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

This is at the very TOP of my list because it was pitched as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Gone Girl but set in Kenya. Need I say more?

Publication Date: 24/1/2017

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2- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I am so excited for this one! Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

Publication Date: 28/2/2017

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3- Wintersong by S. Jae Jones
I’m really looking forward to this because it reads like its based on the Persephone and Hades myth, except let’s assume Persephone traveled underground to save her sister and Hades is The Goblin King who strikes a deal with her – her sister’s life for her hand in marriage. I cannot wait for this one!
Publication Date: 7/2/2017

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4- Wicked Like Wildfire by Lana Popovic
Yet another story that revolves around sisters, and with such a beautiful cover to boost! And there’s magic too.

Publication Date: 15/8/2017

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5- Roseblood by A.G. Howard
A modern day retelling of Phantom of the Opera – full of unrequited love, madness and lots of weirdness (or so I’m told!)

Publication Date: 10/1/2017

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6- The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee
That title alone makes me want to grab this book ASAP!

An unforgettable tale of two friends on their Grand Tour of 18th-century Europe who stumble upon a magical artifact that leads them from Paris to Venice in a dangerous manhunt, fighting pirates, highwaymen, and their feelings for each other along the way.

Publication Date: 20/6/2017

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7- Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
I liked Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn, but didn’t LOVE it because *coughs* the ending was so abrupt and unfinished and didn’t wrap up the minor plot lines as well as I’d hoped. I still haven’t picked up The Rose and the Dagger because of that, but there’s no denying how beautiful Aideh’s writing and prose is. Which is why I’m very excited for this upcoming book about the daughter of a samurai who disguises herself as a boy to hunt down the people trying to kill her.
Publication Date: 16/5/2017

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8- Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts
I have read so many good reviews about this book and I cannot wait to read it! I’m imagining something along the lines of a kickass Jon Snow theme/arc but with a girl!

Publication Date: 6/6/2017

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9- Once And For All by Sarah Dessen
There’s nothing I love more than a character who is pessimistic and wary of all things romantic.

Publication Date: 6/6/2017

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10- The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich
I need this book in my life right now! In school that cultivates teenage spies, two boys who are the opposite of each other (one good and the other bad) are competing for a girl, but instead they start to FALL FOR EACH OTHER!!!! Where has this book been???
Publication Date: 16/5/2017

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11- We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

This is a story about loneliness and grief and LaCour’s prose is so beautiful, I have a strong feeling I’m going to love this.
Publication Date: 14/2/2017

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12- Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza
This book is going to be great! I just know it. A fugitive empress who wants to avenge her family and take back what is rightfully hers? Sounds familiar, no? Reads like something that happened to the Stark children but in space! I. Can’t. Wait!
Publication Date: 7/2/2017

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13- Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee
I’m so excited about this book because *drumroll please* it’s a book about an asexual character!! I have been waiting for this for so long.

Publication Date: 6/6/2017

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14- Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde
Two reasons to look forward to this book: 1- #ownvoices 2- diversity!

Publication Date: 14/3/2016

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15- The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

A romantic coming-of-age fantasy tale steeped in Indian folklore.

Publication Date: 18/7/2017

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16- American Street by Ibi Zoboi

A YA contemporary about a girl who arrives to America from Haiti and the price she pays for her dreams.

Publication Date: 14/2/2016

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17- Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
Mary B. Addison allegedly killed a baby while he was in her care. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a church-going black woman and her nine-year-old daughter…. In this gritty and haunting debut, Tiffany D. Jackson explores the grey areas in our understanding of justice, family, and truth, and acknowledges the light and darkness alive in all of us.

Publication Date: 14/1/2016

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18 – A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard
A YA contemporary about a selective mute and how she falls for a boy who can’t hear.

Publication Date: 12/1/2017

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19- When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Publication Date: 30/5/2017

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And that’s all for now. Feel free to share what you’re looking forward to reading this year, because I’m sure there are so many books out there that I’ve missed!

Book Review: Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

Summary: Naila’s conservative immigrant parents allow her to make her own choices, except one. In following with their cultural traditions, they will choose her husband for her. But Naila breaks their rule and falls in love with Saif. And when her parents find out, they take her to Pakistan to remind her of her roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when her parents marry her off. Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.

Thoughts: This book wasn’t what I expected, it was so much better! This is the kind of book you read in one sitting. I thought it’d be a light read about a girl who falls in love with a boy and disapproving parents wanting her to strongly marry someone else, but I didn’t expect her to be actually forced into the marriage. Like forced, forced. Really forced. This wasn’t about an arranged marriage, this was about a forced marriage. I was so shocked and horrified, and it was so heartbreaking having to watch Naila go through this, knowing that this is something that happens in the world. I live in a  culture where arranged marriages are the norm, more or less, but there is always a choice. Otherwise, it’d be illegal. This was different, and you can check out Aisha Saeed’s guest post on YA Highway explaining the differences between Arranged Marriages and Forced Marriages, where she goes into more detail on the differences between the two for those of you interested. The writing was very straight-forward, without any fancy prose, and I liked that it was that way because the focus was on other more important things. I felt like I wanted more from the ending. It all wrapped up very nicely, and maybe that’s part of what made it a 4 star instead of a 5 for me. Nevertheless, the ending was more realistic than the explosive one I had mind. I loved Naila’s hope throughout and her stubbornness to keep trying to escape and not give in to this life that was forced on her. Her struggle to reclaim her own life and make her own choices was hard, and her perseverance really made this book as beautiful and hopeful to read as it was sad and tragic.

Stars: 4/5

Book Review: A Drop of Night by Stefan Bachmann

Summary: A modern day group of teenagers are chosen to participate in an all-expense-paid trip to France where they will explore the underground Palais des Papillons, which has been hidden since the French Revolution. In 1792, Auriele flees the revolution and hides in the Palais des Papillons. The story alternates between past and present as the teenagers try to uncover the secrets of the palace.

Thoughts: This is one of the strangest books I’ve read in a while. It’s a mix of genres: Horror, paranormal, science-fiction, thriller, historical – and they meshed together really well. However, this book gave me the creeps. I had to turn on all the lights in my room and push the doors wide open to read this comfortably because I just didn’t know what to think. I loved that the book kept surprising me and it never took the turn that I expected it to take, but that very thing also kept throwing me off because I had to constantly stop and readjust my focus. I think my favorite thing about this book was Anouk, the main character. Her narration made the book enjoyable to read. Her sarcasm and cynicism and dark humor somehow made the book lighter. I loved how self-aware she was and how her mind kept trying to figure out what was happening. Every time I’d wonder: but why is that? or how come? and this doesn’t make sense she’d point it out and ask the right questions at the right time to dispel my confusion. So even when things seemed to come out of nowhere, her narration made sense of it. I loved how the setting shifted from Anouk to Auriele, and how one person’s discovery complimented the other person’s problem and made sense of it. The one thing I couldn’t wrap my mind around was how easy some of the explanations for the weird things that were happening were – and I just couldn’t believe that it was just that easy. This had to knock a star off my review. I’m not sure if this vague review will convince you to pick this up because half the charm of this book is that you go in expecting one thing only to be hit in the face with something else. If you’re into that, then I recommend you read this. It’s a fast-paced page-turner and it took me a day to finish it, so if you’re looking for a quick read that will keep you on your toes, then look no further.

Stars: 3.5/5

Book Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Summary: Lee Westfall has a gift – she can sense gold in the world around her. After her parents are murdered for her abilities, Lee disguises herself as a boy and flees west to California – where gold has just been discovered. But the journey is a dangerous one to make, and Lee is still chased by her parents’ murderer who will stop at nothing until Lee belongs to him.

Thoughts: I did not expect to love this book as much as I did. I’ll let you know upfront that the two main reasons I bought this book are 1- the cover was just too beautiful to see on the bookstore’s shelf and walk away from 2- the title was very promising and made me want to read the book without even turning it around to know what the book was about. Obviously when I realized what a rare setting this is in YA (Gold-rush era), my excitement was further piqued. I loved Lee from the very first page – she was so honest, kind, good and loving – all things I shy away from in a main character because I like them more complex than that. But with Lee, I didn’t seem to mind. If anything, it made her more endearing. She was always smart and hard-working and perceptive of herself and those around her. The story followed Lee as she joins a company of people trekking to California, a perilous journey that takes the better half of a year. Throughout that time, friendships were formed and enemies too. I loved seeing Lee grow and learn from those around her and seeing how all their relationships changed the deeper into the journey they went. By the end of the book, I ended up loving characters I really disliked at the start. This is one of those books where you travel vicariously through a character and get to enjoy all sorts of beautiful scenery. That was very beautiful done. The one thing that didn’t meet my expectations was the ending – it was fast and short and I was preparing myself for a showdown that didn’t come. However, I think the ending suited the story well because Lee wasn’t driven by the need to avenge her parents, but by the desire to shed away her disguise and secrets and let the people who have become like a family to her see her and accept her for who she really is. I tore through the book and stayed up all night to finish, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.

Stars: 4/5