Category: read

Author: Sara Barnard

Rating: 5/5

I’m not generally a fan of contemporary YA novels as series. I think stand-alone’s are far more satisfying, and far less drawn out. So you can see why I was reluctant to pick up a sequel to a book I loved (Beautiful Broken Things review here) which I thought would be unnecessary at best, a waste of time at worst. 

I was so wrong. This book was beautiful. It focusses in a girl named Suzanne, who was a victim of child abuse and, at the beginning of the novel, is in the foster care system. We follow Suzanne as she gains her independence in a very big and very complex world which is moving on faster than her. Whilst I’m not an abuse survivor, I find Barnard’s narration endlessly relatable; the way Suzanne reflects on the concept of death, her description of feeling you’re on the edge and being too tired to do anything about it, and so many other moments. 

The relationships between Suzanne and her friends are so raw and real. Caddy and Rosie are far more developed than in the first instalment, and I love the different directions that Barnard took these three in. That said, my favourite relationship is between Suzanne and her retired musician neighbour, Dilys. Dilys is the perfect example of the good in this world that Suzanne had been so deprived of, and their friendship was pure and benevolent.

Finally, I want to talk about Suzanne’s family. Her brother plays a complicated role in her life, having never been a victim of their father’s wrath. It’s both heart-wrenching and disgusting how his childhood was so opposite to Suzanne’s, and how that affects their sibling relationship. Her mother is also beyond complicated, and this book gave me an insight into why child abuse is so rarely reported by family members. It’s so much more difficult than I could ever imagine, having such a loving and supportive family myself.

So, as if you couldn’t tell, I loved this book. I loved it more than Beautiful Broken Things. One of my new favourites for sure.

Author: Sara Barnard

Rating: 4/5

Until the ending, this book was very so-so. Developed enough characters, advancing plot, very readable writing style. I solid 3-4 star read.

BUT WAIT. I cannot tell you how perfect the ending was. I was crying in my library! That lifted it to 4.5 for me.

Overall, I had problems with ALL of the characters, but that doesn’t mean thy were badly written. Caddy (the narrator) was ungrateful and spoilt – and pitied herself for it. And whilst this was annoying, I think it was meant to be. I see Caddy in so many people I know – people who are jealous of others’ trauma because it’s more exciting than their boring life. And, if you are inexperienced in how ruining and scarring trauma can be, you might see where she’s coming from. Rosie was more difficult to dissect; she doesn’t take anyone’s bull, but she’s also judgmental and controlling. Finally, Suzanne. I think she could represent how some people deal with their abusive past, but I don’t think in the slightest that she represents the majority – and that’s why her characterisation could be considered “damaging” to some reviewers.

I think you were meant to have your own opinion on the character’s actions, and that’s why they were so frustrating. Bernard creates a chasmic ironic gap in which the reader can fully understand situations the narrator can’t, which is difficult to do well.

As I’ve said, the ending truly made this book for me. For that alone, I would recommend Beautiful Broken Things.

Author: Adam Kay

Rating: 4.5/5

I’VE NEVER LAUGHED SO HARD WHILST READING. This book was frickin hilarious. I love when an author can blend their story with their personality, unafraid to make their writing colloquial. 

*FOR MY NON-UK FOLLOWERS* This book is a junior doctor’s diary of his life, troubles and triumphs working for the NHS. Whilst the NHS and the free healthcare it provides us is an absolute blessing, it’s not without its many issues. The reason this book become such a hit is because it shines a light on the stress and exhaustion that doctor’s are put under. 

Adam is a fantastic narrator; his voice is unpolished and genuine, yet he still succeeds at having readers hang off his every word. He doesn’t sugar-coat anything, which can be hilarious and/or very uncomfortable. His narration feels like you’re talking to a friend, it’s intimate and compassionate (perfect for such a heart-warming and heart-breaking story).

Some of the anecdotes are utterly unforgettable. I will never not laugh at the thought of “Prince Albert’s Revenge”, or not cry at the thought of his friendship with Simon. This Is Going To Hurt has a clever way of sticking to your thoughts.

Overall, a must-read! Especially for wanna-be doctors.

Author: Sara Raasch

Rating: 4.5/5

For someone who isn’t big on high fantasy, I really enjoyed Snow Like Ashes! Fabulous main character, interesting world and brilliant development.

I knew absolutely nothing about this series going into this, and I’m kinda glad I didn’t. It made this read so much more surprising! The world centres around 4 Rhythm kingdoms and 4 Season kingdoms. It gave me a lot of ACOTAR vibes (or vice versa since this was actually published first), which is a good thing. Now, what I’m not good at when it comes to high fantasy is the array of magical creatures and their homelands which I have to keep up with. What I LOVED about this universe is everyone is utterly human. Yes, there is magic (with a fascinating magic system), but the magic is held by these humans who are, without magic, utterly powerless. It gives the story a power complex which is reminiscent of one in our world – some people crave power and others think it’s poison.

The characters were fabulous. For me, characters are the pinacol of a YA novel and when they aren’t engaging, neither is the book. But I adored Meira and her narration, as well as the main side characters with many diverse personalities. But what I loved most about Meira was her history. Generically, you get a random girl in her place, but Meira’s past links her into the story quietly throughout the book – and then hits you like a wrecking ball.

Feminism is a prominent theme is Snow Like Ashes. Meira is constantly trying to prove herself as a soldier but she is frequently told to get off the battlefield and into the cleaning tents. The equality theme links with fate and destiny too, and whether Meira’s life is really hers if she is devoted to make a difference to her kingdom.

A surprisingly good read, definitely one to check out even if you aren’t into high fantasy. Can’t wait to read the rest of the trilogy!

Author: Our lady and saviour Cassandra Clare

Rating: 5/5 (what did you expect??)

DON’T MIND ME CRYING IN THE BACK! Honestly, the emotional capacity of this novel superseded all expectations. Cassie’s ability to make me care more about her characters than anyone irl is inspiring and terrifying. 

I honestly believe that Queen Of Air And Darkness is CC’s most sophisticated and advanced work yet; she seems to improve with every instalment of The Shadowhunter Chronicles. Her writing bridges the seemingly immense gap between maturity and humour – keeping her style relatable and funny whilst also being artistic and well-developed. Her 3rd person narration adopts the nature of the character she describes – Julian’s sections are compassionate and tortured, Mark’s whimsical and longing, Diana’s brave and believing. I can’t deny her talent.

I have to dedicate an entire paragraph to Ty Blackthorn because… I mean he is just everything I needed from 21st century media representation. Cassie doesn’t sugar-coat the less ‘quirky’ side of autism: the struggles, the confusion, the isolation. But, more importantly, she showcased all the wonderful things about it, my favourite scene being Ty and the starfish. As an autistic person, this means the world to me, especially since fans of the series love Ty despite/because of his nature.

That’s the end of my spoiler-free section! I’m not going to say this book is perfect (see spoilery section for details) but generally, adored this finale (if you can call it that) and I recommend it to anyone. To non-TMI fans, TDA is 10 times better than TMI, if you didn’t like TMI you might love this series anyway.

*SPOILERS AHEAD DUDES*

Right, I did have a couple of problems with this book. First of all, Cassie’s unstoppable need to pair up every single character into a relationship. I could have done without the Diego/Divya scene at the end, Cameron/Livia in Thule seemed forced, and Kieran/Mark/Cristina felt empty by the end. I did LOVE Kierarktina for the most part, just the ending felt a bit limp. Secondly, Thule didn’t really do it for me. It was the only trope that CC hadn’t fallen victim to, and I just thought it was unnecessary? I understood why it happened and if you liked it, I’m glad! It just wasn’t for me. Also, the parabatai bond just… went? They turned into massive giants and…just…what???

Rant over. Now, the good bits! Drusilla Blackthorn guys! She deserves the world, I love her character development and the complex relationship between her, Ty and Kit. I love that we got to see more of Helen and Aline, too. They’re each other’s foils in a way – Helen being soft and steady, Aline sparky and exciting. Their dynamic was brilliant. And the wedding?!?! I wasn’t expecting that man I was crying. Alec’s little speech was beautiful and I’m over the moon that he was elected as Consul.Cassie knows how to indulge her fans almost as well as she knows how to break them.

This is probably my favourite instalment of the Shadowhunter Chronicles so far!

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Author: Neil Gaiman

Rating: 5/5

Buy: Amazon US

         Amazon UK

Okay wow. I was not expected such an emotional rollercoaster from this spoopy middle grade! I loved every moment, and why oh why hasn’t Tim Burton made this into a movie yet?!

Let’s first talk about Bod. Lil’ Nobody Owens. What a fabulous name??? I’m living for his character arc and his relationships and his morals and his outlook on life. You’d think growing up in a graveyard would break a person – well not Bod! He has this beautiful desire to learn and to adapt, and he values friendship and knowledge more than any possession.

The layout of The Graveyard Book is pretty masterful to be honest. It’s amazing that Gaiman can carry an overall plot through 16 years as well as have multiple sub-plots and including entire story arcs in single chapters. I can’t get over how well-crafted this book is! 

Overall, a fabulous and sweet Halloween read – definitely one to go for between a lot of hardcore horror.

PS that’s my dog in the pic xD

Author: Karen M. Mcmanus

Rating: 2.5/5

Buy: Amazon US

         Amazon UK

I’m in two minds with this book. It both enforced and defies traditional teen stereotypes in a way which I’m not sure I’m comfortable with. It was as if each character was a 2-Dimensional trope – one side completely stereotypical, the other the total opposite. Usually, I wouldn’t have a problem with defying the norm (in fact, I’d celebrate it), but I felt like the characters had no depth to them besides these points. Exhibit A: Addy. I’m the perfect princess meets I cheated on my boyfriend. Exhibit B: Nate. I’m a criminal meets I’m a good guy. Exhibit C: Cooper. I’m a jock meets I’m gay. Exhibit D: Bronwyn. I’m a straight-A student meets I cheated on a test. I wish that there was more to these characters!!

However, I didn’t hate the book. There were moments that I adored, such as Bronwyn and Nate’s epilogue, the discovery of Kris being a boy, and the initial death scene. I enjoyed how the author fed us subtle clues and information. I liked the POV setup – in 1st person from 4 different perspectives but with clear definition of who was narrating (looking at you 5th Wave). There were a lot of things that this novel did right.

I’m split about the ending, too. The novel is called One Of Us Is Lying and WOW none of them were lying. But I did enjoy the shock of the plot twist, and it was well-executed (even if a little anticlimactic).

The final thing I want to talk about is Simon’s suicide. I felt like it was a bit of an afterthought, as if it were a side-effect if his death and not the cause of it. The whole way it was addressed concerns me. For people with suicidal ideations due to bullying or other reasons concerning there peers, Simon’s plan may be considered an option. Once again, suicide is being advertised as a revenge plot (looking at you 13 Reasons Why). It upsets and angers me, suicide is a tragedy which needs to be dealt with, not disfigured until it’s a way to get you attention. Not only does this encourage the act of causing yourself death, but it damages the view of suicide and suicide victims. The majority of suicide victims didn’t do it ‘for the attention’ for god’s sake – but that’s what the media is spreading.

So, there you have it. There were a lot of things I enjoyed about this novel, but it was the content that I disagreed with.

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Rating: 4.5/5

*check out my reviews for The Assassin’s Blade, Heir Of Fire, Queen Of Shadows and Empire Of Storms with these links*

If you had told me when I first started this series, “Hey, Beth! SJM is writing a 650 page book just about Chaol!”, I would have groaned and written it off. I hated Chaol with a passion, and so you can understand my hesitance around Tower Of Dawn even without knowing that I’m really not a die-hard ToG fan. HOWEVER, I adored this book so so so SO much! As in, it’s only my second to The Assassin’s Blade in this series. It was awesome.

Let get to the soppy bit first, shall we? So, I couldn’t walk for a couple of years due to a chronic ill health condition I have. It took me 9 months in bed and then 15 months of walking with a crutch to get me out of it – and here we have such a similar situation with Chaol. What makes it so emotional for me was that he used to feel so in control and courageous in the first couple of books, but in Tower Of Dawn he’s so vulnerable in himself. It’s so bloody relatable and, for anyone who doesn’t know whether to trust the disabled rep – it’s incredibly accurate. 

Right, now that that’s over with I wanna talk about the characters. As usual with SJM, I fell in love with each and every one! I love how they compliment and contrast each other, and seeing their relationships evolve was utterly stunning. 

Furthermore, I adored the southern continent! So much exploration of culture, which is fascinating especially in a fantasy novel. This world is so much bigger than I ever could have imagined, and I don’t want it to end.

The one teeny tiny issue I had was the weird description of Chaol’s healing process. That might just be me and ASD and not being able to visualise stuff that well, but it was a little too metaphorical for me.

Still, highly highly recommend to anyone – even those who, like me, hated Chaol beyond measure. You will learn to love him, I promise!

Author: Sara Barnard

Rating: 4.5/5

I actually loved this book. With contemporary novels, especially YA, I often find them too cliché or too wooden – and I think this one is neither. Yes, it’s a little cheesy. But, in my opinion, it has enough actual content to make the cheesiness worthwhile.

What drew me to A Quiet Kind Of Thunder most was the representation: the narrator has severe social anxiety and is in the recovery process of selective mutism, and another main character is deaf. Now, I’m not deaf but I can speak for the severe social anxiety rep and I think it was portrayed pretty accurately. It was small things, like there was a whole page literally naming all the anxious thoughts that the main character had whilst just on a bus, that made me resonate with this book so much. Her thought process was so completely relatable and raw that I have to commend the author. Still on the mental health topic, this novel focusses on recovery, something that YA doesn’t seem to cover much, and I respect that a lot. This includes the family dynamic that’s explored throughout this book too, and how it’s not only mental health issues affect a family, but recovering from it too.

Following on from that, this novel defies the ‘girl meets boy and all is better now’ trope which I’m SO GLAD ABOUT. They have a good, healthy (in)dependence and, by the end of the novel, have complete understanding of each other and their strengths and weaknesses. That said, I love their relationship too – just pure awkward, teenage emotion that is clumsy and real.

The only thing I can’t comment on without more info is the deaf representation – so if anyone in the community have read this and have thoughts please let me know!

After reading this I now have an overwhelming urge to learn BSL, which I think is a good thing. 

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Currently Reading // September 9th 2017