Weekly Update (21/04/2018)

This week I started trying to catch up on my NetGalley shelf... and then requested some more. Whoops. I have 12 books on my shelf so it's not too bad at least!

Received This Week On NetGalley

Each year, the North American Confederation of Mages assesses every sixteen-year-old novice. Some will be chosen. The rest must undergo a procedure to destroy their magical ability unless they prove themselves in the mysterious and brutal Mages' Exam. 

Disadvantaged by her parents' low standing, Rocío Lopez has dedicated herself to expanding her considerable talent to earn a place in the Confederation. Their rejection leaves her reeling—and determined to fight to keep her magic. 

Long ashamed of his mediocre abilities, Finn Lockwood knows the Confederation accepted him only because of his prominent family. Declaring for the Exam instead means a chance to confirm his true worth. 

Thrown into the testing with little preparation, Rocío and Finn find themselves becoming unlikely allies—and possibly more. But the Exam holds secrets more horrifying than either could have imagined. What are the examiners really testing them for? And as the trials become increasingly vicious, how much are they willing to sacrifice to win? 

This sounds like magical Battle Royale and I AM HERE FOR IT. I plan to read this one when I've caught up on Maureen Johnson's Shades of London series.

Read This Week

 Whew, after a recent reading slump I'm clearly back to my book devouring self. Somehow I'm fitting these in wth looking after a small human and trips back and forth from nursery.


*screeches* SUMMMMMMMER

Well not quite but it's pretty hot and I do have sunburn. It's raining again today so we're hoping that the sun makes an appearance so we can go to the seaside tomorrow.

Last week we went to a comic convention and it was amazing, it was just a small one in comparison to the popular ones but we had in a few actors who'd been in Star Wars and Doctor Who. Loads of stalls to buy things from, plenty of cosplayers and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. I picked up most of these LEGO figures too, except Birthday Cake Guy (back left).

Review of Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson

Genres: Sci-Fi, Romance
Pages: 415
Publisher: Orchard Books
Release Date: 02/06/2011
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Once upon a time there was a girl who was special. 
This is not her story. 
Unless you count the part where I killed her. 

Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison's condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can't explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori -- the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that's impossible. Right? 

When Alison meets Dr Faraday, a visiting psychologist, she feels an instant connection. More, he believes her story. But there's more to Faraday than Alison can possibly imagine... and the answers he will give her are... extraordinary ... 

I first read this book in 2011 and the fact that I actually remembered most of the plot 7 years later says just how much I enjoyed it. It's a simple enough story about Alison, a girl who is sent a psychiatric ward after a girl from school disappears - a girl that Alison swears she's killed. Alison is unusual though - her synesthesia means that she taste lies, numbers have colours and fire alarms are excruciatingly painful.

A big reason why I enjoyed this book is a 6 foot 3 man sized package called Sebastian Faraday, who is very close to the number 1 spot for all tme favourite book boyfriends (Arin from The Winner's Trilogy takes the top spot every time). He enters the book abit later than everyone else and helps Alison research her synesthesia and what might have happened to Tori, the girl she says she killed.

I like that the book keeps you guessing, it's difficult to work out if Alison is crazy or if there's more to it than that. We get our answers at the end of the story and I thought that it was pretty well done too. There's enough at the end of the book to make you want to pick up the next book, without forcing a frustrating cliffhanger.

Review of Stranger by Keren David

Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 368
Publisher: Atom
Release Date: 05/04/2018
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Astor, Ontario. 1904. 
A boy staggers out of the forest covered in blood and collapses at the feet of 16-year-old Emmy. While others are suspicious and afraid, Emmy is drawn to him. Is he really the monster the townsfolk say he is? 

Astor, Ontario. 1994. 
Megan arrives from London for her great grandmother Emmy’s 105th birthday. It should be a happy family occasion, but Megan is nursing a broken heart and carrying a secret she fears might consume her. 

When I started this book I realised that one of my favourite tropes is a dual point of view across history. In this book we meet Emmy in 1904, when a strange boy covered in filth runs out of the woods holding a gun. Switching to Emmy's descendent Megan in 1994 we start to solve the mystery of who this boy is and what happened to his family.

 I felt that 1904 was better written than 1994, in the sense that I could feel that it was 1904. I had to keep reminding myself that it was supposed to be 1994 as I really wasn't getting any strong 90s vibes, which was a shame. I did enjoy seeing how the town changed over time though. The story is set in Canada, a place I don't get to read about often, so that was a nice change for me.

The book is absolutely about women, the relationships between relatives and loss. Megan doesn't connect well with her mother, they seem like different people whereas Emmy's mother is a practical, intelligent doctor and they seem to have a close relationship. When we meet Megan she's just left her life in London after choosing to have an abortion and is dealing with the sense of loss from that.

The book is kind of a mystery story but doesn't have the feel of one, there's no twists and turns that I can think of, no surprising moments. We just slowly learn what happened through the use of the dual POV but it was a great story all the same. The choices Emmy made for her life at the end of the story I completely understood and it was exactly what a girl would have done at that time.

Goodreads Hidden Feature - A List Of Current Popular Young Adult Books

Did you know that you can get a list of the 15 most popular Young Adult books this month? I know I didn't but I'm sorry if this is an obvious feature to everyone else! I've been using this for a little while to keep up with the latest releases that everyone will be talking about when I realised that it is kind of hidden.

Here's how I acces this, there's likely other ways that you can tell me about in the comments if you know:

I always read YA, so I click on the book I'm currently reading. If you're not reading YA do a search for an obvious book, like Hunger Games.

And that's it! It should take your right to the page. Of course this should work for every genre but my main genre is Young Adult. The page changes once a month but I don't know when, there doesn't seem to be a specific date.

There's lots of other stuff on that page too, popular genres, authors, giveaways, quotes... it's a pretty useful page!

Review of Nothing But Sky by Amy Trueblood

Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 284
Publisher: Flux Books
Release Date: 27/03/2018
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Grace Lafferty only feels alive when she's dangling 500 feet above ground. As a post-World War I wing walker, Grace is determined to get to the World Aviation Expo, proving her team’s worth against flashier competitors and earning a coveted Hollywood contract. 

No one’s ever questioned Grace’s ambition until Henry Patton, a mechanic with plenty of scars from the battlefield, joins her barnstorming team. With each new death-defying trick, Henry pushes Grace to consider her reasons for being a daredevil. Annoyed with Henry’s constant interference, and her growing attraction to him, Grace continues to test the powers of the sky. 

After one of her risky maneuvers saves a pilot’s life, a Hollywood studio offers Grace a chance to perform at the Expo. She jumps at the opportunity to secure her future. But when a stunt goes wrong, Grace must decide whether Henry, and her life, are worth risking for one final trick.

The one thing I really, really hated about this book was that I really want to love it instead. It's a story about an 18 year old stunt performer in the 1920's who walks on planes for a living, this should be one of my favourites of 2018. Unfortunately it was bogged down by bad writing and a subpar romance plot that I just didn't care about.

I feel like romance in YA has changed and readers want the romance to be less forced and obvious. I also hate overflowery words and crap like "his lips drew me in with the force of a thousand suns" (it didn't actually say those exact words but you get the gist). It was obvious the moment that Henry stepped in that Grace would fall in love with him and I was pretty bored by the whole fake angst thing going on.

The relationships between Grace and her makeshift family really worked though. We learn that she was sent to her Uncle at 13 after her own parents died and now at 18, she has her Uncle and war veterans Daniel and Nathan as her family. They make a great team and I wish we could have had a little more of that relationship.

The story does suffer from bad writing unfortunately, sentences seem to be repeated within the same chapter and Grace often thinks the same things over and over, making the story feel repetative. It felt like each chapter played out like an episode of a soap opera to be honest. I also did not like the portrayal of PTSD and I think readers would be insulted to find that Henry basically overcame his PTSD episode at one point because he wanted to protect Grace or some rubbish.

The historical side is clearly intensely researched and I really appreciated that. You get plenty of 1920's slang and terms I've never heard of which really did make me feel like I was in that time period. The descriptions of Grace's stunts were vivid too and easily the best parts of the whole book, and often gut wrenching at times.

Many Covers Monday - Every Exquisite Thing

Didn’t you ever just simply want to…stop? 

Star athlete and straight-A student Nanette O’Hare has played the role of dutiful daughter for as long as she can remember. But one day, a beloved teacher gives her his worn copy of The Bubblegum Reaper—a mysterious, out-of-print cult classic—and the rebel within Nanette awakens. 

As the new and outspoken Nanette attempts to insert her true self into the world with wild abandon, she befriends the reclusive author and falls in love with a young, troubled poet. Forced to make some hard choices that bring devastating consequences, Nanette learns the hard way that rebellion can sometimes come at a high price.

I get what they were going with for the US cover but instead of arty it just feels a little sloppy, I'm pretty sure with two biros and an envelope most of us could recreate this cover in five minutes. I really love the UK cover but the quote at the bottom feels like something you'd see in gym. However I've never been to a gym because I hear that they make you exercise?!

Confession: I saw this UK cover first and I genuinely thought that the book would be a fantasy story like Arabian Nights because quite frankly that turtle from a distance looks like a magic lamp to me. Look I'll show you:

 See, that's obviously a magic lamp.
The Italian cover I do really like as I'm a sucker for fonts but there are A LOT of fonts going on and my eyes aren't quite sure where to look.

I do actually love both of these covers, you can probably tell by my blog that I love watercolor this year. The second cover is probably my favourite of all of these, I love the Pop Art style - my blog look will be changing next year and I'm very tempted on overhauling it to a Pop Art look just like this.

Which cover is your favourite? Let me know in the comments!

Weekly Update (14/04/2018)

I finally finished Obsidio this week... only to unknowingly start a book that was nearly 500 pages long. I'm not a huge fan of books that are 400+ pages long as they tend to drag some but I still enjoyed the read at least. 

Books Read:
Obsidio by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman (4/5)
The Astonishing Colour Of After by Emily X. R. Pan (4/5)
Nothing But Sky by Amy Trueblood (2/5)

Review of The Astonishing Colour Of After by Emily X. R. Pan

Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy
Pages: 480
Publisher: Orion Children's Books
Release Date: 22/03/2018
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Leigh Chen Sanders is sixteen when her mother dies by suicide, leaving only a scribbled note: 'I want you to remember'. Leigh doesn't know what it means, but when a red bird appears with a message, she finds herself travelling to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. 

Leigh is far away from home and far away from Axel, her best friend, who she stupidly kissed on the night her mother died - leaving her with a swell of guilt that she wasn't home, and a heavy heart, thinking she may have destroyed the one good thing left in her life. 

Overwhelmed by grief and the burden of fulfilling her mother's last wish, Leigh retreats into her art and into her memories, where colours collide and the rules of reality are broken. The only thing Leigh is certain about is that she must find out the truth. She must remember.

This is a pretty amazing book that deals with mental illness and loss. It's also a story of navigating your way around a culture that isn't your own and handles that so spectactularly that even though I'm not familiar with Taiwan as an English reader, I could picture it all perfectly and learnt about life there without feeling like I was being beaten with a history book. It's a pretty incredible debut novel.

After Leigh's mother commits suicide, Leigh finds it impossible to connect with her father and make him understand that her mother isn't gone - she's a bird, and wants Leigh to go to her home country and remember. Remember what, Leigh doesn't know but she heads there anyway, leaving behind her friend Axel and the confusing feelings she was developing for him.

“Here is my mother, with wings instead of hands, and feathers instead of hair. Here is my mother, the reddest of brilliant reds, the color of my love and my fear, all of my fiercest feelings trailing after her in the sky like the tail of a comet.” 

 I didn't want to but I did relate to Leigh's mother. I suffer from severe depression myself and this book convinced me to start talking about it more (I'm on Twitter if you want to stop by, @vee_ramage). The author clearly understood suicide and depression and I really thank her for it. This shows you that depression isn't always a constant dark fog, you can have great days and you can have days where you can't even get out of bed on a morning.

This is somewhere between a contemporary novel and a fantasy but definitely feels like a contemporary. Following what she believes her mother's wishes are, Leigh travels to Taiwan and is shown old memories, via the incense she finds in her room. Flashbacks are used often and very well here, we see old memories from various characters that even Leigh has not seen.

“Once upon a time we were the standard colors of a rainbow, cheery and certain of ourselves. At some point, we all began to stumble into the in-betweens, the murky colors made dark and complicated by resentment and quiet anger. At some point, my mother slid so off track she sank into hues of gray, a world drawn only in shadows.” 

 The romance side of it is all told in flashbacks, as the present day Leigh is in Taiwan. It's actually weird to remember that the majority of what we know of Axel was all present memories, as he was such a dominant character. He's artistic, creative and the perfect counterpart for Leigh. I loved following them growing up and realising that their friendship was something more.

 Overall I think this book is truly something special and the only reason I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 was simply that at nearly 500 pages, it did feel a little too long. The middle dragged but it picked itself back up again and the ending was just perfect, making me want to stay just a little longer.

Review of Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Series: Illuminae #3
Genres: Sci-Fi, Horror
Pages: 615
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books
Release Date: 13/03/2018
Find The Author (AK): (Website/Twitter)
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Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza—but who knows what they'll find seven months after the invasion?

Meanwhile, Kady's cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza's ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys—an old flame from Asha's past—reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict.

With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heroes will fall, and hearts will be broken.

Whelp, I think I strapped myself onto a hype trebuchet and threw myself at the castle, only to smash into the walls with this one. I was so sure that this would be amazing after reading Illuminae and Gemina that I never considered that it might not be. It's a fantastic end to the series but really had a lot of problems.

I never connected with or cared for Rhys and Asha. Introducing characters in a final book is never a good idea and these characters were supposed to be the main characters of the book. Asha had this whole thing going on with a kid she was looking after and being part of the resistance movement against Bei-Tech, while Rhys was working for them. They spilt up a long time ago and never expected to see each other again etc.

Asha really confused me because I was convinced she had this huge traumatic backstory she was going to spill at any moment but that never happened. She just wasn't a well developed character and neither was Rhys, I couldn't tell ypu anything about their previous home life or their likes or dislikes and if I was told anything about their parents I'm sorry but I completely forgot.

I really enjoyed the reintroduction of the old team - Kady, Ezra, Hanna, Nik and Emma and AIDAN. It was fun to see them all in action and working together as a team, while facing impossible odds. Both couples had a chance to reflect on their relationships, especially after major deaths in previous books. I was really rooting for Emma to get a girlfriend though, cutting Rhys out completely and making Asha a gay character would have been a better idea for tying the spaceship with the colony.

Overall while this had it's problems (and I got really sick of translating swear words), this was a pretty great ending to the series (if I ignore Rhys and Asha) and I loved the final chapter. It really added to the story without feeling forced, or leaving room for yet another book which wasn't needed, so I really appreciated that. I left the final page on a high note but still a little sad to leave my favourite characters behind.

Review of Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Series: Illuminae #2
Genres: Sci-Fi, Horror
Pages: 659
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books
Release Date: 18/10/2016
Find The Author (AK): (Website/Twitter)
Find The Author (JK): (Website/Twitter)
Find The Book: Book Depository/AbeBooks UK/US
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Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed. 

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault. 

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion. 

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands. 

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Is it actually possible to write a review of this series without screaming in ALL CAPS for several paragraphs because I'M TRYING REALLY HARD NOT TO. I'll throw out a couple of potential negatives that aren't really negatives before I babble for 5 paragraphs BUT BASICALLY I was disappointed by the POV switch initially (but Hana and Nik are best humans and I love them so that worked fine) and this book is so long it took me, a voracious reader, 6 BLOODY DAYS to read ALL 600 PAGES.

 I love that all the characters in The Illuminae Files are these complex human beings, like how Hana seemed like Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club when I first meet her but then she turned into some sort of fighting ninja and was actually really intelligent too and I love girls WHO CAN BE ALL OF THESE THINGS UNAPOLOGETICALLY. Nik's almost the opposite, a drug dealing kid raised in a gang but can't stomach animal cruelty and probably has a special blanket at home that no-one is allowed to know about.

This tiny moment. In between the time you decide to pull a trigger and the time death arrives. There's just you and it and everything you're about to take away. It's too big. It goes forever.” 

 All the side characters are memorable, which is great because I can barely remember main characters most of the time (I wrote the entirety of my review of Illuminae thinking Ezra had a completely different name). The stand out character was Ella, I would love a standalone book featuring her because she's wonderful and smart and flawed but sassy and bitchy and just all round awesome. Jax on the other hand (Hanna's boyfriend) I never liked, he seemed to be little more than an english pretty boy.

 There's a seamless combination of sci-fi and horror which I love because Amie and Jay ARE JUST SO GOOD AT IT, last time we had what was basically a zombie virus and how do you top that? Let's get some WORMS WITH TEETH and have them SLIVER ALL OVER THE SHIP IN SEARCH OF BRAAAINS. Plus we have the introduction of the Bei-Tech squad, sent to basically kill everyone on the ship and the whole book went Battle Royale In Space for a few hundreds pages which was FREAKING AWESOME.

“But faced with the choice of living one breath longer or crashing in right now, most folks would take the extra moment. That single extra breath. Even when your world stops spinning and gravity dies and the blood glitters in the air like a galaxy of warm red suns all around you. A lot can happen between breaths, after all.” 

 Yeah there's a good deal of romance but who cares it's a YA book and I think it helps increase the tension especially when they DO THAT THING AT THE END AND THEN THEY DO THAT OTHER THING AND YOU'RE LIKE WAIT WHAT AND THEN THAT THING HAPPENS AND YOU HAVE TO TURN THE BOOK SEVERAL DIRECTIONS?! I really want to talk about THE THING because it's full on sci-fi gloriousness and explains the title too AND I CAN'T BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE SO SPOILERY.

 Without TOO MUCH YELLING, what's great about this series and in particular this book is that it's a full idea before being written down. A lot of YA books feel like they have a starting point and a finishing point and we end up with a second book that just feels like filler. This didn't feel like that even once and I didn't even think of the word filler until I went to review it and realised that this is book 2. It's clear that before even book 1 was released that the authors had a complete idea of the story each book would tell.