Posted in review

Paper Girls (Volume 3) – Brian K. Vaughan

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Blurb: “The multiple Eisner and Harvey Award-winning series from BRIAN K. VAUGHAN and CLIFF CHIANG continues, as newspaper deliverers Erin, Mac and Tiffany finally reunite with their long-lost friend KJ in an unexpected new era, where the girls must uncover the secret origins of time travel… or risk never returning home to 1988.”

For years I’d wanted to start reading graphic novels but kept avoiding the genre purely because I found it so overwhelming. I had no idea where to start and I felt hopeless scouring the shelves. That was until I came across Paper Girls. It’s a time travel series about a group of girls who end up sucked into the middle of the strange goings on in the world. Volume 3 sees the cast of characters dropped into a seemingly prehistoric time.

What I love about this series is that, even though time travel is a trope that has been done time and time again, every twist and turn is fresh and unpredictable. I really enjoyed the location for this volume and how, unlike the previous, all the characters are all within the same space. It gives that vital room for character growth to take shape within their current predicament. The new characters change the dynamic and I love how wholly different they are.

The art style is just utterly gorgeous and the shift with each narrative shift is stunning. It really feels like so much time and care has been taken into making this series the best it can be. I get so immersed when reading that to look out and find myself not in the middle of a forest was almost disorientating.

Another very welcome addition was the inclusion of periods, While various media likes to pretend it’s not a monthly occurrence, in a series about young teenage girls, it would be strange to bypass. But here it is, in all it’s bloody glory, just being one of the many changes affecting their daily lives.

Paper Girls was a surprise gem for me, and I cannot wait to continue devouring it.

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Posted in children's fiction, review

Artemis Fowl – Eoin Colfer

“A genius. A criminal mastermind. A millionaire. And he is only twelve.”

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Blurb: “Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is a millionaire, a genius—and, above all, a criminal mastermind. But even Artemis doesn’t know what he’s taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. These aren’t the fairies of bedtime stories—they’re dangerous! Full of unexpected twists and turns, Artemis Fowl is a riveting, magical adventure.”

Artemis Fowl is a series that had my heart long before Harry Potter worked its way into the mix. Growing up, I used to dream of a movie adaptation being made and finally the day will come as Disney dropped a trailer. So I decided it was the perfect time to visit an old favourite.

Artemis Fowl is a boy genius who uses his talents for evil. He’s someone you should absolutely not be rooting for but it’s impossible not to get sucked in by his obnoxious attitude and the skill that goes into his schemes. His butler… named Butler… is forced to play along with it all and is quite the machine when someone gets in his way.

The story is set within the human world and the fairy world: the later focusing more on the LEPrecon Unit of fairy fighters. The balance between the two is perfect and already for the first book in the series there is so much detail and vibrancy to both. I’m an absolute sucker for different worlds colliding with the human one I was not disappointed with this one.

Normally first books in the series take a while to get going because they slowly flesh out the world, but Artemis Fowl drops you straight into the middle of it and doesn’t let up until the final page.

As a child, the fairy character Holly Short was my absolute favourite. But it’s only now, with that adult insight, that I realise the true scope of her experiences and just how important that exposure was at a young age. The LEPrecon is basically like the army, and Holly is the first woman soldier. She faces mass rejection and her rather clever ideas are often shut down. She wants to be in a position of authority but women have never been allowed. She’s a fighter and a great example still to girls about the importance of fighting for what you believe in.

Artemis Fowl is a clever, action-packed book that really is an absolute gem.

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Posted in Dystopian, review, young adult

Unravel Me – Tahereh Mafi

“Time is beyond our finite comprehension. It’s endless, it exists outside of us; we cannot run out of it or lose track of it or find a way to hold on to it. Time goes on even when we do not.”

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Blurb: “It should have taken Juliette a single touch to kill Warner. But his mysterious immunity to her deadly power has left her shaken, wondering why her ultimate defense mechanism failed against the person she most needs protection from.”

After rereading Shatter Me and not loving it as much as I did previously, I approached the sequel with trepidation. It took a few restarts because that fear was too much. And after I got passed that, I discovered that I didn’t need to worry at all.

Tahereh Mafi is a superb writer. She has this incredible way of stringing together metaphors to describe feelings that fit every single time. She manages to balance every thread of a story so perfectly that nothing feels neglected.

The narrative choice of crossed out sections continue to show Juliette’s state of mind. It’s an interesting framing that really works well for the character and this story. They are less frequent than Shatter Me and I already know that they continue and change over the course of the series. It’s a great way to show the crucial moments when the protagonist doubts herself.

Unravel Me doesn’t fall to that “second book syndrome” and I think a lot of that is the knowledge that it is now an extended series. At the time of release, it was a trilogy. Now, it’s a six book series. Either way, even in the slow moving sections I was completely hooked.

Unravel Me is a triumph and Tahereh Mafi continues to prove that she is a writer that is going to be around for a very long time.

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Posted in children's fiction, fantasy, review

A Tale Of Magic – Chris Colfer

Magic was outlawed in all four kingdoms – and that was putting it lightly. Legally, magic was the worst criminal act a person could commit, and socially, there was nothing considered more despicable.”

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Blurb: “Fourteen-year-old Brystal Evergreen has always known she was destined for great things–that is, if she can survive the oppressive Southern Kingdom. Her only escape are books, but since it’s illegal for women to read in her country, she has to find creative ways of acquiring them. Working as a maid at her local library gives her the perfect excuse to be near them and allows her to sneak a few titles home when no one is looking. But one day Brystal uncovers a secret section of the library and finds a book about magic that changes her life forever.”

AD – GIFTED

The best-selling author of the The Land Of Stories is back with another magic filled series. I found Chris Colfer’s previous to be hit and miss so it’s nice to get some refresh with something brand new.

While The Land Of Stories relied on classic fairy tale characters, A Tale Of Magic doesn’t which makes it wholly original to what readers have seen before from Chris Colfer. The story takes place in a kingdom where women are very restricted in what they are able to do, and where they are able to go to the point where when Brystal is given the opportunity to leave it is a relief. The world is expertly built and does a fantastic job of showcasing Colfer’s talents; every location the reader is taken to is vivid and distinctive. Brystal is a strong lead and I’m interested to see what her arc will be throughout the books. It’s so easy to get behind her as her magic begins to manifest and she pushes for more rights.

However, in terms of story I just didn’t really connect with it. I feel in places it was just a bit too long, given it’s the first in a series and there’s a lot of set up. I did have times when I found myself distracted or skim reading to get through some chapters.

A bold effort from Chris Colfer and I am intrigued to see what he comes up with next.

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Posted in contemporary, review, young adult

Starfish – Akemi Dawn Bowman

“Don’t live to please the starfish, especially when their happiness is at the expense of yours. That is not love. That is narcissism. There’s an entire ocean out there kiko, swim in it.”

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Blurb: “Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.”

Trigger warnings: talks of a suicide attempt, racism, emotional abuse.

Kiko is a character that I found to be very relatable: she’s incredibly anxious, channels all of her emotions into creative pursuits, is desperate to prove herself, and feels like she is solely identified by her connections to other people (for example, “friend of…”). On a side I can’t relate to, she is mixed race – part Japanese- and faces a lot of racism throughout the course of the book, primarily from her own mother.

The crux of the story is really centered around Kiko’s relationship with her mother which is incredibly mentally abusive. Her mother is dismissive, demanding, clearly disgusted by Kiko’s dreams or art school and her general facial features which she reiterates that Kiko got from her father. It is incredibly rage inducing to read at times and I felt just as suffocated as the character. The narrative plays into the idea of “what ifs” by certain interactions with the mother being followed by “what I wish I’d said” and “what I actually said.” I loved this element as, again, it’s incredibly relatable. So many people have experienced that hindsight of wishing they could stand up for themselves but instead choosing to stay quiet. Another narrative decision I adored is that every chapter ends with Kiko drawing, and each piece that she works on provides some overall framing for the events of the chapter, showing how she is physically channeling her experiences and emotions into art.

The introduction of Jamie, a boy from his early years, gives Kiko a positive space to grow as a character and also provides the reassurance she needs that what her mother is doing to her is wrong.

Kiko’s growth over the book is astounding and the way she begins to stand up for herself is something that I hope inspires teens, who feel like they are in a similar situation, to stand up and fight.

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Posted in adult fiction, contemporary, review

Queenie – Candice Carty-Williams

“Turns out the sadness that silence from the person you love brings can be temporarily erased by the dull thrill of attention from strangers.”

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Blurb: “Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth. As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”

Trigger warnings: sexual assault and violence, domestic abuse, racism, panic attacks.

I found out about this book through listening to the author on an episode of the Mostly Lit podcast and what initially attracted me to it was the fact that it follows a black woman in her mid-twenties. More often than not there’s a gap in this area of the market so I jumped at the chance to read it.

Queenie opens with the protagonist, of the same name, getting a smear test. Instantly relatable to any person with a vagina at this age. Very quickly it becomes clear that this character is facing several crossroads the main one being that her relationship with her white boyfriend, Tom, has fallen apart after an encounter with his racist family. Queenie can be a very difficult character to like as she spirals and willingly puts herself in a lot of dark and troubling situations; rejecting any attempts at help laid out in front of her. She enters worrying territory and doesn’t really begin to accept or process what she did and what she let happen until her body begins to feel the effects. She is called out by many characters in the text, and eventually seeks therapy, but there was something about the unexpected routes that has left me wondering whether I actually enjoyed this book by the end of it.

The audiobook, narrated by Shvorne Marks, was great because she used different voices for the characters and breathed so much personality into the side characters. I’d love to listen to more audiobooks narrated by her.

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Posted in contemporary, lgbt, review, romance, young adult

Alex In Wonderland – Simon James Green

“It didn’t matter how cute he was, I wasn’t going to fall for another one. I had this. I so had this. I so hadn’t.”

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Blurb: “In the town of Newsands, painfully shy Alex is abandoned by his two best friends for the summer. But he unexpectedly lands a part-time job at Wonderland, a run-down amusement arcade on the seafront, where he gets to know the other teen misfits who work there. Alex starts to come out of his shell, and even starts to develop feelings for co-worker Ben… who, as Alex’s bad luck would have it, has a girlfriend. Then as debtors close in on Wonderland and mysterious, threatening notes start to appear, Alex and his new friends take it on themselves to save their declining employer. But, like everything in Wonderland, nothing is quite what it seems…”

Simon James Green, known for the Noah Can’t Even duology, is back with a brand new book that is just as brilliant and hilarious as everything that has come before.

The story follows a gay teenage boy called Alex who is forced to take a summer job at the local amusement arcade, Wonderland. He grapples a lot with entering the dating world and seems to have a talent for falling in love with straight boys. I simply adore the way Simon James Green writes his characters. They always feel so authentically real. Alex’s plights are relatable in knowing you shouldn’t love someone but still finding yourself doing it anyway, the awkwardness around the whole situation, and having those doubts as to whether you will find anyone to love you at all.  Teen fiction continues to move away from the “coming out” stories and starting to focus on stories of LGBT characters…well… being just that. Alex is sure of his sexuality and has his awkward coming out moments (because sadly as an LGBT person you constantly have to come out to new people) and the surrounding characters are fully accepting, even going to lengths to help with his love misadventures. Even his dad is fully on board and often makes jokes with Alex; again another great thing to see!

Simon James Green’s books always seem to initially be a typical contemporary with a gay protagonist only to go absolutely nuts and become on big mystery. As Wonderland becomes subject to a perceived hit job, I entered full  conspiracy mode trying to work out who was behind it all. I was hooked on it the whole way through the book and couldn’t help but marvel at the talents he has to deliver these curve balls in his stories and they always work so expertly.

Every time I finish one of his books, I walked around aimlessly for a while; unsure of how I’m supposed to just shelve it and go on to other books. Alex In Wonderland is no different.

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Posted in children's fiction, fantasy, review

Tunnel Of Bones – Victoria Schwab

“You are my best friend. In life, in death, and everything else in between.”

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Blurb: “Trouble is haunting Cassidy Blake . . . even more than usual. She (plus her ghost best friend, Jacob, of course) are in Paris, where Cass’s parents are filming their TV show about the world’s most haunted cities. Sure, it’s fun eating croissants and seeing the Eiffel Tower, but there’s true ghostly danger lurking beneath Paris, in the creepy underground Catacombs.”

The sequel to City Of Ghosts sees protagonist Cassidy Blake doing more ghost hunting, but this time things are getting even more dangerous. The series as a whole gives me immense Coraline vibes and does a fantastic job of balancing the mystery and downright creepiness of the situations. Unlike its predecessor, Tunnel Of Bones takes place in Paris which feels like a breath of fresh air, and also opens up ghostly happenings to the rest of the world which I only hope continues with future books.

Victoria Schwab has a fantastic talent for descriptions and visuals. She weaves aspects together in such a way where they are detailed, unique and incredibly distinctive. Everything just clicks together and fits perfectly.

Of course, every book needs a menace to overthrow and in this one, it’s a pretty nasty poltergeist. The mystery and tension around him is unbearable at many points and he defies everything that both Cassidy and the reader has learned about how the veil world works so far.

The absolute gem of this story is Cassidy and Jacob’s relationship and how it continues to grow and flourish. Their lives are so woven and interconnected and I have so many fears for the future. But for now, I will enjoy the wonders of their friendship.

Tunnel Of Bones shows that Victoria Schwab continues to grow as an author and is one that we are very, very lucky to have.

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Posted in Dystopian, review, young adult

The Extinction Trials: Rebel – S.M.Wilson

“But Lincoln knew that while there might be the chance of fertile land, more space and more food on Piloria, it all came at a cost. A cost he’d witnessed. Could humans and dinosaurs really inhabit the same continent?”

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Blurb: “Storm and Lincoln’s city is burning. The people are starving. The only place left to run is Piloria, the continent of monsters. It’s up to Storm and Lincoln to keep their people alive as they colonize this lethal paradise. But will the biggest threat to their survival be the monsters in the jungle…or the ones inside the encampment with them?”

The Extinction Trials has been a dinosaur filled saga that constantly questions what people are willing to do in order to survive. The final book in this series, The Extinction Trials: Exile, sees the inhabitants of Earthasia face the biggest decision of all: stay here and die, or move to a dinosaur infested island for the chance of a new life.

An interesting aspect to see of this book was the result of people getting a cure for an certain illness. In a world where everything is so heavily restricted I never really thought about the effects fixing a seemingly minor problem would have on the society. The city is even more overcrowded than before and, with the belief dinosaurs are no more, the masses seek to relocate. I thought it was interesting to see this two distinctive continents suddenly be reduced to one and watch the gap continue to grow between those who had been to Piloria before and those who hadn’t. I loved seeing the politics once again start to take over in a new setting as people decided they should remain in charge and essentially just colonise another island when raptors were just having a grand time running around eating people.

One small but unexpected thing I’ve loved consistently throughout this series is the perfect balance between the dual perspectives. Just when I was starting to wonder what Lincoln was doing, I’d turn the page to find his chapters. Also, S.M.Wilson has just a way with visual writing that at times I really felt like I was in Piloria myself.

However, this book really did suffer from “second book syndrome” despite being the finale. At 200 pages in, nothing had really happened and I was starting to wonder if anything ever would. It just didn’t have that push or urgency expected from the last book, and despite loving the first two so much, it was actually a disappointing end. Admittedly, I feel a little cheated.

The Extinction Trials: Exile, fell short of all the promise it had, but overall is a series very worth investing the time into.

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Posted in adult fiction, contemporary, review

Daisy Jones & The Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid

“If she knew how often I was thinking about her, she wouldn’t feel lonely.”

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Blurb: “Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things. Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.”

Trigger warnings: drug abuse, addiction, alcoholism, and abortion.

I recently read The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo and absolutely adored it. So when news hit that Taylor Jenkins Reid had a new book on the horizon, of course I was counting down the days.

After the success with my previous audiobook, I decided to pick up this one in the same format. I was not disappointed. There’s a whole cast and it’s absolutely brilliant. Every narrator seemed to know their character so well and conveyed their personalities perfectly. There wasn’t a single weak link; not one voice that put me off when it came to a particular point of view. Much like its predecessor, Daisy Jones & The Six reads as if an interview is being conducted. While listening to the story unfold, I couldn’t help but picture each other the characters sat in a chair talking about their role in this rock band while looking directly into a camera.

While Daisy’s name is in the title, it was the surrounding characters that really captured my attention. Billy, the vocalist of the band, deals heavily with alcohol addiction and he was captivating to listen to. Even though I hated most of what he did in the story, his perspective has left a lasting impression.

While music obviously plays a big part of the story, it was fascinating to see everything behind the scenes from recording studios, to being on the road, to leaving feuds behind when on stage. It’s an incredibly well-rounded story and Taylor Reid Jenkins did a brilliant job of managing all the different plot threads.

It was also so great to see all the female characters in this book fight to stand up for themselves in a male dominated industry.

Daisy Jones & The Six knocked me off my feet and scooped me back up right at the end, giving me lots to think about for a very long time.

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