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.”

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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 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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Posted in contemporary, review, young adult

Jackpot – Nic Stone

“I could say what I planned to: I think the lady is holding on to a big winner and doesn’t know it. That she made an impression on me, and I think she deserves to cash that ticket in and enjoy the rest of her time here in this often unkind world. But will he believe me?”

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Blurb: “Meet Rico: high school senior and afternoon-shift cashier at the Gas ‘n’ Go, who after school and work races home to take care of her younger brother. Every. Single. Day. When Rico sells a jackpot-winning lotto ticket, she thinks maybe her luck will finally change, but only if she–with some assistance from her popular and wildly rich classmate Zan–can find the ticket holder who hasn’t claimed the prize.”

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Nic Stone is the author of Dear Martin and Odd One Out which I both loved. So naturally I jumped at the chance to read a new book from her.

I’m a sucker for unlikely duos: people from different worlds working together. Rico is poor working all hours outside school whereas rich Zan is giving twenty dollars to classmates just so he can take their seats in class. While she is trying to keep her head above water with homework and paying rent, Zan has the luxuries that Rico could only dream of, even if the wealth is his parents and not his own. Zan messes up a lot over the course of the book in how he speaks about Rico’s situation but slowly he learns about the privilege he owns.

Jackpot is initially a treasure trail trying to find the kind woman on Christmas Eve who possibly forgot about her winning lottery ticket. But beyond that there’s discussions of poverty and class difference. A serious medical situation highlights the reality for so many Americans: not being able to afford healthcare. Rico’s mum says she would rather die than end up in hospital because the debt would end them.

The narrative is broken up by thoughts from inanimate object such as salt shakers in a diner the duo visited, or the winning lottery ticket itself. This was an interesting way of providing an outside perspective on the characters’ situation. They almost act as the narrator addressing the reader’s concerns.

Nic Stone has this incredibly way of writing that just sucks me into the characters lives and makes me feel so deeply for them. I have loved every single one of her books so far and I think Jackpot is my new favourite.

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Posted in fantasy, review, young adult

Infinity Son – Adam Silvera

“I’m dead set on living my one life right now, but I can’t say the same for my brother.”

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Blurb: “Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers—a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures. Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day. Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own—one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be.”

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Adam Silvera has always been a hit and miss author for me. I tend to find that I really love his ideas but the execution falls a little short. However, when I heard that his new book was not going to be a contemporary but in fact was a YA fantasy, I was really intrigued to see with what he’d come up with. Adam talks in the introduction of this book about his experiences with fantasy and gay fiction growing up and how it was something that he never really saw representation until he came across City Of Bones by Cassandra Clare. It made him realise those kinds of stories can be published and began working on his own. Initially, the heroes in this book were heterosexuals and changed to gay leads later on.

Emil and Brighton are brothers but totally different. Brighton is famous online and wants to be a celestial whereas Emil wants to live the most boring and mundane life possible. This world is made up of specters, celestials and spell walkers but there’s not much distinctive explanation given to fully understand what makes them different. With the main characters already existing in this world, daily things are told through dialogue more as a “you already know this” than a “we need to explain this to you and therefore the reader.” Emil is a gay teen but the nice thing to see is that it’s more a footnote in the wider story. While coming out stories are incredibly important, the ones where those characters just exist alongside their sexuality are equally important; especially in fantasy where diversity is sometimes lacking.

It’s multiple perspective which at times I felt was detrimental to the story. I wanted to learn more about Emil and Brighton in their little duo and the breaks away from them were sometimes jarring and done so to flesh out another part of the world.

The story is set as if this is in modern day so technology is used to capture footage of the magical beings and often swung a certain way to feed the agenda of respective sides. Interesting world building in a political sense but just wish the finer details of magic were explained a bit better. There’s a lot of “it’s not like that” at story clichés that end up being true such as the chosen one. It reminded me of how in movies they’d go “this isn’t a movie.” A small niggle but it felt like an attempt to distance itself from stories that existed within the world to try and make it more real and its own entity. 

The ending of this book was truly incredible and has me gasping that I have to wait even longer to find out what happens next. Adam Silvera’s first fantasy book is a triumph and I look forward to seeing him grow over the series in this new genre.

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