Review: What Light (Jay Asher)

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Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication date: October 18, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
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Blurb:
Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it’s a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other.

Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.

By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb’s past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.

Review: (Contains some spoilers!)

Well…where do I begin with this book?

Let me just start off with how much I love Thirteen Reasons Why and how it brought so much light to bullying issues among high school students and surfaced many important questions about mental illness.

What Light is the opposite of how enlightening Thirteen Reasons Why was. Oh how I wish I had known this beforehand!

I bought this book on a whim thinking “Jay Asher wrote a new book? Sign me up! This is gonna be fantastic”

Boy, was I wrong. Dead wrong.

Apart from the festive Christmas-y feels which I genuinely enjoyed (even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, it does remind me of the wonderful winter I spent in London back in 2015), this book fell very flat for me. Like, iPhone-drops-on-your-face-flat.

It’s a miracle that I eventually finished this because I thought about DNF-ing this several times (per day).

The Plot

Though I’m not a huge reader of YA novels, I am well aware of the cliche tropes contained within it. And What Light has the ultimate cliche of nice white girl-next-door falls for dashingly  good looking white male teen who, lo and behold, has a troubled past in need of a redemption!

Quite the package isn’t he.

The entire book is about Sierra coming to terms with Caleb’s past and how forgiveness and the holiday spirit brings out the best in everyone, and basically how a Christmas fling is never really a good idea for young people.

There’s not much else to the plot asides Sierra making a stand for herself and proving to her parents of how nice a guy Caleb is. Honestly, I do not understand the extent of her efforts.

Sierra also has some minor high school drama with her friends back home, which was resolved pretty quickly without any issue. And this made me realise how lackluster the plot is surrounding her romance with Caleb. It’s like Jay Asher only thought about Caleb as the main focus of What Light and threw the other characters around to decorate Sierra and Caleb.

The Characters

Both Sierra and Caleb lack any personality traits I could relate to. I understand how magical first loves can be, and whilst their relationship was pretty well written in the book, everything else was very blunt, including the characters themselves.

I do however admire Sierra’s selectivity in choosing a guy to date but making her fall in love with the troubled and hot dude in town doesn’t really say improve her standing on guys.

Caleb was strangely much affected by how the town treats him because of his past, given how it was years ago and as I recall from various global disasters, humans forget the mistakes of others pretty quickly. So yeah, to see him getting backlash from his community after all this time, sounds a bit surreal to me.

The Ending

Well tied off although the story was left a bit hanging. I guess that was the point of it. To show that relationships go beyond the endings in books…

Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend this unless you just absolutely love cliche festive love stories and the YA tropes mentioned above. I do know many people who enjoyed this because of the Christmas-y vibe so give it a go if you want! I definitely hope you’ll enjoy it more than me 😉

RATING: ★★

Review: Heartless (Marissa Meyer)

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Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Publication date: November 17, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
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Blurb:
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen. At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king’s marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Review:

“But hoping,” he said, “is how the impossible can be possible after all.”

To start this review off, here are a couple of responses I received when I showed this book on my social media:

“I don’t think you’ll enjoy this. It’s very slow and nothing happens much”

“I was very unimpressed with this one. Don’t get your hopes up too much”

So, to be fair, I did lower my expectations a whole lot because I thought this book was going to be overrated.

But I am so glad I turned out lovin’ this book !

It was so unexpected because the beginning was slow and nothing major actually happens. But, if you’ve read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, you’ll know how Wonderland is set. With its melancholic settings and vibrant characters scattered throughout the book, I found Heartless to be a wonderful rendition of the Land of Hearts itself.

“Mind my words, Cheshire, I will have you banished from this kingdom if you tempt me.”
“An empty threat from an empty girl.”
She rounded on him, teeth flashing. “I am not empty. I am full to the brim with murder and revenge. I am overflowing and I do not think you wish for me to overflow on to you.”
“There was a time” – Cheshire yawned – “when you overflowed with whimsy and icing sugar. I liked that Catherine better.”

The Plot

In terms of plot, this book isn’t up for much. So if you’re expecting adventurous fantasy for the to-be Queen of Hearts, then that is where you will be sorely disappointed. But if you don’t mind a slow heart warming read that shatters your heart into pieces in the most agonising way, then Heartless is perfect!

The story develops as we see what led to Cath becoming the ruthless Queen of Hearts and the journey that gave the phrase “Off with his head” such character. We get to see the older side of Hearts and some lovable characters reappear — the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter (who’s known as Hatta in this one). To see them progress into the characters I first found in Alice and discover their secrets before meeting Alice was a wonderful experience for me.

Though not having much adventures or major occurrences in the book, Heartless will tug your heartstrings in rooting for Cath and wishing some alternate ending was at the end of the book. When the inevitable comes on that last page, you can’t help but to feel sorrow for the Queen of Hearts and how she came to be.

I love how Heartless is so similar to Wicked where the Wicked Witch of the West was portrayed in a positive manner to question “Are you born wicked or do you develop wickedness later in life?”. And Heartless is a matter of the latter.

The Characters

I ended up liking Cath so much in Heartless! Her aspirations to become a baker and open her own bakery touched my heart and I was rooting for her throughout the book. Meyer also happens to like making her readers drool while reading because her descriptions of the pastries and confections Cath makes throughout the book is divine!

And then, there’s Jest the Joker who was equally charming, giving off that mysterious yet sincere vibe from someone who just arrived in Hearts. You can’t help but to be attracted to him and how he treats Cath, not as a Marquess’ daughter, but as an individual person.

“The easiest way to steal something, is for it to be given willingly.”

Mayer wrote the characters so well in this one that I didn’t feel any important character was left out. Even Cath’s over-protective but well meaning parents were described very well in the book!

We also got to see many of these character’s selves before meeting Alice and what secrets they held long time before that. I especially liked the Mad Hatter origins and thought his history was unique and held so much importance over the story.

Overall, I truly, truly enjoyed Heartless and would recommend this if you enjoyed Lewis Caroll’s works in Alice. Heartless is a wonderful and quick journey to remind us the power of imagination and celebrate Caroll’s works that has inspired so many stories and imaginations.

RATING: ★★★★

Have you read this and what did you think about it?

Review: Illuminae (Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff)

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Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Pages: 599
Publication date: November 1, 2015
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
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Blurb:
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

REVIEW:

“He presses the triggers. And like roses in his hands, death blooms.”  

Well, this was definitely one interesting read. As much as I wanted to enjoy this, I guess the hype didn’t really reach me for this one. I understand how this book could receive such brilliant reviews and whilst I acknowledge aspects of this book that made it a wonderful read for some, I have to take into account some parts of it that didn’t really suit me.

The Good:

Illuminae is without a doubt known for its unique format. Its unconventional way of story telling is what attracted me to read it in the first place. The story of how the Kerenza invasion was presented in files and documents obtained illegally. It’s not narrated per se, but rather the files you read allows you to piece the information together to form a story. The files consist of interview reports with Ezra & Kady, instant messages between crew members, written reports by fleet or military crew and the Artificial Intelligence (AI)’s server historical data. It’s literally like watching a movie play out in your head as you read these files. It gets a bit difficult to grow accustomed to the format, but once you get that out of the way, Illuminae does get very intense and suspense.

I definitely enjoyed the plot, because of how unpredictable it is in nature. You’ll never really know what secrets you’ll unearth whilst reading this book. And the plot twists are out of this world. Just when I got my heart broken at some point in the story, that ending blew me away. This was quite a good book in the way it grasps your attention.

Also the AI will scare the shit out of you…

“Miracles are statistical improbabilities. And fate is an illusion humanity uses to comfort itself in the dark. There are no absolutes in life, save death.”  

The Not-So-Good:

For this part, bear in mind it is purely my own personal approach to the book that led me to not fully enjoying Illuminae. Also, I kind of went into this one blinded and I wish I had known how violent and gory it was going to be (Why had no one told me this before??!)

I took this book on a business trip and whilst it made for a good companion on my flights and at night after work, I didn’t particularly enjoy the violent attacks and death scattered in the book like sprinkled sugar on top of a cupcake. When you’re exhausted from days of long hours working, reading about violence, death and lethal Phobos virus really turns you off. This book was so depressing in some parts that I feel like I should completely avoid books like this in the future to preserve my ever-depleting energy.

Also, the relationship between Ezra and Kady didn’t really move me. Their back and forth chats were so high-school-cliched that I couldn’t really relate much with either characters. And it didn’t make much sense to me that Kady was on this mission to uncover Kerenza’s secrets yet she seems entirely smitten by Ezra. He must have one hot bod.

But I have to give credit to the authors for making me sad at that one scene in the book where I felt all hope was lost for Kady. If you’ve read the book you’ll know which scene I’m talking about 😉

“You have me. Until the last star in the galaxy dies, you have me.”

So those are my thoughts for the critically-acclaimed Illuminae! My thoughts may be a bit unconventional and unpopular but I do hope you enjoy this book more than I did. I’ll be reading Gemina soon and I hope that’ll be a major improvement for me!

RATING: ★★★

Review: Under Rose-Tainted Skies (Louise Gornall) 

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Rating: ★★★.5

Synopsis:

Agoraphobia confines Norah to the house she shares with her mother.

For her, the outside is sky glimpsed through glass, or a gauntlet to run between home and car. But a chance encounter on the doorstep changes everything: Luke, her new neighbour. Norah is determined to be the girl she thinks Luke deserves: a ‘normal’ girl, her skies unfiltered by the lens of mental illness. Instead, her love and bravery opens a window to unexpected truths …

An important and uplifting debut from a British author, which tackles mental health issues such as agoraphobia and OCD.

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Review: Holding Up The Universe (Jennifer Niven)

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Rating:★★★★

Synopsis:

Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

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Review: Finding Audrey (Sophie Kinsella)

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Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis:

An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.

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Review: The Archived (Victoria Schwab) 

Genre: YA Fantasy

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis:

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive. Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was: a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous-it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now that her little brother is gone too, Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hardwon redemption.

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