Review: Zenith

January 10, 2018 in Book Reviews, Sci-Fi, YA

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: ZenithZenith by Sasha Alsberg, Lindsay Cummings
Published by HQ YA on 11th January 2018
Genres: YA, Sci-Fi
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
two-half-stars

Most know Androma Racella as the Bloody Baroness, a powerful mercenary whose reign of terror stretches across the Mirabel Galaxy. To those aboard her glass starship, Marauder, however, she's just Andi, their friend and fearless leader.

But when a routine mission goes awry, the Marauder's all-girl crew is tested as they find themselves in a treacherous situation—and at the mercy of a sadistic bounty hunter from Andi's past.

Meanwhile, across the galaxy, a ruthless ruler waits in the shadows of the planet Xen Ptera, biding her time to exact revenge for the destruction of her people. The pieces of her deadly plan are about to fall into place, unleashing a plot that will tear Mirabel in two.

Andi and her crew embark on a dangerous, soul-testing journey that could restore order to their ship—or just as easily start a war that will devour worlds. As the Marauder hurtles toward the unknown, and Mirabel hangs in the balance, the only certainty is that in a galaxy run on lies and illusion, no one can be trusted.

It’s hard to know what to say about Zenith because while, overall, I enjoyed the story well enough, I just wasn’t really a fan of its execution.

The story is told through a variety of different characters, each of whom have their own chapters. Personally, I find that this style of story-telling can either work brilliantly and give you an insight into each character, or it can leave you feeling disconnected from the characters. In this case, it didn’t work for me. I didn’t feel like I really cared about the characters enough. There were a couple of characters that I felt I got to “know” a bit better but all-in-all this form of storytelling didn’t work for me in this instance.

I also struggled with the world-building in this book, it was only towards the end that I started to feel like I had a vague grasp of things. There were a lot of names of places and peoples and, personally, I felt a bit overwhelmed at times. Truthfully, for all the description of physical appearances and traits, I couldn’t really tell you much about the systems and their inhabitants.

I’m really trying to avoid spoilers but there’s one part of the book that I really still don’t get – Klaren and The Yielded. I understand the role she played in the immediate history, but in the bigger picture, I’ve no clue what she is working towards or why? Can anyone enlighten me, please? I feel like I’m missing something important.

There was much of this book that I found rather vague – I could have done with more information, more world-building – and other parts that seemed somewhat prolonged. There’s not really a great deal happens when you consider this book is over 500 pages long!

I wasn’t a huge fan of the main character, Andi, and I very much disliked her ritual of dancing in her mind with the folk she had killed. I can see what the authors were going for with this, but it really didn’t work for me.

This book very much feels like a mash-up of everything that is popular in the YA fantasy / sci-fi world right now. For me, it doesn’t feel unique, and it follows a lot of the same tropes as we see in YA.

I really don’t like being negative. I truly do think the story has a lot of potential but I just didn’t love the characters, they were too “samey” for me, and I didn’t enjoy the execution. It’s not a bad book, please don’t think I’m saying that – I’m just saying it wasn’t for me. It didn’t stand out and yet I feel that it had the potential to do so.

I’m kind of tempted to read the next book in the series, if only so I can figure out how on earth Klaren fits in and who The Yielded are!! But also because I do want to know how the main story pans out, and perhaps book two will be more my style?

Have you read Zenith? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

two-half-stars

Review: City of Saints & Thieves

July 6, 2017 in Book Reviews, YA

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: City of Saints & ThievesCity of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson
Published by Rock The Boat on 6th July 2017 (UK)
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Street-thief Tina breaks into the luxurious house where her mother was killed to steal from Mr. Greyhill and nail him for her mother’s murder. She is caught red-handed.

Saved by Mr. Greyhill’s gorgeous son, Michael, the pair set in motion a cascade of dangerous events that lead them deeper into the mystery, and reveal dark and shocking secrets from Tina’s past.

Tina and her mother fled the Congo years ago as refugees, trading the uncertain danger of their besieged village for a new, safer life in the bustling Kenyan metropolis. The corruption and politics of the Congo, and the gangster world of Sangui City, are behind Tina’s mother’s downfall. Is Tina tough enough to find the truth and bring the killer to justice?

You know that feeling when you’re lying in bed at night fighting to keep your eyes open so that you can read just one more chapter? Well, that was me with City of Saints & Thieves – I just didn’t want to put it down.

Our protagonist Tina lives on the streets, works with the Goonda gang, steals to survive, checks in on her sister every Friday (her sister is in a school) and plots revenge on her mother’s killer. Ever since her mother was shot dead in Mr Greyhill’s luxurious mansion, Tina has been seeking revenge. So after five years she’s ready to work with the Goondas to execute her plan and bring down Mr Greyhill. Except, when she enters the house to steal from him she is caught by his son (and her former friend) Michael. Michael is determined to prove that his father is innocent of her mother’s killing and so the two find themselves working on a murder investigation that uncovers dark secrets and takes them on a journey from a Kenyan city to a village in the Congo.

This is such a stunning debut novel. Anderson herself has worked with refugees of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, many of whom shared their own harrowing stories with her. While this is a work of fiction, she has drawn from these experiences in order to create a fascinating, page-turning, heartbreaking story that is formed from real life. She educates the reader, brings attention to the lives of these refugees and to those still living in the villages of the Congo. Personally, I learned a lot from this novel.

I very much enjoyed Anderson’s writing and her use of Swahili and Shen to further the reader’s experience and once again bring the reader closer to the real life of the Kenyan streets.

As for the story itself, I was thoroughly caught up in Tina’s life. I found myself thinking of her even while doing other things – always a sign of a well-written character. Plus I couldn’t shake the thought that although fictional, this could be a real life young girl.

I have a lot of admiration for Anderson for the way she writes. She has created a fictional story around real life events, tackled difficult and upsetting issues while maintaining a flowing and fascinating narrative throughout.

In short… read it.

four-half-stars

Review: The Hate U Give

April 6, 2017 in Book Reviews, Contemporary, YA

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Published by Walker on 6th April 2017
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
five-stars

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.

There are times when I am just at a complete loss for words upon finishing a book (handy for a book blogger, I’m sure you’ll agree). This is one of those times.

The Hate U Give has been out in the US for a month or so now and everything I’d been hearing from readers over there is this book is a “must-read”. Could it really live up to this hype? The simple answer is YES!

In truth, there is no way that I can do this book justice, but I will try to share some of my thoughts with you.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is such an incredibly important novel. It deals with racism, police brutality and life in the inner city. It also brings strong messages of love, family and community.

It’s an emotional read – knowing that this is based on reality, that these events actually happen makes the emotion all the deeper.

The characters in this book are incredible and so well written. Starr is an immediately likable character whom we root for from the get go. I loved her family and their relationship, I found it was particularly refreshing for a YA novel.

Even the peripheral characters in this story are memorable. Thomas has a way of writing that makes you feel like you’re in there with her characters, not just on the outside looking in.

This is a hugely relevant novel, that not only tells a story but educates the reader. It’s a unique book written by someone who truly knows what she’s talking about – an #ownvoices author, of which we need many more.

This book will tug at your heart, fill you with anger, make you sob with sadness and yet it’ll also make you laugh. It’ll open your eyes, make you really see the world and make you look upon the reporting of crimes in a new light.

It’s a book that will stay with you forever and I urge you ALL (young and old alike) to read it.

five-stars

Review: Done Dirt Cheap

March 6, 2017 in Book Reviews, YA

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Done Dirt CheapDone Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon
Published by Amulet on 7th March 2017
Genres: YA
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

Tourmaline Harris’s life hit pause at fifteen, when her mom went to prison because of Tourmaline’s unintentionally damning testimony. But at eighteen, her home life is stable, and she has a strong relationship with her father, the president of a local biker club known as the Wardens.

Virginia Campbell’s life hit fast-forward at fifteen, when her mom “sold” her into the services of a local lawyer: a man for whom the law is merely a suggestion. When Hazard sets his sights on dismantling the Wardens, he sends in Virginia, who has every intention of selling out the club—and Tourmaline.

I went into Done Dirt Cheap not really knowing what to expect. Two teenagers, motorbikes and a biker club – really that’s all I knew, but I ended up getting very caught up in the story.

Tourmaline is the 18-year-old daughter of the President of the biker club, the Wardens. Her Mum is in prison, and she has grown up in the Wardens’ world, without every truly knowing its detail.

Virginia was in Tourmaline’s year in school but they didn’t ever really know each other. Virginia competed in pageants and, from the age of 15, she’s been working for a corrupt attorney, Hazard, in order to pay off her alcoholic mother’s debts.

Hazard sets Virginia the assignment of uncovering the Warden’s secret and so she negotiates her way into Tourmaline’s life. However, it turns out that getting information on the Wardens isn’t easy, and by the time she has the chance, she and Tourmaline have formed quite a friendship.

This novel started slowly for me. I wasn’t really feeling it, yet at some point I was suddenly hooked – I just had to keep reading!

There’s danger, motorbikes, forbidden love, fear, plotting, attraction, secrets and loyalty in this novel. There are many intriguing relationships in this story and the evolution of them all is fascinating.

The writing itself surpassed my expectations. There’s some fantastic prose, imagery and turn of phrase in this book.

Although it took me a while to get into, I found myself gripped and genuinely disappointed when the end came – not disappointment in the ending itself, I just felt I wanted more: it felt rather rushed. I definitely could’ve handled an extra chapter or two.

For all that there’s action, tension and secrets in this book, I found it to be the relationships, their rules, development and intertwining that I found the most captivating.

I kind of want some biker boots myself now!

four-stars

Review: Birdy Flynn

March 1, 2017 in Book Reviews, YA

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Birdy FlynnBirdy Flynn by Helen Donohoe
Published by Rock The Boat on 2nd March 2017
Genres: YA
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
three-stars

It is the summer and a group of children are playing down by a stream when they do a terrible thing. Something that Birdy tries unsuccessfully to avert. While the other children in the gang find it easy to forget what they have done, Birdy is trapped in the moment and feels bound to do something to make amends. But how does a child face up to responsibility and find the courage to do the right thing?

Okay, so let me start by saying that I struggle with anything related to animal suffering. My husband thinks it’s weird (it probably is) that in watching films or tv shows I care more about the animals than the characters! I’ve always been this way though, Mum had to remove all traces of Bambi from the house when I was a kid because I was so upset. It wasn’t that the Mum died, it was that a deer died that left me in tears. So yea, most of my family think I’m weird so feel free to agree with them.

Anyway, how does this relate to Birdy Flynn? Well, the book begins with Birdy’s dead Grandmother’s cat being tortured by the boys she hangs out with. So Birdy has to put an end to the cat’s suffering. This is one of the secrets that she hides throughout the novel – while her family search for the cat, she hides what truly happened.

Now, obviously, I’d read the synopsis so I knew it was going to happen – but oh my wee heart when it did! I had to do the book reading equivalent of watching the tv through your fingers – skim read.

Ok, so this book isn’t about the cat. No, it’s about Birdy – a young girl with an Irish mother and a Liverpudlian father living near London in 1982, the height of the IRA bombings.

Birdy is a fascinating character who has more in common with the boys in her life than the girls. Indeed, Birdy struggles throughout this book with her gender identity. We see not only her own journey, but also how those around her handle the situation.

Birdy keeps secrets – the cat, her confusion over her body, the fact her teacher touched her. Rather than confide in anyone, Birdy writes letters which she hides, keeping in a tin with the intention of perhaps one day sending them to the Daily Telegraph (her only reading source, the paper her mother takes from one of the houses she cleans).

Birdy’s home life isn’t easy. Yes, she has lots of aunties, uncles and cousins, but her Dad drinks a lot, her Mum works all hours, her sister leads her own life and her older brother is gone.

Donohoe tackles many issues in this novel. Among them, she gives us an insight into the treatment of Irish families living in England in the 1980s. The distrust and contempt shown towards them in the aftermath of another IRA bomb.

As a child of the 80s, I really appreciated many of the references in this book – Jim Bowen of Bullseye and boxer Barry McGuigan both featured in my own childhood!

The story is told through Birdy’s eyes, and as such I felt that there were many unanswered questions. However, I guess that’s a reflection of Birdy’s confusion, her own search for answers that allows the reader to connect with her.

All in all, this is a moving read. I enjoyed it well enough but wasn’t blown away by it. I found Birdy to be an interesting character who I really cared about – I just wanted to give her a hug!

three-stars